• Published 26th May 2013
  • 1,664 Views, 162 Comments

No Heroes Part II - The Journey Home - PaulAsaran

Fine Crime and Princess Luna have chosen their team. Now there's just the minor problem of bringing them together. Every team needs a base of operations, and what place better than Ponyville?

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The Canterlot Problem

The ponies were all around. Stallions in ties and suits and uniforms. Mares in expensive dresses and the latest manestyles. Servants moving to and fro offering drinks and tiny delectables. Classical music by some once-popular conductor who’d been dead two hundred years or so. And there, among it all, was Upper Crust.

And she felt entirely out of place.

They’d been at this party for nearly two hours. By now she wasn’t recognizing faces anymore; they were all just shapes and figures milling about. She wasn’t even listening anymore; they’d talk to her and she’d nod her head, knowing that nopony here had anything to say worth listening to. Just uppity opinions without background, self-confident criticisms without merit. They all thought they knew everything; wealth meant they were perfect.

Important Ponies.

But the worst part about all of it? She used to be just like them.

She felt somepony nudge her side, trying to get her attention. She shook her head, focused her mind so that the faces no longer blurred together, saw it was her husband.

“Uppity?” he asked, “You okay?”

She tried to put on a warm smile. “Of course, Jet, I’m fine.”

He studied her worriedly for a moment, cast a glance around. “I’m not really feeling it tonight,” he lied. He was a terrible liar. “Why don’t we head home early?”

She wanted to say no, to tell him they should stay. She knew he would have preferred it, that it was the ‘Important Pony’ thing to do. But, as she looked around at all the narcissists around her, she found she just couldn’t argue. “Alright.”

The two made their way through the crowds to Fancy Pants, host of the party, to apologize for going early. “I say,” the big unicorn asked, “is everything quite all right?”

“Oh we’re fine,” Jet Set reassured him with a smile. “It’s just that we both have some busy days tomorrow at our jobs. Have to pay the bills, you know.”

“Quite,” he agreed with a friendly smile. “Very well then. Thank you both for coming!”

“It was delightful,” Upper Crust claimed with another forced smile as they left.

Canterlot was quiet in the night, most ponies either being asleep or at some event or other. Upper Crust was coming to like the city at night, if only because there was less of a chance of bumping into some sycophantic old ‘friend.’

“Uppity, what’s the matter?”

She paused to look back, not realizing that her husband had stopped. “Whatever do you mean?”

He lowered his head unhappily. “You put on a brave face, dear, but you think I haven’t noticed?”

She stared at him for a few seconds, not knowing what to say. “Jet… I’m fine. Really.”

He approached to stand right in front of her. It was clear he didn’t believe her words. The pained expression he held was breaking her heart. But finally he nodded. “Okay. If you say nothing’s wrong, nothing’s wrong.” He set a hoof to her shoulder endearingly. “But… you can talk to me. You know that, don’t you?”

She smiled, touched at his genuine worry. “I know, Jet. It’s nothing, honest. Just work catching up to me, that’s all.”

She gave him a huge and a peck on the cheek before they resumed their walk. “If that’s the case,” he told her with relief, “maybe you should take a few days off.”

“We’ll see,” she answered.

“Upper Crust?”

She shivered, as if coming out of a trance. She’d been lost in deep contemplation, but now she recalled where she was: in the Canterlot Royal Museum. At work. Nick Nack, a short unicorn with a mottled blue-and-white coat and a cerulean mane, was watching her inquisitively through his thin glasses. “Oh… uh, yes?”

“How long have you been zoned out like that?” he asked her. There was no anger in his voice, only curiosity.

“Ummm…” she glanced around from her spot behind the desk, eyes landing on the clock above her door. When she saw it she drooped a little. The answer to the question was: too long.

Nick Nack understood by her expression. He tapped the pile of papers on her desk. “I take it you won’t have the catalogue finished by tomorrow evening, then?”

She sank in her chair a little more. “Sorry, Nick.”

He waved a dismissive hoof. “Don’t worry about it, my dear. If the catalogue’s a little late, so be it. It’s not like it was all that important.”

She stared, but then realized she shouldn’t be surprised. Nick Nack never got worked up over anything. Still, she felt as if she’d disappointed somepony. Perhaps it was herself. “I’ll have it done by morning,” she declared.

Nick Nack, already at her door, paused to give her an uncertain look. “Really? You’d have to stay up all night to do that. Just let it be.”

She sighed. “If it’s not important, what is?”

He shook his head. “It’s just for archives. Nopony’s ever going to look at that catalogue once it’s finished, you know that.”

What he said was true, but that wasn’t the point. “All part of the process,” she told him simply. “It needs to be done.”

“Not by morning,” he countered without enthusiasm. “If you want to go at it, be my guest, but I’m telling you it’s a waste of time.”

She attacked the project with a fervor. It was tedious work, but she felt it was important. Nopony in the museum ever really cared about what she’d done. A few acquisitions now and again, but nothing anypony ever considered worth talking about beyond suppertime. The paperwork was hardly rewarding, either. Nothing she ever did seemed important. Maybe if she could do this, show them how hard a worker she could be, they’d give her something real to do for a change. She was tired of all this boring, slow, unappreciated work.

She asked a co-worker to tell her husband why she wouldn’t be home, and left the museum only to get a bite to eat. She was at it all through the night, just as Nick Nack had claimed. She drank lots of hot dark chocolate. Other ponies might use caffeine to burn the midnight oil, but not her: cocoa was what kept her engines running. And not that sugary, smooth stuff. She needed it dark, 70% minimum.

But even with that help she had difficulty staying awake through the night. Completing an inventory catalogue was hardly engaging, and more than once she barely caught herself about to nod off. She tried listening to music once, but all the museum had was classical. She had nothing against that kind of music, but it was the opposite of helpful in keeping her awake. So she abandoned musical distractions and just let the cocoa keep her running.

Nick Nack walked in the next morning just as she was ready to hand the catalogue in. She did so proudly, and he accepted it with a startled look. “I didn’t really think you were serious,” he admitted.

“Well I was.”

He looked through the catalogue for a few seconds, nodding occasionally to himself. “Well alright then,” he said at last, “go ahead and put it in archives. And take the day off; no doubt you’re miserably tired.”

She stared as he walked out the door of her office. That was it? No praise? No thank you? Nothing at all about how hard she’d worked? Just ‘take the day off?’

The unicorn sighed and leaned over the night’s work. She couldn’t believed she’d gone through all that expecting him to be appreciative. What had she been thinking? In the end it would get stuffed into some dusty filing cabinet in the basement, unnoticed and unwanted save for the exceptionally unlikely event that something purchased in the past three months needed to be located.

Feeling under-appreciated and quite foolish, she grabbed her purse and trudged out of the museum. Back home. Back to more of her lackluster, unfulfilling life.

Another week gone by, another elite party gone sour. This one was being held at the palace ballroom, put on by some self-important noble she hadn’t really cared about. Jet Set had been enthusiastic, though, so she went along. For the image, if nothing else.

And so, with a feeling of dissatisfaction, she slipped out of the ball room and wandered the halls of the castle the minute nopony was paying any attention. Let Jet chatter with the self-stylized Important Ponies. He didn’t understand what was bothering her. Maybe he never would.

She gazed at the tall halls, not really knowing what she was looking for. But in the end she did find something. Somepony, actually.

He was standing at the entrance to the gardens, white-coated and blonde-maned. He wasn’t a servant, nor a party guest. He looked like an ordinary pony. A very familiar ordinary pony…

He spotted her from a distance and approached, a smile on his lips. She paused, letting his slow approach give her time to think. Who was he? Where had she seen him before?

And then it clicked: he was one of the ponies that had helped during the Crystal Empire event months ago.

“You’re Upper Crust, right?” he asked as he finally got close enough to address her without shouting.

“Umm… yes.” She nodded, studying him quietly. “You’re… one of the Stones, if I recall.”

“Nye,” he answered, happy she remembered. She almost hadn’t.

He wasn’t an ‘Important Pony,’ so… “What are you doing at the palace?”

He gestured above them, undoubtedly to the upper floors where the Princesses lived. “Visiting Princess Luna. We’re gonna have dinner together.”

The unicorn’s jaw dropped. “You… really?”

He nodded, caught her expression. “What? Did you forget about how I knew her? Oh of course you did, the whole thing happened ages ago.”

She blushed. “…sorry.”

“It’s okay,” he reassured her. “We met one time. Hardly makes for a relationship, does it?”

They approached the gardens again and sat in the grass quietly. “So,” he asked after a few awkward seconds passed, “how have things been?”

She glanced at him thoughtfully. Would he understand? Would he even care? She hadn’t been telling anypony about her true feelings. Nopony in Canterlot could possibly understand. Nye wasn’t from Canterlot. Maybe…

“Hey, if you don’t wanna tell me...” he added at her sad expression.

“I’m miserable,” she confessed, head low. “Absolutely, completely miserable.”

He waited for a few seconds, then glanced around as if looking for clues. Finally he asked, “What’s wrong?”

She didn’t know if it was the right thing to do, but she was going to tell him. “I live here amongst all these ponies who think they’re so special and great. Some have earned the right – like Fancy Pants. I have so much respect for him. But most haven’t done anything with their lives except be born into wealth and nobility. Just like me.”

“Go on,” he pressed gently at her pause.

“I just… I just want to feel like I’ve earned it. I go to these parties and act all friendly, but all I really want to do is scream at them!” She pawed the grass in frustration. “How can they live with themselves? How can I?”

He considered her with a confused expression. “But… you did do something. You helped deal with Sombra, right?”

She gave a derogatory huff. “I sat on some hill and said ‘go.’ It was everypony else – you and the others – who did all the real work.”

At that he laughed, earning him a surprised look. “What’s so funny about that?”

“Let me tell you what I did inside that dome,” he told her with a grin and a nudge of his hoof. “I carried the Crystal Heart.”

There was a long silence. “…and?”

“And that’s it,” he replied. “I got into one fight, and I did terribly. I was so bad I nearly got skewered on a lance – four times! – and had to be rescued by Applejack. After that the lump sum of my contributions was to have the Crystal Heart shoved onto my back so I could carry it to the museum. That’s it.” He dropped to his side in a leisurely fashion. “So you see, Upper Crust, I wasn’t exactly a hero in there.”

She turned her head away, not at all put at ease by his laid-back manner. “At least you were there,” she muttered. “Once you were in, all I did was sit around and wait.”

Nye gained an annoyed expression. “What’s wrong with you? Without you Rainbow wouldn’t have known where to hit the dome and we never would have made it in the first place! Just because you didn’t do anything afterwards doesn’t mean your contribution was any less critical.”

“You seem to be the only pony who thinks that,” she declared sadly.

“Well,” he admitted, “I was a little burned when everypony paid so little attention to our contributions. I got over it, though; I was never meant for the spotlight.”

“I don’t want to be in the spotlight,” she muttered. “I just want to be… appreciated.”

“I’m sure your husband appreciates you,” he noted. “After all, by helping us you rescued him.”

“It felt good,” she agreed. “I was happy, at the time. But…” she shook her head dejectedly. “…all my life I’ve been telling myself how great I am. I realized a couple years ago how I was deluding myself, how everypony in Canterlot’s deluding themselves. When I say I’m an Important Pony, I want everypony to know why. I want…” her train of thought hit something that surprised her. “…I want… to see Fine Crime again.”

Him?” Nye gave her a skeptical look. “Out of all the ponies you could possibly meet, him?”

She blushed. “I’ve only met him twice, but in both instances I ended up doing something that made me feel proud. I want to feel proud of myself again.”

He studied her with a strange expression on his face, as if he were trying to understand a very odd riddle. “Umm… aren’t you… married?”

She laughed. Despite everything, she laughed. “I didn’t mean it like that, Mr. Stone!”

“Oh.” He seemed even more confused than before. “…okay…?”

“Things tend to happen when Fine Crime shows up,” she explained, “and for reasons beyond me he seems to like having me help with the solution. I don’t know why, and I’m not sure I care. All I know is if I can do something again, something ponies will recognize forever, then I would welcome another chance encounter with him.”

Nye scratched the back of his head uncertainly. “Well, can’t help you there. As far as I know nopony’s seen him since the Crystal Empire. Except Octavia, and she last saw him two months ago.”

“You know Octavia?” she asked, mildly surprised.

“Of course. We both live in Ponyville.”

“Ponyville?” She almost could swear the name left a bad taste in her mouth. “I thought she was a Canterlot pony.”

“She moved,” he replied with a shrug, clearly not understanding her reaction.

“Why in Equestria would a pony like her move to a dump like Ponyville?”

He didn’t seem offended at all by her words. “Hey, maybe you should ask her yourself.”

“Me? Go to Ponyville?”

He nodded. “From the sound of it, you don’t feel like you belong in Canterlot anymore. Why not visit, see how the ‘other half’ lives?”

She shook her head forcefully. “No no no, not a chance! I wouldn’t dream of it.”

“There you are, my friend.”

The two sat up and looked towards the castle. Upper Crust’s heart leapt to her throat at the sight of Princess Luna – the Princess Luna! – approaching them. The Princess, regal and beautiful, paused before them, and Upper Crust was dropped to a bow before she could even register the need.

Nye took a bow as well, but only briefly. “Hey, Luna! Sorry I wasn’t at the doors like we agreed, but I got just a little distracted.” Upper Crust was floored by his informal behavior.

“It’s quite alright, Nye,” the Princess replied as Upper Crust finally rose from her bow, legs weak. She jumped a little when that regal face turned its attention on her. “A friend of yours?”

“Sure is,” he agreed, which made Upper Crust pause; they were friends? But she didn’t speak – she was too afraid to try – as he gestured to her with a dynamic motion. “Allow me to introduce Upper Crust. She’s a local.”

The Princess’s eyebrows rose as she studied the trembling unicorn. There was something… odd about her expression, and Upper Crust had no idea whether it was a good look or a bad one. “So you are Upper Crust,” she said at last. “I am pleased to finally meet you.”

The unicorn blanched, took a startled step back. “You… y-you know of me, your majesty?”

Princess Luna nodded politely. “Of course. You assisted in the defeat of King Sombra three months ago. You performed impressively: only a mage of great power could read the Crystal Heart’s magic as you did.”

Upper Crust stuttered dumbly for a moment before finally regaining control of her lips. “I… I didn’t think anypony remembered that…”

“I remember,” the Princess claimed firmly, “and I am very appreciative.” She cast a regal eye to Nye, as if thinking of something serious, then asked, “Would you be interested in joining us this evening, Upper Crust?”

The unicorn let out a squeak and dropped to a bow. “I-I-I am n-not worthy, your e-eminence!”

There was a long, terrible pause. Upper Crust was shaking all over! But it was the truth; she had no right to be with somepony so phenomenally important!

“As you wish,” the Princess said softly, and Upper Crust looked up to find the alicorn’s head startlingly close to her own. Princess Luna's cyan eyes were locked with hers, but they weren’t frightening or angry. They were… soothing. Amazingly soothing. “But remember that the only pony who can decide your worthiness is you. Nopony else, Upper Crust.”

And just like that she was heading back to the castle. “Good evening, savior of the Crystal Empire. Coming, Nye?”

“Coming,” he answered happily, though he paused to give Upper Crust an encouraging look before following.

She stood slowly, watching in amazement as the Princess and the earth pony disappeared within the castle. The Princess considered her a savior? And Nye… Nye really had been the Princess’ friend. The unicorn was so astounded that she could only stand there dumbly for several minutes, trying to wrap her head around these ideas.

She approached her home at a slow pace, not just a little weary. It had been a solid two weeks since she’d met the Princess. She hadn’t bothered to tell anypony about what had happened; they wouldn’t have believed her. So she’d harbored the event in the back of her mind, nursing it in hopes that she might hold on the exhilarating feeling it had given her. But it was no use; the buzz was gone.

She entered the house, setting her purse aside and yawning. Two of her coworkers had fallen ill, one with the feather flu and the other with pony pox, so her workload had gone up considerably. She didn’t nurse any hopes that the extra work might earn her some real recognition, though.

She found Jet Set in the kitchen, preparing what looked to be a fantastic meal. “What’s all this?”

“Just celebrating,” he declared happily

She stared at the meal in amazement; knowing his lack of cooking skills, this had to have required an all-day effort. “Celebrating what?”

He nuzzled her affectionately. “Why, having the best wife in Canterlot, of course.”

She smiled at his touch, nuzzled him back. “Oh Jet, you didn’t have to go through all this.”

“Yes, yes I did,” he countered smartly. “Aaaand, looky what I got hold of.” Something floated up from the kitchen counter to hover before he eyes. “Tickets to this year’s Gala!”

She stared at him with wide eyes. “You mean the Grand Galloping Gala? That Gala?”

“That’s the one!” He was so pleased with himself he was grinning – a rare expression for him as he deemed it ‘unseemly.’ “Just think, you and me at the Gala, meeting Princess Celestia among the finest ponies in Equestria!”

She kissed him, genuinely thrilled at the concept.

But that night, as she lay in bed next to him, Upper Crust couldn’t help but be troubled. They’d never been invited to the Gala before, and it was supposed to be such a great treat. And yet she couldn’t escape the nagging worry that it would be just a larger version of everything she was already so tired of. If that were the case, why would she even want to go?

But one only got tickets to the Gala by invitation from Princess Celestia herself. You didn’t refuse such a prestigious pony’s invitation! She was beside herself with anxiety, and wished she’d never been invited at all.

But what about Jet Set? She stared at his sleeping form. She loved her husband… but he simply didn’t understand. For the past two weeks he’d been doing a lot for her. He’d adjusted his schedule so they would have more time together, made surprise visits at the museum, bought her gifts, taken her to the most exquisite restaurants in Canterlot. He’d been pulling out all the stops. And now this.

It was obvious he knew something was wrong. He wanted her to be happy. He cared, he really did, and she loved him all the more for it. But he was a stallion of material pleasures, and he thought she was a mare of the same tastes. She had been once. Not anymore. Now all the jewelry and clothes and deliciousness in the world couldn’t make her happy, and that was not something he could comprehend. In his mind if material possessions and living among the elite didn’t equate to happiness then nothing did.

He was trying, and trying hard, but it wasn’t working. He had probably been so frustrated with himself. This night – and it had been a delightful night – was no doubt another desperate attempt. Maybe he believed he’d finally succeeded. He probably thought the Gala tickets were his reward for a lifetime of working on being the perfect ‘Important Pony,’ and perhaps he thought this sign of his dedication to the life would please her.

But those tickets were dangerously close to backfiring in his face.

And then she realized that he was part of the problem. He was just like all those other ponies she was coming to disapprove of. He claimed to be special, even superior, just because of his upbringing. What had he done with his life? Sold a few expensive yachts, gone to a few fancy parties, been given some tickets to the Grand Galloping Gala? There was nothing of value there. Not a thing.

Was their marriage in trouble? The thought chilled her. She snuggled up to him, taking in his warmth and wishing he could understand her feelings. She didn’t want to hurt him, so she would try to at least pretend to be happy. For his sake.

If only she didn’t feel like crying…

Another party, and this time they were meant to be the hosts. It wasn’t much of a party, though, not in her mind. It was more like a business venture; all the guests were Jet’s clients, potential clients and business associates. She understood why he was doing it, and helped to show her support. After all, it was all part of his job. So she didn’t blame any of her boredom and disinterest on him.

But an hour into the event she found she could hardly stomach his sycophantic behavior. She bowed out, explaining her departure away by claiming she needed some fresh air and a walk.

The night was still young, and many of the city’s establishments were still open, so Upper Crust did something she’d never done before: she visited a lounge. She didn’t know what told her to go in, but before long she was sitting at a booth, sipping some wine. She must have been quite the sight in her expensive party dress – another of Jet’s gifts – all alone in a place like this. She didn’t really care; she just sat there feeling miserable, worries flitting around in her head. She thought about her life, about her future. But what really brought tears to her eyes was when she thought about her husband.


It took her a few seconds to realize the voice had been aimed at her. She wiped the moisture from her cheeks and looked up to find somepony very familiar before her. He looked like the pony she’d met before in the castle, especially in the face. But he was a little taller, leaner, a touch more muscular. His mane was silver, not blonde, with streaks of purple in it. And he had wings.

The brother, perhaps? She couldn’t recall which one she’d met two weeks ago, which was a little embarrassing. “You’re… I’m sorry… Mr… Mr. Stone? Nye, wasn’t it?” It was the only name she could recall in her sorry state.

“Jimmy,” he confirmed softly. “Nye’s the other Stone.”

Oops. “…I see…”

“This seat taken?” he asked, nodding to the seat across her table.

She thought about him for a moment, wondering if she shouldn’t fake being here with her husband. After all, how would it look to be seen in a place like this with a different stallion? A handsome one?

He apparently took her silence as acceptance, for he sat before her quietly. Now that she had a better look at him in the light of the lamp above, she saw that he didn’t look very good. He seemed about as depressed as she felt. She almost thought the severely alcoholic beverage he ordered a moment later was a confirmation of her suspicions.

He finally broke the silence, his expression forlorn. “I’m guessing the last three months haven’t been treating you well.”

She gave a sad sniff, took a sip of wine. Such a massive understatement. He seemed so very different from his brother.

The pegasus sighed, leaned forward solemnly. “I remember us leaving the Empire three months ago and thinking how everything was going so wonderfully. Heh, if only I had known…”

And that was when she looked at him, really looked. His words matched her feelings on the matter so perfectly it was haunting. Maybe there could be some form of comfort in this chance meeting. There was no way to know for certain, but if she’d just been discovered by a kindred spirit…

“Do you still feel it?”

His eyes remained downcast. “Feel what?”

“The excitement. The joy.” She let her eyes focus back on her wine glass. “Three months ago I felt on top of the world, like I could do anything. I mattered. For once in my life, I really mattered.”

There was a quiet pause, punctuated by the arrival of the server with Jimmy’s drink. He took a careful test-sip, grimaced. Apparently it suited him though, for he took another, longer drink. “I guess… that kind of feeling fades with time.”

His answer wasn’t at all satisfying. She was disappointed. Truly. So she let the matter drop miserably, staring at her glass without much interest.

“Have you ever tried to challenge somepony?”

She blinked. What did he mean by that? She looked up at him thoughtfully. “…like who?”

He took another slow sip of his drink before answering. “Somepony powerful. Somepony you were scared of. Somepony who held your life in his hooves, and knew it.”

It seemed as though his problems were more… physical… than her own. Even so, she could see the resemblance. “Like challenging fate,” she suggested with a sigh. In his case, the fate of being involved with somepony he couldn’t defeat no matter what efforts he might show. In hers, the fate of having nothing to show for her efforts in the first place.

Her mind drifted to that day in the Crystal Empire. She could still see it in her mind’s eye, the dome shattering beautifully against the blue sky as a rainbow flashed across the atmosphere. The supreme thrill of knowing she’d achieved something so great, so unique, so monumentally her own. “I felt like I’d challenged fate that day,” she confessed. “Challenged it and won. Now I wonder if it wasn’t just a fluke.”

“No.” She grimaced, but jerked in surprise when he reached over to touch her hoof supportively. She looked up and was caught off guard at the sight of concern on his face. “No, Upper Crust, it was not a fluke. You had something to offer, and you offered it.”

He had no idea. “I didn’t offer it.” She pulled her hoof away from his touch. “I was volunteered by Fine Crime.”

“Does it matter?” he asked seriously. “He saw that there was something in you, something that mattered.”

Mattered? Did it really? She turned away from him sadly. “Then why does nopony else see it?”

Jimmy sat back, perhaps giving her more space, and took another quiet sip of his drink. “What about you?”

She shook her head miserably. “I don’t know anymore… but I long to have somepony, anypony see it again.”

He frowned, let out a miserable sigh. “Well, if it makes you feel any better, I just found that I’m pretty useless myself.”

No. No that didn’t help at all. She stared at him, truly grasping how different he was from his brother. Or maybe not. Maybe it was just that his brother had been in a good mood, while Jimmy clearly wasn’t. Whatever the case, this entire conversation was turning out to be nothing like she’d come to hope. Hope. That’s exactly what she’d been looking for. She’d find none of that in Mr. Stone; he was too busy with his own problems to be of any help to her right now.

“I… should be getting home. My husband will start wondering where I am.”

“Will you be alright?” he asked with concern.

She had no idea. She couldn’t give him a real answer, so instead she didn’t offer one at all. She just slipped off the booth and made her way to the door. “Good night, Mr. Stone.”

She made her way home, realizing she’d been gone from the party for far too long. Jet really would be worrying about her by now. She should have known better… but it was too late now.

Her mind was swimming with explanations when she realized that she was being followed. She was just over halfway home, on an empty street with fine houses all around. She wondered if it might be Jimmy, making sure she was okay. Probably. She turned about, ready to inform him that no such caution was necessary.

It wasn’t Jimmy. It was Jet Set. And he didn’t look very happy.

Surprised at his presence, she trotted to him quickly. His pained expression made her wonder if something hadn’t happened. “Honey, what are you doing out here?”

His head drooped low to the ground as she approached. For several seconds he said nothing. At last he answered. “I knew there was something wrong. I worked so hard to do something about it…”

She paused, not understanding. “Jet… what are you…?”

“Who is he?”

Realization slowly crept up on her mind. “Jet, were you following me all that time?”

“Who is he?” he repeated. “The stallion you were with.”

Somehow, she thought she should be more upset. But she wasn’t. She didn’t blame him in the least. “His name is Jimmy. He’s one of the ponies who helped us back in the Crystal Empire.”

Jet nodded, glanced away unhappily. “Is he… an Important Pony? Rich?”

She blinked, caught off guard. “What… what does that have to do with anything?”

“It matters to me,” he whispered. “If you’re going to have an affair, I’d at least like to know that he’s important enough for you.”

“Aff…” She was stunned into silence for several seconds. “Jet! I would never cheat on you!”

He waved a quieting hoof at her miserably. “You don’t have to defend yourself, Uppity. I saw everything.”

She knelt before him, tried to get him to look her in the eyes. “Jet, you’re my husband! It was just a coincidence that he was there. I swear!”

But he turned away roughly. “Two well-dressed ponies meeting in a lounge, sharing a private conversation, touching hooves? I’m not an idiot, Uppity.”

She was on the verge of tears. She galloped about and set her hooves to his cheeks, forcing him to look at her. But he wouldn’t meet her eyes. “Jet, I love you! Please, don’t be like this. I admit there’s something wrong. You’re right, I haven’t been happy. But it has nothing to do with Jimmy Stone. This is the first time I’ve seen him since the Crystal Empire!”

“I wish I could believe you,” he muttered. “I really do.”

“Then believe it!” She kissed him, held him close. “Believe it, because it’s true!”

He held her for a tender moment, and she thought she could feel tears on his cheeks. Yet after a few heartwrenching seconds he pushed her away. “Go on, Uppity. If you think this will make you happy, just go.”

“B-but… but Jet…”

He turned away, began to walk home.

“Jet… please… don’t be like this.”

He was gone, taken away by the shadows of a Canterlot night. She fell on her haunches and stared, unable to believe what had just happened. Her husband, her beloved, doting husband thought she’d been cheating all this time! How had she not seen this coming, how!? And now he’d given up hope. He was gone, and she had no idea what to do about it.

So she just sat there in the middle of the street and wept.

Days later and there she was, leaning over the railing of a hotel walkway with front hooves hanging loosely, watching the city go by her eyes. She hadn’t been to work since that night. She’d tried to go home, once, to try and explain things to her husband. What had begun as a heartfelt plea ultimately turned into a fight. There was no convincing him that her meeting with Jimmy had been a coincidence, and in her frustration she finally told him – in very unkind words – exactly what had been bothering her.

So now here she was, wasting away at some hotel and wondering how her life could have gone so far south. By now she was probably fired too, not that it mattered much. Despite it all she still loved him, and all she could really feel was empty and pathetic. She didn’t dare go back to try and smooth things over. She didn’t have the guts.

“Upper Crust?”

A familiar voice. She’d had enough of those; she was in the spot she was in because she’d listened to a familiar voice. So she just huffed a deep breath and kept watching the cityscape.

“Are you okay?”

She turned her head away in annoyance. Whoever it was should just take a hint and go away.

She didn’t. A pair of hooves touched her shoulders gently, and mulberry eyes filled her vision. “What’s the matter? What are you doing here?”


Of all the ponies it could have been, it was Octavia. At the sight of the kind pony Upper Crust felt her defense slipping, and before she knew it she was crying on the mare’s shoulder. She wept and wept, so hard and violently she lost track of where she was or what she was doing. She just wanted to cry and let the world know her sadness.

When she at last came to her senses she was in one of the hotel’s many identical rooms, lying belly-down on a bed with her chin in Octavia’s silken lap. The cellist was stroking her mane and humming a calm, quiet, comforting tune.

Upper Crust sat up slowly, rubbing her eyes and trying to fight down any more sobs. “I-I’m so sorry…” she managed to choke out, “I… I d-don’t know w… what came over m-me…”

“It’s alright,” Octavia told her with a pleasant smile, “sometimes it helps to just let it out.”

Upper Crust sat for several long minutes, fighting to regain control of herself. While she did the cellist went to the closet and got out of her delicate-looking evening gown. She came back with a glass of water, which the unicorn took gratefully.

Octavia sat back on the bed again, her face concerned. “Jimmy told me you seemed a bit down, but I never imagined…”

“Don’t talk to me about Jimmy,” Upper Crust snarled, earning her an alarmed look. “It’s because of him that I’m in this situation!”

Octavia gained a dubious, confused look. “Jimmy?”

Upper Crust told her what had happened that night, and the night she’d tried to come home. The cellist listened intently, never saying a word. Upper Crust was glad for that; it let her get it all out in one go. By the time she was finished she felt like crying all over again. She did, but only a little.

“But Upper Crust,” Octavia noted when the story was over, “Jim couldn’t have known. It was an accident, that’s all.”

“I know!” she snapped back, but she had no energy for anger. “I know…” she whispered again, “…but it helps to blame somepony, and I choose to blame him.”

“That hardly seems fair,” Octavia pointed out, though her tone was kind. “Are you going to try again?”

The unicorn shook her head miserably. “I can’t face Jet again. It breaks my heart, and his. I don’t want to fight him again…”

“But you still love him.”

“He’s my husband. Of course I love him.”

“Then why won’t you face him again?”

But Upper Crust shook her head again and turned away from the earth pony. “I’m not a brave pony, Octavia. I can’t just face things like you do. I’m so scared that if I go and see him it will result in another fight. And then… what if we go too far?” She lay down on the bed, clutching the pillow as if it might protect her from her fears.

A long, miserable quiet filled the room. At last Octavia let out an accepting sigh. “There’s no convincing you to confront him.” The unicorn didn’t bother to answer. “What will you do, then?”

“I don’t know,” she admitted. “I don’t know what I can do.”

She spent the night there with Octavia, glad to have somepony willing to deal with her uselessness for a while. There was only one bed, but it was easily large enough for the two of them. All that night she wondered about the cellist’s questions, and when morning came she had a few of her own.

“Octavia… why did you move to Ponyville?”

The inquiry over breakfast caught her new companion by surprise. Octavia considered her answer for a long while, which Upper Crust hadn’t expected. Finally, the cellist spoke. “Somepony asked me to.”

Upper Crust stared. “That’s it?”

“That’s it.”

“But… but…” Upper Crust couldn’t think of a better way to put it, “…it’s Ponyville.”

“What’s wrong with Ponyville?”

She opened her mouth to response, but caught herself. Indeed, what was wrong with Ponyville? She realized, with great regret, that she’d been sinking back into that elite society pony culture. Even so, she had to ask. “You’re such an Important Pony… and Important Ponies don’t live in places like Ponyville,” she concluded uncertainly. “I mean… I never thought so…”

The cellist raised a curious eyebrow. “You sound confused.”

“I am,” she muttered, dropping her chin to the table unhappily. “I really am. All my life I’ve been taught that things go in a certain way. But then one little incident occurred, and I found myself questioning my very existence. I don’t know what to think anymore, what’s right or wrong, and now I am so very, very confused.”

“And what incident brought all this up?”

She sighed and said the name with distaste. “Fine Crime.”

Octavia shrugged. “I don’t understand.”

“He confronted my very life,” Upper Crust explained unhappily, “and his words hit hard. It was over two years ago, and ever since I’ve been asking more and more questions, and I haven’t been liking any of the answers.” She covered her head in her hooves. “My separation from Jet is the culmination of all of those questions.”

“So now it’s Fine Crime’s fault,” Octavia noted critically.

“No,” the unicorn sat up and shook her head. “It’s not his fault, not really. But I have so many questions about who I am, who I could be, and it all stems from that one brief encounter.”

“What kind of questions?”

Upper Crust thought for a moment, trying to pick out something important, something that really defined it all. It didn’t take long. “What does it really mean to be an Important Pony? Being born rich? Shouldn’t it be something… I don’t know. Shouldn’t it be earned? And if so, what have I ever done in my life to warrant such a title?” She nudged her food dejectedly with a hoof. “I feel like my entire existence, and the existence of all my so-called ‘friends,’ has been a big ugly lie. But I’m the only one who realizes it, and nopony else is even remotely concerned.”

There was a long silence as Octavia considered these words. She seemed to be fighting a serious internal struggle. Finally she asked, “Upper Crust… why don’t you come with me to Ponyville?”

She blinked, gave the cellist a surprised look. “You… you’d let me come along?”

Octavia nodded seriously. “It sounds like you have a lot of thinking to do. I really think that it would be good for you. Besides, I can think of a few ponies who might be glad you did.”

The unicorn was overcome with an unexpected wave of relief and appreciation. “I… I don’t know what to say. I don’t know of any ponies in Canterlot who would have made such a generous offer.”

“Including yourself?” Octavia asked with a knowing smile.

“Including myself,” she admitted guiltily.

The cellist nodded her understanding. “That’s just one more reason I think you should come.”

Author's Note:

This was a very tricky episode to write, for many reasons. First, the timing of all the episodes have to be carefully planned, because it all needs to make sense. What am I talking about? I'm talking about my mistake of having Fine Crime's letter reach Lightning Dust so early. Wherever in Equestria she is, it won't take her long to get to Foal Mountains - I'm thinking a week tops given her flying speed. But I have already concluded that the Foal Mountains situation is serious enough to warrant using it as this Series' conclusion, which means everything else in this series has to take place within that time frame.

Simply put, I set myself in a bind.

I also had to completely re-arrange Upper Crust's discussions with the other ponies. My original plan was to have Nye be the one that convinced her to go to Ponyville - but the circumstances of the previous episodes made such an arrangement difficult to justify, so I ended up making him the first pony she meets (on a side note, Luna's cameo was entirely improvised and not planned at all). This meant somepony else had to do it, but it couldn't be Jimmy as his conversation with her was already set from Episode 2. This left Octavia, who I already had conveniently set in Canterlot for much of this Series.

By the way, Upper Crust's conversation with Jimmy was pre-planned back in Episode 2, and making it work was very hard. Critique, please!