The use of locations from The Ambassador's Son by Midnight Shadow is done with permission.
The Tacksworn Medical Clinic was small. It was staffed by Dr. Foalsneigh, the only registered medical unicorn in town. Her assistant, Nurse Slowcode was also a unicorn, but was not overly trained in the arts of healing. Nevertheless, he was a caring nurturer and most of the ponies in town liked him.
Perspicacity had suffered trauma to her jaw, molars, and cheek; this was easily dealt with using basic regenerative cantrips and a standard dental restoration potion. Wildfire was another matter; his three broken ribs required more than cantrips for a complete repair. Dr. Foalsneigh did what she could to knit the bones in place but it was insufficient; bandaging to limit movement was used. Wildfire was told that in three weeks, he should be fine, of course more advanced treatment was available in a larger city if he wished to go that route.
The real problem was Wildfire's Apples; a certain pink unicorn had done quite a number on him. One was salvageable if gruesomely bruised. The other, though was beyond help and was likely already becoming necrotic. It had to be removed.
Full or half-gelding was a minor, outpatient procedure with a rapid recovery time, basic cantrips allowed a stallion to walk out of the clinic within two hours with no scaring. Perspicacity and Wildfire had a fairly long and emotional discussion about the matter; in the end Pers managed to reassure her husband that one apple was sufficient for any orchard they might want to grow, and that he was in no way diminished in her eyes, or in her heart... or in her lusts.
Their adventure had cost them both. They had both suffered physically and psychologically, but at last it seemed to be over. They had heard the end of the story, they had discovered the reason that Celestia had invaded Earth; that it had been an invasion, deliberate and calculated, based on an ancient promise to the first ponified human.
They had also discovered why some ponies in Equestria did not act as peacefully or as compassionately as others; a touch of humanity had spread through the species for centuries, the result of Celestia's best-guess attempt to match a human mind with a pony body.
Chiphoof and his father saw the Starshines to the train station; Sharptooth made a jest about how there was always a position available as hoard sorting slaves, should they ever need a job. Chip gave them a carefully boxed and padded model of his wings as a gift to remember their time among the dragons.
Sharptooth thanked them for returning the remains of his siblings to him; this mattered to him greatly. He gave them a box of chocolate and candied-cactus brownies for the trip; he had spent the morning baking them, a special treat that had within it a taste of the desert found nowhere else. Inside the box was the recipe for Hay Almondine, as well, the dish that Perspicacity had been so interested in, but had never gotten to finish.
Both dragons helped load the Starshine's heavy steamer trunk onto the train; Wildfire was simply not up to it, and they just plain wanted to be nice.
Perspicacity waved to the Leatherbacks, father and son, as the train left the Tacksworn station, Wildfire wanted to wave, but he couldn't turn far enough because of his ribs and the bandages holding him. Pers assured him that it was alright; the dragons would absolutely understand.
For many miles the couple sat in silence. They had been through so much, and they both were unsure how they felt about a lot of things. They had taken an express to Greater Fetlock; this had been a matter of some argument between them.
The funeral of Aunt Aspherica was something that Wildfire had expected his wife to wish to attend. He had offered that it made a lot of sense to go back to Salt Lick City for it, but Perspicacity would have none of that. Since the clinic, she had been very doting on Wild, somewhat overly so, but unwilling to go anywhere but home.
Wild had argued that Salt Lick was a large city, that he could get additional treatment there. She had countered that they would be passing through Hoofington, and that city held the Starswirl Institute of Amniomorphic Magicine; potentially they could even regenerate Wildfire's lost Apple, magical medical research being their specialty.
Something was bothering Perspicacity, that Wildfire couldn't get her to talk about, though it was clear it had to do with her family and her lineage.
Dinner on the train was a quiet affair. The food was good but the smalltalk, what little there was of it, was not. Perspicacity wanted to retire early; Wildfire agreed, even with the healing philtres provided by the clinic in Tacksworn, he felt tired and worn, and not a little emotionally fragile.
Perspicacity made a bed for herself on the floor of the compartment, there was no question of cuddling up with Wildfire in such a small bed with his broken ribs. They lay in silence, unable to sleep.
"Pers... I know something is bothering you. Swirls Pers... I've known it all day, ever since we left the clinic." Wildfire tried to adjust how he was laying, on his good side, but the movement hurt. "Please, talk to me. Let me in. What bothers you... bothers me."
Perspicacity was quiet a long time. For a while, Wild was unsure she would even answer him.
"I'm sorry, Wild. I'm sorry you had to go and... end up with the very thing you tried to escape." Was that... a sob at the end? Was she crying? Wildfire couldn't be sure and he couldn't easily move to find out.
"Pers... I don't have a clue what the cinnamon buns you are talking about." Wildfire was at a loss; she didn't sound like herself and he was too banged-up to crawl down to her and try to comfort her in any case.
"Let's face it Wildfire. I'm last millennium's model of imitation pony. Nearly. I am obsessive. Ambitious. I'm ambitious as... hell." Perspicacity rolled the humanic word around in her mouth as she said it, Wildfire wasn't sure she even could fully understand what it actually meant. "I'm a hell bad not-pony, filled with hell-human hell... ness."
"Sweet chocolate horseshoes, Pers... you are not a... a.. not-pony!" So that was it. The genetic legacy of Willelmus. Her unpleasant aunt. She had admired her grandstallion, even wanted to carry on the family tradition because of him, but she always complained about his personality. And all the time he'd known her, she had been driven by the desire to have Starshine Telescopes be the Royal Instrument Maker to the Crown once again. Now she must have guessed why that had been so; because Celestia kept her enemies close to her, to watch them.
"Perspicacity! I can prove you are a true-pony and not a... not-pony. I don't have the right terms, I'm not sure there are any, but you know what I mean. You aren't somehow unequine, you aren't somehow human, and I can prove it." He had to help somehow, and this seemed like a valid angle.
"Celestia long ago stopped having your family kept close to her, right? Starshine is no longer the Royal telescope making family, right? Celestia must have come to the conclusion that whatever dangerous or unstable qualities your lineage had was no longer an issue. 'She keeps her enemies close', right? Like Prince Blueblood! His family tree probably didn't branch that much, so he's probably an... an..." Wildfire wanted to say 'asshole', but the word just wouldn't come. He could feel it's shape in his mind, he could remember there was a word, but there was a blind spot where the most vicious things used to be inside him. "...he is probably not a very nice pony. Probably none of the Bluebloods are. But you are nice, Pers, you're the nicest pony I know. You're my favorite pony. You're my best friend, and you're the pony I love the most."
He knew he hadn't said it well. But he had meant every word of it.
Pers was giggling, though with a sad catch in her voice. "I bet Blueblood's family tree is a stick. A pole." She giggled even more. "When I was in Canterlot... nopony had anything good to say about the Bluebloods. Well, when not in public anyway."
"I need you to tell me the truth. Am I... Am I like a human?"
Wildfire thought carefully. "Well, I guess in little ways you are, but just in little ways. And, to tell you the truth, I actually like those ways. They are familiar to me. They are something I know and feel comfortable with, and that I feel safe around. It may seem strange to you, but... sometimes the... over-sweetness... of some ponies kind of grates with me. It kind of makes me feel like an... like I don't completely belong here."
He wished he could turn to face her, but those muffin ribs were just... "Pers, I always feel comfortable with you. I feel like I belong when I'm with you, and whenever I doubt myself, you are the one pony who can make me feel better. If that is because there is a little something 'humanish' in you, then I'm not just OK with that, I'm grateful for it. One of my biggest fears all along, was that I wouldn't be Equestrian enough for you, that I might slip up and be... like Ralph, somehow, I guess. You've shown me that I'm not like that. You've given me confidence in myself."
Wildfire stared out the window of the train, trying to focus his thoughts. He wanted to tell her so much, to get her to see...
"Pers... Perspicacity... I'm a newfoal. I can't help that, and I guess I'll always be a little different from a native-born Equestrian whatever I do. I experienced a different world, I lived as another creature. Those experiences make me a little different, whether I like that fact or not. But... for me, at least, finding out that we have something... human... in common, however distant, however faint and small it might be... it just brings me even closer to you, and makes me feel even more grateful that I get to spend my life with you."
She had started crying well before he finished, but softly so she could hear every word. Now the torrent poured forth, and she was by the side of the bed, off the floor and pressing her head oh-so-carefully against his cheek, her tears running down his face.
"I love you Wildfire. I... I just plain love you."
"I love you too. I just love you so much, Pers."
The train ran on silvery rails through Luna's beautiful night, the stars glinting off of the polished, colorful cars. Inside their sleeper car, Wildfire and Perspicacity reminisced about how they had met, how silly Wildfire had looked, laying on his back, trying to save the telescopes that Rocket had knocked over. How Perspicacity had sat and watched Wildfire writing his letters to his lost human friend, and how she had admired his loyalty, even long after that friend had proven false.
They talked of their life together, of how nervous Wildfire had been when he had asked Perspicacity to marry him, how sad they had been when Rocket had wanted to move out to get his own place, about the loving way Wild would just sit and watch Pers making her lenses, and how much that fascinated him, and how impressed he was with her ability.
And they laughed at Wildfire's disastrous first attempt to make a romantic dinner for her, and how she had struggled so hard to not let on how bad it really was, or the time that she had brought a picnic-dinner to eat with Wildfire at the Fire Hall, because she missed him so much, and how the rest of the fireponies had turned the lights down and sung for them, and how Rocket had pretended to be a waiter so they could feel like they had enjoyed a romantic night out.
And finally they fell asleep, as close as they could get to each other, Pers on the floor, and her injured husband on the bed, holding hooves, until Pers hoof fell to the floor as sleep took her.
Two days later, Wildfire and Perspicacity found themselves in Hoofington; both were feeling better, though Wildfire's ribs were still very tender, but the trip to the Starswirl Institute proved to be less than useful; their focus was entirely prenatal and pediatric in nature, something Perspicacity had not known; their services allowed for mixed species couples to have hybrid offspring impossible to them otherwise.
Perspicacity apologized profusely to Wildfire, she had felt so sure that they could help him and now she just felt so terrible about it and how they should have gone to Salt Lick just like he had wanted to, but he would have none of it. So instead of fussing further about one lost Apple "The one I have left is a survivor, Perspicacity! He's been tested in battle, and proven to be a warrior of strength and nobility in the face of adversity. I'm sure he can handle any mission you care to send him on... just later, after I have more time to recuperate, alright?" the couple instead enjoyed a lovely dinner in the big city, under candlelight, with live music.
The room they rented for the evening was spacious, and allowed both of them to take much needed showers. There was also a nice large bed, which allowed Wild and Pers to try to cuddle as close as they could dare; this made them both happy, and aside from one attempt to turn over that resulted in some pain, they had a very restful sleep, off of the train.
In the morning the Starshines decided to just head home to Fetlock; they just plain wanted to be home again. They were both weary of travel, and done with adventure, for now at least, and the comfort of their own bed had become the most desirable treasure they could imagine in all of Equestria.
The remaining train ride was increasingly filled with high spirits; they were on their way back to where they felt happy and safe, they were even more in love than ever before, and they were just plain glad the whole thing was over and done with.
"The next time you find an old manuscript in the attic?" Perspicacity spoke with the utmost seriousness "Let's just hand it over to a museum!"
When the train pulled into Greater Fetlock, Wildfire and Perspicacity felt almost giddy; somehow their little town had never looked more delightful or more lovely. Wild couldn't pull the luggage, so Perspicacity arranged a wagon to carry both the luggage and themselves the rest of the way home. On the way they found delight in pointing out and waving to all the little shops and stores they loved, and the ponies they knew.
There was Featherhoof's Blacksmithy, though no sign of Featherhoof himself, and Amaranth's Bakery, which had those lovely peach and apple turnovers. They waved at Sweetflower Daisy from the Tastee Yum Yum Flowers Stand; Pers noted that it had been moved to a new location, Sweetflower had mentioned that she thought she might get better business that way.
Rocket galloped out of the Fire Hall to greet them as they passed by; he had noticed them on the wagon. He wanted to hear all about their sabbatical adventures; there would be time for that later, come by on the weekend, we'll have a big dinner, bring your girlfriend this time, right now we just want to get home and rest, no, Wildfire will be alright, We'll tell you the whole story (as much as would be prudent, anyway) later, yes, we're glad to see you too, yes, later.
The Telescope shop had never looked so good. The draft ponies pulling the wagon carried the luggage inside for Wild and Pers, and she gave them a generous tip. They closed the door and walked past the telescopes, and went upstairs to the actual house, to their home, to... sanctuary.
Wildfire stood, staring at the kitchen table. There was the pencil he had used to translate the manuscript, and there were the sheets of paper and partial translations, right where they had left them. Perspicacity put some water on to boil, tea seemed like a very nice idea right now. She searched the pantry for anything to have with tea; they would need to go out for dinner, because there wasn't any food in the house, and they would need to go shopping too.
She found the tin of biscuits in the back, a gift from last Hearth's Warming. Biscuits and tea, not a bad choice at all. Hopefully they were still good, they hadn't been opened.
Wildfire felt terribly tired; he sat at the table, carefully, and found himself closing his eyes. He must have drifted off, because the next thing he knew there was a bowl of tea in front of him and Perspicacity was shaking out biscuits from the tin onto a plate. The bright red teapot was there as well, and soon Pers was sitting beside him, her own cup in front of her.
The two exhausted ponies just sat there, at the table, the sweet smell of fine tea filling their noses; they were too tired to sip it yet, and for a moment they both closed their eyes, hoof in hoof, just sitting together, enjoying the blessed fact that they were home, home, finally, finally home.
Wild heard tea being poured into a cup; Perspicacity must have downed hers quickly. She did love her tea.
"Mmmm.... not bad. The biscuits are rather stale though."
The voice was not Perspicacity, though it was absolutely familiar. Perspicacity and Wild both opened their startled eyes; Pers had been sure that Wild had poured himself more tea.
Across the table sat Princess Celestia, absolute monarch of all Equestria, goddess of the sun and divine immortal ruler of the entire universe, sipping tea and frowning at her biscuit.