• Published 29th Jun 2012
  • 3,156 Views, 375 Comments

Fallout: Equestria - Wasteland Bouquet - Cascadejackal

There's a lot of stories in the Equestrian Wasteland, and they all need to be told.

  • ...

Chapter 24: Homecoming

---CHAPTER 24: Homecoming ---

"I feel better. Really, I do. Thanks, everypony. I don't know what I'd do without you."

For the first time in a while, I was completely relaxed. I had my wagon back, there were no crazy bounty hunters after us, and there was nothing but empty countryside in every direction.

Familiar countryside, I realised with a start, sitting up straighter in my seat to look around, trying to place just where we were.

We'd made good time on the way back from Canter Creek, Rose being a better puller than Betsy and Bessy even with her injured leg, and the miles simply vanished under the Serenity's wheels. Another couple of days at most and we'd be meeting my parents again, unless I missed my guess. I didn't think I had, though.

Still, I kept looking around. I knew where we were, I just couldn't place it.

Ibis looked at me curiously from where he was stretched out in the cargo bay, but shrugged and went back to sharpening his claws. Rose couldn't even see me, since she was still secured in the traces up front, and she was more interested in draining her whiskey supply than talking anyway. So, they were no help.

Okay, I thought to myself, We're about... northeast of... yep, and that means down that road is... My eyes went wide and I yanked on the reins, steering Rose the way I wanted us to go. "Whoa! That way, Rose!"

Rose nickered past the surgical tubing straw in her mouth, but obliged, the Serenity rocking as we went from the well-worn road to what was little more than a rough trail, barely visible under the scrubby grass that had overgrown it.

"Hey, Lily" Ibis called out, "why're we going this way? You know something we don't?"

"No... I mean, yeah... I mean..." Turning to look back at him, I shook my head. "Just... look, we need to go this way, alright? It's... it's for Rose."

He raised his eyebrow giving me a questioning look. I glanced forward again. Rose's ear was cocked back; she was listening in. "I'll explain when we get there, okay? It's... it's a surprise."

Ibis rolled his eyes and settled down again. A few seconds later, Rose's ear flicked, then went back to twitching in random directions with the other one.

I just took a deep breath and assumed the comfortable pony loaf position, looking at the back of Rose's head, her messy mane bobbing as she pulled us along our new route.

It was time for us to do something long overdue.

"Whoa." A couple of hours later, I pulled back on the reins, bringing Rose to a stop. There wasn't much too see, but I knew we'd reached our destination.

Ignoring Ibis' questions from the cargo bay, I hopped out of the Serenity and started unharnessing Rose. She champed at the air when I pulled the surgical tube from her mouth, a few stray drops of whiskey falling to the dry earth, then she looked at me and blinked.

Then she blinked again and looked past me. Her eyes widened slightly as she took in the field we'd stopped by. "Lily..."

"Yeah..." I nodded and set the harness to one side with a small, sad smile. "Yeah... welcome home, Rose."

Whiskey Rose

Home. I was home.

Lily was sad. Ibis was curious. As I stepped free of my harness and looked around, I didn't know what I felt.

There was nothing left of my house. The old fences around our field were just single posts of wood now, sticking out of the brush. It was like I'd never lived here at all.

"Go on, Rose." Lily was smiling, but she was still sad. She waved her hoof at me, motioning me to go forwards. "Go talk to your parents, okay? I bet they missed you."

I blinked at Lily. She'd brought me home to talk to my parents. After a moment, I blinked again, then turned and walked into the field, pausing when I reached the spot where the front door had been.

I tried to remember what the rough wood had felt like when I pushed it open, and how my hooves had sounded on the floor of our living room when I came in from playing. I took deep breaths, almost able to smell my Mama's cooking, the memory of her singing softly teasing my ears as I walked. I stepped around the old couch, where I'd cuddled with Mama and Papa every night, listening to their stories. It had seemed so big back then. The old cabinet in the corner made me pause, with its treasure trove of pretty things. I remembered sitting in front of it and coming up with stories for where Mama had found everything in it.

Mama always kept her favorite thing at the very front, a little crystal carving of a pink alicorn. She called it Love Song, and said it came from a faraway place where everything was made of crystals, even the ponies, and everypony was happy all the time.
I was allowed to hold it sometimes, and I was always so careful not to drop it.

I smiled and moved on, my hooves taking me into the hall, with its old carpet that always made little poofs of dust when I stepped on it. I passed the kitchen door, humming Mama's favorite song as I went, but not remembering the words. I never could remember them, no matter how hard I tried, but Mama said trying to teach me was fun, so it was okay.

I poked my head around the door of Papa's workroom, slipping inside and wiping my hooves on the mat. It was one of the rooms that never changed, Papa keeping it exactly how he wanted. My rifle shifted in its holster as I walked to the stained old bench, and I tilted my head to nuzzle it back into place. It was as glad to be home as I was. This was where I'd learned all about Papa's rifle. We'd spent hours here, cleaning and fixing the rifle, and Papa was always so proud when I remembered what to do.

I giggled when I thought of the little bottle of moonshine Papa kept hidden under his cleaning rags. He'd made it himself, in his still outside, and Mama pretended she didn't know he had it in the workroom. Mama and Papa were silly sometimes.

With a sigh, and a final breath to take in the smell of grease and gunpowder, I left the workroom behind and continued down the hall.

Outside of Mama and Papa's room, I paused. I'd grown up a lot since leaving home, and now I knew what they'd really been doing when they told me they were cuddling. I giggled to myself; they'd been having sex. I had been such a silly filly back then.

A few more steps brought me to my room, and I only hesitated a little before going in.

My room. I turned slowly in the middle of the room, thinking of all the time I'd spent there with a smile. I missed my books. I remembered building a bookfort with Lily when I was very small. Papa pretended to be a dragon for us, just like the ones in my stories.

A nice breeze always came through the window when Princess Celestia was lowering the sun. It was cool, and made snuggling into my warm blankets for the night feel even better. The little spider who lived behind the loose board would make the prettiest webs, with strands of silver that glittered in the morning light. Mama said spiders that did that were called Dreamcatchers, and that Princess Luna sent them to keep bad dreams away.

I'd almost forgotten how my bed had felt, how I'd hugged Mister Chicken every night until I fell asleep... but now I had Ibis. I giggled again. Waking up with my boyfriend was the best.

Slowly, I turned and left my room behind, walking back through my house. Past Mama's paintings on the walls, past the rack Papa always put his duster on when it was dirty, past the rooms filled with memories and love, and out the back door.

It had been so long... I closed my eyes, my head raised into the breeze that whispered in the grass. After a little while, wishing I could stay like that forever, I opened my eyes again and walked over to my parents.

"Hi, Mama. Hi, Papa." I lay down between them, smiling a little. "I'm sorry I haven't been home in so long. Uncle and auntie have been taking good care of me, and Lily has been taking me on lots of adventures." I paused, shifting a little to stretch my hind leg. The brace wasn't very comfortable, but Ibis said I had to wear it. "Sometimes the adventures aren't very fun, though. I get hurt a lot, but I always get better."

I let out a small giggle. "Sometimes the adventures are really fun. I was a boxer once. I got to fight lots, and it was fun... but there was a really mean pony who go angry when I beat him..." My smile fading, I rested my head on my forelegs and curled my tail around my side. "I got hurt real bad... but I'm okay now. I have a crystal heart, Mama, just like the one you told me about, the one Love Song uses to keep her kingdom safe."

Slowly, my smile came back as I used my hoof to pull out my badge and put it where my parents could see it. "I was a sheriff, too. Our wagon got stolen, and we had to find the pony who took it." I paused and blinked, thinking about Early. "He wasn't a bad pony, just a naughty one." I reached out and tilted the badge, letting Mama and Papa see how shiny it was. "I met a very angry pony. Her name was Miss Bourbon, and she looked like me. Papa... she said my rifle was a zebra rifle. She said lots of mean things about it, and about me." I frowned. "She was very silly. You said it was an Earth Pony gun, Papa, and I told her that, but she wouldn't listen."

I sighed and shook my head, before resting it on my crossed forelegs again. "We found our wagon, but there was a very bad minotaur. A funny pony gave me his hat and badge, and said I was the new sheriff, so I had to stop the bad minotaur." I frowned. "He was mean, and he had a goat that ate my hat. Miss Bourbon helped me beat the bad minotaur, though. I hurt my leg again, but Ibis says if I keep the brace on it will get better faster."

Blushing, I giggled and leaned against Mama's side. "Mama... Papa... Ibis is my boyfriend. I hope you like him, he's really nice. He's a griffin. We really love each other... do you want to hear how we met?" I giggle again. "It was my first big adventure, and I didn't like him much at first...

Caravan Lily

Rose stepped out of the traces and trotted over to where her front door used to be, then stopped and just stood there with her eyes closed. Her ears went back, then, with a small toss of her head, she took a few slow steps forward..

"What's she doing?" Ibis asked from right behind me, making me jump. I turned to glare at him; I hadn't even heard him get out of the wagon.

I snorted at him, but turned back to watch Rose. She was walking slowly around, pausing every so often to stare into space and smile. "She's finally come home," I said softly.

Ibis stood beside me, his eyes on Rose as well. "There's nothing here, though..."

"Yeah..." I sighed, "there wasn't much left when we got here... just... ashes and embers... and Rose..." I shook my head and watched my sister walking around the house in her memories, managing a smile of my own. "But look at her, Ibis. She's happy. There was a lot of love here. Even with what happened... this was still her home."

We both stayed silent after that, just looking on. After a few minutes, Rose stopped and closed her eyes, her head tilted back and the breeze messing up her mane. Then, she turned and walked over to a couple of large stones, laying between them.

"Is that..." Ibis started to ask, hesitating, then stopped. I nodded, guessing what he was asking.

"Yeah... her parents are buried there."

Again, we both went quiet, just sitting and watching together. What was there to say?

Eventually, Rose climbed to her hooves and gave herself a shake before slipping off her gear. Soon, all she was wearing was her bandages and leg brace, everything else laying between the two stones in a neat pile.

She stretched out her injured leg again and looked to me, a big smile on her face. "Lily! Let's play!"

I shook my head and laughed. "Never change, Rose." While she pronked awkwardly away and into her field, I trotted forwards slowly, pausing next to the stones to read the names scratched into them. I managed a small, sad smile. "Uncle Jazz, aunt Blues, don't you worry about Rose. We're all taking good care of her, even if she does keep getting into trouble..." My voice trailed off as I looked at their resting place, nothing but two rocks to show they were ever there...

"Come on, Lily!"

No, that's not quite right, I realised as I looked up and saw Rose waiting impatiently for me. We still had Rose, after all. "Lily! I wanna play!"

"Alright, you dummy," I laughed as I started trotting after her. "Hey, race you!"

Together, me and my sister ran off into her foalhood playground, headed for her favorite spot. For a little while, at least, we were just a couple of fillies again, playing on a rock that used to seem so much bigger.

Ibis Greywing

Rose and Lily ran off, laughing. I didn't know what to do, but it was good seeing Rose properly happy.

With just a bit of hestitation, I walked towards the two stones half-buried in the grass, trying to think of what to say. I stood at attention in front of them, feeling a little odd for doing it. It wasn't like they were watching me from wherever dead ponies went, was it?

I took a deep breath to gather my thoughts, and noted that each stone had a name carved into it. Jazz on one, Blues on the other.

"Um... hello, sir... and... ma'am. I'm..." I swallowed nervously. "My name is Ibis, and, well, Rose and I are... we're together." I fluffed myself up; it felt like I was being watched, and that wasn't a fun feeling. "I, well, I may not be a pony, but I hope you can understand..." My eyes drifted away from the graves and to the field, where Lily was trying to push Rose off of a large boulder. I could hear the two of them laughing and teasing each other, and it made me smile. "I really love Rose. She's everything to me." I chuckled. "I even put up with Lily for her, you know?

I started to relax, smoothing out my feathers and settling down. "Rose is a great mare. I think you'd both be proud of her..." I glanced back at the stones for a second. "I wish I'd gotten to meet you both. This is the kind of talk that should go both ways... I just hope that, wherever you are, you keep watching over your daughter... and that you approve of us being together."

A sudden shriek got my attention and I was on my feet before I'd even registered what had happened.

Lily was standing on top of the boulder, looking over the edge at where Rose was sprawled.

"You okay?" I heard Lily ask. Rose just rolled to her hooves, something clutched in her mouth, and leapt back up onto the boulder beside Lily, who took a step back, her eyes wide. "No way! Is that-"

Rose whinnied and flicked her head, the thing she'd found arcing up into the air to land behind her horn. "I found him, Lily!" She laughed, and Lily joined in. "He came back!" The two started bouncing around like overgrown fillies, the thing flopping around on Rose's head the whole time.

Suddenly, Rose jumped off the boulder, her injured leg buckling on the landing, but it didn't stop her from hop-galloping over to me. "Ibis! Mama! Papa!" Her eyes were shining with delight as she skidded to a halt in front of us. "I found Mister Chicken! He came back!" She reached up and grabbed the thing, holding it out for us to see.

It took a second to register what I was looking at. Rose was holding a stuffed griffin. A stuffed, weathered, worn, torn griffin. It was missing one of its button eyes and there was stuffing poking out from the many holes in it.

"Uh, that's... nice?" I wasn't quite sure what to say, but Rose didn't care.

She let out a squeal of delight. "I can't believe he's back! EEEH!" She paused, sniffing her toy. Her muzzle scrunched up. "He's all icky, though. I need to fix him." With that, she set it back on her head and bolted past me, leaping into the wagon.

"What was that about?" I asked when Lily trotted up beside me, a big grin on her face.

"Rose found Mister Chicken. We all thought she lost him in the fire, but I guess not!" She shook her head as Rose found the bag she'd been looking for and shoved her head into it.

"Mister Chicken?" Skeptical, I raised my eyebrow.

Lily nodded and snickered. "That's his name. Rose came up with it when she was little."

"Right..." I trailed off. We both watched as Rose tore through her stuff, ripping up rags and scraps of material before going for her sewing kit.

"So... what did you talk about?" Lily asked. I looked at her, curious. "With Rose's parents, I mean."

I shrugged. "Rose."

"Me too." Lily sighed. "I wish we'd come back earlier. This was good for Rose..."

"Good for all of us, I think." I replied, watching Rose work. Lily looked curious, so I explained. "I don't know why, but now that I've... y'know... it just feels... right somehow. Like her parents approve, or something."

"Yeah. Yeah, I get you." Lily nodded. "Y'know, I think they would have liked you. You make Rose happy, after all."

"What were they like?" I asked, looking back at the headstones.

Lily smiled a sad smile. "They were great."

Caravan Lily

While we waited for Rose to finish fixing Mister Chicken, I told Ibis all about my aunt and uncle.
Me and Rose shared stories about her childhood over dinner, my goofball sister wearing her newly repaired patchwork toy as a hat the entire time and refusing to let him out of her sight. Ibis seemed a bit wierded out by it. I found it hilarious, of course.

We all slept in the Serenity that night, talking about the past and remembering the good times. It was fun.

The next morning, we all said our goodbyes and got ready to leave, with all our stuff stowed and Mister Chicken securely strapped into Rose's bag with her books.

"All ready, Rose?" I asked, getting her harness ready. She shook her head.

"In a minute, Lily. I want to talk to Mama and Papa one last time."

I just nodded as she trotted over to the graves. Ibis stood beside me, and we just listened to her.

"Mama, Papa, I have to go now." Rose kicked at the ground shyly. "I miss you both lots, but I know you're with the Goddesses, so it's okay. I hope it's nice there, and that I'm making you both proud." She bent over and gave both of the stones a kiss. "I'll be a good girl, I promise." A small smile crept onto her muzzle and she started to hum, reaching one hoof into her duster and pulling out a rag. Still humming, she started polishing the headstones.

After a few seconds she stopped humming and looked up, blinking in surprise before her smile grew and she giggled. "Mama... I just remembed the words to your song."

Taking a deep breath and resuming her cleaning, Rose started to sing.

Me and Ibis just sat back, enjoying the song and the genuine look of happiness on Rose's face.

It was over all too soon, though, and Rose came trotting back over to us, still smiling. "I'm ready to go now, Lily."

I blinked away some tears. "Yeah... me too. We'll have to come back again, one day. You, me, mum, dad, Ibis and Magpie, all of us, together."

Rose blinked. "That would be nice." She stepped into the traces and I fastened the harness around her. When Ibis went to check her leg brace, Rose kissed him. I gave them a good, solid minute together before clearing my throat.

Rose blushed, while Ibis pulled away and smoothed his feathers down before getting back into the Serenity's cargo bay. I just rolled my eyes and hopped up into my seat before snapping the reins to get us moving. Rose started pulling and, as we pulled away from her home, she called out one final "Bye, Papa! Bye, Mama! I love you!"

We all had smiles as we left, and I like to think that aunt Blues and uncle Jazz were smiling down on us from the Elysium Fields.

Author's Note:

I was looking forward to writing this chapter. A little closure, some cute, and an old friend returns.:twilightsmile:
And we finally have Rose's parents' names revealed!:derpytongue2:

There were a couple of alternate song choices for this chapter, but in the end I went with Adieu. Way, way back in Ch11, I used Stella By Moor, and Adieu just tied in with it so much better.
For anyone interested, here's the other songs I was considering.
Words That We Couldn't Say
Call Me
Rain (Female vocal version)
Is It Real

They're all from Cowboy Bebop, which is one of the many inspirations for Wasteland Bouquet.:twilightsmile:
So, until the next chapter, good listening, folks!:yay: