• Published 5th Oct 2017
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The Spirit of a Pegasus - bookplayer



In early Equestria, the pegasi cling to their traditions. Seeking a father for her foal for one of those traditions leads Pansy to consider her true feelings for Commander Hurricane, but she finds his emotions protected by armor nopony has pierced.

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6 - Fight With Honor

Pansy stared at the closed door for a moment, then took a breath and glanced around to see the similarly shocked faces of the others.

She could have murdered Puddinghead. She could have easily echoed Hurricane’s words to her, and more besides. She’d been told to stop, warned several times, but civility never mattered to her and now she’d hurt somepony deeply. Even if it was unintentional, this was her habit and it was bound to happen eventually, so the blame fell on her.

Pansy took another deep breath. The silence was growing oppressive, and things had to be addressed. The look on Puddinghead’s face said that the commander’s words had their intended effect, that there was no use in driving the knife deeper, no matter how much she might deserve it.

“I’m sorry, he shouldn't have—” Pansy started, but Cookie cut in with a cold, clear voice:

“Oh yes, he should have. Puddinghead isn’t hiding behind our tribe here. He reached for the most vile thing he could call her, and I promise it still didn’t hurt either of us half as much as her comments hurt him.”

Puddinghead swallowed and nodded, her eyes downcast. “Cookie’s right. If you’re tossing your chamber pot out the window, you can’t complain when shit splashes you.”

Cookie’s eyes narrowed, and he went on to her, “Not to mention that I distinctly remember you implying similar things about me, in public debate no less. Were you hoping for a reaction like that?”

“Well, of course not.” Puddinghead sighed and shook her head. “Nor did I mean to treat Hurricane like that. In both cases I was just trying to goad you fellows… But I’m not too drunk to see that I went miles too far.”

“That poor pony…” Platinum said softly.

Pansy blinked as her fury at Puddinghead faded and the exact nature of the transgression became clear, along with far too many implications about the recent weeks to consider at once.

Cookie frowned. “And the worst of it is that we’re thinking that, and he knows it. It must drive a pony like Hurricane mad…”

“Well, why are we?” Clover asked with a shrug. “He has a full life, friends, and his health, save that. He has nothing to be ashamed of, and there are ponies in the world far more deserving of pity.”

Platinum pursed her lips and gave Clover a reproachful look. “It’s both expected and obvious that he’s ashamed, whether he has a good reason or not.”

“I’d imagine it’d weigh on him quite a bit.” Puddinghead sighed and looked around the room. “If you ponies think I’m bad, think what it’d be like if his soldiers found out.”

“She makes a fair point.” Platinum nodded. “Hurricane is a bold pony, but I’m not sure even he could command an army that considered him a laughing stock.”

Pansy bit her lip, looking at her water glass. She knew well that might be true, but equally well that those ponies ought to be dismissed as dishonorable sons of crows and run out of her military.

“Why should they find out?” Clover looked around the room with a challenge. “What business is it of theirs, or ours, or any pony he doesn't plan to share a bed with?”

“It’s no business of ours, and certainly not anypony else’s, but it’s in regards to his bed that I feel most sorry for him.” Cookie sighed, his eyes downcast. “It’s no wonder he has no wife or lovers. I know I wouldn’t have dared approach Celestia, knowing that I’d never be able to perform certain tasks expected of a suitor.”

Pansy’s head snapped to look at Cookie. She made her face even to fight all manner of reactions.

Clover gave him a flat look. “Are you suggesting that if you lost your ability to perform those tasks, Princess Celestia might love you less?”

He shook his head. “She wouldn’t, but it would concern me.”

Puddinghead tilted her head at him. “Would Princess Celestia notice?”

“Haven’t we heard enough out of you?” Cookie snapped with a dark glare at Puddinghead.

Puddinghead looked at him with innocent surprise. “It’s no judgement on you! She’s half again your size!”

Clover shook her head and looked at Cookie. “Star Swirl is a good bit older than me. As these things arise, or fail to, it won’t change our situation one bit. It’s a foolishness stallions have, thinking their jewels are some magical component of a relationship.”

Cookie shrugged. “How can you blame us, when careless words like Puddinghead’s tell us we can’t please a mare without it? I’m wise enough to have faith in Celestia to not consider such foolishness, but that’s knowing her love for me. To expect a friend, or worse an attractive acquaintance to be willing to overlook something like that…”

“And there are some who won’t, because mares are ponies and some ponies are fools,” Clover said plainly. “I don’t know why you’d want to lay with one of those fools myself, and I’d expect intelligent ponies like you and Hurricane to get over the absence.”

“Now, that’s not entirely fair,” Platinum said gently. “There are perfectly good reasons for some mares to be concerned, if they need to provide heirs or want a family. If the pegasi consider it important to bear foals of the best bloodlines, mares like Pansy would certainly take it into consideration.”

“No,” Pansy said firmly as her thoughts on the debate fell neatly into place. “Perhaps for other ponies, but no mare of honor should waste a second thought on that in consideration of Commander Hurricane."

She looked around the table to see all eyes focused on her and went on in a clear voice, “The entire reason for bearing an honor foal is that when you’re gone your strengths might live on and help ponies of the future. The commander already has a legacy written in the stars, he’s done more for the strength of our tribe and Equestria than a dozen foals of the finest feathers might accomplish together.

“To be the mare who stands beside him and offers him comfort may mean the end of one’s line, but it would be a worthy sacrifice, and to waste a moment considering it would show a lack of honor that would mark a mare as entirely undeserving of a stallion like Hurricane.”

Clover nodded to her with a smile. “Exactly. If this is the largest failing Hurricane has, in the balance he’s a remarkable pony, and any mare who loves him would see that.”

Pansy caught the quirk in Clover’s eyebrow as she finished. Her heart beat faster and her wings wanted to twitch.

“He doesn’t seem to think so,” Cookie pointed out.

Pansy stared at Cookie. Then she rose swiftly to her hooves and started for the door. “I have to go.”

Her brisk walk turned to a gallop in the hallway, and as soon as she was outside of the building she took off into the night sky.

***

Hurricane couldn’t imagine facing Puddinghead without killing her.

He couldn’t imagine facing his friends without turning away in shame.

He couldn’t imagine facing Pansy…

He flew from Platinum’s manor to his cloud home, but passed it without landing. There would be no rest until his wings refused to carry him. He banked and turned back, flying past the barracks to the drill sky.

In the open air of the drill sky he ran through form after form, feeling only the air rushing by and the force of his wings against it. In his mind, the voices of sergeants from his youth shouted the orders and Hurricane’s body obeyed. He kept it up for hours, until his wings protested, then demanded he stop.

When his wings ached to the point he feared they would give out, he finally conceded the physical demands of his worn body, turning to land on the clouds below.

They were lit by the moon, bright banks and valleys almost glowing. The pony standing there watching him was surrounded by that light, her blue form and white mane clear as day.

It was nearly enough to make him turn and fly home; he would have if his wings would have carried him. But that wasn’t an option, so he touched his hooves down as far from her as he could, at the edge of the clouds. He sat there and stretched his wings, looking over the edge at the lit streetlamps of Everfree.

He didn’t hear her approach, but he didn’t need to. He knew she was there even before she spoke.

After a moment of silence, she said in an even voice, “Commander.”

“Leave me be,” he said, unable to put the force behind it that he felt.

“Hurricane,” she said more firmly. “I should let you know that Puddinghead is sincerely sorry. She had no idea. And none of our friends thinks any less of you.”

Hurricane snorted.

“And I’m sorry I asked in the first place,” she added.

He shook his head. “You did nothing wrong.”

The cloud shifted as she sat down next to him, but he didn’t look over. He focused on the lights below, on the ache of his wings, on the chill of the night air on his sweat-soaked coat.

“Was it a wound?” Pansy asked after a moment. She added quickly, “You don’t have to answer.”

The silence of the night surrounded them. He didn’t have to tell her, it was nopony’s business, and just thinking about it shed far more light on the memories than he prefered. But some part of him hoped that if she knew the truth she might understand and forgive him all he couldn’t be to her.

“An accident at the academy. A bit of coltish foolishness, nothing honorable. It left me…” he swallowed and drew his strength. “It left me entirely useless. I managed to keep it from my records, only the medic who worked there knew, and he’s long gone.”

She was quiet for a time before stating simply, “Destiny can be a son of a crow sometimes.”

He stared at the city below, his head held high. “I redirected my energies. I’ve had an impeccable career.”

“You have.”

He nodded, never glancing at her. “We take what the stars give us and make the most of it. And what’s out of reach...” He paused, then added in a professional tone, “So, you see now how your feelings are misplaced.”

“Have you considered speaking with Clover? Or a unicorn physician? They might have methods…”

He drew his lips in a tight line. “I could never let them know.”

“That you were injured?”

“That I’m…” he closed his eyes and searched for a word. “Broken. That I’m barely a stallion.”

“I told you that you’re the finest stallion I know of.” If there was pity in her heart, it was hidden by her even tone.

Hurricane sighed and opened his eyes, hazarding a glance at her. Pansy studied him, her head tilted, her face flat and relaxed.

“You didn’t know then,” he pointed out. “You thought I was whole.”

“My opinion hasn’t changed.”

“Then you’re a fool.” He shook his head. “I’m not capable of the most basic function of a stallion.”

Pansy shrugged. “What’s that to my judgement of you? I have no idea if General Swiftwing or General Highwind are in working order, and it’s none of my business if they are or not. I still judge you their superior, because you are the greater stallion in every noble way.”

“I’ve made it the aim of my life,” he said softly.

“You’ve been successful.” She looked him in the eye with nothing but calm approval.

“Perhaps.” He nodded. “I think so, sometimes, when I’m not reminded of the ways I’m unfit.”

“You can’t sire foals…” Pansy tilted her head. “And you can’t join with a mare?”

Hearing it stated so plainly in her calm voice nearly made him cringe, but he held his face steady. “No.”

She gave another small shrug, still looking him in the eye. “This seems a minor weakness in the face of your accomplishments.”

Hurricane looked away, this time up at the night sky. It seemed crowded with the stars that guided the fates of ponies, and all of them were mocking him. “To be forced to hold one's heart at a safe distance is no small weakness.”

“What forces you to do that?”

He looked at Pansy next to him, a beautiful mare with unmatched honor and a strength of spirit he thought existed only in legend. He drew himself up in a futile attempt to match her.

“My honor. I could never court a mare under false pretenses, yet I can tell nopony. I can’t court a mare who might someday wish to continue her line, knowing that would end with me. I won’t subject a mare to a life without foals or pleasure because I might trick her into loving me.”

“I can understand that loving you means an end to one’s line, but…” She turned to look out at the town below as she went on, “With all due respect, I do not believe for a moment it would deprive a mare of pleasure. Even at a tactical disadvantage, you would never let that keep you from giving your very best. Short a weapon, you’d fight with your hooves and whatever else might be available, fiercely and to the finish.” She bit her lip. “Of course, if you didn’t want to because you couldn’t take joy in it, I would understand.”

He shook his head with a frown, looking down on the same scene. His words came in a strained, uncertain voice that he hardly recognized. “I couldn’t care less for the joy a stallion takes. At this point I—I just want to feel the body of a mare… and... to know I could please her without thinking she’s lying out of pity or sympathy.”

“Have you tried?”

Still focused on the town, Hurricane thought of the mares through the years who’d made it clear his advances wouldn’t be unwelcome. There had been many when he was an officer or a young commander, but none worth the risk. Even Pansy hadn’t overcome that calculation.

“I thought not,” she answered his silence. “Your cowardice prevents you knowing if you even have reason to fear.”

Hurricane’s head snapped to look at her with a scowl on his face. “You call me a coward, Major?”

Pansy raised her eyebrows. “Is there another word for a pony who never follows their heart because they fear failure?”

His frown deepened and his eyes narrowed. “And I suppose I must prove my bravery in your bed.”

She held the same even expression on her face, but her words were soft and unsure, “Is that where your heart leads you?”

Closing his eyes, Hurricane rubbed a hoof over his face. “My heart leads me to leave you be. To leave you for a stallion who can be everything for you, who can sire your foal, who will never look upon your bed with fear or regret.”

“Begging your pardon, but that’s griffon shit, and we both know it well.” Her voice was firm, with little room for question. “Even if I had a whole division’s worth of potential suitors, would you not trust me to know my own desires?”

“I would be concerned that your care for me as a friend and pity for my state would sway you,” Hurricane said, slowly and forcefully.

“Do you love me?”

He looked at her in surprise at the bluntness of the question. That was his mistake; in his shock he had no mask, and the second he caught sight of her beautiful purple eyes there was no need for an answer.

Pansy’s mouth twitched to a frown and those beautiful eyes narrowed. “If your heart leads you to deny me love so that you can hide from your weakness, you are the lowest kind of coward, who would harm an innocent to protect himself.”

“I would never harm you,” Hurricane said sincerely.

“Yet you did!” she snapped, rising to her hooves to give full force to her words. “When I tried to tell you of my feelings, you insulted my reason and honor to hide this from me. If this cruelty is really your heart, it is not as a stallion you are unfit. It is as a pony.”

Seeing her looking down on him, Hurricane stood himself, a head taller than the slight mare. His eyes narrowed. “I did that only to spare us both worse. You said in your own words that you wanted me to sire a foal on you, that you thought of me as a virile stallion! I can never be the stallion you want. You ask me to subject myself to a life of constant failure in your eyes…” The thought of it stole all power and passion, and he finished in a choked voice, “I can’t do that.”

Pansy’s face didn’t move, the angry mask held firm. She spoke each word as sharp as a knife, looking up into his face, “Six thousand, one hundred spears.”

He hesitated for only a moment, but she went on,

“You stood and watched me throw six thousand, one hundred spears. And we both know I would have thrown a million more. I could never be the soldier you wanted, I faced pain and failure every day, for four months. And I asked you for more of it each time; my only fear was that you’d say no, and I’d lose the chance to make you want me for a soldier.”

Hurricane swallowed. “You should have asked.to be transferred. You could have destroyed your shoulder.”

“I knew what I wanted. Do you know what you want?”

He stared at her, at the lightning flashing in her eyes, at her small body held proud and unyielding, at the moonlight shining on her face and shoulders.

“I do,” he said softly. “I always have.”

“Then fight for it with honor!” Pansy shouted. “And damn the failure and humiliation to Tartarus where it belongs.”

Hurricane didn’t give himself time to consider, he stepped towards her and pressed his lips to hers in a deep kiss. He channeled all of his passion and longing into it. Nothing else mattered at that moment; nothing but Pansy and the years of love he had to make her understand.

When they parted, the fury had melted from her face, replaced by a stunned awe. He stepped closer, feeling her nuzzle his neck as he smelled the fresh scent of soap and clean air in her mane.

Hurricane tried to speak, and his voice came out in a desperate whisper, “Pansy, I— I knew I could never love a pony. I made our tribe, our… spirit my only love.” He swallowed and closed his eyes. “And then you stood before me, and I saw all of the strength and honor I had dedicated my life to, in the form of a beautiful mare. You became my most loyal soldier, my most trusted advisor, and the dearest friend I’ve ever had. I— I would do anything for you, I would give my life for you, but…”

With strength he didn’t know he possessed, he stepped back and steadied himself, looking into her eyes. “You want to continue your line, as a pony of your worth should. I would steal that from you. Even if I can please you when we lay together, there will always be a way I can’t join with you. There’s no dishonor in considering those things, they are fact.” He took a breath and felt tears stinging his eyes as he added, “But whatever you decide, I will always love you.”

Pansy didn’t hesitate. She laid a hoof gently on the side of his face, and with the stars shining in her eyes she answered, “I want you, Hurricane, and only you. I never thought I wanted a courtship, but when I considered asking you to sire my foal and realized how I welcomed the idea of laying with you, I realized I already have the stallion I need in my life. A pony I see daily in nearly every capacity. A pony who has respected me and supported me in my career and cared for me tenderly as a friend. A pony I respect in turn so deeply and passionately that to call it love seems to cheapen it… but I think that is its proper name.”

As she finished, familiar fears began to crowd Hurricane’s mind, but he shoved them aside and forced himself to ask, “Pansy… will you come home with me tonight?”

“It would be an honor.” Pansy smiled up at him. Her hoof ran down his cheek and neck before she pulled it away and cocked her head to the side with a mischievous smirk. “Though, I should warn you to expect no pity from me. I demand your best efforts, nothing less, and I will not accept surrender. You’ll be dismissed when, and only when, I give you leave. Is that clear, Commander Hurricane?”

Against all reason, Hurricane felt a smile spread across his face. He nodded. “Yes, Ma’am.”

“Good.” She walked over and leaned against him, offering another nuzzle under his chin. “Let’s go home.”