• Published 22nd Jan 2020
  • 1,275 Views, 248 Comments

Never Alone - SoloBrony



It's time for Cozy Glow to get back out in the real world and figure out where she fits into Equestria. She's tried superheroics, supervillainy, and accidentally destroyed the world; now she has to try being normal. Yeah, probably not.

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No Moping During Chill Time

I hope this doesn't go half as awkwardly as meeting her mother did...

As I made my way up to Princess Luna's new house on the outskirts of Ponyville, I kept running through worst-case scenarios in my mind.

Take it easy, Glimmer! Really, what are the odds that Cozy has a magical doom-portal just waiting for you to stumble into when you get there?

5% at most? Come on.

As I crested the last foothill and their house came back into sight, I tried to put on a charming smile with only a moderate level of cringe attached.

Sure hope Luna's not there, awake, and still angry about my little slip-up. But come on, what are the odds of all three being true at once?

It turned out I was working myself up about nothing – gee, I wonder what pony taught me to do that – as Luna was nowhere in sight, while Cozy was just quietly sitting on a bench on the side of the house, reading over a book.

I still haven't gotten over how much she's grown. And, aww, she's got cute little reading glasses!

I reminded myself that the adorable, harmless-looking filly had nearly hurled me into another dimension. Suddenly, the glasses seemed less cute.

Well, time to bite the bullet, 'Headmare' Glimmer.

I trotted up and was about to comment, but as Cozy glanced up from her book I realized what she was reading and was caught short. I actually had a genuine smile, this time.

"Hey there, Cozy. Is that the Friendship Journal you're reading?"

Cozy nodded hurriedly, but spoke in a neutral tone that matched her expression. "Yep. I was trying to get a better handle on the Elements of Harmony."

Well that's... good, right? There's no way the power of harmony could be used for evil, right?

Right? Naww, no way.

I took in a deep breath and tried to look casual as I glanced around. "Soooo... any luck?"

Cozy gave a shrug that spoke of boredom. "Not really. There's some insightful stuff, but most of it just seems really obvious."

I recoiled slightly at that. "Wait, really? You find friendship lessons obvious?"

Cozy smirked at me. "I've been called a lot of things, but 'bad at making friends'? Really?"

I facehoofed.

"Right, guess I walked right into that one. Of course you'd understand that stuff."

Cozy sighed and closed the book, setting it aside. "It's not like I haven't learned anything from it. And it's not a bad read, anyway. It's just that... well, the core idea is just, 'care about somepony's wellbeing and your relationship with them. Strategize your actions around that.' Not really all that hard."

I snorted. "I guess strategy is your special talent, so that makes sense. Does that mean you've been having an easy time getting along with everypony?"

Cozy laughed, rubbing her head. "Well, no, not really. A lot of ponies are still really mad at me, and I don't really blame them for that. I'm still really mad at me. Besides, I think I struggle with that 'care about your relationship with them' part most of all."

Wow... I definitely haven't ever had a conversation this real with her before. Discord and Luna were right, she has changed a lot.

I trotted over and sat down next to her on the bench, and gave her a sly look. "Is that why you haven't even come by to say 'hello' to me since you got back?"

Heh, I know she's been busy, but it doesn't hurt to rib on somepony a little.

To my surprise, Cozy nodded slowly. "The 'mad at me' part, yeah. I figured you wouldn't want to see me ever again, if you could get out of it."

My jaw dropped and I frantically waved a hoof in objection. "What? No! Cozy, you and I were friends before! I worked with Discord for moons on those timeline spells to help you come around because I wanted to be friends again!"

Cozy sighed, taking off her glasses and setting them aside with the journal. "That figures. It seems like I keep thinking ponies will be mad at me when they're not, and finding new ways to mess things up."

I bumped her shoulder with a hoof, jostling her out of her funk and getting her attention. "What can I say? We bad girls, we gotta stick together."

Cozy snickered at that. "What, like you, me, Sunset, and Trixie?"

I raised an eyebrow. "Hey, now, don't forget about your mom. Luna was quite the bad girl once upon a time!"

Cozy rolled her eyes with a grin. "Oh, right. So that's what, five of us?"

"That's right! We just need to reform Chrysalis and we can be the new, cooler Elements of Harmony!"

Cozy started laughing at that, facehoofing. "The bad girls group! Oh, jeez. Talk about power teams. The six of us could take over Equestria overnight."

I bumped her shoulder again with a smile. "And don't you doubt it! Obviously we'd need to get Twilight out of the way first, but I'm sure you'd come up with something."

Cozy grinned up at me. "Oh, no, that won't do. You've gotta leave Twilight in place while you mess everything else up, so you can see her totally freak out about it. Otherwise, what's the point? I mean, that is why we all cause trouble in the first place; her reactions are too priceless to pass up."

I thought back to Twilight's freak-out when I had tried to get my revenge, and how funny I had found it, and I almost choked with laughter. "Oh my stars, you're right! I don't think she even realizes how funny she looks from the other side!"

"And don't forget the dumb friendship speech right before she and her friends put a stop to it all! You could set a clock by those things, seriously."

I flailed my hooves. "This coming from the filly trying to study an actual book about friendship?!"

"That's not the same! Fire safety's really important, but you don't go lecturing a forest fire about proper dousing procedure before putting it out!"

I flopped back in the chair, resting my head against the house and getting a good bit of laughter in. Once I could breathe again I just shook my head with a grin. "The look on her face when I interrupted her friendship speech in my village was priceless. I wish I'd found some way to get an image of that."

Cozy giggled. "That'd make a nice new stained-glass window someplace. Just have a giant mural of Twilight gawking."

I rolled my eyes. "Her wings were still a bit new to her, and it really showed. The way they flared out when she was surprised made her look like a startled goose."

"Hey!" Cozy suddenly fixed me with a serious look, and for a second I wondered if I had done something wrong. Then her mouth started straining against her control to grin. "Friends shouldn't compare other friends to random animals. Pretty sure there's an entire lesson in here about that somewhere; how else could they pad out this much text?"

I pictured that for a moment and groaned. " 'Dear Princess Celestia, today I set off a war with yakyakistan by comparing their leader to an angry goat... send help...' "

Cozy Glow brought a hoof up to her chin in faux contemplation. "But wouldn't it be Spike who would make that comparison? Unless Applejack could work it into a saying somehow, like," and for this she put on the most ridiculous drawl I'd ever heard, " 'E's madder 'an a honey-soaked goat in an anthill,' or something."

I snorted at that and rolled my eyes, grinning. "I wish I could deny that. She's a friend, so I wish I could. But it's so true!"

Cozy smirked and leaned against the bench armrest with one hoof. "If it was Fluttershy, a comparison to an animal would probably be meant as a compliment."

I nodded and whimsically considered the idea. "Rainbow Dash isn't big on metaphors in general."

"Wouldn't that be a simile if they say somepony is 'like' an animal?"

I gave her a flat look. "Similes are a type of metaphor."

Cozy grinned at my reaction. "I know."

"Oh, you're incorrigible."

"Hey! I'm totally corrigible!"

I paused, my eyes going slightly crossed as I processed that. "Wait... is that a word?"

Cozy nodded. "Yep. I looked it up just for that."

I smirked and leaned against the opposite side of the bench, and together we were just a cool pair of customers. "I guess that's something we have in common, then. Corrigibility."

Cozy grinned at me. "I'm very chalant about the whelming corrigibility we possess."

Ow.

"My brain hurts now."

"Well, I do have to be honest, my last statement was untruthful."

I raised an eyebrow. "How so?"

She stuck her tongue out. " 'Chalant' isn't actually a word."

I groaned, tapping my head against the building. "You've turned into a dark-humor, chilled-out version of Twilight Sparkle. Equestria can't handle two of you."

"There can be only one!" She made some sort of bat-swing motion with her hooves, and I furrowed my brow in confusion and gestured at her.

"What was that all about?"

Cozy flushed slightly and shrugged. "Nevermind, just a joke Sunset told me about."

I took a deep breath and just let the moment pass in silence.

This is nice. Somehow, Cozy's even better company now that her true colors have come out. It doesn't really feel like talking to a foal at all.

After just engaging in a little 'chill time', as Dash put it, I put voice to something I'd been wondering. "So why were you studying the Elements of Harmony, anyway? I assume you aren't actually planning on a bad-girl takeover."

Cozy smirked and huffed at that. "As if! You and Trixie would fight over the element of magic for sure."

"Oh? And what would you be, little filly?"

Cozy stopped short, and frowned, glancing away. "Oh, uhh... I guess I wouldn't really be good at any of them."

I cringed slightly. Way to step in it, Starlight. "Cozy, I didn't mean—"

She waved me off. "It's alright. It's true, though... I lied to and betrayed everypony, I tend to be a sourpuss, and I don't naturally go out of my way to help anypony. And it's not like I have any magic."

"Well..." I shrugged. "You just have to practice. I was an awful friend when I first came here; I'm pretty sure a smart filly like you will figure it out in no time."

Cozy nodded. "Well, that's the idea. And that's part of why I'm studying... the other part is that I was hoping to charge this miniature crystal heart necklace I made with Celestia."

She opened the journal and lifted a tiny replica crystal heart she had been using as a bookmark. It dangled from her hoof; it was very pretty, but lacked the internal light of the genuine article.

"Oh, wow. You're saying this thing has the same properties as the real crystal heart? It's barely bigger than a cherry."

Cozy nodded. "Yeah, it's the same principle, but I can't make a bigger one than this. Whoever made the Crystal Heart really knew their stuff; the recipe gets a lot more complex the bigger it gets, and it takes a lot of powerful magic to hold it all together if you make something bigger this necklace."

I chuckled as I took the tiny necklace onto my hoof and analyzed it. "Well, it is considered an irreplaceable relic of the Crystal Empire, but this is still really impressive, Cozy. I think the legend of the Crystal Heart said it was actually formed from the crystallized devotion of the ponies who founded the empire; made through sheer magic, basically. How did you make this?"

Cozy facehoofed. "Of course, that would be way more straightforward. I made this with alchemy!"

I studied the shiny bauble in my hoof. "Huh. I didn't know you could do something like that with alchemy. I need to study that more! I remember hearing from Discord you'd spent some time with Zecora in the other timeline. I guess that paid off."

Cozy sighed wistfully. "Yeah, she got me started. I wish I could think of a good way to connect with her here, but she was all business last time I stopped by for ingredients. It's just so weird seeing a pony you remember as a friend, and they just don't recognize you at all."

I frowned as I hoofed the necklace back over. "I'm sorry about that, Cozy."

She carefully put the necklace on around her neck as she responded. "Don't be. The life I had over there was better than I deserved, even with the forgotten friendships."

I sighed and considered. "You know, studying friendship and the magic of harmony won't help you charge that necklace. Love magic is a much more primal, fundamental force than the Elements of Harmony."

Her brows knit in confusion at that. "Wait, what? I thought the magic of love and the magic of harmony were the same thing!"

I shook my head. "The Elements of Harmony are a delicate balance of a lot of different kinds of magic. They're sort of... the ultimate expression of magic itself. Taking the whole spectrum of positive or righteous emotions and weaving them together into something that asserts harmony... kind of like how friendship can bind together all sorts of very different individuals into a harmonious, unified group."

Cozy chewed her cheek over for a moment as she thought that over. "But if that's true, shouldn't love be one of the elements of harmony?"

I took a deep, slow breath, savoring the chance to teach some of what I knew to a student directly. "It is, but it's more complex than that. Loyalty is a direct expression of a kind of love... but generosity and kindness can express aspects of those feelings, too. The two are interrelated, made of similar components, but harmony itself is a more complex and complete expression of magic."

Cozy took that in quietly, contemplative. It took several seconds for her to reply.

"I guess that's why Twilight talks about friendship and magic theory so much. She's really pretty incredible, huh?"

I nodded slowly. "She really is. She became a princess by inventing a whole new school of magic theory – she completed a spell of Starswirl the Bearded's using the principles of harmony rather than any known type of magic. Before her, the Elements of Harmony were seen as a mysterious force, barely even understood by their creators, which could be harnessed in a direct fashion, but... not really understood or tinkered with. So far, she's the only one to get that far."

Cozy shook her head, smirking. "Magic is awfully complicated, especially without a horn to harness it with to test it all out for yourself. There's so many types. Dark magic, harmony magic, love magic, chaos magic..."

I considered that, and shrugged. "It's probably better not to fixate too much on trying to split it into groups like that. I mean, those terms are helpful, sure, don't get me wrong! But the thing is, magic is just an expression of willpower – your feelings and what you believe in. If what you feel and believe in is something vicious and dark, it comes out that way... and if you believe in love, that's the kind of magic you end up with. Most unicorns just apply direct willpower to cast our spells, without a lot of emotional input, but it still comes out sometimes. Chaos magic tends to come out of unconstrained creativity; it's hard to categorize that as an emotion, but Pinkie Pie seems to get it."

Cozy snorted at that, but then her gaze became downcast. "And what if you don't believe in anything?"

I set my jaw. "Then you're dead. Because everypony believes in something, Cozy; they just sometimes don't know what, or can't admit it. You believe in yourself, or you wouldn't be studying; you believe in Luna, or you wouldn't be staying with her. Don't even entertain that kind of thinking. Trust me; doesn't lead anywhere good."

Cozy smiled softly up at me. "I guess I can't mope near you, huh?"

I grinned. "Nope! No moping during chill time. Wise words from a wise mare."

Cozy rolled her eyes. "Riiiight. Well, fair enough."

We sat in companionable silence for a few seconds, and something she said came back to me. "Say, Cozy? I know you got used to being an alicorn in the other world... and I guess it's been hard for you to lose your horn since then, huh?"

Cozy gave me a flat look and held a hoof out at me. "Seriously? Of course! Not to mention losing the extra strength and sensitivity from Earth Pony magic. I used that stuff for a lot of my fighting techniques! I never realized how powerless I was without magic until I got stuck back like this."

I frowned. "Well... I know that things are different, now, but it's not like you don't have any magic. You're still a pegasus."

Cozy snorted. "Whoo. I can fly – pretty well, actually, thanks to all of that training – and I can walk on clouds. I'm not going to drive off villains or monsters with that alone."

"Well... maybe not, but you're pretty smart, and you're studying alchemy. Trixie also told me about your practice at legerdemain. Some of Equestria's heroes had less to work with than you do, so don't sell yourself short. But... what I was actually talking about is, not all magic requires a horn."

Cozy started slightly and leaned in, intently. "Wait, you mean that it's possible to, like... cast spells without a horn? How?"

I folded my forehooves, considering how best to put this. "Well, a unicorn's horn is just a focus for the magic inside. It lets us put that energy out into the world directly. Earth ponies tend to concentrate their magic internally, which is what gives them greater strength and connection with the world around them on average. Pegasi are a bit different; they put magic into the world with how they move their bodies. Like Rainbow Dash's sonic rainboom, for instance; that's the most potent demonstration of pegasus magic out there."

Cozy rubbed her head, looking distinctly irritated. "But that doesn't make sense. I mean, you can say that a pegasus can put out magic in motion, but it's not like we can create laser blasts or deflection shields with our wings!"

I opened my mouth and closed it immediately, realizing my mistake.

Right, she was fighting a LOT in the other timeline. She's focused entirely on combat magic, not magic as some kind of abstract concept. Well... hmm...

"Maybe not, but the Wonderbolts create electrical cloud-streams where they fly. I've seen Dash casually spin off twisters with her wings that blast clouds away; with more effort those could deflect quite a few things. I've also seen her create a concentrated electrical discharge that makes an explosion just by performing a high-speed loop while generating a lot of electrical clouds at once. I don't think she's ever really thought about applying that stuff to fighting – or, not very hard, at least – but who knows?"

Somehow, Cozy seemed even more agitated. "But if that's true, why doesn't anypony use it?! Why don't pegasus warriors just create tornadoes and stormclouds or learn to harness their magic like unicorns?"

I raised an eyebrow and smirked. "Cozy, I don't know if you realize this, but most ponies aren't really interested in becoming powerful fighters. Most unicorns barely learn any magic besides basic object manipulation; even Rarity is considered a high-class mage by the standards of the average unicorn, because of her finesse and ability to manipulate many objects in concert. Unicorns like me, and like Twilight, are really rare, and neither of us has put a lot of effort into combat magic. I mean, I learned to fly using my magic – which itself is an incredibly rare spell – and how to raise a crystal shield, and those two skills were almost enough on their own to fight Twilight to a standstill."

Cozy leaned back on the arm of the bench, shaking her head in sheer stupefaction. "I don't get it. Just that? Isn't Twilight insanely powerful?"

I shrugged. "Sure. But, I mean... it wasn't like we were trying to kill each other, and combat isn't really a good time for big, complicated spells. So most unicorns fight using the simplest, most direct stuff in their arsenal... and like I said, most ponies aren't fighters at all. Even those of us with combat experience don't exactly spend a lot of time going out and deliberately training in combat magic."

I saw her chewing her lip over. Wow, she really didn't realize any of this, huh? I guess she just assumed everyone else was as concerned as she was with power.

"It just doesn't make sense. Villains and monsters show up pretty often in Equestria... and whenever they do, somepony has to go and fight them. Why wouldn't you put all of your effort into preparing for that?"

I glanced aside, taking a deep, steadying breath. "Because if spend all of our time focusing on fighting, then we give up the whole thing we're fighting to protect; a peaceful, harmonious society. Twilight had the right idea with the school; the best thing we can do to defend ourselves is forge bonds with everycreature else in the world. But when conflict does come to us... well, you and I know from experience, there's nothing that will overcome the power of friendship."

Cozy considered that, relaxing somewhat. "I guess you're right, but that isn't any excuse for ponies not to be able to defend themselves, or each other. A lot of damage can still be done before Twilight and her friends get there to save the day; I've seen that myself, several times."

I nodded, raising a placating hoof. "Sure, sure! I'm not saying it's bad to be capable, just... it's usually better to resolve things without violence if we can, and focusing too much on violent solutions might lead us to use them where we didn't need to."

Cozy nodded at that, surprisingly quickly. "Well yeah, obviously it's the better choice to avoid conflict, usually. And like, look at Discord; the rest of the group wanted to put him back in stone, but Fluttershy's insistence on a peaceful resolution is what saved him. I get it; I'm not arguing that violence should be the first resort."

Phew. For a second I was really wondering how militaristic she'd gotten.

"Good, good. I mean, as long as we're on the same page, there. But, y'know, you're not wrong, like I said; being prepared is good, too. Some fights are unavoidable, and ponies do need to be protected."

"So is that it? You're telling me pegasi and earth ponies can do magic, but nopony has really explored how much because..."

I waited for her to continue, but she trailed off and winced slightly for some reason.

Something nasty must be going on in that head of hers.

"Because most ponies aren't really that concerned with fighting. But, I mean, there are instances of ponies using magic without a horn; the Elements of Harmony themselves draw power from all kinds of ponies, obviously, but the crystal ponies all channel their energy to activate the Crystal Heart without horns. That's not all, either; I wasn't around to see it, but according to Twilight, Nightmare Moon did magic using her wings and mane at various points. It's probably easier for an alicorn, but there could be something to all of that."

Cozy sighed. "Should I even study that? It sounds like I'm a freak for being so interested in it."

So that's what it was. Come on, Starlight, you were a counselor; you can handle this.

"Well, why are you so interested in it? When did that start?"

Cozy leaned back and watched the clouds for a bit before she answered.

"I guess when I got Grogar's power. For the first time ever, I felt like I could... do something if somepony got in my way. I didn't have to rely on sneaking around; I could fight back if somepony tried to hurt or capture me. The moment I got that magic, I wanted more; I even tried absorbing Discord's magic, though that didn't work out at all. It's hard to describe, but it's like... I wasn't scared anymore. Fights weren't this big scary thing to stay away from, because now I could do something. Then, when I was playing at being a hero, I didn't know why there were ponies hunting for me... but I knew a fight was inevitable, so I started studying combat magic and practicing, and I got into fights with any monster or villain I could find that was causing any sort of trouble. I even picked a fight with a dragon because I needed something from their hoard."

I grimaced a bit at that. "Cozy, that sounds incredibly dangerous..."

Cozy just shrugged. "Sure, it was. But that's the thing... the more I did it, and the more convinced I became that I was a super hero, the less scary it seemed. It was like solving any other problem; I just started strategizing around it all and putting in the work preparing. And the thing is, I really enjoyed it. I never realized before how much thought and training could go into every move in a fight. I guess I got, like... addicted to the whole concept. It's not that I want to cause trouble or fight unnecessarily... I don't even know how to explain it. Sorry."

I stared at her for a few more moments, and then I chuckled softly. She huffed.

"Hey! Don't laugh at me!"

I waved a hoof at her. "I'm not laughing at you. I'm laughing at me! Cozy, what you're describing is that you're a martial artist. You enjoy the art of fighting for its own sake, not necessarily enjoy hurting other creatures. It's not actually a big deal, and you're not a freak; you just have a hobby."

Cozy's eyes widened at that. "Oh. Oh, I think you're right! I mean, I've been practicing martial arts lately, but I just thought of that as, like, a skill. I didn't think of it as a hobby or a mindset."

I smirked. "I've heard of ponies calling it a lifestyle, but I didn't really get it until now. And I think that's a healthy thing for you, Cozy."

She quirked an eyebrow. "Really? How?"

"Well, it's like you said; you practiced and fighting stopped being scary. It helped you move past any worries or fears you might have had, related to violence. Something I learned while counseling is that, a lot of times, things people do that don't seem to make sense at first are actually necessary for them to grow."

Cozy smiled. "Thanks, Starlight."

I winked at her. "No problem. Any time you want to talk, just stop by the school. Speaking of which!"

I straightened up on the bench and smiled down at her. "The reason I came down here today was to ask if you wanted to return to the school of friendship. I wanted to make sure you knew you were welcome there, if you're ready to come back."

Cozy's smile faltered, and she glanced away, chewing her lip. I gently set a hoof on her back and spoke softly.

"You don't need to decide right away, okay? Just give it some thought. If you think you would be more comfortable coming back, our doors are open."

Cozy nodded, glancing up at me. "I'll definitely think about it. I don't think I'm ready, yet, but... I think I might like to come back, eventually."

I nodded, still smiling. "Whenever you're ready, Cozy."

I had to get back to the school and tackle my paperwork sooner or later, so we said our goodbyes in short order and I headed off. As I trotted off, my mind went back to all of those moons of effort with Discord and Twilight, and I teared up.

She's getting better. It really paid off... we really turned a tragedy around.

Cozy didn't realize it, but to me, she was the ultimate example of the power of friendship in action.

Author's Note:

I'd totally watch a show about the bad girls of Equestria going on adventures together.