A/N: This is a oneshot I wrote a while back as a prequel to a story I never got to finishing over on FiMFiction but I did a little tweaking and figured I'd share it here. It's based in an AU where Gilda is the daughter of griffon General and after the shaming experience of RD sending her on her way, she goes to him, which, thanks to a lot of unfortunate circumstances, eventually leads to a Griffon uprising. This here is just AJ on her way to join the fight and sharing some words with a tape recorder she later has sent to Apple Bloom... with a little AJ/Rarity on the side.

Not just yet

Ma had always been quite a conservative mare yet she had this kind of edge to her voice which meant that ya' did as ya' were told no matter how boring it mighta seemed. She was warm and alive and her smile was the friendliest kind. She greeted every stranger with that smile.

That smile, our pa had once said, was the reason that he fell in love with her. She was on his doorstep, askin' him if he had a rake she could borrow and she was smilin' the smile that stole hearts. He'd said that he was taken by her from the start.

He was a gruff stallion was Pa. He was larger than Macintosh is today, both in width and height and was a lot sterner with us. He weren't afraid to put his hoof down and with a stallion that size, it came down hard. He weren't ever mean but he's undoubtedly part of the reason that me and Mac are so polite to Granny all the time. 'Respect ya' elders', he said in that steely tone of his and so we did.

He was a hard-working stallion. He loved the labour and took pride in efficiency, tradition and the toil of working in the hot sun. He was at his best when he was buckin' the largest of the apple trees where he could throw all his muscle into it and send every red delicious tumblin' down like fruity rain... Ah'm getting' off topic. Sorry about that, this is meant to be about ma and pa, not me rememberin' silly things.

But y'see, Ah'm tell ya this because ya' asked what they were like and maybe hearin' me ramble might give ya' a better idea. At least speakin' to a machine, Ah can get the words out clearer.

Pa's the reason Ah'm so into the labour. Ma's the reason that Ah can smile as Ah'm doing it.

Ah owe them both an awful lot and truth be told, probably even more than Ah'm rememberin'... and Ah do miss 'em everyday.

Ah know that sometimes, ya' get scared about loosin' us too but ya' gotta keep ya' chin up an' remember that comin' and goin' is a part of life. It ain't never that nice but it's somethin' that happens and there ain't nothin' ya' can do to prevent it. That ain't to say that ya' need be fearin' we'll all drop one day but sometimes bad things happen. Ya' just gotta try and be strong and remember how much they loved ya'.

It might not sound too comfortin'. After all, Ah ain't a wordsmith and Ah don't know what the right thing to say is and so Ah'm jus' gonna give ya' the good and honest truth instead. Besides, it's the Apple way and I think it's probably the right way to be doin' this.

So, Ah'm gon' be honest and maybe it'll hurt a little but know that when Ah get back, we can talk till the cows come home if ya' wanna.

Ya' see, the truth is that Ma and pa... they didn't want to go and they weren't ready to leave us when they were taken in that storm all those years ago. They'd planned on comin' back. It might seem like they bailed on us, Celestia knows Ah've thought that time enough but they didn't want to go and they wouldn't have if that flash flood hadn't have swept through the entire east orchard.

But ya' were there with them, too young to know what was happenin' but when me and Mac arrived you were in Ma's foal harness, hanging from a sturdy branch of a sturdy oak and around us there was nothin'... but they'd saved you. They'd trusted old Bloomberg to keep ya' safe and so he had. Maybe it makes more sense to ya' why Ah'm so attached to that tree, now. Ah owe him mah little sister. Heh... Ah guess it's kinda silly really, bein' so fond of a tree when all he did was stand strong. Ah guess it's admirable though, how strong he was back then.

Ah'm getting' off track again. Ah'm sorry but it's so easy to when Ah'm thinkin' back to how Ma and Pa were.

They were such brilliant folks...

They loved ya' an awful lot, y'know? Ma was convinced, even when ya' were jus' a few months old that you'd be really good at makin' things. She said that ya' had a delicate touch, an eye for the details... Ah don't think delicate quite describes ya' but Ah know what she meant. Ya' loved colour and patterns and used to watch Pa when he was crafting little boxes and trinkets out of wood. You'd sit quiet with him on his knee as he whittled away.

He was real happy, smiling constantly in those times when ya' sat with 'im...

Y'know, ya' look jus' like Pa come to think of it. Ya' got his mane an' his eyes. Why yeah, Ah did once tell ya' he looked like Macintosh and he did. They share the same coat, y'see? There was a reason that Pa was Big Macintosh Senior.

Darn it, Ah'm doin' it again! Sorry, Bloom.

But y'see, the point in all this is that you're askin' me about them, not just because ya' can but because ya' feel like ya' gotta before it's too late. Ah know you're scared for me, sis but Ah ain't goin' away forever, even if it feels like it.

But the Princess asked us to go; me and Rainbow. She's askin' us to help save Equestria and as long as mah family and friends and this country are standin', Ah'm gonna help as best Ah can to make sure it stays that way.

Ah know it's war and Ah know that a battlefield ain't really no place for a farm mare but she reckons that me and RD can bring something to the EA and the REAF. That's the Equestrian Army and the Royal Equestrian Air Force if ya' were wonderin'.

Ah think she believes that as much as anythin', we'll bring morale to those troops out there and yeah, it's scary but we're gonna go because we both got a sense of duty. The Princess isn't forcin' us to, we're goin' because we're needed and sometimes, that's all the reason ya' need.

But Ah'll do mah best to keep safe. Rares would hand mah flank to me on a platter if Ah got mahself hurt out there and Ah know better than to cross that mare.

Ya' only make that mistake once, let me tell ya'.

Ah want ya' to trust me, Bloom. Ah know it's hard but ya' gotta have some faith that Ah'll come home to ya', angry griffon's and dragons or not... And maybe the truth is that Ah feel a lil' responsible for this mess we're in. Who knew that Gilda had connections enough to start a war, huh? Not Rainbow, that's for sure. She darn near blew a gasket when she found out and threatened to-... Well... do some pretty bad things to that griffon if she ever saw her, things Ah don't think ya' should be hearin' at your age.

But anyways, jus' remember that Ah'll be thinkin' about mah favourite filly every single day that Ah'm out there. Jus'-... Jus' don't go growin' up too much whilst Ah'm gone, 'kay?... By Luna, if you get your cutie mark where Ah ain't there to see it, you're gon' be in trouble, sis.

Geez, Ah can sure talk, can't Ah?

Well, when you're on the train towards the unknown Ah guess ya' feel like ya' got all the time in the world until the moment you arrive. Ah'll be sendin' this on over to ya' when Ah get to the other end. Ah hope it reaches ya' well and doesn't sound like a bunch of nonsense, Ah ain't much for technology even somethin' as simple as tape recorders...

… But Tartarus, Bloom... Ah'm already missin' ya' somethin' fierce.

Kinda missin' everypony actually. Ah'd usually be meetin' with Rares about now an' we'd be off to some café and-... Never mind, Ah know all that 'mushy romantic stuff' bores ya' to tears so Ah'll spare ya' jus' this once. Do me a favour though and let 'er though Ah love her, will ya' sis? Ah'm kinda worried she might forget if Ah'm gone too long... though she promised she'd wait...

Heheh. Look at me, ramblin' on 'cuz Ah ain't got nothin' more important to do. Ah got mah uniform lookin' crisp and clean, got mah boots polished and a hat that isn't mah Stetson hanging off a hook on the wall beside me. Ah look darn silly in that thing...

Tell ya' what, Ah'll take a picture an' send it with this tape. Ah bet you'll laugh, Ah look like such an idiot that Rainbow was in tears she was laughin' so hard.

Huh... Looks like Ah'm gon' run outta tape soon... or else Dash'll kick me in the head for keepin' her up. These cabins ain't too roomie, Ah'll tell ya' that and her hoof as far too near mah face for mah likin'.

Are you trying to say my hooves stink?!

Shush, Rainbow! Ah'm still talkin'!... Where was Ah? Oh yeah, Ah was talkin' about family... Well, Ah was at one point and that's the whole idea behind this thing so Ah better get back to it.

Family comes and goes, Bloom. You'll meet new ponies, you'll make new friends and they'll become part of ya' family... and sometimes the old ponies leave or they go off to the Great Plains beyond the stars and some family just kinda fades away, moving onto bigger things.

But they're all still family and if there's one thing that's true about Apples, it's that family will always be the most important thing and ya' gotta trust ya' family; it's part of it. Maybe they'll let ya' down but if they love ya' then they'll try their darnedest not to. Ah ain't sayin' it's easy because it ain't but it's important that ya' do because if ya' don't have faith in them, how can they have faith in themselves?...

Ah guess what Ah'm sayin' is that, Ah need ya' have faith in me little sis, so that Ah can have faith too. Ah'll come back to ya'. Ah'll come back to Sweet Apple Acres when this war is done and we can all sit around the table jus' like we've always done and eat apple flavoured foods jus' like we've always done and talk about Apple Family things jus' like we've always done...

We're family. You, me, Mac, Granny, every other Apple and all our friends too. We're family and that means more than anythin'.

So, be good, okay? And know that, Ah love ya'll and Ah miss ya' and one day, Ah'll come back to ya' with a million stories to tell.

Because though Ah love Ma and Pa as much as Ah did back as a filly, Ah ain't near ready to go joinin' 'em yet...

Be safe and be happy, flower.

Ya' big sis'll be back before ya' know it.

A/N: And let it never be said that I don't love writing AJ in the narrative voice.