• Published 16th Jun 2020
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The Power of Two - Locomotion

A young changeling runs away from home, only to be attacked by timberwolves in the Everfree Forest. Fortunately, Locomotion is on hoof to save her - but little do they know that she has a spy on her tail...

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Chapter 18: Moonlit First Date

Nearly an hour had passed by the time Hornette had spun enough silk for the required fabric. Only then did she start to realise how much it had taken out of her, as she was suddenly overcome by an inexplicable dizzy spell. “Is that okay, Rarity?” she asked, struggling to keep her eyes open.

“Thank you, Hornette,” smiled Rarity appreciatively, “that should be more than enough to be going on with.” Her smile faded as she picked up the slight slur in the young changeling's voice. “Are you alright, darling?”

“I...I do feel kinda drowsy,” mumbled Hornette groggily. “I just wish I knew why.”

Locomotion's brow furrowed with concern. “It's probably all that silk-spinning,” he remarked anxiously. “That hair growth spell must have sapped your energy somewhat. Maybe you'd better have a lie down.”

“Yeah, and some protein too,” added Spike kindly. “You'll have used a heck of a lot for growing your mane, Hornette. You just take it easy for a bit – I'll go get you something.” He turned to Rarity. “You okay to see to the silk?”

“Perfectly, Spike,” answered Rarity. Inwardly, she couldn't help smirking deviously as she saw her chance. “If you'd care to accompany me to my workroom, Loco?”

“Eh what?!” Locomotion was taken aback. “But Rarity,” he objected, “what about Hornette? I can't just...”

“Spike can take care of her,” interrupted Rarity curtly. “Besides, I have something extremely important that I need to discuss with you; and I'd rather not discuss it in front of Hornette.” Secretly, she winked broadly at Spike.

Locomotion shrugged. He wasn't sure he wanted to leave Hornette alone in her current condition, even with Spike; but the tone of Rarity's voice clearly left little room for any further protest. With an apologetic smile to the young changeling, he followed on upstairs.

To add to his confusion, however, Rarity remained worryingly silent even as she was preparing the loom, threading the silk yarn through the “heddles” and around the beams at each end. She barely seemed to take any notice of Locomotion.

At last, the red-furred stallion tactfully cleared his throat and asked, “So, uh...you wanted to speak with me about something?”

Rarity's right ear flicked briefly in his direction, but she didn't reply.

“If it's about how I brushed you off earlier, I'm really sorry,” went on Locomotion awkwardly. “It's just...you know...it's not the first time you've been so...well...” He broke off, not wanting to upset her; but was even more perturbed when she still didn't answer.

Locomotion sighed heavily. Whatever Rarity was playing at, the suspense of it was really getting to him now. Maybe he ought to come back later, he told himself...

“Yes, Loco – I do wish to speak to you about something.” Rarity paused in her threading and turned to face him with a serious expression. “Specifically, about how disappointed I am in you.”

“Me?!” exclaimed Locomotion in dismay. “Aw, come on, Rarity, I said I was sorry!”

“I'm not talking about your earlier behaviour,” interrupted Rarity stiffly. “I was merely referring to how Hornette saved your life last week. You think about it, Loco – in what way have you thanked her for it?”

Locomotion looked offended. “What the hay kind of question is that?!” he retorted. “I've already told her plenty of times how grateful I am to her! What more could you ask for?!”

Rarity shook her head and clicked her tongue disapprovingly. “Not good enough,” she stated pointedly. “Need I remind you, Locomotion, that I had to save Spike's life years ago – and did he leave it at a simple thank-you?”

“Well...no, but what's it...”

“Exactly – as soon as he had his strength back, the first thing he did was take me out for our very first date.”

The effect this had on Locomotion was immediate, but not what she had been expecting. “Whoa, whoa, hold on a minute, Rarity!” he exclaimed in horror. “Let's just get a few things straight – you're suggesting that I take Hornette of all...er, creatures...out to some fancy restaurant somewhere?!”

“In an ideal world, yes.”

“Rarity, this is Hornette we're talking about!” protested Locomotion. “She'd lock up with self-consciousness as soon as look at one of those places, never mind the crowds!”

“Or,” finished Rarity knowingly, “you could just follow Spike and Big Mac's examples and take her out for a picnic; then you wouldn't have to worry about other ponies watching you.”

Locomotion fell silent for a moment. He was starting to feel self-conscious himself. “I...I don't understand, Rarity,” he muttered doubtfully. “Why are you getting involved in all this? It's not like there's anything going on between us.” Ah, but if only there was, lamented a voice in the back of his head, making his face droop with sorrow.

Upon seeing his longing expression, Rarity couldn't help feeling a little guilty. The poor colt couldn't seem to understand his own emotions, she realised, and her cryptic charade wasn't helping either. Maybe it was time to change her tactic. “I'm only doing this for your benefit, Loco,” she counselled, in a genuine tone of motherly sympathy now. “You and Hornette have a really strong bond...” Which could well become a lot more, she thought hopefully, “...and I just want to help you make the most of it.”

“But shouldn't that be mine and Hornette's lookout? Besides, it's not as if she's gonna walk out on me.”

“I know,” conceded Rarity softly, “but do give it a try at least. Hornette may not want a reward for all this,” indicating towards the silk, “but I don't feel right leaving my debt unpaid. Please? For my sake?”

Locomotion heaved a deep, weary sigh. Taking Hornette out for a date just to appease Rarity didn't seem right either, but he couldn't deny that part of him wanted oh so badly for something like that to happen; so he looked back up at her and said, “Well...if you really, really insist.”

“There's a good lad,” encouraged Rarity, ignoring the sullen, mildly patronised frown on his face. “Come along then – let's go downstairs, and you can ask her.”

“What?! Right now?”

“But of course, darling. No time like the present!” Without waiting for a response, Rarity sauntered past him and made for the lobby. Already, Locomotion could feel his anxiety coming back with a vengeance, so much so that his whole frame seemed to have gone stiff, and it took all his willpower just to move one step forward! How would Hornette react, he wondered fearfully, if she knew he was coming onto her – especially after last night? As understanding as she was, the idea of asking her out on a date right after sharing her bed seemed like a recipe for disaster; and if there was one thing that Locomotion dreaded as a stallion, it was driving away a potential fillyfriend should he decide to try and find one.

Maybe that was why he had been so afraid to enter the dating scene for himself – maybe he was just too terrified of rejection. It was far easier, he had maintained, to express his hidden desire for love through his fanfictions; and now here he was, about to live one of those stories for real. But would it work out? And if so, how would the rest of Ponyville take it? As his mind battled with his conscience, he didn't even notice he was back in the lobby until Rarity coughed lightly, startling him out of his reverie.

“Anyway, I think Locomotion had something he wanted to ask you.”

Locomotion gazed shyly at Hornette, trying to find the words; but when eventually he did, they weren't the ones he (or rather Rarity at this point) had been hoping for. “Uh...how are you feeling, Hornette?”

“Oh, I'm feeling a lot better, thank you,” answered Hornette with a pleasant smile. “Spike sure makes a good cup of tea, and those honey and almond bars were really nice too.”

Locomotion smiled back with relief – she did indeed look healthier and more awake, now she came to mention it. But the smile was quickly wiped off his face by Rarity shaking her head at him, and he hastily rethought what he was going to say; “Actually, Hornette...there's something else I wanna ask you. See, I'd been thinking about the whole bridge debacle...and how brave you were...and I was kinda wondering...” But he broke off as his nerves began to get the better of him again.

“Wondering what?”

“...well...about how I could repay you properly.” Locomotion looked at the floor, silently praying for it to open up and swallow him.

“Oh, Loco,” giggled Hornette, “you don't need to do that. Your thanks and friendship were enough.”

Locomotion looked to Rarity for support, but she just waved her hoof in a circle for him to continue. With a soft sigh, he did as he was bidden; “Well...I kinda want to,” he answered reasonably. “Like I said last night, you're the reason I'm still alive just like I was the reason you survived the timberwolf attack; and from what Rarity's been telling me,” he added, trying to ignore the white unicorn's warning glare that told him not to mention their earlier discussion, “there's gonna be a really nice moon tonight.”

Hornette nodded, silently wondering where he was going.

“What I'm trying to say is...how would you like to go out for a picnic with me this evening?” Locomotion shot Rarity a quick glare of his own to say “There, I've said it! Are you happy now?!” and braced himself for the incoming storm. But mercifully, it didn't come; for even though Hornette was now blushing profusely and her jaw was hanging open, her overall expression was anything but freaked out. If anything, she almost looked delighted.

“You mean...you and me, go on a...what's the word...a 'date'?” she asked softly.

“Uh-huh,” Locomotion managed to choke out in reply; secretly praying that he hadn't read her wrong.

Hornette's lips curled into a small smile. “That sounds like a lovely idea,” she decided sincerely. “Maybe it would be worth a try.”

“So...is that a yes then?”

The changeling giggled at the almost pleading tone of his voice; the sound of a well-meaning little colt who sorely hoped he hadn't done anything wrong. “I think you've pretty much answered your own question,” she quipped heartily.

Locomotion breathed a sigh of relief. Behind their backs, Rarity smiled broadly upon him with unspoken praise; whether this would work out was up to them now, but for the time being, all that mattered to her was that the young stallion had managed to set the ball rolling, and she was truly proud of him for being so brave.

“So where were you thinking of going, anyway?”

Locomotion smiled thoughtfully. “I know just the spot...”

With Rarity's silk crisis resolved, Hornette and Locomotion headed back home for lunch, and after Locomotion had cleaned everything up and prepared their picnic, they spent the rest of the day hanging out in his bedroom. Little more was said about their date until Twilight came to refresh Hornette's suppression spell that evening; her memory scan spell easily picked up on their plans for the night, but she didn't seem to mind.

Dusk had already fallen by the time they left the house, and there was a light sprinkling of stars in the steadily darkening sky as the two teenagers ambled through the quiet, empty streets. It was the first time Hornette could truly appreciate the tranquil beauty of the night-time scenery; as a fugitive, she had never been able to stop and smell the roses, even after being taken in and given a new name. How uplifting, then, that the only thing she needed to care about tonight was having a good time. She still didn't know where they were headed (Locomotion had insisted on keeping it a surprise), but when at last they reached their destination, she was awestruck by what awaited them – a secluded hillock overlooking the valley in which Ponyville was situated. The view it afforded them was simply amazing, almost like something out of a picture postcard, and once Locomotion had laid out the blanket and served their food, it felt like the perfect romantic setting.

Hornette sighed softly as she admired her surroundings for the umpteenth time. “What a beautiful night,” she murmured blissfully.

“Yeah, it sure is peaceful out here,” agreed Locomotion, taking a sip of his apple juice. “You know,” he went on philosophically, “there's something really soothing about the sky at night – all those stars, like diamonds on a bed of velvet...the moon beaming down on us like an engine's headlamp...good thing I remembered this place, eh?”

“Why, have you been here before?”

Locomotion nodded. “I kinda stumbled on it after the Horse Junction accident. You know, when I had to go help Octavia and all those other passengers out of the Bridleway Limited?”

Hornette nodded back as she took a mouthful of lettuce. She had already heard all about it from him and Steamer a fortnight ago.

“Well, everyone was talking about it the following day, and I was feeling so low that I just needed to get away from it all,” continued Locomotion. “I didn't have anywhere particular in mind, just...wherever my legs took me. Eventually, I wound up right at the top of this very hill, where I could just sit and be alone with my thoughts – until Uncle Steamer and Max Pressure found me, that is.” He chuckled wryly at the solemn memory. “I still come up this way sometimes when I need time to think, or if I'm finding life difficult, or if I just want to be alone. It's kinda like my own personal 'thinking spot', if you like.”

“Yes, I can see why,” mused Hornette, noting the faint outline of a train hurtling along the main line towards the mountains. “I can just about make out the railway line from here. I really do feel for you, though,” she added sympathetically, “having to face so much grief so young.”

You've no idea... “Well...it happens to the best of us,” said Locomotion, pushing the ominous thoughts out of his head. “You get used to it after a while.”

“I'd rather not,” grinned Hornette wryly. “I think I've had enough troubles to last me my whole life.” Secretly, she was surprised at how lightly she seemed to be taking it; a month ago, the mere thought of her own struggles would have been enough to drag her down, and Locomotion would invariably have to lift her spirits again, but now she seemed much better able to brush them off and enjoy the present. Her train of thought promptly halted as she finally registered the taste of the apple fritter she was eating. “Mmm,” she remarked. “These fritters are really lovely.”

Locomotion blushed with pride. “Thanks,” he smiled. “I made them myself only this afternoon, with some of the honey you made.”

Hornette gaped in amazement. “Wow – and there was I wondering how you managed to buy them in such a short timespan! How did you make them so good?”

“I'd taken lessons from Applejack. I've had a taste for apple fritters ever since I was a yearling, and one day, when I was about nine, Mum decided to see if we could make them at home,” Locomotion remembered. “I was far from satisfied at first, 'cause the fritters we made were nowhere near as good as the Apple Family could make them; so in the end, Mum and Dad asked Applejack if she could teach me personally. She did a lot better than that,” he chuckled; “within the space of a couple of months, she was teaching me how to make all sorts of stuff from fritters to fruit bread.”

“And taught you really well, if these are anything to go by,” admired Hornette. “I bet you'd have made a wonderful chef.”

Locomotion could only chuckle at Hornette's unintentional flirting. “Well, thanks, but I'd be much happier on the footplate of a steam engine than in front of a stove,” he answered modestly. “Besides, it's not like my Cutie Mark has anything to do with working in a restaurant.”

“Yeah, I suppose not. Although that reminds me,” added Hornette with a sheepish half-smile, “I don't think I ever asked how you got your Cutie Mark in the first place.”

“Ah well – better late than never, I guess,” quipped Locomotion. His expression softened as he dug into the deepest recesses of his memory, trying to picture the events of his foalhood. “I was kinda unique among my peers in...well, several ways, but the age at which I got my Cutie Mark was one of them,” he explained. “Most ponies get them anywhere between about...six or seven and their mid teens – apart from Caramel who got his as late as nineteen; but I got mine at eighteenmonths!”

“Only eighteen months old?” repeated Hornette incredulously.

“I know, it's incredible – and a bit farcical as well,” replied Locomotion wryly. “Me being young and autistic, as soon as I saw it, I just went into a meltdown because it was far too new for me. Took Mum a good few days to calm me down and help me come to terms with it.”

Hornette smiled awkwardly, trying not to laugh at the image of a baby Locomotion frenetically trying to lose his Cutie Mark. “So how did you get it?” she asked, pulling herself together.

“Well, we'd been in Ponyville for about a month and a half, and already my new playschool was proving way better than anywhere in Coltwick. That said, I still kept myself to myself most of the time; but there was one colt there, I can't remember who it was...I think it was either Snips or Snails, one or the other...he was having problems with the wooden railway set they had there.”

“What sort of problems?”

Locomotion smirked. “Well, it was the same brand as what Elli and I used to own, and there was about four or five times more of it – more track, more bridges, more points, greater variety of engines and rolling stock...and the best he could do was a simple circle! Mind you, neither of them had very good imaginations,” he went on, “and neither did they have the box lid artworks to steer them in the right direction. Eventually, I saw what was going on and thought, 'Right, step to one side, mate, and let me show you how it's really done' – and boy, did I show 'em! Even Cheerilee didn't expect me to do much more than a figure of eight; so you can imagine how blown away she was when instead I came up with a massive main line in miniature!” A broad, gleeful grin spread across his face as he listed the features of his fantasy railway; “It was laid out in a U-shape around the room, with a terminus at one end and a balloon loop at the other; it had engine sheds, signals, cranes, passing loops, marshalling yards, wagon tipplers, carriage sidings, turntables, several intermediate stations along the way...it even had a branch line to a quarry!”

“Wow,” breathed Hornette. “I bet your parents were amazed too, when they saw what you'd built.”

“They sure were. When Mum came to pick me up at the end of the day, she had to sit down she was so overcome with emotion. It was around then that my Cutie Mark appeared,” finished Locomotion, “and yeah, I might have been a bit traumatised by it, but once I'd learned to accept it...” He sighed heartily, feeling a wave of wistful nostalgia as he gazed up at the stars. “...well...from then on, I knew that my life was with the railways.”

Hornette smiled softly as she paused to let the information sink in. “That was a beautiful story, Loco,” she whispered at last. “I really am honoured that you should share it with me – and for taking me to such a sacred spot of yours.”

Locomotion returned the smile in kind. “I could say the same about having you for a friend,” he murmured fondly.

There was a long pause, not an awkward silence with one struggling to think of what to say to the other, but the calm, blissful, intimate sort where no words were needed – just warm, gentle affection as blue eyes stared into green. For a fleeting moment, the whole world seemed to fade from existence, and even the soft chirping of crickets and the hooting of distant owls did little to break them out of their trance.

“Uh...Hornette...” stammered Locomotion after a while.

“Yes?” asked Hornette softly.

The red unicorn fell silent again. He couldn't remember what he was about to say he was so lost in her eyes – in fact, he wasn't even sure he knew what to say in the first place. His gaze briefly drifted down towards their plates before he managed to gently coax the words out of his mouth, “...um...do you want that last fritter?” It wasn't quite what he wanted to say, but it was good enough, he thought as he nudged it over with his hoof.

Hornette looked down at the fritter, visibly touched and blushing deeply, and then back at Locomotion with a warm smile. “Aww, thank you, Loco,” she said gratefully. “That's really sweet of you.”

Locomotion smiled back shyly. Perhaps this date wasn't such a bad idea after all.

The rest of the evening went by like a dream for Locomotion and Hornette. After finishing their picnic and packing everything away, they left their basket under a nearby tree while they went for a quiet stroll. The milky white light of the moon seemed to smile down on them as they drifted through a field of flowers, which provided a good deal of bliss for Hornette as she admired their delicate beauty. In her distraction, she didn't even notice Locomotion pick a fair-sized daisy, and only when his soft blue magical aura drifted into view above her forehead did she see him thread it into her mane. She gazed up at it in surprise, and then at Locomotion who only smiled bashfully in response. Looking back up at the flower in her hair, the young changeling could only smile back fondly; it made her feel so much prettier than she ever thought she could be.

A little further on, their path took them alongside a brook some way up the hillside. Locomotion had rarely ever been up this way before, but he had heard tales from Fluttershy and Big Macintosh of what a romantic spot it could be after dark, and now he could see why – or at least he could if he wasn't lost in Hornette's eyes again. Not looking where he was going, his right hind hoof came a bit too close to the edge, causing part of the bank to collapse beneath his weight; yelping with shock, he keeled over and disappeared into the brook with a loud splash. Overcome with fear and concern, Hornette crouched down low and frantically scanned the waters, praying that Locomotion was alright, but soon let out a yelp of her own as a sodden red pair of arms reached around her withers and pulled her in as well! Her alarm quickly turned to mischievous mirth as she finally realised that Locomotion, having recovered quite quickly, had turned his misfortune into a game; and as soon as she resurfaced and found him struggling to keep a straight face, she began splashing him playfully. The red stallion cheekily splashed back, and both teenagers continued to attack each other until finally they came together in a soggy embrace, laughing so hard that tears came out of their eyes.

Their playful water fight over, they climbed back onto the bank to resume their walk. Surprisingly, Hornette's mane and tail seemed to dry out like ducks' feathers, even if they did come out a little bedraggled; whereas Locomotion was so drenched that he had to shake himself dry, much to the changeling's amusement. But the most memorable moment from that evening, the one they both knew would stay with them for the rest of their days, was when they paused for a rest at the top of the hill. As they sat and gazed up at the stars, Hornette chanced a sidelong glance at Locomotion, who bore a neutral, thoughtful expression as he seemed to ponder over something. An inexplicable feeling of boldness came over her, and she wrapped her left hoof around his right, causing him to look down at it in confusion. Lifting his gaze again, he noticed a soft, yearning gleam of affection in her eyes that filled him with a warm, fuzzy happiness, the likes of which he had never felt before. Finally, the two teenagers leaned in and nuzzled each other softly, purring and nickering as they shared breath.

It was nearly eleven o'clock when Locomotion and Hornette arrived home, tired but happy. They had enjoyed their evening a great deal, and even their unexpected dip in the brook had only added to the experience, despite necessitating a quick shower before they turned in.

Locomotion stepped out of the bathroom, suppressing a yawn. “Well,” he murmured, “that was some date, eh Hornette?”

“It sure was,” agreed Hornette. She had already been in the shower, and had spent the last few minutes sitting patiently outside while Locomotion had his. “Maybe...maybe we should do this more often.”

“Yeah, maybe,” conceded Locomotion with a broad smile. Secretly, he was a little unsure how his uncle would take it; but he wasn't about to let a tiny detail like that spoil his and Hornette's good moods. “Let's just hope I don't fall into another stream by mistake,” he added cheekily. “That could have easily put a literal 'damper' on the whole thing!”

Hornette giggled a little at his wit. “Don't be so silly, Loco,” she chided heartily. “It's not like you did it on purpose. Besides, you did look kinda funny when you shook all that water out of your fur.”

Locomotion smirked and rolled his eyes; but inwardly, he couldn't help laughing with her as the memory flashed through his mind. “Ah well,” he went on, sobering up as he remembered the time, “I suppose I'd better turn in now – don't wanna be late for work tomorrow. You sure you don't want a story tonight?”

“I don't think I'll need one, after all that.”

“Fair enough.” Locomotion was a little disappointed, but deep down he was so happy to see Hornette growing so resilient that he didn't mind too much. “I'll probably be out long before you wake up, but Sweetie-Belle should be here around ten o'clock to see how you're doing. If you get into trouble, just give Mum a ring. Is that alright?”

“That's fine,” answered Hornette.

“Good. I guess I'll see you tomorrow evening then.”

“You too – oh, and Loco...?”

“Yes, Hornette?”

There was a brief pause – and then, like a tidal wave over a desert island, Locomotion felt a huge flurry of emotions sweep over his heart, his fur standing on end as a small shiver coursed down his spine, causing him to freeze with startled pleasure. Hornette, herself overcome by affection, had planted a soft kiss on his cheek, and was now gazing at him with the softest, warmest smile he had ever seen. “Thank you,” she whispered in a loving tone. “That was the best night I've ever had in all my life. Just...thank you.”

Gingerly, Locomotion placed a hoof against his cheek where she had kissed him. If emotions translated into magic like they did with changelings, he thought, then this had to be far more powerful even than the Elements of Harmony. “Goodnight, Hornette,” he whispered back, a touched smile adorning his own expression.

“Goodnight, Loco.” Hornette watched as the red unicorn plodded slowly back to his room with a dreamy sigh, and let loose one of her own as she closed the door and slipped into her bed. She couldn't understand what she was feeling right now, but neither did she care – all she cared about was the deep happiness in her heart, like nothing could upset her ever again.

“Oh, Loco,” she thought aloud, hugging Prairie close to her chest and purring with bliss as sleep began to take hold of her. “You're so good to me.”

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