Steel Wing looked at the remains of charred pony skeletons through half lidded eyes. He let out a hacking cough as he snorted to clear his noes of dust. His stomach turned when he detected a hint of something charcoal flavored on his tongue. As he attempted to stand up he found that he was bound. He readied himself for a fight and unfolded his wings tearing through his bonds. Jumping to his hooves quickly trying to fix his fierce gaze on the first of his foes. He looked around and found only tattered bits of cloth. The remains of a once nice blanket hung in shreds off his body.
Staring at the door of his house Steel Wing found himself reluctant to enter not wanting to clean up whatever remained of the mess he had made. His foreleg rose to open the door when he stopped. Sniffing at the air he smelled burning, he snorted again to make sure he wasn't smelling the fire from last night. When he was sure it wasn't his imagination he put his ear to the door and what sounded like muffled sobs coming from the other side.
Oh sweet Goddesses she's still here? Of course she was, she probably wanted an apology after last night. Somehow that made sense to him; he may not have hurt her but he had certainly scared her. He lowered his hoof and tried to make sense of why she would stay after being scared like that.
Closing his eyes hard he pushed the door open and started in to his home, making it half way before planting his rump firmly on the floor. He stared around the room wide eyed and slack jawed. The first floor was clean, at the very least cleaner than it had been in months. Most of the grime had been swept away and all the parts that weren't rusted were organized in piles on various work benches. A barrel stood in the middle of the room burning whatever wood had been smashed to pieces last night. A grate had been set over it and had food cooking on top.
The "sobs" he gathered were actually Autumn slowly humming as she went about her work. She looked up as he entered a smile spread across her face. Steel Wing was no less suspicious of her motives.
She trotted up to him with the warmest of smiles, but before she could get too close Steel Wing stopped her with a hoof on her chest.
As he opened his mouth to speak she interrupted "There were enough 'sorry's' last night. I'm not mad and I hope you've already forgiven yourself. Breakfast." She said pointing at the grate that had a number of grilled vegetables getting slightly crispy.
She lowered her hoof indicating she was finished, he mimicked this removing his from her chest. She went back to her work while he set the pieces of a sentence together between many confused thoughts.
"Why did you do this?" Steel Wing said settling on the one question that came to mind more than others.
"Someone needed to and you were in too much of a slump to do it yourself?" She said around a mouthful of duster.
"Thank you." He replied trotting over and retrieving several pieces of grilled vegetable. He sat down next to a mostly cleared bench and began eating. She came over to join him soon after with her own helping.
He chewed thoughtfully looking at her before he realized he had no idea where these had come from. He had never stored vegetables in his fridge and these tasted very fresh.
He swallowed slowly with a 'there's something wrong here' look in his eye.
"Whur?" she asked with a mouthful of carrots. Raising a hoof to cover her mouth she said, "Somfin' wrong?"
"Where'd you get these?" He asked without missing a beat.
Autumn swallowed what she had in her mouth before replying. "It's my allowance from the delivery I'm making. I'd planned on eating it this morning anyways, just didn't know I'd be eating it here."
"So you were making a high-value delivery of fresh foods along a highway unarmed?" Steel Wing responded with a raised eyebrow
Autumn Heart already had another mouthful of food could only give a nod and an "Mmmhm."
"Well thanks for sharing." He said with a half hearted smile.
"It's not like I'm not cautious of raiders." She protested, "I was just told that there were decent number of patrols along this highway."
He gave a nod of understanding, "You don't start seeing real patrols until you're within a day of Mexicolt City." Pausing for a moment he followed up with, "Where are you headed anyways?"
"A bit east of Mexicolt City."
"Eh heh..." Steel Wing was trying to remember what could be east of Mexicolt City besides small villages. Nothing came to mind so he let it go.
They finished their breakfast in silence and Autumn Heart finished her job downstairs. Meanwhile Steel Wing had resumed his duties by his window fixated on the scorched earth were blackened bone still remained.
Wheels turned over and over in his head while he watched clouds of dust run along the dry fields before dispersing. It was clear that he couldn’t stay here; this wasn’t protecting ponies, this was baiting raiders. A sigh escaped his lips. A sigh of relief instead of grudging distress, he noted, with a light chuckle.
“Are you alright up there?” Came a call from the ladder.
Steel Wing had already busied himself with packing all the medical supplies and pieces of equipment he wanted to travel with. He responded with a grunt loud enough that she could hear, without him having to walk to the ladder.
Autumn Heart for her part had finished cleaning and was now curious what Steel Wing had himself occupied with. By the time she made it to the top she found him frantically searching the area around the bed.
Pulling herself up the rest of the way she squeaked, “Check under the pillows.” Steel Wing cast a suspicious glance in the Mare’s direction before moving the pillows aside.
Autumn Heart could tell the space between them had become a whole new type of awkward as he looked at her with a confused expression. Feeling she was as she was in as deep as she would get on this subject she decided to ask, “Who was she?”
While he was screaming five hundred different curses at the snoopy mare in his head he replied calmly with, “Who?”
“The filly, the one in the pictures.” Autumn Heart felt the heat from her checks and her ears folded back as she offered a sheepish smile.
Steel Wing tapped the floor a few times with a hoof before answering, “My sister Snow. You saw all of them then?”
“Yes, I did.” Every second that passed dropped Autumn into a new level of low she didn’t think possible.
“You have questions you want to ask right?” He said in an oddly cheery tone.
Autumn Heart met his gaze and saw forgiveness in his eyes. “I do. Do you want me to ask though?”
“No, but it’ll come up at some point so it may as well be now.” He said flatly.
“You two were-well… right?” Something prevented her from saying it outright but Steel Wing got the idea.
“Yes we did even into my military career. She joked at some point that she would end up being my cutie mark.” He looked back towards the pictures on the bed as he recalled every night they spent together. He smiled softly, “There wasn’t any filly I could have loved more than her. We grew up knowing each other so well. At some point we realized there was more to learn about one another so we…” Now it was his turn to fail at finding sufficient way of avoiding directly saying what they both knew.
“What happened to her then, shouldn’t she have come with you?” At this his expression deadened instantly reverted as his thoughts came back to the current conversation.
“Nothing has happened to her since I’ve kept my promise and a certain pegasus damn well better have kept his.”
Changing the subject with the grace of an elephant doing a backflip he said, “I’m coming with you, at least to Mexicolt City. I need to get back to actually helping ponies; now that I have less hang ups on having to kill a few ponies here and there, if it means I can really help others I’ll do what I can.”
Autumn Heart had a worried expression at the way he said that, but she was fairly sure he meant well.
“Wait you’re coming with me?” She asked his words having just sunk in.
“You are horribly ill prepared to make this trip by yourself. That and Mexicolt City is as good a place as any to start.”
She simply nodded and retrieved her last saddlebag from the corner. Again coming to a halt at the top of the ladder; Autumn heart felt her stomach tie itself into a knot, with the memories of last night still fresh in her mind.
“Can I try asking again?” She asked he throat having suddenly gone dry.
“The same as last night?” When she nodded he took a deep breath, “As long as I don’t fly I can sleep knowing my sister is safe.” He said as cryptically as possible.
With that he picked up her saddlebag and dropped down; with a heavy thud and a grunt followed by chuckling, he set it down by the door.
“So,” He called up to her while picking through lockers of refurbished weapons, “I’ve answered all of your questions, but I know next to nothing about you. How dark and full of despair has your life been?”
“It’s been alright.” She said nonchalantly
He stopped for a moment expecting more to come when it didn’t he picked up the pace. “Alright then, what are you delivering? I feel like I should know what I’m going to be protecting.”
Autumn’s eye twitched and she kicked herself realizing she should have seen it coming. “Lots of foods: vegetables, baked goods, beverages, what have you…”
He hadn’t expected her to give any real answer to the question. “What kind of baked goods.” He pushed as he crept over to one of the bags.
“Pies, mostly, fresh bread too I suppose, maybe even a cake somewhere in there.”
He knew better than to actually plan on eating any of the aforementioned treats, but the temptation of even smelling a real pie for the first time ever, was too good to pass up. He carefully unlatched one of the bags and tipped it open just enough to stick his nose in.
It didn’t take Autumn Heart long to notice the sudden silence from below and moved to investigate. She nearly had a heart attack when she saw him opening one of the bags, his eyes suddenly going wide.
“STEEL WING!” she shouted getting his attention. He had a slightly crazed look in his eyes and had to manually close his mouth to prevent any more drool from escaping.
“It’s ummm-“ he paused in embarrassment “Yeah it’s exactly what it looks like.” He retrieved a cloth and began wiping his drool off the bag.
Steel Wing was visibly annoyed with himself at the realization that all his training and discipline meant nothing when it came to a fresh cherry pie.
“You didn’t eat any did you?” She asked inspecting all of the bags.
“No, but how I wanted to. So you carry around vegetables and pies, and are forced to not eat the pies?”
“I get one of my choice once the delivery arrives.”
“How do you not just eat them now?” Steel Wing asked in amazement. It was clear he wouldn’t have made it a day without at least tasting some of everything in the bags.
She gave a shrug, “I just don’t think about it too much, and at the end of the day I reward myself with a good whiff from one of the bags.”
“More than I could manage.” He grumbled as he continued to pack, now under the watchful eye of Autumn Heart.
An hour later they were heading out after having taken everything from Steel Wing’s house that hadn’t been a permanent fixture, or the bed.
All of the weapons and armor Steel Wing had salvaged over the years was stowed in the wagon he was harnessed to.
He looked over at the mare who had managed to impress him not once, twice, but three times that morning. First being her ability to not have eaten everything she was transporting. The second: When he tried to find her a suitable weapon she told him she preferred grenades to anything else. He had given her his best skeptical look as he fished out a box of grenades. He watched in astonishment when she displayed her skill and accuracy with the metal apples, scaring him once when she pulled the pin and stared at it like she was hypnotized. After what seemed like an agonizingly slow second and a half she tossed the grenade at a standing target. Instead of landing and exploding it took off the top section of the target leaving several SparkleCola bottles unscathed. Lastly when Steel Wing had suggested she put those hundred-pound saddle bags on the cart she chose to carry them. The only reason, for this, that Steel Wing could come up with is that: The green mare before him was a masochist.
Masochist or not she seemed not to even notice the bags were there. She plodded along next to him humming some obscure tune, prancing around and occasionally opening an eye to avoid tripping. All in all the first day of their trip went by smoothly. Much more importantly it was pleasant; they filled the time by sharing jokes, trying to top each other with horror stories from their childhood’s, and even attempting a few rounds of I-Spy. They got two turns each at I-Spy before they realized there truly wasn’t anything worth spying in the area.
By the time they stopped for the night, Steel Wing was exhausted. Leaving at two o’clock in the afternoon and covering forty miles was great, but doing it while dragging an armory along was taxing.
Autumn Heart even managed to emasculate him when she helped him out of his harness without even bothering to set her saddle bags down. Going as far as to walk around their temporary campsite with a board expression yawning. She noticed the ‘knock it off’ look Steel Wing was giving her and asked cutely “What?”
Steel Wing simply shook his head and laid out a sleeping bag for her and a bedroll for himself. “We’ll have to take turns watching.” He said plainly, Autumn Heart nodded in response. “I’ll take first watch so try to get some sleep. Hungry?”
She shook her head and let out another yawn. “Then we’ll get an early breakfast and start out at sun up.” She shrugged and crawled into her sleeping bag.
The dry, cool night air was a wondrous contrast to the days heat, and Autumn Heart was soon fast asleep. Leaving Steel Wing to a can of beans and some SparkleCola. He clambered up on top of the wagon and began a vigilant watch of everything visible, changing position on one minute intervals with great discipline and focus. While doing this he began to go down the checklist for the coming week in his head.
Get Through today: Check
Make it to Sky Fall and unload all these supplies by tomorrow: Pending
Survive from Sky Fall to Mexicolt City: Waiting
Continue brooding over being forced under Cloud Curtain: In Progress
He chuckled at that last thought, that was a good thing he suspected.
His watch was uneventful, except for the occasional wasteland critter that scurried around in the distance the night was still. They had opted to not start a campfire so the night would less likely be interrupted by wandering scavengers. At most their camp sight looked like an abandoned wagon on the side of the road, nothing new to the wasteland.
At what he decided the end of his watch was he went to wake Autumn Heart. He saw that she had cuddled up to a faded-pink stuffed rabbit it was missing an eye. He poked her a few times which produced a complaint from the sleeping mare.
He knew what had to be done and he knew it was going to make him laugh. “LOOK OUT!” he shouted right above her head.
The mare was suddenly wide awake fighting to stand up inside her sleeping bag. She struggled for a long while before staring up at the grinning pegasus.
“That was the farthest thing from funny.” She complained wiggling out of the sleeping bag. “What if I had broken a leg? Would you still be smiling.”
He pondered the question a moment, “Yes, I could re align your leg and get you a healing potion.” He thought a moment more, “That would hurt though wouldn’t it?”
His smile faded and she nodded, “That’s what I thought.”
“It’s your turn to watch.” He said settling down on his bedroll. “Just make sure nothing big is moving around and we should be good.” He felt every ache of every muscle in his body as he finally got to lie down.
“See you in the morning.” Came Autumn Heart’s voice somewhere out of sight.
Until now he hadn’t considered just how well she could hide herself in the dark because of her coat. An advantage in some cases to be sure. Nightmares here I come, he thought as he drifted to sleep. He was already into his first dream and saw what looked like a wing of Enclave armored pegasai fly overhead. And as usual in his dreams there at the back of the squad was their medical officer, her snow white mane standing out in the dark of night.
Steel Wing could feel the clouds beneath his hooves. He noted that he had been blindfolded his helmet having been removed. There was a metallic ‘clank’ as something was clapped around his legs. His belongings were thrown onto his back.
Finally a key was placed in his mouth. His ear twitched as he felt hot breath blow over it, “Remember what we talked about: No more flying and we can all be happy. I trust you’re skilled enough to undo the weights before you hit the ground even if you can’t, it’s been nice knowing you.”
With that there was a sudden force on his forelegs causing him to be sucked down, through the clouds away from the warm sun. He dropped through the air clenching the key in his teeth he managed to steady himself with his wings. With a vigorous shake of his head the blindfold flew off into the wasteland. Next came the chains, or the ground. Three sixty pound waits were locked onto chains wrapped around his forelegs. Each being on a separate lock and without the use of his hooves to aid him, there was one thing going through his head, This is the end of Steel Wing isn’t it?
“NO!” He bellowed with newfound vigor. He organized his thoughts and remembered he had been taught techniques to survive freefalling. Getting rid of at least two of the weights would be sufficient using the rest as anchors once he was close to the ground.
The ground was coming closer with every passing moment he did nothing. Through struggling he managed to get a weight off each leg. A few hundred feet to go and he hesitated, “… No more flying.” This was gliding and he had some faith in his knowledge of the son of a mule who did this. He’d say gliding isn’t flying.
One hundred feet now, his wings unfolded and pain shot through them as they tried to slow so much extra weight. It wasn’t enough he started to pull out of the dive and…
Steel Wing woke up the first thing he noticed was he tasted blood. A tooth had evidently gone rogue and was now sitting in his cheek. The second was his warm back, there was a fire behind him. Then cruel laughter somewhere behind him. He turned to look and then the fourth thing showed itself he was bound by multiple ropes, wings tight to his body.
From somewhere behind him he heard, “Damn this bitch is tight. Won’t even let me in.” This was followed by more cruel laughter.
“Well you could always cut your way in.” Suggested a mare in a cold sadistic tone.
Steel Wing panicked realizing that, they were raiders and were talking about Autumn Heart. He struggled to roll over on his side.
He began taking in the situation as best he could. Autumn Heart was trussed up, her head on the ground and her flank sticking up. Her rear was kept up by a shotgun set under her belly. A stallion was over her trying and failing to gain entrance.
“You know what I think she may be a virgin.” There was a collective ‘Ooooo…’ from the other raiders, some of which were not in Steel Wing’s line of sight.
Without thinking Steel Wing shouted, “Hey! You with the tiny dick!” This drew the attention of the entire camp to the newest member of corpse corp.
“Sleeping Beauty finally wakes up and those are the first words out of his mouth?” The stallion ceased trying to violate Autumn Heart.
Steel Wing let out a sigh somewhere between relief and extreme annoyance now that all eyes were on him. The raider stallion stalked towards him with his receding member. Steel Wing winced as his plan started shaping in his head. Too late for Steel Wing to have struck when the raider was far enough away to avoid getting covered in blood. He fake struggled against his bonds to distract from his very metal very sharp wings which would easily cut through their bonds. He used the distraction to prep his wing.
The tan raider stallion stopped a few feet from Steel Wing and bent down in close opening his mouth to speak when a muffled cry made his head shoot up and turn. “Stink Eye if you touch her you get gelded!” he bellowed and the piss yellow stallion who had been aggressively nipping at various sensitive spots on Autumn Heart. Once the wide eyed Stink Eye had retreated a good ten feet, the raider leader turned back to Steel Wing.
“Now what did you say meat?”
Steel Wing faked a dry throat and attempted to say something which came out as choked squeaks.
“Say again meat.” The raider said planting a hoof firmly in Steel Wing’s abdomen.
Once Steel Wing had finished coughing he moved his head inviting the raider to lean in closer. The soon to be dead raider obliged with a smirk. Again before he could deliver his one liner he was interrupted by a subdued cry from Autumn Heart.
The raider turned and roared, "STINK EYE! When I'm finished with this piece of waste you're next. You got a forty second head start." All was quiet save for the quick hoofbeats away from the camp sight.
The last cry from Autumn Heart was enough to remind Steel Wing that a pony's physical and mental well being were on the line. Before the stallion standing over him could turn back to face him, he had brought his wing straight up cutting through the rope as easily as he had expected. The pain of the sudden wing extension was forgotten immediately with a sudden surge of adrenaline running through Steel Wing's Body.
Using his other wing to prop himself up Steel Wing rose to tower over the stallion who was just now turning back to him. Bringing his face down to look at Steel Wing in the face he saw two hooves. His wicked grin faded with every inch his head had to rise to meet the standing pegasus. The raider simply tried to work his mouth as words failed him.
A deafening silence had descended around the camp sight; a silence that was broken by a loud scream and the crackle of a disturbed fire. Steel Wing had surged forward throwing the raider onto the fire landing on top of him with the sound of ribs breaking underhoof.
Steel Wing could now take in the whole camp sight. The three remaining raiders were all simply stunned by the display. An auburn mare stood next to Autumn Heart's upthrust rear. To his right a pair of raiders had stopped mid coitous both only half aware that a fight had started. The mare of the couple was a unicorn who recovered from the shock just as the smell of seared flesh reached Steel Wing's nostrils. Some instinct told him to strike before the became a threat, a more decent part of his mind drowned those thoughts. He turned to the dark red coated mare all alone instantly regretting wasting precious time on morals. Out of the corner of his eye the unicorn mare quickly but clumsily levitated a plasma rifle at him.
Steel Wing felt a familiar rush as his pupils dilated, the same sensation of his fall coming back to him. Feelings he had come to be familiar with in that dream were surging to him in the waking world. Suddenly the world stood still his adrenaline levels spiked as a feeling similar to SATS brought his world into perfect clarity allowing him to take in everything at once. He saw the trigger was half way to being pulled, he saw the stallion was just now dismounting the unicorn, and in this state of near frozen time he saw a very disconcerting look of confidence on the unicorn's face.
Time reasserted itself around them and in an instant a pink beam of energy vaporized the chard body of the raider turning it instantly to pink ash. That was more than enough time for Steel Wing to close the distance to the floating gun allowing him to bring his full weight down on it before it could be fired again.
The raider stallion dropped back to all fours as Steel Wing reared up to strike the unicorn. As soon as the stallion was off of her her confident grin widened to a sick smile. In a flash she was gone he heard a pop somewhere behind him. The stallion that remained found himself unarmed facing a stallion that towered over him. Steel Wing had moved him to the bottom of the priority list as he was farthest from Autumn Heart. He dispatched the raider with a quick spin planting both hindhooves square into the slow ponies face. He now faced the unicorn who had gotten good distance between them. She stood with that smile still on her face. While he sized her up a glow enveloped her horn levitating a rock next to her feet up to her eye level. She tossed it lazily at him. He brought his wing in front of him and it bounced harmlessly landing a couple feet away. He looked at her questioningly as his ears picked up what sounded like a pin, dropping in a silent room.
"Magic," he recalled, "Magic is what you have to watch out for. Earth ponies are handy and can think quick in a fix. Unicorns are down right underhanded in a fight. You can never just take things as are when facing a unicorn."
Enclave propaganda about surface dwellers. As he leapt back Steel Wing had plenty of time to appreciate how few unicorns he had actually had to face. Two out of the last ten raiders had been typical, clumsy earth ponies. The two unicorns he had faced had clearly been exceptionally well trained. In moments an explosion sent waves through Steel Wing's body moments before shrapnel pierced his hide.
Ringing flooded all his senses as he tried to reassure himself that he was staring up at the sky. A once familiar coppery metallic taste seeped into his mouth. A horned figure appeared over him light pouring from its forehead, revealing the unicorn mare her grin replaced with an expression of pitying contemplation.
She put her mouth right next to Steel Wing's ear. "I've just been told not to kill you. Just know that you don't get a freebie again, and it gets a lot worse than me." With that she trotted off retrieved her plasma rifle with her mouth and went to the last remaining mare. Steel Wing watched nervously as she raised a hoof to tell the other raider to start marching. The unicorn stopped by Autumn Heart, looking between her and Steel Wing before settling on him. Her horn began to glow and a familiar smile spread around the gun; with a flash she was gone leaving Autumn Heart to pose a while longer.
Despite the pain in his chest he forced himself to move understanding that he had been trained to endure, she was probably far past traumatized. Her eyes momentarily went wide at his approach until he was in view. He carefully removed the waded up cloth that served as a gag. Once it was out she began to cry out loud;; her tears already in progress could now be accompanied by the wails of the distressed mare.
Steel Wing went to move the gun from under her and froze. His heart beat increased causing his wounds to bleed more quickly. He leaned in closer to make sure it wasn't his imagination: The raiders had not just propped her hind end up with the gun, they had rigged it to fire the second she was free enough to move forward more than a foot. He shuddered as he was hit by the realization of how dire the situation was. Even more so now that it would take time and care. Time was not something afforded to the disciplined pegasus, every moment she was in that position was years of a potential mental problems.
"I need you to start talking to me." he said as softly as he could. Autumn Heart barely registered his words between her sobs. "Please," he pushed "This is going to take time and I need you to think about something else, tell me something about you."
A flash of hate that Autumn Heart tried to direct at Steel Wing failed as she couldn't turn to see him. "What the hell for?" she demanded.
Accepting that the distraught mare was far from okay he let slide her sudden anger at him, she had no one else to direct it towards. Nonetheless he needed her cooperation so he went with shock to get it, "If I let you up this gun will tear a hole through your midsection." He said truthfully hoping the green mass of mixed emotions would understand.
Her body sagged as much as her bonds allowed in defeat. "Tell me about your childhood maybe?"
So she did choosing to begin with the first time her father let her help with demolition work.
He set to work disassembling the gun while keeping the firing mechanism from operating. He heard some of what she said while focused on his work. Most of the time he was lost in his own thoughts. "... and he was so good that if he told you, you could sit in the building when he detonated it, it WAS true..." While she was getting more and more into her story, he continued farther into his own thoughts. Two combat competent unicorns: More uncommon than it should be. Raiders with the know how to build complicated traps: Not unheard of. A unicorn with some clandestine ulterior motive: Troubling.
Things were wrong and knew it but he came out of himself as he finished disassembling the bottom half of the gun, the inner workings of the gun falling out in pieces. A few cuts later and Autumn Heart was free. She was either reminiscing about her past or otherwise hadn't noticed she was no longer tied down, but she held that position for some time.
"Autumn?" Steel Wing said in a barely audible voice. She fell on her side and curled up on the ground. She balled herself up so tightly it looked like she was trying to collapse on herself and leave existence. He tried to cover her with a blanket and she flailed her legs at him.
He let her be and instead went to heat some water over the fire they now had. Looking over what bodies were left he was thoroughly disappointed by the lack of equipment they had. Just a unicorn with a plasma rifle and one less grenade.
He put a cloth in the heating water and started trying to pick the bits of shrapnel he could get at, which wasn't many. "Bet griffon's don't have to deal with this." He said voicing his thoughts triggering a small movement from Autumn Heart. After he had done his best to pick the metal from his chest he took the cloth from the water and walked to stand a few feet from where Autumn Heart lay. He put the cloth on his hoof and extended it towards her, she eyed it for a moment before taking it in her teeth slowly she started bringing the cloth back and forth across her face.
Weakly she did her best to scrub the places where she had been touched; drained as she was she eventually had to give up.
Steel Wing, watched her grimly still lost in his thoughts. So it came as no surprise when Steel Wing jumped at Autumn Heart's touch, she had given up on herself and started looking at his wounds. A total of thirteen bits of metal were stuck in his hide, five of which he had managed to remove. For a non unicorn it was clearly difficult, but he'd be damned if he was going to let a unicorn near him with medical equipment.
Twenty minutes later Autumn Heart decided it was as good as it was going to get with all but two pieces removed. Superficial to be sure but likely to cause some discomfort. She wrapped his torso up and went back to lie down on her sleeping bag.
The fire had burned down to embers and the first hint of sunlight was just peaking over the horizon.
The silence was nearly painful for both of them Steel Wing was the first to speak and instantly regretted his path of questioning. "Are you really eh- you know, a virgin?"
There eyes simultaneously went as wide as dinner plates. "Um...?" she intoned.
"Sorry, I was just curious." Steel Wing said looking away, "I don't know why andyoudon'thavetoanswer, if you don't want to." His voice was slowly dying down to a whisper when he looked back up.
Autumn Heart turned her attention to the remaining embers and stared silently for a long moment. "Yeah, I am."
She picked herself up to look at him her expression turned dark, the light was peaking up over the horizon casting shadows around them. Steel Wing panicked for a moment because if she had moved he couldn't tell. "Why didn't you wake up?" Her voice was full of something barely less than absolute fury. "I yelled and yelled, you just lay there. I thought you had died in your sleep, or-" She took a breath to try and calm herself, "Or maybe you were just waiting for them to be too distracted by me, so you could get away."
She shifted slightly relieving Steel Wing of the unfounded suspicion that she had planned to assassinate him. "No, I didn't-"
"No?" She said tears running down her face again.
"No?!" She interrupted again more frantically this time.
"No." He retorted annoyance growing in his voice. He felt terrible, he knew he wanted to bring a hoof across her face to make her calm down. He was just thankful that he had the self restraint not to.
"NO?!" She screamed at him stomping her hooves.
Now he was getting worried watching her seething form in the light of dawn.
Enough was enough he decided once she began to scream incoherently, "NO!" He was on her in a moment answering her question as he went. He put his hooves around her and pulled her into him, further wrapping his wings around her. Most of her recognized that she needed someone to hold her, enough of her wanted to hit something. So hit she did, weakly pounding a hoof into the chest of her source of comfort.
Once her cries had turned to quiet sobs he chuckled lightly, his chest moving her ever so slightly, "This isn't 'traveling together' thing isn't going to work if this happens every night."
He looked down into her confused and pained expression. He watched as a brightness returned to her eyes, and something resembling a smile weakly spread across her muzzle. "I'm so-"
Steel Wing put a hoof to her mouth, "We had enough sorry's last night remember?" He said pointedly.
Her smile broadened, "No, I don't." She hiccuped "You're thinking of two nights ago." The terror of the night still hung in her mind, but being held here by a-. Her frown returned as she contemplated what he really was to her. "Are you a sympathetic body guard, or a friend?" She asked in a confused tone.
His worry of her returning frown dissipated, "I'd like to think that we're a couple of friends. Dysfunctional friends but friends nonetheless."
Autumn Heart breathed a sigh of relief into the coat of her friend. No sarcastic remark about how sympathetic wasn't a good way to put it, or jokes about how they could be more than friends. He understood what she needed right now, and she was glad he was there for her.
The quiet was of course too good to be true, as Steel Wing released her he became very aware that guns had been cocked somewhere behind him. "How many?" He whispered shifting a wing slightly to let her see.
Autumn Heart tapped her hoof on the ground three times, but the look she gave him made him stop warming himself up to go to war again.
"Alright let's see some empty hooves and we don't need to start firing."
"Who's making this request?" Steel Wing asked with all the mock indignity he could muster.
"Sky Fall, security force. The shouting out here was keeping the whole town awake." Came the voice of somepony else.
"Never heard of an alicorn stallion before." Said a third extremely innequine voice.
Steel Wing folded in a wing and turned keeping his other between Autumn Heart and the three security guards. An earth pony, unicorn, and oddly enough a griffon all but the last had weapons trained on Steel Wing. Seeing the unicorn made him wince slightly, but as the other two weren't raiders he decided it wasn't so much of a threat. The griffon had two heavy energy pistols of some kind drawn, but not even held as if expecting a fight. The other two were visibly shaken by the sheer size of what they thought was going to be an enemy.
"S-so step away from the mare until we get this all figured out." The unicorn mare managed to say looking to the griffon who with a dramatic sigh leveled her two weapons at Steel Wing.
"I don't want to get into a fight this early but I'm moody cuz you woke me up so think about how quickly I can probably fire these before you think about how quickly you can get to me." She looked at him like she could read every twitch his muscles made. His every thought of engaging the three clear as a finely cut lens.
He stepped away from Autumn Heart awaiting the moment when the opened fire on her, expecting that the wasteland hadn't decided to be merciful this day.
"See," the griffon said smirking at her two companions, "Not a raider."
Foot Note (Level Up!)
Steel Wing: LvL 7
Quest Perk- Warned: Unicorn assassins are after you. You will never be caught off guard by a unicorn as long as you can at least perceive their location.
Autumn Heart: LvL 5