Fallout Equestria: The Daily Unlife

"Live a little, they say. Easier said than done."

These are the voyages of the Canterlot ghoul Lemon Frisk. His mission: to find the Meaning of Unlife. His continuing perils: crazed raiders, feral ghouls, overzealous rangers, deranged robots, and a mare who won't stop poking him.



12. Day Ten - Living Together

Living Together
cherishing fleeting things

Lemon Frisk smiled at the orange mare lying next to him in the double-sized bed. "Hey, Misty... why do I put up with you?"

"I remind you of Blossom Tree?" Misty Cloud said, lazily.

"Ooh. First of all, shrink license revoked," Lemon Frisk said. "Secondly, not really, no. Well, there's the fact you're a mare, and that I love you, but really... that's where the similarity kinda ends."

"Revoked? I could tell you it's because I remind you of your mother, and it'd still be perfectly in line with Stagmund Froud's manuals."

"That guy was a hack, anyway."

"Don't tell me you knew him, too."

Lemon Frisk rolled his eyes. "No. I'm not that old. Still a hack. His only contribution was actually establishing psychology as a field. Westermare's studies reduced that whole silly family attraction theory to ashes anyway."

"So, I'm not like her at all, then, hm?" Misty said, moving the conversation back to the original subject. "How so?"

Lemon tilted his head, and thought for a moment. "Well, she had a certain... passion, but it was more of an enthusiasm to get dragged along with the crazy stuff I did." He looked at Misty. "You're different. You have your own driving force. I'm not quite sure what it is, but, you look at the world with wonder and curiosity."

"It's all quite new out there, for all of us here," Misty pointed out.

"True, true, but still. You actually went out there."

"For all the good that did," Misty said, frowning.

Lemon got up from the bed. "Well, you managed to bring back a useful pony."

"More like, the useful pony brought me back," Misty said, staring up at the ceiling. "And... now we're leaving again."

Lemon raised his eyebrow. "Having second thoughts, then?"

Misty shook her head. "Not really. It's just, the political situation..." She sat upright on the bed, legs tucked underneath her, and looked at Lemon Frisk. "I never really believed what you said was true until Apple Twig showed up. Sad thing is, you probably are the best way out of this mess, from the Stable's point of view."

She got out of the bed and started brushing her mane. "But there's more to this than a political situation," she said, glancing at him in the bedroom mirror while getting through the tangled bedmane. "They can't just force this onto someone, especially not by guilting them into it. You're a free pony, Lemon."

"So far for my daily chat with my psychologist," Lemon quipped, walking up behind her.

"Hah!" Misty laughed. "First of all, I already told you I wasn't, secondly, you just revoked my shrink license."

"Thirdly, you don't do that with people who are too close to you," Lemon added.

Misty smiled, a distant look in her eyes. "Well, getting psychoanalyzed by your own daughter gets old pretty quickly. It unnerved the hell out of my parents. I kinda stopped doing it to keep some semblance of a normal life, you know?"

"Oh," Lemon said. "I never really considered that."

"You never got the joyful parental experience of a kid in puberty," she said. Her eyes widened as she realized exactly what she'd said, and the brush clattered to the ground. She brusquely turned towards Lemon. "I'm sorry!" she blurted out. "I didn't mean to bring that up."

A flash of pain went over Lemon's face, disappearing as quickly as it came. "It's o... well, no, it's not okay." He gave her a wan smile. "But, I'll live. Sort of."

Misty walked closer to him and hugged him. "I'm so sorry. I was just thinking about when I was growing up."

Lemon Frisk sighed. "Well, I wouldn't mind still getting the full parental experience," he said.

"How are you going to pull that off?" Misty asked, throwing a sly glance at his back legs.

Lemon shrugged. "We'll figure something out."

Misty quickly finished her hair care, and the pair made its way out of the bedroom. Misty threw a look at the kitchen. "Ah, dammit," she grumbled, "I forgot to get stuff for breakfast last night."

"The common room, then?" Lemon asked, unsure if that was a good idea after the events of the previous day.

Misty's eyes widened. "Oh, right! They'll all be expecting us!" She grinned, a slight blush creeping over her face. "C'mon, let's go!"

"Expecting us?" Lemon asked, once again abusing his poor eyebrow. "What do you m—"

"Come on!"

* * *

As they opened the door to the common room, Lemon Frisk was more or less expecting it to be filled with ponies preparing for the expedition.

Especially given the fact it wasn't even noon yet, he was certainly not expecting the place to be filled with streamers and ponies ready to throw them a party.

Rambo Apple walked up to them. "Congratulations, Misty and Lemon!" he said, beaming. Before he could say anything more, a familiar yellow-maned white unicorn slipped in front of them and gave Misty Cloud a big hug.

"Misty!" Cocktail Party said. "How does that feel, huh?" she asked. "You're finally a wife, now."

Lemon Frisk blinked. "Wait, what?"

Misty Cloud looked up at him with a dreamy happy look in her eyes before his words got through to her. Her eyes widened. "You mean... Oh! Of course!" An unsure look crept onto her face, and she anxiously tapped a hoof against her chin. "You never realized..."

Lemon Frisk looked at Misty, a pensive look on his face. As always, his old undead brain was working hard to figure out the situation, and in this case, it didn't take long.

"The breeding program," he said. "Misty... have I, by any chance, accidentally given you a marriage proposal, that evening two days ago?"

"You talked about wanting to have a family and moving in together," Misty said, somewhat embarrassed by the fact she never bothered to explicitly explain. "I thought you'd have realized what that meant to us, here."

"Well, I can't say this isn't a surprise. I, uh, really didn't see it coming." He looked at Rambo Apple. "I'd have expected you to mention something like that yesterday, at least."

"No way, ponay," the green stallion said. "It's bad luck to mention these things 'fore the house is actually broken in!"

Lemon glanced at the crowd, and noticed the resident DJ was notably absent amongst the ponies. "So," he said to Misty, "that's why you got so angry when Apple Twig showed up? And why she didn't even try arguing?"

Misty nodded, and leaned against him. "I'm sorry... traditional marriages as you know them are just something from story books, for us. I should've known you wouldn't expect it. But the way you asked, well, it was just... how these things are supposed to be asked, you know? It's how Big Apple would've asked, if we'd been in compatible breeding queues."

She looked up at him. "I hope you don't... mind?" Lemon could see the hint of fear in her eyes.

"Are you kidding?" Lemon asked, beaming. "There's nothing like a traditional marriage out in the wastes. I didn't think we'd ever be able to have anything even slightly official like that." He looked around at the party thrown for the two of them, and smiled. "This, though? This is nice. Kinda sudden, maybe, but definitely nice."

He frowned, and looked at Misty. "So, you ponies get the wedding night before the wedding, then? No... if 'breaking in' the house is what makes it official, then... the wedding night kinda is the wedding." He shook his head, smiling. "Your Stable is a weird place, Misty."

Misty grinned apologetically. "Sorry?"

"So, uh," he continued, looking around the room, "is there anything like speeches involved in this?"

Misty snorted. "Nah. Breeding queue, remember? No romantic 'how much my special somepony means to me' stuff in this Stable."

"Yeah, I guess that'd get boring pretty quickly," he said. "«Oh, I remember the first time I laid eyes on her,»" he recited dramatically. "«It was in Stable 69, in the residential areas, exactly where the breeding queue roster said she lived. Though I might've seen her at school, too, now I think about it.»"

Misty laughed. "Yeah, you get the idea." She smiled. "This is more like a housewarming party, really. Wishing the couple a good life and healthy children."

"Not that that really applies to us," Lemon said.

"The life part, or the children?" Misty joked.

"Heh," Lemon chuckled. "'Till death do us part' is rather one-sided in our case, isn't it?"

"Pity it's not a reliable process, huh?" Misty joked.

"Ugh. Don't even think about that. You may have a thing for ghouls, but that doesn't mean I do."

A loud laugh interrupted their conversation. The source, unsurprisingly, was their resident unicorn version of Pinkie Pie, who was now grinning widely. "You guys are hilarious together!"

Misty and Lemon shared an unsure look. "We are?" Lemon asked.

"Abso-defi-lutely!" Cocktail Party assured them. She suddenly glanced around, seemingly looking for something under the tables. "Ahh, excuse me for a second!" she said. She gave the couple an awkward grin and rushed out to one of the tables with food on them.

"Paintmash, get out from under there! You'll push over the table if you're not careful!" She grabbed the foal's mane in her mouth and gently but firmly pulled him out of his hiding place.

The foal slunk down. "Sorry, mom," he mumbled.

The scene reminded Lemon Frisk of what Misty's father had told him about her stalling her breeding queue position. Lemon hadn't really realized this until now, but most ponies of Misty's age in the Stable were already parents themselves.

He heard a soft sigh beside him. Misty had clearly been reminded of the same thing.

"Feeling old?" he said, half-jokingly.

Misty couldn't help smiling a bit at that. "When I'm with you? Never," she threw back.

Lemon Frisk chuckled. "C'mon, silly pony," he said. "It's our party. Let's enjoy it while it lasts."

Before they managed to get to the 'enjoying' part, though, he heard the distinct sound of a pony clearing his throat behind him, and turned around to see Misty's parents standing there. Hailstorm gave him a long, penetrating stare, which made Lemon involuntarily shrink back, despite the fact the ghoul was at least one and a half century older than him. Misty just rolled her eyes at her father's stern look.

"I guess the traditional wishes of a long life and healthy children hardly apply to you?" Hailstorm asked.

Lemon caught Misty's reaction and smirked. "That's no reason not to wish her that, though," he threw back, leaving his brand new father-in-law at a loss of words. Beside him, Misty failed to suppress a snicker.

"Come on, Hail," Moonstorm said, "let me handle this before you embarrass us even further." She looked at Misty and Lemon with her usual warm smile. "Congratulations, darling," she said as she hugged her daughter. She looked at Lemon, and after a moment of hesitation, finally gave him a squishy hug as well. She shivered involuntarily as she let go, and looked at Misty. "That feels so weird!" she said. Misty just grinned.

"Ahem," Moonstorm said, clearing her throat. "We wish you both a happy and long life together, and strong healthy children—" She glanced at her husband, smirking, "—however you manage to procure those."

"Procure?" Misty asked. "Mom, that just makes us sound like foalnappers or something."

Moonstorm snickered. "Sorry."

Lemon Frisk just smiled. "Thank you, Moonstorm." He realized she had quite diplomatically started her sentence with 'we', so he quickly added, "And Hailstorm."

Hailstorm shook his mane. "Ah well," he said. "You can always go for artificial insemination, I guess. Though you'll need a different donor."

Misty and Lemon exchanged a nervous grin. "Not right away, anyway," Misty said. "I want to see a bit more of the world before settling down."

"Right, right, your whole expedition," Hailstorm said, nodding.

Misty shook her head. "Not really. The place we're going to is barely an hour away, last I remember." She smiled at them. "No, I just... want to see more of the city." She leaned her head against the stallion next to her. "Lemon knew the place pretty well, you know, before it was all destroyed." She looked up at Lemon's face from her leaning position. "I want you to show me all the nice romantic spots." She frowned. "If... that doesn't bring back too many sad memories. Uhm, of Blossom Tree, I mean." She cast her eyes down again. "Sorry."

Lemon gave a small kiss on the top of her head. "Stop worrying about that," he said. He noticed Misty's parents both giving them looks that clearly showed they wanted to ask about it, but weren't sure how. Given their earlier conversations, though, Lemon Frisk was quite sure Moonstorm had already connected the dots, and it didn't surprise him in the least when she finally spoke up.

"Your previous wife was from Whinnyapolis?" she asked.

Lemon blinked, and looked at Misty. It was odd how Blossom Tree had gone from 'his deceased wife' to 'his previous wife'. He wasn't used to that quite yet. Officially, this party was for them 'moving in together', but it had indeed made them 'husband and wife', as far as the Stable was concerned. He couldn't help but smile at that.

Misty raised her head and looked at him. "Lemon? You're zoning out again, dear."

Lemon blinked again. The comment didn't have the intended effect though, since it just focused him on one detail in what she said. "You never called me 'dear' before."

Misty looked as if she'd said something wrong. "Are you... not comfortable talking about her in public?"

"Oh!" Lemon said, realizing he hadn't answered Moonstorm's original question. "No, that's quite all right, I was just overthinking all... this." He motioned a hoof around the room. "You know, marriage and all that, despite you ponies not really calling it that." He looked at Moonstorm. "Yes, Blossom Tree grew up in this city. I met her in the nearby military base, when I was training there."

"You were a military pony?" Hailstorm asked.

Lemon smiled. "Not... quite."

* * *

All in all, the party didn't last very long; after all, there was an expedition planned in the afternoon. After another half hour of talking about his past to Misty's parents, getting best wishes from the ponies there and watching the antics of the foals of Misty's old classmates, Rambo Apple called the pair away to get everything sorted out for the afternoon. The young stallion was wearing a gun holster across his chest, with a gun in it.

"So, uh, I said I'd take care of logistics—" Lemon started, somewhat hesitantly.

"Hah!" Rambo Apple cut him off. "Come on, did you really think I expected you to do that on your moving-in night? That's just absolutely not done, dude! No problemo, ol' Rambo took care of it!"

They walked into the large entrance hall of the Stable. A group of six ponies was waiting for them. Lemon Frisk was rather relieved to see Vector Field amongst them; he was still rather annoyed at the events of the previous day, and could certainly imagine Vector simply not showing up. That relief was quickly replaced with worry when he recognized the pony the Overstallion was talking to.

Apple Twig.

He sighed. He had really hoped to slip out of the Stable without having to deal with her again. The loaded saddlebags on her back made it abundantly clear that there was no way to avoid her. This day would contain politics, one way or another. Misty gave him a sympathetic smile as she noticed the same thing.

"Remember, Lemon... it's not your responsibility. You've only been here five days."

Lemon nodded. "Either way, I need to deal with this. I don't want any confusion about who's in charge when we arrive there."

"It's Vector Field, Lemon. He'll roll over. He always does."

"Yeah, but I don't want him to," Lemon said. "Or, didn't want him to, anyway, back when I gave him this idea." He let out an annoyed groan. "Ugh. I don't even know what I want anymore. This is a mess."

"You caused it, though," Misty said. "You gave them something to fight over, again."

"I guess. Let's see what they're up to."

Surprisingly, Vector and Apple Twig hadn't noticed their arrival. They were quite caught up in their own conversation.

"—on't care about that," Vector said to Apple Twig, sounding quite annoyed. "We just need to lay low. He's that kind of pony; it'll work out."

"I'll admit he's got charisma, but you're far too quick to suggest doing nothing," Apple Twig replied. "As I said yesterday—"

"Yeah," Lemon Frisk interrupted them. "I'd really like to hear that; what you two discussed together yesterday, that ended with you showing up at our door." He gave the pair a flat, penetrating look.

The two looked at him, visibly surprised. After a few seconds, Apple Twig slumped down.

"I'm sorry," she said. "I didn't mean to do anything behind your back. It's just, you've been immensely helpful to our community, and we would like to acknowledge that, someh—"

"Horseapples," Lemon Frisk threw back, his eyes narrowing. "You just saw how well I cleaned up your messes and distracted the ponies from the WRD's failings, and thought it would be nice to give me some official position in which I would continue to do so as official part of the WRD."

Apple Twig stared at him like a deer caught in the headlights of an oncoming train, and suddenly recalled his logic exercise the last time they talked, after the radio show. She pushed a hoof against her forehead, and nodded.

"All right. I can't win this. Running circles around my logic is literally your special talent."

"And don't you forget it," he said. "Not that I'll let you. I'm taking that position."

Apple Twig, Vector and Misty all stared at him in disbelief. The "What?" that was uttered by all three of them was perfectly synchronized.

"Lemon, I thought you said you didn't want this job," Misty said.

"I don't. I'm not taking it unless they change the job description to whatever terms I got." He gave Apple Twig a penetrating look. "And make no mistake, the WRD is the first thing to go."

Apple Twig gulped visibly, and Misty couldn't help feeling a bit sorry for the middle-aged mare; she really was no match for Lemon Frisk when he was properly fired up. And right now, he definitely seemed fired up. Misty saw that same glint in his eyes that he had back when he'd squeezed Capsworth's neck against Spray Paint's slave collar. The same mad glint he had when they met the Slags at the factory. He was daring Apple Twig to go back on her offer; to put the interests of the WRD before those of the Stable.

"That's not my decision to make," she finally said.

Lemon Frisk smirked. "Glad you caught up. I was afraid I'd have to point that out myself."

Apple Twig glared at him. "Is all this just a game, to you?"

To her surprise, Lemon Frisk laughed. "You never heard of 'game theory', have you?" Suddenly, he was looking deadly serious again. "It's all a 'game' to me, yes," he said, "but not 'just a game'. I take my games very seriously. Need I remind you that it's you ponies 'playing around' with the future of this community? You have no right to do that; it was never what the WRD was supposed to do. Your job was to research the available data and assess the outside dangers so you could properly prepare the ponies before opening the Door. You had one job, and you failed it miserably. Not only did you allow the Stable Door to be opened from sheer political pressure, but you did so after showing the Stable residents a rose-tinted view of the outside world. You people are directly responsible for Big Apple's death, and even unwittingly made Misty blame herself for it... and don't you think I'll ever let you forget that."

"The radio editing wasn't my decision," Apple Twig replied weakly. She knew all too well it wasn't a real argument.

"Irrelevant. It was made by the WRD," Lemon said. It was no longer an accusation, though; just the statement of a fact they both knew. It was clear Apple Twig hadn't agreed with the decision to do the radio editing, but she was still part of the group that did it.

"So... now what?" Misty asked, breaking the sudden uncomfortable silence.

"They'll need defences here," Lemon said. "It's been about two weeks since you opened, and Misty and Spray Paint were in Hayden. Rumours will have started to spread, and it's inevitable that the wrong ponies will have heard them." He turned to Apple Twig. "You're staying here to organize that." The older mare's eyes widened, and she opened her mouth to protest, but Lemon cut her off. "Make sure Winter Gale trains the rest of the security team in SATS and fire arms. I'm talking about the maintenance security; Blacklight and her colleagues. Let the actual maintenance ponies deal with maintenance for once; it's their ruttin' job."

He looked at the giant cogwheel door. "And make sure you're ready to close that thing when needed."

"Steel Rangers?" Vector Field asked.

Lemon nodded. "I don't know if any operate around these parts, but I don't want to risk it. You'd be defenceless against their power armour."

"I want to come along on this expedition!" Apple Twig said defiantly. "You can't just push me aside like this!"

Lemon's eyes narrowed. "Watch me, lady. It's you folks who want me to do this job. I'm doing it right here and now, organising your defences. So shut up and let me do it, my way, or I'll just walk right out that door, straight into the city—" He pointed a hoof out the door, "—and you'll likely never see me again. And if I can read the situation in this Stable well, you'll most likely have a revolution to deal with if you drive me away right now."

"That's blackmail!" Apple Twig said.

Lemon sighed. "Look, let me just make one thing clear. I like you. I like the ponies of the WRD. You're all nice and clever fellows. But that's the problem, see? You're too nice for the Wasteland. You tried to be nicer to the Stable ponies than the situation warranted, and it's come back to bite you in the rump, like the Wasteland always does. You people have been doing the equivalent of hiding from a child that their mother died; it seems like the kind thing to do, right up to the point where they run off looking for their mom and get themselves killed by the same thing that killed the mom."

Apple Twig's ears drooped down. "I know... ponies died because of us. You don't need to remind me of that."

"Apparently I do!" Lemon threw back, giving her an annoyed look. "I really don't want to turn this into a war between me and the WRD, but this is not my job! Because if I keep cleaning up your messes, you'll never learn. I'm a crisis manager, not a kindergarten teacher! You know, maybe you should just put Hailstorm in charge; he's got the qualifications!"

He turned to Rambo Apple, who had kept himself wisely neutral during the whole discussion. "Come on, Rambo. We got an expedition to get ready."

"I hope you're not too miffed at Auntie Twig," Rambo Apple said as they walked away. "She means well, you know."

Lemon Frisk let out an exasperated sigh. "That's the problem. Everypony means well. The road that led to the irradiated wastelands out there was also paved with good intentions, you know. This would be so much easier if you guys had some dictatorial overstallion; at least something would get done."

Misty smirked. "This is the part where I say 'So, go for it', and get an annoyed glare from you, isn't it?" she said.

"And yet you didn't," Lemon said, smiling at her.

She smiled back. "It's our special day! I don't feel like getting glares from you today." She kissed him on the cheek.

Lemon Frisk grinned. "If she continues like that, my head 'll be bare skull by the next time I visit this place."

Misty rolled her eyes and turned to Rambo Apple. "So... what's left to do, here?"

"Mostly just you two giving us all a mighty powerful speech to get us over our fears of the outside. And lunch."

Lemon raised his sole eyebrow in surprise. It was clear that the long-missing Righty would've joined this movement if only it'd still been there. Alas, it wasn't. "You include yourself in that?" Lemon asked.

"'Course." Rambo Apple said, smirking. "Wouldn't want ta miss lunch, now."

Lemon Frisk gave him a flat look. "I mean the ponies with fears of the outside."

"Hey, I'm not Winter Gale, okay? I haven't had Security training besides some simple instructions I got this morning when I got this gun. The rest of the gang here's mostly unarmed. We're not mighty comfortable with weapons, y'know?"

"Well, glad you showed some initiative, at least," Lemon said, while trying to wrap his mind around the fact a nervous scrawny stallion like Winter Gale was apparently somehow seen as a badass role model by these ponies.

"Somepone's got to," Rambo replied. "They're good folks, mind you. Oughtta be brave to want to go out there. But we're no wastelanders yet."

"They'll all need guns," Lemon said flatly. "We can't afford more of the WRD's softheartedness here. It'll only get them killed."

Rambo Apple nodded. "Add it to your speech."

Lemon Frisk nodded back, and looked at what Rambo had called 'the gang'. With Apple Twig gone, there were just four ponies left. Well, four ponies and Vector Field.

"So, uh, I guess we'll start with introductions?" Lemon said. "I don't think I know any of you."

One of the ponies stepped forward. It was a hazel brown earth pony with a dark green mane. "Name's Amaretto," he said. He nodded at the mare next to him, who had about the same colours, except that her hair was a far more vibrant green. "And this is my s—"

He was cut off by a hoof ungently shoved into his ribs. "I can introduce myself, thank you, Am," the mare said. She turned to Lemon. "The name's Absinthe, but feel free to call me Abbie. I'm his twin sister."

Lemon nodded at them. "Nice to meet you two."

He looked at the remaining two, a male and female unicorn. The stallion was pretty much the same bright blue as Misty's mane, and his mane was a vibrant purple that reminded Lemon Frisk of Twilight Sparkle. The mare's drab colours were in stark contrast to his. She had the exact same beige for both her coat and mane. Lemon Frisk couldn't help but think that she probably had the perfect camouflage colours for the wastelands.

"Spellbinder, at your service," the stallion said, rather theatrically. Lemon smirked as he remembered the last time he had used that phrase, and couldn't help mentally translating it to 'not here to shoot you'.

"Tome Keeper," the mare said, almost whispering. She seemed to move and talk like she didn't really want to be seen. Lemon wondered whether that'd help her, out there, or would just mean she'd panic right away. She unnerved him a little, actually. Her mannerisms reminded him of the way those zebra assassins had moved.

"All... right, then," he continued. "I know this should just be a short trip, but trust me, there's never a guarantee for that. I once went out for a three-hour scavenging trip in the Canterlot Water Service building, fell through some rusted floor, and ended up wandering around in the city's sewers for about three weeks before I found a way out. So, be prepared for anything."

He looked over the four ponies. "On that note, all of you will carry at least one gun."

Spellbinder looked like he was about to protest, but Lemon Frisk quickly held up his hoof and cut him off. "We'll go over your individual skills later," he said, walking in front of the four like a drill sergeant. "You'll find magic to be vastly insufficient for defending yourself out there, if only because inside a Stable, it's physically impossible to train for long range spells. Guns, as you should all know, are pretty long range." He stopped, and looked Spellbinder straight in the eyes. "For that reason, you will carry a gun. As Misty can tell you from her training, you will also be familiarized with mouth guns, because, if you get wounded out there, or get any kind of magical exhaustion, you'll be glad to have learned it."

Spellbinder frowned. "You make it sound as if we're going into a war zone."

Lemon Frisk shook his head. "The wastelands are worse than a war zone. In a war zone you know to expect war. The Wastelands have a way of luring you into a false sense of security and then suddenly turning into a war zone. Please don't tell me you've forgotten what happened to the city expedition."

"But that was due to the pipbuck ID system!" Spellbinder protested. "It's fixed now!"

"Sadly, that kind of things is par for the course," Lemon Frisk said. "If it's not faulty friend-or-foe systems, it's ghouls that appear perfectly neutral until you come close, or a well-camouflaged radigator that's asleep until you accidentally step on it. I haven't been out there for that long, but I've heard the stories, and I've seen what Canterlot can do to living ponies. It's not pretty. So never let your guard down."

"I'm not afraid!" Spellbinder said, sounding somewhat offended.

"You will be," Lemon replied, a dead serious look on his face. He squinted his eyes at the stallion. "You. Will. Be."

"Dude, are you just tryin' to scare us all off?" Rambo Apple asked.

Lemon Frisk shook the meagre remains of his mane. "No, I'm trying to make you exactly as scared as you should be before you attempt to go out there, because a healthy dose of respect for what's out there will help you stay alive longer." He looked around the group. "It's perfectly possible nothing bad will happen during this entire trip. If that's the case, don't you dare take that as a sign I was exaggerating. Again, that's just the Wasteland lulling you into a false sense of security. There are horrors beyond imagination out there, and a surprising amount of those come in pony form; just look at me, I'm a prime example of that. If I were a feral, your whole Stable probably couldn't put me down."

He nodded towards the corridor that held the main elevator. "Now all of you will spend the next hour doing gun training with Winter Gale, and we'll meet back here at noon, before lunch, all carrying guns and ammo."

The four ponies and Rambo Apple nodded silently and drooped off. Lemon Frisk looked at the last remaining pony of the team, and gave him a flat look. "Vector, that includes you. Go get that gun training." Vector Field gave him an apologetic nod, and ran off after the others.

From the moment they were all out of sight, Lemon slumped down on the ground. "Ugh. I'm not cut out to be a drill sergeant, Misty," he said.

"Oh, you're doing fine," Misty replied, smiling. She sat down beside him.

"Doubt it. I bet half of them went straight back to their homes with no intention of coming back."

Misty laughed softly. "I don't think so, Lemon. They're all like me."

Lemon once again raised his poor abused eyebrow. "Like you?"

"You know. With... reasons, to want to leave the Stable. Most of our generation have children, remember. Those who don't are usually the ones with some sort of... relationship trouble. I know Tome Keeper had a really abusive mate, for example. They split them up in the end, but, I can't blame her for wanting to get out of the Stable altogether, even if it's just for a while. Wouldn't surprise me in the least if she chose not to come back."

Lemon nodded softly. "Reasons, huh..." He looked back at the door through which 'the gang' had disappeared, and frowned. "Those two earth ponies were twins, though," he said. He turned to Misty. "Surely you don't think—"

"Don't go there, Lemon," Misty said, shaking her head. "Just, don't go there."

"Ugh." Lemon leaned his head onto his forelegs. "Two-headed ponies, here we come."

"So," Misty said. "We appear to have an hour of free time. What are we going to do?"

Lemon Frisk grinned. "What do newlyweds usually do when they have free time together?"

* * *

When the gang met up in the entrance hall again, Winter Gale was with them. Noticeably missing, however, was Lemon Frisk.

"Where's the prime pone?" Rambo Apple asked.

Misty, her mane still wet from a recent shower, nodded at a pair of normal-sized doors to the right of the big cogwheel door. "Taking a shower," she said, smiling. "They don't let him use the main ones, so he's in there."

"Not joining him?" Rambo asked, smirking.

Misty rolled her eyes, but couldn't keep a smile off her face. "If I did that we'd never get ready," she said. "And it's cold water only." She caught a movement in the corner of her eye, and turned her head to the rad showers. A dark purple mare had come out of the second door, which was labelled "maintenance", and waved a hoof at her. "Oh, and Blacklight would be watching," she continued, "since she's at the water controls."

Blacklight walked towards the group. "Hello, there," she said to Misty. "I hear congratulations are in order?"

Misty smiled. "I guess so, huh?"

Blacklight glanced down the corridor. "Well, I got more work to do. I expect Lemon will be out in a minute." She walked away, waving a hoof to the expedition ponies. "Be safe out there!"

"Thanks for the help!" Misty called after her.

Mere moments later, the other door opened and Lemon came out, his mane still wet, and a towel hanging over his neck. "Ah, I missed her, didn't I?"

"Blacklight?" Rambo asked. "She just left, yeah."

"Oh well," Lemon said. "Guess the WRD will inform her anyway. Just wanted to tell her about the training stuff I said to Apple Twig."

He looked around their little group. "Well. I suggest we go to the common room for lunch."

"Capital idea!" Rambo replied enthusiastically.

As they went on, Winter Gale walked towards them. "I'm so sorry I couldn't be there earlier," he said, "but I found some new ponies to train, and, well, I was actually teaching them this morning." He gave them a nervous smile. "So, uh, congratulations, you two."

"Thanks," Misty and Lemon said, almost simultaneously. Misty hugged her cousin. "I'm glad that's working out for you."

"I've been asking the WRD to look into that as well," Lemon Frisk remarked. "I mean, the maintenance level security is apparently doing maintenance's job, instead of Stable Security's job."

Winter Gale shook his mane. "They're still decent security ponies, though. Blacklight is just as good with a gun as she is with a wrench."

"Oh. She's part of your little group, then?" Lemon asked.

The gang had reached the large elevator, which could easily accommodate all nine of them. Lemon, Misty and Gale had been lagging behind a bit, and quickly caught up to join the rest.

"Yes," Winter Gale replied, as the elevator made its way down. "She said she talked to you. Hearing about the poisoned lands out there from somepony who experienced it first-hoof made it all more... real for her." He smiled. "You're quite an influence here in the Stable."

"Don't remind me," Lemon Frisk growled. "The WRD is trying to recruit me."

"Trying?" Misty asked. "You kinda said yes."

"Only kinda," Lemon said, smirking. "I'm equally 'kinda' hoping to be out of here by the time they come to a decision about that little bombshell I left them."

Misty snorted. "That's 'kinda' awful, Lemon."

"Hey, I gave Apple Twig the instructions to get started," Lemon defended himself. "They should be able to figure it out from there. If they really can't, I might consider really leaving your dad in charge."

Misty burst out laughing. Winter Gale just gave them an odd look, clearly not understanding how his uncle fit into all this.

"Besides," Lemon said, grinning, "I think we deserve a honeymoon first, anyway."

The elevator stopped and the ponies poured out. Lemon looked at Winter Gale. "If you're lucky, there's still some cake left from this morning."

Winter Gale smiled. "Cake for lunch? Can't say no to that!"

As it turned out, there was indeed still cake left. In fact, all of the decorations were still there, as were some of the party guests from that morning. It was hard to resist getting into a party atmosphere again, especially with some latecomers delighting in the fact they weren't too late to congratulate the pair after all. Nonetheless, a little after noon, they were all ready to go.

* * *

Lemon Frisk looked at the large open Stable Door.

Well, this was it. This was the day he'd finally leave the stable, and be rid of all those bothersome politics for a while.

"Lemon Frisk!" he heard an all-too-familiar voice behind him. He groaned, and looked at the mare that was galloping towards them.

"Apple Twig," he said, trying to keep his voice neutral. "To what do I owe the pleasure?" He noticed the mare was once again wearing her loaded saddlebags.

"Very funny, Lemon," the mare replied with a dry look. "We've discussed the subject, and, you got the position. No restrictions."

Lemon Frisk blinked. "You just gave your Stable away to a stranger who hasn't even been here a week."

"That's a bit of an exaggeration," Apple Twig said. "You're a Stable resident, now. And you know you still need us to manage everything."

Lemon nodded. "I do. And hopefully you haven't started packing up or anything yet, because the next week is all yours."

Apple Twig gave him a surprised look. "What?"

Lemon Frisk grinned, and put a hoof around Misty's neck, pulling her closer to him. "I'm a bit of a traditional guy, you know. I just got married, which means it's time for a honeymoon."

Apple Twig's look was even more surprised now. "What?"

"You heard me. We won't be coming back for a while. You should have the basics to get started here. Winter Gale already started training some of the other security ponies in firearms, so that should make your job easier."

"Not my job," Apple Twig replied. "I'm coming with you. The others can handle that."

Lemon Frisk smiled. "So sorry, but you can't."

"Well, why the heck not?!" Apple Twig yelled back, finally losing her cool. "We've done what you asked, given you all we possibly could... what more could you possibly want?!"

Lemon pointed at the gun holster hanging around Amaretto's neck. "You missed gun training," he said, matter-of-factly, and raised his eyebrow. "And I sincerely hope you didn't make the WRD agree with my ridiculous conditions just so you could come along on this trip."

Apple Twig's mouth hung open for a few seconds. She closed it and narrowed her eyes. "You were counting on us rejecting your terms?"

Lemon Frisk gave her an awkward grin. "Maybe a little?"

"After all that, after the whole 'playing around with the future of this community' speech, you just leave?"

"I'm not 'just' leaving, Apple Twig," Lemon said, once again completely serious. "As I said, I will come back."

"You don't know that!" the angry mare yelled back. "It's a death trap out there! You gave us the Guide; you should know! There's no guarantee you'll make it back here! And that's the place you choose as honeymoon destination?"

"You have your facts slightly skewered," Lemon pointed out. "The Wasteland isn't a destination, it's everything outside Stable 69. I know that's still a hard concept to wrap your mind around, but it's the truth. And, sure, we may not survive... but if I wanted to be stuck in a Stable, I'd never have left Stable One. And I'm fairly sure the same goes for Misty."

He sighed, and shook his head. "Look, Apple Twig... this is not about me trying to prevent you from going along with the expedition."

"Yeah, right," Apple Twig grumbled.

"No, really. Listen to me," Lemon said, almost pleadingly, "I asked you to take care of this, because I trust you. You're the only one in the WRD I'd call a friend. But I need a break from all this. I feel cooped up in here. That's just something about me you'll have to accept; I'll help you, but you will not keep me on a leash. It doesn't work that way."

Apple Twig nodded slowly. "All right, then. Care to give a prediction of who will most likely threaten us? Like you did with the stallions?"

"Heh, sorry," Lemon said. "Maybe if I had any knowledge of raider camps and Steel Ranger settlements and such, but, as it is, I really have no idea." He grinned. "Maybe our trip will remedy that too, you know. You can't predict the Wasteland without exploring it first."

"Ugh," Apple Twig said, giving a reluctant nod. "I guess you have a point."

"Anyway, we're wasting time, here," Lemon Frisk said. He looked around to the other ponies. "Everypony ready to go?"

* * *

It was surprising how differently Misty acted when travelling with people from her Stable. In contrast to Capsworth's expedition, she knew who most of these ponies were, and it didn't take her long to drift off to have a chat with Spellbinder. Oddly enough, this familial atmosphere very naturally extended to include Lemon Frisk, who found himself in a conversation with Absinthe.

"Ugh, call me Abbie; everypony does," the mare replied to his greeting. "It's rather silly, actually. Neither of us have even tasted the drinks our names are based on. They simply can't be distilled with the ingredients we got in the Stable."

"Is that why you're out here?" Lemon Frisk asked. "Misty seemed under the impression most ponies joining were those who didn't have children for personal reasons, like her own."

"Well, I didn't run away with my lover, now did I?" Abbie said, grinning. When Lemon frowned, she got an incredulous look on her face. "Oh, really? You thought... me and Am? Ew!" She shook her head, grinning. "Nah, this was mostly my idea. My brother's just a bit overprotective. Couldn't let his baby sister go out alone." She threw a quick look at her brother, who was walking a bit behind them. "Psh," she scoffed. "I'm two minutes older than him. I can take care of myself."

"So you really are out here on a booze run?" Lemon Frisk asked.

"Nah. We're a fair bit younger than Misty, you know. We still got time for all that settling down stuff. I just want to go out here and see the world!" She grinned, and leaned closer to him. "And hey," she said, lowering her voice to a whisper, "maybe I can find a nice guy around here, too. My possible breeding roster choices are... well, not too impressive, to say the least. But don't tell Am about that. He'd just get overprotective again."

"That's it, then?" Lemon asked, smirking. "Young ponies out to see the big world?"

"Yup!" Abbie said, grinning widely. "I mean, do you have any idea how exciting this all is for us? We're the first ponies from 69 in almost two centuries who are actually walking on Equestrian soil!" She looked around, and her grin got a bit awkward. "Okay, so it's not all like that shiny mural at Pipbuck Maintenance—" Her grin got more genuine again, "—but you gotta admit, it's pretty cool!"

"Beats Canterlot, that's for sure," Lemon Frisk said. He looked at a few ruined houses in the distance. "But, I have to admit, it has a certain... beauty. The wide open plains, the quiet atmosphere..." He glanced up. "if only we had a little sunshine to go with it."

"And rainbows," Abbie added. "I want to see some real rainbows. Not the faint water spray stuff, but good old solid Pegasus rainbows."

"Rainbows? Good luck getting those misers up there to share 'em," Lemon said, sounding harsher than he'd intended. Like most wastelanders, he thought the only good pegasus was an undead pegasus running the Absolutely Everything store in New Appleoosa.

"Hey, a girl can dream," Abbie said.

"Been dreaming that for one hundred ninety years," Lemon said morosely. "Hasn't changed it."

Abbie looked at him hesitantly. "Well..." She glanced behind her, and held up a hoof. "Be right back!"

She slipped away, and came back with a rather baffled Misty Cloud. "Your stallion needs a hug," she said, matter-of-factly, "and that's not my job. Now, if you'll excuse me, I got a brother to annoy!" She slipped away from the two.

Misty looked at Lemon and blinked. "Uhh. What?"

"A hug!" Absinthe shouted from farther back in the group.

"Right," Misty said, giving Lemon his hug. She gave him an uncertain look. "Feeling better?"

Lemon gave her a weak smile. "A little."

* * *

The rest of the trip was as uneventful as it had been the first time. Again, there was a distinct lack of raiders, manticores, radigators, and deranged secret project zombie cyborg ponies. Lemon Frisk was kind of glad for that, though some part of him wished there had at least been a bloatsprite or two to prove his point about the dangers of the place. Maybe even a feral ghoul. In the end, though, the fact they all arrived safely at their destination trumped these thoughts.

As the factory came in sight in the distance, Amaretto ran to the front of the group, and stopped in front of Lemon Frisk. The whole group halted together with them.

"I'm picking up several signals around us," Amaretto said to Lemon Frisk. "They seem neutral."

Lemon Frisk looked around. "Misty?" he asked.

"Same, but they're green to me," she replied, confirming Lemon's suspicions.

Lemon nodded. "All right," he said, seemingly to no one in particular. "These ponies are with me; they're from Misty's Stable. We want to speak with Capsworth."

All around the group, equine figures wrapped in camouflage nets popped up, weapons at the ready. One of the Stable ponies shrieked in surprise as they appeared, and Lemon Frisk couldn't help smirking when he recognized Spellbinder's voice. This almost made up for the lack of bloatsprites.

Lemon quickly spotted the cloth wrapped around the legs of their 'assailants', and the variety of tinted visors and goggles obscuring their faces. "Ponies," he said, "meet the Slags."

Mushroom Stew pulled the camouflage net from her back. "It is good to see that you are well, Lemon Frisk," she said. "Capsworth is away for now. Your friend Spray Paint manages things at the moment." She looked at the group they were travelling with. "So.... still wandering, I see?"

Lemon and Misty smirked, and shared a look. "Actually," Lemon said, "I've kind of... settled down. More or less."

"With me," Misty added.

"Oh," Mush said with a smile. "Well, being nice paid off, then, I see. If you settled down, though, what brings you here?"

"Well... them," Lemon said, motioning his head towards the group. "We're on, well, kind of a trade mission." He suddenly frowned, and looked around the group, trying to spot Vector field. The pitiful excuse for an Overstallion gave him an unsure look. Rolling his eyes, Lemon pulled Rambo Apple into the conversation, quite literally. "Rambo, this is now your expedition," he said. "You did a fine job organizing it, and now it's all yours."

Rambo chuckled. "Can't say I didn't see that one coming."

"See?" Lemon said to Misty, "That's why I like this colt. Thinks ahead, and takes everything in stride." He looked up at the sky, which was getting darker. "But let's get to the factory first, alright? I don't like the look of those clouds."

As they approached the factory they saw it had changed quite a bit. There were a number of small shacks set up around it which seemed like temporary living spaces. It didn't seem like there would have been much of a problem if they'd delayed the expedition longer; the place was clearly growing out to a rest stop between Hayden and Dead Farm. And, conveniently, it wasn't too far away from the third settlement that was getting involved.

As they walked closer to the factory, Spray Paint waved them over through the glassless windows of the factory lobby. He was sitting behind a desk full of papers, and clearly had his hooves full with managing the place.

"Oh, wow," he said as they came closer. "Rambo Apple? Is that you?"

"In the flesh, m'lad!" Rambo replied cheerfully. He looked around the drab looking factory. "No decorations?"

Spray Paint chuckled. "Haven't had the time," he said, as he got up from behind the desk and walked towards them. "You know me; I'd love to get on that. All these empty walls, just begging to get some paint on 'em. But hey, the way this place is growing, I'm sure they'll need some art to cheer up the place sooner or later." He looked at the rest of the group, and raised an eyebrow. "Huh. You even managed to drag along our Great and Benevolent Overstallion?"

"Don't remind me," Lemon Frisk grumbled. "This was supposed to be his expedition."

Spray Paint smirked. "Delegating by Inactivity, as usual, I see. If that was a valid management technique, Vector Field would've been the greatest Overstallion that ever lived."

"Yo, Vector!" Rambo Apple yelled at the purple-haired stallion in the back of the group. "You're not getting out of this, you know. Get yer green butt over here. I don't give a rotten broccoli head what hare-brained scheme Auntie and you hatched up."

Vector sighed, and walked towards the others. "Uh, hi, Spray Paint," he said.

"So, has anything of interest been happening at the Stable?" Spray Paint asked the five ponies around him.

Rambo grinned, and nodded to Lemon and Misty. "Them two got hitched."

Spray Paint blinked. "Colt, that escalated quickly."

"That's not the best part," Rambo said, still grinning. "Vector here tricked him into it. Lemon had no idea what moving in together meant."

"For real?" Spray Paint asked. He looked from Lemon to Vector.

Lemon Frisk's eyes widened. "What?" He glared at Vector Field. "You planned that? To make me part of the Stable, and sick the WRD on me?"

"No!" Vector said. "Well, not the WRD part. They just.. asked my advice on the whole matter, when the whole expedition thing came up, and, well..."

"And that made you feel needed again, so you just went along with them," Lemon said, planting his hoof firmly on his face. "Ugh. I had this all wrong. It was never a power struggle between you and them. You just wanted to be included in it."

Vector Field just looked at the ground. "I'm sorry. I just tried to help."

"Well, I've had one too many helpings of that," Lemon said. He looked at Spray Paint and Rambo. "You three can handle this. I'm technically only along as security detail. Well, you all arrived safely. I'm off." He looked at Misty Cloud. "You comin', Misty?"

"Sure," Misty said. She waved a hoof at Spray Paint. "Later, Paint."

She turned back to Lemon, and followed him as he went down to the cellar.

* * *

Misty smiled. "That's where we met, isn't it?" she said, looking at one particular spot in the room.

Lemon Frisk nodded. "Can't believe it's only been ten days. I've lived more in that time than I have in the whole damn century before it."

Misty leaned her head against him. "That was the point, though, wasn't it? Living a little?"

"It sure was," Lemon replied. He smiled, and looked at the mare at his side. "Still no closer to any mystical meaning of it, though."

"Hah," Misty said. "There's an interesting one I heard a while ago: just live, and don't be a dick."

Lemon raised his sole eyebrow at that. "Blunt, yet profound. Who said that?"

"Spray Paint," Misty said.

Lemon nodded. "Somehow, that doesn't surprise me."

"So, you just came down here to reminisce?" Misty asked.

"No... you can add 'getting tired' to my list of new experiences as a ghoul. Though I'm not sure if it counts if I have to mentally add 'of all that bullshit' behind it."

"See, I tried to tell you that when we first ran into him..." Misty said with cheeky look on her face.

"Yeah, yeah, I know. My can of worms. Well, I delegated it. He's now in the position Apple Twig wanted here, as only link to the WRD. So whatever 'Auntie Twig' wanted to come along for, it's his job now. Hopefully that'll spur him into action."

"Fat chance," Misty said.

"Indeed. Anyway, I want to lie down someplace quiet, and I'm fairly sure there's some rather comfortable empty storage rooms down here." He smiled at Misty. "Care to join me?"

Misty smiled back at him. "Anytime, dear. Anytime."

Footnote: Level Up! I guess that makes you level 11, huh?
New Perk: Sticking Together (level 3): Well, it seems you're taking this "sticking together" deal rather seriously. Misty Cloud is now an inseparable part of your group, and as long as you remember to consult her, she'll give you a stat boost in whatever area you might need help with.

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