Chapter Seventeen
Canterlot, Equestria

When she had first started living in the castle with the Princess, Twilight had found the tower that had been set aside for her use more than a little lonely, even with Spike there to keep her company. There were more books than she could ever count, and her bed was wrapped in sheets of the finest cotton from Saddle Arabia, but it wasn't home. Shining Armor wasn't there to watch over her, her mother wasn't fooling around in the garden with her experiments, and her father wasn't stumbling around the house trying to stay awake from the night of star gazing before.

It just wasn't home.

It had only taken Princess Celestia a day to realize what was wrong. After her lessons that day with the Princesses, Twilight had returned to her tower. Instead of the loneliness that had greeted her the night before, she found her entire family waiting for her with a home-cooked meal and a table for five. When Princess Celestia joined them for dinner, Twilight found a completion in her life that had been missing before. Both parts of her life, her home and her studies, fell into perfect alignment. Being the Princess' personal student didn't mean that she was giving up her family, and wanting to be with her parents didn't mean that she was rejecting the Princess.

She hadn't realized that until then.

There were so many memories tied into the tower that she had called home for the past fourteen years. Spike's first steps. Her first teleportation. Countless nights spent studying the journals of long dead philosophers and mages. Those had been the best years of her life so far, and it wasn't until she had gone with Celestia to the Citadel that she truly realized how lucky she was.

When others had been taken forcefully from their homes, Twilight had been safe in the castle, deep behind the Princess' protection. She was given all the tools she needed to become strong and powerful.

Others had never gotten that chance. She was lucky, blessed beyond belief, but she had a duty now. She realized the truth of that now. It was the duty of the strong to protect the weak, to help others in their time of need.

It was in that moment that Twilight decided. She would be that protector. She would fight for the lost. There was nothing else she could do without feeling guilt at her own choices in life. With a nod, she settled deeper into her couch, content with her decision.

Staring out at the city below, Twilight turned when she heard the door open. Looking over her shoulder, she smiled when she saw Gilda stepping up the stairs. "Gilda!"

"Hey, Twilight." Gilda waved awkwardly with her talons.

Calmly, Gilda walked over to Twilight's couch, settling down next to her. The two sat together silently for a moment, just enjoying each other's company.

"Thanks." Gilda was the first to break the silence.

"For what?" Twilight asked, tilting her head in confusion.

Shrugging in embarrassment, Gilda glanced away from Twilight, picking at the edge of the couch with her talons. Her wings shuffled in embarrassment and Twilight secretly thought that the look on her face was adorable, even though she would never admit it to anypony.

"Ya' know," Gilda said, trailing off.

Twilight waited a moment longer for Gilda to expound further on what she was saying. She didn't.

"I'm not psychic, Gilda." Twilight giggled, bumping her gently with her shoulder. "What are you talking about?"

"Ya' know." Gilda gave an annoyed huff, completely embarrassed, her blush growing bigger and brighter by the moment. "My mom. Thanks. For talking with her, I mean. And not, ya' know, telling her anything."

"It wasn't a probelm." Twilight nodded in understanding, smiling warmly with Gilda. "You're my friend. I'm not going to break your trust."

"Yeah, well..." Gilda bumped Twilight back, glancing down at the floor. "Thanks anyway."

"Anytime."

They sat there for a moment, and Twilight was completely oblivious to the short looks that Gilda kept shooting at her. Gilda opened her beak, wanting to say something, but stopped, thinking better of it before closing it again.

A moment passed. Gilda kept shooting lingering looks at Twilight.

"What?" Twilight noticed one of the looks that Gilda shoots at her, and the two froze. Something in the back of her mind was shouting at her wildly that this moment was important, but Twilight wasn't quite sure why. She watched Gilda carefully, tilting her head ever so slightly.

"Nothing," Gilda mumbled, looking away. She started to clamber off of the couch, but Twilight reached out and put a hoof on her shoulder encouragingly.

"It's alright, Gilda." Twilight smiled at her. "You don't need to be embarrassed. You can tell me anything."

"I- uh- you-" Gilda looked back at Twilight, still blushing. She gulps, obviously thinking through something. She grimaced, growling under her breath about her inability to express any of her thoughts and emotions. "Ah- screw it."

Gently grabbing Twilight's head, Gilda pulled her in and kissed her for all she was worth. Twilight's eyes widened, but closed slowly in appreciation, leaning into the kiss.

After several long moments, the two pulled away. Twilight blushed brilliantly, practically vibrating in excitement.

"Wow... Gilda..." Her mouth worked up and down for a moment, unable to say anything else. "Wow..."

"Yeah." Gilda nodded, blushing as brilliantly as Twilight.

"What are you-" Twilight stumbled over her words, thrown for a loop, excited and unsure of what to say.

"Twilight Sparkle, speechless!" Gilda laughed, a pleasant sound. "This is a first."

"I..." Ducking her head, Twilight giggled. "Gilda, what are you..."

Gilda shuts Twilight's muzzle with her claw. "I like you, Twilight."

"I like you too, Gilda." Twilight's voice was quiet, embarrassed, but a deep vein of attraction ran through it.

"That's good." Gilda giggled, her wings fluttering against her sides. "It'd be a bit awkward if I kissed you and you didn't."

Twilight nodded, laughing quietly. She firmed up though and her face took on a serious slant. "Are you sure that you're ready for something like this?"

"I..." Gilda had to think about that for a moment, looking back out the window at Canterlot below. "Yeah. I want to try."

Smiling widely, Twilight edged closer to Gilda, leaning into the larger Griffin's side. "Alright."

"Cool," Gilda simply said.

The two sat there, staring out the window, smiling like a pair of idiots. Everything was going to be okay.

###

Vinyl sat quietly on the medical bed in the center of the room as a pair of Asari nurses attached the Mechanical Prosthesis to the stump of her leg. Soft dubstep music played in the background. Her face was screwed up in concentration.

Octavia stood at the head of the bed, a hoof on Vinyl's shoulder keeping the white unicorn calm.

Vinyl tried her best to keep her breathing steady, focusing on staying calm.

Doctor Stable smiled down encouragingly at the two mares. "You're doing fine, Vinyl."

The leg attached with a loud click, quiet motors attaching to the receivers in Vinyl's leg.

"Are you feeling alright?" Doctor Stable asked, studying the leg for any signs of a bad connection.

"Yeah. I'm..." Vinyl shuddered slightly, having to consciously fight against her instincts to run. "I'm good."

Nodding, Doctor Stable opened his omni-tool. "I'm going to activate the leg now, Vinyl. Be ready."

"Yeah." Vinyl screwed her eyes shut and clenched her teeth.

"You are doing great, love." Octavia leaned forward and gave Vinyl a gentle nuzzle.

Vinyl just nodded, concentrating on not overreacting to anything. She kept breathing steadily, just like Sha'ira showed her.

"I'm starting the leg, Vinyl." Doctor Stable gave his final warning, letting her know what was happening every step of the way.

Keeping her eyes closed in intense concentration, Vinyl didn't move an inch as the leg activates with a nearly silent whine, the servos and motors doing a quick run through before settling into their natural positions.

Several moments passed as Doctor Stable checked all of the readings to make sure that the leg was working correctly. He did not want to see a repeat of last time.

"Alright." He gave a nod of satisfaction. "Why don't you try and get off of the table."

Vinyl gave a grunt of confirmation.

Opening her eyes, she saw Octavia giving her a smile of encouragement. She tried her best to return the smile, but it was shaky at best.

Her face set in extreme concentration, Vinyl shifted her legs, carefully moving to the edge of the bed. Her mechanical leg moved naturally, in synch with her three remaining legs.

"You're doing great." Doctor Stable encouraged.

Chewing on her lip, Vinyl eased off of the table, landing on all fours. The leg reacted perfectly, and Vinyl opened her clenched eyes, a wide smile on her face.

"Wonderful, Vinyl!" Doctor Stable nodded proudly, continuing to study his omni-tool for any signs of failure.

Octavia walked around the table to Vinyl's side, smiling at her.

"Why don't you try moving around?" Doctor Stable suggested.

Vinyl nodded, looking back at the leg.

With careful movements, Vinyl walked forward to Octavia, moving normally for the first time since her leg was amputated.

Every movement she made was slow and deliberate, but she wasn't hobbling around anymore. It moved and reacted like a real leg, almost like she never lost it in the first place. It would just have to be something she got used to first.

Slowly circling around Octavia, Vinyl's grin grew in size.

"Hi there." She winked, feeling more courage than she had in a long time.

"Hello, Vinyl," Octavia said back, giggling.

As Vinyl circled around Octavia, she stumbled for a moment, and the room froze.

Octavia sent a worried look to Doctor Stable, but he was too focused on watching Vinyl to pay her any notice. The two Asari looked like they were ready to move forward at any moment to restrain the mare if she started freaking out. They were afraid that she was going to react the same way that she had before.

Slightly shaken, Vinyl managed to get the leg under control, standing still for a long moment to make sure she was alright. She took a deep breath and continued back around until she was facing Octavia.

Leaning forward, she tenderly kissed her wife. They pull away after a moment.

"I love you, Tavi," Vinyl whispered breathlessly.

"I love you too, Vinyl." Octavia gave her a nuzzle. "I am proud of you."

Vinyl grinned and carefully pranced away from Tavi. She looked worn and scarred, but life was returning to her and welcoming her back with open arms.

She stopped, staring into space.

Realizing something, Vinyl turned back to face Octavia who had tensed ever so slightly.

In her most serious and honest voice, Vinyl spoke. "I want sushi."

"Sounds like a date!" Octavia giggled, relaxing. Everything would be alright.

###

Ryuusei Sushi, Bachjret Ward, Citadel

Octavia and Vinyl sat at a small table tucked romantically back into a corner of the restaurant. Ryuusei Sushi was one of the premier restaurants on the Citadel. Some people waited months to get a table. Never let it be said that being one of the best known musicians on the Citadel didn't have its perks. Octavia had quickly been able to arrange a table for the two of them.

As it turned out, they were the only Equestrians in the sushi bar. They were gathering a few looks, but they were easily ignoring everything else but each other.

"I..." Vinyl stared down at the plates arranged before them, leaning a little into Octavia's side. It might have been easier to talk if they sat across from each other, but Vinyl wanted nothing else than to get as close to Octavia as possible. "The one thing that I always craved was sushi."

Octavia understood instantly that Vinyl was speaking about when she was a slave. The sushi that was arrayed before them was completely vegetarian and Equestrian friendly and it was quite delicious.

Octavia ate the sushi elegantly, with the ease of a pony who had been using their hooves their entire life like all earth and pegasus ponies. Vinyl watched her carefully, trying to mimic her movements.

Vinyl struggled to use her own hooves, completely unused to having to eat without the use of her magic. She finally stopped in a huff, tears filling her eyes, but Vinyl determinedly scrunched up her face. She would not to let them fall.

"Vinyl..." Octavia nuzzled Vinyl softly, noticing her trouble.

"I'm fine, Tavi. Just..." She sniffled, leaning her head onto Octavia's shoulder. The stump of her horn drew Octavia's attention as the thin growth of her mane parted against it.

"I'm sorry, Vinyl." Octavia put a leg around Vinyl and pulled her closer, resting her own head on top of hers.

"It's..." Vinyl nodded dejectedly. "It's not fine, but... I'll get used to it... Eventually."

"I know you will." Octavia smiled at Vinyl's attitude. "You're the strongest mare that I have ever known."

Vinyl looked up, smiling sadly at Octavia. "Yeah."

"Here." Reaching forward, Octavia held out her hoof for Vinyl to see. "Let me show you. Try it like this."

Reaching forward with her hoof, she grasped the utensils with her hoof, careful that Vinyl could see every step. It was a matter of clenching and balancing the chopsticks between her hoof using the muscles.

"I see..." Vinyl nodded. She repeated what Octavia had shown her, slowly but surely bringing one of the sushi rolls to her mouth. Vinyl chewed it with delight. "That's good."

Octavia leaned back in her seat. Vinyl smiled at her in realization.

"We're going to be fine, Tavi," she said firmly, a promise.

"I never had a single doubt."