The skies over Ponyville were dark. This was highly unusual to happen by itself, much more so on a warm Tuesday morning, and even more so just a few days after the last thunderstorm. Even if the Sun would be unrivaled by any clouds for its place in the sky however, nopony would enjoy it. One pony in particular wouldn't react even if the Sun came crashing down onto Equestria, though seeing the weather unfold filled her with an odd glee. She quickly dashed back into the library and into the basement. There, she didn't waste any time hitting buttons and pulling levers to turn on all of the machinery that had kept her busy for the past days.
Soon, all would work out, she'd reap the rewards for her efforts, and Ponyville would stop calling her crazy, at least for some time. Everything would be just fine again. She went through the procedure one last time, simultaneously reading it from the textbook to ensure she hadn't missed a mistake in the circuitry the first forty-nine times she had checked it. Everything had to be perfect the first time, for she didn't dare imagine the consequences if it weren't. Everything was in order, though. Lights shone, two recording machines produced yet steady graphs, and beeps, well, beeped.
She wasn't entirely comfortable surrounded by such machinery, she had to admit. Neither would she ever have imagined voluntarily teaching herself any scientific procedure, much less with the help of books. She yawned and turned up the lights to help her stay attentive. There couldn't be a screwup now, even though she hadn't slept in forty hours. They would forgive her for it, but she wouldn't be able to forgive herself. The time had come, she could feel it. Her pacing through the circular room was rudely interrupted when she stumbled over something on the ground and nearly knocked over the sleeping beauty in the middle of the room.
It hadn't been theft, she thought. After all, it was impossible to steal something that belonged to her, if anypony at all. Almost enraged, she turned to see what had made her trip was a book on general electronics that she no longer needed. As punishment for its sins, she kicked it across the room, where it slid down a wall, behind a table and out of sight. Tripping hazards were a luxury she simply couldn't afford. Suddenly, one of the machines started blinking its lights and ringing its alarms. This was the moment which she had both been awaiting for an eternity and hoped would never come.
Still, no matter how fast anxiety and fear made her heart beat, there was no more backing out any more. She pulled the lever to lower a mysterious rod into the room, then hit the button to desolate the wires connected to it. It was about to happen, a matter of seconds, she could feel it. Her heart was beating fast enough for two ponies. Everything was ready. Now the only thing she could do was wait. And wait. And wait. Just when she wanted to reopen her eyes, cursing the seconds for taking so long to pass, all of her wishes were fulfilled. Despite isolation, the bang that resulted was deafening, ricocheting off the walls, creating a cascade that went on for far longer than it should.
While researching the concerning theory in ancient scrolls, she had read up something that lightning apparently also struck in the magical plane simultaneously, adding an essence blast to the physical one. She hadn't bothered with it for too long, though, discarding it as soon as it proved unhelpful to her cause. Now, however, she had to admit that there was something to the theory as she was thrown backwards with her head hitting the wall, managing to stay conscious only through pure willpower. The moment was far too precious for her to miss it. Forcing herself up and running back to the table, she quickly went through every nonpositive emotion available upon discovering her experiment didn't seem to have had any effect.
"How can this be? Maybe they were right, maybe it's impossible... maybe I just have to kiss her awake..." After whispering to herself, she quickly, but gently, pressed her lips onto her subject's. She didn't want it to have failed, she didn't want to let go. However, those doubts slowly came to her as the seconds passed one by one with their muzzles still in firm contact with each other. She just had to face it, she was no electrician, much less a scientist or engineer. She was just a silly little mare afraid to face reality. She stepped back, leaving the table and what was on it stained in hot tears, and mentally prepared to begin unbuilding everything. Just when she had turned her back though, she heard a sound that hadn't been there before. It was faint, perhaps even imagined, but that was enough for her. Instantly, she whirled around. "Ah, what am I telling myself, it's just twitches from the electricity. Why did I even think this would work in the first- whoa, did she just?"
The sound returned and increased in strength, becoming clearly noticeable even over the noise of all the devices in the background. Anything she had felt while bent over the table was now gone from her heart, replaced with pure rapture. She couldn't believe she had actually done it. She was breathing.
"Oh my gosh, this is happening! Come on, fight for it! You're better than to let it end like this!"
Slowly but steadily, the breaths increased in volume and frequency. She was so happy and excited, she could barely resist the urge to just jump into a crushing hug. The figure suddenly coughed, "Uh, huh, uh? Whu... what's goinon? Rainbow, that you?"
"Yes! Told them I could do it!" Rainbow Dash stepped up to the table to hold her hoof.
"I... I don't understand." The pony on the table fluttered her eyes open, "What happened? Why am I in my laboratory, strapped to the machinery?"
"Slow. Take all the time you need, Sparky. What do you remember?"
"I think I was... yeah, we were walking home to Ponyville during this terrible storm, and then there's this kinda flash, really bright, I couldn't see any more... then I wake up here. Um, could you please unstrap me?"
"Uh, of course, Twilight," Rainbow quickly obeyed. Twilight tried to rise, but Dash pushed her back down. "No, stay down. You need it. So it's true what they said, you went out between lightning and thunder. Hit you right in the neck. Don't worry though, now everything's fine again."
"So I've been knocked out?" she said, bringing up her head to meet eye level with Rainbow.
"Um, yeah, you could say that. But, as mentioned, everything's fine now. Nothing to worry about any more."
"Why can't I feel the wound?"
"That's our little bookworm, always wanting to know the full truth. Well, I told them to pretty your, I mean, you up." Rainbow rolled her eyes, hoping to cover up her tongue slip.
"What do you mean, what... urk..." Without warning, Twilight released a torrent of fluid, bending her head away from her body, but accidentally drenching Rainbow in the process. "Oh, I'm so sorry!"
"'T's nothing, not now." Dash wiped her eyes clear, seeing that Twilight's face had fallen into a frown, "Really, it's fine. Uh, what's up?"
"I somehow can't use my magic," Twilight said with a neutral voice, though a clear note of concern was audible in her voice.
"Ah, that'll pass, I guess."
Twilight, acting against her friend's objections, sat up slightly and used her hooves to look through her newest product, "Rainbow, this food is rotten. How long have I been out?"
"Well, a few days, and you haven't been exactly, how do I put this, alive during that time."
Twilight reacted as expected, perhaps even a bit worse, "I've been dead?! So you... brought me back? Why?"
"Why? Why? Sparky, are you saying you WANT to be dead? Plus, I had to. I never got a chance to tell you... I..." Rainbow mumbled something completely incomprehensible, even for the ears of somepony whose heart had not just taken a break of multiple days.
"What was that?"
"I... dammit, I love you. I just can't imagine living without you." Rainbow paused for a second until she heard a surprised sound coming from the unicorn and then cut her off before she could speak, "I know, usually ponies like me just end it all to be with their loved ones, but I couldn't. Don't think I didn't try, but I always had to think of all the others... Fluttershy, Pinkie, y'know, everypony... and what that'd do to them. Instead, I brought you back to us."
"I understand. Still, how in Equestria did you pull this off?" Visibly feeling stabilised, Twilight slowly slid off the table onto unsure hooves. Rainbow Dash wanted to support her, but she kindly refused the offer.
"Uh, hello, your personal collection, maybe? Not like you were gonna use 'em, anyway." Rainbow waved a spare hoof over to the various books lying around, never breaking contact to Twilight's with the other.
"Yeah, makes sense, I guess. Wait, are those hardcovers? Bent all the way?"
"Uh, Twilight? Is that really top priority right now?"
"Sorry, librarian breaking through. I guess I should really be more grateful, since you brought me back from the dead and such. But, wait, if I've been past the border, did my burnout happen already?"
Rainbow didn't answer right away. Magic Burnout was the last thing to happen to a unicorn, releasing their entire magical power at once after death. Both of them could feel that neither wanted to hear the answer.
"Rainbow Dash? You know, I kinda need you for this, like, being dead and all."
"Yeah, it did. I didn't want to tell you... I'm sorry."
"So my magic is gone forever, isn't it?"
Rainbow Dash nodded shily, "But, on the bright side, you are not dead. I think that's only fair for you. Also, if I could make you feel any better by chopping off my wings, just say a word."
"Don't be silly, you wouldn't..."
Dash interrupted her with an expression that made clear she wasn't joking, "For you? Any day, and again every day after. Just to see you smile."
"That's something. Come, let's go up to the lobby. I'm kind of uncomfortable around the machines right now. Let's hope we'll never again need them." Twilight stared at one of them for a few seconds, then sighed, "Oh yeah. Magic equals not. That'll be something to get used to."
Together, they shut off the various devices and went upstairs. Feeling rather tired all of a sudden, Twilight laid down with her eyes closed. Logically, Dash darted to her side to make sure she was alright, "Sparky! Not now, after everything!"
Twilight shook her head and pushed Rainbow Dash away gently but determined. "I'm fine, sorry for the scare. So, about that love stuff? That explains why you've spent most of your time with me recently, I mean, even before that. And the surprisingly common spontaneous gifts. And the fact that you've picked up a pet name for me. But still, why didn't you tell me?"
Rainbow sat down on the tail end of the couch Twilight was on, "I would have, that evening, to be exact. I'd have followed you home while all the others branched off to their own homes, finally gathered the guts to say it, and... well. You see how that plan worked out. Does me calling you Sparky bother you?"
"Oh, not at all, I..."
"Oh, by Luna's plot," Rainbow Dash intervened, "just tell me if you're feeling the same thing already!"
"Rainbow, I actually kind of do. When you acted all like that, I noticed it didn't really bother me."
"So you are?"
"Yeah, I guess I'm in love with you. Aren't you betraying somepony else, though?"
"Who?" Rainbow Dash was clearly confused by Twilight's statement.
"Word's been around you and Applejack are doing some stuff together," Twilight said, slowly leading her forehooves towards each other in a certain way to emphasise the point.
"Duty calls. Or whatever you call those. It doesn't count if it's just something between friends, right?"
"Uh, okay, I guess not."
"I'm still all yours, we didn't go that far. I'm ready whenever you are, though," Rainbow Dash jumped up, forcing their bodies together in a squeezing hug. "Oh, sorry, I'm just... still can't believe this worked."
"Some time later. For now, can we keep all of this between us? Especially the pet name. Please keep that down around others. Wait, others! We gotta spread the news!" Twilight jumped up and quickly went towards the door
"Just one problem," Rainbow Dash intervened, though not in time before Twilight pushed through outside and was quickly drenched. "Yeah, that. I guess I can take care of it, it isn't supposed to happen anyway and it's probably a matter of minutes until I can't pretend I didn't have anything to do with it. You're too, um, air resistant for me to take you along though, and I really don't wanna leave you, what if? You know any kinda spell that'll warn me if somet- riiight. Y'know, give me two months of living in a relationship with you and maybe I'll stop mentioning magic."
"Rainbow, it's okay. Both of those things. I'm feeling fine, maybe a bit drowsy, but what did you expect? Anyway, I have to notify the Princess right away? Erm, where's Spike?"
"Well, since you are officially deceased and he's just a baby, Rarity agreed to take care of him."
"He's been at the Carousel all the time anyway, if I recall correctly. Great, my memory's still working. Let's go there!"
"Yeah, now," Twilight shook her head, dispersing some of the water that was still in her mane across her surroundings.
"Okay, if you really want to, I guess I can't deny it. I'd rather you're with other ponies, anyway. So," Dash flew up a bit for better view, then dived down again and fetched various pieces of clothing, "put those on."
Twilight hesitantly looked at the small pile before her, containing more than one item for each purpose, "All of them?"
"Of course, we don't want you catching a bug, right? Here, I'll help you."
Together, they managed to dress up Twilight in raincoat, boots, scarf, rain hat, and saddle within reasonable time.
However, when Rainbow Dash wanted to move out, she found that Twilight was still standing in the back. "C'mon Sparky, what's the holdup?"
"Well, firstly, we still didn't have a proper first kiss," she said, upon which Dash sprinted over to her and quickly, but still very sensibly, took care of the problem. It was more than she had ever imagined, a thousand times better now that she could feel Twilight's warmth, her soft lips reacting to her own. After they finally disconnected, Twilight resumed, "We'll have to repeat that sometime later, but it'll do," she winked. "Secondary, what about you?"
"What about me? What, did I stain myself? I don't think I've spilled anything," Rainbow Dash said while looking herself over.
"As bright as ever. But seriously, are you gonna go out dressed like that?"
"Uh, yeah, that's kinda the point. You know, aerodynamics. Besides, the great and powerful Rainbow Dash does not wear clothes!"
"No objections, you're putting on a coat!"
"My little Dashie, you're talking to a mare who has tamed the antics of a baby dragon. What chance do you think you have?"
"Ugh, fine." Rainbow let her head hang low to emphasise admitting defeat.
A few minutes later, the two mares stepped out of the library. While one of them was wearing her usual set of weather protection equipment, the other had had to take whatever spare raincoat there had been in the library, which happened to be bright pink without room for wings. It made it literally impossible for her to fly and her wings were already itching for her to just throw off the coat and use them again, but she ignored that in order to let Twilight have her will.
Their arrival at Carousel Boutique had gone as expected, Dash thought. Not that there was any way to predict how a pony would react to seeing a friend's corpse happily greet them, clearly not dead. There had been the usual depression, replaced by ecstatic joy upon spotting Twilight, followed by repeatedly expressing said joy and asking for explanations. Somewhere in that part, she had excused herself, leaving behind her love and another mare, a filly, and a dragon, each with happy tears in their eyes. She had been able to quietly discard the coat, but Twilight had noticed and insisted that she always wore one while cleaning up the storm. Fortunately, Rarity had intervened and provided her with a better model designed for pegasi that also wasn't quite as pink, its color being slightly darker than her own instead. Rainbow still felt that her ideals were being violated, but at least she didn't look like an unreal, heptacolored rainbow any more. She sped up her flight, determined to make this day the happiest in the lives of everypony else as well instead of just her own.
Somewhere on the ground, in a little house not too far off, a little jungle green filly paced through the uniformly brown living room while squealing, "But mommy, you said we go out today, now I've waited forever and we are still sitting around here!"
"'S been half an hour, honey. Besides, do you really want to go out into this rain?" the adult mare responded, showing no intention to rise from her comfortable sitting place.
"Actually, Bonny," Lyra said from the armchair, looking out through the window, "it's starting to clear up. Gotta pick her brother up from school, anyway. So I guess I'll be going out soon, unless you really want to do it."
"That'd be great." While the unicorn walked past her, Bon Bon waved a hoof and murmured, "Over here, you," quickly caressing the neck that followed the invitation.
"Glad to oblige. C'mon, Maria, you're gonna get what you wanted." Lyra then led her into the wardrobe, where the filly did most short of running up the door trying to open it like a puppy. "That is, after we've got your boots and coat on," she then said with a slightly malicious grin, satisfied about how well she had managed to trap her daughter again.
"Nooo!" Maria squeaked and tried to escape the floating pieces of clothing, even though they both knew that resistance was ultimately pointless. After a brief struggle, magic had overpowered foal and she was fully equipped with bright yellow water detergents.
"There ya go. Don't you feel a lot safer now?"
"Why did we go to the hospital and get shot if I got to dress up anyways?" the little unicorn grumbled.
"Because, if you don't, we will have to bring you there to stay. Do you want to be at the mercy of that mare?" Lyra said while unlocking the door and ushering Maria outside.
Maria shuddered. The newest addition to Ponyville's clinical staff was known to be very cynical and occasionally a bit sadistic. Those that had bothered to get to know her a little bit better knew that that was just a surface impression, but it served well to control foals. Also, Lyra didn't feel bad for talking badly about her as she wasn't present.
A little bit in the distance, a purple unicorn contemplated testing her freshly learned illusionary combustion spell right away versus waiting for the intended subject. She decided against it and vanished in a flash of magic unknown to both mother and child. Just then, the filly paused, looking up in the air in amazement. "Oooh, pretty!"
Lyra looked up herself, quickly identifying the source of Maria's awe, a broad rainbow spanning across the sky. "Heh. Do you know why it's so sparkly?"
"Rainbows are made by pegasi, and when there's a strong love living in that pegasus's heart, it makes it sparkle. So somepony in Ponyville just found a very special somepony," Lyra explained.
"That's good," Maria said.
High above the two, a very special pegasus sped to return to whence she came.
Quick as ever, she was back at Carousel Boutique in no time. From the outside, she could hear happy chatting coming from inside, which allowed her to breathe through, knowing that it would sound differently if anything had happened. She landed just in front of the door to clean up her physical appearance so that nopony would suspect exactly how fast she had been flying in order to return as quickly as possible. Just for completion, she also cleaned through her wings, though in the middle of it, she noticed how silly that was and who was waiting inside, folding them back in and pushing through the door without knocking, feeling that, in the current situation, it was one step too far into the direction of clean and orderly and all of those words she despised without even needing to know their exact meaning.
Inside, she found everybody as she had left them, currently unaware of her. Twilight was already back to pacing around the room while dictating a letter as she always did, "Thus, I ask for Your presence at earliest convenience for us to discuss the next steps, especially concerning the task You gave me to study the deepest form of friendship. I believe I have found an opportunity and would like Your advice on how to use it best. Your faithful student, Twilight Sparkle."
Spike looked up from the parchment, "What do you mean by 'the deepest form of friendship?'"
"Uh, I'll explain that to you later. For now, just send it."
A second after the letter was gone in a cloud of green smoke, Rarity spoke up, "You just mentioned it, what do we do now?"
Feeling that her moment had come, Rainbow Dash walked further inside and said, "We gotta tell everypony who heard she was dead as fast as possible that she's not. I guess we could..." She stopped talking when she saw how eager Twilight's smile was. "Of course. S- Twilight, what do you think we should do?"
"Pinkie Pie," she said simply.
Meanwhile, in the deepest reaches of Canterlot Castle, where regular ponies would have to go through many corridors and forms to get to, a dark blue mare slowly awoke from her sleep, which was remarkable given how violently somepony else of about her size was trying to wake her up. In her haze, she barely managed to register that somepony flailing her legs around while babbling things she wouldn't be able to understand even if she did care and wasn't too displeased from being torn from her dreams, though the vast difference between what she saw and would expect of her sister made her question if she wasn't still dreaming. Understanding that she wouldn't be able to go back to rest, she groaned, "Yes, Tia? What is it?"
"Twilight Sparkle! She's back!"
Princess Luna sighed and rolled onto her back. "Pay attention, sister. we both miss her. Perhaps Thou moreso than anypony else. But there are times for saddling a donkey."
Princess Celestia gave her sister a look that testified genuine confusion, "What do you mean?"
"Stop crying after what Thou hadst and live on with what is available!"
"No, seriously, she's back!"
"Nopony has yet recovered from death, sister," Luna said while untangling herself from the bright pink undersheets nopony was to know about.
"Yet. I'm telling you, her friends have done the impossible. Here, look at her letter." Celestia produced a small piece of parchment and basically shoved it into Luna's face, much hindering her efforts at getting up from bed.
"Such is the writing of a young dragon, that which Twilight Sparkle routinely employs. Then what you say may be true, but before we move further in this discussion, answer Us one objection, Tia."
"Of course, just ask."
Luna managed to put all four of her hooves onto the ground simultaneously and moved in closer to her sister until she could whisper into her ear, which may have been pointless as her chambers were perfectly quiet and there was nopony anywhere nearby to overhear them, but she couldn't care less for rational reasoning. "Be this an excuse for thee to drop your duties and have me perform them in your stead while you enjoy yourself with thy protégé?"
"Uh, Lulu, you know, she asked that I report to Ponyville as quickly as possible and I may have left one or two audiences behind in coming here, so basically, it'd be really nice of you to do that for me."
"Of course. Leave the documents by the royal throne." Suddenly, gravity seemed to pull much stronger than before, and Princess Luna collapsed to the ground, "Sugar Heart! Thy princess demands for coffee!"
"Still hanging on to your new best friend, I see?"
"She's not my friend. Princesses don't show such weaknesses. She's just my preferred little servant. Heartsy, where are you?"
"Heartsy?" Princess Celestia asked with a slight chuckle.
As the lunar princess noticed her slip, selective spots of her fur suddenly became even darker than they had been before, "It is Our matter what We call Our servants! Do We have to remind thee of Spread Stockings?"
"Oh, don't you dare go down that road."
In response, Princess Luna simply blew a raspberry.
"Fine. I have no interest in fighting with you, so I concede."
"Neither do I. I concede as well."
"You can't, I already did before you!" Celestia said defiantly, repeating Luna's last gesture. "Anyway, I'll be departing then."
"Enjoy thy stay. And, if this is true, tell Twilight Sparkle I'm glad she's back."
"I will. And..." she looked back inside from the balcony, ready to take off, "Lulu? Love you."
"I know. Go, go. Sugar Heart? There you are. Did you bring coffee as I asked?"
Princess Celestia smiled and began heavy wing strokes, nothing more in mind than to reach her destination as fast as she could, regardless of what proper protocol would be.
Back in Ponyville, Twilight Sparkle was being buried. Fortunately, the layer covering her wasn't made of earth, but rather built out of ponies who had all wanted to hug her at once. Slowly, the pile deconstructed again, one pony at a time. When she had room to move, Twilight stood up and looked around. Truly, this was something only Pinkie Pie could possibly pull off. She had not only invited literally everypony in Ponyville plus a few members of other select species, but also made sure that they all came to a hall that had enough room and party supplies to host them simultaneously, not to mention that the party had been ready to start no twenty minutes after they had asked her for help. Strangely enough, a fair number of ponies had even brought a gift to celebrate her revival. It was the biggest mass of ponies she had ever seen in her life, including the Shadow Rave and her brother's wedding. It warmed her heart to think that everypony had come for the single reason that they were glad to have her back. Glancing to the side, she could just see Rainbow Dash slowly hovering towards her. It was obvious she wanted to remain unnoticed, so Twilight decided to play along, at least until her darling was about to surprise her from behind, which she prevented with a jab to the wing. A soft thump confirmed her that everything had gone as planned, "He he he."
"Ow. Why do eggheads have to be so darn attentive?" Rainbow moaned from the ground before Twilight released her.
"Yes, my little Dashie?" Twilight asked while helping Dash get up.
"Y'know, I think we could duck into the closet over there for a sec if you feel like it," Dash said, pointing a hoof towards a nearby side room containing supplies.
"And do what?"
Twilight had seen Rainbow Dash sarcastically before, but her current expression surpassed everything. "Sparky, do I really have to tell you what freshly made lovers do when they're alone? Haven't you read a manual on that or something?"
"Uh... oh. Well, I guess we could if you want. Are you sure nopony will see us?"
"What the hay, even if they do, what are they gonna think? You're the star of the evening, there's some kinda explanation they'll come up with. Now come along, I need to taste you again."
"You go ahead. I'll follow once a distraction comes around," Twilight whispered. Just after Rainbow Dash had snuck into position, Pinkie Pie literally came up hovering above the crowd, loudly inviting everypony into a contest about whose magic could lift her highest. She would have loved to participate and show everypony else, but then realised that firstly, she literally couldn't, and secondly, that was exactly what she had hoped for."Huh. You can always count on Pinkie. Sometimes, I wonder if she knows more than we think and does those things on purpose. Scary thought," she murmured to herself before going into low profile and rejoining with Rainbow Dash.
For minutes, they stood together in the closet, nothing else in mind than to enjoy each other's bodies, uncaring as to what was going on outside. Rainbow couldn't complain as Twilight was just as wonderful the second, third, and tenth time they connected. They paused only momentarily when a voice was heard, clear and loud like it was standing right before the door, saying, "'Kay, that's the Doc, Cloud Chaser, AJ, Midnight, and Sunny Skies. For now. Phew, we're gonna need a lot."
"We didn't lock the door, right?" Twilight whispered.
"Nope! Does it bother you? I think I can reach the lock in time if I have to," Rainbow exclaimed.
"Let's give 'em a show. Three, two, go!"
Twilight carefully approached Dash's face. Just when their lips met, the door flew open, showing a smiling Pinkie Pie about to retrieve additional sasparilla. When they saw what was going on inside, the entire party went silent in a matter of seconds, seemingly not knowing what to say. They stayed together the entire time. After an eternity, a mare in the back called out, "Dirty filly foolers!"
Rainbow was about to react when she saw how Pinkie's face had turned from the purest of smiles to what she could only hope was just anger. "Somepony slap her, please." A dull thump could be heard. "Now, what's everypony's deal? You should be happy for the two! Show 'em!"
Started and aggravated by Pinkie Pie, the crowd broke into a single voice, screaming, stomping, cheering for their love. Many seconds later, when the noise had finally died down, a white unicorn stepped forward on her own, saying simply, "I see."
Seemingly, this told Twilight far more than Rainbow Dash, even though that didn't mean a lot, as she quickly moved her head away from Rainbow's and towards the ground. She couldn't say she was pleased with this development, "Oi! I was using that egghead."
"Dashie, stop complaining and come down this instant," Twilight hissed.
"Why? It's just," Dash said, promptly interrupted by the unicorn in front of the crowd literally taking off her skin and throwing it to the ground, where it quickly dissipated into fading sparks. From under the skin came forth nopony other than Princess Celestia. "Oh." Rainbow hurried to follow protocol in the face of this new revelation, as did anypony else present.
"Twilight Sparkle, I would have to tell you that you never cease to amaze me, but in all honesty, I've said that once too often already. So, instead, let me express how I envy you. Your adventures, your knowledge, your abilities, which may even exceed mine. I tell you this, you are the absolute first pony since the beginning of my memory who has risen from the dead."
"That one was kinda my part," Rainbow threw in. Twilight glared daggers at her, to which she responded, "Hey, I gotta take credit where it's due. I read a book for you, Sparky. A book!"
The princess chuckled softly, "Do not think you are left out here, young pegasus. As I was saying, I envy you, Twilight. All of this, and still you hold the freedom to explore it all to your heart's desire. Not like me who has to deal with court obligations each day. But there is one thing about you that I envy most. Your friends, Twilight Sparkle. Them and their readiness to follow you into another adventure on a daily basis. In one case, into the adventure of love. You have my absolution for any studies that may arise on the topic, and expect plenty of reports about it, whether they're about experiences or problems. Hesitate no second to contact me in the latter case, of course. I think Princess Mi Amore Candenza could be convinced to go back to her old ways if you need to."
"What is she- how would that even work?" Dash whispered, unaware of the princess's range of hearing.
"I'll explain later."
A/N: Does the story end here? Well, do you want it to? If not, read on, though be warned that you might regret your decision if you're content with this ending.
"So," Twilight murmured, "now Equestria knows you as the filly who revived and won the heart of Twilight Sparkle, personal protégé of Princess Celestia, researcher and discoverer of too many spells to count, and first known zombie pony. How does it feel?"
"Snuggly. And awesome that I finally get some credit, I guess," Rainbow said, moving in closer to Twilight.
The unicorn responded with the same movements, only that they were inverted in direction, "'Cause breaking every speed record ever set in Equestria, obliterating everypony else's performance, and saving four lives while you were at it wasn't enough fame for you yet?"
"Nah. But really, I did it all for you, not myself. Even if you were just a normal somepony nopony cares about, like AJ, Derpy, or Midnight. Besides, that's nothing. I could do a sonic rainboom any day."
"Prove it," Twilight said with the same challenging tone as when they had first met, not too far away from their current location.
"D'ya want it now? Close to the ground or up in the sky?"
"I doubt many ponies would enjoy it, it's still night."
"Except not really. Look, the Sun's already up!"
Twilight bolted into a straight upwards position in the bed, "It is? Why didn't you tell me? Wait, I can't see anything..."
"I guess you'd need to be a pegasus to have our integrated watch. That is, or to be able to see the one over there." Dash pressed her head against what of Twilight she could still reach lying down, which was about the tail end of the matter, she felt. "By the way, you're warm and comfy, that's why."
"Did we really- through the entire night?" Twilight jumped out of bed, beginning her usual grooming ritual.
"Noo! The plot was only starting to warm up! Well, you slept through some of it, but yeah, basically, we did." Rainbow slumped down, deciding that the spot where Twilight had laid was a fitting substitute for as long as it still held some of her warmth.
Twilight set the brush down, shaking a few strings in every color of the rainbow out of her mane, and tossed it over to Dash, who reluctantly set to using it herself. "Reminds me, checklist for the day, item one, well, item one's always coffee. Item two, buy a hoofbrush of my own. Not that I'd mind sharing yours, but, you get the point."
Rainbow slowly climbed out of bed, "Y'know, I'm wondering, what's it like?"
"Being with you? Absolutely great."
Dash set to sigh, but got herself under control just in time, "No, silly. The afterlife, you've been there."
"Well, my dear Dashie, it's physically impossible for me to remember anything from my brief trip beyond as memories are formed through the adaptation of neural links which obviously hasn't happened in the last few days, I," she paused for a moment when Rainbow Dash began ruffling through her mane. "What are you doing?"
"Looking for the switch between egghead and English, of course. This here?" she poked at a particularly pretty spot in Twilight's neck.
"Jeśli możesz przeczytać, jesteś Europejczycy," Twilight responded almost mechanically.
"Yeah, not it. C'mon Sparky, translation for ponies too busy to learn a library by heart?"
"Hey, that's not true. I'm still missing X, Y, and Z."
"To the point, please?"
"Right. You see, because my body wasn't there, I shouldn't be able to remember it, yet... somehow, I do."
"Really? How was it?"
"Blue. It was kind of like the normal Equestria, in fact, I think I saw some of you moving around. But it's so dark and cold, Rainbow. There was no light, only a giant purple star that seemed to always be in the same place. Now that I think about it, it wasn't cold per se, there just wasn't any warmth. But sometimes, I could see a little light, a dot of hope, which always led me to one of my friends. I think that happened when they thought about me. On that note, the library was basically constantly lit. I assume you enjoyed your time here."
Rainbow set the brush down, "Yeah, I kinda had to. If you didn't want me to enter, you shouldn't have windows!"
"Anyhow, sometime, I think it was yesterday, kinda hard to tell time in there, things got worse. I had troubles moving forward, I couldn't see any more lights. It was like being in a storm, except it was still calm as always. But then, it happened. I happened to wander by the library when there was a giant flash right over it. It drew me inside, into the basement, but I could hardly see in there. That is, until a pathway opened, made of light. I guess that was you."
"So, the lightning did nothing, but my love opened the path for you back to life? How fillysophical."
"If we follow the most widely accepted theories, it was both that did the trick. You see, pony philosophers believe that after death, your 'essence' gets released, I guess that's what I was. In theory, and practice, as I prove, you could be able to rejoin essence and body if the body is technically alive, in other words, has running vital functions, and the essence finds a way into it, resulting..." Twilight stopped her lecture for a moment to see if Rainbow understood, only to find that she had jumped out of the window. Theoretically, they both still lived in their respective houses. However, the occasional sleepover seemed to occur more often than sleeping itself. "Heh, very well." She walked up to the window and called outside, "Take care around the storm clouds, Dashie!"
Twilight looked around outside. It looked rather gloomy, but she knew it was going to be a wonderful day as soon as Rainbow would have finished her work. With that fact in mind, she decided to take in her daily life elixir at a nearby café instead, feeling that somepony was going to drop out of the sky and join her quickly after anyway.
About half an hour later, everything had happened as predicted, except for the awkwardness when she had had to ask for her beverage to be refilled into a more stable mug technically designed for nonmagical ponies. Aside from that, though, her vision had come true in every detail as her dear beloved was struggling to down her cup even with plenty of milk and sugar added. At least, until Twilight was suddenly enveloped by flames, a fact that didn't escape Rainbow, "Ah! Twilight, you're on fire!"
Twilight calmly sipped at her drink. "I've noticed."
Despite Twilight's efforts, Dash seemed to only panic more by the second, "What are you doing? Get down and roll!"
Twilight couldn't repress softly chuckling at Dash's behavior, "Rainbow, there's no such thing as spontaneous combustion. If you burst into flames, that's because somepony wants you to. Besides, that's not even real fire. Look." She caught Rainbow Dash's reluctant head between two hooves. They were warm to the touch, but not more so than her usual body warmth.
"However the heck that is possible, isn't it still a reason to worry?"
"Well, it'll wear off soon, as I can see somepony in the distance who has gotten way too good with her illusions, and I should also be absorbing the energy pretty quickly. Erm, you see, it's not safe to cast spells near by a deceased unicorn because they remain nexi - places of focus - for magic, and will attract any energy released near by them when their own has left them, and I suppose I count as one of those now." She turned towards that given somepony and called, "Would you kindly stop that?" In a flash of blue, both the pony and the flames had vanished with a giggle being the only evidence remaining that they had ever been there. "There we go."
"D'you mean you can get new energy through absorbing somepony else's?"
"In theory, yes. However, that was a non-Power illusion spell, so it didn't have much power to begin with, and the recollection rate is horrendous. Maybe it's enough for something like that," Twilight said, lifting the mug up to her muzzle through magic. For a second, she looked as confident as in the old times, though her grip on the object was obviously weak as it still shook slightly. Just after drinking a little, she ran out of energy to sustain the spell, unceremonously dropping the mug and spilling most of its remaining contents onto herself. "Aaand it's gone. Depressing."
"The wing offer still stands, if you want," Dash said while offering her a napkin to clean herself.
Twilight set a hoof onto Dash's shoulder, "Rainbow, really. I know you want me to be happy, but please don't say such things. I don't want to have to imagine them. It's happened as it did and it was nopony's fault, remember that."
"So, got any plans for today?"
"Hum. I guess we could... have a walk around Ponyville, see what everypony else is doing?"
"Nah. That'd just be filling the time until we can go to sleep, or other, again."
"I guess we could go read- sorry. My fault."
"Hey, I do read!" Rainbow called out just quietly enough not to draw attention. "Just... not books."
"Well, what else is there to read aside from books?"
"Other... stuff. Like the Awesome Illustrated. Or... erm. The point is, I have no idea what to do. I guess we could start with a walk until something better comes."
They - or rather, Rainbow Dash - paid for their drinks and set off in a random direction with no particular destination in mind, idly chattering between themselves. They were just passing by the library when a steel gray pegasus flew up behind them, adjusting her speed to just keep up with them. Out of one of her saddlebags, a fluffy pink stuffed animal poked out. "Tsk, what a slowpoke, walking on the ground," she murmured while the two hadn't noticed her.
"Could beat your flank on the ground even with you flying," Rainbow retaliated. The mare in the air temporarily sped up and matched their pace once beside them.
"Care to prove it?" She was provoking Dash, out for plain, feral racing.
Rainbow would love to pick up the challenge, but knew she couldn't. "Nah, not now. Spending some time with my favoritest pony ever."
"'Cause you know you'd be too slo~ow," she kept teasing. "Well, what are you two up to?"
The lovers' eyes met. "Looking for something to do, mostly," Twilight replied.
"Yeah, I know how that is. Remember back in the days, when I would walk you across Canterlot searching for amusement? Heh, I've been such a terrible companion for Fillight."
"Heh, yeah." For a moment, Twilight's eyes drifted off and a blissful smile grew on her face before she caught herself. "Oh, not at all. You're the best I've ever been with." Rainbow Dash cleared her throat, exaggeratedly for effort. "I mean, second, or... uh... tied for first! Exactly."
"Pulled that one off just barely, Sparky. Anyway, where didya get that one, Glimmer?" Rainbow pointed a wing at the doll. "Slacking on the job again?"
"As it would happen, he went to visit the fair. Two pegasi with one stone, I tell you. Perhaps that's something for you two." She paused for a second to watch as Twilight's eyes went wide and her smile wider. Few ponies would expect, but cheap amusements had always been one of Twilight's weaknesses. "Catch you later," she said with a giggle before ascending further into the air.
"Oooh, why didn't you tell me it's here already? Can we go, can we can we can we?"
"Didn't notice, to be honest. Why didn't you know?" Rainbow countered, feeling the need to justify herself.
"Probably for the same reason as you, Dashie."
Dash facehooved, "Yeah, that. But don't expect me to let you gamble all of my money away, not without giving me a turn too!"
It had been right to visit the fair, Rainbow Dash had to admit. Twilight, since they had arrived, had had the same wonderful smile on her face like a foal, dashing from one attraction to the other in the same way. Momentarily, she had managed to calm her by buying two tickets for the Ferris wheel. Looking around, she was one out of the two only pegasi currently on the ride, the other, like herself, accompanying somepony who wasn't blessed with wings. The wheel's appeal to all the ponies was beyond Dash, but then again, she had a better view literally while lying in her bed. Twilight probably thought the same way about how Rainbow got anything done without magic. It was just their way of uniqueness, though she'd have plenty to learn in that specific way now. Even though she had little of the ride itself, she got to be with what mattered to her more than anything on the fair combined. She moved in closer again, only to find that Twilight was being surprisingly irresponsive. Twilight was playing games with her, or perhaps she had drifted off into a nap, quite understandably so. Only after hugging extra hard without a reaction, it occurred to Dash to glance over and spot that Twilight had collapsed in her seat, slumping down with her eyes closed and very weak heart rate.
"No... no no no! Twilight! Focus, Rainbow. I need help. The ground!"
She shouldered Twilight and leaped off the side, just so managing to slow her fall with the weight of two ponies burdening her wings. Frantically, she looked around for the closest pony capable of reanimation. After a few seconds on the ground though, Twilight began to stir again, "Wuh? Uh, sorry Rainbow, I'm fine. Don't know what happened."
With a bit of effort, Rainbow managed to set her down without going face down into the dirt herself. "Sure? Yeah, I guess you are. Would you stop doing that, please? You're scaring me every time, y'know. I don't want to lose you again, ever."
"Heh, don't get sappy." Twilight corrected her mane, then appeared to spot something in the distance, "Ooh, ring toss!" and ran off again past Rainbow Dash.
Rainbow wanted to object, to tell her to first lie down for a bit, but she couldn't, seeing how happy and, admittedly, cute Twilight was. Instead, she could only sigh contently and go after her. It was fortunate that she was the fastest pony in Equestria as Twilight was close competition for that title when properly motivated. By the time she caught up, Twilight had already found a place and stood second in line, about to be serviced.
"Dashiee! There you are at last. What if you hadn't shown up and I'd stand here empty-hooved?" she squealed.
"You mean, besides using your own money? We're both adults here, hell, you're probably even older than me."
"You don't say that kind of thing to a mare, Dashie."
"But it's okay to say that I'm older, huh?"
"Sure, because you're just a filly and being older is a feat for you," Twilight said, blowing a quick raspberry before stepping up to the counter and purchasing five tosses for herself, using money that was not her own, at least not under the law.
"Oh yeah, I'm really bad with my hoof, aren't I."
"At least with tossing, you really are." Rainbow looked back as they walked away from the stand. Twilight hadn't even come close once. "Eh, you're gonna get used to it, I promise."
"Yeah, I guess."
"Twilight." Rainbow raised a leg to signal a halt, then held Twilight's head as if she meant to kiss her. "Something's pulling you down, that's obvious. What is it?"
"Nothing, I..." she tried to talk herself out of it, but Dash intervened.
"No. There is something, you've got that look on your face."
"It's just, my magic, all that used to define me, my old life, it's all gone. Do you understand what I mean?"
"Mh, I hear ya. I felt the same way after breaking my wing. I mean, not that you could compare that, but, you see, when one talent is taken away from you, you come up with another, just to disobey fate! When life gives you lemons, don't make lemonade. Get mad! Demand a refund! Squash the lemons anyway! I don't want your darn lemons, what am I supposed to do with these? Make life regret the day it though it could give the Great and Powerful Sparky lemons! Does it know who you are? You are the personal student of the ruler of all darn Equestria! You get where I'm going at?"
Twilight chuckled. "Yeah, I understand."
"Good. Those motivation speeches are hard to come up with, y'know? I just know there's more in your cute little egghead than magic. Surely, you're good at something else, like, organising stuff, poetry, or solving fifth degree inseparable differential equations in your head?"
Twilight reinitiated their walking, "Poetry? Really?"
"Sure, why not? The leaves they fall, in the wind yet I think of, only your face. Like that."
"Oh, wow, didn't think you of all ponies had it in you, Dashie." Twilight raised a hoof at her chin in thought, "As it would happen, I got into the field a few years back, before we all met. Somehow, I guess I lost interest."
"With age, ponies change. And we are back at home, look!"
"Really?" Twilight looked around in surprise. Surely, they had wandered all the way back to the library. "Hum. Guess now I can give that stuff a try. Where's Spike, though?" she asked after they had entered the building.
"Probably doing the same thing as I. Go figure."
"Well, I guess I don't need him," Twilight said as she pulled out writing material, laid it out on the table in the circular room's middle and stared at it for a few seconds. Suddenly, she turned her head away with her eyes closed, though that didn't stop a single tear from escaping.
"You do not know what you have until you lose it. Guess you'll have to do it the earth way then."
"Rainbow," Twilight whispered, "I can't. I don't know how."
"What, you can't write?"
"Not with my mouth. Basically never needed to since I could levitate quills so early on in my life. I've lost everything, why am I still going?"
"Hey, I can't tell you what keeps you going, but let me give you a suggestion," Dash said before taking Twilight into a deep kiss. It was as wonderful as always, but somehow, it tasted stale, even literally. "We'll just teach you then. Nopony needs to know that you're an illiteration... I misspelled that one, didn't I? Anyway." Rainbow fetched a stool and made Twilight sit down on it, then wrote T and S in big letters on top of a scrap of parchment and pushed the quill into her mouth, hovering over her like a teacher overwatching a foal, one with wings, at least. "Important things first, practice those so you can spell your name."
Twilight didn't act, preferring to give off a look of confusion and disapproval, "My dear Dashie, I know how to write, what I'm lacking is prac-"
"Those, until I'm satisfied. Any questions?"
Twilight was about to argue again when the quill dropped out of her mouth and she just barely managed to catch it. Mumbling objections, she got to work.
"There, hold it steady, don't bite, do most of the work with your head itself."
Twilight drew a couple of letters until she reached slightly readable quality, then signed the scrap and put the quill down. "Great, I'll practice that more later." Under her breath, she added, "When I'm not being watched by a pony more compulsive than me."
"Then what now?" Rainbow asked, touching down besides Twilight again.
"I don't know, a spontaneous nap sounds like a good idea," Twilight said while moving towards a nearby couch, then lying down on it. Within seconds, she went limp, legs stretched out while lying on her back.
"'S long as you're actually sleeping, which I bet you're not," Dash said while checking for her pulse, a skill many ponies wouldn't attribute to her which had proven quite useful in her past. Her love's heart was weak, occasionally skipping a beat. "Of course you're not. Wake up in there!" She set to shaking Twilight into consciousness, which proved effective despite the obviously flawed logic, which she would have had to keep in mind if she could say she cared in that moment.
"Uh, wuh... where?" Twilight weakly whispered, blinking her eyes.
"You know, if you keep doing that, I'll have to hook you back up to the lightning rod. Do you want that? Seriously, what's going on?"
"I'm sorry, Rainbow, I really don't know myself, except... no, that's silly."
"You know I'm gonna ask what it is anyway, so spit it out."
"Well, every time that happens, I have a complete rip in my memory," Twilight began to explain, climbing off of the couch with renewed energy and rummaging through the shelves.
"Like you had been unconscious?" Rainbow sarcastically asked.
"No, stronger. When I wake up, I have to completely reorientate again. I feel like," Twilight sighed softly in mental preparation, "like I briefly die when that happens. A-ha!" she pulled out a thick tome and carried it back to Rainbow Dash. On the top, she could read that its title appeared to be *Old Pony Tales* before Twilight flung it open and skimmed through until she found the spot about a fifth in. "No, this really can't be. There's absolutely no logic behind it."
"Sparky, you're really trying to apply logic after all that happened? You're a zombie pony, for Pete's sake, tell me what you think."
"Okay, okay. They say death is not a random occurrence, a simple consequence of vital factors being in the red zone for too long, but that there is something behind it, a thinking being, the grim reaper, if you will," Twilight pointed a hoof at a picture drawn in the book depicting a distorted figure. It was clearly equine, but stood upright on its back legs, and wore a black robe with hood which hid its entire head in shadow. Only the ends of its legs were visible outside of the clothes, looking perhaps even scarier through their bone white color. "That's just artist's freedom, of course, nopony ever saw Him. At least, those that have didn't live to tell the tale, I guess. Once He marks somepony for harvesting, they are apparently doomed, as He will stop at nothing to acquire them. Usually, that obviously doesn't matter since they die properly the first time. However, there are a few cases recorded here where ponies just refused to leave, and things got a little ugly for them."
"They share one thing, they all got into a terribly unfortunate accident which they, through some miracle, managed to survive," Twilight continued as all four of their eyes were tied to the book. "Not for long however. According to this, the longest anypony ever made it was a month until they all fell victim to increasingly gruesome accidents based on the time. Ugh, one was chopped up from the flank upwards. And... oh goodness." She turned her head, futilely trying to hold back hot tears.
"In addition to them meeting a terrible fate of their own, there were also a number of 'innocent' casualties involved in the subsequent accidents, which seemed to again increase based on their lifetime. Wow, that's kinda cruel of Him," Dash read on.
"I don't want anypony to suffer because I couldn't just stay down!" Twilight sobbed. "But I can't leave them - you - behind either. Oh, Dash, what do I do?"
"Oh, my darling Sparky," Rainbow chuckled, "you think I'm gonna let you get away again? No, this time, I'll follow you wherever you go."
"So you're suggesting - oh no, this is a step I have to do myself. You've got something ahead of you, a life full of dreams and hopes."
Dash laid her foreleg around her marefriend's neck, "Twilight, I'm serious. I've chosen my future. It's being with you, wherever that might take me, and I'm not changing plans."
"But what about the others? Think of our friends, especially Fluttershy. Don't you think the shock might kill her?"
"You weren't there. I'd say she actually took your incident best out of all of us. They'll understand, just leave the book open at this page and maybe add in a note. I'll be waiting outside, I know just the spot."
"Really? Aren't you rushing things a little?"
"Sparky, this needs to be done, and the longer you take, the worse it's gonna get. I just remembered, I've got something to do first. I'll be back in a minute, meet you in front of the library." Rainbow squeezed Twilight against her as hard as possible, "Be quick. Everything will be fine, trust me." She jumped up and was gone through the door in a flash of color.
It was time, everything was done. Twilight sighed. She had expected to be nervous out of her mind in this moment, to be flooded with second thoughts, but that was not so. The only thing on her mind was what laid ahead of her. Rainbow Dash's points made perfect sense. She was clear of any doubt. She had to do it, less for herself than for everypony else. She slowly walked across the room and out through the door. She thought about locking the door, but it felt rather redundant at this point. While some clouds had already amassed into a layer again, there was a breach in them just right for the Sun to shine upon Ponyville. Twilight wondered for a second whether that was natural or caused by somepony who, seconds later, interrupted her thought by landing right beside her. "Might I ask what you were doing?"
"Making sure a certain victim of my actions will inherit what she deserves. You ready?"
It was a matter of now or never to turn back, but Twilight was focused on the task ahead and didn't bother to contemplate other possibilities. "Yes."
"Hop on," Dash said briefly, lying down to allow Twilight to mount her. She took off, starting slowly to avoid dropping her payload, then offered Twilight a hoof when they were in the air. "We're doing this. Together."
Twilight took it, "Together."