They awoke at dawn on the downslope of a knoll, and dragged themselves to their hooves.
“I used to skip breakfast all the time,” Brush said, “but it never bothered me much until now.”
“Well, we don’t have much time to graze,” Twilight answered. “The sun is up and we have to keep moving until we find out what’s been happening.”
“You think they’re still searching?”
“There is no need,” came a voice from on high, and both Twilight and Brush dropped to the ground as Princess Celestia landed in front of them. “Good morning, my little ponies. Did you sleep well?”
“Very well, thank you,” answered Twilight.
“I’ve had better,” said Brush, prompting Twilight to poke him in the side.
The Princess laughed. “Less than a week as a pony,” she said to Brush, “and you’re already having a big adventure. How does that make you feel?”
“Oh, it’s tons of fun, your Majesty. Especially since I didn’t have to do it alone.”
“There is no better traveling companion,” said Celestia, “than my faithful student. She is wise beyond her years, and resourceful beyond my expectations. I still haven’t figured out how she managed to transmit a sub-aethereal message across such a great distance.”
Twilight beamed, and pointed to the locket around Brush’s neck. “This was a little something I worked up before he, uh, relocated, so we could keep in touch.”
“May I see it?”
The Princess examined the jewel. “In some ways, this resembles one of Luna’s musical stones, though it’s certainly not as old.”
“Or as highly polished,” Twilight said. “I’d been experimenting with a form of crystallized boron.”
“Isn’t that the same stuff you were using for glassware?” Brush asked.
“The very same. I chose it for durability. I had no idea it had a resonance frequency compatible with the sub-aether.”
“One should never underestimate the power of fortune,” Celestia said. “We control much, perhaps most, of our own destinies; but the purely random can never be eliminated entirely.”
Brush nodded. “I never would have imagined a gang of rioting librarians. You can’t get much more random than that.”
“It was not entirely random,” said the Princess. “Much of the blame for this incident, I must bear; I was hoping we could integrate you, Desert Brush, into society without anypony noticing much difference. But things seem to be much more complicated in the presence of an Element of Harmony.”
“How so?” asked Twilight.
“The bearers of the Elements, it appears, will be unusually sensitive to their antitheses, their polar opposites. Pinkie Pie represents laughter and joy, and the negation of laughter and joy is fear. In this case, it was fear of changelings, which merely bothered the others; but Pinkie was hurt badly by those sensations, a hurt that struck to her very soul. I should not have been surprised that she struck back.”
“What’s the opposite of magic?” Twilight asked.
“I think that would be me,” Brush drawled. “Completely devoid of the stuff, I am.”
“Not true,” said the Princess. “As an earth pony you are connected to the mana, the magic that underlies all of Equestria. The mana helped to heal you after your surgery, and it gives you strength every day. You will learn these things in time.” She smiled. “Twilight, you have your work cut out for you.”
“I love my work,” Twilight Sparkle said.
Two days passed without further incident, and then a knock came at the library door.
“Spike!” yelled Twilight. “Can you get that? We’re kind of busy up here!”
“That’s it, make it sound like work,” Brush teased. “And since when does anypony knock on the door during business hours?”
“Probably a messenger from the railroad, bringing our bags. They tend to be somewhat on the formal side.”
“I think we can forget about the formalities,” Brush said as Pinkie Pie burst into the room.
“Oh, Twilight, I am so sorry for what happened. It was all my fault. I was just so scared that you’d been abducted or foalnapped or seduced and abandoned that I went into a Pinkie Panic, and usually I go to a lot of trouble to make sure nopony sees me in a Pinkie Panic because it’s not pretty.”
Twilight stared. “Uh, perhaps you’re apologizing to the wrong pony.”
“Of course you’re right. You’re always right. Mister Brush?”
“Present,” said Brush dryly.
“Can you ever forgive me? I want to be a friend to everypony and sometimes I try too hard and sometimes I don’t try hard enough and sometimes I just mess up, and this is one of the times when I messed up. I never want to hurt anypony.”
“What do you think?” Twilight asked Brush. “Shall we forgive her?”
“Oh, please, please, please say yes,” the pink pony begged.
“I think,” Brush began, “that we are bound by tradition to collect some form of recompense from those who have wronged us. Perhaps if she’ll agree to postpone the party you know she’s planning for us.”
“Agreed!” Pinkie shouted. “You don’t have to be at Sugarcube Corner for a whole hour!” And she bounded down to the first level and out the door.
Twilight looked at Brush and sighed. “There is so much you have to learn.”
As Princess Celestia had predicted, there were many, many questions, starting with the nature of Brush’s cutie mark.
“Is that an abacus?” Rarity asked. “Twilight, dear, have you fallen for an accountant?”
Twilight scowled, but Brush fielded the question anyway. “It sort of fits. This was what I was trained for, many years ago, though I actually haven’t worked in that field lately. And I figure Equestria just has to have a more sensible tax code than I’m used to.”
“Then you’re in for one humongous shock,” said Applejack. “The tax system here is downright crazy.”
Brush laughed. “The complaint of every small business, everywhere in the universe.”
“We ain’t so small,” Applejack retorted. “We’re the biggest food operation between here and Canterlot.”
“Are there any other food operations between here and Canterlot?” Fluttershy asked, and Rainbow Dash broke into a grin, which quickly escalated to a guffaw.
“Speaking of the universe,” Pinkie said, “and I guess we’d have to be, where the hay do you come from?”
Brush looked at Twilight, and Twilight came up with “You know where the dragons go for their migration? It’s farther than that.”
“So,” said Rainbow Dash, “you’re like a refugee, then?”
“Not really,” Brush replied. “My life wasn’t bad there. I had my little house and my job and a couple of youngsters who had long since grown up and moved away. I was, let’s say, reasonably comfortable.”
“It sounds like a very nice life. Could you have stayed there if you wanted to?” Fluttershy asked.
“Easily. In fact, I was expecting to stay there for the rest of my days.” He grinned. “But things didn’t go according to plan.”
“What’ll you be doin’ here anyway?” asked Applejack. “Besides screamin’ at the tax forms, Ah mean.”
“As of the first of next month,” said Brush, “I’m the second-in-command at the Royal Office of New Technology.”
“I didn’t think there was anything so dreadfully wrong with the old technology,” Rarity observed.
“Nor do I,” Brush assured her. “But Princess Celestia believes that my experiences during my, uh, previous existence may lead to new products and services here in Equestria.”
Twilight spoke up. “You know the new Directory of Equestria we have on a terminal at the library? That was his idea.”
“Wasn’t such a hot idea if you ask me,” Applejack said.
“Are you even in the directory?” Dash asked Brush. “Because last time I looked, you weren’t.”
“I checked,” said Twilight. “He’s definitely in there.”
“And are these promised new innovations,” asked Rarity, “along the same lines? Is Equestria to be remade to resemble his old home?”
“Not if I can help it,” said Brush. “There are aspects of that world you would not at all like.”
Brush turned to Dash. “How much control over the weather is available to a junior member of the Weather Patrol?”
“Very little,” Dash answered. “At best, she’d get to assist on scheduled rainfall days. Everything else is training.”
“But that young pegasus has more direct influence on the weather than any resident of my old world. We couldn’t do anything about it. We got to the point where we could predict what it was going to do, but if a tornado was coming, all we could do was warn folks to take cover. We can’t so much as move a rain cloud.”
“I bet the weather’s awful, too,” said Dash.
“Oh, it is,” Twilight chimed in. “It’s just horribly hot in the summertime, and there never seems to be enough rain.”
“And you know this — how?” asked Rarity.
Twilight looked at Brush; he smiled. “Go ahead,” he said.
“I was there,” she admitted.
“You mean there there?” Pinkie asked.
“I do mean that. You know how sometimes an experiment of mine doesn’t quite work out the way it was supposed to?”
“Sometimes?” Dash cracked.
“For a few months last summer,” Twilight said, “there was a gateway that connected his world directly to ours. It was unstable, so I couldn’t travel freely, and it only seemed to work in one direction, so he couldn’t come here at all.”
“You went lookin’ for this place?” Applejack wanted to know.
“I was curious. If you see a door, wouldn’t you want to open it?”
“That depends on what’s behind it,” said Fluttershy.
“Well, I didn’t know what was behind it,” Twilight said, “but I was going to find out. And I found —”
Brush interrupted: “She landed in front of my house.”
“You saw his house?” said an incredulous Rainbow Dash. “What’s it made of?”
“It’s a simple wooden house,” Brush answered. “Nothing special.”
“I don’t get it,” Dash said to him. “Somepony you don’t know shows up on your doorstep and all of a sudden you’re ready to follow her anywhere? And you weren’t even a pony at the time, or so they say.”
“I was not a pony at that time, no,” Brush admitted. “I became a pony when Princess Celestia signed my immigration papers and I went through the conversion routine. Which is going to cost me several zillion bits somewhere down the line.”
“Actually, no, it won’t,” Twilight said. “Since it was the first ever on a member of your original species, your operation was covered by the hospital’s experimental-medicine fund. I signed for you.”
Brush gave her a quizzical look. “What’s the catch?”
“Only that if something should go wrong, you can’t sue them.”
He smiled. “I’m starting to like this place.”
Rarity smiled back at him. “And you went through all that because —”
“Because I love Twilight Sparkle. And I’d rather live in her world than live without her in mine.”
“That’s beautiful,” breathed Fluttershy.
“I wish I were clever enough to make up something like that. But that’s a lyric from a song I know.”
“He’s a wonderful singer,” Twilight said.
“I am no such thing,” Brush protested. “I’m a terrible singer. You just don’t know how bad I am because you don’t know the song.”
“When we get home, you owe me a song.”
“I think,” said Pinkie Pie, “he should sing right now for all of us.”
“I think I agree,” Twilight said.
“I think you should all plug your ears,” Brush said, and then he sang:
I love you, there’s nothing to hide
It’s better than burning inside
I love you, no use to pretend
There! I’ve said it again
I’ve said it, what more can I say
Believe me, there’s no other way
I love you, I will ’til the end
There! I’ve said it again
I’ve tried to drum up
A phrase that would sum up
All that I feel for you
But what good are phrases
The thought that amazes
Is you love me
And it’s heavenly
Forgive me for wanting you so
But one thing I want you to know
I’ve loved you since heaven knows when
There! I’ve said it again
Six ponies applauded, and then Applejack spoke up: “Who or what is this ‘heaven’?”
Brush grinned. “You’re familiar with Tartarus?”
“Imagine the exact opposite.”
“One more thing, if I may,” said Rarity. “You said you were the second-in-command of this Technology Office. Who’s first?”
“I am,” Twilight said. “Like I don’t have enough to do already.”
“Oh, this is just too perfect,” Rarity replied.
“Once in a great while, things just work out that way,” said Desert Brush.
Almost any time is a good time for a picnic in Ponyville, but early Spring is one of the best. The weather is perfect ninety percent of the time, and the Weather Patrol will warn you about the other ten percent; birds migrating in are busy working on their new nests, while birds migrating out are busy dismantling their old ones; and the ground is already warm enough to sit on with just a single blanket.
Desert Brush took a bite of his sandwich. “If I’d known dandelions were this tasty I’d have never spent all that time trying to kill them.”
“I never understood that. Dandelions break up the monotony of grass, grass, nothing but grass, even if you’re not going to eat them.”
“It’s those crazy humans,” Brush explained. “They like the monotony of grass, grass, nothing but grass. It’s like the ideal place to live is on a golf course.”
Twilight looked puzzled. “Golf course? What’s that?”
Brush laughed. “Suppose you’re standing about four hundred hooves off to the side of Fluttershy’s house. You take a little ball, and you whack it with a stick as far as you can, but you can’t hit the house, and you don’t want it to go flying off into the Everfree. You trot on over to where that ball lands, and you go through basically the same steps toward the next house, seventy or eighty or two hundred times, and you pay many, many bits for the privilege.”
Twilight giggled. “Did you ever do that?”
“Oh, Celestia, no,” Brush said. “Never could hit the ball straight. I’d wind up beaning Angel on the head or something.”
“You say that like it’s a bad thing,” Twilight teased.
“We’ll have none of that,” said Brush. “I’m here on a beautiful day eating dandelion sandwiches with the pony of my dreams, and I’m perfectly willing to be nice to Angel. Why, I might even say something kindly about Discord.”
“Let’s not say that too loud,” Twilight said, drawing closer to him. “In fact, let’s not say anything at all.” She pressed her lips against his. “Like this.”
As usual, we all know who owns the show, the characters and locations delineated therein, and all that other stuff. (Hint: Not me.)
"I Only Have Eyes for You" by Harry Warren (music) and Al Lubin (lyrics) is © 1934 (renewed) by Warner/Chappell Music.
"Midnight Train to Georgia" by Jim Weatherly (originally titled "Midnight Train to Houston") is © 1969 by Universal Polygram International Publishing.
"There! I've Said It Again" by David Mann (music) and Redd Evans (lyrics) is © 1945 (renewed) by Music Sales Corp.
Thank you all for helping to prove that I may not, after all, be a one-trick pony.