• Published 1st Mar 2013
  • 2,115 Views, 62 Comments

No Regrets - Ficta_Scriptor

After Twilight becomes an alicorn, the notion of immortality dawns on her and she is plagued by doubts. Distressed, she finds solace with the Element of Honesty. To have no regrets would mean the world.

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Chapter 5 - Making Plans

Chapter 5 – Making Plans

After a few minutes of mournful chatter everypony soon made their way to the Apples’ barn. Granny’s wake was a simple affair: little more than a few cider kegs, rows of wooden tables and a banquet of apple themed treats lined up near the entrance. Applejack had considered the inclusion of games and other activities to keep the youngsters’ attention, but that idea had been quickly abandoned. From the looks of it, some of the younger colts and fillies took to chasing each other and joking around just outside the barn anyway. That was okay. They weren’t old enough to understand, and Applejack wouldn’t wish to impede on their fun.

Applebloom sat with Sweetie-Belle, Scootaloo and Spike on an adjacent table while Big Mac spent some time talking with other family members by the far wall, Fluttershy stood dutifully by his side. It was obvious how much the couple just wanted to cuddle up to each other and cry it out; Fluttershy’s constant nuzzling and kisses against Mac’s neck told it all. In a way, Applejack felt envious. More than ever, in that very moment, she wished she had a special somepony. Failing that, just somepony to hold her tight and make the bad feelings go away. Applejack’s mind turned to the night of the Gala, where she had fulfilled that role for Twilight. A temptation to ask for a return of the favour surfaced, but for some reason it just didn’t seem like the right thing to do. Who would make a request for a princesses to stay overnight as a ‘cuddle buddy?’ It was simply ridiculous.

But it’d still be nice, wouldn’t it? Applejack asked inwardly. Twilight sat by her side, quietly nibbling on a slice of apple strudel. The mare hadn’t said much save for a comment about how Granny would have been proud of the rousing speech. She looked as if she wanted to say more, but remained suspiciously pensive, the occasional tear trickling down her cheek. Applejack thought of how guilty her friend must feel for unknowingly depriving a final family goodbye. She wanted to offer reassurance, but succeeded only in staring blankly. It wasn’t worth bringing up a matter that had already been discussed, no matter how much it might play on their minds.

Catching Applejack’s glance, Twilight gently wrapped a wing around her shoulders. An’ Ah remember you sayin’ you couldn’t stand them things, Applejack thought, a brief smile brought to her face. Twilight smiled back before bringing her wing to her side and concentrating on her meal once again.

The heavy atmosphere of the funeral had been lifted considerably in a short space of time. A collective sigh of relief permeated the building, ushering in a few laughs and joyful discussions from each corner. The procession was over. The stress leading up it had passed. There wasn’t anything else left to worry about. It felt both damning and liberating all at once, like a dove experiencing its first taste of flight in the confines of a bird cage after years spent walking in the outside world.

Applejack wiped at her eyes and sat upright, feeling the gaze of others silently beckon her back to the real world. Rarity was avidly describing her newest would-be colt-friend to Rainbow Dash (who responded with a mixture of faint interest and sarcastic jibes) while Pinkie had somehow gotten into a heated discussion with Celestia about her plans for a new confectionary line, insisting that Canterlot’s finest bakers couldn’t possibly hold a candle to either Chocolate Chip’s culinary skills or her own. The earth pony stallion blushed a little and muttered something about not being that good, before Pinkie insisted with absolute decree that he was just being humble. To Pinkie’s delight, Celestia seemed fairly knowledgeable on the subject. A distant cousin by the name of Bramley came to greet Applejack and expressed her deepest condolences, all with a very sincere smile. Applejack thanked her and the two got into a brief conversation about life on the farm, which ended with a very formal goodbye. It was all rather pleasant, aside from the obvious grief.

“You must’ve worked really hard to do all this,” Twilight finally said after several minutes of silence.

Applejack shrugged. “Couldn’t ‘ve done any less, really.”

Twilight shook her head, frowning. “Don’t downplay it, Applejack,” she said with a sigh. “You don’t need to be humble, not with everything you’ve been going through.”

“Force o’ habit, Ah guess,” Applejack replied with a half-smile. “You know me.”

Twilight gripped Applejack’s hoof with her own and chuckled. “Yeah. That I do.”

“But there’s one thing Ah could really use from you right about now more than anythin’.”

“Oh? Really?” Twilight asked, looking surprised. “J-just… say the word and I’ll make it happen.”

“A cider. An’ full to the brim,” Applejack requested. She inhaled and exhaled in an overly dramatic fashion and placed a hoof on Twilight’s shoulder, holding back a smirk. “It’s what Granny would have wanted.”

Twilight burst into an awkward chortle before nodding in affirmation and plodding over to the upturned cider kegs, a tankard held in her telekinetic grasp. Hearing Rainbow Dash mention her name, Applejack brought her attention to the rest of the group.

(Ah love ya, Twi. Ah really do.)

She didn’t mean anything by it. She didn’t mean anything by it, Twilight repeated internally, drilling the words into her own skull. Ever since Applejack had said those fateful words, Twilight couldn’t get them out of her head. But she wasn’t about to go down without a fight. The word ‘love’ has many meanings, and Applejack meant she loved you platonically. That’s all that was. What, as if she would suddenly profess her undying love for me? That would be (the best thing) utterly ridiculous.

Twilight meandered through the maze of tables and ponies, making a deliberate effort not to stray towards Big Mac. Though the stallion was preoccupied with conversations and hadn’t turned her way, she could practically feel his eyes about to dart towards her with an angry glare. He didn’t, of course. It was just another bout of undue paranoia. But the fact that he held a grudge against her was obvious, and Twilight was unsure of how to approach that problem. There was a chance he might forgive and forget once enough time passed and the Apples began to recover from their loss, but there was no knowing how long that could take. It was one of many issues that stood in the way of dating Applejack.

You shouldn’t even be thinking that! Twilight scolded, pushing further thoughts from her mind. She stepped up to the cider keg and filled the tankard, garnering polite greetings from two middle-aged stallions. It was funny how most country folk eschewed unnecessary formalities when confronted with royalty and merely acted with a degree of added respect and the odd bow. In contrast, Twilight felt that many Canterlotians took the phrase ‘worship the princesses’ a little too far at times.

After some brief small talk, Twilight traipsed back the way she came. Applejack was beginning to look a little chirpier, which in turn raised the alicorn’s spirits a little. She thanked Twilight as the cider was set down on the table and took a long, hearty gulp. Twilight thought she could see Rainbow Dash sporting a rather suspecting grin out of the corner of her eye, but chose to ignore it. It didn’t help to already have one nosy mare hoping to bring them both together.

And then Twilight had a brief thought spring from nowhere. It was so simple that she had no idea why she hadn’t thought of it before. Applejack bore the Element of Honesty. She was the most honest pony Twilight had ever known, and any time she had told fibs, she’d either been remarkably easy to see through or had conceded to tell the truth out of guilt. It could really be that easy, Twilight thought. All somepony would have to do is ask her if she considered me as more than a friend and she might come straight out with the answer.

But you’re forgetting a big problem with that, another voice from the back of her mind said. That means either asking her yourself, which could be disastrous, or confessing your feelings to somepony else so that they can ask her. Rainbow Dash might have suspected it, but you told her otherwise, remember? Who’s to say Applejack would admit something like that so easily to a mare so well-renowned for opening her big mouth? And who else could you possibly tell? Lest we forget that Applejack may well have a hard time even admitting it to herself, being the stubborn mare that she is? Oh, but never mind all that. You’re not supposed to even be thinking about dating her because it’s so farfetched.

Twilight rubbed the bridge of her nose in frustration.

“You okay, sugarcube?” Applejack asked.

“I’m fine. Just a bit of a headache, is all.”

The wake lasted for just over two hours before ponies started taking their leave. In some ways, Applejack hadn’t wanted it to end. This day was to define the culmination of Granny’s seventy-nine years on the earth. Having the entire family in one place, brought together for Granny’s sake was almost like extending her life somehow, as if their collective memories were keeping her spirit alive and well in the midst of all the laughing, joking, consoling and drinking. Once they were all gone only a deathly silence would remain, and the farm would need tending to once again. They could only stand still for so long. The rest of the world was still turning, by all accounts. Had to happen sometime.

Braeburn was one of the first to say goodbye. He held Applejack in a hug so tight she thought she heard her spine click. He babbled a little, repeating the phrase “she had a good life” several times and insisting that whatever they might need, he’d be there for them. A little easier said than done what with living in Appleoosa, but Applejack was grateful for the offer, and knew it to be wholly sincere. She couldn’t imagine what she might need from now on except for money, on the off-chance that the farm got into serious trouble. And she knew deep down that asking for money just wasn’t in her nature, and especially not from family who would be dealing with similar day to day problems.

Most ponies managed to do a decent job of tidying up after themselves, which was welcome. Not that the Apples were renowned for leaving a mess after family reunions and the like, but it was a lot easier to appreciate help at this time. Apple Fritter and Golden Delicious had suggested to Mac that they begin taking tankards and bowls back to the farmhouse for washing up. “That’d be mighty kind,” he’d replied, and trotted off to the kitchen to lend a hoof. Fluttershy took some time away from her husband to speak to Applejack and Applebloom. She said little (which was to be expected from the mare, as quiet as she was) and in many ways, Applejack couldn’t think of much that could be said. The funeral was over. The wake was coming to a close. Any and all important messages of condolences and support had been doled out to the point their meaning might go stale. “She’d be proud of you,” was one Applejack had heard over and over again. They meant well — of course they did. And they were probably right. But those words still hurt. Because at the end of the day, she’d only be proud of her for being herself, and that wasn’t something Applejack could agree on. ‘Cause Ah could’ve been so much more.

Soon, there were no more than fifteen ponies left in the barn as the wake began to die down and last goodbyes were said. It was somewhat of a surprise that Celestia and Luna had stayed for this long, as they surely had important duties to see to elsewhere. The Princess of The Night in particular looked a little out of place, and hadn’t seemed to know what to do with herself over the past hour or so, letting out a few discrete yawns.

Rainbow Dash, Pinkie Pie, Chocolate Chip and Rarity headed off together along with Sweetie Belle and Scootaloo. Their goodbyes weren’t drawn out considering Applejack would probably see them all within the space of a week. She couldn’t remember why Soarin hadn’t been able to show up. Rainbow Dash might’ve mentioned a reason, (probably some important Wonderbolt business) but memory failed her. Still, she wasn’t about to take offence from that. Her friends had all been there for her.

Twilight had been exceptionally quiet. Whatever it was, Applejack had a feeling that something else was going on. But now wasn’t the time to find out. Twilight wouldn’t want to worry her, not right after Granny’s funeral. And Twilight was one tough cookie. In fact, Applejack had more faith in the young princess than she had in herself.

With the wake officially over, Twilight had decided to give the place a tidy-up, using her levitation to stack stools in the corner and push the benches against the back wall. With this done, she took the two brooms that Applejack had provided and efficiently swept the dust, chipped wood, hay, grass and other odds and ends into the centre, where Applebloom was waiting with a rubbish sack. The barn was almost back to its initial, bare state.

“We’ll be waiting in the carriage,” Celestia whispered as she walked past, Luna having already made her way outside.

“Right,” Twilight replied, glancing over to Applejack. The farm pony was sharing an embrace with her sister. “I won’t keep you for long. I only have a few things to say.”

Celestia nodded sagely. “As you wish.”

Twilight tried to shake the feeling that her former mentor had caught on to her newfound feelings. She knew that Celestia was no mental slouch and had proved her overarching wisdom on a number of occasions. And despite knowing her for most of her life, there was still a kind of enigmatic aura that surrounded her. She’d opened up to her, of course, but she was also far from being read like a book. Whether Celestia suspected it or not, it was unlikely that she’d make an effort to step in and either promote or prevent any potential romance. Regardless, Twilight desperately hoped that she didn’t know. At least that way she wouldn’t feel as if somepony was judging her for making all kinds of potentially wrong decisions. Like begging Applejack to stay that night, she thought guiltily.

“Now why don’t ya run on inside an’ Ah’ll be in soon,” Applejack said to Applebloom, patting the younger mare on the back and gesturing gingerly with one hoof. Applebloom did as she was told and trotted outside, flashing Twilight a quick grin as she did so.

There was a moment of awkward silence between the two friends before Applejack let out and exasperated sigh. “Ah guess it’s over,” she said, smiling weakly, the previously unheard breeze and creaks of the barn’s woodwork reinforcing her statement. “To tell ya the truth, it’s kind of a relief.”

Twilight nodded. “I can understand that.”

“An’ really, everythin’ kinda went the way Ah envisioned it. All the little worries Ah had about stutterin’ through mah speech or certain family members gettin’ drunk to a punch never happened. It’s a good feelin’.” Applejack stared into Twilight’s eyes for a few moments before chuckling awkwardly. “An’ Ah just knew you were gonna hang around after it all, even ‘fore the burial.”

Twilight blushed. “I’ll chalk that up to ‘Apple sense’ then,” she said, smiling. “You’d better keep that one a secret from Pinkie or she’ll have you for plagiarism.”

Applejack rolled her eyes mirthfully. “Ain’t that the truth.” In an instant, her eyes grew serious and sombre. “So, uh, Twi? What did you wanna talk about?”

There was a moment of silence as Twilight formulated the words in her mind. She took a deep breath, remembering the reasons for what she was about to ask. I’m not doing it just to be close to her, she said inwardly. This has nothing to do with my feelings. Applejack is my friend, first and foremost. This is for her benefit… no, our benefit in overcoming our problems. We can help each other, as friends. That’s how it is. That’s how it needs to be. “Well you see,” Twilight began, clearing her throat. “I had this idea of going somewhere, just the two of us. That is, if you’re interested…”

Twilight stepped down from the carriage and immediately headed for her quarters. Celestia and Luna had called off all meetings and diplomatic tasks until the next day because of the funeral, so there was little else to attend to. Supper had been prepared, but Twilight wasn’t hungry. Or, more accurately, she wasn’t in the right frame of mind to consider eating.

Despite getting the exact answer she wanted from Applejack, Twilight couldn’t help but feel deflated during the journey home. She considered that most of that was probably down to an emotionally strenuous day, not least in part due to Applejack’s heartfelt eulogy. She’d hidden it well, but the moment the parchment hit the stand Twilight came close to bursting into tears. And then there was Applejack herself, who would spend the night alone, then wake the next morning and be forced to carry on like before. At least this time she didn’t drown her sorrows in alcohol.

It was already late in the evening by the time Twilight had finished with the formalities and let her head hit one of the many satin pillows at the end of her bed. She looked up at the set of bookshelves on the near wall and considered picking out a novel to burn through before going to sleep. However, her mind was too abuzz with the day’s events to concentrate on such a task. So instead, she simply lay there, staring up at the ceiling, with nothing but a bedside lantern slowly flickering away beside her. Moments such as this were particularly rare for the young alicorn, not only because of her responsibilities but also her natural tendency to keep busy.

Twilight sighed deeply and stretched out her wings across the entirety of the bed space. Using her levitation spell, she slid the bedcovers out from underneath her and gently draped them across herself. Once she was comfortable she relaxed both her body and magical grasp, and began to think. Applejack had said yes. Not only that, but she’d looked genuinely excited as she said it. They would both be spending the weekend together in a hotel just north of Calcolt Manor, thanks to Scimitar’s recommendation. From what Twilight had seen after scouring brochures, it seemed like a nice place, and one that was distinctly unlike both Ponyville and Canterlot. A pleasant escape to somewhere unusual; it could very well be exactly what they needed.

Closing her eyes, Twilight imagined herself lying on the hot sands of an open beach, the sun radiating its perpetual warmth. She could hear the distant squawking of seagulls and the waves lapping at her hind hooves. There was nothing else. No other ponies, no other distractions. This is what Twilight wanted, what she felt she needed from the upcoming excursion. All except for one thing.

Applejack appeared at her side. “This sure is a pretty relaxin’ place. Ah wonder if there’s a toffee apple stand nearby.”

Twilight smiled as she visualised her friend peering into the distance, nothing but sand and a long road lined with multi-coloured beach houses behind them. “Just lie down already.”

“But Ah can’t relax if Ah don’t have mahself a toffee apple. Oh well. Hey, what do ya say we go for a swim?”

Twilight briefly opened her eyes and giggled to herself. What a stupid imaginary scenario. You don’t even know if Applejack likes swimming, and she’s not that obsessed with apples. The alicorn turned over on her side and closed her eyes once more.

“Apples, apples, apples,” said the imaginary Applejack, now doing a backstroke just off the shore. “Ah sure do love apples.”

Twilight rolled her eyes at her mischievous subconscious and shook away the thought. Pulling the bedcovers in tight against her chest, she began to construct the mental scene again, this time concentrating on the details. She was led on a beach towel this time, with a palm tree hanging down above her, blocking the sun from her eyes. She had a book beside her, one by an author named Tassel Windrush. A pier stretched out into the ocean to her left, built next to a jagged rock formation. Ponies dotted the beachfront, their hooves crunching through the sand and thudding against the wooden planks of the pier. The sounds of the water, wildlife and the hum of activity morphed together into a melodic ambience. As the complexity of her surroundings gradually intensified, so too did its clarity, the awareness of her existence in the royal chambers slowly fading somewhere between reality and the dream-world as Twilight teetered precariously on the cliff edge above the land of nod.

With her mental landscape complete, Twilight turned to Applejack, whose Stetson was pulled down over her eyes. “Don’t you just love it here?”

Applejack gingerly tipped her hat up with a hoof, exposing a cheerful wink. “Ah sure do. There’s just somethin’ about this air; clean ain’t even the word for it.” Applejack sighed contentedly and looked towards the ocean. “Ah’m glad we came here, Twi.”

“Me too.” Twilight twiddled her hooves together nervously. Now what should happen next?

“So Twi,” Applejack said, sitting up. “Ah’ve been thinkin’ about what you said, an’ Ah’ve decided to do somethin’ a little different.”


“A kind of risky endeavour. Somethin’ to put the spark back in mah life an’ give me a new purpose.”

“Well that’s great!” Twilight exclaimed. “What is it?”


“What is it?”


The daydream shattered.

I have no idea. This is going nowhere. For the life of me, I can’t think of a single thing. What would Applejack want to do? This is what I need to figure out. She needs guidance from… from me? I can’t even come up with a make-believe scenario where that happens. How am I supposed to do it in real life? I promised her. For Celestia’s sake, I owe her.

With a pang of annoyance, Twilight opened her eyes. All she wanted was to envision the best outing possible, to imagine a weekend away, dealing with Applejack’s personal problem in the process. And if not completely solving it, at least making some kind of headway, some kind of dent in the poor pony’s crushing depression. And she couldn’t do it. Twilight’s own problems occurred to her, but she couldn’t bring herself to pay those any heed. For now, it hurt more to think about Applejack’s predicament than her own.

Turning over on her side, the alicorn wracked her brains for a solution. Something somepony had said, an off-hoof comment, details about Applejack, the reasons for her despair, a thought she’d had—

“But it feels right, don’t it?”

The dream. Applejack was happier in the dream. (We both were) A swirling mess of haphazard subconscious musings had given Twilight a better answer than all of her conscious thought could muster. It didn’t bear thinking about. In fact, even the mere memory of that dream made Twilight flush with guilt. But she still couldn’t help but like it.

Easy, Twilight. A dream beyond your control is one thing, but deliberately fantasising about (doing things) making moves on Applejack is another. What would she think about that? What would anyone think about a princess of Equestria imagining (kissing) being romantically involved with one of her best friends? It’s not right. It’s not going to help the situation. It’s not even worth considering. And it’s… something no-one else will never find out.

Twilight peered her head over the edge of her duvet, as if expecting someone to be lurking in the shadows of the palace and looking into her head. Mind-reading magic was rare and unwieldy, but still not impossible. Even the most basic spells of its type were almost universally abhorred by all schools of magic. In fact, without proper training it could either give incorrect readings or even impair the caster’s grasp of their own mind, and lead to them forming false memories derived from those belonging to the subject. Though some argued that it could be useful in criminal investigations, the preferred method was to use evidence in conjunction with truth spells and potions, which held far fewer legal implications. No official mind-reading spell guides existed, but many were suspected to be in circulation or to have been taught in secret. Which meant it was unlikely to happen, but it could happen.

Twilight rubbed at her forehead, mentally chastising herself for being so paranoid. Nopony would dare try reading the mind of an Equestrian princess, especially not one who was heralded as a master of magic with tremendous perception of magical energies. That wasn’t the issue. The issue was justifying those thoughts to herself.

Applejack deserves more respect than that, was the alicorn’s most prominent thought on the matter. The easy solution there, then, was to simply replace Applejack with somepony else. But how? And why? What good would that do? And wouldn’t that be completely against the point?

Feeling tired, but ever so restless, Twilight got up and began slowly pacing back and forth. A princess of Equestria on the day of a friend’s funeral, and here she was getting frustrated over a daydream. “I’m so pathetic,” she muttered to herself, glancing to her mirror and the sullen mare staring back at her. “And now I’m talking to myself. Just great.”

Taking a stop in front of her reflection, Twilight’s eyes were drawn to a particular photograph on her bedside cabinet. The one from the Gala. She picked it up. No emotions surfaced at first; the picture was the same as it had always been, just a group of friends smiling for the camera. It had only been a week since it was taken, but it felt like an age had passed. In a sense, that’s exactly what had happened. The night spent with Applejack, the revelation of Granny Smith’s death… It was like a new chapter had begun in her life, a change as jarring as the day she began her new life in Canterlot as a princess. But that change had been controlled. Celestia was there to make things as easy as possible, and her every worry had been catered to almost on a whim. There was an answer for everything, no matter how daunting things appeared. Thanks to Celestia…

Twilight’s train of thought was interrupted by a knock at the door. Startled, she put the photograph out of sight and checked her appearance in the mirror. “Who is it?”

“It’s me, Twilight,” answered Celestia from the other side. “May I come in?”

Twilight felt the prickling of hairs on the back of her neck. It was unusual for Celestia to pay her a visit in her own chambers, especially at this hour. Something was up. Twilight quickly levitated a book towards her, flicked to a random page and hopped into bed, trying to appear as relaxed as possible. “Of course,” she replied, doing her best to hide her anxiety.

Celestia entered the room with her usual effortless grace, with that same caring smile she wore every day. Her eyes narrowed as she peered through the dim light, quickly focusing on Twilight.

“Is everything okay?” Twilight asked concernedly, closing the book and putting it to one side.

Celestia broadened her smile and approached the foot of the bed. “There is nothing for you to worry about. Rather, I just wanted to check up on you.”

“Oh,” Twilight said blankly. “Well I’m fine. Just, erm, just reading a book like always.”

Celestia raised an eyebrow curiously. “Yes, I can see that. But given how you’ve shut yourself away in your room straight after we arrived, I have to at least check.”

Twilight averted her mentor’s gaze, her cheeks growing hot. “I just wanted some time to myself to… think about things. And it’s been a long, tiring day.”

“It has indeed, and you are more than entitled to a rest. I’m just a little concerned that you seem unwilling to talk about your feelings.” Celestia ventured closer, taking a seat at Twilight’s side. “Even on the way there you barely said a word.”

“Maybe I just don’t really feel like talking about it,” Twilight admitted, a persistent feeling of dread at the back of her mind. Where is she going with this? Please tell me she hasn’t figured it out. “This was Applejack’s loss, as well as her family’s. I’m sad, of course, but the most important thing for me now is to be there for her, and if I can make her feel better about this, even just a little, then I don’t really have much reason to be sad anymore.”

Celestia nodded. “And that is a truly wonderful thing you’re doing for your friend. I am sure she appreciates your support. Still, that doesn’t mean I can’t make sure that you are doing alright.”

“Like I said, I’m fine,” Twilight affirmed. “I wouldn’t say I’m feeling great, but that’s surely par for the course after going to a funeral.” She chuckled casually, hoping to end the conversation as soon as possible.

“So there’s nothing you want to talk about?”

It most definitely isn’t something I’d want to talk about, Princess. “No, nothing at all,” Twilight said calmly.

Princess Celestia paused for a moment before nodding contentedly. “Alright. But don’t forget that should you ever need to talk to somepony, any time, you can count on me to lend an ear, no matter the problem.”

Twilight breathed a mental sigh of relief. “I know, Princess. And I’m grateful for that.”

The two ponies enjoyed a brief embrace, after which they exchanged thanks and goodbyes, and Twilight was left alone and in silence once more.

Celestia gently closed Twilight’s door behind her and paced along the marble corridor, giving a respectful nod to a guard stationed nearby. She turned a corner and began trotting up an enormously tall flight of pristine, pearl-coloured stairs towards the upper floors of the palace. Spreading her wings or using a teleportation spell would certainly shorten the journey, but the princess was in no hurry. Not only that, but walking along at a relaxed pace gave her a chance to collect her thoughts.

After a few minutes of pleasant silence, Celestia finally reached her destination. Pushing down on the handle, she opened up the large stained-glass door in front of her and stepped out onto the balcony. What greeted her on the other side was a glorious vista of all of Canterlot, the distant magical orbs of yellow and blue from street lamps dotting the streets far below. Save for a few pegasus guards touring the city’s perimeter and some activity near the city’s most popular taverns, Canterlot was settling in to welcome the night.

“Hello, Tia,” Luna greeted.

“Good evening, Luna.”

It was customary for the two royal sisters to meet at the highest point of the palace during overlap of the day and night cycles, or if they simply wanted to enjoy each other’s company. It represented a brief respite from their roles as rulers of Equestria, and their subjects would seldom interrupt them out of respect. A constant magical barrier protected the tower, though the precise information was known only by a select few mages and guards. Suffice to say, a would-be assailant would have an easier time breaking into a bank vault than managing to assault them on the balcony.

Celestia stood next to her sister, taking note that it was almost time for the moon to pass over the mountain. She sighed. “I’ve just spoken with Twilight.”

“Oh?” Luna remarked. “How did that go?”

“Better than I expected, really.”

Luna raised an eyebrow. “You sound almost… disappointed.”

“Well, no. I wouldn’t say that. I’m just surprised.” Celestia smiled sheepishly. “Though I guess I shouldn’t be. I sometimes forget how many years have passed since she ascended. Maybe she’s just growing quicker than I give her credit for.”

“So she’s alright, then?”

“From what I can tell, yes. She did seem a little anxious to talk to me about any of it, but from what I’ve seen of her during this last week and especially today, I feel like she truly understands her own potential to overcome problems without my aid.”

Luna placed a hoof on Celestia’s shoulder. “I know what you’re thinking, but that doesn’t mean she has no need for your guidance.”

“I know that,” Celestia replied. “And I’m ever so proud of her. She, well… She reminds me of myself in many ways. The way she talked about being there for Applejack, about it being her loss makes me believe that Twilight is more than ready for her future.”

Luna shot her sister a cheeky grin. “You still sound disappointed.”

“Alright, maybe just a little,” Celestia admitted with a soft chuckle. “I can’t help it, I guess.” Her tone and demeanour quickly grew sombre. “It’s just my natural instinct to try and care for her, even if I’m not needed. I feel I should be there, always, in some way. After all, I… I love her as if she was my own daughter.”

Luna’s eyes widened in shock. The news itself wasn’t exactly a surprise, but to hear Celestia say such a thing, her words soaked in emotion, was different altogether. “Tia…” Luna gasped.

“And I don’t mean that lightly,” Celestia continued. “In all the thousands of years I’ve walked upon Equus, I’ve never met a pony who meant as much to me as she does. Sometimes I wish I could just express how I feel but it’s so difficult, especially now that she’s a princess.”

The two sisters stayed silent for a few moments, both staring out into the distance, before Luna spoke up. “Twilight thinks just as highly of you.”

Celestia sighed. “Perhaps.”

Luna looked at Celestia concernedly. “Tia, she does. She’s idolised you since the day you both met.”

“That’s what makes me worried,” Celestia replied solemnly. “She’s been distancing herself from me over the past few years. Subtly, but noticeably. We talk more than we used to simply because we reside in the same palace, but it’s more… Well, I’m not sure how to describe it. It’s different somehow. And I thought after going to a funeral and being reminded of all the inevitable funerals to come, she’d rely on me to help her through. I just worry that as time passes we’ll grow further apart.”

“Then you need to talk to her,” Luna said matter-of-factly.

“Maybe. In due time. I think she’s got enough on her plate right now.”

“How so?”

“She wants to spend more time with Applejack to help her over her grief. I’d feel like an intruder if I got in the way of that.” Celestia glanced to the skies. “Luna? It’s almost time.”

“I’ve got it under control, Tia,” Luna said as she readied the blanket of night to fall over Canterlot.

“Of course you do,” Celestia replied. “I’ll head back down and leave you to it.”

Celestia began making her way towards the door when Luna spoke up. “And Tia? You really should stop worrying. Twilight isn’t going anywhere, is she?”

Celestia smiled. “No. I guess not.”

Twilight tossed the book aside and flopped gracelessly onto her bed. She began relaying the previous conversation over and over again, questioning her responses and whether she’d accidentally said anything suspicious, anything that Celestia might have picked up on. After a few minutes of mulling things over, something occurred to her. A faint sense of guilt and uneasiness swept over her in a flash. Would it actually matter if Celestia knew the truth? If she knew about her feelings for Applejack and the dilemmas that faced her? The Princess of the Sun had known countless ponies of all races and creeds. She was also one of the kindest, most understanding ponies that Twilight knew. Celestia couldn’t possibly look down upon her just because of her sexual orientation.

I hate that term, Twilight thought, feeling all too embarrassed. It sounds like I’m categorically defined by my choice of other ponies’ private parts. And it’s not even about that!

As for her particular interest in Applejack, Celestia would surely see no problem with that either. It might create somewhat of an awkward scenario, but Celestia would only be supportive. Maybe she could even relate to the situation, of having feelings for someone who she shared a close friendship, or even just with somepony with whom she’d have difficulty expressing herself to. Since she was centuries old, (or perhaps even several millennia, Twilight didn’t know) there was a considerable chance.

The option was open to simply speak with Celestia and listen to what she had to say. It’d be difficult at first, but there was always the chance of receiving some sagely advice. What’s the worst that could happen? Twilight asked inwardly. But the more she thought about it, however, the more unappealing it became. It just didn’t feel right. Even Rainbow Dash, in some strange way, felt as if she’d make a better candidate, and she was about as brash and outspoken as a pony could get. On the surface, it made no sense, but Twilight’s gut feeling said otherwise.

A conversation she’d had with Spike just a few days previously sprung to mind. He’d pointed out that her lifespan predicament shared more in common with Celestia’s than it did his. But Twilight had spoken to him, as if there was no other alternative, and even when he brought this up she threw the notion aside because…

“Because I know what she’ll say.”

And that was it. Celestia always knew the most appropriate response, to say what needed to be said in that moment. A simple (blanket) statement that made sense and gave everything purpose. Which perhaps, Twilight concurred, wasn’t what she wanted, even if it just so happened to be right. What if she deliberately wanted to go against Celestia’s wishes? It would just place another expectation upon her. In conclusion, speaking to Celestia wasn’t so much of an option after all.

So for now, it was better to keep it a secret until she could work out her feelings and what she wanted to achieve. In that moment, it meant being the best friend to Applejack she could possibly be, regardless of anything else. That was paramount.

Putting out the bedside lamp with a magically generated breeze, Twilight curled up into the bedcovers and tried getting some sleep. The build-up of overthinking and emotion had given rise to a troublesome headache, so some rest was in order. There was plenty to look forward to. Twilight conjured up the most relaxing scene she could muster, and quickly fell asleep with Applejack’s imaginary hoof tucked under her left wing.

Six days later

There was a knock at the door. “AJ? Can Ah come in?”

“Sure thing,” Applejack replied, casually sifting through her wardrobe.

Big Mac gently opened up the door and stepped into Applejack’s bedroom. “You, uh… need any help?”

“Mac, since when did Ah last need help packin’ a darn suitcase?” Applejack remarked with a roll of her eyes. She carefully pulled out her Gala dress and began folding it on her bed, an open suitcase and a small beige saddlebag at the ready. As her brother’s silence dragged on, she shot him an irritated look — his eyes half-lidded and anxious — and brought her hooves back to the floor. “C’mon, out with it. You’re givin’ me the darn creeps.”

Mac cleared his throat. “Ah just wanted to check up on ya, since you’ll be goin’ soon.”

“Ah’ll be back in two days ya colossal worrywart!” Applejack chided, stuffing the dress into her case with more ferocity than she’d intended. “Celestia knows Ah’ve been gone longer ‘n that before. What d’you wanna do next, check mah mane for nits? Make sure Ah’ve done mah homework!?”

“Uh…” Mac pawed awkwardly at the floorboards, his gaze shifting between the walls. Despite Applejack’s efforts to ignore him and simply carry on with the task at hoof, she quickly conceded and let out an exasperated sigh.

“Alright, Ah’m sorry, Mac. Ah shouldn’t ‘ve yelled at ya. But land sakes, ever since Ah told you about this trip you’ve treated me like Ah need supervision.”

Mac finally looked up. “Well Ah did mention needin’ to take care o’ the farm work, which—”

“For a start,” Applejack interrupted, pointing a hoof towards him, “There’s always work needin’ to be done on the farm, an’ Ah ain’t even goin’ for that long. We’ll catch up, we always do. Ah just so happen to want a little break from all that, an’ not like you’ve had your share o’ that in the past to spend time with Fluttershy. An’ anyway, it’s quite obvious it ain’t even about that, is it?”

Big Mac shuffled on his hooves, but didn’t answer.

Applejack leaned down onto the bed and buried her head in her hooves. “Ah’m not abandonin’ you all, alright?” she exclaimed, shaking her head. “Look, Ah’m hurtin’ too, okay? It ain’t never gonna be the same without Granny. An’ Ah know you just want us all… us both… to be where ya can see us. But Ah just so happen to think that maybe a bit of time away from the farm, to relax with a good friend o’ mine, is just what Ah need.”

“Ah didn’t come in here to change your mind,” Mac said, leaning on the opposite side of the bed. “Hay, Ah couldn’t stop ya from goin’ even if Ah tried.”

“Oh. Okay.” Applejack briefly scratched the back of her neck. “So what did ya want?”

The corners of Mac’s mouth perked up. “Ah just wanted to say, make sure ya have a good time. Ya deserve it an’ all.”

Applejack smiled back. “Well thank you kindly.”

“But just… be careful out there.”

“An’ there it is,” Applejack replied, tutting.

“Ah’m serious.”

“Ah know ya are. It’s what makes you such a darn softy. But Ah’m pretty sure if we do run into trouble…” Applejack tapped her chin thoughtfully. “What with it bein’ the rape capital of Equestria, y’know.”

“What!?” Mac bellowed, his jaw nearly hitting the floor.

“It was just a joke,” Applejack said with a snicker.

Mac quickly regained composure, his cheeks glowing red. “Ah knew that.”

“But it’s mah way of sayin’ not to worry. Let’s not forget Twilight is practically a powerhouse at this point. There’s few ponies more capable of lookin’ after me than she is, right?”

“Uh… sure,” Mac said, averting her gaze.

You’ve really got it in for her, ain’t ya? Applejack thought to herself as she tucked a black Ponyroid camera into her saddlebag. It could just be the fact she kept me behind after the Gala. He was more tore up than Ah was about not seein’ Granny off.

“Ah’ll leave ya to it then,” Mac said, taking his leave.

“Yup. Ah’ll be down soon.”

Mac closed the door behind him.

But maybe that’s not all it is, Applejack considered. What if Ah’m missin’ somethin’? What if she said somethin’ to offend him? Celestia knows how touchy he’s been since Granny — rest her soul — passed away. He might’ve taken somethin’ the wrong way. But what if he was ticked off with her before all this? Fluttershy might’ve told him somethin’ about her which got him riled up. But she’s the last pony who’d go all tattle-tale on one of her friends! An’ surely Ah’d know about such a thing! Applejack took a deep breath. Whatever it is, Ah know Twilight don’t deserve that sorta treatment. Whatever he thinks o’ her, it’s all in his head. Here’s hopin’ it don’t last long.

After a few more minutes of deliberating on which belongings to take, Applejack finished packing and plodded downstairs for a bite to eat. It was coming up to nine o’ clock, and despite already having had breakfast at half past six, she needed a little something extra to tide her over for the four hour train journey to East Flankshire. Not to mention, she was giddy with excitement, and that was enough to start her belly rumbling.

Applebloom was sat at the kitchen table, mulling over an absurdly large textbook with an intense expression on her face. It wasn’t an especially uncommon sight; Applebloom would soar through the practical projects of her college course, but struggled academically. Not that she was in danger of failing or getting bad grades, but it took a lot more effort to break out the other side successfully.

“Mornin’, sis,” Applebloom said with a brief smile, before burying her nose back in her book.

“Mornin’,” Applejack replied, reaching for an apple from the fruit bowl. “Gettin’ on alright?”

“Well Ah’m studyin’ down here for a change ‘cause it’s all too temptin’ in mah room to just slack off. At least here Ah can’t escape from it. It’s a little borin’, but yeah, it’s not goin’ too bad.”

Applejack nodded and left her sister in peace. Another apple and a daffodil sandwich later, and her hunger had subsided. With around half an hour to spare before Twilight’s arrival, she took to a seat beside the living room fireplace. She had one last look through her luggage, checking this time that she had enough bits. Twilight had already told her not to worry about it, that it was ‘her treat’, but it never hurt to be prepared. Satisfied, she tipped back her head and tried to relax, waiting for the inevitable knock at the door with the mantelpiece clock in the corner of her eye.

Big Mac didn’t say anything as her heard Applejack trot towards the door and exchange excited greetings with Twilight. He didn’t say anything as he hugged his sister goodbye, noticing the golden, almost gleaming two-horse carriage being pulled by two burly pegasus stallions just outside. He managed a meagre “Eeyup!” as Applebloom wished the two mares a safe journey and an amazing trip. When the door finally closed, he watched from the living room window as Twilight and Applejack were whisked into the sky. And then silence.

Applejack knew — he could tell — about his mixed feelings concerning Twilight. That was fine. Twilight wasn’t a part of his life, and didn’t need to be. She wasn’t a bad pony; he knew that perfectly well. She wouldn’t have become a princess in the first place if she was. But that didn’t make her infallible. To Mac, she represented a fulfilled wish that Applejack never got, but inarguably deserved. And if that was it, well, there’d be little to fault. But Mac’s gut feeling told him that there was something worth worrying about, even if he couldn’t quite pinpoint it. And every time he saw Twilight that feeling resurfaced, strong as ever.

Sighing, Big Mac concentrated on the tasks left to take care of on the farm, the promise of spending some much needed time with Fluttershy that weekend spurring him on. Worrying about Applejack wasn’t going to get him anywhere, after all. All he hoped for was that he was wrong.

Comments ( 7 )

OMG... It's alive! IT'S ALIVE! :heart:

Nice to see this updated!

Glad to see the story is gooing. Keep up the work.

I am enjoying these complex interactions between the characters that make the consequences ambiguous, yet correctable. You can easily understand the undercurrents of their thought processes as you lay them out in simple terms. Their inability to express them well is what is keeping this story going. The way you described the relationship between Celestia and Twilight is analogous to the relationship between my mother and I.

I need to remember this chapter.

Just found this story, and I find it to be a wonderful, well written, beautiful story!
I really hope to see more of this soon!

I quite enjoy this story, and am liking the tension with Big Mac. It's understandable, I suppose... Twilight has always been taking his sister away from her family and leading her into danger. The incident with AJ missing Granny's passing is just the latest example of Twilight (and Equestria's) needs overriding the Apple family's.

The foreshadowing seems to suggest trouble awaits them on this trip... In any event, I look forward to seeing it continue!

I hope to see Twilight talk to Cadence about her views on her life span, (makes sence because they are both new to the situation) and also the fact that they are both going to hurt when Shinning passes on...at least they will have each other for that one!

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