The little colt in my arms squirmed impatiently, taking in the new world around him. He had stopped crying a while ago, and was now making short little squeals as he tried to look around. I was a mess of emotion; happiness, relief, exhaustion, and pride, among other things.
"He's beautiful," I glanced up to see Bronze beaming down at the two of us -- his wife and newborn son, curled up together in the hospital bed. He leaned forward to kiss my forehead, then his son's.
"Congratulations to the both of you," the doctor came in, wearing clean scrubs again. He approached the bed, checking the liquids hooked up to the IV in my arm, then looked the both of us over. "Gold is a healthy young colt. He doesn't appear to have any issues, so you'll be able to go home within the next few days,"
"Thank you Doc," Bronze sighed, nuzzling me. I smiled softly and looked down at the tiny creature. Gold was grabbing my hoof, bringing it closer to his mouth. His little mouth tickled my skin, but I watched him in fascination as he made an effort to knaw on it.
My eyelids fidgeted. I clenched them shut, not wanting to let this precious moment slip from me again. But, despite my efforts, I found myself staring at the darkness that was encased against my eyes.
I was warm. And comfortable. I almost didn't want to move from my position. But I forced my heavy lids to open, shifting my body to sit upward. A blanket was draped around me, tucked in at some places. I wasn't in bed either, but rather lying on the couch with one of the pillows fluffed up beneath my head. To my confusion, there was also a mouthwatering smell drifting through the air, making my mouth water a bit.
I got to my hooves, tossing the blanket over the back of the couch. The living room had been cleaned up a bit; the pills bottle that was once lying on the floor was now sitting on the coffee table, and the paper from Princess Celestia had been neatly folded and placed beside it. I continued into the kitchen, where I concluded the source of the smell was coming from. Sure enough, a pot was boiling on a stove that I hadn't used in years. But there wasn't anypony in the room. I approached the stove and took the wooden spoon beside it and stirred its contents, making more of its delicious aroma rise into the air. I inhaled it deeply; it was a soup, made from the buds of buttercups and daisies, with a special broth mix of milk and honey. It was familiar to me, a dish I hadn't eaten in the longest time. I was tempted to take a taste of it, but refrained.
I put the spoon down and turned, looking around the kitchen. It was swept and clean as well.
"I hope you don't mind." A voice made me jump. I jerked around to look at the source.
I felt my anger bristle again. "I thought I told you to leave? What are you still doing here?" I demanded him. Once again, he was unaffected by my blunt anger.
"I never left. You don't fully understand the situation that my aunts are in. I saw that you were passed out on the floor, and wanted to help. It's the least I could do."
"I don't care." I said. "Get out."
He stood firmly. "I can't do that Steele. This means too much to me to let your stubbornness lead to the Princess's downfall."
"Of course you would care!" I sneered at him. "This is your family we're talking about. But let it be somepony else's family, and you don't give it a second thought!"
He flinched a bit at this. "That's not true. I did care about Gold. He was a good soldier."
"A good soldier?!" I spat. "He died, Blueblood! You let him go and die without even considering the fact that he wasn't going to come back!" I felt tears start to prick at my eyes, and I hastily wiped them away.
"He knew the risk, Steele. We all knew the risk. He died for a good cause."
"Oh really? We still haven't found the pony responsible for the bomb. How dare you say he died for a good cause! I wish you had gone instead of him!"
This time, he took a couple steps back, his eyes widening slightly and his ears falling back. I breathed heavily, closing my eyes and turning my back to him. "You don't understand." I muttered, sitting on my flank with my head lowered. The tears pooled up behind my eyelids. "You won't ever understand this pain I've gone through, and that I continue to struggle with. Not until you've lost someone close to you."
"You're right. I won't understand. But, I do have a daughter now. And I wouldn't be able to live if something happened to her." He said quietly. Guilt flooded through me then. My own ears flattened against my head.
"I'm sorry." I muttered. "How old is she?"
"She just turned one." He answered.
I nodded. "That's a really pretty name." I stole a glance over my shoulder at him. He was looking down. Yes, he had aged since I'd last seen him, but there was now a mature air about him. A protective one; one that a parent would have. It made me see Blueblood in a different light.
"I've never forgotten that day. I'm so very sorry for your losing Gold. I did consider his safety that day, but he would've done the same thing, whether I had given the order or not. He was just like you, Steele. Brave, courageous, smart-"
"Ignorant," I added, shaking my head. "And so very, very stubborn."
Blueblood nodded. For a moment, he was silent. Then he spoke again, choosing his words carefully. "I know your feelings towards me and Celestia aren't the most positive, but the whole of Equestria is depending on you. If the Princesses fall, Equestria will too. Don't do it for me, or for her. Do it for Equestria. For yourself. For Gold."
I pondered this silently. I was being selfish. They needed my help, whether either of us liked it or not. And ever since I was young, I vowed that I would protect the ones I loved, whether I was a soldier or not. I've already broken that vow once; was I willing to risk failing again?
"You still have some time before Celestia takes the matter into her own hooves." Blueblood said softly. "Let's eat while you think it over, alright?"
I nodded quietly. This new side of Blueblood was both frightening and comforting, much different from the excessively arrogant jerk I had worked with years before.
It was a nice change.