• Published 25th Aug 2013
  • 10,165 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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24th Harvest

For the past week it had been a whirlwind of activity in Ponyville as the Elements and their human worked with Chrysalis to establish the first of hopefully many coexistence moments in Equestria in regards to the changelings. After the peace treaty was made official, the ponies that were a bit wary decided to give it a chance and, to their surprise, found that they actually did have more in common than rumors and legends led them to believe. Having sorted out one issue, Ryan and Dark were hard at work on another they’d been wanting to finish up, but had been sidelined due to the unexpected visit by Eris as well as finding Chrissy of all things. Looking over the photos and clippings one more time, they thought they’d finally found their answer.

‘Could it really be true?’

“That’s what it seems like, partner. All these photos have something in common, and the clippings over time as well as the reference materials point towards something curious.” Ryan looked over on in particular, staring at a young filly in the background. “She might just be who we were looking for.”

‘If that’s so, then...perhaps not all was lost back then. Are we sure, though? I’d hate to be wrong and get his hopes up for nothing.’

“Ah can’t see this info leading us to the wrong conclusion...it’s all a matter of trying to track down those that are watching over this filly...but, either way Ah think he’ll be happy to know that he may not have lost all that he thought.” Ryan stretched, hearing his back crack as he stood up. “But enough screwing with the audience and being vague...in just one short week it’s mah birthday and ya know what that means.”

‘Of course I do!’ Dark laughed loudly. ‘You get to be all awkward and meet the parents!’

“Don’t sound too excited, partner.” Ryan rolled his eyes, walking over to the calendar. “One week...too bad Ah have no clue where it’s gonna take place. Pinks is being super hush-hush about where and when and all those helpful details. Heh, guess she wants it to be a total surprise.”

‘Oh you’ll do fine. It can’t be any worse than what I told you I dealt with, Ry.’

“Yeah, yeah.” He waved his hand before walking downstairs. “We should go check in with the gals and see how things are rolling.”

Heading out, Ryan and Dark made their way towards town where the gals had been helping Chrysalis get settled into a more normal routine, as well as help her children that had followed along get acclimated to a less secretive form of existence. There had been bumps, and some townspeople were a bit hesitant to allow Changelings to work for them. Yet once they saw how hard they wished to work towards their new future, they realized giving them a chance wouldn’t be all that bad.

‘...just like old times.’ Dark commented, noting changeling and pony working side by side. ‘Heh...this is how it should be. Working together and making things better for everyone because of it.’

“Dark...Ah’m sure the King and Queen you made friends with back then would be proud to see things back this way.” Ryan smiled as a younger changeling was playing with some younger fillies and bumped right into him. “Heh, careful little one.”

Buzzing sheepishly, the young changeling nodded before running off with his friends. Sighing happily, Ryan opened the door to the treebrary...and was immediately hit in the face by a book. “...some things never change.”

“Oh, hello Ryan. Nice of you to come by. Your herd and I were just having a discussion about….uhm….stuff.”

Ryan raised an eyebrow at that. “Stuff? Chrissy, that’s suspicious. Also, why did Ah get hit by a book again?”

Hearing a ‘pffft’, he turned to see Fluffle sorting some of the books in the library...or at least attempting to.

‘Looks more to me like she’s building a fort out of them.’ Dark laughed. ‘But yeah, yer lack of telling things is kinda curious, Chrissy-baby.’

Chrysalis merely shook her head. “It’s nothing you boys need concern yourselves with. You’ll find out soon enough.”

“Alrighty...fair enough.”

“By the by, darling, what brings you by?”

“Oh well, just figured Ah’d check in with y’all, Rares. Ya know, cause Ah’ve been kinda focused on that project of mine.”

“Rysy-Wysy...you wouldn’t be thinking of trying to sneak the details of your party, would you?”

“Well n-no...not exactly.” Ryan sat down and huffed. “Ta be honest, Ah’m kinda freaking a little. Having all yer parents here, together, at the same time? For both mah birthday and to, ya know, meet the ones Ah haven’t so we can see how they feel. Ah’m just worried some of them might not approve or...react negatively towards me. And Ah’d hate what that might do to y’all.”

“Hmmm...you need to relax!”

“What?”

“I think that what you need is to go spend a calm day with your herd somewhere. Go have some fun.” Chrysalis nodded as she talked. “Yes, you’ve been working so hard lately helping my children and I as well as whatever has kept your attention when you’re not doing that. Thus I believe you are overstressed. And I can sense that, as your love energies are just all over the place.”

“That sounds like a lovely idea!” Twilight grinned. “I know there’s still a lot to do, but we’d be failing our stallion if we let him get too stressed out. So a day of resting up might just be what’s needed.”

“Hmmm...well, Rys has been locking himself away for some time now...okay! I’m game for some fun if the others are.” Dashie pounded her hooves together. “So what should we do?”

Pinkie, in one of her superhuman—or should that be superpony—moments, grabbed her fellow herdmates and Ryan before grinning. “Why with breakfast, silly! I can hear Rysy’s tummy rumbling from here. You haven’t eaten yet, have you mister?”

“...m-maybe. Ah did get caught up in mah research so…”

“Then it’s agreed!”

“What? Pinkie, we haven’t even—”

“No objections, Twilight! It’s food time!”

Chrysalis watched in amazement as Pinkie managed to drag all of them away and out the door. Turning to Fluffle, she watched her stare at them as well before she slowly turned to face her way.

“Pfft.”

“...what? What do you mean let’s make like them and have fun too?”

“Pffft!”

“Ack! Are you insane?” Chrysalis gasped. “Change scene, change scene!!!!”

“Oh God! Look out!” Ryan gasped, knocking AppleJack out of the way just as a pancake came flying at her. “Pinkie! Why did you think this was a good idea?!”

Pinkie giggled as she faced off with a cinnamon roll. “I couldn’t have known that adding that super special ingredient from Discord would’ve done this, but this is so exciting!”

“Darling, this is not exciting in the least!” Rarity bemoaned, knocking aside a bagel and weeping. “There’s cream cheese all over my mane! This will take forever to get out!”

Spike, meanwhile, was tied up as french toast circled around him with forks. “...that’s the least of our worries. Talk about your baked bads. Even my flames aren’t phasing them.”

‘Partner...you don’t think….’

“Ah do...though Ah have no idea what this is gonna do to our stomachs.” Ryan struck a pose and growled. “Pinkie!”

Sensing what he was up to, she giggled before joining him. “Right! 4th Wall powers activate!”

Throwing his arm out to match her pose, Ryan smirked. “Black Hole Stomach!”

Spike blinked before staring at them. “...wut?”

With that Ryan and Pinkie ran at the baked bads, pulling their best Kirby imitations as they inhaled all manner of breakfast items in order to save their friends from a sweet and tasty demise. While some, like the cinnamon rolls, went all too easy, others proved a bit more challenging.

Like the pancakes.

That decided to buzz around like deadly, fluffy buzzsaws.

Flinging chocolate chips everywhere.

“Oh d-dear! Ow! Eeep!” Fluttershy gasped as she tried to hide behind a chair, her poor exposed bottom getting pelted with. “Ryan!”

Grabbing Pinkie, he quickly threw her at the pancakes, watching her twirl and twist with grace as she chomped them out of the air. Eventually, all the offending goods had been handled...although Ryan looked rather ill after all that.

Spike sighed and shook his head as he pulled off the ropes holding him. “See? This is why I just wanted to have some simple cereal...but noooooooo.”

“Ryers, you okay?”

“Ugh...yeah, Heartsy. Just ate….waaaaaaaaaay too much.” Ryan covered his mouth, looking ill. “Well, on the bright side...Ah’m not hungry anymore. Haha….ugh…”

“Well, that’s good to know but…” Lyra looked around, puzzled by something. “What happened to all the syrup?”

“The syrup?”

Spike gulped, “Uhm, guys. I think I found it.” He pointed at the doorway behind Lyra.

“Huh?” Lyra turned before gasping. “Ry!!!”

“Heartsy!”

The goopy, sticky syrup had somehow combined into one messy, horrible abomination of goo….that in that moment completely landed on Lyra and encased her in it’s depths.

Lyra gasped out for help, bubbles slowly appearing in the thick syrup, but she was caught tight.

“You bastard!” Ryan shouted, his aura flaring. “Just who the hell do you think yer screwing with?! Pinkie!”

“Right! Yaaaaaah! Secret technique of the Random!”

Ultimate Lick of Devastation!”

Needless to say, that Syrup Monster didn’t know what hit it as the pony and human team dealt out Justice in the form of literal tongue-lashings, soon leaving just a very sticky and disoriented Lyra collapsed on the floor.

“Oh you poor dear.” Rarity trotted over to try and soothe her. “And to think I was complaining about cream cheese...well we’ll get this fixed up right away. Right, Ryan?”

“Ugh…..” Ryan fell back, clutching his gut. “Oh God….”

“Rysy?”

“Yeah, Pinks?”

“...next time, let’s just have something simple...like toast. And sorry...”

“Sounds good. And sorry fer what?”

“For things getting like this…”

Ryan smiled, rolling over to pull her close. “You goober...Ah might feel a bit ill, but that certainly was fun in a weird, curious way.”

Pinkie grinned. “Ya mean that?”

“Sure...but Ah think we can all agree we need one thing right now….”

A few moments later…

“Welcome to the Ponyville Spa, how might we….oh my goodness!” Aloe gasped, seeing the state Ryan and his family were in. “Mr. Ryan, what...what happened?”

“Breakfast. Now then...we need to unwind. Might you be able to help?”

“But of course! This way everypony!”

After a relaxing two hours at the spa, the relaxed but tired human decided their best bet to relax would be to head home and while away the rest of the day there just chilling out. His herd certainly had no objection to that, and thus they had spent quite a while just chatting and enjoying one another’s company as they reminisced about old memories.

“Oh Ryers….” Lyra lightly kicked her backleg as Ryan scratched away at her tummy. “Why are you so good at this?”

“Lots of practice...plus, as yer aware mah mint mare, hands are a hell of a thing.”

“Mmm, Ah’ll say.” Lyra sighed, staring at her hoof. “I wish I could know what that’s like...that spell I have is okay, but to really have hands. That’d be awesome.”

Hearing that, Ryan glanced over at Twilight and smirked. Hoping she’d catch on and play along, he grinned when he saw that mischievous glimmer in her eyes. “Hmmm…”

“What is it, my sweet human?”

“Oh, it’s just...we had dinner just a little while but I could probably do with an after dinner mint.” He looked about before frowning. “But...we don’t have any.”

“...Ry? What are you talking about?”

“Hmmm...oh! But we do have a mint pone...Ah suppose that might just do.” Ryan shifted a bit so he could lean down and nuzzle Lyra’s tummy.

“Ry~” Lyra giggled. “That tickles...what are you doing?”

“This.” He remarked, nibbling at her tummy.

“Ry! The others are watching! Stop~” She giggled, her face turning red.

“Oh noes!”

Looking up, both of them were surprised to see Rarity gasping in horror as she looked at the two of them.

‘Well, well...looks like the marshmallow is gonna play along. Oh, this is gold.’ Dark thought to his host, bringing about quite the grin to their faces.

“Rarity, what’s wrong?”

“Don’t you know to never let a human nibble yer tum-tum!? Don’t you know what happens?!”

“...w-what?”

“Only the Worst. Possible. Thing. Ever!” Rarity sighed, falling back on to her couch. “When a human nibbles you there...you become a human. Forever!

Lyra gave Rarity a blank stare as she craned her head to look at her. “You can’t be serious? Do you realize how dumb that sounds? How does that even work? He’s not a zombie...or a vampire or something that changes you with a bite. He’s a human...and why only the tummy? He can nip our ears or other places and we’re fine, but the tummy?”

“Oh, you poor thing.” Fluttershy frowned, shaking her head. “Denial is the first sign of the change happening.”

‘Flutters too?’ Dark silently chuckled in Ryan’s head. ‘Our herd is the best.’

Waiting for a joke or a punchline, Lyra decided to start worrying a little bit when she saw no such response coming. Looking from member to member of her herd, she bit her lower lip and groaned. “Come to think of it...I do feel a little weird and sweaty.”

Slowly getting out of Ryan’s lap, Lyra stumbled a bit before feeling a bit woozy. Glancing at T-Sparks, Ryan smirked as he saw her cast the spell and sit back to admire her naughtiness at work. The mint unicorn made an odd noise before gasping as her back legs began to change, forcing her to stand upright more.

“Oh no!” Rainbow Dash cried in ‘terror’. “It’s happening!”

“What...what do I do?” Lyra gasped, watching as she now had feet instead of hooves. “I don’t want to be stuck a human forever! I actually like being a pony despite what others might think!”

Ryan felt bad, biting his lip to try and not laugh at the reaction they were getting from her as she continued to change. “Oh, quick! Wrap this around yer body, Heartsy!”

Feeling a blanket tossed at her, she seemed puzzled...until more of her began to change. “Oh, right...humans don’t have ways to hide their fun bits.” She let out a whimper as her body continued changing, until finally she was a female human, hands and all. “Ryers...why?”

“...oh God, Ah can’t hold it in anymore.” Ryan snickered before pulling his now mint-haired human in for a hug. “We’re just teasing you, Heartsy. Ya ain’t a human forever. Ah can’t take that look ya were given me.”

“...what?”

“Well, truth is, T-Sparks has actually had a human transformation spell for some time. She’s only used it once before, back before ya joined our herd, but it would seem she’s been practicing.” Ryan wiggled his eyebrows. “This version of it is much improved. Plus, when ya brought up wondering what it’d be like to actually have hands, well...once again, mah bookworm seemed to pick up on mah idea.”

“Of course, the rest of us figured we’d play along when we could.” AppleJack chuckled softly. “Turns out only some of us had to, since it just went way better than we could’ve expected. You were panicking more than a snake that tried burrowing through quicksand.”

“...Apps, that made no sense.” Ryan shook his head, before hugging Heartsy tight. “Anyway, sorry for pranking ya, but ya gotta admit it was the best setup for it, right?”

“Yeah...I guess so.” Lyra took a moment to look at her hand, flexing each finger one by one before smiling...and then slapping Ryan across the face. “Don’t ever make me panic like that again!” She then grabbed his head and kissed him hard. “You stupid, funny, lovable human of mine. Mmm...kissing you like that was different. I wonder what else is different?”

‘You’ll find the human form lends to quite a few different things, Lyrs. Most of them are pretty enjoyable, let me tell ya.’

“Ya know, ya don’t always have to say what comes to mind, Darkness.”

‘Oh, I know, AJ. It’s just more fun if I do!!’

“...somehow, somewhere, a certain friend of yers is probably shivering in annoyance and disgust, partner.”

‘Oh please, he loves how I act the same as the rest of you; he just can’t bring himself to admit it yet.’

“Soooo...what now? You had your fun and I’m a human for the time being….till the spell wears off, right?”

Twilight nodded. “Yep. Once it wears off, you’ll be back to a pony. As for what to do...I’m not really sure.”

‘I have an idea.’

“Darky-Warky, even I’m not sure I should ask what your idea is.”

‘Oh come on, Ponk! Have my ideas ever disappointed? ...don’t answer that! Anyway! It’s a great idea to help Ryan reduce stress with something different!’

“I dare say you’ll tell us anyway, Darkness, so we might as well hear you out.”

‘Thanks, Ra-Ra! Anyway, you lot should go get some rest with Ryan and snuggle aplenty!’

“...but we do that a lot.”

‘Ah! But here’s the best part that makes it different: you go human like Lyrs here and do it that way.’

Rainbow Dash tapped her chin before smirking. “Ya know, the D-Man has a point. We have never snuggled like that with him before. That would make for an interesting—how do you put it, Twilight?”

“An interesting experiment.” Twilight chuckled before focusing her magic. “I think that’s a wonderful idea, wouldn’t you agree girls?”

“Well shoot! Ya ain’t gonna hear me say no to time like that with our human. So Ah’m game, especially since ya seemed to work all the kinks outta that spell, Twi.”

“...Dark, what have you gotten me into now?”

‘All sorts of fun! You can thank me later.’

Ryan sighed, watching Twilight’s magic do its thing. “Ah guess it’s a good thing Spike ain’t here to get caught up in the hijinx.”

‘Yeah...but I do have to wonder just what happened between Chrissy and Fluffs that they needed his assistance of all things?’

Meanwhile, back at Golden Oaks Library…

“What do you mean she fell in and never came out?”

“Pbblt.”

“You were...what?”

“P...pblt.”

“Right...and why was there jelly on the floor?”

“...pblt.”

“Sandwiches?” Spike raised an eyebrow before shaking his head. “You know what...I probably shouldn’t even try to pry. It’d probably end up like that Katamari Cupcake incident all over again. So...how do we get her out?”

At that Fluffle pulled out a rope, tying it around Spike before holding the other end. “Pblt. Pblt. Pbbblt.”

“...you want me to jump in? I’m not sure it’s safe….”

“Pblt….”

“Ugh, when you’re being that sad about it, fine.” Spike sighed before readying himself. “If I don’t come out of here alive, tell big bro I forgive him.”

And with that Spike jumped into her fur, the rope disappearing with him as he apparently fell and fell and fell. Holding tightly to the rope, Fluffle grinned before somehow getting yanked with the end of the rope she was holding into herself and disappearing from sight.

“...ya know what, Dark?”

‘What?’

“You were right.” Ryan sighed, snuggling into his herd’s embrace. “This was just what Ah needed.”

‘See? Do I know you or what?’

“Shhhh.” Lyra placed a finger on Ryan’s lips. “No talk, only sleeps.”

“Yes, Heartsy.” Ryan closed his eyes and relaxed...until he heard an odd noise. “...Ladies, what’s that sound?”

Seeing a few heads pop up, they listened in trying to figure out just what the heck was going on.

“...darling, it appears to be getting louder.”

“Ah’d noticed, Rares. It sounds almost like…” Ryan’s eyes went wide when a hole in reality opened up above them and grunted when something heavy and mare-shaped fell on top of him. “Uffff!”

“Oh thank sweet merciful Kakuna, we’re back in Equestria!”

‘...Chrissy?’

“...Dark?” Chrysalis blinked before looking down to see she was on top of Ryan. This caused her to blush, especially after seeing he was apparently missing his shirt. “...Oh. Well...uhm...hmm. In the lowlight, your scar doesn't look all that bad. Wait, no. That’s a stupid thing to say.”

“Pblt!!”

“Hey, you’re the one that said you had a hold on the rope, Fluffle.” Spike groaned, picking himself up off the floor. “Whoa. You guys went human? What the heck did I miss? Wait...no, probably don’t want to know.”

“A wise choice, Spike.” Twilight sighed. “I should probably ask how you got here, but for now could you please remove yourself from our human, Chrysalis.”

“Right! Sorry.” Chrysalis quickly flew off of him before clearing her throat. “I’ll...I’ll just see myself out.”

With that Chrysalis left, followed by Fluffle, and lastly Spike who just shook his head before heading towards his room to sleep the whole ordeal off. Ryan’s herd seemed a bit puzzled by just what happened, looking to him for an explanation.

“...why me?”

Well, you usually are the cause for most of the weird things that happen, right?

“You...you shut up!” Ryan groaned, rolling his eyes. “Ah suggest we just go back to sleep and find out what happened with Spike in the morning.”

Figuring that was probably the best option given the situation, they all got comfortable before fading into a peaceful night’s rest.

Ryan awoke, but immediately he could sense something was horribly, terribly amiss.

“It’s quiet...and unless Ah’m tripping on some of Pinks’ special cupcakes, everything seems more vivid than usual. What do you think, partner?” Ryan waited, but no response came. “Partner? Dark? Hello? Ya awake up there?”

‘What? What’s all the noise for?’

“Dark, Ah think something is wrong. Something is really wrong right now.” Ryan got up, pulling on his shoes before heading downstairs to see nopony around. “...man, now Ah’m feeling even more sure about that bad feeling. Girls?”

‘...Ryan, do you feel some uneasy magic in the air?’

“Is that what that weird oobly feeling is? Ugh, it’s making mah stomach ache.” Searching room after room yielded no results, his family still nowhere to be seen. “...Ah don’t like this.”

Dark frowned, growling softly. ‘We should check outside and see if anything is off there.’

Figuring there wasn’t much else they could do, they stepped outside only to see they were in Ponyville and not the outskirts on the farm. Looking around, things seemed even more vivid than usual as well as...smooth. Really, really smooth. In fact, looking at himself, he seemed to look less like the weird cartoony reality filter Equestria had and more CGI-esque and super smooth. Almost fake and plasticy.

“Well, that’s unusual...plus this layout looks really—Flutters?”

Looking down the main pathway, he and Dark could clearly see Fluttershy running her little heart out as she seemed quite spooked by something. Unsure as to what had his butter pone so worried, he ran towards her only for her to jump up into his arms. Steadying himself, he waited for her to catch her breath before asking what had her so spooked.

“Oh Ry...i-it was so...I don’t know how...I just...so scared.”

“Flutters, what happened? Where’s the others?”

“...I don’t know about Rarity, Twilight, and Rainbow Dash...but Pinkie...and...I’m sorry...AJ…”

Ryan’s eyes widened in fear at this. “Wh-what do you mean by that? What about Pinks and Apps?”

“...I...I don’t want to believe it but...I...I think they’re dead.”

‘...Fluttershy, who killed them?’ Dark growled softly but deeply, his anger rising at hearing such a thing.

“Ah’m with mah partner, who has the death wish?”

Fluttershy shivered, her eyes shut as she tried to remember despite her fear. “I...it...it looked like...looked like AJ but...was wrong. So wrong. Her stance, her eyes, the way she moved and talked…..if it wasn’t for that chocolate bar then...then I’d probably be dead too.”

‘...what the hell? Looks like AJ? But off? Some kind of misshapen Changeling? But...they’re allied with us now, right?’

“Unless we’ve got a rogue one on our hands, but Ah have this gut feeling it’s more than that...” Ryan closed his eyes, fighting back all but a single tear. “Apps….Pinks...Ah will personally end whoever took you from me. But first...we need to find the others and warn the Mayor, get the word out to the others before somepony else gets hurt.”

Setting Fluttershy down, they made a beeline for City Hall only to see the rest of Ryan’s herd was already there looking a bit flustered. Seeing their human and Fluttershy their spirits raised a bit, though not seeing AppleJack and Pinkie...well, Twilight had to ask the question. “Ryan…”

“Yes. They are. Flutters found...Ah guess what was left of them.” He turned to see her nod before leaning against him and crying softly. “...damn. We need to get the ponies somewhere safe...Canterlot maybe? The Princesses should know what to do.”

The Mayor nodded. “We’ve alerted the residents of town that something peculiar is going on, but to hear that’s what has happened...I’m sorry Mister Ryder.”

“It’s...it’s okay.” Ryan did his best to maintain his composure. “...We...we can grieve them once we save our home. They’d...they’d want us to protect it first. Now then...Celestia has been informed?”

Twilight nodded. “Yes. She has been sent notice of something unusual happening and has agreed to house the residents of Ponyville until it is sorted.”

‘Good. Get them all here so we can teleport them to safety...that way they won’t be in the way when we murder the son of a bitch that took away our herdmates.’

“...Darkness, darling...are you okay?”

‘Nopony messes with our herd...especially like this.’ Dark growled softly again before sighing. ‘Ryan, Twily...get the others out of here as soon as they arrive.’

It wasn’t long before the residents of Ponyville had all gathered, waiting in worry at what was possibly going down. After helping calm the crowd and inform them of what was to happen, they collected themselves somewhat...but not much.

“Lyra, what is he talking about?”

“I don’t know myself, Bonnie, but you need to go with the others where you’re safe.”

“But Lyra…”

Lyra looked down before gritting her teeth. “AppleJack...Pinkie Pie...they were my fellow herdmates. Whoever took them away from my beloved human….they have to pay.”

“Lyra…”

“It’ll be fine, Bonnie, you’ll see.” Lyra gave her a smile before hugging her tight. “Help the Princess keep the others calm, okay? You know how this town can be.”

“Haha, that I do. Be careful.”

“Mister Ryder, Miss Sparkle? We’re ready.”

“Alrighty, Mayor. Ry?”

“Right...stay safe, everypony. We’ll get to the bottom of this.”

With that, they sent their fellow residents away to Canterlot...and then there was a tense silence in the air. The wind blowing was the only sound to be heard, kicking up dust in it’s wake in the now empty town. Without a word, those remaining in his herd took their respective Elements...leaving Honesty and Laughter as a reminder of what had been lost. Ryan stared at the two necklaces before picking them up and securing them to his belt.

“Apps...Pinks...we will find Justice for the two of you.” Ryan closed his eyes, his control on his emotions breaking for a moment. The two Elements seemed to glow briefly in response to his words, before he roared loudly, ice cascading around his body. “Flutters…”

“...y-yes. I know. F-follow me and I’ll take you to where I found...found them.”

But that would have to wait, as a strange noise began to echo through the town. Straining, it appeared to be a voice...but one that was highly unnatural.

“Waheey!”

‘...the fuck was that?’

“Shhh. Listen.”

The group strained themselves, and heard more weird talking followed by…

“...that sounds like the same kinda beeps from those old Atari games…” Ryan suddenly turned and saw something very odd down the street. “What the fuck?”

“Em no scitamehtam ycnaf rey esu t’nod!”

“It’s that thing!” Fluttershy gasped, hiding behind Ryan.

‘Ryan…’

“I know, it looks like...ACK!” Ryan gasped as it appeared in front of them in the blink of an eye….

“APPLEJACK!” Ryan shouted, shooting up and look around...only to see three ponies eyeing him oddly. “...just...a dream?”

“Apple Ryder, are ya alright? What’s going on?”

“Apps!” Ryan calmed his breathing before nestling up against her. “That...was not a fun dream. Gotta ask Lunes about that one.”

“Having nightmares again, Rys?”

“Yeah.” He took a moment to ruffle Lyra’s mane. “Probably just stress getting ta me over the fact that Ah’ll be meeting all of y’alls parents soon...and mah birthday too.”

Taking a moment to stretch, the three still sleeping with him smirked before getting out of bed. AppleJack nodded before pulling on her hat. “Well, it’ll be over here soon enough. The others are already in Canterlot for the preparations so ya should probably go ahead and get dressed, Apple Ryder.”

Ryan’s eyes went wide as his pupils shrank to pinpricks. “...wut?”

“Yeah, it’s today you goof!” Rainbow Dash chuckled, “Twilight and the others figured you needed the sleep, so they left us here to make sure you’d get ready. Did you forget the date already?”

Looking at the calendar on the wall, it sure enough showed the 31st...which only made Ryan wonder how the hell time had gone by so fast.

‘Either way, it’s time, Ryan.’ Dark chuckled. ‘So I suggest getting up, getting dressed, and getting ready to be your charming self like always. You’ll do fine.’

Sighing, he rolled out of bed and started digging through his closet. “Yeah, yeah, Ah know. It’s just...meeting parents of a significant other is so very...stressful. Hmmm...what outfit should Ah wear anyhow?”

Lyra quickly shuffled over and drew his attention towards a bag hanging on the door. “Here! Rarity said this is what she believes will be your best choice of outfit for the big birthday shindig of yours.”

Taking it out, he smirked at what he saw and just how perfect it would be. Quickly spinning in place, he became a blur before he struck a pose, his outfit now perfectly placed and ready for action. “Dark’s right! Why worry? What’s the worst that could happen right?”

Rainbow Dash smiled, but her laughter sounded slightly off compared to that of the others. “Yeah, it’s just our parents, right? What could happen?”

“Okay! Everything is ready, Princess!”

“Very good, Twilight. I’m sure this birthday will be just perfect for our little human. Speaking of, where is he?”

“Hahahaha, oh I feel as if he’s going to be here any minute with the others!” Vinyl shouted, readying her decks for epicness. “In fact...I’ve got the perfect song for his entrance. Ultra DJ timing senses activate!”

Slamming her hoof down on the power button, her records began to spin as a pulse-pounding song starting playing over the speakers. At the same moment, a burst of magical energy exploded from the doorway, blanketing the entrance in dust.

“Have no fear, everypony, the Birthday Star is here!”

With that declaration, Ryan strutted forth from the smoke, the three mares with him flanking his sides. Bobbing his head to the music, he smirked before laughing. “What’s with the shocked looks? This is a party, and what do you at parties? Ya get down!”

‘So get ready. 3, 2, 1...DROP THAT BASS, PON3!’

With that the musical intensity picked up as Ryan began to sway to the beat, Dashie, Apps, and Lyra providing some backup dancing to go with it. Spinning and striking a pose, he passed it off to them as they popped and locked to the beat before the break started.

“Perfect song choice, Vinyl. And great timing too.”

“Anything for the birthday boy, let’s make this birthday rock!!”

Pulling on his shades and flexing his wings, he smirked before motioning to the others. “Come on! Let’s finish this start in style, everypony!”

As the beat dropped once more, he had somehow pulled not only his herd, but all the others there as well into one final sequence of boogieing down. As the song finally came to an end, he smirked before laughing. “And that’s how ta make an entrance. By the way, love the decorations. Great job, gals!”

“Hahaha, that is indeed quite the way to make an entrance, Ryan.”

Whirling around, he could see none other than Twilight’s mom and dad standing there, clapping their hooves.

“Night Light! Twilight Velvet!” Ryan laughed nervously before walking over to greet them, “A bit early aren’t you?”

“Now now, son, it does say that the party starts promptly at 1pm, yes?” Night Light smirked. “And judging by my watch it’s five till, so I hardly think that qualifies as that early.”

“Heh. Fair enough. Glad you both could come.” He smiled, giving them both a hug. “It’s good to see you both as always.”

“We feel the same.” Twilight Velvet replied, hugging him back tightly. “It’s always nice to see how well you’re taking care of our daughter, especially when she gets out of hoof.”

“Mom!” T-Sparks gasped, rolling her eyes.

“Ah’m kinda glad you two showed up first...in all honesty, you and Apps’ parents are the ones Ah’m least worried about.” Ryan rubbed the back of his head and sighed. “Ah haven’t really had much time to meet any of the others—well, save for mah Rare-bear’s for a brief moment—so having y’all here first helps settle mah nerves.”

“Somepony mention us?”

“Ma! Pa!” AppleJack shouted before running over and hugging them. “So good ta see y’all!”

“Hey there, mah little appleseed. It’s good to see you too.” Star Dust smiled before ruffling his daughter’s mane. “Especially after hearing about all the crazy things you’ve done since we last talked. Fighting the Changeling Queen and her army? Protecting the Crystal Kingdom? Helping save Darkness from Hell of all places? You even made friends with the God of Chaos from what I’ve been told. You’ve been very busy with your stallion and herdmates.”

“Well, we certainly haven’t been avoiding the limelight, that’s fer sure. Hahaha.” AppleJack chuckled softly, blushing at her father’s words. “Ah’m glad ya were actually able to get time off from your work.”

“Heh, anything for my darling daughter.” Apple Spark laughed softly, nuzzling her daughter. “Especially if the rumors are true as to why all of us parent-type ponies are being invited here.”

Ryan gulped and laughed nervously. “Goodness. Don’t tell me yer parents know why they’re coming? Gals?”

The others in his herd laughed and smiled at one another before poking their hooves together.

‘Oh, they totally know something is up, don’t they? Well, Ryan, you have fun with that. I’m just gonna go...do something soul related.’

“Ya damn traitor!” Ryan shouted at him, before making a motion with his hand.

‘Oof!’ Dark grunted as he apparently hit the ground. ‘H-how...how did you just piledrive me with your mind like that?’

“We are more or less one, partner.” Ryan chuckled, “Not exactly hard ta do given that.”

‘...very well. I’m in this come heaven or hell. Not that it’ll be hard...oh.’

“Huh?” Ryan turned to see two ponies he’d never met before had shown up, but he certainly recognized them from photos at Sugarcube Corner. Walking over, he introduced himself, offering his hand. “Y’all must be Pinkie’s parents. It’s a pleasure ta finally meet ya both. Ah’m Ryan Ryder.”

“Hmmm. I’m Igneous Rock.” The brown stallion eyed his hand before offering his hoof, and smiling slightly. “You certainly do seem to match my daughter’s description of you.”

“Ah hope that’s a good thing, haha.”

“Indeed.”

‘...that’s not terribly clear.’

The two ponies looked at each other for a moment before staring with wide eyes. Eventually, Pinkie’s mother spoke up. “Oh yes. Pinkie did mention something unique about you, besides being human. I believe who we just heard was named Darkness Shade, yes?”

“Yes, ma’am. He’s a bit of a knucklehead sometimes, but loyal and helpful to the end.”

“I see. Well, my daughter does speak of him quite often, so they must get along.” She smiled before offering her hoof. “I’m Cloudy Quartz, and it’s nice to meet you.”

“Thank you.” Ryan smiled at how well the introductions were going...at least they seemed that way. “Feel free to get something to drink and mingle a bit, hopefully the other guests will be here soon.”

“Thank you, young man.” Igneous went to walk passed him before stopping. “Young man?”

“Yes, sir?”

“...I like what I’ve heard of you from my daughter. I trust you will never hurt her...or the others.”

“Of course, sir.”

“Good. Now then, if this party is like any of my darling daughter’s, I do believe I’ll go find the punch. Coming, Cloudy?”

“In a moment dear, I need to talk to Ryan about something.”

Watching him nod and walk off in search of punch, Cloudy turned to a slightly confused Ryan.

“Ma’am? What’s the matter?”

“...you know, right?”

“Ma’am?”

“My daughter has a very...special talent as you are no doubt aware of. I know you are, because I can sense you have that ability as well.”

“...Ah’m...Ah don’t...wait. Ma’am, do you mean…” Ryan made a motion as if to point at something beyond them. “That?”

“Yes. I wanted to confirm what I suspected of you. To be honest...she got that ability from me. I could never embrace it the way she did, I was always too worried what others would think, but it sets my mind at ease knowing you understand that special gift of hers and can even use it yourself.” Cloudy smiled softly. “While I do wish to get to know more about you, as does my husband, I don’t see your request being a problem.”

“Thank you.”

“Of course, the readers want it to be a problem, right? They do find such amusement in you being flustered.” Cloudy giggled. “I’ve always wanted to say that. Thanks for giving an old mare a safe chance to have fun.”

“Fer Pinkie’s mom, anytime. And yer right...those crazy fools are probably eagerly awaiting some shenanigans.”

‘And that’s the cue...’

“Dark, what are ya getting a—ack!” Ryan gasped as he was tackled to the ground, his eyes spinning. “Did anyone get the number of that low-flying football?”

‘...wait. Football? Hondo, is that you ya crazy stallion, you?’

“Ahhh, what gave me away?”

“Daddy!” Rarity gasped before rushing over. “Why in Equestria did you tackle our stallion?”

“He’s probably just trying to make sure mah skills aren’t fading...in which case.” Ryan smirked before pulling off a crazy reversal, resulting in him now having Hondo in a headlock. “Not too shabby, Magnum, but ya gotta try a bit harder ta get the drop on me and make it stick. Haha.”

“Hahaha, yeah! I know, I know.” Hondo chuckled as Ryan let him up, before he gave him a mighty hug. “Nice to see you’re still just as capable.”

“Heh, quite. However, forgive me for not saying hi to you as well, Cookie.” Ryan gave a slight bow before smiling. “You keeping this crazy guy in line?”

“Haha, of course dearie. Someone has to, otherwise he’d just be fishing and eating overcooked food all day.”

Hondo winced at that one. “Hon, you make it sound like I’m some kind of layabout.”

“Well it’s true. Any free moment you’ve got is spent out there on the lake, fishing away!” Cookie giggled. “Honestly, like a young colt during the summertime. Playing in the water with your fishing rod.”

‘Hahahahahahaha, oh man, Hondo. She’s got ya good.’

“Yuck it up, Darkness. I’ve heard stories of you and our beloved Princess of the Night, so don’t think you’re so innocent.”

‘Guh! How did you?!’

“Well, he is Magnum after all. His investigative prowess knows no bounds!”

“Ryan, darling, I don’t think I’ve ever asked this but…” Rarity trotted over, readjusting his outfit slightly after the little event with her father before continuing. “But why do you call daddy, “Magnum”? He honestly seems okay with it, but it’s just an unusual choice.”

“That’s simple, mah Rare-bear.” Ryan smirked, before making his hand into a gun shape. “Your father’s looks and attire remind me of a certain show from mah world, in particular the character from it. The mustache, the features, and of course that Hawaiian shirt style he always has—”

“Hawaiian?”

“—Practically scream Magnum, P.I. Plus, the fun fact that yer dad actually does investigative work for businesses is just too fitting. Hence the nickname.”

“I see.” Rarity tapped her chin before laughing nervously. “Oh darling, as usual your unusual way of thinking is rather...charming.”

“Aw, Ah love ya too, mah marshmallow~”

“So adorable how you can make my darling daughter blush.” Cookie laughed softly much to Rarity’s annoyance. “It’s just the cutest, don’tcha know?”

Mother, must you?”

“Oh relax, sweetie.” Hondo smirked before hugging his daughter. “You know your mother just likes to tease you. Anyway, I see some amazing refreshments with my name on it, so if you’ll excuse me.”

With that Ryan watched Rare’s parents walk off before he mentally ticked off who was left.

‘Well, from what I can tell, partner, it’s just Butter Pone’s, Speedy Snooze’s, and Lyre Bottom’s parents that are left.’

“Hmm, yeah. No surprise Lyra and Dashie’s are taking their time from what we were told...hmmm?” Ryan turned to see a pink mare with a yellow mane cautiously looking in the door.

“Is..is this the right place? We’re looking for the Ryder party.”

“Well then, let me be happy ta say that yes, this is the right place, and Ah’m Ryan Ryder.” Ryan put on his best smile. “And who might you be, my dear?”

“Oh! That’s good!” The mare turned down the hall and shouted. “Honey! This is the right place. Down here! Oh! My name! Right. Sorry. Didn’t mean to be rude.”

“Heh, no worries.”

“My name is Flutter Breeze, and I’m Fluttershy’s mom.” Breeze explained before gasping as Ryan was tackled by a flying blur. “Honey!”

“Holy crap, you really are a human!” Shouted an over-eager stallion that was grinning widely. “That’s awesome! So mysterious and stuff! And it’s not just a conspiracy! Way too cool.”

“Dad...you’re embarrassing me.” Fluttershy bemoaned, staring at the ground with red cheeks.

“Dear.” Breeze sighed before yanking him off of Ryan and body slamming him to the ground. “Please behave yourself. You’ll have to excuse my husband, Wild Rush is a dear stallion but sometimes he just loses his common sense.”

“Haha, it’s okay. Ah must say, Flutters, yer parents are...not what Ah expected given yer personality.”

“Well, Ryan, that’s...ya know...dad was always so crazy and mom so strong that...I guess I just naturally became quiet.”

‘Ah yes, strong willed parents can do that.’

“Heh heh, sorry about that.” Rush grinned sheepishly before offering a hoof. “Whenever a theory turns out to have validity like that, I tend to jump the gun a bit.”

“S’all right. Considering a certain other pone, Ah’m kinda experienced in dealing with craziness like that.” Ryan smirked as he glanced at a slightly blushing Lyra. “But hey! Come on in! Mingle! Try the punch! We’re still waiting on a few more guests and then the party will be ready to go!”

With that Breeze dragged her husband off to mingle with the other parents while Ryan could only sigh and laugh as this was going about as well as he figured it would have. Strangely, thirty minutes passed without any sign of Rainbow’s or Lyra’s parents. While they didn’t say anything to him, their human could sense the unease in their thoughts.

“Hey, Ah’m sure they’re just running late, that’s all.”

“Maybe…” Lyra scrunched up her face. “They did say they’d come, after all...I just worry.”

‘Come on, Lyrs...even if your parents have their doubts about Ryan, I’d hope they care enough about you to at least give the big lug a chance.’

“...Dark’s right, although he could’ve used a better term ta describe me.” Ryan rolled his eyes before noting two ponies walk in. “Oh? Here we go. Hmmm, with that hair...that stallion can’t be anything but Dashie’s dad.”

‘Is that his wife?’

“Actually, that’s my mom.” Lyra smiled slightly at that. “But...where’s dad?”

“...and where’s Dashie’s mom?”

‘Ya know, come to think of it...she didn’t really say anything about her mom when they sprung this on you originally, did she partner?’

“No...just something about her dad.” Ryan blinked before seeing this rainbow-haired stallion was suddenly in front of him. “Ack!”

“Daddy!”

“So this is the human that’s grabbed my daughter’s heart, huh? Hmmmm….”

Ryan felt uneasy as he was given the once-over before the stallion huffed.

“He’s not much to look at...he certainly doesn’t look terribly athletic either.” He poked Ryan in the gut, the act of which said human was not happy with.

“Hey! Mah size might not speak it, but Ah’m more athletic than ya might think, sir. Besides, even if you are Dashie’s dad, ya could at least introduce yerself before ya start prodding and analyzing me.”

“The name’s Rainbow Blaze, and honestly I don’t see what my darling daughter does.”

Ryan took the outstretched hoof and shook, feeling a bit put off by how gruff Rainbow’s father was acting. “Well, hopefully talking and such with this party will help ya see that. Although...where might the misses be?”

Blaze narrowed his eyes at that before snorting. “That’s not your concern. So don’t ask.”

With that he walked away, leaving the confused human to wonder just what the hell that was supposed to mean. Figuring it didn’t matter that much, he turned his attention to the mint-colored mare that was currently hugging his mint-colored mare.

“...you gonna be okay, Ryers?”

“Hmm, yeah Dashie. Go talk to yer pops, we’ll worry about his attitude later...and Ah might ask you about his issue with your mom later too.” With that Ryan walked over before smiling. “So, Ah finally get to meet the mom of mah human crazy mare.”

“Oh my, hahahaha. My little lyre always was a handful ever since she heard all those tales from my father. Oh how her eyes would light up whenever he would visit. Of course, my darling husband didn’t exactly like him filling her head with so many tales...but I suppose they were more than just that given your being here, Mr. Ryder.”

“Haha, indeed.”

“I’m Minty Note, and it’s quite nice to finally meet you in person. Though she may have exaggerated a bit whenever she wrote us, I’m happy to see most of what she spoke is true. Though, a mysterious voice in your head. Oh my.” She giggled. “So silly.”

‘Oh yes, very silly. What could ever make Lyrs think such a thing?’

Minty blinked before staring at Ryan and tilting her head. “Did...did you just talk without moving your mouth?”

“Ah don’t know. Did Ah?”

‘Yes, did we? I mean...Ah?’

Lyra rolled her eyes before hopping up to whap Ryan on the back of the head. “Don’t tease my mother like that, please?”

‘Hahaha, sorry, but you gotta admit that was an opportunity that we couldn’t pass up.’

“Yeah, yeah, Dark...just don’t drive my mom into the nuthouse, okay?”

“...yes, dear.” Ryan sheepishly smiled before bowing slightly. “Sorry, Mrs. Note. Dark and Ah can just be a bit playful is all.”

Minty giggled softly before waving a hoof dismissively. “No harm done, boys. So long as you try to pull the same joke on my husband, I can live with you pranking me.”

“Oh, speaking of, where is dad, mom?” Lyra frowned. “More work?”

“Now Lyra, dear, you know your father works hard with his studies. He promised me that he would make it here for the party. He might be a little late, but he will get here come “hell or high water”...whatever that was supposed to mean.”

“Sounds good to me...well, if that’s everyone for now, let’s PARTY!”

“Oh yeah! That’s totally Ryanese for DROP THE BASS!” Vinyl laughed loudly before getting the music really going.

A short while later, things were pretty calm all things considered, all the parents mingling and—despite the embarrassment to their daughters—regaling Ryan with tales of their childhood as well as other stories that made certain members of his herd want to absolutely die.

“And so, she walks into the room with all these slightly inflated balloons tied to her hoofs and says “Look Mommy! I have hands now!””

Ryan and Dark doubled over in laughter, trying to catch their breath as Lyra hid her face in her hooves, her normally minty coat now a deep shade of red. “Oh God, mom...why?”

“Oh please, as if your other herdmates haven’t been teased in the same way. Why should you be left out?”

“Speaking of…” Igneous cleared his throat before turning to Ryan. “While we have been enjoying another one of my talented daughter’s parties, I do believe you did invite us all here with a purpose in mind, correct?”

“Yes, sir.” Ryan nodded, suddenly feeling rather nervous again. “Though Ah imagine you’ve all figured out what it could be anyhow, Ah asked you all here so that we could—”

And that’s when a loud crash rang out, glass falling everywhere as what appeared to be a stallion wearing a fedora crashed into the hall….followed by a few uninvited guests.

“What the hell? Who is that? Why does he look like Harrison Ford? And who are they?”

“Dad!”

Ryan looked at Lyra and then back to the mystery stallion. “Dad? Which means….”

Not wasting anytime, Ryan donned his wings before rushing to aid Lyra’s dad against these...were they Diamond Dogs? They looked like them, but something seemed off.

“Need some help?”

The stallion smirked. “Sure thing, kid.”

“Mind telling me why they seem cross with you?”

“Oh, there was this artifact they took...and I got it back. Ya know, cause it belongs in a museum. So now they’re angry. Pretty simple stuff. You good with a fight?”

‘Haha, are we good with a fight? Let’s show him how good we are, partner!’

“Sure thing, Dark!” Smirking Ryan ran up to the nearest one and started trading blows with it, before landing a number of punches. “Time to take out the trash! Shoryuken!”

The other two Diamond Dogs (?) watched wide-eyed as their colleague was catapulted back out the broken window and started sweating as they stared at Ryan.

“That guy can keep the damn thing! I don’t care what trouble awaits us, it can’t be worse than getting beat up by this freak.”

‘...dang...more chicken than dog, huh?’

Willing away his wings, Ryan nodded. “Well, that was...fun. And weirdly easy. So, yer Lyra’s old man, huh? Guess you really take your archeology work seriously.”

“History is serious, young man. It is facts, you know.” The stallion smirked. “Then again, moments like that are seriously fun as well.”

“Honey, you know I don’t like it when you call harrowing moments of life and death “fun”.” Minty sighed. “At least you made it here in one piece, and that’s what I should be thankful for.”

“Indeed! Oh, but my manners must be terrible. Young man, I am Indiana Pone.”

Ryan blinked for a few moments before snapping out of it and shaking his hoof. “Pleasure to meet ya, Mr. Pone. Ah’m Ryan Ryder. You certainly aren’t what Ah was expecting from what your daughter told me of you. Ah expected more “book focused” archeologist and not “in yer face finding history” archeologist.”

“Well, though she does share a rather large interest in such things with me, I did try my best to hide more...chaotic moments like that from her.” Indiana chuckled nervously into a sigh. “Guess that’s outta the bag now, eh my little mint chip?”

“GUH! Daaaaaaad! Don’t use that nickname in front of Ryers! It’s so super embarrassing!”

“Ahem. If your father is done making a spectacle of himself, I do believe Ryan had something to say to all of us...”

Rainbow Dash glared at her father for being a bit rude and could only sigh as she tried to avoid making eye-contact with everyone for a bit. Ryan frowned at this, but wasn’t sure exactly what he could do, so he nodded before resuming where he left off before Lyra’s dad’s smashing entrance.

“Mr. Blaze is correct. Now then, as Ah was about to say before Mr. Pone here made quite the entrance, we’ve asked you all here today for one simple thing. It’s no secret that we all care about each other a lot and we’ve gotten pretty dang close in the last few months, so eventually thoughts turn to the future. That’s why Ah wanted to go ahead and ask that, when we feel the time is right, do Ah have yer permission to marry yer daughters?”

“Heh, well dang. Guess he did get the gumption up to ask it after all.” Star Dust laughed loudly before patting Hondo on the back. “Guess that means you get some free Apple Family Reserve on me.”

‘Placing bets on Ryan, are we? Yer bad, Star. But even worse is you bet against a detective. That wasn’t too smart if I may say.’

“Now, now, Dark. When it comes to Ryan, you know that his personality can waver between ultra outgoing and strangely shy, so it was anypony’s guess as to whether he’d actually get through saying the question without being all nervous.”

“And ta think, yer gonna be one of mah future father-in-laws.” Ryan stuck his tongue out at him. “What in the heavens am Ah getting into?”

“A large amount of responsibility, for example.”

Everyone whirled around at this new voice to see a very shiny mare slowly sauntering her way into the room. Though confusion was on everyone’s face—including his—Ryan noted that Rainbow Dash seemed a bit worried, and her father was not looking very happy.

“Prism.”

“Blaze.”

“Ah’m sorry, who are you?” Ryan finally asked, noting the tension in the air. “Do you know Dashie’s dad?”

“Hmph, unfortunately. My name is Prism Shine...and I am Rainbow Dash’s mother.”

“Yer mom? Dash, Ah thought ya said yer mother wouldn’t be coming?”

Rainbow sighed. “I know I did, AJ, but looks like I was wrong. So then, mom, why are you here?”

“Is that anyway to treat your mother? Especially after I haven’t seen you in so long. You’ve grown nicely, dear daughter. Quite beautiful.” Prism eyed Ryan up and down before frowning. “Though your taste in stallions is a bit...curious.”

“Mom...do not talk bad about Rys.”

“My my, very well. Now then, young man, you asked for permission to marry our daughters...though I question as to why my darling color wheel would chose somepony like you, I won’t interfere in her happiness.” Prism smirked though in a way Ryan did not like. “Let us only hope she does not take after me and make a...mistake.”

“What did you say?” Blaze narrowed his eyes and glared at Prism. “You’ve got some nerve saying that after what you did.”

“Still so touchy...peh.”

‘This ain’t good, partner. Seems Dashie’s parents have some bad blood between them.’

‘Ya can say that again.’ Ryan noted the others were a bit puzzled as well and at a loss for words as the two ponies continued digging at one another.

“Mom...dad...stop.” Rainbow Dash tried to get a word in edgewise to keep her parents from arguing about the past, but she was mostly ignored. Seeing the hurt and ache on her face aggravated Ryan something fierce until he could no longer stand by quietly.

KNOCK IT OFF!” He bellowed, spooking some of the group and drawing the stunned attention of the two arguing ponies.

“Don’t you talk to me like that, you bipedal beast.” Prism grunted, aghast at being talked to in such a way. Blaze, however, seemed rather curious that Ryan had butted in.

“Ah don’t care if ya are Dashie’s mom and dad. This ain’t the way ta behave, especially here.”

“Oh my, afraid of a little ruined birthday?”

“I couldn’t care less about that, I’ve got bigger concerns in life. Like mah herd’s well being. And right now, you two are causing nothing but grief for mah Dashie-kins.” Ryan looked down to see Rainbow nuzzling his side. “Ah don’t know what the hell has got you two so bothered or what bad blood y’all got between ya, but act yer damn age and stop this fussin’. Y’all should be ashamed, taking digs and being so spiteful towards one another. What kinda example is that for your daughter? For the kinda pony you are?”

“Well you, I can’t believe….who do you think….hmph!” Prism sputtered indignantly, unable to form a response. “I don’t know why I bothered to come here if this is how I’m going to be treated. Peh, enjoy your freak, daughter. He’s got a big mouth, just like your father.”

With that the group watched as Prism angrily stormed off, slamming the doors behind her as silence settled over the room. Eventually Ryan let out the breath he had been holding before sighing. “Sorry everypony. Ah just...Ah couldn’t stand them making Dashie feel like crap like that. Oh, by the way. Cellie? Lunes? Ah know yer there with the cake. You can come in now.”

“We had hoped to surprise you with this cake, but sadly our timing was poor.”

“Not yer fault, Cellie.” Ryan turned to the others there and shook his head. “Ah am sorry about that. Like Ah said, shouldn’t have raised mah voice but Ah just couldn’t stand that arguing any more...Ah hate it when family argues like that. Especially that kind. Ah’m kinda surprised ya ain’t angry at me too, Mr. Blaze.”

“To be honest, I’m more surprised that you had the guts to call us out on our bullshit.” Blaze waved a hoof when Ryan tried to speak. “No, no, don’t say it isn’t, because it is. I always let myself get caught up in that with my ex-wife, despite always telling myself that I shouldn’t.”

“Well, Ah know how difficult it can be dealing with an ex, whether it be wife, girlfriend, or what have ya. Still...whatever must’ve happened between ya two seems like it was pretty rough. Sorry about that.”

Blaze laughed softly before sighing. “It’s okay...you’d think after ten years I’d have gotten passed this, but that feeling still sits as strong as the day she left me. Sometimes the mind just can’t let go no matter how hard you try. Somehow, I have this feeling you understand that.”

‘More than ya might realize, Blazer.’

“Glad to know I’m right, Dark. Though…” He turned to the others there. “I should apologize to all of you as well. There was no reason for any of you to be caught up in that. Having seen his reaction, though, I can tell I had Ryan all wrong.”

“Hmmm? What do you mean, dad?”

“What I mean, Rainbow, is that he’s got the courage to stand up to to things in order to protect you...even if that which he’s protecting you from is your own parent’s immaturity.” Rainbow Blaze turned to Ryan and smiled. “When the time does finally come, I wish you all the luck.”

“Did...did you just….?” Ryan laughed softly. “Thank you, Mr. Blaze.”

“Well, since it seems that things are once again calm, allow me to wish you the same luck as well with our little apple.” Star Dust patted his back and grinned. “Just don’t forget those invitations, eh son?”

‘I’ll make double sure for him, Star.’

“Excellent!”

Eventually, one by one, all the other’s parents expressed their agreement with Ryan and the girls wish, even if Lyra’s were still a bit hesitant knowing their daughter’s slight obsession with humans and their history. Still, they seemed convinced enough she loved Ryan for his own quirks and style rather than what he was so that was good enough for them. The last group to make their thoughts known was Igneous and his wife, and Ryan had expected as much despite comments from earlier in the evening. Eyeing his with an intense gaze, Igneous let a slight smile drift on his features before he gave a quick nod.

“Thank ya, all of ya. Ah...Ah feel better about the future...about our future knowing yer all behind us on it. Ah can’t say it’ll be anytime soon, as far as Ah know, but it is a future Ah hope ta make real one day.” Ryan couldn’t smile any wider at how well things had gone, relatively speaking. “Now then...how’s about we cut into that awesome cake Cellie and Lunes brought out?”

“Sounds good ta me!” Pinkie laughed in glee before pulling out what appeared ta be a miniature version of Malus Domestica. “Slice! Confectionary Dancing Petals!

“...did she just cookify mah sword?”

A quick flash was all that was seen as Pinkie apparently sliced the cake...and then the group watched in awe as it exploded into many a perfectly portioned piece for each of them. Of course, what was more surprising was none other than a certain draconequus appearing from the center of the cakesplosion.

“My my, can’t a deity of chaos make his own entrance? Still, nice assist by the pink one.”

Most of the parent’s eyes opened wide at seeing Discord of all people there. “Wh-what’s he doing here?”

“Relax, guys. He’s not a worry.” Star Dust remarked. “He’s turned over a new leaf, at least that’s what mah little apple told us, so he’s here to have fun not cause trouble. Right?”

Discord smirked. “Can’t it be both?”

“Fair point. I walked into that one.”

“Haha, so nice to meet one of you ponies outside our little group that doesn’t immediately freak out upon seeing me.” Discord rubbed the back of his head sheepishly. “Not that I can blame them, mind you, given my dreadful past, but still…”

‘Cordy...I get it’s Ryan’s birthday and thus, being our friend, you’d be here but...you seem as if you have something important on your mind.’

“Oh, I do indeed my dear, old friend, but it can wait a little longer until the ‘rents have had their fill of party fun. I had to make an entrance though, you know that.”

Ryan shook his head. “Indeed, Disky. Flashy as always. Hahaha.”

“Come now, boy, do you expect anything else at this point?”

“If Ah did, Ah’d be insane. But okay, Ah can wait till later to find out what’s on yer mind.”

“Splendid….oh, but wait. The little dragon was with me in the cake. Where did he go?”

“Spike?” Twilight looked around. “I did wonder where he disappeared to once we arrived here.”

“...I’m up here.” Spike sighed, having been slightly to one side in the cakesplosion and thus was adhered to the ceiling by a rather large chunk of icing. “You know, Discord, it’s starting to seem like hanging around with you is trouble.”

“Oh you flatter me, little dragon.”

Spike rolled his eyes and muttered under his breath. “That wasn’t exactly a compliment…”

“Oh relax.” Discord snapped his fingers, Spike appearing back on the ground and clean as a whistle. “As I recall, you were the one that seemed interested in learning from me after all.”

“...only after Ryan made it clear that he’d “skin you alive if his little bro was ever hurt while under yer watch.””

Discord coughed slightly. “Right...Either way, you chose to follow me and dabble in the chaos...but that’s neither here nor there.” Twirling about and donning a sombrero, the draconequus pulled out some maracas before shaking them about. “It’s time to party like it’s 1999!”

“B-but Disky...it’s 2015.” Ryan smirked, casually glancing towards the audience. “Though with the update schedule lately, it certainly can be forgiven if the actual time gets lost in the details.”

“...Oh, so that’s what you were talking about, Discord.” Spike nodded his head in understanding. “Those kinda moments.”

“Precisely! Now then, let’s fiesta!!!”

The party continued on for another few hours, free from any further drama as night slowly fell. Thanking them for coming, the group said their goodbyes to Ryan, their daughters, and their friends before they were left alone.

“Phew.” Ryan collapsed into a conveniently placed chair and sighed. “Ah don’t think Ah’ve been more exhausted on a birthday then that time Ah played DDR for seven hours straight. Hell of a party, Pinks. Ya outdid yerself this time!”

“Hee, well of course, Rysy-Wysy! I had to with all of our parents being here. I’m just glad they all seemed to like you as much as we do.”

“...except my mother….”

“Dashie…”

“Heh, I’m okay. Just wasn’t expecting to see her here, is all.” Rainbow turned to Discord who was lazily swinging from the birthday banner. “Hey, didn’t you say you had a gift for Ry?”

“You’d be quite right, Skittles!”

“...I told you not to call me that.”

“Oh come now, if the boy can have pet names for you all why can’t I as well seeing as we’re supposed to be friends, right?” Discord didn’t wait for an answer before continuing. “Right! So then, it took a lot of trying, but I’ve still got that ol’ chaos grooving enough to have found it.”

Ryan looked at his herd and friends before raising an eyebrow in Discord’s direction. “...found what exactly?”

“I found your home, Ryan.”

“...what, Ah...mah home?”

“Yes, Ryan: Earth. Or at least your Earth. I must admit I was hard pressed in my search for it. As you know the memories from when I had that lapse in...friendship are quite jumbled. Still, somehow I found the right spot in the cosmos.” Discord smiled slightly before looking nervous. “I...I must confess that I wish it was more than this, but at the least you can send them a message and try to get some kind of closure. Whether or not you’ll get a reply I can’t say. For some reason I can’t figure out, my magic is being...restrained? That’s probably the word to use.”

‘Restrained? But how? Your chaos magic is probably the most powerful magic in the world, right up there with Tia and Woona’s magic.’

“That I do not know, Darkness, but something more powerful than even I seems to be at work here. It might not seem like much but—”

Discord paused when he felt Ryan hug him suddenly, and smiled when he saw the happy tears in his friend’s eyes. “Disky...to even be able to send them a message. It’s more than I ever thought possible.”

“Well, ya know. Had to come up with a great present for my friend, and this seemed about right given all you’ve done for me. Besides, wouldn’t be all that becoming for the deity of Chaos that I am to skimp on getting you a birthday gift. I might be crazy, but even I know that’s not right. Though, to be honest, without Cels and Woonie’s assistance, finding your Earth would’ve been unlikely.”

“Thank you, all of you. So how do Ah….?”

“Heh, it is quite simple, my little human. We’ve worked the transmission to use that curious e-mail thing you and Twilight Sparkle came up with. It should be just as easy as sending one of those to whomever’s e-mail you wish to use.” Celestia smiled as she walked over and wrapped a wing around him. “You should be able to use the computer in the guest room to do such.”

“Ah assume that’s yer invitation to stay the night?”

“Haha, well, it is late, and even though I know you can just poof back rather painlessly, it is nice to have all of you here like this. It reminds me of the good times from back then.”

‘What’s this? Woona, is your dear sister having one of our moments now?’

Luna giggled softly. “It would seem as such, dear Darkness, but I too share her sentiments. The rare moments like this, when we can just be ourselves and be with friends...they are worth more than anything. But enough of that! Ryan has a message to deliver, so let us not hold him up.”

And with that, they led him to their room before leaving him alone with his thoughts. Ryan, for his part, stared at the screen before accessing his e-mail and trying his best to type...before staring even harder at the screen.

“...why is this so hard?” He spoke aloud. “It should be easy to just tell them Ah’m okay and such…but how do Ah prove it’s me writing? What can Ah do?”

‘Probably because you never expected to be able to do this, partner.’

“True enough, Dark...but...lemme check something real quick.” Ryan fiddled with some things before seeing he had all he needed. “Perfect, now then...let’s begin.”

With that the sounds of keystrokes echoing in the empty room were all to be heard.

Somewhere, deep across the cosmos, past incredible distances, planets, stars, even entire systems, a young woman was watching something when her phone went off. Checking it, she shrugged at first seeing it was just an email alert...until something on it caught her eye. Quickly getting out of her bed, she turned on her computer to bring up her mail and just looked at the text on her newest email.

“Could...could it really be?” She wondered, placing her hand on the monitor and running over the single word written in the title: TURNIP. She hesitated, not sure if it was possible or if this was even real. It had been so long, after all, that everyone had eventually given up and tried to move on with their lives. And yet….this word. She paused slightly as she hovered over the email before clicking it, and reading what was written there:

Ah know this might be a bit hard to believe, and for all Ah know, you may have not even read this and tossed it away. Ah wouldn’t blame ya if ya did given how long has passed, but assuming ya didn’t, it’s nice ta finally be able to talk to you again, Squirt.

She shook her head before collecting herself. “It...it…”

Ah’m not really sure how to explain just what happened or even how Ah ended up where Ah did. All Ah know is one day Ah went to the park by mah home and then the next couple of hours are just blank. When Ah came to, Ah was in a forest, but not the one from that park. Everything was weird: the trees, the sky, and then the people here. At first Ah was a bit worried, afraid even, but those that Ah met here were so kind, so helpful, despite the fact that Ah was so very different from them.

Sure, some had their fears, their worries, their unease at who and what Ah was, but over time they accepted me and helped me find peace with what had happened. While it might be tough to accept, Ah’m somewhere that y’all most likely won’t be able to come to. In fact, Ah’m not sure that Ah’ll even be able to talk to you again after this. It’s kinda a stretch as it is to send this message, but it’s possible thanks to those here that Ah’m happy to call family. Ah...Ah would love to get a reply, but they told me that even they’re not sure if that can happen. Ah know you though, Squirt...you’ll try to send one anyway so who knows? Maybe that ol’ magic will work another miracle for me.

The young woman paused, having to wipe her cheeks. “I didn’t know I was crying...it really is Ryan. But...not somewhere we can visit? I...I don’t understand.”

Ah’m sure yer confused by what Ah said, and it might be tough to think possible, but Ah’m on another world that is who knows where in relation to Earth. It’s very different, as Ah said, but not in a bad way. Not really anyhow. There’s still troubles that are similar to those we know, but the kindness here seems more open and genuine. At least in the small little town Ah found mahself in and call home now. That’s Ponyville for ya.

“Ponyville?”

There’s so much Ah wanna say to you, to mom, to dad, and our brother too, but Ah don’t know what kinda window Ah have time wise and desperately want this to reach you, so Ah have to be concise in what Ah say. But know this, and make sure you tell mom and dad as well: Ah’m happy! While Ah didn’t hate mah life on Earth, and was pretty comfortable with it, Ah’ve found things here that Ah’ve searched for some time: Friendship, true friendship….and even love. Ah was lucky to find some of the sweetest gals around, the coolest little brother and sisters—next to you and Drew of course—and even someone Ah’d classify as that one crazy uncle that’s really cool and does the wackiest shit. Haha.

Ah’m happy and as long as you guys know that, know that Ah’m alive and well and enjoying life here, Ah hope it helps ease the ache you no doubt have in yer hearts from mah disappearance. For so long Ah looked up into the night sky, wishing Ah could let ya know Ah’m okay, to give you closure so you guys don’t worry about me...and now hopefully that ache can finally be eased in all our hearts.

“Ryan….”

Ah’m...Ah’m getting kinda emotional now, and it’s making it hard to type and think straight, so Ah’m gonna try ta end this letter here. Ah...Ah debated whether or not to try and add this attachment to it, but Ah really want y’all ta see not only how well Ah’m doing, but the people that became family for me when Ah needed such comfort. They helped fill the void that not having y’all brought...they might look different than you’d expect, but trust me when Ah say they’re just as loving as you guys are.

She glanced to see there was indeed an attachment to the email, and a picture by the looks of it, but seeing there was just a little more text left she continued reading.

Well, Ah can only hope you got all this. And Ah hope ya truly believe it’s me. Hopefully our secret word as well as mah nickname for ya are enough. Ah’ll never forget when we came up with that word: we were on our annual family beach trip, splashing in the waves, when pops was heading our way to join us. We decided to mess with him and we made like Ah was telling you a joke and then just shouted ‘TURNIP’ so loud before we both started laughing. He was damn confused and from then on it was just this thing we never forgot and would always remember every so often much to our amusement. Like when you bought that actual turnip...and tried to cook it. Hahaha.

Everything we ever did Ah will always treasure and remember fondly. Ah love you guys so much and hope that you’ll find yer happiness too someday. Never give up on what you believe in and want, Squirt. And never forget the magic that resides in life and friendship, for that is more powerful than anything that might stand in yer way.

Sincerely,

Crush

“.....” She tried to stop the tears, but after reading all that, to find out he was still alive and doing well! There wasn’t anyway she was going to keep from losing it at reading the nickname she had for him. “Ryan...thank you.”

Clicking on the attachment, she waited for it to download before it opened and...well, she certainly was surprised and what Ryan had said made more sense now. It was weird, as wherever her brother had ended up looked slightly different than the world she knew: things were brighter, more colorful, and almost had this slightly animated look to them. Even Ryan himself looked different, more like those in the photo and quite different from the picture of him she kept on her desk. These people he talked about...they weren’t human at all. A dragon, what appeared to be ponies, and some kind of weird snake like creature that she could only assume was a chimera of sorts. And then something else odd about the picture, just above and behind her brother was the shadow of a smirking man that looked like him but seemed older, perhaps, and more mysterious.

Shaking her head, she wasn’t sure what to make of it, but with all that was written here, there was no doubt it had to be him. Nobody else could have possibly known what he had written here, and if those in the picture had truly helped him, had become a family for him, then she was grateful to them for taking care of her big brother. She wasn’t quite sure what to do now, but she smiled before moving her mouse to click ‘Reply’ and calling down the hall.

“Mom! Dad! Drew! You need to come here, now! Something...something incredible happened!”

It was a few days later as Ryan stretched and groaned after another long day of getting ready for this year’s cider season. He, Apps, Big Mac, and even Dashie had spent quite a bit of time prepping things up. Chuckling to himself about Rainbow having some ulterior motives in regards to the cider help, he got cleaned up best he could despite a certain apple pony’s mischievous antics. Having finally dried off and gotten changed, he gave a yawn before slowly stumbling to bed and collapsing there, next to and on his beloved mares….well, the ones that were there anyway. Twilight had been busy working on something crazy and was still out, and Lyra was on a little trip with Bon-Bon to catch up and make up for DJ totally wrecking her cart from his visit. Fluttershy had also gone off to study up on some kinda winged, tiny creatures...breeze somethings or other as Ryan hadn’t quite been paying attention at the time.

So that left just him snuggling in with the remainder of his herd, settling back into routine after his crazy birthday and the fact that his family may finally be at peace now. Closing his eyes, his thoughts were of how it seemed Disky and them had been right in guessing there wouldn’t be a reply: after all, it’d been about a week and nothing came so he could only go with the gut feeling that he’d at least gotten in touch with them even if they couldn’t do the same. Soon sleep overtook him, though it was an odd, mostly boring one where not much of anything was happening in his dreams. In fact this had been the norm for a few days now despite that bizarre nightmare from around his birthday, and the only thing that ever was the same was this weird book he kept seeing. Though he had no idea what it was, Dark felt as if he did but just could not remember why or how. Not that that really mattered at the moment, as Ryan felt something poke him in his sleep, causing him to wake. Seeing that it was Rarity’s muzzle trying to force it’s way into his gut he sighed before smiling and patting her head. Figuring he might as well get something to drink since he was up now, he slipped out of bed towards the kitchen before pausing at the light blinking from his computer.

‘That’s odd. Why would you get a message this late, Ryan?’

‘Not sure, Partner. Let’s see what it is...’

Letting out a yawn and clicking a bit, his eyes went wide before he instantly snapped awake.

“Ah can’t believe it….”

‘Ryan, is that your…?’

“Ah think so but…” Clicking the message, he began to read and as he did he smiled even more.

Not that long after he’d gotten up, AppleJack had awoken to a distinct lack of warmth. Patting the bed, she noticed the human component of their snuggle pile was missing and that made her wonder what was up. Rolling over and out of bed, she yawned before trotting down the hall and seeing a light from the living room.

‘Hmmm...wonder if that’s where Apple Ryder is? If so, what’s he up to?’

Seeing him sitting there, she was a bit confused before she saw that he was...crying?

“Apple Ryder?”

Ryan jumped a bit before turning towards her. “Hey Apps…”

“Ya okay?”

“Yeah, Ah just...mah heart feels at peace now.”

“Huh? Whatcha talking about?”

“Look.” Ryan pointed at the screen. “Ah can’t believe it, but mah sister got mah message. And she replied!”

Sliding up to get a better look, she looked over the words before blinking. “Tarnation! It actually got through! Ah have ta admit Ah had mah doubts given what Discord had said but...what all did she write?”

“It says here that she had to try and reply anyway, even if...even if it might be a futile effort. Mom and Dad didn’t want to believe her at first, didn’t possibly think that after over a year Ah’d actually be alive and doing well at that. But somehow she was able to convince them it was me, with the things Ah wrote. Things only we two would’ve known.”

“Golly...ya gonna be okay?”

“Heh...yeah.” Ryan wiped away a few more tears before smiling. “While they don’t quite know what to make of the picture Ah added to the message, they can tell that Ah do seem safe and well cared for.”

“Heh, ain’t that the truth.”

“Goober.” Ryan stuck his tongue out at her. “The last bit she wrote is kinda hard on me, but it’s hard on them too. She says that even though it is hard to come to terms with the fact that they most likely won’t ever see me again, that won’t ever change the fact that they love me and will never forget me and the times we shared. That no matter what Ah’ll be their son and brother till the end of time.”

“Ry.” AppleJack nuzzled his stomach before hugging to him as she felt him fail to fight back the tears again. “Yer family’s just like Ah figured from all ya said. Heh, they kinda are like us Apples ain’t they?”

Running his hand through her blonde mane, he laughed softly. “Yeah, Ah suppose they are.”

She felt him gently push her off him before he stood up and went to stare up at the night sky. “Somewhere out there is mah family. It used to bring me ache to know that and to know that they didn’t know how Ah was doing. But...thanks to a friend, Ah can now look up at that sky and smile. Ah see all it’s beauty, and feel the peace deep in mah soul.”

Saying nothing, she leaned against him and smiled. “Apple Ryder.”

“Apps. Heh. For the first time since Ah got here, mah mind feels completely at peace. Ah’ve got this feeling that from now on, things will only go up from here and mah heart won’t ache as much. While it’s not the same as getting to see them again...it’s enough to know they won’t be left wondering anymore.”

With that they slowly made their way back to the bedroom before curling up with the others. Sleep soon came to them, and for Ryan, this time it brought a dream of somewhere far away, with memories of those he missed dearly.

In the background of those replaying memories, a midnight blue alicorn watched quietly with a smile as Ryan relived good times with his family. She soon faded from sight, her mission here finished for now...

Author's Note:

Good heavens it is nice to finally update again! Sheesh. Ah really do miss the pass gone days when Ah could write more and churn out updates for y'all a lot of faster. Alas, such is life when ya get older.
Still, seeing as the chapters are pretty sizeable and such, Ah think y'all still find each update worth the wait, right? :pinkiehappy:

Anyhow, with that out of the way, it's time to get to some serious stuff. The Season 3 tie-ins are quickly coming to an end and that just makes me even more eager to try and get more writing done, cause Ah totally can't wait ta start using Season 4 plot points!

Tell me about it, Ry. There's a lot of Season 4 I can't wait to be involved in...and Season 5 at that, but one step at a time. So get ready, dear readers, the next chapter is certainly going to be something. :trollestia:

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