I was so nervous, standing behind a tree in front of the school house. Hell, nervous didn’t even begin cover it, I was scared shitless. Something I found funny, I had just spent the last 8 years fighting in a horrific war and here I was, scared for the first time in years, hiding behind a tree in this peaceful town.
Behind me the town clock tower started ringing out, 3 PM, showtime.
Peaking around the tree I looked at the group of ponies standing outside the school house, waiting to pick their kids up to take them home. In the back of the group I saw my target, a young looking golden yellow earth pony, who looked like she cried more often than she should.
The young fillies started filling out of the school, some going to their parents, some getting in their own little groups and walking themselves home. Just another peaceful day here in Ponyville.
A young filly walked out to my target, nuzzling her in greeting, talking about something.
I snuck around the group and walked up behind the golden mare and stood behind her, the young filly stopping mid-sentence and staring at me. The golden mare, noticing something was wrong turned around to face my smiling face.
“I’m home.” I simply state.
She gasped, tackling me in a mighty hug, tears streaming down her face.
“Mommy, who is that?” asked the young filly, who was behind her mother.
“Golden Blossom, this is your father, Mighty Gate.” She said gently.
“Hi Mr. Gate!” she said cheerfully, bouncing out from behind her mother.
“Hello Blossom, you look exactly like how your mother described you.” I said, barely holding back tears, the crowd of other parent ponies were watching us and I didn’t want to make a scene.
Blossom, looking at me from head to toe, said, “You have a funny leg!” poking it with her forehoof.
“Blossom!” exclaimed my wife, Golden Honey, in horror.
“Its okay.” I said gently, pulling my family into a deep hug, careful to not hit either of them with my new prosthetic foreleg that I still had not gotten used to.
“How long?” My wife whispered into my ear, her tears running down my neck.
“Forever.” I can’t help it, tears had started running down my face.
She hugged me harder, I could feel her hiccup slightly, she was crying so hard.
“I thought you would never see your daughter.” She sobbed quietly.
“Ssshhhh,” I breathed into her ear, not wanting this hug to end.
But all good things must end, as Blossom said from between us, “Umm, Mr. Gate you’re crushing me.”
Releasing the hug, I look down at my daughter, seeing her with my own eyes for the first time. She had been born two weeks after I had left, and I hadn't been able to get home in all of those years. I had a lot to catching up to do, I knew nothing about her, my own daughter!
“Come, lets get you home.” Said Honey, leading me into town, not leaving my side.
Walking through the town I saw a lot had changed in the 8 years I had been gone, the streets I had grown up with were all different, but still the same. The shops on either side of the street had either been redone or were now something else entirely.
Leading me up a street that was completely new she stopped outside a house almost identical to every other house on the street, the only thing setting it apart was a lit candle in the window.
“I know its not much..” My wife said, embarrassed.
“It’s perfect!” I said, allowing myself to be lead through the gate by my daughter.
“Can I show him the house mommy?” She asked.
With a meek smile on her face she nodded, adding, “If that’s okay with daddy.”
By way of answer I offered my forehoof, my real one, to allow my daughter to pull me by hoof into the house. I was barely able to keep up on that blasted prosthetic leg, but I didn’t want to put a damper on my daughters excitement.
She pulled me through the door into the living room, small and covered with small toys. After that she pulled me into the kitchen, which was mostly empty except for a dining table that had three chairs around it. Two looked worn and well loved and the third looked brand new. I remember making that dining room set for her just before I left, she loved them so much they had been the first thing moved into the house just before I left. Reaching my hoof under the lip of the table, I felt the small heart I had carved into the table.
“If you are ever in need of proof that I still love you, just know my heart is right here within grasp, always.” I muttered to myself, remembering the words I had said all those years ago.
“What was that Mr. Gate?” Asked my daughter, who was showing off her artwork on the fridge.
What I saw there stuck a lump in my throat. All over the front of the fridge are pictures of my family she had drawn. In all of the pictures, Blossom and Honey were present, being accurate in color and size, but in each of the pictures there was always a stallion standing apart from them, and in each picture it was a different stallion. The one thing each one had in similarity was my cutie mark, a wooden gate with a hammer resting on it. Each of the pictures had me on it. Despite having never known me she had included me in everything.
“I’m sorry Mr. Gate, but mommy didn’t have any good pictures of you, so I had to use my imagination.” She said, blushing slightly.
“No, they’re all beautiful..” I said, tears springing up to my eyes again.
“Lemme me show you my room!” she squealed as she pulled me up the stairs. I stumbled, tripping on the third step, but was able to catch myself and continue slowly after her.
Once at the top there was a short hallway with 3 doorways, only one of which was open, walking into the room I stared in shock. Most of the walls were covered with newspaper cuttings, and looking closely, she had been following my unit. Every major and minor thing we had done in the war had its place on the wall.
“I was looking for you in the newspapers!” She said, bouncing on her bed
“I think I found you in a lot of pictures!” She said, handing me one from long ago, it was me, standing in front of a statue, laughing with my brother, Stone Wall. Soon after that picture was taken we were ambushed, and he took an arrow to the chest as he pulled me out of a burning carriage, saving my life but giving his in the process.
Handing it back to her with a nod, I said, “Lets not keep your mother waiting.”
Giving her a ride down the stairs, she sat on my back and steered me by tugging on my ears, leading me to the kitchen where my wife had just started laying out food for dinner.
“Just in time!” she said, smiling as we entered the room.
After a wonderful dinner Blossom was starting to look quite tired, she had a busy day and it was getting late. I took her upstairs, carrying her again, and back to her room where I tucked her into her bed. Kissing her on the forehead as she drifted off to sleep, hugging a small stuffed animal who was wearing a uniform a lot like mine. As I left the room I heard her say.
“Welcome home daddy, I wuv you.”
Pausing at the doorway, realising that she had just called me Daddy for the first time, and it broke my heart to have not been there for the beginning of her life. Looking back at my little angel as she drifted off into her sweet little dreams, only one thought went through my head.
“It’s good to be home, and I’ll never leave you ever again, I promise.”