The wedding was a lavish spectacle, very beautiful and adored by all that was lucky enough to view it. Those who doubted Twilight was a miracle worker before sure didn’t after she managed to reorganize the wedding and the reception just a few short hours after the changelings ravaged the city. And considering the traumatic experiences leading up to it, the entire population of Canterlot agreed that such a lovely ceremony was needed.
With the ceremony ended, and the reception about to begin, Twilight popped back into her suite for readjust her dress, which was a bit disheveled from the festivities. Despite being there for only a moment, when she turned to leave she found her five friends standing in the doorway, each with a solemn expression on their faces.
“Twi, sugar...we need to talk,” Applejack said.
The unicorn arched her eyebrow, tilting her head in a confused manner. “About what?”
“About what?” Rainbow Dash exclaimed, as if her friend had just declared the sky was purple. “About the way we turned our backs on you!”
“You really needed us to have faith in you, but we just...assumed the worst out of you,” Pinkie said slowly. Even she was devoid of her usual bubbly attitude.
Twilight, now realizing what they were referring to, slapped her hoof on her forehead. “Are you still worried about that? I told you, the only one to blame here is the Changeling Queen. She fooled everypony!”
“Except you,” Rarity said quietly. “Darling, we...”
“No,” the unicorn said firmly, putting her hoof down. “I want all of you to listen. You had every right to think I was wrong. I should have gotten some evidence, or gone to Princess Celestia in private and explained why I was worried. I just...got a little crazy when I saw her brainwash my brother. I wasn’t thinking clearly. Trying to call her out in the middle of the rehearsal...not my proudest moment.” Her voice was wavering a bit now, her ears beginning to droop. “In fact, I’d rank it right up there with the Smartypants incident as one of the worst decisions I’ve made.”
She shook her head, regaining her composure. “If one of you had acted like that, I probably would have thought the same. I sounded like a filly throwing a temper tantrum. I don’t blame you one bit for not believing me. You guys didn’t let me down. If anything, I let you down when I lost my head.”
“Twi, don’t you dare think that!” Applejack said firmly. “We ignored you! After you went to Tartarus an’ back for us fightin’ Nightmare Moon, an’ Discord, an’ everything in between, we ignored you when it was our turn to support you. We let you down! Again! We...”
“Wait, wait, wait,” Twilight interrupted, managing to silence her friend. “What do you mean, 'again’?”
The five ponies looked at each other, guilt crossing their features. Surprisingly, it was Fluttershy that managed to speak first. “Um, well...we feel like...we haven’t been very good friends in general...I mean...”
“What?” Twilight shouted. It took a lot to get her mind to stop functioning properly, but the yellow pegasus’ claim had managed to do just that. “Wh...how...where did you get an idea like that? You guys are great friends.”
“No, we’re not!” Rainbow yelled, sounding like Twilight wasn’t getting something that was incredibly obvious. “Remember when you got these tickets to the Grand Galloping Gala? We nearly drove you into a breakdown fighting over who got to go with you! The first thing we did after becoming friends was drive you crazy! And when we finally all got to the Gala, we ruined it for you!”
“Well, it was mostly me and Pinkie...” Fluttershy admitted, not looking up from the floor.
“And then later, when you were actually having a breakdown, we just pointed and laughed at you!” Rainbow continued, “You needed our help and we just blew you off!”
“Or when we pressured you to show up Trixie, or when me an’ Rarity wouldn’t get along that night we were sleepin’ over...”
“Or when I took Philomena without Celestia’s permission...”
“Or when I tried to get out of going to your birthday party just to mingle with those upper class snobs...”
“Or when we let Discord get the better of us and made you...”
“That’s enough!” Twilight’s voice managed to reach over her friends guilt, effectively silencing her comrades. She had listened to them dumping on themselves long enough, but she drew the line at Pinkie’s claim. “You’re blaming yourselves for what Discord did. Now look, you’ve all been great friends…”
“No, Twilight, you have,” Applejack said, her voice quivering enough to halt her friend’s ranting. “You’ve always been there for us. When my sister caught the Cutie Pox, you didn’t care if I woke you up in the middle of tha’ night, you went right to work helpin’ me find a cure, an’ when the Flim Flam Brothers tried to drive us out of our home, you found that loophole that let y’all compete.” A lump formed in the earth pony’s throat. It was becoming hard to speak.
Rarity came in, though it was clear she was having trouble keeping her wits together as well. “You dropped everything to come rescue me from the diamond dogs…you did the same for Spike later, when he went off to be with dragons. You’ve always been there for us, but it seems every time you need our support, we just…”
“After that incident with my birthday, I promised to never assume the worst from my friends again. But…really...I actually thought you could really be that petty, that’s just...” Pinkie couldn’t finish. Ordinarily, Twilight would have been stunned by anything managing to silence the perky earth pony, but right now she was barely noticing it.
Twilight was choking up herself by this point. She racked her brain, trying to think of something to say. “But guys, I’ve let you down before too. My little stunt at the Winter Wrap-Up, that time Rarity made us those dresses for the Gala, and when I didn’t listen to Pinkie about the parasprites...in fact, remember when Gilda came into town? Pinkie told me she was trouble, and I assumed she was just being jealous. See? I did the same thing you guys are beating yourselves up over.”
“But at least you’ve always tried!” Rainbow Dash yelled. “You’ve always at least been there. Even the dress incident, you got us all together to fix our mistake.”
Pinkie sighed. “Even when you didn’t believe me about Gilda, you still talked to me about it. You were there to help me through it. I didn’t do that today...”
Rainbow Dash continued. “We can always count on you to at least try and help us. But…you can never count on us.” The pegasus let her normally proud head fall. “We ignored you. And for what? So we could get a chance to put on a royal wedding? We were so caught up in what we got to do that...we just threw you out.”
“Face it, Twi,” Applejack said sadly. “The Princess sent you to Ponyville to learn about friendship…but I think we’re the ones who needed lessons.
An uncomfortable silence hung in the air. Nopony knew what to say. Twilight racked the brain she usually prided herself on, trying to come up with something, anything she could say to her friends to snap them out of their guilt.
“Well,” she said at last, “that…well, I understand that was hard for all of you to say, and I appreciate that you’re so concerned.”
Her five friends lifted their heads, all looking anxious to hear what she had to say next.
“But most of it was a load of horseapples.”
Her five friends all widened their eyes with shock. “But...” Applejack stuttered, utterly flabbergasted by Twilight’s dismissive nature. “Everything we just said...”
“...Was said because you’re not thinking clearly.” Twilight said simply but firmly. They all went silent. This was the tone she took whenever she was taking the unspoken leadership role the group had given her, and they instinctively quieted to listen.
“You’re mad at yourselves right now, and because of that you’re only looking at the bad parts of our friendship. You’re not even stating the truth! Rainbow, you said the ticket incident was the start of our friendship. It wasn’t. It was when we defeated Nightmare Moon, when you all willingly followed me into the Everfree Forest. I hadn’t known you a day, but you still went into a place you were all scared of for me.
“And remember when Future Twilight appeared? I didn’t believe it when I saw it with my own eyes, but you all believed me without hesitation when I told you. You put aside all your efforts to helping me prevent the disaster. And yeah, I was more understanding about Pinkie accusing Gilda, but she didn’t have an outburst as bad as mine.”
“And really? You’re blaming yourself for not being able to resist Discord? A spirit so powerful that the Princesses still fear him? Remember, I let Discord break me too, and Celestia had to bring me out of it. You did no worse than I did.”
She took a moment to examine her friend’s faces to see if her words were sinking in. They all seemed to be processing her arguments, so she went on.
“And yes, you have let me down before. But you’ve all tried to fix your mistakes too. You’re doing that right now, even though I don’t think you’ve done anything that needs forgiving. You even stood up to the Princess for me after the Smartypants incident, and that was after I brainwashed your sisters. I thought you’d kill me after that.
Applejack managed to speak then. “Under other circumstances, I woulda. But this was right after Discord. We were all still a bit loony after all that.”
“Indeed,” Rarity added. “We were all behaving like parodies of ourselves, trying to regain some normalcy. I’m surprised we didn’t all go mad like you did. Besides, Apple Bloom and Sweetie turned out okay, no harm done.”
Twilight gave a small smile as they continued. “We can wield the Elements of Harmony for a reason, because we’re friends. Good friends, who’ve had a lot of good times. You’re not seeing it now because you’re only thinking about the bad times. Yes, there have been a lot of them, but there have been plenty of good ones too. Every one of those incidents you’re blaming yourselves for had a happy ending, because you were great friends.
“Like I said, I acted foalishly today, especially after lecturing Pinkie on doing the same thing during the dessert competition. Even I thought I was wrong before the Changeling Queen revealed herself. I might have been believed if I had just gone to the Princess and calmly explained what I had saw. In retrospect, it’s easy to see why you guys thought I was just jealous. It wasn’t for any selfish reason, like you guys are trying to convince yourself it is.”
“But, Twilight...” Fluttershy began.
“No buts,” Twilight said sternly. “I made a mistake, and maybe you’re right when you all say you made one too. But that’s all they were, mistakes. Nopony’s perfect, even the Princesses, even though ponies tend to forget that. None of us are bad for making them.
“Remember what I told Discord, just before we turned him back to stone? ‘Friendship isn’t always easy, but it’s worth fighting for.’ Well, this is one of the times when it’s not easy, and I’m not about to let all of you give up just because it got hard. So come on, now, this is a wedding. It’s supposed to be a happy occasion.”
There was silence for a moment as the five friends stared at Twilight with stunned expressions.
Then, suddenly, Twilight was in the front legs of Rainbow Dash, her body shaking from the sobs she couldn’t hold in anymore.
“You...why...” she was struggling to say something. Before she could, the others joined in the group hug, each tearing up as well.
“Guys, come on, I...”
“Why aren’t you mad?!” Rainbow Dash shrieked.
Twilight blinked at the angry question. “What?”
“Why aren’t you mad at us? Why aren’t you yelling at us for letting you down? That’s what you were supposed to do! Why did you have to show us how awesome you are! To show us how much we don’t deserve to be your friend!”
Twilight was silent, just holding the sobbing pegasus while her friends also surrounded her, each crying their own tears of regret. Finally, the unicorn magically lifted a handkerchief from the dresser across the room and brought it to Rainbow Dash’s face, wiping her tears away.
“If I’m so awesome, then obviously I know how to pick friends. And I know you five are some of the best I’ll ever have. What I said before is good enough for me, and since I’m the one being apologized too, it should be good enough for all of you.”
There was another silence before Applejack spoke. “Twi...we’ll make it up to you, I promise...”
“No.” The answer was so blunt that her friends pulled themselves out of self-pity to look at the unicorn with shock. “Don’t ‘make it up to me’. Don’t keep score. That’s what you’re doing now, and look what it’s doing to you. Just be my friends. That’s all I ever wanted.”
Another silence. Then, Rainbow’s eyes began watering again, and she renewed her embrace on her friend, her sobs coming out anew. The others soon followed suit.
They lost track of how long they remained that way before there was a knock at the door. “Twiley? You guys in there?” Shining Armor’s voice came from the other side of door.
They pulled themselves out of their jumble and composed themselves a bit before answering. “Yeah, we’re here.”
The door opened, and Twilight’s older brother walked in. “There you are. Why are you all hiding up here? Come on, you’re not getting out of singing,” he said with a sly smile.
Twilight returned it, grateful things were back to normal between them. “You got it,” she began trotting to the door, turning over to call to her friends. “Well, let’s go!”
Despite the instruction, the other remained where they were as Twilight left, thinking about what had just happened.
“We have to throw her a party when we get back to Ponyville,” Pinkie said simply.
Rarity looked at her. “But, she just said we shouldn’t try and pay her back.”
“We’re not doing it to pay her back,” Pinkie assured. “We’re doing it because Twilight’s a super awesome friend.”
As Rainbow Dash wiped away the last of her tears, she responded in a soft tone. “Yeah...I think I can live with that.”