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Askireet - Like Bread and Butterscotch (WIP)

May 14th, 2014
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  1. "Do you think Sepia will like it?"
  2. "Wha?"
  3. "Do you think Sepia will like it?"
  4. >You look over at him. He stares back.
  5. >A part of you is relived; if Moon Dust doesn't see you as a longterm partner because of what happened before, you might have a chance with one of the moth mares before it's concluded you're gay completely.
  6. >You had expected just to be boyfriends or something after that. Apparently not.
  7. >This also means Moony's not gay. And Sepia, of all moths?
  8. /I guess he's full of surprises. Not sure he knows what he's getting himself into, but by definition that is puppylove for ya./
  9. /Well, it could be worse; at least she won't break his heart over her knee to get him to leave her alone or something./
  10. >You imagine trying to convince him that going after Sepia is not a good idea.
  11. >No run of the mental simulation goes over all that well. This in addition to the fact you aren't in a hurry to see Moon Dust become stony and jaded and down-with-love causes you to lean towards letting things run their course, at least for the moment.
  12. "It looks fine, Moony."
  13. >You work on getting the food packed the rest of the way as Moon Dust fiddles with his attire for the party.
  14. >He just has a few more finishing touches, you gather.
  15. >Pepper Dust is hosting. You expect an interesting evening.
  16. >The sun has just gone down.
  17.  
  18. >------------------------------------------------------------------------------
  19.  
  20. >The night is coming to a close.
  21. >It *had* been interesting.
  22. >You remember even Shimmer Light had come by.
  23. >Well, not really *come by*, but she had *walked* by.
  24. >You aren't sure whether that was her regular route home or not.
  25. >It probably *was*, given all you'd been told about her.
  26. >You had been standing outside for a sec and had given a wave.
  27. >She did that thing that cats do where they look your direction and stop long enough for you to know that they've seen you.
  28.  
  29. >Practically the whole town had been there, including ponies who were quite often scarce at big parties.
  30. >For example Dawn Gleam had showed, though left hours ago after having arrived politely on time, staying long enough to get some food and chat for a bit.
  31. >You'd expected her to be more awkward, given the attention to timeliness stacked with the fact that she rarely sees half the town because of her day-ly schedule (which is actually during the day, unlike the other moths, especially those you'd hung out with).
  32. >She is probably awake again presently; the sun is now out.
  33. >Sequin and Cinnamon left as it was starting to become light, both tipsy and giggling.
  34. /Should've guessed they were sisters, really. Now seems so obvious./
  35. >Whelp, at least you have it straight now. You didn't stick your foot in it as a result of not knowing, either, which is good.
  36. >There are just a few mothponies left -- Butterscotch, Moon Dust, Pepper Dust, and Meisa.
  37. >You -- obviously -- are also there, although not yourself a mothpony.
  38. >The food you helped assemble is heartily eaten, you are now just waiting for Pepper to wash the platter you brought it on, and then you're along your way. The sun is now fully up.
  39. >You're on the couch across of Butterscotch.
  40. >She got really hammered. Not throw-up drunk, but just- well?
  41. >You aren't sure if moths can even throw up.
  42. >She seems happy, though, mumbling things to herself unintelligibly.
  43. >Meisa is on the seat next to you, looking a bit tired, but relaxed.
  44.  
  45. >A clatter comes from the kitchen, along with a yelp. It doesn't sound serious.
  46. Meisa turns and calls over the seatback toward the kitchen: "Everything alright in there?"
  47. Moondust calls back right away through the door, "Yeah, everything's fine."
  48. >The big door between the kitchen and living room area is the only weird thing about the place.
  49. >Well, other than that moss that Amata and Pepper fostered to help Pep with his allergies.
  50. >Other than those two things it's a model home, pretty much.
  51. >You go back to lounging.
  52. >You'll probably be up for a few more hours.
  53. >As a daytime creature by nature, seeing the sun always gives you a bit more umph.
  54. >Sunrise always makes the moths tired, most of them.
  55. >When keeping the usual night-time schedule so you're in synch with pretty much everyone, you generally try to get to bed while it's still dark out so you don't get reminded biologically of the normal time you're *supposed* to be up and about.
  56. >There's some shuffling from the kitchen. Probably cleaning up of whatever was dropped.
  57. >You hear Moon Dust's voice. There's some tension in it.
  58. >Tentatively, you start to stand up.
  59. >You're now hearing Pepper as well.
  60. >They'd been talking on-and-off the whole time and the door had blocked much sound coming through, but they've grown loud enough to hear.
  61. >Meisa has gotten up as well.
  62. >You look back at her with a look of concern, which she simply mirrors on her face without a gesture.
  63. From behind the door: "Hey! Don't-"
  64. >More shuffling.
  65. /Okay, that's it./
  66. >You pull the door open.
  67. >Moon is standing in the near corner across from the door, teary-eyed, with one forehoof raised protectively, as if a physical confrontation had just been interrupted.
  68. >Pepper Dust is a few paces away from him.
  69. /This can't be what it looks like.../
  70.  
  71. >A mop stands propped against a wall in the opposite corner.
  72. >Pepper gives you a smouldering look and goes back to doing dishes.
  73. >No one says anything.
  74. >Meisa has poked her head in. Her expression is not legible.
  75. >You glance at Pepper. His eyes are down, on the sink and dishes.
  76. >Still not sure what happened, you hold a hand out to Moon Dust.
  77. >He runs over to you faster than expected and rears up into your arms, colliding with enough force to make you grunt.
  78. >Regardless, you put your arms around him and return his hug. Your hands are greeted by his ruff in back, which is amazingly soft, as always.
  79. /Well, at least he's not limping./
  80. >His breaths are shallow and his heart is going kinna fast. You hold him.
  81. >There's one little jerking start in his breathing that happens, which you take to be a little sob that he's choked back.
  82. >You don't feel another one. Had he just been startled by mistake?
  83. /No, there is a bit more to it than that./
  84. >Your mind is rolling like a cloudfront, trying to calculate what might have just happened. You can't.
  85. >The clink of dishes rings occasionally as Pepper Dust washes.
  86. >You push you anger back for now and focus on Moon Dust.
  87. >Though his heartrate stays up from it's usual, his breathing slows down before long.
  88. >You withdraw from the hug but still have your hands on his shoulders. You look at him, trying to get a read.
  89. >With a forehoof, he pushes your arm down and wipes and an eye. You drop your other hand; he doesn't to be touched right now.
  90. A sniff. "Everything is fine, Anon."
  91. >With wet eyes, he looks at you. Without warning, he forces a smile, and holds it, with you in his gaze.
  92. >It's the saddest damn thing you've seen since you came to Equestria.
  93. >You're trying your hardest to just keep yourself from tearing up.
  94. >An unexpected tap at your shoulder from behind you.
  95. >You're startled, but don't jump. It's Meisa.
  96.  
  97. In a quiet tone: "I was gonna take Butterscotch home, but I can take Moon Dust. Do you wanna trade me?"
  98. >She gestures.
  99. >You glance at the sink. You'd much rather walk Moon Dust back yourself but sure enough, your dish isn't clean yet.
  100. >It looks like it's going to be the last one out of the sink, here.
  101. >You *would* just leave it, but Pepper Dust has an appointment here at the house and he might not have room enough for the huge thing to get it away neatly. He is kindof particular.
  102. >For Moony's sake, it's probably better he get home swiftly. He won't be alone. You trust Meisa.
  103. Softly: "Uhmh. Yeah. I can take Butters instead."
  104. >You knew where she lived. Er, wait- that /had/ been her house you were at the other day and not Birc-
  105. >Meisa leaves with Moon Dust before you can ask to confirm.
  106. >You think to go after them but are interrupted.
  107. From the couch, loudly: "Why am I alooooone allofasudden?"
  108. "Anon." Pepper Dust shoots you a glance. That was your cue apparently.
  109. >You go over to Butterscotch.
  110. >You aren't sure if she can walk at this point, muchless fly. This is going to be an endeavor.
  111. >Again because of the appointment here first thing "tomorrow," she can't just sleep on Pepper's sofa.
  112. >You plop down next to her so she'll notice she's now in company.
  113. "Oh, hello Mr. Anon."
  114. >Partly laying back, she yawns and stretches casually.
  115. "Just 'Anon.'" You correct.
  116. Silence, then: "MISTERRRRRR ANOOONNNNN!" She gestures emphatically, as if welcoming you onto some stage as a known celebrity. Think Steven Universe -level hammy-ness here.
  117. >It gives you a chance to laugh off some tension, at least.
  118. "Meisa tells me you can just sleep in tomorrow."
  119. >She grabs onto your hand unexpectedly in a hoof.
  120. "You know? That's so wwwwonderful! I llllluv sleeping in!"
  121. >She releases it as big gestures go right along with the overemphasis on words.
  122. >It seems like she's still on stage, in her head.
  123. >You'd been that drunk before. Good times.
  124.  
  125. >You try to make conversation for a minute;
  126. "You drank everyone under the table, Butterscotch."
  127. "It kinna just- *happens*... you know? When yo're meeeeee- it happins. See because me?" She's paused.
  128. >You look back over. She is pointing and trying to look very serious.
  129. >She looks ridiculous trying to appear stern at a time like this but you manage to just grin instead of breaking into a laugh.
  130. She continues, "Me-I take 'em for the team, you know? Everypony had a good time, right?"
  131. You nod reassuringly. Truthfully: "It was a pretty good party."
  132. >Heck, it would've been a *great* party if not for that little scuffle or whatever it was between Pepper and Moon Dust.
  133. >You still have to talk that out with Meisa and figure out what happened.
  134. >She'll probably have more subtlety talking to Moony about it than you anyways, so it's good that she took him home.
  135. >She really is sharp as a tack, not unlike another pony you'd known who also dabbled in fashion, only Meisa knew when she could drop the pretentious act that her profession sometimes carried.
  136. >You were lost on that train of thought for a second but Butters brings you back, tapping on your arm rapidly as she talks, drawing your attention.
  137. "See, 'cuz I'm like that Bolt guy, you know?"
  138. >You process, then guess:
  139. "The runner, Usain Bolt?"
  140. "Yeah, that's him! The *fastest* anon!"
  141. >She meant 'human,' but you didn't correct her. She already wins points for remembering the conversation you'd had about him earlier that night.
  142. "See? I'm always gunna haf the high score, rite? And I can't help that." She then paused for effect. "But I encourage everyone. They know to try hardest because of me that believes in them!"
  143.  
  144. >You aren't quite sure you'd followed but you make sure:
  145. "Soo everyone gets drunk, is what you're saying."
  146. "That's RIGHT!" She gestures towards you with both hooves. "Everyone gets *DRUNK!*" She tosses her hooves up and flops back onto her back as she says this, a blissful expression on her.
  147. /This is going swimmingly./
  148. >Although a great warmth and presence is about Butterscotch most of the time, it was lessened when you were there; she'd seemed to be a little spooked still when around you.
  149. /Apparently that goes away when she's had quite this much booze. So noted./
  150. >You nodded to yourself. Glancing through the doorway, Pepper finally had your big platter in hoof.
  151. >You sighed, and surveyed your upcoming trial.
  152. /Hell, she's almost as big as I am./
  153. >While not quite the same minimum orthographic measure as Pepper Dust, she more than made up for it in girth.
  154. >You have never asked, but either of them probably weighs about as much as you do, if not a little bit more.
  155. >Pepper Dust walks from the kitchen with your dish, drying it off.
  156. >You tried to be smooth about your next request, here, and accept the dish back.
  157. "You don't happen to have a wheelbarrow, do ya, Pepper Dust?"
  158. >He responded flatly,
  159. "You're kidding, right?"
  160. >You rubbed the back of your neck and motioned.
  161. "Unless you need it for your showing, then-"
  162. >He cut you off,
  163. "I'll go get it."
  164.  
  165. >Pepper is getting more on-edge as that appointment gets closer, here.
  166. >Another date for the whole gettogether would have been optimal, but this had been the last night a few of the ponies there would all be around for a while, meaning the two times ended up one right after the other. So it was.
  167. >He's wheeled it around through the front door now, from back in the herb garden.
  168. >The wheel is clean, so he rolls it right up next to the couch. He gives you a wry look as if to imply "Take it away, ringleader."
  169. >He heads back and starts mopping, looking increasingly tired.
  170. "Uh- i-is that it, Pepper, anything I can stay to help you with?"
  171. >He shakes his head.
  172. "No. Thanks though. I'm mopping myself right to my bedroom from here."
  173. >He sneezes several times, each one slightly more distant down the hallway leading off from the kitchen.
  174. >He made an effort just there, to be nice to you.
  175. /Hmmmm.../
  176. "I'm sure I've been there once, but again what direction is Butterscotch's house?"
  177. "East, I think, but don't quote me on that. Here and some parts of the hospital are the only places I can be for too long without my nose going c-c-c-cra- so-" he sneezes and then doesn't finish the last syllable. He'd had a long night.
  178. /Right, because of his condition, usually ponies are the ones to visit /him,/ not the other way around, so it makes sense he isn't sure./
  179. >Alas, but you should get going.
  180. "Butterscotch?"
  181. >She is dozing but wakes up enough to mumble.
  182. "Huh- wha?"
  183. >She blinks sleepily.
  184. "We're still at Pepper Dust's but we need to go, alright?"
  185. "Oh, okay yeah. Alright."
  186. >She immediately starts nodding off again.
  187. "Butterscotch. I need you to roll over, okay?"
  188. >You prod her. Swiftly, you take off your jacket to pad the inside of the barrow's tub a little.
  189. >There's already a sandbag or two which Pepper Dust might have added out of consideration. You cover them.
  190.  
  191. >You start to pry at the whitish, somewhat-adipose ellipsoid on the couch by the wheelbarrow.
  192. >Luckily, the two heights aren't all that different.
  193. >You pull from her shoulder. The tissue squishes in your grip, but you hold onto it and patiently pull.
  194. >The skin there isn't weak so this will either feel a bit good to her or only hurt just a little.
  195. >Mostly likely neither if she just stays unconscious.
  196. >You pull at the big, semi-fluid dollop of mothpon before getting her close to the edge and finding a spot for a fulcrum to help you splat her into the tub you had readied.
  197. >You look behind you and consider the situation.
  198. >Thinking smart, you slide the other couch a bit closer.
  199. >It will give you a better backstop if the wheelbarrow starts to tip over right away once Butters is totally in it.
  200. >Of course, having thought that far ahead, you don't end up needing it.
  201. >You successfully have the breathing, whitish-winged sack into the single-wheeled cart, and now are ready to depart with her.
  202. /East... *seems* right?/
  203. >Anyway you head east.
  204. >Toward the end of the boardwalk you start to see a cluster of houses that look familiar, although you're not sure which one is Butters' place.
  205. >You consider waking up your passenger at this point...
  206. >...However, you'd gone down several stairs as a result of not knowing where all the ramps were, and Butters had yet to stir, you doubted she would now.
  207. >You try the front door which is nearest to the south.
  208. >The village hospital is visible overhead some distance away, the southernmost building inside the village.
  209. >The house door is locked.
  210. "Damnit. I thought everyone here kept their doors unlocked. Well..." You turn to Butterscotch. "Either we're at the wrong house or you've locked yourself out. I'm not going to just grope you until I locate your keys as I don't even know this is the right house. So... I guess we're not far from my place, but as for getting you up the stairs..."
  211.  
  212. >You hear the lock moving.
  213. "Oh, uhm. Hello there."
  214. >You turn back. An off-white mothmare with a green mane is at the door. You speak first,
  215. "Hi. Uhm. I'm in a bit of a bind, uh. This- doesn't happen to be where Ms. Butterscotch lives, does it?"
  216. >You pointed at the sleeping pony in the cart as a visual aid.
  217. >The mare answers,
  218. "I- well. I don't know. I mean, no it isn't, because I live here."
  219. >She looks pretty crummy. You hope you didn't wake her up.
  220. "Could you tell me where she lives then? I'm just trying to get her home so I can get some rest myself."
  221. "I- I'm new to the village. I don't even know everypony's names yet, so I-"
  222. "Aha. Really sorry to bother you then." Your mind is racing as to how you'd get this white speckled lummox up a whole flight of stairs back at your place. You sigh and then think out loud. "Okay, well. It's about time to give up and go home then. Most moths will be soundly asleep by now so I shouldn't keep knocking on doors."
  223. >You try to think of where Dawn Gleam lives -- as she'd be awake -- but can't quite remember. You haven't really made it in with her circle of friends yet so you'd never been sent there, only perhaps lead once or twice, no doubts via confusing shortcuts through the village.
  224. "Y-y-you know- I'm about to leave town for the day, and I still have a few liters of j-juice left, a-and I've g--got a spare bed you could-"
  225. >You bless your luck.
  226. "Main floor?"
  227. >She looks down.
  228. "Well, m-my bed's on the m-m-main floor, and the g-guest bedroom is up a flight. W-we c--could trade and then-"
  229. >You love small towns because of this. Folks were *actually* nice.
  230. >The level of distrust back home had made the odd day obscenely difficult.
  231. >Hell, you can only imagine what it would be like for a pony stuck back where YOU were from.
  232. >They'd be left to die, no doubt! Nobody wanted another mouth to feed there.
  233. "SOLD."
  234.  
  235. "You already know Butterscotch's name and I'm-"
  236. "Anon, right?"
  237. >You step over to the wheelbarrow and grab the handles.
  238. "You've heard of me!"
  239. "My name's Reverie."
  240. >You lift up so the single wheel can turn and waddle toward the door.
  241. "Well, Reverie, listen. Not six months ago I was just like you," six months wasn't quite right but it sounded great, "and I didn't know a soul in town, and now I'm a designated, erh- well- wheelbarrow operator!"
  242. >If your attempt to look or sound cool were a front-flip your neck would be bent and your face would be bloody.
  243. >She giggles, apparently taking it to be a good joke.
  244. "Well c-come on in, then. The tea's on. You like ginger?"
  245.  
  246. ---------------------------------------------------------
  247.  
  248.  
  249. >With the occupied wheelbarrow abandoned in the entryway just past the door, you sit down for some tea with Reverie.
  250. >It's good. Her place is well-kept also. Although she stutters, she seems very appreciative of the company.
  251. >You want to give her a h-
  252. /QUIT IT./ You catch yourself. /Don't lose your edge, Anon. Stay grouchy. Friendship ain't shit./
  253. >Reverie's todo-list has something to do with looking after someone's foals as a part of her run outside town.
  254. >There are a few other odds and ends she needs to take care of as well.
  255. >You try your best to follow, but in addition to being tired, you aren't sure quite sure what the main purpose of the brief trip was.
  256. >From what you could gather, it sounds like she hasn't quite pulled up roots yet fully, despite having physically 'moved house.'
  257. >You probably won't retain many details but you decide to ask anyways whether it's routine for her to go out of town like that or not.
  258. "You go out of town often?"
  259. >She looks startled.
  260. "N-no. J-just those few final things."
  261. >You blink. It's hard to tell, but it's almost as if she's convincing herself of this as well.
  262. >Obviously the move wasn't to be closer to anyone she knew, given what she'd said at the door about knowing next to no-one.
  263. /Perhaps it's because of the friends she thinks should /could/ make./
  264. >There is something special about this place, you feel.
  265. >Before you can ask just why she moved to the village in the first place, though, she gets up.
  266. >Looking a bit jittery, the small mare gathers a few things into a messenger bag and then turns to you as if to say something, but it seems like she decides to just smile. It's the weirdest thing - slightly creepy and heartbreaking at the same time.
  267. >It makes your eyes water like you're being shown some blurry text.
  268.  
  269. "I'll be sure to invite you to the next get together we have, okay? Assuming you're not busy."
  270. /So much for 'friendship ain't shit.'/
  271. "Y-you d-don't have to do that. Th-this here is nothing. I-I'm not using the house anyway."
  272. >Oddly, now, you seem to have a vision of what her life might have been like for her in the much larger town some few dozen miles over.
  273. >She'd mentioned the name over the tea and you now remembered;
  274. >You'd passed through there once on your way to this village where you now live, just briefly. It's a commerce-town.
  275. >You'd stopped to eat there. It wasn't aesthetically quite as grimey as where you'd come from, but it had that sort of apathetic feel to it.
  276. >It had reminded you of- home. *Home* home. Like, the one that didn't have ponies, only... humanity.
  277. >You shiver. You are quite sure ponies would stand up to it even worse than you had, over a prolonged period, and Reverie didn't exactly look all that rugged even for a pony.
  278. >Maybe - if fate is a thing here (it certainly damnwell isn't back in your world, but)...
  279. >Maybe fate brings folk here to heal, in some way.
  280. >You think about this as you watch the mare take flight from the boardwalk outside of her door.
  281. >You aren't sure yet. Once you work up the courage, you might go and ask Meisa about the whole "feeling hot" thing that had gone down.
  282. >You'll be dead set about asking someone if you notice it happens again, though you're not sure it will.
  283. >You glance at your teacup. Still a gulp left - 'the best thing ever,' as a old friend had always described it: noticing you still have a bit of tea left. It reminds you you have to give Butterscotch something to drink now so she won't risk a hangover, anymore than she already has, that is.
  284.  
  285. >You smile. From what you hear, she works really hard. She was a little reserved about kicking back properly at the party.
  286. >She had waited until all the young moths had all been sent home, and then had - with some encouragement - started to play catchup.
  287. /And boy, did she ever catch up./ You chuckle, and look again to your cup.
  288. >The ginger tea you have might be a little sharp for her, depending...
  289. >You also remember reading somewhere that ginger can be used to wake horses up and make them act peppy, at least for short periods.
  290. /The last thing I need is for her to get all talkative again./ You're ready to crash, and are leaning towards just water for her.
  291. >Since it also would help to have her awake to get her to bed properly, maybe you can just wake her up now and ask her preference of beverage, though.
  292. >You think there's more left in the pot, if she wants it.
  293. >You do that slightly-stressed pinching motion with one hand and you rub your eyes for a sec through the lids before looking back up.
  294. >Taking care of drunks has always been weird. And is especially weird when you don't know whomever it is you're looking after personally.
  295. >So many unknowns so account for.
  296. >Before you try to water your horse... bug... you go and eyeball the width of the hallway to the ground floor bedroom.
  297. >It's going to be an "only one way to find out"-sort of deal.
  298. /Anyways./
  299. >You think better of waking her up right away and grab a glass of water from the tap*, a fresh cup of tea from the pot, and a glass of juice from the flagon in the 'icebox.'**
  300.  
  301. * which is fed by a rainwater reservoirs kept on the roofs of each group of buildings
  302. ** you have yet to disassemble of these mysterious iceboxes, so as yet you have no idea quite how these work
  303.  
  304. >Now, armed with the three beverages, it should be impossible for her to foil you by asking for whatever drink and then falling back asleep on you as you went to fetch it.
  305.  
  306. >You return to the wheelbarrow.
  307. "Butterscotch."
  308. >No response. Louder, now:
  309. "Butterscotch."
  310. >She stirs and you prod her with your free hand to make sure she won't drift off. She yawns sleepily.
  311. >Her tongue has turned blue. You're a bit alarmed at this. As 50%-mammal, that was probably not a good colour for it to be.
  312. >She can't see it, obviously. You tell her;
  313. "Your tongue is uhh... Does this happen, usually?"
  314. >You point. She seems a touch dazed. Squinting:
  315. "It's what?"
  316. >Nervously, still pointing:
  317. "It's blue... Does that happen normally?"
  318. >She tilts her head.
  319. With a hard-to-place tone: "My tongue's blue."
  320. >You swallow.
  321. "Yeah, that's what I said. Do we need to take you to the hospital? I cou-"
  322. "My tongue's blue. My tongue IS blue. My tongue is always blue."
  323. >You gawk.
  324. "Really?"
  325. >She nods, suddenly exasperated. You think she is hamming it a touch up because you woke her, then again...
  326. "Is that it?"
  327. >She makes to go back to sleep.
  328. "No, that's not 'it.'"
  329. /So her tongue was fine, but how could I have known?/
  330. >You make a point not to apologize; you are *trying* to do her a favour here already.
  331. >She sighs as she looks around, now.
  332. "What."
  333. You answer: "Butterscotch, I'd like you to drink something before we get you to bed."
  334. >You show her the tray with its 3 drinks - a cool, sweating glass of juice, a modest cup of ginger tea featuring a faint wisp of steam rising off it, and - your own personal favourite - the drink of lions and tigers, served in a glass identical to the juice-glass, but at room-temperature.
  335.  
  336. "Whose house at we at, Anon? Is this your place?"
  337. >A very odd look spread across her face. Your expression droops. /Not this again./
  338. "...Did we?"
  339. >Flatly:
  340. "No. We're at Reverie's."
  341. >She blinks.
  342. "Who?"
  343. "Reverie's."
  344. "That's n-"
  345. "She's new in town. Now." You thrust the tray toward her ever so slightly to remind her.
  346. /Atta boy, Anon! Grouch McGee! Jerkin' it all the way home! I- Hm. That sounded awful, didn't it? Well, you're me. You know what I mean./
  347. >She's silent. Awake, but silent. You *try* to speed things along.
  348. "Ginger tea, chilled juice of somekind, and our dear friend, Water. Pre-melted for your convenience."
  349. /Takin' back the field, awww yea!/
  350. >She tilts her head. You elaborate:
  351. "When you get really drunk you're supposed to-"
  352. "I know that... I- uhh, I'm just trying to watch my weight. Could you, uh..."
  353. >She gestures towards the water-glass and the juice-glass.
  354. >Your expression droops. It dawns on you. After a moment:
  355. "Mix the water with the juice, fine. 50-50 okay?"
  356. >She nods.
  357. >Both glasses are full, so despite your best efforts, you now have to keep her waiting.
  358. "Don't fall asleep, please."
  359. >You turn and stride away, then look for a liquid measuring cup. Finding a funnel first, you use it instead.
  360. >With the help of the brilliant invention, you pour half of the water and juice from the each glass into a new one.
  361. >You return swiftly. The transaction takes all of perhaps 40 seconds but Butterscotch has somehow managed to return to sleep within that span.
  362. "Fffffffffffffff-"
  363.  
  364. >She opens an eye.
  365. "I gotcha."
  366. "-uuuuu... ck.""
  367. >Your swear fizzles. It would have been louder.
  368. >You're relieved. Cross, but relieved. The moths make you feel this way quite often.
  369. >She comments:
  370. "Pardon your Prench."
  371. >If you had more hair on your head, you'd be blowing it out of your face really haughtily.
  372. >You settle for oneupmanship. It's just that time of the morning where things sorta get silly.
  373. "Merci, but madam, Prance eece ze finest saurce off jus de l'eau. Pleas, 'ave eh smol taste et ze least. S'il vous plaît."
  374. >Your brief visit to Prance had garnered you an unspeakably-bad fake fancy accent. You are glad it comes to use.
  375. >Butterscotch is still giggling some as she drains the glass.
  376. "Now, so. Can you walk?"
  377. >She settles herself down a bit and looks at you. She takes a breath, seemingly about to say something emphatic but then just shakes her head.
  378. "No."
  379. >Past the superman-phase. Good. You hated the superman-phase.
  380. "Your room's around the corner. Shall we?"
  381. >You lift the two handles and swivel the single-wheeled cart toward the hallway.
  382. >It scrapes the wall on either side of it ever-so-gently as you proceed, but you make it through.
  383. >You are impressed. The bed's already made. Reverie is a neatnik through and through, even this soon after moving.
  384. >With Butterscotch awake, you're able to help her out of the wheelbarrow and onto the bed.
  385. You ask: "Worth it?" - referring ofcourse to the level to which Butterscotch took her partying.
  386. >She thinks for a moment.
  387. "My hooves are sore, from dancing." She had indeed danced up a storm. "Otherwise, no regrets."
  388. "Attagirl!"
  389. >She smiles.
  390. "Alright, well, I'll grab you a glass of water on my way up the stairs to my room, I could use one too."
  391. >You know that Reverie had implied you could take her room /instead/ of the official guestroom, but you know how to remake a bed after having slept in it, and you also know there'd likely be spare linens if needbe.
  392.  
  393. >You both sleep in your respective beds for a good while.
  394. >Butterscotch is still at it sometime after you wake up... You have yet to meet a moth who did not have a cute snore.
  395. >You had recovered your jacket from the wheelbarrow and found the current book you were reading.
  396. >Unsurprisingly - about mothponies, the best one you have yet to get a hold of.
  397. >*Sur*prisingly, it was written by Equestrians and could have been better-researched.
  398. >Mothponies seem to be an extremely intuitive group in some respects; there is a lot that is just *known* which doesn't seem to ever be written down by anymoth.
  399. >"Anymoth."
  400. >You had tried that one on for size once just to see how it went over.
  401. >Hexferry had nearly suffocated from laughter.
  402. >And watching her struggle over and over again to stop had sent Caramel and Goldie over the edge after several minutes also.
  403. >You'd had to just cross your arms and bear it.
  404. ...
  405. >The book was interesting though.
  406. >You suppose you understood ponies well-enough, so the challenge was to figure out where there was cross-application as opposed to not.
  407. >You are considering doing your own writeup.
  408. >Maybe it would help some other weary traveller such as yourself someday; mothponies were at times confounding to understand.
  409. >You resolve - as you read and make comparisons to your own experiences so far - to start keeping a journal at the very least.
  410.  
  411. >A sharp knock comes at the door. Although the village has no formal police, it sounds official and demanding in the same way that police tend to knock.
  412. >Having remained fairly sober the whole night, you can fairly confidently recall no drunken property-damage or such goings-on.
  413. >Were you not a well-recognized-if-not-comedic figure of the village, you would worry you'd be seen as a burglar or squatter at Reverie's house.
  414. >You set the book down, and descend the stairs to see who it is.
  415.  
  416. >A dull-coated, purple-maned mothmare stands on the boardwalk outside.
  417. >Her muzzle twists as you open the door up.
  418. "Is Reverie here?"
  419. >There is force to her voice. You believe you have heard tones of this intensity before but cannot recall a context.
  420. "Uhm, she's-"
  421. "You're Anon, right?"
  422. >You hope she's not trying to make a sale of somekind; this pony's voice is the definition of "hard sell."
  423. >You nod to her, and speak;
  424. "She's off on some errands at her previous place. She told me a little bit about where she would be this mor-"
  425. "Was she alight?"
  426. /She IS a cop. This is interesting./
  427. >You angle for a clarification.
  428. "I'm... sorry- is something the matter?"
  429. "She's new. I'm supposed to check if she's alright."
  430. /At least she's not selling anything./
  431. >She had dodged the question entirely. With a serious tone, you ask:
  432. "What is this about?"
  433. >She gives a short, exasperated sigh.
  434. "Tarkin said to check on her. I'm checking."
  435. "Oh, the mayor?"
  436. >She corrects you sharply:
  437. "Grand moth."
  438. Irritably: "Grand moth, yes. I had tea with her this morning, what do you need to know, if not where she is?"
  439. >She snorts.
  440. "Her *status.*"
  441. /If they had politicians proper here, she would make a great one. Tarkin's spy I guess is just as glamorous, kinda./
  442. >You snark at the lack of info she offers:
  443. "She's a nervous little mothmare with questionable relationships in her contacts over the hills."
  444. >You gesture.
  445. "She was really happy to have me with her at breakfast, it seemed like. She missed a good party last night. Her - uhh- house is really clean."
  446. >That burning stare...
  447. "She's nice."
  448. >...Like fire.
  449. "I said I'd invite her to the next one."
  450. >It softened ever-so-slightly, like a soldier's eyes watching a tank advance toward her across a minefield and manage to avoid most of the devices, then, finally seeing it hit one of the last ones before it could reach her.
  451. >Without a word, she turned and started to march away. You call after her:
  452. "Hey!"
  453.  
  454. >She looks over her shoulder with this weird smirk. To yourself, but still loud enough for her to hear:
  455. "What the hell was that about?"
  456. >After a few more strides, the mothpony speeds into a gallop before flying up and literally off into the sunset - the mothpon's equivalent of early morning.
  457. >You head back inside.
  458. >Taking the chance while downstairs to check on Butterscotch, you notice she had finished her water throughout the day.
  459. >You refill it, and set it back on the nightstand.
  460. >Though she has to be at least as heavy as you are, she looks adorable there, just a massive speckled-and-snoozing blob on the bed, but-partially hidden under the covers.
  461. >She doesn't really bother with seeming ladylike, ever. Posturing of that kind isn't for her.
  462. >Everybody knows she cares for the kids, and cares for her friends.
  463. >Meisa had called her an enabler jokingly, in the sense that 'Scotch's care allowed the village foals' parents far more freetime off to themselves than they deserved.
  464. >A bit drunk at that point, 'Scotch had responded sassily:
  465. "Hey, Meisa you know it takes a village, Meisa. To raise the kids? And I'm the village."
  466. >What a personality.
  467. >You think you may feel that heat again, creeping up along your scalp, the longer you look at the noisily-sleeping moth. You trod back upstairs, and feel it dissipate.
  468. ...
  469. >You finish the book.
  470. >You aren't used to do that - finishing books.
  471. >It's a new thing, somewhat;
  472. >You've read books, and have gotten to the end before, but often it seemed to you as if you should return to the beginning after having somehow forgotten how it started.
  473. >Now, though, it feels less like that.
  474. >And at the same time it also feels less like an achievement, and more like just a part of life - just... reading books... Like having a good night's sleep, just a thing that happened which was a sign of things going as they should.
  475. >A necessary thing.
  476. >You hear some stirring downstairs.
  477. /Good. Perfect timing./
  478.  
  479. ------------------------------------
  480.  
  481. "Good evening, princess!"
  482. >The big, white mothpony sets her once-again empty glass back onto the nightstand.
  483. "Anon, please, it's too early."
  484. "HA! I'll have you know it's well-past midnight. You are LONG overdue for a razzing." You inquire: "Late... err- dinner?"
  485. >You have been on corrected on this before, and you still have trouble keeping straight whether to change all of the meal-names around to make them match how late in one's waking hours they are, versus keeping them the same and ignoring that "breakfast" is actually the last meal of the day. {Thread can argue over this one if they'd like.}
  486. >At least you've learned not to say "anymoth." The worst you'll get for calling the wrong thing "supper" is a weird look.
  487. >She puts her forehooves behind her head.
  488. "Has the hostess really offered? Or are you just going to raid the pantry?"
  489. >You pause. /Right, she doesn't know that Reverie is out of town on an errand./
  490. >Her comment was slightly sharp. You're still deciding whether you like her better when she's gotten totally elephants partying or not.
  491. "Reverie is gone for a few days and said that the bottled juice she had would be spoiling by the time she got back."
  492. >Butterscotch looks a touch surprised.
  493. "Not bad, right? Here, I'll be back with them."
  494. >She still seems apprehensive somehow. You hope it will pass.
  495. >You go back to the icebox and look. Despite the two bottles of juice you had need earlier, which you knew were 'yours,' it's empty-ish.
  496. >Toward the back, you now notice a *very* interesting transparent-blue bottle with a red ribbon attached.
  497. >Curious, you look.
  498.  
  499. >An official-looking seal has been pressed onto one face of the ribbon in wax of the same colour.
  500. >The characters were from one of the old mothpony scripts which were used by some tribes who had writing, before 'Equestrian' started becoming the universal archival form. As such, you can't read it.
  501. >However, you recognize that the imprint looks similar to the village-crest, which appears in several places outside, on the sides certain buildings, and other fixtures.
  502. /Municipal compliments? A housewarming present, maybe?/
  503. >You almost miss it, but on the back of the ribbon, there's some modern writing, shaped very small.
  504. >You squint. In the current light, you can't make out what it says.
  505. >You need to eat more carrots.
  506. >On inspection of the bottle itself, there is a very dark-coloured banister running in a spiral along the inside of the bottle, standing out from the somewhat-heterogeneous mixture (which, you notice does not shift just from tilting the bottle, meaning the stuff inside has got to be quite thick).
  507. /Huh./
  508. >You decide to take the three bottles and make your way back to Reverie's room.
  509. >If nothing else, Butterscotch may offer some interesting trivia about the apparent present.
  510. >You'll pretend your eyesight in the dim illumination of the house is even worse than it actually is, and pretend you don't know that only two of the three bottles are really fair game.
  511. >You walk back in. Butterscotch is where she was, but is sitting up now.
  512. "If none of these count as a proper meal, we can go to Bir- err- Minty's. They should be open by now. I'll drive, even." You make a wheelbarrowing motion.
  513. >You expect an eyeroll, but the the white estigmene moth instead makes grabby-hooves for the special bottle as you get close.
  514. >You are ofcourse curious as well, but try not to show it.
  515. "Now this..." she notices the small ribbon. "'Anon, please enjoy.'" That must be what the writing says.
  516.  
  517. >You do a double-take.
  518. "Is that what it says?"
  519. "So, you didn't just write this on the back, here..."
  520. >You ignore her insinuation;
  521. "Reverie must've done it before she left." /She could've just told me before leaving... A better surprise this way, maybe?/
  522. >Butterscotch looks excited.
  523. "Go get a whisk, Anon. And a bowl. Oh, and a spoon."
  524. >You quip back: "Oho, I think *you're assuming* that *I* wanna share."
  525. >She gives you a threatening look as she clutches the bottle.
  526. >You shake your head and proceed - once again - into the kitchen.
  527. >Actually, you really like serving food.
  528. >It isn't something you had ever practiced before winding up in Equestria, but you're glad you've learned since then.
  529. >If you ever get sucked home again somehow - something you infact fully expect to happen at the most impossibly-inconvenient moment - you think you'll become a be a chef... not the high-pressure stuff you'd seen in media, but something lower-key, like starting a bistro.
  530. >You procure the utensils.
  531. "So Scotchy, you're killing me," you notice yourself saying one of the names Caramel used last night to refer to her.
  532. >She doesn't appear mad;
  533. "Huh?"
  534. "What's in this thing?"
  535. She smiles and allows a short second to pass as her drumroll.
  536. "It changes every year. Maybe a dozen-or-so of these bottles are filled during fall. They go out to friends of the village. Dawn sends them. New residents get first priority. Always a new recipe."
  537. >You ask again:
  538. "So what's in /this one/?"
  539. "You really can't see too well /atall,/ can you?"
  540. Flatly: "It's dark. And I don't enjoy carrots."
  541. To your response: "Psh." In answer: "It's mostly blueberry. Aaaaaaaand... chocolate swirls."
  542. >That's what those spirally band-things are, apparently.
  543. /Whatever happened to watching your weight?/
  544. >You almost say it in question, but something tells you you shouldn't.
  545. "So what do I do?"
  546.  
  547. >You motion toward the things you brought in.
  548. "Well, half the bottle into the bowl, and then I think I'll just use the bottle, unless you empty too much, in which case we'll each get a bowl."
  549. >So the spoon is for you, along with the bowl, and the whisk is to coax the stuff out.
  550. >Butterscotch will probably use her tongue on the bottle.
  551. >You are /almost/ used to the way the moths eat and drink most things by now... /almost/.
  552. >The implication about the second bowl is that Butterscotch will get whatever portion is bigger, unless they are equally-divided - namely, she knows you need a bowl to eat yours.
  553. >Her protocol does make sense; it will be motivation for you not to cheat and divvy up unfairly.
  554. >You start slowly with the small whisk in the neck of the bottle at a gentle angle.
  555. >She watches.
  556. "Tell me five seconds before I should stop."
  557. >Now that you know what's in the bottle, you conclude your pace is perhaps agonizingly slow for the both of you.
  558. "Well, what do I say then?"
  559. >The whisk continues to clink against the sides.
  560. >The question frustrates you because you hadn't thought about it and now you need to.
  561. "I dunno... pre-stop?"
  562. Immediately: "Pre-stop!"
  563. >You maintain your pace for another five seconds and halt.
  564. >Indeed, the division of the bottle's volume looks about even.
  565. >In reality, you totally get the raw detail, because most of the chocolate has stayed stuck inside the bottle.
  566. >Before handing it back to her, you swipe some of the chocolate onto the whisk and lick it.
  567. >You only get a few drops with it really, really... a spatula would have worked better.
  568. >Regardless, you weren't about to double dip.
  569. >You return the bottle to her and she takes it happily.
  570. >She sticks her tongue into it and then lifts it back out after coating it thoroughly.
  571. >She's drinking it thoughtfully.
  572.  
  573. >You think it looks childish still, but this was a big step up from the horror of mothponies you felt the first time you dined with them.
  574. >And indeed still further a step up from how uncouth it looked to you not long after that.
  575. >'Childish' is actually an irony given that moth foals - at least most of them - don't develop a longer tongue until later.
  576. >Oddly, this makes giving sets of cutlery very common fare at baby showers.
  577. >"Talking silverware," you learned, is an idiom amongst moths for discussing marriage and conception with somepony.
  578. >There are actually a slew of derivative phrases in fact, some of them rather offensive.
  579.  
  580. >You toast with the bowl in the air before trying the mixture.
  581. >It's slightly acrid, to your surprise.
  582. >Thinking about this, it makes sense given that fall - when the stuff is bottled - has not happened yet, meaning it's had time to ferment since last year.
  583. >Still, it's good, and you can actually taste all manner of fruits in the mix, although blueberry is clearly at the forefront as Butters had said.
  584. >There are peaches too, and... mango, maybe?
  585. >As far as you know, mangos only grow very far away, but perhaps they are imported from somewhere.
  586. >After all, these are indeed very special little gifts made in small quantity every year.
  587.  
  588. >You actually outpace her in eating, mostly because you've only had juice since the party and have gotten quite hungry.
  589.  
  590. >Your diet is about 50% liquid nowadays given what's available. You have adjusted to that well, but the limits of biology only stretch so far.
  591. >Plenty of fruits and vegetables from the markets are still distributed whole so they keep longer, you simply just skip over the step of liquefying them somehow before eating.
  592.  
  593. >When you get back home, you will probably make a sandwich. A point of pride now, almost, as your loaves of bread are beginning to look respectable.
  594.  
  595. "So, you know Reverie from before she moved?"
  596.  
  597. "No, actually. Funny story - we just met this morning."
  598. "WHAT?"
  599. >She almost spits out the drink she's taking.
  600. "Well, Pepper Dust sent me in the wrong direction to find your house, so I knocked on wrong the door, and that's how we met."
  601. >Butterscotch was speechless.
  602. "And, she let you in? Just like that?"
  603. "She knew who I was. I'm known across continents."
  604. >You are able to add that fine slice of ham without a pause, and with a straight expression on your face.
  605. "Rrrrright."
  606. >You move on:
  607. "Besides, it's tit-for-tat. She gives up some privacy and dessert, and in return she gets to meet a great guy like me."
  608. "You sound like Virgo."
  609. "I didn't /mean/ it like that."
  610.  
  611. >You'd had some exposure to Virgo-proper at the party...
  612. >He'd said countless suggestive things while playing Ratslap, it seemed using too much of his focus on speaking, and too little on spotting the slaps.
  613. >Despite the extra-drink penalty for being the first one out every round, this didn't seem to deter him.
  614. >The group who was playing decided unanimously that he had to sit out once he was no-longer able to even slap on top of the deck reliably, often slapping right next to it, having mistaken the precise position of the deck from double vision.
  615. >Despite his big talk, he was a bit of a lightweight. It had been funny.
  616.  
  617. >To prove your un-Virgoness, you decide to share your thoughts.
  618. "Really, she seems, uhhm."
  619. >You do this grimace, flex your wrists, and extend your fingers out straight, and abduct them, and then kindof wave them from the wrist, deviating ulnar-ly with one hand and radially with the other and then vice-versa, perhaps like a slow-motion version of what someone might do if they didn't know any dance appropriate for rap-beats, other than what they'd seen on MTV... back when MTV was, well... *not shit*.
  620. >You do this for several seconds, searching for words to describe the feeling.
  621. >The gesture is nonsensical, but it's the best representation of the impression she'd given you.
  622. >Butterscotch squints at this.
  623. >You try to complete the thought using the few words you'd gathered.
  624. Still with a grimace, and supinating one forearm, you state: "She really needs friends."
  625. >A slow change in her features seems to reflect that she's understood the sentiment alright, despite its odd expression.
  626. "So uhh. You're probably good by now, and want me out of your hai- err. Mane?"
  627. She asks burlesquely, "And give up this room-service?" as she finishes the last tongue-full of the blueberry drink, finally.
  628. >You get the feeling she doesn't have anyone waiting on her like this practically *ever* as one of those works-harder-than-anyone-even-expects-her-to-work -type types. She doesn't seem to be in denial about it at least, though.
  629. In a demure tone, as if you're suddenly a butler: "Well, I see you've finished your drink. What else could I get you?"
  630. She plays along with it; "Oh, I dunno. Hoof-rub, maybe?"
  631. >She settles back. The way her smile hangs for a moment in a weird way makes you suspicious she's blushing a bit at this stage, though it's hard to tell.
  632. >You answer; "Okay."
  633.  
  634. ------------------------------------
  635.  
  636. "D-hy-uh y-you d-on't have to, I was... kinna kidding."
  637. >You have apparently called her bluff with your quick response, but it's still a chance to make inroads.
  638. "You know I was cleaning gutters yesterday before the party? I've washed my hands since, then ofcourse, but-"
  639. "What does that have to d-"
  640. "Trust me, I'm used to /far/ less glamour. C'mon. You're sore. Lemme do it."
  641. >You take up a hind hoof and press with your thumb. It yields ever-so-slightly.
  642. >You try with the edge of your thumbnails to get some more pressure.
  643. >Her leg tightens involuntarily from the gaskin {this is the equine analogue for the human triceps surae and its neighbours - the 'calf' group that points the toe.}.
  644. >You slide your fingers around the underside of her hoof until it meets your palm, and raise your other hand now to hold round her fetlock just gently until she relaxes.
  645. >The heat from your hands slowly seeps into the mare's hoof.
  646. >You breath in slow.
  647. >All of the weirdness you get to see - since being lead all the way here - thrills you in a million ways.
  648. >Whenever it is that you end up have to return back to boring old Earth, you are sure you will miss this, along with a list of countless other things.
  649. >Still keeping her hoof aloft loosely with your other hand, you press with the full force of the fingertips of the other into the sole within the wall of the hoof, something which would have hurt if done on most other parts of the body.
  650. >A hot sigh escapes her.
  651. /She needed this./ Well, just as much as you needed it, anyways.
  652. >You proceed, one finger at a time, pushing a sequential pattern as hard as you can into the ebony surface.
  653. >With your steadying hand, you can feel little involuntary twitches in her leg from this.
  654.  
  655. >You now move your fingers to the coronet, just superior to the hoof itself, where the clean fuzz of her coat extends just past the dark wall of keratin, and press in again.
  656. >Her leg tenses up slightly, asif you've run a mild electric current through it.
  657. >You press in sequence, forming an arc in time around this band in even pentuplets.
  658. >Each time, she tenses up at her quarter, but she relaxes in each little pause a bit more the next go-around.
  659. >After continuing this rhythm for some time, it seems all of the tension there is gone.
  660. >Butterscotch's heart thuds calmly now.
  661. >Hopefully one day, when she finds herself a stallion (or perhaps settles for a mare, for that matter), she'll ask this favour of them, and if they are good, they shall not mind it at all.
  662. >You turn your thoughts away from this though now, and lay her leg down gently just beyond the footboard of the bed.
  663. >Picking up the sibling limb, you gather all of your fingers at the back of her fetlock and smooth down the slightly bushy part of the coat there on the plantar side of the pastern, inferior to the fetlock.
  664. >Cupping the wall of her hoof in your outside hand, you roll your knuckles with the other into that sort of hint-of-a-frog that ponies seemed to have, instead of the more-pronounced one common to your past experience.
  665. >You listen to her breaths, and can feel a hit of her pulse every so-often through your fingertips.
  666. >It seems odd to you, how in such cases the breath can work so fast, yet the pulse beat so slow.
  667. >You roll your fist into the caudal half of her sole again.
  668. >A relaxed grunt escapes her, an ascent to your earlier implication that she might benefit from allowing you proceed.
  669. >You half-expect a 'sorry' for that low, falling tone she gave, but she says no such thing.
  670. >The nature of embarrassing sounds seems to be that percussion is acceptable, whereas winds are not.
  671. >It had fallen more on the side of percussion.
  672.  
  673. >Indeed, instead of issuing an apology, she gently shoves the lifted hoof a bit closer toward you, as if you paused because you could not reach it properly.
  674. >It strikes your upper belly, a few centimeters below your solar plexus.
  675. >Her hooves have warmed up wonderfully now from the state you'd found them in, so much so that it feels as if a wetted rag had briefly bumped that location, leaving some water which gives you its heat for a moment before evaporating with the rest of its energy.
  676. >You hug the thing to yourself, now, feeling its hard edges against you, a precise mix of smooth, flat, and angular surfaces.
  677. >For a moment, you just press it there against you, trapping the warmth of it with your forearms and chest, as it trapped some of yours.
  678. >You are sure she can feel a slightly-heightened heartbeat on the underside of her hoof, but perhaps she could not guess how fast a human heart went ordinarily.
  679. >After a long breath with it pressed to you through your shirt, and a long breath out, you release it.
  680. >You bring it up to your moth and just... breathe on it, as if to warm up cold digits, or fog a window.
  681. >More tension drains from the limb as you do this once... twice... finally stopping after the third time.
  682. >Your lips tingle oddly from where the edge of the hoof had just barely contacted for a second.
  683. >You also notice now that the site on your chest has also yet to cool off back to the uniform temperature of the rest of your skin.
  684. /This again?/
  685. >You say nothing; you've probably brought just about enough weirdness into this as it is.
  686. >You go back to rolling your knuckles into her hoof's frog-area, as before, then proceeding with the pressure-point routine around the coronet as you'd done on the other hoof.
  687. >You return to to the sister, and relax the frog in the same way as you'd done before.
  688. >You then cradle each fetlock in turn again and rub slowly at the flexor tendons both above and below the joint, working deeply into the flesh of the leg.
  689.  
  690. >Between two or three fingers, you proceed to pinch up and down along the area, which earns you another encouraging grunt from the mostly-white mare.
  691. >Gently pinching and kneading, you work your way up to the point of the hock, but stop just inch or so past it, so she doesn't think you want to take all of this off in some other direction.
  692. >You breathe out slowly, encouraging the mare to do the same.
  693. >Finally, after finishing both hocks this way, you run your fingernails down the front side of each leg with the grain of the coat, digging past the fine hairs to scratch the hide beneath lightly.
  694. >After several long, slow strokes like this, you lift each hoof up by the pastern and give it a few sort of shakes so that your... /client/ knows to loosen the limb for you.
  695. >You rap your knuckles now on the hoof wall, yielding a dull sound.
  696. >The light impacts, which the mare feels reverberate partway up her leg, are meant to banish the last bit of fatigue in their novelty.
  697. >Finally, you lift each hoof in your hand and push into it with the distalmost ends of your metacarpals - those little bumps on your palms at the base of each finger.
  698. >You interlock your digits on either side of the sole so you can squeeze like this firmly enough for her to feel it.
  699. >Afterwards, you set each hoof back down gently and pat it once, signalling you are done working them.
  700.  
  701. "Anon, you shouldn't've done that."
  702. >She had spoken these words wryly, and - you realized - and was smiling.
  703. >It takes the social part of your brain a second to fire up again.
  704. >You tilt your head, expectantly.
  705. "Oh?... And why not?"
  706. "Because now I know you can."
  707. >You smirk, but go ahead and pretend you don't fully understand the implication.
  708. "Alright..."
  709. >She completes her thought;
  710. "I could tell every mare in the village about that, and you would be booked solid with requests. You'd do nothing else!"
  711. /I dunno if that'd be so bad, really.../
  712. >You joke back;
  713. "Well it would keep me from having to clean gutters, and- I'm glad you liked it. But come on, you're better at keeping secrets than that, aren't you?"
  714. >She releases a low giggle.
  715. "Only if it means I can get on the schedule sooner."
  716. >Ah, banter. For all his other gifts, Moon Dust - at present your closest friend in the village - is quite terrible at it. You'd forgotten how much you missed it.
  717. "Well listen, from what I hear, you work really hard and do an important thing. I was pretty sure you'd appreciate the gesture, but let's keep this one on the down-low, shall we?"
  718. >The big mare holds still and squints at you theatrically.
  719. "I'll think about it."
  720. >You offer to help her up, but she indicates she needs a minute first.
  721. "Sure."
  722. >You nod and shut the door on your way out, heading over to the breakfast table to wait.
  723. {Insert gratuitous Butterscotch-masturbating scene here, if you like.}
  724. >She comes out not terribly long later after a few moments and a trip to the bathroom.
  725. "Anything else on the off-day agenda, Miss Butterscotch?"
  726. "Well, Mister Anon..."
  727. >She nods her head to one side at you, as if you are hosting an informercial or holiday newscast together.
  728. "... have you ever built a catapult before?"
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