Ghost of a Rose

by Noble Thought

First published

Roseluck goes on a journey through her past to discover what her future holds.

[Warning: Spoilers in the comments]
The world around Roseluck is slipping away piece by piece. Color drains away, fear creeps in, and an empty town hides a secret she is afraid to face.

When all that remains are memories of family, friends, and fleeting moments, a friend tries to help her hold onto them before they fade away.

Before she fades away.

Cover art by secret-pony used with permission.

This story wouldn't be where it is today without the help of Minds Eye. Editor, pre-reader, idea wall, friend.

I also had a ton of help and encouragement from these fine folks acting as pre-readers and/or editors:
Between Lines, Evilhumour, Smaug the Golden, CogWing,Cerulean Voice, Adda le Blue, SirTruffles, wYvern, Syeekoh

Chapter 1: Lost Roses

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Where are the bees?

And the hummingbirds?

Where’s the wind?

Rose lifted her nose to take a deep breath as the thoughts trickled through her mind. Silence gripped the world still in its frozen grasp, holding back even the myriad of scents that should have been there.

All around her the stillness lay thick like a blanket, stifling her garden. The roses, calla lilies, daisies, and smaller plots of geraniums she cared for drooped as though she hadn’t watered it in a week or more.

She glanced up at the sky, but it remained stubbornly featureless and iron grey. Not even a dim glimpse of the sun shone through the clouds, and the half-light cast everything in gloomy, washed out shades.

I wonder if it might rain later today. An off-schedule shower would take care of the wilted look, except she couldn’t smell any rain in the air. She took a deep breath through her nose and frowned. The air didn’t smell like much of anything: not the distant smell of wet earth, the smells of the town down the lane, or even the sweet aroma of her flowers.

Even the sound of Ponyville’s busy market square was so muted that any stray noise may as well have been a figment of her imagination. It was like the entire world had decided to take the day off and not bothered to tell her.

She sighed. She could complain about it to Golden Harvest later. Right then, she needed to water her garden before anything died.

Except when she walked over to the faucet, the bucket sitting under it was empty—there wasn’t so much as a drop in the bottom. Nothing happened when she twisted the lever. Not even a puff of dust came out, and tapping the pipe running up the side of the house only brought forth a hollow ring.

She pondered the mystery of the faucet for a moment, frowned, then looked up at the catch barrel on its ledge, far above. It didn’t look like it had a hole in it, even though the pegasus rain schedule should have it close to brimming on Rainday and the only day it should be in danger of running dry was Marketday.

What day is it today? She meandered back to sit on her porch and stare at her garden while she pondered that most important—and frustratingly elusive—of questions.

“I went to market for groceries... yesterday?” That sounded right, and the sound of her voice alleviated some of the tension. “Then today must be Thirstday.” She glanced at the roof of her porch, as though she could see the rain barrel, and pursed her lips. Did Goldie say anything about watering her carrot patch?

She couldn’t remember if her roommate had or not, and that irked her. Come to think of it, she hadn’t seen the carrot farmer yet. Goldie should have been up and about hours ago, off to tend the larger farm she worked for at the edge of town.

“Goldie! Are you in there?”

No answer to her call came from within the house, nor from the surrounding yard. She snorted. I’ll just bet she’s off again to see Applejack again.

It was an open secret between her and the other two flower mares that Golden Harvest had a thing for Applejack for a long while. Their mutual interest wasn’t a secret anymore.

The real secret was the contrived, silly plan involving a certain mail pony and too many mis-delivered letters to be coincidence. She and her marefriends—Bright Eyes, Lily and Daisy—had manufactured enough scenarios bringing the two mares together until something had finally sparked.

She glanced at her mailbox, barely visible through the evenly spaced slats of her fence. She hadn’t seen Post Haste come by yet either, and he usually came around the same time every day; but the sun hiding completely behind the flat grey cloud cover could have been at any time of the day. Maybe she was misjudging the time.

It wouldn’t hurt to check and see if he left something for me. Maybe he’d come by while she was venting her frustrations on the water pipe. She stepped down off her porch and shot the barrel another glare, then trotted down the clay and cobble path to the street.

The usual bustle of activity was gone. Not even a stray leaf drifted down the hard-packed dirt road.

There should have been a cacophony of distant carts rattling on their way into town or the familiar clamor of ponies selling their wares to friends and neighbors. There should have been a whirlwind of smells from the steamy scent of baking breads to the tangy bite of fresh mown hay.

She shivered.

The silence was wrong and the still air felt lifeless. The town sounded and looked deserted. Surely with the day well on its way—gloomy as it was—there would have been at least somepony out and about.

She glanced around once more, then turned her attention to her mailbox and shoved the street and its strangeness to the back of her mind. It might just be... the weather keeping everypony inside. Yes. Just... She turned her attention to the one spot of brilliant color in her world.

It was a rose, left by somepony who cared for her. She wasn’t alone. Post Haste must have been by.

She smiled down at the bright red rose laying at the base of her mailbox. Who else could brighten my day like this? The rose was fresh and bright, every line and facet of it crisply defying the dull matte covering everything else.

Rose glanced up and down the street. Her mane wanted to stand on end while nervous prickles danced up her legs; the deserted street felt more than empty. It felt purposely abandoned.

She turned her attention back to the rose. It looked the same as it had, but she could hear the sound of somepony crying—a stallion by the sound of his voice—somewhere close by. She glanced up from the enigma laying by her mailbox, and looked left and right down the street once more. Nopony was there, and it didn’t feel like anypony was watching her.


She waited, listening. All Rose could hear was the vast silence humming in her ears, growing louder.

The silence popped. She looked up.

“Roseluck?” Pinkie Pie stood with her mouth agape at the street corner.

Roseluck frowned at the brilliantly colored flower again, then pushed the puzzle from her mind and turned to face her friend. Pinkie seemed to be more real than the world around her—like the rose—as though an artist had paid particular attention to them alone out of the whole of the world.

“Hello, Pinkie. How nice of you to stop by.” Rose shook the cobwebs free from her mind and waved an inviting hoof at her. “Forgive me, I’m just a little lost this... this morning.” A quick glance up at the sky told her nothing more about the time. The sun seemed as reluctant to show itself as winter-killed flowers were to bloom.

Pinkie didn’t reply immediately. She stared at Rose first, then looked at the rose on the ground.

“Pinkie? What’s wrong?” She laughed, the sound falling flat even to her ears. “You look like you’ve seen a Mirror Pie again.”

Pinkie blinked and shook her head, but didn’t laugh at the joke. “Rose, what are you still doing here?”

“What do you mean, still doing here? I live here.” Rose gestured to her empty house, her failing garden, and the lawn showing the first signs of shaggy growth—the first sign of improper care. She frowned at the garden and lawn. “I mean, I know it looks like I haven’t been here for a week—”

The rest of the sentence slipped away from her. It couldn’t have been more than a minute since she’d last looked at her garden, but it looked as though another week had passed. How long was I standing there? Am I losing my mind?

“Are you still with me, Rose?”

Shaking her head, Rose returned to the present. “It... I mean, I guess it looks like I haven’t been here for a couple weeks,” she said, amending her statement, “but I do. Still live here, I mean.”

Pinkie stared at her for a moment more, then looked at the rose. “You forgot, then.”

“Forgot what? Is there something I should remember?” Rose took a step back from the rose and the mailbox—and a step away from her friend. “You’re scaring me. What don’t I know?”

“Rose—” Pinkie stopped herself, waving a hoof at some idea. “I don’t think I can tell you again. You didn’t believe me. Not that I blame you.” She rolled her eyes. “I mean, I almost don’t believe me.” She paused again, worrying at her lower lip, then looked up again. “Will you trust me?”

She sounded nothing like the happy-go-lucky Pinkie that Roseluck knew. She wasn’t the same Pinkie who sang happy songs on bright sunshiny days, and carried the town’s spirits on her back in the gloomy times.

“I trust Pinkie. You’re still... Pinkie?” Suddenly, the quip about the mirror pool Pinkie didn’t seem like such a joke.

The mare she hoped was Pinkie actually thought about her question before answering, which seemed odd to her, but it may also have been Pinkie being Pinkie.

“I’m pretty sure I am. I mean...” Pinkie stared off into the distance, over Rose’s head, then shook her head, ears falling flat. “Rose, please. This isn’t about me. This is about you. I need to show you what you wouldn’t listen to.”


Rose hadn’t spoken to Pinkie in... her garden suggested at least two weeks had passed during her... absence. Why can’t I remember where I was? I must have been somewhere! “What are you talking about? You haven’t told me anything that I wouldn’t... remember.” She sighed. “Fine. Just promise me something.” When Pinkie nodded, she continued, “Promise me this isn’t some kind of prank, okay?”

“Pinkie Promise.” Pinkie covered one eye with a hoof.

She relaxed. None of the mirror Pinkies had ever shown they could promise, or been able to hold onto a calm demeanor for so long. “Okay.” She took a deep breath and let it out. “What is it you have to show me?”

“I can’t tell you. I don’t think I can.” Pinkie rolled her eyes and stepped off the walk and into the road, then looked back at her. “Whatever happens, please don’t forget me again.”

The strange request gnawed at Rose as she followed Pinkie along the road, and it distracted her from noticing right away how empty Ponyville seemed. They were the only ponies on the main road out of town, and even here there were no birds in the skies, or cats, dogs, or other pets scampering about.

There weren’t even any carts—aside from broken ones hidden down alleys—parked behind or beside the various homes and shops she knew boasted at least one.

“Where is everypony? Was there a festival that I didn’t get an invite for?” She tried to smile, but it faded before it even reached her lips.

“No, Rose.” Pinkie slowed and brushed up against Roseluck.

“Is something wrong with me?” While the company was welcome, having Pinkie so close to her felt vaguely uncomfortable. Shaking her head, she tried to dismiss the feeling. “Please, something feels so very strange about all of today. There’s no rain in the rain barrel, and my garden looks like it’s been untended for weeks.”

They continued walking, yet Pinkie gave no further answers to her questions. Houses and shops slipped by, their faded colors jarring compared to the bright pink pony by her side. Their hooves on the paving stones sounded muffled when they should have echoed in the silence.

“And where is everypony? I want to know!” Even Rose’s shout didn’t echo back. It faded away into nothing.

“I don’t know.” Pinkie glanced at her, and slowed. “I’m so sorry, Rose. I know it’s hard for you.”

“What do you mean?”

“Please, Rose. I-I don’t know how to answer in a way that you’ll understand.”

Rose tried to glare at her, but the look Pinkie gave her stilled her anger. “You’re telling the truth.”

“Of course I am. I know what it feels like to be lied to when it feels important. I don’t want to lie to you when it is important.”

“Then don’t lie to me. Please, tell me what you know.”

Pinkie sighed, shaking her head. “I tried already. That’s why I’m showing you.”

Talking with Pinkie was getting nowhere. Of course, any serious conversation with her usually went in unusual directions, but rarely did it go in a circle. Rose sighed and tried not to pay attention to the town’s emptiness.

She stepped closer to her friend. The vaguely uncomfortable feeling refused to go away, but it did make the hole in her heart feel less empty.

At least she wasn’t alone.

Rose stopped at the base of the hill and looked up at the wrought iron archway with its gates standing wide open. She had hoped Pinkie would turn aside at any one of half a dozen side streets and alleys, but her course stayed straight.

“Why the cemetery?” Dread settled in her stomach like she’d swallowed a horseshoe or a dozen. “Please, Pinkie. I don’t need to see my mother’s grave.” She swallowed against the lump in her throat and felt another horseshoe join the rest of the pile of anxiety in her gut.

“We’re not here to visit your mother.” Pinkie hooked a foreleg around hers and tugged her forward. “Come on.”

“I-I don’t want to.” Rose tried to pull away, but Pinkie tightened her grip and leaned the other way. The contact tingled, verging on hurting. “Please, Pinkie.”

“Rose, please. I can’t make you go, but please trust me. I’m your friend, remember? I would never do something to hurt you.”

An intense feeling of deja vu settled over her like a wet blanket. “Why does it feel like you’ve said that before?”

Pinkie sighed. “I couldn’t say, Rose.”

“Why do you keep saying my name?”

Pinkie let go of her leg and looked away. “I don’t want you to forget.”

“Forget what? My name?”

Pinkie shrugged, not meeting her gaze.

Rose glanced between her friend and the entrance to the cemetery again. “Pinkie, I don’t know what’s gotten into you.” She turned her attention fully on the cemetery. “But you’re my friend. If this will help you, then please lead the way.”

Smiling, Pinkie patted her hoof. “Yes. It will help me, Rose.”

Why do I get the feeling she... No, she Pinkie Promised. She shook the thought from her mind and followed after her friend.

Pinkie led her through the cemetery, past the sparse rows of markers stretching back to the founding of the town. It wasn’t a large cemetery, but there was room enough to grow, and family plots stood out all across the hilltop.

The Rose family plot was one of the smaller plots, with only grandparents... and her mother. She stopped at the border of the family space. Four gravestones were there. Not three. Four. Four members of her family.

Why are there four? Why?

“Dad...” How could I forget? Dad, why did I forget? What kind of terrible daughter am I? The grave markers faded behind a blur of tears, and she choked on the anguish rushing up to strangle her.

Pinkie looked at her, but didn’t say anything, only leaned closer. Her ears drooped so much they’d disappeared into her mane.

“Pinkie... w-why didn’t you just tell me dad died? I could have understood that. I would have understood that. I—” Wouldn’t I?

“Rose—” Pinkie shook her head, and Rose felt her shaking against her side. “Let’s go say goodbye, okay?”

“Goodbye? But...” I can’t say goodbye... I was never there to see him go.

“Please. You can’t let this eat at you.” Pinkie’s voice was almost too soft to hear, but still cracked.

“You’re right.” She scrubbed at her eyes with the back of a hoof. “Please give me a moment.” Sitting, eyes closed, she thought of her family, the happy times, and sought the composure that would let her accept this.

There was a custom she had when visiting her family, almost a ritual in the way it calmed her. She needed that peace—and the feeling of deep serenity that came of following it through—before she could say hello to her dad, in his new home.

She walked over to the closest grave and sat still until she could make out the name. It appeared as she remembered from too many visits with her father. The stone was unadorned by any finery, the only wording present the name of her grandfather.

It took longer to find her voice.

“Hello, Grampy Stem.” She imagined him smiling at her. He always had a smile ready for her. “I’m sorry I haven’t been by in a while, but it looks like somepony gave you some fresh flowers. I hope you like them.” Reaching out a hoof, she brushed the side of the stone marker and bowed her head for a long moment.

She looked back before moving to the next marker.

Pinkie was standing a few steps behind her, watching her in silence. She didn’t seem to notice Rose looking at her at first, but tried to smile when she did. “I’m here for you, Rose.”

Rose smiled back, ears dipping, and sat at her grandmother’s marker, also bare except for the name. “Hello, Grammy Bud. I miss the time you spent with me as a filly. I hope the weather’s been nice enough for you. I promise I’ll come by more often.”

Except she never did. She always promised, but it was too much for her to keep wandering by the same graves, seeming to always grow in number. She thought dad would have had another decade before she saw his.

Her grandmother’s grave didn’t look the same as it had the last time she’d visited. She stared at the stone until it hit her: a bit of bracken was tucked into the lettering. She reached out a hoof to brush it away, but it stayed stubbornly rooted. Scraping harder did no more. She stopped and sighed. Maybe Grammy would like it. It certainly was rooted in, and if she couldn’t accept that small change...

She shook her head and continued her tradition, sitting in front of her mother’s gravestone. Fancier than the grandparents’, it was ornately decorated with a wreath of roses around her name, and a simple memorial inscription.

Rose Petal. Sisters watch over you. Daughter, wife, mother.


A sob choked her, and she wilted, staring down at hooves blurred by a veil of tears. She took a deep breath, and let it go before looking up. “Hello, mom. I’m sorry I wasn’t there...” Her breath caught in her throat again, and she swallowed back another upwelling of grief. ”Mother—” Please grant me the serenity to get through this... “I should have been there.”

The twin rose bushes on either side of the gravestone were small still, but each year they grew a little larger. “I hope the roses are to your liking. It’s from the bush that you gave me for my fifth birthday. I’m glad to see they’re flourishing.” Rose reached out a hoof to touch one of the cuttings. It was in full bloom, and beautiful, but not untouched by the gloom settling over everything else in the world.

She stared at the roses for a long while, feeling renewed by the sight of them. They were so different from the ones in her garden, so alive and well tended. I’ll have to thank the caretaker.

The strange rose under her mailbox had outshone even these small bushes. She frowned at the small bushes growing up to either side of the marker, and wished they had looked as bright as that one. Her mother would have loved to see it.

“I’ll come back soon.” She could cry later. Right then, she could feel a fragile serenity embracing her. She needed to be strong for him.

“Rose... Before you look.” Pinkie stepped up close and brushed against her. “I’m sorry.”

“It’s not your fault, Pinkie.” The serene feeling began slipping away, and the world blurred. I’m not ready. But she forced a smile, for her sake, and his. “His health’s been iffy since mom left. Sometimes it feels like he’s been holding on; just for me.” Though they were meant for Pinkie, the words comforted her as well. He’d found his peace, and if he could, then so could she.

Roseluck. You brightened the lives of your friends and your family. Sky, earth, and stars guide you to peace.

“I’m sorry.” Pinkie’s voice cracked, and she looked away.



“No.” Rose took a hesitant step forward to confront the gravestone, hoof raised to touch it. She shied away at the last moment. It felt too real to confront, as though touching it would confirm the terrible truth written in polished stone.

“I’m so sorry, Rose.”

“This isn’t funny, Pinkie.” Rose rounded on Pinkie, her ‘friend,’ and shoved. Hard. “I thought you said this wasn’t some kind of prank! What kind of sick joke are you trying to play?”

Pinkie rocked and took a step back, looking away. “It’s not a joke, Rose. I would never play this kind of prank on anypony. You know me better than that.”

“Then what do you call that?” Rose jabbed a hoof at the headstone with her name carved on it. “I can’t be dead! Dad, Posty, B-Berry... what would they do without me?”

Pinkie looked her in the eyes. “They’ll do what they can.”

The truth she saw reflected back slammed into her. “What...” She stumbled back. “What will they do without me?” Agony ripped through her and, in her mind’s eye, a fifth gravestone, then a sixth took their places beside hers while a solitary figure stood watch over them—alone. She stamped her hoof, and shook her head, dispelling the gruesome image. “I can’t be dead!”

It’s not real! It’s a prank!

Taking a few steps closer, Pinkie reached out to her. “Rose, please, you can’t stay here. You really are—”

Rose slapped the leg aside. “No! I’m not!” She sucked in a ragged breath, slowly shaking her head, and took a step away. “I’m not—”

“I’m so sorry, Rose.” Pinkie curled the struck leg close in to her chest, tears trickling down her cheeks. “I know it’s hard, but you need to accept this.”

The honest sorrow in Pinkie’s eyes struck Rose again and she staggered away from it, shaking her head wildly. “No! I can’t be! I’m just... just...”

Dreaming. Rose latched onto the stray thought. It’s a dream. It’s just a dream!

The world remained as deathly still as it had before, silence reigning everywhere but in her own mind. She closed her eyes, breathing in short, ragged gasps.

“You need to—”

“No! This is a dream. A nightmare! I’m going to wake up from this.” But when she opened her eyes, nothing had changed.

“Rose...” Pinkie reached for her again.

“No!” Rose shied away, wobbling through a world turned blurry grey on legs that didn’t want to hold her. The soft dirt in front of the stone tripped her and sent her tumbling down to stare at her own gravestone.

Her reflection glared back at her, forcing her to confront the grim reality carved in pretty words. Sky, earth, and stars guide you to peace.

Her epitaph. Carved in granite. Unchangeable.




“Rose, please! I want to help!”


Rose shook her head, lips moving as she tried to say it over, and over. But the truth was there right in front of her. She scrambled to her hooves and away from the gravestone. She couldn’t voice her denial. She knew it wasn’t false and the painful truth was choking her.

Cool, soothing fog began to creep in, clouding the fears boiling in her mind and granting her a measure of peace.

“Rose, please! Let me—”

“I can’t—” Rose galloped away from her and fled into the fog—away from the pain.

“Don’t run away! Not again...”

Pinkie watched her go, fading away. “I’m so sorry, Rose... I know it’s hard.” She hadn’t wanted to accept it either, but there she was.

Rose was hurting. The least she could do was keep the rose her friend had left behind safe.

Chapter 2: Wilting Roses

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“Where is it?” Rose prodded the edge of a hole in the center of her garden.

The centerpiece of Roseluck’s garden, a rose bush given to her by her mother, was gone. In its place was a hole with a only a few dead, dry straggling roots poking out. Somepony had been careful to get as much of the root ball as they could.

Was it me? I could have, I suppose.

Except it was meant to sit in the center of her garden, and she couldn’t think of a reason to move it elsewhere.

Maybe it has something to do with the weather... or... She could almost smell it, but the sweet, heady scent of her flowers was little more than a suggestion of a sensation.

“I’ll have to ask Goldie about it. My memory must be going.” Rose stamped the edge of the hole and stepped back. All around her it felt like a pall had fallen over the world, and the flat, featureless sky was so blank that she could have mistaken it for a dingy painter’s canvas.

Rose stared up at the sky, desperate to see some variation, some difference. But it seemed like it was going to be another one of those days. The steel grey canopy taunted her with its unrelenting sameness. It was so thick that not even the sun could even break through the uniform grey sludge to brighten the day and bring a little happiness.

But there was light. A mare in a more charitable mood might have cheerfully considered the steady half-light bright enough to call it sunlight, and found it somewhat bearable.

Rose wasn’t feeling particularly charitable or cheerful and her mood wasn’t helped by being unable to escape the oppressive, color-draining light. Everything that should have been painted in bright, happy colors was instead done up in the drab colors of a world on the brink of death.

There was no shade, nor even the hint of a shadow anywhere. Without shading or nuance the entire world appeared as though it were an aspiring artist’s unfinished masterpiece.

A masterpiece that would never be finished.

Rose sighed and pulled her attention away from the depressing sky to focus on what she’d been avoiding since... When? A ragged hole in her memory tormented her with half formed images of ponies who should have been important to her; whose names were always on the tip of her tongue, their faces always in the corner of her mind’s eye but never in focus.

She shook her head. Who am I forgetting? Why? The world around her offered no answers and everything she looked at only brought up more questions she wasn’t sure she wanted to know the answer to.

Even more frustratingly, the cool serenity she prided herself on stayed elusively out of her grasp.

Her garden, once a source of that serene feeling of peace, had become a terror to behold. But she’d put off worrying about it far too long. She stamped her hoof on a patch of weeds starting to creep out of the precarious containment of the planter box they’d taken over and turned her attention on the rest of the garden.

Spreading blankets of viney weeds reached out over the hard-packed, pebble-crusted paths. Tangles of prickly lettuce, clumps of dandelions, and a wider assortment of weeds than she’d ever let invade her garden were everywhere. She could have left off weeding for a month, or even two, and not been surprised to see her garden looking as it did.

Wasn’t I just weeding and watering it yesterday? She should have been, like every day. Rain, or shine, the enemy attempting to invade her peaceful world never slept, and neither could she let up her guard. It was a mystery why she hadn’t been, and not one she particularly wanted to solve.

Something in her heart told her it wasn’t something she was ready to know.

Also a mystery were the inexpert attempts to root up some of the weeds. Divots here and there told a story of somepony without a lick of garden sense or patience digging at them and leaving them piled up at the end of the walkway. There’d been no attempt to cover the ragged holes with suffocating mulch or even put the weeds into the compost pile, placed far away from her precious flower beds for precisely that purpose.

Even worse than the invasion were the deaths of so many of the plants she cared for. The calla lilies she tended for Lily were dead, nothing more than dried sticks standing like the markers of a dense graveyard. Daisy’s daisies were also long dead, the once-white petals dotting the ground like so many yellowed husks of dead bees, while the heads stood stiffly still in silent air.

But the worst, and what drove the despair in her heart even deeper, were the roses. Nearly all of them were cuttings from the rose bush her mother had given her. All of them were dead or dying. She couldn’t even feel them through the earth. Not even the weeds, nuisances that they were, prickled at her attention. It was as if the earth itself, the living ground, had died.

The earth can’t just die. I’m just... having an off day. I’ve had those before. But the state of her garden suggested it was more than just an off day, and it wasn’t an implication she liked.

She stamped a patch of too bouncy prickly lettuce on her way back down the path, and glowered when it sprung back up as soon as she removed her hoof. Whomever had so inexpertly attempted to weed her garden should have kept going. Wherever she had been in the last month... or however long it’d been, it would have been better to come back to an inexpertly tended garden instead of one that hadn’t been tended at all.


Roseluck looked around. Had somepony said her name? After listening for a follow up, she sighed and turned away from her garden to go back into her house. She stopped.

The door was hanging open, sagging against the side of the house. One of the hinges was broken, and two hoof marks were planted squarely in the center of the door. Nopony else was around, and the silence that had been bothering her since...

The silence shivered, then popped.

“Hello?” Rose’s voice sounded flat even to her ears.

The silence, before existing only as a background distraction, started to hum in her ears again as she strained to hear anything: the buzzing of a bee, the whispering wings of a hummingbird... anything.

Silence reigned absolute.

She snorted, snapping the hum while her tail flicked back and forth, and stared at the house. All the windows were boarded shut, and there’d been a half-hearted attempt to close the door. A board hung off it, rusted nails jutting out like jagged teeth.

“If there’s anypony in the house...!” She shuddered and took a step back.

What if there is?

Not even a faint echo of her shout came back. Prickles crawled up her legs, and she scraped at the ground again before taking a step away from yet one more mystery she didn’t want to learn the answer to.

“Rose, please...” The voice, a mare’s voice, was definitely there, and so familiar it yanked at her heart. A name almost came off the tip of her tongue, but the voice faded away too swiftly and left her alone again.

The name retreated and left her grasping at hay. Who are you?

“Hello?” Rose couldn’t seem to remember a face or a name to go with the voice. “Is anypony there?”

“Rose! Please, listen to me...!”

Memories rushed in to fill the void tugging at her. Laughter, out of place in the dreary world, percolated throughout them, and she found herself smiling.

A name leapt from the tip of her tongue. “Pinkie?”

“Yes, Rose. It’s me.” The voice didn’t fade away.

Pinkie was sitting in the swing chair at the end of the porch, as if she’d been sitting there the whole time. She had one hoof hooked around the chain and the other touching the stem of a red rose as vibrantly colored as her coat.

Rose hadn’t seen her. It was as though naming her had called her forth. Am I going insane?

“You remembered me.” Pinkie’s smile barely touched her lips, and her ears stayed limp against her head. Even her mane looked less Pinkie than usual.

“I—” She frowned, shaking her head, and forced a smile, feeling like a mirror to the one Pinkie had. “Of course. How could I forget about you, Pinkie? You’re one of my best friends.” Saying it, she realized it was true, and more memories of Pinkie came rushing forth. “Y-you sing a lot, and you love to see others smile.” I almost forgot that. Why? It’s not like Pinkie’s easy to forget.

Rose took a tentative step forward, eying the door and her friend; each one the source of an equal measure of uncertainty, and not a small amount of worry. She couldn’t stop her tail from ticking back and forth. What is going on today? Am I losing my mind?

“I’m glad you remember me.”

“I could never forget you, Pinkie.” Liar.

Pinkie beamed a bright, encouraging smile at her. “It’s okay, Rose. I—” She shook her head, smile faltering for long enough for the uncertainty to return to Roseluck, and lifted the rose in the crook of her ankle to smell it. “It smells beautiful.” She held it out, offering it to Rose.

Rose could smell it even from so far away. The scent tugged at her with an almost physical force and the memories it yanked free sent shivers down her spine.

A stallion with a creamy coat sat across from her at a cafe, and she laughed at something he said. The joke, and the reason it was funny, was too vague in the half-formed memory. His image was fuzzy with time and grief, but when she looked at him her heart leapt, and she wanted to hear his voice clearly. She took a step towards the rose, shaking.

His memory faded and was replaced with a shining gravestone reflecting back her face.

She stumbled back to sit on her haunches as a sob tore its way free of her throat and threatened to choke her.

No! I can’t be—

She shook her head. The memory faded away, leaving her sitting in her yard while all around her the mystery of why began to fade into a fog; but not the anguish.

Rose looked again at the doorway yawning open, the door hanging loose.

She backed up a step. Then another.

Rose looked back at her dead and shrivelled garden, choked with weeds and missing its centerpiece.

“Pinkie, I—” The situation was too odd; her garden, the house, her rose bush, and the rose with its tantalizing smell. It shouldn’t have been able to affect her so deeply. Too many warning bells got set off by each of them. She flicked her tail and took another step back.

Nothing about the moment felt right. Pinkie was too bright, the rose was too bright, and its distant aroma was too tantalizing. Every time she looked away from it, her attention got drawn back by its scent.

Rose wanted to smell it. It didn’t feel like a trap. It felt wrong. She wanted it too much, wanted to bury her nose into it and find the memory again. That scared her—that she could want something so badly she wanted to throw away caution.

She stumbled back another step. Half of her wanted to go forward, and the other wanted to flee. “Pinkie, I’m sorry. I have to go.”

“Rose, please don’t forget!”

“I’m sorry!” She turned and fled into the street.

Pinkie waited. Sometimes Rose came back right away, never remembering that she was still there. Other times, it would be... days, maybe. There was no way to tell time there except by the little changes that persisted. Rose’s garden had been the worst to watch.

Time passed, or it didn’t. Sometimes it felt like she would turn around and the world changed all of a sudden. Other times, she could stare and stare, and nothing would happen until she looked away, though she would have sworn only seconds had passed.

Pinkie, she was pretty sure she was Pinkie, clumped to the porch when it became clear that Rose wasn’t going to come back immediately.

Wandering down to the garden, she found the latest rose Rose had lost—or left behind. It, like all the others, smelled beautiful. But there was also an undercurrent of despair like rotting weeds.

“I’m sorry, Rose. I keep doing this wrong.” How many more roses, how many more lost pieces of her friend would it take before she would get it right?

“Please.” She looked up at the slate grey sky, then at the silent homes filled with the stories of their occupants, and memories waiting to be remembered. “Don’t let me learn too late.”

Thick fog spread out across the town, obscuring all but the closest houses. Rose could barely see across the street to...

She frowned. “I know who lives there. I just...” She looked up at the sky, the same greyish slate as the fog clinging to everything. Static, and unchanging, it didn’t so much as drift on even a slight breeze. “I’m sure it’s just the day. I’ve never seen it so foggy.”

She left the empty porch, where Goldie would sit in the mornings sipping her coffee and watch the sun rise. Her absence tugged at Rose, already feeling out of place in the morning mist.

It is morning, right? The faded light could have been evening or morning, or a foggy day anywhere in between.

Back inside, she closed the door on that uncomfortable feeling, and spent a long moment gathering herself. It’s just the fog. Just one of those days. The comfortable, familiar entryway to her home buoyed her heart and lent her a bit of peace that felt like it had been missing too long. It was the same as she remembered, and there were good memories waiting for her.

On the walls were pictures of her and her ‘sisters,’ the flower mares of Ponyville. She paused to glance over each one. Lily Valley and Daisy, her best friends in the whole world. Pictures of them as fillies together dotted the wall, spaced out over the course of their lives together.

She smiled at the one with all three of them showing off their cutie marks. That had been a fun week. Three cute-ceañeras merged into one, and the Fall Harvest festival to boot. It was the most fun she’d ever had during the celebration before or since.

She touched the picture with a hoof, and frowned.

A thin layer of dust had settled into the base of the frame, and she could see streamers of cobwebs connecting the picture to the wall. She backed away from it.

I don’t remember leaving it so dirty.

It was almost like she’d been gone for months, and nopony had even so much as opened the door. Four spots on the wall free of cobwebs and marked by unfaded paint haunted her.

The gaping, sharp-edged hole in her memory tugged at her heart and cut deeply into the weakening hold on her calm front. She sagged against the wall, barely holding herself up.

“Why can’t I remember?”

The sound of little hooves on the hardwood floor tore her attention away from the wall and its lost memories, and led her further into the house. She paused at the entry to the living room and glanced back. The entry hallway felt empty. The small table where junk went, the scratchy hoof rug, and the softer welcome rug were still there. But along the walls six more unfaded spots glared at her where pictures of her life should have been.

It was as though they’d vanished. She shook her head and shivered. I’m not going crazy!

Everywhere was the same. Goldie’s bedroom looked as if it’d been empty for years. Even though there was only a thin coat of dust on the wooden floor, the brighter patches where furniture sat were almost indistinguishable from the rest. How long has she been gone? The smaller bedroom down the hallway was almost empty except for a small bed and a doll tucked away behind a door—left behind and forgotten.

Rose collapsed with her hoof not quite touching the doll as vague images of the same doll rampaged through her mind, tearing free of the gaping hole in her memory she longed to fill.

Rose saw the doll again and again, held in the mouth of a filly with a deep pink coat, or it was riding on her back, or nestled between her legs. Coming from the same place as the half remembered likeness, a name, or part of a name, pulled free and filled her mind with unbearable joy.


And then it was gone—swallowed up again by the dust and fog hanging over everything.

Weeping, Rose rested her head against the wall and tried to remember who the filly was. Nothing came to her except the hole in her heart, and the pain of missing memories she wanted to find again so badly.

Who were you? Why can’t I remember you?

The questions she had went unanswered, and the doll only stared at her with its blank glass eyes. Rose looked away from its empty gaze, haunted by a feeling that whoever the filly was, she had been the center of a large part of Rose’s life.

When she looked up again, the doll was gone.

The fog grew thicker.

The rest of the house was covered by a different kind of fog: Dust, cobwebs, bits of debris, and leaves tucked into corners and against the baseboards. The serene feeling slipped farther and farther from her grasp the more she searched through the house. Everywhere else she looked was the same and what she was searching for continued to elude her.

Dust lay caked into carpets and on floors, countertops and tabletops. Haunting, phantasmal drapes hung from doorways where spiders had spun their little webs, building and building over longer than she wanted to think about.

Her kitchen was no better and held a heartrending story frozen in the last moment of its telling.

A teacup lay shattered on the ground, half swept to the side, and a dark stain long since seeped into the wood. The back door to her garden lay ajar, sagging on the one hinge still clinging stubbornly to the frame. She paused at it to touch the indentation of two hoofprints pressed into the wood.

“What happened here?” Neither the stool toppled on the floor, nor the lone tea setting, sitting on the opposite side of the table gave her an answer.

“Rose... you...”

The whisper faded into the sound of distant weeping.


In the silence she expected her voice to be echoed back from other parts of the house, but not even the faintest whisper of her own voice came back. It was as though not even the world around her could hear her.

She shivered.

“Goldie is just gone to the market.” Nodding to herself, she forced a smile she didn’t feel. “She’ll be back soon. We can talk then.” It felt good to say it, to hear it, and it numbed some of the ache in her heart. I’m not alone. I’m... just taking care of the house for the morning.

“It’ll be better once the fog lifts.” The lie that sounded hollow in her mind sounded worse out loud.

“Rose...” The voice, almost certainly a figment of her imagination, called her out on the lie.

“I’ve... come back from a long trip.” Again, the lie felt flat and false to her ears. “That I don’t remember taking.” I can’t be alone!

I can’t be— She shied away from the thought, rising up from the depths of her mind with a host of images too painful to bear. A stallion whose smile lifted her heart and tore free a ragged sob. A mare, too bright for a dark world, whose smile lightened her heart, and whose persistence terrified her.

“Rose...!” The urgency of the whisper banished the images and brought her back to the house.

The weeping came back, louder than before, accompanied by the cloying scent of a rose that she couldn’t see.

Rose stood still, listening to the weeping she wasn’t entirely certain wasn’t only in her mind until it faded away. The fog grew thicker still.

All around her, the kitchen showed the same signs of disuse throughout the rest of the house. Rusted cutlery lay in the sink, and rings of scum sank down to a bone dry bottom.

Even the clock sitting on the counter was still. Its little pendulum stood unmoving, and the clock face read noon... or midnight. The light filtering in through the fog seemed to be stuck at someplace between the two times.

“What happened to me? Why can’t I remember what happened here?” She opened the clock’s front panel and tapped the pendulum lightly. It moved, but didn’t continue its motion further. She closed the panel again and stepped back.

The silence in the house gave her no answer, and the fog didn’t so much as stir.

“Is this even my house?” The rusted knives gave her no answer, nor did the broken teacup, nor the kettle on the stove with rust starting to creep down the outside of its spout.

An untold story hovered below the surface of everything and she could only guess at the characters, while the plot felt like of those of stories that had given her nightmares for weeks after reading them. It felt like she should know the reason for everything being in the state that it was in, but all she found when she tried to think of it was a ragged, painful hole in her memories.

“Was I in a coma?” There were no more answers in her house, only more questions. She stepped past the broken door and back into the fog. Maybe it held the answers.

Pinkie stood in the doorway, watching Rose leave, and clutched the latest rose to her chest, its cloying scent hinting at memories that weren’t her own. “Don’t forget me, Rose. Please.”

Ghostly figures walked through the fog with her, comforting for their presence. She wasn’t alone out in the dense mist, at least, but it certainly made it harder to find where she wanted to go.

“Where was I going?” She stopped, looking around and trying to make out more than the vague shapes of buildings in the fog.

“Rose, please look at me...”

She looked at the closest figure, but it ignored her as surely as the still fog all around her did, and moved along on its own business.


Of the few ponies closest to her only one seemed to pay her any attention, but even it shook its head and moved along without even looking in her direction. She stopped to look at the other figures, and the buildings all around her.

They were the same shapes she was so familiar with, but even through the fog, she should have been able to see some color seeping through. It certainly wasn’t dark enough. Even more strangely, none of the ponies seemed to be walking together. She knew her fellow ponies and—like them—she wouldn’t have wanted to go out into the dense fog alone unless it was urgent.

More questions. More unexplained oddities.


The voice behind her startled her into a short trot. Other than the sound of her own hooves on the pavement, the world had been eerily silent. A quick look behind her told her little more. There was nopony there, aside from an odd swirl in the mist, and a hint of pink bleeding into the world.

The one spot of color in an otherwise dead world scared her. Memories of hurt trickled through her, sourceless except for the color pink and the scent of a rose too sweet to be real.

A stallion’s voice spoke from the depths of her mind, a fragment of memory dredged up by the aroma. “Will you...”

“Leave me alone!” she cried, striking at the air with her forehooves. The voice left, but not the lingering ache in her heart begging to let her hear it again and let him finish the sentence.

Another voice, louder, came back to haunt her. “Please, Rose. Don’t forget—”

She galloped away in silence, leaving behind the voices—and the pain.

Pinkie slowed to a canter and stopped, staring after the friend fading into the washed out world.

Heart heavy, she looked down at the latest rose. It was wilted, nearly dead, but still brighter than the street it lay on.

“Please! Rose! Don’t forget me!” She looked out over the town, past the ghostly figures that had haunted her since the moment she arrived and felt her heart sink. “I’m so sorry, Rose. I wanted so badly for you to find peace.” But it hadn’t been Rose’s rest she had striven for. It had been her own peace of mind. “I was being selfish. Making you confront your death.”

None of the other phantasms paid Pinkie any mind. They weren’t gone yet.

She’d tried, at first, to help them. But they all shied away from her, just like Rose.

But, unlike Rose, Pinkie didn’t know them or their lives, didn’t have memories of them, and didn’t even know their names. They didn’t even have cutie marks.

She could relate to Rose and understand the struggle that Rose must have been going through. Pinkie could remind Rose who she was, and what she’d meant to her friends. She could help Rose find her memories again.

She still worried for the other ghosts, but she didn’t feel responsible for the state they were in. They were almost gone—almost ready to slip away into oblivion after letting go of those last memories. Their last connection to the world would be severed.

“I don’t want you to leave that way, Rose. Please don’t leave me—” She choked back the rest of the sentence and shook her head. “Please don’t let go of your life.”

None of the phantasms paid her any mind. None of them were Rose.

Pinkie wandered through the town, looking for her friend—the ghost with the rose cutie mark.

“What wouldn’t you have been able to confront?” From atop a hill at the edge of town, near Rose’s home, she saw the top of the flagpole marking the Ponyville medical center. She’d been by there many times—reluctantly—to look for Rose after she failed to reappear right away again at her home.

Too many ghosts lingered there, too many lives had found an end there. Every time she went by, there were fewer. It was a place where ghosts went to say goodbye to themselves.

She knew where Rose would be next.

Sisters, please don’t let me be too late.

Cool white surrounded her: blurry, clinical, and chilly.

It was a room, but the features of it were indistinct as though she weren’t able to see any of it properly. In the center stood a bed, and beside the bed sat a stallion whose features were blurred into anonymity. A smaller form lay at his feet with her chest rising and falling in the slow rhythm of sleep.

Why am I sure it’s a she?


The sound of a heartbeat, weaker than it should have been, sent a shiver through the walls.

The stallion at the side of the bed stroked a hoof down the still figure lying atop it, and Rose felt a mirrored tingling run down her leg.

“Please, Rose... Come back to me.”

“N-no... I—” I can’t be—

There was no door in the room and no place for her to flee to; no place to escape from the fear that welled up inside her.


Weaker, but still there, the heartbeat shook the mist in the room. The stallion at the edge of the bed kept his attention on the mare’s face.

Why am I so certain it’s a mare?

“Rose, don’t leave.” It was barely a whisper, hoarse, and cracking under a strain that Rose could only imagine.

“I’m so sorry.” There was no place she could hide from the anguish that lay resting below the surface of everything in the room. There was nothing left for her to do. The mare was dying, and there was little she could do, except say goodbye to her.


She walked over to stand beside the bed, and looked across at the stallion. She could almost put a name to his face. The memory of it, of her saying it, felt close. The mare he watched over was so familiar that she felt like she should know her, even though her features were even more indistinct than his.

“I’m so sorry I can’t remember you.” Her hoof hovered over the mare’s, but she couldn’t bring herself to touch the body she should know.

“Rose, please don’t go. Not that way.”

Rose skittered away from the bed. That wasn’t the stallion’s voice.

An ember of a memory in her mind flared bright, and a pink mare, too bright for the whitewashed world, opened a door to... someplace else.

“Not that way,” the mare repeated, her voice soft and soothing where dim fragments of memories suggested it had been pleading, and frightened.

Rose stepped back from the bed, staring at the pony she knew she should know, and looked back at the bed again. The world stopped, hesitating on the outcome of her choice.

“Rose, I wanted to help. I thought I was helping, but there’s more to this,” the bright pink pony waved a hoof at the bed, “than what you know. Please. There’s so much more you should know before you say goodbye.”

“Say—” She swallowed. “Say goodbye? I—” She glanced once at the bed, at the dying mare and the stallion pleading with her.

Why is his voice so familiar?

A rose’s fresh, sweet scent came to her, bringing with it scattered shards of memory that pricked at her. Each one felt important and connected to the mare on the bed. She should know them; know her.

Saying goodbye could wait. It wasn’t easy to leave them behind, to not say goodbye to the mare whose life was ending, but it wasn’t time, and the bright mare was right.

She wasn’t ready to say goodbye. Not yet.

Lifting her head, she looked down on the mare and the stallion grieving for her. “I don’t know who you are, but I’m so sorry for your loss.” She reached out to touch the mare’s shoulder lightly. “And yours.”

An answering touch brushed against her shoulder, eerily in the same place her hoof rested, but endured it for a long moment before stepping around the bed towards the door and... Pinkie?

How could I forget her name?

Pinkie stood back, holding open the door leading to... somewhere. She would have to find out. But she was going to find out her way. Somehow that felt important; and different.


Time resumed its course as Rose left the bedside and the last, faint heartbeat sounded not from the room. The heart beat its last in her own chest. She froze as a string of thought snapped taut between her and the mare. She knew this mare.

Agony twisted in her chest. Please...

Rose turned, her private fears clamoring for attention as the pain in her chest swelled to steal her breath and choke out the frantic denial she wanted to shout. The mare’s chest stilled its too slow rise and fall as the pain in Rose’s crescendoed to mind-blanking agony.

Please don’t let it be...

Rose could see her face clearly. It was thinner than she remembered, but that couldn’t disguise the features she’d seen countless times in a mirror, even with her mane gone and bandages swaddled around her head.

Cold, undeniable knowledge snapped into place with grim finality.

My face. Still.

My heart. Silent.


She stamped her hoof and shook her head, fighting the searing agony. Breathe! she wanted to scream, but couldn’t. The body—her body—didn’t move. The agony in her chest clawed at her and threatened to tear her apart while her lungs burned and her eyes watered.

Do something!

The hoof under the stallion’s leg twitched and lay still.

All the little noises she had barely paid attention to popped away, one by one until the room was silent again.

The stallion lifted his head and clutched her leg. His lips moved, but nothing came out.

Again, Rose felt the tingle moving up her leg, weaker than before.

He shook her leg and the tingle faded away. His mouth opened wide in what must have been a shout, but she couldn’t hear anything.

Rose shook her head once more and backed out of the room, away from the body laying lifeless on the bed, and away from the stallion standing up beside her bed, his face so close she should have heard his shouts.

She heard nothing. She wanted to hear his voice again. One last time.

The silence continued, cold and empty.

Dead... I’m dead... Realization set in, and try as she might, she couldn’t deny it. It felt like she’d been denying it for so long that the effort was fruitless. Why?

“Pinkie...” The room disappeared as though a bubble were popped, taking with it the body, the stallion, and the small form laying at his feet.

She didn’t want to remember. She didn’t want the realization. She didn’t want to be dead.

But Rose did remember. The whole world blurred as she stumbled to her friend. She had so many questions she was afraid to find out the answer to, but only one she wanted to know.

“I’m so confused. Why did this happen to me?” Rose drew in a ragged breath, waiting for the answer she didn’t want to hear.

“Rose, don’t. I know you want to know.” Pinkie sat back on her haunches and drew Rose in with both forelegs. “Don’t try to understand right now.”

“I-I felt it! I felt it stop!” Dead. “Why...?” Her strength sapped, Rose let herself be drawn into her friend’s embrace. She found a measure of comfort with her muzzle buried into Pinkie’s warm, solid shoulder—small though it was.

She wasn’t alone.

“That’s it, Rose,” Pinkie cooed. “Give yourself a chance to grieve. I’m here for you.” She fell silent, rocking back and forth while Rose wept.

It was what she needed.

Chapter 3: Scent of Roses

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“I don’t understand.” Rose stared at the courtyard of the hospital—at what she could see of it from atop the hill up the lane. “Why—” Why am I dead? Why can’t I remember... anything? Why... “W-why is everything so foggy?”

Pinkie watched her for a long moment, brow furrowed. Then she smiled and shook her head. “It’s not foggy, silly.” She paused and leaned over to one side, looking closely at Rose, then poked her side. “Oh.”

“Oh?” Rose glanced at her friend, then at her own hoof, and back at herself. Her body seemed solid enough, but the fog persisted. When she waved a hoof through the air, the fog didn’t so much as stir, no matter how hard she waved her leg in the air.

“Um. How do I say this?” Pinkie reached out to stop Rose’s leg. “It’s you, Rose. It’s not foggy. Trust me.”

“Why?” She brushed her leg over Pinkie’s and set it back to the ground. “I mean, why does it look foggy?”

Pinkie shook her head. “I think it’s because you forgot almost everything.” Pinkie pointed down at the misty figures barely visible in the hospital’s courtyard. “They did too, I think.”

They milled about, sometimes stopping to look around or appearing to listen to something that wasn’t there. Eventually, they all wandered into the hospital or meandered away elsewhere. Occasionally one would come up to their perch above the town or down from the top of the hill to wait in the courtyard.

“Can—” She pushed a hoof at a passing apparition, which shied away from the touch but didn’t otherwise react. “Can they remember again?”

“I thought I told you that already...”

Rose snapped her head around and saw Pinkie smiling, though it didn’t reach her eyes. “Not. Funny.”

“Just a little afterlife humor.” Pinkie’s forced smile wavered, then drooped. She sighed. “There still have to be smiles to be found here, somewhere. I can’t believe that happiness died with us.” She smiled again. That time Rose did see the smile reach her eyes. “Maybe we’ll find some in your memories.”

“So I can remember.”

Pinkie shrugged. “I hope so. I won’t lie, Rose. I don’t know how hard it’ll be to remember.” She touched Rose’s shoulder gently and nodded away from the hospital. “When you ran away from me, you left... something behind. Memories, I think, looking like your cutie mark. Some of them smelled so sweet I wanted to dive in.” She stood up. “But they weren’t my memories.”

“I’m sorry I ran away.” Rose sighed. “Why did I run away?”

“Because it hurt. I saw it, but I wanted so much for you to find peace that I ignored it. I’m so sorry I pushed you.”

Rose shook her head. “You were trying to do what you thought was best. I wish I could remember why it hurt so much.”

“I still remember...” Pinkie shook herself and bumped up against Rose before turning around. “Come on.”

Rose stood with her and looked out over the town. Her own memories were a maze of holes and ragged edges of half-remembered things. An image of a stallion and a filly—the former clearer than the latter—danced at the edge of her mind. She was so absorbed in trying to remember and recapture the memories surrounding those two images that she almost missed Pinkie’s whisper.

“I hope my friends can still smile.”

Pinkie led her through the town along a set of unspoken directions that made little sense to Roseluck. Occasionally, the other mare would stop and look at her quizzically before moving on.

At first, Rose would ask: “Why did we stop?”

And Pinkie would answer: “Just checking.”

But after a while of not getting a satisfactory answer, Rose stopped asking, and Pinkie smiled hopefully whenever they did stop.

Her own thoughts occupied much of the winding trip through the town, as buildings and shops loomed and faded away before she could place their looks in the tatter of memories that were left to her.

Those memories were a balm and a bane, reminding her of things she had lost and would never again experience. The forgotten feeling of sunlight on her coat, and the laughter of her father and friends hurt the most. She could also remember the isolation she’d felt when her mother passed away, and her father’s weakening health. But there were happier days in college with Goldie, and her other friends, their ways long parted. Then there was her life afterwards, idyllic and peaceful, but missing the something special that made everything special.

Everything shattered into fragments of painfully isolated imagery that tugged at her heart for reasons she was afraid to guess at—and longed to know.

“Why is everything so...” She shook her head and tried to clear out the foggy feeling, but it persisted and sunk into everything she looked at. “Why did I forget?”

Pinkie walked a little closer until she was almost shoulder to shoulder. “Because it hurt, I guess. Not everypony can deal with that kind of pain. Just keep trying to remember, and let me know if you see anything.”

She sighed. “It’s not easy, Pinkie. How could I have... let them go? I still don’t understand that.”

“I dunno either. Just that you did. They’re still out there, waiting for you.”

The sound of their hooves on the cobbles of Ponyville didn’t echo in the silence, and the eerie lack of anything else for her to pay attention to except for Pinkie and the sound of their passage was wearing on her patience.

“Why is it so dead?”

Pinkie quirked an eyebrow at her.

“Dumb question.” She snorted. “I wish they would just show up, so that I can—” A smell, standing out amidst the odorless quality of the dead world, tingled in her nose.


It was a cloyingly sweet scent and so familiar that she could see the shape of the rose... and more. The images in her mind grew stronger the longer she stood there smelling it.

“Do you smell that?” Rose lifted her nose into the air and turned in a slow circle, eyes closed as she sought the scent of a rose—the only smell in her world.

There! She started off at a canter. As the scent and the images it evoked grew stronger and more vibrant, the dim world grew brighter, the fog began to lift, and she sped into a gallop.

Goldie had planned something. It wasn’t like it was hard to tell—not with her enormous grin and the way she was giggling while trying to explain why in the name of the stars above Roseluck had to deliver the variety of roses to each address in order. It wasn’t making a lot of sense. She smelled daisies and lilies behind the false cover of Golden Harvest’s giggles.

“If this is for manipulating you and Applejack...” Rose groused with all the conviction of a scolded filly. She wasn’t really upset, but it did irk her that her housemate—and longtime friend—was keeping her from her normal morning routine.

“Oh, no. I’m happy as an apple pie about that.” Her friend smiled and glanced at the door. “But you’d best be going. You don’t have much time to get to the first—”

A knock sounded at the door.

Goldie held a hoof up, badly covering her broadening smile. “I wonder who that could be.”

Rose rolled her eyes. “As if I don’t know already.” She sighed as she opened the door, and stopped. It wasn’t who she thought it would be.

Post Haste, the mail pony on their route, stood at the door, envelope held in the crook of his ankle.

She stared... at his eyes, molten brown chocolate eyes; at his coat, the color of buttercream and scotch; at his mane, curly and unruly as a tangle of roots and just as brown. She knew what he looked like. Stop staring! You see him every day, silly mare. Still, she couldn’t.

Goldie’s snorting giggle broke her away from her trance.

He shook his head and looked away. “Postcard f-for Roseluck.” He blushed faintly, holding out the photograph of herself and her closest friends.

She took it from him, a little tingle travelling up her leg when she touched his. “Thank you, Mr. Haste.” She waited until he’d retreated down the walkway to stand, not exactly inconspicuously glancing back, before she read the card.

What goes around, comes around.

She shot a glare back at her housemate, who was trying, with a falsely innocent front, to hold back a bevy of laughs. “Don’t choke yourself, Goldie. I am so going to get you back for this.”

She tried to feel upset at being manipulated, she really did, but Goldie’s smiling good nature kept her from reaching any kind of anger. At least nothing beyond mild annoyance at having her morning routine interrupted. She tried to hold onto the front of aggrieved pride, but her fluttering heart got in the way.

It wasn’t that she was upset. Far from it. She’d been eying Post Haste for some time. He was a handsome stallion, even if he was shyer than a newly clipped cutting. No, she wasn’t upset, but it was embarrassing that her crush had been so apparent to her friends. Sidelong glances that she’d meant to keep private apparently hadn’t been, and the secret, lingering stares weren’t.

Roseluck rolled her eyes and set the postcard on the hallway table underneath the picture of the three flower mares of Ponyville as fillies. She took a moment to fiddle with the picture, and recover from the flustered nerves prickling up and down her legs.

The butterflies dancing in her stomach refused to settle down. She sighed. Stop. You... still have flowers to deliver. That made sense. I’ll just deliver my flowers. And hope I don’t make a fool of myself. She smiled and opened the door to a glorious spring day, where maybe love would bloom.

Down at the end of the walkway to the front stoop, Post Haste was still trying to maintain the look of checking which address was next in his mailbag. It wouldn’t do to let him stand there forever.

“Don’t forget to deliver all of the roses!” Goldie called after her from the open window.

Rose flicked her tail at her friend’s voice, full of barely contained laughter.

It’s fair, I guess, she thought, glancing over the addresses tied to the single roses in the basket at her side. We did the same thing to Applejack and Goldie, and what goes around, comes around. She laughed and pranced a few steps forward before calming herself back down. Serenity. Serenity...

Roseluck caught him glancing her way a couple of times on her way down the walk. Thoughts of her own stares made her wonder how inconspicuous her own looks were to him. Was I that obvious?

“Probably.” She smiled at Post as she trotted up to him.

Post startled and looked up from his mailbag. “What?”

Rose shook her head. “Post Haste, right?” As if you didn’t know already.

“Yes, ma’am!” He touched a hoof to his hat, with his name stamped on the silver bridge over the brim.

Right. “So...” She nodded down the lane to her first destination. “I—” She reached back around to nose one of her roses. “I have some roses to deliver, Post. And you have a full mailbag.” Because pointing out the obvious...

“I do.”

“Then...” Rose coughed and glanced at him, then took a step down the lane to her first destination, and felt a tension along her neck relax when he started off in the same direction. The sound of their hooves and the gentle whisper of a morning breeze were the only sounds for the length of several houses.

“You know this is a setup, right?” She glanced at him.

He didn’t look back immediately. “Yeah.” His blush was almost invisible underneath his creamy coat, and when he looked up, he couldn’t meet her eyes.


“I’m sorry about this. My friends...” She shrugged, glancing back once to her home, where Goldie was trying to be nonchalant about watching them. She shook her head and trotted along with him down the lane.

The silence between them grew uncomfortable, and the tension in her neck grew more pronounced.



She looked at him, at the way he tried not to look at her while obviously looking at her, and laughed. “Sweet sisters. I didn’t think it would be this bad on the other side.”

“What?” He stared at her for a long moment, and she could almost see the cart wheels turning, delivering conjecture to reason. “Other side of what?”

“Of a setup.” She giggled and danced sideways to bump into him. “I feel awful now for what we did to Applejack and Goldie.”

“They did mention something like—” His teeth clicked together and he glanced sidelong at her, then stared straight ahead, his blush becoming more pronounced.

“Wait!” A few things clicked suddenly. She stopped and stared after him as he kept trotting down the lane, pointedly not looking at her. Oh, I am so going to get those girls back for this. She dashed after him at a quick trot, careful not to let any of her roses fall out. “You’re in on it?”

He was silent for another few houses. Long enough for Roseluck to doubt it.

“Kinda.” He snorted, and did look at her, however briefly.

“Define ‘kinda,’ because...” Because what? I want to at least get to know him better. She could at least borrow a page from Applejack and be honest with him. ”Because I ‘kinda’ wanted to, too,” she said, the words falling flat even to her ears.

“Wanted to what?”

She smiled. “To get to know you.”

He blushed and kept trotting along, falling silent again.

Say something, she demanded of herself.

“What?” she asked under her breath.

“Did you say something?” He had his muzzle tucked into the mailbag.

“I think my first house is up here.”

“Oh! Mine too.”

She turned to check the address again, and was paying more attention to it than where Post was going, and crashed into him when they both turned at the same moment to turn down the same narrow pathway.

“Sorry!” She danced back.

“Oh gosh, Rose!”

Her rose and his envelope fell one atop the other, and she stared at them with him.

“Oh, I am so getting even for this.” The addresses were the same, and in the same quillwork.

“I wondered why Bright Eyes wanted to pack the mailbag herself this morning...”

“I thought you were in on it.”

“To uh...” He blushed and tipped the envelope up with a careful hoof. “To the extent that I might have mentioned my interest to Bright Eyes, and she got this look. And maybe well, I was eating at Daisily Days one day, when you were sitting with your friends Daisy and Lily... and Lily must have seen me, too.” He bent to pick up the envelope, his blush growing darker, and she could scarce make out his ears they were so tight to his skull.

Say something! “You know... I stared too.”


“I thought you were cute.” She froze and clamped a hoof over her mouth. No, Rose! You’re an adult, use your adult relationship experience… Oh. “And you seemed kind.” She shook her head. “Maybe I thought if I stared long enough, you’d say something, do something. Force me to break away from my routine. You know. Something. But...” She picked up the rose gently by the stem and tucked it back into the basket. “I guess we are doing something.”

“We are, aren’t we?” He smiled and laughed, holding the envelope up in the crook of his ankle. “Let’s... do something.”

The memory spun by, warming Rose’s heart while the world she wanted—the one in the memory—slipped out of her grasp for the half a heartbeat it took to find herself sitting on somepony else’s front porch. She looked up at the world awash in gray and gloom for the other half of that beat, then closed her eyes to dive back into the smell of the rose resting on the porch railing.

The first few houses passed by in an almost awkward silence, punctuated by sidelong glances. Rose pushed herself to say something, but all she found to comment on was the variety of roses in her basket.

He doesn’t want to hear stories about my roses. She bit back a sigh.

In between houses—for some reason scattered from one end of Ponyville to the other and not a single one next to the last—they walked along the not quite bustling early morning streets of Ponyville sharing small stories about their early lives and their families between the too frequent awkward silences. Ponies were out tending gardens or grazing their lawns down to the last tasty quarter inch to get ready for the day.

By the fifth, the town was waking up more, and ponies were greeting them with barely hidden smiles and looks that seemed to say “Finally!”

“Were we the last to know?” Rose looked back over her flank at the elderly stallion still sitting on his porch. He’d been the second to say it that morning.

“Maybe we were. Maybe it’s just small town life.” Post shrugged and looked back into his bag, a smile blooming on his lips. “Whatever it is, I’m glad it happened.”

“Me too.” She looked into her basket as well, checking the next address laying atop the pile of roses wrapped in tissue paper. Just five more roses... It shouldn’t have been as sad to see the end of their first date, but being with him had awoken a need in her. He was special. She could feel it in her heart. “Who’s next? Mine says O.M. Breezy. That’s it.”

“Old Mare Breezy. She used to be an opera singer, you know? She sends mail with the most fascinating stamps out of the Crystal Empire. It’s pretty rare to see...” He looked aside at her. “I’m sorry, Rose. I don’t mean to bore you.”

“Why would you think you were boring me?” Rose shook her head. “I like stories about ponies... and things. Like this rose.” She turned and tipped up one of the tissue paper wrapped roses upright in her basket. “It’s a Winterbloom rose. They only bloom on the last day of Winter Wrap Up and stay fresh throughout the year.”

“I’ve seen them,” he said, leaning over to sniff the rose. “Oh! It’s cold.” He sneezed and shook his head. “Why does it stay cold?”

“Legend has it that they stay cold because the pegasi used them to make snowflakes.” She picked up the frozen rose by the tissue paper wrapped around the stem to show him the pattern and then placed it back in its holder. “See the pattern?”


“I know. It—” Rose looked up. He wasn’t looking at the rose; he was looking at her. She looked away, blushing. “I—”

“The rose is beautiful too.”

“You... um.” Rose brushed back her mane and smiled. “Thank you.” What are you doing? You’re acting like a filly on her first date! “You were saying something about a stamp?”

“You really want to hear it?” When she nodded, Post Haste smiled and continued, “Well... You see, back when the Crystal Empire first came back, Celestia had a special, single run of stamps printed to give to citizens who wanted to write letters to greet the Empire to the nation. I hear the Ponyville schoolhouse wrote a bunch of letters.”

“I heard something about that. I was awful busy with preparing arrangements in Canterlot at the time. You would not believe how few florists there are there. I could make my life’s earnings if I wanted to give up...” She waved a hoof at the town, and tapped a hoof on the ground. “Well, everything.”

“I’m glad you didn’t.”

Silence fell between them for all of a hundred hoofsteps.

Rose broke it. “Did you get to deliver any of the replies? What were their stamps like?”

“Oh yes! I even got to read some of them to Cheerilee’s class when I delivered them. That was a real treat. And their stamps are things of beauty.” He pranced a few steps ahead, laughing.

Rose laughed with him and did a quick two-step trot to catch up. “Don’t leave me hanging! What did they look like?”

“Oh, right.” He was silent for a moment. “Have you ever seen the shimmer of light on the sea from a distance?” When she nodded, he continued, “Like that. Their inks shimmer like the sea from the bluffs over Manehattan, when the sun is high in the sky and a strong breeze is whipping up the waves...”

Rose listened as they walked down the road together. He knew the stories behind the stamps he collected, down to little details that few others would have appreciated. The little things that made the creation of a stamp more than just printing a piece of paper, a process that started in the mind of an official, or a celebrity, or somepony with a lot of bits to spare.

To him, a stamp with an obvious glaring flaw wasn’t just a misprinted stamp, it was a statement by the artist. The third run of Manehattan Lilac stamps were scented because they’d been a commemoration of the founding of the city, not because the city postmaster thought they smelled good; because they hadn’t—not at all.

But it wasn’t his stories she found comfort in. In him, she found a willing ear for her store of lore behind the names and historical significance of each rose in her basket. He didn’t find her stories boring either. At least, he seemed to be paying attention.

“Why did Celestia have to step in to settle the dispute between the two rose vendors? Couldn’t they have... you know, listened to each other?”

She laughed. “You would think so, right? But no...” She rolled her eyes and bumped up closer to him as she talked. “You know your personal feud has gotten out of hoof when the ruler of Equestria decides it’s time to step in.”

He laughed with her and curled his tail into hers. House by house they went, delivering mail and roses to each one, and swapping stories of stamps, roses and the ponies behind them. They even started playing a game, practicing house by house.

“Ready?” she said, lifting a rose in the crook of her ankle.

“Together.” He held up a letter in the crook of his ankle.

“Mail!” she sang out.

“And a rose!”

“Courtesy of Rose Haste!” they chorused.

They laughed and dashed away after knocking, leaving the rose laying atop the letter and a bewildered but smiling elderly mare waving after them.

“Oh my.” She laughed, wheezing faintly after they’d slowed to catch a breather. “I haven’t done something like that since my college days.”

“Oh?” He stopped to let her catch up.

“We used rotten apples.” She laughed. “The headmaster had us peeling apples for a week.”

“So you were the ones who pranked my gram.”

“What? I didn’t mean—” His wide grin and mischievous wink told her it was a tease. “Oh!”

“You’re gullible?” He snickered and flicked his tail at her. “I’ll have to remember that!”

“I am not gullible!” She reached out to nip him, but he danced ahead of her, then broke into a gallop. She followed behind, laughing, but a steady tug at her heart reminded her there was only one rose left in her basket, and then their almost-date would be over.

She caught up to him finally at the last address, the rose with no name attached to it. He was staring at the last letter in his bag, open-mouthed.

“Hey, don’t let the flies get in.” She nipped his neck as she passed and sauntered to the gate. It was a pretty little house, though the yard could have used some work and the flower beds—what had been flower beds, she presumed—were nothing more than beds filled with smooth river rocks.

He didn’t follow her right away.

“I wonder who lives here,” she said.

“Rose... I live here.”

She shot a look at him to make sure he wasn’t trying to pull the same joke twice. He wasn’t grinning, or winking at her, or doing any of the other subtle little things she could think he might use to tease her. He was telling the truth.

Her heart skipped a beat, and her vision misted. “Y-you live here?” She turned and looked at the rose again. She’d been too distracted to notice it the last few houses, they’d been having so much fun, but it was different from the others. It was a thornless Lover’s Promise rose.

Clever girls.

He swallowed and pulled the post card out. On the back would be a simple poem, one almost every pony knew.

She didn’t have to be able to read it to know what it said, and the first two lines danced in her mind as she stepped closer. “Post Haste. One rose from me to you.” She pulled the rose out of her basket and tucked it into his curly mane. “Do you like me too?” It was a silly little rhyme in four parts. She blushed, thinking about the rest of the parts. Maybe he’s the one.

“Roseluck, I do like you.” He reached out and tugged her foreleg up gently to clasp in his. “Would you go on a date with me?”

“I would love to.”

The world’s colors bled away as the memory crumbled around her. But the smell of roses stayed strong in her nose. She was sitting at a cafe table—the same one she’d had dinner with Post Haste later that week. The same one they’d shared more laughs and been serenaded inexpertly by her friend Daisy. The same table where she’d asked him out for another date.

But Pinkie was standing across from her instead of Post, and there was a bouquet of roses brilliantly reminiscent of another memory.

“Go on, Rose.”

Their scent was intoxicating, and the images it brought racing through her mind tugged her away from the dim world and back into the lively memories of a past she’d forgotten. She leaned forward and took a deep breath.

Spring flashed by, full of awkward moments and lingering glances she and Post soon moved past. Their dates became more casual, friendlier, and less stilted with the concern about pleasing each other until they stopped calling them dates at all and just spent time with each other; unplanned and usually quiet.

We were comfortable. The thought flickered by over a glimpse of gray sky and a sweet smelling rose dangling from a hanging planter. Memories rushed through her mind: a flood of warm summer days growing longer.

“That’s not a weed, Post. That’s lemongrass. It’s decorative.” Rose prodded him with a hoof. “I know it looks similar, but that is a weed.” She pointed a hoof at a patch of common cordgrass, still young. It’d irked her to let so much of it grow and her hooves were itching to dig it out. But the bed it was in wasn’t being used for anything and she was determined to teach Post about gardening. She swallowed her ire, or tried to.

“No need to get short with me, Rose. I’m not as familiar with plants as you are.” He huffed and lifted his head, then tromped over to the patch she’d indicated and waited.

Short? I’m being short? She shook her head and reined in the urge to stamp a hoof. “Yes. That’s cordgrass. Now remember—”

“I remember. You’ve told me twice now.” He gripped it by the roots and pulled slowly.

Rose bit her lip and tried not to think about what could happen if she let the cordgrass take firmer hold in her garden than she already had.

He tossed the bitter weed to the side and spat.

She giggled. “You didn’t have to bite it. Just press your hoof down under the root ball. It’s pretty shallow.”

He stared at her, tongue hanging loose with a line of drool dripping down. He spat again. “Rose... Do you know how bad this tastes? And how useful that could have been instead of ‘get it by the roots’?”

“Yes, I do. Like congealed rotten apple.” She tried to laugh, but it trickled away after a half chuckle. “Look, Post... I know you’re trying—”

“I’m trying. I promise you I’m trying to remember. I don’t ask you to remember the names and addresses of everypony in town, do I?”

“Post. That’s not what I wanted to say.” She tapped a hoof on a cobblestone set in the clay pathway. “You’re trying to make me happy. But you’re not happy, are you? This,” she waved a hoof at her garden, “isn’t what makes you happy.” He’d been happy enough the first two days she tried to teach him the basics of garden maintenance. “I’m sorry I kept pushing.”

“Oh.” Post hung his head and kicked at the disturbed dirt. “I do want to make you happy. Because I want us to work. And I guess...” He grinned and leaned in to nip her chin. “I guess that maybe I was expecting you to know that official mail for Mayor Mare doesn’t go to her home address. Even if it only has her name and the word ‘official’ on it.”

“Once.” Rose laughed, and shook her head. “I did that once.”

“And then you tried to—”

“Okay! I get it.” Shaking her head, Rose chuckled at the memory of her many misdeliveries. “I’m very sorry, Post. But this garden... it’s my life.” She waved a hoof at the dozen boxes of neatly tended dirt, save the one growing weeds. “I make my living selling these flowers. This is what I’ve done my whole life and it’s what I love doing.” She brushed a hoof against her cheek. “I wanted to share that love with you.”

Her legs trembled out of nowhere and she sat back on her haunches to scrub at the sudden rush of tears. “I wanted you to love what I do too,” she said, her voice quavering.

“Rose, shhh.” Post sat in front of her and pulled her close with both hooves. “I don’t know if I can love what you do the way that you do. But I love that you love it.”

“I only wanted to show you why I love my garden,” she repeated, pressing her nose into his chest. Why do I enjoy going on walks with him so much? His smell was no longer that of a stallion she was interested in, but a friend she looked forward to spending time with. A friend who told interesting stories she liked to listen to. “Do you know why it’s called cordgrass?”

“Because it tastes awful, like a whole cord of sour grapes?”

She laughed. “No, silly. It’s actually rather interesting.”

“You listen to my stories often enough.” He shifted and nipped her ear. “Is that why you keep coming with me? You like my stories that much? But they’re just stories about stamps—”

“They’re interesting because you make them interesting. It’s not just a stamp to you, Post. It’s the reason why you have your cutie mark. You love their stories.” She smiled and lifted her head to rest her muzzle along his neck.

“And I love your stories about roses.” He stroked the back of her neck with a hoof. “So... why is it called cordgrass?”

“It’s kind of a long story, actually, and rather a roundabout one. You see, it was a type of plant that we made broom cord out of before better cotton mills made cotton thread cheaper...”

He listened to her while she told him the story. They’d made a broom out of that cordgrass, some hay, and a branch felled in a storm later that week. Rose looked about as the memory faded away, slipping away with a fading scent and remembered warmth pressed against her chest.

The broom was still there, older and missing more than a share of stiff hay bristles, but the braided cord still held taut. It sat at the corner of her porch, though it was washed out in all in grays; except the brilliant rose tucked into one of the many gaps in the head.

The warm days turned cooler and shorter as winter loomed. Months of dates and small steps lay behind them. Their first kiss was long done and many more besides, and the memory of the first day they’d spent together, delivering mail and roses all across Ponyville was... Has it really been half a year already? The days had flown by.

They’d even talked of moving in, debating over whether her current house or finding a new place was better. Life was good, and the days gone by had been like living a dream together.

The rush of memories slowed.

The days grew shorter still, and by night a chill crept in that sent them to bed together more than once—for warmth. They went out again during the Running of the Leaves in the late fall. Gold and red filled the air and danced in the growing fall wind, a chill sharpening its bite.

Rose’s hooves couldn’t seem to stay still, and she found herself pacing around the small clearing he’d found for them to warm up in. Should I have eaten more? Or less? She worried at her lip and tried to count calories with each step and beat of her heart. Slow down! You haven’t even started racing yet!

“You’ll do fine. Just remember to stretch.” Post Haste nudged her gently. “And remember to pace yourself.”

She stopped pacing, then realized that wasn’t what he meant and laughed. The nervous tingles up her legs moved to her belly, where they added unwanted heft to the rich hay with a side of oats she’d had for breakfast. Definitely less. “You don’t need to keep reminding me, Posty. I have run the leaves before, you know.”

“Run, yes. But not raced.” He tapped her hindquarters with a hoof. “We’re going to race this year.”

Obediently, she leaned forward into a stretch, her muscles tightening almost painfully while she held the position. “And you think you can still keep pace as a water carrier?” She took half a step forward and stamped her hind legs, muscles tingling, and tapped the heavily laden saddlebags with her nose. They sloshed and gurgled, filled with near to two foal’s weight worth of water bladders.

“I—” His mouth clicked shut.

Sliding her forehooves forward to stretch her legs and abdomen left her hind end still high in the air. She tipped her head to catch him staring at her rear, and clamped her tail down to cover herself. The solitude of the small, private clearing was very welcome right then. It’s going to be a long winter.

He continued to stare. “Um.”

“Equestria to stallion. I know it’s a good view, but...”

He snickered and pranced to stand alongside her and out of the view of her distraction. “Don’t make an ass of yourself, Rose.”

She laughed and flicked her tail at him. “Why’d you volunteer for that, anyway?”

He shuffled his feet and looked askance at her. “Because I want to do something special this year.” He sidled closer to her and nuzzled her neck. “It is the first year I’m running with somepony special to me.”

“It feels like you’re setting something up. Tell me this isn’t another setup.”

“This isn’t another setup.” He grinned and stuck his tongue out at her.

“Mule.” She huffed in mock indignation and tipped her nose to the sky. “Fine then. Keep your secrets. I’ll find them out eventually.” Keeping her giggle inside was an effort worthy of Applewood. Keeping her smile hidden required a little more practice.

He laughed and kissed her cheek. “I promise I’ll tell you at the end of the race. Do you think you can keep up?”

“With you?” She twisted her head to catch the kiss, letting it linger briefly, and stepped closer to him. “Absolutely.” Rose tugged at his forelock. “As long as you stop every now and then.”

“Deal.” He sealed it with another kiss.

They walked out of the clearing and passed by the small crowd of earth ponies, mostly the elderly and the younger colts and fillies, who would be going slow and putting the trees to sleep for the winter.

Her place was usually with them, not with the swift racers who would bring down the leaves. Even as she took her place at the starting line, her muscles limbered and hopefully ready, she could feel the call of the trees through the steady ground. She pushed aside the placid song with an effort; it had no place in the rush and thunder of hooves she was going to be participating in.

Applejack and Goldie were among the callers that year, and Rainbow Dash was flying alongside the announcing blimp with Pinkie and Spike to be the co-co-announcer.


“As I’ll ever be.” She smiled at him, forcing her ears to stay upright.

She waited beside him and the other racers with numbers on their flanks, anxious about running for longer and faster than she’d run before. From talking to Applejack, she had something of an idea of how tense it was going to be, and the foreknowledge sat in her belly like too much hay, and every stomp of a hoof or eager whinny only added to it.

I’m not a racer! I’m a trotter at best! What am I doing?

She must have been radiating her distress, because Post Haste was there to nuzzle her neck. “It’s okay, Rose. Do your best, and remember—” He nuzzled her neck again and whispered: “I love you.”

Oh. Right. That’s why. She blinked several times to make the trail ahead clearer and shook her head. “I love you, too,” she whispered back.

The race started in a whirlwind of choking dust and rush of thundering hooves.

Almost immediately Roseluck found herself running faster than ever before. The thrill of speed sang in her blood and the crisp air felt perfect in her lungs. Life and the rushing thump of her own hooves striking the ground in a hypnotic cadence kept the ache at bay, and she laughed wildly alongside Post Haste as she revelled in her speed and the grace of a full galloping stride.

By the end, she was winded, while he looked not even half as exhausted as she felt; even carrying a foal-weight of water with him by the end. The benefits of being a mail pony who walked all day, every day for his job, she supposed.

“I need to run more.”

“Yes, you do.” He poked her belly with a hoof and danced away from her swat.

“Did you just call me fat?” She laughed as she said it. It wasn’t the first time and, to be fair, she had started the joke months ago. Standing at a stall all day for her business, or tending to her garden were not exactly strenuous activities.

“Pleasantly curved,” he said, poking her belly again.

“Well then.” She smiled and kissed him on the cheek. “Forgiven.”

He smiled back and looked around. “Rose,” he said, pulling her aside from the crowd. “Every time you’re with me, you make me feel like I’m complete. You make my world brighter.”

“Post, I—” She choked and shook her head to clear the blurry filter that slipped down over the world.

“Rose, I love you.” He twisted his head about and plucked a flower, a Lover’s Promise rose, from the saddlebag carrying the water.

Her heart skipped a beat as he tucked it into her mane, and she sucked in a breath, tears spilling down her cheeks when he bent around again and plucked another rose and held it out to her.

“Two roses. One for you, and one for me,” he whispered in her ear.

She’d said the first lines of the rhyme, so many months ago.

She swallowed a whimper and leaned forward to tuck the second into his mane. “S-sharing a love that’s meant to be,” she whispered into his ear.

Leaning back, she looked into his eyes. “It is meant to be,” she whispered, and breathed in the smell of him close to her. The fair faded away. The hundreds of other ponies around were just a distraction. They were easy to ignore.

She pushed into him and locked her muzzle to his in a passionate kiss. He responded in kind, and the fire of their kiss spread through her, lifting her spirits and—

Turned back into nothing more than a memory.

A memory that she clung to with every shred of her being, even though it hurt more than she could have imagined.

Cold, lifeless reality crashed down around her with the sound of absolute silence as the memory’s clarity faded away. But there was more to the memory than just the start of a romance, and love. It was there, all of it. An entire life hovered at the edge of what she could remember, waiting for her to rediscover it.

Her sobs choked her as she railed against the cold grey sky with questions that never passed her lips. Why? Why did I forget? She stumbled out of the seat, but her legs refused to work right and she fell to the ground, and curled up around the precious warmth of the memory.

“I’m here, Rose.” Pinkie lay down beside her and listened to her cry, nuzzling her neck. “Just let it out, and hold on to those memories.”

It’s all I have left! she wanted to shout. But her tears slowed, and the searing pain of loss dulled, leaving a throbbing ache in her heart.

There was a warm glow there, too; of remembered love that melted away the icy fears in her mind.

“Thank you, Pinkie. I remember him now. Or... at least a part of our lives together. Post Haste.” Saying the name pulled at her heart, and other holes in her memory pulsed along with it. “How could I have forgotten him? I-I—” She sobbed and pressed her face into Pinkie’s neck. “I loved him!”

“It hurts to remember.” Pinkie nuzzled the top of her head. “But it hurts more to forget, something you don’t ever realize until it’s almost too late. I think you understand that, now.” She stood up and offered a hoof for Rose.

She pulled herself up, legs shaking, and squeezed Pinkie’s forearm gently. “I do. I want to remember.” She could feel the next memory waiting for her, back the way they’d come, and turned around.

“I’m glad.” Pinkie hesitated.

“Will you come with me?”

“Of course.” Her friend smiled and stepped closer. “But promise me that you’ll smile, Rose; it’s been too long since I’ve seen you smile.” Pinkie smiled, to remind her what it looked like. “Can you remember the last time you smiled?”

“I can remember a lot of smiles.” It was easier, with the memories warming her.

She smiled.

Chapter 4: Three Roses

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“Are you sure it was me?” Pinkie asked, sitting at the edge of the trail from the Whitetail Woods. “I mean, what if it were—”

“It was you, Pinkie.” Rose looked at her. “Unless you know of any other pink party mares who like to announce... everything?”

That didn’t seem to settle the pall that had fallen over her friend. If anything, Pinkie withdrew into herself even more. That worried her.

“Come on. If you can’t remember, then we’ll need to find—”

“It’s not important.” Pinkie stood up and shook her head.

“Not important?” Rose stood up and trotted to her friend. “Pinkie, of course it’s important. Just think about how much I forgot. Forgetting one thing might not seem important to you, but when I realized how much I lost... Pinkie, don’t discount your own memories. Every one of them is precious.”

“You’re different. You...” Shaking her head again, Pinkie brushed Rose aside and moved down the trail to sit at the start of the path down to Ponyville. “You...” Pinkie sighed and watched the still, dead town below.

“I what?” Rose moved to sit by her, but a warning glance from Pinkie made her sit farther away. “It’s okay.”

To Rose, Ponyville was still shrouded in mist, though it was far lighter than it had been however long ago Rose had started. She could feel her memories waiting for her to reclaim them—a whole undiscovered life.

But there was one tugging at her the hardest. A memory that would lead Rose to her. Whoever she was. Vague memories of her kept coming back to her since the last rose faded away in her hoof. She was connected to Rose, and to Post Haste.

But how? A thought—more of a fear in the form of a foal’s doll—teased the edges of her mind. Rose turned aside from it and shook her head.

She turned to watch Pinkie, still sitting completely still and staring at the town. “Pinkie, you were a part of my life. You are one of my best friends.”

“Was I?” Pinkie didn’t look at her. “I barely remember you and Post being together. I remember you telling me you were so excited to have a special somepony.”

“Pinkie... of course you are. I’d be... gone if it weren’t for you.” Rose got to her hooves. “Maybe you’re like me. Missing a few—”

“Maybe you’re right.” Pinkie stood up abruptly and smiled at her. “Maybe I’m just... forgetting something.”

“I remember...” Rose took a step closer to her friend and bumped her head against Pinkie’s cheek. “I remember you asking me not to forget you.” Flashes of Pinkie, and snippets of her voice flew through her mind. “So many times. I promise, Pinkie. I won’t forget you.”

Pinkie’s smile brightened, and she threw her hooves around Rose in a tight hug. “Thank you. Let’s get your memories back. Worry about me later, okay?”

The comforting aroma of burnt applewood chips and the roar of the fire was soothing to Rose’s spirit. Though not as comforting as Post Haste’s warm body tucked up against her on the plush rug in her living room.

Something’s missing. It wasn’t the emptiness of the house. Sure, Goldie was gone more than she was there, but Post was spending more time with her—even when Goldie was there. She wiggled against Post and leaned in against him. It didn’t take her long to pin down what was missing. ”Foals,” Rose said.

Post turned his head to look at her, a quizzical expression on his face. “What about them?”

“I want to have foals. I want us to...” She pulled at the edge of the plush carpet and frowned. “I want us to have more joy in our lives, and a foal we can share that joy and love with.”

“I do too. But—”

“We’ve known each other for only half a year.” Rose sighed and lowered her head. “I know. I just... it feels like we fit together.” She hooked her ankle over his forearm and squeezed. “Our worst argument has been about where to live after we get married.”

He grunted, opened his mouth and glanced at her then closed his mouth again.

“Okay... maybe not the worst. That’s not the point.” She squeezed his forearm again. “We’re already talking marriage, Post. Why not foals too? Why not that next step?”

“Is this because of the blizzard? I mean, look at it.” Post flicked an ear at the window, where snowflakes the size of his hooves battered the storm shutters. “I’m glad we got a warning this time.”

“Don’t change the subject.” Rose nipped his muzzle. “But, no. It’s not because of the blizzard.” She leaned more firmly against him and rubbed her cheek against his neck. “I’ve been thinking about it since the Running of the Leaves. We’re meant to be, Post. I can feel it. And I want to have your foals.”

“Nothing would make me happier. I want to make sure we’re ready. A foal... that’s huge. Are we ready?”

It feels so odd; planning to make a life. “I...” It wasn’t something that Rose had forced herself to face. Planning a new life, a child. It felt cold to her. Shouldn’t it just... happen? “I want this, Post.”

He didn’t answer for a while. The roar of the wind and whisper of the fire filled the room.

Rose could tell he was thinking. It was that look: the furrowed brow, the way he pursed his lips and chewed on the inside of them. She waited, soaking up the warmth of the fire and their flanks pressed together. She didn’t stop stroking his forearm with a gentle hoof either.

“Rose... Do you remember when we were sharing our past relationships?”

She tensed. That was our worst fight. “Maybe? I’d rather not. That was a terrible idea.” Rose forced herself to unclench her neck and settled against him again. Still, her mind wouldn’t let it go after he brought it up. “I remember it was when you were traveling with the Manehattan Wandering College.” She squeezed his leg again. “I told you then that I only cared about you right then. Not who you’d been with before.”

“I know you did. Then you—” he clicked his teeth shut and she was grateful he didn’t continue. That episode had been unpleasant, to say the least. “I didn’t tell you why we’re not together.” He fell silent again.

A log popped in the fireplace, loosing a small shower of embers and a fresh waft of toasted applewood. Outside, the wind continued to howl above the quieter whispering scratch of snowflakes battering their shutters.

Rose was content to let the silence continue. They would have foals eventually. Maybe it’s best not to press him. Still, the cold winter nights spent snuggled together for warmth had turned sensual more than once after the Running of the Leaves—though they still stopped shy of sex. Barely.

Post shuffled beside her. “Quiet Step was her name.”

He apparently wasn’t thinking along the same lines Rose was. “Are you sure you want to tell your current marefriend about your past marefriend? After...” Rose quirked an eyebrow at him and stroked his leg slowly back and forth.

“She’s long gone from my life. I told you that then, even if you didn’t want to hear it. I meant it. You, Rose, are the only mare I have eyes for.” It was his turn to scratch at the edge of the rug. Post didn’t say anything for a long while, and the only sound in the house was the cheery crackle of the fire and the lonely whisper of the wind and outsized snowflakes against the storm shutters.

Rose was content to let him be quiet. She didn’t want to reopen what she had considered a closed chapter of their lives; one fraught with mistakes. Especially not with thoughts of making foals running through her mind.

“In retrospect, what she and I had was just a mutual crush that couldn’t survive our different paths in life. I wanted to stay with the College. She wanted... I’m still not sure I know.” He sighed and looked down at Rose. “I knew her for barely a month. I thought she was the one. My mentor cautioned me against it, though.”

“Wise mentor.” She looked away. “Is that why? I’m wanting things too soon?”

He grimaced and nipped her ear. “If you want to put it like that, then it’s not unfair to say. But it’s more complicated. Quiet wanted to have sex early on. She was a lively dancer, and she wanted to dance with me in more than one way.”

“Did you?” He was quiet for long enough that Rose feared the answer. “Post... you didn’t? Did you?”

He looked away, his ears flattening. “I don’t know if—”

“You’ve already told me too much. You can’t just expect me to leave it be!” Her pinching grip on his forearm tightened. “If you don’t tell me...” She shook her head. “It’ll fester. Just like last time. Please, tell me.”

“Never all the way. Playing around. Hoofsies, kisses, little licks in the right places. She wanted more, though, and when I didn’t want to go all the way... she pressed harder and harder, until I refused her outright. She left the College at the next village.”

Relief flooded her, and she settled in closer to him.

“She was in season, I found out later from one of my mentors. I knew what a season was, but I’d never actually gotten involved intimately like that with anypony. And not another until you.” He coughed. “Honest truth. I want to be sure that we work, Rose. I’m afraid that maybe there’s something that won’t work. Some reason. Something.” He looked at her and smiled weakly. “Maybe it’s just silly.”

“We’ll work it out. I want to be with you. I love you. And do you know how I know that we’re going to work out anything that comes up?”


“Because we’re both adults. You’re not barely out of colthood and I’m not a mare having her first season.”

“That’s no guarantee.”

“Shush. Stop trying to poke holes in my arguments.” She nipped his chin. “We’re both reasonable. We’re both comfortable with each other. I’m not exactly... comfortable knowing that you almost had sex with another mare—even if it was before you knew me. Maybe I’m being—”

“You are not being silly. It’s understandable.”

“I’m being jealous.” She shook her head when he opened his mouth. “I know myself well enough to recognize it.” Rose leaned over to kiss him gently on the cheek. “I can get over it. And maybe even accept it. You were accepting enough of that one night I spent with a mare.”

“I forgot about that.” Post grinned and nipped her nose gently. “Because there was totally this other mare—” He laughed and rolled away from her snapping teeth. “Okay! That was a lie. You’re the only mare.” He paused, looking at her and reaching out a back hoof to stroke her hindquarters. “You’re the only mare for me.”

He shivered and curled his tail up over his flank.

Rose’s gaze settled on his belly—at something resting against his belly. She flushed and looked away from his groin and and turned to lock eyes with him. Resisting the urge wasn’t something she wanted to do, nor was it something he would do. She bent down to catch his muzzle in a hungry kiss and trap the first of many moans.

I want this.

The memory slipped away afterwards in a haze of fading arousal and a blissful pleasure that thrummed through her with every beat of her heart. Another part of the ragged hole in her memories filled in. The silence of reality pressed down on her and she shuddered. Her house... what had been her house felt less empty than it had the last time she had been there.

“I remember. The last time I was here.” The cobwebs were gone, and there was no dust anywhere in the house. The colors were even a little brighter. Maybe that’s my imagination.

“You... um.” Pinkie stepped out from around the corner, ears flat and looking everywhere but at Rose. “You were making noises. And then you started...” Pinkie looked down at her hooves. “I don’t have to ask what that memory was about.”

Rose stared at the floor for a long moment, a flush creeping up her neck, before she looked up at Pinkie. “Please tell me you didn’t stay.”

“Nope. Soon as you started making kissy noises, I was gone.” Pinkie pointed a hoof back down the hallway.

“I’m sorry, Pinkie. I got lost in the—”

“Don’t you dare apologize!” Pinkie snapped. She took a deep breath, held it, and then let it back out again. “It’s your life, Rose. Don’t you dare apologize for your life.”

Rose stared at her. ”Is everything okay?”

“I found something while you were... busy.” Pinkie coughed and looked away again. “Please come take a look.”

“But—” Rose waved a hoof at the rose on the mantlepiece. She could smell it from where she stood—winter chill and the beginning of a spring bloom were only two small parts of the cacophony of memory the scent elicited in her mind.

“Roseluck. Please. This is one of those show, don’t tell things. Telling you...” Pinkie shrugged and waved a hoof at her again before disappearing around the corner.

Rose glanced between the rose and where her friend had gone. Memory that might wait... or friend that wouldn’t—and a world that might change before she could see what Pinkie wanted to show her.

Why not both.

Rose snatched the memory off the mantelpiece and held her breath, then dashed after Pinkie. She caught up to her—lungs burning—and dropped the rose to a table in the hallway before taking a deep breath.

Pinkie waited for her at a bedroom, looking inside, but staying out. To Rose, she seemed skittish and even less like Pinkie.

Somber. She seems somber. Why?

“Rose.” Pinkie touched her shoulder gently, bringing her back to reality and the present. “Please look.”

She didn’t want to. This was the bedroom Rose had found the doll in. “I remember this bedroom.” Rose touched a hoof to the doorframe and looked inside. A small bed sat against one wall, covered in pillows arranged like a nest. One not quite mauve, not quite pink pillow sat in the center of the nest.

She walked inside the room and touched a hoof to the dresser with its empty top, then the trunk under the window covered with a thick blanket decorated with bunnies and squirrels dancing under rainbows and bright white clouds. It was a child’s blanket, a warm winter blanket set aside for the summer.

Rose looked back at the door.

“I’m here.” Pinkie lifted a hoof and started to gesture at the bed, then set it back down and came farther into the room to join Rose at the foot of the bed.

The pillow at the center of the nest was embroidered with a name in bright pink lettering.

“Raspberry Rose.” She smiled as a warm feeling engulfed her just from saying the name. “Berry.”

“You said that name before.” Pinkie put a hoof to her shoulder and looked around. She pointed at a toy and a doll sitting together in the corner of the room, almost hidden behind the dresser. It looked like the same doll.

“Pinkie... I think she was my daughter.” The memory of the winter night came back to her. “We were talking about foals. In my memory. Before...” Rose shook her head and looked aside. “I think we did have a foal. A daughter.”

“I... you’re right.” Pinkie’s smile was uncertain, but she put a hoof around Rose’s neck and pulled her close. “I wish I could see her. I’m sure she’s absolutely—” Pinkie shook her head.

“P-Pinkie... she’s going to grow up without a mother!” Rose pushed herself harder into her friend’s embrace and sought the warmth and comfort that could soothe the ache of not being there to watch her daughter grow up. “I won’t see her—” Do anything...

Pinkie held her close while she wept, and wondered where her own tears were. It hurt, seeing Rose in so much pain. But at least she wasn’t running.

It hurt, knowing she couldn’t help—except to be there for Rose.

“Shh-shh.” Pinkie whispered in her ear. “It—” Pinkie squeezed her eyes shut, hating that she couldn’t cry. It’s not alright. “I’m here for you.”

Roseluck sat up in her daughter’s room. She had exhausted herself crying into Pinkie’s shoulder and fallen into a troubled sleep while Pinkie watched over her.

“Good...” Pinkie looked out the window and sighed. “Afternap, Rose.”

Looking around, Rose felt the pain of her missing memories grow more acute as the fuzz of sleep drifted away. “I’m sorry, Pinkie... I didn’t mean to fall asleep. I just got so exhausted—” She shook her head and tapped a hoof on the ground. “Post Haste will look after her. I know him. He will give her all the love that I c-can’t.”

She sucked down a ragged breath and waited for the ache in her heart to fade. Even a little.

“I’m sure he will.” Pinkie reached up to brush at Rose’s face gently. “He was an amazing father.”

The ache in Rose’s heart wasn’t going away. “He is an amazing father. The rest of the house... I don’t know how he managed. I remember it being a mess.”

“It was. But only because of grief. Losing you...” Pinkie sighed and pulled her in close for another hug. “I wish I wasn’t—hadn’t forgotten.”

“I’ll keep telling you about my memories, then. Maybe that’ll spark something.”

Pinkie smiled and gave a half shake of her head, then stopped. “I would like that.”

“Happy Hearts and Hooves Day!”

Rose startled, and looked around, only to have to look up to see Pinkie dangling over the edge of a hot air balloon tethered at the entrance to the lakeside fairgrounds.

Spike had his claws around her hind legs, and looked more than a little perturbed by Pinkie’s antics. “Pinkie! Don’t do that! I haven’t tied the rope around you yet!”

“Oh! Why didn’t you say so?”

Spike groaned and pulled her back in.

Rose stared at the antics of one of her best friends and sighed. She’s never going to change. Nor did she really want Pinkie to change. She giggled and watched Pinkie do it again, this time with a rope around her barrel. Pinkie’s antics brought plenty of smiles to everypony around her, even if they were sometimes a little off color or crass.

“Our second time here,” Post murmured in her ear before nipping it. “Remember the first?”

“Of course.” She nipped his neck in reply. There was a heat in his question—and her response—that hadn’t been there during their first Hearts and Hooves day when they ran the Promise booth together, and stole kisses from each other while all around them the sounds of established couples coupling filled the air.

The distant memory of that day was growing hot in her mind. But she couldn’t let herself go. Not yet. “Go find the stallions, Post. I’m going to go find the mares, and I’ll see you again in a little while.”

There were no secrets between the mares and the stallions as to what each did at their camps before the mingle and the games. That didn’t mean there wasn’t at least a modicum of an attempt to keep to an old tradition. Especially considering who the organizer was that year...

“Goldie! It’s so good to see you again!” Rose rushed up to greet her old housemate and locked her into a tight hug. “I guess Applejack’s the ‘stallion’ again this year?” There were a few stallions in the mare’s camp too, from the few coltcuddler couples in town.

“Shush!” Goldie laughed, though her blush spoke volumes more. “I wanted to see you again before the insanity started this year. Applejack’s had a blast organizing the whole thing. There was one thing that made her so excited, and me too, when she told me.”

“Oh? What’s that?”

Golden Harvest sidled up closer and looked around at the other mares and smattering of stallions chattering away. “Lily and Daisy said you’d declined the request to run the Promise booth this year.”

It was Rose’s turn to blush. “I think I’m ready, Goldie. We’ve been with each other for... it’s a year last month. He even moved in with me last week.” She scraped the ground with a hoof and looked away. “We’ll get the bits to cover your half of the—”

“It’s a gift, Roseluck. I’m living with Applejack now, full time. I’ll drop by the Mayor’s office tomorrow and sign the deed fully over to you.”

“Goldie, no! We agreed, remember.” Rose sidled up beside her friend and put a leg around her neck, then swept her other hoof across the sky. “Just imagine. You can use the money to buy the biggest rose bouquet—”

“Alright, alright! Geeze.” Goldie tossed her head and snorted. “You almost distracted me. You were saying...?”

The blush crept back up Rose’s neck. “I...” She looked around and pointed a hoof at the hoof painting booth. “Do you want to—”


She sighed and stepped closer. “I want to win the Three Rose Crown this year,” she whispered. “Win it, not just buy three roses. I’ve been running more, and trying to get fit.” She leaned closer. “I just came into my season, too.” She looked down, her blush deepening.

“I was wondering why you were looking exceptionally twitchy this morning. Does he know?” Goldie’s tail twitched.

“He didn’t say anything. But it feels like...” Rose shrugged and sat down to help mask the scent.

Aloe and Lotus stopped to glance her way, their tails twitching. The sisters winked at her and giggled in perfect synchronicity. “Good luck!” they chorused, before trotting off to see to their tent.

I will never get used to that. Rose blushed and waved back at them. Their reaction took a moment to register, and she glanced around at the large canvas-walled enclosure. How many others already know?

“You two haven’t...” Goldie sat back and tapped her hooves together several times.

“No! Not that. We have... you know...” She pursed her lips and lifted a hooked ankle to stroke the air. “I am only a pony, Goldie. And he’s so—” She flushed darker and sauntered closer to her friend. “He doesn’t mind...” She licked her lips.

“Oh, he’s a keeper. Want me to give him some—”

“Stars above, Goldie!”

“Sorry. You just—” Goldie waved a hoof under her nose. “You smell... how do I put this? Remember that one night? You’re giving me flashbacks.”

“Don’t remind me. We were both drunk, Goldie, and still feeling out...” She waved a hoof, the flush creeping farther down her neck. “Well, everything.”

“You also doused yourself in perfume to mask your season. But then you had to drag us through Rainwalk Park. Washed it all away. Woosh. You don’t smell quite like—”

“I need to find some perfume,” Rose grunted, deadpan.

“I think you smell—” Goldie shut her mouth and backed up a few more steps, her tail twitching. She kept looking off towards the curtained off stallion’s area, where Applejack was.

Rose settled her rump more firmly in the grass and roughed up some of the turf with both hind and fore hooves to provide at least some cover for her scent. The earthy aroma of wet dirt and the sour tang of mangled grass would only linger for so long before she would need to move again.

The hour of mingling meant she would have torn up half the gathering area by the end. Along with half of the other mares also surely in season besides her.

“Perfume. Now.”

“Right away.”

The hour passed by with agonizing slowness as the mares and few stallions mingled and chatted before the official start of the celebration. It was a large crowd this year, with more young mares coming of an age when they could compete with their sweethearts in the decidedly raunchy celebration of love and renewal.

Even while they waited at the head of the line to receive their cloaks, Goldie kept a respectable distance from her.

“Do I really still... smell that strongly even with the perfume?”

“Rose... let me put it this way. If you were Applejack, we wouldn’t be talking right now.”

“Do I need more perfume? Do you still have the bottle?”

“It’s not going to help.” Goldie smirked and plucked the bottle from her ankle-pouch. “Lover’s Caress, by Fleur.”

“You little horse-apple!” Laughing, Rose shook her head. “I have no idea how you think that’s going to help.”

“If you’re distracting every stallion and mare on the field...” Goldie shrugged at the look Rose shot her. “There’s nothing in the rules against a little outside assist.” She pointed to a group of mares already trying to sneak peeks under or over the canvas walls of the corral. “Just a little nudge and half your competition isn’t going to be able to walk. Of course...”

Rose let her friend’s voice wash over her. She tried to pay attention, she honestly did, but Goldie wasn’t as interesting as the smell of stallion musk drifting over the wall from the other enclosure. To distract herself, she looked around the mare’s enclosure for the hundredth time, sizing up the competition for the crown and looking for the friends who wouldn’t be competing.

Her two ‘sisters’ were already plying the Promise booth, where a steady queue of mares lined up to buy one and two roses for their sweeties. By long tradition, nopony could buy the Three Rose Crown. It had to be earned. They could buy three roses, but the Three Rose Crown was the mark of honor.

Once, it had been a way to choose who the lead mare and stallion would be for the herd, but it evolved over time to become an honor for the couple who completed the challenges. The couple was granted a private clearing in the Whitetail Woods where they would consummate their love, a throwback to seeking the favor of primal goddesses and the granting of a blessing of fertility.

The book she had borrowed from the library was quite graphic in its illuminated depictions of the winner’s circle, surrounded by ponies while the mare wearing the crown and her mate—copulated was too light a word for what they showed...

Stop thinking about it! She forced her tail to stop flagging and clamped her dock down hard. It might have been just a dry historical rendering to the chronicler who had first drawn it and stored it in the Ponyville Library, but to Rose, trying not to think about sex, it was a tease and a distraction.

“—and you’re going to have a terrible time during the Couples Carry.”

“What?” Rose shook her head. The past few minutes had passed in a blur while images of ponies mating... of Post mating with her danced through her mind.

“Oh, sweet sisters. You’re barely there.” Goldie hesitated, then stepped closer, her lips turning up in a smirking grin. “I was saying... about the couple’s carry. You know.” Goldie prodded her flank. “When you have to carry him on your back...”

“Shut up!” Rose closed her eyes, and promptly snapped them back open. The darkness let her mind fill in the details, all the way down to the way it would feel, throbbing against her back. “Just shut up!”

“I’m trying to give you a competitive edge, sweetie,” her treacherous friend said with the same falsely innocent expression from more than a year ago. “Just be glad that the cloaks will be covering everything up. Oh... but I guess that won’t help when it’s pressing—”

“Not. Helping.” Rose flicked her tail at her friend.

“Okay, okay! So...” Goldie looked away, covering her muzzle with a hoof and shaking as her almost silent laughter caught up to her.

At least I shouldn’t have to worry about him just losing himself. We’ve... played. We can stop ourselves. Some couples couldn’t; convenient tents were already set up around the whole of the course. By afternoon, half of them would be filled.

With rutting, grunting—Stop! Rose shook herself.

“Okay... I should probably stop.”

“What gave it away?” Rose leaned against her friend and shook her head. “I really want the crown, Goldie. I-I want to be able to bless the harvest.”

“Are you sure? I mean, it’s one thing to win the crown. It’s another to get pregnant doing it.” Goldie sat down beside her as the line to the clothing station stalled again. “Have you talked to him? About foals, I mean.”

“We have.” Rose blushed and looked towards the stallion’s area. “Every day last week. We decided to put a pin in it on Marketday, and then I saw so many new mothers with their foals...”

“Rose,” Goldie said with a hoof hooked over her muzzle, “please tell me you didn’t go foal crazy.”

“A little. Maybe.”

Goldie sighed. “How bad?”

“By Bloomday we were talking about seasons and times of the year.”

“Two days. You held out on going foal crazy for two whole days.” Goldie covered her muzzle with her other hoof and shook her head. “Rose... have I ever told you that you can be far too impulsive at the weirdest times?”

“I’m proud of myself for lasting that long! I’m surprised I didn’t enter my season after I saw the fourth new mother.”

“I’m not so sure you didn’t.”

“Maybe I did.” Roseluck sighed and stood up as the line moved forward again. “Let’s just get our cloaks and get going. I’m not sure how much longer I can stand smelling...” She covered her nose with a hoof. “Nevermind.”

“Rose!” Post came up to her and nuzzled her in the next large, open center of the gathering area. “Are you wearing perfume?”

“Long... short story.” She nipped his ear, then blushed. She had only meant to whisper to him. Control! “I’m in season. Goldie helped by getting me some perfume.”

He stamped a rear hoof and swallowed. “You’re not the only mare in season.” He looked around at the other couples in the gathering area. Some of them were already dashing for the large cluster of tents nearby, thinning the field considerably. “Can you last half an hour?”

She looked up from trying to peek underneath his cloak. “Can you?”

Torture, Rose decided. This is what torture feels like.

The half hour passed with agonizing slowness made all the more agonizing by the sounds and smells of healthy, rutting stallions and mares; and their occasional cries of ecstasy.

Worse than the sound of it was the smell. It burrowed its way into her mind, dragging up visions of her and Post locked together in their first real time together having sex.

Her strategy of drooling had only worked insofar as it made her acutely aware of just how much a pony could drool before her mouth felt dry.

Post had taken the strategy of boring himself out of arousal. Not that it worked. She found herself staring between his legs more than once, and each time, he was as stiff as a board. Each time, he swept the cape back around his legs and bit her lightly on the ear, then returned to staring into the sky with his ears tucked close to his skull and his mouth opened. He claimed that it was easier to ignore the smell if he could only taste it.

She had tried it, but she only managed to work herself up more by imagining something other than air in her mouth.

But they endured. And so did three other couples. Applejack and Golden Harvest stood to one side, apparently calm in the midst of the storm of sex happening all around them.

Cheerful Banter finally gave in to the love bites and teasings his wife Charity—a pink coated, white maned nurse from the hospital—had been peppering him with for the last half of the waiting portion of the contest. Before the final ding of the bell, they were heading for the tents with her giving him the bedroom eyes, and he barely able to contain the nips he made at her flank. Her cloak was half off before they even made it to a tent.

Pinkie Pie stepped up on the stage, continuing her role as the announcer for the contest.

That left three competing couples in the arena. And the Couple’s carry was next.

Rose watched as Goldie winked at her, then bent her head back around and started to nibble at the top of Applejack’s tail.

“Ah... Goldie?” Applejack’s voice was more strained than her previously calm demeanor had led Rose to believe. “Goldie!”

Goldie didn’t listen, and continued to nibble until Applejack’s tail twitched and flagged to the side and she drooped her head.

“Goldie! Stop! I told ya I wasn’t gonna give in without a fair struggle.” Applejack stood up and danced away from Golden Harvest. “It don’t mean nothing if I just give it up. I understand. I do. But this is tradition.”

Another couple left the arena: Diamond Dust and Filthy Rich raced for one of the few remaining tents.

Pinkie laughed and stomped a hoof. “And another one bites the tail!”

Rose stood up, her hind legs trembling from sitting for so long while straining not to do anything to excite herself. She looked back at Post sitting with his cloak unfurled behind him, his front legs planted apart while he panted and resolutely stared at the sky

Her eyes refused to move on from between his legs, no matter how much she... didn’t want to look away. Her heart raced as her mind conjured images of it...

“Post... Post... I can’t—” Her tail hiked up of its own accord and quivered, then settled to the side under her cloak. She lifted her head from staring indiscreetly between his legs and looked into his eyes, half lidded and sparkling with the same intensity she felt in her loins. “Tent. Now.”

Rose found herself in the Whitetail woods again, laying down while her sides heaved from the intensity of the memory. The plush interior of the tent, the opulent carpet and cushy pillows were all gone. A large clearing was all that remained of her memory, with a few fallen, split logs that served as benches when the clearing was used to host an event.

Post was gone, and the pleasure of their first time was nothing but a memory. But it stayed with her, and her heart beat more heavily as she touched upon it again. Looking back on it as a memory... she could see the passion and the heat, but also the tender care that followed.

He groomed her mane and tended to her ears while they chatted, giggling, in whispered tones. They mated again, taking their time to enjoy each other, obeying only the thudding of their hearts and the thrill of pleasure that only added to the enjoyment.

She opened her eyes again to look out on the world of greys. The fog that had haunted her since the hospital was all but gone, but the sky was still and grey, and there was no sound but her own breathing and the rushing thump of her heartbeat in her ears, fading slowly back into the silence as it settled and she recovered.


Rose’s voice vanished into the stillness. Pinkie didn’t step out from around a tree or drop down from a branch. The trees weren’t that closely packed—the Whitetail woods were an old growth forest, filled with trees that blocked out the light for all but the smallest of saplings. She should have been able to see Pinkie coming from some distance.

She stumbled to her feet while she waited and dusted off her flank and her rear. A faint whisper trickled its way across her ears, barely recognizable as a voice and so distant it might have been another figment of her imagination.

Still, she waited. Nopony came down the trail or peeked her head around a thick trunk or even burst out of a bit of brush boldly attempting to grow along the trail.

“Pinkie! It’s safe to come out!”

The silence thumped away at her ears and a familiar tinny whine built the longer she waited to hear her friend come thudding down the path.

“Pinkie! I saw you in my memory! You were there!” The silence died away and came back as resolute as ever. “Pinkie!”

“Where are you?” Rose waited again. “Why did you leave me?”


She was alone again. Just like...

Rose shook her head. The hospital was a terrifying reminder of how far she had fallen and how much she had lost. But things were making sense again and the holes in her memory filling in along with... acceptance.

The world she knew was gone. All she had left were memories.

“Happy memories.” She smiled, and warmth blossomed in her heart, pushing back the ache. The scent of another rose, another memory, beckoned her to the trail leading back to Ponyville.

Back to home.

Chapter 5: Revealing Roses

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In all the times Rose had been to the Whitetail Woods west of Ponyville, they had never felt as empty as they did staring down at the single spot of vibrant color at her feet. Trees that should have been verdant green were dull brown, and dull brown was grey.

Only the rose had any color.

The smell of a train, oil and hot steel mixed with coal and smoke, wafted up from the petals, and she heard the first half of a question that set her heart racing, in a voice she recognized. Post Haste.

“Rose, will you—”

She could let him finish that question. She bent and took a deep breath.

“—be okay?” Post Haste nudged her further up the train platform’s steps.

“Of course. Why wouldn’t I be?” Other than your mother intruding on every spare moment I have! She stuffed the stray thought back into its box and forced a smile. “We need this, Post. I need this. Ever since we’ve been trying I feel like life’s been coming at us so quickly!”

“It’s been two months, dear. Just think about how much we’ve been up to. It’s a lot to take in. We’ll get there.”

“I know!” Rose bristled as his words brought back the last visit his mother had made to their home. Their home. She’d made the first payment to Goldie, and had enough bits to make the next. “It’s just... she’s been coming by almost every. Single. Day.”

“Every other day, isn’t it?”

“Maybe. Sometimes.” Rose tapped a hoof against the wooden platform and closed her eyes. “She keeps telling me to try this, or try that. Eating more of this will help, or eating that...” Rose didn’t dislike Swift Delivery—at least, not much. But she was not exactly the most patient of pegasi.

“I’ll talk to her again. I think she’s just...” Post shrugged and buried his muzzle in her mane to kiss the back of her neck. “I’m almost twenty-five, Rose. She’s been waiting a long time for me to find a mare I could love enough to have foals with.”

“You’re twenty-three. Don’t push yourself past the quarter-century mark just yet, dear. She’s just so... pushy. I think she might try to... to...” Rose huffed, relaxing as Post nibbled at her neck, his action hidden by her mane. Serenity settled over her again. “It doesn’t matter. We’re going on vacation. Let’s just enjoy ourselves.”

“I intend to.”

Rose laughed.

The train and train station faded away. Roseluck stood on an empty platform with nopony else about and only the smell of a rose lingering about her nose, leaving the impressions of oil and steam and the hot smell of coal mixing with unicorn magic.

There was no train there. Just the tracks and the station-house, with its side plastered with notices and announcements from ponies who wanted to pay the ten bits to rent a square space.

There was one that caught her eye.

Charity auction Sunday, Planting 4th.

Lilies, Daisies, Carrots and Apples

Proceeds go to the Roseluck—

Another poster was plastered halfway over top of it. That the charity flyer was almost on the top layer said that it was recent. If time meant anything in the world she was in.

But the date. Early spring. When did I...

She shook the thought off. It warmed her heart to know that her friends missed her and were looking after her family.

“My family.” It sounded right. “I need to remember everything. I want to remember everything.” She cast one last glance at the flyer and dashed back up to the station platform and the rose waiting for her at the very end.

The train ride passed in mostly comfortable quiet. The train wasn’t exactly crowded, but they weren’t alone either. Leaving on Marketday had been risky, but it had paid off. Most of the ponies who would have reason to be in Manehatten were there already or had taken a train earlier in the week.

The late afternoon sun drifted down at a leisurely pace as the train rattled and clanked through the countryside. Its whistle blew at each minor crossing where sometimes a pony or a family would be waiting to wave at the passing cars. Roseluck smiled out at them, farm ponies and villagers for whom the train’s passage meant that the world continued, and sometimes waved back.

Post made a point to wave to them, but seemed content to nap in between crossings. Rose was increasingly absorbed in a book she’d borrowed from Swift as the afternoon light began to turn to evening. The running lights in the car flickered as their unicorn tender walked by, then sputtered to life under his spell.

Rose nodded her thanks to the stallion, then turned her attention back to her reading. The book was the one thing she’d asked for, and Post’s overeager mother had taken it to mean that—

Rose snorted and turned her attention back to the page. Swift Delivery’s assumptions aside, the book was a fascinating look into the history of Post’s earth pony father’s side. Names, dates of birth, marriages, few partings. Offspring...

She turned her head to look at her flank and smiled. Some day soon, I’ll add another entry to the book. She brushed a hoof against her still flat flanks, imagining for a moment that she was heavy with foal.

Post’s hoof joined hers and he smiled, then leaned forward to whisper in her ear: “I love you.”

“I love you too.” Rose nuzzled his cheek and propped the book against the fold-out tray on the seatback in front of her.

“Enjoying the family history?”

“Mm.” She leaned against him, cheek pressed against his neck. “You have a lot of distant relatives.” Her hoof rested on the tray to twitch the page back and forth over a long section of almost scribbled genealogy chart.

Her attention soon wandered between the countryside rushing by outside in the lengthening shadows and the book that held the history of the family she hoped to become a part of. Sometime between Cherry Fizz and Greentail, her wavering focus drifted away and she closed the book.

Sleep crept up on her, and the warm, solid beat of Post’s heart against her ear soothed away the fears that she’d taken on as added baggage.

The gentle rocking of the train droned on, and the cheerful wail of the whistle sounded again, heralding dreams of a life filled with joys.

Through the night the train steamed on, rattling and clanking on its merry way to Manehatten. A few times the train stopped to take on more water, and Rose took the time to stand up and stretch, use the mares’ room, and to socialize with a couple from Las Pegasus sitting just across the aisle.

Then the train would be off again, the slow chug of the distant engine and the crackle-crunch of the cars jerking along after it soon dwindled into the steady rhythm of the tracks again, and Rose would lull herself back to sleep with her cheek pressed to Post’s chest.

Morning dawned with the chiming of the arrival bell, and the distant smell of salty sea air as the train chugged up the side of the bluffs just outside their destination. The train wouldn’t get to the city proper, but drop them off at the large platform just outside the farthest outskirts.

“Wake up, dear.” Rose kissed him gently on the lips. She saw his eyes flutter, but he didn’t wake up. “Come on, sleepyhead.”

“Mmf.” He turned and kissed her back, then blinked owlishly in the bright light streaming in through the window. “Morning, lovely.”

“We’re about there. You might want to stretch out a bit first.” She kissed him again and stepped out into the aisle to do the same. Other ponies were chatting with neighbors and getting their luggage pulled off the nets hanging above the seats. Most of the passengers weren’t actually from Ponyville, she discovered.

Many of them had accents from places as far west as Seaddle or as far south as Appleloosa. There was even a pair of mares from the Crystal Empire standing as aloof as possible from the rest of the crowd.

Rose got the feeling, watching them, that they were uncomfortable with ponies admiring them for their look when that was how everypony looked back home. Still, it brought to mind a question.

“Post... do you think I look as nice as a crystal pony?”

“What?” Post stepped out into the aisle with her and glanced at the mares. “They’re not you, Rose.”

“I...” Rose chewed her lip. “You’re right.”

“What’s bothering you, dear?”

“I don’t know. We’ve been trying for almost two months. What if I’m—” She couldn’t say the S-word. Dr. Cure said I’m not... but what if she’s wrong? “I want to, so badly.”

“Is this one of those clock things you and my mother were discussing?”

“Maybe. Just... lately, I’ve felt so...” Rose sighed and reared up to snag her luggage. “I ‘unno.” She spat the carry strap out after setting it on the bench. “I just don’t know, Post.”

“Relax.” Sitting back, he pulled her close with both forelegs. “We’re on vacation. For four days I don’t want us to worry about anything but each other. Can you do that?”

“I guess.”

“Come on now, no guessing. Vacations are serious business.” He tilted his head back. “Let me see you smile.” He waited until she did, then pressed his cheek to hers. “Don’t worry about anything. Okay? I will be keeping an eye on you to make sure you don’t worry!”

She laughed and nuzzled up closer. “I’ll do my best.”

“Good. I’m counting on you to have the best time of your life!”

How does he do that? Rose asked herself as they trotted along the cobbled road to their hotel on the outskirts of town. Just five minutes ago, she’d been wallowing in a sudden wave of worry. Then... How can he just lift my spirits without even trying?

She giggled, and shrugged mentally. Maybe it was getting away from the train and its chimney-like smell. The fresh air flowing up the bluffs from the sea was washing away the tingle in her nose.

Maybe it was him. Rose paused and waited for him to catch up, then bumped shoulders with him and slowed her pace to walk alongside him.

“Thank you,” she said.

“For what?”

“For being you. For knowing what to say to make me feel better.”

He laughed. “You’ve been a bit difficult to keep up with this last week. But you do have a pattern even when you’re being moody.”

“I am not being moody.” I’m not, am I? Rose shook her head. “I’m not.”

Post looked about to say something else, but closed his mouth and smiled at her. “Of course not.”

“No.” Uncertainty pulled her happy mood into a mire, and she fell quiet until they reached the hotel. Queasy sensations rolled in over her while she thought about the last couple of months. Are we ready? It was a silly question.

But she had to ask it anyway. Maybe hearing his answer would get rid of the uncertainty gnawing at her stomach. “We’re ready, aren’t we? I know... I know we’ve talked a lot about it lately, but are we?”

“Of course we are. Rose, I want...” he smiled and shook his head. “Soon. We’ll get there. Don’t worry about anything. That’s what I want. Just...”

“Be happy.” If only it were as easy as flipping a switch. “I’ll do my best.” Rose put on a smile, but couldn’t get rid of the nagging, queasy uncertainty that had settled stubbornly in her stomach since she woke up.

“That’s my beautiful Rose.” Post kissed her cheek. “Let’s get washed up and have something to eat, okay?”

Their morning together was one of the most enjoyable Rose could remember in recent weeks. Between worrying about the upcoming vacation and making sure that everything would be taken care of while they were gone—and that her customers knew she would be gone—she hardly had a moment to breathe; at least it felt that way to her.

Adding onto that was their public announcement of an intention of being more than just a couple, and Swift Delivery’s blatant desire for grandchildren. Rose felt like her life wasn’t her own anymore; she was living at the behest of others.

But vacation with the stallion she loved, even just that morning away from everything, had rejuvenated her. Making love in an actual shower, with heated water instead of a sun-warmed cistern, had been even more of a treat and the blissful warmth within and without had carried her smile well into the afternoon.

They had an early dinner at a small diner at the edge of the Manehattan Apple Family orchard, dining on a tourist’s sampling of apple treats from all over Equestria, and a few native to Manehattan alone.

It was the perfect way to spend an afternoon together.

“Tomorrow, I’d like to see if we can get into the botanical gardens. I was disappointed to see the tours were already filled.” Rose looked back down the broad avenue towards the bridge leading into town. “I want to show you the rosebeds that I cared for while I was a student. They have some of the rarest—”

And then the wind shifted. Instead of blowing from the west, from the apple orchard that stretched outward from the bluffs, it came from the east and the bay full of ships, bilge, and rotting seaweed. The stench dug into her nostrils and crawled down her throat.

“We’ll get in, Rose. Don’t worry,” Post said, lifting his nose to the breeze. “Ah... now I remember why I never wanted to settle down here.” He stopped and looked back at her. “Are you okay? You look a little—”

Rose lunged for the nearest wastebin as the contents of her stomach surged, and filled her mouth with bile and acid. Her cheeks burned as she caught a glimpse of ponies staring at her and pointing hooves. The bin smelled foul, and flies buzzed up from it, disturbed by her vomiting. But with her head below the rim, she didn’t have to watch as others stared at her indignity.

Post stood between her and the rest of the ponies walking up and down the boardwalk and stroked her back gently. “Take it easy.”

Passers by looked away as she lifted her head from the bin on the sidewalk and took a fresher breath of air. The stench of the bay was still there, and it still crawled unpleasantly down her throat with every breath, but it no longer threw her stomach into spasms.

“The smell was bad, but I didn’t think it was that bad.” Post said as he stroked her back gently. “Are you feeling better?”

Shaking her head, Rose tried breathing through her mouth instead. The stench of the bin and the bay coated her tongue. She spat and wiped her muzzle with an ankle. “I think it was the onion burger for lunch.”

“I still can’t believe you ate it all...”

“Hey, I like onions, o-okay?” Rose bent over the bin again and felt the onions crawl their way up, tormenting her with their bite.

“Okay. Just rest easy. It’s not far to the hotel.”

It didn’t take long for Rose’s stomach to settle, even if it felt like an hour spent trying to decide whether the stench in the wastebasket, or the more distant but fouler smell of sewage and rotting dead things was worse. The hoof on her back helped.

“Let’s go... I don’t want to smell that any more than I have to.” Rose pushed herself away from the bin and hobbled away on legs like noodles, while her stomach tied itself in knots.

Post held himself gently to her side, and walked with her the rest of the way back to the hotel.

After half a night of fitful sleep followed by a dead-tired, dreamless slumber, Roseluck’s stomach had quieted somewhat. She suspected that was more because there was nothing left to come up than through the blessed antacids the front counter of the hotel sold them.

You’re pregnant, came the quiet thought in the sleepy moments before she opened her eyes. It drifted away before she could latch onto it and examine it as the sound of the door opening, and a cart clanking noisily over the threshold into their room drove it from her mind.

Post had apparently been up for at least half an hour before her. The smell of breakfast and a fresh pot of coffee greeted her. Thankfully, neither aroma set her stomach off.

“Good morning, beautiful!”

“M-morning!” Rose fought back a yawn. She was successful right up until the smell of coffee grew stronger with the opening of the carafe. “S-sweet Celestia...” she yawned again, stretching out across the princess sized bed. “Why does that coffee smell so good?”

Stifling a chuckle, Post pushed a cart up to the side of the bed. “Breakfast in bed? I’ve got nutcakes and syrup, baked spiced carrots, orange juice, apple juice, and an apple fritter. And... hazelnut coffee.” He blew a cloud of richly aromatic steam at her nose, making her yawn again.

Rose reached out to swat him. “That much?” Rose rolled to her stomach, and dangled her hooves over the edge of the bed. “I’m... not sure if that’s a good idea.” She stroked a rear hoof against her flank while faint memories of the stench wrinkled her nose.

“Rose, dear, you need to eat. Everything you ate yesterday, or most of it...” Post coughed. “I want you to feel your best while we’re here. Being hungry is not going to make you feel good.” He pushed the cart a little closer. “Eat.”

“It does... look tasty.” Rose looked out the window, where the sun was just starting to rise over the bay. “You must have been up early.”

“I was up an hour before you to get things ready for today.” Two tickets appeared as though by magic from under the plate. “For the noon tour.”

Rose stared at them. Tickets for the Garden Tour. “But you must have been there before the gates even opened! How did you—”

Post’s hoof pressed to her mouth gently—it smelled faintly of dew and dirt, with a stronger overtone of blackberry and honey scented soap. “Shh. Eat. I’ll tell you later. I promise.”

With a full stomach and coffee singing a sweet good morning to her nose, Rose was ready to face the day. The night’s fatigue was already fading from her mind and the deep, thrumming bliss was again filling her from hoof to tail. I really need to look into a water heater for our house.

The clean smell of the apple-scented shampoo and coat-scrub was fading, but the rich, earthy aroma of the orchards quickly took its place. It was a welcome respite from the terror that had wafted up from the bay through half the night.

“How long do you think we should get there ahead of time?” Post looked at the ticket again and tucked it back into his saddlebag. “It says noon, but... that crowd looked large even at, what was it? Four in the afternoon?”

“If you want, we can go there early and wander around the public portion of the gardens. They’re not as beautiful, but they still get maintained like the private gardens.” Rose stepped outside into the late morning air and breathed in deeply. The tickle in her throat came back.

No! I won’t let that ruin my trip! She took a sip of the apple juice in her canteen to wash down the tickle and let it fall back to its strap around her neck.

“You okay, dear?”

“Fine.” Rose smiled and tossed her mane. “More than fine. I’m pregnant.” What? The word had popped out. She slowed to a stop, staring off into the distance as the implications of what she’d said percolated through her stunned mind.

“Good.” Post nodded, then slowed to a stop, too. He shook his head and rubbed his ear lightly. He turned around, eyes wide and ears flat. “What?”

“I… think I might be pregnant.” She shook her head, too, and sat down heavily. “The sickness just came on yesterday. That was… that was the last thing your mother said to look for.” She rubbed at her stomach with a single hoof, then looked back up. “The sickness… not from onions.” She shook her head. “You said I was being moody…” Certainty grew in her mind, pushing aside earlier fears. “Post… It all fits.”

“W-what…” Post shook his head and bounded to her side. “That’s wonderful! Oh my goodness!” He nuzzled her swiftly, then rocked back to sit on his haunches, and took a deep breath. “I’m going to be a father.”

“I’m pregnant…” A desire to know for certain surged through her. “Post, we need to get home. I want to see Dr. Cure right away.”

The sun was reaching up into the noon sky, not quite ready to descend in its track towards night when Rose and Post finished packing and spent another hour getting her stomach to settle. By then, the station house was almost empty of arriving passengers.

“No trains back to Ponyville until tomorrow morning? Isn’t there something going there sooner than that? Anything?” Rose asked the ticketing clerk, a bored looking unicorn poring over a list of times and dates.

“I’m sorry, miss. There’s nothing. Not even a produce train. Ponyville just has the one train out and one train in per day to Manehattan. That’s the morning train.” He plastered the schedule against the glass for her to see and floated a quill around front to tap the glass on the right square. “See?”

Sighing, Rose nodded. “I see. Then please change our tickets for the morning.” This is one of those times I wish I’d planned things ahead. “Do...” She sighed again. “What time does it leave?”

“Oh.” The paper flipped around, and she wrote on the schedule, then plastered it back to the window. “Two hours after sunrise.” The ticketmaster shredded their old tickets and scribbled out new ones, stamped them, and passed them under the glass. “Here you go! Thank you for travelling with the Friendship Express!”

“Thank you so much.”


Rose found a place out of the way, but close enough to the bathrooms that she could make a dash if she needed to. And far enough away that the stink was only able to crawl halfway down her throat.

She waited, and didn’t have to wait long, before Post came into the station, reared up and waved a hoof at her.


“Tomorrow morning,” Rose said glumly. “There’s just the one train each day from here to Ponyville.”

“We must have missed it during breakfast.” He brushed past her, nuzzling her cheek and dropping to nuzzle her flank before he came back around to sit on her other side. “What do we do, then?”

“Do you still have the tickets?” Rose asked as she leaned against him. “We could go see the gardens.”

“I suppose,” he said with a smile. “I guess I won’t have to…” He looked askance at her, then nipped her ear gently. “I want today to be even more special.”

“I don’t know what could do that.” Pregnant… I’m going to be a mother. She shook her head lightly and flicked her ear at his chin. “Did you have something else planned?”

“Oh. Well... I guess you’ll just have to wait and see, won’t you?”

I’ve done a horrible disservice to the public gardens... Rose thought as she and Post walked down the pale gravel paths, surrounded by blooming flowers of all the mundane varieties that were common in gardens throughout Equestria. It’s not the exotic and rare flowers that deserve all the attention.

The gardens had changed significantly since she’d last tended their winding pathways. She’d heard that her old instructor, the previous manager of the gardens, had retired, but she hadn’t realized that the new management would have such a drastically different vision of how to arrange the plots and pathways.

More than once, Rose found herself wandering down a dead end of the not quite maze-like gardens without realizing it. Not that finding themselves alone was a bad thing.

“Did you know that in all the times the college stopped by Manehattan, I never once came to visit the gardens?” Post asked as he stopped to sniff a red and gold tiger-lily standing out amid a bevy of white hyacinth. “I feel like maybe I should have.”

Rose smiled and nuzzled his cheek. “We might have met a lot sooner, that’s for sure.”

“True. But...” He turned from the flower and burrowed his muzzle in her mane to take a deep breath. “I don’t think that I would have been ready.”


“Meeting you here, in the middle of a time in our lives where we were still just learning about ourselves away from our families... I don’t want to think that you would have been just another part of that education. I’m glad I met you when I did.”

“Me too.” Rose pulled away, then turned and kissed him gently. “You’re acting strange this morning. Breakfast in bed... coffee... Post, are you planning something?”

He smiled and touched a hoof to her chin, then leaned in for a deeper, more passionate kiss. The kiss lingered long enough for her pulse to quicken and a flush to creep along her ears before he let go.

“Maybe,” he said softly. “Don’t worry about it. I’ll tell you when it’s time.”

Rose smiled and pressed her cheek to his. “I won’t.”

“Would everypony please gather around?” The tour guide, a young pegasus with a creamy yellow mane and blue coat, stood beside a statue of the celestial sisters, Luna and Celestia. At their hooves lay beds of flowers in the shapes and colors of their cutie marks.

The guide waited until everypony was more or less paying attention to her before she flashed a bright, sunny smile.

“I would first like to welcome everypony to the gardens. I am Sunny Skies, and I will be your guide today! A few ground rules. No eating! I say that for your safety. Some of these plants are toxic to us. No wandering off! This garden is arranged as an homage to the Canterlot Royal Gardens, a maze...”

The tour guide droned on for a few more minutes laying down the common sense rules that were there for the protection and safety of the visitors. Rose obediently paid attention on the surface, but her thoughts wandered.

“Just how did you get those tickets?” she whispered to him as the introduction droned on. The question had been floating around the back of her mind since he’d presented them. Old memories of schedules and complaints by eager patrons had trickled back in after the initial excitement of pregnancy faded, and the resignation of having to spend another day settled in. “They sell out weeks in advance this time of year.”

“I bought these tickets weeks ago,” he whispered back, a smile growing. as he brushed her foreleg with a gentle hoof. “When we first started planning.”

“How?” A moment later, Rose shook her head and rolled her eyes. “Mail order.”

“Yep. I finally had a chance to pick them up today.” He kissed her cheek. “I didn’t want to give away the surprise by having them delivered.”

Rose smiled back.

“Are there any questions?” The tour guide stomped a hoof on a metal plate and the gate to their left swung open. “If not—”

Post jumped, then stepped back. “I do! I have a question.”


“A moment please, Rose.”

“Ah, yes? What’s your question?” Sunny Skies looked, and sounded, genuinely surprised that anypony would ask a question.

“Roseluck, this past year has been the most wonderful year of my life. And... I... just a moment.” Post paused to dig into his bag and came back with a velvet coated jewelry box that he balanced on one upturned hoof.

Rose’s heart leapt into her throat. “Post...”

He opened the box gingerly to show a simple, very familiar, silver ring just large enough to sit around the base of her ear.

Where did he get...

“Roseluck, it would make me the happiest stallion in Equestria if you would be my wife. Will you marry me?”

Yes! Rose nodded swiftly, trying to find her voice. “O-of course! Yes!”

Post pulled the ring from its box gently and stepped forward to slip the ring over her quivering ear, where it lay clinging and heavy, unfamiliar and welcome at the same time.

“I’m so glad, Roseluck. I...” He blushed and looked aside. “I was going to buy a ring later... but your father—” He smiled. “He said your mother would have wanted you to have it.”

A smattering of cheers and the stomping of hooves brought Rose back to reality and she blushed, looking around at the twenty or so ponies congratulating them on their newly engaged status.

Sunny chuckled and waved a hoof at the crowd. “If nopony else has any questions...” A smattering of laughter sounded from the tour group.

Post shook his head. “I’m sorry for interrupting... but you just gave me the perfect opening.”

“No... it’s fine. About once every other week somepony is proposing. But you’re the first to do it during the introduction.” The young guide shook her head and smiled again. “Congratulations, you two. Now, if you all will follow me, please.” She walked on through the gate, already back in her narrative voice. “The gardens were founded almost two centuries ago at the behest of Princess Celestia...”

Rose’s heart leapt with joy as she pranced after the group, Post Haste by her side.

Rose barely paid any attention at all to the tour. Her heart was in the clouds and her mind clouded by visions of their life together. But while her heart and head were soaring, her stomach remained stubbornly grounded. More than once, she had to stop and take a deep breath to hold back the tickle in her throat. The canteen of apple juice helped as well, but it soon ran dry and she was left with a stomach that wanted to flip flop at the slightest foul odor.

Rose tried to stay away from those she remembered as particularly foul smelling. The few she encountered early on, she tucked her nose into her canteen and moved on.

Then came the worst... the rotting corpse flower that she could smell from around the corner. It had been at the end of the tour when she’d tended the gardens. Even back in her college days, it had made her queasy. With her stomach roiling and the heat of the day rolling in to stifle her ears and nose, it was harder to ignore the oily taste of it on her tongue.

“I can’t go near it,” she said as the group rounded the corner. “It—” That familiar crawling sensation began sneaking down her throat. She threw a hoof over her muzzle, turned, and hobbled away from the rest of the group following the tour guide.

“Your stomach again?”

Rose nodded and continued hobbling away from the stink. If I can just get back to the crystal hyacinths...

“Miss! Miss, please don’t leave the group.” Sunny trotted back through the small crowd to catch up to Rose.

“Sunny, is there a quick exit out of here? My...” Post couldn’t disguise the smile in his voice, “my fiance is pregnant, and her stomach….” He flicked both ears back briefly, embarrassed, and nuzzled Rose gently.

“Oh!” Sunny bit her lip and looked up at the sky. “Of course. Just a moment, please.” She turned from them, stretched out her wings and addressed the small crowd. “Everypony, please stay together. I’m afraid we have a, erm, sick guest with us, and I will need to go get her some help.”

Sunny smiled at the guests. “I’ll be right back! I promise. We have staff on hand for just this sort of issue.” Then she was off in a rush of wind and the beating of wings.

Rose buried her nose in Post’s mane, taking deep breaths through the filter of his curly hair. His faint masculine odor, masked by sweet apple shampoo, settled the roiling in her stomach somewhat.

Sunny returned with a pegasus carrying a medic’s kit a few minutes later.

“How’re you doing, sweetie?” the burly pegasus asked. He looked around after a moment and chuckled. “You didn’t say it was near the corpse flower, Sunny.”

“I didn’t think I had to. It’s the only place we’ve ever had somepony throw up.” Sunny paused and glanced at the map sewn to her foreleg sleeve. “Oh. Well, I guess the troll-toe fungus is pretty foul, too. But we haven’t gotten there yet.”

The stallion rolled his eyes and smiled. “I’m Quick Assist.” He slung the pack down from his back and started rifling through it with a hoof. “You must be that couple that Sunny was jabbering about on the way over here?”

“We must be, I guess. I’m Post Haste, and this is my fiance, Roseluck. We’re visiting from Ponyville. My fiance...” he paused to smile, and chuckled. “I’m sorry I just can’t stop saying that. Rose has been having some issues with smells lately.” His smile broadened as he added: “She’s pregnant.”

“Probably pregnant,” Rose said, shaking her head lightly as she pulled her muzzle up from Post’s mane. “I’ve been feeling a bit queasy since the train ride.” She blushed and pushed her muzzle back into the thick tangle of mane behind his ears.

“It’s okay, miss. Do you need something for the nausea, or do you think you can walk with me?”

Rose shook her head, careful not to take her muzzle from Post’s mane. “I can walk. I’d rather not take any medication that doesn’t come from my doctor.”

Quick laughed and nodded. “I hear ya. Me and the missus have been trying for our second for the last few months.” He flipped the bag closed and tossed it back over his back. “Come on. I’ll show you two out.”

Sunny smiled at them and waved a wing. “Good luck!” She turned back to the crowd. “That turned out better than last month! The corpse flower, whose name comes from its smell, is one of the most foul smelling plants in Equestria. But it does have a certain macabre…”

Her voice drifted out of focus as Rose and Post followed Quick Assist through the convoluted maze of plants, all of them smelling better than the aptly named corpse flower.

Morning came slowly after an almost sleepless night, interrupted by a queasy stomach that roiled and settled, then surged when her focus left. Post had been there for her each time, holding back her mane and helping her relax as much as she could in the bathroom.

Haggard, Rose blinked blearily at the station interior, resisting a yawn as they waited in the early morning for the train to come.

“Are you sure you don’t want to wait back at the hotel?” He kissed her ear, then nuzzled her cheek. “It’s still an hour before dawn.”

“It’s okay. We can just wait here, Post. I don’t want to miss the train.” Rose sat down and turned to let loose the buckle on her saddlebags. “I’m happy.” She flicked her ear and tucked her muzzle back into his mane. “Happy just to be here with you.”

He smiled. “Me too.”

Rose closed her eyes and drifted off into a nap while the scent of him saturated her mind and eased her stomach a little. The sounds of the station faded out.

Rose opened her eyes again to find herself sitting once again on Ponyville’s station platform. Flickers of memory swirled through her mind—sounds and smells of the train ride home, and a queasy uneasiness in her stomach that erupted again into vomiting halfway through the afternoon as they passed by what must have been a pig farm tucked behind a hill.

It had been night for hours by the time the train chugged back into town.

And there was a rose laying at her feet. The smell of home wafted up from it, welcoming and full of everything that made her... their home the heart of their lives.

Silence again sounded all around her except for a patter like raindrops. She looked down to see a small puddle of tears forming around another perfectly formed, brilliantly colored rose.

Another piece of memory snapped into place in her mind, further narrowing the void that still tugged painfully at her. Half remembered images of a white office and a familiar voice tugged at her from the scent of a rose at her hooves.

“Pregnant.” Raspberry Rose. “My daughter. My husband.”

The silence on the platform closed in over her again. There was no smiling pink pony to cheer her up or ask about the memory. Everywhere she looked was the same grey landscape, and the same grey buildings—and maybe her friend, as well.


She waited while her heart hammered in her chest, desperate to dive back into the past and relive her life as best she could. But Pinkie had seen her through so much. “I won’t forget,” she whispered as she bent to take a deep breath.

Rose bolted out of bed. Not again!

Throughout the whole night, her stomach had retained the queasy, uneasy feeling from the rocking motion of the train, and the smell of the coal dust and smoke that clung to her coat and mane... but she’d been too tired to fill their tub and douse herself. She was just going to get up again in a few hours anyway.

She dashed out of the bedroom and down the hallway to the bathroom. She barely kicked aside the cover for their toilet before the rush of acid and bile choked her.

“Rose?” Post’s groggy voice sounded from just behind her before his hoof found her mane and pulled it aside. “Just hang on a little longer okay, honey? As soon as Dr. Cure’s office opens, we’ll be there.”

Rose nodded and flicked her ear. She didn’t trust her stomach to try and speak.

Post sat with her while she breathed in and out slowly, and flushed the toilet for her when she tried to sit up. “Shhh. Just stay down. Don’t stress yourself.”

A knock sounded from downstairs at their door, followed by a too familiar voice that Rose had been dreading. The small town gossip mill must have been working overtime since she and Post returned. “Roseluck! Post Haste! It’s Swift!”

Of course it is. Rose leaned her head against the wall and nodded to Post.

“Okay. Just take it easy. I’ll go talk to her, okay?” Post kissed her ear and clopped down the hallway.

Rose bent over the toilet’s hole, dry heaving, while her pulse thundered in her ears.

“Roseluck,” Post said from the doorway. “Swift says she can help with the nausea.”

What? Rose shifted on her stomach, a mistake, and caught a glimpse of Swift Delivery’s red-gold mane before she was bent over the toilet again, ears folded back. Please don’t let her see me like this!

Swift’s voice came as a prelude to the touch of a foreign hoof on Rose’s ear. “Post Haste, you didn’t tell me you proposed!

Rose jerked her head away from the touch and turned her head to glare up at Swift. The sudden motion was a mistake, and her stomach recoiled. Rose bent over the hole again and gagged.

“Mother, please.” Post sat down next to Rose, imposing himself between her and Swift. “You said you could help her.”

“Oh.” Swift stepped back. “Of course. Where do you keep your hoof-towels?”

“Linen closet,” Rose said, her voice hoarse and weak, “where they were the last time you were here.”

“Rose... please.” Post nipped her ear gently. “She’s going to help. Right, mother?”

“Of course.” Swift pulled out a small green hoof-towel and turned on the cold water faucet. “Just rest easy, Roseluck. I promise this will ease the nausea. My mother showed it to me, and now I’m showing it to you!”

Her future mother-in-law’s oh-so-helpful demeanor dug its way under Rose’s coat. Why does she always have to butt into our lives? She rolled her eyes, earning another nip from Post, but she bit back the bitter complaint and closed her eyes.

Maybe if I pretend she’s not here...

“This is going to look weird, and probably feel weirder, but I promise you it will help.” The water shut off and Rose heard hoofsteps coming closer. The gurgling in her stomach increased. “Oh, sweetie... you look so miserable.”

Without any more warning than that, a cool rag plopped down over Rose’s muzzle and dangled over her nose. She jerked back, and the rag almost tumbled down into the porcelain bowl.

“Oops! Sorry, Rose. I didn’t mean to startle you.” Swift’s hoof came up to brush the rag back down smooth over Rose’s muzzle. “The rag helps filter out the smells, and it’s a breath of cool air. With summer coming on, I’m betting that you were sick in the afternoon?”

Reluctantly, Rose nodded.

“It’s the heat.” Swift reached out to flush the toilet again. “Just get rid of that mess. Nothing to be ashamed of, dear. I remember when I was pregnant with Post,” a wing swept forward to touch her son’s shoulder, “I couldn’t even go outdoors for a week.”

A week? Rose slumped and leaned against Post.

“Don’t worry! The rag will help. I promise. I’m so glad that my mother showed it to me. Now I can show it to you!”

“You’re not my mother,” Rose said. She took a deep breath through the cloth, and to her surprise, the cool air down her throat eased the burn. Even the smell wafting up from the toilet was muted to an even fainter aggravation.

Post nipped her ear again.

“But thank you, Swift.” Rose looked up at Post, smiling down at her. “I... appreciate your help.” Now please leave. I’m too tired to be polite much longer.

“Of course.” Swift reached out to stroke Rose’s cheek. “Just relax. This is the hard part, but it’ll pass soon.”

From all the stories you’ve told me… why do I find that hard to believe? “Thank you for helping.” Rose pushed the foreleg away with her nose, and felt a pang of annoyance when Swift had the temerity to look hurt.

“Post, why didn’t you tell me you were going to propose? I thought you were just going on vacation.”

“For the same reason I didn’t tell Rose. I wanted to surprise everypony. I...” Post smiled down at Rose and slid down to lay beside her. “I did ask her dad first.”

Swift’s foreleg curled tighter against her chest, and her lower lip quivered. “Why?”

“I was going to wait until this summer when I had enough bits squirreled away for a ring, but he surprised me—the day we started making plans—with his wife’s engagement ring.”

“Oh.” Swift looked down at her hooves and lowered the leg. “And you didn’t think to ask me for help?”

“We don’t need you for everything, Swift!” Rose clicked her teeth shut after the words had already left. Why did I say that? Oh! Because she makes everything about her.

“Rose!” Post pressed his nose to her cheek and tugged on a lock of her mane. “Please, I don’t want you two to fight. Not today.”

Swift glared at Rose. “You seem to have recovered pretty quickly, hm? Why can’t you just—” She shook her head. “I’m sorry, Post. I just... I hardly ever see you anymore. I miss you.” She fluttered her wings briefly and stood up. “But this isn’t the time for that discussion. You’re right.”

Rose lowered her eyes. “No... I’m sorry, Swift. That wasn’t called for.”

“It wasn’t,” Swift said, smiling, “but you are allowed to be emotional.”

Rose rolled her eyes. “Thank you for—” She clicked her mouth shut before she could finish the sarcastic quip.

“We’ll talk later.” Swift leaned forward to kiss Rose’s forehead. “I do love you. You make my son happy, and that makes me happy. I...” Swift’s smile wavered and a trickle of tears trailed down her cheeks. “I’ll talk to you later. Both of you.”

She trotted out of the bathroom, leaving Rose to wonder what Swift had really wanted to say.

“My mother’s little trick is helping?” Post asked as he trotted alongside her.

“It is. I was skeptical... but it works. I’m actually kinda glad she stopped by this morning.” Rose shook her head. “I... I need to apologize to her.”

“You do.” Post sighed. “I do too.”

“What? Why? You haven’t been snarking at her like I have.”

“We lived together for years, you know. After dad passed away, I was the stallion of the house. We were friends. She was more than just my mother. She was a coworker, a friend, a confidant.”


“Yeah.” Post shook his head. “I think she misses me.”

“You think?”

He grinned sheepishly. “I didn’t think about it much at first. I still saw both of you. But then I moved in with you.” He frowned at the road as he trotted along. “She’s always been okay with being away from home, though. Up until dad passed away, she would be away for days at a time. I just... I thought she was okay with...” He sighed. “That sounds terrible.”

Roseluck sidestepped and pressed her shoulder to his. “You were her anchor. She doesn’t want to let go. I... I didn’t need an anchor. My dad... he encouraged me to go out, to live my life.”

“He loves you.”

“And she loves you.”

“I know.”

Rose sucked on the loose end of the rag. “Nopony should be alone, Post. Not if they don’t want to be.”

“Roseluck?” the nurse called from the exit to the waiting room. “Roseluck!”

“Come on, honey.” Post nudged her away from not quite staring at the empty foal play area. Toys lay scattered about the small enclosure—rounded edged wooden toys with shiny lacquer surfaces too large for anypony to swallow, but with easy to bite and hold handles.

“I hope it’s not a false alarm.” Rose stood up and walked after nurse Redheart into the long hallway filled with doors. “What if your mother... and the medic... and...” It sounded more and more ridiculous the more people she thought of that were certain she was pregnant. Even I am almost certain.

“Don’t worry about it. We’ll get there.” Post smiled and brushed her cheek gently with his nose.

Redheart chuckled. “You have the look, Rose. We don’t see a lot of young mothers here, but those we do...” She shook her head and smiled. “You’ve got nothing to worry about.”

“Thanks, Redheart. I’m just nervous, I guess.” Rose smiled at her friend and looked aside to Post. “We just got engaged, too.”

“I saw. It’s a beautiful ring. Though I am a little disappointed in you.”

“Disappointed?” Rose’s heart leapt for all of the half a heartbeat it took for Redheart to laugh and flick her tail. “You bugger!”

“If only you’d gotten engaged a month earlier, I would be rolling in the bits, instead of Lily!”

Post snorted. “I would have asked her sooner, but... I wanted to wait for the perfect moment. The tour guide gave me the perfect opportunity.” He laughed.

“And in the Manehattan Gardens too... it was perfect, Post.”

Redheart paused at a door that was already open and nodded them inside. “I’ll let Honey Cure know you’re here. Shouldn’t be more than a few minutes, okay?” She paused before closing the door on them. “You owe me lunch, Rose. I want to hear all about it.”

“Deal! Put it on Lily’s tab at Daisily Days.”

Redheart laughed. “Well, she only won ten bits from me. I’ll talk to you later.”

Post nosed her gently after they were alone. “I was worried that you’d figure out the reason I was staring at you for half the first day. I wanted it to be a surprise.”

“It was. A most enjoyable surprise.” The suite smelled clean enough, though the smell of antiseptic from the sink was burning her nose. Rose eyed it warily, wondering if the nausea would come back—the hoof-towel had dried out in the breeze on their way. “Let’s invite your mother and my father over for lunch tomorrow. You’re still on vacation, and I’m not ‘back’ yet, so we have time to make a nice lunch and spend time with them.”

“We do.” Post kissed her cheek gently. “I want us all to be a family. Do you think you can put up with my mother for an afternoon?”

Before Rose could say anything in response, the door swung back open with a golden haze around the knob.

“Good morning, Roseluck!” Honey Cure stepped inside, a yellow coated unicorn with a darker orange mane, her honeycomb cutie mark obscured by a white labcoat. “Redheart said you had some stomach complaints this morning.”

Post hooked his hoof around Rose’s ankle and squeezed gently.

“Yes. I woke up feeling a little nauseous. It started two nights ago... or the morning rather, after we arrived in Manehattan, actually.” Rose covered her muzzle as the memory of all the grease flooded through her mind. “Sorry... just remembering the smell even makes my gorge rise.”

“Understandable. I have been to Manehattan, and when the breeze comes out of the northeast... it’s the worst.” Honey smiled at her and chuckled. “Hop up on the bed, Rose, and we’ll have a look at you.” She cast a glance at Rose, then at Post, and pulled up the chart again. “Oh. Congratulations, you two.” Rose’s heart thumped, and a moment later Honey smiled, with just a hint of a smirk gleaming in her eyes. “On your engagement.”

Post Haste relaxed and huffed, but smiled at her. “Tease.”

“Just relax, Rose. This won’t take a moment.” Honey Cure’s horn glowed gold, and an answering faint aura hovered over Rose’s head for a moment, a faint tingling and the smell of honey filling her nose. “A little something to combat the smell in here, first,” she said, then swept the golden haze down her body to engulf her midsection. “I’m going to check your aura.”

Rose fought back a sneeze as the magic in her nose lingered, leaving the clean, sweet scent behind. Prickles of magic traced all around her belly, stirring her coat and probing at her skin before settling down in a firm, warm blanket.

“Oh my, yes. Your aura is changing nicely, Rose.” Honey’s horn dimmed and the tingling warmth faded. “Very much what I’d expect to see at the start of a first pregnancy. I’ll have to check your results against our earth pony guide but, off the hoof, I’d say you’re about a month and a half to two months along.”

“That would be...” Roseluck smiled and looked back at Post. He had a dumbstruck, happy smile spreading across his muzzle while he stared off into space.

Honey paused while she scratched out some information onto the clipboard. “Of course, it’s still very early, but I think it’s very likely, given your symptoms. I would suggest a honey steam bath for the nausea, plenty of salted beverages—not straight salt, mind you, and try to stay cool. At least until your body learns to adjust.”

“Okay. Swift Delivery showed me something, too.” She glanced at Post again. Her thoughts were growing fuzzy as her doctor’s assurances began to make sense. Pregnant. “T-to keep cool, that is.” She turned back to her doctor, a smile blooming on her face. “I’m really pregnant?”

“It’s very likely! I’m glad to hear you won’t be suffering as much. Now there are some dietary changes I would suggest. I’ll give you a list, but just to let you know...”

Honey’s voice droned on, comforting and familiar as the feeling of warmth—surely imaginary—suffused her body.

Rose turned to lock eyes with Post, her fiance, the father to be of her children...

His smile was growing wider by the moment, matching the manic grin that Rose felt growing over her face. A mother. I’m going to be a mother! She could almost see the same thought mirrored in his mind. She laughed, and covered her muzzle. “Post... it’s happening!”

“I’ll... just go get the list. You two enjoy your vacation, and congratulations again.” She paused. “And save a spot for me at the table with Redheart, Rose. I want to hear all about it!”

The memory trickled slowly into silence, the sound of laughter lingering the longest after Honey’s voice faded away. At first Rose wasn’t certain she had left it; the white walls of the room in the hospital looked the same: white, and bare. Except... the padding under her hooves wasn’t the same vibrant shade of green as it had been in the memory. Dingy green, almost grey.

There was also the silence, punctuated only by the sound of her breathing and the fading rush and thump of her heartbeat. Joy bubbled just below the surface of her thoughts, waiting for her to touch the memory again and relive it.

She wanted to, but she was still alone with nopony to share the realization with. Pinkie would have wanted to hear it, she was certain.

Or would she? She’d been acting very strangely since her earliest memory of Pinkie greeting her outside her yard. The shock that she’d seen there hadn’t entirely faded, but been replaced slowly by growing uncertainty. Maybe she’d... faded away.


The silent room swallowed up her voice. Rose was still alone.

But not Post Haste. Raspberry Rose would look after him, and he would take care of her. There was solace to be found in the way her life was playing out. Tiny fragments of memories, of being with her daughter and her husband, floated through her mind, disconnected from everything else.

They might have been hopes and dreams, but they felt too real. They felt like they belonged to her, and to her life. Whatever else was going on, Pinkie still needed her—even if it was only to remember that she had been there.

“I promised. I won’t forget.”

She left the room to search for her next memory, and paused to stand in front of the door.

The mirror, which in her memory had shown a reflection her, Post, and Honey all together, instead showed an empty room.

Pinkie sat in a blank white room—what should have been a blank white room. A bed dominated the center of it, the covers and pillows missing. That, she was familiar with.

What Pinkie wasn’t familiar with were the flowers—including a large rose bush in the planter just outside the window—and the pictures.

All along one of the shelves in the room sat the pictures of Rose’s life that had been in her home. Pinkie should have recognized them from how many times she’d visited Roseluck’s home. They were the missing pictures that started Pinkie’s—her—search of the house that led to her discovery of Berry’s room.

“They didn’t disappear from your house for no reason.”

Rose as a filly with the rest of the flower mares. Her as a young mare, standing with her father with a diploma in one hoof and a graduation cap jauntily perched on one ear. Another, later, of her and Post at their wedding down by the lake in Ponyville. Rose was five months pregnant and just starting to show while all around her stood friends and family in light summer finery.

Pinkie was in that frame too, standing close to the bride in a blue dress with three other mares—she had been one of Rose’s best mares.

The picture dragged at her heart. Rose looked so happy, and so did Pinkie. “But not me.” Pinkie shook her head and moved on.

In the next, Rose was laying down with her daughter between her fore and hind legs while Post sat behind with a foreleg draped over both of them—mostly to hold the lively Raspberry Rose in place. She had a dark pink coat, not unlike her mother’s mane, and her mane and tail were a far lighter shade of pink mixed with curly amber highlights.

“She’s beautiful.”

Two more were there as well, one with Rose and Post and their daughter down by the pond, and the other showing them blowing out the single candle on Berry’s first birthday cake in Sugarcube Corner. Pinkie had stuck her head into frame and beamed behind the happy trio.

“I can’t remember any of it. I should... I would if I was actually Pinkie. I made a mistake, Rose.” The mare who had once been a Pinkie reached up to touch the edge of the party picture frame. “Just one more mistake. I’m not the friend you think I am.”

She could still see it even though she didn’t want to look again: the clipboard hanging on the door that confirmed every suspicion in a cramped, hasty hoof.

Patient name: Roseluck

Visitors Allowed:

Post Haste - Husband

Raspberry Rose - Daughter


The list of ponies who were allowed to visit Rose wasn’t long, but the last name haunted her and laid bare the lie she’d been clinging to.

Pinkie Pie - Friend of the family

“Not me.”

Chapter 6: Reflection of Roses

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The last time Rose had been in the hospital...

“...blow to the head...”


She shuddered and shied away from the fragment of a memory that struck her as she walked through the lobby. The last time she had been there everything had been saturated in thick mist, and the halls had been home to the ghosts of ponies who had taken no more notice of her than they did of their surroundings.

It hadn’t been empty like it was when she stepped out of the gynecology room. Hallways that had been bustling with nurses and doctors and other ponies going about their business in her memory were silent and still. Countertops that should have been filled with paperwork were empty, and the few forms that remained behind were neatly stacked in orderly rows of wooden trays.

Why, then, does it feel like there’s somepony else here? It wasn’t quite the mane-raising feeling of somepony watching her, but the not-empty feeling of a building with someone else in it.

Rose glanced at the clock on the wall behind the nurse’s station. The hands were stuck at both the start of night and the dawning of the day. It made no sense to her. But things in her new reality rarely seemed to do anything as polite as making sense. She looked away again.

“Pinkie?” Rose called out again for her friend. “Pinkie, if you can hear me, say something!” She found me here last time. Is she... going through the same thing? Her friend’s strange mood, the melancholic look, the hesitation... “Pinkie?”

Maybe I shouldn’t have shared so much of my memory. Maybe she just wants to move on.

She wandered the first floor, finding nopony else, or even a hint of anypony else—ghost or otherwise, but there was a feeling of the hospital not being all the way empty, of somepony else being there with her. Not even the stairs in the stairwell echoed as she clopped up them, her hooves chiming flatly on the metal treads sunk into the bare cement.

The feeling of somepony else being with her got stronger on the second floor, and her shoulder tingled as a phantom hoof stroked back and forth over her coat. Just like when I... died.

“Pinkie? Are you here?”

A muffled rustle and clunk of hooves on hardwood sounded from within a door just down the hallway. Pinkie came out of a room across from the nurse’s station and smiled weakly at her.

Rose stared at her. Far from the bright and happy pony she’d come to know, her mane was flat and her coat was fading. “Where were you? I thought you’d... passed on.”

“What?” Pinkie looked around, then cocked her head and listened. “Oh Rose, I didn’t mean to leave you alone. How... how long was I gone?”

“How long?” Rose shook her head. “I don’t understand. Does time even mean anything here?”

“It does. When you’re here, I can tell that time is passing. When you’re gone I look around, and everything changes when I look back. It’s—” She shook her head. “It’s not important.”

“Not important?” Is she going insane? Or am I? Rose closed her eyes, and the memory she’d just come from washed back through her. “After you left me in the woods... he proposed, Pinkie. And I am... was... pregnant. I wish I could have shared it with you. I was worried I’d never see you again.”

“I’m glad you and he are together. What little I do remember of you two, you make a wonderful couple.” Pinkie smiled wanly. “I’m sorry, too. I didn’t mean to worry you, but I need to show you something.” Pinkie paused again, looking down at the floor, then up at her again. “It’s important.”

In the hospital. Something important in the hospital that Pinkie needed to show her. “I’m not sure I want to know, Pinkie. What if it’s... Post. Or my dad? I... Pinkie I can’t handle that right now.”

“It’s not them. I promise. But... I can’t just tell you. Not after what you’ve been through. You wouldn’t believe me.” Pinkie smiled ruefully. “You may not believe me anyway, but you need to see this.”

Rose smiled along with her. “I remember the first time you said that to me. You were trying to help... and I ran away. But you were right. I trust you, Pinkie.”

Her friend flinched as though struck. “No, you shouldn’t. And I wasn’t... you were. Right, I mean.”

“What?” Rose shook her head and trotted to the doorway. “Why wouldn’t I trust you? You’ve been there for me since the start. Pinkie, without you I couldn’t have accepted... that I died...” The room she stepped into had a smell. It was faint and felt as distant as the sweet smell of Sweet Apple Acres from the south edge of town.

But it was there. Rose’s world, the lifeless dead place, had a scent. Clean, warm air and the myriad smells of distant Ponyville filled her nose. She could even smell the wet earth of a recent rain, and the air was still cool enough, with just a hint of warmth, that she could tell it was mid-spring. Her roses should be getting ready for their first market of the year, alongside the bevy of edible lilies and daisies that she sold and supplied to Daisily Days.

Tears blurred her vision as she took deep breath after deep breath, but the scents stirred by a weak breeze grew no stronger for her efforts. The hoof stroking her shoulder continued, but every time she checked, there was nopony there touching her.

“Pinkie... Why does this room smell? Why do I feel a phantom hoof? It’s—”

“It’s you. You are here.” Pinkie wrapped a foreleg over Rose’s neck and guided her further into the room. “Look.” She waved her other hoof at the room. “Everything missing from your house is here.”

The pictures on the shelf, holding memories of her life, the flowers of every variety from her garden in vases, and the rose bush visible through the open window. Everything was still and drained of color, but they had a scent—and there were distant sounds too, she realized, sounding as though there were pads over her ears.

“Why?” Rose pulled away from her friend and advanced further into the room, each step shaky and uncertain. Is this... real? She didn’t much care if it was. To see her memories, solid and real, where she might touch them... it was a wish granted.

She took a long moment looking over the pictures of her youth, all the little moments that she still remembered. The more recent, the ones she couldn’t remember... there was Post Haste... and their daughter: Raspberry Rose. I wish I could see her again. “S-sweet...” Rose closed her eyes while tears trickled, unchecked, down her cheeks. “Oh...”

Fragments of images, sounds and smells pounded away at her, driving home bits of memory drawn from the image she couldn’t look away from. Post Haste was murmuring in her darling Raspberry’s ear, trying to get her to sit still for the camera. Roseluck did her best to corral the youngster with her fore and hind legs, but Little Raspberry kept squirming and trying to hide from the strange pony taking their picture.

Roseluck gave up trying to talk the lively filly into submission, and instead groomed her ears and mane gently, something she recalled Swift saying made foals calmer—not that it helped the skittish Raspberry. Not even the photographer coming over to spend several minutes letting Raspberry explore his face had calmed her down. Just months old, she was already a hoof-ful when she wanted to be.

She explored his face with her nose and little hooves, growing more excited the more familiar she became with his smell and the way he looked. She wanted to get to know him better then, since he was a new pony in her herd, and mom and dad trusted him. Finally, Post rolled his eyes and held her gently still while she gnawed on his hoof. Right up until the call of “Hay!” drew her attention away and back towards the camera.

“My little Raspberry...” The fragment faded away, taking its place in the center of the jagged-edged void, empty space all around; but it belonged there. She wanted so much to fill in everything else around it. “I love you so much.”

“There’s more.” Pinkie pointed a hoof at the door.

Brushing away her tears, Rose walked to the door in a daze, her thoughts worse than a jumbled mess.

She stared, unseeing, for a long time at a clipboard hung on a hook just inside. It was a list of names: family, and friends close enough to her they might as well be family. Missing from the list, and conspicuous for its absence, was her dad. “Pinkie... why isn’t my dad’s name on the list? Where is Lucky Day?”

“I...” Pinkie shook her head. “I have no idea. Look at the top.”

At the top... “What does this mean? Patient name: Roseluck. Patient? I’m not a patient!” The line made no sense. “I’m dead! I... died. Right there!” She pointed a hoof at the bed and stopped, staring. She could see a faint after-image laying on the bed. “Pinkie, what’s going on? I smell things. I hear things. I see... is that me? Why now? Why—”

“You’re here.” Pinkie sat beside her and brushed her cheek against Rose’s neck. “You never died. I... thought you were dead too. I’m sorry, but I made a grave mistake.”

“Not... not dead? How?” Rose jerked away, staring at the image on the bed, at once familiar and foreign. She advanced on it, feeling the touch grow stronger on her shoulder. The same spot on the image laying in the bed grew and brightened. “HOW? I felt my heart stop!

“You’re in a hospital. Do you really think they would let you go without a fight?” Pinkie nodded to the row of pictures bookended by flowers. “Especially your family?”

“It was all... what? A lie? A horrible dream? The... the memories...” They can’t be lies! “Where am I? Why can’t I go back to them? Why—” Rose choked on the questions that she couldn’t answer. Why can’t I wake up, then? Why is the world still dead? Why... did this happen?

“Your memories aren’t a lie. Your family loves you. Look at the pictures again. Tell me they wouldn’t do anything to keep you in their lives.” Pinkie looked away. “Even Pinkie would do anything.”

Rose turned aside from watching the faint image of her body, and turned back to the shelf with the pictures. Can I trust them? Can I trust anything here? Can I trust her? she cast a sidelong look at Pinkie, then turned back to the shelf.

She stared at the pictures sitting on the shelf. Each one of them had a place in her heart. Each one of them touched on a jagged shard of memory pricking her thoughts. Even if they’re all a lie... “They’re beautiful... You were there for my wedding. You were there for her first birthday.” Rose leaned harder against Pinkie. “I remember you being there.” Rose took a deep breath. Everything felt so uncertain and unreal, and she half expected the ground under her hooves to turn to quicksand. “What happened to us?”

“I’m where I belong. What happened to you?” Pinkie stood up and stepped away from her. “You don’t remember me. You remember Pinkie.”

“But you’re—”

“A disaster. A mistake.” The mare who claimed she wasn’t Pinkie looked around at the hospital room. “I was never your friend.”

“What are you saying?”

“I’m not Pinkie! I never was.” She shuddered and walked to the window. “I dreamed I was... I was almost—” she shook her head. “Not happy. Content, maybe, out there, seeing my friends continue their lives from this side. The little signs... the ones that said Pinkie was still there... I could ignore them. ‘Oh girls... you don’t have to keep doing that in my memory.’”

She snorted. “I thought as long as my friends were still going... I could be happy for them.” She turned back to Roseluck. “Then you came along. You, with memories of Pinkie that were past what I remembered. You were the mirror that revealed my lie.”

“That doesn’t make any—” The mirror Pinkies. “You’re... a copy? One of those—”


“—ponies.” Rose prodded Pinkie. “You’re not a mistake. Maybe you made a mistake. Maybe you are Pinkie, and that—”

“No, Rose. I know. I am the mistake. But I had to show this to you. You shouldn’t be here. You should be with them.” Pinkie nodded at the pictures.

They called to her. As did the presence making itself known on the bed, growing stronger the longer the gentle stroking on her shoulder continued. She felt phantom lips brush her cheek.

Post Haste’s voice, barely a whisper, came to her: “Rose. We’re going home for the day. We love you. Come back to us... please.”

“Daddy, please? Up.” A stalled heartbeat later, and a smaller muzzle shoved against the back of her neck. “Wake up soon, mommy!”

“Raspberry!” The tingle on the back of her neck faded away. Rose whipped her head around to follow the sound of hooves on the floor, then dove after them. “Wait! I’m still here! Please...” Come back!

She caught nothing.

Tears poured down her cheeks as she fell to her side in the middle of the floor. Her husband and daughter weren’t there. She curled up as the sound of their hooves on the wooden floor petered off and paused, farther away. There was the sound of a door opening and closing... then she was alone again in the near-silence, with the sound of her gasping sobs to keep her company, and the fragments of memory their voices stirred in her mind pricking at her.

Birds chirped in the distance, muffled, and a fresh breeze stirred about the scents of antiseptic and Ponyville before it died away again. The sound of birds remained, as did the distant sound of Ponyville’s bell-tower ringing in the noon hour.

Rose curled up tighter, as though she could hold close the memory of her daughter’s voice and her warm little muzzle on her neck, or the feeling of her husband’s lips on her cheek. What she felt at the core of her being was a spark of hope, bright and hopeful against the backdrop of the world she was trapped in.

Her sobbing faded away as the spark grew brighter.

“Rose?” Pinkie’s voice sounded almost in her ear, and a hoof on Rose’s shoulder brought her back to the present. “Go back to them. They’re waiting.”

“When...” Rose pushed herself up into Pinkie’s embrace, grief and the hole in her memories threatening to overtake her again. “When did Raspberry learn to talk? When was she born? I can’t remember!”

“I don’t know either.” Pinkie leaned back to hold a sobbing Roseluck with both forelegs, her voice dropping to a soothing coo. “Shh. Shh...” She rocked back and forth slowly while birds sang in the distance. “You need to go back.”

Rose nodded. To hold her daughter again... to be with her husband...

“I want to go back,” Rose said softly. She pushed Pinkie away gently and drew herself towards the bed. The first step was easy, and her mind filled with fragmented visions of her family. She could build new memories. She could learn what had gone before.

Then the pain hit. It banished the fragments in a haze of ache that spread from her ear, across the left side of her face and shot down her jaw. Her vision dimmed as she took another step.

I can do this! Rose pushed forward as the ache grew into agony ripping down from her ear and spreading through her neck.

The next step briefly robbed her of sight. Darkness and a heavy weight settled over her muzzle for a moment before the dim world returned. Her heart hammered in her chest painfully.

Real! The vision had been real. She surged forward, eagerness and pain warring in her head. Her left foreleg crumpled under the assault of fire coursing through her, and the bed dimmed in her vision, then vanished in a spreading wash of black.

Missing memories nagged at her, and the hole in her mind pulsed like an open wound, a physical and mental pain. Titillating fragments of thoughts and voices, of sights and sounds were all that were left of the memories of Raspberry Rose and her life married to Post Haste.

She lay on her side, the pain receding slowly as her breathing slowed. A tinny alarm sounded in her ears, fading away as the door opened and the sound of hooves grew louder.

“Get the crash cart ready,” a voice said. “She could be going into…”

Sound faded, then came back.

“Oh, sweetie… you scared us.”

Rose recognized the voice. “Redheart?” She wasn’t sure if she spoke it or not. A fuzzy feeling floated through her head, fogging her perceptions. She couldn’t feel her body.

“What a relief,” the voice said loudly. “Stand down the cart.” The voice quieted down again. “Just a bit of a spike in your heart rate. Dr. Axon will be by shortly to have a look at you.” A hoof stroked down her cheek, and the sound of a pen scribbling on paper sounded close to her ear, followed by a clatter. “Take it easy, okay?”

She blinked as the darkness faded from her vision. She stared up at face staring back down at her, then at the bed. So close, and yet so far away. Missing memories formed a moat between her and her body. A memory slid through her mind again.

“...blow to the head…”

“Rose?” Pinkie asked, waving a hoof in front of her eyes. “What happened?”

“I’ve been injured,” Rose said. “I’m…” What?

Pinkie gave her an exasperated look, clucked her tongue and shook her head. “Of course you were. Why else would you be in a hospital?” She stepped back, offering a hoof to Rose. “But what happened? You just fell over before you got to the bed.”

“I… don’t know.”

“Can you try again? You need to get back to them.”

“I can’t. I think…” Rose shook her head, dizziness fading more slowly as she pulled herself up with Pinkie’s help. N-not yet.” Rose pushed herself away and started for the door.

“You have to go back. She needs her mother, and he needs his wife.” Pinkie followed her. “What if all of them come back when you leave here?”

“I don’t think I can,” Rose said quietly, looking back at the bed. Even thinking about attempting it again shot a streak of pain from her left ear all the way down to her forelegs.

Pinkie paused and shook her head. “I...” she wilted and backed up a step.

“Even if I succeeded, what if I don’t remember? What if I’m… damaged? What if I’m being given this chance? I can’t go back knowing I might have given up this one, rare chance to…” Rose shook her head. “Heal? Remember?.” Rose sniffed and looked back at the bed, where the faint impression of her body laying in the middle faded in and out as another breeze stirred the background smells to fresh intensity. “I need to remember her. I need to remember him. I want to remember everything. I want to cherish every moment of our lives together. But, most of all, I don’t want to be a burden.”

“Of course you don’t. But what of them? They’re missing their mother and wife right now.”

Rose shook her head. “They are, and I... Celestia only knows how much I want to be with them right now.” She sat up straighter. “But...” she took a deep breath. “But I don’t want him to worry that I can’t take care of myself, remember something, or worry about talking to me, knowing that there are things I can’t remember. I want to be able to take care of Raspberry. I don’t want her to worry that her mother can’t remember her first birthday, her first steps, her first word. I need to remember those things for her.”

“Why? Isn’t it more important to—”

“I’m her mother. Mothers are supposed to be able to take care of their daughters, and remember the most important moments in their children’s lives.”

“What if this is your only chance, though? What if you die before you can remember everything?”

Rose flinched, and nodded. “It’s possible.” She stared at the bed, and a dull ache awoke in her ear, spreading down her jaw and to her forelegs. She thought about trying again, and the dim echo of agony struck through her mind. She shuddered, foreleg curling against her chest automatically.

The pain faded again, and she shook her head. “I could die if I tried to go back now, too. I think I almost did.” A chill of certainty shot through her as she said it. “Something happened to me that almost killed me. Or maybe it did, and all this is…” Rose stuffed the fear back into the dark recesses of her mind, and pushed past it. “I just know something happened to me. I have never felt that much pain in my life.”

Pinkie looked away, shaking her head. “Please…”

“I’m sorry. I will risk the roses. I know roses.” Rose turned back to the door and, taking a deep breath, brushed by Pinkie, who didn’t try to stop her. She stopped before she left the room. “I’m going to remember everything I can, and hope that is what I need. You can help me or you can go your own way.” Rose smiled back at Pinkie. Or whatever... whoever she is. “I won’t drag you along. You’ve been a friend to me, and I will still remember you that way. I promised.”

“Why?” Pinkie shrank in on herself further. “Why would you still call me a friend if I left you? You know what I am.”

“Because I know what you are.”

“I do too.” Pinkie shook her head. “I’m a fraud.”

Rose smiled and turned around to lift Pinkie’s chin with a gentle hoof. “You’re a friend.”

Rose looked up from the memory and its petals scented with the smell of clean cloth and the slightly metallic aroma of hot starch.

“Don’t worry.” Pinkie sat down, looking away from her. “I’m not going to leave.”

“I’m not holding you here. I... just think you would be happier if you stayed with me. I know I’m happier, knowing I’m not alone.”

Pinkie’s smile returned, but it seemed fragile to Rose. “But you’re not alone. You’re not even dead! You’re just... here.” She waved a hoof around at the empty space in front of the hospital. The smile faded, and Rose watched Pinkie’s eyes track something unseen.

Can she still see them? Rose tried to follow whatever it was that Pinkie saw, but she could see nothing out of the ordinary. She shook herself and stared up at the window with the large planter hanging outside. “What if what’s in that room is a lie? What if the gravestone is the truth? What if it’s a temptation?” Rose shook her head. “I hope it’s not. Oh, sweet stars I hope it’s not.”

“It’s not a lie. I—”

Rose snorted. “If you say you’re the lie one more time... so help me, Celestia...”

“Sorry. It’s true.”

“Horsefeathers.” Rose narrowed her eyes at Pinkie. Don’t get mad at her. She’s just... lost. Like I was. She sighed and closed her eyes. “A lie couldn’t have supported me through grief, or been there to hold me close when I first thought...”

“I’ll wait here.” Pinkie prodded the rose with a hoof, then smiled. “Go remember your life.”

“It looks... awfully tight on her.” Swift Delivery stepped up to the fitting stand and reached out to touch the wrinkled band of material sagging around Rose’s belly. “Shouldn’t it be... looser?”

“Assuming she is carrying an earth pony foal, then it shouldn’t be.” Rarity raised her glasses to settle on the base of her horn. “Of course, if it turns out that it’s a pegasus—”

Swift’s eyes lit up.

“—or a unicorn, then I can make adjustments. It would have been interesting if it had been twins, like the Cakes.” Rarity smiled. “Now that would have been an interesting wedding to plan around a pregnancy.”

Rose smiled, glancing at Swift. “I’m pretty sure she’s an earth pony, and just one. Dr. Cure said that the foal was developing nicely, and that her aura was showing distinctly earth pony tones.”

“That’s lovely to hear, Roseluck.” Rarity’s horn glowed as she undid the fasteners on the dress. “There’s just a few alterations I need to make to be ready, and I’ll want you to come back in next week for a second fitting.”

Swift stayed silent until Rarity trotted off with the dress. “A filly? You and Post must be so happy.”

“I am, but I haven’t had a chance to tell Post yet. I just found out this morning before I met you here.”

“Oh?” The smile on Swift’s face grew.

“Yes. Look, Swift...” Yes, I told you first. Why do you have to look so smug about it? Rose turned away from the smile and pushed aside the annoyance. “I know that we haven’t exactly gotten along since I started seeing your son, but I have been making an effort the last month.”

“I noticed. Thank you, Rose. That means a lot to me. Now, for the foal shower—” It was Swift’s turn to look aside and coughed out a short laugh. “Sorry. It’s hard for me to let go. Would you like my help with planning? It’s okay if you don’t.”

“Can we talk about it over lunch?”

“I’m buying.”

All around them, the marketplace was bustling with the noise and smells of the day. Produce, goods, and bits changed hooves at a rapid clip while the warm Marketday afternoon sun beat down overhead, hinting at more heat to come as summer wound up.

“Do you have any names in mind?” Swift asked over the remains of a Double Daisy Daze salad with extra cucumber strips that Swift kept pushing to the side.

I do, yes. Post and I have talked. He came up with colt names, and I came up with the filly.” Rose stared down at the devastated remnants of her own salad, then at the sparse remains of Swift’s. “It comes down to her coat, really. Post and I chose to continue my mother’s name, though. She’ll be a Rose, whatever else is in her name.”

“That’s...” Swift shook her head. “I sometimes feel like you don’t want me around because of your mother.”

Rose blinked. “What? Where did that—” she took a deep breath and let it back out. “Look, Swift... we haven’t talked about—”

“It’s not important.”

“No.” What Rose needed to say next stuck in her throat. She swallowed and reached up to push the bowl across the table. “It is important. It’s something that Post has been trying to get me to admit, and I... I owe you an explanation.”

Instead of saying anything, as Rose expected, Swift waited.

“You’re not my mother,” Rose said softly.

“No, I’m not. But I would like—”

“But it feels like, when you were trying to push your way in and do things for us...”

“Oh.” Realization dawned in Swift’s eyes, and she looked away. “Oh dear.”

Rose looked away as she pounded the spike into Swift’s heart. “It felt like you were taking the place she should have had in my life.”

Swift said nothing.

Rose looked at her—watched as Swift’s face showed her forty-four years, the lines on her muzzle deepened, and the smile, ever-present before, slipped away while tears gathered and dripped down her cheeks. The words were already said, and Rose wasn’t sure if she would take them back... even if she could.

“Swift... I...” Rose’s mind churned, and she started to say half a dozen things, but finally sank down and stared at the bowl of uneaten cucumber sticks on Swift’s side of the table. Why can’t I just apologize?

Finally, Swift pushed the bowl towards her and flashed a bright smile that just barely hid the pain underneath. “I just wanted...” She stood and swept a wing around to stroke Rose’s shoulder. “I never wanted to take her place. I wanted to help you with the things she would have.”

“And you didn’t—” Rose sucked in a breath and shook her head. “I’m sorry. I... thank you. Thank you for being there, Swift.” She ducked her head to brush her cheek against the soft edge of Swift’s wing. “I do appreciate all the help you’ve been. And... it has been easier, these last few weeks.”

“You’re welcome. I’m sorry, too. I didn’t think it would hurt you.” She smiled again and lifted her wing to gently cup Rose’s cheek. “As long as we’re both being honest, you were pushing me out of my son’s life.” Swift shook her head. “I know you didn’t mean to... but that’s what it was.”

“I know... Post told me you two were very close. I’m—”

“I’m not sorry... not that you came into his life. You make him happy and, as much as it hurt to be kept out of his life, out of your lives, it made me happy to see his heart content.” Swift stood up and walked around the table to put a hoof on Rose’s shoulder while the extended wing slid over her back and pulled her close. “I may not be your mother, but I hope you don’t mind if I treat you like a daughter.” She clucked her tongue when Rose opened her mouth. “Not to take her place, but to be there for you.”

“I... I can accept that.” Turning, Rose leaned into Swift’s embrace and smiled against the older mare’s neck. “Being honest... I would have been lost without your help.”

Swift’s wing pulled her closer. “Thank you, Rose. I promise I’ll try to be a little less pushy.”

The significance of try didn’t pass unnoticed. If it’s the best you can do, then that’s okay. I’ll do my best to be okay with it.

Meanwhile, the bowl sat, tempting Rose with its contents.

“Go ahead dear. I ordered them for you,” Swift said, leaning back and nudging the bowl closer. “I know you like cucumber, even if it’s not on your diet. A new mother must indulge herself occasionally. You’ll go crazy otherwise.”

The other patrons fell quiet as the sunlight faded and the light breeze died away. The color drained away from the cafe as the memory of making up with her future mother-in-law drifted away to fill another hole in her memories. The only thing that stayed with her was the warmth of a pony, holding her close.

Pinkie sat where Swift had been, a foreleg over Rose’s neck. The pink pony was trembling, but stayed quiet.


“Not Pinkie.”

“Stop that. You’re...” The reassurance sputtered away on Rose’s lips. What if she is the real Pinkie, and the one out there is the fake one?

“I’m not...” Not Pinkie shook her head. “I’m not sure who I am.”

“Will you at least admit that you’re a friend?”

Pinkie smiled. “I can do that.” Her smile wavered, and she pointed at the rose laying on the table beside them. “Thank you, but you still have to get back to your family.”

The end of Spring flickered by with a rush of blooming green, the rush of warm winds, and warmer rains as regular as the cycle of seasons. The days grew longer, hotter, and more tedious as summer wore on.

Rose’s garden flourished under her touch, and she was able to bring more flowers to market than any prior year. At times, when tending to her flowers and coaxing them to grow anew after being clipped, she would have sworn she could feel her daughter’s fledgling magic flowing through her and into the earth.

Sometimes, she was convinced it was just a feeling. But other times she could feel her daughter reaching out for the comforting flow of life swirling under her hooves.

“Instinct,” her father said, wheezing faintly while he sat with her under the shade of an umbrella. “Your mother said you did it too, about this time. She’s going to be a great gardener. Just like her mother.”

“Can I get you something to drink? It’s awfully hot today and the nurse—”

“Would have me sitting inside, sucking on an ice cube while a fan kept me cool and comfortable.” He smiled at her and tapped the ground with a hoof. “I was never the gardener your mother was, but there’s something about feeling the ground being tended by you. It brings back memories. I’d rather be hot and uncomfortable and remember when she was still here than be cool, comfortable and lonely.”

“Dad... I want you to be here while she’s growing up, so that she can remember her granddad.”

“I do too.” He smiled and poked a hoof at the ground. “I’m not going anywhere until I’m good and ready. You just tend your garden, and I’ll keep you company.”

Rose smiled, closed her eyes, and bent her head. All around her, she felt the life of her garden greeting her as she called out to it. The familiar plants, close enough for her to call them friend, sent out joyous feelers of magic back to her, touching her.

Through her, they greeted the tiny spark of her daughter’s magic that was almost indistinguishable from her own—at least to Rose. Another pony, one more attuned to the lives of the warm blooded creatures of the world, might have been able to tell them apart.

Eyes still closed, Rose stood and walked along the barren paths, letting the empty space guide her steps as she reached out to touch the lilies, daisies and...

“Oh. Who are you?” A tiny patch of new life was creeping in from the edge of an almost empty plot, unfamiliar to her. She opened her eyes to look at the quarter of earth where the tiny bit of life was peeking at her.

Underneath a bit of mulch, a little white flower and a jagged green leaf were struggling to rise into the sunlight.

“Little raspberry, what are you doing here? I don’t...”

Her daughter’s magical spark, glowing in her womb, reached out strongly enough for Roseluck to feel it distinctly against the background thrum of magic. The tendril threaded through the ground towards the little patch of life growing in the corner, just as weak as she. Following her daughter’s urging, Rose reached out to brush off the bit of mulched wood.

Her daughter’s magic curled around the raspberry bush, then she felt both her daughter and the little plant settle back to quiet calm.

Wonder bearing her heart aloft, Rose sat back and pressed her hooves to her belly. “Raspberry?” Her daughter’s magic was quiet again, but still there and glowing a little brighter in her mind’s eye. “Is that who you are? Raspberry Rose?”

“It’s a beautiful name,” Lucky Day said from behind her. “It looks like she is her mother’s daughter.” He smiled at her, but Rose could see he was breathing hard already. “You reached out the same way, your mother said, after a hailstorm flattened a rose bush. All but one little bud died. The lucky rose.” He paused, the ever-present wheeze in his voice becoming more prominent, and coughed, wincing, then tapped his chest before continuing. “We decided on your name that night.”

“I thought she named me after you and her mother.”

“You were going to be Rosy Day,” he chuckled. “After that... well, Roseluck sounded better anyway.”

“I...” Memory swept through her: a rainy day, her mother making stew while Roseluck stared outside at the garden battered by wind and rain. She heard her mother’s voice again, faintly, as she settled down beside her at the window and told her the story.

“I remember. She told me, once. The year mom went to Canterlot to help with the flowers for the Summer Sun celebration. I had to stay behind because I had the pony pox... then mom... and you...” Rose reached up to scrub at her cheek and shook the memory off. “Why did I forget?”

“Who knows, sweetie.” Her dad sat down beside her. “It was a long time ago. You were just a filly, then.” He paused to catch his breath and reached up to touch her cheek. “I remember you came down with the pony pox the week after. Maybe you forgot it while you were sick.”

Almost on cue, he started coughing again. Rose held him steady until the spell passed. “I wish you would take mind of the heat. It can’t be good for your lungs.”

“Don’t worry, sweetie. The warm day helps sometimes. Feels good to have the sun beat down on this old hide.”

“Dad, you’re not old.”

He let himself be led back to the shade of the umbrella. “I’m old enough.” He paused again to catch his breath. “Don’t you worry about me. Worry about your fiance, your wedding, and your daughter.” He paused, and his smile grew. “I will be there to see her. I promise.”

The heat of the sun faded away with her father’s smile, and color fled the silence descending heavily around her. The memory settled into place amid a rush of days and weeks of spending time with Post Haste, her father and Swift Delivery, preparing and planning for the wedding, and bearing the concerns that came with bearing a foal.

The little raspberry plant grew and grew as her daughter did, resting in the safety of Rose’s womb. The days grew shorter again as the Summer Sun celebration passed without incident for once.

When the rush of memory faded, Rose opened her eyes. A lively garden greeted her. Flowers were blooming again; daisies, lilies, and her rose bushes were all bouncing back. Weeds stood too close to them still, but they were less evident than she remembered the last time she had been there... when the fog had made the world seem distant and unimportant.

There was even a little color creeping its way back into the world.

Maybe it’s just my heart. I... the hospital room swept back through her mind, the pictures and flowers... her husband’s voice.

Raspberry’s voice.

Rose stood and turned to face the scent that tugged at her nose. “I’m coming. I promise.”

Pinkie sat on the porch, looking down at the rose laying on the top steps. She smiled as Rose touched the stem with a hoof. “Go on.”

Rose ducked her head and took a deep breath, filling her nose with the smells of late summer and the smell of fresh frosting.

“Hey, Rose! I’m so glad I made it back in time for your wedding. You have no idea how...” Pinkie paused and looked around. “Oh, say, this would be a great memory. Will ya remember it for me, huh? Please! Please say you will!”

“Of course, Pinkie. You make everything unforgettable,” Rose said, struggling to hold back a laugh.

“Pinkie Pie! Honestly, my dear, you really need to stop bursting in like that.” Rarity rolled her eyes. “You’re lucky that I finished the modifications already!” She huffed and stepped back from the dress stand, nodding at Rose. “Go ahead and see how that feels.”

Rose stepped down, paying attention to the way the cloth tugged at her neck and the way it hugged her ankles. Where before, it had pinched or strained around swollen ankles and a tender neck, it glided more smoothly, but felt almost loose.

“It feels much better. I can move.” She spun quickly, watching the white frill float along behind her like a cloud. “It’s gorgeous, Rarity. Thank you so much for taking the time to make sure—”

“Rose, dear. I’m happy to make these little finicky changes.” Rarity smiled and patted the floating train. “It’s for your special day, the day every mare dreams of.”

“Not me!” Pinkie bounded up to them with a laugh. “I dream of parties. And my friends. And parties with my friends!”

Rose giggled. “What about Cheese, Pinkie? Isn’t he your special somepony now?”

“Pft. ‘Course he is! I just hafta find the best way to break it to him.”

Rarity quirked an eyebrow and looked up over Rose’s back. “It’s not going to be a party, is it?”

“Gosh, no. He’d feel that coming for days. You can’t fool the Cheesie sense.” Pinkie rolled her eyes.

“Maybe you would like for him to feel it coming.”

Rose stepped out from between the two friends as they argued over the merits of different methods of letting a special somepony know they were a special somepony.

She stifled her giggles and stood in front of the half circle of mirrors set in a corner of the boutique. With a little imagination, she could see herself walking down the lane with her father and Swift Delivery between her and Post Haste while all about her guests plied their magic into the ground.

They stood for a moment, staring at each other across the aisle—Post Haste, handsome in the finest stallion’s tuxedo they could afford from Canterlot, and Roseluck, in a dress made just for her by Rarity. The dream would soon come true...

Behind her, the conversation faded away. The imaginary vision of her wedding day dimmed and vanished, leaving her standing in a silent room and staring at mirrors that reflected... nothing.

She was alone again.

Not even alone. It was as though she had ceased to exist. She reached out to touch the mirror. Cold glass, hard and unyielding, met her hoof. While she stared, Pinkie’s reflection came into view, and Rose’s reflection stayed invisible.

“What...?” Rose looked between Pinkie and the mirror; in the mirror, Pinkie’s mane was as bouncy and bubbly as it had been in her memory. But in the silence, Pinkie’s mane was flat. “Pinkie... why is the mirror only showing you?”

“Every mirror shows the same thing: lies. It shows me who I am not, but also what I am.” She smiled, and shook her head. “It shows me alone. I think that’s when I was happier—alone and believing what I wanted to believe. Not...” She turned and swiped a hoof across the floor, picking up the rose she sat by.


“Mirror. Call me Mirror. It’s what I am.” She held up the rose, her smile wavering as she took a deep breath. “This smells like a beautiful memory.”

“Mirror, please stop. You’re not a lie—you’re a friend.” Rose took a step towards her friend, holding out a hoof, “Please just give me the—”

Mirror pressed the rose against Roseluck’s nose.

She inhaled sharply, and the smell of a lake and apples on a summer afternoon filled her mind. The rushing thump of her heartbeat in the silent boutique vanished in the distant murmur of waves on a shore, and the closer murmur of small talk between friends.

“Are you ready?” Swift Delivery asked, peering around the cloth divide into the dressing area.

Rose smiled at her soon-to-be mother-in-law. “Almost. Is Post ready?” Rarity had just finished helping her into the dress again. Two weeks had passed since her last fitting, and the minor adjustments Rarity had made still fit, though more snugly than before.

“He is. The guests are all seated, and your bridesmares are—”

“We’re ready to go!” Pinkie stuck her head in under Swift’s, a broad smile stretching from ear to ear. “This is gonna be so amazing! Like the most awesomest, most amazing wedding ever!”

“I should think so! Thank you for helping plan it, Pinkie. I couldn’t have done it without your help.”

“You are so welcome! I’m just sorry I had to miss out on the last little bits of it. But...”

“I know. Cheese Sandwich is important to you, too. I do understand.”

Swift rolled her eyes and pulled Pinkie back by her mane. “Come on, dear. Rose has to finish get dressed.”

“Indeed she does!” Rarity came back into the dressing area with the veil and the train, freshly re-enchanted to float above the ground. “Shoo, both of you, so I can get the bride ready.”

The earth underneath her feet hummed with the magic of her friends and relatives, the earth pony ones at least, as they prepared the ground for the ceremony. Her part was simple. Walk down the aisle, focusing the power gifted to her into the seeds spread all around.

“Don’t look so nervous. You’ll do fine.” Her father said, standing beside her as she waited for the music to start. “Just do what you do every day in your garden.”

But it was so much more than her own magic. All settled into the earth, unfocused and waiting for her. “I’ve been practicing. It’s just...” So much more than what just Post can do.

“Trust in the earth. Trust in him.” He smiled and kissed her cheek. “Trust in yourself.”

The music started, a mix of birds and instruments heralding the arrival of the head of the ceremony, Mayor Mare.

Not yet. Wait for the...

The music quieted again for just a moment, and the curtains lifted aside from where she stood, waiting with her father. Across the way, Post Haste stood beside his mother, the same look of stunned anticipation on his face that she fancied was on hers.

One step at a time.

Magic lapped at her hooves and coiled up her legs, filling her heart with the pride and joy of those giving the gift to the earth. With each step, she could feel the tiny seeds quivering in anticipation, surrounded by magic that had no purpose until she gave it.

By the third step, Rose was back in control, and her daughter had woken to join her unfocused thread of magic to the tumult thrumming through the ground, mimicking her mother. Poste Haste, walking on the other side of her father and Swift, held his head high and did not do more than flick his eyes at her. His strand of magic called to her, its familiar warmth twining with hers as she guided his effort.

With every stride, she pushed out her love and adoration for Post, for her father, and for everypony there to watch her get married. Her magic encouraged the seeds to sprout, take root and bloom in a ripple of color and a rising tapestry of rich scents spreading through the gathered ponies.

By the time they reached the stand where they would say their vows, a new meadow of flowers of all colors had bloomed around the guests. The edges continued to ripple outwards as her will pushed farther and farther to find new seeds.

A few acorns, hidden in the tall grass around the carefully trimmed center, sprouted into new trees. They were saplings still, but grew swiftly even after Rose pulled back her magic and let the remnants of the gift she had been given seep back into the earth as thanks.

Rose stopped, facing Post while her stomach churned, and joy bubbled up to trickle down her cheeks. He was more composed, though she could see his eyes shimmering, and she was grateful for the misty veil that would hide the tears.

“Earth, unicorn, pegasus. Ponies,” Mayor Mare intoned, her back to them, speaking over the creak of the new trees reaching for the sky. “We are gathered here today to witness the coming together of two of our own in wedded harmony.” Everypony sat as the mayor began the ceremony, and Mayor Mare waited patiently for the wedding party to get in position. In the distance, clouds guided by unseen, pegasus-controlled winds began to drift in.

Rose’s bridesmares and Post’s groomstallions stood arrayed around the small platform where she and Post stood facing each other. The Mayor stood closest to the gathering. Her father stood at the head of the stallions, and Swift Delivery stood at the head of the mares.

“As we all live in harmony with the world around us, and with each other, we are reminded of that unity with every rainshower...”

On cue, the clouds began to pour down as they advanced, drenching the field behind the podium, and a pair of pegasi peeked over the edge to look down on the crowd below. Bright Eyes waved a wing, only to be pulled back by Thunderlane.

Rose fought to hold back a giggle.

Mayor Mare’s ears flicked backwards briefly, but she continued without skipping a beat, “And with every flower that blooms afterwards...”

Rose, standing on the platform, couldn’t feel the outpouring of magic the guests pushed into the wet grass, or her wedding entourage’s directing of it. She could only watch as the field beyond the wedding arch filled with a spreading blanket of freshly seeded flowers mixed with cereal grains.

“We are reminded that harmony is everywhere. But uncertainty remains.” On cue, again, the clouds still drifting close to the lake let loose an ominous rumble, and a flash of lightning pranced over the bottom of the cloud, lighting up the day. In response to the threatened storm the four stallions and four mares fanned out, led by the elder mother and father, and stepped to stand even with the bride and groom to face the stormclouds together.

“Roseluck, Post Haste, and their friends and family have come together in harmony to help this new couple face that uncertainty.” Mayor Mare waved her hoof to encompass the small gathering. “With your help, this new family will grow and add to the harmony of our community.”

The distant thrum of magic slid up the wooden platform and buzzed against Rose’s hooves. The flower field grew wilder yet as the rain was pushed aside by the pegasi still guiding the clouds. Bright sunlight shone down through the early afternoon sky, and a cooling breeze carried with it the smell of fresh rain, wet grain, and a delicious selection of flowers.

“Every sunny day, they will face together. As will they face every cloudy day.” The mayor turned to face the crowd. “Their family, and their friends, will stand with them.”

A smattering of hoof stamps greeted her, growing louder as the wedding entourage finished their ritual duties, and filed back around the platform to stand behind Roseluck and Post Haste once more. Mayor Mare waited until they were all settled again, and Rose’s father had stopped coughing, before she brought the ceremony to its culmination.

“We are here to witness their vows, and give them the gifts of love, friendship, and happiness that will see them on their way to a beautiful life.” She turned to them at last, smiling. “Roseluck, Post Haste. You may speak your vows.”

Roseluck stared into Post’s eyes as the words for her vows, practiced and recited, swirled through her mind. He mouthed a countdown, and she nodded as he reached one. As one, they began to recite their vows, voices mingling.

“In health and in sickness, I will tend to you. In times of peace and times of turmoil, I will protect you. In times of good harvest and poor, I will feed you. In the light of the sun and the glow of the moon, I will be beside you. In the sight of the Sisters two, may my vows hold true.”

Mayor Mare smiled. “With the power vested in me by the Solar and Lunar courts, I now pronounce you Mare and Stallion. May your lives be full of joys, and the sorrows pass swiftly.”

The memory faded into the memory of a kiss, her first as a married mare. She closed her eyes against the faded world, seeking the warmth of that kiss in her memory. Soon...

“I’m happy for you. Those vows... I wish I could have been there.” Mirror’s voice intruded on her thoughts, bringing Rose back to the grey world in the middle of an empty field on the edge of the lake. The rushing sound of waves lapping at the shore was gone, leaving only the sound of her breathing, and Mirror’s voice. “You were beautiful in your wedding dress.”

“But you—” Rose clicked her mouth shut, remembering the picture. Of course she knows what I looked like. Mirror didn’t even flinch at her lapse. “I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to... I wish...” I wish I knew what to say... She shook her head and sat down. “What happens to you? When I leave.” I will. I will find a way.

Mirror shrugged, looking down at a bright rose laying amid the tall grasses. “I don’t matter. But you’ll be back with them soon, and I can have my solitude back.”

“Your solitude? Why do you want to be alone? I thought... when I thought I was dead, you seemed happier to be with me.” Rose closed her eyes and called back the memory of the gathering of friends and family. “I can’t imagine why—” Rose opened her eyes to the feeling of cool petals on her lips. Mirror had the rose pressed to her lips, and the scent of a fireplace and the sound of the wind tugged at her mind. “Wait!”

Mirror shook her head and hobbled a step closer, until she was almost nose to nose with Roseluck. “You need to go back to them. I’m sorry I have to do this, but you can’t wait any longer.”

Rose jerked her head back, but Mirror followed her with the rose. She held her breath, then raised her forelegs to push the rose away. Mirror shoved her back with one hoof. Overbalanced, Roseluck fell to her back and the breath she’d been holding rushed out with a pained wheeze.

Mirror was there in an instant, pressing the rose against Roseluck’s nose before she could get her breath back. “Don’t fight it! Please, just remember.”

Her lungs burned, aching with the need to breath. Rose tried to move her head away, but the flower followed her nose unerringly. She gasped in a deep breath, and the memory filled her mouth and nose: the taste of fine apple cider, the scent of a hearth warmed by fire, and a meal cooked with love.

Mirror’s voice chased her into the memory. “Please remember...”

“Happy Hearth’s Warming!” Post Haste cried, standing on a chair and lifting a flagon of cider to toast the guests gathered in their living room.

Rose stood next to him, raising her mug of non-alcoholic cider to join in the toast. “Huzzah!”

Lilly, Daisy, Swift Delivery, and Lucky Day sat together in front of the fireplace, roasting their rumps in the crackling heat. Goldie was spending that Hearth’s Warming with Applejack, and others of her friends were spending it with their loved ones.

“Huzzah!” came the ragged chorus from the four ponies.

“I would like to toast my beautiful wife, our daughter Raspberry Rose, who cannot join us this Hearth’s Warming—”

“Not for want of trying! She’s kicking right now.” Rose winced and sat down. “A little hard, sometimes. Oof.”

“Are you okay?” Post stepped down and pressed his cheek to her flank just as the foal kicked again. “She kicked again!”

“She does it a lot these days. I fear she’s as restless as I am.”

“I know you have been, but you—”

“I’m fine.” Rose waved her hoof gingerly, cider sloshing back and forth in her mug. “Continue your toast, dear.”

“Toast! Toast!” Came the cry from their guests.

With a laugh, he stood up straight again, hooves braced on the seat of the chair. “To the little filly!”


“To family!”


“To friends!”


“And lastly, and more personal to Rose and I, to the wedding finally being paid off!”

Rose chuckled and raised her mug. “Huzzah!”

Post stepped down from the chair and nuzzled her gently. “Even if it did cost a lot, that’s a wedding everypony will remember. It’s one I’m going to remember forever.”

“Me too. I’m not upset over the cost, and we did save on catering, at least. Except for the cake.” She winced as she recalled the bill for the cake, far more than the seeds the flower fillies sprinkled about to sprout the meadow of oats and barley the guests themselves had grown.

“It was a memorable wedding,” Swift said, coming over to sit with them. “I can’t recall the last time a full tradition earth pony wedding has been held.”

“Fifteen years ago,” Lucky Day said, joining them with a fresh slice of pumpkin-oat pie. “Filthy Rich and Diamond Dust.”

“Oh, right. That was...” Swift blanched. “The pony pox epidemic.”

Lucky nodded, eyes unfocused. “Kinda overshadowed their wedding. We lost a lot of good ponies that year. Your mother,” he nodded to Rose, then to Post, “and your father.”

Silence fell over the gathering, leaving the crackle of the fireplace and the rustle of wind outside to fill it. Memories of the dreadful weeks Rose had been kept from her mother and father while they were laying in the hospital—while the hospital itself was under tight quarantine. All over Equestria there had been reports of similar outbreaks; the news spread only after the trains started running again and the pegasi patrols kept the affected towns and cities isolated.

Rose swallowed back the echo of grief and dredged up a smile. “Come on, this is suppose to be a happy day, right?”

“Right you are,” Post said, standing and turning to the ponies gathered about the living room. “I hope everypony is ready for some carolling!”

Cheers rang out from the small group of friends and family, along with suggestions for songs to sing, and houses to visit and rudely awaken.

“Jingle Tails!” Lily called out.

“Then Goodnight, Moon!” Daisy added.

“Let’s go to the Rich mansion first! I heard that he and Diamond Dust are passing out the surplus wreaths from his store this year!” Swift said, flapping her wings briefly, herding the two other mares into the entryway.

Rose stayed where she was, giggling as she watched Post try to corral the madness overtaking their narrow hallway, and reached out to tap her father’s hoof. “What about your new friend at the clinic? What was her name?”

“Ivy Bells.” Lucky shook his head. “You’re right. Today is a day to celebrate our past, not worry about it.” He smiled and nudged her gently, nodding at the group crowding around the coat closet.

“What’s she like?”

“A little like me, I suppose.” He paused, looking at her, then coughed lightly. “She’s a unicorn, but comes from earth pony roots. Mother a native from Canterlot, father a radish farmer.” He nudged her again. “Go on, Rose. Have some fun tonight.”

“Maybe... later. Isn’t it supposed to snow tonight?” She shook her head. “How is the home treating you? I noticed you’re not coughing as much tonight.”

“I’m doing just fine. Don’t you worry about me. Also, no. It’s not supposed to snow until tomorrow again. Tonight is special, and the pegasi are holding off the scheduled snowfall.”

“Oh.” Rose paused to watch her friends help each other into their warm winter coats. Post had hers out, too, along with a thick blanket. “And your cough?”

He smiled and nudged her again. “It’s fine. You go carolling. I’ll wait here where it’s nice and warm.”

To Rose’s surprise, Swift left the crowd of ponies to sit next to Lucky Day. “I’ll stay here, too. You go have fun. Let out that restlessness with a night of carolling.”

“A-alright.” Rose stood, looking between her father and the group of ponies scrambling in their entryway to don heavy winter clothing. It has been a few years since I went midnight carolling. Not since Luna came back. She glanced back at her flank; her daughter was still again, maybe sleeping.

“It’ll be good for her to hear happy voices raised in song,” Swift said, waving a hoof at her. “Go on.”

As she wandered away to find her thick winter garb, Rose heard her father start to cough again, rougher, deeper and wet. Her heart caught in her throat. If that’s what he calls getting better... carolling can wait.

Swift was there already, supporting the older pony with a wing and foreleg as the spasms eased and he settled back to his haunches. “Go on, Rose. I’ll take care of your father. You have fun singing joy into the night. Sing a special song for Luna for me, will you?”

Trust her. “I-I will... thank you, Swift.” She smiled, paused, then turned away again. The memory faded away into an echo of songs and the voices of her family and friends raised to sing in the new year—and she ran nose-first into a brilliant rose.

She gasped, inhaling the scent of a fresh spring day, and the sound of wings beating a frantic staccato filled her ears.

Pinkie—Mirror—stood on the other side of that rose, a sad smile dimming her bright coat. “You need to remember,” she said, her voice fading.

The memory swept over Rose.

“So I can forget...”

Chapter 7: Raspberry Rose

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The last snows were swept away in the Winter Wrap Up last week, but a chill clung to the morning and set dew to every surface.

Roseluck brushed the dew off the little raspberry bush that was growing steadily in its own plot. I’ll need to move you soon, little girl. You can’t stay here, but I know the perfect place to put you. Rose glanced over at a new plot she was building with Post’s help at the base of a tree. Three logs lay stacked against the tree, and she’d already started urging the tree’s roots deeper into the ground.

She sat down carefully on a cushion and pushed her hooves into the soil around the plant. Raspberry Rose woke in her womb and stirred while the magic flowed from Roseluck’s heart to the ground, spreading around the roots and bolstering it for the move. Her daughter joined her, sending a weak tendril of encouragement into the soil.

She watched as the bush’s little buds bloomed, and pulled back her magic when they uncurled their white petals. The bees and the butterflies still needed to do their part before the flowers would bloom again into ripe, red little berries.

“Just like you,” Rose said, wiping off her hoof against the cushion before stroking her belly. Her daughter’s light kick brought a smile to her face. “Yes, not long now, dear. Just be patient.”

“I have been,” Post said gently, kissing her cheek. “I’m off to work. I’ll see you this afternoon. Swift will be by later to spend the morning with you.”

“She doesn’t really need to—”

He bumped her nose gently. “She wants to. Let her do this, Rose.”

“I’ll be glad to have her here, then. What about her deliveries, though?”

“Bright Eyes is swapping shifts with her.”

The town, or at least a small part of it, was coming together for her and making sure that she wanted for nothing. No matter how many times she felt that sense of community, that feeling of neighbors looking out for her, it always filled her heart to bursting. This is a good town to raise a family.

“P-please give her my thanks,” Rose said, choking on the joy that rushed through her. “I just wish you—”

“Shh... we need the income. Our savings haven’t recovered quite yet.”

“I know, but...” Looking down, Rose smiled. “I want you to be there for when she gets here.” She sat back and stroked both front hooves over the swell of her belly. “She wants to meet her daddy.”

“I will be there.” Post rubbed his neck against hers, and stroked her flank with a gentle hoof. “Why do you think a pegasus will be with you for almost the entire day?”

Rose pulled her mane back from her eyes and stared at the plot she had just finished tending to. A dozen sub-sections held lilies of every color, each one just starting to burst from the still chilly ground. They wouldn’t bloom for another week, but the bulbs all showed two or three sprouts, with more just waiting for her to touch them with her magic.

“You’re all doing well.” She paused to look over at the sundial nestled amid a slowly spreading sea of monkey-grass. The narrow line of shadow was advancing towards late morning and she still hadn’t seen either Swift or Bright. “I suppose it’s just as well. Raspberry’s been quiet for the last quarter hour or so.”

“Roseluck!” Bright Eyes called to her from high up, coming in for a frantic dive, and pulled up at the last moment with a powerful back-sweep of her wings to come in for a rough landing.

“Whoa, Bright, what’s going on?”

“You weren’t at the market, and your dad was confused and he thought—” Bright shook herself all over. “Rose, I meant to come find you right away, but your dad—” she took a deep breath. “Something happened. I had to see him to the hospital first.”

It all came out in a rush, and Rose stared at her, dread gnawing at her stomach while her mind processed what Bright had said. “Dad?” She winced as a strong twinge ran along her back and around her stomach.

“He was in good hooves when I left him. He didn’t...” she shook her head. “He’s alive.”

“Oh, thank the Sisters.” She stood up, grunting as another twinge ran around her stomach. “Let’s go.”

“Are you okay? You—”

“Fine. Just...” Rose shook her head and started off gingerly down the path towards the street. “Let’s get there.”

“It’s Raspberry, isn’t it?’ Bright stepped close and spread a wing over Rose’s back. The next contraction swept down her back, and the wing twitched in response. “We need to get you to the hospital.”

Rose glanced at her. “I know. To...” She shook her head, a weak smile on her face. “I know.”

“Right! Just a moment, let me see if there are any ponies with empty carts. Don’t move.” Bright Eyes galloped up the road to the market, bounded, then leapt into the sky with a flap of her wings.

Rose stood on the grassy patch between the road and her fence, waiting for her friend to get back while the contractions came closer together and more powerful.

Minutes, feeling like hours, passed while she waited. Most of the town was still out helping to finish planting and tending to fields, streams and the last few straggling critters who fell under their domain of care, and only a few ponies wandered through her part of town, most intent on their own tasks.

But Bright did come back, with a bright red, blond maned earth pony stallion hauling a cart with loose hay.

“I had to go all the way to the Apple farm to find anypony with a cart! I didn’t realize how busy today was going to be.”

“Don’t worry, Bright. You’re here, and I don’t have to walk the whole way. Hello, Big Mac,” Rose said quietly, straining to keep her voice level as a powerful contraction ripped around her stomach.


“Thank you so much,” Bright Eyes said, alighting on the front of the cart.

“She’s AJ’s friend. I ain’t gonna sit idle.” He nodded towards the cart.

Rose waited for the next contraction to pass before she climbed up into the low back. “Fast as you can, please... the contractions are—” Rose’s legs quavered as a strong one gripped her, pain rippling up her spine and down her hind legs. “Oh, oh! I think—” She panted and lay down in the bristly hay. “Please hurry!”


Big Mac pulled quickly, though Rose knew the strong stallion could have gone much faster. But, as rough as the ride was, Rose was grateful that he hadn’t. By the time they arrived at the hospital, the contractions were just a hair over three minutes apart according to Bright Eyes, and powerful enough to make Rose’s vision dim from the pain.

“Three contractions,” Bright Eyes said to the nurse who came to the cart. “Or three minutes apart.” She shook her head and pointed a hoof at Rose. “Her dad’s in here too, and she’s about to pop.”

“D-dad’s in the hospital,” Rose grunted around another contraction. “P-please tell me he’s okay.”

“Lucky Day? He’s resting. Rose, we need to get you to the maternity ward.”

Unable to do more than nod and let her head flop back down to the hay after the contraction passed, Rose looked up at Bright Eyes. “Post... please find him.”

“Aye-aye!” She saluted haphazardly and leapt skyward with a powerful downsweep of her wings.

Minutes later, Roseluck was in a private room in the maternity ward, laying down on a sloping mattress that cradled her and kept her in place throughout the increasingly powerful contractions coming closer together. A soft spacer was wedged between her hind legs, and a clean blanket covered her hindquarters, sparing her from some of the indignity of giving birth.

“How are you feeling?” her journeymare midwife asked. She had introduced herself as Honeysuckle when Dr. Cure had come in to see her for the first time, and maintained a cooling spell on her back that helped to numb the wracking pain around her midsection—at least a little.

“As well as can be—” Stars shot through her vision as another contraction passed through her.

“Breathe, Rose,” Honeysuckle said gently, sending a cool rag to wipe her brow. “Remember to breathe.”

The door opened, and Bright Eyes peeked inside. “Rose? Post Haste is here.” She backed off and held open the door. Post was out of his uniform and covered head to hoof in light blue cotton scrubs.

Honeysuckle looked up at him and smiled. “You must be the father-to-be! I’m Honeysuckle and I’ll be assisting Honey Cure in the birthing. I’m her niece!”

“Uh...” Post stared at the bed, the small tub and numerous accoutrements surrounding the bed. “Hi. Where’s Dr. Cure? Is my wife alright? Is—”

“Post, come here,” Rose said, panting as another contraction came and went like an aftershock. “I need you.”

He was there in the next moment, his cheek pressed to hers and a cotton-covered hoof stroking under her chin. “I’m here.”

“S-she’s coming,” she said. Another spasm racked her, stifling her attempt to scream as she felt something inside rupture and felt a pressure she’d grown used to over the last several months let go.

Honeysuckle sniffed, lifted the blanket for a moment, and then dashed to the door.

“Somepony find Honey Cure! Her water’s broken!”

Time dragged her through an agony of panting and trying to remember her breathing while her foal was splitting her in two, breath by agonizing breath. Dr. Cure rushed in at some point, and her voice blurred into an incoherent babble of words.

A brief respite, her body too tired to continue. Post was there still, his forelegs tangled with hers. She couldn’t recall if he’d left or if he’d been there the whole time.

“Get ready, Rose. I know it’s difficult, but you need to push one more time.” Honey Cure said, her head peeked above the raised blanket, her muzzle covered in a mask. “When I say push, I need you to push as hard as you can.”

Rose nodded, curling her ankle more tightly around Post’s. She took a deep breath, then another, and let them out.

“Push, Rose, push!

She did. She screamed.

Stars shot through her vision, almost gone white, as her body refused to push any more. Something pulled, stretched and slid.

“I see hooves!”

“Good, Rose. Keep pushing.”

Her world was a white slate of pain, from her hindquarters to her head. Only the hooves holding her head still and Post Haste whispering unheard platitudes in her ear kept the pain from whitewashing everything.

“I’ve got her hooves, HS, get her head out of the placenta. Push, Rose. Push!”

I AM pushing!” she screamed, vision going white as she pushed again, embracing the pain. Her body protested, and she felt more sliding, more tearing and ripping as the life that had grown inside her finally slipped free.

“Good, Rose, good. Relax now.”

Ripples of pain still coursed over her, but they were muted by the joy that burst free from those words. It was over.

“Roseluck, Post Haste... meet your daughter.”

A golden hue covered the small foal as she drifted up to settle in a swaddle of blankets. She was wrinkled all over, and her coat was glistening wet with afterbirth, but she was moving, and she was looking right at Roseluck. She was beautiful.

“Raspberry Rose, my little Raspberry.” She choked, her mind blank. What do you say when you meet your child for the first time? “Hello.”

Raspberry Rose, her daughter, her beautiful daughter, opened her mouth... and threw up.

She faded away, as did the sunshine and warmth of the blanket, the sound of her husband’s sobbing, joyous laugh.

“No! Come back! Please!” Rose bolted up from the birthing bed and stumbled out of it. “I need to see her!” She fell to the floor, but the memory retreated still, the details blurring and fading away into their place in her mind.

She stopped, closed her eyes, and focused on them. So recent in her memory... she watched again as Raspberry was tucked in close, the clear liquid wiped off her face and felt her daughter latch on for a first meal.

Dr. Cure was still there, and Honeysuckle too, measuring her and watching her, checking her ears and eyes. Rose didn’t need to hear it from them to know that she was a healthy baby filly. She could feel it, and see it.

She clung to it for as long as she could, until the sound of hooves on wood brought her back to the otherwise silent reality. Calmer, with the memory of her daughter wrapped around her like a warm blanket, Rose waited.

Mirror came around the corner, looking away from Roseluck. She held a rose in her mouth.

“You’re not going to push me away?”

The rose fell to the floor. “I want to. But I couldn’t stay. Not while you were screaming.” Mirror shuddered. “A silent room, filled with your screams. So much pain.” She sat and lifted a hoof to her heart. “It hurt to hear. I knew it was you giving birth, but there was nothing I could do to help. I ran.”

“I did, too. Remember?”

“That’s different! I was pushing you to accept something that wasn’t true! You need to go back, Rose. You need to be with them!” Mirror pushed the rose across the floor. It bounced and rolled and came to a rest against Rose’s hoof.

The urge to dive into the memory sucked at her. She could smell the rose: hospital sheets, antiseptic, and her warm, clean foal tucked in close. ”I do. I want to go back, and I will. I want to hold my family close.” Rose shook her head. “But I can’t abandon my friend to her suffering.”

Its suffering. I’m not even real. I want to forget you and just believe that I’m Pinkie again.” Mirror looked back at the door, started to stand, and fell back to her haunches. “But I can’t—I don’t want to forget that I’m me.”

“You don’t want to forget that—” Rose shook her head. “I don’t understand. Why would you just stop being you?”

“If I forget that I’m not Pinkie... then who am I? Am I Pinkie?” Mirror huffed and looked down at the floor. “But I’m not. I know that I’m not Pinkie. But she doesn’t know she isn’t.”

“She who? I’m not sure I understand, Pinkie.”

“Stop calling me that. I’m just Mirror, and I’m not the one you met outside your house. She was. Old me. The Pinkie that thought she was Pinkie.” Mirror shook her head. “I don’t want to be a clone anymore, but I don’t want to stop being me.”

“I will try, but only because I know you’re your own pony. You’re not the lie you claim you are.” Rose shook her head. “But I don’t understand, how could you stop being you? Even when I forgot, I never stopped being me.”

“How? Forget that you were ever here. Forget what I learned. Forget that... I’m not me. Who am I? Am I just a copy? Am I my own pony? Everything I remember is Pinkie, but I’m not her.” Mirror stood up, tears streaming down her cheeks. “I want to be happy. I want to be—” She stared down at the floor for a long moment, her ears twitching.

“I want you to be happy, too. I want you to—”

“Want who?” Mirror lifted her head, ears flat to her skull. “Me? Or Pinkie? Who am I? Tell me! Who!” She advanced on Rose, her tail flicking. “No, don’t.” She shook her head and stamped a hoof. “You can’t stay here. You need to go back. You need to leave me alone! Let me be who I want to be!”

Pieces of the puzzle snapped into place.

“...I was happier—alone and believing what I wanted to believe...”

“...I dreamed I was...”

“I want to be happy.”

“Not until you explain this to me. I want to know why! Why do you want to let go of who you are?” Rose stood up, tail flicking back and forth, and stepped over the rose. “I want to know why, after watching me suffer because I kept running away from my past, you would want to go through the same agonies.”

“Because I’m broken. I can’t be who I want to be and be me. I can’t be—” Mirror broke off, shaking her head and sobbing. “I remember.”

“You’re not!” Rose stamped a hoof and lowered her head, ears flat. “You are not broken. You’re not just Mirror. You’re my friend, and it hurts to see you like this.” Rose shook herself and lifted her head. “Tell me why, Pinkie—Mirror. Tell me why you want to forget who you are.”

Why? WHY?” Mirror took another step forward, her voice rising into a hysterical screech. “I’m not real!” She shuddered, the fire leaving her eyes and her voice, but the tears kept flowing. “When you leave me here, who will remember me? When you leave here, won’t the real Pinkie...” She sighed and turned aside from Rose. “How much do you think it hurts to realize that if I passed on, there would be nopony who would miss me? You’ve got the real Pinkie over there to take my place. What am I, next to her?”

“I would miss you.” Rose shook her head and reached out to touch Mirror’s shoulder. “She’s not you, either. Whatever happened that day, the two of you became different ponies. You might be her twin, but you are not her.”

“But I am! Don’t you see that? Why can’t you see that she and I—we’re—the same pony! Only she’s real, and I’m just a flawed copy.”

“Pinkie—” Rose shook her head and looked back at the rose behind her. “Mirror, when...” she trailed off, her mind a fog of conflicting wants, and needs. Her daughter’s cries waited for her faintly in the corners of her mind, along with the smell of her, of Post, and of their family together for the first time. She pulled the warmth of the memory around her again, and smiled. “You reunited me with my family. Thanks to you, I have hope. I could never forget what you gave me.”

“But I’m not even—”

“Shut up!” Rose snapped, glaring at her. “You’re real!” She tapped a hoof on the floor. “If you’re not real, then what am I? Am I not real either?”

“Of course you are! Why else would your memories be everywhere?”

“And what of you? I remember, even after I’d forgotten almost everything about my family, there were still pieces. I knew, Mirror. I knew something was missing, something important. It terrified me, knowing there was something just out of reach that would hurt so much if I could only remember it, but wanting to anyway.” Rose stepped further away from the memory, though it tugged at her heart to do so, and pulled Mirror into a tight embrace. “That isn’t happiness. You asked me who I wanted to be happy. You, Mirror. I want you to be happy.”

“I do, too. That’s why—”

“No, Mirror. It will haunt you. I promise you.” Rose shook her head. “It haunted me; it nearly killed me. I would miss you if... I will miss you, but please, please don’t forget about me.”

Mirror slumped against her. “I think I understand, now.”

“Do you?”

Mirror nodded. “I do. I promise.” She pulled away from the hug, and pushed Roseluck back towards the rose laying on the ground. “You still need to go back to your family. I promise that I’ll think about what you said.”

Rose smiled back at her. “Do that.”

Rose lay in bed, watching Post as he talked with Bright Eyes through the door. She couldn’t hear what was being said, and it didn’t matter to her. Raspberry—freshly cleaned, dried, and bundled in clean linens—was tucked between her fore and hindlegs, taking her second meal after having thrown up most of her first.

Raspberry’s dark pink coat stood out against Rose’s creamy one, and the fuzzy mohawk of a mane running between her ears was long enough to start showing some of her father’s distinctive curl. Her eyes were closed still, but Rose could tell she was awake from the way she moved and pressed her muzzle against Rose’s belly.

“Thank you, Bright Eyes, for staying around, and for playing courier.”

“Sure thing! I’ll be back if there’s anything else.” She poked her head through the door and covered a squeak with a hoof, then scooted back out before. Rose heard the other mare exclaiming to the nurses outside just how adorable she was.

“Anything about Swift?” Rose asked quietly after the commotion petered out and wandered down the hall.

“She’s out and about. Bright said she’ll be here in an hour or so.” Post came to sit at the edge of the bed and nuzzled Raspberry gently. “She’s hungry.”

“She is.” Rose bent her neck to lip her daughter’s ear, then lay back down. “Anything... else?” She closed her eyes, not wanting to hear what she feared, but needing to know.

“He’s doing fine. Resting, like you need to be.” Post shook his head lightly, then kissed her neck. “If something important happens, I promise I’ll tell you. You need to rest now, Rose. She might not be directly in tune with your emotions anymore, but I don’t doubt she can taste your worry.”

“Can she?” Rose jerked her head up and stared down at Raspberry. “I don’t want her to worry, too.”

“Shh.” Post pushed her head back down. “You’ve had a long day today. Just relax. Take a nap, if you can. I’ll be right here.”

Rose nodded, let out a sigh, and settled her head into the pillow. Moments after closing her eyes, the exhaustion she’d held at bay through sheer force of will tugged her down into a dreamless sleep.

A hoof stroking her ear, then a gentle kiss on the back of her neck, brought her back awake. She blinked against the golden glare in the room. White walls were painted in the colors of sunset, and long shadows crept steadily upwards.


“Right here.” He trotted around the bed. “I didn’t think you’d be awake so soon.”

“Where’s Raspberry?”

“In the nursery. The nurses are keeping a close eye on the new foals.” Post said, smiling when Rose relaxed. “There were two more births today. Another filly and a colt.”

“And Swift?”

“Watching your daughter. I couldn’t get her to leave the viewing room.” He chuckled and looked over his shoulder at the door. “She’s only got eyes for her granddaughter.” He looked away, swallowing.

Her heart leapt into her throat. “What?”

“Your dad...” Post shook his head, and swallowed hard. “He’s been bed-bound and—” Post swallowed again, tears in the corners of his eyes. “He’s having difficulty talking.”

“Oh, daddy.” Rose choked on fears come true, and worries darted in to needle her thoughts. Formless, and vague, they nonetheless dredged up images of her father, each worse than the last. “What happened?”

“A stroke, they said.” Post stroked her cheek gently with his nose, his eyes full of tears waiting to be shed. “Don’t worry too much about him. He’s, well, he’s got high hopes, and he’s taking it better than I did.” He forced a smile, but it wavered and slipped away. “He’s smiling as much as he can.”

“I need to go see him.” Rose kicked the sheets off and rolled to her stomach. Post was there to help her down, bracing himself against her flank as she slid to the floor. “Can you make sure I’m decent?” She looked away, feeling her cheeks heat.

Post chuckled once and nuzzled her cheek. “You are. Both you and Raspberry got a cleaning while you were dead asleep. I was surprised you didn’t wake up.”

“I’m not. I am so glad I don’t remember half of what happened. I remember a lot of pain, yelling, and—” she shook her head again as a shiver ran down her spine. “Do I at least not look like a deflated water balloon? Because I feel like one.” She kicked a hind hoof up to brush against her belly, where little Raspberry had travelled with her for nearly a year. It felt odd, to not feel her moving, and to not feel the tiny spark of magic mingling with her own.

“You’re still beautiful, Roseluck. You always have been. To me, you always will be.” He snickered and butted his head against her flank. “You do not look like a popped water balloon.”

“Deflated,” Rose said, smiling. “Thank you.”

“Not yet, dear. I’m afraid that he’s still being seen by Dr. Axon, our brain specialist, and there’s to be no interference in the examination,” the nurse at Lucky Day’s door said gently. “Why don’t you go on down to the maternity ward and see your baby girl. I’ll send a runner when it’s okay to see him.”

Self-conscious of her sagging belly, and wishing she’d at least tried to tie a sheet around her barrel to hide it, Rose allowed herself to be herded down the hall. “Is there a hospital gown I can wear? I’m feeling a little droopy.” Rose lifted a hoof to brush against her belly again.

A few minutes, and a quickly foraged gown later, Rose and Post followed the nurse, Warm Heart, down the hall to the maternity viewing room. Four ponies waited inside: a family of three—a mare and stallion showing their eldest colt a pink bassinet holding his young sister—and then there was her mother-in-law standing alone and staring into the silent nursery at the only other foal.

“Raspberry Rose has been an absolute gem,” Warm Heart said quietly, knocking once to announce herself before opening the door. “She was confused at first, but she settled down very quickly in her bassinet once we got her bathed and dried off again.”

“Did she cry?”

“Just a little. She warmed up to Redheart very quickly, though, and settled back down.” Warm Heart laughed, “She’s well behaved, that’s for sure, and she looked happy, too. Much more than some foals I’ve seen come through here.”

“Roseluck! Post Haste!” Swift Delivery pulled herself away from the window with a visible effort, “Oh, my dears! She’s so beautiful! More than I could have imagined.”

Swift’s infectious smile spread to Rose. “She is, isn’t she?” Rose trotted to Swift and pulled her into a hug. “Thank you for being here. Today has been—” She shook her head and sighed. “Joy, heartache, fear, relief... I don’t even know how to describe today.”

“Of course.” Swift sat back and pulled Rose in closer. “Just focus on one thing at a time. Be a mom first, and fill your heart with joy. It will help.” Her smile turned sad, and she turned her attention to Post. “It helps.”

Roseluck, Post and Swift waited in the maternity ward, watching as doctors and nurses came and went to poke and prod at Raspberry and the other newborn foal. The family of three had taken their baby colt home already, and the mother of the last had come and gone with her husband some time past.

Time dragged, at times slowing to a crawl while Roseluck watched her daughter sleeping, and the reflection of the clock standing against the far wall showed just how slowly time was passing.

Thoughts of her father kept popping into her mind, no matter how she tried to push them aside. There was nothing she could do until later. But fears and worries continued to nip at her mind, stealing away some of the joy of watching her baby girl sleeping. She isn’t worried, right now. She had had as great an ordeal as her mother, and it was no wonder she was as tired as she was.

“How long is she going to sleep?” Post asked, leaning against Roseluck, and looking at his mother.

“You slept until midnight, when you got hungry again,” Swift said, nuzzling her son’s neck. “Then you slept until morning after I fed you.”

“She’ll sleep as long as she needs to,” Rose added, leaning against Post and nuzzling the other side of his neck. “She had quite the trip today, and she hasn’t been able to rest much—not with the doctors poking and prodding her.”

Post sighed and shook his head. “I just want to hold her.” He pushed himself up to sit straight, hooves braced on the windowsill, and looked down into the woven bassinet. “She looks so lonely in there.”

“Soon, dear. Dr. Cure said they wanted to have her go through a normal potty routine before they let her go.” Rose sat up with him and looked down into the basket. “I already know she’s perfect, but the peace of mind will help.”

The door behind them opened to admit Warm Heart again, followed by a blonde coated unicorn stallion in a white lab coat.

“Rose, this is Dr. Axon,” Warm Heart said, looking around the waiting area. “He’d like to talk to you about your father.”

“O-of course.” Rose pushed herself away from the glass and turned to bump hooves with the unicorn. “A pleasure to meet you.”

“Pleasure’s mine, Roseluck,” he said with a smile. “Your father is quite the trooper, and is actually rather impatient to get out of bed. Something about...” Dr. Axon blinked and looked around. “Oh, right. Congratulations!”

“Thank you.” Rose sat back down, and Post joined her. “My father, how is he?”

“For a stallion his age, with his health problems, he’s doing remarkably well. The pox scarring in his lungs is what caused the largest problem, I think, and likely the cause of his stroke.”

“Yes.” Rose took a deep breath. “He’s had that for... since I was a filly.” She closed her eyes against the bitter memories. “The epidemic.”

Dr. Axon touched her shoulder gently. “Of course. I was just a med student then, but I remember.” He paused, then dropped his hoof. “I think the clot that caused your father’s stroke came from a cluster of deep scars in his lungs. I’ve done what I could with magic to clear the clot, but even with the best spells I know, there’s only so much that I can do.”

Fear seized Rose’s heart in an icy claw. “Is... what...”

Post turned and pulled her into an embrace, tucking her head under his chin. “What does that mean?”

“He’s having trouble speaking, and the left half of his face is partially paralyzed.” Axon shook his head. “He’s very, very lucky. Strokes are a serious, serious matter, and to have gotten care when he did likely saved his life.”

“How is he doing now?” Post asked, stroking Rose’s back gently while she regained her composure.

“He’s doing very well. He’s rather chipper, considering, and he’s itching to get out of bed. I almost had to have a nurse sit on him to get him to stay put after that grey mare came by to visit.” He chuckled. “He’ll be fine, as long as he gets his rest and minds his condition.”

“He’s a resident at the Ponyville Retirement Home,” Rose said, pulling away from Post after settling herself. “I’ll talk to them about his level of activity, but he’s a voluntary resident there, so there’s not a lot I can do to—” Rose shook her head. “He would just resent me attempting to set restrictions on what he can do, but I’ll talk to him.”

“That’s good. Very good.” Dr. Axon glanced at the clock. “It’s late, but since you’re also here, I’ll see what I can do to sneak you in to see him. Just don’t tell Nurse Cold Heart.” He winked. “It is technically past visitation hours.”

Warm Heart laughed. “You do know she’s my sister, right? She is so going to hear that.”

“Do you see what I have to deal with?” Dr. Axon sighed theatrically and let himself be pushed out of the room. “Give me fifteen minutes.”

In spite of her fears, Rose giggled.

“See, he’s going to be fine.” Swift said, finally turning away from the window. “Now let’s see about breaking your baby girl out of jail and taking her with us.” She grinned and pointed a hoof at the nurse’s entrance.

Dr. Axon was as good as his word. Fifteen minutes later, Rose, Post, and Swift followed Warm Heart down the hall. Post pushed the cart holding Raspberry Rose—still asleep, despite the commotion of getting her checked out.

Night was on the brink of falling, and red lined shadows of trees and distant hills crawled up the walls. Lights down in Ponyville were flickering to life—both the steady fae-lights of unicorn powered lanterns and the flickering golden glow of gas and older oil lanterns. Within the hospital, steady white light flickered on from the panels installed in the ceiling, and banished the growing shadows.

“No matter how often I see that, it’s still eerie,” Warm Heart murmured. “I suppose it’s better than worrying about the hospital burning down or having the unicorn lamps interfere with surgery, but even so, it looks weird.”

Rose, walking beside the basket on wheels, shrugged. “I lived in Manehattan for a number of years. Electricity is everywhere out there, thanks to the wind turbines in the buildings.”

“I envy you so much. I’ve not been farther than the next town down the road since, well, ever.”

“What about Canterlot?” Rose asked, looking outside. “I could have sworn I remember you went to school there. Didn’t Canterlot start the electricity craze?”

“Yes, but that was my older sister. I know she looks a lot like me, but she went to the fancy-dancy medical school, not me.” Warm Heart chuckled. “I apprenticed as a midwife in Honey Mead Hill, then trained here to become a nurse. They were pretty slow to adopt anything, out there. I think they got their first electric lamp in the tavern just last year.”

“I heard you hadn’t followed your sister,” Swift said from behind Post’s shoulder, craning her neck to get a glimpse of Raspberry.

“We just had different goals that ended up leading us to the same place, I guess.” Warm Heart flicked an ear dismissively. “Anyway, my first encounter with electricity was at the library seven years ago when they installed the wiring, back when Cheerilee was splitting her time between the library and the schoolhouse.”

“I didn’t know Cheerilee ran the library,” Post added, lifting his head long enough from pushing the cart to look between the two mares. “I’ve never had that part of town on my mail route, I guess.”

“It was before you became a full time mailpony, dear,” Swift said. “I remember clearly; she was so overworked then—a new teacher fresh out of school, and she had a library and a school to run.” Swift clucked her tongue and shook her head. “I’m so glad that Twilight agreed to take over her duties. She’s much happier as a full time school teacher.”

Raspberry opened her eyes and made a popping noise with her mouth, then settled back down. Rose looked at Swift. “Is she hungry?”

“Maybe. I think she was telling us to be quiet, though,” she said, laughing softly. “It takes a lot of energy to be born.”

The nurse’s station where Warm Heart stopped had a panel of lights and switches. Most of the ones with the switches up were lit up green, and the few switched down weren’t lit at all. Names on paper badges hung below the switches, and Lucky Day’s was green.

“Fifteen minutes,” the nurse on duty said, a white coated mare with a blue heart cutie mark. “And only because Dr. Axon gave his approval.”

“Thanks, sis.” Warm Heart winked and led them a few more doors down to Lucky’s room. “We need to stay quiet, too. Other patients will be trying to get to sleep.” She paused, then pushed open the door, “Lucky, I’ve got some visitors for you.”

Rose walked in first, and her heart skipped a beat when she saw him, smiling at them. But only half of his mouth curved in a smile. The right half was locked in a droop, and his eye was covered with a bandage.


Post coughed softly.

Rose pushed aside her grief, and gathered her composure. “Dad, meet your granddaughter.” She stepped aside to let Post Haste through. “Raspberry Rose, this is your grampy.”

“Helloth, Rathbelly,” Lucky said slowly. He shook his head, his smile growing on the working half of his face as she woke up and blinked at him. “Ca I holth her?”

Rose glanced at Warm Heart, who smiled, and nodded. She lifted the neck strap attached to the swaddling blanket and, with Warm Heart’s help, lifted the barely awake Raspberry out of the bassinet and tucked her close with one foreleg. Raspberry closed her eyes and breathed in deeply with her muzzle tucked in close against Rose’s neck.

“She loves her mother’s scent,” Warm Heart said quietly.

Rose stopped in the middle of the room, looking down at her daughter nestled in the crook of her leg. Raspberry was so small, but having her close soothed away the fears burdening her heart. The smell of her clean coat, the warmth of her body, and the rise and fall of her chest as she breathed, so close to sleep that her eyes only fluttered when Rose ducked her head to nuzzle her cheek. All of her was perfect.

Post brushing against her side, then Swift joining him on her other side broke Rose from her trance, and she took the last few steps to the bed, her heart feeling lighter. “Dad, I love you so much. And I’m so—” Rose choked and blinked away tears. “I’m so glad you’re here to see her.”

He only nodded and swallowed, his left foreleg stretched out to make a space for Raspberry by his side. Rose settled her down and stayed close, the neck strap still firmly around her neck.

She watched, heart breaking, as Lucky Day smiled his half smile; the other half drooped with a thin trail of drool dripping to an absorbent pad on his chest. But he’s happy right now. Try to be happy for him, Rose. He did what he wanted to do.

Post joined her, his foreleg over her back, and nuzzled her cheek. Swift sat on her other side and gave the same support, and a wing across both of their backs.

“We’re a family,” Rose said. “Welcome to the family, Raspberry.”

The warmth of her husband, mother-in-law and the close scent of her father and daughter drifted away to leave Roseluck staring at an empty hospital bed with a single, bright rose resting where her father had been. The void in her mind grew smaller still.

“You’re still a family, Rose.” Mirror sat on the other side of the bed, looking across at her.

“He had a stroke, Mirror.” Rose shook her head. “I don’t know. Is he still alive?”

Mirror pushed the rose at her. “Only one way to find out.”

The rose smelled of many things, a cacophony of scents both agreeable and foul. A rush of images tugged at her when she bent to sniff it, filling her mind with a life rushing by at a frantic pace.

Spring days rushed by in a blur of small details and the frantic pace of adjusting to life with a newborn foal. Her life became a mire of diapers filled with unholy stench, the pain of acclimating to teat-feeding, and awkward, sleepless nights. But the joys of having a warm body tucked in close to her, while another lay against her back... that exultant wonder blurred almost everything else into a warm rush of memory.

The rush slowed as the weeks turned into a month; expenses piled up, nipping away at the small savings they had managed to squirrel away for when Raspberry came.

“...and the cloth diaper service bill is coming due on Sunday. Five bits, and two spades.” Post sighed and pushed a small pile of bits and two smaller spades into a bag. “Leaving us with...” he looked up at the larger pile that Rose was still sifting through.

Rose tapped the larger pile of coins on the table. “Sixty bits, fourteen spades, and the odd buckle left over.” The smaller copper coins were just as often unused by the majority of Ponyville. But, since Raspberry coming into their lives had put them in a different financial status, the coins were just as important as the more valuable spades and bits. One day, Rose swore they’d have a stirrup, or ten, that they could splurge with—but a thousand bits was a distant dream.

“Thank Celestia I get paid tomorrow.” Post pushed aside the ledger pad and laid his head down amid the ruin of bill paying day. “That’ll be another thirty bits. The wedding was expensive, but I’m still glad we had it. It just—”

“We’ll make it. I’ve started two new plots for oats and barley, and another for daisies. It’s less to go to market for my flowers, but it’s less we have to pay for the grains to make Raspberry’s mash. I can raise my prices slightly, too. Some of my customers will grumble, but not too loudly.”

“That’s good. How are you on the vitamin supplements?”

“I still have a week’s worth, and that’ll be another ten bits, but Raspberry starts on her probiotics next week, too.” Rose sighed and shook her head. “That’s going to be twenty-five bits a week until she’s ready for more solid food.” Rose slid another thirty-five bits into their future expenses pile.

“How is that more expensive than the diaper service?” Post pulled the bill over. “She goes through two a day, and it’s still only five bits every two weeks.”

“I know. But they’ll help her transition into solid foods more easily and more comfortably. Then we won’t have to worry about runny diapers as much.” Rose almost gagged on the mere memory of some of those late night surprises. “She would get them eventually, but with her growing as fast as she is, I’m afraid that one day I’m just going to run dry.”

“Don’t worry, dear. Your body knows how much to make. Trust it.”

“I know, I know.” Rose shook her head. “I just worry. The twenty-five bits isn’t even something to worry about if it means she gets all the nutrition she needs.”

As if she knew her parents were talking about her, Raspberry woke and neighed loudly from the living room. Seconds later, the tip-tap of little hooves on hardwood said she was on her feet.

“Speaking of...” Rose grinned at Post and trotted off before Raspberry could feel trapped in her playpen. “She’s probably hungry.”

“She’s so active lately.” Post said, poking his head around the corner. “Are all foals like this?”

“Well, she is a month old tomorrow. Remember the Cake twins?” Rose paused to drape the feeding blanket over her back, then stepped into the playpen. “Hello, girl,” she cooed, bending down to nuzzle her daughter. “Are you hungry?”

Raspberry returned the nuzzle with enough boisterous energy to overbalance herself into the nest of pillows she’d made. Undeterred, she leapt to her feet again, pranced around the pen, whinnied, then ducked her head under the blanket and started feeding in as much privacy as Rose could give her.

Rose winced when Raspberry used too much tooth and bent her neck around to nuzzle her daughter’s flank. “Careful, Raspberry, mommy’s still tender.”

Raspberry pulled her head back out from under the blanket and looked up at her. Rose’s heart soared as Raspberry worked her mouth, looking thoughtful, then said: “Ma-ma ba-ta.” She smiled, her favorite expression, and ducked back under the blanket.

“Did—” Rose winced again as the teeth plucked at her teat again, then the teeth backed off, and Rose relaxed again. “Did you hear that? She’s getting more talkative, too. That was almost ‘mommy.’“

Post chuckled. “She’s growing up fast. And how much did we spend on that thing?” He tilted his head at the feeding contraption that sat in the corner—a glorified crane meant to make it easier for Rose to feed Raspberry while laying on her side. “She’s so much more stable on her feet now. I feel like if I look away from her for even a moment, she’ll be going off to school.”

“She is growing up fast, but not so fast that we won’t remember how precious she is.” Rose beamed a smile at Raspberry. “That reminds me. I’d like to talk to Pinkie about the foalsitting she’s doing for us. I think we’re at a point where she should be able to join me in the garden in a few more weeks, and I don’t want to keep imposing on her time since she’s been so generous.”

“She does love your calla lilies.”

All around Roseluck, the garden greeted her in the dewy morning with a chorus of magic, and the sound of bees and the rare hummingbird added an audible accompaniment to the silent thrum of life pulsing under her hooves. A second timid, fumbling magical thread joined her sure and steady welcome.

Her daughter’s presence at her side was welcome, and somewhat unexpected that early in the morning—a warm body pressed tightly against her flank in the warm, early fall morning.

“Mommy,” Raspberry said, her magical spark petering out. When Rose didn’t answer immediately, she whinnied loudly and stomped a hoof, then repeated herself: “Mommy.”

Not quite six months old, Raspberry was past the awkward half-word stage and moving into simple sentences. She was also as restless as the changing autumn wind, and her attention was just as ephemeral.


Rose kept her concentration on the plants in her garden for a moment longer, hoping that Raspberry would settle back down and help her work.

“Mommy,” Raspberry said again, this time butting her head against Rose’s foreleg.

“Yes, Raspberry?” Rose opened her eyes and let her magic trickle away into the earth again.

“Hungry, mommy.” She bumped her head against Rose’s foreleg again.

Rose glanced at the horizon to the east, where the golden disc of the sun wasn’t quite past the hills yet, but high enough that the tops of the tallest trees in Ponyville were crowned in golden light. Another ten minutes, and the sun would rise to bathe her garden.

“Alright.” Rose stood, looking about surreptitiously. She didn’t wince anymore when Raspberry’s teeth latched on—it was a necessary pain. None of her neighbors as much as glanced her way when she fed her foal in the privacy of her garden.

After the first few times she’d been too exhausted to think about modesty, with a neighing foal headbutting her at every turn, she had stopped bothering with the privacy blanket at all. It was perfectly natural for a mother to feed her foal that way, after all, and Rose did enjoy the quiet time spent with her daughter, especially as autumn began to wind up and cooler winds came down from the north more often.

Six months old, and Raspberry was finally graduating to solid foods. She was becoming less reliant on Roseluck being ready to feed her, and breakfast was one of the few times that she still did—excepting the occasional dinner. After the probiotic regimen had failed in a spectacularly stinky fashion, Rose had gotten more comfortable with feeding time. Raspberry was one of those few foals that had to acclimate naturally to solid and semisolid foods in an age when modern nutrition had most foals on semi-solids by a month, and solids at three months.

“Good morning, girls!” Post said from the porch overlooking the garden. “Are you ready for breakfast?” He laughed when Rose arched her brow at him. “Well, are you ready for breakfast, honey?”

“As soon as she’s done.” Rose turned to nuzzle Raspberry’s flank. “Don’t rush, sweetie.”

But the promise of breakfast had already broken her attention, and she was pulling harder on Rose’s teat while her tail flicked back and forth. She started dancing, torn between the promise of a breakfast made by daddy, and the breakfast she was already enjoying.

Rose bit her lip and swallowed a whimper when Raspberry’s teeth got a little too enthusiastic. “Okay, Raspberry. That’s enough,” she said, nudging her daughter gently.

Raspberry pulled away and looked up at her, uncertainty writ large in her expressive eyes. “Owie?”

“No, sweetie.” Rose lipped her daughters ear gently and spent a moment grooming her curly mane. She would have to comb those precocious locks before she took Raspberry with her to the fair later; those curls just did not want to stay untangled. “I just don’t want you to get full. Remember last night?”

Raspberry looked off into the distance, then shook her mane. Some of the curls were already tangling back up, and she danced away when Rose tried to tug them straight again. “No.”

“After breakfast, we are going to comb your mane, little lady.”

“No!” Raspberry laughed and crouched behind a rose bush, doing her level best to hide from her mother. Up on the porch, Post was struggling not to burst into gales of laughter.

“Where did Raspberry go?” If her wiggling tail hadn’t already given her away, her giggle certainly did. Rose bounded around the bush. “There she is!”

“No!” Raspberry galloped away, only to trip over a rough patch of grass hiding a lump of dirt. She tumbled hock-over-fetlock to land on her flank. Undeterred, she rolled to her feet again and bounded away, giggling while streamers of yellowing grass tumbled away from her coat.

“Mommy’s gonna getcha!” Rose cried, crouching low to the ground and bouncing after her.


“Daddy comes in for the save!” Post yelled, trotting over to tackle Roseluck. “Run away, Raspberry! I’ll keep her busy!”

“No!” She about-faced and tackled Post, clinging to his neck with both forehooves. “Daddy make brayfas.”

Rose slipped out from under Post’s foreleg while he was distracted, and wrapped her forelegs around his neck and Raspberry. “Yes! Daddy make breakfast!”

“Alright, alright! I surrender!” He slumped to the ground with a mare and a filly latched onto his neck. “Breakfast it is. But I get to decide what we have for lunch.”

“As long as it’s at the fair, we have a deal.” Rose nipped his ear.

“Are we interrupting anything?” Swift asked from the fenceline. Beside her was Lucky Day, his left ear in a semi-permanent droop and his smile sagged, but he looked happier and healthier than he had even last week. “I picked up Lucky from the home, and thought we’d surprise you with—”

“Grammy!” Raspberry wiggled free of Roseluck’s grasp and galloped to her. “Grammy here!” She crashed into Swift’s legs, then pranced around her. Then she saw Lucky and calmed herself—somewhat. She only wrapped her legs around his foreleg and butted her head against his chest. “Grampy!”

“Raspberry!” He hugged her close with his free leg and bent to nuzzle her cheek.

“Grampy walk better?” Raspberry sat down, her forelegs still around Lucky’s leg, and looked up at him. “Grampy go to ‘spital? Get better.”

“Yes, Raspberry. I went to the hospital and they made me feel better.” He stroked her back again. “How are you?”

“Good. Mommy brayfas, daddy fair. Hayvast festal?” Raspberry twisted her head to look at Roseluck. “Mommy festal, soon brayfast?”

“Yes, Raspberry. We’re going to the festival as soon as we have breakfast,” Rose said after disentangling herself from Post. “Dad, I’m glad to hear you’re doing better,” she added, quirking an eyebrow at him, then glancing at Raspberry. “I hope we can talk later?”

“Psh.” Lucky nudged Raspberry gently away and tapped his chest. “I’m doing fine. Dr. Axon has been working with me every week. I barely have a lisp anymore.”

“Grampy.” Raspberry bit her lip and looked back at Rose. “Mommy, Aon doc mind?” she asked. “Grampy better now?”

“He is, sweetie. I just worry about him. Now come on, you three. Post has promised us his famous oat-saddled pancakes!”

“I did?” Post stood up and stuck his tongue out at Rose.


He laughed. “I guess I did.”

With breakfast settled in her belly and the taste of honey-maple syrup still fresh on her tongue, Roseluck finished cleaning off Raspberry’s face. “You are one messy little lady,” she murmured. It seemed that whenever it was time for pancakes—or any meal that wasn’t milk—any of it that got in her mouth was accidental, at best.

“No messy,” Raspberry said, squirming away. “Festval now?”

“We’re just about ready,” Post called from the living room. “Swift’s helping your father get the carry-saddle settled.”

“What?” Rose trotted down the hall to find Post and Swift getting the saddle strapped around him. “Dad, you—”

Raspberry followed her, ears perked and a wiggle in her rump. “Grampy carry me?”

“Roseluck, I know you worry, but please don’t. You are so much like your mother, sometimes.”


Lucky shook his head. “Please let me enjoy my granddaughter as much as I can.” He gave her a brief smile. “Besides, she barely weighs anything. And Dr. Axon did say that it would be good for me to get a little exercise.”

Rose glanced at Swift, who nodded. “Alright, dad. Just please let us know if you need to let her down. She gets squirmy—”

“No squirmy!” Raspberry butted Rose’s shoulder and trotted over to Lucky. “Grampy carry me.” It was a statement, and her tail curling partway around Lucky’s foreleg said she wasn’t going to quietly have her wants put aside.

“I’ll stay with him, Rose. I promise.” Swift nuzzled Lucky’s shoulder, then pulled on the saddle-straps to make it tight. “Your father and I have gotten to know each other rather well over the last few months.”

“We have,” he said, turning to nuzzle Swift in return. “Your mother-in-law is a remarkable mare.”

“Thank you, Swift. I wish I could be there more often for you, dad, but—” Rose shook her head. “I want to be there more for you.”

“Rose, stop.” Lucky nuzzled Raspberry’s ears. “You are doing everything you need to do.”

“He’s right, Rose,” Post said quietly, sidling up next to her. “You look after Raspberry, tend your garden, sell your flowers, and still find the time to be with your father when he needs you.” He smiled and nipped her cheek.

“It’s no more than you do, Post. You cook, and clean, take care of Raspberry when I’m wiped out—”

Swift trotted forward and swept a wing up to separate them. “You two can discuss who does more later. We’ll miss the festival if you keep going on.” She stepped closer and nipped Post’s, then Roseluck’s cheek. “Don’t fight in front of her,” she whispered. “Even if it’s friendly, she’s too young to understand that you’re playing.”

Rose shook her head, shame coiling around her throat. “I’m sorry, Post.”

“I’m sorry, too.” He kissed her cheek.

“Good.” Swift smiled at them both and kissed their cheeks. “You make good parents, but you’ve still got so much to learn.” She turned around, smiling brightly. “Tell you what, Raspberry, if you’re a good girl, and mommy allows it, I’ll take you flying.”

Raspberry’s eyes went wide with wonder. “Grampy, grammy both carry me? Fly, too?”

“Swift...” Rose covered her muzzle with a hoof. If I say no, I’m the bad mare. But that look on Raspberry’s face, joyous wonder made manifest... I trust her. I know, know, she would let nothing happen to Raspberry. But worry remained, and fears haunted the back of her mind, staying just vivid enough to terrify her, but too vague to put a hoof to what they were. She chewed her lip, then shook her head. “If you let me do the buckles, then I will.” Swift beamed a smile back at her, “But not high!” Rose added.

“Mommy!” Raspberry’s rump wiggled, and she dashed forward, dodging around Swift. Rose ducked to meet her, and stifled a grunt when she crashed into Rose’s neck and threw both forelegs around her. “Mommy best mommy.” Raspberry turned her head to look at Swift, “Fly, grammy soon?”

“At the fair, my little Raspberry.”

The memory of her living room blew away in a rustling breeze, leaving her staring at a window overlooking her fence and the little side-garden where she grew a few smaller plants for her family. Arched trestles filled with tomato vines stood above the edge of the sill, the leaves grey, and only a few small grey tomatoes clinging to them; but they were healthy looking, for all their lack of color.

“Goldie must be helping,” Rose murmured as she looked down into the garden. There was a whole patch of carrots growing along the outside edge, leafy sprouts sticking above the dirt, more lively than the tomatoes. “She has to be.” Unless my absence bent Post to try harder—or discover some hidden talent he hadn’t been aware of.

“You’re talking more. You didn’t, at first.” Mirror’s voice behind her broke the silent veil over the world. “It’s like, before, I was following around a mime. Does that make sense?” She cocked her head, and shrugged. “Now, it’s like you’re more in tune with the memories. You even have almost all of your color back.”

Rose pulled her mane forward to look at the still dimly colored lock of hair. Is it brighter? She turned to look at her tail and cutie mark. A little, maybe. She turned back around. “I’m sorry. Does—” Rose bit her lip and looked at Mirror. “Does it hurt, hearing me?”

Mirror shook her head. “It makes me wish I could hear all of it. I remember Pinkie throwing so many birthday parties and monthiversaries.” Mirror closed her eyes and reached a hoof up to her muzzle, as though clasping a party horn. “It’s so real in my memories. I—she—was so happy, so—” Tears trickled from her closed eyes. “I wish—” she paused and leaned forward, lips pursed, and blew out an imaginary candle. “I wish I could throw her a party.” Mirror opened her eyes, looked around at the still, silent world, and choked back a sob.

“I wish...” What can I say? Is there anything? Rose shook her head and took a step closer to Mirror while her mind churned with ideas and thoughts and memories all rushing about to be back in their proper place. She stood still as the memories of the fair tumbled about, and closed her eyes as they snapped into place around that beautiful morning moment with her family, whole despite the loss.

“I started to see her, Swift, as a mother, too. Not replacing my mother, but joining her.” Rose choked on a happy laugh, and tears pattered to the ground at her hooves. “My family.” She brushed aside some of the tears in her eyes. “It’s funny how things look in hindsight, isn’t it? I didn’t even realize it then. I don’t know if I did, but I do now.”

“She sounds like a very special mare.”

“She is.” Memories continued to swarm in her mind, a cacophony of times, places, scents and sights all fading into the background of daily life. The brightest ones were memories of the fair, dimmed in comparison to the realization that Swift was much more than just a mother-in-law, but a mother to her, and a grandmother, too

Raspberry had flown on Swift’s back, strapped in so securely that it would have taken the act of an alicorn to take her out of the saddle. Her laughter and her unfulfilled shouts to go higher rang out over the fair. In the end, that she never got to go higher than just above the tent’s banners didn’t matter. When she was finally on the ground and unstrapped, she was so excited and happy that she wore herself out in less than half an hour.

“She was so happy.” Rose saw her father carrying Raspberry about, and the smile on his face, and hers, made all the worry worth it. “Dad was so happy, I don’t think he stopped smiling for a week.” She opened her eyes again to see Mirror staring at a rose by her feet.

“Go back to them, Rose. They need you in their lives again.”

“If you need to go, before I... relive this next memory—”

“I’m going to stay. I need to see this through, Rose. I need... closure.” Mirror smiled, a sad, weak thing that faded quickly. “I want to know that you go back, and that you live a happy life.”

“What about yourself?” Rose waited, watching her still friend looking down at the rose between them. When Mirror didn’t respond for half a dozen breaths, Rose took a small step forward and drew Mirror into a loose hug.

Mirror shook her head, but didn’t resist, and settled her ear against Rose’s neck. “I’m still thinking. You did give me a lot to think about.” She smiled, more strongly. “Thank you.” Mirror sniffed, returning the hug briefly, and pulled away. “Don’t waste another minute. Get back to them.”

Chapter 8: The Last Rose

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“I’ll be back after the meeting, Post.” Rose kissed him on the cheek.

The day was ending early, thanks to the clouds looming on the horizon, but this was her first meeting with the mother’s circle, and she didn’t want to miss out. She could dimly remember her mother participating, when other foals her age would come over every other week for a day of playtime and fun under Rose Petal’s watchful eye.

“When do you think that will be?” Post walked with her to the front door and looked to the north. Clouds, ominously black against the early setting sun, held a promise of inclement weather.

“Before sundown.” She flicked an ear, staring at the looming storm. “I hope.”

“Be careful, Rose.”

She stopped at the doorway and bit her lip, the decision to go to the meeting settling uneasily in the pit of her stomach. The horizon was a boiling mass of clouds threatening—but only threatening, so far—to deliver a blizzard to the town. The looming darkness stayed restrained over the Everfree forest, the work of Ponyville’s weather team.

“Have you heard anything from Swift?”

“Not yet. But she is in the weather corps auxiliaries, so she may have been called already.” Post shook his head and pulled her into a hug. “I know you’ll be fine. The city hall is a safe place. Stay put if you need to.”

Raspberry looked up at Post, then trotted up to hug Rose’s legs. “Mommy, be careful.”

“I will, sweetie. Stay with daddy and listen to him, okay?”

“Okay.” Raspberry’s smile brightened, and she bounded back to Post. “Play hoof cards?”

Rose laughed and bent down to kiss her on the head. “You and daddy go play cards. I’ll try to be back before daddy makes dinner.”

“Okay!” Raspberry headbutted Post, and was pushing him into the living room when Rose left and closed the door.

She giggled to herself. I wish I could stay and play with them. But... she needs to be in a play group. She can’t be only around us. Shaking herself, she stepped down from the limited shelter of her porch and into the wintry late afternoon.

The chill wind blew her overcoat into a billowing rustle and tugged her mane free of her scarf. Crunchy brown leaves, the last stubborn remnants of a lackluster Running, swept down the road and against her legs in a rustling tumble. A few other ponies were out, braving the incoming weather to get their gardens ready for the early winter.

What should have been a week’s worth of time had turned into just hours, and some of the older residents were scrambling to get plants covered and a last layer of mulch down before the first snow made their efforts pointless. Even as focused as they were, most of them paused for a moment to wave to her before returning to their tasks.

Remnants of the last rain shower of the year lay in half-frozen puddles in potholes and dips in the road, making her trip all the more nostalgic. How often did I walk this way with Post during our first winter? They had made a game of it, then, seeing who could make the biggest chunk of ice come free of its puddle. With the potential for bad weather looming, and a meeting to get to, she avoided them altogether.

Berry Punch joined her just shy of the market square. “Roseluck! Sorry I’m late. I had to wait for Bulk to get back before I could leave.”

“It’s fine, really.” Rose glanced at the horizon. It wasn’t yet past five, but the clouds and the shorter days were already heralding the evening. “I’m just surprised that he was able to get out of weather duty. That storm looks quite nasty.”

Raspberry glanced over her shoulder and shrugged. “It’s another one of those Everfree storms. The weather corps has gotten better at dealing with them.” She huddled closer to Roseluck. “He said Rainbow Dash had no problem with letting him stay home to watch Berry Pinch.”

“I’m glad she was willing to let him stay home.” The wind picked up, howling around them for a stretch, making civilized conversation more difficult, and sending a blizzard of dead leaves down the street again. “Are you going to be one of the watchers this year?”

“Yes! I am so excited!” Berry Punch pranced ahead a stride and a half, then fell back, her ears flush and tail flicking against the wind. “I’m sure Raspberry is going to be the most delightful little filly, and I can’t wait to see her again.”

“You do know you can come by any time, right?” Rose laughed when Berry grimaced at her. “Oh, all right. I heard from Swift that you worked hard to put the vineyard down for this kind of thing.” Rose flicked her tail to the north and shook her head. “I understand. I had to do the same with my flowers.”

“This year has been so weird. And not just the weather. You get married and give birth. I finally married the father of my foal... it’s like love is in the air.”

“In bloom, more like.” Rose shook her head, smiling. “But little Raspberry is a delight, but she’s also quite the mouthful. She’ll tie your tail in knots trying to keep up with her.” She flicked her tail against Berry Punch’s and laughed again.

“Psh. Next to my Berry, she’ll be easy peasy. I’ve never seen a filly get into as much trouble as she can.” Berry Punch shook her head with a laugh and trotted ahead to hold open the door for Roseluck.

“Thank you.”

Inside, the chill was still present, but Dolphin Dream and her daughter Sparkler were busy enchanting iron coils with enough heat to dispel the cold around them. A group of mares stood around the coat rack, chatting about the storm.

“Rose?” Soft Step, one of her regular earth pony customers, approached her while she was taking off her coat. “I’m worried for my girls.” She paused, and shot a meaningful glance at the door. “And my herd. Isn’t your mother-in-law in the weather auxiliaries? What does she think about this storm?”

“I wouldn’t worry too much, Soft. Your goats will be just fine, and so will your girls.” Rose shook her left leg, and Soft grabbed the sleeve in her mouth. “Winter was going to start next week anyway, you know.”

“I know,” she murmured around the leg of Rose’s coat as she put it up on the rack. “It’s just, well, Gracie and her mate asked me about it before I left, and I didn’t have an answer for them. I felt awful.”

“If they need some more blankets to help keep warm, I might be able to find some at home.” Rose stepped back from the coat rack and found another pair of mares listening in. “I don’t know any more about the storm than you three do, but I’m not too worried about it. Rainbow Dash would have put out a notice if she thought there was a danger from it.”

“Yes, she would,” Dolphin Dream said, coming up behind Rose with the last heating coil held aloft by a spell. “She’s a good weather manager and, whatever other faults she has, she knows the weather.”

“That’s what Pinkie says.” Rose held up some of the coats with a hoof so Dolphin could put the coil in the warming basket.

“Thank you.” Dolphin Dream tapped a hoof against the basket to settle the coil on the sand. “That should make our exit nice and toasty!” She trotted past them to poke her head out the door and look at the clouds.

Her horn glowed briefly as she closed the door, then came back to lead them into the common area. “We’re going to try to make this a short meeting, but before we start...” She pulled Rose aside from the group. “As our only new mother with a foal old enough this year, there’s not much you need to be doing other than taking care of Raspberry.”

“Okay. I still want to do what I can to help out, though. Is there anything?”

“Well, there are lunches, of course.” Dolphin frowned and stroked her muzzle thoughtfully. “Your flowers might be a bit too rich for them yet, but I remember that you make one mean celery salad.”

“I can do that. I remember, vaguely, that my mother used to do a few things for the circle, even after she retired. Is there anything else like that?”

“Gosh, aren’t you just the go-getter. We do have a signup sheet, but first we need to discuss the rotation, among other things.” Dolphin paused at the front row, smiling.

“You’re leading this year? I hadn’t heard that Cup Cake had stepped down.”

“It was a last minute thing, honestly. Her twins are at an age where they’re getting into more trouble, but too old to be in the regular sitting groups. She kinda had a nervous breakdown.” Dolphin shook her head. “Anyway... my Sparkler is old enough to be a one-on-one foalsitter now.” She nodded to where her daughter was defrosting one of the windows to look outside. “Without needing to worry about her, I volunteered to head the circle this year.”

“I had wondered where Cup found the time...” Rose glanced back at the four mares following them down the aisle. “That’s a lot of extra work, especially with all the new foals this year, but I’m glad to hear that Sparkler is going to be joining us soon. When does she start?”

“As soon as she attends Cheerilee’s class in the spring.” A few seats remained open in the front, and Dolphin pointed Rose and Berry to them. “Go have a seat, girls, and we’ll get started.”

“I remember when I was a foalsitter,” Rose murmured quietly. “I had to watch Diamond Tiara once.” She giggled. “It wasn’t for the circle, though, just a favor I owed the Riches.”

“You poor dear.” Berry was trying to hold back her laughter, and mostly succeeding. “What was the favor for?”

“They took me to see Manehatten, so I could visit the college.” Rose smiled, then nodded to the front. “It’ll be nice to get Raspberry out to meet other fillies and colts her age. She’ll be so excited.”

“It’s a treat, seeing their faces after their first playtime,” Berry laughed, shaking her head. “Pinchy was hardly able to sit down for dinner.”

“Good evening everypony!” Dolphin rapped her hoof on the podium. “I’d like to make this as short as possible, because we’ve got an Everfree blizzard threatening us, so please pay attention.” She waited until the mares had stopped talking to each other and held up a scroll with names of new foals. “With a new set of foals born just this last year, ten of them, our little circle of foalsitters needs some new blood to help take care of all the little ones.”

Sparkler beamed from the edge of the stage and lifted her head proudly.

“First order of business, however, is the announcement of foals old enough to join social groups.” She coughed again and looked up, right at Rose. “Roseluck and Post Haste’s little filly Raspberry Rose will be ready to join the social groups once winter is done.”

Rose breathed a sigh of relief.

Dolphin continued. “As will Brick Wall and Cherry Delight’s colt, Redbrick. Primrose and Wainwright’s colt Wheel Spoke will be a little too young yet, but considering your family’s business, we decided to make an exception.” She nodded to the unicorn Primrose sitting a few seats down from Rose.

She looked up. “I’m sorry, Sunny Skies, your and Freewheeler’s filly is too old for our foal socializing. I spoke with the other mares of the current circle, and it was a hard decision, but we felt that an older filly like Sapphire wouldn’t be challenged enough by this age group. I did speak to Creme Brulee about getting her into the three to five group, and her circle will talk to you.” She flicked her eyes to the window. “Probably tomorrow, weather permitting.”

Sunny Skies stood up, a blue maned, blond coated pegasus whom had recently immigrated from Cloudsdale. “What? Why? I thought...” She shook her head “I guess I understand. It’s just that Sapphire Skies is used to the calmer, younger group.”

Berry Punch snickered. “Sunny, let me tell you right now, here in Ponyville, the three to five group is the calmer group.”

Laughter burst out from the mares with older foals.

“Really? But your foals all seem so well behaved,” Sunny said, her ears twitching. “I’m sorry, I’m just so used to pegasi foals being so rambunctious at that age.”

“All foals are rambunctious,” Dolphin said, grinning from the podium. “It’s just a question of when.” Uproarious laughter met her remark. She waited until it died down before she tapped her hoof again. “The next order of business is—”

The door to city hall burst open to let in a grey mare with a blond mane, chased by an obscuring flurry of snowflakes. She had to buck the doors closed against the howling wind that followed her inside. Bright Eyes shook herself off and dashed up to the podium.

A moment later, Dolphin stepped down from the stage and waved Sparkler over to whisper to her.

Soft Step waited until Sparkler had dashed to the receiving area before standing up. “What is it?”

“Nopony panic, but the blizzard is on our doorstep.” Rose’s heart raced, and she perked her ears to listen for the telltale rushing of wind. The windows were frosted over, and she couldn’t make out anything. Dolphin Dream continued, “Rainbow Dash and her weather ponies are doing their best to delay it, but according to Bright Eyes, they won’t be able to.”

Rose and Berry Punch ran to the coat rack, where Sparkler was busily casting warming spell after warming spell on the coats. “Oh, this is no good. I told Post I’d stay safe!”

Berry threw the sleeves of her coat around her neck and tied them off quickly. “I know what you mean. Bulk will come looking for me if I don’t make it home before it hits.”

“You do that, Berry. I’ll—”

“Come with me, of course.” Berry flicked her tail around Rose’s foreleg. “You can’t walk alone in this.”

“I’ll walk her home.” Bright Eyes shook herself again and stepped away from helping Berry Punch with her overcoat. “Don’t worry, I’ll get her home safe.”

“What about the other ponies here?” Roseluck gestured awkwardly, her right leg halfway into her freshly warmed coat, at the rest of the group clustered around the coatrack. “I live just down the road.”

“They all live right here in town, just a couple of blocks away. You’re kinda outskirty, y’know? Living a quarter mile from town hall is not ‘just down the road’.” Bright shrugged and nodded to the rest of the mares donning jackets and coats. “You all don’t mind right?”

When a chorus of ‘No, of course not,’ and ‘Why would we’ came back, Bright turned a smug smile on Roseluck. “See?”

“It is just down the road if you walk it each and every day,” Rose mumbled for the fourth time. It wasn’t even starting to snow that hard yet. She looked up at the looming storm, looking like a dark, boiling sea framed by the last dim rays of the sun.

“Did you say something?” Bright Eyes shouted, fighting the wind to be heard.

In the distance, a dozen brighter dots against the dark clouds rolling steadily closer to town darted back and forth to push back bulges of threatening cloud as long as they could. It was clearly a lost battle, and Rainbow Dash was visible as a multicolored streak of light flitting from problem spot to problem spot, shoring up the auxiliaries who were less adept than her four regulars were at dealing with the unruly Everfree clouds.

“They’re really buying us time,” Rose shouted over the sheer volume of wind blowing the first skirling flurries of snow through town. Her overcoat snapped and fluttered as the gusts forced her to slog through an increasingly chill wind, biting down through her natural coat and sinking deep into her legs.

“I know!” Bright Eyes seemed unaffected by the cold, and did her best to shield Rose from the worst of it by walking on her windward side. “Rainbow pulled four of us off to warn all the gatherings. She’ll hold out for another ten minutes, tops.”

Stay safe, Swift. Rose looked away from the clouds and focused on the dark road. Only the unicorn lamps were lit, the oil and gas lamps having long since been snuffed out and turned off for safety, and the shadows grew deeper still the closer they got to the small collection of homes at the edge of town where Rose lived.

Post was out on the front porch, a hooded glass lantern held aloft. Raspberry had her nose pressed to the glass from the sitting room window, her face obscured by the fog of her breath.

“Thank you, Bright Eyes.” Post stepped forward to nuzzle her neck, then kissed Roseluck gently. “I’m so glad you made it home safe.” Post backed up further onto the porch, then turned and pushed open the door. “Come in, it’s about to get nasty.”

Rose took one look over her shoulder at the advancing curtain of white led by a strong, chilly gust of wind, and flicked her tail against Bright’s shoulder. “You too, Bright Eyes. You can’t be out flying in this weather.”

“Only because you have cocoa!” Bright Eyes laughed and fluttered her wings to rid herself of the dusting of snow on her feathers and back. “You do still have the cocoa I gave you, right?”

“We do! We were waiting for winter to come before we used any of it.” Post trotted to the window to give Raspberry a swift kiss behind the ears. “I guess it’s winter now, isn’t it?”

“A few days early, but yes. I think the first snowfall counts as ‘it is now winter.’” She laughed again and spread her wings for Raspberry, prancing around Bright with a wiggle in her rump and her eyes sparkling. “Who’s a big filly?”

“You are!” Raspberry laughed and tackled Bright’s legs. “Big filly!”

“She has you all saddled, doesn’t she?” Post ducked into the kitchen, laughing and started piling wood into the stove before lighting it. “Bright, give me a hoof in here?”

Rose poked her head into the small kitchen, filled with two ponies and open cupboard doors, and giggled while Bright dug around in their pantry. “We put it in the cabinet next to the stove, Bright. So it would be ready.”

“Got it!” Bright backed out of the pantry with a carrot in her mouth. “Gotta snack, too. Rough flying today,” she said around the carrot. “Hungry.”

“You’re our guest. Feel free.” Rose laughed again when Bright’s eyes opened wide and she stared back at the pantry. “Better help Post with that cocoa first, if you want—”

“Mommy!” Raspberry butted Rose’s hind leg. “Play hoof cards?”

Post looked over his shoulder and laughed. “Watch out for her left. She’s sneaky!”

“Nuh-uh! Daddy’s slow.”

“All right, Raspberry. We can play hoof cards.” Rose let herself be herded into the living room. Warm, fall colored blankets lay draped over the furniture, and the remnants of a warm fire was sputtering low on the hearth. “Let me add a log to the fire first, okay? That way it’ll be nice and toasty warm for a long time.”

“‘Kay.” Raspberry plopped herself down in front of a pile of pretzel sticks to watch her. The crumbs and salt on the floor said more sticks had been there.

After sliding a log onto the fire with the chute, Rose looked towards the kitchen and called out: “Daddy must have lost really badly if you’ve still got all of those sticks.”

You try playing against her!”

An almost calm settled over the house as the wind gusted harder, drawing a long, moaning sigh from the chimney and shaking the storm-shutters on their tracks.

Already, drifts of snow were piling up against the blankets and tarps Rose had set down to protect her perennial plants for the winter. She stepped back from the window and pushed down the lever to close the storm shutters again.

She called back to the kitchen: “Bright, have you heard anything about the cause of these storms? It seems there are more of them over the last few years.”

“Not a lot, to be honest. I do know that these storms aren’t actually getting more frequent,” Bright Eyes said, “but they are getting more powerful. Rainbow says the Princess is looking for a reason, but hasn’t found one yet.”

“Good to know she’s looking into it, at least.” Rose lay down with her back to the fire, letting it chase out the last chills. “Now what were we doing?”

“Play cards!” Raspberry shoved the deck at her.

“Do you want marshmallows with your cocoa, Rose?”

“Plain is fine for me, but put some in Raspberry’s cup.” Rose shuffled the cards deftly and slid three over to Raspberry, then three for herself. “Do you want to be the farrier, Raspberry? Or should I?”

“Me! I wanna be fairer!” Raspberry stared down at her three cards, then bent down and lifted up the cards one at a time to peek at the faces on them. She giggled and looked up at Rose. “Play.”

She waited, staring off at the kitchen while her right hoof inched forward. “Did daddy tell you that I used to win at hoofcards all the time?”

“Your mother is just as sneaky as you, Raspberry. Keep an eye on her right hoof.”

“Scoundrel!” Rose dashed her hoof forward, but not before Raspberry snatched the card away. “Well, see if I share any of my cocoa with you!” she called back to the kitchen.

“Cocoa?” Raspberry looked up, then at the open door to the small kitchen. “Mommy, what’s cocoa?”

Bright gasped from inside the kitchen, and half of the bustling activity stopped. She stuck her head around the corner, wide eyed and staring. “She hasn’t had cocoa yet? Raspberry, you poor little filly... we must correct this travesty.”

Raspberry looked between Rose and Bright Eyes and, seeing the playful looks on their faces, must have decided it was a fun word. “Travesty! I have a travesty!” She jabbed her left hoof and snagged a card before Rose could save it.

“Don’t mind Bright Eyes, sweetie. She’s being a silly filly.”

“Nuh-uh!” Bright crossed her eyes. “I am the very definition of refinement!” She puffed up her cheeks and stuck out her tongue.

Post pulled her back into the kitchen by her tail. “Ms. Refinement needs to finish helping me make the cocoa first.”

The heat against her hindquarters faded away slowly as the memory of that joyful first winter night swept through her. Raspberry had won at hoof cards, snatching victory from Rose by the narrowest of margins with a crowned pegasus and a soaring gryphon edging her over the victory line.

She could still smell the fresh cocoa, and see the look on Raspberry’s face as she tasted it, her eyes going wide with wonder as the smooth, marshmallow creamy top touched her tongue.

“She called it the best thing ever,” Rose murmured, reaching out to stroke the air where her daughter’s face would have been had she still been in the memory. “The look on her face was so precious. I’m glad I remembered that night...”

“She sounds adorable,” Mirror said from the window overlooking the backyard and Rose’s garden, her cheek pressed against the glass. “I’m glad you remembered, too.” She sat up straight and nodded out the window. “There’s the next.”

In the yard stood a raspberry bush climbing its way up a square trellis in a small section at the base of the largest tree in her yard. “That’s Raspberry’s bush.” In its leaves, cradled as though the bush knew it was precious, was a bright red rose. “I remember... I finished putting together the boxing just before winter, and the bush—” she nodded towards the empty plot where she last remembered the bush being. “I must have moved it sometime later.”

“Go, Rose. Remember.”

“Okay, Raspberry. Just like I showed you.” Rose pulled her hoof out of the loose dirt piled up around the base of the still small raspberry bush. “Put your hooves on either side of the plant and think happy thoughts.”

“Like...” Raspberry’s face scrunched up as she pushed her hooves down into the soil. “Like... birthday parties?” Her hind end wiggled, and she pulled her forehooves back. “When are we going?”

“Soon, sweetie. But not until you help your raspberry bush get accustomed to her new home.”

Corralling the little filly, a year old in half an hour, was anything but easy. She’d been cooped up for most of winter, and the Hearth’s Warming blizzard had put a damper on any attempts to go outside and carol that year—another thing that would have to wait for next year.

Spring was only a week old, and Raspberry was anxious to play out in the greening grass and chase butterflies in Rose’s garden.

“Can’t I do it after?”

“We need to do it now, so that your bush knows she’s still at home.” Rose pushed her gently forward. “Go on, just like I showed you.”

Reluctant, distracted, and pouting, Raspberry did as she was asked and put her hooves next to the plant.

Rose waited, listening with her hooves for the magical thread her daughter should have been sending out to the plant. Not even a ghost of the feeling Rose had when she’d first touched the bush came back.

“It’s not working.”

“Are you thinking happy thoughts?”


Something in Raspberry’s tone said otherwise. “Let me tell you a story.” Rose scooted forward to sit beside her again. “When I was not much older than you, just a little filly, my mother would sit, just like this, and tend to her entire garden.” She opened herself up to the warmth of those days, walled off the loss, and let that feeling flow through her heart and into the ground.

“She would look at me, just like I am looking at you right now.” All around Rose, the green shoots of sleepy grass at her feet began to unfurl and reach for the sun, spreading out in a circle around her. “Then, the grass would grow. Do you know why?”

“Happy thoughts?”

“Happy thoughts.” Rose pulled back all but a tendril of her magic, letting it twine about the roots of the raspberry bush as a guide. “Do you have some happy thoughts?”

Raspberry squinted at the bush, then set her hooves into the soil on either side of it and smiled. Rose added just a touch of her own power to Raspberry’s. The bush, struggling to find its home, woke up to Raspberry’s touch of magic and unfurled a tendril to curl around the lowest rung of the trellis.

“Mommy! Look!” Raspberry barely managed to keep her hooves planted next to the growing bush.

Through it, Rose felt her daughter’s wonder and a hint of her joy. “I am, sweetie.” And I am so proud of you. “I think that’s enough, sweetie.”

Raspberry looked up at her, prideful smile shining in her eyes. To her credit, Raspberry did restrain herself for almost half a breath. Then she was off, racing for the porch where Post was sitting with a mug of coffee, watching them with a growing smile.

“Daddy! Daddy! I made it grow!”

“And then, I thought about cake, and happy thoughts! And it moved! I made it move!”

“That’s amazing, Raspberry!” Post laughed and bent his head to bump noses with her. “So cake is your happy thought?”

“Cake.” Raspberry looked up at her mother smiling down at her. “And mommy.” She looked up at Post, walking on her other side. “And daddy.” She looked over her shoulder at Swift, bringing up the rear and pushing Lucky along in a wheelchair. “And grampy, and grammy.”

Rose looked back, too. Lucky was half awake, swaddled in blankets, but with a half smile on his lips. The left half of his face had never recovered from his stroke, and the left side of his body was in a worse state. She had watched him slowly decline over the bitterly cold winter, his body getting weaker and even more wasted the longer he was kept indoors. Before his stroke, she had hoped he would hang on for another decade.

By the end of winter she had caught herself hoping that he would last for another week.

But little Raspberry had been a bright light in his day when they managed to brave the snows and visit. He always had a smile for her, no matter how tired he looked, and she didn’t mind sitting still while he held her. Those had been some of her longest naps, sleeping cradled in Lucky’s forelegs while he napped right along with her.

“Are you warm enough, dad?” Dew still glistened from the deepest shadows where the sun had yet to reach, and the warmth of spring was still a month or more away.

“Fine, little Rosie. Just fine. Don’t you worry about me,” he murmured, smiling from under the woolen cap she and Post had knitted for him. She could still see the white locks of his mane, grown whiter over the winter, poking out from underneath. Or what was left of his mane; he was going bald.

He won’t last another winter... The thought passed through her mind, unbidden and unwanted, and Rose banished it firmly from her mind and focused on his smile.

“Was quite the winter, eh, Post?”

“It sure was. Thank you for the gift of the ice-shoes. They helped out a lot this year.”

“You’re quite welcome.” Lucky smiled, and coughed into the crook of his ankle. “I remember when I used to be on snow duty. I’m sure glad I don’t have to endure that anymore.”

Rose winced, pushing back the thought threatening to invade what should have been a happy day. He meant it a different way. He just had to mean it a different way.

“I swear, it felt like the snow this year was stubborn.” Post shook his head. “After every blizzard, it felt like it was getting heavier and heavier.”

“I don’t envy you,” Lucky murmured, his eyes closing again. “Too cold, this winter.”

Rose dredged her thoughts out of the winter weather and leaned down to kiss the back of Raspberry’s head. “One year ago, today, Raspberry, you were born. In fact,” Rose glanced at the sun, then at the flag pole’s shadow in the center of town square, “you were born about one year ago, almost exactly. That was the happiest day of my life.”

“That was a happy day for all of us,” Swift said. “You were so tiny then, and so beautiful.” Swift chuckled. “You still are, when you’re not covered in mud.”

Raspberry blinked. “Mommy’s happy thought is me?” She fell silent when Rose nodded. It was the only thing she could do with her throat so tight she couldn’t trust herself to speak.

Her face set in an expression of serious contemplation and, when Pinkie opened the door to Sugarcube Corner, Raspberry rushed up to her. “Auntie Pinkie! I’m a happy thought!”

“You sure are! And there’s more inside, too!”

Rose laughed, blinking away the tears in her eyes. You’ll always be my happy thought.

The birthday song faded away as the cakes were brought out. A small one for Raspberry on her own, and a larger one for the adults. Only the small one had a candle on it, not yet lit.

Raspberry stood up in her seat and almost stepped atop the table before Rose pulled her back down to sit between her hind legs. “But mommy, I need to make a wish!”

“And you can do that without getting on the table,” Rose said, “You just had a bath this morning. I’m not about to let you get dirty again.”

“I wasn’t dirty,” she said, earnest honesty in her voice. “I was gardeny.” She looked at Post, her ears laying flat. “Daddy, tell mommy I wasn’t dirty.”

“She was gardeny, mommy.” Post nodded and tucked his muzzle into his glass.

“Okay, you were gardeny, but you still needed to take a bath. Gardeny is another kind of dirty.” Rose heard him choke a moment later and stifled a laugh of her own. “We’re not seaponies, Post. Do try to remember that.” She flicked her tail against his flank and shook her head.

“Rose, let her have some fun,” Swift said, grinning from ear to ear. “It’s not every day that she turns one year old!” She reached out to boop Raspberry on the nose.

“Yeah!” Raspberry tried to wiggle her way out of Rose’s forelegs again. “Mommy, stoppit.” She squirmed more, but when Rose still refused to let her get up onto the table, she tried another tactic. She went limp and slid to the floor underneath the table, then popped her head back up between Swift’s forelegs. “Grammy!”

“Post,” she whispered, “am I a party pooper?”

He choked on his water and looked at her, bug-eyed, until he finished coughing. “What? That’s random.”

“It is not random,” she said sternly. “I want to know if I’m being too strict.”

“Mommy is the biggest party pooper,” Raspberry grumbled. Then she giggled. “Party pooper!”

“Okay... you are, a little. Let her have some fun.” Post reached out to touch the edge of the cake while Pinkie fumbled with the recalcitrant striker. “Party pooper.” He smeared the icing on Rose’s muzzle.

“Daddy! No. Wish first.” She looked at Rose first, then up at Swift. “I can still wish, right?” Raspberry’s voice was so serious, and full of concern that Rose’s heart trembled in her chest.

“Of course you can, sweetie,” Rose said, reaching out to stroke her cheek gently. “Daddy’s just being silly.”

“I’m sorry, Raspberry,” Post said, his ears flat to his head. “I just want mommy to have fun, too.”

“Gramma, can I still wish?”

“Your mother is right, Raspberry.” Swift winked at Rose. “Wishes only start after the candle’s lit.”

On cue, Pinkie clacked the ornery, over-used striker against the edge of the table and tried again. A moment later, she was able to get it to strike properly, the firestone and emberstone making a potent whoosh of flame that set the candle to sparkling.

“Are you ready?”

“I wish—”

“Don’t tell us,” Lucky said, looking up from his near slumber. “Just wish.”

Raspberry nodded, her brows set, ears back, and leaned forward. “I wish...” She pulled in a deep breath and huffed, blowing out the sparkling candle. Which sparked back to life after a brief sputter. She jerked back, gasping and then glaring at the candle. She stared at it for a long moment, then looked at Lucky for the longest time while the candle grew steadily shorter. Finally, her ears drooped. “My wish didn’t... wish.”

“Sometimes they take time,” Lucky said, his eyes getting brighter as he woke up more. “Sometimes, wishes come true when you least expect them.”

It took her a moment, but Raspberry finally nodded and leaned forward. “I wish...” She blew on the candle again. “I wish...” She blew on it again, and then one more time before the candle finally sputtered out. She smiled. “I had happy thoughts.”

Then, with all the dignity she could muster, the freshly one year old Raspberry Rose plunged her face into the cake.

“She’s still sleeping?” Post held the door open for Roseluck, carrying Raspberry in the crook of her foreleg.

“Like a pegasus. She woke up briefly after you started pulling the cart, but she’s been sleeping since then.” Small wonder, Rose thought, looking down at her baby girl. She spent the whole afternoon playing games and opening presents. “She’ll be awake soon, though.”

“She naps like Rainbow Dash,” Swift murmured, following behind with most of the presents in a basket on her back. “She’ll be up soon enough and with enough energy to run the rest of the day.”

The last present, the one that Rose wanted to give to Raspberry personally, lay already unwrapped in her nest. It was a doll older than Roseluck, with button eyes and a mane of scraggly velvet that had been freshly replaced and groomed.

It wouldn’t have done to get icing all over it. But it was an earth pony’s doll: sturdy, meant to be played with, and meant to be loved. The stitching had recently been redone as well by Rarity, and as a gift to the filly, the seamstress had added a miniature gown to the doll.

“Your mother would be proud.” Swift let the basket slide down her back and tail to the floor and nuzzled Rose’s neck.

“I hope so.” Rose ducked and kissed Raspberry on the cheek, then settled her down amidst the blankets and pillows that made up her napping nest. “I hope—” Rose pulled a warm cotton blanket over the doll and her daughter. “I hope I don’t make any mistakes with her.”

“Psh. Make mistakes.” Swift shook her head. “Just make small ones, and get help if you make a big one. You’re never going to be perfect, and the sooner you realize that, the sooner you will be happier, and the sooner she will be, too.” She lay down and put her head on a pillow. “But never stop trying to make her happy. You go take a break and have a proper lunch with Post. I’ll stay here with her and take a nap myself.”

Rose walked into the kitchen, the walls turning bland, and her husband disappearing as she stopped. The memory drifted away in a haze, leaving her alone with the flood of pieces snapping into place around it.

Raspberry had woken up later and carried the doll around with her for the rest of the day, alternating between it resting precariously on her back or dangling from her mouth by a leg or her mane.

“It was my mother’s doll,” Rose murmured. “Raspberry kept forgetting it in her room when she was excited.”

Mirror joined her in the door to the kitchen and nuzzled her neck.

Rose shook her head. “She would drive me nuts with it at first. She wanted to take it everywhere, including the bath, and she’d pout and cry if I tried to make her take a bath without it.”

“She’ll be glad to be with her mother again.”

“I know.” The kitchen felt empty without her husband or her daughter, or even her mother-in-law bustling about making something. Cooking had never been one of Rose’s talents. Swift had passed on what she knew to Post, and while it wasn’t cuisine, it was good and hearty. “He loved making me coffee in the morning.” She nodded to the kettle, its spout clean and spotless.

Even the mug that had shattered on the floor with its contents had left only a darker patch on the light wooden floor. It was like the world had moved on from whatever happened the last time she’d been there. What did happen? Will I ever know? Does it even matter if the world has moved past that frozen moment?

“Perhaps it has moved on.”


“I wonder how long I’ve been... here.” Rose waved a hoof at the quiet kitchen, frozen in a moment of time. It was like living in a photograph, she realized. “Will I still recognize my daughter?”

“Don’t be silly. Of course you will.” Pinkie hooked a leg around hers and dragged her back out of the kitchen. “Come on, I found your next memory while you were still at Sugarcube Corner.”

“You didn’t come?”

Mirror sighed. “I can’t. Not yet. The other me still lives there. I just know it. I’m not... I can’t face what she’s left sitting still.”

“Pinkie, leave something sitting still? Have you met yourself?”

Mirror snorted a laugh, then smiled. “Thank you. For making me laugh again.” She pushed Rose forward. “Go on. You’ve still got to get back.”

“...and then Redbrick tried to do a hoofstand, but Wheel Spoke pushed him. Mrs. Punch gave Wheel Spoke timeout, and Redbrick got to play with the blocks,” Raspberry said while Rose tried to give her a bath. “Mommy, stop. I’m not dirty.” She tried to pull away for the third time, but Rose’s foreleg was already blocking her while she continued to scrub the soft bristled brush down Raspberry’s back.

Rose paused and cradled the long handled brush in her ankle. “You are so very dirty, Raspberry. I have no idea where you found so much mud in Raspberry Punch’s backyard, but...” She sighed. “Did you have fun?” She picked up the brush again.

“It was so much fun!” Raspberry jumped up, smacking the brush and splashing about in the ankle deep water. “Redbrick showed us how his daddy makes bricks. Mrs. Punch helped a little.”

“She did?” Her jaw hurt where Raspberry had twisted the brush, but it was nothing new, and she’d learned to not try holding onto the brush when her daughter bucked about in the tub—after a visit to Zecora for a chipped tooth.

“Yeah! She got us a tub and everything. Then—” Raspberry reared up, pausing dramatically. “—Redbrick made a brick!”

Rose held up a foreleg against the following splash. “What about you? Did you make any bricks?” She paused to dig a hoof through the muddy water, looking for the bottle of mane-conditioner that had disappeared in the murk, an early casualty of bathtime.

“I tried. Mrs. Punch called it a pie. I tried to do what he did, but I just made a pie. Mrs. Punch said not to eat it.” The look on Raspberry’s face told Rose what she’d thought of that idea. “It didn’t look very much like Auntie Pie’s pies.” She giggled and splashed in a circle, evading Rose’s attempts to bring the brush back to bear on the worst patches of mud clinging to her coat. “Am I gonna be a pie maker?”

After a solid minute of fishing, with Raspberry’s increasingly agitated attempts to get out of the filthy water stalling her efforts, Rose reached for the No More Mud bottle, instead. That it was floating atop the water said she would have to stop by Barnyard Bargains and get more soon. She only hoped there was enough left to give the little filly the scrubbing she needed.

“Well, for one, pie makers are clean. And you, little lady, are so very dirty.”

Raspberry stopped, a stern look on her face. “I am not dirty. I was dirty. Now I’m muddy.”

Not laughing was one of the hardest things Rose had ever done.

“When you mix dirt and water, you make mud,” Raspberry said, the serious ‘I shouldn’t have to teach you this’ look never leaving her face. Rose fought harder not to laugh. “I was dirty. You made me muddy. With bathtime. So I’m not dirty. Can I get out now?”

Raspberry made several circuits of the bathtub before Rose trusted herself to speak. “Soon, baby.” Holding Raspberry back with one hoof, Rose knocked the drain plug aside to let the filthy water drain. “You are muddy, this is true, but mud is part dirt. So you are still dirty. Just less dirty than before.”

“But...” Raspberry scrunched up her face and stared into the water circling the drain while Rose pulled down the shower wand. “But if I’m less dirty... but still dirty... adding more water will make me more muddy.” She looked up at Rose. “Less muddy is good?”

“Yes. Less muddy is good. But no muddy is better.”

“But I can’t be not dirty and not muddy if you keep adding water!” Raspberry’s grouchy whine drained away the last of Rose’s laughter—the muddy droplets of water everywhere in the bathroom weren’t helping, either.

“Young lady, you are getting a bath, and that’s that.”

“Redbrick didn’t have to take a bath.” Raspberry looked up hopefully, her tail splatting against the side of the tub.

“I saw Redbrick when I picked you up today. Redbrick didn’t take a mud bath like you did.”

“Already had a bath! Mud bath is a bath.” Raspberry tried to climb out of the tub again.

Forgive me father, for I want to scream at your granddaughter. Instead, with her best ‘Mommy is the Ultimate Authority’ look, Roseluck held her squirming daughter in the tub with one hoof while the other kept the shower wand tucked in close.

Raspberry Rose, you are going to sit still and let me give you a bath or there will be no dessert for you tonight.”

That did it. Even through the sulk, Rose saw the fear of losing dessert, and Raspberry sat with a plop in the center of the tub. To take away some of the sting, Rose hummed quietly while she applied the wand to this or that trouble spot of sticky mud and scrubbed it away with the soft brush for her coat, or the rough brush for her tail and mane. Rose’s annoyance faded away as bathtime got calmer and the musical reminder of her mother giving her a bath soothed away the frustrations of bathing a hyperactive young foal.

The pouting look on Raspberry’s face faded away as the water got warmer, thanks to the new water heater they’d saved up all winter for. No more hauling buckets of hot water to the tub.

It was slow to warm up, but the nearby dam provided the power, and she only had to pay a small, flat fee each month for upkeep and maintenance. And it did provide a much, very much, desired luxury right in their home. No more public baths for a hot shower.


“Yes, sweetie?”

“Can you read me a bedtime story tonight?”

Rose paused and turned off the water. “Of course. What would you like me to read?” As if she had to ask. It would be the same story as it had been the last seven nights.

“The Little Filly and the Big Moon!” Raspberry stood up and shook herself all over, spraying Roseluck and the rest of the bathroom with mostly clean water. “But I want dessert first!”

“Dinner first, Raspberry. Then dessert, then bedtime, okay?”

“Dinner, dessert, story, then bedtime.” Raspberry stared up at her, the stern set of her brow demanding, in no uncertain terms, that storytime be included.

“Of course.” Rose bent over to kiss Raspberry on the brow, then covered her with a clean towel. “But first, an attack by the towel monster!”

“No!” Raspberry giggled and squirmed away, only to be attacked again and again by the vicious towel monster until she was dry, and her mane and coat were, if not squeaky clean, shining with a dim lustre if smelling lightly of dirt.

At least tomorrow is not a play day. Another chance to get her clean again.

“...and the little filly looked up at the big moon, shining bright above the broken tower. And she said”

Raspberry yawned and pulled her doll closer. “And she said ‘I will make this my home, because you watch over it every night.’”

“And so she did. Day after day, and night after night, the little filly did her best to make the broken tower less broken.” Rose paused to turn the page, to an illustration done in faded water-color of the little filly carrying a bucket of water to the entrance. “She scrubbed, and she scrubbed until the stone shone bright, and the wood gleamed in the starlight.”

She turned the page again, to another full page illustration of the little filly looking up at the moon beside a still broken, but gleaming clean tower. “When all was cleaned, the little filly looked up at the moon one night and said...”

“She said, ‘I have cleaned the tower from top to bottom, but it is still broken. Moon, what can I do to make it not broken?’” Raspberry reached out to turn the page. She couldn’t read the words yet, but she had heard them often enough that she knew them almost by heart. Most of them. “Mommy, read this?”

“Of course.” Rose was about to continue when Post stuck his head in the door.

“Swift is here.”

“All right. I’ll be down in just a few minutes.”

“Okay.” Post stepped in further and kissed Raspberry on the forehead. “I’ll come tuck you in after mommy is done reading your story, okay?”

“Okay, daddy.” She held out the doll. “Kiss Patchy goodnight, too?”

Post smiled as he did so, then tousled Rose’s mane. “Come down when you’re done. I’ll have a pot of Prench coffee and cream ready.”

After he’d left, Rose picked up the book again and coughed. “The moon looked down on the little filly, and shone her light inside the tower. The moon liked what she saw. The little filly had done well to make the broken tower more like a home.” She turned the page again, to a montage of images. “The splinters weren’t splintery. The jagged stones weren’t jaggy. The creaking steps weren’t creaky. The filthy bed was clean.”

On the next page, there was a picture of a tall alicorn, looking almost like Luna. “The moon came down to thank the little filly for all the work she had done. She said, ‘Thank you, little filly, for making my once home more like home. But I must ask, why?’”

“The little filly looked puzzled. She had never asked herself why she had done all that she did. She had done it because there was something in the stones of the broken tower. Something she had seen while cleaning came back to her, and she rushed to get it. It was a book. She laid it out in front of the moon princess, and said, ‘Because there was love here. I felt it in the stones. In the splinters. In the steps. I felt it in the book.’”

Rose turned to the second to last page. “The little filly opened the book to the first page and read the first words. ‘To my little sister, Luna. May this tower of the moon be a home away from home.’ The little filly looked up, but the moon princess was gone. But in the sky, far, far away, she saw a twinkle in the eye of the Mare of the Moon.

“The end.”

“No...” Raspberry yawned again, her eyes barely opened. “Not the end...”

“It’s the end for tonight.” Rose smiled and kissed Raspberry on the forehead. “We’ll finish tomorrow.”


“Pinkie promise.” Rose held a hoof to her eye. “Go to sleep, sweetie.”

As she left, Rose turned out the light. The memory faded as the lamp’s filament grew dim and went dark, leaving her standing alone in the doorway.

Not quite alone.

At the other end of the hallway, Pinkie sat waiting for her with a wilted rose dangling from her mouth. It fell to the ground, not bouncing as other memories had, but landed limply with its leaves and petals sagging to the floor.

Fear surged through Rose, seizing at her stomach and her heart, warning her to stay away. A warning she ignored. The flood of fragmented memories surrounding her at last settled into place, leaving only a tiny void left in the tapestry of her life. The mystery of what had sent her there was in the darkened petals of the rose laying at Mirror’s feet. It called to her.

“The last one.” Rose stood still in the doorway. On the cusp of remembering everything, fear gnawed at her. “What happens after I remember?” She looked up at Mirror, staring at her.

“You’ll come back here? Wake up?” Uncertainty twisted Mirror’s smile into a frown. “I don’t know. What I do know,” she said, taking a step over the flower, “is that I am grateful that I had the chance to know you. I won’t forget you.” Her smile came back stronger as she pulled Rose into a hug. “Pinkie Promise.”

“I’m grateful, too.” Rose looked around her, but bit back the bitterness of having missed her child, her husband, and her family. And dad? The missing name on the clipboard felt so long ago, before she’d had her child, before it felt like her life had started anew as a mother. “I won’t forget you, either. You are a true friend. If I don’t see you again...”

“I’ll be watching. Just remember me.” Mirror stepped back over the rose and pushed it along the floor to Roseluck. “Please. I want to feel like I did something. Me. Not Pinkie. I want to feel like I did something important. That I made a difference on my own, and not just because... because...”

“I will remember you.” The last memory lay at her feet, dark, grim, smelling of a late fall rain. And blood. Rose shuddered, steeling herself, and inhaled the metallic, sticky scent.

“Raspberry, stay close to me, okay? I don’t want to have to chase you all over the market.” Roseluck waited until Raspberry nodded, then started up the hill to the market with her flower cart in tow.

Raspberry was pushing her own little cart, not even half-full of ripe raspberries and Patchy, stuffed into the front seat of the little cart, one of her birthday gifts from Golden Harvest and Applejack.

“Yes, mommy.”

“Good girl. We’ll have fun today, okay?” Rose walked slowly while Raspberry struggled to keep the push-cart straight. She wasn’t old enough to bear a harness, and Roseluck was reluctant to fit her for one so young.


“Yes, Raspberry?”

“Do you think ponies will buy raspberries, too?”

“What do you want to try and sell your raspberries for?”


Rose looked over her shoulder at the covered chalkboard with her prices artfully drawn in different shades of chalk. “You could let me sell them with my flowers. What do you think about that?”

Raspberry stared for a long while into the small pile of berries sitting in a scrap of burlap lining the bottom of her wagon. They were almost up the hill and to the market when she looked up again at the sign on the side of Rose’s cart.

“Yes.” She stared at the sign for a little longer, then nodded. “I want berry, and flowers, and bits.” Smiling, Raspberry pushed her cart a little faster to Rose’s normal spot. “Mommy, can you put the berries on the sign?”

“Of course.” Rose maneuvered her cart under the awning already in place and kicked the brakes on. “Just give me a moment to get set up, okay?”

“Can I help?” Raspberry pushed her wagon under the rear axle of Rose’s and deliberately set the brake.

Good. She learned from last time. “Of course you can, sweetie.” Rose looked around, then pointed to the wooden brake-blocks resting against the flagpole. “Can you pull those over here?” Drawing the raspberries in red chalk on her blackboard took just a moment, and she wrote ‘With every rose and calla lily’ next to it.


Rose looked up. Raspberry was backing away from the wooden blocks, swarming with little insects. She trotted over to take a closer look. Termites. Darn it, Caulie! She sighed and shook her head, then dragged the wooden blocks off into the grass by their rope handle and tapped her hoof on them.

They were still solid, and the termites hadn’t done more than inspect the new food source, but Rose left them sitting in the grass. It’d been marked for food, and Rose would rather buy a new set herself than bring termites back home.


“Just a moment, dear.” Rose bent down to look more closely at the wood. Mold spots were covering one end, darker than they had been last week. “This is the third time this month, Caulie. Can’t you just hang them up?” she grumbled under her breath. She would have to talk to the market coordinator about getting new blocks for her stall and just take them home with her.

“Mommy!” The note of rising panic in Raspberry’s voice tore her attention away from the stops, and she jerked around, and stopped. Roiling black clouds stretched across a horizon that had been bright and sunny a minute before.

Everfree storm! Bright spots against the clouds were led by a rainbow streak dashing from spot to spot, attempting to hold back the massive storm while other, dimmer specks moved at a snail’s pace.

“Come on, Raspberry!” Rose dashed to her daughter and pushed her away from the cart and awning just as a massive blast of wind swept over the buildings, sending dust and twigs flying along with a blizzard of leaves through the market square.

“Mommy! Patchy!”

“We’ll come back later, Raspberry. We need to go to shelter!” Thunder rumbled, and lightning flickered across the leading edge of the storm. Rose saw Post then, dashing into the square, his tail flying and his uniform flapping in the wind.

He was shouting something. Rose pushed Raspberry forward, “Stay with me!” she screamed over the wind. Another crack sounded, closer. Rose cast about for an open doorway. Sugarcube Corner had its doors opened and ponies were crowding inside. Rose pointed at the building and looked pointedly at Post. He was staring at her in open-mouthed horror, a hoof pointed at her.

Rose staggered as the world jumped wildly, and took another step forward, almost stepping on a long, wooden pole laying on the ground.

Why is the flagpole—

The world tilted again, more slowly, and dusty dirt filled her nose. Post was running towards her. She could see him as her vision faded and the world grew darker. No! Get to shelter! The thought felt fuzzy, like her head and her body.

Why can’t I move? Rose tried to stand up, but her legs didn’t want to do anything. She couldn’t feel them. Her head spun and her vision narrowed further. Raspberry was crying.

She could hear her baby crying.


“Stay with me!”

Mirror flinched at the frantic, commanding tone, but Roseluck’s eyes were staring elsewhere—glazed over and unseeing. Why shelter? The empty market square suggested nothing dangerous going on, and Roseluck’s hoof had pointed at the one place she couldn’t, she wouldn’t go.

“Please don’t go there, Rose. I know I said I’d stay with you, but I can’t go in there.”

Rose didn’t answer; instead, she staggered, her head dipping wildly. A half step, a stumble over nothing Mirror could see, and then she collapsed and lay unmoving in the middle of the square.

She’s going to wake up.

Mirror waited patiently, watching Rose’s chest rising and falling—growing slower and slower the longer Mirror watched each one. The pause between each breath dragged on like the interminable silence that waited for her as soon as she was alone again. But just when she thought it was the last, and Rose would fade away, another punctured her expectations.

But Rose didn’t wake, and she didn’t try to get up again.

“Wake up!”

Rose didn’t move. The not quite silence, punctuated only by the steady breathing, pressed in around Mirror. What had been bearable in absolute silence was grating when she was aware, acutely, of every small sound that her friend made.

“I liked it better when I could imagine that you were talking to me, and I could talk back, even if...” Mirror shook her head. “Even if you never replied quite the way I expected, it felt like I was a part of your life.”

Now, with you just laying there, it feels like I really am alone. “Why aren’t you moving? Shouldn’t you be at the hospital?” Rose’s still body made no response and did nothing more than breathe.

“Well... of course she’s not going to move, silly.” Mirror sighed. “She must be unconscious in her memory.” How that worked escaped her. “Come on. I know where you end up next.”

Three dozen breaths. Mirror counted each one as she dragged Rose over to a wall and propped the limp body up long enough to settle across her back, then caught Rose’s tail in her mouth to keep her from sliding off, and began the arduous journey through town up to the hospital.

The spirits of other ponies were still there, wandering aimlessly through what Mirror could only imagine were the last memories of their lives—endlessly repeating the same actions over and over. Their faces remained indistinct, and if they noticed Mirror at all, they gave no indication.

Through the lobby, down the wide halls, and finally up the steps she went. Throughout all the jostling, and the one time Rose slipped off Mirror’s back, the rhythm of her breathing never changed.

“Four hundred and ninety nine...”

In the hospital room on the second floor, the details had changed since she’d last been there. Different flowers sat in the vases, subtly different from before, and the rose bush outside was starting to bloom. The bed lacked sheets still, but there was an impression forming in the padding—as of a body that had lain in the same position for a long time.

Rose breathed in, then out as Mirror pushed her body into the shallow trough in the center of the bed.

“Five hundred.”


“Rose?” Mirror peered into her friend’s eyes, watching as the glaze faded away, and those green eyes focused on her.


“I’m here.”

“I thought... I thought I wouldn’t be back—” Rose’s eyes flicked away from Mirror to track around the room. “This isn’t where I was in my memory...” She lifted a leg and shook it. “It tingles. And I can almost smell...” A deep breath, then another, and Roseluck looked around. “It smells so wonderful!”

Roseluck closed her eyes, took another deep breath, and vanished.

It was as though a bubble popped.

“Roseluck!” Mirror leapt at the bed, pressing her hooves where Rose had been. “Rose...”

Silence settled around her, thick and uncompromising. Complete.

“When you remember me... please smile. When you see them again... smile at them for me. Please.” She waited, staring at the place her friend had been, where she hoped Rose was waking up in another world.

“Smile for me.”

“...and the little filly looked up at the moon one last time, and said ‘My name is Cadance. What’s yours?’ The moon gave no answer, but the little filly, Cadance, didn’t need one. The tower was her new home. It was a home built with love.”

Mirror? Rose tried to open her eyes. Darkness greeted her, and she wasn’t certain her eyes were open. There was something soft covering them, but her legs felt too stiff to move, as though she hadn’t moved them in a long time.

Other sensations filtered in. The weight of a blanket covering her, the smell of freshly laundered linen, and the smell of flowers. Sounds, too, reached her, muffled as Mirror’s voice had been. Cart wheels on wood, birds chirping, the wind blowing gently.

Is this another memory?

She waited, growing more and more certain that it was not a memory. Never before had she been aware of her self in the memories, only the past events rolling over her like a new reality.

“Mirror?” Her voice sounded nothing like her own. Cracked and whispery, she barely heard it herself. Even trying to speak woke a raw, rasping ache in her throat.

“Rose?” Mirror’s voice, or Pinkie’s, sounded full of incredulous wonder. “Rose, are you awake?”

Her throat bound tighter, and all the pain in her body came crashing down atop her. She welcomed it. She was awake. She wasn’t dead. I can see them again! Too much. It was too much to take in.

She sobbed, and felt warm tears pressing against her eyelids.

“Oh! Oh my gosh! Don’t move! I’ll be right back!” The sound of thudding hooves, a door crashing open, and excited cheering echoed back to her along with more voices, some shouting, others laughing, and then another voice, clearer and closer came to her.

“Rose, if you can hear me, try to move your legs.” That voice, I know that voice. Redheart’s hoof touched her nose, hard but warm, and smelling faintly of disinfectant.

Stiff muscles, and stiffer tendons, protested her first attempt. Her legs were so weak she doubted she could lift a flower, much less the sheet. But she managed, shifting her hoof against the bed once, then again as the stiffness began to subside. She was alive, and the world was no longer empty and quiet. Moving her leg was only a small obstacle.

“Oh, Rose! You can hear me!”

Still unable to see, Rose licked her lips and tried to blink.

“Don’t try to open your eyes.” Redheart’s voice turned more clinical—professional—despite the quaver that hovered on the edge of each syllable.

Roseluck felt hooves straightening her too weak legs, then brush against whatever was over her eyes.

“You have... you have a bandage over your eyes to keep them from drying out. I can take it off, but it’s going to be very, very bright. Can you try moving your hooves again?”

The task was less overwhelming than it had been a moment ago, and she even moved a hind leg, tapping a hoof against the end of the bed. I’m alive!

“Good! Dr. Axon will be by as soon as he can to check in on you.”

Fighting the rasp in her throat and the dryness of her tongue, Rose forced herself to speak. “Eyes. Please.”

“I don’t know, Rose. Dr. Axon will want to—”

Rose moved her foreleg more urgently, and curled her hoof around Redheart’s. “Please.”

“Okay, okay. Just relax. You’ve been in a coma for almost—” Redheart’s teeth clicked shut over whatever else she was going to say. “Just a moment.”

Warm breath touched her cheek, then there was a sliver of light, dark red, as a pressure she hadn’t been aware of until it was gone loosened. Even that much color was welcome. No longer shades of grey and black, there was color in her world again.

The sliver grew wider as another binding was loosened.

“Keep your eyes closed a moment longer. There’s some gunk I want to wash off first.”

The sliver of dark red widened to fill her vision, and even that much light sent pain shooting through her head. The warmth left her cheek, and the sound of running water came to her.

“You scared us, Rose.” Redheart’s voice sounded from very close, and then a warm, rough, and wet cloth dabbed at her eyes, soaking away the gummy feeling. “The day they brought you in, I was too shocked to be scared for you.” The wet cloth left and came back, wetter and warmer, and the last of the gumminess dissolved away in a trickle of water.

“Very slowly, now.”


“Soon. Try opening your eyes first.”

Brilliant color filled her vision. All of the colors that had been missing assaulted her, gloriously, painfully bright, and all mixed together in a blur that slowly resolved itself into her friend.

Redheart stood not far away, a cloth draped over one hoof. A hopeful smile grew across her muzzle until she laughed. “Can you see me?”

Rose blinked once, and Redheart sharpened into the same image from memories still fresh in her mind. More than that, even the walls, the door, even the ceiling were colorful, bright... alive.

“Raspberry? Post?” Saying their names hurt more than the effort it took to speak them.

“I think Pinkie went to get them.”

Almost as if on cue, the sound of hooves pounding swiftly on hardwood, two sets of hooves on hardwood, echoed down the hall.

Rose was barely able to prepare herself before Pinkie appeared in the doorway, followed a moment later by Post Haste. Two dark pink forelegs were clutched around Pinkie’s neck, and a curly mane of a brighter pink poked above her head.


Two sets of eyes widened when Rose blinked at them, her throat tightening and tears threatening to steal away the most beautiful sight she’d ever seen. She blinked again, and Raspberry’s head appeared over top of Pinkie’s, her eyes widening as she stared.

Help me say something! But her throat wouldn’t work, and the words didn’t come.

Distantly, Mirror’s voice came to her.

“Smile for me.”

Rose smiled.

Epilogue 1: Rose Journals

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Dear Diary.

It’s been so long since I used those words.

Rose stared at the open page of the journal. Her thoughts had been so clear just moments ago, when she decided to start writing down what she was feeling.

Temptation itched at her to flip back and re-read Post’s entries from when she was in a coma. It would be easy to give up on her attempt to remember the last two weeks. Two weeks of recovery, of pains in her heart, and the trials of regaining her strength. Two weeks since she returned from a world devoid of anything except a friend.

Two weeks ago, I woke up. I left behind a friend. I came back to my family.

She stared at the words again. They felt flat, hollow and wholly inadequate to describe that feeling of being reunited with a family that she loved, the family she had seen grow in her memories. But that first day awake... it didn’t seem possible to put into words how she felt. How everything felt rushed, those first moments seeing them, then the hours that passed by as doctors came and went. Hours that passed too quickly.

She bit down on the tip of the pen and shook her head.

I have to remember this... Raspberry recovered first. She looked at her daddy and smiled. “My birthday wish came true.” It was as though those words opened a floodgate of tears. I cried. Post cried on my shoulder, and Raspberry cried, too. I’m not sure she understood why we were, but she was so happy. She missed her mommy.

The words, still shiny and wet, blurred into an incoherent mess on the page. The pen fell from numb lips, leaving a splotch on the page, then rolled to the center and lay still.

“You don’t have to do it all at once.” Post lifted his head from her neck to kiss her ears. “It was a happy day.”

“It was.” Overall, it had been. Waking up to a world that had changed and moved on had come with its bitter surprises. Rose stared at the pen, then at phantom words on the page that she wanted to write, but was afraid of. Maybe if she didn’t write them, she could forget they were true.

She shook her head and picked up the pen again.

Swift came by later in the day, while doctors were off doing whatever it was doctors did to the blood sample they’d taken. She was ecstatic on the surface, and cried as much as I did to see her again. But she was the piece of the puzzle of my life that made the missing piece apparent. Raspberry, Post, Swift... and me. There was a gap that I had been afraid of in the other world, a gap that I could pass off as supposition, or just a fear.

Where was Dad?

“I knew then,” Rose murmured around the pen. “I knew when she showed up, that he was gone. I’m... glad you didn’t tell me right away. I am glad that I had that afternoon to be loved, and to love both of you.”

Raspberry blinked sleepily on the couch, then tucked her nose back under Patchy and fell back to sleep. Outside, the sun was long set, and the moon was rising high into the sky, casting everything in silver shadows. Her mind took away the shadows, leaving everything empty and blank—black, white, and shades of grey.

It lasted only a moment, and then the shadows were back, giving wonderful depth to the fence, the trees, and her neighbor’s house. She leaned back into Post’s embrace, his warmth driving the memories of the empty house farther away, and he kissed her ears again, then her cheek.

“I love you,” he whispered.

It was what she needed to look back to the page, to see the words she wanted to write more clearly. She bent forward again and forced herself to face the grief.

Dad wasn’t there. Post saw it, Swift saw it. They did their best to insulate me from the realization, and it worked. I didn’t want to face it, but it was too late. I knew, and the realization that he wasn’t going to come into the room to surprise me, that he was dead

The pen dropped from her mouth again, and she choked on a bitter sob. Raspberry didn’t need to see her like that.

For Raspberry, Post, and Swift the grief had been months old. For Rose, it was still fresh, and the ache of her father’s absence from her life was a void that memories couldn’t fill—she hadn’t been there, again. She hadn’t gotten to say goodbye. Again. Grief dragged her down and broke open the wound.

“Shhh.” Post pulled her back up, tucked her head under his chin, and rocked her slowly back and forth. “I’m here, Rose. I’m here.”

Raspberry woke up again and dragged Patchy over, curling up against Rose’s flank. “I’m here, too, mommy.”

“I know you are,” she whispered after her sobbing subsided. She sat, cradled against her husband’s chest while Raspberry slept, curled up against her hind leg. “I’m so glad you are.”

We went to Lucky’s grave again today. After last night, I needed to say hello again, and make sure that he was resting comfortably. The stone still haunts me. The epitaph is the same as the one I saw at the start of

“The start of what?” Rose murmured, twisting the pen back and forth between her lips. It wasn’t an adventure; it wasn’t anything she could easily define.

something. The start of something, I guess. I can sometimes still see my name on the stone if I close my eyes. The rose cutting I planted the first time is doing well. A small bud is growing, and her roots are already acclimated to her new home. But I’m not sure if I’ll ever get used to seeing his name where mine was.

Post and Raspberry were with me, but Swift had a job to do, and on such short notice, she hadn’t been able to get away from it. It was Sunday yesterday, not a cloud in the sky, and just enough of a breeze to remind me that whatever I saw, it was real and not just a reflection of reality.

Rose paused to turn the page and start anew.

Raspberry, sitting in the grass not far away, looked up from her hoofpainting. Some of the flour-based paint was on her face, adding just a bit more sunshine to her smile. At her hooves lay a curly scrap of paper with a hydrangea blue sky bleeding into a sunflower sun.

Below, the empty brown space of the paper had yet to be filled in with the other colors in her messy palette.

Rose’s flank had not escaped the mess, sporting a new cutie mark in the shape of her daughter’s hoof, done in dark pink. She looked up at the sun, just as bright as the one on her daughter’s painting.

“You did a good job, sweetie. What else is going to go there?”

Raspberry pursed her lips and stroked her muzzle with a hoof, mimicking Post’s thoughtful pose while her tail flicked through the short grass of their backyard. “Mommy, and daddy,” she said finally, “and grammy and grampy.” She put a hoof in the dark pink flour-based paint and patted out a roughly pony shaped figure into the empty space. “And me!”

“You’ll have to show me when you’re done, sweetie. It’s going to be lovely.” Rose kissed her flour-painted nose, and turned back to the journal.

Post’s absence, and the open page, drew her back to her thoughts.

Post had to go back to work today, now that I can mostly take care of myself. I miss him, but we need the bits. The charity auction bits went into my hospital bill, with enough of the bill left over to mean a month of longer days for Post. It’s a small reminder that life goes on. I will have to keep working on regaining my strength until I can sell at the market again. Sitting outside in the grass helps, and having Raspberry by my side helps even more.

Raspberry, her little Raspberry, was humming happily and patting out the rest of the family onto the paper.

It’s refreshing to have something so normal happening beside me. It feels like life has welcomed me back. There are things that are harder for me to do now, though. Stairs still give me trouble. Dizziness is common going up or down them, and I have to be careful not to turn my head too quickly. My last appointment with Dr. Axon has me believing that it may be a permanent issue. But it still feels like a small price, given that I’m back with my family.

But there’s still a part of my life that’s missing. I think about her, Mirror, less and less. It feels like what we shared in the other world... like it’s drifting away. I don’t know how to stop it. I made a promise, and I feel like I’m on the verge of breaking it.

The words on the page drifted away as Rose closed her eyes, remembering the last moment she saw Mirror. Her smile, the hopeful look in her eyes, and the grief resting just underneath the surface.


Rose set the pen in between the pages of the notebook and closed it. “Yes, sweetie?”

“Why are you crying?”

“Am I?” Her hoof came away damp when she patted her cheeks. “I am...”

Worry creased Raspberry’s brow. “Why?”

Rose pushed the journal to the side. “That’s complicated, my little Raspberry. But if you want to know—”

“I want to help you, mommy.”

The decision to tell her daughter, and to show her, came naturally. It felt right, to share her friend’s tale with a little pony who would understand her. She turned, snagging a scrap of brown paper, and patted her hoof in the light pink pool of paint.

“Let me tell you about a mare, Raspberry.” She traced the outline of her friend, so clear in her memory. “Her name is Mirror...” While she painted a portrait of Mirror on the fresh sheet of paper, she told Raspberry the happy moments she’d spent with Mirror. The sad, she didn’t need to know about—not yet.

Throughout the story, the happy moments of sitting with Mirror, of helping her to see that she was special, Rose’s eyes kept flicking to an empty spot in her garden. It was the central plot, from which her garden spread, the place where she had yet to replant her special rose bush.

Mirror deserved a place in her garden—a special place and a special reminder for her friend.

From Rose.

Epilogue 2: Mirror Dreams

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Mirror sat in a frozen moment of time, staring at the place where her only friend had lain just...

“Just a moment ago? Or an eternity?” She shook her head. None of it made much sense, but even then, it did make a sort of sense.

All around Mirror, the room where Rose had lain was still. If she breathed, or if her heart beat, Mirror didn’t know. She could breathe, but her heart stayed still, silent, and cold.

“But I’m not cold-hearted.” She pressed a hoof to her chest, feeling nothing as she spoke to the stillness. “I loved you, Rose; I hated you for what you showed me, but I loved you for what it meant. I am me.But who am I?

The photographs on the shelf gave no answer, and her tumultuous thoughts were too garbled and fleeting for her to decide. Shaking her head, Mirror reached a hoof to stroke the frame of the photo showing Rose with her family. Raspberry, Post, Swift, and Lucky all sitting around the table with a first birthday cake laid out in front of them. Her hoof covered the one pony in the frame she didn’t want to see.

I’m not you. Not anymore.

“You have such a beautiful family, Rose.” Eyes closed, Mirror perked her ears and imagined what it must be like on the other side. Color pulsed in her mind and, for a moment only, it was as though she were there. “I can almost hear how happy they are to get you back.”

When Mirror opened her eyes again, flowers were everywhere: flowers in vases, flowers in baskets, and smaller bouquets of flowers with cards signed by many ponies that she knew from memories. They said: “Get well soon!” and “We’re thinking of you, Rose!” The rest, she imagined, had similar things written on them.

“Oh, Rose. I’m so glad that everypony is there for you!”

She turned, blinking away happy tears to look at the bed again. Three red roses sat on the bedside table, a splotch of color in the dark. She blinked, and they were gone. “But... they were there.” It didn’t matter. “Maybe I dreamed they were there... or hoped, or... something. But I’m glad that you’re not alone anymore.” I wish I could be there with you.

She squeezed her eyes shut against the traitorous thought. “You don’t belong, Mirror. You—”

“She is real! She matters! Mirror is special to me.” The voice, Rose’s voice, shattered the silence and jolted Mirror out of her self-pity.

“Rose?” The photos were all gone, as were the flowers, and a new trough was forming in the bed.

“Was it a dream? Did I imagine it all?”

Buildings stood empty, stalls untended, and the familiar silence was broken only by the flat sound of her hooves clumping on the cobblestones leading through town. It felt like a dream town should.

Mirror stopped in front of Rose’s stall, empty, and stared at the place she could have sworn a flagpole had once stood. Am I dreaming? Am I really Pinkie, and I’ll wake up, and none of this will exist? I won’t exist?

“No!” Mirror stamped her hoof and turned away to scream: “I’m real!” at the vast, uncaring world.

Her yell vanished into the silence. She said I was real...

“But... have I ever dreamed before?” It felt like an odd question since her memories held plenty of dreams, both good and bad. “Were they my dreams?” Do I deserve to have dreams? Or only this—

It wasn’t a nightmare. It just... was.

None of the buildings she passed held any answers in their windows or doors, only empty silence and the signs of life frozen between one moment and the next. The one building that might have answered her questions, Sugarcube Corner, she only stared at from a distance. It tempted her with answers, taunted her with possibilities, but it held no more terror for her.

Because I am real.

Mirror turned away from temptation, and towards the home of her friend. All around her, the world moved on. Step after step, tiny change after tiny change, it left her behind.

“And why shouldn’t it?” She took one last look at the town she remembered so vividly from another pony’s life. “It was never my home.”

“I’m so glad you’re home, Rose.” The broom in the corner of the front porch had moved, and new straws were stuck into the gap that had once been there. Mirror stopped at the front gate and closed her eyes. The memories of another pink pony swept over her, filling in the grey and emptiness with life and color. Green grass and delicately pink flagstones led up to the front door.

When she opened her eyes again, an afterimage of the color lingered on the house, and sank deeper into the grass and stone. Even through the windows and into the house, where Pinkie had never gone, Mirror could see colors. Faint, to be sure—faint enough that she backed up and looked at other houses up and down the street.

No other house had that same glow—only Rose’s.


The question hung unanswered in the silence.

Step after step, Mirror walked along the path leading behind the house, following the brightest colors. Nameless joy filled her, and the grass grew brighter. Almost, she could smell it under her hooves. But it remained still and frozen.

“Am I dreaming?” Not even the colorful lawn, or the cracked, light cream slats of the house held an answer. The world remained silent, but instead of a cold silence—telling her it didn’t care—the quiet solitude welcomed her.

She belonged. There, in Rose’s garden, she was loved.

Flowers bloomed everywhere. Color and light sprang from every leaf and every petal. Even the morning dew, frozen on the leaves, scattered back light that had no source. Warmth spread throughout her the longer she wandered the short pathways.

“Why? How?” Around and around she went, circling the plot in the center were a large rose bush spread its leaves and opened its blossoms. Every step she took opened them a little more, until she stopped.

“Rose, it’s beautiful. I... how? How am I seeing all of this in color?”

As if in answer, a glimmer of pink at her hooves drew her attention.

At the base of the bush sat a raised, rounded stone. Instead of fine, polished stone, it was rough and held no hint of a reflection, as though it had been freshly hewn from some boulder.

Engraved into it was a message.

“Mirror, I will always remember.”

The words came to her in Rose’s voice, repeated a dozen times, echoing as she brushed a hoof over the words. Her name... the one she’d chosen for herself, the one that had been meant as an insult to herself, had instead been turned into a monument.

“My name meant something else to you, didn’t it? You tried to tell me that my name didn’t mean what I thought. You said that I meant something to you. That I was my own pony. That you were my friend.” Tears pattered down onto the stone, darkening it, making a difference in the pink quartzite. “You meant it.”

Mirror lay down in the garden of color and wrapped a foreleg around the stone.

“Thank you.”

One last time, Mirror closed her eyes, smiling, and laid her head down.

For the first time, she fell asleep.

For the first time, she dreamed.

Rose pondered the dark, wet stain on the quartzite memorial.

“Mirror, I will always remember.” She smiled as she brushed a hoof against the words and gathered her thoughts. Memories of Mirror, of their time together, of the trials they had faced, and of their bonds of friendship swept through her mind and joined with the fresh memories of her family and her friends.

Her magic pulsed into the garden, flowing around and amidst the roots and stems of her flowers, carrying those happy thoughts to sink into the earth.

“I will always remember,” she repeated with a smile and closed eyes, feeling the joyous harmony echoed back to her. “Please remember me, too.”

Almost, she heard a voice echo back the same words, and then the wind shifted and carried the echo away. Rose listened as the wind sighed through her mane, then shook her head. Her family was waiting for her.

She looked back and whispered into the fading wind.

“Smile for me.”