by Ninjadeadbeard

First published

With her last original friend now passed, how will Princess Twilight cope with eternity? An eternity with... her...

In time, all of Twilight Sparkle's friends have had to say their last goodbyes. And as the last of the original Cutie Mark Crusaders passes on, the Princess decides to send her off in grand fashion.

But after the party, the tears, and her newer friends have moved on, and Twilight is all alone once again, somecreature she once thought of as a friend decides to visit her for tea.

Memorial, or Desecration? Twilight might just have to decide tonight, on the loneliest night of her life...

Never Comfortable With Endings

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Night had fallen over Equestria. By decree, this night would be clear of all clouds and anything else that might distract from the truly once-in-a-lifetime memorial that now hung in the sky. The stars themselves shifted, creating the image of a shield, a new constellation. And held within the shield, anypony could plainly see a musical note, lightning bolt, and an apple.

The very last of the Cutie Mark Crusaders had passed, surrounded by family and loved ones. But that was days past. Tonight, after Applebloom’s funeral and memorial, those who knew her best arrived at the palace in Canterlot, for the celebration of her life.

The palace was decorated this night in the colors of the CMC, with purple, pink, and white banners hung up in the grand hall. The palace had been emptied of all but required staff and guards, but a small multitude of ponies and other creatures had assembled in the hall. Truth be told, most of the crowd were of the vast Apple and Pie families, but a great many other creatures without direct relation to Granny Applebloom had turned up.

The hall sported a set of tables, each one seemingly longer than the last. The princesses had originally feared they would have to knock down a wall or two to accommodate everypony, but thankfully this was not the case. Each table was packed with dishes, everything the Apples and Pies could muster up themselves plus all the resources of the Royal Kitchens. And at the very head table, set up just below the currently empty throne-dais, the five Princesses took up their place.

Twilight, as the reigning monarch, sat in the most central position, from where she would soon give her speech. To her left, the retired-and-loving-it Princesses Celestia and Luna nibbled inconspicuously at some of Pinkie Pie’s traditional chocolate cake, prepared lovingly by her second daughter, Whippifred “Whip” Cream Pie. Twilight idly wondered if she could squeeze in at least a few hours with the sisters before they went off on their next adventure.

To Twilight’s right, Princess Cadence sat serenely, accompanied by her fully-grown daughter, Princess Flurry Heart. Cadence merely looked on all the assembled ponies and smiled. Flurry, judging by the way she sat fidgeting, clearly would have preferred to be off with her friends, beating up monsters or just hanging out and not having to think about the last few days. She had been close to all the Crusaders, and it was no wonder each of their passing had affected her so. Still, as the Bearer of Magic, Flurry knew her place tonight was here.

The Princess sighed silently. As if only Flurry Heart was affected. With Applebloom gone, Twilight knew that she alone remained of her original friends and the ponies she knew back in Ponyville. How time seemed to march on, never letting her stop except in the way that time did stop for Alicorns. She always took solace in the fact that none of her friends were truly gone so long as she and the other Princesses remembered them, but Celestia and Luna had far more ponies to remember from their own pasts, and Cadence only had Shining Armor on her mind these days. When Flurry Heart wasn’t trying to find her a new companion, that was.

Turning her eyes towards her new friends, and beloved extended family, Twilight mentally checked off all she had to be grateful.

There was still Spike, who now towered over everypony here. Ever since Rarity passed on, he’d taken up her mantle as the Bearer of Generosity, and even now helped to parcel out food and little gifts to the foals and filly’s table. Afterwards, she knew Spike would take them out for a flight over the city.

The Bearers of Kindness and Loyalty sat together with a few of their own family. If you’d told Twilight a century ago that a griffon would be the Bearer of Kindness, she probably would have laughed. But Gilroy was a gentle soul, and his friend Gossamer, the Bearer of Loyalty and King Thorax’s daughter, would probably spend the night remembering their magic-potion instructor fondly.

Winesap, who despite having a deep green color, was almost a dead ringer for his grandpa Big Mac. Twilight watched him chatting with some of the Pies, including Pinkie’s granddaughter Custard. Being the Bearers of Honesty and Laughter, respectively, it was heartwarming to see them sharing stories with those around them. Custard, a golden mare with a brilliant pink mane, was able to cheer anypony up, even at such a time. Twilight sometimes wondered how one pony could inherit ALL of Cheese and Pinkie’s joy and stay sane… and then remembered how much Custard oddly reminded her of Discord, putting the thought to rest.

Finally, it seemed that everycreature had settled in, gotten a plate, and were past the point of gaping at the palace décor. Princess Twilight knew the time had come, and her speech was now called for. She gripped a spoon within her magic aura and tapped her glass to grab their attention.

Hours and hours passed. Laughter and tears were shared. The Pies were the first to leave, followed by the Griffons and Changelings, they having the longest journeys home. Eventually, the Apples also took their leave. Silence returned to the palace. While Spike had fallen asleep in the grand hall, the princesses were able to make their way back to their chambers. Celestia and Luna, unused to their old routines, both promised to see Twilight in the morning before collapsing onto their beds. Flurry and Cadence were a bit more awake at the end, and settled into their apartments for the night.

Twilight was alone. And for the first time in a very, very long time, she truly felt it. The Princess of Friendship had said goodbye to one of her last original friends this night. Rainbow had gone first, long ago. She’d always say she would rather burn out than fade away.

The others had hung on for a very, very long time. Pinkie went next, followed closely by Rarity. Spike had been inconsolable for weeks after. Sweetie Belle and Scootaloo went not too long later, and then Applejack only ten years back.

And that was just her closest friends. Family and acquaintances had slowly vanished in the intervening years. Her parents and brother had been gone for what felt like millennia. Both her initial protégés, Starlight and Sunset, passed as well. Somehow, against all odds, Trixie had been the last of these to go, passing only last winter, hours after her last… and some would argue, greatest show.

So many friends, gone. So many memories.

The Night Guard saluted Twilight as she reached her private rooms. With a lethargy she hadn’t felt in years, she entered a royal bedchamber festooned in purple, and covered wall to wall with bookshelves. Pictures of past friends and adventures hung on every available wallspace. Journals filled the shelves, each written by a friend, a student, a colleague. All gone now.

Wearily, Twilight removed her regalia and set it aside. She prepared a contingency spell just in case she slept through dawn, though Celestia would probably cover her if that happened. But just as she turned down the covers of her sumptuous bed and prepared herself for a restless sleep, Twilight heard a light tapping on her window.

Turning, she saw somepony she hadn’t expected to see. At least, not tonight... and not in this way. The princess walked slowly over to the grand window-door that led out onto the balcony she stood upon to raise and lower the sun and moon, and slowly turned the latch.

A pink-haired Pegasus stood on the balcony, one wing holding up a picnic basket. Funny how she'd reached the balcony like that. Less funny, at least to Twilight, was how... youthful she looked in the moonlight.

“Oh dear,” she said quietly, “were you about to go to sleep? I didn’t mean to disturb you.”

Twilight stared at the newcomer. Well, not really ‘new’. The Pegasus stared back, her deep, soulful eyes forcing Twilight to look away.

Finally, Twilight sighed and said, “No, it’s no problem. Did you need something… Fluttershy?”

Fluttershy held up the basket, “I just wanted to come by really quick and share a little late-night tea with you, Twilight.” She smiled gently. “I was busy with the sanctuary and lost track of time, but I didn’t want to miss you today of all days.”

Twilight nodded, and allowed Fluttershy in. The pegasus quickly got to work. She laid out her tea set on a small side table, and brought out a plate of little cucumber sandwiches. Fluttershy also had doilies and a whole blanket ready for the occasion, though she left this last one in her basket. It would be surprising, to anypony that wasn’t Twilight, how many things could be fit into that basket.

“Alright,” said Fluttershy, admiring her charming placement, “Now all we need is something to heat the tea.” The smiling Pegasus looked about, and soon found that there was no fireplace to be seen.

“Um, Twilight?” she looked over at the Princess, who had taken a seat by the window, “What happened to your fireplace? I know it's been a while...”

Twilight nodded towards the wall where it had once stood. “We remodeled a while back. No need for fireplaces when you have modern heating.”

Fluttershy seemed concerned, or perhaps nonplussed, for a moment. Then, she shrugged, “Oh well. That isn’t a problem.” Her tail, long, silky smooth, and pink like her mane, reached up and almost looked, curiously, like a… hand?

As it went to… snap, Fluttershy seemed to suddenly remember something. She stared at her tail a moment, and then let it fall back to its usual place. She blushed deeply, and tried to look away.

Twilight hadn’t changed expression since Fluttershy had entered. In her time ruling Equestria, Twilight had learned some of Celestia's best looks, from 'how thoughtful of you to bring some horrible monster into the palace as a gift, ambassador', to 'I'm older than all of you and I know a crooked tax-break when I see one'. The look she had now was not nearly as pleasant.

The look the Princess gave said, 'Normally, I would have destroyed you by now, but I am exhausted'.

Fluttershy stared back. Then she began glancing about the room. “Um… maybe one of your guards could…”

“Can we stop this?” Twilight interrupted, annoyance clearly in her voice. “It’s late.”

“W-what do you mean?” Fluttershy settled down onto her haunches. “I… I just came by to have some tea with my friend! I've been away so long...”

“Did you?” said Twilight, not even trying to keep the weariness at bay, “Or did you just come here to play another mean trick?”

Tears welled up in Fluttershy’s eyes. “H-how can you say that? Twilight…” the little pegasus began to sob as her voice cracked.

Enough!” Twilight stood and extended her wings, “Everypony who knew Fluttershy is already gone! Why do you still do this!?”

Her voice, muffled as it was by the deep carpet and the packed bookshelves, still rang off the walls. It even seemed to slap Fluttershy, causing the pegasus to freeze in place and shut her eyes tight.

Twilight’s own tears felt hot on her cheeks. “It’s not fair. It’s not kind. And it’s not something a true friend would do to another, so just... stop.”

Fluttershy shook slightly, shivering as though she were still in the cool air outside. Then, her shaking slowed. Her pained expression smoothed out, and in moments she was nothing but a pool of calm, still water.

After what felt like a full minute of silence, she opened her eyes, yellow with red irises, and stared back at Twilight with mild annoyance.

“Well,” she said with a new voice. Or, an old voice, in truth. A voice rich in depth and age and humor. A voice Twilight knew all too well. “What do you want from me, Princess Twiggles?”

Twilight breathed through her nose. “I want this game to end, Discord.”

“Game?” it was eerie to hear the voice of the Lord of Chaos coming from Fluttershy’s ever-youthful body, “Who said I was playing a game?”

“You’re always playing some kind of game,” the princess shot back, “Even when you thought you were helping us out, you were always playing around, either to amuse yourself or because you thought we would appreciate your brand of cruelty. Well, I’m not putting up with it tonight. Not tonight!” she stamped her hoof so hard it cracked the plaster in the walls.

‘Fluttershy’ rolled her eyes at this. “I’m sorry you feel that way, Princess, but I really was just here to have some tea with you. Had I not been needed in Everfree, I'd have made our usual time earlier this week, instead of the middle of whatever hissyfit you're on about tonight. Speaking of which…” her tail reached up again, this time whipping as it went and setting off a sharp snap as it went.

With the snap, the teapot suddenly grew a set of spider legs and began pouring its contents, boiling hot, into the two cups she’d brought with her. One swiftly levitated itself over to Twilight, who snapped up the drink with her magic aura before Discord dropped it or spilled it, or whatever she knew he was up to.

“Besides,” the pegasus appeared atop a nearby globe of Equestria, her cup drifting alongside her, “this is nothing new. I don’t know why you’re suddenly upset. We've been doing this for decades now...”

Twilight set her teacup aside. “I’m not ‘just’ upset, Discord. I’ve always disliked what you did. It’s just…” she had to look away for a moment. Couldn’t let him see her like this. "I'm just so... tired of it all."

‘Fluttershy’ drifted past as though she were lying down, one hoof holding up her head lazily. “Oh, what’s wrong? Tired of immortality after only a century?” A sword materialized in the air above her, and with a clean slice, took the head right off of a bust of Chancellor Puddinghead on the shelf. 'Fluttershy' caught it with one wing and admired the ancient pony's expression.

“You’re a wonderful princess, but you’d make a terrible highlander.” As the pegasus spun through the air, her chuckling began to harmonize with itself, and the bust's own raucous guffaw that began to sound more and more... Pinkie-ish.

Twilight did not look back at him. She couldn’t. She didn't trust what would happen, what she would do to him. But she couldn’t say nothing, do nothing. The tears were coming on full throttle and the heat was building in her throat and chest. It felt like a vice were gripping her heart and squeezing every last ounce of pain it could from her.

But then... it all faded away. Her anger could not hold in the face of her sorrow... sorrow built over the years by replaying every fond memory from Ponyville right alongside her last memories of those ponies who'd once given her everything, including a life worth remembering. Rainbow Dash crashing into her merged right into the day she left the world behind with a final Sonic Rainboom. Applejack, bucking trees with an unmatched ferocity in one moment, and then lying there in her bed, a quilted blanket pulled up to her chin, and the light glisten of a last cider on her smiling lips. Pinkie, surrounded by balloons and fireworks, then by the many, many, many children and grandchildren and great grandchildren she'd leave behind... as well as quite a few more balloons and fireworks besides. Rarity, measuring Twilight for her first gala dress, and then sitting besides Spike on her lounging couch before a setting sun.

And Fluttershy. Dear, sweet Fluttershy. Those memories sapped her fury away like a hole draining the whole ocean at once. Twilight could see her singing behind the stage with the Pony Tones, staring down a giant fiery dragon, and coaxing animals out of their hibernation at Winter Wrap Up... and then Fluttershy handing off her Sanctuary keys to another Pony who could keep up with the animals... and then forgetting Dash's name during a Friendship Council meeting... and then feeling so cold while under a warm sun, and asking Discord to help her back home...

Too much sorrow.

“Please…” she eventually managed, her voice hovering almost at a whisper, “… just go…”

She sat, unmoving, for what felt like an eternity. All sound just... faded away. Eventually, she was able to slowly open her eyes, and see her chambers through a blur of tears and weariness.

The bust of Puddinghead was back in one piece, she noted as her vision cleared. The tea set had vanished, though her own cup was still there. Even the… even ‘Fluttershy’ was gone. But instead of bringing her some measure of satisfaction, that fact only dug into Twilight’s heart even more.

She heard something. It sounded like the wind on Nightmare Night, a soft and troubled breeze. The window was still open, and Twilight could clearly see the silhouette of the pegasus sitting out there on the balcony. She was staring up at the stars.

As Twilight slowly approached, she could hear the old Draconequus speak.

“I… I didn’t know what to do,” the voice was lost, and looking for something, “Everything had been going so well, for so long, that I didn’t even think about… well, I was never comfortable with endings.”

‘Fluttershy’ didn’t move a muscle. Twilight simply watched the form of her dear friends and listened.

“When Fluttershy got older, I couldn’t help her. I didn’t like feeling helpless, but even I can’t fix everything with my power. Death is… death. And my dear... my dearest Fluttershy accepted that. Even when I couldn't.”

The words hung in the night air, like a heavy curtain hiding something awful from view. “But…” the voice continued, slowly, “for all my endless creativity, my imagination… I couldn’t imagine a world without her. I couldn’t imagine what would happen to those who… loved her. And I couldn’t imagine a world that had forgotten her. I refused...” his voice faded into a hiss as he finished.

Fluttershy turned to look over her shoulder. Big, blue eyes looked out, as though she were searching for something, and found it in the Princess's tear-stained face.

“Twilight,” she said, softly, and in her gentle voice, “I think, maybe, you’ve had too long to be in your own head about this.”

Twilight stepped back, “What? What do you- “

Fluttershy turned fully around to face the princess. “I mean, Discord did some things he isn’t proud of, and you forgave him for those a long time ago,” her face beamed sincere concern as she slowly walked back towards Twilight, “but maybe… you’ve been a little too stressed to remember that he was, and has been, a good friend to all of us since then.”

“Fluttershy,” Twilight whispered, “I’ve lost so much. How can I keep going on like this…?”

Twilight turned away, closing her eyes again. This was wrong. This wasn’t Fluttershy. It was Discord, playing his sick games. He wore her friend like a suit. That’s all it was. Discord wasn’t selfless, and he wasn’t kind enough to give up his own existence for anypony else. Especially not-

She felt a hoof touch her shoulder. The princess of friendship opened her eyes and beheld the yellow pegasus, who looked on with nothing short of true, true love and kindness in hers.

“You never lost me,” she said, smiling, “And you didn’t lose any of our friends. As long as you love us, and you remember us, we’re never really gone.”

There it was, the last drop of Twilight’s resistance fell away as she reached out with her forelegs and wings, bringing in Fluttershy for the deepest hug she could possibly manage. The alicorn princess wept, openly and unashamedly into her friend’s mane. And Fluttershy, for it truly was indeed Fluttershy, returned that hug tenfold.

It was still an hour or so until daybreak, but Spike was already up and about. His head was throbbing from one too many ice-cream cakes the night before, but if he didn’t get up, then the whole palace schedule would be off. And if living with Twilight so long taught him one thing, it was to never break a schedule if it could be helped.

The dragon made his way up the various stairs and hallways towards the royal quarters. Despite his size, he was still incredibly spry and sleek, allowing him easy passage through even smaller corridors and passages. Twilight said they would need to expand some of the doorways in another hundred years or so, but Spike hardly minded. He never kept enough personal treasure to reach such staggering sizes. No, eating more of the Apple and Pie family cooking would do that for him.

Finally, Spike reached Twilight’s room. He opened the door without knocking, of course.

“Alright Twi,” he said as he entered, “Full day ahead of us, so once you raise the sun, we can…”

Spike’s voice trailed off as he saw her. Twilight slept like a baby beneath her sheets and covers, softly snoring the most contented snore he’d heard from her in decades. A stress-free Twilight was surprising enough. But what really took him off guard was the Pegasus who sat beside the bed, sipping from a teacup.

Fluttershy held up a wing in front of her mouth, giving Spike the universal sign for quiet. She got up slowly, and then drifted past him into the hallway. He followed, noting how she didn’t seem to move her wings while she did so.

“When did you get here?” the dragon whispered as he stood out in the hall with Fluttershy.

She nodded towards one of the windows in the hall. “I flew in just after the party.”

“Uh huh,” he nodded along, “So… is she…?”

“Better,” was all Fluttershy said. “She’s doing better now. I wouldn’t wake her for a little bit though. I… may have left her with a nice little dream, and I’d hate to have her miss a moment of it.”

Spike looked towards Twilight’s room, and smiled. “So, there’s some perks to being the Pony of Chaos I suppose?”

She shook her head slowly, “Some, but I still prefer working with my animals. I suppose I need to be getting back before Angel gets hungry and eats somecreature.” She seemed to suddenly remember something, “Oh, we have a new bear at the sanctuary…”

Fluttershy, who was hardly ever surprised these days, was suddenly scooped up into her dragon friend’s arms. The hug was a bit rough, what with the scales and Spike being so big now, but it was a welcome surprise nonetheless. She nuzzled him back and grinned happily.

“You’ll come back soon?” he said as he set the Pegasus down. "Ever since Applebloom, she hasn't quite been herself."

“Oh yes,” she nodded, “Twilight and I have tea every week. Or, we will from now on. And…”

Her smile, always kind, took on a slightly mischievous quality, “I don’t suppose you have that old… archer character lying around?”

Spike laughed and scratched the back of his neck, “Well, we’re using Ogres and Oubliettes G5 these days… but I suppose I can fix Discord’s... er, your... um... that old character up for you.”

Fluttershy nodded again, and with a snap from her tail she was gone.

Spike could only shake his head slowly, a grin on his face. “The more things change…”

A purple unicorn walked beneath a night sky. Not the same night sky as before, but a different one. A sky of color and swirling lights. How lovely, she thought, completely forgetting how dreams worked or her place within them.

She approached the town library, a great oak tree fixed up like a house. Guess this was where she’d be staying. Ponyville was such an odd place, but the unicorn wouldn’t second-guess her teacher’s judgement. Warm light poured out of the windows, filling the night with a needed counterpoint.

As the door swung open before her, the unicorn looked straight into the eyes of…

“Welcome home!” Pinkie Pie cheered, a confetti cannon firing a moment later. The whole library, filled with ponies and creatures of every sort, cheered along with it.

“You guys!” Twilight Sparkle protested with a smile plastered on her face, “You just threw me a ‘Welcome to Ponyville Party’ yesterday! You didn’t need to do this.”

Applejack, serving cups of cider to Rainbow Dash as quickly as she could down them, laughed at this. “Shoot Sugarcube! If’n we can’t celebrate you moving in fer good, what can we celebrate?”

“Yeah!” Rainbow held up her mug, “C’mon! We just saved the world from a thousand-year prophecy of doom! Let’s live a little!”

Twilight smiled, and accepted the party hat Rarity placed on her head. It was, as Rarity put it, gorgeous. “Oh, and you simply must allow me to fit you for another as soon as you can make time!” Fluttershy guided Twilight with a mere touch of her wing and a gentle smile into the library.

She was being pushed along into the thick of the party, where she nearly collided with another purple unicorn.

“You’ve got a nice place here,” she said, passing Twilight a mug of juice, “Thanks for inviting us!”

“Well,” Twilight snorted, “Even though Pinkie must've invited you, I’d never dream of passing up the chance to see you again, Starlight.” Huh... how odd was that...?

Starlight Glimmer laughed at this, though her immediate companion, a light blue unicorn only smirked beneath her wizard’s-hat and lifted a cider cup to the new Ponyville librarian, "Be sure to catch the show later, Sparkle. The Great and Powerful Trixie intends to go all-out tonight!"

And so, the night went as such. Twilight passed from room to room, and from one friend to another. Shining Armor and Big Mac hoof-wrestled in the kitchen, while Applebloom, Sweetie Belle, and Scootaloo raced through the halls. Trixie, the Great and Powerful, would perform a few feats of magic for the crowd, and Sunburst and Moondancer regaled Twilight with their research into magic and the legends of Equestria. Even Sunset Shimmer made an appearance, chatting up Starswirl, Luster Dawn, and Twilight, all laughing as though they’d known each other their whole lives.

When the sun began to come up, and beams of light shone through the windows, the library began to empty, with everypony exclaiming how wonderful the whole evening had been. In time though, there were only a few ponies left. The only ones that mattered.

Twilight stood in the middle of her home, surrounded by Pinkie Pie, Rainbow Dash, Fluttershy, Rarity, Spike, and Applejack. With tears in her eyes, tears of happiness and joy, she took them all up in a group hug. They held to one another like nothing would ever break them apart. And nothing ever would.

“I love you all,” Twilight whispered, “and I will never forget you.”

And even with the coming of true dawn, she never would.