A Bluebird's Song

by Ardensfax

This Longest Night

A Bluebird’s Song

What did she say?
I know the pain of too much tenderness
Wondering when, or if you’ll come back again
Wanting to live for you, and being banned from giving
But only love will turn you round

This Longest Night

“It wasn’t your fault.”

The warm flow of water ran in rivulets down her body, the steam and soothing words relieving the pain that still burned in a dozen places. Twilight sat beside her in their suite’s spacious shower, gently sponging the dried blood from Dash’s coat. She had wanted to try to clean herself up, but after all but collapsing once she had arrived back at the room, Twilight would not hear of it. The painful flight back to Cloudsdale had taken it out of her, and the mental shock combined with her physical injuries were taking their toll.

“I just keep seeing his face, Twi’. He had a kid; he had a life.”

Twilight continued gently dabbing at the crescent-shaped cut where Quintus’s hoof had slammed into her side. Dash winced at the stinging sensation, but did nothing to stop her. “You didn’t take those things away from him,” Twilight replied, kindly. “Sunset already took them a long time ago. You didn’t have a choice, and neither did he.”

Dash’s eyes had drifted closed under the pleasant thrumming sensation of the water on her back, but they snapped open again at the sudden sharpness as the sponge in Twilight’s careful hoof wiped away the last patch of dried blood from her cyan fur.

The first thing she saw was Twilight’s face, her mane falling around her in watery waves, her eyes deep indigo pools, gazing at Dash with love and concern. It was an oasis of peace, a perfect contrast to the cold, cynical side of the world that had tried that day to hunt her down. In that moment, she was the most beautiful thing that Dash had ever seen.

Acting on impulse, not caring about the sting of the bruises that peppered her body, Dash pulled the unicorn into a close embrace. Their soaking coats seemed to melt together under the warm flow of the water, and they both shivered slightly. Dash realized that she was crying, silently, the tears flowing and immediately losing themselves in the water on her cheek.

They lay like that for several minutes, letting the water pound down upon them. Dash held Twilight tight the whole time, neither of them moving or speaking, keeping herself close to the unicorn’s comforting warmth. This form of silent, still intimacy was strange; an oddly cathartic experience. Dash felt as if she had broken herself down, piece by piece, melting beneath the steamy jets, laying herself bare so that her lover could build her up again, making her whole. Making her better, just as she always did.

She knew that she could expose her deepest fears, her darkest moments to Twilight, and she would not scorn her or turn away. The knowledge that she held that kind of trust was, to her, infinitely deeper and more profound than even the closest of physical intimacies they had shared together.

“I could stay like this forever,” murmured Twilight.

Dash smiled, her eyes half-closed, nuzzling into the unicorn’s neck. “I know what you mean.” Her words were muffled, and she heard Twilight giggle lightly at the tickling sensation against her throat.

Something was wrong, though. Something was nagging at her, and it would not let her rest easy. Suddenly, it hit her, and her eyes widened in horror. “Twilight!” She scrambled to her feet, shutting off the jet of the slower with a fumbling hoof. Her body hurt in a dozen places, and her bruised ribs complained, but she ignored them. The unicorn looked shocked at the sudden burst of motion, staring up at her from her still-prone posture. “We need to tell the Princess what’s happened! When they find Quintus they’ll trace it back to me. They’re gonna come here. They might take you in too!”

In the state of near-delirium in which she had landed at the hotel, Dash had not even thought of the danger she was in. She would be, to all intents and purposes, a murder suspect. She had no doubt that Celestia would believe her side of the story, or might even suspect that such a scenario had arisen herself, but the guards would doubtless see things differently. Regardless of what conclusions were reached, if she were taken into custody she would miss the record attempt the next day.

Twilight stood, surprisingly calm, and placed a soothing hoof on Dash’s dripping mane. “It’s okay, Rainbow. I’ve thought about this already.”

Dash turned to look at her, eyes still fearful. “Huh?”

“Quintus didn’t recognize you, right?”

Dash shook her head. “I don’t think so. Neither did the one who brought me up through the city. But the ones on the door to the dungeons did, and when news gets around that they’re looking for a blue pegasus, I’m the first one they’ll point a hoof at.”

“Exactly.” Twilight nodded. “But think about it, you’re an Element of Harmony and they know it. No matter what you’re suspected of doing, they’ll check with the Princess before looking for you themselves.”

Dash turned away, looking around the room for some writing paper. “Well then, we need to contact her, we need to do it now!”

“We don’t have Spike,” Twilight reminded her. “We’ll have to use ordinary Canterlot mail.”

Dash relaxed a little as she realized what Twilight meant. Canterlot mail was how mail got in and out of the unicorn city, with offices in all major Equestrian towns. Every night, at eight o’clock, the day’s mail was magically sent to and from the central office in Canterlot. It did not matter when they wrote the letter of explanation, it would arrive at eight that evening, regardless.

Then, Dash eyes narrowed in determination. “No, sorry. It’s not good enough. The Princess’s been a good friend to all of us, and I don’t let my friends down. She’s gonna want an explanation for this mess, and I’ve got to give her one. I’ve got to go back.”

Twilight stepped in front of her, and spoke sternly. “You’re not flying all the way back to Canterlot. The whole point of this is so you don’t miss the attempt tomorrow! Besides, you’ll never make the flight, not in this state.” She sighed. “I’m not sure how much you remember, but you had a cracked rib from that kick when you landed here. I put a basic mending spell on it, but I’m no healer. It’s going to take hours to work. It should hold for tomorrow, but all you’ll do if you try to fly is re-break it. Even without wing motion, flying at those speeds is still very strenuous.”

Dash blinked, remembering back to her half-landing, half-crash outside the hotel doors. All that came to mind was a disjointed jumble of faces and voices, Fluttershy squeaking in panic, Applejack’s voice husky and a little tear-choked at the sight of her, as she demanded of Twilight what had happened, in a manner that was almost accusatory as they helped her into the lobby. She seemed to recall a horn flaring, and Twilight’s eyes, fearful, but narrowed with concentration as she inspected the extent of Dash’s injuries.

Dash gritted her teeth, coming to a decision, but knowing that this went strongly against all of the things that she stood for. “Fine, I’ll stay put,” she grunted. “Besides, I’d just get picked up by the guards before I got within a mile of the Princess, anyway.”

Twilight gave a sigh of relief. “Thankyou, Rainbow,” she murmured. “I know you’re not happy with this, but Princess Celestia can put two and two together. I bet she’ll realize what’s happened. She knew that one of the guards was a traitor; I’m sure she can make the connection.”

“I hope so.” Dash nodded, sending a few loose drips of water onto the tiled bathroom floor. She still felt a little unreal, almost as if a small part of her had been hollowed out. “I just want this all to be over.”

Twilight nuzzled her damp neck, reassuringly. “Tomorrow. Tomorrow it’ll all be over. We can go home, and forget about Sunset. You can tie up whatever loose ends you need with your family.” She smiled at Dash. “I sent my paper on pegasus Flight Theory to the University of Canterlot yesterday, and another copy to the journal Equestria Scientific.”

Dash allowed herself a small smile. “So, we’ve won?”

Twilight sighed. “I hope so. I’m not going to say anything until you’re safe with your record, I don’t want to tempt fate. But I hope so.”

“That’s good enough for me,” Dash replied softly. She shook her head, her eyes suddenly contemplative. “It’s funny, really. I’ve always lived life so fast. Now it doesn’t seem to matter so much. I’ve made something of my life, I can see that now. But it just seems so much more important that I’m sharing that life with you.” She paused for a moment, making certain as she always did that her words were sincere. In her mind, they rang just as true as they always did. “I love you, Twilight.”

She lived for the way Twilight’s eyes lit up when she spoke those words, it sparked a sensation in her chest that she could not begin to describe. The unicorn moved up close to whisper in Dash’s ear. “I love you too, Rainbow.” She planted a light kiss on the ear’s tip as she finished speaking, and Dash felt herself shiver gently at the pleasant sensation, spreading her wings to wrap them closely around Twilight. Their bodies were still damp from the shower, and it lent a strange electric quality to the contact between them.

“I guess everything’s out in the open now, huh?” Dash asked, her voice low and contented.

“What do you mean?”

“We need to tell the others. About Sunset, about everything that’s been going on these last few weeks. They can’t be keeping eyes on us anymore, so we won’t be putting them in danger. Besides, they saw me arrive in this state, and they’re gonna want answers.”

Twilight nodded. “They deserve to know. They deserved to know right from the start, I just didn’t want to put them in harm’s way.”

Dash chuckled, quietly. “If I know Fluttershy, Rarity’ll probably already know… I guess we’d better not keep them waiting.”

“One more minute,” murmured Twilight, not wanting to leave the warm enclosure of Dash’s wings, and entwining her neck gently around her lover’s.

Dash smiled to herself, feeling her eyes drift gently closed as Twilight began trailing heated, lingering kisses down the smooth curve of her neck. On reflection, she was more than happy to wait.


Rarity was lying on her back, staring up at the ceiling of her room. Her artist’s eye was drawn to the chandelier, and she distracted herself for a few moments, looking over its layered, crystalline cascade. Despite the luxuriant accommodation and beautiful views across the cityscape afforded by her window, she could not find relaxation. She and her four friends had rushed outside when they saw Dash’s hard landing outside the hotel. She had stood fearfully by as Twilight inspected the pegasus. It was not her friend’s physical injuries that frightened her. It was largely exertion; Dash had been through worse in the past, and recovered easily. It had been the look in her eyes, in-between the semi-conscious flickers of her eyelids, a haunted expression undisguised on her face.

Thinking back to what Fluttershy had told her about Sunset, Rarity was willing to bet that these injuries had been no simple accident. Where had Dash been? What had she tried to do? Twilight had had no time to give an explanation, although one would doubtless come in time. This sudden transition from peace to a state of fear disquieted her. Sunset were not predictable, they could strike at any time with no warning or explanation. They were imprisoned, brought to their knees, and in a way it made them deadlier. Their motives had shifted from survival to revenge, striking out in a last flare of anger like a dying beast.

At that moment, there was a gentle knock at the door. Shaking herself from her nervous reverie, Rarity clambered ill-coordinatedly from the expansive bed, and went to get the door. To her surprise, it was Fluttershy, who smiled at her friend’s appearance. “Hey Rarity,” she said, her voice a little more confident than usual.

“Hello Fluttershy,” Rarity replied warmly, hoping that company would take her mind off the cycles of ever-darker conjecture that it was currently trapped in. “Do come in, make yourself comfortable.” She laughed, realizing her tone of voice. “Sorry, I sound so formal. Whenever I’m distracted, I just revert to shopkeeper mode.”

Fluttershy giggled too, although there was something in her eyes that indicated she was troubled. She trotted into the room, looking around at the pearl-grey décor. “I’d just met Applejack and Pinkie in the lobby. None of us had wanted to stay cooped up in our rooms so we’d all decided to get a bit of fresh air.” She sighed, almost inaudibly. “We met Twilight and Rainbow there, they’ve just finished getting Rainbow patched up.”

“And?” Rarity leaned forwards eagerly, her eyes wide and nervous, afraid that she had been the only one to miss an important development.

“They told us what… what had happened. All of it.” Fluttershy winced slightly at the memory. “You and I already know most of it, but it was news to Applejack and Pinkie.”

“How did they take it?” Rarity asked.

“I think they’d guessed something was up pretty much from the start, but they hadn’t expected anything like what’s been going on. They did understand why Dash and Twilight wanted to keep it quiet until now. I expect the two of them are discussing it now. Even Pinkie took it seriously.”

“Did they tell you what happened to Dash earlier? Where she went?”

Fluttershy nodded, her eyes downcast.

“Sunset?” Rarity guessed, grimly.

“I’m afraid so,” Fluttershy said quietly. “I just hope it’s the last we see of them, after what they’ve done.” Her eyes narrowed, and a cold tang of venom entered her voice. “They’re losing their lifelines fast. Today they might have lost their last, which means they’re all either locked up or dead. Those are the best places for them.”

Rarity looked at her friend in surprise, and there was a spark of some other emotion in the back of her mind. It was strange, really. There was a surprising passion in the canary pegasus. More than that, there was a deeply buried streak of schadenfreude, almost cruelty, hidden within her personality. Rarity knew it was wrong, almost perverse of her, but she could not help but feel a powerful surge of attraction towards Fluttershy when the darker side of her bubbled forth.

She loved Fluttershy above all for her kindness, and for her effortless grace and beauty. However, and she loathed to admit it to herself, a part of her wanted to feel the quiet mare’s anger; wanted to feel her teeth.

Rarity realized that she was blushing, and chided herself mentally. The matter at hand was deadly serious, and her strange half-acknowledged desires could wait until later. “So,” she struggled to keep her voice steady. “What happened?”

Fluttershy closed the suite’s door behind her, and perched on the edge of the bed. She sighed. “It’s a long story…”


Twilight and Dash sat at a low-standing drinks table together in the hotel bar. The evening was starting to wear on, and the streets of Cloudsdale were slowly draining of ponies. They had wanted to give the other four a chance to discuss what they had heard in more detail and privacy, and so had relocated down here. The band was playing on their dais across the room, a gentle ambient medley of minor-key jazz, and the wooden dance-floor before them already held a few early couples, taking advantage of the lack of crowds before the night drew onwards.

Twilight was reading over her letter to the Princess, one last time. She realized of course that a mere letter could not explain or excuse what had happened earlier that day, but it was the best they could do. She knew perfectly well that there would be a full investigation, she merely hoped that this could be put off until after Dash’s record attempt. She had trained and fought so hard for this, it would be hideously unfair to be denied her chance at the last moment in this way.

Dear Princess Celestia,

In the absence of Spike, I am resorting to the ordinary mail service in order to deliver this.
As you are no doubt aware, a guard by the name of Sergeant Quintus is missing.
You told us recently that one of the prison guards was likely a traitor,
and I regret to inform you that it was him.
As expected, Rainbow Dash went to visit her sister in jail earlier today,
and Sergeant Quintus, recently relieved of dungeon duty, offered to accompany her.
On the steps to the dungeons, Quintus made an attempt on Rainbow Dash’s life,
believing her to be an assassin sent to kill Cloudshine.

As best we can tell, he was coerced by Sunset into protecting them from revenge attacks,
and was also blackmailed into murdering Dusk Tempest.
Dash was forced to defend herself, and in the struggle, Quintus fell from the steps to his death.
She did subsequently go through with her meeting with Cloudshine, and then returned to me.
We are both currently at the Hotel Zephyr in Cloudsdale, and are both safe.

We are deeply sorry that Dash fled Canterlot, but she was injured in the fight with Quintus,
and under heavy psychological stress.
She needed me, and if she had stayed in Canterlot she would have been detained by the guards,
and doubtless would have missed her record attempt tomorrow, which is extremely important to her.

I am aware that it is utterly inadequate to attempt to resolve this with a letter,
but please understand that Dash acted out of self-defence.
She returned to me because she needed my help

I hope we can offer you a more thorough explanation when we see you tomorrow.

Your faithful student,
Twilight Sparkle.

Twilight passed the missive to Dash, rolling it up and flicking it through the smoky air with a flare of her horn. “Is that okay?”

The pegasus took the scroll, and read it briefly. She sighed. “It’s fine. I just feel like I should be there to tell her personally, ya know?”

Twilight nodded. “I know what you mean, but we don’t have any choice. It’s one of those times where there’s no good solution.”

Dash yawned, quietly. “Okay, I’ve decided I’m not gonna think about it again tonight. It’s just gonna do my head in otherwise.”

“Good thing the attempt’s tomorrow.” Twilight smiled as a thought occurred to her, eyeing the half-drunk glasses of orange and soda on the table in front of them. “You’d probably be hitting the drinks pretty hard right now, otherwise.”

Dash shook her head. “I don’t drink. Never have.”

Twilight raised an eyebrow, surprised. “Really?”

“Yeah.” Dash looked around at the bar, relaxing back on the leather sofa she was sharing with the unicorn. “I dunno, it never felt right. Besides, look at my Dad. Gettin’ to be an alcoholic might run in the family, and I don’t wanna take that risk.”

“Oh.” Twilight was annoyed with herself. She should have realized that drinking would be a touch subject for Dash, and was worried that she had come across as insensitive. Fortunately, the pegasus did not seem to have taken the remark badly. “What do you think of the band?”

Dash paused for a moment, listening to the ambient music. They had changed songs, and now the room was filled with a light, acoustic tune that rose unobtrusively above the buzz of conversation. “Not my usual kind of thing, give me Neighvana any day.” She shrugged. “On the other hoof, can’t deny it suits the place.” She smiled at Twilight. “What kind of music do you go for? I’ve never heard you listen to any.”

“I’ve never really had the time,” admitted Twilight. “I like the stuff Pinkie puts on at her parties, but that’s more for dancing, isn’t it? I wouldn’t listen to it while I was reading.”

Dash laughed, quietly. “You never really learned to dance, did you, Twi’?”

Twilight smirked. “However did you guess?” Her eyes widened a little. “Don’t tell me you did?”

Dash rolled her eyes. “One of the horrors of Flight School. Apparently it’s good for coordination, so they made it compulsory for a couple of terms. That was how I met Gilda, actually.”

“Two unwilling participants?”

“Exactly.” Dash took a swig of her drink. “Shame it went so badly wrong when she showed up. I mean, she was always kinda… possessive. I just never realized how far she’d take it.”

Twilight nodded, leaning back into the sofa. She gestured to Dash’s side, which was still bruised and sore-looking, although the magic was hurrying along the healing process and the injury already looked several days old. “How’re you holding up? Do you think you’ll be alright for tomorrow?”

Dash prodded her side experimentally with a hoof, and winced. “It’s not as bad as it was. It shouldn’t be a problem tomorrow. I had a bit of a practice on the way over to Canterlot, and I think I was breaking fourteen hundred. Can’t be sure, though, there was a crazy headwind part of the way.”

Tomorrow. It’s tomorrow. A cold fist of panic closed suddenly over Twilight’s heart. Celestia’s words echoed in her head. I cannot guarantee it will be safe. Questions spun in the back of her mind, each clamouring for attention and solution, yet each more insoluble than the last. What secrets had Dusk Tempest made himself forget? What secrets had he taken to the grave with him? What if he wanted to prove that what Celestia had done to him made no difference? She hurt him to protect Dash, but what if Dash cannot be protected? Sunset may be in jail, but maybe that’s our mistake.

Dusk never really considered himself a part of Sunset. It was really only ever about him and Celestia.

Twilight looked across at the pegasus she loved so dearly, and had to suppress a horrible lurching sensation in the pit of her stomach.

What if this time tomorrow I’m on my own?

Dash could see the fear shining in Twilight’s eyes, and seemed to realize what she was thinking. She held out a hoof, and Twilight gripped it between both of her own, holding on as if afraid the pegasus would slip away from her. “Twilight?”

The unicorn met her eyes, a little shyly. The music had changed again, slow and haunting, the piano singing out a melancholy aria. “Yes?”

Dash leaned in and brushed the gentlest of kisses against her lips, still holding her hoof tightly. “Can I have this dance?”

Twilight blushed a little, and nodded mutely, getting to her hooves alongside Dash. She felt as if her heart were filling her throat as she walked onto the sparsely populated floor with the pegasus. They rose onto their hind legs; she felt Dash place one hoof on her waist, and mimicked her actions. There’s a first time for everything, she thought to herself, as they began moving with the rhythm of the piece, Dash taking the lead. Please, Celestia, let this not be the last time.

Her movements were slightly uncoordinated, but the timing was there, and she felt that she was, at least, not making a fool of herself. The room was darkly-lit, their hooves scarcely sounding on the springy wooden panels, their shadows dancing in the flickering candlelight. She felt herself loosen up a little as she turned slowly with the pegasus, gazing into the depths of Dash’s magenta eyes. She tried to stop the tears forming, but they welled up anyway, and she saw Dash’s eyes moisten in sympathy. “When we get home, teach me to do this properly,” whispered Twilight.

“I will, Twi’. I will.”

Twilight pulled Dash a little closer. “You’re going to come back,” she murmured, her voice cracking a little. She had not meant to say it, but the words had sprung from her, unbidden. “You’re going to come back.”

The dance became an embrace. They still moved in gentle circles, but held each other close. To Twilight, they were alone with the music. Nothing else mattered but the mare in her forelegs. When the future seemed so uncertain, the present became more precious than anything else in the world.

Not caring that they were in public, or that anypony might be watching, Twilight leaned forwards to pull Dash into a lingering kiss.

And so the evening wore on, both of them living by each minute as it came. For each of them, the other was the only real thing in the world, as they moved, slowly but surely, towards the fall of night.

End of Part Two.