I could leave

by Cackling Moron

Chapter 1: But I won't go

Author's Notes:

Insipid in concept and lazy in execution.

Don't think I left any gaps.

Starlight was out for a walk, mostly just to get some fresh air, get some time to herself.

Time to herself was important, she felt. Being friendly and learning all about friendship and the like was great and all, but it could start to wear on a pony after a while. Sometimes you just need a moment to breathe, away from anyone else. And also away from the creeping suspicion she was forever under evaluation.

This would be the reason why she was walking at night. Quieter. Less chance of bumping into somepony.

Or at least it was usually quieter. This particular night there was something to puncture this. Her train of thought and period of blissful, lonely stillness had been nibbled away by a strange but persistent noise that had started out quiet but grown in volume the more she’d walked. She hadn’t really noticed at first, but once she had she couldn’t ignore it, and had vowed to herself to track it down.

From the sound of things, it was around the next corner.

Grasping the element of surprise she leapt around said corner, prepared to confront whatever it was that had been so insistently rattling and rustling and clanking in the night. What she saw was not what she might have expected.

It was the human. Starlight had heard about him but up until then hadn’t seen him.

From what she’d heard, no-pony had seen him of late. He’d kind of just slipped away one day and disappeared, to the concern of many. Twilight especially, given that she’d nominally been the one looking after him, or at least making sure he didn’t die in a strange new world.

He wasn’t dead at least, from the looks of things, though even with only having had him described to her in loose detail Starlight could tell at once he wasn’t exactly the picture of health right then. He looked a little wan, a little worn away, and what had apparently once been clothes were now close to falling apart. How he’d managed that was anyone’s guess, given it hadn’t even been a month by this point.

Despite all that, he seemed very relaxed about it all.

“Uh, nice night for a walk?” He asked, leaning against the side of the bin he’d been waist-deep in, all faux-casual only to realise a second later he was still holding an empty, crumpled, crumb-filled box and trying to toss it back in as covertly as he could manage. He failed miserably and missed completely.

“You’re dumpster diving?” Starlight asked, aghast. She didn’t know why this was the first thing out of her mouth or why she thought it was the most important thing about what she was seeing, but that was what came out.

“I’m…” he struggled, grasping for the best words to describe what it was he was doing. He didn’t get very far and, slumping, could only mumble: “Recycling.”

Starlight knew for a fact that Twilight had been worried over the human’s whereabouts and wellbeing, and she had to admit that now she could understand why, too. Even having only just met him Starlight felt the pricklings of pity just working their up from her gut. He just looked so ragged and rundown and sad, standing there shuffling his feet, his eyes on the ground in front of him.

“Are you okay?” She asked, voice softening considerably. He looked up.

“Me? Fine! Totally fine. Just, you know, keeping busy.”

“By taking food out of the garbage?”

He cast a guilty eye to the bin beside him.

“...maybe. Please don’t tell anyone.”

“Why not? We could hel-” She started, but he did not let her finish, leaping in and holding his hands up imploringly, eyes wide.

“That’s why not! I don’t want help! I don’t need help! I’m fine. This is fine. This is good. See? This is good stuff.”

Reaching over he pulled out an apple that was missing a single, large chunk where someone had taken a bite, had already turned brown and on top of this was also starting to rot. Starlight’s face wrinkled in disgust and then so did his when he actually looked. A worm stuck its head out with remarkable dramatic timing. He dropped the apple with a quiet yelp.

“Okay, maybe today’s a little lean. But that’s just today! Normally this is fine. And look, I’m still alive, aren’t I?”

This he said with a certain amount of forced pride, giving himself a hearty slap on the chest and just-about managing not to wince. Starlight noted the ribs she could count on the holes worn through the sack he was wearing.

His trousers then fell down.

“Woah woah, my rope came loose.”

Starlight put a hoof to her face as he scrambled to correct this, fumbling with his rope to get it tied properly and then dusting his hands off with what looked alarmingly like satisfaction. He then looked to her again, saw her facehoofing, and he grimaced.

“Please - I didn’t catch your name?” He asked.

“Starlight Glimmer,” she said, head shaking, hoof not lowering.

“Starlight? These fuckin’ names I swear to God…”

He then seemed to remember he was pleading.

“Please Starlight, please don’t tell anyone. Especially the purple one! She’ll probably stage an intervention or something! Stick me in a comfortable house! Then she’ll keep checking up to make sure I’m still ‘alright’! And she’ll probably go out of her way to help out if anything is less than perfect! I can’t live like that.”

“Why not?”

“I just can’t, okay? It’s irrational, yeah, but it’s just - please?”

Starlight finally removed the hoof from her face and looked again, seeing that the human not only had his hands clasped before him but had also sunk to his knees in front of her, doing as good a job at puppy-dog eyes as his facial geography would allow. It was so pathetic it actually gave her pause.

“I don’t know…” she said, rubbing her chin thoughtfully. “Doesn’t seem right to me. Kind of doesn’t seem to your benefit.”

“It is, it really is. Trust me. Please,” he pleaded, shuffling closer.

She really couldn’t get a read on him. His motivations were alien and inscrutable, which was hardly surprising given who and what he was, but Starlight didn’t even have the slightest idea of where she could start unravelling his train of thought behind all this. She wondered whether she’d ever be able to, or whether she’d even want to.

And he just kept staring at her with those beady eyes, lip wobbling. Within moments it got to much and she snapped.

“Oh fine, fine. I’ll keep it a secret if you insist, fine,” she said.

The human beamed and looked like he was about to go in for a hug but then - thankfully - thought better of it and so instead just gave her a weird gesture with his hand and then fell back on his haunches.

An idea then occurred to Starlight, and she jabbed out at him with a hoof, pointing to his chest just because. It got his attention.

“But you have to be my friend!” She declared.

This sounded like it came with a lot of not-very-obvious caveats, and the human was appropriately dubious, eyes narrowing.

“...what does that mean?”

“It means exactly what it sounds like it means. I got sent here to try put some of what I’ve learnt about friendship into practise and if you just play along that’ll be perfect!” She said, already seeing how this plan was perfect. So perfect.

This way if she made slip-ups no-one important would know about it, and she would improve! Or so ran her logic. She could trial-and-error her way to flawless friendliness without any drawbacks! Faultless!

On top of which, going out and making random friends purely out of her own initiative had to count for something, surely. And a non-pony, at that! That would have to demonstrate she was coming on leaps and bounds.

There were no downsides to this at all. At least none that she could see.

From the look on his face, the human wasn’t quite as convinced as Starlight was.

“‘Just playing along’ doesn’t really sound like it fits the spirit of friendship,” he said.

“Or I could just tell Twilight about the-” she said in terms of blameless innocence as she turned to walk away, forcing the human to throw himself across the ground to bar her path with a yelp.

“No! No! Friends now! Friends! Totally friends. It’s fine, we’re cool. We’re cool, right?”

Starlight smirked a smirk of triumph.

“We’re cool, o’ friend mine. Though, that said, I don’t know what your name is.”

“Oh. It’s Andy,” he said, righting himself and dusting himself off.

Starlight’s face again wrinkled, this time in bemusement.

“‘Andy’?” She repeated, rolling the word around her mouth like something she wasn’t wholly sure she wanted to swallow.

“Got a problem with that?”

“No, no. It’s very, ah, exotic. Certainly memorable. Why were you dumpster diving anyway?”

Andy rubbed his face.

“I wasn’t-” he said, but he stopped and sighed, slumping. “Okay, maybe I was. A little bit. I don’t normally do it. It’s just been a thing I’ve done lately.”


“I’ve been getting by just popping into the woods for, you know, foraging but last time didn’t go so well so I figured I’d take a bit of a break, okay? That enough for you?”

“What do you mean it didn’t go well?”

He groaned, flopping backwards, hands out behind him.

“Why do you care?” He asked.

“Because we’re friends now, remember? And I am showing friendly concern.”

That, and she was actually curious, if only a little.

With a grunt he sat up straight, legs folding under him and elbows coming to rest on his knees, head in his hands. He peered at her through his fingers. She still found them a little beady and weird to look at, but did her best to hide it.

“Concern?” He asked.

“Friends are concerned with the welfare of their friends.”

This hadn’t been explained to her as simply or directly as that, but it had been heavily implied and she’d picked up on it fairly quickly. A lot of this friendship stuff was pretty simple once you got down to it. Andy shrugged.

“Can’t really argue with that,” he said, pointing off over the surrounding buildings. “Uh, last time I went into the woods-”

“Everfree Forest?”

“Sure, whatever. The woods. Last time I went there looking for food I ran into one of those wood wolf things.”

“A timberwolf?”

“That’s what they’re called? Seriously? I mean, I get it but - uh - yeah, one of those. Wasn’t that big but it was, you know, made of wood. And sharp. And it got me. And I don’t really feel like going back yet. But I will! Just not yet.”

“What do you mean it got you?”

“You’re just full of questions, aren’t you? It got me. I don’t know how to break that down any more. Look.”

He turned and pulled up his shirt, or at least what was left of it. On his back, sitting pretty, was a long cut running from somewhere just above his hip to somewhere just below his shoulder. Looked like it had been glancing and not especially deep, but it was still there. It also looked pretty angry. Starlight’s eyes widened.

“Uh, that doesn’t look that good,” she said. Not that she was an expert. She was just pretty certain that was a bad colour for a cut to be. That, and it was big and he had done nothing to it other than, apparently, wash it.

“It’s fine,” he said, letting the shirt drop back again and wincing softly.

“You should - you should maybe let somepony have a look at that?”

“No, no thank you. I know there’s a hospital down there, I’ve seen it. Think that’s where I woke up the first time, kind of hard to remember. And I know they’d probably do a good job and clean me up and everything but really, no.”

“Why not?”

“Because I don’t want to,” Andy hissed.

Starlight had a feeling that if she pushed this further she might just make things worse so put a pin in it, so to speak, and for a change of pace asked:

“Have you considered getting a job? For money? To pay for food? Do I have to explain how that works?”

Andy gave Starlight a look that could have stripped paint, hands dropping to his lap.

“Could you, for me? Be sure to go very slowly and only use small words. I get confused very easily.”

Starlight could think of some small words for that moment then, but none of them were very friendly so she bit back on them.

“Just a friendly suggestion. Buying food would be safer and healthier than any of the things you’ve been doing.”

“Yeah, I know I know. All things in time. I’ll look soon, sure. I’m real employable. But I’m fine right now, really,” Andy said. He then shivered and Starlight realised that it was still nighttime and they were still just hanging around outside and he was, unlike her, bereft of a nice coat and, indeed, any real clothing. Rags hardly counted.

“Are you cold?” She asked.

“Little bit. It’s fine.”

He used that word a lot, Starlight noted.

“Well, want to get up and walk? Moving would be better than sitting here,” she suggested, this time with more honest friendliness jerking her head back to indicate what seemed like a good direction to walk in. Andy eyed her warily.


“You know, just to be moving. Or you can sit here and shiver next to the trash. It’s up to you.”

She sniffed theatrically and recoiled with great, hammy relish. Andy rolled his eyes but he got the point, grunting to himself as he got back onto his feet and brushed himself down.

“Alright alright, I get it. The rubbish ain’t the best place to be hanging around, alright. And it is a little chilly. And I guess everyone else’ll be in bed, right?”

He asked this and Starlight heard it but she was so taken-aback by his height - which she hadn’t fully appreciated at first - that it took her a second to properly register the question. She had to shake her head first and then answered:

“Most honest citizens will be tucked up, yes. No-pony to spot you.”

Andy nodded, glancing about just to be on the safe side, though the odds of anyone spying on his wretched hiding place seemed slim. The night was dead quiet, barring the occasional, distant owl. Once satisfied that they were properly alone he looked down at her and grinned lopsidedly

“Great, good. And does that make you a dishonest citizen?” He asked.

“Har har. I like walking at night. It’s quieter,” she said, already heading back the way they’d come, Andy following behind at first because he’d failed to notice this, and then following beside once he caught up.

“You know you’re not wrong,” he said. “I went through a spate of walking around at night back home, few years back. Very relaxing, time to let the mind wander. Course there was always the risk of getting stabbed down by the canal but, you know, life. Guess that’s less of a risk around here, eh?”

Starlight looked up at the human with a look of appalled, shocked confusion on her face.


He looked down at her again and perhaps realised that he had let slip more than could comfortably pass without a fuller explanation of his old town’s less-than-stellar nightlife. Andy felt it best perhaps gloss over that for now. More trouble than it was worth.

“Nevermind. Nice night, isn’t it?” He said, looking up to the stars. These, at least, were a safe option for conversation.

Honestly, if he had to think about it, he was finding his circumstances a little strange. He wasn’t wholly sure what possible benefit this Starlight was getting from roping him into a being her ‘friend’ or what it would actually involve, the worry being that it could turn into some sort of fiendish trap.

Friendish trap?

That said, he , he did know that her ratting him out would be bad, so playing along for now was in his best interests, really. His rather idiosyncratic, please-don’t-tell-anyone-I-don’t-want-help interests. If not for that he might have just run away.

Starlight looked up as well. It was, indeed, a nice night. Clear skies.

“You’re not from around here, are you?” She asked.

“What gave me away?”

She bumped into his leg with her hip.

“I’m trying to be nice,” she said, sincerely enough to make Andy feel a little bad for being flippant

“Sorry,” he said, looking up again. “Yeah, no, not from round here. Not really used to seeing so many stars, to be honest. And most of these are probably none I’m familiar with. Not that I know stars intimately, obviously…”

“Where are you from?”

There were likely more tactful ways of asking this, but Starlight’s curiosity had got the better of her. Andy shrugged.

“Somewhere else. Doesn’t really matter, I’m here now,” he said, quickly enough that Starlight had a feeling she might have touched a nerve. More things to put pins in and come back to later. For now, she brought her eyes back down to the ground and looked around.

The buildings around them were all reassuringly dark and they had covered a reasonable distance in their meandering, but she wasn’t entirely sure why they were where they were now.

“Why are we going this way anyway? Where are we going? Are we going somewhere?” Starlight asked, looking around. Andy came to an abrupt halt and wheeled about to face her.

“What? I was following you!” He said, pointing an accusatory finger.

“Well I’m staying with Twilight, so I’m going to take a wild guess you don’t want to follow me?” She asked, pointing towards the castle, which wasn’t that far away, and to which they’d more-or-less been subconsciously moving. Andy turned, saw this, and blanched.

“You wildly guessed correctly. My house would be much better,” he said, stepping back.

“You have a house?” Starlight asked, genuinely surprised, eyebrows raising. Andy puffed up.

“I do! This way!”

They immediately did an about-face and started heading back the way they’d just come, veering off after a few minutes and leaving the wider streets as Andy led Starlight a merry way down increasingly narrow alleys.

Eventually, wedged into a clearly-forgotten space between the back of two large, generic buildings of unclear purpose, they got to his house.

‘House’. Quote-unquote.

“...that’s not a house,” Starlight said, feeling a need to state the obvious in case that Andy was delusional.

“It’s a home,” Andy said defensively, folding his arms across his chest as he moved the goalposts. Starlight looked at him sideways.

“It’s a lean-to. Barely,” Starlight said.

“I thought a lean-to had to be resting against a building or something?” Andy said. In his defense his ‘house’ wasn’t leaning against either of the buildings it was huddled between. But that wasn’t much of a defense.

She gave him a look. Words were not required for her meaning to be clear.

“Okay, fine, I’ll admit it doesn’t look great but really it’s fine. This whole place is a lot, ah, softer than what I’m used to. The nights are mild-ish, all the water is safe to drink, it’s fine. I’m fine.”

Starlight became less convinced of this the more Andy spoke and she moved cautiously over to his shelter - though even that was being generous - and eyed it warily, reaching it to give it a poke.

“Hey, careful! It’s delicate,” Andy said and she paused, hoof an inch or so from making contact. Keeping her eyes on his she covered the rest of that inch and gave the shelter a prod. It leaned and groaned worryingly but didn’t actually collapse. A bit did fall off though, and Andy winced.

Both of them were very still, expecting the rest of the thing to follow and come crashing down in an almighty heap. It held though with every appearance of defiance, and Andy let out a breath.

“Phew. Guess it likes you,” he said. Starlight took a step away from the shelter and frowned at it briefly before turning back to the human.

“Look, Andy, I might be new at this whole friendship thing but even so I can’t in good conscience let you keep living in this. And anyway, kind of the whole point of following you here was that so we weren’t just standing around outside anymore.”

“Yeah? And?”

He was either deliberately missing the point or was just generally dense. Either way Starlight was annoyed and pointed back at the shelter, her frown becoming a low-grade glare, just to keep his attention and let him know this was Serious.

“This thing doesn’t have a door. Barely has a roof. We’d still be outside, technically,” Starlight said, to which Andy folded his arms.

“That’s open to debate.”

“It really, really isn’t. What is open is your ‘house’. Open to the elements.”

Starlight was actually a little proud of that one and grinned. Andy was not quite so impressed.

“S’not funny…” he grumbled.

“No you’re right. The only real joke here is your shelter.”

“Oh come on, that’s just mean!”

Andy then pouted, and Starlight had to admit to feeling the tiniest bit guilty.

“Sorry, too far.”

“Some friend, you…” Andy grumbled, hiding further behind his folded arms.

“I said sorry!”

They settled into a rather frosty silence. The issue remained though. This was not a suitable place for them to sit down and chat. This wasn’t really a suitable place for anything. Certainly, Starlight couldn’t live with herself knowing this was where Andy was planning on sleeping. She barely knew the guy and it still made her feel bad.

Shuffling on her hooves she scratched the back of her head and took a punt:

“I have a suggestion but I don’t think you’ll like it.”

“I don’t like it,” Andy said immediately. Starlight glowered at him.

“You haven’t heard it yet!” She said, stomping.

“Just being pre-emptive.”

Starlight groaned but continued through gritted teeth.

“Smuggling you into the castle. It’s warm, there’s food and Twilight won’t know.”

“But she’s in there! That’s where the purple one lives!” Andy protested, adding after a moment’s thought: “Also no! That’s helping me! That’s why I’m avoiding the purple one in the first place! I don’t want help!”

He was wagging a finger in Starlight’s face as he spoke and she did not appreciate this, setting her hooves and glaring back at him in irritation.

“Why not!”

“I just don’t, okay? Is that alright by you?”

It wasn’t, actually. It was actually pretty annoying. Andy’s bizzare refusal of even what might be vaguely related to help was frustrating in the extreme, not to mention baffling. Starlight could make neither head nor tails of it and it was really starting to grate on her.

She knew, however, that shouting at each other was not the way to fix the problem.

He had his reasons, she was sure. Maybe she’d find them out, maybe she wouldn’t, but she certainly wasn’t going to get anywhere arguing about it right then and there. So, in the spirit of friendship, she swallowed back the few things she rather wanted to yell at him and tried something else instead.

“Look,” she said, standing up properly again and keeping her voice level. “Think about it this way: I’m cold and I don’t want to be here, I want to be somewhere more comfortable. You’ll just be coming with me. I won’t help you. No snacks, no whatever, no nothing. That better?”

Andy looked like he wanted to keep on arguing too and it seemed that Starlight’s fairly reasonable compromise took the wind out of his sails. His mouth worked soundlessly a few times as he tried to formulate a response.

“So it’d just be for you? I’d just be tagging along?” He managed, eventually.

“Yes, it’d just be me. Selfish me. You’d just be there. As my friend, since we’re friends now and all. Does that work for you?”

Andy considered this.

“And it’s warm in there?” He asked, trying to play the question off like he wasn’t heavily hoping for a positive answer. Starlight, not being deaf, dumb and blind, noticed this.

“Warmer than here,” she said, casual-like.

Andy considered this, too.

“But...it’s just for you, yeah?”

“All for me.”

He considered this a moment, then:

“...guess it’s an okay idea,” Andy said, scratching his head, not appearing entirely convinced. Starlight decided to press her advantage.

“I was going to let you sit on the bed with me while we discussed the important issues of the day but you can sit on the floor, if you’d prefer. The cold, hard, crystal floor. Better?”

“You have a bed?” Andy asked plaintively before remembering himself and straightening up. “I mean yes. The floor. I can handle that.”

Starlight was a little perplexed by the apparent implication that Andy thought her having a bed was somehow unusual, but that was hardly the weirdest thing about him so she let it slide. She was happy with her success.

“How are you going to get me in anyway? Secretly, I mean. Have you seen me?” He then asked.

Feeling that grinning in triumph at how quickly easily (and friendlyly) she’d worn down his resolve would send the wrong message, Starlight did her best to remain neutral-looking.

“Twilight’s probably asleep anyway but, uh, I could teleport us in?”

“Nah, won’t work on me. Magic is all squiffy on me. I mean you can try if you like but it won’t do anything.”

First time Starlight had ever heard anyone mention that about the human. She did not really believe it.

“Huh. Well we’ll see about that.”

Teleportation wasn’t exactly easy, but it wasn’t exactly difficult either once you got the hang of it, and teleporting somepony else along with you didn’t take much more effort. Horn glowing, Starlight warmed it up, focusing on the destination, enveloping herself in magic and then extending the same out towards Andy.

The moment the nascent spell reached out to try and contact Andy it promptly collapsed. The sensation was not wholly unpleasant, but it was unexpected, and Starlight very nearly fell flat on her face from the sudden void where magical energy had been mere moments before. Andy caught her.

“Whoa there, you okay?” He asked as she wobbled unsteadily back onto her hooves proper, shaking her head as a few rather sad sparks fell limply from the tip of her horn.

“Yeah, yeah. Thanks. You weren’t kidding, huh?” She said, rubbing her head.

“Told you. I think it must be because I’m not from round here.”

That made very little sense to Starlight, but now wasn’t the time.

“Maybe…alright, uh, we do this the old-fashioned way then. I sneak you in. Twilight’s sleeping, like I say, so it’ll be easy. We just be sneaky. You can do sneaky, yeah?” She asked. Andy puffed.

“I was doing sneaky pretty good around town before, you know,” he said.

Starlight looked at him flatly.

“Until I caught you.”

“Until you caught me, yes. Well done you. I’m tired and I’m hungry and I haven’t slept properly in, like, a week. You caught me at a low-ebb.”

“...but I still caught you,” she pointed out.

“Are we sneaking into a castle or what?”

Starlight took this as another victory and this time couldn’t help but grin.

“Right this way,” she said.

The walk to the castle was as quiet and uneventful as the one to Andy’s ‘house’, Starlight leading the way and Andy tagging alongside beside at first, and then starting to lag behind the closer they got. She noticed, slowed, and wrapped her tail around his leg to keep him from lagging further.

“Urgh,” he grunted. But it did work, and they arrived.

“Wait here, I’ll check it out,” Starlight said, tail unwrapping. Andy looked betrayed.

“You said the purple one would be asleep,” he said.

“Pays to be safe, right?”

Andy couldn’t argue with that, so waited. He did not wait long, as the castle was silent. Starlight returned and ushered him in, closing the door behind him as quietly as possible.

All went well. They snuck along, pausing every so often - more for dramatic effect than anything, the both of them egging one another on to greater and greater heights of mock-stealth - until an actual, bonafide noise caught them both off-guard.

Andy scrambled behind something while Starlight leant against the nearest available surface and looked at her hoof, as though this was something she did every night and wasn’t a big deal.

Around a corner came wandering Spike, half-awake, with food. Eyes lidded he meandering along blithely until he very nearly walked smack into Starlight, who had to take a few steps back to keep this from happening. Then Spike noticed.

“Starlight? What are you doing up?” He asked, one claw rubbing an eye as he blinked at her.

“Oh, you know, just going for a walk. Well, coming back from a walk,” she said.

“Again? Are you up to something?”

Starlight adopted a look of hurt innocence, hoof to her chest.

“Me? What could I be up to! I just like walking!”

He peered intently at her and then yawned, his plate wobbling a moment and forcing him to scramble to catch it. Once he was sure his meal was still intact his attention slid back to Starlight, and again he yawned. Starlight was smiling like someone who was not up to something would smile.

“Fine fine,” Spike said, waving a claw at her. “Whatever. Walking, whatever, cool. I’m going back to bed.”

And he did, muttering to himself along the way. Starlight watched him go with the same smile until he was out of sight, then kept it on her face a few moments longer before relaxing, the tension leaving her, at least mostly.

“Close call,” came Andy’s hissing voice from the his hiding place.

“Yeah,” Starlight said, turning to look at him and having to bite down on her hoof to keep from laughing out loud.

Andy’s first instinct for a best hiding place had turned out to have been a wall-hanging or tapestry of some kind. She could see why it might have seemed an attractive option.

What he’d overlooked though was that it did not reached the floor, and so his feet were sticking out. It would have somehow been less obvious if he’d just been standing in the open.

“What?” He asked, head poking around the side.

“Nothing, nothing. Come on, nearly there.”

No further interruptions occurred, and the pair arrived at Starlight’s room without incident, locking the door behind them.

Starlight hopped up onto her bed and settled into a comfy position atop the covers. She then saw that Andy was on the floor some feet away from the bed, poking the shag pile with a look of consternation.

“Problem?” She asked. He looked from his poking to her, still looking consternated.

“You told me the floor would be cold and hard and unpleasant to sit on, this is a thick, luxuriant carpet.”

“There’s some floor over there,” she said, pointing to a far corner. Andy craned his neck to see and was roundly disappointed. It looked cold and unyielding, yes, but it was all the way over there and he was already all the way over here. It would be a chore dragging himself to it, and then he’d have to raise his voice to talk to Starlight once there - it just wouldn’t work, just wasn’t practical.

“That’s a tiny bit! In the corner! Ugh. I’ll just sit here. But I won’t be happy about it,” he said, shuffling in place and hugging his knees.

“I’ll make a note,” Starlight said as she tucked her hoof back under her again, peering at the human with exhausted confusion. He appeared ill at ease and kept glancing around, but every so often it looked as though he was starting to relax only to catch himself and tighten up into a ball again. It also looked as if he was a couple of seconds away from falling asleep, she noticed.

Starlight sighed.

“What’s the deal with you, anyway?” She asked, breaking what had started to become an awkward silence. Andy - who had continued his glancing around - looked to her.

“What? What do you mean? What deal?”

Starlight waved her hooves around as though this would make things any clearer.

“Your whole thing! You’re sitting on a carpet on sufferance because it’s a little too close to getting help. That’s not really normal, to me, or are all of you like this? Humans, I mean.”

Andy looked as though he had a quick-fire response to this but bit back on it, deflating slightly.

“No, I’m just a bit odd I think. And I’ve got odder since arriving here.”

“You should probably keep an eye on that.”

“Probably, probably. I’ve been silly, I know, and I should just swallow my - uh, well, I hesitate to say pride given I’m not sure I have any, but you know - should just knuckle-down and let myself be helped. No shame in it, you know? And I know that. But still. Makes me uncomfortable.”

He looked to her to see if she grasped what it was he was talking about. She did not, and even though the look on her face was enough to say this went further:

“I don’t get it.”

Andy grimaced and let his legs flop out in front of him, spreading his arms emphatically.

“It’s just, well, when I came here - by accident - everyone was just so nice to me! And helpful! Everyone seemed to want to help me. Offering me things. Places to stay, a place of my own, free food, a stipend - a stipend! The big glowy one wanted to give me money for nothing! Just because I wasn’t meant to be here!”

“Nice of her.”

Andy stumbled on this, because he couldn’t really deny it and acknowledging it would be too much of a diversion. He blinked.

“Well, yeah, real nice actually...but no, no, not for me. I don’t really deserve any of that. I’m just here, see? I felt uncomfortable with all that attention, everyone going out of their way for me. Didn’t like it. Kind of started getting to me. So I ran away a little bit. But I guess you knew that already?”

“I did,” Starlight nodded. This much she had indeed been told or just managed to pick up here and there. Andy nodded at her nod.

“Guess this is all a bit more overwhelming than I’m willing to admit to myself. You ever been flung into a different world entirely unlike your own?”

At first Starlight thought this was a trick question but, to be fair to Andy, he had no way of knowing how unique that sort of thing was. Stranger things had, indeed, happened. As far as he knew it happened around here all the time.

“Can’t really say I have,” she said.

“It’s not that great. Well, it might be. I don’t know. It’s a bit of a shock. Should probably get used to it though, as I think this is probably it for me. Here for good, now. Should accept that.”

He smiled weakly.

“Don’t you want to go home?” Starlight asked.

This was probably a sensitive subject, but she was deeply curious. Andy pulled his legs in again and hugged them. He seemed a little on the restless side.

“I don’t think that’s an option, from what I heard the purple one say. But if I could? Oh you know, I guess, maybe. Not exactly much for me there but sure, I guess. Not much for me here, either. Not much anywhere,” he said, shrugging helplessly and seeming to sink in on himself with every word he said.

Despite how big of a creature he was compared to Starlight, at that moment Andy looked very small.

Starlight wondered whether she had perhaps been too hasty in pressganging a clearly distressed, alien creature into some sort of lopsided friendship arrangement largely for her own benefit. She felt that perhaps this was a bad thing, and that she had been rash.

That made her feel bad, which she wasn’t a fan of. The immediate solution was obvious. Actually be a friend. She leaned forward on the bed until it creaked and she was hanging half off of it, getting Andy’s attention away from staring at his knees, which was what he had been doing.

“Well, you’ve got me at least, right? Friend?” She asked, smiling and really putting the work into it. It came across a little manic, but that had been the intention.

Andy chuckled.

“Heh. Yeah. There is that.”

He paused for a moment and then added:

“Thanks. Not going to lie, this is kind of a weird thing you did but, hey, I guess it worked out alright. I’m inside again, right?”

“You are inside,” Starlight conceded.

Andy nodded and again went quiet, apparently lost in thought but uncurling again and sitting more comfortably. Starlight let him have a moment or two so she could think herself, but piped up again before the moment could drag long enough for their to be sufficient time for inner monologues to turn caustic. She knew how that could go.

“I’m going to make another suggestion,” she said.

“Will I like this one?”

“Let’s say yes.”

“I love it,” Andy said, giving the same weird gesture with his hand that he’d done earlier. Sticking out the stubbier appendage - talon? Starlight remembered the word ‘finger’ having been tossed around - and holding it pointing upward. This seemed a positive gesture.

Starlight giggled. She’d seen his answer coming, but she still rather liked it.

“You should have a shower,” she said, and before Andy could raise any objections she kept on talking: “Again, this is purely for my own benefit. You are, ah, fragrant, shall we say? And this is my room after all and I do have to sleep in it so if you wouldn’t mind - ?”

Andy looked at her hard a second or two before sighing.

“You’re all take, you know?”

“I’m a monster, yes. It’s through there,” she said, pointing.

Like a man condemned Andy rose and trudged off. Soon after, the sound of running water.

Starlight took the time to again wonder what it was she was doing exactly, but she didn’t really come to any conclusions. All that mattered, she supposed, was that she was rather enjoying herself, in an odd sort of way.

Certainly, she was enjoying chipping away at Andy’s inexplicably reluctance to take care of himself or let others do it for him. It was odd pleasant, seeing him open up by inches. He didn’t seem to hate it either. Seemed almost desperate for the excuse, if anything.

By the time the water shut off she’d decided that conclusions could wait, and it would be best to just take this a step at a time. Friendship wasn’t exactly a goal-oriented activity anyway.

Andy emerged, dabbing himself down. Pony-sized towels were ill-suited for human use, and he’d had to use at least three of the things to keep himself decent, a fourth in his hands as he toweled down his hair.

He looked odd without clothes on, even though his clothes before had been threadbare rags. Still, without them it was different. Starlight hadn’t known what she expected, really.

“Feel better?” She asked.

“Much. Not that that was the point, obviously. Just a happy side-effect,” he said, sitting back down again in the same spot on the carpet he’d been in before, this time with his legs crossed.

“Of course,” she said, keeping her eyes above his waist. Another thing that had been mentioned about humans was modesty, and that they had it. After a fashion.

Finishing up on his hair Andy turned in place and threw the towel back towards the attached bathroom, in so doing twisting in place and turning half his back towards Starlight, still on the bed.

Him not wearing a shirt made the wound he’d suffered in the forest obvious again, and in the light of the room it looked somehow worse.

“Uh, you should still probably get that cut looked at, you know?” She said, pointing.

‘Cut’ was rather underselling what was actually a fairly lengthy laceration. Andy tried and failed to look at his own back, rolling his shoulders and gritting his teeth.

“It does kind of hurt,” he admitted.

“What did you expect!”

“Does it look bad?” He asked, swivelling in place so his back was facing her more fully. She recoiled but did not look away.

“It’s going a funny colour at the edges,” Starlight said, squinting.

“Is it swelling at all?”

“Not that I could see, but then I’m not exactly getting up close.”

There was still a good ten or so feet between the bed and where Andy was sat.

“...would you...mind…? Having a look? Just a quick one. I’ve been feeling a little, ah, well, under the weather, not my best but I thought that was other things like the, you know, bad sleeping and all that. If it’s the cut, well, then maybe I should get it looked at.”

Starlight’s eyes widened.

“Hey, whoa, I’m not a doctor, if you’re worried you should just go.”

“No no, no doctors. Well, maybe doctors if it’s - you know - if it’s bad. Just have a quick look, please? Friend?”

He looked over his shoulder at her and again tried whatever passed for puppy-eyes among humans. Starlight groaned but jumped off the bed and went over anyway.

“That was a cheap trick,” she said, leaning in and squinting.

“Worked though. You’re a good friend,” Andy said. He was grinning to himself, though Starlight couldn’t see it.

“You keep using that word…” She said to herself. The cut, close up, looked like it had from a distance, only closer. It meant nothing to her other than it looked painful. Wasn’t swelling though. Not that she could see. The discolouration could well have been bruising. Or maybe not?

She had no idea. Didn’t smell awful though, which was at least a good thing.

“I do not think it means what you think it means,” Andy said, in a voice that was entirely unlike his normal one. Starlight blinked.


“Nevermind. Thanks, by the way. For real.”

“You already said that,” she said, returning to peering at his wound, though it told her nothing new. She kind of wanted to poke it but restrained herself, instead just trotting around and plopping herself down in front of him.

“I know, but I really mean it. You are the kick up the arse I needed personified. Ponified? One of those.”

“That’s the nicest thing anypony has ever said to me.”

“I aim to please. How’s my oozing gash looking?”

“You...why did you have to use those words?” She asked, appalled. Andy just giggled. Shaking her head Starlight said:

“It looks fine. Well, no, it looks bad but it doesn’t look terrible, which is probably about the best you could hope for. You’re either remarkably robust or unfairly lucky.”

“Or both,” Andy said.

“Or both, yes. You should probably still get it looked at though,” she said.

Andy let out a long-suffering sigh.

“Yeah, yeah. Suppose I should. Suppose I should do a lot of things like living indoors and eating food that doesn’t come out of bins and bathing regularly.”

“Don’t do it all at once, the shock could kill you.”

“Har. Har. Har. No, I was an idiot, I know that, I can see that. I could always see that I just didn’t want to have to face up to it. Now that you’ve used your friendly wiles to trick me back in here I can admit that I messed up. I freaked out. Went a bit over the top.”

“I wouldn’t feel too bad about that. If I was in your situation I’d probably be freaking out as well. And what matters is that you’re okay. Twilight was worried about you, you know? The purple one.”

“I feel bad about that. You guys are all so adorable. Wounds me to think of hurting any one of you!” He said, reaching out to scrunch Stralight’s cheeks with both hands but thinking better of it at the last minute when he saw the look on her face.

“...please don’t call me adorable,” she said, giving him a look that would have sent better rested, better fed, lesser men fleeing. Andy was still a little too lightheaded to really care.


“I can put you back outside if you like.”

He threw his hands up.

“You are both majestic and imposing and not-at-all cute and lovely,” he said.

“If we weren’t friends…”

“Ah but we are, aren’t we? At your insistence! Forever joined now, that’s us!”

Starlight’s composure finally broke and she smiled again. So did Andy.

“Uh, I have a favour to ask you…” He said, scratching the back of his neck.


“Would you mind if I, like, crashed on the floor? Just for tonight. This carpet is very comfy.”

“You do know that there are other guest rooms, right? This is a castle. There is one right across the hall from my room. Literally, the door is opposite mine, I can show you. Bed’s made up and everything,” she said, pointing past him.

Andy wrinkled his nose.

“Seems wasteful,” he said, imagining the work involved in making so many beds so consistently. So much effort, for what? Starlight just rolled her eyes.

“Do you want the bed or not?” She asked and Andy chewed his lip for a second.

“Fine. Just because you insisted and browbeat me into it.”

Whatever let him sleep easier.

“Again, I am a monster. I’ll check if the coast is clear,” she said, rising onto all fours.

“Thanks,” he said again, reaching out for her as she passed, putting a hand lightly onto her back. “Seriously.”

“It’s okay. I’m sure you’re already thinking of the ways you can make it up to me.”

“Why would I think of anything else?”

The two of them were again just left silently smiling at one another.

“You’re very soft,” Andy said eventually.

“You’re very warm,” Starlight said in return.

Both went just the tiniest bit red in the face and Andy promptly withdrew his hand.

“I’ll, uh, I’ll go check,” Starlight said, gesturing towards the corridor and Andy just nodded, unable now to look her in the eye.

The cool darkness outside the room was very welcome, Starlight felt, and after waiting long enough to make sure that nopony was likely to come wandering through and also long enough to let her face stop being so inexplicably hot she waved for Andy who came dashing over and across to the door opposite.

Watching him disappear through it - giving her a final wave before shutting the door after himself - Starlight rather hoped her next nighttime walk was less eventful, as this was already exhausting and perplexing in ways she was having difficulty comprehending.

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