My Little Human

by Some Dickhead

First published

Anon discovers that he's the main character of a popular TV show

Anon was rather surprised to wake up in a world of magical talking horses. He was even more surprised to discover that said horses already knew him from a TV show.

Inspired by some old prompts in the RGRE thread. Cover art by Nignogs.

Technology is Magic

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As Anonymous F. Aggot awoke one morning from uneasy dreams he found himself in the flower garden of a rather irate talking horse. Unused to such things, he reacted rather poorly, and the two spent the next hour or so yelling, fighting, and generally creating an entertaining spectacle for the townsponies. When Anon realized that he had been transported to another world, and the mare realized that he never intended to crush her azaleas, they declared a sweaty, dirt-covered, concerningly bloody truce, and went to the mayor for advice on how to handle the situation.

The mayor, a kindly, if senile, old nag approaching her hundredth year, had, for understandable reasons, absolutely no experience in dealing with aliens. Because the town was small and isolated, and the alien in question met at least the barest standards of friendliness, she decided to saddle the mare with the responsibility of housing him, and sent the two on their not-so-merry way. It was a fairly lax response, all things considered, but he didn't really seem to pose any threat, and the town was looking for a new token nonpony anyways.

Neither were too keen to admit it, but the fight had created within the two a sort of begrudging respect, with there being no real resentment or hatred between them. The mare, a green and yellow pegasus by the name of Summer Showers, was a senior member of the town's weather patrol, and so managed to convince one of the larger local farms to hire him on as an accountant, organizer, and general paperwork monkey. It was hardly an exciting job, but it certainly earned Anon his keep, and his relative competence made him a valued member of the farm's staff.

It wasn't long before Anon and Summer were close friends, and, after a year or so of living together, they developed feelings for each other. The first few months of the relationship were rather awkward, what with the two competing over who wore the pants, but they soon settled into a sort of equal partnership, and were horse married by the second anniversary of his arrival. And though he got the occasional stare, and a couple of the rare out-of-towners reacted to him with a sort of stunned awe, Anon was quickly and enthusiastically accepted by the community. It was a quiet life, but an enjoyable one, the two more than content with rural domesticity.


---------------------


Anon was fiddling with something in the living room, bouncing about like an excited three-year-old and belting out laughter like a schizophrenic.

Summer approached him as one would a wounded animal, taking care to avoid any sudden movements. During their five years together, she had learned to remain cautious whenever he's in a mood like this.

"Nonny, are you alright?"

He turned around, catching sight of her with a gleeful glint in his eye.

"I'm great! You remember those computers I told you about?"

"Unfortunately."

"I just found out that ponies have them too! They're more of a city thing, but still!" He circled the table, stopping to point at a router that had been haphazardly plopped on the tower. "It's even got internet!"

"Oh sweet Celestia."

He softly caressed the monitor. "Surprised I never heard about these, would have gotten one much sooner if I did."

She winced. "Anon, I really dont think ... "

"Summer, relax." He held out a hand. "I'm not a retarded teenager, this will be used pretty sparingly." Turning down to look at it, Anon chuckled. "It's just nice to have something that reminds me of home."

His use of the 'home card' was devastating, and shut down any arguments that Summer had before she even thought of them.

"Besides, we can do stuff together. Make poking fun at weirdos a couple's hobby or something."

Though the idea certainly sounded appealing, Summer couldn't help but remain wary. Anon's descriptions of these machines made them out to be horrifying time sinks filled with nothing but pop culture garbage and pornography, and she wondered why anyone would willingly subject themselves to such, let alone pay to do so.

"It's just ... I really don't think that we need it, you know? There are much better things that you could be doing."

"You're probably right, but I stand by my purchase. Come on, let's see how it works."

She reluctantly sat down as he pressed the power button, fans whirring as the screen switched on. He opened the default browser, and was greeted by the homepage of some search engine. He would have installed a better browser, but he hadn't yet learned the ins and outs of the horsernet, and so figured that he could settle for a bit.

When, after a good deal of surfing, Anon found 4pone, he was struck with a great nostalgia. It had the same horrible color scheme, the same outdated layout, the same weird boards like /asp/ that only like 3 people visit, and in that moment, he knew he was home.

"What the ... "

"Hmm?"

"Look down there, it says human."

Her hoof pointed at the board list, and he followed with narrowed eyes.

"Wait, what?"

Sure enough, between LGBT and Current News, sat the word 'Human'. They stared at the word as if it were a dead body, and though neither said anything, their minds were screaming in both horror and confusion. He slowly pressed the link, if only to satisfy his morbid curiosity, and was met with a drawing of a middle aged man in frilly lingerie.

"Is ... I ... " He took a shuddering breath. " ... that's my dad."

" ... what?"

"That's my dad. The guy in the banana hammock."

Summer opened her mouth, then closed it, then opened it again before closing it again. It took a few seconds before she could muster the will to speak.

"How can you tell?"

"Hair, moustache, horrible military tatoo on his left nipple ... yeah, it's my dad."

"/dilf/ general - foal chasing thighs edition ... seriously, what the buck?"

"I mean, he's never worn a banana hammock before ... unless there was some weird Zardoz phase he never told us about ... why is he ... "

He leaned away from the screen, staring at the ceiling in deep contemplation.

"Summer?"

"Yeah?"

"Click 'catalog', it's at the top."

Summer looked at the mouse with a grimace—she didn't want to touch it for fear of catching some horrible internet-borne disease.

"Can you do it?"

Anon trained his thousand yard stare back to the monitor and gave an airy nod. "Ok, sure."

More pictures of his family, some of his friends, and quite a few of himself.

" ... "

She zeroed in on a thread near the top of the list. "My Little Human: Technology is Magic."

" ... "

He slowly typed it into the search bar.

My Little Human: Technology is Magic follows the life of young office worker Anonymous F. Aggot and his five best friends, who navigate a toxic, technologically advanced society through friendship and ingenuity. Originally created for young colts, it has proven very popular amongst adult mares, who refer to themselves as 'humares'. A feature length adaption, titled My Little Human: The Movie was released in 1003, and a spinoff series, My Little Human: Boogaloo Blues, is scheduled for release next year.

" ... to be entirely honest, I'm not sure how I should react to this. I mean, the fact that this shit exists is horrifying enough, but I'm honestly questioning whether or not I'm even real."

She looked up at him, tears welling in her eyes. "What are you going to do?"

He grabbed a pen and paper.

9/23/1004
/mlh/, what the fuck
- Anon, Best Human.

"Where's the camera app on this thing?"

Preparations

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Despite her assertions to the contrary, Rainbow Dash made a concerted effort to fly through the windows of the Golden Oaks Library whenever she came to visit. It was more 'awesome', she believed, than going through the door, and did a remarkable job at grabbing Twilight Sparkle's attention.

And so, when the glass shattered and the hinges broke and the wood splintered, Dash was rather surprised to hear no reaction from her purple friend. While there would normally be a "dammit Dash," or a "you're paying for that," or even just straight up screaming, today there was nothing but muffled shuffling leaking down from the upstairs bedroom. This, Dash thought, was rather odd, so she slinked up the stairs to investigate, taking care to muffle her hoofsteps.

Cracking the door open, she was relieved to discover that her friend was not, in fact, being robbed. Rather, Twilight was stuffing a suitcase with the neutoric intensity Dash had come to expect from her, a concerningly long checklist floating alongside all manner of seemingly disconnected odds and ends. Staying silent, she crept up to the bed and eyed one of the shirts that had been laid out on it.

Dash snickered. "Didn't know you were a humare, Twi."

Twilight shrieked and jumped away from her, the ruler she had been levitating embedding itself in the ceiling with an audible crunch.

"I, um ... look, it's not ... well ... you see ... "

Dash raised an eyebrow.

"I mean ... " She began to sweat. " ... I ... it's a good show, alright?" Twilight looked her up and down, brow furrowed and expression steeled in a desperate attempt to deflect the accusation. "How do you know what humares are anyways? Aren't you 'too cool' for that kind of stuff?"

Dash scoffed. "When you're as big a Daring Do fan as me, you end up seeing some serious shit. There's weird amount of overlap, too much if you ask me." She shrugged. "Never got the appeal myself, but different strokes, I guess."

"Right." She narrowed her eyes. "You're being a lot more mature about this than I would have expected."

"Trust me, I know all about being a fanfilly." She stepped forward and rested a hoof on Twilight's shoulder. "I mean, I can't say I'm too surprised, what with you being a shut-in nerd and all."

"Hey!"

"But, to be totally honest, I always thought that Shy would be the humare in our friend group."

Twilight tilted her head. "Fluttershy? I've never seen her read anything but veterinary guides and picture books, how could you think that ... " She clenched her jaw. "Wait, why am I even arguing this? I should be mortified!"

"You'd be surprised, she's totally into those Neighsian cartoons with the tentacles and stuff." Dash shuddered. "It's always the quiet ones. Like I said, different strokes. This is absolutely hilarious, but I don't think any less of you for it."

"Wait, really?"

A nod.

"That's wonderful! I should go compare anime recommendations with her sometime, I'm sure that ... "

Dash was barely keeping it together.

Twilight sighed. "Also, thanks for the acceptance or something. What are you doing here?"

She took a deep breath and closed her eyes. "Heh, I'm, heh, trying to avoid laughing at this, Twi, but you're not making it easy. Seriously? Anime recommendations?"

Twilight blushed and pawed at the ground. "It's just nice to hear that somepony shares my hobbies, alright?"

"I get it, I get it." Dash wobbled a foreleg. "Just, heh, wanted to say hi. So, uh ... what's going on? There a convention or something?"

Twilight brightened and walked to her computer, beckoning Dash with a hoof. "Do you know what 4pone is?"

"Kinda."

"Well, there's a human discussion board on there, and three days ago, somepony posted a remarkably realistic photo of the main character, timestamp and everything!"

Twilight pulled up the picture and shifted a bit so that Dash could see it.

"So somepony has a weird sex doll, what's the big deal?"

She rubbed her forehead. "Dash ... it's not ... look, the poster then spent the next few hours answering questions. They sound a lot like Anon, and the human in that photo was incredibly lifelike."

Dash gave a deadpan stare. "You think it's real?"

"I'm not sure." Twilight turned off the computer and walked back towards the bed. "Either that, or the poster is a uniquely skilled illusionist."

Dash turned her head to follow. "Then why are you packing that bag? Going on a marehunt to try and find them?"

"Oh please, that'd be ridiculous." Twilight giggled and rolled her eyes. "I already know where they live, I put my privileges as Princess Celestia's personal student to good use and got their IP adress!"

"Twi, what the buck?"

She walked over to a map covered in pin tacks and red Sharpie. "They're in the small town of Gottherd's Branch, which borders the northernmost point of the Everfree. The closest town with a railway station is about a half-day's walk, so it makes sense why nopony has heard from them before now."

"Twi, seriously, you sound insane. What do you mean you got their IP adress? Is that even legal?"

Twilight looked back at her friend and shrugged. "It's in a bit of a grey area, but the discoveries that I could make more than excuse any moral failings."

"You just want to have sex with him, don't you?"

" ... no comment."

Dash marched towards Twilight, her countenance stern and gaze resolute. "I'm coming with you."

She recoiled. "But you don't even watch the show!"

"Why is that your main issue with ... " Dash shook her head. "Look, yeah, I don't, but I'd never forgive myself if you end up foalnapping somepony!"

Twilight winced. "I mean ... technically, it would be a kidnapping ... "

"Twi!"

"Fine, fine, you can come! Just try to show some restraint, alright?"

Dash chuckled. "I could say the same to you."

Twilight sighed. "Rainbow, this isn't the time for me to play it safe. Anon might be out there, and if so, he needs my help. Can you imagine being stranded on an alien world, surrounded by perverts and predators?" She eyes took on a determined gleam.

"I would do anything for my husbando, anything, and there's nothing anypony can do to stop me."

Implications

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Though the language was somewhat sanitized, My Little Human had shown itself remarkably close to actual events, at least according to Anon's recollections. It wasn't particularly exciting, what with its focus on the lives of some nobody 20-somethings, but the show did have some interesting slice of life elements, and the writing was, all things considered, fairly decent. On the whole, it was good for a kid's show, but certainly nothing to write home about, and Anon would have ignored it completely had he not been the main character.

Neither Anon nor Summer slept very well during the first couple of days that followed this discovery, their time spent almost exclusively learning more about the show and its fanbase. Once the initial shock wore off, and the overpowering sense of cosmic horror lessened a bit, the two had an absolute riot, revelling in a combination of absurdity, narcissism, and smugness. After all, there's something special about seeing fanart of yourself, and Summer couldn't help but laugh at the fact that Anon was already taken.

"I still don't get why so many of these fanfictions have me in a gay relationship with one of my friends." He rested his chin on a hand. "What's the appeal?"

"My money's on exposure. Main characters are usually the most developed, so they end up being the most popular. Besides, you six share a lot of screen time, so these ponies probably don't see it as that much of a stretch."

"Makes sense. Still, some of these stories are pretty disgusting." He pointed at the screen. "Look, this is scat porn starring my little brother. He's twelve."

Summer visibility recoiled.

Anon leaned forward, his nose nearly touching the screen. "Surely there's a point where these writers ask themselves 'hey, would my parents be proud of me if they knew I made this?'" He turned back towards her. "Honestly, like a good third of humare shit is sexual. It's just bizarre."

"Why do you think that is?"

Anon shrugged. "The show's pretty kid friendly, so I reckon it's the fans. If I had to guess, they're fairly lonely in real life, and so turn to this stuff as a form of escapism. You know, living vicariously through cartoon characters."

He clicked around for a bit.

"Is that Princess Celestia?"

"Looks like it. I have to say, I'm flattered by how big they think my dick is." Anon nudged her shoulder. "Bet you wouldn't mind that, eh?"

She pushed him away. "Oh buck off. You know, I couldn't walk for a week after our first time."

He did a little pose. "Heh, mares quake in fear of my mighty column, robust in girth and substantial in length."

"Nonny, you're twice my height." She snorted. "I'm surprised it fits at all."

Anon pulled her close, and she nuzzled his neck. "You say that like it's a bad thing."

"Heh. I love you."

"I love you too."

They sat there for a few moments, losing themselves in each other's embrace. When their affection cooled, and reality once again reared its head, Summer pulled away and stared him in the eyes.

"Anon?"

"Yeah?"

"Where do we go from here?"

He raised an eyebrow. "What do you mean?"

"It's just ... this entire situation is incredibly disturbing, and even though we're laughing, I can't imagine that either of us are comfortable with it." She tapped her hooves together. "Even if nothing changes, the knowledge that this show exists will eat away at us, and we'll be all the worse for it. Honesty, I can't see this ending well."

"Summer, we've been through some serious shit, and this is no different." Anon pat her on the head. "It might be rough, be we'll get out on top, don't you worry."

She swatted his hand away. "This is serious. We can't just sit around and pretend that everything's all hunky-dory." Taking a breath, Summer leaned back in her chair. "We could always sue them or something."

"God no, that's the last thing I want. Can you imagine how much of a legal nightmare that would be? Even beyond citizenship and free speech and shit, Haspone has a copyright, and they might pull something to try and take me."

Her ears wilted. "I know, but I'd still like to do something about it, if only to get them off our backs. The best defense is a good offense and all that."

"Trust me, I get it, but I'd rather not provoke anybody. Why don't we wait until something happens and take it from there?"

"Anon ... I really don't think that's a good idea. By then, it might be too late."

"So you wanna jump in blind?"

"No, just ... " She sighed. "I don't want to lose you."

He kissed her on the cheek. "And you won't, but only if we handle this with tact and restraint." He looked up at the ceiling. "We should probably buy a gun though."

She tilted her head. "A what?"

"You know, a gun. Big metal tube, shoots bullets, makes a loud bang." He made a finger gun and shot at the wall, making sure to accompany the display with appropriate sound effects.

"I've never heard of those before."

"You guys have computers but you don't have guns? What kind of backwards tech tree is this world running?"

She shrugged. "I don't see what the big deal is, we get along well enough without them."

"I guess." He chuckled. "If worst comes to worst, I can just brain them with a table leg or something."

"Human ingenuity at its finest."

"Hey, if it works." He looked at the wall clock. "Anyways, I'm gonna head in."

She yawned. "Agreed."

Anon stood up and popped the knots in his back, and Summer stretched her wings. The two made their way to the bedroom, her tail wrapped around his leg and his hand resting in her shoulder.

And as his head touched the pillow, there was on a knock on the front door.

"Anon, are you in there? Anon?"

"Celestia Twi, it's midnight. He's probably asleep."

"I need to make sure he's alright. Anon? Anon? Can you open the door? Anon! Rainbow, help me pick the lock, go and ... "

"Summer?"

"Yeah?"

"Do you think they'll notice if we jump out the window?"

"Probably."

"Fuck. I'll put the kettle on, you make sure they don't set the house on fire."

Discussions

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When Summer opened the door, she was met with the sight of a manic unicorn pacing back and forth, a stone held aloft in her magic. A pegasus stood a meter or so behind, her tired frown morphing into a concerned wince when she caught the homeowner's eyes.

"So I'll throw this rock through a window as a distraction, while you kick the door open. Make sure that ... "

"Uh, Twi?"

" ... you find Anon as quickly as possible. We don't how many ponies are keeping him here, or what threat they pose, so be on the lookout. He'll probably be ... "

"Twi."

" ... pretty terrified, maybe even traumatized, so we need to be patient and calm. Remember what I told you, humans are ... "

"TWI!"

The unicorn turned to her friend, brow furrowed and ears tilted back. "Rainbow Dash, please don't interrupt. If we want to ensure Anon's safety, we have to ... "

The pegasus was frantically pointing towards the doorway, and the unicorn spared a momentary glance, if only to shut her up. As she turned back towards her friend, the unicorn's eyes widened in horror, and she looked back again at a very peeved, very tired Summer Showers.

"Oh ... "

She flung the rock away away from the house and desperately straightened her mane, a friendly grin plastered on for good measure.

"Hello miss, how are you tonight?"

Summer maintained her deadpan. "Can I help you?"

"Well, um ... " She pawed at the ground, nervous eyes shifting between Summer and her friend. " ... uh ... " She gulped. "We're from the ... Celestial Church, and want to talk about ... "

The pegasus stepped in, unwilling to watch the unicorn make more of an ass of herself. "The human lives here, right?"

"Rainbow!"

"Yes, he does." She raised an eyebrow. "What's it to you?"

As the pegasus inhaled, words half formed, the unicorn ran up to Summer and grabbed her by the shoulders, their muzzles pressed tightly together.

"Where. Is. Anon?"

"Please stop touching me."

She let her go, backing up a step or two.

"Where is he?"

Summer looked over at the pegasus.

"Is she alright? Mentally, I mean?"

"Twi hasn't been diagnosed with anything, if that's what your wondering." She scratched her head. "She's not usually this insane."

"Right." Summer shifted her attention back to the unicorn. "Do you promise to remain calm?"

"Yes."

Summer knew, in her heart, that the unicorn wouldn't live up to this promise, but didn't have the energy to call her out on it. And so, with a sigh, she moved aside and beckoned them with a hoof.

"Alright, come in."

The unicorn belted through the doorway, dissapearing around a corner to the sound of ecstatic giggles.

The pegasus slowly exhaled. "I'm really sorry about all of this, she's a big fan of the show, and, well ... "

Summer raised a hoof. "I get, I get it. Just try to keep her in line, alright?"

"That's why I'm here."

Making their way to the living room, they were met with the sight of Anon in an armchair, arms crossed and face torn between an amused grin and disgusted grimace. The unicorn was bouncing around him, her eyes closed and smile wide.

"You're real! You're real! You're real!"

"One would hope so, yes."

She gasped, a notebook and quill materializing before her and floating in a lavender aura.

"I have so many questions! How did you get here? When did you get here? In Episode 15, why did Jim ... "

The pegasus coughed.

"Oh. Oh! My name is Twilight Sparkle, and it is an honor to meet you."

She did a little curtsey, and pointed towards her friend.

"This is Rainbow Dash."

Dash coughed, and Twilight sighed.

"The fastest flyer in Equestria."

He couldn't help but chuckle.

"A pleasure. I'm Anonymous, but I suppose you already know that."

Twilight nodded.

"And this is my wife, Summer Showers."

Summer jumped up onto his lap and gave him a kiss. It was an oddly theatrical gesture, but they both knew that the unicorn had some sort of infatuation with Anon, and so made an effort to tell her that he was already taken. Twilight, seeing this, visibly wilted, and Dash felt an odd combination of sympathy and relief. She felt bad for her friend, sure, but figured that Twilight would understand this state of affairs, and move on from her frankly unhealthy obsession.

"That's ... nice. I'm happy for you." Twilight gave a small smile as she hopped up onto a couch opposite the armchair. Rainbow settled next to her, and the four sat there for a bit in silence, the only sounds their breathing and the ticking of a clock.

When the kettle whined, Anon stood up and went to the kitchen, coming back soon after with the tea.

"So, what can we do for you?"

Twilight snapped from her daze.

"Pardon?"

"What can we do for you? I figure you came here for a reason."

"Well ... " She scratched the back of her neck. "I just wanted to meet you, I guess. You're my favorite character in the show, and, uh ... yeah."

"Fair enough." He rubbed his eyes. "It's a bit late to be doing much of anything, so why don't we figure something out tomorrow?"

She gave a vacant nod. " ... okay."

They headed back through the front door, and Anon made sure to lock it.

After waiting for a minute or so, Summer prodded his leg. "Are you sure that's a good idea? She seems a little ... out there."

Anon grabbed one of her ears and rubbed it between her fingers. "It'll placate her. She managed to find us in less than week, lord knows what she'd do if we pissed her off."

She sighed. "Just be careful, alright?"

"Don't worry, I can handle it."

On the other side of the door, Twilight was fuming, heavy hoofsteps creating holes in the dirt road that led to the inn.

"I can't believe it."

Dash turned to her. "What?"

"She stole him from me."

She blocked her with a wing. "Twi, please, don't do anything stupid."

Twilight scoffed. "It'll be nothing stupid, Rainbow. I just need to show him that I'm better than her. What's a weathermare to the personal student of Celestia herself?"

Dash raised an eyebrow.

Twilight blushed. "Heh ... no offense."

Questions

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Anon rapped on the doorframe.

"Boss?"

No response.

"Mrs. Sprig, are you alive in there?"

He cleared his throat.

"Boss?"

"Wha ... ?"

The owner of the farm peeled her head from a scuffed mahogany desk, an old expense report clinging to her cheek. Bleary eyes sluggishly blinked, and her mouth was pursed in confusion, a tired mind failing to parse the figure opposite her.

"You alright, Mrs. Sprig?"

He stepped into the office, partially illuminated by the beams of light that streaked through half-closed shutters.

"Anon ... issat ... " She rubbed her eyes and looked around, a yawn escaping her as she tried to catch up with the real world. "Ugh, what time is it?"

"About 8:00 or so. Late night, I take it?"

"Yeah, barely got out of bed this morning ... " She stretched her hooves out to the side and rolled her shoulders. "More tired than I thought. You need anything?"

"Some ... personal business just came up, I need to take the next few days off. Seeing as it's the off season and everything, I don't have that much to do anyways."

Don't ask, tell. Confidence and stuff.

She sighed. "Alright, but it's ... your fault if ... " Another yawn. "Celestia, it's your fault if you miss anything." Her head returned to the desk. "Bucking stallions and their bucking periods ... "

With a self-congratulatory fist bump, Anon said his goodbyes and wandered back outside, questioning how a stallion even had a period. After a minute or so, he filed it under 'pony nonsense', alongside the pegasus wingspan and those spontaneous musical numbers.

Going through the horribly squeaky screen door that led out from the farmhouse and towards the main gate, he caught sight of Twilight, who all but demanded to follow him when she showed up at his house that morning. She was practically vibrating in place, her excitement palpable. The farm workers went out their way to avoid her, not that she noticed, and wondered what exactly had her looking like a puppy on crystal meth.

"Hi Anon!"

"I was gone for two minutes."

She giggled. "I know, I just wanted to say it!"

"Right." Hands in his pockets, Anon walked past her, the barest of glimpses confirming that she was following him. "What is it you wanted to do again?"

"Just ask you some questions." She waved a hoof, her body language apparently taking precedence over being able to walk. "Basic stuff, nothing too personal."

He had absolutely no desire to do anything of the sort, but knew that he should probably get on Twilight's good side before asking her to leave. Some discomfort now, he figured, would save him from having to rub the lotion on his skin later.

"Sounds good. Let's go to the park, it's beautiful this time of day."

In other words, Anon wanted witnesses.

"Great!" She started to bounce around. "This will be so much fun! I've always wanted to know more about you, Anon!"

He forced an uneasy smile.

Summer's boss was far less flexible than Anon's, so she couldn't get out of work to deal with the visitors. Believing that one obsessed weirdo posed less of a threat than two, she invited Rainbow to accompany her on the morning cloud patrol, ostensibly as a way to exchange weather management techniques. That left Anon alone with Twilight, who was more than eager to spend time with him.

Reaching their destination, they sat down on a bench nestled between two oak trees. Twilight prepared her quill and notebook, tail swishing and eyes sparkling. It was as if this was the greatest moment of her life, and Anon couldn't help but find that a little sad.

"So, easy ones first." She clapped her hooves together. "When did you get here? To Equestria, I mean."

"About 5 years ago, give or take."

"So that makes you ... "

"30."

She wrote for a bit before looking back up at him.

"How did you get here?"

He shrugged. "No idea. I was sleeping at the time, so your guess is as good as mine."

"Hmm. Are you sure you don't remember anything, no flash of light or pulling sensation?"

"Yes, I'm sure. Kind of hard to experience much of anything when you're unconscious."

She had the social grace to blush. "Heh, right. Have you, um, enjoyed your time in Equestria?"

Anon scratched his neck. "I don't have many complaints, at least about Equestria itself. I mean, I've got a good thing going on here, and I'm pretty happy with how it's all turned out. A little too small-town for my liking, sure, but nothing really stands out as particularly awful." He leaned back and crossed his arms. "I do miss them all, though."

She tilted her head. "Who?"

"My friends and family. You have to remember, I didn't even get to say goodbye to them, was just shat into another universe without any warning. They've probably gotten over it, and I've filled a lot of that void within myself, but ... I dunno, it still gets me sometimes."

Twilight rubbed his thigh, an awkward attempt at comforting him. It made Anon rather uncomfortable, but he suppressed the outward signs of his feelings for the sake of appearances.

"You're married, right?"

He raised an eyebrow. "Happily, yes."

"How did that start?"

"Well, we were roommates at first, and it just grew from there. Don't regret a thing."

"Any problems?"

It was obvious to Anon why she was asking these questions, but he didn't yet feel the need to call her out on it, if only out of the same disturbed curiosity that one would apply to a car crash or house fire.

"Not really, no. Our relationship is pretty comfy, all things considered."

"What are your thoughts on herding?"

Subtle.

"You know that humans are monogamous, right?"

"I mean, the show never really touched on it, but that is my headcanon, so yes."

"Jesus Christ, did you really just ... whatever, then you already know the answer. I'm not looking to add anyone else.

She tried to hide her disappointment. "What are your thoughts on the show?"

"Part of me finds the idea of it hilarious, part of me finds it disturbing, and part of me actually enjoys it. It's a bit like looking at a photo album, I suppose, just watching my friends and I have fun together."

"And the fandom?"

He winced. " ... They're, um ... spirited? A lot of it is pretty fucking weird, and I'm not gonna say that I'm happy with all that porn of me, but at least they're passionate about something, I guess." Anon ran a hand through his hair. "This may be my racialism speaking, but humans aren't the worst things to obsess over."

"I see." She turned the page. "Well, in Season 3, Episode 5, William references 'the raft incident'. What's the story behind it?"

Anon rubbed his forehead. "Christ, he really brought that up in the show?"

She nodded.

"Well, back in middle school, we all went to summer camp together, and ... "

They went on like this for the next few hours.

Connections

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"You're pretty good at this."

A cloud disintegrated as Summer's hoof rammed through it, water droplets clinging to her fur.

"I mean, I'm faster, sure, but it's obvious you've got a lot of skill."

She flapped towards one that floated over a diner, shaking herself dry.

"By the looks of it, you either went to one of those fancy weather schools, or are just plain talented. This town's pretty small, so it's probably the second one."

Her hindlegs bucked, and the cloud dissapeared.

"Hey, uh, how long have you been on the weather patrol?"

She surveyed the skies, spotting another cloud above town hall.

"Summer?"

Another kick, another cloud gone.

"Summer? You alright?"

"Rainbow Dash, please, stop talking."

With a sigh, Dash hopped off her cloud and took to the air. "Just trying to make conversation, no need to be so pissy."

Summer glared at her.

"I just learned that my husband is a bucking cartoon character, and that a bunch of perverted shut-ins want to turn him into some kind of living sex toy. Two weirdos showed up at our house, but we're forced to be all friendly with them so they don't end up murdering us. Sorry if I'm not skipping around and sniffing daisies and shit."

Dash backed off and raised her hooves.

"Whoa, look, I, um ... didn't mean anything by it. Just wanted to help, you look miserable."

"Believe me, that's the last thing I want." She scoffed. "The sooner you're out of our lives, the better—Stars know we're dealing with enough as is."

Dash frowned. "It can't be that bad."

Summer surged forward, their muzzles nearly touching. "Are you kidding me? Best case scenario, we're gonna spend the rest of our lives dealing with ponies like you, stuck with the knowledge that we can't do anything without legions of fanfillies obsessing over it." She backed away and threw up her forelegs. "This entire situation's a bucking nightmare!"

Dash rubbed her forehead. "Okay, I get where you're coming from, but you're totally looking at this the wrong way."

Summer raised an eyebrow. "Really?"

"Don't give me that look." She somehow reclined in midair, her head resting on crossed forehooves. "If you didn't know, I'm kind of a big deal. Savior of Equestria, Wonderbolts reservist, winner of the Best Young Flyers' Competition, first, and only, pony to ever do a Sonic Rainboom ... "

"Sweet Celestia."

"I know, right? Point is, all that stuff's got me a lot of fans, and a good number of them are, well, horrible." She shuddered. "Tartarus, my best friend's brother stalked me for like a solid year. Yeah, if you look at the freaks, you end up miserable."

She raised a hoof. "However, I'm sure that a solid majority are good ponies, and want nothing more than for you and Anon to be happy." Dash flew closer to Summer, her expression holding unexpected sympathy. "You've got, like, millions of ponies in your corner—well, Anon does, but whatever—use them as a source of inspiration, not dread."

Summer leaned back a bit. "That's ... poignant." She chuckled. "Surprised it came from you."

"Heh. I'm not that good at egghead stuff, but I'm not stupid. When you deal with fame as much as I have, these things become pretty obvious."

"Right. I guess ... I guess I'll take your word for it, then."

Dash slapped her on the back. "There you go! Trust me, it gets better. If not, then you'll at least get used to it."

"Hmm." Summer's neutral frown became a mischievous grin. "I have to say, never expected that someone as accomplished as you would be a fan of the show. Kind of weird to be into little colt stuff, eh?"

Dash laughed, waving the accusation away with a hoof. "Twilight's the humare, I'm just here to make sure she doesn't foalnap anypony."

"Fair enough." Summer flew towards the next cloud. "So, where are you from?"

"Getting pretty chatty there, Summer."

"Just trying to make conversation."

"Heh, fell into that one. I was born in Cloudsdale, but live in Ponyville nowadays."

"Cloudsdale? Huh. My dad's from there, originally at least. He met my mom at school, moved here when they got married."

"No kidding. Must have been a bit of a change, big-city college colt moving to the asscrack of nowhere."

"Yeah, it was. He was ... I mean, I wouldn't call him a stallionist, but he was really focused on being independent from Mom, financially at least." She shrugged. "Guess that's why I ended up with somepony as marely as Anon, never really had that traditional dad growing up."

"Hmm, sounds a bit like mine. Sure, he's a colt, but has a pretty good job at the weather factory, full hours and everything. We never needed the money—my grandma invented liquid rainbow, so we're pretty loaded—but I guess he wanted to be a good role model, show the importance of work and stuff."

"Your grandma made liquid rainbow?"

"Yeah."

Summer whistled. "Heh, and let me guess, you're the one who killed Nightmare Moon?"

"There were six of us, but yeah."

" ... "

"Savior of Equestria, remember?"

"Celestia, you've got quite the resume, don't you?"

"Heh, and I do my own stunts. Why'd you get into weather?"

"My mom did weather, her mom did weather, it's kind of a tradition at this point. Why did you?"

"When I was 14, I dropped out of school and ran off to Ponyville with one of my friends. I'm good at it, but it's more of a job than a career, you know? My real goal is to join the Wonderbolts, and I already made the reserves, so it won't be too long."

"Makes sense. So why Ponyville?"

"It's small enough that it has a strong community and stuff, but close enough to some of the big cities that you aren't isolated. Certainly more exiting than here."

"Might need to visit sometime. What does your friend do, anyways?"

"Oh, she's Princess Celestia's personal student."

Summer's face suddenly blanched.

"Wait, what? But she's ... "

"Yeah. Trust me, Twi's usually better than this, she just gets in these weird moods sometimes. I give it a day or so before everything's back to normal."

"You can't just drop a bomb like that! What do you mean she's Celestia's student?"

Dash shrugged. "Twi was taught magic by Celestia, grew up in Canterlot Castle. She's pretty much a genius."

"Huh ... " She looked off in the distance, apparently absorbed in thought. "Well, that's ... horrifying. Where does the Princess find these ponies?"

Dash sighed. "Like I said, she's usually better. Anyways, need any help with that cloud busting? I'm getting kinda bored here."

"Sure." Summer extended a foreleg. "Honestly, I think we got off on the wrong hoof. My name is Summer Showers. What's yours?"

She smiled. "Rainbow Dash."

"It's nice to meet you, Rainbow Dash. I hope we can be friends."

They shook hooves.

Recreations

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Twilight recognized, on an academic level, the tremendous health benefits of running, and believed it second only to teleportation as a way of escaping from things, but couldn't, for the life of her, understand why anypony would go on a run without having some pressing reason to do so. Sure, she wasn't in the best shape, what with her spindly nerd legs and 3 A.M. microwaved pizza belly fat, but she was reasonably healthy, and saw no need to make herself a sweaty mess with sore shins and a headache for some unnecessary toning.

It was only to spend more time with Anon that Twilight was jogging along that dirt road, her hoofsteps heavy and lungs burning. There was no shade along the path, just fences and farmland, a great wheat plain that stood in great contrast to the nearby Everfree. She was trundling a few yards behind the rest, who were much more accustomed to this sort of thing, Anon and Summer matching each other's pace with a practiced ease, and Dash floating alongside them.

"This dragon's already scared away three of us, and I'm just itching to go at him." Dash punctuated this statement by taking up a fighting stance, her forehooves jabbing the air. "So I fly in, rainbow trailing behind me, and buck him right in the jaw. Heh, I swear, he shook like a bobblehead."

Anon chuckled. "Wait, so you just walked up and hit him?"

"Never said it was a good idea, the whole thing just got me angry, you know?" She waved a hoof. "Of course, it didn't really do anything, so he just throws me back out of the cave and right into the others." She laughed. "I was like a bucking bowling ball."

Summer's grin grew a bit. "What happened next?"

"Oh, oh, get this. So Fluttershy, who's absolutely terrified of her own shadow, scolds him like a toddler! Looks him right in the eyes and calls him a 'naughty boy' and shit!" Dash wrapped her hooves around her chest, a desperate attempt at retaining control. "And it worked! It bucking worked! He flew off, just like that!" She fell to the ground, her laughter uncontrollable, hooves kicking and wings spread wide.

Anon and Summer slowed to a stop, and Twilight practically melted into the dirt.

"Heh, let's, heh, rest here." He used his shirt to wipe the sweat off his forehead. "I think that's enough for today."

Twilight moaned in something resembling appreciation and reached for a water bottle, most of it missing her mouth entirely.

Rainbow had barely managed to recover. "So, Anon, how about you?"

"Hmm?"

"You got a story for us?"

Anon sat down and crossed his legs, scratching his chin. "I, uh ... " He stared in the distance for a few seconds, absorbed in thought, before looking back at her. "Yeah, why not. I went to ... well, a top tier college, not like the name means anything here."

Twilight perked up, if only to hear some precious MLH lore.

"I absolutely hated it. Not like I hated school itself, it's just the whole ethos of the place was a nightmare, a soul-sucking emptiness or something. I mean sure, yeah, I learned a lot and my resume got a massive boost, but I was miserable." He took a deep breath. "Everyone was ... I dunno, atomized, I guess, fully insulated in their own solitary pursuits, while there was no higher belonging or community, no ... purpose. It was a big school filled with a bunch of geeks from all manner of diverse backgrounds—of course there was no sense of community, of course everyone was lonely, of course all my friendships there felt so unfulfilling and artificial."

He chuckled and ran his fingers through his hair. "I don't mean to be so dramatic, but you have to understand that I didn't like college, like, at all. So, I don't remember the details, but there was some award ceremony for my major's department, and some of the teachers asked me to do a speech." He shrugged. "No idea why, I guess they just liked me, somehow."

"There's this Latin poem called Catullus 16, and it's essentially a smut-ridden rant against the author's detractors. It, heh, starts with something that translates to 'I will sodomize and face-fuck you,' which sounds remarkably profound in the original language. So I make this speech, and do some Latin quotes to sound all important, and slip this phrase in there. The like two teachers who knew Latin were mortified, and the rest didn't notice. Nothing came of it, but I got away with threatening to hate-fuck about a thousand people."

While Summer and Rainbow laughed up a storm, Twilight looked as if he had just shot her dog before spray-painting a swastika on her house.

"When I graduated, I moved to the city, which was somehow worse." Anon leaned back. "To be honest, I don't even get the appeal of the show, considering that it's all mundane social interaction in some materialistic clown world." He turned to Twilight. "Honestly, can you explain?"

"It's, well, the world-building and characters, not the show itself." She shook her head. "Can, can we just go back a second? I ... I watched the show, and I never got the impression that you would do a-anything like that, least of all in a professional enviroment. Why would ... "

He raised a hand. "You watched the show, you didn't watch me. Remember, I'm a real person, not a cartoon character, so you can't just make assumptions about my behavior through a TV screen. You've been here for like 4 days at this point, I'd think you'd have figured that out."

"But ... "

"It's no different to reading a biography, just as limited and just as disconnected from the actual subject." He signed. "And, while it's been ... an experience, I think it's time that you both start to wrap this whole trip up."

Twilight sat up in shock, and Rainbow looked almost relieved.

"What? Why?"

"Twilight, we have lives, and so do you, it's about time that we get back to them. Not right now, just in the next day or so." He noted her devastated expression, and looked back at Summer for advice, who only shrugged. "Look, we can probably stay in touch or something, alright? Penpals?"

Invitations

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1 month later.

Summer and Anon Showers,

I managed to snag some extra tickets for this year's Wonderbolts Derby. You two seem pretty cool, and are probably bored out of your minds in that little shitbox town, so I figured that you'd appreciate them. The Wonderbolts are the best flyers in Equestria (besides me, of course), and any friend of mine deserves to see them at their awesomest.

Rainbow Dash

"Huh." Anon eyed one of the tickets, flipping it back and forth in his hand. "That's nice, I guess."

Summer floated alongside him, craning her neck to read over his shoulder. "What is it?"

He passed her the letter. "Dash sent us tickets for that Wonderbolts thing next weekend."

"The Derby?"

He shrugged. "Whatever it's called, yeah."

"Hmm." She placed the letter on a side table. "Do you want to go?"

"I'm not sure. Honestly, it sounds like a lot of fun, and I wouldn't mind spending some more time with Dash, but … I dunno, just waltzing around in public … " Anon grimaced. "Too many ways that can go wrong."

"It's in Canterlot, right?"

His eyes returned to the ticket. "Yeah."

"We can probably stop by the castle, request an audience with the Princess." Summer absentmindedly paced the room, brow furrowed in thought. "Get to her before they do, you know? If she's on our side, the whole situation will be that much easier to deal with."

Anon crossed his arms. "You make it sound like we're at war. They're just some internet weirdos, we don't need to bring a literal demigod into this."

Summer turned to him. "Some internet weirdos who managed to find our house." She sighed and looked away, torn between defiance and concern. "The way I see it, we can't just wait around for more ponies to show up, we need to be proactive. I don't understand why you're not ... I dunno, doing something!"

"As I said before, we can't just go around poking people. Tact and restraint, remember?"

"There's a difference between moderation and cowardice."

He raised an eyebrow. "Cowardice?"

"Anon, I think that you don't want to confront this. I think that you want to sit around and pretend that everything's fine, and only deal with problems as they appear. I think that you're unsure whether or not you're even real, and if your life on Earth was anything more than a script for a foal's show." Summer frowned, ears pressed flat. "I think ... " She took a shuddering breath. "I think that you're scared."

Anon sat down and rested his chin on crossed hands. "I ... I don't ... "

She placed a forehoof on his thigh. "I love you. You know that, right?"

He nodded.

"Then you know that I only want to help. I say we go to Canterlot, watch those flyers, and have the best damn time of our lives. We're gonna take the world by the teats, and laugh in the face of anypony who says otherwise."

Anon took on a small smile, and a chuckle rang out from deep in his throat. "When you put it that way ... "

Celebrations

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Canterlot was remarkably small for the capital of a world power.

With an area of about seven square miles, and growth limited by the city's location on some weird mountainside platform thing, the population led a rather tight-knit existence, which had the effect of creating a noticeably strong community spirit. The tragedy of one was, in many ways, the tragedy of all, just as individual joy had a way of spreading and coalescing amongst the wider whole.

As such, there was a palpable air of excitement on the day of the Wonderbolts Derby. Team banners and Equestrian flags fluttered from windows and lampposts, and even the most reserved nobles couldn't help but indulge in the patriotic fervor, proudly sporting armbands and lapel pins. After all, the Wonderbolts were Equestria's finest flyers, paragons of ponykind and living examples of the heights one can achieve through hard work and skill—what self respecting pony wouldn't celebrate them?

It was this ethos that greeted Anon and Summer as they got off the train, and the two couldn't help but be awed. Coming from quiet town out in the boonies, the sheer spectacle and intensity of the city was nearly overwhelming. Lost in the opulence of their surroundings, they made their way through crowded streets, taking the time to gawk at the sights and stop by vendor stalls, excited observations passing between them.

The populace, for the most part, reacted with a sort of restrained curiosity. Many passed him off as a deformed minotaur. Others, having before seen foreign ambassadors and the like, believed Anon to be a representative of some recently discovered species, and paid him little more than a passing glance. Those familiar with the show were largely confused, a few assuming him to be a disturbingly elaborate cosplay, and stared for a bit before returning to their business. There were no crazed fans, no overzealous guards, and no lynch mobs—all in all, Anon was pleasantly surprised.

Before long, they reached the Canterlot Amphitheater, a massive edifice of marble and sandstone that dominated the city center. Ticket lines branched out from cavernous entryways, and crowds milled about under fluttering banners, the dull roar of conversation drowning out their thoughts.

"Anon, Summer! Hey!"

Rainbow touched down on the cobblestone with an audible clop.

"Oh, hey!" Anon reached down to bump her hoof. "How's life treating you?"

"Good enough." She grinned. "How about you?"

He shrugged. "Same here, nothing to complain about."

Summer and Rainbow did that horse neck hug. "It's been pretty quiet, but I figure that's a good thing."

"Heh, better quiet than busy." Rainbow moved to one of the side entrances and beckoned with a wing. "Come on, we got a box and everything!"

Anon chuckled. "A box, eh? Really going all out."

"I need to use that Reservist discount for something. Besides, I figured that you two would like it more than the stands, less public and stuff."

He snorted. "I'd object to that, but you're probably right."

Summer flashed him a grin, and trotted towards Rainbow. "Well, no reason to stand around on ceremony. Onwards!"

Anon followed and shook his head, seeming annoyance betrayed by a smile. "Seriously though, Dash, you didn't need to do this for us."

"It's no skin off my back ... or teeth ... I'm not really sure how that expression goes, but you get the point. I mean, sure, Rare's the generous one, but I like doing stuff for my friends." She chuckled. "You two are pretty cool, and that means a lot coming from me." Rainbow puffed out her chest and extended her wings, her face plastered with a smug grin. The display, though reeking of bravado and arrogance, almost seemed self-depreciative, and Anon couldn't help but find it endearing.

Waved through by a suited stallion, they walked through the trophy-lined corridors of the VIP section. The box was up some stairs and past a lounge, and provided an exceptional view of the track. Anon plopped down on a couch and Rainbow took one of the stadium chairs, while Summer rummaged through the mini-fridge.

"So, how does this event work, exactly?" He pointed to the betting machine in the corner. "I don't think you'd need something like that for an aerobatics show."

"Well, first the B team does some stunts, then the A team has this big race." She drew a circle in the air with her hoof. "The B team does some more stuff, then the A team finishes off with some stunts of their own. The race is the big event, everything else is pretty much just decoration."

"Huh. How long does it usually go for?"

"The race itself is only 30 minutes, but the whole thing lasts about two hours." Rainbow leaned back and rested her head on crossed forelegs. "Not like I'm complaining, the Wonderbolts are always awesome."

He stroked his chin, the thin bristles of a day-old beard tickling his hand. "So are they part of the military?"

She wobbled a hoof. "I mean, kinda. They’re technically a private company, but they get a lot of money from the government, and all members are part of the Equestrian Army, at least on paper. They get called up whenever there's a war or something, and do airshows and first responder stuff when there's nothing else going on. I heard that they do mercenary work sometimes, but I wouldn't know."

Summer joined Anon on the couch, draping a wing around his shoulders. She passed him some horribly unhealthy soft drink, and took a sip of her own. He still couldn't understand how ponies held things with their hooves, but never bothered to ask, knowing that the answer would probably be ridiculous. "My parents took me to one of their shows when I was a filly, and I still think that it was one of the most amazing things I've ever seen." She happily sighed as Anon began to scratch her mane. "Thank you for inviting us, Dash, honestly."

Rainbow glanced at the couple, and her eyes were filled with no small amount of longing. "Heh, no problem."

Disruptions

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Anon and Summer charted a course to the Castle, its towering spires casting shadows in the golden light of an afternoon sun. Rainbow, eager to spend some more time with the two, followed along, stepping in line at the human's left side. There was quite a lot of lingering excitement from the derby, and the small group moved about with a satisfied air, the sort of attitude that leaves one with gleaming eyes and a noticeable bounce in their step.

"Jesus, I didn't know the Wonderbolts were that good. I mean, I should have expected it, what with magic and all, but that was fucking amazing." Anon ran his fingers through his hair and looked down at Summer, who wore a triumphant, if smug, grin. "Remind me to take your word on shit like this in future."

She tittered, slapping her tail against his thigh. "I'll hold you to that."

Rainbow furthered with a nod. "The Wonderbolts are awesome, simple as."

Anon leaned down to pet her mane. "Heh, can't say I disagree."

Though she'd like to deny it, Rainbow rather enjoyed the contact, and couldn't help but feel a little disappointed when it ended. "So, what do you need to see Princess Celestia for?"

His smile waned, if only a tad, and his eyes took on a determined gleam. "Considering the situation, we'd like to make sure that I'm safe."

She raised an eyebrow, her own fame, though certainly annoying at times, never itself a source of danger. "You seem pretty safe to me. What're you scared of?"

"Haspone could sue us and seize me as 'copyrighted material', some academics could take me in for study and experimentation, two randos could just show up at our house ... " He counted the items on his fingers, shooting Rainbow a devilish smirk when he came to the last one.

"Hey!"

Anon couldn't help but laugh. "Simmer down Phar Lap, that was a joke. Basically, there are a lot of ways we can be shafted, and it'll be nice to have royalty in our corner." He shrugged. "If nothing else, I get to see some primo horse architecture."

"Fair enough." She scratched her chin with a wing before looking up at him. "I can pull rank if you want, claim that it's Elements business and get you in quicker."

Anon shook his head. "Dash, you already gave us those tickets, there's no need for anything else."

Rainbow's eyes sunk to the ground, her ears wilting. "I know, but ... "

He rested a hand on her shoulder. "Look, we're friends, and I don't want to take advantage of you. In any case, court's probably empty today, what with it being the weekend and the Derby and all, so I doubt we'll even need to wait that long."

She sighed. "Trust me, I get it, just ... if you guys ever need anything, don't hesitate to call, alright? I don't wanna see you get hurt by a problem I could've solved."

"Will do. Believe it or not, I'm not to keen on getting hurt either."


---------------------


"Your Highness?"

A quill stopped scratching, and Celestia glanced at the guard, reading glasses balanced on the tip of her muzzle.

"Yes, Sergeant?"

He was a surly old goat of an guardstallion, his face etched in a perpetual scowl. Kneeling before the throne, his eyes met those of the Princess, and his armor, polished to a mirror shine, produced a glare that nearly blinded her assistant, Raven Inkwell.

"A group of petitioners seeks an audience with you, your Highness. Should I permit them entry to the throne room?"

Celestia looked down at the tax bill she was revising, and answered the sergeant with a firm nod. At the very least, she thought, the petitioners would serve as a pleasant distraction from paperwork, so she slid the reading glasses into a slot on her peytral and handed (hooved?) the unfinished bill to her assistant, who placed it inside a manila folder.

Straitening up a bit, and making sure that her feathers were neat, Celestia took on the mask of her station. Her expression, though stern, had a measure of softness to it, and her eyes gleamed with a subtle kindness. It was the same look a priest would give to his parishioners, a beloved manager his employees, and held just the right mixture of authority and affection. It well suited her carefully curated public image of a matronly protector, a light in the darkness for her little ponies to rally around.

She visibly recoiled when in walked the Bearer of Loyalty, a rather nondescript pegasus mare, and a startlingly tall ape creature.

Not quite sure how to react to this sort of thing, Celestia sat there in equal parts shock and confusion, eyes narrowed in an attempt to parse what exactly she was seeing.

Rainbow cleared her throat. "Um, Princess, are ... uh, you alright?"

Celestia's train of thought derailed, and then exploded. Shaking her head, repairing her mask, and projecting control for the sake of appearances, she forced herself to look at the guard. "You may leave, Sergeant."

"Your highness?"

"I'm afraid that this meeting will be ... information sensitive." She turned to her assistant. "The same applies to you, Miss Inkwell, I would like to speak with them alone."

The sergeant saluted and marched through the double doors at the front end of the room, shutting them with a heavy bang. Raven, for her part, spared the petitioners a worried glance as she slipped through a side entrance.

Celestia rose from the throne with a practiced gravitas, the light clang of her measured hoofsteps echoing beneath the hall's marble arches. There was a certain aura about her, heavy and hot, that only intensified as she neared the group, and Anon couldn't help but tug at his collar. Whether real, or simply psychological, her presence was that of a Goddess incarnate, and for all her failings and quirks, it was impossible to deny the wisdom that sat in her eyes, the power that flowed through her body.

She stopped at a distance of ten paces, and studied Anon with an appraising glare, occasionally shifting to the mares on either side of him.

After a minute or so, Celestia took a deep breath, and her vestments vanished in a golden flash, in their place various pieces of My Little Human merchandise.

"I apologize for the stunned reaction, my little ponies, but I've never before seen a cosplay this good before." Her eyes traveled up and down as she studied his form, her ears perked forward in curiosity. "Is it an illusion, or perhaps a transformation of some sort?"

Anon, for a brief moment, entertained the idea that he was dead, and Equestria is actually Hell.

Excitations

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Up until that point, Summer was having a pretty good day.

Now, she knew that marrying an apelien would add a certain measure of excitement to her life, that much was obvious, but, with this, the entire situation had entered the realm of absurdity. A literal sun diety, the ruler of the most powerful nation on the planet, just outed herself as a fan of the children's show that starred her husband, and Summer wasn't sure whether she should fight, break down, or grab Anon and run.

And in much the same way that three fat people would prevent each other from going through the same door, Summer froze up when she tried to react. She ended up standing there in a sort of daze, her mouth upturned in an disheartened grimace, and legs held uncomfortably straight.

"Princess, he isn't ... he's not a ... "

Engulfing his arm in a golden glow, Celestia watched in awe as she curled his fingers. "Remarkable ... truly remarkable." She turned to Rainbow. "Did my faithful student help you with this, Miss Dash? She's quite the humare herself, and something like this is right up her alley."

"So this is where she gets it. No, Princess, you don't understand, Anon ... "

She let go of his hand and began to circle him, wide eyes appraising Anon as if he were a used car. "Correct proportions, natural feeling flesh, independent movement ... this really is something else." She gave a quick nod. "I'm impressed."

"Princess Celestia, my husband isn't ... "

Celestia shot her a wry grin. "Husband? We all know that Incognito is best human, but I suppose an argument can be made for Anonymous here." She tittered. "Perhaps we can make ... "

He decided to speak up. "I'm going to stop you right there. I'm the actual Anon, like from Earth and everything. I showed up in Equestria five years ago, and only just learned about the show."

Celestia jumped back with a shrill yelp, her pupils constricted to pinpoints.

"I don't wanna end up in some laboratory or corporate boardroom, and from what I've heard, you're pretty good at helping people."

Shaking her head, Celestia scanned Anon for active magic, and took a further step back when it showed he was clear. "Sweet merciful Goddess, you're real."

"I am."

"You're ... you're Anonymous, the Anonymous, from ... My Little Human."

"We've established this, yes."

"You're ... "

"Yes."

She surged forward and wrapped her legs around him, giggling like a little filly. "You're real! You're Anon and you're real! Stars above I can't believe that ... "

Anon cleared his throat, and Celestia realized what she was doing.

"I ... apologize for that, my little human." She couldn't help but giggle as her hooves met the ground. "Get it? Because I call my ponies that, and the name of the show is ... " Seeing his deadpan, she shook her head and ran a hoof through her mane. "Right, sorry."

Taking a moment to breath, Celestia managed to restrain her excitement, and took on a wide, if bashful, smile. "If ... it isn’t too much trouble, can ... can we watch an episode together? I mean, I ... I get it if you don't want to, but ... "

There were many, many things that Anon would rather do, but he was trying to get something from her, and was, as such, prepared to make a sacrifice.

"Uh, sure."

Her smile grew, somehow, and with a flash, the human and the princess were gone from the throne room, starbursts dancing in the eyes of the pegasi.

Rainbow blinked, her vision swimming.

"Summer?"

"Yeah?"

"Would you believe it if I said this is a quiet week for me?"

Summer stared straight ahead, her emotions looping back around to a dizzying numbness.

"Huh."


---------------------


"This figure has brushable hair!"

Celestia stood there with shining eyes and a beaming smile, her tail swishing back and forth.

"I see."

Giggling, she placed the toy inside the display case, and picked up its neighbor with her magic.

"And this is a Humicon exclusive! You can tell because it glows in the dark!"

"Right." He looked around the room, drinking in the worryingly large amount of human merchandise. "So, you have an entire room dedicated to this stuff?"

"Uh-huh! The show's great, and the characters are even better! If you want, I can show you my Timfiction account!"

He repressed a shiver. "No, I'm good. Do you want to watch the show now, or ... ?"

The princess jumped a bit and hurriedly put the figure away. "Ohmigosh, I totally forgot about that! Come on!"

Grabbing his hand, she bounded towards her bedroom, hoofsteps ringing heavy in the empty corridors of the castle's living quarter. Wrenching open the engraved ivory doors, she practically landed on the couch, dragging Anon alongside her. Apparently trying to imitate a human, she sat in a rather unfortunate upright position and wrapped a forleg around his shoulders. Popping a DVD into the player, she looked him dead in the eyes.

Anon was decidedly uncomfortable, but knew better than to criticize the big white horse Goddess thing.

"Sister, what in Tartarus is with all the noise, I am trying to sleep! If I didn't know any better, I would say you are trying to summon ... "

Luna stood in the open doorway, and her face scrunched up in disgust when she spotted Anon.

"Sister."

"Yes, Lulu?"

"Is that one of the apes you keep pornography of?"

Celestia gave a happy nod.

"I see." Luna wanted nothing to do with any of this, and shambled back to bed with a frustrated snort.

"Is she ... "

Celestia scoffed. "Luna's always been a drama king, just ignore her." Her smile returned, and with a vengeance. "We have human to watch!"

" ... great."

Contemplations

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" ... what, so you just walked out?"

Rainbow chuckled, waving a forehoof. "No, no, I stormed out, big difference. Remember, Lightning almost killed my friends, and Spitfire just looked the other way, so I was pretty bucking pissed." Torn between amusement and frustration, she let out a snort. "Still am."

"I'd be worried if you weren't. Honestly, I'm surprised you didn't just resign then and there."

"And give up my chance to become a Wonderbolt?" Rainbow shot her a smug, if sardonic, grin. "They aren't good ponies, but they’re amazing flyers, and being part of the team ... it's, well ... it proves that you're one of the best."

Her thoughts reached a standstill, and her eyes turned down to the floor. "I act like I'm hot shit, and have an ego the size of the Canterhorn, but that's because I can back it up, you know? Objectively speaking, I'm probably the fastest pegasus in history, and I'm damn proud of it. Maybe I just wanna win some cosmic teat measuring contest or something, but I want my name to be out there, for everypony to know just how good I am, to ... to be an inspiration, and encourage ponies to aim for something higher. Joining the Wonderbolts is, in my mind, the best way to do that."

"You're very modest, too."

She slapped Summer with a wing. "Heh, trust me, I know how obnoxious I am, but nonpony ever got anywhere by being humble. If you're good at something, don't just sit there and expect a handout—you gotta sell yourself."

Rainbow leaned back and ran a hoof through her mane. "Buck, and now I'm getting all philosophical and shit."

"You say that like it's a bad thing."

"Yeah ... I, um ... " She looked to the side, but her ears perked at the sound of hoofsteps. "I guess that's them."

Celestia trotted back into the throne room with a satisfied air, her face the picture of serenity, while Anon followed behind with his hands in his pockets, practically exuding relief.

"I guess it is. Have a fun time with the Princess, Nonny?"

Celestia looked back at him, and he nodded. This was, apparently, the correct response, as she began to giggle and hop about, gushing about her "new human friend." Staring Summer in the eyes, Anon circled his finger around his ear, and her eyes widened in understanding.

"Well, is she gonna help us?"

He scratched the back of his head. "I think so. She promised that we won't have any trouble, but gave no real particulars. Seeing how happy she is, though, I think it's safe to say that she's in our corner."

The princess was, at this time, rolling around on the floor, kicking her hooves and whinnying.

"Better than nothing, I suppose."

"Hmm. Princess?"

She was shaken from her revelry, and twisted her neck to look back at Anon. "Oh! Um ... yes, my little human?"

"It was great meeting you, but we have a train to catch. You have our address, right?"

Celestia nodded, her ears pressed flat.

"Feel free to come over any time. Heh, we still have to finish season 1, after all."

She wanted him to stay, but tried to cover up her obvious disappointment with an empty smile. "Ah, well ... I wish you safe travels, Anonymous."

This whole display, though rather embarrassing for Celestia, couldn't help but illicit pity, and Anon leaned down to scratch her ears. "Hey, hey, it's all good. We're friends, right?"

Her head pressed into his hand. "Mm-hmm."

"Then I promise that you're always welcome in our home, and that I'll visit you soon. Does that sound good?"

She sniffled. "Yeah ... do ... do you really promise?"

"I promise."

Celestia wrapped him in her forehooves, nuzzling his neck. "Good."

" ... right."

She began to give him a tongue bath.

"Princess?"

Her eyes widened, and Celestia pulled away, wiping the lingering tears with a wing. "Remember to keep in touch, okay?"

Anon forced himself to suppress the memory. "Sure."


---------------------


"So."

Anon looked down at Summer, who was practically melting into his side.

"So."

She tightened her grip around his waist.

"What do you think of the Princess?"

He stared out the window for a few moments, drinking in the passing greenery. "I feel sorry for her."

She raised an eyebrow. "Really?"

"Yeah. I mean, how couldn't I?" He ran his fingers through her mane. "She's an immortal politician. Her station makes it hard for people to approach her, and she'll outlive the few she actually connects with. It's no wonder she buries herself in things like My Little Human, I would too if my life was that soulless."

"Hmm ... did she ... " Summer waved a forehoof. "Did she try to, you know ... "

"Not at all, no, she treated me more like a new puppy. Remember, I'm a living embodiment of what is probably her favorite thing—her behavior wasn't that distasteful, just weird and clingy, and fairly understandable given the circumstances."

She rubbed her nose against his chest. "You have the patience of a saint. Goddess, I don't think I'd have lasted ten minutes with her."

Anon chuckled. "Well, when dealing with ponies, one needs a pretty high tolerance to nonsense."

Summer stuck her tongue out.

"Exactly."

Leaning back into the seat, she studied his face. Behind the smiles and crowsfeet, deep in his eyes, sat this great melancholy, an unfortunate mixture of nostalgia and loneliness. It was the feeling he got when thinking of home, when talking about his family, when he was minutes away from sleep, and it underlined his every word and action.

"Nonny?"

"Yeah?"

"Are you happy?"

He shifted in his seat a bit, pulling Summer closer. "I'd say so."

"You don't have to spare my feelings, I can tell there's something wrong just by looking at you."

Sighing, Anon rested his head on top of hers. "I'm not skipping around picking daisies or anything, but I'm happy. Good job, nice neighbors, amazing wife—honestly, I'm in a pretty good place right now, and I don't have that much to complain about."

It seemed, to Summer, that he was trying to convince himself of this. "Nonny, I ... " Looking away for a moment, her brow furrowed as she tried to find her words. "I grew up in a pretty big family, three moms and four siblings. And while, yes, things got rocky sometimes, we were happier together than we were apart. I know that humans are monogamous, and I don't wanna pressure you into anything, but I think we should start herding, and maybe try for foals."

"Summer ... "

She raised a hoof. "You're lonely. Don't deny it, you're lonely. I'm the only pony you really love, and that just isn't healthy, and certainly won't leave you fufilled in the long term. Now, I'm not saying that we should run around like horny teenagers, but we should stay on the lookout, and take opportunities when we see them."

"I really don't think that ... "

She silenced him with a kiss. "I love you, but there’s always room for more. I know that you miss your family, and I just don't think that I'm enough to fill that hole in you. What you need is a new family, and I think that this is a good first step."

"I'll ... I'll think about it, alright?"

"That's all I can ask."

Negotiations

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Anon and Summer had only been home for a day when they heard a knock at the door.

As the couple's collective allotment of horror had been spent over the course of recent events, they felt nothing more than an overwhelming fatigue, and turned to each other with a shared grimace. While Summer slowly folded her newspaper, Anon placed his cup onto a side table, their minds filled with images of fanfillies and chloroform, and a heavy silence hanging in the air.

" ... There's always something, isn't there?"

"Hmm."

Anon leaned back in his seat, a blank stare fixed at the ceiling.

"If, uh ... if we stay quiet, we can probably convince them that we aren't home."

Summer couldn't help but chuckle.

"Good plan. How old are you again?"

"At least six. It's like a bear, you know? Play dead and it'll go away." He ran his fingers through his hair. "Maybe we can get a 'do not disturb' sign."

Her laughter was half-hearted, and rather resembled a defeated sigh. "What a bucking pain in the ass. Make sure to warn me next time they make a cartoon about you."

"No promises."

Another knock.

"Fuck ... " Anon rose from the couch, sluggish pace matching his enthusiasm. "Well, no sense in putting it off."

Summer stayed where she was, craning her neck to watch the front door. "Good luck, don't get foalnapped."

"Lazy little turd ... "

At the threshold was a unicorn mare in a suit, a purple 'H' pinned to her lapel. She eyed him with an appraising gleam, and straightened her tie with a crimson aura.

"Are you Anonymous F. Aggot?"

"Yes."

"Wonderful." She offered him a forehoof. "My name is Binding Agreement, and I'm the general counsel at Haspone. I've come here to discuss your ... unique relationship with our intellectual property."

Anon's raised eyebrow fell flat, and he took on the haunted expression of a Russian peasant who just received a friendly visit from the KGB. Bumping her hoof for the sake of propriety, he forced himself to smile. "Ah. Well, um, come on in."

Shuffling past, she hung her silly little horse fedora on a coat rack, faux-leather briefcase floating alongside her. "Is there somewhere we can sit?"

"The living room's straight ahead."

"Thank you."

Plopping down on an armchair, she placed her briefcase on the coffee table. Summer attempted to bore a hole in the lawyer's head through sheer tyranny of will, and Binding turned to Anon when he lumbered back in from the hallway.

"Do you want anything to drink?"

"I would rather get straight to business, if that's alright with you."

With a shrug, he returned to the couch. "Fair enough." Rubbing his eyes, he rested an elbow on the armrest. "So, here to give me a cease and desist for violating copyright or something?"

She took some papers from the briefcase. "Charming. No, the Princess made it very clear that we are not to 'pull anything,' her words, not mine. I don’t know why, but she is very ... vocal in her support of you, and the folks at Haspone would rather stay on her good side. This entire situation is horrible enough, the last thing we need is an angry alicorn on our hooves."

Anon let out an amused snort. "That would be somewhat problematic, yes."

"Hmm." Tapping her forehooves together, Binding took a steadying breathe. "Now, I'm going to be upfront with you, this is a legal nightmare. Our copyright was approved before you even lived on this planet, and we have benefited tremendously from using your image and life story without permission. And while Haspone does not claim ownership of fanmade material, that so much of it exists, and that a worrying amount of it is blatantly pornographic, makes the situation that much more complex. Frankly, I don't think that we should go to court, if only because we both want to settle this within our lifetimes."

"Right. In other words, this is something straight out of Gilbert and Sullivan."

"I don't know what that means, but I can assume it's nothing good. If that's the case, then yes, it is." Binding shuffled the papers, placing one piece on the table and picking up another with her magic. "Given the circumstances, it is my belief that an out of court settlement would be in the best interest of both parties. Ideally, we would retain the right to produce My Little Human content and merchandise, while you would receive royalties and be given a certain measure of creative control."

"Sounds reasonable, I guess." Anon shifted in his seat. "I assume that the creative control thing's there to help with privacy and my ... well, public image."

"Correct. I think it's safe to say that there are things you'd prefer the show not cover, and I won't deny that having you around would probably make the writing process a bit easier."

"Right. Do I need to go anywhere for that, or ... ?"

"No, no, we can mail you the scripts. We do the same thing with the original showrunner, you just write comments and send them back to us."

He tapped his fingers on the armrest. "Yeah, sure, why not. And, uh, as for royalties, how much is that gonna be?"

"We're still trying to figure that out. The industry standard is about three percent of the product's gross profit, but this is hardly a standard case. I would guess that, for you, the number would only be about one percent. While that doesn't sound like much, you have to remember that this franchise makes Haspone about a billion annually, and you'd also be given an according amount of backpay. All in all, I estimate that you'll come out of this with about a hundred million bits."

Anon turned to Summer, who nearly keeled over in shock, and forced himself to breathe. "Jesus Christ."

"You're a bit calmer than expected."

"No, I'm just holding it in. I stand to make a hundred million bits from this mess?"

"We're still trying to crank out the numbers, but that is the minimum, yes. I take it that you're satisfied with this arrangement?"

He sat there for a moment, absorbed in thought, and met her eyes with a resigned sigh. "If I had it my way, the show wouldn't even exist. I don’t like thinking about it, but My Little Human will affect me for the rest of my life, and not in a good way. I ... look, the point is, I'd like to take it all and burn it down, but I can't, and there's nothing I can do about it. That being said, I suppose that an obscene amount of money is pretty good compensation. You have a deal."

He shook her hoof, and Binding was quite relieved he didn't ask for double.

Libations

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Cocaine isn't particularly healthy.

Mind you, this isn't to say that it's not fun—quite the opposite, in fact—and back-alley horrors like meth and heroin are, in all fairness, undoubtedly worse by comparison. But, from a purely medical point of view, cocaine is not a drug to be taken lightly. It's the sort of vice that one must indulge in cautiously, sparingly, lest they slowly devolve into a gibbering wreck.

And as his wild eyes shined in the neon lights of the Las Pegasus strip, Anon snorted a rail off Summer's crotch.

He hadn't the slightest idea where the stuff even came from—that night's barhop had taken the scenic route, so to speak—but couldn't bring himself to care, as he'd spent the better part of the last week between bottles of Saddle One. It was all a blur, really, a roiling mess of color and booze and mindless sex, and he was having the time of his life.

"That's ... Jesus, that's something else. You ponies have some awesome fucking coke, I'll give you that much."

Summer giggled and crossed her legs, a healthy blush painting her cheeks.

"Don't leave me on the edge like that, Non, you gotta finish what you started. Husbandly duties and all that."

He flicked her on the nose

"Horny little turd. Just gimme a sec, it hasn't really hit yet. Heh, reminds me of college, actually."

She stuck her tongue out.

"You went to college? Neeeerd."

Seeing as most ponies have their life's purpose emblazoned on their rear, universities and such were fairly niche institutions in Equestria, at least relative to Earth. Summer understood this, of course, but always took the opportunity to poke fun at his education, and it never failed to rile him up—the horrific student debt, it seems, left some indelible marks on his psyche.

"Fucking ... I was in frat, y'know, a fun one, not one of those 'I wear a suit to class' things that STEM kids join for business connections. I remember this one time we drove a Delt's car into the lake after they stole our TV."

"Bit overkill, dontcha think?"

He snickered.

"Probably, but it certainly makes a good story."

Faint whispers of sound trickled from the nightstand, and her ears swiveled to listen.

"Nonny?"

"Hmm?"

"The radio, uh, turn it up, a good song's playing."

There was a minute or so of relative silence.

"Is this ABBA?"

"I think so ... it's, um, yeah, it's the same band that did Trotterloo."

"Yeah, ABBA. I mean, I'm sure the name's a horse pun here, but potato, tomato or whatever."

His hand reached for knob, but she stopped him with a frantic yelp and a wave of her hooves.

"No, no, no, wait until ... ok, wait until I say, then we sing together, ok? You know the song?"

"Dancing Queen?"

Summer furrowed her brow.

"King."

He clicked his tongue and rolled his eyes.

"Ah, forgot that guys are the girls here."

"Buck off with that, mares are mares, stallions are ... ok, ok ... now!"

The knob turned, and music filled the room.

"DANCING KING, YOUNG AND SWEET ... "

Anon was many things, but he was not, by any stretch of the imagination, a good singer—his rare contributions to those heart-song musical numbers seemed proof enough of that.

"Heh, you, uh, you alright there, Non? I think a dying griffon just wandered in and started speaking Heshrew."

"You're just jealous of my mad skills."

She sputtered.

"Your what?"

"My mad skills. I'd spell it with a 'z', but that might be a little too x-treme, yo."

"Non, you're almost 30."

"Swag isn't a number, it's a lifestyle, homeslice."

They held it in for as long as they could, but quickly broke down, laughing and smiling and holding each other close.

Suffice to say, the negotiations with Haspone went rather well, and the couple left the table feeling quite satisfied.

Introductions

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The bush had been following them.

It stood dead in the center of the packed-dirt road, and right at the head of a long trail of hoofprints that snaked from a nearby alleyway. Every so often, it would rustle and murmur, the barest hints of a frizzy pink tail curling out from the bottom, and the telltale glare of binoculars streaked clear through its leaves.

Anon eyed it with the same wary look that one might give an unexploded land mine, or gas station hot dog.

"Not exactly stealthy."

"Hmm."

He took a deep breath and crossed his arms.

"Still, A for effort. At least she tried to be subtle about it."

Summer scoffed.

"The keyword is 'try.' Reporter?"

"No, they'd probably be more direct—y'know, run up in a stupid looking fedora and ask us for an interview. My bet's on humare."

"Maybe, but ... honestly, I don't think a humare would even bother hiding or anything. You remember the one who squirted all over your shoes, right?"

He grimaced.

"Unfortunately."

The bush sneezed.

"We could always ask."

Anon gave Summer a raised eyebrow.

"What, and encourage her? It's like dealing with a golden retriever, any attention is bad attention."

"Well, we can't just bury our heads and hope she goes away, ignoring ponies like this only tells them that they can do whatever they want. I'd rather be like Bucephalus and cut the knot now than pussyfoot about and have our day ruined by MLH bullshit."

He opened his mouth to argue, but shut it with a sigh when her words sunk in.

"Fair enough. You mind ... ?"

With a grumble and a nod, she trotted towards the bush.

"Excuse me, but we'd appreciate it if you stopped following us."

There was no response.

"Look, I know you're hiding in there. We've been dealing with stalkers and fans and all that for like a solid month, and we're tired of it. Please go away."

Summer's hoof angrily pawed at the ground, her wings spread and chest puffed-up in some instinctual gesture of intimidation.

"Are you even listening? Don't make me call the guards."

The bush, it seems, didn't much like the idea of getting arrested, and sped off towards the marketplace as if it suddenly remembered that it had an appointment.

"Huh."

She looked back at Anon, and then to where the bush once stood, her eyes narrowed and lips pursed as her mind warred between self-satisfaction and utter bafflement.

"That ... that was a lot easier than I thought it'd be. C'mon, we ... "

It was nothing more than a miracle that Anon didn't have a heart attack when a giggling mare jumped up from between his legs and wrapped herself around his neck

"Wow, you're really tall!"

She was a strange little thing, remarkably light despite the fullness of her figure, and Anon's attempts to pry her off did nothing more than ruffle her fur. Her muzzle was smeared against his nose, her shimmering eyes mere inches from his own, and her cotton candy mane all but smothered him.

"I mean, you're not as tall as that Discord guy, but he was real floaty and stuff, so I couldn't grab onto him like this, and it's way better than doing it to Big Mac because he's only tall for a pony, and ponies are pretty short, and Jackie always gets mad at me because I'm 'ruinin' mah brother fer marriage,' but that's probably because I also like to nuzzle him and rub his face in my tuft, even though we're sorta cousins-ish, so it's ... "

"What the buck are you doing to my husband?"

The mare fell back to the ground and shot them a sheepish grin.

"Sorry about that, I love meeting new ponies, or people, or whatever-you-ares, and I just get carried away sometimes. The Cakes keep saying that they can't save me from any more legal troubles if I keep touching random stallions, but it's hard sometimes, y'know?"

With a flourish and a bang, her hooves shot into the air, and confetti rained from above.

"Anyways, my name's Pinkie Pie, and I'm Ponyville's premier party pony! I saw that you two are new to town, and decided to stop by and say hi! I also like wordplay, it's fun!"

They had no idea where the confetti even came from—it, like Pinkie herself, seemingly coalesced from the aether. The mare was certainly spirited, and apparently saw personal space as little more than a quaint suggestion, but didn't appear to hold a single shred of malice within her heart, so, at least for now, the couple silently agreed to tolerate her nonsense.

"It's nice to meet you. I'm Anonymous, and this is my wife, Summer."

Pinkie waggled her eyebrows.

"Married, eh? Quite the catch, mare, good on you!"

Summer wrapped a wing around Anon's waist, if only to verify that he hadn't left her alone with this weirdo.

"Hmm."

"So, what brings you to town?"

"Just visiting a friend. She helped us through some ... problems, and we figured it'd be best to thank her in person."

"Ooh, so a playdate!"

Anon blinked.

"Well ... that's, uh, one way to put it, I suppose."

Summer stepped in.

"Miss Pie ... "

"Please, call me Pinkie, all my friends do."

" ... Miss Pie, I don't mean to be rude, but why are you here?"

"Because I live here, silly!"

"No, I mean, why are you following us?"

"Oh! Well, Davenport came in at noon for a muffin, and he said that there was 'a right tall fella at the train station this morning.' And then Cloud Kicker called you a minotaur, and I know there's no minotaurs in Ponyville, so if you're at the train station, and a minotaur, then you're new! So I left Sugarcube Corner, then made sure you were really new by sneaking into the records room at Town Hall, then hid in a bush, then spotted you and saw that you weren't really a minotaur, and then you saw me!"

"Ah."

"So, who's your friend?"

"What?"

"I said who's your friend? I'm friends with everypony in Ponyville, and you're new, so you probably don't know where they are, but I probably do, so I can help you find them, and then we can have a friendship party with cake and streamers and stuff!"

"Um ... "

Anon and Summer shared a look—this mare, for all her eccentricities, seemed only to have the best of intentions, and something deep within them was absolutely terrified of what might happen if they got on her bad side, for as much as it existed.

"Rainbow Dash."

Pinkie's smile somehow widened.

Reunions

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The applied physics program at the University of Maremi wasn't particularly respected by those in the field, but Pinkie liked to think that she more than got her money's worth.

Not that she spent all that much on her degree, mind you—for though she could easily have gotten into Coltnell or Hayvard or MIT (the Massaddlechusetts Institute of Technology) like her sister, Maud, odd jobs and foal's parties simply didn't pay enough for an Ivory League education (and she'd readily concede that Mareami's reputation as the textbook party school made it a fairly easy compromise). Her interest in the science was far from professional—it was more of a hobby, really—but she was right in the middle of that unsure transition into the real world, having yet to begin her apprenticeship with the Cakes, and so took to her studies like a clever metaphor.

It was during her third year, under a professor by the name of Kestrel, that Pinkie first learned of cannons, those lumbering siege weapons used by the Griffons back when they had a functioning society, and understood things like government and roads and that cannibalism is generally frowned upon. They were rather simple machines, little more than a metal tube filled with explosives, but their effectiveness was hard to overstate, at least compared to the enchanted trebuchets favored by the Equestrian military.

Something about them fascinated her, and as she listened to stories of powder and fire and steel, Pinkie decided that she wanted a cannon of her own—what she'd actually do with it, she hadn't the slightest idea, but she figured that heavy artillery was the sort of thing that one would rather have, and not need, than need, and not have.

And so, through her Aunt Yellow Cake, she got in touch with a surly old gunsmith out of Ilion, a small town that sat in the shadow of the monolithic husk of the Oak of Griffonstone. The tom was the last of his line, his rusted worktools the last of their kind, and the falconet that Pinkie smuggled back to Equestria was the last thing he built before he succumbed to the myriad ailments of a life well-lived. There was, of course, a lengthy legal battle over her right to own it (Pie v. Duchy of Foalrida, 554 P.E.Q. 570), but everything worked out in the end, and the 'party cannon,' as she came to call it, would prove itself an invaluable utility.

"You lied to me."

Summer tore her gaze from Pinkie—a far cry from her previous exuberance, she was weighing the charge with narrowed eyes and pursed lips, her mind swimming with grains and coefficients.

"What?"

"Back when this all first started, I said that we should buy a gun, but you told me that they aren't a thing here." Anon gestured towards the cannon. "Well, that looks a lot like a gun to me, Summer."

She stood there for a moment, digesting what he said, and then stared him in the eye with a furrowed brow.

"Non, cannons only exist in, like, history textbooks, this is the first time I've actually seen one. Besides, the ones you humans use are hoofheld and stuff, that's ... well, they're not the same thing."

"Since when are you an expert on firearms?"

"I watched the show. There was that weird episode where your friend did a bunch of registration forms, remember?"

One of the season four filler arcs concerned Anon's vaguely southern friend, William, and his dealings with the ATF after they misplaced his paperwork for a new suppressor. Though it had very little to do with much of anything, the storyline was well-received by fans, who praised its worldbuilding and 'cathartic representation of a maddening bureaucracy.'

Anon crossed his arms.

"It's still a gun."

Summer shot him a raised eyebrow.

"If I ask you for a sandwich, you don't bring me a hot dog. Sure, it fits the technical definition of a sandwich, but we both know that I wanted something else."

Anon stepped back, and held up his hands in mock surrender.

"Oh, a thousand pardons, your omnipotence, but I thought that telepathy was more of a unicorn thing. You assumed that I was talking about a specific type, not all guns, period."

She ruffled her wings in irritation

"It's the context. I don't really think that cannons are meant for home defense.

"If you're working alone, sure, but there’s two of us—they're crew-served weapons." He looked back at Pinkie, who had just finished ramming the wad. "In theory, at least."

"Crew-served ... Non, just call the police, run at them with a knife or something."

He scoffed.

"Where's the fun in that? I mean, identifying the poor sod might be a bit difficult, but a cannon will certainly get the job done."

Summer tried—and failed—to suppress a chuckle.

"Yeah, of course, but all the blood and entrails might stain the carpet."

"Eh, we'll burn that bridge when we get there. If nothing else, we can hang it up as a warning." Anon grinned. "Heh, how's that for 'no trespassing'?"

Pinkie was, it seems, privy to Rainbow's schedule, and knew that every Thursday, from 12:30 to 1:00, she took a nap in a cloud above Ponyville Green. (For all her boasting, Rainbow Dash—perhaps out of some unresolved, lingering foalhood fear of being seen as 'uncool'—never really talked about just how hard she worked. Most days, she'd rise before dawn and retire after midnight, and spend the day repositioning clouds and arguing with locals and disrupting the wild storms that spawned above the Everfree (when she wasn't training for the Wonderbolts, that is). Rest, to her, was an extraordinary luxury, one that she reveled in the chance to indulge, and it was this willingness to sleep wherever, whenever, that earned the pegasus her reputation as a layabout). It wasn't that hard for Pinkie to figure out where, exactly, her friend was—there was but one cloud in the sky, and a color-striped tail hung limply from its side—so she had aimed the cannon right in that direction (with slight adjustments for wind, of course), and stuffed it with one of those PVC dodgeballs.

Over the years, and through rigorous testing, she had learned that a careful blend of loud noises and blunt force trauma made for an effective, if inelegant, method of waking ponies up. Normally, she'd bat them over the head with a hoof (or maybe a rubber chicken, if she was feeling up to it) and babble on about the usual nonsense, but the distance and relative inaccessibility of the cloud made using more 'enthusiastic' means something of a necessity. While the gunpowder would produce more than enough noise, the dodgeball, she figured, would hit just hard enough to wake up her target, but not so hard as to cause any (lasting) damage.

And so, Pinkie lit the fuse, and hit the ground with her forelegs wrapped around her ears.

Boom

The ball flew in a perfect arc, whistling as it cut through the air.

Thwack

"GAH! BUCK!"

This wasn't the first time that Pinkie had done this to Rainbow (nor would it be the last, for that matter), so it was little surprise when, after a minute or two of flailing around, a prismatic contrail sped to her location, and began screaming about how shooting ponies is "dangerous" and "stupid" and "really, really bucking illegal."

"Oh, hey, Dashie!"

Rainbow, more out of shock than anything else, stopped her yelling, and gave Pinkie an incredulous stare.

"Are ... are you even listening to me? Seriously, you can't just do this, someday you're really gonna hurt somepony. What'll happen when ... "

Pinkie wrapped the pegasus in a hug, taking care to avoid the horrible purple welt that took up most of the left side of her face.

"It's so good to see you too!"

Summer decided to intervene before either of them wound up in the hospital.

"How are things, Dash?"

Rainbow turned towards Summer, her eyes softening in recognition, and her anger shoved to the side.

"Oh, hey! You didn't tell me you were coming to Ponyville."

Rainbow tore herself from the hug, and they exchanged a hoofshake.

"Figured we'd make it a surprise."

"Fair enough. Where's Anon?"

The man in question stepped forward.

"I'm three times your height, Rainbow, how the hell'd you miss me?"

Considering the ergonomic differences between them, Rainbow wasn't really sure what to do, so she settled for simply bumping her hoof against his thigh.

"Yeah, yeah. What's the occasion?"

He rubbed her ear between his fingers.

"Do we need a reason to see a friend?"

She leaned into his hand.

"Heh, I guess not."

Summer was more than pleased to see them getting along—she had plans, after all—but wasn't really sure how to react when Pinkie stuffed the cannon into her mane, winked, and then skipped back towards town. In the end, she simply decided to bury it, and turned back to Rainbow with a smile.

"So, wanna get lunch?"

Revelations

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"Congratulations Anonymous, I knew you could do it."

Anon shifted in his seat, ever so slightly loosening his tie. Schwartz—a balding, portly little Jewish man with a perpetually sweaty forehead—had always been a fairly reasonable boss (if only because he understood that employee morale affects productivity), but there was something about his manner that made talking to him not unlike a police interrogation.

"I, uh ... well, it wasn't anything to write home about, really, just a pretty standard deal. Besides, Walker set it up in the first place, he deserves most of the credit."

Schwarz leaned back, hands resting on his gut, and belted out a breathy chuckle.

"There's no need to be so humble. You did something today that's never been done before. Something even a great broker like Cooper isn't able to do, because he doesn't understand the market like you do. The lessons you've learned here at our firm have taught you well. You have proven that you're ready, Anonymous."

He couldn't help but raise an eyebrow.

"Ready for what?"

Shwartz poured from his chair, and slowly made his way to the other side of the desk, his gaze piercing straight through Anon's very being.

"You've come such a long, long way ... "

"Are you singing?"

Twilight believed, from the bottom of her heart, that Anon deserved the promotion.

There were, of course, quite a few who argued that he hadn't been with the company long enough, that he didn't have the necessary experience, that he'd be happier working most anywhere else, but Twilight paid them no mind. It was Anon who prevented the hostile takeover by Erikson Capital Partners, it was Anon who discovered that Williams had engaged in insider trading, it was Anon who negotiated the settlement with the SEC—if these things didn't warrant a management position, then nothing would.

"And I've watched you from that very first day ... "

"Mr. Schwartz, seriously, what the fuck are you doing?"

For all their talk of harmony and acceptance, ponies, as a species, were really quite skilled at alienating those who fell outside the norm—this, Twilight knew from experience. Her peers in Canterlot always kept their distance, always stared with their silent, judging eyes, and would sputter and recoil and turn the other way whenever she entered the room. She was Celestia's personal student, after all, the most powerful unicorn since Starswirl the Bearded, and this made her, in their minds, an undeserving rival, an unstable loner, a neurotic wreck with more power than sense—a freak at best, and a danger at worst.

What else was she to do but bury her head in her studies and her hobbies and whatever else would distract her from the horrible reality that her magic—her reason for being—made her an outcast?

My Little Human, therefore, wasn't so much a pastime as it was an obsession, an escape. Before she had her friends, she had her humans, and she lived through them, took their happiness and sadness as her own, and for however fake it all was, however idealized, she was content. Anonymous (that is, the show's depiction of him) was the embodiment of everything she sought in others, a sort of parasocial soulmate, and she came to love him, or at least the thought of him.

And when they finally met in person, the man himself emphatically rejected her.

Twilight couldn't blame him, really, for buried beneath all the knowledge and power was a chronic self-loathing, the kind born from sustained isolation. She was keenly aware of her social deficiencies, but hadn't the slightest idea how to change anything, so, when faced with reality, she retreated back into what was familiar. If she couldn't have the real thing, then she could at least indulge in a vicarious fiction, and that, she told herself, was enough.

"For it's time for you to fulfill your destiny ... "

"One step closer and I'm calling HR."

Perhaps, after a year or so of living in Ponyville, she was desensitized to this sort of thing, or maybe she simply didn't care anymore, but Twilight didn't so much as flinch when a brick flew through her window, and Pinkie Pie landed on her bed in a shower of splinters and broken glass.

"Hi Twi! See what I did there, with the rhyme and ... "

Pinkie was met with a half-lidded stare, and her greeting died in her throat.

"You're blocking the TV."

Twilight looked terrible—her mane was a tangled, greasy mess, and her fur was matted with week-old sweat and Cheeto dust. More out of shock than anything else, Pinkie jumped from the bed, and flinched when her hoof landed in a sticky puddle of what she desperately hoped was some kind of soda. She wasn't really sure why, exactly, Twilight was watching the monkey cartoon that Pound Cake owned some dolls of, but figured that ignoring it would be for the best.

"You, uh, you alright there, Twiley? You look like pretty, um ... tired. Yeah, let's go with that, tired."

Glassy eyes peered at the screen, only the slightest twitch of the ears betraying that the unicorn was, in fact, flesh and blood, and not some serial killer's taxidermy project.

"There's nothing. No light, no warmth, just this black, empty void. It bites, you know? Nibbles away at your soul until there's nothing left. They say it gets better, but it doesn't. It really doesn't."

Pinkie took the opportunity to edge towards the door, where the scent of urine wasn't quite as strong.

"Well, um, we didn't see you at the picnic last weekend, and I just wanted to check in, say hello, all that sort of thing. There's a small party at Sugarcube Corner tonight, if you're interested."

"A party."

"Yep! There's this couple from out of town, and something tells me they're looking for a third. One of them's this shaved diamond dog or something named Anonymous, and he ... "

Twilight's eyes widened to dinner plates—if she wasn't paying attention before, she certainly was now.

"A-Anon is here? In Ponyville?"

There was history between the two, Pinkie could tell that much, and, by the looks of things, none of it was particularly good.

"Now, if I answer 'yes' ... "

Twilight untangled herself from the bedsheets, and planted her forehooves on Pinkie's shoulders.

"Where is he?"

A trembling hoof pointed through the broken window, down towards Mane Street.

Anon was in Ponyville.

He was looking to start a herd.

She had a chance with her husbando.

"Everything's coming up Twilight!"

Propositions

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"Are you all ready to order?"

Rainbow glanced up from her menu and turned to the waitress, whose polite smile didn't quite reach her eyes.

"Yeah, I'd say so." She motioned towards Anon. "Gentlecolts first."

If Anon even heard her, he gave no indication. He was staring at his side plate, hand resting on his chin, and idly drumming his fork against the table. His face was blank, his eyes unfocused—the lights were on, but no one was home.

They all stewed in silence for a moment, waiting for the man to fall back to Earth, until Summer tapped him on the shoulder.

"Hmm?"

"We're ordering."

He lit up in realization.

"Oh, shit, sorry about that."

With a shake of the head to clear his thoughts, Anon held his menu out to the waitress, pointing a finger at one of the entrées.

"The fettuccine, that's wheat pasta, right, not hay or anything?"

"I think so, yes."

"And there’s no flowers or, uh ... I dunno, grass in it?"

The waitress hummed and stared at the ceiling, then jotted something down on her notepad.

"I'll check with the chef, but I believe it's just a pretty standard Alfredo."

He handed her the menu.

"Great, I'll have that, then."

Summer's gaze lingered on Anon, her brow furrowed in the first stages of worry. It didn't take a genius to tell that something was on his mind.

"Just a daffodil club, please."

"Right. And you?"

"Cobb salad. Extra eggs, if possible."

The waitresses made her way towards the kitchen, and Anon met Summer with a raised eyebrow.

"How can you stand eating this rabbit food?"

Summer gaped and sputtered, while Rainbow leaned in with a grin—she had talks like this with Gilda in the past, and they were always entertaining, at least from a distance.

"Rabbit food?"

"All your meals are just, like, lettuce and shit, there's nothing ... substantial, you know?"

"What in Tartarus are you talking about?"

Anon's chair gave a terrible screech as he turned it to face hers.

"Right, so, human meals, there's the meat, there's the bread, there's the veg. It's balanced, it's filling, etcetera etcetera. Pony meals are just like ... a pile of lawn trimmings with a bay leaf on top. What do you even get from that?"

Summer batted him with a wing.

"Enough. Remember, we're an entirely different species. Like, in terms of taxonpony, there's this giant gap between us, so of course we eat different things."

"Fair enough, but I still think that - taxonpony?"

Summer waved a hoof.

"Yeah, you know, kingdom, phylum ... "

Anon butted in.

"No, no, I get that, but us civilized beings say taxonomy. At least that has actual etymology, Greek roots and all that crap. Taxonpony doesn't even make sense, you just glued the word 'pony' to the end of an existing word. For Christ's sake, one of you called it a Cobb salad, not 'Colt' or something, so why even bother with ... " His spiel died in his throat, and he leaned back in his chair. "Fucking, whatever."

Rainbow and Summer shared a look.

"Look, Anon, I know it's been a while since we've seen each other, but I can tell that you're, um ... not feeling so great." Rainbow had half a mind to rest a comforting hoof over his hand, but held back for fear of pushing him away. "What's bothering you?

He tried to tell himself that a restaurant was no place for a talk like this, but he knew that he'd keep making excuses the longer he put it off, and his concerns would roil about his mind, unfettered and unresolved, until something snapped. Better to remove the bandage now, he thought, then to let it all fester.

"That deal with Haspone was all over the news. It's public knowledge, and people know who I am, where I live, what I like, and ... well, at this point, we can't just close our eyes and pretend everything's fine. Sure, it's not like I'm the second coming or anything, but it all worked so well because we were nobodies, and now that I'm somebody, that's all gonna change, and ... and not for the better. It won't just be humares, there’s gonna be an entire fucking parade of journalists and scientists and all the other parasites, and pardon the dramatics, but it'll only end when we're dead."

Having said his piece, Anon folded his hands in his lap with a sigh.

Summer loved Gottherd's Branch, she really did. She grew up there, after all, always called it home, and it was the sort of place where everyone knew everyone, where one's greatest concern was what they'd have for dinner that night. Her life there was comfortable, content, but there was always that niggling little feeling at the back of her mind that she could be doing so much more. Perhaps it came from her father, who moved there from Cloudsdale, or maybe her foalhood love of adventure stories, but that peculiar wanderlust so emblematic of the pegasus race—that same voice that drove her to marry a giant ape—told Summer to pack her things and go somewhere new.

If her whole life was irrevocably changed, if this human thing had thrust her into the limelight, then why not go all the way?

"We could always move."

Anon gave no response, and Summer took this as a sign to continue.

"We can't hide, you said that yourself, but if we march out and face it head-on, we'll at least be able to control it. It's not like money's an issue, and if anything serious comes up, I'm sure that Celestia would be more than willing to step in. I say we sell the house, turn in our resignations, and settle down somewhere that's a bit more, well, connected. Not some big city like Manehatten, that's the last thing I want, but somewhere where we have enough exposure that ponies will get bored of us, and eventually turn their focus to the next shiny object that comes along."

He mulled over these words before standing up and folding his napkin onto the table.

"Excuse me, I'm just gonna head to the restroom for a sec."

As he left, Rainbow turned to Summer, who was staring at his empty seat.

"Is there anything I can do to help, or ... ?"

"You're Loyalty, right?"

"That's my Element, yeah."

"Anon's ... well, I wouldn't say loyal, not necessarily, but he holds a certain attachment to what he considers his 'home'. You have to remember, he's a literal alien, and when he came here, he lost his family, his friends, everything, so there’s this big part of him that's absolutely terrified of losing it all again. He's happy in Gottherd's Branch, make no mistake, but I think he loves belonging somewhere more than he loves the town itself."

Summer chuckled.

"He's a city colt, and though he'll never admit it, living out in the sticks bores him. That's why I wanted to go on this trip, you know?"

Rainbow tilted her head.

"What, to Ponyville?"

"More like the whole country, but sure. Ponyville ... honestly, this place is perfect. It's a few hours from two major cities, it's just the right size, it has that nice rustic Earth pony thing going on, and we already know some ponies here. This is where I want to live."

"Huh."

The silence between them was almost pleasant.

"Rainbow?"

"Yeah?"

"Maybe this is a bit too forward, but we're looking to start a herd, and, well ... "

Her eyes widened.

"Woah, woah, woah, Summer, not that I ... uh, wow, I ... look, that totally came out of nowhere."

"Probably, yeah, but what did you tell me? 'Gotta sell yourself'? Your my friend, Rainbow, certainly one of my better ones, and I can see something between us working out pretty well."

"I ... would Anon be on board?"

"He's willing to try, and I think that's enough. Have you ever, like, been in a relationship, or ... ?"

Rainbow looked down at her plate.

"On and off, nothing serious."

"Then you know it's better to just go for it. Are you interested in Anon?"

"I mean, he's a good friend, and ... " She sighed. "I've liked what I've seen, I guess."

Summer jokingly raised an eyebrow.

"He is a looker, isn't he?"

Rainbow huffed.

"Not like that. I've seen you two together, and you're ... happy, that's what I'd call it, happy."

"Then go for it."

"And what if I mess it up, or end up ruining what you have with him?"

Summer rested a hoof on her back.

"You won't, you're a good pony, and I trust you. We can give it a try, and if it doesn't work, we can just go back to being friends."

"Why do you even want this? Monogamy seems to be working just fine with you."

"Anon and I are happy, but we can be so much happier. I grew up in a herd of four. We all loved each other, and while we fought, at the end of the day, we were a family. I want that, I want to come home to a bunch of foals and have them all run around and call us all 'mom', and then pile up on a giant bed together when it's time to go to sleep. I want to drown in love, and I can tell you want that too."

They looked into each other's eyes, and Rainbow nodded with a shaky smile.

"Buck it, why not?"