• Published 1st Aug 2020
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Ponyville Noire: Misty Streets of Equestria - PonyJosiah13

Scarred from their final encounter with Zugzwang, Phillip Finder and Daring Do struggle to make peace with the past while balancing a slew of new mysteries that will take them beyond Ponyville.

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Case Fifteen, Chapter Four: Homestead

Thump, thump, thump!

“Good!” Bobby grinned, sidestepping his partner, raising, lowering, and tilting the punching mitts to give them moving targets. “Keep your hooves up between hits.”

His red-faced partner nodded, panting heavily as they continued to pummel the mitts. Every punch echoed through the basement gym, each hit hard enough to make his hooves sting.

“Think fast!” Bobby shouted, lunging with his right hoof. His partner slipped the attack, countering with a quick jab to the other mitt held before his chest.

“Good! You’ve been working on that!” Bobby grinned, retreating. “Here it comes!”

His right hoof snapped out. His partner started to slip, but froze, their eyes widening in shock as the feint retreated. A heartbeat later, Bobby’s left hoof crashed into the side of her head, eliciting a startled yelp.

Bobby sighed and lowered his mitts, wiping some sweat from his brow. “You were thinking, weren’t you?”

Twilight rubbed the side of her head where she’d been hit and grimaced. “I know, Bobby,” she admitted, pushing her sweaty mane out of her eyes. “I was expecting the right punch again and reacted too early.”

“When you think, you stop,” Bobby replied. “And when you stop, you get hit, as you did just now.”

“It’s not easy for me to turn my mind off,” Twilight admitted. “There’s just so much for me to think about: using my entire body to strike, how to move, position my hooves, what technique to use…!”

Bobby chuckled and laid a hoof on her shoulder. “It’s a lot to take in at first, I know,” he said. “But with time and some hard yakka, it’ll get easier. I’m sure that those spells of yours weren’t easy when you were starting out, but now I'm sure you can do some truly amazing spells without even thinking!”

Twilight smiled and nodded, a faint blush coloring her cheeks at the compliment. “Thank you, Bobby."

“Now, again,” Bobby said, raising the mitts once more. Twilight took a breath, mopped her forehead, and raised her hooves once more into a guarding position before throwing out a practiced jab-cross combo. “Good, keep going,” Bobby instructed, starting to maneuver around her.

As Twilight continued to work, the thumps of her hooves against Bobby’s mitts mixed with Phillip’s grunts as he pummeled the heavy bag in the corner of the basement gym. He moved around the target with a practiced fluidity, one attack snapping out right after another. In the middle of the room, Daring and Flash were engaged in a wing-up contest; the sweat that dripped from their soaked manes formed puddles on the mat.

“Eighty-seven,” Daring grunted, her forehead brushing against the floor as she dipped down. Her wings shuddered with effort as she slowly pushed herself back up, groaning through gritted teeth. Her shoulders ached from the effort of keeping her forelegs mounted to her sides, but she kept them locked still. Her wings locked out to their full extension, and she relaxed the muscles, allowing gravity to slowly pull her back down to the ground, inhaling as she caught herself inches from the ground. Flash, however, faceplanted into the ground with a solid thwap.

“Eighty...eight…” the younger pegasus groaned, his wings trembling like willow trees in a hurricane as he tried to push himself back up. He made it halfway up before collapsing in a heap, panting and trembling as his tongue lolled out of his mouth.

Daring grinned at him as she pushed herself back up. “I win,” she panted, placing her hooves on the ground and standing up with a relieved sigh.

“I’ll...catch up...one day,” Flash panted, slowly hauling himself back up. He huffed and shook his head, tossing sweat from his mane.

“I’m sure you will one day, kid,” Daring grinned. “But Rainbow Dash is probably way ahead of both of us by now.” She sighed and ran a hoof through her mane. “I miss her,” she admitted. “Hard to believe she won’t be back for another five weeks.”

“I bet that she’s loving air force training,” Flash replied. “She’ll be an officer in the Wonderbolts before we know it.”

“Guys! Dinner!” a voice called from upstairs. Everypony halted their exercise and headed up the stairs with relieved groans and sighs, rubbing sore muscles.

Rain was waiting at the top of the stairs, smiling at her charges as they filed up past her. “Been a long time since I cooked for such a large party,” she chirped happily.

“Definitely makes up for coming over here to be beaten like I was back in training,” Flash commented with a groan, plucking the shoulder holster carrying his .45 Filly M1912 from the hoofrail at the bottom of the stairs and carrying it up with him.

"You've improved a lot in a short time, though," Phillip said, clapping the stallion on the back. Flash's face briefly lit up with a proud smile.

“So have I,” Twilight said. “But I think I prefer doing research and experiments!”

“You said you wanted to learn how to defend yourself,” Daring pointed out. “We told you it wouldn’t be easy.”

“Well, I think Spike and I have just the thing for after a hard workout,” Rain smiled, wheeling herself over into the kitchen. Spike was currently carrying a steaming pot filled with pasta mixed with mushrooms and beef out onto the porch; the darkness out back was lit not just by stars, but by the glowing coals of a campfire set on the ground before the bare cherry tree.

“Spag bol,” Phillip smiled at the mouth-watering aroma, licking his lips in delight as his eyes tracked the steaming pot.

“It’s not Aussie-quality beef, but we made do,” Rain smiled. “We’ve got some dampers for you to try, too.”

“Damper?” Flash asked, opening the door to invite in the scent of baked bread.

“Soda bread, baked in the coals of a campfire,” Bobby explained.

“Despite the name, it doesn’t actually have soda in it,” Spike commented, placing the pot of spag bol on a rickety table next to a plate loaded with round, white, still-steaming bread and seven plates and sets of cutlery.

They feasted on the dinner, speaking of other things, laughing at stories and memories. When dinner was over, Flash, Spike, Bobby, and Phil walked out onto the backyard and began tossing a ball back and forth.

“So, do you have any ideas on who killed Quick?” Flash asked, tossing the ball to Phil.

“What did I tell you, Flash?” Phillip replied, catching the ball.

“Right, right: don’t theorize unless you have all the data,” Flash nodded, watching as Phillip tossed a curveball to his father. “But what data do we have?”

“Not much, unfortunately,” Phillip admitted. “But we have a BOLO out on Gold, and on the stalker. Tomorrow, we’ll speak to the crew at the Bawdy again, see what else we can find out.”

Flash groaned and shook his head. “That doesn’t feel like enough,” he admitted. “We should be doing more, looking back over the crime scenes, just...something!” he cried, flinging his hooves up into the air.

“You’re awful wound up, kid,” Daring said lackadaisically, looking up from the typewriter that she’d brought out onto the porch.

“Working on your story?” Twilight asked, leaning over to check her papers.

“Yeah, your mom sent over some edits on the latest draft,” Daring confirmed, checking a letter with notes and comments before retyping a sentence.

“A mare is dead and another stallion is running for his life!” Flash shouted. “I don’t see how you can be so calm about this! I...do you just not care?”

Phillip gave him a small scowl as his words struck him like a hammer. The reverberation echoed through the tensed muscles in his gut, making the stress that he’d been hiding beneath the mask writhe like a serpent, raising its hissing head. He braced himself, but the images came, all the same, washing over him in a torrent of noises and smells and sights.

Trace screaming as the beast devoured his eyes and brain. Bodies in bloodied uniforms and armor laying amidst the carnage of a dark, dank tunnel. A silver-haired unicorn that stank of death, one eye missing, the flesh pulled away from his face to reveal rows of yellowed teeth, lunging at him.

“Phil? Son?”

Phillip latched onto his father’s voice and pulled himself back into reality, wresting back control of his breathing. The world shifted back into focus around him and he realized that he was staring at the ground, one cold, trembling hoof rubbing the Angkakert totem that hung around his neck. His father was rubbing his back, bright blue eyes full of concern.

“I’m okay,” Phillip nodded, taking a breath as he ordered the serpent to slither back into its hole. He looked up to find that all of the others were also gazing at him in concern. All except for Daring, who had turned away to hide her pallid face, folding her arms and wings in close in an attempt to stave off the shivering.

“We do care, Flash,” Phillip said coolly. “But we’re all tired and stressed out from a long day. Rest is important, too.”

Flash hung his head. “Sorry, Phil,” he mumbled. “I…” He rubbed the back of his head and sighed.

“I really want...no, I need to get this case done right,” he admitted. “Captain Oak had me brought in to Major Crimes as Red’s partner because of my track record and because I’d worked with Red before, but...there’s a lot of ponies who think that I don’t deserve to be on that desk. That I got promoted because I’m just the department’s golden boy.” He gritted his teeth. “I have to prove them wrong...and prove it to myself. If I can’t do this, then…” He lowered his head. “Then maybe I don’t deserve to be a detective.”

“Flash, you passed the tests,” Twilight reassured him, trotting over and giving him a hug. “You’ve had a lot of experience. You’ve proven time and time again that you’re brave and smart and quick-thinking. You’ve proven that you have what it takes to be a detective. Don’t listen to the naysayers; listen to your experience.”

Flash managed a small smile at Twilight. “Thanks, Twi, but...I still feel like I should be doing more.”

“He’s got a point,” Daring commented from the porch. “I’m no fan of just sitting around and waiting for stuff. At the very least, we could go take another look at Quick’s apartment.”

“This late at night?” Spike commented. “Will they even let you in?”

Twilight suddenly brightened with an idea. “We don’t have to go there! I’ve got it here!” Her horn lit up and with a pop of purple light, a notebook appeared in front of her. She flipped it open to a page that was scrawled over with runic symbols.

“This is an experimental method that I’ve been trying,” she explained, beckoning Flash, Phillip, and Daring over and drawing a circle with them inside of it. “I took a scan of the crime scene when I was there and copied the data onto this. If I did it right, it should give us a three-dimensional view of the scene.”

“Which means…?” Daring asked.

“Watch!” Twilight said, placing the notebook on the ground in the center of the circle, drawing other runes around the book. She lit up her horn, murmuring a soft, rolling chant as purple energy began to fill the entrenched lines, letting out a soft hum. The notebook’s pages turned on their own with a loud rustling, then the lines began to glow.

A moment later, there was a flash of light, and then the four ponies were standing inside the front hall of a cozy, well-lit apartment.

“Whoa,” Daring said, looking around. She reached out to try to open the drawer of a nearby table, but her hoof merely went through the image.

Flash looked down, then gasped in horror and jumped back when he realized that he was standing inside the specter of Quick Step’s body, who still lay on the floor next to the dropped phone. She stared sightlessly up at the ceiling, face blue and tongue hanging out of her mouth ghoulishly.

“Sorry,” Twilight said sheepishly. “But as you can see, it worked! This is exciting: a new way to reexamine crime scenes, preserving it for eternity!” She squeed and clapped her hooves together.

“Wow,” Spike commented, leaning in through a wall to study the projection. “Looks just like a dome of light from outside. You’ve really outdone yourself, Twi!”

“Crikey,” Bobby said as he and Rain both leaned in through the wall. “Sheila, you’re bonzers at this!”

“Yeah, this is awesome!” Flash grinned. Twilight blushed beneath the attention.

“Okay, let’s see if there’s something we missed the first time around,” Phillip said, wandering about the room.

“We’ll leave you to it,” Bobby said as he, Rain, and Spike retreated.

“If Gold Signature left before Quick woke up, he might’ve left behind something,” Flash posited.

“Or taken something with him,” Phillip said, pausing and looking at the small woven basket on the hallway table where the phone had stood. The only things in it were a small key and a bottle of hoof sanitizer attached to a bracelet.

“Bet this basket is where they kept their keys,” Phillip said, glancing down at the dropped apartment key next to Quick’s body. “But there’s one key that’s missing from here.”

“Her backstage key!” Daring cried. “She didn’t have it!”

“Maybe the intruder took it,” Flash pointed out.

“Possibly, but it didn't look like he paused in front of the table,” Phillip mused, moving on.

The living room didn’t yield anything else useful, and Twilight guided them over into the bedroom by turning the pages of her notebook, making the room move around them. A scan of the bedroom revealed nothing else of interest, but Daring turned towards the cracked door that led into the bathroom.

“Didn’t Mortis say that Quick was dying her mane?” she mused out loud.

“Uh...yeah,” Flash replied.

“Let me satisfy my curiosity on something,” Daring said, prompting Twilight to flip a page and sending the bathroom sliding towards them. Daring checked the sink, then leaned into the trash can and poked around.

“Aha!” she declared. “There’s a bottle of mane dye in here, and traces of dye in the sink!”

Everypony else checked and also spotted the spots of blonde liquid in the sink bowl and the empty bottle and brush in the trash can.

“And Quick didn’t apply that,” Flash commented. “That dye in her mane was weeks old.”

“Gold must’ve dyed his mane before he left,” Daring concluded.

Phillip checked the small closet in the bedroom, scanning the small collection of coats and other clothes within. “I see an empty hanger and a missing tie on the rack there,” he said. “If he took the backstage key…”

“Then he could’ve sneaked into the backstage of the Heavenly Bawdy,” Daring concluded.

“Because...he was trying to hide something there!” Flash realized, his eyes widening. “There must be something he had, some proof about Eagle Trust, and he hid it there because he figured that it would be harder to find than in his apartment!” He bounded out of the image. “C’mon, we gotta go now!”

“Hold on, Flash,” Twilight cut him off, closing the book and erasing the magical circle, causing the construct to dissipate into little motes of light that faded away. “We’d need to get a warrant first before we search the Bawdy.”

“And there’s still the fact that we know the Bawdy is being watched,” Daring pointed out. “If we go in there snooping around, somepony there who works for Eagle Trust could let them know what’s happening. We had two close calls already today: pushing our luck too much is a bad idea.”

Flash glanced over at Twilight, who had frowned nervously, shuffling one hoof. “Well, what do you suggest?” he asked, stepping closer to her, one wing half-extended as if to drape around her.

Daring pondered silently for a moment, tapping her chin in thought, then her eyes brightened with an idea. “You think Rarity can do rush jobs?” she asked Twilight.

Twilight raised an eyebrow as Daring outlined her plan. “Are you sure about this?” she asked slowly.

“Can you even dance?” Flash asked, his face the picture of skepticism.

“I can,” Daring said defensively. “I learned how to dance ballroom and swing when I was in the Family; makes for a good cover for high-society events and dance halls.”

Phillip smirked. “Oh, hush. I'm not that out of practice,” Daring hissed, sticking her tongue out at him.

The other three all glanced at one another, then Phillip sighed. “I suppose it’s the plan we’ve got,” he conceded. “In the meantime, I can help Flash and Red interview the staff.”

“Maybe we’ll get lucky this time,” Flash muttered, putting on his shoulder holster and tightening it to his body.

“I’ll work on a simple glamour for you in the morning,” Twilight offered to Daring. “I’m not very good at illusions, but I think I can get something to alter your cutie mark and mane and coat.”

“Appreciate that,” Daring nodded, trying and failing to stifle a yawn. “It’s late; we’d all best get some rest for tomorrow.”

“I’ll take you and Spike back home, Twi,” Flash offered as they headed inside, where Spike, Rain, and Bobby were waiting.

“Thank you, Flash,” Twilight smiled as they reentered, scooping up a semi-dozing Spike from the couch. “Thanks for the practice, Bobby.”

“Can’t wait till next time, sheila!” Bobby grinned at her, waving goodbye as the visitors exited into the night. The rumble of a motorcycle starting up pierced the night, then the growling of the engine faded away into the dark.

Gathering up the typewriter and loose manuscript, Daring set the equipment on the small writing table in the living room, opposite Phillip’s experiment worktable. She stacked up the papers with a smile, marking the place where she’d paused her editing with a bookmark.

“I can’t wait to see that published, ampa,” Rain smiled at her.

“Me neither,” Daring replied as Phillip and Bobby headed upstairs, both stallions yawning.

“Good night, ampa. I love you,” Rain said.

Daring paused, the warmly spoken words echoing in her chest. I love you. She could never recall her own mother or father ever saying that to her, or to each other: what little she could recall of them speaking at all was either inebriated slurring or violent shouts that seemed to shake the foundations.

She turned back to Rain, swallowing, finding it hard to speak. “I...good night, Rain,” she mumbled, wincing internally as the inadequate words spilled lamely out of her.

Rain just smiled and stroked Daring’s cheek with a hoof. The touch lasted only a moment, but Daring found herself gently rubbing against the hoof, wishing it would last longer, trying to hold onto the soft warmth of the touch as she climbed upstairs and into bed.

She slithered up against Phillip, who gently wrapped his forelegs around her, murmuring quietly and nuzzling her ears as she cuddled into his embrace. Sleep soon took them both.

“Thanks for the ride, Flash,” Twilight said as she climbed off the back of the motorcycle.

“Yeah, thanks!” Spike said, popping out of the sidecar and trotting up to the door of the squat little house on Golden Oaks Drive.

Flash smiled at Twilight but then frowned, looking up at the house.

“What’s wrong?” Twilight asked.

“I…” Flash muttered, rubbing his mane. “After what happened to you today, you should have some extra protection, but I can’t leave my mom alone.”

Twilight chuckled. “I appreciate the thought, Flash, but I’m not worried about any intruders: after Whitestone, I made sure to double-check all of the wards on my house.” She lit up her horn as Spike inserted the key into the front door. A barrier of magenta energy flashed over the house, arcane symbols running along the length of the wards. “There’s no chance that anypony could get into my house without me knowing.”

“But…” Flash started to say, fidgeting on the bike.

“But I figured that you wouldn’t want to choose between me and your mother,” Twilight said, raising her foreleg and offering it to him. “So I already made plans.”

“Huh?” Flash asked, his mouth hanging open as he took her foreleg and allowed her to guide him to the front door. A grinning Spike held the door open for them both.

As Flash trotted into the hallway, greeted by the familiar photograph of Twilight with her family on the wall, his ears perked up when he heard a familiar mare’s voice humming from inside.

“Mom?” he called as they entered the living room and spotted the gray-maned pale gold unicorn sitting on the couch, her body covered with a thick blanket, one hoof running over a Braille library book.

“Hi, sweetie,” Pastor Joyful Sound smiled in their general direction. “Thanks for inviting me over, Twilight. And thanks for checking out these books for me.”

“It was the least I could do,” Twilight smiled.

Flash looked back and forth between his mother and Twilight before a smile crossed his face. “You brought her over so we could all stay safe?”

“It made sense,” Twilight explained. “The increased risk of being a single target was balanced out by any would-be intruders having to deal with several protective wards, a dragon, and a trained and armed police officer.”

“And one of the best magic users in Equestria,” Flash added, booping Twilight.

Twilight blushed, her ears flopping back. “Thank you, Flash,” she mumbled.

Spike yawned. “We’ve got a pretty big day tomorrow. You’d best get some sleep, Twi, otherwise you’re gonna be up all night making plans.”

“I should be getting ready now,” Twilight said, shaking her head to try to stave off fatigue. “A glamour isn’t that easy to set up--”

“Twilight…” Spike said, raising an eyebrow at her.

“He’s got a point, Twi,” Flash agreed.

Twilight tried to glare at both of them, but could not fight off a yawn of her own, nor prevent her heavy eyelids from blinking. “Ugh, fine,” she mumbled. “Let’s get to bed. Good night, Pastor Sound.”

“G’night, mom,” Flash said, kissing his giggling mother on the forehead.

“Good night, dears,” Joy chuckled, laying down on the couch and wrapping the blankets around herself, continuing to peruse her book.

Twilight led Flash and Spike upstairs to her bedroom. Spike waddled over to a small basket loaded with blankets and pillows in the corner and clambered into it, curling up beneath the sheets. He was snoring within moments.

Twilight and Flash both paused, looking at Twilight’s bed. Flash looked over at the nightstand table. Lit by the bedside lamp was a small vase filled with a light turquoise liquid and a bouquet of lavenders.

“Aren’t those…?” he found himself asking.

“A special potion I made with help from Fluttershy’s friend, Doctor Tree Hugger,” Twilight explained with a nervous chuckle. “It’ll keep the flowers alive and healthy for a long time.”

“Oh. That’s...cool,” Flash replied, rubbing the back of his head.

Both of them looked at the bed, then at each other, their cheeks turning darker shades of red by the moment. “So…” Flash started to say.

“There’s a sleeping bag you can use...unless…” Twilight mumbled, rubbing her foreleg nervously.

“Unless?” Flash prompted.

“Unless...you’d like to sleep with me?” Twilight offered, her cheeks turning red.

“Er…?” Flash asked, his mouth dropping open.

“N-not like that!” Twilight quickly cried, her face doing an excellent impression of a stop sign. “I, I just meant...if you were here, it would...make me feel safer…” Her voice trailed away and she resumed rubbing her foreleg again as her head lowered, but Flash spotted her eyes darting about into every corner, checking the dark night sky out the window twice.

Flash smiled and nodded. “Okay. If that’s what you want.”

He loosened his shoulder holster and placed it on the leg of the bed frame. Switching off the light, Twilight pulled the sheets back with her magic and they both climbed onto the mattress. Flash gently wrapped his forelegs and a wing around Twilight, pulling her close to share his warmth. Twilight let out a soft, contented coo as she nestled her head against his chest, right next to his dancing heart.

“Flash?” she murmured, pulling the sheets back over them both.

“Yeah?” Flash asked, trying to keep his heart from leaping right out of his chest and quietly scooting his hips away from her.

She leaned up and her lips brushed against his, soft and warm. He kissed her back, running one hoof along the long mane that smelled of lavender and parchment.

“I love you,” she whispered, blinking up at him with eyes that reflected the shimmering stars through the window and seemed to magnify that light, warming him to the core.

“I love you, too,” Flash smiled at her, kissing her on the forehead and placing his chin atop her head. She let out a little giggle and nestled up against him.


“Sorry!” Twilight cried, pulling away from him. “Sorry, I didn’t think about my horn!”

“It’s okay,” Flash said with an embarrassed chuckle, rubbing his cheek where he’d been jabbed. “Maybe...you should be the big spoon," he suggested, trying not to glance down at what he hoped was a relatively small bulge in the sheets.

“Sounds like a plan,” Twilight said sheepishly.

Flash turned around so that his back was to her, letting out a quiet sigh of relief that she hadn’t noticed. As Twilight wrapped her forelegs around his chest and tucked her head against the side of his neck, he thought he heard his mother giggling from downstairs. With a sigh, he closed his eyes and was soon asleep.

Author's Note:

I liked writing this chapter. It was good to give these characters some time to relax and show off the growing familial bonds between them.

I was trying to imply that these training meetups with Flash and Twi are becoming more common, but it's always bugged me that I"ve never had time to show that in the previous stories. Oh, well, hopefully I can fix that in the future.

Leave a like and a comment if you enjoyed!

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