Chapter 49: Paradise… Lost (PART I)
Deep within Twilight Sparkle’s basement, and late into the night, two mares toiled long and hard on the complexly flawed time travel spell. Minutes felt like hours, and hours like days while they clawed at the missing puzzle pieces of the magical formulas. Time was not on their side, as months of theory and testing needed to be condensed into a fraction of the time needed. Only the inevitable threat of the spell collapsing and killing the time travelers kept their exhausted minds running. Andromeda and Twilight had been feeling the pressure for weeks now, but now, after so much labor, the light at the end of the tunnel seemed visible.
“I can’t believe it! We did it!” Twilight shouted happily. “We actually did it! We recreated the improved time travel spell!”
“Now we just have to recreate my safeguard spell and we can finally go home!” Andromeda exclaimed with just as much enthusiasm. “We’re almost done! It’s almost over!!!”
The two purple unicorns danced around with each other, giggling and laughing as if they were little fillies again. Never had they ever been so thrilled and relieved at the same time. Bags circled their glassy eyes underneath their unkempt manes.
“So now what do we do?” Andromeda asked, feeling odd for having the occasion to say it. “Do we get straight to work on the safeguard or take a breather?”
Twilight thought for a moment. Three days passed since the Orion, Peach Cobbler, and Bucky had woken up from their coma. Tempest and Berry finally recovered from their wounds and Bismarck had made amends with them both. With his mind back, he had returned to his role as protector and provider in Andromeda’s absence. Radiance and the others often helped the Apple family out at the farm and enjoyed the chance to spend time with one another. All the while, Twilight and Andromeda had been working night and day on the time travel spell. Even the effects of the spell had disappeared without explanation, much to the relief of everyone involved. After what felt like countless days of pain and heartache, life seemed to finally be looking up.
“You know what?” Twilight smiled. “I think this calls for a celebration! We should take the day off tomorrow!”
“Are you sure? We’ve still got a lot of work to do. I remember how to make the Safeguard, but it’s still going to take time, even with both of us working on it.”
“We’ve been at it non-stop for three days now,” Twilight yawned, looking at the clock to see that it was well past midnight. “We’re averaging 4 hours of sleep a night and working most of the other 20 per day. If we don’t take some time off, we’re just going to spin our wheels. Besides, this might be our last chance to really get to spend any quality time together! And I’ve hardly gotten to talk to any of your friends.”
“I know that there haven’t been any mental or physical breakdowns since the kids woke up, but I’m not sure. What if something happens?”
“We’ve written down the directions for the safeguard spell already. All that’s left is following the directions and going through the trial-and-error tests. They’re more time consuming than they are difficult.”
“Come on, Andi! We’ve been going at it for days. We’re better off being rested and mentally fresh than fatigued and mistake-prone.”
The very mention of the word ‘fatigue’ made Andromeda’s eyes feel heavy, and with a long yawn she sleepily nodded her head in agreement.
“Alright, alright. You win. We’ll take the day off, but after that we’re waking up bright and early the next morning.”
“So diligent,” Twilight said proudly while they walked up the stairs. “Reminds me of myself.”
“What can I say?” Andromeda replied. “I learned from the best.”
Once they had left the house, Twilight closed her eyes and took a deep breath. The night air was cool and the stars shimmered brightly against the black sky. The moon bathed the town in its soft glow, a comforting light to guide them back to Sweet Apple Acres.
“Nights like this remind me why I love Ponyville,” she sighed happily. “The stars in the sky, the soft chirping of crickets, the cool breeze… it all gives a feeling of being home.”
“Not much has changed,” Andromeda replied. “Same ol’ small town it always was. Same houses, same shops, same dullness. Even the same ponies, for the most part.”
Twilight glanced at her curiously.
“You didn’t like growing up in Ponyville?”
“Of course I did. It was much better than being in Canterlot. Sure, Canterlot had the shops and the city and the palace, but it just never felt like home to me.”
“Home?” Twilight asked. “Do I move back to Canterlot in the future?”
Andromeda’s heart sped up. Her tired mind was slipping dangerous information by mistake.
“No,” she answered, “I mean… we took a few… extended stays every now and then. Business related, you know?”
“Let me guess,” Twilight grinned. “Saving the world?”
Thoughts of her mother sitting on the Equestrian throne popped in Andromeda’s head.
“Yes,” she answered vaguely, biting her lip.
She was walking a thin line of keeping the future secret from her mother and Twilight seemed contemplative from it all.
“I may not have had many friends during my time in Canterlot,” she said, “but it was my home. I’m surprised you never adapted to it.”
“You and I had… different… experiences in Canterlot.”
“What do you mean by different experiences?”
Andromeda drew quiet and thought about what she had said. The Twilight Sparkle she was currently talking to had no idea that she would soon become a princess, nor would she understand what that meant for her daughter. She was more than just a hero in the future. She was a legend, and as such there was a terrible burden of expectations placed on Andromeda.
“Andi?” Twilight said after a few moments of no reply.
Andromeda didn’t hear her. She was too consumed with remembering her fillyhood. When she was little, she loved being a princess. Everypony loved her and strangers went out of their way for her. But things changed when she grew older. Kindness eventually faded to judgment and her peers shifted from amazement to jealousy or indifference. Other students resented her and her professors often expected too much from her. She fought for years to prove herself as more than just the offspring of Twilight Sparkle, and….
“Andi,” Twilight said again, this time louder than before.
Andromeda’s head snapped upward from the ground, her glassy gaze focusing on her mother’s face.
“Is something wrong?” Twilight asked.
“I’m sorry. I got caught up in my thoughts again.”
“What’s bothering you? Can you tell me?”
“I wish I could,” Andromeda sighed. “I really do, but it’s…. complicated.”
“Is it about me?”
“Yes, I mean no… I mean… I don’t know.”
“Andi,” Twilight said, her voice now somber.
“It’s okay, mom. Really. I was just caught up in some memories. That’s all.”
Twilight said nothing and looked forward while they walked side-by-side towards Sweet Apple Acres. A slight breeze whistled through their manes while the faint chirping of crickets could be heard from afar, but the town was otherwise dead silent. Twilight could not shake a feeling that had been nagging her ever since she discovered that Andromeda was her daughter, and with nobody around to overhear them, she knew that this was as good a time to bring it up.
“Hey Andi,” she said reluctantly. “Can I… ask you something?”
“Go for it.”
Twilight struggled to find the right words. She felt like she had been preparing for this moment for days now, but now that it was finally here, she didn’t know what to say. All she could do was wing it and hope for the best.
“We’ve been through a lot in our time working together, you know?”
“And you know that I love you, right? Now and in the future?”
“Of course I do! When have I ever said otherwise? And where is this coming from?” Andromeda frowned, trying to piece together the real question.
Twilight’s voice faltered.
“In the future, do you… hate me?”
Her daughter was taken aback.
“What?!?” Andromeda exclaimed.
“I’m sorry. Hate is not the word I’m trying to say,” Twilight reiterated, clearing her still throat. “I know you don’t really hate me. Our recent time together has finally shown me that, but… there’s still something else that you’re not telling me. I guess what I really want to know is if you’ve ever come to… resent me.”
Andromeda didn’t know what to say. Everything in her wanted to say ‘no’ and scoff at the notion, but she knew that she would be lying. She knew that Twilight wouldn’t believe her. With ears fallen to the sides of her head, she nodded sorrowfully.
“Sometimes-,” she said with a whisper, almost as shocked to hear her answer as Twilight was.
“Why?!? Did I mistreat you as a filly? Was I cruel?”
“Was I unkind? Did I ignore or reject you? Was I too busy for you or Orion?”
“Then what did I do wrong? Please tell me!” Twilight pleaded. “I don’t ever want to wake up to a future where you feel bitter towards me!”
Though it was dark, Twilight could see her daughter’s sunset eyes in the moonlight.
“There’s nothing you could have done,” Andromeda answered. “You did nothing wrong. You were the best mother a filly could ask for…. but…”
A cloud passed over the moon above and darkened the surrounding night around them. At that moment, Twilight’s eyes slowly widened from realization.
“You’ve been living in my shadow,” she said with a look of anguish. “It’s why you were so angry to have to work with me! Why you’ve had something to prove all this time! Why you never made friends outside of Ponyville! The world put you on a pedestal no pony should ever be on and I was the reason! All this time… I thought that it was something preventable… something that I could change! But just my existence alone is what did this to you! All of this!”
Tears welled up in Twilight’s eyes as she spoke.
“Andi, I’m so sorry! It’s all my fault!”
Andromeda and Twilight held each other tight.
“It wasn’t your fault,” Andromeda said. “It was never your fault. You did everything you could to be a good parent. I was just too blinded by my own anger to see that and I took it out on you!”
“This isn’t what I wanted! I never wanted this for you.”
“I know you didn’t, mom. I know.”
The night was still and the stars shone bright over the two unicorn mares who stood together in the darkness. Andromeda comforted her mother a while longer before, with damp eyes, they finally returned to the farm.
_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _
The next morning, another unlikely family sat together, enjoying each other’s company. Rarity let out a happy sigh while she and Applejack sat across from Bismarck, watching him place his head on Radiance’s flat stomach as she lay on the couch.
“Mornin’, little one,” he whispered with a glow in his emerald eyes. “Rise n’ shine.”
“Bismarck, stop! That tickles!” Radiance squirmed with a laugh.
“Ah’m just welcomin’ our baby to the new day. Ain’t nothin’ wrong with that, now, isn’t there, lil one?”
Radiance pulled him towards her and kissed his forehead.
“She’s only a few weeks old, silly. I don’t think she can hear you yet.”
“Doesn’t hurt to try. And what do you mean ‘she?’” he teased. “How do ya know HE ain’t a strappin’ young stallion like his daddy?”
“I dunno,” Radiance smirked. “Call it a… gut feeling.”
Bismarck chuckled at the pun.
“Oh, and speakin’ of guts,” Applejack spoke up after taking a sip of her coffee, “ah heard you pukin’em up earlier this mornin’. How ya feelin’ now?”
Radiance’s face turned green at the very mention of her morning sickness.
“Awful,” she groaned. “I can’t seem to go a full day without worrying about it.”
“My poor dear!” Rarity cried. “Do you know what causes it?”
“Not a clue. All I know is that the name ‘morning sickness’ is a dirty lie! It seems to hit me hard no matter what time it is! Last night’s dinner really made me lose it. Stuff like this makes me never want to eat again.”
“That’s only ‘cause yer sense of smell has increased,” Bismarck replied nonchalantly as he sat up beside her. “It’s common with pregnancies at yer stage. Best to keep food in yer belly at all times, though. Ya can’t be too hungry or full, so yer gonna hafta take it easy today when we have the cookout.”
It took a few seconds, but eventually the large country stallion began to notice that the room had grown quiet, and with a turn of his head he found all three mares looked at him with a puzzled look.
“What?” he frowned.
“Since when do you know anything about pregnancy?” Radiance asked with a raised eyebrow.
“Ah went to the same high school as you, darlin’,” Bismarck grinned.
“That’s not what I meant, smart guy. I mean how do you know this?”
“Ah browsed a book from Twilight’s library. Ah know we haven’t exactly made the best choices as a couple, but ah’m sure as hay certain that ah’m gonna be a better dad than ah’ve been a husband.”
“Awwww,” Rarity sighed. “How thoughtful.”
“Yeah,” Radiance said, rolling his eyes. “He’s all heart.” ‘
“See?” Bismarck beamed. “She really does know me.”
Applejack and Radiance shook their heads while the country stallion stood up and let out a small stretch.
“Well,” she said with a yawn, “ah’d better get to work. Daylight’s wastin’ and we’ve got a lot of work to get to fer the party today.”
Rarity ruffled her hair in modest protest.
“Dahling, today’s a relaxing day! Don’t you ever take a moment off?”
“Not when there’s important work to do. Big Macintosh is already outside and ah’ve started later than ah intended on. Don’t worry about us. You just kick back and enjoy each other’s company.”
“Wait, ah’ll go with ya,” Bismarck said. “Y’all could use the extra hoof to get things done faster.”
“You sure? Yer uncle and ah can handle it.”
“Ah know, but three Apples are better than one and ah ain’t gonna let y’all do the work alone.”
Radiance caught a glimmer of pride in Applejack’s face and pulled Bismarck down for a kiss.
“Better get going,” she said.
“See you later, hon. Love ya.”
“Love ‘ya’ too, Biz.”
“We’ll be back as soon as we can,” he told her and Rarity. “Radiance, if you need anythin’, just give me a holler.”
As he and Applejack left, Rarity’s sapphire eyes followed them with keen interest, which also caught the attention of her daughter.
“What are you looking at?” Radiance asked.
Rarity let out a giggle.
“I couldn’t say it in front of Applejack, but he’s quite the looker. Those broad shoulders, that muscular physique, his confident posture…”
“Hey! Back away from the dreamboat, mom. I saw him first!”
_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _
He couldn’t see her. Tempest let out a deep sigh. For a moment, he thought that he had spotted Rainbow Dash in the distance, but it was just another pegasus flying too and fro above Ponyville.
“Not her,” he muttered to himself.
The blue pegasus stallion stood on the roof of the house, keeping eye on any ponies who might draw too close to the outskirts of the farm, at Applejack’s request. Though he had hesitated at first, wanting to help in the labor instead, he now appreciated being alone, even if he had nothing to really do.
Sweet Apple Acres was separated from the rest of Ponyville, the gates were locked, and ponies rarely dropped by unless they were Applejack’s closest friends, but Tempest wanted to take no chances. If anyone were to intrude on this day of all days, the time travelers would need enough time to hide.
“Morning, Tempest,” Flora said, appearing by his side without him noticing before.
Tempest spun around, startled at both her arrival.
“Jeez, Flora, don’t scare me like that!” he exhaled, both scared and angry.
Flora ignored him and sat beside him, laying a bowl of oatmeal near of his hooves.
“I brought you some breakfast. I noticed you haven’t eaten much recently and I had a feeling you’d be up here.”
“Thanks, but I’m not hungry.”
Flora glanced at his bruised face and noticed that it had not been healing. Though the effects of the time travel spell had not been evident in some time, she wondered if it was at least making recoveries more difficult. He did not seem to mind at all and was more preoccupied with guard duty.
“Do you think she’ll come back?” she asked.
“Don’t know, don’t care.”
Flora let out a puff of air through her nose.
“Yeah you do.”
Tempest did not reply, instead looking towards the front gate. The two spent a few minutes quietly watching the world below. Everything seemed so quiet now. As the days had passed, not much had happened. With the wild drama of time travel, fights, and near-death experiences behind them, all they could do now was wait. Tempest hated waiting.
“Come on,” she said with a warm smile. “Let’s go flying.”
“Can’t. I’m keeping an eye out for intruders.”
“It’s a weekday morning, Tempest. Nopony’s going to come out here. Besides, the farm has a million places the others can hide in. Applejack only told you to keep watch because she knew you needed time to yourself.”
“That explains a lot,” Tempest grunted. “Still, I can’t…”
“No buts,” Flora said, pulling him onto his hooves. “You’ve been cooped up here for too long and it’s starting to make you a real Debbie Downer. What you need is a little wind blowing in your mane again to jumpstart that broken heart of yours.”
With an outstretching of her wings, the green pegasus took off from the roof and hovered above him.
“So what’s it going to be?” she called out. “Would you rather sit around bored and scanning the skies for your mom or speeding through the air like I know you love to do? The choice is yours, hotshot!”
Tempest glanced at his tucked in wings. They had not been properly stretched for several days. Perhaps it would be good to get them moving again. With a groan, he jumped off the roof and swooped into the air after her.
“Try to keep up!” Flora shouted while they rocketed higher and higher, piercing the clouds.
Tempest smirked. Even though this flight was just a ploy to cheer him up… it really was making him feel a bit better. Little by little, he picked up speed and lightened his glum mood until he had found himself actually smiling.
“Come on, slowpoke!” she cried again. “Don’t tell me you’re getting beat by the Fluttershy’s daughter!”
Suddenly, a jolt of life shot through Tempest’s body. He could feel something he had seemingly forgotten as of late: pride. Turning the gear within him, he took off, speeding towards Flora until he had passed her with ease. The force of his acceleration threw wind into her face, blowing her mane back. Flora looked up at him with a look of joy.
“It’s good to have you back!” she called after him.
But the pegasus stallion did not reply, his gaze preoccupied with the clouds that floated over them, far away yet seemingly within grasp. Without turning his attention back to her, he spoke.
“Before we go back, I need to show you something,” he said, barely audible enough for Flora to hear.
Without another word, he rocketed upwards like a blur. His bewildered friend watched his ascent with curiosity.
“Tempest, hold up!” she shouted after him.
He did not reply and quickly disappeared from her sight. With a burst of speed, she took off after him. Seconds passed with no sight of him. Flora was beginning to grow worried.
Kicking into her own top speed, she zoomed upward towards where she had last seen him. There was no sonic boom to follow, so she knew that he was not going all-out. The air was growing colder with the increasing altitude, and Ponyville below began to get smaller and smaller. They were now much higher than most ponies preferred to travel.
‘Where are you going?’ she asked herself.
Flora could feel her breathing grow more difficult. Not only was the air growing more frigid, but it was also thinning with the altitude, and by the looks of the ground below, they had to be thousands of feet in the air. But then she saw him sitting on an altocumulus cloud, glancing down at the far-off world below. With raspy respiration, she made her way up towards him, albeit much slower than before. Landing beside him, she collapsed on the cloud.
“Take it easy, Flora,” Tempest replied, never averting his gaze from the ground below. “Oxygen levels here are only half of what you’re used to.”
“Where are we? How high are we?”
“My lookout. 18,000 feet. 5,500 meters.”
Flora peeked her head over the edge of the fluffy white puffball and looked down below with an almost vertigo.
“Why are we here, Tempest?” she asked in almost a whisper.
“These might be our last few days,” Tempest replied emotionlessly. “And if they are, I wanted to look down at it all. One last time.”
His eyebrows furrowed downward.
“No more talking about it. No more apologies over the things we’ve done. No more fights or bickering or heartbreak. No more pretending that we’ll make it.”
He let out a slow cold breath.
Flora didn’t know what to say, but figured he preferred it that way and kept her thoughts to herself. The two did not look at one another, continuing to watch the horizon, and while they did, Flora gently took Tempest’s hoof and gave it a squeeze. Flora glanced at him to see that he still did not avert his gaze, but felt warm when she saw a light smile cross his face. All he wanted right now was someone to appreciate the world in silence with him, and Flora was more than happy to be the friend he needed.
_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _
Far below, the cookout was beginning to take shape with each passing hour. Tables filled with all kinds of food stood with balloons and decorations aplenty, compliments of Pinkie Pie. While Bismarck and Big Macintosh put the final touches on the dunk tank that they had constructed together,
As everyone gathered around the food tables, Applejack stood up on a bale of hay and whistled loudly for their attention. Over a dozen pairs of eyes glanced up from what they were doing to focus on the orange mare.
“Welcome, everypony!” she shouted cheerfully. “It’s good to see y’all again! Ah’m so glad that y’all were able to make it today!”
As the small crowd clapped in response, Andromeda looked around for Tempest and Flora, but could not see them anywhere. Rainbow Dash was nowhere to be found either and she began to wonder whether or not that was a coincidence.
“As y’all may know by now, this’ll probably be our last big party together, as our very own Twilight and Andromeda are very near to completin’ their spell!”
Another round of applause.
“So with that said, the Apple family and ah are determined to make this the best sendoff cookout ever! Bless the food and the hooves that prepared it! Dig in and enjoy the party!”
“Party!” Pinkie Pie and Cherry Pie shouted in unison, while Berry Pie had already begun stuffing his mouth.
With his work finally done, Bismarck sat where he was and watched the event unfold with a warmth he couldn’t describe. For a moment, a brief moment, things felt like they were back to being what they always were. It was more than just a party. It was a window to the past; his past, their future.
“Feels like home,” he said softly to Applejack as she handed him a cup of cider and took a seat next to him.
“It is home,” she replied. “You may not have been born yet, but yer as much of a part of this farm as all of the apple trees combined.”
“So little has changed,” Bismarck chuckled. “The trees, the house, the fence… you…”
Applejack gave him a hard “love jab” in the ribs, releasing a loud “UMPH” from the large stallion.
“Yer jus’ sayin’ that!” she laughed. “Ah prolly aged like milk.”
“No, no, no! You look great in mah time! Honest!”
Applejack raised an eyebrow at him and took a swig. Her eyes had a soft glow to them.
“Ah’ve been meanin’ to ask you questions, about mah future, but ah,” she said slowly, “ah guess ah could never think of the right things to ask.”
Bismarck looked at her curiously.
“What do you want to know?”
“Ya see, that’s just it, Bismarck. There ain’t much ah really want to know. Ah’m mostly happy with watchin’ how things have turned out.”
The two caught sight of Bucky running around with Orion and Peach, making all kinds of trouble, and the two chuckled aloud.
“Spendin’ these days with you boys has been some of the best in mah life. Bucky is so much like yer aunt Apple Bloom. It’s like seein’ a male double of her. His energy, his love of life, and his intelligence is wonderful, but it’s his good heart that really makes me proud.”
“He’s a good colt.”
“And yer a good big brother.”
Bismarck tipped his hat back and smirked.
“Sometimes. Sometimes, not so much. Ah ignored him half the time when we were both young’ns. When ah finally matured ah left home to make it on my own. Should’ve been there fer him more often.”
Applejack leaned on his side and nudged him.
“Ah’m incredibly proud of you too, Bismarck. You’re selfless, hard-workin’, compassionate, and a natural leader. You just put too much pressure on yerself. Ah don’t need to be yer mom to figure that out.”
Just as they spoke, a loud laugh sounded off from the rest of the group. Radiance’s snorting could be heard from a mile away and the thought of Rarity’s daughter losing her composure created laughter all around her. Even Big Macintosh let out a deep guffah. Bismarck’s emerald irises fixated on her snowy complexion from the distance and Applejack noticed.
“She really is a fantastic girl,” she smirked.
“Yeah,” Bismarck replied dreamily. “She is.”
The two stood side-by-side for a minute or so, listening and watching the world around them. Bismarck’s attention slowly shifted from Radiance to Rarity, who looked so much like her daughter at this age. He saw many of Radiance’s quirks and idiosyncrasies in her; the way she carried herself, her elegant poise, her confidence. He then took notice of his own family. Big Macintosh was not much of a mingler, choosing instead to be within helping distance of Granny Smith.
“You have yer uncle’s kind nature,” Applejack told him. “It’s what’ll make you a great father.”
“Ah hope so,” Big Macintosh said.
Applejack grew quiet again, but more so than usual.
“It was… hard… livin’ without mine,” she lamented. “Granny Smith tried her hardest, but she was old and without help. Big Macintosh took the role of stallion of the house, and that was difficult on him. He couldn’t do it all, and with Apple Bloom being just a baby, we all had our responsibilities.”
Their eyes collectively turned to Apple Bloom and Bucky playing together. It would be the only time they would do so at the same age.
“Apple Bloom was lucky. When Granny got too old, Big Mac and ah became the parental figures, even though she was just our little sister. It felt weird for us, but she’s gotten to have the one thing we no longer could; the chance to be a filly.”
Applejack took gentle hold of Bismarck’s chin and pulled his attention to her. Her emerald eyes burrowed deep into his with warm seriousness.
“Yer a husband and a father now, Bismarck. You have responsibilities too. Ah can’t change my upbringing, but you can control your son or daughter’s. Give yer baby the foalhood yer uncle and ah lost years ago. Love yer child with all of yer heart and take care of Radiance. Be the father that ah wished ah still had. Will you promise me that?”
Bismarck smiled back and held his mother’s hoof.
_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _
Flora let out a deep sigh. She and Tempest had been sitting high above Ponyville for what felt like an hour, yet something prevented her from leaving. Only when Tempest stood up again did she move.
“It’s time to go,” he announced.
“How are you feeling?”
With a slight nod and a movement in the side of his mouth that almost looked like a smile, he told her that he felt better, and without another word he extended his hoof to help her up. The glide down took less time than when they had rocketed into the sky, but it was better this way. As the farm and all of the events that went with it approached, Flora felt lighter again.
“Looks like they started the party without us,” Flora pointed out, spotting the group of friends and family below. “What say we split up and mingle?”
Once they had touched down again, she rubbed her cold wings to warm them and glanced around for Fluttershy. Tempest, meanwhile, began looking for Andromeda, but before Flora began walking away, he spoke up again.
“Hey, Flora,” he said with a loudly soft voice.
The blue pegasus stallion gave her a smile.
As Flora gave him a nod and grinned back, another voice called from behind them.
“Tempest!” Andromeda exclaimed, spotting them in an instant. “Tempest, over here!”
Tempest slowly made his way towards the purple unicorn, who wasted little time in speaking up.
“Where’ve you been? I was looking for you for hours!”
“Sorry, Andi. I didn’t mean to ditch you guys like that. I just… needed a little time to think.”
A quiet stilled them.
“Partially,” Tempest admitted. “Yeah… listen… could I… talk to you for a moment? In private?”
Andromeda blinked rapidly.
“Yeah, of course! Of course you can,” she replied, caught off-guard by his honesty. “Let’s, uh… let’s stand by the tree over there.”
While they strolled side-by-side towards the meeting spot, an amethyst pair of eyes was following their every movement with keen interest.
“So what’s up, Tem-”
“So look-” Tempest said abruptly, accidentally interrupting her.
There was an awkward pause. The two stared at each other uncomfortably.
“You go first,” Andromeda motioned.
“Andi…” Tempest began, trying to remember his thought process, “I just wanted to let you know that I’m over what happened with my mom. I feel better and I don’t want to talk about it anymore. In fact, I’m just done talking about all these events in general. Time travel, hurt friends, hurt feelings… just… all of it.”
“Okayyy,” Andromeda said with a raised eyebrow, trying to follow where he was going with all of this. “So what do you want to to talk about?”
“That’s just it. We’ve been so busy with getting home that I’ve never gotten to tell you what I’ve been wanting to tell you, and it took a cold cloud to convince myself to say it.”
Andromeda was now thoroughly confused.
“And that is?”
Tempest let out a deep sigh. He couldn’t look her in her big sunset eyes.
“You want to get a coffee sometime?”
“A coffee,” Andromeda repeated, piecing his motive together. “As two friends getting their caffeine fix together?”
She let out a light chuckle, but Tempest remained silent.
“That,” Tempest shrugged, “or maybe more than that.”
The purple mare felt stunned by the proposition. She hadn’t even realized that he even liked her as more than a friend, let alone enough to ask her out. Her physical reaction looked paralyzed, but deep inside her mind, two very different subconscious thoughts were duking it out.
‘What the hay does me mean he wants to get coffee?’ one voice shouted. ‘Since when has he EVER been interested in us? And where is this even coming from?’
‘Maybe he’s been wanting to ask us for a long time,’ another suggested. ‘Tempest has never been the one to show his cards.’
‘He YELLED at us when we told the group about the broken time travel spell. Are you saying that this same hotheaded stallion wants to ‘go get coffee?’’
‘He also apologized for that. And you should know that it might have been a side-effect of the spell anyway. Maybe he’s been hiding feelings for a while.’
‘Or maybe it’s just a spontaneous question. How do we know this isn’t an end-of-the-world decision he’s making? We can’t be sure about this, and right now we need to come up with an answer quick. So what’s it going to be?’
“I’ll think about it,” Andromeda’s mouth blurted out loud, unaware of what she was really saying.
Tempest glanced up at her, looked away, and gave a strong nod of understanding-but-not-really-liking.
“Okay,” he replied, stone-faced.
“Okay?” Andromeda repeated, hoping Tempest would remind her what she had told him.
He nodded again and stretched his wings.
“Just thought I’d ask,” he replied. “Anyway, I should return to the party. Thanks for talking.”
“Yeah!” Andromeda responded, realizing how suddenly she said that, quickly dialing herself back. “Yeah, no problem.”
Andromeda remained where she stood, frozen like a statue while her head followed Tempest as he walked away to join the others in the party. She had no idea what had just happened. Tempest had just asked her out and she didn’t know how to feel. She never saw him as anything like that, yet, for some odd reason… she didn’t reject the notion either. It was a feeling that screamed ‘complicated.’
As Andromeda returned to where Twilight was hanging out, she caught sight of her mother’s expression. She was hiding a very obvious laugh.
“What’s got you grinning?” Andromeda asked suspiciously.
“Just watching you and Tempest, that’s all,” Twilight winked. “I may have missed out on all kinds of relationships before coming to Ponyville, but it doesn’t take a social pony to see that you lit up a bit when Tempest talked to you. Such a shame he was looking away. He might have caught it!”
Andromeda’s cheeks went bright red.
“What? No, it’s not like that! I’ve just been so busy all this time that we haven’t spoken in forever! I mean, he’s one of my oldest fr-”
“Does he have a girlfriend?”
“MOM!” Andromeda shouted.
Twilight knew that she had Andromeda all embarrassed now. It was the perfect opportunity to have some fun with her.
“Oh, I’ll bet your children would be beautiful!” she said with exaggerated dreaminess. “I wonder, would they end up being pegasi or unicorns?”
Andromeda stood up from her seat with horrified eyes.
“OH…. MY GOSH!” she said, quickly turning around to find someone else to talk to.
Preoccupied with Twilight, Andromeda did not look where she was going and tripped on a hidden rock. With a loud crash, she hit the ground hard, falling flat on her face.
“Andi!” Twilight said. “Are you hurt?”
“Just my pride,” Andromeda grumbled, spitting out a blade of grass, “but thanks for asking.”
As she looked up before pushing herself off of the ground, her sunset eyes crossed at the sight of a blue hoof hovering in front of her face.
“Need some help?” Tempest asked, looking down at her.
With a panicked expression, Andromeda shot back up and dusted herself off. A single daisy stuck out of her purple hair.
“No help needed! I’m fine! Just fine!” she shouted awkwardly.
“Positive! *Ahem* Absolutely! Just gonna… just gonna get some more punch.”
Tempest stood where he was, staring at Andromeda’s suddenly peculiar behavior until she had slinked back into the chaos of the party. Glancing back at Twilight, he smirked.
“Is she okay?” he asked.
“Ohhh, she’s fine,” Twilight answered with a smile that gave him a feeling that he had missed an inside joke. “Just Andromeda being Andromeda, that’s all.”
“If you say so.”
As he parted ways in the opposite direction of Andromeda, Twilight watched him and her daughter with keen intrigue.
[END OF PART 1)