• Published 23rd Dec 2012
  • 1,620 Views, 73 Comments

Another Life - Ironwolves21



Years of killing; a hundred broken bodies, friend and foe, all leading to this point in time. The singular moment where every life Riot has ended comes back to haunt him. The moment when he stops being a soldier, and starts being a pony again.

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Chapter Eleven

Riot turned over in his hospital bed for the thousandth time. The stallion couldn’t help himself; he was getting released tomorrow. He was kind of like a foal on Hearths Warming Eve, he just couldn’t sleep. The stallion sighed, rolling over onto his back so he could stare at the ceiling. He had somehow managed to count every stain and bump in the ceiling during his stay. The ceiling was made of stucco and there was one thousand four hundred and seventy two bumps in his Celestia forsaken ceiling.

He shook his head, try to distract himself from the thoughts of insanity. Thankfully, the sound of light hoofsteps in the hall brought his heart and hopes skyward. Nurse Redheart’s creamy coat passed by the door, but didn’t stop. His hopes fell like a lead balloon.

“Huh.”

Now, it wasn’t as if she was his personal nurse or anything, but they had become... Friends of a sort. She would come in and talk every now and then, and bring edible food; when she did this, he wouldn’t fuck about or curse the very foundation of the building. Riot had hoped that she would come see him on his last night, but it would make sense if she had more important things to do.

The hospital was always quiet at this time, like the whole world had fallen asleep. Not even the low breathing of other patients or beeping from the machines penetrated the walls. The stallion cast a glowering look to the machine in the corner that he was no longer connected to. He looked over the piles of his things, which had thankfully been packed up into a duffel bag a few hours prior. Quite literally, the only thing he was waiting for was the head doctor’s word and his clothes.

Riot huffed, missing his bomber jacket profusely. That jacket had seen him through the worst of times, and it wounded him to not have it now.

Redheart’s smiling face appeared in the doorway. She shot him a look of pride, and disappeared back down the hall.

The grey stallion lounging on the bed stood, and trotted over to the window, looking outside at the winter wonderland. It was like the whole world was covered by a great white blanket, two feet thick. He saw a few weatherponies flitting about in the near darkness. He saw the mailmare Derpy, who he’d met just a few.......No....That was over a year ago. Riot sighed, shaking his head slowly.

He scrunched his nose, scowling at his predicament. The thought of going outside crossed his mind, but the lack of jacket reminded him that outside was bad. He frowned, then trotted towards the door and the semi dark hallway. Sticking his head out, he scanned about for Redheart.

The mare was just finishing up the hall, shutting the last door. She turned about, and saw Riot. She smiled, and quietly made her way over.

“Excited?” She asked, after she’d closed the door behind them with a dull click.

He smirked, nodding a bit. “Yeah, can’t sleep.” Riot glanced at the window. “You free for the moment?”

She nodded, yawning as she took a seat on his bed. “Just finished my rounds. Normally they’d have an orderly do it, but they’re off on Hearths Warming leave.”

Riot smiled wider. “Come on, let’s get my jacket and go outside. It’s still dark, so there’s not many folks around.” He silently begged her, he didn’t want to spend another minute in that forsaken room.

The mare shifted slightly, but nodded slowly, a sly smile appearing. She stood, and brought Riot along, opening the door to the hall. She gave a quick look around, then trotted down it, the grey stallion directly behind her. The lobby was mostly empty, save for the receptionist. Redheart motioned for Riot to stand for a moment, before disappearing into a side room. After a few moment, the mare reappeared with his jacket in tow.

She walked back to Riot, and returned it, bringing him back down the hall towards the side door. Riot smiled softly as he slid it on, it’s warm embrace something he had missed. Welcome to the 35th kid. At one point the staff had tried to clean it, but they couldn’t get the musk of battle and Riot off it. He shrugged his shoulders, taking the lead. “Come on, I think I remember where a bench is.”

Redheart slowed down to let Riot lead and trotted along next to him; sighing in contentment, but then shivering at the blast of freezing air that rushed in from the opened door. She paused for a moment.

“I’ll be right back, I need to get my winter clothes on.” She said, walking off. Riot closed the door, and waited patiently for her return. The mare reappeared after a few minutes, dressed in thick socks up to her haunches, a pair of pink earmuffs, and a light blue jacket.

Riot raised his eyebrows, but he quickly shook it off. He probably looked like an idiot, jittering about. He wrapped a hoof around Redheart, causing her to suck in a breath of surprise. “It’s nice to get outside without any guards chasing my ass down.”

She blushed at the contact, but nodded, giggling. The pair of them trotted out into the darkness of the early morning, the sun just starting to peek over the horizon. Snow was just starting to fall in little flakes.

Riot sighed happily, looking about as he took a deep breath. “Damn. Barely notice the chest pain now.” He bumped his flank against hers. “Guess I can thank the one capable nurse in the whole town for taking care of me for a year and a bit.”

The white mare blushed again, and looked up to him. “It definitely wasn’t all us, you’ve got a remarkably resilient body, Riot.” She laid a hoof on his back, and gave it a stroke. “It’s amazing.”

“Well, you know what they say about old age and treachery.” He smirked at her as they sat down on the bench. He wiped off the bench quickly before she sat down; in hopes that her flanks wouldn’t get soaked down.

She smiled at his kindness, and took a seat. She sighed happily, even with the cold air enveloping them. “It’s going to be a good day, I can feel it.” The mare said, smiling at Riot.

He hung a hoof over the back of the bench. “I hope so, I don’t really want to come back here if I don’t have to.”

“You’ll be released in a few hours.” Redheart said with a smile; a small sigh escaped her as she pushed closer to him to escape the cold. He didn’t respond, only allowing her to snuggle into his warmth. He yawned, moving back and forth a bit as he fought to find a comfortable spot.

The mare’s body was remarkably warm; pressing against his flank with hers, and resting her head on his shoulder. “Happy Hearth’s Warming, Riot.” She said, giving him a tentative kiss on the cheek.

Riot felt his hind hooves curl at the peck, but her words worried him. “What’s the date?” He fought desperately to hide the blush on his cheeks.

She smiled cautiously. “It’s the twentieth, but I probably won’t get to see you between now and then.....So I decided to give you your gift a little early.”

The stallion smiled, tilting his head back. “Aw, no need for that. You know I’d come visit!” Riot smirked, nudging her. “This means I have to give you something, doesn’t it?”

Redheart smiled, looking up at the stallion. “I guess so.....”

He scrunched his nose, muttering to himself quietly. “What to get...For...Mare...”

She looked up at him, and leaned forward, whispering in his ear. “I can give you a hint.” The white nurse said, her hot breath rolling over his fur.

Somewhere out there, there’s a bullet with your name on it. You’ll never know when it’ll find you, but it’ll find you eventually.

Riot blinked, looking at the mare next to him. “Wait....I got it!” He started rifling through his jacket, in search of something.

Redheart seemed to kind of sink into her seat, pouting slightly at the missed hint that had sailed clear over his head. “What is it, Riot?” She asked, trying in vain to see the large stallion's other side.

He laughed in triumph, pulling out an odd little trinket. It was a large rifle cartridge, with an engraving on it. “Here, you should keep this. It’s a bullet with my name on it; considering you helped me dodge a few, I figure it’s a proper gift.” He smiled widely, pressing it into the mares hoof.

The mare raised an eyebrow before smiling down at it. She took it in her hooves, and slid around her slender neck, closing the clasp. “It’s... Definitely not what I expected, Riot.” She said, holding the small thing up with her hoof.

Riots eyes went over the polished brass, then to the mare. “It’s yours now, treat it with care.” He chuckled lightly. “I don’t want to meet that one any time soon.”

Redheart nodded slowly, and looked up, seeing the light from the sun just beginning to spill over the horizon, turning the gathering mist to a golden curtain. She sighed happily, snuggling deeper into the warm buck at her side. He felt her swallow, and she looked up. “Riot, can I ask you something?”

Uh oh.

“Yeah, shoot.” Riot looked up at the sky, enjoying the sunrise.

Redheart fidgeted next to him, causing the stallion to worry internally even more. “Do you... Do you think we could ever be more than friends?”

Riot paused for a moment; his worried thoughts showing their mark on his muzzle. “I... I hope so. I can’t be anything more to anypony right now. I’ve just got so much shit coming at me I can’t tell up from down anymore.” He let out a pained sigh. “I’m sorry, I’m just... I’m not fit for this kind thing.”

Redheart nodded slowly, looking down at the snowy ground, marred only by their hoofprints. “N-No, it’s my fault....I knew what you were going through....I shouldn’t have sprung this on you like I did...” She said, swallowing.

Riot shrugged. “It’s alright, maybe once things calm down and I get everything figured out, we can give a relationship a try.”

The mare brightened, and put her hooves around him. “Thank you....But please don’t just say that for pity’s sake.” She said, closing her eyes.

He flinched at the last thought. “It’s just...Having to deal with my...EX. And trying to piece my life back together and...Fuckin’ everything. I couldn’t bring you into that. I couldn’t bring anypony into that situation. Hell, I don’t want to be in it...” He huffed, blowing a breath puff through the frigid air.

She nodded, pulling him deeper into the embrace. “You’ll be fine, Riot. You’re a strong pony.” Redheart looked out to the rising sun. “We should get you back inside before the doctors find another empty bed.”

“Heh...Not like they’d notice.” He pushed up, then offered a hoof to her. “Come on, I bet the cook’s trying to make cocoa...I don’t want to be near the cafeteria when that shit hits the fan.”

The mare giggled, and took his hoof, getting to hers. She followed the stallion, their hooves crunching in the pristine snow.
_________________________________________________________________________

A few hours later, Riot was trotting out the front door a new, well, newish stallion. His duffel sat heavy on his side, it’s contents intact despite everything. He shook his head, dispersing the bit of snow that had landed in his mane. Huffing quietly, he started off towards...Home. Wherever that would be from now on.

He looked back for just a moment, and saw the smiling face of Nurse Redheart, waving from the second floor. The grey stallion gave her a quick salute and a smile; trotting off down the shovelled walk towards the main road.

Riot looked about, smiling at the ponies who trod about the streets in their winter clothes. The stallion shook his jacket pocket, and was pleasantly surprised when the jingle of bits met his ears. His smile now wide, he started off towards Sugarcube Corner.

After a bit of walking, he arrived at the cafe with little in the way of problems. He hadn’t seen anyone he knew, and the cafe was thankfully empty, except for Mr. Cake. Riot waved once at the stallion, before stopping at the counter.

“Mr. Venture!” The stallion called happily. “It’s good to see you up on your hooves again. Here, breakfast is on me. Congratulations.” He said, smiling widely at the grey stallion.

Riot shrugged, nodding to the buck. “I won’t order anything big then. Bagel and a coffee, if you will.”

Mr. Cake nodded. “Right away.” Mr. Cake disappeared back into the shop, and Riot leaned against the counter, waiting for him to return. The stallion was back in a few minutes, some freshly-brewed coffee and a pair of bagels sitting on a plate. “Here you are, Mr. Riot. Enjoy!”

Riot smiled, taking the plate in his mouth. His magic brought out the five bits he had in his jacket and tossed them in the tip jar. “Shanks!” Riot mumbled through the ceramic plate. He trotted over to his booth and sat down, fully intent on sucking back real food for the first time in a long time.

The relatively plain meal was heaven to the unicorn’s taste buds; having nothing but hospital food did that to a pony. The bagels mounted no resistance to his chomping jaws, the bread disappearing into his maw in record time. The stallion yawned, but still felt electric, like he was hooked up to a million volts. He wanted to do something, gallop mostly, but he wanted to do....Anything. And he could now, that was the best part.

The doorbell chimed, and his mood evaporated instantly. Yellowquiet was there.

Oh, OH. I remember you! Your coltfriend put me in a coma!. You pinned me down! Riot held his breath for a moment before releasing. It’s alright, she’s not responsible for this clusterfuck. Just ignore her, and it’ll clear itself.

Riot closed his eyes and took a deep, relaxing breath. He started sipping his coffee, keeping the timid yellow pegasus in his periphery.

She did see him however, but she instantly froze; slowly backing out, her hooves making no sound at all. As soon as she was clear of the door, her wings flared, and she was gone.

Riot huffed quietly, taking a large swig of his coffee. See? That wasn’t so-

“Oh Fluttershy darling! We were just going to get some breakfast! Come on, I’ll buy.”

FUCK. FUCKITY. FUCK.

He looked up, and managed to share a mirror of the yellow mare’s thoughts as she was pulled in by Twilight and Rarity. oddly enough, she looked more terrified than he believed possible. But then again, it was her turn to be hospitalized for a year.

Just play it real cool, let’s hope that purplesmart and the dress making seductress have enough brain cells to rub together to know to keep her away from me.

They did as he thought they would. As soon as they saw him, they went rigid; ordering breakfast quickly, and opting to head upstairs to eat with Pinkie, instead of sharing the small front room with Riot.

The aforementioned stallion let out a sigh of relief, and left the building. Just as the door closed, he felt multiple pairs of eyes watching him from the upper floor. He ignored the feeling of bristling fur and shrugged it off, also ignoring the nearly mute cries of protest from Rarity.

He turned down a semi-familiar street, then continued forward. His humble little home came into view. As did the for sale sign. His jaw dropped a fraction of an inch as he closed the distance. Snorting angrily, Riot cantered up to the house. He stopped short, taking the time to rip the sign out of the ground and incinerate it with his magic. “For sale over my dead fucking corpse you frigid bitch!” He stomped the ashes for good measure.

Shaking his head, Riot trotted up to the door and stuck his key in. Miraculously, it still worked; clicking the lock open with nigh but a jiggle. Riot trotted in, looking at the threadbare home. He sighed sadly, then trotted to the small workshop that adjoined the main building. Once inside, he pulled up a small grate, then yanked out a medium sized lock box. Stuffing the box into his duffel, he pulled up the last of the holes contents. A deed. To HIS home. She had taken everything, even his gun safe was gone.

Riot growled savagely. He wouldn’t be playing nice after this little show from Aurora.

His thoughts of revenge were interrupted by a knock on the door. Riot stuffed the deed in his pocket, then trotted slowly to the door. He cracked it open an inch. “Hello?”

Vinyls trademark purple sunglasses bobbed into view.

“Hey! I knew I’d find you here. I came looking for you back at the hospital, but they said you’d been released.” She smiled down at the stallion, and pulled her glasses off, holding them in her magic.

Riot pushed out a smile, still barely containing his rage. “Hey Scratch, I thought I saw somepony sneaking about behind me.” He opened the door a bit more.

The white mare pushed inside and yawned. “Mornin’, Riot!” She said, shaking her legs to remove the now from her thick, light-blue winter socks, and long black boots.

He looked around at the nearly empty room. “Yeah, mornin. You can take a seat on the...Couch. Yeah, that’s all I got.”

She chuckled, entering the soft beige room. She sat on the couch that occupied the room. She snuggled up on it, shivering. The heating hadn’t been running for months, the place was absolutely arctic.

Riot closed the door, then turned back to the room. He barely noticed the cold due to his longer fur and heavy jacket. “So, what’s new in your world?”

“Not much, Wild and Kepler got back! I sunk a few bits into getting a small kitchen set up, and that red pegasus has been really churning stuff out. It’s damn good, too. It’s bringing in a lot more customers. I’ve even got enough cash to start renovations!” She said, wiggling her sock-clad hooves happily.

He managed an almost happy smile. “That’s great! Now all you need to do is get rid of your bouncer.” He cracked his neck. “I thought up a couple ideas while in traction.”

She chuckled before waving her hoof. “I dropped that douche last week. Kepler’s taken over your job for a while. She’s damn good at it, too. She’s even more ferocious than you are.”

Riot sighed. “Aww man....I wanted to pummel his sorry ass and boot him out the door.” The stallion shrugged. “Oh well, at least he’s gone.”

She nodded rapidly. “Yeah, the club’s been doing great. It’ll be doing even better with the both of you working! I even got the heater fixed!” Vinyl said, clopping her hooves together.

Sitting down on the beaten sofa, Riot grunted in slight pain. “Yeah, It’ll be nice to have something to do finally.”

The mare smiled at him, and put her hooves on his chest. “Yeah, your pecs are feeling a little flat. You could use a bit of a workout beating on drunken fools.”

He grunted, looking away. “It’s not my fault the hospital only has treadmills.”

Vinyl chuckled, and prodded his flank. “Yup, still just as tight.”

Rolling his eyes, Riot poked a bit of pudge that was poking out from where she sat. “And it looks like I should drag you along with me. Maybe Wild cooking all the time isn’t such a hot idea eh?”

The mare flushed, and poked his chest. “Hey, it’s sexy on me. It all goes right down here.” She said, giving her rear a slap.

“Right, right. Not that a good run wouldn’t tighten them up a tad.” He did his best to suppress the shit eating smirk, but he failed.

“Hey! They’re plenty tight! Feel!” The scorned mare said, turning slightly in place.

“Maybe after the first date.” He poked her again, doing his best to keep himself on top of the conversation. Despite everything, it was helping him keep his mind off the cold, empty house.

She smirked. “Sounds good to me, Tiger.” The mare said turning back to him.

Did I just set myself up for that?

He relaxed a bit, his eyes looking over the mantle. “Yeah...”

“Is something wrong?” She asked, seeing his distraction.

“It’s nothing, just...Trying to figure some things out.” He hoofed the couch.

The mare nuzzled up to him, placing his head on her shoulder. “Come on, you can tell me, momma Vinyl is here.”

“Try waking up a year in the future, your wife’s gone, the house is empty and up for sale... Your kid’s grown up without you....Again.” He huffed silently, watching as the mist floated up and away. “It’s frustrating. This town is frustrating. I... I don’t know.”

I want to kill somepony.

She nodded, stroking his mane with one hoof. “I can’t begin to understand what you’re feeling right now, but you have to think about the good things. Like your wonderful sister, your great friends, your son who still loves you.....New beginnings.” She smiled happily at her own words.

“Yeah, Redheart’s practically climbing on top of me...” He sighed. “I just hope I can still fit into everything. The first attempt didn’t go so well.”

“Wait wait wait, Redheart’s climbing on you? That bitch!” Vinyl huffed angrily, smacking the seat. “I called dibs dammit!”

Riot shook his head at the mares antics. “Vinyl...”

She giggled awkwardly, looking apologetic. “Heh, sorry. I get jealous. Getting to spend all that time with you as a captive audience...” The mare rubbed her hooves together. “Think of the possibilities....”

Riot rolled his eyes. “So, when can I start work again?”

Vinyl looked up, broken out of her reverie. “Well....Whenever, actually. You’ll always have a place at The Horseshoe. Kepler was only acting as the bouncer temporarily, Berry’s been teaching her how to bartend. She’ll be helping Berry out with serving drinks, with the new load of serving food; Berry would have too much on her hooves by herself.”

He nodded, trying to convince himself that working with Kepler wouldn’t end with him shooting himself in the mouth. “Alright, I’ll...I’ll swing by in a few, once I get settled.” He looked around the empty house. “Yeah. That’s the plan.”

The white mare nodded, looking around at the nearly-empty house. “Are you going to stay living here? It seems kinda big just for two ponies.” She said, sitting up slightly in her seat.

“I work with what I’ve got Vinyl.” He stood, stretching his legs. “I’m gonna check if I’ve still got running water.”

Vinyl nodded, shivering slightly, wrapping her socked hooves around herself. “Yeah, you must be yearning for a shower in your own house.”

Riot nodded solemnly, then trotted into the bathroom. He cracked the taps, only to hear the pipes clatter and roar. He backed away slightly as the whole house seemed to shake. “I think hot water’s out of the question!”

“Aww, and here I was, hoping for a hot, steamy shower with a hunky grey stallion.” He heard the mare say, her silky voice no longer coming from the living room.

Riot tensed up as felt a pair of hooves wrapped around his flanks. “Vinyl...”

He heard a mareish giggle, and her hooves drifted lower. “What’s wrong, Riot?”

“It’s-” His breath caught in his throat as she pressed a hoof into his cutie mark. He didn’t want to snap at her, but he didn’t really want her to keep going with this.

The mare removed her hooves, and sighed. “I don’t get you.” She said, pouting.

He turned, shaking his head in confusion. ‘What do you mean?”

She shook her head back. “I really don’t get you, you just don’t like mares, I don’t get it. I mean, you have mares throwing themselves at your hooves, and you don’t bat an eyelash.”

He lifted a hoof to say something, then let it fall back down. “It’s just....I don’t like it. It feels wrong.” Riot sighed, rolling his hoof. “I was never good with mares, so this all is just way out of my league.”

Vinyl swallowed as she lifted an eyebrow. “Then why don’t you just go with it? There’s a hundred stallions out there who would kill for your position.”

“Well, what do you want from me?” He eyed her with annoyance. “Do you want me sticking my dick in everything that lifts its bloody tail at me?” Riot snorted hotly.

The mare threw her hooves up. “I don’t know! I just want you to act like a normal stallion! It’s like you don’t even understand sexuality anymore. I mean, it’s been over a year, any other stallion would have exploded by now!”

He growled, trotting out of the enclosed space of the bathroom. “You have to remember that it doesn’t feel like a year to me; sure, not fucking very often sucks, but I can deal with it.” He looked at her. “I don’t see the problem! I’m trying to figure shit out before I start swinging my dick around!”

Vinyl shrugged dismissively. “I dunno, every other stallion would have jumped at the chances you’ve had, yet you let them pass you by. You’re an odd creature, Riot.” She said, patting his shoulder. “Anyway, I’ve got to get home, I need a nap.”

The stallions eye twitched as he watched the mare start to trot away. “So, what? You just come in and rile me up, then fuck off? Is that how it’s going to work from now on?”

Vinyl held a hoof up as she stopped at the door. “All I came here to do was say hi, and let you know what’s what. I didn’t come here to make you angry, and I’m sorry. I’ll see you at work, alright?”

He rubbed his eyes before nodding solemnly. “Yeah. See you then.”

The mare gave him one last sad look before trotting out the door into the wintery morning. Riot could hear each of the crunches of her hooves in the snow get quieter, and quieter, until he was alone again. In a burst of unbridled rage, he yelled out, kicking the couch over.

“This.... FUCKING... HOUSE!”

Riot shook his head in anger, then trotted into the kitchen. The cupboards crashed open, then were torn from the walls. The crashes were quickly followed by more enraged yelling. After a moment of furiously destroying anything and everything left in the house, Riot found himself sitting on his ass in the living room, staring at a now destroyed home. The couch had been flipped and thrown, and the only picture that was left had been flung with all of the stallions might against the wall. Riot muttered angrily, looking at his hooves. Each room was the same now. Baren. Empty. Lifeless. For sale.

The stallion looked down at his hooves, his vision beginning to blur. A drop of wetness hit his hoof, and then another, and then another. Riot brought his hoof up, and looked down at the rolling droplet with disbelief. He shook his head, stuffing the feelings roughly back down.

“So this is it then?”

Riot looked up in shock, then recoiled at the sudden appearance of a familiar yellow stallion. “Fuck! Dammit Mumbles, don’t fuckin do that to me.” Riot shook his head, then looked at the smaller unicorn as he sat on the edge of the overturned couch.

“This is what became of Captain Riot? A broken stallion sitting in the ruins of his own house?” The yellow stallion wasn’t smiling like he normally was, he was looking down at Riot, looking right through him.

Riot flicked a hoof at the other unicorn. “Fuck you. I’m not broken.” Riot jerked as he watched the masked version of himself leaning against the wall, not ten paces from him. “You.” Riot pointed at the pony with his hoof. “I killed you.”

The stallion laughed, shaking his head as he walked up next to Mumbles. “Yeah, sure.’ He held up his hooves for a moment. “You killed me. Congrats you big asshole.”

Mumbles nickered, pushing past the other Riot. “So you’re not broken. Maybe not physically. But mentally, emotionally.....Yup, you’re definitely not in the ‘I’m not broken’ club.” Mumbles said, giving the larger stallion a pat on the shoulder.

Masked Riot chuckled, lifting his hoof. “Agreed. Fuck, he’s imagining the pair of us and yelling at empty space.”

Riot brushed the hoof off angrily as he stood. “Don’t you patronize me you dead bastards. I’m doing the best I can.”

Mumbles was no longer at that side, he was looking at Riot with a raised eyebrow. “That may be so, but sometimes that’s not good enough. I tried my best too, and look where I am. Doing your best isn’t always enough, life loves throwing it’s little curve balls. Or big ones, like a pair of 7.62’s to the face.”

“Or a shiv to the throat!” Shiv laughed, pointing at the massive scar that wrapped under his throat. “That was fun. Heh, fucker.”

Riot huffed angrily, staring at the pair of stallions. He pointed his hoof at Mumbles. “Stop playing with my head! You’re a dead stallion buried three metres down!” Riot’s head snapped over to Shiv. “And you! Fuck you! You’re making me see this shit!

The stallion shrugged, the mask contorting in a uncaring frown. “For once, no.” The mask twisted into a smile. “You’re going crazy.” Shiv wrapped a hoof around Mumbles’ shoulder and drew the lemon stallion in. “You’re going crazy; crazy enough to have full fledged conversations with your dead best friend!”

Mumbles pushed away from Shiv and approached Riot. “Listen, it doesn’t matter what you think about us. But the point still stands. You can’t go back to doing what you did before. You need to do something; something else, something new.”

Riot cursed loudly before moving towards the kitchen. “So, so what!? What do you want me to do? I can’t go back to the military, they won’t touch me with a forty foot pole! The only job anypony would give me in this shit hole is at a fucking club! A CLUB!” His hoof lashed out against one of the overturned chairs. “I HATE CLUBS!” He turned on the pair of stallions following behind him. “I’ve hit rock bottom in this shitty little backwater, what the FUCK, do you think I can do!?”

Mumbles shrugged. “Dunno, I’m just a figment of your imagination. I think you should try opening up to somepony. Just act like me a little more, be nice to everypony you meet, not even for a reason, make friends, find something you like to do and do it. Find something solid and use it as a building point. Like that mare you met, Miss Redheart, she’s kind, has a stable job, and is apparently okay at dealing with anything you can throw at her.”

“That’s fuckin stupid.” Shiv circled around Riot; pulling a painfully familiar flask from his jacket. “You don’t need to open up to anypony. You’ve got us!” The stallion laughed before taking a pull off the flask. “Seriously though, do you really want to open up like that? They’ll shred you. You’re better off moving on.” Shiv offered the flask to Riot, his mask oddly comforting. Riot stared at the flask for a moment before grabbing it. He pulled the top off and finished it off as quickly as possible. Shiv smiled, and accepted the flask back from Riot.

As he moved out of the kitchen, the pair of stallions occasionally flitted around Riot’s vision to stay within his line of sight, not allowing the grey stallion to disregard them.

Said stallion grunted unhappily. “So, let me get this straight. You two have gone and gotten lonely sitting in my head, so now the dead stallion and a failed god are telling me how to live my life? You want me to go and make cutesy friends with the ponies in this Celestia forsaken town!? You want me to go play fucking patty-motherfuckin-cake with the ponies who put me in a coma for a year!?” He straightened up, eye twitching dangerously. “That’s a wonderful idea!”

Shiv held his hooves up. ‘I never said any a’ that shite. All I’m sayin, is you need to get your aggression out on someponies face.” He smiled aggressively. “Let’s go find that Buck fucker and pull his tongue out through his throat. Or better yet! his nuts, so we can use them as a punching bag!”

Mumbles shrugged again as his counterpart rambled on. “Hey man, if you want to live like a cold husk, be my guest. But acting like nothing but a machine is just proving those ponies right.”

“How so?” Riot took a step towards the lemon stallion. “And just how the fuck am I proving them right!? I’m trying to live my damn life, and they all want to stick their damn hooves in it and fuck it around!”

“The ponies who wanted you dead thought you were a soulless machine that only was around to do one thing; kill. I know that’s crazy, but hey, fear makes ponies a bit nuts sometimes.” Mumbles rested against the wall as Shiv wandered about muttering to himself.

Riot snorted angrily. “Celestias flaming ovaries, this is about me not humping Vinyl isn’t it?”

Shiv laughed, pulling up a pack of smokes from his jacket. “Hey colt-scout, if you wanna be celebate for fuckin ever, count me out.” The stallion jabbed one of the burning sticks at Riot. “You need to get laid! Kill something! Get drunk as fuck!” He laughed as he pulled up bits of imagery to advertise his side.

Riot growled, before booting over the couch Shiv was sitting on, sending the stallion tumbling. “Fuck the both of you! I’m tired of this place! Of the stupid bastards who think they understand what I need more than I do! I just got out of a relationship, I don’t need some bitch fucking with my heart!” He jabbed a hoof in Mumbles’ direction. “You don’t get to criticize me on how to live you dead fuck!” He pointed at Shiv next. “And you can’t say shit! If you were so smart, you wouldn’t be stuck in my head!"

Mumbles shook his head. “Of course not. I just want you to be happy, big guy. You need to let some ponies in some time. You’ve been keeping everypony at leg’s length. Go see your friends, have a good time tonight. They love you, and they always will.”

Riot wasn’t having any of it. “I’ve made plenty of friends in this hell hole. I just don’t want to go around fucking everything that moves! That apparently makes me the bad guy!” He waved a hoof about the house. “This is what happens when I let ponies in!” Riot jabbed his hoof towards Shiv. “This is what happens when I try to survive!” He then pointed a hoof at Mumbles. “This is what happens when I care!” Riot shook his head, trying to move away from the dead stallions.

Riot looked up for a moment, and saw Mumbles leaning against the wall directly next to him as Shiv stood behind. Mumbles took lead, rolling his hoof as he spoke. “Of course it doesn’t make you a bad pony. Vinyl just wanted to see some life in you, wanted you to actually act like a pony, instead of a mannequin with a frowny face drawn on it.”

Riot deemed not to answer, instead trotting to the front door, his duffel bag in tow. Mumbles shook his head sadly before disappearing. Shiv snorted, taking his leave from the waking world as well. Riot huffed angrily as they faded from his vision; He wrenched the door open and started out. He stopped dead in his tracks; a tall white pony before him. “Holy Celestia...” He back pedaled rapidly into the empty home as the alicorn took a step in, then surveyed the damage.

The princess shook her head, looking at him sadly. “I apologize that I was not able to visit you earlier my little pony, but I had much to attend to in the capitol, and things began to pile up.”

Riot merely nodded, his bag now a stress ball pressed up against his chest.

Celestia looked around the room for a moment, before frowning. “What happened in here, Ashfall Venture? Were you robbed?” She asked, before her horn began to glow. “Please, allow me to assist you.” The alicorn said, effortlessly placing all the furniture in it’s rightful place.

Riot sighed, his rapidly beating heart finally slowing. “The only robbery here was legal. I assume Aurora either sold or took a vast majority of my-our...Things.”

The pristine princess continued to frown. “I do not dabble in the lower court system, but do not think that that would be legal, you were incapacitated, and while the one holding the deed is out of order, nothing can be done to, or with the house.”

He shrugged weakly, still holding the bag. “I’m sorry Princess Celestia, but I’m sure you came here with more important business than me, or my sorry state of affairs...” He looked around absentmindedly, knowing full well that his home would never be fit for royalty or nobles.

She chuckled lightly. “Do not think yourself of low importance, Ashfall, I did come to see that all was well with you. What happened those months ago was a travesty, and I offer my most sincere apologies.” The matriarch gave him a short curtsy. The princess of Equestria just curtsied to him.... What? He lifted a worried eyebrow at her, not knowing what to expect.

Riot nodded slowly, before wheezing into his hoof. “Well...Thanks? I suppose. I mean, an apology from you was the last thing I ever expected, I was content just to try and forget about the whole deal...” He looked at his hooves. “It still feels like a lot of the other ponies don’t like me though, or think I’m some kind of...” He let his sentence trail off before starting again. “I’m sorry Princess, small problems in a big world.”

The alicorn shook her head slowly, smiling warmly at him. He felt like a small pony again, something he’d not felt in a long while; under her motherly gaze. “Please, Ashfall, speak all that is on your mind, I am untethered by my duties for the time being.”

He let out a worried breath, but in the back of his mind he felt as if somepony else was watching. He cringed a bit, hoping it wasn’t who he thought it was. “I don’t want to be a monster, or a killer. I did what I had to do.” He sat down on the now righted couch. “I just wanted to come home and pretend to be normal.” He shook his head. “Life has a sick sense of humor.”

Celestia let out a slow breath, frowning again. “Life doesn’t always like being one way or another, you just have to accept what comes, and make what you can of the consequences. I understand your sadness.”

He nodded. “Yeah. I’m trying my best to get things straightened out, and a lot of ponies are trying to help me. The downside is they all have a certain idea on how it should look when they're finished, and none of them agree on the final image.”

The alicorn nodded. “I most definitely know what that is like. I have a lot of ponies to take care of in this world, and not all of them are in agreement in the way our beautiful land is supposed to be. I have to take the will of the ponies into any of my decisions. Remember, you can never make everypony happy every time, you have to do what’s good for the majority of ponies, and I have to choose what direction is best for all of us. You must choose what you want your life to be like. What do you want, Ashfall? What is your final goal?”

“I want my son to have a better life than I did. Than my father did.” He closed his eyes, completely sure of this goal. “I don’t care about what those other ponies think, as long as he doesn’t suffer for my decisions.”

Celestia smiled, nodding again. “That is something truly worthy to strive for. Now, how do you think you can do that? What will you do to make that happen?”

“I...” Riot halted for a moment, contemplating his next words. “I have to be there for him. It may only be on weekends, but I’ll be there.” He closed his eyes for a moment. “You didn’t come alone, did you princess?” His words were soft and uncharacteristic, even for him.

The matriarch shook her head slowly. “I did not. I brought the element bearers, but I have told them to keep from entering the house, in case you did not want to speak to them, even with my persuasion. They would like to speak to you, if you would let them.”

The stallion exhaled slowly. “The sign did say open house....Or, it did...” He looked at his hooves sheepishly. “I may have incinerated the ‘For Sale’ sign.”

Celestia chuckled. “That may be slightly illegal, but I will let it go, given the circumstances.” She looked out the window, and tossed her head ever so slightly. Six ponies trotted inside, some looking at Riot sympathetically, and some guiltily. The stallion held onto his duffel bag as if for safety. He eyed each one of the mares before looking back at Celestia.

“This..This is an apology right? Not a lynching?”

Celestia rolled her one visible eye slightly. “Of course it’s an apology, at least from most of them.”

There was a small nod from Twilight, who took a step forward. “I’m sorry that I was incapable of helping you, Mr. Venture, or stopping my friends.” The small mare sighed.

He shrugged weakly, still clutching the bag for all he was worth. They wouldn’t take that from him. “Thanks...”’

Rarity stepped forward next. “I had hoped that I could have talked some sense into my friends, after meeting you and your family, but I couldn’t....I”m so sorry, Riot, from the bottom of my heart. If you ever need a place to stay, you’ll find one at Carousel Boutique.”

And get raped or something? Riiiiight. “Thanks Rarity.”

The white mare smiled warmly, and took a step back.

Applejack was next up. “Ah’m real sorry ‘bout what I did, Mr. Venture. Tryin’ ta run ya’ll outta town was right shameful. Ah know ah’ll never really make it up to ya, but to give ya’ll a little nudge in the right direction, you’ll have a permanent, lifetime discount from Sweet Apple Acres, cross mah heart.” The orange mare said, putting her hat over her chest, closing her eyes.

He nodded, slowly straightening out. The threat of being exiled or beaten to a pulp was coming to a close. “Thank you, but it’s not necessary. I wasn’t exactly popular in your eyes, it’s not your fault.”

“No matter what mah dispersition on ya, running ya’ll outta town was takin’ it way too far. Anything I can give ya’ll is a pittance, compared to what happened to ya.”

He smiled weakly at her, nodding curtly. The Princess was overwatching the entire thing, causing him to tense up every time one of the mares stepped forward.

“Am I making you uncomfortable, Mr. Venture? I will leave, if I’m causing any discomfort.” The alicorn said, looking down at him.

He looked at her and blinked, shock passing over his features. “No! No no, It’s just...I feel naked, pretty much. The first time I saw you in the flesh, I was in full military dress, and you were wishing us the best.” He looked vacantly at the floor for a moment. “I had a lot more friends back then.”

Celestia smiled sadly, and crossed the room with uncanny grace, placing a massive, yet still dainty and gentle hoof on his shoulder. “I’m genuinely sorry about the loss of your friends in such a pointless conflict. I never wanted to have to ever put any of my wonderful ponies in that kind of setting.....Nopony should ever have to go to war....” The mare sighed, looking off out the window.

He looked up at the gathering of ponies in front of him. He quickly looked back down, not wanting them to see the hurt in all its glory. “I miss my friends.” He shook his head. “All I’ve got left is my son. If you all could just act like I’m just another stallion, that would be fine.” He smiled weakly at them, hoping they’d agree.

Each and every one of them smiled warmly at him, nodding slowly. All except the small, butter-yellow pegasus in the corner and the rainbow mare who floated near the door. Riot looked at Fluttershy; her and Rainbow Dash. They were the ones who had done this to him. One had almost killed him, the other had held him down. They had taken another year away from the time he had with his son. “I don’t want any more fights. But I won’t grovel for acceptance either.”

Fluttershy’s look was one of horror, and sadness. She squeaked at his gaze, hiding behind one wing. “ I-I d-didn’t kn-know...” She sniffled, a nearly inaudible sound.

Riot sighed, looking at his own hooves, he knew she saw the blood too. He spoke softly and quietly. “I don’t want to be a monster, I just want to be a good dad.”

I-I...I d-didn’t know y-y-you were a daddy... I tried to... I tried to stop Buck, I r-really did....” The butter yellow pegasus said, looking up at him with her massive teal eyes, brimming with tears.

“He made his choice, and so did you.” Riot sighed, placing a hoof down. “I don’t want to fight you. If you want we can just pretend that...That none of this happened. We can try from the beginning.” He offered a weak smile and a hoof to the mare.

The mare nodded slowly, a tear sliding down her cute face. She cautiously made her way over to him, like a small animal, before putting her hoof out, and shaking his.

Pinkie ruined the moment by cheering, galloping over to the two ponies, and wrapping them in a group hug. “Yay! Ashie and Fluttershy are all better now!”

Both Riot and Fluttershy blanched at the sudden contact, and the horrible closeness to each other. Pinkie didn’t receive the nonverbal message, continuing to hug the two to herself, her marshmallowy hooves curled around them both. Riot looked pleadingly at Twilight, then at the Princess. “Pinkie...I think maybe you should-”

Pinkie giggled, and let go, though not after giving Riot an affectionate nuzzle. “You’ll always be welcome at Sugarcube Corner!”

“I thought I already was?” He cocked an eyebrow at the possibly cocaine powered mare.

Pinkie shrugged. “Well...Yeah....But that’s something you’re supposed to say!” The mare giggled again, and bounced back to her friends.

Riot failed to suppress a smile. “If you say so Pinkie.”

Wonderful. All that’s left is the cyan one...Rainbow Dash. The Me-hating Rainbow Tomahawk.

Rainbow let out a breath, looking up at Riot. “Listen.....I know I went a little bit crazy last year....Just a little.....I’m...I’m...sorry.” She said, looking off to the side, mumbling the last word so it was almost inaudible.

Twilight groaned, fwapping her friends rear with her tail. “Rainbow Dash.” The cyan pony groaned, and mumbled the same word again, a bit louder. Applejack rolled her eyes as Twilight huffed in disapproval. Riot could only shake his head as Dash’s pride was beaten to a pulp.

“I’m.....I’m sorry, damn it.” Rainbow let out a breath, and refused to meet Riot’s eyes, like a scorned child.

He let out a breath, then nodded. “Good enough for me. But, just so we’re clear, if you take away any more of the time I’ve got left with my son, your wings won’t be able to carry you fast enough.” He smiled, clapping Dash on the shoulder.

The mare gulped, and smiled weakly. “M-message received.”

The princess smiled happily as the ponies said their bits and made up. His words to Dash had worried her, but in his position, who could say she would do differently? Riot rubbed the back of his neck, looking uncomfortable at the amount attention. The Sun goddess shook her head, happy for the uneventful conclusion to this horrid affair. “Well girls, I must be off. I have duties to attend to. Twilight, I hope to see a letter from you about this tonight.”

Twilight nodded, and smiled at her mentor. “Goodbye, your majesty.” Each of the ponies echoed her, and she left the house. There was a sound like a gunshot, and Celestia was gone, the air feeling charged with electricity from her teleportation.

Riot had flinched visibly from the sudden sound, but seemed to have regained his composure before anypony but Twilight had seen the look of animalistic fear.

She raised an eyebrow, but didn’t comment, instead giving a short wave. “Well, I’m sure we all have things to do. I hope to see you around town, Mr. Venture.” The lavender unicorn said, lowering her head slightly in respect.

He nodded curtly, standing to hold the door open for them. “Well, it was....It was really awkward, but it had to happen sooner or later. I’ll see you around Twilight. I think I’ve got some books that need returning anyways.”

She nodded to him. “Come on, girls, lets get out of his mane.” The six ponies trotted out, saying their goodbyes, until he was left in a slightly-warmer, yet still empty house. Riot exhaled, sliding down the wall with a hoof to his chest. Eventually, the heavy beatings slowed to the point that he didn’t want to dive behind the couch and scream for back-up.

Riot shook his head slowly, then pushed off the cold floor. He waited twenty minutes, until he was sure that they were out of sight of his home. He then opened the door and stepped out into the chilly afternoon. Riot closed the door behind himself, locking it as a precaution.

He started off towards the town, wondering if the motel he had stayed at last year was still open.
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