• Published 23rd Oct 2011
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Whiplash - Molotov Cocktail



A motorcyclist is struck by lightning. He awakens on the verge of death in a very strange land.

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Chapter 5

September 11, 2015
Atlanta, Georgia
12:03 AM

A hushed, somber wind blew across the empty streets of Atlanta. From the sky, it was a brilliant display of lights, a shimmering diamond on the face of the earth.

The late nights brought drunk drivers, muggings, car jackings, and robberies undercover of darkness and inconvenient timing. A lone patrol car sat still and lifeless, a faint light emerging from a glowing rectangle inside. Its lone occupant played solitaire on a built-in laptop.

It was a slow night, only a few arrests had been made since the sun went down. The officer was too busy working on beating the computer that he wasn’t able to look up in time. A two-wheeled blur raced across town, running red light after red light with no intention of stopping.

The officer glanced up from his computer.

“I didn’t see anything,” he shrugged, dragging his cards from one deck to the next.

The rider of that two-wheeled blur was determined to make it to his destination while breaking every traffic law possible.

The squeals of tires and roars of engines destroyed the silence Atlanta’s industrial district was so used to at this hour. During the day, it was bustling with commercial activity. But after the sun went down, not a soul was present. Much to the delight of Atlanta’s street racing community.

Street racers used to be just a public nuisance, but recent shootings between crews, one even taking the life of a police officer, had changed the city’s attitude. All around the Atlanta, the number of racers and stunters was shrinking and shrinking. Not just motorcycles, but those who raced cars, as well.

A black sport bike, its rider shrouded in equally black gear, tore rapidly through the warehouse district. The rider was able to see the embers of cigarettes, as well as the presence of small brake lights and headlights, at the end of a concrete field. This was definitely the right place.

As was customary for those approaching the race spots, he rode to the side so as to keep out of any racers’ way. Two drag-racing blurs whizzed past him, speeding towards the other end of the abandoned parking lot.

Crews gathered in several spots on their makeshift racetrack, congregated around their bikes. The racers eyed the approaching headlights apprehensively. This unknown rider was alone; it wasn’t often that a racer showed up by themselves, and for good reason. Without the presence of a crew backing them up, it made them a prime target for being stripped of their cash. However, this rider was obviously prepared for that, brandishing a weapon on his hip. He was not the only one at this spot that was packing.

The rider slowly brought his bike to a stop and put his foot down, removing his helmet. His bike looked brand-new, he was probably just some wannabe. The other racers paid him no mind as he lit a fresh cigarette.

The crews were situated all around him. Some sat on their bikes, some sat criss-cross on the hard, concrete ground. Some counted bills on their gas tanks, paying out to those who’d bested them. Eventually, a group of stunters showed up. The rider and the other racers spectated as daredevils showed off their skills.

The young biker always thought it was stupid these stunters would wear nothing but t-shirts and helmets. He never rode without a helmet on his head, and reinforced Kevlar covering every inch of his skin. There was on old saying that had already saved his life once: All the gear, all the time.

An African American rider, wearing a red t-shirt to match his bike, quickly sped across the parking lot and locked the front brake, his Yamaha R1 executing a perfect stoppie. The stunter lost momentum and its rear tire smacked the pavement, but he wasn’t done yet.

The R1 pulled its front tire up, the stunter standing on its passenger pegs and riding his bike in circles while almost perpendicular to the ground. The racers cheered as he held the wheelie for almost a minute, and smacked it back down.

The stunter flipped up his visor, and parked next to the lone rider.

“Well, well, well,” he chuckled sarcastically. “If it isn’t little ol’ Greenhorn. I’m surprised to see you around here again.”

“It’s been a while, Dreads,” Patrick and the stunter bumped fists.

“I heard about what happened to…” Dreads looked away for a moment.

“Yeah, I know.”

“Dreads, you know this guy?” a member of his crew asked.

“Oh yeah, man,” Dreads took off his helmet, revealing his long dread locks, undoubtedly the source of his nickname.

“We go way back.”

“New bike?” Dreads looked his Honda CBR1000 up and down.

“Oh, yeah,” Patrick smiled, and tapped the gas tank between his legs proudly.

“Ooh, speed,” Dreads admired the custom sprockets Patrick had installed, as well as his Yoshimaura performance exhaust.

Patrick experienced difficulty leading a normal life after his honorable discharge. Even with military experience, it was hard to find a place in society.

The first thing he did after returning to civilian life, before taking out a loan and blowing ten grand on the bike between his legs, was a trip to the local gun store. It was quite easy for a decorated veteran to obtain an open-carry permit.

Patrick had entered the world of street racing when he was only sixteen years old. After fleeing from a race that got busted almost three years ago, he found an APD Crown Vic’ waiting for him in his driveway. The one time he conveniently forgot to remove his tag left him with his bike impounded and the loss of his license.

Street racing, though, had easily landed him several thousand dollars on a good night. To make sure he’d get paid, and for protection from those that wanted his money without earning it first, Patrick depended on the .40 at his waist.

“Well, since you’re back in the ‘hood,” Dreads stroked his goatee. “How’s about you and me drag?”

It caught Patrick off guard.

“What, right now?”

“Yeah, you heard me white boy,” Dreads crossed his arms.

“Alright, I’ll throw down three hundred on that,” Patrick smugly smacked three hundred-dollar-bills onto his gas tank.

“Big spender, that’s a little more than your usual fifty bucks back in the day,” Dreads laughed.

“Shut up and race me,” Patrick slipped on his helmet and strapped on his gloves.

Dreads did the same, and they lined up at an empty parking space. The parking lot was behind a warehouse, which kept prying eyes from seeing the source of the ear shattering roars and cries from the two wheeled deathtraps.

It was a half-mile stretch from one point to the other. Just a quick drag race, for old time’s sake. Patrick could definitely outdo Dreads, there was no question in his mind, though.

A scantily clad blonde strutted out between the bikers and raised both her arms into the air. Patrick shifted into first, and squeezed the front brake. He locked his rear tire, and slowly opened the throttle.

His rear tire squealed, and billowed white smoke. His bike demanded to go forward, but Patrick was firm on his front brake, and executed a burnout.

Dreads had pulled off a burnout, as well. Soon enough, Patrick found himself grinning ear to ear. It was the first time he’d raced in years. The thrill, the adrenaline rush. It was all coming back to him.

The blonde let her arms down, and both the bikers rocketed out of the crude starting line on unmaintained asphalt. Dreads had even managed to pop a wheelie right from the start. He’d always been a show off.

Patrick pinned the throttle, expertly disengaging it and re-engaging it to shift. He clicked into the next gear just before his tachometer redlined. Dreads was just ahead of him, his t-shirt fluttering with the wind, but Patrick was making headway. His bike was almost maxed out, he couldn’t go any faster without red-lining, risking blowing his engine.

“Fuck it,” Patrick thought, and tucked his head down under his windshield, laying his feet on the passenger pegs; he was not about to lose his first race since restarting his street-racing career. With a flick of his wrist, he gunned the throttle.

The illuminated digital speedometer reached one hundred and sixty miles per hour as the RPM gauge was pinned to the very end of the red zone.

His temperature gauge was slowly reaching the overheating point. They circled around the large, abandoned parking lot, heading back towards the spectators.

His engine was nearing its limit. At this point, he’d be lucky if he didn’t blow it out. But Patrick continued to push it harder. His speedometer reached one hundred and seventy miles per hour.

They were neck and neck, but Patrick had managed to prevail. He passed the makeshift finish line next to the other racers just a few feet ahead of Dreads.

He and Dreads pulled back into the line of bikes, Patrick pocketing six Benjamins.

“Yeah, you still got it. You one crazy honky,” Dreads bumped Patrick’s fist. “But next time, I’m shooting out your tires,” he flashed his Colt 1911, and slid it back in his waistband.

Patrick laughed, and settled back down to brag about the race. It wasn’t too long before everyone fell silent, and was looking in a certain direction. He turned his head.

Two headlights side by side, joined by a flashing blue light, had infiltrated their riding grounds. The racers scrambled to put their helmets on and start up their bikes, riding around the police car on the wide parking lot with ease.

The APD knew it was useless to try and chase bikes, it was only a waste of gas. Still, it was odd that only one police car showed up, usually it was two or three.

Suddenly, there was a very audible thrumming approaching. The same kind of thrumming that could be associated with helicopter rotors.

“They got a chopper on us?” Dreads bellyached. “Sheeyit, this just got interesting.”

“Just try and keep up,” Patrick revved his engine, popping a quick wheelie past the stationary cop and shot out of the parking lot. Dreads followed close behind.

The thrum of helicopter blades and its searching spotlight was only getting closer and closer...


“You’re getting much better,” Nurse Redheart unwrapped the bandages on his arm and chest. “How’s the pain been?”

“Not bad,” Patrick stated.

It had been three days since he ended up in Equestria. Since his stay at the library, he had been reading up on pony culture and history, as Twilight, increasingly getting discouraged, searched through every book she had for answers to Patrick’s growing questions, and anxiety.

Nurse Redheart, with the aid of Nurse Tenderheart, undid the bandages around his chest, and cleaned his most serious wound. They carefully worked as a team, and re-wrapped the bandage. Even without stitches, his wound was beginning to finally seal. The burn on his arm was doing well, but it limited his mobility tremendously. While even second-degree burns heal relatively fast, it would be a while though before he fully recovered.

“All done,” Nurse Redheart smiled, and showed Patrick to the door. “Just make sure not to strain anything too much, we need to keep that wound closed.”

As he was just leaving, Ponyville’s mail-mare, with a patch of bubbles on her flank, trotted through the door of the waiting room. Her daughter, Dinky Doo, bounced along behind her. Both stopped dead in their tracks as they saw Patrick.

Patrick looked at them for a moment, and decided it wasn’t worth it. He continued exiting the building without saying a word.

“Oh hello Ms. Ditzy. Are you ready for your eye exam, Dinky?” Nurse Redheart asked.

“Yeah!” Dinky Doo chirped. “I bet I have better vision than my mommy!”

Patrick smoked a cigarette outside, finding himself falling into a routine. It was his first time actually going into town by himself since he got here. Every three days, he’d need to go to Nurse Redheart’s for a check up. Every morning, Rainbow Dash would come crashing through the library’s window, begging Patrick to start up his motorcycle and come watch her fly. Every night, he and Twilight would study together, going through book after book, trying to find anything on the human race or magic of the degree that could snatch him from his universe and drop him here. Twilight had a few interesting leads, but he was still getting nowhere.

Although, he was genuinely appreciative of all the help that everyone had been to him since he got here, minus a few ponies, particularly that gray one, and any other pony that would just stare at him. But it did make him think about his living situation. Patrick couldn’t ever accept favors or gifts without giving something in return. Twilight and her friends had saved his life, given him a roof over his head, and Twilight even cooked for him.

And what did he do in return? Nothing. Just like being honorably discharged from the Army after being wounded, he felt worthless. Just a burden to society.

Passing ponies stared at him as he stood there, in his motorcycle boots, jeans, and his T-Shirt. He showed up to this universe with the clothes on his back, and whatever was in his pockets and motorcycle. He wanted to use his bike to get around. After all, he’d not fully recovered, and walking can become a bit of a chore when you’re still recovering from burns and gaping wounds in your chest.

Still, he needed to be smart about the gas in his tank. It was a miracle his motorcycle only suffered cosmetic damage, it was a miracle he was even alive, for that matter. But his bike still ran, it still drove, to the limits of its fuel tank. He needed to save all the gas that he could, in case he might need his motorcycle for whatever reason. It didn’t hurt to be prepared by having a quick, 200-mile getaway should he ever need it.

Having seemingly each and every pony stare at him as they walked by was starting to get at him. Patrick ashed his cigarette under his boot and walked down the cobble stone road, away from prying eyes that were trying his patience. His feet were getting extremely sore. The armored motorcycle boots that wrapped around his feet and shins were not designed for everyday walking.

After taking many strained steps, Patrick found himself on a dirt path, surrounded by a farm and rows of apple trees. He spied an orange earth-pony hard at work off in the distance.

She charged an apple tree, using the force and momentum to kick with her hind legs. All the apples fell into awaiting baskets below.

“Wow,” Patrick said. “That was impressive.”

“Mhmm,” Applejack commented, admiring her work. “Ah just wish Ah could get a farmhoof round here.”

Patrick’s eyes lit up.

“A job!” he thought. “Why didn’t I think of it before?” Even though Patrick was pretty down on himself for mooching off of everyone, he could still give back to them somehow.

“Hey, uh, Applejack, right?”

“Yes?”

“I don’t know how long I’m going to be here, but as long as I am, how about I be your farm hand?”

“You’d really be willin’ to do that fer’ me?” Applejack smiled. “But, ain’t you still injured from that crash?” she pointed to his clearly bandaged arm, and a bit of banding protruding under his t-shirt.

Patrick’s good vibe faded. He had been pretty sore the past few days, but it was nothing that would have kept him from going to a normal job back home. There were certain things he couldn’t do, so as not to risk re-opening the gaping wound under his bandages, but maybe there was something he could do so he wouldn’t feel so useless.

“Listen,” Patrick started, as he helped Applejack carry a basket of apples to a farm carriage.

“Twilight has really been helping me out. I mean, you all have, since I got here, but she opened up her home to me, you know?”

“Right,” She balanced a basket on her back. “So, what’re you gettin’ at?”

“Well,” Patrick grunted as he set the basket down on the wood carriage. “I just don’t want to feel so useless, I guess. I feel like I should try to give back a little bit, at least.”

“Aw, sugar cube, that’s mighty kind a’ ya’, but she ain’t got no money problems. She’s the princess’s student, ya’ know.”

“I know,” Patrick replied. “But still, I don’t like to let good deeds go unrewarded. Just give me a shot.”

“Well…” Applejack weighed her options. “Ah’m sorry, but Ah really need somepony who’s able bodied and can pull their own weight. Ah don’t mean anything by that, but it’s just, you’re still recoverin’ from when we found you in them woods. Ah can barely afford to keep this here farm runnin’, if Ah’m going to hire a hoo-er, hand, Ah’ll need em’ ta’ work hard.”

“Oh,” Patrick’s heart shrank. “I understand.”

“Now hold on there, Ah’ll tell you what,” Applejack quickly retorted. “Ah’m ‘bout to go bring some apples into town to sell at mah’ stand. If y’all wanna help me with that, Ah’ll throw you some bits, but only for today.”

“I’d be glad to,” Patrick’s eyes lit back up. He and Applejack loaded up her carriage as Big Macintosh hooked himself up to it.

Big Mac pulled them into town, where Patrick and Applejack unloaded their harvest of apples to be sold to the public. Things were going good, they had sold many bushels of apples, until a group of three stallions cockily traipsed towards their stand.

Something about them threw Patrick off, so he watched them like a hawk. As they walked by, one of the stallions, a gray earth pony with a black mane, snatched a few apples from the stand.

“Hey!” Applejack cried. “Y’all didn’t pay for them apples!”

“Oh, I guess I didn’t!” the stallion took a bite as his two cohorts laughed belittlingly.

Patrick stood up from his post and confronted the gray stallion. He wasn’t quite as buff as Big Macintosh, but he was still big. Big enough for Patrick not to mess with him if he didn’t have to, but he still felt compelled to say something.

“What the hay are you supposed to be?” the colt mocked.

“Now, you’re gonna pay for those, or I’m gonna make you,” Patrick crossed his arms.

Suddenly, it felt like he’d been hit by a train. A strong blow had knocked him to the ground. The pain was so intense, he could swear he’d seen stars.

The human weezed in and out on the ground, his lungs struggling after having the wind knocked out of them. A throbbing pain shot up his chest underneath freshly wrapped bandages.

The stallion and his two partners in crime cackled at him. Applejack gasped in shock, and gritted her teeth in anger.

“Stay down, unless you want bandages on your other arm,” the stallion stomped his hooves. Patrick’s t-shirt hid the bandages on his chest, making it hard to see just how injured Patrick really was at first glance. A small crowd of ponies had assembled to watch what was going on.

He rolled over in agony, a hand gripping his chest. The stallion had head-butted him directly on his wound. Patrick flashed an angry expression at Applejack, who merely stood and watched. Why was no one helping him?

"Just let it go, Patrick," she whispered. "It ain't worth lettin' you get hurt over a few apples."

He looked back up at the gray stallion, his ego bursting from his cocky expression. He had left his Glock back at the library, after Twilight had finally convinced him he would be better off not walking around with a loaded weapon. Reluctantly, he agreed. Even if he did have his handgun, shooting somepony over a few stolen apples wouldn’t go over well with the community.

“What’s the matter, miss your mommy?”

But he was not going to give this jerk-off the satisfaction of bullying him, or Applejack. His pride just wouldn’t let him stay down.

The human uneasily rose to his feet, bringing up his hands. He swung his fist into the side of the stallion’s skull as hard as he could manage. The wound in his chest unmistakably tore even more, almost making him lose his balance. The stallion winced back in pain, but he stood his ground.

“Oh, you just made a big mistake.” Before Patrick could throw another punch from his good arm, the gray stallion spun around and bucked Patrick in the chest, knocking him back to the ground in the same manner as before.

“Had enough?” the stallion flashed a cheeky grin.

It went against everything the Army had taught him, and everything he believed in, but he was in no condition to fight. Sure, military hand-to-hand combat had trained him well, but not how to fight a fucking horse, while injured. Anyone who’s ever ridden horseback would agree: A pair of bucking hind legs from a stallion could easily crack a skull. Trying to fight one hand-to-hoof, while crippled, was probably not a good idea.

Patrick dejectedly lay on the ground, staring menacingly into a pair of cocky, green eyes. For the first time in his life, he just had his ass handed to him.

“That’s what I thought,” the gray stallion took another triumphant bite of the apple, as he and his cohorts left the scene. With seemingly every pony in Ponyville staring at him, Patrick buried his face in his hands, feeling overwhelmingly humiliated. It wasn’t enough he was this weird, alien two-legged creature to them, he just got the shit beaten out of him in front of everyone.

“Aw’right, come on,” Applejack turned him over, helping him up. “You’re fine, he didn’t hit’chyall that har-“

Applejack stopped midsentence. A warm, red liquid had seeped through Patrick’s shirt, and began to puddle on the ground.

Some ponies still lingered, murmuring to themselves inaudibly from where Applejack stood. None of them were helping, or even condemning the stallion’s actions. Applejack felt a fit of rage build up inside of her.

“Y’all see that?” Applejack pointed towards a growing red stain on Patrick’s shirt and the cobblestone ground. “Even though he was injured, he was only tryin’ ta’ protect mah’ stand, and here all of y’all just watch? Y’all are just gon’ let somepony hogtie any stranger that comes to visit our town, just ba’cause he looks odd?”

The crowd gradually dispersed, although a few ponies moved by Applejack’s speech had come over to help Patrick up.

“Someone ought to teach those menaces a lesson,” a brown stallion with an hourglass cutie-mark shook his hoof.

Applejack walked him to Nurse Redheart’s clinic, stopping just outside the door.

“Why in Ponyville would y’all try somethin’ like that, when Ah already couldn’t give y’all a real job cuz’a yer’ injuries?”

Patrick clasped a hand over his chest, dripping with blood.

“I just couldn’t sit there and let that happen,” Patrick coughed. “Although, looking back, that probably wasn’t such a good idea.”

Applejack fished into her saddlebags and withdrew a small, velvet bag.

“Here,” she held out her hoof in sympathy. “This is fer’ today.”

“I only worked for a few hours,” Patrick shook the bag as many coins clanged together inside.

“S’the least Ah could do, seein’ as y’all got hurt on tha’ job.”

“Thanks,” Patrick stuffed the bag in his pocket, a grimace of pain on his face. “I’m sorry, I really should have just let it go.”

“Ah don’t know what y’all did for a livin’ before ya’ came here, but it sure wasn’t makin’ dresses. Ah’m going back to mah’ stand, stay outta’ trouble.”

Nurse Redheart wasn’t happy all her previous work had been undone because of Patrick’s carelessness, but after hearing about how he stood up for Applejack, she was happy to help.

“You’re going to need stitches this time,” Nurse Redheart sighed, examining the re-opened wound. They had just stopped the bleeding again, but this was not going to heal quickly.

“But we won’t be able to do that until tomorrow. For now, just,” she emphasized it with her hooves. “Take it easy.”

Patrick nodded, and exited the clinic. He clutched his chest as he walked, looking over his shoulder often in paranoia. Soon enough, his feet were killing him again. He wanted to rip off his motorcycle boots and throw them into the volcano of Mordor, never to be seen again. But they were the only footwear in this entire universe that fit him.

The human took a break from walking for a moment. He was exhausted, walking under so much pain. It would be so much easier if he just had a regular pair of shoes.

“Look out!”

Patrick stepped out of the way just in time as a rainbow-maned Pegasus crashed into the ground.

“Sorry,” she stood up, shaking it off. “Still trying to get this new trick down. The Wonderbolts are coming in a few days and I want it perfect when I-“

Rainbow Dash stopped. A freshly dried, red stain crept down from Patrick’s shirt to his jeans.

“What happened to you?”

“Oh, nothing much,” Patrick grumbled. “Got my ass kicked for standing up to some dick who stole from Applejack’s stand.”

“What?” Rainbow Dash replied. “Why didn’t you just fight back?”

“Look at me!” Patrick made a crude gesture to his arm and chest, wrapped in gauze. “Half of me is taped together right now, and I can’t even walk for more than five minutes at a time because of these friggin' boots.”

“So, just take them off?” Rainbow Dash raised an eyebrow.

“I don’t have hooves,” Patrick shrugged. “Humans kind of need shoes.”

“Well, if that’s what you need,” Rainbow Dash pointed towards a giant, frilly white building. It looked to be a fashion store of some sort. “You should look there.”

Twilight could wait a day or two, he needed to focus on his immediate problems. Maybe he could find a tailor who could custom-make him a pair of shoes. Patrick entered the building, a bell attached to the top of the door announcing his presence.

“Come in, come in!” a fashonista with a purple mane, sporting a pair of red shades, sat rolling a few threads of fabric through a sewing machine.

“Patrick!” Rarity stood up from her work, and happily trotted over to him.

“What brings you here?”

“I didn’t know you were a fashion designer,” Patrick glanced around at the many mannequins with elegant dresses and outfits.

“But of course,” her face brightened. “I design only the finest clothes in all of Equestria. I even designed the other girls’ dresses for the Grand Galloping Gala! You should have seen them!”

“I’m sure they were just… Lovely,” Patrick didn’t really know what she meant. “Well, I wanted to ask you something.”

Patrick withdrew a handful of coins from his pocket, and then brought one of his feet forward. “I just need some regular shoes.”

The white unicorn looked his boots up and down, messing with a strap once or twice. “I hate to say it like this Patrick, but,” she grimaced. “These boots are just dreadful. I don’t know who dressed you, or who designed these, but I can’t imagine what these, these…” She stammered. “These… Things, would even go with. Maybe in the winter, though…”

“They’re designed for racing, and protection,” Patrick replied. “-For riding. But, they’re terrible for everyday walking. I just really need something more comfortable.”

“Patrick, darling,” Rarity shook her head, dumping the coins back into his pocket with her magic.

“After everything you’ve been through, I couldn’t charge you a single bit. I’ll need to design something from scratch, but there’s never anything I haven’t been able to make.”

Rarity sat Patrick down and began taking measurements of his boots. He pulled his boots off so Rarity could further measure him.

“Wait here,” the fashonista whipped back to her sewing machine, and began working with her materials, her horn glowing madly.

Patrick reclined for several hours, reading through a few pony fashion magazines. He found himself wishing for just a Time or Newsweek, anything that wasn’t about fashion.

He must have nodded off, because when Patrick opened his eyes, Rarity was shaking him violently.

“Patrick! Wake up!”

“Huh?” he rubbed his eyes.

“I finished!” Rarity levitated two black, canvas and leather sneakers, which were based on the lower halves of his boots and the crude dimensions of a shoe he had scribbled onto a piece of paper for her. She even got the laces and all, just right.

He slipped them on and tied the laces quickly. Patrick rose to his feet, smiling. It was the most comfortable pair of shoes he’d ever worn. He took a few steps, remarking to himself that it felt like he was walking on air.

“Oh yeah, much better! Rarity, I can’t thank you enough. If there’s anything I can ever-“

“Shh!” she shushed Patrick. “Not another word, it is a favor from me to you.”

Patrick grabbed his boots, thanking Rarity for the hundredth time, and found himself being tugged on the shoulder by her magic. He spun around.

“Yes?”

“There’s something I’ve been wanting to ask you,” a hint of seriousness in her voice.

“Oh?” Patrick set his boots down.

“I saw you and Grayburn get into a bit of a scuffle this afternoon.”

Patrick’s looked away in shame. He really didn’t want to talk about this right now.

“Also, when we found you,” Rarity removed her shades. “A pendant fell out of your jacket. Not to be nosy, but I read the inscription on the back.”

“Yeah, who hasn’t?” Patrick was slightly irritated now, but his hand shook nervously, emphasizing the weakness in his voice.

“So, you were in the Royal Guard in Atlanta?” she asked.

“No, not exactly,” Patrick broke eye contact.

“Twilight told me you seized up after she just asked you a question.”

With that, he marched quickly towards the door.

“Where are you going?!” Rarity ran and blocked his path.

“Please excuse me, I need a cigarette,” Patrick withdrew one from his pack.

“That’s no way to deal with your stress,” Rarity shook her head. “Yes, Twilight told me about that, too.”

“If there’s something wrong, you can tell me.”

“No,” Patrick replied.

“Tell me,” Rarity frowned, her eyebrows furrowing.

“No.”

“Tellmetellmetellmetellmetellmeeeeee,” she whined.

Patrick covered his ears, but he couldn’t drown out Rarity’s protests. He felt his anxiety bubble in the back of his skull, his heart beating out of his chest. Patrick kept everything pent up for so long, it was hard to let it just come out. It was as if a bubble had been blowing up inside his heart for years, and it just burst.

“I WAS IN A WAR!” Patrick screamed at the top of his lungs. Rarity stopped her whining and froze.

“There! Are you happy? I was a soldier! I went to war, I killed people, I got shot, and I watched my closest friends die!”

Patrick panted heavily as Rarity stared at him, her mouth gaping. He picked up his boots and stormed out of the boutique.

He leaned up against the wall outside, inhaling a thick, gray cloud of smoke into his lungs. His hands were shaking.

The lush, green fields and shrubbery around him made him mad. Everything about this place seemed to anger him. It was too perfect; it was nothing like Earth, like the United States. They had everything figured out here. There was no war, there was no famine, all there was… Was peace, minus some stories of ancient, powerful alicorns duking it out every thousand years or so.

And the only hope he had to get back to Earth, the world that ran on sin, money, greed, misery, murder, and war, lay with a letter he and Twilight had sent to Celestia today. Why did he want to go back? It’s not like anything would be different. All he had to look forward to was a flat, alcohol, and some street racing. That was it.

“Patrick?” Rarity shyly poked her head out of the door as the bell jingled behind her.

He was sitting up against the wall, his face buried in his hands. The burning cigarette was set between two fingers.

“Patrick,” she sat down next to him. “Are you going to be alright, darling?”

Patrick nodded, and looked down at the grass. He and Rarity sat for some time, it could have been hours for all he knew.

“I’m sorry,” Patrick finally uttered. “I shouldn’t have snapped at you like that.”

“No, dear,” Rarity stood up, lifting Patrick to his feet with her magic as she led him back inside. “I had no idea that’s what ‘military merit’ meant. Honest.”

Patrick had only spoken about the ambush once, and it was at his friends’ funeral. He had never really spoken from the heart about it, though.

"-So I just ran," Patrick explained to Rarity. "Even though I got hit by frag, I ran as fast as I could. I made it behind these rocks, and by the time I got away, the other vehicles in our convoy just got… got," he struggled not to let any tears flow down his cheeks. "They just exploded. And when I looked back, all of my friends, the ones I had enlisted with, were just laying there. Still on fire.”

“How did you get away?” Rarity, as wide-eyed as ever, listened to Patrick’s tragic tale of human warfare.

“I got wounded running back to my guys. They had to drag me to their cover, I just barely made it. It wasn't a normal war, all we could do was die.”

“Who was your country even fighting?” Rarity asked.

“Everyone. They didn't fear death! They'd strap themselves with explosives, dress up in civilian clothing, and blow themselves up next to any patrols! We were there to protect those people, and the kids in the villages would throw rocks and trash at us!"

“That’s positively terrible!” Rarity gasped. “Why in Equestria would you put yourself in that situation? Why would you even want to be a soldier?”

“I had nowhere else to go,” Patrick felt a tear drip down his face, but quickly wiped it off.

“Surely, you did,” Rarity said.

“I was eighteen years old. My mom was in the mental hospital, my father got put in prison, so I lost my living arrangement. I was on probation for street racing and lost my license. I couldn’t even get a job, because I had no way of getting there. My only other option was to be homeless! Still think I had somewhere else to go?

“No,” Rarity shook her head. “I suppose you didn’t.”

“My friends… They had been there for me through it all. But the whole senior year, I had to listen to them talk about how much Taliban ass they were going to kick when they enlisted together. My friend, Jose… His family even let me stay with them after my parents couldn’t take care of me anymore.”

“So you did it together?” Rarity said.

Patrick nodded.

“I never even wanted to join the military, but they roped me into it. They were the closest thing I had to a family, I couldn’t just let them leave without me. It’s not like I had anything else going on, anyway.”

“Have you told Twilight this?” Rarity asked. “The entire reason Twilight is here is to study friendship on behalf of Princess Celestia herself.”

“No,” Patrick shook his head. “I haven’t told anyone.”

“I think you should tell Twilight,” Rarity spoke softly. “When you’re ready. I believe that not only would it help you, but it might even help with her studies, too.”

He and Rarity talked for hours, until finally, Luna began to raise her moon.

“I just hope you don’t think I’m some kind of monster, now,” Patrick stood up, grabbing his boots.

“Not even in the slightest,” Rarity hugged Patrick, and he awkwardly bent down to receive it.

“Don’t ever let anything get to you, Patrick. You can let all that go, and your life will be so much better. If you ever need to talk, I’m here.”

“Thank you,” Patrick began his walk back to the library, clutching his chest every now and then.

Maybe he’d start feeling better after he got stitches, so he could at least stop ripping his chest open every other day.

Though, it really did feel like a weight had been lifted off his shoulders as he finally talked to someone heart-to-heart about everything that had been ailing him for so long.

Even though she insisted he tell Twilight about his ordeal, he didn’t really feel ready. Especially after everything that happened today. Maybe he would talk to her about everything, in time. For now, he just needed to continue focusing on finding a way home.

Patrick stepped through the door, Twilight and Spike had just finished cooking dinner.

“Hey!” Patrick set his boots down.

Twilight looked at his shoes admiringly. “Wow, did Rarity make you those?”

“Yeah, how’d you know?”

“Well, I wouldn’t expect anyone else to do that good work,” Twilight levitated a bowl of salad onto the table, as well as a few other vegetable and fruit themed dishes.

“What happened with you and Grayburn earlier?” Spike eyed Patrick suspiciously. “Everyone’s talking about how you and him got in a fight.”

Twilight and Spike were staring at him.

“I don’t really wanna talk about that,” Patrick sighed.

“Are you okay?” Twilight asked with concern, noting that his shirt looked like he tried to wash blood out of it recently.

“I’m fine,” Patrick’s chest ached. “-Really. Nurse Redheart is going to have to give me stitches tomorrow, though.”

“Yeah, bro, I heard he tried to steal some apples from Applejack’s stand and he beat you down when you stood up to him. What a bully,” Spike crossed his arms indifferently. “You should have just popped him with that hand-cannon you got.”

Spike made a crude gesture of a pistol with his fingers, pretending to shoot Patrick with it.

“Spike, don’t even joke about that,” Twilight gasped. “Patrick and I have had a long conversation about that weapon of his, haven’t we?”

“Yep,” he said submissively. “It’s also for the best you don’t know where I hid it.”

“Oh, come on!” Spike grumbled. “At least let me shoot it once!”

“Sorry,” Patrick gestured to Twilight. “I don’t think your mom would like that too much.”

Spike rolled his eyes indignantly.

“What were you doing with Applejack today, anyway?” Twilight asked.

Patrick dumped a pocket full of bits onto the table.

“I was her farmhand for a day,” Patrick shrugged. “And bodyguard, I guess. But that didn’t turn out too well.”

“Wow,” Spike stared into the pile of gold coins. “That’s a lot of money!”

He shoved the stack of loot towards Spike and Twilight, and went to the kitchen to wash up.

“Patrick, you know I have no problem having you around,” Twilight came into the kitchen.

“I know,” Patrick dried his hands off on a towel. “But it’s never really been my style to have someone give me a place to live, and cook me three meals a day without giving back somehow.”

“I’m the princess’s student. I’ve got more than enough to get by, you don’t need to feel like you need to pay me rent. It’s no trouble at all.”

“Just give it to Spike then,” Patrick laughed. “Because I’m not taking it back. Besides, what am I going to do with it, anyway?”

The three of them sat down for dinner, and it even seemed like Spike was warming up to him. Still, Patrick dwelled on his conversation with Rarity for the past few hours. He had basically told her everything that had been ailing him. Why her? A stranger in another universe? For that matter, why would she just make him, a stranger she met a few days ago, a custom made pair of shoes from scratch?

Maybe, it was the same reason Applejack paid him so much, and gave Twilight everything he’d received. Maybe, everyone in this universe, was just…

Spike was about to take a bite of gemstones, when he burped surprisingly. A cloud of green fire emanated from his mouth and formed a scroll, tied with a royal seal.

“The princess has finally responded!” Twilight burst from her chair, and snatched the parchment from the air.

She unrolled it as Patrick watched her eyes roll back and forth.

“Just as I was hoping!” Twilight beamed. “The princess has requested a royal audience with you, Patrick!”

“Huh?” he and Spike said simultaneously.

“Wait, I have to talk to the princess?” Patrick asked.

“Yes! Aren’t you excited!” Twilight jumped around in her seat.

He and Spike exchanged glances. Spike shrugged, and dug into his bowl of gemstones.

Patrick picked at the salad on the plate in front of him nervously.