• Published 28th Jan 2020
  • 3,137 Views, 48 Comments

To Belong - Freglz



It ain't always easy, regaining what you lost. Especially when you've been missing it for years.

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Walking on Clouds

She was beautiful.

She always was, and still is, but you know how some things you see every day just seem all the more captivating, for whatever reason? That was her, sitting beside me in the chariot, looking out to the south — to Ponyville, and how it was slowly fading into the landscape — the last light of a fiery sun catching in her rainbow mane and sky blue coat, in her magenta eyes, upon that adorable nose of hers…

Stars, she was beautiful.

And she was anxious.

She didn’t say it, but we don’t need to say much to know what the other’s feeling; her smile was genuine, but there was a tension in her lips, furrowing her brows. It was faint, but it was there, and if I hadn’t gotten so used to seeing her alone with me, I’m sure I wouldn’t have noticed it.

But in that moment, I knew what she was worried about, and I quietly shimmied over to press my body against hers. To bow my head and nuzzle it under her chin. To feel her against me, and have her know that I was there. “What’s on your mind, sugarcube?”

She’s the sort who wants an excuse to get things off her chest, rather than relying on herself, and I’m more than happy to oblige. It makes me feel needed, and I like that.

“Nothing,” she said with a sigh, then unfurled her wing and curled it across my back, hugging me closer. I love it when she does that. “Just… thinking.”

“Well, I figured that much. Question is, what about?”

I could feel the pointed, reluctant glance in my direction. She’s just as stubborn as I can be, sometimes, but I guess that’s what worked for us in the end — when it came to supporting each other, we were persistent, and we didn’t let a little resistance discourage us.

“Them,” she confessed, softer than before, and less enthusiastic. If she even was enthusiastic to begin with. “How they’ll react. I mean, this is the first time you’re gonna meet them properly, so… you know. First impressions.”

“You worried they won’t like me?”

“No. I mean yes. Kinda.” She sighed again and draped her chin over my head, giving me a gentle squeeze with her wing. “It’s hard to describe.”

“Then take it slow, Rainbow. Start with what you know.”

She huffed a small, amused laugh through her nose. Even now, after all these years, she still needs me to remind her that we all need to relax every once in a while.

“I know they’ll like you,” she replied, tender and sweet — a side of her she’d been growing more and more comfortable with the longer we’ve known each other. “They don’t care that you’re a mare, or an earth pony, or anything like that. I know they’ll be happy for me, because I’m happy. And then they’ll want photographs and details and to tell the whole world about it. Unless I ask them not to.”

I produced a similar laugh. “Which might be for the best.”

“Yeah. Like, it’s not that we’re embarrassed by it, it’s just…”

“We ain’t out to make a splash.”

“Yeah.” Another squeeze, this time with an added hum, warm and friendly. “It’s just an us thing. No need to make it bigger than that.”

An ear of mine perked up, and then my smile widened. “Never thought I’d see the day when Rainbow ‘Danger’ Dash, of all ponies, didn’t want to be the centre of attention.”

“Hey, I like putting on a show as much as the next pony.”

I pulled away, but didn’t leave her side, and gave her a smirk as I cocked an eyebrow sceptically.

Her grin went from confident to sheepish in the blink of an eye. “Okay, more than the next pony.”

Nodding once, I hummed my approval.

“But that doesn’t mean I like showing off all the time.” She pressed her cheek to mine, and then nuzzled under my chin like I’d done with her, and it was the slow, tender, careful sort of thing, as if I could’ve disappeared if she let go. And it shed a weight I didn’t know I had off my withers. “You’re too important for that.”

Important.

I won’t say she’s afraid of using the L-word, but it’s never been her go-to label for describing how she feels; she cares about me, she worries about me, she likes and misses me. But love? No, that’s much too sappy for her. Or rather, she’s too awesome for it.

But I don’t complain. Not now, and not then either — I knew what she meant. When you can read between the lines without needing a dictionary, that’s when you know you’ve found somepony special, and I brought my forehoof up, reaching across to her shoulder and giving an equally tender hug. “You’re important to me too, Dash.”

“Heh.” She says that when she knows she’s been caught out. It’s her tell, and I adore it — the perfect amount of shyness from the likes of her. And as she pulled back to beam a subdued but appreciative smile at me, her wing rubbed itself up and down my back. “They’re definitely gonna like you.”

I beamed right back at her, then let my eyes glide shut and ears flatten as I leaned in to plant a kiss on the tip of her snout… and for a moment, I lost direction — couldn’t tell which way the sky was, or whether I was floating on my own. The chariot felt like it had vanished, and I was stuck in that weightless limbo you find yourself in before gravity makes you plummet.

But I wasn’t scared. I had no reason to be. Yes, we were a fair distance above the earth, and flying was still as foreign to me as air is to a fish, but she was there. She had her wing around me. She’d catch me if I fell, just as surely as I’d keep her grounded if she got anxious.

We shared another hug after that, and didn’t speak a word as the chariot continued sailing through the air, the pegasus at the helm steering us closer and closer towards our destination: the floating city of Cloudsdale. To be more specific, the residential district of the Southern Quarter, where we’d be disembarking at the house of a very special pair of ponies.

It was a visit long overdue, frankly, especially with the news we had to share. I’d met them once or twice before, but nothing beyond exchanging a few short sentences — they were mostly concerned with Rainbow anyhow. Never did understand why, for as much as they clearly loved her, and as much as I love her still. But maybe I would, I thought, now that we’d be having a proper talk about love and the like.

The air was cool against me. I had to dress warm for the altitude, not having the same tolerance for cold that pegasi do, so I’d thrown on a simple red hoodie from deep in my closet, though I couldn’t for the life of me remember how it had found its way in there.

I’d have gone to Rarity for something nicer, but she would’ve asked questions. Why buy winter clothes in the middle of summer? Was I going somewhere? If so, where? And since when had I taken a shining to casual-formal attire? She wouldn’t have stopped until I let something slip, and that would only have piqued her curiosity, and we all know how much she likes to play detective.

You can trust that girl with a secret, don’t you worry, but that doesn’t mean she’d let you get away with it. She’s cruel in her own kind and caring way.

Pa’s hat was in my lap for obvious reasons, and I’d done up my mane a little differently for once: twin pigtails. I’m not sure why. Maybe I wanted to impress these ponies I barely knew, whose opinions I didn’t ultimately need when it comes to deciding whom I want to spend my life with, and thought a new hairstyle would make all the difference. But that didn’t sound like me at all, so I just shrugged and put it down to a flight of fancy, and possibly an attempt to pretty myself up a bit for Rainbow.

She said it looked good on me.

I might’ve blushed.

And then we were off.

And now, here we were.

It wasn’t a street we’d arrived at, but a single dwelling — a cumulus, I’d heard these cloud-homes called. The pegasus pulling us came to a halt on what would’ve been the front yard, and we got off in short order, and I put on my hat as we did so; despite being so high up, there was no wind to blow it off while we were in the city limits, only a mild breeze. I suspected the local weather factory had something to do with it.

The air was clean here, free of all the smells that I’d grown used to. No soil, no grass, no leaves, no wafting aroma from somepony’s kitchen in the distance, or the lingering scent of a pony’s natural odour. Just atmosphere, and the faint fragrance of mist. It was an interesting experience, but not something I’d have liked to live with — too sterile for my tastes.

The pegasus called to us and wished us well, bowing his head with the dutiful precision expected of a member of the Royal Guard. He was taking orders from Twilight for the time being, and didn’t need a fare when a salary did him plenty. We thanked him and waved him farewell, and watched as he flew back in the direction of Ponyville.

He wasn’t the only gift from her, though, and when he’d become little more than a speck against the darkening sky, I brought a hoof up to feel it under the fabric of my hoodie, safely hidden below the collar. I didn’t want to take it out yet, just assure myself that it was there, and that the new and improved cloudwalking charm on it — courtesy of Twilight — was working. And it was, or else I’d have fallen right through and tumbled helplessly for the earth far, far below us.

Rainbow would’ve caught me, like I said, but it was better that she didn’t have to. So long as the love held, so would the spell, and I’m proud to say that for as long as we’ve been together, it’s never faltered. Not once.

If only I’d know what the rest of the evening would be like…

But that wasn’t on my mind then. I’d convinced Rainbow that everything would be fine and I had to maintain that outlook, or else I’d have been a hypocrite, and that wouldn’t sit well with me in any way; there are few sights more sorry than ponies who lie to themselves.

I turned to her.

She turned to me.

We smiled at each other, and it filled my barrel with a warm, bubbly feeling of resolve. We’d come this far. What was the harm in a couple extra steps? And besides, we were hungry, and Rainbow said these folks did some mean cooking — enough to rival Granny’s cinnamon apple pie. I was doubtful, but although we weren’t eager to make it a contest, there was no way I’d pass up the opportunity to disprove that particular claim.

“You ready, sugarcube?”

“Ready as you are.”

If I were in a better state of mind, I’d have told her to not be so dependant on me, but in that moment, with that tone of voice and the tender, devoted look in her beautiful eyes… sweet Celestia, I swear I could’ve floated away right then and there. And it was enough to make me close what distance there was between us and rub my body along hers once more.

Likewise, she draped her wing over my back and hummed contentedly. “I love you.”

And on the rare occasion that she does use the L-word, you know that it means something really special. “You too, Dash. You too.”

We stayed like that for a while, basking in the calm before the storm, safe in the warmth and embrace of the other. But eventually, as with all things, it had to come to an end, and Dash was the one to do it, giving my side a gentle nudge to get my attention, then nodding for the entrance. “C’mon, then. Let’s not keep them waiting.”

“Yeah.” I began walking with her toward it. “Moment of truth, huh?”

“Moment of truth.” She was silent the rest of the way, and when we arrived at the front door, she glanced at me one final time for assurance.

I only had to nod.

With a steadying breath and ruffle of her feathers, she looked ahead and raised her hoof. And then, after a moment to steel her nerves a little more, she tapped the button for the doorbell.

A simplistic musical jingle sang out, and past the barrier ahead of us, there came the flapping of wings as a pegasus rushed for the entry. “Bow, make sure the cookies are ready! They’re here, honey! They’re here!”

Rainbow sighed.

I nudged her shoulder with mine.

The door opened, and there her mother stood, beaming a grin as bright as the midday sun, eyes wider than dinner plates and echoing the same magenta hue as Rainbow’s. It was difficult to say who she was more excited to see.

“Hello, you two!” she exclaimed, settling for the midground as she lunged forward and wrapped her forelegs around our necks in a nice, firm grip — rivalling Big Mac on a good day, I reckon. “Oh, stars above, it’s so good to see you! And you too! My little girl and her girl! Merciful Sisters, you both look wonderful!”

Small wonder who Rainbow got her enthusiasm from.

“Okay, Mom,” she chuckled awkwardly, giving her a light pat on the withers — the universal signal to ease up a bit, “I think we get the picture.”

“But I’m just so happy!” She danced on her hindlegs as she continued to hug us, tail swishing and pressing our cheeks to hers. If her grip grew any tighter, I was worried she’d cut off circulation. “My baby found a special somepony, and she’s here!”

Well, I’d been told she wouldn’t mind what I was, and that was all the proof I needed; you can’t fake that level of passion. “It’s a pleasure, Missus Whistles.”

She blew a raspberry and finally let us go, and my head suddenly felt so much clearer as the blood started pumping again. “Please, call me Windy,” she said, waving a wing dismissively. “Windy Whistles. And your name is Applejack, correct? Or do you prefer AJ? Or Jackie? Rainbow sometimes likes to call you that last one.”

Mooom.”

“Sorry, sorry!” She sat down and clasped both her forehooves over her mouth, her excitement reeling in a tad, but all that clearly did was put the lid on a boiling kettle. “Is that a girlfriend-only thing?”

No, Mom, it’s a nothing thing.” Rainbow tapped my shoulder with a hoof, then her chest. “She’s Applejack, I’m Rainbow Dash. We’re friends. Good friends who… found something more.”

Back to her coy self, it seemed, and I smirked. Tempting though it was, I wouldn’t tease her, because it was clear by the imploring look in her eyes that this wasn’t something to be joked about lightly; she cared that Windy took this as seriously as she did, and with the same degree of modesty.

“And your daughter, Windy, is a fine mare,” I said, nodding to her, then turning my smirk on Rainbow, where it softened into a more sincere, heartfelt smile. “I can’t ask for better, ‘cause the best is right here.”

Rainbow’s ears flattened and her eyes faintly widened, lips parting just a fraction and a subtle blush rising to her cheeks. It was always easy to make her blush.

“Aww.” Windy gently shook her head, fit as a pressure cooker about to blow. “You two are so cute together. It’s like you were meant for each other!”

Rainbow winced, shutting her eyes for a moment, then angled her head and looked toward her mother with a pleading grimace and a lopsided smile, and her blush only deepened. “Please, Mom…”

“Okay, okay, let’s get this girl inside before she burns up,” I said with a chuckle, swathing a hoof around her shoulders to hug her close, then carefully squeezed through the doorway and past Windy. “Trust me, she’s worse than my brother, and he’s as red as the ripest apples in summer.”

“Oh, I know,” Windy said, nodding as she shut the door behind us, then stood up to trot ahead and show us the way. “Mother, remember?”

“Ah. Sorry.”

“No need to be! We’re all family here.” She flashed a meaningful, somewhat sly smirk over her shoulder. “Some closer than others, naturally.”

Mooom.”

“Okay, alright, I’ll be quiet. But I’ll make no promises about your father!”

Rainbow groaned and clapped a hoof to her face.

I merely sighed to myself, both at how easily she was letting all this get to her and at the dynamic at play; it was something I’d never experienced much of, and yet it felt all too familiar.

The night was shaping up to be a very interesting one indeed.