Angels Of Blue

by Dawn Leaper

First published

Because in the end, when all is said and done, grief is the price we all pay for love.

'Unable are the loved to die, for love is immortality.' - Emily Dickinson

Nobody ever told Soarin that grief felt so much like fear.

Some people leave our lives as quickly as they entered. Some people were with us right from the dawning of our existence. Some people leave footprints all over our heart, and change us for the better.

But some people insinuate themselves into the very centre of our hearts, become our whole life, alter the very nature of our souls, and we are never, ever the same again.

They had been together for so long, the prospect of losing her had never really crossed his mind. He couldn't imagine a world without her, it was simply... unfathomable.

But he knew he couldn't stop it from happening.

And he hated that.

A Memory's Keepsake

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Beep... badum. Beep... badum. Beep... badum.

Soarin shifted his head in annoyance. The heart monitor beside the hospital bed filled the restless silence of the room with an endless disturbing sound that droned on forever.

But then again, he supposed. It was comforting, in a way. Knowing that his wife's heart was still beating. For in the bed lay a slender pegasus mare, the hospital sheets moving slightly with every rise and fall of her chest, two blue wing spayed out gently behind her.

Soarin reached over to brush a lock of silvery hair out her face. It used to be a red, the most vivid shade. He touched it for a moment, marvelling at how even now, seventy-eight years later, it was still as soft as the day he had married her.

Dash's eyelids fluttered open as she felt around for his hoof, detaching it from her forehead and clasping it weakly between her hooves. She sighed contentedly, finding her husband's gaze. And although her hair had dulled, and her face had wrinkled, mapping out the planes of her features, her eyes, Soarin noticed with a sad smile, had never lost their sparkle.

Sometimes when ponies grew older, their eyes became dull and empty, faded shells that sunk tiredly into the skull. But Dash's eyes had remained a bright magenta all her life, sharp and playful.

After all, Soarin mused sadly, the eyes were the window to the soul.

He turned towards the door as he heard it creak open, a young doctor stepping through with a solemn expression on his face.

"Doctor Chiron," Soarin said, turning anxiously in his seat.

"Ah, Commander Skies..." the doctor spoke quietly, before hesitating. "Yes, if I may speak to you outside..."

Soarin frowned. "If you please, Doc, whatever you need you need to tell me, you can say it to both of us."

The doctor froze at the door, his expression blank and unreadable. The tension smothering the room seemed to suffocate Soarin as a sliver of doubt pierced his heart, like a needle, small and barely noticeable but harshly painful nonetheless.

Doctor Chiron sighed. His closed his eyes briefly, taking a small breath. He hated breaking this kind of news.

"I'm afraid... I'm afraid that there is nothing much more we can do to improve the condition of Commander Dash. This... this might be it."

And as those four words left the doctor's mouth, Soarin's the world slowly started to come crashing down.

Soarin was silent for a moment as he processed what had just been said to him. "No. No, no, there much be something you can do? A spell or something? Have you tried everything?" He struggled.

"I'm sorry, sir, we've tried everything. Healing charms, pneumonic jinxes, revitalising spells. It's simply not sustainable."

"I... I..."

"Soarin..." a faint whisper came from the mare in the bed. Soarin's eyes snapped towards his wife as all his attention was immediately focussed on Dash.

She smiled up at him wanly, consciously making an effort to open her eyes.

"Soarin... it's my time... to go."

"Stop. Don't say that. Look, I'll call Twilight, she'll come and have a look at you, it'll be fine don't worry-" Soarin was faintly aware of his wings shaking, the floor feeling precarious beneath his feet, and the gentle click of the door shutting behind them.

"Soarin... you listen... to me... please." Dash attempted to calm him down, her voice like sandpaper.

Her husband grew silent, grey eyebrows knitting together as his whole body trembled.

"I need you... to be... brave... for me." Dash started gently, the effort of talking causing her throat to burn. "I need... you to... promise me something. Will you... do that?"

"No, stop. Stop it. Don't talk like that."

"Why... not?" Dash raised an eyebrow gently.

"Because that's how people talk when they think they're going to die!"

Soarin's eyes shut as she said the word he had be avoiding for so long. Dying. Death. She had been ill for a long time. His wife was silent beside him.

"But you're not going to, Dash, don't be ridiculous. I won't let you. We'll find a way, we always find a way- we have to, Twilight will-" Soarin replied, almost angrily.

His wife chuckled, before coughing. "Oh, still as... stubborn... as ever."

Soarin glared. "Dash... Dash, please take this seriously-"

"I am."

"Then why... why..."

"Because... I'm not afraid of... dying. It's not the opposite of life, you silly doofus... it's a part of it."

They had been together for so long, the prospect of losing her had never crossed his mind. He couldn't possibly imagine a world where he lived without his exciting, full-of-life, spunky wife. It just wasn't... fathomable.

She, being the athlete she was, had outlived all of her friends. Fluttershy had gone first, followed by Pinkie three years later. Rarity had passed on five years ago, and Applejack just last year. And Twilight... well, she had always said immortality was both a blessing and a curse.

He had witnessed Dash's change over the past decade as she had lost friend after friend. Slowly, she started to smile less. And although she was by no means depressed- her family kept her in good spirits- Soarin knew that that were both getting older.

He felt something hot, wet and painful squeak out if his ear and run down his cheek. His wife wiped it away with a shaking hoof.

"No, no, no, no, no. Dash, I can't lose you, I can't- please, just hang on for a little longer, okay? You can't go now... you can't... I can't..."

Dash waited patiently as her husband melted into her shoulder, rubbing his back comfortingly as he shuddered with raw, ugly sobs.

"Hey..." she whispered, her voice barely audible. "Hey. Look at me. Goddammit, Soarin, look at me."

He directed his gaze up, eyes red and gleaming with tears.

Dash smiled, her eyes bright and soft. "I'm old, Soarin. I've had a long life. I've gotten to see my children grow up. I've had to watch all my friends go before me. And you... you have made my life more incredible then I ever could have imagined."

Soarin couldn't talk, only wipe away the tears that now cascaded violently down his cheeks, relentless and unswerving on their warpath.

Dash spoke again, the strain of it causing her voice to crack. "I have no regrets. None. I've made my mark on this world, Soarin, and that's all I can ask for."

And truly... she had. She was one of if not the most memorable pegasi to ever grace the skies of Equestria. As a Wonderbolt, she had broken countless records. As an Element, she had physically saved the entire world multiple times, Loyalty in the essence.

And most importantly, as a mother, she had been the best role model, the fearless leader, the bravest protector. She had been the teacher of lessons that had armed their children with the ability to face life and it's challenges head-on.

She had dipped her wings into the branches of Fate itself, and carved her own destiny. Because for Dash, nothing was impossible.

Soarin's mother had always said that what you do for yourself dies with you. In the end, fame and glory and money cease to matter. But what you do for the world around you... that remains forever.

"My life... wasn't perfect," she whispered, eyes twinkling, "but when is anything? Knowing my luck, I'm just thankful... I didn't get... decapitated by a stray frisbee... or... something..."

She smiled as she felt a tiny, reluctant snort against her shoulder. "I'll get... to see my friends again... and mom and dad... and the rest of the Bolts..."

"But what about me?" He mumbled amidst amidst the tears dripping down his face. "I need you."

"Oh, Soarin," she breathed, "you don't need me."

"Yes I do," he murmured back fiercely, "I need you more that you could ever know."

Dash's smile wavered. "You are stronger than you think, love. You might not realise now... but deep, deep down... you're the bravest person I know. You have Prism... and Sunny... and Dawn. You have so many... wonderful ponies... in your life..."

"And yet, I'm losing the most important one-"

Dash shook her head fondly. "Oh, my love. You're not losing me. Surely... you know better... than that."

She coughed, pain seizing her trachea. When she drew her hoof away from her mouth, the cyan blue was stained with speckles of scarlet.

Soarin opened his mouth to protest, but Dash's look silenced him. It was a look he knew well, a look he had seen an immeasurable number of times before. A look that said stop. Let me talk.

"'l'll be here," she tapped his head, "in them," she said, gesturing to the photograph of their children on her bedside table, "but most importantly... I'll be in here."

She raised a wingtip and tapped it gently to his chest, feeling the warm, solid heartbeat underneath.

"No matter how far away from you I am, Soarin... you'll never lose me. Nobody... nobody is actually dead until the ripples they create fade away... I'll never be gone unless you let me be..."

Soarin breathed out softly, finally meeting her gaze. And although his eyes were red and shining and filled with despair, there was a small glimmer of acceptance in the green depths.

His Dash was the most remarkable person he had ever know. Ever. She was the largest presence in his life, his rock and tether for eighty-four years they had known each other. She had given him the most precious things he had: his children, his family, but most importantly, her heart.

And her unwavering loyalty created the frameworks on which they established the foundations of a beautiful, beautiful thing.

Their children had seen the way their mother looked at their father, protectively, seen the way their father cared for their mother, the way he had never had eyes for anyone else, seen the teasing and playful way they demonstrated their love for each other. They had seen what it looked like to be so completely, unconditionally, timelessly devoted to another person, and in turn had set the bar for their own relationships, striving to replicate the strength of their parents.

He couldn't bear to lose her.

But he knew he must.

Soarin would crush mountains for Dash. He would fly to the ends of Equestria and back, twice, ten, a hundred times if he had to. He would change the winds and light the sky and bring cliffs to their knees to protect her, to keep her safe, with him. But now, she was being taken from him by an unhaltable force of nature.

And there was nothing he could do about it.

He was... he was really going to lose her...

Something inside Soarin broke.

Something that had been fraying for a long time beforehand, ever since his wife was diagnosed with the new variant of severe Feather Flu.

Before, he had been shed tears of denial. Tears at the idea of losing her.

But now... now all he could do was make the most of what he had left with her.

As the day droned on, people came to visit. Friends, family, his brothers, Scootaloo. Their children, most importantly. With their own families to look after, they hadn't been able to stay by their mother's side 24/7 like Soarin had, but they all came in now, followed by his grandchildren and in-laws, all of them bearing similar expressions of devastation.

And they told stories, stories from Dash's life, stories from her adventures, the big ones and the small ones, stories they knew well for she was the one who told them.

Their children spoke fondly of how she used to reprimand them as small foals, how instead of punishing them by taking away toys or bedtime privileges, she would make them fly laps around the house until their wings ached, for even when they were naughty she strove to build them into better ponies.

Applebloom, greying and wrinkled, spoke of how Dash had made a beautiful speech praising the groom at Applejack's wedding to Thunderlane, and then, right at the end, said 'Dear Celestia, I thought we were talking about Rumble. I take it all back.'

Scootaloo had remember how her coltfriend, Rumble himself, and his elder brother had roared out with laughter, whereas Applejack, although had mirth in her gaze, was none too pleased.

Or how she used to take their family away on 'exotic' holidays to camp by the fields of the Everfree Forest, or up to Prance, and had horrified passerbys by shouting 'Je vois du sang sur les pavés! Vive la résistance!'

And they all chuckled, and Dash, who was too tired to laugh, smiled and grasped Soarin's hoof tighter. And then when friends trickled away and it was only family who remained, Dash, exhausted from comforting her husband earlier, managed to murmur 'I love you...' to the four pegasi huddled around her bed, the four who had become her life the moment they entered it.

And they stayed with her, right until the very end, right by her side. Soarin was with her through sickness and health, like he promised so many years ago. He clutched her hoof and rested his head on her chest, listening reverently to her final heartbeats as if it was the most beautiful symphony ever to grace his ears.

She didn't say anything, and all he did was murmur again and again those three little words that held such great meaning. Because all through their lives, although those three words were said often in their household, it had never been said with anything less than the intensity it held when when first uttered them to each other.

"I love you."

"I love you."

"I love you."

And Soarin didn't cry anymore. He was strong for her, for their children. Dash didn't want to go seeing him crying.

So he blinked back the tears that were constantly battling to fall, and whispered sweet nothings into her ear, and kissed her cheek and her lips and her wing tenderly, for the last time.

For the last time.

They say that when you are about to die, your entire life flashes in front of your eyes. The only thing Soarin could think about was their life together.

He would always remember the expression she bore as she realised he was proposing. How breath-takingly beautiful she had looked on their wedding day, walking down the aisle like an angel sent from above. The look on her face as they met their eldest son for the first time, and the unfaltering stares of wonder that their next two children received. Watching their children achieve their dreams, watching her achieve her dreams. The feel of her breath on his neck and her lips on his. Her passion, her joy, her laugh.

The way she raced through the sky, unstoppable, like time itself, thundering on with the power and grace and beauty of the force of nature itself. As if all the wind and light and speed had been condensed into one incredible pegasus.

She had flown until her deathbed. Flying was her life. Teaching her children how to fly had been one of her joys. Ensuring her legacy in Prism, supporting Sunny, inspiring Dawn.

How she had always worn her wedding ring, and had never taken it off, not once.

She had always been strong for him. It was his turn now.

So the tears refused to fall. There was a ghost of a smile on Dash's face. She could finally rest. As she slowly diffused into unconsciousness, her lips shaped their names, soundless, calling them to her one last time. The names of those closest to her heart. 'Soarin, Prism Dart, Sun Sweeper, Dawn Leaper'...

And as Dash's eyelids sank shut slowly, and she melted into her final breaths, a whisper escaped her mouth.

"I'll see you on the other side..."

And it was only when the heart monitor fell slack and her chest stop rising and her pulse went silent did Soarin finally weep, agonised, distraught weeps, raw and ugly and heartbroken, gazing at her face and wishing her to wake up, to mend him, heal him like she always did.

He was a broken stallion.

She was gone.

And he could never get her back.

A Dream Is A Wish Your Heart Makes

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Star light, star bright,
First star I see tonight,
Wish I may, wish I might,
Have this wish I make tonight.

Swing you low or high away,
Burn you hot or dim,
My only wish I dare not say-
Lest you should grant me him.

The moon shone mournfully in the sky, flickering through the dark clouds that cast greying shadows over the skies.

Soarin Skies sat on his bed, thinking, unable to sleep. Like he had every night for the past seven months.

The bed had only one inhabitant instead of two for the past seven months.

And it had been the same thing, night after night after night. He could only dream about one person.

She ran through his thoughts every night. Every quiet moment, every breath of silence, in the late hours of the night and the early hours of the morning and the persistent thudding of the scalding waterdroplets in the shower that allowed his mind to zone out and wander.

He thought about her in the space between seconds.

She was like his map, his lantern, his lighthouse. Every decision he made in life was guided, influenced in a way by her, consciously or unconsciously, actively or passively, she permeated every aspect of his life in the best way possible.

And without her, without her reliability and partnership and companionship, he was like a pilgrim, stranded with no direction, lost and paying the penance, like walking over broken glass.

Every step he took forward hurt.

Every time he woke up, and the realisation that the left side of the bed remain cold and empty forevermore.

Every long night spent alone, without the comforting presence of a warm body next to his, reaching across the bed each morning for the next three years expecting to find her there, but only grasping cold air.

Every day that he dragged himself out of bed, fought the desire to stay within the sheets, made himself productive, even if it was just sitting outside for a while, or calling one of their children for a chat.

Because he had promised her he'd keep going. He had promised. And Soarin was never one to break a promise, especially not to the mare he loved.

And by God, he had loved her. He loved her still.

Because when you love someone, they become a part of who you are. And Soarin would always remain true to himself. She was in the air he breathed and the things he did and the memories that ran through his head. Her touch burnt his skin, but he loved of it, the feel of it, because it stayed there, it left a mark, a memory. Her laugh rang constantly in his ears and her voice in his mind.

He knew her good dreams because they were his, he knew her nightmares because they harrowed his heart. And she wasn't perfect, but he knew her flaws, and he loved her even the more for them, because that was made Dash herself.

He had been trusted with all the shadows of her secrets, every contour of her face, and image that was permanently etched behind his eyelids every time he laid down the sleep was of her, his Dash.

She changed the very nature of his soul.

The only thing Soarin could think about was their life together. How the moonlight used to shine in her eyes and turn them a different colour. The flood of emotion in his chest when he realised, for the first time, that he was catastrophically in love with her, the potency of the feeling almost painful, tinged with a bright sweetness, like licking honey off a knife.

He missed her so much it felt like the breath was being crushed out of him every time he tried to smile.

And sometimes the room felt like it was collapsing and the walls were closing in and all the world was against him, and he had to get free.

So, like the night he proposed, he escaped through his window, away from sleep and sorrow, away from the challenge of having to wake up again.

The sky, like it was for countless others of his kind, was his salvation.

He sought his refuge in the vastness of it, the glorious expanse of space, the freedom.

He could breathe.

Up and up and up he climbed, higher and higher, breaths becoming increasingly laboured. He remembered when he was a young stallion, and he could sky-rocket directly upwards with ease.

He flew until he burst through the final layer of cirrus clouds, and the dark space above him was loud with a quiet emptiness. He had always marvelled how transcendental the night sky looked from up here, as if he could reach out a wing and burn his feathers in the fiery scintillations.

Landing on one of the denser-looking clouds, Soarin folded his wings gently and exhaled slowly. It was so silent up here; the only things he could here were his own breaths and the thudding of his heart in his ears.

He lay down, missing the warm body that was usually tucked neatly under his wing.

And he cried.

Oh, his Dash and her eyes like dark rowan berries, her laugh like broken wooden windchimes, her voice raspy and familiar. What would he do to kiss her one more time, embrace her in his arms, sculpt her limbs, trace the planes of her features with his hooves.

And he shook with emotion, the sheer ferocity of grief he felt with each and every second he remained alive on this Earth. He couldn't see the sun over the horizon, couldn't see the light at the end of the tunnel. Giving up almost seemed like the easier option. The more selfish option.

With weary eyes, red and sore from tears shed, he peered through his lashes up at the stars. They were dizzying, like little pieces of Heaven that had scattered into celestial fragments of fire. Something bright and falling streaked across the sky, fading as quickly as it had appeared. It was quickly followed by another, and another, and another.

A meteor shower.

'When you wish upon a star,' Dash whispered knowingly to a little Prism, who lay snuggled beneath her wing as the family watched the stars fall on a cloud outside their house, 'you must never, ever, ever tell anyone your wish. Do you know why?'

'Why, mommy?' Prism, when he had still been 'uncool' enough to call her 'mommy', had giggled back.

'Because if you speak your wish aloud, it will never come true.' She finished conspiratorially, bopping him lightly on the nose.

Meteor showers were rare, Soarin knew. Perhaps it was a sign. Perhaps he was being foolish. Wishing for something he knew could never come true.

But the stars were full of magic, and Luna worked in mysterious ways.

Just once, he told himself. Only once would he allow himself to dare to dream.

Please, he begged in his head, I wish to talk to her just one more time. Just once. Even in a dream... he prayed so hard, as if by pure mental prowess he could will his wish into reality.

Soarin wasn't quite sure when his eyes had drifted shut, but the darkness was inviting, soothing, even. Grieving was an exhausting pastime. He felt his body relax, his heartbeat slowing and his breathing rate decreasing as a powerful wave of drowsiness washed over him. No matter how much he dreaded it, he could resist sleep no more.

A dream is a wish your heart makes.

And Soarin's heart wished for one thing more than anything else in the world.

I'll Tell You All About It

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Oft when the solemn, dreamy Night flings wide,
The star-clasped splendour of thy mystic page,
She reads me tales unheard by all beside,
Secrets of many a past and future age.

She tells me how the Undying Poet wrote,
Upon His boundless blue in words of fire,
Whole through the ecstatic air was heard to float,
The burning praise of every angel's lyre.

It is a promise of eternal bliss,
Of light and life and love beyond the sky.

'Oi, Soarin,' a whispered voice echoed around him. 'Wake your lazy flank up, you idiot.'

Soarin groaned and mumbled incoherently, rolling over. He was lying on something soft, and he could feel the sun's mellow warmth kiss his back. The cloying air ruffled his mane and feathers in a soft breeze, smelling of freesia, and jasmine.

And then a new aroma wound its way into his nose, a distinct, painfully familiar scent, that smelt like cinnamon and chilli and green apples, sweet and spicy and crisp all at once.

A raspy laugh rang through his ears, which perked up so fast they nearly ripped off his head.

Soarin's eyes burst open.

It couldn't be...

It took him a moment to process where he was. It was some kind of long hall, with no exit or entrance or windows. Long, arching voussoirs stretched up into the ceiling, fading into thin, trailing landskeins.

It was clear that they were in the sky, for the walls were composed of languidly oscillating clouds that surrounded them from every angle, and a circular light source directly in front of him, that seemed to be a tunnel of sorts, illuminated the fluffy structures, casting a golden glow around the open space.

The sky broke through the wispy clouds overhead, punctuating the cushioned space with sprinkles of cornflower blue.

Near the tunnel of forever-light, which burnt like the sun in the sky, was an old oak desk, vacated, a long wheel of parchment attached to a typewriter.

And on the list, which sprawled down the desk and on into the hall's misty floor, were names. Lots and lots and lots of names, each typed neatly in black ink, and next to them, with what Soarin could see from his limited perspective, was what looked like dates.

He pulled himself onto his feet, squinting into the light source and shading his eyes as it grew brighter and brighter. Suddenly, the light refracted into shards of dimmer light, and Soarin rubbed his eyes as a blurry figure crossed the horizon.

Slowly, as his eyes adjusted to the fluctuating levels of light intensity, he started to be able to make out a firmer shape from the figure.

In his heart, he knew who it was, anyway.

It was a mare, her stature slender and wings long, keen and gleaming, bending the light in thousands of different directions. Her coat was a lustre cyan, melting into gold from the tuscany light that silhouetted her. Her fetlocks were teal, with accents of gold, and the feathers at the end of her wings, her primary and secondary sets of feathers, were gold also.

His heart shattered into a million pieces, like the lightbeams that bounced off her body.

'Rainbow Dash...' he whispered, his voice barely audible. His breath choked up in his chest, and his brain refused to acknowledge what his eyes saw.

And as her face came into focus, and the blinding lights dimmed down, he could see her radiant smile, her bright eyes that seemed to burn with the life of a thousand suns, her mane and tail gleaming in the spectral shards of light.

'I do believe that's my name,' she giggled, and her laugh was like broken windchimes.

Soarin fell to his knees.

'Is it really you?' He asked, every inch of him trembling. He had lain eyes on the only thing he had wanted to see for the past seven months, and yet, the shock had somewhat numbed his system.

She was beautiful, he thought. Of course, she had always been beautiful, he had remarked upon it every day, but the thought struck him like a thunderbolt sent from Celestia herself. It was as if she flown in the divine winds, bathed the rivers of Bellerophon, and a little piece of Heaven had been sewn into her soul.

The gold in her feathers and fetlocks certainly hadn't been there before, and he just noticed the small emblem resting between her eyebrows on her forehead. A silvery pattern of swirls and thin diamonds and lightning bolts and sunbeams and loyalty runes that started at the bridge of her nose and spread into a delicate crystalline-looking pattern.

She was like a goddess, he thought. An angel of blue.

And she radiated a joy, a warmth, a blissfullness. As if she had been told the greatest secret of the Universe, the meaning of life. As if she had everything she could ever want, and more.

But... she was different. Not like he had last seen her. Soarin had wondered if people in Heaven looked like their old selves, or their young selves. And yet, she was just... ageless. Neither old nor young.

But all the glamour and the gold and the aura was stripped away as they locked gazes. She was just... her. Just home. Just comfort. Just love.

Just his Dash.

'Well, duh,' Dash snorted, wrinkling her nose, 'who else could be this awesome?' She added with a wink. 'I mean, check out my cool gold feathers and shit.'

Soarin's mouth curled up into a smile. It really was her.

'DASH!' he exclaimed, sprinting across the cloud to reach her. He could nearly already feel the softness of her fur beneath his hooves, feel her warmth on his neck, smell her sweet, spicy, green apple scent as he buried his muzzle in her mane. Here she was, practically tangible, robust and vivacious and shining with vitality. She was so close-

He slammed into something, hard, and cold, and most definitely solid. 'Ow...' he moaned, rubbing his nose.

When he looked up at his wife again, her smile had faded.

He reached out again, more tentatively this time. It was like there was an invisible wall between the two of them, and when he reached out into the air, a golden pulse of light originating from the place he had touched his hoof rippled across the barrier, revealing it's true, colossal extent.

It stretched and stretched in all directions, infinitely, endlessly, uncrossable.

'Why... why can't I cross it?' Soarin asked, breathing hard.

Dash smiled sadly, and touched her hoof to his on the other side of the wall, a mirror image. Just like his, a ripple of light fluctuated from the point at which she touched the wall, and yet, it remained unmoving.

'It's not your time,' his wife breathed out quietly, 'that's odd.'

'What do you mean, 'it's not my time'?' Soarin asked, 'What is this place, Dash? Why are you here?'

'Thee has't been bestow'd a most wondrous honour,' a creaky voice came from their side. It sounded like an wiry tree swaying in the wind. 'Her Lady Valiance, the Mistress of the Moon, hast answ'r'd thy wisheth. Thee has't an hour to talketh.'

Dash looked to her left hesitantly, at an old, grey pegasus, who's wings faded into a snow white, the same colour as her mane. A pegasus who's silver half-moon spectacles rested placidly on her withered face. A pegasus whose voice spoke of wisdom, whose eyes had seen many things, whose ears had heard many secrets, and whose lips had told none.

A pegasus who definitely had not been sitting at the desk a mere moment ago.

The pegasus nodded, seemingly granting permission, her face expressionless and even a little bored.

'Who is she?' Soarin whispered.

'That's the Soulkeeper, but you can call her Marge,' Dash whispered back, 'this is the Gate,' she gestured to the tunnel of forever-light behind her, 'and I came here to greet you.'

'The Gate?' Soarin asked, 'The Gate to what?'

At that, Dash chuckled. 'Oh, come on Soarin. I know you're no Starswirl the Bearded, but surely even you can figure this one out.'

Something clicked inside Soarin's head. 'This is the gate... to Heaven?'

'Bingo,' Dash grinned, before her smile faded, 'although I have no idea what you're doing at the Gate if you're not dead.'

'Did you know I wasn't dead?'

'Of course I did.' She rolled her eyes, in a fondly exasperated manner. 'I've been watching you every day, Soarin. I always know what you're doing.'

Soarin's heart warmed a little at that.

'Why are you at the Gate?' Soarin asked, lifting an eyebrow. Surely dead people stayed in Heaven?

'Like I said, to greet you. Make sure you don't freak out and lose your shit at being dead. Although most people don't, Queen Fausti says it's being given a familiar face in the time where everything seems unknown that calms people down. She choses one person to greet the new soul.'

'How does she know who to choose?'

Dash shrugged. 'She just does.'

Soarin and a million questions. Who was Queen Fausti? Had she seen her family? What about their friends? How many people were there in Heaven?

Eventually, he settled on 'Who greeted you?'

Dash smiled, chuckling a little. 'Silver. I came to the Gate, and the first thing he said to me, was 'well slap me on the arse and call me fish-face, you sure as hell took your damn time.' Apparently the Queen couldn't choose between my mom or dad, so she picked neither of them. Fluttershy was an option as well, but the Fausti couldn't pick from any of my friends either.'

'Sounds like you caused a lot of trouble up there before you'd even arrived,' Soarin grinned slightly.

'Well, you know me,' she shrugged, mirth in her eyes, 'never a dull moment.'

'Oh, do I ever. Dash... what's Heaven like?'

Dash bit her lip, her eyes dreamy. 'Oh, it's awesome. One day, when you get up here with me, I'll show you the Halls of Bellerophon, and the Fields of the Sun, and the Isle of Hecati. And you can see everyone again. My mom, my dad, your mom, your dad, Flutters, Spitfire, Fleet, Pinkie, Rarity, AJ... everyone's up here. Heck, I think I've even seen Clover the Clever once or twice.'

Soarin smiled sadly. 'It's sounds great.'

'Yes,' Dash replied, her eyes narrowing as her voice sharpened slightly, 'it does. But don't go doing something stupid to get up here quicker, you hear me?'

Soarin was horrified. 'No, never, I would never.'

'Good. Now,' she continued in a softer tone, 'will you tell me about my kids? Are they alright?'

Soarin chuckled. This was something he could talk easily about.

'Dawn's Juniper had her baby,' he grinned, his cheeks warm, 'we are officially great-grandparents.'

'I know,' Dash melted, 'I like to watch little Junebug when she's sleeping. Like a frickin' guardian angel,' she chuckled, doing a neat flip.

'That you most certainly are.' Her husband replied, laughing for the first time since he had seen her.

And they talked, for what seemed like too little a time, as he told her about their family and all the small little details that only a grandpa would notice, all the lovely calls he had with his little grandkids, and they talked about her, and her life and her legacy. And it wasn't strange, or weird, or unsettling. It was comforting, and teasing, and utterly normal, and as easy as breathing.

And much too soon, Marge was ringing an ancient bell (who knew where she had gotten that from) and they had only a minute left.

He was suddenly struck by a melancholic thought. Dash would never get to hold her great-grandchildren, and when their hour was up, he would have to go back alone. The bitter memories that had been subdued the moment he laid eyes upon his wife resurfaced all at once.

Dash sensed his change in mood. She had always been able to.

'Oh, my Soarin,' she sighed, 'you've been so sad.' She reached out a hoof as if to try and comfort him, but was blocked by the barrier.

'It's... it's just hard without you. I miss you.'

'I miss you too. And I- I'm so proud of you,' Dash said, smiling through her tears that he realised had only just appeared. 'You've been so brave.'

Soarin's heart broke all over again. He was being to lose count of how many times that had happened in the past year. He didn't really know what to say, so he said the three words that somehow managed to convey everything he was feeling at once.

He had just gotten her back and now he was losing her all over again.

'I love you,' he told her, again and again, as he felt a drowsiness pull him further and further down. On the other side of the wall, Dash sank down to her knees with him.

'I love you more,' she grinned, 'and I am never one to be bested.'

Soarin smiled, his eyelids heavy and drawing closed, 'Don't I know it...'

'Sleep, my love. Sleep, knowing I will always watch over you,' Dash breathed, wishing she could stroke his mane through the invisible wall that separated them.

'Whenever you see a rainbow- or anyone doing awesome shit- think of me...' she chuckled slightly at herself.

'I already do... I always have...' Soarin murmured, barely coherent. He felt funny, as if he were flaking apart into bits of dust flying from a sand dune.

'What's dying like...' he breathed, now completely lying on the floor. 'Does it hurt?'

If his eyes were open he would have seen the painfully bittersweet expression on his wife's face.

'Chin up, you big ol' goof,' she whispered, her tears running gold down the barrier, 'and I'll tell you all about it when I see you again...'

I Can See The Stars Again

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'Cause the sky has finally opened,
The rain and wind stopped blowin',
But you're stuck out in the same ol' storm again...'

The first thing Soarin noticed was cold.

It was a subtle sort of chill, that crept it's way up his spine and made his feathers tingle. The breeze nipped gently at his ears, whipping his mane around as a rumble of low thunder ricocheted sonorously across the pale, rapidly darkening sky. He felt his body shake.

His eyes whipped open.

Soarin sprung to his feet, heart racing as the echo of Dash's voice, accompanied with a warm touch and a bright light, ran through his thoughts.

Glancing around, his heart sunk in disappointment as he realised he was no longer at the Gate. He was on the cloud he had landed on last night, and judging from where the sun was glowing dimly through the heavily overcast sky, it was the late afternoon.

He had been here for nearly an entire day?

At least that explained the stiffness of his muscles, and the numbness in his fetlocks and ears. Wincing, he open his wings and stretched them out slowly, rotating his limbs and feeling the small bones and cricks as they popped back into place. Staying out on a cloud all night when you were as old as he was probably hadn't been the best idea.

He remember, with a melancholic twinge, how he and Dash used to do it all the time when they were young, the warmth of each other's wings their own comfort. They used to spend hours of their free time chilling in the stratosphere, above where other pegasi dared to fly, taking naps and having idle chats and playful races amongst... other things.

He exhaled. What had happened last night... that had been in his subconscience, hadn't it? Luna must have to had heard him, from wherever she was now.

But that hour with Dash... it was just like one of their chats all over again. Being with her was as easy and breathing, and Soarin felt as if he had come gasping up for air after struggling underwater for so long.

If only they could have had longer.

Sighing, he lowered himself back down to the cloud. He felt... he wasn't sure what he felt actually. The bitterness at losing her, the elation of seeing her, the pique at the fact it was only a dream...

He shivered as he felt something cold and wet drip down onto his head and and trickle slowly down his neck. He barely registered as more and more droplets began to fall in quicker succession, until his mane began to curl down round his ears, damp in the full-on rainshower.

The little voice in his head told him to go home, get dry, keep warm, before he caught his death of cold. But he needed time to process what had just happened, and he knew home would probably be filled with worried family members fussing over his health, which had sharpy deteriorated over the past seven months.

So he sat there, in the rain, gazing into the endless grey stretch before him, wondering mildly if you flew far enough, to the end of Equestria, if the charcoal horizon would disappear.

The rain annoyed most ponies in Cantelot, especially those of non-pegasi species. The rain was a sad metaphor, Soarin mused, until you looked at the beauty in a singular drop. The way it refracted and bent sunlight, creating seven different lightwave lengths, and thus seven different colours, nature's magic at its finest. He could sit inside for hours and listen to the rain clattering on the roof.

"Dad?" A familiar raspy voice sounded faintly from the distance below him. "Dad, is that you?"

It was growing louder, but Soarin's eyes were still fixed on the pewter-coloured stretch of clouds floating gently before him.

"Dad!" The voice came directly to the side of him now, equal parts fear, frenzy and relief.

Soarin finally turned his head to see his son, Prism, land on the cloud, his red, yellow and blue mane drenched. He shook the rainwater off his wings as he raced across the cloud.

"For Celestia's sake, Dad, where have you been for the past twenty hours!" Prism exclaimed, extending his wings across Soarin to shelter the old stallion from the rain as his father rose to his knees.

"Sunny and all the kids and I have been looking everywhere for you, Dawn's borderline hysterical- have you been sitting here for an entire day, are you tryna get pneumonia Dad-"

Soarin nodded absently, lost in his thoughts as Prism rambled on frantically. He closed his eyes, letting the rain run over his muzzle as he heard his son grow quiet beside him.

"Are you thinking about Mom again?" Prism's tone shifted, quiet and sad, tinged with a edge that hinted at a deeper agony. "We all miss her. I know she's happy, wherever she is."

"Yeah..." Soarin murmured, pulling his eldest closer to him as he recalled his dream, "I know she is."

And just then, in a strange, magical moment of miracle or chance, the alabaster clouds in front of them parted slightly, as if blown apart by divine forces, a single sliver of golden sunlight gleaming through the parted darkness. The light filtered through like little golden rivers, and slowly, a stream of light coloured seven distinct tones formed in the air, suspended and shimmering and subtly sartorial.

A perfect rainbow.

Then Soarin did the absurd. He chuckled.

"Dad?" Prism nudged him anxiously, eyes dark with concern, "Dad, what's wrong? Don't be a hero- what do you need?"

Soarin turned to his son, his eldest, and looked into the bright magenta eyes that were an exact replica of his wife's, as if the Universe had gotten lazy and simply copied and pasted Dash's exact hue, colour and tone into another little being.

Except this being wasn't little any more, with greying hairs of his own, and half an inch of height on his father.

Soarin had marvelled upon it many times in his life, but Prism's uncanny resemblance to Dash, in both mannerisms and colouring, struck him like an arrow in the heart, like biting your own lip and drawing blood. Painful, but powerful and comforting.

'You'll never lose me...'

And Soarin smiled a smile that Prism hadn't seen since the death of his mother. "Nothing," his father replied, voice oddly serene, "nothing at all. Let's go home."

Three years later.

In his subconscience, Soarin could hear the heart monitor beeping, the pulse fluctuating and slowing as his heartrate thudded erratically, valiantly, in his chest.

He had lived three more years without Dash. Three lonely years, but better than the first seven months. He had felt his time coming for a while. It was getting hard to breathe, hard to stand, and a couple of weeks ago, he had suffered from severe wing failure and had to be admitted to the hospital.

There were gentle, sad voices in his ear, warm hooves on his, light feathers that touched his sides, soft lips that brushed his cheeks. He felt something wet and hot run down his cheek, and run into his mouth, which lay slightly ajar. The liquid was salty.

Tears. But... but they weren't his. Soarin concentrated, opening one eye. His daughter lay on his chest, her forehead nestled in his neck, tears running down her cheeks. Prism clutched his hoof as Sunny's head rested on his stomach, wings brushing against his sides.

Soarin's lips curved up into a final smile.

"Chins up, my peanuts..." he whispered, his voice barely audible. His three children, whom he valued more than life itself, raised their gazes to fix on his. Prism, with Dash's eyes, and Sunny and Dawn, with Soarin's own. "This isn't goodbye... it's more like... see you later... alligator..."

"In a while, crocodile..." Sunny replied, smiling through his own tears.

"Say hi to Mom for us..." Dawn whispered, her eyes red.

"I love you so much, Dad..." Prism choked out, edging as close as possible.

"Love you... all of you... to the moon... and back..." Soarin exhaled, his eyelids fluttering closed.

The darkness was comforting, soothing even. It was a place to rest. A place to not be afraid of. A place he felt himself being pulled into with every fairy-light breath that escaped his exhausted lungs.

Soarin had always wondered what dying was like. What cutting the string and departing this life felt like. A small little flame, one of millions, being snuffed out on the massive roaring furnace that was life.

It was surprisingly peaceful, the inebriating drowsiness. All he could think about was how he was so very tired.

And through his eyelids, he could see glimmering of multicoloured light, a fireworks display in the black abyss. He wasn't sure if it was the glaring hospital lights, or the vibrancy of his children's mane, streaked with silver, or a delusion of his weary mind... but it was beautiful. A glimpse of Heaven.

"I can see the stars again..." he smiled, and then the sweet darkness engulfed him.

He could see a orange glow through his eyelids, and feel the satiny warm clouds underneath his hooves. The breeze smelt like freesia and jasmine and chilli and apples.

He smiled, opening his eyes. Everything about him was tranquil.

The Gate seemed a lot less intimidating now. The large Hall in which the Soulkeeper (or Marge) resided, seemed smaller and more comforting. It was exactly how he had remembered it before, only this time, it wasn't the cobalt blue sky of the day peeking through the ceiling, but the glorious dark expanse of night, the stars dripping light burning in such bright colours he had never seen up close before.

He raised his gaze towards the tunnel of forever-light, and laid eyes upon the very pony who meant more to him than his own life. Who he would always reunite with, in the end.

Dash smirked at him, her lips teasing. "Well, I'm getting mega déjà vu right now," she giggled, whipping her mane cheekily across her shoulders, "I don't know about you."

"Oh, really? Hmmm... that's strange..." Soarin chuckled, moving towards her, "You know me, I always like to change things up a bit."

"Hmm... I don't know..." she snorted, "you were pretty boring with all your dessert orders from Sugarcube Corner. What was it you always used to get? Apple pie... apple pie... apple pie... oh, did I mention apple pie?"

"To their credit, they had spectacular fritters as well," Soarin added seriously, raising an eyebrow.

"I've no idea how you didn't end up weighing like, a bazillion tonnes," she snickered.

"Well, besides being a gym rat, and, you know, the other ways of burning calories," he bounced his eyebrows suggestively as Dash face-hoofed, "I'd say being a Wonderbolt for an odd forty-two years of my life-"

"Oh, just get over here, you hot idiot," Dash laughed, bouncing slightly with the apprehension of embracing him again.

He grinned at her, before taking some more steps towards where the barrier hovered, shimmering slightly, a mirage in the air. Tentatively, he reached a hoof across.

It passed right through.

"Well, what are you waiting for?" Dash smiled at him, taking his hoof on the other side. He gasped at her touch, as warm and soft and strong as he remembered. "Come on through."

Taking a deep breath, he closed his eyes and pushed his way seamlessly through the barrier. It was as if it hadn't even been there in the first place. It was a strange sensation, and not an unpleasant one. His body grew warm very suddenly, and saw through his lashes that a glistening blue aura had engulfed him, swishing and oscillating around his body as the aura levitated him about three feet off the ground.

Being released was like a breath of fresh air. Suddenly his weary vision felt fresh and sharp again, his swollen joints felt flexible and sturdy and muscular, he could see his mane as it flopped down over his face was a deep midnight blue with no hint of grey, and when he reached up a hoof to feel his face, the skin was smooth and unblemished.

Like his wife had retained her rainbow mane and athletic figure, he too had regained a part of his youth. And when he glanced back at the barrier, he could see a slightly, blurry reflection of himself, and the new pattern of swirls and diamonds that rested like a dark blue tattoo between his eyebrows.

"Check you out," Dash smirked, biting her lip. "You know, I never would have thought you could have pulled off a face tattoo..."

Soarin raised an eyebrow at her.

"Ah, who am I kidding... of course I did," she snickered, flushing slightly. "I've missed you, you doofus."

He laughed, as his heart, once broken, was beginning to seal itself rapidly back together, fragment by fragment, piece by piece.

He suddenly pulled her close to him, relishing in the devastatingly familiar scent of her hair, heat of her skin, the shape of the crown of her head, which fit so perfectly into the crook of his neck. He crushed her to him, drinking in all the little things he had missed over the past three years, tears beginning to squeak out both their eyes as they stood there embracing for Celestia knows how long, their reunion suddenly became very, very real.

There was a cough behind them.

Marge sat at her desk, which she had not been sitting at before, and was tapping a hoof impatiently on the ground.

"Fie... s'rry to int'rrupt thy tend'r moment, but I needeth to regist'r thy nameth, sire." She raised her eyebrows, her voice monotone.

Soarin coughed and broke away from Dash, approaching the desk hastily. "Um... Soarin Skies?" He said, as Marge pulled her typewriter towards her and ran a hoof down the list of names.

"Which one art thou? Th're be a 'Soaring Skyes' from Appleloosa, one in Manehatten, th're's a 'Soreen Skies', but on second thoughts, thee behold not liketh thou art from Saddle Arabia. Oh, and the Wonderbolt 'Soarin Skies'-"

"That's me!" Soarin interrupted her, smiling sheepishly as Marge shot him a acidic look.

"Hmm," Marge nodded, ticking his name off the list. "Doth thee knoweth how many 'Soarin Skies' I did add to the listeth aft'r thee becameth a Wonderbolt? Parents these morns art so un'riginal with names..." Marge grumbled, huffing.

Dash rolled her eyes. "Come on, Soarin. You have so many people to meet!" She exclaimed, dragging him towards the tunnel of forever-light. "I'm gonna show you everything!"

Now that he was on the other side of the barrier, the tunnel seemed a lot less bright and more like like actual tunnel. He could see the cobbled road, paved with scenes from his own life, leading up through the dark sky and up to a golden gate in the clouds that seemed to waver in and out of tangibility.

He felt an irresistible pull towards it, as if some part of him deep inside, the very essence of who has was, was yearning to belong there. Home was where the heart is, and so many people who had Soarin's heart were up there, in the Great Beyond.

Dash looped her arm through his as he tucked a wing over her shoulders. She melted into his embrace as they took a step into the unknown.

"Come on," she smiled, her heart finally at peace. "Let's go home."

'You hold tight to your umbrella,
Well, darlin', I'm just tryin' to tell ya,
That there's always been a rainbow hangin' over your head...'