• Published 21st Sep 2016
  • 14,479 Views, 68 Comments

The Nightmare I Need - Dubs Rewatcher



Twilight's sanity is at stake as she's haunted by dreams of Midnight Sparkle's resurrection. But Midnight's dark magic might be just what Twilight needs to win Sunset's love.

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Two

Twilight’s fingers felt warm wrapped up with Sunset’s. The two walked along a snowy forest trail, hands intertwined, bodies pressed together. The two of them took this path home from school often; hidden away from the rest of the world, Twilight felt as if she and Sunset were the only two humans alive. Around them, snowflakes fluttered down like tiny stars, twinkling in the sunlight and shining on their skin. Sunset’s sweet cinnamon scent surrounded Twilight—the same scent that coated all of Sunset’s clothes, and most of Twilight’s; the same scent that always followed Sunset, even after when covered with sweat, with motor oil. It filled Twilight’s nostrils, and the heat in her fingers soon flooded the rest of her body.

As if trying to drive Twilight totally crazy, Sunset giggled and brushed a finger along the inside of Twilight’s palm. Twilight flinched at the tickling tingle, but didn’t pull away. She let Sunset’s soft fingers press into her skin, tracing the creases and bumps like they were braille. Sunset leaned in close and touched her head to Twilight’s. She let out a whispery sigh, which traipsed down Twilight’s neck and nearly made her fall.

Twilight threw a glance up at Sunset, only to be met by a mischievous grin. Sunset pressed her lips to Twilight’s, and soon the two had stopped in the middle of the path. Silence coated the forest, broken only by the occasional gasp or murmured curse as Sunset stuck a hand into Twilight’s hair and pulled her closer.

Thoughts bulleting past, Twilight closed her eyes and tried to lose herself in the sweet taste of Sunset’s tongue, the tenderness of her lips, that cinnamon scent, goddess be praised that smell don't stop don't stop.

This was everything Twilight wanted.

Sunset pulled away and chuckled—but her voice sounded strange.

Twilight opened her eyes and screamed.

Midnight Sparkle shoved a palm into Twilight’s chest, sending her flying backwards. The forest had disappeared, replaced by an endless gray wasteland. Twilight hit the dirt hard, rolling a few times before going limp.

“You taste like mud,” Midnight said, walking closer. “I’m amazed that Sunset girl can even stand looking at you, let alone touching you.”

“You!” Twilight scrambled backwards, farther and farther away until she hit a boulder. Midnight just kept walking, pinning Twilight to the rock. “Leave me alone!”

“Do you really think you can ever be happy?” Midnight asked. She smirked. “That you could ever make someone else happy?”

Twilight glared. “Shut up.”

Midnight sped forward, grabbed Twilight’s collar, hefted her into the air. “What was that?” she asked as Twilight clawed at her hands.

“I’m sorry, I’m sorry!” Twilight said. “Let me go!”

“That’s what I thought.” Midnight tightened her grip, tearing Twilight's collar. “Just a sniveling coward, as usual.”

Twilight kicked and punched and spasmed, but Midnight didn’t budge. Tears spilled down her face.

Laughing, Midnight brought Twilight down until the two were at eye level. “You’re nothing without me,” the demon said. “I was the best thing to ever happen to you, and destroying me was the biggest mistake of your life! You know it. I know it.” She brought her face close to Twilight’s, so Twilight could smell her sewage-scented breath, could see the glint of her fangs. “Sunset Shimmer knows it. You’re no more than dead weight to her. Might as well not be breathing.”

Twilight tried to argue—but could only cry.

“Who could ever love you?” Midnight asked. She licked her lips. “You’re not worth anyone’s time.”

Midnight pressed her lips to Twilight’s. Twilight whimpered and tried to break away, but Midnight’s grip was too tight. She could do nothing as Midnight’s tongue pushed its way into her mouth, as Midnight’s dark magic flowed through her veins like burning oil. It might have been only a dream, but Twilight could feel everything.

“Accept it,” Midnight whispered into her mouth. “You need me.”








Twilight snapped up and very nearly fell out of bed. She kept one hand gripping the blanket and ran the other up and down her body, grimacing at the sweat coating her skin. She whipped her eyes around the room. She was still in Sunset’s apartment, under Sunset’s sheets, wearing Sunset’s pajamas—and sure enough, Sunset was still sleeping next to her, completely safe.

Trembling, Twilight lay back down and stared at Sunset’s sleeping face. Drool poured from her lips onto the pillow, and her hair was frizzed out in every direction. Passed out, Sunset was at her ugliest; and yet she still looked like a queen.

With stinging eyes, Twilight reached a hand toward her girlfriend. All Twilight wanted was to hold her, to be held, to make these awful dreams go away—but she forced herself back. Sunset wouldn’t want to be touched like that. Not by you.

Nausea roared in her stomach. Rubbing the dampness from her eyes, Twilight crawled out of bed and stumbled across the dark apartment, headed for the single light in the distance and doing her best not to fall to the floor and break something and make Sunset upset again. Thoughts burning, mind screeching, she slipped into the bathroom and collapsed against the sink.

Twilight couldn’t look her reflection in the eye. She just stared at her own scrawny body, barely visible under the baggy pajamas. Sunset was twice the woman Twilight was, in size and heart. How Twilight ever thought she could impress Sunset—could ever even make her happy—was insane. Sunset deserved more. Sunset deserved anyone else.

“Calm down.” Twilight raised a handful of sink water to her face and splashed it across her eyes. “This is just the fatigue speaking. You’re exhausted, and these dreams aren’t helping.”

And what of those dreams? They terrified Twilight; just the thought of Sunset being hurt made her gag. But everything else… the power. The confidence. Midnight had no fear. Anything she wanted to do she did. Nothing ever stood in her way—no stupid anxiety, no stupid asthma. She never second-guessed herself. Never flinched at every errant sound in an empty bathroom. Twilight couldn’t even get a rude word in without begging for mercy a second later.

What was the difference between Midnight and her? Wings? A skimpy skirt?

Magic.

Twilight gripped the sink. Even now, she could still feel the tingle of Midnight’s power inside her. She had sworn off studying magic after the Games, but… but could magic help her? Could magic make her strong enough to get over these nightmares, to finally convince Sunset she was worth loving?

“No!” she shout-whispered. “No, no. Stupid.”

She cast one final look at her awful body before turning out the light and hobbling back to bed.

Sitting down, she took a moment to adjust her too-big shirt—but froze when she looked at Sunset’s nightstand. Resting on the shelf, underneath an alarm clock and a coffee-stained shirt, was a journal. The journal. Just gazing at it, Twilight was sure she could feel a sort of electricity darting along her skin, giving her goosebumps.

Sunset was still sleeping. Twilight was alone.

She grabbed the journal and slipped it into her bag.


The next day, sitting safely in a bathroom stall with her feet up on the seat, Twilight opened the journal. The first few dozen pages were filled to the brim, half with Sunset’s messy scrawls, and the other with someone’s finely manicured cursive—Twilight had a pretty good guess who that belonged to, especially considering it matched her own handwriting perfectly.

Twilight let her overprotective girlfriend instincts take over for a moment as she skimmed through the book, searching for anything lecherous. The closest thing she found was Sunset commenting on how “disturbingly large” human breasts could be, sandwiched between two Friendship Lessons about keeping promises to friends.

Trying to keep the image of Sunset's boobs out of her mind, Twilight flipped to a new page.

Testing, testing. Princess Twilight of Equestria, do you read me? This is Twilight Sparkle of Earth. Please respond as soon as possible.

It took only a few minutes for a new message to appear below her own.

Hello, human Twilight! It’s great to hear from you again—even if it is just past midnight here in Equestria. One of these days we really should work out the temporal discrepancies between my world and yours. You can’t imagine how many messages I’ve missed from Sunset because she sent them while I was asleep.

What can I help you with?

P.S.: Normally I’d tell you to just call me Twilight, but considering the circumstances, using my title is probably wise. I would also accept “Twilight Prime.”

P.P.S.: That was a joke. I don’t know how well humor crosses dimensions.

It crosses just fine, thanks. Although I might argue that I’m the real Twilight Prime; I do have opposable thumbs, after all.

In any case, I was wondering if you could possibly answer some questions I have about magic. Namely, is there a safe way to use magic in order to induce physiological and psychological changes? Say, a growth in muscle mass, or a change in personality?

No. Not permanently, at least. I know dozens of transfiguration spells, but they all have a time limit. You can grow a third set of hooves for one hour, let’s say, but as soon as the hour passes they’ll disappear. As for psychological changes, spells exist, yes, but none of them are exactly safe. Messing with the brain is playing with fire. Just one mistake could cripple you for life.

That being said, everything I just described has only been proven to be true for ponies. Most unicorn scholars don’t even know humans like you exist. For all I know, magic meant to grow a third set of hooves here could turn you into a tomato, if it had any effect at all.

Why do you ask?

Just curious.

On a possibly related note: you’ve watched each of my friends take on a semi-magical form, some hybrid of pony and human. They all call it “ponying up.” Upon activation, each of them gains enhanced reflexes and a heightened sensory array. How might one go about triggering this transformation?

You’d need to have some connection to the Elements of Harmony, first of all, even if that just means being touched by their magic. Aside from that—honestly, I’m not quite sure. Sunset was studying it at one point, wasn’t she? Couldn’t you just ask her?

Can’t. Sorry.

I see? Well, as far as I’ve heard, your anthropomorphic forms are powered by emotions. To transform, you would need to find something that gives you a true emotional and adrenal high. Winning a competition, for instance. Making art, falling in love, the smell of old books.

The possibilities raced through Twilight's mind. Earning a full scholarship to college! Discovering the cure for the common cold!

Sexual climax?

Twilight mentally slapped herself. It took an unusually long time for the Princess to respond.

Possibly? If that’s the highlight of your day, go for it. Just maybe not in public.

Thank you, Princess Twilight. I think I have an idea of how this all works now.

Sure. Just be careful, alright? Magic is strange. Volatile. Not something you want to mess with without taking some precautions.

Twilight rolled her eyes. She was a scientist, not an idiot; if anyone knew about safety, it was her. She set the journal down on her knees and opened her bag—but not to put it away. Instead, she pulled out a pair of scissors.

The journal's magic tingled on Twilight's skin like television static as she sliced out the offending pages. Twilight cringed with every new cut—ruining a perfectly good book like this sent her stomach twirling. But it had to be done. Twilight couldn't risk making Sunset upset. Not again.

She did her best to make the cuts as clean as possible, and by the time the end-of-period bell rung, the journal looked as if Twilight hadn't even touched it. Surely Sunset wouldn't notice three measly pages missing, right?

Oh my goddess she's gonna notice. She's too smart not to. She's gonna notice and she's gonna hate you hate you forever. Twilight closed her eyes and shook her head, as if trying to fling the anxiety away, but she only made the thoughts grow stronger, stronger, until her brain felt like it would spill out her ears—

It doesn't matter. She's already planning on leaving you—breaking her trust like this will just speed up the process.

Twilight stuffed the journal away and ran out of the bathroom. She walked to her next class with her head down, letting the roar of the high school halls drown her thoughts, drown that terrible voice in the back of her mind.

"Sunset does like me," she mouthed, over and over until the words became meaningless. And I'm gonna prove I'm not a loser.


Twilight centered a beaker of water over the flame. “Alright,” she said, adjusting her glasses. “We’ll leave that to boil and come back when it’s ready.”

“Should we record anything?” Sunset asked. “Time? Temperature of the flame?”

“That’s a good idea—where’s my pencil?” Twilight patted the pockets of her lab coat and spun around, eyes darting between every flat surface. “Ugh, not again. How am I supposed to record anything without my pencil? Quick, help me find it!”

“Twilight,” said Sunset in a calm voice, stopping her girlfriend mid-spin. “Where was it last time?”

Twilight blinked a few times, then reached up to touch her ear. Sure enough, a stubby yellow pencil fell to the ground. “Oh,” she said, cheeks going pink under Sunset’s gaze. “Nevermind.” She set to work recording her variables.

Smirking, Sunset hopped up onto the other end of Twilight’s workbench and bobbed her head in time to the music floating from Twilight's radio. Well, tried to bob her head; as soon as she began, the drums disappeared, replaced by a screechy electronic violin and a xylophone. Twilight’s favorite song.

The two of them had been cooped up in Twilight’s lab—better known to her family as the garage—for hours now, working their way through Twilight’s backlog of experiments. Over in the corner, Spike slept in his doggy bed, tail twitching every so often.

“So,” Sunset said. “Boiling water. Very scientific.”

“Hey, give water the credit it’s due!” Twilight scolded with a smile. “I don’t know how things work in Equestria, but it’s pretty important here.”

“Yeah, we just drink pure friendship,” Sunset said. “But seriously, what’s got us working so hard today? I haven’t seen you this busy since... heck, I don’t think I’ve ever seen you this busy.”

Smile wilting a bit, Twilight moved over to another workbench, above which hung a plethora of multicolored chemicals and liquids. Scraps of metal and broken machine parts lay strewn across the table. Twilight pushed aside a half-constructed toaster and put her clipboard down.

She thought back to Princess Twilight’s advice—that her transformation would only come with an emotional high. Twilight loved few things more than science, and the joy that came from finishing a difficult experiment was unlike most anything in the world. Thus, it only made sense that it would be science which would lead her to the magical outcome she so desired. Sure, they had already worked through her entire backlog. And sure, now Twilight was just thinking of new experiments off the top of her head. But the transformation was on its way, surely.

Not that Sunset knew about any of this. As soon as she had ended her conversation with the Princess, Twilight had slipped the diary right back into Sunset’s bag. Sunset didn’t like talking about all of this magic stuff, right? No need to worry her. Not yet. Not until Twilight was stronger.

“I just figured today was as good a time as any to work,” Twilight said, forcing her voice to stay steady. “No use in procrastinating, right?”

“Right. Hey, speaking of procrastination,” Sunset began, giving a sheepish smile, “how much would I need to pay to have you write my ten-page paper on the scientific method?”

Twilight spun around and shot Sunset a glower. “You still haven't started that?”

“I’ve got my first paragraph!”

Twilight tightened her frown.

“Hey, Mister Doodle only assigned it like a week ago,” Sunset said, holding her hands up defensively.

“You’re a scientist!” Twilight said. “This should be easy for you!”

“Yeah, and that’s what makes it so boring. And you know I’ve never really been into the whole theory part of it.” Sunset pouted. “Besides, you remember the last time I tried to tell Mister Doodle about all my experiments back in Equestria. He looked at me like a nutjob.”

“To be fair, you did start out by saying you had spent two weeks interviewing cows.” Twilight rolled her eyes, but smiled. “Well, I can give you some help if you need it—although I don’t see how you can possibly write a halfway decent paper on the scientific method in only ten pages...” When she faded out, so did the music from the radio. Twilight clapped and walked over. “Ooh, next album!”

“Uh-huh.” As Twilight scurried away, Sunset slid off the workbench and circled around the lab, examining the walls. What few inches that weren’t loaded with equipment were loaded with blue ribbons, gold certificates, and photos of a young Twilight holding them all. Sunset let out a low whistle. “Jeez. Have you always been a genius?”

“Huh?” Twilight glanced over at Sunset, then cringed. “Oh, those? My dad just likes to keep them hung up—they don’t mean much to me.”

“They should!” Sunset picked up a photo of Twilight next to a microscope twice her size. “I mean, did you build this? How long did it take?”

“A week or two?” Twilight said, rubbing her arm. “Much longer than it should have, in any case. I’m not very good at engineering.”

“Man,” said Sunset, setting the photo back down, “I’d love to be able to do something like that.”

That sent Twilight reeling. Sunset, wanting to be more like her? The idea was improbable, but... but maybe not impossible. Twilight smiled and stood up a bit straighter. She still had that big microscope stowed away somewhere. Maybe they could use it in an experiment somehow.

“Hey, what’s this?” Sunset asked. She reached over and grabbed a picture that sat at the very back of a shelf, covered in cobwebs.

Twilight leaned forward to see the photo. She went pale.

The picture showed a much younger Twilight standing in the middle of a field, decked out in baggy white pants and a pinstripe baseball shirt. She wore a helmet at least two sizes too big, and held an aluminum bat at an awkward angle behind her head.

“Is this you?” Sunset asked, chuckling. “What is this, Little League or something?”

“Yeah,” said Twilight in a tiny voice. She stared at her feet. “My dad made me do it when I was little.” She searched for anything more to add, but could only come up with, "I wasn’t very good. At all.”

Sunset scoffed. “Come on. You couldn’t have been that bad.”

“I got cut from the team in a month.”

“What? I thought Little League was a no-cut sport.”

Twilight sighed. “It is.”

The two took an involuntary moment of silence for Twilight’s baseball career.

“Oh. Um, well, that’s okay,” Sunset sputtered, putting the photo back. She laughed. “Have I ever told you about when Princess Celestia wanted me to learn how to play the tuba? I didn’t even make it to my first recital before half the castle staff went on strike.”

Twilight let out a laugh and nodded, but any pride she had was long gone. She wrung her hands, cursing herself for not thinking to get rid of all the pictures before Sunset had arrived.

“So!” Sunset said, clapping. “Back to the present. What’s next? Is the water boiling yet?”

“Not yet. Just some vapor.” Twilight glanced around and tapped her chin. “While we’re waiting... well, I did have an idea to build a sort of kibble maze for Spike. You know, like cheese mazes for mice?”

“Kibble?” Spike yipped from the corner, head shooting up. “Where?”

Sunset waved him off. “Not yet, Spike.”

Spike growled, but went back to cuddling his chicken chew toy.

Twilight thrust a fist into the air. “Let’s get started!”

The tinny ring of a cell phone came from Sunset’s pocket. Sunset pulled it out and spent a second staring at the screen in confusion—then went white. “Oh, crap!”

“What’s wrong?” Twilight asked, smile wilting. She watched Sunset run across the room and take off her labcoat. “Where are you going? The water isn’t even boiling yet!”

“Sorry Twi,” Sunset said, picking up her backpack. “I completely forgot about it, but like two weeks ago, I promised Rainbow Dash that I would help her practice for soccer tryouts. The spring season’s coming up, and she wants to make captain this time. And you know how obnoxious she can get about practicing enough.”

“Yes, of course. It’s just...” Twilight fidgeted in place. “Can’t you just, y’know, not go? Tell Rainbow that you’re busy?”

Sunset shrugged. “Yeah, but that’d be kinda rude, wouldn’t it? She’s already waiting for me at the field, and I did make a promise, after all.” She chuckled. “According to the ‘Friendship Lessons’ Princess Twilight is always sending me, honoring promises is, like, über important. You understand, right?”

Dozens of protests crawled up Twilight’s throat. The only word that came out was, “Sure.”

“Awesome! Thanks for not being horribly angry at me,” Sunset said with a grin. She stepped out of the garage door. “I’ll text you tonight, okay? See ya!”

“See ya,” Twilight repeated, barely lifting her hand for a wave. Sunset hurried out, leaving Twilight to stand by herself, arms hanging limp. She felt like a old and rotten ragdoll, thrown in a closet and abandoned.

Across the room, Spike’s ears drooped. “Twi?” he asked. “Are you okay?”

Sunset hates you.

“I’m fine,” Twilight said, flinching.

Spike hopped out of his bed and ran over to Twilight. “Are you sure?” he asked, rubbing his head against her leg. “Because you look like you’re about to cry. I haven’t seen you this sad since that time Indigo Zap found your secret lab at Crystal Prep and smashed all your beakers!”

The memory played out in Twilight’s mind. She hadn’t done anything then, either. She just let Indigo bully her without a single protest. Indigo hadn’t even gotten caught. All because Twilight was a coward—and would always be a coward.

This wouldn't have happened if you had magic. If you weren't such a loser.

“I think I just want to be alone,” Twilight said, crossing her arms tightly in front of her chest.

“Alone?” Spike asked. He gave an excited yip. “I’m not leaving you alone. You need a new lab assistant now that Sunset’s gone, don’t you? I’m gonna stay and help!”

“Mom left her new shoes out,” Twilight spat. “They’re in her bedroom, next to the dresser.”

Spike gasped and sprinted out of the garage.

Finally alone, Twilight closed her eyes and walked over to a stool in the middle of the room. She flumped down and let her head hang between her knees for a moment before looking up at her workbench.

The beaker of boiling water had melted, and flames covered about half the desk, jumping from paper to paper.

Cursing, Twilight grabbed her spare fire extinguisher, tore off the safety pin, and launched a hefty dose of foam at her workbench. A sharp hiss cut through the garage as the fire drowned under Twilight’s assault. Scorch marks covered the wooden table, and the stench of burning rubber filled the air. Twilight kept shooting until the canister was empty, then waited. When a few seconds had passed without anything else exploding, she ran over to the melted beaker.

She grabbed it out of the foam, then dropped it when it almost burnt her. What little pride she had left disappeared.

“This is a plastic beaker,” Twilight said aloud, as if explaining it to herself. “I put a plastic beaker on an open flame?” Gritting her teeth, she glanced up at her wall of supplies. Sure enough, there hung the glass beaker she had meant to use. “I must have grabbed the plastic by mistake.” She forced a smile. “Silly mistake. Anyone could have done it.”

It’s a stupid mistake. That Princess was right to think you were an idiot.

Twilight sighed but counted her blessings that her parents weren’t home. If they found out she had nearly burned down the house—again—she’d have her garage/laboratory access cut off for a month.

Sometimes being a scientist sucked.

Nevertheless, she took a puff from her inhaler and set to work wiping up the foam. The fire had burnt most of her papers to a crisp, rendering hours of work almost useless.

Not that they hadn’t been useless already. She still couldn’t feel any magic. She still didn’t have wings, or long hair, or a new set of ears. Had Princess Twilight’s advice been wrong? Had Twilight wasted her day for nothing?

“At least I got to spend time with Sunset,” she whispered.

Only by lying to her. If she knew the truth about what you were doing, she’d never have come. She’d have spent the entire day with Rainbow Dash.

Twilight’s eyes narrowed unconsciously, and she had to stop for a moment just to take a deep breath. Rainbow’s awful smirk flashed through her thoughts. Rainbow. Sunset had the chance to spend time with Twilight, her girlfriend, and had chosen to hang out with that obnoxious meathead instead.

Twilight knew that wasn’t ‘friendly’ or whatever, but it was true. Everyone said Rainbow was obnoxious. Even Sunset.

So why are they together?

Once the workbench was clear, she grabbed two random bottles off her wall and began unloading them into separate beakers. Maybe basic chemistry would do the trick—getting back to her roots.

When Twilight mixed the chemicals together, they fizzed for a few seconds, then went flat. Twenty dollars’ worth of supplies gone, all for a jar of urine-yellow liquid. She cursed and pushed it to the side.

What was she doing wrong? What could bring her that high she needed and the magic to impress Sunset? She needed something new, something difficult...

Twilight turned around and reached into a box of random equipment, only to wince as she cut her finger on a piece of scrap metal. Grumbling, she pulled the metal out and threw it on the workbench.

It was a rusted clamshell case, like one of those makeup mirrors Rarity carried around. But more importantly, Twilight realized with a start: it was an early prototype for her magic channeling device. The one that had given birth to Midnight Sparkle. The one that had almost destroyed the universe.

Twilight caught herself smiling.

She had been looking for a new project, right? Something difficult that she could really focus on? It had taken her months to build the first channeling device—but she still had loads of spare parts, and a second try would only take a few days, a week at most.

“This is stupid,” she whispered. “Idiotic. I’m going to get myself killed.”

This is science, said that strange voice again. Nothing dangerous about it. You know what went wrong with your device the first time. Fix it. Control the magic. Make Sunset love you.

“I guess... yeah. Yeah!” Twilight bandaged up her finger and drew in a few long breaths. “Just another experiment. Recreating the conditions of my last transformation. Sunset’s been studying this too, hasn’t she? She’ll be so excited to see my results!”

She reached for a screwdriver and set to work.


“Alright,” Cheerilee said, her voice laced with venom. She pointed at a picture of a bearded man in a long robe, which was taped to the blackboard. “For the third time: who is credited with founding the city of Canterlot?”

Pinkie Pie raised her hand.

Cheerilee glared. “No, Miss Pie, it is not Canter McLot.”

Pinkie put her hand down.

“Anyone? Anyone at all?” Cheerilee asked. She stared at her students, all of whom just stared back—well, most. Rainbow was sleeping, and Rarity was painting her nails. “We’ve been studying him for a week now!” Still no answer. Cheerilee dragged a palm down her face and collapsed into her chair. “Fine. Miss Sparkle, help us out, please?”

In the back of the room, Twilight stared at her lap. “Hm?” She glanced up and found the entire class watching her. She flinched away, very nearly tipping her chair over. “Ah, uhm… Starswirl the Bearded?”

Cheerilee nodded. “Good to know someone is paying attention. Thanks again, Twilight.”

“No problem,” Twilight said before returning her gaze to her lap.

Under the desk, Twilight fiddled with her new channeling device. It had taken her a bit longer than expected to work out all the bugs, and technically she wasn’t sure it worked yet, but today she was taking it out for its first test run. Part of her felt bad for testing it out in school, but another part assured her that this was the only way to make sure it functioned correctly.

And besides, in the two weeks it had taken to build, Sunset had helped Rainbow practice two more times, and Twilight had suffered through six more dreams. They all ended with Midnight shaming and assaulting her, each attempt more violent, more disturbing than the last. That morning, she had woken up with her hands on her own throat, trying to pry Midnight’s away. Eight hours of sleep a night be damned; Twilight was barely getting two. She only prayed that fixing up her device and finally getting another taste of the magic she so craved would save her.

As Cheerilee launched into another lesson about Canterlotan history, Twilight focused her gaze on Rarity, who sat just a few seats away. Crossing her fingers and toes, Twilight turned on her device.

Unlike the old one, this device didn’t suddenly snap open and start ripping magic from anyone it could find. Rather, Twilight was able to edge it open, revealing a soft purple light. A familiar purple fog snaked out of the clamshell case. The smoke slithered along the floor, through legs and over feet, until it reached Rarity. It latched onto her ankle and seemed to disappear, as if it were melding with her skin.

At once, Twilight could see the meter on the outside of the case light up. A single tick flashed, indicating that channeling was in progress. There were still twenty-four other ticks to be filled—not that she had to capture all the energy in one day. Baby steps.

Twilight watched Rarity with hawk-like eyes, making sure to take notes as the smoke crawled along Rarity’s feet. She recorded every twitch, every sigh, every hair flourish—there were quite a few of those. Once ten minutes had passed and four ticks were filled, Twilight snapped the case shut, destroying the purple tendril. She watched Rarity for a minute afterward, and only moved on after making sure Rarity wasn’t going to pass out.

As the period passed, Twilight did the same thing to Pinkie and Rainbow. She swore when Pinkie reached down to scratch her leg, and nearly had a heart attack when Rainbow yawned—at least, until she remembered that Rainbow had been snoozing anyway.

Once class ended, Twilight stuffed her device away. It was already warm to the touch, and if one looked closely, they could see it glowing through her pants pocket.

Outside the room, Twilight stopped her friends. “Hey, girls?” she asked, unable to meet their eyes. “Are you… are you all feeling alright? Like, are you tired, or anything?”

Rainbow stretched and grinned. “Nah. That was the best nap I’ve had in months.”

“I’m good!” Pinkie chirped.

Rarity smiled. “I’m feeling fine. A bit peckish maybe, but not tired. Why? Are you feeling alright, darling?”

Twilight rubbed the back of her neck. “Uh, I think maybe I’m getting a cold.”

“Oh, you poor thing!” Rarity said, throwing a hand to her heart. “This winter weather is just dreadful, isn’t it? Come. I’m sure Granny Smith would be more than willing to make you a warm cup of soup.” She took Twilight’s hand and walked on, dragging the scrawny girl along like a suitcase.

Rushing to follow after, Twilight kept her head down. She just hoped she wouldn’t run into Sunset in the cafeteria—she wasn’t ready to explain her experiment just yet.


With the sun dipping close to the horizon and a soft February breeze rolling through the trees, Sunset and Twilight walked down a frozen forest trail, headed for Twilight’s home—a trail that Twilight hadn’t walked since seeing it in her nightmares a few weeks back. With every step, Twilight expected Midnight to step out from behind a tree and tear Sunset away from her.

Not possible, she repeated in her head. Not possible, not possible. I’ve got all the magic under control. She touched the device in her pocket but flinched away from the sharp heat.

The air was below freezing, but Twilight may as well have been in a sauna. She could feel the channeling device hot against her leg. A few more minutes, and she was sure it would burn a hole in her jeans. Every few moments a jolt of… something would spark from it, shooting into her leg and through her limbs. Her entire body tingled with energy. She felt like a taser.

“I swear, if Mr. Doodle makes us dissect another stupid frog, I’m suing.” Sunset tossed her phone high into the air and caught it on the way down. “Like, he knows that it makes me uncomfortable. I’ve forged notes from my ‘mom.’ I’m two seconds away from just telling him I’m a freakin’ magical horse, y’know?”

Twilight gripped her backpack’s straps. “Yeah.”

“Heh, maybe not. He’d probably just try to dissect me.

“Yeah.”

Hopping over a frozen stream, Sunset shot Twilight a sideways glance. “You alright? I know you have a cold or whatever, but you’re being pretty quiet.”

“Nothing’s wrong,” Twilight said, gulping. “Everything’s fine. Fine.”

“You sure?” Sunset frowned. “Did you manage to pony up yet?”

“Pony—?” Twilight stared at Sunset. “How did you know...?”

“I hope you don’t mind, but I read your conversation with Princess Twilight—er, Twilight Prime,” Sunset said with a grin. “You did write it in my journal, after all. Although I don’t even remember lending it to you.”

"But I cut those pages out!" Twilight said. She clapped a hand over her mouth. oh my goddess shut up you're an idiot shut up

Sunset snickered. "I know. I noticed that three pages were missing, so I asked Princess Twilight about it. Luckily, taking pages from one journal doesn't take them from the other—the Princess told me about the conversation you had, and then sent me back a full transcript without me even asking her to. You know how she is."

Twilight shook her head, knees knocking together. "I'm so sorry, Sunset. I didn't mean to go behind your back, or ruin your journal, or—"

"I'm not mad, Twi," said Sunset, waving her off. "It's just a journal, and it's not like there's anything in there that I wouldn't tell you about. I mean, I complain about boobs to you every day." Sunset tilted her head. "But why did you try to hide it? The Princess was right: you could have just asked me about ponying up. Is that what those dreams of yours were about?”

“I thought you didn’t want to talk about that,” said Twilight, furrowing her brows. "I thought it made you upset."

“Well, maybe I don’t wanna talk about it, but you might.” Sunset sidled up to her girlfriend, close enough that Twilight could almost taste the cinnamon scent that wafted from her skin. “I wanna help. I know it must feel weird to have all this magical stuff going on and not know a thing about it. You’re a scientist. You wanna know how everything works. You’re smarter, more perceptive than any of us.”

She’s lying again.

Twilight scoffed. “Compared to you, I’m nothing.”

“C’mon, that’s not true. Everyone’s got talents; they don’t have to be better or worse than anyone else’s.” Sunset elbowed Twilight and asked, “So, you never answered: have you ponied up yet?”

“No, no...” Twilight had fallen into a stupor, torn between Sunset’s love and the fear festering in the back of her mind. She covered the bulge in her pocket with a hand, trying to ignore the heat. “It’s just been failure after failure.”

“I can help, however you’d like.” Sunset gave a halted laugh, cheeks pinkening. “I mean, maybe not the ‘sexual climax’ thing. Maybe.”

“But… why?” Twilight looked down. Suddenly, the device in her pocket felt heavier than lead. “I don’t deserve that. You shouldn’t have to worry about me.”

“I don’t have to do anything. I want to worry about you.” Sunset paused, then tapped her chin. “Well, I don’t want to worry, but... oh, you get what I mean.” Sunset grabbed Twilight’s hand and gave it a strong squeeze. “If I can help, then let me. I know what it feels like to be alone—you don’t need to go through that.”

She’s lying she hates you hates you

“I—” Twilight clenched her teeth, eyes starting to sting. She couldn’t bear Sunset’s perfect touch for a second longer. “I want your help, but—”

Sunset kissed Twilight.

For the sweetest of moments, Twilight’s brain went still. The dark thoughts faded. She closed her eyes and leaned into Sunset’s touch, let Sunset’s intoxicating scent surround her. She held Sunset’s hand tight, never ready to let go.

At least, not until her thigh felt like it would burst into flames.

Cursing, she tore the channeling device out of her pocket. Black smoke poured from the cracks in the case, the machine beeped like mad, and all twenty-five ticks were active, each one shining like stars. There had only been twelve filled when she left school—what had changed?

Sunset gaped. “Twilight,” she began, “what is that?”

Twilight held the machine by its strap. “Uh.”

“That’s that stupid magic-stealing device, isn’t it?” Sunset asked. She tightened her fists. “I thought we destroyed that thing after the Games! What’s it doing here? How did it get repaired?”

“Well, you know… I repaired it,” Twilight muttered.

You?” Sunset asked, eyes wide. “But how… why?! That machine nearly got everyone killed!”

“I know, I know. But that’s not going to happen again!” Twilight smiled. “I fixed all the glitches. It’s perfectly safe. I tested it and everything!”

“You what? How—” Sunset growled, then thrust out her palm. “Give it here. I’m gonna break it again.”

No no no

“No!” Twilight clutched it to her chest. Jolts of blue electricity filtered through her shirt and into her skin. “It’s mine! I need it!”

“How could you possibly need that thing? It almost destroyed the world once—almost destroyed every world,” said Sunset. She shook her head. "We can't take any chances.”

“You said you were here for me.” Twilight gripped the machine tighter. “You said you would listen to me. Was that just a lie?”

“C’mon, Twilight. Don’t pull that.”

“She was—I was right! You were lying!” Twilight spat. Her brain buzzed with energy. “You don’t love me at all, do you?”

Sunset took a step back, eyes wide. “I do love you! That’s why I can’t let you use that thing!” Sunset said. She tried to touch Twilight's shoulder, but Twilight jumped away. “Please, Twilight. You don’t know what you’re playing with. That’s concentrated magic. One wrong move and you could get seriously hurt.”

“Stop pretending you care,” Twilight said with a glower. “You hate me; that’s why I need this magic. I know how to use it now.”

“I don't hate you,” Sunset said quietly. “And you don't need that magic! You don't know how dangerous it can be.”

Twilight sneered. “At least I’m willing to experiment. At least I’m not a coward like you.”

Sunset spent a moment more just standing there, mouth hanging open—but then took a hard swallow and stepped forward. “Give it to me. I’m not asking again.”

“I need it.” Twilight opened it up and stared at the pulsing magic inside. It called to her like a beacon. “I need it to be stronger. For you.”

Sunset leaped forward and ripped the device from Twilight’s hands. Bolts of magic energy sparked from every inch of its surface. Sunset lifted it high into the air.

“I'm sorry,” Sunset said, voice shaking, “but I'm not gonna let you kill yourself!”

no no NO

“Give it back!” Twilight screeched.

She punched Sunset in the chest. Sunset screamed and flew backwards, crashing to the dirt. Electric sparks crisscrossed her body. Every breath came with a spasming cough.

Twilight scooped the machine off the ground and pressed it to her chest, ignoring the smoke rising from the fabric. Its magic coursed through her veins. Fiery blue spots flew through her vision, surrounded her eyes. Every single fear, every single anxiety she had disappeared. In that moment, all that existed was her. Her and the power.

She looked up and saw Sunset’s quivering, terrified face.

Twilight’s grip loosened, and her machine slipped from her hands. Bones aching, chest heaving, she collapsed.

The last thing she heard before passing out was Sunset yelling her name.