Sunburst lingered in a dusty, long unused room of his home, revisiting memories from nearly twenty years before. His golden-yellow coat and red mane caught the light of the setting sun and bathed the wall to his left in yellow and pink. Against the same wall was a dresser, on top of which sat several framed pictures of a mare whose coat and mane colors mirrored those shining on the wall.
The scenes in the pictures varied. One was of the mare stretching her pastel yellow wings and looking on the viewer with a smile. Another as she ran a brush through her pink mane, one eye focused towards the camera and a pleased smile on her face. She was clearly very pregnant and was practically radiating love. At a glance one could tell it had been taken in the same room, a brush next to the frame with several long strands of pink hair further proof; it was the same brush from the picture. Several other photos were clustered with the rest, all of the same mare. There was not a single picture that didn't have her offering the camera a loving smile.
Sunburst turned away from the dresser, shifting his attention towards a bed beneath the window. Like the rest of the room, it was clear it had not been touched in a long time. The sheets were pushed back and the pillow held a faint indent where a pony's head had once laid, though time had smoothed it in places. A few strands of pink hair decorated the pillow. Fine yellow hair lay scattered on the sheets in places. Tears had begun trickling from Sunburst's eyes as memories filled his mind and longing tugged at his heart. Even as the emotions welled up within him he kept a smile on his face. He blinked away the tears and turned away from the bed, facing the wall opposite the dresser as his emotions threatened to overwhelm him before he was finished paying his respects.
On the wall he now faced were a great many pictures of a filly, hung in what appeared to be a timeline. The oldest photo was of the pony as a very young foal. Her legs were tucked beneath her and her eyes closed in peaceful sleep. The filly's short mane and tail were little more then tufts of pink hair with slight curls and her yellow coat a silky soft fuzz. Each photo showed the filly older, thought there was a visible difference in her age between the fifth and sixth picture from ungainly toddler to skinny adolescent.
"She turns nineteen today Posey. I know I tell you this every year but you would be so proud of her. She's grown up so well. She's strong and healthy, and so much like you,"
Sunburst went quiet and let the tears he had been holding back flow. His head drooped as his emotional dam broke and he let himself cry quietly. He slowly composed himself and brought his head up to look at the pictures again. He took a deep breath and let it out to settle himself before speaking again.
"She reminds me of you so much, Posey. You weren't as timid but the love she offers those around her always makes me think of you as well. I'll put up another picture for you tonight, like always. Maybe one day I'll get the heart to show Fluttershy your room. You would both like that."
Before his emotions could overwhelm him again he backed out of the room and pulled the door closed. Several tears fell onto the door handle as he locked up. With a heavy heart he turned away and wiped his eyes with a hoof before heading to the dining room to finish preparations. Fluttershy would be coming soon for their normal evening celebration of her birthday. Their birthday evenings together were rarely different. Fluttershy would choose a small cake for them to share and he would prepare dinner for them. It was the same comfortable ritual they had been doing since she had graduated from flight school, and unbeknownst to her it was the same thing he had done since she had been born. The dining room was already set up with a simple dinner laid out. The only thing missing was the main course, which was finishing cooking in the oven. In place of a plate at Fluttershy's side was a small gift; another tradition that had worked its way into their routine.
A knock at the front door raised his spirits. Sunburst already knew who it was even before he heard the door open or the soft lilting voice that called out moments after.
"Father? Are you home? I brought the cake, its chocolate. I hope that is ok with you."
He nearly broke into tears again as Fluttershy walked into the dining room. She looked almost exactly like her mother when he first met her. He could only smile and let his love for her show, despite the feelings of loss that pounded at his heart. He loved Fluttershy as dearly as he had her mother; as much as any father could feel love for his daughter. But it was growing harder each year to see her walk through his door and not feel the pangs of loss for her mother. He harbored no hate for his daughter, he knew what happened wasn't her fault, but between her looks and the memories and feelings of loss he had begun to wonder just how much longer he could hold himself together whenever she came to spend time with him.
"Happy birthday, birthday girl. It is your party so if chocolate cake is what you want you know I'm fine with it. You ready to open your gift? Going to be a little while before the food is cooked so may as well open it now."
"I... Ok. But I... I wanted to ask you a question first. If that's ok that is."
Sunburst tilted his head to the side, puzzled. He knew she had a shy and timid nature but she had always shown a certain level of comfort around him. Whatever she was going to ask, she felt the need to build up her nerves to do so; even though she was asking the one pony she had never before acted shy towards before.
"You know that, whatever it is, you can ask me. I'm always here for whatever you need sweetling."
Fluttershy nodded and let out a deep breath, her smile creeping back onto her face. She took another deep breath before voicing her question.
"For as long as I can remember it has only been the two of us. I always wondered... but I never had the courage to ask where Mom was. I was... I was hoping you would tell me. I was the only filly in flight school who didn't know her mother... the only filly in Ponyville, while I was little, who never said, 'My mom is waiting at home.' My... What I want to ask... I..."
She went silent and pressed her eyes shut as nervous tension built up and spoiled her courage. Sunburst knew from seeing her in similar situations in the past among her friends that the best way to get the rest out of her was to just wait for the tension to pass and let her build up her lost courage again. It wasn't helping his nerves or emotions, though, with the direction it was taking. He had known the question would come one day, so it wasn't a total shock to have her finally ask. It took a few minutes, but with no pressure on her she recovered quickly.
"I want to know about mom. Where is she? Did something happen to her? I... I... please tell me."
Even with the time to brace himself for it his heart lurched as she finally asked the question. She deserved to know, there was no doubt about that, but he worried how it might affect her when she was finally told the truth of it. She had wonderful friends to lend her a shoulder, and she had him, but still he worried for her. Pushing back his emotions and tears he braced himself to bring up old memories. He had hoped to not recall any of it but the most fond and joyful of them unless he was at Posey's grave or in her room. He had always known, though, that he was lying to himself to ever think he would never need to recount them to his daughter.
"Sweetling, it's a long tale. You go sit on a couch in the living room while I turn off the oven. You of all ponies deserve the answers to those questions."
Sunburst got up and went to the kitchen to do as he said he would, leaving Fluttershy to move to the other room in her own time. He turned off the oven and turned to look into the living room and watch his daughter settle onto a couch. He took a long, shuddering breath and stared at the ceiling, forcing down the turbulent feelings hammering at his will.
"Posey, please help me have the strength to tell her everything. I can't do this alone, so please be there with me, in my heart and in spirit. Our daughter... she needs to know what happened..."
As he left the kitchen he ignored the tears rolling down his cheeks. He had to be strong for his daughter, for Fluttershy. He heaved a sigh and took a seat on the floor, then turned his attention to her.
"I'll start with a joyful memory, for both our sakes, because the fact is the tale itself is far from joyful. Your mother needs to be remembered for the pony she was, and not for the sad things that happened to her. She was like you; kind and loving, always full of smiles and willing to help anypony in need. Even when she was pregnant with you she never frowned or scowled. The way I remember Posey..."
The silence of a massive field of wildflowers was disturbed by happy, shrill laughter, followed shortly by a mare running at a canter. She laughed again and tossed her head to jostle her pink mane to get leaves out of it as her hooves sent clouds of wildflower petals into the air that curled into her wake. Her pastel yellow coat contrasted perfectly against the cloud of color. It almost seemed that she was an ever-changing palette of color rushing across the field. She was heavily pregnant, though from the sounds of joy and excitement alone one could tell she was in no trouble; she was only a joyful mare in her element. Another, deeper sound of laughter followed shortly and a stallion with a glistening coat of golden-yellow and a rich-red mane touched with a hint of orange, not far akin from the glow of the sun over clouds, came over the hill in her trail, sending the twirling trail of flowers to all sides in a vibrant firework display of natural beauty.
The pair slowed and drew up side by side as they neared the end of the field where forest began, both breathing heavily and smiling as they nuzzled one another. The mare whispered into her companion's ear and walked around him to nuzzle at his cutie mark, that of a rising sun shining brightly as it came from behind clouds. He gently nosed her heaving sides in turn and then rested his head against her belly to listen to the soon-to-be-born foal within. The ear not pressed to her side perked at the soft thumps of movement within, eliciting a happy laugh before he returned her earlier affections by nuzzling her cutie mark, three tulips in pale blues and greens.
The stallion stepped aside after a moment and practically pranced around in front of the mare and bumped her snout gently with his own.
"Posey, I don't think I could be happier. We have each other; we have our dream home that we saved for together. I've got the delivery job with Sweet Apple Acres and your parents finally accept me despite being an Earth pony. There isn't much longer until you're due too. I can hardly believe I'll be a father soon. Oh Celestia, we haven't even come up with any names yet!"
At the realization he began pacing, hooves quickly gouging and tearing up the soft loam and the mosses growing beneath the tree line. Each turn dislodged blossoms and petals that had caught in his mane during the run, occasionally flinging them, unintentionally, at Posey. She smiled warmly and stepped forward to intercept him, hooking her neck beneath his to get him to stop and face her.
"Be calm, Sunburst. You may have been too occupied to think of names, but not to worry. I have a few ideas for either filly or colt that I like and believe you will as well. If our foal is a colt my favorite two are Sunspark, after you, and Wind Whisper. If a filly I like Fluttershy the most, or Cherry Blossom. Will those work for you?"
He nodded, satisfied but still bursting with nervous, excited energy. He was going to be a father so soon and he wanted to buck and yell his joy to the world. As he calmed down he kept his gaze on Posey, drawing in the love she practically radiated and the warmth from her smile. He loved every inch of her existence, from mane to tail, wing tips to hooves, there was no sparkle of talent or flaw in any form that was a part of her and what she represented that he did not love.
"I'm not a pony of creative talents, Posey, but I always desire to find more ways to tell and show you my love for you. I know that, no matter how poorly I might express my feelings, you will accept them for what they represent. I got you a small gift; it is sitting on your bed at home. When you are ready we can head back so that you can open it. We have all the time in the world, too. With our foal due so soon the Apple family has given me time off to stay at your side until he, or she, is born and settled into our lives. I know how much you love these fields so we don't need to leave until you are ready to."
He pressed his chin down onto her neck in a hug, taking pleasure from the touch of her coat against his. She returned the affection in the same silent manner, pressing her body against his, both of them simply enjoying the presence of the other. A breeze caressed their manes and swept spring blooms down on top of them from the branches overhead. In unison they sighed, the simple pleasure of togetherness and solitude offering a unique calm and peace. They remained embraced as the sun crept past its peak and for several minutes longer until Posey stepped back and tossed her head slightly, suggesting wordlessly that they return home. She turned and began to trot back the way she came, Sunburst following close behind.
"Let me see that smile, Posey. I'm going to take your picture. Keep brushing, just turn your head!"
Posey giggled and tossed her head enough to get her mane out of her face and continued to run the brush through the back of her mane casually as she kept her focus on Sunburst. The click of the shutter and his broad smile was confirmation enough that he had gotten the shot he wanted. Her room had been recently painted a quiet white color and a crib had been built onto the bed. It was simply furnished with a new dresser that Sunburst had already covered with several other pictures he had taken of her.
When they had planned the room they both had the foal in mind. They used the same bed now but they each knew that the foal would need her often, initially, and had decided it best to have the foal's room prepared in a fashion that she could sleep there as well.
"You won't have any more room on the dresser for any pictures of the foal at the rate you're going, Sunburst. Put the camera down and help me up. We should eat before it gets too late; I've been getting worn out earlier and earlier in the day. Nurse Tenderheart told me it's a natural effect of how far along the pregnancy is and not to worry, but I don't want to have you fixing dinner only to find me asleep on the couch when it is ready! Oh, and don't forget Cheerilee is coming over so whatever you choose to make, do make enough for three."
Posey laughed cheerfully and took his offered hoof, carefully pulling herself onto her feet but still managing to provoke a groan as she settled her weight. She turned and set the brush onto the pillow, knocking the gift box it had come in onto the floor between the wall and headboard. A couple wads of packing paper and a card spilled out, printed with text and a heart imposed over a replica of Sunburst's cutie mark on the front. Her ears perked up as she noticed it when she stepped forward to retrieve the gift box. Sunburst hurried to her side as she vainly reached for it, her swollen belly preventing her from bending over enough to get hold of the card. He reached down and brought it up for her to read the simple love poem he had composed and had printed on its face. Posey nuzzled him, small, joyful tears rolling down her cheeks. She held her nose to his for a moment then turned to leave the room. A gentle melody filled the room as she hummed softly; it only took Sunburst a moment to realize it was a nursery rhyme.
He kept his eyes on her and a smile on his face until she had gotten into the hallway, then turned around and slid the card beneath her pillow and closed the door behind him. He was pleased to notice that she had stopped just outside to wait on him. He chuckled as she shook her hips in mild flirtation before she went on to the living room to rest and wait on their guest.
Cheerilee was supposed to be over to see Posey shortly as well as join them for dinner. The pair had been friends since they were little fillies. They had both gotten their cutie marks on the same day, started the trend for manes pressed into crazy zigzag patterns shortly before their senior prom, and shared countless other adventures together until the day Posey and Sunburst first met. Cheerilee had been with Posey the day Nurse Tenderheart confirmed Posey's pregnancy and spent the rest of the day pestering Sunburst until she had convinced him to allow her to be at Posey's side with him when their foal was born.
Sunburst could hardly disagree with her, given how long they had been friends, but as her due date had drawn closer, so had the frequency and length of her visits. With the exceptions of outings like the run earlier that day and regular visits to Nurse Tenderheart, to ensure her and the foal's health, it seemed he was getting to spend less and less time alone with her. In recent weeks he began to feel regret and annoyance at allowing Cheerilee's constant visits, though any time the other mare managed to get a laugh out of his love the feelings would rapidly evaporate and be replaced by compassion for Posey and the foal she carried. He knew it was selfish to harbor such ill thoughts of her friend, even while preparing a simple dinner for them, though he could never stop wishing in silence that he wouldn't need to keep fixing meals for three each night.
A knock on the door sent the growing, dark emotions into a raging boil, only to be swiftly calmed by Posey's voice bidding their visitor enter. He would do anything for Posey, even cast aside his negative emotions, though the desire to not share her with anypony, save her family, continued to greedily harbor a space at the front of his mind. As the pair began to cheerfully discuss the foal and the plans he and Posey had made he banished the black remnants of undue hatred from his heart and let the love and cheer in Posey's voice fill the void.
With his mind settled he took his time finishing the sandwiches and tea, all the while humming the same nursery rhyme that Posey had chosen to before. It was only a lullaby, a soft and gentle tune meant for young colts and fillies to settle them into sleep, though with each note he could not help but feel more and more love for his wife and unborn foal. Something about the melody simply fit and, somehow, he could imagine the soft voice of a filly singing it. He knew in his heart the voice did not belong to Posey, and no amount of thought could fit it to any other pony he knew. He shook his head in mild puzzlement as to why he should find any amount of importance in identifying the voice, though he could find it odd to 'hear' 'Hush now, quiet now' in a voice he didn't know. The scent of tea over-brewing snapped him back to the present. In a rush to prevent the brew from growing any stronger he poured it into the waiting cups and moved them and the sandwiches to a tray. Quite prepared to escape the confusing thoughts he was concocting alone in the kitchen he balanced the tray on his back and went out to join them.
The three of them spoke for hours, mostly with the foal as the subject of discussion. At times Sunburst would simply listen to Posey's caring voice and Cheerilee's happy banter, allowing them to stay occupied in discussion with one another as he let his eyes remain locked on Posey. Seeing her so happy and so full of joy and life was more then enough for him to relinquish any remaining selfish thoughts. As the night wore on Posey fell asleep on her couch while he and Cheerilee spoke. A long, light snore startled them, as neither had taken her silence as out of the ordinary, and sent them into a fit of muffled laughter and giggles that shortly settled into loving grins directed at Posey's sleeping form. Sunburst let out a short, loving sigh as he got up and covered her with a light blanket they kept by her couch for just such an occasion. After kissing Posey's brow in a silent bid goodnight he turned and motioned to Cheerilee, nodding towards the kitchen where they could talk without disturbing her.
"I'm surprised she stayed awake as long as she did, Cheerilee. Lately she's been so tired, and while we've been told not to worry I cannot help but do just that. I love her with all that I am; I cannot help but worry for her well being."
Cheerilee nodded, a knowing smile radiating feelings of caring and hope. She reached a hoof out and placed it on his shoulder as a comforting gesture.
"We all know how much you care for her Sunburst. There are only warm and hopeful feelings for you both from everypony that the two of you know. Practically everypony in Ponyville is eager to hear whether you two have a colt or filly. Then there is the number of rumors flying on what you two will name the foal. In my opinion you are the luckiest colt in the world to have her. I still remember the day you two met."
"We had convinced a unicorn pony to cast a spell to make it possible for me to walk on clouds. She pushed a cloud down for me to ride up to see Cloudsdale. We weren't too high up yet, still in the tree line, and her foot caught in a branch, sending my cloud spinning to the ground and her head over tail to land on you. She was so embarrassed that she spent the next ten minutes doing nothing but apologize and worrying over you. Though when you finally stood up and the pair of you locked eyes even I knew what happened. We had both always joked about love at first sight but I have no doubt that is what I saw that day. I should get going and let you go sit with her. I can tell the way you keep glancing back in there that is what you want to do. I won't keep you lover boy. I'll let myself out, you go to her."
He managed to mutter thanks as she left, her recollection of their meeting bringing every joyful second of the encounter to mind. He squeezed a joyful tear from his eyes and returned to the living room, turning out lights as he went. With the house draped in total darkness he lay down alongside her couch and gently settled his head against her belly. The sounds of two hearts beating and gentle thumps as the foal within shifted restlessly carried him into a deep, peaceful sleep.
"Well, Posey, everything looks fine. Your blood pressure is up a little since your last visit, but as close as you are to being due it isn't too unexpected. You and the foal are doing very well. You can expect labor to begin any day now so be sure to stay prepared. You know what to do. Everything we discussed on your previous visits is crucial to your health as well as the foals during the birth, even if I or another nurse is with you."
Nurse Tenderheart waited for Posey to confirm she understood then took a moment to look over her clipboard and nodded in satisfaction before turning her attention to Sunburst.
"Sunburst, remember that it doesn't matter what time it is when labor starts. If Posey is unable to get to our office then you need to do whatever is necessary to get one of us to her. Even if you have to wake me in the middle of the night to ensure she gets assistance, you do just that. Everypony who works here will gladly do the same should you go to one of them instead. If you have any other questions please feel free to ask the desk attendant. You must excuse me though as I have another patient to tend to. I hope you both enjoy the rest of this wonderful day and take heart in knowing we all wish the best for you and your foal!"
As Tenderheart left the room Sunburst let his eyes wander over Posey's form in loving adoration. He was beyond pleased to hear that she and the foal were in good health. Since the day her pregnancy had been confirmed he could not help but feel incredible joy from even the slightest glance at her swelling belly. As a colt the very notion of being a father one day had seemed absurd. But now, with the day that he truly would be one so close at hoof, he only felt pride.
Cheerilee had come over that morning to spend the day with them and offer a hoof when needed, though she chose to politely wait outside during Posey's appointment. Sunburst grinned as she trotted over to rejoin them as they left the office. The hopeful, querying look in her eyes only served to raise his spirits as she silently sought after the results of the appointment. She had prepared several saddlebags for a picnic, provided the appointment went well, and a nod from Posey was all the answer she needed, bringing a bright smile to light up her face. Sunburst shook his head in mild amusement at her enthusiasm and took a pair of saddlebags from her and let them slide down his neck into position on his back. Posey tried to reach over his back to take a pair of bags for herself, only to have Cheerilee sidestep away as he gently pushed her in the other direction. He nudged her cheek lovingly in apology.
"Don't you worry about helping with these, Posey. You know you should not be carrying anything right now. Cheerilee and I can handle these with no problem. You can help by choosing where we go, though. I don't believe that was ever decided. So, where would my beautiful mother-to-be like to have this picnic?"
Posey sighed in mock defeat and rolled her eyes, though she never let her smile fade.
"I do have a place in mind, since you have so kindly bestowed the choice on me. The fields we ran in yesterday would be perfect, the ones with all of the beautiful wild flowers in bloom. I know we will have quite a walk to get there but if you two are fine with that I would love to have the picnic there."
Sunburst smiled, pleased with her choice, and motioned with a hoof for her to lead the way. It would be well after noon by the time they reached the fields, since they would be walking for her sake, and after dark before they got home. He couldn't complain, though; as long as he could spend time with her, even with Cheerilee there with them, he would be happy. Posey turned her pleased grin away from him and sauntered down the road towards the trails to the fields. Cheerilee suppressed a giggle and trotted after her to catch up before she got too far, leaving Sunburst shaking his head in amusement at his wife's antics before he cantered after them.
He laughed as the exhilaration of the run and wind in his mane pumped adrenaline through him, spurring him to run faster. It wasn't long before he could see them again, their small lead dwindling rapidly as his pace ate up the difference. He shot past them, clods of dirt leaping from beneath his hooves and snapping at his heels, urging him to run faster. Fighting the urge to enter a full gallop he slammed his hind hooves into the ground, gouging parallel trenches into the trail and sending a shower of earth fanning out to his sides. He skidded to a stop and reared, spinning to face Cheerilee and Posey in the same motion as he let loose a long, high-spirited neigh. Sunburst let his hooves settle back to the ground, his sides heaving from the exertion as he breathed heavily to recompose himself before the pair reached him.
As they drew near he realized they were laughing at his energetic display, though the admiration in Posey's eyes was enough to make him forget the mild embarrassment he felt. He let them pass again then matched their stride, settling in for the long walk ahead.
Cheerilee busied herself setting out the picnic, having since given up on getting any assistance from Sunburst. Neither of them had expected Posey to help set up, but when she wandered into the wild flowers, humming, Sunburst completely zoned out everything but his wife. He stood entranced as she paced through the field with her nose down to sniff at the blooms. A light breeze swept across the field and sent a ripple through the flowers, causing them to caress Posey's fetlocks. Loose petals swirled up around her, the more common white and violets briefly overwhelmed by a surprising amount of red petals before the wind scattered them across the field.
It took a moment for him to realize Cheerilee was standing beside him. He had no idea how long she had been there, waiting patiently for him to notice, though when he did she smiled.
"You've been watching her for half an hour now, Sunburst. If I had to guess you've been imagining a foal walking at her side. Won't need to imagine much longer; few years from now and I just might be the one teaching your foal in the school! The picnic is waiting; you should go get her so we can eat."
He nodded and watched Cheerilee return to the cloth she had laid out. He couldn't resist sneaking a peek to try and locate Posey's favorites in order to decide where the best place for her to sit would be. Sunburst whipped his head away from the picnic spread as Posey suddenly cried out in surprise and pain. In unison he and Cheerilee spun and bolted for Posey. As they drew closer the sickly sweet scent of blood reached them and their nostrils flared in distress; the sight of her wet flank only confirmed their worries.
As Sunburst reached her side the scent of her blood intensified, only moments later he saw why. Her water had broken, though there was also a steady trickle of blood flowing down her haunches and pooling in the mess at her feet. He knew from her check-ups that labor would start soon; he also knew that there shouldn't be that much blood before the foaling even fully began. Her eyes were pressed shut as she struggled against the pain, keeping her back slightly hunched in an effort to relieve stress somewhere within.
He fought against frantic nerves as he tried to gently urge Posey towards where the blanket lay while Cheerilee stood on her other side, whispering constant words of encouragement into her ears and sliding her mane back out of her face. As Posey began to take a couple small steps in the direction they were guiding her, Cheerilee took off at a gallop. She hardly slowed as she reached the picnic blanket, leaned over and yanked it out from beneath the food with her teeth, then barreled back towards them.
Posey had made little progress and the bleeding had increased slightly, leaving a trail on the ground and staining petals where they brushed into the trickle on her legs. She stopped as she heard Cheerilee's hoof beats approach and ground her teeth as she struggled to not cry out. Sunburst nudged her cheek in encouragement and stepped away to help Cheerilee spread the blanket over the flowers in front of Posey. Once it was decently settled they hurried to her side and helped her forward on shaking legs until she was at its center. One of her front legs buckled as the combined effects of blood loss and the stress of labor began to take their toll. Sunburst leaned into her immediately and supported her as she lowered herself to the blanket. She cried out slightly at some sharp pain as she shifted onto her side, shortly followed by a small gush of fluid and blood.
Sunburst settled himself at her head and muttered encouragement in her ears while using one hoof to push her mane out of her face. He took a moment to turn his attention to Cheerilee as the pained look on Posey's face lessened.
"Cheerilee, please, run get Nurse Tenderheart, or any of the staff there. Please run as fast as you can and get help. I don't want to leave Posey's side but she needs help I can't give. In Celestia's name please GO!"
Cheerilee didn't even bother to give him an answer; she whirled and leapt straight into a gallop towards the trail back to Ponyville. He watched her go, quietly urging her to go faster, until she vanished into the tree line. A whimper of pain brought his attention back to Posey. He rested his head next to her, ignoring the beads of sweat periodically rolling down her neck as he softly spoke reassurances to her. She gave the barest of nods before groaning in pain as she strained and pushed as another contraction came. After a few moments it passed, giving her desperately needed time to breathe. When no contraction came for a few minutes she feebly turned her head enough that she could see him out of one eye.
"Sunburst... is... the foal coming... please look and tell meeeaaAAAAH!"
Posey's weak attempt to speak was interrupted by a pained scream as a powerful contraction shook her body, prompting her to strain and push harder then before. Sunburst scrambled to get his hooves beneath him and hurried around behind her. The scene he found horrified him; blood had drenched the blanket and begun to pool around her right haunch. The small trickle of blood had since increased in flow and showed no signs of slowing. The shock held him paralyzed until he noticed a pair of small legs and the tip of a muzzle had emerged, glistening in blood and embryonic fluid. He could hardly react, only managing to open and close his mouth several times before he found his voice again.
"Posey! Posey hang in there, keep it up. I can see the foals muzzle and hooves Posey! You're doing it love, keep going!"
Posey didn't even have time to respond before another contraction took hold. Her muscles rippled along her flank as she pushed again, sliding the foal out to its elbows before she had to stop and breathe. Her sides heaved as she sucked in gulps of air, fighting against the need to push with the contraction in an increasingly feeble attempt to regain some strength. Sunburst continued to offer vocal support, cheering her on and offering what comfort he could by rubbing at her side gently with his chin in between contractions. His concern for her and the foal, though, continued to grow as the blood flow staining her side and pooling around her haunch quickened and expanded.
Several minutes passed without another contraction, offering Posey a welcome break. Her breathing had become weaker and she could no longer raise her head, though whenever Sunburst said anything to comfort her she would manage a half whispered acknowledgement or ask after the foal. He had grown nearly frantic when he realized the bleeding was unlikely to stop. None of the nurses had ever covered what he should do if she bled; they had only stressed that he get one of them to assist. Now, though, he fervently wished he had sought more information.
He jumped back in surprise as Posey screamed in pain and pushed, hard as another massive contraction hit her. He quickly composed himself and stepped behind her again in time to see the foal slide the rest of the way out, accompanied by a gush of blood that splattered against his hooves. He found himself in shock again even as he cried out in joy to let Posey know the foal was born; the combination of the excessive amount of blood and seeing his foal enter the world overwhelming him temporarily. He snapped too and kneeled beside the foal, ignoring the blood soaking into the fur on his legs, and gently helped it to its feet with his muzzle. He gently licked at its wings and mane to get rid of the damp goop before it could start to catch a chill, even though it was a rather warm, spring afternoon.
"Hello there, little one. You... are a filly! Posey, Posey it's a filly! She looks like you. She has your colors and she's a pegasus too. Posey-"
He froze as he realized her heavy breathing had slowed to the point that she was barely breathing at all. His gaze followed the umbilical cord and, while it pulsed slowly and the little filly in front of him seemed to be growing stronger, the flow of blood going down her side was slowing with every breath she took. He clambered backwards and got his hooves underneath him and rushed around to Posey's head. As he did the little filly slipped back onto her haunches and began to cry as her support vanished, her little voice filling the silent void and seeming all the louder for the lack of other sounds. He kneeled onto his forelegs in front of Posey, ignoring the upset bawling of the filly as he tried to get a response out of his wife. She was still breathing, barely, and managed a few delirious words that were drowned out by the filly's crying. He nudged at her muzzle again, growing desperate for any kind of reaction.
"Posey! No, no, no, no, please Celestia, no. Wake up, love, please wake up. We have a daughter now! You did it love, we have a little filly to take care of. You need to make it, we both need you. I need you. Please Celestia, no, don't let her go. She still needs a name and her mother. Please don't..."
His pleading shortly became nonsensical babbling as his emotions overwhelmed him. He pressed his head against hers, lifted it slightly and letting it settle against the blanket several times before he laid down next to her in defeat, weary with exhaustion.
He lifted his head up and looked around in surprise, then looked down to see Posey looking up at him with one eye. He nodded, unable to manage to speak, and noticed one of his tears shake loose and land on her cheek.
"I heard, Sunburst... you're a father now... we're parents... a pegasus filly. Is she well?"
Sunburst frantically nodded his head, fighting back the urge to break into tears as it dawned on him what was happening. Anything to hear her voice just a little longer, he would do anything but give up his daughter if it would keep her with him. It was supposed to be the three of them living in the home they'd gotten. They were supposed to grow old together; see their foal, their little filly grow up and have a foal of her own. He wanted to scream as tears poured down his cheeks and ran down Posey's, following her lips as they drew into a smile before finally reaching the ground. He wasn't supposed to lose her this way. He wasn't supposed to need to remember the joy of his daughter's birth and his love, his Posey's death, as having happened on the same day.
He couldn't hold anything in anymore and let his head drop. He pressed up against Posey's remarkably cool neck as he sucked in air in gulps and cried.
"Sunburst... don't cry so. Name her Fluttershy... You'll...you will be...a good..."
He nodded as her lips pulled back into a smile as she mouthed the word 'father' before releasing her final breath. Sunburst nearly collapsed when she did not draw another, yet somehow he found the strength to walk around behind Posey's body to the little, crying filly. He pressed the sharp edge of one of his hooves down on the umbilical cord, severing it and in turn the little filly from her mother, and managed to manipulate it into a knot. He cooed to her in between sobs, quieting her, and then settled his body around her to keep her warm and safe. He pressed his back against Posey's still form, exhaustion swiftly overtaking him where sadness and need once filled him. He fell asleep to the small comfort of the sleeping filly pressed against his chest, whispering the words of Posey's lullaby into her ears.
Fluttershy had moved to his side, lending her support and love, when he told her of Posey's final moments. She rubbed her muzzle into his mane, shedding tears of her own, as he let them pour with the conclusion of the memory. They stood in silence, side by side, and let the minutes tick by as he collected himself. As he wiped away the last of his tears Fluttershy stepped back and gave him room to compose himself. He brought his eyes up to meet hers and drew a deep, steadying breath as her love poured forth from her eyes.
"Cheerilee got back later and found us like that, asleep and well. The nurses she managed to bring with her told me that, even if we had been in the middle of Ponyville, they did not think they could have saved her. When labor began the first contraction had apparently been unusually violent and torn up her insides in several places. I hated to hear it, though arguing wasn't going to bring Posey back to us."
"I did my best to raise you for nearly four years. You were the only light in my life back then. Even though you were timid as a little filly you still kept my hooves full. Every day was new and joyful and any time I saw a sparkle of excitement in your eyes or a smile on your little face my heart would fill with love for you anew. I do not have a single memory that isn't joyful of those times, that is until your wings began to develop; that wasn't something I was prepared for or even capable of handling."
"I only found a solution by luck. A rambunctious little filly you came to know as Rainbow Dash crashed through the window of your room one afternoon. When her parents showed up shortly after to retrieve her I spoke to them about you. They offered their sympathies and agreed to let you stay with them while you went through flight school. You were rather upset at having to leave; in fact you cried yourself to sleep. Not that I wasn't upset either; it hurt to watch you go, but I knew it was necessary for you to develop well. You remember things from then on I think."
Sunburst let his eyes fall to the floor and simply took a few minutes to breathe. It had been a very long time since he had faced those memories as a whole. Oddly, though, he found a sense of peace to have finally had the chance to tell it all to Fluttershy. He could not place why but somehow he knew he could face those memories again, now, without emotionally falling to pieces. A thought from earlier that evening came to mind, of Posey's room and the memories he kept locked within, and he knew that with everything else he had told Fluttershy she deserved to see everything it held.
As he raised his head he briefly saw Posey's form imposed over Fluttershy, only to have the hallucination shatter as she spoke.
"Thank you for telling me, father. I did not want to hurt you, though, by asking. I'm sorry. Please forgive me? I'm sorry!"
He chuckled, much to her shock, and lifted his eyes to meet hers.
"There is nothing to forgive, sweetling. You did not hurt me; if anything, tonight, you have helped me finally find some small peace. You will always be important to me. Now, when your kindness or smile reminds me of your mother I may still shed a tear, though it will be of joy and loving memory of the time I had with her. It will also be out of joy that I did not lose you both that day. I have you, and for that I will always be happy."
"Come with me. I have one more thing to show you. First, though, we need to take your picture."
He left the living room and grabbed his camera on the way out. Fluttershy met him at the wall they had used for years as a background for her birthday picture. She turned her smile to him so that he could take the photo and held back a stray tear until she heard the shutter click. He set the camera down and pulled the picture from the dispenser slot then motioned for her to join him. They were in front of the door he had locked earlier that evening.
"Take the key from around my neck and unlock the door, sweetling. I want you to see what is inside on your own while I go get a frame for this photo. Don't be afraid to touch anything; everything within is yours now. Posey would have wanted it that way."
Fluttershy took the key from him and watched him go, confused but curious about what could be inside. She gathered her nerves and put the key in the lock and gave it a quick turn. The click of the bolt sliding into the door seemed unusually loud, though she reassured herself it was only because of the empty hallway. She took a deep breath and pushed the door open, one eye squeezed shut and the other barely open as she braced herself for what might be inside. Her eyes snapped open and widened and her jaw dropped in surprise at what sat within.
She stepped inside and scanned the room, the shock of it quickly wearing off as it dawned on her whose room it was and what it represented to Sunburst. It was the last physical memory he had left of Posey. She knew from her own pictures on the wall that he had kept it clear of any kind of damage for years while barely disturbing it. Her attention went to the bed and a corner of paper beneath the pillow caught her attention. She reached up with a hoof and began to slide it out but froze; suddenly worried she was bothering something she should be leaving alone. She leapt backwards with a startled squeak as a voice sounded behind her and spun to face it. Sunburst stood in the doorway, his familiar face quickly calming her.
"Go ahead, you can read it. Posey wouldn't have minded her daughter reading it, of that I am certain."
She nodded, unable to find her voice to respond, and turned back to the card. She reached forward with her hoof again and slid it out onto the bed and began to read it out loud.
"I once wondered 'what is a Posey?'
There was once a day I never knew.
But on the day I first met your eyes
The world I knew was blown in two.
My heart pumped faster when I saw your wings,
My mane stood on end at your touch,
I nearly melted when I heard you sing,
I knew then what I loved so much.
I love your smile and your eyes,
and our foal you safely carry within.
I know with you I can never speak a lie.
that in the contest for my heart you will always win.
So whether the foal is colt or filly,
or when our manes are touched with gray,
know that I will always love you both
and be there for you if you're in dismay."
Fluttershy could barely speak the ending as she fought back tears, prompting Sunburst to step forward to read the final line as he hugged her close.
"I am your Sunburst, forever."