Chapter 39: Faith in a Future
Andromeda sat up in Applejack’s bed where she now resided in place of Cherry. She had no idea how she ended up where she was, but something about it did not bother her. Every day she felt more and more exhausted and each night was becoming more sleepless than the last. To be honest, despite the relentless clock ticking down to their imminent demise filling the back of her mind, Andromeda somehow felt at peace that had been missing for a long time. According to the clock, she had been sleeping for several hours. She saw Cherry nudge Berry when she woke up. They had been sitting down across the room from her.
“Berry,” Cherry said softly. “Berry, get up. Andromeda’s awake.”
Berry snorted as his blue eyes shot open, his body jerking upright in the process.
“Andizup?” he murmured, slurring his words.
Cherry ignored him and made her way to foot of the bed.
“How are you feeling, Andi?” Cherry asked her friend. “Are you rested again?”
“I haven’t felt this good in days,” she answered, happy to see Cherry. “I had no idea I needed a nap this bad. But what about you? Are you okay?”
“I’m fine,” the pink mare replied cheerfully. “Thanks for asking.”
“You woke up just in time,” Berry added, standing up to stretch. “Applejack is making lunch.”
“Lunch?” Andromeda asked. “It’s lunchtime already?”
“It’s an early lunch, actually. Applejack is taking Bucky’s illness pretty hard and she’s been cooking for nearly an hour now. She’s probably trying to take her mind off of worrying about him.”
Memory rushed through Andromeda’s mind once more memory began to return to her, piece by piece.
“Orion!” she cried, trying to get up. “Orion! Is he okay?”
“He’s fine!” Cherry replied, stopping her panicking friend. “They’re all okay. They’re just sleeping. It's best we don't bother them.”
Andromeda’s exhaled in relief while her racing heart slowed down a bit.
“Oh thank goodness,” she exclaimed. “I thought that they were… that they…”
“They’ll feel better soon enough,” Berry said. “For now, you all should get some rest.”
Andromeda shook her head.
“I’m done with rest,” she said firmly. “I need to get back to work.”
Cherry placed a hand on her friend’s shoulder as Andromeda tried once again to get out of bed.
“As the designated nurse of this house, I’m going to have to advise that you don’t do any work today. You’ve been through enough physical trauma, let alone mental.”
“Mental?” Andromeda exclaimed. “I feel completely fine! I must have just collapsed from sleep exhaustion.”
Berry and Cherry looked at each other with worried expressions. The sight made Andromeda nervous.
“That’s what it was, right?” she voiced again.
Cherry remained quiet and let her brother step forward.
“Andi,” Berry said slowly, “what is the last thing you remember before waking up?”
Andromeda tried to grasp the memories that were dormant in her mind, but they slipped from her hooves, like grains of sand.
“I remember… being sad,” she said, concentrating on her words. “Like something was wrong with me. It was Orion. Something was wrong with Orion and I couldn’t take it.”
Berry pushed further.
“Can you remember what you said at all? What you did?”
A few seconds passed before Andromeda shook her head once again.
“I.. I can’t remember anything. I was just really devastated. What did I say? What did I do?”
“Can I tell her?” Cherry asked her brother.
“Yeah. Go ahead.”
Cherry returned her attention to their friend.
“You were screaming at the top of your lungs that Orion was not sick and was going to get up. You thrashed around and Tempest had to restrain you. We were afraid that you had lost your mind.”
“Tempest!” Andromeda cried. “Is he okay? I didn’t hurt him, did I?”
Berry hesitated to tell her.
“You… gave him a slight gash on his right cheek.”
Andromeda turned white.
“Before you passed out, you had calmed down enough to give Tempest reason that you wouldn’t hurt anypony else. Not long after he let you go, you went into a second frenzy. You caught him off-balance, so when you thrashed again, your horn cut into him.”
Andromeda covered her mouth, mortified from what she had done.
“Ohmygosh! I had no idea I did any of that! I’m so sorry! He must hate me!”
“It’s okay, Andi,” Cherry said. “He’s not mad at you. He left for Zecora’s a while back and she helped heal it.”
“Can I see him? I gotta let him know I’m sorry!”
“Later,” Berry answered. “He’ll be fine, Andi. Tempest is a tough guy and a cut is not going to kill him.”
His words of encouragement did not help Andromeda, who felt sick to her stomach.
“I can’t believe it. I don’t even remember what I did!” she said again.
“That’s what we need to talk to you about,” Berry replied. “When I yelled at you the other day, I said a lot of things I don’t remember.”
“When I went crazy,” Cherry added, “I woke up without any memory of the incident too.”
Berry sat down at the foot of Andromeda’s bed.
“We think that Flora was right when she said that we’re running out of time faster than Twilight might have guessed.”
“I know,” Andromeda winced. “Flora told me her hypothesis yesterday. I’m trying, though! I’m working really hard on getting us back. You know that, right?”
“We do,” Berry and Cherry said in unison.
“Then why are you telling me this? What more do you want from me?
Cherry sat on the other side of the bed, across from her brother, and took Andromeda’s hoof in her own. Two sets of sky blue eyes gazed down at her, showing neither fear or anger, but friendship and love.
“You’ve been through a lot since we’ve been here,” Cherry began.
“You’ve taken point when we were all lost,” Berry continued. “You’ve been a leader through and through and you haven’t been appreciated for the sacrifices and tough decisions you have had to make.”
“And now everything is slowly crashing down. You need help, Andi. You’re going through a lot and you’re trying to carry the world on your shoulders, but you’re not alone!”
“Cherry is here! I’m here! All of our friends are here for you!”
The two of them grew quiet for a moment.
“And your mom,” Cherry emphasized. “She’s here for you. She loves you, Andromeda. Even now! Even though you’re just a glimpse of her future, she loves you and she’s worried about you.”
Andromeda’s eyes shimmered, trying hard to avoid tears.
“She left you something,” Berry continued, standing up and making his way to one of the dressers. “She told us to give it to you when you woke up.”
Picking up a small envelope, Berry returned to his friend’s bedside and placed it by her hoof. Standing up from the bed, Cherry made her way to the door, turning to wait for her brother. Before he followed her out, Berry lifted Andromeda’s hoof and gave it a loving squeeze.
“Why are you leaving?” she asked. “Why can’t you stay?”
“Because,” Berry said, letting go, “what happens from now is up to you.”
_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _
Across the hall, Bismarck and Radiance sat by the children’s bed as they had for two straight hours. Most of the others had dispersed to go about their jobs. With Andromeda in the other room, Applejack cooking, and Twilight having returned to work on the spell, only a sleeping Flora and a solemn Fluttershy remained with them. The heavy melancholy filled the room like an impenetrable fog, seeping into Radiance’s soul, leaving her unable to remain in it for a minute longer. She had to get out.
“You can’t keep torturing yourself like this,” she whispered to Bismarck. “You’re going to literally worry yourself sick if you keep sitting here.”
When no reply came, she knew that getting out would be for his own good, as well as hers. Standing up, she nudged her husband lightly.
“Come on,” she whispered. “Let’s go for a walk.”
Bismarck looked up at her, his tired and red eyes staring.
“Ah can’t,” he finally said. “Ah need to be here when he wakes up. He’s a fighter, Radiance! He’s gonna make it!”
“I know he is,” Radiance replied. “That’s why we’re going to pick some apples for him. He’d like that, wouldn’t he?”
Bismarck glanced back at his little brother and nodded, saying nothing. Placing her neck below his, Radiance stood him up and hugged him.
“We’ll be back before he wakes up,” she comforted. “Fluttershy will look after the kids.”
Bismarck nodded again, unsure if he felt awake at the moment or not, and allowed Radiance to lead him through the door and out of the house. He felt distracted and didn’t pay attention to what was going on. Lost in his thoughts, he only remembered to follow Radiance to the apple orchards. Over time he began to notice that Radiance was passing a lot of trees that they were supposedly going to be picking apples from.
“Radiance,” he said, stopping in his tracks. “What are we doin’ this far out?”
“We’re getting some fresh air,” Radiance answered simply.
“Ah thought you said we were gonna pick some apples fer mah brother.”
“We still are. That doesn’t mean that we can’t take a little walk first, right? Come on, Bismarck. I feel like I’ve hardly seen you these past few days and I just want to spend some alone time with you! No moms, no friendas, no heartache, and no other time travel-related nightmares. If you don’t take a break from all this now, you’re going to end up like Cherry and Andromeda did!”
Bismarck saw her genuine expression of fear as she took hold of his hoof. Her unwavering eyes stated into his.
“Please! Just for a short while,” she begged. “For your own sake. For me.”
Bismarck let out a long sigh.
“Okay,” he replied. “Yer right. Yer right, but… it’s just hard not lettin’ it bother me.”
“I know it is,” Radiance said, nestling her head on the side of his neck. “But we’ll get through this. Bucky, too. We’ll all be okay. Just you wait.”
Bismarck could feel his body grow warmer, as if a spring breeze of life had finally returned to him after a cold winter of bitterness. Radiance had a knack of comfort.
“You’ve always been there fer me,” he said as they began to continue walking. “No matter what. It hasn’t been easy, havin’ to hide for so long. Ah still regret every word ah said back at the barn, and…”
“It’s okay, Bismarck. We’ve already forgiven each other.”
Bismarck shook his head solemnly.
“But ah still haven’t forgiven mahself. What if that day had been our last? What if the time travel spell had killed us before we even knew about it? If those were mah last words…”
“But they weren’t,” Radiance interrupted. “We lived to see another day! You can’t keep worrying about the past because the only thing you can change now is the present.”
“Which is exactly why ah worry about the past!” Bismarck exclaimed, frustrated at himself. “Ah’m powerless to help us! All mah strength, all my power, all my skill… is worthless! Ah can’t…”
Bismarck jaw clenched, his eyes looking down as they walked together. A lump began to form in his throat.
“Ah can’t… protect you from this spell,” he said quietly. “Ah can’t protect Bucky. Ah’m unable to save the ones ah love and ah don’t know how much more ah can take! It’s a disease that can’t be cured.”
Bismarck rubbed his nose with a quick sniff and cleared his throat.
“So we wait. We wait for to finish the job. We wait for it to kill us all… one by one… and… if anything happens to you, Radiance… if anything happens to you…”
“Nothing will happen to me!” Radiance answered, stopping in her tracks once more. “Andromeda and Twilight will fix the spell and then we’re going to go home!”
Standing in front of him, she took hold of his hoof and placed it on the side of her still-flat tummy. Bismarck’s contorted face relaxed as their hooves rubbed it together. Radiance looked up at him and smiled.
“And when we get home,” she continued, “we’re going to have our baby together. We’re going to find a place of our own and you’re going to be the best daddy in all of Ponyville!”
Bismarck continued to look down at her stomach, the thoughts of grief for his brother slowly fading into hopeful possibilities of a family and future.
“A daddy,” he repeated, glancing back at his wife happily and smiling like a fool. “Yeah… it’s still so hard to believe. This is real, isn’t it? We’re gonna have a baby!”
“Yeah,” Radiance beamed. “We are!”
Bismarck’s emerald eyes grew wide.
“What are we gonna name him?”
“Him?” Radiance playfully smirked. “What makes you so sure that it’s a colt?”
“Ah dunno. Ah’m not even sure. Ah suppose the real question will be ‘unicorn or earth pony.’”
“Or pegasus. Anything can happen.”
“If we’re lucky,” Bismarck said jokingly, “our first one might be an earth pony. That way we won’t have to go through chasing a baby pegaus around the house or dodging a baby unicorn’s magic surges for our crash-course in parenting.”
“First one?” she replied, her hoof placed on her chest in mock surprise. “Sounds like someone’s eager to start a family.”
Bismarck laughed but did not reply, instead observing at her closely for seemingly the first time all day. He could tell that today was a ‘non-presentable’ kind of day for her. It was a day where she didn’t bother to brush her hair a hundred times, put on light makeup, or generally doll herself up as Rarity had no-doubt made second-nature to her. Something about today made it all not worth the effort and it fascinated Bismarck. He smiled at the thought while Radiance caught notice of it immediately.
“What?” she asked, involuntarily smiling back. “What is it?”
“Nothin’,” he said, trying to keep a straight face.
Radiance was not buying it for a minute.
“We may have only been married for a few months, but I’ve known you my entire life, Biz,” she said. “I know when you’re thinking of something. What’s going on in that head of yours?”
Bismarck knew he had been caught.
“It’s just,” he said coyly, captivated by her sapphire eyes, “you look so beautiful today.”
Radiance rolled those same eyes.
“I look disgusting,” she sighed, combing through her hair as if it were greasy. “I don’t know what I was thinking! I completely forgot that we were having company over for breakfast, let alone most of our mothers! And speaking of mothers, who knows what my mom was thinking! Ugh, I can only imagine what she wanted to tell me whe…”
She stopped, seeing that Bismarck was chuckling again.
“What’s so funny?”
Bismarck gently pulled her close to him and gazed down at her with great affection.
“Yer cute when you fret the small stuff. Ya know that?” he said, giving her a kiss on the forehead.
“Am I, now?” Radiance replied flirtatiously, lifting her head until they were nose to nose. “Is that why you married me?”
“Among other things,” Bismarck smiled.
Bismarck wrapped his arms around Radiance, his embrace firm but gentle. As she closed her eyes, he pulled her in closer and kissed her lips tenderly, like he was kissing her for the first time. When he drew back again, she opened them again and sighed contently, a smile growing on her face.
After what seemed like an eternity, they had a true moment together, alone and with no distraction. So much had happened since they were thrown into the past. Pain, sorrow, anger, and regret had kept both of them so busy that they never seemed to have any peace and quiet, let alone with each other. They still had responsibilities and worries that burrowed into their subconscious, but for this moment...
this tiny little moment…
They were happy.