“Ponies, we are gathered here to honor the memory of our dear friend…”
A casket sat in the cold silence of an Autumn afternoon in Ponyville. A dread feeling hung in the air, a collective lump in the throats of everypony present. The funeral tent had been erected swiftly, in preparation for the coming storm that day. No one wanted to perform such a bitter procession on a day like this; but death waited for nopony. Dozens of mares, stallions, colts and fillies were gathered in somber silence as a grand princess with a mane woven of the stars themselves spoke to them. All felt the sorrow in their hearts, but none so much as the old blue mare hiding in the back.
Rainbow Dash watched from the rear of the procession as Princess Luna addressed the others. She heard words, but couldn’t quite process them. Everything churned and swirled in an endless bout of emotions. Loss; shock; heartache; she could take her pick of any. The one she chose was confusion. How had any of this happened? She looked to her left and right, and the bench she occupied was shared by her dearest friends. Old, and more than a little wrinkly, but still the same mares that she had spent just about all of her life with.
All except one.
Luna was still talking, but Rainbow Dash still couldn’t make out a single word of it. When she finished, though, all the ponies around her started to stand, and shuffle into a single line. It was time. Her friends stood up on either side of her, but a lump in her throat—no, make that an anvil, weighed her down. She tried her hardest to move, but she couldn’t. She wasn’t ready for this, she couldn’t say goodbye; not like this.
“Come on, sugarcube; we’d best be movin’.”
A hoof pressed on Dash’s shoulder, and she looked over at Applejack; the old farmer looked about as happy as the day she put her dog down. That is to say, Dash thought, absolutely crushed. As depressed as she looked, she kept pushing the stubborn mare to get up and go. Rainbow Dash’s lip quivered, and for a moment she thought AJ was about to break down and cry right with her. But she stood, as best as her tired old legs could get her up, and she moved.
Thunder crashed in the air around them, and raindrops started to drip down on the tent pitched above them. Pinkie Pie had sewed it herself. The old mare had chosen bright pink and white stripes. If it was anyone else, Rainbow might have bucked them square in the mouth. But Pinkie Pie had to be Pinkie Pie. Everypony had their own way of coping.
The line that formed was longer than Rainbow had anticipated. It seemed like half the town had come by to give their final farewells. A twinge of guilt at her own selfishness pricked at the back of her head. That mare had changed so many ponies’ lives, there should have been a lot more than there even were now. She tried to pick out faces; old memories, still shuffling around like they had a place. Applebloom and the Apple family were the first she noticed; there was a bad taste in her mouth when she thought of that. It wasn’t her Apples, it was somepony else’s. Big Macintosh, Granny Smith… she could only wonder what Applejack felt like; she knew they must have been thinking about the same things. Nopony but one had ever been through thick and thin with her like Applejack had. They might have called each other rivals now and again, when the situation called for it, but the truth was the fastest pony in Equestria couldn’t have found a better friend if she tried.
There was a face she didn’t ever expect to see again. Light blue hair, a little lighter now in age, and those same arrogant little eyes. Trixie, of all ponies? Rainbow’s temper flared. What, she thought she could run away like a coward, all those years ago, and then show up now? Was it some kind of half-hoofed attempt at an apology? Too little, too late. Much too late. Rainbow Dash looked away from the withered old witch; she wasn’t sure what she’d do if she thought about it any longer.
The line moved fast, or maybe not. The poor mare felt like everything was stuck. Ponies were moving, and talking, and she heard music, but none of it felt real. It WAS all a dream, right? She’d just close her eyes real tight, and when she opened them again the nightmare would be over, and she’d be lying in bed right next to—
“Rainbow… you’re up.”
Applejack’s voice wrenched the pegasus out of her desperate fantasies, and brought her back to the grim reality. This was real. A pressure built up in her eyes. No, nonononono. The most awesome pony in Equestria was not going to cry, just for a—a stupid funeral. She sighed, the ragged little intakes of breath causing the orange mare behind her to wince, and stepped up to the casket.
Rainbow Dash didn’t look inside; not yet. She kept her eyes fixed squarely on the floor, at the little legs holding the coffin up. Her stomach felt ready to burst, churning in a total maelstrom of agony. She wanted to drop dead, or at least be somewhere far away. Anywhere, really, but right there. The old mare bit her lip, trying to find something to say.
“So, uh… y-yeah. I, I guess this is goodbye. It still doesn’t make any sense to me. Not just today, I guess. Everything. I don’t really know why an egghead like you picked somepony as awesome as me to, you know, love, I guess. But I just wanted to say I’m really gonna miss you. Your smile, your eyes, that stupid egghead thing where you kept fixing my grammar… waking up beside you every morning.”
Her eyes shook, and she couldn’t help but move her gaze up along the legs, and to the casket itself, before finally looking inside at the purple mare lying inside. Something snapped.
Applejack watched from behind as Rainbow Dash slowly turned around, her eyes fixed wide. “Rainbow, what’s wrong?”
Rainbow’s eyes twitched a bit, trying to keep themselves open, and her mouth quivered before sinking into a scowl; maybe a snarl, even. “Oh Celestia, I can’t do this!”
The pegasus darted out of the tent as fast as her legs could carry her, leaving her friends and the entire procession staring at her slowly dwindling flank in confusion. Her friends went as far as the tent’s end, stopping before the rain and calling out to her. But she was already gone.
“Oh, dear.” Rarity whimpered, her admittedly garish black and yellow hat drooping as bits of rain plopped on its brim. “I didn’t think the poor girl would take it this hard.”
“Wouldn’t you?” Fluttershy asked. Her voice was even softer than it had been in years past as age slowly advanced on her. Her wings flapped steadily, holding her in the air in place of her frail legs.
“Oh no oh no, I hope it wasn’t the tent!” Pinkie Pie squealed, looking genuinely mortified as she seemed to finally comprehend the poor taste in her decorations. Applejack shook her head at them all and brought the tip of her hat down a bit lower, to shield against the rain.
“None’a that matters, girls. Just give her a little space. Ah think she needs that most of all right now. As for us…” she frowned and looked back at the casket. “Somepony needs to bury the poor girl.”
The four ponies, as sick as it made them, had no choice but to agree on that matter. They went back inside the tent, and waited as Princess Luna gave the final blessings. Applejack watched her friends break down one by one. Rarity had spent the majority of the funeral blasting the contents of her muzzle into a handkerchief, and was only finally beginning to regain her composure when Pinkie lost her composure, and erupted into a torrential font of water matching the raging storm outside. Rarity’s empathy got the better of her, and she dissolved into a sobbing wreck once more as she and Pinkie wrapped their legs around each other for support. Fluttershy was unable to join them, as she was already enveloped in the wings of her three colts, who had nearly bowled her over as they rushed from the crowd the moment they saw tears. Applejack snorted and couldn’t help but feel a little angry at her friends. They needed to put up a good front, carry out the funeral with the dignity Twilight deserved. She could cry once she got home. The tears finally slowed and, after a moment, stopped when they saw another figure join them. Princess Celestia, with her sister at her side, approached the four of them. Neither of them looked a day younger than they had in those chance first meetings, what must have been decades ago. Fluttershy’s children scattered, and the four mares attempted to bow; they stopped, a bit unsure, when Celestia shook her head at the attempt.
“My little ponies, today isn’t time for protocol. My sister is in charge of guiding our subjects into the next life; I’m just here to say…” she paused a bit, choosing her words. “to say thank you, dearly, for showing my dear student so much more in life than she would have ever seen cooped up in her room in Canterlot.”
Applejack nodded, on behalf of herself and the others. Nothing else could be said. Princess Luna was the next to speak, keeping herself as reserved as she could manage.
“We—er, by which I mean, my sister and I, know how much Twilight meant to you. I owe her my life, and my sister hers. We think it would best if, well, if you would be the ones to put her to rest.”
Applejack shared a moment with the others, their eyes saying everything that needed to be said. The old farm mare looked back at the Princesses and nodded slowly. “We’d be honored, your majesties.”
Princess Luna approached the casket and said a few final blessings, before magically closing the top. The four ponies caught their last glimpse of their best friend before she was cut off from them forever. Forever. Pinkie’s voice warbled through all of their minds, and only a sense of purpose in carrying the coffin prevented another outburst of sobbing. Each of them went to one corner of the casket and took a bar in their mouths. Applejack felt the strain, and knew that she was really the one carrying the load. Fluttershy would likely shatter if she tried to lift something that heavy these days; Rarity was never one for strength, and levitation spells were a traditional faux-pas at funerals, to put it in fancy. Pinkie Pie could have carried a bit more, but from all the twitching her face was doing Applejack knew that either her Pinkie Sense was going off, or they were lucky she wasn’t still crying. The old mare still knew a thing or two, though; bucking apples for seventy years wasn’t a kind of strength you lost to a bit of aging. She hefted the casket, and though it tilted a bit more than she’d like, the four of them slowly brought their precious cargo out into the pouring rain.
As the last of the ponies began to leave, Applejack looked around the cemetery, tucked safely under her hat and an umbrella for good measure. The storm had not relented for a single moment from the long and, to her chagrin painful trip. It didn’t bother her so much, when she thought about it. Everything seemed kind of, well, numb, she guessed. The Princess had spoken, and a few ponies dug. The hole was deep; she still had the fresh memory of staring down that hole. Putting her best friend into some dark pit to be forgotten about. It just didn’t sit right with her. She stood at the edge of the old graveyard, where the most recent addition from her own family filled a long row.
“Coulda used ya today, Mac.” the country pony said sheepishly as she cleaned off a bit of dirt from the headstone. “Ah ain’t no heavy lifter, that was more your thing. Heh. Here Ah am, talking to my dead brother. You probably ain’t even listenin’ up there, just saying “Eeyup” and tryin’ to tune me out, right?”
She would have continued, ranting at her brother like that, but she heard a noise behind her. Quiet, like somepony was trying to hide it. A sob. She turned around, and saw Rainbow Dash standing by the fresh grave on the other side of the cemetery. AJ gave a quick “Talk to ya later” to Big Macintosh and went galloping over to Dash’s side. Rainbow’s eyes bugged out, startled, but they calmed down quickly. Applejack wished they hadn’t, the pegasus looked wrong. She couldn’t quite put it into words, she was never good with language; but “broken” was the only way to describe the pitiful mare.
“Sugarcube, you’re gonna catch your death out here. C’mere, take my umbrella.”
Rainbow Dash used a hoof to push the offered sanctuary away. “I don’t need it.” she said, in a veneer just good enough to fool anypony that it was her usual confidence. Anypony but Applejack. “I worked in rainclouds my whole life, you think a little sprinkle’s gonna make me sick?”
“Dash, you’re old. And Ah am too. Two stubborn old mares like us could go at it for hours. So just respect the wishes of an ol’ country pony, and get your hide under here.”
The elderly daredevil grumbled, but wouldn’t argue with her friend with her being so darned earnest. She slid under the umbrella, and locked her eyes down on the little stone that had been carved out for her wife.
Here lies Twilight Sparkle
Beloved Wife, Sister and Mother
Friendship is Forever
“Cadance wrote that.” Rainbow said. Applejack looked at her, curious. “Stupid sister-in-law…-in-law. Who writes a lame thing like that for a pony as awesome as Twilight?”
“Ah think it’s sweet.” Applejack retorted, smiling at the little gesture. She knew it must have hurt the Princess, making a grave for a filly she’d helped raise. “And you know she was only tryin’ to do Twilight right.”
“Well, maybe she shouldn’t have.” Rainbow said. It was supposed to sound harsh and mean, Applejack was sure of that. But that little crack in her voice, she hadn’t made that sound since she was still a young mare. It was kind of pathetic, in a way. “Maybe this whole thing is just stupid.”
The orange mare tilted her head, seriously worrying about her friend. “Dash, I don’t understand a word you’re sayin’. What do you mean by stupid?”
“Maybe none of this should have happened at all.” Rainbow growl-whined again. “I’m supposed to be this big hero, and that idiot tries to do what I can’t? Of course she would go and get herself killed… some hero I turned out to be.”
Applejack felt her mouth fall open, and her eyebrows furrow. “Sugarcube, don’t you DARE try and tell me that you blame yourself for all’a that. Nopony could have predicted that, and nopony could have stopped it once it got started. It ain’t your fault. It ain’t my fault. It’s nopony’s fault. Come on, Dash, if ya won’t cheer up for me, cheer up for your wife. She sacrificed so much for you, Ah can bet she’d be mighty angry if you went and died cryin’ over her grave.”
Rainbow Dash looked at the farmer like she had just tried to shoot her. “I, you t-try and tell ME what she’d say?...” Her mouth shifted a few times, going from horrified, to mortified, to livid, until finally it settled, somewhat, into a shaky grimace. The pegasus skulked away, back into the rain as she walked off in the direction of the edge of town. “Rainbow, wait!” Applejack called after her. But Dash just kept walking.
“Leave me alone!” she shouted back, her voice cracking worse than ever. “I—I need some time to think, okay?!”
Rainbow Dash shifted into a sprint, and left the cemetery in the dust as she ran in the direction of the Everfree Forest.
“Rainbow…” Applejack sat down in the grass, watching her friend run out of sight for the second time that day. “Ah’ve gotta do something.”