Twilight Sparkle will do anything in her power to find Pinkie Pie before it's too late
When Pinkie Pie disappears overnight with a mysterious gem, Twilight Sparkle will do anything in her power to find Pinkie and bring her back safe. But can Twilight find her in time, or will Pinkie's disappearance put everypony in Equestria in terrible danger?
Twilight Sparkle glanced between the head-sized gray gem resting upside-down on her library desk and the musty tome lying open beside it. Then she did so again. And once more, just in case.
"All right." Twilight licked her lips. "Here goes nothing..." The unicorn's horn lit up and a cloud of magenta magic swirled around the gemstone, growing denser by the moment. Twilight's eyes clenched tight and individual strands of her mane and tail started to waft lazily into the air, gravity temporarily having no power over them. The jewel vibrated, bouncing from edge to edge of the flat facet it rested on with soft but rapid taps. The lone candle lighting the library's main room flickered erratically but didn't go out, its light eclipsed by the arcane power flowing through the room.
Twilight groaned, her horn glowing brighter, small sparks of magic sizzling through the air as she pressed harder. The gem disappeared behind the opaque violet nimbus of power, but the pony could still feel it inside and she pushed as hard as she could, the gray stone rising into the air pointy tip first...
The spell ended and the gem fell back to the table. Twilight dropped to her haunches and let her chin fall to rest on the desk, not bothering to open her eyes. "Ugh," was all she bothered to mutter.
"Oogh?" asked a voice from much too close.
Twilight gasped and opened her eyes, pulling her head back to stare at the jewel. Nothing had changed. It was the same slightly translucent gray gemstone as before, with the same...
"Oh," the purple unicorn said, looking up right into Pinkie Pie's smiling face.
"Hi!" Despite being close enough to reach out and touch each other, Pinkie still waved vigorously.
"Hello, Pinkie," Twilight said around a yawn stifled behind a hoof. She stood up and blinked, rubbing at her eyes with the back of her hoof. "Isn't it a little early for a visit to the library?"
Pinkie giggled and shook her head. "Nuh uh, you're just a little late for a librarian!" The earth pony hopped away and tossed open the curtains, revealing the Sun in all its shining glory.
"Awgh! Okay!" Twilight covered her eyes and waved her free hoof wildly at the window. "I get it, it's morning!"
"Afternoon!" Pinkie chirped.
"Afternoon, fine! Wait, really?" Twilight peeked from around her hoof and blinked into the light. "Wow. I guess my all-nighter became an all-dayer."
Pinkie giggled and bounced back across the room past Twilight, right to the desk. She leaned forward, nose nearly touching the gem. "Oooh, is this what you've been doing for days? What is it? Is it a gift for Rarity?"
The purple unicorn looked between her friend and the stone several times. "Pinkie?"
"Doesn't it bother you that there's a giant eye floating inside the gem, staring right at you?" It was true: a bright yellow circular eye with an almost serpentine iris peered motionlessly from the center of the gray jewel.
Pinkie shrugged, still looking at the gem. "Most ponies stare at me a lot until they get to know me. I'm kinda used to it."
Twilight shook her head. "Nothing fazes you, does it?"
"Just the Moon!"
Twilight tilted her head slightly to the side. "The Moon?"
Pinkie looked over her shoulder at Twilight, grinning. "Yeah, the phases of the Moon! Get it?"
The studious unicorn blinked, then shut her eyes and let out a combination of a sigh and a quiet groan.
"Soooo, what is it?" Pinkie insisted, snuffling at the stone with rapid-fire puffs of air.
"I don't know, Pinkie," Twilight stepped away, beginning to pace. "Rarity found it on one of her gem-hunting trips into the hills. But it wasn't under the ground, it was just lying in some bushes. And no matter who is looking at it, from every perspective it seems like the eye is staring at you."
"At me?" The pink pony asked, before licking the gem experimentally.
Twilight stopped pacing. "No, I mean, when I look at it, I think it's looking at me. And if you look at it, even at the same time, you think it's looking at you."
"Ohhhhhhh." Pinkie stuck her tongue out and made a face. "It's not rock candy."
Twilight returned to pacing, seeming to ignore Pinkie's advances in the field of scientific experimentation. "I've tried every spell I can find to figure out what it is, or where it came from, or even if it's magical in nature, but... My spells just seem to dissipate around it."
Pinkie scooped the gem off the desk and held it up to the sunlight. "Maybe it doesn't want to be found out!" She stared at it through one eye, closing the other and sticking the tip of her tongue out of the side of her mouth.
The unicorn stopped pacing again and sighed. "I can't even tell if it 'wants' anything! For all I know I'm dealing with first contact with an alien species of non-biological life forms and... and..." Twilight dropped her head.
Pinkie put the gem back on the table and hopped over to stand side to side with her friend, giving her a gentle bump with her shoulder. "Aaaand?"
Twilight looked at Pinkie with a small, weak smile and leaned just a little against her. "And I'm really tired and haven't had a good meal all night and I'm making ludicrous assumptions and I should probably just sleep on it."
Pinkie raised one eyebrow. "That sounds really, really uncomfy."
Twilight's brows furrowed. "Huh?"
The earth pony turned to point at the gem. "Sleeping on it. I mean, it's all pointy and stuff. Or do you think maybe it's an egg?"
Twilight opened her mouth, then closed it and peered at her friend. "You knew what I meant and you're just playing with my mind, aren't you?"
Pinkie giggled and batted her eyelashes. "Mmmaaaaaayy-be."
The unicorn snorted, then pointed at the front door of the library. "Shoo. I'm going to sleep. Spike should be back this evening with the books I requested from the Canterlot Library. I think." Twilight glanced at the library clock. "I really, really lost track of time."
Pinkie bounced her way toward the door. "Lost track of time? Well, you bett--"
"No more bad puns!" Twilight cut in, stomping a hoof. "I don't think I can take any more without a good night's rest."
The earth pony bounced through the door. "G'ni' Twi!"
Twilight closed the door with a touch of magic and looked at her mess of books, scrolls, notes, ink, and quills. "Eh. I'll need all this later, anyway," she decided, trotting for the stairs to her bedroom. Halfway up she paused, glanced back at the gem, and chuckled under her breath. "Pfff. 'Sleep on it,'" she murmured.
"Gotcha!" Pinkie said, her beaming face popping up into the open window.
Twilight used magic to close the curtains on the pink pony's triumphant grin without a word and trotted up to bed, but the small smile on her face lasted until she was fast asleep.
Yes, very soon. Tonight.
Pinkie peeked just one eye over the windowsill into the library's silent, moonlit kitchen. "Hmmm," she hummed, her glance flicking all across the room, from stovetop to breadbox to counters. She pulled back, then double-flipped through the open window and into the kitchen, posing triumphantly with a filled muffin tray in her mouth. She set the tray down on the counter, then dropped low to the floor.
"Another late night baked good delivery mission successful," Pinkie whispered. She circled the kitchen floor several times, so low that her belly nearly touched the tile. "And that's why they call me Stealthie Pie!" Pinkie stopped moving about and shrugged. "Or, well, they would if they knew I was a late night baked good delivery secret agent pony."
The earth pony suddenly sat up straight. "But wait! My secret identity is at stake! Twilight might recognize the tray, and, well, Mrs. Cake iiiiiiis a little upset that her baking accessories are disappearing into the night." Pinkie giggled sheepishly, then pulled a serving plate out of Twilight's kitchen cabinet. She clamped her teeth onto the rim of the muffin tray and tilted her head, just about to shake the muffins out, when a flash of yellow from the main hall turned her head the other way. "Huh?" she said with a mouthful of kitchenware, trotting into the library proper.
The gray gemstone was hovering at eye level, rotating with the tip pointed down, but even as it spun the eye inside stayed trained right on Pinkie. The eye blinked, emitting an unwavering cone of yellow light trained on the approaching pony.
"Ooh, creepthy!" Pinkie garbled around the tray, her voice as chipper as ever. She stepped closer, her eyes flicking between the gem and the delicious treats just inches from her nose. She held up a hoof and dropped the tray onto it, offering it forward. "Muffin?"
Twilight attacked her mane with a brush, watching the progress in her bedroom mirror. "Eleven hours. I can't believe I slept eleven hours." She winced as a particularly stubborn knot of hair resisted the brushing. "My sleep schedule is totally messed up now," she lamented.
Twilight opened the door to her quarters and trotted down the stairs. Her horn glowed as she threw open all the curtains in the room, letting in the moonlight. "But I suppose it's a good thing Pinkie came by, or I might have passed out in the middle... of..." The purple mare stopped four steps from floor level, staring.
The gem was gone, an ovular patch of the library's flooring was stained a dull yellow, and a half-dozen muffins were scattered around the room with the rest pinned underneath the upside-down tray.
"And then I came down the stairs," Twilight continued, pacing back and forth before her assembled friends, Spike watching from the lowest step of the library stairs. The room was lit up by the lanterns several ponies had carried along. Twilight trotted over and pointed down at the yellow splotch on the floor and the nearby muffins. "And this! This is..." The energy suddenly went out of the unicorn and she dropped her hoof, closing her eyes. "This is all I found," she said, hardly more than a whisper.
Applejack stepped forward to rest a hoof on Twilight's shoulder. "Don't you worry none, sugarcube!" AJ grinned knowingly up at Rainbow Dash, who hovered in the air nearby. "What's the Weather Team's success rate for findin' missing ponies?" Twilight opened her eyes and looked up as well.
Dash crossed her hooves over her chest and grinned. "One. Hundred. Percent. Since I've been in charge, anyway. Don't worry, Twilight, we're on it!" The pegasus zipped through the nearest open window, the curtains rustling in her wake.
Applejack gave Twilight's shoulder a small shake. "I'll rustle up a search party at ground level, to look for tracks and such. You can put yer faith in us, Twi."
Twilight forced a weak smile onto her face. "Thanks, Applejack."
"A'course! We'll have Pinkie back safe and sound before you can say 'cinnamon apple cobbler!'" The farmer pony trotted out the front door, a lantern hanging from her snout.
Rarity smiled at Twilight. "I still recall the peculiar sensation I felt when my gemstone spell lead me to that... thing." Rarity's horn glowed and she stepped toward the exit, a lantern levitating along with her. "If I find anything you shall be the first to know!"
"I know that my animal friends will want to help, too," Fluttershy offered, patting Angel's head. The groggy bunny glared up at her with bags under his eyes. The yellow pegasus winced. "Well, um, at least the nocturnal ones."
"Thank you, Fluttershy," Twilight said, putting as much feeling as she could into it. Fluttershy smiled back and nodded, scooping up the last lantern with her mouth and closing the door behind her on the way out.
Twilight sighed and let her head droop again, sitting on the floor. Spike dropped down the last step of the stairs and moved to her side, putting a hand on her back. "What's wrong, Twilight?"
The unicorn didn't respond at first, the only noise in the room coming through the open windows as Applejack knocked on somepony's door and Rainbow Dash barked a command from the sky. Finally, Twilight stood up. "What's wrong?" She looked down at Spike. "What do you mean? Pinkie Pie is missing!"
Spike cringed a little. "Yeah, but--"
"Pinkie Pie is missing," Twilight continued, stepping across the room with firm hoofsteps. "And she's missing with the big, ugly gem thing!"
The little dragon raised a hand to Twilight. "Right, but--"
Twilight stopped, still facing away. "The big, ugly, mysterious gem thing that I couldn't figure out!"
Spike's eyes widened and his hand dropped to his side. "Oh."
Twilight stomped back across the room, staring straight ahead at a wall. "I didn't want to pester Princess Celestia about this, not this time." Twilight pointed at Spike without looking. "So I sent my assistant to Canterlot to get me more research material. Because I wanted to do this... I wanted to figure it out..."
The unicorn looked out a window, eyes unfocused. "Just this one time I wanted to unravel a mystery on my own. Not to have to bother my friends for help, or, worse yet, the Princess herself." Twilight looked over her shoulder at Spike. "Just once. To prove I can do it." Her eyes glistened. "Is that so much to ask?"
Spike shook his head quickly. "No! That seems pretty fair to me."
Twilight smiled. "Thanks, Spike. But..." Her eyes slid from the small dragon's face to the overfilled cart of books behind him. "Ohmygosh, right, that's the research material!" She teleported across the room and started levitating books up into the air willy-nilly, holding them there as she dug out more. "With all these searching and finding and divination spells I'm sure that one of them can locate Pinkie, no matter where she is!"
Spike chuckled and rushed forward. "Yeah! I'll help find--"
"No!" Twilight shouted, causing her assistant to slide to a stop. The books she had been levitating fell in a heap around the cart. The unicorn took a deep breath and smiled down at him. "I mean, maybe you could go and help Applejack's search party?"
"But, Twilight," Spike said, pointing at the cart. "That's a lot of books. Who else is going to help you go through them?"
Twilight bit her lower lip a moment before she spoke. "Spike, I caused this and I really want to do something on my own to try to fix it. I know it's stupid because Rainbow Dash will probably find Pinkie before I even crack open the second book, but... please?"
The dragon looked into her big, pleading eyes, then sighed. "Okay, fine, but only if you promise that if you do need help you'll ask!" Spike shook a finger at her.
Twilight chuckled and ruffled his headspines with a hoof. "All right, Dad, I promise."
"Hey!" Spike ducked away and smoothed his spines out. His exaggerated glare disappeared before he even made it to the front door. "Good luck, Twilight!"
"You too, Spike!" She closed the door gently behind him with her magic. Then she turned her attention back to the pile of books, levitating them up in twos and threes, a determined smile spread across her face. "All right, I can do this!"
'I can do this, I can do this!'
Rainbow Dash flew in a window and saluted. "Nothing to report, but now that the Sun is up I bet we'll find her before breakfast!"
"Thanks, Rainbow," Twilight said without looking away from the book she was reading, eyes passing across the page at a breakneck speed. She finished the last word, closed the cover, and moved it into the short stack of finished books to her right. Her quill scratched out several notes on the open scroll beside her.
'I can do this, I can do this!'
Applejack stuck her head in the same window Dash had flown out hours earlier. "Twi, now that everypony's had a hearty lunch we've got almost all'a Ponyville out there lookin'! Don't you fret!"
"Thanks, Applejack," Twilight said. Without moving from her desk the unicorn focused her eyes on the open book before her and concentrated. Her horn glowed intensely, then a quiet pop resounded through the library. Twilight let out a tiny sigh and dropped that book into the "read" pile as well. She added some notes to her scroll, then lifted a new book before her.
'I can do this. I can do this.'
A polite knock came from the library's front door.
'I can do this. I can do this.'
The knock came again.
'I can do this.'
Rarity looked in through the same window her other friends had used. "Oh, Twilight, there you are."
Twilight didn't reply, starting up another spell. A bowl of water before her rippled and swayed as the studious unicorn's spell influenced the liquid and formed currents. They swirled about as Twilight's horn glowed brighter, then brighter still, before the water turned to steam all at once and evaporated. The purple pony shook her head.
"Twilight? I have been following Applejack's very practical advice: I started here at the library and spiralled outward while using my spell. I... didn't find anything yet, but I did discover that the Mayor has quite the collection of jewel-encrusted glasses!"
Twilight just said, "Thanks, Rarity," and opened a new book, the pile of unread tomes more than half the size of the one on Twilight's other side. She added just a few words to her notes scroll.
"I will, of course, continue my search after dinner!" Rarity quickly offered, shuffling a hoof in the awkward silence that followed. "Um, yes, well, I will come see you if I find anything."
'I can do this.'
The polite knocking on the door lasted for several minutes this time before Fluttershy cracked the door open silently and stuck her head through. She squeaked and pulled back, then peeked in. "Um. Twilight?"
Twilight's horn hummed with power as she levitated a tree branch over her desk and slowly spun it in the air.
"I just thought you might want to know, we aren't giving up even though the Sun is going down. Fireflies are volunteering to go out with pony search parties to help look everywhere for as long as it takes."
Twilight spun the branch faster and faster, then pointed at the branch with a hoof and commanded, "Pinkie Pie!" The branch stopped, pointed straight down, pointed straight up, pointed at Twilight, pointed at Fluttershy, then burned to ash in the blink of an eye.
Fluttershy cringed and gulped. "I'll... let you get back to work." She backed out the door, closing it behind her, as Twilight's magic lifted the open book before her, closed it, and then slammed it down on top of the "read" pile. A single tally mark was drawn on the scroll at her side.
'I can do this...'
Spike let himself into the library, then did a double-take. "Twilight! You read all these books already?"
"Thanks, Spike," the unicorn mumbled, her horn glowing as she started up a new spell.
"Twilight!" Spike waved his hand back and forth in front of her face, her horn's magic going out.
"Huh?" She blinked twice, then focused on her assistant. "Oh, it's just you, Spike. Hang on." Her horn glowed again.
Spike watched as a magnet was lifted into the air. It spun clockwise, seven times, rose further into the air... then dropped back to the table top. Twilight nudged it with a hoof, then lifted a small metal rod off the table and touched it to the magnet. She sighed hard, eyes closed.
"What?" Spike asked.
"The magnet was supposed to hover in mid-air and point to where Pinkie is. Instead it lost all of its magnetism. Instantly." The book snapped shut with a burst of magenta magic, all without Twilight opening her eyes. "That shouldn't be possible," she said through gritted teeth.
Spike put a hand on his purple friend's shoulder. "Twilight, maybe you should take a nap."
The unicorn suddenly glared at him. "Nap? Nap?!" She pointed at the stack of books that still needed reading. "I can't very well nap when the secret to finding Pinkie might be right there in front of me!"
Spike crossed his arms, his jaw set. "Have you even eaten today?"
"No," Twilight growled. She tensed, then sighed, letting the scowl melt off her face. "No, I haven't. Could you please bring me something? Anything?"
"Yes, something-anything coming right up!" Spike said, jogging to the kitchen. "And then maybe a nap?" he asked as he started chopping up a head of lettuce.
Twilight didn't answer, already back to reading.
'I can... I can...'
The book under Twilight's nose disappeared. She rubbed her eyes with the back of a hoof and refocused on the empty spot on the desk in front of her, but shockingly it remained empty.
The purple unicorn turned around and saw her five friends in a semi-circle around her, with Spike standing next to her with the missing book in his hand. Twilight reached out for it with a hoof, but he pulled it further away from her.
Twilight stood up and stepped closer, wobbling. "Please, Spike, this isn't the time for foaling around."
"Twilight!" Applejack all but shouted, making both Twilight and Fluttershy jump in place. AJ waited until Twilight's eyes locked with her own before speaking. "From one workaholic to another?" Her tone softened and she smiled. "You gotta get some rest or you're just gonna be a useless lump."
Rarity nodded. "I'm positively hopeless with a needle and thread by the end of an all-nighter, and you've been up far longer than that!" She pointed to the cresting sunrise through a window.
"Why do you think I nap so much?" Rainbow Dash said. "They don't call them power naps for nothing!"
Every eye in the room turned to Fluttershy and she gulped. "Um. Uh. The... early bird gets the worm?" She smiled weakly and cringed.
Spike put Twilight's book back on top of the "to be read" pile. "Please, Twilight? And maybe a bowl of hot soup before you lie down?"
Twilight looked from friend to friend in the room, then back at the pile of books. "But--"
Spike twitched, then belched, the magical gout of flame he produced transforming into a scroll that Twilight plucked out of the air with her magic by reflex. She unfurled it and read out loud. "Dear Twilight Sparkle, Go to bed. Now. Rest well, signed, Princess Celestia. And Princess Luna." Twilight looked at Spike with what was meant to be a glare but was too worn by weariness to really pull off any menace.
Spike held his hands out in front of him. "I swear, I didn't send any letters! Pinkie Pr--" He cringed, then looked down. "I promise," he said quietly.
Twilight sighed and started to climb her stairs, one at a time. "Thank you, Spike, girls. Of course you're right. I should sleep." She glanced down at the pile of unread books. "And tomorrow I can be even more focused."
Applejack grinned. "That's the spirit!"
Spike chimed in. "I'll have something ready to eat the second you wake up!"
"Thank you." Twilight opened her bedroom door. A chorus of goodnights and sleep tights chased her through the door.
She flopped onto her bed and peeked at the door before levitating a book out from under her pillow titled Indigo Ingot's Investigative Invocations. Twilight yawned hard, then mumbled, "Just one more spell." She laid out on her back and levitated the book over her face, reading by the light of her horn.
Just seconds later Twilight was still, breathing slow and even with the book open across her face.
The rustling of a cool breeze through Twilight's mane woke her. She smiled and opened her eyes slowly, then froze in place with her mouth open.
She was standing on the edge of a cloud bank over late-night Canterlot, the tiny embers of lamps dotting the streets below with the royal palace dominating the scene.
"Hello, Princess Luna," Twilight replied, her eyes tracing the elegant curves of the palace.
"This is a lovely dream."
"Yes, it's a favorite of mine. It's just like the first time I ever saw Canterlot from a pegasus chariot at night." Twilight's smile widened for a moment, then dropped away. She stepped back from the edge of the clouds. "But sometimes, if I'm under a lot of stress before I go to sleep, I fall off the clouds and it turns into one of those awful falling nightmares that--"
Twilight froze. "Wait. How did I know this is just a dream?" She whirled around. "Ohmygosh, Princess Luna! I didn't mean to be so rude!" The unicorn dropped into a deep bow.
Luna chuckled and shook her head. "No, Twilight Sparkle, please rise. The fault is mine. I wished to enter your dream as gently as possible, but I may have entered it too gently."
Twilight stood slowly and asked, "So gently I didn't even realize you were there?"
Princess Luna smiled. "Precisely." The alicorn dipped her head and closed her eyes. "I must apologize for barging into your dream uninvited, but I assure you I would never have done so without quite the excuse. Please forgive the intrusion."
Twilight rapidly waved a hoof at the air, eyes wide. "No-no-no, Princess, it's all right! No need to apologize!" She dropped her hoof and tilted her head. "But, why are you here? Why now? Is there something I can help you with?"
Luna shook her head softly. "On the contrary, it is I who is here to provide you assistance. Or, at least, Pinkie Pie."
Twilight's breath stuck in her throat as she sat abruptly, tiny tufts of cloud spinning off from the impact. "Pinkie's okay?" was the first thing she managed to say, and even that was in a rather small voice.
"She is merely sleeping."
"I didn't... I mean..." Twilight took a deep breath and shuddered, looking down at the cloud between her forelegs. "I didn't even realize until now that there was a tiny part of me that thought maybe..." Her voice dropped even quieter. "Maybe she was gone forever."
Twilight leapt to her hooves. "But she's okay!" The purple pony hopped forward, smiling up into Luna's face. "And you know where she is?!"
The alicorn reached out to rest a hoof on Twilight's shoulder. "No." The younger mare's mouth opened, but Luna didn't let her start. "But, I can bring you to her."
Twilight blinked, then shook her head slightly. "I don't get it."
Luna turned and stepped away as she spoke, looking out to the horizon. "She is out there somewhere, dreaming and calling out for her friends. Any of you, all of you. And for the first time in my life, I am unable to enter a dream uninvited."
Twilight gulped, remaining silent.
"There is a shell around her that seems impenetrable, but the power of an invitation is great here." Luna looked over her shoulder at Twilight. "I believe that with my guidance and your natural talent you will be able to enter."
"And then I can find out where she is and bring her back safe!" Twilight danced from hoof to hoof.
Luna smiled and stepped back toward her sister's pupil. "And perhaps once you have recovered the gem, you will carefully bring it to Canterlot for study?"
Twilight stopped her dance and chuckled sheepishly. "Oh, you heard about that?"
Luna's smile didn't drop from her face. "One of the Elements of Harmony goes missing with a curious magical artifact and the entire village of Ponyville is mobilized to find her? These sorts of things do tend to reach the royal guard eventually."
Twilight scuffed a hoof at the cloud surface beneath it. "Heh, right. Sorry."
Princess Luna placed her hoof on Twilight's shoulder again. "No worries, Twilight Sparkle. Now close your eyes tightly and do not open them again until we've arrived."
The unicorn clenched her eyes shut. "Yes, Princess."
"And don't forget, you can just call me Luna."
Twilight gasped, or would have if she had a body. The very concept of keeping her eyes closed suddenly seemed alien, considering she no longer had eyes or or eyelids to close them with.
'But I promised!' Twilight told herself, 'So I won't look!'
She could hear, though, and she thought she heard... pink. She didn't know how she could hear a color, but she heard it just the same, a tiny but piercing dot of pink in the distance straight ahead. Just like she could feel the warm blue-blackness of Princess Luna guiding her. And if that feeling was Luna, then logically the pinkness... Twilight thought Luna said something, but there were no words, no sounds, just the knowledge of Luna's delight at Twilight picking up on things so quickly.
There was no sense of motion, but as the pinkness grew at an accelerating rate made Twilight got the impression she was rushing through the... what was it? She tried to reach out to her sense of touch, but without a body it seemed like all she could feel was very, very light.
Luna's blue-blackness suddenly became rigid and Twilight knew what she had to do: push. The gifted unicorn reached out to activate her magic and despite the lack of a horn she realized it was still the same process. She summoned her magical will into focus and concentrated.
Suddenly she could feel something, a magical pattern that Luna was sharing, a something-she-should-do-with-her-magic feeling that made her giddy. 'If only all magic could be taught like this!'. Twilight focused her magic through the pattern, paying close attention to how her magical power flowed. She would have been breathless with excitement at casting such a complex spell without fully researching it, if only she had lungs.
The pinkness was huge, looming like a mountain overhead. And then there was a new smell, rigid and gray and yellow. It was paper-thin, but kept Luna and Twilight from getting any closer to the pink sphere ahead.
'Push,' Twilight repeated. 'Push. Push! PUSH!' The spell coursed through Twilight's being, surging with force that increased with rhythmic throbs. The yellow and gray wall dimpled, then became a concave dome, thinning to a hair's breadth.
A pinhole of pink shone through and then Luna's presence was stripped away as the very essence of Twilight Sparkle tumbled helplessly on a crash course with Pinkie Pie's dream.
Twilight did gasp this time, though ironically it was because she suddenly had a body. She lifted a hoof and dropped it back down to the hard surface beneath her, sending out a sharp "tock" that echoed away. That was enough for the unicorn to decide she'd "arrived," as Luna had put it, and she opened her eyes.
Perfectly flat dull grayness spread out before Twilight, the "sky" overhead only identifiable by its slightly lighter shade of gray. Looking straight up only showed more of the same, an unchanging soft gray light covering everything but without any obvious source.
"Pinkie?" Twilight asked, her voice echoing again. She shouted, "Pinkie Pie!" and cringed as her voice came back to her many times over.
Twilight squinted as she looked for the horizon, but it didn't really seem that there was one, just a point where her eyes couldn't tell where the ground stopped and the not-ground began. She turned in place, eyes focused on that point straight ahead of her as she rotated. Twilight muttered, "I really, really, really, don't like gray anymore."
Something not-gray in the corner of her eye caught Twilight's attention and she whipped her head to look. Pink! She broke into a headlong gallop, unaware that she was suddenly grinning and there were tears forming in the corner of her eyes.
"Pinkie!" she yelled again, wincing at the echo but not slowing down; she did yell a little more quietly, though. "I'm here to help! You'll be back home safe in no time!"
Pinkie Pie was sitting down facing Twilight, but she didn't move, not even to raise a hoof and wave. "Pinkie?" Twilight shouted, but then her gallop dropped to a canter as she approached.
Pinkie's head was angled down to look at the ground. Her face was mostly hidden behind her dull, completely straight mane, her equally lifeless tail flat on the ground behind her.
Twilight trotted up to stop before the earth pony, her grin long gone. "Pinkie? Are you... are you okay?"
"Oh, hi Twilight," Pinkie said, her tone quiet and hollow. "I'm fine. Just fi--" Her voice cracked, and she paused for a long moment. "... Just fine."
Small tears started to form in Twilight's eyes again and she swallowed hard. Her own voice dropped lower, strained. "Pinkie? What's wrong?"
The purple unicorn approached, but as she reached out Pinkie flinched away, one front hoof curled up against her chest protectively. She looked away from Twilight and into the distance.
"Not again," Pinkie said, voice trembling. "I know you're just a silly itsy-bitsy little figment of my imagination and you're going to go poof as soon as I touch you, so please... not again?" Pinkie's voice nearly cracked again on the last two words.
Twilight shook her head. "But I'm not a figment of your imagination!"
"That's what they all say," Pinkie sighed, gently setting her hoof back down.
"Well, I can prove it!" Twilight set her jaw and tensed her hind legs, leaping toward Pinkie. The earth pony gasped and ducked, hooves covering her head, a gesture that reminded Twilight of Fluttershy... until she crashed into the "ground" past Pinkie and looked back at her upside-down, legs pointed straight up in the air. Pinkie finally risked a glance at Twilight out of the corner of her eye, and then she looked away with a little snort.
Twilight's own eyes widened, and then she grinned. "Pinkie Pie?"
"What?" Pinkie asked, just the smallest fleck of interest in her voice.
"Watch this!" Twilight rolled sideways several times, picking up speed, and then jumped up to land on her back hooves, her front legs up in the air over her head. "Tada!" she yelled, before falling flat onto her back, legs pointed in random directions, her tail straight up in the air.
Pinkie blinked, then snorted again. "And what was that?"
Twilight lifted her head to grin at Pinkie. "Slapstick! I think. I read about it once. Is it working?"
"I--" The earth pony met Twilight's eye, then looked away quickly.
Twilight got back to her hooves and walked in a straight line past Pinkie, raising a hoof to wave. "Hey there, Pinkie Pie! Nice weather we're having today, h--" Suddenly a banana peel appeared beneath Twilight's hoof and she stepped on it hard. "Huuuuh!" she yelped as she slid a few pony-lengths on the peel, then flipped once in the air to land hard on her stomach, legs sprawled out beneath her. The echos of her yell rebounded around the pair.
Pinkie blinked, then something resembling a very small giggle bubbled up from her throat. "Wait," she said, pointing at the banana peel. "Where'd that come from?"
"No idea!" Twilight admitted. "I just thought I needed it." She started to get up to her hooves, then "accidentally" stepped back onto the peel, legs kicking and flailing as if she was on ice before she fell flat again. She crossed her eyes, tongue sticking out of the side of her mouth.
Pinkie giggled again, almost smirking. "But, Imaginary Twilight, real Twilight doesn't think that kind of stuff is funny at all."
"But that makes it funnier, right?" Twilight got back to her hooves. "It's the juxtaposition of stuffy ol' Twilight Sparkle with the goofiness of slapstick comedy!"
"Juxtaposition?" Pinkie asked.
Twilight quickly replied, "Gesundheit."
Pinkie giggled again, but cut herself short. Her small smile disappeared and she looked away. "Not again... You're just going to go poof and leave me all alone again and I... I don't--" The pink pony's voice cracked again.
Twilight cleared her throat and proclaimed, "I, Twilight Sparkle, solemnly Pinkie Swear that I will not disappear when you touch me."
When Pinkie looked Twilight was sitting with one hoof raised, a very serious look on her face. That hoof moved down to cross her chest as Twilight continued, "Cross my heart and hope to fly, stick a cupcake in my eye."
Pinkie looked into Twilight's one uncovered eye for a good few seconds, her mouth just barely hanging open. "None of the others Pinkie Promised," she admitted in a near-whisper.
Twilight uncovered her eye and reached the hoof out, leaving it hanging there in the air. "Please?" she asked, smiling warmly. "Trust me?"
Pinkie bit her lower lip and stepped forward, just out of range to reach the hoof with her own. Twilight nodded slowly, smiling a little wider. Her hoof bobbed, beckoning. Pinkie took another step, starting to reach out. She stopped inches short, looking into Twilight's eyes.
Pinkie tore her eyes away, her hoof pulling partially back, then froze. She took a deep breath, closed her eyes tight, and reached out the rest of the way.
A quiet "tock" of impact echoed around the ponies. Pinkie opened her eyes slowly, staring at her hoof, and Twilight gave a gentle nudge forward so there was no mistaking it; they had made contact. "See?" the unicorn said. Their eyes met again, but then there was a sudden pink blur.
Twilight found herself pushed back into a sitting position with Pinkie hugging tightly to her, face buried into her neck and shoulder, a now-puffy pink mane filling half of the unicorn's vision. Twilight returned the hug and closed her eyes.
"You're real! You're really really real!" Pinkie managed to giggle and sob at the same time, squeezing Twilight tightly and not letting go. "Thankyou-thankyou-thankyou for not poofing!"
Twilight squeezed in return and rubbed Pinkie's back, tears coming to her eyes as well. "Oh Pinkie," Twilight whispered.