• Published 29th Jun 2012
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Fallout: Equestria - Wasteland Bouquet - Cascadejackal



There's a lot of stories in the Equestrian Wasteland, and they all need to be told.

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Chapter 14: Recovery

---CHAPTER 14: Recovery---

"You said you had a second bit of news? "

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For two long months, my sister lay in the cold embrace of the healing machine, the rise and fall of her patchwork chest the only sign she was still alive. Every day, Ibis, Magpie and me would go to the clinic to check on her, with the hyperactive courier, Jacknife, joining us in the evening, when she was finished running around the city.

For two long months, we watched and waited. Watched the wounds become scars, watched her shattered horn become a stump and then a spire, watched Doc Needles take her from the life-preserving device only long enough to remove the stitches from that ragdoll body, before returning her to the one place she could heal. Waited, longingly, for the day the doctor would remove the IV, stop the flow of drugs into her system, and wake her up.

For two long months, the three of us did what we could to keep her company and let her know we were there. I read to her for hours on end, every magazine and book I could get my hooves on, even the confusing ones with big words and diagrams that I had trouble understanding. Ibis would tell jokes and exaggerated stories, describing the dates he had planned and the things he was going to do to her when she was better. Magpie... she sang lullabies to the sleeping mare, or told the three of us about her days as a mercenary, of the friendships she'd forged when she was our age and how they had saved her life so many times.


Finally, after two long months, the doctor said it was time, and we all gathered in the clinic. The machine was shut down, the low hum we'd all gotten so used to replaced by a cold, empty silence. Magpie and Ibis, on the doctor's instructions, gently moved the pale mare to a bed, setting her down on the softest, cleanest blankets we'd been able to find.

The doctor set about checking her, lighting his horn and probing her body with his magic. His nurse, by now long-recovered from her magical burn-out, assisted, and the two of them spoke in hushed tones for some time before the doc turned to us. We all held our breath, hoping for the best. Even Jacknife was still, something I'd discovered was almost as rare as clean water.

"Well... I have good news and... other news."

"O-other news?" I looked at him, confused and worried. "Like, bad news?"

He shook his head, frowning. "Not bad, not exactly. It's... her implant."

"What? What about it?!" Magpie put her claw on my head when I interrupted, and I looked at her.

"Let Needles speak, Lily." She smiled gently, as the old pony cleared his throat and nodded his thanks to her.

"It... seems to have fused with her ribcage. Whatever the talisman is made of, it's started covering her ribs and spinal column in something similar." He paused for a moment, waiting for me to butt in again, only continuing when I ducked my head, embarassed. "Magpie, the files you recovered with the implants said that they became impossible to remove about a week after being implanted... I believe this... growth... is the reason why."

Another pause, and he looked at me expectantly. I hesitated, and Magpie asked the question that was on the tip of my tongue. "Is it dangerous?"

While I pouted at her (and got my mane messed up for my trouble), the doctor shook his head. "I don't think so. It shows no sign of spreading to her organs, and the cursory examination we've performed shows that it's magically inert, with none of the properties of the talisman itself."

This time, Ibis interrupted and I really, really wanted to kick him for it. "Magically inert? Does that mean it won't help her heal?"

"It's too soon to tell for sure, and the growth is minimal, but I shouldn't think so. We'll perform more tests when she wakes up, to make sure. That said, there is one last thing I should mention..."


We all held our breath,the only sound in the room Jacknife's hooves tapping against the tiled floor as she nervously trotted in place. After a moment, the doctor continued.

"According to the documents recovered with the implants, they only activate when the host is severely injured, providing enough regeneration to, at best, stabilise the host's condition. After observing young Rose's recovery, and factoring in the influence of the machine... I'm afraid it won't even be that effective on her."


"W-what do you mean?" This time, it was me speaking, but the doc looked at Ibis instead. I looked between them, confused.

"Ibis, how many healing potions has that mare taken in the past few months?"

The grey griffin looked away, tapping his claw on the clinic floor, frowning. It took a minute before he turned back to the doc. "Since we came to Little Fillydelphia... Maybe... a hundred? She took a beating in all those matches."

My jaw dropped. A hundred healing potions?! I hadn't taken that many in my life!

The doc just nodded, looking thoughtful. "And before that? Was she badly injured at any time?"

"She... almost died, once before..." Ibis glanced at me, and we looked away in tandem. I swallowed, knowing exactly when it had been that my little sister had almost died, and why. I couldn't blame him if he still blamed me. "It took a lot to get her back on her hooves after that... we've both had our share of wounds since, but nothing really... life threatening... not like that..."

With another nod, the doc looked over his shoulder at Rose, who hadn't so much as twitched since being taken from the machine. "I see..." He sighed and turned back to us. "It certainly adds up. You see, young Rose seems to be developing a resistance to healing magic. I thought it was strange how slow her body reacted when you brought her in, how ineffective even our best attempts to heal her were, but now it makes sense..."

I butted in again. "How is that possible? I mean, you can't really get used to healing potions, can you?"

He sighed. "I'm afraid healing magic in general, and potions in particular, are just like most other substances. Excessive use, over time, can reduce its effectiveness. Most folks will never consume enough potions to notice a difference. Young Rose, though..." He waved his hoof at her before giving me and Ibis a stern look. "I strongly suggest letting minor injuries heal naturally, from now on. Stitch them closed, bandage them up, but do not, under any circumstances, give her healing potions when time and care would do just as well."

"But-" I tried to argue, but the doc cut me off, glaring.

"No. She's built up enough of a resistance already; too many unnecessary potions and they may stop working all-together. Understand?"

When I nodded, he looked to Ibis, who copied me, and finally to Magpie who, looking completely serious, gave a single, slow, bob of her head.

The doc sighed, taking his glasses off and wiping them on his foreleg. "Alright, then. I've removed the drip, but it will take some time for the Med-X to work its way out of her system. I know you'll all stay with her, no matter what I say, but let her rest for now. Don't try and wake her up, don't move her and, when she does wake up, try to keep her from getting excited or agitated. There are still some tests I'd like to perfom before giving her the all-clear, but they'll have to wait until she's concious."


As the three of us nodded again and made our way across the room to where Rose lay, I heard the doctor speaking to Jacknife, who had stayed silent during the whole exchange and started towards the bed with the rest of us. "Jacknife, no."

"But I wanna stay with Miss Whiskey!"

"Her family is here, she'll be fine. Besides, you don't want to be late for your meeting, do you? Making them wait would be a bad idea, especially if you want them to agree with your plan."

"Ack! I almost forgot!" With the clatter of hooves on tiles the hyperactive mare was gone, and the doctor headed for his office, sighing.

---------------------------------------------------------------

With a yawn, I sat up and stretched, wiping the drool from my chin and looking around though bleary eyes. I'd fallen asleep on the bottom of Rose's bed, and from where I was sitting I could see Ibis stretched out on the floor, his wings twitching as he slept. Magpie was sitting on a bed on the other side of the room, cleaning her rifle and glancing over at us occasionally. When she saw that I was up, she nodded with a small smile, and I returned the gesture before turning to Rose.

She was sleeping as well, her chest rising and falling steadily under the sheet. What little I could see of her body was criss-crossed with lines where her coat hadn't quite grown back to cover her scars. I sighed, gently reaching out to stroke her side. At least it didn't look like she was in pain... not that she really could be, not after so long in that healing machine... or with that talisman in her...


A growl from my stomach echoed through-out the quiet room, cutting into my thoughts, and Magpie raised her eyebrow at me. I blushed and hopped off the bed, crossing over to the old griffin so I wouldn't have to raise my voice and disturb Rose or Ibis. "Morning."

She set her rifle down and nodded. "Morning. Sleep well?"

I shrugged. "I guess..." Another rumble from my stomach and I grinned sheepishly. "Um... you hungry?"

With a chuckle, she shook her head. "Already ate."

"Oh... well, can you... come outside with me?"

"Still don't like going out alone?" I shook my head, and she laughed quietly. Two months in town, and I was still scared to death of walking around Little Fillydelphia by myself. Don't judge me. Between the gangs and the junkies, the place was terrifying! "Wake my son, take him with you. I'll stay here, in case your sister wakes up or the doc needs help with something."


I nodded and started back across the room, but Magpie called out quietly. "Lily, wait." I stopped and looked over my shoulder at her. "If you get iguana, make sure it's whole. Don't get the diced stuff, got it?"

I frowned. "Why not?"

She half-shrugged. "Just something I heard about, back when I was still a mercenary. Iguana's not always iguana; some folks like to use... different meat, and just call it iguana."

"What else would it be?" I was confused now. Why would anyone call something iguana if it wasn't iguana? "Radhog? Radigator? Ugh, not bloatsprite?"

With a shake of her black-and-white head, she looked me straight in the eye. "Pony."

"Huh? Pony? Wait, you mean..." She nodded. "Oh... OH! GROSS! UGH!" That was worse than bloatsprite! I shuddered, horrified. "What kind of sick bastard would eat ponies?!"

The big griffin just shrugged. "Griffins, ponies with unusual tastes. Minotaurs, maybe."

"Wait, griffins?" I took a step back, suddenly afraid of the big, feathery predator in front of me. "So... have you..."

"No." She shook her head. "I don't like junk food."

"Oh... that's good..." I relaxed a little, then what she said sunk in and I glared at her. "Hey!"

She smirked and waved her claw at me. "You're too easy, kid. Go on, go get yourself some breakfast."


I rolled my eyes and trotted over to where Ibis lay, trying my best to ignore his mother's chuckles. I poked his side, trying to wake him up, but he just rolled over, mumbling in his sleep.

"Ibis... hey... Ibis!" My stomach grumbled again, and I poked him harder, all but whacking my hoof on his chest. "Ibis! Wake up! AH!" Suddenly his arms wrapped around me, pulling me tight to his chest.

"Rose..." Still sound asleep, he snuggled against me.

Oh, hell no!

I struggled, trying to break free. Pressed up against him like that was the last place I wanted to be, especially if he was dreaming about Rose!

As he began to rub my sides, I tried not to panic. "Ibis! Ibis! Wake up, you featherbrain! ACK!"

When his claws started moving towards my flank, I freaked and did the only thing I could think of: Twist my head, get a mouthful of feathers, and yank.

With a squawk, his arms tightened around me, claws digging into my sides and making me yelp in pain as he sat straight up, still clutching me to his chest.

He stared at me for a moment, confused. "You're not Rose..."

I glared at him. "No shit." I squirmed, trying to get free. "Wanna put me down?"

"Huh? Oh! What the hell, Lily?!" Finally awake, he shoved me away, glaring at me as I sprawled on the floor. "What the hell were you doing?!"

I picked myself up and jabbed him with my hoof. "You were the one feeling me up, you pervert!"

He leaned close to me, snapping his beak just in front of my face. "I wouldn't touch you with a ten foot pole, you little-"

"Children~♫." Magpie's voice rang out, interrupting us.

"What?!"

"What?!"

As one, we turned to glare at the old griffin, who just stared back at us patiently. "If you're going to fight, do it outside."

---------------------------------------------------------------

"Jerk."

"Idiot."

We made our way slowly through the town, drawing the occasional sidelong glance but nothing more than that. We'd only stayed in the clinic long enough to grab our stuff before heading out, Magpie 'gently' encouraging us to leave. Ibis had Garden, that huge cannon of his, slung across his back. I guessed that was the reason we were being left alone, since my revolver was out of sight, tucked into my saddlebag... not that I planned on using it. Having it just made me feel safer, that's all.

Other than the occasional insults, we stayed pretty much silent until we reached one of the small food stalls dotted through-out the city. While Ibis placed his order, I sat on the gutter and twisted to check my sides, where Ibis' claws had cut into me when I yanked his feathers out. "What are you doing?"

"Making sure you didn't leave me with any scars, you jerk." I turned back to him, shuddering when I saw the iguana skewers clutched in his claw. Ugh. At least they were whole lizards, so there was no way they could be pony.

The grey griffin rolled his eyes. "There's no way you'll have scars. Hell, there's not even any marks." He jabbed my side with his free claw and I swatted it away, glaring. "That healing potion cleared you right up."

"Yeah, well..." I sighed and hung my head, staring at the ancient asphalt that made up the road. "At least I can still take healing potions..."


Out of the corner of my eye, I saw Ibis sit down, staring at his clawful of roasted reptiles with an unreadable expression. "She'll be fine, Lily. All we have to do is keep her from getting hurt, and she'll be fine."

"But-"

"Look at me." We turned to each other, locking eyes. "We are going to keep her safe. Understand?"

I nodded, the determination in his eyes convincing me that we could do it, that together we could hold all the bad stuff in the world at bay. "Friends to the end? For Rose?" I raised my hoof, holding it out for him to bump, seeking some final affirmation that, come Tartarus or high water, we were in it together.

He stared at me for a moment, frowning like he wasn't sure what to do, then raised the claw holding his lunch and bumped it against my hoof. "For Rose." With a smile, I set my hoof back on the pavement. "Don't make me regret this, Lily."

I glared at him, annoyed. "What's that supposed to mean?"

"Just that you're an idiot."

"And you're a jerk."

---------------------------------------------------------------

"Just take one. Your stomach is starting to get on my nerves."

I opened my mouth to tell Ibis what he could do with the scaled snacks, but another growl from my stomach changed my mind. I hadn't bought anything to eat, after all, and they did look pretty tasty... "Fine." The familiar glow of my magic yanked the biggest skewer from his claw, and he gave me a dirty look.

"You just had to take the biggest one, didn't you?"

"Eeyup." I smirked and, setting aside all thoughts of Not-Iguana, took a bite of the delicious smelling food. It was even better than it looked or smelled, and as we continued our walk back towards to the clinic I devoured it, not even breaking stride as I reached out with my magic for a second one. Telekinesis is a wonderful thing.

"Hey! Get your own." Scowling, Ibis pulled his claw away, making me lose my magical grip.

"C'mon, you've got plenty! Gimme another!" I tried to snatch another one of the tasty morsels away, but he just kept stalking along, holding the dozen or so skewers out of my view.

"No."

"Just one? Please?" I gave him my best begging look, and he rolled his eyes.

"Fine. One more."

"Yay!" Grinning. I snatched the biggest remaining one, making sure to savor it this time. We didn't say much after that, both of us too busy eating, and as we approached the clinic door I licked my lips and let out a belch.


"That was good... WHAH!" Something slammed into me and we went down in a tangle of hooves, rolling a couple of times before bouncing apart. As I lay on my back, dazed, a dirty red hat floated down and landed on my muzzle.

Wait, hat? Oh... not again!

"JACKNIFE!" I got back onto my hooves, shaking the tattered old hat off of my face. It didn't even touch the ground before the projectile pony darted in, grabbed it and plonked it back onto her head, grinning and trotting in place as usual. "Would you stop crashing into me?! That's the eighth time this month!"

"Sorry Miss Lily but I'm super excited 'cause I've got good news and I wanted to tell the doc but you were in front of the door and I didn't see you and that's why I crashed but it's okay because you're not hurt at all! Uh, you're not hurt right?" She froze mid-bounce, frowning, and I shook my head.

"No, Jacknife. I'm not hurt."

"Oh, okay!" She started bouncing again, then zipped into the clinic, calling for Doc Needles. Ibis chuckled, and I turned to him, glaring.

"Let's just get inside already." I snatched another lizard skewer and pushed past him into the clinic, ignoring his squawk of protest. I headed through the lobby, passing Jacknife talking excitedly with the doctor, who nodded at me. I gave him a smile; not his fault the hyper mare seemed to like crashing into me.

Ibis caught up with me and tried to grab the lizard back, but I took a big bite out of it and poked my tongue out at him. "Get your own. This one's mine."

"You took it from me, so give it back." He glared at me, and I smirked.

"Want it? Come get it!" With that, I bolted down the short corridor to the recovery room, looked back to laugh at him... and ran straight into the doorframe.

"Ow..." Laying on the cool tiles, I shook my head, trying to stop the world from spinning as Ibis stepped over me, laughing at my misfortune.

"Idiot."

I snorted at him, before getting back up and following him into the room. "Jerk."


Inside the recovery room, Magpie was leaning over Rose, and we crept up beside her quietly. "How is she, mom?" Ibis spoke first, keeping his voice low as we watched the old griffin stroking our mare's head.

She ran her claw through the scarlet mane as Rose gave a small twitch, whimpering. "She's dreaming; started thrashing around a few minutes ago, but she's calmed down a bit."

"Is there anything we can do?" I propped my front hooves on the bed, shifting out of the way as Rose started kicking, trying to throw off her blanket and whinnying in fear of whatever was in her dream. A moment later she was still again, even though her breathing was still shallow, chest heaving as she panted in her sleep.

Magpie turned to me. "Get Needles. If she keeps going like this, she's going to wake up."

"Got it." As quickly and quietly as I could, I ran through the clinic. To my relief, the doc was still talking to Jacknife in the lobby. Seeing me, he held up his hoof to interrupt the babbling mare.

"Hold on, Jacknife. Is something wrong, Lily?"

"No. Maybe. Magpie says Rose might wake up soon; she's having really bad nightmares."

The doc nodded. "The Med-X should have worked its way out of her system by now, so she should be waking up soon anyway. It might be best if we're there when she wakes up."


I nodded and the three of us went back through the clinic and into the recovery room, where the griffins were sharing some of Ibis' iguana snacks. Rose seemed to have to quieted down, and was just twitching a little now.

"How is she?" The doc asked Magpie. The piebald griffin looked at the sleeping mare and gave a small shrug.

"Dreaming."

The doc nodded. "I see... Jacknife, careful." The younger mare, about to jump onto the bed so she could sit next to her idol, paused and pouted.

"But I wanna tell Miss Whiskey the good news!"

"Wait until she wakes up, okay?"

"But doc-"

"Jacknife, no."

"Fine." The hyper mare frowned and sat down next to the bed, instead of on it. Her hooves didn't stop twitching, though, and I stifled a laugh.

"You can tell me, if you want."

"Really?!" She bounced up into the air, landing on all fours, her eyes shining with excitement. "Because it's super awesome and I wanna tell Miss Whiskey but I guess I can tell you first and-" The doctor sighed and put his hoof on her withers.

"Jacknife..."

"Oh, right." She grinned sheepishly, before getting to the point. "Since Jungle's dead the bosses in town have been arguing over who gets to take over the gym but they don't want each other to have it and I really like boxing so I asked if I could run the gym and they said yes but only because I'm a good courier and they don't think I'll start trouble which is silly because all I wanna do is make Miss Whiskey proud and train lots of awesome Good Pony boxers like her so that there's lots of great fights to watch and don't you think that's just awesome?"

While the be-hatted mare beamed at me, the rest of us, sans the doctor, stared at her, waiting for our brains to catch up with her nonstop stream of words.

"So..." Ibis began, speaking slowly. "You're... in charge of the gym now... right?"

Just as Jacknife opened her mouth, the doc interrupted her. "Let me explain, okay?"

"Fine." The hyper mare pouted, and the doc rubbed her head before turning to us.

"How to put this... Jacknife may not seem it, but she's actually quite valuable to the various gangs who run Little Fillydelphia. She's completely impartial, with no loyalties or ties to any of them. Jungle wasn't one of the gang leaders, but his gym was a useful recruiting ground for them and he never played favorites. With him... gone... it's best that the gym remains in unaffiliated hooves. Hence, Jacknife's new position."

We all gave nods of varying degrees of understanding, but something was bothering me.

"What about that big pony? The one Rose..." I swallowed, hesitating. "The one she fought. Wasn't he with one of the gangs?"

The doc shook his head, grimacing. "Ironchops was a danger to everyone in this city. He won't be missed."

"Oh... Well-"

A hacking sound cut me off and we all turned to see Rose sitting up, coughing and weezing.

"Rose!"

"Red!"

"Miss Whiskey!"

She just weezed at us, her eyes unfocused, and the doc stepped forwards, putting his hoof on her chest and pushing her back down gently. "Jacknife, get some clean water from storage, she needs something to drink. Miss Rose, try not to talk; you've been unconcious for two months and what you're feeling is normal."

"Water!" Jacknife held up a bottle of clear water, and I had to blink to make sure I wasn't seeing things. I hadn't even seen her leave!

Magpie took the bottle before me or Ibis could, popped the lid off and held it to Rose's mouth, letting her sip at it. "Good work, Magpie." The doc nodded approvingly. "Miss Rose, take it slow. Don't drink too much, now."


After a few minutes, Rose finally let Magpie take the water away and the doctor stepped forwards, his horn glowing. As he checked her over, paying extra attention to her head, we waited nervously. Eventually, after the unbearable wait, the doc turned back to us. "It doesn't look like she has brain damage, but after so long unconcious she may be a little confused. You can talk to her now, but don't overwhelm her. Understand?" We all nodded, and he turned to the bouncing mare, who was already trying to sneak onto Rose's bed, giving us a sheepish grin when she realised she was busted. "Jacknife, you can talk to her later. She needs to rest now."

"But- gah, fine." The stallion pointed his hoof at the door, and the complaining mare trotted out. With a shake of his head the doctor followed her, leaving the three of us alone with Rose.


I moved first, hopping up onto the end of the bed and smiling as Rose tried to focus on me. "Hey, sis. How're you feeling?"

She sat up a bit, looking at me closer. "Lily?" With a groan, she shook her head. "My head hurts..."

Ibis sat on the side of the bed, next to Rose, and she leaned against him. I fought down the wave of jealousy; she was my little sister, I should be the one to comfort her! "Easy, Red... you got hurt bad again... What's the last thing you remember?"

Rose shut her eyes, and I moved next to her, stroking her mane and trying to get it to look neat. Ibis took her hoof in his claw while Magpie sat next to the bed, quiet and watching us. "I was talking to Jungle, and Ironchops was there... I think he was angry about the fight..." She opened her eyes and looked at me, unsure. "Lily... why would he be angry about the fight?"

I shrugged. "I... I dunno, Rose..."

"Probably didn't like getting beaten." Magpie spoke up.

Ibis nodded. "Jungle tried to convince me to talk Rose into throwing the match, said Ironchops was crazy... guess he was right..." He gave Rose's hoof a squeeze. "Anything else, Red? Anything at all?"

"I... Ironchops, he..." She shuddered, so I pulled her into a hug (and away from Ibis). "He killed me..."

I rubbed her head, trying to comfort her. Ibis wrapped an arm around both of us, and I saw Magpie nod to him out of the corner of my eye. "C'mon, sis... it's not like you actually died... you just got... hurt... bad. Right?" I gave a hopeful smile, but it was quickly wiped away.

"I died, Lily... I died."

"Rose, what-" Trembling, she shook her head.

"He killed me... then he buried me... Starfall brought me back..."


On hearing that name, the name that thing had given, me and Ibis looked at each other. We hadn't wanted to ever think about her ever again, and Rose had spoken about her so casually...

"Starfall?" Magpie raised an eyebrow at us.

"Mom, don't-"

"She's my conscience." Rose interrupted Ibis. "She helps me to be a good pony, and she brought me back when I died." For the first time since she woke up, she managed a small smile. Magpie didn't look convinced, though.

"Your conscience... right..."

Rose nodded, but I put my hoof on the end of her muzzle before she could speak. "Um, Magpie... don't ask? Please?" I smiled at the old griffin nervously, and she frowned, glaring first at me then Ibis.

"This has something to do with what happened to those stallions in the gym, doesn't it?"

"Eh... hehe... maybe?" The longer she stared at me, the more nervous I got. Rose looked at each of us, confused.

"What happened at the gym?"

Ibis saved me from having to answer, using our agreed-upon lie. "You fought Ironchops and Jungle, remember? You just said so. They must've taken you back to the gym, after knocking you out or something. When we got there, you'd already killed Jungle and you were..." He grimaced, "killing Ironchops."

Rose shook her head, her mane falling messily over her face. "Nuh-uh! Ironchops killed me at the graveyard! Starfall wanted me to kill them when she brought me back, but revenge is for bad ponies so I said no... she must've killed them."

Before me or Ibis could speak, Magpie leaned on the bed. I shrank back against Ibis; she was really scary sometimes. "Enough secrets, you two. Tell me. What. Happened."


With no other choice, me and Ibis told Magpie what had really happened. It took a little while, but when we were done she sat back, eyeing us. Rose didn't seem bothered in the least by what Starfall had done, and Magpie had kept her face carefully blank the whole time, so I had no idea what she thought.

"So..."

I fidgeted. Next to me, I could hear Ibis' wings rustling. Rose was between us, leaning on me with her hoof safely gripped in Ibis' claw.

"You're telling me that you really died, and that some voice in your head brought you back?" Rose nodded. "And you two say that voice managed to do that to Ironchops, using Rose's body, which was falling apart?" Me and Ibis nodded, and Magpie sighed, running her claw through her crest. "This is insane."

She shook her black-and-white head slowly, before sighing again. "You don't want me to tell your parents, do you Lily?"

"Um, please?" I gave her my best smile, hoping to convince her that it was for the best.

"I need to know something first." Magpie pointed her claw at my sister, who just blinked in response. "Rose, who or what is Starfall?"

Rose shrugged. "She's my conscience."

"What does that even mean??"

"She helps me be a good pony."

Seeing she wasn't getting anywhere, Magpie tried a different question. "Alright... where did she come from?"

Another shrug. "I don't know."


After a few more minutes of fruitless questioning, Magpie groaned. "Fine. I give up. I won't tell your parents what happened, because I don't understand it myself. You two," She pointed at me and Ibis, glaring. "can come up with something to tell them. And you..." She turned to Rose, and her harsh look softened as she scratched my sister's head. "no more running off, with or without my son. Got it?"

Rose nodded slowly, her eyes closed as she enjoyed the head scratch... until a loud growl, like a hellhound that just sat on a cactus, roared through the room.

As one, me, Ibis and Magpie stared at Rose, who blushed. "Um... Lily? I'm hungry."

Ibis started chuckling, then it spread to Magpie, who started laughing, and finally me. In seconds, we were all laughing our heads off. She hadn't had anything to eat for two months, after all.

---------------------------------------------------------------

I hopped up onto Rose's bed as quietly as I could, so I didn't disturb the two griffins. Ibis was dozing on the floor beside Rose's bed, while Magpie was stretched out on her usual bed on the other side of the room. "Hey, sis. Can't sleep?"

She shook her head before letting out a small cough. "My chest hurts. It's all tight and I can't breathe properly."

I sat beside her and she leaned against me, small tremors running through her body with each breath. "That's the talisman, remember? The thing the doc put in you?" She nodded, and I put my hoof on her back, rubbing in small circles. "It's not just that, is it?"

"No... I don't wanna sleep, Lily..." She shuddered. "I just wanna go home... see auntie and uncle again..."

"We'll go as soon as the doctor says we can, okay?"

"Okay."

I gave her a hug. "Anything else wrong, sis?"

"No... not really..."

"Okay." I hugged her tighter. "Rose, are you sure you're okay? I mean, you... you died..."

She buried her face against my chest. "It... it hurt, Lily... it hurt so much, but... but coming back hurt even more..." Her breathing, already shallow, grew quicker. She was still shaking, too. "I'm so cold... Lily, I'm scared... what if I'm not really alive? Starfall says I am, but nothing feels real..."

"Shhh.... it's okay, Rose." I hugged her as tightly as I could. "You're really alive, I promise. Me and... and Starfall both say it, so it's gotta be true, right?" I forced a grin onto my face, but Rose didn't look up. Instead, she gave a tiny nod.

"Y-yeah... Lily?"

"What?"

"I don't wanna sleep alone, and Ibis is too big for the bed..."

I chuckled. "I'll stay with you, sis. Don't worry."

---------------------------------------------------------------

It was just over a week before the doc cleared Rose to leave. Magpie and Ibis had brought back so many supplies from the hospital that we had a good supply, even after turning over most of them (including the second talisman) to the doctor as payment for taking care of Rose.

We spent the last day in Little Fillydelphia stocking up on food and bullets before heading to the newly renamed Jacknife Gym to say our farewells to the courier and the doctor.


"-and don't worry Miss Whiskey because I'll take super good care of the gym and you won't have to worry because nopony will ever be as good of a champion as you but I bet I can train all sorts of awesome fighters!"

Jacknife bounced from hoof to hoof, her grin huge as she finished her little farewell speech, and Rose smiled. "Just be a good pony, Jacknife... better than Jungle, okay?"

The courier nodded and gave an extra big bounce. "Yep! Jungle wasn't so bad though Miss Whiskey. He always payed good when he wanted me to deliver stuff and-"

"Um... what happened to the bodies? They aren't, y'know, still here, are they?" I whispered to the doctor, while Rose and Jacknife carried on their mostly one-sided conversation.

"Jungle's buried in the graveyard." The doc straightened his glasses. "Ironchops, on the other hoof, was dumped outside of town."

"Oh..."

"Don't look like that. He was an animal, and he got what he deserved."

"I-I guess..." I still didn't like the thought of somepony being dumped like that, just thrown to the wildlife.

---------------------------------------------------------------

"Bye Miss Whiskey! Bye Miss Lily! Bye Miss Whiskey's Trainer! Bye Miss Whiskey's Trainer's Mom!" Jacknife bounced up and down, waving her front hooves in the air as our group left town. "Come back soon!"

The doctor was more subdued, waving one hoof farewell in response to ours as we began the long trek home. As the doctor and the courier faded into the distance behind us, I smiled. Rose was on one side of me, safely wrapped in her old duster, her precious gun once more holstered on her back. On the other side of her was Ibis, big and strong and, even though we had our problems, I knew I could count on him. On my other side, my trusty guardian, Magpie.


It didn't take long before I got bored, though. "Hey, how does some music sound?" Without waiting for a reply, I tapped my pipbuck, still secured to the strap of my saddlebag, and tuned into the Little Fillydelphia radio station.

The song that came from the speaker was one we all knew, and as we started to sing my heart soared. We were homeward bound, together again, and I could only see good times ahead.

Somewhere over the rainbow, way up high
There's a land that I've heard of once in a lullaby.
Somewhere over the rainbow, skies are blue
And the dreams that you dare dream,
Really do come true.

Someday I'll wish upon a star
And wake up where the clouds are far behind me.
Where troubles melt like lemon drops,
Away above the chimney tops,
That's where you'll find me.

Somewhere over the rainbow, blue birds fly
Birds fly over the rainbow
Why then, oh why can't I?
If happy little bluebirds fly beyond the rainbow
Why, oh why can't I?

Someday I'll wish upon a star
And wake up where the clouds are far behind me.
Where troubles melt like lemon drops,
Away above the chimney tops,
That's where you'll find me.

Somewhere over the rainbow, blue birds fly
Birds fly over the rainbow
Why then, oh why can't I?
If happy little bluebirds fly beyond the rainbow
Why, oh why can't I?

"Lily, your singing sucks."

"Shut up, Ibis."

Author's Note:

Sorry for the long wait on this one, folks, but hopefully it was worth it.
Look forward to good times from here on out, my friends. There's more than just darkness in the world, and even the heaviest storm has a rainbow.

Here's to Winter Storm, Midnight Stalker and all you loyal readers. KKat, Somber, and all the other amazing authors out there! You guys are the best!

I'm dropping the level-up stuff from here on out, unless enough people want me to continue with it. There's a good reason for this, though: I lost my level notes. :facehoof:
Now, this won't affect the story negatively. It may actually give me a little bit more freedom. We'll see how it goes.