It had been weeks since Starlight began her studies under Twilight, but even after all this time there was still something she didn’t understand. At first she thought it was her amazement at how quickly everything had turned around for her. She remembered wondering if this was all a dream, pondering if this were some kind of a cruel trick, worrying that at any moment everything would fall apart at the seams and their cutie marks would once again tear her friends away. She smiled her biggest smiles, took part in any group function, any price was worth paying to prevent that fate. But despite any mistakes on her part, Twilight’s friends… my friends she reminded herself, seemed genuinely interested in becoming friends with her. She shook her head, no… that’s not it.
It was Twilight. Not her seemingly abrupt forgiveness, but rather a question of how. How had that mare done what nopony else could do? She remembered how dead set on revenge she had been, how determined she was. How in Equestria had any one mare taken all of that frustration and anger and calmed it, like a breeze extinguishing a candle’s flame? She remembered how hard she had to fight in those last moments just to retain what little anger inside of her, how she grasped at straws trying and failing to find a good reason to follow through. Then there was the worried look in Twilight’s eyes, it seemed as though in that final moment the worry that Twilight felt was for her more than Equestria. Maybe that was wishful thinking, but even if it was, why had she wished for that?
“Starlight, we’re home” Twilight called from the front door.
Starlight sprung from under the covers and rushed to greet her new mentor and friend. “Welcome home Princess Twilight! Welcome home to you too Spike!”
Twilight giggled at that. “C’mon Starlight, we’ve been friends for nearly a month now and you’re living in my house. There’s no need for formalities, plus it still feels weird having ponies call me Princess, especially my friends.”
“I’m sorry Prin… Twilight, I just well… anyways how was your trip to Canterlot?” Even though she asked, Starlight couldn’t concentrate on what Twilight was saying. She had more pressing matters to think over. She looked Twilight over from her tail to her eyes and back again, looking for anything she might have missed. In the end her only observations were that Twilight was a beautiful mare and took good care of her mane and coat.
“How does she do it?” Starlight wondered aloud midway through Twilight’s story.
“How does who do what?” Twilight asked, then in a concerned tone “are you okay Starlight?”
“Huh, oh, I mean yeah I’m fine. I probably just need to lie down for a bit. What were you saying again? Something about the Canterlot Library?” Starlight found it difficult to focus. On one hand there was a question in her mind that she felt needed to be addressed, on the other Twilight was her friend and mentor and she felt like she should listen to her. Friendship is hard, how did I even manage with one friend as a filly? thought Starlight.
“But all our friends have said you’ve been in the castle for two days, at first I thought they might be exaggerating but looking at you now, you don’t look so good.” Spike followed up, saying “You look just like Twilight after an all-nighter.” He handed her a mirror. They were right. Her mane and tail were a mess and she hadn’t even showered the last two nights. She was so focused on sorting through her pent up feelings and questions that she forgot.
“I’ll be fine Twilight, I’ll just…” grrrbl her stomach chose this moment to announce that she hadn’t eaten since yesterday morning. Starlight rolled her eyes before saying “I guess I could go for a hayburger.”
The two ponies ordered at the counter and found a booth nearby to wait. Twilight was the first to speak.
“Starlight, is something bothering you?” she asked, again with that worried look.
“I want to tell you Twilight, I just… I don’t even know what it is. That’s what I’ve been trying to figure out it’s just… ugh, I’ve never dealt with anything like this.” She couldn’t lie to Twilight, that’d only make things worse. But she really didn’t understand these new feelings.
“Maybe I can help, tell me about it.” Twilight seemed a bit overeager but from what Starlight had seen of her back when she was trying to find her weakness, this was just how she was with friendship problems. Always wanting to learn something new, striving to become a better pony and friend and improve the lives of others. Maybe this was just what she needed. But for some reason she couldn’t bring herself to let Twilight know that this problem was about her.
Maybe Twilight would feel like she’d wronged her in some way like Moon Dancer and spend the next few days trying to make things up to her. That might actually be kind of nice. Starlight shook her head. No; Twilight is my friend, I can’t take advantage of her like that.
“Okay, recently I’ve been getting these strange feelings around a certain pony. It seems like every time we talk I have these moments where I just get caught up in their eyes, their mane, the feeling of being around them. Even just thinking about them makes me feel… strange, sometimes I just zone out.” Starlight looked back up at her mentor. “So… you’ve heard my story, what do you think it is?”
Twilight was blushing from ear to ear. “Well, you see Starlight I think you’ve…”
“Number 28” called the clerk.
“Oh, that’s us” said Twilight as they trotted up to the counter to get their food. Once seated again, they began to dig in.
“What were you about to say, Twilight?” asked Starlight before taking a long sip of water.
“Oh, that’s easy. You’re in love. Or at least in like.” she said with a broad smile. Starlight nearly choked on her water. Once her coughing fit ended she turned to Twilight and stared blankly for a few moments before excusing herself to go to the restroom.
Starlight made it through the rest of her evening with Twilight, but now she had more questions than before. She’d nearly lost it and crawled out the bathroom window, but then she realized that she was living at Twilight’s castle and even then Twilight still didn’t know which pony she was referring to. When she’d returned, Twilight had tried to get an answer out of her but eventually relented, offering to help if she got up the nerve to ask the pony out.On the way home she got to hear about Twilight’s trip.
She had been visiting with some old friends from Canterlot. Minuette had wanted her to stay another night because Lyra was coming the next day but she decided against it. Starlight wondered if she was part of the reason then shook her head. There was probably some other reason. There was no way she was that important to Twilight.
When they finally got home and said goodnight Starlight breathed a sigh of relief. She was staying on the second floor, mainly because she liked the view of Ponyville it gave her but also to have some space to herself. She looked off into the dark night sky illuminated only by the light of Princess Luna’s moon and stars. After a while she pulled a small white book from her shelf and opened it to her last entry. She pulled out a quill and some ink and began to write.
There are so many things going through my mind right now, it’s hard to figure out what to write. Why do I have to deal with love before I even have a good handle on friendship? It’s no fair. Thinking back, even when Sunburst was around I was never particularly attracted to him. And I was always too shy to talk to anypony else. After I set up my village without cutie marks I guess I just felt like I didn’t need love.
Maybe it’s because I have real friends now. I don’t know. What if I’m wrong about this and what if Twilight isn’t interested? I could ruin our friendship forever. But Twilight said that it’s up to me to make sure that doesn’t happen. I found out how true that was on our trip to my old village, I can fix my friendships even if it may be hard to face up to what I’ve done. Twilight’s probably right too, I mean she knows so much about friendship, why should I doubt her now? And what i~
Her quill and journal tumbled to the floor to join the ink she had set beside her bed as her magic dissipated when she fell asleep.
Starlight found herself in a dark room with Twilight. The purple alicorn faced away from her so she couldn’t see her face. As Starlight approached she heard something. Twilight was crying.
“What’s wrong Twilight?”
Twilight turned and stared at Starlight. “Why didn’t you tell me?” she asked.
“Tell you what?” she responded sheepishly. But all she heard in response was the same question over and over again as if many other ponies were standing behind the walls echoing her sentiment. Then a shadow in the shape of a unicorn came and took Twilight away. Starlight remained, frozen to that spot as the room darkened until it was pitch black. All the while the echo continued until Starlight finally cried out “MAKE IT STOP! MAKE IT STOP! MAKE It stop. Somepony please make it stop.” Within a few moments the echoes faded and she felt hooves wrap around her.
“What is wrong, my little pony?” asked the Princess of the night mimicking her sister in her dealings with Twilight and her friends. In the past she could sometimes get away with telling ponies the problem outright but in the time since her return Celestia had informed her of a more conversational avenue which helped ponies to learn more about themselves.
“Why couldn’t I tell her, she was right there and there was nothing I could do.”
“Calm down” replied Luna in a gentle and even tone.”This is a dream, it is no more real than the fears which fester inside of you. Do you know what drove you to have such a dream?” Luna asked.
Starlight thought for a moment, then hung her head and sighed. There was no use lying to Princess Luna. And she needed somepony to talk to about this. She certainly couldn’t say anything to any of Twilight’s friends, that would only be a burden on them. “I think I’m in love with Twilight Sparkle. I’m afraid of what will happen if I never tell Twilight how I feel about her, but at the same time she’s my first friend since Sunburst. I don’t want to ruin our friendship but I don’t want to lose her to somepony else just because I was too afraid to try.” She paused for a moment then, looking up at Luna “I’m not a good friend, am I?”
Luna looked upon Starlight with as much tenderness as she imagined one would bestow upon their own foal. “This does not make you a bad friend, rather it means that you have a choice you must make. Twilight’s friendship is stronger than you think and even if she cannot accept your feelings, I have no doubt she will not end your friendship, nor your apprenticeship to her. You should have seen her face when she told our… my sister she had an apprentice. She even did that silly bouncing thing she does.”
Starlight giggled at that. She’d seen Twilight do that before. No matter how she imagined it afterwards, she couldn’t help but think of how adorable it was.
“So, do you know anything about romance, Princess Luna? I’m not really sure how I should go about this whole confession thing.” She felt kind of awkward asking another mare for romantic advice. Even her parents had been too busy with work to talk to her about it. Not that she could after she ran away from home.
“I do know quite a few things personally, though those may seem a bit dated. My sister and Cadence jumped at the chance to instruct us… me on some of the ‘romance do’s and don’ts’ of the current day. I could share a little of both with you if you’d like.” Looking at her now, Luna could hardly believe that Starlight had done the things Twilight reported to her sister in her letters.
And so they talked about romance tips among other things. Starlight found herself really warming up to Princess Luna. She was kind and very helpful. Her speech slipped occasionally but even that was somewhat endearing.
“So, have you made your decision?” Luna asked.
“Yes, thank you so much Princess Luna. Can we talk about what happens tomorrow night? I want to tell you how things went.”
“Certainly, though I may be a bit late. You’re not the only pony with nightmares after all. Well, looks like it’s about time you woke up. Maybe Twilight can bring you up to Canterlot sometime when I’m awake.” They both laughed at that.
“Maybe.” Starlight said.
Twilight woke up to the smell of breakfast. It seemed Spike had made pancakes. She was surprised to see Spike asleep in his bed on her way to the dining room. Seems Starlight had done the cooking today. That was odd, Starlight almost never woke up this early.
She decided to let Spike sleep. He worked hard enough and deserved a little extra rest every now and again. As she reached the dining room she was greeted by Starlight wearing an apron.
“Good morning Twilight!”
“Oh good morning Starlight, thank you for making breakfast.” Twilight couldn’t quite put her hoof on it, but there was something different about Starlight today. She looked the mare up and down and it wasn’t long before she noticed that Starlight had done her hair up in pigtails like when she was younger. Not only that, she seemed a lot happier today.
“I like what you’ve done with your mane. What’s the occasion?” Twilight said.
“Oh, well the other day you just said they looked cute on me so I decided to try them out again. I’m glad you like it.” Starlight was practically squealing on the inside.
“And what’s got you in such a good mood?” Twilight always was a curious one.
“Why do you say that?” She replied innocently.
“Well you’re up early, you’re making breakfast for us, you chose today to change your hairstyle. Wait a moment, are you going to confess to that pony today? You seemed so afraid earlier, what changed your mind?”
“I got a little help from a certain mare in my dreams last night.” Twilight couldn’t help but smile at that.
Starlight levitated breakfast to the table and for a long time the two ate in silence. When they finished eating, Starlight spoke up. “Hey Twilight, you know how you said you’d help me?”
“Of course, what do you need? I could tell you more about what I’ve read or Stallionberg’s triangular theory of love or…”
“No, nothing like that, just come with me.” Starlight cut in. If she’d let Twilight go on much longer about pony psychology she’d never hear the end of it.
“Oh, ok so where are we going?”
“You’ll see” said Starlight in a singsong voice.
“We’re here!” Starlight exclaimed as the two reached the river near the middle of the park. Twilight really enjoyed seeing Starlight in such a good mood.
Twilight looked around, searching for the pony Starlight had told her about. Seeing nopony around, she looked back at her student in confusion.
“Maybe they’re just late.” she said nervously.
“No, she’s already here.” Starlight replied. Twilight looked around again more carefully, expecting them to jump out of a bush or something at any moment. After a few minutes she gave up.
“Is this some kind of prank? There’s nopony else here.”
“Look down at the river.” Twilight did as she asked, seeing only her own reflection.
“Twilight, I’d like to introduce you to Twilight. She’s been right there by my side only these past few weeks yet I feel like we’ve known each other forever. Maybe if we had I wouldn’t have done such awful things. She’s beautiful; not just in appearance, but in her heart and mind. After all that I put her through, she forgave me. She forgave me even when I found it so difficult to forgive myself and helped me reconcile with the ponies I’d hurt for so long.” Starlight was on the verge of tears when she looked up at her mentor. “I… I love you Twilight, and no matter how you feel I won’t accept a future without you in it. You taught me that I’m the only one who can make sure my friendships don’t all end the same way so even if you don’t feel the same way I will never let our friendship end.”
All the while Twilight’s heart felt hot and heavy in her chest. She looked at Starlight with tears beginning to form in her own eyes. She searched for words to express how she felt. Nearly a full minute of fidgeting later, “Wow. I… well, I don’t really know how to respond. It’s so strange. I feel so weird. I still don’t know how to feel and maybe I’m just getting caught up in the moment but if you’re serious about this then I’m willing to give it… to give us a try.”
“That’s okay Twilight, we can still be… wait, was that a yes?” her eyes shot open and her jaw dropped as she looked at the mare. Twilight giggled.
“That was a yes, I still don’t know for sure how I really feel and everything I know about love comes from books and what I’ve heard from other ponies. I figure this may be the best way to find out. And don’t worry, I won’t stop being your friend and I won’t stop teaching you about friendship just because I find out we can’t be together romantically.”
Starlight trotted over and slid her hooves around her neck, burying her head in her coat for a moment before stepping back and looking her in the eyes. “Thank you so much Twilight. To be completely honest I don’t know the first thing about love, I just know how I feel and some of the reasons why I care. I just hope I can become a pony who makes you feel the same way I feel about you. A pony worthy of your love.” It felt so good to finally say these things aloud.
Twilight paused for a moment, as though thinking something over. When she seemed to have made up her mind, she closed the distance between them and planted a kiss on Starlight’s lips. “If that’s what you want I’d say you’re already well on your way.”