• 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 8

The Following Morning

Twilight awoke with a small yawn, her eyes slowly opening to the early morning rays of sunshine beaming in through the windows of the castle. Crystalline refractions displayed all over the floor due to the glass pattern in the windows, creating a miasma of colorful and angular shapes that covered the sleeping bags of the five other ponies in the room. One by one, they slowly roused from sleep as well, their eyes blearily opening while content groans of wakefulness filled the air.

Twilight smiled at the sight of something seemingly so regular, yet the reminder of what she had almost lost was brought back to the forefront of her mind by the simple feeling of an arm wrapped around her barrel. With some minor effort on her part, Twilight managed to crane her neck around to look back at Cooper as he held her in his arms, his eyes still closed as his steady breaths washed against the nape of her neck.

"Cooper?" Twilight whispered, gently rubbing his arm with her hoof to wake him as peacefully as possible.

Much as she expected, Cooper did not rouse calmly, his eyes snapping open and his arm instantly filling with tension. However, that only lasted for a microsecond as his gaze fell on her, and he quickly relaxed.

"Hey, Twilight. You sleep alright?" He asked, his voice sounding much more refreshed than she'd ever remembered it sounding before.

"Like a million bits." Twilight smiled, laying back down and scooching just a bit more into Cooper's embrace.

The soft and warm feeling of her fur quickly registered with the man as he felt her back press against is chest, her proximity making the already unbelievably comfy bed just that much more relaxing and cozy. All the same, after a few more minutes, he released his hold on the purple alicorn and wiggled out from under her.

"How's your arm?" Twilight asked, sitting upright as well.

"Hurts, but not as bad as it did yesterday," Cooper replied, simply, "How about your shoulder?"

Twilight smiled, "Not bad. The medication the doctors put me on basically numbed the entire area unless I do something really stupid to hurt it again."

Cooper nodded, "Then try not to do something really stupid while it's healing." He smirked.

"Twilight never does anything stupid... well, except the whole portal thing... and that time with the smarty pants doll... and-" Rainbow began to list off from her spot on the floor.

"Ah think we get the point, Rainbow." AppleJack cut her off, leveling a frown at the prismatic pegasus.

Rainbow sheepishly chuckled while Twilight awkwardly rubbed the back of her neck, "I... may have made a few dumb decisions over the past couple years... but at the very least, I'm not going to go reinjure myself right after something this serious." She offered.

"Don't you worry none, Sugarcube. We've all made some dumb choices over the years. Ain't nothing to be ashamed of. Point is, you've learned from yer' mistakes better than anypony else I know." AppleJack replied, getting to her hooves.

"Well speaking of idiotic choices, skipping breakfast would certainly fall on that list. Pinkie Pie, would you be a dear and help make some of those pancakes you do such a fantastic job on?" Rarity spoke up, looking over to the pink party pony beside her.

"Okie dokie lokie!" Pinkie chirped, "Spike, come help me make breakfast!"

With a tired snort, the purple drake rolled over in his basket-bed, his eyes blearily opening as he slowly woke up, "Huh? Wass... breakfast?" Spike managed, before his cheeks puffed out and a fiery belch of green flames forced its way out of his mouth.

Cooper visibly tensed at the action, but the rest of the ponies in the room simply acknowledged the sudden fire breath as if it were nothing out of the ordinary. The fact that a scroll manifested out of the flames and levitated just a few feet in front of Twilight didn't seem to change that either.

"Oh, it looks like Princess Celestia got back to me already." Twilight said, taking the letter out of the air with her magic.

Cooper shook his head in disbelief at the situation he'd just witnessed, but chose to say nothing as the rest of the girls quickly circled up around the bed.

"Oh? What did she say?" Fluttershy inquired.

"Let me see..." Twilight replied, opening the scroll, "Dear Twilight. I have received your letter and while I am extremely alarmed by what you've recollected, I am at the very least thankful to hear that you are okay. Luna and I will be arriving in Ponyville before noon."

"That's only in a couple hours." Spike noted, glancing to the clock.

"I think we'd better prepare a brunch just in case." Rarity mumbled.

"Did she say anything else?" Rainbow tilted her head to the side.

Twilight nodded, "Please, do keep your new friend, Cooper, in the castle until we arrive. Luna and I are both extremely interested to meet a human, face to face. If what you've told me is true about him saving your life, then he already has my undying gratitude. It would be an honor to meet him. Your mentor, Princess Celestia."

"Sounds like she's really eager to meet'cha, Coop." AppleJack smiled, looking up to the human.

"You... wrote a letter about me?" Cooper asked, a puzzled look on his face.

"I sent it out last night. Considering what happened, it was important that Celestia and Luna know about you. Don't worry, they're both extremely kind and loving princesses. I mean, Celestia already loves you just from what I told her and she hasn't even met you yet." Twilight assured him, patting Cooper's thigh with her hoof.

"If you say so..." Cooper nodded, although everyone noticed just how unsure he sounded.

"Don't you fret none, Sugarcube. Princess Celestia and Luna are some of the kindest ponies in Equestria." AppleJack added.

"Yeah! Princess Celestia has kept the sun rising for what? Like, two thousand years?" Rainbow chimed in.

Cooper raised an eyebrow at the rainbow-maned pegasus but opted to say nothing and simply shrug.

"I guess I'll know when I meet them." He relented, getting out from the sheets.

With only minor fenagling, the girls managed to help Twilight out of bed as well, and together, they all promptly headed downstairs. While Cooper, Twilight, Rainbow, Fluttershy, and Rarity sat down in the spacious living room beyond the foyer of the castle, Pinkie, Spike, and AppleJack headed into the kitchen and set about preparing food.

As the trio worked in the kitchen, awkward silence reigned over the rest of the group, leading to excessive amounts of fidgeting, whistling, and leg-tapping. From his position in the kitchen, Spike warily looked on as he stirred some eggs in a pan over the oven.

"Make sure ya don't burn 'em, Spike." AppleJack teased, snapping the little drake from his thoughts.

"Huh? Oh, yeah. I got it." Spike replied, moving the pan out of the fire for a moment to let it cool.

"Yer nervous, ain'tcha?" AppleJack questioned, following Spike's eyes.

"I mean... kinda hard to not be nervous. We hardly know anything about him and... I mean... if Twilight says he saved her life, then I trust her judgement but..." He trailed off, struggling to find the words.

"Ya feel like there's something... off with him?" AppleJack finished for him.

Spike nodded, "Yeah. I don't know. He hasn't done anything bad yet but... I just have this bad feeling. He's really jumpy and I don't want him to hurt Twilight." He reasoned.

"Oh don'tcha go worryin' yer scales off, Spike. Twilight can take care of herself just fine, now that she's back in Equestria. 'Sides, she's got all of us to watch out for her." AppleJack offered, gently patting the drake on the back.

"Yeah... I guess you're right. I just... can't stop seeing her covered in blood..." Spike mumbled, his eyes falling to the floor.

"Spike..." AppleJack quietly sighed, pulling the small drake into a hug.

"It... it was my fault, AJ... I bumped my elbow on the portal... she got hurt because of me." Spike muttered, tears forming in the corners of his eyes.

"Now don'tcha go blamin' yourself, Spike. It was a freak accident. Twilight doesn't blame you, and none of us do either." AppleJack reassured him.

"Thanks, AJ." Spike mumbled, returning the hug.

For a few seconds, the pair held onto each other as the sizzling of grease and eggs filled the air. Soon enough, however, another set of pink forelegs wrapped around both of them, squeezing them tightly.

"You didn't tell me we were having a group hug!" Pinkie exclaimed, shaking them back and forth.

"P-Pinkie! We weren't!" Spike protested.

"Land's sake, Pinkie! Put us down!" AppleJack exclaimed, although there was no bite to her words.

"Okay!" Pinkie chirped, setting them both down and returning to stirring some batter as if nothing had happened.

AppleJack adjusted her stetson, a wry grin forming on her muzzle, "Leave it ta' Pinkie to lift the mood." She chuckled.

"It's what I do best!" Pinkie beamed.

Even Spike found a smile forming on his face at the pink party pony's antics, "Heh, yeah, Pinkie. You sure do."

Breakfast was prepared within the hour, and a bountiful spread was laid out on the table for all of the castle's residents to eat. The aromas of sugary apple sweets, pancakes, cinnamon rolls, pancakes, and more wafted from the long dining table, filling the air and making everyone salivate. Cooper and Twilight, especially, given their circumstances, were practically drooling from the sight and scent of the delicious food laid out before them.

"Pinkie, AJ, Spike... I don't know how you guys do it but you always manage to make the best smelling food in Equestria." Rainbow complimented, licking her lips.

"I concur." Rarity concurred.

"It is quite delicious." Fluttershy added.

"Aw shucks, ya'll don't have to say all that. Ah'm just glad ya like it." AppleJack blushed.

"Oh! You should all try the blueberry muffins! They're fresh!" Pinkie called out, backing out of the kitchen with a try of piping hot muffins balanced on one hoof.

"That sounds absolutely delicious." Twilight smiled.

"Well what're you all waiting for? Dig in!" Spike beamed, his claws on his hips and his chest puffed out.

Without needing to be told twice, the entire group moved to various seats lined up along both sides of the table, their plates quickly filling with food from every pile on the table. A veritable cornucopia of sweets and crispy breakfast foods were piled onto every plate until a small mountain of food was held by each individual at the table. At least, every individual except Cooper and Twilight.

While the man and pony were positively famished and drooling over the sight before them, they restrained themselves and only piled a few of the lighter options on their plates. Rarity and AppleJack's warnings from yesterday echoed in both of their minds, much as they would have liked to pig out on the buffet before them.

Once they were all seated and prepared, Twilight addressed the group as a whole, "This looks amazing. Thank you. I can't tell you how much it means to be able to sit down and have a meal with all of you again." She said, kindly.

"What about last night?" Rainbow joked.

"Hardly sharing a meal, dear. Those was just some snacks. Now, let's eat. I'm starving." Rarity replied, her horn lighting up to pick up her fork and knife.

However, just before she or any of them could dig into their food, a knock echoed through the hall from the main doorway.

"Is that?" AppleJack trailed off.

"Well, they did say they would be here before noon." Twilight replied.

"Of course. I was just hoping we could eat a little before having to show proper decorum around two princesses." Rarity grumbled, quickly stabbing into her pancakes with her fork and knife.

"I'm pretty sure they can handle seeing you not acting like a 'lady' for one meal, Rares." Rainbow laughed.

"Absolutely not! I have a reputation to maintain." Rarity gave her an offended look.

AppleJack and Rainbow both chuckled at the frilly white unicorn's attitude, but their attention was quickly pulled to Pinkie as she hopped out of her chair and bounced over toward the front door.

"I'll get it!" Pinkie sing-songed, happily bouncing her way to the foyer.

"Uh..." Cooper muttered, his brow furrowing in confusion as the pink party pony hopped away.

"She does that. You get used to it." Fluttershy offered with a small smile.

Cooper hesitantly nodded as the front doors opened and an excited gasp reached their ears.

"Oh my gosh! Princess Celestia and Luna! What are you both doing here!? Oh yeah, Twilight and Cooper. Oh! Cooper! You two just have to meet him. Come right his way!"

Cooper cringed slightly at the mention of his name, but kept himself composed as the clip-clop of several pairs of hooves on crystal floor approached. Despite all the assurances in the world that he was safe now, he couldn't help the instincts built into his brain after those four years, and his grip tightened on the pistol in his pocket. Soon enough, Pinkie came bouncing in through the doorway, followed immediately by a burly pegasus stallion wearing a golden set of ornate armor. His eyes were a golden amber color, and his mane stuck out in a mohawk through his helmet, forming a plume of dark blue.

Cooper immediately found his eyes drawn to the pair of blades affixed to the stallion's wings. The guard, seeming to immediately pick up on his gaze, turned his head ever so slightly to meet Cooper's eyes with his own. While he carried a neutral expression, there was an undeniable level of tenseness in his amber eyes.

Just a moment later, a snow white unicorn mare walked in wearing much the same armor as the stallion. In fact, the only difference between their color palettes were their eyes. Hers were a brilliant sapphire blue, though they were somewhat hidden by her helm as she took up her place at the side of the door, opposite of the other guard.

Following in after her escort, Princess Celestia stepped into the room. While Cooper had been expecting her to be slightly larger than the rest of the ponies he'd seen, he was wholly unprepared for her to walk in, towering over everyone else in the room. Her horn, standing at almost a foot long by itself, nearly scraped the ceiling of the doorway as she entered, her alabaster white coat shimmering with reflected light from the windows.

However, much more impressive than that, was the long and flowing mane of multiple colors that she wore with an elegance and grace that seemed befitting of a goddess, let alone a princess. Much like Twilight, she also had a pair of wings attached to her barrel, though hers were noticeably longer and more defined. Her slender legs, muscular back and withers, coupled with the steely gaze she bore in her magenta irises made her undeniably beautiful, though slightly intimidating.

Last but certainly not least, to enter the room, was another alicorn of midnight blue. Much like her sister, Princess Luna strode into the room on slender legs and a well defined body that clearly showed centuries of strength and power. Her ethereal mane billowed in a non existent wind, with twinkling stars littering its entirety as if it were a backlit canvas with millions of tiny holes punched through.

Her turquoise eyes instantly focused on Cooper, though unlike her sister, there was an instant softness behind her gaze, as if she were suddenly relieved to see what she saw before her. The look only lasted for a second, as she quickly broke eye contact to follow her sister over to the end of the table.

"Princesses." Twilight greeted with a small bow. The rest of the ponies and drake at the table quickly followed suite, leaving Cooper as the only being to not bow to the solar and lunar diarchs.

"Please, Twilight. You know you don't need to do that anymore. None of you do. How are you?" Celestia replied, her voice as silky as a songbird on a gentle spring morning.

Twilight smiled, "Well... I've been better." She admitted.

Celestia nodded as she made her way over to Twilight's side. While there was a glowing smile on her face the entire way, the light in her eyes noticeably grew dimmer and dimmer as she grew closer to the young alicorn, and could see the extent of her injuries more clearly.

"I... I'm so sorry that you were hurt, Twilight." Celestia said, her voice filled with sincerity.

"Oh, there's nothing for you to apologize for, Princess... it was my own dumb decision and if it weren't for Cooper over there... well, I wouldn't be here at all right now." Twilight replied, nodding toward the human sitting across from her.

While it was obvious that he was already the elephant in the room from the very beginning, Cooper suddenly felt very tense as all eyes fell on him. However, he felt a bit of relief at the sight of such genuine gratitude in the eyes of the solar alicorn.

"Mister Slait, correct?" Celestia inquired, gently.

Cooper nodded, his eyes never leaving hers.

"Thank you... I cannot express my gratitude for your actions, enough. You've done a great service not only for Twilight and her friends, but for all of Equestria... and me, as well." Celestia humbly announced, a small waiver in her voice.

"We understand that you have come from a world that is vastly different to Equestria, and as such, have nothing to your name, here in Equestria," Luna suddenly spoke up, directing Cooper's attention to her, "If nothing else, we would like to offer you some measure of a reward for the great deed you did by bringing Twilight Sparkle back to us. The world of Eques would not be the same without her."

Cooper felt his throat dry up, but managed to nod in both agreement and appreciation for the gesture.

"Now, that does bring me to some of the questions we have," Celestia continued, turning to Twilight, "Just what in Equestria happened to you in that world, Twilight?"

Author's Note:

Well Celestia and Luna were gonna come over and meet Cooper sooner or later. Might as well have been sooner, haha.