Hope and Shadows
Chapter 1 "Sometimes They Fall"
By Steven Little
My Little Pony © Hasbro
With valor and courage they lead the way,
They encourage us each and every day.
When we're at our lowest in darkest night,
They bring us happiness, strength and light.
But in their duties to us,
They take on too much
They forget to ask for help,
To let us be they're crutch.
When they're all alone and against the wall,
Sometime, even the strongest of us fall.
Day becomes night and night becomes day; over and over in a seemingly endless cycle. Days turn into weeks, weeks to months, and months into years. Babies were born and children grew to adults. Time passes for all things equally but for eight families in the town of Ponyville, the last seventeen years seemed to crawl by unbearably slow. They all lived their lives as happily as they could, raising their children and taking care of each other but for all of them, a small ray of happiness had gone out in their lives.
In the backfields of Sweet Apple Acres, Applejack and Big Macintosh stared down at a small headstone standing next to the grave of their Grandmother. "I miss her Mac, I miss her so much." She said, trying to control the tears rolling down her cheeks.
"I know, I miss her too sis." He said, hugging his sister. "We can only hope she'll come back to us some day."
The light orange farm pony looked up at her older brother, her brow furrowed in anger as tears continued to run down her cheeks. "It's been seventeen years without so much as a sighting of her! She's dead Macintosh and if we ever find her remains, we'll bury her here, proper like."
The large red stallion grabbed his sister forcefully and fixed her with a stern gaze. "Don't you go talkin' like that. Apple Bloom's alive, I just know she is."
"How? How can you know?" She asked, a glimmer of hope still showing in her eyes.
"I can't tell you. I made a promise to somepony that I wouldn't tell but he told me that our sister is still alive and that she promised she'd come home when she felt it was right." Macintosh sighed heavily. "I should have never let you put that headstone up, but I thought it would somehow make you feel better. Please AJ just trust me, we'll see her again. Now come on, we need to be getting' home before the others wonder where we are."
On the southern most edge of the Everfree Forest, a lithe and powerfully built mare took a cautious step out into the summer light. Long hard years on the borderlands of Equestria and toned and strengthened her body. As she walked, every muscle on her lean frame could be seen flexing beneath her coat. Her hooves were unkempt, sharp and silent as the touched the ground. Her burgundy mane was long, knotted, and ragged. Her eyes, one ostensibly dead eye was concealed behind a screen of long oily hair while the other, a mere beady pinprick of black surround by thin dull reddish orange. Her one good eye was rimmed with red as if she hadn't slept in days. Her tail held the same dirty red as her mane and was equally ragged. Her coat was a grayish tan color that hid few of her many scars. The most obvious of these was a large gash across each of her flanks that seemed to have healed many years ago.
Continuing down the path slowly, she stood in front of a small cottage by a stream. In the yard played a young filly and colt. The yellow pegasus colt was thin and a little on the gangly side, his blue eyes partially hidden by his orange mane. The young filly was distinctively amber with a brown mane, blue eyes, and a face full of freckles. Tying the back of the filly's mane together was a large red ribbon that was so familiar to the mysterious mare. The two foals noticed the strange mare on the path and stared at her, expecting her to say something. The mare just stared back. A gust of wind came up, blowing her hair back reveling a long gash the crossed her face from her left ear to her right cheek, passing through her sightless eye.
The foals screamed. "Mommy! Daddy! Help!"
The mare looked up as four ponies well known to her, exited the cottage. "What are you doing here? What do you want?" Big Macintosh yelled. The strange mare turned away without a word and slowly walked down the path. The stallion would not be ignored. As Caramel and Fluttershy gathered the children inside, he ran toward the mare to chase her off but before he could get too close to her, she quickly kicked out with her back right hoof and caught him in the throat.
The red stallion fell to the ground trying to regain his breath through his bruised windpipe. Applejack shouted at her. "You can't do that to my brother!" She charged the stranger as recklessly as her brother. The ragged mare side stepped and caught the pony by her blond pony tail with her teeth and yanked back hard, pulling her to the ground.
The nightmare of a pony put a sharp untrimmed hoof on the pony's neck, holding her where she lay. "To think I idolized either of you. You're weak, and I've outgrown you both." Her voice was harsh and cold as a winter's gale. She removed her hoof and continued to walk toward town.
As soon as she was out of site, Caramel ran to his wife and Fluttershy to her husband. "Are you okay?" Caramel asked them both.
"Yeah, yeah, I'm fine only my ego's been bruised. Fluttershy how's Big Mac?"
"His windpipe is bruised. But I think he'll be okay."
"I need you to go warn Luna and Twilight that we got some dangerous pony heading to town. We'll look after Big Macintosh and get him to the hospital." Applejack said. Fluttershy kissed her husband then flew off toward the Ponyville Library.
The mysterious mare stopped on the road just outside town. With her one good eye she surveyed the small hamlet. Town Hall, the Founders Fountain, Sugar Cube Corner, it was all still there. The mare took a step forward but stumbled. She was weak and she knew it, she had wasted too much energy. The light was hurting her eye and she still had far to go. Quickly she melded into the darkness behind a building and slowly moved across town, darting from shadow to shadow. She was concentrating on her final target when she heard two ponies talking behind her. "Do you think he'll like it Twist?"
"Oh, you know Pip, if it comes from either of us, he'll love it."
Turning her head she saw them. One was tall and slender with a curly red mane and a white coat. The other was pink with a light purple and white mane. As she walked by she saw the cutie mark of a diamond tiara on the pink pony's flank. Sudden realization struck the strange mare. "Diamond!" She screamed. With a speed that most ponies would not think possible, the mare charged and smashed Diamond Tiara into a nearby tree. The pink pony collapsed under the assault. All of the frightening pony's years of anger, all the hatred and malice poured forth and she savagely kicked and beat the cringing pony.
"Stop it, you're hurting her." The white mare cried as she ran to her mate's aid. The enraged mare kicked the pony back against an adjacent building. "Help! Somepony help us!" She screamed.
The voice that had taunted and tormented the mysterious mare all those years was now crying out for mercy. "No, no mercy! Not for you!" The pale mare reared up, preparing for the final blow to the pony's neck when she was bulled over by a violet unicorn stallion with a royal purple mane and tail. The mare looked up at Diamond's rescuer. He was well built, toned, and muscular but it was his eyes that seemed to draw her in. His deep, vibrant, penetrative eyes seemed to bore into her soul. She couldn't help but stare into those emerald pools but all she found was her own horrid image reflected back at her. Slowly getting to her hooves, the mare backed off into the shadows and appeared to vanish.
The stallion turned to the white mare cradling Diamond Tiara. "Twist we need to get out of here fast, she's hurt bad." The stallions said using his unicorn magic to levitate the injured mare onto his back.
"Twist, it hurts so much." Cried Diamond, her azure eyes screwed tight in pain.
"It's okay sweetie, I'm right here I'm not going to leave you." She responded.
"Twist." A cold and bitter voice called out. "Why have you betrayed me? You will meet the same fate as the others." The stallion and Twist ran off with their precious burden toward the Ponyville hospital. The mare turned and slowly continued on her way.
Precious energy had been lost but her final target was in site. The Ponyville Library. It was different than she remembered. A small two-story building had been built onto the side of the tree. 'This is it.' She thought to herself. 'Vengeance will be mine!'
The mare charged the front door of the library, smashing it to pieces as she threw her body against it. "Where is she?!"
Three alicorns, a male and two female, were shocked at the appearance of this intruder "Dusk, Dawn, get behind me now!" The two younger alicorns rushed behind their mother.
"Ahhhh, Twilight Sparkle, how good to see you again. When I'm done with your wife, I'll deal with you next. Where is she, where is that pathetic excuse for a Princess? Where is Luna?!"
"I'm right here." Came a voice from behind the mare. She spun around but not fast enough. Before she could attack, Luna knocked her into an unconscious state with her magic.
"Luna, who is that and how does she seem to know who we are?" Twilight asked.
"Don't you recognize her my love?" Luna look by the door where hung one of the last known photographs of Apple Bloom. To one side of the picture was a red bandana emblazoned with the crest of the Cutie Mark Crusaders.
The Ponyville Hospital was incredibly busy that morning. There had been so many injuries in such a short time. Twilight and Luna had gathered most of their friends in one of the treatment rooms where Applejack and Big Macintosh were being patched up. "Hey Applejack, how are you and your bro doing?"
"We're doin okay Rainbow. Macintosh got the worst of it; I just got my pride hurt for the most part. That thing walloped us but good."
"Macky was so brave defending Chaser and Toffee like that." Fluttershy said hugging her husband. Luna was watching Applejack and Big Macintosh and couldn't help but weep. Twilight comforted her wife as much as possible.
"Its okay Luna we weren't hurt that bad." Applejack assured her.
"It's not that Applejack, you see, after that mare left you she came to town. With what information we could get from Garnet, we learned that she almost killed Diamond Tiara and probably would have if Garnet hadn't intervened."
"That's my boy." Spike said proudly.
"Garnet scared her off but then she came to the library looking for Luna and myself." Twilight explained.
"She didn't hurt you did she?"
"No Braeburn, Luna was able to knock her out before anything bad happened but that's not the point. That pony down the hall is, or at least was Apple Bloom!" Twilight revealed.
Garnet closed the door behind him, leaving Twist and Pip to have some time with Diamond Tiara now that she was awake. 'That thing certainly did a number on Diamond. I hope she'll be okay.' He thought to himself.
Garnet was walking down the hall to Applejack and Macintosh's room when he heard everypony behind the door shout at the same time, "Apple Bloom?!"
He rushed into the room. "Apple Bloom?" He asked cautiously.
Spike walked over and put a claw on his sons shoulder. "Son, I don't want you to get too excited but it seems Apple Bloom was spotted in Ponyville. She's here in the hospital but she's not
" Garnet didn't wait for the rest. He ran out of the room over to the nurses aid station. Quickly, he read the patient board scanning for a particular name. 'AB RM 107' Running down the hall, he read each room number as he went. Upon finding the room, he carefully tapped on the door with his hoof. There was no answer. Quietly he opened the door and softly stepped inside the room. There she was, lying in the hospital bed hooked up to numerous IV's and machines monitoring her vital signs. Her mane was longer but with that shade of red hair and yellow coat, it couldn't be anypony but Apple Bloom. Her back was to him and her chest was slowly rising and falling in the room's dim light.
"I'm not asleep. What do you want?" She asked.
Garnet was overjoyed. "Apple Bloom, I'm so happy your back; you don't know how much we all missed you."
"I don't know who you are but it's obvious you're an idiot. Go away."
"Oh, that's right, I was four when you left Ponyville to go on your adventures. It's me, Garnet. Remember I used to tag along with you and the other Crusaders. I'm the town's Sheriff now but hey, it's still me
'The stallion.' She thought to herself. 'Why didn't I see it earlier?'
"You!" She said turning over in her bed, staring at him with her one eye. "You stopped me, why?! What is that piece of trash to you?!"
"It can't be!" He shouted in disbelief. "You can't be the same mare from earlier. The Apple Bloom I knew would never do that to another pony."
"Well guess what little boy, the pony you knew is gone. She grew up and found the world isn't all rainbows and sunshine." Apple Bloom tried to move further but found her four legs secured by straps to the bed. Straining hard she ripped the strap on her right foreleg then undid the rest. Grabbing hold of the numerous needles and tubes in her with her teeth, she ripped them out causing the injection sites to bleed. She rolled out of bed and advanced on the purple unicorn, blood running down her front legs. Her mane had been brushed back exposing her scar and sightless eye. "What's the matter Garnet, aren't I pretty? What do you think of my cutie mark?" She asked, exposing her badly scared flank. "I made it myself, isn't it just great?" Her voice was dripping with sarcasm.
Garnet continued backing away from her until they were both in the hall. "What happened to you, what made you like this?"
"Life happened." She said, poking him in the chest with a now manicured hoof, smearing her blood on his coat. "Life is cold, hard and cruel! Life is pain; anypony who says different is selling something. Get used to it!" She pushed the stunned stallion off to the side. "Stay out of my way this time. I have something to finish." Walking away from Garnet, she made her way down the hall and looked at the patient board. "There she is. Room 202."
Walking toward the stairs, Apple Bloom passed by a crash cart in the hall. A glint of light reflected off of one of the surgical instruments resting in a half open drawer in the cart. The half crazed mare couldn't help but stare at the light shining off its mirror like surface. Staring into her own reflection, she heard the thing call out to her. 'Take it, you know what to do.' It said. 'Show her no mercy; show her what it's like to be you. Show her what it's like to be a blank flank, then destroy her! Reaching her nose in, she grabbed the instrument by the handle and headed for the stairs.
Garnet sat there with Apple Bloom's blood slowly running down his chest. She had become so different than what he remembered, the purple stallion wasn't sure what to do but he knew that whatever Apple Bloom had in mind, it wouldn't be good. He ran down the hall to follow her and caught up to her just as she entered the stair well. "Apple Bloom, please come back."
"I told you to stay out of my way little colt."
Garnet used his unicorn magic to restrain the mare but she was fighting the pull. The strain on Garnet was tremendous but he eventually got the better of her and pulled her back down the stares and into the hall. "I can't let you hurt anypony else."
"Let me go. That trash, that filth has it coming."
She shouted. Twilight and the rest of the ponies came out of the treatment room and saw Garnet restraining a bleeding Apple Bloom in the hall. "Help me!" He shouted. "She's trying to hurt Diamond again!"
"Release me! I'll show her who the real blank flank is! I'll stuff it down her bucking throat!"
Twilight and Luna added their magic to the restraining aura around her. "Luna quickly while we can still hold her." Twilight shouted.
"Let me go! I'll kill you all!" The crazed mare screamed. Luna galloped over and bowed her head to the thrashing mare, her horn glowed and Apple Bloom had again slipped into unconsciousness. Spike rushed over, picked up the mare, and carried her back to her room.
Rarity walked to where Apple Bloom had been and used her magic to pick up an object from the floor. "What's this and why would Apple Bloom have it? She asked.
Fluttershy took a close look at the instrument. "That's a scalpel. It's a knife that's used in surgeries to make the initial incisions. Please be careful with it, it's very sharp."
Pinkie had been listing intently to the other mares. "You don't think she was; I mean with what she said. You don't think she was going to
" The very idea of a pony maiming another in that fashion was reprehensible to Pinky Pie.
'How could anypony even think of cutting the cutie mark off another pony?' The thought made the pink pony shudder visibly.
Applejack and Big Macintosh could only sit in horror, watching their sister be carried away after her murderous rant. "What's wrong with her Twilight?" Applejack asked.
"She's been poisoned by a Blackthorn Creeper." Twilight said solemnly.
"Oh my gosh! Not a black creepy!" Pinky gasped.
"Not black creepy, a Blackthorn Creeper. It's a carnivorous plant that usually attacks sleeping animals by wrapping it's feelers around a victim and injecting them with a hallucinogenic toxin that normally disables then. Then, like a constrictor vine, it strangles them to death and slowly consumes them." Luna explained.
"Oh my goodness, and you say my sweet little sister was attacked by one of those things?" Applejack asked.
"I doubt it Applejack. I've spoken with the doctors already and they say the scar on her face and the damage to her eye is recent. It appears she was fighting something and fell into the bush." Twilight said.
"We pulled sixty five of those thorns our of her." Fluttershy said. That much toxin would have almost certainly overpowered any pony but with all the adrenalin in her system we assume she was able to get out of the bush and fight off whatever was attacking her. I'm sorry I wasn't there when they cleaned her up or I would have told you Macky. I'm sorry, she was just so scary."
"It's okay darlin', you didn't know. As for you Luna," Macintosh said angrily. His face softened. "Thank you. My little sister's back and that's all I care about."
"Big Macintosh is right sugar cube. We was plenty mad at you when she ran away but that's water under the bridge. What matters now is gettin' our baby sister back home with us." Applejack assured her.
"Spike. Maybe you should write a letter to Zecora and let her know what's going on. She might have an idea on how to get the toxin out of Apple Bloom's system." Soarin suggested.
"In the mean time, we're gonna' go get Belle and Scoot." Rainbow Dash said as she and her husband raced down the hall, heading for the exit.
Spike wrote down all the events on a new scroll Twilight had invented. Once he was finished he burned the scroll, sending it to Zecora. "I was wondering." Spike said. "If we're all here, who's watching the foals?"
Rarity suddenly felt ill. "Excuse me." She said as she galloped quickly to the bathroom.
"I'd better follow her." Twilight said. "Just to make sure she's ok." The violet alicorn raced after Rarity.
"We left them with Honey back at Sugar Cube corner." Fluttershy said.
"That's great, Honey loves foals." Pinky said. "And besides, it's not like she'll be by herself."
"Wherever Honey is, you can bet Jato won't be far behind. I've got to talk to Rainbow and Soarin 'bout that boy. I don't like him getting too friendly with my little filly." Braeburn said.
"Oh Brasey, you're just like daddy."
Rarity was hugging a toilet bowel when she felt a hoof on her back. "Rarity, are you okay?" Twilight asked.
"No Twilight, I'm not okay." Rarity said as she flushed the toilet. She walked over to the sink and washed her face. "Something's happened and I have no idea what to do. I'm happy about it, I really am but I'm scared too."
"What's the matter?"
"I'm pregnant; again!" She confessed.
Twilight was shocked. "Rarity, how could you? I thought you loved Spike? How could you go behind his back and
" Rarity put a hoof on her mouth to keep her from continuing the thought.
"Twilight, I haven't been with any other pony. Trust me, when you've slept with a dragon, nothing else will do. It doesn't hurt that he's hung and good at it too. Really, really good at it."
"Okay, I didn't need that image."
"What am I going to do? I don't want Spike to think I've been running around on him."
"I'm sorry Rarity. I shouldn't have jumped to conclusions but I'm sure that if you and I sit down and talk to Spike. He'll understand." Twilight said trying to comfort her. "How long have you known?"
"The nurse in the maternity ward said I was four months along and that was three days ago." Rarity informed her.
"Well, as soon as we're done here, I think we better tell Spike. You're already starting to show so you're going to have to tell him eventually."
"Okay, Twilight. You and Luna have always been there for us; if you're there I think I can do this. We should really get back to the others before they wonder where we are."
As the two mares left the bathroom and passed by one of the nurses stations, a light blue stallion wearing a doctors coat ducked around the corner so as not to be spotted. As soon as they were out of site, the pony ducked into the janitor's closet. Reaching into his pocket he pulled out a small black box with what looked like a stick coming out of it's top. Holding it in one hoof he pushed a button on its side with his other. "Your majesty, can you hear me?"
"I'm here Doctor Silver; what do you have to report?"
"There seems to be a problem with the plan. The white unicorn is pregnant again. From what I could hear, she's four months along and the child was sired by the dragon." The pony summed up. "If it would help, the next time she's in for a checkup, I can slip something in her prenatal vitamins that will abort the pregnancy.
"You will do no such thing!" He shouted through the device. "This is indeed an unexpected development but I think it will work to our advantage. When the demon reappears and Celestia shows her true colors, we will act. If the child has been born, we can use it as further proof for our cause, if not, well we'll burn that bridge when we get to it."
"But, sire, surely you don't mean to allow that abomination to live?" The Stallion asked.
"Doctor Silver, I will put this as plain as I can. If I find out that you harmed that child and endangered my plan in any way, I will personally tear you limb from limb and have whatever remains burned. Is that perfectly clear?"
"Yes my Prince, I will obey." He said, trembling.
"Good. I want you to monitor her condition and report back to me anything of consequence regarding her or any of the targets."
"As you wish sire." The light blue stallion said, returning the device to his pocket and slipping out of the janitor's closet.
Twilight and Rarity walked back to where the group of ponies had huddled around Spike as he read a scroll. "Is that the scroll you sent earlier Spike?" Twilight asked.
"Sure is. This 'return to sender paper' works great Twilight." Spike said as Rarity nuzzled up against him. Spike gave her a small kiss on the cheek and smiled at her. "Everything okay dear?"
"Yes, just a little upset stomach." She assured him. "What does Zecora say?"
"Zecora says she would come to town immediately but she's sick and can't leave her cottage."
"I'll have to take her some soup." Fluttershy interrupted. "Oh, sorry Spike."
"That's okay Fluttershy. She says that there is no cure for the toxin. We have to let the drug run it's coarse and that given Apple Blooms behavior we should probably keep her unconscious and just let her sleep it off."
Garnet walked into the room. "I'll stay with her until she wakes up."
Spike walked in behind him. "Son, a word please." Spike closed the door behind him giving them some privacy. "Garnet, I know you've carried a torch for Apple Bloom for the last seventeen years, ever since you were very little but things being what they are, I think you should maybe keep your distance for a little while at least."
"Father, I know you're trying to help but I just can't." Garnet ran a hoof down the unconscious Apple Blooms mane. "She needs me father. She's hurting inside and all I want to do is help her through it."
"What about Diamond? Did you forget about her?" Spike asked him.
"Diamond is a married mare, why would you even bring her up?" He asked. "I know you and some of the other ponies have issues with her relationship with Twist and Pip but get over it."
"I have nothing against their relationship; what I meant was, what Apple Bloom did out there in town and what she almost did a few minutes ago. I just don't want you to get hurt Son. There are a lot other fillies in town maybe you should give them a chance for once."
"I will have you know, the only reason I'm not yelling is because I don't want to wake her up." Garnet fumed. Steam was starting to come out his nose. "It wasn't Apple Bloom that attacked Daimond and it wasn't Apple Bloom who tried to, to, to hurt Diamond again. The poison in her was making her do it."
"Calm down Son, you're starting to steam."
"So what if I'm starting to steam, I have a right to. As for other fillies, I don't want them. Did anyone ever tell you to stop going after Mother? Did they tell you not to pursue her because you might get hurt?"
"Constantly, even your Mother on occasion; but Son this isn't the same thing, she's dangerous. We don't know what seventeen years in the border lands can do to a pony."
"Something like that wouldn't stop you. From what Mother told me, you risked your life on more than one occasion for her. If it's good enough for you than it's good enough for me." Garnet stepped over to a chair by the bed and sat down shooting steam out his nose, indicating his irritation at his Father.
Spike sighed. He knew there was no arguing with his son when he got like that. "Okay Son, goodnight. If you need anything you know where your mother and I are."
"Goodnight Father, please give my love to Mother."
Spike quietly walked out of the room and shut the door behind him. "That boy is impossible."
"He's just like his father." Rarity said smiling.
"I think we should all go home and get some rest, there's nothing we can do tonight. I'll instruct the doctor to keep her out until we're sure the toxin is out of her system." Luna said to the group of ponies waiting in the hall. The purple alicorn turned to her wife and gave her a quick nuzzle. "Twilight, I want to talk to Garnet real quick and then I'll be on my way home." The lavender alicorn nodded and ushered the others out into the reception area.
Luna quietly entered the room. "Garnet, are you going to be okay by yourself? Do you want me to stay?"
"I'll be fine, Princess Luna. Sometimes Father can infuriate me, I wish he'd stop treating me like a foal."
"He can't help it Garnet, you're his only Son. You were the product of his first perfect night with you're Mother, that makes you very special to him." The Princess sat next to the forlorn unicorn. "Garnet, I want you to know something, you were right. Everything you told your father was right, she does need you, more than either of you know."
"You heard me?" Garnet asked.
"The walls aren't all that thick Garnet. Here, I want you to have this." Luna draped a silver pendant around his neck. The ornament was thin and its surface was emblazoned with the image a shield on its surface. Looking closely at the pendant, the pointed shield looked almost exactly like his cutie mark. "Keep that hidden and try not to let anypony see it, especially Apple Bloom, I don't think she'd understand. That pendant has been enchanted to let you know whenever Apple Bloom is in trouble or doing something dangerous. The darker it glows, the worse it is. Keep an eye on it and keep an eye on her."
Garnet gave Luna a hug. "Thanks for understanding."
"I know what it's like to have feelings for somepony and not knowing how they feel. Be patient with her and don't let anything she's done so far sway your opinion. The toxin in her system has heavily influenced the way she's acted and what she's said lately. Let her sleep it off and I'm sure we'll see the real Apple Bloom shine through."
"You really missed her, didn't you Princess?" The purple unicorn asked.
"More than you know Garnet. I've always felt that her running away was somehow my fault but that's all behind us now because Apple Bloom is back and I'm going to do whatever I can to keep it that way. I hope I can count on you to help with that." She said with a small smile.
"You can count on me Princess." He said, blushing slightly.
Luna walked out of the room and toward the hospital's exit. 'This should be interesting.' She thought to herself.
Apple Bloom slept for three weeks while the toxin worked it's way out of her system. At times her sleep was troubled and fevered while at other times she slept peacefully. Through good and bad, Garnet was there, watching over her. Two mares, an orange pegasus and a white unicorn entered the room quietly. The white unicorn gently nudged Garnet. "Garnet, Garnet honey, wake up."
The purple unicorn woke up with a start. "Sis, Scoot, what are you two doing here?"
Sweetie Belle gave her little brother a hug. "We're here for her. Rainbow and Soarin told us she was back so we dropped what we were doing and rushed home."
"But what about your concert, you're right in the middle of a tour."
"Don't worry bout that." Scootaloo reassured him. "I put out a press release saying she wasn't feeling well and a new concert schedule would be released as soon as she was well enough to perform. We got all the time in the world."
"I guess I should bring you up to speed." He sighed. Garnet informed them about everything that had happened since Apple Blooms return, the event at the cottage, Diamond Tiara, even the incident with the scalpel. He told them everything.
"You haven't left this room in three weeks?" Sweetie Belle asked.
"Well, other than the necessities, yes. I've stayed here. She needs somepony who isn't afraid of her. It's going to be a long road before she's comfortable around other ponies again but if I can, I'll help her. Kind of my job and all, protect and serve."
"You guys mind keeping it down? I'm trying to sleep here."
"Apple Bloom, you're awake!" Scootaloo and Sweetie Belle yelled.
She cringed and covered her ears. "Not so loud, my head feels like Applejack used it for bucking practice."
"Scoot, go and get the others please." Garnet asked her quietly.
"You got it." She said as she raced out the door.
"How are you feeling?" Sweetie Bell asked her.
Apple Bloom quickly jerked her head forward to allow her mane to cover right eye before turning to face her. "I've been better and why are my legs strapped own." Garnet was about to speak when the memories of the last few days came flooding back. "Oh no, what have I done? Applejack, Big Macintosh, I hope they're ok. Diamond Tiara, well, she needed a beat down but not like that, and not by me. Twist must hate me."
"Calm down Apple Bloom, everything's going to be okay. You're home now and we're all going to do our very best to help you." Garnet reassured her.
"Before everyone gets here what do you want to do now. I mean, I hope you don't want to go back on the road." Sweetie Bell asked.
"No, after what happened, I think I've had enough of the world out there to last me a life time."
"I'm glad to hear that little sister." Applejack said as she entered the room followed by all her friends. "I have your room all set up, just the way you left it."
"Thanks big sis but I don't know if I'm ready to leave just yet, I'm still not feeling all that good."
Fluttershy walked into the room with a clipboard held in her wings. "I'm sorry you don't feel well but it's to be expected. The poison is out of your blood stream but the three weeks in bed have left you a little weak. If you feel up to it, we'll get you started with some physical therapy tomorrow." Fluttershy cowered slightly when she saw Apple Bloom's bewildered expression.
"Fluttershy? Since when did you become a nurse here?" The yellow pony asked.
"I'm not a nurse Apple Bloom, I'm a doctor." Fluttershy informed her. "I finally earned my degree four years ago. A lot of ponies had been coming to me for advice on medicine or treatment, so I figured I should study medicine so I was certain I was giving ponies the right information. Twilight suggested that I take the medical exams since I'd been doing so much studying and I passed. I still care for my little friends but three afternoons a week and Sundays I work here." The pegasus said with a smile.
"And I couldn't be prouder." Macintosh added in.
"Applejack, Macintosh, I'm sorry about what I did, Can you ever forgive me?"
"Are you kidding?" Her sister asked with a smile on her face. "I've taken worse and besides, I'm going to want you to teach me some of those moves."
"No problem sis."
Twilight walked toward the bed. "If Fluttershy says the toxin is finally out of your system then I think we can take these off." Twilight lowered her horn and the restraints on Apple Bloom's legs were released.
"Thanks Twilight, thank you for trusting me."
"It's ok Apple Bloom. We don't blame you for what happened. Blackthorn toxin is a very dangerous thing. I can only imagine the things it made you see and hear."
Apple Bloom tried to sit up. "We have a present for you Apple Bloom, hold still please." Luna said. The two Princesses concentrated hard as their horns started to glow. Apple Bloom felt warmth coming from what she thought was a dead eye. She began to see light then blurry images. Slowly those images came into focus and she saw her friends and her family standing before here. "We couldn't completely heal the scar but your eye should work as well as it always had."
"Thank you Princesses, thank you." The earth pony gushed, tears welling up in her eyes. "I though I'd never see out of that eye again, I thought it was dead and I'd loose it. Thank you again, I don't know how I'll repay you."
"Your eye wasn't damaged too badly; the lens was knocked out of alignment and some of the focusing muscles were torn, that's why you couldn't see out of it." Twilight explained.
"However, if you want to thank us, you can start by taking this back." Luna said as she floated a small necklace off her and around Apple Bloom's neck.
"Thank you." She said, her eyes filling with tears.
"I'm sorry but visiting hours are ending soon and we have to ask everypony to leave so the patients can get their rest." Fluttershy announced cautiously.
"Oh, come on Shy, can't we stay just a little longer?" Scootaloo asked.
"No." Fluttershy said firmly. "Apple Bloom needs her rest and so do the other patients on this floor. I'm sorry but you'll have to come back tomorrow."
"Don't worry about girls, I'll stay with her tonight." Garnet told them reassuringly.
Apple Bloom sat up in bed watching her family and old friends leave the room. "I'll see you tomorrow, don't worry about me."
"So Apple Bloom, I guess it's just you and me
"If you're feeling up to it, maybe I can get Tootsie Flute and Dinky to visit, I know they'd love to see you again."
"Yes, is there anything I can get you, so water or another pillow maybe?" He asked hopefully.
"Go home Garnet, I don't need you to look after me." Apple Bloom told him.
The purple unicorn was hurt. "But, what if
"Garnet, just stop." She said, interrupting him. "Please, just go and leave me alone. I appreciate everything you've done but I need to have time to think."
"Uhm, alright, if you think that's best." He said, his ears hanging low. "Please let me know if you need anything; goodnight."
"Goodnight Garnet." The smile on the unicorns face was small and forced, his head hung down as he slowly walked from the room and closed the door behind him.
The hospital had gone quite as the last of the day staff left for home. The night crew coming on was much smaller; only those ponies needed for emergency treatments being as the majority of the hospitals guests, as they like to call them, would have been asleep. Indeed the dark halls were filled with the sounds of slumbering ponies emanating from the various rooms along the corridors. For one pony however, sleep would not come.
Long after Garnet had left the room, Apple Bloom lay awake in the dark, staring at the ceiling of her room. For some reason, unknown to her, she couldn't shake the crestfallen expression on Garnet's face when she told him to leave. Feeling herself blush, she cursed inwardly. 'Damn it, why does he have to be so cute?!' The yellow mare lightly smacked herself. 'Get ahold of yourself, he's twelve years younger than you.'
Apple Bloom took a deep breath to calm herself but instead of the antiseptic odor of a hospital room, all she could smell was him. "I need to get out of this room." She told herself. She pulled back the covers, gently rolled out of bed, and headed for the door.
Being a loner, the red haired pony had never cared for hospitals and now that she viewed the darkened corridors outside her room, she like them even less. The yellow mare was always able to think best on her hooves and so she tried work through her current situation as she walked the vacant halls. 'What am I going to do now; my family's afraid of me, heck almost everypony is.' She sighed softly. 'I don't blame them; I ran away for years never once talking to any of them. I come back and I nearly kill one pony and almost attacked the Princesses. I'm surprised I'm not sitting in a dungeon cell right now.'
An image of Garnet's smiling face invaded upon her catalog of disgrace. "Damn it!" She yelled, slamming her right front hoof against a nearby door.
"Come in if you must, there's no need to be so violent with my door."
Apple Bloom cursed herself again. 'I might as well apologize for wake her.' She thought to herself. Pushing down on the lever handle of the door, she gently pushed it open and noticed a ray of light coming from the room. 'I guess she wasn't asleep after all. I suppose I should still apologize for the noise.'
Putting on her best smile, she stepped into the room. "Hey, sorry about the noise and the dent in
The yellow earth-pony was interrupted by a shaky and strained voice. "Ap-pple Bloom, is t-that you?"
The scared pony stood there in dumbfounded silence. Laying in the bed in front of her was none other than her hated rival and now that she looked at Diamond Tiara, she could feel nothing but remorse for the pink pony and gut wrenching guilt for what she had done. In turn, Diamond looked back at her with a worried and confused look on her face. The pony's mane was smartly brushed but could not hide her blackened left eye nor the partially healed bruises on that side of her face. The pony's chest had been wrapped in several layers of bandages and her back left leg was incased in a thick cast. What of the ponies' fur she could see was partially covered in bandages. Diamond could feel Apple Blooms eyes studying her. "I know what you're thinking, I look like I lost a fight with a wild animal."
"You're not that far off," she said. "Listen Diamond, I know you don't like me, and I've never been overly found of you but, I-I'm sorry about what I did. You didn't deserve what happened
For the second time, the yellow earth-pony was cut off by her rival. "Of course I deserved it." The injured mare practically shouted. She rubbed her right temple with her hoof. "Apple Bloom, please, sit next to me for a while, you and I have much to talk about."
"Aren't you afraid of me, what I might do?"
"To be honest yes, I am a little frightened of you and that's something I'm working out with my family. Princess Twilight and Princess Luna told me of what happened. They told me that you were under the influence of a very dangerous hallucinogen and as such were not responsible for your actions. You seem to be fine now or else I doubt they would have let you out of the restraints."
Apple Bloom sat cautiously at the side of Diamond Tiara's bed. "Ah, you heard about that?"
"I heard about everything. As soon as I heard that it was you, I insisted on regular reports. Garnet was thoughtful enough to keep me informed." Diamond said. At the mention of the unicorn's name, Apple Bloom blushed a little. The pink mare could not help but notice the reaction. "I see, well, we can discuss that later. Listen Apple Bloom; you've done nothing for which you should be ashamed." She said reaching out to hold the yellow hoof resting on her bed. "I meant what I said; I deserved every bit of what I received. For a long time, I feared that the sins of my past would return to take vengeance upon me, and to be honest I'd been expecting it for many years. My one consolation is that the girls were not there. They do not know what I was like as a filly and while I may tell them one day I fear what they would think of me if they knew."
"Girls?" Apple Bloom asked.
Diamond Tiara moved a picture from on the nightstand next to her bed and showed it to her visitor. "Yes, my two darling daughters. It's true that Twist gave birth to one of them but we both treat them as if they were ours."
Apple Bloom could only stare at the picture. There, in the center stood a very grown up Pip surrounded by Diamond Tiara and Twist. Next to the two mares were two small fillies; one with a pink coat and brown hair, the other having a mottled coat and a shockingly red mane. Bloom just sat there, staring at them and remembered growing up without a mother herself and how she felt the day Granny Smith passed away. Here eyes started to fill with tears when she realized that she almost deprived these innocent young fillies of a parent. The emotional damn she had erected years ago broke sudden and violently as she buried her tear soaked face into the comforter of Diamond Tiara's bed. "I'm sorry, I'm so so sorry. I didn't know what I was doing. I'm sorry
A stray tear rolled down Diamond's cheek as she gently stroked the mare's mane. 'I have no idea what you've been through Apple Bloom but I swear I will make up for every tear I've ever caused you to shed.'