This Fic is dedicated to all soldiers, of all countries, past and present, who are unable to return home and be with their families for the holidays. Come home safe.
Twilight tore through town as fast as her legs could carry her. She'd only just heard the news: Gryphonia had attacked Sugarcane Villiage, a small border town on the edge of Equestria. Details were sketchy, but everypony agreed; this was leading to full scale war.
Twilight shook the terrifying thoughts from her head, Don't even think about it! But she knew- she knew the Wonderbolts were each members of the Equestrian Royal Air Force Special Operations Teams- knew what was happening- going to happen to her Dashie, and she prayed she was wrong.
Sliding on glare ice straight from the road to the door of the recruiting station, Twilight threw the door open in a panic. "Rainbow!" A dozen ponies looked at her with vexed expressions, but Twilight only cared about the cyan one near the back. "No..." her voice fell as she noticed her inamorata's bronze armor. Tears began rolling down her cheeks, "Please tell me no..."
The cyan mare slowly walked up to Twilight, her armor clanking as the pieces- too large on her body- slipped along her shoulders. An unusually somber glaze radiated from her eyes as she wrapped the unicorn in a warm embrace. Twilight lost every modicum of self control as Rainbow confirmed her greatest fears. "I'm in the first wave."
She knew- how could she not know? Rainbow Dash was a top flyer, incredibly courageous, loyal... loving... But Twilight didn't want to believe it, this couldn't be happening! The room seemed to mock her, recruiting posters hung high on the walls, the hustle and bustle as the soldiers moved to and fro- preparing for battle and whispering quietly amongst themselves. The walls closed in on her, she had to get out- had to leave; this was too much for her to handle.
"NO!" she screamed. She pulled herself out of Rainbow's legs and ran out of the building crying. How could Celestia do this to her- take away the most important thing in the world to her for something so stupid as a war?
Twilight didn't care where she was going, she just wanted to get away- away from Ponyville, away from the soldiers and the ponies and Rainbow Dash and the Hearth's Warming Eve decorations that laughed at her whilst she sprinted down the street. Tears filled her vision, blinding her and causing her to crash into Applejack's merchant stand. Stumbling, she grumbled an apology to the farmer pony and continued barreling down the street.
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The lake did little to calm Twilight, but how calm could one be when their lover goes to war? For the hundred thousandth time, Twilight groaned, "Why?"
The unicorn wished Rainbow Dash was here to comfort her- to tell her everything would be all right, yet at the same time the cyan mare was the last thing Twilight wanted to see; she didn't know if she could stand the pain. Either way, the sounds of clanking metal made their way down the path towards her.
Twilight contemplated leaving, running away so that she wouldn't have to deal with Rainbow- to avoid the heartache that had been hounding her all morning. She couldn't do that to her marefriend though. So as the sounds grew closer, Twilight sighed and looked back down at the ground.
The unicorn didn't bother responding, there was nothing for her to say. Quietly, Rainbow Dash strode up beside her and sat down. They remained there for a while, silence hovering over the couple like a dark cloud. Finally, Twilight spoke.
"Rainbow, please don't leave me..." She cried into her love's shoulder.
"Twi, I gotta go." Rainbow responded smoothly, patting Twilight's back in a gentle fashion. "It's my job."
Suddenly, Twilight felt blood pounding in her ears. Liquid rage poured through her veins like kerosene, igniting her muscles and burning her heart. She jerked once more out of Rainbow's arms and growled violently.
"So you're just going to leave? Two weeks before Heath's Warming Eve? What about our friends? And your parents?" She paused only for a second before looking at the ground and adding with a sigh, "What about me?"
Rainbow Dash looked into her eyes. "Twilight, I don't... want to go... but I feel like I have to. The griffons attacked us and stole our land, if we don't strike back- they'll do it again! Even if I wasn't required to... I would still sign on." Twilight slapped her.
"How dare you! I thought you loved me!" Twilight regretted the words almost instantly as she watched Rainbow's face fall with tearful eyes. Her jaw moved inaudibly before the switch turned on and words found their way out.
"I... Twi, I do love you! Why..." A tear slid down her cheek and onto the snow by her hooves. "Why would you ever think different?"
Twilight didn't have an answer prepared, so she just stared blankly at the snow. "I'm sorry Rainbow. I just... I just... If you don't come back..." She looked up to the face of the mare that was her entire world, and once more a torrent of tears threatened to come fourth. "I just couldn't take it..."
Twilight felt Dash wrap her legs around her tentatively. "I'll come back Twi, I promise." Twilight shook her head in dejection.
"We both know you cant promise that." A hoof ran down the unicorn's mane, causing her to shudder. "I just wish I could've spent Hearth's Warming Eve with you." Rainbow pulled back and held Twilight at legs length so she could look her lover in the eyes.
"Hey, I'll come back." She said soothingly. "And even if I'm not here for Hearth's Warming Eve, I promise you: My heart will be."
"Rainbow..." Twilight let the word hang in the air, actions spoke louder than words after all. Reaching forward, the purple pony put her lips on Rainbow Dash's.
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Twilight breathed out a sigh and sipped her punch. "C'mon Twilight, you silly-filly! We're going to unwrap the gifts!" Pinkie Pie blew into a small tube, an act that set off about three dozen kazoos affixed to her hat.
The unicorn attempted a smile, but managed only a small grimace.
"Aww. You okey-dokey Twilight?" the party pony asked her dear friend. Twilight noticed the smile slipping on Pinkie's face and felt guilty. She didn't even know why she'd come to the party in the first place, she'd been in a funk ever since Rainbow Dash's departure- the purple mare had barely shown herself outdoors lately. These days she mostly laid in the library, alternating between crying and reading sappy romance novels; trying to fill the hole her lover left when she went to Gryphonia.
"I'm sorry Pinkie, I guess I'm just not in the mood."
"But it's Hearth's Warming Eve!" the pink mare protested. "You cant be all saddy-waddy on Hearth's Warming Eve!" Pinkie grabbed her by the hoof and dragged her to the tree with the others.
Twilight protested, but Pinkie Pie would have none of it. The happy pony sat Twilight right between the wall and Fluttershy. At least, Twilight had thought it was the wall.
"Look, Twilight! You see? Rainbow Dash is with us in spirit!" The unicorn smiled up at the picture of her paramour on the wall by the tree. Pinkie was right, maybe Rainbow wasn't actually here. Maybe she was a thousand miles away in a foreign country fighting off a legion of villainous griffons, but she had promised Twilight she would come back. There was nothing to be sad about. What would Rainbow Dash say if she found out Twilight had spent the last two weeks moping about like some sort of melancholic sloth?
"C'mon Twi, lighten up!" She imagined her lover saying. "So I'm not there, big whoop! I'll be home soon, and you got a buncha friends there to hang out with! Go have some fun!"
"Here we go!" Pinkie Pie said, handing Twilight a colorfully decorated box. "Open it!" she cried excitedly. Allowing a smile to slip through to her countenance, Twilight did as her host instructed. Gently peeling back each layer of wrapping paper, Twilight opened her gift. "No no no, silly!" Pinkie said, holding up another gift. "Like this!" The pink mare grabbed a corner of paper with her teeth and tore at it, a second later, Pinkie had unwrapped the box of chocolates Rarity had gotten her. Somehow, the wrapping paper lay in a neat square behind her, giving the illusion that there was still something inside. How did... Never mind. Twilight thought, when it came to Pinkie Pie, the laws of physics just didn't seem to apply- best to just let well enough alone.
In a poor imitation of her chaotic friend, Twilight tore at the paper and exposed the cavern scene candle set beneath. Fluttershy blushed and looked up at Twilight. "Oh, um... I wasn't really sure what to get you Twilight. I know you enjoy reading so, um..." Typical Fluttershy, Twilight thought. Always too nervous about everything.
"Don't worry Fluttershy, I like them."
The yellow pony's eyes lit up instantly. "You do?" Twilight pulled a figurine out of the box and lit its wick. "Yes I do. Thank you, Fluttershy."
"Oh, you're welcome, Twilight!" Fluttershy said ecstatically. Twilight looked back over to the small crystal figure and realized, with a pang of heartache that it was Commander Hurricane.
Pinkie Pie continued handing out gifts to all present. There was candy and noise makers, funny hats and joke books, a fire ruby for Spike, a designer dress for Rarity, Applejack even opened up a tow chain for her plow and Twilight actually managed to once again forget about her problems.
"Here Fluttershy!" Pinkie Pie said, handing her the last present. "It's from me! I just know you'll love it!"
With a gracious look, the pegasus took the box in her hooves. Inside, there was a smaller box with a crank handle. Twilight noticed Pinkie's smile fade away as Fluttershy began to turn it. "No, wait!" the party pony screamed- too late. The lid of the box exploded open, a pony head emerged from the inside, laughing hysterically.
Fluttershy reeled back in panic, crashing into the wall and falling to the floor. The impact shook the wall and sent the photos straight to the floor, frames smashing on impact. One of the loose leaflets fell onto Twilight's lit candle and ignited. The group stood around in shock, unsure of what exactly to do.
"Move over!" Applejack hollered, shoving Twilight to the side. The orange mare loped up to the fire and stomped it out furiously. Pinkie Pie ran up to Fluttershy, apologies pouring forth from her mouth like the peak of a waterfall.
"Oh-my-gosh, Fluttershy! I'm so sorry- I thought it was the Pet Kit I got you!" she managed over the sounds of breaking glass and hoofstomps. The shy pony just lie on the floor in shock, her tail twitching nervously.
Twilight moved to inspect the damage. The figurine was long gone, its remnants strewn across the floor where they'd landed. The picture lay on top of the pile, Twilight picked it up. A charred, disfigured Rainbow Dash looked up at her from the paper. Her magic released the photograph without her permission, but Twilight didn't notice- she was already out the door.
She knew it was irrational- that she was being over-dramatic, but Twilight just didn't care as she ran back to the library. She just wanted to get back to her bed, to hug her stuffed bear and pretend it was her Rainbow...
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Rainbow Dash lie on a picnic blanket next to Twilight, the shade of a tall pine tree protecting them from the harsh sun. Rainbow laughed hard at Twilight's joke, her crimson eyes alight like fire against her cyan coat. Twilight loved Rainbow's laugh- well, she loved everything about Rainbow Dash, but her laugh had to take the cake. It was so light-hearted, so warm and inviting, yet cocky and brazen, much like the pony who issued it.
The purple unicorn nuzzled up to her friend. "I love you, Rainbow." The other mare smiled warmly, nuzzling her back.
"I love you too, Twilight."
Flipping onto her back, Twilight placed her head onto Dash's legs. "And we'll always be together... right?" she smiled coyly.
"Forever and ever, Twi. My heart belongs to you."
"Listen to you! You've turned into a regular smooth talking Romeo!" Twilight teased.
Taken aback, Rainbow chuckled. "It's your fault! You made me read that stupid book."
"I think it's sweet."
"Sweet?" Rainbow groaned, she hated that adjective.
"Awesome?" Twilight tried. Rainbow gave her a nod.
A knock on the door cut Twilight's dream short. Grumbling, the unicorn rose out of bed and stumbled down the stairs like a zombie to the door. With a yawn, she straightened her mane and stretched out her legs- she didn't want any guests to see her so disheveled.
The door opened to reveal a tall stallion in full military garb. After a moment, Twilight recognized Soarin of the Wonderbolts. His presence confused the mare, What is... Then it hit her.
"Good afternoon, Ms. Twilight. Are you having a good Hearth's Warming Eve?" The stallion said, removing his cap. When no response came, he continued. "I don't know if you remember me, my name's Soarin. I fought with Dash in Gryphonia. May I come in?"
No, Twilight wanted to say. Go away and don't come back! This couldn't be happening, it was a trick! Yeah, just a trick, Rainbow Dash was just pulling one of her signature pranks. In a few minutes, she'd come around the corner, wrap Twilight up in a big hug and never leave her side again!
Soarin reached forward with a hoof and tapped Twilight's shoulder gently, jerking her back to reality. The unicorn nodded and showed him indoors. "Have a seat." Twilight said. "Would you like something to drink, Soarin?"
"Uh... No thank you." He said apprehensively. He took a seat upon the couch across from Twilight. "You probably know why I'm here..." Twilight rolled her eyes, he was really going to play this through, huh?
"Not really, Mr. Soarin." She said playfully. "Are you here to tell me how Rainbow Dash is doing? I bet she's got those griffons running scared already!"
Soarin released a long, doleful sigh. "Uh... Well Ms. Twilight... Rainbow Dash... she- she wont be coming home..." Twilight suppressed a chuckle, he wasn't trying very hard, was he?
"Oh, no!" She cried in false horror. "What ever shall I do?" This earned her a raised eyebrow from Soarin, who continued.
"We went in with the first wave, we were supposed to secure a small sector to the West of a major arms manufacturing plant. When we got there, we couldn't find hide or feather of the griffons. Orders came from command to take the factory, and that's when they attacked." Soarin paused to blink back a tear. Wow, Twilight thought. A tear, maybe he is a good actor!
"The little bastards ambushed us from the shadows, we didn't even know what was going on until we heard the screams. Rainbow... she went in to help... but the factory just... it just exploded..." Soarin looked down to the floor and began mumbling.
"They set us up... Lured us into the factory just to blow us to kingdom come." He looked up at Twilight with tears in his eyes. "I'm so sorry Ms. Twilight." Okay! Twilight thought haughtily. How long was this going to go on? She wanted to see her marefriend, and Soarin was delaying it!
"Okay Rainbow! You can come out now!" Twilight called, looking around the room. "Come on, I know you're out there!" Nopony answered her calls. Soarin shook his head desolately.
"Ms. Twilight, I sincerely wish I was joking. But I'm not." He pulled a small box out of his pocket. "She wanted you to have this."
Twilight opened the case impatiently, but she was completely unprepared for what waited inside.
"No..." she sobbed. This was... it was... it wasn't it... it couldn't be it... "No, you're lying! She's just pranking me! Rainbow!" She called out through her tears. "Come on, this isn't funny anymore!"
Soarin reached a leg forward and pulled Twilight into a hug. She tried to fight it, but simply gave up. It wasn't a joke, it wasn't a prank. Dashie; Twilight's greatest friend was gone forever.
Twilight sobbed into Soarin's shoulder, releasing her sadness and fear, her frustration and anger. It wasn't fair, what had Rainbow ever done to deserve this? What had Twilight ever done?
The box lie on the table now, temporarily forsaken for a shoulder to cry on. But inside was something Twilight would never let go, something she'd earned the hard way. Something she managed to love and hate at the same time: A little purple gem shaped in to a heart... and a note that said, "I told you it was yours."