It's been a while, again, and this is yet another story I'm starting up. Even I sometimes wonder what I'm thinking, but having a variety and sticking to one at a time for a few chapters should help keep my love of the stories I'm already doing. Otherwise the quality would drop like a stone or I'd end them too early. So be glad I'm doing things this way.

Anyway, as you obviously know, this is a story for My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic. But it isn't one that follows the Mane Six. It follows a simple Pegasus with a complex about a part of himself, something that makes him unique, but in a way that he doesn't understand, nor does he accept what it is. His past, and all that it carries, will be revealed as you read. Bear in mind, this is, as all of my work, posted only on Fridays. Sorry about that, but those are my rules. If I posted it all at once, I'd spoil you all. Again, sorry.

I, Lord Genesis Shadow, do hereby state that I do not own the rights to My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic. The owners are probably very happy that this is the case, as I couldn't do as good of a job as they have. This story, and the original characters, unless otherwise stated up here, are mine, in that I thought them up. If the owners of the rights to My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic would like them, I'll be very happy to help with keeping them in character. Thank you, and have a nice day.

"Hey, what are you doing here?" An oddly kind voice asked. I just curled up into a ball as best I could, facing away. "Don't worry, we aren't the kind to hurt someone just for hitchin' a ride on one of our circus cars." He walked over, and I heard someone with him. "Running away to join the circus?" I just nodded. "You're not the first. Heck, it's how we got started." I was silent. "Tell you what, if you want to join this circus, all we need to know is what you want to do."

"I, don't know." I said after a few seconds. "I didn't, plan that far ahead." He laughed, as did the other. It was a girl.

"Well, talk to the others." He said. "For the time being, you'll bunk with Andre. He's got the strength of ten bears that have the strength of five bears." I laughed quietly, just barely really. "He's quiet, but I'm sure he'll be happy to have someone around to talk to him." I was silent. "Come on, we'll show you over. Staying between a couple of crates isn't cozy, or safe for that matter." He pulled the blanket back but stopped, whistling softly as he let go of the blanket. "And here I thought you were an Earth Pony."

"Wow, cool wings." The girl said. I slowly looked back.

"I'm with my daughter." He said. They were Pegasi, like me. "You have very, unique wings." I turned my head back and looked at my hooves. "Don't be ashamed…"

"I'm a freak." I said quietly. "I shouldn't have wings like this."

"You have those wings for a reason." He said. "I think you'd do great with our flying troupe. The aerobatic troupe of our circus is one of the most renowned in Equestria. Princess Celestia herself takes in a show every year we've come through, right from the first time we came by. What do you say?"

"I, want to think about it…" I said quietly. I slowly got up and turned to them as they stepped back, and I stepped down, just in time for the trailer to shake, and I ended up stumbling into the girl, a light blue Pegasus with a blue mane, and sky blue eyes. Her father laughed as she stepped back, almost as fast as I did. "S-sorry…"

"It's okay." She said, blushing slightly. "Bumpy roads…"

"Come on, we'll show you to Andre's room." He said. "After we set up in a few days, you can decide what kind of job you'll try." I nodded shakily but turned and grabbed my cloak, which doubled as my blanket, and I quickly flipped it around and put it on. "Oh, I thought it was just a blanket. It's got a hood… Good for rainy days." I turned slowly. "By the way, I'm Horatio Cloudrunner, and this is my daughter, Sky."

"The Horatio Cloudrunner?!" I asked quickly. He smiled and held his head up a little higher.

"Yes indeed, that's me." He said proudly. Sky giggled into her hoof. "I am the owner, founder, and ringleader of this fine travelling circus." I couldn't help but smile. "And I'm sure you'll find a place where you're comfortable here." He turned while Sky walked out. "Come on, we'll show you to where you'll stay." I followed him out and we walked along the rail on the side of the large trailer. They were magically mobile trailers the size and general shape of boxcars, and they followed a path leading from one town to another. On the sides were railings and walkways that would fold down for tunnels. "So, have you ever been to a circus before?"

"O-once." I said. "This one… Last, last year, on my, birthday."

"Is that why you decided to hitch a ride?" Sky asked, looking back at me. I just nodded. "Did you like the show?"

"Y-yeah." I said. "It was, the most fun I've ever had, before or, since then…"

"Sounds like you've got a story." Horatio said. I looked at him, and nodded shakily. "You're not the first to run away and join a circus, and you won't be the last. I, myself, was a runaway. I left because I wanted an exciting life, and my parents wanted me to live a much more 'normal' life." He looked at me. "Everyone has a story to tell, and that's Celestia's honest truth." I smiled a little. "Someday, maybe you will tell us yours."

I groaned quietly as I slowly leaned up to the sound of a cheering crowd. That was the only sound I needed to hear to know that it was late in the afternoon. Probably later than I wanted. I reached out and felt around for my glasses, slowly, and I couldn't find them.

'Where'd they go this time?' I wondered. I didn't outright need them, but without them everything was fuzzy enough that gave me trouble getting around, and my job would be impossible without them. I squinted to clear it up a little and slowly got out of bed as I saw them. "Over on the bookshelf, again…" I got up and walked over as the crowd cheered again. I'd start my first show of the afternoon in a few hours, maybe sooner since I couldn't see my clock clearly enough. I picked my glasses up and put them on, looking at the clock with a sigh of relief. I still had two and a half hours to the show. "Good. That'll give me time to get ready." I walked toward my bathroom when I heard my tent flap move. "Hey Sky." She laughed as I closed the small door. "What's up?"

"We're packing up tomorrow." She said. "So tonight we're going to suspend your act and do a combination. I hope you don't mind doing just the one show."

"I guess." I said after a few seconds. "What kind of show though? How do we combine aerobatics with tightrope walking?"

"Well, two ways." She said. "First, we'll all fly around you, and you'll walk past trying to avoid us." I looked at the door. "Second, we'll take a second wire and have two ponies hold it while flying, and you'll try to walk across that before jumping down and landing in a pool of water."

"And how high will it be?" I asked.

"Ten feet higher than usual, with our deepest pool for you to land in." She said. "That'll be our last act for Appleloosa, and then it's onto the newest town on our route, Ponyville." I finished my business and washed my hooves after shuffling the straw. "What do you think?"

"Well, I'll try it." I said. "Just be careful. This is a whole new act, indoor flying, and you have not only me to look out for, but the poles and my wire."

"Thanks Ace." She said. "Dad knew you'd give it a go. Oh, and he has a new part to your act." I opened the door and walked out, and she was smiling, and she held up, a mask.

"What's this?" I asked.

"Dad figured he'd give you a nickname." She said. I slowly took it and looked at it for a moment. It was a dark blue mask, about as blue as my mane, with a pair of cuts down both eyes like tears, and a fairly creepy smile. "He wants to call you Shades O'Gray." I blinked. "You've got a silver coat, kind of gray, we've got a darker gray cloak, and there are sunglasses style covers for the eyes that will be very light gray." I tilted my head before moving the mask around and I held it up in front of my face. "It looks good."

"It has a creepy smile, Sky." I said. "I don't know."

"There's another that doesn't have a mouth, if you'd like that one." She said. "Actually, it'd be better since it's really dark gray with lighter gray 'eyes'." I lowered the mask.

"I'll take that one, if that's going to be my new moniker." I said. She giggled as I gave her the mask, which she put in her saddlebag.

"Our show will be at ten thirty or so." She said. "Until then, dad wants me to go with some of the others to get some food and water for the trip." I nodded as she started turning. "Any chance I can convince you to come with us?" I just walked over to my cloak. "Come on, you never come with us. How are you gonna get a life if you never leave the grounds?"

"I honestly don't know." I said. I flipped my cloak as usual to put it on.

"I think I have an idea." She said. "I recently received a gift, and I know it's something you want."

"Oh?" I asked. "You'd give up a gift just to get me to leave?"

"Well, one week's worth of getting you out of the grounds." She said. "Because I know how much you'll want this." She walked over. "I have, in my possession, a very delicious, cherry apple cheesecake." I raised my head from closing the metal clasp. "Two layer, with apple butter cream frosting."

"Tempting." I said. "But…"

"I won't give you the whole thing, but it's big enough for, fourteen slices." She said. "Seven for you, I've already had one, so six for me, and it is absolutely perfect." I fought the urge to lick my lips. My resolve had faltered since 'cheesecake'. That was a headlock to me, and the butter cream was a kick to the gut. One more good hit like that… "It's homemade, with magic keeping it somewhat warm, without melting the frosting." The knockout hit.

"Okay, stop." I said.

"It's soft, moist, very flavorful." She continued.

"Fine, I'll go into town." I said, looking at her. She smiled. "One slice, one time. When we get back, you give me a slice, but I reserve the right to say 'not right now' if I really don't feel like it." She nodded and held out her hoof, and I raised mine, tapping it to hers. "I'll hold you to giving me a slice when we get back, alright?" She nodded.

"Grab your saddlebags." She said. "We'll get some extra supplies."

"Okay, but we'll split the bill for the extra stuff your dad isn't paying for." I said. She nodded and I walked over and grabbed my saddlebag, putting it on. "I can't believe I'm doing this…"

"Hey, for the cheesecake." She said.

"Sky, you're my best friend, but right now, I don't quite know why." I said. She laughed as I walked over and we left the tent. There were a lot of ponies laughing at the various attractions, and I was doing my best to just, not stand out too much.

"So, you and I are going to buy a few pounds of apples, first." She said. "Then we have to get some vegetables and other fruits, but my dad wants mostly apples." I laughed quietly. He loved apples more than most ponies, perhaps with the exception of Andre and me. "I'm sure you know why."

"What about the others?" I asked.

"They're getting stuff from the stores." She said. "We're headed out to buck apples so we can get them cheaper. Andre's gonna come by with some of the others to carry them back. We'll make a few trips. Not going back in directly of course. I'm not wasting all seven slices in one day." I laughed as we walked toward the main gate.

I lined up with the tree while Sky watched, smirking. We had made a bet that I could buck all of the apples off a tree, while the Appleloosans said I'd get half of them at best. Andre was with them, and Sky was the only one that was with me.

"Anytime now." Braeburn said. I moved my hind legs up and kicked the trunk hard, and I heard apples falling all around, and a few groans. "Well gol-dang! You did it!" He walked around the tree as I stretched my legs and walked over to Sky before turning to the tree. "Every single apple in one buck. I thought mah cousin was the only one that could do that… No offense Andre."

"None taken." Andre said. I laughed under my breath. To this day his thick accent makes me laugh. "Ace is a strong Pegasus for his size, or one twice so." He was a lot bigger than the rest of us, both in height and muscle. He had a dark golden coat and his mane was just a little lighter, while his eyes were dark brown. His Cutie Mark, a pair of round ten ton weights with a bar between them.

"Well, we'll keep our end of the bet." Braeburn said. "Your apples are free this time." Sky giggled.

"Great job Ace." She said.

"I guess walkin' on that tightrope really works on your leg muscles." He said.

"I guess." I said quietly. Sky playfully slugged my shoulder.

"He does a lot more than that." She said. "He wakes up, helps around for a couple of hours, does a show or two, and then he helps a few of us improve our acts when we ask for a little help. We're all busy, but Ace is somethin' else."

"He is helpful, and very friendly once he gets to know somepony." Andre said. "It just takes a while, and he is reluctant." I looked away as they all laughed.

"Well, he's got some good friends in you two." Braeburn said. "I bet the rest of the troupes are just as nice to him."

"Yeah." I said quietly. "Mostly. New ponies are, a little nervous, so they don't talk much."

"Wow, Ace must be comfortable." Sky said. "He's, talking to somepony he's only recently met. Andre, quick, get the camera!" They laughed again and I smiled a little. It was kind of forced, but it was kind of funny.

"We have to get going." Andre said after a few seconds. "This should be the last of the apples, and there are more supplies to be gathered. Thank you for your hospitality and generosity, Braeburn." I felt a pair of baskets on a harness being set on my back, and Sky walked past, so I followed her.

"See you next year." Braeburn said.

"I sure hope so." Sky said. As we walked, I looked at her.

"So, what's after this?" I asked. "How long until I get that slice of cake?"

"After this, we're done." She said. "Thanks to you suggesting we get the other supplies first. Ten minutes, and you get your delicious…"

"Don't start that again." I said. "Let's go."

"Moist, soft, spongy, tangy…" She continued. I started walking faster.

"Why is it that cheesecake can make me do anything I don't want to do?" I asked. She laughed as I moved my wings to get them more comfortable.

"Fillies and gentlecolts!" Horatio called. The others flew around my wire, and I stood up on my hind legs. "For our final act of our stay here in the beautiful town of Appleloosa is one we've never done before." The crowd cheered. "Above, Shades O'Gray, will cross the tightrope while our flying troupe flies past as fast as they can, in the tent. As you know, Shades is our very own Ace Stormrider's nickname you've all been waiting for!" The crowd cheered louder and I blushed under the mask. "And as you also know, he doesn't use a safety net. Yes, he can fly, but will his cloak make that too difficult to avoid severe injury, or death? Once more, he stares death in the eye, and this time, there's even more danger than usual! For this time, the rope is held by only two Pegasi!" I inhaled silently. "Shades, are you ready!?" I moved my front legs out to my sides. "Ascend the rope!" The Pegasi flew up and back, pulling the rope tight, but it moved a little with each flap.

"This is the stupidest thing he's ever thought of…" I said, stopping. "No, that would be trying to boil tea in his stomach by swallowing the tea leaves and drinking boiling water. This is the… Fifteenth stupidest thing." When we reached the height, I heard a whistle.

"Begin!" He called. I took a step forward, slow, and steady. I watched the others and saw a pattern emerging as they flew from one side to the other, above and below the rope, some very close to it. They'd try to avoid me, but it wouldn't be easy.

"Maybe the third." I said quietly. I walked slowly before lowering my legs and carefully leaning slightly forward.

"Looks like he's forgoing his balance folks!" Horatio called. "He's favoring speed. Definitely not his usual choice."

"Stupid mask." I said. "The eyeholes are too narrow and small." I walked a little faster. Few ponies ever learned how to balance on their hind legs, let alone the way I was. It was a useful trick, though running was still beyond me. But it helped my act. Four legs just made it too hard to walk properly. Too much to pay attention to. The pony that taught me ended up breaking one of his legs, but when it healed, he had a limp that kept him from walking on a tightrope, so I was the new high wire act. "Okay, first dodge…" I stopped and waited, just in time for Sky to fly by, winking at me. I just walked quickly, but steadily. "Four to go."

"Be careful Shades, I forgot to mention, each one you get past goes down to the end." Horatio called. I sighed heavily.

"Thanks boss." I said under my breath. I kept walking, and each time I met one of the flyers, I had to stop and go after they flew past. The wire was starting to get a little slack at times though. The crowd gasped audibly each time, and I was starting to get worried. They were getting tired. I sped up a little more, taking the risk of just barely avoiding one of the others. I breathed quietly as I kept moving. After I got near the end, the rope moved, and I tipped to one side. "No!" I fell off and missed the rope, and the audience gasped and screamed as I adjusted my angle. Six seconds. The time it took from that height to the ground, right over, the outer ring, which was wide, and made of metal. I shifted and rapidly moved my cloak and my wings moved out. I angled my body and quickly pulled up, just in time to skirt over the metal ring before pulling up and flying past Sky, who laughed. I shot up and landed on the first pole, moving my wings back under the cloak while the crowd cheered. My heart, however, muffled that considerably. 'Never again, boss, never will I do that stunt again!' I panted as the crowd continued cheering.

"Amazing!" Horatio called. "A dive that not even one of the Wonderbolts might have been able to pull out of! Shades O'Gray, are you alright!?" I waved my right foreleg and the crowd erupted in cheer as Sky and the others landed.

"I'm never doing that stunt again!" I called. The crowd laughed. "Be glad I didn't dive bomb you."