• Published 29th May 2020
  • 703 Views, 50 Comments

Mothering, Someday - Impossible Numbers

Mare's Day, a tribute to motherhood. Twilight Velvet is the ordinary mother of an extraordinary family; Derpy is the opposite. They normally wouldn't cross paths, but in a town where an outsider can become Princess of Friendship, anything's possible.

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Velvet, Alone

Too early for her to go to the castle. She’d go for a walk instead.

No point disturbing her daughter. Apparently, she was in a meeting: one of the few letters from Twilight had informed her of the unchangeable plan, with the “sincere regrets” – bad sign – of a Canterlot noble arranging a grand ball.

Velvet wished she couldn’t remember the wording of that letter, how formal it had been. It was like an obsession! Stop it! Focus on something good!

Well, she knew she was early coming, but she was also curious. Ponyville. It wasn’t a town that had been on her personal map until Twilight had moved here. Certainly, few Canterlot ponies could speak of the place without sneering. Velvet wanted to dive into this town, just for that.

Plus, the earlier train was cheaper, and she needed time to build up to the moment when she saw what mare now stood in her baby Twilight’s place.

Judging from the cottages that looked like timber framework with the walls coloured in, the town grew here like a crop. Yep, definitely a rural-looking place. There were fewer jackets and pants on the stallions, fewer hats and hems on the mares. Most were content to go au natural. Grass crunched underfoot, strangely cool where the blades brushed her pasterns.

And unlike Canterlot, she saw on the streets no obvious bias privileging unicorns, nor one for earth ponies pretending to be unicorn-rich – common enough in Canterlot, where pedigree was largely a unicorn concern, and what the Canterlot unicorn does, the Canterlot earth pony would do too.

Pegasi flitted overhead, but pegasi also walked the streets. True, she got the impression horns and wings weren’t as common as plainer heads and backs, but even then, she had to strain to see that tiny tilting in favour of earth ponydom. In other words, this was a surprisingly equal community, a community rich in fellow-feeling and talking partners rather than in money and titles and pedigree.

Some ponies looked like families, out strolling.

One upcoming family consisted of unicorns. A father, a mother, one older daughter, one younger skipping along.

Velvet watched them pass. Thereafter, she kept glancing over her shoulder.

What if it had been one of them?

What if the dart of destiny had missed Velvet? Had hit that mother unicorn over there? What if that white unicorn daughter – trying to stride with more dignity than her skipping sibling – had become the scourge of monsters, the princess of ponies, the master of her own castle?

What if Velvet had kept her Twily, and her knightly Shining Armor? They could have grown up, thrown their mortarboards whilst proudly wearing spotless gowns, maybe followed Night Light into accountancy or settled down to give Velvet a son- or daughter-in-law, and beautiful baby grandchildren.

And there would be her family. Night Light, Velvet herself, one older son, one younger daughter hopping along.

Tutting, Velvet stopped to wipe her eyes. Too many tears leaked out too readily. She’d cried at her son’s wedding, at her daughter’s coronation… How many tears dare she bleed?

But… How could destiny do this to her? Velvet had already chosen her own. She and Night Light, and their children: that was all she’d ever wanted. And if her children couldn’t have stayed in her home, they could hold on by the tips of their envelopes. She’d never let them go.

She barely even had that.

Around her, ponies chattered eagerly in threes and fours. She turned a corner and followed the louder sounds, through puddles of families and streams of friends trickling by. Immersed.

The ponies around her mingled freely. Puddles of ponies pooled with other puddles. Drops broke off, ran along the slope, and plopped into streams, which gurgled excitedly as they swirled around each other. After some time, it was hard to tell them apart. Besides, it was just smile-encouraging in itself to watch.

They all seemed so happy to see each other. No way could her Twilight not find refreshment in a town this sweet and satisfying.

But as she turned another corner, the crystal castle.

It loomed.

A stranger to this place, something pinned to the far horizon. Nothing like the houses around her that blended together the more she walked.

Twilight had barely written back to her.

To her! Velvet!

Velvet could only think one thing: she must have done something wrong.

Maybe she’d been cruel to Twilight, somehow? There had been times when she’d insisted Twilight not stay up late, or not cast spells that turned the curtains into custard, or… worse. But what else could a mother do? It was shock enough to see arcs and volts and lightning on Twilight’s horn that made Velvet’s magic look like struggling sparks.

Or maybe letting Twilight get so attached to the princess had been the moment she was lost? Twilight spoke about Princess Celestia, spoke to Princess Celestia, so much that sometimes Velvet had to remind herself the princess was not Twilight’s real mother. But then, Twilight spoke of epic battles and diplomatic sleights-of-hoof and how skilled in magic Celestia must be to raise the sun every day for millennia…

Come on now, shouted Velvet’s mind, don’t be crazy! What daughter’s going to gush over her mother’s epic battles with dust bunnies or negotiations over who gets cake and who’s had enough, young lady? And any skill Velvet learned, Twilight had taught her. It came to something when a daughter gave her mother magic lessons.

And I didn’t write to her either.

That stopped Velvet. Well, that and she almost bumped into someone –

“Sorry,” she said hastily.

The stallion examined her carefully, then shrugged, said, “Happy Mare’s Day, ma’am!” and carried on whistling.

Odd. A Canterlot bump would have earned her a raised eyebrow at best.

“Huh,” she muttered. “Nice place.”

A slight smile twinkled on her face until the rising goodwill started draining away again.

I didn’t write to her.

Of course not, she thought fast. Me, write to a princess? Any Canterlot noble would fawn over any daughter who rose to princesshood. And…

…and that was partly why she hadn’t. She wasn’t going to be like the other Canterlot nobles. It’d be nepotism. Cosying up to a daughter she hadn’t spoken to in months, just when she’d earned a crown and a throne? How would that look?

A darker thought said, What about before then?

Velvet’s tears, poised to poison her eyes, turned in on her own head. Thoughts sizzled. Jaw tightened as though shrivelled. So much focused and sought refuge and crowded behind her forehead, desperate to escape the dark flood, that she felt her skull threaten to buckle under the strain.

She and Night Light had written a few letters, early on, as soon as Shining Armor had told them Twilight had moved out of Canterlot. What! Where to? A quiet town south of here. A town? Ponyville, I think. Why? Just for the Summer Sun Celebration. It was no big deal. I’m sure she’ll be back soon. Whuh, we didn’t even know she’d gone!

Truth be told, they’d barely known Twilight was still in Canterlot. So much time shut away in that apartment with her own private library: Twilight had moved there as soon as she could move out of Velvet and Night Light’s house. She might as well have become a ghost.

A few letters then. And a few letters after the Ponyville move.

What had they got for it?

Someone calling themselves Twilight Sparkle had written back. Keeping things minimal:

She’d moved in.

She’d made friends.

She’d been involved in a “project” for Princess Celestia.

She was continuing her studies, now including a new topic.

She was fine.

Night Light had pounced on that last bit. See? She said she was fine! Our little baby’s growing up and finding her own way.

Yes, Velvet had thought, away from me.

She couldn’t bear to get another letter like that again.

Yet she couldn’t bear to get no letters at all.

No matter what she did, she always felt like she’d done nothing. Or worse, had done something fundamentally wrong to her Twilight, who’d gurgled at puzzles and laughed at her dad’s antics.

By now, Velvet’s strides were vigorous. Her saddlebag, bouncing and light against her flank, rubbed her sore. How long had she been walking? Goodness, the sun was almost at its peak! Where was she, even? All the streets looked the same. It’d just been one confusing hike between cottages –

A pony yelped.


And a pony like Velvet had only one response to someone else’s pain.

Velvet broke into a run.