• Published 27th Jun 2014
  • 9,869 Views, 273 Comments

Man's Best Friend - Flutterpriest



Anon and Fluttershy get into a fight. Furious, Anonymous decides to go to a bar to cool down for a bit. While he's there, he meets a Diamond Dog named Ruby. This is how her heart breaks.

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Part 2: The Wait

The beautiful blue sky hangs above you on this warm summer's day. Your red-checkered blanket sits peacefully on the grass of Ponyville Park as you lay side by side with your Anon. All you can do is smile to yourself. You are so lucky to have someone like him that you can love and cherish. Wrapping your arms around him, all you can do is live in this single moment and never let him go.

He's all yours. The perfect man. You knew you couldn't settle for a stallion... and after your father... Diamond dogs were out of the question.

Yet, for you, with your paws wrapped around this human, you can't help but feel some sense of attachment to this man. There was something about his eyes that made you courageous enough to brave the most violent storm. The way his gentle voice cooed words into your ears made you want to hear him whisper sweet nothings into your ears for days. Weeks. Months... A blush fills your cheeks as you think of the next word.

You look at his immaculately sculpted face and search for something to say. Something that can explain to him what he gives to you. It was more than a sense of safety that helped you sleep soundly. More than the feeling of not being alone anymore. There is something about-

Suddenly, you feel him pull against you.

What?

You open your eyes to the mid-summer's day and see Anon struggling in your arms. With two strong blinks, the world around you vanishes and you are back in your room, underneath your covers where Anon is stepping out of bed.

Oh... just a dream.

Thank goodness.

All you can do is smile to yourself as you examine his chiseled marble body. Who would have thought you could have found someone that you just... connect with in such a dark place? Surely not you, but here you are. "Hey cutie," You groan out, your body still not fully ready to wake up.

Your body also isn't quite ready to move yet, after what he did to you last night. He lasted so long... You've never felt pleasure like that. How can someone like this be single?

"Uh. Hey," The beautiful man says as he stands up and grabs his pants.

"Come back to bed... I want you to hold me like-"

Anon turns to you after zipping up his pants. "Uhm. Listen. I really got to go..." Anon says to you calmly. "I have... work and I don't want to be late." A pang of sadness rings through you, but you nod in understanding.

"Well, I understand... Work is important, but will you come back after that?"

Anon searches the floor and locates his shirt and slips it on. "I- Yeah. I will," He mutters, moving over to the mirror on your dresser. He examines his eyes in the mirror and grabs your brush, carefully combing his hair to a shape similar to last night. The place he works at must be nice if he has to look good.

Ohmygoodness. If he has a good job, then that means the two of you could start a family. This is nearly your dream come true!

Keep it together Ruby.

Even after he said he loved you at the bar last night, you still have to wait for marriage. At least a month. Or maybe two weeks. "Well, uhm. What time do you get off? I can make dinner for us... if you'd like..."

Anon rubs his eyes and blinks hard. The way he holds his head looks like he might have a hangover. Hopefully his boss isn't too hard on him... You'd hate if anything you did got him in trouble. "I, uh. Six," He mutters.

Scooting over to the side of the bed, you feel the covers slowly slip off you, as you walk up behind him. Slowly, you move your paws around his torso and under his shirt, feeling the softness of his skin that covers his rock hard abs. Yet, he breaks away.

"I really gotta go or else I'm fucked." The terseness of his words takes you aback. It must be the hangover. Anon was so sweet last night.

"Oh... okay. Well, um. I'll see you at six then?"

"Yeah," Anon answers, turning away from you. Grabbing his hand, you pull him towards you and plant a large kiss on his lips.

"I love you, Anon," You say breathily. He bites his lip after the kiss is broken.

"I... love you too," He says.

Was that a hesitation?

...No, he's probably just tired or something. He -did- just wake up after all. After everything from last night, he must just be deep in thought. Maybe you two are moving too fast.

"See you tonight," You say to him as he steps to your bedroom door.

Anon turns back to you and looks directly into your eyes. "Yeah. See ya," He says.

He opens the door and closes it gently behind him, leaving you alone. With your heart warm and the prospect of finding your true love fresh in your mind, you twirl and dance through your morning routine. You wonder where he works...

He didn't really mention anything about his job. You wonder if he remembers last night as fondly as you did. The two of you talked about everything under the moon. He practically carried you home. Or maybe it was the other way around... the both of you were there for a while.

What matters, was when you got back though. You bite your bottom lip just thinking about it. You'll never forget that. Never. And then the feeling of being in his arms as he held you so tightly. You giggle a little at the thought. It'll be great once he gets back. Six o' clock. You twirl through your home just at the thought of it. Time can't move fast enough.

~~~

It's seven now... Where is he? You look over the cold dinner table, which has a veritable feast of food. It's hard to get meat in Ponyville, but you were able to scrounge up two delicate steaks for just the occasion. Two, perfectly medium, cold steaks that sit on the plates solemnly, next to green beans and mashed potatoes and gravy.

You place your face in your hands at the table. Maybe he's just running late at work. Y-yeah! He's just running late. You can put his plate in the fridge. Grabbing your fork and knife, you look down into your plate of delicately prepared food. You spent hours working on this.

Letting out a deep sigh, you look back over the meal and frown. "It's not the same."

Setting down the fork and knife, you raise your eyes to the single lit candle sitting in the middle of the table. You can wait till he gets back. Rising from your seat, you put your face close to the candle and blow it out. You weren't really hungry anyway.

~~~

Your clock ticks by and you find it at 10pm. Where is Anon? He said that he would be back by now.

Moving into your room, you find your home has simply felt darker today. Maybe darker isn't the right word. Colder.

With a deep sigh, you tuck your paws underneath your shirt and gently lift off your clothing. As the day's garments crash to the floor, you sit on the cold bed, which you've slept in a countless number of nights throughout your moving throughout this land. However, tonight the old and worn sheets feel foreign to you. The bed feels too big, despite it just barely allows you to sleep in it snugly. The covers and pillows feel cool to the touch as you slip underneath them, with the gentle moonlight being the only source of light throughout the room.

Your arms stretch over to his side of the bed. Or at least... where he laid last night.

With your eyes closed, you imagine to yourself that at any moment your hands will collide with his warm, strong skin and he would pull you in closely. Yet, as your arms searched to the other side, they encounter nothing. Only the cold, empty space where he used to be.

Scooting yourself over, you bury your face into his pillow. Or at least... the one he used last night. Through the smell of lingering alcohol and sweat is just the faintest hint of sweetness. That sweetness that is familiar to you, as your face was pressed into his chest and his heart beat sang you gentle lullabies that only he could tell, and their melodies were simply indescribable by any words you've ever learned. The thought of being enveloped by his love puts a gentle smile on his face that you can't seem to wipe from your face.

He'll be back. He said so. He promised.

With a smile, you turn over in bed, your back to where he laid last night. If you close your eyes and imagine hard enough, you can still feel his arms around you. The way his fingers gently rest on your stomach... The way his warm breath stroked the back of your neck... You can almost hear that innocent melody, the soft lullaby. He'll be back.

He will.

He promised.

~~~

The beautiful blue sky hangs over you again, as you lay in his arms under that beautiful tree. The red-checkered blanket lies softly underneath you as you can hear his soft voice once again.

"I love you, Ruby,” He says. “You mean the world to me.”

The warmth of his body fills your soul with content and a smile crawls across your face. You knew he would be back.

"Don't ever leave me again, my love," You whisper, bringing your face closer to his. Closing your eyes, you feel the soft caress of his lips on yours. His hand moves to the back of your head and you feel him press you into his kiss. The single moment hangs in time, leaving you in a state of perpetual bliss. He pulls away, gently, your eyes still closed.

"I never will,” He says calmly. A warmth spreads throughout your soul as every doubt leaves your mind.

"I love you..." You say reflexively.

"I love you too, Ruby."

Slowly you open your eyes, as the sunlight fills your vision. All you see is an empty pillow, in an empty bed, where he used to lay. Suddenly, the world feels a lot colder, as you curl yourself into a ball. He's not back. He didn't come back during the night.

Wait!

You sit up in bed quickly. He might not have wanted to wake you. The couch!

Leaping out of bed, your feet quickly cross the floor of your room, into the hallway and into your living room. Which resides empty, with the exception of a red tie that he accidentally left here.
Is he going to come back? You release a sigh that seems to take with it any remaining hope you had left.

That's no way to think Ruby. He'll come back. You'll see. He loves you. You can't doubt him.

Your feet carry you to the couch, where you sit on the edge of an arm rest and take his tie.
Slowly you turn it over in your hands and examine it carefully. It's got a large stain of whiskey on the front and was one of the first things to come off when he came over. Carefully, you bring it to your sensitive nose and take a deep smell of the neck-end. That sweet smell of Anon fills your nostrils and you close your eyes, imagining him standing directly next to you. What you wouldn't do for him to be here right now...

Laying back on the couch, you hold the tie of your love in-between your breasts in a tight embrace. He has to come back. He has to.

You love him...

~~~

The day of work was grueling and unappreciative as per usual. The ponies didn't care that you were the nicest Diamond Dog they had ever met, or that you were the most experienced Gem Digger they had. It only helped that you were born to do these things. What they cared about was that you were different and that most dogs were vicious.

You sighed to yourself, feeling the same judgmental stare that has haunted you your entire life.
But today, none of that mattered. Today, you watched the clock with baited breath and anticipation, for when you can return home and see if your Anon returned. Your ears are perked up and at the ready, because at any moment, any second, the bell will chime, and all of the gem searchers are able to head home for the day.

The work is far less glamorous than you would like, but your kind was born to do this work. While it isn't what you wanted to do and you weren't happy doing it, there was no denying you were good at it. What only made things worse was that today you couldn't get your mind off of Anon. The vision of the dream still stood in your mind clearly and you could feel the press of his hand against your cheek.

Twice today you caught yourself smiling like an idiot, with your paw pressed to your cheek. You can't get caught slacking again. The first time was one day's pay. Who knows what could happen the next time...

Your paws dig through the dirt and gravel, occasionally pressing away from smaller stones. Farther and farther you push away the stones, trying to focus on something other than his soft. harmonious voice or the way his lips curled at the edges into some sort of smug smile that made you giggle. Stop it Ruby. Not at work.

Yet you can't help it. You bite your bottom lip at the thought of his muscular arms. That's when your paw hits something.

Your attention snaps back to the work in front of you, as you dig around something shiny. Something green. Gradually you uncover a large, delicate, uncut emerald in the dirt. Glancing over your shoulder, you find yourself alone in your own little area of the cave. Carefully, you pull the emerald from the earth and examine it. Normally, emeralds were considered to be a boring rock, and not quite as popular as the rubies, sapphires and diamonds. However, this one grabbed your attention and held it firmly.

The emerald radiated a green that made you feel calm and relaxed. It was the same color as Anon's eyes. With one more quick glance, you sneak the stone into your pocket. You should be able to clean it up and make it a great gift for Anon. He'll love it.

A loud screaming whistle roars in the distance, alerting you of the end of the day. With a gasp, you scramble out some of the gems from your digging pile and place them in your cart of the day's spoils. Unlocking the cart from it's breaks, you wheel the heavy cart up to the surface with strength you didn't realize you had. It didn't matter. All that mattered right now was getting back home to Anon.

He's going to be there. He has to be there. He promised.

The piercing daylight pushes into the tunnel as other ponies, each with their own cutie marks of gems, pickaxes or shoves follow behind you. The foreman, waiting outside, motions you to bring your cart over to the side, which you leave hastily. They can count the gems themselves.

Normally you're interested to see if you met your quota for the day. You always do.

Yet, today you swiftly shed your gear and take off for home without even saying goodbye to your coworkers. It takes everything in your power to remain calm and run on two legs instead of four. You can't look desperate. What would he think if he saw you running home to him on four legs, nearly in tears from missing him so much.

You can't give off the wrong image, you think to yourself, wiping a stray tear from your cheek. That would just be silly. Your legs finally put you within viewing distance of your home and your heart overrides your conscious thought. On four legs, you sprint as fast as you can to your home and you hit the door in a matter of minutes. The door slams open as your heart is lifted up with hope.

"Anon?" You call into your own home.

You look into your kitchen, but nothing is there. Bounding into the living room, you find it empty. A sinking feeling begins to rest in the pit of your stomach. Maybe... he's asleep. Climbing the stairs two at a time, you find the bathroom door wide open, and empty inside. You move to the bedroom door, which is just barely open. Gently shaking in anticipation, you slowly push open the door.

All you find is your bed, with his side still carefully folded and made and your side untucked from this morning.

Oh...

Your muscles all relax and your gaze focuses on the floor. Well, he will be back. The tears that have welled in your eyes spill over as you sniff your nose. Your legs drag you to your bed, where you feel your will to stand on your own two paws has eroded to zero.

Collapsing to the bed, you bury your face into his pillow, trying to find that familiar sweetness that is beginning to be drowned out by salty tears. It's a great thing you live alone, so nobody else has to hear your roaring sobs and desperate whimpers.

Where is Anon? Why isn't he coming back? Was it something you did wrong?

~~~

Maybe he just forgot where you live. The best thing to do would to be return to where the two of you met. The answer is so obvious! Silly Ruby, you should have thought of this sooner.

You follow the well-learned path to the bar where you met your Adonis. Surely he's been waiting for you there. You cling to your coat tightly to keep out the frigid air. Winter sure did sneak up on everyone this year. Who would have thought Hearth's Warming Eve would be in just a few weeks?

Your thoughts travel to a warm fireside where he keeps you warm in his arms under a warm blanket. A smile etches across your lips. Soon, Ruby. Once he remembers the way home, it will only be a matter of time.

A large gust of wind makes you hold yourself tighter together as you approach the bar. Jogging the last few feet, you push yourself in and breathe in a breath of fresh warm air. Fresh, relatively speaking to an old, worn down bar on the edge of town. You suppose once you drown out the smoky smell of old cigarettes, spilled alcohol and sweat that it could qualify as fresh.

The bar sits relatively empty tonight, the same lone stallion sitting in the corner, while Cider polished his glasses. He must love those glasses to death. Ponies hardily ever come to the bar, but here he is, cleaning them. Is it to get off the dust?

Shaking your head, you approach the bar and sit down. Instead of your usual spot at the end, you perch yourself happily on the same seat where you met him. He'll come back. He loves you. He told you he did. Anon wouldn't lie.

"Hey Cider,” You call to the bartender.

"A wine?"

"Of course," You answer happily.

"Sure thing," He answers with a hint of surprise. "You're awful chipper tonight. Any occasion?"

You smile and blush, slightly looking away. "Well... You know I met this guy."

Cider stops pouring and looks up at you, concerned. "Not that human? Is it?"

You giggle under your breath and a warmth flows through your body.

"Yeah... Anon," You answer airily, your mind drunk off of the image of his face.

"I... uh. I see. Well, you've certainly taken a liking to him." With a sigh, you remember the lines of his jaw and the way he laughed as he sat next to you, right here a few nights ago.

"Yeah... there's just... something about him."

"Well, I'm happy for ya girl. Honest." You sip your drink. He will be here. Any second now. "I really gotta wonder though... as long as I've worked here. Are you sure he had the same feelin-"

"Of course!" You bark at him, outraged.

How -dare- he doubt Anon. He loves you. He will be back...

"I've just seen this a lot, Rubes. I just have this feeling..."

"If I keep trying. He will come back. You just wait and see."

~~~

"Still though... This fourth time this week..."

"Well, I mean... I guess," You answer shakily. Where has he been? Where's Anon? Why hasn't he come back?

"You aren't looking too hot. I think this stress is beginning to get to you Ruby."

"Yeah... maybe you are right."

Cider sets down his work and leans on the bar. "When was the last time you ate something?"

You look down at the bar and try to recollect the last time you ate something. It hasn't been at the table, you haven't moved the candles since the one night. You had to throw out his meal after it went bad and it tainted most of the fridge.

"Uhm... A piece of toast? Yesterday?" A lie.

You look up at him and he looks at you with disbelief. A lie he saw through.

"Here." Cider leans down and grabs a small bowl. Inside of it is a very large amount of sunflower seeds. "I munch on em during work. Have some."

Disgusting. You hate sunflower seeds.

You dip your entire paw into the bowl and shove them in your mouth. It must be the hunger talking, but for some reason these make your mouth water like you've never experienced. Every crunch and salty taste sets your tongue into a fury of delightful sensation. Sunflower seeds are the best thing ever. With your cheeks bulging with food, you look back up to the weary stallion, who stares at you in shock. You swallow your snack and blush.

"S-sorry."

"Naw, it's fine. Eat up. You need it more than I do. In fact, take them home with you," He says, pushing the bag towards you. Grabbing another fistful, you eat them a little more gently.

"Thanks."

"So.. tell me..."

~~~

"It's been almost three weeks... Are you sure he's really still looking for you?" You stare at the wooden bar, a simple glass of water today to quiet your grumbling stomach. Aches and pains make you aware to muscles you didn't know existed. He has to be coming... Where is he? Where is Anon?

"I-I... He has to be."

Cider gives you a concerned look. "Listen. I've held my tongue for a long time... I don't think he's coming back." You stay silent and study the grains of wood across the counter top.

"It's not doing good things to you, Ruby. You look like a mess. I can only wonder what it's doing to you outside of here..." With a sigh, you close your eyes. You haven't been meeting your quota lately. The manager has been lenient so far... But if it goes too long... "Listen. Ruby." His hooves push aside the glass of water and wraps around your paws. "You have to let him go." Tears begin to well in your eyes as you shake your head.

He loves you. Anon loves you. He makes everything feel right.

"He isn't coming back." He's your sunshine. Your shining diamond. "I'm sorry..." You stop shaking your head and take a deep breath.

"Cider."

"Yeah?"

"I'm... really tired."

"I think you should go home and get some rest." Standing up from your stool, you take a few steps to the front door. You pull out your wallet from your purse to pay for the drinks you've had, but Cider stops you with a simple touch on the arm. "No," he says.

Turning to him, you shoot a look of confusion.

"Don't worry about it. Just get some rest. I don't want to see you here tomorrow," he adds.

You nod and look to the dull and worn floor and then back to him. "Will you tell me if he comes back?" you ask weakly. He sighs and looks into your eyes. Your head turns back down. "Right."

Defeated, you drag yourself out of the bar late in the dark of night. Your tired muscles leave you feeling defeated. The light drizzle of fresh snowflakes swirling in the air leaves you feeling cold. In the darkened evening of Ponyville, where all of the lights are out and you head back to your home, where not a single light is on... You've never felt so alone.


Your eyes shoot open and your stomach curls inside of yourself. After futilely rocking back and forth in the hopes of calming your stomach, you rush to the bathroom and fall to your knees in front of the porcelain throne. It starts with your stomach churning, burning, then you feel the contents bubble like a volcano. Then, the bubbling moves upward and pushes itself forward.

You wish you had someone to hold your hair.

The contents of your stomach erupt into the water and tears form in your eyes. With a loud set of splashes, the bowl is stained orange and you groan, feeling another eruption shoot forth. Was it something you ate? Was it something you did wrong?

The digestion acid spills into the bowl as you whimper to yourself. The putrid smell fills the room as you close your eyes to get the disgust out of your sight. Your stomach finally feels empty, but that doesn't stop the volcano from it's final blast, sending one more torrent of filth into the toilet. A burning sensation fills your throat and suddenly you feel much better.

Yet, now, an overwhelming coldness overwhelms you. A sense of insecurity, a sense of loneliness. Your paw desperately reaches up to grab the lever, but doesn't seem to grasp it. Tears roll down your face as you kneel face to face with your own personal symbolism.

This is your life. Misery. Pain. Putrid. Just waiting for someone to finally flush it all away.

Your paw finds the lever and presses it down, flushing the vomit down the toilet.

Falling onto your side, the repressed sadness and doubt spills over and overwhelms your soul. He's not coming back. He didn't love you. He might as well not even be real. You begin to shake on the cold tile floor, face covered in throw-up, tears and snot as you let go of whatever hope you still had left for your love to return. There's nothing left. Nothing.

After an hour passes, you decide to scrape yourself off the floor and clean yourself off. You should probably call in a sick day after that episode. But, you can't lose a day's pay... What made you sick anyway?

Turning on the running water of your tub, you prepare to wash your hair, which is now caked in stomach juices. It's not like you ate something bad. Except the sunflower seeds.

They just tasted so good. You can't seem to help it.

As the water hits a nice temperature, you dip your head underneath and feel the warm refreshing feeling wash over your skull. It's probably your just desserts, Ruby. You never eat sunflower seeds. Ever. Not that they don't agree with Diamond Dogs, you just really didn't like them. It was just something about the taste they left in your mouth.

You reach for the shampoo and lather some into your hair. Why have you been eating them anyway? Turning off the water you dry your hair as you feel a grumble in your stomach. Well, you did just evacuate it. Something light should do the trick. Wrapping a towel around your hair, you head into your kitchen for a light breakfast.

Cereal? No.

Toast? No.

Your eyes scan your cabinets until they fall on a small bag. Sunflower seeds.

Every single ounce of your being now desires that bag of seeds.

Pulling the bag out of the cabinet, you absent mindedly throw some into your mouth. You stop, once you realize what you have done. Wait. You just got sick from eating these.

And you want more.

You hate sunflower seeds.

A cold chill runs up your spine as the bag slips from your grasp.


Positive.

The numbness that courses through your veins renders you paralyzed. You double check the stick just to be sure. This is the third one of the four pack of tests.

All of them have came out positive.

Words are unable to be formed in your mouth as you tremble in the small private bathroom of the drug store. Maybe it's a defective box of tests. Y-yeah. It has to be. T-there's no way...

The tears well up in your eyes as you know the truth that's stabbed in the back of your spine.

You have pups. Pups from Anon. And he's gone.

Who's going to protect them? How are you going to do this without Anon? The overwhelming silence only provides your broken soul one single answer. You have to keep trying. For your pups. You have to go back. You have to find Anon.


"Happy Hearth's Warming Eve Ruby," Cider says, placing a glass of water in front of you.

"Thanks Cider," you answer quietly. "Happy Hearth's Warming Eve to you too." Cider pulls around the counter and sits on a barstool next to you, with his own drink. Probably something from his private collection.

"So, any luck on the search?"

"Nothing... No birth records. No employment records... It's like he just... appeared, one day in Equestria."

Cider takes a sip of his drink and sighs. "I just wish there was something I could do to help you Ruby..."

You gently smile and shake your head. "Listening to me and helping me through this is more than enough," you answer. He's really been there for you throughout this whole mess. Lending an ear, a smile or even his own advice. "I don't know what I would do without you, Cider."

He smiles and gently rubs your back. "That's what friends are for."

Friends. Heh.

The idea brings a smile to your face. You barely know anything about Cider. He just listens to you talk about your problems. Sure, he genuinely cares... it seems like... However, friendship is a two way street.

"So... who are you spending Hearth's Warming Eve with?"you ask.

"Well. I told my wife I would be a little late getting home." you look at him, curiously. "I knew you wouldn't notice the closed sign on the door and I think you needed to not spend tonight alone."

A smile curls on your face as you sip your water. "Does she..." you hover on the next word.

"Yes. The whole story. It was her idea that I make sure that you have someone to talk to."

You shake your head with a light smile. "Make sure you get her something nice."

"Already ahead of you."

You chuckle to yourself. "Do you have a family?" you ask quietly.

"Wha? You mean kids?" you lightly nod in answer of his question. "Nah. We thought we really wouldn't be good parents, so we decided not to... It was a hard decision..."

You examine your glass as you turn it in circles. The very same thought has been dwelling on your mind. Can you do this alone? Will you be a good mother? It's not like you can use your parents as an example... You don't even know where to begin.

"I'm sure you would be different though."

The drop of water from his faucet overwhelms you like a tidal wave. "R-really?"

"Yeah," he says calmly.

"Why?"

Cider sets his drink down and looks over it carefully, choosing his words before he decides what to say. "There are some ponies in this town that I've met that should never be a parent and they become one anyway. Sometimes they end up giving away the kid, or don't pay them enough attention, or worse, abandon them." He takes a light sip of his amber colored liquid before continuing. "However, some just have this spark in their eye. You just know that if they have a child, they would protect them, nourish them, teach them right from wrong and do it just right. Not just spoil them to death."

He turns to you and looks up. "I see that spark in you. My wife and I are almost never home... we would just mess it up, but you... I have faith you would know what to do."

Shaking your head, you sigh. "I dunno."

"You can do it. I have faith in you."

"That makes one of us," you say sorrowfully.

Cider sighs and downs the rest of his drink, stretching out his back on the barstool. "Listen. Things are going to get better. I'm not saying it's going to be easy. You've got some of the hardest decisions of your life coming... and as long as you make sure you are doing what you want, I believe in you."

You bury your face in your paws and sigh. "I hope so."

Cider moves back around the bar and grabs the pitcher of water to refill your glass.

"Actually," you answer him. "I think I'm done."

He looks up at you, confused. "Already?"

"I shouldn't be here. You shouldn't be here. You have your wife, and-"

"It's okay."

"It's not okay. I... I think it's time to move on."

He sets down the pitcher of water, with a hint of a smile. "Are you sure?"

Your mind races at your words. Think through it logically Ruby. Put your heart aside. What matters, is inside you right now. What matters, is being the best mother you can possibly be. You can do this. Looking up to Cider, you let out a deep breath and attempt what little confidence you have left.

"I can do this."

Cider smiles and nods. "I know you can."

He comes around the bar and you step off your barstool. You wrap your paws around him and pull him closely to you in a tight hug. "Thanks for everything Cider."

"I didn't do a thing, sweetheart," he says with a smile.

"Do you want me to still visit?"

"I wouldn't mind seeing a friend stop by. Unless it gets too busy."

You chuckle and release him from the hug. "Happy Hearth's Warming Eve."

"Same to you Ruby."

Taking firm footsteps to the door of the bar, you step outside into the gently falling snow. Looking back at the open sign, you find that it, in fact, was turned to close. Shaking your head with a smile, you turn and head towards home. You take your time, admiring the beautiful sight of Ponyville in winter. The coat you wore was warm, although a bit snug, all things considered. This is it.

You've finally broke through. The invisible walls around you now seem to never have existed at all. All that matters now is one thing. Turning a corner, you decide to take the scenic route back home. Yourself and your child. You can do this.

You can do this.

The warm sound of carolers greets your ears as you stroll closer to central park. You know this song. The humming melody is entrancing, as you find your feet dragging you closer to the source of the singing. There is something to it. Something liberating and jolly in the harmony.

An essence that everything is going to be okay.

As you enter the center of Ponyville, you find a small crowd gathered in the center. On a platform stands six ponies, all singing in various parts, accompanied-

Your eyes grow wide and your jaw drops. The purse you carried falls to the ground and digs into the snow. Every muscle in your body becomes numb as the frightful chill of the air sets into your bones.

There he is.

Standing on the platform next to a yellow pony. He holds her with one arm and she wraps her wing around him. They are smiling and looking at each other with so much...

The flash of the gentle smile runs through your mind. The way he held you in his arms burns in your muscles. Tears form in your eyes. No...

Your eyes move to scrutinize the pegasus. Just who is she? How dare she take Anon from you. The clenching pit in your stomach burns inside and tries to bubble to the surface. You take a few steps forward, your paws clenched and ready to strike. Then, you stop.

What's the point?

Your paws unclench, as you look at the smile on their faces. The song ends and the crowd claps loudly for the six singing ponies. Anon and the yellow pegasus exchange loving glances and you get to see that beautiful smile of his.

He's happy.

Why would you take that from him? His eyes move from the pegasus to the crowd as he looks over his audience. That's when his gaze locks directly with yours.

For a moment, the world freezes. The only things that exist in the gently falling snow is you and Anon. A smile crawls on your face, matching his. But his eyes grow wide and his demeanor of pride and joy shifts into a look of worry and disgust.

No. Shame.

He knows exactly who you are. The other ponies leave the stage and the yellow one tugs on his side, saying something to him that is deaf from your ears. Quickly he turns his head... and walks off stage.