"Mom. Dad." Spitfire didn't say anything else. She didn't plan to give her parents a warm reception. Her mother spoke up next.
"Honey? You think you can call me HONEY?! WHO DO YOU THINK YOU ARE, FIREFLY?!" Spitfire roared. Firefly shrunk back, allowing her fear to break through her composure. Spitfire's father fired back, unwilling to watch Spitfire hurt her mother.
"That is your MOTHER you're screaming at! How dare-"
"Not anymore, she's not! And I'll bet you think you can call yourself my father, don't you Ebony?" Spitfire shot back as she took an aggressive step towards her father. Her father prepared for the worst.
"Spitfire? What's all the screa-" Rainbow stopped mid-sentence as she saw Spitfire's parents shaking before what appeared to be their impending doom. Rainbow's eyes narrowed as she glared daggers at the elder couple.
"What exactly are YOU two doing here?" Rainbow demanded. Firefly stumbled over her words as she choked out her response.
"W-we came t-to make things r-right. We just want our daughter back." She was stumbling over her words, but she managed to continue. "We r-realized we were w-wrong, Spitfire. I know th-there's nothing w-we can do to make up for it, but we're so sorry."
Spitfire looked down at her mother. Her face seemed to be made of stone.
"Those words might have meant something fifteen years ago, Firefly. They might have meant something if you had come to our wedding and said them." Spitfire's voice broke as she remembered the two empty seats in the audience that day. "But now? Now they're not worth a damn thing."
Ebony began to take a step forward, but caught himself. He knew Spitfire was right to be angry. He lowered his head.
"Spitfire, you...have every right to be angry with us right now." It was obviously difficult for Ebony to get his words out. Apologizing wasn't something he was used to doing. "What we did to you was...the most horrible thing two ponies could do to their daughter. We were so stuck in our ways that we refused to accept you for who you are. We were wrong, Spitfire." His last two words were next to impossible for him to force out. "We're sorry."
Spitfire gave a bitter laugh.
"You're sorry? That's the best you can come up with?" Spitfire felt sorrow building inside her. As angry as she was at her parents, she knew deep down that ever since they left her life she desperately wanted them back. But she couldn't show them that now. She had to be like Rainbow. She knew she was better off without her parents, and she needed to let her parents know just that. "You missed fifteen years of my life. Fifteen years of crap that I needed help with, and you weren't there." Spitfire took a deep breath before continuing. "You weren't there when I threw away my old life so I could be happy. You weren't there when I moved to a new town full of ponies I had never met. You weren't there when I got married and became a parent. WHERE IN THE HAY WERE YOU?!" Spitfire had to force herself to steady her breathing. She was losing her composure, and she couldn't let that happen at the moment. She steadied herself and continued. "I'm doing fine without you two in my life. I think I'd like it to stay that way."
"Sp-Spitfire...Please..." Firefly pleaded with her daughter. The older mare's eyes had begun to water. Spitfire shot her a glare that could pierce steel.
"Don't you dare start crying, Firefly. Do you have any idea how nice it would have been to have parents over the last fifteen years?" Spitfire gave a bitter laugh to keep herself from breaking down. "I'm not even an orphan and I don't remember what it's like to have a mother and a father. You two never gave me a chance. Why should I give you one?" Spitfire turned to hide her hurt from her parents. If they knew how much their absence had hurt her, they would know she wasn't as strong as she looked. She then made her way back inside. She stopped at the door to give her parents one last message. "Make sure you don't find your way back here." With that, Spitfire closed the door, leaving her disheartened parents outside.
"I can't believe they just came back! After all this time, they just thought they could waltz on back here and apologize as if that's going to make up for it! Ugh, if I look out the window and they're still there I'll kill both of them!" Spitfire couldn't help but scream as her pent up rage exploded. Rainbow made an effort to keep her distance and let the situation run it's course until Spitfire had properly vented. Rainbow had only seen Spitfire truly angry a couple of times prior, but from those experiences she knew not to be within her hooves' reach. As if on cue, Spitfire smashed a lamp next to their couch and sent it hurtling across the room. "FIFTEEN YEARS AND THEY THINK THEY CAN JUST COME BACK?! DAMN THEM BOTH!" Spitfire bucked the couch, flipping it over. "THOSE SORRY SACKS OF SHIT! WHAT ARE THEY DOING HERE?!" Spitfire swung at another lamp and missed. She swung again, and missed again. She continued as tears began to fall from her eyes. Eventually she fell to her haunches and let the sobs come.
"What are they doing here, Rainbow?" Spitfire had to force the question out. She didn't expect Rainbow to have an answer, but she didn't have anypony else to go to.
Rainbow saw that as her cue to step in and comfort her wife. She sat next to Spitfire, wrapped a wing around her and pulled her close. Rainbow gently stroked Spitfire's mane as she cried into her shoulder.
"Don't worry, Spitfire. It'll be okay."
Rainbow didn't realize that she couldn't have possibly made a worse word choice. Spitfire launched off of Rainbow and hovered in the air.
Okay? OKAY?! HOW STUPID ARE YOU, RAINBOW?! My parents just show up out of the blue after FIFTEEN YEARS and all you have to say is 'It'll be OKAY?! ARE YOU KIDDING ME?!"
Rainbow was taken aback. Spitfire had never let loose such an outburst at her before. Rainbow's lower lip trembled and Spitfire realized her mistake. She shot to the floor and threw her forelegs around her wife.
"Rainbow...I'm so sorry. I...buck, what did I do that for?" Spitfire hung her head low. She felt a gentle nuzzle on her cheek. She looked up to see a gentle look on Rainbow's face. Such a look was a rarity coming from Rainbow, and Spitfire was rather surprised.
"It's cool, Spitfire. You're stressed, I get it."
Spitfire's jaw dropped. That was it? She was forgiven, just like that? She felt fresh tears welling in her eyes and she didn't hesitate to let them flow. Rainbow wrapped her forelegs around Spitfire and let her cry into her shoulder.
"I love you, Rainbow."
"I love you, Spitfire."
Steel and Soarin' sat in the main room of the cottage. Soarin' bore an expression chiseled in stone, while Steel's features seemed to be drained of any emotion at all.
"I...I just don't get it. Why does she still care about me? Why do I still matter to her?" Steel hoped against hope that Soarin' could offer a good answer to his questions. He needed one. Soarin' was quick to give him one.
"Because she knows who you are, Steel. She doesn't look at you and see the colt that hit her, she sees you. You said you weren't in your right mind when you hit her, right?"
Steel let his gaze drift to the floor. He wanted to cry, but he didn't feel the need to. He didn't feel much of anything really. He searched himself for something, anything. Any emotion he could latch onto. He sighed as he found nothing.
"Yeah, that's what I said." Steel didn't lift his gaze from the floor. He had stopped feeling the moment he started recalling the events of the previous few days to Soarin'. Now all he wanted was to be alone. Away from anypony he could bring more harm to.
"Steel, you there?"
Steel looked up as he registered the fact that he had gotten lost in thought.
"Yeah. Yeah, I am."
"What were you thinking about?" Soarin' calmly asked. Steel heaved another heavy sigh.
"All I've done since I was adopted is cause problems. I hurt ponies, it's just what I do. I can't help it. I've made Scootaloo miserable, Rainbow and Spitfire constantly bend over backwards for me and I shove it right back into their faces. I ditch my friends as soon as I get a fillyfriend, and then I punch her in the face." Steel searched again for some emotion to fill the void. Something to feel so he wouldn't be empty. Again, he found nothing. He let out a long, slow sigh. "Sometimes I just think Equestria would be better off without me."
Soarin' sat rigid in his chair. Hearing those words from Steel chilled him to the core.
"Listen to me, Steel. I don't EVER want to hear you talk like that again, do you understand me?"
Soarin' took a calming breath to compose himself.
"Think of everypony who you care about." He began. "They all care about you more than you could ever imagine. If Equestria would be better off without you, Autumn wouldn't have came to see you in the hospital, Spitfire and Rainbow wouldn't have taken you there, and I wouldn't have taken time away from my family to be with you right now!"
Steel shrank back as Soarin' half yelled the last part of his small pep talk. Soarin' again took a moment to compose himself. He was outraged that Steel even thought he would be a blight on the world, but losing his temper could only hurt he situation. Steel lowered his head.
"Sorry, Soarin'." He didn't know what else to say. Soarin' frowned at Steel's half hearted apology, but there wasn't much he could do. He got up and sat next to Steel.
"Steel, I can't help you unless you're willing to help yourself. I can give you all the advice the world has to offer and it won't do a thing unless you accept it with a positive outlook. Steel, your happiness is YOURS to take. You just have to take it."
Steel's face twisted into one of rage as anger welled inside of him. What right did Soarin' have to say stuff like that? Soarin' didn't know what he was going through! He stood up and faced the older stallion.
"You make it sound so easy, you know that! Like forgetting everything that's happened is just another thing on a list of simple chores! Like I'm supposed to get up and face Autumn without constantly thinking about what I did to her!" Steel flared his wings as he tried to stare Soarin' down. "Like I can just go home and talk to my parents and pretend that I deserve the love they give me! You don't know what it's like to be the pony that holds everypony else back!"
"YOU LISTEN TO ME, STEEL!" Soarin' shouted back. His volume alone was enough to silence Steel. "Do you honestly think I want you to forget what happened over the last few weeks? Do you honestly think you don't deserve your parents care and affection? Who are you to act like you just did to the stallion who's trying to help you?" Soarin' smiled gently as Steel controlled his breathing, allowing himself to relax. "Steel, I just want to help. But as I said earlier, I can only help you if you're willing to help yourself."
Steel lowered his head and fell back onto his haunches. He let his wings drop to the floor next to him.
Maybe...Maybe he's right... Steel thought to himself.
"I...okay." Steel said with a sigh. "But how do I help myself?"
Soarin' offered a gentle smile.
"You have to want to be happy. Nothing in Equestria can make you happy if you don't want to be happy. Now, do you want to be happy?"
Steel looked up at Soarin'. The older stallion's smile reassured him. He nodded. Soarin's smile grew into a childish grin.
"Good! Now that we have that out of the way, what do you say to some apple pie before I send you on your way?"
Steel was a little confused. It was only 8:30. He had just gotten to Soarin's house.
"Wait, that's it? That's what you wanted to see me for?" Steel asked. Soarin' rolled his eyes.
"You didn't think we were going to have the whole conversation over the course of a single day, did you? I'll see you tomorrow morning, same time."
Steel groaned at the prospect of getting up at that unholy hour of the morning again. Soarin' laughed.
"Trust me, Steel. This is good for you. Before long you'll be getting up early every day and you won't even notice it."
Steel shuddered at that prospect as he watched Soarin' energetically search his fridge for some apple pie.
"A-HA! Here we go!" Soarin' exclaimed before gripping the pie tin in his teeth and setting it down on the counter. "Come on Steel, let's eat!"
Steel scratched his head with a hoof.
"Um, I appreciate this and all, but why are we having apple pie?"
Soarin' rolled his eyes.
"Because I can't drink with you and I can't send you off on an empty stomach. Now eat some pie, alright?"
"I really should get going..."
Soarin' gave Steel a condescending glance.
Steel desperately searched his mind for an excuse, but found nothing. He sighed again.
Soarin' responded by giving Steel a smug grin and shoving some pie in his direction. Steel shrugged and dove into the dessert.
"Oh, and Steel?" Soarin' began between bites. Steel looked up.
"When did you start calling Rainbow and Spitfire your parents?"