• Published 2nd Jan 2024
  • 2,518 Views, 302 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 24

Cooper strolled back toward Ponvyille with his guard escorts and the cutie mark crusaders as the sun began its descent toward the horizon. The trio of fillies bounced excitedly around the tall man as they prattled off about their exciting day of adventure and cutie mark crusading. Both Sky and Midnight chuckled at their antics, the sight of three fillies literally bouncing and prancing with joy bringing a smile their faces even despite their guard training. Even Cooper couldn't keep from grinning at the three adorable fillies as they prattled off about how much fun they had and how they couldn't wait to do it again the next day.

So it was in high spirits that the group exited the forest, just in time to almost run right into AppleJack and Twilight as the pair of mares approached.

"Oh, Cooper! There you are." Twilight smiled, trotting over to him.

"Apple Bloom. There you are. You have fun?" AppleJack asked, trotting alongside Twilgiht.

"Boy did I!" AppleBloom beamed, rushing over to her sister, "We identified over thirty different kinds'a snakes, frogs, bugs, and birds after navigatin' our way through the Everfree." She explained, a wide smile on her face.

"You, uh... you did what now?" AppleJack questioned, a hint of concern creeping into her voice.

"They were supervised, don't worry. Zecora and I were watching them the whole time." Cooper chimed in, earning a thankful sigh of relief form the orange farm pony.

"Psshh, as if. Cooper was too busy making googly eyes at Zecora." Scootaloo teased.

Cooper rolled his eyes, much to Twilight and AppleJack's amusement, "I was not making 'googly eyes'. We were just enjoying each other's company and talking while watching all of you." He replied.

"Cooper and Zecora sitting in a tree. K-I-S-S-I-N-G!" Sweetie Belle sang-songed, prompting Apple Bloom and Scootaloo to quickly join in.

Cooper let out a groan, again, much to Twilight's amusement, "So I take it you all had fun?" Twilight asked, in a bid to take some fire off of Cooper.

"It was great! We're going back out again in a few days!" Sweetie Belle exclaimed.

"Yer what now? Apple Bloom, we've got a harvest to handle in two days. Ah can't have you runnin' off into the forest then." AppleJack chastised.

"Actually, the plan wasn't for these three to come into the forest. Zecora invited me back for tea and these three rugrats decided to invite themselves." Cooper clarified, crossing his arms.

"Awww, come on, Cooper!" Scootaloo pleaded.

"Yeah! Let us come with! We wanna see Zecora too!" Sweetie Belle cried.

"Oh, please!" AppleBloom begged, clasping her hooves together and giving both Cooper and AppleJack her best set of puppydog eyes.

AppleJack merely raised an eyebrow while Cooper stared straight up into the sky, avoiding her gaze as best as he could, lest her adorable charms work their magic on him and make him acquiesce. Luckily, Twilight stepped in to stop the begging before it could become too powerful to resist.

"Okay now, fillies. Let's see about asking your sister's tomorrow. It's getting late and you all need to get home soon anyway." She diplomatically cut in.

A chorus of "awww's" and "pleeeeeeeeeease's" echoed from the three fillies, but a stern look from AppleJack finally sealed their metaphorical coffins. With a sad, dejected sigh, the cutie mark crusaders nodded in acceptance and bid each other their farewells, before heading their own ways back home.

"Alright, time to get you back home, AppleBloom. I'm surprised you ain't plum tuckered out. Yer usually about to fall asleep this time'a evenin'." AppleJack noted, playfully tussling AppleBloom's mane.

"Yeah, yeah..." AppleBloom muttered, only to yelp in surprise as her big sister nuzzled her muzzle under her legs and flopped her onto her back.

"Aww, don'tcha get in a sour mood, 'Bloom. You'll get to play with your friends again soon. Promise." AppleJack offered, giving her sister a friendly smile.

Albeit with a moment hesitation, AppleBloom nodded in acceptance and laid down on her sister's back, "Alright, alright... let's just get home... I'm hungry." She muttered.

AppleJacjk chuckled as she looked back to Cooper and Twilight, "Welp, I need to get her home. We still on for dinner, Twi?" She inquired.

Twilight happily nodded, "We sure are. I'll see you at the castle, AppleJack." Twilight replied.

"Alright, ya'll. See ya' in a bit." AppleJack responded, giving a parting wave before trotting back off in the direction of Sweet Apple Acres.

As they watched her head home, Cooper tapped Twilight on the wither, redirecting her gaze up to him, "Wait, did I miss something? AppleJack's coming over?" He questioned, curiously.

Twilight nodded, "She wanted to get to spend some time with you, one-on-one, so to speak." She explained.

Cooper cringed, "Even after..." He trailed off.

Twilight nodded, "Even after what happened. I talked to her and she understands that you were having an issue and needed to get some space asap. Like I said, there's no pony I'd trust more with a friend than AppleJack. She's extremely understanding."

Cooper gave a slow nod at the news, a grateful feeling in his chest for the second chance he was being given, though questions still remained, "What about the rest of her family? Big Mac? Granny Smith?" He pressed.

Twilight quickly shook her head, "Don't worry about them right now. Put simply, if you want to win them back, win AppleJack back first. Which, I know you'll do because she's an understanding pony and she already likes you. She wouldn't have trusted you with AppleBloom if she didn't." She elaborated.

Cooper reluctantly relented, allowing them to drop the subject and head back toward the castle. As they walked, both Sky and Midnight fell in step on either side of them, taking their usual positions once more.

"So, did you have a good time with Zecora?" Twilight asked, pryingly.

Cooper raised an eyebrow as his hands found their way into his pockets, "I did. It's weird as hell listening to her rhyme all the time, but it kinda grows on you pretty fast. She's really nice, too. Lot chattier than I expected, especially since she has to come up with those rhymes on the spot." He explained, while they made their way into town and approached the bridge leading to the town square.

"I thought as much. Zecora is a wonderful mare. She's always been super kind and helpful whenever we've needed help. I am really glad that she's made a friendship with you." Twilight nodded, giving a warm smile.

Cooper smiled in return, "Me too. She's really laid back and relaxing to be around... kinda reminds me of..." He trailed off, his soft smile fading away as his minds drifted back to his family.

"Cooper? You okay?" Twilight asked, gently.

"Hey, uh... after dinner... I was wondering if I could ask you about something." Cooper replied, looking back up to Twilight.

"Um, sure. Of course, Cooper." Twilight responded, though the look in Cooper's eyes made her hesitant.

While there was nothing bad or even particularly different about the gaze Cooper levied at her, Twilight could just barely sense the faintest hint of fearful longing in his eyes, as if he wanted to say more but was simply afraid to voice himself. The sight made her nearly pause in her step, but before she could say anything or pry any further, Midnight spoke up from in front of them.

"We're here, Princess." She announced, snapping her attention back to what was in front of her.

They were just outside the front gate of the castle, making Twilight quickly wonder just how quickly they'd made their way back as the walk itself felt as if it'd only lasted a few minutes. All the same, she quickly shook her head clear of the thoughts making her question her own sanity and fixed Cooper with a friendly smile.

"Alright, AppleJack should be over for dinner in about half an hour. Think you can get cleaned up and presentable by then? Spike's making lasagna." Twilight announced.

Cooper snorted in amusement and nodded, "You sound just like my mom." He teased.

"Well somepony has to baby you. Now come on, you smell." Twilight blew a raspberry as she trotted off ahead, prompting Cooper to follow after her, an amused chuckle leaving his lips.

Cooper managed to shower quickly and dress in a more comfortable set of clothing Rarity created for him lounging around in the castle. The pants were made of a breathable blue fabric that stretched and adjusted to his quickly growing waist size, while the shirt was just a plain white t-shirt that Cooper found himself wearing more and more when he was just relaxing in the castle.

Meanwhile, Twilight helped Spike prepare the table and dinner, ensuring that their was enough food for the three of them, Cooper's guards, and AppleJack. Said guards were quick to decline any offered dinner until their shift was over, but after an insistant plea from the Princess of Friendship, they both acquiesced and removed their armor.

As the hour finally came, there was a polite knock at the door of the castle, the reverberations echoing through the halls and easily reaching the ears of the little drake finishing the salad.

"I'll get it!" Spike announced, quickly rushing over to get the door.

The sound of the great oak door creaking open reached the ears of the ponies and human present in the kitchen or dining room, along with the friendly greeting Spike gave to AppleJack for what could have been the thousandth time.

"-come on in! Dinner's just about ready." Spike finished, ushering the farmer pony inside.

Cooper looked up from his seat on one of the chairs as AppleJack entered the dining area, her hooves clopping on the crystal floor and altering him of her approach long before she came within view. At first glance, there was nothing out of the ordinary with the apple farmer, but there was still an undeniable level of tension between the two as neither greeted the other right away. Finally, after a moment of awkward silence, Cooper got out of his chair and cleared his throat.

"Uh, hey, AppleJack... Good to see you again." He offered, politely.

AppleJack gave a firm nod and what she hoped was a disarming smile, "Good to see ya' again too, Coop'."

For another awkward moment, they both just stood there, neither sure of what to say or do. When the silence became nearly unbearable, AppleJack began walking toward the kitchen, only to halt as Cooper raised a hand.

"Wait, uh... just... real quick, I need to apologize." Cooper stated, taking a step forward.

AppleJack quirked an ear and tilted her head to the side, but said nothing. Taking that as permission to proceed, Cooper continued.

"Uh, for just running out at dinner with your family... That, uh... it was a shitty thing to do and I'm sorry for that. I was just... going through some things." Cooper lamely explained, awkwardly stuffing his hands into his pockets as he shuffled from side to side.

While each second that passed by was unbearable in its own right, AppleJack mercifully didn't keep him waiting long for a response, and a soft smile soon graced her lips.

"Thank you, Coop'. I really do appreciate that, an' I wantcha' to know that there ain't no hard feelin's. AppleBloom had quite a bit to say on yer behalf and I know you've been through the ringer. I really do appreciate the apology, though. Means a lot to a country gal' like me." AppleJack replied, clearing the air of tension between them almost instantly.

Cooper gave her a relieved smile, "Thanks. I'm glad to hear that." He responded.

With the tension nearly completely gone from the atmosphere, the two turned their attention back toward the kitchen, and the pair of violet eyes peeping at them. Twilight beamed a wide smile as she observed them, leaving her post to walk over and greet her friend.

"Oh, I just knew you two would make amends right away. I'm so glad you came over, AJ." Twilight announced, giving a quick nuzzle to the farm pony.

"Ain't nothin' to it, Twi. I'm just glad we were able to talk it out. Now, how's about that dinner. What'cha got in that there kitchen smells mighty delicious, and I'm starvin'." AppleJack replied, removing her trademark stenson and placing it on a nearby coatrack.

"Dinner will be ready in just a minute. In fact-" Twilight replied, turning to the kitchen as she heard the oven ding, "-looks like it's ready right now." She announced.

Twilight quickly turned around and made her way back into the kitchen. Within a few minutes, she had all the food levitated over to the table and prepared for everyone to sit. Sky and Midnight also helped in setting the table, but opted to sit right across from each other at the far side of the table, far from the rest of the group. While their distance was slightly confusing to Twilight at first, the subtle gestures they made toward each other, along with the way they looked into each other's eyes, quickly clued her in to why they wanted to be separate from everyone else.

Much like Cooper's first dinner with AppleJack, idle chit-chat and friendly conversation quickly filled the air. As the food was consumed, words of praise for the chefs were said, along with several second helpings, and even thirds, in AppleJack's case. While Cooper was quiet for most of the night, the few interjections or witty jokes he did make, made the entire table laugh or nod their heads along in genuine agreement or interest. The air felt light and warm, and before any of them knew it, hours had passed and the moon was high in the sky.

"Welp, it's gettin' pretty late, an' I gotta get up to get AppleBloom to school tomorrow morning." AppleJack announced, hopping out of her chair.

"Of course. It was great to have you, AJ." Twilight smiled, levitating the plates into a stack.

"Let me help with that, Princess." Midnight offered, her horn lighting up as she prepared to take the stack of plates from Twilight's magic.

"Oh no you don't! I got this!" Spike declared, quickly grabbing the stack and heading toward the kitchen, "You just keep making googly eyes at each other." He teased, making both Sky and Midnight blush.

While the two guards managed to turn a shade darker, Cooper and Twilight fixed their attention on their apple branded guest as she retrieved her stenson from the coatrack.

"Thanks for coming over. This was... nice... real nice." Cooper said, sticking his hands in his pockets once more.

"Shoot, Ah'd love to do this again sometime. Ya'll're a riot when ya wanna be, Coop'." AppleJack chuckled.

Twilight giggled, "I agree. We just need to get you a bit more out of your shell, Cooper. Don't worry though, we can invite the rest of the girls over for dinner later this week. I know Rainbow wants to see you again and Rarity is dying to know how her clothes are holding up." She offered.

"Sounds like a plan." Cooper smiled.

"That reminds me. Ya' seen 'Shy lately? I ain't seen hide nor hair 'a that filly in days." AppleJack noted, as she donned her hat.

Twilight rubbed her chin, "You know what... now that you mention it... I don't think I've seen her either. Maybe we'll have to stop by and see how she's doing?" She suggested.

"Hay, why not bring Coop' over? I'm surprised she ain't all over him, what with 'im being an alien critter and all." AppleJack laughed.

"To be fair, 'shy' is literally in her name... maybe you should just let her come to you at her own pace." Twilight reasoned, glancing over to Cooper.

"I think I remember Zecora talking about her. Her cottage is on the way to her hut. Maybe I'll just stop by to say hi next time I go to see her." Cooper shrugged.

"Sounds like a plan to me. Now, I'd better get goin'. Thanks again for the supper, Twi. You too, Spike!" AppleJack hollered.

"You're welcome!" Spike called back from the kitchen.

With that, the apple farmer departed, leaving Cooper and Twilight alone with their guards while Spike cleaned up in the kitchen.

"Um, we're gonna head back up to our rooms. Unless you have anything else for us, Princess?" Sky inquired.

"No no, you two are fine to to do whatever you'd like. I don't think Cooper has any plans to go anywhere else tonight." Twilight joked, playfully elbowing Cooper's leg.

"Not at the moment." Cooper shrugged.

"Alright then. We'll see you both in the morning." Midnight replied, before turning tail and heading back to her room.

Sky quickly followed, though both Twilight and Cooper noticed how the pair of guards did not appear to split up as the reached their hallway. In fact, they appeared to enter the same room together. Chuckling to herself at the obvious actions before her, Twilight turned around, but before she could head anywhere, Cooper spoke up.

"So, uh... about that thing I wanted to talk to you about..." Cooper announced, freezing Twilight in her tracks.

"Oh, um... of course, Cooper. Here, lets head up to the map room and discuss it there." She suggested, quickly remembering the look in his eyes.

With a nod, Cooper led the way to the map room, and within a few minutes, they were both situated around the crystal map table.

"Alright, so what's up?" Twilight asked, curiously.

Cooper took a moment to collect his thoughts, and with each passing second of silence, Twilight felt a knot grow and twist in her stomach. Her mind raced with the possibilities that could make him so hesitant to speak to her, each one filling her with more dread than the last. Finally, when the silence became too much to bear, Cooper spoke.

"I want you to bring my family back through the portal."

Author's Note:

Dun dun duuuuuuuuuuuuuun.
Well that's certainly a bombshell to drop on Twilught now isn't it? I hope that it doesn't seem like Cooper's leading Zecora on only to suddenly decide he wants his wife back. In case it hasn't been clear, he has no idea she's into him. He's very dense in this regard.