When Tux woke, the sun was down. He stood and stretched, sore from the hard floor. He flicked the switch to light the room, but nothing happened. "Breaker box," he grumbled. In Hoofton, most vacant houses had their mane breakers turned off so that their meters wouldn't run up charges.
"Break whose box?" he heard whispered from the shadows.
"Break whose box?" the voice repeated.
"Curse my overactive imagination," he remarked, walking back down the stairs. "There's nopony there."
"Whose box are you going to break?" the voice asked again, this time more assertively.
He loped nervously into the mud room, where he guessed the breaker box was kept. He ran right into somepony. When he got up, he saw a towering, gaunt pony that had several black tentacles instead of wings. Her eyes were empty, and a permanent grin split her face. "Slender Mare," he choked, backing away. "Holy flying road apples, you do exist!"
"Slender Mare? Where?!" The Slender Mare screamed. "Don't let her gobble me up!"
"I know that voice," he gasped. He found the box on the wall, opened it, and flipped the mane breaker.
Before him quivered Pinkie Pie, wearing stilts and covered in streamers. "Pinkie, what are you doing here?"
"I was going to throw you a housewarming party, but if the Slender Mare is loping around, I want to go home!" She began bawling, two jets of water shooting from her eyes.
"No! Pinkie!" Nothing could get through to her. "The Slender Mare is not real! A friend of mine created her for one of his campfire stories!"
"What?" Pinkie stopped crying.
"I have an overactive imagination. But how did you figure out where I lived? Did you...stalk me?"
"No, silly. I just went to Mortar, Stone and Wood, and I asked them if you'd come by. Then I went to City Hall and I asked if your address had been entered yet. I did the same thing when Twilight Sparkle came to town. But she was just a party pooper. She didn't freak out like you did. Well, she did at first, but then she just went to bed while her baby dragon Spike partied with us."
"I really appreciate the sentiment, Pinkie Pie, but I still need to get settled. Tomorrow, maybe?"
"Why do it tomorrow when I could do it today?"
"Please, Pinkie? I'll let you throw me a party tomorrow night."
"Oh, okay," she sighed.
Pinkie hung her head and left. He closed the door behind her and whispered, "Glad that's over."
Unable to go back to sleep, he decided to take a turn and find a nice cloud so that he could get to know the area a little bit better. He walked back up to the study, went out onto the balcony, and jumped off.
Before long, he was rising into the air, flying for the first time in months. The wind in his mane was a feeling he missed greatly; nopony in Hoofton ever flew, and he wasn't one to challenge it. The moon was high and full, and the air was clear. He could see for miles and miles. Ponyville slumbered below him. Canterlot twinkled in the distance. Cloudsdale glowed with an internal light. It was beautiful.
He glided through the air, looping and spiraling, climbing and diving. At long last, he was tired enough to try and sleep. He flew around until he found an unoccupied cloud, and he landed on it. Far off in the distance, he could see the glow of Hoofton. His entire life was there. "It's in the past, Tux," he sighed. His heart ached; he was torn between his new home and his old life.
"What am I doing here?" He buried his head in the vapor. For a split second, he thought he'd made a mistake in leaving Hoofton, in coming to Ponyville. "No," he said, stamping his hoof. "I can't go back." He stood, turned, and planted himself facing away from Hoofton, toward Canterlot. "Soon," he said. He closed his eyes and went back to sleep.
When he opened his eyes, somepony was flapping by his cloud. "Go away," he said groggily.
"I saw you out late last night," the pony said. "You got some pretty sick moves."
He pulled a blanket of cloud over his head. "I'm still trying to sleep."
"I'm Rainbow Dash," the pony said. "And to be totally honest, I gotta get rid of this cloud."
"Fine," he growled. He rolled off the cloud and unfurled his wings, gliding to the ground below.
"Hey, where are you going?" Dash called as he started walking away.
"Home," he replied.
"Where did you learn to glide like that?" she asked.
"A long time ago in a faraway place."
"How do you control your feathers?"
"I don't know. Listen, kid. I'm tired and I'm not in the mood to talk. If you really want to learn how to glide, head to Cloudsdale and take some lessons. I'm not a good teacher."
"But can't you just give me a few tips?"
"Lock your wings. Feel the air. Paint a picture. That's all I can give you, really."
"What's that supposed to mean?"
He stopped and whipped around in exasperation. "Look, I don't know how I do it. I just do it. My brain doesn't work right early in the morning, so anything I say to anypony isn't going to make sense. I'm still getting acclimated, so please don't press the issue. Just take your answer and go."
"Jeez, somepony woke up on the wrong side of the cloud," Dash grumbled as she flapped away. He felt like a heel for snapping at her, but at least he wasn't saddled with trying to explain something that he knew only intuitively.
When he reached his front door, he half expected Pinkie Pie to leap out and smother him in cake frosting and confetti. But the house was empty. He went to the clock, and he saw that it was far too late for him to finish sleeping. Today was the day he had to find a job.
He flapped up the stairs and donned his saddlebags. He glided down from the balcony and trotted off into town. With no sign of the newspaper, he had no idea who was looking for work, so he decided to just stop in and ask ponies whether they were hiring.
The first place he saw was a tasty looking building with a sign that read, "Sugarcube Corner". Not knowing anything about baking, but being a connoisseur of cakes and a clerical king, he figured that he could help keep the books at least.
When he walked in the door, he was greeted by a yellow stallion with a boxy jaw. "Well, hello, there," he smiled. "I don't think I've seen you in town before. I'm Carrot Cake, and my wife and I run the shop. Is there something we can do for you?"
"I'm actually looking for work. You wouldn't by chance be looking for a bookkeeper?"
"I'm sorry, but we're not hiring," Mr. Cake replied. Off in the distance, a baby's cry sounded. "Twin foals put quite a divot in the budget. But we could certainly use the help, if you care to volunteer."
He was about to say yes, but then he remembered that he had rent to pay. "Sorry, as much as I'd love to help, I can't afford to volunteer."
"I understand, son. Good luck in your search!"
Dejected, he walked back out into the street, trying to find some other shop that was hiring. Everypony in the market was a small outfit that couldn't afford him. Two vendors even had the gall to try and foist expensive tomatoes and cherries on him.
After making up his mind that nopony wanted clerical work, he started looking for manual labor. The local contractors weren't hiring, and neither were the local groundskeepers. After searching everywhere with no luck, he sat down on a park bench next to a peculiar aquamarine pony, who was sitting almost on her back.
"Why the long face?" she asked after a moment.
"Very funny," he grumbled. "Anyhoof, I'm looking for work, and I'm not having much luck. You don't happen to know whether anypony is hiring, do you?"
"I would check Sweet Apple Acres. They're just outside Ponyville. And Rarity's dress shop."
"Thanks," he sighed. "Maybe tomorrow."
"You miss a hundred percent of the shots you don't take," the pony shrugged. She slid off the bench, and he expected her to stand on her hind legs, but she resumed a more natural posture. "Good luck!" she smiled as she began walking away.
Sweet Apple Acres sounded like a farm. He had spent some of his life working on a ranch, so he figured that he knew a thing or two about the business, so he looked around and asked around until he finally found his way to the immense orchard.
He walked up to the first pony he saw, a large, sorrel stallion pulling a cart of apples. "Excuse me, is this Sweet Apple acres?" he asked.
"Eeyup," said the stallion.
"Are you hiring, perchance?"
"Road apples," he muttered.
"I'll handle this one, Big Macintosh," said a thickly accented voice from behind him.
"Thanks, sis," Big Macintosh said as he started walking onward.
He turned around to see a palomino pony in a straw hat trotting up to him. "The name's Applejack," she greeted. "My family owns and runs Sweet Apple Acres."
"Tux n Tails," he replied. "I'm new in town, and I'm wondering if you could use a hoof or two."
"As much as I'd love to offer you a job, Mr. Tails, we really don't have nothin' open. We've been a family business for generations, and it's sorta...against tradition to go out hirin'."
"Not even volunteer labor?"
"On rare occasions, we'll take on some volunteers, but those occasions are rare. For instance, one time, Big Macintosh over there hurt himself and couldn't buck apples. I did half the orchard by my lonesome, but I couldn't get the rest of it, so I let some friends of mine help. But only after a lot of convincin'."
"I understand," he nodded.
"Check with Rarity at the Carousel Boutique. She might need some help."
"I've gotten a referral," he chuckled. "I don't care to work in a dress shop, but it's better than nothing."
"And it's certainly better than sweating buckets in the hot sun. Hey, before you go, can I interest you in a free sample?"
"I don't see why not. I haven't had breakfast today."
"Then follow me!"
She led him to a bakery where a geriatric, green pony was making pastries and pies. She plucked a plate from the counter, and he held out his wing. She set it on his feathers, and he turned his head so that he could reach whatever was on it. After taking a bite, he closed his eyes and moaned with pleasure. "Delicious," he praised. "What is it?"
"Never had a cinnamon apple crisp before, have you?" Applejack smirked. "See, I could tell you were a city slicker from the moment you walked up."
"I'm not a city slicker," he retorted through a full mouth. "I grew up on a ranch outside Hoofton."
"Anything within twenty miles of Hoofton is city." She hung her head. "Trust me."
"Not with Hoofton, but with the big city in general. City ponies carry themselves a certain way. I can see you have some country in you, but you've lost most of it."
"Well, I seem to have come to the right town to get some of my old spirit back."
"Yeah," she chuckled. "Ponyville has no shortage of spirit. Hay, even Filthy Rich has more spirit than any stuck up city pony. N-not that you're a stuck up city pony, mind you. Aw, road apples, sometimes I swear I have hoof-in-mouth disease."
"Oh, I don't mind, Applejack," he said, returning the plate. "Thank you very much. I'd love to stay and chat, but I have to go."
"I'll probably be seein' you 'round. Bye."
As he walked away, a gloomy cloud settled over him. Normally, when a mare acted like that, it was some way of trying to bury a crush. Granted, nopony had acted like that with him in a long time. But he knew it because he was the same way.
He made his way back into town and found the dress shop. He pushed the door open and a bell tinkled, signaling his arrival. "I'll be with you in one moment!" came a distant shout. Two moments later, a white-coated pony with indigo hair came trotting in. "Welcome to Rarity's boutique. What can I do for you?"
"Are you looking for a bookkeeper?"
"Oh, don't be silly! I don't gamble!"
"Um, no, not a *bookie*. A bookkeeper. An accountant."
"Oh! Gosh, I must have my wires crossed. Of course I'm looking for an accountant, mister..."
"Tails," he said. "Tux n Tails."
"Call me Tux."
"Tux. How soon can you start? I've been so busy lately that my books are a mess."
"I can start tomorrow morning."
"Splendid! I'll draw up the paperwork. We'll discuss wages when you come in tomorrow. If you'll excuse me, I have a large order to fill for an upcoming Canterlot party, and I simply must get back to work. Have a nice day!"
"Thank you," he smiled as she walked off. He left the shop feeling his first real sense of accomplishment in the last two years. He'd bounced from job to job, doing everything from accounting to gardening to the odd choir gig. He hoped this would be something to last.
As he walked down the street, his eye caught a sign that said, "Golden Oaks Library." His heart jumped with excitement; he hadn't been able to read a good book in a year. "Awesome!" he laughed, loping toward the converted tree. He walked inside and found himself in a large room lined with full shelves. "Hello?" he called. "Is there a librarian around here?"
"Tux, is that you?" answered Twilight's voice from up the stairs. She came trotting down. "I didn't think you would come looking for me."
"I was actually looking for a good book."
"Ah. Well, nopony ever comes to borrow anything, but you're welcome anytime! Well, anytime during normal business hours, of course."
"Do you have any books on linguistics and modern languages?"
"Um...I'm sure I do. Why, is that one of your hobbies?"
"I actually create languages. It was a hobby I picked up while I studied music."
"Oh, fun! I didn't know that ponies actually created languages. I'd imagine it's hard to do."
"It's a very tedious and time consuming process. But I created a language that I use to write my journal. I could teach you sometime."
"Maybe so. Hey, do yo have a minute to get the cook's tour of Ponyville? I need to introduce you to a very special group of ponies."
"No thanks, I've already met enough ponies today."
"Oh come on, Tux! I was exactly like you when I came to Ponyville. Let's go!"
"Okay," he groaned. "Lead the way."