Rarity wandered through the Carousel Boutique, eyes trying to look everywhere at once. Everything that had to do with her day-to-day work had been moved out, mannequins and bolts of fabric giving way to banners and tables. It had been a long morning’s work to get her shop looking like this, and it would be an even longer day’s work to return the boutique to working order, but that was fine. This was much more important then her dressmaking.
Frowning slightly, she absentmindedly adjusted the hang of a banner. It would have been much easier to have Pinkie Pie set up the party or have it hosted at Sugar Cube Corner, but that wouldn’t have felt right. This party was much too important for someone else to do it.
Ticking off her mental checklist, she moved gracefully through the room, double and triple checking preparations and making a few unnecessary changes here and there. Everything had to be perfect, she reminded herself unnecessarily, this was important in a way nothing else could ever be.
“Rarity?” A soft voice called. The white unicorn looked up to see her younger sister Sweetie Bell, come down the stairs from the small apartment the two shared above the boutique. “Are you still working on those decorations?”
Of course I am, things aren’t quite ready yet.”
“But you’ve been down here all morning. Everything’s already ready.”
“Not quite,” Rarity sighed, nudging a table a few inches to the left. “I’m still not happy with those banners...”
“Well, do you want me to help?” Sweetie Bell asked. “You’d get done faster that way.”
“No!” Rarity said quickly, remembering the last time her sister had tried to help. It had taken nearly a week for the boutique to stop smelling of smoke. “It’s your birthday, just relax and have fun until everyone arrives,” she said quickly when the younger pony’s face fell, not wanting to hurt her feelings.
Luckily, at that point there was a knock at the door and Sweetie Bell careened down the steps past Rarity. “I’ll get it!”
The door opened and Sweetie Bell stepped back to let a large earth pony in. He was old, with a brown coat and mane that were rapidly going to gray. He had once been muscular, but age was slowly turning it to fat, though he still looked healthy enough.
“Oak!” Sweetie Bell shrieked happily, throwing herself at the old stallion. He caught her in a tight hug, nuzzling her gently.
“Happy birthday, squirt. How ya doing?” he asked, his voice deep and strong.
“Grandfather!” Rarity called from across the room, smiling as Sweetie Bell bounced excitedly around the older pony.
“Rare, it’s good to see you too.” Oak stopped, peering around the room. “Wow, you really went all out didn’t you? I can’t even tell this is supposed to be a boutique.” He reached out and pulled her into a hug which she returned happily. “It looks amazing, just like everything you do.”
“Thank you, Grandfather, but it’s not quite ready yet.”
“Why not? Looks ready to me.”
“Because there’s still a few streamers that aren’t hanging perfectly straight,” Sweetie Bell teased.
“Now be nice to your sister, she’s put a lot of work into this party,” Oak chided gently, though there was no heat to the words. “Otherwise I might not give you your present...”
“You brought me a present? What is it, what is it, what is it?” the small unicorn asked, bouncing excitedly. “Is it a scooter like Scootaloo’s? Oh! I bet it’s my own sewing machine since Rarity won’t let me touch hers anymore!”
She kept up the running monologue as Oak eyed Rarity. “Do you think I should give it to her now?” he asked. “Or should she wait until the party?”
“For making fun of my decorations I think she should have to wait until the party to open it.”
The doorbell rang again and, disappointment forgotten once more, Sweetie Bell rushed off to answer it.
“Hello, Rarity,” Mrs. Cake called as she pushed a heavily laden trolley into the boutique. “I have all the food you ordered. Pinkie Pie was supposed to be helping me deliver it, but I’m not sure where she went to...”
As if summoned by the sound of her name, Pinkie bounced inside, chattering happily. “Hey Rarity, we got the food you asked for. I wanted to deliver it myself but Mrs. Cake wouldn’t let me because she said I’d eat some of it on the way over, but I don’t see why that’s such a big deal, I’m gonna get to eat some of it once the party starts anyway. But she said I could help her deliver it so here I am!”
Rarity paused just long enough to insert punctuation and then smiled at her friend. “Well I’m glad you’re here to help, there’s a quite a lot of food and I’m going to need some help setting it all out.”
All of the ponies got to work moving the mountain of sweets and treats from the trolley to the tables that had been scattered around the boutique, and the rest of the guests had begun to arrive by the time they were finished.
The party had been in full swing for about an hour when a unicorn levitating a carefully wrapped box nosed open the door.
He wasn’t going to win any beauty contests anytime soon, that was for sure, his coat was a dirty, ugly gray, and his dark mane hung limply around his neck and head. Still, it looked like he had tried, his hooves had been inexpertly polished, and his limp hair looked like someone had put a lot of effort into trying to make it look presentable. His coat was clean, if ragged in spots, and his tail had been brushed free of snarls and knots.
He moved cautiously through the doorway in a sidelong huddle, as though he was apologizing to the world for simply existing. A few ponies noticed him, only to dismiss him as unimportant. The only one who recognized the unicorn was Oak and he muttered a curse before setting off toward the door, hoping that Rarity was to busy fussing with decorations and food to notice her-
“You!” Oak cringed as her voice stuck out like a whip, cutting easily through the chatter of the party. “What are you doing here?”
Silence fell as everyone turned to look at Rarity and then at the ragged unicorn in the doorway. He seemed to shrink in on himself, holding the wrapped gift before him like a shield as Rarity forced her way toward him.
“How dare you show your face here,” she snarled. “How dare you come any where near me or my home!”
Rarity pushed herself into the unicorn’s face and he fell back a step under the force of her anger. “No. I won’t allow it, not on Sweetie Bell’s birthday of all days! Get out! Get! Out!”
“Rarity, please! I’m sorry about what happened, but I just want to see my dau-”
“No! You were always sorry, but that never changed anything. You had your chance and you blew it! Now get it out my house before I... I...”
Oak arrived at that moment, and the unicorn visibly shrunk back. Oak didn’t even spare him a glance though, just gently but firmly pushed Rarity away from the door. “Rarity, I’ll deal with this, okay? Why don’t you go upstairs and try to calm down? you’re a lady, and a lady should always be in control of herself.”
“Oak, I don’t want him here-” Rarity breathed, the anger draining from her voice and leaving only a quiet, ugly fear and desperation behind. For a moment, Oak saw a young filly, barely more than a foal, standing in her place, shivering from cold and fear.
“I’ll deal with this,” was all the old stallion could reply.
With a sound halfway between a sob and a snarl, she turned and swept toward the stairs as everypony scrambled to get out of her way.
“Rarity, what’s wrong?” Twilight asked, falling into step behind her friend. “I’ve never seen you like this before.”
“Go away, Twilight.”
“What? Why? I’m just trying to talk to you, you’re my friend. I’m worried about you.”
Rarity didn’t respond just stomped up the stairs. Twilight started to follow her up, but Oak pushed his way through the crowd and caught her.
“Just, stay down here, okay? She’s in a bad place right now, and it’ll be best if she just has some time alone,” he said, checking over his shoulder to make sure the unicorn had stayed by the door and hadn’t tried to sneak off.
“I just want to help,” Twilight sighed. “She doesn’t have to deal with this all by herself. I’m her friends, I’m supposed to be there for her.”
Oak gently patted her shoulder. “I know,” he said kindly. “But she has to deal with this herself, no one else can do it for her. But I’ll go talk to her in a little bit, right now I have to deal with him before he causes any more trouble.” Oak shot such a look of hatred at the old unicorn that Twilight almost stepped back a pace. She could feel the anger bubbling underneath the earth pony’s calm exterior.
“Is he really so much trouble?” She asked cautiously.
“Yes. For everything he’s done, I’d gladly kill the son of a bitch,” Oak said before turning and heading toward the unicorn, leaving a stunned Twilight behind him.
* * * * * * * * * * * * *
Rain poured down as lightning flashed overhead, thunder shaking the night. The unicorn staggered along, her body aching horribly from more then just the cold. Her coat was dripping water and her mane trailed limply on the ground as she herded her younger sister along, trying her best to shield the younger unicorn from the pouring rain.
“Where are we going?” the younger asked, her voice quiet and barely audible over the rain.
“I don’t know,” the unicorn admitted. “But anywhere’s better then home.”
They kept walking.
“I heard what happened,” the younger one said eventually. “I heard you fighting with dad...”
“No, I wanna... I just... I wanna say thanks. For protecting me. I love you, sis...”
“I love you too, and I’ll always do my best to protect you, okay? I’m not going to let anyone ever hurt you again...”
It was hard to tell with the rain, but the younger unicorn almost thought she could make out tears running down her sister’s face.
* * * * * * * * * * * *
“What’s going on?” Twilight demanded, pushing her way through the crowd of gossiping ponies to come face to face with Fluttershy and Applejack. She’d spotted them standing alone in a corner of the boutique and was hoping they’d had some answers on what exactly had just happened.
“Look, it’s, ah, complicated, Twi,” Applejack hedged, avoiding her friends gaze as both ponies took a sudden interest in their hooves. “Do ya remember that storm we had a few weeks back?”
Twilight blinked at her friends sudden non-sequitur. “What does that have to do with why Rarity’s so upset?”
“Oh... Oh! You were talking about Rarity! Well, uh, wh-what’s going on? The banners not perfect or somethin’?”
“I don’t know! Some unicorn just showed up and she went berserk, started yelling at him for no reason. Then that old earth pony tried to calm her down and she ran upstairs. I tried to talk to her, but she just blew me off.”
“Huh... I dunno, that doesn’t really sound like Rarity at all...” Applejack frowned. Fluttershy tapped her on the shoulder and then leaned in and whispered something that Twilight couldn’t quite hear. AJ went pale and spun to try and get a good look at the door.
“Horseapples,” she swore. “It really is him, isn’t it? What’s he doin’ here?”
“I don’t know,” Twilight snapped, starting to get irritated. “Maybe I could tell you if somepony would tell me what’s going on!”
“I don’t know if it’s mah place to tell ya...”
“Fine, we’ll start simple. Who’s that earth pony that tried to calm her down?”
“Umm.. that was probably Oak. He’s,um, he’s her grandfather,” Fluttershy said. “He’s the closest thing she has to a family besides Sweetie Bell.”
“What happened to her parents? I didn’t know they were dead.”
“They ain’t.” Applejack sighed. “This is gonna take a lot of explainin’, and by rights it should be Rarity doin’ it, but since she’s upstairs I guess we gotta. First off, Oak ain’t really her Gran’pa, she only firs’ met ‘em maybe six years back.”
“Jus’ listen, Sugarcube. This is gonna be tough enough without you askin’ questions every five seconds. Now I don’t know the exact details, but that unicorn that jus’ showed up? That’s her father, Crock. It started when Rarity was jus’ a lil’ filly...”
* * * * * * * * * * * *
It was dark in the closet, and the little unicorn huddled in the back, a blue, stuffed bear clutched to her chest, hidden behind the hanging clothes. They were her shield, her armor against the monster that lurked outside in her room, its breath heavy and rank.
“Where are you?” it rasped. “I know you’re in here somewhere.”
The unicorn didn’t reply, just tried to edge further into the closet, her shoulder blades rubbing against the solid wall behind her.
“You’re being a bad girl,” the voice continued. “And you know what happens to bad little girls.”
Despite herself, the little unicorn whimpered. There was a creak of floorboards, and the closet door slammed open, the hall light framing the monster.
“Found you,” it rumbled.
It’s horn glowed and the unicorn felt herself dragged out of the closet, her bear gone from her grip as she was pulled into the open, struggling vainly against what she knew would come next.
Afterward, she crawled back into the closet and fell into a restless, nightmare filled sleep on the floor, her bear comforting her as best it could.
“Rarity?” Oak called as he came up the steps. The apartment Rairty and Sweetie Bell shared was dark, the only sounds coming from the party downstairs. Oak swore as he blundered into a pile of mannequins that had been moved to make more space downstairs “Rarity, where are you?”
She hid in the closet, back behind her clothes, hugging her old and slightly faded teddy bear. She was almost too big to hide now, but the clothes still protected her. Most of the time he found her, but sometimes he was too drunk and would miss her and go away. But that meant he went to her little sister’s room instead, so she let him find her most nights. She didn’t like it, but...
She was already soiled, better her then her sister..
“Hiding in your closet?” the monster rasped. “You really are stupid, aren’t you? Are you going to come out, or are you going to be a bad little girl?”
In the closet, she shook her head, trying to fight back tears. She knew what was coming, shed had gone through it so many times. Why wasn’t this easier, why didn’t it hurt less?
“Fine, stay in there. You’re more trouble then you’re worth. Maybe I’ll go say good-night to your sister...”
Leave her alone.
“She’s always so much easier to... persuade then you are,” the monster purred. “So much smaller, so much more helpless.”
Leave her alone.
“She reminds me of you, when you were younger. So scared and helpless...”
“Leave her alone!”
The monster stopped talking, and she could feel its surprise.
“What was that?”
“I said ‘leave her alone’!” she repeated.
The closet door swung open and the monster was there, its face twisted with anger. “How dare you talk to me like that,” it hissed, its rank breath pouring into the closet like a gust of noxious wind. Its horn gleamed and she felt herself pulled from the closet. The monster struck her, but like always she refused to cry out, refused to give him that satisfaction. So he moved on.
And then it was later.
“Maybe I’ll go tuck your sister in as well,” the monster snarled, once it was over. “Show you what happens when you talk to me like that.”
Anger welled up inside her and something blazed to life behind her eyes. With a cry of anger and pain she lashed out with years worth of humiliation and fear. The monster let out a cry of surprise and hit her. And then hit her again. And again.
But this time she didn’t fold up, she threw herself at the monster, biting and kicking and crying. The monster kept hitting her, but she refused to give up, to let it hurt her sister again.
And finally she drove it off. She knew it would be back, and standing alone in her room, aching and bleeding, buoyed by her anger, she knew what she had to do.
The door to Rarity’s bedroom swung open and Oak stepped carefully inside, flicking the light switch. Lights flickered on, bathing the room in soft yellow light, but Rarity was no where to be seen.
“Where did you go?” Oak asked aloud, and then his gaze slowly slid to the closet door set in one wall.
“Just keep walking, I’ll try to find someplace where we can sleep,” the unicorn said, nudging her sister long gently, their hoofsteps echoing flatly through the rain.
Her sister stumbled along for a few steps, shaking with cold and fatigue, before collapsing to the ground. The unicorn paused long enough to lift her sister onto her back, ignoring the cold, soaking rain and the trembling in her own legs.
“You don’t have to carry me, I can walk...” her sister mumbled weakly.
“Hush,” the unicorn said gently. “I have you...”
She kept walking, alone except for the rain and the shivering presence of her sister.
“Hey! What’re you two doing out in this?”
The unicorn turned to see an earth pony leaning out of this front door, warm yellow light spilling out into the street.
“It’s pouring out there, come inside before ya catch pneumonia,” the pony continued, stepping back to leave the door clear for her.
Cautiously the unicorn stepped inside, ready to bolt at the first sign of trouble, and let out a soft sigh as the warmth and light enveloped her like a blanket. The pony disappeared for a moment, returning with a stack of towels, laying them down by the unicorn.
“Here, I imagine you don’t want to stand there dripping wet. Can I get you something warm to drink?” he asked.
“I’m fine,” the unicorn replied, sliding her now sleeping sister to the floor and began to gently towel her off. “But thank you, sir.”
“It’s no problem. And please, the name’s Oak. ‘Sir’ makes me sound old. I may be just that, but I don’t like being reminded of it,” the stallion laughed.
“Well, I’m Rarity,” the unicorn smiled. “And this is my sister, Sweetie Bell. Thanks for inviting us in.”
“I have to say, Rarity, I’m a little curious about what two young fillies like you and your sister are doing out so late on a night like this,” Oak said as he led Rarity, once more carrying her little sister, into the kitchen and began making himself a cup of tea. The gentle, earthy smell filling the kitchen and helping bleed some of the tension from her muscles.
“It’s rather a long story, sir.”
“Oak,” he corrected absent-mindedly as he poured sugar into his tea. “And if you don’t want to talk about it, that’s fine. I got into trouble every now and again back when I was young. You should probably call your parents though, let them know where you are.”
Oak paused with the cup of steaming liquid halfway to his mouth and lifted an eyebrow. Even Sweetie Bell stirred in her sleep at the force of the outburst.
“I mean, no, it’s fine. They won- they won’t mind,” she said quickly, seeming to shrink in on herself as a furious blush spread across her face.
Oak took a sip of his tea and set it on the table. “Look,” he said. “I haven’t know you for more then five minutes, and I can already tell something's eating at you. Now you don’t have to tell me, I can understand that somethings are best left unsaid, especially to a stallion who’s more or less a stranger, but sometimes it’s best to get things off your chest.” He took another sip of tea and let out a weary sigh. “I may be old, but that just means I’ve been around enough that I may be able to give you some half-decent advice. If it helps, just think of me as a slightly odd grandfather you haven’t seen for a while.”
Rarity looked at the pony and then at her sleeping sister. She thought of nights spent huddled in terror and of the bruises already beginning to form on her sides and flank. Steeling herself she nodded and opened her mouth to say the things that her father had told her, so many years before, that he’d kill her for ever saying.
Oak tried the door to the closet and the handle turned under his hoof, swinging open to reveal rows of marvelous dresses on simple wire hangers.
And huddled in the back, her body shaking with silent sobs and her mind trapped in memory indistinguishable from nightmare, was Rarity.
“Heya, Rare,” he said softly as he dropped to his front knees in the doorway, his voice gentle and reassuring. And even though he knew the answer, there are some things that have to be asked. “Are you alright?”
She didn’t respond, too locked in memory to hear him. He knew better to try and physically shake her out of it, that would just make things so much worse, so he settled back to wait, old, sullen anger flaring to new life in his mind.
The words poured out in a torrent that left Rarity swaying, exhausted from the simple task of unburdening herself of so much. Oak remained silent as she talked, and as the flow cut off, leaving the kitchen in silence, he stayed silent, his gaze fixed to the far wall of the kitchen.
Rarity shifted uncomfortably, waiting for... she wasn’t sure what. Disgust, maybe. A denial certainly, a dismissal of the whole thing as a flight of childhood fancy.
But none of that came. Oak remained silent as, somewhere nearby, a clock slowly ticked out seconds that stretched into an eternity.
Finally, he stood up, not looking at Rarity, and she realized that he was shaking.
“There’s a guest room down the hall. Second door on the left. You and your sister are more then welcome to stay there for the night. And tomorrow night,” he said, his voice rough and emotionless. “Tomorrow morning, we’re going down to the police station and you’re telling them what you just told me. Okay?”
Rarity nodded and the earth pony continued. “Right now, I imagine you’re pretty tired. I suggest you go to bed. I’m heading out, and I want you to lock the door after me. I’ll be back in an hour or so, and I’ll check in on you to make sure you’re still alright.” Without waiting for a reply he walked out of the kitchen and threw open the front door, seemingly oblivious to the rain that was still sheeting down.
“You’re safe now, I want you to know that. Your father’s never going to touch you again,” he reassured her before stepping out into the rain.
Rarity locked the door behind him and carried her sister into the spare room, tucking her into the old and slightly musty bed. Then, she went back into the living room and settled down on the couch between the front door and the hallway. She didn’t fall asleep, even though her whole body burned with fatigue. Just sat and waited, listening to the rain as it beat a steady tattoo on the ceiling.
Slowly, Rarity stopped sobbing and her breathing steadied, though it stayed a bit ragged around the edges. Eventually, she opened reddened eyes to find Oak sitting nearby, radiating the calm and patience she had grown to love and depend on.
“I’m sorry,” she whispered, avoiding his gaze.
Oak sighed and reached over so he could pull her into a hug. “It’s not your fault,” he replied, gently stroking her hair. “It was never your fault. You know that.”
“I know, but...”
“I know it’s hard, but you’re doing fine. This is just something else you have to deal with.”
“I don’t want him here, Grandfather,” Rarity said, her voice small. “I don’t want him near me or my home. I don’t want him near Sweetie Bell or near my friends. I finally have a life of my own, and I just can’t bear the thought of him coming back into it.”
“And that’s fine, but you need to deal with this rationally. You can’t just lash out at him, you have good reason to hate him, but you still need to deal with this. Just remember we’re all here for you. Me, Sweetie Bell, your friends, we’re all here if you need help. He can’t hurt you anymore, and this is your chance to finally put all this back into the past, where it belongs.”
Oak pounded on the door and stepped back. His mind was alight with anger, and rage burned in his stomach. For a moment he hesitated, considered walking away, but then he remembered the young filly at his house, tired and afraid. He stayed.
Eventually the door swung open and a unicorn with a dirty gray coat peered out.
“What do you want?”
“Are you Crock?” Oak asked, forcing a calm he didn’t feel into his words.
“What if I am?” the unicorn replied. Even from a few feet away, Oak could smell the reek of cheap alcohol on his breath.
“I found a young filly named Rarity wandering around a little while ago, and she told me you were her father. I wanted to talk to you about her.”
“You found that stupid girl? Good, I suppose. She’s nothing but trouble, though she occasionally has her uses.” Crock sighed and pushed the door open for Oak and started back into the house. “I suppose you better come in then.”
He never saw the hoof that came streaking toward the back of his head.
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
Twilight was speechless as Applejack wound her explanation to a close.
“And that’s kinda why she doesn’t like ta talk about it, it’s a pretty painful subject for her,” Applejack finished with what was probably the biggest understatement ever. Of all time.
But Twilight didn’t respond, just stared across the room at the unicorn where he still stood by the door, smoke beginning to rise from her mane.
“And he had the nerve, to show up here?” she asked slowly, the smoke thickening. “At Sweetie Bell’s birthday?”
“Now jus’ hold on a minute there, sugarcube. I know how you’re feelin’, but you can’t just go over and do... whatever it is you’re plannin’ on doin’.”
Twilight’s coat was approaching a nuclear white, her mane and tail beginning to smolder, she was opening her mouth to argue when Rarity came clopping down the stairs, Oak close behind. Her eyes were red, but she held herself with her customary dignity and grace.
“Sweetie Bell,” she called. “Can you come over here please?”
The younger pony gave her fellow crusaders a quick goodbye and trotted over. “What’s up, sis?” she asked as Rarity moved toward the door to the Carousel Boutique.
“Father’s here.” Only Oak noticed the slight tremor in her voice as she said the word ‘father’. But then, only he was looking for it. He gave his adopted granddaughter a reassuring pat on the shoulder, and she gave him a tight smile in return.
“He’s here?” Sweetie Bell asked, looking around quickly, as though afraid he was going to leap out of the crowd at her “What’s he doing here?”
“Wanting to wish you a happy birthday, apparently.”
“You... you’re not going to let him in. Right?”
“We’re going to talk to him,” Rarity replied and refused to say anything more until they’d reached Crock.
“Rarity, it’s, uh, good to see you again,” the ragged stallion said, trying out a weak smile. “You’ve grown a lot since I saw you last, Sweetie Bell...”
“Stop it. What do you want?” Rarity asked, her voice frigid.
Crock held the wrapped gift up before him. “I just wanted to see my daughter again and maybe wish her a happy birthday.”
“Why? You never cared before. What makes you suddenly want to see Sweetie Bell again? And if the answer’s what I think it is-”
“No! Nothing like that,” he said quickly, his voice horrified. “It’s just... It’s been nearly four years, and I thought that maybe it was time I tried to make things right between us.”
Rarity opened her mouth to say something but Oak laid a restraining hoof on her shoulder. “Let him talk,” he whispered.
“I wanted to do it sooner, but I didn’t really trust myself at first, after your mother left it got... bad for a while. But I finally got things turned around, I’ve been sober for almost two years now and I figured, maybe, it was finally time to try and fix this too. I don’t expect you to forgive me, I still haven’t done that, but I do want to at least try and make things right. I know it’s not enough, not nearly enough, but I’m sorry, Rarity. I’m so, so sorry.”
Crock knelt down, bringing himself on level with Sweetie Bell and set the present down in front of her. When she ducked back behind her sister, his smile became pained, though he tried to cover it.
“Happy birthday, Sweetie Bell,” he said quietly, pushing himself back to his hooves. “I’ll get out of your hair now, Rarity. Wouldn’t want to ruin your sister’s party, now would I?”
He started to leave and then paused in the door. “I’m so sorry,” he whispered, his voice barely carrying over the chatter. “For everything.”
And then he left.
Rarity watched him go, too busy with her churning emotions to notice Sweetie Bell tearing into the gift. Was he really trying to make amends or was it just some elaborate mind game? And what was more, did he really think she could forgive him just like that after everything he’d done?
Startled from her thoughts, Rarity turned to see Sweetie Bell pulling a slightly worn, stuffed blue bear dotted with a few silver stars in the shape of a constellation out of the box.
“It’s adorable,” she squealed, hugging the bear tight. Rarity stared, dumbfounded, that was her bear, the bear that had always comforted her after...
Her mind leapt to a horrifying conclusion, and Rarity spun to charge after her father, rage blazing behind her eyes, but Oak stepped in the way and held out a piece of paper.
“It was in the box,” he explained once Rarity had taken it from him.
This used to be yours, and I knew that it was really important to you, even if you did leave it behind when you left. It helped me through some hard times, just like it helped you. Hopefully Sweetie Bell will never have to go through anything like what either of us did, but just in case, I figured she should have it. Our family doesn’t seem to have the best of luck.
* * * * * * * * * * * * *
“Are you okay, Rarity? You’ve been pretty quiet since your father left...”
“Just let her be, Twi, she’s had a long day.”
Outside, the sun was beginning to dip toward the far horizon, as Luna slowly took over for Celestia. Soon there would be a no-doubt splendid night sky, stars twinkling like diamonds against the black velvet of space.
“Do you two think that I could end up like him?” Rarity said slowly, staring out the window at a sky streaked with pink and gold fire.
“What? Like who?” Twilight asked.
“Like my father...”
“And why would ya think that?”
“Because we’re family. What if I grow up like him? What if I start hurting the ones I love? I mean, he didn’t want to, he never consciously set out to do those things to me. What if I end up hurting one of you, or Oak or...” Rarity’s voice broke for a moment. “Or Sweetie Bell?”
Unable to think of something to say, Twilight looked over at Applejack who shrugged.
And then Fluttershy surprised both of them.
“Umm... Rarity? Who do you think your family is?”
“Because, um, I don’t think it’s him. Or your mother. I think your family isn’t so much the people you’re related to, but the people who love you. I, um, I think Oak and Sweetie Bell are your family. I think we’re your family,” The pegasus said, her voice soft but strong. “And there are worse things then ending up like your family... Um, at least, that’s what I think...”
Rarity looked up in surprise and then smiled. “I guess you’re right. I could think of much worse people to be related to,” she said as she watched Oak playing with Sweetie Bell.
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
“Spike,” Twilight called as she closed the library door. “I’m back.”
“It’s about time, I was getting bored waiting for you,” the dragon groused from where he lay on Twilight’s bed.
“First, off my bed,” Twilight chided. “And secondly, if you were bored you should’ve just come to the party, I can’t understand why didn’t come with me in the first place.”
‘Well I would’ve, but someone said that they wanted the library cleaned up as soon as possible and I had to do that rather then go spend the evening with my lovely Rarity.”
“I didn’t mean that it had to be done tonight. Oh, and speaking of Rarity, I want you to take a letter.”
“To Rarity?” Spike asked. “Didn’t you just see her?”
“No, to Princess Celestia,” Twilight said patiently, watching as the dragon scurried to the desk to grab a quill and a roll of parchment, before clearing her throat and beginning.
Dear Princess Celestia,
Today I learned that your real family may not be your real family. You may not be related, and may not even know each other all that well, but your real family are those ponies who stick by you when the road gets rough. When everything has gone wrong, and you’ve lost yourself in the dark, your family are the ones who stay by your side, holding a light and giving you strength as they guide you out of the darkness. It doesn’t matter whose DNA has combined with whose, those ponies are your real family.
And I couldn’t wish for a better family.
Your faithful student,