• Published 13th Feb 2015
  • 934 Views, 37 Comments

Too Much Love Will Kill You - A Hoof-ful of Dust



How much do you trust what you can see? What you can touch? What you experience? How sure can you be that all you have lived through, all you have loved, is not a dream that will fade at daybreak? Twilight must end the spell.

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Two

"It was the strangest dream," she heard herself say. "I had this whole history with Fluttershy, that wasn't real. It felt real, though. I can still remember all the details, all the things we did, all the places we went to together, that sort of thing. But I also had this whole relationship with Pinkie Pie, with just as many memories, and I was trying to find some proof of which one actually happened."

"Which one did actually happen?" Applejack asked with a smirk.

"I don't know," Twilight said, scratching behind an ear and frowning. "They both did."

Applejack bucked a tree, the apples raining down into the barrels gathered below. "Yer lucky I ain't a jealous pony, sugarcube."

Twilight's face went red as it dawned on her just what she had been saying and just who she had been saying it to. "Well... what I meant was... it was only a..." She stumbled over her words long enough to realize Applejack was playing with her. Her sense of humor was straightforward and forthright as the rest of her, and it sometimes took Twilight by surprise if she was distracted.

Twilight grinned, and Applejack grinned back at her and kicked the apples out of the next tree.

Settling next to a full barrel of apples, Twilight became aware of a warmth in her that had nothing to do with the mid-morning sunshine. She loved when Applejack just got her. Twilight considered words a forte of hers, but she was reconsidering this self-evaluation based on how tongue-tied and outright stupid she could sound sometimes around the farm pony, but it didn't matter. Every romance Twilight had ever read seemed to feature to a fault some kind of misunderstanding that had to be rectified in the book's climax that could have been avoided with just a simple explanation; she had hypothesized explanations were not all that simple in the real world, but it turns out they were. Or perhaps they just were to Applejack, for which she was eternally grateful. Because Applejack got her.

Had she had misunderstandings with Fluttershy, in her dream? Twilight couldn't remember. She must have with Pinkie, she concluded, they were so different they couldn't help but talk past each other all the time. But she was different from Applejack, too, if you looked at the pair of them in the right light. The scenario of princess and apple farmer might not be all that out of place in a romance novel. But none of those differences that would be fodder for conflict on the page seemed like they mattered. Applejack was just... Applejack. Because this was real life, and that was fiction.

But the dreams felt real, too, her mind insisted.

How does one tell a dream from reality? Could you dream something so real and so complete that you couldn't tell what you were experiencing was not real? It was an old philosophical question, the logical conclusion being that all a pony could be sure of is that she and she alone existed, and the rest of the world may just be some elaborate fantasy, but that wasn't an especially practical way of living even if you did happen to be trapped in some kind of unyielding dream.

Twilight looked at the blades of grass on the ground before her, scrunching her hoof a little to disturb a beetle that scurried to disappear back into the field. She heard the cawing of crows over the thump and patter of Applejack working the orchard, and in the distant distance, giggling from Apple Bloom and her two inseparable friends. Shadows from light clouds overhead drifted across Sweet Apple Acres. She could taste apple juice and oatmeal in her mouth, remnants of this morning's breakfast.

If this was a dream, it was an astoundingly detailed one.

But this was real. Had to be real. Because... because...

Twilight furrowed her brow, thinking of the ancient philosophers who had puzzled this question out at the birth of philosophy. What proof was there? Her memories, which she had also had in her dreams, full histories that did not seem to fragment in the light of day like so many dreams? Her senses, which had been just as alive as she had slept? Her emotions? Could she deny that she felt the same sort of pang for the faded ghosts of Pinkie and Fluttershy, just as she would if she looked up at Applejack? How would she feel if she went to see the real Pinkie (if there was such a thing as a real Pinkie Pie)? Would all the false memories just evaporate as reality overwrote them, or--

"Twilight?"

She flinched at her name and glanced up like she had been caught doing something she shouldn't. For a brief second she felt--no, knew--her deepest fears had been confirmed, that the life she was experiencing was just a thin sheen over an endless gulf of nothingness, a dream from which she would eventually wake and blink out of existence, because as she looked up and saw a black shadow where Applejack should have been, her heart leaped into her throat and her breath caught behind it.

And then in the following second, she realized Applejack was blocking her view of the sun, and casting a shadow over her face.

"You okay?" Applejack asked.

Twilight shook her head, like she could shake off the thoughts she had just been pursuing, and stood. "I'm okay," she said. "Just thinking."

"Looked like you were goin' real deep, there."

She smiled. "I was, yeah. I'm back, though."

Applejack tipped her hat away from her face and glanced in the direction of the farmhouse. "I'm done out here for now. You wanna come inside and end the spell?" she asked.

"Sure, that sounds..."

Twilight paused in mid-step. She had been about to follow Applejack, but something was wrong. Something was off. The universe was about the tear, and in the rip Twilight knew she would be able to see something. It wasn't formless nothing underneath reality. It was gears, cogs, springs, larger and more beyond understanding than black space could ever be.

The whole world lurched forward.

"What did you say?" Twilight asked.

"I asked if you wanted to get out of the sun for a little bit."

"No," she said, screwing her eyes shut and putting a hoof to her temple, "what were the exact words you said?"

"Uh... Do you want to come inside and sit a spell? I think."

"No." Twilight shook her head. "No, you didn't say sit, you said end. End the spell."

"I didn't--"

"What spell? What spell?"

"I don't know anything about any spell, Twilight, just--"

"No!"

Twilight could feel her heart racing and her cheeks heating and the crackle in her horn like an oncoming storm. She was aware of all these things with a calm detachment, like there was a part of her a few paces back charting her rise to anger. Superego Twilight, separate from normal Twilight. Like there were two of her.

She turned her head to look away, out over Ponyville at the town hall, her castle, the fields in the distance. She had been here before. Felt like this before. Had this fight before. It had never happened, but it had already happened. She felt a jarring burst of déjà vu, and superego Twilight reminded her with her cool scholar's tone that déjà vu was an illusion, a mistake in the mind where a new memory was processed as an old one. An illusion, but it felt real. She had done all this before.

"I don't know what the problem is, Twilight," she heard from behind her.

"No," she sighed, stubbornly still looking out over the town, "and that's the problem."

"Huh?"

"I say things over and over and you never listen to them! You say uh-huh or yes Twilight and you nod your head, but everything goes in one ear and out the other, and if you just paid attention for a second, Rainbow, you might be able to figure out what it is I'm mad about once in a while!"

Rainbow didn't wait for Twilight to look back at her. Twilight's view of the flickering lights was suddenly blocked by her marefriend's angry face.

"You're saying I'm dumb, right?"

"No!" Twilight stamped a hoof. It had no effect on the surface of the cloud. "I'm just--"

"Yes you are!" Rainbow darted towards Twilight so quickly it forced her to take a step back. "You're saying I'm not smart enough to follow the clues that tell me what I've messed up, like you're that guy in those old mystery books, Pony Hearty--"

"Poniarty."

Rainbow jabbed a hoof at her. "You're doing it again! Everypony gets it! You're smart! You win at smart."

Twilight's brow furrowed. "Is that what this is about? Does everything have to be a..."

But she trailed off, because Rainbow was finishing her sentence for her, mocking her by mimicking her exact cadence: "Have to be a competition?"

Twilight huffed a breath. "If you're going to be childish, I'm done with this discussion."

"Oh, were we discussing? I thought this was you yelling at me."

Before Twilight could respond, Rainbow shot off into the air towards her house.

"Fine by me if we're done," she called back, "I get to stretch out my wings in bed."

"Fine!" Twilight yelled, aware how childish she herself would sound.

"Fine!" Rainbow disappeared through a high window.

Twilight glanced up at the cloud house, then sunk down on the edge of the cloud and looked out over the edge. How did this always happen? It was perhaps a week that went by without her and Rainbow arguing over something. Over nothing, more like it. It would always start small and then escalate, a chain reaction becoming unstable. It was like they were the two components in a volatile chemical mixture. Twilight imagined telling Dash that. She heard her say not to apply that egghead stuff to a pony as awesome as her, saw the faint smile on her lips, felt her muzzle brush against her cheek.

She missed Dash already.

It was never long before they apologized. Sometimes she wouldn't even have time to get to a separate room before she's feel Rainbow's hoof on her shoulder. Everything was always instantly forgiven, every low of a fight balanced by a heightened rush of affection that followed in the days after. Rainbow's parents were the same way, she had observed over Hearth's Warming.

Twilight wondered how Rainbow would react to being told that. She hated being compared to her parents, despite being so much like them.

The lights of Ponyville flickered in the night. Twilight wondered how many belonged to ponies who were happy, who were sad, how many who were together, how many who were alone. All the stores would be closed by now, ruling out the chance to go buy a last-minute extravagant I'm-sorry gesture and fly it through Dash's window. But, she remembered, but, there was something at the castle that might be just as good.

Rainbow had become especially serious about training for her future as a Wonderbolt just as she and Twilight had become an item, and after much reluctance, skepticism, and hoof-dragging was following the food plan Twilight had established for her. It wasn't anything out of the ordinary, but it did prohibit a lot of junk Rainbow liked to eat from time to time, and if there was any faster way to back Rainbow Dash into a corner than telling her she couldn't do something she wanted to be free to do, Twilight had yet to discover it. So, they had reached a compromise: in lieu of the occasional mid-afternoon lunch of two burgers and a mountain of hay fries, she and Dash had a slice of blueberry pie each at the end of every week. It was something they stayed in to do, something they both made time for, a private ritual shared between the two of them.

Two slices of pie were sitting in Twilight's fridge for tomorrow. She could go get them and give them to Rainbow, right now. Both of them.

A rushing sound in her ears made Twilight think Dash was flying back to her already, and she craned her head around and blinked into blinding light. Where there had been night, now there was day. Where she had been up in the clouds, she was down on the ground. She was back in the orchard with Applejack. Or perhaps she had never left.

The sounds she heard were no longer of gears turning, teeth meshing. Now it was the creak of beds of ice, the pop of crushed glass.

"Twilight? Are you okay?"

She heard Applejack. She heard Rainbow Dash. Two voices, overlapping, echoing into forever like mirrors faced at each other.

"Twilight, are you okay? Twilight, are you okay? Twilight, are you okay..."

She was here. She wasn't here. This had happened. This had never happened. There was one frog. There were two frogs.

Tick. Tick. Tick.