• Published 26th Jan 2014
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The Heart of an Author - Oroboro



Mystery. Love. Magic. Murder. Truth. These are all important elements in the murder mystery Fluttershy has written, and is now asking Twilight to read. But she struggles to solve the mystery in which it turns out she's the protagonist.

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Chapter 24 - A Happy Ending?

Twilight awoke to a steady beeping and the soft luminescence of a hospital at night.

You know, it would have been nicer if I could actually wake up at home,” is what she tried to say, but all she managed to get out was a choking gasp. It made a certain amount of sense. She was waking up from a coma, after all; she needed water.

A glass of water surrounded by a deep blue aura floated towards her, and she snapped it up, taking a few careful sips and wincing at the pain in her throat. She knew enough to know that drinking greedily wasn’t good for her, and it was better to take things slow. The light pinch from the IV in her arm let her know she wasn’t in any danger of dehydration either.

Forcing the sips of cool water down a painfully dry throat, Twilight blinked her eyes several times and tried to get a better grasp of her surroundings. She was lying in a hospital bed, of course. There was a soft glow and quiet hum from the magical devices by the table, all of them working in various ways to monitor her condition and help to keep her alive.

Other than the light from the devices, the room was dark. The curtains were drawn, and Twilight could just barely hear the cries of summer insects outside her window.

“How long has it been?” Twilight croaked. She took another sip of water. This was going to be annoying.

“A full week has passed now. All things considered, it could have been much worse,” Luna said as she stepped out of the shadows.

Twilight shook her head, unable to keep a smile from her lips. “Thanks… I couldn’t have made it out without your help. Er, I did make it back, didn’t I? This isn’t just another dream within a dream, is it?”

Luna threw back her head and laughed, the rich sound almost painful to her ears. “That is a question we dreamwalkers ask ourselves often. Sometimes, I think, the answer does not truly matter. Reality is what we make of it. Regardless, I promise you that you are home, safe and sound in the waking world.”

Twilight narrowed her eyes. “That’s exactly what I’d expect to hear if this was still a dream. Is there any way you can prove it?”

“Could you ever prove it, even before this adventure began?”

“I guess not,” Twilight said, chuckling softly. It sounded more like coughing. “But let’s not let this devolve into Philosophy 101. I did it. I won. I solved the mystery, exposed the truth for what it was, and escaped with my life.”

Luna smiled warmly. “Congratulations, Twilight. You have proven your capabilities time and time again, but this darkness you faced was greater than most. There was an external foe, for certain, but it was also a darkness in yourself and a darkness in your friend.”

Twilight raised up a hoof and pressed it against her forehead. “So how come I don’t feel like a winner?”

“Conflict scars the soul, but it will heal, in time. However, you still have one final matter left unresolved.”

“That’s…” Twilight let her head fall, and she felt her cheeks heat up. “I still don’t really know what I’m supposed to do about that.”

Luna raised a hoof up to her lips and winked, a sly smile peeking through. “I told you earlier, did I not? Just follow your heart.”

Twilight rolled her eyes and levitated one of her bedside pillows into the air. “If you try and throw any more cliches at me, I’ll throw this at you.”

“I mean it, Twilight. This is something you will have to discover within yourself, and within her. Talk it out. It may be painful, and a bit scary, but you are a grown mare. I am sure you can handle it.”

She frowned, trying to figure out if that counted as another cliche. She decided to whip the pillow at Luna anyway, sending the both of them into a fit of giggles.

“So,” Twilight said, wiping a tear from her eye, “those two. I’m not in any more danger, am I?”

Luna shook her head. “Powerful beings they might be, but their influence here is limited. And now that my sister and I are aware of their interests here, they will not be able to escape our notice any longer. Such creatures tend to be fickle, and I suspect they will quickly move on in search of easier prey.”

Twilight sighed, sinking back into her bed. That was a relief. She had been a fool, so eagerly accepting an offer from a higher power she didn’t understand. It wasn’t that she hadn’t recognized the danger, just… perhaps she simply thought too highly of herself. Rainbow Dash must have been rubbing off on her or something.

Facing immensity like that was humbling, but, at the same time, she could see how somepony like Infinite Miracle was limited. Powerful, but by no means omnipotent.

“And… Golden Wish? What will become of her?”

Luna’s eyes drooped slightly, a sad, distant look to them. “What happens to any character once you close the book on them, I wonder? One final catbox for you to contemplate.”

“I see.” It wasn’t like Golden Wish could have followed her, and, in the context of her own world, she was a still a murderer. Still, there had to be something she could do for her.

Twilight stretched her forelegs behind her head, careful not to pull her IV out. Her bones popped painfully, but the burn in her weakened muscles felt almost invigorating. “So… where’s everypony else? I kind of expected to have been mobbed already.”

Luna’s face lit up into a wicked grin. “Oh, I sent them a message as soon as you woke up. I expect they will be arriving any—”

“TWILIGHT!”

There was a pink blur and then Twilight grunted under the weight of a full power Pinkie Pie tackle hug.

“You’re awake! Oh, I’ve missed you so much! I have so many things to tell you! I baked you a welcome back cake, and there’s going to be a ‘Twilight waking up from a coma’ party, and I discovered a new species of butterfly a few days ago, which doesn’t have much to do with you, but I think it’s pretty cool anyway, and I know that’s the kind of thing you want to catalogue and write down. Oh, and you’re going to have to tell me the details later so I can throw a ‘Twilight defeated a bunch of bad guys and solved a mystery’ party too, since everything has been pretty vague on my end, but—”

“Pinkie!” Twilight wheezed and, failing to push Pinkie Pie off of her with physical force, resorted to her magic instead. “I’ve got atrophied coma muscles here. I’m glad to see you too, and I’m sure the parties will be wonderful, but get off.”

“Come on Pinkie, that’s enough,” Rainbow Dash said, pulling her off of Twilight with a grunt of effort. “Now then, Twilight. Hoofbump!”

Twilight raised her hoof in acquiescence while raising her eyebrow.

“You’re totally awesome, Twi! I mean, you’ll have to tell us the whole story later, but fighting off the bad guys, going deep into the dream world in order to find out ‘the truth’, and whatever else you did! Even Daring Do hasn’t done anything that awesome. I just wish you had taken me with you. We could have been a team, you know?"

Twilight forced herself to smile. “I don’t think you would have liked it as much as you think, Rainbow, but the support would have been nice.”

“Hey there, Sugarcube. Good t’... Oh. Er, sorry.”

Twilight watched, her smile turning to genuine amusement as she watched Applejack and Rarity try to walk through the door at the same time, then get equally flustered and dance around a bit trying to let the other go first. It was downright adorable.

“Uh, Hey Twi,” Applejack said, taking off her hat as she finally maneuvered her way to the bedside. “Glad to see you’re alright, though that was mite foolish of you.”

“Honestly, darling, what were you thinking? There had to have been a better solution than to put yourself in such danger, especially alone. Why didn’t you come to us for help?”

“Sorry,” Twilight said. She paused, then grinned evilly. “But it really isn’t fair for me, getting ganged up on by a married couple like this.”

The way their faces turned equally crimson, and how they began to sputter incoherently without looking at each other was strangely symmetrical.

“Where’s Spike?” Twilight asked, glancing around the room.

“Still sleeping, I guess,” Rainbow Dash said, touching down on the ground. “He’s still just a kid after all, and he’s been running himself ragged hoping to find a way to save you himself.”

“Ahem,” Rarity coughed, moving up to Twilight’s opposite side and leaning in close. “Disregarding that, I’m really very sorry, Twilight,” she said with a whisper. “It’s my fault. Fluttershy told me about this a long time ago. I knew she was crushing on you, hard, that is. I didn’t know about the books, or that it would turn into something this crazy, but I still feel like there’s something I could have done.”

Twilight smiled and rested her hoof on Rarity’s shoulder, sparing a quick glance towards Pinkie Pie. “It’s alright, Rarity. I’m sure you promised to keep it a secret, and that’s pretty important too. Besides, I came out of it all okay, so no harm done, right?”

Rarity glanced towards the door. “Maybe you did, but…”

Twilight caught a flash of movement, a pink mane ducking out of sight. The room went silent.

“Fluttershy, darling? Rarity said, her voice soft. “It’s alright. We’re not judging you. We’ve already said our piece to you about this matter. It’s time you confront Twilight.”

There was a squeak and a hesitant hoofstep from outside the door. Rainbow Dash suddenly zipped out the room and, with a startled yelp, reappeared, dragging Fluttershy in by her tail. She had her hooves planted, and they scratched against the tile floor as her eyes darted back and forth, looking for an escape.

“Ain’t no more running away from this, sugarcube,” Applejack said. “Gonna have to face your fears, just like Twilight did for you.”

“It’s okay!” Pinkie Pie said, pouncing over to Fluttershy and throwing a foreleg around her shoulder. “No matter what, just remember that Twilight is still your friend! I mean, she’s the Princess of Friendship, isn’t she?”

Rainbow Dash turned towards Twilight, grinning. “You’re going to tell us the whole story later, but for now, I think it’s time we gave you lovebirds some privacy.”

The five of them exited the room, talking amongst themselves. Luna caught Twilight’s eye one last time and winked. The door shut behind them and locked audibly.

Fluttershy stood still as a statue, eyes glued to the floor.

“Looks like we’re stuck in another closed room,” Twilight said, breaking the silence.

Fluttershy snorted, looking up and meeting her eyes briefly before quickly looking away.

Twilight took in a deep breath and let it out slowly. “Fluttershy, look, this is going to be a long conversation. There’s a lot to be said, but, to start with, how about we get the crying and apologies out of the way first?”

“I…” Fluttershy sniffed, trembling as she shifted back and forth.

“I’m sorry!” Fluttershy cried out, diving forward and landing on the bed roughly, eliciting a groan from Twilight. She buried her face in Twilight’s chest, hot tears already streaming down her face.

“I’m sorry! I’m sorry! I didn’t mean for it to be like this! I thought it was… I thought I could… I’m sorry! I’m a coward, I’m worthless, I’m sorry!”

“Hey now. It’s okay. It’s going to be alright, Fluttershy.” Twilight reached her hoof down and idly stroked Fluttershy’s hair, muttering soothing platitudes as Fluttershy continued to bawl. It was an inelegant and messy type of crying, but it was the sort of catharsis they both needed.

Twilight held her there for quite some time. There was a clock somewhere in the room, but Twilight couldn’t quite see it from where she was sitting. Instead, she just focused on the pegasus in front of her, letting Fluttershy cry herself out as she brought her own thoughts into line.

Eventually the sobbing stopped and Fluttershy lay still, her arms still wrapped around Twilight’s midsection. It was somewhat uncomfortable in the cramped confines of the hospital bed, but she didn’t try to move her. Fluttershy’s breathing slowed to a steady rhythm, and Twilight could faintly feel her heartbeat, out of step with the monitor that still tracked her own.

Twilight reached a hoof down and brushed Fluttershy’s mane to the side. She looked up and met her eyes for a brief instant before she scrunched them shut again and buried them deeper into Twilight’s fur.

“Can I just… stay like this? For a little bit longer?” Fluttershy mumbled. Her voice sounded drained. It must have been quite the ordeal back here, as well. “After that, I’ll go, and you’ll never have to deal with me ever again.”

“Fluttershy...“ Twilight said, letting out a light sigh. She cupped a hoof under Fluttershy’s chin and pulled her face up, forcing her to meet her gaze. “Let’s get one thing clear here, I don’t really know how I feel or what I’m going to do, but can we save the proclamations of worthlessness and drastic actions until after we talk?”

Fluttershy sniffed loudly, then pulled her head up, adjusting her position so she was sitting on her haunches at the foot of the bed. She wiped at her eyes and runny nose with a hoof, nodding. “Um, okay. I can try to do that. I’m sorry, Twilight.”

Twilight rolled her eyes. “And no more gratuitous apologies either.”

“Oh. Okay. I’m...“ Fluttershy trailed off, looking down at her hooves and sniffling again.

“Alright then.” Twilight took the extra space offered and pulled herself up into a sitting position as well. “Let’s get everything straight; the culprit in the novels was you, Fluttershy.”

“Yes.”

“Her motivation wasn’t based on anything concrete. Instead, her motivation was meta-fictional, to get me to solve the puzzle in the novels leading me to the realization that you’re in love with me.”

Fluttershy blushed, looking away. “I… yes, that’s correct.”

Twilight smiled, leaning back slightly and staring up at the ceiling. “It’s… not very intuitive, you know. Downright cheating, really. Your puzzles were devious, but it really all came down to the metaphors and themes present in the narrative. If you wanted me to figure this out so badly, why wouldn’t you have made it easier, or just told me outright?”

“Because I’m a coward,” Fluttershy said, sinking down into the bed and burying her face in the sheets. “But, um… I wanted to challenge you, Twilight. You’re so smart, and brave, and beautiful, and regal, and wise. I just thought, if I could create something that tested even you, and you could figure out what I was trying to say, understand my heart, know me better than I know myself, then we could… I never meant to hurt you.”

“In that case, why a murder mystery? I can understand what you’re trying to say, and what you wanted to accomplish, but the way you went about it…” She let the statement hang in the air, and Fluttershy flinched, pulling the bedsheets further up her face.

“Because it...“ Fluttershy looked up, suddenly frowning and glancing around. “I um… don’t really know.”

“Did Absolute Certainty push you towards it?”

Fluttershy blinked, looking confused. “Who?”

It was Twilight’s turn to look confused. “Pink Unicorn, blonde mane, candy based cutie mark, wears a stupid hat and acts like an evil Pinkie Pie?”

“It doesn't sound familiar,” Fluttershy said, scratching at her head, her frown deepening. “Or maybe it does… What exactly are you talking about, Twilight?”

She was sure that it had been relevant. “Absolute Certainty was one of the goons who pulled me into that nightmare. She was acting as the Patron for Golden Wish, representing her side of the fight just as Infinite Miracle was representing me, moral failings notwithstanding. Once I figured out you and Golden Wish were one and the same, I figured that she had gotten to you in the real world somehow, in at least a small manner.

Fluttershy grew silent, looking somewhat disturbed as she took in the new information. After a minute, she shook her head, her eyes growing resolute. “No… Maybe I was manipulated somehow, making this worse than it should have been, but I’m still my own mare. My feelings and my purpose for doing what I did are all mine and mine alone. I take full responsibility for what happened.”

Twilight couldn’t help but smile at the sight of Fluttershy, a tearstained, nervous wreck, but still burning with an inner fire of determination. Maybe the genre had been pushed towards something far darker than either of them truly enjoyed, but the core truths remained the same.

“So you really…” Fluttershy began, looking up. Her eyes sparkled with a strange curiosity. “You really were in my story? You met and interacted with me, with everyone else, and Golden Wish?”

“Yep!” Twilight said with a giggle. “Which reminds me. Right before we escaped, Golden Wish wanted to tell you that she forgives you for writing her the way you did.”

Fluttershy bit her lip and looked away. “If authors are supposed to consider the will and feelings of their characters in addition to everything else, I don’t think anypony should write again.”

Twilight raised an eyebrow. “I don’t think it’s nearly as cut and dry as that. Besides, all we have to do is write a new story giving her and everypony else closure and a happy ending, right?”

Fluttershy blinked, then blushed and looked away, staying silent for a long time before finally asking, “We?”

Twilight took a deep breath. Even now, she had been dancing around the issue, but it wasn’t something she could put off forever.

“Fluttershy,” Twilight said carefully. She could feel her heartbeat speed up, and her mouth wanted to go somewhere else entirely, but she pushed forward regardless. “I don’t really know much about romance. Well, I mean, I do. In the academic sense. I’ve read books all my life, I’ve seen how media handles love, I’ve watched ponies: my parents, other couples. I’ve come to learn a whole lot about friendship. I’m well versed with the four classical loves: Agape, Philia, Eros, Storge. The differences between them can often be blurred, but they remain distinct. Yet…”

Twilight let out a sigh, and it was her turn to blush and look away. “But I have a really hard time comprehending romance as it personally relates to me. I never really gave it much thought growing up. It was something other ponies did, not Twilight Sparkle. Not to say I didn’t care or feel anything at all, but there was always something else going on. I was busy, and it’s never something I’ve put time aside for in the schedule that is my life.”

“Twilight…” Fluttershy started, but Twilight cut her off with a raised hoof.

“Let me finish. It’s just… I don’t know. I never really developed a proper framework to deal with feelings like that. It feels so strange and alien and scary, and from an objective standpoint, the two of us together would be a pretty terrible idea.”

Fluttershy wilted visibly, but Twilight pressed on. “We have some things in common, sure, but it could break up our friend group, do weird things to our dynamic, and on top of that this whole ordeal is, well, not that I’m an expert or anything, but it seems like an incredibly unhealthy base on which to start a long lasting and stable, loving relationship. We’re both a little messed up, I think.”

Twilight took another deep breath, her hooves shaking beneath her. “But in spite of all that… I don’t know. Maybe I’m crazy or numb from the shock of it all, or everything that’s happened these past few days has severely screwed up my sense of risk versus reward, but…

“I think that maybe… I’d like to give it a shot anyways.”

Twilight heard muffled voices and movement from somewhere outside the window and realized, with a flicker of annoyance, that their private conversation was probably anything but. The bulk of her attention, however, remained focused on Fluttershy as the pegasus clasped her hooves over her mouth, her eyes growing wide and full of tears.

Her hope was short lived, however, and Fluttershy’s expression soon darkened to one of despair. “I…”

“Hold it,” Twilight said, putting her hoof on Fluttershy’s shoulder and moving in close, looking directly into her eyes. “I know what you’re thinking. This is the part where you pull away and convince yourself that you don’t deserve this because of what you’ve done, because of who you are, because you think I deserve better than you.”

Fluttershy blinked in confusion, then nodded faintly.

“Well, I’m not having that. You wanted to challenge me, you wanted to elevate yourself to be my equal. Then you’re going to have to convince yourself you do deserve this, that you deserve me, and that I deserve you. Anything else is doomed to failure.”

Fluttershy took in a deep, shuddering breath. “That would be a lie, Twilight.”

Twilight grinned. “A lie everypony believes becomes the truth, remember?”

She closed her eyes, leaned forward, and softly kissed Fluttershy on the lips.

After a few moments Twilight pulled back, unable to keep the smile from her face even as her blush threatened to set her alight. “See? That wasn’t so hard, was it?”

Fluttershy threw herself forward, wrapping her forelegs around Twilight and burying her face into her neck. “I was so scared, Twilight! I thought that we had lost you… I thought that my carelessness, my selfishness had hurt you. And now you’re here, and you’re still so perfect and regal and beautiful, and you don’t hate me.”

“I’m not perfect, Fluttershy. I’m the idiot who couldn’t figure this out early on, who yelled at you and insulted you out of my own ignorance, and who made a bargain with an obviously evil supernatural being just so I could get closer to your heart. Neither of us is going to be winning any ‘Best Decision’ awards any time soon.”

Fluttershy burst into a fit of silent giggles, shaking quietly in Twilight’s grasp. “We are pretty messed up, aren’t we?”

Twilight nodded, staring down at her… marefriend. It was an odd thought. When Fluttershy had walked through her door a week ago with a novel to read… this wasn’t the happy ending she had been expecting, but it was one she was happy to have made for herself.

“Just to be clear… you aren’t actually crazy enough to going around murdering everypony because you love me, right?”

Fluttershy sat up, looking down at her with innocent confusion on her face. The shadows in the room fell across her face in a fashion that made it look far more sinister. “Of course not, Twilight. I would never do something like that.”

The two of them shared a laugh that carried out into the night.

“But like, seriously.”

Author's Note:

And here we are, folks.

There's still two small epilogue chapters left, but I figured here was a better place to the end credits.

Thanks to Kalan, my little brother, who not only edited every chapter in an insanely detailed line by line fashion, but also was there every step of the way so I could discuss story consistency and future plans and proper foreshadowing and everything I possibly needed. And for getting me into ponies in the first place. You rock bro.

Thanks to Sereg and JeffCvt as well, for also editing and helping get that final level of polish.

Thanks to SynCalio for doing such a fantastic job on the cover art, and thanks to Petrifish for that lovely cliffhanger image for the climax. These gals do great work, and it was money well spent.

Thanks to the fine curators at Equestria Daily, The Royal Guard, and Twilight's Library who all saw fit to give this story a featured spot. It's always nice to have more horsepoints, and it brought me new readers who made the experience that much more worth it.

Thanks to the wonderful folks over in The Writer's Group IRC. While rarely assisting with this story in particular, y'all are great company and many a discussion on the finer natures of horse stories were had.

And of course, thanks to you, readers. Some of you had everything figured out from the beginning. Some of you were completely stumped until the end. The fact that both categories exist probably means I was doing something right. All of your theories and speculations were an absolute blast to read, even when they were completely outlandish and off base. Even now, I wouldn't be surprised if someone could find enough loopholes to create a theory that completely denies the 'canon' answer and substitutes it with something else. (*cough*rosatrice*cough) In fact, I encourage it.

At this point, I'm also more than willing to answer questions about the story if you find anything unclear, whether in comments or PMs.

You guys have made it all worth it.

As for whats next? Well, I do have some ideas for potential sequels. Nothing major or game changing, just a few short and sweet followups in the same continuity. I'll do a blog post later detailing what potentials are there, maybe see if you guys like any one idea in particular.

I've also started working on a new project which I'll probably detail in the same post, and I've got a few unpublished one shots sitting around too that just need a bit more polish.

It's been a hell of a year people. 2015 is right around the corner, and all I can see is more pony.

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