• Published 1st Jan 2020
  • 1,873 Views, 15 Comments

A Question of Friendship - Plonq

The Princess of Friendship deals with a friendship question that is more nuanced than it seems at first.

  • ...

The Question

Although the castle library was never technically closed to the public, Twilight Sparkle had become very familiar with the ebb and flow of its customers. She knew that the odds were very slim that somepony would interrupt her studies, but if a visitor happened to stumble in during this normally dead time, they would have to resign themselves to seeing its keeper with an unkempt mane, bathrobe, and fuzzy slippers.

The alicorn entered the main library and approached her reading desk with a steaming mug of clover tea and a firm resolve to read the wretched book that lay in its centre. The author of the selfsame tome had given it to her at a book fair up in Canterlot almost a year earlier, but the writer's condescending demeanour and misguided take on the subject matter of the book left Twilight Sparkle reluctant to breech its pages. The pony sighed, set down her tea on the corner of the desk, and pulled up her reading chair.

A Treatise on the Scarcity of Friendship: Proper Stewardship of a Non-Renewable Resource.

Even the title of the book set the mare's teeth on edge. The thought of cracking the cover of the book filled her with mild despair, but she lived by the adage, "leave no book unread, no matter how painful or ignorant its contents." Twilight Sparkle firmly believed that there was as much benefit in reading bad research as there was in perusing sound studies; it was good to know what misinformation might need to be countered in the wild.

Twilight Sparkle had cleared her calendar and even chased away Spike for the day to eliminate all interruptions. Just as she was about to crease the book's virgin binding, though, she was interrupted by a polite, but firm knock on the library's main door. The princess was about to call, "Come in - we're open!" but quickly decided that it would be more polite to greet the unexpected guest at the door. Suppressing a guilty sigh of relief, she hopped down from her chair and trotted over to the main entrance.

She swung open the door and began her usual greeting. "Hello, and welcome to The Royal Ponyville Libra... oh! Hello, Rainbow Dash."

"Hi," said the pegasus. The pony outside the door had her hoof raised for another knock, but she quickly lowered it and stepped into the library as the princess moved aside. "I was, y'know, just in the neighbourhood and thought I'd stop by real quick to say hello." She glanced at the other mare's feet. "Nice slippers, your highness."

The other pony blushed slightly. "Thank you. They were a gift from Fluttershy." Twilight Sparkle patted a couple of wrinkles out of her bathrobe and brushed back an errant curl in her mane. "Sorry about my current state; I wasn't expecting any visitors today."

"Eh, you look fine," said Rainbow Dash with a quick, dismissive motion of her left hoof. She walked around the other mare and made a beeline to the reading desk. The pegasus glanced at the lone book on the desk and frowned. "Boy, that's got a lot of ... words on it." Then her eyes fell to the full cup of hot tea. "It looks like you were getting ready to do some reading," she said quickly and turned back toward the door. "I can come back later if now is a bad time."

"Now is a perfect time," said Twilight Sparkle reassuringly as she intercepted her friend and shepherded the blue mare back into the library. "I've been avoiding this book for so long that it can wait a bit longer. The only reason I have it is because the author insisted on literally shoving it into my hooves when I was up in Canterlot early last year."

"The author gave it to you for free? That was nice of her," said Rainbow Dash.

"You'd think so," replied her friend, "but she ruined that illusion very quickly." She cleared her throat. "I believe you will find this book invaluable," said Twilight Sparkle, mimicking the pretentious tone of the book's creator. "While I am sure you will eventually make a perfectly acceptable Princess of Friendship, you really could benefit from the proper guidance of an expert."

"Wow," said Rainbow Dash, gaping in disbelief. She pounded her right hoof into her left. "She's lucky I wasn't there to hear that."

"I'm sure," said Twilight Sparkle with a wry grin. She knew that her friend did not suffer fools gladly. Just as quickly, the librarian's expression turned serious. "Oh, but I'm an awful host when Spike is not around! Would you like some clover tea? I made enough for two cups."

The other mare shook her head emphatically and waved both of her hooves in declination. "I have to get back to work pretty soon. I just stopped in to say hi," she said quickly. Rainbow Dash glanced at her left foreleg. "In fact, look at the time; I better get hoofing it back to the job. So, uh, hi," she added brightly. The pegasus looped around the alicorn and trotted back toward the door.

Twilight Sparkle was unconvinced.

"Are you sure there wasn't another reason why you came by?" she asked, fixing her friend with a dubious look. "This seems like a long way to come just to say 'hi' when you could have dropped by after you were done work."

The other pony stopped in her tracks, sliding to a halt on the polished floor. She stood for a moment in deep thought before finally speaking. "Well..." she said hesitantly, slowly turning to face into the room again before lapsing silent for a long moment. Rainbow Dash drew a deep breath and released it slowly. She nervously traced a circle on the floor with her right hoof and said, "well, I guess there was one little thing. I mean, it looks like you're busy and stuff, so I can come back when you have more time. There's just this ... thing - that is, I was wondering if you might be able to, y'know, answer a couple of ... see, I've got this friendship question that - eek!"

She ended on a note of surprise when she felt a padded chair slam into her hindquarters, buckling her knees and landing the hapless mare in its depths before sliding her quickly up to the back side of the librarian's reading table. Rainbow Dash found herself cinched awkwardly up to the desk with Twilight Sparkle facing her from the other side. The royal pony was sitting upright in her reading chair with her hind legs crossed and her front hooves resting on the desktop. The princess's slippers and bathrobe had vanished, replaced by half-moon reading glasses perched on the end of her muzzle, with their gold chain looped casually around the back of the neck. The only other thing she was wearing was a huge, beaming smile.

"A friendship question, you say?" Twilight Sparkle waved her right hoof in a circle, pointing at the heaps and shelves of books surrounding. Her winsome smile morphed into something closer to a self-deprecating grin. "I may know a thing ... or two about the subject."

"Uh, yeah," said Rainbow Dash dryly. She braced her front hooves on the edge of the desk and pushed her chair back with a noisy squeal of wood on polished marble. The blue mare leaned back in the lush seat, crossed her front hooves behind her head, and wiggled her butt down into the cushion. "Man, how did you score such comfy seats for the library?" She unhooked one of her hooves long enough to stifle a broad yawn. "A girl could totally catch a nap in this thing."

"Focus," said Twilight Sparkle tersely. She was standing now, with her back hooves on the chair and her front hooves planted on the desk. "You have a friendship question, and I have friendship answers. Are you having a falling-out with somepony?" Before Rainbow Dash could answer, the princess continued throwing out questions like a verbal machine gun. "Were you the subject of some gossip? Are you trying to come to terms with a frenemy? Are you misinterpreting friendship gestures from another species? Is Tank mad at you? Are you getting turbid signals from...?"

"Twilight, stop it!" said Rainbow Dash. The pegasus was pressing her hooves to the side of her head. "I don't even know what that last one even means!" The blue pony launched herself into the air and hovered in place as she was wont to do when she was trying to gather her thoughts. Meanwhile, Twilight Sparkle gave a gasp of alarm and threw herself bodily on the desk with her forelegs splayed wide to protect her notes from flying away.

While the librarian carefully gathered up all of her pages and stacked them protectively under the large book, Rainbow Dash considered how to word her question.

"It's complicated," the pegasus said finally. "I've got this..." she paused. "I've got this friend."

"Yes?" prompted Twilight Sparkle when the other mare paused for a few seconds. The princess was sitting back in her own chair again with a quill and notepad at the ready. She scribbled out a couple of quick notations on the pad. "And you had a ... question regarding this friend?"

"Well, so, like, I was lying awake last night - I've been doing that a lot lately," said Rainbow Dash, gesticulating with a hoof at her quick aside. "Anyway, I finally realized that I couldn't sleep because I can't stop thinking about this friend." She tapped her hooves together nervously and bit her lip. "I tried counting clouds in my head to help me sleep - that usually works - but then I realized that they all looked a lot like the friend that I couldn't stop thinking about. Like ... a lot."

"I see," said the princess, nodding. She scribbled some more notes on her pad, muttering to herself as she wrote. "Clouds ... Friend ... obsession ..."

The hovering pony sighed again. "So I started thinking that if I couldn't stop thinking about this friend that maybe this friend was turning into something more than a, um, friend for me, and..." Rainbow Dash stopped and winced, jamming hooves in her ears against a squee that measured on the Richter scale.

"Rainbow Dash," exclaimed Twilight Sparkle as the quill and notepad clattered noisily to the desk. She pressed her hooves to her cheeks, pushing her mouth into a big 'O' of delight. "You're in love?"

The other pony's response was quick and adamant. She frantically waved her hooves in a defiant gesture and snapped, "I am not in love. Love is one of those mushy things that ponies in lame fairy tales do. I'm just in extra awesome friendship with somepony."

"Omigosh, omigosh, omigosh," babbled the alicorn, who was nigh panting in elation. She hopped from her chair in her excitement and pranced in a couple quick circles of glee. "What's his name? Who's the lucky stallion? Tell me! Telltelltelltell!"

"Twilight Sparkle," said the other mare, landing gracefully beside her chair. "Their name is not your concern."

The librarian frowned and rubbed her chin with her right hoof. "I think that I know most of the stallions up on Cloudsdale," she said pensively, "but I don't remember that name. Is he new?"

Rainbow Dash closed her eyes and clapped a hoof across her forehead. "I mean I'm not going to tell you yet," she said. "I don't totally know if the feeling is shared, and I don't want word getting out if things don't work out because that would make it kinda weird for both of us." The blue pony pointed an accusatory hoof at the other mare. "And no offence Twilight, but you're terrible at keeping secrets."

"That's not fair," said Twilight Sparkle, but her defeated tone suggested that she acknowledged at least a small particle of truth in the other pony's words. "Letting one or two small secrets slip out does not constitute a general pattern." She sighed. "You don't have to tell me his name if you don't want to," she added sadly. "But you did say that you had a friendship question for me."

"Oh, yeah," said Rainbow Dash. She shuffled her hooves on the marble floor and worked her jaw while she tried to formulate her question. "Well, it's just that ... which is to say, if I have these feelings for another pony and I don't know for sure the feelings work the other way - though they'd be totally missing out if they weren't - uh, what do I do?"

"Love..." Twilight Sparkle caught herself quickly when she saw the other pony casting a stink eye in her direction. The princess responded with a wan grin and started again. "This level of, uh, friendship is more Cadence's specialty," she said, "but I think I have a couple of books that could help."

"Well, duh," said Rainbow Dash, waving at the racks and stacks of books. "Of course you do. I think you've probably got books that haven't even been written yet."

That teased a snerk out of the princess. She pranced over to a nearby row of shelves and began walking slowly down its length, muttering softly as she glanced at the titles and rejected them. "The ABC's of Infatuation ... Stalking Made Easy ... The Naughty Vicar ...Oh, here we go - Lov ... uh, Awesome Friendship for Beginners." She pulled the book from its spot and blew tentatively across the top to clear it of dust - not that any book typically had much time to gather that in her library. Twilight Sparkle cantered back to her reading desk with the volume hovering in front of her as she went. She cleared space on her desk with a quick sweep of her right foreleg and plopped the book in the middle.

Rainbow Dash stepped up to the other side of the desk and squinted down at the text. "So it's all in here," she said, tapping the cover with a hoof. "It's not very thick." Rainbow Dash shook her head and made no attempt to hide her doubt. "It seems like a pretty big thing to try and cram into such a small book."

"The author is very masterful at covering a lot of concepts with an economy of words," said Twilight Sparkle in a slightly sharper voice than she had intended, making the other mare jump back a step in surprise at her tone. One did not simply come into the pony's library and criticize her children - or 'books' as other ponies would call them. The alicorn flipped back the cover of the book and turned a few pages into it. "You seem pretty sure of your feelings, so I think we can safely skip the first chapter."

"Oh, I'm sure," said Rainbow Dash. She reared up and clamped her hooves to her chest. "My heart's thumping like mad just thinking about them right now!"

"About ... who was it again?" asked the other pony cagily.

"Twilight Sparkle," admonished Rainbow Dash sharply with a firm stamp of her hoof.

"Okay," said the other mare, bowing her head and lowering her ears contritely. "You can't blame a girl for being curious." She quickly recovered her composure and paged ahead some more before stopping at a section and glancing up at Rainbow Dash. "You're certain that it's not just a crush?"

"It's not a crush," replied the pegasus firmly. "I'm not a filly anymore, Twilight. I think I know my own feelings. It's not my feelings I'm worried about."

"OK," muttered Twilight Sparkle. She turned a few more pages before she stopped again. "If you are sure of your feelings then I guess it's not infatuation either, right?" When she saw the blue mare's jaw set, she continued quickly. "Sorry Rainbow Dash, I'm just being thorough since this is a little out of my normal field of expertise." The other pony shrugged and shook her head, so the librarian dug deeper into the tome. She paused briefly at the next chapter before she blushed and furtively flipped an entire block of well-worn pages. "We definitely won't need that chapter," she said primly.

"Wait. Hold up," said Rainbow Dash, who had seen the page just long enough to catch the word "lust."

If the other pony had heard her, she gave no sign. "Here we go," said the alicorn. "This chapter covers the next steps." Twilight Sparkle flipped the glasses that had fallen against her chest back up onto her muzzle and quickly scanned through a few pages, humming softly to herself while Rainbow Dash watched nervously from the other side of the desk, hopping from hoof to hoof and glancing up and down between the book and the princess. After an eternal minute of reading, the mare clapped the book shut with a firm slap. "It seems pretty straightforward," she said with a curt nod.

"It does?" Rainbow Dash had jumped back again in a start when the book slammed, but she clopped nervously back up to the desk. "Then spit it out. What do I do?"

"First," said Twilight Sparkle holding up a hoof, "you have to meet him someplace where you are both comfortable. Make sure you have a good reason for it, like a picnic, or tea, or just to be somewhere that you and your friend both like to hang out."

"Find a place to hang out," repeated Rainbow Dash, nodding as if she were taking mental notes. "Then what do I do?"

"Then you talk," said the princess.

"Talk," said Rainbow Dash flatly. She scrunched up her face pensively, and then frowned. "I thought there would be more to it," she said. "What do I talk about?"

"I wasn't finished," said Twilight Sparkle, mildly scolding her friend. "You talk about your friend. Get him verbally engaged about something that interests him. While he's speaking, you slide in closer to show you are interested until your bodies - usually your flanks - are just touching to see how he reacts."

Rainbow Dash paced in a slow circle and fidgeted with her wings while she recited the next lesson. "Talk about their hobbies, then slide over and see how they react." She stopped and frowned again. "Wait, so how might they react?"

"Well," said the princess. She raised her left hoof. "If he pulls away from the touch then it means you are moving too fast - too fast even for you," she added quickly. She raised her right hoof. "On the other hoof, if he doesn't object to the contact, then move on to the next step."

"Gotcha," said the other mare. "If there's no flinch, it's a cinch. What's the next step?"

Twilight Sparkle blinked. "Good idea with the mnemonic," she said, but at her friend's blank stare she clarified, "rhyming to make it easier to remember." She slowly circled the desk until she was standing by the blue pony. "Once you know he is not going to pull away, move in even closer." The alicorn surreptitiously stretched out a wing and wrapped it around the other mare's shoulder, giving her friend a little tug with the wingtip while trying to look nonchalant about it.

"Hey," said Rainbow Dash with a laugh, brushing away the wing quickly. "I never took you for the cheeky type."

The princess grinned and winked at her friend before continuing. "Start to talk with him about your friendship," she said as she walked around the desk again. "Reaffirm your friendship with him. Let him know how much he means to you, and then tell him about your deeper feelings for him before you ask if he feels the same." She paused, and then continued in a more somber tone. "Just be prepared for him to say 'no'."

The blue pony rose up on her hind legs and thumped her chest solidly with her front hooves. "Hey, who would say 'no' to this?"

Twilight Sparkle grinned again and shrugged. "I'm just telling you what it says in the book," she said. She held up her right hoof. "And you said yourself that you didn’t know if it was reciprocated. In the unlikely chance he says 'no', let him know that you still want to be his friend, and tell him that you are open to talking about it if his feelings change."

"What if they say 'yes', though?"

The princess smiled. "Then you have yourself a special somepony, and a stallion has himself an awesome somepony."

Rainbow Dash reared up and clapped her hooves together excitedly. "This sounds way easier than I expected," she said with open glee. "I've totally got this." She trotted around to her friend and gave Twilight Sparkle a tight hug around the neck. "Thanks, Twilight. You're the best! I mean it!" Her friend returned the hug awkwardly, giving the blue pegasus a reassuring pat on the back.

"Go get him, tiger," she said, gifting her friend with a wistful smile. "Go make some lucky stallion's day."

"I've totally got this," said Rainbow Dash as Twilight Sparkle accompanied her to the door. "I even take back most of the things I've said about non-adventure books being useless!"

"Hey," said Twilight Sparkle, but the pegasus easily dodged her playful wing slap. "Just promise me that you'll introduce me to him as soon as he says 'yes'."

"Twilight, I promise that you will be the first to know when this goes down," agreed Rainbow Dash as she darted out of the room.

Twilight Sparkle closed the door behind her friend and was just turning away when she heard voices on the other side. She hadn't realized that Rainbow had brought anypony with her, and though she respected her friend's privacy, curiosity pulled her head back around to the egress.

She managed to catch a few words like "stop being a chicken" and "just do it, Dashie" before the talkers moved out of hearing range.

"Odd," thought the princess, but she couldn't help feeling a bit giddy and jealous for her friend as she walked slowly back to her reading desk. "Rainbow Dash is in love," she thought. "That's amazing."

Author's Note:

This is an old story that roughed out a few years ago, and after a half-dozen false starts since then, I finally managed to turn it into a finished work.