• Published 7th Feb 2013
  • 1,269 Views, 42 Comments

Love, in Other Words - Mickey Dubs



A story about the varying experiences of some of Ponyville's citizens as they learn the meaning of family, friendship, and what Hearts and Hooves Day means for them and the ones they care about.

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Unwavering

Unwavering

Today was the day.

Today was the day, Apple Bloom was convinced, that her world would come crashing down around her. The pillar on which they had built their lives and the strongest, strictest, most perfect foundation they could have asked for was finally going to come down, and no sounds but the whispers of her friends as they snickered at some little unicorn filly she had never really known made their way into her little yellow ears. She could hear nothing over the buzzing of the thoughts inside her head. There was room for little else.

She stared blankly forward, struggling to pick up what her teacher was saying as she stood by her blackboard. Names, dates, and places littered the surface as she connected the dots to link the whole history of Hearts and Hooves Day together. Her mouth was moving even though, as far as Apple Bloom knew, she wasn't saying a word.

She listened to her classmates and the ruffling of little paper expressions of affection passing to and fro along the back rows towards their intended destinations. She watched her friends giggle and blush at one another, feeling in their little hearts the flickerings of love and, only sometimes, the little sneering head of jealousy poking its way through. She envied some, but hated most.

Why should they be so happy, when she was in such despair?

The sudden slam of a desk in the middle column and the loud snap! of a pencil shocked her from her reverie, and as Apple Bloom turned with her classmates to find the source of the noise, Apple Bloom found herself staring at the little unicorn Dinky in the middle of the room, her chest heaving in rage. Apple Bloom watched those eyes burn with an unbridled fury, but despite what malice they contained she couldn't help but smile.

Apple Bloom watched that furious little unicorn as she shook with anger and hatred for her blue and green classmates. She watched those little eyes she'd never really looked at before and smiled. That filly who had always looked down at the floor as she tracked in dirt from the playground was now sounding our her fury as she never had before, illuminating the courage and undefinable power with every flickering flame of wrath in her eyes.

At least someone felt as Apple Bloom did. At least one other pony, save her and her siblings, wasn't feeling the magic of the holiday. At least she had one pony she could count amongst her ranks.

At least she wasn't alone.

A nudge from her pegasus friend and a nod towards the playground was enough notice for Apple Bloom to slide out of her seat and tramp towards the door. She, her friend Scootaloo, and another unicorn filly with bouncy pink-and-purple hair congregated around their desks, obeying the unheard order of their teacher as they trotted towards the door.

"Did you just see that?!" Scootaloo whispered, her voice cracking with excitement. "That was awesome! Dinky almost got him good!"

"Scootaloo! That's not very nice!" her unicorn companion exclaimed. "He could have been hurt really badly!"

"Whatever, Sweetie Belle," the pegasus retorted, turning back from the door to look over her shoulder at the unicorn filly and her blue target. "Those two are bad news: they pick on everyone, even me! ME! They called me 'little flutter-fail' just yesterday..."

"That shouldn't matter, Scoots! Besides, Rarity always told me not to look poorly on other ponies, even if they're your enemies. It is not a fabulous thing to do!"

"Heh... she would say that, right, Applebloom?... Applebloom?..."

The two of them turned to find their friend staring at the ground just beside the door, off to the side to allow her various classmates and friends to make their way through. She stood there, lost in thought, before turning to watch Dinky Doo suffer the consequences of her actions.

She'd done nothing wrong, at least in Apple Bloom’s eyes. She was fighting in defense of her mother, whom everyone knew to be a very hard worker. It didn't matter that she was a little 'derpy', as the term was. She accounted for her shortcomings and always did what she had to for her family. Why shouldn’t Dinky be allowed to fight for her? She fought for Dinky... every second of every day.

Dinky and her mother didn't have much, but they had each other, wholly and completely.

That was what 'Family' was all about.

The three of them turned to watch Dinky, and they did they noticed that the little filly was staring back at them. Her eyes were calm, her breath almost controlled. She didn’t look as if she rested on the precipice of disaster. For the most part, she was ready for anything. She was ready to embrace her punishment.

Ready to face the world.

Turning to enter the sunshine of mid-day as it graced the playground and the world beyond, Apple Bloom trudged across the dirt patches and various dusty spots in a daze. She could do nothing more than plod over to her favorite tree across the yard, sitting down beside it with a little plop. She could feel the bark scratch her hide a little, tickling those itchy places she'd been meaning to scratch all throughout the class period. She shifted a little to afford herself some comfort as she thought about what was to come...

~~~~~

Her sister had been silent that morning, preparing Apple Bloom’s saddlebags as usual with her favorite morning oats and a nice shiny apple, organizing her paperwork and holiday notes a little more tidily than usual as if making up for her reticence.

She never saw her brother leave. Big Macintosh would usually come into her room and gave her a little kiss before leaving for the far side of the orchard. She always pretended to be asleep just to feel her big brother nearby, to feel her heart flutter as he reminded her every single morning that he loved her, even if she wasn't awake to acknowledge it...

...But that morning he had never snuck in as he usually did.

Applejack didn't say much, no usual words of encouragement or last-minute reminders of things to gather from the market. She only gave her sister a tight hug when she came down from her bedroom, holding onto her little sister as if she were the one last precious thing in the world. She had always tried to hide her tears, but Apple Bloom always knew they were there. She had never been good at hiding anything from her: being the physical manifestation of Honesty had that one disadvantage.

"Now remember, sugarcube," she'd said, holding Apple Bloom's shoulders as the early morning cold snuck in through the partially open door, fluttering the edges of her hat a little. "You might need to come on home early, y'hear? I already asked Miss Cheerilee to tell you about it, but y'all have a half-day anyway... so..."

She'd given her sister a sad little smile, stroking Apple Bloom's chin as she struggled for purchase.

"Just wait for your teacher to give you leave, then you just c'mon home... okay?"

She remembered she'd given a little nod of acknowledgement before she was once again lost in that straw colored mass her sister called a mane, though it didn't smell like it usually did. She'd washed it, perfumed it a little with a floral fragrance Rarity used on occasion whenever the Crusaders would have their slumber parties in the Boutique. She never imagined her sister would smell like anything more than sweat and dirt, but now?

Now she smelled almost divine.

Giving her sister a little pat, Applejack had sent her along and out the door to go to school, standing in the door-frame to watch her go. Apple Bloom remembered running through the tall grass by the road in excitement, awaiting the surprises they would undoubtedly have in store for that evening: pies, cakes, turnovers, cobblers, and whatever else her sister dreamt up for Hearts and Hooves Day, just like she and Granny Smith made every year. She also had thought on what Miss Cheerliee would provide: games, excitement, maybe a short lesson before recess, and then they could all spend the rest of the day with their loved ones to share the holiday together. It was a recipe for another beautiful Hearts and Hooves Day, and the sunshine was only making it better.

But Granny Smith hadn't been downstairs to help out like she usually did. Apple Bloom hadn't seen her in her usual rocking chair as she got a little more sleep before tackling another day to the ground and throwing it into submission. She was as tough as nails and about as sharp when she wanted to be, but she was always there in the mornings every time Apple Bloom went off to school, always without fail.

She was there bright and early to make the Zap-Apple Jam when the season was right, and she never missed the chance to be there for the cider, cakes, pies, and various delicacies she'd taught her daughter-in-law and her daughter after her how to make.

Apple Bloom had always given her grandmother a hug before she went off to school. She had always made a point to suffer the old mare’s usual words of warning about the weather and the various critters which lived in the tall grasses where she usually ran. That rocking chair which was always moving as that shriveled green frame pushed herself back to sleep was as silent and as still as her sister had been, and as cold as the cheek which her brother had always made a point to kiss as she slept.

She had hoped to see her grandmother awake on the morning of Hearts and Hooves Day just to tell her how much she loved her, but the only one to whom she had spoken was Applejack, who had never said a word about their grandmother’s absence. Apple Bloom had planned to show them all that she loved them, to give them hugs and little words of affection before she spent the day without them.

But Granny Smith hadn't been there this morning...

~~~~~

That lingering fact was what kept Apple Bloom glued to the ground, ignoring the world as her friends stood by, watching over her, giving her time to think. She was so lost in the irregularities, the breaks in the Apple Family routine, and the absence of her grandmother that she almost didn't notice when that previously-furious unicorn filly skidded to a halt nearby, kicking up a little cloud of dust as she stopped abruptly before the three of them.

"Hey Sweetie Belle, Scoots!” Dinky said, a little too enthusiastically for Apple Bloom's taste. “Apple Bloom, Miss Cheerilee wants to see you inside for a second."

She had been counting down the minutes, but the time arrived sooner than she'd thought it could. Rising from her position she grabbed her friends and gave them hugs, thinking that the harder she squeezed them, the longer she might be able to stave off the inevitable.

But she only had so much energy, and now she had no time.

Strengthened by their embraces and emboldened by their words of encouragement and love, Apple Bloom trudged towards the schoolhouse door held open by her loving teacher. She took a second to scan her teacher's face for some confirmation of her fears, but saw nothing but Miss Cheerilee's usual serenity staring back. It was enough to get her through the door and seated at her usual desk as her teacher closed and locked the door, depositing two letters on her desk before making her way over to Apple Bloom, her hoofsteps quiet and even.

Apple Bloom looked to the floor to see that pencil half still lingering from when it had snapped.

She felt, in the face of what was to come, almost as broken.

"Apple Bloom, sweetie," her teacher began, sitting down on the floor beside her student. "Do you know why I called you in here?"

Applebloom slowly shook her head, her unkempt hair cascading over her face as she closed her eyes. She took a deep breath and lowered her gaze from her teacher's, shaking her head as furiously and as silently as she dared even though she knew it was a lie.

She knew exactly why she was here. She knew why her grandmother had been missing that morning. She wished she could be as ignorant as her friends outside, the one’s who waited for her and gave her comfort without understanding why she felt as she did. She wished that she was just a little younger so that she didn't fully understand the abstract concepts which slowly twisted the knife in her heart... just so she could be spared the pain. Cheerilee rubbed her leg in that tender way she always had, as if Apple Bloom was one of her own.

"Are you sure?"

Her teacher's little whisper was enough for Apple Bloom to renew her resolve and shake her head, her hair falling over her little face as she kept her defense up, as if the denial of her fate would change what was in store.

But then, as her eyes closed ever so tightly and her face contorted into a pained little smile, she gave a little nod, her tears tracing her lips as she cried in silence. She heaved a little, trying so very hard to ensure she wouldn't give in, wouldn't give up... be strong like her sister and her brother and her Granny.

But that was something she couldn't do, no matter how hard she tried... no matter how much she wanted to.

She reached for her teacher's neck to pull Miss Cheerilee as close to herself as she could, but she went straight into her teacher's waiting hooves in the process. Cheerilee could do little more than be there for her student as Apple Bloom struggled to keep herself from wailing, her little chest heaving as that little heart of hers pounded away, each wave of blood ushering in another equally dull wave of despair. Every tear, every choking gasp, every rasping little scream brought only more pain, and Cheerilee herself couldn't help shed a few tears to complement her student’s.

A few minutes more gave Apple Bloom the time to collect herself and take long, deep breaths, exhaling out her worries and the lingering tears.

"These things happen, Apple Bloom," her teacher whispered, squeezing her crying student closer. "Everyone goes through this, and I know you don't want it to happen, but it's time. There is a time for everypony, and now..."

Raising her student's chin from where it lay against her chest, she gave a sad little smile.

“...and now, it’s her’s.”

Nodding as she held her teacher closer, Apple Bloom sniffled a little as what her teacher said sank in. She held her teacher’s eyes for as long as she could, her own dripping as her teacher continued.

“I know it hurts, honey... and I know you think it’s unfair. Even I think it’s a little unfair that she never got the chance to see you grow up... but she knows that you are such a strong little filly, just like she was.”

“I’m not!” Applebloom babbled, her head shaking as she trembled in despair. “I’m not! I can’t be, I just can't! I can’t do it, Miss Cheerilee! I can’t do it! I can’t go home... I can’t do it... I can’t do it...”

“Yes you can, little Apple Bloom, I know you can...”

“NO!” Applebloom cried, clutching her teacher closer. “Please, don't make me go home! I can’t see her! I don’t want her to go! I don’t want her to leave me! Why can’t she stay? Why can’t she just stay around for a little while longer?”

“She just can’t, honey” her teacher said, unable to stop her own little tears from joining with Apple Bloom’s. “She has been working so long and so hard to keep you safe, and now that you are: she needs her rest. She needs to sleep, Apple Bloom. Just because she’s gone doesn't mean she doesn’t love you. She will always love you, honey... and she’ll always be there for you.”

“Where?” Applebloom whimpered desperately, her tongue catching in her throat as her stomach heaved in pain. "She's going to leave me! She can't leave me! Where will she go?"

She watched as her teacher pushed her away a little, looking into her eyes. She could feel as her teacher’s hoof made contact with her own skin, and as she looked down she saw what her teacher meant.

That magenta hoof which she had always seen coated in chalk or dirt was placed squarely over her heart, and as she watched she could see her own little organ creating so much pressure that her teacher’s hoof moved as it kept beating.

“Right here, Apple Bloom... right here in that big heart of yours. She’s always been there, and she always will be.”

Cheerilee smiled as her student looked to her chest, wondering over what she had said. Then, with her eyes aglow, AppleBbloom gave one last little sniffle and beamed up at her teacher, clutching Cheerilee’s hoof to her chest. Her teacher gave her a little nuzzle, and then spoke quietly so that only they could hear.

“Now, my dearest Apple Bloom: I want you to be strong, like your brother and sister. I want you to go home and be with them. I want you to be as strong as your Granny, for yourself and your family. You have so much love in that heart of yours that I know you can spare a little...”

She gave a little nudge and a warm smile. “I want you to go home now, Apple Bloom, and I don’t want you to come back until you’ve had time to relax and do what you need to do. Your sister is waiting for you at home, dear.”

Wiping away the tears which lingered on her student’s face, she walked with Apple Bloom towards the door, opening it with her hoof to allow her brave little student outside. When she had gone down the steps and made it to the road with her head held high, Apple Bloom looked back and caught her teacher’s kind eyes one last time before looking to the road, running as fast as she could back home.

~~~~~

After a few agonizing minutes of sprinting down the dusty road, Apple Bloom cleared the fence like her sister did and ran through that same tall grass she’d trekked through in the morning fog, not even noticing the little unicorn filly nearby who watched her from the fence further down the road. She thought it silly that these tall grasses, where just a few hours ago she’d sprinted through in excitement, now lowered over her in dread as their edges caught on the wind.

Breaking from the grass, she looked to find her brother talking in hushed voices with her sister, the both of them standing proud but visibly drained. It wasn’t that same look they always had when they’d completed some wide stretch of the orchard: their usually unbreakable frames sagged and their eyes drooped a little more than usual, past the point of physical exhaustion and into the realms of emotional distress.

But regardless of their heavy bodies and hearts, they both smiled widely as they watched her approach, Big Macintosh sitting down on the ground to allow the filly a space to curl against. When she found her way into his arms, he held her close to his massive beating heart before giving her that kiss on the cheek he had always made the effort to give her. He hadn't forgotten about her, and that little thought made her smile.

He would always love her, and even if it took him a little time: he would always be there.

Apple Bloom smiled as she held her brother against her chest, the two of them were frozen together for a few moments before he pulled her chin up and nodded in the direction of his other sister who sat in the doorframe awaiting Apple Bloom's arrival.

“It’s time, Applebloom,” Applejack stated calmly, the lingering tracks of her tears carving little valleys in the dirt which had always found its way onto her face. The little glinting sparkle of a new hatband lay squarely on the crown of her favorite workhat, and Apple Bloom couldn't help but admire it a little. It set her at ease to see something so simple and beautiful. It was not unlike the mare who stood proudly just beneath it.

Nodding her assent, Applebloom removed herself from her big brother and walked towards her sister, giving Applejack's chest and neck a little nuzzle before plodding slowly inside. Applejack and her brother shared a little flicker of relief before they too trotted inside, closing the door behind them.

They ate their lunch without saying a word to one another, and when it was finished they found themselves, and their farmhouse, utterly silent. Each of them did what chores they needed to do, and as they worked to make use of the time they had, they didn't even notice as the hours ticked away. Their thoughts had never been on the clock or the position of the sun outside, or the chores to which they needed to attend before they allowed themselves some respite.

They all had lingered, in one form or another, on the gentle soul who was unable to join them.

The only sound they could hear was the dull beating of their own hearts which punched through with a percussive force into their ears.

After all was said and done, the three Apples found themselves grouped around the stairs which led to the upper levels of the house, looking on another in apprehension. It was finally time. Each stared at the stairs, hoping another sibling would instigate, and after a while it was little Apple Bloom who made the first move. The two eldest siblings, strong though they were, couldn't help but smile in pride as the brave little Apple Bloom ran up the stairs, turned the corner, and made her way to her grandmother’s room.

She found herself standing at her grandmother’s door, but devoid of the will to open it. That little slab of wood was the only thing separating her grandmother from the ravages of age and time, and if she pushed it open she knew she would be allowing those forces inside. They would take her beloved grandmother from her, and she wouldn’t... she couldn’t... allow that to happen. Her sister’s presence at her side was comfort enough, but still she lacked that extra push she needed to open the door and be there for her Granny.

It was a push which Applejack, as she sat down beside the hesitant filly’s side, would provide for her.

“She ain’t afraid, sugarcube...” her older sister began, pulling Apple Bloom’s face towards her own. “She’s never been afraid. T’aint nothin’ can keep her down, and you know it.”

“But...” Apple Bloom whispered to the floor, finding her sister’s calm eyes too painful to look into. “How can... how can she not be? She doesn’t know what’s going to happen! She doesn’t want to go, I know it! I can feel it!”

“Darlin',” her sister whispered for the two of them alone. “She’s been ready for a long time. This is something she wants, and there ain’t nothing can come between Granny Smith and what she wants.”

Bringing her sister to her chest, Applejack whispered into her beloved little sister’s mane as she rocked her into the warm diaphanous folds of calm and comfort.

“She misses her friends, sugarcube. She misses Daddy. She misses your Grandpa too so very, very much... and now? Now she’s got the chance to see him again, to see them all again. We ain’t in no position to deny her that.”

Gripping her sister, Apple Bloom did what she could to calm herself down, clutching her sister tighter to her little chest.

“I don’t want her to go...”

“I know you don’t, honey,” Applejack smiled, hugging her sister a little tighter. “Neither do I. She’s been a mother, a father, and a grandparent to all of us. She’s been there for everythin’: for every whoopin’, every birthday, every reunion, every day we spend alone together in the house, playin’ cards and swappin’ stories when the weather ain’t good enough for harvestin’”.

Releasing her sister with a little nudge on her chest, Applejack gave one final smile before nodding in the direction of the door.

“She’s been there all the while, and now... now it’s our turn to be there for her.”

Giving her little sister’s chin one last stroke, her eyes pointed Apple Bloom back to the door which stood between the three of them and their grandmother.

Taking a deep breath, Apple Bloom filled her lungs as much as she could and, as she exhaled: pushed the door open.

~~~~~

The room was well lit and ventilated, warm enough to keep them all comfortable yet not musky or tepid as the upper levels sometimes got. The balcony across from her bed was wide open, the curtains fluttering lazily in the breeze as the landing soaked up the heat of the slowly setting sun, drawing little lines of light across the floor as the curtains moved. The room was just as spotless as she usually kept it, and the remaining bowls and utensils which hung around by the bedside indicated that she hadn’t eaten her morning meal.

She didn’t have much need of it. Not anymore.

Walking slowly and silently to their grandmother’s side, the three Apples kept their hoofsteps quiet and their pace even as they surrounded her bedside: Applebloom took up a space on the bed beside her grandmother, while Applejack and Big Macintosh flanked the four-poster on either side, resting at the bedside as they watched their Granny sleep. Her chest moved slowly upwards at first before drawing out her exhalations, lowering once more for a few seconds before it slowly refilled.

The phlegm and other fluids which old age had deposited in her throat were audible as they crackled against the releasing air, but they provided enough sound for Applebloom to know that her grandmother was still there... still holding on...

A little snort and a cough shook them all from their silence as their grandmother gave a racking wheeze to eject what fluids she could, buckling over as she gave a few hearty coughs into a nearby handkerchief. Big Macintosh grabbed the cloth when she was finished, placing it on the bedside table near an old photograph. Its edges were faded and it looked as if a stiff wind might tear it apart, but it was there nonetheless. A little candle nearby threw its light over the frame, dancing on the glass as if the images below were moving.

“Thankee dearie...” was her soft reply as she opened her eyes to look around the room, not expecting an audience like the three ponies which lingered there to watch her sleep. Starting a little, she looked in surprise at Apple Bloom who sat beside her on the bed, her little frame placed so carefully near her own.

“Apple Bloom... dearie... why ain’t you in school? You playin’ ‘hookey’ with them l’il friends of yours again?”

“No, Granny Smith,” Apple Bloom replied. “I got the rest of the day off, so I came to spend it with you.”

“Well,” Granny Smith commented, looking around the room at her oldest grandchildren. “You should'a done stayed in school ’stead of lookin’ after some old coot like me! I’m gunna be fine, don'tcha know?”

“I know you will, Granny,” Applebloom whispered, her voice and body shaking as she placed her little hoof into her grandmother’s wrinkled one. “I know you will...”

Apple Bloom gave her grandmother a little stroke of her hoof as she kept her smile tight across her face, watching her grandmother as the green mare diverted her attention to Applejack.

"Dear... were y'all able ta find that feller?... that there 'Royal Guard' or some such?"

"He ain't nothin' but a regular Guard, Granny," Aplejack offered quietly, raising her head proudly before giving a little nod. "But yes: Twilight found him."

"Good... good..." was all Granny Smith could say, patting Apple Bloom's hoof offhandedly as she looked around the room, searching for something to address or scrutinize, finding nothing but their kind faces gazing back at her.

“Granny,” Big Macintosh grunted, his voice low as his baritone timbre rumbled around the room. “Wouldja like me to open them curtains for you? It’s quite nice out...”

“Couldja dear?” she exclaimed, raising herself a little as she pulled her back up to meet the bed-frame. “I’ve been meanin’ to watch a proper sunset from that there balcony... never did get ‘round to it, I reckon.”

He nodded his assent, walking slowly towards the curtains before gripping the drawstring holding them closed with his teeth. Then, with a careful application of force, he drew them open slowly enough so that the incoming light wouldn’t blind his grandmother who now lay fully upright to watch the sunset.

“My oh my...” she whispered towards her smallest grandchild. “Wouldja look at that...”

Drawing her close, Granny Smith gathered up the little Apple Bloom to her wrinkled chest, holding her tightly as the two ponies, their hearts beating in unison, watched the sunset together.

The light from that majestic celestial orb cascaded through the lingering branches of the West Orchard, casting long trails of shadow which framed and split the lingering orange and red beams of light as their sun dipped low on the horizon. A few pairs of birds, singing what melodies that had reserved, flitted and played across the face of the spectacle, adding to the shadows as they looped, sang, and chased one another around the sky.

Apple Bloom could feel her grandmother’s grip tighten as she watched, and could almost hear her Granny's little heart beating away against her back, its own thump thump...thump thump... much weaker and quieter than her own.

“She should be here any minute, Granny,” Applejack whispered, watching the skies for a sign of some great portent, looking over to make sure that the doors would allow for the arrival of their visitor.

“I never reckoned she’d come down here on the farm to watch this old firebrand go out,” their grandmother stated evenly, her eyes glazing over slightly as she leaned back to watch the skies with her grandchild in her arms. "But I'm glad she's a-comin. I've been meanin' to see her again."

"Granny," Apple Bloom whispered, adjusting herself closer to the green mare who held her close to her wrinkled chest. "Who's comin'?"

Giving her smallest granddaughter a little grin and a bop! on the nose, Granny Smith turned the filly around to face the coming twilight.

"You'll see..." was all she whispered.

The four of them watched in utter silence as the lights and shadows of their glorious sun cast their elongating trails around the room, illuminating the dark corners where the light never reached with the bright august glow of the sun’s descent. Those shadows grew larger unbeknownst to Apple Bloom, who could do little more than wince as the sun shone in her eyes. That light grew dimmer as she held her eyes closed, and when the light had finally all but died away she opened her eyes to find herself staring at a most magnificent sight:

Just as their sun’s uppermost edge dipped below the topmost foliage of their apple trees, a great gust of air shook the curtains aside, forcing them to flap and flutter in the room as they reacting to some unforeseen downdraft. Then, as they watched, a single golden-clad hoof... and then another... alighted on their balcony’s bannister and rested on the planks.

The ruffling of the curtains hid their visitor away only slightly, and as little Applebloom watched in wonder, Princess Celestia, her horn splitting the curtains as she bowed her head, stepped into the room.

Apple Bloom could only gape in awe at what resplendence came with her Princess’s arrival, and her mouth dropped as the Princess, her head bowed only slightly to avoid scraping the ceiling with her massive horn, stepped towards Big Macintosh’s side to rest by Granny Smith’s bed.

“Well, hey there, Princess,” their grandmother stated with a smile, allowing herself another little cough before speaking once more. “I ain’t never thought you’d be standin’ in mah room like you are... but here you are.”

“Anything for you, Granny Smith,” her Princess whispered. “It’s been a long while since we’ve seen one another. That was back when this town didn’t even exist on any map.”

“Darn tootin'!” the shriveled green Granny exclaimed with a little wild light in her eyes. “We Apples done built this town, and I’ll be rollin’ in mah grave if there ain’t always an Apple here in Ponyville! That there’s the truth of it, y’hear?”

She made her last little point towards her grandchildren, who sat both in awe at their Princess’s presence and at the little fire still lingering in their beloved grandmother’s heart. Big Macintosh gave a grin and a nod while Applejack smiled, laughing to herself as she wiped away a little tear.

“Of course we will, Granny. We’ll always be here...”

“You sure as shoot will, little Hayseed... or mah name ain’t Granny Smith!” she laughed, pounding her hoof on the bedside as she gave a firm, but loving, little command. It was her way, and they knew what it meant.

Their grandmother, even as she lay dying, wanted them to be safe and to care for one another, to make sure that they stuck by one another throughout the years, come what may, and keep the Apple Family together.

Granny Smith gave a little smile towards her Princess, who returned it with a little giggle of her own and a warm grin. They had long since abandoned decorum, she and the shriveled green mare at her side. There was no use for formalities when one such as Granny Smith had been her subject for so long, stood by her side through everything... fought to uphold her values and her rule with every fiber of her being.

Celestia had watched from afar as the town had grown, as Granny Smith herself nailed the first planks to the Town Hall framework. She’d watched as her old friend fell in love, built a farm, started a family, and watched it grow. She’d watched from pride as the same green mare before her worked to provide for her loved ones, struggling to ensure her family’s survival through the harshest winters and lowest yields in recent memory.

She’d watched as those little bones grew weak, and then brittle, and then slowly withered to the point where she couldn’t even hold her own son, or his own children, close to her chest the same way she’d used to.

She’d watched her slowly die, as the Princess herself never could, and yet through it all she'd stayed strong. She was mean sometimes, strict and unyielding not because she could be, but because she had to be. She was the oldest pony in Ponyville, and she had earned herself some rest.

She had built a town. She had raised a family. She had let them spread out like seeds on the wind.


And now, with her Princess by her side: Granny Smith would start her next great adventure.


“Are you ready, Granny Smith?” was all the Princess could muster as she knelt down before her subject, gazing into her old and filmy eyes as she awaited her response.

It was a response which didn’t come, at least not right away.

Granny Smith gave her smallest grandchild one final little squeeze as she turned her around to hold her there, staring back into her eyes, resting her hooves on Apple Bloom’s hips all the while to comfort the silently weeping little filly in her arms.

“Now listen here, Hayseed...” she began, smiling as she laid down another rule for her progeny to follow. “I want you to listen to your brother and your sister. They know how to run the farm better than I ever could, so you just pay attention and do as they say. Ain’t nothin’ bad gunna happen as long as y’all stay together. Y’hear?”

Her grandchild nodded and smiled, even as her eyes clenched together in pain and worry.

“I don't want you to go!” Apple Bloom cried, rocking herself back and forth as she struggled to contain herself, trying in vain to stifle those tears she told herself she’d never cry even as her grandmother held her close. “I don’t want you to go Granny... I don’t want you to go... I don’t want you to go...”

“Hayseed?” she heard her grandmother whisper, not in alarm at her actions but in sincere and utter love. Raising her head, Applebloom looked back into those milky eyes as best she could.

“Look at your sister, little one...” was her quiet command, and the two of them looked at Applejack in unison as the eldest sister stood silently by, watching the two with tears in her eyes.

“Look at Applejack, dearie...” Granny Smith whispered again, as close as she could into the little filly’s ears. “Look at how brave she is... how strong and honest she is. Don'tcha wanna be like her someday?”

As they stared, Applebloom couldn’t help but nod.

“Does Applejack look afraid, Hayseed?” her grandmother queried, giving her grandchild another squeeze. With a little shake of her head, Applebloom stared deep into Applejack’s eyes and watched as her strong, brave, and honest sister shed a little tear as she smiled warmly back.

“No, Granny... she doesn’t.”

“That’s because there ain’t nothin’ to be afraid of,” her grandmother whispered. “There ain’t nothin’ to be scared of as long as y’all stay together. That there’s the truth of it, little Apple Bloom. Don’t let nobody tell you otherwise.”

Giving her smallest grandchild a little kiss on the head, Granny Smith turned her around and pulled her close to her chest, giving a little nod and a smile to her eldest grandchildren. The two of them lingered at the bedside with their heads held high, their faces beaming in pride for her courage and her long and glorious life... granting her a little courage as she faced down the unknown.

Releasing her grandchild from her grasp, she gave Applebloom a little nudge on the rump to move her beside her sister, who’d sat down on the bedside to be there as she passed. The bed depressed even further as Big Macintosh, in all his massive bulk, sat towards the foot of the bed to allow his Princess enough room to conduct her affairs.

“I think it’s time, Princess...” Granny Smith smiled, placing her wrinkled hoof on Celestia’s own as she gazed at her family one last time.

“...I’m ready.”

With a little nod and a glance back at her family seated around her little shriveled frame, she lingered there on the mattress a moment, still holding onto what little threads of life she still held onto out of sheer Apple Family obstinacy. She watched them calmly as they awaited her departure, and in all her long years she had never seen anything quite so beautiful.

Beside her stood her eldest grandson, more powerful and muscled than she had ever seen, but within his breast beat the most tender and loving heart she'd ever had the honor to know. She'd known ever since he'd been but a little colt, when she was still able to hold him. She had placed her ear to his little chest just to hear her first grandson's heartbeat... and it had always been strong. He looked just like his father.

Her eldest granddaughter was just as brave, just as beautiful, just as tender and kind as her brother and father were. She had taken on her own duties and had done the impossible with the life she had been thrust into. She had denied herself so many things to allow her family to thrive, to allow her sister to go to school. She was a business pony. She was an Element of Harmony. She was never afraid. She always smiled, even when her heart was breaking... even when she watched her parents go.

Granny Smith couldn't have been more proud of her.

But despite everything which had occurred in her long life, there was nothing which compared to the beauty of that little filly who sat beside her older sister, smiling as she allowed herself to cry, beaming at her grandmother as she gave herself one last fleeting moment to be weak. Granny Smith remembered when she'd first been born, when her heart had fluttered as her granddaughter's little black eyes surveyed the valleys and crevices which had slowly grown over her own face. She'd played with them, traced their lines with her tiny little hoof. She watched that same little hoof grow larger and larger, the filly to whom it belonged growing stouter and taller. Her hair gleamed, and her mother's bow held it perfectly.

There were so many things she would gladly sacrifice just to see them all... just for a few more moments...

But the lingering presence of her Princess and the little warmth she still had pressed her to keep to her plan.

The Apple Matriarch closed her eyes, leaned back towards the bed frame as she pulled her head up, gave one last little smile to her beloved kin, and gave Celestia’s hoof a little tap.

The Princess rose, bowing once again before her subject and the last of her oldest remaining mortal friends. As she rose from her bow, she gave a nod to the three Apples sitting on the bed, granting them one last little smile of courage.

A smile to ensure them that nothing bad would come to pass in the remaining life of Granny Smith. A smile to remind them to keep their heads up high.


A smile to usher in the end.


She placed the very tip of her long horn against Granny Smith’s head and, with a little spark between bone and flesh, granted Granny Smith her final wish.

Apple Bloom, who had clutched her grandmother’s hoof in her own to help her grandmother through the veil, could only feel as the lingering tension of her Grandmother's hoof began to fade, very slowly, almost as if she was falling slowly back to sleep.

She felt as her grandmother's pulse kept on beating with her own, keeping time with her fresh heart. She felt it slowly die out, sliding away ever so faintly as her face, her radiant face, stared ever upwards towards the ceiling, smiling as she ascended.

One last thump thump...thump thump...

Then one more pair of beats.

Then just one solitary constriction.

and then:


Silence.

~~~~~

The trio rested there, watching her, guarding over their loving grandmother as she slipped slowly away, sliding into a realm in which they could not follow. Apple Bloom shed one last tear as she released her grandmother’s hoof from her own, smiling at her sister and nodding in acknowledgement of her passing. Sharing her sad little smile, Applejack swooped her sister into one final embrace before nodding to her brother as she held onto the filly who rested there against her chest, both of them smiling all the while.

Big Macintosh, with a little bow to mirror his Princess’s, drew the blankets over the smiling and serene face of their grandmother to shield her from the light, allowing her to slump into the bed as her body, her frail and stubborn body, finally rested.

Celestia could do nothing more for them, and as she walked back towards the balcony to take flight, she looked behind her to watch the remaining Apples seated in silence, holding each other not in pain, or sadness, or anger that their grandmother had left them behind. They sat and watched her go with smiles on their faces, looking to one another in pride as they remembered the life of their loving and stubborn grandmother, one they loved with all their hearts even when she would punish them, give them chores, or tell them to clean their room...

...One who had built a town, who had cared for the three of them by herself when their parents had passed... the mare who had shirked her own hopes and dreams to keep together the one thing, the one little world, which truly mattered.

With a nod and a flicker of magic she pushed the sun below the horizon, extinguishing its light from the world even as the little candle which lingered by the bedside threw light around the old picture, that worn and faded thing encased in glass and wood from their very apple trees.

The flame cast shadows on the smiling face of an exhausted young green mare, sweating profusely and much less wrinkled than she was now, holding the form of her newborn son in her hooves... both staring at the other in wonder.

And thus, with her family by her side and her pain extinguished: Granny Smith passed away.

Two of them, nodding their heads in reverence before their grandmother, walked silently from the room. Only Big Macintosh remained, watching his sisters leave before walking to his grandmother’s side to give her one final kiss on the head. Then, lingering there for a moment, he raised his hoof from the bedside table to snuff out the candle at her side.

Celestia gave one final powerful surge of her wings and lifted off from the balcony, admiring the town below and the sparkling lights which glittered from the houses and street lamps. She smiled in admiration as she watched a small herd of multicolored mares and their dragon friend slip silently past Sweet Apple Acres, with Twilight alone in the knowledge of what had occurred within.

She watched for a moment when one blue dot so very far below stopped, lingered there beside the others, and then shot off for some point in the orchard below while the others continued on their way to the schoolhouse which glittered further down the road. Everything was going as planned.

She turned her gaze upwards, watching as her sister Luna, from Canterlot so many miles away, drew the stars in the sky to tell the story of Granny Smith and her long and exceptional life. It was a final present, etched in the evening sky, from two grateful and loving Sisters to the mare who'd taken the broken lives of three little ponies and, with a smile on her face all the while...


...had given them her world in return.

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