• Published 8th Feb 2014
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Brothers and Sisters - Alphacat



To find a missing Princess Luna, Private Lucky Break, batpony soldier of the Night Guard, must breach the gulf of a thousand years of guilt to repair an all-too familiar bond between siblings.

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Chapter 5

Canterlot

The flight back to Canterlot was short and lacking in conversation. Comet had left Lucky with a medic and then taken off to give Lily his report and get back to sleep. After a short exam, the medic declared Lucky fine and let him go, and the pegasus had found Lily in her office to give his report.

“…and that’s everything. She teleported somewhere, but I have no clue where.”

Lily frowned as she studied a map on her desk. The only marking was a single circle drawn in pencil, centered on the summit of Mount Canter.

Lucky tapped the desk contemplatively. “You know, it hasn’t been that long. If we can get a unicorn up there, we might be able to track her spell. I’m not sure how far she teleported, but I don’t think she’s sparing any magical power.”

“I don’t know if that’s the best idea, Lucky. Comet didn’t agree with your assessment of the princess’ motives.”

“Come on, Sarge. I know I’m right about this. If I can just have another chance to talk to her, show her that I understand, I know I can get through to her.”

“You know, you’re asking a lot of me here. What if Luna just wants to be left alone?”

“I told you to leave me alone once, remember?”

Lucky and Lily watched each other silently, until finally Lily sighed and rubbed the bridge of her nose. “Dammit, Lucky. I’ll see if I can cash in a favor or two. If I can get a spell tracker, are you sure you can find a path up there?”

“Not a problem, Sarge.” Lucky studied the map and frowned. “You’d think the Royal Guard would be doing more, though. I mean, Luna didn’t make a big secret about leaving last night.”

Lily shook her head. “We can’t worry about that right now. We have our own set of priorities to deal with. Sit tight while I go ask around and see who’s available.”

A soft, melodic voice spoke from behind them. “Sergeant, Private.”

Lucky turned and snapped to attention, raising his hoof in a rigid salute. He and Lily both called out “Ma’am!” in unison.

Celestia stood in the doorway with two bodyguards clad in gold armor. They were stiff and stoic, while the princess herself smiled warmly at the two night guards. “I hear you have news of my sister.”

“Yes, Your Highness. That’s correct.” Lucky glanced out the corner of his eye to Lily, but the sergeant’s face was set in a grim not-quite frown.

“That’s wonderful. Private Lucky Break, correct?” Celestia stepped forward, and the two night guards automatically parted, letting her view the map. “I believe you were with my sister last night. I do hope she didn’t try to injure you again.”

“Yes, ma’am. And no, she didn’t. But if I may, Princess, I think we need to make finding her a priority, for her own sake. She’s upset, and—”

A golden glow wrapped itself around the map and lifted up before Celestia as she studied it. “Of course. I certainly saw what she did, or tried to do, last night. Nopony wants to find her more than I do, Private. Is this peak where you found her?”

“Yes, it is. But it’s not just about last night. I think she’s still feeling—”

“And you reported your findings directly to your commanding officer, correct?”

“Yes, he did,” said Lily. The mare’s voice was suddenly tired. “Right?”

Lucky gave Lily an uncomprehending look. “Yes, I did. I came right here after I found her. But Princess—”

“And nopony else knows of this, correct?”

“No, Your Highness,” responded Lily.

The map curled up, and Celestia floated it over to one of her guards, who tucked it away in a saddlebag. “Equestria thanks you two for your service. And you have my personal thanks as well. I will handle the rest of this matter personally.” Celestia turned and began to walk towards the door in smooth, graceful steps.

Lucky stared agape as Princess Celestia departed. “But—”

“Private,” said Lily warningly.

He glanced at his friend, then at Celestia. “She teleported away! You’ll need to get there quickly if you want to trace the spell.”

Celestia stopped for a moment, looking over her shoulder at Lucky. “Many thanks, Lucky Break. If you think of anything else, please report it to myself or my honor guards. But for now, you should go home and get some rest. You’ve earned it, being up so late. Spend some time with your family while they’re in town. I’ll make sure my sister is cared for.” She turned and headed into the rest of the castle, her two escorts following with precisely timed steps.

“Go home?” said Lucky finally, after they were alone. “Princess Luna is still missing, and we can still help. How can she just say to go home?”

“Because she can. She’s the princess, she calls the shots.”

“Okay, but that doesn’t change the plan. I still know where Luna was. We just have to get a team together and—”

“Forget it.” Lily slid her helmet off and tossed it onto the desk, rubbing at the bridge of her nose again. “That was the nicest rejection you’ll ever get.”

“So that’s it then.”

“Yep.”

Lucky shook his head. “There’s gotta be something we can still do.”

“That was her way of telling us to drop it. Anything else we try to do, she’ll be watching us now. It’s over.”

“Come on, she was sitting out in plain sight. If Princess Celestia wanted to find her, she’d have beaten us there by hours. There wasn’t anybody else searching on that mountain.”

Lily watched Lucky contemplatively for several long, silent moments. Finally she asked, “Is this about this morning?”

“Well, kinda.” Lucky sat on the floor and tried to order this thoughts. “Look, Princess Luna is… Well, she was Nightmare Moon, and I think…” He gestured uselessly with a hoof. “I think she’s hurting. When I talked to her this morning, she wasn’t just angry, she was scared. I… well, you know.”

“Yeah, I know. And I think I get what this means to you, but we aren’t kids anymore, Lucky. I can’t just run off half-cocked on some crazy scheme just because you want to. I’ve got responsibilities now. And so do you.”

“Yeah, I know.”

Lily circled around the desk to sit next to Lucky, slinging a foreleg across his shoulders. “Look, I know you don’t want to hear this, but maybe this isn’t your fight. Luna is Celestia’s sister, so let her handle this. I doubt she’d do anything that would jeopardize her sister’s safety and well-being.”

Lucky grunted and let his head drop onto the table. Maybe you’re right. I don’t know where I’d start looking for Luna anyway. It’s not like I can go ask Celestia. And her teleport range has to be way larger than a regular unicorn’s.”

“Come on. Your folks are in town. Go spend some time with them. I’ll stop by later to say hi.”

Picking himself up from the table, Lucky let loose a wide, gaping yawn. “Actually, I think I need a nap first. But tomorrow I’m treating everyone to drinks. You’re welcome to come.”

“The usual place?”

“Yeah.” Lucky picked up his helmet in his hooves and lifted into a slow hover. “I’ll see you later, Lily.”

Lily gently punched Lucky’s shoulder. “Enjoy your nap. And don’t beat yourself up over this. You did everything you could.”

“Yeah, yeah.”

* * * * * * *

Lucky dragged himself through his front door, dropping his saddlebags with a heavy thump. A quick trip to his parents’ hotel to leave an apology and a note, and finally he could come home for some much-needed sleep.

Only a nap, though. He still had a dinner invitation and the pageant to see with his folks tonight. A pageant he now had an extra ticket for.

Lucky groaned and pushed that thought to the back of his head. Princess Luna had been a good distraction from thoughts of his brother, but now he didn’t want to think about that either.

“I need a distraction from my distractions,” he said to nopony in particular.

His apartment was small and cramped, but the most important feature was that it was all his. His own place to hang up his saddlebags at the end of the night, and a chance to be out of the confining castle barracks. One shelf in the living room held photos of all of his family and friends, while another displayed his trophies and medals. But it was the doily on the end table that drew his attention.

Lucky sighed as his eyes traced over the pattern. The ‘only bastion of culture and refinement’ in his apartment, it was just another reminder of a missing loved one. He threw himself sideways onto the small couch and laid his head down.

He was too tired to do anything, but too thoughtful to be asleep, despite being overdue for a nap. Lucky threw a hoof over his face and grunted as he tried to decide between being productive or chasing sleep.

A heavy weight thumped in the hallway outside his door. Lucky lifted his head, turning both ears forward to listen. The deadbolt rattled and slowly turned. Lucky grinned and sprang to his hooves, clearing the distance to the door with a single flap of his wings. Metal scraped as the key was withdrawn, and Lucky quickly unlocked the doorknob and threw the door open.

Standing there, her long, silky-soft mane falling over her face, stood Rose, head tilted as she gripped a key in her mouth. With a startled blink she let it drop against her chest, the key hanging from her neck by a chain.

“Oh! Lucky, I didn’t expect you—”

Lucky stepped forward and took her chin in his hoof, pressing his lips firmly against hers in a slow kiss. He kept moving forward, pressing his body against hers. Rose fell back on her haunches with a muffled squawk, but slid her forelegs up around Lucky’s neck, pressing back into the kiss. Lucky wrapped his wings around her, holding her tight.

"You don't know how much I've missed you."

“I can guess,” said Rose with a quiet laugh. “But I think—”

Lucky cut her off with another kiss, and they embraced for a few more moments before Rose finally placed a gentle hoof on his chest and pushed him away. Lucky leaned his head forward, desperately holding the kiss as long as he could until their lips finally parted.

Rose smiled up at him, brushing a strand of hair out of her face. “Dear, the neighbors can see us.”

“My neighbors are all asleep. It’s the middle of the afternoon.” Lucky leaned forward to kiss Rose again, and they wrapped each other in limbs and wings.

A cold nose suddenly intruded into their warm cocoon, and it took Lucky a moment to free up a foreleg to give Blizz a gentle shove. Bushy tail wagging, Blizz let out a soft bark and nuzzled at the couple again.

Lucky moved to shove Blizz away again, but the dog ducked underneath the hoof, prodding the two with his cold, wet nose yet again. Lucky reluctantly broke apart from Rose and shook his head. “Okay, I think Blizz is determined to kill the mood here.”

Rose laughed again, leaning up to kiss the underside of Lucky’s chin. “I’m in town for a few weeks. We have plenty of time to catch up.”

Lucky carefully stepped back and offered a hoof to Rose. She took it and rose to all fours, carefully brushing her mane back into place. “What happened, anyway?" Lucky asked. "I wasn’t expecting you in until next week.”

Blizz grabbed a suitcase handle in his teeth and dragged it backwards into the apartment. Lucky balanced a second suitcase on his back and followed the husky in.

“We had a cancellation, so me and the boys decided to hit Canterlot early and see if we could drum up an extra gig or two.” Rose carefully set her saddlebags by the door, next to Lucky’s, and took a long, luxurious stretch. She winced as her back popped.

Lucky smiled as he watched Rose’s slim form flex and bend. “Why didn’t you go to Manehattan to see your folks for Hearth’s Warming?”

“They were already meeting me in Canterlot next week.” Rose finished stretching and sat primly on the edge of the couch, where Blizz lay his head against her for a pet. “Besides,” she said with a coquettish smile, “Manehattan doesn’t have you.”

Lucky grinned and cozied up to Rose’s side, sliding a wing around her. “Are you saying you missed me?”

“As if,” replied Rose with a quiet but happy laugh. She leaned in and rested her head against Lucky’s shoulder. “Traveling by train may be quicker than carriage, but getting everything packed up and ready to go is exhausting. But how’s Canterlot? You said something in your last letter about Princess Luna holding court again?”

“Don’t remind me.” Lucky rolled his eyes. “That was last night and it turned into… a thing. And more of a thing today. In fact, I’ve barely been to bed as it is. I hate to leave you, but I really need a nap.” He buried his muzzle in Rose’s mane and inhaled. “Or course, you could join me.”

Rose slid off the couch, her tail swishing against Lucky’s leg. “I think that sounds lovely.”

* * * * * * *

Jetstream and Evengale were delighted to have Rose join them for dinner that night. Chez Cheval was pleasant enough, if a bit pricey, and having good company let Lucky relax and forget his worries for a while.

Afterwards they departed together to see the Hearth’s Warming Pageant. Lucky had splurged on tickets in anticipation of wowing his family, trading a few favors to get seats at one of the nicest theaters in town.

Canterlot had many theaters, of course, as many of the nobles in the city sponsored the arts. The Golden Dawn Theater was Celestia’s. She only sponsored it, but the ponies in charge had inevitably based the theater’s aesthetic on their ruler.

Alabaster stone formed a large dome, and on its front gold leaf and jewels were styled into a half sun bursting free from the confines of the earth. Spotlights around the facade’s perimeter ensured that the sun was a golden beacon in the night, calling ponies to itself.

Lucky fussed with his bow tie as they landed. “How did I let you talk me into wearing a bow tie again?”

Rose grinned and straightened the tie. “Because one, you had to pick the nicest theater in town to see the pageant at, silly.” She was wearing a sleek red dress, and she fussed with Lucky’s shirt and jacket before patting back a stray hair from his mane. “And two, while I love your ‘wild and carefree’ look, you look positively dashing when you take the time to dress up a little.”

Lucky grinned and puffed out his chest, posing with his wings held wide. “Dashing, eh? Even more dashing than when I’m in my guard armor?”

“Oh, I’d say it’s a very, very close second.” Rose fluttered her eyes at the other pegasus. “What about me, dear? I didn’t spend all this time getting dressed up just to make you look good, you know.”

“Rose, even on your worst day your smile would outshine the sun.” Lucky gently pulled Rose’s chin in with a hoof, kissing her lightly on the lips.

Rose responded with a murmur of appreciation, then pulled back and fixed Lucky with a stare. “And when, exactly, have I had a bad day?”

“Never,” said Lucky immediately.

Rose smiled again. “Handsome and smart. I knew you were a keeper.”

Jetstream and Evengale were already waiting near the door, watching the younger couple with a pair of amused looks.

Jetstream leaned against his wife, and stage whispered into her ear. “Dear, how come when we do that sort of thing in public, we’re old and sappy?”

“Cause we don’t have kids yet, Dad." Lucky rolled his eyes playfully. "Obviously.”

Evengale leaned against her husband, grinning widely. “Speaking of kids, should we be expecting wedding invitations anytime soon?”

Lucky blanched. “We’re not eve— That isn’t—”

Rose quickly turned away to hide a blush, pulling Lucky inside with her.

The two older pegasi shared a laugh and a hoofbump before following the younger couple inside.

The lobby of the Golden Dawn theater was extravagant, of course. A selection of paintings and statues—thankfully not all of Princess Celestia—lined the walls. Ponies milled about, filling the room with the quiet murmur of an art gallery. The biggest attraction tonight, however, was not the art.

Princess Celestia sat in the middle of the room, with a small entourage and a long line of ponies. The alicorn was chatting and smiling warmly, sharing a few encouraging words with each pony before they moved along, although many hovered around to watch and listen. Luna was nowhere in sight.

“Lucky?”

“Yeah?”

“You look like you’ve swallowed some sour milk,” said Rose. “Are you okay?”

Lucky forced a laugh and a smile to his face. “Oh, I’m fine. Just cursing my luck. Out on a date with the most beautiful mare in Equestria and my boss shows up. Bit of a buzzkill.”

Rose ran a wingtip over Lucky’s side. “Mmmm. Love the flattery, but don’t think I didn’t notice the deflection.”

“Sorry. I just got reminded of some work stuff.” Lucky pecked Rose on the cheek. “We’ve got some time before the show starts. Why don’t you explain to me what makes some of this art so impressive?”

“Actually…” Rose bit her lip and shuffled a hoof against the marble floor.

Lucky followed Rose’s gaze and shook his head. “You want to meet the princess. Of course.”

“Can you blame me? Everypony wants to meet a princess at least once.”

“Trust me. The novelty wears off when you see them every day.”

Lucky followed Rose to the line, with his parents right in front. The line moved quickly, and soon they were next.

Jetstream and Evengale stepped forward together. Jetstream saluted Celestia and said in a sharp, clear voice, “Sergeant First Class Jetstream, of Manehattan’s Forty-third Weather Brigade.”

Celestia inclined her head, wearing her soft smile. “The Forty-third, you said? As I recall, your brigade was deployed to the gryphon lands some years ago, correct? Your hard work repairing the weather system of the capitol has earned you the gratitude of two nations. Thank you, Sergeant.”

Jetstream bowed. “Thank you, Ma’am. It’s an honor to serve.” He stepped aside, and Evengale took center stage with a bow.

“I’m Evengale, Nighttime Weather Coordinator of the Manehattan Weather Bureau, Your Highness.”

“Ahh, yes. My trip to Manehattan last year was very pleasant. Your weather teams are skilled. Tell me dear, was it you who was responsible for the cricket chorus outside my suite? It was lovely.”

“It wasn’t mine, personally, but she is on my team. She’ll be thrilled to hear you loved it.”

“Of course. Please be sure to tell her. I look forward to my next visit to your fine city.”

Evengale bowed again, smiling. “Thank you, Your Highness. It was an honor meeting you.”

Husband and wife moved outside of the reception area, and Lucky let Rose step up first, staying half a step behind.

“Rose Lark, your Highness. I’m a singer. It’s an honor to meet you.”

“It’s a pleasure to meet you, Rose. I’ve heard so much about you.”

Rose jerked up in surprise. “You have?”

Celestia smiled warmly and nodded. “Of course. Many among my staff have been talking amongst themselves about your performances next week. They are eagerly anticipated. I hope all of your shows are a success.”

“I’m sure they will be, if I have your blessings. Thank you, Princess.” Rose bowed and then stepped aside, looking expectantly at her coltfriend.

Lucky stepped forward and bowed. “Your Highness.”

Celestia’s smile was constant. “Ahh, Private Lucky Break. I hope your day has found you well.”

“Better and better since a certain somepony showed up in Canterlot a week early.” Lucky and Rose shared a glance.

“Well, well, well. You’re quite a lucky stallion.” She chuckled softly, and Lucky joined in.

“Thank you for saying so, Your Highness. If you don’t mind my asking, how is Princess Luna?” Lucky made a show of sweeping his gaze around the theater lobby. “I thought she would be in attendance. Did you find her okay?”

“Oh, she is well. Just resting at the moment. She’ll be back on her hooves soon enough.”

Celestia’s smile remained fixed, but the two ponies were watching each other’s eyes. The silence went on a few moments longer than was proper, and Lucky could feel everyone’s attention focusing on them: Celestia’s aide, Rose, his parents, and especially Luna’s two bodyguards.

Celestia’s aide cleared her throat, and Lucky promptly bowed.

“That’s wonderful to hear, Your Highness. I hope she recovers quickly, and that you and your sister have a wonderful Hearth’s Warming together tomorrow.” Lucky quickly stepped out of the greeting area, heading for the theater and forcing his parents and marefriend to catch up.

Behind him he could hear Celestia warmly greeting the next arrival.

Rose hastened to his side, and asked in a hushed voice, “What was that about?”

Lucky shook his head. “Don’t worry about it. Let’s enjoy the show.”

They settled in, and Lucky wrapped a wing around Rose’s shoulders as they waited for the performance to start.

But when the lights dimmed and the first actors appeared on the stage, Lucky glanced back and up, towards the small private booth where the Princess and her guests would be seated.

Celestia sat alone in her box, and while her eyes watched the stage, her gaze was far away.

* * * * * * *

Lucky and Rose strolled slowly down the streets of Canterlot. The streets were empty and silent, their only company an iterant owl in the distance. Overhead, Luna’s night sky shone, and the moon was steadily climbing upwards. Lucky blanketed Rose’s back with a wing, and her soft body pressed up against his as they walked, their necks resting together.

Wherever she is, thought Lucky, at least she’s well enough to raise the night sky.

“What a delightful performance! That filly playing Clover the Clever, in particular,” said Rose cheerfully. “She’s young still, but she’s got such a strong voice. I’ve heard singers twice as old as her who couldn’t project half as well.”

Lucky plodded along, staring at the ground in front of his hooves. “She sure was something.”

Rose leaned her head up, nuzzling at Lucky’s cheek. “Thank you, dear. That was a wonderful night.”

“I’m glad you enjoyed it.” Lucky summoned up a smile for Rose, and then planted a soft kiss on the top of her head.

Rose’s wings fluttered briefly against Lucky’s side, and she leaned in closer. “Mmm. So?”

“So what?”

“What’s on your mind?”

Lucky slowly shook his head. “Who says I have anything on my mind?”

Rose laughed softly and came to a stop, pulling Lucky around to face her. “Dear, you’ve been wearing your thinking face all night.”

“My thinking face, huh?” Lucky arched a skeptical brow. “Have you been talking to Glimpse?”

“All the time, dear. Glimpse has a whole catalog of all your moods and expressions.”

Lucky tapped his chin thoughtfully. “You know, he’s always got that notepad around… That’d explain a lot, actually.”

Rose playfully hit Lucky’s chest and shook her head. “Back on topic, dear.”

Lucky’s hoof fell back to the ground and he stared down at the cobblestone road. “It’s… complicated.”

“Does it have something to do with the princesses?”

“Ahh…” Lucky rubbed at the back of his neck. “Let’s just say there’s a pony who’s having trouble adjusting to life in Canterlot. And the one person who should be helping her doesn’t seem to be doing anything.”

Rose watched Lucky’s face with a thoughtful frown. “How bad is it?”

Lucky turned the question over in his head. “Pretty bad, I think. She’s run off, and nobody can find her.”

“But you think you can.”

Lucky shook his head. “I don’t know where she is.”

Rose slid her forehooves around Lucky’s neck and kissed him lightly. “You think you can find her.”

Arching an eyebrow, Lucky pulled Rose closer and wrapped his wings around her. “Oh, yeah? And what makes you so sure?”

“Because,” said Rose quietly, “you’re wearing your ‘I’m about to do something foolhardy’ face now.”

“H—Hey,” said Lucky with a forced laugh. “I’m not planning on—”

Rose stopped him with a gentle hoof to his lips, and watched him with a quiet, patient stare, and a gentle smile.

Lucky sighed, his shoulders sagging as he touched his nose to Rose’s. “You know me too well.”

They held each other tightly, the warmth of their embrace keeping the frosty wind that swept down the street at bay.

“You know I worry about you when you get these crazy ideas into your head.”

Lucky grinned and kissed Rose’s nose. “You know you love ‘em.”

“As if!” Rose batted playfully at Lucky’s chest. “I really do worry about you, you know.”

“You know…” Lucky tapped his chin in mock contemplation. “I remember a certain filly that snuck into a bar with me once…”

Rose burst into a hearty laugh, quickly covering her muzzle with a hoof. “No, dear. That was still crazy. I was just too naive to not be swept away by your roguish charms.”

“Hey, I never imagined that someone like you would have been interested in someone like me. I had to use every trick I could to make sure it’d work out.”

“I never considered you beneath me,” said Rose somberly. “You know that, right?”

Lucky smiled warmly. “And that’s what makes you amazing.”

They kissed, and kept kissing as Lucky slowly guided them into trotting back home.


Manehattan

Lucky hissed and reflexively drew away as the nurse dabbed at his wounds. The chemical compounds burned, and the sharp smell of disinfectant filled the air.

“Stop squirming,” said Evengale. “Let the nurse do her job.”

“I’d stop squirming if this stuff didn’t hurt so much!”

The nurse shook her head, holding a levitating bottle in her grasp. “Maybe you’ll think about that the next time you decide to get into a scrape, hmm?” She continued to dab and dress his wounds.

“Yeah, yeah.” He tightened his muscles to keep from moving, but let out an agonized hiss through clenched teeth as the nurse dressed his wounds. He had several cuts and even more bruises, but the worst injury was a torn membrane on his left wing. He could still barely fly, but he had to compensate heavily to make up for the underperforming wing.

Finally, she finished and headed for the door. “I’ll let the doctor know you’re ready for him now.”

“Thank you,” said Evengale as she stood up, moving to her son’s side. A frown creased her brow as she looked her son over. “Well. I hope you’re proud of yourself.”

Lucky tried to stretch, and winced as his muscles protested. “Well, I’m pretty sure I gave Stormcrasher a black eye, and I know I managed a few solid hits, so I feel pretty good.”

“That’s not what I meant, and you know it.” The mare’s face softened, and she carefully wrapped a foreleg around Lucky’s neck, hugging tight. “Do you know how worried I was when I heard you’d gotten in a fight?”

The colt leaned against his mother, rubbing his forehead against her neck. His voice was soft and subdued. “I’m sorry. I really didn’t mean to worry you.”

“I know, dear. I know,” said the mother as she laid her head on top of Lucky’s. “What could possibly convince you to take on ten colts in a hoof-to-hoof fight?”

“Well, it was more like six…”

“Lucky Break,” said Evengale warningly.

“I didn’t go to them looking for a fight, Mom. They came after me. Stormcrasher's been doing these stupid little pranks on me trying to… I dunno, put me in my place or something.”

Evengale sighed and hugged her son tighter. “Why didn’t you tell me about this earlier?”

Lucky shrugged. “Because, Mom. I’ve just been taking care of it myself. He pranks me, I prank him back. Our ancestors never backed down, and I won’t either.”

“Oh, honey… It’s important to remember what our ancestors did, but you have things a lot better than they did. We don’t have to contend with harsh weather or unreliable food supplies.”

The colt sat up. He winced as his limbs protested, but pushed himself into a sitting position. “Yeah, but they got to stand tall and proud in their homelands. Here they just stare at us and whisper behind our backs.”

Evengale placed a forehoof over Lucky’s. “Lucky, I know it’s not always easy, but there’s a lot that the dayponies can learn from us, and a lot we can learn from them. We’re all ponies, even if we all look a little bit different from each other.”

Lucky pulled his hoof away. “They don’t think we’re ponies. They talk about Harmony, but that only applies as long as you’re not a freak like we are. Lily and Glimpse can hide their eyes, but how the heck can I hide these?” He spread out his uninjured wing and tapped the membrane.

“Sweetie, there is nothing wrong with the way you look.” The mare drew herself up, wrapping Lucky in a tight embrace of wings and hooves. “I’m sorry. You’re so self-reliant that I forget sometimes you need my help too. But you are my very handsome and wonderful son, and you need to always remember that, okay? I know how much it hurts to be judged just by your appearance, all of us Nycta do, but the only way things will get better is if we put our best hooves forward and show everyone what makes us special.”

The colt rested his head on his mother’s shoulder, his entire body sagging and deflating. “It’s just so hard, Mom. Trying not to let it all get to me. Knowing that every moment I’m in the room they’re looking at me and thinking that I’m a freak. How do you put up with it?”

Evengale slowly rubbed her son’s back. “It’s never easy, dear. But I just tell myself that every time I go out, I’m an ambassador for our people. I have to put my best and brightest face forward, so that people look past the exterior and see what makes me special.”

“But I don’t wanna be an ambassador. I just wanna be a flier.”

“I know, dear.” Evengale kissed her son’s forehead. “But that’s what works for me. It might take you some time to find what works for you. But if you ever need to talk about these feelings, tell me. Even if you have to wake me up to do it.”

Lucky sniffed and sat up, rubbing at his eye. “I will, Mom. Promise.”

Evengale ruffled her son’s mane. “Good. And Lucky?”

“Yeah?”

“I really do appreciate all the hard work you’ve been doing for the family. It’s really been a big help.”

Lucky rubbed at the back of his neck and averted his gaze. “Yeah, well… You’re welcome. Just don’t get all sappy on me.”

Gale chuckled softly. “Now then. Did you use the thunder hook your father taught you?”

The colt broke into a slow grin. “Yeah. Got that jerk Stormcrasher right in the eye. Can’t wait to see him try to cover that up.”

“Well, I can’t condone you getting into fights,” said the mare, shaking her head, “But I am glad to know you can protect yourself.”

“Hey, you should see the other guys. They’ll think twice before they mess with me again. And I did try to get away, honest. They just had more people surrounding me than I thought.”

“Did you try to get away before or after you hit Stormcrasher?”

“Well…” Lucky hedged.

“I thought so.” A knock sounded at the door, and the mare drew back from the table. “We’ll discuss your punishment later. Come in!”

“Aww, Mom,” muttered the colt.

The doctor stepped in, levitating a clipboard. “Good evening.” He was a nyctan unicorn, and he dimmed the room’s lights after closing the door. “How are you both?”

“Cut to the chase, doc,” demanded Lucky. “How long’s it going to take my wing to heal?”

The unicorn stallion kept consulting his notes. “Your injuries are all relatively minor, although you’ll want to keep them well-dressed for a few days. As for your wings…” He shot Lucky a glance as he started to open his mouth again. “I want you on the ground for two weeks, no using your wings.”

Lucky stared at the doctor. “Two weeks? Doc, I can’t go without my wings for two weeks! I’m training for a big race!”

“Two weeks,” said the doctor firmly. “And then I’ll look at the condition your wing is in. I might be able to allow limited flight after that, but until then, no flying. You need to keep from stressing the membrane while it’s trying to repair itself.”

“Mom, you gotta do something.”

“Listen to the doctor, dear.”

Lucky groaned and buried his face in his hooves.

* * * * * * *

Lucky Break and Stormcrasher stared at each other from opposite sides of the table. The principal sat between them. He was an older pony whose vest didn’t quite fit properly over his gut.

The table between them was polished wood, and too large with only three ponies present. The blinds over the windows were pulled down, but still let in far too much light for Lucky’s tastes.

The principal cleared his throat. “Now then. This rivalry between you two has gone far enough. At Manehattan Academy, we don’t condone any roughhousing of any kind, and especially not when students become injured as a result. We are going to work this out so we can have a safe and productive school year.”

Stormcrasher glared silently at Lucky. There was a dark ring around his eye that his gray coat couldn’t hide.

Lucky slumped in his chair and rested a cheek on his hoof.

“Now then. Would either of you like to apologize?” The stallion was met with silence.

I’d hit him again in a heartbeat, and we both know he’s only sorry he got caught. Lucky cleared his throat. “Sir, I-”

“I’d just like to say, Lucky Break, that I overreacted. It was improper and childish of me to retaliate for you hitting me, and I should have been the bigger pony.”

“Thank you, Mister Stormcrasher.” The principal smiled and turned his head to Lucky. “Mister Break, do you have something to say?”

When the principal turned his head away, Stormcrasher gave Lucky a small smirk.

“Yeah, I do. I hit Stormcrasher first, and I shouldn’t have. But he was about to sic his goons on me anyway, so I don’t see what difference it makes.”

The stallion gave a long-suffering sigh. “Mister Break, please realize that your actions reflect poorly on you. We’re trying to build up a foundation here so that we can move forward in a positive direction.”

“Sir, no disrespect, but I’m just waiting to get out of here at the end of the year. I wouldn’t even be here if it weren’t for my little brother. Stormcrasher has a stupid grudge against me, so when he messes with me I get him back to show him he can’t get to me. Tell him to back off and I’ll stay out of trouble.”

“Now, now.” The principal adjusted some papers on the table before him. “These problems aren’t quite so simple. It takes two to cause trouble like this, and we need to make sure both sides are on the same page.”

“Sir,” said Stormcrasher, clearing his throat and straightening his tie. “I’m willing to let bygones be bygones. I’d like to apologize for everything I’ve done, and offer a hoof in friendship.”

Lucky stared at the extended hoof suspiciously, and then at Stormcrasher's face. That smile was fake, he was sure of that much, but he couldn’t read what the other colt was really thinking.

Slowly, Lucky reached out a hoof and shake. “Then I’ll apologize too. I’ll drop it if he’s willing to.”

“Splendid!” The principal beamed. “I knew we could sort this out like civilized ponies. Why don’t you two both get on back to class?”

Outside, Lucky turned to Stormcrasher with a frown. “Okay. What’s your game?”

“Game? I’m afraid I don’t understand.”

“This apology act. I offered you an apology on the first day of class and you didn’t take it. Why the change of heart now?”

Stormcrasher turned his head to inspect his wings. “To be perfectly honest, this whole back and forth between us is becoming much too tiring. I have far better things to do with my time.”

Lucky shook his head. “I’m supposed to believe it’s that easy, after everything you’ve done?”

“Believe it or not, it is true. You did not break, and I suppose it behooves me to recognize you as the victor in our little squabble.”

“Yeah, I think that’s a big pile of-”

“Manners, Lucky Break. We are in a school hallway, after all.” The colt began to walk down the hallway. “Come, let us be getting to class.”

Lucky followed, silently turning the other pegasus’ words over in his head. What was he really up to?

* * * * * * *

Lucky sat underneath the pine in front of Manehattan Academy. It kept him away from prying eyes, but let him keep an eye on the students leaving the school for the day. He was waiting for his brother; Lucky had grown tired of the stares from the younger students and moved their pickup spot to the tree.

He frowned as he turned over the last week in his head. Stormcrasher hadn’t been any warmer, but the other pegasus had largely ignored him. That was a win as far as Lucky was concerned, but he couldn’t shake a nagging doubt in the back of his head, that it was too easy somehow. He had kept his ears open, but he wasn’t as tied into the rumor mill as he was at his old school.

Probably for the best, he thought. Most of them are probably wild theories about me.

He returned to his surveillance, watching the courtyard slowly empty out with a small frown. “Come on, Slip, get out here. You know I need to go to sleep soon. I swear if I have to come find you…”

Rose burst out of the front doors, frantically scanning the area. She spotted the colt and galloped over. “Lucky!”

“Rose? Look, you’re nice, but—”

“It’s Slipstream!” she blurted out. “I overheard Stormcrasher talking about how he figured out who your brother was, and that he's going to make you pay!”

Lucky felt his chest grow clammy and tight. “Oh moon and stars, don’t tell me…” He took off at a full gallop, and Rose scrambled to catch up.

They charged through the mostly-empty hallways, weaving through the remnants of crowds still loitering at the school. They ignored several shouted warnings from teachers as they left the main wing, charging for the lower-grade classrooms. Lucky caught a glimpse of a small group behind one of the buildings and ran towards it.

A lookout raised the alarm, and the group of younger colts took off running and flying. Slipstream lay in a puddle of mud, his uniform splattered and torn. His saddlebags lay nearby, their contents spilled onto the ground.

Lucky growled, his tail twitching angrily. He took a running leap and snagged a pegasus colt out of the air, slamming him to the ground. “Alright you little runt, who put you up to this?!”

The foal squirmed helplessly under Lucky’s hoof. “I’m not telling!”

The older colt snarled. “Wrong answer! If you don’t want to find out if any of those rumors about me are true, talk. Now.

“Stormcrasher asked us to do it! He said he’d pay us and it’d be easy money!”

Lucky pressed his hoof tighter into the foal’s back. “You pick on that kid again, and you’ll regret it. Got it?”

“Uh huh!”

Lucky lifted his hoof. The pegasus foal took off running as fast it could. Lucky watched him turn the corner, and then turned to his brother.

Rose had helped Slipstream out of the mud puddle, and was collecting his school supplies and packing them away.

Slip lay curled up on the ground, and Lucky could see the colt’s shoulders shaking.

Lucky sat down and put a hoof gently on his brother’s back. “Oh geeze, Slip… I didn’t want to get you involved in this.”

The smaller colt didn’t respond. He curled up tighter, covering his face with his hooves.

Lucky’s hoof started to tremble, and he drew it away. “Stay with Rose. Rose, can you please take Slip to the nurse’s office? I’ll meet you there in a little bit.”

Rose closed the flap on Slip’s saddlebags. “Of course, Lucky, but what are you doing?”

The nyctan colt turned to stare at the school. “I’m going to go have a talk.” He took off in a flurry of wing beats, cutting a trail through the sky.

* * * * * * *

Manehattan Academy had several tables set up in a small quad, to provide an outdoor meeting space or a place to hold outdoor lectures. Many of these were claimed outside of class hours by one pony or another, and Stormcrasher had claimed the largest with the best shade for himself.

“Hey! Stormjerk!” Lucky skidded to a halt, sliding across the grass as he touched down. There was a searing pain in his wing, but it only sharpened his focus.

Stormcrasher didn’t look up from his book. “That’s Stormcrasher, Lucky Break.”

Lucky stomped up and sharply prodded Stormcrasher in the back. “You gave your word you were leaving me alone!”

The noblepony slowly turned a page. “And I have.”

“Then what’s the big deal sending your minigoons after my brother?”

“Hmm? I’m sure I don’t know what you’re talking about.”

With a flap of his wings, Lucky alighted on the table. He slammed a hoof on the other colt’s book. “Don’t give me that crap! I know it was you!”

Stormcrasher finally looked up. “As I said, I’m sure I don’t know what you’re talking about.” He waved away several other ponies who had started to climb up on the table after Lucky.

“Picking on a little kid is low, even for you. And from now on he’s off-limits. You have a problem with me? It stays with me.”

“But I don’t have a problem with you.” Stormchaser steepled his forehooves together, looking up at the other colt. “As I said before, no matter what I do to you, you’ll just bounce back. So enjoy the rest of your school year, Lucky. You’ll be off and away while your little brother will be here for… how much longer, still?”

Lucky wound a hoof back. “Why I oughta-”

“You ‘oughta’ what? Hit me again? In full view of all my friends, who will happily vouch that you showed up and attacked me, unprovoked?”

Lucky let his hoof drop weakly to the table. “No, I’m not going to hit you again. But you’re gonna leave him alone, or I swear you’ll regret it.”

Stormcrasher smirked and leaned in, a cold gleam in his eye. “That’s an empty threat. I don’t fear you, Lucky Break, and as long as your brother is here, I don’t have any reason to. I’ve finally found your weak spot, and there’s nothing you can do about it.”

“This isn’t over.”

Stormcrasher picked up his book. “Believe me, it is.”

Lucky let out an anguished cry and took off into the air. He kept climbing, watching the table and the ponies around it slowly shrink away. The clouds drifted past him and he paused, hovering while he collected his thoughts.

His wing screamed at him. He told it to shut up.

Some ponies found crafting weather to be their calling: creating perfectly warm sunny days, pristine snowy landscapes, and delicately sprinkling gentle spring showers. Lucky’s father Jetstream had a particular talent for creating gusty winds of all types.

Lucky had studied basic weathercrafting—all pegasi did—but it didn’t speak to him the same way flight did. The thrill of pulling off a dangerous stunt, the pride and satisfaction of pushing himself beyond his limits. The serenity of having the endless sky as his domain, and the simple freedom his wings granted him.

But despite that, there was one element of weather that had always held his fascination. It was raw, dangerous, and primal. He liked to think they were kin, and not just because he wore its mark. He carried its spark within himself, and its anger rose up with his own, demanding release.

Lucky dove—

—and summoned the lightning.

Screaming wind whipped his mane and tail around. Bitter cold bit at his eyes and they watered, but he kept his gaze focused on his target below. Sparks began to dance and scatter across his coat.

The sparks intensified, arcing and jumping across his body before flying off, pulled into his wake. The arcs grew into tendrils of electricity, crawling and snaking across his body as he plummeted. They jumped off his body, sucked into the crackling lightning trail growing behind him.

The table came into view and he started to beat his wings furiously, guiding and adjusting his flight. A cone of air surrounded his body, slicing through the wind and resistance.

His wings and body were alight with furious energy. A tail of lightning stretched behind him into the heavens. The table rushed towards him and he turned, forcing all four hooves down to the ground, and braced for impact.

Lucky slammed into the ground. The jolt of impact traveled up through his legs and they buckled, absorbing the impact of his landing. A sharp lance of fire shot up through his right hindleg.

His tailwind came crashing down on top of him. It piled up, pushing him down against the ground. He snapped his wings open and the winds exploded outward in a flurry of motion, carrying a shower of sparks with them. The students at the table all shielded their eyes as the winds swept through, blowing away all of their papers and books.

Lucky kept his gaze on Stormcrasher, watching the surprise on the other colt's face slowly give way to anger. The other students gaped in shock. He stayed crouched, like a predator waiting to strike, and electricity danced and played along his outstretched wings. His eyes glowed a bright yellow in the shade of the tree.

"Stormcrasher. Let's talk."

"D-don't just sit there! Get him!" The other colt gestured frantically at his minions.

Several colts slid out of their seats and quickly moved to circle Lucky, while the other fillies and colts sitting between Lucky and Stormcrasher rushed to get clear of the table.

Lucky slowly glanced around and stood up. He snarled as the pain shot through his leg again. "I think I just broke my leg. Who's feeling lucky?"

The colts all glanced amongst themselves. Slowly, one by one, they retreated back, and Lucky turned his attention to Stormcrasher again.

He took a step forward. "Now then. Where were we, Stormcrasher?"

Stormcrasher stumbled backwards, falling over his seat onto the ground. "Y-you can't do this! I'll tell—"

"Go ahead!" Lucky cleared the table with a single flap of his wings and landed in a stalking crouch, glaring at the other colt. "Go ahead and tell. Do you think they won't figure out who roughed up my little brother? Two ponies pranking each other back and forth for a month, and then suddenly one of their little brothers gets hurt. All those minigoons you hired, do you think they'll all keep the secret? Do you think that even that idiot in the principal's office will be blind to what's going on?" He scowled. "So go ahead. Tell them. I don't mind going down if it means taking you with me."

Stormcrasher scrambled backwards. "You're insane! Do you think you can threaten me?"

Lucky stalked forward, his eyes glowing brighter as they progressed further under the tree's shadow. "I haven't made any threats," he said evenly. "In fact, I just want to talk. Tell you a little story."

"G-get away!"

"My ancestors were banished to the Frozen North. They had to carve a home out of ice and stone."

Stormcrasher backed up against the tree, staring wide-eyed at the approaching colt.

"They fought for warmth. They struggled to produce enough food to survive. And they fought every creature that lived there.

"They fought off the windigo. They defeated King Charlatan and his army. They stood by Princess Celestia's side when the dragon Hoardfrost struck her down. And now we guard Equestria's night."

Lucky stopped, his face inches from Stormcrasher's, his gleaming yellow eyes boring into the other colt's. "The Nycta are warriors. We protect our own, and I'll protect my little brother. I swear on the Matriarch's mane that if I ever find out a single hair in his head is ever harmed or a single feather is out of place, I'm coming directly to you. Mess with me all you like. Put stinkbombs in my locker or itching powder in my uniform. I don't care. Anything you do to me, I'll just give it right back."

Lucky snarled. "But my brother is OFF. LIMITS. Understand?"

The other colt gave a terrified nod.

"Good." All of the lightning on Lucky's body vanished, and he turned to hobble away.