Act in haste

by Cackling Moron

Chapter 1: Regret at leisure

Author's Notes:

This seemed like such a good idea to me at the time.

“Put a happy little tree right here…”

Anon said this to himself before doing just that, stepping back a moment later to admire the results. Rarely had he seen a happier tree.


Today’s scene had a mountain and a lake and a whole bevy of trees, because these were things Anon liked and so they were the things he felt like painting. Even unfinished it was filling him with a deep and abiding sense of wellbeing.

Behind him came the clearing of a throat.

“Hello there, Twilight. What can I do you for today?” Anon said without turning to look but smiling all the same. He always liked it when she popped in unannounced. Twilight, nervousness mounting, sat on her haunches and tapped her hooves together.

“I have a favour to ask, but you have to promise not to get mad!” She said, the second part coming out quickly, just to be on the safe side.

Anon paused, brush inches from the canvas. He frowned. Then he shrugged and carried on, smile returning. The frown had been nothing but the outward expression of passing, momentary confusion, and could not hold in the face of just how fucking chill he was feeling.

“That’s always a good start,” he said.

“It’s nothing major! Nothing horrible. I just - I may have made a mistake,” Twilight said, waving her hooves at first for clemency only to remember that Anon was still painting and so not looking at her, so instead she just awkwardly rubbed a hoof against her neck, chewing on her lip.

“There are no mistakes, just happy accidents,” Anon said, nodding to himself.


“Sorry, in a very particular frame of mind right now. What’s up?” He asked.

“Well, you know how I kind of, got back in contact with some of my old friends from Canterlot recently?”

“No, but go on.”

Anon was not really much on paying attention to what went on around him, even if he was directly involved, which didn’t happen often. And since this was one of those many times when he hadn’t been, his odds of having paid attention were even slimmer.

Twilight was, by now, sweating a little and fidgeting.

“Well, a couple weeks back we were all having donuts and talking and the conversation might have got onto coltfriends and they might have asked me if I had anypony special and I maybe might have panicked and, uh, said that you and, uh, me were, well, uh…”

Twilight could not finish this sentence, so horrifyingly embarrassed was she, but then again she didn’t really need to. Anon had stopped moving again, just staring straight ahead, brush hovering. After a few seconds he coughed.

“Oh my,” he said, dabbing some more. “How on earth did you manage that?”

“I don’t know! It was just - they were all talking about stallions and-and they had all these stories and then they turned to me and - and - and I panicked! I panicked!”

“Obviously so,” Anon said, nodding. “So why me?”

“I panicked! You were the first pony - uh, person - I could think of! The only stallion, too! And I couldn’t tell them I’d just made it up!” Twilight wailed, her face in her hooves. Anon clucked his tongue and shook his head.

“Oh, heavens no, couldn’t do that. So I’m guessing they were all very impressed and happy for you and wanted to meet me?” He asked.

Twilight goggled, slackjawed, and then shook herself out of it.

“Yes! How did you know?”

“Just a guess. But I was always ill or busy and so couldn’t come to whatever it was they wanted to invite us both to?” He ventured.

She looked even more slackjawed this time, not to mention slightly horrified.

“Yes! Have you been spying on me?”

Anon shrugged.

“No, I just have a sense about these things. And at this point you’ve probably run out of every excuse you can think of? Even though you’ve used some more than once?”

“Stop doing that!” She said, stomping, head thrown back in despair.

Anon washed and smacked off his brush and finally turned around, setting his pallette down. Seeing Twilight so morose and so red-faced he was overcome with a desire to do something about it. Given that he had already been more than willing to help, this basically just ramped it up into him being determined to help.

Moving over, he took a knee beside her and laid a hand on her shoulders.

“What do you need me to do?” He asked, gently. Shuffling her hooves Twilight looked up at him through her mane, which had fallen across her face.

“We’re meeting up again tomorrow and I said - would you mind being there? It won’t be for long! It’s just so they can see you. Then they might let it go!”

“I am sure I can squeeze you into my hectic schedule. Just to be clear, I’m going there in the capacity of your loving boyfriend?”

Twilight winced and went - somehow - even more red.

“Can you just...pretend? Just for tomorrow? I’m sorry…” She mumbled, mortified with the situation she had landed herself in. Anon just kept on smiling and gave her shoulders a squeeze.

“I think I can survive that. It’s for a good cause: getting you off the hook and letting you save face. A nobler cause I have never served.”

“Oh shush,” Twilight said, though she did smirk a little. Anon marked that up as a win, grinned, and stood, stretching his arms up and bumping the ceiling.

“Well, just say the word when we got to go and I’ll be right there with you. You do know this is likely to result in an hilarious misunderstanding, right?”

This was the exact opposite of what Twilight wanted to happen, and she glowered at him.

“No, it won’t!”

“That’s the spirit. Still, you have to admit that it’s pretty funny. If you think about it.”

“It’s not funny!” She fumed, stomping. He was still grinning anyway as he moved to pick his palette up again.

“S’pretty funny,” he said.


In the middle of the table sat a plate of donuts.

Beside Twilight sat Anon, and sat staring at them were her friends.

So far things had been going pretty well. Greetings and introductions had been pleasant enough, a few jokes about Anon actually being there after so long, that sort of thing. He’d surprised Twilight - and produced a chorus of adoring coo’s from her friends - by very briefly giving her a peck on the head after pulling her seat out for her.

Twilight had, unsurprisingly, gone bright red, but this was good. The little touches really helped these sorts of things, Anon felt. Helped build a convincing picture. Or so he thought.

The donuts were really good, too, but this was by-the-by.

Anon was doing his best to remember the names of the friends, but names had never exactly been his strong suit and despite comprehensive introductions he was still mostly relying on the colours. He was sure he’d pick up who was who given time.

“So Anon,” said the blue one, coyly. He vaguely remembered her as Minuette, but wouldn’t have been surprised if he was wrong. “The way Twilight tells it you guys are pretty serious.”

“The most serious,” he said, smiling and reaching for another donut. His answer was well-received by Twilight’s friends, who seemed delighted.

“Serious enough to make it official?” Asked the kind of creamy one.

This was an odd thing to say, Anon thought, and beside him he felt Twilight stiffen.

“Official as in...matrimonially official?” He asked, not really in the mood to be fumbling around between the lines.

The creamy one - Twinkleshine? Maybe more ivory than cream, on reflection - sipped on coffee with excessive daintiness. Were she possessed of a pinky, she would have extended it. Suggestively.

“Well I wouldn’t like to say…” She said.

Just what had Twilight been telling these guys about their made-up relationship? It must have been some potent stuff for this to have been something they wanted to ask. He probably should have asked more questions on the train ride over, on reflection.

Twilight was frozen rigid but Anon just rolled with it. If they were looking to unsettle him by bringing the prospect of marriage - marriage! - up so soon in both the conversation and in his and Twilight’s relationship, well more fool them. He could take it. He could take it without batting an eye - that’d put the wind up them.

“Oh you know. I don’t know the traditions you guys have and the only person I have to ask is, well…”

Anon gave Twilight a significant look and a pat on the leg before returning his attention to the others.

“It’d kind of give the game away. When it happens I’d want it to be a surprise, you know?”

As he said this he grinned. The ponies all grinned too, looking astounded and amazed. Even Twilight was grinning, though hers had a too-wide, rictus quality to it. Her hoof went to his hip and he looked down.

“Can I have a word with you?” She hissed, and somehow none of the others heard it. Magic shenanigans, Anon suspected.

“Privately?” He hissed back. She nodded. Anon turned to the others.

“Excuse us,” he said, rising and also pulling out Twilight’s chair for her. “After you, lovely.”

Twilight went first, leading the way outside and picking a spot where her friends would not be able to see them. Once safe and secure and sure they weren’t being watched by any of them she stood up on her hind legs and grabbed Anon by the collar. As ever, he remained amazed at the dexterity demonstrated by hooves.

“What are you doing?!” She croaked, eyes wild.

“Too much?” He asked.

“Yes!” She squeaked, releasing her grip on him and dropping back onto all fours. Straightening out his shirt he again took a knee by her to bring them to a slightly more equal level.

“Sorry. I do have a plan though,” he said.

“Does it involve getting married?!”

“I kind of think they were pulling your leg with that one, to be honest Twilight, but they really did go for it didn’t they? This is good though. It works with my plan,” Anon said, tapping a finger to his temple, a gesture the effects of which were mostly lost on Twilight because of her rising panic.

“This is not reassuring!”

“Sorry, again. Look, I say that stuff as a joke, see? Then when I retract it later - playing it off like a joke - I look like a cad in front of your friends, which’ll make it easier for you to say the thing just fell apart. That’s an out, see? Cunning!” He said, tapping his nose this time. Twilight’s face wrinkled in confusion.

“A joke?”

“Quite so! In a little bit I bring it up again and say something along the lines of ‘Oh I would never actually ask Twilight to marry me because yada yada whatever’. I look horrible, your friends are horrified, later on when you meet up with them you can tell them we broke it off and it’ll make sense. See?”

Twilight ran through these steps in her head and Anon could watch the light dawning on her face as his impeccable logic made itself known to her.

“That does kind of sound convincing…” she said, scratching her chin.

“I have a flair for these things. Somehow,” Anon said. He was mostly making it up, but he’d certainly convinced himself. He could see it working on a sitcom, which was about the only place he could imagine this type of situation appearing anyway, so why not solve it appropriately.

Twilight was still thinking, running it through in her head, and as she did so she ran into a problem and what had been an expression of mounting relief quickly became one of despair.

“That still means I have to pretend in front of them! I have to act hurt! What if I’m not convincing? They might work it out!”

“Don’t mean to poke more holes in your confidence but if you had wanted to wind this thing down quietly and with minimum fuss then ‘we broke up in private away from everyone’ would probably have worked better,” Anon said. He regretted it immediately.

Twilight paused, eyes narrowed. They then opened wide again and she looked horrified.

“You’re right! Why didn’t I think of that?! Augh!”

This was going South fast, and Anon knew he wasn’t exactly helping. Twilight’s breathing was starting to sound distinctly agitated. Again putting a hand to Twilight’s shoulder he gave what he hoped was a reassuring amount of squeeze. Certainly, it got her attention.

“Look, let’s just take it one thing at a time, alright? I reckon my plan - to make myself look awful so you get let off the hook - is a pretty solid one. But I might be biased. What do you think?” He asked.

She stared at him with the intensity of someone who was afraid they might be plucked off the face of the planet were they to look away. Her breathing returned to something approaching normal. Eventually she blinked, and after that seemed much better.

“I think,” she said, licking her lips. “I think...I don’t know. This is kind of a mess.”

“There are worse messes,” Anon pointed out.

There really were.

Not that this seemed to buoy Twilight’s spirits any.

“It’s embarrassing though!”

“Not going to deny that, but years from now we’ll look back on this and laugh. For right now though it is up to you, what would you like to do?”

Once again Twilight chewed her lip, running through options. Both of them were acutely and mountingly aware that the longer they spent outside the more awkward it’d be on going back in. Time was of the essence.

“We should go with your idea,” Twilight said with a certain level of resignation.

“You sure?” Anon asked.

“Not really, but I don’t have anything and it sounds like it’ll work.”

“That’s the kind of can-do optimism I always liked about you, Twilight,” Anon said before going in for a quick we-can-do-this-bizzare-thing-together hug of support. Twilight squeaked but did return it after a second or so, when her surprise had been overcome.

“Thanks for going along with this,” she said, semi-muffled against him.

“Ah, no worries. This is a new and interesting experience for me,” Anon said. He wasn’t lying, either. This sort of thing never happened back home.

“Are you two okay?”

That made them jump.

Breaking the hug, Twilight and Anon turned to find the yellow one of her friends - Lemon Something? Anon felt he’d have to ask for a better, fuller briefing next time he met so many ponies all at once - looking at them with some concern as she stood in the doorway of the donut place.

“Totally fine,” Anon said, rising back to his full height. “Just having a quick word. All done now.”

Twilight just nodded.

“Okay!” Said the yellow one, looking happier, and all of them re-entered and re-sat and everything re-commenced.

The topic of marriage was not immediately broached again. Rather, conversation became more generically friendly, though still with a focus on Anon and Twilight, being as how he was the guest and unusual feature at their little gathering. He was grilled, but only lightly.

Twilight had told them he painted, so they asked him about that. Twilight had told them he was from another dimension by way of means as-yet not fully explained. He told them about that, too, or at least as much as he could. Twilight had told them about some of the dates they’d been on. He’d been extensively briefed on these fictional occasions, so he told them about the dates in detail. Anon was in the zone, and Twilight actually started to relax a little.

But it could not last.

“So how long will we have to wait before the invitations get sent out?” Asked the blue-ish one.

Anon was staggered at the enthusiasm with which they were buying into this, but then again ponies were an odd sort. Maybe this sort of thing was normal? He did not know. All he knew was that the plan was progressing perfectly. Onwards.

“Hmm? Oh, that. I wasn’t serious, you know. Thought we were all joking,” he said, with calculated, callous coolness, reaching for his coffee.

A pause, brief but noticeable.

“Well, you have thought about it, right? Not now, but in the future? Right?”

“Not really. Why would I?”

They exchanged looks. The looks were not especially cheery. Anon took this as a sign his plan was taking root and did his best to hide his satisfaction. He always did love it when a plan came together, though he knew to think it had done so prematurely could only end badly.

That said, he pressed on.

“I mean, Twilight’s a lovely girl - cute as anything, whip-crack smart, all-round wonderful as you know - but, marriage though? I’m not so sure.”

Another pause, this one very obvious and quite pointed.

“What do you mean by that?” Asked the only pony there wearing any clothing. She did look rather adorable in her sweater-thing, and Anon did wonder why more ponies didn’t do the same - Twilight, for example - but now wasn’t the time for that sort of thing. He had a plan to stick to.

“I just mean that I’m not sure Twilight’s marriage material. At least not for me, you know? We have fun together but I’m not sure we’re meant for each other, if you follow? Oh, sorry Twilight, I probably should have mentioned this before, shouldn’t I?” He asked, turning to her, again with the same aggravating casualness he’d been affecting.

Twilight did a very good job of looking hurt and said nothing even when Anon gave her a nudge. He clucked his tongue and looked back to the others with a ‘Well, what can you do?’ kind of shrug.

“So no invitations, I’m afraid,” he said.

The longest pause yet followed, and the tension was palpable. The mood of the table had turned. One could feel it.


“You jerk!”

And all at once they erupted, all at once Anon found himself the target of a group of suddenly furious ponies, all of whom were suddenly armed with coffee, donuts and anything else they could lay their hooves and magic on.

This was something of a surprise to Anon, who could do little else but fall off his chair and flee as best he could, mugs and plates and sachets of sugar and more besides following him all the way out. Twilight watched this with slack-jawed astonishment. By the time she got her wits together Anon had left the building and her friends looked to be just about starting to calm down.

“The nerve of that guy,” Minuette fumed to nods of agreement from the others.

“Are you okay Twilight?” Moondancer asked. Twilight closed her mouth and nodded dumbly. Before she could say anything else a shadow fell across their table and they turned to find Donut Joe standing, looming above them, a sense of tranquil fury coming off like a heat haze.

“Get out,” he said with the sort of serenity you could do nothing but agree with. They did as they were told without complaint.

Outside though the group immediately burst into further, acrimonious discussion of Anon and his poor behaviour. Twilight’s friends were understandably angry for her sake and were getting quite inventive in their invective. Twilight remained quiet, mostly because the whole situation had spiralled horribly out of hand and mostly because she was wondering where Anon had ended up. He was nowhere in sight.

“You sure you’re alright?” Twinkleshine asked, making Twilight jump and bringing her back to the present.

“I just need...a minute…” she said.

“Take all the time you need, Twilight,” said Minuette with a soothing rub of the hoof across the shoulder, Twilight replying with a thankful nuzzle before wandering off. Once out of sight - and checking back to see they weren’t watching - she set off at speed to find Anon.

She found him sat on a kerb a street or two away, soaked with coffee and festooned with donuts. Other than that he did not seem that worse for wear. If anything, he looked pretty happy. His bemused chuckling was doing a good job of ensuring those ponies passing by gave him a wide berth.

Breathing a sigh of relief on having found him so quickly Twilight galloped over.

“There you are!” She said, arriving by his side. Seeing her Anon gave a small wave and then rose with a grunt to standing.

“That escalated quickly,” he said, fishing out a chunk of donut that had somehow managed to end up inside his shirt. Somehow, having him standing made the extent of what had happened to him obvious. He appeared to be wearing more food and drink than clothing. He practically dripped.

“I’m so sorry! I had no idea they’d do that!” Twilight said. Anon regarded the donut chunk a moment before shrugging and tossing it over his shoulder.

“I have to admit that did not work out quite the way I imagined it would. But it did work out! They won’t be wanting to see me again, eh?” He asked, winking at her. Another half-piece of donut fell out of somewhere and bounced off his foot. It probably wasn’t worth asking where it had come from.

“That tickled,” Anon said.

“I’m so sorry!” Twilight repeated. He waved off her apologies, for they were well-meant but unnecessary.

“Ah it’s fine, Twilight. Luckily, a lot of that coffee was lukewarm at best. The powdered sugar will take some getting out, though. It got into every crevasse.”

Anon had a feeling that he’d been needing a lot of very long showers in his immediate future, and even then he’d still be gritty for days yet. A cross he would have to bear. Looking down, he found Twilight still looking at him with a potent mix of guilt and concern. He would have patted her on the head, but his hands were filthy and so he held off.

“Honestly it’s okay. Reckon my plan worked?” He asked.

Twilight thought back to some of the things her friends had been saying when she’d left them. She grimaced.

“Oh yeah, it worked,” she said. Anon clapped and made just about every pony within earshot flinch in surprise.

“Good then! Job done. And now we have an anecdote. I say that’s a win, don’t you?”

“You’re kind of a strange guy, anyone ever tell you that?”

“Maybe once or twice,” he said. Twilight smiled. Then, going just a touch pink, she added:

“You said some very nice things about me for someone trying to sound like a - what was that word you used? Cad?”

Anon scratched his chin, shedding sugar like snowflakes.

“Not sure why I went with that one. Probably should have just said ‘dick’. Guess I’m in a flowery mood. And were they nice things? It was just off the top of my head. I just thought: ‘What’s nice about Twilight?’ and that’s what came out. Glad it was nice.”

“Said I was lovely…” Twilight mumbled to herself, pinker still, kicking at the ground with a hoof. Anon bent down a little and cupped a hand to his ear.

“Hmm? Didn’t catch that sorry.”

“Nothing. Don’t worry about it,” she said, shaking her head. She then gave him another look. He really was in a sorry state. “Do you - do you want a shower or something?”

Anon looked at himself to confirm just how sorry of a state he was in. Frowning he dug around for another piece of donut. At this point it was getting worrying how many bits had managed to get lodged in out-of-the-way places.

“I wouldn’t say no,” he said. Twilight turned, tail flicking.

“Let’s go the palace, I’m sure they won’t mind,” she said, not really able to think of anywhere closer with washing facilities. Having to ride the train back soaked with coffee did not sound like a good time, neither did having to hang around with Anon the whole time he was.

Anon beamed.

“Ooh! A palace shower! The perks of knowing a princess! This trip just keeps getting better!”

And off they went.

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