• Published 7th Apr 2012
  • 11,481 Views, 666 Comments

Then Tomorrow Came - PonyAmorous



Twilight falls for Rainbow Dash but finds herself on the wrong end of a love triangle.

  • ...
59
 666
 11,481

Chapter 9

Chapter 9

Twilight was just on her way home from the stationery store, loaded down with a fresh supply of ink and scrolls, when she heard a familiar voice shouting from behind and above her.

“HEY TWILIGHT! WHAT DID YOU DO TO FLUTTERHY?!”

Twilight turned to see Rainbow Dash's face contorted with anger. She looked as if she was ready to fly over and punch Twilight's head off, and was only held back from doing so by the fact that her tail was caught firmly between Applejacks teeth while the farm pony's hooves dug into the solid ground.

Twilight sighed. Much as she hoped this wouldn't happen, it wasn't entirely unexpected. It had been three days since that night, and nopony had heard from Fluttershy since. It was only a matter of time before one of their other friends checked up on her, and Rainbow Dash was the most likely pony to do it. It was only natural that she would immediately set out to find the one who had hurt her childhood friend. From the look of things, Applejack had tagged along as well.

In an instant, Rainbow Dash had torn free from Applejack's grip and was charging straight at her with frightening speed. Without thinking, Twilight threw up a protective barrier which Rainbow Dash slammed into head first, causing her to ricochet back into the air. Horrified that she had possibly just concussed the mare of her dreams, she immediately dropped the barrier.

"DASH! Are you oka-OOF!" Apparently unfazed by the impact, Dash had instantly righted herself in midair and dove back towards her target, crashing hooves first into Twilight's chest and knocking the wind out of her.

Twilight found herself on her back with Dash standing over her. Strong, athletic forelegs stood on her chest and kept her pinned to the ground. As much as Twilight had dreamed of being in this particular position, she was finding the current context less than desirable. Unable to get any oxygen back in her lungs and afraid of what Dash might do next, Twilight let out a burst of adrenaline fueled magic that knocked the enraged pegasus away and pinned her against the wall of a nearby building. Dash remained pinned upright against the wall by her wings, kicking and snorting furiously while Twilight stood there gasping and trying to catch her breath so she could speak.

"THAT'S ENOUGH! STOP IT, BOTH OF YOU!" Applejack suddenly jumped between them. Placing a hoof on Dash's chest, she waved to Twilight who took the hint and released her magical hold, redirecting the rest of her concentration to sucking in mouthfuls of air. "RAINBOW DASH! Calm down right now!"

Dash just growled in response. "No way! You saw how Fluttershy was!"

"Yes. I did see. And if you had been paying any attention, you would have noticed that you running out the door looking for blood was the last thing she wanted!" Rainbow Dash growled out something incoherent in response. "Look, I know you're just trying to be a good and loyal friend to Fluttershy, but isn't Twilight our friend too?"

Dash stopped squirming and stared straight into Applejack's eyes. "...Yes," she grudgingly admitted.

"In all the time we've known her, have you ever seen her do anything that would indicate she has a single malicious bone in her body?"

Dash's eyes softened a little, but she maintained an irritated edge to her voice. "...No."

"Do you think she would ever intentionally try to hurt Fluttershy?"

Dash dropped the rest of her aggression and let out a sigh of resignation. "No. Of course not. She's a good friend."

"Then maybe, instead of fighting in the middle of the street like a couple of wild animals, we should try talking like civilized ponies. Listen to her side of the story? You know, like a good friend would?" Dash nodded in response and Applejack removed her hoof. Together they walked over to Twilight, who had finally recovered.

"Sorry about that sugarcube. We were just over at Fluttershy's and she was looking mighty down." An orange hind leg reached out and kicked Rainbow Dash in the side.

"Uh, yeah. Sorry." With the anger ebbing away, the realization that she had just attacked one of her best friends seemed to sink in and she hung her head in shame. "We just wanna know what happened."

"Well...we kinda broke up three days ago," Twilight said as she rubbed her forelegs together uncomfortably.

"We'd gathered that much Twi," Applejack replied with a flat look, "we were hoping you could shed some light as to why."

"Yeah! What's the deal? You two were great together, and then all of a sudden Fluttershy's crying her eyes out and won't leave her house!"

Twilight wondered how she was going to get out of this one. "Well...what did Fluttershy say?"

"She wouldn't tell us anything!" Dash exclaimed with great irritation. "We asked her what happened, but she just acted like it was some big secret. Said it was between you two, and that she wouldn't talk about it without your permission. "

"She was mighty tight lipped alright. Even given the state she was in, she wouldn't budge an inch."

Twilight was touched. She had never actually sworn Fluttershy to secrecy over the matter (in retrospect, she probably should have). Still, Fluttershy had taken it upon herself to keep it a secret. Even after Twilight had crushed her heart, she still cared enough to keep the truth of that night bottled up inside. A mixture of guilt and thankfulness flowed through Twilight as she tried to think of a way out. A lie wasn't going to work, and there was no way she could tell the truth.

"I...can't tell you."

"OH COME ON! What do you mean you can't tell us? Did you guys have some kind of big fight or something?"

"No, we didn't have a fight. It was nothing anypony did. We ended things on good terms and we'll hopefully stay good friends after this. And I mean exactly what I said. I can't tell you the reason why."

"But WHY?! What's with all the secrecy?!" Dash's temper was beginning to flare again.

"Because it's PERSONAL and PRIVATE, and apparently Fluttershy agrees." Twilight noticed that she was starting to raise her voice as she reacted defensively to Dash's aggressive questioning. She wanted to shout that it was none of Dash's business and didn't concern her in the least, but that would be a laughable lie. She forced some calm back into her voice. "Look, I know it's upsetting, but you're going to have to believe me when I say it was important. I had to break things off then or it would have gotten much worse and we both would have been miserable."

"ARRGGH! Why can't somepony just tell me what's going on here?"

"Now listen RD. If Twilight and Fluttershy don't wanna tell us, then that's their right. If Twi says it was a good reason, we're just gonna have to believe her. Besides, I don't think Twilight is the kinda pony that goes around breaking hearts for kicks."

Twiight's face twisted with disgust and shock at the thought. "Of course not! It was the hardest thing I ever had to do!"

"Fine, whatever, don't tell me," Rainbow Dash grumbled in defeat.

"Well then, now that we're all agreed," Applejack turned to point a hoof at Rainbow Dash. "You should get back to Fluttershy's house. You scared her half to death when you tore outta that place. She's probably all kinds of worried that you're still out here seeking bloody vengeance in her name. You get back there and tell her you didn't and won't beat Twilight to a pulp, and start providing some comfort. I'll be along shortly." With a few last grumbles, Rainbow Dash took flight and sped off into the distance.

Now that they were alone, Applejack turned back around to face Twilight. Gone was the chastising look she had just been using, replaced by a more serious expression. "So Twi...." Applejack's face gave a slight flicker of discomfort, "this secret of yours...I'm guessing it might involve Dash?"

Twilight's blood ran cold.

She knows! Fry her right now and dump the body in Everfree! With any luck the timber wolves will take care of it!

Twilight quickly got a hold of herself. She was glad that she had turned around to pick up the contents of her saddlebag that Dash had dislodged. At least now Applejack couldn't see the twitch of panic that momentarily crossed her face before she regained control. She hoped that the clenching of all her muscles hadn't been as visible as it had felt. Continuing to organize the inside of her bag, she replied as casually as she could, hoping she might be able to bluff her way out.

"Well, since it is supposed to be secret, I can't really confirm or deny anything, otherwise somepony could just keep guessing and gaining clues until it wasn't a secret anymore. I'd just have to give this response whether they were right or wrong. Still, I am curious as to what would lead you to such an...interesting conclusion."

"I ain't blind Twi. I can tell when one pony has got eyes for another, especially when that other pony is Dash. I've been there myself, and I can spot the signs. Small changes in the way they walk, the way they speak, and the way their eyes always seem to settle on and track one pony in the room."

Twilight wanted to shut Applejack up. Wanted to do something to silence the wave of words that continued to pour out in that insufferably stupid accent and cut through all her defenses, needling her with their truth. She thought about using magic to swell Applejack's tongue until it couldn't fit in her mouth anymore. How dare she lecture her about Dash! How dare she have the audacity to be so right! Instead, she spoke in a calm but fascinated voice.

"Oh? And you think I have displayed some of these signs?"

"I'm...almost certain. It's not exactly out in the open, but I'm pretty sure they're there."

"Well I'm not quite sure how to feel about being watched with such scrutiny. Being the object of such attention. Flattered I guess? Either way, I'm sure it required an impressive amount of attentiveness to your surroundings, especially when one would think your attention would be so focused somewhere, or on somepony, else." Twilight couldn't help a little bit of ice creeping into her voice.

"And exactly what is that supposed to mean?"

Twilight finished poking around in her saddlebag and turned around with a friendly smile on her face. "Hmm? Oh nothing, nothing at all. Just thinking out loud. It would be silly to take it as some ridiculous implication that anypony had wandering eyes." Applejack gave a brief snort. "Regardless, if you've seen what you think you've seen, then I can understand how you might come to your particular conclusion. As I mentioned before, I'm afraid I can't really confirm or deny it either way. I really should be going now, but I will say this. You shouldn't worry. Even if you were correct, it's quite clear that Dash has chosen you and is happy with that choice. At least it looks that way. As flattering as it would be to consider me in any way a threat to that, it wouldn't be very realistic."

Somehow she had managed to keep that smile on her face, as if she were lecturing about an interesting point of Equestrian history. As she turned around and summoned the magic for her teleportation, her face now out of sight, she let her smile drop.

"Besides, nothing spoils a relationship like jealousy. I hear it's such an unattractive trait in a marefriend." Then Twilight was gone.

***

If Applejack still suspected her secret, which was very likely, she had the discretion not to mention it again. They acted as if that little conversation had never happened.

It was a week until Fluttershy left her cottage for anything other than to feed her animals. A little over two more before they stopped avoiding each other and their friends had stopped walking on eggshells around the both of them. It wasn't long until they were interacting with each other at Pinkie's parties, and their friendship was quickly building itself back to where it was before. Soon, the only reminder that anything had happened was how large and empty her lab occasionally felt.

As spring came to a close and summer approached, Twilight Sparkle fell back into a familiar routine. Study, hang out with friends, write friendship reports, sulk. It was far from happiness, but at least it was a less acute misery. Being on the losing end of a love triange was bad enough without the constant murky ethics of her own actions nagging at her conscience. At least now she could wallow in self-pity without feeling like as much of a monstrous hypocrite.

So this is my life now I guess.

As weeks went by, Twilight fell more and more into resignation. She still wished she could be with Dash, but she knew it was nothing more than a ludicrous fantasy. Nothing would ever come of it. She had accepted that now. Perhaps that was why her mind was currently having trouble processing the words she was hearing.

"I'm sorry, what was that?"

Rainbow Dash rolled her eyes from up on her napping cloud as she repeated herself. "I said Applejack and I broke up." Twilight hadn't been expecting anything in particular when she had asked Dash what was new, but she certainly hadn't expected this.

"What? When did this happen?"

"Day before yesterday," Rainbow Dash said, trying only slightly too hard to appear cool and disinterested.

"Why?"

As much as her fantasies had depended on this as a necessity, the thought of them actually breaking up had just been too implausible to consider. Was this just another of their small competitions turned fight that had escalated? Those had always been short and ended in heartfelt makeups and make outs. Had her own break up with Fluttershy and small talk with Applejack sown the seeds of discontent? That seemed highly unlikely.

Dash gave a small sigh. "Look, sometimes these things just...don't work out okay. You think you've found somepony who's right for you, everypony says you're perfect for each other and you agree, and it turns out...they're just not. It just...wasn't meant to be I guess." Only a highly attentive pony would have been able to notice the beginning of a tear forming in the corner of Dash's eye before she rolled over on her cloud.

Twilight was conflicted. On one hoof, she felt like shouting with joy. She certainly hadn't expected to wake up this morning and have life go her way for once. She had thought she had given up hope, finally resigned herself to reality, but a small ember had remained locked away in her heart, and it was quickly flaring back to full strength. She felt justified in holding on all this time. All those voices she had imagined in her head that had called her foalish and idiotic for clinging to such delusion, well who was the idiot now? She had showed them. She had held onto love, and now her perseverance would pay off. At the same time, she did feel bad for Rainbow Dash.

"Wow...that kinda sucks."

"Yeah, yeah it does."

"Do you...want to talk about it at all?"

"Not really."

"Okay then. I guess I'll let you be. If you need anything, just let me know and I'll be happy to help."

Twilight turned and walked away. She would make a move in time, but not yet. It would be oh so easy to act now, to try and take advantage of Dash on the rebound. It would probably work too, but she had far too much respect for Dash to try something like that. If this was going to happen, she didn't want it spoiled by underhanded tricks. Besides, there was a good chance she might blow it if she acted too quickly. Dash might catch on to what she was doing and be mad, or maybe it would work for a week or two until she recovered, and then Dash would look over her actions and think less of her. No, Twilight would be supportive, but she would also keep at a safe distance. That would start with respecting Dash's requests to be alone whenever she asked for it.

Four weeks. I'll give it four weeks. That should be enough time to recover, plus a little buffer. I've waited this long, I can wait a little longer.

In the meantime, she would incinerate anypony who so much as made eyes at Dash. There were surely other ponies who weren't quite as scrupulous as herself, and she certainly wasn't going to hold the door open for any of them to swoop in under her nose.

***

Twilight couldn't contain her nervous energy this evening. All of her long held plans would finally be coming to fruition. For weeks she had acted as a friendly ear and pillar of support for Rainbow Dash, while keeping a strict eye on herself. Dash liked to put up a tough front, but Twilight could tell that she was hurting far more than she let on. On the rare occasions that Dash let her defenses down, Twilight restrained herself to a reassuring hoof on a shoulder. She knew that if she went for a full embrace, she might not be able to break it off without lingering a little too long. She also encouraged Dash to spend time with the rest of their friends as well. She didn't want anypony to be able to say that she had unfairly monopolized Dash's attention when she was vulnerable. Now all of that self-denial was going to pay off. Earlier that day, she had finally made her move.

Twilight noted with amusement that it just so happened to be the one year anniversary of the day her life had taken such a drastic turn into chaos and misery. A year since her first plan to confess to Rainbow Dash with a flashy fireworks show had been aborted. She couldn't believe how foalish she had been to think that was a good idea in the first place.

If you think about it from the confessee's perspective, it's really a highly stressful situation. There's enough pressure without a giant spectacle and the other pony staring at them waiting for an answer.

Twilight had remembered desperately scrambling and wishing for more time while Fluttershy waited nervously. A letter was the obviously superior method. Not only was it considerate, allowing the recipient to read, think, and construct a response at their own pace, but it allowed her to take her time in the confession as well. Instead of trying to nervously choke out her feelings face to face, she could pick and choose her words just right, use her mastery of the written language to accurately describe exactly how she felt. That was exactly what Twilight had done.

She had spent two hours that morning trying to take all the thoughts that had swum in her head all year, and put them perfectly on paper. How her dreams had come to constantly feature one particular pegasus, the pain she had been hiding at seeing Dash and Applejack together, the real reason she had broken up with Fluttershy. Twilight poured her heart onto the pages, wanting to confess everything. Then there were the poetry filled sections that attempted to convey how she actually felt. They were beautiful works of art, filled with the most vivid and passionate imagery ever constructed by ponykind.

Looking over what she had just written, Twilight wondered if maybe it was a little too much too fast. While she wanted to communicate that her feelings were serious, the last thing she wanted was to scare Dash off with such intensity out of the blue. She set to work butchering her beloved creation. Maybe she didn't need the five extra pages of similes. She would find a way to fit it into one, maybe two pages. The language might be a bit too grandiose in some places. She should probably change the parts that required familiarity with the works of several philosophers. After several edits, Twilight was satisfied that her letter was an accurate enough statement of her feelings, while not being too intimidating. She had opted to keep a few of the more passionate and poetic bits in, but managed to work them in so the letter had a steadily growing intensity from start to finish.

Proud of her creation, Twilight steeled herself for the most difficult part. Delivery. She knew that Rainbow Dash would be out on weather duty. A thunderstorm was needed this evening to replenish nitrogen levels in the soil. Dash wouldn't be back until the middle of the afternoon. Still, she found herself hesitating as she stood outside of the empty cloud house, sealed envelope floating in front of her.

There was no going back after this. Dash would know of her secret and Twilight would finally have an answer. For better or worse, she could never return to the security of the indeterminate limbo she inhabited now. With a grunt of determination, Twilight lifted the letter to the cloud door and pushed it through the mail slot. It was done. All she had to do now was wait for the response and enter the new chapter of her life.

And waiting was exactly what she had been doing for hours. She knew it was silly, there was no guarantee that she would even get a response the same day. If Dash sent a reply in the mail, it might take a day or two to be delivered. Then again, she might come flying through the door any second. Regardless, Twilight couldn't summon the focus for any task other than pacing around the library. At least she wouldn't be bothering Spike. He had been called away to Canterlot on business, and would be gone for the next few days. Something about the princesses needing him to facilitate rapid communication for some trade dispute.

Twilight was once again daydreaming about where she should take Dash for their first date, when her thoughts were interrupted by a sharp knock on the door. In a purple blur of motion, she ran to the door and flung it open. Sitting there on her doorstep was a single envelope with her initials on it. She could just detect the wonderful scent of the pony she loved lingering in the air from her recent presence. It seemed Dash had responded with a letter of her own, personally delivered that night. Was that good? Bad?

Mind racing with hope and fear, Twilight carried the letter with her into the kitchen. There, she poured herself some of the tea she had made a little earlier in a vain attempt to settle her nerves. She tried to take a deep breath, realizing that her breathing had become rapid and shallow. Her muscles twitched with energy as she slowly tore open the top of the envelope, the sound of tearing paper making her heart beat faster. Finally, she took out the letter and began to read.

Dear Twilight:

I've never been the best with words or writing, especially about feelings and stuff, but I think you definitely deserve the effort. I got your letter earlier today. I wasn't sure what to feel about it for a while. Flattered I guess? It's not everyday you learn you've caught the eye of such an amazing pony and made such an impact on them. You're one of the best friends I've ever had, and one of the greatest ponies I've ever had the privilege to know. Unfortunately, I just don't feel the same for you romantically. I'm sorry. The spark just isn't there. I'm sure it would be great if it was, but it isn't. If we could pick who we loved, things would be so much simpler. I would be hard pressed to find a better choice than you. I wish there was something I could say or do to make it better, but there isn't, so I'll just say I'm sorry. I know it probably doesn't help much, but it's true. I still cherish you as a friend, and hope we can continue being friends long into the future. Hopefully we'll both find somepony who we love and who loves us in return.

Twilight sat a few seconds in stunned silence. Her eyes scanned over the page several times, hoping she had missed some crucial bit that would change the entire meaning. Something that would change it to "I love you too Twilight". No matter how much she reread the letter, the result was always the same.

When sound returned to the library, it was with a deafening shattering noise. As much as it resembled her breaking heart, it had actually come from the tea cup she had thrown against the wall in a sudden fit of rage. The sound was joined by a cacophony of others, as Twilight turned and kicked over the kitchen table, sending its contents spilling across the room.

WHY?!

The single thought burned in her mind like fire. Dash wouldn't even give her a chance.

It's not fair! It's not fair! There was nopony else in the way this time! It should have been perfect! Why can't we just be together?!

Of course, she had been given an answer right in the letter. A part of Twilight recognized that it was a perfectly valid reason. If the feelings just weren't there, there was no use in trying to force it. As much as she needed a focus for her anger, she couldn't find cause to make it stick to Dash. Part of her even admired the construction of the letter. It had been gentle and sympathetic, while remaining firm and clear, leaving no room for further doubt on the subject. Really, it was the ideal way to deliver such bad news. Still, it didn't make her feel any better.

Twilight knocked over a bookcase, thrashing about in directionless rage. The problem with not believing in fate or any external deities that controlled her destiny, was that she had nothing to blame for the cruelties of the universe. She had no choice but to eventually turn her bitter accusations against herself. Was there something she had done wrong? Something else she could have done. Should she have tried to move in earlier? Maybe it would have made no difference at all, maybe it would have been worse. Or maybe she had thrown away her only chance for some sudden sense of "integrity". Well she had kept her integrity intact, and a fat lot of good it was to her now. A small part of her tried to argue that it probably wouldn't have worked anyway, or that if it had, Dash would only stay with her out of a feeling of obligation and guilt. Unfortunately, even that looked preferable at the moment.

Twilight needed air. She also needed to get outside before she destroyed the entire library. Most of all, she needed to run. Flinging open the door with her magic, Twilight ran as fast and as hard as she could. She ran through the empty streets with a mad desperation, as if she could escape from reality and all of her problems if only she could keep running fast enough.

Thunder crashed and lightning split the sky. Rain poured down from the sky in fat droplets that broke against her face as she charged through them, masking the tears that streamed down her face. Twilight knew that it wasn't a good idea to go running about in a thunderstorm, but she didn't care at the moment. She kept running, now thoroughly soaked, until the path ended at one of the many sheer cliffs on the outskirts of town. Twilight collapsed in an exhausted heap and peered over the edge. Far below her was the ponyville dam, the waters of the river now swelled and raging with the heavy downpour.

What am I supposed to do now? Is this just how it is going to be forever? Will it ever get any better?

Twilight stared into the raging rapids below her, transfixed by the swirling eddies. They were beginning to look so welcoming. They called out to her with a simple solution, an alternative to a lifetime of repeated misery. True, drowning was supposed to be particularly messy and unpleasant, but the multitude of large rocks at the bottom of the long drop offered a solution to that problem as well. Twilight pulled herself out of the mud and stood thoughtfully on the edge of the cliff.

Of course the idea was stupid and filled with numerous flaws. First there was the untold devastation that would be wreaked upon her friends and family. Without even the decency to leave a note behind, what straws would they grasp at for an explanation of why? Would they blame themselves for not seeing signs that weren't there?

Second, even without a note, Dash would put the pieces together. She'd probably be emotionally scarred for life and destroy herself with guilt. The last thing Twilight wanted was to hurt Dash in such a way. And yet, as horrible as that thought was, it still wasn't the strongest reason why she hesitated.

The truth was, as long as the next day brought with it a chance to see Rainbow Dash's face, Twilight wanted to live through it. Dash had still wanted to be her friend. Even if all her dreams of Dash loving her had been shattered, she was still horribly addicted to her company. It was a weak reason to live, but it was there and she was powerless to change it. Even with the immense pain it would surely bring, Twilight couldn't turn away from the possibility to see and talk with Dash at least one more time. As long as at least one more opportunity existed, she would continue to delay taking that final step forward indefinitely.

Twilight turned and slowly made her way back to the library. She didn't bother to raise a shield against the rain, letting it drip from the front of her bangs instead and run down her sides into the the cold mud that had stuck to her belly. When she finally got home, she ignored the mess she had made. There would be time to clean it up later. She walked up the stairs and started to draw herself a very hot bath.

Author's Note:

And there's another chapter done. I know you're probably getting sick of the sad roller coaster. Well next chapter should bring us into what I am tentatively calling act 3. A bit of a gear shift with some more action to go along with all the brooding. That dark tag is finally going to get some use too. Been waiting to get into this part. Now please go wild with your speculation.