• Published 19th Jun 2012
  • 1,757 Views, 155 Comments

Cutting Ties - fic Write Off

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What We Leave Behind

Dear Mr. Shining Armor:

We are pleased to inform you that your application to join the Royal Guard of Equestria has been approved by the Equestrian Military Council. You will report for training at 1300 at the Quartermaster’s Yard. Your possessions will be expected for transfer at the Royal Barracks no later than 1800 that same day. Your squad leader will be Mrs. Silver Hoof.

Best of wishes to you,
The Equestrian Military Council

M. Eagle Eye
M. Loyal Vision
Mme. Golden Petal


Shining Armor exhaled slowly, still smiling to himself as his eyes traced down the letter for what seemed like the hundredth time. Dear Mr. Shining Armor, the letter said. Not Shining. Not even Shining Armor.

Mr. Shining Armor, future guardspony of Equestria.

He pumped his hoof in the air, rolling over on his bed. The springs shook underneath him, and the mattress groaned as Shining’s hooves hit the floor. He was still grinning; he couldn’t help it. It looked like a lifetime of playing with toy soldiers and monsters had finally paid off.

Shining cleared his throat. “Shining Armor, reporting for duty.”

He turned his head and made his voice higher-pitched. “Oh, no! A hydra is attacking Canterlot!”

Shining nodded resolutely, turning back and returning his voice to normal. “No worries, ma’am! I’ll take care of it!”

The higher-pitched voice returned. “Oh, thank you, Mr. Guard!”

Shining Armor closed his eyes, smirking. “Oh, it’s no problem, ma’am. It’s what I—”

“Shining Armor! Stop daydreaming and help me move these boxes!”

Shining’s eyes snapped open. He swallowed. “Coming, Mom!” He threw open the door and dashed out into the hallway, skidding around the corner as he ran. He came to an abrupt stop as he slid to a halt, emerging out of the front door and into the yard.

“Come on, honey!” Velvet Glitter said, gesturing to a large pile of cardboard boxes. “We’ve got to get all of your stuff into the moving chariot before you go!”

“Wow. So she really does have you trained.”

Shining spun around. “Cadance!”

Cadance nodded, winking. “Yep! Though I’d come see you off. I think your dad is making Twilight her snack, so I had a few extra minutes to come and say goodbye.”

Shining smiled, blushing a bit. “Aw, thank you!”

Cadance chuckled. “You’re ridiculous. Now come on—let’s give your poor mom a hand.”

Velvet turned around, snorting. “About time!” She smiled at Cadance. “Thank you, dear. It’s hard enough getting him to do anything when he just stares at that silly letter all day.”

“Mo-om,” Shining moaned.

Cadance snickered. “I think she might have a point.” She reached forward, tugging on the letter that was still in Shining’s grip. “See?”

Shining rolled his eyes. “All right, all right.” He trotted up and closed his eyes, a light-blue aura surrounding his horn along with a particularly heavy-looking box. “So should I just put this in the chariot?”

Velvet nodded, pointing to a spot where two bored-looking pegasi were sitting in a beaten-up chariot. “Right over there, in the back.”

Shining nodded. “Got it.”

Velvet nodded back, smiling, but then frowned. “Come on, you two lazy bums. Get up and give us a hand!” The two pegasi jumped and nodded quickly, moving over to the large piles of boxes and picking up one of their own.

Shining hummed to himself as he worked, moving box by box into the back seat of the movers’ chariot. The all-too-familiar notes of the Guards’ Marching Theme danced in his mind. After a few minutes of work, though, something strange reached his ears: the sound of quiet sobbing.

Shining turned around, eyebrows furrowed. “Mom?” He trotted over, frowning. “Is there something wrong?”

Velvet looked up, smiling, but wiping away tears from her face. “It’s... It’s nothing,” she said, keeping the smile on her face. “Here, why don’t you let your father and the movers finish up, and you go say goodbye to some of your friends?”

Shining blinked. “Are you sure?”

Velvet nodded, sniffing a bit. “Of course! They deserve to have an extra farewell before you head out!” She winked, giggling slightly. “And maybe you can even share a last-minute cupcake with Cadance.”

Shining Armor sighed. “Thanks, Mom.” He turned to go. “Are you sure you don’t need my help?”

“Oh, get off it,” Velvet snorted. “Go! Have fun for an hour—I’ll see you back here in a bit.”

Shining smiled, chuckling and shaking his head. “All right. I will.” He looked questioningly at Cadance.

She waved a hoof. “Go on. Go talk to Cloud Runner or something. I’ll meet you at the Pastry Place in half an hour.” Cadance winked. “In the meantime, I think I hear Twilight acting up inside. No doubt your dad mixed up her juice with soda again.”

Shining nodded. “Right.” He turned to go, and waved. “See you in a little while!”

As he galloped off into the city, Cadance walked up and exchanged a sad glance with Velvet. “Think he’s ready for this?”

Velvet laughed quietly and snorted. “Him? I wonder if I’m ready for this. I’m certainly no young mare, that’s for sure.” She looked up at the sky, exhaling. “Still, I know that this is his dream.”

Velvet smiled, shaking her head. “All colts need to leave the barn some day.”


Shining panted as he ran through the city, his mane whipping in the wind behind him. He dodged around passers-by and tourists and finally came to a stop before a tall green building. Raising a hoof and taking a moment to catch his breath, he knocked four times on the building’s door.

The door opened slightly, and then wider to reveal a small, elderly-looking mare. “Ah, Shining!” she said, smiling. “Good to see you. Give me a moment, and I’ll get Cloudie down here.”

She turned, looking up the stairs. “Cloud Runner! Get down here! Your friend wants to say hi!

Shining chuckled as the sound of a confused grunt and a loud thump came from up the stairs. “Actually, Mrs. Chaser, I’m here to say goodbye.” He smiled sadly. “You see, my chariot’s leaving in two hours for Upper Canterlot, so...”

Chaser raised a hoof, shushing him. “Say no more.” She winked, glancing over her shoulder. “I’ll make sure my lazy grandson gives you the farewell you deserve...” She cut herself off, blinking, and then narrowed her eyes. “If he ever gets his flank out of bed! Cloud Runner!!”

“Ow, ack. Fine.” A lanky, blue-maned pegasus came limping down the stairs, rubbing his head and groaning. He looked up. “Oh, hey Shining. ‘Sup?”

“This young stallion is heading out to Upper Canterlot soon to become a Royal Guard, and you’re lying in bed and lazing about!” Chaser scowled. “The least you could do would be to have the common decency to say goodbye.”

Cloud Runner groaned again, rolling his neck. “All right, Gramma. All right.” He smirked at Shining as Chaser frowned at him.

Shining coughed. “Erm. I think you can probably go now, Mrs. Chaser.”

Chaser nodded, clapping her hooves. “Ah, of course! You two take all the time you need—I’ll be in the kitchen!” She tittered to herself, trotting out of the foyer. “Oh, my; I hope those sweetbuns aren’t burned!”

Shining chuckled as Chaser walked away. “Your grandmother is pretty great.”

Cloud rolled his eyes. “I know, I know.” He smiled. “So; a Royal Guard, huh.”

Shining nodded. “Yeah.”

Cloud snorted. “It’s not like it wasn’t freaking obvious to everypony since, well, forever.” He shrugged. “To be honest, I think you’re the last one who found out that that’s what you wanted to be.”

Shining slapped him on the back, laughing. “Yeah, right.”

Cloud raised his eyebrows, shrugging. “Hey. Maybe I’ll see you up there at the castle sometime.” He pointed to his own Cutie Mark: a slice of pie with a firework exploding around it. “I might even end up catering something like the Gala.”

“You wish,” Shining said. Cloud joined him in laughing at that for a bit. The two quieted down soon, though, and just stood in the doorway by themselves.

Cloud spoke up first. “So I guess that summer surfing trip’s off, huh?”

Shining nodded, biting his cheek. “Yep. I don’t think new guardsponies get much vacation time.”

Cloud snorted. “Whatever. I’ll let Lightning and Twinkle know that you can’t come—they’ll be pretty down about it, but they’ll understand.”

Shining smiled sadly. “Thanks.”

They stood there in silence for a moment more.

“Look—”

“I—”

Cloud held up a hoof over Shining’s mouth, raising an eyebrow. “Shut up, Shining. Really.” He winked. “You’re one of the most fun guys I’ve ever hung out with, and it’s just been really cool.” He reddened a bit, scratching the back of his head. “I guess what I’m trying to say is...you’ll do great there. So don’t sweat it.”

Shining sighed, smiling back. “Thanks, Cloud. That actually does kind of mean a lot.”

Cloud snorted. “Of course it does! I said it.” He offered a hoof, holding it up in the air. “You go up there, and you take those fancy-armor ponies by storm, you hear me?”

Shining smirked, meeting the bro-hoof. “It’s a promise.”

“Good.” Cloud frowned. “Well, what’re you waiting here for, you sappy filly? Get out there and see the town! It’ll be the last time you hit it for months!”

Shining started. “Oh! Right!” He gave a clumsy salute and dashed off down the steps, nearly crashing into a passing mailmare along the way. “Sorry!”

Cloud chuckled, shaking his head. “Idiot.”

He shut the door.


Shining trotted down the street, looking around at the passing buildings with something like wonder and sadness.

There it was, the old post office, right next to the new Japonys restaurant. He remembered going to drop off letters in the mailbox every week, saying hello to the postal worker on duty. Shining put a hoof to his chin, frowning. He’d never gotten a chance to try that new restaurant’s sushi.

I guess Twily’s gonna have to do it for me.

He smiled softly, shaking his head, and continued on.

“Hey, Shining!”

Shining looked up, his eyes widening. “Mr. Apple!”

The middle-aged stallion nodded, grinning widely at Shining. “I heard you’re heading out today—here, have an apple!” He tossed one into the street, which Shining caught with a quick levitation spell. “This’ll be your last chance to have a quality Apple apple; can’t say I know any of my relatives to be sellin’ up there in Upper Canterlot.”

Shining nodded quickly, bringing the apple closer. “Th-thank you!”

Mr. Apple snorted, turning back to his cart. “Now, you talk about these apples to them fancy ponies up by the castle, y’hear? I need my advertisin’, and I can’t let such a good customer’s experience go to waste.” He paused, peering over his glasses at Shining. “Right?”

Shining Armor nodded, smiling. “Right!”

Mr. Apple beamed. “Gravy! You have a good trip, son.”

Shining waved back. “You have a good day, Mr. Apple!” He resumed walking and took a bite of the apple. It was definitely a “quality Apple apple”—the crunch was perfect, and the fruit itself was nice and juicy. He munched loudly as he looked up at the Municipal Center, and past that toward the castle itself, sitting far up on the mountain.

The next time I see these buildings, it’ll be from up above, looking down, Shining thought, taking another bite of the apple. The people’ll look like ants—I wonder if I’ll even recognize anything?

I guess I’ll find out.

He shook his head and looked up at the clock tower on top of the Center.

“For now,” Shining said quietly, paling slightly. “It looks like I’m late for meeting Cadance!”

Swallowing, he galloped down the street, leaving a thin cloud of dust in his tracks.


The Pastry Place was fairly quiet today. Only a few other ponies were present, sitting down and chatting in the small bakery café as one or two waiters went around taking orders.

Shining slid into a booth across from Cadance. “Sorry I’m late.”

She raised an eyebrow. “You took your time.”

Shining chuckled awkwardly. “Whoops.”

Cadance rolled her eyes. “It’s fine, you dummy. I already got the chance to order for the two of us, so at least you don’t have to wait as long.”

“What’d you order?” Shining asked, blinking.

“The usual.” Cadance shrugged, smirking. “Haypetal cakes—what else?”

Shining licked his lips. “My favorite!”

Cadance winked. “Of course!”

She sighed, looking out of the window. “So,” she said after a minute. “You think you’re ready for this?”

Shining blinked, slightly taken aback. “Wha—?”

Cadance nodded, turning back to him. “You know. Being an official guard. Protecting my aunt and Equestria. You know.”

Shining’s expression became determined, and he grinned fiercely. “You know it! I’ll be the best damn guard that anypony’s ever seen! I’ll be—”

“Shining, you’re shouting and standing on the table.”

Shining flushed, quickly sitting back down. “Heh.”

Cadance giggled. “Oh, you’re ridiculous. But you’ll do great.”

Shining bit his lip. “I hope so.” He paused. “Wait, what was that about “seeing me off,” earlier? Won’t I see you at the castle?”

Cadance shook her head. “Not for the most part. I promised your mom that I’d help out with Twilight a bit more while you were first leaving. Not to mention that novice guards get very little free time. Add that onto the fact that we’ll likely be on opposite sides of the castle, and...” She shrugged.

Shining swallowed, a lump rising in his throat. “Oh. Right.”

Cadance smiled softly, patting him on the head. “Come on. It won’t be that bad. This is your dream, remember? You’ve been trying to get in for three years, now.”

Shining shook his head. “I know, I know. And I know that I should be overjoyed at this—and I am!” He rested his chin on his foreleg. “I just don’t know. It’ll be so weird, leaving everyone behind. And I know I’ll see them on vacations and everything, but...”

He sighed. “It just won’t be the same.”

Cadance put a hoof on his, and Shining looked up. Their eyes met.

Cadance smiled softly. “Even once you do leave, you have to remember that they’ll still love you anyway, even if it’s from that far away.” She pointed to her Cutie Mark, winking. “It’s my job to know, of course.”

Shining grinned. “Heh. Right, I forgot.”

Cadance leaned in, looking Shining straight in the eye. “And don’t forget why you did this. Because you wanted to protect your family and all of Equestria. Because you wanted to be honorable and strong.” She lowered her voice. “Because, above all else, you love your family.”

Shining chuckled. “Wow. It seems so...impressive when you put it that way.” He looked out of the window, staring into the sky. “But it’s not, really. I’m just a guy who wanted to swing a sword around and look good doing it. I’m not that special.”

Cadance snorted. “Shining Armor, you take that back.” She smiled. “Without a doubt, you are one of the best stallions I know.”

Shining swallowed, grinning weakly. “Thanks, Cadance. That means a lot, coming from you.”

“Ahem.”

Both ponies looked up, startled. A rather tall earth pony, carrying a tray of two delicious-looking slices of cake, set it down on their table. “Your haypetal cake, valued customers.” He winked at Shining. “Hope you enjoy these last sweets. I asked the chef to put extra effort into making them.”

Shining shook his head, chuckling. “You guys... Thanks, Chocolate.”

Chocolate Spoon bowed, winking. “But of course. My pleasure, you two.” He turned to go. “I’ll leave you be now.”

“Shall we dig in?” Shining asked as Chocolate walked away.

Cadance shrugged, fluttering her eyelashes. “Well, I don’t know. Do you think it’s safe, dear Guard?”

Shining smirked. “You’d better eat yours before I get to it first!”

Cadance scowled. “Oh, you wouldn’t dare!”

“Try me!”

Their laughter echoed through the café. It would be some time before it faded.


Velvet bit her lip as she eyed the loaded chariot. Boxes stacked up high in the back seat, and the two pegasi movers were hunched over by the side of the cart, panting and wiping away sweat.

“Mom!”

Velvet whirled around. “Shining! You’re back!”

A lump rose in her throat.

Shining grinned, trotting over beside Cadance. “Yep. I said goodbye to Cloud and the city—I think I’m all ready.”

Velvet swallowed, smiling weakly. “Good. I think there’s one more thing we haven’t done yet, though.”

Two things, really, but I shouldn’t annoy him with that now.

Shining tilted his head. “Huh? What’d that be?”

Velvet lifted a hoof, pointing to one last box waiting by the door. “We never packed that one, because... Well, see for yourself.”

Shining frowned curiously. “Huh. Okay.” He trotted over, lifted the cover, and peered inside.

Within lay an assembly of items—tattered books, stained blankets, and old toys. Scratchy bits of artwork lay scattered inside the box, along with a few pieces of broken crayon. Shining’s eyes widened, and he looked up. “These are...”

Every one of the items in the box had his name on it.

Velvet walked up, something sad twinkling in her eyes. “Your father and I found that in the attic. We weren’t sure what to do with it, so we decided to take it out and let you decide if you want to keep anything in there, give it away, or...” She shrugged, and turned her face, mane obscuring her eyes. “It’s up to you.”

Shining exhaled, and suddenly hugged her. “Thank you, Mom.”

She laughed. “Oh, now you’re just being silly. A grown stallion, thanking his mother for taking out some baby toys? It’s just what I do.”

Something in the box caught Shining’s eye, and he slowly released his embrace, staring at the box. “Believe me. I think I might have something to do with it, after all.”


“Vroom, vroom! Whee! Whoosh!”

A knock came at the door.

Twilight Sparkle looked up from her book, setting her Daring Do action figure on the floor. “Who is it?”

The door peeked open, letting a muffled voice come through. “It’s Shining.”

Twilight’s eyes widened, and she turned away, sniffing. “Well, you can’t come in!”

“Huh? Why?”

Twilight scowled. “Cuz you’re going away, and that’s mean!”

There came a sigh from behind the door. “Twily...can I please come in?”

Twilight drooped. “Fine...”

In the hallway, Shining Armor sighed again in relief. He smiled sadly as he pushed open the door, trotting in. Levitating beside him was a large, somewhat tattered cardboard box.

Twilight’s eyes widened and she got up, trotting over and poking the box. “What’s this?”

Shining chuckled, setting it down. “Just a few of my old things. I thought I might pass them onto you once I go.” He closed the top. “Unless, of course, you don’t want to see...”

Twilight jumped up and down. “Wanna see! Wanna see!”

Shining stepped back, smiling. “All right. Sit down, Twily, and I’ll show you.”

Obediently, Twilight quickly sat her flank on the carpeted floor, though her trembling hooves betrayed her excitement. “What is it?”

“A few things,” Shining said, laying down on the carpet. His horn glowed, and a small object levitated out of the box. “You know what this is, Twily?”

Twilight frowned, making a face. “A notebook?”

Shining rolled his eyes, snickering. “Yes, but it’s definitely more than that.” He flipped open a few pages. “See these?”

Twilight nodded. “Uh-huh.”

Shining smiled softly. “They’re drawings that I made when I was younger. I wasn’t ever really an artsy kind of colt, but maybe you can use this—it’s still half empty.” He placed the notebook onto the floor. “You can use it as a journal or to make paper airplanes or something; whatever you like.”

Twilight stared. “Uh-huh.”

Shining reddened a bit, removing another object from the box. “And then there’s this!”

Twilight’s eyes lit up. “A book! Thank you, thank you, thank you!”

Shining chuckled. “But not just any book—it’s the Unabridged Edition of Equestrian History!” He snickered under his breath as Twilight’s eyes grew as wide as saucers. “I never really liked it when I was your age—too many words and not enough pictures, for one thing—but I found that as time went on, it became my favorite thing to read whenever I just wanted to relax.” He raised a hoof, whispering conspiratorially. “My friends thought it was weird, but I didn’t care.”

Twilight giggled. “Thanks, big brother! I love it!”

“Ah, ah!” Shining said, winking. “There’s one more thing, though.”

Twilight froze in the middle of hugging her new book. “Huh?”

A small, tattered object levitated out of the box and hovered in front of Twilight.

Twilight stared blankly into the button eye of the toy in front of her. “What’s this?”

Shining smiled softly, looking at the object with nostalgia. Something twinkled in his eye. “This,” he said, pushing it a little closer to Twilight, “is Smarty Pants.” He patted the toy on its patched head. “She was my best friend when I was little, and she’s been a little lonely for the past few years.” He bit his lip. “I was wondering if you might want to be her new friend?”

Twilight’s eyes grew even wider.

Shining reddened a bit, and he held up a smaller notepad that was attached to Smarty Pants. “See? She even does her own homework! She always helped me with math when I was your age.”

He grinned. “What do you think?”

Twilight was silent for a moment.

Shining’s smile grew a bit forced. “Twily?”

With a sudden squeal, Twilight sprang forward and grabbed Smarty Pants from Shining’s telekinetic grip, hugging the doll close to her chest and swinging it back and forth. “I love her!” she said. She looked up, beaming. “Thankyouthankyouthankyou!”

Shining laughed, patting Twilight on the head. “I’m really happy you like her, Twilight.” His eyes grew a bit sad. “Maybe she’ll tell you all about the adventures that we had together.”

“Nuh-uh!” Twilight said, sniffing and shaking her head. “We’re gonna have our own adventures! Better than yours ever were!” She paused, putting a hoof on her chin. “And we’re gonna get better grades on our homework than you!”

Shining beamed, grabbing Twilight and wrestling her into a noogie. “Get over here, you little squirt!”

“Help, help!” Twilight squealed. “He’s tickling me to death!”

“You’re not getting away that easily!” Shining said with a laugh.


Shining stared blankly at the chariot. It was filled, staffed, and ready to go. The two pegasi hitched to the cart snorted impatiently.

“So this is it,” Morning Star said, patting Shining on the back. “Looks like your ride is all set.”

Shining started. “Oh! Yeah, Dad.” He smiled weakly. “Looks like it is.”

Velvet was crying.

“It—oh—my baby,” she said. “He—you’re finally leaving.”

Shining bit his lip and trotted over. He put one hoof around her. “Come on, Mom. It won’t be forever—I’ll write, and I’ll come back on vacations and everything!”

Velvet hiccuped, wiping her eyes. “Of course; how could I forget? I’m such a silly old mare.”

Shining wiped a tear away from her face. “You’re anything but, Mom. It’s you who I have to thank for helping me get this far. Dad, too.” He looked up. “Without you both, I would have never become who I am today.”

Velvet swallowed, coughing quietly. “Thank you, honey.” She put a handkerchief to her face, trying to clear her bleary vision. “Thank you, Shining.”

Shining leaned in, his voice quiet. “I love you, Mom.”

Her sobs redoubled, and she hiccupped again.

“I love you, and I will never stop loving you,” Shining repeated. He looked up. “I will never stop loving you all, and I will never stop protecting you. Because that is my special talent, and I’ll stick to it for as long as I live.”

“The noble guard,” Cadance said from behind him, walking up. She sniffed, wiping one eye with a hoof. “I’ll probably see you sooner than they will but...in the meantime, you’ll write?”

Shining nodded. “Of course.” He shook his head. “Every day if I can.”

Cadance laughed. “Oh, you foolish stallion. Focus on your work—goodness knows they work ponies hard enough up at the barracks.”

Shining nodded. “Right.”

He shared a final, silent moment with Cadance and then walked slowly up to Twilight. She was curled up on the ground, crying quietly.

“Ssh, it’s okay,” Shining said, petting her mane.

Twilight looked up. “B-but, you’re going away! Forever! How is that okay?

Shining shook his head, chuckling. “Oh, Twilight. I’m not going away forever.” He touched Smarty Pants, still held tightly in Twilight’s hooves. “And remember, so long as you have Smarty Pants with you, I’ll be there.” He smiled, bending down to Twilight’s level. “I’ll always be with you, Twily. In here,” he said, patting Smarty Pants on the head, “and in here.”

He touched Twilight’s heart.

Twilight sniffed, her eyes red and puffy. “Really?”

Shining nodded. “Really.”

Twilight sniffed again and a big glob of snot ran down her face. “You sure?”

Shining exhaled slowly, still grinning widely. “Surer than sure. I’m your big brother—how could I be wrong?”

Still holding Smarty Pants, Twilight leapt up and grabbed Shining on the leg. “I’m gonna miss you,” she murmured, rubbing her face on his neck.

Shining sighed, swallowing. “I’ll miss you too, kid.” His smile faded, though he didn’t let her see it. “Be—be good for Mom and Dad, okay?”

Twilight nodded. “Uh-huh.” Then, without any protest, she let go.

Shining Armor didn’t look back as he walked to the chariot, the two pegasi movers ready for him. He didn’t look back as he walked into the cart and shut the door behind him.

He didn’t look back when Twilight screamed out into the air.

“BIG BROTHER! I LOVE YOU!”

The tears finally ran down his face. Twilight...I love you more than you could ever imagine.

But that’s why I’m doing this. That’s who I am.

I will always be there for you. But maybe, just maybe, today’s helped me realize something.

Shining looked up at the sky. The sun was rising high into the sky, nearly reaching its peak. It had left behind the comforting embrace of the sunrise horizon, but it was now almost at its zenith, cutting free of the morning and leaping with courage and strength into the day.

Maybe it’s not what we do that determines who we are.

Maybe it’s what—and who—we leave behind.

Shining looked straight ahead into the distance. Up above him, steadily growing larger, was the looming figure of Canterlot Castle.

I love you, Twily.

And that will never change.

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