• Published 4th Sep 2014
  • 1,838 Views, 241 Comments

Ghost of a Rose - Noble Thought



Roseluck goes on a journey through her past to discover what her future holds.

  • ...
9
 241
 1,838

Chapter 8: The Last Rose

“I’ll be back after the meeting, Post.” Rose kissed him on the cheek.

The day was ending early, thanks to the clouds looming on the horizon, but this was her first meeting with the mother’s circle, and she didn’t want to miss out. She could dimly remember her mother participating, when other foals her age would come over every other week for a day of playtime and fun under Rose Petal’s watchful eye.

“When do you think that will be?” Post walked with her to the front door and looked to the north. Clouds, ominously black against the early setting sun, held a promise of inclement weather.

“Before sundown.” She flicked an ear, staring at the looming storm. “I hope.”

“Be careful, Rose.”

She stopped at the doorway and bit her lip, the decision to go to the meeting settling uneasily in the pit of her stomach. The horizon was a boiling mass of clouds threatening—but only threatening, so far—to deliver a blizzard to the town. The looming darkness stayed restrained over the Everfree forest, the work of Ponyville’s weather team.

“Have you heard anything from Swift?”

“Not yet. But she is in the weather corps auxiliaries, so she may have been called already.” Post shook his head and pulled her into a hug. “I know you’ll be fine. The city hall is a safe place. Stay put if you need to.”

Raspberry looked up at Post, then trotted up to hug Rose’s legs. “Mommy, be careful.”

“I will, sweetie. Stay with daddy and listen to him, okay?”

“Okay.” Raspberry’s smile brightened, and she bounded back to Post. “Play hoof cards?”

Rose laughed and bent down to kiss her on the head. “You and daddy go play cards. I’ll try to be back before daddy makes dinner.”

“Okay!” Raspberry headbutted Post, and was pushing him into the living room when Rose left and closed the door.

She giggled to herself. I wish I could stay and play with them. But... she needs to be in a play group. She can’t be only around us. Shaking herself, she stepped down from the limited shelter of her porch and into the wintry late afternoon.

The chill wind blew her overcoat into a billowing rustle and tugged her mane free of her scarf. Crunchy brown leaves, the last stubborn remnants of a lackluster Running, swept down the road and against her legs in a rustling tumble. A few other ponies were out, braving the incoming weather to get their gardens ready for the early winter.

What should have been a week’s worth of time had turned into just hours, and some of the older residents were scrambling to get plants covered and a last layer of mulch down before the first snow made their efforts pointless. Even as focused as they were, most of them paused for a moment to wave to her before returning to their tasks.

Remnants of the last rain shower of the year lay in half-frozen puddles in potholes and dips in the road, making her trip all the more nostalgic. How often did I walk this way with Post during our first winter? They had made a game of it, then, seeing who could make the biggest chunk of ice come free of its puddle. With the potential for bad weather looming, and a meeting to get to, she avoided them altogether.

Berry Punch joined her just shy of the market square. “Roseluck! Sorry I’m late. I had to wait for Bulk to get back before I could leave.”

“It’s fine, really.” Rose glanced at the horizon. It wasn’t yet past five, but the clouds and the shorter days were already heralding the evening. “I’m just surprised that he was able to get out of weather duty. That storm looks quite nasty.”

Raspberry glanced over her shoulder and shrugged. “It’s another one of those Everfree storms. The weather corps has gotten better at dealing with them.” She huddled closer to Roseluck. “He said Rainbow Dash had no problem with letting him stay home to watch Berry Pinch.”

“I’m glad she was willing to let him stay home.” The wind picked up, howling around them for a stretch, making civilized conversation more difficult, and sending a blizzard of dead leaves down the street again. “Are you going to be one of the watchers this year?”

“Yes! I am so excited!” Berry Punch pranced ahead a stride and a half, then fell back, her ears flush and tail flicking against the wind. “I’m sure Raspberry is going to be the most delightful little filly, and I can’t wait to see her again.”

“You do know you can come by any time, right?” Rose laughed when Berry grimaced at her. “Oh, all right. I heard from Swift that you worked hard to put the vineyard down for this kind of thing.” Rose flicked her tail to the north and shook her head. “I understand. I had to do the same with my flowers.”

“This year has been so weird. And not just the weather. You get married and give birth. I finally married the father of my foal... it’s like love is in the air.”

“In bloom, more like.” Rose shook her head, smiling. “But little Raspberry is a delight, but she’s also quite the mouthful. She’ll tie your tail in knots trying to keep up with her.” She flicked her tail against Berry Punch’s and laughed again.

“Psh. Next to my Berry, she’ll be easy peasy. I’ve never seen a filly get into as much trouble as she can.” Berry Punch shook her head with a laugh and trotted ahead to hold open the door for Roseluck.

“Thank you.”

Inside, the chill was still present, but Dolphin Dream and her daughter Sparkler were busy enchanting iron coils with enough heat to dispel the cold around them. A group of mares stood around the coat rack, chatting about the storm.

“Rose?” Soft Step, one of her regular earth pony customers, approached her while she was taking off her coat. “I’m worried for my girls.” She paused, and shot a meaningful glance at the door. “And my herd. Isn’t your mother-in-law in the weather auxiliaries? What does she think about this storm?”

“I wouldn’t worry too much, Soft. Your goats will be just fine, and so will your girls.” Rose shook her left leg, and Soft grabbed the sleeve in her mouth. “Winter was going to start next week anyway, you know.”

“I know,” she murmured around the leg of Rose’s coat as she put it up on the rack. “It’s just, well, Gracie and her mate asked me about it before I left, and I didn’t have an answer for them. I felt awful.”

“If they need some more blankets to help keep warm, I might be able to find some at home.” Rose stepped back from the coat rack and found another pair of mares listening in. “I don’t know any more about the storm than you three do, but I’m not too worried about it. Rainbow Dash would have put out a notice if she thought there was a danger from it.”

“Yes, she would,” Dolphin Dream said, coming up behind Rose with the last heating coil held aloft by a spell. “She’s a good weather manager and, whatever other faults she has, she knows the weather.”

“That’s what Pinkie says.” Rose held up some of the coats with a hoof so Dolphin could put the coil in the warming basket.

“Thank you.” Dolphin Dream tapped a hoof against the basket to settle the coil on the sand. “That should make our exit nice and toasty!” She trotted past them to poke her head out the door and look at the clouds.

Her horn glowed briefly as she closed the door, then came back to lead them into the common area. “We’re going to try to make this a short meeting, but before we start...” She pulled Rose aside from the group. “As our only new mother with a foal old enough this year, there’s not much you need to be doing other than taking care of Raspberry.”

“Okay. I still want to do what I can to help out, though. Is there anything?”

“Well, there are lunches, of course.” Dolphin frowned and stroked her muzzle thoughtfully. “Your flowers might be a bit too rich for them yet, but I remember that you make one mean celery salad.”

“I can do that. I remember, vaguely, that my mother used to do a few things for the circle, even after she retired. Is there anything else like that?”

“Gosh, aren’t you just the go-getter. We do have a signup sheet, but first we need to discuss the rotation, among other things.” Dolphin paused at the front row, smiling.

“You’re leading this year? I hadn’t heard that Cup Cake had stepped down.”

“It was a last minute thing, honestly. Her twins are at an age where they’re getting into more trouble, but too old to be in the regular sitting groups. She kinda had a nervous breakdown.” Dolphin shook her head. “Anyway... my Sparkler is old enough to be a one-on-one foalsitter now.” She nodded to where her daughter was defrosting one of the windows to look outside. “Without needing to worry about her, I volunteered to head the circle this year.”

“I had wondered where Cup found the time...” Rose glanced back at the four mares following them down the aisle. “That’s a lot of extra work, especially with all the new foals this year, but I’m glad to hear that Sparkler is going to be joining us soon. When does she start?”

“As soon as she attends Cheerilee’s class in the spring.” A few seats remained open in the front, and Dolphin pointed Rose and Berry to them. “Go have a seat, girls, and we’ll get started.”

“I remember when I was a foalsitter,” Rose murmured quietly. “I had to watch Diamond Tiara once.” She giggled. “It wasn’t for the circle, though, just a favor I owed the Riches.”

“You poor dear.” Berry was trying to hold back her laughter, and mostly succeeding. “What was the favor for?”

“They took me to see Manehatten, so I could visit the college.” Rose smiled, then nodded to the front. “It’ll be nice to get Raspberry out to meet other fillies and colts her age. She’ll be so excited.”

“It’s a treat, seeing their faces after their first playtime,” Berry laughed, shaking her head. “Pinchy was hardly able to sit down for dinner.”

“Good evening everypony!” Dolphin rapped her hoof on the podium. “I’d like to make this as short as possible, because we’ve got an Everfree blizzard threatening us, so please pay attention.” She waited until the mares had stopped talking to each other and held up a scroll with names of new foals. “With a new set of foals born just this last year, ten of them, our little circle of foalsitters needs some new blood to help take care of all the little ones.”

Sparkler beamed from the edge of the stage and lifted her head proudly.

“First order of business, however, is the announcement of foals old enough to join social groups.” She coughed again and looked up, right at Rose. “Roseluck and Post Haste’s little filly Raspberry Rose will be ready to join the social groups once winter is done.”

Rose breathed a sigh of relief.

Dolphin continued. “As will Brick Wall and Cherry Delight’s colt, Redbrick. Primrose and Wainwright’s colt Wheel Spoke will be a little too young yet, but considering your family’s business, we decided to make an exception.” She nodded to the unicorn Primrose sitting a few seats down from Rose.

She looked up. “I’m sorry, Sunny Skies, your and Freewheeler’s filly is too old for our foal socializing. I spoke with the other mares of the current circle, and it was a hard decision, but we felt that an older filly like Sapphire wouldn’t be challenged enough by this age group. I did speak to Creme Brulee about getting her into the three to five group, and her circle will talk to you.” She flicked her eyes to the window. “Probably tomorrow, weather permitting.”

Sunny Skies stood up, a blue maned, blond coated pegasus whom had recently immigrated from Cloudsdale. “What? Why? I thought...” She shook her head “I guess I understand. It’s just that Sapphire Skies is used to the calmer, younger group.”

Berry Punch snickered. “Sunny, let me tell you right now, here in Ponyville, the three to five group is the calmer group.”

Laughter burst out from the mares with older foals.

“Really? But your foals all seem so well behaved,” Sunny said, her ears twitching. “I’m sorry, I’m just so used to pegasi foals being so rambunctious at that age.”

“All foals are rambunctious,” Dolphin said, grinning from the podium. “It’s just a question of when.” Uproarious laughter met her remark. She waited until it died down before she tapped her hoof again. “The next order of business is—”

The door to city hall burst open to let in a grey mare with a blond mane, chased by an obscuring flurry of snowflakes. She had to buck the doors closed against the howling wind that followed her inside. Bright Eyes shook herself off and dashed up to the podium.

A moment later, Dolphin stepped down from the stage and waved Sparkler over to whisper to her.

Soft Step waited until Sparkler had dashed to the receiving area before standing up. “What is it?”

“Nopony panic, but the blizzard is on our doorstep.” Rose’s heart raced, and she perked her ears to listen for the telltale rushing of wind. The windows were frosted over, and she couldn’t make out anything. Dolphin Dream continued, “Rainbow Dash and her weather ponies are doing their best to delay it, but according to Bright Eyes, they won’t be able to.”

Rose and Berry Punch ran to the coat rack, where Sparkler was busily casting warming spell after warming spell on the coats. “Oh, this is no good. I told Post I’d stay safe!”

Berry threw the sleeves of her coat around her neck and tied them off quickly. “I know what you mean. Bulk will come looking for me if I don’t make it home before it hits.”

“You do that, Berry. I’ll—”

“Come with me, of course.” Berry flicked her tail around Rose’s foreleg. “You can’t walk alone in this.”

“I’ll walk her home.” Bright Eyes shook herself again and stepped away from helping Berry Punch with her overcoat. “Don’t worry, I’ll get her home safe.”

“What about the other ponies here?” Roseluck gestured awkwardly, her right leg halfway into her freshly warmed coat, at the rest of the group clustered around the coatrack. “I live just down the road.”

“They all live right here in town, just a couple of blocks away. You’re kinda outskirty, y’know? Living a quarter mile from town hall is not ‘just down the road’.” Bright shrugged and nodded to the rest of the mares donning jackets and coats. “You all don’t mind right?”

When a chorus of ‘No, of course not,’ and ‘Why would we’ came back, Bright turned a smug smile on Roseluck. “See?”


“It is just down the road if you walk it each and every day,” Rose mumbled for the fourth time. It wasn’t even starting to snow that hard yet. She looked up at the looming storm, looking like a dark, boiling sea framed by the last dim rays of the sun.

“Did you say something?” Bright Eyes shouted, fighting the wind to be heard.

In the distance, a dozen brighter dots against the dark clouds rolling steadily closer to town darted back and forth to push back bulges of threatening cloud as long as they could. It was clearly a lost battle, and Rainbow Dash was visible as a multicolored streak of light flitting from problem spot to problem spot, shoring up the auxiliaries who were less adept than her four regulars were at dealing with the unruly Everfree clouds.

“They’re really buying us time,” Rose shouted over the sheer volume of wind blowing the first skirling flurries of snow through town. Her overcoat snapped and fluttered as the gusts forced her to slog through an increasingly chill wind, biting down through her natural coat and sinking deep into her legs.

“I know!” Bright Eyes seemed unaffected by the cold, and did her best to shield Rose from the worst of it by walking on her windward side. “Rainbow pulled four of us off to warn all the gatherings. She’ll hold out for another ten minutes, tops.”

Stay safe, Swift. Rose looked away from the clouds and focused on the dark road. Only the unicorn lamps were lit, the oil and gas lamps having long since been snuffed out and turned off for safety, and the shadows grew deeper still the closer they got to the small collection of homes at the edge of town where Rose lived.

Post was out on the front porch, a hooded glass lantern held aloft. Raspberry had her nose pressed to the glass from the sitting room window, her face obscured by the fog of her breath.

“Thank you, Bright Eyes.” Post stepped forward to nuzzle her neck, then kissed Roseluck gently. “I’m so glad you made it home safe.” Post backed up further onto the porch, then turned and pushed open the door. “Come in, it’s about to get nasty.”

Rose took one look over her shoulder at the advancing curtain of white led by a strong, chilly gust of wind, and flicked her tail against Bright’s shoulder. “You too, Bright Eyes. You can’t be out flying in this weather.”

“Only because you have cocoa!” Bright Eyes laughed and fluttered her wings to rid herself of the dusting of snow on her feathers and back. “You do still have the cocoa I gave you, right?”

“We do! We were waiting for winter to come before we used any of it.” Post trotted to the window to give Raspberry a swift kiss behind the ears. “I guess it’s winter now, isn’t it?”

“A few days early, but yes. I think the first snowfall counts as ‘it is now winter.’” She laughed again and spread her wings for Raspberry, prancing around Bright with a wiggle in her rump and her eyes sparkling. “Who’s a big filly?”

“You are!” Raspberry laughed and tackled Bright’s legs. “Big filly!”

“She has you all saddled, doesn’t she?” Post ducked into the kitchen, laughing and started piling wood into the stove before lighting it. “Bright, give me a hoof in here?”

Rose poked her head into the small kitchen, filled with two ponies and open cupboard doors, and giggled while Bright dug around in their pantry. “We put it in the cabinet next to the stove, Bright. So it would be ready.”

“Got it!” Bright backed out of the pantry with a carrot in her mouth. “Gotta snack, too. Rough flying today,” she said around the carrot. “Hungry.”

“You’re our guest. Feel free.” Rose laughed again when Bright’s eyes opened wide and she stared back at the pantry. “Better help Post with that cocoa first, if you want—”

“Mommy!” Raspberry butted Rose’s hind leg. “Play hoof cards?”

Post looked over his shoulder and laughed. “Watch out for her left. She’s sneaky!”

“Nuh-uh! Daddy’s slow.”

“All right, Raspberry. We can play hoof cards.” Rose let herself be herded into the living room. Warm, fall colored blankets lay draped over the furniture, and the remnants of a warm fire was sputtering low on the hearth. “Let me add a log to the fire first, okay? That way it’ll be nice and toasty warm for a long time.”

“‘Kay.” Raspberry plopped herself down in front of a pile of pretzel sticks to watch her. The crumbs and salt on the floor said more sticks had been there.

After sliding a log onto the fire with the chute, Rose looked towards the kitchen and called out: “Daddy must have lost really badly if you’ve still got all of those sticks.”

You try playing against her!”

An almost calm settled over the house as the wind gusted harder, drawing a long, moaning sigh from the chimney and shaking the storm-shutters on their tracks.

Already, drifts of snow were piling up against the blankets and tarps Rose had set down to protect her perennial plants for the winter. She stepped back from the window and pushed down the lever to close the storm shutters again.

She called back to the kitchen: “Bright, have you heard anything about the cause of these storms? It seems there are more of them over the last few years.”

“Not a lot, to be honest. I do know that these storms aren’t actually getting more frequent,” Bright Eyes said, “but they are getting more powerful. Rainbow says the Princess is looking for a reason, but hasn’t found one yet.”

“Good to know she’s looking into it, at least.” Rose lay down with her back to the fire, letting it chase out the last chills. “Now what were we doing?”

“Play cards!” Raspberry shoved the deck at her.

“Do you want marshmallows with your cocoa, Rose?”

“Plain is fine for me, but put some in Raspberry’s cup.” Rose shuffled the cards deftly and slid three over to Raspberry, then three for herself. “Do you want to be the farrier, Raspberry? Or should I?”

“Me! I wanna be fairer!” Raspberry stared down at her three cards, then bent down and lifted up the cards one at a time to peek at the faces on them. She giggled and looked up at Rose. “Play.”

She waited, staring off at the kitchen while her right hoof inched forward. “Did daddy tell you that I used to win at hoofcards all the time?”

“Your mother is just as sneaky as you, Raspberry. Keep an eye on her right hoof.”

“Scoundrel!” Rose dashed her hoof forward, but not before Raspberry snatched the card away. “Well, see if I share any of my cocoa with you!” she called back to the kitchen.

“Cocoa?” Raspberry looked up, then at the open door to the small kitchen. “Mommy, what’s cocoa?”

Bright gasped from inside the kitchen, and half of the bustling activity stopped. She stuck her head around the corner, wide eyed and staring. “She hasn’t had cocoa yet? Raspberry, you poor little filly... we must correct this travesty.”

Raspberry looked between Rose and Bright Eyes and, seeing the playful looks on their faces, must have decided it was a fun word. “Travesty! I have a travesty!” She jabbed her left hoof and snagged a card before Rose could save it.

“Don’t mind Bright Eyes, sweetie. She’s being a silly filly.”

“Nuh-uh!” Bright crossed her eyes. “I am the very definition of refinement!” She puffed up her cheeks and stuck out her tongue.

Post pulled her back into the kitchen by her tail. “Ms. Refinement needs to finish helping me make the cocoa first.”

The heat against her hindquarters faded away slowly as the memory of that joyful first winter night swept through her. Raspberry had won at hoof cards, snatching victory from Rose by the narrowest of margins with a crowned pegasus and a soaring gryphon edging her over the victory line.

She could still smell the fresh cocoa, and see the look on Raspberry’s face as she tasted it, her eyes going wide with wonder as the smooth, marshmallow creamy top touched her tongue.

“She called it the best thing ever,” Rose murmured, reaching out to stroke the air where her daughter’s face would have been had she still been in the memory. “The look on her face was so precious. I’m glad I remembered that night...”

“She sounds adorable,” Mirror said from the window overlooking the backyard and Rose’s garden, her cheek pressed against the glass. “I’m glad you remembered, too.” She sat up straight and nodded out the window. “There’s the next.”

In the yard stood a raspberry bush climbing its way up a square trellis in a small section at the base of the largest tree in her yard. “That’s Raspberry’s bush.” In its leaves, cradled as though the bush knew it was precious, was a bright red rose. “I remember... I finished putting together the boxing just before winter, and the bush—” she nodded towards the empty plot where she last remembered the bush being. “I must have moved it sometime later.”

“Go, Rose. Remember.”


“Okay, Raspberry. Just like I showed you.” Rose pulled her hoof out of the loose dirt piled up around the base of the still small raspberry bush. “Put your hooves on either side of the plant and think happy thoughts.”

“Like...” Raspberry’s face scrunched up as she pushed her hooves down into the soil. “Like... birthday parties?” Her hind end wiggled, and she pulled her forehooves back. “When are we going?”

“Soon, sweetie. But not until you help your raspberry bush get accustomed to her new home.”

Corralling the little filly, a year old in half an hour, was anything but easy. She’d been cooped up for most of winter, and the Hearth’s Warming blizzard had put a damper on any attempts to go outside and carol that year—another thing that would have to wait for next year.

Spring was only a week old, and Raspberry was anxious to play out in the greening grass and chase butterflies in Rose’s garden.

“Can’t I do it after?”

“We need to do it now, so that your bush knows she’s still at home.” Rose pushed her gently forward. “Go on, just like I showed you.”

Reluctant, distracted, and pouting, Raspberry did as she was asked and put her hooves next to the plant.

Rose waited, listening with her hooves for the magical thread her daughter should have been sending out to the plant. Not even a ghost of the feeling Rose had when she’d first touched the bush came back.

“It’s not working.”

“Are you thinking happy thoughts?”

“Yeah.”

Something in Raspberry’s tone said otherwise. “Let me tell you a story.” Rose scooted forward to sit beside her again. “When I was not much older than you, just a little filly, my mother would sit, just like this, and tend to her entire garden.” She opened herself up to the warmth of those days, walled off the loss, and let that feeling flow through her heart and into the ground.

“She would look at me, just like I am looking at you right now.” All around Rose, the green shoots of sleepy grass at her feet began to unfurl and reach for the sun, spreading out in a circle around her. “Then, the grass would grow. Do you know why?”

“Happy thoughts?”

“Happy thoughts.” Rose pulled back all but a tendril of her magic, letting it twine about the roots of the raspberry bush as a guide. “Do you have some happy thoughts?”

Raspberry squinted at the bush, then set her hooves into the soil on either side of it and smiled. Rose added just a touch of her own power to Raspberry’s. The bush, struggling to find its home, woke up to Raspberry’s touch of magic and unfurled a tendril to curl around the lowest rung of the trellis.

“Mommy! Look!” Raspberry barely managed to keep her hooves planted next to the growing bush.

Through it, Rose felt her daughter’s wonder and a hint of her joy. “I am, sweetie.” And I am so proud of you. “I think that’s enough, sweetie.”

Raspberry looked up at her, prideful smile shining in her eyes. To her credit, Raspberry did restrain herself for almost half a breath. Then she was off, racing for the porch where Post was sitting with a mug of coffee, watching them with a growing smile.

“Daddy! Daddy! I made it grow!”


“And then, I thought about cake, and happy thoughts! And it moved! I made it move!”

“That’s amazing, Raspberry!” Post laughed and bent his head to bump noses with her. “So cake is your happy thought?”

“Cake.” Raspberry looked up at her mother smiling down at her. “And mommy.” She looked up at Post, walking on her other side. “And daddy.” She looked over her shoulder at Swift, bringing up the rear and pushing Lucky along in a wheelchair. “And grampy, and grammy.”

Rose looked back, too. Lucky was half awake, swaddled in blankets, but with a half smile on his lips. The left half of his face had never recovered from his stroke, and the left side of his body was in a worse state. She had watched him slowly decline over the bitterly cold winter, his body getting weaker and even more wasted the longer he was kept indoors. Before his stroke, she had hoped he would hang on for another decade.

By the end of winter she had caught herself hoping that he would last for another week.

But little Raspberry had been a bright light in his day when they managed to brave the snows and visit. He always had a smile for her, no matter how tired he looked, and she didn’t mind sitting still while he held her. Those had been some of her longest naps, sleeping cradled in Lucky’s forelegs while he napped right along with her.

“Are you warm enough, dad?” Dew still glistened from the deepest shadows where the sun had yet to reach, and the warmth of spring was still a month or more away.

“Fine, little Rosie. Just fine. Don’t you worry about me,” he murmured, smiling from under the woolen cap she and Post had knitted for him. She could still see the white locks of his mane, grown whiter over the winter, poking out from underneath. Or what was left of his mane; he was going bald.

He won’t last another winter... The thought passed through her mind, unbidden and unwanted, and Rose banished it firmly from her mind and focused on his smile.

“Was quite the winter, eh, Post?”

“It sure was. Thank you for the gift of the ice-shoes. They helped out a lot this year.”

“You’re quite welcome.” Lucky smiled, and coughed into the crook of his ankle. “I remember when I used to be on snow duty. I’m sure glad I don’t have to endure that anymore.”

Rose winced, pushing back the thought threatening to invade what should have been a happy day. He meant it a different way. He just had to mean it a different way.

“I swear, it felt like the snow this year was stubborn.” Post shook his head. “After every blizzard, it felt like it was getting heavier and heavier.”

“I don’t envy you,” Lucky murmured, his eyes closing again. “Too cold, this winter.”

Rose dredged her thoughts out of the winter weather and leaned down to kiss the back of Raspberry’s head. “One year ago, today, Raspberry, you were born. In fact,” Rose glanced at the sun, then at the flag pole’s shadow in the center of town square, “you were born about one year ago, almost exactly. That was the happiest day of my life.”

“That was a happy day for all of us,” Swift said. “You were so tiny then, and so beautiful.” Swift chuckled. “You still are, when you’re not covered in mud.”

Raspberry blinked. “Mommy’s happy thought is me?” She fell silent when Rose nodded. It was the only thing she could do with her throat so tight she couldn’t trust herself to speak.

Her face set in an expression of serious contemplation and, when Pinkie opened the door to Sugarcube Corner, Raspberry rushed up to her. “Auntie Pinkie! I’m a happy thought!”

“You sure are! And there’s more inside, too!”

Rose laughed, blinking away the tears in her eyes. You’ll always be my happy thought.


The birthday song faded away as the cakes were brought out. A small one for Raspberry on her own, and a larger one for the adults. Only the small one had a candle on it, not yet lit.

Raspberry stood up in her seat and almost stepped atop the table before Rose pulled her back down to sit between her hind legs. “But mommy, I need to make a wish!”

“And you can do that without getting on the table,” Rose said, “You just had a bath this morning. I’m not about to let you get dirty again.”

“I wasn’t dirty,” she said, earnest honesty in her voice. “I was gardeny.” She looked at Post, her ears laying flat. “Daddy, tell mommy I wasn’t dirty.”

“She was gardeny, mommy.” Post nodded and tucked his muzzle into his glass.

“Okay, you were gardeny, but you still needed to take a bath. Gardeny is another kind of dirty.” Rose heard him choke a moment later and stifled a laugh of her own. “We’re not seaponies, Post. Do try to remember that.” She flicked her tail against his flank and shook her head.

“Rose, let her have some fun,” Swift said, grinning from ear to ear. “It’s not every day that she turns one year old!” She reached out to boop Raspberry on the nose.

“Yeah!” Raspberry tried to wiggle her way out of Rose’s forelegs again. “Mommy, stoppit.” She squirmed more, but when Rose still refused to let her get up onto the table, she tried another tactic. She went limp and slid to the floor underneath the table, then popped her head back up between Swift’s forelegs. “Grammy!”

“Post,” she whispered, “am I a party pooper?”

He choked on his water and looked at her, bug-eyed, until he finished coughing. “What? That’s random.”

“It is not random,” she said sternly. “I want to know if I’m being too strict.”

“Mommy is the biggest party pooper,” Raspberry grumbled. Then she giggled. “Party pooper!”

“Okay... you are, a little. Let her have some fun.” Post reached out to touch the edge of the cake while Pinkie fumbled with the recalcitrant striker. “Party pooper.” He smeared the icing on Rose’s muzzle.

“Daddy! No. Wish first.” She looked at Rose first, then up at Swift. “I can still wish, right?” Raspberry’s voice was so serious, and full of concern that Rose’s heart trembled in her chest.

“Of course you can, sweetie,” Rose said, reaching out to stroke her cheek gently. “Daddy’s just being silly.”

“I’m sorry, Raspberry,” Post said, his ears flat to his head. “I just want mommy to have fun, too.”

“Gramma, can I still wish?”

“Your mother is right, Raspberry.” Swift winked at Rose. “Wishes only start after the candle’s lit.”

On cue, Pinkie clacked the ornery, over-used striker against the edge of the table and tried again. A moment later, she was able to get it to strike properly, the firestone and emberstone making a potent whoosh of flame that set the candle to sparkling.

“Are you ready?”

“I wish—”

“Don’t tell us,” Lucky said, looking up from his near slumber. “Just wish.”

Raspberry nodded, her brows set, ears back, and leaned forward. “I wish...” She pulled in a deep breath and huffed, blowing out the sparkling candle. Which sparked back to life after a brief sputter. She jerked back, gasping and then glaring at the candle. She stared at it for a long moment, then looked at Lucky for the longest time while the candle grew steadily shorter. Finally, her ears drooped. “My wish didn’t... wish.”

“Sometimes they take time,” Lucky said, his eyes getting brighter as he woke up more. “Sometimes, wishes come true when you least expect them.”

It took her a moment, but Raspberry finally nodded and leaned forward. “I wish...” She blew on the candle again. “I wish...” She blew on it again, and then one more time before the candle finally sputtered out. She smiled. “I had happy thoughts.”

Then, with all the dignity she could muster, the freshly one year old Raspberry Rose plunged her face into the cake.


“She’s still sleeping?” Post held the door open for Roseluck, carrying Raspberry in the crook of her foreleg.

“Like a pegasus. She woke up briefly after you started pulling the cart, but she’s been sleeping since then.” Small wonder, Rose thought, looking down at her baby girl. She spent the whole afternoon playing games and opening presents. “She’ll be awake soon, though.”

“She naps like Rainbow Dash,” Swift murmured, following behind with most of the presents in a basket on her back. “She’ll be up soon enough and with enough energy to run the rest of the day.”

The last present, the one that Rose wanted to give to Raspberry personally, lay already unwrapped in her nest. It was a doll older than Roseluck, with button eyes and a mane of scraggly velvet that had been freshly replaced and groomed.

It wouldn’t have done to get icing all over it. But it was an earth pony’s doll: sturdy, meant to be played with, and meant to be loved. The stitching had recently been redone as well by Rarity, and as a gift to the filly, the seamstress had added a miniature gown to the doll.

“Your mother would be proud.” Swift let the basket slide down her back and tail to the floor and nuzzled Rose’s neck.

“I hope so.” Rose ducked and kissed Raspberry on the cheek, then settled her down amidst the blankets and pillows that made up her napping nest. “I hope—” Rose pulled a warm cotton blanket over the doll and her daughter. “I hope I don’t make any mistakes with her.”

“Psh. Make mistakes.” Swift shook her head. “Just make small ones, and get help if you make a big one. You’re never going to be perfect, and the sooner you realize that, the sooner you will be happier, and the sooner she will be, too.” She lay down and put her head on a pillow. “But never stop trying to make her happy. You go take a break and have a proper lunch with Post. I’ll stay here with her and take a nap myself.”

Rose walked into the kitchen, the walls turning bland, and her husband disappearing as she stopped. The memory drifted away in a haze, leaving her alone with the flood of pieces snapping into place around it.

Raspberry had woken up later and carried the doll around with her for the rest of the day, alternating between it resting precariously on her back or dangling from her mouth by a leg or her mane.

“It was my mother’s doll,” Rose murmured. “Raspberry kept forgetting it in her room when she was excited.”

Mirror joined her in the door to the kitchen and nuzzled her neck.

Rose shook her head. “She would drive me nuts with it at first. She wanted to take it everywhere, including the bath, and she’d pout and cry if I tried to make her take a bath without it.”

“She’ll be glad to be with her mother again.”

“I know.” The kitchen felt empty without her husband or her daughter, or even her mother-in-law bustling about making something. Cooking had never been one of Rose’s talents. Swift had passed on what she knew to Post, and while it wasn’t cuisine, it was good and hearty. “He loved making me coffee in the morning.” She nodded to the kettle, its spout clean and spotless.

Even the mug that had shattered on the floor with its contents had left only a darker patch on the light wooden floor. It was like the world had moved on from whatever happened the last time she’d been there. What did happen? Will I ever know? Does it even matter if the world has moved past that frozen moment?

“Perhaps it has moved on.”

“What?”

“I wonder how long I’ve been... here.” Rose waved a hoof at the quiet kitchen, frozen in a moment of time. It was like living in a photograph, she realized. “Will I still recognize my daughter?”

“Don’t be silly. Of course you will.” Pinkie hooked a leg around hers and dragged her back out of the kitchen. “Come on, I found your next memory while you were still at Sugarcube Corner.”

“You didn’t come?”

Mirror sighed. “I can’t. Not yet. The other me still lives there. I just know it. I’m not... I can’t face what she’s left sitting still.”

“Pinkie, leave something sitting still? Have you met yourself?”

Mirror snorted a laugh, then smiled. “Thank you. For making me laugh again.” She pushed Rose forward. “Go on. You’ve still got to get back.”


“...and then Redbrick tried to do a hoofstand, but Wheel Spoke pushed him. Mrs. Punch gave Wheel Spoke timeout, and Redbrick got to play with the blocks,” Raspberry said while Rose tried to give her a bath. “Mommy, stop. I’m not dirty.” She tried to pull away for the third time, but Rose’s foreleg was already blocking her while she continued to scrub the soft bristled brush down Raspberry’s back.

Rose paused and cradled the long handled brush in her ankle. “You are so very dirty, Raspberry. I have no idea where you found so much mud in Raspberry Punch’s backyard, but...” She sighed. “Did you have fun?” She picked up the brush again.

“It was so much fun!” Raspberry jumped up, smacking the brush and splashing about in the ankle deep water. “Redbrick showed us how his daddy makes bricks. Mrs. Punch helped a little.”

“She did?” Her jaw hurt where Raspberry had twisted the brush, but it was nothing new, and she’d learned to not try holding onto the brush when her daughter bucked about in the tub—after a visit to Zecora for a chipped tooth.

“Yeah! She got us a tub and everything. Then—” Raspberry reared up, pausing dramatically. “—Redbrick made a brick!”

Rose held up a foreleg against the following splash. “What about you? Did you make any bricks?” She paused to dig a hoof through the muddy water, looking for the bottle of mane-conditioner that had disappeared in the murk, an early casualty of bathtime.

“I tried. Mrs. Punch called it a pie. I tried to do what he did, but I just made a pie. Mrs. Punch said not to eat it.” The look on Raspberry’s face told Rose what she’d thought of that idea. “It didn’t look very much like Auntie Pie’s pies.” She giggled and splashed in a circle, evading Rose’s attempts to bring the brush back to bear on the worst patches of mud clinging to her coat. “Am I gonna be a pie maker?”

After a solid minute of fishing, with Raspberry’s increasingly agitated attempts to get out of the filthy water stalling her efforts, Rose reached for the No More Mud bottle, instead. That it was floating atop the water said she would have to stop by Barnyard Bargains and get more soon. She only hoped there was enough left to give the little filly the scrubbing she needed.

“Well, for one, pie makers are clean. And you, little lady, are so very dirty.”

Raspberry stopped, a stern look on her face. “I am not dirty. I was dirty. Now I’m muddy.”

Not laughing was one of the hardest things Rose had ever done.

“When you mix dirt and water, you make mud,” Raspberry said, the serious ‘I shouldn’t have to teach you this’ look never leaving her face. Rose fought harder not to laugh. “I was dirty. You made me muddy. With bathtime. So I’m not dirty. Can I get out now?”

Raspberry made several circuits of the bathtub before Rose trusted herself to speak. “Soon, baby.” Holding Raspberry back with one hoof, Rose knocked the drain plug aside to let the filthy water drain. “You are muddy, this is true, but mud is part dirt. So you are still dirty. Just less dirty than before.”

“But...” Raspberry scrunched up her face and stared into the water circling the drain while Rose pulled down the shower wand. “But if I’m less dirty... but still dirty... adding more water will make me more muddy.” She looked up at Rose. “Less muddy is good?”

“Yes. Less muddy is good. But no muddy is better.”

“But I can’t be not dirty and not muddy if you keep adding water!” Raspberry’s grouchy whine drained away the last of Rose’s laughter—the muddy droplets of water everywhere in the bathroom weren’t helping, either.

“Young lady, you are getting a bath, and that’s that.”

“Redbrick didn’t have to take a bath.” Raspberry looked up hopefully, her tail splatting against the side of the tub.

“I saw Redbrick when I picked you up today. Redbrick didn’t take a mud bath like you did.”

“Already had a bath! Mud bath is a bath.” Raspberry tried to climb out of the tub again.

Forgive me father, for I want to scream at your granddaughter. Instead, with her best ‘Mommy is the Ultimate Authority’ look, Roseluck held her squirming daughter in the tub with one hoof while the other kept the shower wand tucked in close.

Raspberry Rose, you are going to sit still and let me give you a bath or there will be no dessert for you tonight.”

That did it. Even through the sulk, Rose saw the fear of losing dessert, and Raspberry sat with a plop in the center of the tub. To take away some of the sting, Rose hummed quietly while she applied the wand to this or that trouble spot of sticky mud and scrubbed it away with the soft brush for her coat, or the rough brush for her tail and mane. Rose’s annoyance faded away as bathtime got calmer and the musical reminder of her mother giving her a bath soothed away the frustrations of bathing a hyperactive young foal.

The pouting look on Raspberry’s face faded away as the water got warmer, thanks to the new water heater they’d saved up all winter for. No more hauling buckets of hot water to the tub.

It was slow to warm up, but the nearby dam provided the power, and she only had to pay a small, flat fee each month for upkeep and maintenance. And it did provide a much, very much, desired luxury right in their home. No more public baths for a hot shower.

“Mommy?”

“Yes, sweetie?”

“Can you read me a bedtime story tonight?”

Rose paused and turned off the water. “Of course. What would you like me to read?” As if she had to ask. It would be the same story as it had been the last seven nights.

“The Little Filly and the Big Moon!” Raspberry stood up and shook herself all over, spraying Roseluck and the rest of the bathroom with mostly clean water. “But I want dessert first!”

“Dinner first, Raspberry. Then dessert, then bedtime, okay?”

“Dinner, dessert, story, then bedtime.” Raspberry stared up at her, the stern set of her brow demanding, in no uncertain terms, that storytime be included.

“Of course.” Rose bent over to kiss Raspberry on the brow, then covered her with a clean towel. “But first, an attack by the towel monster!”

“No!” Raspberry giggled and squirmed away, only to be attacked again and again by the vicious towel monster until she was dry, and her mane and coat were, if not squeaky clean, shining with a dim lustre if smelling lightly of dirt.

At least tomorrow is not a play day. Another chance to get her clean again.


“...and the little filly looked up at the big moon, shining bright above the broken tower. And she said”

Raspberry yawned and pulled her doll closer. “And she said ‘I will make this my home, because you watch over it every night.’”

“And so she did. Day after day, and night after night, the little filly did her best to make the broken tower less broken.” Rose paused to turn the page, to an illustration done in faded water-color of the little filly carrying a bucket of water to the entrance. “She scrubbed, and she scrubbed until the stone shone bright, and the wood gleamed in the starlight.”

She turned the page again, to another full page illustration of the little filly looking up at the moon beside a still broken, but gleaming clean tower. “When all was cleaned, the little filly looked up at the moon one night and said...”

“She said, ‘I have cleaned the tower from top to bottom, but it is still broken. Moon, what can I do to make it not broken?’” Raspberry reached out to turn the page. She couldn’t read the words yet, but she had heard them often enough that she knew them almost by heart. Most of them. “Mommy, read this?”

“Of course.” Rose was about to continue when Post stuck his head in the door.

“Swift is here.”

“All right. I’ll be down in just a few minutes.”

“Okay.” Post stepped in further and kissed Raspberry on the forehead. “I’ll come tuck you in after mommy is done reading your story, okay?”

“Okay, daddy.” She held out the doll. “Kiss Patchy goodnight, too?”

Post smiled as he did so, then tousled Rose’s mane. “Come down when you’re done. I’ll have a pot of Prench coffee and cream ready.”

After he’d left, Rose picked up the book again and coughed. “The moon looked down on the little filly, and shone her light inside the tower. The moon liked what she saw. The little filly had done well to make the broken tower more like a home.” She turned the page again, to a montage of images. “The splinters weren’t splintery. The jagged stones weren’t jaggy. The creaking steps weren’t creaky. The filthy bed was clean.”

On the next page, there was a picture of a tall alicorn, looking almost like Luna. “The moon came down to thank the little filly for all the work she had done. She said, ‘Thank you, little filly, for making my once home more like home. But I must ask, why?’”

“The little filly looked puzzled. She had never asked herself why she had done all that she did. She had done it because there was something in the stones of the broken tower. Something she had seen while cleaning came back to her, and she rushed to get it. It was a book. She laid it out in front of the moon princess, and said, ‘Because there was love here. I felt it in the stones. In the splinters. In the steps. I felt it in the book.’”

Rose turned to the second to last page. “The little filly opened the book to the first page and read the first words. ‘To my little sister, Luna. May this tower of the moon be a home away from home.’ The little filly looked up, but the moon princess was gone. But in the sky, far, far away, she saw a twinkle in the eye of the Mare of the Moon.

“The end.”

“No...” Raspberry yawned again, her eyes barely opened. “Not the end...”

“It’s the end for tonight.” Rose smiled and kissed Raspberry on the forehead. “We’ll finish tomorrow.”

“Promise?”

“Pinkie promise.” Rose held a hoof to her eye. “Go to sleep, sweetie.”

As she left, Rose turned out the light. The memory faded as the lamp’s filament grew dim and went dark, leaving her standing alone in the doorway.

Not quite alone.

At the other end of the hallway, Pinkie sat waiting for her with a wilted rose dangling from her mouth. It fell to the ground, not bouncing as other memories had, but landed limply with its leaves and petals sagging to the floor.

Fear surged through Rose, seizing at her stomach and her heart, warning her to stay away. A warning she ignored. The flood of fragmented memories surrounding her at last settled into place, leaving only a tiny void left in the tapestry of her life. The mystery of what had sent her there was in the darkened petals of the rose laying at Mirror’s feet. It called to her.

“The last one.” Rose stood still in the doorway. On the cusp of remembering everything, fear gnawed at her. “What happens after I remember?” She looked up at Mirror, staring at her.

“You’ll come back here? Wake up?” Uncertainty twisted Mirror’s smile into a frown. “I don’t know. What I do know,” she said, taking a step over the flower, “is that I am grateful that I had the chance to know you. I won’t forget you.” Her smile came back stronger as she pulled Rose into a hug. “Pinkie Promise.”

“I’m grateful, too.” Rose looked around her, but bit back the bitterness of having missed her child, her husband, and her family. And dad? The missing name on the clipboard felt so long ago, before she’d had her child, before it felt like her life had started anew as a mother. “I won’t forget you, either. You are a true friend. If I don’t see you again...”

“I’ll be watching. Just remember me.” Mirror stepped back over the rose and pushed it along the floor to Roseluck. “Please. I want to feel like I did something. Me. Not Pinkie. I want to feel like I did something important. That I made a difference on my own, and not just because... because...”

“I will remember you.” The last memory lay at her feet, dark, grim, smelling of a late fall rain. And blood. Rose shuddered, steeling herself, and inhaled the metallic, sticky scent.


“Raspberry, stay close to me, okay? I don’t want to have to chase you all over the market.” Roseluck waited until Raspberry nodded, then started up the hill to the market with her flower cart in tow.

Raspberry was pushing her own little cart, not even half-full of ripe raspberries and Patchy, stuffed into the front seat of the little cart, one of her birthday gifts from Golden Harvest and Applejack.

“Yes, mommy.”

“Good girl. We’ll have fun today, okay?” Rose walked slowly while Raspberry struggled to keep the push-cart straight. She wasn’t old enough to bear a harness, and Roseluck was reluctant to fit her for one so young.

“Mommy?”

“Yes, Raspberry?”

“Do you think ponies will buy raspberries, too?”

“What do you want to try and sell your raspberries for?”

“Bits!”

Rose looked over her shoulder at the covered chalkboard with her prices artfully drawn in different shades of chalk. “You could let me sell them with my flowers. What do you think about that?”

Raspberry stared for a long while into the small pile of berries sitting in a scrap of burlap lining the bottom of her wagon. They were almost up the hill and to the market when she looked up again at the sign on the side of Rose’s cart.

“Yes.” She stared at the sign for a little longer, then nodded. “I want berry, and flowers, and bits.” Smiling, Raspberry pushed her cart a little faster to Rose’s normal spot. “Mommy, can you put the berries on the sign?”

“Of course.” Rose maneuvered her cart under the awning already in place and kicked the brakes on. “Just give me a moment to get set up, okay?”

“Can I help?” Raspberry pushed her wagon under the rear axle of Rose’s and deliberately set the brake.

Good. She learned from last time. “Of course you can, sweetie.” Rose looked around, then pointed to the wooden brake-blocks resting against the flagpole. “Can you pull those over here?” Drawing the raspberries in red chalk on her blackboard took just a moment, and she wrote ‘With every rose and calla lily’ next to it.

“Ew!”

Rose looked up. Raspberry was backing away from the wooden blocks, swarming with little insects. She trotted over to take a closer look. Termites. Darn it, Caulie! She sighed and shook her head, then dragged the wooden blocks off into the grass by their rope handle and tapped her hoof on them.

They were still solid, and the termites hadn’t done more than inspect the new food source, but Rose left them sitting in the grass. It’d been marked for food, and Rose would rather buy a new set herself than bring termites back home.

“Mommy?”

“Just a moment, dear.” Rose bent down to look more closely at the wood. Mold spots were covering one end, darker than they had been last week. “This is the third time this month, Caulie. Can’t you just hang them up?” she grumbled under her breath. She would have to talk to the market coordinator about getting new blocks for her stall and just take them home with her.

“Mommy!” The note of rising panic in Raspberry’s voice tore her attention away from the stops, and she jerked around, and stopped. Roiling black clouds stretched across a horizon that had been bright and sunny a minute before.

Everfree storm! Bright spots against the clouds were led by a rainbow streak dashing from spot to spot, attempting to hold back the massive storm while other, dimmer specks moved at a snail’s pace.

“Come on, Raspberry!” Rose dashed to her daughter and pushed her away from the cart and awning just as a massive blast of wind swept over the buildings, sending dust and twigs flying along with a blizzard of leaves through the market square.

“Mommy! Patchy!”

“We’ll come back later, Raspberry. We need to go to shelter!” Thunder rumbled, and lightning flickered across the leading edge of the storm. Rose saw Post then, dashing into the square, his tail flying and his uniform flapping in the wind.

He was shouting something. Rose pushed Raspberry forward, “Stay with me!” she screamed over the wind. Another crack sounded, closer. Rose cast about for an open doorway. Sugarcube Corner had its doors opened and ponies were crowding inside. Rose pointed at the building and looked pointedly at Post. He was staring at her in open-mouthed horror, a hoof pointed at her.

Rose staggered as the world jumped wildly, and took another step forward, almost stepping on a long, wooden pole laying on the ground.

Why is the flagpole—

The world tilted again, more slowly, and dusty dirt filled her nose. Post was running towards her. She could see him as her vision faded and the world grew darker. No! Get to shelter! The thought felt fuzzy, like her head and her body.

Why can’t I move? Rose tried to stand up, but her legs didn’t want to do anything. She couldn’t feel them. Her head spun and her vision narrowed further. Raspberry was crying.

She could hear her baby crying.

Why?


“Stay with me!”

Mirror flinched at the frantic, commanding tone, but Roseluck’s eyes were staring elsewhere—glazed over and unseeing. Why shelter? The empty market square suggested nothing dangerous going on, and Roseluck’s hoof had pointed at the one place she couldn’t, she wouldn’t go.

“Please don’t go there, Rose. I know I said I’d stay with you, but I can’t go in there.”

Rose didn’t answer; instead, she staggered, her head dipping wildly. A half step, a stumble over nothing Mirror could see, and then she collapsed and lay unmoving in the middle of the square.

She’s going to wake up.

Mirror waited patiently, watching Rose’s chest rising and falling—growing slower and slower the longer Mirror watched each one. The pause between each breath dragged on like the interminable silence that waited for her as soon as she was alone again. But just when she thought it was the last, and Rose would fade away, another punctured her expectations.

But Rose didn’t wake, and she didn’t try to get up again.

“Wake up!”

Rose didn’t move. The not quite silence, punctuated only by the steady breathing, pressed in around Mirror. What had been bearable in absolute silence was grating when she was aware, acutely, of every small sound that her friend made.

“I liked it better when I could imagine that you were talking to me, and I could talk back, even if...” Mirror shook her head. “Even if you never replied quite the way I expected, it felt like I was a part of your life.”

Now, with you just laying there, it feels like I really am alone. “Why aren’t you moving? Shouldn’t you be at the hospital?” Rose’s still body made no response and did nothing more than breathe.

“Well... of course she’s not going to move, silly.” Mirror sighed. “She must be unconscious in her memory.” How that worked escaped her. “Come on. I know where you end up next.”

Three dozen breaths. Mirror counted each one as she dragged Rose over to a wall and propped the limp body up long enough to settle across her back, then caught Rose’s tail in her mouth to keep her from sliding off, and began the arduous journey through town up to the hospital.

The spirits of other ponies were still there, wandering aimlessly through what Mirror could only imagine were the last memories of their lives—endlessly repeating the same actions over and over. Their faces remained indistinct, and if they noticed Mirror at all, they gave no indication.

Through the lobby, down the wide halls, and finally up the steps she went. Throughout all the jostling, and the one time Rose slipped off Mirror’s back, the rhythm of her breathing never changed.

“Four hundred and ninety nine...”

In the hospital room on the second floor, the details had changed since she’d last been there. Different flowers sat in the vases, subtly different from before, and the rose bush outside was starting to bloom. The bed lacked sheets still, but there was an impression forming in the padding—as of a body that had lain in the same position for a long time.

Rose breathed in, then out as Mirror pushed her body into the shallow trough in the center of the bed.

“Five hundred.”

“Hurts...”

“Rose?” Mirror peered into her friend’s eyes, watching as the glaze faded away, and those green eyes focused on her.

“Mirror?”

“I’m here.”

“I thought... I thought I wouldn’t be back—” Rose’s eyes flicked away from Mirror to track around the room. “This isn’t where I was in my memory...” She lifted a leg and shook it. “It tingles. And I can almost smell...” A deep breath, then another, and Roseluck looked around. “It smells so wonderful!”

Roseluck closed her eyes, took another deep breath, and vanished.

It was as though a bubble popped.

“Roseluck!” Mirror leapt at the bed, pressing her hooves where Rose had been. “Rose...”

Silence settled around her, thick and uncompromising. Complete.

“When you remember me... please smile. When you see them again... smile at them for me. Please.” She waited, staring at the place her friend had been, where she hoped Rose was waking up in another world.

“Smile for me.”


“...and the little filly looked up at the moon one last time, and said ‘My name is Cadance. What’s yours?’ The moon gave no answer, but the little filly, Cadance, didn’t need one. The tower was her new home. It was a home built with love.”

Mirror? Rose tried to open her eyes. Darkness greeted her, and she wasn’t certain her eyes were open. There was something soft covering them, but her legs felt too stiff to move, as though she hadn’t moved them in a long time.

Other sensations filtered in. The weight of a blanket covering her, the smell of freshly laundered linen, and the smell of flowers. Sounds, too, reached her, muffled as Mirror’s voice had been. Cart wheels on wood, birds chirping, the wind blowing gently.

Is this another memory?

She waited, growing more and more certain that it was not a memory. Never before had she been aware of her self in the memories, only the past events rolling over her like a new reality.

“Mirror?” Her voice sounded nothing like her own. Cracked and whispery, she barely heard it herself. Even trying to speak woke a raw, rasping ache in her throat.

“Rose?” Mirror’s voice, or Pinkie’s, sounded full of incredulous wonder. “Rose, are you awake?”

Her throat bound tighter, and all the pain in her body came crashing down atop her. She welcomed it. She was awake. She wasn’t dead. I can see them again! Too much. It was too much to take in.

She sobbed, and felt warm tears pressing against her eyelids.

“Oh! Oh my gosh! Don’t move! I’ll be right back!” The sound of thudding hooves, a door crashing open, and excited cheering echoed back to her along with more voices, some shouting, others laughing, and then another voice, clearer and closer came to her.

“Rose, if you can hear me, try to move your legs.” That voice, I know that voice. Redheart’s hoof touched her nose, hard but warm, and smelling faintly of disinfectant.

Stiff muscles, and stiffer tendons, protested her first attempt. Her legs were so weak she doubted she could lift a flower, much less the sheet. But she managed, shifting her hoof against the bed once, then again as the stiffness began to subside. She was alive, and the world was no longer empty and quiet. Moving her leg was only a small obstacle.

“Oh, Rose! You can hear me!”

Still unable to see, Rose licked her lips and tried to blink.

“Don’t try to open your eyes.” Redheart’s voice turned more clinical—professional—despite the quaver that hovered on the edge of each syllable.

Roseluck felt hooves straightening her too weak legs, then brush against whatever was over her eyes.

“You have... you have a bandage over your eyes to keep them from drying out. I can take it off, but it’s going to be very, very bright. Can you try moving your hooves again?”

The task was less overwhelming than it had been a moment ago, and she even moved a hind leg, tapping a hoof against the end of the bed. I’m alive!

“Good! Dr. Axon will be by as soon as he can to check in on you.”

Fighting the rasp in her throat and the dryness of her tongue, Rose forced herself to speak. “Eyes. Please.”

“I don’t know, Rose. Dr. Axon will want to—”

Rose moved her foreleg more urgently, and curled her hoof around Redheart’s. “Please.”

“Okay, okay. Just relax. You’ve been in a coma for almost—” Redheart’s teeth clicked shut over whatever else she was going to say. “Just a moment.”

Warm breath touched her cheek, then there was a sliver of light, dark red, as a pressure she hadn’t been aware of until it was gone loosened. Even that much color was welcome. No longer shades of grey and black, there was color in her world again.

The sliver grew wider as another binding was loosened.

“Keep your eyes closed a moment longer. There’s some gunk I want to wash off first.”

The sliver of dark red widened to fill her vision, and even that much light sent pain shooting through her head. The warmth left her cheek, and the sound of running water came to her.

“You scared us, Rose.” Redheart’s voice sounded from very close, and then a warm, rough, and wet cloth dabbed at her eyes, soaking away the gummy feeling. “The day they brought you in, I was too shocked to be scared for you.” The wet cloth left and came back, wetter and warmer, and the last of the gumminess dissolved away in a trickle of water.

“Very slowly, now.”

“Water.”

“Soon. Try opening your eyes first.”

Brilliant color filled her vision. All of the colors that had been missing assaulted her, gloriously, painfully bright, and all mixed together in a blur that slowly resolved itself into her friend.

Redheart stood not far away, a cloth draped over one hoof. A hopeful smile grew across her muzzle until she laughed. “Can you see me?”

Rose blinked once, and Redheart sharpened into the same image from memories still fresh in her mind. More than that, even the walls, the door, even the ceiling were colorful, bright... alive.

“Raspberry? Post?” Saying their names hurt more than the effort it took to speak them.

“I think Pinkie went to get them.”

Almost as if on cue, the sound of hooves pounding swiftly on hardwood, two sets of hooves on hardwood, echoed down the hall.

Rose was barely able to prepare herself before Pinkie appeared in the doorway, followed a moment later by Post Haste. Two dark pink forelegs were clutched around Pinkie’s neck, and a curly mane of a brighter pink poked above her head.

Raspberry!

Two sets of eyes widened when Rose blinked at them, her throat tightening and tears threatening to steal away the most beautiful sight she’d ever seen. She blinked again, and Raspberry’s head appeared over top of Pinkie’s, her eyes widening as she stared.

Help me say something! But her throat wouldn’t work, and the words didn’t come.

Distantly, Mirror’s voice came to her.

“Smile for me.”

Rose smiled.