Ditzy looked around nervously. The herd of homeless ponies had led them to the decaying remains of a hotel which was apparently where Handsome Gambit had his base, the mostly intact sign above the door stated it was called The Rising Sun. The number of gang members guarding the front door proved that Pokey’s plan was a good one. They hadn’t been worried by her, Castor and Orange but they would certainly have reacted if all the elements and their allies had arrived. She looked around, Gambit had apparently decided to make a spectacle of the hostage exchange and several hundred refugee ponies were squeezed into the area with more still arriving, pegasi even hovering above their fellows. She noticed one or two familiar faces in the crowd, including Iron. she was glad that at least some of their friends had managed to sneak in.
A handsome blue unicorn stallion was standing in a space at the centre of the lobby, flanked by several gang members. Next to him Sparkler and Dash were suspended in the air held by a number of unicorn auras. Thankfully, they didn’t look harmed. Sparkler looked scared while Dash looked angry. Ditzy assumed the blue pony must be Gambit, and he looked very familiar. She frowned for a second, then gasped as realisation hit her.
“You see it, too?” whispered Orange leaning close, “Could he be some relative of Trixie?”
“I suppose. I know she has an uncle in my universe, but he’s a pegasus.”
“Well, this is a different universe. That could even be Trixie I suppose.” Auntie shuddered, trying to wrap her head around the concept.
“So glad you could finally join us,” announced Gambit, his accent making his similarity to Trixie even stronger. “I was beginning to think you might not care as much about your daughter as I’d been led to believe.”
“Daddy!” cried Sparkler, struggling against the grip of the unicorn who had her restrained. Dash likewise tried to shake off the magic holding her tight.
For a moment, Castor looked like he was going to charge straight towards his daughter, then Ditzy rested a restraining hoof on his back and he managed to hold himself back. “You’re all right?” he asked, worry and fear deeply etched on his face.
“I’m scared,” she admitted, “But I’m ok. He beat Pokey, is he...?”
“Pokey’s safe for the moment.”
“As is your daughter, and she will stay that way as long as you keep up your end of the bargain,” added Gambit. He eyed the purple stallion, the bond between Castor and his daughter was still strong. To his surprise there were also weak bonds to several other ponies in the room, he thought that any attachment to the homeless population would have been broken long ago. Still it didn’t matter as long as he got paid and Castor kept out of his business.
“Who are your guests?” asked Gambit.
“They’re some of the strangers who helped the girl,” said Cookie, stepping to Gambit’s side.
“They’re protection. I hired them to guard me and my daughter,” explained Castor, sweating slightly.
Ditzy wished they’d had more time to work on their story, she didn’t think she looked much like a bodyguard. She tried to look as tough as she could, but didn’t think it would make much of a difference.
“Then I would think you may be due a refund,” said Gambit with a smile. “Still the streets are so dangerous these days.”
“Dash are you all right as well?” asked Ditzy, stepping up along side Castor to get a better look at her fellow element bearer.
“I’m fine,” said Dash. “I’m going to kick some flank once I get free.” She struggled again. “His in particular,” she gestured at Gambit.
“What were you thinking, getting Sparkler to leave her room?” Why did Dash have to be so headstrong in all universes?
Dash’s ears drooped. “I screwed up ok? It seemed a good idea at the time, but, well not one of my better plans. There’s no need to go all middle name on me,” she said hurriedly.
“Middle name?” asked Ditzy sounding puzzled
“Uh, never mind. Wrong Ditzy.”
“Anyway,” said Gambit loudly. “Do you have my monnaie?”
Castor lifted the large bag and started to walk forwards.
“Arrêt,” cried Gambit. “Not too close, drop it here.”
With a loud chink Castor dropped the bag to the ground. Some of the coins spilled out and several of the crowd took a step forwards, eyes locked on the bits. Gambit hurriedly took the bag in his aura and levitated it towards himself. He opened it and began to sift through the bits. “This is all of it?” he asked.
“Ten thousand, like you asked. Now give me back my daughter,” Castor demanded.
“Ah! Did I say ten thousand? I’m afraid my errand boy must have misunderstood. Ten thousand was the holding fee on your ‘property’. To get her back will be a further ten thousand.” A gasp went around the room and the various ponies filling the area started to chatter to each other. “You managed to get this much in only a few hours, no doubt you can get more given a little more time.” continued Gambit.
“This isn’t right!” announced a purple earth pony stallion standing near Gambit, “You said you’d give her back.”
“Shut up Brick!” hissed Cookie, turning on the stallion who withered a little under her, and every other pony in the room’s, gaze.
“I’m sorry Cookie, but it’s not. She,” he pointed at Ditzy who looked a little confused. “asked me if my mum would be happy with what I’m doing and she wouldn’t. Robbing ponies, kidnapping fillies, it's not right. Now this! Mr Cut helped me once and Gambit’s... urck.” His rant was halted as Gambit clutched at his throat with his aura.
“Be quiet,” demanded the blue unicorn, his eyes burning.
“Stop that!” said Ditzy, flying towards the distressed Pony only to be stopped by Cookie, her head shooting back and forth between Ditzy, Gambit and Brick. “Why are you helping him?” Ditzy asked.
“He... he looked after me after I lost my parents,” stuttered Cookie, surprised at the question. “They sent him to look after me.”
“And does he do that? How does he help you.”
“He makes sure we’ve all got food to eat, maybe somewhere to sleep.”
“And what does he ask for in return for these favours?” asked Ditzy with a raised eyebrow.
“Whatever we can find or steal. Food costs you know,” she said a little sulkily.
“And I bet it costs less than you provide. And what if you can’t get anything, you go hungry I suppose?”
Mumbles of discontent could be heard around the room.
“You don’t have to try and survive on your own, you can work together for the good of all of you, not just him.” She pointed to Gambit, who released his grip on Brick. The purple earth pony staggered aside gasping for breath. “You can be a family. I’ve known hard times, maybe not as hard as you, but I’ve always made sure I can feed my daughter, even if it meant going hungry myself. Has he ever done anything like that for you?”
“Don’t listen to her. What does she know about your life? Losing your homes, your livelihoods. She hangs about with one of the richest ponies in town, and what does he do to help you?” shouted Gambit, pointing sharply at Caster as he tried to regain control of the situation. The ponies around the room were starting to glance around in confusion.
“It’s true,” admitted Castor, stepping forwards. “I have abandoned you. I put my own pain ahead of yours, and for that I am truly sorry. For a long time I blamed that pony,” he pointed at Gambit, “and all of you for my problems, when ultimately they were my own and my wife’s. I don’t think I will ever be able to make up for it entirely, but I swear I will do all that I can to help you, to protect you from now on. But you need to stop preying on the rest of the city. I need you to help each other to be able to help you.”
“I need you to stop preying on the city”, mocked Gambit. “He wants you to give up your self respect, live beholden to his charity.”
“How is that different from living under you?” asked Iron, pushing through the crowds. “You take all we’ve got and give us just enough to live.”
“Yeah,” cried a mare. “How much self respect do you think I’ve got after selling myself on street corners? I remember Mister Cut got me a temporary job helping out at one of his friend’s shops. It wasn’t much, but it was something.”
A general rumbling of agreement started to make its way through the crowd. Cookie and most of her gang started to back nervously towards Gambit and the hostages.
“Listen! Listen, mes amis! I was going to share all this with you,” said Gambit, holding up the sack of bits. “There’s enough here for all of you. He would never give you this.” He telekinetically lifted a number of coins and let them trickle to the ground. To his surprise he found a large yellow gem amongst them. He stared at it as it started to glow.
“Oatmeal sweetie,” cried Castor drawing a smaller green gem from his cloak, it burst into flames in his hoof. He, Ditzy, Orange and many of the other ponies shut their eyes and held hooves or wings over their ears.
Sparklers eyes widened for a moment. “Dash, close your eyes,” she called struggling against the force holding her to allow her to cover her ears.
“Huh?” said Dash.
Realising the danger, Gambit threw the gem away from himself just as it exploded with a flash brighter than the sun and a thunderous cracking sound. Blinded and deafened, he staggered back, tripping over one of his gang members and sprawling on the floor. Likewise affected, the gang and many other ponies staggered around in pain and confusion. The unicorns restraining Dash and Sparkler lost concentration and their prisoners dropped to the ground.
Before any of the stunned ponies could react, one of the walls to the room, already weakened by vines, collapsed inwards and a blue unicorn stallion with a long pointy horn barrelled through it head first. Blue magical flames seemed to wreath him for a moment before they burned out and he dropped to his knees. “I did it!” exclaimed Pokey in jubilation before his legs gave out entirely and he collapsed to the ground in exhaustion. Behind him a wave of ponies, led by the remaining elements, started to flood in.
Pinkie hopped over the fallen stallion, “Surprise!” she yelled, shaking the rubber Discord attached to her head about vigorously before leaping into the crowd ahead. There was a mooing sound as the plastic toy slapped a stunned gang member in the face.
Octavia followed her more gracefully, stopped to gently help Pokey back to his hooves. Spike galloped past the two of them, his horn glowing as he deflected a spell from one of the few unicorns unaffected by the explosion.
“You took your time,” said Auntie, weaving through crowds of stunned ponies.
“Pokey did his thing as soon as Castor sent his signal,” said Spike.
“I think most of the crowd are on our side, or at least don’t want to help Gambit any more.”
“That's good,” said Spike, ducking as a Pegasus swooped past legs flailing. “It doesn’t look like they all know that though.”
As soon as the gem had done its job Castor rushed forwards, barging stumbling ponies aside as he made a beeline for his daughter. Nothing else was on his mind. He found her struggling to her hooves and blinking rapidly. She’d been close enough to be gem to be partially blinded even with her eyes closed. “Sparkler!” he called.
“Daddy!” She grabbed hold of him and he drew her into a fierce hug.
“I was so worried! Please never do this to me again,” he sobbed.
“I’m sorry! I’m sorry! I just wanted to get out and have some fun,” she cried into his mane.
“We can talk later, I need to get you out of here...” he began.
Sparkler saw a figure rising up behind her father, “Look out” she gasped.
Castor spun to see Gambit, a knife grasped in his aura, “Die!” screamed the blue unicorn, hatred glittering in his eyes as he plunged the steel towards his opponent's side. Suddenly a grey blur was between the two stallions blocking the blow. The knife went flying, its blade stained red. The blur solidified into the form of Ditzy. She stood there for a second, blood dripping from a shallow cut in the foreleg she had used to block the blade.
“No!” she said, wincing at her wound. “Nopony dies here!”
Gambit stood for a second, mouth open in surprise, before he gave another snarl of rage and rushed at Ditzy, who gave a squeak of distress and tried to back off. She cried out as she put weight on her injured leg and staggered. The blue stallion swung a hoof to strike her just as a small green gem bounced off of the pegasus’ barrel. Immediately she was encased in a green sphere of energy and his blow bounced off. He turned in time to see Castor throw another gem at Sparkler, encasing her too in a protective bubble. She cried out silently from within, beating her hooves on the material.
“That should keep them safe,” said Castor, turning to face the larger stallion. “Now let's settle this stallion to stallion.”
Gambit smiled nastily. “Oh from what your wife told me you’re not much of a stallion are you?” He held out his forehooves an inch or so apart. “She doesn’t like petite things, that’s why she came to me. Well she did like the petit morts I gave her.”
With a growl of rage, Castor threw himself forward, horn sparking.
Dash blinked away the stars from her eyes, even as her ears still rang. Around her ponies were fighting each other in apparently random groups. Near the centre of the room she saw Castor and Gambit brawling, the taller blue stallion was flailing at the shorter with powerful kicks of his front legs while Castor held a chunk of wood in his aura like a shield, deflecting the blows.
“Hang on!” she called, flapping her wings to get airborne. Suddenly something heavy struck her on the back and she was driven back to the earth with a grunt. She rolled just in time to avoid a second blow from Cookie’s front hooves as she slammed them into the ground, cracking the flooring.
“No, you don’t!” cried the red coated pegasus.
“Oh come off it,” muttered Dash as she sprung to her hooves again. “Have I got to beat you again? How dumb are you?”
“Shut up! Shut up!” Cookie flew into the air again and lashed out at where the blue pegasus had stood, but she was already moving, streaking through the enclosed area almost quicker than Cookie could follow. “This was all perfect before you turned up!”
“Perfect?” said Dash, swooping behind the slower pegasus and landing an almost playful blow on the back of her head. “Yeah for Gambit maybe. What did you get out of it? You just like hurting other ponies?”
“No, of course not!” exclaimed Cookie, genuinely shocked. “It had to be done,” she shouted. “Its just the way things are, we just need enough to be able to survive. We’re going to be together, just the two of us!” She lashed out again, missing her opponent by a mile.
“Oh come off it! A crush? Yeah, been there, done that, and Shining was a hundred times the stallion that creep is. But you can’t honestly think he feels the same? Everything he says is a lie.”
“Shut up!” screamed Cookie, lashing out with her tail. She caught Dash in the face as she flew past. The element bearer, blinded, went into a drive and crashed into the ground, momentarily stunned.
Cookie landed and stood over Dash, ready to smash her hoof down onto her foes face.
Castor jabbed with his hooves, forcing Gambit to back away and twist to avoid the blows. For a moment Gambit thought getting the other stallion angry might have been a mistake, but the shorter stallion was not a skilled fighter. Each wild swing left him open, allowing the taller stallion to pound his opponent's ribs with his return blows.
Gambit lashed out with a punch to the purple unicorn’s head and to his surprise his target's eyes locked onto the limb and the watch that encircled it. “Ah, you recognise this do you?” he asked, grinning. “A little something to remember your wife by.”
“I gave her that for our engagement!” roared Castor, grabbing it in his aura and tearing it from Gambit’s wrist before rearing up and thrashing at his opponent. Gambit rose to meet his opponent and the two of them wrestled, both trying to throw the other to the ground. Slowly, Gambit’s greater size and strength began to win out against his advisory until, to his surprise, Castor drew back his head and slammed it forward into his muzzle.
Gambit was thrown back and tumbled to the floor, eyes watering, bleeding from his nose. He tried to stagger to his hooves but a wave of dizziness dropped him to the ground again.
Shaking his head Castor loomed over Gambit. “No more!” cried the blue unicorn. “Have, mercy, s'il vous plaît!”
Castor wobbled in place, undecided, for a moment, “You never showed me mercy!” he panted. “Now you ask for it? I thought you would be made of sterner stuff.” His hoof slowly lowered. Then quick as a flash Gambit struck out with his rear legs, catching Castor in the gut and knocking him to the ground.
Gambit shook off his weakness and stood over the prone form of Castor, lying curled up on the floor. “Foolish!” he announced, he picked his knife up from the floor in his aura. “And that will cost you, mon ami.”
Ditzy screamed out in horror as the blue unicorn raised his knife above the prone form of her ex-lover, or somepony who looked just like him. She battered her hooves against the inside of the magical prison she was held in, causing the globe to rock back and forth.
What had Castor been thinking, imprisoning her and Sparkler in these things? She knew what it was like to want to protect somepony but locking them away was just forcing them to watch impotently as Gambit killed him. Why couldn’t he trust them to help him? She battered once again against the inside of the globe and staggered as the thing started to roll forwards almost causing her to tumble head over tail.
Her eyes widened as she was struck with inspiration!
“It’s over!” crowed Gambit as he loomed over Castors fallen form. “Did you really think that the ponies of this city would really fall for your talk of working together, of looking after each other? There is only one law on the streets, that the strong take what they want, and the weak lose out!” His knife glittered in his aura as he played with it for a moment. “You lose!” he announced, bringing the blade down.
Suddenly something large slammed into his back, knocking him to the ground. The large green ball containing Ditzy rolled past him as the pegasus pushed against the inside with all her might.
“Quoi?” gasped Gambit, staring at ball as it rolled on by, He caught a glance of movement off to one side and rolled away as the second ball rumbled by, Sparkler running around inside it. He rolled to his hooves and then leapt aside to avoid Ditzy again. Looking over he saw Castor getting back to his hooves and panting heavily. He’d lost his chance to deal with that pest. Glancing around Gambit noted that most of his guards had been defeated by the strangers and their allies. He knew when a situation looked hopeless, and when to make a quick exit. Stamping his hoof in frustration he turned and ran deeper into the hotel. It looked like it was time to leave, still it wouldn’t be a complete loss.
With a snarl Cooke tried to swing her hoof down onto Dash’s head, but to her surprise another larger hoof held her back, it was Brick.
“Stop,” he commanded. “It’s all over.”
She looked up. The fighting had died down and most of her gang were being restrained by the victorious ponies. Castor was staggering to his hooves and of Gambit there was no sign. “Where?” she asked.
“Gambit hoofed it when he saw the way things were going.”
Below her Dash started to stir. Thinking quickly Cookie shrugged off Brick and took off after her leader.
The black maned stallion helped Dash up. “There you go ma'am,” he said politely.
Cookie flew through the hotel as quickly as her wings could carry her. She crashed through the doors to Gambit’s room to find him shoving several large bags into a hole in the wall. Of course he’d waited for her, he loved her and nothing that rainbow haired skank had told her would make her feel any different. Then a yellow maned mare stuck her head out of the hole. Who the tartarus was she?
“Ah Cookie,” said Gambit, apparently not noticing her surprise. “Looks like we’ve overstayed our welcome here. Help me with this will you?”
She grabbed a large bag, it was full of bits and other valuables. “I didn’t know we had so much.”
“Well it’s been a very profitable half year. I knew I’d have to leave sooner or later, the good folk of this city wouldn’t tolerate me forever. Still, I hoped it would be a bit longer.” He shrugged.
“This should be more than enough for the two of us it retire,” said Cookie, glaring at the blond mare dragging another bag through the wall.
Gambit narrowed his eyes, “Yes the two of us.” He drew her close, bringing a flush to her cheeks. “Don’t worry about Prench, three can carry more than two, and we can get rid of her later.” He gave a smile. “Now hurry, barricade the door, that should give us enough time to get away.
“Right away boss,” said Cookie, a trace of worry in her voice. After a pause she started to drag the bed over to the doors while Gambit and the mare moved more bags into the tunnel. “I think that will hold them for a while.” She could hear hooves approaching from the other side of the door. She turned to see that a metal grill was now blocking the escape tunnel with Gambit on the other side. “Hey! What gives?” she cried.
“Ah, poor loyal, stupid Cookie,” mocked Gambit. “I’m throwing you to the wolves. I’m sure they will put a little less effort into finding me if they have you.”
“But... You don’t... You said we would be together!” she stood paralyzed in shock.
“You actually believed that?” he said, sounding amazed. “Wow, I’m even better than I think I am. As if I could ever be with somepony like you.” Next to him the blond maned mare gave a high pitched titter. Gambit winced slightly.
“You don’t mean that!” cried Cookie, tears falling from her good and ruined eye. The bottom had dropped out of her entire world, and she felt sick.
“Of course I do, do you think I would really ever feel anything for you? You’re ugly, hideous! You were nothing but a tool, one that has outlived it usefulness, and I far prefer beautiful things.” He leaned over and pulled Prench in a deep kiss.
“But you promised my parents, when they died,” said Cookie, feeling sick. This had to be some sort of joke.
“You’re parents are fine, as far as I know, just poorer than they were when they hired me to find you.”
She collapsed to the ground sobbing and trying to wrap her wings around herself.
“Oh well, au revoir,” he said, giving a cheery wave as he turned and, burdened by their ill gotten gains, he and Prench made their way down the escape tunnel.
In the main room Castor had managed to pick himself up and recovered the watch he had torn from Gambit’s wrist. Around him crowds of ponies were celebrating Gambit’s defeat. Somepony had managed to find a food store and was passing out bread to the assembled masses.
Next to him the magical bubbles holding Ditzy and his daughter burst freeing them. “Daddy,” cried Sparkler, “are you all right?”
“I’m fine,” he said, rubbing one of the bruises he’d gotten in his fight. He leaned forwards to hug his daughter.
“Sparkler!” came another cry as a blue stallion limped across the room towards them, partially supported by Octavia.
“Pokey!” screamed Sparkler, rushing over and planting kisses all over his face, stopping only to glare slightly at Octavia who stepped aside looking confused. “Oh, by the princesses are you all right?” Both Pokey and Castor tensed a little at her actions.
“I’m fine,” said Pokey, breaking away from her, “just a little banged up.”
“It was a good idea of yours to ambush them through the wall,” said Castor, somewhat unwillingly. “And that spell, I’ve not seen anything like it before, good job, er... son.”
Both Pokey and Sparkler seemed stunned. “Thank... thank you, sir. It’s just my special talent, breaking through things.”
“Then I guess you’ll have a good future in demolitions. I hear it pays well.”
“Err... Actually I want to get into administration.”
“I’m sure he’ll be just as good at breaking through paperwork barriers as well as physical ones,” suggested Ditzy.
“Anyway,” said Sparkler, trying to change the subject, “I’m so glad my two favourite stallions are getting along.”
“Sparkler, this... this... whole thing has gotten me thinking and, the world’s so very dangerous.” He paused, this was so very hard to say, “But maybe it’s not as dangerous as I thought it was and you... you’re not a little filly any more so... so...” He stopped as Ditzy rested a comforting hoof on his shoulder. “If you want to go somewhere, maybe even live somewhere else then I’ll understand. You’re a grown mare now.” He panted slightly.
“Daddy,” said Sparkler, stepping forwards, “I’ll always be your little girl, I’ll always need you, but thank you.” She hugged him. “Thank you.”
“As I’ll be opening up my shelters again I’ll need somepony to help run them and I thought you might want to? Pokey as well. You can go back to college, those courses should help you organise them.”
Sparkler hugged her father even tighter, tears starting to fall down her face. “Thank you, thank you,” she mumbled.
“Also I have to be truthful with you...” He looked down as if gathering his strength. “Your mother isn’t away on a trip, she’s... she’s...” He started to cry.
“Oh, Daddy, I know,” said Sparkler, hugging her father again.
“Yes. she asked me to go with her, but I couldn’t leave you.”
“Oh, Sparkler. We’ll find her again some day.”
“I know we will, Daddy. I love you, I love you both.”
Ditzy grinned. She was so happy to see the family reunited, maybe it paid back some of the problems she’d created for them in her universe. She looked around, her fellow element bearers were all making their way towards her. “You know, I may have underestimated that stallion,” whispered Orange Sherbet. “Maybe he could be the Element of Kindness after all.” Ditzy looked down at the element itself. It was glowing slightly but it didn’t seem to be doing anything to latch onto a new owner, maybe they had all been wrong and the element was some other pony entirely. “Did you mean what you said about going hungry for your daughter?” asked Auntie.
“Yes, it’s not often but sometimes it came down to me or her eating, and that’s no choice at all. Besides, I could do with losing a few pounds,” she joked.
“I’ve never had to make that choice with Tangerine. Back on the farm, well there were some hard times. I know Granny Smith may have missed a few meals to make sure Apple Cake and I ate, but it’s not a choice I’ve had to make. Your life has been harder than mine.”
“Granny Smith?” asked Ditzy. “Are you an Apple?”
Their conversation was interrupted by Castor “Oh, look what they did to your pretty tail,” he exclaimed, examining the damage done to his daughter.
“Oh, don’t worry Dad,” she said, nuzzling her father. “I was thinking of getting it docked anyway. Lots of the girls at college have had it done, and it’s quite fashionable.”
Castor turned even more purple than normal. “NO DAUGHTER OF MINE IS...” he roared before closing his eyes and letting out a calming breath. “I mean, if you want to, it’s your decision,” he continued weakly.
Sparkler smiled at her father. “Don’t worry, I was just seeing how you’d react. I’ll just wait for it to grow back, maybe get extensions in the meantime.”
Castor winced a bit again but leaned into his daughter again and gave her a hug, “Whatever you want, sweetie.”
Dash sidled over to Ditzy as they watched the reunion. “Look I’m sorry I lied to you about not going anywhere. It, you know, seemed a good idea at the time.”
Ditzy sighed. “I know you meant well, but things could have turned out really badly.”
“Yeah, I know, all this is my fault. It’s just I really didn’t want to see her locked up and never really getting to live, you know. She seemed so unhappy.”
“I do understand but sometimes if you do love somepony you have to do things that don’t make them happy.”
“Like not letting Dinky eat too much so she doesn’t gets sick?”
“Yes just like that. Wait, when did you do that?” asked Ditzy, turning on her companion and looking angry.
“Umm,” said Dash, looking sheepish. “It’s not like it was your Dinky.”
“It was a Dinky!”
“Sorry to interrupt,” said Iron. “It looks like Gambit got away, but I’ve got some ponies out scouring the city for him. We got Cookie and most of the gang though. What are we going to do with them now?” he asked.
“Show me,” said Castor.
“What should we do with her?” asked one of the street ponies. A small group of them were standing in the room that Gambit had taken as his own. The escape tunnel was clearly visible but still barred. Cookie laid in front of it still curled up in a sobbing ball, unaware of what was going on around her.
“I know what I’d like to do,” said another, raising a hoof threateningly. “She was one of Gambit’s chief enforcers. She certainly gave me a few bruises, time to repay the favour.”
“Stop!” cried Castor, entering the room with the element bearers, Pokey and Sparkler. He pushing past the crowd of watchers. “Don’t!”
“Why not? She was the one who took your daughter!”
Anger flashed over Castor’s face for a moment, but he forced it back down. “I know, but she’s also a hurt filly, and she was as much a victim in this as you.” He trotted forwards and knelt by Cookie’s curled up form.
She looked up, tears flowing down her face. “He... He... left me, abandoned me. Said I was ugly! I loved him! It hurts so much!” She sniffed.
Gently, Castor turned Cookie’s scarred face towards him before enfolding the young mare in a hug. “No, never ugly,” he said. “No one should call a filly ugly. You’re beautiful, he was the ugly one.”
“That’s it? You’re just going to let her go? After what she’s done?” asked the street pony.
“No, she does need to pay for what she did, everypony does. But I think I can arrange for the courts to be lenient. I’ll need staff to work the shelters when I reopen them, she could be security, that would be a fitting community service.”
There was a sudden gasp from behind him as Ditzy’s necklace burst into pink bubbles of light. Her eyes glowed a blank white as she rose into the air, her wings still folded. Cookie backed away from Castor, gasping in shock. The purple stallion turned to see what was happening. For some reason he didn’t feel the least bit frightened at this occurrence, it just felt, right, to him.
A flash forced all present to avert their gaze. And when they could look back Castor sat there looking a little unsteady on his hooves with a golden necklace around his neck, a pink crystal in the shape of a diamond set in it. Ditzy gently floated to the ground before collapsing with a soft sigh. Before anypony else could react, and putting his own weakness aside, Castor rushed forwards the fallen pegasus. “Are you all right?” he asked.
Ditzy’s mismatched eyes flipped open and one of them stared into Castor’s as he leaned over her. “It’s all right, that always takes it out of me.”
“As long as you’re all right,” he said, running a hoof gently through her mane.
Ditzy flashed back to similar situations so many years ago now, in another world. It had been a long time, but she still remembered how he happy she’d been at the time. She blushed, “I’m fine.” She gently pushed away Castor with some regret. “I guess you have a few questions about that?” she said pointing a his new decoration.
Handsome Gambit awoke. He felt cold and his head ached, where was he? He remembered him and Prench Hotel making their way through the tunnel to the river where he had a small but swift boat to take them and their ill gotten gains far away. His mind felt foggy, they had gotten outside of the cities limit and he had opened a bottle of champagne to celebrate. Then he’d felt very tired all of a sudden. His eyes widened and he sat up, he’d been drugged... the little putain had drugged him!
He staggered to his feet. The river flowed past a short distance away, but the rest of the land was clogged with vines, a few lazily twitching as if sniffing the air. Of Prench and his money, there was no sign. He was alone, bitless and lost.
“PRENCH!” he roared, but there was no one around to hear.
“So I’m a member of some kind of universe saving super team?” asked Castor, clutching a cup of tea in his hooves like it was a lifejacket. It was several hours later and they had returned to his own house. Outside there was the sound of building as the long abandoned parts of the house were opened up again to give shelter to the street ponies. Iron Nails was helping to organise the work.
“Sort of,” said Spike. “We’re not quite the Power Ponies, but we think if we can get all of this universe’s elements together we should be able to destroy the vines and even return the princesses.”
“It’s all so big,” mumbled the stallion. “Why me? I’ve done what I can for this city, but the whole world?”
“None of us expected to be chosen either,” said Ditzy, resting her newly bandaged hoof on Castor’s. She’d decided not to tell Castor of their relationship in her world. It would only be even more confusing, not to mention awkward.
“I knew I was an exceptional musician,” said Octavia, “but I didn’t expect to be singled out as the Element of Honesty.”
“I always knew I was awesome,” boasted Dash.
“Anyway,” said Spike. “We need your help”
“But what about all of the homeless. Who will help them while I’m gone?”
“I think you already know the answer to that,” said Ditzy, looking at Sparkler.
“But it’s too much, she’s just a...” He sighed. “Of course, I’m sure she’ll be fantastic at it.”
“Thanks Dad.” She smiled and nuzzled her father.
“I’ll give her a hoof,” offered Pokey.
Castor’s eye’s narrowed a bit. “I don’t think I entirely trust you with my daughter. No funny business while I’m away.”
Sparkler pouted, “Awww! And we were going to have lots of sexy, sexy, sex!” Pokey turned purple as a blush spread over his own body and Castor’s eyes bulged. She laughed. “I’m joking Dad. Nothing’s going to happen.” She leaned over and hugged him again. “Come back soon, and be careful.”
“That’s my line,” noted Castor, getting to his hooves and wrapping a newly filled bandana of spell gems around himself. “No time like the present I suppose. How do I get to wherever I’m going?”
Suddenly the rubber form Pinkie still wore attached to her head started to swell and twist as Discord returned to his normal mismatched form. Castor stared at the small creature as it walked across the table. “That would be down to me,” said Discord. The Dracoequis contorted his form, bending his back into a U so his head almost touched the ground. “My chaosness, what did you do while I was asleep? Use me to beat up a group of ponies?”
Pinkie looked a little ashamed before she realised who she was dealing with. Then a frown returned to her features.
“Whatever it was, it’s done me a world of good. I haven't felt this limber in millennium. Now I assume you’ve found the next element bearer. Who is it? This delightful young mare?” He bowed at Sparkler.
“No, guess again,” said Pinkie.
“This rather battered stallion?” He turned to Pokey, but Pinkie shook her head. “No? Then who could it be.” He leaned against the tea pot for a moment. “I know! It’s this piece of crockery isn’t it. I always knew tea was a vital ingredient in friendship.”
“Um, it’s me,” said Castor, eyes locked on the strange creature in front of him.
“You! You!” gasped Discord examining the stallion. “Well, beggars can’t be choosers I suppose. Anyway, are you ready to go to Ponyville like that generous pony and the magical one?”
Castor stood up and gave Sparkler one last hug. “Stay safe,” he said.
“You too,” she replied before standing back. Pokey put a hoof over her back.
Castor turned and embraced each of the element bearers. “Thank you for your help, for showing my path again and for saving my daughter.” The last in line was Ditzy, who may have held on to him for a little longer than was acceptable. She still had some good memories of her time with the Castor from her universe and it had been a long time since she had a stallion in her life.
Discord made a gagging motion, “Are we done now?” he asked. “Good.” He clicked his talons and there was a loud explosion as Castor vanished. “Oops,” he said, looking at his claw.
“What did you do?” cried Pinkie, turning on the spirit.
“Daddy!” cried Sparkler.
“Oh don’t get your knickers in a twist,” said Discord. “Not that you wear them, you naughty mares. It’s just a side effect of the teleport. He’ll be fine, well maybe a little singed but mostly fine.”
Pinkie gave Discord another glare.
“I suppose the rest of us should be off as well,” said Spike, looking around. “The other element bearers aren't going to find themselves.” He turned to Sparkler and Pokey. “I hope everything works out well for you guys, with any luck the vines will be gone soon.”
“I hope so,” said Pokey. “But it’s not like the homeless will just disappear. We still have a lot of work ahead of us.”
“Stay awesome kid,” said Dash to Sparkler. “And like I said don’t let lover colt push you into anything you don’t want to.”
“Thanks Dash,” said Sparkler. “Don’t worry.” She hugged Pokey, who winced a little. “You’re going to fix the world, so I’ll have all the time I need.”
“Good luck dear,” said Orange.
“We’ll have an ultra special super save the world party when we’ve finished,” said Pinkie, hugging Sparkler. “And you’re all invited.”
“I hope your endeavours are all successful,” intoned Octavia, bowing stiffly.
“I’m so glad you and your father see eye to eye again,” said Ditzy. “Nothing should ever get between a parent and their child.”
“Thank you all,” said Sparkler.
“Can we go now?” asked Discord, looking bored.
“Good, next stop somewhere which isn’t here,” he intoned, snapping his fingers.
There was a thunderous explosion as the element bearers disappeared, already on their way to their next destination.