The Life That Late He Led: Chapter 6

The next day, five friends gathered in Sugarcube Corner.

“Ah don’t know about the rest of you,” drawled Applejack, “but Ah gotta admit, Ah’m awful curious about where they went.”

“So are we all, my dear,” said Rarity. “So are we all. We must trust that they knew what they were doing when they chose not to reveal the location of their honeymoon nest.”

“Ah’m not so sure that was such a good idea.” Applejack took another sip of spring water. “There ain’t a whole lot that’ll scare me, but some parts of Equestria just give me the creeps. And not just the Everfree, neither.”

“The Everfree isn’t so scary,” said Fluttershy. “There’s almost nothing there that really wants to hurt you.”

Almost nothin’ is an awful long way from nothin’,” Applejack retorted.

“Well, if I were somepony who hadn’t been in Equestria very long, which of course I’m not, and I’d just gotten married,” began Pinkie, “I’d want to go to a place that neither one of us had ever gone to, and if I were a Princess I’d want to go to some place that nopony ever went, just so I could get some peace and quiet.”

“What do you know about peace and quiet?” asked Rainbow Dash.

“Nothing,” said Pinkie airily. “But I’m not a Princess so it doesn’t matter.”

Applejack brightened. “Ah think Pinkie might be on to somethin’ there. Where in Equestria could they go that neither one of ’em has ever seen and that nopony ever goes?”

<======>

“So tell me again,” Twilight yawned, “why we’re on the way to Hollow Shades?”

“Because you’ve never been there,” said Desert Brush. “Simple as that.”

“You’ve never been there either,” Twilight replied.

“I’ve never been anywhere, at least not in Equestria.”

“Oh, come on. You’ve been all the way to the western coast. Remember Vanhoover?”

“I’d rather not, if you don’t mind,” Brush said stiffly.

“It’s a very nice place most of the time. We just happened to get caught up in something.”

“Getting caught up in things,” said Brush, “isn’t exactly what I think of as a wonderful experience. Even when it ends happily.”

Twilight rose to her hooves, did a couple of laps around their rail car, and returned to her seat. “As far as I know,” she said, “there’s no place in Equestria where you can guarantee that nothing will happen.”

“Except Blueblood’s office,” Brush quipped.

“Don’t go there,” Twilight warned.

“Wouldn’t dream of it,” answered Brush, who got up and stretched his legs a bit. “And Rarity suggested Hollow Shades.”

Rarity did? What was she thinking?”

“Well, she wasn’t actually suggesting it. It just came up in conversation one day. I have no idea what we were talking about at the time.”

“What did she say about it?”

Brush flashed her a grin. “She said it was, and I quote, ‘as close as you can get to a cemetery, but without all those dreadful dead ponies.’ Sounded like peace and quiet to me.”

Twilight laughed. “I guess we’re due for a little peace and quiet.”

“And it’s only a couple of days. After that, we can play it by ear; we can go on to Manehattan, we can take some time off and hike through the woods, or we can backtrack and see Foal Mountain.” He paused. “Why is it called Foal Mountain, anyway?”

“According to legend,” said Twilight, “it was a place of great fertility, and pegasus couples would fly there hoping to conceive.”

“Seriously? Did it ever work?”

“It worked almost all the time. A place of Great Magic, they said. More likely, they felt that by coming to the mountain, the matter was now out of their hooves, and once they quit worrying about it —”

“Hmmmm. Maybe we shouldn’t go to Foal Mountain.”

“Why not? It wouldn’t hurt to try, would it?”

“I suppose not,” said Brush. “But the problem here isn’t a lack of magic.”

“I know,” Twilight whispered, bowing her head. “But those ponies of old, they wanted to believe. And I want to believe.” She gazed at the ceiling of the rail car. “I know I shouldn’t want this. And yet somehow I do.”

“Why shouldn’t you want this?” Brush asked.

“I’ve already done the whole motherhood thing. I’ve raised Spike from an egg. He’s practically a teenager now.”

“Did you not enjoy it?”

Twilight shivered. “I’ve loved every minute of it. But … there was always something missing. It’s like he was given to me for safekeeping, but he wasn’t really…”

“He wasn’t really yours. I think I understand.”

“The part that hurts,” said Twilight, “is knowing some day Spike will ask about his dragon parents, and I won’t know what to tell him. He’ll set off on a quest, because that’s what dragons do, and I’ll never see him again.”

“He went on a quest before, didn’t he? And he came back from that.”

“That’s because he didn’t get the answers he was seeking. Once he gets them, he has no reason to come back.”

“Love will bring him back,” Brush said. “It’s the one thing you can count on.”

“You seem … awfully sure of yourself.”

He swept away a lock of her mane and kissed her. “And I get that from you.”

Twilight smiled. “What happens when he’s too big for his living quarters?”

“Then we all scrunch down a little bit and continue to make him welcome.” Brush did half of a deep-knee bend to illustrate. “I mean, that’s what, fifty or a hundred years from now?”

She gave him that sideways look. “You’re planning to be here for that?”

“I have no idea,” he admitted. “I could hang around for a century or so; I might not make it until sunrise tomorrow. Ultimately, it’s not my call.”

“What do you mean?”

“Apparently my presence here was foreordained sixty-odd years ago, by somepony with a vision. I have to assume that this somepony also knows when I’m going to depart, because I certainly don’t.”

“I hadn’t thought of that,” Twilight said sheepishly. “But since you brought it up, what do you really think about … that?”

“Does it really matter what I think about it? It simply is. I thought the wording was weird, like something out of Nabokov.”

“Nabo-who?”

“Vladimir Nabokov. Human writer from the last century. Best known for a smug little tale of foalcon.” He coughed on that last word. “Bastard was probably in love with her, too.”

“Underage filly?”

“Let’s just say she wasn’t on her way to earning her cutie mark, and leave it at that.”

Twilight nodded.

“Anyway, I can’t complain about having my destiny laid bare. At least it’s a good one.”

“So you’re not angry with Cadance?”

“What’s there to be angry about?” said Brush. “The hoof of the gods, or whatever, comes down and writes You will love a pony. And it turns out that it’s the pony I’m in love with. Now to me, that sounds like the screaming deal of the year.”

She shook her head. “You’re taking this much better than I would.”

“In what way?”

“Well, suppose we’d never met.”

“Okay, we’ll suppose that,” he said. “Since it was, after all, the most likely outcome.”

“What would have happened to you then?”

“The same thing that was happening to me before we met: not much.” He smiled. “It wasn’t a terrible life, really, apart from occasional periods of loneliness. And by then I was used to them.”

Twilight rose to her hooves and walked to the window. “I’m just so … how can I say this? … I guess I’m angry at whoever did this to you.” She stared out the window, as though she expected the culprit to show herself. “It’s wrong, even if it worked out right.” She turned back toward Brush. “And I’m really surprised that you’re not concerned about it.”

“It’s not that I’m not concerned,” he said. “But it’s something I’m not in a position to do anything about.”

“Maybe I can.”

“Maybe you can,” he replied. “But are you sure you want to? Whatever this wacko prophecy means in the long run, it may not be the best idea in the world to mess with it.”

She hung her head. “I guess you’re right. But I hate being at the mercy of forces I can’t control.”

“You’re not at their mercy,” Brush retorted. “I am. And I figure I’m doing pretty well for myself following their instructions.” He yawned. “Can we talk about something other than Brush’s Incredible Destiny? It’s duller than anything this side of drywall, and we all know what I think of drywall.”

Twilight giggled. “It didn’t stop you from signing a subsidy order to produce the stuff in Fillydelphia.”

“So you are reading the paperwork.”

“I am in charge of your office,” Twilight pointed out. “Officially, anyway.”

“And everything in the office has to be official. I’m glad we had this little talk.”

“You’re so silly.” She kissed him on the ear. “What would I do without you?”

“Whatever it is,” he said, “I’m sure it doesn’t involve riding a train into the middle of nowhere.”

“Technically, this isn’t the middle of nowhere. We’re almost halfway to Hollow Shades, which I’m pretty sure is somewhere.”

He got up and clambered over to the window. “How far are we from Foal Mountain?”

She thought for a moment. “Maybe six hours or so. Why?”

“Does the train stop there?”

“At the base of it, yes.” She stared at him. “What did you have in mind?”

“Well, after all this talk of destiny and stuff,” said Brush, “maybe it’s time we dealt with the one question that keeps coming up.”

He didn’t have to look at her: he knew she was crying.

“I thought you wanted this. You certainly seemed to, half an hour ago.”

“We already know the answer to that question,” she whispered. “And we’re not pegasi.”

“It doesn’t mean we shouldn’t keep trying, though, does it?”

“No,” said Twilight Sparkle. “No, it doesn’t. But we can do that here.”

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