Through Despair and Hope

by Blue Writer

Chapter 10

After what seemed like an eternity, Ben eventually calmed down and was officially released from the hospital. Though Applejack was relieved that Ben had - for the moment - stopped crying, she was still worried. Ben looked very crestfallen and hadn’t said a word since they broke the hug. When Applejack had asked whether he wanted to walk or be carried, his response was a noncommittal hum. He followed Applejack and Granny Smith out of the hospital, albeit slowly and with dejected resignation.

As the three ponies walked through Ponyville, the two mares agreed to have Ben walk between them, lest he stop without warning and get himself lost. This proved to be the right choice when Ben abruptly stopped walking. His eyes zeroed in on the nearby Golden Oaks Library and his expression became determined rather than somber.

“Do ya want a book, sugarcube?” asked Applejack, knowing what his response would be.

“I need any and all beginners’ textbooks on magic,” Ben replied quickly. “Oh, and I think you mentioned your friend Twilight owns the place? She’s the expert in magic, right?”

“That’s right,” Applejack answered. “Let’s head over there and ya can get a book. Ah’ll interduce ya ta Twilight.”

“Perfect,” said Ben.

Ben’s pace became an eager trot as the three of them headed to the library. Applejack and Granny looked at each other as they followed the colt. Granny smiled at her granddaughter. “He’s gonna be fine,” she assured.

“Ah sure hope so,” Applejack said with a sigh.

Applejack had to open the library door for Ben, as the colt could not reach the handle. A bell rang as the door opened. The library was, as usual, well-organized with books on tall shelves that reached the ceiling.

“Pretty homey-looking for a library,” Ben commented.

“It oughta be. We live here.”

The trio turned to the source of the voice. “Hi,” said the small purple dragon, “I’m Spike.” He held out a claw to the small colt. “You must be Ben.”

Ben’s mouth hung open as he stared at Spike.

“Ben,” Applejack chastised, “It ain’t polite ta stare.”

Ben blinked. “Right, sorry, I just, are you some kind of dragon?”

Spike smiled. “Yep!”

“Woah,” Ben said slowly, “A bona fide dragon. Never thought I’d see one, but then again I’ve seen a lot of those things lately.”


“No, things I never thought I’d see.” Ben’s brow furrowed. “Wait a sec, how do you know my name?”

“Oh, I live here with Twilight. She and some of our friends tried to visit you in the hospital, but the doctor said no because, um…”

“Was that while I was on suicide watch?”

Spike winced. “Yeah.”

“Oh. Why did they try to visit?”

“Ah asked ‘em to,” answered Applejack.

“What for?”

“We just wanted ta see how you were doin’.”

Ben frowned and his eyes narrowed. “I’ll be just fine when I can finally get out of here. I don’t need your misplaced pity.”

The ponies and dragon frowned in concern and sadness. “We just want ta help,” said Applejack.

“You can help by giving me the necessary materials to learn magic and leaving me alone.” He turned to Spike. “I need your best textbooks on the basics of magic. If Twilight’s in, I need to talk to her about a particular branch of magic.”

“Alright,” Spike said hesitantly. He started off toward a section of the library but turned around to face Ben. “It’s not good to be alone all the time,” he said, “If somepony wants to help you, I think you should let them help.”

Ben scoffed. “Whatever.”

“TWILIGHT!” called Spike, “Applejack and Granny Smith are here with Ben!”

“Ow,” Ben said with a wince. He briefly rubbed his ear.

It wasn’t long before Twilight came downstairs. “Hi, everypony,” she greeted before focusing on the colt in front of her. “Hi, I’m Twilight Sparkle.” She held out a hoof.

“Ben Walker,” said the colt, clasping the offered hoof with his own and shaking it. “I’ll never get used to this hoof grip mumbo jumbo,” he said after letting go. “Feels weird.”

“Well, you’ve only recently started using your hooves,” said Twilight. “I’m sure you’ll get the hang of it.”

Ben sighed. “Just get me some beginner’s textbooks on magic.”

“Okay!” Twilight turned and went off to collect the books. The ponies could hear the telltale sound of rummaging about and a few books hitting the floor. A moment later, Twilight returned holding a large stack of books via magic. Ben watched in fascination as the stack hovered above the ground, wrapped in Twilight’s pink aura.

“Did you bring saddlebags?” Twilight asked.

Applejack cringed guiltily. “Aw, shucks,” she lamented, “Ah forgot about saddlebags. He’ll need ‘em fer school, too. Ah’d better go buy some.”

“Ah can take care o’ that,” declared Granny, “Y’all just wait here and Ah’ll be back before ya know it.” Granny started out the door before Applejack could so much as protest.

An awkward silence followed and Applejack could not fully contain her rising stress and nervousness. How careless could she have been to have forgotten something as basic for a little colt as saddlebags? What else would she forget?

“Anyway,” said Ben, either oblivious or simply ignoring Applejack’s worries, “Twilight, what do you know about teleportation?”

“Well, that’s kind of advanced for somepony your age,” said Twilight.

“I know, but I’d like to learn as much as possible. Knowledge is power, after all.”

Applejack knew that Ben wanted to try and use teleportation to get “home,” wherever that was. She was hardly an expert on magic, but was positive that teleportation could be extremely dangerous. At the same time, she knew how much this meant to him. She could hardly deny him happiness, even if he was delusional. She would have to talk to Twilight about supervising Ben’s guaranteed experimenting later.

Twilight launched into a lengthy lecture about the intricacies of vanishing from one place and reappearing in a different place, better known as teleportation. Most of what Twilight said went over Applejack’s head. Ben had the same problem if the look on his face was anything to go by. “And that’s how teleportation works,” Twilight finished.

Ben could only muster a weak “uhhh…”

Twilight gave an embarrassed chuckle. “Like I said, it’s kind of advanced for somepony your age. You can’t rush magic, you know.” Ben became downcast. “But don’t worry! You’ll get it when the time comes. You just need to keep learning, that’s all.”

Ben slowly nodded. “Keep learning,” he murmured, “Just keep learning.”

The door to the library opened, accompanied by the ringing bell. Granny Smith had returned with saddlebags. “Let’s get these on ya,” she told Ben. She proceeded to help him put on and secure the saddlebags. They proceeded to fill them with the borrowed books.

“Huh,” said Ben, looking at the bags, “Kinda feels like a backpack, but the weight is distributed more to the middle than my shoulders.”

“I’ve never heard of a backpack before,” said Twilight, “What is it?”

“Think saddlebags, but the stuff you carry is actually on your back and hangs from the shoulders.”

Twilight gave Applejack a questioning look. The farm pony could only shrug, as neither knew what the colt was talking about. How could anypony carry something that hung from the shoulders? They would trip way too easily. Also, how could something be on your back and hang from your shoulders at the same time? It was likely connected to Ben’s human fantasy. Either that, or it was simply normal colt imagination.

“Well,” said Ben, “I’ve got a lot of studying to do, so let’s get going.” He turned and started out the door.

“Hold it,” said Granny.


“Ain’t you forgettin’ somethin’?”

Ben looked at his saddlebags in confusion. “I’m positive I’ve got all the books here.”

“Not that,” corrected Granny, “Ain’t there somethin’ ya wanna say to Miss Twilight?”

Applejack mentally kicked herself. She should’ve been to one to tell Ben to mind his manners. Sadly, she had forgotten, just as she had forgotten the saddlebags.

Ben remained confused for a moment, then his eyes widened slightly. He frowned and shut his eyes as he let out a sigh. He brought a hoof up to his nose as he bowed his head slightly. He looked as if he had just smelled something foul.

“Ben!” scolded Applejack, “That ain’t nice!”

Ben lifted his head, lowering his hoof. “What?”

“Apologize ta Twilight fer bein’ rude.”

“What the hell are you talking about?”

Applejack’s anger rose. In the back of her mind, she knew this likely wasn’t the right way to handle the situation given Ben’s background, but she was running on instinct. She couldn’t let such blatant rudeness go without consequences. She glared at Ben. “You watch yer mouth!”

Ben glared right back, adding a growl for good measure. “Shut up! I’m sick of you idiots treating me like a fricking child!” He had said a much harsher word than “fricking.” Twilight gasped.

“That’s it!” yelled Applejack. She stormed up to Ben and grabbed him by the ear. She practically dragged the struggling colt to the bathroom, scolding him all the while for his deplorable behavior. Ben refused to listen and let out an orchard’s worth of obscenities that left all within earshot blushing.

“Oh my,” breathed Twilight once the door slammed shut, “I’d never heard most of those words.” She turned to Granny. “Are they going to be okay?”

Loud swearing from Ben could be heard through the door. Granny winced. “Poor fella ain’t been raised right. Ah know he needs lots o’ love, but we can’t let him go ‘round cussin’ like that and bein’ rude ta everypony.”

“I guess not. I just hope Ben can, well, get better.” Twilight mentally shuddered as she recalled that Ben had been on suicide watch.

“Ah do too, but Applejack’s gonna need some help.”

“We’ll help.”

“Ah know ya will.”

Ben’s muffled shouting persisted and Twilight made a note to buy soap. Applejack had her work cut out for her.