• Published 2nd Jan 2024
  • 2,239 Views, 218 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 5

Several Hours Later

"I still think you should stay the night, Princess." Nurse Strongheart protested, for at least the dozenth time.

"I understand, and while I appreciate the concern, I would much prefer to sleep in my own bed tonight." Twilight responded, calmly.

Though she was heavily bandaged from her foreleg up to her wither, Twilight still had enough mobility to sit upright in her bed and glance over at the nurse hesitantly unhooking her IV. She glanced out past the window, seeing the nighttime sky of Equestria and the billions of little stars sprinkled all over the tapestry of black expanse above. Truly, Luna went all out tonight.

"Princess, those stitches will need to be cleaned and removed in one week's time. If you're adamant about returning to your castle for the time being, please at least allow a nurse to come by in a few days to check them and ensure the wound isn't getting infected." Doctor Horse offered, placatingly.

Twilight sighed, "Alright, I'm fine with that." She relented, laying back in her hospital bed.

"Thank you... now, as for your other wounds, like I was saying, those are mostly healed and scar tissue at this point. That said... I think we would be remiss to not address them at some point. I mean... I've never seen a wound like this on your flank, before... and you said it was a 'bullet' that did this?" Doctor Horse inquired, his brow furrowing as he attempted to remember the right term.

Twilight nodded, "Cooper knows infinitely more about them than I do, but yes... I was shot months ago. It healed with the help of my magic, but it's still scarred over."

"I see. I suppose we'll have to interview this 'Cooper' friend of yours more after you're both healed up. Speaking of which, I do believe Doctor Hooves should be done with him by now... wait, did you say you were wounded months ago?" He replied, slowly turning to Twilight with confusion riddled all over his muzzle.

"Like I told all the other doctors... it's a long story. One that I'd prefer to only have to tell once or twice. Cooper can also help explain it. Suffice to say, time passes differently in different worlds." Twilight sadly admitted, her eyes falling to the soft cream colored bedsheets beneath her.

"I... understand, Princess. We won't take up any more of your time. I know that you're tired. While... I have several reservations about you not at least spending the night here, I can't force you to stay. Just please come right back here the second you feel as if anything is off or any pain flares up anywhere." Doctor Horse replied, evenly.

"Thank you, Doctor. I promise, if anything changes, I'll be right back here in a jiffy." Twilight smiled.

Seeing the small smile on that bandaged alicorn's face managed to melt the cold, disapproving look on Doctor Horse's face, and albeit with a small sigh, he nodded toward the nurses in the room, prompting them to finish their duties and help Twilight into a wheelchair. With a quick 'goodbye', Twilight was wheeled out of the room and toward the waiting room where the rest of her friends were all apprehensively waiting.

The second they saw her lavender coat round the corner, all six of them rushed over to her, startling her slightly in the process.



"You're okay!"

"How bad was it!?"

"I hope it's a quick recovery."

"You're gonna have some gnarly scars after this. You might even have more than me now!"

"Does it hurt?"

Twilight quickly recovered and smiled at all of her friends as they assaulted her with concern and well wishes.

"Thank you, all of you. I'm alright. Probably going to have some nasty scars, but the doctors say I'll be able to fly and walk again like it never happened. With some magical therapy, the scars should recede until it's barely a quarter the size it is now." She answered, gratefully looking up to all of her friends.

"Twilight, you had us all so worried. You were in there so long." Spike pressed, gently placing his claw on her hoof.

Twilight smiled lovingly down at the baby drake, "I know, Spike... and I'm so thankful to have friends and family like all of you. I promise, no more crazy, hair-brained adventures. I think I've learned my lesson." She chuckled, before rustling the spines atop Spike's scaly head.

The group shared a chorus of laughter and smiles at the scene, but Twilight soon found her attention pulled elsewhere as she tried to look over AppleJack.

"Where's Cooper? Doctor Horse said he should be out here by now." Twilight asked, quizzically.

"Right behind you." Cooper answered from behind, his shoulder leaning on the wall.

"Gah!" Twilight cried out, before craning her neck to look at the human who snuck up on all of them, "How... how did you get there so quietly?"

Cooper pointed down at his shoes, "Rubber soles. A lot quieter than hooves on tile floors, remember?" He smirked.

Twilight let out a small sigh that quickly turned into a laugh, "Yeah... yeah, I do remember. Are you okay?" She asked, quickly noticing Cooper's sling-bound arm.

"I've been better, but I've also been worse," Cooper shrugged, "Couple broken bones, contusions, bruises, malnutrition, early onset of scurvy... just to name a few."

Twilight and the rest of the ponies around him blanched at his list of injuries and conditions. However, the purple alicorn was also the first to recover and snort in amusement.

"Ah, so just another Tuesday." She smirked.

"Actually, it's a Thursday, according to the calendar." Cooper snarked, gesturing to a pin up calendar down the hallway.

Twilight simply stuck her tongue out at him as the rest of the group managed to recover from their shock and chuckle at the banter between the two of them.

"Well, you two sure do seem to be on the same wavelength right now." Pinkie noted, glancing back and forth between Cooper and Twilight.

"Are we gonna get that story ya'll promised us, now?" AppleJack inquired, glancing over to Twilight.

Twilight slowly looked back over to Cooper, her eyes asking the unspoken question that they were both thinking. Albeit with a hesitant nod, Cooper did give his affirmation, prompting Twilight to softly smile and nod to AppleJack.

"I do believe you're right, AppleJack. Let's get back to the castle first, though. This story is... well, it's a bit of a long one. Plus, I'd like to sleep in my own bed tonight." She replied.

AppleJack and the rest of the group nodded and proceeded to wheel Twilight out of the hospital waiting room. The second they breached the outside world, a soft chill sent shivers down her spine as a breeze of cool night air blew past her. Cooper shared a similar reaction, instinctively pulling his ragged cloak tighter to his person as he followed behind, just a few steps off to the side of the earth pony pushing the wheelchair.

"Are you alright, Darling? You look like you're shivering." Rarity quickly noted, looking to Twilight with concern.

Twilight nodded, "It's alright. I'm fine. Just got a bit of a chill. Let's get back to the castle." She suggested, an almost pleading tone in her voice.

"You got it, Sugarcube." AppleJack gave a winning smile as she pushed Twilight's wheelchair along.

The dirt roads of Ponyville made the rather short trek somewhat bumpy and jarring. While the wagon had something of a suspension to cushion the impacts of rocks and small potholes, the wheelchair Twilight was in had no such amenities. Fortunately, the commotion from earlier was largely gone in the wee hours of the night.

Few ponies were awake at the later hour, and even fewer were out and about as the moon's light cast a pale white glow on the town. A few thatched rooftops were occupied by night owl pegasai or the very rare thestral, and fewer than a dozen warm lights spilled from the windows as the ponies inside busied themselves with whatever task they were up to. The peaceful scene brought a feeling of relaxation and refreshment to the group after such a stressful day, with the exception of two.

Both Twilight and Cooper found themselves on edge as they proceeded toward town. More than once, Cooper heard a noise in the distance that made him snap his head toward the direction of the noise, or reach into his pocket for the pistol concealed there. Twilight fared no better, and with each snapping twig in the distant forest, her ears perked up and swiveled toward the sound.

Eventually, the aggressive alertness of the alicorn and human caught the attention of the rest of the group, but they all shared silent glances to halt any attempt to bring it up. Within a few minutes, they arrived at the castle steps, the brilliant crystal structure reflecting the moonlight enough to illuminate the surrounding area in dazzling displays of color and vibrance.

As they arrived at the entrance, both Rainbow and Fluttershy helped Twilight out of the wheelchair while Rarity used her magic to levitate it up to the top of the steps.

"Guess the castle needs a few renovations with handicapped ponies in mind." Twilight chuckled as her friends gently helped her up the steps.

Cooper watched from close behind, but kept his distance as he watched the friends work together to help Twilight. Despite himself, and the situation he found himself in, he couldn't help the corners of his mouth turning up in a tiny smile at the sight.

Once Twilight was at the top steps, she was gingerly deposited back into the wheelchair and wheeled inside. The group brought her into the foyer and toward the staircase leading up to her room.

"Looks like we gotta do this again. Maybe yer right, Twilight. There prolly should be a ramp in here, somewhere." AppleJack chuckled, prompting a snort from the lavender alicorn.

"It's fine. Here, there's no less than a dozen guest rooms down he-" Twilight began, only for Rarity to cut her off.

"I seem to recall somepony saying she wanted to spend the night 'in her own bed'." Rarity tittered, her horn glowing blue once again.

Twilight chuckled as she was helped out of her wheelchair once more and led up the stairs. Soon enough, she found herself back in her own room, her crimson bedsheets calling out to her like a long lost friend.

"Oh, Celestia... I've missed you." Twilight murmured, eyes wide as she looked at her bed.

"With how she's acting, you'd think she hasn't slept in it in months." Spike chuckled, oblivious to the sudden frown on Twilight's face.

The rest of the group instantly caught on to the pensive look in Twilight's eyes, and Spike soon found himself the only one laughing in an otherwise silent room. He awkwardly coughed and scratched the back of his neck.

"Uh... sorry. Lame joke." He muttered.

While Spike received no verbal response, he along with the rest of the ponies found their gazes being pulled, almost as if by instinct, toward the human standing behind them. The weight of the air felt unbearably heavy as they stared at him, finding his gaze to be locked to the floor.

"It's time I told you all what happened... I know this is going to come as a shock, but you have to believe that every word I or Cooper tell you, is the truth." Twilight announced, slowly turning in her wheelchair.

"Uh... of course, Sugarcube." AppleJack replied, politely.

"You all may want to take a seat for this." Cooper stated, simply.

Albeit with a moment of hesitation, Pinkie and Spike both quickly retrieved a few foldable chairs from the nearby closet and set them up for everypony to sit in. Once they were all seated, Twilight looked over to Cooper.

"Where to begin..." She mused, aloud.

"My story, or yours?" Cooper inquired.

"I think it'll be easier to start with mine." Twilight replied.

"Go ahead."

Twilight nodded, before turning to her friends once more, "Alright, so this all started when I went through the portal earlier today-" She began, before Rainbow spoke up.

"Why didn't you tell any of us you were going through that portal? Spike just showed up, freaking out about you being missing and all of us came as fast as we could. Why didn't you tell anypony else before just going through?" She asked, as gently as she could.

"Honestly surprised to hear that from Rainbow of all ponies." AppleJack playfully muttered under her breath.

Rainbow lightheartedly smacked AppleJack's wither with her wing, prompting a snort of amusement from the farm pony before Twilight continued.

"Yes, well... that was a mistake I quickly came to regret. Spike, how long was I gone before you got all the girls over here?" Twilight asked, looking to the purple drake.

"About half an hour. I went to go get them all after... I dunno, maybe fifteen minutes?" Spike replied.

Twilight sagely nodded, "I see... well, the only easy way to say this is to just say it. Girls, Spike... while it was only about half an hour for you, it was about six weeks for me." She responded, earning a round of gasps from the assembled friends.

"Six weeks!?" Rarity exclaimed.

"B-but... how!?" AppleJack added, looking back and forth between Twilight and the rest of the ponies in the room.

"How is that even possible?" Rainbow questioned, a disbelieving look on her face.

"Are ya' sure you didn't just hit your head and get a little confused? I mean... you definitely got hurt worse than just a head bump so..." AppleJack offered.

Twilight shook her head, "I know it sounds hard to believe... but time passes differently through the portal. That's why Spike was in such a rush to find you all... There's a lot more to explain, and that's before the older me shared-"

"Older you?" Pinkie questioned, cutting Twilight off.

"You mean like... a 'you' from the future? Like that one time you went back in time to warn yourself about a disaster the didn't really happen?" Spike pressed.

Twilight nodded, "Yes, Spike... although this time was much more serious. She was here when Cooper and I returned from the portal. She saved us from a man named Gabe. Then she shared her information with me... it's... difficult to process." She admitted.

"Wha'doya mean, Sugarcube?" AppleJack asked, gently.

"This version of me... she was older... much older. She's spent decades trying to find how to go back in time and stop Gabe. She succeeded at a great cost to herself." Twilight trailed off, a sad look in her eyes.

"What cost?" Fluttershy pressed, softly.

"She erased her entire timeline." Twilight answered.

Another round of gasps and shocked expressions ran through the group.

"H-how could she do that?" Rarity questioned, aghast.

"When you go back in time and change the past, you alter the future. She knew this... she knew that saving Cooper from Gabe would erase her timeline forever... nopony died from what she did... it's... as if they simply never existed in the first place. It's the reason time travel magic is so dangerous and outlawed..." Twilight trailed off.

"So, wait a minute. This 'future' version of you came back from who knows how many years from now, to save yer friend, Cooper-" AppleJack began, nodding to the aforementioned human, "-from another human named 'Gabe', destroyin' her entire timeline in the process?" She questioned, skeptically.

Twilight simply nodded.

"Then where is she?" Rainbow pressed.

Cooper and Twilight shared a sad look, "She's gone. Much like her timeline, she faded out of existence. It's... she simply doesn't exist anymore." Twilight explained.

The group shared a round of uncomfortable looks, "So... if'n yer friend Cooper here... died, after you came back through the portal... then that's what woulda happened to all of us? You'd have gone back in time and erased the future for 'im?" AppleJack asked, hesitantly.

Twilight shook her head, "I don't know... I'm still trying to understand the memories as they come but she transferred decades of knowledge into my head all at once. It's been difficult to sort through it all and remember it since they aren't really 'my' memories." She responded, sounding noticeably downcast.

Seeing the saddening features of their alicorn friend, the group quickly moved on to the next topic, "Alright, so tell us about the portal then. What happened to you?" Rainbow pressed.

Twilight nodded, "When I went through the portal, I thought I would be finding myself in another world much like ours or Sunset Shimmer's... what I found instead, was Cooper's world." She replied, turning to look at the human beside her.

While he hadn't said anything since the beginning of the conversation, the look on his face clearly showed that Cooper was struggling to keep the melancholy from consuming him as he thought back to his world. When it became apparent that Twilight was not continuing her story, Cooper nodded slightly and took a small step forward.

"My world was a decent enough place... until a few people decided that they didn't like a few other people. It started like any other war starts, I suppose. Resources... territory... Hell, just plain old hatred for your fellow man. Either way, it didn't take long before we found ourselves in a nuclear war." Cooper explained.

"Nuclear? What's that mean?" Rainbow asked, tilting her head to the side.

"Each bomb dropped was powerful enough to wipe out entire cities. In the span of a month, over two billion people died," Cooper replied, earning shocked gasps in response, "The next four years were... my planet was plunged into a global thermonuclear winter. The entire sky was blotted out by ash and dust... then it started snowing. Blizzards so bad that you couldn't see a foot in front of your face... snow piled fifty feet high... most of the population froze or starved to death in a matter of years." He elaborated, noting the now dead silent room before him.

"D-did you say..." Fluttershy began, looking like she was about to cry.

"Billions?" Pinkie finished for her.

Cooper looked to the pink party pony, noticing how her poofy hair had lost some of its volume, "Yes. That was four years ago. At this point... I don't think there's even a million of us left... all we do now is kill each other. Steal food... try to survive the freezing nights..." He explained, a somber look in his eyes.

"That... that sounds awful." Rarity stated, frowning.

"That... is where Twilight's been for the last six weeks... or for you guys... thirty minutes." Cooper sighed.

Author's Note:

Now ain't that just a bombshell to drop on your friends? I hope I did a good enough job explaining what's going on with the other Twilight and how the timeline works. Trust me, we will go more into depth on this in the future. I just don't want to have to lore-dump about time travel just yet. Rest assured, explanations will be shared.