At some point during that long, wonderful afternoon, the little room had transformed. The fading light of the setting sun cast an orange glow through the single small window, and the cold stones of the floor and walls had been warmed by the body heat of the two mares they surrounded. The dusty staleness had been swept out of the air, and the thick, tangy scent of their... togetherness hung heavily in its place. But these things were not what made the room different.
What was now so remarkable about this room was that it would be, forevermore, the place where Twilight Sparkle had first truly given her heart to another pony. Even if that other pony was, technically, herself.
She realized, in this one perfect moment where she watched the fading light of the setting sun reflect in her twin’s lavender eyes, that she had been a fool her entire life. For a unicorn as studious, as supposedly intelligent as herself, it was a particularly shocking revelation. But that didn’t make it any less true.
All of her life, she had missed it. Every crush she’d had, every stallion she’d blushed over, every mare she’d shot surreptitious glances at. It had all been because she’d seen a bit of herself in them.
She’d never been a normal pony. Not once, since that fateful Summer Sun Celebration, had she settled for anything less than perfection. She’d pushed her every limit until it broke, retaken every test until she got a perfect score, studied every spell until its casting was as natural as breathing. It had rarely been easy, but it had always, always been worth it. Perfection wasn’t just what she did. It was who she was.
She’d been a fool to think that romance should be any different. But she knew it now. Her perfect match... was herself.
“Feeling better?” she asked her twin with a gentle smile. The other unicorn nodded, leaning forward, and after a soft nuzzle, Twilight’s mouth was once again filled with warmth and the taste of her lover’s tongue. Her lover! It made her heart flutter to just think it. It was a brief kiss, but it was warm, and deep, and every moment of it sent a thrill through Twilight that was like nothing she’d ever felt before today.
“Much better,” the other unicorn answered after they separated. “Do you think it’s safe to go outside yet? The rocs should be bedded down by now.”
Twilight considered it for a moment, then nodded. “As long as we’re quiet. They might not be asleep yet.”
“We could always stay here a little longer...” They both giggled at that. Then, by unspoken agreement, they separated and stood.
“Yeah, as much... fun as that would be, best to get out of the forest while there’s still light. And nothing says we can’t pick back up where we left off once we get home.” She gave her twin a coy glance, which prompted another round of giggles.
“Except that our friends will probably be there waiting for us,” her twin said with a sigh.
Twilight’s ears flicked back. “Oh. Right. That.”
“We could stay here overnight. They’d probably have gone home by tomorrow.”
Twilight shook her head. “By tomorrow they’ll have sent out search parties. Anyway, we’ll run out of food. We didn’t pack a breakfast. And I--we--get really cranky if we don’t get breakfast.”
“Well, what if we go back to Ponyville, but hide outside the library until they leave?”
“Might work. But they’ll probably leave somepony there in case we try it.”
“How about a diversion? One of us could lead them away while the other gets into the library and locks all the doors and windows, then the diversion could teleport back in and--”
“Or ya’ll could try just talkin’ to us about it,” a familiar voice interrupted them. Both unicorns froze and turned toward the window, which darkened as their orange friend peered in at them. “Are you two stuck in there or somethin’? We were gettin’ worried you weren’t comin’ back.”
“Yes, well uh you see, we--” Twilight began, but was interrupted by a thump and an exclamation of surprise from Applejack. A yellow face replaced the orange one in the window.
“Ohmygosh, Twilight, are you okay? Are you hurt? Oh, we were so worried about you! Don’t worry, we’ll get you out!” There was the scraping sound of hooves digging against stone as Fluttershy immediately made good on the promise.
“We’re fine, Fluttershy,” Twilight reassured her friend quickly. “And we can get out. The door works fine.” The scraping paused, and Fluttershy eyed them uncertainly, concern painted across her features.
“Are you sure? You’re not hurt? Either of you?” the pegasus asked. “Oh, well... that’s... that’s good then...” The room brightened as she backed away from the window. “I’ll just be... out here... sorry...” Her voice trailed off into an embarrassed silence. Twilight glanced at her twin, and they shared a look that communicated as clearly as any words. It was too late to run now.
“We’ll be right out. You two stay there, and stay quiet. There are rocs nesting in these ruins, and we don’t want to attract their attention.” A soft squeak from Fluttershy acknowledged the instruction, and Twilight slid open the iron door’s deadbolt and pulled it open.
Twilight stared self-consciously at the ground as they trotted along the path out of the ruins. Applejack walked on one side of the pair of unicorns, and Fluttershy on the other. Rather like guards, she thought to herself glumly. A flash of color in the corner of her eye told her that Rainbow Dash had joined their little party.
“They’re on their way back,” the pegasus announced. Even her normally-brash demeanor was muted, although whether it was by the mood or the encroaching darkness of nightfall, Twilight couldn’t be sure. “Pinkie got distracted trying to harvest a patch of poison joke.”
Applejack probably nodded in answer, because the conversation ended with that. Twilight kept her gaze firmly on the ground in front of her, her thoughts closing in on her again in the silence. Soon, two more sets of hoofbeats joined the group’s.
Her friends would understand, she tried to assure herself. They’d stuck with her through her worst times, cheered her on during her best, and even stood beside her against a god of chaos. And they obviously didn’t have any problem with romance between mares, by the way they always joked about it. And aside from that, this wasn’t really that different than any other romance. Was it?
Of course, there was also the spell itself. She had only half gone to their party, which didn’t seem fair to them at all. And hiding the whole thing from them like that, surely they’d be angry at her for that. She glanced over at her twin, who she found had been looking in her direction. Their eyes met briefly, then they cast their gazes back downward, embarrassed. Accepting or not, she decided, this was going to be all sorts of awkward to explain.
The gloom began to lift as they approached the forest’s edge. Luna’s nearly full moon was just starting to peek over the horizon, and as its light chased away the darkness of the Everfree, the atmosphere between the seven ponies lightened as well. Applejack was the first to speak.
“Alright, Twi,” the orange mare said. “I ain’t doubtin’ Spike’s word or anythin’, but I really gotta hear this one from the horse’s mouth. So let me get this straight.” Twilight wilted under the sudden scrutiny of all five of her friends. “You wanted to be able to hang out with us without givin’ up on what you wanted to do either. Fair enough. But rather than askin’ us to move the party, which we were havin’ for you in the first place, you stayed up all night inventin’ a brand new spell.”
Twilight blushed and kept her eyes trained strictly on the ground. “...yeah.”
“A spell that’s never been seen before, never been tested, and there ain’t anythin’ like it in any of yer books,” Applejack continued.
“...yeah.” The dirt under Twilight’s hooves had quickly become the most interesting thing in Equestria.
“A spell that’d probably have killed you if you so much as sneezed wrong while you were castin’ it.”
“...well... yeah...” It really was absolutely fascinating soil. It was probably excellent for... soil things.
“And, without even stoppin’ to catch up on sleep first, you cast it.”
Twilight didn’t deny it, instead opting to remain silent, but her ears flattened back against her head in shame.
“And it worked perfectly.”
“Well, I did triple-check all my calculations,” Twilight mumbled defensively. “Twice.”
They trotted along in silence for a minute, then Applejack chuckled wryly. “Yep. That’s our Twilight.”
Twilight looked up sharply. Instead of the expected anger, all she saw was a slightly weary warmth in the expression of the earth pony beside her. “You’re... not mad,” she stated hesitantly, testing out the words.
“Nah, Twi. We ain’t mad. We’re just glad we found you before you got yerself into too much trouble out here. Ain’t that right, girls?”
There was a chorus of agreement from the others, with one exception. Fluttershy was trotting along in silence, a pensive expression on her face.
“Ain’t that right, Fluttershy?” Applejack prompted again.
The yellow pegasus squeaked guiltily, as if she’d been caught eavesdropping. “Y-yes definitely!” she said quickly. “Um. Twilight?”
“Hmm?” Both unicorns answered.
“Well, it’s just... would that... could you do that with other ponies, too?”
Her twin answered first. “Well, yes. Certain ponies, at least. It takes an awful lot of energy out of the pony it’s cast on, because it all gets split in half when the spell takes effect. But assuming they had enough magical energy for two, so they didn’t just, y’know, die in the process, then yes.”
“...oh.” That seemed to end that line of inquiry, as far as Fluttershy was concerned.
“Not to mention it takes a lot of energy out of the caster,” Twilight added. “Creating matter isn’t cheap, you know. We’d have to be strong enough to actually cast it again. Which we aren’t. Not without a solid week of hearty meals and bed rest.” Or canceling her own spell, she thought to herself. But there wasn’t a chance in Tartarus of that happening now.
“Well that’s a shame,” Applejack said with a chuckle. “Applebuck season’s comin’ up, and Ah could use another good set of buckin’ legs around the farm.”
“And I could totally use a training partner,” Rainbow Dash put in. “We could do a double sonic rainboom. Bam! That would be awesome, wouldn’t that be awesome, Twi?”
“If by ‘awesome’, you mean ‘mass destruction’,” Twilight said dubiously. Rainbow Dash looked undeterred.
“It would be nice to always have a model on hoof when I’m designing,” Rarity said thoughtfully. “And somepony to bounce ideas off of.”
“No.” Twilight was unsurprised to notice that five other voices had joined hers in unanimous denial. “No, Pinkie,” she continued, “We will not cast that spell on you. Not. Ever.”
The group was silent for a moment while Pinkie pouted. As they neared their destination, which had apparently been Twilight’s library, Applejack spoke again.
“Yeah, Applejack?” both answered, then a glance from her twin told Twilight to continue.
“When we were out workin’ on yer tree, you asked me about... lovin’ yerself...”
Twilight’s heart sank. “...yeah?” she answered warily.
“You an’... yerself... ya’ll ain’t...”
Twilight froze, and the group came to a halt, all eyes on the two purple unicorns.
“You aren’t!” Dash exclaimed. “Seriously?!”
Twilight cast a glance at her twin, who blushed, but stepped closer to her, until their sides pressed together. Taking strength in her closeness, and the touch, Twilight swallowed and nodded, bracing herself for her friends to berate her, to tell her it was wrong, to just turn around and leave without saying a word, to...
None of their expressions were angry. Fluttershy was blushing slightly, but smiling. Rarity’s eyes were widened with what, if Twilight hadn’t known better, she might have thought was delight. Applejack had that same wry half-smile again. Rainbow Dash was failing to suppress a growing grin, and Pinkie wasn’t even trying to hide hers. Pinkie, predictably, was the one to break the silence.
“I’ll get the party supplies!”
Somehow, that was worse.