Chapter 48: Together At Last
Berry could feel his entire body scream in agony. Every muscle felt bruised and sore beyond words. Even his bones seemed to ache. His head felt heavy and swollen from his earlier encounters. He touched his neck to see if it was as bad as it felt. A surge of pain shot through him. Mentally, everything felt foggy. He had no recollection of what time or day it was to begin with.
“Good morning, sleepyhead,” a sweetly familiar voice sang.
“Ch-cherry?” Berry whispered, trying to crane his neck to find out who was speaking to him.
Cherry’s bright face appeared above him, looking down with cheerful glee.
“Hey bro-bro,” she smiled. “How’ya feeling?”
“Terrible,” Berry groaned with a smile. “Like I got trampled by a bison stampede.”
“Hey, is that Berry?” another voice sounded, followed by the appearance of Tempest’s face besides Cherry’s. “Well look who it is! Snoozing ugly has finally returned to the land of the living!”
“And boy oh boy, has this princess seen better days!”
“You’re one to talk,” Berry chuckled softly. “At least Bismarck didn’t wail on my face like he did on your ugly mug.”
“And it’s going to take a lot more than a few punches to make me anything less than the most studly stallion around!”
“Awwww, look at you two girls getting along,” Cherry smiled. “Brings a tear to my eye.”
“She’s been crying all day,” Tempest fake-whispered to Berry. “To be honest, it’s a bit embarrassing.”
Cherry gave him a playful punch in the arm before standing up and out of Berry’s field of vision.
“By the way, Berry,” she said, “we’ve got a surprise for you!”
Before Berry could respond, she had opened the door and unleashed the ecstatic joy that was the CMC.
“BERRY!!!” they laughed, leaping onto him.
“GAH!” Berry shouted in pain. “Kids! You’re alright!”
“We missed you!” Peach Cobbler said.
“I missed you guys too. Are you alright? How are you feeling?”
“A lot better than you look,” Bucky answered. “What happened to you?”
Berry’s smile faded slightly.
“Did Cherry not tell you?” he inquired, looking his sister in the eyes.
Cherry gave him a subtle nod. She had not told the children that it was Bismarck who hospitalized both him and Tempest. Gazing back at his twin, he could tell what she was thinking as clearly as if she were talking to him.
‘Please don’t tell them,’ her eyes pleaded. ‘It would break Bucky’s heart.’
Berry nodded in return.
‘I won’t. I promise.’
“All she’d tell us was that there was an accident,” Orion continued, oblivious to the twins’ nonverbal conversation. “But what did happen?”
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“Somethin’ amazin’ happened!” Applejack exclaimed after being welcomed into Twilight’s house. “The children woke up!”
“THEY’RE AWAKE?” Flora shouted as loud as possible, jumping up and down in the air. “Ohmygosh ohmygosh ohmygosh! They’re okay!”
Spinning around as quickly as she could, her hooves slipped on the wooden floor, throwing her body forward on the ground with a loud thud. Unfazed by her moment of klutziness, she scooped herself back up and scrambled to where she last saw Fluttershy.
“MOM! MOM! Peach and the boys woke up!”
Fluttershy dropped the cup of tea she was sipping immediately.
“That’s wonderful!” she cried. “Ohhh, I’m so happy I could shout!”
Wasting no time, Flora continued to run through the house towards Andromeda and Twilight’s workplace.
“Andi! Andi! The kid’s are up! Orion and Peach are okay!”
Andromeda and Twilight sped around the corner with eyes as wide as saucers.
“Orion? Awake?” they repeated, dumbfounded.
In an instant their looks of shock flashed to exuberance as they hugged each other tightly.
“That’s great news! You see, Andi? I knew they would wake up,” Twilight breathed a sigh of relief. “Everything’s going to be fine.”
Andromeda did not reply right away and Twilight could her feel herself being squeezed harder.
“Andi…” Twilight said softly. “Are you alright?”
“I’m fine,” Andromeda answered, letting go of her mother. “It’s just… I haven’t stopped thinking about Orion since he and the kids passed out. I’ve been SO mean to him this entire time and I blamed him for everything. I was so… SO mad at him.”
“It’s okay,” Flora comforted. “What happened is in the past. Let’s just take it from here. Peach Cobbler and Orion are awake and you’re working hard on getting us back to our time. Things are working out after all!”
“Speakin’ of which,” Applejack added, “ah need to get back to work on the farm, so ah’m headed back now. Would y’all like to join me?”
Glancing back at Twilight, Fluttershy, and Flora, Andromeda let out a soft smile.
“Yes. We’d like that very much.”
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Meanwhile, Bismarck and Radiance were walking slowly through Everfree Forest, saying nothing for what felt like an eternity. The crunching shuffles of leaves and twigs under their hooves were the only things to make a sound in the quiet woods. Without a word, Radiance stopped in her tracks, leaving Bismarck to take a few more steps before realizing that she had fallen behind. He turned around to see her standing motionless in the distance.
“Radiance,” he said.
Radiance glanced downward at her hooves.
“I want to go back,” she said.
The two looked at each other for a moment in the breathless forest, the voiceless wind blowing their manes ever slightly.
“Ah think you should,” Bismarck replied gently.
Radiance drew closer to him.
“Come back with me, Biz. The others will forgive you for what you did.”
“Ah know they will, but ah can’t.”
“What’s stopping you?” she inquired. “You don’t need to do this to yourself. You don’t need to sacrifice yourself for their safety.”
Bismarck’s emerald eyes glanced into her sapphires. No longer did they look dull and lifeless like she had seen the past couple days. Their green hue glowed bright once more, but with a peaceful softness.
“There’s nothin’ left fer me to do,” he said calmly. “Ah can’t help with the time travel spell and what little ah can do ain’t worth riskin’ another bloodrage. Ah’m a tickin’ time bomb, Radiance. If ah stay, this darned spell will mess with mah head again and unleash that rage all over again… and ah can’t risk that anymore. Not again.”
Radiance took hold of his face and stared deep into his eyes with fiery focus.
“Bismarck McGee Apple, I am not having any of that! You are not going to lose control again! And if you think that you’re going to play the hero by staying behind so the others can be safe, you’re sorely mistaken! Now we’re going to go back, we’re going to spend our last days with our families, and we’re going to be happy again! Alright!?!?”
Bismarck was a very large and muscular stallion who took after his Uncle Macintosh in the looks department, but in the face of the smaller unicorn mare, he must have looked tiny when she raised her voice. He stared down at her for a moment with a look of speechless astonishment as her gaze never broke away from him. In this moment, Bismarck felt reminded of one of the things he admired so much about Radiance; her strength. After a bit, he began to smile. Soon his smile turned to a grin.
“Golly, Radiance,” he laughed with a shake of his head, “there’s only one other mare in the whole world who could actually intimidate me like you did, and that’s mah mother.”
Radiance smirked playfully and wrapped her arms around him.
“With a thick skull like yours, somepony’s gotta keep you in line.”
The two chuckled a bit more before growing serious again.
“But I mean it,” she continued with a worried tone. “Come back with me. The next few days, hours, or however long we have left… may not always be pretty, but that’s why we have each other. That’s why we have our families and friends. So will you stop blaming yourself for what happened in the past and come home?”
Bismarck rested his head against hers as she gave him a loving squeeze. For all the guilt that weighed his heart from what he had done. Radiance alone seemed to be the remedy it so desperately needed.
“Alright,” Bismarck exhaled. “You win. Ah’ll come home with you.”
Radiance loosened her grip and looked up at him with eyes as deep as any well Bismarck had ever seen.
“Do you promise?” she asked.
“Yeah,” he smiled. “Ah promise.”
_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _
“Don’t make promises you can’t keep, Berry,” Cherry told her bedridden brother as she handed him a cup of coffee.
“I’m serious this time!” Berry insisted, craning his weighted head from his pillow to take a sip. “If we make it out of this alive, I’m asking her out!”
“OOOH! Asking who out?” a visiting Pinkie Pie asked excitedly.
Berry’s already pink cheeks blushed brightly.
“Ah, just some girl who works at the ice cream parlor back in our time. You wouldn’t know her or her family because they haven’t moved to Ponyville yet.”
“You’re kidding me!” Tempest laughed from the doorway that he had obviously been eavesdropping from. “You’ve got a crush on Raspberry Ripple?”
Beside him stood the three CMC’s, all giggling.
“So what if I do, Tempest?” Berry’s face burned even brighter.
As the others laughed, Pinkie Pie felt her heart float with joy.
“That’s so cuuuute!” she exclaimed happily. “I think it’s wonderful that you’ve got a girl back home to go to!”
“She’s not his girlfriend, mom,” Cherry smirked, nudging her brother.
“Not yet, anyway,” Berry replied with confident gulp of coffee.
Burning his tongue, Berry lowered his cup as nonchalantly as he could.
“Just you wait, though. When we get back, I’m going to march up to that counter and ask her out.”
“More like march up to the counter, freeze from fear, and awkwardly order an ice cream sundae,” Tempest said. “Face it, Berry. As great as you are with other ponies, you’ve always gotten flustered by girls you’ve liked.”
“There’s nothing wrong with that,” Pinkie Pie added. “Everypony gets butterflies in their stomach sometimes. You just have to take a leap of frog!”
“Umm,” Bucky said, “I think you mean a leap of fait-“
Peach Cobbler nudged him.
“So tell me about this girl!” Pinkie continued excitedly. “What’s she like?”
“HOT,” Tempest grinned.
“Tempest!” Cherry exclaimed. “Innapropes!”
“What? Berry’s just going to say the same thing in a different way.”
“It’s a wonder why you’re single, Tempest.”
“Anyway,” Berry said, steering the conversation back on-topic, “she’s…”
“Kids, ah’m home!” Applejack interrupted from downstairs. “And ah brought some guests you might want to see!”
The Crusaders beamed with curiosity and scrambled out of the bedroom, pushing and shoving each other all the way down the stairs until they ran face-to-face with Applejack. Standing right beside her stood Orion and Peach Cobbler’s mothers and sisters.
“MOM!” they shouted simultaneously, leaping towards Twilight and Fluttershy.
The two mares outstretched their arms to grab them and hugged them tightly.
“I was so worried about you!” Fluttershy cried. “I didn’t know if you’d ever wake up! I kept thinking…”
“I’m so glad you’re safe and sound!” Twilight said at the same time. “I didn’t know what to do…”
“I missed you too, mom,” Peach replied, squeezing her mother tighter than he had in a long time. “I don’t remember anything about our coma, but I still really missed you!”
“I love you, mom,” Orion whispered, resting his head against Twilight’s chest as she hugged him.
Twilights amethyst eyes sparkled lovingly.
“I love you too,” she replied, shutting them as she rocked him ever slightly. “Oh stars, and dreams, and gentle night; oh stars and night return!”
Andromeda hugged her mother and brother as Twilight spoke and smiled, finishing the stanza.
“And hide me from the hostile light That does not warm, but burn,” she said happily.
Applejack and Bucky watched the mothers hug their children.
“How come we don’t have a cool family sayin’ like Twilight does?” he asked her.
Applejack rustled his orange hair affectionately.
“Probably ‘cause you and yer brother are named after apples and there ain’t many poems ‘bout apples.”
“Speakin’ of mah brother,” Bucky said, looking up at her with her own green eyes, “why isn’t Bismarck back yet? And where’s Radiance? Ah thought they were just doin’ errands.”
Applejack could feel herself grow uncomfortable. She was never a good liar and watching her son’s puppy dog eyes made it all the more difficult.
“Don’t worry about them, sugarcube,” she said, moving towards the kitchen. “Ah’m sure whatever they’re doin’ won’t keep’m busy fer too long. Now how about ah whip us up some grub?”
“But we just ate.”
Applejack cleared her throat.
“Ah know, but yer a growin’ boy and it’s a mother’s job to keep her colts fed and-“
A knock on the door interrupted all of the conversations.
“APPLEJACK!” Pinkie Pie yelled from upstairs. “SOMEPONY’S AT THE DOOR!”
“Thank you, Pinkie, I can see that!” Applejack shouted back. “Now who in the world can that be?”
Twilight let go of Orion and Andromeda and pushed them away from the door.
“Hide upstairs for now,” she ordered. “We don’t know who that could be.”
Andromeda and the kids nodded without any retort and silently left the entrance hall. Fluttershy and Twilight glanced at each other nervously as Applejack passed them both to reach the front door. Another knock sounded just as she began to open it. There, in the bright daylight, stood a dirty Radiance. Her tangled hair covered part of her right eye.
“Radiance! Thank goodness yer alright!” Applejack exclaimed with relief. “What happened? Are you hungry? Do you need somethin’ to drink? Where…”
In mid-sentence, Applejack attention caught something. Stepping to the side, she saw that a familiar stallion had been standing directly behind Radiance. Bismarck’s head hung low, his chestnut hair hiding his downward-pointed eyes. Applejack’s eyes welled up.
“Bismarck,” she said softly, drawing closer to him.
Bismarck did not look up from his shame.
“Hey mom,” he replied solemnly. “Ah…”
Before he could say another word, Applejack had thrown her arms around him.
“What happened wasn’t yer fault,” she interrupted. “Even if it were, ah wouldn’t care. All that matters now is that yer home!”
Radiance waved at Twilight and Fluttershy who had stepped out of the house behind Applejack. Letting go of Bismarck, she approached Radiance with a smile and drew her in for a hug of her own. Radiance’s eye grew wide from surprise.
“Thank you… fer takin’ care of him.”
A light blush filled Radiance’s cheeks.
“Anytime,” replied said with a timid smile.
“Now let’s go in,” Applejack said, leading them towards the front door. “You two are probably starvin’! Ah’ll rustle up some food fer ya.”
As the group entered the house, Twilight made her way to the stairs and shouted upwards.
“Everypony, you can come down! Bismarck and Radiance are back!”
Bismarck’s ears twitched at the sound of hooves pounding from the floor above. They were small and very fast hoofsteps that could not belong to an older pony.
“Bucky!” he exclaimed, his body jolting back to life.
Forgetting everything else, Bismarck’s attention narrowed on the golden colt who soon turned the corner and was scrambling down the stairs.
“Bismarck!” Bucky yelled excitedly.
“Bucky! Yer okay!”
Bucky leaped towards his big brother and laughed. He did not remember how long he had been unconscious and barely missed Bismarck, but something in him felt overjoyed to see him again. Bismarck, on the other hoof, was even happier and hugged his sibling tight.
“Biz, you’re crushing me,” Bucky laughed.
“Ah just missed you so much, ya little varmint! All of you little troublemakers!” Bismarck said as Orion and Peach Cobbler also tackled him.
“Bismarck! Radiance! You’re home!” Cherry exclaimed with Andromeda and Pinkie Pie walking beside her.
“Hooray! I love reunions!” Pinkie said with glee.
While the zany pink mare zoomed from pony to pony excitedly, Cherry gave Bismarck the tightest hug he had all day.
“I’m so happy you’re back, Biz,” she told him. “I was afraid you’d never come back.”
“Yer not… mad at me? Fer what ah did to Bucky and Tempest?”
“Of course not!” Cherry scoffed. “What happened was out of our control. I know you, Bismarck! The stallion who hurt my brother was not the same colt I grew up with! You know that!”
“We’re just happy you’re feeling better,” Andromeda added. “We didn’t want to lose you or Radiance.”
Bismarck’s eye caught a glance at Radiance, who stood nearby with a look of ‘I told you so’ on her face.
“That’s right!” Pinkie said, suddenly showing up. “We’re all family here! Or rather, some of us are friends and others are family. Well, I think we’re family. We might share the same great-great-great-great-great-great-great-“
“It freaks me out how much you look like your mom at this age,” Radiance said.
“I know, right? It’s like looking in a mirror when I have bedhead!”
“So how’s Berry? Is he alright?”
“Berry’s fine. He woke up earlier today. Lots of bruises, a few cuts, but nothing too serious. He’ll be just fine. You guys can see him if you’d like. Tempest’s upstairs taking care of him.”
“And how is Tempest?” Radiance asked, noticing Bismarck’s pleasant demeanor growing uneasy again.
“He’s looking a little worse. Bismarck… did a number on his face… but he’s had more time to heal, so he’s not as bad as he was.”
This time Cherry saw that Bismarck had grown quiet and placed a comforting hoof on his shoulder.
“It’s okay,” he told him. “He’s feeling better and he’s had time to process. You can go visit them both, if you’d like. Do you want me to go with you?”
“No. Ah’ll go by mahself.”
Radiance and Cherry glanced at each other.
“Alright, Biz. If you need anything, just let me know.”
With a thankful nod, Bismarck made his way up the stairs alone. Each hoofstep reminded him of running up and down those very stairs when he grew up as a colt. The very stairs he had fallen down on countless occasion, often with Tempest or Berry laughing from nearby. It was funny how much and how little things had changed. Approaching the room where Berry most likely was, Bismarck could hear him and Tempest speaking.
“Oh yeah?” Berry smirked at Tempest. “Well your face is so ugly, that…”
He stopped in mid-sentance and looked up at Bismarck, who stood at the door.
“Bismarck! Just the guy we’ve been waiting for. Come on in. Make yourself at home. Tempest and I were just talking about how his face looks like a chewed up dog biscuit thanks to you.”
“Said the bruised banana,” Tempest chuckled.
“Hey! That’s DOCTOR bruised banana to you!” Berry joked back with an exaggeratedly raised eyebrow. “Seriously, no respect from kids these days. Am I right, Bismarck?”
Bismarck stood frozen in place, speechless.
“Well said, Biz. Well said. You see, dogface? I told you he’d be surprised to see us in good spirits.”
“That’s because Cherry put you on some pain medication.”
“Heck yeah she did!” Berry sang with a stupid grin. “And I’m feeling Niiiiice!”
“Poor widdle baby couldn’t handle one widdle fight,” Tempest told Bismarck. “Don’t tell him, though. If his ego bruises as easily as his body, then somepony’s going to have to play psychiatrist with him again, and it’s not going to be-“
“Okay, hold up!” Bismarck finally said, entering the room. “Can somepony tell me why neither of you are wantin’ to tear me a new one? Why aren’t y’all mad at me?”
“Mad?” Berry said with pseudo-surprise. “We’re not mad, are we Tempest?”
“We’re a little mad.”
“Well, alright, fine. We’re a bit mad. Maybe like… I don’t know… like 5 mad.”
“But we forgive you, Biz,” Tempest said. “Seriously. We know that you didn’t mean anything by it.”
“And I’m pretty sure Tempest was asking for it,” Berry chuckled. “Literally. Didn’t he lose his mind and basically force you to turn his face into dish of mashed potatoes?”
“It doesn’t matter,” Bismarck answered. “Ah’m sorry for what ah did to you. Both of you.”
“It’s fine, man,” Tempest shrugged. “We probably deserved it. Well, Berry deserved it at least.”
“You see why we needed you back?” Berry asked Bismarck with another grin. “I’m stuck in bed and I’ve got to deal with this guy all day.”
“Ah missed you guys,” Bismarck laughed.
“Missed you too, buddy,” Tempest said. “Things aren’t the same without you and Radiance.”
“How is she?” Berry asked genuinely. “How is Radiance? Was I able to keep her safe when you… you know…”
“She’s doing well,” Bismarck answered, looking his friend in the eye with a nod of respect. “You kept her safe. You’re a good friend, Berry. Thank you.”
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“Don’t mention it,” Applejack replied to Radiance while she prepared the meal. “It’s the least ah can do fer you after you risked yer own safety to take care of Bismarck when he went on a rampage.”
“It was nothing,” Radiance insisted.
“Horse feathers! If stickin’ yer neck out fer yer husband like were nothin’, then marriage would always be a piece o’cake! ‘Cause look… ah ain’t never been married before, so ah obviously can’t say this from personal experience, but it doesn’t take a genius to see that you genuinely love him. Don’t you?”
Radiance’s heart felt fluttery. She and Bismarck had been married for several months now, but this was the first time she had ever talked about it with Applejack, and even though her country mother-in-law was now her own age, she still saw her as an authority figure and the loving mother of Bismarck.
“I do,” she sighed sweetly.
“We haven’t had much time to really have a one-on-one, Radiance,” Applejack said while she stirred the stew, “but fer what it’s worth… ah can see what he sees in ya.”
“Of course ah do. Yer smart, polite, helpful, caring, a heck of a good cook (from what ah’ve heard), and to be honest,” Applejack chuckled, “you’ve got to be one of the most gorgeous mares ah’ve ever laid eyes on. Bismarck picked a good one.”
Radiance’s white face blushed bright red at the compliment.
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“Don’t mention it,” Berry replied, leaning his head back onto his pillow. “Always here to help.”
Bismarck and Berry sat down next to the bed and took a moment for a breather. With everything that had been happening in the last week, it felt nice to just chill out together.
“Sooo…. Bismarck,” Tempest spoke up, “did you know that Berry has a crush on Raspberry Ripple?”
“Tempest!” Berry shouted, jerking himself and Bismarck upright.
“Wait, he what? Yer kiddin’!” Bismarck laughed hysterically. “Raspberry Ripple the ice-cream girl?”
“The very one!”
Bismarck shot a humored look at his bedridden friend with a huge grin.
“Ah man! Berry Pie’s shootin’ fer the stars, everypony! Look at him go!”
“Not sure what’s worse,” Berry sighed. “The possibility that we might not live to see the future again or the fact that I’ll never live this down if we do.”
As Tempest and Bismarck cracked up once again, Berry couldn’t help but to snicker with them and it didn’t take long before the three old friends were all laughing hysterically. Despite all of the pain they had all inflicted on one another, their bond still managed to weather the tides of hurt and misfortune. Not even death itself was strong enough to tear them apart. They were more than just friends.
They were brothers.