In The Shade of Time

by Silver Scrolls


Twice a week, and always on Saturday, Ponyville town square became the market place. The place were the local farmers and gardeners could sell the fruits of their labor to the rest of Ponyville. Over the years the products had expanded to include just about everything you could need, from home knit sweaters in the winter to lawn services offered by young ponies looking for a little spending money.

Rainbow stood on a side street, watching the hustle and bustle of the market. From where she stood Rainbow she watched several familiar ponies browsing the weekend agora, appraising goods and chatting pleasantly. Roseluck was selling her trademark roses with the twins who filled the booth with every flower but roses. Across from them was Time Turner selling watches he’d made himself. A little further down were three foals advertising lawn care and pet sitting.

This was the Ponyville Rainbow remembered even if it didn’t recognize her anymore. Her faded, grey mane had no place here. The loss of the youthful twinkle in her eye, now replaced by crows feet crinkling the corners of them; so much had changed since she’d last been in Ponyville. There’d been no reason to believe anyone would recognize her, yet it weighed on her heart a little to know that all she was worth to them now was a polite hello and warm smiles.

“That’ll be two bits Ma’am.”

The familiar husky voice of one of her oldest friends rang out clearly through the market. The old country warmth filled Applejack’s words as she thanked the customer for their business, flooding Rainbow’s mind with memories. Sleeping in the orchard trees, competitions between friends. So many old memories, it made her heart ache.

“You okay?”

A young foal tilted his head to the side as Rainbow wiped the tear from her cheek and smiled at him. “I’m fine, just remembering another lifetime.”

The foal looked a little confused but accepted her answer with a smile. “You sound like my grandma, she says funny things like that sometimes too.” A voice pierced through the market and the colt stiffened. “That’s my mom, I need to go. You have a nice day Ma’am.” With that the little foal scampered of towards the voice calling to him leaving.

Rainbow turned her eyes back to the market. Applejack was serving another customer, the same warm smile on her face as thanked them for their business. Rainbow lifted her hoof, ready to go greet one of her oldest friends and froze midstep. Her hoof shook as she lowered it back down next to the other one without taking a step.

“What am I doing, she’s my friend. One of my oldest friends.”

A bubbly voice reached Rainbow her head snapped up to see Pinkie bouncing across the market towards Applejacks stall. Behind her rolled a cart of apple themed confections that still steamed freshly from the oven, the smell filling the market and making Rainbow’s heart flutter. Apple Bloom broke from her conversation with Big Mac as she started helping Pinkie set the pastries on Applejack’s stall.

Rainbow licked her lips and lifted her hoof again. “It’s easy Rainbow, just put one hoof in front of the other. All you need to do is walk over there.” She reached a purple feather she wore on a chain around her neck with the hoof she had lifted to take a step. “So what’s stopping me Twilight?”

She played with the purple feather absentmindedly as she watched the market.

“You can do it, just put one hoof in front of—”

Rainbow’s sentence was cut off with a soft squeak as someone ran into her causing her to stumble and fall over.

“I’m so sorry I didn’t....” A cream colored pegasus with a long pink mane and tail shook her head and stood. She reached out, offering a hoof to help Rainbow up. Their eyes met and mare froze, confusion etching into her face. “Do I know you?”

A lump formed in Rainbow’s throat as she gazed into Fluttershy’s eyes. She wanted to call out, to cry, something, but all she could do was cry. Every plan she’d had to meet them again went out the window and she dove forward, wrapping Fluttershy in a tight hug.

“Oh, um....there there?” Fluttershy hesitantly patted Rainbow on the back in confusion. “Are you, okay?”

After a few minutes Rainbow managed to find her voice again. “I’ve missed you so much Fluttershy.” She pulled away and looked Fluttershy in the eyes again. “So much.”

The sound of her raspy voice rang bells in Fluttershy’s ears and her eyes widened slowly. “Rainbow?”

Rainbow nodded with a smile, tears still streaming down her cheeks. With a happy squeak Fluttershy wrapped Rainbow in a tight hug and started sobbing with joy.

Soon their crying had attracted everyone’s attention. Most of the ponies were confused, a few curious. Applejack was one of the aforementioned ponies. Confused by Fluttershy’s crying over the old mare who had been watching the market for a while. Finally curiosity won over and she motioned for Big Mac to tend the stall as she made to go find out what was happening.

While Applejack was trying to understand what was going on Pinkie Pie had been putting two and two together. All morning her Pinkie Sense had been going crazy, giving her a very confusing message. It kept telling her that a new friend was arriving while also saying it was an old friend, an old new friend. She saw Fluttershy crying with an old mare who was somehow vaguely familiar. It all fell into place and she was halfway across the market before Applejack had even started to move.

Rarity remained frozen.Her plans for a spa date with Fluttershy had been interrupted by the impossible. Rainbow, who had disappeared quite some time ago, seemed to have returned. Her mane was quite faded and her face was quite wrinkled and yet Rarity knew without a doubt that it was Rainbow.

Rarity, ever the drama queen, cried the hardest and was last to move but she forget all decorum as she descended upon Rainbow and her friends with tearful joy. The town watched in wonder for a bit as its most recognized citizens greeted their missing friend in what was one the happiest dog piles they had ever scene. It wasn’t long before the small town’s rumor mill had spread the news to every corner of Ponyville and everyone knew Rainbow was back. There was one question that hung on everyone’s mind in light of the joyous news though, where was Twilight?

~ ~ ~

Rainbow smiled gently as her eyes drifted closed. The calm and gentle spring breeze tousled her mane, bringing in the scents and memories of Ponyville. A tangy scent of apples ripe on their branches, ready to be harvested. It would be Autumn soon, she could almost taste the sweet golden nectar those apples would make, feel the fizzing on her tongue with that first sip.

Nothing went better with that first sip than one of Pinkie Pie’s apple fritters. Faintly under the apples she could smell the tangy sweetness of Sugarcube corner baking loaves of bread and cakes. There wasn’t a creature alive who could out bake Pinkie. How she’d missed those cupcakes and Pinkie’s parties.

Without warning a group of foals barreled past her bench, their innocent laughter bringing tears to Rainbow’s eyes. She watched her favorite young pegasus darting across the grass with Sweetie Belle and Apple Bloom after the foals. The sound of Scootaloo’s laughter filled her heart with warmth, a sound straight from her memories now teasing her ears from outside her dreams. It was sweeter than the sweetest chorus she had ever heard.

Rainbow closed her eyes with a smile and sighed happily. Everything was almost perfect, there was only one thing missing. Her hoof caressed the purple feather around her neck sadly, tears forming in her eyes.

“I’m home Twilight, I’m home.” The tears spilled freely from her eyes as the edges of the feather brushed against her hoof.  “It hasn’t changed at all Twilight. Neither have the girls. It’s like I stepped back in time.”

Rainbow opened her eyes and watched the foals as they played their game of tag. She could see Lyra and Bon Bon entering the park with a picnic basket. A shadow flitted over the park and Derpy landed near the foals. Dinky scampered down from her perch and gave Derpy a hug before she darted to join in the game of tag. It was an iconic afternoon in every sense of the word, that small town Sunday afternoon in the park. If only she could had shared it with Twilight.

“I never thought, it’s so much sweeter Twilight. Oh Twilight, I missed this place so much, if only...”

Rainbow trailed off, the feather clutched tightly in her hoof as she hung her head for moment before looking up. Scootaloo rolled in the grass with Snips, her prey had been caught and now he was it. All the foals laughed, Scootaloo’s laugh easily picked out.

“To hear that sound again, it’s better than it ever was in my dreams.”

Rainbow turned her eyes to the sky and let the breeze dance over her muzzle. The breeze carried everything with it, the smells, the sounds, the memories of her youth. For a moment Rainbow felt it again, that spark of youthful rebelliousness that she used to be so well known for.

The feeling of the wind under her wings as she danced through the clouds with a joyous holler. Rainbow could feel that familiar sensation of her wings straining against physics to pull her through her latest trick Lost in her memories her wings twitched, remembering the motions and positions she had drilled into herself repeatedly as a younger mare.

Rainbow sighed and opened her eyes, rejoining with the present. A nostalgic smile pulled at her lips as the feelings faded away and she was once again her old and faded self. Rose Luck waved at her with a warm smile and polite ‘Good afternoon’ as she passed by. Rainbow waved back, returning the smile and greeting.

A sense of peace fell over Rainbow as she lay there, watching the ponies as they went about their day in the park. Parents watched their foals play with content smiles, lovers snuggled and kissed in the shade of trees; others simply enjoyed the park and its scenery while some enjoyed a good book under the afternoon sun.

Rainbow fought the sense of peace as it lulled her to sleep. She had one more promise to keep and she didn’t want to miss the picnic with her friends. Her gaze drifted down to her saddlebags where four letter sat bound together, each addressed to a different mare. She felt so tired, but she had one last promise to Twilight she had to fulfill.

Her eyes snapped open suddenly. She could hear Pinkie Pie laughing about something, probably a joke between her and the girls. Slowly and carefully Rainbow slipped off the bench to greet her friends. Her heart swelled as they rounded the corner. They all waved and she smiled as they approached.

Pinkie bounced up and gave her a hug. “Hi Rainbow.”

“Afternoon Pinkie.” Rainbow returned the hug with a warm smile. “I’m glad you guys could make it.”

“Oh we wouldn’t have missed it for the world dear.” The smell of warm sandwiches and cupcakes wafted from Rarity’s picnic basic as she walked gave Rainbow a hug.
Winona barked and licked Rainbow’s hoof when Applejack let go of her leash to lay out the blanket. “Rarity is right, it’s been too long since we’ve all had lunch together.”

Carefully Fluttershy helped Rainbow over to the blanket where she had put a cushion down. Her smile said everything she wanted it to without any words. Rainbow thanked her and settled into the cushion with a sigh and waited as Rarity emptied the picnic basket.

Daisy sandwiches with steaming bread and fresh picked daisies and special cupcakes from Pinkie were pulled from the basket. Several bottles of soda were underneath the food and those too were taken out and passed around.  The cupcakes were decorated with little purple candy stars perched on top with twinkling star like sprinkles dusted around them in the lavender frosting. Overall the meal wasn’t overly fancy but it all smelled delicious. Rainbow’s eyes glossed over most of the fare and settled on the cupcaked where they lingered as tears collected in her eyes.

“You miss her, don’t you?”

Rainbow wiped her eyes and looked over at Applejack. “It’s been almost five years and I still think about her every day. The time we spent together, up in the cabin, I never would have imagined a life like that for myself. I made so many mistakes and yet she still gave me the greatest years of my life.”

Everyone fell silent as they all remembered Twilight and all the good times they’d had with her. Finally Fluttershy laid a wing over Rainbow’s. Rainbow looked over at Fluttershy with a grateful smile and wiped the tears from her eyes.

“Thanks Flutters but I’m ok, sort of. I wish I could have done more for her but what I did do was made her the happiest mare in the world. If she had any regrets when she died, it was that she didn’t get to see all of you again.”

Everyone smiled and they started the picnic in earnest. They shared memories, mostly Rainbow talking about the things she and Twilight did and the places they visited. The girls talked about what they had been up to during the years Rainbow had spent traveling home from where she had been. It was almost like the old times again for them again, with one piece missing.

Rainbow sighed happily as she sipped her third soda and watched the park again. Pinkie and Fluttershy where nearby under a tree feeding a squirrel crumbs from the lunch. Rarity sat next to Rainbow, lost in her notebook of dress designs and Applejack was using Rainbow’s otherside as a pillow while she napped with her hat pulled down over her eyes. Scootaloo had dropped by for a little while and was back with Applebloom and Sweetie on the playground.

Rarity looked up and noticed a small tear in Rainbow’s eye. “Is everything alright Rainbow?”

“It feels, surreal almost Rarity. The town, you girls, Scootaloo, it feels almost like a dream.”

Rarity put down her notebook and smiled at Rainbow. “But it’s not, I promise.”

A tear trailed down Rainbow’s cheek and she wiped it away. “I know, I would never dream of a world without Twilight. I tried that once. At first it was liberating, but after a long time apart my life grew grey. I knew I’d messed up, messed up big time. After I realized it I went to find her again. I waited for what felt like a lifetime before she came back. After we reunited it started the greatest time of my life. I found something with Twilight I never could have imagined for myself—and now? Now it’s over and I’m left without her.”

“We all miss her, Rainbow.” Rarity looked down at Twilight’s feather that Rainbow wore. “But she’s still here, in spirit. In our memories and hearts.” Carefully Rarity picked up Twilight’s feather with her magic and moved it closer to her. “We all carry her with us in some way or another.”

Rainbow looked at the feather as Rarity twirled it in her magic before letting it fall back down. “Hey Rarity, do you blame me for what happened?”

“Oh, well, that’s—” Rarity paused, she hadn’t thought about it that much. “Well I haven’t really given it much thought. Plenty of your pranks have gone overboard before and that one was definitely your most foolish, but no, I suppose I don’t. You were younger then, and you made a mistake. It was unfortunate what happened because of it, but it was just that, a mistake.”

Silence fell between them and Rarity picked up her notebook again, humming to herself as she started drawing again. Rainbow found herself thinking about the past again, something she found herself doing more and more often as time went on. She thought about how far she’d come since Twilight’s death and the shock of seeing time move again without her. The poor owner of the cabin had been terrified when he got home and found her crying over Twilight’s body. He’d helped bring her into town and pay for her cremation so Rainbow could bring her back to Equestria.

Almost silently Fluttershy slid up next to Rainbow, being careful not to wake Applejack, and laid down. “What are you thinking about?”

Rainbow glanced over and smiled. “Just the past, I do that a lot now.”


“Yea. I guess there’s just a lot more of it than there is of the future for me. A lot happened and now, now it’s all I have.” Rainbow looked over at Pinkie Pie as she snuggled up against Rarity and watched her draw. “My life is behind me now Fluttershy, and what little is left,  I’m glad to be spending it here with all of you.”