Pharynx grit his teeth and grumbled, puffing his nostrils. He paced awkwardly to try and keep up with his brother. His bare feet tapped loudly against the laminated floors, each slappy noise causing the changeling to wince, helplessly adjusting his walk to be more subtle. Stepping through the door and feeling the soft skin of his soles meet with the hot stones of the Canterlot street, he rolled his eyes at Thorax, who’d walked way ahead and beckoned for him.
The royal changeling brothers were in Canterlot on a vacation trip, catching up with other creatures of import. Pharynx often had to cover for Thorax’s occasional goofs, which were harmless, most of the time. For that reason, he let him go hang out with the Princesses unsupervised, while he went to ‘keep up appearances’ with Dragonlord Ember. As fun as that night ended up being, multiple invocations of diplomatic immunity and all, Pharynx was starting to wonder if it was worth it. Thorax’s meeting with the royal mares gave him an idea.
Yeah, no wonder he needed help to come up with this. Thorax was a rare fruitcake, but this was way out there. Go spend a whole day padding around Canterlot barefoot, won’t that be fun? And he made them a promise, too – they’d stay in public and make sure not to hide away! He didn’t even consider his brother’s opinion. Pharynx was confused and bewildered more than frustrated, anyway – this wasn’t a big deal, right? Well, here he was now, and getting used to wind glazing against his steadily dirtying soles wasn’t easy to adapt to… And neither were all the glances.
They wore no regalia, sticking to casual clothes. Pharynx wished ponies stared at him because he was a changeling – not because his plum, vulnerable, exposed feet awkwardly found their place on the hot, smooth cobbles. He only appeared unbothered – a cause for alarm. He was a grown stallion, what the fuck was this to him?! Pharynx grumbled, noticing how, in contrast, Thorax was completely unperturbed. And also how his ‘casual’ clothes included numerous bracelets and anklets – as if they NEEDED to draw more attention…
He played it cool with Thorax, though. He was not gonna let this get to him, especially when his airhead brother didn’t even give a shit. While Pharynx struggled to place his bare feet on the bulbous stones, often bumping his toes against smaller pebbles, Thorax splatted around without a second thought, almost as if he enjoyed hard stoned pressing into his high arches. Whether he liked it or not, they were encountering many passers-by, and there was no doubt people were taking note of the two barefoot stallions.
After crossing a couple streets and entering a few stores, Pharynx felt positively raw. The forceful friction on his balls and heels was real, and every step took conscious effort. From perilous cobbles to extremely hot asphalt to chipped street tiles, he was permanently aware of everything his naked soles touched. Not to mention the usual city detritus – dust, dirt and the occasional puddle. At least their stature prevented people from threatening to step on their exposed, vulnerable feet. That, and it had to be near 40 degrees – to spend the day outside, you WOULD need to be an airhead like Thorax… Pharynx couldn’t help sighing in relief each time the tops of his feet caught the rare breeze.
His feet hummed with extreme stimulation, and adrenaline coursed steadily through his muscular body. His breath became sharper and his heart beat faster. He was in for one hell of a day, and he couldn’t even complain – no way would he let it show in front of Thorax. If anything, it should’ve been him suffering! Thorax was super susceptible to heat, he’d sweat buckets every summer, but instead of huffing and wheezing, he appeared energized.
When they switched to a dust road, Pharynx finally stepped lighter, only watching for hard pebbles and sharp sticks. Even the tops accumulating a light brown tan on account of dust and perspiration. The changeling reeled at how much better his brother was handling it. He’d called out to ask if he’d done this lately, but Thorax just chuckled and dismissed it. Celestia brought the idea up. Yeah, right. It was ‘fun’, apparently. His large, lengthy feet strode gladly across Canterlot’s terrain, feeling all the same friction and pressure, yet Thorax appeared to enjoy the wide bouquet of sensations. Lucky bastard – he didn’t even get why this was so terrible! Maybe it’d catch up with him? Pharynx stayed silent anyway – the pebbles jabbing into his soles made squeaking a real threat.
It only got worse. They were taking a bus to the park – it’d be neat to walk around, and it had refreshments. Pharynx steeled himself to avoid showing how much it bothered him, catching all these glances here at the bus stop. His heart skipped a beat when he realized the bus itself would only be worse. And it was. While it had AC, that was all it had – the older royal brother was outright marinating in an anxiety he couldn’t even pin down. For all he knew, he had the passengers’ attention at every moment. Hiding them would be insecure, and he wasn’t insecure, right?
Meanwhile, Thorax was NOT hiding them. Having AC relieved him massively, so he just stretched his feet over some empty seats and kept them there for the entire bus to see. Yet even with the entire bus definitely staring at his brother, he still felt super watched. Thorax, meanwhile, kept talking about how supposedly ‘fun’ this was. Pharynx’s feet were stinging and barking even as he just sat in place, soles finally touching nothing, hell if this was fun!
He knew people were watching, talking, wondering, laughing at him. And he could do nothing, because if even Thorax didn’t care, he sure as hell couldn’t afford to.
Getting a smack on his butt for looking too grumpy, Pharynx stumbled out of the bus. His soles touching the asphalt, he nearly screamed – it was insanely hot. He waddled to catch up with Thorax, who had no reservations about squeaking or laughing about it. Thorax went to rehydrate, giving him time to stew in how barefooting was wrecking him. Plenty of eyes were caught as he lingered in the shade, and a lot more were imagined, while he rubbed his feet against one another, wanting to feel something soft for once. The changeling seethed and mumbled to himself, feeling cornered. He didn’t think this’d even be a thing! Just some weird adventure the Princesses talked his gullible brother into, nothing that’d give HIM so much grief. He’d always prided himself so much on how he complimented Thorax’s airheaded niceness. How did walking around town barefoot put him through so much grief?
Refuge from the sun and not having treacherous cobblestones or superheated asphalt became a pleasure. Thorax, however, would even and wave to ponies who’d walk near them and near-on snap their necks! Pharynx tried to prod him if they bothered him at all, but Thorax found it amusing at best. Worse yet, the novelty of shade and grass soon wore off, and Pharynx could hardly enjoy the softness of the warm soil, or the playful flicking of grass blades, as amidst all that, numerous treacherous pebbles and sticks awaited him anyway. One after another, they bit into his soles. Thorax wasn’t any luckier either, but he didn’t care… He’d shake it off and then get distracted by how funny their footprints looked in all the grass or something.
Pharynx couldn’t imagine just how sore and abused his soles were by now. Viridian green must have been all completely red, stained and smudged, coated in detritus. Thorax’s salad green had to be even worse – a lighter color, it certainly told a detailed tale of their embarrassing misadventure. He figured it was good; the image’d probably stick with him until the end of time. He then realized that he’d already heard a few signature clicks along their way, and tried not to think about it. And then Thorax outright walked up to a pony that pulled their phone out to cap a pic of the two barefoot brothers. And then he told Pharynx to go sit down with him on a bench for a photo. Oh yeah, they needed one, as proof for the Princesses, and as a nice cool memento of this totally fun trip.
Right now, he’d spank Thorax senseless if that made it stop. Only he wouldn’t, because when he all but exploded, Pharynx realized he couldn’t. He just couldn’t upset his nave, dumb fruitloop brother like this. He was having fun padding around with his bare feet for all to see – heavens above, he just noticed, he’d put on fuckin’ toe rings! Multiple of them! He was far too pure and innocent to be bothered like poor Pharynx. In disbelief, Pharynx sat down and put his feet up on the table… he could swear, the nervous tension was brewing up a storm cloud inside of him. With any luck, this’d be over when his goofball brother’s feet couldn’t take it anymore.
It took another 5 hours. And to this day, when Pharynx sees that picture, he turns beet red. It reminds him of everything – the murderous soreness of his feet, the staggering amount of ways different terrain could abuse his plum soles, the copious stares, the dumb grin on Thorax’s face, the giggles and condemnations from onlookers, the hungry smirk on the paparazzi pony’s face. The knowledge that he wasn’t as tough as he loved to imagine. And he sees it more often than you’d think. Luna and Celestia didn’t exactly keep it to themselves, and Thorax didn’t exactly care…