• Published 30th Dec 2012
  • 2,012 Views, 115 Comments

Two Paths - Sir0Chicken

Twilight is faced with a choice: leave Ponyville to pursue her dreams or stay with her new marefriend, Applejack. Meanwhile, Rainbow Dash helps Fluttershy deal with the harsh realities of rejection.

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Home Is...

On the way out of the garden, Twilight felt lighter on her hooves. She noticed a bit of a bounce sneaking its way into her steps. She grinned, but a quiver of worry lingered in her eyes. She could still feel the gaping hole in the pit of her stomach.

Celestia was asking her, "Are you planning to return to Ponyville today, or might you stay for the night?"

"We would be most pleased if you stayed," Luna added, leaning closer to Twilight.

Twilight blinked repeatedly and shook her head. Her smile disappeared as she forced herself to focus on the present. "I'm sorry, Celestia. Could you ask that again?"

"I was just wondering if you were staying the night." Celestia furrowed her brow and peered at Twilight's expression. "Is anything wrong, Twilight?"

Painting a smile back onto her face, Twilight nodded. "No. Nothing's wrong." There was a long pause. "I still have a lot to think about," she murmured. "Maybe I will stay the night." She took a moment to glance toward the ivory tower where she once lived and studied. "I wonder if you've kept my old room in the castle."

"It's there if you want to visit." Celestia draped a wing over her faithful student. "You could even stay the night there if you like."

"No." The word escaped Twilight's mouth before she even had time to think, but a moment's contemplation told her that it was the right answer. She cleared her throat and said, "No, but thank you, Celestia." She bit her lip and rubbed her chin. "I don't know how to put it, but I feel like I should stay somewhere different." She looked about and said, "I think I might find a hotel out in the city—not that I don't want to spend time with you two, of course."

Celestia let out a melodious laugh. "I understand," she said, beaming. She pulled in closer and whispered, "I am so proud of you, Twilight."

"Thank you." Twilight grinned and nuzzled Celestia as the princess nuzzled her in turn.

Luna, for her part, shuffled her hooves and stared at the ground.

The sight caught Twilight's eye, and she immediately trotted to Luna's side. There was silence before she decided to say, "I don't know what I'll end up choosing, but it would be an honor to work under you."

Twilight held out a hoof which Luna shook. "Thank you, Twilight Sparkle. I look forward to working with you as well."

"I believe she just said she couldn't make any promises," Celestia said.

Luna cast her gaze back at the ground and scuffed a hoof. "I apologize. It was not my intention to presume."

"Don't worry." Twilight grinned and trotted up to Luna's side. As Luna straightened herself, Twilight said, "What happens will happen. Either way, I'm sure you will be working with only the best Equestria has to offer."

A brief silence hung in the air before Luna spoke. "You speak true, Twilight Sparkle." The three ponies resumed their walk to the castle. Luna flared her wings briefly and said, "I believe that whatever happens in this case, we shall work together soon enough. Ambition and talent are powerful forces indeed."

Twilight forced out a chuckle and looked away. "Yeah," she managed. She hunched her shoulders, and though Celestia raised an eyebrow, the princess said nothing.

The edge of the garden had barely come into view before Twilight said, "Oh, look! There's the castle." She sped up to a canter and waved to the princesses haphazardly. "Thanks for talking with me. This was really great, but I should get myself squared away for the night."

"What is the matter?" Luna trotted forward a few steps and reached out to Twilight. "Did we offend you in some way?"

Before Twilight could respond, Celestia draped a wing across Luna's back and drew close to her sister. "If Twilight wants to spend some time in the city, we may as well let her. She's been gone for so long, after all."

Luna's eyes softened as she looked at Celestia. She turned her attention back to Twilight and nodded. "I understand that sentiment. Farewell, Twilight Sparkle. Should you wish to speak with us again, you need only ask."

Twilight rushed away the moment Luna finished speaking. "Bye, princesses," she said without turning.

In a matter of moments, she had rounded a corner and escaped the princesses' presence, but the castle corridors wound all about her. Her head swam in the twists and turns that surrounded her. She took a gulp of air, but it did nothing to stop her cartwheeling stomach. A tremor coursed through her legs, and before she knew it they were wobbling like pillars of jello.

Have to get out.

She cast her eyes in all directions even though she knew the path to the exit by heart. The halls seemed narrower than she remembered. Narrower and longer.

Have to get out.

The breath seemed to have left her lungs, and she couldn't get it back. She took a deep breath, but the effort immediately gave way to panting. She was panting.

Have to get out!

She began to canter toward the exit, keeping her pace just short of a gallop. Her breath came in gulps in gasps, but that was only a natural byproduct of her speed. After scrambling around a few sharp corners, she slowed down, and her breath slowed as well. She sighed.

That's better, she thought. She still stood stiffly erect, though, and her muscles were filled with tension. Still have to get out.

Twilight walked to the end of the hall she currently stood in, only to find herself completely out of place. Must have taken a wrong turn. She backtracked, walking more slowly than before. She breathed deeply and deliberately, and before long she stood before the castle gates.

The operating the gatehouse was different from the pony who let her in earlier in the day. That guard had been a unicorn. This was an earth pony. "Heading out?" he asked, hand on a lever that would open the gates.

"Yes, thank you." With a pull of the lever, the gates swung out toward the streets, leaving the path clear. Twilight nodded to the guard and, without another word, began to trot away.

"Hold on." Twilight blinked as the guard's voice brought her to a swift halt.

She turned around. "Yes, sir?"

"Are you Twilight Sparkle?" He arched an eyebrow and took a step away from the gate lever.

"Yes." Twilight arched an eyebrow as well.

The guard nodded curtly and opened the door of the gatehouse. His hoofsteps resounded sharply against the wooden floor until he exited the building pulling a small suitcase. "The stallion before me said this was yours. I'm guessing you'll want it back?"

Twilight's mouth dropped and she let out a wild laugh. "Thank you," she said, gripping the luggage in her magic. "I was wondering where that had gone. Have a nice afternoon, sir."

"Don't mention it," the guard said with a grin. He blinked slowly and began to whistle quietly. After a moment, his eyes widened and the whistling stopped, but before he could open his mouth, Twilight had galloped away. "Shoot!" he muttered before returning to the gatehouse and shutting the castle gates.

It took longer than Twilight expected to find a hotel to stay in. She remembered dimly how her parents had booked a room on the eve of her entrance exam for Celestia's School for Gifted Unicorns, but she couldn't recall the name of the place. In any case, she wandered around for at least an hour before she finally settled on a small inn off Mane Street. Once she finally chose the spot, she quickly took got a key from the pony at the counter, and soon it was only a matter of climbing the stairs and walking down a long quiet hall.

The lodgings were spartan, but Twilight didn't mind. I'll just be staying the night, she thought. Besides, it's not like I brought much with me. She dropped her luggage at the foot of her bed and lied down. She squeezed her eyes shut, but they opened only a few moments later. A long sigh followed soon after.

Ambition and talent are powerful forces. Luna's words echoed in her head. We shall work together. Twilight shook her head and groaned, "Why did she have to say that?"

The words carried the menace of an unwelcome prophecy. Everything was moving too fast. Applejack and I have only just started dating. I can only figure out one thing at a time.

Twilight buried her head in a pillow, but her problems wouldn't disappear so easily. A clock stood on the end table, and its ticking warned Twilight of every second that slipped out of her grasp. The sound broke through the shelter of her pillow, thundering in her head and growing louder until it finally reached a crescendo.

Knock. Knock. With that, the ticking grew quieter, leaving an empty silence in its wake.

As reality sunk in, Twilight blinked. That didn't sound like ticking. Just as Twilight lifted her head to glance at the door, two more knocks rang out. Knock. Knock. A voice followed soon after. "Excuse me. Is Twilight Sparkle in there?"

Twilight recognized the voice immediately. "Shining!" She hopped off the bed and threw the door open. Sure enough, her brother stood right in front of her, a wide smile spreading across his face.

"Twilie!" Shining Armor wrapped Twilight in a tight embrace and rocked her back and forth before letting go. "I heard you were in the city and came right over. How are you, little sis?"

"It's good to see you, Shining." Twilight nuzzled her brother and remained silent. After a few seconds, she pulled back and looked into Shining's eyes. "How did you find me?"

Shining laughed. "Celestia told me you'd be here today, so I used a detection spell." She pulled Twilight close and rubbed her mane. "I wouldn't miss a chance to see my favorite sister."

Twilight giggled and pulled away. "I didn't realize you were still in the city. How's Cadance?"

Shining pulled his head back and furrowed his brow. "Huh?" With a shrug, he said, "Uh, I guess she's good." There was a pause as he smiled and his eyes grew distant. "She's so happy to finally live in the Crystal Empire, even if I can't always be there."

"And you still love her?" Twilight still stared right at Shining.

"Yes." Shining's smile wavered as his brow creased even more. "What are you talking about? Are you okay?"

Twilight sighed. "Sorry. I just need to understand something." She hesitated, but Shining's silence held, so she continued. "How can you stand to be stuck here working while Cadance is way up north?"

Shining frowned and straightened himself. "I have a duty to the princesses," he said. "I'm not going to throw that away just because of some personal weakness."

"It's not weakness," Twilight snapped. She cleared her throat as she realized that she'd yelled louder than intended. "I mean, you know the princesses would understand. You're a prince now. I'm sure they have plenty of other ponies who would jump at the opportunity to take your place." Twilight hung her head. "You can only do so much."

Shining took a deep breath and let it out slowly. "Okay," he said slowly. "What's wrong, Twilight? Is this about you becoming Luna's adviser?"

"Maybe I don't want to be her adviser!" Twilight shouted. "Maybe I just want to go back to Ponyville and see Applejack and—"

"Applejack?" Shining tilted his head. "Is that the orange one?"

Twilight scowled back at him. "Yes, she's the orange one. She's also my marefriend."

Shining's jaw dropped almost to the floor. He blinked, then blinked again. For good measure, he blinked once more. "What?" he finally forced out. He worked his jaw for another few seconds and managed to say, "What?"

Twilight laughed. "To be honest, you're the first pony to react like that. I was wondering when that would happen."

Shining shook his head. "No, no. I mean, I always knew you were into mares and all, but isn't Applejack an earth pony?" He walked into Twilight's room and sat on the bed. "I thought you'd… You know. Don't you…" He clamped his mouth shut.

"I know what you were going to say," Twilight said. "I'll ignore that, though." She took a seat next to Shining. "You still haven't answered my question."

Shining rubbed the back of his neck. "Could you run it by me again?"

With a sigh, Twilight said, "How do manage to stay down here with Cadance so far up north?"

Shining paused. He bowed his head. "It isn't always easy," he said. He lifted his gaze to look directly at Twilight. "Things get lonely down here without her, but it's not permanent. The princesses give me plenty of opportunities to visit the empire."

"Well that's great," Twilight grumbled. A look from Shining drew a grin from her. "Sorry, I mean it is great, just…" She sighed. "But I'm just starting a relationship with Applejack."

Stepping off the bed, Shining snorted. "I joined the royal guard right after I met Cadance, remember?" He nuzzled Twilight and brought a thin smile to her face. "If love can't deal with the occasional bump in the road, then maybe it never was love to begin with."

Twilight chuckled. "You'd sure feel awful if Applejack and I ended up breaking up," she said, tapping Shining in the arm.

Shining shook his head and grinned. "Nope. You deserve the best, Twilie. This is your opportunity. Don't let Applejack be the one who decides what you make of it."

Twilight bit her lip and stood up. After a moment's hesitation, she hugged her brother. "Thanks, Shining. I'll talk to her and see what we can work out." She pulled away and scuffed a hoof on the floor. "The thing is, I don't know if I want to take the job if it hurts my relationship with Applejack."

Shining frowned. "Well, I'm only one pony, but I'm also your brother, and I know you better than anypony. If you turn this position down because of a marefriend, you'll never be able to live with yourself." He softened his gaze and stepped closer to Twilight. "If she's as great as you think she is, she'll be happy for you. It'll be tough, but it won't be impossible." He winked. "I would know.

Twilight nodded. The gesture grew firmer as she straightened herself and smiled. "You're right," she said. "Thank you so much, BBBFF."

"You're welcome… uh…" Shining scratched his head. "So let's see: "Little Sister—"

"I think it should be LSBFF," Twilight said with a laugh. "It doesn't really work as well, though."

Shining smirked. "Yeah." He began to make his way toward the door. "Anyway, I should be leaving. I just wanted to stop by and say hello."

"Okay," Twilight said. "It was nice seeing you." As Shining began to wrap his magic around the doorknob, she added, "Hold on."

Shining turned back to face her. "Yeah?"

Twilight furrowed her brow. "How'd you know I was into mares?"

If he hadn't already been white, Shining might have grown paler. "Say what?"

Narrowing her eyes, Twilight said, "You said you knew I was into mares. I didn't even know I was into mares until I starting hanging out with Applejack. How'd you figure it out so fast?"

A strangled chuckle escaped Shining, who backed away and grew closer to the door. "Did I really say that? Are you sure, 'cause… Maybe it was just a slip of the tongue, you know?"

Twilight shrugged and used her magic to lock the door. "Before I was just curious. Now you need to tell me."

Shining glanced at the doorknob. "You know I could just unlock that, right?"

Twilight pouted and said, "That'd be rude, though. Just tell me."

Shining took a step back and bumped into the door. Eyes widening, he slid to a sitting position and bowed his head. "Fine." He stood back up and said, "Uh… First, you're always hanging out with mares. I don't think I've even seen you spend time with a stallion before."

"Really, Shining?" Twilight arched an eyebrow. "There are hardly any stallions in Equestria—especially Ponyville."

"Exactly!" Shining thrust a hoof into the air. "So it'd totally make sense. You know, you have more… uh… options that way." He offered a toothy grin and lowered his hoof.

There was a long pause, followed by more silence. "Alright," Twilight said, sitting back on the bed and folding her forelegs. "You'll tell me eventually."

"I'm telling the truth," Shining said as his eyes examined everything in the room but Twilight.

Twilight giggled. "It was nice seeing you anyway, Shining," she said.

Shining nodded. "I'm glad I caught you," he said. "See you, Twilie."

"See you later," Twilight called as Shining opened the door and walked out. She stood and walked to the open door so she could watch him walk down the hallway to the stairs. She had to stifle a laugh when he saw her watching. His eyes grew wide, and he began to trot away.

A few minutes later, Shining was down the stairs, through the lobby, and briskly cantering out the door of the hotel. Twilight was still suppressing a giggle.

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