• Published 8th Apr 2013
  • 4,614 Views, 428 Comments

Dusk Dawns - AlphatheGriffin17



Book IV Now taking up lessons with the Princess of the Night, datingthe student of the Princess of the Sun, coping with some bad memories and being the Seventh Element, Dusk certainly has a lot on his plate. And that's just stuff to do with hi

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Lesson Zero

From ever since he'd arrived in Ponyville, Dusk had spent the majority of his time working in the library with Twilight and Spike. For the better part of a year, he had grown accustomed to the duties that came with his job as her second assistant and the habits of the dragon that he worked alongside. He also liked to think that, during all that time, he had come to know Twilight Sparkle best out of others they knew, with the exception of Spike. He knew that she liked to organise specific work rotas for him and Spike, to make sure they all had equal fillings in sandwiches and even that she still liked to sleep with her doll, Smartypants, when she had a bad dream. Something she'd told him in complete confidence, with a red face.

But even despite all of that time he had gotten to know her and the fact he was now her coltfriend, she could still surprise him even now with the sheer level of organisation and scheduling that she took not only in her studies, but also in her everyday life. Who else would make a checklist of items needed to create a checklist before proceeding to make their main checklist? Even then, who would still add the item to actually create the checklist that was already in the process of being created, just to make sure she didn't forget it or miss it out? It was no wonder that quills and parchment in the library were eaten up more quickly than a swarm of parasprites would devour at an all-you-can-eat buffet.

Even then, Dusk thought with a little smile, Twilight would probably still use up the parchment quicker than those bugs would eat.

While her organisation was one of the things he… well, loved about her, he couldn't help but think that it was a little worrying just the rate and detail to which she ordered her life like that. Organisation was good, Dusk didn't mind it himself, but he also preferred to accept that life could sometimes surprise you and no amount of scheduling could ever prepare you for that. Simply coming here and making friends had proven that much to him. Still, he was probably just over thinking it. Twilight had her way of dealing with things and he had his. There wasn't much point in trying to change that.

He returned back to the book he had been given to read, adjusting his new glasses slightly so that the words better swam into focus. Luna had recently sent a letter saying that their lessons would be beginning only three days from now. She would be arriving in Ponyville to give him his first lesson and Twilight had immediately leaped on the idea that he should begin studying from the wide range of things he could possibly be learning from her. As such, she had allowed him to stay in the library and catch up on his reading, while she and Spike went out to complete her list of things to do by the end of the day.

Grateful for her consideration, Dusk was now brimming with excitement and a little bit of nervousness that his personal lessons with the princess were imminent. Ever since his colour magic had become his true special talent, he had felt himself become eager about the idea of expanding it. He didn't know exactly to what levels he could learn his magic, but the unknown possibility just made him more excited to find out. There was, of course, the added pressure of more work and studying under her expertise, but he was sure he'd be able to deal with it.

Twilight was also equally excited for him. Not only had she provided him with these books and subjects on which to do a bit of extra reading, but she'd also been able to relate with her own experience. She'd told him that there would be a lot of hard work and dedication to learning under a princess, but she'd also elaborated that the experience would be worth it, as would the knowledge he would gain from it. She'd also reminded him that if he ever needed any help with his studies, then he only had to ask her and she would do all she could to help him out.

"It'll be no trouble at all," she'd said kindly. "Besides, I'm rather fascinated about what she might be teaching you."

Dusk could still feel a smile tugging at his lips just seeing her enthusiasm for learning and discovering something new. It was another of those things that they shared, though she possibly had more of a flare for it than he did.

He had just turned over the next page, reading about the application of energy to the level of spell needed to be produced when he heard Spike's voice travel up the stairs and Twilight's hooves on the wood of the floor, as welcoming a sound to him as a friendly hello.

"Return to library: check," Spike was saying.

"Gotta say, it's always good to be back," Twilight replied, coming into view. "Hey Dusk, how's the studying going?"

"It's coming along fine." He gestured to the page. "This is actually rather interesting, I should have picked this up before."

"Great, I knew you'd like it! Do you need any help?"

"You've given me more than enough help Twi," he replied. "For now, I am content."

"Okay… you sure?"

"Completely."

"Okay," she repeated, sounding a little unsure. "Well, keep up the good work." She leaned in and kissed his cheek. "Spike?"

"Kiss Dusk: check." He smartly ticked the item off the list. "I still can't believe you made me write that."

"I'm on your checklist?" Dusk asked.

"Of course, I put all essential things onto it and…" She leaned in and whispered, "I save the best for last."

"Wow… um… thanks," he mumbled.

"Anytime," she replied with a blush of her own.

"Gimme a break," Spike groaned. "Well, looks like that's everything, including the unbearable stuff."

"Almost everything!" pointed out Twilight.

Dusk looked over Spike's shoulder. "Triple check checklist to make sure we didn't miss anything when we double checked the checklist. Wow, really?"

"I do like to be thorough."

"Clearly. May I?" he added to Spike.

"Go nuts," he said, letting him levitate the quill.

"Check," Dusk said proudly. "That's everything done and leaving things open for the picnic later on."

"Always good to get things sorted." She opened a box, revealing a dozen cupcakes that made Dusk's mouth water. "Then you can show everypony else how your new glasses look."

"Hopefully they'll like them," agreed Dusk. "So, I'm allowed to come along? I don't just have to stay here and study?"

"No, don't be silly. It's good to study, but it's also important to take breaks from it too," she advised.

"Unless it's you," remarked Spike. "In which case, you'll take a break from studying by doing slightly less."

"Well, I'm glad anyway," put in Dusk, saving a flushed Twilight. "I wouldn't like to have spent this day inside poring over books while it's so sunny. Reminds me of summer exams back at the school."

"Oh, but those were always the best!" piped up Twilight. "What better way to spend a sunny afternoon that to spend it revising for the test the next day."

Personally, Dusk would have disagreed there, but he just said, "What better way indeed," and nuzzled Twilight's cheek.

"Ugh this day is the worst. First I have to watch you two making goo-goo eyes at each other, now I have to put up with this claw cramp!" complained Spike.

"Sorry Spike," Dusk said, looking at his red-raw claw. "Try putting some ice on it."

"Right," he said unsurely. "Well, good thing we don't have anything to report to Princess Celestia this week... I don't think I could write another word!"

At this, Twilight dropped the cake she was levitating. "We haven't sent a letter to Princess Celestia this week?!"

"Why? Is that bad?" asked Spike.

"Bad? BAD? Of course it's bad! I'm supposed to send Princess Celestia a letter every week, telling her about a lesson I've learned about friendship! Not every other week, not every 10 days, every single week!"

"Twilight, calm down," Dusk tried to soothe, but that only made it worse.

"Calm down?! CALM DOWN?! Maybe you can be calm, but I can't! This is an emergency!" She shot up in his face so hard, his glasses almost tumbled off.

"Twilight, I really think you should-"

"No time, no time!" She whizzed past him, lifting up about six different books at once, one of them shooting up and hitting Dusk on the chin. "Ohh... Where's my calendar, where's my calendar?!"

"Where it.. always is?" No sooner had Spike taken it out of the drawer, she pulled it over with him still holding onto it.

"When did we send the last one?" she asked, flicking through the pages with lightning speed.

"Last... Tuesday?" responded Spike.

"And today is..."

"Tuesday?" put in Dusk.

"Nononononononono!" She pushed past him and hurried upstairs, staring out of the window at the sun, which was moving steadily across the sky. "If I don't send her a letter by sundown, I'll be... tardy!"

"What's that now?" Spike asked.

"Being delayed or delaying beyond the right or expected time for a task, assignment or work," replied Dusk.

"Um… what?"

"Late, I'll be late!" she shrieked Twilight. "Oh, how could I let this happen? I'm usually so organized. I've never been late with an assignment."

"Oh, please! You're the most studious student ever! I'm sure the princess will forgive you if you miss one little deadline," dismissed Spike.

Twilight wasn't convinced. "I'm afraid to take that chance, Spike. This is the ruler of all of Equestria we're talking about. The pony who holds my fate in her hooves!"

"She is, but she's also very fond of you and has taught you for years," pointed out Dusk. "She knows how hard working and dedicated you to your studies, both in magic and in friendship and she knows that you'd never intentionally miss an assignment. She won't punish you for this one little slip-up."

"But Dusk, she's also a princess. Even with you and Luna, there still exists that clear boundary between subject and ruler. I'm no different," she despaired. "What if she doesn't forgive me?"

"Yeah... I don't think she—"

She cut off Spike and surprised Dusk by teleporting in front of him. "What if instead she starts thinking I'm not taking my studies on friendship seriously?"

"Why would she-?"

But she wasn't finished, now pacing around in a panic. "What if she makes me come back to Canterlot and puts me back in school and makes me prove I've been taking them seriously by giving me a test?! What if I don't pass?!"

Dusk tried his hoof again."Twi, I think you're blowing this a little out-"

"She's my teacher!" she yelled back at him. "Do you know what teachers do to students who don't pass?"

Dusk dared to answer. "They… put it on their permanent record?"

"Worse! They send them back a grade! But she won't just send me back a grade. She'll send me back to... magic kindergarten."

She shut her eyes, grimaced and shivered with fear, possibly envisioning herself in that exact situation. Spike looked at him in confusion, while Dusk looked at her with concern. He hated to see her like this, reduced to such a state by her fear and apprehension. It made his heart ache to see her there, shivering with fear, her eyes scrunched up with fright. He resolved as to what to do and motioned to Spike that they should help her.

It took him and Spike three tries to snap her out of her reverie of terror. "That is the most ridiculous thing I've ever heard!"

"Twilight, it's okay," Dusk said, tentatively placing his leg around her. "You're not going to be sent back to magic kindergarten."

"You're both right. I have no reason to worry." Dusk felt himself relax at these words. "Because I'm going to solve a friend's problem and get that letter to Princess Celestia before sundown!" Then he tensed right back again. "So... got any problems, troubles, conundrums, or any other sort of issues, major or minor, that I as a good friend can help you solve?" she asked Spike.

Spike thought for a few seconds, then, "I got nothin'."

"Oh… well, what about you Dusk?" she asked, rounding on him. "I'm sure there must be something that I, as your friend and marefriend, might be able to help you with."

Dusk shrank back a bit, not liking the look in her eye. "Um… sorry, nothing really springs to mind."

"Oh." She pulled away and sighed in disappointment. "Then it looks like I'm going to have to find somepony who does." With that confident tone returning to her voice, she set off downstairs on her task.

"Ugh, this can't end well," Spike sighed, moving to clear up the books she had scattered.

Dusk looked after her. "Um… shouldn't we do something?"

"Yeah, we need to get all of these books cleared away." He was already piling up the books Twilight had scattered in her panic. "As much as I'd rather be taking the time to chill out for a few minutes, I'd also rather not have this stuff waiting for me after the picnic."

Dusk blinked at his apparent lack of concern. "I mean about Twilight. Shouldn't we do something to help her?"

Spike shrugged. "I don't think so. You know how Twilight can be with her studies sometimes, she's blowing this way outta the water. My guess is she'll wander around, panic for a while, find a problem, fix it with the magic of friendship and we'll all be back in time for food and bed."

"Really? You think so?"

"Yeah sure." He noticed the worried look on Dusk's face. "Don't worry, Twilight's a champ. She'll be fine."

"If that's what you think then…" Dusk trailed off, moving to help Spike with the clearing up.

Despite the baby dragon's words of assurance that she would be fine, Dusk still felt worried for his marefriend. In the moment she had discovered that they hadn't sent a letter to the princess, you could have told her somepony had stolen all of the books in the library before burning it down and her expression would have probably matched it. She'd looked so worried, so frantic about not getting her letter in on time, that Dusk almost felt as if he should be panicking too. Perhaps they should go and help her…

But, then again, this was Twilight, the pony who had once almost had a nervous breakdown because Spike had thrown out her monthly schedule with the rest of the trash and the mare who had him supplied with a book on just about everything to prepare for his studies with Princess Luna. Likelihood was that Spike was right and she'd be fine. He just had to stop worrying and have confidence that she'd be able to handle this herself. After all, she had done this sort of thing just fine in the past.

He returned his focus to tidying up the mess she had made before she'd left. He levitated up her calendar and found his eyes drifting to the page she had left it open on, the conspicuously absent red cross on Tuesday that marked the successful completion of an assignment on friendship. He found himself tracing his hoof over the date, hoping that she would be okay. He had a feeling she would be, but he still couldn't shake that other nagging thought, that buzzed in the back of his mind as he put the calendar away…

It took him and Spike mere minutes to clear away all of the scattered books, leaving open some free time for the two assistants. Spike chose to spend his in typical fashion, lazing around on his back without a care in the world, whilst Dusk returned to his studying, resuming the page he had left it open at. Since Twilight wasn't here to assign them a new task and seeing as how it had been her idea in the first place to do this, he might as well spend his time constructively.

He glanced over at the clock. It was now midday, almost lunchtime and almost time for the picnic with the girls. It had been a good few minutes since Twilight had set out to try and solve a friend's problem, therefore having something to report to the princess. Had she succeeded in her endeavours or was she still desperately trying to find some sort of problem to solve around the town? It would be easy to assume that Twilight had found something and perhaps was now on her way to the picnic site with nothing to worry about.

But Dusk had a thing about assuming, in that he preferred not to.

Assumptions could be fickle things, especially if one didn't have all of the facts. Though Spike had reassured him on the matter, the look on Twilight's face, the panic in her eyes still lingered within his mind. Had he been too quick to assume that she was fine and she wouldn't need his help? He knew his various duties to her, but would she need his help? Did she want it? Even then, should he go along and try and find her anyway, or would she prefer it if he stayed out of this. He knew he was supposed to do something, but what?

"Hello? Is there anypony here?" A voice downstairs snapped him out of his thoughts.

Another of his duties in the library seemed to be calling him. Dusk looked over at Spike, who had barely moved from his spot.

"Want me to get that?"

"Would you? I've kinda made myself comfy here," he replied casually.

"Clearly. I wouldn't want to inconvenience you." They both shared a laugh and Dusk rose from the table. "I'll go see what they want."

"Hey, get me a bowl of ice cream while you're at it!"

"Get it yourself, you lazy dragon!" he called back lightly.

He laughed again when he heard him grumble and caught sight of the unicorn mare who had entered the library and knew he had seen her somewhere before. Her fur was a light green, almost blended beige like leaves just starting to grow in spring, whereas her mane was a deeper green like grass. Her cutie mark was a paintbrush dipped in pink paint and, even without that obvious allusion to being an artist, Dusk could practically feel her creative spirit radiating from within her.

When her eyes met his, which were also a rich green, he could see there, even stronger, that same creative buzz and spirit that embodied her entirely. She looked at him in a way that seemed to be studying how best to portray him and his surroundings onto a blank canvas, turning it into something spectacular for all to behold. A pony who saw the world and saw fit to capture it in the most colourful, creative way possible. That was truly something to be admired.

"Hello there," she greeted in a light, friendly voice. "Is it just you here?"

"Myself and my fellow assistant yes, but he's… indisposed at the moment," he told her. "Is there something I can help you with, miss?"

"Huh? Oh, yes!" She had appeared distracted for a moment there. "Just admiring that sculpture there."

He looked to where she pointed at the wooden carved head of a horse that stood upon one of the plinths that also served as a writing desk. Dusk had never really given it much thought, yet she seemed obviously intrigued.

"Hm, yes," he said, glancing at it. "It's just a decoration."

"I know, but it's very well made. May I?" Dusk nodded to her question and she moved to have a closer look at it. "Very well made indeed."

"I suppose." Dusk was a little surprised at the interest she took in something he believed to be commonplace. "I've never really known where that's come from."

"From the look of it, it's probably early Pegasi era, but the workmanship is definitely Earth pony, also from the same era. I'm not entirely sure, but it looks that way." She stared thoughtfully at it, taken in by the detail. "I think these were made after a um… a party siege, or something in that era…"

"Would that be the CTF Seige of Trot?" Dusk asked, his knowledge of history kicking in. "When the Earth ponies committed to a game of capture-the-flag with the Pegasi of the ancient city. They supposedly gave up by offering a giant wooden horse as a gift to the supposedly victorious Pegasi. It was only after they brought it inside the city that the troops hidden inside climbed out and took their flag from the city, claiming victory for them."

"Yeah, that's it! Then, they had the smaller wooden heads carved as a memory to that event. This one's either an original or a very clever fake." She nodded absently, then shook her head and an embarrassed smile grew on her face. "Sorry, I have a tendency to get carried away with this sort of stuff. You know, art…"

"Don't worry, it's fine," Dusk assured her. "I'm actually interested to know that we apparently have this priceless historical artefact in the library. Either that, or just a memory to another time. Thanks for pointing that out."

"No problem, thanks for taking an interest. You really know your stuff." She held out her hoof, as he blushed from the compliment. "Sorry, we don't even know each other's names. I'm Gentle Dream, I own an art store here in town."

"Dusk Noir, second assistant to Twilight Sparkle. Charmed, Miss Dream." Realisation hit him when he shook her hoof. "Hey, I know where I've seen you! You were at the celebration in Canterlot. Pinkie was saying something about destroying your shop."

"Oh, you remembered," she said with surprise. "Yeah, I don't know what she was talking about. My store was fine, even after all of the chaos Discord caused."

"Well, that is Pinkie," he shrugged. "Not meaning to sound rude, but is there anything in particular you came for, Miss Dream?"

"Yes, yes, sorry. Getting distracted again, sorry," she said, with an awkward giggle. "Yeah, I was wondering if you had any books on Reneighssance artists?"

"We should have a few, excuse me." He bowed his head a little and went off to find the appropriate book.

Once again, while he searched for the book, he found his thoughts straying to Twilight again. First of all, he couldn't help but cringe to imagine the look on her face if she saw him talking to this strange mare he'd never met. Secondly, he again started to worry about how long she was taking with this last minute assignment. He knew she was clever, but he also knew it wasn't wise to do work, any work at the last minute. You'd be even more worried and under pressure to get it done and it might not be of the same standard as it usually was.

Again, he thought when he found the appropriate book, was that just him worrying too much or were his worries actually founded? She hadn't asked for help, but he had helped her and others plenty of other times without needing to be asked for it. Should he have done so this time, even more because of their changed relationship? He tried to keep a pleasant smile on his face when he returned to Gentle with the book.

"There, that should have a good few examples of artists of the period and their work," he told her.

"Great, thanks!" she said, eagerly flicking through the pages. "Oh, this is perfect, thanks so much!"

"No trouble at all. Now, if you would excuse me Miss Dream, I have some work to do." He was turning back towards the stairs, barely glancing back…

"Hey." Dusk stopped, but didn't turn around. "Are you okay?"

He considered just keeping walking and pretending like he headn't heard her, but that went against his polite manner. So, he glanced back. "Of course, Miss Dream. Why um… why do you ask?"

"I don't want to be rude, but you look like a pony with something on his mind." She didn't sound timid about it, more politely curious. "You don't have to tell me, I mean we only just met but… talking always helps."

This was just one of those things that would surprise him at times, just completely out of the blue about ponies. Most times, ponies were only concerned with their own woes and their own problems. Yet, sometimes, there would be the occasional one who would be more than that and be concerned about a complete stranger. He remembered hearing the expression that a stranger was just a friend you haven't met yet.

It would have been easy to just say no, to say that it was fine and that it was his problem, not hers and she didn't have to deal with it. But she was offering up her help, offering a chance at guidance and possibly may know more about a matter he was otherwise a novice to. So, he turned back around to face her, a concerned look on her features.

"Miss Dream-"

"Please, Gentle," she offered. "Miss Dream makes me sound like a school teacher."

"Right… Gentle," he corrected. "Can I ask… are you in a relationship?"

"Yes, I am," she replied sternly. "So don't get any ideas-"

"Oh no, you misunderstand me!" he rectified quickly. "It's just that… well…"

He quickly explained his problem to her, that he was unsure if should be offering some sort of support for Twilight's problem or at least giving her his help, adding also that he had never been in a romantic relationship before and he wasn't entirely sure about what he should do. She listened patiently, a thoughtful look on her face.

Once he was finished, she gave him a bright smile and a small giggle. "Honestly you silly colt, of course you should help her."

"Oh… right…" Dusk felt the guilt surface even more. "You… you really think so…?"

"Of course, it's what you do when you're with your special somepony." She sighed and gazed off fondly. "I remember one time when I was trying to paint the night sky to go up in the shop. The night is always so beautiful, all of those twinkling stars and the shining moon, how can you not fall in love with something like that?"

"Indeed," Dusk agreed.

"Yeah…" She stared off for a while, then shook her head. "Sorry, I get carried away sometimes. Anyway, so I was trying to figure out which colour would be best used to paint the sky? Should it be black mixed with blue, or maybe blue with a little bit of violet? Perhaps two different shades of blue, or even a mix of both. I wanted it to look like my best work, but I just couldn't decide. So my coltfriend, Star Chaser, he asks me what's bothering me, I tell him but also say it's not his problem and he should get to bed. But do you know what he did?"

Dusk could already see where this was going. "He didn't…"

"Nope. He stayed up with me, no matter how much I tried to tell him I'd do it myself and, together , we managed to figure it out and it really was the best piece of work I… that we'd ever done," she corrected proudly. "Since then, I've never sold it, never let anypony else have it, because of what he did for me on that night. It was my best work, not because of the colour I used or the style, but because he'd taken his time out to help me finish it and I'll never forget it."

"I see…" Dusk turned his gaze ashamed to the floor. "I should have been with her from the start… what do I do now?"

"Well, no time like the present and no point feeling sorry for it." She stepped aside and opened the door. "Go on, go find her and do what you can for her."

"R-r-really? But… but there's not much time…"

"Even so, you can still try. She might not know it and you might not think it, but she needs your help and you need to help her," she told him, gesturing with her head. "Now, go on!"

"Right… right!" He headed for the door, but paused on the way. "Thanks Gentle."

"Anytime, now get going! Go on!"

Suppressing his guilt, Dusk levitated his hat off the stand and sprinted out of the door, Gentle cheering after him.

"Hey, where are you going?" he heard Spike call. "You're not going to be late for the picnic and you forgot the cakes!"

Dusk didn't turn back or stop, but what the baby dragon had said did give him an idea. It was close to the time they were supposed to be meeting everypony else for the picnic and there was a strong possibility that Twilight would be there. Conjuring up a puooet of the first pony he could think of who would be there, Fluttershy, he quickened his pace and followed the magic as it guided him, sometimes almost overtaking it from how fast he had run.

He soon felt the lush green grass beneath his hooves, could hear the birds chirping in the trees, the sun on his back and could see the forms of the girls up ahead, just settling down and getting everything ready. Pinkie had just placed down a basket and opened it, several balloons all floating off into the air off with it, Applejack was laying down the blanket and Rainbow was rubbing sun cream onto her legs. Rather surprised at how comforted he felt to see all of them here, but seeing no sign of Twilight, he slowed down and gulped down lungfuls of air, falling in a heap from exhaustion.

"Geez, and I thought I was meant to be the quick one," remarked Rainbow when she saw him. "How fast were you running there?"

"What's the rush sugar cube?" Applejack asked, helping him up. "Ya ain't late, fact yer on time as always."

"Oh my, is everything okay?" Fluttershy asked worriedly.

"No… no… not really…" he panted. "Where… where's… Twilight…?"

"So that's why you were running so quickly. You wanted to be here first and surprise her!" Pinkie squealed. "Aw, that's so sweet and cute, like a cupcake with googly eyes on it!"

"More like creepy," Rainbow muttered, reclining on the grass with shades over her eyes.

"Well, dontcha worry, she ain't here yet," Applejack assured him. "Here, why don't ya take a load off and rest right here till she gets here."

"I… I…" He tried to explain to them, but Fluttershy was at his side in a flash.

"Now, now, you just rest up and relax. I'm sure Twilight will really appreciate what you've done, it was so nice of you."

"Seconded," put in Rarity, heading over to another basket. "I think a cup of tea will have you right as rain in no time, darling. Then perhaps a reward from your grateful marefriend, hm?" she added slyly.

Dusk gave up trying to speak, completely worn out from what to him felt like a cross country sprint and just nodded, slumping down on the blanket and propping his head on the ground.

"There you go big brother, you just rest," said Fluttershy gently. "Oh, I just noticed, you got some glasses."

"Ooh, ooh, let me see!" Pinkie dashed over, snatched them off and put them on. "Whoa, this is weeeeeird... and fun! Look how big my hoof is!"

"Well, they are only meant to be worn by those who need them, Pinkie," pointed out Rarity.

"Speakin'-a which, ah'm pretty sure Dusk would like those back so he can see," added Applejack.

"Oops, sorry!" She gently put them back on. "Still, good look though. They make you look as smartypants as you actually are."

"Another way of saying he looks like a geek," sniggered Rainbow.

"Now, ah don't think it don't matter what way what he looks like, jus' so long as he can see," said the ever practical Applejack.

"And also um... you really shouldn't say things like that um, Rainbow," muttered Fluttershy. "It's uh... just not very nice..."

"Hey, lighten up, I didn't want to sound like a jerk," Rainbow placated. "Dusk knows I don't mean anything, right Dusk?"

"Certainly..." he managed to gasp out.

"See? No harm done."

"Marvellous!" Rarity returned to rummaging in the basket, the clinking of cutlery in Dusk's ears. "Please tell me I did not forget the plates." She gasped and pulled her head out. "I did. I totally forgot them! Of all the worst things that could happen, this is THE. WORST. POSSIBLE. THING!" A luxurious couch, controlled by her magic, slid next to her as she fell on it, sobbing and despairing… until she realised everypony was staring at her oddly. "What? You didn't expect me to lay on the grass, did you?"

Dusk managed a smile at the typical sight that was Rarity, but this was soon wiped off his face when he heard the sound of a box being dumped on the ground and he saw Twilight.

While he always thought of her as beautiful, even he couldn't help but stare at the state that she was in. Her mane and tail were both unkempt and wild, frayed and sticking out in places, like she'd just run straight through a bush while having it styled by a failed barber college undergraduate. Her whole body was tensed up like a frightened rabbit, unable to relax. Her pupils had shrunk down to the size of peas, her eyes wild and desperate and the smile she had on her face wasn't comforting and kind, but more… demented and disturbed.

It was very clear that she hadn't been successful in her endeavours and she had been becoming more and more stressed as the deadline drew nearer. Dusk knew this and he felt all the worse for it, but the others didn't. They were still, however, concerned for her.

"You alright, hun?" Applejack asked.

"No!" she cried. "I am not alright." All of them reacted with sounds of concern and worry for her, enough to make Dusk stay quiet for now. Perhaps they would want to help her as well. "It's just terrible."

"Yes?" they all asked in unison

"Simply awful."

"Yes?"

"It's the most horrific trouble I've ever been in and I really, really, really need your help!"

"YES?"

"My letter to Princess Celestia is almost overdue, and I haven't learned anything about friendship!" She sounded as if she was on the verge of tears and Dusk found the strength to stand up and start to make his way over to her.

But what the girls did next made him stop where he was. Instead of worrying and fretting with the same levels as she had done, they all breathed sighs of relief at the news, visibly relaxing, with the exception of Dusk and Twilight.

"Oh thank goodness," said Fluttershy. "I thought something really awful had happened."

Twilight made a strange strangling sound in her throat before teleporting behind Rainbow. "Something awful has happened!" She reappeared next to Rarity making her spit out her tea. "If I don't turn in the letter on time, I'll be tardy! TARDY!" This last part she screamed in front of Applejack.

Again, rather than being concerned for how worried she obviously was, the girls all started giggling at the fuss that she was making, but Dusk was anything but amused. In fact, he was now extremely worried for her.

Dusk knew this wasn't good. Dreading that something terrible would happen was bad enough, but actually attempting to picture it just made the problem even worse. Twilight seemed to be suffering from signs of extreme stress to do with her work, combined with her need for organisation and order and now she was on the verge of a nervous breakdown. Knowing all too well anxieties about exams back at the school, he knew roughly what she must be going through. As her second assistant, friend and coltfriend, he knew it was his duty to help her.

Even if our friends don't, he thought a little bitterly.

"No offense, sugarcube," Applejack said, pushing her away, "but it looks like somepony's gettin' themselves all worked up over nothin'."

"This is not nothing!" she screamed back. "This is everything! I need you guys to help me find somepony with a problem I can fix before sundown! My whole life depends on it!"

Pinkie was now rolling on the floor and laughing hysterically."Oh Twilight, you're such a crack-up!"

"Come on now. Have a seat and stop sweatin' the small stuff," Applejack prompted. "Look, Dusk here made an extra effort ta get here so he could surprise ya. Why don't ya come on over an' keep him company."

Dusk was brought back to the present by Applejack's voice and Twilight's annoyed screams, to see her about to sprint off when he bolted over to her.

"Twilight, wait!"

"What, Dusk?!" Her eyes were wide and popping as she rounded on him. "I don't have time to relax! I need to get this finished now and if you or nopony else is gonna help me then-"

"But that's what I'm saying," he said quickly. "I do want to help you."

"W-what?" This caught her off guard and, for a moment, he could see the Twilight he knew so well.

"I know how important your studies are to you and I know how much you like to be on time with your assignments… and I should have realised that sooner." He hung his head in shame. "I should have been helping you from the beginning, then maybe we could have found a solution to this problem."

"Dusk…" she said softly, but he wasn't finished.

"I know it doesn't seem like much now, but I want you to know that I'm here for you and…" He hesitated and took her hoof gently. "And I'll do whatever it takes to help you bring in your letter on time to the Princess."

She stared at him for a few moments, complete silence descending on the rest of the group. Dusk didn't even look back at them, for he only had eyes for Twilight. Her own were glistening with tears, but at the same time he could also see a renewed hope kindling within them. Finally, she grinned broadly, hugged him so tightly that he almost suffocated and planted kiss after kiss on his face.

"Oh Dusk, thank you, thank you, thank you!" She planted one final one on his lips. "You are the best, simply the best! Now come on, let's go!"

"Huh… wha…?" Dusk was so disorientated from her sudden display of affection and became even more so when she grabbed his hoof and teleported again.

He'd never actually experienced teleportation before, but it was a very strange experience. In just a second, he felt as if he was everywhere and nowhere at the same time, guided along by a stronger presence he knew would be Twilight. He tried to move his legs, but they wouldn't respond and the whole world was spinning rapidly, colours and shapes whizzing past his eyes like he was on a roundabout in a playground. He always felt sick whenever he was on those and he certainly felt sick now.

When the spinning finally stopped, it was even more disorientating returning to a normal state. He staggered on his hooves, his vision blurred and unclear again, but gradually swimming into focus and he could tell they were back in the library. His head was pounding and his stomach was churning, but he managed to sustain enough will to keep it in, but not enough to stop himself collapsing to the floor.

"I am… never… ever…" He stopped speaking as he felt bile build up in his throat and swallowed it down. "Doing that… again…"

"You get used to it, now come on! No time for lying around!" His whole body tingled and his hooves left the floor. Twilight was using a levitation spell to carry him upstairs. She slammed the door behind them and dumped him on the ground.

"Okay, okay," he heard Twilight muttering. "You have Dusk now, so it'll all be fine. You and him will think of something, I'm sure of it and then you'll be on time. On time," she sang.

"Um… Twilight?" he called out to her. "What did you… say?"

"Quiet, I wasn't talking to you!" she commanded. "But now I am, so let's talk dear!"

Dusk, rather than feeling comforted, even flattered by the use of an affectionate term from her, just felt even more disturbed. It seemed she had now recovered from the relief she'd felt at having him help her and returned to a near insane state. Her eyes were wide once again and she was sat on the floor inches away from him, brushing her hair with her hoof and giggling to herself. Now and again, she would twitch and her eyes would bulge even wider, to the point they would probably pop right out of her skull.

This friendship report was really getting to her in a way that Dusk had never seen before. Spike had told him once how she briefly in a similar state when the parasprites had swarmed all over Ponyville, pushed to the edge from her lack of organisation and handling of the stressful situation. Dusk hadn't been witness to it, but he was glad that he hadn't. Now though, it looked as if she was being pushed to her limits again and this time he was here to see it. And, as much as he held her dear in his heart, it scared him.

Still, he thought to himself weakly, there wasn't too much to worry about. He'd dealt with Pinkie when she was in such a state and he had taken control of his own mind back from his darker self, even now he was coping with the memories he'd left, keeping them suppressed in his mind and unknown to everypony else… most of the time anyway. If he could deal with that, he could be capable of handling Twilight in the state she was in.

Or at least, that was what he hoped.

"I am so glad you decided to help me Dusk," she repeated. "I really am. If you hadn't, I don't know, heh heh, what I'd have done!"

"Glad I could… help," he said, with a quiver in his voice.

"Oh I am, I really am!" She giggled again and drew closer, Dusk backing off a little. "So, what do you think I should do? Only a few hours left, gotta do my report and I need to solve a problem. So, what do I do?"

"Right um… well, um, solution right…" He tried, but failed to keep himself from sounding terrified.

"Now, now my dear, don't be scared," she said in a sing-song voice. "I know this report is worrying, believe me I know, but I know you and I can think of something, I know it!"

"I um… I think so… too?"

"Great, now come on!" she added urgently. "Think! There has to be something I can do!"

"Yes, yes, something…" He had to stay calm, stay calm and not raise his voice. "Um… I um…"

"Come on, think!" she begged.

"Um… you could ask around town?" he said unsurely.

"No, no, it's too big and there's not enough time left and we're wasting it!" She shot forward and grabbed his shoulders. "Come on, there's gotta be something better!"

"I'm thinking, I'm thinking," he tried to assure her.

"Well think faster, come on!"

"Alright um… could you just make something up?"

"Dusk, what are you saying?!" she asked hysterically. "I can't lie to the Princess! What if she comes to ask me about it? What if she tests me on it? Did you think of that?!"

"I'm sorry, I'm sorry!" he said hastily. "I'm just… just trying to help…"

"Well, it's not helping, is it?" She groaned and turned away to look out the window.

While she did, Dusk felt a twinge in his chest from her words and turned his gaze elsewhere. Even though it would be easy to think that she was just saying that from her worried state, she had still stung him regardless. He'd always done his best and that had always done enough for her. She'd never said anything like that to him before…

He really hoped that she would find a friendship problem and fix it soon, or even better, that the princess really wouldn't punish her, because he didn't think he could take this much longer. Still, he could still hear her cries and screams at times… perhaps this would be his punishment, for what he had done…

He was so lost in his thoughts, he only caught the end of what Twilight said next. "If I can't find a friendship problem... I'll make a friendship problem!"

"What?!" That shocked Dusk more than anything she'd said so far. "Twilight, you can't possibly-"

"Why not?!" Her mad eyes fixed on him again. "I've tried everything else, this is the only thing I can do!"

She pulled something out of her box, her Smartypants doll. Dusk didn't know what she had planned, but he knew that he couldn't let her go with the state she was in. As such, calling upon rarely seen bravery, he stood in her path in front of the door.

"Dusk, what do you think you're doing?" she asked dangerously.

"What I have to do to help you," he replied, his voice quivering. "I… I can't let you go."

"Oh but you have to! You said you'd help me, not try and stop me," she reminded him.

"No, not like this," he denied, becoming even more scared of her and for her. "We'll find another way, I know it, but I can't let you do this."

She stared at him silently and he stared back at her, determinded not to move and let her do something she'd regret. In the end, she sighed and grinned even more broadly.

"Dusk… Dusk, Dusk," she said sadly. "I thought you would help me… but if you're going to get in my way then…"

"Twilight, what are you-?"

He didn't even see her horn glow, but by the time he knew what she had done, her spell had already hit him and sent him sprawling to the ground, surrendering to unconsciousness. The last thing he saw was Twilight lingering at the door before she ran off downstairs…


For the second time that day, Dusk was sprinting as fast as he could through Ponyville, following the puppet he'd made of Twilight. At first, it had been guilt and hope driving him, now it was sheer fear and desperation that he wasn't too late. The sun was lowering to the edge of the horizon, the day was almost over but there was still time.

He had awoken to Spike desperately trying to shake him awake, eventually resorting to his breath to the same effect of smelling salts.

"Ugh Spike," he'd said, coughing from the strong smell. "What have you been eating?

"Only anything a healthy baby dragon would eat," he'd replied. "But enough of that, where's Twilight? What are you doing here on the floor? Napping on the job is my thing."

"Twilight? She… well she…" It had all come flooding back to him in that moment. "She used magic against me…"

"What?! On you? Yeah, right, and I'm prince of the dragon king… I sure would like to be though," he'd added forlornly.

"No, she really used it on me," Dusk said, more to himself than to Spike. "I… I can't believe that she would… I mean, I know she…" His thoughts had been a blur, his feelings unsure and confused from what had just happened.

After all of the time they had known each other, the trust they'd built up, the relationship they were now in, because of one little friendship report and her worry for it, she'd used magic on him because he was in her way. He still couldn't believe that she would do this. No… not Twilight, not his Twilight, not the one he knew. She really was pushed to the edge with this assignment and she wasn't herself. She would never have done something like this to him…

Would she? He kept asking himself that out loud, lost in the very idea of such a thing…

"Dusk, snap out of it!" Spike's yelling had brought him back. "I know you're upset, but why did she attack you? Did you say you hate reading? Did you make fun of her studies?" He'd gasped dramatically. "Tell me you didn't burn her monthly schedule!"

"No, no, nothing like that!" he'd replied with utter certainty.

"Good, because trust me, if you did that…" He'd shuddered. "Well, let's just say it isn't pretty."

"But it's something just as bad. Spike, you were right about her report, it isn't going well," he'd told him quickly.

"I was right? Huh, score one for Spike."

"Please, focus," Dusk begged. "Twilight has been driven to the brink because of this, she isn't acting how she normally would."

"Well… I did find her talking to herself into a puddle before, make of that what you will."

"That's what I mean and it's only gotten worse." He'd lowered himself down to Spike's level. "She's actually going to resort to creating a friendship problem, just so she can solve it and have something to report. I didn't know what it was, but I tried to stop her… that was when she…"

"When she used magic on you," Spike had said when Dusk couldn't finish. He'd placed a claw on his shoulder comfortingly. "Hey, don't blame her. I saw her and she's acting like she's gone nuts. I know she would never ever do something like this, especially not to you."

"That's what I thought too," he'd admitted. "Thanks Spike…"

"Anytime bro," he'd said lightly. "So… what now?"

Dusk thought for a moment. "Right, you write a letter to the princess and tell her what's going on, we might need some backup. I'll go out and try and find Twilight, see if I can stop whatever she has planned."

"You think there's still time?"

"You know me and impossible causes," Dusk had said with a chuckle.

"I know right?" Dusk had turned his back and was about to run off when. "Hey Dusk. If she has done something, you don't think the princess will… punish her, do you?"

Dusk didn't answer, for he didn't want to think about it. He'd just hurried out, conjured up a puppet and set out to find her.

His lungs burned, his chest ached, but he'd kept going. He still couldn't quite believe she'd actually knocked him out in order to try and make her report on time. She was fixated on getting this letter in on time and if she was capable of doing that… either way, she wasn't herself and she needed his help, as well as her teacher's.

His hopes of arriving on time were dashed when he reached the top of a hill and a scene of chaos met his eyes. It seemed like everypony in Ponyville, apart from the girls, were all fighting each other over something, but Dusk didn't know exactly what. He didn't even know where to start with fixing this problem, other than to make his way over to the girls and fast.

But he was worn out again and the sun was just creeping out of sight, the first signs of night descending upon them. The day was over. It was too late.

"Twilight Sparkle!" Never before had he heard Princess Celestia take such a commanding, stern tone, as she hovered in the sky, the rays of the sun illuminating her.

Gazing in complete awe, Dusk watched while she cast a spell that made everypony cease their fights and snap them out of whatever had possessed them. They all seemed to gather around and look at something, before they headed off back towards town. But Dusk's attention was no longer on them, but on the girls, one in particular.

He couldn't hear what was being said, but Twilight was trudging away from them, her head hung in shame. Princess Celestia had gone but he could guess where she had gone. He could also tell that she was angry with her student and she knew it too. Seeing her now, no longer crazed and driven, even if she had used magic against him, made him feel overwhelming pity and compassion for his marefriend.

It was enough to make him sum up his remaining strength and run to meet her. She mustn't have heard his approach, for she was still looking downcast and forlorn. When Dusk said her name, she shot her head up and he could see again the tears in her eyes.

"Dusk. You're… I mean you're… even after I…"

"After you knocked me out," Dusk supplied. He still wanted her to know what she had done and how it had hurt him.

"Yes… after I… I…" She bowed her head again, tears trickling down her face. "Oh Dusk, I'm so sorry… I didn't mean to… I never…"

Dusk had already crossed the distance between them and placed a hoof on her shoulder. "It's okay… I forgive you."

"But… but I…" She threw herself around him, sobbing into his shoulder. "I never wanted to, it's just… I was so scared... I didn't want to be… tardy…"

"It's okay, you weren't yourself and I don't blame you." He pulled back and touched her cheek, her eyes meeting his. "Let's just… forget about it, yeah?"

"Yeah… thank you…" she said with sincerity, all madness gone from her violet depths.

"My pleasure." He turned his eyes to the town. "So… what now?"

"Magic kindergarten, I suppose," she said sadly.

"That's not going to happen," he assured her. "And if it does… we'll face it together."

She blinked in surprise. "T-t-together? But… this isn't your problem."

"Your problem… is my problem. Besides, I have a hoof in this as well, remember?" he reminded her. "Let me make it up to you here."

They were only in a moment of silence before Twilight nodded and let him walk by her side back to the library, which felt like a walk to a criminal trial: long and arduous, even though it was only a few metres.

The Princess was waiting for them when they arrived, a stern expression on her features and a glare in her eyes.

"Dusk, wait outside, I would like to speak to Twilight alone," she commanded curtly.

Dusk, at first, moved to obey, but he stood his ground in the end and remained. "Sorry, Your Highness, but I feel some… responsibility for this." He shared a warm look with Twilight. "I um… I want to stay and… explain myself."

"Very well then." She drew herself up taller. "You both know why you're here, now if you would care to explain as to why."

So, letting Twilight do most of the talking, they told the Princess all that had happened, how Twilight had tried and failed to make sure that her report on friendship was on time, eventually having to resort to enchanting her doll so it would be irresistible and create a friendship problem for her to report. But she also made the point that Dusk had tried to reason with her and stop her, but she hadn't listened.

"If I'd just gotten a hold of myself and listened… none of this would have happened," she said sadly.

"That's… sort of where I come in as well." He stepped forward, trying his best to look the princess in the eye. "I knew that she may have needed help, but I still let her go, when I could have done something. I'm as much responsible for what happened as she is."

"But I never asked for you help," pointed out Twilight.

"You shouldn't have to. As your second assistant and, more importantly, your coltfriend, I should have been there from the start to help you. Then, we might have found something…"

"Either way, the one ultimately responsible for what happened is me. I missed the deadline for my report and I stirred up a great deal of trouble trying to do it." Twilight bowed her head in shame. "You can punish me… however you see fit…"

Celestia regarded the both with a firm gaze, before she lightened her expression and spoke in the gentler, kindly voice he knew her for.

"Twilight, while I am a little shocked about the measures you resorted to, I'm not going to punish you for missing your supposed deadline for your report," she told her gently.

This surprised Twilight, but comforted Dusk greatly. "But...but... I'm supposed to send you a letter about friendship every week. I missed the deadline. I'm a bad student! I'm... tardy!"

"You are a wonderful student, Twilight. I don't have to get a letter every week to know that," she replied sincerely.

"Really...?" She looked at Dusk, who gave her his best 'I told you so' smile.

"And Dusk, you and Spike are the reason why I was able to know of this in the first place." She glanced to the arch where Dusk saw a purple shape vanish. "Besides, from what he has told me, you did try to help Twilight in the end."

"In the end, yes, but… I should have done more…" Before Celestia could respond to this, the door burst open and Rainbow Dash bolted inside, along with the rest of their friends.

"Wait!"

"You can't punish her!" begged Fluttershy.

"It wasn't her fault!" added Applejack.

"I'm listening," said Celestia in an authorative tone.

So, the girls proceeded to explain how they too were responsible for what happened too, how they had seen how Twilight had reacted from her friendship report, but they'd dismissed it as not worth bothering with. They added also that Dusk had left to help her and they should have followed his example, which made him blush and retreat back a little.

When they finished by begging the princess not punish her for their insensitivity, Celestia smiled brightly again. "Looks like you all learned a pretty valuable lesson today." The girls all affirmed this, as did Dusk. "Very well. I'll forget Twilight's "punishment" on one condition."

They all cheered and whooped from this news and Twilight embraced Dusk, her wonderful smile returning to her features and her eyes shining with happiness. They quietened down so the Princess could deliver her condition for this great news.

"From this day forth, I would like you all to report to me your findings on the magic of friendship, when, and only when, you happen to discover them." She turned to Dusk and Twilight once they were done cheering. "As for you two, I would also like you to report to me what you learn about the magic of being in a romantic relationship."

"Princess…" started Twilight.

"It would be our honour," finished Dusk, beaming happily at her. This would certainly help to prove that they had been learning about this particular subject.

Once the Princess had left, they all gathered around in the library with Spike ready to take down a letter, Twilight being grateful to him for informing Celestia in the first place. First, Dusk let the girls speak, saying how you should take a friend's worries seriously, even if they didn't seem worth worrying about. In addition, you shouldn't turn a supposedly small problem into an, as Pinkie put it, 'enormously huge entire-town-in-total-chaos Princess-has-to-come-and-save-the-day problem.'

Once that was done and Spike was done trying to sneak in his little postscript about how he hadn't learned anything and didn't need to, because he was the best friend ever, he took another note for Dusk and Twilight's first relationship report.

"Dear Princess Celestia, this is mine and Twilight's letter about what we have learned about being in a relationship." He looked to Twilight for approval and carried on when she nodded. "Once you take friendship to the next level, being concerned about your partner's worries becomes even more important. Even if they don't ask for help, you should still try to do all you can to help them when they are in need."

"Equally," added Twilight, "your partner's opinions are also important and you shouldn't try to dismiss them or ignore them, in anyway possible. Because they might have the solution to your problem without even knowing it. From your faithful subjects, Twilight Sparkle…"

"… and Dusk Noir," he finished proudly. "Well, not bad for our first one."

"I'd say so, dearest Dusk," she added lovingly, kissing his cheek.

"Glad you agree, Miss Sparkle."

"Well, if I didn't, I could just knock you out again."

"Twilight… you are a knock-out, even without magic," he said shyly.

"Aw, Dusk, that is so sweet."

"I try my best…"

"Ugh, gimme a break," both Spike and Rainbow said at the same time.

"Ooh, Dashie and Spikey-Wikey are thinking the same thing!" put in Pinkie. "It's the start of something I tell ya!"

Spike and Rainbow looked bewildered. "What? Hey, what are you-?!"

"Hey, y'all be sure ta invite us to the weddin', okay?"

They all laughed at how red their faces went, Dusk with his arm around Twilight and wondering if he'd ever be able to talk about his particular problem with her, or even the rest of them. He was just worried that, if he did, he'd never again laugh like that…

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