That's how long it's been since Rainbow last spoke.
Twenty-six hours since she got the letter. Twenty-four hours since she asked me to come with her. Sixteen since we arrived in the city. Thirteen since the service started. Eleven since they lit the pyre. Nine since she tossed the ashes to the wind. Three since we got back to Ponyville. One since we went to her house.
She was sitting beside me looking at the floor. Her normally colorful appearance had taken on a more lifeless exterior; no longer shining with enthusiasm or joy. Her eyes seemed glazed over in a cross between depression and emptiness. Her breathing was quiet and slow; accentuating the aura of melancholy she was radiating.
Tentatively, I stretched a wing out and wrapped it around her. She showed no response to it, so I pulled her into me, wrapped my forelegs around her, and nuzzled my head into the crook of her neck.
"You're going to have to talk about this, Rainbow." I told her quietly.
She said nothing. Her eyes remained just as dull and desolate as the moment she got that letter.
"I know you're hurting, but bottling your feelings up inside will only make it worse."
We sat there for a while longer with only the constant drum of the rain outside the windows and our breathing breaking the peace. I had to do something. I knew I couldn't leave her like this: she would never be able to get back on her hooves without a little help. I needed an idea. Then, just as I prayed for, I thought of something.
"I remember the time he took us to get ice cream."
One of her ears perked.
I closed my eyes for a moment, trying to remember all the details, "It was right after flight camp was over. At the time we both had had our cutie marks for a while, but the parents couldn't come to camp until the halfway visiting day. Remember? My parents didn't come. When you told him that he brought me along to celebrate with you." I smiled as I recollected the event in my mind, "We went to that little ice cream stall near the rainbow fountains. I think... You got chocolate and I got vanilla. You were so energetic! You told him about all the races you won and records you beat. You told him all about me, your new best friend, even though I was sitting right next to you. And the whole time you had chocolate ice cream on your snout!"
Her mouth twitched upwards.
Spurred on by my slight success I continued, "I remember your first official race in flight school. You were the only freshmare on the varsity flight-team. I was up in the stands with him cheering you on. When the race started you were pretty far behind all the other racers, but he never gave up on you. Then you started to make up some lost ground. I swear that's the loudest I've ever heard anyone cheer in my life. I wish you could have seen the look of pride on his face when you pulled through in the last lap and got second! He was so happy for you, Rainbow. And when he saw that you were disappointed at second? He smiled even wider. Because he knew for certain that your disappointment would lead you to win the next year."
She smiled. It was a small one, but a smile none the less.
"And then there's the time he took our picture right before prom. Neither of us could find a date, and when we decided to go alone all he said was, 'Good, colts are trouble.'" I giggled, and looked at her again. I could see a light in her eyes, I just had to make it grow. "Then, when we came home together he made us s'mores in the fireplace and we spent the night in your living room making couch-forts like when we were fillies."
Her eyes were brimming with tears, but it was better than a hollow gaze at the ground. I had gotten through to her.
I squeezed her tight against me, "Rainbow Dash. I know what it's like to lose somepony important to you. I know how you feel right now; like there's some part of you that will never feel whole again, and you're right; you're not whole anymore, and it's going to hurt for a long time. But you need to know that it will get better." I heard her breath hitch, "He's not gone, Rainbow. He's out there somewhere watching you keep all your emotions inside and it's hurting him so please: just let it all out."
I heard a strangled sob, then Rainbow Dash quickly turned in my grasp and wrapped her forelegs tightly around me. I felt her tears stain my coat as she bawled into my chest. Her lungs heaved and shuddered as she wept into me, letting all her feelings pour out. I wrapped my other wing around her and covered us up like a big, feathery cocoon. I stroked her mane as she shed everything she had been feeling in the last forty-eight hours all at once.
After listening to her cry for a few of the most heart-wrenching minutes of my life she finally quieted down. For a while she simply laid in my lap and held me like I was the only thing keeping her from falling back into depression. I had started cooing into her ear, trying to calm her as much I could.
When her breathing returned to normal she buried her face even deeper into my coat and spoke, "Everything feels wrong... like the world is broken, or maybe I'm broken." she said shakily, "I feel like I'm falling and the sky is falling with me and we'll never hit the ground cuz it's falling too..."
I continued stroking through her mane, "The world isn't broken and you certainly aren't. You're just sad and confused; and you have the right to be, but everything will be fine. Just give it some time." Then I put a hoof to her chin and pulled her eyes up to meet mine, "And as for the sky falling?" I smiled at her, "Even if your sky falls, even if your ground crumbles, even if your world breaks, I will be there to catch you. Just like you always have been for me."