A/N: This chapter really stretches the dark tag here to its limits. If there are any more heavy mentions of blood I may have to tag gore in it. Here's your warning, folks! Gore, depression, heavy abuse, alcohol use, and barely controlled rage!
Heaross placed the red ornament on the tree, finally finishing with the decorating. Frost might disagree, but working in the middle of the night on a tree that is literally three times as tall as you are is not easy. It's cold, dark, and he's tired. Though, that last part may be because he woke up at four in the morning. In any case, it was now 5:30 and he needed to go make sure everything was in order. The Guardian had already took the time to set notes in everypony's house about the event, bundled the sleigh up with the presents, and gotten Frost's reigns all set up. All that should be left is to place the suit on, get the reigns situated around Frost, and wait until 10.
Casting a small spell to fix the steps in the snow he caused, Heaross flew off into the night.
Fluttershy woke up that morning feeling particularly energetic. Even more so than normal, considering she was quite the morning pony. Heading to the bathroom, the shy mare did her normal morning routine, ending with a warm stew for breakfast. As she prepared to go outside to tend to the animals, she noticed a small note peeking out from under her front door. She picked up the small parchment, noting the handwritten style.
Happy Hearth's Warming, Fluttershy! I hope you have a wonderful holiday, and sincerely wish you the best. If you have the time, could you perchance come to town square around 10 'o clock? I have a surprise waiting for everypony, and that includes you! But please, don't see this as mandatory of any kind. I understand if you choose to stay and spend time with your family of animals, I can even bring your gift to you.
Wishing you a Happy Hearth's Warming, Santa
Santa? Fluttershy hadn't heard of him before, yet he seemed to know a bit about her, enough to even get her a gift. Normally, she would be rather wary and timid about that, but between the handwritten letter, the promise of gifts to everypony in town, and not even being forced to come there, Fluttershy felt that she could trust him.
"Angel Bunny," She called out to the rabbit sitting in the small bed near the fireplace, "Could you handle feeding the others today, please? I'll be back in a few hours!" The lagomorph sighed before nodding yes to her. "Oh thank you! I'll make sure to get you a treat when I get back!" She picked him up, briefly hugging Angel before softly setting him back in the bed. "Love you!" She called out.
Dressing warmly, Fluttershy exited her house, making her way to Ponyville.
After the short 15 minute walk to Ponyville, Fluttershy noticed the fifteen foot tall tree in town center, decorated with glowing lights, bright ornaments, many festival oddities, and the bright star placed atop the tree. A pine tree, she noticed, with some of its needles scattered across the snow. Looking around, the bundled mare noticed some colts and fillies playing in the snow, throwing snowballs and chasing each other. Across the circular field was Applejack, currently setting up a stall with steaming pastries and drinks. Carrying a conversation right above her was Rainbow Dash, Fluttershy's oldest friend.
The animal caretaker was happy for the couple, remembering the many nights Dash had came to her, talking about AJ and never stopping for the entire night. She was like the sister she never had in a sense. While Heaross' method of getting them together was... Less than ordinary, to put it lightly, it did give them the push they needed.
Trotting up the pair, Rainbow Dash noticed Fluttershy, meeting her halfway with a, "Hey Shy!"
"Hello Rainbow." She warmly greeted in exchange.
"Hey, did you get a note from this 'Santa' pony, too?" Dash asked, getting to the point quickly.
"Yes I did. What present do you think he got you?"
"I don't know. Maybe it's the new Daring Do novel!" The daring pegasus guessed, excited.
The pair made their way quickly to Applejack and her stand, who greeted Fluttershy warmly. "Howdy, Shy. What brings you here as well?"
"Oh, she got one of those notes too, AJ." Rainbow spoke up for her friend.
"Really?" AJ said, a bit bemused. "I got one, too. I was already planning on coming over here, but this brought everypony else. Big Mac's over at Sugarcube Corner with Granny." The farm mare looked fondly over to Apple Bloom, playing with Sweetie Belle and Spike. "Rarity and Twilight came not too long before you did, they're also in Sugarcube Corner right now with Pinkie."
Fluttershy looked kindly over the fillies and drake before noticing the missing cog. "Where's Scootaloo?"
"I'm not sure." Rainbow Dash replied. "I haven't seen her today. I just kinda assumed she went out of town or something."
Fluttershy hummed in response, deigning to not worry about the matter. Besides, Santa would deliver her present anyways.
Twilight Sparkle, currently sipping a warm apple cider, was currently chatting with Rarity and Pinkie Pie. They had all received a note from this mysterious 'Santa' figure, with mixed responses coming from each of them. Twilight was interested in meeting Santa, Rarity found the mystery between him intriguing, and Pinkie had already made a cake to welcome whoever Santa was.
Rarity noticed something out of the window, just beyond Twilight. She turned to look at whatever had caught her friend's attention, but was unable to spot what it was. The lavender mare turned back to Rarity, almost startled that she was staring straight at her. They sat in uncomfortable silence for a moment before Twilight finally asked, "Is there something on my muzzle?"
"No, darling, just wondering about something." The fashionista laid her head in her hooves, still staring at Twilight.
"What are you wondering about?"
"Just if you would happen to know where Heaross is. I haven't seem him all morning and I doubt he's one to miss something exciting like this." Rarity stared at Twilight, almost accusingly.
"No, I haven't seen him at all today either. I expected him to be here, but he's not."
"But you two have been very close as of recently, correct? Even more so than normal, I would say."
Twilight looked at Rarity incredulously before responding, "Rarity, we may have been inside each other, but we don't live in each other. I don't know exactly what he does every second of every day."
Rarity blushed heavily upon the statement, fanning herself and looking away. Meanwhile, Pinkie Pie turned to Twilight Sparkle with the question, "Can we get details?"
Heaross worked over his checklist one final time before departing for town center. The presents were ready, Frost was waiting on him at this point, everything had been checked over multiple times, ensuring their durability, and it was almost 10. So why couldn't he shake the feeling that something very bad was happening?
Scootaloo sat, huddled in a corner of her room, cradling her broken wing and broken foreleg. She could still hear his grunts and smashing downstairs, obviously looking for more alcohol, or whatever drink he wanted at the moment. The small filly shuddered in fear, tears dripping down her muzzle as she idly wondered whether the fall from her window would kill her. It might, her room was set on the second floor after all. It might work too, if it wasn't for the fact that he had bolted all of the windows shut, permanently sealing them.
As the filly looked around her room, she noted the many broken items littered about, including a photo case, a project frame, and even her scooter, the one that Rainbow Dash had gifted her a few years ago. She also noticed some blood stains scattered around around the small room, some from long before this one incident. Scootaloo shuddered again, cold and tired, unable to sleep with the pain emanating from her wing and hoof.
Santa saddled up Frost, making sure the straps were tight before climbing on the large sleigh and ensuring a solid grip. With a shout and a roar, Frost ran and took off to the air, flapping her giant wings as she angled towards Ponyville. Within a few minutes, they came into sight of town center, set with both the snow and the tree that had been setup for the occasion. Giving a signal to her, Frost let loose a mighty roar, intending to gather the attention of the town.
Even from the high altitude, Santa could easily see the many dots and bright figures peeking from the white background, moving around and causing a strange sort of painting-esque view. Giving another signal, Frost dived towards the town, roaring again and aiming towards the center, just in front of the tree. With nary a hitch in plan, Frost and Santa set down in Ponyville center, sleigh saddled with the many ponies' presents. As the crowd gathered around them, Santa took the time to unsaddle Frost, letting her shake the reigns off and move around.
He waited for a time, checking the massive sack on the back of the sleigh containing the presents and coal needed for the event. Fortunately, nothing blew out of the bag on the way, letting the suited pony breath a sigh of relief. Checking back on the crowd, he saw that it contained most, in not all the ponies in Ponyville. Giving a smile, he let loose a loud, "Ho, ho, ho! Happy Hearth's Warming everypony!"
The crowd cheered, realizing who it was. Several shouts of "Santa, Santa!" Were heard, echoing through the town. Santa basked for a moment, letting the applause wash over him before raising a hoof to silence the crowd. After a few seconds, the crowd was just as quiet as a few minutes ago, leaving a warm silence to settle. The red jacketed pony looked over the crowd before releasing the laugh again. "Ho, ho, ho! Yes, my name is Santa, please, I'm just another pony looking to do a nice thing. Now," He said, sweeping over the crowd, "You all remember the little letters I wrote each of you, right?" In response, several ponies in the crowd, mostly fillies and colts, lifted up a small white card. "Good, good. Now then, you all know how in the letter, I said that I had han-hoof picked a gift for each and every one of you, right?" Santa had stumbled his speech a bit, almost saying the wrong word.
The crowd seemingly didn't notice the hiccup, cheering excessively at the mention of presents. "Ho, ho, ho, it seems you all do. But, can any of you tell me the real meaning of Hearth's Warming?" He looked over the crowd, particularly the young ones scattered about. "You there," He said, point to a small red and pink filly, "Can you tell me the spirit of Hearth's Warming?"
"Umm... It's about presents?" The filly guessed.
"I can see why you'd say that," Santa said, "But no, presents, while great, aren't the true meaning of Hearth's Warming. You there, with the white beanie," He pointed to a pinto patterned colt, bundled in some layers of warmth and his parents, "Can you tell me what it is?"
Pipsqueak, Santa remembered, answered, "It's about spending time with family?"
"Ho, ho, ho!" The belly laugh washed over the crowd, making a few smile. "Yes, Pipsqueak, that is exactly right! Hearth's Warming is about spending time with family and friends, enjoying the season. But, that is only part of it. Can you tell me what the other part is, Pipsqueak?" The colt looked unsure for a moment before Santa gave him a hint. "If you're having trouble figuring it out, look at the card I gave you."
He did, staring at it for a moment before gasping and shouting, "It's about giving gifts!"
"Yes, Pipsqueak! Perfect!" Santa praised the small colt, before saying, "As you were able to get the answer right, would you like to receive your gift now?"
The pinto pony looked to his parents for a moment before rushing onto the sleigh, letting Santa pull him up onto it. The large stallion moved things around in his bag for a moment before emerging with a wrapped box, smaller even than Pipsqueak. Santa handed the colt the box, saying, "You can open it now or you can go home and open it with your family. Which do you want to do?" He smiled towards the young pony.
Pipsqueak looked at the box for a moment before smiling up at Santa and ripping it open. Inside, the colt found a small, gold, heart shaped necklace. He looked at it in confusion for a moment before looking up at Santa. "Why is it a necklace?" The small pony asked.
"Ho, ho, ho, it's not just a necklace, Pipsqueak." Santa pushed on something along the side, revealing that the necklace could open up to a pair of empty windows. The metal felt warm to the touch and comforting, despite the cold temperature. "It's a locket."
"What is that, Santa?"
"A locket is a specially made necklace, one that can open up and can hold small items or photos. Most folk store a picture or two of their family." The red jacketed stallion then started pointing at the metal itself, saying, "I also had this made of solid gold. The rarer the metal used in it's construction, the more you can enchant it. I already gave you two enchantments on it, one of which you should be feeling."
"Umm... Is that why it feels warm?"
"Yes it is, Pipsqueak. One of the enchantments warms the metal, ensuring that it will never feel uncomfortable to wear or handle. The other, the much more important enchantment, basically states that as long as you wear this locket, nopony could take it from you, no matter how hard they tried. While you wear it, it is completely inseparable from you."
The colt hung the locket around his neck, letting it bounce against his winter clothes. With a large smile, he wrapped his forehooves as much as he could around Santa, giving him a hug. In response, the older stallion returned the hug, tightly wrapping a leg around Pipsqueak. As the crowd gave it's share of cheering and d'aws, Pipsqueak jumped down from the sleigh and ran back to his parents, eagerly showing them the locket.
As Santa fondly watched the scene, he had to again shake the feeling something was going terribly wrong.
Scootaloo heard a loud crashing, sounding like a shelf had fallen. Accompanied by the sound of grunts and drunken ramblings coming up the stairs, she huddled up closer to the corner, tightly wrapping what wasn't broken of her bones around what was. With a loud bang, the door to her room crashed open, revealing an orange pegasus stallion with several beer stains coating his muzzle and fur. Slowly, he walked over to Scootaloo's scooter, her namesake, and with a glare promising hell, started breaking the item into pieces. After several agonizing minutes of her watching him destroy her most prized possession, a gift from Rainbow Dash, he picked up a few wooden shards of the former scooter and started walking towards the filly. As she stared at him in growing terror, he started muttering incomprehensible things, too quiet for her to hear. As he finally stood over her, his muttering stopped to be replaced with a terrifying declaration, something drilled into her before she could even speak.
"You're the reason my wife is dead. Not even you're own mother could stand to live with you."
Her father reared the wooden stake back and thrust it forward.
As she received her gift, Twilight barely heard in her ear, "The Guardian serves his Princess."
Her breath hitched for a moment before she returned, just as quietly into the stallion's ear, "The Princess guides her Guardian."
'Santa' stepped back, smiling down at Twilight. In a much more normal voice, he said, "Heaross told me to deliver a message to you. Something about 'exploring anatomy' as it were. Surely you understand what he means."
The lavender mare blushed a bit, responding, "I understand it." Shaking her head clear, she looked over the gift, noting its heft. "What's the gift, Santa?"
The stallion chuckled a bit, bemusedly asking, "What about my saying of 'you can open it now or later' did you not understand? Feel free to unwrap it now, Twilight."
Smiling, she did as he said, neatly taking the tape off and carefully unwrapping the package with her magic, taking care to not tear the paper. Soon, she unveiled a rather large book, interestingly titled, The Legend of Awethur. Detailed on the front was an illustration of a large human wearing silver and gold highlighted armor, the Blade of Awe appearing in his hand.
Santa, meanwhile, was checking over a list, crossing out names. As he crossed out a final near the end, he noticed only one name left on it. Scootaloo, who wasn't there the entire day. Shoving his curiosity to the back of his mind, Santa gathered the few items he had brought and prepared to leave. While he noticed the purple glow around his fur jacket, he payed it no mind, easily overpowering the telekinesis magic and walking out of Sugarcube Corner, dragging a struggling Twilight Sparkle behind him, her horn glowing with the same magic.
Santa calmly set his items on the sleigh, signaling to Frost who was now chuckling slightly to start moving forward. The pair moved side by side, Twilight stubbornly holding onto his jacket and being dragged with it. Once they had all moved far enough through Ponyville to not be seen by any stray eyes, both Santa and Frost stopped, abruptly shocking Twilight and causing her to fall forward into the snow and release his jacket. Panting and covered in sweat, Twilight wearily looked up to see the muzzle of a large stallion looking down at her, his dark grey fur contrasting the bright red of his suit.
As she watched, his expression changed from disdain to humor and then to a warm smile. He crouched down, resting upon the fluffy snow and laid his head directly in front of hers, still smiling. She returned his smile, blushing against the cold. Their noses touched, drawing a slight giggle out of both.
As she was too tired from trying to hold him by the jacket, he picked her up like a mother cat and placed her on the sleigh, her head almost hanging over the edge and now eye level with him standing up. With one final smile, they shared a kiss.
"I love you, Twilight." He said.
"I love you, Heaross." She said.
Scootaloo lay, her wing pinned to the ground by the stake driven through it. Blood leaked profusely from the wound, staining the wooden boards under her. The sobs erupting from her came without break, staining her cheeks with tears and her throat with a tired soreness.
Her father had left a few minutes ago, answering a knocking that came at the door. She wasn't able to hear anything from downstairs due to her sobs, which she also secretly hoped would be her saving grace and alert whoever it was that she was there. It did seem as though it worked when the door to her bedroom opened a startled gasp came from it. She also heard wood splintering and cracking under pressure barely a moment after.
Unable to keep herself awake from pain, exhaustion, and blood loss, Scootaloo lost consciousness.
'Santa' sat upon the sleigh with Twilight Sparkle, cuddling her and enjoying the slow ride provided by Frost, the Ice Dragon. They were riding to what they both knew as Scootaloo's place of residence. The pair were enjoying a comfortable silence afforded by the quiet town and ride, though this was dissolved by a gasp from Twilight.
"Heaross, look!" She said, pointing to a very rundown house. The paint upon the entire structure was peeling and even unfinished in certain places, many boards were poking out of the shell, some of the windows had been busted from the inside, and there were many glass bottles strewn about, looking like they all had at one time contained some sort of alcoholic drink.
As the group slowly approached the house, even Frost looked hesitant at coming close to it, Twilight scooting closer to Heaross. With a sigh, Heaross jumped down from the sleigh, announcing, "We're here." He left Twilight and Frost to their pondering, going to knock on the wooden door.
The first impressions the Guardian had were extremely bad. There were many beer and alcohol stains over the stallion's muzzle and chest that had answered the door, many things inside what he had to assume was a very pristine and well cared for house broken and smashed, and there was pained sobs coming from upstairs, echoing through the boards. "Hello," Heaross greeted, straining to keep a smile on his face, "I'm here to deliver a gift to Scootaloo. Can I see her?"
The pegasus stallion only grunted and spat in the other's face before roughly trying to slam the door. Heaross, in turn, held the door open, slowly wiping the spit away from his face. Dropping the fake smile, he pushed into the house, easily resisting the pegasus' weak defence. "My name is Heaross, Grandmaster Warrior of the Guardians. I order you to take me to Scootaloo." Before the stallion could reply, he was cut off by Heaross saying, "And don't think of lying or stalling for time, I can hear her crying upstairs."
Without any more options, the stallion agreed and led the way upstairs. As he reached the door, he turned back to the large earth pony, surprised to see a very tall bipedal figure holding a large golden sword. He slowly stepped away from the door and irate human, attempting to go back downstairs only to find said large golden sword planted right in front of his muzzle.
Heaross opened the door to the bedroom, utterly shocked and flabbergasted by the sight. Laying upon the ground was Scootaloo, trying vainly to pull a wooden stake out of her wing that kept her pinned to the floorboard. One of her front hooves was broken, along with the wing that wasn't stuck. She lay in a pool of her own blood, slowly quieting until she passed out. Stepping back, Heaross noticed that he had accidently pulped a part of the door frame and completely broken his Limiter.
Blood roaring in his ears, the Grandmaster turned to the pegasus who was pinned under the immense pressure that came from breaking the Limiter Spell. He slowly picked up the terrified father and brought him back downstairs while reinstating the Limiter. They approached the door at where Heaross opened the Petverse and called out Storm, the half Energy, half Plasma Dragon. As the yellow beast came through, the air started to taste of ozone, charged with electricity. Wicked cackles came from the dragon, betraying the presence of a less than safe mind.
Heaross held the pegasus up to the dragon, letting him get a large identity of the smell before giving a single command.
Rainbow Dash burst into Ponyville General, soon being led down a hallway marked "Intensive Care" to Scootaloo. All that she had heard was that Scootaloo had been admitted to the hospital before a Sonic Rainboom shattered Sugarcube Corner's windows. Many different scenarios played in her head all the while, lightning fast and each coming to the same conclusion: Is Scootaloo going to die?
When the attendant pointed to a window, having to regain the rainbow maned mare's attention, she saw a devastating sight. There was Scootaloo, wrapped head to hoof in bandages, her wings being held out with metal implants. The filly was unconscious and extremely pale. A few tears made their way down Dash's cheeks while a lavender wing wrapped itself around her withers.
Without any words necessary, the pegasus wrapped hooves around Twilight's barrel and held her close while she bawled her eyes out. Several minutes afterward, during which her other friends arrived and joined in on the group hug, Rainbow felt calm enough to let go. She turned to the armored human sitting in a chair not far away, his head bowed and hands clasped.
She approached him and forcefully asked, "How did this happen?"
Heaross looked up to her, his eyes bloodshot and tired. "Her father."
"What do you mean, her father?"
Heaross sighed, sitting up before answering, "Scootaloo's father did all of this to her. Judging by the many bloodstains I saw in her room, this is far from the first time, only the worst." He spared a glance to the sleeping filly, hoping against all hope she would wake up soon. "Her left wing and front-right hoof are broken, she has bruises in several places dotted all around her body, and there was a large wooden stake driven through her right wing."
All of the mares, shy Twilight, gasped at the wounds. Heaross pressed on painfully, continuing, "The doctor said she's lucky to be alive at all. A moment later and she might have died." Rainbow breathed out a sigh of relief that was sacked back in almost immediately. "She'll need her wings amputated, though."
To Rainbow Dash, this was almost the worst thing that could have happened. Anything else would have been better. "Why?" Was all she managed before more tears made tracks.
"Her left wing's bones have been shattered, almost completely through the entire wing. There is no way it would ever heal properly. Her right wing had a massive hole in it when the stake was removed, bigger than my fist." He raised it for emphasis. "Even if it did heal correctly, the hole would always remain there, and even if her other wing managed a full recovery, it would never support her in the air. It's easier and better as a whole to remove it."
Rainbow Dash turned back to the window that held her surrogate sister, slowly approaching it. Choked sobs erupted from her, causing her head to lower and beat against the glass. Her friend's gathered around her, pulling her into a warm group hug with Dash at the center. Her cries got louder and weaker over time, switching between almost gone and deafening in moments. Even after several moments where Dash seemed to had calmed down, none of the friends in the hug deigned to let go.
A few minutes passed, to which Applejack gathered up Rainbow and carried her over to a chair. She laid the pegasus on it, setting her hat under Dash's head. While a few more tears made their way, she seemed to have fallen asleep. The earth pony placed a kiss on her cheek, wiping away a tear as she did so.
As AJ turned back to the others, she brought the elephant in the room to the forefront. "What do we do now?"
"Now," Came a regal voice, full of both anger and calm, "We pass judgement on who did this." Princess Celestia stepped into the hallway, accompanied by her sister, Princess Luna. Both looked absolutely livid, their manes whipping around furiously.
Heaross stood up, opening the portal to the Petverse and calling out for the second time, "Storm!"
Said dragon exited the hallway carrying an unconscious pegasus stallion, colored the same as Scootaloo and covered in alcohol stains. He spat the pony out of his mouth. "And you people call us monsters." His voice was deep and gruff, almost emanating venom towards the real monster in the room. He turned and entered the portal, leaving the group to their own machinations.
The stallion slowly awoke to a terrifying sight. There sat five mares who looked ready to pulp his head, and aside them stood two alicorns and a human who looked like they could actually pulp his head. The human in particular looked like his restraint was about to break, ready to literally carve the pegasus into so many pieces he could be called a smoothie.
"State your name, age, and relation to the filly beyond this window." Celestia almost barked the order, gathering his attention and directing it towards a particular orange filly who was sitting in many bandages and metal restraints.
His groan of disgust was very thinly veiled, responding, "My name is Wind Soar, I'm 43, and that little freak," He pointed towards Scootaloo, "is unfortunately my daughter, your highness." He finished his sentence with no small amount of disgust or disrespect.
Heaross felt blood roaring in his ears once again and found the wall he had a hand on was now caving in. Extracting it, he questioned Wind Soar, "Why did you break Scootaloo's wing and hoof, and stab a wooden stake through her other wing?"
"Bah," He said, "I don't have to answer you."
The Grandmaster strode forward, placing a hand around the pegasus' neck and very firmly placed him up against a wall. With rage burning in his eyes and blood pounding against his ear drums, "There is a filly who may very well die in that room and you don't care that you did it. By the Elements, if I have to rip your heart out of your ass and shove it down your throat to make you care, I will. You are going to answer our questions without any of that bullshit narcissism and will shut right the fuck up afterwards. Do I make my self clear?" Wind Soar stared back at the orbs of pure rage burning into his skull in silent fear, barely able to breath with the pressure around his windpipe.
"DO I MAKE MYSELF CLEAR?!"
The pegasus nodded yes, unable to say anything. Not saying a word more, Heaross released his hold on the stallion, revealing holes planted in the wall where his fingers had been. The Guardian stepped away, breathing heavily. Not saying a word, he went to the wall facing the window which contained Scootaloo and opened a portal. Unlike most other times, the portal stayed open when he went inside yet none of those gathered deigned to venture inside, wary of the wrath of the Guardian.
Twilight slowly entered the portal. Interrogating Wind Soar had been a trying experience, even with her fellow princesses there. What she wished for now was some cuddling time with her Guardian, if he had calmed down enough. As she looked around the pocket dimension, Twilight had to admit this was one she hadn't seen before. Placed around in various locations were weights, mats, different machines that each held some purpose beyond her understanding, and many other random items.
One such random item included a bed, upon which lay her target, Heaross. Not even trying to hide her smirk, the alicorn jumped upon the bed and straddled the man, for once without his armor. While the warrior fidgeted in his sleep, Twilight slowly placed her snout next to his ear and whispered, "The Princess guides her Guardian."
Heaross slowly opened his eyes, blinking at the smirk above him. Returning it, he answered, "The Guardian serves his Princess." Slowly, carefully, he sat up on the bed, noting his armor was off. Twilight backed off of his chest, instead opting to sit on his lap. While he rubbed his eyes, the memories of what had occurred a few hours ago came swimming back to his mind. Sighing, "I'm sorry."
Twilight was taken aback before asking, "For what?"
"For losing my temper in the hall. I shouldn't have done that." An ashamed grimace on his face, he turned away from her, only to be stopped by a hoof turning his face back to her.
"Heaross, what you did was actually helpful. While it may not have helped your reputation, it made getting answers out him much easier. Besides," She placed a small peck on his cheek, "Even if you did lose your temper, you didn't do anything rash. If it had been one of us, we might have actually hurt him very badly."
Heaross sighed again before returning the peck on the cheek. "Thanks, Twilight. I needed to hear that."
"Now," Twilight said, standing up and advancing over Heaross, to the point where he had to lay back down, now face to face with the alicorn, "Once again, the Princess guides her Guardian.
"And the Guardian serves his Princess. We've established this."
The smirk was back. "True, but I don't think you quite understand my meaning. You," She said, pointing at him, "Serve me." She pointed back to herself. She lifted her head high, trying to strike a regal pose. "I want you to service me, Guardian."
Finally getting her point, Heaross sat up a bit, asking, "Are you sure you want me to service your needs Princess? I may be a bit...rough."
"Did I ask for your opinion?" Twilight lowered her head to face her smirk directly in his face.
Heaross in turn smirked back at her, huskily answering, "As you wish, my Princess~..."
"Will you two just hurry up and fuck already?"
Rainbow Dash, wearing Applejack's signature stetson hat, calmly sat on one of the many benches scattered around the pocket dimension, eating what appeared to be jerky out of a plastic bag.
"Is that my beef jerky?" Heaross accusingly asked.
"Found it on a bar in here. I guess so." She picked out another piece and bit into it, wrangling with the tough substance.
Heaross opened and closed his mouth several times before shaking his head and saying, "When you start vomiting later, I'm going to laugh at you."
Rainbow Dash slowly bit into another piece, chewing carefully before swallowing. "What do you mean?" She leveled a glare at the human.
"Dash, that's meat. You're an herbivore."
The rainbow maned pegasus slowly gained a horrified look on her face, almost screaming in silence before shrugging and grabbing another piece of meat. "It's not that bad, really."
Heaross facepalmed, giggling at the stupidity of it. "C-can you p-please explain t-ggnnk-to her why that's a-ggnnk-a horrible thing?" He barely managed to ask of Twilight, who was also giggling at the sheer idiocy of the moment.
"Uhh, guys, my stomach isn't feeling so good right about now." Holding her abdomen, Rainbow tried to get their attention, only succeeding in making them laugh harder. The plastic bag aside her was completely empty, devoured by the pegasus.
After a couple minutes of laughing, Heaross managed to regain enough serious semblance to process the fact that Rainbow Dash would likely need her stomach pumped. Unable to wipe the amused smile off his face, he called his armor on and guided the now positively green mare out of the portal and towards some help, Twilight following.
Late that night, in his own house, Heaross opened the portal to the Petverse. He stepped inside to notice most of his pets currently asleep, normal considering the time of day it was. Carefully maneuvering around the many large creatures, he found who he was looking for, sleeping on the bed he placed in the portal. Sunset Shimmer.
Lightly shaking the flame colored pony awake, Heaross took in what almost five months in the portal had done to her. Her figure, even for an earth pony, would be astounding, she looked like she had stuck to a very rigorous work out routine almost religiously. Visible muscles stretched and contracted like a bodybuilders, evenly built and looking very impressive. Contrasting the muscles were the many spots of filth and grime built up over the months, to the point where her cutie mark was almost completely covered in it. Her mane was matted down and sticking up at the same time, giving a very disheveled look. Her horn, while covered in filth, looked longer and slightly curved, as a result of the many magics she had to perform to keep up with the duties.
Sunset got up, looking at the human for a moment before sighing and jumping out of bed. Trying to clear the sleepiness from her eyes, she asked him, "What is it Heaross? It can't be past 11."
The Guardian almost cringed at the disheveled sight, starting to wonder if his punishment may have been overkill. Wiping the thought away for the moment, he answered, "I just thought you might like to know that it's Hearth's Warming."
With a cynical smile, the pony answered, "Cool. What, did you bring me a present?"
"No. I'm bringing you to your present." Heaross picked up the filthy unicorn, holding her by the nerve in her neck. Walking calmly throughout his house, the Guardian entered his bathroom and placed Sunset in the tub. "Get a bath and clean up. When you're done, go to the kitchen. It's down the hall, past the bedrooms and through the living room." Heaross exited the bathroom, waiting until he heard the tub faucet running.
The fiery haired pony cleaned up, washing away the months of grime and filth that had accumulated. There were a couple scented shampoos and soaps to which Shimmer made eager use of. The unicorn stepped out of the bath tub, feeling truly clean for the first time in months. She looked in a mirror located nearby, marveling at her more rugged and carved figure. While the sentence was far from the nicest thing she had ever done, it did give her the chance to develop some muscles for once. Sunset also noticed her horn had become longer and slightly curved, likely due to the more extensive and grueling use of it. All in all, Sunset Shimmer looked and felt strong.
The unicorn briefly debated trying to run from the house, attempting to escape before realizing what a futile endeavor it would be. She would tire eventually and hadn't been able to practice her teleport spell in quite some time, also compounded with the fact that she had absolutely so idea where she was. If and when Heaross caught her, he would likely kill her on the spot, if not extend her sentence. Better as a whole to listen to him and not incur his anger.
Drying off with a towel placed on a rack, Sunset exited the bathroom, looking for the first time around what she assumed was Heaross' house. From where she stood, there were three other doors, all looking to be made of spruce wood. From what the warrior had said, they all led to bedrooms. Continuing on, she exited the hallway into a living room, where a large couch sat opposite of a fireplace with bookshelves flanking either side. I'll give him props, those drapes very nicely brighten up the room! Looking around a bit more, the unicorn saw a large doorway into what she assumed was the kitchen, evidenced by the table, smell of food, and the fact Heaross was standing there, watching her.
"Took you long enough."
"You try getting four months worth of shit and piss out of your coat. I'm just happy to be clean for once."
Heaross looked away, sighing. Turning back, he motioned for her to follow him into the kitchen. The lights were off and she could smell some sweet confectioneries placed around. As she rounded the corner, several silhouettes seemed to go completely still, Heaross standing very obviously aside them. In a flash, the lights turned on and the silhouettes revealed themselves to be Twilight Sparkle, Rainbow Dash, Applejack, Fluttershy, Rarity, and Pinkie Pie.
Sunset was flabbergasted, to say the least. Twilight alone had more than enough reason to hate her guts, yet here she was, trying to celebrate Hearth's Warming with her. The unicorn couldn't speak, unable to form a coherent thought, her mouth hanging open and on the floor.
"I think we broke her." Heaross said.
Twilight tentatively approached, waving a hoof in front of Sunset's face. The fire unicorn snapped out of her reverie and immediately threw herself at the ground in front of Twilight, shaking and pleading. The alicorn tried to reason with her, but Sunset wasn't paying attention, convinced that Twilight was going to exact some form of revenge. Heaross stepped forward then, picking the shaking unicorn up by the nerve in her neck. He held her there for a minute, letting the situation and Twilight's words wash over her, convincing her that nothing was wrong, this had been planned from the start.
Slowly, Sunset was placed back down on the ground. Instead of shaking and pleading again, she just asked, "Why?"
Twilight looked away for a moment, gathering her courage and honesty. "Sunset, I'm not going to lie. There's a part of me that wants you gone, that doesn't want to be here. But I believe in second chances and that you were simply misguided. I want to be your friend."
"Why do you want to be my friend? I tried to kill you!"
Rarity stepped forward, resting a hoof across Twilight's withers. "Darling, we forgave Discord. Short of you succeeding in actually killing one of us, we would forgive you for anything. Twilight wants to be your friend and she won't stop until she's done it, so don't make it any harder and just accept it."
Sunset tried to come up with more arguments but each of them were refuted or disproved by Twilight and her friends. For several minutes they all sat trying to convince each other until Heaross got irritated and said, "Sunset, if you really need more proof that Twilight wants to be your friend, she's the one who managed to convince all of us to give you a second chance. And I still want your head on a pike after you hurt Frost."
The unicorn went silent for a bit, in guilt or ponderance, Heaross didn't know. Eventually, Sunset looked up and said, "I don't really know what you see in me that makes you want to be my friend. But if you truly believe that being my friend would help, sure."
With a squeal of excitement, Twilight jumped in the air, feeling successful. After a moment of celebrating, she looked around to notice everyone in the room staring at her, their expressions ranging from mild horror to barely contained amusement. Giving an embarrassed smile, the alicorn rubbed a hoof behind her head and gave the mildest, "Yay..."
"Hey look! It's Shylight!" Pinkie Pie exclaimed, causing laughter to erupt from all gathered, even the embarrassed Twilight Sparkle. "Alright, everypony, let's get this party started!"
Each of the ponies (and human) went off to do their own thing, ranging from grabbing some confectioneries provided by the pink pony to making light chatter with the others. Heaross talked with Rainbow Dash about training routines and how to improve them when he noticed Sunset sitting on the couch, alone. The warrior effectively ended the conversation when he pointed to Sunset. Rainbow grinned and motioned for him to go talk to her.
"Are you enjoying yourself, Sunset?" Heaross asked.
The fiery pony answered, "Yeah, definitely."
"It doesn't seem like it."
"Can't I be an introvert in peace?" She gave him an almost cynical smile.
"Nope." Heaross took a seat beside her. "Besides, there are a couple things I wanted to tell you."
"I'm changing a couple of the rules for your sentence."
"Does this mean I'm free to go?"
"Damn." Sunset gave an obviously fake sigh, before asking, "So, what are the changes?"
"First off," Heaross answered, "You won't be living in the Petverse anymore. Instead, whenever you have finished with your duties, you are now allowed to come here into my house to sleep, eat, and bathe." Sunset looked at him incredulously but did not interrupt. "Secondly, since this has changed to be of a more rehabilitation, you will be given some liberties. While here at my house, you are allowed to go outside to do... well, anything you would normally do outside, but you must remain within 100 yards of it. I will know if you step even an inch outside of that limit. Third, if you have behaved and performed your duties correctly, then with my supervision, you are allowed to walk around Ponyville to buy items and explore the town."
Sunset gathered her thoughts about the changes then asked, "Doesn't this seem rather childish?"
"What do you mean?" Heaross asked, curious.
"Like, it feels like I'm being treated more like a child than an adult."
Heaross deadpanned. "You literally tried to kill someone and take a magical artifact. Treating you like a child is better than what you should be getting."
Sunset considered this for a moment, then took a drink of cider. "Fair enough."