Peter Collins. Full-time copy clerk; part-time competitive shooter and sketch artist. Not the most glorious life, but for an independent 26-year-old looking to make his way up the corporate ladder, it's not a bad start.
But the thing about one-in-a-million chances is that somebody has to be that one. And Pete has just found himself the winner of a bizarre cosmic lottery, giving him a free one-way trip into a land of magic and wonder: Equestria.
Unfortunately, the locals are skittish, distrustful of anything not their own, and outright terrified of whatever might be threatening to them. And with no way to speak to or understand them, what might have been a trip through paradise becomes a journey through a living hell; where the simplest of misunderstandings can bring the most dire of consequences. Alone, confused and desperate, Peter wages a one-man battle to escape a land seemingly out to get him, searching for a way back home, while the forces that protect this magical nation- ignorant of his goals and terrified that he may be a threat- do all they can to capture him.
How far can fear push us apart, what can it push us to do, when communication is impossible?
- Aliens Speaking English: Averted. Peter can't communicate vocally with ponies, however, with Twilight's help, and through illustrations, he eventually is able to speak the Equestrian language.
- Sveti herself learns to speak in English from Peter.
- Animorphism: Peter's magic backlash somehow turns him into a griffin.
- Anti-Magic: Peter seemingly dilutes any magic that he comes into contact with: Unicorn magic is dispelled, and pegasi and earth ponies can't touch him without losing their flight and strength respectively. Pinkie Pie's Reality Warper abilities don't even affect him, and Discord burns himself and Peter with his chaos magic. In return, Peter's metabolism is heightened, allowing him to perform great acrobatic stunts, but it drains him of his energy, and his mind becomes very erratic. It turns out he doesn't dispel the magic, he's been absorbing it. His body has been transferring the magic around him to Earth, allowing for a possible gateway back home.
- The Atoner: Big Top's employees, especially Ferris, who want to make up for having allowed Big Top's crimes, and especially for their treatment of Peter.
- Sergeant York becomes one as well when she learns she had no reason to target Peter Collins. She becomes an even bigger one when she learns about the sabotage that not only is going to kill Peter, but could have endangered all of Canterlot, willing to forgo anonymity in her testimony against the conspiracy at a great personal risk.
- Armor-Piercing Question: Aircolt Swift Wind, the pony Peter accidentally shot and Sergeant Peppermint York visit the Griffin embassy since Swift Wind wanted answers. When Sergeant York angrily refuses to believe Peter's story and calls him a monster, Swift Wind tells her that he has forgiven Peter, and asks her "Why do you hate him so much?" York immediately flies away, and admits to the conspiracy against Peter.
- Bad Boss: Big Top.
- Batman Gambit: The ponies conspiring against Peter attempt one: put his mind on edge by filling him full of magic, present Ferris- one of the ponies who imprisoned him- with a few angry royal guards so that he will act fearful and lash out and convince ponies that he is some kind of dangerous monster. Peter does lash out, but does not cause bodily harm, and is more interested in escaping, which only cements further that he is not a violent monster.
- Beware the Silly Ones: In chapter 32, "When A Door Closes...", Silver Star refuses to spill the beans to Pinkie, despite her pleading. Then out comes Pinkamena...
- Big Bad: Big Top started the crisis by kidnapping and torturing Peter, then manipulated members of Canterlot's elite into trying to destroy Peter's life, and caps everything off with his sabotage of Twilight's experiment.
- Blessed with Suck: Peter's magic absorbing ability gives him great speed and agility. The trade off is that it drains him of his own bodily energy very quickly, and it has a toxic affect on his mind, causing him to act irrational and paranoid.
- Butt-Monkey: Peter, full stop.
- Iron Butt Monkey: The fact that he has survived all these horrors is a testament to his willpower.
- Chekhov's Gun: Twilight and Shining Armor discuss that the magic Peter has been absorbing would cause a normal creature to explode twice. After Peter is transported to the Astral Plane, his connection to Earth is gone, which means he can no longer transfer the magic he absorbs to his world. Unless something is done, the magic inside him will build up, causing him to literally explode.
- A literal example. Peter teaching Sveti to use his gun allows her to shoot and kill Big Top.
- Circus of Fear: Peter ends up in one when he first arrives, where he is abused and humiliated. Needless to say, Twilight's ashamed that this was his first contact with ponies.
- Coitus Interruptus: At the end of Impact, Sveti tells Peter she's willing to try to have sex with him (something Peter just happened to be pondering earlier that chapter), but the furthest she gets is sliding one of her hands under his shirt before something shows up out of nowhere and bodyslams Peter.
- The Cloud Cuckoo Lander Was Right: Pinkie was the first one to realize that Peter was, in fact, an alien.
- Deus ex Machina: Implied when Peter has recurring dreams of a red-maned alicorn, clearly based on Fausticorn, after being turned into a griffon, though it's not the only possible explanation given.
- Didn't Think This Through: One of the conspirators in Ponyville tried to convince a crowd that Peter ate a filly by bringing her to an old clubhouse, and locking all the doors. It never even occurred to her to seal the windows. The filly escapes and ends up cornered by timberwolves, and Peter is forced to save her.
- Disney Death: Peter's magic backlash seemingly kills him, but a few days later, he's resurrected as a griffon, with only a vague recollection of meeting Fausticorn during his short-lived afterlife.
- The Dog Bites Back: Peter gives back for all the abuse he endured from Big Top in a great way.
- Driven to Suicide: Sveti's father.
- Peter finds himself cut off by Princess Celestia while on the run in Canterlot. Not knowing her intentions, but aware of her vast power, he puts his gun to his own head. Thankfully, the bullet didn't go off.
- Easily Forgiven: Averted. Peter and Sveti make it clear that they are not about to forgive Wisk and Ferris for what they did to them while working for Big Top, even after the latter diffuses a terrible riot, and even shows up to apologize in person. Ferris Taking the Bullet for Peter is what causes Sveti and Peter to let go.
- Played straight with Swift Wind, who forgives Peter for shooting him, knowing it was an accident. It's what convinces York that she was wrong about Peter, and admit to her part in the conspiracy.
- Explain, Explain... Oh, Crap!: Discord gets one when explaining how Peter's connection to Earth has been severed. He starts out by ripping off one of his horns but he gets rather serious when he realizes That without his connection, the metaphorical tube that channels the magic that Peter is draining will buildup, eventually causing him to explode.
- Everyone Has Standards: Big Top's employees clearly don't enjoy the abuse that Big Top unleashes on the exhibits. However, they do nothing to stop it, partly because they don't think much of the creatures in the exhibit and partly because Big Top is... menacing.
- Sergeant York isn't evil, but very hateful of Peter which is slightly justified since Swift Wind, one of her subordinates nearly died by Peter's gun, albeit accidentally and while she desires Peter's total incarceration, she won't endanger lives or destroy reputations in the process. When she realizes she targeted Peter for nothing she immediately goes to Shining Armor with evidence.
- Many ponies, and even Discord (this was written after his reformation) are horrified by the fact the due to sabotage, Peter may die. Discord himself gets pretty serious when he realizes, claiming that in spite of the horrors reeked in the past, he despises death, thinking it too static.
- Eye Scream: Peter whips Big Top in the face, completely destroying his eye. After what he's done, however, it's hard to complain.
- Big Top does the same thing to Peter out of vengeance.
- From Bad to Worse: Poor Peter. First he's stranded in the Everfree forest, then kidnapped and locked in a cage as part of a sideshow to be whipped and humiliated, escapes only to be nearly killed by a minotaur, pursued by ponies, nearly killed by Prince Blueblood, driven to near-suicide, almost framed for eating a filly, attacked by rogue griffin soldiers, trapped on the Astral Plane due to a sabotage of Twlight's experiments, and brought back only to learn that not only is his connection to Earth severed, but the magic he has been absorbing and channeling to his world will now build up inside him until he EXPLODES.
- Hope Spot: Thanks to some Magibabble, Twilight discovers she can use the connection Peter has with Earth to send him home. Apart from the risk of being separated from the friends he's made in Equestria (particularly Sveti), it seems like a dream come true. Then a sabotaged experiment to test this possibility not only cuts off Peter from home, but has given him one month to live before the magic he's absorbing causes him to explode.
- Peter gets another one when Twilight gives him an amulet to safely siphon off the magic he has been accumulating. A second gryphon attempt to get him fails when one of them tries to use a teleport charm to whisk Peter away, only to make the amulet explode, resulting in him only having a few hours before he succumbs to magic overload.
- I Die Free: This is basically Peter's mindest when he decides to try and shoot himself in the head after being cornered by Celestia, largely thanks to the toxic effect that pony magic was having on his mind at the time.
- I Just Shot Marvin in the Face: Averted. Peter owns a gun, but since he is a competitive sharp shooter, he knows how to handle his gun safely.
- It is played dramatically straight later on when Swift Wind, believing Peter was about to shoot Twilight when he was in fact trying to disarm his gun, tackles Peter, causing the gun to discharge. Swift Wind is critically wounded, and Peter is now fearful of what will happen now that he has injured a pony.
- Incompatible Orientation: Ensemble and Quick Service are both somewhat disappointed that their chances with Peter weren't that great to begin with (though since they're both shippers on deck for Peter and Sveti, they don't mind). For that matter...Ensemble: You're a sweetheart; there are times I wish you didn't only prefer stallions. You'd be a good catch.
Quick Service: There are times I wish you were a stallion, so we're even.
- In Medias Res/How We Got Here: The story begins with Peter on the run from Canterlot Castle, and finishing by diving off a cliff into the water, with Rainbow Dash in pursuit trying to figure out why he is running.
- Interspecies Romance: The reason why Sveti ended up in Big Top's sideshow. Her father, a griffin diplomat, was in a relationship with a pony. Big Top blackmailed him with the evidence of that relationship, and later blackmailed her into entering his sideshow. Eventually, Sveti's father killed himself out of grief over her disappearance.
- There is one building between Sveti and Peter.
- Jerkass Realization: Sergeant Peppermint York has one when when she learns her anger toward Peter is unfounded and she has been targeting an innocent creature for nothing. She gets an even bigger one when she learns about the sabotage and realizes how she let her anger overwhelm her sense of duty and aided a group that could have destroyed Canterlot in its goals, and asks that she openly testify about the conspiracy instead of remaining anonymous, even if she could face legal charges.
- Manipulative Bastard: Big Top, and that is without his mind control abilities. It works in his sideshow where he can force sentient creatures into acting violent in front of spectators.
- Manly Tears: Iron Will sheds these when he learns that his brother Cobalt had been enslaved by Big Top and then eventually killed by Peter.
- Martial Pacifist: When a chimera attacks Ponyville, Twilight attacks it, then teleports it into the woods rather than killing it. Peter, who witnesses this, is frightened by Twilight's power, but understands that she had enough mercy to let this threat live, which convinces him to turn himself in up until his unfortunate encounter with Swift Wind.
- Milkman Conspiracy: While the nobility are the usual suspects in the kind of conspiracy going on in the background, their ringleader is Big Top, who has a bizarrely large amount of political clout for a ringmaster at a Circus of Fear.
- Minion with an F in Evil: Big Top's employees are clearly horrified by Big Top's abuse, but while they try to make Peter's life a little easier, they make no attempt to free Peter, report Big Top, or even stop his torture. When they are arrested, they are sincerely remorseful for what happened, and try to make it up. Silver Wisk helps prepare a good meal for Peter, and Ferris stops angry protests against the Griffin nation before they get out of hand.
- More Than Mind Control: Big Top's special talent. He can't control ponies directly, but he can merely bring out whatever emotions already exist inside a pony.
- My God, What Have I Done?: Ferris after meeting Iron Will- it dawns on him that Cobalt was a person with a family, and he realizes the horrors he helped Big Top commit.
- No Good Deed Goes Unpunished: Averted with Sveti. Peter freeing her from Big Top's sideshow gives Peter a good friend and ally.
- Played straight with Dewdrop the filly. Peter saves a little filly from drowning. How is he thanked? He is run out of town he is visiting by an angry mob, an accused of being a monster. It is subverted later on, when the filly's parents, and a friend of the family speak up for him after he is framed for eating the filly by some Ponyville ponies.
- Paranoia Fuel: In-universe, Peter is horrified and enraged by the fact that Luna basically manipulated his psyche through his dreams, and now believes not even his mind is safe from assault.
- Perspective Flip: The story switches between Peter's perspective and the ponies' perspective, often of the same events involving Peter in the same chapters.
- Poor Communication Kills: Evident in the title. Not just Peter's initial inability to understand ponies and vice versa, but the inability of either to determine the other's actions, as well the the paranoia of many ponies causing them to not understand certain facts creates much of the conflict of the story.
- Prince Charmless: Blueblood is as smug as ever but his behavior towards Peter takes him to a new low: when Peter enters his room, Blueblood throws furniture with sufficient force to kill at him even though he hadn't even attacked, decks one the royal guards in the process and nearly injures his servant, demands Peter be put in chains or else be locked up by parliamentary maneuver, and allows one of the nobles to shamelessly insult Sveti. He gets told off by Princess Celestia and Luna, who due to his actions, have to put Peter under crown protection.
- Race Against the Clock: After one of Twilight's experiments on Peter is sabotaged, not only has Peter been cut off from Earth, but the magic he has been channeling to Earth will cause him to catastrophically explode in at least 3 weeks without other ponies' magic. Soon ponies start crowding Golden Oaks Library to find a solution, and Twilight has scientists struggling to find one as well.
- Redemption Equals Death: Ferris had long quit being Big Top's employee, but had still not yet truly redeemed himself for working for Big Top. See Taking the Bullet.
- Red Right Hand Big Top ends up with a glass eye after Peter's attack on him.
- "The Reason You Suck" Speech: Twilight lays an epic one to Silver Star, and by extension the other nobles involved in the conspiracy.Silver Star: Your ascension was a mistake. We trust Princess Celestia with the very underpinnings of our world, but how she could select some... some bumpkin like you to become royalty is inconceivable! You know nothing of how politics works in this city, nothing of its deepest traditions and culture, and you dismiss this Parliament and the nobility as no more important than a common street-sweeper! It would have been better if you'd gone back to that speck of dirt called Ponyville, and somepony with some notion of what this nation needs had been given that power instead. You're not fit to rule.
Twilight: Is that what you believe, Mister Star? That I'm unfit to rule because I don't understand traditions or politics, because I don't have or value the 'noble bloodlines' you cherish so completely?
Silver Star:I... I, well, that is to say, perhaps not myself, but there are a number of other nobles-
Twilight: Well. In that case, let's take note of what resulted from the plan that you and certain other nobles—who no doubt represent the 'cream of the crop' in your mind—formulated. You enlisted the aid of a complete psychopath, a wanted fugitive, whom you allowed to spread harmful rumors about an innocent creature. You and your cabal of nobles maneuvered to politically isolate Peter Collins, to persecute Sveti Windwhisper—even conspired to frame one of your own, Prince Blueblood, for your plan to disrupt my research...a plan, I might add, could have resulted in the death of myself and everyone nearby, reopening old breaches into a parallel plane, and even the utter destruction of Canterlot itself. As a result of your actions, Farris Wheel, a promising actor and playwright, lost his life. As a result of your actions, a young filly by the name of Dewdrop nearly lost hers. As a result of your actions, there has been untold needless suffering and conflict that could have been avoided otherwise. You let petty jealousy and short-sightedness gallop roughshod over everything this nation stands for. And you dare tell me that I am unfit to rule?!
- Run or Die: After escaping from Big Top, Peter spends the next couple of weeks running and hiding from everypony out of fear that, if caught, the ponies might imprison or even kill him, if not worse. Subverted in that they only want to bring him in for his own protection and to get to the bottom of why he, a member of a previously unknown species, is even in Equestria to begin with.
- The Sociopath: Big Top. Peter calls him this at one point.
- Stating the Simple Solution: Early in the story, the Mane Six try to follow Peter's tracks to discover what left them, but Twilight's tracking spell doesn't work. She starts rambling about it until Applejack suggests they simply follow the physical tracks left in the mud.
- Stealth Pun: A guy named Peter befriends and eventually falls in love with a griffon.
- Later on, he turns into a griffon himself.
- Teeth-Clenched Teamwork: Sveti works with Silver Wisk, one of Big Top's former employees, to make Peter a decent meal. Sveti would like nothing more than to throttle her, but she wants to help Peter.
- Sergeant Peppermint York and the Canterlot nobility, in a villainous example. They both want Peter out of the way, but it is clear that Peppermint York can't stand working with them, since they only see Peter as a means to weaken Princess Twilight, and don't care who gets hurt, while Peppermint York thinks Peter is dangerous, but does not want to endanger anypony while trying to get to him.
- Taking the Bullet: Ferris takes the crossbow Big Top fired at Peter. He is killed instantly.
- This Is Unforgivable!: Pretty much everyone reacts this way when they learn the sabotage of Twilight's runeform not only endangered Luna, Peter, and all of Canterlot, but it also cut Peter off from his connection to Earth, and that means that the magic Peter has been absorbing will cause him to explode.
- Torches and Pitchforks: As if he wasn't already in trouble, Peter is confronted by a mob in Canterlot, carrying torches, but no pitchforks. Thankfully, he is able to escape from them.
- Unreliable Narrator: A minor example, but in the sections from Peter's perspective that take place after he learns Equestrian, he's shown to communicate fairly clearly with the Equestrians. Chapters written from everyone else's POV, however, show that he still has a lot to learn.
- Well-Intentioned Extremist: Subverted with the conspiracy against Peter, but in different ways. For many of the nobles out to get Peter, it is subverted on the "well-intentioned" part. They seek to target Peter, but only because they see him as a way to discredit Princess Twilight in the eyes of Princess Celestia, and show almost no concern for who gets hurt in the process. For Sergeant Peppermint York, it is subverted on the "extremist part". She genuinely believes Peter is a dangerous monster and in all fairness Peter did almost fatally shoot Aircolt Swift Wind but is unwilling to hurt other ponies to get to him, and finds herself more and more infuriated by the actions of the conspirators which have endangered lives than with Peter being free in general. When Peter is proven to be totally innocent of any wrongdoing, she confesses to the role she played.
- Wham Episode:
- Raising the Stakes: The magic Peter has been absorbing has in fact been sent to Earth, which means that a way home for Peter could be possible.
- Untethered: Peter escapes from the Astral Plane, only to discover his connection to Earth has been severed, which means the magic he has been channeling toward will build up inside of him, and unless something is done, Peter will explode in at least three weeks. Now the fic has become a Race Against the Clock, with ponies struggling to find a solution before time runs out.
- What the Hell, Hero?: Peter is furious at Luna for manipulating his dreams.
- Swift Wind calls Sergeant York out for her irrational hatred of Peter, in spite of the fact that he has already forgiven Peter for accidentally shooting him. An Armor-Piercing Question later, and York confesses to Shining Armor about the conspiracy.
- He later gives York an even harsher one when he learns of the sabotage.
- You No Take Candle: When Peter learns Equish, he sounds like this to the ponies. Scenes from his point of view, however, portray him as much more articulate. Justified, as this is all a retrospective and he'd probably remember better what he was trying to convey than how he actually sounded.