Moon Eyed: Waxing Gibbous

by ZombieDice

First published

Hex Breaker, now older, sets out on a journey to try and find a way to reverse the effects of the spell that was cast over his eye. Little does he realize, his adventure might be even more detrimental to his health. Even still, adventure awaits!

Hex might not be that far into his adulthood, but he's now considered old enough to go out on his own. With his father's blessings, he packs up his things and makes his way out into Equestria to see if he can find something, anything that will reverse the effect on his blind eye that was cursed 8 years ago. With his spell book in tow, an eagerness to keep leaning his craft, and the urge to heal what's been broken, he finds himself in a situation he surely wasn't prepared for.

The Journey Begins

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No matter how much he looked at it, Hex hated his discolored eye. 10 years with it hadn’t helped him accept it any more than he had as a colt. In fact, the longer he had it, the more he tried to hide it from sight. He sighed, pulling his minty hair down over it as he always did. At the very least he looked normal when it was hidden from sight. It wasn’t like he could see through it anyway. Having a hairstyle like this didn’t make it any harder for him as it did for ponies with perfect vision.

But today was a special day. All this time he’d been researching and reading. He’d memorized quite a lot of his mother’s writings and found that there were monsters and ponies alike across Equestria that could either help him themselves or held ingredients that could assist him in possibly removing the damage. His magical skills had grown significantly, and he’d even started on his very own Grimoire. Now that the stallion was officially 18, his father had agreed to allow him to travel outside of their home to explore all of Equestria as he’d wished.

The stallion looked through his room one last time to make sure that he hadn’t forgotten anything he needed. Things had grown quite a bit spookier in there as he’d grown up. Despite his father’s hesitation after the first “incident” with the potion, he’d still tried his best to be supportive of his son’s newfound interests. Even if that meant Hex wanted to sleep in a coffin. Oh boy, did that take a lot of getting used to! At the very least, he’d managed to get one that wasn’t used. The lavender pony’s musical interests had become quite varied over the years as well. While the older pony was fine with some of the calmer music, there were some things Hex listened to that were quite a bit… noisier. His fashion took after his mother much more at first: Earth tones for the most part. However Hex’s clothing wound up much more like the very first cloak he’d taken a liking to. The pretty spiderweb cape-let was his most precious fashion item and the rest of his clothes grew more and more black and bleak as the years went by.

Somehow, Puer never expected his son to go full Goth. But hey, there were far worse things his son could be into. Why should he care if Hex wanted to wear thick eye-liner and all black? The only thing he’d had to put his hoof down on was his son wanting a bat as a pet. Sure the attic was a good place to house the little creature, but their guano was unbearable! Otherwise things the lavender pony wanted were generally accepted. Coffin for a bed? Weird, but sure. Books about death and the afterlife? Creepy, but okay. Tarot cards and pendulums? Sure, what’s the worst that could happen? Spirit board to try and talk to ghosts? Okay, but not in the house. The collections of herbs were easy enough to acquire thanks to Puer’s loose herbs for his tea shop. Crystals were equally easy thanks to the ponies out in the marketplace that sold crystals from their travels.

For the most part, Hex had to leave quite a lot of his collection behind. His hip packs contained only the essentials. On one side he had his Grimoire, bags for herbs, a single pack of Oracle cards, bones with runes on them, and a quill and ink pot. On the other side, he had a small pot for cooking, some travel food, a tightly rolled up blanket, and his bits. For the most part, the Unicorn planned on staying in Inns along the way, but he’d looked up how to make a make-shift shelter should he be stuck in the forest for too long. If anything, he could look for a nice, dark, spooky cave to take refuge in. His father had brought up the possibility of purchasing a wagon to use for his travels as well. On one hoof, it was better shelter and possibly cheaper than staying at inns. On the other hoof, Hex wasn’t sure what kind of terrain he was going to be crossing and there was the possibility that a wagon could be more detrimental. So for now, he decided against it.

As he headed downstairs to say his final goodbyes to his family, Hex could see the worry in his father’s eyes. This was the first time they would be apart for more than a few hours since he’d been born. Bitter was trying her best to look disinterested, but the stallion had learned how to read her well over the years. She was worried too. The mare looked relatively normal to most, save for the socks she wore with strange creatures faces all over them. She’d designed them herself, along with the matching pendant around her neck. They were creatures she’d dreamed about more than once, and shared mostly with her brother. But even the pendant she was rubbing at with her hoof brought her no comfort today.

“Are you sure you’ve got enough food with you?” Puer asked as he looked over his son’s pack.

“Yes, Papa, I’m sure. Any more and it’ll spoil before I can eat it,” Hex answered calmly.

“Are you sure that blanket is going to be enough? It gets cold out there,” his father continued.

“I’ll be staying at lots of Inns, Papa. I’ll be alright. I can always build a fire and sleep beside it if it gets colder than I anticipated.”

“What about bits? Do you have enough bits?”

“I have an entire bag of them. I think I’ll be--”

I’m going to get you more bits.

And away went Puer, rushing off to make sure his son had at least another purse full of bits. The two siblings watched him go, both standing in silence before their eyes finally met. Bitter chewed on her bottom lip for a moment or two before she finally stepped forward, trapping her brother in a tight hug without warning.

“Just… be safe, okay?” She asked, nuzzling into his coat.

A soft smile graced his lips as he found himself returning the hug just as tightly.

“I will. And I promise, I’ll write to you both as soon as I get into any town, alright?”

He would simply purchase the paper and envelopes whenever he got to a post office. It was much better than carrying them around with him everywhere. The two stayed linked for as long as it took for their father to come rushing back in.

“I got the bits! I know you said one purse would be enough, but now you have two just in case of any--” He choked on his words as his eyes fell upon the two.

Giving a soft noise of worry, he too joined in on the hug; squeezing both of his children so tightly that Bitter had to give a soft protest. Breathing was important, after all. Muttering a mall apology, Puer released the two and reached to wipe away the tears forming at the corners of his eyes. The purse was tucked away inside of Hex’s pack, which made him feel only slightly better about the whole situation.

“Hex… I--Just be careful out there. That’s all I ask,” his father started once more. “I know you can take care of yourself. Trust me, I’ve seen it. I know I’m worrying too much. But you just…”

There were the tears again. Puer chuckled softly as he tried to wipe them away, only to feel his son nuzzling into his shoulder.

“Your mother would be so proud,” the older stallion finally said, choking on his words slightly.

Somehow, even without her influence there with them, Hex still followed in her footsteps. Who was Puer to stop him when traveling was simply in Hex’s blood? It was how he’d met Mystic Marsh to begin with, after all. Both of them had been traveling for their own reasons only to have their fates intertwined. For all he knew, the lavender pony might meet his own soulmate out in his travels. With one last hug, Hex finally pulled away from his family.

“Don’t worry. This isn’t goodbye. I’ll be home sooner than you know it,” he promised softly.

With one last wave, he made his way out of their home and out into the world.

The Train to Nowhere

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The sound of the train moving along the tracks was surprisingly soothing, considering the fact that Hex had never been on a train before. At least, not that he could remember. He sipped at his coffee as he used his magic to flip open his book of shadows to the map he’d drawn out for himself. It wasn’t the best map by any means, but he could read it and that was all that really mattered in the long run. His route had been planned out before he’d even left. His first stop would be in Canterlot, mostly just to rest and maybe do a little bit of exploring. Next he’d take the train all the way down, through Ponyville to Appleoosa where he’d stop again to rest as it would take a full day to get all the way down there on the quick moving train. From Appleoosa, he’d take another train over to Dodge City, and from there he would continue by hoof into the Hayseed Swamp.

Perhaps by some incredibly break of luck, he might find his mother’s original cottage there in the swampland. She’d mentioned it multiple times in one of her earliest journals she’d left behind. For the most part though, he’d be looking for the creatures and plants in the swamp to try and gather ingredients from them for a particular healing potion she had. It was one of his possible options for healing his eye. One of his other options was on his route home. From Hayseed, he’d be heading back to Dodge City, and then to Ponyville to seek out a zebra named Zecora. There wasn’t much on her in his mother’s journals, but she was mentioned to be very powerful with magic. Plus, the Everfree forest itself was known to have other creatures and plants that could prove to be just as helpful as things from the swamp.

Los Pegasus was next on his list. Sure it was just a place for flashy ponies, bright lights, shows and gambling, but there was also the possibility that if other options failed that he could get some sort of magical surgery to at the very least make his eye look normal again, even if he still couldn’t see out of it. From there, he could travel through the Smokey Mountains to Tall Tale, to Vanhoover, and finally back home to Seaddle. All of it was quite daunting for a pony that had never traveled before. The more he looked at the list and routes, the more nervous Hex felt about it. However, in his mind this was just something that needed to be done. If none of the options worked, he could always rest at home for a while before setting out to explore the other side of Equestria as well. All of this was too much to hit all in one trip, after all.

A sudden bump shocked him out of his thoughts. The train wasn’t supposed to do things like that, was it? As Hex went to look out the window, another bump rocked the train around him. A loud screeching noise reached his ears, making him tense up before he was thrown out of his seat as the train came to a startling halt. Cries from all of the other cars around him were overwhelming. Other ponies started venturing out of their cars to see what had happened as one of the train workers came rushing through to try and reach the engine.

“Excuse me!” The pegasus shouted, making her way past everypony as fast as she could. “Pardon me! Everyone okay?”

Despite asking if the others were alright, she didn’t stop to see. Curious to find out what happened, Hex began to follow her; taking a bit more time to check and see if everyone was alright in the process. For the most part, everypony seemed to be okay. The stop was a shock, but there seemed to be no injuries. The Pegasus made her way out of the front car, taking flight to circle the engine. The problem, unfortunately, wasn’t with the engine itself. The tracks before them had been badly damaged.

“Excuse me,” Hex called up to her as he stepped out of the train. “What’s happened?”

“The rail’s broken,” she called back as she made her way back down to the ground. “It’s a good thing the engineer spotted the damage in time. If he hadn’t, the whole train would have derailed.”

“Was that what the bumps were as well?” He asked curiously.

“No,” she replied, giving out an exasperated sigh. “Looks like some punk was putting stuff on the tracks so that the train would run over it. Problem is, depending on what the stuff on the tracks is, it can cause cracks in the tracks which can lead to eventual breaks like we’ve got up here. Looks like the train can’t go any further.”

Well, it looked like he was going to be walking a heck of a lot sooner than he realized he would be. Oh well. Hex probably needed the exercise if he was going to be traveling as much as he wanted to be.

“How far away is Canterlot if one wanted to walk the rest of the way?”

The Pegasus had to pause to think about that. She was used to flying everywhere, so she had to try and translate the distance into walking instead. She fussed with her golden hair as she thought, violet eyes shifting to the side.

“Flying there would probably take me about an hour or so, sooo… Walking would probably take half a day, give or take an hour or two. It all really depends on how fast you walk and how good you are at climbing,” she finally answered.

As she spoke, her wing pointed up at the mountain that held the city of Canterlot. By now, most of the other ponies had started to filter out of the train as well. Those who listened seemed to have mixed feelings about the rest of the trip. The Earth ponies really didn’t seem to look like they minded the trip. Most of them were already gathering their bags and trying to figure out how to carry them along. The Pegasi looked like they could care less. There were only a few of them and it seemed like flying the rest of the way wasn’t an issue. It was the Unicorns, however, that seemed to be quite unhappy about the possibility of the journey.

“You mean we really have to walk the rest of the way?” A huffy, fancy looking stallion asked.

“Can’t another train come and pick us up?” Another asked, this one a mare who very much looked like she’d had some kind of stick shoved up her butt for the last few years.

“I just had a hooficure!” A third shouted. “I’m not walking!”

Hex had heard stories of some of the entitled behavior displayed by those from Canterlot, but he’d never experienced it first hoof. Sure Unicorns could sometimes be more emotional due to their magic, but he’d never seen this many snobby ponies all in one place before. The way they were treating the train staff was downright ungrateful. He could see one of them even trying to corner the engineer demanding to ‘speak to his manager.’ How could they even ask for someone when they were trapped out here like this?

“I mean… I suppose I could fly up there and see if the station can send another train backwards on the rails to pick everypony up,” the Pegasus said, trying to hide behind one of her sandy colored wings. “It’d take a while though. Much longer than walking.”

“And why is that?” The stick-in-butt mare demanded.

“W-well… The train has to go backwards to get here so that it can go forward bringing you all to Canterlot. But going backwards means they need to move really slowly to keep the train from derailing. Especially while it’s going down the mountain. Plus, we’ll need to wait for an available train to pull in from another location. Canterlot’s station doesn’t have enough space to store an extra train.”

Stick-in-butt didn’t look satisfied with that answer. She was about to open her mouth to speak again, but Hex stepped in front of her before she could.

“So what you’re saying, uhm… what was your name, Miss?” He asked politely.

“M-me? Oh uh, I’m Steam Surge,” the Pegasus replied, a tad surprised by just how differently he was acting from the others.

“Miss Steam,” he started once more. “What you’re saying is, if we just follow these tracks, we’ll be there in about half a day. Yes?”

“That’s right.”

“Perfect! Thank you so much for your help. I really appreciate it.”

It was interesting how one little “Thank you” could make all of the difference in a situation. Stick-in-butt huffed unhappily, but finally shut her mouth. Steam Surge seemed to feel much more appreciated and confident in her role. With a smile, she trotted off to chat with the engineer before it was decided that she would fly to Canterlot and inform them that they needed another train. The others would stay and take care of those who didn’t want to walk. For the most part, the other ponies all seemed like they’d made their decisions. One, however, was torn. Another Unicorn with three foals looked as though she was about to have a panic attack.

“I really don’t mind walking, but I don’t think I can handle my bag and all three of these little ones at once,” she protested softly, unsure of what to do. “But if I stay here, I’ll run out of formula for the youngest, and she’ll go hungry until we can make it home.”

As it was, she was balancing one foal with one hoof, the baby was strapped to her chest, and she was using her magic to keep the third who looked to be about 4 or so from running off into the wild blue yonder. Hex could already feel her pain. Bitter alone had been a handful growing up. He couldn’t comprehend just how tiresome three little ones could be. This poor mother looked exhausted and the journey had barely even started. Her pink hair was in a messy bun that looked like it would fall out at any moment, and Hex could see bags under her pretty blue eyes. Her ice blue coat looked like it hadn’t been taken care of in ages, and she looked like there was no way she could make it to Canterlot all on her own.

“Well, you should have thought of that before you had so many children!” Stick-in-butt shouted rudely.

Now that rubbed Hex the wrong way. Seeing the poor mother hang her head as though she legitimately felt guilty was the absolute last straw. He moved right past the horrid unicorn, flicking his tail to slap her right in the face with it as he made his way over to the mother in need.

“If you need some help getting home, I’d be more than happy to assist,” Hex offered. “I grew up helping my father raise my little sister, so I like to think that I’m pretty good with foals.”

The mother before him wasn’t sure how to feel about things. She knew she needed the help, but how could she ask a complete and total stranger?

“O-Oh, no. I couldn’t ask you to trouble yourself like that,” she protested nervously, nudging her bag back and forth with her back hoof.

“Nonsense! It’s no trouble at all. I’m going the same way you are, aren’t I?”

Using his magic, Hex levitated her bag up to put it on his back alongside his own packs. Without hesitation, he offered up a hoof to hold the small foal she already had in her grasp. Despite her hesitation just moments before, the mare lit up with happiness at his offer. She handed over the little one, using her own magic to pick up the 4 year old to set him on her back.

“I don’t think I caught your name, sir,” she said with a smile.

“Hex Breaker. It’s a pleasure to meet you. And you are?” He asked with a slight bow of his head.

“I’m Lily Dream, and trust me, the pleasure’s all mine.”

As the two made their way down the tracks, all Stick-in-butt could do was stare. Was she judging? Absolutely. Did she have the right to? Absolutely not.

Canterlot Woes

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The journey up the mountain was really nothing to sneeze at. The closer they got to Canterlot, the more drained Hex felt. He tried to keep up his energy, bouncing the colt on his back up and down whenever the 4 year old grew fussy or chasing him whenever he decided he wanted to run on ahead. By the time they reached Lily’s home, the stallion had quite the headache. Perhaps it was just dehydration, or a lack of food. Despite the fact that it seemed to be his blind eye that was aching, the stallion tried to push reason aside. In the back of his mind, however, his suspicions were growing.

Seaddle was much like Manehatten in the sense that it was primarily filled with Earth ponies. It had a larger splash of Pegusi than Manehatten did, but Unicorns were relatively rare there. As a result, Hex had never been around this much magic before. Perhaps that was why the closer they’d gotten to the city, the more the dull ache seemed to grow. But… That wasn’t normal. Why would other unicorns give him headaches? It seemed to make sense, but there was no way something like that could happen, could it?

“Hex, dear, are you alright?” Lily’s sweet voice broke through his thoughts.

“Oh yes, I’m fine,” he insisted, forcing a smile onto his features. “Forgive me, I’m just a bit tired.”

As she set down a plate, she couldn’t help but reach to ruffle his hair slightly. The motion made him stiffen up and immediately reach to make sure that his eye was still covered.

“Thank you for the meal, Lily. I appreciate it.”

“Oh no, I should be the one thanking you,” she replied, joining Hex and the young ones at the table. “I never would have made it back here on my own. You were a real lifesaver.”

His pained smile became more genuine as he watched her feed one of the little ones before she ate any of her own food. Lily really was a caring, sweet soul. That did bring forth a question, however. Where was her husband in all of this? Their house was huge! He had to be somepony of merit, or at the very least of money. If he had that much, couldn’t he afford to have taken whatever trip she’d been on with his own wife?

“Lily,” Hex started. “Will your husband be joining us this evening?”

The mare nearly choked on her food. Clearing her throat, she tried her best not to look as embarrassed as she felt.

“He is… away on business,” Lily replied, perhaps a bit quieter than she meant to. “He’s always away on business.”

Always? And he leaves his wife, a mother of three, alone without any help whatsoever?” The stallion asked in shock.

“That’s the long and short of it, yes,” she sighed out.

“Forgive me if this is rude but, how much time does he spend with you?”

He couldn’t help his curious nature. Sure she looked tired and at the end of her rope, but Lily was still a beautiful young mare, perhaps no more than 5 years older than Hex himself. All she needed was some time to take care of herself rather than rushing around after 3 energetic babies all on her own and he was sure that beauty would flourish. Guilt filled him quickly as he watched the mare’s ears droop with sadness.

“He spent a lot of time with me, for the first six months of our relationship,” Lily said nervously. “He courted me relentlessly. He never stopped telling me how beautiful I was, and that he had to have me. I wasn’t used to that much attention and I suppose I was blindsided from the fact that somepony was showing that much devotion to me. So when he asked me to marry him I…”

She had to pause, taking a moment or two to feed the tiniest of the foals before she would continue.

“I took the plunge. I thought that he wanted to spend the rest of his life with me, and that I wanted to spend the rest of mine with him. As soon as we were married, he was all over me. But something didn’t feel right. Every night was… really unsatisfying, and once I had our first little one, he stopped. After that, the only two times he’s wanted to be around me were--”

Rather than saying it out loud, she motioned to the two younger foals. There was a bitterness in her voice that Hex could swear he could feel. Lily was so very unhappy with her situation, but she radiated the feeling of being trapped.

“Now he spends all of his time away on “business trips” where he comes home smelling of perfume and seeming like he’s the most miserable pony alive when he has to be here. Acting like he doesn’t care about his--,” Suddenly she stopped, looking up to Hex with guilt. “Forgive me! I didn’t mean to burden you with my marital problems.”

“Oh no no,” he protested, holding his hooves up. “You have every right to be upset. It sounds very much like you haven’t had anyone to talk to about these matters, have you?”

The embarrassed mare averted her gaze, giving a small shake of her head. A lot of ponies in this town just seemed to think she had it made. She was in a big house, with enough money to spare, with a husband and three beautiful children. She wasn’t going hungry. She wasn’t out in the cold. So what was the problem? They hardly stopped to consider the fact that a lack of love and support was just as detrimental as other afflictions. If she ever complained or reached out for help, they treated her as though she didn’t have the right to. But here was a stallion still smiling at her and seeming to be holding out a helping hoof. It was a strange but welcomed feeling.

“What do you say, after dinner I fix you a nice relaxing bath, and you allow me to put the little ones to bed for you?” Hex offered. “We can talk more after that if you’d like.”

Her eagerness showed through in the most genuine smile Hex had seen on the lovely mare’s face, and as she nodded he felt his own heart swell. If she needed a shoulder to lean on, he would gladly give her that for the night.

*~~~~~~~~~~*~~~~~~~~~~*~~~~~~~~~~*~~~~~~~~~~*~~~~~~~~~~*

The sun filtering through the windows was far too much for Hex to bear. Already he missed the overcast days of Seaddle. His head was pounding horrible, and had been ever since the night before when the mare snuggled up against his chest had her burst of “excitement” the night before. The sight had been beautiful. Never before had he actually seen magic at his partner’s climax. Perhaps it was just a unicorn thing. After all, quite a lot of the time their magic tended to be linked with their emotions. However, the beauty was quickly dashed out when his head gave a throb and the poor stallion was down for the count.

With a soft groan, he reluctantly pulled himself from the bed. In all honesty, he would have preferred to stay there and rest all day. Then again, getting caught in Lily’s bed if this should be the day her husband decided to come home probably wasn’t the best idea. The mare gave her own noise of dismay as she stirred awake.

“Hex, dear?”

“I’m alright, darling,” he called, leaning against the doorway to the bathroom. “Just… another headache. You go back to sleep.”

Despite his words, the lovely mare was up to check on him before he could stop her. In a strange sort of way, they seemed to have traded. The mother practically looked as though she was glowing from the tender care and treatment she’d been shown the night before. Now it was Hex who looked thoroughly exhausted.

“You seem to have gotten quite a lot of those since you’ve been here,” Lily replied in worry. “You mentioned last night that peppermint helps, yes? I think we still have some peppermint tea in the kitchen. I’ll make some for you to drink with breakfast.”

Pressing a soft kiss to his muzzle, the mare made her way out of the bedroom to let Hex do what he needed. A cold shower was welcomed against his aching head, and the temperature did help alleviate some of the pain, if only minutely. No matter what, it always felt good to be clean. Once he’d dried himself and made his way out of the bathroom, he found that the dirty sheets were still on the bed. Using his magic, he quickly cleaned up the mess and made the bed. It was one less thing for Lily to have to do later and something he didn’t want her worrying about whenever her husband came home.

Breakfast was much appreciated by the stallion, and the more time he spent with Lily, the worse he felt about having to leave her there in that situation. It wasn’t like she could just pick up her family and skip town to head off on a dangerous mission to a mysterious swamp. As Hex made his way towards the door, he felt a small tug on his cape-let.

“Are you sure you have to go?” The mare asked unhappily.

“I do,” he replied, reaching to run his hoof over her cheek. “I’m sorry. But… I do think that perhaps you should start a search for a new husband. Someone that makes you feel like you felt last night every night.”

And by that, he didn’t mean the sex. He meant feeling listened to, appreciated, and like she was worth more than just being a baby-making machine.

“Trust me, I’m not the only one that can appreciate your beauty.”

Giving her muzzle an affectionate nuzzle, he finally pulled away from Lily to head towards the train station. His head still hurt like hell, but perhaps he could sleep on the train to Appleoosa. It would take all day and all night to get to the town, but it would be worth it in the long run. The seats were comfortable, and he was glad that he wouldn’t have to walk back down the mountain as this train would be going down a different set of tracks. Hopefully there were no more setbacks in his travels.

The strangest thing was, the farther away from Canterlot they got, the more his headache subsided. By the time they reached Ponyville for their first stop halfway through the day, Hex felt good as new. It was like nothing had ever happened.

Ride'em Cowboy

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The train jolted ever so slightly as it came to a stop at the end of its journey. Hex gasped, stirring awake from his sleep rather suddenly. Sleeping on the train had been no easy task. At the very least, when he’d stayed with Lily, he’d been worn out before bed and had also had a horrid headache that took almost all of his energy away. Ever since he’d left Canterlot, his headache had faded away completely and the excitement of traveling somewhere new made it hard to focus on actually getting any rest. Not to mention the fact that he wasn’t sleeping in his beloved coffin bed at any time during the trip. The goth pony had come to love the feeling of being sealed away from the rest of the world in an incredibly quiet and comfortable box.

Gathering up his things, he made his way off of the train to take in… quite a bit less than he was used to. Even seeing Ponyville through the window of the train felt relatively normal. It was basically a torn made up almost entirely of homes with shops as the first floors of things. But this? Hex had never seen the desert before. The brightness of the sun was already overwhelming and the dry feeling in the air made him feel like his mouth was made of cotton. It was far different than the cold, cloudy, rainy days of Seaddle. Oh dear, this heat was really going to get to him if the rest of his journey was going to be just as hot. The fact that he wore all black probably wasn’t going to help.

One thing did excite him, however. With a town this small, with such low light pollution, he was sure that the view of the night sky would be absolutely breath-taking! Unlike now where it was just the sun and not even a cloud against the bright blue yonder, at night stars would cover the sky in a light show to end all others and the moon would be an absolute masterpiece. He was so caught up in thinking about it that he didn’t notice the large stallion before him until it was almost too late. Hex halted in his tracks, barely managing not to run right into the other. The lavender pony had to be more careful for sure. Being in new places meant he had to make sure he didn’t get caught in his normal day-to-day habits. Getting lost in thought in Seaddle was fine because he had all of the areas he usually went to memorized. Here, on the other hand, everything was new and unfamiliar.

“Forgive my rudeness,” he said sheepishly, taking a step backward from the larger stallion. “I wasn’t watching where I was going and I almost--”

Hex lost his words as the other stood at his full height. The huge red Earth pony was far more muscular than he was, and his white hair was half hidden under the hat that he was suddenly tipping towards the shorter one.

“It’s alright, Ma’am,” he said, a long southern drawl tugging at his words. “No harm done. Besides, how could a fella complain about a cute lil’lady like yourself wandering into him? I’m kinda sad that ya didn’t.”

Rather than letting himself laugh out loud, Hex reached to cover his own mouth; reducing the sound to no more than a giggle. Damn, this guy was sly.

“Well I’d hate to disappoint you twice, but I’m no lady,” he corrected.

“Oh?”

Now this could have gone three ways, two of which Hex was used to. For some reason, the older he got, the more ponies seemed to misgender him. While it was a mystery to his father, the lavender pony’s sister was the first one to figure it out. It was most likely due to the long, luscious lashes he had and the eyeliner he wore. Not to mention the fact that the unicorn tended to get hooficures and got his hair professionally done. That, all combined with his slim body type just seemed to be a shoe-in for ponies seeing him and automatically assuming he was female. Usually when others found out they were wrong, they would either feel awkward and try to change the subject quickly before finding some other way to apologize. OR they were stallions that tried to hit on him when they didn’t actually swing that way and they were quite quick to leave. This pony in front of him, on the other hoof, provided the much more rare and unexpected third option.

“Coulda fooled me,” The Earth pony crooned “Yer just so darn pretty.”

There was that stifled giggle again, and Hex found himself batting the eyelashes of his exposed eye at the other. The hoof covering his mouth also helped cover up just how red his cheeks had gone under his fur.

“Well that ain’t fair,” the red stallion said, giving the softest of pouts.

“What isn’t?”

“You covering up that pretty smile ah’yours.”

Oh sweet Celestia! This stallion was going to kill him with sweetness before the day was over. For the third time in all of two minutes, Hex was trying to keep his laugh quiet. Finally his hoof moved away from his mouth as he reached to run it in circles against the other stallion’s chest.

“Don’t you think you should tell me what your name is before you go asking to see my smile? Hm~?” He couldn’t help but tease.

“Now I’m the one bein’ rude, huh? The name’s Redlove. Redlove Apple. An’ you are?”

“That’s a very fitting name,” Hex cooed out. “I’m Hex Breaker. But please, call me Hex.”

“You can call me anything you want, darlin’,” Redlove replied.

There went the giggles and the blushing once more. Usually Hex was the one doing all of the flirting. It felt good to be on the other end of it and having the other realize exactly what they were getting into. He tried to wave off the other’s words before he leaned against the larger one. Hey, if Redlove was giving him the green light to flirt, then surely just the tiniest bit of physical affection would be alright. If the red stallion decided it was too much, Hex was more than willing to back off. Until then, however, all bets were off and he was just going to go for it. Plus, Redlove was an Earth Pony. That meant that if the headache from two nights ago came from Lily, then surely he wouldn’t have the same problem with this hunk of a stallion.

“Well, Love, would you happen to have time to give a tourist a little tour of your charming town?” Hex asked, once more batting his long lashes at the other.

“Why, I can think of nothin’ I’d rather do more.”

The apple pony offered a hoof to Hex, which the shorter more than happily took. And to think, he’d assumed this town was going to be boring. Maybe his day was going to be more exciting than he’d intended.

*~~~~~~~~~~*~~~~~~~~~~*~~~~~~~~~~*~~~~~~~~~~*~~~~~~~~~~*

The hot water smelled so much sweeter with the lavender sprinkled into it. The scents his Hex’s senses and calmed him immediately as the warmth spread through his body. Oh, he needed this after the “tour” of Redlove’s barn. Sure they’d seen the town as well, but on their way around the farm, one thing lead to another, and even now the unicorn was pulling straw out of his hair. Thankfully the apple farmer was also kind enough to offer him a place to stay for the night. That now made two cities that he hadn’t had to pay for an inn while visiting. As horrible as it probably sounded, he wondered if he could keep it up. Being out on his own for the first time meant no rules as to who he could and couldn’t sleep with. Not that his father had given him many rules in the past, but there had been curfews that tended to dampen a fun evening. A knock on the door called his attention away from his thoughts.

“Yes?”

“Just bringin’ ya some towels,” Redlove replied. “You feelin’ okay?”

“Better than ever, darling~ Thank you.”

The larger stallion entered, setting the freshly cleaned towels off to the side. Rather than leaving, he sat beside the tub, leaning against the edge of it. The Unicorn felt like he was melting as the other stallion took a washcloth and began to help washing him. It was simple things, like his shoulders or his hooves, but it still meant so much that someone was being so kind to him.

“You really do have a lot of love to give, don’t you?” Hex asked, his voice more of a sigh.

“I suppose you could say that,” Redlove replied with a chuckle. “But I could say the same thing about you.”

The cloth moved up to Hex’s cheek, a touch he more than willingly leaned into. When it moved to the other side, it was another story entirely. Whatever Redlove had said when he’d moved the cloth over, the unicorn had completely missed. He stiffened up, reaching quickly to stop the other’s hoof before it could push his hair out of his face.

“Don’t!”

The word left his mouth far quicker than he’d meant it to. Nervousness and guilt mixed together in his belly, swirling uncomfortably. It wasn’t often other ponies tried to move his hair out of his face. In fact, it hadn’t happened in so long that he couldn’t even remember whom had last tried. Chewing on his bottom lip, he cast his glance away from Redlove. Or at least, he tried to. The larger stallion moved his hoof under Hex’s chin, angling it upward.

“Hey, if you don’t want me to look, I wont. But it’s gonna be awful hard for me to wash your hair if I can’t move it out of your face. Don’t wanna get soap in your eyes, after all,” he said kindly.

For some reason, the other’s tenderness made it even harder for Hex. He found himself unable to speak at all for the longest moment while the gears in his mind turned. Surely a pony as caring as Redlove wouldn’t be affected by the strange sight of his eye, right? But what if he was? What if it was enough to get him kicked out of the stallion’s home? What if--Again his thoughts were interrupted as the farmer nudged his nose against Hex’s own.

“Stop chewin’ on your lip like that. You’re gonna hurt yourself,” he chided.

The realization dawned on him all too quickly. Hex had been biting his lip to the point that he’d nearly started drawing blood. Releasing his hold on the flesh, the lavender pony gave a sigh. Maybe he could show the other. It wasn’t like Redlove had done anything to wrong him yet. It wasn’t fair to judge him before he gave him a chance. He reached up, hesitating for only an instant before he pushed his hair away from his milky white eye. The sight was enough to earn a second glance from Redlove, but the pony smiled nonetheless.

“There now. Did ya really think I wasn’t gonna like what I saw? Do other ponies react badly to it?”

As the stallion spoke, he got right to work washing the other’s hair for him. It was already so soft and nice to touch. He couldn’t help but want to run his hooves over it and make sure it was cleaned just the way Hex liked.

“Well, no... I don’t personally like it. So, I suppose I assume others won't either,” Hex admitted sheepishly. “It doesn’t carry the best of memories with it.”

“Well that’s a downright shame. ‘Cause I think it’s pretty, just like the rest ah ya.”

Admittedly, in that moment Hex wished he could bring the other along on the rest of his trip. Redlove was just so sweet, supporting, and loving. It was nice to have someone who was as understanding as this around. Perhaps he’d see the Stallion again on his way home. Hex could only hope.