• Published 23rd Feb 2016
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Crystal's Hopes - Crystal Wishes



Crystal Wishes finally found her happily ever after, but she never thought about what came next. The life of a military wife is not as easy as she hoped it would be.

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A Dream is a Wish Your Heart Makes

Deep breath in, deep breath out. That was what Crystal was intending to do, but instead, she was fairly certain the signals crossed and she was trying to breathe in both directions at the same time. Was she hyperventilating? She was hyperventilating.

Just as her chest started to hurt from the rapid expansion and contraction of her lungs, she knocked on the door to force progress. There was a delay between her knock and an answer, long enough for her to start to feel lightheaded. Too many questions and doubts ran through her mind, but they all disappeared when she saw the door open to reveal Verd's face.

"Hey," he said, offering a smile that soothed Crystal's nerves. "There you are. I was starting to get worried."

"Worried?" Crystal's voice hitched as she saw the group of ponies behind him, and her breathing started to grow erratic again. "Why?"

Verdant chuckled and reached out a hoof to pat her on the head. "I think we both know why. Come in, I just made some tea."

Tea. Crystal sniffed the air and caught the aroma of the earthy tones that urged her inside. Yes, a warm cup of tea was just what her anxious soul needed right then. She froze, however, when Bastion rose to his hooves at her approach.

Bastion said nothing as he walked up to her, his expression unreadable. She felt as though her knees would give out as he stopped and loomed like one of the castle's towers. Finally, he lowered his head to her eye level and said, "I'm—I apologize for antagonizing you last week." His nostrils flared before he straightened back up, turned away, and returned to his seat.

Crystal blinked a few times as her jaw dropped. "Huh?"

Verd chuckled. "After the little incident between you and Bastion, we've spent some time today going over emotions. As Painted would say,"—he shifted his voice to a fond, playful mimicry—"you can't get rid of 'em, so you have to learn how to deal with 'em properly."

A pain clenched Crystal's chest in its icy yet burning grip and she glanced away from the group to look up at Verd. "How is she?" she asked in a soft voice. "When did you last hear from her?"

"I got a letter a few weeks ago. She's fine." Verd bobbed his head as he walked over to the couch to take a seat. "I told her about your film. She says she can't wait to see it when she gets home."

When. It was a beautiful word filled with hope that ignored reality's dark possibilities, and it brought the ache in Crystal's heart a sense of momentary peace. She smothered a smile, lowering herself to sit beside Verd. "I want to write her myself, but I—I still just don't know what to say."

Toffee Strudel cleared his throat and gave a weak smile. "I understand how that feels. I have an old friend from school who's in the war, but I still haven't sent him a letter."

"Better do it before it might be too late," Bastion said, earning him a light glare from Dawn Walker.

"Excuse you," Dawn said in her sweet little voice.

"What?" Bastion crossed his forelegs over his chest and leaned back in his seat that had been pulled in with the others from the dining table. "I'm sorry if you want to ignore the facts, but I think it's better to face them."

Dawn gave a light huff and reached out a hoof to push his shoulder. It was ineffective given their size difference, but it made her point nonetheless. "You could still find a nicer way to say it."

Bastion snorted and turned his gaze from Dawn to Crystal, staring her down; yet, there was nothing malicious in his eyes. In fact, despite his gruff tone, he seemed sincere and almost gentle—for him, anyway. "Write her sooner rather than later so you have no regrets."

Verd cleared his throat. "How about we write the letters we've been putting off? Perhaps if we do it together, it might be easier." He smiled at Crystal. "And you can go first."

The first name that went through Crystal's mind wasn't Painted Wave. Instead, it was Silent, and the letter she had yet to write a reply for. Tears welled up in her eyes as the thought of trying to respond to him broke her heart all over again.

"Or not," Champron cut in. "We could not. Not is fine."

"Maybe next time," Crystal whispered, quickly raising her hooves to wipe her eyes. "I'm sorry."

Verd put a hoof on her shoulder, concern knitting his brow. "She understands. She's not mad at you."

It was hard to stop the tears once they had started, so Crystal just covered her eyes with both hooves. "It's not that," she managed to say around the lump in her throat. "I've been trying to ignore it after Silent's last letter reminded me, but—but today's our anniver—"

A gasp that was unmistakably Dawn's interrupted. "Oh my goodness!"

Crystal's quiet sniffling was the only sound in the room for a while. Nervous tension filled the air before a soft mew broke the silence and something furry rubbed against one of her legs. Crystal pulled back her hooves to look down and see both of Painted's cats, Khan and Panic, looking back up at her.

"They want to know about Silent," Verd said, chuckling lightly. "Why don't you tell us all about him?"

"Oh. But—" Crystal's gaze darted across the faces around her, all in varying degrees of assurance. Panic pawed at her hoof and she relented with a weak smile. "If you're certain."

Khan gave a meaningful meow, stirring a chorus of quiet laughter from the group.

Crystal settled into the cushions of the couch and levitated one of the already prepared cups of hot tea over. She took a moment to sip the relaxing beverage, then sighed. "Silent Knight and I went to Canterlot Academy together, briefly. We shared theater club in my first year and his last."

A giggle tore through the air and Dawn quickly smothered it with a hoof over her mouth. "Sorry!" She swallowed and lowered her hoof. "It's just, Velvet told me that story before. Or, well, she told Tumble, and I listened." Her ears drooped just enough to earn a consoling nudge from Toffee.

"Oh, that sounds like Velvet." Crystal laughed softly and shook her head. "Yes, she loves that story. Silent was in my theater club, but he didn't want to do any acting. 'I just build sets' was his motto." The laugh returned, more full and sincere this time, before she settled into a nostalgic smile. "He grew so much, though, between that time and when I met him again over a year later at the Equestrian Writers Convention. He was with Princess Luna as one of her house guards. I didn't recognize him at first; I just thought he was cute."

Crystal sighed, pausing to take a sip from her teacup. "I had a little crush on him that grew out of hoof, especially given that he was completely unaware of my feelings. I kept pining for him, and Velvet kept pushing me to confess. Once we discovered how we felt about one another, then things became—they became perfect."

Tears started to fill her vision and the teacup trembled in her wavering magic. Verdant reached out a hoof to take it from her, offering a comforting smile. "I remember all the talks you and Painted had about your budding love life. She would tell me how happy she was for you after you'd go home."

That was it. That was the last piece of resolve she had left. All that was holding her together crumbled away, and she leaned forward to hug herself as pain welled up deep inside. A mournful sound passed her lips, somewhere between a sob and a whine.

Painted, her friend, was overseas at war. Visions filled her mind of watching Painted work on a new art piece, attending her exhibits only to end up mocking other patrons, sitting on the couch with a pot of coffee to talk long into the night about cover art, story ideas, and Silent.

Silent, her husband. Her best friend. Her strength. Somewhere in that same war, he fought hard on the front lines. In a single shuddering breath, she remembered every lunch date, every run in the fields, every picnic, every simple moment she had taken for granted. She would give anything for just one more day together. They didn't have to do anything special—she would be content just to see his face and touch him again.

But there was nothing she could give to make that dream come true.

A hoof gently touched her own to bring her back to reality, followed by a second on her shoulder. Crystal looked up and, through blurred vision, she saw Dawn in front of her, Verd at one side, and Toffee at the other.

"It's okay," Dawn said in a soft voice, tears falling down her own cheeks. "We're all here because we understand. That's why we're together. It's okay to cry. We all have."

Toffee's lips quirked in a light but playful smile. "Except Bastion, of course."

"Excuse you." Bastion snorted from his spot right behind Toffee, his ears flat against his mane. "Just because you haven't seen it doesn't mean it hasn't happened."

Toffee looked at him with wide eyes—then flushed with embarrassment. "I—oh, I'm sorry. It was—well, it was a joke in bad taste, I—"

Bastion waved a hoof and straightened up to look over Toffee's head at Crystal. "Buck up, kiddo. Today's only going to get worse. You got somepony that can go home with you so you're not alone?"

Crystal gave a small nod, sniffling. "I live with my sister-in-law. His sister. She'd normally go see her marefriend, but she'll be home tonight."

"Good." Bastion nodded and said nothing more, his gaze fixing forward.

There was an emptiness in Crystal's chest that the memories of Painted and Silent had been hiding in. It was difficult to breathe, much less sit still and have worry and comfort forced in her lap. Loneliness and the desire to be alone waged war within her until she pushed Dawn away to stand suddenly.

"I'm sorry," she said, trying to sound stronger than she felt. "I'm sorry to leave early when I've been missing so many of these get-togethers, but I want to go home."

"That's all right." Verd stood and moved alongside her toward the door. "I'll let you know which house we're meeting at next time."

Crystal gave a noncommittal sound in reply, but stopped just before she crossed the threshold. There was one unresolved issue plaguing the very back of her mind. She looked over her shoulder to meet all the gazes that followed them, then looked up at Verd and asked in a whisper, "What happened to Bonnie?"

Verd's ears flicked back and he didn't quite look her in the eyes as he replied, "She picked up a few jobs that occupy her time, last I heard."

Jobs. Something sour turned her stomach and she tore her gaze away, feeling the hairs of her coat stand on end. "All right. I'll see you next time." She took one step forward and said over her shoulder, "Please give Painted my love. I promise I'll find the words to write to her soon."

"I will," Verd said and waited until she had turned the corner before she heard him shut the door.

She wanted to be alone in a dark room with some ice cream and sad music. She wanted to turn around and run back into the comfort of others. Everything she wanted conflicted with everything else she wanted. Every step landed with uncertainty and, at the same time, conviction.

If she made it home, then she would have Winterspear. One pony was like being alone, but not as lonely. It would be safe to cry there.

Crystal made an effort to avoid eye contact with everypony on her way to the apartment they shared, the place that held so many memories of Silent. The tears started up again and she bit the inside of her cheek to stave them off.

This apartment was the place where she had tiphoofed through the living room like a schoolfilly to sneak with Silent to his room. It was where they had tried to make pancakes one morning and gotten a few stuck on the ceiling. It was where she had sulked while he stayed at work later than she would have liked. It was where she had consoled him and his family over the death of his father.

It was a place of love and loss.

And, when she finally arrived, it was where three ponies waited, not one.

"Welcome home, Aunt Crystal," Dot said as she hopped up from the couch and ran over to hug Crystal around the neck. "Happy anniversary!"

Iridescence bolted upright. "Dot! I told you not to say that!"

Dot's ears folded back and, carefully, she extracted herself from the embrace. "I'm sorry, Auntie."

Crystal forced a smile through the new ache in her chest. "It's all right. Thank you."

"I thought it'd be better if we were all together," Winterspear said, rubbing one leg against the other. "I wasn't sure where you’d be so I could ask you if it was all right."

"Of course. " Crystal leaned down to nuzzle Dot's cheek before she started walking toward her bedroom door. "Why don't you three enjoy the evening? I'm just going to go straight to bed. I'm exhausted."

Winterspear trotted after her, her wings flicking with uncertainty. "I don't know if it's okay to leave you alone."

"Okay?" Crystal paused at the doorway and turned her head to look at her, brow raised. "I don't know what you mean. I just—" Her gaze darted away, then she shook her head. "I just don't feel very sociable, and I don't want to drag anypony else down with me." She smiled and gently pressed her nose to Winterspear's. "Please be with Iridescence and Dot."

Winterspear let out a soft sigh and gave a half-hearted smile. "If you're sure. I'll come check on you first thing in the morning before my shift. Can I at least treat you to breakfast?"

"I'd love that." Crystal nosed her again, then cleared her throat. "Thank you all for being here, but I'm all right."

There was little belief in the eyes of Iridescence and Winterspear, but neither stopped her as she walked into her bedroom and shut the door. She heard the hushed sounds of them whispering to one another, holding her breath as she listened and waited.

"I don't want to leave her," Winterspear said with a bit of strain in her voice.

"If she wants to sleep, then we should let her," Iridescence replied. There was a pause before she continued, "I know you're worried, but I don't think anything will happen."

"Happen?" Dot asked a little too loudly, earning her a quick shh in response. "What?"

Winterspear kept her voice quiet, but not quiet enough. "It's nothing, Dot. I'm just being paranoid. I've heard stories of something bad happening to spouses, that's all."

The pounding of Crystal's heart drowned out the rest of their conversation until she heard them leave. That was when she felt all the energy drain from her body and she barely made it to the bed before she collapsed. What Winterspear suggested was unfathomable! How could she even say it? How dare she even think it?

A brief respite of reason gripped her. It wasn't out of nowhere, though; stories had circulated about darkness consuming the minds and hearts of ponies who had lost their spouses to the war. But such a thing was the furthest thought from Crystal's mind. There was too much light in her life for a single day's despair to extinguish.

Of course, rationality gave way to another surge of emotion. Tears pattered against the pillow as she reached out a hoof to touch the picture frame on the bedside table. They looked so happy—he in his ceremonial uniform, and she in her wedding gown. In that moment, there had been nothing to fear. There was only the love and joy they saw in one another.

A hollow, empty feeling filled her chest and she clamped a hoof over her mouth to smother the sob that was pulled from her aching heart.

"Happy anniversary," Crystal whispered, her eyes slowly closing, their smiling faces the last thing she saw before she drifted off.

Some nights, she was able to make it through without a dream she could remember. The numbness when she awoke was a welcome gift only sleep could afford. This time, however, it seemed she would dream.

Waves crashed on a shore that stretched far off into the blue horizon. Sand, water, and sky were her only companions. Crystal smiled as she stepped forward, her hooves scuffing the warm sand before cool waves lapped at them, urging her to keep going. She waded out until the water was around her knees, then stopped and simply enjoyed the peace and quiet.

Though there was nothing distinct about her surroundings, she knew in her heart that she was at Colton Head Island. The water was so blue and the sky so clear, where else could she be?

Her head tilted when she noticed something out of place, however. Though it was a bright and sunny day, a full moon hung high in the sky. It glowed with a white halo that, somehow, brought her comfort.

All of a sudden, the sound of beating wings disturbed the stillness and two strong forelegs wrapped around her middle, pulling her into the air. She tried to scream, but no sound came out of her mouth. She tried to struggle, but no movement came from her legs.

"What?" a familiar voice said in surprise. "I—I caught you?"

Crystal's heart plummeted. Ever so slowly, she tilted her head back to look up at her captor.

Silent Knight's face looked back down at her, the surprise in his eyes reflecting her own.

"You have a face!" she exclaimed, then screamed when he dropped her. Strangely, rather than crashing back into the water, she landed on the sandy shore with a thump.

"Sorry! I'm sorry!" Silent landed beside her, reaching out a hoof that froze in mid-air. "You can speak?"

Crystal stared at the hoof as if it might bite her. "You have a face," she repeated as her gaze lifted to meet his.

There was only a moment of further hesitation before Silent grabbed her and pulled her in tight against his chest. "I caught you," he said, his voice strained with so much emotion that it nearly brought her to tears. "This is the first time I've caught you. I've finally caught you before you disappear."

Crystal's trembling hooves raised to return the embrace, waiting to wake and be torn from him.

To her joyful surprise, nothing happened.

He was warm. His heart pounded loud enough for her to hear. She felt his breath brush against her ears.

"I won't disappear," she managed to say through the laughter she couldn't contain as she squeezed him tight. "I'm here. I'm right here, Silent."

The light around them dimmed and the moon grew brighter, the dark craters on its surface blurring together into the shape of a pony. Crystal gasped as the shape grew big enough for her to discern its features.

"Luna?" she breathed.

Silent didn't loosen his grip any, but he did turn his head to look over his shoulder. "Luna? But then, that means—" He stiffened. "This is real?"

"In a manner," Luna said as she stepped from the moon onto the sand beside them. Her voice echoed with an ethereal power behind it, and her mane seemed to be filled with more stars than normal. "I have joined your dreams into one. It requires much from all of us; I am afraid neither of you will awake well-rested, for neither of you are in your own dream." She smiled down at them, though there was a sadness lurking in her eyes. "This is all I can give for your anniversary. May it be enough."

Tears fell down Crystal's cheeks as she looked into Silent's eyes that gazed back into hers. "It's enough," she whispered. "Thank you, Luna. Thank you."

"It's more than enough." Silent shifted one hoof to cup her cheek, wiping the tears away. "It's perfect."

Luna's horn glowed and their surroundings blurred together until there was more than sand and water: there was a beautiful cabana, seagulls in the sky, and a bottle of champagne resting beside them. "Happy anniversary, Crystal and Silent. I will depart now so that you may have privacy." The soft smile grew momentarily playful before she turned and walked away to return through the portal in the moon.

Crystal opened her mouth to speak, but Silent cut her off by pressing his lips to hers. Her eyes fluttered closed and she melted against him, draping her forelegs around his neck. It felt so real—he felt so real.

His weight shifted to push her down onto her back, but instead of sand beneath her, they were inside the cabana on the soft white bed. A warm breeze played with the sheer white drapes that hung from the ceiling all around them as if they were floating inside a cloud.

Silent leaned over her, his weight a comfortable presence, and stroked her mane while his gaze searched her as if to catalogue everything he saw. "You look beautiful," he whispered.

Crystal smiled and she tore her gaze from his face to look over his form. Scars she didn't remember marred his white coat, but underneath them was more muscle than he had ever carried before. He was big, strong, and built like a true stallion. More than that, he was her stallion.

"There's just one thing I have to ask." Silent's expression grew serious as he paused just a little too long. "What did you mean by 'I have a face'?"

A sputtering giggle escaped her and she lightly shoved against his chest. "Exactly what I said! Whenever you're in my dreams, you—" She swallowed. "You never have a face." Her hoof trembled and she nibbled on her lower lip. "It's haunting. Every time, your back is turned to me, and I struggle to get to your front. When I finally do, your face is just—it's just empty."

"I'm sorry." Silent leaned down and cherished her face with several featherlight kisses, mumbling sweet nothings between them of his love and longing.

Crystal let out a soft moan as more of his weight was pressed against her while his kisses trailed down her neck. She had forgotten how it felt, and each brush of his lips sent warm shivers down her spine until she couldn't stand it any longer. "Silent?"

He paused his ministrations to look up at her. "Yes?"

"Do you remember the letter you wrote me?" She smiled softly, drawing her hoof along the scar that ran down his cheek and crossed his jawline. How many more would he have when he came home? "I just received it a few days ago."

After a moment of thought, he nodded, brow arching just slightly. "Yes."

Crystal discovered that she had also forgotten how to look coy. It had been so long that she wasn't sure what kind of face she was making, but she gave a good effort of half-lidded eyes and slightly curled lips. "It would seem the evenings you planned for our anniversary do not have to be left to my imagination."

Whether it was her look, her words, or just their shared feelings, Silent took no time pondering her meaning. He smiled and leaned in to kiss her once again, this time with purpose, their body heat mingling as their love joined together in passionate harmony.

Author's Note:

A dream is a wish your heart makes
When you're fast asleep
In dreams you will lose your heartaches
Whatever you wish for, you keep

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