• Published 25th Aug 2013
  • 10,108 Views, 354 Comments

Just Horsing Around - Darkness Shade



Seemingly lost in his life, a young man finds himself waking up in a strange new land populated by some curious residents. When certain truths are revealed and he finds there's more to his appearing there, how will he adjust to his new life?

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10th Harvest

"No, no, no, no, no!"

Twilight and the girls could only watch as the dust filled the air from Discord's final strike of bitterness, unable to see what had happened.

"Ooooh! That spoil-sport dirt bag!" Rainbow Dash growled, pounding her hooves into the ground, "We finally beat him again and...and he...."

"Now hold on...we're not sure anything has happened yet!" Twilight tried to keep everypony calm, "The dust is too thick to see what happened."

"But Twi, that attack was pretty strong and Ry-Ry, he...he seemed pretty worn out from fightin'."

"I know AppleJack but...let's just stay hopeful."

Not saying anything more than that, the six of them headed closer, watching as the smoke rose up and away as the wind blew over the now quiet battlefield; while the moment was filled with apprehension, as the last of the dirt in the air cleared away they could finally see something.

"What...what is that?"

"It appears to be a pair of jet-black wings...but I must say I've never seen a pair like that before." Rarity remarked, "They're absolutely gorgeous."

"...ugh....that bastard trying to pull a fast one."

"Ryan!"

Sure enough, the wings unfurled to show Ryan and Spike unharmed...well, save for their previous injuries anyhow; he slowly stood up, taking a moment to admire his handiwork.

"Not bad Darkness, not bad....totally saved mah butt."

'You're welcome...enjoy them!'

"So then girls I...." Was all Ryan was able to get out before being glomped by all of them, "Ugh! Haha, I know yer happy to see me everypony but please...I've got places that ache!"

After quite a few moments of the group happily celebrating their victory, they finally let Ryan get up before asking where he got wings from.

"Hmmm? Well Darkness...."

"Dark?"

"Yeah, apparently his soul is still part of me so he can kind of talk with me sometimes...."

"That's pretty crazy Ryan."

"Heh, I known Dashie but it's true enough; you can ask Luna and Celestia if ya like but anyway, he was working on this move but ended up being unable to finish it before his fight with Discord and well...."

"I think I get it; he wasn't able to use it and so that's why he lost to Discord." Twilight remarked, "But I don't understand...his statue had wings."

"Yes, I asked that same thing; while he had the ability to gain wings and fly they weren't adapted for his spell. His Pegasus Barrier as he called it allowed him to use his wings to shield himself and anything within it from Discord's magic." Ryan explained before clutching his arm, "Ow...anyway, it's sad: had he finished it he would've survived. Then again I guess I wouldn't be here if he had so...hmmmm."

"It's a bit hard to think on that one, eh Apple Ryder?" AppleJack remarked, giving a sad nod, "Well, I'm just glad that Dark fellah was able to help keep ya safe."

'You're quite welcome oh sweet southern belle.'

"...did...did everypony hear that?" Fluttershy asked, looking about nervously, "Was...was that Darkness?"

"Haha, guess he felt like adding his two cents." Ryan joked before feeling Rainbow Dash poke his back, "Hmmm?"

"Okay, so that explains these awesome wings...not as awesome as mine but still pretty cool but...what's this mark on your jacket?" She mused, "It kind of looks like a cutie mark..."

"Say what?" Twilight gasped, quickly turning Ryan around to stare at it, "I can't believe it, it totally is."

"Are ya sure? Humans don't get them." Ryan was quick to point out, "...also, that wasn't fun so please refrain from spinning me quickly T-Sparks."

"It seems pretty hard to deny...but what I don't get is why of all things you have a half-apple/half-lemon mark darling."

Ryan took a moment to think on it before smirking, "Well Rares, I think it's something related to what Spike told me...about how if I could have a cutie mark it would be related to Justice."

"Really? And how's that?" Spike asked, "I was right?"

"Well little buddy, Justice is sweet (like an apple) to those that rely on it to protect that which they care for and it is sour (like a lemon) to those that fear it's righteousness. In a way, that's kind of like me too if ya think about it: I would do anything to help and make mah friends happy and keep 'em safe, but to those that would wish to harm them...all they'd feel is the bitter sting of my fury. Now then...has anypony seen mah sword? I'd like to collect it before we...head....back..."

"Rysy-wysy?" Pinkie asked, noting him beginning to sway slightly, "You okay?"

"Guess that...battle was just...." And then he went silent before finally collapsing from the stress of the battle.

"Apple Ryder!"

"He's okay AppleJack, I think he's just worn out and injured from fighting...Spike, send a letter to Princess Celestia quickly and let her know we need help."

"You got it Twilight! I'm on it!"


The resident hero tossed and turned in his unconscious state, sweating profusely at whatever terror had a hold on his mind; the monitor watching his vitals was beeping loudly as the scenario his subconscious was playing apparently came to its high-point.

"APPLEJACK!" Ryan shouted as his eyes shot wide open and he quickly sat up in bed only to be very confused at his location, "....wait, it was...a dream? So then...Discord! The fight! The girls!"

Looking about wildly, he could see he was once again in the infirmary of the castle and so let his heart rate calm itself; examining himself, Ryan could tell his injuries were a bit more this time as he felt all manner of bandages wrapped around him...and that his left arm was in a sling as well.

"I guess that explains the beeping...but how long was I out...and where is everypony?" It was at that moment that the door to his room opened and in walked a very tired looking AppleJack, "...Apps?"

"...huh?" She gasped, looking over and seeing Ryan sitting up and smiling at her, "Apple Ryder! Yer finally awake!"

"Ugh...careful with them hugs sugarcube." He grunted as she ran over and glomped him before wrapping his right arm around her and hugging her to him tightly, "...."

"...it's okay." She choked out through tears before noticing he was crying as well, " Ry-Ry? Why...why are you crying too? I didn't hurt ya did I?"

"No...no..." He sniffled, burying his head in her mane, "I'm just so glad that was a dream....a horrible dream...but a dream nonetheless."

"Tarnation Ry, what happened while you were out?"

"...I'd rather not talk about it right now. I can...tell ya a little later on if you like but for now let's just say that it was, well..."

"Hmmm? Well what sugah?"

"If the way things happened here, with y'all being so friendly and stuff without a second thought ta me the moment I showed up, is to be considered a best case scenario...let's just say I was dreaming about the worst case scenario."

"Worst case?" AppleJack tilted her head before nuzzling his chest, "Yer heart's still racin'...what in tarnation happened? Did we do something?"

"...let's just say it reminded me of how humans might react were an alien visitor to appear on mah Earth; it...it...and you..."

"Now shhhh, y'all shouldn't worry about that; I won't press since it's clear what happened really messed with ya. You can tell me later, like ya said." Placing a hoof on his shoulder, Ryan let a smile drift slowly onto his features as Apps tenderly kissed him, "I'm just glad yer finally awake; they were worried about yer injuries but they said something kept most of yer vital spots protected....something they couldn't figure out at that."

Ryan sat there for a moment, before a thought came to mind, "...Darkness..."

"Hmmm?"

"Dark probably helped out....isn't that right buddy?" Ryan laughed quietly at his question, all too aware of the answer.

'Well, ya know...one pony already lost her human, couldn't let another one lose hers so....'

"I reckon he's just one big softie just like you are Ry-Ry."

"Hahaha, if he's anything like I know then yer right Apps." Leaning into her, he nuzzled her mane and just enjoyed the moment, "Mmmm...ya smell like cinnamon apples. Haha, where's the others? And how long was I out?"

"Uhm...a little over three days; it's been a bit of a mess to fix things up but everythin' back home is how it should be."

"And Discord?"

"He's out of the garden, hidden away where he belongs...but under tighter security."

"That's good....heh, it's a pity though."

"What's that Ry?"

"...it's nothing, just a silly thought. Now...I'd like to get up and see our friends so...would ya lend me a hoof and help me find mah pants? I can't imagine they aren't nearby."

"Well they were here...maybe they headed off with the Princesses back to the throne room?"

Ryan gave a slight nod as he slowly walked with AppleJack, his good hand resting just over her neck as she helped him walk around as they looked for the others. Making their way there, they could see two guards standing watch as always, though once they caught sight of the pair they were surprised to see Ryan up and walking.

"I don't suppose Celestia and our other friends are in there, are they?"

"The Princesses are indeed in there, as are Twilight Sparkle and her friends." The one guard nodded and opened the door, "I'm sure they'll be quite happy to see you up and about Ryan."

"Heh, thanks Swift Cut; it's good to be up and about."

"Heh, looks like me made the right guess, eh darlin'?" AppleJack remarked, helping him hobble in to the room.

"I'll say Apps." He laughed softly before looking up and seeing everypony turn towards the open door, "Howdy y'all...hope I didn't worry ya too much."

The following was a bit of a ruckus in which his friends pretty much bum rushed him (save for Celestia and Luna who remained a bit more reserved...though it goes without saying Luna showed great effort in not joining the crowd) and he was surrounded by all their happy faces, joyous chatter, and being hugged wherever possible.

"Heh, sheesh...ya guys act like I died or something." Ryan joked, ruffling everyone's mane with his free hand before groaning, "Oh ow....laughing still bad."

"Ohmygosh,ohmygosh,ohmygosh,ohmygosh! You're still hurt! Why are you moving around?"

"I've been in a bed for three days Dashie...any longer and I'd probably become one with the darn thing."

"Are you okay though? Some of the injuries looked pretty bad."

"I'm fine T-Sparks, don't worry about it. It all still hurts but I can live with that after thinking on what could've happened...speaking of, how did y'all treat mah injuries? As far as I know, pony doctors don't quite know how to handle human physiology. I know y'all patched me up last time, but that was mostly surface scratches save for where Discord freaking bit me."

"I believe I can field that one." Luna remarked, finally walking over to the group with her sister, "I helped."

'Woona...'

"Hahaha, Darkness should know all too well it was me; after all, when he was here I did my best in order to be able to...well to be with him." She explained, pausing as she shook off the memories, "After all, I wanted to be able to take care of him if anything happened...I'm just glad that knowledge from so long ago came in use once more."

Ryan nodded before wincing, "Ugh...thank goodness for that. I'm just glad things can get back to normal soon enough however..."

While most of his friends were accounted for, there seemed to an absence of the dragon variety and that bothered him, more so when he remembered how beat up he looked, "Gals, where's Spike at? He was up and about before I passed out so..."

"He's still healing up at the moment. While he was okay, he actually passed out the second day we were back at the castle." Twilight looked down before continuing her explanation, "Turns out when Discord hit him, his internal organs got all beat up. He's been asleep since they got him out of surgery."

"...little buddy." Ryan growled, clenching his fist, "Damn it Discord...will he be okay?"

"The doctor's managed to patch him up so it's just a matter of him waking up now....Ryan?" Twilight looked up and saw that Ryan had turned around and was angrily stomping off towards somewhere in mind, "Where could he be going?"

"Heh, I guess it makes sense that Swift Cut told me I wouldn't like where they put him." Ryan grumbled, heading in the same direction as the secret library, "However, if it keeps him from getting out undetected again then that's all that matters."

The others had been puzzled when he stormed off (after a brief chat with the guard that got a little heated before Swift Cut finally acquiesced after Celestia discreetly gave him the O.K.) and had followed from a distance curious as to what had him so angry. As it was they had no idea Ryan knew they were following him, but in the state he was in he didn't really care that they were; hanging a right instead of a left he came to a sizeable room that was guarded by two of Luna's royal guards.

"I need to see him."

"I'm sorry, but access is only authorized by those that..."

"What part of "I need to see him" was not clear?"

"Sir, I know you have a high status given your relationship to Princess Luna and Princess Celestia, but we cannot just allow you to go everywhere you please; there are still rules to follow along with procedures."

"I won't be long...just give me a few moments."

"Sir..."

"Please, just...tell Luna I forced you by beating you up or something if she gets upset; I'll take the rap for it."

"...heh, you certainly are as crazy as they say."

"Sir?!"

"It'll be fine...he's proven worthy of my trust after what he did against him anyway. We'll just, as he said, tell Princess Luna he beat us up."

"Heh, thanks."

"Just a few minutes, that's all."

"Don't worry, that's all it'll take." Ryan gave a nod, smiling as the guards opened the door and let him in, "So then...you're back where you started you troublesome jerk."

The girls watched as Ryan entered and the door sealed back up behind him before the guards resumed their position...though the younger one seemed a bit more nervous about the whole situation.

"Why would he want to see Discord?"

"Ah don't know Twi, he seemed mighty upset that Spike was hurt like that."

"Do...do you think he wants to yell at him?"

"More like beat him up Fluttershy!" Rainbow Dash growled, "I wouldn't blame him for being angry...I know I certainly would if I almost died..."

"I don't think Ryan would be as barbaric as that considering he hasn't shown tendencies to be so...ruthless." Rarity remarked, feeling icky even putting that word and Ryan's name in the same sentence, "Is there any way we can listen in Twilight?"

"Oh! Oh! I can help! I can help!"

"Pinkie, how are you going to help us hear inside that room? You don't have magic."

"Nope, but I've got my handy-dandy spy gear!"

"...spy gear?"

"Yep! Ryan was working on this for me so I could be sneakier with my surprise parties but it should let us hear inside."

"...ah don't rightly understand half these contraptions he comes up with, but I can't say I'm not curious as to what Apple Ryder has to say to that snake in the grass. Do yer stuff Pinkie!"

"Roger-dodger-woger!"

Fiddling with the controls like Ryan showed her, Pinkie contorted her face in thought as she fiddled with the dials before finally hearing his voice crackle through.

"...you...mah friends...complete waste of abilities."

"Alrighty, there we go."

Meanwhile, Ryan was glaring at the stone statue, almost sure that if Discord could he'd be rolling his eyes at him, "I'm sure ya can hear me...I'd bet on it, but I'm pretty pissed that you hurt mah friends....and with all the power you've got behind you, you choose to use it on trouble. It's a complete waste of abilities.

"Not to mention you tried to kill me, and pretty much succeeded if Dark hadn't intervened with his little gambit; as it was it was still the most painful thing I ever experienced. I can only imagine what the others would've done to you if I had died...if you think being stone is bad, I'm sure there are worse fates than that. Anyway...

"I didn't come here for that, I came here because you hurt Spike...you injured him far more than you did me and...and in a way that'll affect him for a while; they say he'll be okay, but injuries like that take their toll on someone. Who knows what long lasting effects he'll have to deal with and for what? All because he stood up to you after you killed his friend?! Was it really necessary considering how much of an advantage you had over him!? Was it!?" Ryan seethed, holding back the urge to literally knock his block off, "...maybe you'll think over things while yer locked away again...but I doubt it, people like you never seem to learn."

Taking a deep breath, he began walking back towards the door before pausing and narrowing his eyes as he coldly glared at Discord, "I'll tell ya this much Discord...if Spike doesn't come out of it....I will be back...and I'll gladly repay the act by murdering your ass."

With that he knocked on the door, waited for it to open, thanked the guards again for their help and heaved a huge sigh at how drained that whole moment made him feel; as it was he glanced in the direction the girls were trying to hide and smirked.

"Ladies...I'm pretty tired and hungry so, would you be so kind as to help a tired fool hobble his way to the kitchen?"

"...how does he do that?"

"Ah don't know Twi but it's pretty amusing when he does, I bet hide and seek would be unbalanced against him."

"Oooh! I'll take that bet AJ!" Pinkie giggled, "Challenge accepted!"

Ryan could only laugh as he hobbled over towards them with a smile, though in the back of his mind he was still quite worried for his little buddy.

'He tried to take over when I fell...and now he's paying the price Dark.'

'I know Ryan...just have faith; he did what he felt to be right after all.'

Deciding his counterpart had a point, he gave a slight nod and walked in a clam silence with the others as they headed towards the kitchen.

"Alright....so since no one is gonna bring it up, I guess I will." Rainbow Dash remarked as they finished up lunch, "Ryan?"

"Hmmm?" He asked, sipping his tea before glancing in Dashie's direction, "Yes?"

"We heard what you were talking to Discord about."

"Oh I know."

"Yeah we...wait what?"

"I know; I did give Pinkie that kit and I do have my sources. As she says, the walls have ears."

"Oh...well, okay, then this should be easier...you said you'd murder Discord."

"I do recall saying that, rather angrily too." Ryan scratched his cheek before looking at her, "And?"

"Well...that's a bit intense isn't it?"

"Why? I mean, he has caused an awful lot of turmoil to not only those I care about, but to those Dark cared about, to Cellie and Lunes, and to all the former humans that lived here. He's done some horrific things...he even tried to kill me, remember? To be honest, he did. I was worried that...that y'all...that Apps...would be victims of him because of that failure."

"...we all know that Apple Ryder but I guess what Rainbow Dash is saying is that side of you was a bit unusual to see."

"Hey, I'm still me; it's not as if I'm any different than before. Tell me though, if someone you cared about was killed by Discord, taken away from you, from everyone...would you say or do anything different?" Ryan suggested, "I mean, if it spooked ya I am sorry, but mah little buddy is all messed up because of him...because I wasn't strong enough despite my efforts."

"Spike should be okay though..."

"Yeah T-Sparks, but he wouldn't be in that spot if I...I had been strong enough." Ryan sighed, lightly tapping his balled up fist on the table, "I shouldn't let it eat at me like this...but when a friend is hurt because I wasn't strong enough, it...it kills me inside. I hate showing y'all this side of me, but I guess I can't hide it too well being all beat up mahself. Just one of mah flaws I reckon...part of my humanity if ya will."

"Darling, you don't have to hide how you feel from us; we're your friends." Rarity patted his shoulder and smiled, "We're there for one another...so if you're every feeling off or worried about something, you can talk to us about it."

"Heh, I know Rares...I just don't like burdening my friends with my problems...at least those kind anyway. To be honest, if y'all hadn't shared yer friendship with me...been so kind when ya found me...I probably would've broken down something fierce when certain realizations kicked in. And yet...I had the fortune of ending up around such caring individuals that did what they could to help put mah mind at ease as quickly as they could. So I didn't and I could focus on more important tasks...and, though I still do miss my family and hold out hope Cellie will find a way I can send them a message that I'm okay, I don't really mind being stuck here now. I'm happy and I know that's what my parents would want... it's what any parent wants for their children after all."

"Well, ah know I do mah best to make ya happy Ry-Ry." AppleJack teased, leaning over and kissing his cheek, "I am yer marefriend after all so...ya don't need to hide yer sadness from me. I'm pretty sure I can help cheer ya up when those pesky thoughts bother ya."

"Hahaha, I'm sure ya can Apps...and that's the honest truth."

And so the next day came, Ryan's injuries slowly healing as he began to keep active again: he'd spent the next day making sure everypony else was alright and reassuring his family he was okay though one individual was missing and that bothered him.

"Ry-Ry, what's eating at ya now?"

"I wanted to thank the Doctor for his help; those little enhancements he gave my sword really helped a lot. In all honesty, without them I don't think I would've lasted as long as I did against Discord. Those little unexpected surprised really threw him for a loop and help me keep him off guard."

"Well why can't ya thank him? Did he disappear?"

"Yeah. Derpy left a note saying it was fun but that the Doctor had other things to tend to; he did say he was glad to help though but I'll get to thank him someday. After all, if his show is anything go by, the TARDIS will bring him where he's most needed after all...and I'm pretty sure Derpy needs him in Ponyville quite a bit. Haha." Ryan explained, watching as Twilight spent some time with her brother down in the courtyard, "Good to see those two catching up...that remind me though...how is Spike?"

"I was wondering when ya were gonna ask about him. Twi said he's still stable but he hasn't awoken yet; they don't know why but...maybe y'all should go see him?" AppleJack gave a nod before standing up, "Come on, I'll go with ya; maybe hearing yer voice will help him some."

"I can only hope." Ryan quickly replied, slowly standing up and groaning, "These joints are still unhappy with me."

Walking a little faster than the day before, and even under his own power (though Apps did stay close by just in case), Ryan's mind was going over something that Twilight had mentioned about Spike's condition. He knew they told him he shouldn't let what happen eat at him, and even he knew it was Discord that had done it and not him, but when she said they had no idea how it might affect Spike's health or abilities in the future...well, it just wouldn't leave him be.

"Ryan..." AppleJack spoke, drawing his full attention at actually using his normal name and not one of the many pet names she seemed fond of, "Yer making that scrunchy worried face again."

"...that obvious huh?" He laughed, ruffling her mane and taking her hat, "...that reminds me, ah lost mah hat in the fight; I'm sorry hon."

"I wondered where it was...but that's okay. With everything you were dealing with it's no surprise it got caught in the crossfire. If'n ya like, I can fix that one up the same for ya no problem."

"How did I get lucky enough to be yer stallion?"

"The same way I'm lucky enough to be yer mare." She teased, quickly hopping up and wrapping her forelegs around his neck, "Ah think you know where to go from here Ry-Ry."

"Haha, I think I know indeed." Ryan chuckled softly before pressing his lips to hers and hugging her tight, "Mmmm, I feel better already."

"Goober."

"Guilty as charged. Now then, let's look in on mah little buddy."

Standing over his bed, Ryan couldn't help but frown looking at Spike: he seemed peaceful enough lying there but Ryan could see all manner of wires and such plugged into him and those just filled him with dread. Reaching over, he gently took the tiny dragon's hand in his and softly squeezed, "Come on buddy...wake up for us. We can't really call this a win until you do...and we can't really get back to life as usual without ya either. After all, I've got to have someone to fist-bump...and T-Sparks...she...she needs somepony to keep her in check when...when we aren't around..."

AppleJack watched as Ryan's composure slowly eroded, his voice choking slightly as he tried to hold back tears; she hated seeing him like this, but it was touching how much he cared about his friend. Then again, they had all reacted this way after he suddenly passed out like that and poor Twilight was hit the hardest having known Spike for so long. She slowly walked over to Ryan and nuzzled his side, "Just have faith Ry, he'll wake up soon enough and then we can celebrate."

"I...I know Apps." Ryan quietly choked out, clearing his throat to get his voice back, "...seeing him like this only makes me hate Discord more."

Reaching up he gently patted Spike's head before taking a deep breath, "Spike buddy...ya better pull out of this...we can't lose you...not like this."

The pair then sat there for a while, just watching their still sleeping friend and listening to the almost rhythmic beeps of the machine tracking his vitals; AppleJack held Ryan's good arm close as he just stared at his little buddy and kept hoping he would just wake up.

"....come on Apps, let's go take a walk. I know Spike wouldn't want me to just sit here waiting."

"Are ya sure hon?"

"Yeah...I'll go crazy...okay more crazy if I just sit here like this. The fresh air will help ease mah mind some...I hope."

Giving him a nod, she helped him to his feet and walked alongside him as they slowly exited the room; meanwhile, the hand Ryan had hugged with his slowly twitched and a small smile appeared on Spike's face.

"Ugh..."

"Are you okay Ryan?"

"Yeah Lunes, I'm alright; just mah shoulder acting up."

While on their walk, AppleJack and Ryan had run into the two Princesses who had decided to join them; currently they were walking around the gardens near the hedge maze.

"Are you sure you'll be okay? Perhaps we can slow down our pace."

"No no, I'm okay Cellie...it's gonna ache for a while till it heals so nothing I can do; can't stop living right?"

'Heh, look at you being all tough; don't worry Woona, he's not as hurt as he seems...I made sure to see to that.'

"Haha, is that so then Darkness? Very well then, I will let Ryan continue to act the tough guy."

"...thanks for ratting me out Dark."

'Yer quite welcome partner.'

"...ahm not the only one that thought him doing a southern accent with that growly voice of his sounded weird am I?" AppleJack asked as she paused in mid-step, "Also...it's kind of weird that mah boyfriend's got voices in his head."

"Yes dear AppleJack, Ryan was crazy enough as it was and now...."

Ryan let out a groan and facepalmed, "Oh man, it was bad enough with Lunes poking fun at me but now even Cellie is? Oh mercy."

"...I must apologize for something though."

Ryan turned to Luna and titled his head, "What in tarnation are ya talking about?"

"That dream you were having...I was unable to help you."

"Oh yeah...that. Well, at least ya tried to Lunes."

"Yes...I'm not sure why I could not get through, but I can only imagine it was the remnants of Discord's magic keeping me out."

"...hmmm." Ryan paused, his face twisting in thought as he stood there, "Well, I think ya might've gotten through in some way...by one thing that stayed the same."

"I did?"

"Yeah, the only thing that was the same was Apps and mah family."

"Ya know, ya never did tell me what that dream was all about other than...how did ya put it? It was a "worst case scenario"?"

Ryan simply nodded, not really wanting to think on it since it had been a pretty horrid series of events; though they were all in his subconscious, at the time it felt all too real to him. Noting everypony staring at him with worry in their eyes he quickly waved it off, "Yeah, yeah...I guess if y'all really want to hear about it I could tell ya...but it was pretty spooky."

"Hmmm, I can sense it still affects you so. I would not wish you to do anything that would bring you discomfort Ryan."

"No, no...it's probably best I say something about it and not let it fester." Heading over towards some benches, Ryan sat down and waited for his friends to do the same. Smiling as AppleJack sat next to him and lay her head in his lap he did his best to recall all the details, "It started off much like how I did arrive here, only no one found me in the forest. I had to find my way out of there alone and just as I saw what I guess was Ponyville, I collapsed.

"The next thing I knew I woke up somewhere unknown to me: it was dark, far too quiet, and upon further note I was in chains of some kind. Strong ones too since I couldn't break free of them...and then I heard a voice that seemed pleased I was awake. It was a purple unicorn which surprised me a little bit, but seeing as I was more concerned as to why I was chained up I didn't focus on that fact."

"...a purple unicorn? Ry, was that Twi?"

"Yeah, it was her...or at least a very strange version of her. She remarked that she was curious as to what I was and couldn't wait to begin experimenting. Well...that didn't sit well with me so I naturally asked what the hell was going on and promptly regretted it when she flung me to the ground with her magic."

"I did WHAT?"

Turning around, Ryan could see that Twilight as well as a few of the others had apparently seen them and headed over; in his talking he hadn't even noticed that fact, "Heh, I must be getting sloppy with my injuries; I didn't even hear y'all show up."

"Well what I want to know is what are you talking about? When would Twilight ever do something like that to you?" Rainbow Dash gasped, her face showing heavy confusion, "I mean, unless you inexplicably became evil or something uncool like that..."

"If you'll kindly take a seat with the others, I'll continue relating the nightmare I had while I was in my little coma. Now then...after that I decided to be a bit more tactful and carefully ask what she meant by experiments...and to try to figure out where I was. I got the same, if not more brief, answers that y'all first gave me before she got to...experimenting. I won't go into detail, but she seemed very distant and cold about all of that...it's like the fact that I was sentient just as her didn't matter.

"I'm not afraid to say that, though I tried to remain tough, after a week of it all I would break down into tears at night from the stress of all of it...but even that seemed to hold no sway over her actions. It wasn't until almost a month passed that I finally got to see daylight again...though I was rather restrained due to her magic. The others all met me then: Dashie was very distrusting and rather mean, Flutters acted condescending, treating me like I was a little puppy or something, Rares called me one of the most hideous things she'd ever seen, Pinks didn't know what to say which, as we all know, would be pretty weird, but....Apps, she was still the same. Kind, caring, and she called that Twilight out on how she'd been treating me. I believe that bit of sunshine in this otherwise dreary alternate reality was thanks to Luna's attempts to help."

"...that's pretty bucking messed up Ryan!"

"Though her language is a bit undesirable, I share dear Rainbow Dash's sentiment. Such a dreadful nightmare..."

"I know Rarity but it does get a little better. AppleJack, or that one anyway, managed to convince Twilight to let me go into her care on the farm and...the me there slowly found some happiness working away on the farm and finding a new family with the Apple clan. As the months passed, everypony started to change towards me and treat me better, more or less anyhow. That Twilight even apologized for how she'd first treated me, saying her curiosity got way out of hoof but...Rainbow Dash was the only hold out. If anything, it seemed she started hating me more for some reason.

"Though we're about to where I finally came out of this nightmare: a murder had happened and everypony was in an uproar over it. I don't know how or what started it, but somehow the town got it into their head I did it being the outsider. You all knew better...but Dashie still joined the crowd against me. The Apples...mah family did their best to keep them at bay but there were just too many of them to hold out against. They told me to run when a very angry unicorn broke through and charged right at me; he seemed hell-bent on getting some kind of revenge but I could only feel pity for him: after all, it was his sister that was killed.

"Just as he nearly impaled me with his horn, Apps kicked me out of the way and took the hit. I...I didn't know what to say as I decked the unicorn and scooped her into mah arms as she coughed and shivered in pain. I could only ask why...why would she do that for me? And you know what she said? "Ah wish I'd told...ya sooner sugarcube but...I...I love ya. Ah know it's too late now but...." I was shocked but...I felt the tightness in mah heart as I told her I'd felt the same for a while but didn't know if there was a chance with our differences.

"She smiled at that before grunting in pain and looking at me with those large green eyes. "Ahm so happy you feel the same way....I just wish that...we...could have had more time..." I shook my head and pleaded with her to not go, to hold on; I shouted for anypony to help but none would. As I kissed her, I watched her cry and then....she went silent. I felt empty inside at that and just held her tight; Twilight and the others finally made their way through the crowd and saw what happened but they knew it was too late. And then I woke up from it, covered in sweat and shouting Apps' name loudly."

Looking up after finishing his tale, he could see his friends were quite silent, no doubt shocked from such a horrible set of events; even if they hadn't happened, just the fact that if reality was in any way different they could have shook them to the core.

"Apple Ryder." AppleJack nuzzled his chest, "No wonder ya seemed so shaken up. That Discord...he's a real bastard isn't he?"

"He sure is Apps...but thank goodness you gals put him back on ice." Ryan gave a heavy sigh before smiling, "I must admit though, mah mind feels more at ease now; I know it was rough to hear but thanks fer listening ladies."

"...you do know I'd never do something like that to you, let alone anypony right Ryan?"

"Hahaha, yes T-Sparks, I know you'd never take advantage of me like that for your own gain of knowledge; like I said it was just a dream. A worst case scenario...but then again what is Discord but a worst case scenario?"

"I suppose that is true." Twilight remarked, "Still...if that magic had gotten to you, I wonder if it's affecting Spike as well."

"It's possible Twilight Sparkle, as I am having the same difficulties going into Spike's mind as well." Princess Luna nodded before frowning, "I suppose we can only hope that much like Ryan, he'll wake up when he finds his ending."

Rainbow Dash meanwhile didn't feel like talking and didn't seem to want to keep eye contact with Ryan, no doubt feeling a bit weird at her dream self being such a total jerk; hobbling over to her, he ruffled her mane before giving her a smile.

"Dashie, why are you being so mopey? It was just a dream."

"I know but...I was such a jerk to you! It just...it bothers me because I did distrust you at the start...and to see where it could have gone..."

"Could have gone, not did go Dashie."

"Yeah, yeah I know but...it's too bad I can't kick his butt again, I'd really like to give Discord a piece of my mind!"

Ryan smirked, "Now that's the Dashie we know...now then how about..."

He was interrupted as one of the nurses watching over Spike came running out to find them before trying to say something and it getting all fumbled as she tried to catch her breath.

"Safety Cross, are you alright?" Celestia asked, noting her tired expression, "What has happened?"

"Finally....found....you all. It's your friend..." Safety tried to catch her breath before continuing, "Spike, he's finally woken up!"

The girls looked at Ryan, who looked at them, who looked at the Princesses, who looked back at all of them before they finally all stared at Safety Cross, "What?!"

Not wasting a moment the group quickly (well, quickly with the exception of Ryan who was still hobbling some) made their way through the castle to Spike's room, eager to greet their friend after his ordeal.

Having finally caught up with the others only thanks to AppleJack's help, Ryan could see they were already crowding around poor Spike but he couldn't help the smile on his face when he finally saw him awake and heard him talking, "Little buddy!"

"Huh? Oh hey it's Ryan! How long have you been up big guy?"

"Long enough to be worried about you." Ryan laughed as he walked over and held his hand up for a fist-bump, "Sheesh, making us worry and stuff."

Spike smiled and slowly reached up to return the fist-bump, "Yeah...I had such a strange dream: everypony was so mean and not how they should be...and they all chased me out of town for something I didn't do. It was awful..."

"...sounds like Discord did to you what he did to me as well; either way I'm glad yer up. Now things can finally get back to normal."

"Not yet!" Pinkie gasped, bouncing in place, "We haven't even had our "Hooray we totally beat up Discord again!" party! And Ryan and Spike need to see the awesome new addition the Princess had made in honor of it!"

"...addition?" Ryan blinked, puzzled by her words, "Hmmm...guess you've been busy the last few days huh Cellie?"

"Well, it's only right to honor those that would give their all to save our world."

"Ya hear that Spike? I guess that means we are heroes."

"That's really cool and all Ryan, and I'll totally enjoy that fact in a little bit, but do you have any gems on you?" Spike held his stomach as it growled, "I'm starving!"

It was a few days later after Ryan and Spike were finally patched up and pretty much back to normal when Princess Celestia held a ceremony honoring those that had saved Equestria from Discord once again; Ryan was sharply dressed in an "absolutely fetching" outfit that Rarity had whipped up for the occasion. Needless to say, he could tell it was living up to its description as he walked with the others towards Celestia and Luna.

"It is with great pleasure that we are finally able to honor those who once again put a stop to the chaotic designs of Discord; while most of you are no doubt familiar with my student Twilight Sparkle and her friends that wield the Elements of Harmony, not all of you may know of the others that helped her succeed when it seemed all might be lost and how they gave all they had to restore the world as we know it love it."

"Sheesh Princess, are ya trying to make me blush?" Ryan joked, feeling the heat go to his cheeks, "I just did what anypony would for his friends after all."

A few ponies in the crowd (as well as his friends) laughed at his attempt to divert his shyness, though a few clearly did not know who or what he was as they looked on quite puzzled.

"Such humble words from the hero, but though he might not make a big deal of it, both he and the young Spike fought valiantly against forces they knew were dangerous and in the end were able to help their friends once again seal away the menace that is Discord."

Luna's words, however, brought forth quite a cheer from everypony...which simply made Ryan blush a bit more; still, he had to admit it was kind of cool getting to be the hero and so he smiled and gave a wave in reply to their enthusiasm. He had to gasp, however, when a few mares in the crowd seemed to be flirting with him, batting their eyes and making kissy faces at him.

"Mercy me...heh, sorry ladies, but I'm happily taken." He teased, reaching over and squeezing Apps in a tight hug, "This stallion's already been claimed."

"Darn tootin'." AppleJack replied, leaning up to kiss him, though she felt a little self-conscious after realizing she did so in front of so many ponies, "Ah ah mean...ah to hay with it! I love mah Apple Ryder!"

"Oh my." Celestia teased, "Clearly the hero already has quite the fan club."

"Cellie...but hey, I'm not the only hero so..." He remarked, lifting Spike up on to his shoulder, "There ya go little buddy, soak it in!"

"Yeah! Whooooo! Hello Canterlot!" Spike happily shouted, "Are you all ready to party?"

"Oh! Oh! I'm totally ready! In fact I've been ready for sooooooo long, but now that this day is here it's all set up and I've got so much awesome partying to do and...."

"Well then, seeing as everypony is so excited let the celebrations commence!" Celestia noted, cutting off Pinkie before she got out of hoof again, "Any last words for the crowd before we enjoy ourselves?"

Ryan glanced at his friends (pausing to wink at Rainbow Dash who took off), his gal Apps, and then at his buddy Spike situated on his shoulder before smirking and giving the crowd the peace sign. To enhance the awesomeness of the moment, Rainbow Dash had perfectly timed a Sonic Rainboom to coincide with his parting words to the crowd, "Friendship is always magic!!"

Author's Note:

So yeah, with the battle over comes the aftermath right? And it's not all apples and cream seeing as it took a bit of a toll on both Ryan and Spike; the nightmare scenario he detailed is something I thought of in terms of what might happen if the ponies were as distrustful and such as I imagine most humans might be were an alien species to appear on our Earth. Basically the worst case scenario for an HiE. Plus, why not show one last little spiteful move by that sore loser Discord, still causing chaos even in defeat. However, in the end, the wounds heal and a celebration can commence letting things get back to normal...which means silliness and such like how the story started. Thanks for reading, the next part should be coming soon enough.

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