Fluttershy watched Princess Celestia, carrying the human, Johnathon on her back, fly effortlessly into the sky and then vanish, before turning to Twilight Sparkle in confusion. "Twilight...?" she started hesitantly. "It's not that I want to be a bother or anything... but..." she paused, trying to think of a polite way of asking.
"What in tarnation is going on here?" Applejack's voice rang clear and loud as she strode up to the yellow pegasi's home. "Did I see the Princess carrying off that critter... John a thin something or other?"
Rainbow Dash zipped into view, landing neatly in between Twilight and Applejack with a grin. "Yup! Weird, right? Have you ever seen the Princess carry anypony around like that before?"
Twilight frowned. "Well, it was an emergency situation. The princess is afraid that the portal that brought Johnathon here might still be open, so she's going to go close it."
Rainbow Dash blinked. "OK, I can buy that... but what was she taking the... whatchamacallit with her for?"
Twilight frowned slightly. "Well, obviously, if she closes the way between his world and ours, he'd be stuck here, so obviously she's going to let him go home first!"
Rainbow Dash nodded. "Oh right. That makes sense."
Fluttershy spoke up quietly. "They're called humans where he comes from." She explained helpfully. "Johnathon is a human. An injured human." she turned to Twilight. "He really shouldn't be flying... or riding... or whatever it is he's doing. He's hurt, and what if he gets hurt again going home?" she huddled down, looking miserable. "He said he hit his head when he came through the... whatever it was. It doesn't sound like it's very safe."
Twilight sighed. "It's probably not very safe, but he can't stay here forever, Fluttershy. He needs to go home."
Applejack frowned. "What's the rush, anyhow? Why did they need to go close the thing so gosh darned quick?" she frowned. "Well, I mean, we had a bit of a ruckus when he first showed up, but he didn't mean no harm."
Twilight shook her head. "Well, it might be dangerous if we wait too long. Johnathon is a... a nice human, but apparently not all humans are so nice. Princess Celestia wanted to make sure that the portal is closed before any not nice humans came over to this side."
Applejack's eyes narrowed, and her ears flattened slightly. "What do ya mean by not nice, sugar cube? Are you talking like those rascally diamond dogs? You think they might be dangerous?"
Twilight hesitated. "Well... I hope not, but Johnathon's world seems like it's a lot more dangerous then ours. Humans seem to be more... aggressive than ponies... at least, in groups. I don't think Johnathon himself is dangerous, but some humans could be... and many humans probably would be bad."
Applejack raised an eyebrow. "Bad how?"
Twilight shook her head. "I'm not... I'm not really sure, but the Princess knew about them. Way back when Discord was first around, a bunch of humans came here... to Equestria, the same way Johnathon did. They were... well, aggressive, and not very civilized... and after a while, the Princesses decided that we couldn't live peacefully with them, because they didn't know how to live peacefully with themselves, so she, and Princess Luna, closed up the portal for good. At least until Discord came back."
Rainbow Dash looked like she was trying to pay attention, but wasn't quite following. "So these humans were bad... and the Princess went to make sure that no more of them get into Equestria?"
Twilight frowned again. "Well, it's not quite that simple, but that's essentially the idea. It seems like that humans don't live peacefully on their world like we do. They fight... over food, and land, and... who's in charge, I guess. And they hurt each other..." she shook her head. "It's not that all the humans are bad, and, according to Johnathon, there are lots of places that are peaceful, but there are still places where the humans fight with each other."
"You mean like the ruckus over in Appaloosa?" Applejack asked, looking curious.
Twilight shook her head. "No pony really got hurt in Appaloosa. I mean... the sort of fighting where... humans really get hurt, even die."
Applejack's ears went flat to her head. "You mean... killing?"
Twilight nodded sadly. "Yes. I'm afraid so."
Fluttershy shook her head in denial. "no..." she said very quietly. Everyone went silent around her, so her next words were clear, if soft. "I don't believe that." she said simply. "I know when an animal is dangerous... and Johnathon wasn't like that. He isn't a killer."
Twilight shook her head. "I don't think he is either, Fluttershy. But not all humans are like him. He doesn't like it either, but he told us that some humans are...." she frowned. "Well... are dangerous. When the Princess told him that the gateway between our worlds might still be open, he agreed that it should be shut and soon. That's why he went with her, even though he's still really hurt."
Applejack nodded thoughtfully. "He did seem like a brave sort. It's too bad we got off to such a bad start. I think I might have liked him."
Twilight sighed. "I liked him too, Applejack. It's too bad that he had to go so soon. I think we could have been friends... but it's too late now, I'm afraid."
Princess Celestia paced back and forth near the spot Johnathon remembered ending up when he had first arrived next to the Castle ruins, her eyes closed as she concentrated. Finally, she stopped, and shook her head.
"I'm sorry, Johnathon, but it's too late now, I'm afraid." she smiled apologetically at the human, who was leaning against the stone wall, looking weak and pale. "I can detect what I believe may be some residual energy from a portal, but it's very weak." she explained. "It probably was only open while Discord's storm of chaos was active... and faded almost immediately afterword... if I'm sensing these energies correctly." she sighed. "It is good that no others from your world have traveled through. I believe the portal was open for only a few hours, at most, and from what you have told me, you would have been the only human in that area at the time?"
Johnathon nodded. "And I was laying on the ground here for maybe... a day afterword, so if anyone else did come through, they'd have seen me... and probably stayed to try and wake me up. You're right, I don't think anyone else came through." He slumped into a sitting position against the wall, his head spinning. "I... whoa... I don't feel so good... Princess." he made a noise in his throat, as if he was choking, and grimaced. "Sorry about this...."
Celestia shook her head, walking toward him, even as he threw out an arm to try and ward her away. "You don't have to apologize for being ill, Johnathon..." she took a step back, lifting her front legs slightly to dodge as he vomited messily, narrowly missing her. "Oh." she frowned worriedly. "Oh dear... your condition is worse than I thought. We should get you some medical attention quickly."
The archeologist shook his head shakily when he managed to stop heaving up everything he had eaten in the past day. "I... I don't think I can ride quite yet... not without falling off, anyway." he said weakly. "And you fly... kinda high."
Celestia smiled gently. "I understand. Do not strain yourself. Do you think you can handle another teleport?"
Johnathon looked queasy at the thought, then shrugged. "Maybe? Yeah, probably." he frowned. "I guess this means I'm not going back home then?"
Celestia hesitated. "Not... not right away, in any case... and perhaps not the same way you came. As I explained earlier, my sister and I do not have the power to open rifts in space and time as Discord did... and since this one is closed once again, we cannot use it to send you home." she smiled gently. "However, my most prized student is very gifted with magic, more so than she understands, I expect. She may find a way to return you to your home, given time."
Johnathon looked curious. "Oh? A magical prodigy, huh? Where is this wunderkind?:
Celestia smiled. "Back in Ponyville. I believe you know her. Her name is Twilight Sparkle."
Johnathon grinned slightly. "Ah! Should have guessed, what with the teleporting, and the translation spell. I got the impression she learned that spell just for me...."
Celestia nodded. "Most likely. Her skills are the most impressive I've seen in... well, a thousand years." she smiled. "She probably would not believe me if I told her, but she learns faster than I ever did at her age... and her gifts are stronger than mine when I was such a young pony."
Johnathon looked up at her in interest, his eyes swimming slightly. "You have a knack for being cryptic, Princess. Has anyone ever told you that?"
Celestia laughed lightly. "Once or twice." she nodded to him. "Now then, let's get you safely back to Ponyville, shall we?"
Twilight, Applejack, and Fluttershy had moved inside of Fluttershy's home to have brunch, complete with tea, and talk about the strange visitor a bit more. Rainbow Dash, citing a need to practice some moves, had flown off, although Twilight suspected the the concept of a "tea party" at Fluttershy's home simply fit the Rainbow maned mare's concept of boredom a bit too well for comfort, and she has simply made the most convenient excuse to escape.
Applejack was looking a little strained as well, but seemed to be recalling some of her social graces from her time in Manehatten, not wanting to upset the emotionally fragile yellow pegasus. "I expect that he'll be just fine." she told Fluttershy reassuringly. "Iffen there's some of his kind on the other side who know how to fix up creatures like him... like Twilight says...."
Twilight nodded. "He did say there would... medical care on the other side." she turned speculative. "I didn't learn that much about his society, but I think we could assume that it's as least as advanced as our own in many areas. His clothing, as Rarity pointed out, was good quality, and well, frankly, assuming a more aggressive culture, their medical sciences may be even MORE advanced then our own, given a greater need for medical care...."
Fluttershy looked thoughtful. "He did know a bit about medicine. He said his people have many different medicines for pain, although he only knew the... natural ingredients for one example himself. But that's pretty good for a pony... er... a human that doesn't have medical training, don't you think?"
"What's a human?" a cheerful voice came from Fluttershy's front door. "Is Johnathon a human? What a weird word... human... hunan... mooman!" Pinkie Pie giggled as she let herself in. "Hello girls, is the hugeman feeling better? Not that he's huge, I mean, he's tall, but not very big... but it's fun to play with new words..." she blinked. "We are talking about the alien right?"
Twilight blinked as Pinkie's monologue ground itself to a halt, and answered. "Yes, Johnathon was, is, a human. But I'm afraid he's gone, Pinkie. Princess Celestia came to take him back to his world."
Pinkie Pie deflated, as if all the air had suddenly left her. "Aw... I was planning the most super duper party ever! I mean... it's one thing to throw a party for a pony who's new in town... but I've never thrown a party for someone who's new to the whole world! It was going to be a Welcome to Equestria Party!" she sank back down. "And now he's missed it...." she started walking toward the front door. "What am I going to do with the pony shaped cake I made?"
Twilight blinked. "Er... why did you make s pony shaped cake?"
Pinkie turned back to her, eyes lighting up. "It's a joke! You remember when Applejack said to Applebloom... For all you know, he was going to walk right off with you, or...." She said the words in a passable imitation of the orange farmer. "And I said..., or eat you up in a big tasty stew!" And I thought, wouldn't it be funny to have a pony shaped cake, so that we could all eat a pony!" she blinked. "Huh... that was funnier in my head." she shrugged, looking sad again. "But now he's gone, and no one will want cake...."
"I could go for some cake." a tired but familiar sounding male voice said from outside. "Whoops! Mind the door!" Johnathon Dwire floated into the room, head first, enveloped in a telekinetic field.
"Excuse me girls." Princess Celestia's voice came from outside. "Fluttershy, I hope I do not presume too much, but might I entrust you with seeing to the recovery of our guest for a little while longer?"
Fluttershy blinked, then bowed in the direction of the Princesses voice, just in time for the Princess herself to stick her head in the doorway, and begin floating Johnathon toward the couch. "Of course, Princess! I would be honored." she moved to one side, putting her forehead against Johnathon's as he floated past her, checking his temperature. "Oh, you poor thing... you're all pale and sweaty. You really shouldn't have exerted yourself so soon after a head injury like that. You could have made yourself sick."
Twilight and Applejack hastily cleared the space in front of Fluttershy's couch, and the Princess gently lowered him onto it. "There... you should follow our dear Fluttershy's advice, at least until you feel better, Johnathon Dwire. She is most wise when it comes to the care of all manner of creatures."
Johnathon nodded gravely. "I'll do that, Princess Celestia. Thank you for going to the extra effort of returning me here so gently. I'm impressed... holding me telekinetically, and then teleporting at the same time? I... well, I have a vague idea of the power requirements involved, although I guess I should assume that I really can't understand... but still, very impressive."
Celestia shook her head. "It was nothing. I could not make you ride again, not after forcing you to move with such haste earlier. I hope you recover soon." she turned to Twilight. "Twilight Sparkle, could you walk with me a ways? I have a small favor to ask." Twilight blinked, and then hurried outside to join the Princess.
Inside Fluttershy's house, she could hear a certain pink pony beginning to giggle madly, and she could practically say the words with Pinkie. "Do you know what this means? It's time for a PARTY!!!" Twilight chuckled softly, sharing a fond look with her Princess, who's expression mirrored her own in that instant.
"Predictable, but very sweet." Celestia said with a nod back toward the cottage. "I do so like your friends, Twilight Sparkle. That they are those that became your good friends speaks very highly of you, my favorite student. They are indeed the very elements of Harmony, come to life."
As they walked, heading back toward the library, she seemed to be thinking, and Twilight waited. It was already mid day, and there were many more ponies out than they had seen on their walk to Fluttershy's home earlier, but everypony kept their distance, politely giving Twilight and the Princess their privacy.
"I have a task for you. You do not have to accept, and it may not even be possible, but nevertheless, I will ask." Celestia said slowly.
"Anything, Princess!" Twilight said eagerly.
Celestia hesitated. "As you may have surmised on our return, when we arrived at the Castle, the portal was closed. It will not open again, I fear, without releasing Discord once more, which would be unwise in the extreme."
Twilight nodded seriously. "I certainly don't want to deal with him again any time soon." she agreed.
"So unfortunately, that leaves our visitor stranded. I was hoping you might take up a research project for me?"
Twilight nodded again automatically. "Did you want me to try and figure out a way for Johnathon to go home again?" She looked worried. "That's... major magic! It could be dangerous as well... no pony has ever created a gateway to another world before... have they?"
Celestia shook her head. "Not as far as I am aware, no. I do not ask this of you lightly, and, in fact, I do not truly expect you to succeed. If you would make an honest attempt at learning something about the possibilities, that would be more than I could hope for."
Twilight nodded again. "I will try, Princess." she smiled, looking thoughtful. "Actually, I have been thinking about pursuing a new avenue of magic... creating some new spells. I mean, I've only learned a fraction of the magical spells in my spellbooks so far, but a lot of them are simply variations on a theme, and I'm pretty sure, given time, I could master most of them..." she blushed. "Er... I mean... I..."
Celestia smiled gently. "Do not be afraid to be sure of your gifts, my student. You are the most talented mage of your age, and I am in a position to know. I understand wanting to break new ground in your field. It is a most exciting prospect, is it not?"
Twilight nodded quietly, trying not to beam at the praise. "Yes... as I said, I had been thinking about doing some work... experimenting with pushing the boundaries of what we know about magic... but I couldn't decide what to focus on, the possibilities were... endless." she nodded to herself. "I have some ideas where to start... I'll need to borrow some materials from the royal libraries..." she glanced up hesitantly at Celestia. "If that's alright, Princess?"
Celestia nodded easily. "Of course, my student. Have Spike send me a list, or, if you find the time, come yourself and you can spend some time in the library in the palace. You used to spend so much time there."
Twilight smiled. "I may just take you up on that!" she nuzzled Princess Celestia lightly, and the Princess lowered her head to return the favor. "I miss our times together, Princess. As much as I love my friends, it seems so long between visits."
Celestia raised an eyebrow. "Didn't we just hold a celebration where you and your friends were honored for saving all of Equestria from Discord... not four days ago?"
Twilight chuckled wryly. "That's different. We hardly had any time to talk, with all the important ponies wanting to talk to us... I don't really like all the attention that much."
"Which must be why, my faithful student, you and your friends vanished from Court after the first day of what was meant to be a week long celebration." Celestia teased.
Twilight rolled her eyes. "Pinkie was crushed... although after the Gala, I think we all figured out that we're not really meant for life in court." she looked thoughtful. "Well, Rarity looked a bit disappointed as well, but I think she'd much rather be recognized for her fashion designs then for saving the world.... that, and she was tired of Prince Blueblood chasing her around everywhere, trying to apologize." she shook her head. "He was... really bad at it!"
Celestia sighed. "Yes, I don't blame you for not finding life at court to your liking. I must return myself... and I find myself wishing I could stay here a while longer. Never-the-less, even a princess has duties she cannot shirk."
Twilight shook her head. "Oh princess, you work harder than any pony I know. If anyone deserves some time off, it's you."
Celestia smiled. "Perhaps, but I am well used to baring responsibility, and I do have my moments of fun here and there." she nuzzled Twilight's neck once more. "I will see you soon, I hope. Please write and keep me appraised of Johnathon's condition. I don't think his injuries are too serious, but I do want to know if he gets worse. I feel somewhat responsible."
Twilight nodded. "I will Princess, I promise."
Celestia started to flap her wings, rising up toward the sun. "Thank you my faithful student. Say goodbye to your friends for me, will you?" lifting her head to the sky, her wings outstretched, the Alicorn vanished in a flash of light.
Twilight sighed, slumping slightly. "What did I just agree to do?" she asked herself. "Invent an entirely new brand of magic, and make sure it's safe for practical use? Am I insane?" she sighed. "Well, it does give me an excuse to get into the restricted section of the royal library, I guess!" the purple unicorn said, brightening. "There are so many books I've been dying to read in there!"
Back at Fluttershy's house, a complicated negotiation was under way.
"How about just a few of your best friends... like just the ponies I know?" Johnathon suggested. "You know, everyone here, and Rainbow Dash, Big Mac... Applebloom...?"
Pinkie countered. "Everyone in TOWN should be there... no, everyone in EQUESTRIA should be there!" she decided firmly. "After all, you've never met any pony anywhere in the whole world, so we should invite every pony everywhere!"
Johnathon shook his head lightly, chuckling. "I doubt there's a room big enough for every pony everywhere, Pinkie..." he glanced at Applejack. "There isn't is there? I mean... I don't really know that for sure...."
Applejack chuckled. "Nope... no place big enough for every pony everywhere, sure enough."
Johnathon turned back to Pinkie. "And I'm supposed to be resting anyway... maybe just a few others? Friends and family?"
Pinkie pouted. "But we should at least invite every pony in Ponyville. And Zecora... and maybe the Princesses could come!"
Johnathon winced slightly. "Well, nothing that big for awhile... maybe in a couple weeks, when I'm recovered, and I've had a chance to meet some more... er... ponies?"
Pinkie's eyes went huge. "Two whole weeks? Nonononononono..." she said firmly, shaking her head. "That's WAY too long. If I had to wait that long for a party I think I'd just up and explode! And then maybe explode again!" she turned her face sideways at him, and glared at him with one eye, opening it up as wide as she could. "We should have it tomorrow!"
Johnathon tried not to wince backwards. "Er... how about one week... and... no more than... oh, twenty ponies...?"
Pinkie raised her rear end, and lowered herself on her forehooves to glare at the human from the same level, which was only a couple feet from the ground, as he was resting on a pretty low couch. "Twenty...? How about fifty? And I bet you'll be feeling super duper extra fantastic in only two or three days, with our best animal carepony in the whole world Fluttershy taking care of you! Let's say three days from today!" she was so intent on her negotiation, she didn't notice her rear end shaking back and forth as if she was trying to run and stay still at the same time. Applejack took a couple steps back to avoid getting knocked over.
Johnathon hesitated. "Three days from today... but no more than... two dozen ponies, alright? And they have to be good friends with you or your friends, and genuinely want to be friends with strange creatures like humans... and not just ponies who want to gawk at the weird creature, OK?"
Pinkie Pie's whole body went still, and her eyes screwed up as if it she was using every fiber in her being to seriously consider the compromise. "Deal!" She said suddenly, relaxing into her normally sunny expression. "No meany ponies, and no gawking at aliens. Got it." She held out a hoof. "Shake."
He blinked, then reached out a hand to take her hoof, and gently shook it. "OK then. Deal."
She started to bounce again. "Ooh... I know just who to invite! It has to be just right if it's going to be your first party EVER in Equestria!" Pinkie bounced merrily out of the house, narrowing missing colliding with Twilight Sparkle, who had been about to knock on the door and enter herself.
Applejack was looking impressed. "You have a knack for negotiation, Johnathon." she commented with a grin. "You ever consider going into the apple selling business?"
Johnathon winced. "Er... not really. I've never been all that enthusiastic about retail." he shrugged. "Although, since I will probably be stuck here awhile, I may need a job... I do know something about farming. Could you use some help around your place?" he tried to recall the name. "Apple Acres?"
"That's Sweet Apple Acres, and it's a possibility for certain." Applejack said reasonably. "What kinda farming did you do back home?"
Johnathon frowned. "Well... er... not a lot... professionally, I mean. We had a chicken coop... collected eggs and sold them. We raised goats... never needed to buy milk elsewhere while they were milking..." He shrugged. "I've done some landscaping... planted trees... I'm alright at construction, I guess." he grinned. "And I'm really good at picking up heavy objects, moving them to another place, and putting them down again."
Applejack chuckled. "Well, that'll do fine. Even if you're new to apple farming, we can always use a willing back to carry and haul... and there are always repairs to be done around a farm."
Johnathon nodded. "That part I know about. I'm pretty handy with a... hammer." he frowned. "Er... do you have hammers?"
Applejack chuckled. "Do we have hammers? Of course we do! How do you expect to drive in a nail without a hammer? Use your hoof?"
The archeologist shrugged. "I try not to assume. I'm really impressed by Twilight's translation spell, though. I haven't had any trouble explaining myself at all... although frankly, I'm surprised by how many concepts my culture has in common with yours."
Applejack shrugged. "When you get down to it, we're all just folks, I guess. We all got to eat, we all want a place to lay our heads... folks to talk to...." she smiled at him. "Don't ya think?"
Johnathon nodded slowly. "That does seem to be something you can count on, most places, I guess."
Twilight cleared her throat. "So... Pinkie's getting her party?"
Johnathon sighed. "Don't remind me! I hate parties..." he winced. "Er... don't say that to your friend... Pinkie, right? I don't want to hurt her feelings, but I've never really felt comfortable in a big group."
Twilight nodded thoughtfully. "Is that because of your predator upbringing? Always having to be wary of the other predators in the group must make large gatherings nervous..."
Johnathon blinked. "Er... that's an interesting hypothesis, but no... most humans like parties... I'm just... well, I'm not really great at social interaction in groups."
Twilight's eyes went wide. "Really? Me too!" she smiled. "Don't worry, Pinkie Pie parties are easy to have fun at. I was always studying before I came to Ponyville, and I never took time out to party with the other ponies my age... but Pinkie has a way of... breaking some ponies out of their shells."
Johnathon looked dubious. "Sounds painful."
Applejack nodded. "Pinkie does throw the best do's I've seen." she agreed easily. "No pony will expect you to be the life of the party or anything. You can just be yourself."
Johnathon chuckled. "Well, I'll try. I'm not sure being myself will go over well at a party, but I promised Pinkie, so I'll be there." he glanced at Twilight with interest. "So... let me guess what the Princess wanted to talk to you about?"
Twilight blinked. "Er... she told you what she was going to ask me?"
Johnathon nodded. "Princess Celestia told me that if her her most promising student couldn't figure out how to get me home, no... er... no pony could." he put up a hand at Twilight's panicked expression. "Not that I'm going to hold it against you if you can't manage it. I can't even imagine the difficulty of such a problem."
He looked at her seriously. "Actually, there is one thing I would ask you to seriously attempt... to try and explain a little bit about what the problems behind getting me home ARE. I don't know anything about magic... not one single thing, but I'd at least like to understand enough to know what you're going to try." the archeologist shrugged. "If you can explain in in layman's terms, anyway." he held up a hand as Twilight looked like she was about to speak. "And I'm not asking that you start today. The way my head feels, I probably won't remember most of it anyway. When you're ready, and have some time... if you're willing, anyway."
Twilight hesitated, then nodded. "I'd be happy to explain some of the theory to you, although without a background in magical theory, I'm not sure how much you'll understand."
Johnathon smiled slightly. "I'd appreciate that. I probably won't understand much, but... well, it would make me feel better if I had some information about it. Even if I can't help you with it."
Twilight smiled at him. "I understand. I'm a bit rusty on the theory involved myself, so I'm going to go to Canterlot, to the royal library, to brush up on the basics. Maybe when I return, I can try and explain some of it to you... in laypony terms."
The archeologist nodded gratefully. "That'd be as much as I could ask for. Thank you. It's very generous of you to spend your time like this... trying to learn a whole new field of magic, just to try and send me home." he hesitated. "Or at least, that's what it sounds like you're planning on doing."
Twilight nodded, frowning. "It's a big project... and I don't know if I can do it, but..." she smiled at him. "It's actually a really fascinating subject! And I was really seriously considering branching out and researching something new... although... well, not quite this soon, but... I think it'll be a lot of fun, even if it doesn't work!"
Johnathon grinned. "I'm glad you're excited. Please don't worry too much about getting me home. I'll manage, regardless. I would like to go home, of course, but I won't blame you if it's not possible." he shrugged. "I guess we'll see."
Twilight nodded seriously. "I'll do my best. I won't make any promises that it will work, but I can promise to try hard."
Johnathon nodded, smiling gently. "That's more than enough, and more than I deserve. Thank you."
"You're welcome." she levitated the blue blanket that had been lying on the side of the couch, and draped it over him. "You should get your rest. I can tell you're in pain, although you're trying to hide it."
Johnathon nodded. "Yeah." he hesitated. "Although I probably should eat something first. I kind of... lost my lunch earlier."
Twilight looked puzzled. "Lost your lunch?"
Johnathon blinked. "Er... I was sick... after flying with the Princess, I threw up."
Twilight looked horrified. "You didn't... throw up on the Princess, did you?"
There was a horrified silence before Johnathon quickly shook his head. "Oh... no, she dodged."
Twilight tried not to imagine the scene... and Applejack quickly changed the subject, moving up to sit by his shoulder. "So... you're married? Don't ya miss her, doing that... archeologic stuff, way out in the jungle like that?"
Johnathon's expression darkened slightly, and he shook his head sadly at the farm pony. "She died... only a few years back. Cancer." at the looks of incomprehension, he explained. "It's an... illness where I come from... a bad one. I really couldn't explain it well, but it's often fatal, I'm afraid. It's not really common, fortunately." he glanced at Fluttershy. "It's not something contagious... just something that happens.... usually because of something in the environment." he shrugged again. "I never really understood it that well, I'm afraid."
Applejack put a hoof on his shoulder gently. "I'm sorry. I didn't mean to bring up any painful memories or nothing."
He shook his head. "It's alright. We had five good years together. Five very happy years. I don't regret it in the slightest."
Applejack looked curious. "How old are you anyhow, Johnathon, if you don't mind me asking? Since I've never met a human before, I don't rightly know if I can tell, although you seem like a young fella to me."
Johnathon smiled. "I don't mind you asking. I'll be forty years old this year... although I don't know if our years are alike, so I don't know what that might mean to you. Our days seem about the same."
Twilight spoke up. "We have three hundred and sixty five days in our year." she informed him helpfully. "There used to be an extra day every four years... according to the oldest records, but Princess Celestia made a few small adjustments about a thousand years ago, and now it's always three hundred and sixty five."
Johnathon blinked, then blinked again, trying to take that in. "Er... OK." he shook his head, a bit too hard, winced, then closed his eyes for a moment before continuing. "That's a remarkable coincidence. That's how many days we have in a year as well." he blinked. "Hey... I bet that means something, right? Having the same number of days in a year?"
Twilight Sparkle looked interested. "It probably does. Perhaps our worlds have other similarities as well."
He nodded. "More than likely, I'd say, from what I've seen so far." he shrugged and nodded to Applejack. "So yes, I'd be forty years old here as well."
Applejack whistled. "You look pretty good for forty!" she blinked. "I think... I guess I don't know how long you humans live, huh?"
Johnathon smiled. "Forty makes me middle aged for a human. And I am in pretty good condition for my age, modesty aside. I've had a pretty active life. I've always kept myself in shape, and I expect I'll live for quite a long while yet."
He glanced at Twilight. "Humans tend to live around eighty years, although some of us make it into our hundreds... which is what I'm hoping for myself, if I keep in shape and take care of myself."
Twilight looked interested. "Ponies live about the same amount of time here... unicorns live the longest, in general, while Pegasi have the shortest life expectancy... although perhaps that's more because they don't like to stop flying... and accidents happen more often to older ponies."
Johnathon raised an eyebrow. "Well... er... I shouldn't be so surprised, but ponies where I come from only live two or three decades..." he shook his head again. "But again, aside from some similar physical characteristics, you really don't have that much in common with the ponies in my world."
Twilight looked a bit queasy. "I'm not sure if I really want to know too much about the ponies on your world. I can't imagine not being able to talk... being human pets?"
Johnathon winced. "We do treat them well... really. Ponies are loved on my world... but they are... well, animals. They aren't intelligent like you are."
Applejack looked dubious. "Are you sure? I mean, I wasn't sure you were intelligent till Twilight worked her magic on you so you could talk... and you said you don't have magic on your world, right?"
Johnathon shrugged. "I'm pretty sure. Sorry Applejack. Scientists on my world have been searching for intelligence in every other species on my planet for a long time. There are a few species that are pretty bright... but aside from humans, the smartest other species on our world is only able to figure out maybe a few hundred words... and communicate in only the most basic concepts. Ponies are pretty smart in comparison to most, but no, even with a translation spell, I don't think they could talk... at least not much." he frowned. "For example, even though I wasn't paying enough attention when I first got here, there were a ton of clues that Applebloom was intelligent, even though I couldn't understand a word she said. And even if Twilight hadn't used that translation spell on me, I expect we would have figured out a way to communicate before too long."
Applejack sighed. "Well, I'll take your word on the subject, I guess. It just don't sit right with me, is all, ponies being treated like pets." Johnathon started to protest, but Applejack shook her head. "Don't you never mind about it. it's my own problem, not yours. I don't figure you ever did nothing wrong by your animals. You're not the type."
He nodded. "Thank you. I'd like to think you're right, but I appreciate the sentiment, regardless."
Fluttershy was starting to look very slightly upset, although she was trying to hide it. "Girls... Johnathon really should get something to eat, and get some rest. You can ask him all the questions you want when he's feeling better."
Johnathon started to protest, but his head was pounding, and he was starting to feel dizzy and faint again. "I'm afraid I probably do need to take a break, girls, although I do enjoy talking with you. We can talk tomorrow?"
Applejack nodded. "I'll come on by for a spell tomorrow, after I've finished the farm chores, if that's alright?"
Johnathon nodded. "That'd be great." He glanced at Twilight. "How about you, Twilight?"
She hesitated. "Actually, I think I'll be heading to Canterlot tomorrow. But I promise I'll be back in time for the party!"
He smiled. "Well, that's good. It'll be easier with people... er... ponies I know there to talk to."
Applejack started to go, then turned around. "What do you humans eat, anyhow?" she asked curiously. "I mean... Fluttershy has food for all sorts of critters here, but I noticed you seem to like apples. Want me to bring a bushel by? You know, just to be neighborly?"
Fluttershy smiled gratefully. "That would be very nice of you Applejack."
Johnathon nodded and smiled. "I do like apples. Lot of other things as well. Humans are... um... what's the word, omnivorous." he glanced at Fluttershy. "Like a bear. Do you have bear's here?"
Fluttershy's eyes went wide. "Like a bear? Oh my...."
Twilight Sparkle was nodding. "I though as much. To be so aggressive naturally, I thought your species might have been predators originally."
Johnathon blinked. "I take it you have a pretty good understanding of the principles of evolutionary theory then?"
Twilight Sparkle nodded. "That species adapt and change over time? Yes, it's a commonly accepted theory, although it's not a major field of study."
He sighed. "Well, I suppose you might consider humans predatory. We do eat meat, but we can survive on a pretty wide variety of foods."
Fluttershy looked nervous. "You don't eat... little bunnies do you?"
Johnathon smiled softly, trying not to look hurt at the question. "Not personally, and eating pets is strictly off limits, I assure you." he hesitated. "You keep chickens... er... do you collect eggs?"
Fluttershy nodded. "Oh yes... quite a few ponies like eggs for breakfast. I sell them to pay for the food here on the farm."
Johnathon looked slightly surprised. "Hmm. I did wonder about that. But otherwise, you're vegetarians?"
Fluttershy nodded again. "Yes..." She replied hesitantly.
He nodded. "Well, I eat eggs... and fruit, like apples, and some vegatables... probably not all the kinds you ponies can eat. I can't eat most grasses, I haven't got the stomach for it...." he looked thoughtful. "Berries... and nuts, and that sort of thing is alright... I'm Irish, so I love potatoes...."
Applejack blinked. "What's an Irish?"
Johnathon grinned slightly. "It's a place where people like me lived..." he hesitated. "Er... there are different kinds of humans, just like there are different kinds of ponies, although it's a bit more of a cultural difference in our case. Anyway... Irish is the cultural group that my ancestors were part of, and I identify with some of the traits that are typical of that culture, OK?"
Applejack nodded. "I get it... like Manehattenites or folks from Appleloosa!" Johnathon nodded, and she grinned. "Well, I know where I can get some potatoes, so I'll rustle some up for ya when I visit tomorrow, alright?"
He blinked. "Well... please don't go to any trouble. I mean... I'm already putting Fluttershy and Twilight to work helping me... I'm going to feel guilty if everyone keeps doing stuff for me without me helping them in return."
Applejack waved a hoof at him. "Don't you worry about it none. You're alone and far from home, and you can't go home again... thanks to that consarned piece of work, Discord, and it's only right to help a pony out when they're in trouble like that."
Johnathon slowly nodded. "Well, thank you. I do appreciate it."
Applejack smiled. "Ain't no trouble at all. You can help out at the farm some later, when you're feeling better, if you feel like paying me back, but don't worry if something else comes up. You don't owe me nothing, you hear?"
Johnathon smiled. "I'll take you at your word, Applejack. I get the feeling that's something you can trust."
"Darn tootin." Applejack confirmed. "Now you rest up, and I'll see ya tomorrow."
Fluttershy walked over toward her kitchen, talking quietly. "I'll just pull a few things together for you, and see what you feel like eating, is that alright?" she asked, glancing back at him.
"Sure. That'll be fine."
Twilight Sparkle gave him a firm look. "Listen to Fluttershy. She is good with injured animals." she blushed slightly. "Not that you're an animal, but you're not a pony, so she probably can help more than a pony doctor..."
He nodded. "I'm sure. I respect her knowledge, Twilight. I'll be a good patient, or I'll try, anyway."
She turned to go as well, following Applejack out the front door. "I'll see you in three days then. Take care of yourself." Twilight hesitated at the entrance. "Oh... Johnathon? Perhaps you shouldn't share TOO much about your world. Some ponies might not understand, and I don't want anyone to get upset."
He nodded slowly. "I'll be careful. I won't lie though."
Twilight nodded. "Just don't bring up... any unpleasant things. At least for now." he nodded again, and she walked out with Applejack.
She walked side by side with the orange earth pony for a while, thinking. "Applejack..." she started. "I don't think it would help any pony if we repeated some of the bad things we learned about Johnathon's world, do you?"
Applejack hesitated. "You mean about humans being all... aggressive-like? And folks killing folks for no kinda reason?"
Twilight nodded. "I really think that Johnathon isn't like that, but ponies could get the wrong impression. You remember when we first met Zecora. It wouldn't be fair to Johnathon if nasty rumors made it so everypony avoided him all the time, would it?"
Applejack nodded slowly. "I don't reckon so." she agreed slowly. "But I'm not going to lie to no pony about it!"
Twilight shook her head. "I'm not asking you to lie, just not to bring up unpleasant subjects like that... unless you absolutely have too."
Applejack nodded again. "I can do that, sugar-cube. I won't be the start of no bad rumors." she frowned. "Maybe one of us ought to mention that to Rainbow Dash?" she said with a worried expression. If I know that pony, she's told the tale of how she captured that there human half a dozen times by now...."
Twilight looked worried. "Oh dear. I'll go look for her. Maybe you should have a talk with Big Macintosh and Applebloom, just in case?"
Applejack rolled her eyes. "Applebloom, anyway. Big Mac's as likely to go yarning to some pony as I am to sprout wings and fly."
Twilight grinned. "Well, speaking of flying, I should look for our resident daredevil, and let her know what's happening."
Applejack snorted. "And stop her spinning tall tales, as well, I'd reckon!"
Twilight sighed. "I hope not."
The two ponies separated, each going their own way. Twilight moving faster than normal, hoping to locate Rainbow Dash before she ended up saying something unfortunate.
Back at Fluttershy's cottage, Johnathon Dwire resigned himself to eating a LOT of salad in the near future.