A Dinky Gift

by Midnight Mist

Chapter 1: A Dinky Gift

A Dinky Gift


On most days it was two things in particular about his Creative Writing course that seemed to strike Stuart as a little peculiar. First, there was the sheer volume of ponies that had opted to take the class. They made up almost two thirds of the student body in the lecture theatre, whereas in all of his other modules they were the definite minority by quite some margin. Clearly something about the creative arts appealed more to them than the sciences he was generally inclined to study.

The second thing was the pale greyish-violet mare who always sat just at the end of his row. The unicorn pony, whose name he’d quickly learned was Dinky – though he couldn’t quite recall where from - wasn’t strange in herself. In fact she’d always seemed like a perfectly pleasant filly; a little smaller than the average in terms of physical build from what he could tell, though she was definitely cute. What was odd was that she’d never decided to sit with anybody or anypony else. She’d been late on the very first day and taken that particular seat just to get settled down as quickly as possible. It was never a comfortable feeling having a lecture hall full of eyes giving you their rapt attention. From then on she’d simply maintained the habit of taking that seat, sitting alone, whilst most of the rest of the class quickly fell into a varied array of cliques. Whilst other humans and ponies alike had congregated into small groups of friends as the semester had gone on Dinky had simply kept to herself, always taking the same seat at the end of the row that Stuart was sitting on. Never a deviation.

She seemed the quiet type, distant from the class, reluctant to make any friends. The only words they’d ever really shared were simple pleasantries and common courtesies such as “Hello”, “Excuse me”, and “Goodbye”. Stuart had heard some of his classmates whispering about her when they thought nobody else could hear them. The general consensus seemed to simply be that she was a little bit of a loner and that somehow made her odd.

He had no idea how or even if any of them knew her, but Stuart was less than convinced they knew her at all. He afforded her the occasional glance, some part of him a little curious about the unicorn mare, wondering what she was like as a person. The pale two-toned fronds of her mane seemed to highlight and draw attention to the golden gamboge of her eyes, which always seemed to be happy and smiling. There was something strangely compelling in those wide, bright eyes.

As if somehow sensing Stuart’s gaze or hearing his thoughts she turned to look at him, their eyes meeting for a moment before she offered him a genuine warm smile. He returned it, unable to do otherwise.

That was the other thing about her. Whenever he did look in her direction she seemed to know it, and her response was universal, not open to any form of compromise; that sweet and infectious heart-warming smile.

All that aside, however, what struck him as odd on that particular day as he took his seat was the little ribbon-wrapped muffin that sat on the desktop right in front of where he usually sat, resting atop a folded piece of paper. Sliding the muffin – it smelled like chocolate chip - to one side he picked up the small folded note and opened it up. The only thing on it was a happy little smiley face drawn in bright red ink, underscored with the words “Thank you”. No name. No explanation. It was puzzling.

He puzzled for a moment before looking to his right where the solitary violet mare had immersed herself in a tattered old book. As if on cue she looked up and to her left, her eyes meeting his. Stuart noted as her gaze flicked for a brief instant between himself and the muffin, then back again. That smile promptly followed as he knew it would.

The moment passed. She went back to her book. Everything clicked in his mind. Dinky had left it there.

He took his seat and began to enjoy his muffin.


Stuart had wanted to give her his thanks for the small, unexpected gift, but when the end of class had finally come around the unicorn mare had packed away her stuff and been the first one out of the door. She’d been gone before he could so much as ask her to wait.
With a couple of days between their latest encounter and the next shared class, however, that gave Stuart ample time to think. Think of her motive, think of an adequate response, think of the delicious, sweet, well-baked muffin…

He wondered whether she’d bought it or made it herself? It hadn’t tasted bland enough to be generic store-bought, but it could’ve quite easily been made in a little bakery somewhere.

It was time enough for him to analyse, over-analyse, then reanalyse the over-analysis. In the end he stopped trying to analyse it at all, and decided to take the more sensible route and concentrate on the only thing that he felt actually mattered – finding a gift to offer in return!

But what could you possibly buy a unicorn? He wasn’t an expert on ponies by any stretch of the imagination, but he knew that there were subtle cultural differences even between the different pony races. He knew next to nothing about any of them and he really didn’t want to mess it up and cause offence.

And that led him on to another problem – he didn’t know her at all as a person, either, so he couldn’t even tailor it to her preferences, whatever they may have been. All he had to go on was the fact that they shared a class, she’d given him a muffin filled with chocolate chips, and she liked to share that sweet, adorable smile…

Simply smiling at her wouldn’t accomplish anything, and returning the favour by getting her a muffin would be incredibly unthoughtful and unoriginal. That pretty much defeated the point of the gift.

So that left the only shared interest he knew they had.

He bought her a book, “On The Art of Creative Writing”.

Stuart resolved to give it to Dinky at the end of their next class.


There was an old saying about the best-laid plans of mice and men. Stuart wasn’t sure precisely where ponies factored into the equation, but the whole thing felt so incredibly apt at that particular moment in time that his brain was trying to slot them in there somewhere. All had been going so well, at least up until about five minutes before the end of the class.

His plans were thoroughly thwarted when Dinky rose from her seat and made to leave the lecture theatre, pausing to exchange a consenting nod with the professor leading the lesson.

Stuart was stunned.

When the class did end a few minutes later he was up and out of the door like a rocket. He was completely out of the building before he even registered the thought that he had no clue as to which way Dinky had actually gone.

So Stuart did what just about every other student did when they were finished with class; he headed down towards the Quad, pretty much the beating heart of campus life on the university’s grounds. It marked the centre of the student body’s social circle (Stuart had often pondered whether the Quad has been named with nothing but that specific irony in mind), as well as being the crossing-points for the most direct routes from any one side of campus to the other, not to mention the way to the site’s main entrance.

Picking up his pace to a slow jog he knew that if she had gone in that direction then she had at least a five minute lead on him, which would probably place her most of the way to the Quad by that point.

As Stuart drew nearer the number of people and ponies noticeably increased, as it always did, with many pegasi willingly taking to the air just to avoid the congestion of hundreds of students roaming through the fairly limited space. He couldn’t make the pale lavender coat of Dinky out from amongst the teeming crowd, nor the two-toned greyish gold of her mane, but then he’d be pretty hard-pressed to pick out any given individual from that mulling throng of pedestrians.

But something beyond the teeming congregation did catch his eye.

On the far side of the crowd, heading along the path that eventually snaked its way off campus towards the nearby town, was Dinky.

Gritting his teeth Stuart set his resolve and made to push his way against the flow of the Quad. With a little luck he may even survive the experience.


By the time Stuart had managed to reach the far side of the Quad all sight of Dinky had been completely lost. But that didn’t stop him from setting a pace along the path that promptly left him more than a little breathless. He was doubled over, hands on his knees and panting before he had fully crested the first hill, wishing to himself that he’d spent more time working on his general fitness.

He didn’t pay much heed to the sound of a bike pulling up on the road beside him, but when the engine died and the rider removed his helmet it drew Stuart’s attention. Triston, his lab partner in another class, and somebody he’d known since well before university. For some reason everybody else seemed to call him Rob. It was something Stuart had never figured out or understood, so he’d never taken up the habit himself.

"What's up?" the biker hung his helmet from the bike’s handlebar and lifted the two-wheeler onto its stands.

Stuart was still panting for breath, "I'm trying to follow Dinky!" he wheezed out weakly.

"Ooh, creepy.” He knew Triston had absolutely no idea who Dinky was, but that was pretty much his stock answer to everything, “Why?"

"She gave me a gift.” Stuart straightened up, heart still pounding and chest heaving, “I have one for her. I need to talk to her."

Triston’s eyebrow piqued, “That badly?”

Stuart nodded.

"Hop on." Triston thumbed over his shoulder towards his bike. The rider turned back, lifting up the seat and fishing out a second helmet, tossing it at his soon-to-be pillion passenger before donning his own and kicking the bike into life. He kept it idling gently until Stuart was comfortably seated behind him.

“Which way?”

Stuart simply pointed in the vague direction of the nearby town.

The bike took off at pace.


The joke that they’d caught up with Dinky by means of significant horsepower wasn’t at all lost on Stuart. What did escape Stuart’s immediate attention as the bike hurtled at blatantly absurd speed along a public highway was the fact that he’d had no practical way to tell the guy piloting when he ought to pull over and let him off. They’d overshot Dinky and some grey pegasus mare she’d apparently taken to walking with by quite a way before he’d managed to get Triston to stop and turn around. And in the time that had taken they’d come pretty close to losing track of their target again.

Even more worryingly the whole process repeated itself several times after that. The whole thing would probably have been amusing had Stuart not felt like he was on some kind of rollercoaster ride without the added benefit of a safety harness. The bike and its rider seemed to have only two speeds. Fast and faster.

They’d rocketed past the main entrance to the large local district hospital mere moments before, just in time for Stuart to see the two mares they were tailing disappear into the main entrance of the building. It was a full five minutes or more before Triston and Stuart pulled up out front themselves, though the latter was grateful to finally get his feet back, if somewhat belatedly, on solid unmoving ground.
“You sure they went in here?” Triston asked as he locked up his bike.

Stuart nodded. He was certain of it.

“Alright. Come on.”

Triston grabbed Stuart by the forearm and dragged him through the doors.

The entrance to the hospital complex felt much more like a mall than any kind of medical facility, with a strange variety of shops and eateries located just behind the concourse that played host to the main security and reception desk. Beyond all that was a large corridor which seemed to lead deeper into the building, above it a series of signs and notices showing directional information that seemed almost physically impossible in only three dimensions. Stuart wasn’t all that familiar with the hospital’s layout – he couldn’t recall the last time he’d actually been there – but he got the impression that it would be very, very easy to get lost in its maze-like warren of corridors.

And he had absolutely no idea which department Dinky was actually heading for.

"Wait here.” Triston stopped them in their tracks, turning to Stuart, “I'll find out where she went. Her name was Dinky, right?"

Stuart nodded and watched as his friend approached the outpatient check-in desk. He wasn’t sure what Triston was trying to do – he couldn’t even overhear the conversation – but within a few moments the receptionist had picked up the phone to contact somebody.
Maybe she was calling security?

That was well and truly ruled out when she spoke into the phone a few times, then handed it over to Triston. For a brief moment Stuart wished he could lip-read, if only so he’d have some clue as to what was actually happening. The more Triston took the lead the more lost he felt.

He watched closely as Triston handed the phone back and quickly made his way back to where Stuart stood rooted to the ground, “Ward 27. Come on.”

“Wait…” Stuart didn’t resist, allowing Triston the pull him along towards that foreboding main corridor, “How did you do that?”

“Family connections.” The biker winked mysteriously.

Stuart let it slide, unwilling to question providence, and allowed him to lead the way.


Ward 27 turned out to be located somewhere on the top floor of the building. Fortunately there was no shortage of spacious lifts to get there – climbing the few storeys on foot wouldn’t have been much fun. What concerned Stuart most was that the ward they were heading for was marked as palliative care. He found himself wondering why Dinky would need to come here. Was she a visitor? No, if Triston had managed to get the details of where she was just using her name then that meant she was definitely a patient…

The nurses’ station was staffed by a particularly burly looking cream-coloured mare in what appeared to be the standard nurse’s uniform, messy russet mane hanging at odd angles from beneath her cap. She seemed to be big and muscular even by earth pony standards, and to be honest Stuart found her to be a rather intimidating presence.

"Um, hello?” He began uncertainly. The mare looked up at him over her glasses with scrutinising amber eyes, “I'm here to see Dinky?"

"Is she expecting you?"

"Erm...” he realised then that Dinky wouldn’t have even the slightest clue, “Not exactly..."

"Then I can't-"

Another nurse, a tall blonde human woman, appeared behind the earth pony and placed a reassuring hand on her shoulder, wearing a warming smile, "Don't worry, Sugar.” Stuart didn’t miss the passing look this new nurse offered to Triston, nor the barely noticeable nod that he returned, “I'll ask for them."

The mare just shrugged and returned to whatever it was she’d been doing before the interruption. The other nurse turned and promptly vanished into the deeper workings of the ward. All Stuart could do was stand there awkwardly and wait.

Triston was giving him a funny look, but he didn’t breathe a word into the silence.

Stuart let his mind wander in thought for what felt like a brief eternity. When the nurse returned she seemed much more solemn, whatever chirpiness had been present before completely washed away, "They'll see you. Just... Don't stress her out too much."

Her choice of wording baffled Stuart, but he nodded nonetheless. Triston gave him a reassuring slap on the arm before turning back the way they’d come. Stuart was on his own.

He headed deeper into the ward. There were a few communal rooms filled with a half dozen or so beds each, but when he looked in they seemed to be earmarked specifically for humans. Further along there were several smaller, what appeared to be individual side rooms. Some were locked, the lights inside off and casting the rooms into darkness. Some had the doors propped open, though still unoccupied. One, second from the end, had the door propped open and the lights on. When Stuart reached it he could see Dinky on the bed through the open doorway, reclining comfortably against the headrest and under the covers, chatting to the grey winged mare he’d seen her entering the hospital with earlier.

Now they were together Stuart was almost certain that he could see a family resemblance there between them, especially in the face. They had the same eyes, almost – colour at least. The pegasus mare’s eyes were a little off-kilter, though that only seemed to add warmth to the expression she was offering as she looked at Dinky. They definitely shared the same innocent smile.

Unicorns and pegasi could be related to one-another, right?

They were talking. They were laughing.

Dinky’s eyes picked up on him a moment later as he stood in observant silence at the door, and then came that smile.

"Hey Dinky..." he offered before she spoke.

"Hi Stuart."

He hadn’t been expecting that, "You know my name?"

Dinky’s smile somehow managed to broaden without losing any of its sincerity as she turned to look at the other mare, "Hey mum, can we have a little privacy?"

Mum… That explained the resemblance.

"Okay muffin." The pegasus mare nuzzled her daughter’s cheek affectionately for a moment before turning to offer Stuart a smile of her own. She moved to walk past him, "Be good."

Stuart offered a slight smile of his own and a brief nod before she left the two alone.

Dinky regarded him all the while in comfortable silence, the moment eventually punctuated by the young mare with a questioning raise of an eyebrow.

“Oh, right!” Stuart remembered the entire point of him being there. Taking the bag off his back he reached in, rummaging around until he found the book he’d intended as a gift, carefully extracting it and presenting it to her, “I got you a little something.”

"You didn't have to." The smile never once for a moment wavered as he handed it to her.

"I wanted to,” Stuart assured as she held it in her hooves and examined the title on the cover, “When you gave me a gift…"

He didn’t want to say that he’d felt obligated to do this. It hadn’t really been a feeling of obligation that had driven him to get her the gift after all, though perhaps a sense of duty came into it somewhere. Mostly, it had just felt like the right thing to do. That was all the justification he’d needed.

“Art of Creative Writing…” Dinky was positively beaming. Stuart smiled himself; he’d clearly made the right choice.

Though there was one question that had been playing on his mind for the last day or two, so he took the opportunity to ask whilst he could, "Why did you get that muffin for me anyway?"

"Well," she began. He was surprised to see the faintest hint of red flush into her cheeks, her smile replaced for a moment by uncertainty, "I sort of like you."

"You... Like me?"

She nodded quietly.

Stuart was a bit unsure what he was supposed to say to that, "I didn't even realise you knew me."

"I don't.” Dinky confessed, looking down at the book she held between her hooves, wrapping her forelegs around it as if it were suddenly the most precious thing in the world, or perhaps some sort of shield, “Not really. But, well," she swallowed the nerves and pressed on quietly, "You're cute and you seem like a nice guy. Quiet, but… Nice."

He wondered just how well she could read him if she was basing all of this off whatever vague impression she’d formed. The two of them had barely spoken more than two or three words to one-another at a time, let alone had a proper conversation. How she could possibly have reached the conclusion that he was a nice guy based off that he wasn’t too sure.

Maybe ponies had a sixth sense for such things? Unicorns were magical after all. But he couldn’t work it out.

"I'm not really all that special." He muttered, more out of uncertainty as to what else he could offer.

"You tracked me down to here, and you brought me a gift." Dinky stated as if it were the obvious truth. She did have a point there.

"So, why are we here?" He gestured to the entire room. Taking a few steps further forwards he moved up and perched himself beside her on the very edge of the bed. Dinky shuffled over a little bit so he could sit comfortably, but she still stayed close, holding the book he’d given her to her chest.

"I'm ill." Dinky deadpanned, though a cheeky little smirk tugged at the corner of her lips after a moment or so.

Stuart allowed himself a little chuckle, "Serious?"

"Nothing terminal.” She went on to explain softly, “But degenerative."

"What is it?"

“Alicorn Atrophy,” her tone was even, but he could tell it was a line she’d recited more than once, as if she were trying to keep herself deliberately detached from what she was saying. Like that was more important to her than the telling itself.

Stuart was a little puzzled. He’d never heard of the condition, which in itself wasn’t actually all that surprising, and as far as he knew alicorns were a breed of pony; a powerful, magical breed that combined the traits of the three other major races. Wasn’t Dinky a unicorn?

She could see the confusion on his face, “It’s a degeneration of the horn, and as a result my magical abilities. Alicorn is the name for the substance the horn’s made out of, you see…”

That made much more sense, “And they’re trying to cure it?”

Dinky shook her head, “Treatment involves a sort of magic infusion. It always leaves me weak, though, and unstable for a while. So I need my bed rest.”

The young unicorn mare took a deep, soothing breath, “It won’t cure it. It won’t even fend it off indefinitely. I’ll need larger and larger doses until it gets to the point where it’s too dangerous to my health. At that point they’ll have to stop, and then it’s only a matter of time until I lose my horn and magic completely.”

A unicorn without magic…

The full depth of it hit Stuart like an unstoppably immense freight train. He grasped the scale of her suffering in a way that he didn’t realise he could, understanding even if he would never experience it himself. It must’ve been akin to telling a world-class athlete that they were eventually going to be permanently paralyzed, unable to perform. Or like telling a Nobel prize-winning scientist that they were slowly going to lose their perspicacity, little by little, until nothing of their mental capacity and talent remained.

Seeing it coming, little by little, knowing that it would eventually get the better of you no matter how hard you fought against it; knowing beyond a shadow of a doubt that the outcome was inevitable.

He couldn’t imagine anything more daunting.

And yet when he looked at her again all she did was smile. There was no sorrow in her eyes, diminishing that luminous spark that burned within. Here was a unicorn simply happy to be.

At that precise moment it seemed to Stuart that Dinky was the brightest thing in the room, like some kind of light was shining down on her, as if the very worst problems the world could’ve thrown in her direction at that very moment would be powerless to leave their mark upon her even if they’d wanted to; as if nothing at all could bring her down. He realised just how strong she must be in body and mind. She had to be scared, unsure, worried for a future that was unfolding in a less than desirable way and what it would be forcing her to face. But she clearly didn’t let it overwhelm or own her. She didn’t yield.

She bore it, she accepted it, she carried the burden and made it her own.

Dinky was suddenly the most spectacular thing Stuart had ever laid his eyes upon. Dignified. Elegant.



“Hmmm?” she looked at him expectantly.

“I was wondering… Would you like to maybe do something?” Stuart offered, “Once you’re out of hospital, I mean?”

There was a momentary pause which she filled with thought.

“No.” she shook her head at last. Stuart felt his heart drop, “Let’s do something now.”

He looked back at her, silent eyes asking her so many questions, filled with confusion. Without speaking she shuffled over to the far side of the bed, reaching over to the nearby bedside cabinet and retrieving a book that Stuart hadn’t even noticed sat atop it, replacing it with the gift he’d brought her. The book was pretty thick, hard backed, and looked as if it had seen better days.

Many, many better days…

Dinky held it out for him to take, which he tentatively accepted.

“Read with me?” She asked with a smile.

Dinky patted the gap she’d left beside herself on the bed, urging Stuart to sit down properly alongside her. He lifted himself up fully onto the covered mattress and settled against the headrest. Turning the book over, Stuart ran his fingertips over the well-worn cover, taking in its textures and reading the title, “The Pegasi of Eoforwic.”

It wasn’t one that he recognised, but it was clear that it had been read many, many times. The author’s name suggested it was written by a human author. It was obviously a well-loved book. Careful to avoid causing any damage he opened it slowly, “Chapter one…”

Dinky set herself against his shoulder as he spoke. The book was long, with who knew how many pages resting between them and the tale’s conclusion, but they had all the time in the world.

The story was only just beginning.


A Dinky Gift

Author's Notes:

Thanks for reading.

First, I think I should probably explain myself a little bit for the content of this little piece. I'm sorry if it messed with your headcanon regarding Dinky. She's not a character I've ever really put much thought into before and, as stated in the blurb and an earlier blog, this all came to me in a random dream. It's not a self-insert. I'm sorry to say that even in my dreams I don't get to be the guy/gal who meets the ponies, though the scenes were all in real places I know or knew quite well. A casual observer to my own imagination, apparently, and all that jazz. But it did impart upon me some pretty strong lingering feelings when I woke up, and the entire experience didn't fade as the day went on, so I've tried to pen it here.

It's not 100% true to the original imagining. Dreams rarely begin coherently, and this one was no exception, so the opening is somewhat adulterated from what it once was.

If I'm honest with myself I really don't feel like I've quite hit the mark with this one. The sensations in the dream were such strong and vivid emotions, especially towards the end. It doesn't feel like I've quite managed to do those justice, and at some points early on it even felt a little flat. I've scrutinised it myself several times but I'll be trusting you to give me constructive feedback in this regard, because I'm definitely not against future revisions.

In the meantime I hope you enjoyed this. Thanks again for reading.
Midnight Mist

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