Chapter I: Happy Birthday
Sapphire danced around the kitchen as I cooked up a warm breakfast. She stumbled several times and banged her head on something, but she always got right back up and started dancing again.
“Whatcha makin’, Daddy,” Sapphire asked for the sixth time.
“Tofu bacon wrapped around daisy melon,” I said, one of Fluttershy’s favorite dishes.
“Why not just regular bacon,” Sapphire said, bouncing in place next to me.
“Because ponies don’t kill animals, remember?”
“Ooooh,” She stopped bouncing and ran off upstairs, “MOMMYYYYYYYYY!”
I shook my head. It had been a season since coming to Ponyville. Nopony knew how our birthday’s translated into their calendar, so Sapphire and I shared a birthday as the day I entered Equestria—even though Sapph got here three days sooner. Today was our birthday marking one season in this new dimension, so Pinkie Pie decided to throw a party for us. She was so enthusiastic about it that I began to wonder if she could rival Sapphire’s energy.
Fluttershy walked in rubbing her eyes with Sapphire bouncing behind her, “I got Mommy! Time to eat now?!”
I balanced two plates on my front hooves and one in my teeth setting the table. I had gotten fairly skilled in the three months I’ve been here, so it was fairly easy, but I almost fell over before I got my forehooves back on the ground.
Fluttershy looked at the table in amazement, “Oh, wow. You made this all by yourself?”
I looked over my creation. It was a little sloppy in the wrapping, but it did look rather appetizing—not to toot my own horn or anything. I looked back and nodded proudly, “I figured I’d wake up early and make you breakfast for a change.”
Her face brightened with a smile and she rubbed her head on my neck in a hug, “Thank you, Shadey.”
Sapphire bounced into her chair, “EW! Stop the lovey-dovey stuff and let’s eat!”
“It’s your birthday,” Fluttershy said, “So I’ll make something extra special tonight for supper and dinner to make up for this.”
I pat her head and sat down on my own chair, “Don’t worry about it, Shy. You do so much for us every day you deserve a break.”
Fluttershy sat down and took a bite of her food. I waited before taking a bite of mine for her reaction. She chewed slowly at first, but she then smiled and dug in. I smiled and took it as a compliment from the barely-conscious filly.
“This is awesome, Daddy,” Sapph said, a huge smile on her face and a chunk of tofu stuck to her teeth, “Only thing better is Mommy’s cooking, and that’s because she’s the best in all Equestria.”
Fluttershy almost choked on her food at that and blushed, “I’m not that great.”
“Fine, in the whole universe!”
She hid her face, blushing harder at the compliment. After that, we finished our small breakfast in silence. Sapphire and I moved in with Fluttershy about a month ago after staying almost two months in Twilight’s spare room. I never expected to get into a relationship with the filly that saved my life, but before long Sapphire began calling her Mommy because we spent so much time together that she thought we were dating. A week or two later we were.
Fluttershy finished first and picked up her plate, setting it in the washbin. She trotted over to me and kissed my cheek, “Thank you. That was really good.”
I hid my smile, which was made ugly by my mouthful of food. When Sapph found out that she was going to be the last one to finish, she wolfed down her food and rushed me to finish, “C’mon! Miss Pinkie is throwing us a birthday party! Hurry! Hurry! Hurry!”
“It’s not for another hour, Sweetie,” Fluttershy explained to her, “Why don’t you go feed the chickens to make the time go faster.”
Sapphire jumped at the opportunity to be useful and ran outside, forgetting the feeding bucket and coming back, then rushing outside with it in her mouth. I watched this spectacle chewing my last tofu-bacon daisy-melon wrap.
Fluttershy sighed and lay down on one of her small couches. I set my plate in the washbin and walked over to her, “Are you feeling okay, hon?”
Fluttershy smiled weakly and nodded, “Sapph didn’t give me enough time to wake up is all.”
I nodded and kissed her forehead, “Well, you can rest. I’ll go help tend the animals.”
She looked like she wanted to protest, but her drowsiness made that impossible, “Okay… I’m sorry.”
I leaned in and kissed her, the taste of the bacon still on our lips, “You rest.”
Sapphire and I played while we tended to the dozens of animals in the cottage garden. Fluttershy watched from the couch window and eventually joined us when her drowsiness faded. Today is going to be one of those days. Today is going to be great.
“Oh my gosh, I am sooooo excited,” Pinkie exclaimed, tying a balloon to the doorframe of Sugarcube Corner, “Princess Celestia told Twilight she was going to come to the party! This is so much better than that one time tha—“
“Wait, why is Celestia coming,” I asked her, already getting a headache by her hyperactivity.
“Don’t know!” She bounced inside, “Twilight just got a letter this morning saying she was coming!”
“Well, that was very nice of her,” Fluttershy said, laying her head on my shoulder. She seemed like she was trying to keep herself awake.
Before I could ask her anything, Sapphire started bouncing around everywhere and shouting, “Pony, pony birthday! Pony, pony birthday! It is my birthday!”
“Sapph, calm yourself a little,” I said, “Why don’t you help Miss Pinkie finish decorating.”
“No can do mister birthday colt,” Pinkie said landing a few centimeters from bowling Fluttershy and me over, “You two get to do nothing aaaaaaaaall day! Just leave it to Pinkie Pie!”
I shook my head, “Fine, Sapph, go find Auntie Twilight.”
“OKAY,” She yelled and jumped out an open window and bounced toward the library.
Pinkie bounced happily into the kitchen leaving Fluttershy and I alone. I looked over to her. I was only a half meter taller than her, but she seemed smaller and frailer now, “Shy, are you okay?”
She stopped leaning on me, “Yes, Shadey. I’ll ask Twilight for a no-sleep spell when she gets here, don’t worry.”
“I always worry,” She leaned up and kissed me as an apology just as Pinkie hopped in the room.
“Awwwwww, aren’t you two just ADORABLE” Pinkie said, she hopped into the room and grabbed a bottle of sprinkles, balancing it on her poofy head, and hopping back into the kitchen, “I’ll leave you two to that.”
I started laughing, which caused Fluttershy to giggle, covering her mouth with her hoof to hide it. Twilight walked into the room behind us mid-laughing fit, “Jeez, you two seem happy. Did Pinkie give you the news?”
“Yeah. She is bouncing all over the place,” I said, then caught myself, “More than usual.”
Twilight’s smile faded when she looked at Fluttershy, “Oh, you look rather pale, are you okay?”
Fluttershy nodded, “I’m just tired. Do you have any spells to keep me up for a few hours?”
Twilight nodded and her horn glowed. After a couple seconds Fluttershy perked up a bit more and Twilight said, “There, that should last until the end of the party, but after the party come with me to Zecora’s. It may be a bit more than just feeling tired. Just to be on the safe side, okay?”
Fluttershy sighed, “Okay… I’m going to go help Pinkie bake and decorate.”
She trotted quickly over to the kitchen. I turned to Twilight, “So where’s Sapph. I told her to go get you.”
“Oh, she’s back at the library yelling at Spike,” Twilight laughed, “He was being lazy, so she started telling him he better not miss her birthday party. Then she pushed me out the door so I wouldn’t be late.”
I shook my head, smiling, “That filly…”
“Oh,” Twilight’s horn lit up again and the flap on her saddlebag opened. A small box wrapped in colorful paper and a bow floated out covered in a violet aura, then a second, larger box came out of the other side of the saddlebag in the same paper but a different colored bow, and they flew over and sat down on a table, “There’s yours and Sapph’s presents.”
“Thanks, sis,” I said and pulled her into a hug, “You’re the best.”
“Wow, you sure have grown,” A voice behind Twi said, “You’re twice Twilight’s size now.”
I looked up to see Rainbow Dash walking beside an orange pony with blond hair. I let Twilight go and we stepped out of the path of the doorway to let them in, “Hey, Dash. Long time no see. What has it been, a month?”
Dash wore a smirk, “Applejack, this is my protégé, Enigma Shade. Shade, this is my wife, Applejack.”
The orange pony took off her hat and offered her hoof, “Nice t’finally meetcha, Shade.”
I raised my hoof to hers and some force gripped it and shook it up and down, but I was used to this by now after several meetings like this, “Nice to meet you, too, Applejack. Your wife’s an excellent teacher.”
Dash’s expression burst with pride, but Applejack cut the flower at the bud, “Ah, it’s only ‘cause yer older than ev’rypony else. She cain’t teach a foal squat diddly.”
With her bubble burst, Dash’s expression turned daring, angry, “Oh, yeah?! Well if you think I’m so bad why don’t you just say so?!”
Applejack smiled with a challenging grin, “So.”
They stared each other down for an awkward minute before breaking down into laughter. Twilight rolled her eyes, mouthing to me, They do this all the time.
When the laughing stopped, Applejack looked me up and down, “Shoo, RD was right, you are perty big. ‘Bout as big as Big Mac.”
“Hey, Twilight, where’s Luna,” Dash asked, “I swear I saw here a couple days ago.”
“She flew up to Canterlot last night to accompany her sister to town,” Twilight said.
“Celestia’s comin’,” Applejack asked and looked back at me, “You gotta be perty famous t’get both princesses t’come t’yer birthday party.”
Spike waddled in the door in the middle of Applejack’s sentence with Sapphire on his back yelling, “GIDDY UP!”
“C’mon, can I rest now,” Spike questioned, looking worn out.
“Sapph, leave Spike alone,” I said to her.
“She yours,” Applejack asked.
“Well idn’t she cute,” Applejack leaned a hoof on Dash, “She got a mom? Or ‘nother dad?”
I sighed, “Her other dad died before we got here to Equestria.”
“Oh… Ah’m very sorry t’hear that. Ah don’t mean to pry.”
“It’s okay, we’ve moved on as best we could,” I pushed away any sad thoughts, “Besides, Fluttershy has taken up a wonderful role as mother to her.”
“Ha! Told you that Fluttershy would get a tough lookin’ stallion, AJ,” Dash said, “I win.”
Twilight lowered her eyes, “But didn’t you know anyway, Rainbow?”
Dash looked like she was about to accuse Twi of being a traitor, so I cut in, “Speaking of Fluttershy. I’m going to check on how she’s doing.”
I walked past Spike, who made a fist as I approached. I stuck out my hoof and knocked against his fist, “Sorry about her, Spike.”
“Eh, don’t worry about it,” Spike said, walking over to join the group discussion. Sapphire bounced in place just outside Sugarcube Corner, her school friends in the distance followed by Rarity.
I stepped in the kitchen and froze in place. Pinkie was sitting against a wall with Fluttershy’s arm over her slightly chubby frame and a handkerchief dangling over the other hoof. They looked up at me, and I could see tears running down Pinkie’s face. She immediately yanked away the handkerchief away from Fluttershy and started apologizing profusely for her behavior.
Within seconds she was back up and with a smile on her face, “Don’t let me ruin your special day!”
“Sorry,” I said, “I didn’t mean t—“
She put her hoof on my mouth, “No, no. Sorries are not allowed from the birthday colt.”
I heard a loud crash coming from the main room. When I looked out, I saw the four fillies had somehow managed to topple half the tables in the place. I looked back to Pinkie and Fluttershy and quickly walked out of the room.
The games and dancing and cake all seemed to go by fairly quickly. Celestia showed up with her two guards, Barrier and Sentinel, along with Luna moments after the party began. Rarity spent most of her time with Spike or talking to the princesses. Luna and Twilight were, as per usual, inseparable. Dash and Applejack split up during the party, which seemed odd to me, because all the other couples never left each other’s side. Fluttershy left my side to stop Sapphire and her friends—who called themselves the Cutiemark Crusaders—from tearing apart the whole room, so I went to question Applejack about it.
“Hey, Applejack,” I said, walking up to her.
She smiled, “Ah, hey there, birthday colt!”
“Can I ask you a quick, kinda personal question?”
“Ah’m an open book,” She said with a wink, “Ask away.”
“Well I noticed you and Dash seem pretty close, but you aren’t hanging all over each other like everypony else does.”
“Oh that’s not that personal, Shade,” Applejack said with a wave of her hoof, “Y’see, Dash ‘n’ I been together fer quite some time. Since we were young fillies ourselves. We were once like y’all. But after more’n thirty seasons together, we tend t’give each other space so that when we are together, we appreciate each other more.”
I nodded slowly, “Well that makes sense, I suppose.”
“Ah’m not gonna tell ya how t’run your relationship,” She continued, “But if yer hangin’ on each other so dang much, y’get sick of each other. Lucky RD and Ah learnt that early on. ‘t may seem like y’cain’t go ten minutes without each other, but trust me: y’all will see each other again. That’s how RD ‘n’ Ah stayed together for almost thirty one seasons. That’s how Pinkie ‘n’ mah brother couldn’t stay together.”
“Pinkie and your brother?”
“Oh, right,” She smiled sheepishly, “That’s probably not mah business t’talk about, but mah brother, Big Mac—the stallion Ah said looks ‘bout yer size—left Pinkie a coupla days ago fer Applebloom’s schoolteacher, Miss Cheerilee.”
I nodded, but before I could say any more, Rainbow Dash swooped in above Applejack and wrapped her hooves around her with a teasing grin on her face, “Hey, punk, you hittin’ on my girl?”
Applejack swatted playfully at Dash, “Oh, lay off th’poor colt. We was jus’ havin’ a chat. Besides, y’know Ah don’t swing that way.”
Dash let go and got close to me, still with a playful smile on her face, “That may be so, but I’m watching you.”
Applejack patted me on the shoulder, “Well, that’s mah advice. Hope it helps ya somehow.”
She trotted off towards Pinkie, who tackled her with a hug. Princess Celestia walked up to me a couple moments later, “How is life in Equestria treating you, Shade?”
I looked up at her—even though I was taller than most ponies, she was even taller than me, “It’s wonderful. It’s amazing. It’s confusing.”
She chuckled quietly, “I heard the last part of your conversation. Sorry to eavesdrop.”
“’Swing that way’ I haven’t heard since back home,” I told her.
“While everypony here does believe that everypony is…’bisexual’ I believe you call it,” She explained, “Most of us have preferences toward one gender or the other. While somepony like you or Twilight do not seem to have a preference, somepony like your new friend Applejack or Rarity do.”
“Ah, so you ponies believe in that old theory from the 2000s that the war killed,” I mused.
“Indeed,” She smiled again, “I’ll leave you be. It seems your daughter wants to introduce her friends.”
On cue, Sapphire bounced up with her three friends, “Daddy, Daddy! You gotta meet my friends from school!”
She bounced once revealing a light yellow maned filly with red hair and a bow, “This is Applebloom. She’s Applejack’s sister.”
The young filly presented her hoof, “Nice t’meetcha.”
I shook her hoof, and Sapphire bounced again revealing a white-gray unicorn filly with a purple-and-pink mane, “This is Sweetie Belle. She’s Miss Rarity’s sister.”
The young filly bowed her head and squeaked, “Hello, Mr. Shade.”
I bowed my head back, and Sapphire bounced yet again to reveal an orange pegasus filly with a dark purple mane, “And this is my buddy Scootaloo! She’ll be in the same class as me in Flight School next month!”
She raised her hoof for a high hoof, and I indulged her. Sapphire suddenly jumped so they all made one long row, “And together we’re—“
“THE CUTIEMARK CRUSADERS! YAY,” I could feel my eardrums bursting from the volume and the pitch. I could see a few ponies looking at me and chuckling, including Fluttershy—who probably made sure to stay a safe distance away from the hyperactive fillies. Now I understand why Celestia made a quick getaway when she saw them coming.
Pinkie hopped on top of a table while my ears continued ringing, “Present time!”
Most conversations continued, but a couple ponies went to the center of the room where a small stack of wrapped gifts lay. Twilight’s horn lit up and the two gifts she stacked there earlier lifted from the table, “Here you go. The sizes of the present tell you who they’re for.”
I grabbed my gift out of the air and untied the ribbon (with a bit of difficulty). I noticed out of the corner of my eye that Sapph had already opened hers, and that the ribbon. She pulled out six bookmarks, and she looked at them confused. I finally got the ribbon off of mine, and when they fell away, the box grew to four times its original size. I lifted the lid off the box and inside was half a dozen books.
“I hope you don’t mind sharing each others’ presents,” Twilight said, “Spike and I brought these back when we took that two day trip to Fillydelphia.”
We both thanked them with hugs and brofists/hoofs, and we complimented Twi’s shrink spell. Dash and Applejack brought forth a single present as well, which turned out to be a very large apple pie. Pinkie gave us both a large cupcake (made with extra amounts of love). Celestia and Luna gave us a canister of herbs for our favorite brew of tea. Rarity made us hats and boots for the upcoming winter months.
The three crusaders approached us with a giant card that said “Happy First Equestrian Birthday!” Sapph squealed and tackled her friends. When they were done laughing I thanked them with a bow, though it must have looked weird for such a large pony to stoop low like that.
Fluttershy walked up to us carrying a large box on her back, “I had Pinkie Pie hide this here so you wouldn’t find it,” She gave a triumphant smirk.
She set the box in front of us and we unwrapped it slowly, though other ponies kept urging us to just rip it wide open. We unfolded the wrappings neatly and lifted the lid of the box inside. In the box were two hoof sewn, neatly folded quilts with a card resting on top of them. The card read “Happy birthday to my little angel and the big sweetheart.” Sapphire pulled out her quilt without unfolding it. The quilt had animals in random places with a bubbly design covering it. I left mine in the box for fear of dropping it and unfolding it, but I rubbed my hoof across the material. It had symbols I had described to her before when I discussed things from my world, and it had a similar background design as Sapph’s, but with darker, warmer colors.
Sapphire was the first to recover. A broad smile spread across her face and she tackled the yellow mare, “I LOVE IT!”
When she hopped off Fluttershy, I walked up and pulled her into a kiss, to which Sapphire responded with, “OH COME ON! Get a room!” and kicked me in the foreleg. I laughed and Fluttershy blushed. Everypony seemed to “aww” with their expressions, no matter how brief the kiss was.
“It’s—they’re beautiful,” I said, and she hid her smile and blush by turning her face away and letting her hair cover it.
We went back to the party. About ten minutes later there was a knock at the door. Pinkie jumped off of the table she was on, coaching through a Pin the Tail on the Pony game she left out for the fillies, and answered the door, “Sorry we’re closed for a pri—“
The ever-present smile on Pinkie’s face fell and she took a few steps back from the door before turning around and walking into the kitchen, followed soon by Fluttershy. A large, red stallion with a blond mane walked in tentatively.
“Big Mac, Ah told you it’d be a bad idea t’come here,” Applejack said, approaching him.
The large stallion walked further in, “I didn’t think that would happen.”
“Well what in tarnation didja expect ta happen,” She charged.
“Well, I was expectin’ ta be able to come by and say hi,” He replied, “Was just comin’ to meet Applebloom’s new friend. Saw the shop on the way to the orchard and didn’t think much of it. I came here so often before.”
I walked over to the entrance with Applebloom and Sapphire following me. Applejack pushed the large pony outside.
The door closed behind us. Up close, I was about a hoof taller than Big Mac, but he had more of a muscular build, “Hello there, Big Mac. I’m Enigma Shade.”
I reached out my hoof and he shook it violently before talking, I noticed his speech was slow and well thought out, “You must be her dad, then.”
I nodded, “This is Sapphire.”
Sapphire nodded shyly, which was unlike her. Applebloom spoke up to break the awkward silence, “Hey, Big Mac, Ah’m gonna stay with th’crusaders tanight, so Ah won’t be home. But maybe y’should get going. Ah mean, after that deal with Pinkie last week…”
Big Mac sighed, “I guess so. It was nice meetin’ y’both. Hope to see you ‘round. Happy birthday.”
With that he walked off. Applejack shook her head, “Okay, Ah s’pose Ah owe y’all an explanation.”
“I guess. I’ve never seen Pinkie so upset,” I said.
Applejack sighed and shooed the fillies inside, “Big Mac and Pinkie dated fer a good three seasons, but Mac didn’t quite like Pinkie’s always hyper behavior. Insteada ending the relationship, he jus’s went on ta Miss Cheerilee. Pinkie’s kinda beaten up ‘bout it fer a good number of reasons.”
I nodded slowly, “Not sure how to react to this…”
“Ah feel bad fer Pinkie, Ah do,” She continued, “and Ah think Big Mac is bein’ a jerk, but at least he didn’t bring his new fillyfriend. Life’s been hard on Pinkie since she lost her first coltfriend. Ask her how sh’got ‘er job.”
“Perhaps another day,” I said, absorbing the information. Suddenly an idea popped in my head, “Can I ask a favor, though?”
“Sure, sugarcube,” She said, “Anything Ah can do t’make up fer this whole issue.”
“Do you know anypony who can play good rock tunes?”
She smiled “Ah see where yer goin’ with this. Of course Ah know.”
After the party, everypony bid each other farewell. The princess made a very dramatic exit with a flash of light and teleportation. Twilight told Fluttershy that she would be by in the morning to take her to see Zecora. Fluttershy reluctantly agreed.
Pinkie hopped outside with a huge smile on her face, “Okay, I packed a saddlebag for you to carry all your gifts home.”
She plopped the bag on my back and jumped to hug me, “I hope you enjoyed your party! There’s no better party than a Pinkie party!”
“It was really fun. Thank you, Pinkie.”
Pinkie bounced back inside leaving the remainder of us outside. Rainbow Dash and Applejack decided to race to see who could get home first, leaving Applebloom with the rest of the crusaders.
“Hey, girls,” Applebloom said, “Ah kinda told them Ah was gonna stay with someone tanight. Ah forgot that Ah shoulda asked first.”
Fluttershy spoke up quickly, “Why don’t you girls bring the birthday party to the cottage? Have an outdoor sleepover.”
The crusaders all discussed the idea with enthusiasm and all agreed, “Well let’s get going then, it’s almost supper time.”
“You guys go ahead, I want to talk to Luna for a moment,” Luna froze and the crusaders followed Fluttershy to the cottage.
As soon as they were out of earshot, I turned to Luna and Twilight, who had questioning looks on their faces.
“What is this about?”
“I wanted to first, thank you for coming,” I said, and she smiled, bowing her head a bit, “Also, I hear from Applejack that you play a mad synthesis piano.”
She stood a little straighter, “The best in Canterlot.”
I smiled and looked at Twilight, “And you have a wonderful singing voice, sis.”
Twilight gave me a questioning look, “Perhaps. What is this about?”
I looked at Sugarcube Corner and walked with Luna and Twilight out of hearing range before discussing a plan.