Huerta Memorial Hospital, Citadel
Octavia didn't bother to look as the door to the room slid open. It was probably just another nurse, or maybe Doctor Stable coming to check how Vinyl was doing. The guards outside certainly provided her with a peace of mind that was desperately needed as it felt like everything was falling apart around her. Vinyl was asleep, and as long as the intruder did nothing to wake her Octavia would settle for their presence. Even as her world spun chaotically around her, having Vinyl cradled in her hooves, loose against her barrel, the universe seemed brighter than it ever had before.
"I am sorry, my little pony," a quiet voice intruded, full of sorrow and regret.
Startling at the voice, Octavia managed to not wake Vinyl even as she spun her head to see who had just spoken. To her great surprise, she found Princess Celestia standing mournfully in the doorway. As the panic eased from her body, Octavia noted how uneasy the Alicorn looked. Celestia didn't seem to know what to do, fidgeting uneasily on her hooves.
"Princess Celestia!" Octavia exclaimed softly. The Princess simply nodded.
Octavia and Celestia just stared at each other for what felt like an eternity. Octavia stayed still, succumbing to the urge to pull Vinyl closer. Nervousness roiled through her body, and as it left she found it was quickly being replaced with darker emotions.
"There i no need to be nervous, Octavia Melody," Celestia softly spoke. "This should be a time for celebration and rejoicing. One that we had thought lost to us has been returned."
Octavia glanced down at Vinyl's fragile form in her hooves before responding to Celestia. "I do not feel much like rejoicing, Princess."
Celestia nodded in raised a hoof hesitantly. "May I come in?"
Octavia felt the foalish urge to just shout no, but she was not a pony inclined to such disrespect towards Royalty. Instead, she just gave a reluctant nod. "Please."
Celestia stepped inside, walking to stand at the side of the bed. She looked down at the two mares, studying Vinyl with a careful eye. The door slid shut behind her, and a deep silence seemed to fall over the room.
"You told me that she had died," Octavia whispered, looking anywhere besides the Princess. The accusing tone in her voice spoke more than enough. "I tried to move on, but there was always a part of me that belonged completely to her."
Looking away, ashamed, Celestia lowered her head.
Gathering her courage together, Octavia looked up at Celestia, who met her gaze. "The last nine years of my life were hell. I did my best to carry on... for her... but I have not lived."
"Can you turn back time?" Looking back down at Vinyl, Octavia started running a hoof through the smaller mare's short blue mane. "I would give you anything if I could just save her from this. Please."
"Octavia..." Celestia spoke with a deep shuddering breath. She shifted uncomfortably on her hooves.
"I know it's not possible," Octavia said, glancing out the window. "But... a mare can wish, can't she?"
"I..." Celestia struggled with what to say, her thoughts swirling. "I promise you, the ones who have done this to your wife shall be brought to justice. I will see to it personally."
"It won't make Vinyl better..." Octavia whispered.
The words cut like a knife to Celestia's heart. She struggled to breath, rocking back ever so slightly. Finally, she nodded in acceptance. Turning, she walked back to the door. "Don't believe that you have to go through this on your own, Miss Melody."
With those final words, Celestia opened the door and walked out of the room.
Gilda shifted uncomfortably in her bed, unsure of what to make of Twilight's stare. She shifted, her wings flaring in agitation, drawing Twilight's attention away from her face to them. Twilight quickly looked away, and Gilda was quick to tuck her wings back close to her side, blushing in shame and embarrassment.
"Does it hurt?" Twilight blurted out, instantly slamming her hooves over her mouth, cheeks blushing.
Gilda stared at Twilight, unsure for a moment before shaking her head slowly. "No. No it doesn't."
The two fell into an uncomfortable silence, looking everywhere but each other. Gilda settled on the window studying the strange sight before her. Closing her eyes, Gilda gathered her courage back together before rolling to face Twilight, who was still blushing. "How... How do you know Dash?"
Twilight perked up that, grateful for the change in topic. "Her family moved next door to mine after... well... after the Batarians came and raided. We hung out on weekends when I was home from the castle, with her human friend. We still keep in touch. "
"Home from the castle? Hanging around with aliens and royalty..." Gilda raised an eyebrow, assessing Twilight with new eyes. "Little Dashie moving up in the world."
"She's one of my few friends. She spoke a lot about you... and the day you were... taken. She missed you. A lot. She devoted everything into trying to make you proud... Rainbow Dash became a Wonderbolt for you." Twilight nodded, thinking back over happier days. She pulled a chair up to Gilda's bed, climbing into it and settling down comfortably. She crossed her front legs. "She is finishing up training at the Interplanetary Combatives Training Program with the Systems Alliance. Lieutenant Dash is going to be the first Equestrian to hold an 'N' designation!"
"Huh..." Gilda settled back into her pillows. She looked up at Twilight before shrugging. "That means nothing to me."
"Right!" Twilight blushed again, before launching into an explanation. "Well, 'N' designates the special forces in the Systems Alliance military. Rainbow is the first Equestrian to actually join the Alliance's military, and she's breaking records all over the place..." She trailed off as she noticed Gilda's attention wandering. She blushed, ducking her head. "Sorry. I didn't mean to bore you."
"Meh." Gilda shrugged. "What happened to the rest of Ponyville."
"Its been rebuilt, bigger than before," Twilight said, smiling. "There's a monument in the town square for... well..." She looked meaningfully at Gilda.
It took the Griffin a moment, but her eyes widened in understanding. A monument for those who had been lost. It certainly was a mood killer.
"Where exactly am I?" Gilda looked out the window, changing topics. "I haven't really had a chance to ask anyone. There was a lot of shouting and death, and then I was brought here... It's beautiful, wherever it is."
"You're on the Citadel!" Twilight helpfully exclaimed.
"The what?" Gilda asked, no sign of recognition on her face.
Maybe not so helpful.
"Sorry." Twilight apologized, but she brightened quickly, eager for a chance to teach. "It's the Citadel, the hub of the entire galaxy. Archeologists believe that it was built by the Protheans fifty-thousand years ago, maybe longer."
"Protheans..." Gilda furrowed her brow in thought. "Yeah... I think I remember learning something about them."
"Right." Twilight winced, biting her lip. "I forget that you never actually finished school."
"No..." Gilda paused at the thought, her past coming back into harsh contrast for her. "I guess I didn't. Never really thought about that, to tell you the truth."
"That's easily fixed." Twilight put a hoof comfortingly on one of Gilda's claws.
"Great." Gilda rolled her eyes. "Just what I really wanted. To be saved from slavery to go right into complete boredom. Might have been better if I had just died instead."
"No!" Twilight shouted, shaking her head. "You don't mean that!"
"Why not?" Gilda shrugged, struggling to avoid looking Twilight in the eye. "It would be better for everyone that way."
"That's not true, Gilda!" Twilight shouted, panic and surprise rushing through his body. "There are a lot of ponies who would miss you for the rest of their entire lives. You have a second chance! Not a lot people ever get that."
"It would be better if they just had to miss me," Gilda said, not bothering to argue with Twilight. "It's better than dealing with my shit." She let out a sigh. "I just cause problems wherever I go..."
"No, Gilda." Twilight shook her head, reaching out to put a comforting hoof on Gilda's claw. "It's a miracle that you have survived. Don't throw away your second chance. Those who care about you won't set you aside because you need help."
Gilda fell silent, her head bowed, defeat evident on her face. Twilight didn't pull her hoof away, trying her best to stay positive. If she was the only who was going to be able to help Gilda with her problems, Twilight was more than willing to step into that position. It was what a good pony should do, after all.
The door slid open, drawing both of their attention. Twilight brightened when she found Princess Celestia standing in the doorway. Gilda, embarrassed, wiped the tears from her eyes, choking back a sob. She looked away, trying to hide her sadness. Twilight didn't let go, looking back to Gilda.
"You're very strong, Gilda," Twilight said with a firm nod. "I'm sorry that you had to go through all of that."
Standing, Twilight gave Celestia a sad smile.
"Is there anything that you need, Gilda?" Celestia asked softly, giving her student a soft smile as she stepped up beside her.
Gilda was still for a moment, before she shook her head slowly. She absently rubbed the artificial part of her beak. She kept her eyes averted from the princess, staring down at her sheets.
"If you can think of anything," Celestia said, understanding Gilda's reluctance. "Please, speak to one of the guards outside. They will do their best to acquire it for you."
Gilda just fiddled with the sheets of her bed, struggling with her own thoughts. She finally just nodded in understanding. "I'm good, thank you..."
Celestia nodded in acceptance before turning and stepping out of the room. Twilight turned to follow, but stopped, looking back at Gilda, a warm smile on her face. "I'm here if you need anything as well. I'll try to stop by before we leave."
Gilda tentatively looked back at Twilight, clearly wanting to speak, but it was clear that she was having to fight the urge to be quiet. After nine years of being broken and beaten, there was very little left of her once strong, confident personality. "I... I want to go home," she finally managed to squeak out.
"That shouldn't be problem," Twilight nodded, smiling encouragingly at the griffin.
Gilda fell back against her bed, all of her courage, and her energy, used up for the day. Twilight waved a hoof in goodbye before stepping out of the room.
As the door slid shut, Gilda started to cry, cuddling into her blanket. Starting to shake, she could feel the urge to take hallex coursing through her mind. After what felt like hours, she managed to fall asleep.