Rainbow Dash tilted her head toward the voice. A young, dark blue, earth pony colt stood in the entrance to the wood-panelled room. Moonlight shone through the windows, as the flickering candlelight cast an eerie orange glow.
She released a deep sigh. "Yes Cotton?"
"Um... well..." he responded nervously.
"Is it important?"
"No-it's... um... nevermind." The colt started to leave.
She dropped the quill that was held in her hoof and turned around to say, "Wait!"
Cotton stopped in his tracks, and turned to face her.
"I already lost my train of thought," Rainbow said, removing her glasses.
"No-" she waved a hoof in the air to dismiss his comments. "Cotton, just come in, sit down."
Rainbow focused her eyes as the young earth pony sat down across from her. She noticed this colt was only a few years younger than her. Not as young as Scootaloo and her friends. But still very young.
"It's about Butterscotch," he explained, rubbing his foreleg. "Um... You see... well... she's... uh..."
The silence started to nibble at her. "Let me guess, she dumped you," she said bluntly.
"Cotton, I keep telling you girls don't like this-"
"-whole... oh..." Rainbow rubbed the back of her head. "Is she sick?"
He shook his head.
"Then what is it?"
The colt averted his eyes. "I... um..."
She put a hoof under Cotton's chin, and pulled his face toward her. Locking eyes.
The colt took a deep breath. "She's pregnant."
For almost a minute, no words were spoken. Rainbow stood there in stunned silence. "Pregnant," she eventually replied. "Your girlfriend... is pregnant."
He nodded. Rainbow detected a trace of fear in the young colt's eyes.
"You're gonna have a foal."
He nodded again.
"Are you sure it's yours?"
His eyes went wide. "Yes!" He replied, slightly incensed.
"Did you ask?"
"I didn't need to. Mom, I trust her, I love her."
"Oh boy," she said, taking a deep breath.
"Mom, what am I gonna do!?"
"I'll tell you what you're gonna do: You're gonna be a father."
"I can't be a father, I can barely take care of myself!"
"Then you'll learn," she explained with a smile.
His lower jaw started to shake. Rainbow could tell he was not convinced.
She grabbed him in a hug and continued. "Just remember, you did nothing wrong. You'll do good, Cotton Fields. You'll be a great father, I just know it. It may seem scary now, but change always does. You'll learn to adapt, I know you will, everypony does. You're gonna be a great father." Her smile widened. "And I'm gonna be a grandmother."
"That was from one of your books wasn't it?"
"Can it, Casanova."
Rainbow's eyes snapped open. "Where am I?" she asked.
"It's alright," Fluttershy said, in her most soothing voice. "You're safe."
She raised an eyebrow. "Oooo...kay?"
The mare ruffled her feathers, and widened her eyes. She turned her head, and looked at her back. Spreading her wings.
"What in Tartarus just happened?"
"How'd I get wings and why are they blue?"
"There's... there's a very good explanation for that."
Rainbow's head turned back toward the yellow mare, who had already approached her. She stared for several seconds. "I'm sorry, who are you?" she asked, hesitantly.
"My name's Fluttershy," the yellow one explained.
"And... where am I?"
"We're just outside Ponyville."
"Ponyville... alright. Now, why am I a blue pegasus?"
"Well, let's start with your name."
"Spring Orchard, your turn!"
The mare panicked. "What was that!?" She spun around, searching for the source of the mystery voice.
Sorry, sorry, sorry. I didn't mean to scare you!
Her eyes darted up. "You're in my head."
Well technically, you're in mine.
Orchard only got more confused. "What!?"
"Um..." Fluttershy held up a hoof. "Are you alright?"
She quickly replied, a tremor in her voice. "I think I'm losing my mind."
"You're not, you're... um..." She hoofed at the soil before her.
Fluttershy looked up. "You're dead."
Apple Bloom's bedroom was very small, and very modest. Furnished with antiques and a few simple knickknacks. She was never one to collect too much stuff.
The entire room was wrapped in green wallpaper. A colour she never particularly liked. She always told herself that, given the opportunity, she would love to repaint her entire room a brilliant mauve.
At one end, sat an antique four-poster bed. A hand-me-down going back generations. It was well-worn when she got it, but a bit of paint and a few nails, and some scrap wood fixed it right up.
At the other end of the room was her newest piece of furniture, a blue wardrobe. It was brand new, but that was only because of the incident with the bottle rocket. Who knew cedar would burn so quickly?
Next to the blue box sat a small yellow vanity, which held a major role in Apple Bloom's regular morning routine.
The young filly watched her reflection as she ran a brush through her mane. A few strokes later, she placed it down on the dresser. Next, she grabbed a tube of lip gloss in hoof, and applied it before pursing and rubbing her lips. Finally, draped over the side of the mirror, a large pink ribbon hung. She grabbed it, and pulled it up behind her mane. Then, in a move she practised every day for the past several years, Apple Bloom tied it up in a large bow. Her hooves moved so quickly, all anypony else would see was a yellow and pink blur.
The filly admired her work. Raising a hoof she nudged the bow, which immediately fell back into its proper shape. She smiled.
Apple Bloom always cared about her appearance more than others thought. Most ponies would guess, being such a tomcolt, that the young filly would never give her appearance a second thought. This was not true. She never truly felt comfortable with a dirty coat, or a dishevelled mane. And she never wanted to look like a foal. She always wanted to look good.
Next to her grooming supplies sat a hoofful of framed photos. Two were very recent, and stood out to her. The first was of herself, Sweetie Belle, Scootaloo, Rainbow Dash, Princess Cadance, and Spike. In the background, the Marjave Citadel dwarfed the group. Even from far away, it was monstrous. A large, shining, blue spike sticking out of the sand, surrounded by several concentric walls, each encasing several small buildings. All abandoned.
They never got to find out what happened. The origins and the fall of its inhabitants. Nothing was discovered before everything went to Tartarus. There were so many mysteries in that desert. Mysteries that may never be solved.
Apple Bloom pushed these thoughts away, and turned her attention to the next photo. Apple Bloom and her friends, in Canterlot, at the banquet honouring them. Sweetie Belle and Scootaloo proudly wore their medals. A testament to their achievement.
She still felt a bit bitter, that her involvement was never properly recognized. But she didn't let it bug her. After all, they were the ones who saved Equestria. She merely helped. She was a sidekick, not a hero. However she was not outright ignored. Ponies knew of her involvement. She took consolation in that.
There were several other photos her eyes went across, but one caught her eye. The oldest. A photo that was taken before she was even born. It was a photo of her parents. She never knew them.
Her mother, Turnip Leaf, had died as she was born. When she was first told this, it took a long time before she learned not to blame herself.
Her father, Apple Seed, died a few months earlier, in a freak farming accident. The details of which Apple Bloom did not care to know.
Shining Armor was such a nice stallion. The time Apple Bloom and her fellow crusaders spent at the Marjave, was mostly spent with him. And he was nice; he knew how to have fun. He also never talked down to them. Which was something Apple Bloom greatly appreciated. He talked to them like they were equals, like they were friends.
Now he was gone. It didn't seem fair. It didn't seem right.
Apple Bloom never knew her parents. Their deaths did not affect her, and this was not simply because they happened before she was born. But the fact that Shining Armor was now dead, gone forever. It shook her to her very core.
She picked up another photo. It was an innocuous picture taken that one time Spike joined the crusaders as they tossed a ball around. She pulled the photo out and started digging through her top drawer. Pulling out an envelope, she quickly looked through and found the photo she wanted. It was taken in one of the buildings near the Marjave Citadel, of Shining Armor and Sweetie Belle, covered in dirt, as they pulled out some odd artifacts found in some ancient wooden boxes. It was the only photo she had of him.
She placed the photo in the frame, and positioned it elegantly on her dresser.
"Scoot your caboose, Apple Bloom!" a voice called from below. "Time's a-wastin'!"
The filly spun around, and spotted the clock sitting on her nightstand.
"Shoot!" she cried. Quickly throwing on her saddlebag, she ran out the door and down the stairs.
A green earth pony stood on the ground floor, watching her granddaughter descend. "Whatcha waitin' for Apple Bloom!?" she cried. "You're gonna be late!"
She tossed the filly a yellow lunch pail, which landed gracefully in Apple Bloom's saddlebag.
On her way out the door, she stopped in her tracks. Turning around she said, "Granny."
The Granny Smith turned to face her granddaughter.
"What were my parents like?"
Her eyes widened, and Big Mac's head peeked in from the kitchen, a slice of toast hanging from his mouth.
"Hmmm," she brought a hoof to her chin. "Come on," granny declared. "I'll tell ya on the way."
"Granny?" Big Mac responded through his teeth.
"Hold down da fort while I'm gone."
"Don' worry none, Mac," she explained. "She won't be late."
"She deserves to know."
The stallion released a sigh as he returned to the kitchen, chewing the rest of his toast.
"For starters," Granny said from the foyer. "Your mother was never good enough for your father."
"Granny!" he screamed, running back.
She laughed. "Gottcha!"
He stared at her through narrow eyes.
"It was a joke," the mare deadpanned. She turned back to Apple Bloom and continued, "she was actually very sweet."
As they left, Macintosh sighed once again.
"It was twenty-two years ago. A...a freak accident i-"
"No no no!" Spring said, waving Rainbow's hooves. "I mean, how am I here? If I'm dead... wait... twenty-two years ago?"
She nodded again.
"Your father. Cotton Fields?"
"You're my granddaughter."
The yellow mare gave a smile. "Yes."
She brought the hooves to her mouth as tears boiled in those foreign eyes. Spring Orchard flew forward, embracing her granddaughter tightly, crying in joy. "Let me look at you," she said, holding her granddaughter at leg's length. "You've grown up so much."
They separated fully. "So," Orchard said. "How's your father?"
"Um... fine," she responded. "He's working in Manehatten now, as a speechwriter for the mayor."
"Followed in his mother's hoofsteps," she said with a laugh. "Sorta... And what about Butterscotch is she...?"
"She runs the Manehatten Weather Service."
She balked at the mare's statement. "She runs it?"
"Well... that's interesting."
They stood in a few seconds of awkward silence.
"So, um... how am I here?"
"Oh, that's... um... my friend, Rainbow Dash. She can... um... summon the dead."
Orchard looked at Rainbow's hoof. "For how long?" she asked.
As long as I want, the medium replied.
"Oh." Orchard let her gaze drift around. She inhaled deeply. The fresh smell of spring wafted through her host's nose. She could hear the sound of birds chirping in the distance, the rustle of leaves in the wind. "I can't believe I ever took this for granted," she said, melancholically.
"What do you remember?" Fluttershy asked.
"What's the last thing you remember?"
She brought a hoof to a chin. "Well, it was late. I was working on my latest book. Was on the thirty-second chapter when I decided to go to sleep. I had the weirdest dream. Everything was dark, and quiet, but I could feel other ponies nearby. We shared memories and ideas. Some did horrible things, but others... That was the afterlife wasn't it?"
Yeah, Rainbow replied. Sorry.
Orchard smiled. "It wasn't your fault."
A laugh sneaked through the pegasus' mouth. Her eyes drifted around once again. "I can't believe this. There's so much more I wanted to do."
I'll bet, Rainbow replied. After all, there were a lot of stories about you.
"Oh!" She smiled. "Ya heard a me!?"
Heard of you!? I'm a huge fan! Fluttershy never told me her grandmother was the original author of the Daring Do series.
She laughed. "Thanks I- wait... 'Original'!?"
Rainbow started to hesitate. Yeah... others continued the series after you passed on.
She paused, trying to process the information.
Fluttershy looked on in bewilderment.
"So... would it be possible-"
There's a library in town.
"Can we go to the library!?"