• 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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Appleloosa's Most Wanted

I quietly watched as the fruitful surroundings quickly passed by to introduce us to its unfortunately barren sides of the land. We were going to a place I thought was almost more of a sort of dusty and boring town. However, as any pony would probably already expect, I'd go with Alex anywhere. I wondered what Applejack would think if she knew how unenthused I really was about going to Appleloosa. Would she not like me?

Who knows.

"Y'know, I really wasn't expectin' ya to come with me to the rodeo today in Appleoosa, Alex. In fact, I'd figured you'd rather want to spend time with a certain special somepony instead." Applejack mentioned across the seats Alex and I were at.

"Speaking of said special somepony…" Alex returned, growing rather embarrassed and a little nervous. "I was wondering if you'd have any ideas for a nice thing to do for her."

He's been acting a little weird lately, and he won't tell me why. He's so lucky I've been staying outside…

"Huh?" Applejack slightly questioned. "Why? Did you want to give her a surprise or somethin'?"

"Well…" Alex uneasily rubbed the back of his head. I began to sense a shade of green lie within him. "Let's just say…I want to show her how much I care about her. You're right about the things you've said before. I've realized that we haven't been spending much time with each other recently. And sometimes… I feel like I might not be giving my best to her…"

Why's he being so insecure now? Is it because of me?

"If you want to know the truth…it probably would've been better if you had stayed in Ponyville and spent the day with her instead."

Except I'd still been hanging around, so they wouldn't properly get some alone time…

The green glow within Alex grew further as he held head down in what looked like shame.

He's feeling guilty…and that makes me feel guilty since I feel like I'm the cause of his guilt.

"Now, now." Applejack planted a caring hoof on his shoulder. "You're no bad pony. Why don't you make plans with her when we come back to Ponyville? Spend some time, even if it ain't much."

"Yeah… I'll keep that in mind." Alex answered with a nod.

I had to turn away from the expression on his face since it was depressing me. To my surprise, I found a few familiar fillies staring at me with eager eyes. My eyes widened as I had not expected their direct attention at me.

"Excuse me." Applejack's sister, the one with the bow, spoke. "We were talkin', and we just noticed something particular about you that we find mighty interesting." She exchanged quick glances with her friends.

Oh no. Please don't tell me it's because of my eyes too.

"Ah-hem" She cleared her throat. "Correct us if we're wrong…but could it be that you don't have your cutie mark either?"

"Eh?" I returned a stupid smile.

Okay. I wasn't expecting that.

"Applebloom." Applejack pitched in. "I don't think it's polite to bring up something like that."

To be entirely honest, I think I could have cared less about my cutie mark as long as it didn't come to my eyes. Just as long as I don't have ponies staring at my butt the entire time.

"No, no, it's cool!" I returned a sweet grin with a flipping hoof over to Applejack, and then I turned back to Applebloom. "You're right. I don't have a cutie mark."

"Wow! I've never seen a grown pony without their cutie mark before!" Their friend that was a fan of scooters expressed frankly among them.

I could metaphorically hear a mirror break inside my head as I stood there pretty dumbfounded and humiliated. I know I said I could care less about my cutie mark…but you don't have to rub it in…

"Do you want to join the Cutie Mark Crusaders?!" Sweetie Belle asked with glee.

I chuckled weakly, still suffering from that kick in the flank by a mere filly. "Ah…To tell you the truth…I'm pretty sure I'm a lost cause."

I never knew whether it was possible or not, but with my situation with Alex, it seems like the only sensible thing is that getting a cutie mark wouldn't be possible in the first place. I mean, I'd think I'd have like a "spirit" cutie mark already if that was the case. Plus, I'm not a filly anymore! Like Scootaloo said, she's never seen a grown pony without their cutie mark.

Then again…

"Come on, please!" Applebloom began to beg. "I'm sure if we work together, we can all find our cutie marks a lot faster! It'll be fun! I promise!"

"Hey, aren't you always about fun things?" Alex asked from behind my back. "These fillies have so much energy. I think you'd fit right in with them."

Well…when I talk about fun, I talk about you…

"I think it's a pretty swell idea." Applejack insisted as well. "After all, since you're an older pony, you could watch over them too! Y'know. Make sure they don't do anythin' too dangerous."

Alex looked like he wanted to object to that, but he kept his mouth shut after taking a glance at me.

Nevertheless, I sighed heavily. If I do this, maybe I can ween off Alex a little more and in turn give him more space to be with Fluttershy and even his other friends.

"Yeah, okay." I lightly forced out a grin. "That sounds like fun."

"YAY!" The three of them bounced up and shouted with glee. "The Cutie Mark Crusaders gain a new member!"

"Heh heh. Yeah." I uneasily chuckled as I massaged my right ear after enduring the power of their voices.

"You just stick with us, Spirit." Applebloom reacted with an inviting smile. "After this train reaches Appleloosa, we'll go cutie mark huntin' right away!"

"Can't wait…" I said with a still grin, wondering if I'd regret the decision later as the future events unfold.

"Wow, girls! Check it out! There's so much goin' on here!" Applebloom excitedly announced, turning her head in opposite directions constantly among the crowds of ponies performing different kinds of acts.

"Totally!" Scootaloo agreed. "This place is a cutie mark gold mine! There's barrel racing...roping contests, rodeo clowning...steeplechase...!"

The events they were so fascinated with didn't really interest me as much. Instead, my eyes were taken aback by the caramel apples that a couple of ponies held as they walked by. I felt my lips being slowly licked as I felt the strong need to just eat sweets.

"If we can get into some of these events, the four of us could walk off the train back in Ponyville with brand spankin' new cutie marks!" Applebloom continued dreaming.

"Wouldn't a barrel look good here?" Scootaloo guessed at while imagining the picture on her flank.

"I want a lasso!" Applebloom exclaimed.

The ponies holding the caramel apples grew far out of sight, so I had nothing else to keep my attention. "I don't want anything here to be my cutie mark. It all looks…eh…" What was I worried about? Like there was a chance I'd actually get my cutie mark in the first place?

"Are you kiddin'?" Applebloom shot, getting pretty up close to my face. "All these things are one of the most excitin' things a pony can do!"

"I don't know..." Sweetie Belle worriedly rubbed her leg. "All these events look a little, well, dangerous." She observed one particular pony with a cast on his left foreleg.

"No risk, no reward." Applebloom rebutted.

"Tell that to a pony with a piece of candy on her flank." I mentioned a little distastefully, but then I began to feel the need to take it back once I began remembering how Alex got his cutie mark… I shook my head a little to wear it off. "Anyways, I know I'm a 'Cutie Mark Crusader' and all now…but I think I'm also supposed to watch over you guys and make sure you don't get into any danger…"

"It can't be that dangerous if a bunch of ponies are doing it and having other ponies watch them at the same time!" Applebloom tried to reason against.

"Alright, everypony, listen up!" A loud and slightly intimidating voice sounded off from one of the wooden buildings in town. "We need a big presence at this here rodeo, so make yourself plenty seen! I want that low-down varmint to know we mean business!"

"I hope nothing bad is going on…" Sweetie Belle expressed.

"A cutie mark-apalooza and a low-down varmint? This is shapin' up to be the most excitin' rodeo ever!" Applebloom rose up with a gleeful gallop of her hooves.

Well…I did like the idea of catching some kind of criminal and being a hero and all that. Everything else in this rodeo was pretty uninteresting to me anyway…

"Yeah, come on!" Scootaloo galloped ahead with Applebloom, leaving Sweetie Belle a bit astray and lagging behind them. Feeling as if my leash had transferred to the control of them instead, I followed along.

Even so, it wasn't all bad. Sure, I sort of felt like I was in a place I didn't want to be in, but I did get to get some of those treats that caught my eyes around the place. Also, hanging with the fillies wasn't so bad. It was like being a little filly myself again. Then again, I wasn't so sure if I ever really "grew up".

I had to admit, even though I wasn't with Alex, being with them passed the time. At least we got to eat sweets and play a few "rodeo games".

"Hey, Applebloom!" Scootaloo excitedly called for her fellow crusader. "Why don't we ask Applejack if we can compete in the rodeo for once?"

"Heck yeah!" Applebloom enthusiastically agreed. "We might just be the youngest fillies to win somethin'! If we do, we'd get our cutie marks for sure!"

With another forced grin hanging from my mouth as a bead of sweat dropped from the side of my face, I kept myself from speaking out loud.

Did you already forget I'm way older than you three?

Holding the remains of my caramel candy apple with my left hoof, I proceeded to throw my two bits in. "Are getting your cutie marks really that big of a deal?"

"Duh!" Applebloom chimed in. "That's the whole reason for the Cutie Mark Crusaders. We're on a crusade to find our cutie marks!"

"It's just…" I began to mess with my almost nonexistent candy apple by twirling it around my hoof. "Isn't it possible that you could live without it?"

"I'm sure you don't need it to live, but…" Scootaloo began.

"How could you?" Sweetie Belle continued. "Isn't it supposed to be a sign of who you are and your special talent? Isn't that why everypony has one when they're grown up?"

"I can't imagine being grown up without one." Applebloom voiced. "When I think about it…if I'm grown up and everypony around me has a cutie mark but me, I think I might feel like I don't even know who I really am."

My ears began to flop down when I realized the message in her words. I never thought I'd take something from a filly so seriously. I'm more than sure they didn't mean to hurt me, but I also started thinking about what they meant by those words. I never took having a cutie mark so seriously because I really never needed to in the first place. I mean, look at me. I don't even have a life. It's like… I'm almost living someone else's life.

A cutie mark…

I guess having one would be like…having something of my very own. An accomplishment.

The fillies must have realized my sunken mood, so they quickly gathered around to pat me with caring hooves.

"That's why you're a crusader! We'll help you find your cutie mark, we promise!"

I managed to make out a light smile. "Thanks." Of course, that smile didn't last long.

Truth be told, considering my situation, that's a promise they might not be able to keep.

When we regrouped with Alex and Applejack, Applejack had just finished stacking some hay with other rodeo ponies. As the three fillies went to talk with Applejack, I felt a little better when Alex came to me. However, he did notice that I wasn't in the brightest mood.

"What's wrong?" He asked. "Are you not having a good time with the girls?"

"I-It's not that…" I answered. "It's just…" I paused to release a heavy sigh. "Is it even possible to get my cutie mark?"

He didn't answer right away. "I don't know…" He stopped to think for a brief moment. "I don't think you've ever told me that you couldn't get your cutie mark…but since you technically aren't a…well…a sort of 'living pony', for lack of a better word, I really wouldn't know."

My hoof kicked the dust beneath us. "You know, I really didn't care too much about having one, but after realizing how much a cutie mark means to those little ponies, I kind of understand why. And realizing that it most likely won't even be possible to get one, I feel…not really special."

"Come on… I don't think you need a cutie mark to be special. After all, isn't it really just a sign of who you really are?"

"But a cutie mark lets you know who you really are and what you stand for, doesn't it…?"

"Mmm." He didn't seem to know what to say after that. I understood this as well, since he'd never had to deal with a pony who most likely couldn't ever get her cutie mark.

"Look out!" We heard a voice cry out desperately.

As soon as we turned our heads to see what the hay was going on, a mountain of haystacks came crumbling down as if they had all been tipped over. Alex and I were in the safe zone, but a group of young fillies were in the danger zone. Before we could do something in reaction to this sight, Applejack quickly pushed the three girls out of the way.

Alex and I quickly raced over to the ponies involved.

"You guys alright?!" Alex questioned in concern.

They nodded their heads.

"Sugar and salt licks! Well, I'll be..." A familiar voice mentioned nearby.

"What is it, Sheriff?" Applejack approached the pony that had been warning of a certain criminal to every other pony in town. They seemed to be staring at something at the ground near the bottommost haystack.

"Is it him?" The other stallion in the group asked.

"Ain't no doubt." The sheriff responded deeply serious. "It's Trouble Shoes."

All of a sudden, at the perfect moment, a harmonica literally played a western riff before us. However, everypony looked to the side to find a rodeo clown to be the cause of this sound. He embarrassingly stepped away when pummeled with everypony's stares.

Eventually, we found ourselves in an argument of concern over this event. The sheriff had called a meeting in town to discuss the news of the outlaw 'Trouble Shoes' on the run causing trouble. Practically everypony in town had dealt with some kind of mishap with him, and it all wasn't hard to figure out that no pony liked him. Nonetheless, thinking back on what we've had to face in the past, this 'Trouble Shoes' didn't sound too dangerous. But that didn't stop Applejack from wanting to send the fillies back home.

"Don't send us home! It's not fair!" Applebloom protested.

"Now, quit yer bellyachin'." Applejack sternly responded while preparing their packed saddlebags for them. "I can't have y'all around here with some outlaw on the loose. Aw, maybe I oughta call it quits and go home too."

"No, you can't!" The pony with the cast that had been hanging out with Applejack disagreed. "This rodeo is important to Appleloosa! And with you in there, we got a real shot at winnin'!"

"So what? Am I just supposed to practice and forget that there's some dangerous pony on the loose that could hurt three little fillies like earlier today?"

"Spirit can take care of us!" Applebloom raised.

"Yeah!" The two others simultaneously agreed.

"Well…" I wasn't sure how to feel about that.

Applejack turned and stepped towards me. "Do you think you can do that? Just make sure they're safe and out of danger?"

"Spirit is pretty brave and strong." Alex complimented while glancing over to me. "If any dangerous pony got near her and the others, I'm sure she could handle it."

"Hmm." Applejack thought. "Alright. The fillies can stay."

"YAY!" They all cheered and bumped hooves.

"But they gotta stay in the house." She referred to the building we were speaking in.

"Huh?!" They inquired in surprise.

"That Trouble Shoes is out there somewhere. Even though you three have Spirit around, she's still just one pony. Who knows how big this Trouble Shoes is or even if he has some more bad ponies with him! If I'm gonna be a part of this rodeo and not able to watch you all, then you gotta stay someplace safe."

"If you're going to be out…" Alex added. "I think I should stick with you. Something like earlier today might happen again, and we might need a pair of wings or magic to keep somepony from getting hurt, especially you."

"I'd appreciate that." Applejack expressed her gratitude. "Knowing there's somepony keeping watch over the girls here and somepony keeping watch over at practice, I feel a lot calmer about stayin'."

"What are we waiting for?" The other pony spoke. "You gotta get to practicin' right away!"

As he and Applejack left, Alex lagged a bit behind. He turned to me before he decided to leave.

"Sorry, I'm going to be leaving you… You'll be alright?"

"Yeah…as long as you stick around the area." I mentioned.

He nodded. "Don't worry, I will. Make sure to keep a good eye on them, okay?" He referred to the little crusaders.

"I will…"

He smiled lightly and messed with my mane. "Don't get into any trouble." Afterwards, he turned towards the door and left.

"Aww!" Scootaloo sat with crossed hooves. "I really wanted to go out and do some rodeo stuff!"

"Yeah!" Applebloom agreed. "I really wanted to compete! We could have gotten our cutie marks!"

"Then again…" Sweetie Belle mentioned. "Maybe it's a good thing we're here. Who knows how dangerous and scary that Trouble Shoes is. He sounds like a really bad pony."

"Aw shucks." Applebloom returned. "The four of us can take a pony like Trouble Shoes and turn him in to the Sheriff!"

I sighed heavily and laid down, wondering how long I'd have to do nothing.

"You don't wanna be here too, do ya, Spirit?" Applebloom asked.

"No, not really." I answered with a lack of energy.

"Don't blame her." Scootaloo walked towards the window to observe the outside. "We're supposed to wait here for how long? It could be hours!"

"And with nothing to do." Applebloom added.

"We could come up with a game." Sweetie Belle mentioned hopefully. "How about hide and seek? I haven't played that in forever!"

"We're supposed to be lookin' for our cutie marks, Sweetie Belle. I think we're too grown up for hide n' seek." Applebloom responded.

Actually, I wouldn't mind playing that…even though in a place small like this, it would be sure to get old after a while.

"I know…" Sweetie Belle timidly tapped her hooves together. "Maybe we should just listen to the others for once."

Time slowly went by. The game we all played to keep us busy was the good old waiting game. Each of us wandered around the house, amusing ourselves for seconds with whatever we could find. At other times, we just stood, sat, or laid around in complete silence.

Applebloom stepped away from the window once she noticed the sky growing darker outside. "Seriously? When are they comin' back?"

"Beats me." Scootaloo uninterestedly answered as she laid on her back and stared at the ceiling.

"Y'know what? I got an idea." Applebloom stated, causing our heads to lift up and look her way. "How bout we take a peek outside and wander around. I know Applejack said to stay in the house, but don't you think she'll be so proud of us if we end up catching Trouble Shoes? At the very least, we can just find out where he is."

Scootaloo's wings fluttered as she stood back on her hooves. "Beats staying here all night!"

"I don't know you guys… We're supposed to stay in here…" Sweetie Belle worriedly expressed.

"Come on." Applebloom attempted to persuade. "I think as long as we got Spirit with us, we should be fine!" She turned towards me. "You can kick some tail, right?"

"Uh, sure…" I responded.

"There it is!" Applebloom immediately continued. "Let's just look around outside! If we can't find nothin' we can head right back here!"

Should I really go along with this idea? If it were completely up to me, I think I'd go for it. Honestly, this Trouble Shoes guy sounds hardly anything evil compared to other villains from the past. It couldn't be all that bad… Besides, I couldn't help but feel a little angry for being left here alone. I know I wanted to learn to not always be with Alex all the time, but I didn't want to be cut off cold turkey like this!

"Alright." I stood up. "I'm down to go out."

"See!" Applebloom took advantage of my action. "We'll be fine."

Sweetie Belle sighed. "I get the feeling that you'll go whether I stay or not… I don't want to be alone so…okay…"

"Just stick really close to me." I advised to the others. "I don't want to think about what'll happen to me if I lose either one of you fillies."

"Mm-hm!" They agreed enthusiastically with the exception of Sweetie Belle, whom couldn't seem to shake off her worry.

"Do we really have to do this?" Sweetie Belle asked once we were outside and walking away from the house.

"Just think of it like this, Sweetie Belle." Applebloom responded. "If we find Trouble Shoes and send him to jail, we'll most likely be able to compete in the rodeo if he's not hanging around!"

"I like that!" Scootaloo pointed out.

Sweetie Belle groaned, slowly lagging a bit behind us. "Worst idea ever."

We walked in the same direction we had been constantly heading in for a while. I silently looked around me, taking into account of the trees and bushes that now surrounded us.

At least it wasn't as scary-looking as the Everfree Forest.

Despite that thought, I had just realized something I probably should have realized way before.

"Where are we even going?" I asked.

Despite being the older pony in the group, Applebloom seemed to take charge of direction.

"Gotta find one of those huge hoof prints he leaves." She answered before she stopped and suddenly pointed. "Ah-hah!" She ran ahead for a brief moment for she stopped and directed our attention at something indented firmly in the ground. "And there it is!"

"Why don't we just go back and tell the sheriff to look in this direction?" Sweetie Belle advised, looking mildly afraid.

Unexpectedly, a crack of lightning appeared above us and a clap of thunder crashed. This startled each of us, especially me. Rain began to lightly fall.

"Yeah, maybe we should head back and try again later…" Scootaloo suggested as well, slightly covering her eyes with her hooves.

Noticing the rain began to gather up in holes on the ground and form puddles, I felt myself began to lightly shiver and shake from fear. "I think we should go back home too. Applejack and Alex might already be going back if they're not already there."

"We must be getting close!" Applebloom sounded as if she didn't agree with our recommendations. Instead, she appeared to feel the need to run off on her own, and by the current circumstances, we kind of didn't have a choice but to follow after her.

Thunder boomed once more as its buddy lightning flashed.

Sweetie Belle released a high-pitched squeal as she ran as fast as her tiny legs allowed her to.

Okay… This was probably a bad idea…

It didn't take long for Sweetie Belle and Scootaloo to propose their ideas once more when it seemed like we were actually getting nowhere with the trail.

"Come on, we've gone far enough! It's time to go back!" Sweetie Belle pleaded.

"The rain is only getting worse, Applebloom!" Scootaloo encouraged. "Let's come back tomorrow."

Taking a few more steps before stopping and wandering her eyes around in the seemingly empty forest, she sighed and appeared to surrender. "Maybe y'all are right. So, how do we get back?"

"You mean you don't know?!" Sweetie Belle asked in shock.

"I thought Spirit knew!" Applebloom defended.

"I don't know!" I answered with hooves raised up and worry invading my emotions. "I was just following you! I thought you knew your way around here!"

BOOM. Flash.

"Okay, okay!" Scootaloo attempted to settle the panic down, ironically looking as if she was being pressured by the thunder storm. "I-I think I still remembered the way we came from." She pointed in the direction we had been walking from. Let's just retrace our steps and we have to be back home."

"Okay." Sweetie Belle quickly accepted, seeing how there was no other option.

"Got it." Applebloom joined.

Had it been only me, I could have easily just returned to Alex, but that wasn't an option since these three fillies were with me. I thought about maybe sending a message through our link, but I realized that he'd probably be furious for going against what he and Applejack wanted. I decided to wait on calling for help ONLY if we REALLY needed it.

Eventually, it came to the point where it felt like we had been walking for hours without making any kind of progress whatsoever back home. If that wasn't bad enough, I felt a stinging sensation began to start inside my head. That wasn't good. Either I was getting further away from Alex, or vice versa. Although, I think it was more likely the former.

"Guys…I don't think this is the way…" I notified, feeling my worry affect my voice.

"Are you sure you know where you're going, Scootaloo?" Sweetie Belle asked after having heard me.

"I thought I was, but now I'm not…" Scootaloo stopped in her tracks.

The rain had gradually increased over the time we spent wandering around clueless, and the more water I saw building up, the weaker I felt. I looked ahead and spotted what seemed to be the edge of a cliff. Hoping I could somehow see a path back home from higher ground, I jogged ahead. However, I should have known that everything would just be green.

Nevertheless, I tried to not lose hope.

"You know what?" I began. "We should go straight this way!" I pointed backwards, ironically using my headache as a source of direction. "I feel as long as we go directly straight and don't turn on any path for whatever reason, we should get closer to home."

"Do you really think so?" Sweetie Belle questioned.

I sighed. "I hope so."

"This is unbelievable." Applebloom expressed with frustration as she walked towards where all of us were standing. "I pretty much got us completely and totally lost. How could this get any worse?"

The ground suddenly shook and before I knew it, we were sent plummeting down towards what felt like a river with a strong current. At this point, I strongly and immediately regretted ever going out to look for some dumb criminal. I panicked as I forced myself to make sure my head didn't fall underwater. I didn't know what was going on, only that my hooves were fretting towards any direction possible. When it came to a stop, there was now an extremely sharp pain stabbing inside my head, leaving me to be unable to get up and press my hooves against my temples as if doing so would lessen the pain or stop it entirely.

"Spirit! Spirit, are you okay?!" I heard Applebloom cry out as she trotted and approached me.

"Argh!" I whimpered, feeling tears form and fall against my cheeks along with the rain from the sky. "It hurts! It hurts so much!"

"Come on!" Applebloom grabbed one of my hooves and tried to drag me out of the mud we were in. "We gotta get out of this rain!"

"No!" I wailed. "It hurts even more when I move!"

"What do we do?!" Sweetie Belle freaked at the sight and sound of me.

"This is terrible!" Scootaloo added.

Fortunately this pain didn't last as bad as it was for long. However, it was still capable of limiting my actions or motions. I looked ahead and noticed some kind of shelter. I didn't look long to notice the details, I just wanted out of the rain, especially since we had no idea of our the current situation.

Clenching my teeth while attempting to bear with the pain, I focused the group towards the shelter. "In there. Let's go."

Worriedly, they followed behind.

Once inside, I let myself fall to the floor and shiver from the freezing rain that drenched all our coats.

"Find some towels or somethin'!" I heard Applebloom direct her friends.

I wasn't sure if they found exact towels, but they managed to pull out some cloths and instead cover me with it.

"Please tell me you're doing okay." Sweetie Belle approached me by my face as I continued to lightly shiver here and there.

"I'm…fine…" I answered.

I wasn't fine, but I didn't feel as tortured as before. That unbearable agony made a number on my energy. I felt so exhausted. It was almost like I ran all over Equestria non-stop. All I wanted to do was lay motionless or better yet go to sleep.

Applebloom sighed from worry once more. "This is bad. The pony that is supposed to be watchin' us is sufferin'!"

"It doesn't look like she can move." Sweetie Belle mentioned after observing my state for a moment.

"It looks like our only option is to stay here." Scootaloo declared. "At least until the rain hopefully stops."

The stinging in my head would fade out every now and then, but at the same time, it would peak back up for a few seconds and then lower again. This caused me to whimper and groan like a filly having nightmares. The only thing I could think of for the cause of this pattern was Alex. I stayed at one spot, so Alex could have been the only one moving far. What could he be doing to cause these spikes? Could it be…that he was maybe…looking for me?

Oooh! If only I just stayed at that stupid house! I'm in so much trouble!

"Let's look around and see if there's anything we can use." Applebloom suggested, causing the three of them to scatter a bit and roam around the already small room.

However, I began hearing loud stomps coming from outside, and as soon as I did, my eyes grew wide in realization.

No way… The area we're taking shelter from… It couldn't be his, could it?! That criminal at loose!

"You fillies…!" I attempted to warn while getting up at the same time. "Get back!"

They must have heard the stomping as well, since they didn't hesitate to do as I said.

As soon as the door opened, a very large shadow appeared before us. If this was the dangerous criminal, I had no idea if I'd be able to do anything, especially in my condition! Please, Alex! Please just come out of nowhere, kick his flank, and save the day! I'm sorry I got out of the house when I wasn't supposed to!

The Cutie Mark Crusaders screamed in reaction. Surprisingly, this caused the shadow to return the same reaction, hitting his head against the top of the wall over the door and crashing into various objects inside the room. This caused a very loud ruckus. We could only watch at this dismay until he suddenly stopped and fell at the floor. Everything was immediately silent afterwards besides the sound of the rain outside.

Applebloom decided to approach this unusual character as the others followed her. I wasn't too sure about the idea, but I didn't see or feel any hostility from him.

"Hello? You alright?" Applebloom asked.

"Surely." He answered in a rather disgruntled tone.

"We didn't mean no harm. We just came in to get out of the rain." Applebloom excused.

"Had some hot cider a-cookin' in the kitchen. Doubt it survived…" He glanced over to the kitchen portion of the room, which looked absolutely a mess. "I ain't gonna rise to greet y'all. Awfully rude, I reckon, but as you can see, I'm the fresh casualty of an unusually unfortunate circumstance. My lot in life, I suppose."

"Are you... Trouble Shoes?" Applebloom guessed.

"That's me."

Applebloom approached further, causing Scootaloo to hold her back. "W-what are you doing?"

"I'm gonna unwrap him."

"You can't do that! That's Trouble Shoes!" Sweetie Belle proclaimed.

"Aw, he don't seem so bad."

He was free to rise once he was completely unwrapped. Gee, having a clear look at him now, he was massive. I never knew a pony could be so big.

"Of course guests would arrive while I ain't got no pie to offer. Scores more misfortune points for old Trouble Shoes." He was about to turn before Applebloom stopped him.

"W-wait! We need help!" She stated and directed his attention at me. "You see, our friend here is in pain, and she doesn't look so good, is there anything you can do?"

"Figures." He responded in his bummed out mood. "Not even am I safe at home from any kind of trouble."

"Actually…" I managed to hold my ground while wobbling a bit here and there. "I think I'm doing a little better now." As long as Alex doesn't keep pulling the leash on this puppy…

I didn't know what Trouble Shoes planned to do next, but he turned, walked a few steps, and ended up slipping on a random banana peel that so happened to be on the floor. He stumbled upon a bookcase that contained three bowling balls for another unknown reason. The impact of his humongous body caused these heavy balls to drop and hit his head. It was practically impossible to not flinch as he took these hits. Nevertheless, he seemed fine aside from the lump he got on his head.

"Typical. Bad luck never rests." He said.

"You sure that's bad luck?" Applebloom observed. "Seems like maybe you're just a little, um..."

"Klutzy?" Sweetie Belle helped.

"Tell that to the flank!" Trouble Shoes stood up and presented his cutie mark. "Upside-down horseshoe – bad luck. Follows me wherever I go like sour on old milk. Y'all best vamoose before my bad luck rubs off and sticks to y'all. Get along! Skedaddle!" He directed out the practically broken door. It was like he didn't even notice the heavy rain or lightning cracking outside. "Am-scray!"

"Do you think we can…well…stay for a while until the rain lightens up?" Applebloom generously asked. "Plus, I think we should let our friend rest a little before we get going." She glanced over to me.

"That and we have no idea how to get back to Appleloosa." Scootaloo added.

"But o' course I do." He depressingly recognized. "Wouldn't you know it? My lucky day." He heaved out a big restless sigh. "I suppose I can't kick out some young fillies out in the rain. Make yourselves comfortable. I'm afraid I don't have anythin' to offer you though."

"That's okay. We appreciate you lettin' us stay." Applebloom expressed before she and her friends returned to speak among the group while Trouble Shoes focused on tiding up his space.

"It's actually kind of sweet of him to help us out like this." Sweetie Belle softly mentioned.

"If he takes us back to Appleloosa, what if the Sheriff finds him and arrests him?" Scootaloo brought up. "If I get a cutie mark for that, I'll feel guilty every time I see it."

"Well…" Applebloom thought with a hoof to her chin. "We don't have to have him take us all the way. Just enough to where we can get back on our own."

I began thinking about Alex and remembered about the spiked pain. I couldn't help but have a strong feeling he knew something was wrong. Honestly, I would expect him to send me a message like he did when we were at that equal village, but then again, if we were having trouble sending such messages from across a small village, it's most likely I wouldn't even get anything considering how far we wandered outside of Appleloosa. I wouldn't be surprised if he tried to contact me, and I didn't get anything. It must be making him really worried. Not to mention Applejack. She trusted me with the girls. She must be so ticked!

"Are you alright, Spirit?" Applebloom asked.

"Yeah, you're not still hurting, are you?" Scootaloo added.

"I'm fine." I assured. "It's just…I feel like Alex and the others are looking for us right now…"

"Really?" Applebloom returned. "What makes you think that?"

"They could have returned from practice and found us missing." Sweetie Belle mentioned and sighed. "I feel bad."

"So what do we do?" Scootaloo looked amongst us.

"We have no idea where they are, so we should probably stay in here till the rain lets up." Applebloom suggested.

I lightly laughed. "Heh heh… if only I had wings, huh?"

One of the major topics eventually came up inside the shelter we stayed. The fillies revealed that Trouble Shoes is known as a wanted criminal back in Appleloosa, and this led him to depressingly tell us the story of how that came to be. Back when he wasn't an outsider, he loved going to the rodeo every time there was one in town. Even while practicing his skills in order to participate, he never had any luck in pulling it off. Apparently, during the tryout for "rodeo school", that's when his cutie mark appeared. He went on to messing up his audition and having judges laugh at him. It sounded pretty rough indeed and relatable.

"Poor Trouble Shoes. I can't believe those mean judges would laugh at him like that." Sweetie Belle expressed.

"Don't you see? They weren't laughin' at him. They were just enjoyin' the show." Applebloom apparently looked at it from a whole other perspective.

"What are you saying?" Scootaloo asked.

"Think about it. If we saw a rodeo clown doin' what he did back in that shack, we'd think he was the greatest!"

To be honest…that actually made sense…

"You're right! He could still be in rodeos, just not the way he thought!" Sweetie Belle excitedly realized.

"Looks like it's finished pouring outside." Trouble Shoes stuck his head outside. "Come on now. Let's get you fillies back home." He began stepping out.

"So he's been looking at his cutie mark wrong the whole time!" Scootaloo continued the conversation as we stood up and began following our guide out the door. "It's not bad luck, it's just his way of entertaining ponies!"

"When we get back to Appleloosa, we gotta let the other ponies know that he doesn't mean any harm, he just needs to try out for a rodeo clown and they'll all see how amazing he really is when he gets the whole crowd laughing off their seats!"

"And if we get a cutie mark from doing that, I can totally dig it!" Scootaloo built up her excitement as we walked out.

"There he is!"

"Get him!"


We walked out to see Trouble Shoes wrapped tightly by a bunch of lassos. A good amount of ponies surrounded him. The majority turned out to be the sheriffs back from Appleloosa. And the sad part of it was that Trouble Shoes didn't even put up a fight or resist it. He just sadly accepted it.

"Just my luck."

"Trouble Shoes, you're under arrest for vandalizin' the property and peace of mind of the good rodeo-lovin' ponies of Equestria! Not to mention fillynappin'!" The sheriff declared. "And... generalized mayhem!"

Following the next second, a couple of other ponies took notice and raced towards us.

I immediately felt a pair of hooves press against my face and then all over my body.

"Spirit! Are you alright?!" Alex asked as he worriedly scanned me over

"Y-yeah, I—"

"Oh my goodness! I'm glad you girls are safe!" Applejack mentioned as she hugged the little fillies.

"Applejack! Wait! You gotta listen! Trouble Shoes is—!" Applebloom attempted to say.

"I know!" Applejack angrily interrupted and returned over to Trouble Shoes with burning eyes and a glowing red body. "Come on yall. Let's take this varmint where he belongs!"

"Girls, hop on." Alex directed towards the others. "Spirit, return back inside me until we get back home."

"Alex, you gotta stop them from taking Trouble Shoes!" Applebloom begged. "He's not a bad pony!"

"Not a bad pony?" Alex questioned. "What were you doing here with him then?"

They exchanged glances at each other with guilt and regret. "We…"

"…I brought them here." I admitted.

"Huh?!" Alex quickly turned towards me in surprise.

This can't be good…

"…it was boring staying back at the house all day, so I thought it would be okay to…I don't know…explore. I thought I could take care of any 'criminal' that tried to mess with us, but it turned out that that 'criminal' actually helped us when we needed it."

Alex remained silent for a moment. He didn't seem to get furious as I was afraid he would, but I couldn't exactly get a good reading off him either.

"Let's get back home." He stated. "We'll talk there."

Alex heard our story through me, and as I spoke it, I felt the need to keep the little crusaders out from fault as much as possible. I wasn't one to lie about things to stay out of trouble, but then again, I never really remembered a situation that resembled the one I was currently in. In fact, the first thing that popped in my head was when we were living with them, and I definitely tried to protect him anyway I was allowed to.

I slowly relieved my tensed nerves over the course of my story. Alex studied and listened to me calmly, and he never looked like he was about to burst like a giant ticking time bomb.

"And that's when you found us…" I ended, fumbling with my hooves.

"Hm…" He replied mostly with silence as he briefly stared at the floor. "I guess I should have known you'd feel the need to do something like that after being in this house with nothing to do."

"…do you hate me?" I felt extremely hesitant to ask.

"What? Of course not. I don't know what to feel to be honest." It was true, he was pretty blank from what I could read. "I don't exactly agree with what you did, but at the same time, it's not like I could blame you for doing what you did. In the end, they were safe. I'd say that's what matters."

"Hey, Alex…" Sweetie Belle now softly spoke up. "We kind of wanted to go outside too. Spirit wasn't the one that convinced us or anything."

"Actually, I'd say Sweetie Belle is the most innocent one in all this." Applebloom fessed up. "She didn't want to go outside at all, but she didn't want to stay alone inside here. If you ask me, Spirit took us in the sense that she wanted to watch after us. I mean, come on, you know how far we'll go if we really want to do something."

To my surprise, Alex laughed lightly. "That's true."

"What about Trouble Shoes?" Scootaloo brought up. "The sheriff and the others are putting him away to jail for something he didn't do!"

"If what you've girls said is true…then they are, aren't they?" Alex rubbed his chin while slightly looking away.

"Can't we stop them?" I asked.

"It's late." He answered. "And I don't think it'd be exactly easy. I have a feeling even if we explained everything, he won't be immediately free afterwards."

"Then what do we do?" Applebloom yearned.

"I say we rest up for tonight, and come up with something tomorrow."

"Tomorrow's the rodeo." Sweetie Belle reminded.

Scootaloo gasped suddenly. "Why don't we find a way to show everypony that he's a good rodeo clown?"

"But we'd need to get him out of jail to do that." Sweetie Belle said.

"You all really believe he's a good pony?" Alex asked, seeming to stay on neutral grounds.

"After what he's done for us, we know he is!" Applebloom stated with passion.

"I think I can get him out during the rodeo tomorrow." Alex mentioned, filling the crusaders with an explosion of hope. "I'm not making any promises, but I think it's doable."

"That's perfect!" Scootaloo exclaimed. "We just need to dress him up as a rodeo clown and nopony will recognize him when he joins the other clowns during the rodeo. From what we've seen, they're sure to laugh their hooves off!"

"You might want to get some sleep." Alex suggested. "It's already late, and you don't want to be exhausted when you're trying to prove what Trouble Shoes is actually capable of."

"Okay." They scurried off to the rooms above.

For a moment, Alex and I were left together in silence.

"Aren't you going to get some sleep too?" He asked.

"I still feel guilty." I revealed softly.

He glanced aside. "I don't know what Applejack will think when she hears this…but I think the important part is that…you somewhat stuck to your job. Even though you wandered out, the fillies are still fine. I can't tell you that Applejack won't want some kind of punishment or disciplinary action for what happened tonight, but there's no way she can ignore that the fillies are alright."

"Alright…" I merely returned, unsure if I felt any better or worse. I then decided to giggle lightly. "I hope Applejack doesn't end up hating me or losing her trust for me." My slight laughter wasn't out of enjoyment, rather it was to brush away the worry.

"Everypony makes mistakes, of course." Alex reassured. "Applejack has definitely made her own share of mistakes too. I'm sure you know that. Either way, you're a good pony. That's why I've been wanting you to spend some time with them so they get to know you better themselves then rely on what I've been saying about you. If they did, I'm sure you could grow a strong relationship between them personally than just through me."

"I guess you're right…" I surrendered.

"Get some sleep." He said with a soft smile.

And so I walked up the stairs to do such as he requested.

The next morning, Alex took us to the dusty jail here in barren Appleloosa. He managed to convince the sheriff in allowing Trouble Shoes to have a closer look at the rodeo for good behavior as long as he was kept on close watch. However, I think the main reason the sheriff agreed to this was so he could have a good look at the rodeo himself without having to stay at the jail watching Trouble Shoes.

This didn't make Trouble Shoes any happier though. He still kept a tight grasp over his negative attitude even when he was walking practically a free pony. The little fillies enacted their plan and had him dressed up as just another rodeo clown. He was virtually another pony, aside from his huge and somewhat unique stature.

It was nice to see when Trouble Shoes's attitude changed for the better once he got into the action taking place in the rodeo. It took a little convincing, but he finally decided to join the rodeo clowns after Applejack's close call. I felt a little calm from how the way things were going, but thinking about how Applejack would react once she heard the truth scared me.

I didn't understand at first. Applejack really didn't mean all that much to me, to be honest. If anything, Alex was the one that meant the world to me, so why did I care about what Applejack thought of me based on what I did? As I put some thought into it as I silently watched the performance of Trouble Shoe's klutzy behavior onside with the other rodeo clowns, I realized that Applejack gave me something I had never really received from any other pony besides Alex, of course.

She trusted me with an important part of her life. And that's why I was scared. I was granted a very special privilege that should have made me feel special from the very beginning, but I didn't think much of it until now. Applejack really wasn't a bad pony either. Based on her experiences with Alex, she really is a caring pony. And that's one of the many reasons I probably owed her so much more for.

It seemed to what Trouble Shoes considered to be "bad luck" eventually exposed him to everypony watching. Ponies thought he escaped from jail, and the others had to do some explaining that the cause was pretty much a part of their plan. I don't think the sheriff was even upset with Alex because Alex did technically stick to his promise. He kept a close eye on Trouble Shoes the entire time he was with us. Especially when everypony came to realize what a great rodeo clown he was, it appeared he transformed from Appleloosa's most "dangerous outlaw" to most "funniest rodeo clown".

That was all nice and dandy, but then came to the part where Applejack learned the truth. I sort of felt like the spotlight was on me, but Alex and the little ones were definitely there to help me out when I couldn't come up with the right word or way of explaining certain things.

"I'm sorry, Applejack…" I apologized, unable to keep direct eye contact and instead looking over to her shiny new hard-earned trophy. "I didn't mean to get your sister and the others into any trouble really…"

"She just wanted to help us." Applebloom added. "You know how much we want to get our cutie marks, right?"

Applejack looked over us for a moment. "Well, I certainly don't approve how you all were out and about back when we thought there was a dangerous criminal on the loose…but technically your heart was sort of in the right place." Applejack referred to me.

"I'll do anything to make up for it!" I fervently offered.

"You want to make up for it, hm?" Applejack sort of grew a smile. I couldn't tell if it was necessarily good or bad. "You can start by cleaning up the mess Trouble Shoes made." She turned towards the fillies. "You three too."

"Whaaat?" Applebloom returned. "But we did help Trouble Shoes! He was a good pony after all."

"But you still disobeyed me, so go on. Get a-workin'."

They sighed as they dragged their hooves forward to pick up brooms and any other things to clean up after Trouble Shoes's old mess.

I couldn't say I had any objections. In fact, I can't say I remember ever being disciplined like a little filly for my wrong actions. Applebloom did have a point. If we hadn't snuck out, Trouble Shoes probably would have still been a criminal. But then again, there probably could have been a smarter way in doing that, and I'm not such a smart pony to begin with.

As Applejack stayed to supervise while we cleaned up, Applebloom continued to moan and groan over her earlier statement. She noticed how I had been practically silent the entire time as I calmly did what Applejack wanted.

"How come you're so quiet, Spirit? Aren't you kind of bummed out by doin' this? After all, neither of us got our cutie marks."

"Sure, I'd rather doing a bunch of other things than sweeping a dusty place to begin with, but if I can feel any closer to making things right, that's good enough for me."

"But…didn't we do that with Trouble Shoes?" Applebloom asked with clear confusion.

"You might not understand…but, I'd say if you can do anything to hopefully keep some pony's trust, you'll do it. At least, that's the way it is for me."

It seemed that she didn't completely understand, but she replied with an accepting tone anyway. "I guess."

I began working over at the area Alex was at, he also noticed my silence and spoke with me.

"You're taking this pretty well… You okay?" He asked.

"I guess I feel better." I honestly shared. "I really want to make it up to Applejack after the kind of trust she had in me. Don't get me wrong, there are so many ways I could probably avoid doing this kind of work, but that would just drive me insane with guilt."

"That's pretty mature of you." Alex admitted with a smile.

"Can you do me a favor?" I asked.

"What is it?"

"I'm not saying to be direct…but could you probably talk with Applejack to see if she still, I don't know, trusts me? In other words, that she doesn't see me any less than she did before." I requested.

"Yeah, sure." He was pretty quick to accept. "I don't think she's the kind of pony to hold a grudge or anything. In fact, I feel she doesn't think like that of you in the first place. But I'll talk with her."

"Thanks." I lightly smiled. "I can't wait to go back home."

"Gotta finish your work first."

I felt something picking at me to ask him if he could possibly help, but I kept my mouth shut. I'm trying to be mature here.

I may be a much older pony than those fillies around me, but I think I may still have a lot of growing up to do.

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