• Published 16th Feb 2012
  • 1,109 Views, 16 Comments

The Long Road Home - Tealove

A grown up Sweetie Belle returns to Ponyville after being gone for years.

  • ...

Chapter 4

Scootaloo's reaction to seeing her had Sweetie Belle feeling off kilter. It had been unrealistic of her to hope the pegasus would greet her as warmly as Apple Bloom had, though she'd hoped Scootaloo would have at least stayed around long enough to hear an explanation. With the muddy children returning to the farm, Apple Bloom slipped easily into her role of aunt and Sweetie Belle excused herself, promising to return for dinner later that night.

As she walked back toward town she couldn't help but glance skyward in hopes to see Scootaloo. All she wanted was to be able to have a conversation, to explain why she stayed away for so long and why she had to leave in the first place. Her heart hurt, recalling the fire in Scootaloo's eyes when she looked at Sweetie Belle. There had been nothing there to suggest they'd once been friends, called themselves sisters. All she'd seen was anger.

Her hooves pounded out a slow and steady rhythm as she walked onto the bridge over the river, but she stopped at the crest and peered over the edge. The water was as clear as it always had been, the trickling sound of its lazy current against the grassy shore a relaxing familiarity. It reminded her of simpler times before she knew what real heartache was, what loss felt like, and what growing up really meant. Her eyes filled and her vision blurred. But she would not let herself cry. Not here and not now. With a strong silent resolve, Sweetie Belle pushed her emotions down and gave a shake of her head. What good would crying do her? It certainly wouldn't make Scootaloo any more friendly toward her, that much was for certain.

Sounds of an approaching cart to her right made Sweetie Belle turn her head. Two stallions were headed her way pulling a wagon full of wood. She moved herself to the side to let them pass, one of the stallions nodding his thanks at her as they went on their way. The small interruption to her thoughts served its purpose; Sweetie Belle took a deep breath in and headed into town.

Her first stop was at Sugarcube Corner in hopes to find Pinkie Pie and say hello. Instead it was the Cakes she found. Mr. and Mrs. Cake were overjoyed to see her and she got to see Carrot Cake and Pound Cake, the twin foals she remembered not even being able to speak really before she left. Now they were both just about the size she had been her last day in Ponyville, neither of them having their cutie marks yet. Sweetie Belle stayed to talk for a little while, then left when the afternoon rush started.

There was nowhere else for her to go now. All of her favorite places in town had been seen, save the library and that she was saving for later. Her gaze wandered as she tried to decide where to go next. The boutique still stood tall and proud, its doors open to the fresh air. Sweetie Belle swallowed hard. It was time to stop avoiding the unavoidable.

Her hooves seemed to move of their own free will as she headed to where she knew her sister would be. It had been far too long since she'd spoken to Rarity, though out of anypony here Sweetie knew her sister would be the most understanding. They'd shared so much, been through so much together. But it wwould be hard to come up with the right words to say when she was finally there with her and able to say them. Her walk turned into a trot that took her right past the boutique and into the outskirts of the town where the grass was a little more plush and less walked upon. Only those who needed to mourn and remember went out there and she was there to do both.

Small headstones marked the landscape in that particular area of town. They were as much reminders of who was gone as they were memorials and markers. Though she'd only been there once before, Sweetie Belle knew exactly where she was going. Past the giant oak tree, down the path to the left of the headstone with the purple heather carved into it, and straight back to the stone with three perfect diamonds set into the top. Below the gems was a name and an epitaph that read, "We can only be said to be alive when our hearts are conscious of our treasures. Let it be forever remembered she was always a diamond to us."

Sweetie Belle read the words over several times before settling her gaze on the elegant script that spelled out her sisters' name. Rarity. Never had she met a pony more aptly named.

"Hey, big sis." Her voice was soft, almost as if she was afraid to talk too loudly here. "Long time, no talk. I'm sorry about that. I've just been so busy with different shows and there was never a good time to take off and..." Sweetie Belle trailed off and sat, head hanging. She didn't speak for a moment, just sat there and breathed, trying to keep her emotions under control. After a time she simply shook her head and gave a quiet laugh. "I guess I don't really know what to say. I just feel..." She shook her head again. "I feel a lot of things, I guess. Things I've been trying not to feel for a really long time." That familiar lump of sorrow formed in her throat. "I miss you. A lot. I miss you so much sometimes that it feels like I can't breathe and then I just get angry." Her eyes closed as tears formed. "I'm so angry with you." Sweetie Belle's bottom lip quivered and when her eyes opened there was hurt in them. "Why didn't you tell me you were sick? Why didn't you tell any of us? Why did you have to be so stubborn and so cruel? Do you know how much that hurt? To know that you knew you were dying and wouldn't let any of us be there for you? Especially me! I'm your sister, Rarity!"

A cold wind blew across the cemetery and Sweetie Belle lifted a hoof to cover her face as she cried. For so long she fought the anger she'd felt toward her sister but now, being here with all her memories staring her in the face, it was impossible to not feel anything. She hurt so much yet at the same time felt like she didn't have a right to fell that way. Deep down she knew Rarity had been protecting her by not telling her how sick she was and part of her understood. But there was still a little filly inside of her that ached and felt betrayed.

"You were supposed to be here for me," she sobbed. "You were supposed to watch me grow, be there when I got my cutie mark, sit in the front row of my first show and you weren't there for any of that! I hate you for that! I hate you for being selfish! I hate you for leaving me! I hate you for leaving me alone!"

"You're not alone, sugarcube."

Sweetie Belle hiccuped on a gasp and turned her head to see Applejack and Rainbow Dash off to the side. Just like Twilight, the two mares had aged some but didn't look all that different. Applejack still wore her trademark Stetson and Dash's mane still had that look of perpetual dishevelment. The unicorn got to her hooves and ran to them, immediately enveloped by both of them in a tight familial embrace. With them there hold her, Sweetie Belle felt safe and let her tears flow freely. All her hurt, all her anger and resentment came through as she was held, nuzzled and comforted by the two mares she'd grown to think of as parents when she was smaller.

"Let it all out," Rainbow Dash whispered in her ear, running a hoof down Sweetie Belle's mane.

"It's all right now," added Applejack softly. "We've got ya."

Through her tears Sweetie Belle felt a shift inside of herself. It was like a wound she'd had for so long, one that had been covered by something unhealthy had been exposed again and given the chance to heal over the right way this time. She clung to Applejack and Rainbow Dash until she was out of tears and too exhausted to cry any longer. When she pulled back Applejack lifted a hoof to brush the hair from Sweetie Belle's damp face, a sad affectionate smile on her face.

"I'm sorry," Sweetie Belle whispered.

"What're you sorry for?" Rainbow Dash asked with a small frown. "You have every right to cry, Sweetie. Rarity was your sister, your family."

"But you're my family, too. And I just left you. I never told you why, where I was going. I just left. Rarity...she was sick. I was selfish."

"No," Applejack argued, pulling the unicorn in for another embrace. "You were hurtin', sugarcube. We knew that. We were real worried about you but we always knew where you were and what you were doin'. If you'd ever gotten into any real trouble you bet your buns we would'a been there to get you out of it."

Sweetie Belle pulled back and looked between the two. "You...you did?"

Rainbow Dash puffed out her chest proudly. "You forget, the most awesome Rainbow Dash has fans all over the place." A quirked eyebrow from Applejack deflated her a touch. "Okay, maybe I should call them friends. More like acquaintances. But the thing is you were never alone. We always had someone looking out for you. I mean, you were our..." Dash looked at Applejack, expression softening as her gaze returned to Sweetie Belle. "You were ours."

"I missed you both so much." Sweetie Belle wrapped her hooves around Dash's neck. "I don't care about blood, you two were and always will be my parents."

"Do me a favor then?" Dash asked, squeezing her in return. "Tell that to the big apes who won't let us backstage to see you?"

Sweetie Belle laughed thickly as she let Dash go. "You got it."

"C'mon," Applejack urged. "We can go visit Rarity together."

As the three mares walked slowly back to where Rarity had been laid to rest, Sweetie Belle between them, the unicorn shook her head. "I've been so mad at her for so long." She looked at the headstone again, lips pursing. "I hate that I'm angry. I don't want to feel that way."

"You haven't given yourself permission to mourn." said Applejack wisely. She touched a hoof to Rarity's headstone with sadness in her eyes. "We've all been here the whole time. We had to accept the loss an' figure out how to keep on goin'. But we also had each other to help us through the rough days. You never had that."

"I tried to just forget," Sweetie Belle admitted. "It was easier to pretend I wasn't hurting than it was to let myself feel and really acknowledge the fact that she was gone. Like if I pretended it never really happened and if I never came back here or had anything to do with Ponyville I could make myself believe that she was still alive and okay. The lie was easier to believe than the truth."

"It always is," Rainbow said softly. "But you're here now. What do you feel?"

Sweetie Belle didn't answer for a minute, just stared at the gray stone, the diamonds, the beautiful curving words that encapsulated her sister so well. Moments ago she'd felt sad and angry. Now she just felt... "Hollow."

"That's a good place to start," said Applejack. "Now that you got all the junk out we can start fillin' in some of that hollowness with love. You can start rememberin' all the good stuff about your sister an' how much she cared about you. 'Cause you know she loved you more'n just about anythin', right?"

"I do." The unicorn sniffled. "She was so beautiful, wasn't she? And so strong."

"And stubborn," Dash added.

"Was she ever," Sweetie agreed with a laugh. "Trying to ever convince her she was wrong about anything?"

Applejack snorted. "That was a losin' battle."

They each smiled tenderly, memories of better times when Rarity was alive and healthy giving them warmth. She'd been such a big part of their lives and there were so many wonderful things to remember about her that Sweetie Belle felt her anger ebbing away with each breath. "I remember when I first went to live with you, I thought it was because Rarity didn't want me around." Rainbow Dash nuzzled Sweetie and she smiled sadly. "I know now she was just protecting me. And she knew you guys would take care of me."

"She loved you so much," Applejack told her.

"I know. I hope she knew how much I loved her."

Dash nodded. "I know she did."

They stayed there in silence together for awhile as the rest of the world went on around them. Memories that brought laughter were shared and Sweetie Belle felt like she could breathe easier for the first time in a very long time. Being there with Dash and Applejack, their support and obvious love for her made it a little less impossible to think of a future that had nothing but joys. And when the sun started to sink, Applejack took a deep breath in and stood to stretch her legs. "I reckon we should get back to the house. Apple Bloom said we're havin' a family reunion tonight."

"Oh, that's right!" Sweetie Belle had nearly forgotten but the reminder almost had her excited. "Can I walk back with you?"

"Of course you can, sugarcube!"

Rainbow Dash, already in the air, pointed down a way. "Hey, look! There's Pinkie!"

Following where Dash indicated, Sweetie Belle looked to see a pink pony with a very rounded middle. Her poofy pink mane was tied back in a ponytail and her lips were curved into a gigantic grin. "Is that Sweetie Belle?!" Despite obviously being rather far along in pregnancy, Pinkie bounced across the cemetery, between headstones and bushes, to give Sweetie Belle the biggest hug yet.

"Cant. Breathe."

Pinkie pulled back with a giggle. "Whoops. Sorry about that. I was just so excited to see you!"

"What are you doing here?" Sweetie asked with a laugh.

"Oh, I came to visit Braeburn."

She thought quickly and remembered that was the name of Pinkie's husband, Applejack's cousin. Sweetie Belle gasped softly. "Oh, Pinkie Pie. I'm so sorry. You must miss him terribly."

"Not too terribly," she admitted gleefully. "I just brought him and Lance a snack. They're fixing the fence over there."

She pointed back along the way she'd come from and sure enough there was a blonde stallion wearing a cowboy hat and another, smaller stallion with a white coat and blue mane working on a broken fence. Blushing in embarrassment, she realized they were the two that had passed her on the bridge, pulling a wagon full of wood.

"Well I feel silly now."

Pinkie giggled again. "You were always silly, silly." She looked at Dash and Applejack. "Still on for tonight?"

"Better believe it!" said Applejack with a grin. "We're headin' to the house now to get ready.

"Then we'll see you there!" Pinkie turned to bounce away, singing to herself as she went.

"Come on," said Rainbow Dash to Sweetie Belle once the party pony had gone. "Let's go home."

Authors Note: I kind of avoided writing this entry for awhile because I knew it would make me cry. April has always been a hard month for me because it was the month in which one of my very best friends took his own life. Sweetie Belle's feelings toward Rarity here, her anger and some of the things she says are very much my own thoughts. Most of them I've dealt with but I still have some anger. Though Justin wasn't sick he did make me believe life could not be better for him. I didn't know he was sad, I didn't know the extent to which he was hurting. And I was angry at him for a really, really long time. So this update is particularly emotional for me, and I hope you all enjoy it.

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