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One-way Ticket · FiM Short Story ·
Organised by RogerDodger
Word limit 1000–25000
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Arrivals and Departures
“You can’t change who you are anyway, so why leave?”

“You don’t have to force yourself to do this, we can fix it. Please...”

“Running away again already? I thought you’d be made of sterner stuff by now.”

The hiss of steam and the blow of the train’s whistle brought Nickel back to the less painful present. He groaned, bringing a hoof to his neck as his eyes fluttered open. The platform was still empty, just as it was in the dim dawn when he arrived. The bench hadn’t made for the most pleasant nap, and his saddlebags, packed to brim, didn’t make the pain along his spine any better.

He took a few moments to stretch his hooves, eyes locked on his brown coat as he tried to adjust to the sunlight. “Maybe getting here early... wasn’t really necessary, or worth the trouble,” he grumbled as he dragged himself off the bench to stand up. A few locks of rust red hair blocked his vision, but he quickly brushed them away before trying to keep his balance. His hind legs were still asleep, and sent a tingling sensation up along his flank with each careful step he took.

He turned his head to the sound of a ringing bell at the far end of the platform. The train had pulled up, blocking out the view of Canterlot. An aged colt stood at the head of the train, ringing the bell for a few more seconds before placing it down at his side. “All aboard!” he shouted, adding a sigh as he scanned the vacant platform. “As few as that is...”

Nickel shook his head, holding back a chuckle as he trotted up to the front of the train. He did his best to pull the ticket from his bags without moving them. Thankfully, the small cloak he wore underneath helped him in concealing his flank, though one of the five aces managed to slip into sight for a moment. However, no one of importance was watching, and within a few minutes he was seated comfortably inside.

The first train car was empty, and so Nickel seated himself next to a window. He took his saddlebags off, and adjusted his cloak once again before gazing out at Canterlot. The city was just starting to wake, but Nickel was focused on the city instead of the ponies filling the streets. He could barely make out the park he used to... “perform” at, if that was the kinder word to call his “art”. It was where he met Dazzle too. Past that was the building in which he used to live, with his now former friend Marbles. He could still make out the room from this far, the only window that didn’t reflect the early morning sun.

“Well, so long Canterlot,” Nickel said as the train started to pull away from the station, “hello where ever...”


Nickel jumped up from his seat, his head jerking to the source of the shout. He was greeted by a silver pegasus, smiling and flapping her wings idly. Nickel tried to calm himself, coughing a few times to let his heartbeat slow.

The pegasus’ smile quickly faded as she blushed and shook her head. “Oh no, I’m sorry, I just, well, we’re the only two in the car and I—” She stopped for a moment, closing her eyes and counting to herself, “One, two, three, four, five.” She opened her eyes again, “Where are my manners? I’m Silver Lining. I just, well, we’re the only two on the train and I thought it might be a nicer ride if we talked or, something.” She smiled, slowly dropping down to the ground.

Nickel blinked, but returned her smile, motioning a hoof to the bench across from him. “Take a seat, plenty of room.” He caught her cutie mark out of the corner of his eye: a dark cloud surrounded by sunbeams.

Silver Lining laughed as she sat down across from Nickel. “Yeah, I guess there is.” She looked at the window, catching one last glimpse of Canterlot before it faded from sight.

Nickel’s eyes were focused, doing his best to read his “companion”. It was an annoying habit to have, but one that paid off more often than not. “Staying or visiting?” he asked, scanning the edge of his vision for a moment to see if anyone else had arrived at the last moment.

Her ears picked up as she turned back to him. “Hmm? Oh, umm, staying, hopefully.”

“I meant in Canterlot,” Nickel said quickly, keeping his smile in full force. However, his thoughts were elsewhere. ‘Have to keep up appearances. Can’t reveal too much. Don’t lose focus. Learn something from nothing. She’s easily distracted, probably easy to mislead as well. Like galloping, easy to remember, hard to master. Have to hone it.’

“Oh, no, I was just stopping by on the way through.” She smiled, running a hoof along the bench. “Where you’re going is more important, right?”

“Why the train?” ‘Optimist, probably assumes the best from everyone, easier to mislead.’

“What do you mean?” She kept smiling, though her eyes drifted down to the large saddlebags in front of Nickel.

“Well, I mean with those wings, you think you could save a few bits here and there,” Nickel said with a chuckle, noting her wandering eyes. ‘Inquisitive, but probably too timid to ask questions.’

Silver Lining laughed loudly, trying to cover her mouth with her hooves. “I— hehehe, I guess I would if I didn’t get tired flying for a few hours, huh?”

Nickel shrugged, his smile bending into a smug smirk. “I guess you have a poi—”

“What about you?” she asked, her pleasant smile gone.

“... Was staying, but not anymore obviously.” ‘Maybe not as simple as I thought.’

“So are you planning on staying where you’re headed?”

“Guess that will depend on how things turn out. You can’t be too sure how things will turn out, right?” Nickel tugged on his cloak with a hoof, still unsure if it was doing its job.

“Right, but still, you’re excited, right?” Her smile had returned. “Going to a whole new place?”

Nickel coughed to clear his throat, trying to keep his composure. “Well, I’m more concerned about getting away.” ‘Keep calm. None of this matters.’

“Did something bad happen?” she asked, her eyes and mouth drooping down. She leaned a bit closer, and Nickel noticed her wings stretching idly.

“Old news. Just some... falling out with friends is all.” Nickel tried his best to shrug off the situation, keeping his focus on Silver Lining, and his mind on the present. ‘It’s past. It can’t be changed. Stop worrying about it.’

“Ohhh, I’m sorry to hear that.” Her wings folded back in as she leaned back towards her own bench, “It’s always bad to lose friends.”

“If they leave so easily, they aren’t worth keeping. That’s what some ponies say, right?” Nickel looked down for a moment, shaking his head gently. When he looked up, however, Silver Lining was looking out of the window again.

“What do you think about those clouds?” she asked, pointing a hoof at the window.

Nickel turned to look, spotting a large mess of black and grey on the horizon. He didn’t hesitate to answer. “Like rain. That’s what the weather report said.” He pointed underneath the cloud, “You can even see the pegasi that are busy at work.”

Silver Lining giggled in return, trying not to fall out of her seat. “N-no, no, no. I didn’t mean like that.”

“What? Is it some kind of cloud watching exercise? If I see a bunny rabbit or a frog?” Nickel added a chuckle afterwards, trying to appear unfazed, but his eye began to twitch and his smile crack. ‘Calm. Focused. It’s only questions.’

“No, not like that. It’s like...” She rubbed her chin, trying to search for the words as she closed her eyes again. “One, two, three, four, five, six, sev—” Her eyes bolted open, “Oh! Yeah, it’s like, there’s rain now, but it doesn’t matter that it’s rain now.” Nickel was kind enough not to interrupt her, looking at the clouds again. “The rain could mean anything. It could make plants grow, or flow into a stream for something to drink. It could even just turn into a rainbow afterwards.”

Nickel adjusted the cloak again, turning back to Silver Lining, “And what does that have to do with... anything?” ‘Rambling. Not coherent. Did she see on the platform? Did she recognize me from the park some day? Is she trying to get back at me? Did Marbles send her? No, he’s not malicious... maybe Crim?’ Nickel’s mind was racing as he stared past his companion, trying not to let his distress show.

“Well... ponies are like that too.” She looked down, fiddling with her front hooves along the bench. “Ponies can be like clouds. They might be sad, or angry, or even happy when you first meet them, but you don’t know how they’ll be tomorrow.” Her gaze drifted up to Nickel’s flank, noticing his hooves messing with his cloak. “Why do you keep doing that?”

Nickel’s hooves stopped, his eyes snapping back into focus on her. “No... no reason,” he said, trying to shrug the question off. “You, kind of have a point about the clouds. Even if it’s a little odd.”

She smiled, her wings flapping happily, and lifting her off of her seat before she noticed. She laughed as she dropped back down to the bench. “Being odd isn’t all that bad. It’s better than being boring.”

The horizon of clouds vanished as the train entered a tunnel, and darkness engulfed the car. It was only a moment before the lights flickered on inside of the car, but it was enough time for Nickel to pull himself together again. His hoof shuffled against the bench as he tried to pull the conversation somewhere... safer.

“So, why are you headed to Trottingham?” Nickel asked, smiling once again. ‘Keep up appearances. Stay defensive. Why am I making a big deal about this? She’s not important!’

“Well, I lived with my family for a while, back in Cloudsdale, but it was... just time to leave the nest.” She looked at the window, greeted by a faint reflection of herself and Nickel against the dark walls of the tunnel. “I just had spread my wings and be my own mare, to see if I could make it on my own. You know, sink or swim, or umm, fly or fall in this case.” She laughed, smiling at Nickel. “Any reason for you?”

“Just somewhere to go. I’m not too picky.” He coughed again, wiping away a few beads of sweat from his forehead.

Nickel was offered a respite when a stewardess trotted up with a cart, looking at Nickel. “Anything to drink?”

“No,” Nickel said flatly, looking out at the dark walls of the tunnel.

“No, thank you,” Silver Lining added. She waited for the stewardess to leave before looking down at Nickel’s bags. “So, just getting away, huh?”

“Yes, I already said that.” Nickel’s gaze didn’t move from the window.

“Are you sure you don’t want to talk about it?” she asked, trying to lean in front of his vision. “It never hurts to talk.”

Nickel’s eyes began to twitch for a moment before he shut them tight. He took a deep breath before looking at Silver Lining. “Listen... I know you mean well and everything, but I’m fine. I messed things up, and that’s it. I’m not about to enter a situation where I do the same.”

“So you have something to hide?” Her smile was gone again as she looked down at his cloak. “Like your mark.” She smiled again when he looked back up at her, but it appeared more like a smirk to Nickel. “Come on, it’s kind of obvious.”

Nickel sighed, trying to keep his composure. “Listen, it’s just.. it comes with the work, okay?”

“And what is that?”

“Not your business. Just stop prying, please.” Nickel closed his eyes, bringing a hoof to his forehead as he tried to focus. ‘She’ll stop. She’s inquisitive, stupid, easy to play. She’ll just give u—’

“Things never get easier to deal with, Nickel.”

His eyes opened wide as he scurried back along the bench, causing his cloak to slide away and reveal the five aces on his flank. “H-how did you know my name?”

“Why keep running, Nickel? It never solves your problems.” Her eyes were still on the window, unfazed by Nickel’s confusion.

“I’m not running from anything!”

“Then why leave your home? Why leave your friends? Why leave the only ponies you’ve ever cared about?”

“I didn’t leave anypony. They left me first!” Nickel bolted up from his seat, glaring at Silver Lining. “Who are you to come out of nowhere and accuse me of things I never do?!”

Silver Lining remained calm, staring back at the window. “I’m only telling you the truth. You’ve been running every time things go wrong. When Marbles tries to settle down and give up the game. When Crimson Veil tries to play your friendship for profit.” She smiled, “When Dazzle left you when she learned who you really were.”

“They left me!” Nickel shouted, reaching to grab his saddlebags before stepping back. “I didn’t want things like this! They could have all just kept going! Crim could have gone away, Marbles could have stayed by my side!” He tried to fight the quivering of his lips, the tears falling on his cheeks, and the shaking of his legs. “Dazzle... she... she should have—”

“Should have accepted that you lied? Lied to her face. Every. Day.” She looked back at Nickel. “What were you expecting?” She raised a hoof dramatically to her forehead, raising the pitch of her voice. “Oh, Nickel. I forgive you for telling me you were a unicorn, and that you were trying to live your dream, and that you weren’t stealing money from ponies. Of course I’ll still love you.” She stared, emotionless, at Nickel. “Don’t make me laugh...”

Nickel’s nostrils flared as he backed up towards the door to the next car. His body was shaking, a mixture of anger and disbelief. He tripped over his words, and every thought he had was about them. About the ponies he’d left behind, or tried to. “You... you you. You! Just leave me alone!”

“You’re not going to get away by running. If you can’t face the truth, and move on, or deal with it, then it’s not going to solve itself.” Silver Lining gazed back at the window just as the train left the tunnel, sunlight illuminating the car. “They could have forgiven you, if you gave them the chance, but instead you run. What about the next town? Are you going to abandon those friends too?”

“I... I... Just shut up!” ‘She’s just... just toying with me, or Crim sent her. That has to be it.’

“Every cloud has a silver lining, just like every cloud will be something new tomorrow.” She smiled, looking sincere once again as she trotted towards Nickel, who found himself pinned against the door. “Please, Nickel, you can face them, if you try.”

Nickel turned around, pushing the door open and trotting into the next car. Silver Lining didn’t follow him, but he continued to run until he found himself in a sleeper car. He shut several of the small drapes before trapping himself in one of the beds. He tried to put it all behind him, to sleep and forget, and within a few minutes, he was out cold.

It was several hours before Nickel was awoken by a banging against the train wall. He pulled the drape open, greeted by the same pony who had taken his ticket. “Trottingham, son. This is the stop. Time to get off, or get another ticket.”

Nickel looked around the car, expecting to see Silver Lining somewhere, but he was greeted by an empty car. He looked down, quiet for a few moments. With a smile, he looked back up at the conductor.

“How much for a ticket?”
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