• Published 10th Jan 2018
  • 2,697 Views, 228 Comments

Back and There Again - Sun Sage



A strange gem takes Rarity to a world she almost recognizes. She's going to make it back home no matter what, but she might need some help to do it. And why is it all so familiar?

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11. Back to the Waking World

Aiden stared into the fire. He wasn’t sure how long he’d been doing so. Further, he wasn’t sure how he’d come to be sitting on a log in front of a campfire. The last thing he remembered… Rarity was in Veritech, and… no. He’d been talking to Grumman… no. He facepalmed. He was still asleep. Confirming that was the fact that it didn’t hurt. Though he was rather amused by the ‘thock’ noise that came from beside him. He peeked sidelong while keeping his hand on his forehead.

Rarity was sitting next to him on the log, face meeting hoof.

“Sounded like it hurt.”

“Well it didn’t. I’m clearly still asleep.”

“Same.”

“...”

“...”

“How do I know I’m not dreaming you?”

“How do I know I’m not dreaming you?”

“I can understand your words.”

“Well so can I!”

Aiden chewed on the side of his lip. “Tell me something I wouldn’t know.”

“...My father played professional hoofball, the Equestrian equivalent of American Football. The two sports are remarkably similar.”

Aiden blinked in low-key surprise. “Okay… I could not have have guessed that answer. I provisionally accept that you’re really you, and we’re sharing this dream somehow.”

Rarity cocked an eyebrow at him.

He grinned innocently. “Oh right, my turn. Uh… my first kiss was a woman named Keia Luxuria. And I wasn’t-”

“WHAT?!”

“...happy about it. Right, so, we’re both us, and…”

“WAIT TILL I GET MY HOOVES ON HER!!!”

“...Woah. Uhh… I think she’s dead, but… you alright there, Rarity?”

“Ugggghhhhh!” She took a breath and let it out slowly. “I’m fine… I’m fine.” She took a few more deep breaths, looking highly agitated.

Aiden was grinning again, though it was less innocent this time. “Why Rarity, my dear friend… are you jealous?”

“Well!… No, not as such.” The sudden change in tone got a laugh from him. “Angry that that… woman, would be…” she grimaced. “You deserved better than… wait… wait… what I saw…”

Aiden’s eyes narrowed. “Yeah, now that you mention it… what I saw…”

The two stared at each other before pointing accusingly.

“It was way worse than you let on!”

“It was way worse than you let on!”

They stared at each other, eyes narrowed, before both snorted and looked away. Rarity spoke first. “It was… it was really frightening, the first couple of days. I couldn’t be sure if things were going to get better, or if they’d just decide to start shooting me again. At first I only trusted Valerie because I had no other choice.” She smiled, lightly touching his shoulder with a hoof. He looked back to her, smiling sadly. “But… it did get better. And I learned a great deal about myself, aspects of myself I’d never had to reach to before. For a brief time, I despaired… truly despaired, not just… indulging myself. I know I can come back from that now.” She nudged him gently. “And I know what you had to come from, as well. I’m sorry, Aiden. They were a wonderful family. The man you are is the best proof of that. I’m glad I got to meet them, if only in a sense.”

Aiden sighed, nodding. “Yeah. Despite all the other help I’ve gotten since, they gave me a great childhood to look back on, and I know that’s been a source of strength. Didn’t last as long as it should have, but longer than some folks got. That’s why I don’t dwell on how it ended. So many died that day. We can’t let that be what we remember. How they lived, what they did with their lives… that’s what matters.” He grasped her hoof, giving it a squeeze in thanks. “They got me this far, all of them.”

“We can both say that.” Rarity scooted closer to him so they could lean on each other, and watch the fire. “...Now about that kiss…”

He chuckled. “There’s not much to tell. She went out of her way to develop this sort of rivalry between us. Once I had training and was on the front lines regularly I had about a 50/50 chance of seeing her on any given op. Keep in mind how much the Oni enjoy drama. When you get a chance, look up Vikings, fictional rather than historical. The Oni are like that, turned up to eleven. They treat war like a performance piece, with themselves as the villains. So she was playing the role of femme fatale to the innocent, young hero.”

Rarity grimaced. “Innocent is right, darling. You were a child!”

“Well… she was a mass-murdering invader for fun, so taking shots at her morality is pretty pointless. And I was fourteen by the time it happened.”

“Still, though.”

“But the kiss was… well a taunt, really. She’d won that particular engagement, though it cost her quite a bit. I wanted to bring her down but I was exhausted. She couldn’t have killed me, for the same reason. But she had enough magic left to escape before our reinforcements could surround the area. It was a sort of ‘better luck next time’ kind of thing. Honestly she might’ve pulled it off, being alluring enough to bait me into doing something stupid I mean, if not for all the random killing.”

“That would be a turn off for me as well.”

“...Yeah let’s not talk about my war numbers, then.”

“That’s different.”

He sighed. “I tell myself that… but if I had it to do over again…”

“Let’s not make wishes like that one, darling.”

“...Fair.” He cleared his throat. “But speaking of unexplained kisses…”

Rarity giggled lightly. “Yes?” She replied innocently.

“...”

“...Oh fine. Well don’t take this the wrong way but it was for luck. It felt like the right thing to do before putting you at such risk… and after doing so. You were there because of me.”

“Eyynt,” Aiden replied, sounding like a ‘Wrong!’ buzzer. “I was there because I chose to be, for you, no guilt or debt will be spoken of again.”

Rarity raised an eyebrow again, but her cheeks warmed a bit, framing a smile. “Well then, yes sir.”

“And I’ve wished a lot of folks luck over the years,” he continued with a smirk, though he was looking to the campfire and didn’t see her answering grin. “It didn’t involve kissing. Err, except the one time.”

“Please tell me it was Donovan…” Rarity prodded with a wide smile.

Aiden burst out laughing. “Oh god, that would’ve been great. I can think of a few people we could’ve trolled so hard with something like that. I gotta remember that one. Nah, an old ex, years ago. But… not an ex at the time, which is sorta my point. On the lips and all… maybe I’m old-fashioned, but...”

“Well…” Rarity replied in a sing-song sort of voice, “I didn’t say it was only for luck, now did I?”

They both chuckled. “So the daughter of a hoofball player, huh? What’s that like? How’d a pro jock raise such a classy lady?”

She sniffed quietly, smiling. “By design, as it were. I love my mother and father dearly, but I never sought to emulate their mannerisms. My father, knowing that I had more elegant aspirations, put me through a boarding school that focused on teaching Canterlot etiquette. Thanks to that, I was able to separate myself, on the surface, from my middle class roots through something other than simply using my father’s money. ...Though he did pay for the schooling.”

“Well you expect parents to help with that sort of thing.” Aiden smiled sadly. “I actually inherited a decent sum when I turned eighteen. It was my parent’s college fund savings account for us. Grumman sort of made it public that several Espers had such inheritances. ...People donated to them. I ended up paying it forward to help war orphans.”

Rarity smiled. She leaned over and nuzzled his cheek, giggling lightly. “Darling… you are a war orphan.”

His face reddened slightly, and a goofy grin went well with the coloring. “Well yeah, but by then I was doing fine. So then what? With you I mean.”

“Hmm? Oh, right. Well, along the way I got my Cutie Mark, and-”

“And that’s the diamonds on your…”

“Flank, darling. Right there.” She leaned away, pointing a hoof down toward said diamonds.

He chuckled. “Yeah, those. I didn’t know whether looking was okay.”

“It’d be an odd place for a Mark if it wasn’t.”

“Fair point.”

“So, my mark stands for my desire to bring out beauty in everyone. With that, and the education I’d received, I was ready to step into the fashion world by opening my own boutique! I’ve done quite well, if I do say so myself. In fact, I’ve tried paying father back for the schooling several times, but he keeps refusing. To be fair, he doesn’t need the money. They’re practically always traveling to this or that exotic location...”

--------------------------------------------

They weren’t alone. And their observer was not pleased to be eavesdropping. It wasn’t that she minded seeing private moments in dreams, such was the risk this duty entailed. She would take such secrets to her grave, and never look down upon any of her subjects over such things. Their dreams were theirs; no shame was to be had. In any case this wouldn’t even crack the top one thousand most embarrassing.

Not that Luna was keeping track. ...And not that she could even be sure. For all she knew, the amorphous blob sitting with Rarity was spouting lewd anecdotes with every breath. She couldn’t understand a word he was saying, or see him clearly. Rarity was more distinct, though only just. Her own words were similarly garbled, frustratingly on the edge of the Night Princess’ understanding.

Wherever Rarity was, it was simply too far for Luna to properly reach, even through dreamwalking. Magic knew no distances, but Luna knew better than most that even alicorn princesses had their limits. With Rarity clearly well beyond Sidera’s Veil, Luna was happy, almost deliriously so, that she had been able to discover this much. It was only because the two of them, Rarity and the stranger, were sharing a dream somehow, that Luna had been able to find even the smallest of echoes that led her this far. Even the dream state was amplified by some other magic, something familiar that Luna couldn’t quite place.

And they could not see or hear her. Her connection to the dream was simply too weak to make herself noticed. Even the Royal Canterlot Voice hadn’t evoked so much as an ear flick from the unicorn. Still, it was enough. Rarity’s friends and family would hear of this, every word Luna could give to describe what little she was seeing. It was enough. The indistinct one said something else, and Rarity laughed. It did Luna’s heart good to hear it, and not for the first time in this dream.

She walked across the campfire, feeling only slight warmth from it, and gave him a nod. “Thank you, friend I’ve yet to meet. Thank you for being her friend as well. I’ll trust you to take care of one another until we can find a way to bridge the distance between us.” Luna smiled brightly, though she knew they couldn’t see it. Turning to Rarity, she continued, “We will find a way. If not sister and myself, Twilight Sparkle and her student, assuredly. And if they don’t… I have a hunch you will.”

She chuckled as the two continued talking. “In fact… yes. Tis but a hunch… but I believe you’ve found help that will see to it you find us before we find you. Until that day… farewell, friend Rarity.” With that, she let go of the tenuous hold on Rarity’s dreamscape, and felt herself rejoining the waking world back home.

It wasn’t long before the dreamscape faded as well, and the two enjoying the fire followed her example.

----------------------------------------------

Aiden sighed deeply as, with a bit of regret, he rejoined the waking world. The lights of the infirmary were dimmed a bit, and a glance at the wall clock told Aiden it was early evening. They’d slept over half a day.

“Good morning, Mr. Windborne.”

“...Figuratively speaking? Dr…?”

“Hamada,” replied the lab coat clad, coffee carrying woman. “And no, not figurative. You’ve both been asleep for over a day. It’s 7am.”

“Huh… well I was looking to reset my sleep schedule, and that would explain my rather desperate need for the facilities…”

Hamada smirked behind her cup, and pointed a dainty finger to a side door. “There’s a toothbrush and basic toiletries for the shower as well.”

“You’re a beautiful human being, doctor,” Aiden said with a grin.

She blushed, hiding behind her cup as best she could. “Yes, well… I would say take it easy, but you being… you, you should be fully recovered, but even so let your legs wake up a bit before you just jump out of bed. Also, there’s a gown hanging there. Your clothing needed to be removed for sanitary reasons.”

“Yeah I was probably pretty ripe.”

“I was referring to the various blood stains, including those of a revived and necrotizing Oni.”

“...Right. Hey, Rarity, up and at ‘em.”

“...”

Aiden chuckled, looking across at the other bed. “Nice try, darling,” he grin lopsidedly at borrowing her favorite form of address, “but even I can tell you’re awake.”

“Hmm…. I’m not moving from under this blanket until I can go directly to the little filly’s room, and the shower. You can go first though.” Her eyes opened slowly, both their normal, deep blue. She smiled over at him. “I’m glad you’re okay.”

Hamada’s eyes had gone wide, but she stayed silent.

“Same… you burned through a lot of aether back there, going all Jedi hero.”

“Joyeuse did most of the work. And speaking of burning aether, who saved us from two giant explosions and took down that Oni monster?”

“Heh… yeah well… it was a team effort.”

“Indeed so. Now hit the showers so we can be ready for the next game… as it were.”

“You’re sure you don’t want first crack at it?”

“I’m fine, darling. I think I don’t want to think about why I’m fine. I’m going to hope that Joyeuse has been slowing my biology rather than something less ladylike.”

Aiden laughed softly. “Everyone here has seen worse; I’m sure your reputation is safe either way.” He pulled the blanket down to his torso, grabbing for the gown. He slipped it on over his shoulders, getting up slowly and removing the blanket after having the robe on over it.

Rarity giggled. “You really adhere to that nudity taboo, don’t you?”

He looked at her over his shoulder, and stuck his tongue out. “I lack your luxurious coat of fur, so I feel inadequate.”

“Oh please! Let me see your stomach though, turn around. The wound…”

“Ah.” He turned, pulling the robe apart a bit around where the spear and then Joyeuse had pierced him. It wasn’t much to look at by that point.

Rarity’s eyes went wide. “It’s practically gone!”

Aiden nodded. “I heal about a hundred times faster than a normal human. I can’t recall if I’ve mentioned that. But a day’s bed rest is like almost fifteen weeks worth of healing. No scars either, aether reinforced genetics, or some such. Dr. Hamada could explain it better. Given the corrupted aether in that spear though… it could have been very bad if you hadn’t acted quickly.” He made a face. “I’m going to go shower now, among other things.”

“Don’t be long; I really need one as well.”

“Yes, ma’am.” He made his way into the small bathroom and shut the door. He sighed deeply in relief as he got the water going, and tended to biology.

In his defense, it should be noted that he was still a bit groggy. The accelerated healing was a fine thing, but it ate through aether like nothing else. While he was well rested in a sense, he was certainly not fully awake. As such, he could be forgiven for not noticing an obvious point…

----------------------------------

Rarity stretched, grumbling a bit as the movement reminded her that she really did need to use the filly’s room. She could wait a few minutes, but she hoped Aiden would hurry. She looked over at Doctor Hamada. “I don’t think we’ve been introduced. I’m Rarity, and thank you for looking after us. Could I have your full name?

The petite woman tilted her head slightly, raising an eyebrow in confusion… and hiding behind her coffee cup.

“Hmm… human Fluttershy, then? I can accept that. We can talk when you’re ready.”

...In her defense, Rarity was also rather groggy. Further, from an emotional stress standpoint, she’d been through more than anyone could reasonably be expected to cope with in the last few weeks. As such, she could be forgiven for missing the occasional observation. ...Even one that might be considered obvious from an outside perspective.

Doctor Hamada set her coffee cup down, smiled nervously at Rarity, and grabbed her tablet. She pressed a couple icons on the front, looked back at Rarity with that same sheepish look, and then pressed a few more.

Rarity’s eyes narrowed slightly as she watched Hamada’s nervous behavior. She felt like she was forgetting something...

-------------------------------------------

“She didn’t say what the issue was?” Valerie asked around a yawn.

“She did not, although this is twice in as many days that she’s summoned me to the infirmary, and I’ll remind you it never happened before that.” Grumman replied. He looked to have been awake for hours. Valerie had never known him to sleep more than a few hours at a time.

“To be fair, for the last few weeks she’s been busy analyzing all the data on Rarity I’d be sending along from Veritech. Before that, data on dead end Third Gen modifications. We haven’t had any major emergencies since she came on, until this one.”

“True. And she’s handled it with aplomb.”

“You choose your people well.”

“...Other than Ferguson.”

“No. He was well chosen, and made some bad decisions later than made him vulnerable to being turned against us.”

“Perhaps.” They entered the infirmary to find Aiden sitting on a bed, wearing a hospital gown, freshly shaved and showered. He was sipping coffee with a look of utter contentment. The sound of the shower coming from the restroom told Valerie where Rarity was.

“Good Morning, General, Corporal.”

“Status, Mr. Windborne?”

“I think I’m mission ready, or will be after some food and maybe a run to stretch the muscles a bit.”

“And Rarity?”

“I think she’s fine? You can ask her yourself shortly.”

“Yes, I apologize for that."

"Uh, for what?"

"I brought the translators along," he said, removing them from his pocket. "We were checking the software and updating other devices from it, since the language program has adapted considerably. It's even helped with decrypting the Command Crystal. We may have a location for Equus soon. But we're done with them now, so Rarity can talk to us again.”

Aiden blinked, then stared at the translators, as if remembering their existence. ...Which was accurate. “...Oh shi-”

Author's Note:

This was supposed to go up a couple days ago, but I got distracted with other things. There will be another chapter this week, probably Friday.

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