` “Purpose” by Zompony
A large grin slowly spread across the face of a certain purple unicorn. Twilight Sparkle was pleased. She surveyed the large army gathered before her – it was simply glorious. Rows upon rows of her loyal followers stood there in silence. Some of them were seasoned veterans, wearing their scars like a badge of honour; others were fresh recruits, still innocent and unspoiled. She knew every single one of them by heart, as they were not only her minions, but also dear friends. In her hardest times they stood by her side, cheering her up whenever she felt sad and lonely. On other occasions they provided her with knowledge, teaching her things beyond her wildest imagination. And they were hers to command.
The troops were lined up in perfect order. Twilight was a passionate leader, but also a very strict one. Her credo was “Order is Justice”, and she strongly believed that discipline needed to be maintained at all costs. Any mix-up was simply unthinkable. If, for instance, The Old Pony and the Sea stood right next to The Clopping Sound and the Fury, the chaos that would ensue would be disastrous. Sure, they wouldn't rip each other pages out, but their constant bickering would shatter the morale of the whole squad. And Twilight as a good friend – and an even better commander – could not let that happen.
“Which is why I need to take good care of them,” she said to herself.
By re-shelving them for the third time tonight? retorted her inner critic. Face it, Twilight Sparkle: you are procrastinating.
“I most definitely am not!” Twilight huffed and pouted at her own words.
She shot a glance at the black beast, menacingly standing in the middle of the room. It was silently mocking her, with a row of symbols scribbled on top of its flat, rectangular body.
Sure, it was a formulae for a flight spell she used on Rarity once. And yeah, she was working for many hours, trying to find a way to make it more practical. Create a pair of wings that would be guarded against the rays of the sun, to be exact. And certainly, she was drawing a blank. But! The decision to give some love to her paper friends wasn’t the same as procrastination! It was a very intricate time management plan: a proper allocation of her strategic resources – love, care and attention – resulting in the most effective usage of her time. Without question, she was not procrastinating!
Once she deemed her actions perfectly justifiable, her attention shifted back to the paper army. Something felt wrong. Her gaze wandered over the bookshelves until she found the reason for her anxiety. A single book was... lying on its cover! Apparently some volumes were checked out, and too much free space was created on one of the shelves. The insubordinate tome used that opportunity to simply fall over.
“What is this? A mutiny?” she muttered and levitated the book down. It was a copy of Equestrian Gods by Neigh Gaimare, a fairly new addition to her collection.
“It's you again, Mr. Gods.” She frowned. “I thought I warned you already to stop being so stubborn. I'm beginning to think you like being punished.”
She looked at the empty bookshelf, which was dedicated to storing returned books. She liked to call it: The Quarantine. A smirk crawled up her face.
“Ooh, I see what your plan is. You just want to lie there till Rarity or Fluttershy returns some of the romance novels they borrowed.” She winked at the tome and levitated it to one of the empty shelves. “Oh you naughty, naughty book.”
Suddenly, she heard a thud sound coming from behind. All the blood immediately drained from her face, and her smug grin was replaced by a look of terror. No one was supposed to know about her secret. Ever. She needed a cover and she needed it now. The table seemed good enough, so she quickly ducked under it.
Oh no, is it Spike? Did that sound-extinguishing charm I put on the doors fade? Please let it not be Spike, she prayed silently. I'll never hear the end of it. He will just keep laughing about it for days.
A moment passed, but there was no sound of chuckling, giggling or snorting of any sort. As a matter of fact, she couldn't hear anything suspicious. Cautiously she raised her head and scanned the room in search for any intruders. There were none. The room felt safe and peaceful. A warm light was coming from the fireplace, painting a whole spectrum of ambers, beiges and oranges on the wooden walls. The only movements were made by the shadows, dancing to whimsical motions of the flames. Twilight's secret was safe.
Another thud – a bit quieter than the previous one – echoed in the room, making her heart race again. Thankfully, this time she could locate the origin of the sound: someone was knocking at the door.
Who could this be? she pondered, as she slowly approached them.
This was a very unexpected event. It was the middle of the night, and she did not schedule any slumber party, or at least she could not recall any. No deliveries would come at this hour either. So what else was there? A series of images flashed through her mind: a ghost of a decapitated pony rattling his chains, a rotting zombie-pony hungering for a flesh of the living, and a fierce were-griffon roaring and stretching his claws. She shook her head in irritation.
“I really need to stop letting Spike watch these horror movies, or at least forbid him from relating them to me. These are just some unscientific superstitions. Surely a very nice pony is standing outside, and I can't keep him waiting because of a few stupid thoughts.” She huffed, and opened the door with her magic.
When a pink creature came into her view, the corners of Twilight's mouth rushed upwards, forming a broad smile. It was a phenomenon she called Pinkie's effect, and it was a common occurrence among Ponyvillians. Anypony who stayed in Pinkius Piecus’ proximity for more than five seconds would develop a conditioned response. A special kind of subliminal command that would etch itself deep into their subconsciousness. You smile whenever you see Pinkie Pie. Such is the rule. There are no exceptions.
“Hi, Pinkie,” she said cheerfully. ”What brings you here?”
Something was wrong. Terribly wrong, even. Sure, the pink mare smiled back, but it was not her trademark grin. The expression she made was weak and fake. Muscles moved according to her wishes, shaping her mouth into a cheerful 'U', but there was no feeling of joy behind it. Her blue eyes did not laugh at all; they appeared sad, almost hurt.
“Hey, Twilight.” Pinkie looked away. Her voice sounded just as forced as her smile seemed. As if she was trying too hard to be merry.
An awkward silence fell between them. As if the other signs weren't scary enough. Awkward. Silence. With Pinkie. This concept seemed so abstract and bizarre that Twilight started panicking, just a little bit. Was this an omen, signalling the end of days? Or perhaps a second coming of Discord? Well, a third to be precise, but who's counting anyway? Maybe she had an evil twin sister. Or a clone—
Snap out of it, Twilight! Something has clearly upset her, and you need to find out what. It's your job to help your friend!
“Do you want to come in?” She tried her best not to sound nervous.
“Yeah, I'd love that,” Pinkie answered in a meek voice and slowly stepped inside.
Twilight sighed quietly. It was almost like talking to Fluttershy. Just a bit more unpredictable and spooky.
“I'll make us some tea,” she offered, and quickly trotted to the kitchen.
- - - - - - - - -
She needed a moment alone to gather her thoughts. Everything about this situation smelled like trouble. If ponies could be described in one word, for Pinkie it would be “bouncy”. She always overflowed with that happy-go-lucky attitude of hers. It manifested in the look of her mane: a pink cloud attached to a pony. You could see it in the way her every move just brimmed with excessive energy. In the fact that she often jumped around instead of walking. In the manner her words just kept speeding down from her mouth, like an endless waterfall. In the tunes she mumbled to herself and the songs she sung to the crowds. And in the way she seemed resilient to hurtful words. Almost as if any insult thrown at her would just bounce off of her, doing no harm.
However, this was just a convenient illusion. A bluff that sounded true until someone called it. Sure, Pinkie could withstand many hardships and ordeals, but not because of some special resistance to sadness. The one thing that kept her smiling no matter what was her strong belief that her closest friends would always be there for her. And the mere thought of them hating her was enough to shatter her spirit. A few months ago they had learned this the hard way.
It had been a mix of a terrible misunderstanding and mild paranoia. Their plan was to make her happy – nopony could predict that Pinkie would react the way she did – but that didn't make Twilight feel any less guilty. The mare that she saw at that moment was nothing like the normal, cheerful Pinkie. With her hair flowing straight and anger glimmering in her eyes, she had been truly terrifying. That scared pony kept yelling in a desperate, high-pitched voice, barely holding back the tears. It almost broke Twilight's heart. She never wanted to see a scene like that again.
Hopefully, this time wouldn't be that bad. Even though Pinkie's movements were stiff and she seemed very cheerless, her mane still retained its normal, curly shape. This wasn't much, but it gave Twilight some hope. It seemed like whatever the crisis was, there was still a chance of a peaceful resolution.
She peeked in the room to see what was her guest doing. She was lying in front of the fireplace, gazing at the flames. Their hypnotizing movements brought a tiny, sad smile to her face. It looked very serene, but also very lonely.
I’ll have to be really careful not to upset her more. Twilight started to drift into her own thoughts. Oh, I wish I had a book on how to cheer up a friend. Maybe Canterlot’s Library has one? But it's so far, and I would need to go there, and then I would leave Pinkie alone, and—
The piercing sound of a whistling kettle brought her back to reality.
Keep it together, Twilight! You've read lots of books about ponies being friends with other ponies. Surely you'll think of something. Just keep calm, collect some data and formulate a plan.
Reassured by her own mind, Twilight walked into the room. Two cups of tea and a plate of cookies levitated above her, covered in the red glow of magic. She sat beside her friend; the treats soon followed, landing gently next to her. That didn't trigger any reaction from the the despondent pony, so it was up to the unicorn to spark the conversation.
“Soooo... Why are you here, Pinkie?”
The earth pony flinched at the question and hung her head down.
Good job, Twilight. There goes being subtle.
“If you don't want to talk about it, that's fine. We can just wait here till you are ready.”
It was an approach she often had to use on Fluttershy whenever the yellow pony had trouble expressing her issues – in other words, almost every time they talked. If tonight Pinkie was planning to act like Fluttershy, then Twilight wouldn't treat her differently from the shy pegasus: just give her time till she opens up.
- - - - - - - - -
After a few moments of silence her patience finally paid off. Pinkie stopped staring at the fire and turned her head towards the unicorn.
“Can I ask you a question, Twilight?”
Yes, yes, yes, yes, yes! She talks. Now we're getting somewhere. An encouraging smile appeared on the lavender face.
“But of course, Pinkie. What do you need to know?”
“What is the meaning of life?”
Was it possible for the unicorn's jaw to drop any lower? Perhaps it was. Thankfully, the floor stopped its descent and nopony had to find out.
Twilight knew, that when talking to Pinkie one should assume nothing. She could speak utter nonsense or profound wisdom; sometimes both in one sentence. However, this was one of the most elusive questions of pony-kind. Something that had haunted philosophers for ages. Hearing it from the mouth of the supposedly simple pony was unexpected, to say the least.
How was she supposed to reply to that? It’s not like there was an easy explanation for life. Everypony struggled to find their own way of living it, and nopony could ever be sure that their choices were correct. She couldn’t offer any clever answers, and yet she couldn't simply brush that question aside either. Her friend's voice sounded serious, and the issue was probably connected to the source of her sadness. Confused, Twilight decided to learn more before choosing her answer.
“I... It's... Umm...” she stuttered. “Why do you ask, Pinkie?”
A set of blue eyes stared at her in complete silence. Behind them a conflict of two opposite thoughts was taking place. It seemed that Pinkie really wanted to speak, but at the same time feared the reaction. A few seconds passed without anypony uttering a word. Finally she gave a long sigh and looked away. Twilight shivered at the sound – sighing was yet another thing completely foreign to her friend's normal behaviour. This conversation needed a little nudge.
“You know you can tell me anything, right?” She tried to sound as comforting as possible. “I'm your friend, am I not?”
“Well...” Though she still seemed hesitant, these last words manage to get Pinkie out of her shell. “Do you remember when that big, old, scary monster changed our nice, little Fluttershy into nasty, mean Meanieshy?”
Twilight nodded. She wasn't there when it happened, but she had heard the gist of it. Apparently, some money-hungry minotaur had taught her shy friend how to stand up for herself. Sadly, his technique involved being a complete jerk to other ponies. It had even caused a fight between the yellow pegasus and her friends. But it happened two weeks ago. Fluttershy had already apologised to everyone and learned that she can be assertive without being mean. So why would Pinkie bring that up now?
“You see...” The earth pony fidgeted.
It was clear that talking about it was very hard for her. As if the words were just too heavy to be spoken out loud, or as if she was holding back for somepony's sake. It took another moment of silence and a gentle nuzzle from Twilight before the conversation continued.
“She... She told me I'm wasting my life on parties.”
A spark of anger glinted in Twilight's eyes, but faded a second later. She didn't hear anything about that part of the story. She could hardly believe it; how could the timid pegasus be so cruel? Her first thought was to give Fluttershy an immediate scolding. But then the realisation came: this experience must have been just as painful to the yellow pony as it was to her victims. She might have seemed all right, but the guilt was surely eating her up. It was punishment enough – she was the element of kindness after all.
Either way, Twilight didn't have the luxury to think about her other friends right now. That hurtful comment caused some grave injuries, so she needed to do damage control. But before she could start making elaborate plans, the previously silent pony flooded her with a sudden wave of words. It was almost as if that last sentence destroyed the dam that kept her from speaking.
“So I know that Shy already said she's sorry. And I forgave her and smiled cause she was nice and kind again. And I like her when she's nice and gentle and friendly. We hugged, partied, hugged again, partied more, and it was all super fun. But those tiny itty-bitty words kept jumping around in my head. And I was like 'What do you want, why won't you let me sleep?' And they were like ' You know that what she said is true.' And I was like 'Nu-uh,' and they were like 'Uh huh,' and I was like 'Nu-uh,' and they were like 'Uh huh.' So we kept arguing and arguing and arguing even more.
“And I wanted to show those awfully awful wordies-snorties that I was right. So I started making a list of words that could help me show them how awesome parties really are. And there were some obvious ones like fun and super and extra and exciting and joyful; and even some big, complicated words joined my cause – the ones that you and Rarity use so often – like delightful and splendid and rapturous and effervescent. But when I asked meaningful or useful or significant, they just wouldn't respond. And without them I couldn't do much convincing.”
Pinkie paused for a second – inhaling a massive amount of air in one big breath – before continuing. Twilight didn't even get a chance to blink, lest cut in with a reply.
“And it made me incredibly sad. It was this nasty type of sadness when even tears won't run and everything feels empty. So I tried cheering myself up by thinking about you girls cause you always make me warm and happy.”
She shot Twilight a gentle smile, making her heart rise. It was sincere, unlike that fake grin she gave her at the doorstep. Unfortunately, it lasted only for a moment before it wilted into another sullen expression.
“So I wanted to think about you five, but those vicious little words kept nagging me. And I started to think about how things you girls do make a difference and how my parties are just for fun. Because it’s true: you all do extremely important jobs. Take AJ for instance: she farms all the super-tasty apples that ponies eat, so they can all stay strong and healthy and lively and happy. And she helps the town a lot because she is the most hard-working pony ever. And I mean ever, ever.
“And then there’s Fluttershy who helps all those cuddly-wuddly little animals. The poor birdies and bunnies and the other furry and feathery thingies would starve without her. And starving sounds really, really, really, really, really bad. I remember this one time when the Cakes went out and forgot to buy the food, so there was nothing left to eat at the Sugarcube Corner. And my tummy was rumbling really loudly, but I couldn't eat breakfast and had to wait for them to come back, which took like forever and I was soooooooooooooo sad. I guess starving must be around gazillion times worse and more sad.
“Then there’s Rarity. Fluttershy said she’s frivolous, but she’s not. Her work is also super important. She makes all the silky, sparkly, shiny, shimmery dresses. And in the big cities, ponies have to wear clothes in public, so the dresses are vital if they want to work or walk or eat or talk. So it's thanks to Rarity that all those super-duper important ponies can live their lives.
Never before was Twilight so captivated by one of Pinkie's rants. But then again, never before was one of Pinkie's rants so personal. Somehow, she felt that failing to absorb even one sentence from this constant stream of sounds would make her a really cruel pony. So she kept listening, totally immersed in the flow of words.
“And there’s Dashie and she’s like whoosh, zoooooom, swoosh and the clouds just go pooooof, poooof and poof. And thanks to that we’re not getting flooded by all the water falling from these grumpy, grey cloudies. Getting flooded would be almost as bad as starving. But if the plants ask for something moist and tasty she brings them a little rain. And thanks to that they don't wither, and we can eat them, and we don't starve. So she prevents us from starving and flooding; that's even more awesome than awesome.
“And then there’s you, Twi, with your”—she pointed the hoof at the blackboard, standing in the middle of the room—“scholarly science stuff and all this supertastic, smashing, supreme spell-power you possess. And you are the protégée of Princess Celestia and the smartest pony in existence, and I don't really get what you do, but you will surely make some massive, colossal, epic discovery that will change everypony's life.”
Twilight couldn't help but blush slightly at the compliment.
“You all do important jobs, and are responsible and hard working and useful, but what am I doing? I just play and party and have fun. So I couldn't stop that nasty sadness. And being sad while thinking about my friends made me double sad. And I knew that telling any of you girls about it would make you sad as well, which would make me ten times more sad. So I tried to just hang on and kept silent, but today I... I couldn't take it anymore. So I ran here—”
The waterfall of sounds ended abruptly and a heavy silence fell upon the room. Pinkie – slightly trembling – stared with all the remaining strength into her friend's eyes and asked very quietly.
“Am I useless, Twilight?” Her blue eyes watered up. “Am I just wasting my life?”
The so-called smartest pony in existence was at a loss for words. The emotions flowing from Pinkie's speech were overwhelming. Sure, it was all conveyed in simple, childish terms, but that's just how she was; that's what made the whole utterance genuine. She bared her heart to Twilight and that made it both beautiful and frightening at the same time.
This was a very delicate matter. Twilight needed to rebuild her friend's broken confidence, but one poorly chosen word and it could all end in a disaster. What was she supposed to say? And more importantly: how? Normally her lectures would involve lots of scientific terms, but in this case these wouldn't do. Her goal was to be persuasive, not technically correct.
This requires proper planning, perhaps a check-list...
The expression on Pinkie's face suggested that there was no time for that. Every moment was crucial since no response could also be interpreted as an answer. She needed something that could be prepared quickly, a short-cut of sorts.
There was something in Storytelling 101: How to convey your thoughts, she recalled. Telling from experience, was it? So a story from my past?
It seemed like it was her best bet.
You can do it, Twilight. Just pace it right!
She quickly reviewed the story in her head. Some personal information, some drama, a good moral.
“When I was living in Canterlot, I thought that the ponies who do nothing but party were indeed useless. But—” a loud popping noise disrupted her speech.
Her eyes widened as she watched the transformation. The cotton-candy mane lost its curly appearance and turned into an eerie, straight shape, like a deflated balloon. Tears begun to well up in the azure eyes, and a previous look of hope was replaced by one of disbelief and betrayal.
Twilight realised her mistake, though a moment too late. That story only seemed perfect in her head because she knew every part of it. Now that she spoken it out loud, it was obvious how badly the first sentence sounded; how destructive it was without the rest of the story to put it in a proper context. So, considering Pinkie's current emotional state, this was possibly the worst choice for an opening line.
“No, that's not what I meant—”
The upset pony didn't even try to listen to the explanation.
“Pinkie, wait!” she shouted as her friend galloped towards the door.
There was no time for plans. No time for a proper analysis and choosing the best option. She had to act – now or never. So she did the only thing that could still stop the rushing mare. In a brilliant flash of white light she teleported in front of her.
With a loud crushing noise, a rolling blur of purple and pink rammed into a bookshelf. A massive surge of pain travelled through Twilight's body upon impact. Pinkie moved so fast that the collision with her could be compared to getting hit by a stampede of buffaloes, and the wooden bookshelf was no silky cushion either. Twilight's vision got blurry and she could hardly breathe, but it would not break her resolve.
She could only imagine what would happen if she let her friend out that door. Pinkie would find some place of solitude where she would bawl her eyes out, lonely and in despair. Twilight's words would stir the wounds caused by Fluttershy, bringing far more damage. Her confidence, her joy, her usual flair would sink even deeper, turning her into a mere shadow of her former self. Just thinking about unhappy Pinkie was painful, but being the one who caused her misery? That would be unbearable. Their bond would never be the same as before.
But none of it happened yet. Thus far it was nothing more than a possible scenario, and there was still a chance to avoid it. She could still fix her mistake if she acted without delay. This friendship was very precious and she was not going to let it break so easily. She tightly clutched the other mare with all four of her legs and held with every ounce of her strength – as if her life depended on it.
“Let me go! You don’t need me anymore! I am useless!” Pinkie screamed, as she struggled to get away from the unicorn.
“Listen to me, Pinkie! You are not useless!”
Twilight could feel her grip getting weaker with every passing second. She couldn't hold Pinkie for much longer with just her strength; her only option was to convince the angered mare to stay and listen to her explanation. She desperately needed an idea. A phrase she could use. One small sentence that would break through the emotional wall created by her hurt friend. But there was nothing she could think of, nothing she could say that would make a difference. She was drawing a blank.
This was almost ironic. She knew all the elaborate speeches, all the big words, all the sophisticated quotations, and yet she couldn’t recall anything useful at all? Even her smug inner voice couldn't give her any advice this time, and her mental check-list – usually extremely long and complex – was reduced to only one item: Stop Pinkie from leaving. How could she be so bad with words even though she read so many books? A part of her wanted to scream in frustration, but that wouldn't be any solution. And even with no weapons in her arsenal she was not ready to give up just yet.
The last of her strength was fading away, and it was a matter of moments before Pinkie would break free. Thinking had brought Twilight nothing but trouble in this conversation, as cold calculations wouldn't convey her emotions properly. There was only one method she hadn't tried yet: speaking straight from the heart. Without thinking about it. Without calculating, planning and filtering things through the judgement of the intellect. Without depending on ideas taken from other ponies. Just tossing out her own honest words.
“You've changed me, Pinkie,” she said in a normal voice, since she couldn't muster more strength to yell. “When I was living in Canterlot I was a stupid, stuck-up mare. I kept saying how I didn't need other ponies, how they keep throwing their lives away, even though in reality I longed for them. I was a big hypocrite – wanted to hang out with others, yet wouldn't admit it. But then I met you and the other girls, and all these feelings that I didn't know I could ever have just appeared out of nowhere.
“I'm still new to this “friendship” idea.” Her voice dropped to a whisper. “And I don't always find the right words. But I really, sincerely think you are not useless. So please, give me a chance to talk.”
The struggling finally ceased, but Pinkie couldn't stop trembling and her mane was still ghastly straight. It was clear that she was willing to listen, but it would take a lot more to dispel her sorrows and win back her trust.
Twilight gently released the shaking mare and summoned all of her strength to stand up. Her vision was still blurry and filled with dancing little lights, but she wasn't going to let such a minor detail bother her. She took a few slow breaths to regain her composure and started talking in a soft, comforting tone.
“You asked me what is the meaning of life.” She checked if she's got the earth pony's attention. The azure eyes – though still wet – focused on her.
“I do not know what it is. No one does.”
Pinkie flinched and hung her head down. She seemed to be at her limit – ready to burst into another wave of tears or run away again. The next sentence was crucial if Twilight wanted to mend the wounds, which she so thoughtlessly inflicted.
“But I can tell you about something else: the most basic emotion, one that motivates us to pursue all the different goals in life. Would that be okay with you?” She waited in silence for a reply.
After what felt like hours Pinkie raised her head and nodded slowly. A wave of relief swept over Twilight's body. This was just a tiny victory – a small foothold in the longer campaign of regaining trust – but it brought her a new strength to continue.
“I think that the most important wish – one that drives everypony to accomplish things – is a hope of connecting with somepony else. Deep down, everypony wants to share their heart with others and affect them in some way. It sounds simple, but it's very hard for most of us.”
She smiled sadly and let her gaze wander over the fallen tomes, scattered around her friend. Seeing them – despite the sorry state of clutter they were in – gave her a little bit of confidence.
“Do you know why I like books so much?” She didn't wait for her one-mare audience to answer. “Because they let me meet with all those different ponies.”
“Books aren't ponies, silly filly,” Pinkie interrupted in a quiet, sobbing voice.
A mix of conflicting emotions flooded Twilight. On the one hoof, she was overjoyed with the fact that her friend finally spoke again, but on the other, that voice sounded so miserable it made her heart sink. Her eyes began to water up, so she tightly shut them. She coughed to clear her throat and answered.
“Of... Of course not.” Small cracks in her voice became audible as she choked back the tears.
“But they were written by ponies. Like I said, everypony wants to share their feelings with others, but most of us don't know how. That's why we create objects that convey our affection. Interesting books and stunning dresses, delicious meals and beautiful rainbows, bouquets of flowers and... little rag dolls.” She smiled tenderly at the memory.
“So if you let yourself get captivated by a book – any book – and really understand its content, you can find a part of the author's heart etched into his work. You can't read a truly great piece of writing without it changing you at least slightly.”
An image of a certain book appeared in her mind. It was her favourite tome, one that she had read many times and that had influenced her greatly. She would love to recall all the familiar passages, but it was not the time for daydreams. With a hint of regret she shook her head to chase away the image and continued.
“Regrettably, many ponies get so immersed in their jobs that they forget their original purpose. They start to think that what matters is the object, and that the other ponies are just the means to an end. And they... We...” Her voiced trembled as the shame burned her cheeks bright red. “Often harbour stupid thoughts and speak mean, unfair words. Belittling those we should admire.”
She took a deep breath. The most important part of her speech was coming now and she really hoped that it would be properly conveyed.
“You are far from useless, Pinkie. If anything, you are most blessed, as you can share your heart simply by being yourself. We all struggle to accomplish a fraction of what you do in any single one of your parties. With just one song you can make the whole town smile, and with a simple hug you can turn a disaster into something fun and cheerful. There is not a pony in Ponyville who's life you haven't changed for the better. So please, don't ever think you are useless. What you are is...” As she opened her eyes, the last words just stuck in her throat.
Pinkie was gone. The pile of books was completely empty. There was no trace of the trembling, pink body or the straight, rosy mane. Twilight turned pale at the view and her ears folded down, dejected.
“...my most precious friend,” she finished in a whisper.
Her strength left her and she just dropped down to the floor. It was all over – her feelings didn't reach Pinkie. She tried her best but still failed. A powerful sob busted from her chest, sending shivers down her body. The pain of losing her friend was worse than she could ever imagine, even worse than the fear of failing the princess.
- - - - - - - - -
“Twilight, what's wrong? Why are you crying?” She heard a familiar voice coming from the right and the sound of hooves hitting the wooden floor. Something soft and fluffy brushed against her cheek. She tilted her head slightly. Beyond a wall of tears there was a blur of pink.
“Pinkie?” she asked weakly. “I thought... you were gone?”
“Why would I leave you, silly?” the pink blur replied and chuckled softly.
Twilight felt a gentle rub, and all the water blocking her view was gone. Before her – without a doubt – stood the pinkest, fluffiest earth pony in all of Equestria; one that could not be mistaken for anypony else. But there was still too much confusion for her brain to properly process all this new information. She glanced back to the empty heap of books in the corner.
“But... You were there... And then you left... And—”
“Oh, Twilight!” Pinkie interrupted. “Of course I couldn't keep lying on your pretty little booksies, now could I? That would hurt them and make the ponies who wrote them sad. And then you would be sad.” She stopped as she noticed a new wave of tears welling up in Twilight’s eyes. “Please, don't be sad.”
The unicorn sniffled and mumbled a couple of unintelligible sounds. Whatever she was trying to say it was lost in the waves of tears falling from her eyes.
Two pink hooves quickly travelled around her, and soon she found herself locked in a hug. She gladly accepted the sign of affection and just burrowed her muzzle in Pinkie’s mane, which already regained its fluffiness. One of the legs begun to slowly slide back and forth from the top of her head all the way to the bottom of her neck. Gentle strokes were very pleasant and reassuring.
“There, there. It's all right, Auntie Pinks is here,” Pinkie softly whispered into her ear and started humming a familiar, soothing tune.
Twilight let her tears soak freely into the rosy mane, and soon the fear and the pain started to dissolve in her calming embrace. The cries turned into sobs and those into sniffles. The smell and the touch of her friend brought a sense of security. She was real. She wasn't gone. And she was... What the hay?
“Heeey! That's not fair.” Twilight frowned and broke away from the hug. “It was supposed to be me cheering you up, not the other way around!”
Pinkie blinked a few times in surprise before she started giggling uncontrollably. She fell to the floor, her forelegs holding her belly, as spasms of laughter shook her body. This was not only impossible to stop but also very infectious, so it didn't take long before Twilight lost the frown. She tried to hold back the snickers, but to no avail. Soon, she joined Pinkie on the ground, chuckling furiously and wriggling her hind legs in the air. As they tried to keep their amusement under control, they caught a glance of each other. Grimaces spread across their faces were utterly ridiculous, making them explode into another series of even stronger guffaws and chortles. For the longest time they just kept rolling on the floor, laughing like a pair of mad mares, and it felt so liberating. All the built-up drama was being cleansed by these high-pitched sounds escaping their mouths.
Slowly, their energy depleted and the laughter died out. Silence fell upon the room, intoxicating them in the sweet mood of the moment. Two sets of eyes, violet and blue, locked into each other. Their smug grins were still stuck on their faces, and neither could tell what enchanted them so much that they wouldn't even dare blinking. Was it a passionate gaze or a staring contest? Or perhaps a silent communication? They didn't know, only felt that this point in time was so perfect, it would be a shame to break it.
- - - - - - - - -
Eventually it was Pinkie who ended that tranquillity.
“Thank you, Twilight.” A genuine joy sounded in her voice. “What you said about me was just so beautiful and sweet and moving. It made my tummy feel warm and bubbly, and my teensy-weensy Pinkie-heart beat faster. I'm really, really, really glad I came to talk to you.”
“Anytime, Pinkie.” Twilight's smile got brighter. “You know you can always come to me if something is troubling you.”
“Awww, you are too sweet. Almost like a pony-sized cupcake.” Pinkie giggled. “Speaking of cupcakes – I wanted to throw you a super-duper ‘Thank you for being the most amazing pony’ party, but...” she hesitated a little and looked at the unicorn nervously. “I had hoped you could maybe not tell any of the girls about tonight? Especially Fluttershy. I mean she would just feel awful if she heard that I was still sulking over those stupid words and—”
A lavender hoof gently closed her mouth.
“Say no more. Your secret is safe with me.” Twilight’s forelegs travelled around, making all the necessary gestures for a Pinkie-promise.
“You really are the bestest friend a pony could have! And the smartest one for that matter. Now I want to throw you a party even more...”
Pinkie put a hoof to her chin, pondering. Her lower lip advanced forward and a comical furrow appeared between her brows. Moments later she jumped happily, wriggling all of her legs in mid-air.
“Oooooh I know! I'll just make this a ’Congratulations on being the purplest of all the purple unicorns in Ponyville’ party.”
As much as Twilight loved Pinkie's parties, this one sounded really ridiculous. Not that she wanted to refuse – that would just hurt the enthusiastic party-planner. Plus, the thought of having a get-together organised just for her was strangely pleasant. But perhaps she could somehow direct Pinkie's train of thoughts towards less embarrassing name for the party? Or at least make it as low-key as possible. With only their closest friends—
Before any plans could be created or any objections voiced, a rather large yawn escaped from the pink mouth. It seemed like all the earlier commotion finally took its toll on Pinkie. Twilight felt a tiny sting in her heart – she did not want to part with her companion just yet, but keeping the tired mare awake, just for her own selfish whim, seemed very wrong.
“Twilight, can I sleep here? Pretty pleeease.” Blue eyes stared at her pleadingly. It was almost as if she'd read Twilight's thoughts.
“Of course you can!” She beamed with happiness. “In fact, we can have a slumber party! We'll do makeovers and—” Even though the pink ears perked up at the word party, the body protested sending another loud yawn, which interrupted Twilight's rant.
“Or... I'll just prepare your bed.” She smiled sheepishly.
“But can I sleep here? Like here here?” Pinkie pointed at the spot near the fireplace. “Flamies are so cute when they dance.”
“Ummm... sure. Have a blanket then.” A piece of fabric got enveloped in magic and smoothly glided to the ground. “I'll just be cleaning up this mess.” She pointed at the pile of books on the floor. “Hope the noise won't be a problem?”
“Do you need help with that, Twi?” A hint of guilt showed in her voice.
“That's okay, Pinkie. You just go to sleep. I'll be fine on my own.”
Twilight plastered a nervous smile across her face. It took her many months before she taught Spike her Clever and Unorthodox Diagram for the Distribution of Library Equipment, which brought supreme and perfect order to the book collection. A vision of someone unacquainted with C.U.D.D.L.E. putting books on the shelves – using some makeshift, random method – was very scary. A thought of her chaotic friend being that someone was downright terrifying.
The earth pony wasn't bothered by the refusal. Sure, she stared intensely at her for a couple of seconds, but then she simply smirked and lied down on her sleeping blanket.
“Okie-dokie-lokie. Then say goodnight to booksies for me and tell them I'm sorry I crashed into them.”
A bright, crimson blush covered the unicorn's face, all the way to the tips of her ears.
“You... Why... How did you know I talk to books?”
“You talk to books? Woooow! That is so cool!” Pinkie bounced in joy. “Do they talk back? What do they say? Do you think they like parties? Of course they like parties. I mean who doesn't like parties? Du-uh—”
Twilight covered her face with a hoof, realising what a mistake she made. Now her most embarrassing, most shameful, most scandalous secret was in the hooves of the most talkative mare in all of Ponyville. And while she could somehow stand the inevitable snickers, she was Celestia's pupil and had a reputation to uphold. One way or another she needed to get her friend to Pinkie-promise her, that she'll stay quiet about it. Maybe a few cupcakes would help with the convincing? Or a very large muffin? That was something she would worry about next morning. This operation needed a level of subtlety, which she couldn't muster at this hour.
“Go to sleep, Pinkie,” she groaned. Being bombarded with random questions about her peculiar habit, was the last thing she wanted right now.
“Oh right, I'm tired. Thanks for reminding me that.” She grinned and curled up on her blanket. “Nightie night.”
Twilight giggled and started the delicate process of restoring order in this sea of chaos, that once was called a library. The mathematical precision of C.U.D.D.L.E. and mind-numbing repetitiveness of the chore caused her to quickly lose herself in the task.
- - - - - - - - -
A warm and peaceful silence enveloped the room. Of course it wasn't a complete extinction of sounds – that would be simply scary. You could hear the regular breathing of the sleeping pony; shuffling of pages when books, covered in red glow, flew back to their places; a quiet clopping noise of a unicorn moving around the room, and a cracking noise made by flames, slowly consuming their wooden meal.
As the last book found its proper place, Twilight turned her attention to the sleeping mare. She looked so peaceful in her slumber, curled up like a ball of pink fur. So happy, so carefree... It seemed like her worries were long gone, making all the crying and yelling from before seem just like a bad dream.
Even deep in her sleep, Pinkie brought a smile to her face. An adorable display was taking place – one strand of the rosy hair kept wriggling, almost as if it had a will of its own. Whenever Pinkie breathed, this mischievous lock would slide down and attack her nostrils. This would cause a tickling sensation, that in her dream would manifest as – judging from Pinkie's mumbling – gentle licks from a pony made out of plum-flavoured ice-cream. She would of course try to lick back the attacker, sadly to no avail. Before the properly wet justice could be dealt by the combined forces of tongue and saliva, the strand of hair would spring back up, propelled by the exhaled air. The punishment would be avoided and the chase would repeat itself with the next breath.
As she watched the charming mare, Twilight got an idea. It was a small spark at first, a single What-if—, quickly silenced by Nah-that's-not-possible. However, the little concept wouldn't give up and soon it grew into a Maybe—. That Maybe— dominated her mind, deflecting any opposing thoughts until it changed into a This-could-be-interesting. That one was not only an opinion, but a full sentence as well. What could possibly stand in the way of such a strong contestant? What could stop the scientific curiosity? Oh there was one. Something important enough to be voiced as a concern by her inner advisor.
It's unethical to experiment on your friends without their consent, Twilight.
Yeah. Ethics. Always a sketchy subject.
Especially when they're asleep!
Buuuuuuut... Twilight pouted. It's a perfectly safe spell... I think.
Oh yeah? And what would Princess Celestia say to that?
Twilight had to give herself the credit – she did make pretty good arguments. Any other time that would just dismiss the issue. But tonight the perfect protégée of the princess acted without thinking – probably for the first time in her life – and she kinda liked how it felt.
Nag, Nag, Nag. You can complain if I fail, she shushed her inner worry-wart. And before any better argument could be raised, she quickly started casting.
At first she did everything by the book – imagined a proper series of glyphs in her head, gathered arcane energy from within her body and let this force flow through the symbols. A large amount of white light started to gather around her horn, and a teal cocoon enveloped the sleeping mare. Up to this point this was the same spell she cast on Rarity once. But then she added a little something extra. It wasn't a different type of glyph or a larger amount of magical power. She just summoned all the glee and joy that Pinkie always managed to trigger within her, spliced it with a sincere wish to bring the same amount of happiness to the pink pony, and then weaved that thought into a spell. Responding to her emotions, the light started glowing a gentle pink. And once the spell was completed and the illumination ended, a glorious sight appeared before Twilight's eyes.
The two objects stretching from Pinkie's back could only be described as extraordinary. Two perfect arcs were filled with rows upon rows of tiny pink feathers. In their basic shape they resembled pegasus wings – but this was the end of the similarities. Magically created plumes were semi-transparent and coated in a dim, fuchsia glow. They looked like sculptures made out of pink rubies, though that resemblance would vanish every time the sleeping mare moved. Even the tiniest vibration would stir the strings of arcane energy flowing within the wings, making them dance and whirl in a breathtaking show of liquid light.
Yes, yes, yes, yes, yes! Twilight almost squealed in delight.
Sure, that wasn't exactly something she could call a perfect result. These wings were just as impractical as the ones Rarity had, and that should make her a little bit sad, right? After all, she hoped for something else entirely when she started researching the spell. Yet there wasn't a speck of regret in her mind. Only the images of overjoyed Pinkie Pie, thanking her for that surprise gift. Maybe even hugging her. Yeah, that would be nice.
Awww, she's going to love this. With these she'll be able to prank Dash effortlessly. She stifled a giggle. And I suspect that Cloudsdale will be flooded with parties for the next few days. Not to mention–
All the exhaustion suddenly hit her. First she had a long study session, then an emotional roller-coaster, and now she had cast a very magic-draining spell. That was more than enough for one night. It was time to cuddle in her cosy bed for some well-deserved rest. She was going to climb to her room upstairs, but her half-conscious mind decided otherwise.
Oh these wings are so tempting. They look so big and warm and comfortable and... Fluffy? Or silky? I can't tell without conducting a little experiment, right? And I simply love experiments, she thought as she snuggled beside her friend, tucking under one of her magical wings.
She could hear Pinkie's heartbeat right next to her, along with a regular sound of her breath and her occasional mumbling. It felt so tranquil and serene like this was the safest place in Equestria. Twilight's body relaxed and her head slowly dropped down to her forelegs.
She dozed off into an intriguing yet delightful dream. It was a vivid fantasy about a pack of huge, pony-sized books. Pink, fluffy tomes that were dancing and jumping giddily. And throwing a special party just for her.
“Oh you naughty, naughty book,” she mumbled in her sleep, as her smile got brighter and brighter.
Author's notes: Yay, it's edited! I wanted to give really big thanks to Chocolate Milk for having patience to sit through this fic and point out all the mistakes (yeah, if it's less jarring than before it's thanks to him).
And I would also like to thank any of you who pointed out some mistakes in comments below or through PM. As you can see many of your advices have been heard, even if at first I was reluctant to listen.