• Published 13th Oct 2014
  • 3,621 Views, 119 Comments

Trans-Cosmic - Radiant Dawn

When two universes collide in a not-so-hypothetical scenario, what will happen to the people within them? Will mankind perish, or will new friends and allies emerge amongst the chaos?

  • ...

Chapter 7

“So wait, this whole thing runs on lightning?”

I bobbed my head from side to side. “...kinda. I wish we had a way to harness bolts of lightning; besides being epic, it would be immensely green energy. Unfortunately, we use physics and chemistry to create artificial electricity instead of using the free energy flying through the air whenever thunderclouds roll by.” I waved my hands to the air around Vinyl and Octavia, who were both listening to me as if I were revealing the secrets of the universe to them. “Anytime there’s a thunderstorm, that’s at least a few hundred billion volts going unharnessed!” I pointed to the spare radio nearby -- the one Jenna wasn’t using. “That thing there only uses not even a thousandth of that amount of electricity.”

“So lemme get this straight:” Vinyl began, rubbing her chin thoughtfully, “you have a nationwide system that provides electricity to every home, everywhere?”

I shrugged. “Well, we have more than five thousand power plants supplying that power, but yeah, that’s pretty much what I’m saying. Most of those plants burn coal or use water to create that electricity, but a few use wind or even nuclear energy.” I scratched my own chin now, trying to recall what I’d heard. “I don’t think we have any that use geothermal energy, but that’s also a resource we could use for power generation.” Turning my attention back to the two intensely-focused ponies in front of me, I smiled and pointed toward the ceiling. “There’s also solar-generated electricity that uses solar panels, like the ones on the roof. They use sunlight to create electricity, and I personally think they’re a largely-underrated method to generate the power we use from day-to-day.”

Octavia seemed just as excited as Vinyl was, which was an odd demeanor from her. Still, I’ll admit she looked cute, kneeled before me with amethyst eyes shining in wonder, like a small child being told a fantastic story. “So you don’t use magic for anything here?”

I frowned and shook my head. “Here -- well, until recently, at least -- magic was a force only for fantasy and fiction. Real magic didn’t exist on Earth until you all came here, and what humans refer to as magic is really just optical illusions, or sleight of hand.” I pointed to the deceptively-mundane brown bag that rested at Octavia’s hip. “The subspace technology in that is something we would have to use completely non-magical means to attain, and so far we’ve been unsuccessful. We have movies all about things like that though, so the idea’s there, but we just haven’t advanced far enough yet to have it. But we do have some things that you ponies don’t have though, like rocket-powered flight crafts that can fly at seven times the speed of sound, and trains that float above the track on magnetic rails that move faster than the fastest steam locomotive.” I then shrugged helplessly. “Then again, with wings and magic, there are a lot of things humans have that ponies have no need for, since you can bypass it with natural ability.”

“Still,” Vinyl pushed forward, “you have telephones and personal data devices that are decades ahead of anything we have! Your stuff is amazing!”

I shrugged with a grin, finding it nearly impossible to ignore her exuberance. “Yeah, I guess human technology is pretty cool. All we need is to come up with lightsabers, and my life would be complete.”

Vinyl raised her brow curiously. “Lightsabers?”

I chuckled and nodded. “It’s a fictional weapon from a movie series called Star Wars, and I think every person that’s seen the movie has wanted one. It’s an energy-blade weapon made up of a metal hilt that contains the crystals and energy generator, and the ‘blade’, which is actually pure plasma held together by a force barrier.” I then sighed as my smiled faded to a more wistful expression. “Unfortunately, the technology doesn’t exist to make that possible. For now at least, it’s just a fantasy.”

“What about these ‘cars’ you can drive around; how do they work?” Vinyl asked eagerly, scrambling to sit beside me on the sofa.

I shrugged. “You know about as much as I do, really. I’m not an engineer, so all I know about them is that they use small, controlled explosions from combustion to run a motor, and the motor turns the wheels and makes the vehicle move. A battery and alternator runs the electronic components in the car, but other than that I know very little -- I just know that it works.” Just then, a bottle of water was dropped on my lap (thankfully avoiding my jewels) and I took it and unscrewed the cap, muttering a thank-you as Jenna silently made her way back to my bedroom. The two ponies stared at me in confusion, and I simply offered, “We’ve known each other a long time.”

Seemingly brought away from her excitement over human technology, Vinyl glanced to Jenna as she closed the bedroom door, and asked, “How long, exactly?”

“Oh shit,” I began, letting my head fall back against the cushion behind me, “years. Her and I met way back when we were little, and we’ve been friends ever since; both of us were quiet introverts, and found a sort of kinship in each other when everyone was starting to care about ‘she says she likes him, but he doesn’t know yet’. Y’know, silly middle-school stuff like that.”

I took a long drink of the bottle of water provided to me before continuing my walk down memory lane. “When we got into high school, we tried to date each other since we’d been friends for so long, but we ended up not working out that way. Later on, Jenna admitted to me that she thought she might be gay, which made me the first person she told. Her parents didn’t accept it and ostracized her, so when they kicked her out, I asked my parents if she could live with us. Since then, she’s been like the sister I never had.” I glanced with a smile to the closed bedroom door. “We’re family.”

I couldn’t help but grin as Octavia and Vinyl glanced at each other before subtle entwining the fingers of one of their hands with each other. While I still couldn’t effectively put a pin on just what kind of relationship they had with each other, it was clear to me that they were very close. Yet again I found myself extremely pleased that I was able to save both of them.

“So Alex,” Vinyl called, garnering my undivided attention, “how does this work exactly?” Vinyl was holding my unloaded pistol in her hand, looking over it in the way one would a sedated lion -- with both awe and cautiousness.

I reached out and took the weapon from her and set it beside me before holding up the magazine and ejecting a single round. I then held the bullet up and explained, “The front part of the bullet is the actual projectile, while the rear part is the casing that holds the propellant that will cause it to fire out of the barrel.” I replaced the round and inserted the magazine into my weapon, releasing the slide catch and causing the slide to snap back with a satisfying *CLICK*. I held up the pistol and pointed to the back. “The hammer here moves when the trigger is pulled, and will hit the rear of the bullet when fired, which causes the propellant to ignite and propel the projectile out of the barrel. The recoil works with the firearm itself to eject the spent casing and load another round into the chamber, which allows for what’s called semi-automatic fire, meaning that one doesn’t have to manually load a new round between each shot.”

Vinyl nodded with a dumbstruck expression, while Octavia decided to ask the difficult question. “How much damage could this weapon do?”

I sighed and lowered my head. “Not much in comparison to larger weapons, but enough to drop an unarmored target fairly easily. As a handgun, its purpose is concealed protection for whoever carries it, not waging wars or anything of the sort.” I then shrugged helplessly as I heard the clip-clop of a third pony approaching. “In the wrong hands and proper situation, this small weapon can still do quite a bit of damage, very quickly.”

“It would be useless against a dragon or any other armored monstrosity from Equestria.” Celestia quipped as she flopped down onto the empty space on the sofa, her splayed wings tickling my arm. “Against a pony or gryphon though, I imagine it would be quite deadly.”

I shifted away from the tickling appendage and shook my head. “I’m not so worried about your people, but rather my own. Humans aren’t as peaceful as ponies are, and tend to take advantage of situations such as this one to loot and pillage wherever they can. Whether it be because of fear or outright maliciousness, history on Earth has shown that during the breakdown of society, some will panic, while others will use that panic to take advantage of the panicking masses. That’s why I got us out of the city as fast as I could, because most of the people there I couldn’t trust to stay calm and help each other out.”

Celestia nodded with a grin. “Ah yes, and how humans seem to leak chaos from their very pores sometimes. That must be why Discord was so excited to meet some of you.” She then pivoted her rear and spun around before laying her head across my lap. “I imagine the humans who made it to Equestria are having quite the time dealing with him; I almost wish I had pictures of the event.”

I glared down at the alicorn in my lap. “Comfy?”

“Very, thank you.” she returned smugly, stretching her arms over her head and thrusting her chest up toward me in the process. Her wing also caressed my arm in a way that could easily be considered as teasing, though I couldn’t be sure whether it was on purpose or not.

One part of me wanted to fire a shot into the air to scare the hell out of her, while another wanted to be smooth-slash-creepy and start tantalizingly rubbing my hands over her body. I didn’t have the balls to do either, so I just sat there awkwardly for a few moments before letting my arms rest over the back of the sofa. While I hadn’t actually broken out the stash of liquor that was kept hidden away, I knew that Celestia was going to drive me to drink soon. Either that, or we were going to somehow enter into a severely awkward situation with one another -- one that soon devolves into sloppy, passionate lovemaking.

So yeah, drinking or sex; either way works for me. Though ponies they may be, their bodies were familiar enough that I would not pass if offered a good lay, and I won’t apologize for that. Not that I hoped even in a million years I would ever get to bed a veritable goddess, but-

“Alex, you all right there?” Vinyl’s voice called off from the side, bringing me out of my thoughts and bringing attention to the fact that I had been staring blankly into space for around thirty seconds.

Now I know thirty seconds doesn’t sound like a long time, but start from zero and count out the seconds aloud for a few moments.


Long time to be staring at something, wasn’t it?

I nodded to Vinyl and shook myself, both mentally and physically. “Yeah, I was just thinking.”

“About what?” Celestia chimed in, her tone telling me she was actually interested...which was somewhat awkward for some reason.

“About whether liquor is better than sex.” I answered. Not technically a lie, but true enough for me to not feel like I was lying to Celestia, whom had asked me to be truthful with her no matter what.

Celestia smiled up at me coyly and winked. “I sense there is more to your thoughts than that. Remember: no censorship between us, Alex.”

Shitting shit-fuck shitbag…

I gulped before preparing for what might be either the best or worst thing I’ll ever say, but steeled myself and decided to power through. Either way, the conclusion would be quick. “Well-”

Praise God and the pony version of Him if they have one, since by apparent divine intervention, I was interrupted by the sound of an explosion outside. The entire cabin shook gently from the shockwave and I heard Jenna scream loudly from the bedroom, so I took that opportunity to urgently shove Celestia off of me and stand, making my way to the window that overlooked the cliffside.

A massive fiery ash cloud was rising from the west, and I could only breathe out one terrified word: “Yellowstone…”

Celestia appeared at my side, my worry bleeding into her as she asked, “What’s ‘Yellowstone’?”

I swallowed hard, but was unable to pull my eyes away from the worrying sight. Geologists had been warning mankind for decades that something like this could happen, but I hadn’t thought I would live to see it, or at least had hoped not. With a grave expression, I turned to Celestia and explained, “Yellowstone National Park is an area of land situated in a caldera, and because of it there are hundreds of natural hot springs and geysers caused by superheated water pushed toward the surface from the magma roiling just beneath the Earth’s crust.”

“Caldera…” Celestia mused aloud, nodding her head. “I know that word; it’s a dormant massive volcano, isn’t it?”

“We call them supervolcanoes,” I corrected, “but yes, that’s what it is. Scientists have been telling us for years now that calderas like Yellowstone were due to erupt again, but because of the devastation it would produce, I think most people tried not to think about it.” I sighed, feeling soul-crushing defeat wash over me. “It’s a little over two-hundred miles away from here, but that won’t matter in the end.”

Vinyl took her place by my side next, and shook her head with a smile. “That’s not an eruption, Alex.” My look of disbelief and desire for explanation urged her on as she continued. “Dragons aren’t cold-blooded like reptiles are, but they still don’t do well in cold environments. Because of that, they tend to take up residence near open pools of lava or natural hot springs, where they can stay warm. Dragons can bathe in boiling lava Alex, so a volcano isn’t a danger to them at all.” She then pointed to the rising plume of ash and smoke that was much smaller than I envisioned. “That’s the result of them digging deep to relieve the pressure and opening up the magma chamber; the eruption of a supervolcano would have been much more catastrophic, and it’s likely we’d already be dead from the blast wave.”

I looked to Vinyl with hope in my eyes, praying that she was right. “So we’re not going to die?”

“Not from that, we’re not.” she explained, jerking her head to the event in the distance. “Towns and cities for a couple miles are going to have some ashfall, but if there’s one thing dragons are good at, it’s knowing how to safely expose geothermal sites for them to use. Trust me, we’ll be fine.”

I sighed, shaking my head. “Well the good news is that a supervolcano eruption isn’t going to kill us. The bad news is that a national landmark that was founded over a century ago is now taken over by giant, firebreathing dragons.”

I felt the deceptively svelte hand of Celestia settle on my shoulder as she explained, “The world is going to change, Alex -- there is nothing you can do to stop that. What I can assure you is that not all the other races coming to your world are ‘out to get’ you or your kind. There are quite a few clans of dragons and even a few lupine nations that want nothing more than peace and harmony, so while it is true that we must be ready to deal with undesirables, I can assure you that not all of Earth’s new inhabitants are enemies. In fact,” Celestia then continued in a purr, stroking my shoulder as she did so, “some of us can be very welcoming.”

A question had been burning in me since I had first gotten to know the real Celestia, and I thought the time was right for me to finally ask. Along with getting an answer that I had desired for a while now, it would allow us to change to a lighter subject. “When was the last time you got laid?”

Vinyl and Octavia stared at me as if I had just committed a heinous crime against nature (which, given different circumstances, I would have), but Celestia simply laughed that attractive, tinkling bell-like laugh before answering, “Oh, years before the Unification of the Three Tribes.”

“B-but that was like,” Vinyl began, turning her eyes toward the ceiling for a moment as she thought, “three thousand years ago! Are you telling me you’ve been celibate since then?!”

Celestia sighed heavily and nodded, leaning against me as she settled herself. “I never had time for any sort of personal needs before Luna returned, and after that, I was so very busy with assuring Twilight would become the princess she was meant to be. To put it simply, there was simply never a time for it, and beyond that, I couldn’t trust anypony to keep their mouth shut about bedding ‘Her Royal Highness and Sun Incarnate, Princess Celestia’.”

“Jesus,” I muttered under my breath, “I think I’d go insane going that long without something.”

Celestia sighed once again, this time in exasperation. “And the sheer number of nobles asking for my hand in marriage every year didn’t help matters; sometimes I fantasized about taking one to my chambers and using him or her before erasing their memory.” She then shook her head. “But the sneaky power-grabs that the nobility was always attempting made such a thing too great of a risk, besides the fact that, as silly as it sounds, I seek more than someone to simply warm my bed and help me ruffle my sheets.”

I guess I should have been more like Vinyl and Octavia at the moment -- completely mortified beyond belief -- but the “trial by fire” the past few days had caused me to become somewhat jaded to the blatant flirting of an attractive woman...pony (all right fine, Celestia is totally doable, and if she came out and made an offer, I would do everything to her; there, I said it). With that being the case, I could only shrug my shoulders in empathy.

“I completely understand, Tia -- do you mind if I call you Tia? -- and I look for something similar, to be honest.” I answered truthfully. To know that there was an actual desire for true companionship in the alicorn made it easier to relate to her, flirty thing though she was.

At my use of an on-the-fly nickname Celestia’s face lit up with a brilliant smile, and she nodded. “It appears there is some depth to you after all, Alex.”

I rolled my eyes before turning my attention toward the cloud of ash and flame rising in the distance. “What are we going to do about that, then?”

“There’s nothing we can do, Alex.” Celestia answered grimly. “Dragons are here to stay now, and even the more amicable ones need a place to call their own. Morbid though it may sound, quite a bit of room has cleared up because of humans vacating Earth against their will, so there is room. Beyond that, dragons are able to live inside of volcanoes, while humans are not; there are quite a few areas of your world that I imagine are uninhabitable to humans because of such things.”

With a confused raise of my eyebrow I asked, “Aren’t you a dragonslayer or something? I thought taking care of the dragons was your job.”

Celestia shook her head. “I will not go out and murder innocents, Alex. Any that pose a threat to the new world, yes, I will ‘take care of’. Until or unless one is a threat, they will be left to make their own life.” She turned her head to look directly at me before adding, “Ponies are not the only innocents who have been thrust into this world, Alex. I imagine there are thousands or even millions of gryphons, minotaurs, deer-folk, dragons, and even diamond dogs who wish no harm to others, and simply want to pick up their shattered lives and try to survive.” Boring her gaze into my own, Celestia continued in a low and sombre tone. “Children have lost their mothers and fathers, parents their beloved offspring, and in many situations, those that have been lost will never be seen or heard from again. This is a time of great sorrow for all, so keep that in mind before ostracizing an entire race because of the actions or behavior of a small number.”

“A single dragon could devastate an entire city.” I pointed out glumly.

“Which is why I have a few trusted individuals who have trained their entire lives to overcome the ferocity of dragons and their kin.” Celestia shot back with a frown. “Trust me Alex, we have been preparing for years for this to happen, and we will not fail. It will be difficult and things will not resolve themselves for quite some time, but together we can rise above the ashes of our two shattered worlds.”

I snorted derisively. “You make it sound so ominous when you say it like that. I’m no stranger to having to make do with less than the norm, nor am I new to having to fight my way through difficult situations; while I admit I’ve never had to deal with dragons before, I don’t have to worry about that, because apparently you and this ‘elite team’ have it covered, right?”

“Alex!” Octavia admonished in shock.

I shook my head. “No, I’m not going to sit here and make things out to be worse than they need to be -- I’m not going to spend the whole time thinking about all those poor refugees that are without homes or shelter. Right now, there are only six that I care about, and they’re all in this cabin. Soon,” I gestured to Celestia angrily, “one of those six will be leaving; after that, I have no idea what I’m going to do because I have nothing that can be used as currency, and I certainly can’t protect us from a fucking dragon!”

Celestia’s blank expression brought my anger to a new high for some reason, and before I knew it, I was fuming as the absolute terror I had been holding off since the beginning of this whole merge began happening.

Again I shook my head, with a dry, humorless chuckle. “You’re lucky -- you’re so fucking lucky. This ‘Luna’ and ‘Twilight’ that you were calling to in your sleep are safe and sound in Equestria, as are all of these ‘Elements’. Me? I have no one besides my best friends and my parents, and the only one who I know is all right is Jenna. For all I know they could be dead, all because I got the hell out of the city once I realized what was going to happen, instead of going to see if they were all right.” I gestured to all three ponies in front of me, two of which were staring in shocked silence while the third looked...hollow. “The next time you try and give me the ‘it’s going to be all right’ speech, keep in mind that I may have sacrificed my own family to save the three of you. It’s not all right, and it may never be all right again because of this dimension-merge-thing.”

Celestia’s blank stare continued for a few moments after I finished until she finally muttered, “I was forced to banish my own sister -- the only blood-related family I have left in the world -- to the moon for a thousand years.” Her gaze turned incredibly sharp, and her very tone dripped venom as she continued her explanation to me, every word making me feel worse and worse. “I have lost more than you could ever imagine, and some days I wonder whether it is all worth it -- some days, I wish for death. I had my one chance at being a mother stolen from me because I cared more about others than my own wellbeing, and I sent my sister away because it was the right thing to do.” Her shining magenta eyes had tears gathering at the corners, and quite suddenly, I felt like the worst person ever. “Do not presume to educate me on the fear of loss when you have not experienced even a hundredth of what I have. I cannot count how many loved ones I have had to hold and watch slip away, only to know that I would never be able to stop loving, and so would one day know that pain again. So consider yourself fortunate to experience only a few years of loss; I have endured five millennia of it.”

Realizing that I’d crossed a line without thinking about it, I swallowed hard as I prepared to fire off a long and sincere apology. “Celestia, I’m sorry about-”

She shook her head and raised her hand, cutting me off. “Save it -- I don’t need your apologies. Just make sure to keep in mind that you aren’t the only one affected by this, and we need you as much as you need us. Don’t make the mistake of taking your pain and sorrow out on those that didn’t cause it.” Her scathing glare then softened to a look of understanding and warmth. “I am more than willing to offer my support, but you must refrain from becoming selfish. Thinking only of oneself in these trying times will eventually end with you alone.”

“That’s what I’m most afraid of: being alone.” I stated honestly. “I’m afraid that after this is all over and done with, everyone I know will be gone, and it’ll just be me. I may not exactly be Charismatica McPeopleperson, but I value my friends and family.”

Octavia nodded to me as she wrapped an arm around my shoulders. “We all do, Alex; it’s only by sheer dumb luck that Vinyl and I were not separated, but many were not so fortunate.”

I raised my eyebrow curiously. “Family?”

Vinyl stepped up on my other side, pressing herself between me and Celestia. “Tavi and I are orphans -- we never knew our birth parents. It’s just us against the world, so maybe now you understand just how important we are to each other.”

“Oh…” I mumbled in realization, “that makes a lot more sense now. I figured you two were lying about the whole ‘not together’ thing, but this makes sense of that.”

Vinyl’s white face began to slowly flush pink at my words, but she held enough of her vocal faculties to stammer, “W-well we’re not, okay? There’s literally no chance of you accidentally stumbling upon the two of us ‘doing things’, so forget about it!”

I held up my hands in surrender, pressing my back to the window as I stepped away. “All right all right, no need to get testy. I didn’t proposition you or even mention any of that-”

“Yeah, but you were thinkin’ it.” Vinyl growled.

I stared drably at the shorter pony, frowning slightly. “I’ll not apologize for my thoughts, since I can’t control them most of the time and they’re my thoughts. The day you tell me you’ve never had an uncontrollable thought pop into your head is the day I call you a liar, so let’s skip past that and move on like this:” I took a steadying breath as I stated, “I swear to never bring the idea of you and your best friend ‘together’ up again if you promise to get over the fact that I have fantasies just like everyone does, and there’s nothing you can do about it.” I shrugged helplessly. “At least I’m not hiding them, so you know where we stand, which is simply this: I find you attractive -- which I find somewhat odd, considering you’re all aliens -- and it’s quite easy for me to swap out the human body with a pony’s in my head. Having such things running through my head doesn’t make me a pervert -- it just makes me normal. We’re all adults here, and I’m the only male in a cabin full of females; you have to give me a little leeway here, Vinyl.” I then glanced to Celestia and quipped, “Hey, this full-honesty thing is pretty useful.”

Vinyl stood silently for a few moments, doing her best to keep from blushing or making eye contact with me. With a deep sigh she finally looked to me and answered, “All right, I guess that’s fair. Just know that if you do get all pervy, I’m going to kick you.” She then lifted her leg and stomped the floor with a smirk. “In case you’ve forgotten, ponies have hooves, so it’s going to hurt.”

I raised my eyebrow. “Besides the fact that I wasn’t planning on becoming a hormonal teenage boy, even I know it would be incredibly stupid to rile up a house full of women when I have no backup.” Extending my hand to Vinyl, I offered her a smile. “If this will help us live together and keep from killing each other in spite of the world going to hell, I’ll take that deal, though.”

Vinyl stared at me for a moment before briefly shaking my hand. “Right, before we went off on that little tangent, the biggest question was:” she pointed outside, “what are we going to do now? It’s clear some crazy stuff is happening out there, and I’m not exactly dragon-slaying material.”

Celestia frowned slightly, which unnerved me more than I would like. “Hmm...that is a conundrum, isn’t it?” She walked away from the window and gently sat down on the sofa again, just as Jenna emerged from the bedroom across the way.

“I can’t protect us against things like dragons, Celestia.” I confessed, though I knew such a fact was already known by all. “Hell, I’ve never actually shot anyone before; I’ve only ever practiced on paper targets.”

Celestia frowned at me, and suddenly I felt like a child looking into the faces of my disappointed parents. “You’ve never used your weapon on anyone?”

I shrugged. “Never had to.”

The lounging pony sighed heavily before splaying over the furniture haphazardly. “That may change soon, Alex. It is highly likely that a life-or-death situation may come up when I’m no longer around to look out for the three of you, and it is at that point that you’ll be forced to make a choice: you, or them? And not just your life will be in your hands,” she pointed to Vinyl and Octavia, “but theirs as well. My people can defend themselves if necessary, but the majority of them aren’t soldiers.”

“Neither am I.” I pointed out dryly. “I’m just a guy that managed a hotel and likes to play video games. The closest I’ve ever come to actually harming someone is playing Call of Duty, and even then I just end up cursing loudly through the microphone, calling the other guy’s mother a scabby cum-dumpster, or something similarly upsetting.”

Vinyl barked out a single laugh before shaking her head and commenting, “‘Scabby cum-dumpster’; I’ll have to remember that one.”

“Charming.” Octavia chimed dryly, shaking her head in disappointment.

I shrugged. “Just telling the truth. It seems online games tends to bring out the worst in people, seeing as how they don’t have to look at the other person when they’re screaming obscenities. It’s sad really, what’s become of things.”

“Yet you still play them.” Jenna quipped from the kitchen.

I shrugged once again. “I never said I wasn’t a hypocrite.”

“Getting back on subject,” Celestia announced, causing all of us to turn back to her, “we really only have two choices in the matter: either we can wait until one of my elite guards stumbles across this place, or I can train all of you to be able to defend yourself against undesirables.”

I shuffled uncomfortably at the thought. “I’m not too sure how you’re going to train some average dude to be a monster-slayer, so why don’t we-”

“The first option is incredibly unlikely -- miraculous, even. The chance of one of my guard actually finding us is slim to none.” she explained blandly. “So, the choice becomes rather obvious, I think.”

I stared at Celestia blankly for a few moments. “The only fight I’ve ever been in was when I was five, and that was just a shove before the other kid cried and I got in trouble.”

“Just trust me, Alex.” Celestia pressed, smiling gently. “I will not be able to turn you into a monster-slayer, but at the least I will be able to teach you to defend yourself properly. Your greatest asset, however, will be stealth and the ability to survive in such a harsh environment.”

“Hide and stay alive?” I questioned with a stupid grin, “Now that I can do! Time to put that level 100 Sneaking skill to use!”

Jenna just stared at me before blandly arguing, “Really?”

I nodded. “Yes, really. If society has to fall, I’m going to keep some of it alive.” At the blank, uncomprehending stares of the three ponies, I just shrugged. “I’ll explain later. For now,” I glanced out the window at the falling sun, awed at just how fast the day had passed, “we should fix some dinner and then head to bed. I’d like to get an early start tomorrow and do some more scouting to stay current on the surrounding area.”

The other four nodded before following me to the kitchen, where I began gathering some of the less-preserved foodstuffs and began making something for us to eat.

Dinner was a bit bland by comparison to breakfast, but then again, it was also going to become the norm for quite some time. I expected that with the state of the world, restaurants and fresh food was going to be difficult to come by, so we were going to have to stick to things that were nutritious, even if they didn’t necessarily taste like a great meal. Luckily, I knew how to cook rather well, but I could only do so much with freeze-dried foods and limited seasonings.

I had taken Bailey out once more and pulled out what mats and blankets I could find, making a comfortable little nest out in the living room for everyone, and I was pleased to see that Jenna, albeit quietly and with few words, was getting to know Vinyl and Octavia as she settled down for the night. Celestia was in the washroom using the last of the day’s warm water to get washed up again, so I waited patiently for her in the bedroom, since I would have to redress her wound.

A knock on the master bathroom door drew my attention, and I heard Celestia’s muffled voice call, “Alex? Are you there?”

I nodded, only to realize that she couldn’t see me. “Yes. Are you decent?”

A moment of silence followed, then, “...yes, but...I need some help.”

I raised my eyebrow as I stood from the bed. “With?”

The bathroom door opened with a bit of steam, to reveal the silhouetted figure of a tall pony, standing awkwardly. After the mist cleared, I could see her holding a brush with a crooked smile, wearing my robe. “I know it wasn’t part of the deal, but I could really use some help brushing my mane and tail; I can’t bend too much, or I’d risk tearing the stitches open.”

I looked to the multihued masses of hair and sighed, holding out my hand. “All right then, give it here.”

Celestia nodded and placed the brush in my hand. “I thank you for this, Alex. If I could do it myself I wouldn’t have asked, but-”

“I can imagine how knotted hair of this length can get, so don’t worry about it.” I assured, though I’ll admit that it was a little strange for me to brush someone else’s hair. I simultaneously felt like the “gay friend” and a nurse at once, but forced the feeling away for the time being. Instead, I patted an empty space on the bed and moved aside, allowing Celestia to take a seat before I did the same behind her.

I’d had long hair when I was younger, as I went through a bit of a phase where I was into having it, so I had a general idea of the amount of care that went into long hair. Still, it had been awhile, so I could only hope I wouldn't yank the follicles out of her scalp as I tended to the long strands.

I brought the bristles to her head and began running them through the head of hair, almost immediately feeling it catch a bit in the damp strands. With a mechanical skill tempered by my own experiences, I gathered as much into my hand as I could close to the scalp, and instead of pulling the brush through the hair, I pulled the hair through the bristles, so as to keep from yanking Celestia’s head around as I got the tangles out. It worked, but like I’d figured, it was going to take a long while, so I settled myself and continued my work.

“You’re actually doing rather well, Alex.” Celestia quipped as I worked. “Had some practice, have you?”

I nodded from behind her. “I had long hair for a bit, so yeah. Not this long of course, but long enough to know the hell that is tangles and split-ends.”

“I see.” she replied, humming to herself. “I think I prefer you with short hair.”

“What a coincidence, me too.” I snarked, continuing my work. After a few moments of quiet brushing, I warned, “This isn’t going to be a regular thing, you know. Once you’re healed enough, you’re doing this yourself; I’m not a hair stylist.”

“Of course, Alex.” she replied, but said nothing more as she silently enjoyed what I was doing for her.

For nearly ten minutes, I worked on getting as many tangles and knots out of her hair as I could, trying my best to prolong it so that I wouldn’t have to deal with the other end of her -- it just felt...wrong, somehow. Instead, I focused on the long, billowing head of hair as I ran the bristles of the brush and my fingers through it.

As I was doing so, I was unable to stop myself from blurting out, “Wait, I remember this being on fire when I met you; how did that happen?”

Celestia turned to face me briefly before laying down on her stomach slowly, wincing a bit from the tenderness of her wound. Her large wings spread out over the bedspread, throwing off the robe as she ordered, “Tail now, please.” I rolled my eyes and rolled up the robe, tossing it to the side before reaching out for the base of her tail. Just as my hand was within grasp of it, the appendage flicked away as Celestia turned her head slightly to look at me. “Um...be gentle, please.”

I raised my brow again as I smirked. “I’ll go slow until I work up a rhythm. Try and call only my name, please.”

Celestia barked out a sharp laugh before grimacing. “O-ow, ow. No more laughing -- I’m sore.” I nodded though she couldn’t see me, and began my work by gently grasping the actual tail itself to start with. I felt a shiver go through Celestia at my touch, but she said nothing as I slowly and methodically began brushing and detangling the long hairs of her tail.

“So,” I reminded gently, “the whole ‘hair of fire’, thing…”

“Oh, right.” she agreed, laying her head on her crossed arms as she let out a long breath. “Well, the answer is quite simple, but I would prefer if you didn’t tell my ponies this -- it would irrevocably change the way they approach me, and though I do not wish for the crown any longer, I don’t want to be feared.”

I rolled my eyes. “What could be that serious, Celestia? You’ve already shown them that you’re a pervy warrior.”

She snorted, but otherwise said nothing for a few moments as I continued to brush. After a minute or two of silence, she began with, “To my ponies, I am the steward of the sun, while Luna is the same for the moon -- night and day do not pass normally in the world I came from, and it must be brought forth by our combined efforts. We have played our parts for millennia, but now it is time for someone to know the truth.” She took a deep breath, and I had to fight to keep from flinching as her wings gave a single, strong flap before fanning out again. “I do not control the sun, I am the sun.”

I paused in my work, taking a moment to think about what I had just been told before continuing. “Um...I’m pretty sure the sun isn’t made of fur and flesh.” I then hummed theatrically. “Although, it would be pretty entertaining to be a giant set of fiery boobs in the sky.”

“I created this body from a desire to be among the ponies Luna and I watched over every day.” Celestia explained plainly, letting out hum as I pulled a bit on her tail to move it into a position that would allow me to more easily get the hairs closer to the base. “This body is flesh and blood, but the creature residing in it is not.”

“The sun has a pretty hot body. *badum, tss*” I snarked out, letting the dork in me see the light of day unfettered.

Celestia went quiet again as I continued to brush the tail, and off-handedly, I found myself enjoying the fact that the tails of these ponies apparently were situated further away from the ass, which I suppose was how they could wear underwear and such. It was also important to me because it meant when I lifted Celestia’s tail, I didn’t see a brown-eye.

“I’m being serious, you know.” Celestia finally replied, turning her head to the side to look at me over her shoulder. “That massive ball of energy in the sky is me, and I am it. We are one in the same, and what you felt when we initially met was some of that power escaping because of my anger. It isn’t magic as ponies understand it, but rather more of a naturally-occurring energy within me. It’s instinctual, a bit like the camouflage of a chameleon.”

“Could it have burned me? You felt like an oven when that happened.” I asked, keeping my eyes focused on my work.

Celestia chuckled to herself softly. “No, it couldn’t have. That heat that you felt is about as bad as it can ever get, since I created this body with certain limiters in it; it would do little good to cause a firestorm every time I became upset or was threatened, after all.”

I shrugged, ending my brushing with the very end of the now silky-smooth tail. “It looked pretty cool, though. Can you do it at will?”

“Instinctual.” she repeated, tucking her wings and rolling herself onto her back as I finished. “It just...happens, and I have no inherent control over it. Still, I can understand how that could be a frightening sight, so I tend to keep as calm as possible unless otherwise needed.”

I walked over and set the brush on my dresser before turning back around...and gulping at the sight I saw.

Whether it had been purposeful or not, Celestia had placed one arm above her head and one on her stomach in a perfect representation of a pinup model. Her vibrant, quad-hued hair was billowed around her head as her wings spread out on either side of her, and even with just a modest set of crimson undergarments, she still looked very classy somehow. A thick curl of her hair had fallen over one side of her face, and her eyes were closed as she gently smiled in relaxation.

She reminded me very much of an angel.

I shook the thought away forcefully and grabbed the equipment on the dresser, then made my way back to the bed. “Sit up, please -- I need to check your wound.”

Celestia opened her eyes and grunted as she sat up, the previously unseen muscles in her stomach flexing visibly as she did so. She nodded to me as she moved her arm and wing out of the way. “Go on, then.”

I took a seat next to her, quite easily feeling the warmth that radiated off of Celestia, and leaned in to put my hands against her side. As I leaned in and positioned her so that I could see it in the light, I frowned at what I saw: the wound was already beginning to scar up.

“That’s not normal…” I muttered to myself, continuing my inspection.

Celestia was silent as I continued looking over the large wound, amazed that an injury that had happened only a short while ago had healed to look as if it were over a week old. I remembered Vinyl or Octavia saying something about the healing potential of alicorns compared to normal ponies, but this was ridiculous.

“Is everything all right?” Celestia asked, her voice low but still audible in the quiet room.

I nodded before pulling away. “Yeah, it’s just...weird. I know you all are different species from humans, but I had expected you guys to heal on the same scale as us.” I pointed to her side and frowned as I looked at her. “That looks like it’s over a week into the healing process.”

Celestia nodded to me with that gentle smile I saw her wearing so often. “My sister and I heal faster than normal ponies, Alex.”

I shrugged before pulling out a strip of gauze and the roll of bandages. I then sprayed disinfectant on the wound itself before wrapping it up once again, trying my best to be gentle while still making it tight enough to stay. After I was finished, I put all the first aid equipment away before joining Celestia back on the bed.

“So,” I began, figuring a direct approach would be best, “you wanted to talk?”

Celestia grabbed the robe from off to the side and pulled it over her body again before scooting back slowly towards the head of the bed. A few scoots and grimaces later, she leaned back against the headboard and beckoned me to follow, so I took my place on the other side of the headboard and waited for her to begin.

It was quiet for a long few moments before Celestia finally began with, “I’m afraid, Alex.”

I raised my eyebrows as I looked at her. “Of what?”

“Many things, but the safety of my niece and my ponies is at the forefront.” she answered, settling more of her weight against the support. “I have no delusions about being a superhero of any sort, but I pride myself on being a protector for those who are in danger.” She then snorted almost angrily, and shook her head. “Without my magic, I am crippled; I cannot even fly.” Celestia flexed the wing that was on the side opposite me, and the impressive wingspan fanned out. “The wings of myself and my ponies aren’t large enough to overcome physics on their own; we require magic to fly. For now, they are simply dead weight.”

“At least you’ll get that back.” I reassured with awe. “I mean, if a human was granted a single wish, a massive amount of people would want to be able to fly. I don’t see my people evolving to have wings, though, so that’s going to remain a fantasy for us. We have airplanes, true, but I imagine it’s very different to use your own wings to fly.”

At that, Celestia smirked as her left eye rolled to look at me. “I suppose natural flight has its perks.”

“And who says you’re crippled?” I continued, frowning a bit. “If you’re crippled, what does that make humans? We can’t take down dragons on our own, and I’m pretty sure there aren’t many ponies that can either. Whether it be because of natural ability or training, you are capable of things that others aren’t, and those skills of yours are going to save quite a few people.”

She nodded slowly. “I suppose, but the here and now is not something I can change, and right now, there may be ponies out there that need my help.”

“Hey,” I broke in, nudging her and shaking my head, “don’t do this to yourself. You just said that you don’t think of yourself as some superhero or something, but right now, it’s almost like you expect yourself to be one. You can’t be everywhere at once, and you can’t save everyone.”

“But I cannot play favorites, Alex.” Celestia replied sullenly, her posture drooping even further. “For better or worse, I have been the strong leader my ponies needed for over a thousand years now, and though I don’t like it, that persona has become a large part of who I am. I owe my sanity to those same ponies, and I promised that I would look after them. It is the entire reason why Luna and I descended to Equestria in the first place.”

“Part of being flesh and blood is accepting your limitations, though.” I argued in what I hoped was a reassuring tone. “There’s only one of you, so as long as you save the ones you are able to -- as long as you don’t willingly turn your back on them -- that will be enough, and that’s all anyone can rightly ask of you.”

Celestia said nothing in response to that, and once again silence washed over us. Save for the faint sound of the other three talking in the main room, all was quiet in the house for quite some time -- ten minutes at least. While the silence was starting to become a little awkward even for me, I knew that this time wasn’t about what I felt or what I wanted, and that if Celestia needed to think quietly to herself, then that was her prerogative.

“A thousand years is a long time to be alone, Alex.” Celestia began once again, very softly and with a noticeable waver in her voice. “When my sister refused to let night pass all those years ago, I was forced to do what needed to be done in order to ensure all the creatures that lived on our planet continued to flourish. I wielded the Elements of Harmony against my own sister -- mad, though she was at the time -- and sent her away to be imprisoned on her own moon. The few that I have let get close enough to me have constantly assured that I made the right choice, but…” she sniffled a bit, bringing a hand up to wipe at her nose, which was the only thing I could see protruding from the curtain of her hair, “knowing what I do now about just how impossibly agonizing it was to live on my own all those years, I am not confident I would make the same decision again. I would choose myself and my sister over the masses, and that is one of the many reasons I know I am not cut out to be a ruler. And yet,” she gestured non-specifically to the air around us, “here I am again, separated from my sister for years.”

Celestia sat silently for another few moments before she drew her knees up and hugged them to her chest...just before beginning to sob quietly to herself.

I just stared at her for a bit, unsure of what to do. I didn’t know Celestia all that well -- not really -- but at the same time, did I really need to know someone to comfort them in their time of need? What I did know was this: if Celestia was truly as old as she claimed, her sister had been the one constant her entire life, and being separated from that reassuring presence was likely agony for her, no matter how long the instance was. She had already been forced to endure a thousand years of it, and now -- though for a much shorter amount of time -- that support had been removed from her life once more. Much as she was a powerful warrior, she had a weak spot in that armor, and it was one that had been exploited against her will yet again.

After mentally debating what I should do, I shook my head thoroughly before scooting over closer to the weeping alicorn. Slowly, and tentatively, I extended my arm around her, waiting for her to flinch away. Instead, she leaned in, accepting the embrace wholeheartedly as her sobs increased and she truly let go.

What I was seeing -- who I was holding -- was not the playful, pervy pony that I had come to know in the short time we had been around each other. Instead, by her words and what I was experiencing, I was beginning to see a much deeper and far more complex being than I ever could have imagined. I wondered if the whole schpiel all this time had just been an act, with all this pain and loneliness roiling beneath the surface of a mask. Underneath all the play and flirting was someone that was afraid, and alone, and didn’t have anyone but me that she felt she could turn to. Whatever the true reason (as I knew there had to be more to her and Karyll’a than she told me), this ancient being felt safe enough around me to let down her guards and be weak, for once.

And so, I held the sun in my arms as she cried.

After hours of sobbing that was from days, months or even years of repressed emotions, Celestia simply lay against me for support, not asleep and yet not quite awake. Regardless of her previous station or age, it appeared even Celestia couldn’t remain dignified during a good, hard cry, as was evidenced by the drying pony snot on the sleeve of the robe she had been using. I didn’t care about the robe at the moment, though.

During her burst of emotion, both arms and a wing had wrapped around me as Celestia held me as close as she could, desperate for whatever comfort she could get, and I was only all too happy to provide it. I had known when she asked for us to be alone that things were going to get intense in one way or another, and while I was happy it had been serious instead of pervy or something along those lines, I felt better that I was able to offer my help with something I was good at: being a good listener.

Sometimes, when someone says they need to talk, they just need you to listen, and nothing more.

Celestia was not relaxed, however: tiny tremors could be felt all along her body, so I did my best to offer what help I could in the form of simply a comforting presence. I kept a tight grip on her, tucking her head beneath my chin (avoiding the foot-long spear of a horn in the process) and silently hoping I was doing a good job. After all, similar though we were, ponies were still a completely different species apart from humans -- for all I knew, what I was currently doing for her could be something that was done only between lovers, or maybe I’d just proposed marriage to her and she accepted.

You see enough movies and you come up with some odd thoughts…

“Thank you, Alex.”

I looked down at Celestia, who seemed quite a bit smaller than she was at the moment. She was looking up at me, her bright eyes glassy with all the tears that had been shed, but a smile was on her face -- a small one, and it was tinged with regret and lingering fear, but it was a smile nonetheless. In this way, she reminded me quite a bit of Jenna when we were younger, and the memory itself caused a grin to plaster itself over my lips.

“You’re most welcome, Celestia. I’m here anytime you need me.” I assured, my smile never faltering. “I might not be the one you want right now-”

“But you’re the one I need.” she interrupted, shaking her head and bringing one of her hands up to poke me in the chest. “Right now, you and what you offer me are what I need to keep going,” her expression then fell, and her ears splayed in what I had come to recognize as a pony’s distressed body language, “and I thank you for that, even though I don’t deserve it. I have caused so much trouble for you already -- my people have destroyed the world you know, though it was not purposeful -- and I know taking care of an invalid was not in your plans.”

“With how fast you’re healing, you’re hardly an invalid.” I countered, poking her side with a finger. She squeaked adorably in a way that didn’t quite fit her stature, which only made me chuckle and smile.

It was like I was getting to know an entirely different pony now, and I have to admit...I liked it. The Celestia that I had come to know was fun to banter with, true, but it was also nice to know that there was a different person inside that it was likely few others knew was there. Was the flirting and brashness a mask that she threw on to protect herself, then?

Now Celestia and I were in very close proximity -- about as close as two people could get with their clothes on and tongues still in their mouths -- so I believed that personal space wasn’t an issue at this point. Unfortunately, I was quite wrong.

“Umm, Celestia?”

“Yes, Alex?”

“...why are you rubbing my chest?”

Celestia turned her eyes down, as if just realizing it for the first time. She hummed to herself for a moment before turning her eyes back to mine. “In my defence, you’re very smooth, and it feels nice.”

I don’t have any chest hair, and as a guy whose entire paternal side of the family is a bunch of hairy guys, it’s always been a bit of a sensitive spot for me. However, this was an odd moment for me, since someone was saying they liked that about me. At the same time though, I still had some pervy pony princess rubbing my chest, and that was...distracting, to say the least. Add in the fact that mere moments ago said pony was sobbing loudly against me, and it felt like several different kinds of wrong. I swear this pony is bipolar.

“Are you going to be stopping anytime soon?” I asked, trying my best to hold a neutral look as Celestia continued what she was doing.

Celestia just looked back at me, her gaze unflinching. She shrugged gently and offered, “You can always make it even.”

“Don’t do that, please.” I immediately replied, looking away as Celestia purposefully lifted her chest and purposefully presented it to me as if she were doing nothing more than showing me a new outfit.

“Go ahead Alex,” she taunted, and I felt her body press closer to me, “you know you want to.”

While I should have been trying to figure out how we had gone from “serious talk” to “anime cliche-sville”, I was trying my best to keep from fainting as all the blood in my body rushed out of my brain to fill my face, and...another place. So instead, I simply kept silent and tried to pull away, only to feel as one of Celestia’s hands grabbed mine and moved it to-

Aaand there it is, and it’s nice and warm, too.

“Why is my hand fondling your tit, Celestia?” I questioned, utterly shocked at how calm I sounded despite the fact that my mind was screaming, “IT’S A TIT, IT’S A TIT, IT’S A TIT, TITTIES!”

“Well,” she began, and I felt quite clearly as she pressed my hand a little firmer against her, “you’re so tense around me, and I want you to see that you don’t need to be. It’s my body, and you don’t need to feel like you’re disrespecting me by looking or wanting to touch.”

“I think I need an adult.” I yelped out at the fact that she was basically forcing me to mash her boob, focusing with all my might to try and think of things as unsexy as possible.

“We are adults, Alex.” Celestia replied with what I could only describe as a purr. “Don’t try and tell me you aren’t enjoying this.”

“That’s not the point.” I whimpered as I felt a feathered appendage turning my head back to look at her. “This isn’t right on a fundamental level; what would Octavia and Vinyl think about all this? They’re here too!”

Celestia shook her head with a smirk. “This isn’t about them, this is about me and you.”

I stared into Celestia’s eyes, one of her hands still rubbing my clothed chest, and the other holding my hand against one of her R-rated parts. It was then, with the teasing having crossed into gravely uncomfortable territory, something in my mind snapped. I knew this because the next thought I had was, “I wonder how far she’s willing to push this? Well, two can play the teasing game.”

While my sane self was screaming at me for what was about to happen, the vengeful part of me seemed content to force my hand to contract all my digits at once, causing my fingertips to sink deeper into the soft mound of flesh. I was rather pleased to hear a surprised squeak escape from Celestia as I well and truly groped her, so I pressed my advantage and lifted my other hand to the unoccupied breast. I copied my actions on the new target, causing Celestia to almost succeed in stifling a moan, at which point she cleared her throat loudly at me.

“O-okay okay, you win!” she practically squealed out, firmly pressing me away and retreating from me. I released her as she did so, both proud and horrified at the same time because of what I’d just done.

My face was practically on fire now, and I was rather sure I was shaking in both fear and...no, mostly fear. Maybe a little bit of pride. Maybe. Dear lord, what had I done?

“Well,” Celestia’s voice cut into my self-berating after a few moments of quiet, “that was unexpected. I must commend you for besting me at my own game.”

My head whipped to her, and I just stared in shock for a few moments. “W-what? Celestia, how the fuck do we go from you crying and me trying to be a good friend, to you basically goading me into giving you a manual mammogram?!”

The smirk on her face despite her blush was quite clear even in the darkened room. “Admit it, you dreamed about doing-”

“ENOUGH!” I shouted, practically roaring at her. I was completely confused, and a part of me felt a bit like a whore for some reason, since she’d basically used me for her own amusement.

My outburst caused Celestia’s mouth to snap shut suddenly, and she had the good decency to look ashamed as I stalked over to her.

“I barely fucking know you, and you’re messing with me as if you’ve known me your whole life.” I spat, more confused than angry, to be honest. I pointed to the golden ring on Celestia’s horn. “Maybe you saw me, but I know nothing about you other than what you told me. That whole ‘seeing the inside’ thing only went one way, since Karyll’a speaks to you, not me.”

Celestia cocked her eyebrow at me when I said that, and I noticed a familiar cross-spear materialize with a flash in her hand. She then threw it at me like a javelin -- impressive, seeing as how she was sitting on a bed -- and I had only a second to blink in surprise before raising my hand up over my face, for all the good it would do against a sharp spear.

What happened was not what I expected, however.

Another bright flash accompanied by the unexplainable sound that went with it alerted me to the fact that Karyll’a had changed into a large kite shield...and was now held in my raised hand. I had only a moment to take in what had happened before my vision suddenly went completely white, and the world fell away.

Images began to pass so quickly that I wasn’t able to keep up with them all, but I was able to pick out important ones here and there.

A warm, radiant light in the blackness of space, accompanied by a rocky satellite.

A blue and green planet, not unlike Earth, floating in the vast expanse, cradled in the magic of the Sun and Moon.

Ponies -- millions of them -- playing in the life-giving sunlight, and resting peacefully under the watchful gaze of the Moon.

A feeling of immense yearning that seemed to come from all around.

A young, navy blue pony smiling lovingly at me as she reached out and grasped my hand.

The same navy blue pony -- older now, and coming into her own as a woman -- standing beside me, dressed in striking silver armor, and releasing a furious battle cry as she charged ahead toward feathered creatures that had the rear-half of a lion.

Looking at the moon and the mark of a pony upon its surface, and feeling utter sorrow and guilt course through me as I struggled to keep from crying any more tears.

My sister, returned to me after a thousand years, smiling at me as if she had never left.

My sister, now an adult once again, with tears running in rivers from her eyes as we said goodbye to each other, possibly for the final time.

A snowy, alien city bordered by trees and mountains, where screaming and shouting could be heard.

The next thing I knew, I found myself on the ground, sobbing openly as someone held me from behind, the great white wings holding me tightly.

“I-I miss her so much!” I choked out, unable to stop myself from crying even harder at the thought that yet again, I was alone and without my sister.


No, not my sister.

Slowly, ever so slowly, reality and my own consciousness began to claw back from the depths of wherever it had gone, and I began to remember things. My name was Alex, and I most certainly did not have a sister that was a blue pony. I was a human, and the closest thing I even had to a sister was Jenna.

It was then that I realized what had happened.

I sniffled a few times, wiping my eyes and my nose on the sleeves of my shirt as I tried to compose myself to some semblance of normality. What had just happened to me shouldn’t have been possible...but it had happened, and the lingering emotions and scraps of memories were proof of that. Karyll’a had spoken to me.

“Now do you see?” Celestia questioned softly from behind me, still holding me tightly as lingering sniffles and shudders worked through my body.

Unable to do much else, I just nodded and relished the warm embrace of Celestia as I just let the sorrow, the loss, slowly flow out of me. I had seen things that I didn’t think possible -- things that broke me -- and they weren’t even my story. While I didn’t know everything, I knew enough of who and what Celestia truly was to know that she hadn’t been lying when she said she needed me.

She was so lonely without her sister.

“You really love your sister.” I stated as a simple observation. “I…” I began, only to be forced to swallow the lingering sadness within me as I tried to voice my thoughts, “I didn’t know it was possible to love someone that much.” I shook my head ruefully, now knowing first hand just how much it hurt for Celestia to be here, away from her only family. “How do you do it? I mean...it’s fucking debilitating, that feeling. It’s like all the happiness in the world was just sucked out, and it felt like the mere idea of smiles and laughter didn’t exist anymore.”

I felt Celestia hug me a little tighter, and felt her nod against my back. “It...isn’t easy. Keeping myself occupied with ensuring the survival of my people helps, which is why sitting here doing nothing is so much harder for me.”

“That’s why you needed me.” I voiced, knowing it was true before I even said it. “I distract you from all that pain you feel, even if only for a little bit.”

I felt her nod once again against me. “I am ashamed to say that you make a great distraction, but do not think you don’t have your own merits, either. Karyll’a knew that while you may not be able to live my life, you have the ability to understand in a way few others can.”

I chuckled dryly, despite the blanket of sorrow that had settled over us. “I’d say that you’re pretty damn lucky, then.”

“I’d say we’re both lucky,” Celestia shot back, “considering there was a bronze dragon headed straight for you that night. You’re welcome, by the way.”

I nodded to her, but said nothing for a few moments as we just sat together again, enjoying the support we lent to each other.

After five minutes or so, I thought it prudent to mention, “I’m going through this little session in my head right now, and I have come to a conclusion that you’re fucking bipolar.” Ignoring the snort of derision from her, I brought a hand up and began to count off. “We started off with a serious talk, then you jumped straight to molesting me, and now we’re back to crying, except that I’m the one that’s crying. This is bullshit.”

Again Celestia snorted, but this time it was a stifled laugh at my remark. “Five thousand years of memories tends to breed a few quirks, Alex. I’ll have to ask you to deal with them, please.”

I shrugged with a growing smile. “Makes things interesting, that’s for sure.” I sniffled loudly and wiped my eyes before pulling away and standing, pulling Celestia up with me by the hand and leading her to the bed. “All right, I’d say we’ve earned a good sleep. You got the bed tonight, Your Highness.” I jumped slightly at the feeling of a tail whipping me in the ass, which only caused Celestia to grin as she passed me and settled herself on the bed.

Of course, just as I had been expecting, her grin turned into a smirk as she offered, “Are you sure you don’t want to join me, Alex? We could cuddle and see where that takes us.”

I rolled my eyes even as heat entered my cheeks once again. “I think I’ve had my fill of fondling you for today, thank you.” My expression then softened as I nodded to her. “Get some sleep, Celestia. I’ll make you breakfast tomorrow, and we’ll talk about what we’re going to do for the next couple weeks.”

It took a few moments for Celestia to completely settle, what with her wings and all, but after pulling the covers up to her neck, she nodded at me with a smile. “Very well, Alex.” I reached out to her horn, and the golden band that was settled on my wrist flashed, returning itself to the horn of its true bearer. As I turned to leave, she added, “And thank you...truly. I needed your support tonight more than I thought I did, and I feel immensely better for it.”

I turned on my heel to gaze down at her, nodding firmly again with a smile across my face. “Anytime, Celestia -- I mean that.” Without another word, I left the bedroom and closed the door behind me.

I arrived in the family room to see Jenna and Vinyl both sleeping soundly, former draped over the lounge chair, while the latter was wrapped in blankets on the sofa. Octavia was nowhere to be seen, but the sound of Bailey’s nails on the ground alerted me that both of them were in the kitchen. I made my way to the kitchen to see Octavia leaned against the countertop, sipping a glass of water as she stared at the wall, apparently deep in thought.

I reached down and gave Bailey a good scratch behind her ears before settling myself next to Octavia, at which point her violet eyes rolled to me and she smiled in greeting. I returned the smile, but the two of us kept silent and simply stood there in the kitchen in silence, doing nothing else except enjoying the peaceful atmosphere for once.

Without my knowledge, my eyes had closed during the quiet time we shared, which was only brought to my attention when Octavia asked, “Are you okay, Alex?”

I opened my eyes and swiveled my head to Octavia, who was quite visibly concerned. She pointed at my face and explained, “You look as if you’ve been crying.”

I wiped my face again, feeling a few lingering bits of wetness as I nonchalantly replied, “Yeah, I’m fine. Just had a really intense talk with Celestia is all, and I’m still recovering a bit from it.” I then chuckled softly and shook my head. “That pony’s a stronger person than I could have ever imagined.”

“I hope you took good care of her, Alex.” Octavia half-warned, her smile falling a bit. “Regardless of what she may want, I will possibly always see her as my princess, and I care about her wellbeing.”

“I think…” I began, truly thinking about what had happened tonight, “I think she’s going to be all right. It won’t be easy, but with some help from friends and family, she’ll be just fine.”

I turned my head down to between us as I felt something furry grasping my hand, only to see that Octavia’s fingers were now holding my hand. I brought my eyes back to her face with an unspoken question in my eyes, and she simply smiled at me.

“Thank you, Alex. You have done so much for us, and I cannot thank you enough.” she praised with a gentle, yet powerful, smile.

I shrugged, but didn’t pull my hand away. “I won’t say it’s been easy or comfortable the whole time, but I wouldn’t be able to live with myself if I’d just left you all to your fates.” I gave the hand in my own a gentle squeeze before adding, “I haven’t regretted it yet, and I don’t think I will anytime soon, so you don’t need to keep thanking me.” Finally, I pulled my hand away and walked toward the doorway to the living room. “C’mon, let’s get some sleep. We’ve got a lot to do tomorrow, and I want to get an early start.”

Octavia followed me to the living room, her hooves making far less noise than I expected them to. When we arrived in front of the merrily crackling fire, she pulled the blankets off of Vinyl -- who, to my embarrassment, did not seem to like wearing anything on her torso to bed -- before settling herself behind her pseudo-sister and covering them both. As for me, I practically fell back into the free lounge chair and stretched myself out, yawning long and strongly before settling more comfortably.

It only took a few minutes of silently watching over the three girls around the room before I began to feel my eyelids drooping, and I didn’t fight it as I finally shut them and the world began to fade away. Before the dream realm could draw me into its embrace, I had one, final thought that I felt would set the course for what was my new life.

The world I grew up in was finished, and things were never going to be the same...but maybe, just maybe, we’d be all right.