When Bones was a colt, everypony expected that he’d end up as the librarian or a writer or something of the sort – his nose was almost always in a book. Even though his father was the town doctor, he seemed much more interested in novels and research. Ponies would chuckle or roll their eyes – “oh, the doctor’s son, he’ll be a writer some day!”
At least, right up until the caduceus cutie mark showed up. That kind of sealed the deal in a rather different direction. And Bones was actually okay with that. He liked being a doctor -- most days anyway.
Today was not one of those most days.
The little clinic in the center of Haymarket was swamped – the village wasn’t very big and they didn’t have anypony to control the weather, so the few foolhardy Pegasus ponies in town had attempted to take things in their own hooves when a rather malicious thunderstorm had rolled into the sky above Haymarket. They’d all ended up in the clinic with some combo of manes standing on end, singed coats, and coughing up little crackles of electricity and puffs of ash.
“Last two!” There’s a yell from the door, and Bones looks up to see Chapel, the nurse, kicking the door closed behind her just another crack of thunder sounds. Although they didn’t have a mayor, old Mr. Miliner (who ran a hat shop in the center of town) was sort of in charge by seniority, and he’d sent word to Cloudsdale that they were in need of some help. Of course, Bones, being a giant cynic of a pony, expected that no one would get around to it until three days from now when they were all half drowned.
There are two ponies leaning against Chapel on each side – one is a rather alarming shade of green that Bones takes to mean that she’s ill until he notices that her body is completely alarmingly green, and the other is a shade of gold that Bones decides makes him look annoying and cocky.
“Ok, Christmas and Goldilocks can come with me,” Bones says, gesturing with a hoof as Chapel brings them over. The front of the clinic is full of sopping wet ponies, so he’ll have to see them in his office in the back.
“I hate having a red mane,” the green pony moans, which dissolves into a coughing fit as they get to Bones’ office. He nearly misses getting zapped as Chapel helps her to sit on the cot in the corner. Goldilocks gets helped up next to her, and Bones sighs.
“Gaila and Jim, more storm casualties,” Chapel tells him, before she skitters back out to deal with the other ponies.
“I don’t recognize you two,” Bones mutters as he starts in on Gaila – her rump’s been signed, almost all the way down to the bottom of her cutie mark. It looks like a trio of 8-bit hearts, but Bones can’t be sure under all the burned fur. They glow purple in the light of his horn.
“We’re from Roanside,” Jim says. “It’s a couple towns over, and we could see the storm.”
“Thought you’d come help?” Bones has become a champion of healing and rolling his eyes at the same time.
“You still need some, it’s still pouring,” Jim points out, and Bones looks up to see he’s grinning. Bones glares, and the conversation is over until he finishes up with Gaila.
“Alright, Miss Gaila, you’re good to go. Before you head out, see Chapel so we don’t misplace anyone,” Bones says.
“Righty-o, doctor,” Gaila says, and hops down off the cot with a little salute before turning to Jim. “I’ll wait for you out front.”
Which leaves Bones with a smirking, singed, cocky Pegasus pony. One who’s just started coughing into Bones’ face, therefore zapping his nose.
“Oh for –“ Bones backs up, batting a foreleg in front of him to clear the air. Jim offers up a sheepish ‘sorry,’ but he doesn’t look it. “Just sit still and don’t cough.”
Jim snaps his mouth shut and looks properly chagrined while Bones looks him over. Aside from the cough he looks fine – and Bones finds out when he notices Jim’s cutie mark. It’s a sun.
“You’re a weather pony?” Bones says, looking up at Jim with his mouth hanging open. “How’d you end up doing your job that badly?”
“Hey!” Jim squawks. “Gaila got hit, and I was worried about her! Plus the lightning was getting to me, and there’s only one of me and a whole lot of that storm. I’d need like… at least two other ponies to properly tackle that bad boy.”
Bones glares at him.
“You’re not going to send me back out there, are you?” Jim’s starting to look worried. Bones glares some more. “You’re a doctor, you can’t do that!”
“Unfortunately, you’re right,” Bones says.
“You’re really mean for a doctor, you know that?” Jim asks.
“Yes. The cough will go away in a few hours, just don’t zap anyone in the mean time.”
Bones points to the door with a hoof. Jim sighs and heads out to the front, presumably to go collect Gaila and cause more mayhem and shenanigans.
After sending everypony home with various tonics and bits of magic Bones had collapsed in bed (living above the clinic had its advantages) and slept fitfully until the sun managed to sneak in through the curtains the next morning.
Bones grunts, throwing a foreleg over his eyes before it occurs to him that sun means the storm is over. He peeks out from under his leg, raising an eyebrow when he sees that there is indeed sunlight streaming through the gap in the curtains. He rolls out of bed and drags his hooves over to the window, peeking out. What appears to be the tail end of a cloudbusting session is going on – there are a few Pegasus ponies in the sky, kicking clouds this way and that. The ground is still a muddy mess and there are downed tree limbs, but otherwise things are starting to look up.
“Well I’ll be,” Bones mutters. He’s never known anyone in Cloudsdale to listen to a tiny town like Haymarket that fast.
He also notices a suspiciously similar gold pony among the cloudbusters, and frowns. Jim. Didn’t he tell that fool pony to go home?
With a sigh, he goes to put on water for some peppermint tea.
After the eventful night they had, the morning in the clinic is so calm that Bones and Chapel’s impromptu game of poker is only interrupted once by a young colt who had somehow split his hoof. After Chapel chases him out for trying to eat their poker pot (apple chips) it seems like no one else is going to come in for the day, which is quite alright with Bones.
He sends Chapel home after lunch and then settles in to read the latest issue of the New Equestria Journal of Medicine. He hasn’t even been reading for five minutes when the door slams open, making Bones jump in his seat and frantically cast around to see what’s made the noise.
Turns out it’s Jim, who’s currently trotting over with a mouthful of drink carrier.
“You scared me half to death!” Bones says, slamming a hoof down on his desk to make a point. Jim just drops the drink carrier on the desk and grins at Bones.
“Sorry,” Jim says happily. “I brought you an oatshake.”
Bones glares down at the drink carrier, and sure enough, there are two cups in it, emblazoned with the logo for the local Saddlebucks.
“I got one Granny Smith and one Golden Delicious because I won’t sure which one you liked better,” Jim says after Bones just continues glaring.
“Why,” Bones says finally.
“Because I’m not physic so I don’t know your favorite flavor.”
“No you nitwit, why the shake at all?”
“OH! Because you helped out so much yesterday and I thought you’d like a shake. And I was just going to ask you to come to Saddlebucks but I figured you’d say no because you hate life, so I brought you one instead.”
“I’m a doctor, not a stupid little filly.”
“Drink.” Jim noses a cup towards him, and Bones finally gives in with a rather put upon sigh. He sulkily drinks while Jim happily slurps, and they fall into silence. Bones actually quite likes the occasional oatshake, but he’s trying to be as unwelcoming as possible. He doesn’t need a friendly hanger-on-er. Or whatever the heck Jim is trying to be.
“So,” Jim says after an especially loud slurp. “Glad the storm is gone?”
“Exceptionally. Didn’t I tell you to go home?”
“No, you never did, actually. You told me not to zap anyone and then pointed in a rather stabby fashion at the door.” Jim demonstrates, and Bones purses his lips. “I can repeat it verbatim if you’d like.”
“I’m good,” Bones mumbles, before nudging the straw around the bottom of his cup to get the last of his drink. Jim watches as Bones levitates the two empty cups into the wastebasket, one eye raised.
“Too cool to use your mouth?” Jim asks, smirking.
“Some of us were graced with the civility of horns,” Bones mutters. “Now, if you excuse me, I’ve got files to deal with.”
“I’ll help,” Jim says.
“No you will not, I can get Chapel to-“
Bones looks around, dully realizing that he had sent her home at lunch.
“You need help,” Jim says before he breezes past him towards the patient files on the back wall. “Want to start with ‘Applefritter’ or ‘Zippy’?”
Bones just drops his head onto his desk with a thump, sighing.
“I think you gouged your desk with your horn,” Jim says from somewhere behind him.
Bones thumps his head one more time for good measure.
“You should really look into getting one of the colts from town to fix the top of your desk,” Chapel notes a few days later, after a long weekend. “What happened to it?”
“Nothing,” Bones mutters darkly. Chapel’s already commented on that fact that his patient files seem to be more in order than usual (dangit, Jim) and that he’s suddenly developed a taste for oatshakes from Saddlebucks (dangit, Jim!).
Over the long weekend a holiday fair in town had gone up, and Jim had somehow convinced Bones to come out with him. Bones, against his better judgment, and to his horror, had found that he was actually starting to like the cocky Pegasus’ company. Also he had turned out to be surprisingly good at organizing things for Bones, which was nice.
“You know, if you keep up with the long face, your cutie mark is going to turn into a frowny face,” Chapel says.
“The long face is natural, I’m a pony,” Bones points out.
“Oh fine, sourpuss.” Chapel just rolls her eyes, but she’s smiling. Eventually he’s saved from Chapel’s knowing expression by a panicky mare who’s brought her foal in with what she thinks is the plague but is really just the sniffles.
He doesn’t see Jim again until the next day – next night, really. Bones has just burritoed himself up in the sheets and covers on his bed when there’s a tap at his window. He frowns, turning over. He expects to see a bird, but instead Jim is grinning at him through the glass. Bones decides that he’s probably hallucinating, certainly doesn’t have time for this, and should be sleeping, so he rolls back over, pulling his pillow over his head for good measure.
Unfortunately, the pillow doesn’t block out the sound of the window being opened. Bones throws the pillow without looking, and then hears it smack harmlessly into the wall. There’s a stifled chuckle from Jim, and Bones finally rolls over again to find Jim perched on the windowsill, the window wide open. There’s a crescent of a moon glowing behind him, hanging high in the sky.
“You should get windows that lock,” Jim says.
“Why? Ponies are nice, they don’t steal things. Or come charging into people’s homes when sensible folk are in bed. Only morons do that.” Bones pulls his covers up even further, so all Jim can see are his ears, his horn, and his very scowly eyes.
“Guess I’m a moron,” Jim sounds incredibly chirpy for how late it is. “Also, if ponies are nice, what does that make you?”
“A grumpy curmudgeon,” Bones says, his voice muffled by the covers.
“I can go with that,” Jim says, and then hops down off the windowsill, clomping over to Bones’ bed, where he rips Bones’ blankets off before he can do anything about it.
“-is for horses, c’mon, we’re going stargazing.”
“From your dull surprise I’ll take it that you haven’t done this before. Hold on!” And with that Jim grabs him round the middle and takes off like a rocket, shooting through the open window. Bones would be screaming, but he’s pretty sure all the air has left his lungs and he’s never going to be able to breath again. Instead he just clings to Jim, eyes big as saucers. He feels like his heart is going to beat right out of his chest because oh my god Jim is a madpony. They are going to die, and Bones is totally not ready for death-by-idiotic-Pegasus.
Jim finally slows down, gently setting them among the top branches of a pine tree. Bones doesn’t let go, still in the process of hyperventilating.
“You ok?” Jim asks, looking a little concerned.
“No,” Bones squeaks.
“You’re insane. Heights. Oh god. Gonna die.”
Jim looks down. Bones stays looking straight ahead, because he’s afraid that if he looks down he will actually have a heart attack right here at the top of a pine tree. While clinging to Jim.
“Eh, I guess we’re a bit high up. Cloudsdale is so much higher though, oh man, it’s awesome! It’s like-“
Jim wisely does just that, and scoots them closer to the trunk, where Bones can latch on to the very solid tree instead. After a few moments Jim nudges him with his wing.
“You really don’t like heights, do you?” He asks. Bones chances a glance over his shoulder, and finds Jim perched on the branch, watching him curiously. “We can go down, there’s a meadow a couple minutes away where we can see the stars instead.”
Right, stars. Bones remembers that now. Jim had brought him out to go stargazing, not kill him. Well, not on purpose anyway.
“Um,” Bones says. “That’d be good.”
A minute after he says this, it occurs to Bones that down means down. As in he’s going to have to look at the ground. Luckily, Jim grabs him and swan dives towards the forest floor. They roll into a patch of long grass and Bones lets himself fall flat, trying to get as close to the lovely, amazingly solid ground as possible.
“Sorry,” Jim says. “I figured ripping off a band-aid is better than slowly peeling it off, right?”
“Right,” Bones squeaks. Jim lets him calm down for a few more seconds and then nudges him again with a wing, encouraging him to get up.
“C’mon, it’s just this way,” Jim says, and starts off into the dark of the forest. Bones scampers after him, careful to never lose sight of his bright coat among the trees. He concentrates on the even chirping of the crickets they pass, evening out his breathing to be in time with their sleepy rhythm.
A clearing suddenly appears in front of them, ringed by the high pines that make up the forest. The grass is long, and there are patches of clover bathed in moonlight scattered through the meadow. Bones catches sight of a bunny across the way, up late. Jim leads the way to a particularly soft looking patch of clover and then, with a “oof!”, whomps down on his back. Bones follows suit with somewhat more dignity, grumbling as he goes. He’s got to maintain face after his squeaky freak-out, after all.
The sky is gorgeous tonight – the waning moon means the sky is dark enough for the sparks and pinpricks of light to burn bright. Bones is able to identify a few constellations right off the bat without too much looking.
“Want me to tell you about them?” Jim asks, waving a hoof in the direction of the sky.
“No,” Bones says gruffly. “I learned them in school too, you know.”
He gets boffed in the face with a wing for his troubles, sputtering through feathers.
“I know you know them, dummy. I said tell, not teach.” Bones lifts his head to look over at Jim, to find him looking over at him. “Don’t worry.”
Bones has a feeling that ‘don’t worry’ is meant on a few different levels, and he sighs, letting his head drop back down.
“Fine,” he says, and Jim’s smile lights up like the sun. Bones nestles a bit further down in the clover and just listens as Jim starts spinning the well worn (and well loved) tales of Tencendur and Bill, Red Hare and Sleipnir, Shadowfax and Bucephalus.
Bones wakes up as dawn is warming up the sky. It takes him a moment to realize that they’re still in the clearing from the night before, the grass and clover now dewy. There’s a fog among the trees that ring the meadow, and the first birds of the morning are starting to sing. With a groan Bones slowly twists his neck, getting a satisfying crack out of it. He feels like he spent the night sleeping on the ground, funny enough.
He’s just started wondering why he’s not cold – the early morning air is a bit chilly – when it occurs to him that he’s tucked tight against Jim’s body, one of his gold wings draped over Bones’ back, holding him close. Bones doesn’t move for a second, goes stock still, and just stares ahead. A small breeze kicks up to chase the fog away, ruffling Jim’s feather’s and Bones’ mane.
“’top thinkin’,” someone mumbles, and it takes a while for Bones to realize it’s Jim, his voice rough with sleep. Bones stares down at him, blinking. Jim has one sleepy eye cracked open. “I ca’ hear you ‘rom here.” He finishes this up with a yawn.
“No ‘eights. Just sleep,” Jim says, and then closes his eye again, pulling Bones closer against him. His wings are stronger than Bones would have though. He stays still for a moment longer, and then, very slowly, lays his head back down on his forelegs. Trying not to think too hard about, well, thinking, he closes his eyes. In the last sliver of light before they slip all the way shut he sees Jim smile softly. He’s back out like a light almost instantly.
The breeze kicks out the fog, and the birds start singing in earnest, but the two ponies on the bed of clover don’t wake up until the sun is high overhead, the sky a bright, clear blue.