• Published 3rd Jun 2019
  • 1,709 Views, 215 Comments

Where We Belong - BlazzingInferno



Eternal night shrouds Equestria, and an even worse fate awaits Rarity. Or so she’s been led to believe.

  • ...
12
 215
 1,709

Belonging

Some parts of the castle were much cleaner than others, although Rarity supposed she and Spike were wholly responsible for their room currently being the wreck that it was. In any case, the sun shone brightly in the morning sky, and after a long walk through hallways in terrible need of a mop, window cleaner, and freshly laundered tapestries, they’d arrived at what had undoubtedly been an ornate waiting room, once upon a time. The carpet had been cleaned, but only so much could be done to hide the ravages of time, to say nothing of the silhouettes on the wallpaper showing where the full compliment of furniture had once stood. All that remained were two massive oak doors, the gateway to one of Princess Celestia’s private meeting rooms, or so a guard had told them.

Not that such things really mattered, of course. What mattered was that she was here with some of her best pony friends and her dragon companion. She’d stationed herself by a wall, leaning on it for support while Spike paced back and forth.

“Spikey, please come here and stand still. You’re making me nervous.”

He chewed on his claws for a moment, but finally relented and stood beside her, one hand resting on her back. Fluttershy smiled at them from across the room, her serene expression devoid of all the worry Rarity had come to expect from her. “You’re looking awfully calm this morning, Fluttershy. Did you try that camomile tea I suggested?”

Fluttershy shook her head. “No. I’m just so happy the sun’s out again. This morning I went outside to talk to the woodpeckers living in the south garden’s trees, and they told me all my animal friends back in Ponyville are okay. I’m so relieved, I can’t even think about being nervous.”

Rainbow Dash, who had yet to set hoof on the floor, groaned. “Don’t suppose you could’ve asked how all the Ponyville ponies are doing, Fluttershy? I need to check on all my old buds.”

Fluttershy’s ears drooped. “Oh, sorry. I guess I didn’t think of that… but we’ll get to go home soon, won’t we? Princess Celestia said she only needed to speak to us briefly, after all.”

Pinkie held up a sizable pocket watch and glared at its handless face. “That was forty five minutes ago, Fluttershy!”

Rainbow groaned again. “Yeah… Anypony else think it was a bad idea to let Twilight go first? She’s probably asking a bazillion boring questions straight out of Princess Celestia’s autobiography or something.”

Fluttershy cleared her throat. “Well, technically she’s second. I heard a guard say Applejack came here right after sunrise. That must be why she’s not here waiting with us.”

Pinkie twisted her curly mane around her forelegs. “And now she’s rocking the after-party without me? I’m gonna go stir-crazy!”

Spike left Rarity’s side and stepped in front of Pinkie. “Um… Do want to know some cool facts about the castle to help pass the time?”

Pinkie gave a pained nod. “Anything.”

Rarity held her breath. In her estimation Spike was attempting to defuse a pony-shaped timebomb filled with confetti.

“Well… the reason the castle’s already got food and lots of staff ponies working in it is because there’s a bunch of storage cellars carved right out of the mountain.”

Pinkie moaned. “Sooo bored!”

“And Celestia had an emergency plan set up so if there’s ever a disaster like Nightmare Moon, all her staff can go down there and live off like a ten year food supply and still have extra to bring out to ponies in need. That’s why there’s still ponies living in Canterlot; they’ve been secretly getting food from the castle this whole time!”

Pinkie perked up an ear. “But… but that means everypony probably just had boring stuff to eat like bread and rice, and and—” she stifled a gag “—sugar free stuff.”

Spike shrugged. “Yeah, probably, but—”

Pinkie jumped up, grinning maniacally. “I’ll go last! I’ve got a gazillion cupcakes to bake! If Princess Celestia needs me, I’m in the kitchens bringing laughter back to food prep!”

Gale-force winds heralded her supersonic departure and nearly sent Spike flying out a nearby window. Rarity caught him with ease and huffed angrily. “Honestly, the way she carries on…”

Rainbow shrugged. “She’ll be calmer after she’s got some sugar in her. She’s still ticked off that ‘dessert’ last night was this teeny tiny vanilla cookie with some fancy cream on it. It was like half a bite, tops.”

Rarity rolled her eyes. Apparently she’d missed the most gourmet part of the meal. She set Spike beside her and smiled, knowing she’d do so all over again in a heartbeat.

Spike leaned against the wall and put a hand over his heart. “She’s calmer when she gets more sugar?”

The oak doors flew open, and Twilight strolled out with a smile wide enough to rival Pinkie’s.

Rainbow landed in front of her. “Finally! What took so—”

Twilight pranced around her like a filly on her birthday. “Princess Celestia said she was ‘astounded’ by my magic research! The way I broke us out of The Pit and developed a spell to locate the Elements of Harmony and their ideal bearers was ‘genius’ and we’re going to meet twice a month so she can tutor me in person, and I get to send her a letter every week! I… can’t… believe…”

Fluttershy stepped forward just in time to prop Twilight up with a wing while she caught her breath. “That’s wonderful, Twilight.”

“Let’s not forget my stipulation,” Princess Celestia added.

Rarity turned to see the Princess herself standing in the doorway, looking every bit as dazzling and regal as one could imagine. She bowed low, and nudged Spike when he didn’t do the same. “Manners, dear.”

Twilight took a great, gasping breath. “Oh, right. I… um… can’t live at the school… or in the castle.”

Princess Celestia nodded, her smile radient. “A star student might do so, but I think you’ve grown far beyond simple classwork, don’t you? You’ll learn far more by living among your new friends and nurturing the bond you all share.”

Twilight nodded. “I won’t let you down, Princess Celestia!”

“I know you won’t, Twilight, not after what you’ve already accomplished. Would it be all right with everypony if I speak to Rarity next? I promise this will be a much shorter conversation, and there are others involved who shouldn’t be kept waiting any longer than necessary.”

Spike sucked in a quiet breath.

Rarity cleared her throat. “If it’s all right with you, Princess Celestia, could you speak to Spike and I together? There’s nothing in the world that you could say to me that I would mind him hearing, and I believe he feels the same way.”

Spike nodded, clasping and unclasping his claws. “But it’s okay if you don’t need to talk to me… because I can just wait out here for Rarity and… uh… help make sure Twilight doesn’t hyperventilate again.”

Celestia chuckled and beckoned them to follow with a sweep of her foreleg. “I wouldn’t dream of leaving you out, Spike. Come.”

Rarity gave him a quick hug and pushed him forward. “Neither would I, Spikey.”

Beyond the oak doors was a surprisingly simple room, despite the furnishings being intact. The carpet was plush and clean, but clearly not new. Well-stocked bookcases lined the walls, broken only by other sets of oak doors. A circle of oversized sitting pillows made up the interior, lit from above by natural sunlight filtering down through a domed skylight. Princess Celestia settled herself on the largest of the pillows, which was still on the small side for a pony of her stature. “Please, sit. May I offer you some tea?”

Celestia’s horn lit, and a china tea service in the middle of the pillow circle sprang to life, setting out three cups.

Rarity didn’t have enough air left in her lungs to speak; she hadn’t breathed in since setting foot in this wondrous place, this inner sanctum that had no doubt been a meeting place for dignitaries, decorated generals, and foreign leaders. And now the Princess of Equestria was offering to pour her a cup of tea.

Spike ended up pushing her forward, at which point she spat out some combination of “yes, your majesty” and “it would be an honor” all mashed together in an undignified mess.

Patting her shoulder, Spike guided her to a pillow. “Heh, it’s her first time talking to you in person, Celestia. If you say ‘I’d like to buy a dress from you’ she might spaz out worse than Twilight.”

Rarity gasped and jabbed him in the arm. “Spike! How dare—”

Celestia’s laugher cut her off. “Perhaps I’ll save the dress orders for another time. I believe the contents royal treasury would be better spent on feeding the needy and rebuilding Equestria, at present.”

Rarity sat down before she could fall down, and nodded emphatically. “I couldn’t agree more.”

“But that’s not why I’ve asked the two of you here. Twilight already filled me in on the basics of your ordeal, so I’ll start with this:—” she held out a foreleg —“It’s wonderful to see you again, Spike.”

Spike gasped. “It’s g-great to see you, too! When Rarity… When she told me what happened to you—” he hung his head “—I should’ve been here to help. I’m sorry that I—”

Celestia stood and reached for him, lifting his chin with her golden shoe. “You were doing what you needed to when you left on the dragon migration, and your mission to the dragons was a complete success.”

“What? But the dragons I met were total jerks! They don’t care about friendship! They… well you know where I ended up, right?”

“Yes, but you shouldn’t be upset that they didn’t change their ways overnight. When I told you all those years back that you were the ideal creature to reintroduce friendship to the dragons, I meant just that: a reintroduction. In due time we’ll try again, perhaps in a different way. Given enough time, be that years or decades, the dragons will come around.”

Sniffling, Spike clasped her foreleg and kissed her shoe. “Thanks, Celestia. I-I really needed to hear that. And I really missed you.”

“I and you, Spike. If you'd sent word to me I would have helped, but it seems you didn't need me to. Because of your hard trials, you’ve grown up in your own way and on your own terms. The dragon that left my care couldn’t have done all the things you have. Nothing I can say will ever sum up how proud I am of you, or repay the debt of gratitude I owe you both.”

Celestia’s gaze shifted to Rarity, which again robbed her of her voice. Instead of sputtering she smiled weakly and waved. She truly was terrible at this. How in the world was she going to sell dresses to the upper crust if a mere look from a Princess left her tongue-tied?

“Rarity, I have one more thing to ask if you, but before we get to that I believe Applejack has been waiting far too long already.”

“Applejack?” Rarity blurted.

Celestia’s magic opened another set of doors at the far side of the room, and in trotted Applejack, her hat tucked under a foreleg and a bleary-eyed smile on her face. “Thanks, Princess.”

“Applejack,” Rarity muttered. Her voice had returned, and the price was her elation at being in Princess Celestia’s presence for a intimate chat. At least Applejack had removed her hat; hopefully her hooves were clean, too. She couldn’t count the times their old primary school teacher asked the class who’d forgotten to wipe their hooves before stepping inside, despite knowing exactly who was to blame.

No, Rarity told herself. That’s all in the past. Let it go. Your own past deeds are treason compared to Applejack’s fillyhood missteps.

Applejack moved to tip her hat, remembering halfway through the gesture that she’d taken it off. “Howdy, Rarity, Spike. I’m sorry to intrude like this, but… I’m just gonna come out and say it: there’s something else that had me running back to Ponyville lickity-split. Somepony else, more like: an old Apple family friend.”

Rarity wanted to stand, to run, and to scream all at once, but instead found herself petrified with a horrific mixture of fear and doubt that took her all the way back to the Ponyville train station, to ear-splitting blast of the train’s whistle, to handing the conductor her ticket, to her one small suitecase, and to all the ponies and possessions that she’d intentionally left behind.

“C’mon in!” Applejack called.

Hoofsteps sounded it the hallway, and in between each clop of a hoof a thousand of Rarity’s heartbeats raced by. She could see them already, the two ponies she’d once sworn to never speak to again. What was she supposed to say to her parents after all these years? How could Applejack be so callus, so blind as to think a surprise intervention would somehow erase decades spent apart without so much as a letter?

She shut her eyes tight. She couldn’t look. She wouldn’t. She’d escape this awful moment with sheer force of will.

“Um… Are you Rarity?” a small, squeaky voice said.

Rarity’s total panic wouldn’t simply switch off, but in between rapid breaths she managed to crack an eye open and drop the foreleg she’d held across her face. Before her stood a young unicorn with a white coat, gorgeous mulberry and rose hair, and spellbindingly green eyes.

Now her panic came to a full stop, and its residual momentum jolted words into her mind and out her mouth. “Yes. A-are you…”

The filly smiled and held up a hoof to shake. “I’m your little sister, Sweetie Belle!”

A hoof shake wouldn’t do. A hug would be wonderful, if she could work up the nerve. Speaking audibly was hard enough. “I-I… I left town before you… My… Our parents. I had a terrible fight with them over the silliest of things and… well I suppose you know. I never… I never knew if I had a little brother, or sister. I-I’m so happy to finally meet you!”

Sweetie Belle leaped forward and hugged Rarity with enough force to put Spike’s strength to shame. “I missed you sooo much! I know we’ve never met, but mom and dad talk about you all the time, and they have your picture everywhere!”

Rarity’s stomach lurched. “H-how are… mother and father? As I said, I didn’t leave under the best of circumstances… or at the best of times.”

“They’re super proud of you, of course! They always talk about how you made it in the big city, and then how you made it big in the palace, and now about how you saved Equestria. You kinda set the bar for me pretty high, sis.”

Rarity patted Sweetie’s head and managed a small laugh. “Proud… I’d always hoped they would be, of course, once I got over our petty squabbling. I just couldn’t bear to write, for fear of the wounds it would open… and the thought that you might hate me for the pain I caused—”

Sweetie Belle hugged her even tighter. “Pfft. No way! You’re my big sister. I love you!”

And Rarity loved her too, more completely than she ever imagined a pony could on first sight. Whatever she’d lost by her and Spike being unable to have children had been given back tenfold: she had a little sister who loved her. She had parents who loved her, too. If only she’d sent them a letter, or not had the childish gall to forbid them from doing the same in her terse goodbye note. But all of that was in the past. All of it.

Sweetie Belle suddenly jumped back and fished around in her mane. “Oh! Oh! I almost forgot! Mom made me promise to give this to you.”

She held up a small newspaper clipping, which even at a distance Rarity could see was little more than a smudged picture of a building and a brief caption.

Rarity took the paper in her magic, and again was at a loss for words. It wasn’t just any building: she’d walked by this Ponyville landmark every day. The money that bought her train ticket to Canterlot had originally been destined for redecorating the place and filling it with expensive fabrics. “Why it’s the Carousel Boutique! That’s what I intended to call it, anyway.”

“And it’s for sale!”

“What? You can’t be—”

The caption finally caught her eye. “ ‘Historic town hall still empty. City planning office desperate.’ Oh my. Oh my!”

The picture flew away as she fanned herself.

Spike caught it and held it up to the light. “Yikes, that place needs a lot of work.”

Rarity nodded. “Absolutely everything about it would need to be renovated. It’s enthralling to dream about the possibilities, though. If only, oh if only.”

Celestia cleared her throat. “That actually brings us to my request of you, Rarity. I’d like you to consider moving to Ponyville, if only to keep the friendships you’ve developed from fizzling out with distance. I know for a fact that Applejack, Fluttershy, and Pinkie plan on returning there. I intend to arrange for Twilight to head the Ponyville Library, and to offer Rainbow Dash captaincy of the town’s new weather team, which until now has just been a volunteer effort.”

Rarity’s giddy smile vanished, and all the room’s warmth seemed to follow. “Excuse me?”

She met Celestia’s quizical look with abject shock. “You mean to… to dictate where I live?”

“It was only a request, I assure you. I have no intention of forcing any of you to live near each other. I’m only trying to foster the friendships that have been made. You’ve seen first hoof what the magic of friendship can do, and what the Elements of Harmony can do when they harness that power, which will undoubtedly be called upon to save Equestria again someday. Can you blame me for wanting to assure that the current bearers of them are all located in one place, should the unthinkable happen?”

Rarity frowned and took a deep, slow breath. For a brief moment she'd returned to her childhood imaginings of high fashion and self employment; concepts far too big for her then, but not now. “I suppose I can see the merits of that. Nevertheless it seems I need to make a request of my own: I require this property, Ponyville’s historic town hall. Call it a gift, a tax break, an urban renewal, or whatever you’re calling these favors to Twilight and the others. Do this, and Spike and I should have funds enough to remodel the place into a proper home and business establishment.”

Celestia’s unsmiling stare dug deeper than a mere frown ever could. “Didn't we just agree on the importance of helping the poor?”

“They will be. Spike and I will be more than generous with our profits, and take no profit at all on essentials for the needy, which I assume Ponyville is in just as much need of as Canterlot. Set us on the path to self sufficiency, and we’ll never cease paying that gift forward.”

The stare-down continued for a minute more, a minute fraught with Rarity’s unvoiced, barely-concealed panic. What was she thinking, making demands of the Princess? Queen Nightmare would have thrown her in the dungeon by now. Canterlot Castle didn’t have a dungeon, did it?

At last Celestia nodded, and her smile returned. “I’m sure you’ll make a wonderful businessmare, Rarity. We’ll be in touch, once Princess Luna realizes her wardrobe is a thousand years out of date.”

Rarity balked, her bravado vanishing as quickly as it arrived. “I-I certainly hope so, Princess Celestia, and thank you! Ponyville is hardly a premier destination of the fashion world, but given enough time… The important thing is who I’ll have alongside me every step of the way.”

She pulled Spike and Sweetie Belle into a hug. Sweetie seemed appreciative, but Spike quickly raised a hand. “Hey, um… can I ask for something, too?”

Celestia chuckled. “Of course, Spike.”

“Well, actually it’s two things. Rarity, do you mind if I ask Twilight if I can help her out in the library, maybe as an assistant or something? She’s probably going to need help staying focused on the important stuff, and this way I’ve got a job too.”

Rarity nodded. “Of course, dear, of course.”

“And Princess Celestia, when Rarity and I are ready—” he touched two claws together and took a deep breath “—will you marry us?”

Rarity tensed, her every thought derailed and her gaze focused on the simple ring she’d made for him, the ring everypony in the room now appeared to have their eyes glued to.

“Why Spike,” Princess Celestia replied, “how could I not? The castle will be at your disposal, if you’d like to make use of it.”

Spike grinned at Rarity, his thoughts as clear as day: want to get married in a castle, like royalty?

Rarity looked to Applejack, who’d remained silently smiling in the back of the room, and who no doubt was desperately needed back at home; farming couldn’t be a very comfortable profession after literal years of darkness. “Actually… Applejack, I don’t suppose you and your family would object to hosting a small but lavish wedding at Sweet Apple Acres? Perhaps when there’s some snow on the trees? Rest assured we’ll pay quite generously.”

Applejack’s eyebrows shot up, and she dropped her hat. “Say what? Really?”

“Absolutely. I think we’ve all had our fill of Canterlot opulence, and not nearly enough time with the ponies that matter most to us.”

Sweetie Belle drummed her hooves on the floor and squealed. “My big sister’s moving back to Ponyville and getting married! Yay!”

Princess Celestia and Applejack laughed.

Spike rested his hand on her hoof, and she matched his smile.

---

“Wow. It’s… something.”

Rarity put a foreleg across Spike’s shoulders and joined him in looking the wreck of a building before them up and down. Right in the middle of Ponyville’s quaint and well-kept cottages stood this two story eyesore: the original town hall, a cylindrical, two level affair riddled with holes, faded paint, broken windows, and chipped marble columns. It was just as she remembered it: the most beautiful structure she’d ever seen. “I used to walk by here every day, often taking circuitous routes on the way home from school just to make sure nopony had stolen it away. Nopony could of course, not at the exorbitant price the city demands, and with the stipulation from the historical society that it be revitalized and not torn down.”

She stretched a foreleg out to it, painting a mental image. “Just think: light purple and blue paint, big oval windows, second story balconies… We’ll replace the marble columns with carousel dummies to go with the theme, of course: The Carousel Boutique, where every garment is chic, unique, and—”

“Magnifique, yeah, I remember. I guess I can see it. And I guess I did kind of say I’d build you a house fit for a princess.”

“One fit for a fashionista and her betrothed will do nicely, thank you.”

“My pleasure, Lady Rarity.”

“Thank you, Lord Spike the gentledragon. You are still onboard with this plan, aren’t you?”

Spike flashed her a big smile. “Oh yeah, Ponyville’s awesome! Did I tell you the Cakes know how to make sapphire cupcakes, and that we can dig up all the gems we want in the hills past Sweet Apple Acres?”

Rarity nodded. “I’m so glad to hear it, although speaking of the Cakes, we need to hurry if we’re going to join the others at Sugarcube Corner. And after that you’re helping Twilight reorganize the library, and… as for me…”

“Seeing your parents?”

The word alone set her heart racing, but didn’t inspire the dread it once did. If she had the boldness to face down Nightmare Moon, and the empathy to love her little sister at first sight, there wasn’t anything she couldn’t do. “I’ll be fine, I assure you.”

“Are you sure you don’t want me to come with you?”

“All in good time, after I’ve given you a proper introduction.”

“You mean about how I’m a dragon? Sweetie Belle probably covered that already.”

Rarity kissed him on the cheek. “I’m referring, my dear Spike, to how happy you make me, and to how I’ve come to realize that where I belong isn’t Canterlot, or The Pit, or even Ponyville. I belong wherever those who I love are. I love our friends, and I love you.”

“I love you, too.”

And that love, Rarity knew, would carry them through whatever happened next.

Join our Patreon to remove these adverts!
Join our Patreon to remove these adverts!