Aspirant-Vagrant Flame

Dec 30th, 2013
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  1. >You went to bed one hot summer night with the window open, not worried about security in a land of peaceful ponies.
  2. >But when you woke up the next day you opened your eyes to a large surprise.
  3. >A giant, moth looking, pony....thing.
  4. >You'd screamed wildly, scrambling backward as fast as you could from the monster as she reacted in kind.
  5. >After a panicked conversation and the threat of raising a broom against her, she'd explained that she'd come in through the window out of curiosity while looking for a place to crash.
  6. >She'd intended to wake up before you and be on her way, you none the wiser, but, well...
  7. >You continued to question her over breakfast: Where did she come from? Where did she live? Who was she, exactly?
  8. >She was a wanderer, searching for a place to settle. She'd traveled for years now, and had no place to call home.
  9. >She had no names that had stuck. Traveling so often afforded you to be many different things.
  10. >She said that once, when she was younger, she'd been called a "vagrant flame," for her wanderlust.
  11. >She had a coat of orange, with yellow streaks on the back. Wings dark grey with dark brown lines that ran vertically across their surface, looking almost red with the contrast. Her wings too had yellow splotches in a symmetrical pattern.
  12. >Feeling compassion for the...moth pony, you'd offered her a place to stay. At least for a little while. In turn, she'd help around the house, and maybe run errands for you. You'd keep her fed and housed until she desired to leave, so long as she wasn't a bother.
  13. >The hug you'd gotten after she'd dashed across the table still runs in your mind. Her fuzzy body pressed against yours, the heat coming off of her as she rubbed cheeks with you...
  14. >Who knew the meeting would result in her sharing a bed with you, cuddling in a hug against the colder nights, for weeks to come?
  16. >When she left, she left quietly. Leaving you and the fond memories the two of you made together behind.
  18. >Regretfully Living up to her name.
  19. >Falling back on fonder memories, you recall the first night after your arrangement with Vagrant Flame, or Vagrant, as you came to call her.
  20. >She'd proven that your decision to offer her a temporary home was a good one. She tidied the house with you, though you had to keep her from enthusiastically flapping her wings and knocking all your small items from the shelves and tables.
  21. >She wasn't a super maid, or anything, but she knew how to organize in a rudimentary way.
  22. >"I've not lived in a home for some time," she replied wistfully when you asked her about it, "But some things are instinctual, even if you've wandered for most of your life."
  24. >That first night had proven to be different.
  25. >You only had one bed, and Vagrant had refused to sleep on the floor or allow you to do the same.
  26. >"I will sleep with you, like last night," she'd said softly, eyes almost seductive, "I don't bite, I promise~."
  27. >Somehow, she talked you into it.
  28. >And so you found yourself sharing a bed with a half moth, half pony creature, who snuggled up against your back gently. Her fuzzy neck tuft rubbing against the base of your neck, tickling you gently as she wrapped hooves around your waist, under your arms.
  29. >Her antennae tapping you lightly as she rubbed her cheek on a shoulder, you'd had to resist the urge to shake her off.
  30. >With a swift motion she'd folded her wings over the two of you, shielding you from the cool breeze coming in through the window.
  31. >"See," she'd cooed, "Not so bad, is it?"
  32. >You'd had to agree, it was...cozy. The warmth on your back, the fuzzy feeling of her tufts on your neck.
  33. >The feeling of affection she gave off.
  34. >You found yourself placing a hand on the hooves wrapped around you, enjoying the gentle humming sound she emitted when you did so.
  35. >It wouldn't be such a bad arrangement after all.
  36. >When she dozed off, gently snoring, you had finally relaxed enough to sleep yourself.
  38. >You didn't find out how nervous she'd been until well later, just before she left.
  40. For a while, things worked out.
  42. You came to trust Vagrant enough that you could leave the house with her cleaning, so you could go get groceries. She had said she liked liquid foods the best.
  44. "You can carry a bottle and drink while you walk. Or fly," she had said with a grin, hooves tapping together in front of her happily as she floated around you, "So if you have a big bag or a satchel, you can carry a bunch of containers of liquid no problem. It was what I was doing before..." she trailed off, antenna drooping, "Before I lost it."
  46. You'd thought about it as you were in town, getting lettuce, carrots, oats...all the usual things you ate on a day to day basis in the land of pony-kind. Picking up extra broths, honey, and vegetables to try and make soups for Vagrant's consumption, you'd spotted a store that specialized in travel bags. Whether saddlebag or an over the shoulder kind, they had it.
  48. And so, after talking with the store keep, you'd made your purchase. A simple slung satchel. One that would, hopefully, not be a bother to Vagrant's wings, and was short enough it wouldn't drag the ground if she walked.
  50. When you got home with your bags and the gift, conspicuously wrapped in parcel papers so she wouldn't see it right away, you had set the groceries on the kitchen table and taken the satchel to your room.
  52. Vagrant hadn't greeted you as you entered. Had she left already, after only a few days?
  54. But then why tell you what she likes to eat, or share any information with you at all?
  56. Opening the door to your room, you were relieved to see her lying on the bed, napping soundly.
  58. The bed sheets were folded nicely under her, and the room was remarkably clean. Other than the faint traces of pollen or dust that Vagrant herself shook everywhere just by being here. But it was faint enough you didn't mind.
  60. The room was warm, you remember. Sunlight streaming in through the closed window, making her dark wings appear gray, but turning her dark brown tone into an almost fiery red and orange. She slept like any pony did; On her stomach, resting her head on her front hooves like a pillow despite being on a bed, but had her elegant wings spread out and folded downward. She was smiling in her sleep, the small grin setting your heart aching.
  62. She was beautiful. And she hadn't left.
  64. You weren't sure why it made you feel so relieved that she was still there, but it did.
  66. It was the first sign of the inevitable.
  70. ----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
  73. You hadn't had the heart to wake her, so you'd gone about hiding the satchel in the living room, under the couch. It'd given you time to think while checking that the house was, indeed, clean.
  75. You had no complaints. She had done a fantastic job. Better than you, even.
  77. Scoffing gently to yourself, you went about putting the groceries away in the pantry and meager cupboards you had in the kitchen. The broths were shifted from travel containers to the ones you had in the kitchen, and you'd been debating making some oats with honey when Vagrant had floated into the kitchen, sheepish smile on her face.
  79. "Oh, you're back already," she said bashfully, "Sorry. I didn't mean to fall asleep like that. The room was just so cozy I-"
  81. You had waved her off with a smile of your own, assuring her it was okay. She'd done her job, she could take a nap if she wanted.
  83. "You're too kind," she'd said before floating to your side near the stove, sniffing the air eagerly before rubbing her hooves together, "Are you making something with honey?"
  85. You nodded, and she'd swooned, doing a dizzying back flip in the air and nearly kicking your ceiling as you jumped back in an effort not to get clobbered.
  87. "I haven't had honey in ages!" she said excitedly, leaning over the stove and looking down into the pot, "Ah! But these are oats! You're mixing them together?"
  89. You nodded, cautiously moving back to the bubbling pot while Vagrant watched over your shoulder.
  91. "I can eat that stuff too, but only if it's thin and not chewy. Not that I can't eat it if it's thicker, but...I don't like my stomach feeling heavy. Makes me feel weighed down and less able to fly."
  93. "It's just how I feel," she'd reinforced at your quizzical look, "I could still fly but it always feels harder like that."
  95. So you'd made the oats uncharacteristically thin for yourself, making it more like a soup than a porridge.
  97. "Can I have extra honey in mine?" Vagrant asked excitedly, "I'll organize your stuff for you tomorrow while I'm cleaning! Or I can help you take care of your yard or something! Please?"
  99. She was too eager to ignore, and you'd given her an extra three spoonfuls. She was drooling, eyes glittering, by the time you'd finished. You started eating your liquidy oats with honey as she closed her eyes, muttered something under her breath, then opened them and started eating eagerly.
  101. Or, drank, rather.
  103. She lifted the bowl and started sucking down great mouthfuls of the oats in a brash lack of table manners that made you nearly sputter your oats back into your bowl with laughter.
  105. "I guess traveling alone doesn't teach you how to eat without so much noise," you'd joked, laughing as she eyed you sidelong, not putting the bowl down to rebut you.
  107. That meal was also when you got your first lesson of moth pony physiology.
  109. When Vagrant had slurped and gulped down most the oats, she'd opened her mouth and started licking the bowl clean. You laughed at first, until she held the bowl at hoofs length and her tongue was still in it, stretching an incredible distance and still licking at the honey and oat scraps in the bowl.
  111. Vagrant had given you a strange sidelong look that you didn't notice for a good few minutes as you stared at her tongue. It was thin and incredibly long, curling up over the edge of the bowl and licking the inside even as Vagrant turned the bowl to you and asked for a half serving more.
  113. "With extra honey," she'd said happily, tongue still stuck out as you took the bowl from her and filled her request.
  115. When you handed it back her tongue moved up and tickled your cheek playfully, a happy smile from Vagrant showing she didn't think it all that strange. And then she was burying her face in the bowl of oats again, noisily eating away at the meal.
  117. Your appetite slightly lessened, you picked the bowl up and sipped what more of the sweet oats you could, figuring that if Vagrant was going to eat that way you might as well too. She got what you couldn't eat too, not afraid to eat after you.
  120. That night's sleep was a little better than the last. You were more comfortable with Vagrant spooning you now, as she seemed to prefer sleeping while holding onto you from behind. She was a cozy cuddler, especially after spreading her wings out over you.
  122. "Thanks again for being so generous," she said sleepily, yawning and smacking her lips gently before nuzzling her nose into the nape of your back, "You're the nicest anyone has been to me for a long while, now...."
  124. Rubbing her hoof gently, you hadn't said anything. You weren't sure why you were helping her, truthfully, other than it just felt right. Despite having showed up almost randomly in your home, she was starting to feel like your friend. Hard to believe it had only been a few days since she'd arrived.
  126. Had you known how things would go later, maybe you never would've given her that satchel. Maybe it sent the wrong message, in the end...
  128. How had you known that she would leave even after the two of you had....
  130. Sitting at the kitchen table, you shake your head. That particular memory still too fresh, too painful in light of Vagrant's leaving, to reminisce right now.
  132. She hadn't called herself Flame for nothing, either.
  134. Jotting down the memories into a journal, all personal thoughts exposed, you continue to work on the memo. Even with her gone, you never want to forget the nights spent with her. Not the early, kind of awkward ones. Or the later, more passionate, ones.
  136. You'll get to those later.
  137. ----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
  138. Two weeks into her staying with you, Vagrant Flame surprised you when you returned from grocery shopping.
  140. You'd opened the front door to no sign of her again. Checking the room proved that, for once, she wasn't napping on your tidied bed.
  142. You'd looked high and low for her, wondering where she could've gotten to, before sighing and returning to the kitchen to put your groceries away.
  144. Perhaps she'd left for good, before you could gift her that satchel.
  146. You put the groceries away slowly.
  148. Was she really gone? Would there be no more happy dinners together, or idle conversations as the sun set?
  149. No more holding her hooves to your stomach as she held onto you tightly at night, almost appreciatively?
  151. You'd shaken your head, putting the empty bags in the pantry for future use.
  153. She was a wanderer. Perhaps you'd been foolish to expect her to stay longer than she had already.
  155. Sitting heavily in a chair at the kitchen table, you had let loose an ill tempered sigh as you began mentally kicking yourself for getting so attached.
  158. Hours later, after convincing yourself she was gone for good, Vagrant returned.
  160. She flew in through your bedroom window, much like the first night she had spent in your home, cheerily calling for you.
  162. You'd had to resist hugging her on sight, instead just giving her a happy smile as you asked where she'd been.
  164. "I was in town!" she said excitedly, "I was buying some things for our picnic, and-"
  166. "For our what?"
  168. "Our picnic! The one we're having tonight, while the sun sets!" she said, floating around you with barely contained happiness, "I picked out some things I think you'll like, and some sweet things, including honey, and I'm just so excited!"
  170. "Where did you even get money?" you asked suspiciously, still reeling from the fact she bought stuff for you on her own initiative. You weren't even aware she had money!
  172. "Oh, I have my ways," she said, eyes taking on a seductive, half lidded look, "You'd be surprised what some do for a wandering gal."
  174. You couldn't help but smile. Maybe it wasn't quite right, but darn if she wasn't resourceful.
  177. And so that evening, the two of you had sat behind your house, at the top of a gently rolling hill that fell away to a quiet creek bed. The sun was setting in the distance, sky turning orange in the dying light as Vagrant pulled things from the small basket she'd acquired.
  179. "I brought honey, lemonade, a little bit of tea, some jams for you to try, soft bread, and a leafy sandwich for you if nothing else tickles your fancy."
  181. You'd laughed a little as she pulled all these things out. She'd gotten more than you'd expected. But more than that, she'd gotten them to share with you.
  183. Looking up into your eyes, she'd said happily, "Let's eat!"
  185. So the two of you had eaten bread with jam, the first time you'd witnessed her eat a non liquid food, and sipped tea and lemonade while watching the sun go down. Casting it's orange glow over the creek and the fields that lied beyond, you had stretched out before falling onto your back with a dull thud; Content with the meal and company.
  187. "So, did you like it?" Vagrant asked, leaning over you with a big grin, "Did I do good for my host?"
  189. "Very," you said with a happy pat of your stomach, "I don't think I could eat another bite. Those jams were delicious; Where did you get them?"
  191. As she described the small shop that had so graciously given her the jars of their homemade jams, she scooted closer to your side, gently pushing away the basket and remains of what little food was left, until she was right beside you.
  193. You closed your eyes, savoring the final light of the day warming you.
  196. when you came to, you were still lying outside. A pleasant, warm feeling on your chest and stomach. Thinking you had dozed off for a moment you'd started to laugh, trying to get up, before realizing something heavy was on your chest.
  198. Opening your eyes, you blinked a few times before realizing Vagrant was lying on you.
  200. Hooves gently draped over your chest and waist, she was sleeping. That small, happy smile still on her face as her antennae twitched gently at your movement. Her wings were draped out over you as well, making it look like you had a big, grey and reddish brown blanket on your torso.
  202. You'd lied there for a while, not really sure what to do. Just savoring the warmth and happy glow coming from her as she rested, holding you like a prized possession or a loving partner.
  204. The thought made your heart positively glow, and you'd reached a hand out to gently pet her head. Minding her antennae, you stroked behind her ears and gently pet the back of her head down to her neck tufts.
  206. "Mmm?"
  208. The sound had made your heart flutter, and thinking of it now did so again. She'd opened those eyes of hers slowly, wings gently coming up behind her as she woke. She took a deep breath, yawning gently as you pet her.
  210. "Is something wrong?" she asked innocently.
  212. "No," you had replied honestly, "Nothing. Don't you want to sleep inside?"
  214. She had just lowered her head against your chest, nuzzling it affectionately, "Wanderers don't always sleep indoors," she murmured, "Just in places we feel safe."
  216. And so the two of you had slept outside, in the moonlight of a cool summer night. Your heart throbbed in your throat, and you tried to say something, anything. But in the end, you had settled for "Goodnight, Vagrant," and falling asleep holding onto her like she held onto you.
  218. Protectively. Tenderly.
  220. Lovingly.
  221. -----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
  222. Summer passed far too quickly.
  224. It seemed like after the night you and Vagrant spent sleeping under the open sky together that summer had given you its best, and decided to hand the reigns over to autumn.
  226. You and Vagrant wandered the outskirts of the town one afternoon, marveling at the change of colors the trees were going through and chatting happily about nothing in particular. Long had passed the period of introductions and learning the core of each other's personalities. These days you were just happy to have Vagrant, and she, seemingly, to have you.
  228. The two of you had already eaten lunch before setting out. Both of you wore the scarves you'd purchased in town for the impending weather; Yours a fiery orange that she'd picked out for you, and hers a vibrant yellow to accentuate the pattern on her wings.
  230. She floated beside you as the two of you wandered lightly forested areas without roads just outside of town. You had the feeling you were heading farther away from town on this slow meander.
  232. Maybe that was the path she had taken when she left.
  234. The trees there had been ablaze with orange and red colors, fighting against the coming winter in earnest before they turned brown and withered to bare branches. At the time, it was a beautiful sight. Vagrant had smiled happily, spiraling slowly to the tops of nearby trees, hooves spread above her, eyes closed, basking in the afternoon sun while surrounded by the beautiful autumn display.
  236. You hadn't been able to keep yourself from smiling, seeing her so happy.
  238. "Isn't it just wonderful?" she'd asked softly, floating back down and circling you slowly, "The countryside changing, displaying itself in a blaze of glory before the inevitable winter slumber. It just takes my breath away!"
  240. "Haven't you seen it quite enough times before?" you had asked with a smile, "Being a wanderer, and all."
  242. She had giggled, a sound like warm wind blowing through the trees, "I've seen plenty of every season. But fall is my favorite of all, and I'll never grow tired of it. The colors are too warm, too cheerful, to make me feel any other way."
  244. She'd hovered to your side, resuming a walking pace beside you as you gently turned back toward town.
  246. Even now you swear there'd been a hint of sadness in her eyes when you'd done so.
  248. "What season is your favorite?" she'd asked as you wandered home.
  250. You thought for a while about it, finally deciding and telling her: "Spring. To me, it symbolizes new starts, the return of life from the hibernating winter, and a kind of hope for good things in the coming year."
  252. Vagrant had smiled and nodded her approval, "Spring has some of the best smells in nature, as well. Often did I once sleep in beds of flowers and beneath scented pine trees when I grew weary. Though I will say the spring rains make traveling a tad bothersome to downright impossible sometimes."
  254. "I'm sure it does," you had said with a gentle laugh, causing Vagrant to giggle again as the two of you reached your home.
  256. "Winter is my least favorite," Vagrant said as you both entered your home, hanging your scarves on a coat rack by the door before Vagrant darted to the kitchen and removed two mugs from the cupboard while you began to heat some milk for hot chocolate. She knew the drill by now, and made small talk while eagerly waiting for the milk to heat, "You can never make much headway in cold weather. Too busy sheltering from the cold winds and snow. On a nice day, though, the scenery out there is truly something to see."
  258. You nodded, saying, "Maybe one day I'll see more of it."
  260. You hadn't added the "With you," the words sticking in your throat like they were covered in honey.
  262. Maybe that would have made all the difference.
  264. Vagrant had nodded, smiling brightly, "I'm sure you will! Our walks get longer every day. I think you've got some wanderlust of your own, deep inside."
  266. "Maybe," you'd said as you removed the milk from the stove, pouring it into the mugs that already had chocolate inside.
  268. "MMmmmm," Vagrant hummed, sniffing the sweet scent of cocoa before flapping to the living room, letting you carry the drinks after her, "I will say that nature doesn't provide such comforts, even during the best season."
  270. "The advantages of settling down, I suppose," you'd said with a chortle.
  272. The two of you sat on your couch, setting the drinks on the table between you and the fireplace in your living room. You got up, piling a small amount of wood into the fireplace in preparation for the quickly descending night and its cool evening temperatures.
  274. Vagrant hadn't replied, looking like she was deep in thought when you turned around. When she noticed you watching her, she smiled brightly and picked up her mug of chocolate, taking a gentle sip.
  276. Humming happily, she flapped her wings once, gently, before setting it down and licking her lips.
  278. "You make such wonderful hot chocolate," she said as you sat beside her, "You'll have to tell me what you mix in with the milk and chocolate to make it taste so good."
  280. "That's a trade secret," you said with a wink, smiling as you teased her a little, "Only I know the recipe and it'd take some hard convincing to make me share it."
  282. "I'm sure I could manage~," she'd said seductively, batting those eyelashes and scooting closer to you on the couch.
  284. You just picked up your drink, taking a swig of your beverage as she scooted close enough to bump into you gently, her rump and leg touching your thigh.
  286. Setting down your drink, you hadn't known what to do with your hands. Putting them in your lap felt weird, but it avoided any contact with Vagrant.
  288. Despite the fact the two of you slept in one another's embrace every night these days, it still felt...strange, in any other capacity.
  290. Until that night, anyway.
  292. She'd touched your leg with her hoof, making you jump in surprise, which made her giggle that warm, lovely laugh of hers.
  294. "Don't worry, I don't bite," she'd said, leaning up against you a little, "And I'll ignore the hot chocolate recipe for now, if it makes you relax a little."
  296. With your heart in your throat you'd shared a laugh with her, before slowly reaching your hand out and clasping it around her hoof. Kind of like holding hands, but, well, you were the only one with a hand.
  298. Sighing happily, she'd closed her eyes and rested her head against your arm, leaning her body against yours while you looked at the fire, then down at her. You rubbed her hoof with your fingers gently, before working up the courage to move your hand, placing it around her waist without crushing her wings, and gently held her to your side.
  300. "That took longer than I thought," she said in a near whisper, making your heart race, before looking up at you, meeting your eyes with hers.
  302. Eventually, she had smiled, closing her eyes and nuzzling her cheek affectionately into your shoulder.
  304. "Thank you, again, for all you've done for me."
  306. You stammered for a response, still not sure how to say what was on your mind. wanted her to stay. That you enjoyed her company.
  308. That maybe....
  310. "What's wrong?" she'd asked, seeing the troubled look on your face, concern suddenly showing on her own, beautiful features, "Is something the matter?"
  312. "No!" you'd replied, perhaps a bit loudly, before lowering your voice and saying gently, "No. Nothing is wrong. I just...I don't know what to say."
  314. "Then don't say anything," she'd said softly, pushing herself against yours gently, gently raising herself on the couch, her face getting slowly closer to yours as she smiled softly, "Let me be thankful. For your kindness. Your generosity."
  316. Her face mere inches from yours, she moved her hooves to rest on your shoulders as you turned to face her.
  318. "For you."
  320. You still remember the kiss that had surprised you so much. The softness of her lips, but the firm, confident way she had pressed them against yours. The taste of hot chocolate on her lips and the smell of freshly burning firewood hanging in the air of your home. The way you'd sat there, baffled, while she kissed you, before finally wrapping your arms around her and holding her gently as you returned the kiss with passion.
  321. And yet, for all the passion that kiss had, it held that sweet innocence of being the first.
  323. When your lips parted, and you stared into each others eyes, she'd smiled first, before resting her head on your chest and letting herself sit on her haunches again.
  325. There were no words as you held each other. Just the smell of firewood, the taste of chocolate, and the soft warmth of your love.
  331. The sweet memory too much to bear, you slam your book shut, throwing the pen against the wall as tears well in your eyes.
  333. This would be harder than you thought.
  334. -----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
  335. Things were never quite the same after that night. But then again, how could they have been?
  337. Vagrant started sitting closer to you at the table for meals, and outright snuggled against you whenever you laid down on the couch or bed. You found yourself doing the same kind of things. You caught her off guard while cleaning one day, Vagrant humming a tune as she floated about and dusted shelves.
  339. You hadn't been able to help yourself, really. Overtaken by a strong desire to surprise her, you'd sneaked up and grabbed her from behind.
  341. She'd let out a cry between a squeak and a yelp, dropping the duster as you held onto her carefully, trying not to damage her wings. It'd taken her a minute to figure out what your intentions were, before she'd slowly folded her wings and let you "catch" her. You'd held onto her, just standing there while wrapping your arms around her body just under her front legs, before she talked you into sparing your arms the weight and cuddled with you on the bed she'd already made.
  343. The two of you had dozed off, napping together.
  345. When you came to she was in the kitchen, making hot chocolate as best she could, tongue sticking out the corner of her mouth in concentration as she tried to measure milk into the pan.
  347. You'd crept back to the room and feigned being asleep just so she could bring in a tray of the sweet smelling drink. Your heart had nearly melted when she giggled, landing softly beside you after setting the tray on the night stand. You still remember the feeling of her stroking your hair softly, humming a tune you didn't know to herself before she kissed you on the forehead and gently nudged to wake you up.
  348. You put on the best show of waking up you could, but even now you think she'd had her suspicions about whether you'd really been asleep or not.
  350. If she'd noticed after all, she never told you she minded.
  352. And so the winter passed: The two of you having moved beyond simple friends or roommates, but into a cautious couple trying to figure out what to do next.
  354. --------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
  356. Maybe your lack of initiative had been what caused her to leave.
  358. A month passed, then two, where the two of you sat on the precipice of your relationship. You cared for her, and she very clearly cared for you, and yet....
  360. After you'd given her that damned satchel, and then fallen ill, she'd disappeared.
  362. ---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
  364. The satchel had been part of a gift exchange the two of you had done for kicks. It was winter, you were stuck indoors most the time since getting Vagrant's wings too wet would impair her for a while, and she wasn't big on snowball fights.
  366. After a day of making snow ponies and moths and snowmen in the yard, the two of you had come inside, putting scarves and jackets up on the rack before falling back on your, now traditional, hot chocolate and cozy fireplace ritual.
  368. That's when she'd surprised you, again.
  370. With a gasp she'd darted off to the bedroom, telling you to stay where you were.
  372. When she came back, she had you close your eyes.
  374. "No peeking!" she insisted with a laugh as you tried to subtly open an eye, "I want it to be a surprise!"
  376. Sighing but smiling widely, you'd shut your eyes tight and held out your arms as you heard her flutter over.
  378. She'd placed it in your outstretched hands gently, like she was laying something far more precious in your care.
  381. Truth be told; Maybe she had.
  383. You'd opened your eyes and found a large, bound book of sorts in your hands.
  385. "Open it!" she'd said, scooting close to you and holding your arm with her hooves, resting her head on your shoulder with a smile as you opened the book with no title.
  387. Inside were pictures you never knew had been taken.
  389. Beautiful landscapes at sunrise and sunset, vast fields of green and dense forests that crawled with life, rainy towns and snowy towns, bright days and a few dark nights. All places you'd never been or seen, at least at first.
  391. The second half of the book had been things far more familiar. The coat rack where yours and Vagrant's scarves hung, intertwined. Hot mugs of chocolate and the warm fireplace. A picture of you sleeping with Vagrant making a goofy face. An image of Vagrant trying on your socks, which made you laugh quite hard and made Vagrant stick her tongue out playfully at you; All kinds of pictures of you or her, or things you shared.
  393. Not one had both of you in it, though.
  395. "I thought we could do that one next," she'd said with a smile, pulling a camera out from behind her. Had she had that this whole time?
  397. She'd winked mischievously, "I've still got a few secrets."
  399. Not wanting to wait, she'd snapped the photo while holding onto you. The two of you smiled greatly, the happiness you shared palpable even in the photo that still sits in the dusty book of too sweet memories.
  401. That's when you'd given her the satchel. Right after she'd taken that photo.
  403. She'd seemed so happy for your thoughtfulness, saying how nice it was, if a bit dusty from sitting under the couch all this time.
  405. "I suppose it'll make travel easier," she said with a slowly fading grin, "Though I don't know how much of that I'll be doing anymore...."
  407. "Well if you ever do, now it'll be easier," You'd said.
  409. Like a fool.
  411. She'd been so obvious! The photographs, the book of memories, "I don't know how much of that I'll be doing anymore," and just...everything!
  413. She'd wanted to stay, and you'd known it, but you'd not said what you wish you could tell her now.
  415. Falling ill hadn't helped either.
  417. -------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
  419. Something tickles the back of your mind as you think this, but you can't put a finger on what it is.
  421. Maybe writing it out will help.
  422. That's the whole reason you were doing this, after all.
  423. Find out where you messed up, or what you weren't tracking.
  425. There's still hope.
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