KNOCK KNOCK KNOCK.
Rainbow Dash's eyes slowly creaked open, and the stark white blindness that immediately filled her vision told her that she had woken up too early. Sluggishly, Rainbow rolled over to the other side of the bed as her vision came back. She stared at the old Wonderbolts clock hanging on the wall, one of the first things she had put up in her current house, and one of the only things that she had kept from her childhood room. She had to squint a little bit, but the clock read that it was 10:30 AM. Dash let out a long groan; that was far too early for her standards.
KNOCK KNOCK KNOCK.
At 10:30 AM, Rainbow Dash was not the fastest mare in Ponyville; in fact, she was quite the opposite. She lumbered out of bed at a snail's pace and did a little stretch, letting out a long, drawn out yawn in the process, before beginning to make her way towards the door. Whoever was at the other end fervently whacking at the door like a maniac better have had a good reason to, or Rainbow wouldn't be in the best of moods for the rest of the day.
Dash violently opened the door to see one of her best friends, Rarity Belle. She had a worried expression on her face, which caused the ire building up through Dash's system to slowly wash away at the sight of her friend in distress.
"Sorry, Rare; just a little early in the morning for me. Something up--wait, how did you get up here?" Dash said. It took a moment for Dash to put everything together, but Rarity was standing on the doorstep to her house in the clouds. Only pegasi could walk on clouds, and Rarity didn't have any wings at the moment as she did during the Best Young Flyer Competition. There also wasn't anything in the sky for miles that couldn't have taken Rarity up to the house, leaving Rainbow Dash befuddled.
"Not important, darling. I came to talk about Twilight. She still hasn't come out of the castle. It's been four days," said Rarity.
Rainbow had no reply to that. It was true; Twilight Sparkle hadn't been seen around Ponyville for four days. Rarity and Dash had first talked about it, they had assumed that she was doing some important experiment and couldn't be disturbed, or that she was simply out of town and forgot to tell anypony. The latter would be highly unusual for Twilight, so they took that one out of the equation, leaving only the former. Because of this, Rarity had sent a letter to Princess Celestia asking her if she had been commissioned to do anything special for the crown.
On the third day Twilight had no-showed, she replied back. Twilight wasn't doing any experiments or particularly intense research, Celestia had said; she ended the letter by remarking that if there was anything they could do to check up on her, she would like them to do so. The group decided to wait a day and see if she came out; here was day four, and she was still not among them.
"We're really worried, Rainbow. The reason I came was because I wanted everyone to come with us to check on her. I know you may have other things planned, so-" began Rarity, but Rainbow cut her off.
"I'll go, but I'm doing it alone. If it is something serious, though I seriously doubt it is, she won't want a crowd of ponies breathing down her back to talk about it. Plus, if it isn't something serious, we won't have wasted everypony's time. I know you have a boutique to run, Rare, and I know Applejack has her farm and Flutters has her pets and Pinkie's got her shop; everyone is busy, so I won't bother them with it. Besides, who better to talk to Twilight than myself, in all my charismatic awesomeness?" said Rainbow. Rarity raised an eyebrow.
"And what about you, Darling? You're on the weather squad," she remarked. Rainbow showed a wide grin.
"I got the day off today. I was going to spend it watching the hoofball game, but...Twilight's way more important. Let me get ready, and I'll go on down there." Rainbow was about to walk back into her home, but she heard Rarity cry out from behind her.
"Wait! I, uh...I need you to help me get down," she said. Rainbow turned back to her with a confused look. She turned her head and looked around, and after failing to see any way Rarity could have gotten up on her doorstep, Dash gave a long, drawn out sigh, and waived her hoof towards the doorway.
"Come on in. And try not to do anything else impossible while you're here."
* * * * * *
Rainbow Dash had a tendency to forget that Twilight now resided in a giant, illustrious castle that shimmered with the midday sun. It didn't seem long ago that Twilight lived in the cozy Golden Oaks Library; Rainbow still remembered the aroma of book paper, simple yet elegant wooden encasement that surrounded her. Putting the library in a tree seemed absurd when one thought of it, but it actually worked splendidly; whenever Dash was inside, curled up with a nice book, she always felt nice and comfortable.
This was a far cry. The castle seemed like a place Daring Do would care to explore, with the metallic gleam of the crystalline tree branches gleaming with a luster Rainbow had never before seen in her life. The beautiful branches sprawled across the castle and got thinner as they went up, as if they had a mind of their own and were ready to pull it into the earth. Rainbow chuckled as she walked closer, hoping that particular scenario would never occur; based on her past adventures, however, she wouldn't be surprised if such a thing ever happened.
It took a while for Twilight to get used to the place, but with a little help from her friends, she was eventually able to call it home. Rainbow was glad, as while she wasn't the smartest pony in the world, she knew that's Twilight's comfort and happiness were essential to a great deal of things, and now that she was finally comfortable, everything in Ponyville could run smoothly.
Or so she thought.
After a few minutes had passed, Rainbow had made her way across the rolling green plains surrounding the castle to its front door. It looked to extravagant to even be real; a huge, golden door, ominously looming above her. It looked fancy, but Rainbow had to keep reminding herself that Twilight was a friend, and that her new image needn't affect her in any way. Rainbow drew her hoof back and knocked loudly on the door three times.
There was a long silence. Rainbow found herself admiring the architecture of the castle, and found it hard to believe it was naturally made. Everything was flawless; the crystals were in perfect form, and there wasn't a scratch on the purple that flowed throughout the exterior, if it was even paint. Just when Rainbow looked back down and drew her hoof back for another set of knocks, the wide door slowly began to open.
Not all the way, though. The head of one Spike the Dragon poked out from the bottom of the massive door, and he left it creaked open just enough so that Rainbow could not get a good look inside. It was then that she knew something was very wrong, and that this would be no routine visit.
"I'm here to see Twilight. It's been awhile since anypony has seen her, and we're all really worried about her. Can I come in?" Rainbow asked. Spike looked down to the shiny silver floor, and didn't bring it up when he finally addressed her.
"Twilight told me not to let anypony in, under any circumstances. I'm sorry, Rainbow, I'd love to hang out, but Twilight really doesn't want anypony bothering her, so I guess I'll see you later." Spike tried to close the door, but Rainbow Dash promptly held the door with her hoof. Spike tried to force the door away from her, but there was simply no point; Rainbow's athleticism prevailed, and her superior strength allowed her to rip the door from his grip instead.
"Come on, now," began Rainbow with a smug grin on her face. "These are the hooves that beat Applejack in a hoof wrestling contest. You have no chance, Spike. I'm coming in." Spike looked up at her for a second before sighing, and motioned Dash to come in with his head hung in defeat.
"Thank you," Rainbow said with a satisfied tone. She walked through the door to be greeted with the awesome extravagance that was the interior of Twilight's Castle. After marveling the structure privately, Dash turned back to Spike.
"Where is she?" asked Rainbow. Spike stayed silent for a second, and Rainbow could tell now more than ever that something was wrong; Spike was worried about her, too, but there wasn't a lot he could do about it since he was going to obey every order Twilight gave him.
"She's in her room," he said softly. Rainbow Dash stopped for a moment, wondering if Spike would spill anymore about the situation at hand, but he did not; instead, he merely walked back into a different section of the castle, presumably to his own quarters. Rainbow turned back to the main hallway, and, slowly, began the make her way to Twilight's bedroom.
Rainbow didn't pay too much attention to the scenery around her. She probably would have, though Spike's tone of voice left her thinking about Twilight's now apparent plight, whatever it happened to be.
Did somepony die? Did Celestia say something to her? No, she couldn't have, she'd have said so in the letter. Not a lot can bring that mare down; she's tougher than I am, and that's saying quite a bit. Whatever this is, it's a really big deal. I'll have to be prepared if it's something I won't be able to understand.
That was Rainbow's biggest fear. Now that Twilight was an Alicorn, a high and mighty goddess amongst the mortals, she figured there would be things going on that she just wouldn't understand. As much as Twilight claimed otherwise, there was now, and there always will be, a separation between her and everypony else. She had a new outlook on the world, the universe, and how it worked, and as a result, there were going to be things that the rest of her friends just could not understand. Rainbow hadn't experienced anything of the sort just yet, but she was really hoping today wouldn't start the record.
Before she knew it, she was there. The Princess did not have an extravagant entrance to her quarters; it was very plain and humble, a small wooden door that could have belonged to a small shack. Rainbow knew that it wasn't the look of it that made it important, but rather where that particular door had been before it had been moved. Smiling at memories, Rainbow proceeded to knock at the door.
"Go away, Spike," came a voice from the room. Rainbow mimicked the sound of a game show buzzer with her throat before beginning to speak in an overly dramatic voice.
"Incorrect! You have one more try: would you like to phone a friend?" she asked.
"Go away, Rainbow," came the voice from the other side. Rainbow Dash chuckled to herself before replying.
"Aw, Twi, I'm disappointed. You'd think after all these years, you'd know your friend a bit better than that. I'm coming in to check on your well-being if it's the last thing I do!" she said mockingly. It was during her spiel that the door handle had caught her eye. She turned the handle just for kicks, and the door slowly began to creak open.
She didn't lock it? Okay, something is bad, thought Rainbow. She slowly opened the door and crept into Twilight's bedroom, before gently shutting it behind her.
Nothing in Twilight's room was out of the ordinary. It was still the neatest thing Rainbow had ever laid her eyes upon; so neat, in fact, that she reminded herself to straighten up her place once she got back. The picture frames hanging from the walls were perfectly centered, nothing was on the carpeted floor (not even dust, Rainbow noticed), and the paint on the room itself looked like it was freshly applied. When Rainbow was satisfied with that inspection, she turned her attention to her best friend.
Twilight was laying in her bed, which was at the northern side of the room, against the wall. She was turned away from the door frame, so Rainbow couldn't see her face. The only thing poking out from the covers was her mane, which was extremely unkempt; Rainbow could tell then that she had moved for a while. Twilight hadn't said anything since Rainbow arrived, so Rainbow took two more steps forward and tried to get a conversation going.
"We've been real worried about you, Twi. I came to see if you were alright. Is...is everything okay?" she asked. Nothing happened for a few moments, and then Twilight turned around to face her.
Her face was bright red, and Rainbow knew it wasn't from embarrassment; she had been heavily crying recently. Rainbow could also make out a black ring around her eyes, clearly indicating that she hadn't slept for a while. Her countenance was the worst part; Rainbow couldn't have explained it, but it seemed frustrated and saddened at the same time, like a hoofball coach who had just lost the championship on a blown call. That situation was trivial, however, and this one was clearly wasn't.
"No," she began. Her voice was cracked and unsteady, further supporting Rainbow's suspicions. "I'm not. I really think it's best for you to go, Rainbow. It's not that I don't like you, it's just...I can't imagine I'm pleasant company." Rainbow didn't immediately respond. Instead, she walked over to the bed and sat down next to the ailing princess.
"Well, let's fix that," she began. "Penny for your thoughts?" Twilight sniffled a little bit and then, to Rainbow's relief, began to talk.
"I fell in love. Badly. To the point where it's always on your mind, and it occupies every waking moment. Just like the damn stories," began Twilight. Rainbow sighed, having finally found the problem, or so she thought; when she was about to speak, Twilight cut her off to continue.
"I wasn't rejected, if that's what you're getting at," said Twilight, a sharp tone in her voice. Nothing this, Twilight's facial expression relaxed, and she took a deep breath. "I didn't even talk to them." she said softer. Rainbow nodded, acknowledging the statement. Twilight continued.
"I'm immortal, Rainbow. Sometimes, I have to stop and think, and it's just so crazy! I just whisper sometimes to myself, "I'm going to live forever." Everything that adventure tales from thousands of years ago, the songs, the Daring Do books, have portrayed, I'm living! I'm so thankful that I'm surrounded by the best friends I could possibly have, and so, so incredibly honored that I was chosen for this role. But...then you think of the downsides.
"You will die, Rainbow Dash. All ponies do, except for me. I'll get to see my parents, my best friends, even Spike, after a while, die before me, and I won't be joining them. I guess I'll get used to it, like Celestia and Luna, but right now, this is totally new to me. So here I am, just completely smitten in every way possible, and then it hit me. I...I...I can't love, R-Rainbow. Whoever I take, they'll die before me. And the heartless cycle will repeat itself for eternity, and I'd just have to keep watching it. How would they feel? How it be to see yourself getting older, as your mane turns gray and your bones get brittle, and your special somepony...they don't change. It's almost like they're mocking you, even if they don't mean it. You see? It's like I'm trapped in some sort of heart shaped box, and the thought of love is all around me, and yet...I can do nothing. That's...that's it, Rainbow. That's what's got me down. And honestly...I don't know if I even wanna get out of it.
"I still want to have the feeling. The feeling that just maybe, there's a possibility. I really care about this pony, Rainbow, and if I move on...what type of mare am I going to even become? What's a mare who can't love? What will that turn me into? I know, you look at Celestia, and she still has time to be the best and most wonderful mare there is, and an even better ruler, but...I'm not her, Rainbow. I just..." Twilight took another deep breath.
"I'm sorry, Rainbow...I don't even know if you get me. I might just sound like a rambling mare who hasn't showered in four days. Or slept," she finished. Rainbow stayed silent, to see if Twilight had anything else to say, and when it was clear she did not, it was her turn.
"You're right," she began. "I couldn't even imagine what it would be like to be immortal. I can't help you get through that struggle. And as far as falling in love goes, my typical advice would be to just tell them how you feel. However...I see you kinda can't do that. But," she added, sticking her hoof up, "You're suffering from Depression, and I can help you with that." At those words, Twilight's face went from saddened to disbelief.
"Wait...you..." she began.
"Yep. Wow, it's been while. Let's see, um...I had just completed high school, barely, and I'm not the smartest of ponies. I wasn't gonna make it to college, Twilight. I tried for some athletic scholarships, but I never got anything back. That hurt pretty badly, looking back. I guess nopony thought I was a good enough athlete for them; they all thought what I did, I wasn't ever gonna do again. Heh, look what they missed out on." Rainbow got exactly what she wanted, as Twilight let out a short laugh.
"I tried out for the Wonderbolts. That was my dream, for as long as I can even remember. That's what I wanted to do. So they had this open try out at Cloudsdale Stadium, and everypony went in, did some drills, some stunts, and at the end, they called out who they wanted back the following week to begin narrowing down the pool."
"You weren't among them," said Twilight. Rainbow nodded her head.
"No, I was not. It all seems trivial, doesn't it? Almost stupid. A mare doesn't get another tryout to the most prestigious pegasi athletics organization and she spirals into depression. Well, that's exactly what happened. I...felt like I had nothing left. I felt like I was good at nothing else in the world, and that I would eventually be resorted to some common job like picking up trash or sitting behind a desk. So I wallowed around Cloudsdale for weeks. I know what it feels like, Twi; you're trapped in this bubble, and you just can't get out without somepony else. My parents wouldn't let me live with them because I didn't have a job, and I had nopony else that was willing to have me. Except for one," explained Rainbow.
"Fluttershy?" asked Twilight. Rainbow grinned and nodded her head once more.
"Yep, Fluttershy. Not only did she let me stay, but she told me something that changed my life forever. "Hey, I heard the Ponyville Weather Team was hiring." I know you know how hard it is to get on the weather team in Cloudsdale, but here? For somepony like me, it was a shoe-in. And it's one of the best things that ever happened to me. It may not seem like it, but I look forward to doing my job everyday, and that in turn allowed me to keep chasing my dream." Twilight seemed to be waiting for Rainbow to say something else, so she began to wrap it up.
"Look, Twilight, my point is...Fluttershy helped me out of the bubble. but it took months for that to happen, and I felt awful the whole time. I don't know how long you've been going through this, and I hope this is just the beginning, but--" Rainbow held out her hoof to Twilight. "--I'm here for you now."
Twilight looked at the hoof for what seemed like an eternity, but didn't take it. Instead, she slowly climbed out of her bed an locked Rainbow Dash in a tight hug. Rainbow was a little surprised, but quickly returned it; she felt a few tears drop onto her shoulder.
"Thank you," said Twilight softly." Thank you..."
They stayed there for quite some time. Rainbow wasn't sure when to let go, but it wasn't going to be her first, that was for sure. After Rainbow was certain at least five minutes had passed, Twilight finally let go.
"Hey, if you wanna stay at my place, you're more than welcome. I know you might wanna stay her for a little while longer, to think, but I was thinking we could go to Sugarcube Corner and make sure the girls know you're alive. If we're gonna go do that, you'll need to take a shower; you really need one. Might wanna do something about that mane, also. It's starting to look like mine." Twilight laughed for the second time that day, and her answer to Rainbow's proposal came quickly.
"I...think I would like that."