• Published 22nd Jan 2020
  • 1,262 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.

  • ...

Passing Through

The locals kept their distance, which was something to be thankful for, I guess.

I really don't need any more hecklers right now. I'm not sure how I'll do this as it is...

Luna had told me I should pick some things up at the market; 'you can't hide out in here forever', she said, and 'the ponies aren't as scary as you think'.

On the one hoof, she'd had to deal with ponies being hostile towards her before. On the other hoof, I couldn't help but resent her confidence in Ponyville quite a bit.

At least they were scared of her! What am I going to do if somepony wants to start something?!

Beat the snot out of them with all the muscles and skills you built over the moons of training you just finished?

I glanced down at my legs and it started to dawn on me for the first time that they weren't the same as when I used to stare at them in Tartarus. Huh.

Lost in that train of thought, I barely realized when I came across the apple stall. Or more accurately, the Apple stall. I froze up and glanced up at it to see Professor Applejack staring down at me, eyes narrowed.

Oh horseapples.

My ears slowly folded back in anticipation of some kind of loud outburst, but she said nothing. We just continued staring for several more seconds, and I saw one of her eyebrows slowly creep up.

Buck it! Gotta say something!

Very slowly, half afraid the slightest noise would set off an tirade of verbal violence, I worked my jaw open and squeaked out, "A dozen apples?"

Applejack's brow furrowed at that, but she silently gathered my order and set it on the counter. I veeeery slowly put out the appropriate number of bits and gathered my purchase, watching her like a hawk the entire time. For all I know, she's wait until I was overburdened to pounce on me. I gently settled the sack of apples on my back and debated my next move.

I remember what she can do! She could lasso me before I could react if I turned my back on her!

But I had no other choice but to turn my back on her; it would be too awkward, even for this encounter, to back away watching her.

I barely got two paces before her voice caught up with me.

"Whoa, there, Cozy. Got a question for ya."

I cringed, and turned around. She had circled around the counter, coming right up to me, and I had to fight to keep from taking a step back.

"Umm... yes?"

Applejack squinted into my eyes. "Why'd you do all that nasty stuff you did?"

I balked, trying to think of that the 'right' answer would be to that, but I drew a blank. I looked around, but the environment held no clues for me. I decided to try to be straightforward.

"For power...?"

Applejack waved a hoof dismissively. "That ain't what I mean. I mean what made you so different, so mean underneath?"

I gritted my teeth, trying to find some kind of answer. Nopony had ever asked me that!

Usually, they're fine just writing me off as evil for the sake of it!

But that's not the truth, and this is the element of honesty speaking to us. So be truthful, if you even remember how.

I stammered and backed up a step, eyes downcast. "I-I dunno, I guess, I, uh..."

I wracked my mind for an answer, but I was drawing a blank.

Well, what's stopping me now?!

Regret, guilt, shame, and...

I looked up at Applejack, still unsure of myself. "I... I don't think I even knew what love was. Or even where to start."

Where did THAT come from? Way to embarrass yourself, and there's no way she'll buy that; there's no way that can be true.

... can it...?

Applejack recoiled at that. "What about y'all's parents? Family?"

I shook my head violently, as much to keep myself from thinking about that as to answer Applejack. She just nodded, almost imperceptibly.

"I see... and you do know, now?

I thought back to my encounter with Mom earlier. I nodded with a soft smile. "Yeah."

Applejack considered that, scrutinizing me and rubbing her chin with a hoof. After a few moments, she nodded. "Well, I don't think you're lyin'. I'm just glad you figured it all out in the end. Y'all take care, now."

She almost turned to leave, but I stopped her with my shocked expression and frantic hoof-waving. "Wait, that's it?! You just... believe me, and that's all?! You didn't even ask for an apology!"

She laughed at that, rolling her eyes. "Little filly, you spent a year in Tartarus, and then most of a year doin' whatever Discord was on about for your reformation. Now you look too scared to buy apples in the Ponyville market; any pony with eyes can tell you're sorry, I don't need to hear you say it. Way I figure it, the punishin' and makin' it up has to stop somewhere; I just wanted to understand ya'."

I shook my head and stared at her, positive I'd fallen into some weird alternate timeline where everypony had lost their marbles. "I don't get it. How can that be enough for you? I put you through so much trouble, and I haven't even done anything to make it up to you, personally!"

Applejack huffed at that. "Either a punishment's enough or it ain't, and if it ain't, what was the point of sendin' ya to Tartarus in the first place? How old are you, again?"

I stopped at that, considering. I studied the dirt as I considered it all.

I stopped keeping track when I lost my memory... oh! I missed a birthday in all of that!

Not like it was something to celebrate, anyway.

"I, uh... I guess I'm fourteen, now."

Applejack whistled. "Fourteen, huh? And how old were ya when ya started making decisions for yourself?"

I scrunched up my muzzle as I tried to think her question through.

Decisions... I didn't get a lot of choices before I ran away. How long has it been? The moons I spent as Quillon, the moons I spent with 'Grogar', the year in Tartarus, the year in the school...

"I-I think it's been three, maybe four years?"

When I looked back up, I saw Applejack's expression had softened considerably.

"So you've spent half of your years since then bein' punished already. What good will any more do? Honestly, I'm not surprised you came out of Tartarus so angry; a pony with a mind full'o'unhappy memories ain't gonna be inclined to be nice, and that's hardly their fault."

"It was my fault!" I said hotly before flinching back. I hastened to add, "a-and it's not like I had happy memories before that anyway, so it doesn't really matter."

Wait! Stupid! That doesn't prove her wrong at all!

It's the truth, though; you were broken a long time before you came to Ponyville. You always were.

Applejack's eyebrow rose, and I braced myself for the inevitable question. What I got wasn't what I expected.

"Well, you're makin' good ones now, and I figure that's the best medicine for you, Cozy. I ain't gonna interfere. And if'n you wanna talk, you can always come by."

I scoffed and shook my head, but I smiled. "You other ponies are just too nice."

Applejack laughed at that and rolled her eyes. "Someday, you'll run across somepony who needs help, and you'll get it."

My thoughts went back to some of the ponies I had tried to comfort back when I was playing superhero. I had just been playing up my persona, playing the role... but then again, that role was based on something. I looked on Applejack with a new sense of respect.

"I do get it, actually... I guess I just didn't think of myself like that."

Applejack winked at me. "Well, the rest of us will be there to let ya know when you're bein' too harsh on yourself."

With that, we said our farewells and parted ways. I smiled as I trotted away, really thinking over what had happened.

This point goes to Mom. I'm glad I came out here.

I'd almost made it out of the market when a distinctive blue-feathered griffon rounded the corner. We stared at each other for a moment before he cleared his throat awkwardly and swerved around me.

I'm not sure what came over me, but I held out a hoof to stop him. "Gallus?"

Gallus paused, quirking an eyebrow at me but otherwise seeming... bored? "Yeah?"

I blinked a few times in confusion. "Uh, it's me, Cozy Glow..."

His gaze flattened a bit ."Uh, yeah, I know. You haven't changed that much or anything. What's up?"

What's with this non-reaction?!

I believe it's called 'being cool'. You should try it, but you won't.

Oh for pony's sake.

I shook my head to clear it out and thought over my last real interaction with him. It had been in the other timeline, but... come to think of it...

"I wanted to say... umm..."

I gestured with my hoof, but that didn't magically conjure the phrase I was looking for. He smirked at me. "Are you struggling with 'I'm sorry?' "

I started. "Oh, no. I mean, yes, I am sorry, but that wasn't what I—look, I wanted to say you're really brave. A-and I really admire that. I don't think anypony is in quite as good a position to appreciate how far you will go for your friends... heh, ironically..."

That got a reaction, at least, with him reeling back somewhat in surprise. He raised a talon and opened his beak, and then closed it. That happened two more times before he seemed to come up with what he wanted to say.

"... Thanks?"

I smiled uneasily. "Yeah, so, uh, bye! Have a good shop—er, good time shopping!"

I trotted off quickly, trying to keep my head from catching on fire from how embarrassed I felt.

Have a good shop? Really? REALLY?

Uuuuuggggh I hate improvising I hate improvising I'm so bad at this somepony kill me now uuuugh.

I was still doing the mental equivalent of retching to get the bad taste out of my mouth most of the way to my house; Luna's home was up on the same hill I'd lived on in the alternate timeline Discord had transported me to. I wasn't sure if he had put the house there in the other timeline to mirror this place, or this place had been built to mirror that one; either way, I'd thought it would make me uncomfortable, but it was actually nice to be able to get my bearings.

I wonder if he was deliberately preparing me to live in Ponyville with all of that, in addition to everything else. That snake is crazy. I wonder how he's doing...

My ears perked up as I heard voices over the next hill.

"Ah toldja it wouldn't hold up!"

"Come on, Applebloom! This thing's survived having rockets strapped to it, how was I supposed to believe it couldn't handle a little cold?"

I stopped in my tracks. The Cutie Mark Crusaders? Here? Come on! I silently waved my hoof at the heavens in frustration. I've dealt with enough awkward for one day, don't you think?! Come on!

"A little?! Scootaloo, there's ice on it!"

I heard a third, predictable voice pipe up.

"I'm sorry! I haven't mastered the ice spell yet!"

"T'ain't your fault, Sweetie Belle. Scootaloo was just bein' too reckless!"

"Yeah... don't worry about it, Sweetie. I'll just have to drag it back to the shop."

"But that's really far from here! And do you even have the allowance to get it repaired again after something like this?"

I groaned and started moving again, cresting the hill. Their conversation piped down as they saw me, but I didn't stop. Instead, I marched straight up to the scooter they were huddled around and leaned down to take a careful look. They stared at me in silence as I did so, though I could tell they were nervous and trading looks.

Handlebar snapped clean in half – nothing some welding can't fix. Can't do that myself anymore, but Mom could help us. Screws and bolts came undone, and the board split in half. Applebloom studied alchemy, right? She should be able to make it grow back together.

I sighed and hefted part of the broken scooter, setting it on top of the sack of apples. Dang, that's heavy.

Scootaloo's eyes went wide. "Hey, what are you doing?!"

I stared at her dully. "Come on. Bring the scooter."

Uuuuuuugh the less we have to say the better, just let me do my good deed in peace. It's so much easier in a costume!

I didn't wait for a response as I resumed my march towards my home, but the others soon fell in on my right. Scootaloo was the first to pipe up again, and I realized I had to look down at her slightly from up so close as she spoke.

"Jeez, Cozy, you really got a lot bigger! What happened?"

I did?

I looked myself over as I walked, and I realized that the ground really was a good bit farther away than I remembered. It wasn't just that my legs looked differently; they were a lot longer than they used to be. There were also clear muscles across them.

"I, uh... well, did you guys hear about the alternate world I was in?"

Sweetie Belle was the one who responded, nodding hurriedly. "Yeah! Discord made sure to tell everyone in Ponyville that you were reforming in some other world, and that you might be a little awkward around ponies you had met over there!"

My jaw slackened. "He really did that?"

Scootaloo snickered. "Oh yeah. He made sure to drill it in real clear, even to ponies who were super mad at you. 'No picking on Cozy', clear as day. 'She's not going to be the filly you remember.' And he was right! How is it you're taller than we are?! We should have outgrown you at least a little bit while you were a statue!"

Applebloom swatted Scootaloo on the flank, getting an 'Ow! What the hay?' from her. "Scootaloo! Not cool! Don't go remindin' her of that!"

I blinked a few times as I tried to register all of what I was being told, but I scrambled to intercede. "No, no, it's fine, Applebloom. Uh... thanks? But I'm not going to freak out over that. Uh, a-as for my height, I don't—"

Something dawned on me, and I swatted my face hard enough that I could hear the others wince. "Duh! I'm so stupid! I just spent almost a year as an alicorn, and alicorns grow faster and bigger than other ponies! I didn't even notice, because it was so gradual!"

No wonder Mom refitted my armor a few times... I thought the battle damage kept knocking bits loose!

Scootaloo's eyes widened. "Whoa, you got to be an alicorn for a year? No fair! That sounds so awesome! What was that like? Were your wings super big like when you went all crazy with—ow, Applebloom, quit it!"

I snickered. "Yeah, they were. I could fly like a Wonderbolt if I put my mind to it – and I had to, a lot of the time."

Applebloom looked up at that, her question puzzled. "What do ya mean? Were ya fightin'?"

I nodded. "All the time. I was, uh... I was a super hero."

Scootaloo leaned in uncomfortably close. "Oh wow, cool! What did you do? Save ponies from burning buildings, fight dragons?!"

I raised an eyebrow at that. "You know dragons aren't just evil monsters, right? Though there was one..."

I launched into a long explanation of the various things I'd done as the 'Dashing Savior' while we walked, and it continued straight up to us getting to the workshop at my house. The three fillies' eyes bulged when they walked in, and I privately worried about what sorts of horrible shenanigans I might have unleashed by giving them access to a functional forge. Then all three of them began zipping around the room and talking so fast I couldn't keep up.

"Hey, is this an alchemy setup?! Ah didn't know you practiced alchemy, Cozy! We can totally do that together!"

"I recognize this fitting setup from Rarity's! You make dresses here?!"

"No, you goof! That must be for her totally awesome superhero armor! Hey, Cozy! You should show us your armor!"

"Yeah, show us your armor!"

I reeled back at the barrage of input. "Uhh... right. I'll go get it!"

I carefully set the scooter down, and hauled the apples into the kitchen. Mom was groggily wiping off her face and sitting up on the couch; we'd clearly woken her up. Whoops.

"Cozy? Did I hear somepony else?"

I nodded and hurried over to her. "Uh, yeah, I ran into the crusaders on my way back from getting the apples. I'm helping them fix something."

Mom smiled at that, which turned into a loud yawn. "Oh, that is good news, Cozy! Do you require assistance?"

I don't want to trouble her, but I also can't do the welding on my own...

"Maybe later? There's some stuff we can do first, and it seems like they want to goof off a bit."

She gave me a hug. "Have a splendid time, then. I just need to get a bit more sleep..."

She rolled over and nestled into the couch, and I smirked at her. Silly night-pony, sleeping anywhere. I figured she'd be used to a huge palace bed, but sometimes I wonder if she'd even notice if she slept outside.

I grinned and ran off, changing into my armor as fast as I could. I returned to the workshop to a chorus of excited 'oohs' and 'ahs'. Scootaloo ran up and gave it an experimental smack, which I could barely perceive through the layers.

"Wow, Cozy Did you make this yourself?!"

"No, Mom helped me. I had a costume, before, but she was the one that wanted it all armored up."

Sweetie snickered. "It definitely suits her style, though it seems a little weird for you, doesn't it?"

I shook my head vehemently. "I'm happy to wear her colors! It helps me remember... why I do the superhero thing."

Applebloom seemed puzzled by that. "What'cha mean?"

I scuffed a hoof on the floor. "W-well, just, she gave me a home and made me feel safe when I felt like the world was out to get me. That's what I tried to do for other ponies as a hero."

The three of them paused. Their eyes went wide. Wait, what's happened? What is this?


I cringed and waved a hoof frantically. "Nono, none of that! Come on, guuuuys!"

It was too late. They were all on me then, in a big, sappy, kill-me-now group hug. Sweetie's voice cracked as she spoke over the other two, "She just loves her moooom!"

I huffed, refusing to budge an inch with the three fillies clinging to me. "Yeah, yeah, laugh it up you three."

Scootaloo leaned back, looking at me in surprise. "Who's laughing? That must have been really hard for you, getting used to opening up to somepony and accepting them as a new mom! I know what that's like; when my parents moved away I was devastated. It took me a long time to get used to living with my aunts."

"Oh... sorry, I didn't know about that. And Applebloom..."

Applebloom just nodded into my barrel and didn't say anything.

Well now I just feel like an ass.

Most donkeys have more tact than that.

"I really am sorry about that, guys. I thought you were making fun of me. I really am thankful for my mom; it didn't occur to me that there were orphans here. That was... that was stupid of me."

The three of them disengaged, and Applebloom looked at me with a frown. "Wait, aren't you an orphan too?"

I laughed, waving a hoof at her dismissively. "Just a self-made orphan, not the same thing."

I registered their looks of abject horror, realized what I'd said, and scrambled to amend my statement, "Whoa, hey, I just mean I ran away! Not like that!"

Scootaloo let out a breath, holding a hoof to her chest. "Oh, thank goodness! Things got dark for a second there!"

I should probably not mention that I wish I'd stabbed my mom before I left.

So you CAN learn.

I chuckled uneasily. "Yeah, sorry."

Sweetie chirped up. "But wait, doesn't that mean your parents are looking for you? I remember Twilight and the others tried to find your parents after... well, after stuff happened."

I cringed. "Yeah, I don't think so. They never wanted to see me again, I never wanted to see them again, and we both got our wish. To me, that's a happy ending. I have a real mom now, and I'm happy with that."

"But—" Sweetie Belle's next comment was cut off by Scootaloo, and Applebloom's attempted objection went quiet at a look from her. Scootaloo just fixed me with a serious look, and for a moment I wasn't sure what I might have stepped in.

"We get what it means to choose your family, Cozy. If you don't wanna talk about it, that's cool. Why don't you show us how all of these tools work?"

I let out a breath I hadn't realized I'd been holding. "T-thanks, Scootaloo. So, uh, this is a lathe; you use it to rotate something really fast to shape it, like a pottery wheel. This one's for metal, and we use it for rounding out pieces..."

I threw myself into my explanation, happy to be back in my element. As the minutes stretched into hours with the crusaders, I realized how different this was from making friends before; back then, all I had to offer was manipulation and a cute face.

Now, I was an expert in several fields; somepony with experience in battle, who had fought alongside villains and heroes, traveled through time and dimensions, who had two friends that lived outside of this world entirely. I didn't wear my disguise anymore, but I felt like the physical change in my appearance helped remind me...

I wasn't the Cozy Glow who had been thrown in Tartarus years ago. I'd grown, and I was proud of a lot of the things I'd done and could do. Of the things I would do; the more we spoke and the more I felt myself easing into my role as a veteran of sorts, the more I felt certain that my adventures weren't over.

But for now, it was nice just to be with fillies my own age and laugh at Scootaloo's mishaps in the workshop.

Author's Note:

Speech bosses are the real challenge.