((Just a little something, I hope you like it))
Steam Heart, a small school filly with a light grey coat, was hopping around the kitchen, her white and maroon mane bouncing with a slight delay. Her bright, reddish eyes glistened while she watched her mother prepare her breakfast, a hay sandwich and a few slices of apple to start off the day. She was already at her chair when the plates were set, eager to satisfy her morning hunger. She took a large bite out of the sandwich the first chance she got, letting her magic hold her food in front of her while she relished in the sweet peanut butter and jelly spread on the loaves.
"Now, Steam, your brother should be over in a few minutes," Her mother said as she got ready for work.
The little filly almost choked on her food at the announcement. "Cogwheel's coming home? Really?!" She barely had time to chew before she swallowed.
Her mother nodded to her and smiled before putting on her coat. "Really. He's been looking forward to seeing his favorite little sister."
"Aww, mom! Hehe, I'm his only sister!"
"Oh of course, how could I forget?" Both giggled at their silliness. It was somewhat a rare sound to hear, with her mother being busy with work and all that, but when it happened, it lit the room up with a vibrant form of joy.
Steam's mother went for the door once she had her bags strapped snugly on her back. "I'm going to work now, sweetie. Please don't give your brother a hard time, okay? He's been working real hard on his project in Canterlot."
"Never! I promise I'll be good."
"That's a good filly. Goodbye now, sweetie. Have fun with your quality time with your brother, okay? Love you!" She blew a kiss to her daughter and she blew a kiss back.
"Bye, mom! Love you too!"
It had been an hour since breakfast and there was still no sign of her brother. Steam was sprawled on her back, her head hanging upside down and trained on the door. "Come on Cogwheel!" she moaned. She knew very well that her brother was always the late riser, and was hardly known for his punctuality, if indeed he possessed such a trait, but this was ridiculous, as far as she was concerned.
Steam resorted to making popping sounds with her mouth to relieve her boredom. It did little to pass the time, but at least she could give an answer if somepony asked how many popping sounds a pony could make. Forty-two seemed to be the answer, but she wondered if some of the pops counted by simply being a different volume.
She lost count when she finally heard footsteps at the door. She quickly righted herself in anticipation. The door knob turned and in came a tall, brown unicorn stallion with a wavy orange mane. "Cogwheel!" the filly shouted as she tackled her terrified brother, who tried desperately to catch his over-ecstatic sister from belly-flopping on the hardwood floor. Cogwheel caught her in his hooves, but was pushed flat on his back because he couldn't counter the momentum of the freely falling (but overwhelmingly adorable) body of the young filly. "I missed you!"
The stallion had to take a moment to refill his lungs and recover from the fall that would haunt him the next day. "I missed you too, kiddo. Has mom gone to work already?"
The filly nodded. "Yup! She left an hour ago. What took you so long?" she pursed her lips and gave him a scolding look.
Cogwheel picked his sister off of him so he could get back on his hooves. "I uh... ran into some trouble on the way here."
"That's what you always say, Cogwheel!"
"Oh really?" He smirked and ruffled his sister's mane. "I thought I used a few more excuses that."
The filly giggled as she attempted to swat away his hooves in vain. "What are we going to do first, big brother?"
"Hmm..." Cogwheel tapped his chin. "I know! Why don't we go over to the playground?"
Steam kicked the floor. "I don't wanna go there..."
"The other foals keep calling me 'blank flank'."
Cogwheel shook his head in disappointment. Generation after generation, foals still didn't understand how amazing being a blank flank could be. He told his sister the same thing some time ago, but it seemed that it didn't really latch on to her head yet. "Oh I see... Hmm... How about the gallery then?"
Steam shook her head. "The gallery is boring and confusing."
Now that was something he could get behind. "You got that right. I mean, how does a blank canvas with a single, off-centered dot be worth more than fully functional music box with a dancing pony that actually dances?"
"That's it!" Steam suddenly clapped her hooves together.
"Miss Meter Stick said there was going to be an engineering exhibit at the convention center today. Can we go there, pleeeease?"
As he pretended to muse over the suggestion, a sly smirk appeared on Cogwheel's lips. "Hmm, I don't know..."
"Aw, come on, Cogwheel! I know you want to see the exhibit too!"
Cogwheel giggled at the angry face his sister flashed him. "Okay, okay, I admit, I want to see it too. My, aren't you getting good at mind reading. That wouldn't be your special talent, would it?"
"Nah, you're just predictable."
For three hours, brother and sister went from booth to booth watching what marvels the ponies at the convention center had to show them. A few of the exhibits there caught the filly's full attention. There was a mechanical bird made of bronze and glass that could fly across the air like a real one. The ponies in charge explained that the bird ran on motors fueled by a crystal battery that stored magic. That same magic also made the bird slightly lighter, helping it off the ground.
It was an eye-opener for the filly. She hadn't known that magic existed outside of unicorn horns, much less be in a tiny crystal.
Another contraption that got Steam's full attention was a metal frame that was worn by a pony. They called it "PAL" and it was, as they explained, an exoskeleton, and it made the pony wearing it stronger. They demonstrated this by letting the pony hold three fully grown earth pony stallions up on just one hoof. It was impressive enough at it was, especially considering the pony wearing the device was a frail-looking pegasi. However, it looked rather threatening, but she took solace in knowing it didn't have a mind of its own. Luckily, they moved on before the presenters told of their plans of giving it just that.
The last exhibit featured a glass sphere with a metal rod inside. At the pull of a lever, lightning shot out from the rod and latched on the sphere's edge, erratically trying to escape its confines in all directions. The exhibitor told Steam to put her hoof on the sphere. She hesitated of course. Lightning was dangerous, and only a complete fool would try to get herself zapped. However, she risked it when her brother reassured her that everything was going to be fine, and so she held her hooves over the glass. When she touched it, the lightning bolts suddenly focused on her hooves. Her fear was gone, and instead was replaced with a sense of wonder. She couldn't stop smiling as she moved her hooves around and watched the lightning follow.
When they had visited the last of the exhibits, the pair decided to return home, but not before stopping by the gift shops. There were a lot of things sold there, namely: hats, shirts, vests, more hats, belts, earrings, bracelets, more hats, necklaces, and ... intimate-scented perfume? Steam arched her brows at that last one, not because of the strange name, but of how quickly the storekeeper shooed her away from that particular area.
Before she could investigate however, she felt a tiny chain being hung from her neck. "There we go. I think that looks good on you," she heard her brother say. She looked at the heavier part dangling from the silvery chain and found that it was a pendant shaped like a heart with a tiny wrench inscribed on the inside.
"For some reason, that really fits you. Do you like it?"
Steam nodded gleefully with a smile that seemed to outshine the sun. Words failed to escape her mouth.
"Good. Now whenever we're apart, you can just look at that, and remember me, okay? Then we wont be so far away from each other." Cogwheel looked at his watched and a worried expression painted itself on his face. He gave a low whistle and said, "Look at the time, mom's gonna kill us! Come on, kiddo, we got to—"
"Race you home!" Steam shouted just before she bolted away.
"Hey no fair! That's a false start!"
Nearing the door to their apartment, Cogwheel suddenly stopped. "What's wrong Cogwheel?" Steam asked, trotting back to her brother she left behind a few trots back.
"Steam... I..." Cogwheel started, "I... I have to go somewhere..."
"It's a secret." Cogwheel smiled, but Steam saw his eyes watering.
"Are you crying?" She wanted it to sound like playful teasing, but it came out as a genuine question. Her brother just shook his head and held his smile, even though it seemed like doing so hurt him.
"Go on, Steam. Mom must be worried about you."
Steam trotted closer and held on to her brother's hoof, gently tugging him to go with her. "Aren't you coming too?"
Cogwheel closed his eyes and a few tears dropped to the floor. "I'm sorry. I have to go. Listen, sis, you need to be strong, okay? I need you to take care of mom, do you understand, Steam?" He leaned in and squeezed her tightly before their reluctant separation. Turning away, Cogwheel went back the way they came.
"W-wait!" Steam ran as fast as she could, but the hallway seemed to stretch, further separating the two of them. "Cogwheel, come back! Please! Was it something I did? Was it something I said? I'm sorry Cogwheel, I won't do it again, I promise! Please come back!"
Her brother stopped and turned to look at her, but she never got any closer. "I'm sorry, sis. My time is up. I'm sorry we never spent enough time together, but I promise we'll have all the time in the world... I'll see you in the garden."
"Wait, Cogwheel! What garden?!" She asked desperately, but her brother continued walking. He walked and walked until he was just a speck, and vanished. Realizing she couldn't keep up, Steam slowed her pace until she lost all her momentum. She sat down on her haunches and looked down the hallway that felt like a narrowing abyss.
"Cogwheel..." she cried weakly. Her lips quivered and her breathing felt harsh. The water in her eyes made things blurry, but she couldn't be bothered to wipe them away. "Why did you leave me, Cogwheel? Where are you going? COGWHEEEEEEEEL!!!" She screamed at the top her lungs. Her neighbors would have rushed out by the time she had exhausted her air supply, wondering what was going on, but she didn't care what they would think. She just wanted her brother to come back.
Her eyes were closed, so she didn't see her surroundings slowly being engulfed in white, erasing the dark and narrow hallway that taunted her.
Her eyes opened from their slumber. She gently rubbed them and sat up on the couch. Her ears were ringing, giving her a bit of a headache. It took her a while to realize that it wasn't her ears, but it was the kettle shouting out its hot vapor. "Was it a dream?"
Still a bit sleepy, she looked over the back of the couch and saw her mother slumped over on dining table, head in her hooves.
"Mom, the water's hot already!" She called out.
"Steam, you're wake!" Her mother looked to her in surprise.
The filly saw that her mother had just been crying, her face was still wet with tears, and her breathing was a bit unsteady. "What's wrong, mom?" she asked.
Her mother wiped her face with a piece of cloth. "Steam, come here for a moment."
The filly quickly trotted up to her mother and joined her at the table. She was hugged tightly almost immediately. She could hear her mother silently cry on her shoulder. "Is something wrong? Was somepony mean to you at work?"
"No dear... its Co—..." She lifted herself from her daughter and looked at her. "Do you remember the story I told you and your brother when you were younger? The one about the firefly and the flower garden?"
Steam instantly recalled the bedtime story. A firefly woke up in a beautiful garden one day after he flew into a buzzing bright light. There were other fireflies there, some he even knew from so long ago, who welcomed him warmly. In the garden, there was no shortage of food, everyone was nice to each other, and they could fly freely without worry. Flowers were everywhere, and only beauty as far as it could see. It was a paradise. It was a nice story, but Steam figured out what it stood for when she lost her first pet, and Cogwheel convinced her that it went to someplace similar.
Tears welled up in her eyes. "No..." she whined.
"There was... an accident with your brother's train last night"
"He's not coming home... I'm sorry..."
"No! I don't believe you!"
The filly jumped off the chair and ran upstairs to her room and dug herself into her bed. She covered her face with a pillow and screamed, gripping it as hard as she could, not caring that she was ripping her favorite case. Her muffled cries were the only noise in her room until the sounds of hooves coming up the stairs served to fill the void. She could feel her mattress shift under the weight of her mother, and a moment later she felt her mother's hooves caressing her head.
Steam's mother started humming a lullaby as best as she could in her state, and gently rocked the filly back and forth. She tried to be strong, but even her strength had its limits. They stayed like that for a while. Steam's mother had fallen asleep from exhaustion from work and the news. Steam however just laid there, fully awake.
Was it all just a dream? Cogwheel coming home, catching her when she jumped on him, going to the exhibit, then racing back? They all felt so real, but...
It pained her to know that she could never see him again. To see his smile. To feel the wind running through her when she rode on his back. To play with him whenever he had a chance to come home. Those were the things she would never get to do again. Her hoof passively touched her chest, where it ached the most after all that crying. To her surprise, she felt the necklace still dangling.
She checked the pendant, and it was the exact same one from her dream. Cogwheel's words echoed softly in her mind. She closed her eyes and held the pendant carefully in both her fore hooves, pressing it firmly against her chest.
The aching subsided.
"Let's play again... someday..."