• Published 8th Apr 2013
  • 4,617 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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Doing Things Differently

Twilight glanced up at the door just as it closed, leaving her alone in the library with Spike. She was at first tempted to go through after Dusk and bring him back, keep him by her side where she felt he would be safer. Then she got a hold of herself, shook her head and told herself that she was starting to overreact again. At least, that's what she thought it was.

She was still trying to fathom herself why exactly she'd reacted like that, when Dusk had told her he'd been to see Rarity and just let him go so that she could think more clearly. He'd been to see her plenty of times before, she appeared to be one of the closest to him in their circle of friends and, while she had felt a tiny bit jealous, she'd never really had a problem. This time though, she just felt really bothered by it.

Was it because he'd told her that he intended to spend time on his own and had then gone to see somepony? Because he'd effectively lied to her in that sense? She did make the point that, if he didn't want to be on his own, he could have just come back to the library with her and Spike. They were perfectly good company, as over a year of working together had displayed. On top of that, she was his marefriend now. It only seemed to make sense that, if he wanted somepony to talk to, she would be the first choice.

But then, why was she bothered about that anyway? From what she could figure out, from how many times he'd been to see her, Rarity had been rather instrumental in helping them get together. Though she did sometimes pass what looked like a flirtatious glance, that was just Rarity being herself and Twilight knew it wouldn't make any sense for her to have designs on Dusk, when she'd helped them become a couple in the first place. She had nothing to worry about if Dusk had gone to see her. The two of them were friends, nothing more.

So, that brought her back to her original thought: why was she still bothered by it?

"Twilight? Hey, you okay?" Spike's voice snapped her out of her reverie and she turned to see the baby dragon looking inquisitively at her. "What was that all about?"

Twilight groaned. She had enough problems on her mind without trying to seek advice from one who started drooling whenever his crush so much as glanced at him.

"Nothing," she replied, trying to shake him off. "Come on, as long as Dusk isn't here, I might as well try and catch up on my own studies."

"Oh, no you don't, you're not getting off that easy," he insisted. "What was that all about?"

"Spike, I don't know what you're talking about," she lied, trying to walk away upstairs.

"You know exactly what I'm talking about." He barred her way to the stairs. "First, you were making nice with Dusk, the next you go all CSI on him when he brings up Rarity. How come?"

"It's not important Spike, now get out of my way." She levitated him aside and tried to move off again.

"What, are you jealous or something?" Spike slid back in front of her, in the pose of a model lying in front of an artist. "Come on, Dusk is nuts about you and he knows Rarity is my gal. He wouldn't try and move in on her."

"I understand that perfectly, now drop it!" On this, she conjured a hole in the floor beneath him and dropped him into the basement.

She was half way up the stairs when she heard the basement door fly open and looked to see Spike, panting from sprinting up them.

"Well then…" He panted and puffed again. "Stairs… gimme a sec…" He took in a few deep breaths and tried speaking again. "Well then, why were you acting so uppy back there?"

"I was not acting uppy!" she snapped. "Dusk is perfectly at liberty to spend his time with whomever he pleases, now will you let it go already!"

"Twilight, something's up with you about Dusk, and I wanna-"

"Just forget it, go prim the roses or something." For extra measure, she opened a window and levitated him out, dumping him unceremoniously on the ground outside.

She continued on up the stairs into her room, sighing that she could finally have a little peace to think for herself and what exactly was happening with her and Dusk…

Until Spike climbed in though the window. "Ha! We don't even have any roses!"

Twilight groaned again. "You're not gonna let this go, are you?"

"Nuh-uh," he said, with a shake of his head. "Come on, what's on that planet-sized mind of yours?"

In the end, Twilight conceded. Though Spike wouldn't exactly be her first choice for seeking relationship advice, he was also the friend she'd known longer than most. Perhaps he would have something helpful to say.

"I don't really know Spike," she admitted, as the baby dragon waddled over. "I guess… I don't know, I was just bothered when Dusk said he hadn't gone to spend time on his own, like he said."

"So… you're upset because he lied to you? Cause, you know, I'd never do a thing like that." His face fell when Twilight raised her eyebrow. "Yeah, yeah, no need to bring that up again.

"I don't think he really meant to be dishonest, I think he thought it was okay that he changed his mind," she deduced.

"So… you don't think that you're jealous-"

"No, I am not jealous!" she snapped.

"Okay, okay, chill out crabby," he placated.

"I am not crabby!" She realised she cut off Spike again and blushed sheepishly. "Sorry…"

"Right then, so…" He paused and when there was no outburst forthcoming, he continued. "So why do you think you're bothered by this?"

Twilight thought for a moment. "I guess, ultimately, I'm just confused as to why he didn't come back here if he wanted some company. I mean, I am his marefriend after all and we could have done something productive together."

"I see," Spike muttered, in the tone of a psychiatrist analysing a patient. "Maybe he just wanted some different company, for a change."

"What? Why? Am I not good company?" she asked in quick succession.

"Oh, no! You're great company! Most of the time," he added, hurriedly moving on. "But maybe the guy just wants a change of pace."

"But why would he? It's always peaceful here, and he and I always have a great time studying together," she reasoned. "Why would he want that?"

"Well, maybe that's the thing," Spike suggested. "Maybe he's had his fill of studying for a bit."

"What?! Oh come on Spike, that's ridiculous," she dismissed. "This is Dusk we're talking about, the stallion who shares almost every interest I do. We're practically the same pony!"

"Yeah, but you're not the same pony. In more ways than one," he added with a slight blush.

She flushed too when she figured out what he meant. "Spike!"

"What, I'm just saying!" he insisted, quickly moving away from that. "I still stand by what I said, though."

"What? But… how can he think that? He likes reading and learning just as much as I do, especially now he's Luna's student."

"Maybe, but when you've been spending most of your days doing almost nothing but practicing and studying, even if he does like it, he's gonna want a break from it," he pointed out.

"But he always liked reading," she repeated.

"I always like ice-cream, but there's a point where, if you keep eating it, you get brain freeze eventually." He puffed out his chest proudly. "Doesn't stop me though."

"Okay, say you're right, which I still doubt you are," she emphasized. "why wouldn't he just say so in the first place?"

"I dunno, I guess he just doesn't wanna hurt your feelings or something… or he's just scared in case you blow your top off," he added.

"What? When have I ever done that?"

"Seriously? I'm gonna need more parchment if you want me to do that list." He raised his claws when she was about to yell. "Look, if you don't believe me, why don't you go ask him yourself? He should just be at the Boutique."

"You know what? I think I will, then we'll see who's right about this!" she declared. "You keep an eye on things here, I'm gonna go settle this."

"You do that. Have fun and tell Rarity her beloved sends his best," he added dreamily.

"Sure, I'll get right on that." Twilight rolled her eyes, making her way out the door and following Dusk's path.

As she walked along, the crisp autumn breeze blowing through her mane, Spike's words got her to thinking. Though she still didn't entirely believe them, it was her relatively scientific mind that encouraged her to think of every possible hypothesis. Could Dusk really be fed up with spending time with her, to the point where he would seek out somepony else's company in order to break up the monotony? It was plausible, she knew herself doing the same thing repeatedly could get boring after a while.

But somehow, she couldn't really picture that happening with Dusk. He'd always been just fine with how things were before, working with her and Spike every day at the library. He always kept himself upbeat and cheerful, ready to complete whatever task he was assigned. He'd helped her with her studies quite a bit, quizzing and practicing spells and he'd never complained about that. In fact, she remembered how eager he would be, then he would blush in embarrassment from his willingness to assist. That always made her smile.

If he was getting bored of the routine, he would tell her. Yet she knew that wasn't entirely true either, for he was usually known for keeping his opinions and his views to himself unless prompted otherwise. Even if something was on his mind and bothering him, he'd still remain silent about it unless, again, he was asked about it. He'd been off on his own, moped about his problems, but had never actually come to any of their friends or her about them. Probably because, in his mind, they weren't worth bothering with.

He still hadn't talked to her about… him. She knew, of course she'd listened at the door when she'd learned about it. She hadn't breathed a word of it to anypony else, but nor did she know how exactly to talk to Dusk about it. How exactly did you talk about something… like that?

Twilight shook away those particular thoughts for now, for it was too unpleasant still. He'd also shown that he could be timid and shy regardless of the situation, unless sometimes in one of extreme pressure or danger, then he'd be more likely to step up, if a little reluctantly. So the question remained, was she right in thinking about this?

Hopefully, that question would have an answer soon enough, for Rarity's fashion establishment was already in sight. Time to settle this, she thought to herself, stepping inside with a ringing bell announcing her arrival.

"Coming!" Rarity sang from upstairs, a smile growing when she saw who it was. "Why Twilight, hello darling. How lovely to see you!"

"Hey Rarity," she greeted politely. "Were you in the middle of something?"

"Actually, as a matter of fact, I've just come up with a new line of gowns. Wait till you see, it's simply smashing!" She eagerly led her to her work room, all the while Twilight looking around for Dusk.

The fashionista proudly displayed a line of five dress forms, each dressed in corresponding coloured dresses and accessories. She cast her gaze around the room, saw no sign of her coltfriend and returned her attention to the gowns, just so to be polite. Besides, Rarity usually had something good to show where clothes were concerned

"Wow, these look really great," she remarked. "I'm sure everypony will love this line."

"Don't they just?" she said proudly. "I've decided to call it 'full spectrum fashions', something simple, but done afresh. An idea I wouldn't have had without…" She scowled for a moment before pasting on a smile. "Well, anyway, enough about that. Was there something you wanted to see me about or did you simply pop round to say hello?"

Twilight was a little confused about her reaction there. From the way these were presented, it seemed clear there was only pony who could have possibly inspired her for such a thing and she'd never expressed any hostility towards Dusk before. Had something happened here? Did they have a fight and he left, was that why he wasn't here?

"Actually, Dusk said that he would be here and I wanted to talk to him about something."

"Oh, I see now," Rarity said slyly. "Hoping to find your dearest and take him away for a little quiet time?"

"Rarity, it's… it's nothing like that," she mumbled, her cheeks beet red.

"Oh no, I understand completely, I won't pry," she assured, but with a wink. "Oh, you two are just so sweet and he's quite a catch, I must say. I'm a little jealous myself, I must confess."

"Rarity!"

"I'm only joking dear," she placated, still smiling. "But I think that only shows how deep your connection is, wouldn't you agree?"

"We've only been dating for a few weeks," she reminded her.

"Aren't you the one who's always saying it's quality, not quantity that matters?"

"I was talking about work and studying."

"And why, pray tell, would this be any different?" Rarity tittered again at Twilight's silent, bemused look. "Well, if you did want to find Dusk, I'm afraid you just missed him."

"Really? What happened? Did you two have a fight or something?"

"There was a fight, but not between myself and your coltfriend," she elaborated.

Rarity went on to explain how, after various messes and tiffs that she had caused, her younger sister Sweetie Belle had, effectively disowned her, stalking off in a fit. Dusk, who had arrived shortly after, hadn't even said one word to her before he'd taken off after her, leaving her to deal with her own problems by herself.

"And honestly, considering how close we are, it was quite out of character for him to do such a thing," she finished. "Not even one word of comfort or gesture to assist, he just gives me a look like I intended to usurp royalty and abandons me completely."

"Shouldn't he have?" Twilight asked. "From the sound of it, I'd say that Sweetie Belle was the one in need of comfort."

"And yet, she was the one who suggested that we would both be better off sisterless," Rarity pointed out. "We were both very clear on where we stood on that and I think she was more than happy to make that decision, as was I."

This shocked her greatly. Twilight, having an older brother herself, could safely say that, if he announced he no longer wanted to be her sibling, she would be far from happy.

"Rarity, how can you say such a thing?" Twilight asked incredulously. "She's your little sister!"

"She is and, from the first minute she arrived here, she has caused nothing but problems for me," she informed with an angry look on her face. "I mean, take this room for example. Before, everything was exactly how I wanted it, then Sweetie comes along and now look at the place!"

Twilight looked to see everything packed neatly away, stacked appropriately and in order. In short, her idea of perfection.

"Yes, a huge problem," she muttered.

"Exactly!" she declared, not picking on her sarcasm. "Things are far more peaceful now that she's gone and I think I can safely say that this is how I prefer it. I'm sure she feels exactly the same."

While that did sound harsh, the purple unicorn wasn't entirely convinced. Somehow, Twilight didn't think that sounded completely genuine. There was a bit of a strain in Rarity's voice when she said it, a small hint of regret in her eyes, something that didn't make Twilight feel too badly for her or angry towards her.

She'd just gotten into a fight, even she and Shining Armour sometimes had their little disagreements, but they'd always found a way to compromise and forgive each other and they had been rare. She didn't know how things were between Rarity and Sweetie, but she felt that, soon enough, they'd seek resolution to this too.

Hopefully, Dusk would have some part in that. He usually did.

"If that's what you think…" she said simply.

"It is," she replied firmly, but again, Twilight wasn't convinced. "Anyway, I think that's quite enough of that unpleasant topic. Let's move on to something else?"

"Like what?" asked Twilight.

"Well, you of course dear and of course our… mutual friend," she said with another wink. "I mean, it's been ages since I've seen you dear, we haven't had a proper chance to talk in a while."

"Oh, yes!" In the wake of that news, Twilight had almost forgotten the reason she'd come here. "Sorry, it's just… I'd have thought you'd have heard from Dusk about… well, us."

"I know and I have, but I don't see him all that often these days either." She prodded her playfully. "You've been keeping him all to yourself Twilight, that's very selfish of you."

"Right… sorry," she muttered, a little uncomfortable with Rarity talking about Dusk like this. He was her coltfriend, not Rarity's.

"Oh it's fine dear, we can make up for it now," she went on. "I've heard all about Dusk's side of things, but I'd also prefer to get a view from the other side so to speak, have a little bit of maretalk about it, hm? If you have the time, of course."

"Um… I guess," Twilight shrugged. She had come to talk about Dusk, it might as well be with probably the best experienced romantically out of all of them.

With that sly smile still on her face, Rarity led her back downstairs to the kitchen, where the two of them took a seat by the window. The debutante pressed her hooves together and leaned eagerly across the table.

"So, Twilight, after some considerable scepticism on the subject, how are you enjoying your romantic relationship with your special somepony?"

"Well… it's better than I thought it would be," she said honestly.

"Always a good sign, to be sure," she agreed. "I knew you two would be good together. All it took was a little effort on my part to help you along."

"I gathered, yes," she said. "You did seem to help quite a bit."

"Oh, I only did what I thought was necessary, not to say I didn't do a marvellous job anyway," she added, "but the final efforts, your first kiss, that was all him and you. How was it, by the way?"

"How was what?"

Rarity blinked in surprise. "Your first kiss, dear, that moment that shall stand forever in time for the two of you." She leant back a little, eagerness still shining in her eyes. "How did you find it? How was he?"

Twilight couldn't help, but blush a little into how personal Rarity was getting with this.

"I um… enjoyed it," she finally said. "And he… well, he was… wonderful…"

"Ooh, I knew it!" Rarity squealed. "I'm so envious of you, Twilight, you have no idea. I can only imagine the moments you two have shared together…"

"Oh, those have been great!" Twilight said, a little more enthusiastic now. "We read together, study together, practice magic together. I really think we-"

"Wait, wait, hold on dear," she said quickly, stopping her. "You read… and study in your time alone together?"

"Well, of course. We're both students to princesses and we both like learning anyway, it's only fitting," she shrugged.

"Yes, I know but, what about your dates?" she asked.

"Dates? What do you mean?"

"Going out for a romantic dinner, seeing a film, night time walks through the quiet streets of Ponyville, things like that," she explained. "You must have done something like that."

"Of um… of course!" Twilight said quickly, not wanting to seem ignorant. "Well um… we um… there was when we… um…"

"Twilight, you don't mean to tell me that you… haven't been on a date?" Rarity whispered incredulously.

"Um… I suppose, in the sense that you describe it… no," she admitted.

Rarity gasped as if she'd announced fashion had been outlawed by royal decree. "But Twilight, how can that be possible?! I would have thought that, even after a few weeks, you two would have at least ate breakfast at a café, even just relaxing in a meadow. I can't believe you haven't had a proper date yet!"

"Hold on, what's wrong with how we've been doing things?" she asked indignantly. "I think we're doing just fine with our study sessions together."

"Twilight, I'm not saying that you aren't, but… I'm not one to judge, but-"

"What do you mean? You judge things all the time," pointed out Twilight. "Just yesterday, you criticised Fluttershy's mane because she'd added a little more length to the right, rather than the left."

"I simply offer my opinions where I feel they are valid, nothing more," she countered.

"How is it valid here then?"

"I think that, and don't take this the wrong way dear, but surely spending time doing nothing but reading over some dusty old books would surely get… well, dull after a while," she voiced.

"Well, it hasn't," she insisted, trying to ignore Spike's words echoing in her head. "Dusk and I are enjoying the way we do things just fine, thank you."

"I'm sure you think so, but if I were to ask Dusk, would he say the same thing?" she asked.

"I can guarantee he would," she said firmly, until she thought a little about the question. "Wait… he hasn't said anything to you about it?"

"Not to me, no, but you know how reserved he can be at times," she pointed out. "Why, should he have said anything?"

"I would have thought that, since you two are pretty good friends," she emphasized pointedly, "that you might have talked about it at some point."

"As I said dear, I haven't seen all that much of either you or him, so I wouldn't know," she reminded her. "Why, do you have reason to think that he might say otherwise?"

"No!" she replied, a little too quickly. "I mean um… I suppose… not really."

Rarity's expression became a little more scrutinizing as she leaned in again. "Twilight, may I ask you one last thing and please answer me honestly?"

"Sure, what is it?" She felt a little tentative from some tension.

"From your study sessions and reading, have you actually asked Dusk if he enjoys how you spend time together? Do you know, for absolute certain, that he likes them to the same degree that you do?"

Twilight, at first, was going to answer that yes, he did… until she stopped and thought about it. She enjoyed his company so much, that she never really considered it all that much even the possibility that he might not be. She'd just assumed that he found happiness in it just as much as she did, no matter what it was they were doing. She always thought of him as eager and enthusiastic to learn from her and his new teacher.

Now though… she remembered how embittered he had been recently, how he seemed a little fearful when she mentioned doing more studying, how, throughout all that time they'd spent doing it, never once had she actually stopped to ask him if he wouldn't prefer to do something different. She hadn't even thought about it, but now… now it just seemed a lot clearer.

So, Spike was right all along, as was Rarity. How fitting… and a little weird. But was there still a chance…?

It was this that made her answer, very quietly and a little shamefully.

"No… I haven't."

"I see." Rarity moved back again, her expression unreadable.

"But… you might still be wrong, he might agree with me," she added quickly.

"Fair enough, he might really be fine with it. If not then, if I might suggest, you'll probably want to change that a little."

"Yeah… I agree." The way she said that made Twilight a little scared, perhaps more so than she realised and she began to think of what she had to do, some panic creeping in every second.

Hopefully, if a problem actually existed, she'd be able to rectify it… before it was too late.


Dusk tried his best to keep his composure, whilst being led around Sweet Apple Acres by Applejack and Apple Bloom, Sweetie Belle trotting by his side. He normally wouldn't be so anxious while doing this sort of thing, for he always enjoyed spending time with his friends. It's just that, for this particular occasion, he wanted this done and as quickly as possible, for he had an urgent matter to attend to.

Things were okay with Twilight, which he considered to be a genuine relief after her reaction the previous day. She hadn't even mentioned that, so Dusk assumed that they were just going to move on and forget about it. She had appeared shocked when he'd first asked her if he could do this, but she'd quickly pasted it over with a smile and had given him permission to attend the Sisterhoof Social to help out Sweetie.

"Just remember," she'd said to him, in a rather strained voice before he'd left, "you and I have still got practicing to do. Don't forget!"

Wondering why her bright voice sounded so forced, Dusk replied that he wouldn't, not actually looking forward to it all that much himself and had continued on towards Sweet Apple Acres. Twilight's odd mood was another thing he needed to consider, something he had been considering since yesterday, whilst also wondering if there was anything he'd done to upset her. Nothing came to mind and he was left pondering.

He'd find out later, along with fixing another problem that had been inadvertently caused.

Just before he'd left the house, Fluttershy, his other 'little sister,' had stopped by for a little visit, timidly asking if he had the time to come over to her cottage for a bit. He'd been surprised to see her and hadn't actually realised how much he'd missed her. Dusk had been just about to reply that he might be busy, but he'd try to find the time. Then, Sweetie had called to ask him if they were going to the farm and had called him 'big brother.'

Fluttershy had looked as if she'd been slapped in the face, before the same pony had also slapped each of her animals in turn. Rarely had Dusk seen her so upset before and had felt completely awful to witness this. He'd tried to say something, but she had just mumbled that it looked like he was going to be busy and had left without another word, at a much quicker pace. Dusk had also heard her sobbing quietly.

That was his reason he wanted this to be done quickly. It seemed he had a knack for ruining things recently…

"Well, I guess it's a good thing Rarity isn't here," Sweetie said, as they walked along. "Do I see 'uncouth' written all over this contest?"

Dusk looked around to see that, yes, this probably wouldn't be Rarity's idea of fun, but it did look to be rather enjoyable. All around him sister parings, wearing matching neckerchiefs, were participating in smaller events before the larger one, such as pie eating contests and apple bobbing. At least this promised to be fun, if nothing else.

Apple Bloom attempted to move the subject away from that. "Look at the size of that pig!"

"Impressive," Dusk remarked, watching the animal in question have its belly rubbed by another sister pair. "Most impressive."

"He sure is a cutie," agreed Applejack. "And ah ain't just talkin' 'bout the pig," she added with a wink to Dusk.

He blushed when she realised what she meant. "Applejack, please, I have a marefriend…"

"Ah know, ah know, ah'm jus' messin' with ya sugarcube," she assured, playfully nudging his leg. "You go as red as a ripe apple when yer flustered."

"That's the last word Rarity would use. Sweetie put on a mocking impersonation of her elder. "Oh my, what a repulsive monstrosity! This thing needs a head to toe makeover!"

Dusk shared a worried look with the farm pony, who smiled to reassure him. He'd only suggested to Sweetie that they go along to watch Applejack and Apple Bloom. The filly had no idea they were here for another reason entirely, which was all part of Rarity's plan and why Dusk was also wearing a smaller trilby under his larger one.

"I suppose…" he muttered, before realising something. "Wait a minute, pigs don't even have toe-"

He was cut off by a trumpet blast and an excited Applejack. "It's almost time!"

"Well, you two have fun..." Sweetie sighed sadly. "Sure wish I had a sister to run the race with." Dusk chose this moment to pull out the smaller trilby and place it on her head. "Huh?"

"You might not have a sister, but I think an adopted brother is close enough, don't you?" he asked brightly, letting his own excitement flow.

"What?" She hardly dared to believe it. "But, I thought only sisters could do the contest!"

"Don't you worry 'bout that, we decided, just this once, to let a stallion in on this," Applejack put in. "'Sides, ya still got a sister in yer pairing."

"Really? For real?" When she nodded, Sweetie whipped around and hugged Dusk's leg. "Yes, this is gonna be the best!"

"I hope so," Dusk said, leading her to the starting line after Granny Smith, rather clumsily, finished announcing the events.

"Good luck," Apple Bloom wished, standing beside Applejack.

"Now, don't think ah'll go easy on ya Dusk, just cause it's yer first time," Applejack added.

"Don't worry," Dusk replied, deciding to try his hoof at a little sport related trash talk, "we'll be sure to let you two have a small head start, before taking victory from under your noses."

"Yeah!" agreed Sweetie.

"How very gentlecoltly of you." Applejack tensed to get ready, as did Dusk.

This would be his first race since the Running of the Leaves, but this time he wouldn't need to run anywhere near as far.

"And may the best sisters win!" Dusk shared a smile with Sweetie at this. "On your marks..." Dusk crouched in readiness, "get set..." Sweetie Belle matched him, her little trilby wobbling, "Gooooo!"

Dusk and Sweetie were off, mixing in with the pack who soon began to pull ahead. He made sure that Sweetie went ahead of him, keeping his eyes firmly fixed on the first mud hole ahead, for that was as far as he was going. He watched Sweetie bounce through the mud, echoing Pinkie and deliberately tripped and fell into the cold, wet earth.

Luckily, he wasn't the only pony in the same position.

"Good fall," Rarity whispered next to him.

"Thank you." He passed her his trilby and cast a spell that would help him breath. "I now pass the torch to you."

"Once more unto the breach," she returned.

"Hey, that's my thing!" he whispered to her, as she climbed out of the pit, wearing his trilby and lens-less glasses.

"You okay, Dusk?" he heard Sweetie ask. His ears caught them sprinting away, then nothing but the cheers from the audience.

As he had to stay in the mud and the mud had covered his glasses, Dusk couldn't exactly be privy to the events that were happening during the Social. He knew that, from what he'd been able to glimpse before the race had started, there were events that incorporated the team work and cooperation between the sister teams, such as making grape juice, launching apples so they landed into a basket and climbing over a hay bale.

He only hoped that the switch they'd made would go unnoticed by Sweetie until the end of the race at least and that Rarity would be able to work together with her sister until they reached the finish line. She'd obviously been reviled at the idea of having to cover herself in mud for the majority of the race, but she tried to think that it was just like a treatment at the spa and that seemed to make her feel better. That would help get her through to the end.

Until then, Dusk would have to wait in the cold mud, breathing via a bubble that had formed around his mouth so he wouldn't suffocate.

Fortunately, he didn't have to wait long, for after only a few minutes, the cheering had died down, enough so that he could hear the exchange between Sweetie and her disguised sister, who had probably just crossed the finish line.

"Thank you, Dusk! You were amazing! I don't even care that we didn't win. That was so much fun!" There was a moment of silence and a surprised expression from Sweetie. "Rarity?! Wait, where's Dusk?"

Timing it right, Dusk resurfaced from the mud, wiping his glasses clean and using a quick spell to get the majority of the mud out of his fur, walking over to a confused Sweetie Belle and a proud looking Rarity.

"I don't get it," she admitted.

"It's amazing how easily you don't notice somepony vanishing in such confusion," he mused. "That was what we were counting on when we switched places back at that mud pit."

"So, we did the whole competition... together?" Sweetie asked Rarity.

"That we did, little sister." Rarity took a moment to correct herself. "Well, except for the start line."

"But you finished together!" pointed out Apple Bloom.

"You mean... you were all in on it?" They all nodded in affirmative. She looked to Rarity, tears welling up in her eyes. "You did this for me?"

"Us. I did it for us." Smiling her sweet little smile, Rarity's younger sister snuggled into her side in a hug. "Seems you were right Dusk."

"I try my best," he shrugged.

Sweetie was confused again. "Huh?"

"Uh, I'll explain later. For now, I think we deserve a celebration!" suggested Rarity.

"You'll have to do it without me," Dusk said. "I've got somewhere else I need to be."

"Ah, no rest for the wicked?" Rarity asked. "You go on then, you've done more than enough."

"Yeah, thanks Dusk!" added Sweetie. "Thanks for letting me be your little sister for a while and I'll keep practicing my magic."

"I'm sure you'll be great. Good day to you, ladies," he bid, with a tip of his hat before setting off at a quick pace for Fluttershy's cottage.

He knew that he'd said to Twilight that he would be back to practice his magic again once he was done, but in his mind this couldn't wait. Fluttershy was very sensitive, anypony would know that and she'd really been hurt by what had happened this morning. He needed to fix this first and then he would go back to the library.

Besides, he didn't really want to start practicing his magic again yet. Hopefully, Twilight wouldn't mind and would understand.

Thanks to his knowledge of the area and the speed he was moving, it only took him five minutes before the familiar sight of her home came into view, the usual array of critters all playing happily around it. Those feelings of guilt welling up in him again when he remembered her face, Dusk gathered himself before knocking on her door.

Normally, when he came to see the shy Pegasus, she would answer the door nervously before brightening up when she saw who it was. This time though, her face seemed to fall even more when she saw him.

"Oh… hello Dusk," she mumbled. "What… what are you doing here? I thought you were spending the day with… with…"

"That's finished now," he assured her. "I had something more important to attend to. May I come in?"

"Um… sure." She stepped back, a little reluctantly and let him in.

"Right, I ne-"

"Hold on, can… can I say something first?" Dusk blinked a little at her rare, if timid, assertiveness, but allowed it. "Right, I just want you to know that um… even though it… it looked like I was… upset, you know this morning, I really don't mind if this is how… you want things."

"What do you mean?"

"I mean having Sweetie Belle as your… your little sister." She said this as if the words physically hurt her. "I mean, it wasn't right of me to just… call you my big brother and… well, expect you to be okay with that. I understand now. You didn't want to be my big brother and… you just didn't want to say anything. I get that now."

This made Dusk feel even worse. "Fluttershy, I…"

"No, it's fine, I get it," she said quickly, her eyes glistening with tears. "I mean, I've never had a brother… I never had anypony until I met our friends… and you. You were always so… so k-k-kind to me and nice and it just really felt like I… I actually had a… well, you know. It was nice, but like I said, I'm fine… I won't call you that anymore if… if…"

Her speech had been broken up by little sobs and chokes throughout the whole thing, but now she couldn't keep it in any longer. Turning away from Dusk and burying her head in her legs, the tears began to flow freely and she started quietly sobbing, her body shaking and her head bowed.

Dusk felt tears of his own well up in his own eyes, the sheer guilt and shame now higher than the tallest spire of Canterlot. He'd never, ever meant to hurt any of his friends, especially not Fluttershy, in this way. He'd already done enough of that, back when-

Fluttershy, glaring cruelly at him, kicking dirt in his face and trying to be defiant. "Look at you; you think you're so big and tough. Who's tough now, tough guy?"

The magic cast, making those rabbits trample over her while she screamed, magic that he cast deliberately.

"Certainly not you!" The laughing, that cruel, tormenting laughing, grating away at his mind-

Dusk screwed up his eyes and suppressed those memories again. It wasn't getting any worse, but it certainly wasn't getting any better either. They were always there, a constant reminder that he had to be better than that, to stop them happening again. He was Unity, it was his duty to his friends and his home to do so, no matter how difficult it was.

It was this that made him approach Fluttershy and place a hoof on her shoulder.

"No, this isn't what I want… and I don't think it's what you want either, little sister," he said softly.

Her crying reduced, but her body still shook and she didn't turn around.

"But… but what about… with…?"

"She had a fight with her sister, I was just trying to help her until she fixed things." He drew in closer. "She was the one who called me that and I didn't want to say anything. But it wasn't exactly something I wanted, that much I can promise you."

The crying stopped, the shaking ended. Now she looked up, tear streaks staining her face, but a smile tugging at the corners of her mouth and hope shining in her eyes.

"So you… you…?"

"No matter what happens, or what anypony says, you are and always shall be, my little sister, Fluttershy," he promised, smiling back at her.

She was silent for a moment. Then, she let out a joyful squeal and threw herself around him. Because it was Fluttershy though, it was barely enough to stagger him and he gladly returned the embrace.

"Thank you, thank you so much… big brother." She pulled back, looking shamefaced. "I'm sorry for acting like that. It was… it was silly of me, but-"

"It's okay," he assured her. "If anything, I'm sorry for hurting your feelings like that. That was the last thing I wanted."

"Okay… apology accepted." She smiled again at him. "I'm just glad we're okay."

"Me too, just… never forget what I told you, okay?" She nodded brightly. "Besides, who says I can't have more than one sister."

"I guess," she giggled. "Well, since you're here, do you want to stay for some tea, maybe a bit of lunch? It's been ages since I've seen you."

"Actually, I-" He was cut off by another knock at the door. "Were you… expecting anypony Fluttershy?"

She shook her head and went to answer and Dusk was quite surprised when she heard her happily say, "Oh, hey Twilight! This is a nice surprise."

"Good afternoon Fluttershy," greeted Twilight, oddly formal. "I hope you're not in the middle of anything?"

Dusk frowned a bit. That sounded like an innocent enough question, but… there was something about the way Twilight said it…

The Pegasus, however, didn't seem to notice. "Not at all. In fact, I have another guest right now too. Please, come in."

"Really, who?" She stepped him and beamed when she laid eyes on Dusk. "Dusk, fancy meeting you here!"

Again, there was something off about that. It didn't seem very natural. It almost sounded… rehearsed. Maybe he was just thinking about it too much.

"Hello Miss Sparkle," he greeted, walking over to her. "I was just on my way back to the library-"

"Oh, I'm sure you were," she replied, cutting him off. "Because I know you said that you just wanted to help out Sweetie Belle, then come back. After a while, wondering where you could possibly be, I decided to go and visit Fluttershy, since I wasn't doing anything and, as luck would have it, here you are!" There was something a little cold in her smile now. "What are you doing here and, you know, not at the library?"

Still wondering why she was acting like this, Dusk was about to answer when Fluttershy cut in.

"Oh, I'm sorry I kept him Twilight, it's just that I was upset about something before and Dusk came over to make me feel better," she explained, looking a little ashamed of herself. "I think he was about to say he would head back, then you showed up and… well…"

Twilight blinked in surprise, but she still kept that smile. "It's okay, I understand completely. That sounds like something my Dusk would do." She stood beside him, her side against his. "He's just so understanding and caring like that."

"Um… thanks," Dusk said unsurely, pondering what had prompted this sudden display of affection. Not that he wasn't enjoying it.

"Oh he is," agreed Fluttershy. "You're lucky to have him, Twilight."

"Yes, I am aren't I?" She nuzzled Dusk's neck affectionately, prompting an even deeper blush.

"Glad that's all sorted then," noted Fluttershy. "We were going to have some tea and lunch, but if you need him back at the library…"

"Actually, now you mention it, I am a little hungry," put in Twilight. "Don't suppose you'd mind having an extra guest, would you?"

"Not at all, the more the merrier," she said happily. "You two make yourselves comfortable, I'll go prepare a few things."

"Take your time," Twilight called to her, as she flew into the kitchen. "Shall we, dear?"

"Um… sure," Dusk said, noting again her rarely used affectionate term. "You sure you're okay with this?"

"Oh yeah, of course," she said quickly. "I think it's important that we do other things together, don't you?"

"I suppose," he shrugged, taking a seat next to her. "Thanks for understanding, Twi."

"It's fine, anything for you right?" she added sweetly.

"The same extends to you," Dusk replied, trying again for a bit of a flirt.

"Aw, you're so sweet," she giggled. "But that's just one of things I really like about you."

"Heh… thanks…" Feeling both flattered and a tiny bit estranged, Dusk shuffled a bit on his cushion.

This didn't escape Twilight's notice. "You okay? Comfortable enough?"

"Sort of, I'm sure it'll be fine in a bit," he added to her.

"I can't have my coltfriend be shifting around like that," she insisted. "Hold on, I can make it comfier for you."

"Twilight, you don't have to-"

"No, I insist. Stand up, I'll fix this." He did as she asked, frowning a little at her while she performed a quick spell. "There, try it now."

Dusk did so and he wasn't sure what Twilight did, but he made a yelp of surprise when he practically sank into the cushion like it was quicksand and ended up being made a few inches shorter than he already was.

"Oh my gosh, sorry! Hold on, let me just…" She tried again and he sunk in even deeper. "Oops, wrong way round, I was supposed to make it harder again…" The pillow felt like a brick wall surrounding him when she cast her spell again. "But not now, because now you're stuck. One more try…" This time, the pillow literally spat him back out and he landed on the floor with a smack.

"Everything okay in there?" Fluttershy asked from the kitchen.

"We're fine, don't worry!" Twilight called back, helping Dusk to his hooves. "I'm so sorry Dusk, I didn't mean to do that."

"It's fine," he said, rubbing his head. "You were only trying to help. I'm sure you'll get it right this time…"

"Yeah, sorry, my mind was all over the place. But then, you know me don't you?" She laughed awkwardly while she cast her spell again. "That should do it."

Dusk sat down and, though he sank a little again, it was comfier. Though he could have done without the favour entirely. "That's fine… thanks Twilight."

"My pleasure, anything for you," she repeated, laughing awkwardly again and forcing a smile, which Dusk weakly returned.

Dusk was again wondering why she was being so affectionate. She usually was, but not to this degree. The rest of the time, she just acted as she normally did, with the occasional flirt or kiss on his cheek, but she didn't really have pet names for him or anything like that. She certainly never did anything like what she did before, unless she thought he needed it. The cushion incident just seemed unnecessary.

He sort of preferred it like that, but having her act like this was rather… strange.

Oh well, he thought to himself, when Fluttershy came out with the tea and some grass and dandelion sandwiches. Maybe he was overanalyzing it and soon she would return to her normal self.

"Are you sure everything's fine?" Fluttershy asked. "I don't mean to sound like a bother, but it sounded like somepony hit the floor pretty hard in here. Neither of you fell did you?"

"No!" Twilight's answer was both quick and loud, so she corrected herself, flushing red. "I mean… no, not at all. Everything's fine."

My head would say otherwise, Dusk thought, rubbing it but not saying anything.

"Alright then, sorry I asked." She set down the plates and tea, sitting opposite. "I hope you like these, sorry if they're not great. I didn't want to keep you waiting long…"

"I'm sure they're fine Fluttershy," Dusk assured her gently.

"Yes, me too," put in Twilight, scooting a little closer. "We're both appreciative of your efforts, Fluttershy."

"Indeed," Dusk agreed, blinking at her input as he picked up a sandwich with a spell, almost exactly the same time Twilight did. He was about to have a bite, when…

"Hold on, I just gotta check something." Twilight yanked the sandwich away with her own aura, lifting the bread and scanning the fillings. "Oh no, I have one more dandelion flower than you!"

"Twilght, it's not a problem-"

"Yes it is!" she insited. "The dandelion is the best part, now you don't have as much as I do, so you won't enjoy your sandwich equally!

Fluttershy gave a little gasp. "Oh dear, I didn't realise…"

"It's fine, you didn't know," she comforted. "Hold on, I'll soon fix that…" She lifted out the fillings of both sandwiches and held them before her.

Dusk tried to say something, but she kept holding up her hoof to silence him while she concentrated. Resigned to simply watch, Dusk tried to keep track while Twilight started to sort through the fillings, now and again muttering to herself out loud in thought. She moved grass here, added dandelion there, mixed the two together, separated them both, added them again, spun them around, turned them around, mixed them up, diced them up, sliced them up-

Dusk's headache was getting worse just from watching and he just gave up trying. Fittingly, this was around the same time Twilight finished and put the sandwich back down on his plate, beaming happily.

"See, now we both get equal sharing!"

To Dusk, neither sandwich looked that much different than before. But, not wanting to seem unappreciative of her efforts, he took the sandwich and smiled his thanks when he took a bite out of it, just glad to be eating.

"Phew, I'm relieved that was solved," put in Fluttershy, taking one of her own. "I almost messed it up for you two."

"Again, it's fine, you didn't know," Twilight said. "Just be a little more careful in future."

"Oh I will, I promise," she said quickly.

"It wasn't such a big problem," Dusk murmured, levitating the tea pot over.

"I can get that for you Dusk," Fluttershy suggested. "You're my guest, so I think it's only fair. Also, I need to make up for the sandwich fiasco."

"It's fine, you don't-"

"Wait!" Twilight put in. "I'll do that for you, dear. After all, I am your marefriend."

"Oh yes, of course, that was rude of me to assume," Fluttershy muttered, backing off quickly.

"Twi, I appreciate it," Dusk said, "but you really don't-"

"Don't be silly, of course I do," she said in response, along with a nervous laugh. "What kind of marefriend would I be if I didn't?" Without waiting for his say so, she levitated the pot and started pouring him a cup. "So, what happened before I showed up? What were you guys up to?"

"Not a whole lot," Dusk said, starting to get a little alienated by her strange behaviour.

"Actually, Dusk came to visit me after the Sisterhoof Social," Fluttershy put in. "I was upset about… well, it was kind of silly, really."

"Not if I hurt your feelings because of it," Dusk pointed out. "You were really sad about it."

"I know, but it wasn't entirely um, your fault," she replied, "and, now I think about it, it wasn't such a big deal."

"It is where my little sister is concerned."

"In all fairness though, I really should have-"

"Anyway," Twilight cut in loudly, "what exactly was it you were upset about?"

Alienated and annoyed, Dusk thought to himself. Twilight was never normally this rude when it came to talks with their friends. That was usually Rainbow or Pinkie that couldn't wait to speak about something.

"Oh. Well, um, you see," Fluttershy stuttered, equally taken aback from Twilight's impatience, "I heard Sweetie Belle calling Dusk her big brother and since me and him are… well, you know, I thought that he'd… replaced me. It was silly of me, I know that now, I shouldn't have thought like that, but I just… um… sort of…"

"I see, I see," Twilight replied, still pouring the tea. "So, how did you two sort that out in the end?"

"I just came over, said I was sorry… that's about it," Dusk told her.

"Right, right." She was silent for a bit, the only sound came from the liquid splashing into the cup. "So, what about after?"

Dusk was confused. "After what?"

"After you two made up? How did you end on it?"

"I still… don't understand what you mean." He looked at his cup and noticed something. "Um, Twi?"

"I mean, did you shake hooves, did you just say sorry, what did you do?" she asked in quick succession, her attempt at a casual tone gradually leaving.

"We… hugged-"

"I hugged him, really," put in Fluttershy.

"But that's it." He raised an eyebrow at her. "Why did you want to know?"

"Oh, no reason, I'm just taking an interest in what you do, that's all."

"Um, Twilight," Fluttershy whispered, "I think you should-"

"Hold on Fluttershy, I'm talking to Dusk right now," she interrupted curtly.

Dusk knew what she was trying to say and tried his hoof. "Twilight?"

"What? Is it wrong for a marefriend to take an interest in her coltfriend's life?"

"Twilight!"

"No need to raise your voice Dusk, I think it's perfectly natural for me to-"

"Twilight, I'm trying to- AGGGGGH!"

Dusk's scream was what made her finally notice that, because she had been so distracted from the conversation, that she had not only she overflowed his cup, but she was still pouring from the teapot and gradually moving it away from the table because her concentration was off. Unfortunately, it had been right above his lap.

"Oh no!" She stopped immediately and pressed a hoof to her mouth. "Are you okay?"

"Ngh… yes," Dusk replied, once the pain subsided. "I'm… I think I'll be… ugh…" He clutched his head again, trying to shake off his headache.

"Oh my, that sounds bad." Fluttershy hurried around the table and hovered over him, examining him. Dusk could see, behind her, Twilight had started to move forward and was now silently fuming about something. "Ooh, I think you have a headache."

"It's nothing…"

"He's been getting those for a while," Twilight informed her, still sounding put out. "Ever since he started taking lessons with Luna. She's been putting him through his paces."

"Oh dear, you poor thing." Her pitying gaze was suddenly replaced by a stroke of inspiration. "What you need is a bit of time to relax and I know just the thing."

"Really, you don't need to-"

"Actually, I think she has a point," Twilight agreed. "You need to do something that'll help relax you, put your mind at ease for a bit. Something the both of us can do."

"Right…" he replied, noting the emphasis she put on that. "What did you have in mind, Fluttershy?"

Though he did ask, he had a guess at what she would say before she said it. "Come on, you need a trip to the spa!"


Dusk felt truly relaxed now he was at the spa. When before his head had been drilling away from all the stresses that had been weighing upon it, thanks to both Luna's teaching and Twilight's insistence on the practice, it had now been soothed to the point he could barely notice it. A massage, session in the steam room and now some time in the Jacuzzi were taking care of that.

Considering as well that there was still some mud in his fur from his session at Sweet Apple Acres, getting properly clean was an added bonus.

It wasn't just the relaxing treatments that had helped though. He had hoped that a little session at the spa would be good for Twilight too and, while she had agreed with that, she had taken the exact same treatments that he was. She'd been right next to him on the massage beds, warning the masseuse to keep her hooves above his waist and in the steam room, which had felt even hotter with her directly beside him.

Normally, he would have been glad for the added time she was spending with him and for the closeness they were sharing, but now he was starting to feel a little uncomfortable with just how close she had been getting almost from the second he'd seen her today and how… well, protective she was being. He hadn't really taken notice before, but now he could really see how possessive she was starting to get, how determined she was to spend every second with him.

The question was what exactly had brought this on. She was usually just fine at the library, both when they were working and when he left for a bit to get lunch. She'd always been okay with that before, but why was she now so dead set on not letting him have even a moment to himself? Why was she acting so hostile to other ponies, not just to strangers, but to their friends as well? First to Rarity yesterday and Fluttershy for some of today.

What was wrong with her and what's more, what exactly should he do?

"Ah Dusk, finally having some time to yourself?" He looked to see Rarity climbing in the hot tub with him.

"Hey again Rare. Yes, I am," he affirmed, lying back in the hot water.

Rarity and Sweetie had been here when they arrived. The younger had started towards them, but the elder had held her back, obviously wanting to respect their privacy. All the while though, Dusk had occasionally caught her looking over at him and Twilight, always averting her gaze when he noticed quite easily. Subtle, but he'd noticed still.

Sweetie was now getting a hooficure on the other side of the room and Twilight had gone with Fluttershy for a mud bath. After Dusk had declined, saying he'd been in enough mud for one day and the Pegasus had politely asked her to come, Twilight had to go off with her, leaving Dusk on his own for the first time in what felt like an age. In his mind, he felt that was what had helped relax him a little since she'd left.

Rarity, obviously waiting for some chance, had now come over. So, what was she now looking for?

"Always a good thing, to be certain. Especially when the place you get it at is the spa." She let out a sigh and sank into the water. "There really is nothing like it."

"Can't argue with that," Dusk nodded. "How are things with you and Sweetie now?"

"Oh wonderful, things couldn't be better," she told him happily. "She was at first a little reluctant about the idea of the spa, but I managed to convince her otherwise."

"That's good, but remember it's not all about you," he reminded her.

"I know, that's why we came to a compromise. We spend some time at the spa, but she gets to be the first to style my mane when we get back to the Boutique," she reported.

"That seems fair," he agreed. "I never really understood the appeal of doing anything like that with a mane, really, if you don't mind my saying."

"It's quiet fun really, a chance to be creative." Her eyes lingered on his. "I'm sure that, if you give me the chance…"

"Rarity, we've discussed this. I know you mean well, but I prefer my mane as it is."

"Fine, fine, your loss darling," she shrugged. "But pleasantries aside, I think you and I know why I'm here."

"I'm… not entirely sure what you mean," Dusk replied, not dishonestly.

"I think you do, because I've been watching you and Twilight since you came here and I've seen enough to know that things aren't quite right with you two."

"Oh… you noticed?"

"I did. Now, what's happened?" she asked promptly.

"I'm… I'm not entirely sure Rarity. I don't even know if there even is a problem," Dusk admitted.

"Well, explain it to me as best you can," she encouraged. "I'll do my best to advise on the situation."

With the occasional pause for thought or just general embarrassment, Dusk told Rarity about Twilight's rather strange behaviour, explaining that, while enjoyed the two of them being close, what she was doing now just didn't feel natural to him. Rarity just listened, her brow furrowed in thought until he was finished.

"I see…" She thought for a few more moments before continuing. "I think I know what's happened here and I think you should talk to Twilight about it."

"What is it though?" he asked.

"That's not my place to tell you, it's hers," she dismissed. "It's not for me to tell you and it's for you to find out. I know it might be difficult, but you need to speak with her about this."

"Right…" Dusk wasn't exactly thrilled by the prospect. How was he supposed to bring this up without offending her?

Rarity seemed to sense his discomfort and placed a hoof on his shoulder. "Dusk, I know it may not seem everything is perfect right now, but remember that, no matter what happens, you two are just beginning your relationship and your still learning."

"That much I do know," Dusk muttered sadly. "Look at me, I don't even know what's bothering her. What kind of coltfriend am I?"

"One that cares enough about his marefriend that he's willing to try and find out," Rarity said. "He might not be the most experienced, but that doesn't mean he can't be."

"You… you think so?"

"Have I ever lied to you

"I… I suppose you're right." He smiled gratefully at her. "Thanks again Rare."

"My pleasure darling. After all, somepony needs to help you along a bit."

"Ahem." Their heads shot up to see Twilight, her eyes fixed on Rarity's hoof. "You don't mind if I cut in, do you?"

"Not at all Twilight, I was just getting out," Rarity said, removing her hoof at once and retreating away, but not really losing her cool. "I'll leave you two alone."

"Thank you." Twilight watched her leave, then climbed in next to Dusk. "Hey Dusk, did you miss me?"

"Yes, um, I did…" Even in the wake of Rarity's conversation, Dusk knew this wasn't going to be easy to bring up.

Twilight didn't miss his discomfort. "What's wrong? Is the water too hot or do you want to go somewhere else?"

"No, no, I'm fine, really. It's just…" He sighed, took a deep breath and turned to face her. "Twilight I… I need to talk to you about… something."

"What about?" Suddenly, dread formed on her face. "Oh no, you've noticed haven't you? Oh, Fluttershy was right, I didn't want to admit it, but she was right."

Now as well as feeling bad, Dusk was confused. "Noticed? Noticed what?"

"Noticed this, all I've been doing. I tried but… but…" She groaned in distress and looked worriedly at him. "Dusk, I'm so sorry that you've been getting tired of doing nothing but studying, but I tried, I really tried to go along and do something different. I don't want this to end, there's still so much we need to learn, so much we need to-"

"Twilight, wait." Though his voice was quiet, it was enough to silence her. "Please, don't start getting worried again. I don't want to… to end this, that's the last thing I want. But explain to me, please, what you mean by what you've been trying to do."

Twilight still looked a little panicked, but she shook her head, took a few breaths and turned to look back up at him.

"Okay… well…" She paused for a moment before resuming. "I went to Rarity's yesterday to try and find you, because of something Spike said to me and later, I got the same thing from Rarity. I didn't believe it at first and I tried to see something that might prove otherwise, but I had to accept it. From almost the second we became a couple, all we've ever done with our time is study and practice magic. I enjoyed it though, I thought it was really fun and I thought you did too… turns out I was wrong.

"So today, after you left to do the Sisterhoof Social, I followed you, to see what you would do. If you came back to the library, then it would prove I was right and you weren't bored of studying… of me. But you didn't. You went to see Fluttershy and I got scared. I tried to do something with you, spend time as a couple that wasn't reading a book, like they told me I should do, but I just kept messing it up. I should have realised sooner, but I was too busy caught up in what I was enjoying to ask if you felt the same."

Dusk caught a tear trickling down her cheek. "I'm sorry I never noticed sooner, but… I don't want this to end… I don't want it…" She bowed her head, but Dusk could see her face still reflected in the water.

Recalling now all the times he had been annoyed or frustrated with his studies, Dusk felt truly awful for feeling like that. Once again, he'd inadvertently hurt somepony and made them worry, because of his ignorance and his lack of action. They'd only been like this for a few weeks and he had no idea it meant this much to her already, in a sense at least. His first thought was to wallow in his shame and perhaps even leave completely, just as he usually did.

But no. Not this time. Not anymore, not when he still had a chance to fix this. To be honest and speak his mind. It was this that drove him to gently lift up Twilight's head by her chin and lock his emerald eyes with her violet ones.

"Twilight, I… I had no idea. I guess that's just me being an idiot, as usual," he added. "But I'm not entirely blameless. I should have spoken to you and said something, but I didn't want to disappoint you, I hate doing that. I don't mind studying with you, I really don't, but… if I'm going to be honest, and please don't hate me for this, I… I wouldn't mind… doing something different with you, now and then. Not all the time, we can still study and I still want to be with you, but… well… something else different wouldn't hurt."

Twilight sniffed, but hope was returning to her face. "R-really? You… you're not bored with me?"

"Twilight, I could never be bored of you. That much I can promise you." His hoof drifted until it found hers. "But I just don't want to study with you, which I still like, mind you. I want to make our time special, memorable because… because you… you're special and exceptional to me."

He hoped that wasn't too much. Would she be mad at him, exasperated with him because she saw what he said as corny? Had he ruined things completely when he could have-

His thoughts were cut off when Twilight pressed her lips against his. Shocked, but relaxing into it, he felt her feather lips caress his and remind him of just how true what he had said was. When they broke apart, she was smiling again and so was he.

"So… we're good?" he asked.

She giggled and snuggled into his neck. "Yes, we're good. Thanks for being honest with me. Eventually," she added in a mock annoyed tone.

"Yeah, sorry… I can be an idiot at times."

"I know, but you're my idiot," she said, with a slight blush.

Dusk relaxed into their moment… until he noticed that everypony in the spa was staring at them. Some, like Rarity and Fluttershy, had adoring looks on their faces, others like Sweetie Belle, were disgusted at the public display of affection.

Twilight noticed too and glared around at them all. "Do you guys mind?" They all hurriedly returned to business and they returned to theirs.

Back at the library, they started to dictate their report to Spike.

Dear Princess Celestia

Like when you have friends, having a partner means the two of you should share time together and do what you enjoy. However, even this can get a little tedious after a while, no matter how much you might enjoy it and can ruin things for the both of you. But you need to remember to be honest and to say what you think, otherwise no problems will be fixed and neither of you will be happy.

Find something else you both like and share in that, but always remember to make it special and wonderful, because that's how it should be.

Your faithful subjects

Twilight Sparkle and Dusk Noir.

"Great, that's the soppy quota met," Spike remarked when he had finished. "Right, I'm off to see Rarity."

"The Boutique is certainly getting popular these past few days," Twilight remarked. "Why the sudden visit?"

"For one thing, it gives me a break from you two and, because everypony's got reports to do now, I'm a busy dragon," he told them. "Besides, do I need an excuse to gaze upon true beauty."

"I suppose not," Dusk shrugged, allowing his own gaze to linger on Twilight as she blushed. "Have fun Spike."

"He's certainly determined, at least," Twilight noted when he'd gone. "So, do you want to practice some more or do you want to do something else?"

"Actually, I want to show you how much better I've gotten." He let her stand back and proceeded to proudly show her the extent he'd improved since practicing with Sweetie Belle the previous day. "You see, I don't neglect my work entirely."

"You certainly don't." She beamed happily at him. "Dusk, this is a great improvement, well done. How did you manage it?"

Dusk only smiled. "I guess I just needed a little imagination."

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