• 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...

  • ...

Chapter 17

The Following Day

Twilight nervously shook her head as she trotted towards Sweet Apple Acres. Her wings ruffled slightly as she passed by Big Mac's stall in the market district of the town. While he didn't appear to see her, just one look at the stallion told her all that she needed to know about how he was feeling.

There was a slight crease in his brow, one that only after years of knowing the stallion, could Twilight identify. It was a crease that only ever surfaced on his brow when he was genuinely upset or angry, though as a stallion of few words, he'd never opt to speak his mind against whatever had slighted him. Unfortunately, Twilight knew all too well what, or rather who had slighted the stallion's family.

Cooper's return the previous night caused a bit of a stir in the castle, but after having known the Apple clan for years, Twilight could tell that something was definitely off when Cooper came back with an empty stomach. Combine that with his 'more agitated than usual' appearance, and the fact that he arrived well over an hour earlier than she expected him, and Twilight knew for certain that there was trouble afoot. His guards had followed him to his room, where they stood vigilantly at his door until their shifts ended, neither one offering any explanation as to the previous day's events.

So it was with a heavy heart, and a bundle of nervous butterflies in her stomach, that Twilight approached Sweet Apple Acres. She could just barely make out the unique pattern of Cooper's footsteps on the familiar trail from the previous night. Alien as they were in the sea of horseshoe shapes, she found an odd comfort in knowing that he was still here, and his presence in her world was not just a dream or hallucination.

Soon enough, Twilight was snapped from her revelry by the sound of hooves bucking against wood. She looked back up to see AppleJack in her orchard, nearly a dozen trees already bucked and devoid of their apples as she worked. Assuming that her friend was working hard as always, Twilight hopped over the fence and trotted over to her.

"Hey, AppleJack." She greeted, trying her best to sound polite.

"Howdy, Twi." AppleJack responded, wiping the sweat from her brow, though she didn't turn to look at her.

"Umm, is everything alright, AJ?" Twilight inquired, noting the absence of her friends bright green eyes.

"Just peachy." AppleJack grunted, before cocking her legs and bucking another tree.

Twilight winced at her tone, before letting out a sigh, "Alright, look. I know Cooper probably offended you all last night, but could you please tell me what happened? He was unusually quiet about it when he got home last night." She offered.

AppleJack let out of huff before finally turning around to look at the lavender alicorn properly, "It ain't his fault... least, I don't hold no grudge or nothin'. Bit offended at how he just left without hardly a word, though I guess he's got a lot goin' on inside that head a' his."

Twilight sighed, "I'm sorry he did that, AJ. He's... losing his family was really hard for him, especially the way he lost them. I think when he was here with you and your family, seeing how much you all care for and love each other it... well it may have got to him a bit."

AppleJack raised an eyebrow, "How do ya' figure?"

"Isn't it obvious?" Twilight tilted her head to the side.

AppleJack shook her head.

"He misses his family, AppleJack... and seeing you with your family, I'm assuming all laughing, joking, telling stories, and generally having a great family time, just reminds him of what he lost." Twilight explained.

AppleJack gave a slow nod, "Ah... Ah guess that does make sense, don't it... what were their names?" She asked, gently.

"His wife was named Mia and his daughter was named Sarah." Twilight replied.

AppleJack's brow furrowed slightly, "Mia... Sarah... ya know, come to think of it, I guess I do remember him muttering those names a bit. Thought he was just talkin' to himself but he seemed wide-eyed and focused on the window."

"The... window?" Twilight questioned.

"Yep. He was lookin' out the window like there was something spookin' him mighty fierce. It took all three of us to finally get his attention back to the present and as soon as we did, he just got up, said he had to go, and left. Didn't even try a bite of Granny Smith's crabapple rangoon." AppleJack elaborated.

Twilight nodded, "I see... again, I'm sorry for how he acted. He's not the type to do things to offend somepony on purpose, I promise you that. I know you don't have to, but if you could find it in your heart to give him another chance, I promise that this time I'll make sure he doesn't have issues like that again." She offered.

AppleJack scratched her chin in thought for a few moments as her gaze fell the grass between them. After a particularly pleading look from Twilight, she clicked her tongue in her mouth and let out a small huff.

"Ah'd like to get to know 'im better. If it'd just be the three of us, ah think that it might go a bit smoother. So, alright," AppleJack replied, noting the excited look forming in Twilight's eyes, "-but I want an apology. Not to me, but to Granny. I can understand that he's goin' through some real hard times, but that ain't no excuse to treat her like that." She added, cutting Twilight off before she could start celebrating.

"I don't think that'll be too much of a problem. I'll see if I can get Cooper to come by and apologize some time today or tomorrow. Sound good?" Twilight offered, a hopeful smile on her face.

AppleJack nodded, "Sounds good to me, Twilight."

Cooper walked with his hands in his pockets, his brow furrowed as he recounted the previous night's affairs to his guards. Both Sky and Midnight gave him raised eyebrows as he finished his explanation, the trio soon arriving in the center of town.

"So, you had another episode?" Midnight asked, gently.

Cooper shrugged, "If that's the word you wanna use, I guess."

"That's twice in just as many days. Are you sure you don't want to talk to somepony about this, Cooper?" Sky offered, trotting alongside him.

While the guard forgoing his usual position at Cooper's flank was unexpected, it was not particularly out of character for the stallion as he grew more and more relaxed around him, at least, that's what Cooper told himself.

"We're talkin' about it right now, aren't we?" He rebutted.

Sky gave him a deadpan look, "Alright, but you know what I mean. Not with us, more like... somepony who specializes in helping with these kinds of things. After everything you've been through, it isn't the worst idea." He offered.

Cooper shook his head, "It's fine. I'm just still getting used to not having to watch my back everywhere I go. Not to mention, a whole new dimension and all that... kinda surprised I've kept it together as well as I have, to be honest."

"Cooper, that's not particularly inspiring to hear..." Midnight frowned.

"I told you guys, I'm fi-" Cooper began to reply, but a voice quickly cut him off.

"Watch out!" A young, feminine voice cried out, prompting Cooper to snap his head toward the source of the voice, while Sky and Midnight instantly took up defensive positions around him.

What none of them expected, however, was for a small pegasus filly with an orange coat to blast past them on a a scooter, two ropes trailing behind to small wagons that were filled with two more small fillies. One of them, Cooper instantly recognized, making him freeze, but even as time slowed down and the yellow blur that was AppleBloom blew past him, he could feel the glare in her eyes.

Unfortunately for the trio of fillies, their warning was not out of curtesy, but rather out of fear, as they barreled into a stack of hay piled outside of the building right beside Cooper and his guards. All three fillies crashed into the haystack, two of them plunging head-first while the small white filly managed to land on her rump, leaving her head sticking out of the hay. A few groans and grunts of annoyance left the group as two of them struggled to free themselves, their hind legs dangling and struggling for purchase on the hay.

Without hesitation, Midnight ignited her horn and levitated the trio of fillies out of the hay and down to their hooves in front of Cooper. While the pegasus and unicorn landed gently on their hooves, AppleBloom crossed her forelegs and pouted as she was deposited on her rump.

"Are you three okay?" Sky asked, gently.

"Woah... what they heck are you, dude!?" The orange filly suddenly pressed, her adorably tiny wings buzzing in excitement.

Cooper nearly took a step back from the shock of the sudden turn of mood for the little orange pony, but her sentiment was quickly matched by the white unicorn filly beside her.

"Oh! Rarity was telling me about him! He's a hyue-man! He saved Princess Twilight!" She exclaimed, her voice squeaking in the cutest way physically possible.

While two of the fillies absolutely melted his heart, Cooper couldn't help but feel a weight settle on his chest as his eyes fell on AppleBloom once more.

"Hey there, AppleBloom." He greeted, quietly.

Both the orange and white fillies looked over to their friend, confusion written all over their faces, "Wait, you know AppleBloom?" They asked in unison.

"AppleJack invited him over for supper... then he just stormed off after barely even havin' any." AppleBloom replied, giving him the stink eye.

The other two fillies shared a look, "So... was that why you've been so upset today?"

AppleBloom simply nodded.

"I know... and I'm sorry. I was actually on my way to your farm to apologize right now." Cooper offered, sincerely.

Despite the frown she still wore, AppleBloom at least looked up and met Cooper's gaze, "Why did you run off? We worked really hard on that dinner and you just..." She trailed off.

Cooper hung his head low as he sunk to one knee, bringing himself more at eye level with the little fillies, "It was rude... I know. I've just... got some issues I'm trying to work out. I didn't want to make a scene at your family's home... guess I did anyway. For what it's worth, you have an absolutely lovely family, AppleBloom. They just remind me of my own family so much that I... well..." He trailed off.

Whatever hostility that was still there in AppleBloom's eyes quickly evaporated as she remembered Cooper's story, "Yer family... ah get it. It's okay. Thank you for apologizin', at least." She responded, with a small smile.

Cooper returned the gesture with a half-smile of his own, "Thank you for being understanding."

Cooper offered his hand, to which AppleBloom quickly shook. Once that was finished, the two other fillies quickly interjected.

"You didn't tell us that you had an actual alien over last night!" The orange filly balked.

"I would've come over if I'd have known that!" The white filly cried.

"Scootaloo, Sweetie Belle, it's not like ah had time to go tell you. Ah was busy with chores and the stall." AppleBloom rebutted.

The now named friends of AppleBloom both rolled their eyes at her response, "Still! You could've come and got us! We were at the clubhouse until dusk!" Scootaloo protested.

Seeing the inevitable infighting between the group of fillies about to get worse, Cooper decided to step in, "It's not her fault. We were pretty busy with the chores and dinner." He offered.

"You helped with the chores?" Sweetie Belle tilted her head to the side.

"Whichever ones I could. I can't buck a tree like AppleJack, but I can pick up the apples that miss the buckets pretty quickly." Cooper smirked.

"You've got hands like a minotaur. I'll bet." Scootaloo chimed in, glancing at Cooper's hands.

Cooper chuckled, "Yeah, I've heard that before... so where were you three all headed in such a hurry?" He inquired.

"We were on our way to the park to go watch Rainbow Dash practice her routine for the Wonderbolts!" Scootaloo proudly exclaimed.

"The... wonderbolts?" Cooper tilted his head to the side.

"Do you not know who the Wonderbolts are?" Sweetie Belle questioned.

"Or course he doesn't. He's an alien. What'dya expect?" AppleBloom sassed, giving her friends a deadpan look.

"They're the most awesome group of daredevil flyers in Equestria! Second only to Rainbow Dash herself, but as soon as she becomes a fully fledged member, she'll be running the 'Bolts in no time!" Scootaloo beamed.

Cooper playfully raised an eyebrow, "If they're second to her, why does she want to join them?"

"Well, uh... obviously because... um..." Scootaloo's bravado quickly faltered.

"Maybe the Wonderbolts and Rainbow Dash are both equally awesome?" AppleBloom suggested.

"Meh, I dunno... Rainbow Dash is the most awesome pony around... but the Wonderbolts are full of awesome flyers too... alright, I guess we'll call it even for now." Scootaloo relented.

Cooper chuckled at the filly's mental gymnastics, "Alright, so you guys were going to watch her practice, then. Hope we didn't keep you too long. You were in such a hurry that I'd hate for you to be late."

"Nah, we're actually pretty early. I just wanted to get there before anypony else so we could get the best seats in the house." Scootaloo explained.

"Ah, gotcha. Well don't let me stand in your way. You kids go have fun." Cooper smiled, getting back to his feet.

Just as he turned to leave, however, Sweetie Belle leaned over to Scootaloo and whispered into her ear. A sudden look of realization and excitement formed on Scootaloo's face within seconds, and she promptly leaned over to AppleBloom, whispering the same message she'd just been given. History quickly repeated itself, and suddenly all three fillies darted in front of Cooper, wide smiles on their faces.

"You know, now that we think of it, do you wanna come watch Rainbow practice too?" Scootaloo offered.

The tiniest squeak of excitement escaped from Cooper's left, and he glanced over to find Sky doing his absolute best to keep a straight face.

Cooper raised an eyebrow, "With you three?" He inquired, looking back over to the three fillies.

"Uh huh!" The three of them nodded in unison.

"Hmmmm..." Cooper crossed his arms as a skeptical look crossed his face.

AppleBloom, Sweetie Belle, and Scootaloo all stared back at him with baited breath, while Sky practically shook in place. After nearly thirty seconds of letting his guard suffer, Cooper finally spoke again.

"Well, I was about to go apologize to your sister, AppleBloom-" He started.

"It's okay. Ah forgive you and I'll talk to AppleJack once we get back." AppleBloom cut him off.

Seeing as there were no other loose ends for him to tie up for the day, Cooper subtly glanced over to his pegasus guard, finding a set of puppydog eyes looking up at him.

"Well... I know Sky really wants to meet her... alright." He relented.

"Yes! Finally!" Sky cheered, his wings flaring as he leapt into the air with excitement.

The trio of fillies giggled at the guarstallion's antics while his fellow guard gave him a teasing smirk. Cooper simply shook his head as the stallion quickly fell back to the ground, his hooves colliding with the ground with a soft *thud*.

"Uh... hehe... ahem... very good, sir." Sky responded, regaining his professional attitude as quickly as possible.

"You are such a dork." Midnight teased, making a hint of red appear on the stallion's white fur.

"Alright, now that that's out of the way, let's go see Rainbow practice. I've heard she's really fast but I haven't had a chance to see for myself." Cooper stated, bringing the group's focus back around.

"She's not just fast, she's the fastest pegasus in Equestria!" Scootaloo cheered, her little wings buzzing in excitement as she bounced in place.

Cooper chuckled, "I guess I'll just have to see for myself. You guys want to lead the way?" He inquired.

"This way!" Scootaloo replied, hopping back onto her scooter and securing her helmet.

AppleBloom and Sweetie Belle quickly followed suit and clamored into their small carts just before Scootaloo took off, her wings buzzing in a flurry of movement that sent the whole trio flying down the street.

"Uh... think we should hurry after them?" Midnight asked, slightly dumbstruck at just how fast the fillies had disappeared into the distance.

"They said they're just going to the park." Sky responded.

"Well three kids running around like that could get themselves hurt... Can one of you look after them while the rest of us catch up?" Cooper asked.

"I can track them. Just follow me." Sky replied, unfurling his wings and taking to the air.

"Thanks." Cooper replied.

With that, the man and his unicorn guard followed along at a leisurely pace while their pegasus over-watch followed the three fillies to the park. The trek through town was swift and pleasant, and within a few minutes, all parties were in the center of the park.

"Alright, so when is Rainbow supposed to show up?" Cooper asked, glancing skyward.

"She should be here any second..." Scootaloo replied, glancing back and forth into the air.

A sound akin to a jet engine quickly ramped up in the distance, making Cooper's hair stand on end. He glanced over in the direction of the sound, only for a flurry of blue feathers to blitz past him, a rainbow trail in its wake. He was so shocked by the ridiculous speed of the prismatic pegasus that he didn't even notice the three fillies and stallion guard cheering in adoration.

Author's Note:

Nothing like three adorable fillies to break you out of your funk. Surely nothing bad will come of this. Surely...