• Published 15th Jun 2018
  • 499 Views, 27 Comments

Redux: The Harbinger's Oath - Ringtael



Twilight's been having odd dreams for months now. Snaps and flashes of a life she doesn't remember, places she';s never been, but thers's something consistent in the dreams. The stallion that isn't a pony she knows, but one she remembers.

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Words Aren't Enough

Words Aren’t Enough

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Dear Diary,

Today I learned a very valuable lesson, and it’s one that I’ve already learned before, but got ‘gobsmacked’ with all over again, as Max put it. Learning that you should always consider what your friends have to say was hard to get through again, but at least Max wasn’t terribly furious... For most of the day... It really couldn’t have been much worse... Oh! I’ve gotten ahead of myself now. I really should start with the part where I messed up, but… Well, I already apologized to Max, so I guess it’s not as bad to just write it down… I don’t know, it just feels so much sillier when I know it’s going to be on paper…

Ah, well here goes nothing…

The morning started out a little rough since Max woke up before I did, which was not a part of the plan. He was supposed to be dozing off until I came back to get him around eleven fifteen when the girls and I were supposed to be prepared, but nooo. Mr. Cutie Pants just had to be giving me the coziest, lovingest little look he could wear when I opened my eyes. The smile that split my lips was natural, and it would’ve been a lie to say that the one on Max’s face was out of place. We met for a brief kiss, but settled on having a better one after coffee since we were both eager to go get our morning mugs.

I finally managed to convince Max to take the first shower, but I didn’t tell him that I was only being so vehement about it so I could practice the Transmogrification Spell before Human Day was slated to begin in earnest. After a few tries and a lot of little tweeks, I managed to make my fur disappear, turn my mane the same shade as Max’s hair, make my ears pop out of the side of my head like a weirdo, and turn myself off-whitish. I really didn’t like the look of dark brown clashing against my eyes, so I turned my hair back to normal and examined myself in the mirror again. I mean, I didn’t look bad, but I kind of just looked like… The Human version of myself. Yup. Yeah. Yep.

I’m dumb, but it’s okay to be dumb sometimes. The reason I got caught looking like a Human in the first place was because I took too long looking at myself in the mirror, not paying attention to when Max walked into our room. When his towel dropped, so did my gaze, along with his voice. “... Twilight?”

It just dangled.

Max snatched his towel off of the floor and covered himself, his face flushing. “Twilight, is that you? ‘Cause I’m really not finding it funny.”

I blinked. “Um… Wait, funny?

“... No, you’re not that kind of woman.” He sighed, closing the door behind him as he secured the towel around my prec- his lower half. “Look, Cherry… Can you just turn back? Please?”

It wasn’t hard to revert back to normal, but when I approached Max, he shied away from me, not saying anything. There was a hurt look in his eyes that told me that Applejack had been right: Human Day was a mistake, and it had been hit in the wings before it could fully take off. I just wanted to make Max feel better, so I said, “Amour, I’m so sorry, I-I… I just thought seeing another Human might-” He placed a single finger on the tip of my horn.

“Humans don’t have horns. Or hooves.”

“... Oh.”

The kiss he placed on my temple was little more than a brushing of his lips, the warmth of his breath making my fur stand on end in a good way. “Thank you for trying, but I’m gonna take a walk. I love you, Cherry.”

“... I love you too, Amour. Where are you going to go?”

“Not far. I’ll stay in town.” I held his arm, but he shrugged me off, shaking his head. “I’m sorry, Twi, just… My heart hurts.”

“I can kiss that away...” I murmured.

“Don’t kiss open wounds; it’s unhygienic and bad for your health.”

That got a little smile out of me until I saw just how hollow Max’s eyes were. “... Amour?”

“Yeah?”

“... You’re not okay.” I felt my hands start to shake uncontrollably, worry gripping my heart as I cast a truth spell. “What’s wrong, Amour?”

Max gave me an odd look and a disarming smile. “Twi, I’m okay, I’m… It’s hard to put into words.”

My spell went off hard. “Please don’t lie to me.” I requested quietly.

“Twilight, I’m not lying-”

“Yes, you are! Please stop!”

“How do I prove I’m not lying?” He asked, his face falling as flat as his tone.

“By not doing it!” I urged.

“Great, I’ll just go back to doing the thing I was doing so you can say that I was not doing it.”

I set my jaw and stomped a hoof. “Max, just let me help! We can get through this-” Max leaned in and glared me down. “... Together.”

“Twilight Sparkle: Leave me alone. Not even for the full day. Just let me have some fuckin’ space, yeah?” He muttered in a low, even tone, brokering no arguments.

“... Promise you’ll be sa-” He jerked away from me and I flinched. When I looked back at him, another hurt look was on his face. “... Max?”

“... Did you think I was about to hit you?” Max asked softly.

“... Yes?”

Never. Not until the day you make me put my hands on you, Twilight, will I ever willingly cause you harm. That’s not what my love is about. That’s not what this is about.” He came to me with open arms and a slipping towel, but for once my mind veered away from the gutter so I could get a hug from my stallion. “I just want to get out and be alone for a little bit, okay? It just helps.”

I hugged him back softly, just holding him in place. “... You’re lying again.”

How!?” He groaned. “Fuh-king-”

“It hurts when I see you in pain and you won’t let me in.”

“... Oh…”

“I might be naive and foalish sometimes, but you can’t lie to me when you’re hurting Max. You want help.”

“Twilight-”

“If you’re going to say what I think you’re going to say, then I’m going to use a Truth Spell. I don’t need one, but I will use one.”

He pulled away and looked at me angrily. “The truth is the truth from whatever angle you look at it, Twilight. Stop searching for straws to grasp at so you can turn this around on me.”

I gaped before glowering at him. “You think I’d stoop that low!?”

“Well, I didn’t think you’d try and turn into a Human and we saw that step!”

“Don’t raise your voice at me!”

You did it first.”

“Two wrongs don’t make a right!”

“One wrong is a wrong any-fuckin’-way.”

“I was trying to help!

“You tried, you failed; let’s drop it and get over it already.”

Avoiding your problems doesn’t solve them.

“Dear God, someone fuckin’ shoot me.” Max mumbled under his breath.

I gave him my sternest look, which earned me a look in turn. “Maximus Kinkaid-”

“Call me fuckin’ Kinkaid again, woman. Try my fuckin’ patience.”

“And…? What exactly? You’ll do what?

Max glared at me before he went off to get dressed. I decided to leave him alone instead of niggling him further since nothing good would come of it. My anger kept me from ogling him, thankfully, because I’m sure that would have turned into yet another thing to squabble over. I didn’t understand why Max was so resistant to just take a helping hand before I realized that Applejack was practically the same way, and had proven it many times over by just being as stubborn as Max. Neither of them would be able to see reason without a like-minded pony to set them straight, so when I put together the ‘plan’, I stood next to the door and waited for Max to get done being dressed so I could talk to him.

Then he climbed down from the balcony because he didn’t want to talk to me…

I ran over and watched him walk away from me without even going downstairs for breakfast and that was pretty unfortunate. Seeing Max upset again over something I did was more than enough to make me sad, but I just got through my Morning Meandering as usual and answered Spike’s questions to the best of my abilities. While I didn’t like that Max just turned his back on me, I slowly understood why he did it more and more. I honestly doubted that he even knew that there was something wrong in his heart, so I decided to ask Spike if he ever knew what he was really feeling when he was down and didn’t want to talk since guys are weird. Spike is also weird, and he wasn’t really able to articulate enough to elaborate on any of what he told me, such as, ‘I just feel like I wanna be alone and throw stuff at ponies that don’t leave me alone.’, which was all well and good since I knew to stand away from Max now. I still had a problem, but I also knew to try and catch whatever he was going to throw since it shouldn’t be something too big.

Without being able to cajole or needle Max until he just spilled out whatever he could put into words, there wasn’t really a way I knew of to make a stallion talk. There was no point in asking Rarity since she was going to tell me to either assert myself, which I didn’t think would solve anything, or give him… Snacks, shall we say. She would want me to fill him up with snacks, and I don’t think having a full tummy and empty nutshells scattered around would do him much good, so I thought some more about who to ask. Then I realized that dumb can strike twice in one day, if not thrice, and picked the kindest Pony I knew that could crack any emotional barrier! I mean, Fluttershy had already helped me get through to Max once, and if her idea about changing Max into a girl so he could come be included in the group as a friend rather than just as my coltfriend, then why wouldn’t he be a lot happier?

I had Spike send a note ahead of me so I wouldn’t spook Fluttershy or any of her animals when I came over, but I actually caught her on the way to my house with Lupa by her side and Angel riding on her head. “Fluttershy! I was just coming to look for you!”

She waved from aways down the road and I just teleported over instead of running because Unicorns don’t run. It’s still kind of funny to my Mom and I that the stallions in our family have been military stallions for generations, but they’ve all been Unicorns. It’s not unheard of for Unicorns to join the Guard; it’s just that we have to train a lot harder to get anywhere unless we get fast-tracked to an officer position. It makes a lot of the other Races and the other Pony Clans kinda mad because we get the good jobs, but the test scores don’t really lie…

Anyway, I met up with Fluttershy and told her that Human Day had gone down in fire and flames when Max had surprised me while I was trying to get my Human appearance put together, and she comforted me like a good friend. I didn’t know that I needed to cry, but when Fluttershy sat me down and put my cup of tea on the table instead of handing it to me, the little faux pas was enough to poke a hope in the tape I had covering the leaks in my heart, making me spill everything in just a few short minutes.

Everything from how disappointed I was to see that Max didn’t initially smile at the lengths I’d go for him to be comfortable to the pain in my heart that echoed in from the ache in his eyes was included in my soliloquy. I told her about the argument and paraphrased for a lot of it, but I got the gist of what Max and I wanted to say out onto the table and Fluttershy let me cry away today’s frustration because she’s a real sweetheart, and if there’s a sweeter heart out there than hers, then I’ll be indubitably shocked.

Once I was just sniffling and had blown my nose once or twice, Fluttershy asked, “Twilight, do you understand why Max was upset?”

No, and that’s the problem! He won’t talk to me!”

“... Maybe he already told us what the problem was and we just didn’t listen…” She replied cryptically.

“It’s not like I don’t practically tune out the world when he opens his mouth, Fluttershy! It’s embarrassing how many things I miss because Max is talking!”

“... So you don’t remember the way he struggled to open up to us about all the horrible things that happened to him on Earth?”

He still got through it!

Fluttershy gave me a sad look. “He was probably hoping that he wouldn’t have to do it again.”

“Then what do I do to help him, Fluttershy?” I groaned.

“... You take a step back,” she whispered.

“... What?”

“If you love somepony, sometimes you have to let them go and get hurt or heal on their own. It’s hard to stand by when a friend is hurting, but… We already tried getting Max to talk about his feelings. We succeeded. Here we are.”

“... So I’m just supposed to… Step back?

Possibly my favorite Pegasus of all time nodded slowly. “Max is different. If he was a mare, I’d tell you to bring him his favourite food and admit that you were wrong to call him a liar when he wasn’t aware that he wasn’t telling the truth, and if he was a stallion… Well, we know Rarity and Applejack have more experience with them, but I don’t think Rarity would know what to do with a stallion like Max.”

I made a noise of displease and whinnied weakly. “... I’ll go ask my Auntie Fleur about what she would would do. She’s the smartest mare I know when it comes to stallions.”

“Fleur?” Fluttershy asked interestedly.

I nodded. “Yes, Fleur de Lis.”

Th-The By-Chance Model!?” Fluttershy gasped. “C-Can I come with you!? I’m such a huge fan!”

There wasn’t really a reason to say no. “I’m sure Auntie Fleur would like to meet another Fleur.”

She smiled and gave me a nice hug. “Oh, I’m so excited! I didn’t know you were related to my extended family!”

I hugged her back and giggled, a little, my heart lightening as we changed the topic. “Well, Fleur’s just a really good friend of my Mom’s, and Uncle Fancy was one of Dad’s old guard buddies.”

“Still, it’s such a small world, isn’t it?”

I gave her a smile as we let each other go. “It really is. Do you want to see if the otherwise Pony in our circle is busy, or do you want to head to Canterlot now?”

“Oh, let me leave Lupa, Bearett, and Angel in charge so I don’t have to hurry back! And I’ve got to grab my limited edition, mint condition Fleur de Lis carrier case!”

Right.” I said amusedly.

While Fluttershy rushed around to get her stuff done before we got going, I looked around and spotted a new vase that Fluttershy had probably had to buy because of her darn rabble-rousers. As much as I like animals, I prefer the ones that don’t run around your house and knock everything over, thank you very much. Owlowiscious had always been pet enough for me, though I was doubting that Max would like a pet in general. It’s not that he didn’t seem the type to me, it’s just that I was a little afraid of giving him something that he might eat.

Once my bestest friend had her little makeup kit, we walked to the Train Station and chatted about how nice it was to get out of Ponyville with just the two of us. Rarity generally monopolizes a lot of Fluttershy’s time, so I don’t really get one-on-one moments like those with her, so I was glad to get the chance to spend a little bit of my day with her. Don't get me wrong: I like spending time with all of my friends, but there aren’t many things that Rainbow and I can talk about, Pinkie and I should avoid baking together at all costs, and there’s little I can do with Rarity other than gossip about what little I cared to know of around Ponyville. Applejack, however, always has a story to tell about something or other and could weave a tall tale like nopony else, even if she couldn't sell the facts for a spare bean curd. She’s actually quite the intellectual if you talk about a subject she knows something about or wanted to learn more of at some point. We’d actually gone and had quite a few long conversations over the benefits of using fish over manure as plant food since fish don’t have any feelings. They’re like plants; sometimes they’re just something in the way, and the sea monsters in the oceans proved that fish got worse the bigger they got.

Quick Aside/History Lesson!

{Ponies don’t like fish and nopony really knows why.1 We love most living creatures, but when it comes to those little scaly, slimy little monsters, nopony minds if a few hundred end up floating down the river. As long as they aren’t stinking up Ponyville, that is. The myth behind it is that there was once a long lost race of Ponies that were banished into the sea by something or other (Nopony can ever get a straight answer), and thus the Kelpies were born. Apparently the Kelpies loved living underwater so much they started trying to convince normal Ponies to join them, promising that they’d love it too.2 As it would turn out in the myth, living underwater is hard if you’re not a Kelpie. Really hard. When ponies started showing up less alive than they were when they went in the water, everypony stopped swimming in the ocean to avoid getting drowned by the malevolently pleasant Kelpies.3

1There are a lot of reasons to dislike fish, and Ponies don’t usually find them pretty enough to even keep as pets. They really are pretty useless outside of the food-chain.

2Legend says that the Kelpies loved to seduce ponies, especially stallions. It was usually their means of getting somepony into the water.

3Kelpie hospitality was said to be even better than Earth Pony hospitality, which is hard to believe. An Earth Pony stallion will give you the shirt off of his back, even if he’s a thousand miles from home, but Kelpies were said to fulfill every little whim you could come up with to get you into the water.}

Aside/Lesson over!

To carry on with my stupid, stupid day, I was actually having a bit of fun with Fluttershy on the train. We talked about how cute Spike was whenever he got caught staring off into space, or how jumpy Rarity was, even when you knocked on both the front door and the door to the back of her shop before making your presence known. We weren’t bad-mouthing either of them: just sharing a few funny observations that we might or might not share with they themselves later on. It’s not hard to be nice, after all.

Soon enough the train ride was over and Fluttershy managed to convince me to go shopping right after we were done with Auntie Fleur, although my meek arguments against the idea were barely even arguments at all. I didn’t mind blowing a few bits to upgrade my wardrobe like I’d already planned on doing before, and Fluttershy was my preferred shopping partner anyway since she had an eye for fashion like Rarity’s, but one that was far more modest and leaned more toward cute and comely rather than saucy and sexy. By lean, I mean bent at a ninety degree angle and held itself parallel to the ground because Fluttershy doesn’t show off, and there have been times where I’ve been a little embarrassed to be seen out with Rarity in public with her amounts of cleavage. The sad thing was that Fluttershy couldn’t hide her chest, even if she tried any harder while Rarity wears push-up bras with a D-Cup. Flutterbutter won’t tell anypony her cup-size other than Rarity and the other mare she sometimes goes to whenever Rarity’s swamped, but I know that her usual stuff extends down to her sternum and looks pretty uncomfortable, even if it does provide some much needed support.

However, Fluttershy always gets discounts from stallions, so…

Mild envy notwithstanding (Extremely mild, mind you.), It was a lovely day for a stroll with a good friend, even if the morning had been, as Max would say, ‘Shitty like a sewage spout sprung several serious streams, spraying and spurting from seams, slips, spots, and severs.’, which he once used to describe tofu steak according to an errant memory. I found some solace in spending time with a mare who seemed to know just what to do at the moment, even if we were going to another mare who would likely say something along the same lines. It wasn’t until we got to Auntie Fleur’s house that I learned that she’d yet to return from Gryphonia, so I reminded myself to send a letter to tell her that Max was home and that nothing had hurt him, so Diliculum wasn’t going to be a problem.

Without an Aunt to talk to at the moment, I settled for an Uncle who’d always been rumored to know more than he should. Fluttershy and I talked it over with the butler who’d answered the door, and he was actually very helpful and offered to give us another stallion’s perspective on the matter, so I gave him the basics and he told me that Max was just being sensitive and that he’d probably appreciate a ‘special favor’ to help him calm down a little. Everypony knew what he was talking about, but it’s not like he was crude about it, so it wasn’t as awkward to hear. It’s different when it’s coming from a mare, but stallions can be kinda creepy when it comes to sex. It’d be like Pinkie Pie talking about having babies from personal experience: some things just don’t sound right.

I hoped that Uncle Fancy would have a better idea than a favor or snacktime, but it was either one of those or do nothing so far, so I waged my bets and follow Groove Chicken to Fancy’s balcony where he was balancing some ledgers while occasionally puffing a pipe. “Sir Fancy Pants, Madam Twilight Sparkle and Fluttershy are here to await your attention.”

“Did you say Twilight, dear friend?” Fancy asked, turning his head and catching a glimpse of me. “Well, I’ll be! If it isn’t my no-good, dirty cheater of a niece!”

I rolled my eyes. “I learned from Dad and he beats you all the time. I beat him sometimes. You’re good, but you’re not Arcana good.”

Fancy had a hearty little laugh and gave me a warm smile, the combination always making that stupid old crush rear its ugly head in the back of my mind. “Are we going to banter all morning, or is my favorite Twilight going to come give her Uncle a hug?”

Giggling, I practically ran over to him while he rose, just like always. “It’s good to see you again, Uncle Fancy! You never come visit me in Ponyville!”

“And you rarely come to see me, and you even know where my house is.” He swept me up in a big, warm hug that smelled like his awesome musky cologne that he’d been wearing for years.

After our hug, I gave him a look. “You act like there’s going to be more than one Library slash tree in a small town.”

“Fair point.” He conceded. “However, I’m sure that this isn’t solely a social visit.” Fancy glanced toward Fluttershy, making me remember that she was there.

“Oh! I’m sorry! Uncle Fancy, this is Fluttershy, one of my best friends. She and I came to talk to Auntie Fleur about some stallion troubles I’ve been having, but we thought a stallion’s advice might be good too.”

“Forgot that horrid Diliculum mare sent her off?” Fancy asked amusedly.

I blushed and cleared my throat. “W-Well… Maybe just a little.”

“Lighten up, my dear little filly. We’ll not hold something like that against you, though I do have to ask out of concern for you as to what stallion troubles you’ve been having.” Fancy said, waiting for me to get everything out in the open and asking a few questions here or there to clarify some things that apparently weren’t making sense. After I was finished, Fancy said, “Twilight… Does… Hmm… How should I ask this…? Has Max told you anything of his past?” I told him what I knew and Fluttershy helped me get through some of the parts that were too bad to talk about without going into detail, but still getting the point across. “... Well, Sparkle. I have good news for you and bad news for you, and you’re not going to be happy about the balance.”

I gave him a worried look. “What do you mean, Uncle Fancy?”

He took off his monocle and picked up his pipe, eyeing it for a few long moments that seemed to stretch on forever. “... Have you teleported Max before?”

“Um… I think so? Do you want me to bring him here? Because I don’t think that’s a good idea.”

“It may save his life, dear niece. It truly might.” Fancy answered gravely.

Max was on the balcony with us within two shakes of a lambs tail, nearly walking into a chair as he jolted and whirled around looking at his surroundings. “What the- The fuck?”

“Max, it’s okay.” Fluttershy said softly.

He spun around again and laid eyes on Fluttershy, Fancy, and myself. “... You gotta be fuckin’ kiddin’ me, Cherry. Seriously?

I looked down, but then Uncle Fancy cleared his throat. “I believe I’d appreciate your presence in my home a little more if you softened your tone.”

“Trust me, ‘Stachio, I don’t wanna fuckin’ be here. Show a guy the door and he’ll be on his way.”

Instead of showing Max the door, Fancy gently took Fluttershy and I by the shoulders and showed us to his study, which was the room connected to that particular balcony. I think there were two others on the house, though one could technically be called a deck. Either way, when Fancy made me leave instead of Max, I was ready to tear his tail in half and give him another one, but those darn baby-blue eyes of his shut me up and made me wait with Fluttershy, the glass door and floor-to-ceiling windows being the only thing separating me from the source of the detached ache I was feeling near my heart. I knew that the pain had to be Max’s because it was tempered by anger, and I don’t anger easily most of the time.

Although Fancy told me to stay put, that didn’t mean that I was obligated to just standby and do nothing. I’d been tempted to cast an Eavesdropping Spell so I could hear what they were saying, but but when Fancy started talking, Max nearly interrupted him until Fancy raised a hand, stopped talking, and said a few words before stopping. The look of confusion on Max’s face was soon replaced by a look of pure defiance and resentment; ice cold and harder than stone. He said four words that I couldn’t make out, but when Fancy replied, ice turned to fire and Max glared at me through the glass, which was pretty awful because I didn’t know why he was even madder.

Max didn't take his eyes off me until Fancy stepped in front of him, which was a move I was really thankful for. I wasn’t nearly as thankful for Max trying to leave, being stopped, and then throwing a punch at a former Guard Captain. My poor, confused, hurting coltfriend didn’t stand a chance as Fancy took him down effortlessly like he’d done with a thousand stallions that’d had one too many and made him stay down. Max put up a struggle, but he just wasn’t a match for a trained guard, let alone a former Captain, and that wasn’t even mentioning the height and weight advantage Fancy had. Or the fact that we’d still yet to go and get him toughened up, now that I think about it. Wow, Max makes bad decisions...

Fluttershy and I rushed outside in time to hear Max shouting his head off. “-ucking cock-swallowing blue-balled faggot-fucking dick-fucking shitstained-” Fancy pinned his arms above his head and shut his mouth for him, which was probably for the best.

“Twilight, Fluttershy: go back inside.” Uncle Fancy said calmly.

“Mmrmrm!”

I looked at Max then back at Fancy. “Wh-What’s going on!?”

“Max is facing a hard truth and denial is easier than acceptance. Go back inside, fillies.”

Fluttershy started pulling me back in and gave me a wink as she did so, making sure that I went in first so she could follow me and close the door. Kinda. As little as one might suspect it, Fluttershy has a really sneaky side to her that usually leads to tasty gossip, so after she closed the door, she pushed it just a little to open it up again, and thus we were officially in the know, and I couldn’t be blamed for using dirty, sleuthy Magic because Fluttershy is cleverer than me.

“Max, I’ll ask you this one more time, and we both know that a Truth Spell isn’t something that can be easily defeated. Are you suicidal?” Fancy lifted his hand from Max’s mouth and got spit in his eye for his trouble.

Fuck. Off.” Max spat hatefully.

Fancy wiped the saliva off of his face with a handkerchief. “My wife resisted too, at first. She didn’t want help; didn’t think she needed it. Fleur thought that as long as she did her job and kept her mission in mind, she’d be fine. She nearly died before I sealed the lacerations she gave herself, my lad. Would you put Twilight through that pain?”

“What part of fuck off is so unintelligible to you mutant fuckin’ animals!? Leave. Me. ALONE!

Slowly, Fancy tugged the loose sleeves of Max’s shirt up and snorted. “I see you’re handling your troubles well. Turning the internal into the external to fight a battle you can see, no?”

Ya don’ fuckin’ know me, yeh don’ own me, and I an’t none a’ ya business, so bugger. OFF!!!

Fancy slapped him hard enough to rock Max’s world, and Fluttershy had to stop me from going out there and making good on my desire to tear his darn tail in half. Nopony hits my gosh darn Max and gets away with it, but apparently Fancy’s tactic worked because Max calmed visibly, though that might have just been the mild head trauma he’d probably just received. After a few minutes for Max to get his bearing, Fancy let him up and offered him a hand. “Max, the only way that you can get over this is by confronting it. Suicide is a chasm that you cannot walk around. It is one of the single most back-breaking burdens a stallion can carry because he carries it alone, and there’s no way for anyone else to help with what you feel inside. These wounds you give yourself only leave ugly scars; marks of pain that you don’t have to bear. You seek your own blood, but you refuse to crack your heart open completely and have your moment, and I’m sure that you’re certain that your heart is beyond saving. You are wrong. You are foalish. You are an idiot. I see within you a stallion worth my time; one that my words can reach. Within you I see a warrior not unlike myself, but there are a thousand differences in the battles we’ve fought. However, be that as it may, a wise word from an older stallion isn’t something a stallion such as yourself would ignore, so I bid you to hear me now, Max: Killing yourself is not the answer. Self-harm is not the answer. Isolation is not the answer. Surrounding yourself with ponies who care about you is a piece. Letting others help bear your burden is another. Finally, making your own peace with the tragedies of your life, letting go of the past, will bring you more happiness than you could ever know.”

Max stared at him before making a rude gesture. “I stood. I listened. Kill yourself. I’m out.” And with that, he stormed off of the balcony, but he paused when he went to open the door and it closed. His eyes went from the handle to my tear-streaked face, then to Fancy.

He let himself into the house, but when I went to say something, no words came out. Nothing I could say was going to fix Max wanting to die… For the second time that day, Max glared at me, but this time there was contempt in his eyes. Misplaced though it was, it was there and it slapped Fluttershy when she was hit with his gaze as well. “Neither of you say a fuckin’. Word.” He snarled. When Fluttershy and I didn’t say anything, he walked out of the room and slammed the door behind him hard enough to rattle decorations, paintings, and skew a particularly nice portrait that I really didn’t care about at the moment. When Max left, I didn’t start wailing and bawling or anything. I just… I felt empty. I felt like I’d failed Max when he’d needed me most by slapping him in the face with Human Day and then betraying his trust.

“... Twilight…” Fluttershy whispered.

I cleared my eyes. “I’m going after him.”

“That’s a bad idea…”

I looked at her, my resolve as strong as my love. “If I give up on Max, then who the buck does he have left?”

Fluttershy dropped her gaze after a few seconds and I turned on one hoof to leave, but Uncle Fancy caught me in his foyer before I could get out of the house. “Sparkle! Twily! Wait!”

I paused long enough for him to catch up and started as soon as he stopped. “Max is in pain and angry. Now’s not the time for talking, Uncle.”

“Then we’ll walk and talk. I assume you have a Clairvoyance Spell already going?”

I nodded. “We’ll find him soon enough.”

“I daresay we’ve made a proper mess of things, my dear filly.” He sighed.

“Yup.”

“I do apologize for my part in this mess-”

“I brought him here. I should have left him alone when it was manageable.”

“... What do you mean by that, Sparkle?”

“I can feel what Max is feeling. He’s not feeling anything.”

“That sounds as though it should be a glorious factoid.”

“It means that he’s detaching and might not be safe to be around much longer. Max carries weapons on him at all times and he’s already proven that he’ll lash out at a pony that isn’t me.”

“Then it would seem as though we’ve made a serious blunder.” He muttered gravely.

“Max isn’t that kind of pony. Not yet.” I said darkly, not quite knowing why I was saying what I was saying until the words left my mouth and memories pieced themselves together, fragments of wishes and dreams that had never come to fruition. “In a different life, Max and I were married. We dated a long time before that. There was a point in Max’s life where he changed and never really came back, and that was when he went to Gryphonia on the same mission Celestia tried to send him on. He killed somepony for the first time there and I always knew that life would have been easier if I’d saved him before then. That’s why Diliculum sent Fleur after Max. Why I sent her. Max is a pony that needs redemption, but we can shorten his road by catching him now.”

I’d sped up as I walked and now was practically trotting along, trying to find Max before he did something dumb since it was a day for dumbness to strike like a thunderstorm. Sadly, I found him in the center of a crowd in a shouting match with two guards, a blond stallion that I didn't recognize from behind, and a few mares that were standing next to the blonde stallion. Fancy and I wasted no time in barging our way through the crowd with my Uncle in the lead so we would actually make progress. Once we were in the middle of the crowd, Max’s voice became much clearer.

“Are fucking kiddin’ me!? This prick and his little whores just threw their fuckin’ trash at me!

My blood ran cold.

One of the guards scoffed, not having noticed that anypony had entered the circle. “He’s a Prince and you’re not even a Pony. Where do you think you are, Monkey? Giraffrica?” He and the other guard chortled as the one who hadn’t spoken shook some shackles.

“Are you gonna make this difficult, Beanpole? ‘Cause I saw you get slapped by one of the mares and almost fall over!

So many of my kinsponies just… They laughed. The awful things they said…

“A stallion getting slapped around by a mare? How quaint.” I heard somepony say.

“I’d like to give the gal a pat on the back! Extra-Ponies don’t belong in Canterlot of all places!”

“Psh, I rather suspect he stole those rags!”

“If he shakes any harder, he’s going to start an earthquake! Peasants! Especially the Muck-Blood, Nomags. You’d think they’d learn to stay in their own Tartaric countries and leave the good stuff to the Ponies who deserve it.”

The blonde stallion didn’t seem to care about what was going on anymore so than either of the guards, which is probably why he sounded so bored when he asked, “When are you going to slap shackles on this walking pile of…Ick? Your job is to take out the trash, isn’t it? Garbagepony?

As little as that ninnified little nag didn’t wike being cawwed a bad name, he still followed Prince Blueblood’s orders because he chose the wrong job.

However, everypony present picked the wrong day to be blatant racists. “Enough!!! I will have NO MORE OF THIS!” Heads turned as the founder and primary shareholder largest Real Estate firm in the Western Hemisphere, aforementioned former Guard Captain, Solar Knight, and well-known personal friend of her Royal Majesty Princess Celestia herself strode forth and gave Max an upward nod for some reason. I got an eyeful of the rage on Fancy’s face, and unlike Max, it was super sexy on him, like… Ponies don’t purr, but the memory is a keeper. I wasn’t worried about it at the moment because I was busy being livid myself, and Fancy carried on with, “You absolute dis-graces! All of you. Every. Single. Last. One! This? This is Equestria!? This is the home of Harmony!?” Heads bowed and ponies shuffled their hooves while I kept on muttering to myself. Fancy turned toward the guards and pointed a judicious, carefully placed finger at them. “You. Resign. It’s highly. Advised. Because I already know your names, Dusty Wind; Supreme Scheme. You’d better pack your shit-!” Fancy nearly flew off the handle and calmed himself with a stroke to his mustache, the guards in front on him wide eyes with their tails tucked between their legs. Trembling slightly, he picked up where he left off. “Pack your shit tonight. You will never find work in a major Equestrian city again, and you can thank the hatred in your own hearts for that. You don't deserve Her Majesty’s Seal.Take it. Off.

When Fancy finished speaking, so did I, but I didn’t really plan on saying anything. “Tua
ossa eorum quasi favilla erit, et defluet venas ejus. Et scindite corda vestra et anima, caro tua te resiliet. Tuum erit sanguis eorum coram te: et char. Diliculum judicii est: Black Hole tuae robigo” I had no clue what any of that was supposed to mean, but I did know that I was something that I’d never been before:

Apoplectic.

Celestia later told me about what I’d actually said when I wrote her a letter earlier and
what it meant, and the best translation is: ‘

Your bones will rot and your veins shall wither.

Your flesh you'll rend and your mind shall splinter.

Your blood will char and so shall your sight.

Diliculum’s Judgement: Black Hole Blight.

It honestly sounds about right. And the sad thing? I think I don't think a single Pony besides Fancy, Max, Fluttershy, and myself had enough kindness in their hearts at the moment to avoid the curse. After Fancy and I finished speaking, I doubted that anypony in the crowd was smart enough to know that it wasn’t just some bug going around, being extra mean: it was a Blasphemous Hornet of some kind, though nopony knows why it’s called that. Celestia explained that that the sting marks on Blueblood’s neck look like one, but Blasphemous Hornets don’t have Potent Curse potential. I learned that I and whatever thing I made was both do, and that I was more than willing to use it against dumbbucks who thought Max was inferior to them, thus, my little Bug Buddy was hopping from heckler to hateful heckler. As I came up behind Blueblood and his dimbos (Dim-Bimbos. I thought it was clever.), I cast a speedy little Quicksand spell around their feet and a Creepy Crawly Charm on Blueblood’s mane so it would attract every insect within miles.

I mean, what part of don’t buck with Max is so hard to understand? It’s not a hard concept, yet it’s like some cosmic being goes out of their way to throw adversity and strife his way, and I’m sick of it! I’m the DAMN Vanguard now, and I proved it by teleporting in front of Blueblood, spun around, and gave a one-hoof buck as hard as I could with Magic to boost it to his alfalfa sprout and nightshade berries, which almost got me dirty because he didn’t manage to hold his lunch for much longer after that. I backed away making the same gesture Max had made to Fancy early with both hands, somehow stopping next to Max. Or maybe he walked up to me. Who knows?

… Well he knows, but I’m not going to ask right now, darn it!

Either way, the crowd hurriedly dispersed once two of the most recognizable faces in Canterlot made an appearance on behalf of the alien Ponies just couldn’t seem to accept or even tolerate. Blueblood himself even backed down to Fancy since Blueblood doesn’t actually have much influence or power, which I blame on him being unbearable. Speaking of the Butthole, Blueblood and his cadre of empty-headed, Dummy-Dummy-Big-Fat-Tummies; Just-Bright-Enough-To-Be-Like-Bunnies, blind foals of mares left without Fancy being able to lay into them. Fancy and Blueblood had never gotten along in general, and it was because they were around equal standing, despite the polar calibers of the men.

Whereas Fancy’s power came through respect, self-made wealth, and his own Pony Capital, Blueblood was just some trumped up orphan that had a title because he was a good enough colt when he was young. Fancy made his own name by the sweat of his brow, gouges in his hooves, and his own wit, while Blueblood’s only mentionable accomplishments were simultaneously infuriating everypony he came across while making peaceful ponies wish that they were more violent. Nothing made me sicker to my stomach than a pony who thought they were better than somepony else for any reason. We all put our pants on one leg at a time when we put them on, unless we’re super lazy and use Magic, but we shouldn’t be that lazy.

Once everypony was good was good and gone, Max said, “It wouldn’t have stuck.”

Fancy looked at him and snorted. “Not if I would have had anything to say about it, and I doubt that Celestia herself would have let the guards who arrested you leave with their armor. Max, as a Pony and a former Guard Captain, nothing brings me greater shame than what you’ve been subjected to since you’ve been in Equestria if your reception has been anything like this.”

“For better or worse.” My coltfriend replied, sighing. “Look, Sir-”

“My name is Fancy Pants, my dear lad, and I’ll have to beg your forgiveness for my first impression as well. We Ponies do tend to become a little pushy when it comes to heavy, aching hearts. If you can extend forgiveness unto this sometimes bull-headed old stallion, then I’d happily wipe the slate clean and begin anew.” Uncle Fancy offered him a tight, worried smile.

Max puffed out a breath of air through his nose and cracked a little, genuine smile, extending a hand to Fancy. “Sparse and rare is the man who cares enough to bow his head first. Thank you, Fancy Pants, and if you ever need anything, don’t hesitate to call. And as far as the Shitheads go-”

“They’ll be taken care of in their own time.” I muttered ‘evilly’ according to Max.

How do I know he thought it was evil?

“... Sounded kinda evil there, Cherry,” he replied anxiously.

He winced when I looked at him. “You were already having a bad day and these bucking shit-sained nags thought it was worthy of their time to make your bad day that got worse turn even shittier. Shitty ponies deserve shitty days. You’ve done your best to cope with your surroundings and now your environment is starting to strike out at you. I’ll not abide by it.”

“... Right…” He nodded a few times. I felt a hand on my shoulder and turned to see Fluttershy with her eyes full of tears, but Max was the one who said, “Why don’t we all go find somewhere to get a bite to eat? I skipped breakfast and I should probably eat something.”

“I’d happily host our little group if a home-cooked meal strikes your interest.” Fancy offered.

“B-But…” Fluttershy started.

“It’s okay, Fluttershy.” Max snorted, shaking his head and smiling ruefully. “There’s… I guess it doesn’t hurt to see that Ponies can be just as shitty as Humans. In a way, I kinda needed this. Really proves that sentient life is full of dumbarses and arseholes no matter where you go, which is why you find the smart, kind, and loyal,” He looked at me, Fluttershy, and Fancy in turn with a crooked smile that was more of a smirk, “and keep them close.” His smile faded. “I turned my back on your kindness and consideration this morning, Twilight. I’m-”

I bounced and gave him a quick peck, surprising him. “Apologize to a pony who wasn’t warned against doing what she did. I was told that Human day was a bad idea, and you asked me to leave you alone for a walk that could have been over in a couple of hours for all I knew. I’m sorry I didn’t give you your space, and I don’t hold anything that’s been said today against you, Amour. I love you like the flowers love the morning Sun, and next time we have an argument, let’s agree to wait to resolve it.”

“A little time to cool our heads sounds like the best thing we could come up with. Thank you, and I love you so much, Twilight.” Max took a half step and gave me a light, meaningful hug that didn’t need to last long to get his point across. He didn’t let go as he said, “Fancy-”

“Max, my lad, ponies have evidently been pushing you all day. It’s no surprise that you didn’t take kindly to some old Fogey with a better mustache than your own,” Max touched the scraggly fur on his face, flushing a little, “and a more stylish mane to boot.”

My coltfriend harrumphed. “You’re full of crap, old man. I try to stay clean shaven, but I don’t have anything sharp enough to get a decent shave with.”

Fancy raised a brow. “I’ve a few straight razors I’ve no compunctions parting with. After all, they’re not exactly made for Ponies.”

I let go of Max and he asked, “If you don’t shave with a straight razor, then what do you use it for?”

Fancy blinked. “I couldn’t tell you, honestly. I just like them.”

“Odd, but I dig it.” Max turned to Fluttershy. “Hi, Flutters. Looking good today. Your mane is especially lustrous. Did you change shampoos?”

She tilted her head and her mane fell away from her eye. “... Y-Yes, actually… Th-Thank you for noticing.”

“No problem.” Max said, his mask piercing itself back together before I jabbed him in the ribs. “Ow! What was that for!?”

“You were about to start pretending to be happy.” I stated matter-of-factly. “The ponies near you right now don’t care if your mad or sad at the moment, Max. We just want to know that you’re okay and that you’re going to make it through the day.”

He stared at me.

“She’s right, you know.” Fancy said quietly. “... I’ve my own reasons for my fondness of you, but I wish to see you well, Max. I can sense a kind soul within you, though I see some of my own demons in your eyes.”

Max stared at him.

“U-Um… I-I… I-I j-just…” Fluttershy took a decent breath and said, “I-just-want-my-friends-to-be-happy!”

He turned to her and I saw a tear fall out of his eye while the corners of his lips started trembling.

“Amour?” I asked softly, clearing his tears.

He jolted when I touched him and barked out a laugh that sounded like it was nearly a sob. “Good God, you Ponies can sure take a guy on an emotional roller coaster. I need a fuckin’ drink.” He chuckled, shaking his head and smiling. It was a real, sincere, aching smile that just made me even more confused.

“Maximus?” I asked softly. “If you don’t want to talk about it, then we don’t have to, but why are you crying?”

He sniffled and cleared his eyes again, giving me his biggest smile. “Ainna soul gave a’ rats bloody tail whether Kaid Gadai saw another meal or sunrise on Earth. Not for half a damn decade. Took a Goddamn new planet for people to actually give a fuck for once.” Fancy placed a hand on his shoulder, I hugged him, and Fluttershy probably did something too, but I couldn’t see. “... I wasn’t gonna kill myself. Back on Earth, it woulda been an option, but I got you here, Twilight, and most of the time I just want to keep living so I can keep being around you. Still, I got weak. I let my heart hurt and I let it blind me and worry you all day, but… Human Day, or whatever it was… It wasn’t a mistake, Twilight. Today’s been full of lessons.”

It was on my heart, filling my lungs until it was brimming the back of my throat as I pulled away from him and cupped his cheeks in my hands, clearing his eyes once more, though pointless. “What did you learn?” I have to know! What could you have possibly gotten from this!?

“... I’m worth something.” He murmured, stunning us all into silence. “For the first time in… A while, more than one person wants me alive, and it’s not so I can break my back for ‘em.” Max covered his mouth and barked out a thick laugh/sob, considerable tremors shaking him before he swept my hands away and brought Fancy and Fluttershy in for the hug as well. “Thank you. From the bottom of my heart: Thank you. All of you.”

“Anything for you, Amour.” I murmured lovingly into his warm chest, his heart thudding inside. There was definitely an effort made into infusing a little bit of spare love so that it would amalgamate into my words, making them get into his brain and stick with their love-glue.

… That was a little suggestive…

Moving on, Fluttershy said, “I-I didn’t know you felt like you didn’t have any friends, Max… I-If I would’ve known, I-I would’ve invited you to smoke my tea!”

Max made an odd noise as Fancy said, “As I said before, my reasons for my fondness are my own for the time being, but perhaps once we become closer we can share tales and, if you’re stiff of lip and strong of stomach, a drink or three.”

My coltfriend burst out laughing and asked, “Do you mind if I bring bourbon?”

“Do you have a ten year-old Tenneighsea that you’d like to share, or shall I have the honor of providing the first drink?”

“Ah, sounds like a perfect age, if I’m not mistaken. Isn’t ten a little on the young side for brown?”

“It depends, but I find that the mid-range bourbons are often some of the better ones. Why, there’s a thirty bit brand that I discovered completely by whim and I’ve been serving it to my inner circle during our card games for some months now.”

“Ah, so a cigar bourbon then.” Max answered knowledgeably.

“That depends on what a cigar is, I suppose.” Fancy said amusedly.

“Tobacco leaves cut up and rolled with whole tobacco leaves.”

“... Isn’t tobacco poisonous?”

“I never said Humans were smart creatures. I only smoked marijuana back on Earth.”

“Marijuna?”

“N-Nightcap N-Nip.” Fluttershy answered.

“That’s smokable?” Fancy asked confusedly.

“It hurts, but it’s a good kind of pain. It’s also extremely potent, so one or two good hits would do you just fine.”

“I believe Fleur keeps a stock of it for when her nerves could use some steadying, but I never knew it was that kind of herb.” My Uncle chuckled.

“Do you think she’d mind?” I asked.

“Do you think you could teleport her back and ask her yourself?” Fancy inquired, being a little bit of a butt about it, though it was okay because he was who he was.

I blushed and almost did it then and there before I said, “Do you think you could scry her to see what she’s doing before we do that? I mean, we are in public.”

Fancy ceded top my logic, but we still wanted to make sure that Max was okay, so I held his hand as we walked, and he and Fancy talked more than Fluttershy could have ever hoped to! I’ve never seen two stallions that were so different bond so quickly over stories that were so… Identical. Where Max told stories about his life on the harsh streets of England, Fancy had grown up in the worst town in the whole of Equestria: Slane. Both Max and Fancy lost their parents at an early age, which I didn’t know about Fancy, but the more they talked the more I learned about my Uncle that I’d never even thought to ask about.

My proud, noble Uncle had killed his first Pony when he was seventeen and was sent to Canterlot to be tried by Celestia. Since murder is a capital offence in Equestria, Fancy was either going to be sent to Tartarus to live his days in relative freedom until he died a horrible death at the hands of some demon, or he was going to see the inside of a cell until he just couldn’t go on anymore. However, the reasoning behind Fancy’s crime was justified, in my opinion, which was shared by most Ponies that had common sense.

While working a job for a client, Fancy had been sold out because the client turned out to be a guard who had his hands in business that shouldn’t be going on in Equestria. The guard tried to kill Fancy when he’d finished the job, but Fancy’d had to fight for his life and he even swore to Princess Celestia that he never would have been a guard like the one who’d turned his back on his oaths. Hearing that Fancy was being honest and was truly and genuinely enraged by the fact that somepony who’d sworn to protect and serve made the Princess ask if he’d like a chance to replace the guard he’d killed and take on the full responsibilities of being a Royal Guard, and Fancy, of course, vigorously snatched the opportunity and ran away with it. He ran so hard and so fast that certain things got dragged into his wake, like promotions, investment opportunities that eventually turned into starting a business of his own, and essentially an early retirement.

Max ended up telling Fancy about as much as Fancy had told us about him, and the way their stories seemed to line up was beyond coincidental. Kindred spirits had less in common than Max and Fancy, though the two were like different colors of the same gem with different cuts and polishes. They had some of the same base values, but they were still ponies that walked their own paths that just so happened to intersect at Twilight Junction. I couldn’t really decide to be happy or sad that Fancy had gone through some of the same things Max had gone through, but I did know that I was glad that my misunderstood, misguided, mistreated Amour now had somepony to ask for advice when he needed a shoulder to lean on if I wasn’t strong or knowledgeable enough to help at the moment.

When we got to Fancy’s estate, Max tried to tell my Uncle that he didn’t need the extraneous gifts like the fancy pipe and carrying case, the pocket-watch, normal watch, or the super-duper ornate straight razor, but he did accept a more plain razor that Fancy thought wasn’t really worthy of a man he wanted to groom to become his successor. Max was also press-ganged into taking a nice pipe that he christened with Auntie Fleur’s tea, after which he was much more receptive and smiley about, well… Everything. He’d often pull me in for a hug or a kiss on the cheek and just smile for a moment, which Fluttershy and Fancy thought were cute little moments. After Fancy managed to convince Max to spend the coming weekend in Canterlot so he could see if he wanted to delve into Fancy’s business, I remembered to get him to scry Auntie Fleur so I could bring her back. She was walking at the moment, and she had all her stuff with her, so I teleported her to us.

She made it another step before she whirled around and looked at me. “He disappeared, Twilight, I-”

“Celestia brought him back a couple days ago… I’m sorry, Auntie Fleur... I thought she would have brought you back too since you were going to be with him…” I admitted guiltily.

“Oh. No, I just knew Max wasn’t a Pony, so I knew who to follow. I never introduced myself.” Fleur turned and gave Max a warm smile while he returned it with an amused one of his own. “It’s nice to meet you face to face, Maximus. You know, you and your friend cut quite the figure while strolling through Farrier and the countryside whenever I caught glimpses of you.”

Max inclined his head and smirked. “And so did you, Miss Fleur. I remember you having to leave the Tanned Hide because you attracted a little too much attention.”

Fleur’s face fell and her shoulders slumped. “I was sitting behind you the entire time and you never turned around! Your friend never even glanced at me!”

“I could see you with the metal tankard and I could feel you looking at me. Crimson might not have noticed you until the border, but I visited your room, you know.” Max stuck his tongue out at her.

If Fleur could have been anymore floored, she would have sank through the one she was standing on. “... Mwah?

Max made a kissy face at her. “Mwah!”

She stared at him. “You’ve gotta be kidding me.”

“I figured you were probably there to see if I’d run off while Crimson was napping, but then I did some digging through your stuff and found that note from Fancy saying that Twilight hadn’t mentioned anything about me coming back to him. Friend of a friend is best in the end, right?”

“... I was an Operative… I-I… I won the assassination game against the toughest mentor we had…” Fleur said numbly.

Max shrugged. “I used to get by via not sticking out. Not being heard. Not being seen. I go where I want when the Sun falls, Miss Fleur.”

“I see…” She answered pensively.

“If I wanted to hurt you-”

“What’s your favorite color?” My Aunt interrupted rudely, her tone ice cold and brutal.

Max’s mask slipped on in the blink of an eye and he didn’t seem to react to what she’d said beyond that. Fluttershy’s jaw dropped as she heard the ever-elegant, ever-gracious Fleur de Lis snap at one of her friends for no discernible reason. I was a little upset myself. “Fleur!

She looked at me and raised a brow, but before she could say anything, Max said, “If you want a question answered, then it might behoove you to be a touch less whorsetile about it. The Mane thing is that I feel like poo on your shoes right now.”

“Whorse means Pony on Max’s planet.” I sighed.

“It’d buckin’ better.” Fleur said flatly, glaring at Max.

He turned to Fancy, away from me, before turning back to Fleur. “My favorite color is blue.”

What shade, genius?” She inquired, venom in her tone.

“Royal and navy.”

“Fair enough.” My bi-polar Aunt gave Max a pleasant, friendly smile. “Now what color does Twilight look best in?”

Max’s face stayed the same as he answered with, “She looks good in a nice wine-ish red, a lot of purples darker than her coat, and lavender. Especially lavender.” Fleur opened her mouth and Max kept talking. “Asking me is unwise, however. My bias is ridiculous. Twilight could wear checkers and polka dots for all the fucks I give as long as she’s happy with it.”

“Oh? Then perhaps you wouldn’t mind one more little question.” Fleur said, smiling sadly. “Who’s the most fashionable pony you know?”

“... I don’t fuckin’ know.” Max grunted, his mask slipping to show his irritation for the first time. “I’m not gay enough to care about much more than whether my clothes are too tight or too bright. As long as it’s comfortable, blue, and in shades of black to white, then that’s my wardrobe.”

Fleur’s jaw dropped. “Holy shit, you’re straight!

Max gave her a look. “No shit. I’m dating your niece, not your nephew. Either of ‘em.”

“You did mention doing gross things to Shining when you were trying to make Mom stop being mad at me.” I said, making a face.

“I said gay stuff to get your cute little bum out of hot water, so stop throwing me under the bus!”

Fleur nodded along with Fancy. “Your Uncle once pretended to be gay before we were married so mares would pass him by during certain seasons.”

“It also helped prevent a mare from nearly forcing herself on me.” Fancy stated frankly with little amusement, if any at all.

“Then I’ll pretend as hard as I need to besides doing the obvious.” Max chuckled awkwardly.

“What? You think kissing you wouldn’t be nice?” I asked, trying to bring a little levity to the situation.

“It’s not as nice as kissing you, but I appreciate that you’re willing to settle.” He replied carelessly.

I patted his chest a little firmly and gave him a disapproving look. “I’m well aware that you’re joking, and I’m not chiding you; It makes my heart hurt to hear ponies say self deprecating things, especially when those things are baseless or outright lies.”

Max bent down and kissed my forehead before licking it and kissing me again. I couldn't describe the sound I made, but apparently it was funny because everypony got a chuckle out of it. After wiping my head clean, I pouted at Max since it’s my first reaction, and I honestly need to change that, but then he said, “My sweet Cherry Pie with ice cream on the side, I don’t give two shits about what people say about me, and that includes myself. There are few people I respect enough to take their opinions seriously. I know me. I know what’s true and isn’t true. Nothing I say hurts me personally, my love, so don’t let it hurt you.”

I stared at him. “I hear you, but I still feel the way I feel.”

He snorted. “Figures. I’ll tone it down.”

I gave him a kiss for it. “Thank you, Max. I’ll try to keep the reminders of home to a minimum, and I have a plan for getting the Ponies of Equestria to accept you.”

Max gave me a pained look. “It’s going to involve me being in the public eye, isn’t it?”

“Oh, we can get you acquainted with the Canterlot scene if you’re willing to stay on your best behavior.” Fleur assured him.

“Um…”

Max started sliding that darn mask back on as Fancy said, “Let’s not dump everything on the poor lad’s lap, Dear. If you understood the shallows of the shoals in our so-called ‘fair’ city has shown to Maximus today, then I daresay we’d all be a little hesitant about introducing him to even more Ponies.”

“And if he’s seen with the Princesses?” I asked extra sweetly.

“Celestia doesn’t like me.” Max pointed out slowly.

“Yes, but there are certain things that I’m willing to do to make sure that as many ponies see her enjoying the side of you that you bring out for the ponies who offer you a little respect. Celestia just doesn’t like it when you talk too much, so show her some of the kindness you show me and you’ll have her at your back in no time!” The smile I gave him made him purse his lips, so I hugged his arm. “Come on, Max. You’re too old to not know how to play nice to somepony bigger than you. Celestia might not be a bully, but there are some things she just won’t tolerate-”

“You’ve committed treason and you’re not in Tartarus? You’re already special.” Fancy said abruptly. “If Celestia’s taken a liking to you by not at least imprisoning you, then it would likely be a small favor if a favor at all to ask for a chance at redemption. Perhaps an honest heart to heart?”

“I don’t do well with those.” Max said, withdrawing quickly.

I grabbed his hand and gave him a reassuring squeeze. Why don’t you try telling her the story about the Granny Gang? You seem to think that one’s pretty funny.”

“It made both you and your mother burst into tears.”

“Celestia’s old enough to know not to press an issue, and I doubt that she would be terribly hard to comfort with that big, goofy grin of yours.”

“I have better stories than that one.” He replied, warming up to the idea a little.

“And the Princess herself has many to share that might just surprise you. Many of us had humble beginnings, you know.” Fancy said tactfully.

Max gave him a half-smile and a nod. “They say some of the most successful people came from nothing… Guess it’s time to seize the opportunity.”

“All in due time, my dear lad. All in due time.” Fancy said warmly. “For now, why don’t we smoke some more of Fleur’s tea and share a few more tales, no?”

Auntie Fleur scoffed. “Just go buy more herbs if you’re smoking my tea.”

Fancy gave her a smile. “Oh, your Nightcap is actually a smokeable herb. It’s quite pleasant, and I plan on buying some for myself.”

She returned his smile with a wry one of her own. “Just leave me enough for a few cups before you empty my supply.”

“Oh, posh, Dear. You’ll have enough for a dozen cups if all goes well.” Fancy waved her worries aside.

Max chuckled and scratched his head. “So… I like turtles.”

He garnered some odd looks for that. Fleur asked, “What makes you say that, Max?”

“I dunno, I’d just like to ride a turtle one day.”

“Odd.”

“Quite.” Fancy agreed, chuckling. “I’d like to strap a saddle on a raptor myself. Flight always has been a dream of mine.”

“You always were a fan of airships.” Fleur sighed dreamily. “Why, I remember our last trip to Bridleland~”

And so Fleur started telling a tale that I’d already heard, but it was one that captured Max’s attention from beginning to end, and for some reason, Max knew a lot about Bridleland, including the location of the capital, some of the attractions there, and he even knew about Stonehenge, which was odd because I didn’t have any books on Stonehenge readily available in my library since most ponies didn’t care to dive that deep into Mana Wells. His questions brought up a few more that were odd, but then Max started countering them with some of his own, like whether Manehattan was called ‘Manhattan’ or if Stallion Island was called ‘Staten Island’. Even the Statue of Harmony came up in his questions, but he called it the Statue of Liberty for some odd reason. Then he explained that Equus appeared to be a parallel world to his Earth since some of the names of places seemed to correlate, though he mentioned that they were ‘shitty Pony puns’ instead of just having normal names. I was a little offended, but he had a point when he mentioned that our cities did have Pony-based names…

After that little revelation, Fancy invited Max to come meet some of his friends and Fleur invited Fluttershy and I to go shopping with her since she’d been inspired by Max’s eyes, apparently. She was thinking of finding something that matched his eyes for me, but green isn’t my color, and everypony present knew it, so Fleur found us a nice little shop that had a nice selection, and she even had me take a picture of her and Fluttershy since she remembered that my friend had once been a smash-hit on the modeling scene, much like herself. However, I was still a little thunderstruck that my Auntie Fleur had been an Operative of all things, so I spent a fair amount of time asking her about that. She couldn’t tell me much about her business, but she did tell me to be even more careful around Max.

After we went shopping, Fleur and I teamed up to get our trio back to Ponyville, but I could have done it myself. Expending so much Magic was actually interesting for me, but I spent most of it just getting rid of my old clothes and filling my wardrobe with the new things that Fluttershy and Auntie Fleur had helped me pick out. Of course it had taken some time to get everything replaced and packed up to be donated to whoever would want them, but when I looked at my newly filled closet and drawers, I couldn’t help but wonder if Max would like some of my new choices. Either way, Fluttershy got her autographed photo and went home to her animals while Fleur and I went back to Canterlot to find Max cutting up and keeping the party alive in a room full of smoke, laughter, and stallions all playing cards. My coltfriend seemed to be the center of attention and his wide smile and goofy faces kept the older stallions laughing their heads off, though Fleur and I bore witness to some rather bawdy jokes. Once Max realized I was there, he gave me a giant smile and waved me over.

“Cherry! Your Uncle’s like, the greatest!” Max proclaimed. “He just keeps giving me his money!”

Fancy threw a chip at Max, laughing with ruddy cheeks. “If you hadn’t been loading us all up with drinks, we might have gotten a few rounds off you!”

“Come off it, Mate! You old fogies just can’t handle new blood!”

Another round of laughter sounded and Max took the blue chips from the pot, leaving the other ones before he grabbed a stack of green chips too. “Oh come on, young stallion! You can’t keep leaving the pot while taking your favorite colors!”

“Oh, I couldn’t rob you geezers blind in good faith! Besides, the game lasts a little longer this way.” Max said, smiling and grinning like he was having the time of his life.

I came over and gave him a smile and a kiss on the cheek. “Looks like somepony’s having fun.”

“It would’ve been sweeter if you’d stuck around, but we’re all doling it out, right fellas?”

There were a few chuckles and raised glasses/pipes when Max said that, so I chuckled and gave him another kiss. “Well, I’ll leave you to it, then. Don’t invite any strange mares over while I’m gone, okay, Mister?”

“The strangest mare in Canterlot is already here.” He said conspicuously, pointing at a light brown stallion with the most charming pink eyes. His little gesture caused more raucous laughter as the stallion himself grinned and thumbed his nose.

“And she still holds a grudge over it!” The fellow chuckled merrily.

Fleur and I looked at each other and rolled our eyes, taking our leave shortly thereafter to talk about what she’d been able to glean from Max so far, and she started that particular part of the conversation with, “Max makes friends easily when he so desires. It appears that his current mood and the first impression a pony makes with him matter a lot in how he treats them later on, but that stallion is subversive by nature, Sparkle. I doubt that he’ll ever be completely up front with you about everything, even if he makes an effort to share more of his heart with you.”

“It’s a good thing that prying and delving into strange subjects is my specialty. I don’t think it’s anywhere near as complicated a problem as we think it is. I can make Max talk about anything, or have him tell me all sorts of stories and distract him from whatever’s bothering him. I think he’s the kind of stallion who deals with things over time rather than confronting his emotions head on.”

“Hmm… Well, you know him better than I, surely. Perhaps having Max attend business school here in Canterlot would keep him busy?”

“It certainly would, but we kind of have more pressing matters to worry about than what Max is going to do for a living. Apparently Discord, the pony who used to rule the world, is supposed to wage some sort of war in the future, but he hasn’t made any kind of appearance so far.” I said worriedly.

Fleur pursed her lips and grimaced. “About that… Discord is…”

“Auntie Fleur, do you know something?” Trying not to let my trepidation enter my voice, I did my best to keep a straight face.

She nodded and sighed. “Twilight, Discord is busy trying to stick his nose up Celestia’s bottom. He’s trying to court her.”

“What.”

“Only Celestia’s inner circle knows about it, but yes. Discord is just some goofy colt with a crush at the moment, Twilight.”

“Oh. Then… I suppose we should let Max see if he can start a career…”

“Wouldn’t it be interesting? A stallion with such a propensity for being a wildcard playing the game of real estate?” Fleur gave me a knowing smile.

I pursed my lips off to the side. “I don’t know if Max is going to be satisfied with a normal job, though. He’s kind of just a free spirit…”

Fleur’s eyes sparkled a sparkle that Sparkle wasn’t okay with. “Oh? A bit rambunctious, is he?”

“Well… Yeah, when other ponies like that are around. He’s usually pretty mild or happy to just sit and cuddle in between events, though.”

“So what makes you think that he’s more of a spirit than say, Fancy?”

“I just have a funny feeling that Max isn’t the type of guy who’s going to get satisfaction out of making deals and doing that kind of thing in general…”

“Well, you know how your Uncle was before he became a guard, you know. He was quite like Max in a way.”

“I’ve heard some stories, but I doubt that there’s anypony out there quite like Max.” I sighed. “For some reason, I just think he’d be better off doing something more… Remarkable, you know?”

“I suppose you know him better than I, but I’d suggest against letting Max do more work than he already has for Celestia.” Fleur said, smiling sadly.

“... I feel like you mean something by that.”

“It’s not like you to be so skeptical.” She replied worriedly. “Is something the matter?

“It’s just… Well…” I looked at the floor and bit my lip, unsure of what I should say from there. I mean, I trusted Auntie Fleur with my life, and that’s not something we Ponies say lightly, but telling her that the Princess might have been up to no was asking for trouble…

My aunt gave me a tender, caring smile that hurt to look at for some reason. “Celestia tried to use Max for that mission because he told you something he shouldn’t have, didn’t she?”

I was like a foal coal nabbing cookies straight from the jar, so I just nodded. “Uh-huh.”

“I knew something was suspicious about the whole thing, and with him having committed treason, it only makes that much more sense… That’s… Worrisome, but I can help you here.” She spared me one of her confident smiles and a wink that always made every stallion in the room flush red and half of their mares turn equally green.

All it did to me was make me smile and rush her for a good hug. “Oh, you’re the best Auntie, Fleur! What are you gonna do?”

“I’m going to ask Celestia to make him a spy.” She said, still smiling.

I let her go and patted her shoulder. “Oh, you’ve lost your hay-fried mind. I see.”

“Twilight, talent like his isn’t common.” Fleur protested immediately. “Haven’t you noticed that he seems to stay out of the center of a room? Or how he’s always prepared to make a quick movement? I mean, can you tell me how many times you’ve caught Max off guard?”

“Um-”

“And how many times has he snuck up on you without meaning to? I’m sure it’s happened before.”

“Well-”

“Has he ever come into your home without you knowing about it? Like, you never hear the door open or close? It’s like he was there, just waiting for his cue, wasn’t it.” She leaned in and gave me a conspicuous smile. “You know, I see too much of myself in Max for him to slip through my fingers-”

I jammed a finger in her face because I really didn’t like the sound of another mare latching onto my Max when he’d already told me I was the only one he wanted. “Touch my stallion and I will break you.

She leaned back and nodded. “That’s not what I meant, but I see somepony isn’t fond of sharing in any case.”

I blinked. “Oh. I-I’m sorry, I-”

Fleur smiled again, no offense having been taken, apparently. “It’s fine, but I was asking you if you would allow me to train Max. Let me teach him how to use the skills he’s most likely gained out of ill intent for the good of our nation.”

I considered it for a minute or two and wondered what Max would prefer to do before eventually coming up with the most fair answer I could think of. “It’s up to him. If he wants to live that kind of life, then I support him.” I sighed.

“I don’t think you really do.” Fleur ‘guessed’.

“Well, if he becomes a spy or whatever, he’s never going to be home!” I pouted. “The whole point of loving somepony is having them around so you can love them!”

“And you visit your parents how often?”

“Th-That’s not the point!”

“When’s the last time you saw Shiny?”

“Shush! They don’t visit me either!”

“Which is a shame, of course, but still Twilight. You’re used to not seeing your loved ones every day, and it’s not like Max can learn all of Fancy’s business from Ponyville.”

“I can teach him anything he needs to learn! It wouldn’t be a problem to buy the books we wouldn’t have-”

“Not everything can be learned from a book, Twily.” Auntie Fleur sighed wearily. “If that were the case, there would be a great number of books on how to do every little thing as efficiently.”

“That’s a terrible argument.” I huffed.

“But not inaccurate.” She chuckled. “Let’s give the colts a few more hours of playtime before you drag Max back home, hmm?”

As if on cue, a peal of raucous laughter sounded and was muted in a couple of seconds before steps could be heard coming down the hall along with some stallion and Max’s voices. “... but it’s not like I have to take care of it, right?”

“You’re a bloody bum and a piece of shit if you don’t. Just from the way you described things, you took advantage of a starry-eyed girl, Mate. Not a woman.” Max answered frankly.

“Tch, the fellas would agree with me.” The deadbeat answered as Fleur tapped my shoulder and lead the way to do a little eavesdropping.

“Cool, let’s cut this smoke break then.” Max said cheerfully.

“I-I mean, weren’t you ready to-”

“Why’d you bring this little tidbit to me, Silver Shekel? The chaps were takin’ the piss in every direction and seein’ how far we’d splash, but you held onto this one. What’s the deal?” We stacked up on the wall in time to see Max take a step back from Silver Shekel and offer him a cocksure grin that I kind of wanted to slap some tape over. If anything than to just prevent him from attracting more trouble.

‘Silver Shekel’ didn’t like Max’s question. “Like you don’t already know! With all the mares you’ve laid and left-”

“None of them were ever pregnant the next time I checked up on them. Man’s paranoid.” Max scoffed. “Look, Silver, you’re a decent guy. Do the right thing and try not to let your head wander-” My coltfriend deftly sprung out of the way of Silver’s punch.

“Like a Non-Pony knows what’s best for a foal! I bet you carnivore stallions just eat the babies if you can, don’t you!?”

Max laughed. “Sure thing, Mate. We also like to get together and stick eggs under our nutsacks and wait for ‘em to hatch!”

Silver wasn’t happy with Max’s answer, but Fleur was even less pleased with the next punch he threw. Max still wasn’t getting hit, but he also wasn’t trying to fight back. “Stop namby-pambying around and fight like a stallion!”

Max spread his arms. “Are you sure you don’t want to rethink that? I fight kinda dirty.”

The Butthead didn’t rethink anything and sent another punch at Max, but I wasn’t going anywhere soon because of Fleur’s grip on my ear. When I tried to look up at her, she winked and put a finger to her lips, urging me to watch and learn rather than interrupt like I wanted to do so badly. When I turned back to see Max throwing a punch of his own, I saw that his actually connected, and it looked like it really hurt, but more on Max’s end than Silver’s. Ass of the year shook off my coltfriend’s punch, but the kick between the legs made him double over, bringing his ears in reach for Max to grab them and use them as leverage to start kneeing him in the face. After Silver started to fight back with a little less enthusiasm, Max wrenched his head one way, letting go so he could kick Silver away. I barely noticed that Fleur had let go of my ear until she was halfway down the hall, walking as if she owned the pl- oh. Oh yeah. It was her house. Right.

Anyway, Silver decided to get on his hands and knees for a little bit and Max was happy to start walking away, coming face to face with Fleur. “... Man, fuck.” He groaned. “Please tell me-”

“Why did you assault an innocent pony?” Fleur asked icily.

I gaped in outrage as Max raised his hands, his left hand shaking violently, “Miss Fleur, please, let me explain.” He paused. “Okay, Silver thought-”

“Don’ listen ta that Ass! I tol’ ‘im I hadda fam’ly ta take care of an’ he tol’ me ta leave dem for some hussy!”

Max turned to him, snorted like he was hocking the grossest of lugies, and spat. “If that got on your floor, I’m only half-ass sorry right now. That piece ‘a shit’s lying through the teeth I shoulda broke.” He replied, his tone colder than Fleur’s.

“No, he’s speaking the truth. My spell hasn’t gone off.” Fleur said airily.

Max set his hands in front of him. “Then cast it again and listen when I tell you that Silver Shekel-”

“He’s lyin’!” The now-ambulatory Silver cried.

The door to Fancy’s game room opened and he himself along with a couple of other stallions stepped into the hall, seeing Silver, Max, and Fleur all standing in their current states. “Now I do say, Darling, what’s all this commotion?” Fancy asked.

“This Monkey attacked me!” Silver shouted.

Brows raised and looks diverted to Max, who waved calmly and blew some air between his lips. “So am I going to get to say that this deadbeat piece of trash got some mare knocked up and intends to leave her stranded, or what?” He blurted.

“That’s not the whole story!” The deadbeat defended. “She-”

“Opened her heart and you came inside, leaving another life therein.” Fleur spat. “Keep denying it. Even if you say that Max attacked you, I was just around the corner watching with Twilight the entire time.” She looked back, so I sprinted up to Max and stood beside him.

“I saw everything, Amour, and I’m so proud of you for trying to resolve it peacefully!”

He beamed and me and gave me a side-hug, keeping an eye on Silver Shekel. “I knew I felt like you were around here somewhere.”

I nodded before glaring at Silver. “You should be ashamed of yourself!”

“Indeed, Sir. To not only cheat on your notoriously faithful wife, but to have taken advantage of one of your own interns at that.” A scarlet stallion with an misty grey mane said judgmentally.

Silver’s jaw dropped and his mouth wasn’t a pretty sight. “You knew!?

“Everypony knew you’d been sleeping around, but I suppose Red Dawn is the only one who knew whom with.” Fancy answered flatly. “I suppose you’d like to perform your duties as a husband and a father now?”

Silver nodded and walked past Max and I, his head hung low and his tail between his legs. As he passed Fleur, she said, “Don’t think this will ever escape you.”

His shoulders sagged further after that, but it was hard to feel bad for a stallion who’d been thinking of leaving a mare he’d had snacks with since he already had a wife and he was planning to leave her with a foal too. After everypony watched him walk out, Max turned to glare at Fleur and ask, “Why are you so shady?

“Excuse me?” She asked, taken by surprise.

“I get that you were grilling me to get Silver to admit to being a Jackass, but why come after me in the first place? You said it yourself that you caught him red-handed, and you watched the whole fight: You could’ve intervened at any time.” He replied harshly. “Why the Hell do you feel it necessary to both toy with me and take my side?”

My Aunt rolled her eyes. “Like a twenty year-old has a hope of understanding a mature mare’s mind.”

“Bite and chew, Granny: your greys are showing.” Max answered flatly. I whacked him and he gave me a hurt look. “She started it!”

“Then be more mature than her and let it go!”

“She’s supposed to be the mature one! Why don’t women ever hold themselves to their own standards!? She literally said she was mature!

“Because the half of ‘women’ that made the standards are crazy.” Some random Flanksniffer commented.

I glared at the group of stallions, but Fleur interrupted before anything could go any further. “And with that, I believe it’s time to bring this gathering to a close, wouldn’t you say?”

“Oh, don’t be a bitter bother, Dear.” Fancy drawled. “Maximus has a fair point, though the next time he speaks to you that way, he’ll be given a right and proper what for. As for now, I say we let the matter lie and continue with our game. What do you say, chaps?”

I looked at Max. “I’d rather go home.”

He slipped on his mask and even his eyes wouldn’t give anything away. “Whatever you want, Twilight.”

As little as I liked the fact that Max was clearly unhappy, I didn’t want to stay in a place where he’d just got done fighting, and I didn’t want him playing around anymore since he’d just spoken to my Aunt like she hadn’t helped him at all. There was no remorse in his eyes whatsoever, so I asked, “You don’t even feel bad for talking to Fleur like that, do you?”

He raised a brow. “I often find that manipulative people try to use me.”

I glared at him. “Fleur is not manipulative!”

“... So you heard how I talked to her, but not what I fucking said?” His mask slipped away to reveal vexation and disbelief.

“It doesn’t matter-”

“Just go ahead and fuckin’ slap me, why don’t you? Spit in my face. Push me around, chain me to yer fuckin’ bed. You know what I’ve been fuckin’ strugglin’ with, Twilight? All damn day, ever since I realized that I’m fuckin STUCK HERE!?” He roared out of nowhere, startling everypony. “I been tryin’ ta come ta grips with th’ fact that I ain’t seein’ Humans again. Notta natural one. Notta one that’d be my kin.” Max let the ‘visor’ in front of his eyes fall, opened his heart in his next sentence and let his ache run through his voice. “I been comin’ ta terms with th’ fact that I’m just as alone as I ever been, but now more than fucking. EVER. My. Feelings. Don’t. Matter. I love you with my whole heart for no reason, and you feel the same way, but we’ll never be as close as we could be. We fight too much. If there’s another person anywhere near us, we start fighting.”

I looked at him, furrowing my brow. “Max, I don’t understand where all this is coming from.”

He sighed heavily and ran his hand through his hair. “Does it really hurt you that much to be away from me?”

“Well, of course! I’ve wanted you in my life since the day I met you, Max!”

“Then why do you jump to everyone else’s side whenever something comes up? When you do argue in my defense, you barely put up a fight, but the moment I start to raise my voice or point out how I was wronged, I’m wrong. So far, if it’s not a physical fight-”

“Shut up before I actually do slap you.“ I snapped, not liking the whole ‘You don’t take my side thing’ at. All. “You know what? I’ve put my tail on the line multiple times for you, and I’ve done just about everything in my power to help your ungrateful flank! If you don't want my help anymore, then fine! While you want to be mean to my family and tease my friends half to death, you can find another mare to take you in since you’re evidently so~o good at laying mares.”

Max shrugged and looked at me coolly, the expression on his face completely and utterly unreadable. “I assume we’ll talk in a few days?”

I glared at him. “And what good would that do? You refuse to open up, and nothing I do-”

“Twilight, how long have I been on this planet?” He asked, his eyes closed.

“I really don’t care. We have a lifetime of memories to back up the fact that every little thing I do for you is done with nothing but love behind it, and if you can’t appreciate me or what I do for you, then why should I keep doing things for you?” I asked, tears brimming in my eyes.

Max pinched the bridge of his nose and took a deep breath. “It’s not that I don’t-”

”Um, yeah, you seem to forget that I took your side against my Mom, against Rainbow-”

“Rainbow threw the first punch and I came right behind you and got your Mom off your back because, and correct me if I’m wrong here, but she was gonna whoop your arse like no tomorrow. Plus, Applejack was there to convince you to take my side.”

He had me there, but mares don’t back down during arguments, even if we’re losing. “You still live in my house-”

“Which the Princess herself said was hers and technically on loan-” Max said, shortly before he earned himself a slap I knew he could have dodged.

“Why don’t you just go and make somepony else miserable for once!?” I shrieked at him, somepony’s hand coming to rest on my shoulder while I sniffled.

Max worked his jaw, his mask not extending to his throat, his voice thick as he said. “Iffis whatcha wan’. Yea.” He backed away, clenching his jaw before turning and walking with his head held high.

“Look at him-” Some stallion started.

I whirled around, shoving Fleur off of me and jamming a finger in the direction of Fancy and his friends. “KEEP TALKING! I DARE YOU!

Fancy gave me a calm, warm smile. “There’s still so much love in your heart, Twilight. You wouldn’t hurt a fly.”

I’d turn them all into larvae.

He chuckled awkwardly and looked at the potential maggots. “And It looks like we’re just going to leave the chips where they lay and be on our merry way, Gents. It’s been a pleasure, honestly.”

There were a few muttered ‘faretheewells’ and whatnot as Fleur escorted them out of an entrance Max likely hadn’t used while Fancy came to calm me down further, my emotional state having decayed to the point where I was a sobbing mess, making a good point of it to cry out my frustrations onto Fancy’s shirt since he was kind enough to listen to my blubbering as it ranged from me apologizing to him, to me apologizing to (And then weeping on) Fleur, to wailing about how everything I’d said to Max was just hateful and unwarranted. I just wanted my Smokey Bear back so I could kiss him and cuddle him and tell him to stop fighting ponies in general, mostly so I could apologize for making him upset again. Fleur assured me that Max was at fault and that I should be at home, waiting for his sorry tail to come begging for my forgiveness, hopefully bearing gifts. Fancy, however, thought there was fault on both sides, and I agreed with him, but that made me cry harder and Fleur scolded him for not lying to me, which I teleported her to their room for.

When Fleur came back and I’d gotten the worst of it out, Fancy went off to go find Max before he got himself into more trouble since it seemed to follow him around. Fleur assured me that she’d go and help him look as soon as I got home and sent her a letter confirming that I was okay. I did as she asked and I assume she just went and did the thing she said she do because she said she’d do it and there’s no point in saying that you’ll do something if you’re not going to do the thing you already announced that you were going to do, which is why I wrote a second letter and sent it off to Max immediately, doing my darndest to make sure that he could actually read my scribbles.

… I guess that’s it for this entry. I… I don’t want to do a conclusion. I already wrote out every little detail of how I just added more thorns to Max’s crown. There’s no point in making myself hurt anymore…

ↂ✶✵✶ↂ

Dear Diary,

Fancy and Fleur had to go and get Max out of jail last night, and the story behind it was just asinine. Max had been arrested for ‘Intent to commit Larceny’ by walking too close to an outdoor florist’s closed shop, which was just… Ugh. He didn’t even take anything, which is why the moment Fancy and Fleur could get his case expedited to be put in front of Princess Luna, which wasn’t exactly hard to do, they did it. Still, Luna isn’t known for being nice. She only just seems to not want to smack Max’s face off at most given moments, so I was plenty worried that she was going to bring the hammer down on my coltfriend, meaning I didn’t get to sleep at all until she reached a verdict and Fleur let me know what it was.

Max was going to do two experiments for Luna, and if he survived, then he would be given the right to challenge Prince Blueblood for his title, accrued wealth, and life.

My blood ran cold and I fainted when I read the words, the shock having taken a few moments to blur my vision and cause me to actually overload and just… Break. Luna, who was never known for being any kind of gentle or studious, wanted to run experiments on my Max. Spike came along with me in the wee hours of the morning as we made our way to catch the red-eye that we barely made on its way to Canterlot. My little brother was too tired to care about why I wasn’t talking, too busy napping to notice that I couldn't form a real sentence beyond ‘Luna has Max and now she’s not going to.’, but it wasn’t important at the moment. Not to me, anyway. The only reason I’d taken the train was so I could calm down and plot what was about to happen if she’d actually laid a finger on Max, but then I came up with too many things that make me want to lose my lunch over if I think about too hard. In the moment they all seemed like perfectly rational, perfectly plausible ideas that I was going to place into Luna’s head via brute force for once in my life, and I’m sure that’s what earned me a clear path through the morning traffic of Canterlot.

Spike egged me on to go faster, but I said, “We’ll get there when we get there.”

It was all the response he got for most of his questions, though that’s because they could be answered with the aforementioned phrase. If he’d started asking more needless questions, however, I would have happily muted him since I was in the mood to ruminate on the grave things I could do to Luna that would make everypony afraid of messing with my FUCKING HUSBAND! It wasn’t until this morning when I finally snapped: when words became too little to explain anything going on in my mind. I was on the warpath and Spike was my unwitting Lieutenant, there for the sole purpose of making sure that I didn’t kill Luna.

… That… That should make me feel terrible. I remember yesterday when it would have. I remember so clearly what it was like when my heart was still pure; before I was tainted by the full force of my memories… I… I need to talk about it. Not to a pony, but to you, Diary… I’m… I’m afraid of letting anypony know what a monster I am now… Just.

Okay, can’t throw up if you’ve already thrown everything up. Here’s goes

… Alright. So you can keep going, even if nothing’s there. Good to know, I guess. I don’t know how to say that I remember creating the world I live on other than just saying that. I remember everything, and I pulled the strings. I am the puppetmaster, but I’m not. If I extend my consciousness outside of the little bubble I’m in, not only do I lose my mind for a few seconds, but I get snatched into a room with a mare who looks like my Alicorn ancestor or something. The first time I saw Diliculum, saw myself, I broke down at what I’ve done. I… I can’t just write it down. I don’t want to look at the awful things I’ve done. All the people… the little babies and… oh my god…

I… I thought I could write about it. I was wrong, so we’re just skipping the rest of my angry walk until the point where I reached the Castle Gates. When I stopped in front of the guards along with Spike, they crossed their spears instead of opening the gates, so I teleported them to Cloudsdale and let them sort out whether or not they could fly without a care in the world. My heart was so cold, so caullous to the fact that if they hadn’t both been Pegasi, I could have very well killed those-

Yup, still going. I really wish I had a stronger stomach, but I can’t stop now. After Spike and I cleared the gates, he grabbed my hand and asked me what was wrong, which I replied, “Luna has my Max.

“Um… Yeah, so you’re walking slow and I run fast.” Spike said shortly before running a little faster than I would have to tell on me to whoever.

Instead of teleporting wherever I wanted to go to follow him or cut him off, I just gave myself a pair of wings and flew over his head to the Court Hall where Luna was making her exit. She calmly folded her arms in front of me and Celestia was quick to teleport to her side the moment I touched the marble floors. The nightly motif of the caste was surely stunning to somepony to actually gave a damn, with its picturesque architecture that’s stood the test of time for a thousand years, tales of great Ponies scattered throughout the artwork built into the very structure. However, I was staring down Princess Luna and she wasn’t backing down.

“We assume thou art here to make some sort of deal.” Luna said boredly.

I sensed the telepathic message between Luna and Celestia, but didn’t pry. “You could say that.”

There was another. “And thine proposal?” Luna asked.

“Sister, why don’t we just release Max? It was a petty charge in the first place: one that he shouldn’t have had to deal with in the middle of the night.” Celestia said, glancing at me.

Luna raised a brow, not taking her eyes off of the primary target. “Thou art not curious as to what Magicks Maximus could wield?”

“Experimenting on an unwilling pony is wrong.” Celestia urged.

The Princess of the Night shrugged. “Twilight Sparkle. Feel free to-”

“My husband for your continued ability to function in daily life.” I said calmly.

Celestia’s jaw dropped and Luna smirked. “It would seem that thou would be willing to do nearly anything to free thine lover, no?”

I tilted my head. “Do I need to splatter you against a wall? I wouldn’t mind.”

Her smirk fell and she rolled her jaw. “Alicorn or not, it would be unwise to challenge us, Twilight Sparkle.”

I shifted through space and time because I knew Spike was going to say something if I did as I told Luna I’d do, so I dipped on down to the point where Luna first got sent to the Moon and slapped Nightmare Moon around for a century, breaking her down and beating her senseless to the point where ‘bullying’ didn’t even come close to covering it. Not at all. Once I’d made sure that the memory was going to surface at just the right time, I went back to the present day, walked up to Luna, and slapped her like she stole from me.

“It’s not a challenge when I’m stating facts. You will die if you don’t give me back my Goddamn husband.” I replied, my tone flat.

Luna held her cheek and nodded. Apparently too stunned to hit me back. “Fetch him at your earliest convenience.”

I nodded. “Have you already done your experiment on him.”

She nodded. “Yes.”

“If he’s unhappy about it, I’m breaking your legs.” I stated.

Twilight!” Spike cried.

“Dear Heavens…” Celestia murmured.

Luna nodded again. “As I’d expect. I believe you’ll find that Max is happier for what I’ve done.”

“I would hope so.” I gave Luna one last meaningful look before I started walking toward Max’s general direction, Spike and Celestia dogging my hooves as I walked. They both tried to chastise me or something for being so brutally honest with my intents to Luna, but I was quite beyond caring.

Walking down to the dungeons was easy since Celestia was with me, and when I saw that Max was sitting in a cell, bouncing a ball of of a wall to keep himself entertained, I felt a little better about the current predicament. As it was, the cells in Canterlot don’t allow ponies to see outside of their walls, so Max was unaware of the fact that he had visitors until I had Celestia open the door so I could walk in. I could have easily made the door just not exist, but I didn’t want to abuse my powers for my own personal gain over Max’s.

He saw me enter the room with a flat face and his frown deepened. “... Can’t seem to stay out of trouble, can I?”

The small cell offered Max little time to prepare before I marched up to him and flicked his forehead. “You don’t make me miserable, you just make my life complicated. I’ll try to see your side of things before I take sides from now on, but I just want you to know that I love you, Max. If you need me to step back, I can kinda do that. The point being that I’m sorry for lashing out at you when you finally open up to me. Like,” I pressed my middle and index fingers against my temple before casually flinging them away,” “you understand that I don’t do the best of jobs when it comes to handling you in general. It took me years to learn how to deal with you and not become a super nag about every little thing, so let’s scale it back a bit, slow things down, and get some space between us, no?”

He rubbed his head and gave me a rueful, crooked smile. “I mean, apology accepted, and I’m sorry for accusing you of never sticking up for me. I was just straight up wrong, and I don’t show you how much I appreciate your generosity-”

I waved it aside. “The only way you know how to pay someone back when you don’t have the money or what they want is with favors and friendship. You haven’t found a way to pay me back other than being extra affectionate and being more open to the things I want to do, but honestly I just think we need to start sleeping in separate beds, for starters.”

Max nodded and tried to keep the fear out of his eyes when I said that, but there was something on his mind when he said, “That would probably help. Here’s hoping that learning Fancy’s business will give us a little more time to get away from each other so we can appreciate the time we spend together a little more.”

“And what makes your heart hurt when you say that?” I asked plainly, folding my arms and giving him an expectant look.

He winced under my cool gaze and said, “I mean, I just kinda like sleeping in the same bed as you is all-”

“If that was the whole truth, I wouldn’t have asked about it, Amour.” I cut him off rudely, but with kindness in my tone. “It’s the nightmares, isn’t it?”

“H-How did you know?” My future husband asked meekly, chuckling weakly.

“I remember a lot more now than either of us did yesterday. How are you feeling, Amour? Has Luna hurt you at all?”

“What all do you remember?”

“Enough to know that we were married longer than one lifetime. Max, are you hurt? Have you been experimented on?”

“I’m fine, Luna just took a trip into my head to see about something or other and introduced me to someone I should have already remembered to meet named Noir. Now what was that about ‘multiple lifetimes’?”

“We lived for longer than you can imagine, and I can purge you of Noir if you’d like. Give her back her real body and a bag of chips too.” I waited for him to reply.

“... Please do?” He ‘said’.

I stretched out a hand palm forward toward Max before moving my arm to the left. Noir separated from his soul before I snatched the Alicorn Amulet out of some crypt and fused the soul and the body back together, making myself an Alicorn on command. Max gaped while Noir stretched and limbered up, so I went over to kiss his forehead. “Whatever you want, you can have, Max. Struggling isn’t your thing anymore if you don’t want it to be.”

“... Cool.” He muttered numbly. “So…”

Noir yawned and turned to Max and I, Celestia slipping into the cell and making things a bit crowded honestly. “Hello, Twilight. Did you expect that I would find you?”

I raised a brow. “Time. Ah. I should have known that you would stick a piece of your Aetera to one of my aspects in the hopes that I would shuffle through this one. Quite brilliant, actually”

She sat down next to Max on his bed after giving me a nod. Max gave her an awkward grin and she gave him a loving, almost motherly smile. Maybe something like an Aunt or a mentor, most likely since Noir was, you know, Kaid Maximus’ Mistress. “Hello, Maximus. It’s… It’s good to see you.”

“Wotcher, Blackberry. Anyone care to tell me what’s going on?” Max asked, not sure of what to say.

Noir looked at me and I nodded, so she turned back to Max and kissed his temple before saying, “My name is Noir, and as I can sense that you remember, I trained you how to fight and honed your skills for centuries to come. You do not, however, have any memories of your Godhood.”

“Do what.”

“You were God, Maximus.” The midnight blue Alicorn murmured.

“I beg your fuckin’ tits on a whatnow?” Max giggled.

“She’s telling the truth. Diliculum, or in other words, an aspect of myself, has been blocking your memory so you don’t accidentally become a God again. You’re on this planet to live a happy life and die in peace.” I said truthfully, giving him a warm, loving smile. “I created this place just for you, you know. The alternative was letting you turn into a monster and destroy everyone and everything that ever existed, so you understand my motivations, no?”

“... Um…”

Noir wrapped an arm around Max slowly, her loving gaze never having changed. “You would not believe how long it has been since I have truly seen you, Maximus. You are greatly missed.”

Right… So… If I get all of my memories back, I destroy everything?”

“Not anymore.” Noir and I said at the same time.

She looked to me for an explanation since I understood it better, so I carried on with, “We exist outside of existence right now. By the time you die of natural causes here, my Aetera will be so worn out that I’ll join you in Heaven the second the universe collapses. I mean, if it weren’t for my power as the Maximus Omnium, we wouldn’t be talking right now.”

“Scary.” Max commented.

“A little, but we’re actually safe right now, so~” I gave him a reassuring smile. “Really, Max; do you doubt me on this?”

“I don’t really doubt anything other than your sanity, but it’s relative to the moment, honestly.” He replied loftily, humor being his emotional shield.

I sat down on his other side and put a hand on his leg. “All you have to worry about is what you want to do, Max. Other than leaving this planet, I can make anything happen.”

Noir gave me a worried look when I said that, but then Max said, “... Would you… Would you get rid of the memories of Graham?”

He wouldn’t look me in the eye when he said it, but he didn’t really have to for me to understand why he just didn’t want to think of what that horrid bastard did to him. I numbed Max’s wounds, but I left scars where I healed him on purpose so he would grow, which I explained to him. Celestia didn’t say anything as Noir and I lead Max out of his cell, collected Spike, and then teleported back to Golden Oaks so Noir and I could explain everything Max in earnest, though Spike was also interested in being completely blown away with godly facts and figures. Max took the news pretty well, all things considered, and actually managed to go to sleep right after Noir and I finished talking to him. Spike went out to avoid me since he thought I was crazy, leaving Noir and I to talk between ourselves for awhile.

As I poured some of Noir’s favorite tea, she smiled at me sadly and said, “It is good that we can do this in peace. Our company is not to be taken lightly.”

The weight behind her words would have bowled over a lesser God since she was damn-near as old as I was at this point in her existence as Time, but I was fine. “Truly. I’ve missed you, Noir. We’ve never been as close as we could have been, but we were perfect cuddle buddies.” I offered her a grapevine laden with my sweetest creations. Metaphorically, of course.

She nodded and her eye crinkled up with another genuine smile. “I should have known that you would take care of him. I can bring good news to Diane, for once.”

I nodded and sighed. “... Noir, I-”

“It is regrettable, but it was a decision made by a wise mare. The ramifications have been better than the alternative.”

“True, but what should I do now, Noir? I… I can’t really be with Max when I’m coated in sin and-”

“Did it stop him from being with you?” She asked abruptly, sipping the still steaming tea calmly.

I gave her a look. “At least you still give good advice.”

“At least you are still cute.” Noir chuckled.

I cooled my tea with a spell and conjured up a hemp-leaf cigarillo with the good herb rolled inside. After a few puffs, I sipped my tea and frowned. “So why did you come all the way out here, Noir? You know this piece of you is going to die if it stays out here long enough.”

“If I would have left a piece of my soul with Max in the first place, I would have been with him, here. I could have helped turn the events that started his journey in this world off on the wrong hoof to a positive result, but alas. It shall be a project for the coming days.”

“You plan on training him again.”

“... With your blessing, I would neuter the regimen.” She replied frankly.

I nodded. “Teach him his old styles. They were the ones most suited to him.”

“... And his old Magic?”

“... Maybe later. I still haven’t put any thought into that, to be honest with you.”

“I’d suggest giving him his True Theft back. It was truly remarkable as to how he managed to bend the rules around the power.”

“It was passable. He should have been able to do more, but then again, if he’d been able to do everything his Magic should have allowed him to be able to do, then he would have been a monster beyond all comparison.” Noir and I looked at each other before we both started giggling. “Ah, that was funny.”

“Was it not? Tell me, Twilight, would you support me should I try to be an active part of Maximus’ daily life?”

“Stop being taller than Celestia and you’ll be golden.” I chuckled.

Noir shrunk herself and dialed down her looks so that she just looked like a really pretty mare rather than a statuesque, perfect Alicorn of a woman. “How is this?”

“You look fantastic! Rarity’s going to be jealous.” I gave her a wink.

She rolled her eyes. “I refuse to be less attractive than what I truly am.”

“At least you’re modest.” I said drily.

Noir rolled her eyes and drained the rest of her cup before biting into it. “Modest and secretly the wealthiest mare on this side of the planet. Once I find my treasury, I will purchase a house here in Ponyville and offer Max a place to stay. If he accepts, then I will train him and allow him to visit you as he sees fit.”

“Just make the bits you need.”

“Is that not less sporting than just gathering my old wealth?”

“I’ve kind of already put it in the bank for you. I felt like doing it for a split second, so…”

“Thank you for the service, I suppose.” She offered me a freshly conjured bottle of wine. “Would you like to drink to celebrate my newly found wealth and Max’s soon-to-be safety?”

I made two glasses and smiled as she poured. “To lifelong friends that live longer than one should.”

“To peace and love, wherever we may find it.” She toasted in turn.

We poured our wine into our ears and drank it that way because it sounded better than it tasted, though we still got to taste it. It was rather pleasant both ways, but still. Noir left since there was plenty of time in the day to get everything she needed to get done and more, though she was going to get a hotel room for the next couple of days while she was moving into her home, whenever she found one she wanted. Meanwhile, I went off and checked up on Max while he was sleeping to find that he was perfectly snoozy except for the odd twitch and frown. He’d laid down in the guest bed like we’d agreed he would do for the foreseeable future, so I sat down at the foot of the bed and watched him rest more easily with my presence.

Spike eventually came back and brought the girls with him, but I wasn’t in the mood to explain why I’d been ready to obliterate Luna quite yet, so I promised to tell them the next day as long as they would leave me alone for the current one. Pinkie and Fluttershy were the ones who managed to get Applejack and Rainbow off of my case, oddly enough, but I still wondered about whether or not to tell anypony about any of the things I remembered. Even now I know that Noir is likely the only person on this planet who could possibly comprehend what I’m going through, though Max could have understood. If I was in the mood to ruin my own plans, that is.

With the girls taken care of for the time being and me having been able to get this written out, I think it’s time for a nap. There’s no reason to write a conclusion for this one, but there is some more weed that needs to be smoked before I can get a good night’s rest without Max in my bed. Rest, not sleep. Kinda screwed myself on that one. Oh well.

Author's Note:

Romance, drama, bullshit!

As Always,Stay Cool, Kids

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