Chapter 52: Parting For The While
The train bumped and jostled beneath Jackson. His chair was secured to the deck in the vacant car, but it didn't exactly do much to assuage any fears he had. He was really starting to miss the use of his legs. At least with them, he could better control his movement. Using the wheelchair was still taking some getting used to.
He was on the train to see Mayfield off to the end. Something he hadn't planned on doing before, he was going to just wave him goodbye at the station in Ponyville, but he thought it better to just ride it out. After all, his last link to his old world was about to be severed, probably for good. Besides, he still had one more thing to do before he settled down into his new life.
Jackson glanced down at the small case, even if just to make sure it was still there. It was the most important thing he had brought on this short journey, at least besides his change of clothes and the small bottle of rum. Kaughn's favorite. The thought made his world feel a little empty. Jackson pulled the bottle from his bag and unscrewed the cap, taking a short whiff. The pony brew was sweeter than what he was used to, but it still burned his nostrils with a deceptively high content of alcohol.
Behind him, footsteps, accompanied with the tap of a cane caught his attention. Hurriedly, Jackson put the cap back on and shoved the bottle back in his bag, but didn't zip it shut. "Ah, now that feels much better." Mayfield said, coming up and plopping down next to his chair-bound friend. "Can you believe this train doesn't have a single loo aboard?"
"You didn't..." Jackson said with a dull pang of disgust. Although, he knew better.
"What?" Mayfield threw up his hands in defense. "It's not as if I let anyone see me, just a quick leak between the cars. Besides, you know the both of us have done much worse out in the field. One must do what one must."
"You could have waited. We're almost there."
"Yes, but I thought it might ruin the flow of things. After all, it's not like you get to be the first human to intentionally cross an inter-dimentional border between worlds every day. As far as we know. And with magic, no less!"
"That neither makes sense, or makes it ok." Jackson groused.
"Wet blanket." Mayfield muttered. His eyes roamed about the interior of the train car, sometimes drifting to the rushing countryside out the window. The scenes of forest was getting much more frequent and the climate colder as they traveled further north. Eventually, his vision roamed across Jackson's bag and focused on the bottle top discreetly poking out. "Oho, what's this then?" He said making a grab for it.
At this point, Jackson didn't even try to stop his friend. He didn't exactly have a plan on presenting it anyway. "Just a little something I thought we might share. Like a last drink or something."
"Share, my rotten arse, you've already gone and opened it." Mayfield put sourly.
"I only had a whiff."
"Then let us have a pour, shall we?" The Brit began rifling around Jackson's bag for a cup or a glass.
"Don't bother yourself, didn't bring a cup." Jackson told him.
"Huh?" Mayfield looked at him in a small measure of bewilderment. "You brought liquor, but nothing to put it in.
Jackson shrugged, "Thought I'd pick a few up when we got to where we're going."
Mayfield shook his head, "We'll have none of that," he said, twisting the cap off the bottle. "To our friends," he took a pull and handed it off to Jackson.
Well, it was tapped now. Jackson took the bottle and gauged the remaining liquid. Mayfield had gulped almost a fourth of it. "To our brothers," Jackson added before taking a swig himself. He handed the bottle back to Mayfield as the burn of the alcohol raced down his throat.
Mayfield took another swig before replacing the cap. "Good stuff, this," he said, placing the bottle back in the bag. "Shame I can't take any of it with me."
"And your cane?" Jackson said, pointing to the walking instrument.
Mayfield picked it up and twirled it around a little in the air. "Meh, I'll say I found it. Besides, shouldn't need it for much longer. Leg's been better. Gotta say though, it'd be nice if I could bring a few souvenirs back. Y'know, something to remind me of my time here apart from a few scars and two missing fingers."
Jackson eyed the small case by his feet at his friend's words. He had been planning to give it to Mayfield, but he wasn't sure when he should do it. Still, they'd already cracked the bottle and now was as good a time as any, he thought.
Jackson bent down and picked up the case, setting it on his lap. "There is one thing I think you can take back." He popped the case open and turned it towards Mayfield. "It might look odd, but it's one of a kind and technically of human design."
Mayfield's eyes widened as he looked at what was inside. Then slowly, he reached in and pulled out a uniquely designed pistol with a darkened tri-color paint job. "Jackie, I can't take this..." he said almost breathlessly as he examined the weapon's details. "This was your best mate's!"
"But... then why wouldn't you keep it?" Mayfield carefully replaced it, handling it like it was some priceless antique.
Jackson let go of a heavy breath. He closed the case back up, but set it down beside Mayfield rather than himself. "Because. Well, I don't know. I'm definitely not gonna need it. Not exactly in the best kind of shape anymore. And you know how it was back home before we left. They'll need your services now more than before. Even with a couple missing digits."
"You sure?" Mayfield said uneasily, gently taking the case and placing it in his own lap. "I mean, not to be too blunt, but you don't exactly have much of anything left of your mate to remember him by."
Jackson looked past him, staring out the window. "I'm sure. Probably best just to let it go." He said with a tinge of sadness. "Besides, he had a wonderful group of friends here. Ones that made him feel safe and at home as best they could. That'll be enough."
Mayfield lightly clapped him on the back, "You got it, mate. You got it."
When they finally arrived at their destination, the two emerged from the train car and into the chilly air to see a nice little surprise waiting for them. There on the platform was not only the Princesses Celestia and Luna, but also more than a few familiar faces. The whole team was there, along with some more unexpected guests.
Before both Mayfield and Jackson were fully out of the doorway, they found themselves being showered with a swirling cloud of confetti that seemed to appear from out of nowhere. "Surprise!" Jackson would have leaped out of his chair were his legs still working as a pink cotton-maned filly materialized between him and Mayfield.
Mayfield stumbled back a bit, hand instinctively groping around his thigh for a weapon that wasn't there. "Bloody hell, Pinkamena, what was that for!?" he said, a little startled, but also somewhat entertained.
The bubble gum colored mare giggled and started bouncing away to the rest of the group, "I just said, silly! It was a surprise, for your surprise going away party!"
Mayfield looked confounded, "A surprise? Pinkie, we already knew I was leaving, how was that—" he suddenly felt a hand grip his arm.
Mayfield looked down to see Jackson shaking his head with a slight smile on his face, "It's Pinkie, man, c'mon."
Mayfield sighed and took a moment to gather himself and straighten his uniform back out, then went forward to the group with Jackson. The team was there; Iron, Cray, Swift, Redflare and Kai perched on two of the lamp posts. Even Sylver, helping Flash to stand up as he was now only balancing on his three remaining legs.
To their left, by the Princesses, were the girls. Pinkie bounced in to join their group. Twilight had here head in a book—no doubt reviewing, for the Nth time, the spell she was about to use—but paused long enough to look up with a smile and wave a hoof in greeting. Rarity and Applejack stood beside her, with Fluttershy poking her head out from behind them to get a better look. Then, just behind and above, was Rainbow Dash, keeping place in the air with a gentle flap of her wings.
"Well, look at that," Mayfield said. "Can't be much of a better way to go, yeah?"
"Don't think there is." Jackson agreed as they moved closer to the group.
Flash hobbled forward with some difficulty, but managed to draw up next to them, "You really ready to go?" He asked in a voice rougher than it used to be. He had accidentally inhaled some of the flames that had scarred his face and body, damaging the vocal cords.
"Sure thing, sad as it is," Mayfield said without looking down. "Just feel like I need to go back."
Flash gave Sylver a nod and the unicorn produced a bundle of fabric from a saddle bag as they joined the rest of the group. Sylver offered it to Mayfield who took it and unfolded a light jacket. "Little something for your troubles. Custom tailored."
Mayfield inspected the garment and found the RSTG patch sewn into the shoulder with a few other patches on the breast. Just inside, by the lining, he found a pattern of three azure diamonds stitched into the fabric. "Be sure to take the utmost care for that, it is top quality work." Mayfield lowered the jacket a bit to see Rarity staring straight at him with a warning gaze. "I have seen the absolute brutish ways you gentlecolts like to treat your clothing, after all."
"Sure thing, love. Really though, thanks." Mayfield said with a grin as he moved to shove it in under his snow white parka.
"Ah ah ah!" The unicorn mare stared daggers at him. "Fold it, if you please." Mayfield muttered something under his breath, but was still smiling as he begrudgingly followed her instruction.
Jackson watched as Mayfield moved up and started saying his goodbyes to everyone. He felt like he should have been up there with him, but there wasn't really much he had to go back to, if anything. He had no more family that he knew of, his condition wouldn't allow him to continue serving his purpose back there and he felt there was something else. Something that was holding him back, just a feeling in his gut.
As he thought, he spotted Dash hovering in the air, still in the same spot as when they'd arrived. She didn't seem to keen on coming down and joining the rest of her friends. In fact, she seemed to have a lot else on her mind all together. To his surprise, she caught him looking and adjusted her wings, fluttering down towards him. Jackson shuffled uncomfortably in his seat, she was likely to still be wanting some answers, especially after their last talk.
Instead, she just landed softly beside him, watching things from his point of view. After a moment, she surprised him by speaking, "So, you're still gonna stay, huh?" She still sounded somewhat withdrawn, but a little better than last time.
"Yeah, I guess."
"You still gonna use that place you got in town?"
Jackson was caught off guard by the question. He hadn't really given it much thought. He supposed he could, but that didn't exactly seem right. It would just feel empty without anybody there to share it with. Plus, he couldn't really get up into his own room any more without some help or pulling himself up the stairs with his arms.
"Nah, I don't think so. Probably move somewhere a bit more flat. That place where Quick has her new shop is pretty nice, out of the way. Plus, Aria lives over there with Sparks and their kid. Might be nice just to have a few neighbors."
"You sure? You could just use me and James' old place, y'know."
Jackson thought about that. But no, it didn't feel right. Plus it was kind of a hassle for him to get to now. Still, he'd have to go back there sometime, see what he could find that was left of his friend and brother. "I'm alright. Thanks," he declined. "What about you? You gonna be ok?"
"I'll be fine. I can just build a new place out of some clouds. Perks of being a pegasus." Jackson chuckled a little at that. "I still have this at least," she lifted the gem that still hung around her neck. Every time he looked at it, Jackson was mesmerized by it's strange new glow. "I don't know why," Dash continued, "but every time I look at it, I feel better. Like he's still here with me."
"Yeah," Jackson said, "hold onto that. I'm not sure what it is, but it feels important. Keep it safe."
By this time, Mayfield was finished with his parting words and shaking hooves. He marched straight up to the Princesses, chest proudly out. "Right then, Your Majesties. How should we go about this? We doin' this right here?"
"Not quite." Celestia answered. "There are still some things we are unsure about, as this has never been attempted through an intentional spell for many eons."
"That so? Well how hard could it be? Magic, eh?"
At this point, Twilight slapped her book closed. "Very. It could be very difficult, almost impossible. There's so much we can't account for, the apparent difference in the flow of time between our two worlds chief among them. We won't know if we've sent you back to the right place or years into the future. We know there is some degree of expansion, but not wether it is of a fixed rate or exponential. Not to mention, the absolutely massive amount of energy this will require."
It was here that Luna took over, "It's for these reasons that we must travel to your previous point of entry. If it was there that it occurred naturally, then he may be able to coax the ethereal energies there into assisting us with our task."
Mayfield raised his eyebrows. Not quite the answer he had been expecting. "All right. Then when do we start? Shall we pile into a carriage or will we be flying there?"
"Neither." Celestia said. "While we are close to the area of your discovery, we feel the sooner we start on this project, the better chance of success we will have. We will be teleporting there, the four of us. This will be the last time you see your friends here."
The weight of what he was about to do seemed to fully fall on Mayfield's shoulders at that. It was such a minute slump that Jackson almost missed it. "Oh. I guess all those goodbyes just now were for good then." He then straightened himself up again, doing his best to project that stoic stiff upper lip. "Jackson!" He said, turning back around for the briefest moment. "You take care of yourself, got it? I don't want to have to come back and kick your arse out of depression, right?"
Jackson faintly smiled at the clearly empty threat. "You got it." To Mayfield's rear, the Princesses' horns began to glow as they crossed, drawing power for their spell. "Just don't go and get yourself killed. And say hi to Gary for me."
Mayfield chuckled, "That asshole? I will if he hasn't already forgotten."
Then there was a flash of swirling dark and golden light, a clap as previously displaced air rushed back into the now empty space. They were gone. Jackson sat there for a moment, not quite sure what to do next. He felt as if his own little world just gained another great volume of vacuum.
"All aboard!" Somewhere a conductor called out, the train was about to leave.
"C'mon, buddy." Dash said, turning to board the train.
The rest of her friends followed, Pinkie already chatting about making plans for a proper party with Mayfield as it's honorary absentee guest of honor. The RSTG began to move as well, Flash giving Jackson a nod as he hobbled by. Jackson felt a bump on his shoulder and smiled at Cray and Iron as they passed by.
"You coming with?"
Jackson glanced up and saw Redflare hovering just above him. "Yeah, just give me a sec."
"Don't take too long, train's about to leave."
He waited just one more second longer, staring at the space where his last connection to his old life had been. Then, slowly and with a bit of resistance, he turned his wheels and headed back onto the train. He didn't know what the future held for him now, broken as he was. But at least he had some good friends with him to help him toward it. In the end though, he thought, whatever was gained or lost, that was what mattered.
Jackson felt a brush of wind beside him and a claw fall on his shoulder. He looked over and flinched a bit as he almost poked his eye on a beak. "Oh, Kai. What's up man?"
"Are you coming on the train with us, brother?"
Jackson blinked and looked around. He was still on the threshold, the blue-green stallion in a cunductor's uniform giving him a strange look. "Uh, yeah. Sorry, spaced out for a second." Quickly, he continued fully into the car with the large griffon.
"I do not mind. Tell me, where are you staying?"
"Got a nice spot I'm thinkin' about out away from the town." Jackson answered as he rolled to the back of the car. It lurched a little as the engine exerted it's pull.
Kai smiled, "I've come to be fond of this place. Would it be too much trouble if I joined you?"
Jackson grinned a bit as he pulled up next to an empty bench and began to strap his chair to it. "'Course you can. Sure." He said, entirely confident in his words. "All of you can. All of my friends. My brothers and sisters." His world didn't feel so empty.