• Published 10th Jan 2018
  • 2,709 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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13. Family

Rarity and Aiden stood just outside the compound… waiting the final minutes for their ride. Rarity had activated her ‘limited visibility’ spell, which bent light around her form, as well as the simple sundress she wore. She found it much easier to channel the energy needed when she wasn’t running on low sleep, low food, and excess adrenaline. Joyeuse had helped too, not so much with a power boost but more as a centering point. It was as if she'd been learning a new dance, and the crystal embedded in that blade had gently led her through the first steps. Not everypony had Starlight Glimmer’s emotionally boosted magic: Rarity much preferred calm and balance to be at her best. She could almost feel that calm, radiating from the crystal even as the sword sat back in their rooms. Bringing it along didn't seem appropriate for meeting Aiden's aunt, though Rarity was a bit tempted just the same.

Aiden was watching her sidelong, wearing an appreciative smirk at her magic in progress. “You do know doing that might just give my Aunt Lynn a heart attack when you appear out of nowhere?”

“I assume you’re going to warn her before I do so. Grumman suggested that she shouldn’t see me while driving up to the building from the gate, so as not to worry her while behind the wheel.”

“Fair enough. She should be along any time; she’s not the sort to get lost...”

As if on cue, the gate began opening remotely to admit a mid-sized, white sedan. It was a newer model, clean and sleek. Rarity approved. She’d seen various vehicles while perusing the internet, from the ostentatious to the downright shoddy, and she deemed this one tasteful.

Said sedan pulled up next to Aiden and stopped. The driver’s side door shot open, and a woman popped out, looking somewhere between ‘angry’ and ‘I keel you!’

Lynneth Marcusson (née Windborne) was a woman in perhaps her mid forties, though she could easily have been younger. Hints of crow’s feet accentuated blue eyes that were clearly better suited to smiles and laughter than the sort of fury they seemed to currently content themselves with. Her face bore a smattering of freckles across a pert nose which was crinkled due to a near snarl that curled her lips. Her dark hair was tied back in a simple… ponytail. Rarity had chuckled at that particular phrase for that hairstyle. If there was a joke in there about a human head resembling a pony rump in any way, Rarity was far too classy to utter it.

She was a bit taller than Aiden (who wasn’t?), and it was all the more apparent as she bore down on him. He actually seemed to shrink back. This veteran of a war against violent aliens, this man who’d faced death and took time out to joke with his squadmates while doing so… seemed ready to bolt like a frightened rabbit.

Too late: she caught him in a rough embrace.

“You idiot! No calls, no texts, no emails… just sitting alone in that house of yours doing what?! And now you re-up without even mentioning it to me?!” She swung him back and forth in the fierce hug, his arms dangled at his sides. His eyes were wide, and his face was red as his aunt hugged and berated him.

“S-sorry, Aunt Lynn....”

“Oh you will be. We’re the only family we have left. I’m not one of these ex war buddies of yours gone to ground to escape those idiots on the news! You don’t get to cut me out! Just wait till I can embarrass you in front of this girl you’re protecting! I have baby pictures, you brat!”

Rarity grinned evilly.

Aiden let out a breath explosively, and then started laughing. “Oh bring it on… I was goddamn adorable.” He returned the hug. “Really, though. I’m sorry, Aunt Lynn. I got into a rut, you know? I don’t think I even realized it until… well we can talk all about it. First though…”

“Mm-hmm,” Lynn replied, releasing him. “So, where’s this VIP friend of yours?”

“What did Grumman tell you?” he asked cautiously.

Lynn cocked an eyebrow. “I know that tone… he clearly didn’t tell me enough. ...Foreign diplomat, here through some transportation accident. She’s related to the war so it’s a tricky situation and we want the press in the dark about it. ...What am I missing?”

Aiden chuckled. “That’s one way to put it. He did leave out the most important detail. ...Now, she’s actually right here… and her appearance is going to shock you. I would elaborate on that… but I think at this point I’d rather surprise you.”

Lynn looked around. “Magic, I take it? Who’s hiding her? If Donovan could do that he’d start a stage act.”

“Yeah, he was asking for smoke bombs earlier, to escape the media shitstorm-”

“Language.”

“...Sorry. Anyway she’s hiding herself. ...Rarity, if you would?”

“You’re certain you don’t want to give her some sort of warning?” Rarity asked. Her translator spoke quietly, broadcasting her into English whereas it had been translating Lynn’s English to Equish only through her earbud.

Lynn stepped back from the source of the voice. “What language was that?”

Aiden grinned. “Equish.”

“...I’ve not heard of that.”

“Yeah, it’s not a common one around here. And yes, Rarity, I think she has enough warning. Aunt Lynn, meet Rarity.”

“Very well, darling, but if she faints or the like you’re responsible for it.” She dropped the spell, and the light that had artfully bent around her went back to its proper manner.

“Holy shit, that’s a goddess damn unicorn!”

“Language, Aunt Lynn. Don’t curse in front of the Celestia-darned unicorn.”

Rarity snerked.

“I… well I… Albert Grumman you jerk! I’ll…!”

Rarity stepped forward, slowly, taking pity on the poor woman. She held out a hoof. “It’s very nice to meet you, Mrs. Marcusson. I am Rarity, and while Aiden hasn’t told me too much about you, I’m sure we’ll get along fine. ...And I’m eager to see those baby pictures.”

Lynn blinked as her brain reloaded various necessary tasks. “Ah… goddess, you’re adorable… I, uh…”

“She has excellent ears, too, Aunt Lynn.”

“Oh shut up,” she cleared her throat and smiled. She looked much younger doing so. She leaned down and grasped the hoof lightly, and her smile deepened as she felt the reality of that hoof. “It’s a wondrous thing to meet you… Rarity. I feel truly blessed… and more than a little blind-sided. So I apologize for my reaction.” They shook briefly before Lynn get go. “...So I’m assuming, when Grumman said ‘foreign diplomat’...”

Rarity giggled. “Oh quite foreign, darling, though I’m not a diplomat. Actually I’m a fashionista and business owner… and currently stranded here while we figure out a ride home.”

“A friendly alien… who’d have thought? And you look like a unicorn right out of legend… if legends went out of their way to be…” she stopped herself, clearing her throat awkwardly. “Right then. Well I can’t offer you a ride to your home, but I’d be more than happy to take you to mine, if you’ll step in? You can have the front seat, and we’ll put Aiden in back…”

“Uh, no, Aunt Lynn, we probably want her in back, low on the seats or some passing car might see her.” Rarity nodded in agreement.

“Fair point.”

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

The ride was pleasant enough. Rarity fully understood the importance of not being seen, and frankly stretching out a bit in the back seat seemed more comfortable than the front would have been. Lynn’s car was a good deal smaller than Grumman’s had been; Rarity felt like her horn would be scraping the ceiling if she tried to sit up straight.

They’d already covered her accidental arrival and, as was her preference, Rarity glossed over her time at Veritech. She knew the value of not bottling up traumatic experiences, but she didn’t want any more pity than she had to accept for just being so far from home. There was enough to dwell on without remembering being shot.

Even as she made light of it, a warm hand gently squeezed her shoulder. Aiden smiled back from the front of the car, encouraging her.

Thank you, my friend. As such, forgive me for what I’m about to do…

“After that, I was set up with a rendezvous with Valerie and her superior, General Grumman as you know. But instead… I felt pulled in another direction. As I’d later discover, Espers feel much like my own people back home did. Specifically, Aiden feels like another unicorn, from a magical point of view at least.”

He chuckled. “Yep, she broke into the store-”

“Oh please, that ‘lock’ is so pointless it doesn’t qualify as 'breaking in'-”

“And then got herself locked in the produce prep room by Mark Millen. You remember him?”

“He’s a cutie; of course I do.”

“...”

Rarity and Lynn both snickered, and Aiden seemed to suddenly realize he was outnumbered.

“Indeed I did though. I was rather out of sorts, given the circumstances. Fortunately for me they decided to let their resident Esper handle the ‘scary alien’.”

“Mm-hmm… and Aiden, dear… just how did they know you were an Esper? I thought you were keeping that quiet?”

“Well… I was… sorta…”

Lynn made a circling, ‘keep going’ gesture with one hand, steering easily down the quiet country road with the other.

He grimaced. “I developed some bad habits. ...It all started…” he trailed off into a mutter that even Rarity couldn’t make out.

“What was that?”

“...It started when I couldn’t reach the top shelf, okay?!”

Rarity snerked, and began giggling. She could just see it: Aiden on his tiptoes, stretching to reach the top shelf in the grocery store to place items for purchase. He couldn’t do it. He strained, stretching to his utmost… and just wasn’t tall enough. He’d then have looked around, delightfully furtive, and finally levitated the items perfectly onto the shelf.

“And after that… it slowly became a habit.” He shook his head, looking abashed. “Thinking back, Mark must’ve known. He started putting me on aisles by myself, giving me more to do, giving me reasons to use my abilities.”

“Probably wanted to expose your coworkers in an innocent way so they didn’t find out from something that would turn them against you.”

“That’s occurred to me, yeah. I owe him a thank you, at the least.”

“You do. Don’t forget about it.”

“No, ma’am.”

Lynn smiled. “So that’s how you two met, then?”

Rarity nodded, though Lynn was watching the road rather than her passengers. “As I recall, Aiden’s response was similar to your own. I didn’t understand English at the time, or now for that matter, but the words were similar, certainly, and so was the expression. But after that, even though we couldn't understand each other yet, it was clear we were both trying to say the same things. He was rather gallant, I choose to believe. ...Presumably. For all I know he was making silly jokes the whole time.”

Aiden shrugged, waving a hand back and forth. "Little of column A, little of column B. Luckily comprehension is no longer an issue."

“Yes, the translator you have is quite remarkable," Lynn said. "I’ve had pretty iffy luck with google translate.”

Rarity and Aiden knew that wasn't quite what he'd been referring to, but it was true, just the same. “It’s a good deal more advanced in both hardware and software than that, Aunt Lynn,” Aiden supplied.

“...A few good things came from the Oni War, I suppose. Nowhere near worth the cost.”

“Yeah…” Aiden said slowly, the mood turning a bit somber. “We walk forward.”

“That we do,” Lynn replied, grasping his hand and giving it a squeeze.

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

“And here we are! If you can activate that magic again so my neighbors don’t see you…”

Lynn’s home was a modest, but well landscaped house in a middle class neighborhood. Much like her car, the property seemed to speak of sensible good taste.

“Yes, of course,” Rarity replied, vanishing from sight a moment later.

Lynn opened the door, ostentatiously looking in the back seat while standing far enough from it to allow Rarity to exit. The soft clop of hooves on driveway accompanied a quiet ‘Clear.’ from Rarity, and Lynn closed the car door before opening the trunk, as if remembering the suitcases were there all along. Aiden grabbed them while Lynn went to open the front door.

Inside, Rarity was treated to pleasant hardwood floors, rustic decorations reminiscent of Sweet Apple Acres, and a scent of pine and lemons. Clearly Lynn had gone deep into cleaning for her expected company.

“I’m happy you’re not quite what I was expecting. I’m sure my humble home wouldn’t suit a foreign dignitary, despite Grumman’s assurances, but welcome.”

“Oh nonsense, it’s a lovely home, darling. I’m quite taken with it. I’m reminded of a dear friend back home.”

“That’s actually something I wanted to ask about. From the hints I’m getting, your culture and ours have a lot of similarities…”

Rarity chuckled. “Apparently there’s quite the story behind that…”

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

“Well, the truth is, General Grumman has long been concerned about Colonel Owens’ approach to the future of Espers. ‘Creating’ more Espers through technological means has always been a hotly debated issue…”

“And where you do side on that issue, Knight Trellis?”

He grinned nervously. “...No opinion? Even if Owens was going about it wrong, you won’t meet many Espers who think we have some God-given right to hoard magic for ourselves. I hope we can reach a point where anyone who wants to use magic can do it, but we’re not there yet. Shortcuts like that man was employing are bad news for everyone.”

“So it seems, unfortunately. Thank you very much for your time, Knight Trellis, and your contributions during and after the war. Mankind will always owe you a debt,” the interviewer said.

Donovan shook his head, smiling easily. “I like to think I’m part of mankind, so we’re square.”

The reporter chuckled politely. “Yes, of course. With that let’s take it back to the studio, after this short break…”

Lynn switched off the television. Rarity smiled. “I think Donovan did quite well.”

“Yeah,” Aiden agreed. “For all his claims about stage fright or whatnot, once you get him up there, he can play the crowd no problem. Even that little bit of earnest shyness works for him.”

“And he’s awfully pretty.” Lynn added with a predatory grin.

“...Aunt Lynn, I think you need a guy friend.”

“Look who’s talking.”

“I’m not into guys.”

“You know what I mean, Aiden.”

“Yeah yeah. I’ll keep it in mind.” He rolled his eyes, but there was a smile on his face. Rarity was grinning too, but declined to comment.

It had been a good day. They’d ordered pizzas for an early dinner; Rarity’s half had been a lovely blend of onions, tomatoes, and red peppers, alongside of course ample cheese and sauce. It wasn’t the most sophisticated dish, but quite delicious just the same. Lynn’s claim of ‘best pizza in town’ was easy to believe; Rarity wasn’t sure how it could be done better. Aiden’s half had contained a few meats Rarity was just as happy not thinking about, but she didn’t begrudge him. She idly thought of Opalescence back home, no doubt feasting on tuna or the like even in her absence. Sweetie Belle would see to her. She wished she had a way to let her dear sister know she was okay. Her thoughts turned a bit melancholy from there… or would have, if Lynn hadn’t returned from the kitchen with a bottle of wine and a photo album.

On the off chance that wasn’t enough to distract Rarity from sad thoughts, Aiden’s apprehensive look sealed the deal.

Lynn was smiling innocently. “You did say ‘bring it on, dear nephew…”

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

Rarity laughed loudly, easily holding a half full wine glass in her magic. “Oh my goodness! How can you even have that much mud on you? You look like a golem, darling! A cute little golem made of mud and adorable!”

“...Adorable isn’t a noun.”

“It is now!” She grinned at him and polished off her glass of wine. Their hostess refilled it. “Thank you, Lynn! This is a lovely bouquet, by the by.”

“I’m glad you like. I’d been waiting for the right company to open these with,” Lynn smiled, drawing attention to her slightly dimpled, alcohol reddened cheeks.

“Very much. Perfect accompaniment to this sort of reminiscing. I wish I had my own pictures to add to it. Sweetie Belle has had many similar moments.”

“Your little sister?”

She nodded to Aiden… and sidled closer to him on the couch as they all examined the photo album. She gestured to Lynn to skootch in on her other side. She’d missed this sort of physical closeness. Apparently alcohol helped humans be more comfortable with it, since they were all practically snuggled together on the couch after less than an hour of wine, stories, and photos. She’d have to remember to use that information carefully. As much fun as it was to embarrass Aiden in small ways, she had no intention of truly humiliating her friend with any action he’d regret later. She felt a surge of affection, and even protective instinct, towards the alien stallion next to her. She blinked. ...Perhaps she should slow down on the wine as well. But only slow down, not stop. Another small sip, and she flipped the page of the book, her magic still quite steady after only three glasses.

“Ahh,” Lynn chuckled, leaning pleasantly on Rarity as she examined the pictures. “Now here we have some Little League pictures. Aiden was a pretty good pitcher… though I guess you wouldn’t know baseball.”

“Quite the contrary, darling. Well… no, not quite the contrary,” Rarity giggled for no apparent reason. “But we have baseball in my world as well. I don’t follow the sport… but the uniforms are certainly cute. And look! He’s as tall as his teammates! Pity he stopped growing after that.”

Aiden snorted. “Sure sure, keep it coming. Short jokes never get old. Though you’re shorter than me, Rara-tiny.”

Rarity blew a raspberry at him. Part of her noted she wouldn’t do that sober, but that was okay. “Not on my hind legs, darling.”

“Hah! Let’s see, then!”

Now, sober, he’d have managed to know how this would go. Three glasses of wine in, he now wanted to test it, even if doomed to lose. And he was. The two stood, and Rarity, despite wavering slightly on her hind hooves, easily stood over him by several inches. She was about even with Lynn, who’d also stood for measuring purposes. It hadn’t been close enough to be necessary.

Rarity giggled, and fell forward into a hug around Aiden’s neck. “Sorry, darling, you lose!” She nuzzled his cheek, and then kissed his jaw, just below the ear, drawing a sharp breath from him. He returned the hug though, and lightly pushed her away to set her on her forehooves.

“Hmph,” he said, trying to control the blush on his face that was half alcohol, half unicorn kiss.

She grinned up at him. “Don’t take it too hard, darling. You definitely make it work." She examined him, half-seriously. "Yes, I think I disagree with Valerie. Shorter men suit me just fine.”

Lynn chortled, sitting back on the couch a bit roughly. “Oh, this is just too good. Thank you both for the most fun I’ve had in a good, long while!”

Aiden wanted to be annoyed at all the jokes at his expense, but couldn’t quite manage it. Instead he rejoined them both on the couch, after Rarity had climbed back onto it, that was, and they went back to the photo album. Of course, it wouldn’t be more than another page or two before they’d need something else to share without ruining the mood. The pictures after that got a bit depressing. But that was okay. For that moment in time, everything was perfect.

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