The Taming of the Harsh (/nmp/)

Dec 2nd, 2017
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  1. >Evenings in Canterlot are getting chilly.
  2. >Even for a late summer evening it's too cold.
  3. >You feel it when a breeze washes up your coat with freshness despite you wearing your usual jacket.
  4. >It's not anypony's fault that you're here at such a late time. Just that the train from the Crystal Empire is late.
  5. >Just how unprofessional can this place get? Unfathomable.
  6. >But no, you don't blame them. You blame yourself. You were foolish enough to get roped into this.
  7. >You thought you didn't have the liberty to refuse the princess' offer.
  8. >You could've turned it down, but no, she was too nice.
  9. >"I understand why you're reluctant, but... Just give it a chance, Ms. Harshwhinny. I'm sure you'll enjoy it."
  10. >Words of the love princess still ring in your head as if she's laughing at you from her cozy throne room.
  11. >What utter nonsense. You never wanted any part of this. You were just tired of seeing those ridiculous pamphlets everywhere you went.
  12. >At your work, at your meetings, at you gym, in your shower after your walks in the park. In the shower, for pony's sake!
  13. >You haven't found the pony responsible for this yet. And by trying to do so you got yourself into this Human Immigration Initiative business.
  14. >Knowing what it's all about it was absolutely clear it had nothing to do with you.
  15. >Only desperate lonely mares got "matches" that way. Every single one you've seen were like that.
  16. >They've lost hope to get a real mate and now they get an easy way out by this "unconditional love" thing.
  17. >And while it's true that you were single, and have been for quite some time now, you were anything by desperate.
  18. >Instant gratification never appealed to you. In fact, you resent it.
  19. >You only get what you work for. The harder you work, the better it will get.
  20. >This motto has never failed you in your life.
  21. >But now some mares who have never tried for a day in their life suddenly get everything they've wished for?
  22. >What kind of pure wish fulfillment fantasy made real is this?
  23. >It is unfair. Plain and simple. And you wanted no part in unfair practices.
  24. >You get what you get. By trying, not by using an obviously illegal spell to abduct aliens.
  25. >It's sickening, that's what it is.
  26. >And yet here you are. Waiting for that train from the Crystal Empire. Your match is arriving today.
  27. >You did request the technical details and it was revealed to you that this human, Anonymous, has a 98.7% chance to make you happy.
  28. >In turn you asked what that means, but you only got a cop-out answer of "happiness is an individual thing" or something in that vein.
  29. >This has got to be a joke and you're the butt of it. Because now it's you who's freezing on the platform, waiting for that train.
  30. >You even got excited for one moment, when you just arrived here. Now all the enthusiasm is long gone.
  31. >So when the train finally stops at the station, sparkling in the setting sun, you just want to see this Anonymous, confirm that he has nothing to do with you, and get out of here.
  32. >There's quite a few humans on it. Most have a mare waiting for them.
  33. >Curious and timid they ask for names and when they confirm it's their match they laugh and hug.
  34. >What a joke.
  35. >You did memorize how Anonymous looks so you spot him in the crowd easily, but you won't call for him.
  36. >If he misses you it's his fault.
  37. >He doesn't. Upon seeing you his face lights up with exhilaration.
  38. >His fervor doesn't die down, which is weird, because you're pretty sure you're giving him the most annoyed expression you can manage.
  39. >There he comes, right to you. He's a bit bigger and more intimidating than you've expected.
  40. >Maybe you shouldn't anger him? Just in case?
  41. >You weren't defenseless and you were actively keeping yourself in shape but this thing is just too big.
  42. >Maybe a good kick in his-
  43. >"Uh, hello? Ms. Harshwhinny, is that you?"
  44. "Oh, I-"
  45. >Your thoughts are interrupted so abruptly you're at a loss of words at first, which in itself is a massive choke for you.
  46. >Never thought you'd stutter like a little filly that before this alien.
  47. "Yes, that's me."
  48. >Just what are you getting all giddy about? Are you really that excited to meet him?
  49. >Your "match". This can't be that easy, can it?
  50. "You're Anonymous I presume?"
  51. >Yeah, that's me. Nice to finally meet you."
  52. "Same."
  53. >Just be polite for now. Even though you're (supposedly) less than excited there's no need to be rude.
  54. >You're not some over-emotional inexperienced mare, you can handle it with grace.
  55. >"So, uh... I guess, we're matched."
  56. "You guess?"
  57. >"Well, we are, yes. Heh."
  58. >He's not doing himself any favors with his nervous laugh.
  59. >Your judging squinting gaze makes him even more nervous than he already is so you decide to lay off of it for now.
  60. >To be sure he doesn't speak up again and, how do they say it nowadays, "spill his spaghetti" even more, you decide to take the initiative.
  61. "Come with me, Anonymous. I've been waiting here long enough."
  62. >That could've been worded better. It almost sounded like you've been waiting for him specifically long enough, as in-
  63. >Nevermind, you won't explain yourself to him. Let him think whatever it is he's thinking right now.
  64. >Is he happy that he's here? Is he happy at all that he's matched with you? He seems to know who you are, though it's not really an achievement since you're not exactly a nopony.
  65. >A lot of public places know about you, so...
  66. >Wait a minute. So that means everypony will know you got matched if they ever see you with him!
  67. >You blame yourself for not thinking about it earlier.
  68. >Already you envision it. "Ah, that old Harshwhinny, so lonely and so desperate, she got herself a human now. Just how low can she get? She has to resort to this kind of cheat pretend romance instead on playing on level field like we all expect her to. No dignity."
  69. >Ah, ponyfeathers. It doesn't matter right now. You'll have to set things right with this human first.
  70. >Anonymous follows you down the streets of Canterlot without saying a word.
  71. >Maybe you've intimidated him enough so he won't speak up?
  72. >At a glance he seems to be consumed by the sights of the city. You just now remember that he's never been here before.
  73. >Well, maybe it's worth giving him a little tour around the place later. So he won't get lost here at the very least.
  74. >Last thing you need is to worry about his well-being. After all he's your responsibility now.
  75. >You can't have him getting lost or doing something improper. Who knows what these humans are really capable of.
  76. >It's obvious to you that the guide you've been given doesn't mention everything about these creatures. Just the selected facts that can pander to a lonely mare's desire for companionship.
  77. >And yes, of course you've read the guide from first page to last, two times. You approach every situation in your life professionally, even if you dislike it.
  78. >Okay, dislike is a strong word. You don't care much about it. You don't find it special. You want to get it over with.
  79. >You stand now at the doors to your place and Anonymous has yet to say anything.
  80. >You almost worry if you overdid it. Almost.
  81. "Come on in."
  82. >It's a fairly humble apartment you live in. A few rooms, two floors, nothing too fancy. Your tour of your house is fairly short and you don't include your own upper floor bedroom because he has no business there.
  83. >"This place looks fantastic."
  84. >The first thing he says and it's to express excitement about being in your house. What a thrilling person he is.
  85. >Maybe it's good that he's easily entertained?
  86. "Anonymous."
  87. >Saying his name like that feels a bit uneasy for some reason.
  88. "Before we go any further, I have to say something. Take a seat."
  89. >Anonymous puts his bag right on the floor and sits across the table. Your chair is too tiny for him so he looks quite ridiculous.
  90. "I want to be absolutely honest with you, Anonymous."
  91. >"Alright."
  92. "I have something to say to you and I think that you deserve to know how I feel right away so there's no misunderstandings between us."
  93. >He nods, eagerly awaiting your explanation. Which is short and right to the point, as it should be.
  94. "I didn't want this."
  95. >"What do you mean?" he asks, not understanding the situation yet.
  96. "I don't want a human companion. In fact, I think it's quite ridiculous to have one. I have no need for you and I only agreed to it because princess Cadence asked me nicely."
  97. >"W-well, that's... Huh."
  98. >It almost makes your heart ache to see him go from confusion, to realization, to being absolutely crushed by your words. Almost. Almost.
  99. "But!"
  100. >This makes him think that there's hope for him still.
  101. "I am a mare of my word. I promised Cadence that I will give it a chance. And so I will. I will give you a chance, Anonymous. I am not about to dismiss the possibility that there can be something positive about this situation."
  102. >He smiles and it's pleasant to see how you lift his spirits just by saying that you won't kick him out right away.
  103. >Amazing how much power you actually have over this massive alien creature.
  104. >It doesn't escape your attention that you kinda liked how happy you made him with just a few words.
  105. >Well, it's what you do, isn't it? Your words are powerful even for ponies. It just feels different somehow.
  106. "And I guess you'll be staying here for now?"
  107. >"For now? I mean, I don't have anywhere else to go but... Aren't we supposed to be a... a c-couple?"
  108. >Breathe, Harshwhinny. Breathe. He doesn't know yet, no need to lash out on him.
  109. >You see right away that even without you saying anything he understood your thoughts just by watching you furiously sucking in air through your flaring nostrils that betrayed your anger.
  110. "Anonymous, I don't know how I can make myself any more clear. I. Don't. Want. This. I accommodate you for now because you have nowhere else to go."
  111. >He's about to say something but you hammer your point in even harder.
  112. "And if you're thinking about this Crystal Heart nonsense, think again. We are "matched" but that doesn't mean much, does it now? We are not struck by a love spell or fall in love on first sight."
  113. >Your last words seem to hit him the most. It can't be what you think it is though, right? You're just imagining things.
  114. "All it means is that there's a piece of paper that says that we are "a match" and I've yet to find any proof that it means anything but putting us near each other for some time to see if we stick together."
  115. >"B-but..."
  116. >Your hoof strikes the table.
  117. "Don't interrrupt me, Anonymous, that is very impolite! I am already giving you far bigger chance than I'd allow under any other circumstances. If you believe in miracles then convince me through your actions, but spare me your rrrhetorics and musings on the concept of love! I am NOT a naive little filly!"
  118. >The man seems absolutely terrified right now. You're leaving quite an impression on him.
  119. >Well, that's also what you do.
  120. >You hope you don't intimidate him too much though. Part of you actually hopes that he'll rise up to the challenge and at least make this worth your time.
  121. >But you don't see it happening. He's not the type to take action. And that's the saddest part about it all.
  122. >You continue in a much more calm and inviting tone:
  123. "Again, I AM willing to give it a go. I will take care of you in Canterlot and we'll spend some time together to see how it goes. Does that sound good to you?"
  124. >You think "inviting" but you still sound very formal, like you're making a deal with him. But to your surprise, this change does calm him down.
  125. >"Yes, Harshwhinny. I mean, Ms. Harshwhinny. I look forward to it."
  126. "Good. We'll start tomorrow, for now I suggest you get some rest. I mean, you must be really tired after your long road here."
  127. >"Yeah, I am."
  128. "Then, if you'll excuse me, I'll get some sleep as well. Good night, Anonymous."
  129. >To your annoyance you see him following you.
  130. "I don't think I've mentioned it, but your bedroom is right there. You're going in the wrong direction. Or is there something else on your mind?"
  131. >You almost expect him to say what he thinks right now because it's so obvious. Couples sleep together. It's how it is.
  132. >But you need to know if he understands his situation now.
  133. >Anonymous shakes his head.
  134. >"No, sorry. I'll be going then. Good night."
  135. "Good night."
  136. >Going up the stairs you can't help but watch him slowly walk towards his room. His very being, from his posture to his steps resonate with defeat.
  137. >You hope you didn't overdo it. He might run away during the night.
  138. >But actually, what do you lose then? It would just prove that he expected effortless wish fulfillment and sex on the first night and at the first sight of difficulties bailed to find somepony easier.
  139. >Like they all do in the end...
  140. >You still can't imagine how humans find ponies attractive and arousing but the guide said that those who get to Equestria find mares to be the epitome of attractiveness.
  141. >Maybe that's why mares latched onto this program so easily. It's just so lucrative to get free love. Free of expectations, free of failure, free of any prejudice.
  142. >Just get matched and that's it. It's so easy. Too easy.
  143. >What happened to fighting for your stallion? Enduring all the struggle to just make it happen?
  144. >Instead, you apply and get your match.
  145. >If it was all that easy when you were young, you'd... You'd...
  146. >Ah, forget it. It's too late now.
  147. >Undressing before your vanity you try to look into the mirror like it's the first time you see yourself. Like he's seen you today.
  148. "Bah..."
  149. >That's all you can manage after stomaching a few seconds of looking.
  150. >What kind of human would be matched with somepony like you?
  151. >You'll have to re-read the guide tomorrow to not miss any details.
  152. >As you try to fall asleep you feel kinda cold. The so-called summer nights are not living up to their name.
  153. >This city's weather team doesn't do this place justice.
  154. >Anonymous is probably cold too. He doesn't even have a coat like ponies do.
  155. >Whatever. He has a blanket, he'll endure. Humans can endure this much cold, right?
  156. >On the brink of drifting off you think about how Cadence said the chance he has to make you happy. She didn't mention the chance of you making him happy.
  157. >You don't get to think about it because sleep takes you rather easily.
  158. >You'll think about it tomorrow.
  160. >Oats, nuts, dry fruit - all with some warm milk.
  161. >A good breakfast to start the day with.
  162. >Anonymous doesn't seem to mind this kind of food, which is good, you really don't want him complaining about anything this early.
  163. >You have a horrible day of humiliation ahead of you.
  164. >All the important places of Canterlot must be shown to him by somepony, and, of course, that's you.
  165. >His "special somepony".
  166. >You still can't believe this happened.
  167. >Before shaking him violently so he wakes up you decided to take a good look at him while he's asleep.
  168. >Yesterday's annoyance has passed and you thought that this wasn't that bad of a situation.
  169. >Despite you crushing his dreams yesterday he still seemed happy to be here. Just in Equestria. Just meeting you.
  170. >"It's not Equestria that makes a human happy, it's his mare. Without his mare, a man is lost even in this world", stated the guide.
  171. >You started shaking him and telling him how he shouldn't sleep in and once he has awoken the annoyed mood has returned to you.
  172. >Now that he's eating his breakfast you're thinking about taking him into public and, naturally, can't avoid frowning at him.
  173. >He seems to like the food so much he doesn't mind. Or maybe he's just that hungry. Or maybe he has accepted his situation fully.
  174. >Now that would actually impress you. You doubt he'd be capable though.
  175. >To quote the guide again, "Humans naturally hold on to hope, even if it doesn't make any logical sense. Some believed in getting to Equestria long before it actually became possible."
  176. >So the fool probably won't stop hoping to get it on with you. A pity.
  177. >For now you decide to focus on getting him around the city the most efficient way.
  178. >Maybe you can use your usual routine for this? You're not really his tour guide.
  179. >Yes, this may work. He has no choice but to follow you everywhere as is, right?
  180. >So you don't have to only dedicate this day to him.
  181. >A visit to spa is long overdue, for example.
  182. >Actually, this may work for him too. The human population in Canterlot has been growing lately, to the point where most establishments now have to account for it.
  183. >Your gym for example has already opened a corner for humans with the proper equipment. Or so you've heard, so you might as well take Anonymous with you next time you go there.
  184. >For today, the spa and Night Blossom's diner should be fine, along with taking him to register as a human citizen.
  185. >Yes, this should do nicely for today.
  186. >It's good to plan ahead like this. You enjoy doing it. Brings some certainty into life.
  187. >With all this planning the breakfast goes by fast. Anonymous is still silent.
  188. >You're starting to get suspicious.
  189. "So, are you ready for your tour?"
  190. >"Can't wait."
  191. >There seems to be genuine enthusiasm in his voice so maybe he was just consumed by thoughts and not brooding or something.
  192. "Good, then we're going right after you finish your breakfast."
  193. >He nods, stuffing his face with food.
  194. >You're polite enough to not leave the table until he's done and after that you give him some time to prepare while you give your outfit some finishing touches.
  195. >Soon you're both ready to go. You close the door and get to it.
  196. >You had no need to map out the route or write down the places to go, you remember it perfectly.
  197. >On the way to "human embassy", as they call that place now, you try not to rush so the human has a chance to appreciate the scenery.
  198. >To be fair, your first time here as a filly left a colorful impression on you too. So it's no surprise than Anonymous goes through the city with an inspired expression on his face.
  199. >The castle alone towers over the city in such a way that it dwarfs everything else below it. From every angle it stands equally powerful and its grace can be seen from every spot in this city.
  200. >It has this poetic feeling about it, being protected and watched over by the benevolent sisters of day and night.
  201. >Of course these are just your musings and you don't share them with Anonymous who already has a lot to take in.
  202. >The central plaza is as busy as ever. So many ponies rush everywhere and among them can already be seen numerous humans who accompany them.
  203. >It has become a staple of this city over these months, as a lot of people find their matches in here.
  204. >Humans either love the cities or despise them. There doesn't seem to be a middle ground. They either find themselves comfortable with the fast-paced rhythm of life at the side of their special somepony, or crave the liberating ambience of rural nowheres as their life slows down to a crawl.
  205. >At least it said so in the guide. Your human seems to be the city type, it looks like he's really enjoying himself here.
  206. >You exchange some remarks here and there but generally there's not a lot to say.
  207. >It doesn't take long to explain the places you visit and in the end you notice that you do sounds a lot like a tour guide.
  208. >All he has to know is what place is this and what it connects to, no need for any history lessons or whatever. He can hire a real native guide for that.
  209. >To your relief ponies don't seem to care much about seeing you with a human. This is what immigration does to this place.
  210. >When you visited Canterlot during the first month of the Initiative activity, seeing a human was a rarity and a delight to the ponies here.
  211. >Walking down the street a man could be sure that he'll be a walking magnet for astonished gazes and all kind of exclamations, from just friendly to outright raunchy.
  212. >At this point nopony seems to care. About you or him. You enjoy it that way.
  213. >Soon you enter an old Canterlot theater building, now the so called human embassy.
  214. >A lot of mares and humans are in here right now. There's a giant line to the only open checkpoint.
  215. >It's a busy place and you see how Anonymous is getting unnerved here.
  216. >He's uneasy and he looks around in confusion, like he's a pet who's been taken to a vet.
  217. >Not a fan of public places like that? You can understand.
  218. "Let's get this over with quickly, shall we?"
  219. >He nods in a agreement.
  220. >It's actually rather pleasant to know he shares your resentment to this place.
  221. >A strange sense of camaraderie over being annoyed by very mundane things.
  222. >You approach a clerk with your usual expression. Which is very tired and annoyed.
  223. "Hello, miss, I'd like to register my human."
  224. >"Oh, hello! You'll have to take that line to the right, to the second window."
  225. >You have got to be kidding. That was the only way in?
  226. >Exchanging glances with Anonymous you can practically feel the same pain in him as you do in yourself, the pain that makes your lips curl in disgust.
  227. "Missy, there's three checkpoints in here from what I see."
  228. >The pony knows what you're getting at and it's probably not the first time somepony has brought attention to this fact.
  229. >"A-ah, the other two ponies are on the break right now..."
  230. "What?! Do you SEE what's going on out there?"
  231. >The mare is backing off now.
  232. >"Well, they've been working overtime and t-they-"
  233. "Do you seriously have no other ponies to stand in for them?"
  234. >"Ah, well..."
  235. >You roll your eyes and your nostrils flare with a mighty inhale you have to take to not catch on fire right on this spot.
  236. "Un-be-lievable." you hiss at her and turn around to your human.
  237. >He looks defeated just like yesterday, only more on the annoyed side.
  238. >Though he has a long way to go to reach your levels. The corners of your lips couldn't be lower right now and your gaze from under your eyebrows feels like it could turn ponies into stone.
  239. >Groaning, you take your place at the end of the line. Anonymous stands right beside you.
  240. >It's gonna be a long day.
  241. >After almost twenty minutes of waiting you only moved half of the distance.
  242. >Your human is decimated by waiting and it feels like he's ready to hibernate right here, standing in this hall.
  243. >But it seems not everything is against you today.
  244. >"Ms. Harshwhinny? Is that you?"
  245. >You turn to face a young mare's voice and you recognize her.
  246. >"What a surprise to see you here, I'm-"
  247. "Daisy Chain? You were the organizer at the Baltimare's annual tap dance competition three years ago, right?"
  248. >"Wow, you remember me? What a coincidence that we meet here again."
  249. >Of course you remember. It is what's expected of a good inspector pony.
  250. >"And you're with a human now?"
  251. >Here comes the filth. Now that she knows you await the-
  252. >"That's so amazing, I'm so happy for you!"
  253. >Wait, what?
  254. >"Have you come to register? There's a lot of hu- people here after yesterday's arrival and we barely handle it."
  255. >Ah-ha. So you've managed to get a hold on one of those responsible for this fiasco.
  256. "You work here now I presume?"
  257. >"Yes, we-"
  258. "I must say, compared to the Baltimare's event organization this is downright horrendous."
  259. >She recoils at such harsh critique.
  260. "I can understand that there's not a lot of hooves to handle the load but in the capital of Equestria, a city that now prouds itself as, and I quote, "the most human-friendly city of Equestria", this is just not acceptable."
  261. >Daisy looks around her, and seeing how some ponies are now looking at her because of your assault she wants nothing more than to get out of the line of fire.
  262. >"Look, Ms. Harshwhinny, we're really sorry, but could you... Not right here?"
  263. "Oh, puh-lese, Ms. Chain, you want to keep THIS a secret? It's no secret this place is so poorly ran, all the evidence you need is standing right in front of you!"
  264. >You point at the ponies and humans in the line in front of you and they already start to whisper between themselves.
  265. >Daisy is panicking now and she does the only thing she deems logical, that is to pull you and Anonymous right from the line and drag you through the empty checkpoint.
  266. >"Please, come here, not another word."
  267. >The crowd is more appalled by this than by your words. It's never good to show special favors to anypony in such a situation.
  268. >Oh, this mare is gonna get a piece of your mind about this.
  269. >Anonymous seems happy but what does he know about being fair.
  270. >You walk into a room with some clerk ponies and Daisy wants to personally assist you.
  271. >Your human is required to fill in some forms while the mare apologizes profusely, almost bowing to you like she's from Neighpon.
  272. >"I'm so sorry, Ms. Harshwhinny, we know our situation, we just never expected so many immigrants in these three days, it's like the Initiative tripled their efforts."
  273. >She's trying her best but seeing that you're not impressed Daisy looks absolutely lost.
  274. "So instead of fixing the situation you drag us over here so we don't complain about obvious things?"
  275. >"It's just not to upset any customers..."
  276. "I can see how you want them placated if all you have to do to get a special favor and be allowed inside with no regard to the queue is to state the obvious loud enough for others to hear!"
  277. >With the corner of your eye you see Anonymous smiling wide. You can see how this can be amusing to him when he's not the one on the receiving end.
  278. "I can only hope that next week's Canterlot Foal and Filly talent show will be organized in a proper way when I come to inspect it, would be horrible to break young ponies' hearts just because the event doesn't hold up to the standard, don't you agree?"
  279. >"O-of course that won't happen, Ms. Harshwhinny! I assure you, the situation here today is just an accident."
  280. "And the organizer accounts for these accidents BEFORE they happen, Ms. Chain, or else there's no reason for there to be an organizer in the first place!"
  281. >The pony is on the brink of tears right now. You want to say something else but you see Anonymous walking up to you with his hands empty.
  282. "Oh? Are you done?"
  283. >"I think so."
  284. "Good, anything else we need to do here?"
  285. >Daisy speaks up trying to hide her nervousness. She needs everything else to go smoothly, she won't handle another scolding.
  286. >"Yes, there's some for you to sign, Ms. Harshwhinny. Mr. Anonymous, you'll need to sign these."
  287. >You're given simple contracts about being responsible for your human. You do take your time to read it but it's just your regular disclaimers that put everything Anonymous does on you.
  288. >It's alright, you didn't expect anypony else to take responsibility for him anyway.
  289. >He is your human after all. His every misstep is on you.
  290. >The paperwork is done and you're free to leave.
  291. >Getting some fresh air is nice. Anonymous looks absolutely drained.
  292. "Are you alright?"
  293. >"Yeah. Some things never change no matter the world."
  294. "You're used to these kind of...difficulties?"
  295. >"It was common where I'm from."
  296. "Dreadful. It's no wonder you wanted to move."
  297. >He smirks at you and you can feel your lips forming a slight smile as well.
  298. >Quite impressive, making you smile after such a horrible event. Not everything is lost for this young man.
  299. "How about we get a quick snack before we move on?"
  300. >"Sounds good."
  301. >Just some ice cream for the road. You're having some light frozen yogurt while Anonymous goes full three-scoop cone.
  302. >Of course, why woudn't he get the biggest, it's not him who's paying. But he brings up another reason upon feeling your judging gaze:
  303. >"I always liked real ice cream, what they usually sell in our world is like a watered down artificially flavored version of it."
  304. "Right, you humans and your technology..."
  305. >"It's nice to have something natural for once. Everything here is so... Alive. The air alone is so clean it's nice to just be here."
  306. >For a second you kinda feel pity for him. Life in that world was so horrible he abandoned it at the first opportunity.
  307. >"Thank you for doing this for me."
  308. >You are a bit taken aback by his sudden expression of gratitude.
  309. "What do you mean? Doing what?"
  310. >"Well, everything... Accepting the match, letting me stay, being here for me. It means a lot."
  311. >You frown but you hear no sarcasm in his voice.
  312. >Surely he was expecting more from you, like falling for him right away because you're his match and sleeping together right on the first night.
  313. >"I know it's not what I've expected but I'm still grateful for just having a chance."
  314. >That was unexpectedly genuine of him. It is commendable to see something positive in such a situation and not become bitter over something as trivial as hearing "no" as a response to your advancements.
  315. >If he really wants to take his chance and make it count, that's respectable. Not backing away from initial difficulties and instead making things work in your favor is what made you who you are and it's what you expect of others.
  316. >Anonymous may yet surprise you. You really hope so.
  317. >It takes some time to complete your tour of the city and for now your human should have some understanding of its layout.
  318. >You expect him to at least not get lost in here if he finds himself alone, which will become his reality as soon as you find him his own place to stay.
  319. >You have a few good ties in this city to make this work. Usually renting in Canterlot is an awfully long and convoluted business but not for a mare like you.
  320. >Lucky Anonymous, he'd be lost here without you.
  321. >But for now there's no need to worry, in fact, you've been stressed enough for today.
  322. >Anonymous doesn't look that fresh either. So it's a good thing you have plans for a spa visit.
  323. >He seems skeptical about it but you tell him that they have something for humans now too and he shouldn't worry.
  324. >The ponies at the spa know you well so you're safe to leave the human with them.
  325. >You decide that just a regular massage would be good for Anonymous and he agrees with you.
  326. >This will take place in a different room so now you're separated.
  327. >You call for the mare who usually takes care of you, Rosy Petal. You're close friends with her and she always takes your mind off things that trouble you.
  328. >The spa is where you can share a lot of your deeper thoughts and secrets. It's a place of sacral cleansing, a place where you come in terms with yourself.
  329. >Rosy always supports this and tries to guide you in the right direction, offering an friend's perspective.
  330. >This time though she seems determined to discuss Anonymous.
  331. >You were sure that she'll ridicule you for accepting him, but she actually sounds kinda jealous as she pushes her hooves into your back.
  332. >"You're so lucky, Harshwhinny. I wish I'd get a match."
  333. "What, you think that's lucky? I didn't even want the whole thing to happen."
  334. >"Really? Having a human is like the best thing ever. They're dedicated, loving, caring and all they want to do is shower you with affection."
  335. "Well I don't want it."
  336. >"You?" she giggles. "No offense, Harshy, but you should be the last one to dismiss all these things."
  337. "It seems wrong to me."
  338. >"Why?"
  339. "It's too easy."
  340. >"Love isn't about being easy or hard."
  341. "Well then good thing this isn't about love. What part of this involves love?"
  342. >"Well, you're matched because-"
  343. "Because Crystal Heart tells Cadence you'd be good together. That's it."
  344. >"That's true, but then by that same logic it's not easy, because you still have to work for your relationship."
  345. "Exactly. That's why I have no reason to allow him in my life just because some glowing rock chose him to be my partner."
  346. >"But you shouldn't throw this chance away either."
  347. "Who says I am? Please, Rosy. I'm not dumb. And I'm not oblivious to my situation too."
  348. >Rosy Petals sighs as she pushes strong to really get into your tense muscles. This conversation certainly doesn't help you relax, not one bit.
  349. >"I'm just saying, don't let this chance go. Humans don't have infinite patience, even for their matches. You can't abuse him, that's against-"
  350. "Oh quit it, now I'm abusing him? Who do you take me for?"
  351. >"Alright, sorry. All I'm saying is that you really should think about getting close to him."
  352. "There's no need."
  353. >"So you're gonna play the unapproachable royalty he should cater to? You know, this approach would've worked if you weren't that o-"
  354. "Shut it."
  355. >Your scowl doesn't work on Rosy who knows how to handle you.
  356. >"So it is true then. You've already given up before you even tried. What a backwards stance to take. Shame on you."
  357. "Rosy, don't push it."
  358. >"One conversation, one honest conversation with him will defuse the whole thing and set you right. I promise."
  359. "He wouldn't understand."
  360. >"You don't give him a real chance to do so, the chance he deserves."
  361. "Deserves? By doing what?"
  362. >"By being here for you."
  363. "Pff... Ridiculous."
  364. >"Just take one step towards him."
  365. "I'll think about it."
  366. >"No, don't think. Be young and passionate again. Hey, you've dragged him here for a massage but I know you're quite a hoof-worker yourself."
  367. "Oh, please."
  368. >"You could've done it yourself. Dig those frogs into his soft oily skin..."
  369. "Rosy!"
  370. >"Ah, you're blushing. I knew it."
  371. "Any proper mare would!"
  372. >"Right, proper Ms. Harshwhinny, and now some other mare has her hooves on him."
  373. >That makes you swallow your next line.
  374. >Does this... Does this actually bother you now that she's mentioned it?
  375. >Rosy brings her head closer to your ear and says softly.
  376. >"She's touching him all over and makes him relax right now. He's mellow under her hooves. The toned body of your supposed partner is subdued by a little pony that is not you."
  377. >Even though you roll your eyes sarcastically Rosy giggles. She didn't work with you for so many years to not catch all your little subtle reactions. This time the quiver of your lips betrayed you.
  378. >"You're cute as ever, Harshy." she says returning to her massage. "Maybe it's him who should be giving you massage too. Humans are amazing with their hands, even without any experience."
  379. "This I'm willing to believe for once."
  380. >"Don't you want your partner to touch you all over?"
  381. "Not him."
  382. >"Who else?"
  383. >You grumble something and Rosy giggles again. Yes, it's so amusing to tease an old lonely mare.
  384. >"A mare's touch is just as magical for humans. I bet he's getting a happy ending right as we speak."
  385. >This makes you recoil and glare at Rosy.
  386. "You do that kind of thing here?"
  387. >"No, no, it's a joke! Don't worry."
  388. >Seeing how you're getting furious at her preposterous assumptions she assures you that she's just joking.
  389. >The idea itself is so riveting and filthy you're getting bothered.
  390. >Even though Anonymous isn't exactly your lover he's is YOUR match, and no pony else is allowed to do anything with him.
  391. >That would be unfair. It would call for justice. And Celestia help anypony who'd have to taste your retribution.
  392. >"Harshy, please relax, it was a dumb joke, alright? Jeez. You're way more into this than you allow yourself to admit. Talk about commitment..."
  393. "Ms. Petal, please finish up so I can leave."
  394. >"Oh, brother. Look, I'm sorry. And in fact, I think you're the one to blame here. It's you who should be giving your man a hap-"
  395. "That's it, I'm done."
  396. >You get up and never pay any mind to anything Rosy said to you while you prepare to leave.
  397. >This establishment is blacklisted from now on. You won't endure even a second more of this ludicrous rambling of hers.
  398. >Anonymous is actually already waiting for you. He seems really happy. You have a few ideas why.
  399. >Your eyes sparkle with fury and resentment as you walk past him, uttering only "Let's go" and nothing else.
  400. >He seems confused as to why you're in such bad mood but you won't entertain his curiosity. He better not ask too, you feel like you're about to snap just at his gaze upon you.
  401. >Anonymous' eyes never leave you in worry. It couldn't be that he cares this much so there's something else going on.
  402. >When you go far enough from any crowd you finally open up the steam valves, starting with a really painful hoof strike upon the cobblestone.
  403. "What is the matter, Anonymous?!"
  404. >"Uh, Ms. Harshwhinny..."
  405. "Yes?!"
  406. >"Y-you have your blouse backwards... I think..."
  407. >You don't look. You inhale and close your eyes and then exhale slowly.
  408. "Is that everything?"
  409. >"Yeah. P-prob-"
  410. "Then we're going home if you don't mind."
  411. >"Sure."
  412. >You storm down the road with Anonymous right behind you.
  413. >It doesn't take you long to get back home and then you immediately just go up the stairs without even speaking a word to the human.
  414. >Enraged, you throw your jacket, blouse and scarf all over the bedroom and, in turn, throw yourself on the bed.
  415. >You close your eyes in bitter disgust. Two wet dots pool at their corners.
  416. >You have just one question now.
  417. >Are you stupid?
  418. >Answering this will require too much effort so you don't even bother.
  419. >You lie down silently for some time, thoughts in chaos and disarray. When you come to your senses the sun is already setting down.
  420. >It was in your plans to go to Night Blossom's with Anonymous but you don't even want to see his stupid face right now.
  421. >The mood you've had in the morning is completely gone, and on top of being mad you're mad because you allowed yourself to get mad over such an idiotic thing.
  422. >Oh, it's so like you, getting bothered by some trivial thing like this! Not.
  423. >Where is your professionalism, "Harshy"? Snatched away by a passing thought, revealing a cold insecure old mare behind the curtain?
  424. >No matter. This will pass but you will remain you. For better or for worse.
  425. >You'll settle for a home dinner tonight.
  426. >Seems like you'll have to get down to go to the kitchen though. And you don't need this right now. More questions, more glances.
  427. >But you're so hungry.
  428. >Oh, bother.
  429. >Well, no reason to starve now because of this silly human.
  430. >You collect your thoughts, stare into the mirror to fix your mane and at least put some sort of presentable appearance, and decide to go down.
  431. >Not before putting your clothes back on. This time the right side on.
  433. >The next few days fly by fairly quickly.
  434. >Anonymous is getting accustomed to the city and life among ponies.
  435. >He had a bit of trouble transitioning to the Equestrian quality of life but nothing he couldn't handle.
  436. >Especially with your help. At the first sign of him feeling unwell you called for a doctor without him even knowing.
  437. >When he learned about it her was acting all shy and meek like you shouldn't have bothered but you didn't even pay attention to it.
  438. >Despite his rambling about being a burden and how he doesn't want to bother you being very annoying and absolutely unneeded, you simply waited it out until the medic arrived.
  439. >It turns out that Anonymous just had regular troubles acclimatizing.
  440. "Anonymous, there was no reason to even try and pretend you're fine when you were obviously not."
  441. >He scratches his head while taking the medications left by the doctor.
  442. "There is no need to have accidents if we can prevent them this easily."
  443. >He thanked you sincerely. It seems he respects this kind of worldview. In fact, he's been quite eager to learn about it.
  444. >And that means learning everything there is about you. Not the personal information, they way you look at things.
  445. >It's like he knows your weakness of ranting for hours about your job. Nopony would ever listen to that. And yet here he is, not only listening but also paying attention and asking questions.
  446. >Is he really that interested? He wouldn't have asked so much from you if he was only curious to spare time. No, the right question would be, does he expect to live together with you?
  447. >He seems to be focused on getting to know you, the professional side of you.
  448. >At first you were reluctant and thought you didn't have time to entertain him. But as soon as you started talking you realized it's not that bad to share your experiences with someone who's actually interested in it.
  449. >It's his tactics to get you warm up to him, that much is obvious.
  450. >Well, you'll use this to draw the line once and for all so he knows exactly why you find this whole matching thing silly.
  451. >If he wants to know, he'll get to know everything.
  452. >But coming to that was harder than you thought because he keeps sidetracking you. For two evenings already you've been just telling him different stories from your job.
  453. >It's only much later you've come to the core point of it.
  454. "I judge things, Anonymous, that's what I do. And don't think it's a matter of just voicing your opinion. Every single situation is different."
  455. >"Because of different circumstances."
  456. "Exactly. To be a judge on a competition with no set of strict rules, to appraise a work of art, to choose the best place to run an event, to choose the best performance, to choose the best anything, you first need to know the whole principle behind the event, its history, how it came to be. What it represents for ponies and what it represents for the place they run it in. What it represents in culture. What it truly means to be the best at it."
  457. >He listened to you with fire in his eyes. You never thought you'd inspire somepony, or someone, so much with just stating the obvious.
  458. >It was always "the boring stuff" for everypony else. Especially for stallions.
  459. >Now you're getting fired up as well while you explain why it's important to approach everything with professionalism and competence.
  460. "Ponies depend on it! There's nopony else around to tell them, the organizers, the competitors, they almost never know what they actually try to achieve. Only those who are true to the spirit of the event can be on top. You see this?"
  461. >With rising passion you jump off the chair and point at your cutiemark.
  462. >Anon stares at it in confusion.
  463. >"The prize? I mean, a trophy?"
  464. >You turn around with a wide flick of your tail and walk to a window.
  465. "It's not just that! It's a promise! A promise to judge fairly. A promise to give everypony what they deserve. So that when I arrive at the event it's an absolute guarantee that I know the core values of it and I will appraise everything according to them. So that I uphold these values without bias, without external influences. Without accounting for anything else except for the objective merits of the things I'm elected to judge. And, most importantly, fair and without exceptions."
  466. >In the reflection you see that Anonymous doesn't get his eyes off you, inspired by your speech. He is nothing short of amazed.
  467. >There's no telling what he's thinking right now.
  468. >But all of this feels like venting. Like you had the need to share it with somepony and never even realized it.
  469. >You feel good about it. You even walk right next to Anonymous when you have to leave to get him some "sports clothing" as they call it.
  470. >You had your own sweatpants and shirts, there's no reason for Anonymous to not have his own attire, especially if it's mandatory for him anyway. And Canterlot does offer human clothing.
  471. >It's not exactly designer clothes but it gets the job done. You remain patient as the human browses the not so rich assortment of clothing.
  472. >While Anonymous is out there trying things out you feel some glances on you. It's surprising to see that they aren't judging you. Maybe having a human companion isn't as frowned upon as you thought?
  473. >To your surprise Anonymous asks for your opinion when he walks out all dressed up in what you only assume is human sportswear.
  474. >There's no need to ask for your approval here since you don't know the first thing about how it should actually look like, especially knowing that the human guide had pictures of human clothing on behalf of this very shop.
  475. >So you can only assume that it's the right ones. Besides, he doesn't look too bad in them. So you do give him your approval.
  476. >Additional articles of clothing isn't something that's given to "new human-mare couples" for free but Anon had the tact to not pick anything overly expensive anyways.
  477. >Not like you're lacking funds in any way. You don't exactly live a life of luxury and you're rewarded quite handsomely for your work, not to mention all the ties you have around Equestria.
  478. >Just something that comes with the job.
  479. >Anonymous is quite happy with this purchase and he thanks you dearly for it.
  480. >He seems to be a lot more lively these days. You wonder why that is.
  481. >Upon returning home you find a responce to your request in the mail. It concerns renting a place for Anonymous.
  482. >Not only is their answer late, it's also not informative at all. They're "still looking for offers". This can't possibly take that long.
  483. >Not because of immigration, humans live with their matches usually. Maybe not all do? Maybe some move out to seek a nicer and bigger place.
  484. >You decide that it's enough of a reason to pardon them this time, but you still write up a fairly annoyed reply of your own.
  485. >The human wonders what has gotten you upset and you tell him.
  486. >"Oh, I guess I'll be staying here for a while then..."
  487. "You guess? What other choice do you have?"
  488. >"Well, yeah."
  489. >After some thinking he asks you:
  490. >"Do you really want me out that badly?"
  491. "It's not that I want to get rid of you, but I don't want you depending on me forever. I'm not your mother."
  492. >"Well, that's fair, but-"
  493. "If this match thing doesn't work out you will have to move."
  494. >Both of you are silent. It is in this emptiness of thought you realize that you haven't given it much thought these days.
  495. >The possibility of this match not working was kinda on the background these days.
  496. >So this is how it is? You're getting used to his company now. That's how they make mares stay with their humans, out of habit.
  497. >Wretched sentimentality. You won't fall for that trick designed to fool you into making a compromise.
  498. >There can be none here. You will not allow it.
  499. >But then there's another problem.
  500. "Anonymous, if you'll be forced to go, what do you expect to do? I mean in terms of occupation."
  501. >"Oh, man, I don't know. I worked in retail most of my life."
  502. "Any talents?"
  503. >"Humans don't really have spe-"
  504. "Don't play dumb, I'm asking about hobbies or skills."
  505. >"Oh! Oh, I was good with electronics and video games. Not much of a market for this here though."
  506. "Certainly not."
  507. >"I used to play guitar and write my own music so maybe this would come in handy."
  508. "That's a bit better, yes."
  509. >"I guess I'll just live my regular life when I'm out of here."
  510. >Him using "when" instead of "if" didn't go unnoticed.
  511. >"We'd have to avoid each other in this city if it comes to that..."
  512. "I won't be staying here for long."
  513. >"What do you mean?"
  514. "I travel a lot. Not only because of my job but also to keep the scenery fresh."
  515. >"Not a fan of settling down?"
  516. "I guess you could say that."
  517. >"You guess?"
  518. >A glance you shoot at him would've obliterated anyone else. But he's prepared for it. His grin reflects it.
  519. >And then it affects you too and you grin as well. What a strange exchange.
  520. "Yes. I guess. I have no preferences either way but something prevents me from staing in one place for long. Maybe it's because I can and it's easy for me."
  521. >"Maybe you don't have a reason to stay."
  522. "Maybe."
  523. >You catch the implication way too late after your reply. But when you look at Anonymous he seems to be a bit discouraged with your answer.
  524. >Is he... Is he pitying you?
  525. >Oh, this has got to be a joke.
  526. >You cut the conversation short with an excuse to leave to your room. You don't want to think about this.
  527. >What do you end up thinking about is his words on his probable life here without you.
  528. >Living the "regular life", as in like back in his world. It sounds depressive.
  529. >The human guide had quite a few remarks on the lack of special talent.
  530. >"It's both their strength and weakness. They can master any skill they want, not limited to one or two. Or they can never truly master any. One thing can be said for sure, that every single one of them has potential to become great at something. As a mare it's up to you to see his hidden potential manifest and bloom in the best way possible*.
  531. >"*Remember, even the most simple words of encouragement can inspire humans for greatness, since some of them have never heard those in their entire life."
  532. >"For the list of possible skills humans can develop and excel at, consult the "Talents and Skills" section of the guide (p.114). For the ways to encourage and motivate your human, see chapter "Power of a mare's word" (p.249)."
  533. >So even here he'll end up in whatever miserable situation he was before moving here.
  534. >Actually, that's just your assumptions. You have never actually asked about his life in details.
  535. >He has gone out of his way to learn about your career. You don't feel the need to repay him with the same eagerness but if you decide to do it you'll have an excuse to ask.
  536. >Rest of the day goes on peacefully. You talk, he learns about things, you go on about your business, reading the guide some more and also refreshing your knowledge on the upcoming talent show.
  538. >The next day Anonymous is up early. It seems like he's been getting into the flow of things around here.
  539. >You notice that the first thing in the morning you think about is him, wondering if he's up yet and what to make for breakfast.
  540. >Just another thought to add to your "concerning Anonymous" collection that's been growing lately.
  541. >In turn, you discard that thought in the "I'd rather not to think about it right now" bin that's already overflowing with these kind of thoughts.
  542. >You can't ignore them forever. But you'll try.
  543. >You just hope this whole situation doesn't explode in your face, because knowing your temper when you're stressed Celestia knows what can happen.
  544. >In your hooves lies terrible power over this human. There's no need to hurt him, intentionally or not, unless he deserves it.
  545. >Soon your renting arrangement will come through and he will leave. Then you can put it all to rest. Until then, handle it professionally. That's all that is needed from you.
  546. >Surely you of all ponies can handle this much?
  547. >Packing your gym clothes you remind yourself that today is the day to finally clear you head of this filth.
  548. >Anonymous is packing his own set as well. He is eager to join you.
  549. >While you're keeping yourself in shape without any out of this world goals, Anonymous seems ready to push himself today.
  550. >At least that's what he says.
  551. >The walk to your usual place isn't long and the air is fresh with the usual late summer wind that's a lot more prevalent here up high than in the valleys below.
  552. >It's probably a paradise in Baltimare right now...
  553. >Fitting that the name of the gym administrator and organizer is Breezy Gallop.
  554. >Another one of your old friends, this mare is at least more tactful than Rosy who you still can't forgive for that time in the spa.
  555. >She understands your situation right away, as soon as she sees Anonymous.
  556. >Giving him directions she turns to you.
  557. >"My, Harshwhinny, you really got yourself a fine prize here. I've expected no less of you. Fine work as always."
  558. "What do you mean?"
  559. >"Oh? Don't tell me you don't notice it."
  560. "Ms. Gallop, I have little patience for conversations about the human. Can we get on with it?"
  561. >She gulps when she hears you calling her like that.
  562. >"I'll just show him around then, see you later."
  563. >Breezy is quick to get out of your sight. You sigh heavily and decide to just move on to your routine.
  564. >Quickly changing in your sweatpants you notice that they're getting a bit too tight for you.
  565. >This is what you get for eating so many snacks with Anonymous. He's trying everything that Canterlot could possibly offer and you partake too, and this is the results.
  566. >It probably has no effect on him though. You bet it wouldn't have on you too if you were just a bit younger.
  567. >No, you shouldn't think about this now. A thought much more grim than all the usual others looms your mind and you try to get rid of it as fast as possible by doubling your efforts.
  568. >You take more time than usual to do everything, a thorough approach, an attempt to push yourself farther.
  569. >Time flies by quickly. A good workout calls for some good stretching after it and it's then you notice you've taken almost thirty minutes longer than you usually do.
  570. >But that's good, right? You also notice that Anonymous is standing right next to Breezy who's listening to him talk behind her counter.
  571. >You try to not give away that you're aware of this and you continue stretching, shooting passing glances over to the human.
  572. >He seems to actually be doing the very same thing. While he talks he's stealing a few gazes here and there, all in your direction.
  573. >But his conversation with Breezy seems to flow well despite the distraction that you present to him.
  574. >It's the first time you hear Anonymous laughing so much. Breezy must be telling him some really amusing stories.
  575. >You wonder what it is they're discussing with such passion.
  576. >After some time you feel like you're done with your training for today and you walk up to them, trying to approach Anonymous from behind so he won't notice you.
  577. >You hear a part of their conversation as he talks:
  578. >"...really pisses me off, you know. I'm glad you don't have this kind of thing here in Equestria though."
  579. >Breezy giggles.
  580. >"Well, you have to realize, ponies are mostly new to that. That's why I've come to enjoy human company so much nowadays. You seem to be experienced enough in that regard, Anonymous~ Maybe we should-"
  581. >You can't hold back any longer, clearing your throat to attract their attention.
  582. >Breezy looks at you from beind Anonymous who himself turns to face you. They're both smiling.
  583. "Am I interrrupting something?"
  584. >"Oh, Harshwhinny, you're done?"
  585. "Having fun over here, I see."
  586. >Your tone couldn't be more bitter but even though Anonymous catches it, Breezy doesn't seem to mind. Maybe she's used to it.
  587. >"We were just talking about optimizing the gym and getting more equipment for humans here since we're pretty desperate for it."
  588. >"Yeah," Anonymous nods. "There's barely anything here in their so-called human corner."
  589. >You still have doubts about the nature of their conversation. But why would you?
  590. >There's no reason to not believe them. Why are you bothered?
  591. >Boy, don't you look stupid now, worrying about silly thing like this.
  592. >You have to get out of here to escape these awkward thoughts.
  593. "If you're ready to go I'll join you as soon as I'm done changing."
  594. >"Sure, Ms. Harshwhinny."
  595. >Anonymous is about the only one calling you that around here. You'll have to correct him some time, it's getting on your nerves.
  596. >It's even more unnerving that he has never slipped and called you just "Harshwhinny." Not even a single time.
  597. >You don't know why but this pisses you off.
  598. >A lot of things do these days. It all revolves around Anonymous, doesn't it?
  599. >You almost swear out loud as you slip out of your outfit and go take a cold shower fast.
  600. >Again, for what reason are you losing your cool and try to get out of here faster? This has to stop.
  601. >You have the manners to smile to Breezy as you say your goodbyes.
  602. >"Where to now?"
  603. "I was thinking about going to Night Blossom's place, it's a small diner not far away from here. But we should go there in the evening."
  604. >"Sounds good, what about right now?"
  605. >You need to freshen up and clear your head. You'd think that your workout would do the trick but now it's like the situation is even worse.
  606. >Still, you keep your cool.
  607. "I don't have any preferences. Maybe we should take a walk in the park for now?"
  608. >"Great idea, Ms. Harshwhinny."
  609. >You didn't correct him. Even though you wanted to.
  610. >Oh, merciful Celestia, what did you do to deserve this? Reluctant, confused, wavering - it's so unlike you.
  611. >You'll have to deal with this. You'll confront him today. You'll speak your mind and share your concerns with him.
  612. >As you walk through the park side by side you're dwelling on these thoughts and they start to boil inside your head little by little.
  613. >Anonymous without a doubt notices your mood and you decide to take action before he starts asking question.
  614. "Shall we take a seat for now?"
  615. >You point at a bench near you. Right now you're at a little plaza with a modest fountain in the middle that has benches encircling it.
  616. >There's a few couples resting here already. Mares with humans, of course.
  617. >The flow of water and the gentle mid-day breeze help your relax and after a minute of silence you decide to come clean to Anonymous.
  618. >But as soon as you open your mouth you choke on your words.
  619. >Anonymous is looking at a couple right across of where you sit.
  620. >You think you recognize the blue mare, Minuette was her name as you recall.
  621. >She's on her human's lap and he holds her close. She looks him in the eyes and they smile.
  622. >Minuette nuzzles her partner's neck and he pets her, running his hand down her back. They seem to exchange a few remarks but you can't hear it.
  623. >They also don't stop. They are consumed by each other.
  624. >And Anonymous is also fascinated with them.
  625. >It was the last straw. Your bin of thoughts you've tried to stuff in the back of your head bursts open, spilling every unpleasant thought across your mind, filling it to the brim with its venom.
  626. >In a voice so calm it sounds alien to you, you say:
  627. "It's impolite to stare, Anonymous."
  628. >He springs up right away and realizes he's been glued to the affectionate couple for more than two minutes now.
  629. >Not like they would've noticed it anyway, nothing exists for them aside from each other.
  630. >But seeing the way you look at him makes his face lose color right away. He's a smart human. He knows what's on your mind right now.
  631. >"Sorry, Ms. H-"
  632. "Just Harshwhinny is fine."
  633. >This late remark comes out hollow and lifeless. It's too late for that. But you've done it.
  634. >"Fine, Harshwhinny. But only if you call me Anon."
  635. >You hesitate to answer. You don't answer at all.
  636. >This time he speaks up first and you hear real worry in his voice.
  637. >"What's on your mind? You seem really upset."
  638. "No, just... Just thinking."
  639. >"Well?"
  640. "Well what?"
  641. >"Look, I'm sorry I've been staring, if this is what bothers you. Sometimes I-"
  642. "Don't be foolish, I care about manners but not this much."
  643. >"Then... Is it what I'm staring at? Is this what bothers you?"
  644. >He doesn't believe it himself and he thinks he's just teasing you, judging by his sly smile. But as soon as you look him in the eyes he realizes you're not playing.
  645. >"But...why?"
  646. "I don't know. Let's forget about it."
  647. >"Will you be able to?"
  648. "What do you mean?"
  649. >"Well, do you want to forget about it or do you just want me to drop it because you're uncomfortable with it?"
  650. "Both."
  651. >He chuckles at your blunt honesty.
  652. >"You know, even thought we're not exactly together I'm not a stranger to you anymore."
  653. "Curious for you to assume that."
  654. >"It's not me who's bothered by a sight of two lovers kissing."
  655. >Your lips curl into a scowl and tremble.
  656. >Just few days ago he was afraid to even speak up and now he allows himself these kind of punches as if he knows anything about you, as if he's close enough for you to-
  657. >Wait. In these days didn't exactly that happen? Anon breaks the flow of your thoughts.
  658. >"Look, there's something I wanted to say to you."
  659. "I'm listening."
  660. >"You don't have to be hard on yourself."
  661. "Huh?"
  662. >"I'm really happy here. Even though I didn't get what I've expected it's still nice to be here. It's a wonderful day in a wonderful city and I'm sitting here with my mare- my match, I mean."
  663. >You sigh, passing a few looks over the openly kissing couple across the plaza. Youth these days...
  664. >"I think it's all worth it even like that. I wanted to thank you for giving me this chance."
  665. >But... He didn't even do anything. This chance is still not taken. There were no advances from him, no attempts to impress, to woo, to show how great he is.
  666. >It's like he thinks that you're the one who even allowed him to stay here in Equestria. Ridiculous.
  667. >Can't help but shake your head. Anon takes it as a sign to continue:
  668. >"That probably sounds stupid but all in all, I like living like this."
  669. "It's not stupid. I know humans have it hard back in your world."
  670. >"I wasn't exactly that miserable. But I was pretty much completely alone. So even a chance to speak to someone, or somepony, is great."
  671. "I appreciate it."
  672. >And that's all you can say despite wanting to spill all your beans.
  673. >You decide to move on and complete your walk for today. The things Anonymous said never leave your head.
  675. >So at your next stop in the evening after a short rest, Night Blossom's diner, you ask him to elaborate.
  676. "I was wondering, Anon. Was it hard for you to leave everything behind?"
  677. >"A bit, yeah." He answers, eating his noodles sprinkled with assortment of flowers approved for human consumption. "Mostly because of family."
  678. >You yourself get some low-calorie salad. Can't afford to stretch those pants even more.
  679. >"It's not like they were against it, I mean, we're not exactly close and they live a good life, I'm kinda on my own most of the times when they don't need anything from me."
  680. "How did you explain it to them? Or did you at all?"
  681. >"I did, I said I'll be moving to another country and changing my number because of that. They didn't know why but they know I'm a bit autistic, so..."
  682. "You're autistic?" your eyebrow raises at the sudden reveal.
  683. >"Uh, it's a figure of speech. Just that I'm strange and have strange quirks like that, you know?"
  684. "Alright. What about friends then?"
  685. >"Some were sad that I'm leaving I guess, but those who knew where I'm going for real were happy for me. And jealous. I didn't have a lot of friends anyway and they're kinda Internet friends anyway, so it's not like it's a big loss for them."
  686. "Losing a friend is always sad, you know."
  687. >"Yeah. But they know they would've done the same if they were in my place. Who knows, maybe I'll see them here someday too. They're just like me. Miserable and lonely. Heh."
  688. >There was no need for a bitter chuckle at the end. You know how it is.
  689. >It scares you to think that this man has abandoned his whole life, and for what? To be with you?
  690. "Did you have any idea who you're matched with?"
  691. >"Not at first. They give the details later."
  692. "After you sign?"
  693. >"Yeah."
  694. "That's a really questionable practice."
  695. >"They say it's so you commit to the idea itself first. If you get a pony you think you'd dislike there's a chance you'll drop the invitation."
  696. "And in that case is it fair to rope you into something like that only to reveal you're matched with a pony you dislike? What then, spend your whole life miserable?"
  697. >"No, if you're matched, it means you'll be happy no matter what. You just have to accept it."
  698. >You roll your eyes at hearing this load of fertilizer again.
  699. >It's just like Cadence said too. Nothing but excuses for blind faith and hope for the desperate.
  700. >"What about your parents?"
  701. "Huh? Oh, they're living happily in Baltimare, on a resort."
  702. >"Sounds nice."
  703. "It is. Keeps them at a distance but readily available when I visit."
  704. >"Sounds like you're not fond of them all that much."
  705. "Ugh. They're parents, Anon. I love them but I'm my own pony, and they seem to still uphold their own vision of what that means. It's not similar to mine."
  706. >"I got you. It was the same for me."
  707. "It's probably same for every family ever. Some parents just try to control their children more."
  708. >"That's true."
  709. >Like yours wonder every time when are you going to show them grandfoals. Pathetic. You're pretty sure this is the only thing that concerns them these days.
  710. >Surely they would've given up by now. But no, still persistent as ever. You don't like to be reminded of the fact that you're single.
  711. >"Man, this place is really nice. Good taste, Harshwhinny."
  712. >He slurps the rest of his noodles up and sighs contently.
  713. "Thanks. It is rather pleasant. Cozy and usually there's not many ponies around."
  714. >"Pretty comfy ambience. Almost seems like a date."
  715. >He laughs at this and you just know he said it to annoy you. So, naturally, you shoot back.
  716. "A date? Please, Anonymous, I'm long out of the date game."
  717. >"Oh yeah? Actually, you've never told me about it."
  718. "That's because it's not a topic you discuss with a lady, don't you think?"
  719. >"I see. Well, I myself never really had any game to begin with."
  720. "Is that so?"
  721. >"Yep. Most of my so-called "relationships" ended up in disasters and fell apart as soon as they started. You get a person close and then you suffer for it when they learn who you really are."
  722. >You just noticed that Anon seems to take after your own manner of talking now. You wonder if he even realizes it and you can't help but smile. Wonder if he'll try to imitate the pronunciation too?
  723. >Anon seems to take your smile as an invitation to be even more open and daring.
  724. >"You sound like you were once in the dating game though, what happened?"
  725. "Age happened, I guess."
  726. >"Aw, age is just a number. You look fantastic, especially tonight."
  727. >W-what? All of the sudden a compliment from him? Did they serve him alcohol or something?
  728. >He better not see you blush. It's just because it's so sudden. You do not blush like a little filly because someone called you pretty.
  729. >Why is he even so straightforward and daring all of the sudden? There's definitely something going on.
  730. >But you regain your composure right away and explain:
  731. "Thanks, but it's not just about appearance. I'm happy with where I'm now and I don't think chasing after stallions is worth it."
  732. >"I see, that's understandable. I've given up fairly easily too."
  733. "I didn't "give up", Anonymous. It's just somewhere down the line your priorities switch."
  734. >"I don't imply that you've given up, no. That came out wrong, sorry. I see what you mean."
  735. >You nod. But you also know that he's not wrong.
  736. >Your "priorities" never involved dating in the first place. It was just never in the picture.
  737. >School crush - ignored in favor of focusing on getting into university. Bailed in less than a month of amateurish flirting.
  738. >Uni crush - ignored in favor of focusing on learning your job. Bailed after two months of fruitless courting.
  739. >Work crush - ignored in favor of pursuing a career all over Equestria. Bailed after a month of trying to make you drop everything and settle down.
  740. >Other two - managed to stick around for almost a year each until they realized they're in the way of your work and bailed, unable to handle the constant travels and your serious work-oriented attitude.
  741. >Then, almost ten years of being completely alone. Trudging through your mid-thrities was just a preparation to your forties that already loom on the horizon.
  742. >But it doesn't seem that Anon is out to judge you. Probably because he doesn't know how cold you've been to every single stallion that tried to make you happy.
  743. >Impressed and lured in by your confidence and independence they were quick to learn that for you to uphold those qualities you've discarded everything else.
  744. >A strong mare is only good for them when they are actually able to conquer her. When she leaves them in the dust, they're offended by it.
  745. >All have given up on you eventually.
  746. >There's a point when they realized they won't melt you. And no matter how you tried making them warm in return, you couldn't.
  747. >Now, even that desire is extinguished. You know your limits and you don't want to let anypony close to the disappointment that you embody. You're just not what they expect.
  748. >And yet here with you sits Anonymous, getting himself another portion of noodles and smiling at you warmly.
  749. >"Hey, don't judge, they're that good. You should try some."
  750. "No, I'm good."
  751. >"Well, you should at least finish your salad."
  752. >He's right, you were so lost in thoughts you barely touched it after a certain point.
  753. >Anon has dropped everything to get here. Even though you know it's not your fault, you do feel bad about the guy, probably because he's trying to take it well.
  754. >Too bad you can see through him. Just like he's getting used to you, you're getting used to him, and so you can see when he's upset.
  755. >He says that he's enjoying his stay but he is still disappointed.
  756. >You only disappoint everypony who dares to get too close. Among other things, that's also what you do.
  758. >When you return home Anon gets in the shower right away. He's been outside all day and the gym didn't have hot water.
  759. >Even though you're determined to go to bed right away, you still feel the humiliating need to eat.
  760. >You're hungry and you'll have to fix yourself a late evening snack.
  761. >So much for controlling your diet.
  762. >You want to pass the shower as quickly as possible so that Anon doesn't know you're here. Or else you won't escape his teasing for a week.
  763. >As you do, you try to time your movement so that running water masks your steps.
  764. >But suddenly, you realize there's a certain rhythm to how water falls.
  765. >Its quick splashes indicate that there's some sort of rapid movement going on that periodically gets in the way of the stream, meaning that it's some sort of step motion.
  766. >Is he waving his hand in the water or something?
  767. >But as soon as you hear Anon's barely audible grunt you freeze up. It clicks in your head.
  768. >The very thought of it is so repulsive, coupled with Anon's audacity to do it like you wouldn't know, together with the fact that he's doing it in your shower, is enough to make you jolt right out of there, up the stairs and in your room.
  769. >You thought you'd be way past being flustered by something like this. But it's just so...different.
  770. >It's also the fact that he has to resort to this. Because of you. His match is out of his reach, what else is left to do?
  771. >But then there's also the thought that it's not just your fault he has to do this.
  772. >What if it's also your fault he has to deal with this "problem" in the first place?
  773. >You were avoiding these thoughts for so long they flood your head as soon as you let one drop in.
  774. >Complimenting your looks like it's nothing.
  775. >Watching you in your tight sweatpants at the gym.
  776. >Even you were promoting this yourself. You now remember how you asked him what he thinks your cutiemark means by basically rearing up next to him and inviting him to stare at your behind, and then standing with your back turned to him at the window. Of course he was looking at you, you dummy!
  777. >"The prize", as he called it. How oblivious can you get?!
  778. >Does he really find you attractive? You'd believe that if he'd drop on you like ten years earlier.
  779. >It can't be. Even though you try to stay in shape you're no match for any younger mare.
  780. >But what if he does?
  781. >No, you're like an old ugly mule compared to-
  782. >But what if he really does?
  783. >You sigh heavily. It doesn't matter. You'll repeat this until you believe it.
  784. >At this point you won't make him happy anyway.
  785. >You've been dancing around this topic long enough. He needs somepony like Minuette. Young and full of energy.
  786. >Look at you, you're already getting sleepy after a day like this.
  787. >Remember when you were able to go more than 24 hours without sleep on your work?
  788. >Despite all your confidence and professionalism, this strikes right into your heart with its harsh reality.
  789. >It's not that he's not the right human for you. You never wanted any at all. You were content with living your life as is.
  790. >So it just means that you're not the right mare for him. You don't lament it, it's just how it is. You never pretended that you are and that he should be yours.
  791. >...
  792. >Okay, maybe you did.
  793. >Maybe it's all you've been thinking about all these day.
  794. >You hear the water stop. For a second you think about getting down to say...something.
  795. >Just anything to him. Confirm that he's here and he's still in a good mood.
  796. >But despite that, you don't move. It pains to admit it but you just can't face him right now.
  797. >You are so powerless and it infuriates you to no end.
  798. >You also really hope he has disposed of the "evidence" of his deed properly. You don't want to walk up on it the next time you use the shower.
  799. >And worst of all, you're still hungry!
  800. >It's only when it sounds like he's already in bed you go down and make yourself a lazy sandwich.
  801. >What a joke.
  802. >You return to your room right away and wish for nothing more than to fall asleep as fast as possible.
  804. >Ponies tend to believe that one good night's rest makes everything better.
  805. >In your experience it's true as well.
  806. >Why then, when you wake up, your mind immediately goes to your situation with Anonymous and never leaves it until something more urgent pushes it out?
  807. >Could it really be that you've put it away for so long there's just no room in your head left?
  808. >The bubble is bursting. You need to deal with this problem soon.
  809. >That's what you've been telling yourself for almost a week now without taking any action.
  810. >You postpone it and grow uneasy. The nights are also getting colder since it's time for the weather to change, and you have troubles sleeping soundly.
  811. >Last night you decided to put on your light night gown since you just don't have a warm blanket available.
  812. >You hate sleeping in clothes. Now it just adds to your annoyed mood.
  813. >When you wake up, you take extra care to look presentable for when you go downstairs to greet Anon, who gets up right on time with you now.
  814. >When you go to sleep, you look at yourself in your see-through nightwear and think about something warm.
  815. >Or how Anon is probably cold too. And he doesn't even have anything to sleep in. Maybe you should buy him something for this weather?
  816. >You don't even act surprised when you have these kind of thoughts anymore.
  817. >One can only fight circumstances for so long. But you are not giving up yet. Just wait until he moves out, you'll forget him in a day or two.
  818. >For now though, there's something to distract you from these all-consuming thoughts about the human.
  819. >That kid talent show is right around the corner. Today is the check-up, tomorrow is the event.
  820. >You're getting in the mood for work despite Anon being around you all the time.
  821. >He wants to help out too and you suppose it won't hurt to have him around, for the sake of carrying the checklist if nothing else.
  822. "You've gotta have a more tidy and slick look than that if you want to keep up."
  823. >He sees you pointing at his usual plain shirt and shrugs.
  824. >You don't mind spending extra bits on him so you give him time to find what he likes in the catalogue.
  825. >When he returns it you raise your eyebrow in confusion more than anything else.
  826. "I sincerely hope you are joking right now, Anonymous."
  827. >You tap your hoof at the iris colored jacket he had selected.
  828. >His wide grin indicates right away that he did that on purpose.
  829. >But even though you're certain that this is nothing more than simple mockery, he stands his ground that he does indeed want to have a jacket that matches yours.
  830. >You'll allow it.
  831. >It won't be ready for the event anyway so you won't endure him wearing it there.
  832. >You attack the day with vigor and determination, happy to finally leave your troubling thoughts behind the concrete wall of your job.
  833. >Anon does follow you around everywhere. It's better to be in the eye of the storm.
  834. >And what a storm it is. Events for foals almost always cut corners in hope that nopony will notice.
  835. "If you think that you can run this event with such an attitude, you better think again, Mr. Weight!"
  836. >"Uh, please, call me Mr. Paper? Please?"
  837. "The fact that this talent show is for little ponies doesn't mean that there should be equally little effort put into it! On the contrary, it should be approached with great respect and care. All I see here is an attempt to pass a school brunch levels of preparations for a show that a lot of gifted colts and fillies will share their dreams at, with their parents watching over them. Don't you think that their aspirations deserve more than a shoddy stage and zero attempts at setting up a backstage? And this is what Canterlot has to offer to their youth?! For Celestia's sake, I've seen more care put into school events in Hoofdale. And they don't even HAVE a school! Unbelievable."
  838. >Even though you're absolutely furious you can't help but smirk at Anon's smug expression when you turn around for your dramatic exit.
  839. >You leave the honors of giving Paper Weight the checklist of all the things you need fixed here by tomorrow to your human.
  840. >"Now what?" he asks you when you calm down with a little bit of help of mint ice cream you bought for you and Anon on the way back.
  841. "Now we wait. Tomorrow they better salvage this disaster or else the next foal talent show will be held elsewhere."
  842. >"Man, that's harsh."
  843. "Oh?"
  844. >You both laugh and decide to stroll around the park for a bit before returning home.
  845. >It's not nearly as good here now as it was a week ago. Too morose for these kind of walks now at the turn of season.
  846. >To your dismay Anon's jacket was done a lot faster than it was expected. The next day, just before you leave to the event you meet the delivery pony.
  847. >Anon tries it out right away and now you have matching outfits. He lacks anything to cover his neck though.
  848. >It does tick you off.
  850. >It's impressive that Paper Weight and Daisy Chain managed to fix almost everything your checklist mentioned.
  851. >Both are laughing nervously as you walk past them. You smile at them and give them a nod and they sigh with relief.
  852. >Anonymous takes his place in the audience. He looks bored but as soon as his glance falls on you he grins and waves his hand in your direction.
  853. >That only makes you roll your eyes and focus on your work. Final checks, reading about the contenders, small talk with two other judges.
  854. >The hall is filling up with parents and their gifted children. Right on time the event starts.
  855. >Time to endure this show.
  856. >All parents think their kids are special. If they do anything on a level above average, that certainly means they have a talent for it, and therefore are eligible to compete and, without a doubt, win.
  857. >You can only think about broken hearts and offended moms when you see all the usual stuff.
  858. >But usually a few stand out. It's either a musical number or something original.
  859. >Same happens here. A little filly plays a very old tune on her cello.
  860. >The passion and feel in her performance overwhelms you. Almost to tears.
  861. >And then there's a ventriloquist filly. This one is really good.
  862. >She has two puppets. One in red, one in black. Red one has a funny hat on her blonde head and a cane, the black one has raven wings and silver mane.
  863. >They are both dressed as ponies of old and speak like that as well, which is impressive for a one-filly act on its own.
  864. >She seems to be acting out some story about sisterly grudge.
  865. >"I'll get you yet, Crimson Ruby! You'll understand how I feel every day!" shouts the black one.
  866. >"I guess it can't be helped. Juniper, get me some tea." says the red.
  867. >A third puppet appears and it's affixed to the pony's tail. Its rigid and wild movements compliment the comical appearance of the puppet, so it fits perfectly.
  868. >The crowd stomps hooves, obviously amused by the act.
  869. >Everypony seems to like it. You do too. Even though your heart goes to the cello filly, this act has all chances of winning the competition.
  870. >Of course it does win it. You vote for it as well.
  871. >After congratulating the winner personally you try to find the cello filly. She's with her parents and she doesn't seem too upset.
  872. >They seem cautious seeing your approach but you put their minds at ease with a few nice words about their daughter.
  873. >You give them a paper with a name and address.
  874. "My good friend, Canary Pitch, is a wonderful musician who's been teaching young ponies for more than twenty years. Your filly has a rare talent and she'd be welcomed to hone her skill under Pitch's wing. Just say that Harshwhinny recommended you, she'll know."
  875. >They thank you dearly for this and the filly seems happy too.
  876. >It feels good to do this kind of thing. Makes it all worth it.
  877. >You can't always win the grand prize, but you always win something just by competing.
  878. >Something you yourself need to believe in more often.
  879. >In the chaos of ponies walking around you search for Anon and you see him still sitting down.
  880. >He's talking with a young mare and they seem to have fun.
  881. >You ignore a slight twinge in your heart and decide to wait for now. They keep talking without paying attention to anything else.
  882. >Anon seems to be describing something and he pulls his jacket, drawing pony's attention to it.
  883. >She in turn laughs and playfully taps his arm with her hoof.
  884. >Now this is over the line. You'll show her how to mess with your human.
  885. >But as soon as you take a step you freeze in place.
  886. >Isn't it ironic? All this time it's been all about distancing yourself from him and drawing lines in the sand.
  887. >But as soon as you see that he is doing his own things and pays attention to anypony but you it makes you jealous.
  888. >Well, Ms. "I couldn't care less about the human" Harshwhinny, what will it be? Admit that you do consider him YOUR human or let him run free doing whatever he wants, including flirting with other ponies?
  889. >You might be his match, but it doesn't mean much, as you said yourself, so it's only fair that he has freedom to do this kind of thing.
  890. >He only stays with you because he literally has nowhere else to go and no other friends. It is, again, just like you said yourself.
  891. >You push him away but expect him to stay leashed. It's not fair.
  892. >In this moment you realize what your actual situation is.
  893. >Even though you were ready to let Anon go, it never even crossed your mind that it's not really up for you to decide.
  894. >He could leave you even if you didn't want it.
  895. >Because the truth is, you have nothing that could keep him with you other than a paper that says "match".
  896. >You can't possibly compete with any other mare, in terms of looks, personality and accepting him.
  897. >He has nopony now, but as soon as he does, as soon as he befriend more and more ponies, it will become obvious.
  898. >While other ponies see humans as a blessing you act like he's the worst thing that happened to you.
  899. >And you still act that way, even though now you realize it's so far from truth it's not even funny.
  900. >The reason is simple. You can't keep him anyway so you act cold like you don't care if he walks away.
  901. >It's time to admit it. You do care.
  902. >You have lost this battle with yourself. It almost feels...liberating, in a sense.
  903. >When the two lovebirds see you approach with a really glum expression they immediately turn their attention to you.
  904. >The mare jumps at you with unbridled excitement and it takes you aback.
  905. >"Ms. Harshwhinny, it's you! I'm your biggest fan!"
  906. "A fan, huh?"
  907. >Wait, you have fans? Anon is smiling and nodding from behind the mare's back and you realize they've been probably talking about you this whole time.
  908. >"C-can you sign this for me?"
  909. >She pulls out a pink scarf and you roll your eyes. Reluctantly, you sign it with a quill she already has prepared.
  910. >The mare squeals and gets a bit closer to you.
  911. >"Also, where did you find this jacket for your human? I need to get mine one too!"
  912. >Oh, she has a human of her own?
  913. >Maybe she is just an excitable little thing?
  914. >You worried for nothing again. Your awkward defeated confession to yourself sounds so silly now.
  915. >Maybe you can ignore it now?
  916. >When you look at Anon smiling at you it's clear that you can't. Once opened, this can of worms can't be closed or suppressed any longer.
  917. >"Shall we go home now?"
  918. "Yes, I suppose. Let me just say a few things to other judges and we'll be on our way."
  919. >"I'll wait here then."
  920. >He sits alone as the hall is nearly empty. Anonymous is waiting for you patiently and looks happy when you approach him.
  921. "Let's go."
  922. >Your mixed emotions of relief that the show has ended, the wavering of your heart at the thoughts about Anon, and the bleak tiredness of your busy day is completed by the darkened stormy sky.
  923. >Next few days is nothing but rain. It's a good excuse to stay at home.
  924. >That also means staying with Anon.
  925. >Maybe it's in these days you'll finally find your answers.
  926. >Even now, when you return home together, you feel it. Anon is really friendly today.
  927. >He's joking, sharing his thoughts about the contest. He even tells you about his own hilarious awkward entry to a teenage talent show.
  928. >It's nice to laugh with him. You don't do that a lot. Not a lot of reasons to.
  929. >If you were alone today, you'd return tired and glum. Instead you feel your mood improving.
  930. >Amazing how just having someone to vent to makes life a more pleasant experience.
  931. >At the end of the day you leave to your bed in good spirits.
  932. >Looking in the mirror it's hard for you to ignore the fact that you enjoy your current situation way too much.
  933. >You put on your night gown and smile to yourself.
  934. >Without thinking about it you turn your head slightly to the side and throw your head up, eyelids lowering just enough to compliment a smile.
  935. >A deliberate smile. A seductive smile.
  936. >Immediately you jump onto the bed headfirst to cool your burning cheeks in the coldness of your blanket.
  937. >What in the world were you even thinking?
  938. >No. Don't answer that. You're no prude. You felt good and you wanted to look good on a whim, because of your mood.
  939. >It's not an unknown feeling, just a bit of forgotten over the years.
  940. >But the thought that this human made you feel this way again is a bit dismaying.
  941. >It's for him you wanted to look good, after all. Not the first time too.
  942. >Ever since you started to suspect that he finds you attractive you've been noticing more and more signs that confirm it.
  943. >And in turn, you wanted to tease him, without even realizing it sometimes.
  944. >What a horrible mindset to have. You're that desperate it's disgusting.
  945. >The pony you've seen in the mirror, the good mood Harshwhinny, the seductive look Harshwhinny, would Anon like that?
  946. >Would he admire you more? Would he let himself be enchanted by it?
  947. >Does he really like you?
  948. >A knock on your door makes you jump up and your heart is racing.
  949. >What if it's Anon? Wait, of course it is, who else could it be?
  950. >But why?
  951. >Oh, calm down, Harshwhinny, getting all giddy just for one knock.
  952. >Should you keep the dress when you get the door? It's too revealing, he-
  953. >Stars above, can you calm down already?! Did that knock kick all your brains out of your head or something?
  954. >It's probably nothing anyway.
  955. >Just like "Hey, Harshy, it's a bit cold downstairs, can I sleep in your bed for tonight?"
  956. >...
  957. >No.
  958. >Just open the door.
  959. >His reaction to your attire is subtle but you definitely see it. He's never seen you dressed like this.
  960. >"O-oh, hey, Harshwhinny, I just wanted to say, there's no toothpaste left. I wanted to go to bed already and noticed the tube is empty, do you have another?"
  961. >For a second you stare at him in confusion. Looks like he's not here to ask you anything else or intrude your room.
  962. "Oh. Yeah, wait a second."
  963. >When you walk away from him in the depths of your room you definitely, absolutely, positively feel his eyes on your body.
  964. >Can you blame him? It's a given that he will stare.
  965. >Your mane is down. Your usual attire is missing, your earrings too. You're covered in light transparent cloth that obscures your forms just enough.
  966. >You're naked in more than one sense. The most casual and opened he has ever seen you.
  967. >It doesn't take long to find a fresh tube and you return to Anon swiftly.
  968. >He takes it out of your mouth and just for a moment his finger brushes against your muzzle.
  969. >You freeze up and await his reaction but he doesn't seem to notice.
  970. >"Thanks."
  971. >And he walks away. Just like that.
  972. >In that moment something rises up in you and compels you to call him.
  973. "Anon..."
  974. >The human turns around and you can almost see hope in his eyes. Hope that you'll say just one word.
  975. >Just one word that will make him stay.
  976. >And that word is right now in your throat, stuck there, filling it with a dry and heavy feel.
  977. >You want to say it. And you can't. And invisible leach chokes you as soon as you try to rush it out.
  978. >How hard can it be?
  979. >How long will he wait?
  980. >How far will this go?
  981. >You open up your mouth and nothing comes out. Nothing.
  982. "Nothing. Sorry."
  983. >You are defeated once again.
  984. >Anon's eyes linger on you for a bitter moment and you know he is defeated as well.
  985. >There's no winners here. Only the crushed. Both filled with intense regret as soon as you break eye contact.
  986. >He walks downstairs and soon there's no one near you. You close the door.
  987. >At once you jump in bed and cover yourself with your lousy blanket.
  988. >Your face in is deep in the pillow.
  989. >It's hard to snuff out all the fire that eats you up inside right now. But you manage.
  990. >And after that you're cold. Completely cold.
  991. >You accepted this coldness. This time it's you who have caused it. It's all on you. There is no one else to blame now.
  992. >You said you'll give him a chance. Your own chance was right in front of you right now. You didn't take it.
  993. >It will all be better tomorrow.
  994. >Sleep will make it better. Gotta sleep. Gotta rest.
  995. >There will be other chances.
  996. >Maybe you'll try to go for it tomorrow. He's not going anywhere any time soon after all.
  998. >"Be honest with yourself and be honest with your human. This may sound like it's a given since you're now together, but you'd be surprised how many situations could be avoided when you speak your mind right away."
  999. >That's what the guide says. You don't think you've been dishonest with him. After all, you told him right away how you see this whole thing.
  1000. >And you're not changing your mind just because you faltered that one time.
  1001. >Almost giving in to circumstances, don't you think you're better than this?
  1002. >But it was a lesson to you. It might happen again. That means you have little time to sort this out.
  1003. >Exactly what you've been thinking yesterday. Or the day before that, and so on.
  1004. >It's with these kind of thoughts you wake up - late, tired, cold and with no mood to get out of bed.
  1005. >Even thought feels nice to be able to sleep in, it's still bad for you.
  1006. >You avoid looking in the mirror too much as you brush your mane yourself and put on your clothes.
  1007. >If there isn't a confirmation about your rent in your mail today, you'll have to take action.
  1008. >Silver Dime's office is on the other side of town but you can't be lazy, not now.
  1009. >You are determined to sort this problem once and for all and get Anon his own place.
  1010. >With great conviction that it must be done today you walk down the stairs. However your steps get lighter and slower when you hear a female voice downstairs.
  1011. >Anonymous is talking to somepony and you think you think the voice sounds familiar.
  1012. >Oh, this is going to get nasty. A mare in your house, with him?
  1013. >Was it he who invited her? Maybe she took a chance seeing that there's nopony else around?
  1014. >Curse your habit of oversleeping on your day-offs.
  1015. >Maybe it's that cute mare from the talent show. Anon has invited her and they've been-
  1016. >Maybe they've been here since early morning? Maybe she even got here in the dark of night just for him?
  1017. >But wait, no. You know that voice. It's princess Cadence. But then...
  1018. >You step right at the door and listen carefully.
  1019. >Anon's voice is oriented lower than usual, so he's probably on the bed, the princess is right next to him.
  1020. >You hear a faint magical sound, an aura of sorts is present there.
  1021. >Despite your mind already drawing a tons of possible scenarios, some of them completely indecent, you take care to listen so you can actually discern words behind the closed door.
  1022. >Anonymous is talking now, with heavy sorrow in his voice.
  1023. >"...and there's just nothing out there that could help, what good is it for me if I can't even get the basic stuff down."
  1024. >Cadence sounds worried. Her voice is muffled by something and it overlaps with the sounds of sustained spell.
  1025. >"No, Anon, listen to me, you just have to persevere for a little bit longer. I promise you, it will work out, there's no doubt."
  1026. >"I don't know, Cadence." Anon whines. "She said she'll give me a chance but... I don't even know how to take it. Like, what do I even do? How do I impress her? How do I show her I really care?"
  1027. >"That is up to you, Anon, you know her better than most ponies by now."
  1028. >Annoyed grumble is what she gets in reply. But he continues on:
  1029. >"I've been wasting my time trying to figure it out and I'm just lost and out of options now. She seems friendly but nothing I do ever gets to her."
  1030. >You suppress the need to shout "What?!" right there.
  1031. >So all the turmoil you feel about this situation is "nothing" to him? You thinking about it every day and being in distress, this doesn't count?
  1032. >But when you try to look at it from his point of view, it does make sense a little.
  1033. >All that unrest in you is kept inside. You don't actually show any of it.
  1034. >Perhaps this is what he means, that you don't react in any way, even though on your own you're always consumed by your doubts and thoughts about him.
  1035. >This at least you won't deny. He's on your mind a lot lately.
  1036. >"Now it's probably too late," he goes on. "She'll kick me out soon and I'll never have another chance with her again. Not after yesterday."
  1037. >"What happened yesterday?"
  1038. >"It's... Never mind."
  1039. >"Anon, you can't keep this stuff hidden from me if you want me to help! And she won't kick you out."
  1040. >"She's trying to rent me a place to stay."
  1041. >"That won't happen any time soon, focus on setting things in motion with her."
  1042. >Won't happen any time soon? You'll see about that.
  1043. >"Listen, the truth of the matter is, I don't think this is working, Cadence. There's got to be a mistake here."
  1044. >"No, how could there be? You told me you wanted to be with her!"
  1045. >"I still do, but maybe I'm just not the right match for her?"
  1046. >"Impossible, it only works one way, a matched couple always has the best match rating."
  1047. >"Well, maybe I'm in that 2% error chance? Maybe she just needs someone who-"
  1048. >"No, that's not possible. It doesn't work that way, Anon. You're destined to be with her."
  1049. >"Or?"
  1050. >"Or what? There's no "or" here."
  1051. >"Or not be with anyone?"
  1052. >"No, that's not- Ugh, why do you have to make it so hard? Anon, I promise you, just talk to her and tell her what's on your mind."
  1053. >"That won't work, Cadence."
  1054. >"But why not?! How can you be sure?"
  1055. >"She'll just- Look, I appreciate the help but I've gotta go, she'll be up soon, I want to make breakfast today."
  1056. >Cadence sighs in defeat.
  1057. >"Fine. Call me again if you have another emergency."
  1058. >"Thank you. Bye."
  1059. >"Bye."
  1060. >The sound of magic disappears right after that.
  1061. >Now would be a good time to skitter away from the door and you do it right on time.
  1062. >You pretend you just woke up and are busy getting the breakfast going. Anon walks out soon enough and greets you in his usual friendly manner.
  1063. "Would you mind me making breakfast today?"
  1064. >"I'd love that."
  1065. >A smile appears on his face but you see right through him. This little test of thickness of Anon's skin isn't for naught.
  1066. >Now that you know how he really feels, seeing how you denied him an opportunity to do something nice for you it's easy to spot sings on disappointment on his face.
  1067. >Immediately you try to recall if he's made this kind of face before. It's a bit discouraging that you can remember at least five occasions, all of them as reactions to your words or actions.
  1068. >You compose an easy light salad for the two of you and watch him dig in.
  1069. "So, Anon, any plans for today?"
  1070. >"No, not really. I thought I'd lazy it out just like you."
  1071. "Well, actually, I do have plans myself."
  1072. >"Oh?"
  1073. >He's getting worried now.
  1074. "You see, I still haven't received any information on the apartment I'm trying to get for you. So today I'll pay a visit to my contact and see how it goes."
  1075. >"Oh."
  1076. >You watch his reactions close.
  1077. "I'm certain he's getting lazy because I was in no hurry, but as soon as I give him a piece of my mind I'm sure he'll ready it in a few days. Maybe even tomorrow."
  1078. >"I see. Well..."
  1079. >He's so lost, the poor man. However, your teasing has no malice in it. You only want to see if he reacts to this dire turn of events. If you can get him to act.
  1080. >It looks like you can't. He surrenders right away, looking in his bowl of salad as he eats.
  1081. >You now confirm that he is as reluctant and full of doubt as you are. It doesn't make you feel good knowing this.
  1082. >A human and a pony who have no idea how to approach one another and how to face their own inner fears.
  1083. >Maybe it was just a cruel joke to match you together.
  1084. >No matter. If Silver Dime really has nothing to offer you then you'll just maintain status quo. If not and he is hiding something from you, then it was a problem right from the start and you're better off dealing with it in any case.
  1085. >Soon, you call for Anon to say your goodbyes.
  1086. >You're not used to leaving him home alone since he follows you around everywhere, but today is a bit special.
  1087. >You kinda feel bad for him when you see his face. Not only his talk with the princess of love was for naught, you're pressuring him as well.
  1088. >And he is still indecisive. He tries to hide the feelings in his eyes and tells you to take care as if you're just going for a stroll.
  1089. >That's your fate at stake here, Anon, do something.
  1090. >But it's all too familiar. Maybe just one word he wants to say is stuck in his throat, just like yours was yesterday.
  1091. >And so you leave into the late summer Canterlot.
  1093. >Your thoughts are in disarray after a sudden revelation. Anon's been tormented no less than you.
  1094. >It's not hard to envision him standing in front of the mirror every morning, just like you, pondering his situation.
  1095. >An assortment of feelings boils in your head as you trudge through the city.
  1096. >Silver Dime greets you warmly as an old friend.
  1097. >"Ms. Harshwhinny? Great to see you here! Come on in, to what do I own the honor?"
  1098. >His office is humble but it serves him well. It's a kingdom of paper and sealed deals around here.
  1099. "Mr. Dime, I've come here in person to hear all about my delayed apartment arrangement."
  1100. >He is unfazed by your accusation.
  1101. >"Oh? I was not aware it's delayed."
  1102. "There is no need to deny the obvious, Mr. Dime."
  1103. >You put the letters you've received from him on the table. You never go unprepared to these kind of meetings.
  1104. >"What's this?"
  1105. "It's your replies to me, if you haven't forgotten already that you even replied to me at all."
  1106. >Now you're getting to him and he answers with annoyance to meet yours:
  1107. >"Don't take me for a fool, Ms. Harshwhinny. I'm saying that these are not my replies!"
  1108. "Are they not?"
  1109. >"They most certainly aren't! Let me see... Delayed... Not at the time... What nonsense!"
  1110. "There is your signature there, you know."
  1111. >"And there is one right here!"
  1112. >He finds a paper in his stack as soon as he looks at it, like he knew precisely where this particular piece was.
  1113. >"This is a copy of your arrangement, ready for you to sign! Your apartment was ready a week ago!"
  1114. >Your shock makes you scowl at him even more.
  1115. "What is the meaning of this then?"
  1116. >"I wanted to ask you the same thing. We can't keep this one free for long, we're losing money on it each day it's unclaimed. I only do this for the sake of our friendship, just so you know."
  1117. >Now is your time to be confused.
  1118. "But then what's with these replies? Signed, stamped..."
  1119. >"Let me look at it closely."
  1120. >Silver Dime fidgets with the papers for a while but just grunts in frustration.
  1121. >"Doesn't seem to be and obvious magical forgery... Hold on."
  1122. >He clears his throat and shouts for his secretary, Mrs. Peachy Quill, his expert on everything involving documents and papers.
  1123. >If she can't spot what's wrong with these then you're out of luck.
  1124. >The mare comes in and Dime gives her your papers right away, explaining that you got them instead of his real replies.
  1125. >Somepony must've changed them.
  1126. >While Quill is looking at the puzzling sheets, one other detail emerges.
  1127. "So what about my own replies then? I assume you never got them as well."
  1128. >"No, I thought you were just ignoring me this whole time or just changed your mind and forgot to explain yourself to me."
  1129. "Forgot? Who do you think I am?"
  1130. >"Apparently, a cheated mare."
  1131. >You look at him from under your intense frown but you don't have time to reply, since Mrs. Quill is already done.
  1132. >"Just by the quality of paper I can tell these come from either Canterlot Castle or Crystal Empire. Then, the ink-"
  1133. "Crystal Empire?!"
  1134. >A sudden realization downs on you.
  1135. >"That won't happen any time soon," as Cadence said.
  1136. >Could it be? No, there's just no way she would resort to... To outright cheating!
  1137. >"Harshwhinny, you alright?"
  1138. >They both see how you go way beyond your boiling point in a matter of seconds and it scares them both a bit.
  1139. "Dime, hold this apartment for one more day, I'll notify you personally!"
  1140. >With this you walk out of the office, furious as never before. They don't attempt to stop you or even say anything to you.
  1141. >This calls for immediate action. You'll find out how Anonymous called Cadence and then you'll give her a piece of your mind.
  1142. >Devoured by inferno of your wrath you think about everything you've been through and how you had to endure it just because of Cadence's audacity to intercept your letters and feed you misinformation.
  1143. >It is outright despicable. That princess is way out of her element. This invalidates everything!
  1144. >Especially that "give it a chance" mentality she's been forced on you, and now on Anon too.
  1145. >There is no chance to be given if you're forced into it.
  1146. >You had no other choice but to give Anonymous a chance. You had no other choice but to become accustomed to him, no choice but to get used to his company.
  1147. >Of course everything was hanging on him remaining at your side all this time, so Cadence wouldn't risk it.
  1148. >If Anon moved a week ago this would've been over already and you wouldn't even remember him by now.
  1149. >What a disgrace. You feel so dirty, so wronged. Used. Played by someone with power just because they can.
  1150. >It's not Anon's fault. You are both victims here. Pawns in the game much bigger than both of you.
  1151. >Even if you have to defend him now, you will have justice.
  1153. >Upon your arrival back home, you're struck with another shock. This time even greater than another two revelations of today.
  1154. >Anonymous is sitting at the table with his bags packed.
  1155. "Anon? What is the meaning of this?"
  1156. >He sighs and looks at you with sorrow in his eyes.
  1157. >All the passion, all the venom in your heart dissipates immediately upon his cold, lifeless gaze.
  1158. >Instead of burning out of control everything inside of you slows down to a crawl.
  1159. >"Harshwhinny, I have something to say to you."
  1160. "Yes?"
  1161. >"I don't think this is working."
  1162. "What do you mean?"
  1163. >"The thing we have, I don't think it's working out. I couldn't take a chance you've given me. I'm a god damned coward, Harshwhinny. I realize this now. So whether or not you managed to get me an apartment, it doesn't matter. I've decided it's time for me to leave."
  1164. >You can't help but gasp at this sudden reveal. You are frozen in place and your spine is solid ice that makes every hair of your coat stand up.
  1165. >But soon even the mighty permafrost across your body and soul can't contain the perturbation of your heart.
  1166. "You... You're gonna run away?"
  1167. >"It's not like that, I just-"
  1168. "You want to run away from me? Is that it?"
  1169. >He is silent in his resignation, content with taking any lashing you're willing to give him.
  1170. >But you're just out of words.
  1171. "Is that it, Anonymous? Is that all we amount to?"
  1172. >"I-"
  1173. "You're damn right you're a coward!"
  1174. >He jolts up and looks away. Even if he's prepared for it, your words sting him like nothing else in his life that has ever managed to hurt him up until now.
  1175. >You're both silent for a moment. Your eyes are on him and his avoid you. But you can't keep it up.
  1176. "So what now? Where do you intend to go?"
  1177. >"No idea, somewhere that's not here."
  1178. "Oh really? How do you imagine surviving on your own out there?"
  1179. >"I'm not going in the wilderness, you know. I'll just settle somewhere."
  1180. >Now you starting to understand.
  1181. "Oh, I see. With somepony else to help you."
  1182. >"What?"
  1183. "So you're leaving to find another mare?"
  1184. >He's a bit hesitant to answer but eventually he does:
  1185. >"No, I don't think I'll try. I mean, if there's a lonely mare out there chances are she'll be matched sooner or later."
  1186. "I can't believe you."
  1187. >You scowl at him, remembering how Cadence played you both. And yet he is still subscribing to that ideology. The same one that had to be forced upon you both to even begin to work.
  1188. "Listen to yourself. You're so full of it and you don't even see it."
  1189. >"What?"
  1190. "Things don't work out with me - must be an error in matching! Flee in hope to find somepony else - no, it's the matching again in your way. Don't you think you're putting this way before your own interests?"
  1191. >Anonymous is thinking about it. You want him to realize the same thing you did.
  1192. "Do you really allow this Crystal Heart to think for you, decide for you? Can't you take responsibility for your own actions? Does your..."
  1193. >You stumble over your own words when you feel the same dry lump in your throat. Anon looks at you at last and waits for you to continue.
  1194. >Unlike yesterday, you push it out of your throat.
  1195. "Do your feelings really worth anything to you if you give up just like that? Fleeing without saying a word?"
  1196. >Just like all the others. At least it's not a mere paper with apology sitting on your vanity after a mysterious disappearance in the night. At least he had guts to tell you this in person, unlike some of your "stallions".
  1197. >"Just like that?!" he suddenly regains his passion. "Harshwhinny, I t-"
  1198. >And it's gone. As swift as it appeared.
  1199. >"No, you're right. I didn't try at all. I thought it would kinda happen on its own."
  1200. "What if-"
  1201. >"I know it's sudden but I'm sorry. The only ticket I could buy was on the night train, so I guess I'm stuck here for now."
  1202. "I see. So this is a goodbye then."
  1203. >Here's that cold and lifeless voice of yours again. You turn around and go to your room.
  1204. "You better not come back after doing this, Anonymous."
  1205. >It's the last thing you ever said to him.
  1207. >You got to say the last word but you're still not satisfied.
  1208. >It's painful to lie down in your bed waiting for him to leave.
  1209. >You thought you'd stop caring by now since you feel so cold inside. Betrayed on top of cheated now.
  1210. >But the bitter feel never subsides.
  1211. >Will it ever?
  1212. >You jump up on your bed. In your dream-like state you've wasted the whole day and now it's dark outside.
  1213. >There's no sounds coming from downstairs.
  1214. >He's gone. He really is gone. It's over. He's out of your life forever.
  1215. >And it's the most terrifying feeling you've ever experienced.
  1216. >Terror gives way to anger right away. Anger melts every piece of ice upon your heart and the mighty winds of bitter bile fan these ambers of anger into a roaring flames of wrath.
  1217. >How dares he? It's not over yet. It's not for him to decide!
  1218. >Oh, he thought he got away scot-free. But you're not done yet.
  1219. >It's minutes to midnight now. The train will be arriving shortly. But that's no problem to you.
  1220. >You aren't staying in shape for nothing. It's been some time since you've run so fast but you manage.
  1221. >Swooshing all around you the wind only blows the fires higher, drowning every other thought in its sound of vengeful retribution.
  1222. >The platform is almost empty. There's like two ponies there. He's here too.
  1223. "ANONYMOUS!" you roar into the night.
  1224. >The ponies both scatter and run away in fear and Anon doesn't look any more calm, covering his head in fear as you almost collide with him.
  1225. >Sweat drips from you and your breathing sends steam into the still cold air.
  1226. >"H-harshwhinny? What's the matter?"
  1227. "Do you seriously think you can just bail out of this?!"
  1228. >"No, I-"
  1229. "Do you seriously want to just drop everything and go, you coward?! You scoundrel, do you have even a tiny bit of dignity or respect left in you?"
  1230. >Suddenly he stands up to stand his ground. It's on now.
  1231. >"What dignity, Harshwhinny? Look at me, I'm a nobody in this world just like I was in mine. Do you think I believe in this matching thing? Me and you? You were right all along."
  1232. "Don't give me that self-deprecation now, mister! Oh, poor twisted me, a humble human begging for mercy!"
  1233. >"Well then what do you suppose I do? How do I prove myself to you?"
  1234. "H- How?! You're asking this now?!"
  1235. >"You wouldn't have told me anyway, you never wanted me near you."
  1236. "What if I hoped for it anyway? What if I wanted you to succeed in spite of it?"
  1237. >"Where the hell did that chance thing come from then?"
  1238. "Because it was a chance for me as well! Don't you get it still?"
  1239. >Your breath is so heavy you think you'll faint. Sweat runs down your face and body, getting under your attire.
  1240. >You feel so uncomfortable but at the same time it's so liberating to speak your mind, even if it's the last thing you'll do with him.
  1241. >"Then why do you need this chance anyway? We were matched, Harshwhinny! We could've been together right from the start."
  1242. "No, how can you not understand?! I don't want to be "matched" by some outside force that tells me that I should just close my eyes and throw myself in your arms and I'll be happy! That is the fool's way out. And I don't believe in fools getting what they should never deserve!"
  1243. >His eyes go wide at your outburst that he finds himself understanding you.
  1244. "A hard working mare like me gets NOTHING after all these years, no companionship, no warmth at night, not secure hooves to fall into. And now you have to just, no, you don't even HAVE to sign up! They'll find you and they'll give you your special someone on a platter with a golden lining even if you DON'T want it! Here you go, be happy! No matter if they deserve it or not, they close their eyes and become happy just like that!"
  1245. >"But... It's the same for you now. You got matched and you have it just as easy as-"
  1246. "Yes! And I don't deserve it either! I am alone because that's what's left for me, that's who I am."
  1247. >Anon is downright appalled by your words, wincing at a thought of you berating yourself.
  1248. >"What are you talking about? You-"
  1249. "I've worked my way to the top, I've went far beyond any pony's image of normal life to get where I am now, forgoing any relationship so I can be here, on top. And all the stallions I've been with have promised me love and compassion, impressed by me, inspired by me, and they've all left me. So what do you take from all of that?"
  1250. >Silence hangs in the air, but only for a moment. Then Anon clenches his teeth and his hands make fists in anger.
  1251. >"That they were all idiots who never tried to understand the real you and what really drives you to become the better pony?"
  1252. >Now you display your anger to him by, yet again, scowling at him.
  1253. "That I've never tried hard enough to keep one. And I'm completely alone now. Because that's what I deserve! You try and you succeed. You don't try - and you fail. It's as easy as that."
  1254. >"But love isn't a competition..."
  1255. >And then you snap.
  1256. "Don't YOU tell me what love is! You have never even competed in it as you said yourself. You signed a contract without even knowing it's going to be me on the other side. Just a promise of any mare, as long as she's yours that would've done it for you!"
  1257. >"So what, I don't deserve you as well?"
  1258. "Well maybe it's exactly me who you deserve!"
  1259. >Your furious glances cross and for a second you come to an understanding.
  1260. >Maybe that's how it really is.
  1261. >But no, it's too late now. He is engulfed in emotions just as you are and now he wants to say the last word just as much as you.
  1262. >"Or maybe it's not about deserving anything? Maybe it's about, oh, I dunno, making each other happy."
  1263. "So then why are you leaving?"
  1264. >"Because I can't do it."
  1265. "How do you know?"
  1266. >"Because these weeks have been torture for me, Harshwhinny. I love your strict attitude, but when you're like a brick wall I can overcome I'm starting to doubt if I should even try at all."
  1267. "Oh, so this is what it's all about?! Me being oh so very hard for you?"
  1268. >There are no brakes anymore. You're not about to stop and you're starting to scream.
  1269. "You drop on my head like snow in summer and I don't meet YOUR expectations?! Well sorry for not waiting for you my whole life! Sorry for daring to have a life prior to meeting you! Sorry for not being a young country mare that has nothing going on and just waits for somepony to notice her and give her foals! Sorry for not being your rose-colored virginal first romance! Sorry for not falling into your arms the second you walk to me, sorry for not making you happy, sorry for not presenting myself at the first drop of your pants!"
  1270. >Your voice starts to crack a few times as your throat goes dry and sore but you don't care. Tears mix with sweat and you just want to get everything out of your system.
  1271. "Sorry for daring to deny the will of the Crystal Heart that obviously knows what's better for me! And sorry that you had to drop every single thing from your world so you can meet me, because I certainly didn't want it, had no way of knowing this will happen, and had ZERO intent to agree until Cadence convinced me!"
  1272. >Anon doesn't even give you a second to breathe and his reply knocks you out right away.
  1273. >"Harshwhinny, I don't give a single FUCK about any of this!"
  1274. >The Universe stands still. You've lost your breath. Eyes wide open you can't comprehend what just happened. And yet he goes even further.
  1275. >"I don't give one rat's ass about this bullshit. All I ever wanted was to hug you. To keep you warm at night. Because I know you need it. Because I need it too. I want to just be with you. You have a million excuses to not allow yourself to be hugged while I only need one to do it. Because I'm lonely as hell. And you're lonely too. It's not perfect, it's not straight out of a romance novel but it's something for both of us. I'm just a useless schmuck from out of nowhere and you're a sad lonely old mare who only has her career to warm her heart. What reason can there BE for us to not be together?"
  1276. >It's definitely more tears now than sweat dropping down your face. And you see that he's on the verge of tears as well. His voice is shaky and pleading now.
  1277. >"That blue pony with a human I've been staring at in the park? I didn't want that to be me holding her. I wanted to hold you like that. I just wanted a pony to hold. My love doesn't amount to anything in my world so I thought I'd be able to make a pony happy here. I thought my affection will be of use to someone. I wanted this somepony to be you, Harshwhinny. I just wanted to hold you at least once."
  1278. >He sits down and his face falls into his open palms while you stand in silence, unable to look away.
  1279. >"God fucking damn it. Fuck you, man. You lonely ass mare and your insecurity."
  1280. >He continues sobbing something unintelligible and you can't even understand it anymore.
  1281. >In trance, you walk away. You leave the platform behind and sit on the bench near it. You can't look at him right now. Or ever again.
  1282. >There are no thoughts left in your head. It is empty. Just late night breeze that goes into one ear and exits out from another.
  1283. >The train arrives. In the calm ambience of Canterlot night every sound it makes is so sharp it cuts through the air like a hot knife through butter.
  1284. >And then it leaves, taking its sounds away with it. Slowly but surely the night take its rights back, filling your head with spacious darkness illuminated by a few lampposts around.
  1285. >An eternity passes as you sit without motion and thought. Everything that's been staining your heart for all this time washed away together with sweat and tears, leaving nothing to take its place.
  1286. >You're uncomfortable in your wet clothes but you don't really care.
  1287. >And then you hear them. The weighty, slow steps moving down the platform.
  1288. >No need to look up. You knew this was gonna happen. He's a coward after all.
  1289. >And the thing cowards like him are afraid of the most is change.
  1290. >It is better to keep comfort than venture into the unknown, no matter how painful the situation is. Such in the nature of this man.
  1291. >And you? You're no better than him. So that's how you know it's him walking up to you. He almost walks past you.
  1292. >A few seconds pass with him just standing near. Then he says to you in a tone that indicates total surrender.
  1293. >"I've decided to stay."
  1294. >No answer is needed for this remark stating the obvious.
  1295. >"Let's go home."
  1296. >You have no reason to not go home. So you get down from your bench and you walk in the night, leaving the platform behind.
  1298. >Still in trance you walk up the stairs and hear him walking right behind you.
  1299. >There's nothing strange about it. You've accepted your fate.
  1300. >He enters your chambers for the first time ever. He doesn't even get to see anything since it's so dark here.
  1301. >You don't turn on the light. You just get on the bed.
  1302. >Anonymous follows you. It's lucky that your bed is just big enough for him to fit right in.
  1303. >You start unbuttoning your jacket but your hooves shake. You can't do it.
  1304. >Anon panics for a moment and whispers to you, afraid to disturb the silence of your room:
  1305. >"H-harshwhinny, you don't have to-"
  1306. "I don't sleep with clothes on," you whisper in response.
  1307. >Then you feel his fingers right at your hooves. You move them away to let him help you and he looses the button in one moment.
  1308. >His hands upon your still covered shoulders feel weird but warm and nice. He slips your wet jacket right off of you and carefully puts it at the nightstand.
  1309. >Next off goes the wet neck cloth and your neck piece.
  1310. >Then the blouse. His deft fingers unbutton it faster than you've expected. Now to get you out of its wet fabric he touches your coat.
  1311. >It's soft. His skin feels good.
  1312. >You can't help but notice the careful reverence he touches you with. It's almost sensual.
  1313. >His fingers brush your coat as if he touches something forbidden. In a way you can understand him. But it's not what you want right now.
  1314. "I'm still a bit sweaty, you better take off your shirt to not get it dirty."
  1315. >He obliges but then he doesn't really know what he should do.
  1316. >When you lay down, back turned to him, you hope you'll be spared the need to spell it out for him.
  1317. >Thankfully, he understands your invitation and you feel his arms on your side, bringing your blanket over you both and finding its rest on your body.
  1318. >He barely keeps you at himself, still scared to touch you. It is as if he's afraid you'll get mad at him.
  1319. >Looks like you'll have to take initiative after all. You turn to face him and lean in into his arms.
  1320. >And here comes the real hug. In one passionate motion he gets his arms around you and holds you close, enveloping you with tame warmth of his body.
  1321. >In a moment you immediately succumb to this feeling and he understands it too, greedily smothering your body against his. That's what you wanted.
  1322. >There's nothing beyond this that you need right now and he understands it. In this moment all you want is to feel the comfort of another heart that beats in rhythm with yours.
  1323. >Your hindlegs go around his leg and your head thrusts muzzle-first into his neck where it's kept by his hand.
  1324. >His fingers get into your mane and you feel them upon your scalp, so tender, so wanting. He's been waiting so long for this.
  1325. >You've been longing for it as well. The absolute submission to gentle affection offered to you just because you're needed.
  1326. >Looks like the guide was right, humans do take great care to make a mare feel welcomed.
  1327. >You just don't care anymore and he doesn't too. There is no reason to deny it anymore. Two lonely souls, crushed and desperate, longing to scavenge any warm feelings they can find, allowing themselves to rest in whatever hands or hooves will accept them.
  1328. >Maybe the Crystal Heart was right in its own, cynical way to match you.
  1329. >You lean closer into the human's embrace and your lips press into his neck.
  1330. >It's just how you find yourself, without any intention to give him a reserved kiss.
  1331. >But he, in turn, presses his lips to your forehead and takes a big whiff of your mane's aroma.
  1332. >Anon holds you firmly, without any room to squirm. You're completely powerless to resist him even if you wanted to.
  1333. >But you want to be kept that way. It's the only way you want to be.
  1334. >For the first time this week you're not falling asleep cold.
  1335. >You hope you'll never have to be cold ever again.
  1337. Epilogue.
  1339. >Winter sport season in Vanhoover is officially opened. That means a lot of events will be held in that northern city.
  1340. >Events call for inspections. And inspections call for the best in the field.
  1341. >Ms. Harshwhinny arrives on a snowy day, fully clothed but still feeling cold.
  1342. >Behind her goes a human who is carrying all of her weighty luggage.
  1343. >"Great weather here again, I see." states the mare with the ever-annoyed expression on her muzzle.
  1344. >"Dreadful." cuts the human as he tries to not slip upon the ice under the thin layer of fresh snow.
  1345. >They call for a cab and go to the hotel where they'll be spending their stay in the busy city.
  1346. >Rumors has it that it really is her human. But nopony knows for sure.
  1347. >Whatever private life they have they keep private.
  1348. >Only those who manage to catch the way they look at each other sometimes can confirm it with certainty.
  1349. >One room with one bed in the hotel also makes it a bit obvious but without direct confirmation it's just rumors.
  1350. >They occupy corner rooms or private lodges, or whole apartments. Ponies don't venture in the night just to check on them.
  1351. >Aside from Harshwhinny being pompous and picky as ever they seem to live a quiet life and nopony asks questions about that.
  1352. >It seems to be enough for them, so who's gonna judge.
  1353. >After all, Crystal Heart is never wrong.
  1355. The End.
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