Just Tell Me The Nasty Bits

by Cackling Moron

Chapter 1: Not A Historian

Author's Notes:

I wanted to do something light and fluffy with cuddles and not much else but I don’t seem capable of it and so we have this rambling bollocks instead. I get to be both unsatisfying and wafflingly uninteresting.

Oh well.

Always getting better though, right? One bit at a time, always getting better.

There was a storm outside but it had nothing to do with Rainbow. She’d had the day off.

I knew this because we’d spent it together at my place, sheltering from the rain, trying (and mostly succeeding) to make our own pizza and generally wasting time but in the good way. And not for the first time, either; this being something we seemed to do with increasing regularity.

No idea why she was so fond of me but I was hardly complaining. Always nice to have a friend, especially in an unusual place. Difficult to get more unusual than a place you had no right being and no idea how you got there.

With the pizza eaten and the washing up left to fester we both lunged for the sofa. Obviously, Rainbow got there first because I am slow and lumbering and at that moment full of pizza. She settled down smugly, wings folded back neatly and she and squeaked a little when I picked her up.

“I let you win,” I said, holding her level with my face. She stuck her tongue out.

“Keep telling yourself that,” she said.

“You’re the one dangling in my grasp while I sit comfortably on the sofa,” I pointed out. She was indeed dangling and I was indeed sitting. She looked down.

“I let you do that,” she said.

I didn’t say anything to this and just popped her down beside me and put my feet up.

Giggling, she wriggled over onto her back with her head flopping into my lap. I gave her a scratch behind the ears and - because she grabbed my wrist when I tried to pull it back - just kept on going. For a moment or two she just luxurated, eyes closed and head pressing against my hands before she looked up at me with those big ol’ eyes and said:

“Tell me about a war.”

I got a lot of requests like this. Ponies were a curious lot, as it transpired, and me being from a wholly different world full of wholly unknown things had all-but blown their colourful minds, bless them. Even now after the novelty of my being here had largely worn off I was still dogged by questions on everything ranging from the wildlife (Fluttershy), the fashion (Rarity), and dozens of other things I was woefully uninformed about.

Twilight was and remained the worst for this, being as how looking into my arrival and - hopefully - my going back had become a pet project of hers and she was adamant that something I knew might hold the key to it all. So far it hadn’t, but this had not dampened her enthusiasm or voracious questioning.

And, of course, Rainbow had just settled on asking the morbid questions. The questions about death, destruction, mayhem, property damage and everything like that. This at least I was pretty good at and so she had been consistently delighted with what I’d told her.

This question though I wasn’t so sure about.

I frowned down at her, fingers pausing mid-scratch.

“A war?” I asked. She nodded, beaming ear-to-ear and wriggling down against me even more.

“Yep! You said you knew about some that happened back where you’re from and I wanna hear about ‘em.”

“Uh, okay. What brought this on? Any particular war?”

She shrugged, stretching out her hind leg and arching her back before flumping back down onto the sofa again.

“Just thinking about it. It’s like history, isn’t it? Good to be interested in history. And it’s fun history! Any war, I don’t care. How many could there be?”

War wasn’t what I’d really characterise as ‘fun’ history but I kind of knew where she was coming from. Why else would I know so much about so many wars? Nobody had made me do it. ‘Interesting’ I suppose would be the better word.

“How many? Uh, more than you’d expect but probably less than you’d hope. Let me just think for a second…”

Thirty Years War? Maybe a little too much to do with theology. Second World War? Pretty straight forward, but then again also one or two bits that are their whole entire subject of discussion. Not sure I’d want to get into any of that quite yet. Vietnam? Bit heavy on the geopolitics and not something I know a whole lot about anyway. Try explaining Communism or more specifically the Soviet Union and the domino theory to someone who doesn’t know about Russia or why they had a revolution. Iran-Iraq? Again, lots of background that needs setting up. More revolutions to explain.

That was probably a problem I was going to run into a lot. Wars, along with not being fun, weren’t simple either. Very rarely in human history was there a nice, clear-cut instance of ‘Bad guy happened so we all joined together and beat them up’. Our loss, really.

I cleared my throat.

“Wars aren’t the nicest of things, you know. You sure you want me to tell you? You must have your own, er, conflicts to keep you going.”

“We got our own stuff, but I know about that. I want to hear about wars,” she said, jabbing me in the chest with a hoof and putting on as serious an expression as she could muster upside-down and in my lap. “Human wars! You spent three hours talking about planets with Twilight the other day so this should be easy!”

It had actually be closer to two. Twilight’s most recent theories concerned astrology and alignments of planets and the possible tearing of space and time. I had been as much help as I could, which wasn’t much. Jupiter is big, Venus is hot, our sun is not linked to some deity you can go and have tea with or write letters to, etcetera.

I tapped a finger against my chin.

“How about the First World War?”

Just popped into my head. About as confusing as any of the others but whatever. Rainbow took a moment to consider this.

“Sounds big. Alright, go for that one,” she said, waving a hoof at me and settling down.

“What do you want to know?”

“Just the nasty bits! I don’t really care about the how or the why. This isn’t a human history lesson!”

This struck me as a little short-sighted but whatever. To be fair it was probably for the best. Early twentieth century diplomacy required a quick gallop (heh) through some of the preceding centuries to really even start to make sense. We didn’t have all day. And even then proper experts often came back with no good answers. I’d only make things worse.

So just nasty bits. I could do that. The lady knew what she wanted.

“Alright. Well. This was a little over a hundred years ago from when I was back on earth, and it broke down something like this…”

The idea wasn’t to be comprehensive. The idea was to supply the lady with the grisly details I was aware she wanted. With that in mind I did my best to give a whistle-stop tour of the unpleasantness visited upon those involved.

I kept having to pause and explain certain terms she wasn’t familiar with. Why so many trenches? So that people had somewhere to hide so they didn’t get killed by machine guns. What was a machine gun? A gun with a high rate of fire. What was a gun? A tool designed to kill things at a distance. What’s a tank?

I got a bit derailed when it came to tanks, because I liked the topic. Talked about spalling and the crew having to wear masks and all that. About bouncing around inside a metal box with no suspension and with an engine right next to you filling the place with fumes that might well kill you if the gas and shells from outside didn’t get you first. I might have gone a little overboard.

That led me onto gas, at which point Rainbow’s discomfort with the subject became powerfully obvious. She’d rolled over onto her front and scooched in closer, nudging my arm up and out of the way so she could press in against me underneath. I looked down.

“...you want me to stop?” I asked. She just shook her head.

Against my better judgement I continued.

I tried to convey to her the scale of the events involved. Thousands of miles of frontline. Millions of shells fired. The movement of so many soldiers. Bombing of cities. Empires grinding up against one another. Whole stretches of the landscape rendered uninhabitable for decades or sometimes longer. The full weight of technological progress being applied to open warfare between more-or-less equal states for maybe the first real time. That sort of thing.

As tough as she liked to set herself up as - and as tough as I knew she really was - Rainbow was still, at the end of the day, a pony, and ponies didn’t really have the stomach for this sort of thing. Not their fault. Their world was not our world, and what was normal for us was unimaginably nightmarish for them,

Well, ‘normal’. What we’re used to, you might say.

I could see in her face that maybe I’d gone a bit too far in giving her the nasty stuff. I gave her a squeeze.

“Hey, you alright?”

She just burrowed deeper into my side. I took that as a soft ‘no’.

“H-how...how many people died?” She asked, voice mostly muffled by my shirt.

“What? In total?” I asked. She nodded.

I scratched the back of my head. A very specific question.

“Uh, sixteen, seventeen million? Something like that? Roughly.”

I was being broad here and lumping in everybody who’d died as a result of the thing. Civilians and soldiers altogether. I was probably out by a few.

Figured I’d leave out the number of wounded. Or the bit about the spanish flu. She looked like she’d had enough already. She’d gone very quiet.

“You okay?”

“I don’t think there’s even that many ponies in the world…” she said.

“Uh, there isn’t?”

She shook her head.

“Don’t think so.”

I could well believe this, actually. Not that I had any stats to back it up. Equestria seemed like a whole lot of wilderness and empty space to me, but apparently some places beyond Ponyville got pretty big. I hadn’t seen them, so I couldn’t possibly comment. My impression though was that ponies were spread thin.

Rainbow stirred and I thought I heard her sniffle, but I couldn’t be sure. She shifted away from me and rose up to stand on the sofa, tottering over so she was facing me head-on, hind legs either side of mine.

“Wha-” I about managed to say before she’d latched onto me in a hug that became more bone-crushing by the second. Ponies were slight compared to us weighty humans, but they could cling like nobody’s business.

“I’m keeping you safe!” Rainbow said, mouth right by my ear, hug tightening. “You’re staying here and I’m keeping your safe! You’re not going back!”

She said. Then she seemed to twig that she’d just told me - a person stuck on another world with no obvious way of returning home to where he belonged - that I was staying where I was. Rainbow relaxed her deathgrip on me and lent back, staring sheepishly downwards.

“...I didn’t mean it like that,” she mumbled.

“I know,” I said, reaching up and giving her another scratch behind the ears. She did her best to pretend not to like it but the way her head followed my hand as it pulled away spoke volumes, as did her whine of irritation.

Standing up with hooves either side of my legs she took hold of me by the face and stared me down. From a pony this was a potent gesture, and a little intense. It’s the eyes that have it.

“If - when! When! - Twilight figures out how to send you back you’re not going into any wars, okay? You stay safe somewhere so you can come and visit when you figure out how. Alright?”

“I’ll do my best. You do remember that the one I just told you about happened over a hundred years ago?”

She narrowed her eyes at me. No fooling her.

“Have they had others since?” She asked.

I swallowed.

“...one or two.”

She jabbed me on the nose with a hoof and double-up on staring me down.

“You stay away from those!”

The room lit up with a flash so bright and sudden it left both of us squinting. An especially vigorous roll of thunder rattled the windows and the rain outside seemed to double in intensity. Both of us looked up.

“They’re really going for it out there,” I said. Rainbow shrugged.

“Eh. We were due.”

Rain hammered on the windows, turning them almost opaque. As I stared out trying to see if I could make out even the tiniest detail of my normally quite nice view (I couldn’t) I felt Rainbow sway in place as her weight shifted and my hands automatically went up to steady her, coming to rest on the trunk of her body. She squeaked, again.

“From what I heard,” I said, still staring out the window. “Storms are your favourite - how come you’re not out there?”

When I turned to her to finish this question I found her looking right at me with her head cocked. When she noticed that I noticed this she blinked and turned a bit red and then it was her turn to look out the window. It looked for all the world as though she was trying to think quickly and on the spot.

“O-oh you know. Uh. Knew you’d be stuck inside and figured you’d want company,” she said, eyes flicking to the side and then back to me as she beamed. “Yeah. Yeah that’s it! Didn’t want to leave you alone, see?”

“Nice that you think of me, but I hope you didn’t pass up something you enjoy just on my account.”

Delicately removing my hands from where they’d ended up she turned in place and sat on my lap, heavily enough to make me wince and her grin. She then wriggled into me again, head tucked in beneath my chin. I had to put an arm around her to keep her from falling off but she didn’t seem to mind. Indeed, it seemed to have been part of her plan.

“I enjoy this, too,” she said.

Ponies were an unusually cuddly lot. It had taken some getting used to.

We sat quietly for a little while after that, just listening to the rain and the occasional, retreating rumble of thunder. Sounded like the storm was moving off.

“If I asked you about wars again maybe just...don’t tell me?” She asked, looking up.

“I’ll do my best.”

She smiled. I smiled.

Not longer after that I felt her relax and heard her start snoring.

Well, at least I’m a comfortable place to sleep. Had to be good for something.

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