• Published 28th Jun 2012
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A New Hero - Alex The Lone Wolf



What if there was another pony who joined the pony gang? (Look at longer description...)

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Somepony to Watch Over Me

Episode 82 – Somepony to Watch Over Me


I don't think I enjoyed the dinner as much as I wanted to. I was just so nervous and answering questions about my profession and me was hard enough. I tried so hard not to stutter or embarrass myself, but having royalty look directly at you was enough to freeze you up.

"Dessert, your highnesses." A waiter had dropped by to place several platters.

By the look of it, it looked like we were about to be served an entire cake itself. However, as the top was lifted off, it was only a slice. Still, it looked amazingly delicious though.

Before anypony started eating, I had to ask a question that was burning inside me and daring to be asked. "Um, excuse me." I almost softly announced. "If I may address as so, Princess Luna, Princess Celestia…"

"Go on." Princess Celestia smiled warmly to reveal her calm pleasure while Princess Luna rather remained silent.

"To be honest…I've been dying to ask something all night…"

"What is it?" Princess Celestia questioned.

"Out of everyone in Equestria…" I emphasized greatly. "Why me? Why was I given the opportunity to sit here with the famous rulers of Equestria?"

"You've studied long in Astronomy, have you not?" Princess Celestia asked.

"Well…yeah, I guess." I acknowledged a little confusingly.

"You're recognized as one of the most intellectual astronomers in Canterlot. I've heard that you've even taught it to different age groups?" She continued her questioning sentences.

"Uh…yeah…" I looked away and rubbed my head, becoming a little bashful. "But that's really nothing…"

Princess Celestia continued her graceful smile and closed her eyes for a moment. "I can tell you hold something special."

"Huh?!" I almost flipped over the table from being startled at her words.

"You hold a lot of potential…Astro Eclipse, am I correct?" She stated.

My eyes widened. She remembered my name!

"Ye-yes, Princess!" I quickly nodded.

She chuckled at my excitement. "Your vast knowledge and study of the stars can really prove useful for not only us, but to everypony in Equestria."

"What do you mean?" I had to continue asking in perplexed inquisition. "How does that make me any different from any other super intelligent astronomers out there?"

"The potential you hold not only covers your intelligence, but you as a pony overall, Astro." As much as I wanted to almost explode in excitement, confusion continued to hold me still. "You care about your best friend, Comet, and you find joy in sharing your knowledge and friendship with other ponies. What we need is somepony that not only knows astronomy, but a pony that is wholesome and humble inside… Somepony that will not abuse their power if they should receive it."

"You're saying…that's me…? No other astronomer is like that?" I couldn't help but feel as she might have been playing a trick on me.

"The others…well… Some are not so good in their heart, and some don't seem to have taste in befriending other ponies…" She mentioned honestly.

"Oh…" I expressed, kind of feeling down that this was apparently truth, despite the fact that I should be happy for being this "special". Comet studied in my field too, but…he was kind of at the level of an apprentice for me. He always liked being the follower instead of the leader though…so I guess it worked out for him anyway.

"However…" Princess Celestia caught my attention. "You will not only be focusing on your field of study…but will be learning new things, such as magic, from someone very special."

"Oh really…? Who?"

Princess Celestia closed her eyes again and appeared to feel proud for what she was about to say. "Star Swirl the Bearded himself."

I almost dropped my jaw at the sound of his name. I had heard many things about him, but I never thought I was be in contact with him face-to-face! "Seriously?!" Princess Celestia only nodded calmly. "When does all this start for me?!" I inquired about the whole new delightful opportunity given to me.

"We shall let you know." Princess Celestia responded. "But be sure to expect some mail soon." She ended with a smile.

"Wow…" I expressed to myself quietly, only lying back on my chair as I stared up at the ceiling, unable to grasp that this was actually happening to me.

After dessert, Princess Celestia was to retire, but she made sure to let me know to tell her guards whenever I wanted to return back home. I was just about to do that until the craziest thing surprised me.

"May I have a word with you?" The Princess of the Night had asked me, leaving me almost speechless.

"A word? With m-me?" I was just being completely shocked throughout the entire night.

"Please. Join me." She stated without much enthusiasm, turned, and headed to leave the dining hall. One of the guards that had been standing in the room during our entire dinner began following her until she stopped him. "I'd like to be on my own for now."

"Are you sure?" He asked, not completely sure with the idea of leaving Princess Luna with me unguarded.

"I'll be fine." She assured seriously, seeming to feel the opposite attitude that Princess Celestia felt.

The guard backed off a little and looked at me for a bit more as I passed him and followed Princess Luna.

She took me out to a bridge between towers of the castle, which was outside under the starry sky. She stopped there in the middle and only turned to stare at her moon. I had no clue on what to do, so I only stood nearby and placed my hooves on the wall of the bridge to observe the scenery as well.

"Can I ask you something?" Princess Luna actually spoke in an unexpected way.

"Uh, sure." I merely replied.

"What is it…that drove you into studying Astronomy?" She questioned.

"Um…" I tapped my hoof on my chin. I didn't know what to say. It just…felt right to me. "I guess…I've always like the night." I shrugged and chuckled. "It's just something about the stars…and everything around them." I stared directly at the light that twinkled with every star. "I mean…who would be afraid of such a thing? They're all beautiful." I described. "There are even some ponies afraid of the night…afraid of the dark…which is something I don't really get. It's only as scary as you make it seem. In fact, the darkness itself can't hurt you. It's only what you make of it that makes it scary. But in the end…having light like those stars reveal what's behind that darkness… It really shows you there's nothing to be afraid of." I smiled softly at the sight until I realized what I had done. I turned to Princess Luna, whom only stared intently at me in silence. "Sorry!" I immediately apologized. "I rambled too much for a bit there…"

"Do not apologize." She placed a hoof on my shoulder, immediately causing a reaction from my heart and commenced pounding strikes. "Your…description of the night…is very relieving to hear." She removed her hoof and continued gazing out. "Sometimes…I feel…worried…" She paused for a moment. "Is there any purpose in creating such a time where ponies only seem to sleep through it? Perhaps even be afraid of it?"

"I appreciate it." I instantly spat out. Then, I felt I needed to not make it as personal…just so things didn't seem weird. "And I know a lot of other ponies love the night too."

Princess Luna stared at me for a moment, and then formed an emotion just a little happier than her usual expressionless one. "I thank you for that."

"Of course!" I was completely honored to hear such a thing.

"As Princess of the Night, it is not only my duty to raise the moon, but keep order in the dreams of ponies as well." Princess Luna educated me. "You see…" She turned to me a bit seriously. "Dreams are a lot more important than we think."

"How so…?" I asked, seriously intrigued in silence.

"You understand…in dreams…anything can happen." She acknowledged, leaving me to nod. "When you have control of your dreams, you can almost do anything. But ponies never really do, as they are not aware they are asleep. It is ironic how they do not see it so…immediately when they shift from reality into fantasy. Usually, they only live out their dream, controlling it as much as if it was an actual experience in their lives."

"I understand that, Princess…" I mentioned. "But what is so important that we don't exactly know already?" I felt that was too harsh to ask to her, so I quickly tried to fix it. "…with all due respect."

"Astro." Princess Luna labeled me, bringing me to my fullest attention with the way she said my name. "If dreams were ever able to escape their unrealistic hold, the world would truly be at great risk for utter chaos." She proceeded to list some examples. "I'm sure you've had nightmares before, am I correct?"

"Yeah…" I returned.

"Imagine those creatures, monstrosities, and utter disasters happen to you realistically? Only, it wouldn't just 'be a dream'. It would be real. And considering how powerful and limitless our dreams can be…they may just be our worst enemy of all time…if they should ever become real. Do you understand what I'm saying?" I nodded attentively, astonished for what she had to say. I never actually thought of it like that before… "Let that be your first lesson…" She stated. "For now, you should return home and receive your rest."

"Okay, Princess…" I bowed generously. "Goodnight."

She nodded in response. "As to you."


Alex


Before the dream sequence could prolong any further, I was startled awake by knocking at the front door. I could still feel its effects linger on me as I fumbled around in bed. They slowly began to wear off when I gained the strength to push myself off and head towards the door. I was really forced awake when the sun outside attacked me with its intense light.

"Were you sleepin' in there, Alex?" Applejack asked, looking slightly worried from the thought of waking me up.

"Kind of…" I rubbed my eyes.

"I'm a bit surprised. It's a little late. You feelin' okay?"

"I'm fine." I answered. "What's up?"

"I've just gotta…ask you for a favor." She rubbed her foreleg a little nervously. "Applebloom is gonna be staying home alone for the afternoon while the rest of us got some errands to take care of."

"Uh-huh?" I followed.

"Thing is…I'm still not really sure if Applebloom is safe at home…alone…"

"She knows how to take care of herself, doesn't she?" I asked.

"Yes…well…I think so…maybe…" Applejack sighed greatly. "Listen…I don't really want to leave her home alone…but I also want to trust her. Could you just…pop in sometime and see if she's doing alright? I don't mean stay there… Actually, if you could, that would be great, but at least just check in to see if she's okay?"

"Um…" I became a little lost in Applejack's words, but was able to obtain the meaning behind it. "Yeah…sure, Applejack."

"Great!" Applejack formed a relieved grin. "If anything bad happens, stay there and watch her for me until I come back. I'll be sure to get the job done as quickly as possible."

"I'm sure she'll be fine home alone, Applejack." I assured with a small smile. "She's going to stay home after all. She's not wandering to the Everfree Forest."

"What if she does?" Applejack immediately pointed out.

"Don't worry…" I reassured. "Just… I'll check in with her, okay?"

Applejack nodded. "Thank you kindly. I better be off now." She turned to start leaving.

"See you later." I waved, receiving another back from her. Before I could think of what exactly I was going to do today, I felt a delicate tap on my shoulder. I almost jumped out of my spot to see it was Spirit, but her visit wasn't exactly a surprise. "Oh, hey…"

"Is it too much to ask if we hang out today?" She asked a little…differently.

"Um…I guess not. Where would you want to be, considering you prefer places where no others ponies are?" I responded.

Spirit looked past my shoulder. "Her farm is good. Nopony is there right? And she said something about her little sister staying home alone."

"So…you want to be out in the orchards?" I clarified.

"That sounds fun." She offered a little smile.

"Well…" I turned around to start heading out. "I don't know if you've got a plan to keep yourself hidden from others on the way over there because—" As I turned back to allow her through the door and close it behind her, I noticed she was gone…mysteriously as usual. "Like I need to worry…" I stretched the casual look on my face lightly, showing no shock of her behavior, and closed the door anyway.


By the time I arrived in Sweet Apple Acres, I noticed I was pretty early for what Applejack asked me to do since she was just about ready to leave with a huge cart.

"It's just, I take my job as your big sister real serious." I heard Applejack say. She was talking to Applebloom, which the subject must have been relating to her spending the afternoon home alone. Once her eyes looked past Applebloom to mine, I could tell she was really surprised to see me so early. "Alex…! I wasn't expectin' ya to…"

As she had a hard time finishing that sentence, Applebloom noticed me and then began furrowing her eyebrows angrily. "Wait a minute. Did you get a babysitter for me?!"

"No! No!" Applejack quickly shook her head. "I just…"

"I just came by to wish Applejack the best on her trip." I managed to muster up a bit easily, seeing as it wasn't too hard to answer. I walked to Applejack, so she wouldn't have to move with that huge cart she was carrying.

"That's right!" Applejack greatly nodded her head. "Just here to see me off. Besides, he offered to help ya out with the chores too so you can have more of the afternoon to yourself!"

In my mind, I was thinking "Huh?", but I couldn't blow her cover.

"I guess that's alright…" Applebloom rubbed her chin a little, seeming to have some suspicion for Applejack.


"Here." Applejack pulled out a rolled up piece of paper and tossed it over to Applebloom. "I spent all night makin' you this."

"What is it?" Applebloom asked curiously, opening it to a certain extent.

"Just a little list of helpful reminders." She looked smugly back as she crossed her forelegs.

"'There's some soup for you in the 'frigerator.'" She read. "'Be sure not to heat it up too much. If it's hot, blow on it to cool it off. And take little sips — if you gulp, you could get hiccups.'" She looked back unamused, seeing as Applejack's reminders were unneeded. "You don't have to worry about me. I can take care of myself and the chores! I'm ready for this."

Applejack sighed shortly. "I guess you are. I'm just not so sure I am."

"But you trust me and believe I'm grown up enough to handle this, right?" Applebloom placed her hooves on her sister and waited for her approval as she held an eager grin.

Applejack sighed again, appearing to reveal hesitation. "Right. Okay then. Good luck, little sis— whoa!" Before Applejack completely finished, Applebloom pressed against the end of her cart to get her on her way already.

"Okaygreatseeyousoonbye!" She expressed quickly.

Applejack expressed a short wave with a small grin, but it soon turned to a worried frown. Before she could leave entirely, I caught up with her to gain a little more instructions and explanation. "So…you want me to help Applebloom with her chores?"

Applejack released yet another sigh, proving her stress building up at the thought of her little sister being home alone. "I'm really sorry… I didn't mean to drag you into that… I guess I must have been thinking about you staying there instead. If you don't want to, it's fine. I have no right forcin' you to do so."

I thought back on what Spirit wanted to do, seeing it as a perfect excuse to stay anyway. "No, it's fine. I can totally do that."

Applejack stopped in her tracks to release a sigh of relief and possibly her worries away as well. "I don't know how to thank ya."

"Just take it easy on your trip." I wished.

"Will try." She responded and chuckled a little. "Come over here really quick." She requested.

"What do you mean?" I asked, since I was already next to her.

"Stand right in front of me." She directed.

"…okay." I stepped a few steps ahead, turned, and then face Applejack. Afterwards, she explained her call by moving closer to me and embracing me as much as she could with the cart she was carrying.

"Sorry, if I might be fretting so much…" She apologized. "But…when you have a little sister you've known your whole life…you really just can't help but feel so darn protective of her."

Even though I only really had a surrogate little sister or two, I could still understand where she came from. "Don't worry. It only shows how much you care about her." I replied as I placed my hoof over her.

Applejack remained silent and then breathed in heavily. She later released it out sharply and pulled away so she could continue on. "I'll see you later, Alex."

"You too, AJ." I stepped to the side to see her send back a small grin before she moved on to get working on her errand. When I returned to Applebloom, I noticed she was on the ground with this huge grin on her face. Her eyes were closed and she appeared to be daydreaming about the possible benefits of being home alone. "You alright there, Applebloom?" I asked.

She opened her eyes to notice me standing in front of her and quickly pushed herself off the ground. "Yeah, I am! Listen, my sister didn't secretly set you up to be my babysitter, right?"

"Not that I know of." I answered truthfully, seeing how I really wasn't supposed to be watching her. At the very least, Applejack wanted me to just be around so if she did get in trouble, I could be nearby to help her out. "So…did you need help in some of your chores?"

"Actually…I think I've got everything." Applebloom shared with confidence. "If I'm gonna get Applejack to see that I can really responsibly handle being home alone, then I should be able to do all the chores on my own!"

"Well, that's really mature of you, Applebloom." I responded. "That's a big step to showing her that you're growing up." That was nice…but I still needed to be around for Applejack's sake, as well as being with Spirit. "Hey, if you don't mind, I'm going to be at the orchards."

"Watcha gonna do?" Applebloom questioned curiously.

"Just…a few things Applejack asked me for." I was able to fortunately say, especially since it was still technically the truth. "You're still going to be home alone." I assured with a smile. "But if you ever come across something that you can't do on your own, you can just come and find me, okay?"

"Okay, sure!" Applebloom seemed relieved that I wasn't going to be babying her at all. "Thanks, Alex!"

"Of course." I returned before I started heading towards the orchards. "Stay safe!" I added before I left.


As I entered an isolated part of the orchard that was surrounded by many apple trees, I already knew that if I spoke to Spirit, she would hear it. "So, what do you want to do—?" There was an immediate ecstatic and almost childish laughter coming from one single pony. Completely almost like Pinkie Pie, she ran among the grass, hopped all over as if she had been holding in so much energy for so long, and already even tried to climb the trees. "Hey, hey…!" I raced over to her, seeing as she had no real protection if she were to fall. "You should be careful… You don't want to get hurt."

"Oh please." Spirit brushed off. "You really don't have to worry about me!" After exhausting a few grunts, she managed to climb atop a branch. Then, she swung herself for a bit and let her go like she was completely not afraid of danger or pain. She landed on the grass and laid herself there while she continued to laugh out loud. Eventually, she sighed in relief.

"Wow…"I expressed, being a little surprised and speechless as I had never seen her act so wildly before. At least…not as hyper as she did just now. "You were…pretty crazy there." I chuckled a little.

"Sorry." She apologized, but kept that silly grin of hers. "I guess you could say…it's been a while when I've just been able to roam freely outside like this."

"I guess I can see why you wanted to come here." I sat next to her. "No one would be able to really hear you here. Plus, there's nopony here either, so…you're pretty much free to do whatever you want."

"Mm-hm." She responded and then looked towards one of the trees in the area. "Your friend likes to kick these, right? And make apples fall off?"

"Oh yeah. It's her thing…" I answered. Spirit stood back up from the ground and wandered over to the tree as she rubbed her chin. "You're going to try it too, aren't you?" She only turned her head to me, closed her eyes, and returned an immense grin before she gave a great buck to the tree. The tree shook, and apples soon stormed their way to the ground. As I watched them fall, almost one by one, I was pretty surprised by her strength. "Wow… I have a feeling you're a tougher mare than you look…"

"I learn from the best." She answered a little proudly.

"I'm assuming you're talking about me?" I surely believed.

"Who else, dummy?" She confronted me with a fierce yet playful attitude.

"Applebloom, is that you?" We heard a voice growing closer. This alarmed Spirit, having her flee from sight once again. Two fillies emerged from a nearby bush, who revealed themselves to be Sweetie Belle and Scootaloo. "Alex? What are you doing here?" Scootaloo questioned, noticing me instead of Applebloom.

"Just…taking care of something for Applejack…" I repeated. "What about you two?"

Scootaloo and Sweetie Belle exchanged a look with each other. "We were just waiting for Applebloom to finish her chores. We offered to help so things would go quicker, but she wanted to do them herself. So, we've just been waiting in the clubhouse since."

"Ah…" I rubbed my head a bit. "I sometimes forget you three have a clubhouse here. Did you hear me bucking the tree?" I asked, wanting to take Spirit's place so they wouldn't figure somepony else was with me.

"We didn't hear any bucking at all." Sweetie Belle answered.

"Really?" I turned towards the tree that had been bucked and picked up an apple that laid on the ground. "I've got the apples right here."

Sweetie Belle and Scootaloo both widened their eyes a bit and looked at each other a bit oddly.

"Alex…" Sweetie Belle walked towards me worriedly. "…are you alright?"

I found that question completely odd to be asked towards me. "Yeah…? Why are you asking me that?"

"It's just that…you don't have any apples." She mentioned.

"Huh?" I questioned and looked at my hoof, noticing the apple had disappeared. I looked at the ground and realized that all the other apples weren't there either. In fact, when I looked back at the tree that had been bucked, all of the apples were hanging back there! "I…" I was speechless. "I swear I just had an apple right now…"

"Maybe you're hungry." Scootaloo offered. "You want to come with us back to the barn? We're gonna see if Applebloom might have baked something for us."

"…um…sure…" I was still shocked at what had just happened. As they began heading back towards the barn, I looked back for any sign of Spirit. However, I noticed Sweetie Belle looking back at me, appearing to begin looking worried for me by the way I was acting. I shook my head and decided to follow them, feeling absolutely weird and misplaced.


As we pushed opened the front door to head inside, we noticed quite a mess in the kitchen. But there was a complete surprise when we spotted another pony with Applebloom.

"Applejack!" I called the pony who held a strong grip on Applebloom and wouldn't let go. "What are you doing here so early?"

"Well, I couldn't stand the thought of forgetting something back here, so I came back to make sure I left one hundred percent clear instructions for staying here alone." She answered, letting go of Applebloom. "And good riddance! It was a good thing because as I came back, there was a huge mess here already!"

Scootaloo walked in, observing the mess around her in the kitchen. "Geez, did you have trouble baking, Applebloom?"

Applejack's jaw dropped as if she was completely shocked by this news. "Applebloom, you were bakin' home alone?! You know how dangerous that is?!"

Applebloom sighed and rolled her eyes over to Scootaloo. "Thanks a lot, Scootaloo."

"Don't fret, Applebloom." Applejack reassured. "I'm gonna get this mess cleaned up, and then I'm gonna make you a nice warm and safe meal!"

Applebloom only returned an exhausted growl and turned her way to escape out the front door while the other fillies followed after her.

"Applejack, what's going on?" I questioned a bit worriedly, feeling her behavior wasn't exactly a good thing. "Didn't you have an errand to take care of?"

"I've changed my mind about letting Applebloom stay home." Applejack responded as she began cleaning up the mess in the kitchen. "After seeing this, I think she still needs a while longer before she can stay."

"Then, I'll watch her." I offered, seeing as I wouldn't be so clingy on Applebloom and still let her have her space while staying nearby. "You need to go do what you need to do."

"Sorry, Alex." She denied. "It's just…you're not too familiar with the dangers around here. I'm not saying you wouldn't take good care of her…it's just…she might mess with something dangerous you might not know about and hurt herself, you know?"

"Then might I at least help you with your errand, so you can have that off your back?" I asked.

"Thanks for the offer, but I don't think it's such a good idea." Applejack replied. "I'm supposed to make a delivery of apple pies to a certain area, but going there is very dangerous. You'd need me to accompany you through either way."

I didn't know what else to do. My mind was blank afterwards.


I decided to let Applejack…do her own thing and returned back to an isolated spot on the orchard. I wasn't done with Spirit, and I honestly wasn't sure if she still wanted to hang out…

I sat near a tree and waited for Spirit to subtly pop out. It wasn't long before she did, as if she knew I was waiting for her. She didn't really look as cheerful as she did before Scootaloo kind of interrupted our meeting. I can't say I wasn't expecting that. She appeared from behind the tree and approached me with a sulking head.

"Do you still want to…?" I questioned.

"Meh…" She shared gloomily. "I'm sorry. It was my mistake. I always make mistakes."

"What are you getting so worked up about?" I asked, feeling she might have been worrying about something so little, at least for me. "You didn't do anything wrong."

She chuckled after I said that, but not exactly in a good way. "You have no idea, Alex. I guess I'm just getting so worked up about how stupid I am. I let myself lose sight of what the consequences could be, just to blow it on having fun with you. Gosh, I'm so dumb." She placed her hoof on her forehead in frustration.

"Spirit…" I reached out a hoof towards her. "You really don't have to worry about it… Really…"

"It wasn't the first time I screwed up, Alex." She turned over to me a little more seriously and even a bit in anger. "Just like when I let myself be seen by Twilight! And then, I introduced myself to her later on so she wouldn't feel like I was some kind of creep or stalker or something. But after doing that, I feel like…even worse!"

"I'm sorry, Spirit…" I could only apologize. "But…I can't really understand why you feel like this if I don't know why you're trying to hide from everypony in the first place…"

Spirit turned away and sighed. "Let's just say…it all started with me making so many little dumb mistakes and ultimately a big one in the end. You haven't seen how many things I've screwed up, Alex. And…" She paused, and I was shaken to hear her voice sound like it trembled. "I honestly can guarantee I'm going to make more… I guess it's just the type of pony I am."

"Spirit…" I was at a loss of words. Even though I was still jumbled in her attempts to make me understand with the least amount of information as possible, I could still feel the pain she felt.

"You know what, Alex?" She turned back at me after wiping her eyes. "Maybe we should stick to seeing each other at the balcony. Somewhere where for sure nopony will…you know…be."

"…are you sure?" I hesitantly asked.

"Yeah… Maybe I just need time to think… Sorry." She began walking past me behind the tree. "I'll see you later."

"…bye…" I expressed, but felt she was gone before she could hear that.


The last talk with Spirit stuck with me for a while. In fact, it even left me sitting under a tree in silence. Not to sound like it was any of her fault, but what she said just bothered me so much. Actually, I was beginning to feel like it was my fault for some reason. I didn't know if this would affect the relationship between Spirit and me, and it gave me time to think about her falling behavior from the first time I met her.

She seemed to completely not give a care in the world as her joy was never-ending. Ever since then, it seemed like she fell slowly short of that joy and into a state of depression. As I thought more about it, something kicked inside of me. Over time, I've learned a little more about her related to what she was hiding. And it seemed…that the more I learned about her, or the more I stepped closer to the truth behind her, the unhappier she became. Was it really my fault for stepping in? Was I pressuring her too much to speak up? Maybe it was really my fault after all.

I decided to take a breather back at Applejack's, but I almost forgot about the ordeal occurring between Applebloom and Applejack. It didn't really bother me, as it seemed to happen along in the background. I laid myself on the couch as if I wanted to sleep, but I didn't. I just kept thinking. When I wasn't thinking, my mind was just…clear. Blank. And I felt like I was an empty shell staring at nothing.

Applejack definitely would have stopped by to see what was wrong, but she was too busy watching over Applebloom every second of the day.

Watching over her nonstop…

I began hearing the door upstairs open and close continuously every five seconds. I groaned and got up to see what the problem was. As I walked upstairs, I immediately spotted Applejack outside of Applebloom's bedroom as if her legs were rooted to the floor. She continued to open the door, peek in, and then pull her head back out, only to repeat the process until she felt Applebloom was safe…which was never really…

Seeing this wasn't healthy, I placed a hoof on her shoulder and prevented her from reaching for the door again. "Applejack, we need to talk…"

"Sure thing, Alex." She answered while trying to stretch her hoof over to the door. "Lemme just check on Applebloom first."

"You already have the last hundreds of times. We need to talk now." I began leading her away, even though she continued to glance back.

"Can you make it quick? I'd really like to get back up there." Applejack asked politely but in a kind of clingy way as well.

"Applejack…" I began. "I really don't want to tell you how to handle your little sister…but I think this needs to stop."

"What are you talking about?" She questioned, as if it didn't hit her right away.

"You're continuously checking on Applebloom, Applejack. She needs her space."

"Aw, I'm just trying to make sure she's doing alright. I don't want no accidents to happen or anything…" She began trying to reason with me.

"I understand that…but if you keep pestering her for help like you are now…you might just go on and drive her away." I slowly acquired the feeling that this was coming from what happened with Spirit. "I don't know how long exactly you're planning on doing this, but…" I paused to prepare to speak a bit harshly to Applejack, but it was only because I cared. "…I feel she might just run away if you do it for too long." Any sign of Applejack's grin or smile was now gone. "She loves you, Applejack. And she wouldn't run away because she doesn't love you… It's just…sometimes you do something so sudden and desperate when you have no air to breathe. She might just stay over at a friend's house or so, but it could really hurt your bond with her Applejack… You don't want that, do you?"

The reaction I got from Applejack was something I really wasn't expecting. I thought it might bring her a little down but just enough to wake her up to see what she was doing. No... It looked like I got into really personal matters with her to the point that she started tearing up.

"I just…want to know she's okay." She answered with a wobbly mouth as she lowered her sight. "I don't want to lose her too." This alerted me strongly inside as it told me she had lost something significant to her before. "She's my little sister, Alex. I love her more than anythin' and I don't want anythin' to happen to her." She sighed and allowed her voice to break in pieces of her sentences. "I don't know what to do." She shook her head. "Now that you're tellin' me this, I'm scared. If I keep watchin' over her, she'll leave… If I don't, somethin' might happen. Somethin' bad."

"Applejack…" I placed a hoof on her shoulder and looked at her directly in her eyes in a serious but comforting manner. "I can't tell you what'll happen with whatever you choose to do. We can't control the future. If you want my opinion, you can only choose what feels right to you. Right now, I can see your head's telling you to watch Applebloom like a hawk, because you're so afraid of what might happen to her at any given second. But as selfish as it might sound, you need to think about what you really want. You want Applebloom to grow up to be a strong independent mare, don't you? Well, you have to let her make her share of mistakes. But that doesn't mean you have to stop watching her." I was able to form a soft smile as I placed my hoof on her cheeks and wiped away the tears. I actually felt like the roles were reversed comparing to the time in the train. "Just…ease up on her. She isn't a baby anymore, remember? You were doing pretty great before, until the whole thing with her staying at home happened. It's an obstacle you need to get through mentally. It's just another part of her growing up…"

Her ears slowly lowered downwards, and she lowered her head to exhale a heavy sign.

"Okay." She returned briefly. "If that's what I need to do…then I'll do it. And it starts…with letting her stay home…and trustin' that she'll be safe. Thank you, Alex… I'm sorry."

"I'm not the one you should be apologizing to." I smirked lightly and reminded her.

She nodded. "Right." She turned and headed up the stairs as I quietly followed her. She slowly opened the door to reveal a dark room and carefully walked in. Applebloom must had been asleep. Applejack reached the bed and placed her hooves on the railing of the bed, which I just realized that Applejack actually installed for Applebloom's protection. She lowered a hoof over to Applebloom and patted her lightly. "I'm so sorry, Applebloom. I guess I just let the past get ahold of me, hm? Don't worry, Sugarcube. I won't be holding you back from being independent so much, and I'll always be your big sister." There were some sleepy moaning sounds as Applebloom turned in bed, but for some reason, Applejack was surprised at this. "Huh?!" I turned on the light nearby to see what was going on. "Sweetie Belle?!" The filly on the bed wasn't Applebloom at all. Instead, it was Sweetie Belle wearing one of Applebloom's bows. Sweetie Belle appeared to just wake up as she rubbed her eyes. However, she immediately widened them at the sight of Applejack. Her eyes turned towards the drawer near the door. Applejack noticed this and turned towards the drawer to quickly open them. "Scootaloo?!"

"Uh, um, n-no." Scootaloo shook her head.

However, the reason why Scootaloo and Sweetie Belle were there instead of Applebloom seemed to be the least of Applejack's worries. "Where's Apple Bloom? She's not here!" She immediately went to search the whole room in panic. "Where is she?!"

"Don't worry, we know exactly where she is!" Sweetie Belle quickly assured.

"Yeah, she's making your pie delivery." Scootaloo happily informed.

"What?!" Applebloom turned back to them in shock. "No! Didn't she hear how difficult and dangerous it was?!" Afterwards, she held her hooves to her head in great distress and gasped loudly. "I may never see my little sister again!"

I ran towards Applejack after seeing the great fear in her eyes. "Where is she? I can go look for her!"

Applejack was almost to the point of hyperventilating before she took a quick hefty breath and heavily blew it out. "I've got to draw you a map!" She galloped out of the room and downstairs with me being on her tail. On the kitchen table, she began quickly drawing a map. She was going so fast that the pencil marks almost appeared scribbly and unclear, but thankfully she wasn't going into detail. "You see this?" She pointed with her hoof. "This is here. She had to go through this path and eventually meet up to a swamp. If we're lucky, she might still be on the safe path and not on the swamp yet. The swamp is the very dangerous part of this trip! It's probably even worse than the Everfree Forest considerin' the fire geysers. Oh sweet Celestia, I hope she's okay!"

"Don't worry, Applejack." I tried to calm her down. "I'll go look for her."

"You're gonna need some equipment!" Applejack pointed out.

I shook my head. "It's fine. I can fly, see?" I spread out my wings, and seemed to relieve her a bit.

"Oh, that's so great! Thank you!" Applejack held me tightly. "You listen here. Alright, Alex? As soon as you find my sister, do NOT move from that spot unless you're in danger. I'm gonna go get somepony to watch the fillies, so I can get ready to come to y'all. Understand?"

"Yeah, of course." I was crystal.

"Now, go! Please find her!"

I nodded determinedly and quickly ran out the door. I spread out my wings and quickly headed towards the direction that Applebloom had left.


I had seen nopony on the peaceful path, which began to worry me and for Applejack. I couldn't let anything happen to Applebloom. I just had to be lucky enough to find her absolutely fine, even if she was in dangerous surroundings. I would have had a better feeling if she was in the Everfree Forest, considering she's been in there before. Zecora living there was another advantage. However, Applejack spoke of fire geysers and that's way too dangerous! Even for me!

I finally entered the hazardous swamp Applejack had talked about. My first scare was my first sight of the fire geyser. The swamp was extremely burdened with a heavy fog that I almost got scorched up by one of the geysers. If that wasn't enough, after I was startled, I was startled yet again and once more by several lying around the first one. I could handle the Everfree Forest with friends, but this swamp on my own? No way!

But I had to find someone special, and that was the only thing driving me. I pushed on, calling Applebloom's name loudly. I didn't get any sign of her. I didn't pass her, did I? If I did, then it must have meant she was deeper in this swamp! Either way, I had to check the swamp thoroughly. She'd be safer back on the path than in the swamp.

I didn't have any clues until I found some unusual prints on the ground. They were large prints…and they definitely couldn't have been friendly. I quickly increased my speed to catch up to the source of these prints. I could only continuously run hope by my mind that Applebloom was okay.

"I really wish my sister were here!" I heard Applebloom's voice cry out in distress.

I gasped and dashed in the direction of the sound to see little Applebloom cornered by some kind of huge three different headed monster. The snake part of the body hissed as it opened its mouth wide to take out a bite of Applebloom.

"Not on my watch…!" I growled under my breath and strung out a beam of magic to intervene.

"Hhuaah?!" The snake, which seemed to be a female by the sound of the voice, shook her head in either pain or confusion.

I used that time to make my way towards Applebloom and stand protectively in front of her. "Way to stoop so low that you tried to take a little girl!" I exclaimed in disgust.

"Alex, you're here!" Applebloom expressed in surprise.

"Go hide, Applebloom." I glanced over and directed.

She did so, leaving me with the gigantic creature in front me.

"I hope you're substituting for that little filly because my sisters and I have a really big appetite." The somewhat saber-toothed cat part of the body mentioned, also producing a female voice.

"I guess you're going home hungry, because you're surely getting no piece from me." I readied myself for anything they might try at the sudden.

"You're on our territory now." The goat informed by threat. "If you think you have any chance of escaping, you're going to have a bad time!" She pointed at me and commanded her sisters. "Charge!"

I focused on the ground behind them and teleported so, confusing them for a second. "Looks like you've never handled an Alicorn before, so I think you're going to be the ones having a bad time!" Of course, I knew I couldn't rely on teleportation if they didn't give me enough time to focus it.

They faced me and squished against their legs to pounce on me. I jumped as far as I could to the side, avoiding any contact with their physical body. Noticing that I was still in their reach, the cat tried to bite at me, having me jump and fly up to only be attacked by the snake several times while I had to swiftly dodge each lunge.

Then again…it was technically three-against-one.

I tried to work with what I had and grabbed the snake's head just as it tried to lunge at me. I wrapped it around the body of the monster to meet back up at the top. As they tried to kick me off, I instead focused my kicks to their head in order to get them to knock out or surrender. "Stand…down…!" I grunted as I ordered.

The snake managed to free herself as I was too focused on the other heads and allowed her other sisters to turn the entire body around fiercely. The force knocked me off and pushed me towards the ground. Unfortunately, I landed on my side and felt a light sore pain coming from the area. I wasn't sure if there was a direct impact on my wing. Either way, I had actually forgotten that I was supposed to be careful with my wings, and here I was fighting a three-headed monster.

Nevertheless, I quickly pushed myself up before the creature could land a blow.

"Those look tasty…" The snake ogled my wings. "You won't be able to escape without your wings if they happened to be bitten off."

Great. Now, they're going to be after my wings.

As they rushed towards me, I tried to keep them off by shooting them with my magic, but it wasn't until later that I realized what they were trying to do.

"Can't keep up with all of us now, can you?" The cat questioned sinisterly.

"Get away!" I exclaimed and continued to try keep them off.

Suddenly, I heard a low whisper behind me. "Boo."

The snake had snuck behind me while I was too busy with the big problems. Before I could react accordingly, the snake took its chance to bite ahold of me and earned a cry of pain in reaction. I focused my horn angrily and blasted it off my wing. She took a few of its feathers along with her.

"Nice work, sister!" The cat praised. "He's just about worn himself out!"

She lunged at me once again, and I jumped to the first open place I could find.

I really hadn't thought things through as a fire geyser burst out just as I passed by to escape. Fortunately, I wasn't directly in the flames, but some of it caught hold of my left wing. It was an extremely intense burn, leaving me to fall to the floor to try to put it out.

"Why, look, sisters!" One of them enjoyed the sight of the state I was in. "Our dinner is preparing himself! Oh, but he's only partially cooked. We're going to need to finish that, aren't we?"

I don't know if I was able to put the same flame out by somewhat rolling on my side against the dirt, but I could hardly move because of the pain. At that time, I felt it immediately relieve…but consequentially my eyes lost their sight and I believed I was passing out.


Spirit


"Ugh!" The goat head spoke up. "Finally! I really hate fumbling around with our dinner."

"Ssstill better than having that filly." The snake added.

"Would've been better with both." The cat expressed before they began taking their first steps towards devouring Alex.

But, to their surprise, Alex was safely encased inside a force of pure light.

"What's going on?!" The big sister questioned in the state of utter confusion.

"You're not taking one step closer to him!" I revealed myself in front of Alex, putting on my angriest face.

"Well, well. Our dinner just seems to be walking straight towards us this afternoon. I can't believe how lucky we are." The big sister told the others.

"Just try me!" I narrowed my eyes.

"We'd be happy to include you in our meal!" The goat head shared before they began charging straight towards me.

I ran around them and climbed on their back to do what Alex should have done in the first place. I jumped on top of the body and began aggressively hopping and stomping with each of my hooves against the snake, just like any other pony would do to an ugly bug they see. Once the snake was taken care of, I grabbed ahold of her with my teeth and began bashing the others' heads with their own sister. Finally, I spat out the snake once they were dazed enough. "Try to take a bite out of this!" I exclaimed, grabbed ahold of the snake, and jumped down to swing in front of them. They shook their heads to get out of their daze, but it was all a part of the plan. Once they saw me swinging in front of them, they focused on biting me instead of realizing that their sister was with me. They both lunged their heads to chomp, but they ended up chomping on their own snake sister. They must have shared the pain because once they did, they all groaned and yelled loudly in pain.

"Don't worry! I'm comin'!" I heard a familiar voice shout from not too far.

I turned to tend to Alex. "You've got this, Alex…" I mentioned with a small smile before I went on to help him up.


Alex


Light flashed and faded around me, and I was soon back up on my hooves. I didn't even feel the pain anymore! I quickly looked at my wings to see that…they were good as before! What just happened?!

"Alex, I'm right here!" I heard Applejack shout out. She quickly spotted me and raced towards me, wearing most likely the equipment she had told me about earlier. "What happened?! Are you okay?! Where's Applebloom?!"

"I'm fine." I nodded. "I just—"

"RRAAGH!" I heard a ferocious growl coming our way.

The three-headed monster ran and soon began to pounce towards us. Without even doing anything, a beam of light shot out from me and landed a critical hit towards the sisters. They both fell in their place and knocked out cold.

Applejack allowed her jaw to open in shock while I had no clue on how to explain what I just did. I didn't believe I did anything. It felt more of a self-protection mechanism to me. Nevertheless, Applejack shook her head and faced me again. "Is Applebloom okay?"

"I'm right here, sis!" Applebloom walked out of her hiding space.

Applejack released a great relieved sigh and faced the unconscious fiend. "Good thing I brought my rope." Applejack unraveled it and easily wrapped it around the creature, tying it up tightly to make sure the sisters couldn't move at all. At least for a long time. She turned back to Applebloom. "Are you okay?"

Applebloom nodded gratefully. "Thanks for coming to get me!" She thanked.

Applejack was relieved to see her little sister safe, but that didn't excuse Applebloom for what she did.

"I told you you need your big sister lookin' after you!" Applejack immediately scolded when she replaced her relieved smile with a frown. "I'm just glad this wasn't a whole lot worse." As Applejack continued ranting, Applebloom lowered her eyelids halfway in an unenthused manner and turned around to walk somewhere specific. "I mean, sure we lost the cart and all the pies, but at least you're—" Applejack shut her mouth once she saw Applebloom bring out the huge cart she had been needing to take earlier. "Huh, the cart! And all the pies! You actually got them all the way up here? In the dark? Through the Flame Geyser Swamp? Past that monster?" Applejack lowered her shock and looked back in slight regret. "...By yourself?"

"Well... yeah." Applebloom responded briefly, surprisingly showing no hint of pride of her actions whatsoever.

"Huh, wow." Applejack imagined the scene in her mind. "That's mighty impressive! Anypony who can do that on her own, well, she don't need somepony like me babyin' her."

Applebloom eyes subtly shook with excitement after hearing that come straight out of Applejack's mouth. The two expressed their sisterly love as they shared a meaningful hug. Even in the horrid setting we were in, the two of them still managed to warm my heart.

Once they pulled away, Applebloom walked up to me. "Alex, are you okay? I heard some pretty awful things. It sounded like even somepony like you was in trouble."

"I'm fine actually." I replied with a both happy and relieved facial expression. I lightly patted and rubbed her mane playfully. "Come on. We don't want to stick around here for the pies to get all burned up, now do we?"

"Yup." Applejack agreed. "We gotta get this grub to their respectful owners!"


When we finally arrived at the location, I could hardly believe that someone in a swamp ordered a bunch of pies that had to be delivered through a dangerous route. In fact, I never knew a town in a swamp even existed. There was kind of an icky feeling in the air, which I'm sure Rarity would think twice about before coming here. Actually…she wouldn't even come here in the first place…

Applejack had set up shop to see the ponies that lived in the apparent town immensely enjoy the treats they bought. They ate them as if it was the only time they could in the year, which was pretty believable after what we had been through.

"Mm-hm!" One of them expressed joyfully with cheeks full of pie. "Andouille! This pie's even tastier than my momma's swamp water casserole!" I slightly flinched at the sound of that. Swamp Water Casserole…? No offense but…blegh. Nevertheless, they all cheered in agreement to that statement. However there was a certain pony standing at the porch of a home who clearly had her feelings hurt. "Aw, now, momma, don't be like that."

"Just remember, you fellas wouldn't be enjoyin' these pies if it weren't for my sister!" Applejack mentioned and indirectly praised.

"And my friends!" Applebloom jumped in joy after hearing Applejack say that.

"But this don't change the fact that tryin' to make this delivery on your own was a plumb crazy thing to do!" Applejack reminded, bringing a saddened frown to Applebloom's face.

"I know..." Applebloom acknowledged.

Applejack scoffed. "I bet Granny Smith grounds you for a month for sneakin' out! And if Big Mac, Granny Smith 'n I ever have to be away for the day again..." Applebloom lowered her head in order to prepare for what she was about to hear until something else surprised her. "I would totally trust you to stay home and take care of things on your own. I guess I did get a little carried away watchin' over you…" Applejack eyes glanced over to me with a small sheepish smile. "You don't know how much you scared me, Applebloom. And knowing that you actually snuck out and almost made me sisterless, I'd love it a heaps more if you stayed at home alone instead."

"Yes!" Applebloom exclaimed in pure joy. "Now that is the kind of 'looking after me' that I can definitely appreciate! So... we're good?"

"Little sister…" Applejack placed a hoof around Applebloom to bring her in for another hug. "We're always good."

As I smiled warmly at the sight again, I felt something behind me. I turned to look around in surprise until I saw Spirit smiling in the same manner as I did. She had been poking out from behind a tree. Once she knew that I saw her, she turned around and quietly walked off.


Applebloom laid asleep on top of the cart with the springy pie as we were close to entering Sweet Apple Acres. My mother's moon was up, and it seemed Applejack could use some rest herself as well. As should would say, she was "plum tuckered out".

"You know…" Applejack spoke a bit quietly. "I can't ever thank you enough for what you did."

"It's what I do." I answered with a bit of a short shrug and small smile.

"Hm." Applejack beamed lightly. "I know they would've loved you…"

"Who?" I asked, intrigued by Applejack's sudden comment. However, she didn't really answer. By the look on her face, I wasn't sure if she even could have, leading me to let her know something. "Applejack…" I called her, breaking the short silence that had been created. "If there's anything ever bothering you. Something you need to let out. I'm right here, okay? Or whenever you want to talk about it, just let me know."

Applejack's eyes moved away to the side. "Hm. You're sweet." She looked back at me. "Thanks, Alex."

"Of course." I affirmed.

We walked onto the soil of Sweet Apple Acres before we knew it, leaving Applejack to put away the cart and pick up her sleeping little sister. I stayed with Applejack until we were at her front door.

"I'm really glad I got to know you more than just a customer." She reminded. "Guess my heart was in the right place when I felt I should get to know you, even though my head was worried you'd push me away."

"I can't blame you…" I looked away, rubbing my head at the memory of it. "I kinda did."

"But we became friends anyway, right?" Applejack poked my chest in a playful manner.

"Yeah, we did." I nodded and laughed a little.

Applejack chuckled along as well until we heard Applebloom mumble a bit. "I'm gonna go get this one to bed, then grab some shut-eye for myself. You have a good night, Alex."

"Same to you."

Applejack's smile stretched lightly. She decided to give me a peck on the cheek before she turned and waved. "See you." She was about to head inside before she was confronted by another pony.

"It's about time!" Her voice mentioned worriedly. "I was wondering when you'd be back! Is Applebloom fine?"

"She's just great, Rarity." Applejack answered. "Just tuckered out. Thanks for watching the little ones."

"But of course!" Rarity accepted gracefully.

"See you next time, Rarity." Applejack said as Rarity walked out with a relieved Scootaloo and Sweetie Belle.

"Yes, indeed!" Rarity waved, exiting out of the home. She stopped to notice me. "Oh, there you are!" She grabbed my head to observe me all around. "How are you feeling?!"

"Just fine, Rarity." I assured with a smile as I placed her hooves back down.

"Well, that's a relief." Rarity expressed as she held a hoof to her chest.

"Alex can do anything!" Sweetie Belle stated. "He's an Alicorn Prince!"

"You'd be surprised…" I told Sweetie Belle, as she would have probably been crying had she seen me almost lose to that monster. "It's always friends that matter the most."

"Yeah!" Scootaloo agreed. "Just like how we helped Applebloom escape!" Rarity returned a stern look while I formed a more "unapproving" one. "Heheh…" Scootaloo chuckled nervously. "But I mean, you guys all helped in getting Applebloom in the end, so that's what counts!"

"Yes." Rarity agreed. "But you need to learn to not have your friends be placed in such dangerous circumstances."

"I know." Sweetie Belle accepted. "We were just trying to help Applebloom. We didn't know that she would actually have to go through a dangerous swamp."

"Well, worry no more. Everypony is safe and we can all have a good night's rest!" Rarity said proudly.

"Boy…" Scootaloo mentioned. "I guess sometimes it's good to have a pony watching over you, huh?"

"Hm…" I thought back when I saw Spirit in the swamp. There was no way I could have gotten up in time before being eaten by that creature… Spirit was there…in the swamp… She was the only one who could have saved me before Applejack got there… I smiled lightly at the thought. "You know…" I spoke to the others.

"Hm?" They all wondered.

Feeling confident in my answer, I responded.

"I think I've got somepony watching over me too."

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