• Published 2nd Jan 2024
  • 2,409 Views, 272 Comments

Warm - CrimsonWolf360

Returning to the past, Twilight does what is necessary to save Cooper from his fate. The consequences for such choices, however, are not to be underestimated. Only time will tell if it was worth it...

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Chapter 14

Cooper blinked in surprise at the sight of the pink party pony suddenly standing before him. While both his guards were already between the two of them, it became immediately apparent to him that Pinkie was less than ten feet away, yet she hadn't done anything other than quietly look up at him, her straight mane cascading down her face.

"Miss Pie, Princess Twilight has all but demanded that you keep your distance from Mister Slait." Sky informed her, his wings flaring out slightly.

"I... I just-" Pinkie tried to speak, but was swiftly cut off by Midnight.

"Miss Pie, I'm sure that Princess Twilight will get over what happened soon enough. However, right now... it's probably for the best if you just keep your distance." Midnight advised.

"B-but... I..." Pinkie replied, trailing off as more tears formed in the corners of her eyes.

Despite the situation she caused not even twenty four hours prior, Cooper couldn't help but feel his heart break at the sight of such a bubbly, happy-go-lucky pony absolutely absorbed in despair and sadness. Her bright ocean blue eyes brimmed with tears that made him frown in concern.

"Miss Pie, I think it's time for you to leave. There will be a time to fix everything, but I don't think that time is right now." Sky stated, gently.

Pinkie looked like she wanted to argue, to say something to counter the guard's statement, but it was just as clear that she was at war with herself. Every time she opened her mouth to refute, she closed it not a moment later, a contemplative look on her face. When it became clear that she was going nowhere, Pinkie let out a dejected sigh and sadly nodded. She slowly turned around and trudged off, her hooves barely lifting off the ground.

"Wait." Cooper ordered, freezing her in her place.

Both Sky and Midnight turned around and looked at Cooper as if he'd grown a second head, but Pinkie glanced over her wither with a look of hope in her tear-stained eyes.

"Sir, I don't think-" Sky began, only for Cooper to silence him by holding up his hand.

"I appreciate that you guys are looking after me... but what happened wasn't her fault. At least... not this time, it wasn't." Cooper replied, stepping past his pegasus and unicorn guards.

Much as they appeared hesitant to accept what was happening, both Sky and Midnight allowed Cooper to walk past them and approach Pinkie Pie.

"C-Cooper?" She asked, a pleading look in her eyes.

Cooper got down on one knee, bringing himself to eye level with the normally poofy pink pony, "You think you can manage to not blow shit up in my face like that again? I don't do well with surprises. You ponies might love them but I sure as Hell don't."

Pinkie slowly nodded, "I-I promise I won't ever surprise you like that again... I was just... so excited to see a new friend in town..." She trailed off, her gaze falling to the ground once more.

Cooper gently placed a hand on her wither, making her eyes snap up to him once more, "Alright... I forgive you. Just... don't do that to me again, please... I've got a lot of bad experiences with shit blowing up all around me."

The look of despair and depression on Pinkie's face disappeared within a millisecond, a look of relief and happiness taking its place so fast that Cooper was hardly prepared for what came next. Pinkie darted forward, wrapping both her forelegs around his back and squeezing him closer as she practically sobbed happy tears into his shirt.

"Oh thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you! I promise it won't ever happen again!!!" Pinkie cried, nuzzling her cheek against Cooper's collar.

Cooper hesitantly returned the hug, consciously aware of the many eyes that were quickly falling on the scene he was a part of. He stroked his hand through Pinkie's mane, finding that somehow, someway, the curls and poofiness of her mane had returned in the time it took her to dart over and hug him. As much as he didn't want to admit it, there was something utterly adorable about the little equine as she held onto him as if her life depended on it.

"Alright, I think that's enough of a scene for now." Cooper announced, gently patting Pinkie's back.

With a few sniffles and hiccups, Pinkie pulled away, nodding as she did so, "Y-you're right... thank you so much, Cooper. I promise that I won't ever scare you or Twilight like that again."

Cooper gave a half smile, "Thank you, Pinkie. I appreciate that. I'll try to talk to Twilight too. It don't make a lot of sense for her to be mad at you over me when I'm not." He offered.

Pinkie's lip trembled, "Thank you... I really hope she forgives me... I've never made any of my friends that angry before... not even Gilda, and she was really really mad at me when I wasn't even the one pulling those pranks on her." She explained.

"Don't worry. Twilight's a reasonable gal. She'll come around," Cooper replied, getting back to his feet, "Now, I have a haircut that I need to go get, so I should be going."

"Okie dokie lokie. Thank you, Cooper!" Pinkie smiled, trembling on her hooves for a moment.

Cooper raised an eyebrow at her sudden bout of jitters but before he could say anything, she darted forward and wrapped her forelegs around him again, hugging him tightly once more. The hug only lasted for a few seconds, but Cooper was immediately assaulted by the warmth and sincerity behind the gesture. Before Sky or Midnight could step in and separate her by force, Pinkie withdrew and give him another gentle smile.

"See you around, Cooper." She offered, before trotting off.

"See ya' around, Pinkie." Cooper murmured, giving a small wave as she departed.

"Are you sure that was a good idea? She can be a bit... overly eager and Princess Twilight was very adamant about-" Sky began, only for Cooper to cut him off.

"I know, and it's fine. I'll be alright." Cooper replied, standing upright again.

"If you're sure..." Midnight hesitantly relented.

"Now, about that haircut..." Cooper trailed off, glancing around for the building in question.

"The salon is just down the road, but are you sure you don't want to go try out the spa like Miss Rarity suggested?" Midnight replied.

Cooper shook his head, "It's a nice suggestion, but I'm not really... the spa type."

"What do you mean by that? What's wrong with going to the spa?" Sky asked, tilting his head to the side.

"Nothing wrong with 'em, just not my cup of tea is all." Cooper shrugged.

"But the spa is so relaxing. You get to lay down in a hot tub, be waited on, have an expert mare or stallion massage your withers and croup. Not to mention the zucchini's they give you. Those are delicious." Sky prattled off, a dreamy look appearing in his eyes.

Both Cooper and Midnight raised an eyebrow at the stallion guard's antics, "Uh... right, well... while that sounds real nice and all, I'm not too keen on massages at the moment." Cooper replied.

"Let's just go to the salon and we can try to get the hair cut there. We can worry about massages and hot tubs once Cooper is more settled in Equestria." Midnight suggested.

"That's a plan I can get behind." Cooper nodded.

Sky shrugged, "You're the one missing out, not me." He replied, falling in line with Cooper and Midnight as they headed in the direction of the salon.

With little chatter between them, the group was able to make its way through the town and to the salon in a matter of minutes. As they arrived, Cooper took note of how the interior resembled a salon from the nineteen fifties, with bowl-shaped blow-dryers that covered the heads of nearly a dozen mares all sitting in their chairs. The complete lack of any stallions in the building did little to assuage Cooper's growing hesitancy.

"Welcome to the Ponyville Salon! I'm Saffron Swirl. What can I do for you?" A meridian red mare with a swirly white mane greeted, looking up from her counter at the front.

"We're here to get Mister Slait a haircut." Midnight explained, politely.

The mare looked up to Cooper, taking in his shaggy mop of hair with a critical eye, "Hmm... can't say I've ever worked on a creature like you, but... I think we can make it work. Gonna have to shave off quite a bit there. How long's it been since you last got a trim, sir?" She asked, curiously.

"Five years." Cooper replied, flatly.

The mare blanched, "Well shoot... this is a hair emergency. Let's get you into a chair, honey." Saffron instructed.

With a flourish and barely a moment of time for him to reconsider, Cooper was quickly rushed over to one of the empty chairs at the far side of the room. His much larger frame was clearly going to be an issue for the comparatively small chair that he sat on, but it was still comfortable enough for him to sit in without arching his back too much. The mare quickly wet his hair and brought out a pair of scissors to trim his beard.

An apron cape was quickly thrust upon him, and his beard was similarly rinsed with warm water. With expert precision and skill, Saffron trimmed his beard down until it was just an inch or so in length. Long, scraggly swathes of hair fell from his cheeks and covered the floor around him. Once Saffron was satisfied with his beard trim, she lathered his beard in shaving cream and pulled out a razor from her drawer. She swiftly but carefully shaved his face until the last remains of his beard were removed.

With that finished, she covered his neck and cheeks with a warm, wet towel, ensuring not to cover his mouth with the moist fabric. While that was sitting, she pulled her scissors back out and trimmed Cooper's hair. She kept his hair relatively long, but took nearly six inches of scraggly, greasy, and clumpy hair off. Once she was happy with the length, she added shampoo into his hair and washed it in, carefully avoiding getting any of the suds into his eyes.

After a quick wash, followed by an addition of conditioner and subsequent wash, she combed through his hair, straightening out the knots and curls with expert precision. It took a few minutes of rooting through the tangles and such, but eventually, she managed to clean his hair up and straighten it.

Once she was happy with it, she sat his chair upright and placed the blow-dryer over his head. Less than a minute in the chair managed to add significant volume and sheen to Cooper's hair, after which, the blow-dryer was promptly removed.

All in all, the entire process took less than ten minutes, but the results were undeniable. She held a mirror out in front of Cooper's face, giving him a look at himself with his new look.

"What do ya' think, honey? I can go a little shorter if you'd like." Saffron inquired.

Cooper stared at his reflection for a few moments, his jaw dropping ever so slightly. For the first time in half a decade, he could see his face, and the features he'd long forgotten. His cheeks, hollow from years of malnutrition, combined with his pale skin gave him a nearly ghoulish appearance, but the hair atop his head was styled in such a way that he looks years younger. His piercing brown eyes appeared more vividly than he could ever remember without a shaggy mop of hair obscuring them and getting in the way.

Cooper dryly swallowed as he saw himself as he was before the Armageddon. Try as he might, he couldn't help the memories of his past life that came flooding back. He quickly closed his eyes and shook his head to clear the thoughts away, lest his tears start flowing freely in such a public place.

"You don't like it? I can try-" Saffron began.

"It's fine, really. Better than fine, to be honest. It's great... It's just... been a while since I've seen myself like this." Cooper replied, earnestly.

Giving him a soft smile, she brushed the excess hair off of him and helped Cooper out of the chair. She hastily led him over to the front desk once more, where Sky and Midnight had been watching the entire time.

"Alright, that'll be fifteen bits for the mane-cut and trim, sir." Saffron sweetly informed.

"This should cover it." Midnight replied, stepping forward and levitating twenty bits out of her armor.

"This looks like a bit more than fifteen." Saffron observed as she accepted the payment.

"For doing such a good job." Midnight gave her a nod.

"You could say that again. Cooper looks like an entirely different creature now. Much more respectable looking." Sky noted, giving his own nod of approval.

"Well thank you very much. I take pride in my work," Saffron replied, turning to Cooper, "So that's your name, eh? Gotta say, it sounds pretty exotic."

Cooper shrugged, "It's nothing special. Compared to where I come from, all you ponies have unique and exotic names."

Saffron shrugged, "I guess it's just a matter of perspective. Regardless, it was great to meet'cha, Cooper. If you need another haircut- preferably sooner than five years from now- feel free to stop by and ask for me." She beamed.

Cooper returned a small smile, "I will. Thank you."

With that, the trio exited the salon and headed back toward the castle of friendship in the center of town. While there were still several odd looks from the townsponies they passed along the way, the return journey proceeded in what was essentially peace and quiet. It was clear to both of the guards that Cooper wasn't in much of a talking mood, though his spirits did appear to be genuinely higher than before.

Soon enough, they arrived at the castle and entered, prompting Spike to come down the stairs with a curious look in his eyes.

"Oh, you guys are back. I'll go let Twilight know." He announced, turning right around and scampering back up the stairs.

With just the three of them in the foyer, Cooper was the first to speak up, "I don't think I'm gonna be going out anymore today. If you guys are gonna be attached to my hip all day, can you at least help bake?"

Midnight and Sky raised an eyebrow at the sudden question.

"I have quite some baking experience under my hooves." Midnight replied.

"I can at least not set the kitchen on fire... mostly since it's made out of crystal and crystal doesn't burn." Sky sheepishly admitted.

Cooper shrugged, "Good enough. Why don't you two get out of that armor and help me out then. I don't need you bumping into everything while we try to make this." He responded, heading toward the kitchen.

"Um, we're really not supposed to-" Midnight started.

"I know, and I'm asking you to do it anyway. Either that, or just sit outside the kitchen and stay out of the way." Cooper cut her off.

As the human headed straight for the kitchen, both pegasus and unicorn were left slightly stunned by his sudden offer. Albeit with nearly a minute of hesitation, Midnight trotted after him, unclasping her helmet as she did. Sky was quick to follow, and within a few moments, both of them were stripped of their armor. They placed their respective bundles of equipment on the floor outside of the kitchen before trotting in.

Cooper did a double take at their appearances as they entered, his brow furrowing in confusion. While their facial features and species were identical, both Sky and Midnight were completely different colors than just a moment prior. Midnight's coat was a dark gray, and her mane shown like ebony black in the sunlight filtering through the crystal windows. Only her sapphire eyes maintained the same color and vividness as before.

While Midnight was notably darker than before, Sky was much more colorful. His coat was a deep crimson red, and his golden brown mane appeared much more voluptuous than Cooper would have thought possible under his helmet. Much like Midnight, his amber eyes were unchanged, which was arguably the only feature that made him recognizable to the human.

"What?" Sky inquired, tilting his head to the side at Cooper's reaction.

"How... you guys are different colors..." Cooper muttered.

"It's an enchantment on our armor. The guard is all about conformity and uniformity, so our armor gives us all the same color." Midnight explained as she levitated Cooper's groceries onto the counter.

"How... how do you tell each other apart?" Cooper asked, curiously.

"Officers get a dark gray coat, just like Mid's natural color," Sky explained, "As for the rest of us, we kinda just recognize each other after a while." He shrugged.

Cooper opened his mouth to ask more questions, but quickly decided to let it go and pointed toward the bags on the counter, "Alright, let's just get to making something for Twilight." He ordered.

"Ah, so this is a project for the Princess." Midnight noted, quickly levitating the ingredients out of their bags.

"Just a little something to thank her for letting me stay here." Cooper explained.

"Si-Cooper... you know she wants you to be here, right? You saved her life. She's made it clear that you don't owe her anything." Sky offered.

Cooper stared down at the counter and the gathered ingrediants for a few moments, almost seeming to pointedly not respond. Eventually, he looked up to the two ponies before him.

"Think you can mix the eggs and flour while you get the oven started? I've never used this one before so I don't really know how it works." He asked, looking to Sky and Midnight, respectively.

Sky and Midnight shared a quick look, "Uh... I'll get the oven started." Sky offered.

"Guess I'll mix the eggs and flour, then." Midnight added.

Author's Note:

Sometimes a little trim can completely change a person. Hope you guys liked this. Little bit of character development and such. Sky and Mid needed it, and well, Cooper can always use it lol.