Chapter 46: Food for Thought (first draft)
Cherry, Tempest, and Rainbow Dash stared at one another, motionless. After RD’s little verbal slip up in front of them both, conversation had ground to a halt. One could hear a pin drop in the room, but the silence didn’t last for long once Cherry started to laugh.
“So,” Cherry said, trying desperately to cover her mouth to prevent a comical meltdown, “are we going to agree that this is both hilarious and really uncomfortable at the same time? Well, I mean hilarious for me and SUPER awkward for you two!”
And with that, it was all over. Cherry broke down into a breathless hysteria complete with tears. Tempest could feel his jaw clench.
“This isn’t funny, Cherry!” he shouted, his cheeks burning bright red from anger and embarrassment.
“It’s a little funny! “ Cherry said, cracking up.
A mortified Rainbow Dash watched her laugh with twitching eyebrows. She no longer remembered why she came in the first place and was now too distracted by her shame to care. Trying to downplay her humiliation, she turned to leave.
“This was a mistake,” she whispered bitterly. “I shouldn’t have come.”
Tempest tried to get up to stop her.
“Mom! Wait!” he called out, immediately breaking his rule of referring to her by her name.
“Don’t call me that!” RD said while she tried to push past Cherry to get to the door.
Cherry’s expression turned serious at once as the ashamed Rainbow Dash approached her.
“Dash, I’m sorry,” she apologized, holding her hoof out to stop her. “I didn’t mean to humiliate you like that. It was wrong of me. I’m really sorry!”
“Please,” Tempest begged. “Don’t go.”
Shoving Cherry aside, Rainbow Dash glanced at her future son one last time.
“I’m sorry, Tempest,” was all she said before turning the corner.
Tempest struggled to get out of bed quickly to catch her, but as he tried to stand himself off of its side, his weakened legs gave out from under him, causing him to stumble forward. With a loud thud, his chin hit the floor beneath him.
“Tempest!” Cherry cried, rushing to his side.
She tried to help him up, but with a strong push, he shoved her away.
“Leave me alone!” he snapped. “You’ve done enough!”
Slowly but shakily willing his legs to lift himself off of the ground, he began to stumble towards the door and remove his bandages.
“Tempest, you really should stay in bed!” Cherry called after him. “Tempest!”
The pegasus stallion ignored her pleas and tried to follow in the direction he saw his mother leave. With nopony else to stop him, making it to the front door was little trouble.
“Tempest, you get back here this instant!” Cherry demanded, now having to be firm. “You are in no condition to chase Rainbow Dash down!”
Tempest stretched his wings while preparing for flight, but without looking in her direction, he only had one thing to tell her.
“I don’t care.”
_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ __ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _
While she cut the vegetables, Fluttershy watched her daughter Flora set up the table for the meal that they would have with a currently busy Andromeda and Twilight. She had not been able to spend much time with Flora, since she had been taking care of Peach Cobbler and the two young colts, but with all three of them still in a coma at Applejack’s house, she figured that it was finally time to get to know her oldest daughter.
“It’s nice that we can be together today,” she said sweetly.
“Yeah,” Flora smiled in return. “It really is.”
Fluttershy let out a sigh.
“I’m really sorry that we’ve had so little time to talk. I’ve been a terrible mother for never spending much time with you since you’ve been here.”
Flora stopped what she was doing and glanced at Fluttershy lovingly.
“Don’t be. You’re a wonderful mother and I wouldn’t give you up for anypony else.”
Fluttershy blushed with flattered humility.
“From what I’ve seen from you and Peach Cobbler,” she said, “I wouldn’t trade either of you for all of the fillies in the world either.”
As she finished her sentence, the mood of the conversation shifted. The two grew quiet for a moment as they remembered that Peach Cobbler was still in a coma, a terrible effect from the corrupted time travel spell. Flora winced at the thought.
“Poor Peach,” Flora said faintly. “She didn’t deserve any of this.”
Fluttershy’s heart broke seeing her daughter this way. In a moment of emotional courage, she gave her a smile.
“She’ll be just fine,” she told her. “If anypony could overcome her sickness and get better, it would be her. She’s has so much strength to her. I saw it from the moment I first spoke to her after I brought her and the boys inside from the storm. She is so fiery and driven for such a young filly. It’s amazing that she would be my daughter!”
Though she carried an expression of worry, Flora let out a light smirk and chuckle at Fluttershy’s words.
“In my time,” she said, “you were just as surprised as you are now.”
“And what about you? I feel like I’ve hardly gotten to know much about you, even after our dinner last night.”
“I’m not really sure what to say,” Flora shrugged. “What do you want to know?”
Fluttershy had said once before that she didn’t want to ask many questions because she wanted things to be a surprise. While the sentiment still rang true, she couldn’t help her own natural curiosity, and if the timeline had been already altered like Flora said it was, then she had little to lose.
“Okay, ummm,” Fluttershy thought. “What was it like growing up with me as a mom?”
“Let’s seeee. Well, for starters, I don’t remember ever getting yelled at by you,” Flora laughed. “That was kind of nice, although you did raise your voice every now and then.”
Flora leaned against the counter and began to reflect.
“As for spending time together, I think I got my love for the arts from spending so much time in nature with you. We had lots of picnics, walks, tea parties, and other activities with the woodland creatures. Compared to my friends, I think I had a fairly quiet fillyhood. I spent a lot of time with you and dad at home. Sometimes we’d just sit in the living room and read books. Other times you and I baked together.”
Flora smiled to herself.
“I had a lot of fun doing that,” she said softly.
“That sounds lovely,” Fluttershy replied. “But what about Peach? Did she do these things with us?”
“Sometimes,” Flora chuckled. “In our walks, she liked to fly ahead and she didn’t care for tea parties. She did love to romp around with the animals, though. But here’s the surprising bit. You wouldn’t think so after spending time with her, but she actually quite talented at knitting!”
“Knitting! No way!”
“Yeah!” Flora laughed. “But she’s far too embarrassed by it. I know she enjoys it, but it’s something she only would let close friends or family know about.”
Fluttershy beamed at the thought.
“She told me that Orion and Bucky are her best friends,” she said. “What about you? Who are your closest friends?”
Flora touched her black eye tenderly. It was still sore from her encounter with a certain country stallion.
“Bismarck was my closest and oldest friend,” she answered. “Even though I was two years younger than him and a filly, he was always there for me. Other colts rarely broke away from their own age group, let alone to hang out with a girl, but Bismarck genuinely didn’t care. If anypony had a problem with him or me, he’d stand up to them. He was always a protector for me, from the day he was born. I guess he was the big brother I never had.”
Fluttershy glanced at her daughter with curiosity. They were talking about the same Bismarck who had knocked her out when she briefly lost her mind.
“How can you not be upset at him?” she blurted aloud.
Her cheeks grew beet-red from embarrassment while she covered her mouth in shock. Had she just said that?”
“I’m really sorry,” she squeaked. “I didn’t…”
“It’s alright. I don’t mind,” Flora said, making nothing of it. “I’m not mad because… he’s family to me. I know that he didn’t mean it. It’s the spell that’s messed with his mind, just like it messed with mine. Besides, once a Cutie Mark Crusader, always a Cutie Mark Crusader.”
Fluttershy let out a small sigh of relief.
“Yes, I almost forgot. Peach told me about that you, Bismarck, and Andromeda were crusaders together. What about her? Andromeda, I mean.”
Flora stopped a moment to listen in on her friend, who was in the other room with Twilight. She could faintly hear their shuffling hooves and mathematical dialogue. With a chuckle, she returned to helping her mother with the food.
“Andromeda was my closest filly friend growing up and she was always the brains of our group. She was a year older than me and I considered her to be like a big sister, and even though Bismarck was my earliest friend, Andromeda was the one I spent the most time with. I can’t even remember how many sleepovers we had. It honestly came to the point where we rarely had to ask you or Twilight anymore. It was practically expected.”
“How adorable,” Fluttershy sighed happily. “It makes me so happy knowing that Twilight’s daughter and mine will become such good friends.”
“We were a regular dynamic duo,” Flora grinned. “Between her smarts and my creativity, there was little we couldn’t or wouldn’t do together. It’s funny how we became best friends despite being so opposite. I think it’s because we each brought a unique aspect to our friendship. I knew that I could always depend on her for advice, and vice-versa.”
“Sounds like a good friend to me,” Fluttershy said, finishing what she was doing.
“Yeah, it does,” Flora said, setting the last bit of food on the table.
With lunch prepared, she left the kitchen to tell Twilight that the food was ready. From the moment she entered their domain, Flora could tell that they had been working relentlessly. Her aquamarine eyes shifted left and right as she watched Twilight and Andromeda scuttle back and forth from their books to a large blackboard filled to the brim with scientific equations. Seeing them working together, answering each other’s questions, and finishing each other’s equations felt like watching a scientific ballet of minds. Flora grew up her whole life knowing just how brilliant Twilight and her daughter were, but even now they were able to surprise her.
“Andromeda! Twilight!” she announced, almost forgetting why she came. “Lunch is ready.”
“All right! Lunch!” Twilight cheered, immediately dropping what she was doing. “Hey, Andromeda. Let’s finish this later. I’m starving.”
Andromeda continued to scribble in her notebook, hardly aware of what was going on. She had been in a dedicated rut all day long.
“Can’t,” she answered. “Busy.”
Twilight approached her daughter with a groan.
“We’ve been working for hours, Andi,” she whined. “If I don’t get food in my system, I’m going to pass out!”
“Then go ahead,” Andromeda said robotically. “I need to keep going.”
Twilight’s eyebrows dug downward with impatience.
“You need to eat too,” she demanded. “You’re going to wear yourself out if you keep this up. As your mother, I order you to stop what you’re doing and take a break before you break down.”
Andromeda continued to stare into her notebook with emotionless eyes. Had she not been scribbling notes every now and then, her posture would have seemed statuesque to a bystander.
“Your maternal authority, while duly noted, is merely sanctioned by your title in this timeline,” she murmured. “As we are practically identical in biological age and there is no currently no source of paternal authority to complete the parental diarchy, your leadership role parallels with that of a twin sibling at most, therefore nullifying any legitimate jurisdiction you may have over my actions.”
Twilight stood and stared at her, then at Flora, and finally back to Andromeda again.
“Okay, smart aleck, I think somepony has working herself a bit too hard for too long,” she said, lifting Andromeda in the air with her magic.
“You’re going to get some rest and a bite to eat and that’s final.”
Andromeda struggled to escape her mother’s magical control, but was clearly outmatched in her abilities.
“Quit it! Stop! This isn’t fair!” she exclaimed. “I need to finish my work!”
Twilight ignored her and with a slight smile to Flora, made her way to the dinner table with the purple unicorn hovering behind her.
“You’ve been working yourself half to death today and I’m not going to allow it for a minute longer,” she said firmly. “I know for a fact that you’re hungry because I’ve been hearing your stomach rumble for the past hour, so we’re eating.”
Setting her down at the table, Twilight took a seat across from her to be sure that Andromeda would not be trying to get back up.
“I hope you two are hungry,” Fluttershy entered with food, blissfully unaware of Andromeda’s reluctance. “Flora and I knew that you two have been working so hard, so we made a lot.”
“And I really appreciate it,” Andeomeda said regretfully, “but I really don’t have much time to waste. There’s still so much wo… worrrr…”
A heavenly aroma filled the air while she spoke, interrupting her train of thought. After seeing Flora enter with more food, Andromeda’s stomach began to growl loudly. She could feel her resolve to leave the table evaporate with each new dish.
“Well,” she continued timidly, “I guess I can get a quick bite to eat first. Then I need to get back to work!”
“That’s the spirit, Andi!” Flora laughed while she took a seat at the table. “Now let’s eat! I’m starving and making lunch on an empty stomach is torture!”
“It looks delicious, Flora,” Twilight said gratefully. “I really appreciate that you and Fluttershy took the time to make a meal for us while Andromeda and I work.”
Flora smiled at the purple unicorn’s warmth. It was no different from the Twilight she always knew and it was nice to be able to experience it again.
“It’s my pleasure, Ms. Twi… I mean, Twilight!” she said, stopping herself from using honorifics. “You two have been working so hard for so long. I’m actually sorry that I never came by to help earlier.”
“It’s not a problem,” Twilight replied. “I’ve been doing the cooking on all the other days. I may not be great chef on my own, but I’m good at following recipe instructions.”
The group chuckled together for a moment before digging into the food. Andromeda let out a sigh of contentment as she enjoyed Fluttershy’s dishes.
“I almost forgot how great a cook your mom was,” she softly told Flora.
Flora looked back at her friend in surprise. Andromeda had been in serious mood all day. Perhaps she was finally relaxing.
“Yeah,” Flora said, just happy to hear her buddy speak up. “I figured it would be nice if she made some of your favorites.”
Andromeda was still quiet, but Flora could see a light smile curl on the side of her face.
‘I’ll take that as a thank you,’ Flora thought to herself.
“By the way,” Fluttershy spoke up, “I’ve been wondering about something since I first saw your blackboard full of formulas. Does all magic require so much… math?”
“Only for advanced magic like this,” Twilight answered. “Some spells do not require such research and tinkering. Take levitation, for example. Every unicorn has the potential to levitate objects, and while some studying is required when we are younger, it doesn’t need to be created from scratch.”
“An thes tahm travl spell iz as advnced as it gets,” Andromeda said, her mouth still full of food.
“Don’t talk with your mouth full,” Twilight said with an irritated tone as she nudged her daughter’s shoulder.
Andromeda looked back at her defensively, unsure if Twilight was being her normal bossy self or motherly. The two could be easily confused for one another, but she was not in the mood to debate it.
“Sorry, mom,” she said, fighting the urge to roll her eyes.
“So I have another question,” Fluttershy continued with timid curiosity. “Forgive me for asking, but why are you two having to recreate this spell? Flora told me that Andromeda only created the safeguard to keep the original spell from killing you all. Can’t you just build a new safeguard?”
“I’m afraid not,” Twilight answered. “The improved original spell from our children’s timeline was incredibly unstable. Each use only damaged it more and more. Now it’s too broken to use, so we have to start from scratch by using the unimproved spell from this timeline.”
“Which has taken a butt-ton of work to fix,” Andromeda smirked. “What’s worse, my safeguard spell was not independent from the original. It requires the power source of the original time travel spell in order to charge it. The biggest problem with this is where the spell gets its power from.”
“The life energy of the time traveler,” Flora said, remembering what Andromeda said long ago.
“Exactly.” Twilight added. “It’s our guess that this pony intentionally limited its power usage in order to protect the user. That’s why I couldn’t go back in time for more than a few seconds.”
“So what’s been the biggest issue in recreating the original?” Fluttershy inquired.
As if on cue, Andromeda and Twilight both leaned back and glanced at each other, exhaling with mild frustration.
“The big issue is overriding the preset limitations,” Twilight answered. “The creator was well-aware of how dangerous this spell could be and implemented a protective barrier so that it would not be corrupted.”
“Removing the override took my mother over months of trial and error. We only have days or weeks.”
“But I thought you already did the work, Andi,” Flora said.
“No, not entirely. My safeguard was built on mom’s work. I didn’t memorize her notes on the original spell because I didn’t have too. I remember the basics, but there’s a great deal I can’t recall. We’re pretty much starting from the beginning.”
“So now we need to take the deadly original spell, override the barriers, expand its range to travel to decades in time instead of days, and increase the strength to allow whole groups to time travel, all while reducing the life-sapping force that powers the spell. It’s a lot of work to do in a short amount of time.”
“That sounds like a great deal of work.”
“That’s not even the worst of it,” Andromeda grumbled. “When we are done with that, then we will have to rebuild the safeguard spell that I created. It took me months to create and perfect it, and while I have my own formulas memorized, the lack of time to properly test it will make things even more difficult.”
“Oh dear! That sounds awful,” Fluttershy lamented. “I’m so sorry. Is there anything else I can do?”
_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _
“GET OVER HERE, QUICKLY! YOU HAVE TO SEE THIS!” Cherry yelled at the top of her lungs as she sprinted towards Applejack, who had just entered the house after returning from the apple orchards.
“Whoa, whoa, whoa, slow down, Cherry!” Applejack exclaimed, closing the door behind her. “What are you hoopin’ and hollerin’ about?”
“Come on!” Cherry cried impatiently, pulling AJ’s hoof to lead her towards the other room.
As the two of them practically stumbled into the kitchen, Cherry let go and grinned as Applejack froze in place.
“Mom?” a weary eyed Bucky squeaked, lifting his head from the table. “Are you okay?”
Applejack’s emerald eyes shimmered brightly while tears streamed down her amber cheeks. She couldn’t believe it. There in front of her sat Orion, Peach Cobbler, and most importantly, her son! At his age, he was no older than Apple Bloom, but something inside her felt almost programed to see him as her own child. Overwhelmed by the sudden burst of emotion, she approached him slowly, as if making sure he wasn’t an illusion, but as soon as was near him, she drew him into her loving embrace.
“Ah’m doin’ just fine, sugarcube!” she laughed with tear-filled joy, hugging him tenderly. “Ah couldn’t be any better!”