• Published 16th Dec 2013
  • 1,474 Views, 81 Comments

Limited - Cynical

It didn't exactly start out as the best day for Twilight Sparkle, and that trend doesn't seem to be improving anytime soon.

  • ...

Chapter 4: St. Petersberg

She was home; in her bed; in her house.

She was home, and she had a headache. She grunted, rolling over in her bed to reach for the water again, drinking deeply from it until it was all-but empty.

She placed it back down on the surface with a contented sigh, noting that the clock was back at 9:30 in the morning.

Spike knocked at the door and she called for him to come in.

“Morning, Twilight,” he greeted, the tray as stacked as ever, “How’re you feeling?”

“Tired,” Twilight replied on automatic, smiling as Spike set the tray in front of her.

“You’ve been sleeping for about half a day, Twilight… How in Equestria are you still tired?”

Twilight shrugged, taking a bite from her toast, “Yesterday was a long day…” she admitted.

“Speaking of which…” Spike began, sitting on the end of her bed and looking at her in worry, “Why wer-“

“Magical backfire from a loss of focus,” she interrupted, pre-empting the usual question and taking another bite from her breakfast, “Mmm… This is really good, Spike.”

“Are magical backfires that painful?” Spike asked, shivering slightly.

Twilight thought back to the previous day when she’d managed to perform a backfire twice, comparing it to the original teleport she did a while ago. “More so…” she finally settled on.

“Wouldn’t want to be in your hooves then,” Spike muttered, hopping of the bed, “Well, call if you need anything; I’ll be downstairs, sorting out the travel section.”

Twilight waved absent-mindedly as Spike left the room, taking a gulp from the drink in front of her while she pondered what to do today. Another glance towards the clock showed her that it was already 9:45 and she bit her lip. It seemed that it wasn’t just the afternoons that seemed to be slipping away now.

Having said that… She was almost certain that she had been planning to do something today… Spike talking about organising the travel section had started something whirring in her brain and she was trying to decipher the meaning… albeit unsuccessfully.

And then, she remembered about the book. “Bother, bother, bother…” she muttered to herself, glancing at the clock again as it ticked over to ten-to.

Abandoning her unfinished breakfast to the side of the bed, she rushed out of her room and shot down the stairs as fast as she could, yelling: “I’ll be back later, I’ll be in Canterlot if you need to get me!” to Spike over her shoulder as she left, slamming the door behind her as she pelted down the street, attracting more than a few curious glances.

“Come on, Twilight,” she muttered to herself, between gasps of breath, still galloping towards the train station. Soon enough, it came up in front of her and she slowed down, breathing heavily as she trotted into the ticket office and the lone mare on duty inside. “Good- morning,” she wheezed, still drawing in vast lungfuls of air.

“Uh…” the mare, a slim, pale-grey pony wearing a conductor’s cap, behind the counter looked around nervously, “Morning, Miss Princess.”

“I need a ticket from here to Canterlot,” Twilight said, her panting now slightly more under control.

“Yes, Princess,” the mare answered quickly, already pressing buttons on a contraption hidden behind the desk before she looked up with the ticket in hoof, “That’s seventeen bits please.”

Twilight stared at her, agog, as she realised the thing that she had forgotten to bring. “Shoot…” she muttered to herself, “I- uh… can I pay you back tomorrow?” she asked hopefully, gesturing to her lack of bits helplessly.

The pony behind the counter bit her lip, trying to decide what to do. On the one hoof, her boss would skin her alive if he knew that she was giving favours; on the other hand, this was princess Sparkle that was asking… she was sure he’d understand. She slid the tickets across the counter and smiled nervously as Twilight took them.

“Thanks!” she called over her shoulder as she dashed onto the platform to see the train, doors open, in front of her. “Talk about timing…” she muttered to herself, taking a moment to flatten her mane from its slicked-back running position before she boarded the train, finding a seat reasonably close to the door.

The journey was unremarkable in itself. She was the only one in the carriage bar for a lone stallion seated near the back, slate-grey and thinning, with a mane of almost-wispy brown hair, and he was sleeping.

She didn’t really notice bar a casual glance though, the rest of the journey was spent with her eyes out of the window, watching the scenery race by as she considered her game plan for the rest of the day.

Obviously her first stop would be the library to search out the book, followed by an hour or two of reading. Then she’d step out into town for a spot of lunch, possibly over at the Wax and Wick – a café she’d become fond of over the years – before she returned to her reading and her analysis.

Nodding to herself, she sat back in the chair and shut her eyes, listening to the growl of the engine and allowing her body to roll with the train. It brought a certain sort of calm to her; the calm of simply letting the world pass her by.

She allowed it to do so until she arrived at Canterlot, whereupon she opened her eyes and stood up, vaguely aware of the other occupant doing likewise as she waited beside the door.

Once they opened, she stepped out into the lukewarm sun and glanced around briefly at the other ponies joining her on the platform, surprised that she recognised one in particular. “Mr Cake?” she shouted across the platform in surprise, seeing him turn his head, along with a few other curious ponies, and wave to her.

“Well, fancy seeing you here, princess Twilight,” Mr Cake offered, smiling as she approached.

“Just Twilight, thanks,” she corrected, joining and following him towards the exit of the station, “What’s brought you here?” she asked curiously, remembering that Mrs Cake had been worrying about him previously.

He looked around shiftily as they presented their tickets to the ponies at the gate. Leaning in to Twilight’s ear, he whispered, “Well… can you keep a secret?”

Raising an eyebrow, Twilight nodded silently, blinking as they emerged into the open air of Canterlot.

“It’s our – my wife’s and my – anniversary tomorrow,” he admitted quietly, “Our tenth,” he continued, a bit of pride injected into his voice.

“Congratulations,” Twilight offered amicably.

“Thank you. That’s why I’m here though… I need to find her a present for tomorrow…”

Twilight raised another eyebrow in further surprise, “Isn’t this cutting it a bit fine?”

“You’re telling me…” he said morosely, “I always kept missing the trains…”

“I’m sure you’ll find something,” she encouraged, and he chuckled.

“Of course; it’s just whether she’ll like it that’s the worry. I’ll see you around, Twilight,” he said, turning left down a street whilst she carried straight on towards the palace, waving over her shoulder.

She spared a glance at the Canterlot church and the clock tower it held, showing that it was 10:30.

“I’d best get to work…” she muttered to herself, setting off towards the palace library at a light jog, offering an amicable greeting to those who offered their own. The gateway to Canterlot castle rose up in front of her and she slowed down for a moment as the two guards on duty briefly glanced her way.

“Morning,” she greeted idly as their eyes widened and they snapped to attention, audibly clanking as their armour caught up with them.

“Princess Sparkle!” one of them – the one on the left – exclaimed, saluting, and then cringing as his head rang from hitting his helmet.

Twilight winced along with him and smiled briefly. “Uh… hello?” she half-asked, looking between the guards quizzically, “Can I help you with anything?”

The other guard looked at her oddly. “That’s our line, your highness,” he corrected, “What can we do for you?”

Twilight looked from one guard to the other again, irritation flashing briefly across her features, “I don’t want anything,” she said allowing the irritation to seep into her voice very slightly, “I just want to go to the library.”

“Do you want us to accompany you, your highness?” the first guard asked, leaning forwards eagerly.

Her brow furrowed slightly, she replied testily, “No, can’t you go back to guarding the gate?” she asked hopefully.

“You want us to guard you from the gate?” the first guard repeated, “Got it.”

The sound of Twilight’s hoof hitting her face was drowned out as the second guard spoke up again, “But why are you afraid of the gate?” A sharp look from the other guard later and he quickly added, “Your highness.”

“I don’t want you to guard me from the gate,” Twilight said through grit teeth, “I want you to go back to guarding the gate.”

“Well why didn’t you say so in the first place?” the second guard asked, “We can do that, easy peasy.”

“Thank you,” Twilight said, relief in her voice.

“Oh, uh,” the first guard started again and Twilight groaned internally, “Why does the gate need guarding, your highness? It’s not going to escape is it?”

Twilight’s eyebrow twitched and she glanced at the other guard only to see the same earnest and worried eyes. “All I want you to do…” she said in a slow and painfully patient voice, “Is to go back to what you were doing before I came here. Okay?”

The guards shared a glance at one another and they looked back at Twilight. “Well… uh,” the first guard started uneasily, “Do you mean before you came to the palace or before you came to Canterlot?”

“Before I came to the palace,” she answered drily.

“I wasn’t doing anything then, your highness,” the second guard said, “I wasn’t old enough to work back then. I think Bill over there had a job at a bakers…”

“It’s shut now, Bob,” the first one replied sadly, “Still… one day, I’m going to open my own bakery,” he continued, staring off into space while Twilight gaped at him.

“Nice,” the guard, apparently named Bob, replied approvingly, “Oh! Are you going to make those things you can get in Prance… what are they… Crossants?”

“Croissants,” the guard named Bill corrected, “And among other things… It’s going to be a pastry heaven in there,” he said with a dreamy sigh, too lost in his own thoughts to realise that Twilight had slipped away through the gate.

She grumbled to herself as she went further and further away from the two bumbling guards; she’d be lucky if she had the time to get through the whole book by the end of the day now, especially as she still needed to find it.

She settled into a brisk trot, nodding to one or two other ponies in the palace’s staff. She knew the route to the library like the web of circulatory veins running about her body – that is to say, very well.

And if she knew the route to the library like the structure of her body, then she knew the library itself like her magic. She headed straight towards the indexing cabinets dotted around the library and drew out the draw she needed, searching for ‘A Stitch in Time’- the book that she was looking for.

She found it quickly enough, the card in her hoof telling her that it was indexed as 068.24 in the decimal system the library operated. She committed the number to memory and set off, weaving between the shelves until she reached the isle she needed.

A quick scan of the shelves in front of her and she started to feel like things were finally looking up today. She withdrew the book – a thin affair with the cover depicting a Möbius strip – and made her way to one of the many tables in the almost-deserted library.

She opened the cover of the book and started to read.


What is contained within this book may be perceived as science fiction. To many readers, that is what it will remain- a set of events considered dubious by all-but-a-few. It is to those few that I write for.

This is my recounting and observations on the looping of my own time loop, written in the hope that it will, one day, aid another, you, who finds themselves stuck in their own slice of time.

Clover Ironshield

She shivered as she read the name. To all-but-a-few, that name would have been lost to history as another unicorn. There were not many that knew how Clover Ironshield had risen to fame as Clover the Clever. Twilight counted herself as one of those lucky few and turned the page onto the first chapter.

She looked up from the book some time later to find that the silent clock in the library had already ticked past twelve and was over halfway towards one o’clock in the afternoon.

The book, now nearly finished, read more like a story than anything else, detailing how the unicorn within had woken up on the worst day of her life countless times over, how she changed minute details which affected events later in the day, and of how she’d changed it from the worst day into the best.

She glanced at the pages left again, she’d been reading for around two hours now and she’d hardly noticed. She guessed that she had another hour left of reading to go before she was done with the book.

She briefly considered continuing with it when her stomach let out a gurgle of annoyance. She sighed, mentally noting the page number, and closing the book, letting it stay on the table where, hopefully, no-one would move it in the time she was gone.

She let herself out of the library, nodding a greeting to the elderly librarian – a blue-grey stallion with a wispy beard – and trying to ignore the groans from her stomach. “It’s hardly the first time you’ve missed a meal,” she muttered to herself crossly, trying to placate her grumbling belly unsuccessfully.

Thankfully, she noted that the two previous guards had apparently shifted out, replaced by a second pair that she didn’t engage in conversation.

It had already crossed her mind that she still had no money on her. Thankfully, a quick visit to the bank later and she was ready for lunch, cash and hungry stomach in tow.

The city was bustling at this hour, the various visitors, workers, and nobles all flocking around the local markets and gawping at some of the work that was on display. She ignored all of them, making her way instead to a café, somewhat out-of-sight from the main markets, the sign depicting it to be the Wax and Wick hung inconspicuously above the door.

At the sound of the jingling bell, a pony behind the counter looked up and offered a warm smile. “Twilight Sparkle,” Doughnut Joe greeted, his eyes twinkling, “Or is it princess Sparkle now?” he continued.

“Just Twilight Sparkle will suffice,” she said, glancing around the empty shop, “Where’s the usual crowd?” she asked.

Joe looked up, surprised, “You haven’t heard?” he asked, his smile dropping.

Twilight slowly shook her head and Joe grunted. “There’s a new café just around the corner from here called ‘The Sparkle.’ Quite popular too, apparently,” he said bitterly.

“You’re joking, right?” Twilight asked, raising an eyebrow at the name of the café.

“I’m afraid not,” Joe said, shrugging, “Still, what can I do?” he said helplessly, “At least there’s still no competition for the doughnut shop at the hours I run.”

Twilight bit her lip and sighed, “I’m sorry, Joe,” she said finally and he shrugged.

“There’s nothing you can do about it, it simply is what it is,” he said matter-of-factly before straightening up, “Anyway… I assume you didn’t come in here to just chat, although it would be a nice change every once in a while,” he added whimsically.

Twilight chuckled, “You’re right,” she admitted, “I’ll bear the company thing in mind though,” she said before glancing at the menu behind Joe’s head. “I’ll have the…” she started, browsing the menu with a practised eye, “Oh, I’ll have the balsamic salad with a glass of orange juice please,” she said and Joe nodded.

“Right you are,” he muttered, “That’ll be thirty bits please,” he said and Twilight passed a small bag over the counter before making her way to a table and watching as Joe bustled around the small kitchen behind the counter.

“So how long ago did they open?” she asked.

“A few weeks ago tomorrow,” he replied over his shoulder, starting to slice some lettuce as he did so.

“And they took away your lunch crowd?” Twilight asked, aghast, and Joe shrugged.

“Most of them. They’re a lot cheaper than this place and a lot of ponies want cheaper stuff these days, you know, with the economy and all that.”

In fact, Twilight did not know about the economy, but she stayed silent on that matter. “So how are you going to manage?” she asked, “I did your finances a while back; I know how little of a margin you leave yourself.”

“I’ll manage,” he said stiffly and Twilight shut up, unwilling to prod him any more as he continued to slice and dice. “Order up,” he said smartly a few minutes later and Twilight took the proffered plate.

Joe looked at her oddly; holding the plate in her mouth before placing it onto the table. “Something up with your magic?” he asked quietly.

“Nothing permanent,” Twilight said, equally stiffly, and taking the glass from the counter, letting it join the plate on the table.

“I know a doctor if you need one,” Joe said helpfully, “She’s a specialist in magical problems.”

Internally, Twilight doubted whether she’d be able to help with this particular problem, but she sighed, “I’m fine, Joe. It’s just a bit of magical overuse, I’ll get over it soon enough.”

“If you’re sure,” he said doubtfully and left her to her lunch, which she munched down appreciatively, satiating her stomach.

It was at that moment that the bell to the shop rang again and another – rather familiar customer – walked in.

“Miss Dash?” Joe exclaimed from behind the counter, “What’re the odds, ey?”

At Joe’s greeting, Twilight span around in her seat to see Rainbow Dash standing, somewhat dazed, in the entrance of the shop. “Rainbow?” she said, surprised, “How- but- What are you doing here?”

Rainbow looked around the shop briefly, catching her breath. “I’ve-” she started, wheezing somewhat, “I’ve been looking for- looking for you all day,” she explained, moving inside and letting the door shut as she continued to breathe heavily.

Joe edged into view beside her with a glass of water that Rainbow gladly accepted, drinking the cool liquid down quickly.

“Thanks, Joe,” she muttered quietly, passing back the glass which he took before retreating back to the kitchen area behind them.

“But, why?” Twilight implored, confused, as Rainbow fell back into a chair opposite her.

“There’s something I need to tell you,” Rainbow admitted somewhat uneasily, casting a glance over at Joe warily. “Something I’d rather have said in private admittedly,” she continued, raising her voice slightly so that Joe heard it.

“I can take a hint, ladies,” he said, taking a newspaper from a small stack atop the counter, “I’ll be in the back if you need anything.”

Meanwhile, Twilight was staring at Rainbow in abject disbelief. “You need to tell me something…” she repeated back to Rainbow slowly, “Something so important that it just couldn’t wait?”

Rainbow nodded and Twilight thought she heard something go pop inside her head.

“Alright… fine…” she grumbled, mostly to herself, “I give up… what is so important that you keep tracking me down relentlessly?” She waited patiently for some sort of sarcastic retort, yet it never came.

She glanced up and looked at Rainbow properly for the second time since she’d come in through the doors. She looked anxious – flighty – and was paler than Twilight remembered her being. “Are you sure you’re alright?” she asked again.

“Peachy…” Rainbow said, lying.

“Sure…” Twilight said, raising an eyebrow and letting Rainbow know just how bad that lie had been. The recipient squirmed.

“Well, you’ve finally managed it,” Twilight said in the absence of any talking from Rainbow, “You’ve found me and you’ve managed to get me to hear you out at last… so it’d help if I had something to actually hear…” She was almost certain that she hadn’t meant to be so cutting with her sarcasm.

Once again, Rainbow squirmed and looked at everything but Twilight for a few moments. To her credit, Twilight waited patiently for her to speak, and speak she did… eventually.

“Well…” she started at last, keeping at least some of her anxiety from leaking into her voice, “How long have you been in Ponyville now?” she asked at last and Twilight had the distinct impression that she was fighting for more time.

“Nearly five years,” she replied, playing along with Rainbow’s game for the moment.

“And… uh… We’ve been good friends for all that time, right?”

Twilight raised her eyebrow again and, yet again, Rainbow fidgeted in her seat. “Sure…” Twilight said at last, “At least most of it anyway…” she added in an undertone.

“And…” Rainbow paused for a moment, as if trying to think of what to ask next.

Twilight, on the other hand, sighed and spoke again, “Look, Rainbow… I know you have trouble articulating things sometimes, but this is just ridiculous. Just tell me what you want to tell me, please.”

“S’not my fault all the words went out of my head…” Rainbow muttered quietly to herself before she spoke up again, “Alright… You want me to just say what I want to say?” she confirmed, almost seeming to steel herself for the next part.

Half with exasperated patience, half with burning curiosity, Twilight nodded her head.

“I think I have a crush on you.”

Twilight said nothing in reply. She did nothing, offered no perceivable reaction to Rainbow’s statement.

Rainbow, examining her features carefully, frowned, “Twilight?” she asked, reaching forward to wave a hoof in front of her face, “Anybody home?”

Whatever trance Twilight had sunken into, she broke out of it immediately and shook her head vigorously, trying to clear the cobwebs. “Sorry…” she muttered, “Would you mind repeating that?” she asked politely, already knowing what Rainbow had said and now desperately trying to buy herself more time to think.

Rainbow repeated herself again, seeming more and more anxious as Twilight continued thinking through all the possible courses of action.

What was she going to do? What could she do? She could turn Rainbow down flat, there and then, dismiss her ‘crush’ as a confused spectre of some emotion or another, but Rainbow certainly didn’t seem confused… Nervous, maybe, and now Twilight could see why she was so, but certainly not confused.

She could refute it… say that Rainbow wasn’t her type… hell… she didn’t even know what her type was so it wasn’t technically lying… But… but… But what… She didn’t want to hurt Rainbow’s feelings?

“I… uh…” she stammered out, still running through thoughts as fast as she could, playing each and every scenario out in her head.

Tell her the truth, that you’ve never considered the two of you together.

Tell her the real truth… that you’re really not looking for a relationship when you’re going to die in a few days.

Tell her the whole truth… that you’re really not looking for a relationship where you’re not in that relationship the next day because the next day was this morning.

Tell her the partial truth… that you never considered the two of you and you need to go now because the fountain is going to spontaneously combust and you’re going to have to solve that.

Tell her a less elaborate lie… one that doesn’t sound like you’re running away from her.

Tell her that you’re already seeing Cheerilee, and Trixie, and Spitfire.

… Preferably a believable lie.

She looked across at Rainbow, now almost on the edge of her seat and her eyes skittering all about the café nervously.

“I… don’t know what to tell you,” she settled on, “I’ve never really considered the… uh- the two of us.”

“You… you haven’t?” Rainbow confirmed, her voice a mixture of surprised, worried, and, somewhat curiously, relieved.

Twilight shook her head, “That’s all there is to it… I never thought you’d be the type of pony to have a crush on me for that matter…” she admitted, albeit to herself.

“Oh…” Rainbow said quietly, “So… what does that mean?”

“It means that this is a bit too far out of left field for me to have ever considered the possibility,” Twilight expanded.

“No, no…,” Rainbow said, shaking her head before she paused, “I meant… uh… would you like to give it a go?”

It was impossible to miss the flicker of hope that flashed across Rainbow’s face as she asked and Twilight considered the options again.

It was quite simple… she just had to answer yes or no and she’d be done. Then she’d have to answer the same question again when Rainbow asked her the next day, in the next loop.

“Well…” It was Twilight’s turn to shuffle in her seat. She looked around herself at the subdued café, weighing up her options… She was stuck in a time loop, in the city of Canterlot, and whatever she did wouldn’t matter once the day was over.

“Sure,” she said eventually, “Why not.” A glance across to Rainbow showed just how well the news had been received as she slumped back in her chair, a relieved sigh pouring forth from her mouth.

“Great,” Rainbow said, grinning, “So… uh… you want to go somewhere tomorrow?”

Thinking quickly, Twilight countered with, “We’re already in Canterlot today… why not do something now?”

Hardly believing her good fortune, Rainbow could simply nod as Twilight smiled to herself, pleased with her new plans.

“Although… speaking of that…” Twilight continued, turning something over in her head, “how did you find your way into Canterlot? There’re only two trains every day at the moment and I could have been anywhere.”

Rainbow considered Twilight for a moment, “Well… we both have wings; I was hardly likely to have walked, was I?” She paused before continuing, “And I asked Spike where you were earlier; he seemed to think you were in Canterlot and gave me a few of your usual haunts- this was the third one I checked.”

“Oh… right…” Twilight felt somewhat silly now that she thought about it.

The two of them sat there for a little longer, neither of them looking the other in the eye. “So,” Rainbow coughed, breaking the silence to pieces, “What did you have in mind in Canterlot anyway?”

Plans were whirring through her mind like quicksilver as she considered all the options she could. There were so many places in Canterlot to spend the day, especially if you knew where to look.

Mentally apologising to the book that was still left, unfinished, on a lone library table somewhere, she said, “Well… I take it that you’re not too interested in any of the garden party stuff here?”

There was a momentary flash of distaste across Rainbow’s features which she quickly covered behind a nervous laugh, “If that’s what you want to do, then- uh- that’s fine by me…”

Twilight rolled her eyes and smiled slightly, “You’re a rubbish liar, Rainbow,” she stated, “I can think of a few places that could work…” She paused, weighing up her options before deciding ‘to hell with it’ and calling over her shoulder, “Joe?”

Moments later, Doughnut Joe poked his head around from the back and looked over at the two of them. “Aye?” he asked.

“Do you still stock any of that single malt?” Twilight asked and Rainbow glanced over curiously.

‘Single malt?’ she mouthed at Twilight, who just smiled faintly.

“Uh… sure, I think I still keep a few bottles lying around,” Joe replied, looking somewhat surprised.

“Excellent,” Twilight said with a grin, “I’ll take all of them.”

“Uh… Twilight,” Rainbow started, her expression a mixture of alarmed and bemused now, “What in Equestria are you planning?”

“I wouldn’t question her if I were you…” Joe said from behind the counter, resignation written across his face as he leant down behind the counter, “It’s been a while since she’s been like this… I wondered if she’d ever relapse…”

“Wait,” Rainbow said as the clinking of bottles echoed up, looking from the counter to Twilight and back again, “Relapse? As in… again?”

“Oh give it a break,” Twilight said, walking over to the counter and waiting expectantly as one, two, three, four bottles were placed in front of her. “I do let myself go every now and again… I think this is as good a time as any…”

“If you count every now and again as once in a blue moon, then fine…” Joe muttered under his breath, loud enough for Rainbow to hear him and smirk. He straightened up, inspecting the four bottles in front of him for a moment before nodding, “That’s all of them…” he confirmed, “Now, listen… promise me that you’ll not get into trouble with these, okay?”

“Relax, Joe,” Twilight sighed, “I promise that I’ll try to leave at least some of this untouched.”

“Wait, wait,” Rainbow interrupted again, still looking from Twilight to Joe in bewilderment, “You mean to say that you came here and drank whisky before you came to Ponyville?”

“Yes, Rainbow,” Twilight stressed, letting some of her irritation seep into her tone, “I let myself go every now and again when I studied… and I happen to like the single malt, thank-you-very-much.”

Rainbow raised her hooves in surrender and watched as Twilight inspected the bottles, muttering quietly to herself. She briefly glanced towards Joe, who just shrugged at her, before sighing to herself, deciding to let her incredulity slide for the time being.

“So how old are these now?” Twilight asked, turning one of the bottles around with a critical eye.

“They’ve been with me for about ten years,” Joe answered simply.

“Brilliant… I take it that this’ll be payment enough?” she asked, lifting the almost-full bag of coins again and passing it over the counter.

He leant forwards and picked up the bag, whistling quietly to himself at the weight before coughing and nodding in response.

“Thank you, Joe,” Twilight said warmly before she turned to Rainbow, “Would you mind grabbing a bottle or two, Dash?”

Rainbow, who had been standing quietly with her mouth slightly agape, nodded mutely for a moment before shaking her head vigorously, “Wait… what about your-“

“Magical overuse,” Twilight interrupted, shutting her eyes and trying not to grind her teeth, “Now would you mind carrying two of the bottles?”

Rainbow was smart enough not to argue this time and moved forwards, taking two of the proffered bottles and standing back immediately, both of them secured on her back in between her wings.

“Try not to drink yourself half to death this time,” Joe offered as Twilight took the last two bottles, balancing them across her own back and wings.

“I promised, didn’t I?” Twilight responded, smiling as her inner monologue scoffed at any future past today.

“Well… take care then.”

“Thanks, Joe, I’ll see you soon.”

With that, Twilight turned and left the café, followed a moment later by Rainbow as she realised that Twilight had no plans for slowing down. “Hey- wait up” she called, letting the door shut behind her as Twilight paused, “What’s the big rush; it’s only what, two in the afternoon?”

“Plenty of time to get where we need to go then,” Twilight replied simply, looking out into the still-packed high street, “Ready to get going then?”

“Well- yes- but-“

“Well come on then, time’s a-wasting.”

Without further ado, Twilight set off into the high street, allowing herself to slip past the countless other ponies, humming a quiet tune to herself as Rainbow tried to catch up.

“Hey! Twilight! Wait up!” Rainbow called out, barely able to hear herself over the babbling crowd and unwilling to jump up and fly, lest she let the bottles balanced on her back drop and shatter.

Apparently Twilight hadn’t heard her since she just kept going. It was a small mercy that Rainbow was simply able to keep sight of her through the throng of market-goers. Eventually, she spotted Twilight slipping into an alley on the left. Putting on an extra spurt of speed, she joined her in the dim light of the passage.

“What the hell are we doing here?” Rainbow asked incredulously, slowing down to a trot and keeping pace with Twilight.

“We have to be somewhere,” Twilight replied absently, “Here just happens to be there…”

“Right…” Rainbow said quietly, “Anyway… What’s with the whiskey? I thought you said we were going on a date?”

“I did,” Twilight said simply, leaving it at that.

“Yeah, well… forgive me for being surprised, but I thought we were going to go out and see a movie, grab something to eat, something like that.”

“Seems a bit cliché for you, Rainbow.”

Rainbow squirmed evasively, muttering: “Well… They’re clichés for a reason…”

She thought she heard Twilight chuckle next to her before she spoke again, “Anyway, I thought we’d do something a little different.”

“Like going down a barely-lit alley in the middle of the day?”

“You’ll see…” Twilight replied with a faint smile.

Rainbow grumbled quietly to herself in reply, but kept following anyway, her curiosity egging her on.

“So, uh, what were you doing in Canterlot anyway?” she asked after a few more moments of silently stepping through the alley.

“Hmm? Oh, I was just here to find a book; It doesn’t matter now, I’ll finish it tomorrow.”

“Anything interesting?” Rainbow probed once more.

Twilight looked around at Rainbow, expression set in bemusement.

“What?” Rainbow asked innocently, “I just wanted to know if I might enjoy it too.”

Twilight chuckled and shook her head slightly before answering, “I don’t think you would, Rainbow. It’s more of a biography than a Daring Do story.”

“I don’t just like Daring Do,” Rainbow replied somewhat indignantly, “I like other stuff too…”

“Sorry, Rainbow,” Twilight said over her shoulder, “I wasn’t poking fun at you: just using it as an example.”

“Yeah, yeah, I know,” came the grudging reply, “How long until we’re at this place of yours anyway?”

“Shouldn’t be too much longer,” Twilight replied before continuing, quieter this time, “I remember it was around here somewhere…”

Resigning herself to be kept in the dark until they were there, Rainbow kept following, all-but silent for the clink of the bottles on her back. Thankfully for her, a few steps later, and Twilight stopped.

“Here we are,” she announced, and Rainbow looked expectantly around.

“Where is here?” she asked aloud, “There’s nothing here.”

“Of course there is,” Twilight corrected, moving towards one of the walls, “It’s not my fault if you can’t see it.”

Rainbow watched, interested, as Twilight started pushing against it, then with amazement as it gave way, opening itself to show a darkened room inside. “How…” she started, speechless.

“I wandered the city a lot when I was younger,” Twilight replied disinterestedly, stepping inside, “Now are you coming or what?”

Curiously, Rainbow hopped forwards towards the doorway, slipping through after Twilight and stepping smartly out of the way as she shut it behind her. “So… what’s in here?” she asked, looking around in the almost-darkness, the only light provided coming from thin cracks in the walls and roof.

“It’s somewhere quiet,” Twilight replied, shuffling around in the darkness, “That’s all it needs to be at the moment.”

Rainbow cautiously took a few steps forwards for herself, being careful not to step on anything. “I can’t really say I think much of your choice of date locations, Twi,” she said to the shuffling darkness.

“Aha!” Twilight said from somewhere in the room and a few seconds later, a match flared and threw the dark room into flickering light. Another few seconds and the light separated into two points, the original match blown out as the lantern started glowing. “This should be sufficient…” Twilight muttered to herself as she picked it up and brought it to the middle of the room.

“I hate to sound like a broken record here, Twi… but sufficient for what? What are we doing here?”

Twilight shut her eyes and sighed quietly to herself in exasperation. “We are here because, for what we’re doing, it’s the perfect spot.”

“And what are we doing exactly?” Rainbow probed as she stepped towards the light and Twilight, who was moving her bottles from her back onto the floor with the lantern.

“We’re going to have a little bit of a competition,” Twilight responded, sitting down next to the bottles she’d brought, “Put the bottles down and I’ll explain the rules.”

Once again, her curiosity got the better of her and Rainbow pulled the bottles from her back, letting them join the other two before she sat down opposite Twilight as she started talking.

“The game is a simple one… I know for a fact you’ve played truth or dare at some point or another,” she started, waiting for Rainbow to nod before continuing, “The only difference between that and this is that you have a drink every time it is your turn to request something. Any questions?”

“We’re… playing a drinking- You… are playing a drinking game?”

“Yes, Rainbow…” Twilight said, mentally tallying up the number of times she’d been treated with incredulity so far today, “So… want to start?”

Unwilling to answer, Rainbow kept looking at Twilight as if she was a completely different pony.

Twilight sighed, “Fine, I’ll start…” she said, taking one of the bottles and removing the lid with ease. “Cheers,” she said to Rainbow before lifting the bottle up and taking a gulp from it. “Truth or dare?” she asked, lowering the bottle and sliding it towards Rainbow, who started.

“Um- Dare,” she answered, still somewhat unsure of what else to do other than to carry on.

“Surprise, surprise,” Twilight muttered quietly before raising her voice, “Alright… I dare you to… to…” She looked around; there really wasn’t that much there to use as daring material. “I dare you to fly a loop in here,” she finally said from a lack of other ideas.

“Easy peasy,” Rainbow said predictably and did just that, hopping into the air and looping with plenty of room to spare. Once she landed, grinning happily, Twilight slid the open bottle closer to Rainbow as a reminder.

She eyed the bottle, shrugged, and lifted it up to take a gulp. It tasted strong and Rainbow shuddered as she felt it tread a path down her throat. Gasping slightly as she remembered to breathe, she put the bottle down and looked to Twilight, “Truth or dare?” she asked hoarsely.


“When did you start drinking whiskey?”

Twilight raised an eyebrow at the question, but shook her head after a moment and started speaking, “It was during my years directly under Celestia’s tutelage; once I was no longer part of the education system…

“My father always had this… bottle on the side of a table at home; I was always curious about it and, for my eighteenth, he let me try it. And that’s the story of how I had my first taste of whiskey, which I assume you were actually interested in…” Twilight concluded, shooting an irritated glare towards Rainbow.

“Um... yeah...” Rainbow said shiftily, fully aware of the glare but paying it no heed for the time being.

Another measure of whiskey disappeared from the bottle before Twilight asked, “Truth or dare?”

Despite her bravado, Rainbow wasn’t much of a drinker and she could already feel the alcohol taking its hold on her after a single round. “Dare,” she said carefully, paying attention to not slur the word.

Taking it in her stride, Twilight replied almost immediately, “I dare you to drink what is left in the first bottle of whiskey.”

Rainbow looked up at Twilight in surprise, then down to the proffered bottle in worry. They may have been small-ish bottles, but the fact that it was still almost half-full made her anxious. That was a lot of alcohol for her. Despite her misgivings though, she put on a grim smile of determination and lifted the bottle to her mouth.

Twilight winced as Rainbow started drinking it down, not pausing to pull the bottle away from her mouth. It may not have been the nicest dare she could have offered her friend… but it was the one that would alter her thought process somewhat, hopefully making her more willing to choose ‘truth’ in the process.

Rainbow finished the bottle with a grimace, her expression making it clear that she wasn’t in a hurry to repeat the experience. “Done,” she said quietly as Twilight slid over an unopened bottle. It was opened and Rainbow tipped it back and down quickly before asking, “Truth or dare?”


Rainbow could feel the drink swimming about in her gut and her head and she sloshed about with it. “Why did you agree?”

Twilight was almost certain to what Rainbow was referring, but she asked nevertheless, “To what?”

“To us; this; going on a date.”

“You wouldn’t believe me if I told you…” Twilight said sadly, shaking her head.

“Hey!” Rainbow protested, “You said you’d say the truth… let’s hear it.”

Twilight sighed, unsurprised despite herself, “Fine… you’re probably not going to like it though…” She paused, looking at Rainbow for a moment and deciding how much she wasn’t going to tell her.

“I’m in a time loop,” she started on, thinking five words ahead of what she spoke, “I have been for the past few… days?” She paused, distracted as she wondered if that was the correct technical term. At Rainbow’s patient cough, she shook her head and started again, “I have from nine in the morning to whatever time I fall asleep that night, then I loop back.”

Twilight risked a glance at Rainbow during the pause and bit her lip; she could tell that Rainbow was already out of it: her gaze was slightly unfocused and she was swaying slightly.

“Everything I do is undone the next day; the only thing I keep is my memories of the previous days. The reason I said ‘okay’ was because you’re going to ask me tomorrow, and the day after, and the day after, and I just… wanted to see what I’d be in for… that’s all.”

She watched Rainbow’s reaction earnestly, waiting for some sign that she’d actually heard what Twilight had said.

When none came, she sighed and asked, “Truth or dare,” not even bothering with the bottle anymore.

There was an audible pause between when Rainbow heard the question and heard the question. She glanced around hazily and said, “Dare,” stretching the word around her mouth.

Twilight almost started grinding her teeth, trying not to be angry at how stubborn her friend was being. “Alright…” she muttered to herself before speaking up again, “I dare you to choose truth.”

Somewhat surprisingly, Rainbow complied, grinning as she nodded along.

Unwilling to risk losing her chance at an answer she asked her question quickly, searching Rainbow’s expression carefully as she did so.

“Why me?”

“Whadda you mean: why you?” Rainbow repeated back to her, her words slurring more and more as the alcohol kept its grip on her.

Patiently, Twilight replied, “Why do you have a crush on me?”

“Oh, that,” Rainbow said, and Twilight could have sworn that she’d sobered up slightly as she heard the question.

She waited for a minute, then another, as Rainbow continued to say nothing, averting her eyes from Twilight’s in the meantime. Eventually, she decided to move things along and coughed pointedly. “You did agree to ‘truth’, Rainbow,” she said, aware of the parallel between her question and the one Rainbow had asked just before.

There was another moment of silence before Rainbow started talking again, still slurring the odd word. “Well… ‘s because you’re cool,” she said, her voice growing in confidence as she continued, “You’ve been in Ponyville for what? Five years? An’ you’re the one that knows me best.”

Twilight quirked her head towards Rainbow at that, confused. “Knows you best?” she repeated, “What about Fluttershy and Applejack? You’ve known them for longer that you’ve known me.”

Rainbow snorted quietly to herself, “I’ve known ‘em longer, yeah, but you’re the only one that I can actually be properly normal around. I mean… AJ and Shy are cool an’ all, but I don’t go to Applejack with my problems, do I?” When Twilight didn’t answer her, she continued onwards, “And Flutters… I love her to bits, but she still doesn’t understand what I see in flying.”

“Which leaves me as the only one who does?” Twilight confirmed, trying to go through the logic in her mind.

“Well… yeah,” Rainbow stated as if it were obvious, “You’re the only one of us, ‘cept me ‘course, that likes to fly an’ isn’t scared of doing it… flying that is.”

“And this leads on to why you have a crush on me?”

“Well… sorta,” she replied, a bit more nervously this time, the bravado present in her voice slipping for a moment, “You’re the only one that understands, Twi… the rest of them… they don’t know what it’s like… for us.”

“What it’s like for us?” Twilight repeated, somehow more confused now, “What do you mean, what it’s like for us?”

“You an’ me… we’re the best, Twi; no-one else comes close to us.” Twilight remained silent and Rainbow continued in a whisper that was almost lost to the dark room, “It’s lonely at the top…”

Rainbow seemed to have finished and still, Twilight didn’t answer. She looked at Rainbow in the dim light and wondered just what she had meant by that… even if she knew in her gut just what it was.

Meanwhile, opposite her, Rainbow had slumped over on the floor, curling up on the hard wood with her eyes shut, her breathing only just audible in the quiet room.

“Sorry, Rainbow,” she said into the room, “I wanted to know…” Carefully, trying to avoid the creaky floorboards, she retreated to a corner of the room where a few moth-eaten blankets were stored. She tossed several over her back and came back to Rainbow, covering her with them.

Once she was sure that Rainbow wasn’t going to freeze during the night, she tip-toed her way to the entrance and stuck her head outside. Once again, the afternoon seemed to have slipped away despite her best efforts and the sky had darkened around her, throwing the alley into total darkness.

Sighing, she retreated back inside, unwilling to go anywhere else in the late twilight and unsure of where she could go. “I suppose here is as good as anywhere else…” she murmured, shutting the door behind her and looking over her shoulder at Rainbow. “Not that it matters anyway…”

She went back towards the corner of the room, gathering a few more blankets for herself. Then she paused, looking towards Rainbow as she slept soundly. “Using my friend like that…” she whispered to herself, “What have I done?” It wasn’t a horrified whisper, nor was it one of regret.

A wave of sadness hit her and she sat down where she stood, still in the far corner of the room. If this was what she was going to be doing to her friends, using this time loop business as some sort of justification, she wasn’t sure that she wanted to continue.

She settled down in the corner, wrapping the blankets around herself and looking across at Rainbow and the lamp – it’d burn out soon – and the few other bottles that were still unopened.

She sighed again and curled herself up beneath the blankets, still keeping a watchful eye over her friend as she went over her words.

“It’s lonely at the top…”

Author's Note:

This is finally out... you want to know why it took so long?
Basically the last three/four thousand words of that thing had to be forced from my brain over a matter of weeks at a time...

I can only imagine how long it'll be before this is actually finished...