"Spike? Spiiiiike? Where are you?"
"I'm right here, Twilight, what's up?"
Spike looked up from his lunch as Twilight Sparkle emerged from her room, looking somewhat frazzled.
"Oh there you are, good. I don't suppose you've seen a big book with maroon binding anywhere have you? There's a sparkle pattern stitched into the front. I can't imagine how I misplaced it, it's really distinctive."
"Oh yeah!" said Spike, gulping down another ruby. "That's the data compendium you wrote up for Princess Celestia right? I already sent that to her."
Twilight hopped down to the library's ground floor, shaking her head.
"No, not that one. It has the same cover, but it's another book. I just liked that pattern so much I bought a second one to use for my report. The other one's my... uh, personal log."
"Personal log?" Spike scratched his head while he searched through a pile of books. "You mean like a diary?"
"No!" Twilight fairly shouted, "I mean no, it's not a diary, it is a research journal I've been keeping since I became Celestia's student. It contains research notes! And other extraneous notations that wouldn't be appropriate for a scholarly paper."
"So kinda like a diary."
"I swear by all that is hairy Spike I will END YO-"
"Here it is!"
Twilight blinked as Spike held up the large tome. She broke out into a smile and hugged the baby dragon briefly before taking the book from him with a spark of magic from her horn.
"Yes, that's it! Thanks Spike, you're a lifesaver."
"Just doin' my job ma'am," Spike drawled as he sat back down to eat.
Twilight chuckled as she flipped through pages with her magic.
"I'm so glad I finally found this, I've been going crazy all week not being able to write anything down and now I can finally put all of my thoughts... on... paper... Spike this isn't my personal log, this is the research compendium."
"No it's not," Spike mumbled around a mouthful of diamonds, "I told you, I sent that to Princess Celestia last week, just like you asked me to."
He stopped chewing, scaly eyebrows suddenly knotting.
"At least... I sent her... a book that looked... exactly like that one..."
A cold chill ran down Spike's spines as he heard Twilight Sparkle coming up slowly behind him.
"Spike?" she asked very quietly, "are you saying that you sent my personal journal, which is very private and intended exclusively for my eyes only, to Princess Celestia?"
"Thank goodness." Twilight slumped to the ground in a heap.
"...well, okay, yeah, that's exactly what I'm saying."
"Spi~ike! This is no time to be flippant! This is a time for panic! Frothing, screaming, flailing panic!"
Spike blinked as Twilight galloped a small circle on the floor, practically crying in terror.
"Uh, Twilight, don't you think you're overreacting a little bit? So Princess Celestia read your diary. What's the big deal? It's not like you wrote about how you hate her or think she's a terrible ruler or think her tail is particularly unflattering."
"Princess Celestia's tail is poetry in motion and don't you besmirch her name by saying otherwise!" Twilight wailed.
Spike stared at her. Twilight pawed the floor nervously.
"... so it's more like the opposite then?"
Twilight's face achieved a darker shade of purple. Spike sighed.
"... poetry," she mumbled.
Spike did his level best not to laugh. His best wasn't good enough. Twilight glared daggers at the little dragon as he rolled around on the floor chortling.
"You know," she said desperately, "I'm probably just blowing this all out of proportion. I mean, this is Princess Celestia we're talking about! She's not going to read a few pages of my journal and then go through the whole thing. She's going to notice that she hasn't been sent a properly edited report, realize she's looking at something personal, and set it aside so as to respect my privacy. I'm flipping out over nothing."
"... unless..." Spike said slowly.
Twilight felt her stomach tying itself in a square knot.
"Unless what, Spike? What are you unlessing?"
"Okay, just... this is just a what if, okay?"
"Supposing I knew you were really anxious to get Princess Celestia's opinion on your research, and I happened to maybe, uh, put a note on what I thought was your research logs that said something like 'Urgent: For Celestia's eyes only, read in entirety at earliest convenience'?"
Twilight's horn began to glow with evil light.
"Well, that would mean instant death."
Spike opened his mouth to beg for his life, but nothing came out but a belch of green flame. Twilight yelped and hopped out of range as the stream of fire and smoke transformed itself into a paper scroll affixed with Equestria's royal seal. The package fell to the floor with a quiet rustle.
Twilight swallowed and backed away from the scroll. Spike rolled his eyes and picked it up, breaking the seal and shaking it open.
"Relax Twilight, this is probably just Princess Celestia writing to tell you she knows she got the wrong book. Ahem. 'My dearest, most faithful student Twilight Sparkle. It has been far too long since we have had a chance to converse face to face, and the battle against the Parasprites in Fillydelphia has left me in need of a few day's rest. With this in mind, I have decided to come to Ponyville for some much needed relaxation. I should arrive tomorrow. And please, refrain from any festivities- I wish only to spend a few quiet days with my favorite student. We have such a lot to talk about, after all. Signed, Princess Celestia of Equestria.'"
Rarity tsked as Pinkie Pie wiggled again, ruining the careful work she was doing pinning the fabric of the spastic earth pony's outfit.
"Pinkie really, I'm trying to go as quickly as possible but this is precision work! Do try to hold still."
"I'm sorry," Pinkie sing-songed, "but I'm just so excited! Because I've never had a custom made new outfit before in fact I don't think I've ever had a new outfit or really an outfit at all for that matter so this is really sort of a big deal for me and I'm ever so grateful but when I'm very very grateful I get very excited and then it's hard to hold still because I feel like a great big jello mold and I'm just wiggling around back and forth like my insides are all full of chunks of fruit! I think my liver would be a grape. I don't know why."
Rarity blinked. In desperation, she latched onto the part of Pinkie's tirade that made the closest thing to sense.
"You've never worn an outfit before? Ever?"
"Nope!" said Pinkie, grinning, "I'm naked!"
"... that's not the sort of thing you should really be going around shouting, dear."
The door to Rarity's boutique burst open. Rarity and Pinkie Pie turned in surprise as Spike rushed in, panting for breath and eyes wide with fear.
"Rarity!" he yelled, "come quick! I killed Twilight!!!"
"...and she's been like this ever since," Spike finished explaining as he led Rarity and an only partially nude Pinkie Pie into the library. Twilight Sparkle was standing in the middle of the room, perfectly still and silent, staring unblinking at nothing in particular, mouth hanging open in an expression of absolute horror.
"My goodness," said Rarity, "The poor thing looks like a filly who's just been told there's no such thing as Saddle Claus."
"What do we do?" asked Spike, "If the princess comes and finds out I broke Twilight she'll give me her 'I'm not angry, I'm just disappointed' look! The last time she gave somepony that look the guards all manured themselves!"
"Now just calm down darling, nopony's giving you any looks," Rarity soothed the frantic dragon. "She's in some kind of mild shock, that's all, so we have to bring her out of it. But we have to be absolutely gentle. Slowly and softly, that's the key."
While Rarity was talking, Pinkie Pie trotted over to Twilight and stuck her tongue in the frozen unicorn's ear.
Pinkie Pie watched excitedly as Twilight shot straight up into the air. Eyes still on the unicorn, she reached out of frame with one hoof and snagged a pillow, placing it expertly underneath Twilight's hurtling body as she crashed to the floor. Twilight made a small pained noise and assumed the fetal position.
"...or I suppose we could do it that way," groused Rarity.
When Twilight didn't get up Rarity and Pinkie leaned down to make sure she hadn't been seriously injured by the fall. Twilight was hugging herself tightly and staring at the wall, face scrunched up with the effort of not bursting into tears. Rarity frowned and placed what she hoped was a comforting hoof on the other unicorn's shoulder.
"There now Twilight, I'm sure it's not all that dire."
"Not THAT dire!?"
Twilight leaped to her feet, flailing with her forelegs.
"Of COURSE it's dire! This is as dire as it's possible to be! Princess Celestia is coming here! To talk to me! AND SHE'S READ MY JOURNAL! She knows everything! She's read the poetry! She's read the list of places I want to take her out on dates to! She's seen the diagrams of all the different ways I want to make love to her! She's seen my speculation on what kind of children our genetics would create! She thinks I'm nuts! She thinks I'm sick in the BRAIN!"
"Well, I know all of that stuff now too, and I don't think you're sick in the brain!" chirped Pinkie. "Princess Celestia is really nice, I'm sure she won't hold any of that against you."
"That's the worst part!" Twilight sobbed.
Rarity, Pinkie, and Spike all looked at one another quizzically, and then back at Twilight.
"Afraid we don't quite follow darling," said Rarity.
"Princess Celestia WILL understand! She'll be SO understanding! She won't say any of the horrible things I know she thinks of me or tell me how unworthy I am or any of it! She'll be nice! She'll... she'll... she's going to LET ME DOWN GENTLY. And I... I just don't... I CAN'T..."
Twilight started crying so hard that she was no longer capable of speech, and Rarity quickly trotted over to lend her a shoulder.
"There there dear, it's going to be alright. The princess doesn't hate you, I swear she doesn't. It's going to be awkward between you for a little while, it always is with unrequited love, but just because she doesn't feel the same way doesn't mean she'll stop liking you at all. You'll talk and she'll tell you how she feels and you'll establish new boundaries and you'll come to see it really isn't quite so bad, and eventually you'll find somepony else. Why, I remember my first crush..."
"No," Twilight said miserably, shrugging Rarity off. "No, I can't do that. I can't stand here and listen to her calmly explaining why we can't ever be together. I'm not stupid, there's a reason I never told her any of this. I KNOW what's coming. I just can't stand to hear her say it."
Inspiration struck. Twilight went from crying to maniac cheer in less than a second.
"So I won't! If Princess Celestia never talks to me, she'll never be able to let me down gently, and I can pretend this never happened! It's win-win!"
"But if you never talk to her then you'll never be able to tell her what you've learned about friendship," said Pinkie, "and if you never tell her anything else about what you've learned about friendship, then eventually when the Nightmare Moon lifeform takes over another host and teams up with Gilda and Trixie to take control over all of Equestria and we have to dust off our Elements of Harmony and perish bravely trying to fight back then you won't be able to use your magic to absorb all the elements from our broken corpses and ascend to godponyhood and take Celestia's place as the raiser of the sun and save all of ponydom from the creeping darkness that devours the magic of friendship! And that will mean the end of cupcakes forever, Twilight! The END of CUPCAKES! FOREVER!"
"What I think she's trying to say," Spike interrupted, "is that eventually you're going to have to communicate with the princess some way and eventually everything that's gone unsaid is going to cause problems. If she's going to be here to talk to you then you might as well get everything off your chest now."
"Spike's right," said Rarity, raising a hoof to cut off whatever Pinkie was going to add, "if only for your own peace of mind, Twilight, you have to pony up and talk to Celestia."
Twilight didn't stop grinning.
"Nope!" she said, "I don't! I really don't! In fact, that is exactly the opposite of what I am going to do!"
"She's coming here expressly to talk to you darling," said Rarity, "Exactly what are you going to do about that?"
Before any of the others could react, Twilight lit up her horn with magical power and disappeared in a flash of light.
"... oh dear," said Rarity, "We'd better find her, there's no telling what she'll do to herself in this state."
"And then what will we do about the burritos!?" Pinkie wailed.
"So that's the situation," Applejack explained to Fluttershy, glancing around agitatedly as she stood on the pudding-colored pegasus' front step. "Twilight did a runner and now we've gotta find her before Princess Celestia arrives this afternoon or apparently burritos will die. Or somethin'. I don't really know what Pinkie Pie was gettin' at towards the end there but it sure sounded serious."
"Well that's just awful," said Fluttershy, "She's been out all night?"
"Rarity's been askin' around and Rainbow Dash has been flyin' around lookin' for her but we haven't found hide nor hair yet, and she's not stayin' with anypony we know, so search me where she could've gone."
"Um... I can ask the animals if they've seen her," said Fluttershy. Perched on her back, Angel Bunny rolled his eyes and smacked her in the head. Fluttershy gave him a look and let out a long-suffering sigh.
"What I can't understand is what Twilight thinks she's doing trying to run from the god empress o' ponydom," said Applejack, looking askance at the angry rabbit, "Celestia's gonna find her eventually, and it's not like she's gonna send her to the sorrel hells when she does it. Twilight needs to just buck up and take it like a pony."
"'Take it'?" Fluttershy squeaked.
"Oh! Oh right. Yes, I knew that's what you meant."
Angel scowled and started jumping up and down hard on Fluttershy's back, pausing to yank on her hair and wings as he did so. Fluttershy gritted her teeth and pretended not to notice.
"Anyhow, I'm gonna get goin'," said Applejack, eyeing Angel nervously. "Pinkie wants to have a party down at Sweet Apple Acres and I gotta help Big Macintosh clear out the barn. Keep an eye out and let us know if you find out where Twilight's gone and hid. And if you get a chance to talk to her, tell her we're all here for her, alright? I don't know what she's goin' through right now, but if the lot of us can't help her stand up to Princess Celestia telling her she loves her but she ain't in love with her then I'll eat my hat."
Fluttershy watched Applejack canter away, then closed the door. An increasingly violent Angel Bunny suddenly found himself glowing purple and rising up off of Fluttershy's back before flying across the room to impact with Fluttershy's couch in a small explosion of throw pillows.
"...uhm... thanks..." said Fluttershy. "...I think."
"No problem," said Twilight Sparkle, slipping out of the closet where she'd been hiding. "And thanks for letting me stay here Fluttershy. I knew you'd understand."
"Well... I'm not entirely sure I... um, understand completely," said Fluttershy, tapping herself on the chin with her hoof, "but I do know what it's like to not want to talk to somepony."
"I thought as much. I mean, it's not like I don't want to talk to Princess Celestia. I want to see her again so badly. But if we do talk and she tells me the one thing I don't want to hear, then what am I going to do?"
"You shouldn't have to talk to her if you don't want to. If you're scared of talking to her then all you have to do is not say anything and eventually things will get so awkward that she'll just leave, and then you don't have to talk to her. That's what I do."
Twilight stared at Fluttershy for a long moment. The pegasus smiled at her, then slowly her expression began to droop as Twilight's gaze became increasingly uncomfortable.
"I... I'm sorry... did I say something wrong...?"
"That... that's what you do? I mean, you do that on purpose? You go all quiet because you know it makes ponies leave you alone?”
"Um... yes?" Fluttershy was very nearly in tears now.
Twilight sighed and quickly trotted over to the flinching Fluttershy, nuzzling her gently on the cheek.
"It's okay Fluttershy. I think you've actually helped me figure something out."
"Oh?" she brightened up a bit.
"Yes. I am being completely stupid. I can't just leave Princess Celestia hanging after she's taken the time to come and see me to sort this all out. It isn't any more fair to her than it is to me. And I can't solve my problems by hoping they'll go away."
"Oh." Fluttershy looked nervous again. "Are you sure?"
"Yes I'm sure!" Twilight headed for the door. "I'm going to face my fears and explain to the Princess how I really feel, and when she rejects me, I'm just going to have to suck it up and deal with it. Also, I'm going to get you some psychological counseling."
"But Twilight... I don't... I don't really WANT..."
"Trust me, it's for your own good. Now go check on Angel Bunny, I'm pretty sure I gave him a concussion."
Rainbow Dash, Spike, and Rarity were in the library and apparently in the middle of an argument when Twilight Sparkle slammed the door open and cantered in. The three of them stopped what they were doing and stared at her.
"Hey!" shouted Dash, "I thought you said she was missing!"
"I was," said Twilight, "and I'm sorry everypony for making you worry. But I'm here now. I'm here now and I'm ready. I'm going to talk to Princess Celestia, and I don't care how awkward it's going to be because we both know she's read my ten page story about singelhoovedly saving her from a dragon and making furious love to her on the top of a mountain in the middle of a lightning storm. I'm going to do this! So just, you know, watch out!"
Spike and the two ponies just sort of stared at her. Rarity recovered first, trotting over to Twilight and trying very gently to turn her around.
"Good show dear! That's the spirit! Now if you'll just come with us, Pinkie's arranged a party for Princess Celestia so let's just ALL head on down there now..."
Twilight reared up in surprise.
"A party!? Princess Celestia specifically said she didn't want anypony making a fuss!"
"Oh it's no fuss my dear. It's a very small, relaxing get together. An intimate occasion as t'were...”
"I don't want an intimate occasion! I don't want an occasion! I'm trying to explain to Princess Celestia that the entry about wanting to wear her skin was metaphorical! That is not the sort of thing you talk about at a party!"
"I do believe that's why Rarity is trying to get you there, my faithful student."
Twilight froze, her horn flashing in panic and blowing a neat circular hole in the ceiling of the library. Eyes widening in mounting horror, she slowly turned to find Princess Celestia sitting at one of the library's study tables, a somewhat worried expression on her face.
"If it helps, I thought it was a lovely metaphor. A bit morbid, but heartfelt."
Twilight opened her mouth, but no sound came out.
"Spike, Rarity, Rainbow Dash, could you please apologize to Pinkie Pie and tell her that Twilight Sparkle and I won't be attending her gathering this evening? I do appreciate the effort, but I'm sure she'll understand if we need some time to ourselves. I'm sure we'll all have time for another party before I return to Canterlot."
"Certainly your majesty," said Rarity. She started to bow, then noticed how the princess winced at the movement, and simply opened the door for Spike and Rainbow Dash. Spike waved as he headed out. Rainbow Dash offered an encouraging smile. Rarity did both and gently closed the door behind her, leaving Twilight and Celestia alone.
Twilight started to seriously reconsider Fluttershy's advice.
"Twilight," said Princess Celestia as she straightened to her hooves, "I owe you an apology."
"Wh-what? Oh no Princess you don't-"
"Celestia when we're alone dear, and yes, I fear I do."
She walked slowly over to Twilight and bent her head to gently embrace the trembling unicorn. Despite the situation, Twilight felt herself immediately relax as Celestia held her close.
"I should have realized as soon as I started reading it that the book was not intended for me," Celestia continued, "it was rather confusing, but the signs were there. I should have sent it back. I didn't, and by the time I'd read enough to be sure that a mistake had been made, I had already seen too much. But I must admit Twilight, I let my curiosity get the best of me. I could not pass up the chance to know your mind so intimately, and in doing so I betrayed your trust. So while I cannot regret the greater insight into my most favorite student's mind, I do beg your forgiveness for that betrayal."
"Celestia," Twilight moaned as she leaned against her teacher, "if you read my journal you know I could forgive you anything."
"I did, and I do," Celestia answered, "and please Twilight, whatever else may happen I hope you know that I could never think less of you for having such feelings."
"I know, I just... I couldn't... I didn't..."
"Hush now dear, it's alright. There is no one here but me. Let everything go."
Twilight buried her face in Celestia's warm mane and cried until there weren't any tears left. Celestia nuzzled her gently and murmured soothingly in her ear until she was done. Then Celestia helped Twilight dry her eyes and led her to her room where the princess had conjured a low bed for herself. Twilight sank down gratefully onto the soft mattress, shivering a bit as Celestia snuggled down beside her.
"It's been quite some time since I've been to a sleepover," Celestia chuckled. "I do hope I can remember how."
"I have a book for that," Twilight said wryly.
She frowned a bit, then laid her head against Celestia's flank.
"Princess- I mean, Celestia? I just want you to know, I know what you're going to say next, and it's alright."
"You do? It is?"
"It's why I never told you... about how I felt, I mean." Twilight felt her face go hot and looked away. "I knew what you'd say to me if you found out, and I knew you'd be as gentle as possible, but I still couldn't bear to hear the words out loud. So please..."
"Alright," said Celestia, hooking one foreleg comfortingly over Twilight's withers, "Then I won't speak."
Celestia kissed her.
Twilight's eyes slammed open, then slowly drifted closed. A soft moan escaped her throat and Celestia smiled against her lips before slowly pulling away.
"...minty..." Twilight mumbled. Celestia chuckled, the barest dusting of a blush ghosting across her cheeks.
"Is that what you thought I was going to say?"
Twilight shook her head to clear it, focusing on Celestia once more.
"No! That's not... Celestia, you're the princess of all of Equestria! You couldn't want ME."
"I chose you as my most favored student for a reason," said Celestia, "for many reasons, actually. And in hindsight, a few of them had less to do with your academic merits and more to do with simply enjoying your company. You always were a delightful pony to be around... and I don’t mind saying you’ve grown into a very lovely young mare. You have been hoofpicked to serve as the foremost disciple of the ruler of Equestria. There are few things you are not worthy of. My affection is not one of them."
"I don't think other ponies will see it that way," said Twilight, "Even if I'm your student, I'm not exactly royalty. What will your court say? What would Luna say?"
Twilight almost started to cry again, then gasped as she felt Celestia delicately nibbling at her ear. She blushed furiously as Celestia chuckled.
"My dear Twilight Sparkle. I am quite certain that Luna will have no objections, considering it was you who wielded the Elements of Harmony and freed her from the power of Nightmare Moon. As for any others? Well, if your own considerable accomplishments are not enough, then they must answer to me."
Anger flashed ever so briefly in Celestia's eyes, and for a split second Twilight could see the power that radiated from her and the magic that dwelt within.
"I am the God Empress of all of ponydom, Princess and ruler of Equestria. It is by my power that the sun rises every morn, and by my wisdom that this land is ruled. Now tell me Twilight, who or what could there possibly be in this world or any other that would dare to keep me from she whom I love?"
Twilight cried out softly and pressed her lips impulsively to Celestia's. The princess returned her kiss, and for several long moments they lay there, perfectly happy.
"Although," Celestia panted as they finally broke apart, "I hope you don't mind too much, but I don't think I'll be quite up to doing anything on top of a mountain in a thunderstorm right now, particularly if we're going to fight any dragons first."
"It's okay," laughed Twilight, nestling herself closer to Celestia, "it doesn't matter what we do. As long as I'm with you, I'll be fine."