Tank's Little Ponies

by Deflare


Tank's Little Ponies

Age: 32

Tank shuffled slowly from his basket to his food. It wasn't that he was sleepy, and it definitely wasn't that he wasn't hungry; Tank just moved everywhere slowly, being a tortoise and all. His feet sank a little into the carpet-like texture of the cloud house with each step, the enchanted floors bearing his weight along with the weight of every inanimate object in the house—it was much more efficient to design cloud houses with solid floors than to enchant every one of a pegasus' items or pets to keep them from falling.

Eventually, he made it to his bowl, which contained a mouth-watering variety of vegetables dusted with nutrient powder. He had just grabbed a carrot when a streak of blue sent him spinning in place. In the months since Tank had adopted his blue pony, he had grown rather used to the sensation, and as soon as he came to a stop, he gulped down the carrot like nothing had happened.

Meanwhile, the pegasus flitted through the house, slamming drawers and cupboards open and closed as she talked. “Hi Tank! Don't mind me, I'm not staying for long, I'm just looking for my badminton racket, 'cause I need to cream AJ again, 'cause she said the last time didn't count because I blew the birdy back onto her side of the net, which is totally lame because what's the point of wings if I can't use them, so now she's got a burr in her hide about a rematch and where did I leave that stupid thing and— Oh, there it is! All right, seeya later, Tank!” Taking a moment to refill her lungs after the long rant, the mare jumped back out of her window and took off soaring to the ground below.

Tank chewed his food contentedly. She was awfully excitable, but she was a good pet. He'd taken to calling her Blurry, since she always looked like a blue blur in his eyes. He knew she had a name among the other ponies, of course, but Blurry just suited her better. A lot of ponies had names that just didn't fit how Tank saw them.

Something deep in the tortoise's mind stirred at the thought. An old memory, long set aside, wanted to be brought back. Tank slowly blinked and looked about at the cloud manse. Blurry probably wouldn't be back for a while, and he didn't have anything he really needed to do (well, he'd eventually need to use the little testudo's room, but that hardly took much mental power), so there was nothing preventing Tank from taking a leisurely stroll down memory lane. Not that he ever took any other kind of stroll.

Taking another deliberate bite, Tank stared off into the distance as he thought back to his youth, when he had borne a different name, and when he was caring for his very first pony...

Age: 0
A tiny baby tortoise cautiously poked his head out of his shell, eyeballing the humongous face in front of him.

The visage belonged to an earth pony mare of middling years, who bore a mint green hide, sky-blue eyes, and a bright red mane cut with a streak of white. Far, far away, on the mare's flank, sat a pair of spearmint leaves.

The pony grinned widely at him, making him hide inside his shell again. “Well now, there's no need to be scared, little fellow! I'm not gonna hurt ya!” The tortoise quaked a bit as he was lifted off the table where he had been sitting; a tentative look revealed that he was now perched on a light green hoof.

“Oh come on, Mom, leave the poor thing alone! Where did you even find it, anyway?” Another, smaller pony drifted into view, pink eyes in a forest green face boggling at him. “It looks scared half to death.”

“That's how I found him! I was walking into town when I saw a crow trying to crack his shell by dropping him out of the sky. Next time that mean ol' crow tried it, I caught him and ran!” The older pony laughed as her daughter rolled her eyes. Ignoring the uppity youth, that enormous grin once again pressed itself in front of the tortoise's face. “Name's Minty Fresh, and this here's my daughter Spearmint! You'll be stayin' with us, despite my neigh-sayer of a daughter!”

“Neigh-sayer? Really, Mom?” The foal groaned and shook her head before trotting off, apparently unwilling to take any more of her mother's eccentricities for now. From the better vantage point, the tortoise saw that she was just entering the awkward lanky phase of adolescence, with a curly brown mane and a pack of chewing gum on her flank. She trotted up a set of wooden stairs out of sight, the sound of a door shutting punctuating her departure nicely.

The older pony chuckled softly as she set the tortoise down again. “You'll have to forgive her, you know how fillies can be. Always so eager to think they're wiser than their elders. And who knows, maybe she's right? She's a good girl, despite all that.” Tentatively, he emerged from his shell; it didn't seem like the pony was going to try to eat him, and she HAD saved him from that crow...

The pony kneeled down to look him in the eye. “Now, you're going to need a name. Can't just keep calling you 'little fellow', now, can I? All the colts in Spearmint's class would think I was talking to them, and wouldn't that just make her mad! Ha!” Another great grin (she seemed to enjoy those), before the mare tilted her head in thought. “Could call you Lucky, what with the good luck of me grabbing you, but that sounds like a jinx waiting to happen. Greeny? No, that's me. Shelly? Too obvious. Turtwig? Where the hay did that come from?” She shook her head, before beaming and clapping her hooves together. “I got it! I'll call you George!”

“George? That's a weird name,” the daughter commented as she came down the stairs again, before heading directly to the kitchen.

“Exactly! None of this appropriateness nonsense for him, just something nice and uniquely weird. Like me!” The mother pony gave the newly-dubbed George another wild grin before heading off to the kitchen after her daughter. “Now what do tortoises eat...?”

George stared off after the pony, the wheels in his head turning (how else?) slowly. He'd heard about animals taking care of ponies before, of course; he often saw pairs in the park near his home, the smaller animals leading their charges around by leashes. George had never thought about becoming a pony caretaker before, though. It seemed like a big responsibility, and he was awfully young, being only a few months old... But George had always thought that he was responsible for his age, and this pony definitely looked like she needed someone to look after her.

George gave himself a certain nod. He would take care of this pony. Though she needed a name.

A mad cackle from the kitchen, matched by a younger voice's frustrated groan, decided the matter for him. Kooky. She would be Kooky. Nothing else would ever fit better.

Spearmint stomped past his table out of the kitchen, her mane covered in white powder. George blinked as he watched her pass.

And she would be dubbed 'Fussy'.

Age: 30

George wobbled unsteadily on the big white stallion's back as they took the road out of Ponyville toward the edge of the Everfree Forest. The small group of three ponies and one tortoise was quiet and somber, save for the panting of Creamy, George's current mount. The sky was a dull gray, and a cold autumn wind blew fallen leaves across their path. The weather matched the group's mood perfectly.

The silence was broken by a little filly's lisp arising from the back. “Mom? Why are we getting rid of George? I thought he wath Grandma'th pet.”

Fussy was no longer a young filly; she was a full-grown mare now, starting to get crow's feet around her eyes and with streaks of gray entering her curly mane. She looked down and gently nuzzled her daughter. “He was, dear, but now that your grandmother is... gone... we can't afford to take care of him anymore. He's just too big now. Don't worry, Fluttershy is wonderful with animals. She'll take good care of him, and make sure he gets to a good home.”

She certainly wasn't wrong about George's size. Long gone was the tiny new-hatched baby. He had grown large and heavy, a fact that Fussy's husband was currently cursing silently. George had been unsure about Creamy at first (or, as the other ponies called him, Peppermint), but he had been a good addition to the family. He had also helped bring little Noisy into world, and George certainly couldn't complain about that, as he was rather fond of the little filly.

The family rounded a bend, revealing the cottage. Animals of all kinds frolicked around the little grass-covered hut, and birds sang a dozen cheery songs. Out front, a yellow pegasus was sitting on her stoop, cradling a tiny baby bunny in the crook of one arm while the other hoof propped up a small bottle of milk. “...Don't worry, my little angel, I'll take care of you till you're big and—”

The pegasus' comforting words were cut off when she caught sight of the three ponies and their strange passenger. She seemed torn between wanting to hide from the ponies and rushing forward to inspect the tortoise. “H-hello, everypony. Who's this?”

Fussy stepped over to help her husband get George off his back. “This is George; he was my mom's pet tortoise until she...”

The yellow pony's head dipped back behind as her hair as she carefully laid the bunny down in a blanket-lined basket. “I heard about that. I'm so sorry; she was a very nice lady. She always seemed so... energetic.”

“Yeah, I never thought she would...” Fussy sighed, then smiled when Creamy gave her a light nuzzle. “Thanks, hon.” The deep green mare returned her attention to the young pegasus. “We don't really have any way to take care of him; Mom was the expert, and things have been... a little rough for us. We were hoping that you could take care of him until you found someplace for him to stay.”

The yellow pony drifted over to kneel down in front of George, smiling softly at him. “Of course I'll watch him, Spearmint. I'm sure I can find a good home for him, and I've never gotten to make friends with a tortoise before!”

George watched the pegasus curiously. Something about her put him at ease; she just seemed to ooze gentleness and trustworthiness. He reached out and gave her nose a light bump with his, prompting a small giggle.

“Mith Flutterthy?” Little Noisy stepped out from behind George, looking awkwardly down at her feet. It was obvious that she was Fussy and Creamy's daughter; she had her father's white coat and red mane, though the latter more resembled Fussy's mass of curls. From behind thick glasses, pink eyes like her mother's looked up at the pegasus imploringly. “George wath my grandma'th betht friend. Ith it... ith it okay if I come vithit him?”

The pegasus' eyes began to tear up as she leaned forward and gently nuzzled the little filly. “Of course, Twist, you can come see him whenever you like. I just know he'll make lots of friends with the other animals, and I'll find him a new home in no time. And he'll just love to see you again, I'm sure of it.”

Noisy sniffled and wiped her nose on her forelimb before stepping forward and giving Fluttershy a hug. “Thank you, Mith Flutterthy.”

George's old family turned to head out, casting last glances back at their missing member. George watched them go, his heavy shell hunkered down on the ground. He had known for years that he would probably outlive his first pony, but for it to actually happen was still a shock. Part of him wondered if she might have lived longer had he been more attentive, had he been faster, had he been...

His train of thought was interrupted by the yellow pegasus. “Come on, dear, let's get you settled. I need to go to the library and see if there are any guides on taking care of tortoises.” With a smile, she gently lifted him and turned him around, and George started the trek to the cottage.

And that's how his brief stay with the pony he called Softy began.

Age: 32

Tank was brought out of his reverie by the return of Blurry. Her mood seemed to be stormy (literally—the cloud carpet turned dark gray under her hooves, and small arcs of electricity began cracking between the dark spots) as she tossed the badminton racket carelessly into a closet. “Sure, stupid Applejack gets to use her earth pony strength, but I don't get to use my pegasus wings, so of course she's going to clobber me in a game like that, and then she has the nerve to get all mad at me after it...” With a frustrated sigh, she flopped down on her back next to Tank and glared daggers up at the fluffy white ceiling.

Time to take care of the pony. Tank shuffled over and lightly butted his head against Blurry's forelimb. The blue pony sighed again and began petting him, her hoof rattling as it ran along the ridges of his shell. She continued talking to herself as he settled into her side. “Okay, so I guess badminton IS an earth pony game, so it kinda makes sense that I gotta play by their rules. And maybe I was a liiiiittle bit of a sore loser. And maybe I did kind of insult her and her brother. And maybe I did yell at Twilight when she tried to calm me down. I...” Blurry sat up in alarm. “Wait, holy horsefeathers, I yelled at Twilight? Why the hay did I yell at her? She didn't deserve that! Neither did Applejack! Big Macintosh wasn't even there!”

With a groan of frustration, Blurry rolled over onto her hooves, causing Tank to stumble as the flank he had been leaning against suddenly disappeared. “Ah jeez, I've been acting like a huge jerk all day. Again! I need to go apologize to everypony. Later, Tank! Be back when my friends don't hate me anymore!” With that, Blurry dashed out, leaving a rainbow streak in her wake.

Tank blinked slowly as he looked out after his pony's exit, before settling down where he sat. He was glad that he could help her through her little emotional crisis, and felt he deserved a nap—taking care of ponies is hard work, after all. He should probably move to his bed, but it was so far away, and the cloud carpet was so comfy...

Tank slept, content with his place with the universe.

Age: 97

The propeller of Tank's helicopter buzzed as he followed his pony through the air. He had lost track of how many of the devices he had gone through; sixty years of trying to follow Blurry's erratic flying had made him rather adept with the things, but it had also been rather hard on the various iterations of his method of transport.

It wasn't too difficult to keep up with her these days, though, as Blurry had become a lot less inclined to turn into a blur. Her rainbow mane and tail had faded into seven different shades of gray, with only a few stray strands of red and orange hinting at its former vibrancy. Her movements were slow and careful, and it broke his heart to see her pains every morning before she took her arthritis medication. But the pegasus could still fly better than most pegasi half her age.

Blurry began a downward spiral, and Tank followed her down. He recognized their destination—a large cave in the mountains that rimmed the Everfree Forest. Faint wisps of smoke from within showed the world that a large and fiery creature lived within. Normally, such a thing would terrify Tank, but he knew this creature, and had seen him grow from a little purple blob to the elegant creature he was now.

The pair set down at the entrance, and Blurry called out, “Spike? We're here.”

A stocky reptile of gleaming purple and green scales emerged from the darkness. Spike had not grown into the normal type of dragon; his magical birth, vegetarian diet, and sociable upbringing had all pushed his body down a less intimidating path than the one he gained during his hoarding phase, or from more wild dragons. He was about three pony-lengths long now, with heavy muscles on his shoulders and hips, and small wings just starting to sprout from his back. His neck was thick, eliminating his chin and pushing his face into a natural smile. This was not the quick, serpentine predator of the sky; no, this dragon was built for endurance, strength, and a disarming appearance.

Tank called him Crunchy, for the noise the dragon made when he ate his precious gemstones.

Crunchy's smile grew wider when he saw Blurry, and his head came down to nuzzle the old pony, his bulk dwarfing her. “Long time, no see, Dash. You didn't need to come all the way out here—I would've been happy to visit you.”

Blurry returned the nuzzle. “Thanks for the thought, Spike, but this was something that I needed to do. I need to talk to you, about Tank.”

This seemed to confuse the dragon, but he shrugged; the answer would come soon enough. Crunchy led the two deeper into the cave, into the warm living space he kept for guests. The walls of the cave had been carved into countless shelves, which were covered with books, pictures, and souvenirs, flanked by several torches that gave the cave an orange glow. Hundreds of familiar faces looked down on Tank from the photographs; many of those faces had changed and become older as the years went by, while others were no longer around.

The latter seemed to concern Blurry, who refused to sit on the pony-sized couch and instead paced restlessly as Crunchy made tea. She took a sip from the cup he brought to her before launching right into it. “Pinkie Pie is dead.”

Crunchy stared down into his cup (well, bucket) of tea. “Yeah, I heard. She was happy, though. You know she loved that daycare she was running, and she got to see her great-grandkids. Not a lot of ponies can say that.”

“Yeah, Applejack definitely couldn't,” Blurry replied bitterly, before shaking her head. “Sorry, that came out wrong. I just... We always figured I'd be the first of us to go, what with my crazy flying and all that. But now me and you, we're the last ones, Spike.”

It was true. Tank had never gotten around to giving Blurry and Softy's friends real names, but he knew them well all the same, and he knew how they had left the world. The Apple Pony had been a hero; a storm had brought down the roof of her house, and she'd braced it just long enough for her son and her little sister to escape before being crushed under the debris. The Pretty Pony's passing was quieter, but no less heroic, coming as a result of complications after surgery when she gave her kidney to her sick niece (who now had her own happy family). The Sparkly Pony had fallen asleep at her desk in the Prime Minister's office and never woken up, receiving a state funeral. Softy had passed quietly in bed, surrounded by a horde of children and grandchildren and an even larger horde of animals. And now the Candy Pony was gone, too, leaving just Blurry as the last of her friends.

His pony was speaking again. “You know how I never really settled down, never wanted kids. They'd just weight me down, y'know? And between all my friends' kids, and Scoots' family, I was fine with being the cool aunt. I still am. I don't regret it, none of it. But...” Blurry turned her eyes to Tank. “...Did you know that tortoises get old? Like, really old? One of Twilight's books said he could be a hundred and fifty before he goes. I... I'm not going to last that long, Spike, and there's no one to take care of him after I...”

Crunchy turned away, his gaze distant as he thought. “And anypony else you might give him to would pass away too, before he was done. So you want me to take care of him, right?”

The old mare looked down and nodded, eyes kept studiously on the slick cavern floor.

The dragon looked along his bookshelves, a short claw running along the rows of pictures, before he turned back to Blurry. “Of course I will, Rainbow Dash. He can stay here as long as he likes.” Crunchy managed a small smile. “He can keep Gummy company.”

Blurry looked up in surprise. “Gummy's here?”

“Sure is.” Crunchy whistled softly, and a shape shuffled out of a dark cranny in the cave. The alligator had grown large, almost as big as the dragon. Large purple eyes stared vacantly across the room, and vast, powerful, toothless gums chewed on a squeaky rubber toy. “He's getting old too, but I think he has another ten years in him. Pinkie's family couldn't really take care of him, since he's so big, so...”

Blurry laughed softly as tears ran down her cheeks. “So they send the gator to live with the dragon. Makes sense to me. I'm doing the same thing, right?” She wiped at her eyes with a back of a hoof before turning to Tank. “Okay, boy, you're going to be living with Spike from now on. Do you understand? He'll keep an eye on you.”

Tank looked up at Blurry before slowly looking over to Crunchy. He'd never taken care of a dragon before, but he was an old, wise tortoise now, and he'd managed a family of ponies when he was a newborn. This should be easy, especially with Gummy's help. But Blurry was an old pony; she might still need him...

He looked back into her eyes, and saw sadness... and relief, that he wouldn't be abandoned and alone. He knew how some animals needed to be alone when their end was near, to avoid burdening their loved ones. It looked like some ponies were the same way.

Tank nodded and gave her a slow smile. Blurry returned it and leaned down to give him a hug.

“Thanks, big guy. I love you; be good for Spike, okay?” She looked back up at the dragon. “Thanks again; I'll swing by with more of his stuff tomorrow. Send my love to the Sparkles, all right?”

“Will do.” Crunchy nodded and leaned down to give her another nuzzle. “They're holding a party in Pinkie's honor in town on Sunday. Think you can make it?”

Blurry hesitated a moment before nodding. “Yeah. Yeah, I'll make it. She always did go on about how she wanted her funeral to be the biggest party in Equestrian history. What kind of friends would we be if we didn't follow through?”

This time, the two gently bro-hoofed, big tear-stained smiles on their faces, before Blurry took off into the air, and Crunchy turned to begin preparing a place for his new house guest.

Age: 125

Tank held on for dear life as Crunchy undulated under him. The dragon had only grown larger in the intervening decades, and he now dwarfed most buildings, let alone ponies; he now also had a full set of wings, which he was currently using to fly. Gummy's passing hadn't made it any easier for Tank to keep his oversized scaly charge out of trouble, but he had managed. But now the dragon was acting oddly—he was lethargic, and even more prone to gorging himself than before. Tank wasn't sure what to do about it, but maybe this trip would help.

Crunchy landed with a heavy thump in a great stone platform that looked as thought it had been made for him. Tank looked around as he slid off the dragon's back. It was late in the afternoon, and a city of stone and glass glimmered below them. They were at a massive stone edifice carved into the side of a mountain, with great airy bridges spanning between high towers.

Picking Tank up in one clawed hand, Crunchy stepped through enormous doors into a great hall before bowing to the tall alicorn waiting for them inside. She shone with faint white light, with a long mane the color of dawn billowing around her as she stepped forward to greet the dragon. Golden adornments on her head, shoulders, and hooves glittered in the light. Next to her, very cautiously, a small black unicorn colt with a series of stars on his flank followed.

Shiny returned Crunchy's bow before leaning in to nuzzle him. “Hello, Spike, it's so good to see you again. I'd like to introduce my new apprentice, Luna's Blessing.” She smiled down at the little colt. “This is Spike, a dear old friend of mine.”

Crunchy smiled at the colt as he extended a claw for a hoofshake. “Don't worry, I don't eat little ponies. Except for ones that don't eat their oats, if you listen to the mothers in Ponyville.”

The little colt (Starry, Tank quickly decided, looking at the stars on the pony's flank) uneasily returned the shake. “It's a p-pleasure to m-meet you, Sp-Spike. P-please, call me L-Loony; everypony does.”

“I'd wanna be called that too, if I had a name like yours. No offense.”

Shiny gently cleared her throat, immediately getting the attention of all. “Now, Spike, what is the urgent matter you needed to discuss with me? I assume it concerns your friend.” At the last, she smiled down at Tank, who slowly returned it. It was hard not to feel honored by this pony's attention, like her gaze designated a pony (or a tortoise) as the most important individual in the world.

“Yes, Princess.” Crunchy's head dipped. “This is Tank. He's lived with me for a little over twenty-five years for now, after he was given to me by... by Rainbow Dash. He was her pet tortoise.”

Starry's eyes widened at the name; it, along with five others, were required knowledge for every schoolfoal. “The First Bearer of Loyalty? But if he was her pet, that means he'd have to be...”

“Many creatures can live much longer than ponies,” Shiny gently said to her student. “Tortoises in particular are quite long lived.” She turned back to the dragon. “Please, continue.”

Crunchy started to speak, but interrupted himself with a long yawn. “Sorry, Princess, that's getting more common. I think I need to go into my century sleep soon. I'm taking all of the right precautions so that I don't smoke out any ponies, but...” He looked down sadly at Tank. The tortoise, for his part, shifted slightly to lean against the dragon's foreleg.

“I see.” Shiny nodded in understanding. “So you wish for him to be cared for in the royal menagerie while you sleep.”

“Yes, please, Princess. I'm sorry to ask this of you, but...” The dragon looked down as he ran the back of a claw along Tank's shell. “I know that he probably won't be around when I wake up, but I just want to know that he was happy, and... and loved. He's all I have left of my old friends. Him and some old, faded pictures...”

Tears were welling up in the dragon's eyes, and he sniffled as Shiny laid a hoof on his forelimb. “I miss them too, my little dragon. But I know they'd be proud of the wyrm that you have become. It would be my pleasure and my honor to take care of Tank.” Her own eyes glistened in the fading sunlight.

Starry jumped out of the way as a large tear fell from the dragon's face and splashed on the stone floor, steam rising faintly from it. “Thank you, Princess. With your permission, I think I'd like to go home and sleep now.”

“Of course.” Shiny bowed, and Crunchy returned the gesture. “Remember, I'll be waiting for you when you wake up. I look forward to seeing you again, Spike.”

“You too, Princess.” With one final sniff, Spike turned and leaped off the landing pad, a few flaps of his enormous wings taking him into the air.

“Pay attention, my dear student,” Shiny said softly to the little colt at her side. “For a hundred years, that is the last that the world will see of a great band of heroes—some of the finest individuals Equestria has ever seen.” Smiling, she reached up and wiped tears from her eyes before looking at Tank. “Well, with one exception. Let's get you settled, little one.”

Tank nodded, not particularly bothered when he rose off the ground, carried by unicorn magic. He watched his new pony as they departed from the large hall. She was bigger than any of his previous ponies, and he'd never taken care of one with magic before. And something about her seemed different to all the others, a great weight on her that only a few could share. Taking care of her wasn't going to be easy.

But then, he'd taken care of a dragon. How bad could an immortal alicorn be?

Age: 148

“Go on ahead, my dear, I'll be there shortly. There is something I must do first.”

Shiny (or Princess Celestia, as her people called her) shared a gentle kiss with her paramour, Lady Orange Cream, Twelfth Royal Solar Consort and Third Solar Princess-Consort (or, as Tank called her, Orangey). The pale orange earth pony flushed and made her way up a set of stairs, white tail bouncing happily after her. They had only been married a few weeks past, and the mare still hadn't quite come down to earth from the fairy tale-like turn her life had taken.

Shiny smiled softly after her before stepping into the royal menagerie. It was a peaceful place at night, barring visits from animal-mad yellow pegasi, with the full moon shining down between the leaves and a cool breeze stirring the air. She turned down a familiar path to a small rock garden, a favored resting spot of the menagerie resident she needed to see.

Tank moved more slowly now than he ever had before, if such a thing was possible. Old age was finally weighing down on him, he knew, but that was all right. His life had been a happy one, full of love (in more than one way—it turns out that the royal menagerie was already home to a female tortoise when he moved in, with whom he had become quite well acquainted). He had been looking up at the night sky when his pony approached.

“Hello, old friend,” Shiny said as she settled down in the sand next to him. “Stargazing again, I see. I can hardly blame you; my sister's work is magnificent.”

The two old creatures sat quietly side-by-side for a few minutes, looking up at the stars and moon. Shiny, unsurprisingly, was the first to break the silence. “Ponies often ask me how I cope with my immortality. They're always so hesitant when they ask, as though they think they might make me angry. They ask why I take students when I know I will outlive them, why I take on consorts who will grow old and die. Even Luna finds the thought strange, though I know she has her own dalliances, both intellectual and physical.

“But I think you understand, dear Tank. Like me, you have seen ponies you love grow old and fade away, but you know that for the aged, we cannot let ourselves be consumed by what was or what will be. All good things end, but that does not meant that there must be an end to good things. The happiness we draw from our loved one sustain us, and so long as we remember them, they will always live with us, and in the stories we tell of them, and of the children and grandchildren who follow them. We know that to move on and accept new ponies into our life is not the same as forgetting or replacing the old ones, that the heart has infinite room for more love.”

Her gaze turned again to the moon, its white surface marked by an apple, a butterfly, a lightning bolt, a diamond, a balloon, and a six-pointed star, portraits made on a cool night many years before. “...Perhaps Luna understands too, better than I give her credit for.”

Shiny looked down at Tank. He was staring off into the distance; the need for sleep weighed on him, and it was hard for him to keep his vision focused. But he needed to stay awake. His... pony... needed... him...

“Sleep now, my little tortoise,” Shiny said quietly. “My sister and Philomena have tended to me for all this time, they will manage for a while longer. You've done your job well. Go and see your friends, and tell them hello for me.”

Tank looked up at Shiny, giving her a slow smile, before he nestled his head down on his forelimbs and drifted off to sleep. Distantly, he could hear his heart beat slowing. Beat, beat, beat...

There was a long silence, before Princess Celestia lowered her head and touched her horn to Tank's forehead, an ancient sign of respect for the fallen from days only she and Luna remembered. Getting to her hooves, she started out of the garden, pausing to let the groundskeeper know that arrangements needed to be made; she had already made certain a space would be available next to Rainbow Dash's tomb. Her thoughts heavy, she slipped out from the light of her sister's moon, up to the sympathetic ear and forelimbs of her beloved wife.

“Hey, Tank! Jeez, it took you long enough! Oh, hey, I met one of your friends while I was waiting.”

“Hiya, George! Who'd've thought that little crow-toy would become a big strong tortoise like this?”

“Come on, we've got a lot of hanging out to catch up on. Let's go.”

For the first time, Tank wasn't slow in smiling, nor did he need to plod as he set out to follow his friends.