The remaining weeks ticked by painfully as Twilight implemented her plan of inaction. The only bright silver lining was that she at least had a project again. Whenever she awoke from a particularly powerful Rainbow Dash related dream, or felt she might not make it through the rest of the day, she threw herself into working on the talisman. Storing multiple charges of a spell on an object wasn't the easiest of magical tasks, and a lesser unicorn might have needed a full week or two to work on it. However, given her natural talents and the energy with which she was throwing herself at the task, Twilight had finished the basic enchantment within a couple days.
Still, she needed a focus for her nervous energy. She quickly set about designing all manner of improvements. First she improved the capacity, allowing the pendant to store up to forty charges of the cloud walking spell. Next she had added some basic safety features. If a charge was about to wear off, a quick altimeter spell would activate and trigger the next charge if the wearer was still in the air. Finally, she had layered on some extra charms to the pendant itself, giving it extra durability, resistance to tarnishing and rust, and even the ability to glow in the dark, for no other reason than she could.
Packing all that magical energy into such a small object, intricately weaving the different spells to work together in the most efficient manner, it had been fun and challenging. She beamed with pride when she finally met with Dash for the clandestine drop off. She had done her best not to brag as she mentioned all the extra features she had added. The praise Dash had lavished upon her, including calling her the Rainbow Dash of magic, had left her in a pleasantly giddy state all the way back to the library. Then she remembered what her creation was going to be used for, and had to go draw a steaming hot bath.
Now it was Hearth's Warming Eve. Twilight walked through the door of the town hall, into the small party taking place. None of her friends were here. Pinkie was off visiting relatives on the rock farm, or whatever strange place she was claiming as her origin recently, and promised she would make up for the lack of a proper party when she got back. Rarity had been asked by Fancy Pants himself to come by and design custom ensembles for several of Canterlot's social elite who would be attending a fancy, high class party of their own. Rainbow Dash and Applejack were no doubt out there somewhere in the night sky putting her gift to use. She had no idea where Fluttershy was.
Twilight grabbed some free food and punch and made a quick pass over the room. There didn't seem to be any conversations she was interested in joining, and even though Vinyl Scratch was always on top of her game, she just didn't feel much like dancing. After five more minutes of staring out over the crowd, she finally gave up, grabbed a few more bites to eat and one more cup of punch, and left.
Stepping outside into the cold moonlight, she decided that she wasn't quite ready to go home yet. It was cold, but still. Without any wind, it was actually fairly pleasant. Great weather to go for a walk. As she headed off in no direction in particular, she became fixated on the vapor her breath formed in the chill night air. Soon she was breathing out small clouds and using her magic to sculpt them into various shapes. Small hearts floated about her head before dissipating.
I bet the clouds look beautiful from above in this moonlight. She thought to herself as a small pegasus shaped cloud of breath disintegrated before her. She gave a long sigh, not bothering to sculpt the resulting vapor. Was this what her nights were going to be from now on?
There was a sudden rustling in the bushes up ahead. Twilight braced herself, horn at the ready. It was probably just a cat or something, but it never hurt to be careful. To her surprise, out of the bush hopped a butter yellow pegasus with a bubblegum pink mane.
"Fluttershy? What are you doing out here?"
"Oh! Twilight. I didn't see you there. I'm sorry if I startled you. I was just, um, checking in on the critters to make sure their hibernation is going well."
"And you're doing this now, in the middle of the night, instead of going to the party back there?"
Fluttershy shrunk back a bit, attempting to hide behind her mane. "Well, I don't really like parties too much. They're just so...loud. And there's all those other ponies there. I only really go to Pinkie's parties because you girls are there. I'd much rather be out here checking on the animals."
"Well you're certainly not missing much at that party anyway. Good luck with your inspection." Twilight turned to go.
"Wait!" Twilight paused for a second at the shout, which brought Fluttershy's voice up to almost normal levels of conversational volume. "I was wondering...since you're not doing anything...since it gets really dark and scary and lonely out here....I mean if you want to..."
"Sure I'll walk with you. It's no problem." She was bored anyway, and not quite ready to turn in for the night.
The two ponies walked together through the night. Fluttershy looked much calmer now that she no longer had to wander through the darkness on her own. The shy pegasus began to talk about the specific needs of all the little animals as they visited bushes, dens, and trees, and she stuck her head inside to check on the peacefully sleeping occupants. Twilight listened politely, her attention fading only once or twice when she thought she had seen the shadow of two ponies move across the moon. It was probably just her mind playing tricks on her.
They finished up their rounds and started heading back to Fluttershy's cottage. The night was really starting to get cold. They had unconsciously started walking closer together, and Twilight could feel Fluttershy shivering next to her. It seemed to be affecting the pegasus much more. Whereas Twilight could feel her own cheeks starting to turn red from the cold, Fluttershy's were bright and rosy. Removing her own scarf, she levitated it over and tied it around Fluttershy's exposed neck. For a second, it looked like the yellow mare's cheeks flashed brighter before she mumbled out a quiet thank you.
After dropping Fluttershy off at her cottage, Twilight turned and went back to the library. Finally ready for bed, she silently crawled upstairs, careful not to wake Spike, and climbed into her welcoming covers. She hoped Dash was enjoying herself and had a wonderful Hearth's Warming.
Twilight fell into a steady holding pattern over the next few months. It was often painful, and she frequently had to fall back on boiling her brains out. The worst parts were the dreams that struck without warning. Sometimes they were tragic. Dash was missing, lost, or in some kind of terrible danger and she tried and failed to help.
What was worse were the happy ones. Scenarios of the two together and happy played in her mind before being abruptly cut off. Sometimes she would have a moment of clarity right before waking up, realize that everything was going to disappear, and hold onto dream Dash as tight as she could as the world went white. The worst part of all was that even though she always woke in tears, she found herself wishing it would happen again every night as she went to sleep.
She would describe it as unbearable if not for the fact that she did in fact bear through it out of necessity. Over time, it just became the normal state of affairs. She endured it as if it was an old injury or medical condition. Just something she lived with. Life continued until Hearts and Hooves day arrived.
It had been a very long day. Twilight's organizational skills had made the mayor call upon her to setup and organize a kind of carnival event at the town square for all the couples in town. There were games and contests for couples to compete in, and a large after party. Not only had she had to suffer through all the happy lovestruck ponies, Dash and Applejack had dominated most of the events and won the title of "Ponyville's Best Couple". And since the mayor couldn't be bothered to do anything herself, the official event organizer had to present them with their trophy. Twilight was ready to make an early night of it when a knock sounded at her door. She opened it to find a nervous looking (more than usual) Fluttershy.
"H-hi Twilight. C-c-can I come in and talk for a minute?" Fluttershy managed to stammer out, looking as though she might fly off any moment.
Twilight gave a quick nod and a "sure" before stepping aside and letting Fluttershy in. The timid pegasus walked in as though she were entering a cave full of dragons. She took a seat on the couch and took a few deep breaths before trying to continue.
"I was wondering if...that is if you don't mind....I really..." Fluttershy gave a small squeak and mumbled something inaudible under her breath, eyes hidden behind long strands of her mane.
"Don't worry Fluttershy, you can tell me whatever it is." Twilight did her best to reassure the frightened mare. Maybe she needed help with something important but was just afraid to ask.
Fluttershy took a deep breath and paused.
"IreallyreallylikeyoualotandhaveforalongtimeandIwaswonderingifyouwouldmaybegooutwithmesometime." Silence hung in the air as Twilight stood there, mouth agape. "Um, if that's okay with you that is." Fluttershy blushed back at her.
The gears of Twilight's mind spun but found no traction. Desperately they tried to analyze what had just happened and create an appropriate response. Instead, only one thought surfaced.