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Winter Wonders, Winter Worries

by GentlemanJ

Chapter 1


This is a short story in The Journey of Graves.

The series begins with the first story: When the Man Comes Around.

IMPORTANT: If you haven't read the series, please head back to the beginning and check it out. While each story stands on its own, the character and relationship developments will build on each other as the series progresses.

And so, the saga continues...

Winter Wonders, Winter Worries

By: GentlemanJ

Graves was not a man prone to rushing.

That wasn’t to say he couldn’t run. Not at all. It should be known that the marshal had done a good deal of running in his day and was perfectly comfortable chasing down a criminal through some dark back alley or hightailing for dear life whilst an errant hydra snapped at his heels. Of course, these were things that happened out in the field, not in the streets of Ponyville where Graves seemingly always maintained a purposeful, but casual stride.

So when said raven-haired soldier was spotted tearing through the main square like the devil was after him for rent, well… it tends to make you wonder if the apocalypse hadn't already come and we'd all just missed the memo.

“Rarity!” Graves cried as he threw open the door to Carousel Boutique, spell gun raised and silver eyes flashing like summer lighting as they darted about on high alert. “Rarity, Where are you?!”

Hearing a creak from the stairs, the marshal’s coat flared out as he spun, bringing his rifle to bear on–

“Graves? Good heavens, what are you doing?”

–on a very familiar and very confused lady dress maker.

“… Rarity?” he cautiously called out once more as he slowly – very slowly – lowered his spell gun. “You alright?”

“Of course I am,” she frowned. “Why wouldn’t I be?”

Why wouldn’t she be? Well, how about the fact that Rarity’s very own little sister had – not but a few minutes prior – burst headlong into the marshal’s flat screaming at the top of her little lungs, “GRAVES! RARITY IS DYING AND IS MOST DEFINITELY NOT ALRIGHT!” for starters? This fact was shared by the now equally confused soldier where it only served to elicit a highly amused chuckle from one violet-haired beauty.

“Oh dear me,” Rarity laughed, coughing lightly as she did. “I think Sweetie Belle’s gotten you caught up in one of her fancies again. I am not dying as she so dramatically put it; I’ve just caught a slight cold is all.”

And just like that, the pieces fell into place. Oh, a cold. That would explain why she had come to check on the commotion in a silk robe. And why her violet tresses were all tossed about in a clearly disheveled – if still very pretty – mess. And the slight flush in her cheeks and just on the tip of her nose. And the… well, you get the idea.

All to say was that Graves, upon realizing the huge ruckus he’d caused over such small grapes, turned a shade of crimson that made even Rarity’s feverish cheeks seem fair.

“Shoot. Now I feel silly,” he mumbled.

“Yes, you are rather silly aren’t you?” she giggled, a light, airy sound like the tinkling of silver wind chimes. “An adorably silly man who dashes halfway across town at a moment’s notice just for little old me.”

Rarity leaned in to give him a quick peck on the cheek but fell just short as her knees gave way beneath her. Graves was ready, though, and before she’d dropped a hand’s breath, his arms were already around her, supporting her tired frame with his firm, but gentle touch.

“Dear me,” she laughed once more, albeit unable to hide the weariness in her voice. “I must me more infirmed than I thought.”

“You need to rest.”

“And rest I shall. Just give me a moment, and I’ll make my way back upstairs.”

Graves considered the request for a moment.

“Mm… nope.”

And to the young lady’s great surprise, Graves bent down and in one fell swoop, lifted her up into a bridal carry as he headed towards the second floor.

“Graves! What are you doing?” she gasped, doing her best to sound scandalized and failing miserably.

“You start resting now. No reason to tire yourself out any more, is there?”

The delighted smile on her face faded into a much softer, much warmer hue. She could clearly see he was out of sorts in his current role, what with his heated face, carefully averted eyes, and gruff tone that could have given a drill sergeant gargling sandpaper a run for the money. Even so, that didn’t stop him from doing what he could to take care of her, however awkward it made him feel. It was just these sort of things that reminded her why she fell for him in the first place.

“Thank you, dear,” she said, leaning in to give him a fond kiss. This time, she didn’t miss.

*****

Back in her bedroom, Graves laid Rarity onto her bed with more care than most would have taken with even the finest of porcelain dolls.

“Now I don’t want you getting up for any reason, you hear?” he said, his gravelly baritones firm and eyes straining for severity as he pulled up the downy comforter over her.

“Aye aye, captain,” Rarity giggled, even pulling one hand out to throw him a salute.

“I mean it. Get some sleep and get better so I don’t have to–”

He paused.

“What?” she asked, stifling a yawn to do so.

“Nothing, never mind,” he muttered. “You just get better soon.”

With a sleepy nod, Rarity nuzzled deeper under the covers, teetering on the brink of peaceful slumber and pleasant dreams. However, just before she could doze off, another very familiar crash came from the downstairs entrance followed right after by an all too familiarly high-pitched wail of despair.

“RARITY! WHERE ARE YOU?!”

“Oh dear me,” the pretty dressmaker frowned as she began to sit up. “I guess I’ll have to–”

A single finger in the middle of her forehead and she toppled right back into bed.

“I thought I told you to sleep,” Graves repeated with eyebrow arched.

“But Sweetie Belle–”

“–is something I can handle. You. Sleep. Now.”

Seeing that Graves was about as amicable to persuasion as an avalanche, Rarity merely rolled her eyes in mild amusement and settled back down. Only when he was sure that she would quietly stay in bed did Graves finally stand up and head downstairs towards the cotton-candy-haired hurricane that waited below.

*****

“Graves! Thank goodness you’re here! Rarity’s–ow!”

“Sleeping. So keep it down.”

With a dejected nod, Sweetie Belle began rubbing her head, as the grey-eyed marshal had just delivered a firm chop to the top of her gourd. Perhaps not the nicest way to go about things, but he’d long since learned that a small smack to the noggin was a great way to handle hysterical civilians in a crisis. Glad to see it still worked.

“Now Sweetie Belle,” Graves began as he knelt down to look her right in the eyes. “Why’d you come in telling me that Rarity was dying?”

“Because I thought she was!” the little girl wailed, very close to the brink of tears. “When I came over this morning, I kept ringing the doorbell, but Rarity wouldn’t answer. So I climbed in through the back window and went to check on her, but when I found her, she looked really bad and... and I panicked.”

“Didn’t you think she might just had cold?”

“But Rarity never gets colds!” Sweetie Belle sniffled. “Ever since I was little, Rarity’s never been sick before, not even that time when we stayed out and played in the rain all day. She just… she just…”

Graves wanted to be at least a little upset with the little girl standing before him. He really did. As a marshal, false alarms were one of his biggest pet peeves, right alongside ambushes and running out of gun polish. As an individual, the sensation of his heart leaping into his throat at hearing Rarity was in danger made his peeves seem downright trivial in comparison. But considering how clearly distraught the fluffy-haired child before him was, what with her big teary eyes and honest-to-Celestia worry over her idolized sister, he just didn’t have the heart.

“Hey, buck up now,” he said, reaching out to ruffle her cotton candy do and even giving her one of his patented no-idea-how-to-be-reassuring, awkward smiles. “Rarity’s gonna be just fine.”

“How can you tell?” she sniffed.

“Because you’re gonna help her get better.”

Sweetie Belle blinked.

“I am?”

“Yes you are,” he nodded, “by making Rarity some nice chicken soup.”

“But I can’t cook very well,” the little girl replied as she sank even lower into a depressed fugue. “Every time I try, I always end up messing it up.”

“Well, you’ve never had me help you before, have you?”

To this, the fluffy-haired child responded with a most incredulous look of incredulous incredulity.

“Wait, you know how to cook?”

“Not at all,” Graves nodded. “But I’m good with orders, and cooking with this…” he continued, standing up and pulling down a copy of Haute Cuisine’s Fancy Recipes for Plebian Chefs, “is pretty much just that, right?”

After a moment of consideration, big green eyes firmed up in stalwart resolution. Pulling one of the bows from her dress, Sweetie Belle undid it and tied the ribbon around her forehead like the world's most adorable little Rambo.

“Alright, Graves,” she snorted. “Let’s do this!”

*****

When Rarity awoke once more, the sun had just finished its descent to bring out the starry sky and with it, the chill of a crisp, winter night. The refreshing coolness that drifted through frosted panes, however, was not enough to comfort the infirmed young lady. Still feverish, exhausted, and feeling decidedly out of sorts, Rarity couldn’t help but let out a groan of discomfort.

“Hey there,” a gravelly voice softly called as the speaker's silhouette appeared.

She attempted to call out, but her parched throat could hardly summon up a whisper. Instantly, she felt a strong hand on her back, propping her up as a deliciously cool glass of water came to her lips.

“Graves?” she finally managed. “Is that you?”

“Who else?” he chuckled as he helped her settle back down. “How are you feeling?”

“Terrible,” she moaned. “I hate getting sick. It makes me feel all… icky.”

“Sorry to hear that,” Graves murmured as he brushed aside a strand of violet hair. “Do you think you’re up to having a little soup?”

After receiving a nondescript mumble in response, Graves got up and headed downstairs. Within minutes, Rarity caught the warm, comforting smells of chicken soup wafting through the house, and it wasn't long before the marshal returned with a steaming bowl of the rich, wholesome broth in hand.

“Here we go,” he said, helping the pretty seamstress up and bracing her against a stack of plush pillows. “Just what the doctor ordered.” Rarity reached out to take the bowl, but just as soon as her slender fingers met the fine china, they withdrew as she crossed arms under breasts in a silent huff.

“I don’t want it,” she replied as she petulantly stuck out her lower lip at him in a sulky, little pout. “It’s too hot.” Darkly framed by moonlight as he was, she couldn’t make out the faint smile that crossed the marshal's face.

“Is that so? Well then, let’s see if we can fix that.”

Taking spoon in hand, Graves dipped it into the bowl then gently blew until the steam had disappeared. Only when he was sure that even a cat would find no offense did he bring it to the young lady’s lips. This process he repeated several times over, each time with the same, steady hand and quiet patience as the one before.

“There, feel better now?” he asked once more as he set aside the empty bowl and helped the young lady lie back down.

“A bit,” she admitted, now smiling slightly as the simple, but delicious meal went to work. “Where did you manage to get chicken soup anyway? Did Fluttershy send it?”

“Nope,” Graves chuckled. “We made it.”

“No,” Rarity softly gasped in disbelief. “You mean you and Sweetie Belle?”

“Indeed,” he grinned. “You should’ve seen her. Don’t think she took her eyes off for a second the entire time it simmered. Plumb wore herself out, so I went and put her to bed.”

“Will wonders never cease,” she giggled just before another yawn took hold.

“You probably need more sleep,” the marshal said as he made to stand up. “I’ll just let you–”

His words were arrested as Rarity’s flushed hand came out to hold his.

“No,” she protested. “You can't go yet.”

“But… you need to rest…” he frowned.

“But I'll be lonely,” Rarity pouted, her large sapphire eyes sparkling dolefully in the pale moonlight. “You have to stay with me until I fall asleep. Please?”

It took a moment, but with a defeated sigh and the slightest of smiles, Graves settled back down, taking a seat beside the bed as he continued to hold fast to Rarity’s warm, slender hand.

A minute of silence passed. Covers shifted. Another minute passed. More shuffling. Only when the third minute had come and gone did a soft voice break the stillness.

“… Graves?” Rarity began, turning to him with a shy smile. “I have something to ask.”

“Hm? What is it?”

“Well… I’m not sure I can fall asleep quite yet..."

"I see," he nodded. "So..."

"So, I was wondering. Would you sing me a lullaby?”

...

...

“…. You’re kidding.”

She was kidding. She had to be kidding. I mean, him? Sing? Honestly, might as well ask a stone to produce a stream or Applejack to do math. But that's exactly what she did. Rarity lay there and looked up at him with big, hopeful eyes, pensively biting her lower lip in the way he could never quite refuse. Not that he didn't try, of course. In the next moment, a flurry of emotions crossed his face, each one an attempt to escape his plight. From the blank stare to disbelieving smile, from incredulous frowns to stubborn stillness, he threw each and every expression he had in a desperate attempt to escape her absurd request.

She said nothing. She simply lay there, the same, hopeful look shining up through those big, sparkling eyes. Honestly, he'd never been able to refuse that look, and now that fever flushed her cheeks?

“… I don’t know any lullabies...”

“Anything’s fine,” she murmured, a dreamy, happy smile now gracing her face. “Anything at all.”

Graves was grateful for the night. It hid his burning face well under a convenient veil of darkness. Honestly, asking him to sing. Of all the ridiculous, fool-notioned things she could've ask for...

But she had asked, and so…

“ Am I blue? Am I blue?

Ain't these tears in my eyes telling you.

Am I blue? You'd be too,

If each plan that you had done fell through.”

Under that clear night sky, the raven-haired soldier sang. His voice was rough and unpolished, like a clay pot with neither glaze nor decor. But there was something strangely beautiful about the simplicity, the way that each note seemed to resonate and shimmer like shards of pure ice before fading into the darkness. Maybe he had just discovered a talent that he’d never known. Or maybe it was simply because he sang for her that the song took flight.

As the final note disappeared into stillness, he looked down. There, glowing in the pale silver light, lay an angel, smiling as she floated through the blissful realms of slumber. Quietly, as silent as moon shadows, Graves stood to leave, but was arrested as the hand he held squeezed just a little tighter.

"No..." Rarity murmured as a slight frown crossed her sleeping face. "Don't go..."

The marshal froze, surprised flashing across silver eyes as he wondered if his Rarity was in fact a telepath. Then thoughts turned to matter at hand. Rarity needed rest, that much was certain, and rest would come whether he was there or not. In fact, it would probably come easier without him; silent though he was, even he couldn't be present without some slight disturbance. Besides, it's not like she would even notice if he left, right? After all, she was already asleep. She probably wouldn't even notice.

And yet there she was, slender fingers wrapped around his as that slight frown remained on her lips.

Silently, Graves returned to his seat with a sigh and a smile.

He really needed to learn how to say no someday.

Someday. But not today.

**********

To Be Continued

The Journey of Graves will continue in the next story: Marshals: The Next Generation.

Return to Story Description

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