Ponyville was a sunny, happy place. It wasn't without its problems, but no matter what happened, its residents seemed to be able to work things out. That was exactly why Tux n Tails was drawn there; his home town in Hoofton wasn't a very happy place for him.
He was a tall, dark grey Pegasus stallion with a salt-and-pepper mane and tail and four matching socks. His passions were numerous: making music, writing and telling stories, romance and chivalry, and kindness toward his fellow pony. The only problem with this was that his flank was blank. In Hoofton, most ponies got their cutie marks early on, and some didn't get theirs until they were grown, but it seemed that nopony else was a blankflank, especially this late in life.
So one day he left Hoofton behind and struck out on his own. He needed a place where he could fit in, a place where ponies would accept him for who he was.
The journey to Ponyville was long, even taking the train. He used the days to write music, to write stories and poetry. He even wrote love letters to the mare he would one day marry, even though he didn't know who she was yet. While other ponies struck up small talk on the train with strangers, he kept to himself, as he was very shy. When ponies did speak to him, he was polite and responded, answering any questions, but he never asked any of his own.
At long last, the train pulled into the station at Ponyville. Tux gathered up his notebooks and his music and tucked them neatly into his saddlebags. He put on his coat, making sure to cover his flank, and took a deep breath before stepping out of the car onto the platform.
His first impression of Ponyville was very good. It was a small town, which pleased him greatly; Hoofton was a larger city where nopony cared about anypony else. Ponyville was a colorful town, with buildings painted brightly, green grass abounding, and ponies of every color roaming the streets. Hoofton was steel and concrete, with paved streets and almost exclusively chestnut, grey and black ponies, all wearing their drab business suits.
Many of the Hoofton ponies were engineers. Many of them were accountants. The majority of them managed or owned businesses. But most of all, none of them respected Tux's passions. They told him in school to study profitable careers. When he expressed a desire to be a musician, they told him the only thing he could do with it was teach, and that didn't fit his personality at all.
Even so, leaving Hoofton was hard. His home was there; his family was there; what few friends he had were there. They begged and pleaded with him, beseeching him not to leave, but he had to. Everypony knew his reasons, but nopony understood. Hopefully Ponyville would change that.
He felt foolish as he walked through the streets, eyes wide. "I'm such a tourist," he said, casting his eyes to the road.
"A tourist?" asked a pink pony with a frizzy mane and tail. She startled him, and he nearly fell over. An ear-to-ear grin split her face. "My name is Pinkie Pie. What's yours?"
"Tux n Tails," he replied. "And I'm not a tourist. Not really. I mean, I'm-"
"Well, if you're not a tourist, then what are you, silly?"
"Well," he tried again, "I'm going to try and live here."
"No way!" Pinkie said in awe. "We're going to have to throw you a housewarming party! And do you know who's going to plan it?"
"ME!" she burst. "Oh, I can't wait to plan your housewarming party. It's going to so awesome!" She bounced away, leaving him speechless.
He didn't know what to think of her. Ponies like this made him uneasy. He didn't know why; they just did. Maybe it was their constant noise level. Maybe their rapid speech overloaded his senses. Whatever it was, he somehow knew that he was going to have to deal with it more in the future.
He continued walking through the streets, looking for a newspaper so that he could find a house to rent. But no matter where he looked, he couldn't find one. Exasperated, he looked around for somepony that could help him. His eyes settled on a large building in the center of town. He walked into the lobby and asked the pony behind the desk, "Excuse me, I'm new in town and I'm looking for city hall."
"It's right here," the receptionist smiled.
Relieved, he asked, "Do you know where I can find a house to rent? I'm looking to stay for quite some time."
"Why, sure," the receptionist replied cheerily. "Go talk to Brixon Mortar at Mortar, Stone and Wood. He should be able to find a place that will fit you quite nicely. But exactly why you'd come to city hall for information is beyond me."
"Well," he said shyly, "that's what everypony does in Hoofton."
"Hey, I have a cousin in Hoofton. Do you know a mare named Cinnamon Swirl? She runs a bakery there."
"I can't say I do. Thank you for the help."
"You're very welcome, mister..."
"Tails," he replied. "Tux n Tails."
"Wow, that's an interesting name. It sounds right out of Canterlot."
"Oh, I'd love to go to Canterlot," he sighed. "My dream is to conduct the Canterlot choir. I always thought my cutie mark would be a baton."
"But it's not, is it?"
Blood rushed to his face. "No, it's...um..." He sighed and reluctantly pulled back his coat. "Blank," he said with a mouthful of cloth.
"Mr. Tails, everypony gets their cutie mark. You have nothing to be ashamed of."
"Thanks." He cleared his throat. "Well, have a nice day. I'm off to talk to Mortar. Uh, where is it, by the way?"
"Just follow this street. The office will be on the left."
He left the building and continued down the street. He felt like everypony was looking at him, even though he knew this wasn't the case. If he wanted to fit in at all, he would have to get to know ponies, and fast. Maybe Pinkie Pie throwing him a housewarming party would help after all.
Just where the receptionist had said it would be, he found the real estate brokers' firm. He thought that the brokers' names were quaint and suited the business well: Brixon Mortar, Hardee Stone, and Cherry Wood. The building itself was a cottage, too, quite unlike the steel boxes that encased most businesses in Hoofton.
He went inside and saw three ponies behind desks. On each desk was a name badge. The pony on Tux's left was Brixon Mortar, a fleabitten grey draft stallion. To his left sat Hardee Stone, a skinny grullo stallion. On the far right was Cherry Wood, a sorrel overo mare. He found them so...normal in this sea of strangely colored ponies. And it gave him the comfort he needed to wait to be served.
"May we help you?" Mortar asked soon after Tux sat down.
"I'm new in town, and I'm looking for a place to rent," Tux replied.
"You take this one, Brixon," Wood said, dropping the pencil from her mouth.
"My pleasure." He came out from behind his desk and asked, "So what did you have in mind? Large? Small? Somewhere in the middle?"
"Somewhere in the middle, I think," Tux replied. "My apartment in Hoofton was too small. Stifling."
"Well, we have several options. Do you have the time to look at them now?"
"Splendid. Follow me, Mr..."
"Tails. Tux n Tails."
"And you may call me Brixon. Or Mortar. Whatever strikes your fancy."
Tux followed Mortar out of the office and down the street to one of the vacant houses. It was a small cottage somewhere near the center of Ponyville, and he liked it at first, but upon seeing the interior he balked. "This one is too small," he said, shaking his head.
"Not a problem," Mortar replied. "There are plenty more cottages to choose from."
Mortar led him to another cottage, and when he stepped inside, he knew immediately that it wouldn't work. "This one is too big," he said, his voice echoing in the space. "Maybe if I had a huge family, but it's going to be just me."
"Not a problem," Mortar replied. "I think I know the size you're looking for."
At last, Tux was led to a cottage that looked like a good fit. It was just the right size, was painted a plain light brown, and had sensible furniture. He grinned as he walked through the cottage, and Mortar led him upstairs.
"And this," Mortar said, "is the study."
Tux marveled at it. It had large windows and a skylight, with double glass doors that opened onto a balcony. There was a desk, an inkwell, and a quill pen with a permanent, metal nib. "I think it's perfect, Brixon," he beamed. "How much is the rent?"
"One-fifty a month."
He almost choked on his tongue. "That low?"
"It's actually a fairly sizable rent here in Ponyville."
"Where do I sign?" In Hoofton, a hundred and fifty bits per month got you a sheet of cardboard in the gutter in the dirtiest corner of the slums.
"The paperwork is back at the office. The first month's rent is due up front, but is refundable within thirty days if you should change your mind."
"Do you take checks?"
Tux shuddered with pent-up excitement. He followed Mortar back to the office, and upon entering, Wood asked, "That was quick. Did you find a place?"
"Yes I did, Ms. Wood," he grinned.
"Glad to hear it."
Mortar took a document from his desk and slid it over to Tux. "Not very complicated contract, but take your time."
"I appreciate you letting me read it at my leisure," Tux remarked. "In Hoofton, any contract anypony has to sign is a book, and so a lawyer reads it to you." He read it over and found nothing untoward, so he nodded, and Mortar passed him a pen. He took it in his mouth and signed his name.
"Fantastic penmanship," Mortar remarked. "Usually it's chicken-scratch if you're not a unicorn."
"I write a lot," Tux blushed, chuckling. "That's why the study is so perfect for me."
"Well, I hope you enjoy it! Here are the keys." He passed a ring across the table in exchange for the contract and a check for 150 bits. "It's always a pleasure doing business with you, and I encourage you to come to us anytime with questions, comments, or concerns."
"Or if you just want to talk with a bunch of real estate salesponies," Stone laughed. "We're always available unless one of us is out."
"Goodbye," Tux smiled as he left the office. He trotted happily along the street, holding the keys in his mouth. But his inattention led to yet another run-in.
He slammed into somepony and fell to the ground. "Oh, I'm terribly sorry; I didn't see you there," he said.
"Oh, it's not a problem," the other pony replied.
When he stood again, shook off the dust, and opened his eyes, he saw a violet-colored unicorn with large, violet eyes and indigo and pink hair. It was a simple, natural style, and it curled around her neck. Her voice was warm, sultry. He swallowed hard. She was the most beautiful pony he'd ever seen.
"I'm Twilight Sparkle," she smiled. "But you can call me Twilight."
"Tux n Tails," he said, his voice cracking. He cleared it and repeated his name. "Call me Tux."
"You must be new here," she observed. He nodded. "Well, if you ever need to know your way around Ponyville, I'm your pony. I used to be the new girl in town, but not anymore. I live in the old library. Big, hollowed out tree. You can't miss it."
"You like to read, I take it?" he said, trying to make small talk. His voice nearly failed him, to say nothing of his knees.
"Oh yes, I love to read. I'm an egghead, as Rainbow Dash puts it. But she's an egghead, too." She laughed smugly. "I introduced her to Daring Do, and she's bought every book in the collection. I would have let her borrow my copies for longer, but she insisted on the purchase."
"Daring Do?" His ears pricked. "I...I know the author."
"Sure. I'm sure they wish to remain so." The author of the Daring Do series was a foalhood friend of his. His dream was to be as successful as she had been, but he hadn't ever published anything. Not his music, not his stories, not even his essay about the singing voices of unicorns who chose to augment their abilities with magic.
"So what do you like to read?" Twilight asked. "Walk with me."
He walked beside her. "I never thought about it before," he sighed. "I like adventure stories like Daring Do, but I also like to read romance. The classics, not that saddle-ripper trash."
"Like Mane Austen? Oh, I just love Mansfield Pasture!"
"I'm partial to Sense and Sensibility myself," he shrugged. "I always identified with Brandon."
"The strong, silent type, I see. When I first met my friend Fluttershy, she was just like you: couldn't get a word out. But then she saw my little "brother" Spike and she opened right up. Hey, that's a great idea! I should introduce you to all my friends!"
The prospect of meeting even more people was not appealing. He'd had his fill of social intercourse, and he wanted nothing but to go to his new home, unpack his saddlebags and relax. "I'm sorry, but I really need to be going," he said, breaking off. "Can I take a rain check on that?"
"Okay. Remember, the big tree. Just hit me up if you want to meet some totally awesome ponies."
Relieved to be out of Twilight's company, he walked down his street and up to his new cottage. He unlocked the door and opened it warily, half expecting Pinkie Pie to be lying in wait with a bundle of balloons and a pyramid of gifts. But the house was quiet.
He sighed, plodded up the stairs, and dropped his saddle bags in the study. He lay down in the sunlight that streamed through the skylight and closed his eyes. "Peace and quiet at last," he said softly.