• Published 22nd Jan 2012
  • 24,878 Views, 586 Comments

Expectations - Beige Monkfish



Twilight gets wings and must adapt to a changing life. Outcast. Fear. Acceptance.

  • ...
33
 586
 24,878

Day One - Chapter One

=<|[Mediating Responsibility]|>=

A love child between two fics that never made it

=== Day 01 - Chapter One ===

Twilight’s eyes twitched, disturbed by the bright sunlight that seemed to pass straight through her eyelids. The light burned away any figments her dreams left behind, and forced her mind to wake up, no matter how much it wanted to remain in darkness and keep dreaming. Her eyes creaked open, bloodshot from the light-induced migraine she was currently suffering from, and she groaned in discontent.

She glared at the east-facing window on the wall, the very window that allowed the morning sun to bore into her corneas. I need to buy some window blinds, she thought to herself groggily. She often stayed up to ungodly hours of the night gazing through her telescope at the night sky, so having to abide by a literal ‘crack at dawn’ schedule often robbed her of a few precious hours of sleep. Last night, she had the stupid notion to stay up until five in the morning. ‘Oh, it’ll be fine, I can just sleep late,’ she had told herself. Of course, she had neglected to consider that she had a library to manage -- a library that opens at eight-thirty. She looked at the clock on the wall opposite from her bed. It was about eight o’ clock. Oh great, the library would open in thirty minutes, and she had three hours of sleep to run on.

While every fiber of her being opposed it, she dragged herself off of her mattress and fell to the floor with a loud thump, taking most of her comforter with her. She stretched her limbs out on the floor, and lifted herself to a standing position, angrily blowing a disobedient strand of purple mane out of her face. Scowling, she hobbled tiredly to the door of her room, gripping the knob with her telekinesis and attempting to open it. Her exhaustion caused the simple act of turning a doorknob to be as difficult as moving a mountain. She grumbled angrily, biting the doorknob with her teeth and opening it manually.

As she walked down the carved wooden hallway, she couldn’t find the strength to raise her head up. She didn’t really care, though; she knew her library inside-out. She could probably navigate it with her eyes closed, so obviously she could navigate it while looking at the floor. Upon approaching the kitchen, the familiar aroma of steamed daffodils met her nostrils, but the pleasant odor might as well have been intoxicating a tree stump in regards to how responsive she was.

Twilight entered the kitchen and seated her haunches at the center table, resting her chin on the wooden tabletop. Her eyelids weighed more than lead. One eye twitched. The irritating natural light of the sun had been replaced with the even more irritating artificial light from the lamps above. An ugly, sickeningly fake white light. She looked up at the lamp shining on her face, but the bright light coupled with her migraine threw her stomach into a tailspin, and she looked away to avoid throwing up the breakfast she hadn’t eaten yet. Spike, who was currently cooking the meal in question, said something to her. Probably a friendly morning greeting, but she didn’t listen to it. Maybe the dragon would leave, and possibly even turn off the lights. Then she could go back to sleep. Hoo boy, that would be nice.

A sudden sharp clatter of metal sliced through the muddy haze of Twilight’s slumbering mind. She let out a pained whimper at the auditory onslaught, dropping her forehead to the table and covering it with her hooves. The warm embrace of sleep was simply too tempting, and she was reluctant to relinquish it. She made a mental note to berate Spike for dropping... whatever it was he dropped. Couldn’t he be more careful?

Spike stuttered something, but Twilight couldn’t understand it with her brain in its addled state. ‘Please turn off the lights, Spike. I wanna go back to sleep, she thought. She heard her assistant’s light steps patter around behind her, and felt his scaly hand grip... something... on her back. She lifted her head an inch off the table and looked behind her, catching sight of him gawking at the back of her torso. Her eyes followed his, and she saw that the dragon had gripped one of the lavender-feathered wings sprouting from her dorsals.

He stared intermittently between the purple pony and her unfamiliar limb, an expression of shock on his face, but Twilight regarded the new appendages with half-closed eyes. ‘Oh hey, I have wings... How nice.’ She blinked in annoyance, shifting herself forwards and resting her head on the table once more, her eyelids sliding shut. A trick of the tired eye, nothing more. ‘Can you turn the lights off now, Spike?

She allowed the weightless sensation of drowsiness to wash over her, feeling content to just lie in blind peace. After a moment, she began to feel herself drifting off, seeing nothing. Hearing silence. Feeling... something...

She realized that Spike still gripped the wing on her back, and she whipped her head around to glare at the baby dragon, causing him to recoil slightly. “Will you cut it out!?” she snapped, her bloodshot eyes narrowing dangerously. It wasn’t very comfortable to have someone tugging on your feathers so hard that it feels like they’re going to be ripped ou-... Wait... Her eyes widened as her gaze returned to the wings. They were still there. She remained silent, gawking at the two additional appendages that had somehow found their home on her back.

A moment passed, and her expression fell flat with skepticism. “Real funny, Spike,” she growled. “I’m too tired to deal with your pranks. Take these fake wings off!” she demanded, intensifying her glare. Her assistant shook his head vigorously, raising both of his palms.

“Twilight, I didn’t do this! And I don’t think they’re fake... They felt warm.” Spike shuffled awkwardly. “Can you... I dunno... move them?”

Twilight snorted in disbelief. “Move them? And just how would I do that?” she growled, her voice dripping with irritation. She had to give it to him; he was a pretty good actor. Still, as much as she didn’t want to admit it, she was curious about the wings. Her brain fired a few neurons down into her back, but most of them missed their target. Her eye twitched as she concentrated on operating muscles she had no experience with. It was like a newborn foal trying to walk; she had absolutely no idea how to do this. Shots in the dark. She... She could feel the wings, now that she thought about it. They were there. Their nerves were active. Blood was definitely coursing through them. If she could feel them, then she should be able to move them.

A few moments passed with no results, and yet the purple pony strained to move the phantom limbs. She began to feel foalish, her speculative nature kicking in. But then... one of her wings unfurled. She felt it, too. She felt the sudden chill of the inner surface being exposed to the outside air, and the light tickling sensation of her feathers brushing past her coat. Her eyes widening with curiosity, she promptly tried to unfurl the other. It worked.

Well, this was certainly new...

Wait. She had wings, real, functional wings, in addition to her already-present horn. Only one type of creature in Equestria had both wings and a horn. This... could only mean that she was an alicorn. She had apparently just joined an entirely different species, a very rare species with only two other members in existence. Two members that were responsible for two important celestial bodies, and by extent, everypony’s lives. The public opinion of alicorns was that they were all-powerful, and everypony had absurdly high expectations for them, so... If Twilight was one of them, did that mean that she would have to live up to these expectations? Would she have to move to Canterlot, or something? What about her friends? She wouldn’t have to leave her best friends, would she? How did this happen, anyway?

She bit her lip in trepidation as a desultory thought pushed all others out of her mind. This might be a big deal. A thousand plus arduous years of ruling might incite Princess Celestia to step down if there is another pony to take up her duties. Would she pick her own personal student? Did that mean that Twilight would have to raise and guide the sun? But she didn’t know how to do that! Multiple worries wrestled for attention in her mind, one overtaking the other for no more than a few seconds before another butted in.

And, her friends... What would they think? Would they assume she didn’t need them anymore, having moved up to a higher plane of living, and just... just leave? Her ears dropped as she pondered worst-case scenarios, staring off into space, her emotions gnawing a horrible hole in her stomach as desperation began to set in.

Spike unexpectedly climbed onto her back and began massaging her temples with his claws. “Twilight, you’re shaking... Are you okay?” he asked with concern, gently stimulating the two nerve clusters on the sides of her head.

The supposed alicorn in question merely blinked. “Spike... How am I going to explain this to my friends?” she inquired, worried. The dragon’s fingers on her cranial pressure points helped to alleviate her stress just a little.

“Do you need to?” was her little brother’s query. “It’s not a big deal, is it?”

“It is!” she shouted, leaping to an upright position and almost throwing him through the ceiling. “What... What if they think I don’t care about them anymore? That I’m a terrible friend because I’m going to leave them, to go be a... a princess, or something?!”

Spike, detaching himself from the wall on the other side of the room, climbed onto her back again and resumed his little massage. “C’mon Twilight, why would they think that? They’re your friends!” he rationalized, tracing important blood vessels from the pony’s temples to her chin with his clawtips.

Twilight swallowed to quell her anxiety. Maybe Spike was right. Her friends would understand; she just needed to tell them. The princesses, on the other hand... apparently she would have to repla-... Wait, no. She didn’t want to be a princess. She didn’t want to have to be responsible for the sun, or the government, or the country of Equestria. She needed to tell Celestia as soon as possible, so the princess wouldn’t try to place any huge responsibilities on her. She wasn’t ready for them.

“Spike, t-take a letter,” she blurted out, without realizing it.

The dragon hopped off her back and retrieved a quill and parchment from a nearby desk, before re-approaching her. “Ready,” he announced.

The mare swallowed again, clearing her throat. “D-dear Princess Celestia...” she began, before stopping short. Wait, maybe this wasn’t such a good idea... The princess, upon seeing her, might think that her sudden developments were a historical event, and announce it to the masses! Every corner of Equestria would know that Celestia’s personal student was now an alicorn. The only other alicorns in existence ruled the nation, and were fundamental in the very workings of the world. If the other ponies knew about Twilight, what would they think? What would they want from her? She certainly wasn’t royalty, but the princesses were both related. Ponies would assume Twilight was a royal, and therefore a princess, and then what? What would they expect of her?

"Twilight?” Spike asked, breaking the silence that had developed.

The pony in question stood stock-still, unknowingly holding her breath. Her face felt like it was burning. She had wings now. Wings. What happened to her? Unicorns don’t just grow wings. Was she an alicorn now? Her eyes darted between several of her bookshelves, searching for a specific title.

“Spike,” she began, her voice completely devoid of emotion. “Do we still have that reference guide on alicorns?”

Her assistant shook his head, the lime-green fins attached to his cheeks wobbling back and forth. “I don’t think so. Wasn’t that a rental?”

“O- oh yeah...” she muttered in response, her eyes shining for a moment as she stared off to the side. She had rented that book from Canterlot’s library some time after moving to Ponyville. That enormous library... How she missed it. She shook herself back to the present. She couldn’t go and re-rent that book now; she didn’t exactly have a low profile at the moment. If she couldn’t find her answer in a book, then she would have to find some other way to figure out what was going on. She wasn’t entirely sure if a valid explanation was in that tome, anyway.

“Spike, put the letter away for now,” she commanded, and the dragon complied, storing the quill and parchment back in their appropriate containers on a nearby desk. He shot her a worried glance for a moment, before leaving to clean up the breakfast he had dropped.

Twilight sat down on her haunches again, staring behind her at the feathery lavender appendages that partially covered her cutie mark. She would have to do something about them to keep anypony from discovering that there was another winged unicorn in Equestria. No one needed to know. Could she just wear something to cover them? A saddle, maybe? Most ponies didn’t wear clothing, but walking around stark-naked like they did was obviously a bad idea.

A muffled gurgling emanated from her gut. ‘Well, I can’t think on an empty stomach...’ she reasoned, deciding to dismiss her situation until after breakfast. It wasn’t like anyone could see her while she ate breakfast in her own house. Maybe she would take a nap, too. Yeah, that sounded nice.

Twilight realized that her eyes had drifted shut without her noticing, and forced them open, before standing up. She trotted wordlessly through the rooms of her house, searching for something she could use to hide her wings. A scarf? No, too narrow. Now that she thought about it, her wings were slightly larger than those of the average pegasus. They weren’t disproportionately larger, they were just... big. Her Winter-Wrap-Up vest crossed her mind, but then she remembered how tight it felt back when she actually wore it. It would absolutely crush her wings, as they added a few inches to her body width. Her Gala dress? No, way too formal.

She mentally kicked herself for not having many clothes. She didn’t need them. Well, not until now. She extended one of her wings and scowled angrily at it. ‘Stupid wings.’

She suddenly noticed that some of the feathers on the wing were disheveled and out-of-place. Innately, she nudged some of them into line with her muzzle. Some of them complied and aligned, neat and orderly with the rest, but others refused to co-operate. She grabbed a particular disobedient plume with her teeth and jerked it into the proper orientation, but it limply slid back to its previous position. She frowned and jerked harder on the same feather, but with a small jolt of pain, it simply detached from her wing and drifted down lazily to the floor. She simply stared at it for a moment. Whatever, that one felt loose anyway. She kept at it, trying to arrange her feathers as neatly as she arranged the books in her library.

‘This one should be like this. And... and this. Urgh, I know I get a bad bed-mane, but this is ridiculous... What would be the equivalent term for wings?’

“Twilight?” Spike asked, gawking slightly, having passed by the doorway. “Are you... preening your feathers?”

“Huh?” the mare replied, turning her head away from her project to look at the purple dragon. “No, I’m just-...” She fell silent. She was indeed preening her feathers; she just hadn’t realized it. It wasn’t her fault, though -- They weren’t orderly! Everything needed to be organized and easy to navigate. That’s how she’d been successful in life so far. She... she was just tidying them up, that was all.

“Wow Twilight, I didn’t know you’d warm up to this so fast,” Spike chimed, approaching the purple pony with a warm smile.

“W-warm up? How am I going to explain any of this to anypony?!” Twilight exclaimed, standing up. “I haven’t warmed up. I was just trying to... to make my wings less messy, is all...” she trailed off, looking at her wing again. There were still misaligned feathers, and she still felt an urge to groom them, most likely born from her obsessive-compulsive need to organize. Maybe just a few more, and then she would stop. Without another word, she immediately stuck her muzzle into her wing again and continued to nudge and bite at her plumage. ‘This one needs to be like this... All the feathers around it are pointing the same way. Oh, and this one goes this way-Grk! It won’t stay! Whatever, I’ll just take it out. Ow! Okay then, that’s enough. Well, maybe after this one...’

Before she knew it, she sat surrounded by a thin circle of lavender feathers on the carpet around her. She had moved on to her other wing as well, as she had eventually groomed the first one to perfection in her eyes. Wait, wasn’t she going to stop after the first few?

KNOCK KNOCK KNOCK

Wait. Wait. What time was it!? She stood up and frantically looked around for a clock. It must have been past eight-thirty; somepony was at her door. ‘I can’t let anypony see me!’ she thought, panicked. She galloped noisily down the hallway back to her bedroom, her gaze darting back and forth. There was nothing she could use! Nothing... except for her bedsheets. Whatever, it’d have to do. She focused on the rim of the white sheet she had previously fallen out of bed with, and telekinetically wrapped it around herself, letting the excess fabric drape down to the floor. She no-doubt was suffering from bed-mane, as she had yet to comb her deep-purple hair, so she might be be able to pass herself off as ‘just woken up’ and fool the pony waiting outside her door. Nonetheless, she shook her head vigorously for a moment, just to be sure.

She scrambled haphazardly back to the front room to see Spike greeting the customer, a brown pegasus mare with a rather wavy blonde mane who wore just a tad too much lipstick. Both regarded the ‘unicorn’ for a moment, before the dragon continued speaking.

“As I was saying, welcome to the Ponyville Library! Twilight over there is really... uh... tired, so I’ll be serving you this morning. Do you have anything specific in mind?” Spike asked, giving his trademark warm grin. The chocolate-brown pony cleared her throat.

“Yes, I was wondering, do you have a copy of that new fiction novel that just released? ‘Sharpsteel the Pirate’, if I recall correctly.” The customer’s voice was light and breathy, almost as if she was acting in front of a camera.

“I think we do. Let me check,” the young reptile answered, grabbing his personal ladder from its resting place against the wall and laying it against the bookshelf near the labeled ‘adventure/fiction’ section.

Twilight felt like she was bound with ropes. The bedsheet was tangled around her limbs, and one of her wings was bent the wrong way. Her left wing wasn’t laid neatly against her side; it was bent up over her back. To anypony looking at her, there was no difference, but to her, it burned. She didn’t dare try and move it back into place with that pony watching her, however.

She tried to walk back through the doorway she came from, but tripped over the fabric wrapped around her hooves and fell to the floor. The sheet came undone and flared up as she plummeted, exposing her wings to the cold air for a moment. ‘Oh no!’

She frantically scrambled back to her hooves and shot a worried glance at the customer. The pony in question was currently negotiating her checkout with Spike, and had only cast a glance the blanketed mare’s way after she had risen. Good... Maybe the customer hadn’t seen her new limbs.

Twilight hastily retreated back through the doorway she had entered from, able to avoid tripping now that her legs were unbound, and turned a corner before sitting down on her haunches. She breathed a sigh of despair. She still had nothing to hide her wings with. What was she going to do?

She couldn’t leave the library to go and purchase something to cover her up, but maybe... maybe she could send Spike out to buy a casual outfit that she could wear. It would attract attention, but not nearly as much as her wings would. With nopony to manage the library, she would just have to put up the ‘CLOSED’ sign to deter any more customers.

She leaned against the wall, listening to Spike and the customer pony babble on about things completely unrelated to libraries or books. She resisted the urge to shout at them to get on with it, trying to remain polite despite her having already told the dragon multiple times to avoid small talk.

Twilight’s eye was twitching by the time they had finished. When the click of the front door closing met her ears, she immediately threw off the bedsheet wrapped around her body and rocketed back to the front room. “Spike...” she growled dangerously.

“Oh, hey Twilight. That pony was really nice! I hope she comes back,” he obliviously commented, rolling back and forth on his heels.

“You shouldn’t get chatty with the customers; it holds everything up,” she scolded, her voice gruff.

Spike stared for a moment, before shrugging. “Well, I didn’t see anyone else waiting outside, so...”

“Ugh, just forget it! I need you to go out and get something for me, anyway.”

“Whaddya need?”

Twilight looked behind her again, scanning the shiny lavender feathers of her wings. “I... I need you to go and buy a vest for me. Extra-large. Make sure it’s full-torso.” she explained, observing how a white sheen rippled across her feathers as they shifted involuntarily. Her wings were significantly larger, or more accurately, longer than those of an adult pegasus. Hers hitched behind her shoulders, and even when folded up they still reached all the way back to her cutie mark, the primary feathers partially obscuring the deep-red starburst symbol. A regular vest wouldn’t cut it.

“Can do, Twilight! They only have vests like that for racer pegasi, but I’ll get the biggest one they have!” the dragon answered chipperly, grabbing one of his older sister’s saddlebags from a cabinet and wearing it on his back. He opened the front door and hopped out without another word. He did like to focus on speed when shopping.

With a sigh, Twilight focused her magic through her horn and turned the ‘OPEN’ sign on her front window to the side that said ‘CLOSED’. She didn’t want anypony to bother her before Spike returned with that vest. She looked around the room; searching for something to do to pass the time. A book to read? Possibly. Her gaze passed over the table that her little brother usually sorted the morning mail on. Not an envelope in sight. Perhaps he had forgotten? Well, she saw no sense in delaying something as important as that...

She looked out her window at her mailbox, attached to two poles stuck into the ground roughly ten feet away. She concentrated, and the mailbox was surrounded in a deep red glow, before the hatch opened and a stack of envelopes & magazines floated out. She moved herself to the side of the door, before opening it and bringing the papers through, closing it behind them. She couldn’t risk going outside yet; there could be a random passerbyer who would see her and then tell everypony about her. She couldn’t let that happen.

Tearing herself away from that thought, she sorted through the envelopes with her magic, opening each one and giving them a quick skim. Coupons for the Day Spa... A warning of a subscription expiration for Equestria Daily... Letter from Mom & Dad saying they’re coming to visit... ETA notice for Spike and the large mirror he ordered for some reason... Racer Pegasi Monthly...

Wait. She stared at the black vest donned by the yellow pegasus stallion on the cover.

‘“They only have vests like that for racer pegasi...”’

That was the vest that Spike was going to get for her? It had enormous holes for the wings! That wouldn’t hide hers at all! She needed to go catch him and tell him to get a different vest. Jumping up from the pile of letters, she yanked the front door open with her magic, tucked her wings in tight and-

Twilight stopped mid-gallop, mere yards from the door. She had almost rushed straight out in all her winged-unicorn glory before she caught herself. Inwardly cursing at such an early slip-up, she shut the door in front of her. She was lucky that nopony was standing directly outside. She needed to wear something before she went out. But... what? That bedsheet was far too wonky; she couldn’t take more than a few steps without it tangling around her hooves, let alone gallop a large distance.

She looked around the room. Nothing. She groaned to herself. Nothing for it, then. When in doubt, experiment with magic. She began to channel energy into her horn, mentally focusing on her wings. She felt the familiar tingle of raw magical energy flow through her, boiling through her horn as she guided the spell, and after an almighty burst of energy, her wings were gone. To the eye. She had cast a type of invisibility spell on them, but bending light used a lot of magic. She could feel it sapping away at her strength, slowly but surely. She estimated she could only keep the spell up for twenty minutes, at the most. At least, at her normal peak strength. Not only was she tired, but also didn’t yet know if her magical abilities had been affected by her change. If she pushed it any farther than she was capable, she would collapse and fall unconscious. And even then... it still only fooled the eye. If a pony were to bump into her, or perhaps poke her side, they would feel the feathers of her wings. And this tier of illusion spell was fragile; one touch, and the precise incantation could shatter. She had to be careful.

Regardless of the risk involved, she smiled to herself. Twenty minutes should be more than enough time for her to catch Spike, change her request, and get back to the library. She just needed to avoid running into or talking with anypony; she couldn’t waste any time. After shaking herself thoroughly to clear her thoughts, she opened the door again and headed out.

----

Twilight squinted at the bright sunlight that beamed into her eyes from just above the horizon. It was still early morning; the sun had only begun its ascent into the sky, and the angle of the light washed a beautiful orange over the clouds, casting long shadows across the landscape. The village’s colors were dulled, the sunlight having yet to reach maximum brightness. She breathed in the moist morning air, and felt the dew on the grass beneath her hooves, absent-mindedly wondering if her coat would be soaking wet by the time she returned home.

She stepped off the dark-green grass and onto the cobbles, steadily breaking into a gallop in the direction she knew her assistant had gone; the path that led to a sports equipment store named Academane. It was the only store in Ponyville that sold athletic-tier vests, such as lightning-proof suits for pegasi, and Applejack’s favorite brand of industrial-strength horseshoes. It was also one of the only store lines in the country that sold pants. Tennis ponies wore them.

As she sprinted to catch up to Spike, she noticed that there weren’t many ponies out. Perhaps most were still inside, preparing for their day. However, she gradually started seeing more and more ponies out as she neared the center of town. They looked at her as she zipped by; obviously because she was moving quickly, but at least they weren’t staring at her for a particular other reason.

Twilight gradually slowed as she ran out of energy, beginning to pant heavily. She could run for a lot longer normally, but the invisibility spell she was maintaining had been draining her strength alongside her galloping, and had caused her to tire out much more quickly. Her vision suddenly began to swim, and she shook herself awake. ‘No... I can’t pass out here... Not in front of everypony...’ If she were to lose consciousness, the spell would break, and her little secret would be blown.

She looked around; she appeared to be near the marketplace. She could see ponies walking to and fro, in and out of tents, wearing saddlebags filled to the brim with various commodities. The cobbles beneath her hooves had an oddly intricate colored design to them, rather fancy when compared to the blank paved concrete rodes in the suburbs of Ponyville. The area buzzed with conversation, the air itself seeming to vibrate as countless ponies chatted about various things in their daily lives.

She felt a sudden urge to curl up right there on the road and surrender herself to her dreams, the exhaustion from her spell, her galloping, and her insufficient amount of sleep the previous night all crashing down on her at the same time. She needed to take a break, and drop the spell for a few minutes to catch her breath. But... where? She couldn’t do it here, out in the open. There! She spotted a nearby dark alleyway between two houses, and headed towards it.

As she stepped into the cool shadows, the sounds of the marketplace became muffled and less-clear. Glancing all around her to make sure that nopony could see, she lit up her horn. She cancelled the invisibility spell, and her large lavender flight limbs faded into existence, the spell’s draining effect slowly ebbing away. She practically collapsed next to a dumpster, trying to catch her breath as beads of sweat rolled down her face and dripped off of her chin.

“That spell was supposed to last twenty minutes...” she croaked to herself, taking deep breaths. Her fuzzy purple chest methodically expanded and contracted as she breathed in and out, trying to regain her strength. Using magic had an exhausting effect on a unicorn. The magical energy itself primarily came from passive absorption of ambient energy from the environment, something a unicorn’s body did naturally, but using it, the formation of a spell, drew from a pony’s stamina. Using a complicated spell caused the same amount of physical exhaustion as lifting and carrying a heavy object with her own body. Maintaining a spell and trying to do something athletic at the same time... it limited her ability to do either. ‘Note to self: Walk next time.

She scanned the nearby area. The alleyway she sat in was very dark in the scarce morning light; nopony would be able to spot her if they happened to cast a glance her way. It was also roomy, enough for her to wholly stretch herself out without bumping into a wall. In fact, she did, groaning to herself as she wrung out a few cramps in all six of her limbs. The colors of the walls of the buildings were indiscernible in the waxing light; each appearing to be the same shade of dark grey as the other. The two openings out to the sides of the alleyway were the only sources of light, and even then, the illumination was insufficient for anything more than navigation.

Her stomach suddenly growled with the intensity of a territorial wildcat, and she frowned miserably at her belly. She still hadn’t eaten any food since she’d woken up. Well, the Ponyville Marketplace was right over there... but she couldn’t go there as she was. The invisibility spell would have to be recast, and she was too exhausted to do that. Her empty stomach was not helping to recover her energy, either. She was tired, hungry, and out of options.

Various ponies occasionally trotted past the entrance of the alleyway, but none noticed the pony resting within. She cast a glance out the other end, seeing a simple concrete pathway dotted with rather normal-looking houses. The street was familiar; it was the same street that the Carousel Boutique was on. The alley she laid in wasn’t too far from the building, either. She could go there to rest up, and maybe even get some breakfast, with no fear of being exposed to the locals, but...

Rarity... Twilight would have to reveal herself to the dressmaker. ‘No... Please, no...’ she mentally begged, before being interrupted by another thunderous bellow from her gut. She had a choice; either stay here, technically out in the open with an empty stomach, or go visit Rarity in her warm abode and get something to eat. Her brain told her to stay put, but her heart and her stomach told her to go to Rarity’s. The dressmaker wouldn’t freak out, right? Right? Twilight desperately wanted to have somepony to talk to who wouldn’t gawk at her the entire time, somepony who would sympathize and give assistance. The unicorn was a close friend... She would understand. She would help.

The purple mare stood up, trotting carefully and silently to the opening on the other side of the alley. She stuck her head just a few inches out and looked to her left, then to her right, her mane swishing back and forth. The coast was clear, and she had a straight shot to the Boutique. Nopony was in sight... It was now or never.

She steeled herself, and began sneaking to the boutique, quietly but briskly as she hugged the nearest wall. She put an effort into making sure her hoofsteps were silent, but kept a decent pace, as walking too slowly is just as dangerous as walking noisily. The street was barren; the only signs of life being the occasional sounds of chatter within the houses, each sentence sending an icy shock up her spine. Silence was important... All it took was for somepony to open their window curtains, and she was done for.

As she neared the large, circular open space which nestled the Carousel Boutique, she almost choked. Despite most of Ponyville being a ghost town in the early mornings, this particular area was currently very popular, bustling with ponies of all ages talking and playing board games. She cursed under her breath. There was absolutely no way she’d get past them without being noticed. She thought about simply teleporting into her white friend’s living quarters; she was close enough, but she wasn’t sure if she could cast the spell without passing out from the exertion. She still hadn’t recovered from her extended galloping and use of the invisibility spell. She turned to glare at the offending appendages on her back. She had no idea how to fly, and didn’t trust her new limbs not to fail her when she needed them.

Perhaps she could distract them, make them all look in one direction, and slip by before they came to their senses. But how...? Her purple irises scanned the area. There was a large billboard posted on the roof of one of the nearby shops, displaying an advert for a brand of coffee. It seemed to rattle slightly back and forth in the wind, suggesting that the bolts holding it down must have loosened, and were about to give out. With a little telekinetic nudge, the entire thing might come crashing down, and the resulting noise would distract everypony long enough for her to make a break for the Boutique. But... wouldn’t that be vandalism? Well, it was bound to fall sooner or later. At least she could make sure it wouldn’t fall on anypony.

She double-checked the area directly beneath the advertisement; the nearby foals and their parents were wisely taking caution to not stand in its path were it to fall down. Good... Nopony would be hurt from this. Telekinesis, by comparison, was a very easy spell, so perhaps using it wouldn’t tire her out too much. She channeled energy into her horn, and reached out with her mind to the swaying, creaking advertisement, before gripping the top of it and tugging sharply towards the clearing. The steel supports groaned painfully from the sudden force, the sheer weight of the board overtaking the pull from the magic, before the noise escalated to an ear-piercing shriek as the metal ripped apart, the horrible noise echoing throughout the clearing and demanding the attention of all nearby. The adult ponies panicked and the foals screamed as the smiling face of the advertisement leaned ever-closer, before the billboard tore off its supports and came down like a wrecking ball.

BOOM! The ground shook as the sign collided with the gravel hoofpath, spraying small rocks in every direction and leaving a deep indenture in the earth. Several ponies lost their footing from the tremor, mostly the foals, and fell down. Twilight seized her chance and bolted out from her hiding spot, galloping as quickly and silently as her tired limbs would carry her to the door of the Carousel Boutique, darting behind the sights of the startled citizen ponies. She telekinetically opened the oriental wooden door of her friend’s home, and quietly slipped inside, closing it behind her.

She loudly released a breath she hadn’t even known she’d been holding. That was close... but at least nopony saw her. Now she was safe within the confines of her friend’s house, finally away from the outside world. Her ears perked as she began to hear voices, most likely the ponies outside talking.

"Did you see that pony run by after the sign fell?”

“Yeah... I think she had a horn and wings!”

“What are you talking about?”

She felt like somepony had stabbed a frozen dagger directly in-between her shoulder blades. ‘Oh no... no... no... no no no no nonononono!’ she mentally chanted, panicked. A few of them had seen her. She stood trembling for a moment, before collapsing, curling up around herself on the white tiled floor and stroking her own tail with a purple hoof. Her ears twitched erratically, her expression distraught. ‘They...They... It... It’ll be fine... It... They’ll forget... Maybe... Maybe they’ll think... They’ll think they didn’t see anything at all...!’ she thought bluntly and reassuringly as she nervously giggled to herself, her wings twitching involuntarily behind her back. The jig wasn’t up yet... It... It wasn’t up yet... It’s not like they’d keep thinking about it. They’d forget. They wouldn’t tell other ponies about it. They’d forget.

“Hellooo~? Is somepony in here? I know you want your fabulous dress as early as possible, darling, but the Carousel Boutique opens at ten o’ clock,” a particular stylish white unicorn announced, her cultured voice echoing from somewhere else inside the building.

Twilight immediately scrabbled to her hooves and looked at the shadow her friend cast on the wall as she approached the corner of a nearby hallway. The purple pony bit her lip and whipped her head back and forth, looking for a place to hide. She was going to tell Rarity, just... not now. Please, not now...

Perhaps she could hide? The only plausible option was a large upturned cardboard box in the room to her right, just big enough for her to fit into. Seeing no other option, she darted to it and levitated it upwards, frantically emptying it of the white packaging material, before crouching down underneath and placing the container upside-down over her. It almost caught on her unruly mane on the way down, as it was a tight fit, but it would have to do. There was a small cut-out hole in the front of the box, and through it she watched Rarity trot around the corner, looking for any sign of the pony that just entered her house. The unicorn had curlers in her mane & tail, and judging by the way her bleach-white fur appeared to glisten in the light, she may have just finished her morning shower.

"Hellooo~? Is anypony here?” the mare trilled aloud, her gaze darting about for a moment, before she turned around and began to walk back to the hallway she came from. “Huh... Must have just been my imagination... I-I wish sw-... would... nrg... keeping me up all night... beauty sleep...” she yawned incoherently, taking her leave.

Twilight swallowed anxiously, feeling little relief from having successfully evaded the white pony. She couldn’t just keep hiding from her friend. Especially not in her own house. That just felt... wrong.

Why couldn’t she put her trust in Rarity? The fashionista had never steered her wrong before. And, to have somepony to actually talk to about... about this... Twilight needed the company of a friend right now, more than anything.

But what if she reacted adversely...? No, she would understand. She had to understand. The lavender pony took a deep breath and gathered herself, before lifting the cardboard box off of her figure and placing it aside. She opened her mouth to call her friend’s name, but was unable to summon her own voice. She cleared her throat, and mentally commanded her icy fear of rejection to step down.

“R... Rarity...?” Her voice was small, and faint. She shook her head to clear her thoughts, and stood up, trotting after her friend. She turned a corner to lay eyes on the damp mare cantering away, possibly back to her bathroom to continue her grooming. “Rarity!” she almost shouted, causing her friend to turn around to acknowledge her.

Upon sighting her, Rarity appeared slightly irritated for a brief moment, like a pony just woken up from a nap, before her expression softened at the sight of her friend. Judging by the faint bags under her sapphire eyes, she appeared to have not slept well. “Oh, it’s just you, Twil-...” she began, before her tired eyes shot wide open.

Twilight frowned, her eyebrows tilting upwards as the two locked eyes, fearful purple irises gazing into surprised ocean-blue ones. Maybe she shouldn’t have come to the boutique at this hour; exhaustion often inhibits rational thought...

“Rarity, I... Listen... I-”

“W... Wait a minute...” Rarity mumbled, rubbing a white hoof over her eyes, before opening them again with apparent difficulty. “You... You have wings... When... What...” she muttered, squinting for a moment. “You... You’re not Twilight!” she suddenly shouted, her horn shining with a vicious icy-blue glow as she lifted several nearby objects into the air. “Who are you!? I can easily see through that little illusion spell of yours, impostor!” She threw a crate full of clothes at the purple pony, who jumped out of the way as the box bounced off the floor and left a nick in the tile.

“I-Impostor? Wait, Rarity, stop! It is me!” Twilight shouted back, trying in vain to pull in her outstretched wings, which had flared open upon her dodging the heavy wooden box. “Listen!”

“By Celestia, you are stupid! I am not that easy to trick!” Rarity angrily spat, blinking exhausted eyelids as she pulled back another crate and grit her teeth together. “How could you not know that Twilight is a unicorn!? She may be Princess Celestia’s student, but she isn’t a royal and doesn’t have wings! You aren’t her!” She paused to blink a few times, as if formulating her next thought. “Get away from my gems!” she yelled, throwing another crate at the violet mare. “Get out!

Twilight couldn’t avoid this one; she was literally backed into a corner. She caught the fabric-filled container with her own telekinesis and used it to deflect the subsequent projectiles. “I... I... Why won’t you listen!?” she yelled. “Yes, I have wings now! I-I don’t know what happened! Stop throwing things at me!

Not until you leave! You aren’t my friend, I can tell just by looking at you! Twilight is a unicorn, not a... a... whatever it is you are!” Rarity shouted shouted back, throwing a nearby mannequin at the purple pony, who deflected it with the crate she held.

“Listen!! I-I don’t know what happened to make me like this, Rarity, but... Please! It’s me!” Twilight cried, her voice shaking painfully. Why was she acting like this? Nothing ever drove her dressmaking friend to outright attack another pony. Was she just tired? There had to be something to convince Rarity that it was her. Something... something that nopony else knew, something that they swore to never talk about. "Don’t you remember Tom? The giant rock that you thought was a diamond, back when Discord attacked?”

Her assailant gasped, releasing her psychokinetic grasp on the objects nearby and letting them clatter to the floor. "We swore to never speak of that again... How did you find ou-...” Her eyes drew wide with realization. “It... it is you...

For a moment, the two ponies simply stood on opposing sides of the room, surrounded by shattered wood and packaging material. Twilight gazed fearfully at her friend, before collapsing completely on the floor as both shock and relief crashed into her at the same time. Her body shook as she fought to keep herself from sobbing, her trembling breathing the only sound in the room.

Rarity took slow, cautious steps to her friend, an apologetic expression lining her features. “Darling... I-I’m so sorry, I thought... What happened...?” she asked, her sapphire irises scanning over her friend’s body.

Twilight wiped her eyes with a shaky hoof, remaining silent as her colorless friend reached down to her shoulder. She let her wings lay limp on the floor beside her, the cold tile sending chills up her spine. So far, those two limbs had only been wrecking her life. She didn’t care what happened to them.

The white unicorn lowered herself delicately back onto her haunches, taking a purple hoof gently into hers. Her eyes blinked slowly, tiredly. “Twi-... Twilight...? Please believe me, I...”

The violet mare shook, before suddenly jumping at the dressmaker, pulling her damp friend into a tight embrace. Burning hot tears silently dripped down her cheeks and onto Rarity’s fur, her body jerking slightly as she quietly began to sob. But then... she felt a soft tightness around her withers as her friend gently returned the hug, stroking the purple pony’s winged back with a white hoof. For the first time that day, held in the forelegs of a good friend, Twilight felt... she felt... safe.

The pair simply sat there for uncounted minutes. Rarity said nothing as she comforted her crying friend, gently brushing the winged pony’s dark purple mane in an an attempt to further her apology. She put a conscious effort into not touching her limp wings, which shook with each of her exhalations.

Eventually, Twilight reluctantly broke the embrace, pushing herself away from the ivory mare into a more comfortable sitting position. Her head was bowed, the last of her tears squeezing out from her closed eyelids and rolling down the end of her muzzle. Her breaths were still shaky, but significantly more controlled. She stretched her wings a little, relishing in the brief pleasure of the action after having left them limp for so long.

The sound of hooves shuffling in front of her suggested Rarity had taken a similar position. There was a pause. Now that Twilight’s mind had cleared of the fog of anguish, her momentarily-buried fear of her friend’s reaction to her altered state returned full-force.

Rarity cleared her throat. “Erm... Ah, Tw-... Twilight?” she almost whispered, her voice gentle. The alicorn didn’t move. “Twilight, dear... What... What happened to you?”

Twilight looked up, stirred by the concern in her friend’s voice. She opened her mouth to respond, but found she didn’t yet trust her voice to not break. She blinked, looking away morosely and squinting at the floor in an attempt to avoid breaking down in tears again.

"Twilight?”

An uncomfortable silence settled over the wrecked room. The purple pony focused on stabilizing her breathing, attempting to calm herself. She let her eyes slide shut as the cool air chilled her lungs and relaxed her mind. She could feel the body warmth of the mare beside her, so very close, but Rarity held her peace, leaving her friend be. It felt like an eternity ticked by.

Finally, Twilight gulped, her breathing returning to its normal pace. She slowly opened her eyes, gazing intently at her purple hooves.

"They’re beautiful, by the way,” Rarity complemented, attempting to converse with her.

Twilight glanced up at her, her eyes glistening, but remained silent.

“Your... your wings. They’re magnificent,” the ivory mare clarified softly with a concerned smile, indicating her friend’s feathered limbs. "I’m sure they’ll do wonders for your visage when you’re a princess,” she said happily, before immediately clapping a hoof over her mouth when the pony in question released a quiet whimper. “W-wait, no! I-... I didn’t mean-... I... Twilight, please...”

“Rarity... I don’t know what’s happening to me...” Twilight whispered, the most her broken voice could muster. A few silver tears dripped from her eyes, creating small, reflective puddles on the tiled floor below. “I... Please, just don’t tell anypony...” she whimpered, her violet irises drifting pleadingly to her friend, who stood next to her, watching over her with sympathy.

“I won’t... I promise,” Rarity breathed, laying a hoof on her guest’s wing and earning a look from her, before drawing it back. "Are you sure, though? I mean...” Her white ears folded as she remembered her recent assault on the transformed pony. “I... I know I reacted like I did... I-I’m so sorry... But, maybe other ponies won’t make the same mistake I did... I thought you were a sub-par burglar disguised as one of my friends, because of your... your...” She bit her lip, blinking with concern and hesitance. "I’m so sorry...”

The purple pony shuddered, before shakily folding her feathery appendages against her sides and sitting up. “It... It’s fine...” she sighed, looking at the floor. Of course Rarity reacted like that. Twilight wasn’t the same mare she was yesterday. What other reaction could she expect from any normal pony?... No, she couldn’t think like that. Rarity just... she just made a mistake, that’s all. She’d move on, and everything would go back to normal. Wouldn’t it...?

Her stomach growled loudly, reminding her that she still had yet to eat a proper meal. She cast a slightly embarrassed glance down to her fuzzy midsection. “Ah...”

Rarity’s white ears perked up at the sound. “Twilight, dear, haven’t you eaten?” her slightly tired voice asked cautiously, garnering the alicorn’s attention.

Twilight blinked, shaking her head slowly at her friend, before returning her gaze to the floor. She narrowed her eyes slightly, her face beginning to burn up as she suddenly felt... self-conscious. She could feel Rarity looking at her. At her wings. ‘Quit... Quit staring at me.

“Well then, ahh...” The generous mare, usually the first to jump at the chance to accommodate a pony in need, seemed hesitant. “Would... Would you care to- that is, erm, join me for breakfast...? Perhaps...?” she offered, a small, nervous smile playing at her lips.

Twilight gave a small nod in response, standing up. Whatever breakfast Spike had made for her that morning was dropped onto the floor and then thrown away, so she didn’t get to eat any of it. At least Rarity was willing to feed her, if only just this once.

The cultured mare trotted to a nearby hallway and gestured for her friend to follow her, her eyebrows still upturned. “This way... the kitchen is this way. I was just making pancakes,” she informed, sniffing the air, perhaps to see if the breakfast in question had finished cooking. She gazed back at Twilight, beckoning to her.

The violet pony sighed quietly, and cantered after her friend as she exited the room, following her down a hallway and turning through an opened door into a magnificently white-tiled kitchen. The smell of hotcake batter wafted out the entrance, reminding Twilight of just how hungry she was.

“I think you might like it; it’s my own family recipe.” Rarity commented, gazing at her friend as the two entered the room, their hooves making tapping noises on the tile instead of the prototypical clopping. “I don’t make them often. Usually it’s for special occasions, like when Sweetie Belle stays over.” After a few seconds, she suddenly gasped sharply, her eyes snapping wide open. “Sweetie Belle...”

“Hi Twilight! Uh... I mean, Princess Twilight!” the filly in question chirped from her seat at the large circular table in the center of the room, grinning widely and giving a cheerful little wave.

Twilight blanched as she stared at the young white unicorn, the back of her neck surging with white-hot electricity. ‘No... No!’ Her every muscle screamed at her to jump back through the doorway, to run away, but her hooves refused to move.

“S... S-Sweetie Belle, I-I didn’t know you were in here...!” the owner of the house stuttered, her lips shakily parting into a false grin, her eyes darting between the young filly and the winged mare.

Twilight shifted her gaze to Rarity -- Her irises were constricted to tiny blue pinpricks as she rapidly looked between her guest and her own younger sister, the curlers in her mane swaying back and forth.

The achromatic mare swallowed hard, before facing her friend. “T... Twilight, I... I’m sorry, I didn’t know that she...” she muttered quietly, her ears folded back against her head.

“Rarity’s making pancakes; do you want some?” Sweetie Belle asked, obliviously.

"I... I heard,” the pseudo-princess replied absent-mindedly, her eyes and her wings both twitching. ‘She... she thinks I’m a... a... a princess?’ Was that going to be everypony’s perception of her? Her ears folded, and she frowned. This was exactly what she was trying to avoid; ponies confusing her for royalty. If that was the impression that she gave off... How was she going to fit in? She wasn’t royalty. She was just a normal pony. Normal. There was nothing different about her, at all. She just... had both wings and a horn. That was still normal... right? It didn’t mean anything. But... if Sweetie Belle thought it did, then... wouldn’t everypony?

Twilight felt hot tears well up in her eyes at the thought. She looked back at her friend, upset, but her white back was turned.

Rarity quickly begun to tend to the food on the stove, trying to look busy while humming a discordant, noteless tune, but the purple pony could see the neurotic expression on her features. She turned and, with a sorrowful blue gaze, pointedly flicked her head in the direction of the table.

Twilight shook her head near-undetectably, but the white unicorn simply mouthed the words “Please... I’m so sorry,” and turned back to her cooking. The lavender pony unwillingly conceded and trotted slowly to the table, realizing that there was no point in running away now. It was far too late. She sat her haunches opposite from Sweetie Belle, staring down at the red-and-white plaid pattern on the tablecloth.

“So... Twi-... Uh... Princess... When did you get wings?” Sweetie asked curiously, eyeing the large appendages on the adult mare’s back.

The alicorn’s head shot up, and she glared viciously at the younger pony, causing her to retreat slightly in her booster chair and lift a white foreleg in fright. Twilight’s firey gaze quickly softened into a miserable frown, and she returned her eyes to the cloth on the table, taking a deep breath to calm herself. “I don’t want to talk about it...”

“Why not?” the white foal asked obliviously, tilting her head in confusion. The purple pony shook her head sadly.

“I... I just don’t,” she repeated, feeling her temples starting to heat up. Her sadness was slowly being replaced by irritation. She took another deep breath, sibilating.

“But aren’t you a royal pony now? Isn’t it exciting? Why don’t you wanna talk about it?” Sweetie pried, hopping off her seat and trotting around the table to the alicorn, examining her larger-than-average wings.

Twilight could feel her anger steadily bubbling up inside of her. “Sweetie. I don’t. Want. To talk about it,” she dotted, rubbing both of her temples. The filly’s unwavering gaze felt like two burning flames on her side. ‘Stop... stop staring at me...!’

“But I wanted to-”

“Sweetie Belle, please! Twilight is... She’s going through a... a hard time right now. At least try to be sensitive,” Rarity interjected as she flipped each hotcake onto a large polished white ceramic serving plate, her voice still carrying hints of nervousness.

Sweetie Belle apparently did not hear her older sister, as she began brushing the feathers on one of Twilight’s wings with a hoof, causing the winged unicorn to flinch and jerk away.

“Stop it,” she snipped, glaring at the young pony again. The feeling of something touching her new appendages just... it just felt weird. It was uncomfortable. Experiencing a sense of touch with two limbs that her brain wasn’t familiar with felt out-of-place, and it certainly wasn’t helping that a certain little filly was consistently running her hooves over them.

“They’re really soft, Princess...” Sweetie complemented, smiling up at Twilight’s trembling purple irises.

“Stop calling me that!” she shouted down at the young filly, her violet eyes narrowed. “I’m not a princess! I’m just... I’m just a regular pony!”

The foal cowered again for a moment, retracting herself into a tight ball and looking up at the elder mare. “But... you have a horn and wings. Doesn’t that make you a-”

NO!” the alicorn screamed, her wings flaring out to her sides, causing the lone Cutie Mark Crusader to whimper and back away in fright. She glared for a moment longer, her teeth grit, before her gaze softened as she realized what she was doing. She cast a distraught gaze down at the tablecloth again, folding her avian limbs against her sides. "I... I’m sorry, I...” she began, before falling silent.

Rarity trotted to the table, a large plate of pancakes floating next to her. “Sweetie Belle... I need to be alone to talk with Twilight for a moment. Please, just take these up to your room,” she requested, levitating a smaller plate from a cupboard and transferring some of the hotcakes onto it, “and leave us be. Don’t eavesdrop, either.”

“Okay...” Sweetie Belle complied, defeated. She picked up the plate in her mouth and trotted dejectedly out a nearby doorway.

Rarity set the larger plate on the center of the table and seated herself opposite from her guest. “Now, dear... I don’t wish to intrude, but please, tell me... How did this happen?” she asked, not even touching the steaming flapjacks in front of her.

Twilight was suffering from a similar loss of appetite, and the food in front of her did not appeal to her whatsoever after the intense prying by her host’s younger sister. Regardless, her horn shimmered as she lifted one of the pancakes and forced herself to take a bite. It tasted like wool to her, and she wanted to spit it out, but she kept chewing. It was worth it; the horrible constricted feeling in her gut abated after she swallowed. She shifted her gaze up to the mare sitting across from her. "Thank you for the meal.”

“Oh, it’s not a problem, sweetheart, but...” Rarity began, biting her lip and gazing to the floor beside her, formulating her next sentence. "Really, though... Why do you have wings?”

Twilight frowned miserably, tilting her head downward. "I... I don’t know...” she muttered morosely. ‘Please stop asking...

A white hoof nervously scuffed at the floor. “O... Okay, then... Can you... use them?” its owner asked slowly, trying to be as sensitive as possible. “I... I’d bet you’d look absolutely marvelous flying through the sky!” she complimented, grinning nervously.

“No...” the winged mare mumbled sadly, tilting her head even lower. Rarity was probably trying to make her feel better, but it wasn’t working. Use her wings? As in, fly? What use would flight be to her? Yes, it would be a nice way to travel, but she didn’t need it. She turned her head behind her and shot an angry scowl at the antagonizing limbs on her back, but they merely rustled involuntarily in reply as a neurological impulse shot through her. She didn’t need the wings, either. As far as they went, they were completely useless. They were just two feathered weights that escalated to burning temperatures by trapping body heat. They were uncomfortable, the light tickle of her own feathers sliding across her torso felt weird, and they felt like two heavy saddlebags that were always there. Useless. Stupid. Wings.

“Well... Twilight... I could convince Rainbow Dash to teach you. I’m certain she’d jump at the chance. I-I mean, if that’s okay with you...” Rarity offered, shuffling awkwardly.

Twilight loosed an inaudible sigh. ‘Now she’s acting like Fluttershy.

There was a lapse, each pony remaining quiet and steadily consuming their starchy meals. Several minutes passed with no conversation as they each ate their fill, and by the end of it, the purple pony felt like throwing up. She hadn’t even eaten that much, but her anxiety threatened to eject the contents of her stomach nonetheless.

“Dear... did you hear what I said about Rainbow Dash? I can send for her right now, if you need me to...” Rarity pressed, her gaze drifting over to a quill and some parchment resting on the edge of a nearby counter.

“No... not now...” Twilight muttered. Of all the ponies she wanted to know about this, Dash was absolutely not one of them. Considering how fast she could move and how much of a loudmouth she was, if the blue blur found out, it wouldn’t be long before the entire country knew about it. And that, even without Celestia discovering a third alicorn.

She abruptly stood up and shook herself awake. “Thanks for the breakfast, Rarity, but I need to... go... check on Spike,” she lied, attempting to look happy and content, but only succeeding in giving a broken smile. “It was hard getting here without anypony seeing me, but...” she trailed off. She just wanted to be out of here; back home, by herself. Without anypony constantly looking at her...

Her friend raised a white hoof. “Wait, Twilight... A-about that... I could make you a dress to wear, if you wanted. Would you? I’d need some time to purchase the materials I need and put it together, but...”

“That’d be great,” Twilight mumbled as she turned around and headed for the hallway. Wait... There were still ponies outside, and the sun had risen in the sky since she had entered the boutique. The landscape was significantly brighter, and the shadows of the buildings were shorter and less defined. The alleyways wouldn’t hide her now... She needed something to cover herself. Actually, she didn’t want to hide this time, period. She had no sufficient clothing at the library, but maybe Rarity had something she could use.

She turned back to face the dressmaker, clearing her throat. “Uhm... Do you have a... a cloak or something that I could wear?” she asked softly, gazing pleadingly at her friend. It wasn’t much, and it certainly wasn’t subtle, but she would rather appear shady than walk around under a social spotlight.

“A cloak?” Rarity echoed, raising her eyebrows. “Of course... I’ll go fetch some fabric and my tape measure,” she announced, standing up and walking to the doorway on the opposite side of the kitchen, before trotting through it, her coifed purple tail disappearing behind the white doorframe.

Twilight sat down, casting a glance over her shoulder at her wings again. She extended one, to wring out a cramp or two, before its disheveled feathers again snagged her eye. They must have all been ruffled out of place by the fight with Rarity... She pouted, annoyed that all the hard work she’d done organizing her feathers that morning had gone to waste. The urge to groom them surged back into her, but she shook her head dismissively and folded the lavender appendage back against her side. She didn’t want to litter her friend’s floor with purple feathers. She... she’d do that in her own house.

Rarity soon trot back into the kitchen, the curlers removed from her mane and allowing her purple locks to flow free. She seemed to skip with delight as she telekinetically carried several dressmaking supplies in her wake. “Twiliiight! Come here for a moment~!” she sang, beckoning to the alicorn, her sapphire eyes shining.

Twilight raised an eyebrow at her friend’s sudden peppy attitude. Maybe she was just excited to make a garment for a friend, or something. Either way, it seemed to have all but eliminated the apparent exhaustion she had before. Twilight steadily approached her friend, before a tape measure sailed over her back and wrapped under her belly, pulling taut on her wings. She shot an incredulous glance at the grinning fashionista, but she appeared to not notice.

Rarity took a deep breath, and began rambling. “I’ve never been able to make a dress for a pony with such large wings before, darling. It’s just so exciting! I could add all sorts of garnishes, and it won’t look gaudy! I tried to do this with Rainbow Dash, but everything I tried seemed to clash with her mane. I even settled for a wig, but she doesn’t like wigs, you see, so-”

“Rarity! I just... I just need a cloak right now. Not a dress,” Twilight interrupted, slightly embarrassed as her friend telekinetically grabbed her wing and pulled it out to measure the margin of the limb.

The dressmaker pouted. “Oh, alright, if you insist...” she conceded, letting go of her friend’s appendage and snipping at the cloth floating in front of her muzzle with a pair of orange scissors. She continued to work, manually stitching threads in, and before long, a robe of sorts began to take shape. The fabric was purple, but it was dark; It would enable the self-conscious mare to blend in quite well with the shadows. The seams were thick, and they added important structure to the outfit, increasing durability. The color itself melded well with Twilight’s natural coat color, detracting attention from the robe, while the dark shade would help to mask any shadows cast by the bulges of her wings.

Twilight sat back and watched as Rarity worked, her eyes wide with interest. She didn’t know that she was capable of working so fast! Only a few minutes had passed before the garment was finished, each sheet of fabric blending seamlessly.

“Ta-daaaa~!” Rarity trilled with a giggle, holding the finished article aloft for inspection. “What do you think?”

At an eager nod from the unicorn, Twilight levitated the cloak towards herself for a closer look. She delicately turned it this way and that, mouth agape at the impeccable craftsmareship. The dark material was almost the same shade of mystic purple as her own mane, blending in with her natural colors, and the fabric itself was loose and light, but visibly thick enough to render the bulges of her wings near-undetectable. The cloak bunched together slightly at the neck, creating a layered feel to the material and giving a sense of dressy flair to an otherwise plain ensemble. The neck itself consisted of the folded edge of the cloth, the seams sewn down into a triangular shape that pointed down the back of the garment. A loop of thick pink string made for a simplistic button-and-hoop clasp on the front of it, holding its two halves together.

“It’s really good, Rarity! Thank you!” she complimented with a grateful smile. She opened the inside of the garment, before bringing it down over her neck and sliding the fabric over her torso. She shivered slightly as it brushed past her wings, but kept at it, draping the back of it over her flank. It felt more like a winter coat, now that she thought about it, except significantly more comfortable. She turned her neck this way and that, getting a good look at the sides. She couldn’t see any sign of her wings. Excellent.

“No problem at all, dear! I’ll be sure to work on your dress in the meantime... Actually, about that...” her friend began, staring at the robed mare for a moment. “I still need to measure the rest of you...” she hinted, telekinetically tugging at the the vest with a shy smile.

Twilight’s eye twitched. She really needed to go back and find Spike, so he doesn’t purchase that horrible racer’s vest. He didn’t need to now, after all -- Rarity had just made a proper outfit for her to wear. “Uh... I’d love to, but...”

“Please, dear? I can’t even begin to work on it if I don’t know what size it needs to be.”

“Rarity, I-”

“Please?”

“I really need to-”

Please?

“I can’t-”

Pleaaaaassseee?” Rarity begged, folding her ears behind her head and giving the clothed mare a huge-eyed puppy-dog stare.

Twilight tore her eyes from her friend to the new robe draped over her crest. It was a very simple piece, crafted light to serve a short-term purpose. It wouldn’t last long. What if it ripped? Besides, knowing Spike, he was probably already back at the library, wondering where she had run off to. She sighed in defeat, and looked at the floor. Well, she was already here... she might as well let Rarity finish.

“Fine...” she conceded, looking back up at the dressmaker, who perked up with a wide smile at her comment.

“Ohh, thankyouthankyouthankyouthankyouthankyou!!” she chanted with glee, hopping on her hooves and pulling the simple robe off of her friend, exposing her feathered wings to the air once more.

The sight of her friend’s joy brought an amused smile to Twilight’s lips. She always got like this when she was excited about trying something new.

The fashionista bounced in a very Pinkie Pie-esque manner to the door leading back to the design room, and tugged at her friend’s shoulder with her magic to come with her.

Twilight complied, her mood significantly brightened, and followed the overexcited mare through another set of hallways, arriving at a room furnished with red curtains and mirrors placed all along the walls.

Rarity motioned for the alicorn to climb up onto a small platform in the center of the room, and she obeyed, staying perfectly still as her friend assaulted her body with several different measuring tools.

“Careful Rarity, you don’t want to mummify me...” Twilight joked with a grin, referring to the several yards of measuring tape wrapped around her body and in-between her limbs.

“Oh, I won’t! I just need to know how big your wings are, so I can design something that’s comfortable for them,” the dressmaker replied, placing a ruler against the carpal joint of her friend’s left wing. “Let’s see... About this much, ooh! They can move about this much...”

The model’s smile faded slightly. Why was Rarity taking all of these precise measurements? Why did she need to know how far her wings could move in one direction? “Uhm... Why do you need to measure all that, again?” she asked with a hint of trepidation.

“Oh! I need to make the holes the right size, so it doesn’t obstruct flight,” the unicorn replied absent-mindedly, before her eyes snapped wide open as she realized what she had just said. “Ah-... Erm...”

Twilight was incredulous. Holes? Did Rarity forget the entire reason she had asked for this? The point of the dress was to hide her wings, not to ‘look good with them’!

“Oh, darling...” Rarity sighed happily, gazing admiringly at the avian limbs on her friend’s back. “If I had wings as beautiful as yours, I would want to show them off to the entire world...”

The alicorn’s jaw dropped, her eye twitching as her friend wrapped the measuring tape along her primaries. “I... I don’t! I don’t want anypony to see me!” she clarified, glaring at the white mare.

Rarity’s eyebrows turned upwards. “Why ever not? I mean, if you’re going to be a princess, then you need to look the par-” She immediately clapped both hooves over her mouth upon recognition of her words, and gave a wide-eyed, sorrowful gaze to her friend, her ears folded.

Twilight looked broken, her irises reduced to tiny dots and her eyebrows pointing upward as she stared at the fashionista. Her expression suddenly became furious, and she growled angrily. “Rarity, I’m not going to be a princess!!” she yelled, her voice searing. “I don’t know why I have wings, I just... do! Okay!?

The dressmaker was taken aback by her outburst, her mouth working, but nothing coming out. Her ears folded back, she continued her work without another word, avoiding her friend’s gaze.

The pair continued in silence, the model standing stock-still with her wings raised up and out the way. She glared ahead wordlessly as the tape measure engulfed in a faint blue aura whipped expertly around her, her expression completely unreadable as she stared at a wall.

Rarity circled her briskly, taking down measurements from the tape on a small notepad. The purple mare didn’t once look her in the eye. After a time, the ivory unicorn withdrew the measuring tools and stepped back behind her model. “Okay... I’m finished,” she murmured sadly.

Twilight broke eye contact with the wall and let her head droop, releasing a breath she hadn’t realized she’d been holding. She tucked her wings back against her sides with a flourish, gazing at the floor.

Her ears perked, and she turned her head at the soft sound of Rarity’s hoofsteps as she quietly left, heading to the front room.

Finally, Twilight was... she was...

Alone...

...

She scuffed a hoof on the carpet, frowning.

Perhaps she had acted a little... harshly toward Rarity. She had only been trying to help, after all. And she hadn’t reacted too adversely to her-... Oh, right...

Well, that’s no excuse to act that way towards her. Rarity is a friend, Twilight. A friend.’

Yes, but for how long?

Twilight shook her head violently to dispel her conflicting thoughts, trembling slightly. Quickly throwing her new robe over herself, she cantered out of the room after her friend.

“Rarity!”

The white pony sat on a cushion in the front room, levitating a thin stack of papers in front of her, along with a short pencil. She turned and offered a small, distraught smile.

The winged mare stood still for a moment, before beginning to fumble with her cloak’s clasp with her hooves, trying to fasten it. It would help her apology if she wore the ensemble she had already received from the unicorn, as it showed she was indeed grateful for it. She glanced at her friend. “Look, Rarity, I- nngh... I’m sorry for how I’ve been acting...” The pink cord of string looped over the button, holding the two halves of the cloak together. She gazed awkwardly to the side and began scratching the back of her head with a hoof. “It’s just... I’m having a really hard time, and...”

...scratch scratch...

“I’m sorry...”

Rarity’s complexion brightened a little, and she turned back to her papers. "It’s quite alright, Twilight... I understand what you mean...”

No, you don-’

BE QUIET!’

Twilight shuffled uneasily, looking at her new robe. "Anyway, thanks... for the cloak,” she ventured, chancing her friend with a small smile. “I don’t know what I would have done without you...”

“Not at all, darling! Thank you for popping in!” The white pony responded, her pencil flicking back and forth as she began to draw something on the paper she held.

The ex-unicorn smiled weakly. It wasn’t like she had a choice, but...

Rarity turned away from her work. “And I must say, you do look marvelous!” she complimented with a smile.

Twilight looked down at her cloak, blushing slightly under her dark coat of fur. Well, the cloak was meant for a practical use, but... it was kinda pretty, wasn’t it?

“Thanks, Rarity,” she said, cheerfully. “I owe you big ti-”

There was a sharp clatter as several papers and a pencil dropped onto the tiled floor. “Oh, nononono nooooooo, darling! You needn’t owe me a thing!” the white pony exclaimed, abruptly standing up and extending a white hoof to the purple mare, shocking her. Twilight’s ears dropped back against her head at her friend’s outburst.

Rarity caught herself, busily picking up the papers and re-sorting them into a neat stack. “I-I mean...” she began, pausing and turning to face her guest, before sighing. “What I mean to say is... You’ve had a very eventful morning, by the looks of it. This is my... gift, to you.” She turned around for a moment to file the papers neatly on a desk, before casting a friendly smile over her shoulder. “Besides... I enjoyed the challenge.”

“Challenge?” Twilight asked, confused. It couldn’t be that much of a challenge to make her a dress, seeing as how the unicorn’s entire career was built around the skill.

“Well, your wings are bigger than average pegasi... They’re no-doubt stronger, too. I had to design a dress that’s stylish, yet it also needed to be loose enough to be comfortable, but structurally stiff enough that it doesn’t outline your wings. So many mediums...” her friend explained, trailing off.

The dressed pony smiled gratefully. “Well, thank you so much for this. It’ll be much easier for me to get around now.”

“My pleasure, dear!” the fashionista cooed, chuckling to herself. “Now... Didn’t you say something about needing to go and find your dragon friend?”

Twilight blinked in realization. “Oh, yes,” she muttered, briskly walking to the front door of the building.

“Come back tomorrow, dear! Your dress will be ready by then!” Rarity called, waving to her purple friend.

“I will! Thanks again!” Twilight replied, opening the front door with her magic and exiting, the door swinging shut with a soft click behind her.

Rarity smiled at the door, sighing deeply as she dropped her facade. She then quickly turned her head and casted a disappointed glare at the nearest doorway, her voice taking on a stern tone.

“Sweetie Belle, I know you’re back there.”

“Eep!”

---

Twilight surveyed the nearby area from her position on her friend’s patio. All the ponies previously standing nearby had gathered around the fallen sign, and the air buzzed with conversation. Among the citizen ponies were a few of Celestia’s royal guards, their intent most likely to investigate the cause of the event, but it appeared they instead had their hooves full trying to control the crowd. Her ears perked as she began to single out individual voices.

“What happened?”

“How did the sign fall?”

“I think somepony did it!”

“A unicorn?”

“I dunno... it’s a really old sign...”

“Maybe it was just the wind.”

“That thing’s been creakin’ all day!”

“I’ve heard of persuasive advertisement, but this is ridiculous!”

Her face twisted up as a pang of guilt began to eat at the pit of her stomach. It... it was just a billboard. It didn’t fall on anypony, and it was probably about to tear off its supports anyway. No harm done... right? She dismissed the thought, and began walking nonchalantly around the crowd of ponies. Her robe was buttoned, wasn’t it? Good, it was. Ponies looked at her as she trotted by, some even commenting on her attire, but she found it greatly preferable to being outright gawked at.

She continued walking, taking a rather linear path that dove straight into the marketplace. She instinctively clenched her wings tightly against her sides to make absolutely sure they weren’t making bulges in her cloak; she couldn’t take any risks in such a populated area. After a few minutes, it started to hurt... but she kept it up.

The marketplace was bustling today; ponies everywhere were buying and selling goods at the various multicolored tents and stands set up as far as the eye could see. Her nose wrinkled as many different scents assaulted her nostrils at the same time. ‘Fresh-baked bread... Fruits... Apple pies... Perfume... and... something else,’ she thought, trying to occupy herself during the long walk to Academane. The store was around here somewhere... it was a tall building. Well, amidst other tall buildings. The marketplace was not flat; construction ponies had recently been building large complexes that housed multiple stores. Twilight looked up at all the logos and signs; searching for a large blue letter ‘A’ with a red ring around it, captioned with the text ‘Sports & Outdoors’.

She felt a slowly-escalating burning pain in her wings, but ignored it. She yearned to stretch them out, to counteract the tight constriction they had been experiencing for the past hour. Each second crawled by slower than a snail, and with it, the fire in her avian appendages intensified. It hurt so much... She wanted to find someplace private, to disrobe for a moment and extend her aching limbs. She relaxed them, which caused the fire to recede slightly, but it wasn’t enough. She whipped her head left and right; there had to be someplace private. If not that, someplace dark.

She stood still in the crowded street, ponies autonomously walking around her, most not even sparing a passing glance, too busy to stop and chat. Somewhere... somewhere... ‘Ah ha!’ She spotted a very, very out-of-the-way alleyway in between two buildings, the entrance actually blocked by a dumpster. She galloped to it full-speed, not paying any mind to the ponies she pushed out of the way, and kicked at the ground with her hind legs, sending her sailing over the top of the garbage container and landing on the concrete on the other side. She was out-of-sight now; the other end of the alleyway ended with a brick wall. She sighed in relief and grabbed the button and loop of her outfit with her magic, hastily undoing it and allowing each side to sway free of the other. She began to levitate the garment off of her, feeling the fabric slide across her wings as she disrobed.

“Yo, Twilight!”

Twilight recoiled, her blood freezing solid. She knew that voice. She slowly looked up above her, laying eyes on a sky-blue pegasus with a rainbow mane smiling at her from the eaves of one of the buildings. Her irises shrunk to tiny pinpricks as Rainbow Dash waved at her with a cheerful grin.

“What’s with the cloak?” she asked curiously, staring down at the alicorn-in-disguise with a friendly smile.

=== End of Day 01 - Chapter One ===

[Huge thanks to PK and Daniel the Conqueror for pre-reading!]