In the Hour of Twilight

by Blue Dragon

First published

As Twilight and Fluttershy start their relationship, Twilight learns not to take magic or her life for granted.

Living in the Everfree Forest, an unknown creature has been bullying Fluttershy's animals. Twilight decides to help her tend to the wounded critters, since the yellow mare has been extremely overworked. The two come out of the experience a lot closer, but will it last? When they confront the beast, Twilight can't be so sure. [Twishy]

Becoming Marefriends

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Twilight groaned loudly. Today, she intended on studying animal anatomy—if only to assist a certain yellow pegasus with her daily work. But that was to be expected; Twilight always tried to lend a helping hoof when she could.

The first book was titled: Animal Anatomy Uncovered: a Vets’ Guide. She wasn’t entirely keen in learning this type of material, as she preferred much more…magical and factual books, but she wouldn’t let Fluttershy down. Even though something like that seemed absolutely impossible.

The unicorn opened the cover of the book magically and began reading. It wasn’t uninteresting, but it definitely didn’t catch her attention the way Starswirl the Bearded did. A little bit into the reading she realized that she would need a dictionary for some of these technical terms used.

“Spike!” Twilight’s eyes never wavered from the book as she called for her number one assistant. The baby dragon came bounding down the stairs immediately.

“Yes, Twilight?” He was entirely too cheerful to help her since the incident with Owlowicious. It wasn’t completely unwelcome, however.

“I need you to get me a dictionary.” The unicorn cast a sidelong glance at the purple dragon as he rushed over to a shelf. Almost immediately afterwards a rather large book was placed precariously next to the one she was currently reading.

“Thank you, number one assistant!” The lavender mare quickly flipped through both books, quick to find the definitions she was after. It occurred to her that Spike hadn’t yet returned to doing whatever it was he had been before being called upon.

“Uh…Twilight?” He called for her attention, in which she gave him an annoyed glance, “Why are you reading about animal anatomy?”

“Well, Spike...” She began her explanation. Twilight knew that Spike was still a baby dragon, and hadn't yet developed the ability to detect the obvious. “I am hoping to help Fluttershy take care of her critters. She hasn’t said anything about it, but I can tell she’s getting overwhelmed. And as a good friend, I know I should lend a helping hoof.”

“Today? ‘Cause I just saw her from out of the window.” Spike said matter-of-factly.

Twilight perked up in surprise and turned to him, “Really? Did she seem busy? I have been meaning to visit her recently.”

The book she was studying was surrounded in a magical aura and closed automatically.

“Uhh, it looked like she was just getting some stuff from the market.” Twilight rushed to the door and opened it magically.

“Oh wait, Twilight! Do you think that maybe I could go to Rarity’s for a bit?” He held his tail between his claws.

“Sure, Spike. Just be home by four, okay?” A look from the clock showed that it was indeed twelve o’clock sharp.

The young dragon bolted out the door just before Twilight left. The unicorn, with a light skip to her step, headed to the market in search of her timid friend.

It took quite some time to find Fluttershy, as her name came into play. She was shying away from a haggler trying to sell a cherry for ten bits. Apparently she had been attempting to lower the price, but ended up making it go even higher, at least from what Twilight could tell.

The unicorn swiftly came to the timid mare’s rescue. It seemed quite the heroic deed at the time. “Hey, Fluttershy!”

The yellow pegasus jumped and looked over to see who had addressed her. Fluttershy’s eyes immediately softened, “Oh, um, hi Twilight…”

“What’re you getting? A cherry?” The unicorn pretended that she didn’t know exactly what had happened. She didn’t want to scare away the already fearful pony.

“U-Uhm, yes…” She scuffled her feet.

“Ten bits. Are you going to take the deal or not?” The brown stallion appeared annoyed, but that proposition was simply too high.

“Ten bits for one cherry? I think that’s a bit too much.” Twilight objected, earning a glare from the male operating the stand.

“Ten bits; take it or leave it.” He urged.

“Five bits.” Twilight attempted firmly.

“Eight bits.” Twilight didn’t notice, but she and the stallion were leaning towards each other in a sharp glaring contest.

“Four bits.”

“Six bits.”

“Three bits, that’s as high as we’re going.” Twilight finished.

“Fine,” The stallion grumbled, “Three bits.”

Twilight smiled. She had never been very good at negotiating herself, but she was rather impressed at how well she did it for a friend.

After they were well away from the stand and the complaining brown stallion, Fluttershy articulated quietly, “Thank you, Twilight. I don’t think I would have ever gotten out of there if it weren’t for you.” She smiled to the unicorn beside her.

“Oh no, it wasn’t a big deal. I actually wanted to talk to you, but first things first… Do you have anything else you need to purchase?” Twilight looked over to make sure that the yellow mare was actually speaking or not—sometimes it was difficult to tell.

“N-No, the cherry was the last thing on my list. But um, ifyoudonttmindmeasking, what is it that you wanted to talk about?” A slight blush tainted her cheeks, but Twilight took no notice.

“It seems like you’ve been busy lately and we haven’t been able to see each other very much, so I wanted to help you.” The pegasus’s eyes lit up.

“Oh yes, that would be wonderful! You see, something in the Everfree Forest has been bullying all of my critters lately, and has even been hurting them. No matter what I try, they won’t tell me what it is though…” Tears welled up in the yellow pony’s eyes.

“It’ll be okay, Fluttershy.” Twilight found herself awkwardly patting the other mare’s back in a hopefully reassuring manner, and it seemed to work when the pegasus simply sniffled.

“You’re right, Twilight. But, um…are you sure you want to help me? It’s kind of far and youreallydonthaveto.”

“Yes, I’m sure. I’m your friend and it wouldn’t be right if I let you deal with all of that by yourself.” Twilight spoke in a comforting tone, and she heard Fluttershy say ‘thank you’ several times more than necessary.

The two walked casually next to each other and occasionally brushed sides. Twilight initiated a conversation consisting of Fluttershy’s animals and their condition, since she might have some knowledge as to what was happening to them. However, that was not the case.

The yellow pegasus seemed really emotional when talking about it, and more than once Twilight had to stop and give her a reassuring hoof. That always proved positive results, which was good for the unicorn.

In a few more minutes, they reached Fluttershy’s cottage. The timid mare went ahead and opened the door for the two of them, and Twilight was met with an appalling sight. Dozens of animals littered the floor on makeshift blankets, some with casts. Angel Bunny was running around, tending to his friends to the best of his ability.

“Oh, Angel, thank you for your help…I got you the cherry you really wanted.” Fluttershy reached into the bag and pulled out with the cherry’s stem in her mouth. She placed it in front of the picky bunny, who simply shook his head and pointed worriedly at the other animals. Look, he seemed to say, they are in pain. I can’t eat when they are like this.

Fluttershy understood, and gently placed the cherry back into the bag and put it to the side where it wouldn’t be in the way. Twilight, however, didn’t have a clue as to what communication had occurred. She didn’t like to see all of these critters hurt like this, either. “What can I do to help, Fluttershy?”

The yellow mare jumped slightly; she probably forgot that Twilight was still there. Fluttershy turned to her friend and spoke warmly, “You could um, help me get the animals to take their medicine…if you want to, that is.” The pegasus hurriedly spoke, afraid that she might have asked something she shouldn’t have.

“Sure, I remember when you tried to make Philomena better,” Twilight joked, and half a second later it occurred to her that Fluttershy would probably react negatively. As the unicorn started to panic, the pegasus simply smiled with an emarrassed blush.

“Y-Yeah, hopefully that won’t happen again.” Thankful that she hadn’t taken it the wrong way, Twilight moved to stand beside her timid friend.

The two ponies began working at a tiresome pace, trying their absolute best to relieve all of the hurt critters. Twilight couldn’t help but wonder what had attacked them—some had broken bones, others had claw marks, and the last few had fallen sick. The ones that were okay were doing their best to help out.

Several times Twilight had used her magic to give Fluttershy some much needed water, as the poor pegasus tended to overwork herself when it came to her animals.

After two wearisome hours of constant nursing, Fluttershy seemed content now that all of the critters were finally asleep—including Angel Bunny. Twilight didn’t know how the pegasus could do this day in and day out.

“T-Thank you for all the help Twilight, I really appreciate it…” Fluttershy whispered to her friend, lest she accidentally wake up one of her animals.

“It really wasn’t that big of a deal.” She waved a hoof dismissively, and a silence engulfed the pair. The yellow mare shyly pawed at the ground with one hoof.

“So…” Twilight wasn’t very good with social interactions, “Do you think we could take a walk?” She suggested. After all, today was the day Twilight dedicated to seeing Fluttershy every week: Friday. But over the past couple of weeks she hadn’t really gotten a chance to come to her cottage.

The yellow pegasus hid behind her mane and said something incoherently. Confused by her friend’s sudden strange behavior, Twilight furrowed her brow.

“Huh? I didn’t quite catch that…” Somehow, Fluttershy’s response came out even more muffled and confusing.

“A simple nod or shake of the head will do.” Twilight attempted. Sometimes her friend’s shy demeanor could be troublesome, but she wouldn’t change it for anything. She loved all of her friends for who they were.

Fluttershy moved her head slightly up and down, which the unicorn took as a nod. “Wonderful. But if you do have something you need to do, I’d be happy to help you. I just want to spend time with you.” The unicorn smiled genuinely, in which the pegasus blushed. Twilight figured it was the shyness getting to her again.

“No, a walk is okay with me. But I don’t want to get too far away from my animals…if that’s okay with you.” Fluttershy moved over to the door and nudged it open quietly. The two ponies began their walk around the Everfree Forest, but never actually going into it.

“What do you think is hurting all of the animals?” Twilight asked with a sidelong glance to the forest.

“I’m not sure…But I hope it stops soon, or I may have to go into the forest and um…” The pegasus gulped and had an expression of pure terror.

“If it does come to that, you won’t be alone. I’ll be there, and all of our friends, too!” Twilight found herself once again patting Fluttershy awkwardly on the back. The yellow mare actually leaned into it this time, so it was almost like a hug.

“Um…Twilight?” The timid pegasus spoke up suddenly. The unicorn looked over at the mention of her name, but Fluttershy’s mane covered the view of her face entirely.

“Yes, Fluttershy?” Twilight continued the formalities, curious as to what her friend was going to say. Perhaps she was going to ask her what she herself thought the bully was. Twilight was very wrong, however.

“Do you…um…Do you have a…crush on somepony?” The yellow pony ducked her head timidly.

Twilight blinked at the unexpected question. Maybe her friend needed some advice on love? Although the unicorn had absolutely no past experience on the topic, she would try her best to answer Fluttershy’s questions.

“I’ve never really thought about that before.” It was an honest answer. Twilight studied many different magical theories and history, but not once had she prodded the thought of love. It seemed almost as foalish as friendship back in Canterlot, but she hadn’t really ever put her and it together. Sure, there were a lot of couples around, but she was always too busy in her studies to notice why they were so happy.

“Oh…um, okay…” There was a little hurt in her tone, and that confused Twilight immensely. Why would that affect her? Did she think that Twilight couldn’t help her with her troubles?

“Do you?” The unicorn asked, withdrawing her hoof from around Fluttershy. The pegasus actually shivered—was it that cold outside? It’s only early fall, though, Twilight thought rationally.

Fluttershy stopped walking, causing Twilight to turn in bewilderment. The yellow mare’s expression was one of determination, as if she had gathered what little courage she had. But for what? They were friends, so she shouldn’t be that nervous around her.

“T-Twilight…Sparkle…” Woah, did she just say her full name? This must be important; none of her friends said the second part of her name unless they needed her full attention.

“I have a…um…confession I need to make. I’ve been keeping it for a long time and…I need to get it off of my chest…”
Utterly intrigued, her scientific mind probably kicking in more than it should, Twilight stared at her friend. She looked terribly anxious, but still held the same determination in her face. Fluttershy also seemed to be rather red in the face—was she sick from tending to the animals?

“I have f-…feelings for you.” The pegasus cringed and shut her eyes closed immediately; most likely afraid of how Twilight would react.

At first, the unicorn’s brain shut off. She wasn’t sure what Fluttershy was trying to say, really. It was a miracle that the timid pony’s voice hadn’t been completely unintelligible.

Twilight opened her mouth to reply, but nothing came out. Did she mean that she had feelings for her romantically? But that was completely illogical! Weren’t…Weren’t couples only mares and stallions? Twilight admitted her lack of knowledge on the subject, promising to study up some time.

But Fluttershy was still left hanging, and the pegasus’s shaking was becoming more obvious. “Fluttershy…” She put all the kindness she had into her voice, “I’m confused. For how long?”

Twilight used her hoof to lift Fluttershy’s chin back up. The yellow mare opened her eyes, but refused to look Twilight in the face.

“Since um, you and I had that sleepover…” Fluttershy blushed from the memory. Twilight had wanted to have her second sleepover with her other friends, but Pinkie had been busy helping Rainbow perfect some tricks, and thus didn’t make it. Fluttershy, being the Element of Kindness and having nothing else to do, couldn’t refuse.

“Forgive me for asking, Fluttershy, but what is love?” Twilight was stalling while her mind furiously worked out some sort of unforeseen solution. She hadn’t ever been confessed to, so she had absolutely no idea what to do.

“Love is that feeling you get when you meet the right pony. Sometimes you get butterflies in your stomach, or you get really nervous around them. They um, make you really happy, and even when they aren’t there you are thinking about them all the time,” Fluttershy spoke with surprising passion.

“…I’m not sure I should be your special somepony, Fluttershy. I might accidentally hurt you at some poin—“The pegasus lightly pressed her hoof onto Twilight’s mouth with an apologetic smile.

“N-No, don’t worry about the future. Right now, in this very moment, do you think you could be my…marefriend?” Fluttershy ventured a peek at Twilight, and she had light blush herself.

Twilight moved the pegasus’s hoof from her mouth so she could speak, “…I’d be willing to try. But I hope you know that having me as a…marefriend…?” Twilight wasn’t familiar with the term, “Will include a lot of organization, checklists, and studying.”

Fluttershy’s entire face and demeanor brightened. “Really? You said yes? Yay!” Before Twilight could react, she was in the warm embrace of the yellow pegasus and not even on the ground anymore. Fluttershy had gotten a surge of strength from some unknown location and was able to pick Twilight up. The unicorn decided that she’d have a lot of studying to do in the way of Fluttershy and relationships, but she was going to do her best if she was.

It Wasn't in the Cards

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“What do I do now?” Twilight paced her bedroom for the hundredth time. She was utterly stumped about how relationships were supposed to work. She really hoped everything would go okay, and the last thing she wanted to do was hurt Fluttershy. Twilight obviously didn’t enjoy being so clueless.

It had taken quite some time to finally get back to the library, since Fluttershy wanted to continue their walk for a while longer. Spike had come home shortly after the unicorn herself did, and was supposedly making dinner.

Twilight glanced around for some sort of inspiration, when a sudden idea hit her. “Oh! The answer should have been obvious! What this situation needs…” The lavender mare dramatically opened the door with her magic, “Is studying.”

She giggled at her own antics, but quickly realized that she didn’t have time to foal around. Studying was essential at this point in time, and books would be her only allies here. All she had to do was find the perfect one and she’d be given more insight than another pony could ever give. Excluding Princess Celestia, of course.

Wait. Twilight stopped walking. Princess Celestia! She could ask her teacher for help; it was simple! Princess Celestia always had good advice—and this kind of relationship was only one step above friendship, right?

Before the unicorn got too excited, she reminded herself that the Princess had sent her to Ponyville to learn about these things on her own.

“Books it is, then…” She mumbled to herself.

The lavender mare began scanning through the many titles in the romance section (only after making sure Spike was still in the kitchen; she didn’t need him asking tedious questions right now.)

There were so many different books on this subject! Since when did the library have this much information on romance?

How to Handle Steamy Situations with Your Marefriend? What does it mean by steamy situations…? Like arguments? Better take it just in case… A Guide to Breaking It Off? Better not, I’m not about to break up with her. Eh… Romancing Your Partner: She’ll be Pleased!

Twilight stared at the last book. The cover showed a picture of a stallion and a mare; the latter having some sort of delighted expression. Was this what she needed? With a precarious glance around to ensure that she was still alone, the unicorn levitated the book next to her.

But she wasn’t done yet. While Fluttershy’s depiction of love seemed good enough, Twilight didn’t yet have a firm enough understanding of it. She continued reading titles until she was satisfied that she had found enough books on the different branches of love. That’s what it seemed like, anyway—there was family love, dating, marriage, divorce, breaking up, and just about anything Twilight could think of! The unicorn never thought she’d have missed studying something with so many diverse topics!

Twilight sneaked back up the stairs without Spike ever knowing she had been down there, the books hovering behind her. She crawled into her bed and looked over the covers; trying to decide which one she wanted to read first.

“Better start at the basics. A Detailed Account of Love from One Bookworm to the Next…Seems promising.” She opened to the first page and began reading silently. Her eyes scanned the pages, and she felt as if she were really learning about love.

Over time, she went through book after book, cover to cover. They each had their own distinctive bits of information that seemed to add to this infinite puzzle called ‘love.’ There were some recurring statements, however, which only annoyed the unicorn. Mostly they all told her to ‘be yourself’ and ‘you’ll know if they’re the one.’ (This one irritated Twilight more than any other, as she wasn’t looking for who ‘the one’ was.)

With a huff, the lavender mare pulled out the last book she hadn’t read yet, How to Handle Steamy Situations with Your Marefriend. Just before she got into the reading, a knock was heard at the door and Spike came in.

“Twilight, there you are! I’ve been calling for you for at least ten minutes! Dinner’s ready.” The baby dragon gave her a glare. Twilight figured that he should have gotten used to being ignored by now, what with countless nights of constant studying.

“What are you reading?” Spike’s irritation turned into curiosity as he attempted to make out some of the words from the doorway.

“N-Nothing! Just some uh…light reading.” Twilight smiled unconvincingly. She hadn’t told Spike about Fluttershy just yet; they had gotten together today, after all.

“Come on, Twilight. I know you better than that.” The baby dragon walked over to the bed to see just what the unicorn was hiding. Twilight panicked—what was she to do in this situation?

Just as his scaly claws reached out to grab one of the books, a knock on the door stopped him.

“Oh, Spike! A visitor! Why don’t you go get that while I tidy up?” Twilight all but shoved the dragon out the door. He was muttering something, but he still went to see who it was.

In the meantime, Twilight hurriedly pushed the books under her bed. She heard Spike call up to her.

“Twilight! Fluttershy’s here to see you!”

Fluttershy? Hadn’t they spent the entire day together? Twilight wasn’t complaining; she liked spending time with the pegasus. But it was strange to have her come to the library at dinner-time, as she did have her pets to tend to. And when they were sick? Very peculiar indeed.

Nonetheless, the unicorn made her way downstairs to see her…marefriend…Twilight still didn’t like that word.

“Hey Fluttershy, what brings you here?” The lavender mare smiled at the pegasus, who stared curiously.

“You don’t remember? At the end of our walk you um, invited me over for dinner.” Fluttershy’s eyes scanned the floor.

Twilight plastered on a smile at this and gave Spike a look. “Oh, right! I was just studying—I remember now. Is it cold out?” The unicorn quickly switched subjects as she pulled the yellow pony inside. She couldn’t believe that she had forgotten something that could throw off her entire schedule of studying! If the unicorn hated anything, it was being caught up in something that wasn’t planned.

“Not really…” Fluttershy glanced back at the open door.

Spike disappeared into the kitchen; probably to make some extra food. She was glad to have the baby dragon do all the housework; the unicorn couldn’t cook to save her life.

Twilight stepped closer to the door and closed it with magic. “Woah, it certainly feels cold!” The lavender mare shivered before moving over to Fluttershy.

The yellow mare chuckled lightly, “It may have to do with me being a pegasus and you being a unicorn.” Twilight’s teeth chattered and she experimentally gave Fluttershy an affectionate nuzzle. (Romancing Your Marefriend: She’ll Be Pleased! was the book that she credited for this course of action. Apparently, it had said, the more open and touchy you were to your marefriend, the better your relationship was.)

Her fur really did seem thick and warm. “You probably never get cold. It’d be nice if I could have a natural resistance against weather like this. Hm…I’ll need to study about that sometime…” Twilight made a mental check-note to write an actual note to study weather-related magic; perhaps she could even interview some of the Canterlot unicorns about their work! Twilight snuggled even closer to this source of warmth.

“…Cute…” Fluttershy mumbled with a blush.

“Did you say something?” Twilight glanced up, unsure if the pegasus had actually spoken or not.

Before her marefriend could reply, a rather loud cough made them aware of Spike’s presence. Twilight jumped away from Fluttershy.

“So, you two are going out?” Spike casually leaned against the doorframe with…arrogance?

The two in question both blushed before Twilight nodded slowly. “I knew it! Pinkie Pie totally owes me a dozen emerald cupcakes!” The baby dragon exploded with happiness, jumping up and down in victory.

“Spike…How did you know?” Twilight stared at her number one assistant sharply. He stopped his shouting at once before casting his eyes downcast. Yes, he was a clever little thing.

“Uh…It’s like this…Erm…You can’t get mad!” He stuttered out, looking anywhere but Twilight.

“It’s okay, Spike,” Fluttershy’s soothing voice came out of nowhere, “You won’t get in trouble. Right, Twilight?”

Who could say no to that look? That pegasus really knew how to pull off a guilt trip—or did she do it unknowingly? Maybe she was just that cute all the time.

Twilight could only nod mutely. The dragon sighed in blissful relief.

“A couple of weeks back me and Pinkie Pie had planned to do a prank on you, Twilight. We were going to give you this gum that was so sticky you wouldn’t be able to speak in at least a day! Anyway, Pinkie gave it to you and you actually put it in your mouth. You started freaking out and was trying to get somepony to help you, but nopony could understand you! Me and Pinkie were laughing so hard, but we followed you when you went to Fluttershy’s place.

“Out of nowhere, Pinkie asked me, ‘Wouldn’t they be cute together?’ Then I said, ‘Maybe they would.’ After that she asked me, ‘Do you think they could start going out?’ I was like, ‘They probably could.’ Pinkie told me that she’d bet me on it, probably just for the fun of it, but yeah, that’s how it happened…I’m sorry…Pinkie talked me into it!”

“That was on purpose?!” Twilight glared as the baby dragon cowered. “Pinkie just said that it was an accidental mix-up! That was so embarrassing… It took Fluttershy two hours to get that sticky substance out of my mouth!”

The unicorn felt something on her neck and turned slightly to see what it was. The sight quelled her anger instantly—Fluttershy was nuzzling the place between Twilight’s shoulder and neck. It was strange to suddenly be so close to somepony like this, but it was comforting. Twilight liked it.

“Spike said he was sorry, Twilight, can’t you forgive him? I mean, um,” She faltered, “It was nice helping you.”

“…You’re right…” The unicorn gave Spike one last look. He ought to be glad that Fluttershy was there to save him! “The past is in the past, so I forgive you, Spike. You’re bound to make mistakes; I’m not the only one learning about the magic of friendship here. You were there in the library with me the whole time back in Canterlot.”

Fluttershy smiled in approval at them. It was almost as if Twilight and Spike were siblings fighting and Fluttershy, being the parent, had just broken them up. It was a very creepy thought, and the unicorn quickly cast it aside.

“Thanks. Oh! The food!” Spike hurried off to get the table set. The two mares giggled at the sight, and, sure enough, a few minutes later they were eating. Spike had brought out a basket full of apples, apple pie, and some gems for himself. He was slacking majorly tonight. Just what had he been doing while he was 'making' dinner?

On any other circumstances, Twilight would have lectured the baby dragon and made him make a proper meal, but Fluttershy only thanked him and started eating. She didn’t seem to mind in the slightest, so the unicorn didn’t make a big deal out of it.

The apple pie was obviously made by Applejack. There was always that different cinnamon taste in AJ’s pies when compared to the rest of Ponyville. She would always modestly decline those compliments while chuckling and say that Twilight was lying. That earth pony wouldn’t accept praise any more than help on the farm.

The three eating dinner finished shortly, due to the fact it could barely be considered a meal. After a few minutes, Spike excused himself for bed, leaving the two mares to themselves.

“I should probably be getting back to my animals…” Fluttershy shifted slightly in her chair.

“I’ll walk you home.” Twilight was already up and moving to the door before the pegasus could object. The unicorn knew that Fluttershy would try to say that she’d be fine on her own.

“Um…If that’s okay with you…” The yellow mare followed behind Twilight just as she opened the door.

A sharp, cold wind immediately blew in, freezing the unicorn to death. It seemed to bode warning, and Twilight considered calling it a bad omen. “S-So c-c-cold,” she chattered, “If I d-didn’t know any b-better I’d say ‘it must be w-w-winter.’”

Fluttershy stretched out her wings, “I don’t think it’s that cold outside.”

Twilight turned and cast a playful-yet-accusing hoof at the pegasus’s wings, “You have t-those to keep you warm. M-My horn is great for magic, but it doesn’t really help in the f-freezing cold.” Absent-mindedly the unicorn wondered if there was some sort of heating spell already created. Before she went to sleep tonight she’d definitely look for it.

Fluttershy moved next to Twilight and draped as much of her wing onto her as possible. “Does that maybe help a little?” Yes, it did. Those feathers really did do their job wonderfully well. Twilight was overcome with the simple kindness (cold really was her worst enemy—ever since that one play) and did what A Detailed Account of Love from One Bookworm to the Next told her to.

Twilight kissed her. The unicorn felt the pony next to her stiffen from the contact, and she was afraid she had done something wrong—did she read the section detailing what not to do? She was about to break it off and apologize profusely to the probably mortified pegasus, but was surprised when Fluttershy kissed her back.

It was still windy, and terribly cold. Twilight shivered and wondered why Fluttershy had moved her wing off of her.

This was their first kiss—heck, it was Twilight’s first kiss ever! She could’ve jumped for joy at this prospect, but they were still at it. Twilight was sure she was starting to like Fluttershy the way the timid pegasus had expressed her own feelings earlier that day.

It ended all too soon. When the unicorn opened her eyes (when had they closed?) the first thing she noticed was Fluttershy’s blushing, bashful expression. Adorable. The wind blew hard again, and Twilight instinctively slipped an undetected glance to the pegasus’s wings, which were, oddly, upright. Huh?

“Twilight…That was…” Fluttershy spoke even softer than usual.

“B-Breathtaking?” Twilight supplied, still shivering. Why were unicorns so prone to the cold?


No more words were exchanged. Fluttershy kept Twilight warm when they began their walk to the pegasus’s cottage. Her wings were rigid at first, but after a few minutes she was able to let one rest on the unicorn’s back.

There weren’t any ponies around town. It was strange not to see one of Pinkie’s parties in full throttle on a Friday night, but the unicorn didn’t think too hard on the subject. That earth pony didn’t have a single grain of logic in her and was, instead, random all the time. It was only reasonable that the party-times be as unsystematic as the pony herself.

Twilight felt a pang of disappointment when they finally did reach Fluttershy’s place. Their first day as a couple would be considered over, and she didn’t want it to end. The unicorn actually wished she had noticed Fluttershy that way sooner so they could have spent more time together. Everypony was right when they said that love was worth the risk. (Why hadn’t she paid attention to Shining Armor when he explained it to her?)

The two mares stopped at the door. Why did there have to be so much wind? Twilight internally cursed it, wishing that Princess Celestia’s gift to Equestria would come up to warm her. The unicorn berated herself for having such ridiculous thoughts—they seemed to be like something Pinkie would wish for.

“I um…guess this is good night…” Fluttershy pawed at the ground with a hoof.

“I suppose so…” Instead of walking all the way back to the library in this freezing cold, Twilight decided that she would teleport as soon as Fluttershy went inside.

“Thank you for walking me home…I’ll see you tomorrow, Twilight.” The pegasus hesitantly gave the unicorn a quick peck on the lips (number two) before nudging the door open.

Twilight beamed in return, already charging up her teleportation spell. This day had easily become the unicorn’s favorite of all time, (except for the day she used magic to hatch Spike) and she was excited to have another just like it. Would all the time she spent with this yellow mare be so exceptional?

“Angel?” There was something scary about that tone, so Twilight cracked her eyes back open. (She always had to close them for the concentration needed for teleportation.) What she saw immediately brought her spell to a standstill, and her heart stopped.

Angel Bunny was lying on the floor, unconscious. His fur was disheveled and a leg was twisted in a way that shouldn’t have been possible.


Fabled Comforts

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“WHAT THE HAY IS GOING ON HERE?!" Rainbow Dash shoved herself into Twilight’s face. The unicorn winced visibly.

“Angel got hurt, and we had to take him to the hospital…Only Fluttershy was allowed to go in.” She avoided the athlete’s gaze. There weren’t any other ponies in the waiting room.

“I was asleep on a cloud, heard you both gallop by, and I saw Fluttershy crying her heart out! You haveto tell me what happened!!!” Rainbow Dash’s eyes flared. Hadn’t she just explained a moment ago what had occurred?

“I just told you—“”I heard that, but I meant what happened to the bunny?” RD wasn’t backing down, even though Twilight was against the wall. She understood the pegasus’s concern over Fluttershy, but acting this aggressive was completely uncalled for.

“I’m not sure. We walked into her house and Angel was lying on the floor, incapacitated. I think a creature in the Everfree Forest got to him, or even… He got to them.”

Before Rainbow Dash could ask what that word meant, Fluttershy came out into the waiting room. She looked like a complete wreck, and was still crying.

“Fluttershy!” The cyan pegasus immediately flew to her longtime friend. Twilight came over as well; ready to comfort her as best she could.

“R-…Rainbow…!” Fluttershy cried into the blue pony’s chest, who, strangely, embraced her with full vigor. Twilight would have imagined RD trying to get the other pony off of her, but still saying comforting words.

The unicorn wasn’t sure what she should do. She felt foalish when Fluttershy embraced Rainbow Dash. Although she had to admit, she hadn’t been very good in consoling the poor mare earlier. If Twilight were being as honest as Applejack, she’d have to admit that she even felt…jealous.

But such a thing was beyond selfish! And in a situation like this? Twilight had read that you shouldn't show your special somepony that you're jealous. Apparently you came off as too clingy, or possessive.

“…I’m sorry, R-Rainbow, for burdening you like this…” She continued to cry, and Twilight’s heart clenched. They had been friends for years, so it was only natural to feel pain for the other. But Fluttershy had known Rainbow Dash since they were fillies.

“It’s okay, the rabbit’s not dead, right?” Numbly, the unicorn sat on her haunches, letting the heartwarming scene unfold.

“Right…” She sniffled again, and stepped away from Rainbow. “I-I’m okay now.”

“Are you sure?” The cyan pegasus eyed the other with concern. Loyal no matter what. Twilight envied that aspect of Rainbow Dash.

“Yes… You should go to sleep…You look tired, Rainbow.” Fluttershy’s eyes were still watery.

“No way!” The blue pegasus flapped her wings furiously at the thought, but the bags under her eyes were obvious. Not to mention the lack of speed and power her wings usually gave.

“I can stay,” Twilight entered the conversation for the first time, “I’ve been up countless nights studying, and I’m not even tired. You don’t have to worry.”

Rainbow looked tempted, but her loyalty just wouldn’t cave in. “That would be wrong…”

“I’ll talk to you tomorrow…o-okay?” Fluttershy hid her face behind her mane. Twilight had a feeling that she had started crying again, and was trying to cover her face so as to not worry RD.

She still looked unconvinced. “You’d better come first thing! I don’t care how early it is. Well, scratch that, just not too early without a good reason. Okay? I’ll just be in that same cloud. And you’d better not make her cry more, egghead.” Rainbow pointed a hoof threateningly at Twilight.

The unicorn nodded, and almost hesitantly, the cyan mare flew out the door. There was a moment of silence in which Twilight used a hoof to move Fluttershy’s mane out of her face. Tears were coming out. Had they even stopped before?

“Oh, Twilight…!” Within a second, Twilight was in a tight embrace. Fluttershy was crying openly into her coat, similar to RD.

“I think it’s m-my fault! A-Angel…h-he…” She stumbled and stuttered over her words, and some were impossible to make out. “…All the a-animals were hurt, and I still went out…I’m so…dumb!” She burst out into more sobs and held the unicorn even closer.

“That’s not true. I’m almost certain Angel went into the Everfree against his better judgment, which isn’t your fault. He’s going to survive, so you don’t need to be so upset. Really, Fluttershy. You’re okay…I’m okay…Angel’s okay.”

That seemed to calm her down immensely. “I’m so sorry…” She sniffled, the tears stopping once again. Fluttershy had yet to relinquish her hold on Twilight, however.

“What for? There’s no reason to be apologetic. I’m here for you.” Twilight spotted some blankets in the corner of the waiting room, and levitated them over. It’s not like they’d be bothering anypony, anyway.

She draped the covers around both of them. “It’s just…I…no…” Fluttershy seemed troubled over what to say. Twilight smiled encouragingly.

“…Thank you for being here…I must be a terrible marefriend…” Twilight nuzzled Fluttershy affectionately.

“Show a little kindness to yourself…Um …” Twilight hesitated, “You must be a magician, because every time I look at you, the whole room disappears.” She winked. It was really, really, weird, but, once again, a book had told her the other party would enjoy it.

Fluttershy blushed immediately. “Twilight…” There was a ghost of a smile on her face.

“Why did the chicken cross the road?” The unicorn spoke. This, however, was one she was making up. When Twilight was a little filly, Shining Armor always started his jokes this way.

“Why?” The yellow mare’s eyes sparkled in slight amusement.

“Because…you were on the other side.” Okay, she admitted the corniness, but it was the only thing she could come up with. The pegasus was an animal caretaker, after all.

Fluttershy actually giggled a little. She still looked terribly sad, though. Twilight nuzzled the other mare comfortingly. Her eyes wandered over to the same place she had found the covers, and noticed a bookshelf.

“Maybe you need to get some sleep, too, Fluttershy. You look even more tired than Rainbow Dash.” The yellow pony’s crying had definitely made her look exhausted. Her mane was a little frazzled; Twilight could imagine hers being the same, if not worse.

“I don’t think I could…I mean, um, what if Angel wakes up?” Fluttershy frowned. Twilight must have done something right, since the other mare wasn’t crying at the mention of the bunny’s name.

“I’ll stay awake; I promise. I’ll even read you a story.” With her magic, Twilight grabbed a book from the shelf and laid it in front of them. Equestria’s Fables for Young Foals stared up at her. Perfect—what they needed right now was a lighthearted story.

Fluttershy must have trusted her not to drift off, as she didn’t refuse. Twilight lay down on the floor to get comfortable and the yellow mare followed suit. The unicorn flipped to a random story and began to read.

The Manticore and the Mouse… A Manticore was awakened by a mouse running over his face,” Twilight spoke quietly so Fluttershy could fall asleep easier. The yellow mare snuggled into the other pony’s side, listening attentively.

“Rising up angrily, the Manticore caught the mouse and was about to kill him, when the mouse begged, ‘if you would only spare my life, I would be sure to repay your kindness!’

“The Manticore laughed at the idea of the mouse being able to repay a favor but still let him go.

“Later, the Manticore was caught by a pack of diamond dogs, who bound him with strong ropes to the ground. The mouse, recognizing the Manticore's roar, came and gnawed the rope with his teeth and set him free, exclaiming, ‘You ridiculed the idea of my ever being able to help you; now you know that it is possible for even a tiny mouse to do something for a Manticore.’"

Fluttershy’s eyes were starting to droop. “The moral of the story was that ‘an act of kindness is never wasted.’”

The unicorn chuckled lightly before continuing on to the next story. “The Tortoise and the Hare…” Everypony knew that one.

Twilight read softly, and in the middle of the story, Fluttershy had fallen asleep. The yellow pony was leaning heavily on the unicorn, silent as ever.

Twilight wondered if she should move Fluttershy, as they seemed to have picked the middle of the room to rest. She decided against it, however, as it was surely the early hours of the morning, and nopony would come in anyway. She didn’t want to wake up Fluttershy just after she got to sleep, either.

The unicorn decided to continue reading fables. Instead of doing it aloud, however, she settled on interpreting the words in her head.

The doctors had left long ago—perhaps right after the story of The Tortoise and the Hare. Twilight and Fluttershy were only allowed to stay because they were affiliated with the Princess and deemed trustworthy. Angel was in a completely stable state, but as a just-in-case measure, Nurse Redheart was checking up on him every so often. The white pony was in her office the whole time otherwise.

Twilight yawned. The warmth from the blankets and Fluttershy was starting to make her drowsy. She glanced at the clock, and then the window. Celestia’s sun hadn’t even come up yet.

Why was she so tired? Twilight had stayed up an entire week to study for her magic exam in Canterlot, so why was she this sleepy for one measly night?

It was probably all that had happened in such a short period of time. First, Twilight did a lot of labor when helping the animals, Fluttershy confessed, they had dinner together, kissed a couple of times, Angel got hurt, Fluttershy was crying, and then now Twilight had to stay up late, all in one day. It seemed like a lot in hindsight, but it hadn’t felt overwhelming throughout.

Twilight settled on watching the mare sleep. If it was possible, she was even more beautiful this way. Fluttershy’s warmth felt comforting against Twilight’s own skin; her steady breathing slowed the unicorn’s heart dramatically.

The sun was finally coming up; probably seven thirty. Twilight hadn’t gotten a wink of sleep, just as she’d promised. Nurse Redheart had let her know that Angel Bunny was awake, and left to do another check-up.

The unicorn pressed her muzzle behind Fluttershy’s ear. “Fluttershy…wake up…” The yellow mare stirred slightly, but hadn’t roused completely. Twilight started to play with Fluttershy’s ear, and after a few minutes, Fluttershy’s eyes (and wings) shot open.

“T-Twilight?” She was blushing deeply.

“Good morning!” Twilight smiled, ignoring her own fatigue. Fluttershy seemed content with cuddling, until she remembered where she was.

“Is Angel okay?” Her eyes shifted uneasily to the door.

“Oh, right! Angel just woke up a few minutes ago.” Twilight levitated the covers and books back to where they belonged before standing up. She stretched, immediately feeling the relief.

The two ponies walked to where Angel was being kept. Nurse Redheart was trying to feed him carrots, but he was throwing them back at her. The rabbit had a cast on his foot, but other than that, he appeared okay.

“Angel!” Fluttershy immediately flew to the bunny’s side. “Are you alright?”

Angel Bunny glared before chucking a carrot at her. She didn’t seem to care about that, however.

“He is okay. If he’d only eat, that is.” Nurse Redheart spoke, looking exasperated. Not just anyone could take care of that animal. In fact, Twilight thought Fluttershy was the only pony in all of Equestria that could be in the same room with Angel and not be entirely annoyed.

“Oh, please, Angel! Won’t you eat just one carrot?” Fluttershy pleaded fruitlessly. The rabbit just threw another carrot at her.

Twilight was beyond irritated at this point. Using magic, she stopped the carrot before it hit Fluttershy and smiled wickedly. If the pegasus couldn’t get Angel to submit, then Twilight would use force. It was quite simple, really; she had done it to Philamena before.

Angel started sweating visibly, but he was now glaring at the unicorn. Before he had a chance, Twilight practically shoved the food into his mouth, and he was compelled to swallow. They glowered at each other—and only one thing was certain. Twilight had made a powerful enemy.

“Um, when can he come home? I-I’m sure I can nurse him back to health…Last night was—um, I just panicked…” Fluttershy spoke timidly to the professional.

“I suppose he could leave now. He needs to stay off that foot, and to rest. He should be okay within two weeks. And if not, come see me.” Nurse Redheart explained with ease, “Oh, and take this.” The nurse gave her a mini-wheelchair and crutches. Fluttershy let out the breath she had been holding.

“Oh, thank you! I was afraid he’d have to stay here for a long time.” She pulled the covers off of the rabbit, and was putting him onto the wheelchair. He and Twilight were still in a glare contest.

Within the next few minutes, they were walking out of the hospital in a cheery mood. “Should we wake Rainbow up? She did want to know…” Twilight looked up uncertainly at the cloud that RD had fallen asleep on.

“I think we should let her sleep. If, um, you think so.” Fluttershy was pushing Angel in his wheelchair.

“Yeah. Maybe we can…” Twilight yawned, “visit her later today.” Fluttershy glanced at the unicorn with concern, but didn’t say anything.

It was still rather early, and not many ponies were out. Even the ones that were didn’t notice Twilight or Fluttershy trotting to the latter’s cottage. The walk was a lot shorter than the unicorn would have guessed, and they could already see the door.

“Hey guys!” Spike waved with a smile. He had what looked suspiciously like books in his arms, but the lavender mare was too tired to care. Twilight had forgotten—in the rush to get Angel to the hospital, she had hastily left a note to the dragon stating the situation and telling him to take care of the hurt animals. Apparently he hadn’t gone straight to sleep when she was walking Fluttershy home.

Fluttershy smiled thankfully, and they all went inside. Spike had done a good job. All the animals were sleeping peacefully; unaware that something had gone wrong.

Both Fluttershy and Spike went upstairs to put Angel to bed, but Twilight stayed behind. The unicorn yawned again, and trudged to the couch. She plopped onto it, and closed her eyes.

“I’m just…resting for a little bit…”

“Angel! Please, just go to sleep…” Fluttershy pleaded. The bunny crossed his arms and defiantly shook his head. She loved the rabbit to death, but he needed to listen to reason.

“Let’s try this…” Spike whispered to the pegasus, but she didn’t get a chance to ask what he was talking about. “Oh, I hope Angel doesn’t take this carrot that I really wanted!”

The bunny glanced at what Spike was holding, and in a moment’s weakness, grabbed it. With a triumphant smirk, he ate it. He was completely knocked out a few minutes later.

Fluttershy started panicking. What had just happened? “Don’t worry, Fluttershy. There was just a pill that’d make him go to sleep in that carrot.”

She calmed down and thanked the purple dragon for his help. She was really glad that all the animals were still okay, including Angel.

They walked back downstairs—Spike to fetch the tea he had apparently made earlier, and Fluttershy to see her marefriend. She was so very happy that she could call Twilight hers. The pegasus wasn’t sure exactly how her special somepony felt about her, but she hoped it was romantic. She really didn’t want to think that Twilight was just in the relationship so she wouldn’t hurt her feelings.

Fluttershy blinked—where was Twilight? She listened intently, and let out a sigh of relief when she heard low breathing from the couch. She walked around, about to say something, until she saw an adorable sight.

Twilight was fast asleep, with the cutest little expression on her face. She was snoring lightly and her ear flicked occasionally.

Twilight had seemed tired earlier, and Fluttershy felt a little guilty for making her stay up all night. She found the fact really endearing, though.

Spike came back into the room with tea. “She fell asleep? That’s weird.”

Fluttershy jumped and looked away from Twilight, blushing. “She was um, up late…” The purple dragon poured him and Fluttershy a cup.

“Actually, there was something I wanted to ask you about, Fluttershy.” Spike spoke seriously. The pegasus was worried about the tone he used, but was listening nonetheless.

Spike pulled out a stack of books and placed them in front of her. Fluttershy glanced curiously at them and gave him a questioning look.

“I was planning on asking Twi about this, but she’ll probably be out for a while. So uh, how long have you two been together?”

Fluttershy nervously scuffed her hooves. “Since yesterday…”

“I was afraid of this…” Spike sighed and face-palmed. The pegasus wasn’t sure what he was talking about. Spike seemed to notice her confusion, and elaborated. “Twilight hasn’t ever had a romantic relationship before, so she doesn’t know what she’s doing. That’s where these come in,” he motioned to the books, “I found them under her bed. She was reading them before you came for dinner.”

Fluttershy read some of the titles, and immediately blushed.

“You see what I mean? You two have only just started going out, and she’s already reading stuff like this,” he waved a copy of How to Handle Steamy Situations With Your Marefriend, “Although I doubt she actually knew what she pulled out. Anyway, I’m just a little worried about how this is going to work out. I don’t want you or her to get hurt.”

Fluttershy hadn’t thought the baby dragon had known so much about something like this, and was a little impressed with how he handled it.

“I’m, um, happy that you told me about this…but we’re okay… I, um, kind of had a feeling that she would try to read about love in books…” She unconsciously cast a glance at Twilight, who was still fast asleep.

“I see. I’m still going to talk to Twilight though. She probably doesn’t know that love isn’t something you can learn from books.” Spike sipped from his tea, looking rather professional.

Fluttershy nodded in understanding, trying not to think of how embarrassed her marefriend would be.

“Are you sure that’s a, um…good idea?” She didn’t think that Spike should confront Twilight. It wasn’t necessary—and it’d definitely make her uncomfortable. Fluttershy had always known that the unicorn would use books. She had studied practically every aspect of the other mare—but she was more observant than most ponies, even though she rarely talked about the things she saw.

“What do you mean? She might do something weird because a book said to. Scratch that, I know she will.” Spike had the most determined expression Fluttershy had ever seen.

“Um, okay…” She wanted to object, but couldn’t. She was much too shy, and thus doubted herself.

Spike smiled triumphantly, but it changed into a hesitant expression. “Actually, there was something else I needed to ask advice for, Fluttershy…”

Spike's Sorrow

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Fluttershy shook nervously. Spike had asked her for something so personal—something so hard to help with. The pegasus wasn't even sure if she knew enough on the subject to even do anything for him. She could remember every detail of what had occurred perfectly.

Spike held his tail between his claws. Fluttershy waited patiently for him to ask for whatever it was he needed.

“Um…Fluttershy, I kinda wanted to ask for your help… I know that you’re best friends with Rarity, and, um, I was hoping you could give me advice. You don’t know this, but uh…” The purple dragon leaned in and whispered, “I have a crush on Rarity.”

Fluttershy blinked. She already knew—everypony did. But Spike was completely oblivious. There was no way that the yellow pony could do something that could possibly hurt him, so she simply nodded, trying to look surprised.

He looked satisfied, but continued, “Anyway, what do you think I should do? You were the one who made a move on Twilight, right? So could you coach me, or something? Please!” He looked insistently into her eyes. Fluttershy couldn’t say no—he reminded her too much of Angel Bunny.

“Um, Spike…” She hesitated. She knew she shouldn’t give him false hopes, but still couldn’t say how she really felt about the situation in fear that she may break his heart. Fluttershy wished Twilight was awake to help her. “Do you…Do you think she likes you, too?”

“I…” He deflated, “I don’t know.” Fluttershy gulped uneasily.

“Well…Having feelings and not saying them can eat you up inside. When you finally tell her, you feel relieved, but still nervous. Um…”

Fluttershy decided that she wanted to be supportive of Spike, even if she felt that Rarity wasn’t going to return the feelings. It wasn’t her place to crush his hopes.

“…You should tell her how you feel…She may or may not feel the same, but at least you’ll get it off of your chest and if the um…need arises, you’ll be ready to move on.” Fluttershy glanced to Twilight. She wasn’t sure why she had felt the need to check on the unicorn.

Spike sunk lower to the ground. “I don’t think I have the courage to tell her. I tried once—but she stopped me. What if…What if she does the same thing again?” His innocent eyes gazed imploringly into Fluttershy’s own.

“It took me some time, too. Why don’t…um…Why don’t you write her a love letter? And maybe leave it anonymous. We could have Rarity give the reply to me, and I can give it to you.” The yellow mare stared at the ground, feeling as if her idea was stupid.

“Fluttershy! You’re a genius!” Spike cheered happily. Fluttershy glanced urgently at her marefriend, but she was still unmoving. The purple dragon apologized swiftly, and quieted down as best he could. “Oh wow, Fluttershy, you’re so smart… I just knew coming to you would be the best. I asked Twilight before, but she wouldn’t say anything no matter how hard I tried.”

Fluttershy tried to smile. If Spike ended up hurt badly, would Twilight hold it against her for encouraging him? Apparently the lavender mare hadn’t wanted him to confess. The yellow pony’s anxiety started to fester more than usual.

“I still need some help though,” he pulled parchment, quills, and an ink well out of nowhere; probably from years of experience. “What should I say?”

Fluttershy pondered the thought. She had read many romance novels, but would never readily admit it. In the past she had even read ‘filly-fooling’ material and imagined it was her and Twilight. She blushed lightly when she remembered the more mature books.

“Just…write from the heart. Tell her exactly how you feel. And don’t forget to be completely anonymous and to include how to reply…If you think so.”

Spike’s tongue stuck out of the corner of his mouth, seeming to be in deep thought. He jotted down for a few minutes, and sighed.

“You know what, Fluttershy? Thanks for all your help, and this love letter was a good idea, but I think I’m gonna march over there and tell her exactly how I feel to sweep her off her hooves! I’ll be her dragon in shining armor! …Uh…not Twilight’s brother.” He coughed, “I need to go do this before I lose my nerve. Bye Fluttershy!”

Before the yellow mare could protest even a squeak, the dragon was out the door. She shuffled her hooves. Just the other day she was in his position—she felt almost as nervous now as she did back then.

Fluttershy looked over at Twilight. The poor mare was still asleep, and she almost wished she was awake. Almost. All the other animals were resting peacefully, recovering.

The yellow pony walked over and sat right in front of the couch, content with watching her marefriend sleep. Once she even went so far as to steal a kiss. It was nice, but she felt so bad for doing it, and quickly pulled away. Fluttershy berated herself for a full ten minutes afterwards.

She wondered when the lavender mare would finally wake up. Twilight must have been really tired to sleep through this much. Fluttershy sighed blissfully and briefly snuggled into the other pony’s side.

“Sleep well, my dear Twilight…”

Spike was practically skipping. He was so excited—and yet so very nervous, too. On the way to Rarity’s Boutique, he passed by Sugarcube Corner, and decided to take a quick stop. Pinkie had always said that sweets could settle your nerves fast.

He pushed the doors and immediately saw the pink baker. She had just finished with the last customer in the shop, and positively beamed when she saw the purple dragon.

“Hey, Pinkie Pie! Do you have any emerald cupcakes in stock?” He glanced through the glass, but didn’t see any.

“Of course! I have emerald cupcakes and ruby cupcakes and sapphire cupcakes! Don’t forget the diamond cupcakes and the onyx cupcakes and my personal favorite: ROCK cupcakes!” She chirped quickly, showing him each cupcake in surprising speed.

“Um…” Spike hadn’t heard a single word, “I’ll just take an emerald cupcake…”

“Why so sad, Spike? Don’t you remember? You’re getting twelve emerald cupcakes, free of charge!” Pinkie smiled, setting a box full of cupcakes on the counter.

“Huh? I only asked for one…” Spike scratched his head, confused.

“You won our bet, silly! You know; the one about how we wanted to see if Fluttershy and Twilight would get together?” She giggled.

“Oh yeah!” Spike was going to ask how Pinkie knew that he had actually won the bet, but decided to spare his sanity. “Actually, Pinkie, I’m headed over to Carousel Boutique to see Rarity about…uh…stuff.” He smiled unconvincingly, shifting the cupcakes uneasily in his claws. Why had he even brought it up?

“Ohhh, stuff? I see ponies all the time about stuff! There’s all kinds of different stuff—there’s important stuff, not important stuff, cool stuff, and even nerd stuff! But that’s only when I go to see Twilight. That pony’s a silly filly sometimes! So what kinda stuff are you going to see Rarity about?” Pinkie bounced over next to the dragon, abandoning her work.

“Eh…You gotta promise not to tell anypony, Pinkie!” The dragon checked to make sure no one else was around.

“Okie dokie lokie!” Her smile only grew wider.

“I’m pretty sure you already know, since, well…you know everything, but I have a crush on Rarity, and I was just now going to go confess. What do you think?”

“Hmm,” Pinkie had a rare thoughtful expression, “Give her a cupcake.”

“Huh?” Spike didn’t see how that was relevant in the least.

“You have to trust the CUPCAKE! Good luck!” Pinkie was already pushing the poor dragon out the door.

“I don’t understand, Pinkie!” He cried out, but he was already outside. His distraction had proved unsuccessful, and now he had to go to Carousel Boutique to see his love. Any other time he would gladly welcome that chance, but his nerves were getting to him again.

And that’s when he saw Applejack across the street selling apples. The dragon jumped at the chance to avoid going to Rarity's yet. “Applejack!” He waved and ran over, clutching the box of cupcakes under his arm. AJ had just sold some apples, and was apparently free for the moment.

“Hey there, Sugarcube…” She barely gave him a glance as another customer grabbed some apples. Spike blushed under his scales. Even though AJ called everypony by that silly nickname, it somehow felt worse than ‘Spikey-wikey.’

“Applejack, have you ever been in love?” The orange pony turned and stared at the dragon incredulously.

“Beg pardon?” Spike gulped.

“Have you ever been in love before?” He found himself clutching his tail with one claw, as the other was occupied. Spike absolutely hated that old habit of his.

“Why ya asking?” She wasn’t exactly glaring, but she was giving him a stern look. Obviously she was scrutinizing him for any telltale signs of a lie.

“I’m, uh, curious.” He tried to grin, but when AJ continued to give him that look, he caved. “Okay, okay, I’m planning on confessing to somepony, and wanted to know if you’ve ever done it before.”

Applejack smiled smugly. She attended to another pony before answering his question. “Well, you see, Sugarcube, I have been in your boots before. That was a long time ago, though.” She blushed before continuing, “All you gotta do is speak from yer heart and be honest. Move along, now, yer holdin’ up the line there.” With a hoof, she pointed behind him, and the dragon noticed several ponies glaring at him.

“Oh, heh…” He sheepishly scratched the back of his head, “Thanks, Applejack! I’ll try my best!” He walked along, feeling much better after his talk with the farmer. In fact, he’d even go so far as to say he was in good spirits. He snacked on one of the emerald cupcakes.

Spike decided to take the long way around to get to Carousel Boutique, as it was a nice day outside. (Ignoring the returning nerves, of course.) The dragon even went so far out of the way to pass by the hospital, where he actually spied RD snoozing on a cloud. Seeing as it was well into the afternoon, he called up to her.

“Hey! Rainbow Dash! Wake up!” She rolled over slowly, glaring at Spike for the interruption. RD yawned loudly.

“What is it, Spike?” The pegasus had red rings around her eyes, but the dragon ignored that.

“Can I get your advice? You’re always cool, so I think you may be able to help me with my situation.” Rainbow Dash perked up from the praise, and rubbed her eyes. She still seemed drowsy.

“Uh, yeah, of course. But I need to check on Fluttershy first…” Spike saw the worry evident on RD’s features.

“She’s okay. I actually just got back from over there. I’m not sure if you know or not, but Angel got hurt last night and was at this hospital, but got discharged this morning. I was taking care of the animals while Twi and Fluttershy stayed all night, but they are at her place right now.”

Rainbow Dash ruffled her feathers, looking unsure. “Alright, Spike, let’s make this quick. What is it you wanted from a cool pony like me?”

Spike smiled cheerily. “I was wondering, actually, how would somepony confess their undying love?”

Rainbow Dash fell flat on her face, falling from the cloud onto the land. She quickly flew up, circling the purple dragon. “Woah, Spike. You’re asking me for advice on how to say you love somepony and be cool about it?” She pulled out her favorite ‘cool’ sunglasses.

“Yeah! I want to, you know, sweep her off her hooves.” He held his claws together firmly. Rainbow Dash looked pretty confident, and he was hopeful that this was the pony that could really help him.

“I see, I see…Well! You’re head over hooves for this mare, am I right?” She sounded like a hoofball coach. Spike felt compelled to answer like he was a player.

“Yes, sir!” Her eyebrow rose at this, but she didn’t question it.

“Do you want to be with this mare?” She analyzed him, and he felt as if her own assurance was pouring into him.

“Yes, sir!”

“Are you going to SIT this one out and let some other STALLION take her away?!”

“NO, SIR!!!” He felt pumped. Spike was breathing hard in anticipation.

“Then what are you doing here?! You gotta go get her, and fast! Rarity won’t wait long! Just tell her how you feel, no stuttering, and make sure you look her in the eye. You better not chicken out, Spike!!!”

“Yes, sir! Thank you, sir! I mean, thanks Rainbow! I can do this!” He ran straight for Carousel Boutique, hearing the cheering pegasus behind him. He didn’t notice that one of his cupcakes was missing.

Rainbow Dash munched on the treat, spitting out the gems. She wondered if it was a good idea to get him so pumped up for success, but dismissed the thought easily. It was all up to Rarity. Rainbow stretched her wings before taking flight. She had to make sure, for herself, that Fluttershy was still okay.

“I can do this, I can do this, I can do this…!” Spike chanted to himself. He was right in front of Rarity’s shop, poised to knock. He gulped. “I can’t do this…”

He sighed. “I’m such a scaredy-pony. I don’t deserve somepony like Rarity…” Spike turned to go back to the library, disappointed in himself. Before he even got two steps away, the door swung open. Rarity was standing there.

“Darling! I thought I heard you out here. Come in, come in,” the unicorn pushed him inside, not taking no for an answer. Spike swallowed numbly. His fate was sealed.

“What brings you here, Spikey-wikey?” She was smiling. The dragon liked that.

“I brought you some c-…cupcakes.” Spike berated himself. Rainbow had told him not to stutter! He held out a single emerald cupcake gingerly.

“Thank you! Darling, the gesture is very generous of you, but I couldn’t possibly eat emeralds…” She smiled good-naturedly. Spike deadpanned; he had completely forgotten that ponies didn’t eat jewels!

“I’m sorry, Rarity,” he fought to maintain eye-contact, just as RD had told him to, “Pinkie Pie kinda just…forced these on me, so I thought maybe I could give you some…”

“Once again, darling, thank you. I very much appreciate it. Now, was that the only reason for your visit?” She looked so knowing—Spike didn’t know what to do.

“Um…” Speak from yer heart and be honest. “No. No it wasn’t.” He looked up defiantly—determinedly. Applejack’s words set him on fire all over. All of his friends’ advice, (even Pinkie’s), were going through his head. He was going to do this! Rarity was going to be his…!

Rarity looked taken aback at the answer. She probably expected him to lie and say ‘yes.’

“I have something I have to say Rarity, and I really need you to hear me out, please.”

She looked concerned. Really concerned. Spike suddenly felt nervous, but continued. Now that he had already gotten this far, he felt compelled to say it all.

“I’ve had a crush on you ever since me and Twilight came to Ponyville. Literally—just ask Twi if you don’t believe me! You were the most beautiful unicorn I had ever seen, and I really like you. A lot.” His gaze got a little shaky, but he maintained eye contact, and didn’t even stutter. He hoped his words made sense.

Rarity looked terribly sad. She seemed to be faraway. Spike bit his tongue in anticipation.

“Spikey-wi—…no…I shouldn’t call you that anymore…” She sighed, and then forced a smile. “Darling, I am flattered, really. But I’m afraid I do not return your feelings.” Spike’s heart shattered into a million pieces.

"I’m sorry…I’ve known for some time, but I was a coward and ignored them. Spike, please, do forgive me. I hope that we can still be friends…This is hard on me as well…” Spike didn’t want to think about how his expression must have looked. He didn’t care—all he knew was that he didn’t want to be there anymore.

“W-W-Why, Rarity?” He felt hot tears spring into his eyes, “I-I did everything they told me! What did I do wrong? I-I-I kept eye contact and didn’t s-stutter like Rainbow told me, I spoke from my heart like Fluttershy said, I gave you a cupcake like Pinkie said, and I was c-completely honest like A-A-Applejack told me! So why???” Spike felt wetness on his cheeks.

Rarity looked really pained. “No, darling, it’s nothing like that! Feelings come of their own accord—nopony can give you advice on how to make me fall for you. It’s…It’s not you, dear, it’s me. Please, just listen to me!” She stared pleadingly at him, but he glared harder than he had ever done before. Even more than the day Twilight had forbade him to go outside in Canterlot while she was studying. Back then, he had blown up and told the unicorn that she wasn’t his mother. She cried for weeks and wouldn’t forgive him.

Spike turned on his heel and ran as fast as he could, dropping the cupcakes at some point. He was crying, but he didn’t care. The dragon made a beeline for the library, and passed so many ponies, and heard familiar voices calling out to him, but he didn’t stop. His heart felt like it had been torn in two.

She Likes Control

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Twilight awoke with a jolt. She hadn’t dreamt of anything in particular, but her head hurt like a ton of bricks had been dropped onto it.

Fluttershy hadn’t noticed the unicorn’s sudden awakening, and was currently feeding a bedridden squirrel. The little animal seemed thankful while stuffing his mouth with nuts.

The lavender mare blinked blearily and sat up on the couch. Even without the headache, she didn’t feel too good. She figured she might have caught a cold.

“F…Fluttershy?” She sounded drowsier than she thought she would. The pegasus jumped and turned around.

“You’re awake, Twilight? How do you feel?” She fluttered over next to the unicorn.

“I’m sorry about falling asleep on you, and I’m alright. How long have I been out?” Twilight was a little embarrassed that she had actually fallen asleep in somepony else’s house; it felt like an intrusion.

“Oh no, it’s okay. You stayed up really late for me the other day, so, um, it’s not a problem or anything…” Her smile melted any doubt Twilight once had, “You’ve been asleep for only an hour, I think…”

“Really? I feel like I’ve been asleep for a long time.” Twilight stretched and yawned.

“Yes. Um…Twilight…?” The pegasus became timid once again. The lavender mare nodded her assent, holding a softened expression.

“I um, kind of have to go to Zecora’s for herbs, but it’s a little…scary by myself…” She looked up with a hopeful glint in her eyes. Twilight found the display rather cute.

“Actually, I need to see Zecora myself.” The unicorn supposed that the zebra would have some herbs to clear her head. Twilight knew from experience that when unicorns had headaches it often affected their ability to do magic. Maybe Zecora could even give her cold medicine if she still felt bad.

“Oh yes, thank you. We can go now; I just finished tending to the animals. If you’re ready, that is…” She scuffed her hooves.

“That sounds wonderful. We should hurry, though. You wouldn’t want to leave the animals for too long, and I probably should study today…” Twilight frowned. She had wanted to spend more time with Fluttershy, but they both had responsibilities. The pegasus seemed a little disappointed, though she quickly tried to hide it.

“I understand, Twilight.” They trotted out the door, careful not to wake any of the critters. The walk to the Everfree Forest was enjoyable, but the part where they were actually inside wasn’t. It was very creepy, and two thoughts were stuck in Twilight’s head. One, the creature could be anywhere. And two, the first thought was completely irrational.

“Twilight…Um…Do you think that…it…could come out at any moment?” Apparently Fluttershy had the same thoughts going through her head.

“Of course not!” She sounded a lot more confident than she actually felt. Seeing the pegasus afraid always stirred some sort of protective instinct within her. Twilight walked a little closer to Fluttershy to provide comfort and to show that she was there for her. “Don’t worry.”

Surprisingly, the rest of the walk to Zecora’s went by quickly and without a hitch. Before they knew it, they were already standing in front of her hut. Twilight knocked. The sound of hooves clopping on wood was heard before Zecora popped her head through the door.

“Hello, my friend! What have you come to comprehend?” She looked at Fluttershy with a knowing smirk.

“Um, hello Zecora. I was hoping you’d have some more herbs that will help with my friends’ recovery…” Fluttershy explained.

“And what about you? I should hope you didn’t come for Dragon’s Bane, too.” The zebra addressed Twilight. Fluttershy winced upon hearing ‘dragon,’ and glanced around uneasily.

“I was hoping you would have something to get rid of a headache. You see, Zecora, I woke up a little while ago with a really bad one.” Twilight clarified with a hoof to her head. Fluttershy looked over at her worriedly; probably a little upset that she hadn’t told her earlier.

Zecora nodded before opening her door wider. “Come. I will give you what you seek, and then some.” The two ponies trotted in; immediately spotting a large black cauldron in the center of the room.

The zebra went through her shelves to grab the necessary items. The unicorn felt a little dazed upon entry, and her attention was immediately drawn to the steaming potion. Curiosity was welling up within her, and she really wanted to know what it was.

Fluttershy poked Twilight and whispered into her ear, “Are you okay? You look a little pale…”

The unicorn snapped out of her reverie. “…I’m okay. It’s just a headache, that’s all.” Still not entirely aware of her surroundings (that cauldron looked mighty suspicious) and wanting to prove that she was alright, her horn lit up and a purple aura enveloped Fluttershy’s tail, lifting it. The pegasus squeaked in embarrassment at this, and a satisfied Twilight was just about to release the spell, when it felt like her head had exploded. Using magic worsened the headache tenfold.

“Oww,” she grumbled loudly, pressing a hoof to her head. It was pounding. Twilight wasn’t even sure when she fell back on her haunches.

“Oh my, are you alright, Twilight?” Fluttershy’s concerned expression filled the unicorn’s vision. The lavender mare didn’t get a chance to reply before a cup was pressed into her hooves.

“This may help to alleviate your sickness, but it will also slow your quickness.” Zecora pointed to her head meaningfully.

“Huh?” Twilight sputtered, immediately understanding what she meant, “Is this a depressant? I intended to study today, and to do so I would need to be able to understand the text and to remember the information, as well as write notes in technical terms, not in the vastly reduced vocabulary that a depressant can give to somepony!”

She was already keeping the cup as far away from her body as possible. Fluttershy took the cup gently from her marefriend’s hooves. “Come on, Twilight. It will make you feel better…” She looked pleadingly at her.

Twilight backpedaled until she hit the door. “Nonononono! I needed something to clear my mind, not befuddle it!”

Fluttershy took small steps towards the unicorn; fully in care-taker mode. “Please Twilight? Just a little bit?”

Twilight shook her head wildly despite the pain caused by the action. The last time she had a depressant was in Canterlot. Everypony always said that alcohol was really good, so the unicorn gave it a try. Not only did it embarrass her beyond belief, but it also led to Princess Celestia scolding her. Needless to say she never wanted to try it again, even in medicine.

Zecora watched, evidently amused. She trotted up to Fluttershy and whispered something into her ear. A blush immediately arose in the yellow pony’s features, and it only deepened as Zecora went on. Twilight couldn’t hear a word.

Eventually, the zebra backed away, saying that she had forgotten something (with a rhyme, of course) and headed to her bedroom to get it. Fluttershy was still blushing and she nervously shuffled her back feet. The pegasus’s wings flapped impatiently, looking as if they were beckoning their owner to do something.

She flew slowly towards Twilight, barely in the air. She was probably going at this pace to show that she wasn’t planning on force-feeding.

Twilight used magic to try and open the door behind her, but the spell backfired instead. Her head felt like it was getting beat by a hammer.

Fluttershy landed right in front of the bookworm. “Please take a sip…I really don’t like seeing you hurt…” She tried as a last resort.

“I act really weird when I have something like that in my system.” Twilight pointed a hoof accusingly at the offending green liquid.

The pegasus sighed lightly before placing the cup to the side. She hastily checked to see if Zecora was still gone before taking her next move. Fluttershy gathered up Twilight in her forelegs and hugged her tightly. “I really, really like you, Twilight.”

Twilight blushed from the sudden declaration, not really sure what she should be doing. The fact that she couldn’t think straight didn’t help, either.

The pegasus pulled away slightly to look into Twilight’s eyes. The lavender mare felt self-conscious at such a close-proximity, especially by somepony so beautiful. Her face turned even redder with that thought.

Fluttershy had a blush as well, but it wasn’t nearly as bad as the unicorn’s. The yellow pony hesitated before capturing Twilight’s lips in a kiss. The unicorn was stunned at this self-assured action, especially when coming from somepony like Fluttershy, but did her best to kiss back. The pegasus rested her hooves on Twilight’s shoulders before lightly pushing so that the unicorn had her back on the door. When Twilight thought that Fluttershy couldn’t get any more confident, she felt the yellow pony’s tongue slip through her lips. Before Twilight really knew what was going on, they were Prench kissing.

She didn’t have any objection to it, however. It was quite welcome, as far as Twilight was concerned. She only worried that she wasn’t very good at it.

When Fluttershy did finally pull away, presumably for air, Twilight felt a little sad that it had ended so quickly. She was in a daze as she recalled the sensation.

She was so lost in the daydream that she didn’t notice the disgusting liquid being poured into her muzzle, nor the taste. What did bring her out of it, however, was the sound of chuckling. Twilight blinked, wondering what had just happened.

Fluttershy was a bright red, wings slightly erect, but what caught Twilight’s eye was the zebra off to the side. Zecora looked mischievously at Twilight, a familiar cup in her mouth. It was empty.

“Ack! No…This is going to be bad.” Twilight smacked a hoof into her head. She didn’t even have a headache anymore. “Oh Celestia, I hope I’m not a lightweight still…”

Fluttershy looked like she objected to what had just happened, but Zecora was still snickering. After she composed herself, the zebra grabbed a brown bag that she had collected while the two were making out. She gave it to the pegasus before speaking.

“Here are the herbs that you will need; the Dragon’s Bane will work with great speed.” Zecora looked at Twilight and smiled. “Please do not blame your special somepony for this. As I’m sure you know from experience, when left untreated a unicorn’s headache can be less than bliss.”

Twilight bit her lip and nodded. She was upset that the two of them had conspired together to make her drink the medicine, but knew that she couldn’t hold it against them. They only wanted to make her feel better, after all. If she couldn’t forgive her friends for something like this, then what was the point of learning the lessons of friendship?

“In a few minutes I think it’ll feel like I’m in bliss…” Twilight muttered, bracing herself. Zecora cracked a smile, looking like she was trying not to fall over laughing. Both Twilight and Fluttershy looked over at the zebra questioningly.

She gave in with a faint chuckle. “I’m afraid that I must admit that I was lying; the medicine I gave you was not Dragon’s Bane. Your mind will remain clear, and your head very much sane.”

The unicorn’s eyebrows rose, telling the zebra to explain.

“Are you aware that your friends Rainbow Dash and Pinkie Pie do pranks to everypony around town? Well, I, too, decided to try being a clown.” She said this as if it clarified the very reason ponies exist.

Twilight’s jaw dropped. So Pinkie and Rainbow had tricked Zecora before? But what surprised her even more was that the mysterious zebra had actually pulled a prank on her.

The unicorn’s blood boiled slightly. She mustered up the most polite smile she could before excusing herself. Twilight slipped out of the cottage; Fluttershy lagged behind, probably apologizing. Zecora watched as the yellow pony caught up with the purple one. “You will need to be sober for what problems face you. I just hope you are ready for them to brew…” She sighed before trotting back inside.

Fluttershy had to walk fast to keep up with Twilight. The unicorn was okay with them trying to help her, even if it would have made her seem drunk, but tricking her and causing her a great deal of worry was crossing the line.

“Twilight…Please don’t walk so fast…I didn’t know about it. Zecora only told me to try and get you to drink the medicine ‘my way.’ I’m sorry…” Fluttershy looked like she was about to cry. Twilight wanted to be angry, but the rational part of her mind forced her into a calm state. Maybe she was overreacting, but one thing was bothering her.

“Was that kiss unimportant to you? I don’t want to think that was just a part of the prank, too.” The unicorn tried to ignore the fact that she rhymed like Zecora. When around the zebra too much it seemed to have that affect on her.

“O-Of course not!” Fluttershy squeaked, looking a little hurt. “I did it because I really wanted to. If um, you know what I mean…” Apparently the yellow mare figured her statement had been too assertive, leading her to adding the second part.

“It was just Zecora, then? Well, okay. I believe you, Fluttershy.” She sighed. “Do you think I overreacted?”

Fluttershy replied, “Not really…Maybe a little. But Zecora should have known that would make you angry. Even so…an apology wouldn’t hurt…” The yellow mare concluded.

Twilight wasn’t too keen on this idea, especially so soon after being upset with the zebra. “I’ll…do that some other time.”

Fluttershy didn’t say anything to this, and simply walked next to Twilight in silence. The brown paper bag underneath the pegasus’s wing made noise every time she took a step. After awhile, Twilight forgot her annoyance and was truly happy. Maybe she’d go back tomorrow and apologize for rudely leaving like that. And then Zecora would say she was sorry too, and they’d talk.

“Say, Fluttershy…” The yellow pony perked her ears and looked at Twilight curiously. “I’m not saying that it’s a bad thing, but how did you get so confident back at Zecora’s? I was really surprised.”

Fluttershy’s face matched her mane. “U-Uh, um, I-I’m not sure…” She shrunk visibly before continuing, “At first I was trying to get you to drink the medicine, a-and then I felt the need to remind you how I felt, and after that I just…um…really wanted to kiss you.”

Twilight strained her ears to hear the last part, but, alas, she couldn’t. “What was that last part?”

The yellow pony winced, and the unicorn felt bad for putting her through the emotional trauma. “I just said that I reallywantedtokissyou.” She rushed. It was always interesting to see how she would handle certain subjects in conversation, even if Twilight brought them about without knowledge of her own amusement.

Twilight, too, became bashful with this next question. “How…was it?” Fluttershy blushed even more and her wings looked like they were pressing tightly into her side.

“It was…nice. I liked it. It was really fun to…um…never mind,” Fluttershy’s coat color was unrecognizable at this point. She was cowering on the ground with her hooves clamped over her eyes in what looked like embarrassment.

Twilight was really curious now. “What? What did you like? You can tell me.” The two ponies seemed to forget that they were in the Everfree Forest.

“I-I liked…um…It was fun to…you know…um…be in control.” She stuttered uncontrollably, peeking through her hooves at Twilight to see her reaction.

“R-Really?” The unicorn was a little surprised at this. Fluttershy nodded meekly. “Well, you know…” Twilight was as nervous as the other pony. “If you actually liked that…I don’t mind if you do it more often.”

Fluttershy shivered visibly. From what, Twilight could not name. She spoke from her spot on the ground, “U-Um…Twilight…Come here.” She looked so embarrassed and yet…happy. Twilight walked a little closer before following orders and lying down in front of her.

Their faces were close like before, and Twilight found herself admiring Fluttershy’s beauty again. Twilight wondered if she was doing the same thing.

Fluttershy leaned in for a kiss which Twilight gladly accepted. In this situation, the trees and the overall scenery of the Everfree Forest seemed to brighten up and even lost its ability to strike fear in Twilight’s heart. For the moment.

Fluttershy seemed to be more impatient than before as her tongue eagerly asked for entrance to the inside of Twilight’s muzzle. The unicorn let her and, as before, they were making out. Twilight kind of enjoyed being submissive. Usually she was the one that had to initiate the romantic gestures.

The pegasus was becoming increasingly aggressive. She was even starting to use her teeth. Twilight had blushed the first time, but she was enjoying it. When they heard rustling in the bushes, Twilight was reminded that they were still in a very dangerous place. Fluttershy heard it too, and they both pulled away.

Twilight felt a bit bothered, but knew that they couldn’t stay. Both ponies were breathless, and a little flustered. “W-We should be getting back before something attacks us.” Fluttershy was quick to agree with her and they both hurried out.

Since they were already close to the exit when they kissed, it didn’t take long until they were at Fluttershy’s cottage. After a drawn out goodbye, a long hug, and a promise to visit the next day Twilight was on her way to the library.

She mentally went over the events of the day to make sure she hadn’t forgotten anything. Of course she would have to go over to Zecora’s at some point to make sure that their friendship was still okay, but she wasn’t too worried about that. Usually the zebra was pretty good about that kind of thing. She was glad that they had gone to her place, anyway, as it lead to a fun experience, so there were no lingering feelings of resentment. Speaking of which, the kisses seemed really suggestive. (She had read some explicit material back at Canterlot in the past, and had some basic knowledge.) Twilight wondered what might’ve happened if the bushes hadn’t made noise.

As she mulled over that train of thought, she was already opening the door to the library. Twilight wondered if Spike was back or if he was hanging around Rarity. The unicorn realized that he hadn’t been in Fluttershy’s place when she woke up, so he must’ve gone somewhere. Twilight felt bad for not thinking about him sooner.

As the unicorn walked up the stairs, she heard something strange. Puzzled, she picked up the pace until she could tell what it was. Somepony was crying. Even more confused, Twilight pushed open the door to her room and saw who was sobbing. Her heart trembled in her chest.


Mare on a Mission

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“Spike? Why are you crying?” Twilight galloped to his basket. The purple dragon turned away from her and continued to sob.

“G-Go away, Twilight…” He’d never sounded worse. The unicorn felt her own eyes water from this display. Spike never cried without a good reason.

“Please, Spike, tell me what’s wrong. I can’t just leave you alone like this…” Twilight watched patiently, hoping he would oblige.

The lavender mare saw him stiffen and could barely hear him speak. “I-I…” He sniffled, “I confessed to Rarity…”

The silence was unbearable. Twilight’s eyes widened and she didn’t know what to say. There was a reason she discouraged the action. The unicorn thought that the other mare would let him down easily, but apparently that was not so.

“What happened? You’re my number one assistant, Spike…You can tell me.” The dragon shivered before sitting up. He turned towards the unicorn with a defeated expression that killed her inside. He shouldn’t ever feel like that.

“Everypony told me that I should do it, so I went to her house. At first we were just talking, and then I finally worked up the courage to say it…B-But she said she didn’t have feelings for me!” He crumpled and began crying anew.

Twilight felt anger well up within her. Rarity should’ve known that he would react like this and should have come up with a better plan of action. She could’ve introduced him to somepony else, or maybe even given him a chance! What kind of friend makes you cry? Certainly not a generous one.

The unicorn spoke with a level of calm that even scared her. “I’ll be right back, Spike.”

“N-No, Twi, d-don’t go to Rarity’s…!” The dragon looked into her eyes desperately.

“I’m not going to the Carousel Boutique.” She lied, “You probably need some time alone. Get some sleep.” The assistant looked like he wanted to protest, but he laid back down, silent tears still flowing from his eyes. Obviously, he couldn’t think straight. Twilight took a minute to cast a spell on him to make sure his sleep would be peaceful and dreamless. It was the least she could do.

The unicorn walked out of the room quietly, deciding not to use a teleportation spell. It would be much too loud. She was going to get an explanation from that marshmallow pony whether she wanted to give one or not.

She stormed out of the library and made her way to the Carousel Boutique. Strangely, none of her best friends were around. Other ponies watched sympathetically—Twilight guessed that they had seen Spike earlier. It was no matter, however.

The Carousel Boutique had a closed sign on the outside. Twilight looked through the window and could actually see Rarity. The fashionista was bent over on the floor and seemed to be crying. Confused, the unicorn raised an ear to see if she could hear anything through the door.

“I am such a MONSTER…This is the worst possible outcome…!” She sobbed some more, “I couldn’t even give Spike the reason…But I couldn’t tell him who I was in love with…no…he would have been devastated…” More than a little stunned, and feeling bad for her friend, Twilight took a few steps back. She walked away and tried to put her thoughts in order, but the situation was becoming more and more complicated.

“What the hay am I supposed to do now…?” The unicorn mumbled to herself, feeling completely and utterly lost.

It’s too bad that Twilight had to go back to the library, Fluttershy thought as she fed the chickens in the coop. I wonder how Spike is doing…

She laid the bag of food aside and continued to let her thoughts wander. I hope he’s alright. I’m sure Rarity wasn’t too hard on him. But still…What if I did the wrong thing? What if he’s crying right now because I told him he should confess? Fluttershy’s eyes widened. Would he ever forgive me? What about Twilight?

“Hey! Stupid bunny! Where’s Fluttershy?” Somepony spoke loudly. The yellow pegasus recognized the voice and walked out of the coop, forgetting her troublesome thoughts.

“Angel Bunny! What are you doing out of bed?” She fluttered over to the rabbit, who was now using crutches. He glared at the cyan mare in front of him.

“Don’t look at me like that!” Rainbow Dash glowered upon him, “I found Fluttershy in the Everfree just like I said I would!”
Confused, the yellow pony looked over at her long-time friend.

“Speaking of which,” RD turned to Fluttershy with a cheeky smile, “I didn’t know you and Twilight were going out! What you did in the Everfree took some real guts. I’m surprised that you would even do something like that!” She clicked her tongue, “Tsk, tsk, you should’ve told me sooner. So, how far have you two gone yet?”

Fluttershy felt her face get hot. “Y-You saw that?” Rainbow nodded over-enthusiastically.

“I was coming over to make sure you and the bunny were still okay, and he,” RD spat venomously, pointing a hoof directly at Angel, “wouldn’t tell me where you went. I had to make him a carrot cake to get him to cooperate! A carrot cake! And even then he told me I’d never be able to find you guys.”

“U-Um…Angel spoke?” The yellow pegasus questioned, glancing uneasily between her pet and her friend.

“Well, no,” Rainbow shrugged, “He pointed at me, pointed at the forest, and then moved his arm across his neck like I was going to die or something. So anyway, I went in, figuring you were going to Zecora’s, but I saw you with Twilight. I was going to come out and say something, but then you both started kissing and stuff. Haha, not too bad—but I accidentally made some noise in the bush I was hiding in, so you two hurried out. It took me a minute to remember which way the exit was.”

Beyond mortified, Fluttershy’s entire face turned red. Rainbow seemed to acknowledge this with amusement, as she only continued talking.

“Wow, you sure looked like you were enjoying it, too! You had a pretty epic wingboner. I’m surprised that Twilight didn’t notice!” She chuckled and the other mare only sank lower into the ground. Fluttershy covered her face with her hooves in an attempt to escape the embarrassment.

“And then you were…Ouch!” Rainbow exclaimed, causing the other pegasus to look up. Angel Bunny had thrown one of his crutches at RD, and it had gotten her square in the muzzle. He was frowning in a way that suggested he disapproved of the mare’s actions.

“Why you…” Rainbow glared at the offending rabbit, but he only smirked challengingly. Fluttershy hurriedly picked up the crutch in her mouth and hoofed it over to the bunny.

“That wasn’t very nice of you, Angel,” She scolded quietly, “You shouldn’t throw things at Rainbow Dash.” The rabbit took the crutch from her, but did not look apologetic in the least.

“He shouldn’t even be out of bed, if you ask me!” Rainbow said with a hoof held up threateningly. “Why don’t we put him to sleep?”

Angel feinted throwing a crutch at Rainbow, seeming to show how much he wanted to follow through. It was a wonder why he didn’t do so. Looking reluctant, he walked back inside of his own accord, slamming the door as we went. Fluttershy felt very proud of him at that moment. She’d have never gotten him to cooperate on her own.

Rainbow Dash looked very smug. “Heh, that’s what I thought, ya little menace.” Fluttershy felt the need to protect her pet’s reputation; surely Rainbow had only gotten a bad impression on poor Angel.

“Oh, you must be mistaken Rainbow. Angel’s a very good bunny. He’s just a little too mischievous sometimes.”

“What?! Didn’t you see how he was acting? He needs a good beating, if you ask me! Fluttershy, you can’t let him walk over you like that!” The cyan pegasus’s wings beat hard despite her being on the ground; a clear sign of her aggression.

Fluttershy gasped in horror. Animals being beaten? What a terrible thought! “Oh no, I couldn’t possibly do something like that…”

Rainbow sighed and changed the subject, seeming like she was bored of the current topic already. “Whatever, Flutters. You just remember that I told you. Anyway, can we talk?”

Fluttershy examined her hooves nervously. No good conversation started like that. “U-Um…Sure…” Rainbow was straining her ears to hear properly, and apparently she had made out what she had said.

“Cool!” The blue mare took to the air, waiting for her fellow pegasus. Fluttershy glanced back at her house, mentally going over the animals to make sure she had already taken care of them. She dismissed herself with the reminder that she’d be back momentarily. This wouldn’t take long.

The yellow pegasus caught up to her friend with an anxious smile. Rainbow nodded in approval (for what, Fluttershy could not name) before setting a rather slow pace, considering her normal speed. It seemed like they were headed back to the Everfree.

“So, uh, Fluttershy…” Rainbow started slowly, “This is going to sound really weird. Especially coming from me, but you’re the only one I can talk to about this. But first, you gotta Laughter Promise not to say anything.” She looked pleadingly at the other pegasus. Fluttershy gulped at the seriousness of this topic, but did the gestures. She guessed that by laughter she meant Pinkie Pie.

“You can um, tell me anything, Rainbow.” She said, hoping that she could actually help her friend with whatever it was she needed.

“Good, ‘cause this is important. How do you think she feels about me?” Fluttershy felt Rainbow staring at her, and thus got a little anxious.


“Who else? I can’t say her name out loud, but you know who she is. She’s the…” Rainbow glanced down as if checking to make sure somepony wasn’t following them on hoof. “Element of Laughter. D-Don’t say it!” A hoof was pressed onto Fluttershy’s muzzle just as she was about to say the name as an afterthought.

“S-Sworry,” Fluttershy apologized as best she could with a hoof in her face, but RD pulled it back. She sighed.

“I’m not very good at this, is what I’m trying to say. Remember what happened with AJ? I can’t afford to do that again.” Sadness dripped from her voice, but she quickly recovered, “Since you’re so obviously in love and know what to do with yourself, could you give another player some pointers? I don’t want to hurt Pin—I mean, Laughter like I did to Applejack.”

Fluttershy frowned thoughtfully. She remembered what had happened vividly. It was a very personal matter between those two mares, but Rainbow had trusted her enough to tell her. It was the only time she’d ever seen Rainbow cry.

“I understand, Rainbow. You um, want advice?” This is…familiar… Fluttershy thought with dread. She didn’t like giving out romantic instructions. Why did it seem like everypony thought she was great at this stuff? Not that she wasn’t happy to help, or anything.

Rainbow Dash nodded. “Yeah, well, kind of. More like a nudge in the right direction. I don’t know how she feels, and considering my relations with AJ right now…” She coughed, “I don’t want to act too quickly like I did before. And since Laughter is random all the time, I have no idea as to how she would react. What do you think I should do?”

Poor Rainbow…She’s afraid to go after love again… Fluttershy felt a pang of sympathy for her fellow pegasus, but she really wasn’t sure what to advise. “…You should always follow your heart, Rainbow. Applejack and Pink—Laughter are two very different ponies. All you can do is to learn from your mistakes. I-I’m not saying that Applejack was a mistake! Oh no, I just meant that anything you thought you did wrong—“Rainbow held up a hoof, signaling the rambling pony to stop.

“I guess you have a point, Flutters. But my heart? Couldn’t you have worded that…I don’t know, cooler?” Rainbow smirked, but it was a rhetorical question. “Whatever. I think it’s telling me to act. But then again, it’s always telling me that.” The two mares both chuckled at this.

“It’s been awhile since we last talked to actually talk. Guess I’m too busy with my tricks and you’re too busy with your Twilight. Hahaha,” Rainbow laughed at her own joke, “Seriously, how did that even happen? The egghead?”

Fluttershy blushed in embarrassment. “It’s kind of a long story…”

Why hadn’t she thought of this sooner? Of course a letter to Princess Celestia would be a good idea at this point. Twilight hadn’t sent one in a few days, so now would be a prime time to ‘check in.’

Twilight hurriedly pulled out parchment and a quill from her saddlebag to begin writing. She read it aloud to herself, as nopony was around her anyway.

“Dear Princess Celestia…It’s been a few days since I last contacted you, but I’m afraid that this letter will not be a very happy one. I am sending this to you to ask for assistance. You see, Princess, a lot of weird things have been happening lately. Some kind of monster seems to have made its residence in the Everfree Forest, and it is harming Fluttershy’s animals…” Twilight considered telling her mentor about her new relationship with Fluttershy, but decided against it. It wouldn’t be right to make a decision like that without the other mare’s consent.

“…But that’s not what’s really bothering me. Spike confessed his love to Rarity today. I didn’t know that he went to the Carousel Boutique to do so, but apparently somepony encouraged him. My friend Rarity told him that she didn’t have any feelings for him, and he ended up running to the library crying. When I found out, I made my way to Rarity’s to ask her what happened. But I heard something strange…” Twilight stopped talking, as somepony just passed by. The blue-green unicorn gave her a weird look, but she didn’t pay attention. Instead, Twilight continued to go over the words in her head.

She was crying and calling herself names. Also…Rarity said that she was in love with somepony else. I’m not sure what I should do, Princess. Would you mind giving me some advice? I don’t want to be a bother, but if I make one mistake…a friendship could be at stake. Your faithful student…

“Twilight Sparkle…” The unicorn mumbled before re-reading the letter. It seemed to be in order. She scavenged through her saddlebags and hoped that she had a ribbon to tie it. Twilight got lucky and found a red one. She rolled the parchment up and prepped herself for that spell. She’d only done it once before. Princess Celestia had warned her not to rely on it to deliver mail, but in situations where Spike was unable to send anything it was necessary.

Twilight closed her eyes and focused on Princess Celestia’s personal chambers in Canterlot. All of her magic started to gather in her horn; emitting a strange crackling noise. She could feel her limbs numbing from the draining of this spell, but she was determined to get this letter through. It was much too important. Just as the magic was becoming overwhelming, Twilight released it and heard an audible ‘pop!’ Panting, she allowed herself a few minutes to recover. The unicorn couldn’t feel her hooves.

Twilight wasn’t sure how much time passed before she heard another crackle. She opened an eye and was surprised to see two different letters bearing the royal insignia. In formal cursive, one said For Spike. Curiously, Twilight glanced at the other to see her name written similarly. She opened the one addressed to her and began to read.

My most faithful student,

I am sorry to hear about Spike. Enclosed is a letter specifically for him to read, and I need you to deliver it to him immediately. I advise you to talk to your friend Rarity soon, and not to do anything rash. She is most likely in as much distress as Spike. As for the Everfree Forest dilemma, I hereby ask the unicorn Twilight Sparkle and the bearers of the Elements of Harmony to investigate. You will solve this problem efficiently and report to me your findings. You must be careful. I trust you, my most faithful student, and I am sure that you will succeed. I can’t explain it, but there is danger for you in the near future.


Princess Celestia

Twilight went over the letter twice to make sure she hadn’t skipped over anything. The unicorn pondered over the last bit and hoped that she would be able to live up to her mentor’s standards. She got up and decided to do her first order of business: give Spike his letter.

The trot back to the library didn’t take very long, and it gave her some time to think. Obviously both Rarity and Spike were hurt deeply. Even if she didn’t have feelings for the dragon, Rarity cared for him. That much Twilight was able to figure out. But who was it that Rarity pined for? And what did Princess Celestia write to Spike?

Twilight walked up the stairs of the library and opened the door to her room quietly. She heard thumping on the wall and looked over. Spike was turned away from her and was hitting his head on the wall lightly. He wasn’t doing it hard enough to hurt, but it seemed like he was doing it so he wasn’t just sitting there. Twilight knew that repetitious acts such as this could help when you were really upset.

“Spike…?” The purple dragon stopped and glanced towards her. He gave her a questioning look, but didn’t say anything.

“Princess Celestia wrote a letter and wants you to read it immediately.” Twilight dug in her saddlebags and pulled out the parchment addressed to Spike. He grabbed it gingerly and unraveled it. He still hadn’t said anything, and read silently. The unicorn could tell he’d been crying for a while after she left, but it seemed like he stopped recently.

The dragon’s brow furrowed and his eyes darted across the page faster. He pulled the letter closer to his face. This display caused Twilight to grow anxious. Just what was written in that letter?

Spike looked up from the parchment with a confused expression.

“I’m…I’m going to Canterlot.”

Ignorance is Bliss

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“What?” Twilight stared incredulously at the baby dragon.

“Princess Celestia wants me to visit her in Canterlot right now. She wants me to take a break from Ponyville.” Spike said before showing Twilight the letter herself.

What the dragon had said was true. Princess Celestia even enclosed a train ticket and reserved a suite in the castle for him. Twilight wondered what her mentor was planning to do, and how long she intended to keep him for.

“…You’d better pack only the necessities, Spike. The train leaves in an hour.” The unicorn hoofed over the train ticket.

“Yeah, I guess a break from Ponyville is what I need…” Spike walked over to his basket and pulled out a small suitcase he’d hidden underneath it. He was probably thinking about running away earlier. “Don’t worry about me anymore, Twi. I’m okay now.”

He smiled at her, and she found herself believing him.

“Alright, Spike. Do you want me to tell anypony that you’ll be leaving?” Twilight asked.

“…No thanks. I don’t really want to say goodbye or anything. Especially to Rarity…” Spike stuffed his blanket into his suitcase with more force than necessary.

“If you say so…I’ll be back in a bit, Spike.” Twilight waited for him to give his consent, to make sure that he was completely okay. The assistant merely nodded his understanding before continuing packing. She figured he’d want some privacy.

Twilight walked slowly out of the room, still giving him time to stop her. He never did. Spike was maturing fast. The unicorn had to remind herself that he was actually growing up.

Once out of the library, Twilight sighed. It hurt her to see him like this, but it was bound to happen. She tried not to blame Rarity for it, even if it was hard. Besides, she didn’t want to be harsh on her friend if she had a good reason.

Twilight was at the Carousel Boutique in no time. The closed sign was still on the outside, but she couldn’t hear crying anymore. Twilight pushed the door open; the bell signaling her entry.

“We’re closed right now! Whoever you are, would you please just—“Rarity trotted down the stairs and stopped speaking when she saw who was in her shop. Her eyebrows knit together closely.

“Oh, Twilight dear… What are you doing here?” The marshmallow pony went the rest of the way down the stairs. She looked terrible. Rarity’s makeup was smeared, her mane thrown about, and her coat was matted in several places.

“I think you know why I’m here, Rarity…” Twilight tried not to sound angry, but some of it seeped through anyway. “Can we talk about it?”

“How about over tea, darling?” Rarity looked pleadingly into Twilight’s eyes, almost forcing her to give in.

“That’s fine.” The lavender mare managed a small, forced smile, with which the other mare returned. Twilight followed Rarity into her kitchen and took a seat at her table while the other pony put tea on the stove.

Stiffly, the marshmallow unicorn walked over and sat opposite of Twilight. “How is Spike?”

“He’s been better,” The lavender mare stared down at the table, “What exactly happened?”

Rarity let out a sigh. “Spike visited me out of the blue and gave me a cupcake. It was a very sweet gesture, but I could tell that wasn’t the only reason he’d come. I asked him if there was something on his mind, and then he…confessed.” The tea started to whistle. “Oh, I’d better go get that…”

Twilight reached over and placed her hoof over Rarity’s. “No, keep going.” The white mare stared at her hoof for a long second before sitting back down. Twilight magically moved the kettle on a different burner before looking back at Rarity expectantly.

“I…wasn’t sure how to react. I don’t have any feelings for him, but I care for him dearly. You see darling, I have my eye on somepony else that’s really close to him.” Rarity glanced at Twilight, “I didn’t mean to make him cry, and I feel terrible for it…”

Twilight set aside the issue. “Are you okay, Rarity…? You don’t look very good…” Rarity raised a hoof to her face subconsciously.

“I’m not sure what to do, honestly, dear. Do I really look that bad?” Rarity frowned.

Twilight ignored her question, remembering what Princess Celestia had told her in the letter. “Do you want to talk about it? I’m here for you, Rarity. Maybe I can help you with something.”

“Thank you, darling, but I don’t think that’d be possible… Would you mind staying for awhile, though? Perhaps that would do me some good.” Rarity smiled weakly.

“Sure… I’m worried about you, Rarity. Will you be okay?” Twilight pried.

“Twilight… Love is a strange, elusive thing, and is hard to predict.” The lavender mare nodded her agreement pensively.

“I guess you’re right. Love is unpredictable.” She smiled, thinking about Fluttershy. Rarity stared at her.

“Have you fallen in love with somepony, Twilight?” She thought for a moment. Could it be considered love?

“I think so.” Twilight tilted her head in confusion. “How do you know the difference between love and simple affection, or even friendship?”

Rarity gave her a flat look. “You…are serious? How do you think of this pony?”

“Well…” Twilight had a dreamy look on her face. “She’s graceful and gentle. I’ve known her for a long time, and she’s beautiful. Recently she’s been the only thing on my mind. Her quiet demeanor…Warm and fuzzy coat…” She spoke distractedly.

Rarity watched with a calculating expression. “If you don’t mind my asking, darling, who is this somepony?”

Twilight smiled bashfully, not noticing Rarity’s terseness. “I’m not sure if I should say who she is. We haven’t told anypony yet…”

“I can keep a secret, darling! Please, won’t you tell me?” Rarity gazed at the other unicorn pleadingly. Twilight tipped her head slightly, wondering why her friend was being so insistent.

“…Fluttershy.” Rarity adopted a grimace and swallowed visibly.

“I-I see. And you two are…together?” Twilight looked at her fellow unicorn and nodded. Rarity sighed wistfully before whispering under her breath.

“I can’t believe she made a move before I could…”

“What was that?” Twilight hadn’t heard properly.The marshmallow pony only shook her head and smiled unsuccessfully.

“It’s nothing.” The lavender mare frowned thoughtfully. Rarity seemed really out of it, and unbearably sad. She hated seeing her friends this way—and having two of them so upset was almost too much.

“Are you sure you’re okay, Rarity?” Twilight watched her closely.

“…I’ll get over it, eventually. Hopefully.” She pressed a hoof to her face and her lip quivered.

Twilight decided not to press the matter any further, lest her friend become annoyed with her. Plus, she wasn’t sure where the conversation was going. She smiled reassuringly, remembering another problem.

“Oh! Will you be able to go to the Everfree Forest with me, Rarity? Princess Celestia wants the Elements of Harmony to investigate a dangerous creature there, as it seems to be putting other animals and possibly ponies at risk.”

Rarity tried to smile. “Of course, darling.” The tea sat on the stovetop, completely forgotten.

“It’s a pretty important matter; if you aren’t busy, would you mind gathering Pinkie Pie and Applejack at the library? I can go get Fluttershy and Rainbow Dash. That way, we can do this quickly and efficiently. Is that okay with you?”

Rarity stood up. “I couldn’t simply say no to that, but would it be alright to clean myself up first? I don’t really want to go out in public like this, darling…”

Twilight got up as well. “I guess that’d be okay, as long as you don’t take very long. We don’t want anypony to get hurt.”

“I won’t be long; you can go ahead and gather the pegasi.” Rarity effectively shooed Twilight out of her home. The unicorn went into the bathroom to freshen up, shedding a few tears along the way.

Twilight wasn’t sure where Rainbow Dash would be, so she decided to head to Fluttershy’s cottage first. Besides, she did want to see her marefriend again. She was sure to brighten up her mood.

However, when she arrived, nopony was in sight. Twilight knocked on the door, but there was no response whatsoever. Confused, she knocked with a little more force.

This time, the door opened, but nopony was there. Twilight stared at the empty space for several seconds before she thought of something. The unicorn looked down at the ground and, sure enough, an injured white rabbit was staring at her with an annoyed expression and crossed arms.

“…Is Fluttershy here, Angel?” She tried. The animal glared, and Twilight remembered their little clash back at the hospital. Obviously he wasn’t going to give any information.

In fact, the bunny slammed the door in her face. Maybe he had more of a grudge than she’d initially thought.

“H-Hey!” She fumed before turning around in her rage. She raised her hind legs to kick the door down, but never followed through.

“Twilight?” She looked up to see the very two pegasi she’d been looking for. Bashfully, the unicorn lowered her hooves back onto the ground and smiled in vain.

“Hey, Fluttershy, Rainbow Dash…That wasn’t what it looked like.” Rainbow Dash started laughing.

“Hahaha! You egghead!” She practically fell out of the sky from her snickering.

The yellow pegasus fluttered down next to Twilight with a concerned look on her face. “Umm…Twilight? Are you okay?”

Twilight blushed in embarrassment when Rainbow kept cackling. “Yeah, I’m okay. I was asking Angel where you were, and he…shut the door. Anyways, there was something important I needed to talk to you two about.”

The cyan pony managed to control her laughter for only a single moment. “Are you going to ask Flutters to marry you? And that I’ll be your best mare? Bahahaha!”

The unicorn’s face turned into a new shade of red as she gave her marefriend a panicked look. She hadn’t realized that Rainbow knew about their relationship. Fluttershy’s ears folded down self-consciously.

“N-No,” Twilight stuttered, “Why would you suggest that?”

Dash seemed eager to respond. She had an amused smirk plastered on her muzzle when she replied in a drawn out manner, “Well, you see, Twilight… I was lookin’ for Fluttershy here, to make sure she was still okay, and I ended up looking in the Everfree Forest after that bunny,” She shot a look at the closed door, “made me bake him a cake! Anyway, after I heroically went in to save the day, I ended up seeing you two kissing like you didn’t have tomorrow!”

Twilight wasn’t sure what was hotter at that moment—her or the sun. Fluttershy seemed to be suffering similarly.

Rainbow had a big smile, “I didn’t think an egghead could be so good at something like that! First at the Running of the Leaves, and now… This will be the second time you’ve surprised me!”

“Please don’t be so mean, Rainbow,” Fluttershy looked at her friend disapprovingly, still resembling a cherry.

“I’m not being mean! I’m just telling the truth.” She muttered with a lopsided grin.

“R…Rainbow… I did have something important I needed to let you know. You too, Fluttershy.” The pegasi turned back to Twilight expectantly.

The unicorn cleared her throat. “We, the Elements of Harmony, will be investigating the threat in the Everfree Forest on Princess Celestia’s orders. We’re meeting in the library within the hour. That’s okay with you two, right?”

They both nodded before Rainbow gained a devious smirk. She flew next to Fluttershy and whispered something in her ear. Twilight was a little curious when she saw the yellow pony blush and shake her head.

However, the cyan mare took to the sky and glanced slyly back at Twilight. “I’m going to go ahead and get to the library. Don’t take forever!”

The unicorn didn’t get a word in edgewise before she was off. Twilight stared at the rainbow trail for a few seconds, wondering just what she’d said to Fluttershy. She was going to ask her companion, but decided against it and dismissed the thought.

She looked back at Fluttershy and beamed. “Shall we get going, then?” The pegasus smiled back and walked a little closer
to Twilight.

Rarity washed her smeared makeup off in the sink. She took a shaky breath in and pressed her hooves into her eyes. She felt worse than she looked. Anypony could tell that just by the fact that she didn’t really care what she looked like.

Her own best friend, with whom she treated like another sister, had made a move on the mare of her dreams. It was strange—she’d never mentioned the object of her affection to Fluttershy, and neither had she. It was almost ironic that they’d fallen for the same pony, and yet didn’t trust each other enough to bring it up. Or maybe it wasn’t a matter of trust…

Rarity felt more tears stain her already drenched fur. At first she’d thought she still had a chance, that maybe it was somepony she could outshine, but Fluttershy… Rarity was the Element of Generosity—she couldn’t take Twilight from her very own best friend. The pegasus would cry for who knows how long, and the unicorn wouldn’t ever be able to think of herself the same way.

But still… She’d thought that Twilight was the one. That mare had everything—smarts, beauty, charm, connections to the higher-ups… When Rarity had first started to realize her own feelings, she was stunned that they were directed towards a mare. She ignored them, but they only grew until she couldn’t help but notice Twilight’s modest appeal.

But that didn’t matter now. Rarity let out a choked sob. She had to pull herself together. She had to pretend to be okay. She had to.

Rarity looked at her reflection in the mirror, feeling depression weigh down on her. She dried her face, pleading to herself that nopony would notice and that she’d be able to keep her tears in. The unicorn told herself that she’d have time to cry later. She didn’t know how true that was.

Twilight and Fluttershy walked at a moderately slow pace. The lavender mare had a feeling that Rarity wasn’t working with haste in mind. Even if she was acting strange, the marshmallow pony would definitely take the time to make sure her mane was just right.

Besides, a little extra time alone with her special somepony was always nice. Once, Twilight playfully brushed her tail against Fluttershy’s flank. The pegasus squeaked and blushed, but she did return the gesture lightly.

Once they got into town, however, they walked a little farther apart. It was understood between them that not many ponies knew about their relationship, and it’d be a little scary to see the town’s reaction. Twilight missed the feel of Fluttershy’s side on hers, and she wasn’t sure why she blurted out what she did.

“…Spike confessed to Rarity.”

Fluttershy’s eyes widened and she stopped walking. “He…He did?”

Twilight stopped moving as well, nodding solemnly. “Yes. She rejected him… I talked to her a little before going to get you two. She’s acting really weird and was talking about how she’s in love with somepony. Rarity wouldn’t tell me, but seeing as how you two are a lot closer, I was hoping that maybe you could figure out what’s wrong and help her out. What do you think?”

Fluttershy had a look of guilt at the beginning of Twilight’s dialogue, but it quickly changed into one of concern. “Are they okay?”

Twilight began to walk slowly and the pegasus followed. “Spike will move on. Don’t tell anypony else, Fluttershy, but he’s going to Canterlot for a while. Princess Celestia thinks it will do him good. As for Rarity… I’m not sure. You’d probably get through to her better than I could.”

The yellow pony nodded, but said nothing. Twilight glanced at a clock on a nearby building, wondering if Spike was at the train station already. His train left in five minutes, so she assumed that he was already there.

The library appeared in the distance and Twilight could just barely make out several ponies through the door’s window. She found herself involuntarily speeding up.

Inside, everypony had already gathered. Rarity, Pinkie Pie, Applejack, Rainbow Dash… Luckily, Spike was gone. Twilight was sure they hadn’t taken very long on the way to the library. Rainbow must’ve noticed her curious expression.

“I went ahead and got ‘em all here while waiting for you two.” The pegasus smiled. “So what’s the plan, egghead?”

A Treasure Worth Protecting

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Twilight walked quickly up the trail leading to the Everfree Forest. The sun was setting, and the moon was just about to take its place. Being in the forest would be ten times more dangerous at night than during the day, so she wanted to hurry. Her friends did their best to keep up.

“Come on, Twi, we don’t really have to move so fast, do we? Some ponies can’t keep up.” Applejack glanced back at Rarity, who was a few paces behind everypony. Her mane didn’t have the usual shine to it, and she didn’t look very happy.

“We need to hurry…” Twilight said, half concerned for her friend, and the other half wanting to get this done as swiftly as possible. Rainbow swooped down next to the unicorn.

“I agree with Twilight here, we need to finish this up fast.” Applejack and RD avoided each other’s eyes, but Twilight didn’t seem to notice.

Rarity trotted faster until she caught up with an apologetic look. “Sorry Twilight, I’m just a little tired, darling. I’ll try to keep up.”

Everypony walked inside with their eyes peeled for any sort of movement. Pinkie was hopping as usual. “So I was just wondering but how will we ever be able to tell what the dangerous creature is if there are tons of dangerous creatures in the Everfree Forest and they’ll all be here at the same time?”

Twilight almost tripped. “I… Well, from what I’ve gathered, it’s got claws…is big…aggressive…scary…? Erm, we’ll know when we see it…”

Pinkie giggled, but didn’t say anything. Rainbow flew over Twilight and Fluttershy, who were keeping a little distance between each other for obvious reasons.

“So, have you guys told everypony yet?”

“Told us what?!” Pinkie was already in Twilight’s face. The unicorn gulped and glanced at Fluttershy. She had a sympathetic expression.

Rainbow smirked. Twilight figured she couldn’t get away from the question now that it was out there. “Uh, it’s…er…” The unicorn took a deep breath, “Fluttershy and I are dating.”

Everypony’s reaction was a little different. Rainbow puffed her chest out triumphantly, Pinkie’s eyes widened to the size of dinner plates, Rarity’s eyes were cast downward, and Applejack’s ears perked up.

“Really?!” Pinkie was now muzzle to muzzle with Fluttershy. “You’re not lying?!”

The pegasus backed away stuttering. “U-Um, yes, I m-mean, um…”

Applejack was glancing between the couple and Rarity with a concerned expression.

“Well, that’s great!!!” Pinkie was grinning, “Why isn’t everypony saying congrats or shaking your hooves or wishing you a happy and long life together? I’m so happy for you two! Does that mean that Rainbow Dash knew before me?”

The pink party pony was looking at Rainbow for answers now. The pegasus blushed a little and avoided her gaze. “U-Uh, yeah, I came across them doing stuff.”

Pinkie didn’t seem to notice Dash’s bashfulness. Her attention was directed towards Twilight now, far too excited. “Really? Have you done a lot? Like baking pies together and eating from the same plate of spaghetti? Or maybe you’ve gone on a bunch of dates! Speaking of which, how long have you been together? How many dates? A lot, right?”

“We haven’t been on an official date yet, but we have spent lots of time together. We’ve been together for… only a few days.” Twilight answered reluctantly.

Pinkie gasped. “Really? You have to go on one then! Right after we’re done here, you’re gonna go on a date and you’re gonna have lots of fun and you’ll love each other even more and Fluttershy’ll thank Auntie Pinkie Pie for setting it up!”

The party pony went over to Dash and spoke giddily, “You’ll help me, right Dashie? We can make it the most perfectest date ever!”

“Shhh!” Twilight whispered, her ears perked up, “I think I hear something.”

The bushes in front of them were rustling, and everypony took a defensive position. Twilight took a cautious step forward, but was stopped by Fluttershy.

“Twilight, I don’t think you should go over there…”

“I’ll be fine, ‘Shy.”

“But…” Fluttershy stared pleadingly into Twilight’s eyes. It was hard, but the unicorn managed to tear her gaze away.

“Trust me.” She said sternly. The pegasus looked like she wanted to object, but what the lavender mare had said seemed to have struck a chord within her.

“O-Okay. I trust you…”

Twilight gave her a small smile before walking towards the rustling bushes. She took little, wary steps, making sure they weren’t too loud. Once she was close to the foliage, she glanced back at her friends. They all had worried expressions on their faces, and Rainbow looked like she wanted to be in Twilight’s horseshoes instead.

The unicorn looked back at the task ahead of her. She hesitantly reached a hoof out to move the bush aside, but the movements started to magnify. Twilight took a step back, and something jumped out.

It was big. Very, very, big.

“I-It’s a Sphinx!” Fluttershy said weakly, “A being with the body of a lion and the head of a pony!”

The Sphinx was brown, and its red, piercing gaze seemed to cut straight through Twilight. She was paralyzed. The beast’s eyes narrowed on the unicorn, and it spoke.

“You will not advance any further,
For I have a treasure I must shelter.
If you do not heed my warning,
You shall not escape living.
Heed my warning, little one,
Or you will be outdone.”

The lavender mare remained rooted to the spot. She was shaking. Twilight had only heard of Sphinxes in legend, and to see one… They had violent tendencies, so this one had to be what was injuring the animals. It only made sense.

The Sphinx’s large right paw rose into the air slowly. Twilight still couldn’t force her hooves to move. The animal sighed in resignation and smiled cruelly.

“So be it,
You clearly have no wit.
My challenge will remain unspoken,
And your bones will soon be broken.”

Twilight watched the claws near her, and she winced.

“NO WAY!” Rainbow Dash flew as fast as she could straight towards the beast. She knocked it off its feet, and they both tumbled. “NOPONY THREATENS MY FRIENDS! NOPONY!”

Fluttershy was by Twilight’s side within seconds. The unicorn was still shaking. “Twilight! Are you okay?” The pegasus nuzzled into the lavender mare’s side, “How could you let him almost get you like that?”

“I…I couldn’t…” Her heart was beating so fast from the adrenaline and she couldn’t formulate any sort of coherent thought.

Applejack charged the Sphinx to give RD back-up. However, when she got closer, the creature launched Dash with a paw swipe straight towards the earth pony, causing both to fly backwards. The Sphinx was going to go after the two, but Pinkie used her Party Cannon to distract it.

Fluttershy hugged her tightly. “Please don’t do something like that again. I was really scared…” Twilight didn’t reply.

The Sphinx pounced on Pinkie’s cannon, smashing it to bits. Within seconds, it was atop her, snarling. Rarity rushed to her assistance, kicking the beast in the muzzle. It reared back angrily.

“F…Fluttershy…They need your help.” Twilight said as she watched the battle unfold. She knew that the pegasus' way with animals could be helpful, and she still couldn’t move.

You need my help right now… Sphinxes are like ponies; I wouldn’t be able to do anything…” Fluttershy was shaking too, her eyes going between Twilight and the battle.

Rainbow recovered quickly and took off towards the Sphinx once again. This time, however, it saw her coming. It snatched her from the air easily and slammed her onto the ground.

“Dashie!” Pinkie tried to get to the fallen pegasus, but the Sphinx had learned the ponies’ fighting styles. Its tail swished toward the party mare and tripped her. The beast pinned her with a single forepaw and kicked Rarity with a back leg. She hit a tree trunk and slid down, groaning in pain.

Applejack was finally able to right herself. She saw the Sphinx looking at Twilight and Fluttershy hungrily. The reliable pony kicked rocks towards the thing, getting its attention. The lion-pony put more weight on Pinkie, who cried out in pain before passing out. It picked her up and threw her at AJ, knocking her over.

“Fluttershy, you have to try,” Twilight said desperately. The yellow pony gulped.

“I…I…” The pegasus stood up uneasily, “I’ll do my best.”

She barely spoke. “Mr. Sphinx sir, we’re not here to hurt you or to get your treasure. Please stop attacking my friends. Can you do that for me? Please?”

The Sphinx delved into her cerulean orbs.

“You are strange,
But this is something I cannot change.
My nature is set in stone,
Yours is not unknown.
Your ability has no affect on me,
And your friend is not meant to be free.”

“W-What? I don’t understand…” Fluttershy whispered. What it had said made Twilight nervous, and she wasn’t sure what the beast meant.

“Nobody is meant to see my treasure,
Enforcing its protection is my pleasure.
Magic I have been warned of,
And it is something I do not love.
No more talking,
Your victory is fleeting.”

The Sphinx leaned down and bared its teeth at Fluttershy. The pegasus cowered, but she stood her ground.

“N-No, I won’t let you hurt my friends anymore…!” Twilight saw her other friends trying to get back up, but they kept falling back to the ground. Fluttershy glared defiantly at the monster, but it wasn’t affected by the stare, either. Its piercing gaze seemed to level the playing field out.

Its smelly breath made Twilight’s hair stand up. This sentient animal wasn’t going to listen to Fluttershy—that much was clear. It had a small smile when it made its move.

Neither pony knew the Sphinx had a long tongue. It was skinny, pink, and almost lizard-like. It lashed out and went straight for Fluttershy’s hoof. It wrapped around her foot, lifted it, and pulled the pegasus into the air before abruptly dropping her.

The beast pinned her, and Fluttershy was visibly shivering. Twilight was so scared, but she knew she had to do something fast. The unicorn collected as much magic as she could within her horn, more than ever before. It hurt. Her head throbbed painfully in response, but she kept doing it. Her friends needed her. Fluttershy needed her.

The Sphinx felt the magic pulsing in the air. It looked away from its pegasus prey to the source. Twilight felt all feeling in her limbs drain away, and her legs wobbled weakly. Her vision was starting to wink out. The unicorn persevered through, however, and lowered her head so she could aim toward the enemy.

Wind started to emanate from her horn. She’d never had control of so much magic at once. Her head was starting to hurt like it did in Zecora’s, but ten times worse. Twilight could feel herself starting to lose consciousness and control of the magic.

“Your magic will be the end of you,
But I have a question, not a clue,
Is it really worth it?”

Its last words echoed in Twilight’s mind, and she felt the pressure on her horn alleviate. The spell was released. It fired straight towards the Sphinx, and the unicorn could barely see her friends looking at her with concern. Her vision was getting blotchy, and she heard somepony call her name.

Twilight blacked out.

When Things Fall Apart

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Twilight’s head was pounding. She couldn’t move at all and every breath was labored. Ponies seemed to be talking, but she couldn’t really hear.

Twilight felt a light weight on her. She forced an eye open and a blurry white rabbit was towering over her. The room behind it came into focus. The walls were completely white, and several ponies were talking to each other in the background. The unicorn couldn’t tell who it was.

The bunny’s leg was completely healed and he was staring at her sympathetically. When he noticed she was awake, he hopped off the bed and towards the ponies at the far side of the room. Twilight opened her other eye, but she could only see darkness through it. She quickly realized that something was covering it.

The ponies turned toward her. Twilight watched as they approached swiftly, and they came into focus.

“Twilight! You’re finally awake!” Pinkie Pie shouted. There were three other ponies with her—Rainbow Dash, Applejack, and Rarity. She blinked blearily, trying to ignore the hammering of her head.

“Where…?” Her mouth was incredibly dry, and she could barely form any words. Luckily, they seemed to know exactly what she was asking. Rainbow Dash saved her the trouble.

“You’re at the Canterlot hospital.”

Twilight slowly pulled her hoof out from the blanket. She stared at it for a second before reaching up for her other eye. She felt bandages.

“Where’s…Where’s Fluttershy?” Everypony looked uncomfortable. Angel pulled himself back up onto the bed.

“She’s talking with the doctor right outside.” Applejack said with a frown, “They should be comin’ back in here soon.”

Twilight’s head wouldn’t stop pulsating. She wished they wouldn’t make her ask questions and would just tell her everything.

“What h…happened?” Her tongue felt heavy. Her hoof fell back down to the bed limply. She hadn’t noticed until Rarity started speaking, but she looked like she’d been crying.

“When the Sphinx had Fluttershy pinned, you charged up a very powerful spell. I hadn’t seen anything like it before. When it hit the Sphinx, a bright light blinded us all. When we could see again, the beast had disappeared and you had collapsed. Fluttershy… She was scared, to say the least. The poor darling wouldn’t stop crying. We were all shaken up, but we managed to get you back to Ponyville. The doctors cared for you, but you were in a very serious condition. They had you transferred to Canterlot as soon as you were stable, and you didn’t wake for days…”

“Days? Don’t you mean weeks?” Rainbow muttered. Twilight pushed herself up from bed, gasping at the sharp pain the action caused.

“What’re you doing, sugarcube?” AJ moved over to the bedside and pushed her back down with a hoof, “You need to stay in bed.”

At that moment, the door opened. Fluttershy walked in with her bloodshot eyes cast downward, the doctor following in after. She hadn’t noticed Twilight.

“Fluttershy, Twilight’s awake!” Dash had a faint smile. Fluttershy’s head shot up and her eyes zeroed in on Twilight. Within seconds she was by her side, holding her hoof.

“Oh, Twilight! You really are awake!” She was gently nuzzling the unicorn’s hoof, “I was so, so, so worried…I’m so glad that you’re finally up!”

The doctor walked in. “Yes, it’s a good thing you’ve finally woken up.” The female unicorn carried a clipboard with her as she stood next to the bed. “How are you feeling?”

“Not good… My head… It really hurts…” She could only speak in chopped sentences.

“As it should…” The doctor spoke in a business-like tone. Pinkie Pie asked the necessary question.

“What do you mean, doc?”

Apparently only Fluttershy had talked to the doctor. The mare’s lips were set in a firm line.

“It’s something I haven’t seen the likes of in a very long time. First off, I must tell you who I am. My name is Dr. Sweetheart. I’ve been studying and experimenting with magic-related injuries for years, using myself as a test subject mostly. Your condition, Twilight Sparkle, was something I’d read of only in books…”

“Don’t leave us in suspense!” Rainbow snapped at the doctor. She smiled apologetically before continuing. Twilight didn’t know if she wanted to hear or not.

“You have what’s called the Magic Rebound Effect. It hasn’t been diagnosed in centuries—mostly because unicorns generally only use their magic for their special talent. But seeing as how your special talent is magic… Unicorns with a special talent in magic are more at risk of this. When a unicorn uses magic, it puts strain on their bodies. Although most ponies don’t ever use enough magic to reach this state, you’ve most certainly stressed it. It’s something of a chronic illness. Once you’re diagnosed…it’s irreversible.

“The point is… You mustn’t use magic any longer. Each time you do, you run the risk of dying. Simply put, every time you use magic, your lifespan shortens.”

“What?!” RD exclaimed. Twilight’s eyes widened, and Applejack stared at the doctor angrily.

“Isn’t there somethin’ you can do about it?!”

Dr. Sweetheart shook her head woefully. “I’m sorry. There is…something, though. I suggest surgically removing your horn to prevent any accidents.”

Twilight wasn’t sure if her heart could sink any lower. “N…No more magic?”

“I’m sorry. Perhaps if you hadn’t used so much magic in your previous battle… Maybe it wouldn’t have gotten this bad… I’ll leave you alone with your guests. If you need anything, send somepony to get me or a nurse. I’ll check on you later with more information on your condition. Once again, I’m sorry.” The doctor bent her head down respectfully before making her way outside with her clipboard, closing the door behind her.

Twilight reached up for her horn again. Her head still hurt. She wasn’t sure what to think.

“This is…just a big joke, right? Or a dream?” Twilight questioned emptily. Nopony answered her. As the weight of the doctor’s words finally hit her, she felt tears sting her eyes.

“I-I don’t…I don’t understand what this means…” And that said a lot for Twilight Sparkle. Her hooves were shaking.

“Aww, man…If I was faster, this wouldn’t have happened… !” Rainbow snorted, “I wouldn’t have gotten caught by that stupid Sphinx, and I would’ve been able to help instead of just passing out like…like…a coward!” Rainbow gritted her teeth. Tears looked like they were threatening to fall from her eyes, too. But knowing Dash, she wouldn’t let them go.

“No, Dashie, I should’ve been more help… I passed out really fast…” Pinkie’s lip quivered, and she didn’t even try to stop the tears.

“Ah’m the worst! I could’ve moved—Ah should have! I just…Ah couldn’t get my hooves to work when the Sphinx looked at me like that…” AJ stared hard at the floor.

“No darling, I should’ve done something. I should’ve used my own magic—maybe the Sphinx wouldn’t have gone after Twilight if I’d used it…” Rarity was shedding a few tears, but she wiped them all away with a hoof.

“N-None of you have anything to be sorry for… It’s me…” Fluttershy was crying freely. “Twilight was right there—I should’ve done more to talk to the Sphinx… If I’d convinced him not to attack us and that we didn’t want to fight…maybe Twilight wouldn’t have had to use so much magic. She was…She was just trying to s-save me…”

Twilight wanted to tell all of them that it was her own fault. She wanted them to know that she didn’t blame anypony else. But all she really wanted at that moment was time to think all this over. Time alone so she could really think about this.

“Girls… Do you think I could…?” Rarity placed a hoof on Twilight’s muzzle with a sad little smile.

“We understand, darling. We’ll give you some time alone.”

“What?!” Rainbow exclaimed, “Like hay I’m going to just leave her here and—“Applejack yanked on the pegasus’ tail, effectively shutting her up.

Pinkie hugged Twilight briefly with a small smile. “I hope you feel better soon…” Twilight watched as Rarity, Rainbow Dash, Pinkie Pie, Applejack, and even Angel left the room. Fluttershy stayed.

As soon as they disappeared, Twilight sunk down into the bed. She pulled the cover over her head, rolled over, and mumbled into the pillow. “Is this really happening, Fluttershy? Please tell me it isn’t…”

Twilight didn’t hear a reply, so she opted to remain silent. Tears finally stained her fur. She felt a comforting hoof on her back.


“Fluttershy…I can’t… My magic is…it’s so important to me! I-I can’t just…” Twilight choked back a sob. She didn’t want to cry in front of somepony, but these feelings were starting to overwhelm her.

“Shh, it’s okay… Everything’s going to be okay…” Twilight felt Fluttershy’s hoof drawing circles on her back.

“How do you know that? I-I’ve probably had this Magic Rebound Effect thing since back at Zecora’s, and if what the doctor said is true, I must’ve already lost some of my life expectancy and if I can’t use magic, I won’t be able to be Princess Celestia’s student, and I won’t even get sent to Magic Kindergarten…D-Does Princess Celestia know? And what about Spike?”

Twilight sat up suddenly. “H-How’s Spike? He should be in Canterlot… I have to see him.”

Fluttershy looked surprised at the unicorn’s unexpected movement. “Please, Twilight, don’t move around… Your head’s still a little hurt…”

“What about Spike?” She protested. Fluttershy lightly pushed Twilight back into bed.

“We haven’t told him about…this…but he’s okay. He and Rarity made up, and he thinks you’re still in Ponyville. As for Princess Celestia… Yes, she knows. But…we haven’t seen her. Your brother came to see you, too. Dr. Sweetheart told him about the condition, but she refused to tell anypony else, telling us it was an invasion of a patient’s privacy… But today I was finally able to get her to tell me…”

“The Princess hasn’t come?” She stared into Fluttershy’s cerulean eyes. The pegasus’ own eyes lowered slightly and she shook her head.

Twilight sunk even lower. Why hasn’t the Princess visited me? Is she disappointed in me for getting something like this? Fluttershy wouldn’t lie to me…so it must be true… I won’t be able to use magic anymore. Wait… That’s not what the doctor said… I could still do it… I just won’t live as long, right? Maybe if I use magic enough, it’ll wear off.

The unicorn looked around for something she could use magic on. Something small… She thought to herself. Twilight saw a plate on the desk to the side. Should be easy… She started to focus magic into her horn, but immediately stopped at the sharp pain in her head.

“No, Twilight, don’t use magic!” Fluttershy said worriedly.

“This can’t be happening to me…! My special talent is magic; I can’t just give it up!” Twilight gritted her teeth angrily as she felt more tears fall. “Why did this have to happen to me?!” The unicorn found herself throwing the plate she’d been trying to levitate onto the floor.

It broke with a loud smash, and then it was quiet. Fluttershy spoke softly.

“Nopony expects you to be perfectly fine… I’m not going to tell you that I know what you’re going through, and I don’t want to tell you that everything’s going to be okay… Because to be honest, I don’t really know. I’m really scared, too, and I’m not sure what’s going to happen… But there is one thing I do know. I’ll be here for you. I promise.” Fluttershy grabbed hold of Twilight’s hooves. “You’ll get through this… You always do.”

Her hooves slowly wound themselves around Twilight, pulling her close. It was a very simple hug—but it meant a lot to the unicorn. Fluttershy pulled away with a bashful expression.

“Can I…come in?” She said hesitantly. Twilight scooted over without saying anything, and the pegasus climbed into the bed.

The unicorn rested her head on Fluttershy’s chest, hugging her in the process. The yellow pony ran her hoof along Twilight’s mane calmingly. Surprisingly, it worked wonders.

“How do you know? Is it possible that the doctor got the diagnose wrong? Is there still hope for my magic?” Twilight looked into Fluttershy’s eyes like a nervous little filly. The pegasus looked unsure too, but she placed a kiss on Twilight’s nose.

“There’s always hope.” Twilight didn’t say anything, but she nuzzled into the warm pegasus. She tried not to think about the absence of magic in her life, but it still came to mind. However, one question stuck out to her.

“How long do I have to stay in the hospital, ‘Shy?” She could feel the other pony still brushing a hoof over her mane.

“Not very long. Dr. Sweetheart said that after you woke up and they made sure you were completely healed, you could go.” Twilight remembered the bandages over her eye.

“What are these for? I thought I just had the Magic Rebound Effect.” She reached a hoof up and tried to get them off. “They’re a little irritating…”

“We’re not sure exactly what happened, but something cut you deeply. I think when you fell you landed on a sharp rock… I don’t know if it’s healed yet. When the doctor gets back, maybe she can remove it for you.”

Twilight continued to try and remove it with her hooves. She was getting increasingly angry. Subconsciously, her horn automatically lit up and grasped the bandages, but the aura dissipated quickly, and her head hurt more.

“No, don’t do that… Here, let me take care of it.” Fluttershy moved Twilight’s hooves away from the bandaging. She looked like she didn’t want to take them off just yet, but was going to anyway for the unicorn. The pegasus was more experienced with her own hooves, probably because she never had magic to help her, and was able to get the bandages off easily.

The sudden assault of light on the revealed eye hurt. She closed it the second she tried opening it.

“I didn’t realize it was so bright in here…” Twilight started to reopen her eye.

“Oh…my…” Twilight blinked up at Fluttershy.

“What is it?” Fluttershy shook her head, but her eyes were glued on Twilight’s newly uncovered one.

“What do you see?” Twilight repeated, reaching up for the eye. The pegasus’ voice was heavy with sadness.

“You…You have a scar…”

“As if this wasn’t enough! Now I have a second constant reminder of this stupid, stupid, stupid…thing!” She didn’t even try to stop the tears this time. Twilight buried her face into Fluttershy’s chest and sobbed. It was completely and utterly irrational, but the unicorn’s head was a muddle of everything it once was.

Fluttershy pulled Twilight closer in a protective embrace. She felt the pegasus’ wings brushing against her side, but it did little to comfort her. She cried harder.

The yellow pony rubbed Twilight’s back, feeling her fur dampen. “Let it all out, Twilight… Don’t hold back. Just let everything out.”

And she did.

“We shouldn’t leave her in there… It feels wrong!” Rainbow rubbed at her eyes, “Twilight’s our friend and she needs us right now! How can you guys even think of keeping her locked up in there crying?!”

“Hold yer horses!” Applejack snorted, “We ain’t leavin’ her in there to cry! She needs time alone with Fluttershy. Ain’t nopony gonna be able to comfort her like that pony.”

Rainbow looked away, distraught. “At least I’d be able to do something! All you ever want to do is sit around and wait! I can’t stand to see my friends cry, but apparently you don’t feel the same.” Rarity could sense the tension between the two ponies. Pinkie watched with concern visible on her features.

AJ’s eyes narrowed. “Just like always. You ain’t never gonna learn yer lesson, are you? Even after what you did all that time ago.” Rainbow stood stock still. Pinkie couldn’t stand to see her friends fighting this way, and the pegasus seemed to be affected badly.

“Dashie?” She called out. Rarity had enough.

“Now, Applejack. We’re all stressed out from this, but you shouldn’t be so harsh to Rainbow Dash. That’s enough out of the both of you. The last thing we need is fighting.”

“No, she’s right,” Rainbow stared sullenly at the ground, “I really screwed up. But that doesn’t have anything to do with what’s happening now. If you really think she’ll be perfectly okay in her little world, then you’re a foal for believing that. I’ve always thought you were the most honest pony to ever exist, but you aren’t. You really, really, aren’t.”

Rainbow looked back up with fire in her eyes as she glared at AJ. “You lied to me. You told me you loved me. You did! You’re a liar! A Celestia-damned liar who doesn’t even deserve her Element.” Applejack looked hurt, but determined.

“I ain’t no liar! It was you who pulled that stunt, not me! Ah did love you, and that’s the honest truth. You were the one who hurt me, and I don’t know what the buck you’re talkin’ about!”

“Please, guys, just stop!” Pinkie tried in vain. Neither of the feuding ponies seemed to care.

“You are. I thought we could be something, I thought I meant something to you! I don’t think you care about anypony with a heart as cold as yours.”

Words caught in Applejack’s throat, but she didn’t need to say anything. A nurse trotted up with a glare at the group of ponies.

“Hush! Take it outside or keep it down. You’re bothering the patients.” Rarity nodded to the nurse ruefully.

“My apologies. We’ll be quiet.” The stranger gave them a hard look before turning away. Rarity spun back to the carnage.

“How dare you two… Apologize to each other at once, or does your friendship really mean that little to you?”

Rainbow didn’t look away from AJ. “No, we’re done here.”

Rarity was surprised. She sputtered, “W-What? But what about Twilight?”

Dash glanced at Rarity before answering her. “I’m staying in Canterlot for Twilight. She needs me right now, I know it. Unlike somepony, I’ll stay true to my Element.”

She turned away from the others, making her way towards Twilight’s room. “As Daring Do always says, ‘Actions speak louder than words.’ Rarity, Pinkie, see you two later.”

The pegasus left, and Applejack pulled her hat down over her face. “All things come to the pony who waits, Dash. There ain’t nopony who needs to learn that more than you do.”

“What happened between you two?” Pinkie inquired quietly. She’d been affected by the argument, too.

“It’s…a long story, Pinkie. Ah don’t know if ya want to hear it.” Rarity put a comforting hoof on her friend’s shoulder.

“Darling, we have to fix this. For you, for Rainbow Dash, and for Twilight. If she hears that two of her friends are losing their friendship, it will likely push her into depression. Please, tell us what happened, and we may be able to help before things get too out of hoof…”

The Secrets We Keep and the Regrets We Make

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Fluttershy continued to brush her hoof through Twilight’s mane long after the unicorn had fallen into a fitful sleep. She’d cried for so long, and tears were still coming out. It really hurt the pegasus to see Twilight like this. Fluttershy had never seen her so defeated, so crushed—Twilight Sparkle always had a plan. There was always a way through.

But not this time. Fluttershy pressed her muzzle onto Twilight’s forehead, nuzzling her gently. If the circumstances weren’t so bad, the pegasus was sure she’d have enjoyed being so close to her. But over the course of the last few weeks when her precious unicorn had been unconscious… Fluttershy had never cried that much in that short of a time span before. She’d been so afraid that Twilight wouldn’t wake up—and after the doctor had finally told her what was wrong with the unicorn, she felt even worse.

After all, what was a unicorn without magic?

There was a knock at the door, but the stranger didn’t wait for an answer before coming in. Rainbow Dash closed the entrance behind her before trotting over to the bed. She sat down on the chair Fluttershy had been using earlier, unusually quiet.

“Did she get worse when we left?” Dash slumped over in the chair. Fluttershy wasn’t used to seeing her fellow pegasus like this, but everypony was affected by the situation in their own way.

“…A little,” she admitted, “But we were expecting that, remember?”

“Yeah, I know… It’s just…” Rainbow pressed both hooves over her face, “I’ve never seen Twilight like this before. Yeah, she’s an egghead, but magic is her thing. That’s what she learns from the Princess, and it’s almost everything she reads! How will she move on if it’s always there, reminding her of what she used to have?”

Fluttershy remained silent. She knew that Dash needed to get this out of her system. Unlike the rest of them, Rainbow had a hard time dealing with her emotions, and if she didn’t let it all out she wouldn’t be able to think straight.

The cyan pegasus sighed. “…Isn’t there something I can do? Twilight’s always helped us out when we asked, but when she needs us the most… I feel so useless! Even back during the fight I didn’t do anything!”

“Rainbow…” Fluttershy felt conflicted. She wanted to comfort Dash, but the mare in her forelegs needed it most. Plus, if she moved, it’d probably wake her up.

“No, it is my fault! Out of all of us, I should’ve been able to dash to her rescue…! Speed is my thing, being a hero is my thing, saving ponies is my thing!”

“Rainbow, please calm down. You might wake Twilight… And it’s as much my fault as it is yours. If I was as brave as you, I could’ve stopped the Sphinx and…” The unicorn squirmed, burying her muzzle deeper into Fluttershy’s fur. The blue mare watched as the yellow one blushed. She let out a breath and calmed down.

“…She really does like you. The first thing she asked when she woke up was, ‘Where’s Fluttershy?’” Rainbow had a small smile now that they were on a better subject.

“Really?” Fluttershy looked down at the lavender mare in her hooves.

“Yeah. And look at how hard she’s hugging you. Must be warm, huh?” Slightly amused, Dash rested her head on a hoof.

Fluttershy blushed more, but didn’t say anything.

Twilight began growing more and more restless in Fluttershy’s arms. The pegasus tried to get her to stay still, but she kept moving.

“Hey, is she okay?” Rainbow asked after a while.

“I… I don’t know,” The yellow pony tried harder to stop her, but it only increased resistance. Twilight’s horn was lighting up.

“She’s using magic!” Rainbow Dash jumped up, “I-I’ll go get the doctor!”

Fluttershy didn’t reply, too busy with the unicorn. The other pegasus dashed out of the room for the doctor.

A magic spell erupted from the unicorn’s horn, hitting the ceiling. Fluttershy was getting nervous now. Twilight was squirming around with a pained look on her face, breathing hard, and she was sweating like crazy.

“T-Twilight!” The cover was kicked off in the commotion. It was getting worse. Fluttershy had to pin Twilight down to the bed, but she didn’t use any force. Her magic was going off like a fire hydrant had been knocked off.

Twilight’s spasm knocked Fluttershy onto the floor. It didn’t hurt, but without even the small restraint the unicorn was thrashing around in the bed.

Dr. Sweetheart and Rainbow Dash came rushing in a second later. “She’s having a magical surge! Hold the patient down!”

Rainbow didn’t hold back like Fluttershy had. She pressed down on Twilight as hard as possible, and now the bed was only shaking slightly. The doctor moved so she was beside Twilight’s horn.

“I’m going to have to cast a spell on her! She may react negatively, but don’t let her go!” Dr. Sweetheart’s horn lit up. She placed it on Twilight’s own and the magic fused into her forehead. The distressed unicorn howled in pain, and the longer the spell went on, the less magic escaped Twilight’s horn. Her spasm started to die down until she was completely still.

Fluttershy couldn’t stand watching it.

When the doctor pulled away, she was panting from the spell’s exertion. Rainbow slowly got herself up, and Fluttershy was immediately making sure Twilight was okay.

“W…What just happened?” Rainbow was breathing hard, too.

The professional took a few seconds to get her breathing under control. “She had a magical surge. I was afraid of this…”

“What? Doctor, tell us!!!” Rainbow was in Sweetheart’s face with a worried expression of her own.

“Sometimes, a horn will control the magic flow on its own. These occurrences mostly happen when the unicorn is a foal, when he or she has yet to master magic. Because Twilight Sparkle’s horn had locked up magic after she’d used too much, the stored energy soon built up until it had to be released. It happened much faster than I’d anticipated…” Dr. Sweetheart shook her head woefully.

Fluttershy wiped the sweat from Twilight’s brow, her heart still beating fast from the adrenaline. “What… What was the spell you cast?”

“I was able to reproduce the block on her magic, but it won’t last long, especially if she tries to use any spells. It was this exact reason I suggested removing her horn. But now Twilight Sparkle won’t have a choice in the matter, unless she wants to die young.”

The pegasi gasped in response.

Dr. Sweetheart looked at them apologetically. “I’m sorry, I usually speak much more professionally. This case is just… a lot more emotional than most…”

Fluttershy’s head was spinning and her vision got blurry again. She never wanted to hear “Twilight” and
“die young” in the same sentence. It made her heart hurt.

“She won’t… She won’t want to get rid of her horn. It’s really important.”

“What if… a stronger somepony cast that spell? The one that blocked her magic. Or… maybe the Princesses know how to get rid of this whole mess!” Rainbow exclaimed with new-found hope.

“But Princess Celestia hasn’t come to—“ Fluttershy began, but Rainbow interrupted her.

“What about Princess Luna? She could probably—“

“No.” The doctor said firmly, surprising both pegasi. “The Princesses need all of their magic to raise the sun and moon every day, and the amount of magic this would take would drain that supply. Like I said, this is a very complicated matter.”

“I have to try.” Rainbow wiped a foreleg over her eyes. “I’m going to the castle now, Fluttershy.”

“Are you sure, Rainbow?” Fluttershy barely looked away from Twilight to give Dash a glance.

“Yeah. It’s still day-time, so I’ll at least get to know why Princess Celestia hasn’t been coming. See ya,” she flew off before anypony else could get a word in edgewise.

Rainbow Dash navigated out a window as soon as she could, headed straight to the castle. She was hopeful that Princess Celestia could do something about Twilight, especially since she’d probably seen this exact condition a long time ago. The Princess was the most powerful alicorn in all of Equestria, after all.

Instead of going through the gates like a normal pony, Rainbow flew up to the balcony she knew the Princess would be on. Some guards were shouting at her and tried to follow her, but Rainbow Dash was faster. Just as she’d predicted, Princess Celestia was standing atop the balcony, staring out into the distance.

The Princess seemed surprised. “…Rainbow Dash…?”

“I need to talk to you, Princess,” Rainbow made out before two male pegasi grabbed her from behind. Another one flew up and saluted to the Princess.

“We’re sorry, Your Highness, for letting this trespasser reach you when you’ve specified wanting to be alone. What should we do with her?”

Princess Celestia glanced at the guards, sighing. “You may let her go. I wish to speak with her.”

The pegasi let go as soon as they were ordered to, returning to their posts. Rainbow let out a sigh of relief; they were practically choking her.

“You wanted to speak with me?” Princess Celestia asked simply.

“Yes, Princess…” Rainbow suddenly lost her flame. She wasn’t sure what to say at all. For a few moments, she remained motionless in the air, thinking. “…Twilight woke up.”

Princess Celestia stared at her blankly, but her eyes betrayed her. “She has? Well, shouldn’t you be there with her?”

“With all due respect, Your Highness,” Rainbow landed on the balcony, keeping her cool, “Shouldn’t you be there with her?”

The alicorn’s brow furrowed slightly, but she said nothing. Her eyes held the same deepness they always did, and the sadness she’d once kept hidden from the world revealed itself. Years of depression and loved ones lost showed its mark on her. Rainbow had never seen the Princess quite like this.

Dash hesitantly put a hoof on Princess Celestia’s shoulder. “She needs you more than ever, Princess. The doctor said that she can’t use magic anymore, and that her horn was going to be removed! Can you do something, Princess Celestia?”
Princess Celestia looked into the cyan pegasus’ eyes. “I’m sorry, but I mustn’t see her.”


“I can’t.” She said firmly, looking away. Hurt was visible in her expression, and it was obvious she wasn’t going to come around. Rainbow was going to try harder, but even she wasn’t dense enough to not notice how differently Princess Celestia was acting.

“…Okay.” Rainbow Dash sighed, flapping her wings. “I understand, Princess, and I also know you’ll regret not trying.”

Princess Celestia said nothing. Rainbow Dash feigned flying towards the hospital, but when she was far enough away she changed direction back towards the castle’s opposite side. The pegasus stayed close to the outer wall, avoiding the wandering eyes of the guards. Eventually she found an open window, and she dove inside.

Rainbow Dash hadn’t been in the castle very much in the past. However, she did know where the Princess of the Night’s chamber would be. The rainbow-maned mare snuck through the shadows until she saw Princess Luna’s room.

Unfortunately, it was being watched by her guards. Their eyes stared unblinkingly straight, and Rainbow couldn’t help but wonder just how bored they were. The pegasus wasn’t sure what she should do next, so didn’t do anything.

Rainbow Dash floated up to the ceiling and held her tail between her hooves. She crawled upside down towards her destination until she was right above the officers. Rainbow looked around, but saw no other way in. She then saw the Night Princess’ cutie mark on a shield right above the door. The pegasus smirked at the sudden idea she had, and grabbed hold of the shield. The floating mare threw the shield a ways off, where it hit the ceiling and fell down.

“Who’s there?!” One of the guards exclaimed, chasing after the sound. The second followed without a word. Rainbow drifted down and entered Luna’s chambers silently.

It was dark. The pegasus groped for anything in the shadows, but she didn’t know where she was going. When it was clear she wasn’t going to find the Princess this way, Rainbow decided to try another tactic.

“Princess Luna?”

There was no response. Rainbow tried again.

“Princess Luna, are you in here?”

Rainbow heard the sound of rustling sheets, and as her eyes adjusted, could see a pony sitting up in the bed.

“We are waiting for an explanation, Rainbow Dash.” A voice resonated sleepily. The mare on the bed wiped her eyes with her hooves.

“It’s… It’s Twilight.”

“What is wrong with my sister’s student, Twilight Sparkle?” Princess Luna sounded more alert already. Did she really not know?

“Hasn’t somepony told you about what happened?” Rainbow approached the Night Princess cautiously.

“News does not reach my ears as quickly as it does my sister. Please, explain to me what has happened to Twilight Sparkle.”

“You girls sure you want to hear this?” AJ sighed, sitting back on her haunches. Pinkie pulled Rarity away from Applejack to speak to her privately.

“Rarity, can you take care of Applejack? I just had an idea!” She said it so seriously that Rarity had to blink.

“Of course I can, darling, but what are you talking about?” Pinkie smiled, but didn’t say anything. She trotted down towards Twilight’s room, only intriguing Rarity further. She shook her head before turning back to Applejack; this was more important.

AJ gave her a strange look, but didn’t say anything about what’d just happened. Rarity smiled apologetically, putting a reassuring hoof on her shoulder.

“Please, tell me what happened between you and Rainbow Dash.”

Applejack looked into Rarity's eyes. "Ah trust you, Rarity. I'm willin' to tell you everything..."

It happened a while ago. Me and Rainbow were happy together--real happy. We didn't keep no secrets from each other, and we met everyday. Nopony could have been as happy as I was.

But then things started happenin'. It was a good day, as usual, I was on mah way to see Rainbow Dash. I knew she was goin' to be getting another book from that series she likes so much at Twilight's library, so that's where I went.

There was this scrawny stallion just standin' there. His name was Flim--one of them brothers who tried to take over Sweet Apple Acres. As you might've guessed, Ah marched right on up to him and was about to give him a piece of my mind, when I saw the look on his face.

He looked like a young colt in love. And you know who he was lookin' at? Fluttershy getting groceries in the market. At the time I didn't know 'bout how she felt about Twilight, and was only thinkin' about helping him out.

Ah talked to him for awhile, and he seemed like a nice enough stallion. I told him about Fluttershy, and decided to help him out even more.

'Course I didn't notice the way Fluttershy blushed 'round Twilight, and I also didn't notice the way Rainbow was gettin' suspicious of where I was goin'. One day, I was going out to meet Flim and was plannin' on introducing him to Fluttershy for the first time, but...

I didn't know Rainbow was following me.

As soon as she saw who Ah was with, she attacked him. He was a skinny pony, definitely not no Big Mac, so she was beating him senseless. I was surprised at first, but when I finally moved, Ah got her off of him. She... She thought I was cheatin' on her. Ah ain't no cheater and I ain't never told a lie without a good reason! Everypony knows that.

But that didn't stop Rainbow. She was cryin' more than I'd ever seen her in all mah life, and she yelled at me. Ah don't know where that Flim guy went, and Ah feel bad for him. I don't think he's gone back to Ponyville since he got beat.

Anyway... Rainbow called me names and said I didn't love her. And... I yelled right on back. The things she said really hurt me, but she didn't stop. We both said stuff we shouldn't have, but she wouldn't let me explain. She flew off to somewhere, and... Ah... Ah cried.

She wouldn't talk to me, but she also wouldn't talk to nopony. None of our friends knew, either, the reason she was so upset, but I did. I finally explained... And she said she understood. I don't think she really does, but she knows she hurt me badly. We couldn't get back together--it wouldn't be the same. I-I don't think Rainbow's ever really gotten over what happened, neither...

Applejack collapsed onto the floor, sobbing openly.

Our Only Comfort

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By the time Rainbow Dash had finished her tale, Princess Luna was pacing. She didn't look very happy, and was no longer tired in the least.

"I do not understand what this means... Why dost thou sister not wish to see thy student?" Even after all her lessons on proper Equestrian, Luna was falling back into her old ways. Usually, it only happened when she was really stressed. "And why did I not hear of this sooner? Twilight Sparkle is close to me as well..."

Rainbow was nervous now that she'd gotten everything out, and was still feeling pretty useless. Finally, Luna stopped her pacing, looking towards the cyan pegasus.

"Your name is Rainbow Dash, correct?"

"Y-Yes, Your Highness." It occurred to Rainbow that she was speaking to royalty this whole time, and only just then had she bowed. The Princess didn't seem too bothered.

"Rainbow Dash, I thank you for bringing this news to me, despite the hardship you must have gone through to pass my guards and my sister. Have you any requests for me?"

Dash stared at the Princess for a long time, before casting her eyes downward. "...Just one, Princess. Please... Please just make sure Twilight gets better."

Princess Luna watched her for a while, time seeming to slow down. "...Of course. I will do my best, but I cannot guarantee anything. I must ask you to watch over your friends, and never leave their sides. I must speak to my sister right away."

"But Princess... She won't... pass away, right?" Rainbow looked up into Luna's eyes for reassurance.

Princess Luna said nothing, turning toward the door. She opened it, glancing back.

"To tell you the truth, little one, I do not know."

And with that, she disappeared into the hallways of the castle. She trotted with purpose to the balcony where she knew her sister would be, wondering how something so terrible could happen to a pony like Twilight Sparkle. As far as Luna knew, she'd never done anything to deserve it.

And, the more she thought about it, the more it reminded her of something that'd happened long ago, when she was still just a filly. It seemed to make sense--the reason her sister wasn't going to see Twilight Sparkle, was because of him.

Why hadn't she remembered it sooner?

Princess Luna moved faster until she finally made it to her destination without incident. She stepped out onto the balcony, noticing her sister's forlorn expression.

"Sister..." She began, surprising Celestia.

"Oh, Luna... What are you doing here? Shouldn't you be resting until the night?" The Princess of the Night walked over to her sister's side, gazing at the beautiful city in the sun's glow.

"Must I have a reason to speak with my sister?" The white alicorn turned back toward Canterlot in resignation.

"I suppose not, dear sister." Luna yawned, but did her best to suppress it. She put a hoof on her sister's shoulder.

"You're troubled, Celestia. Tell me what bothers you." The younger mare stared into the elder's eyes, seeing a long forgotten sorrow buried beneath them. She recognized it from those troubling times from thousands of years ago. "It's about your faithful student, Twilight Sparkle, isn't it?"

The Princess of the Day seemed surprised, but recovered herself just as easily. "How did you know that, Luna?"

"I spoke with one of her friends, Rainbow Dash. She was very desperate, and her news saddened me. You recognize Twilight Sparkle's condition, don't you?" Luna watched as her sister turned away.

"...I do."

"And it reminds you of your first love, doesn't it?"


"Does it?"

Princess Celestia sighed in resignation, nodding once. Luna dropped her harshness, and gave her sister a much needed hug.

"It isn't your fault, Celestia. Nopony could have known it would happen." The white alicorn returned the embrace equally. "You did not corrupt him, dear sister. He took advantage of your love for him to become the power-hungry monster he is today. It is not your fault that you had to turn him into stone. He was always evil, Celestia."

"Luna, he was a pony once. A regular unicorn pony--I changed him. He had the Magical Rebound Effect, and I foolishly let my love for him guide me to try to save him. My magic mutilated him, and I'd created the first Draconequus. He no longer had the drawbacks of the condition, but nopony could stand to look at him. I corrupted him. He soon went to rule over Equestria with unhappiness and unrest, punishing those of which did not look at him. He lost his own name, and became what we know today as Discord." Celestia sighed, resting a hoof over her muzzle. "You were young then, little sister, but we were forced to turn him into stone. I...

"I can't see my faithful student, Twilight Sparkle turn out this way. I cannot bear to lose her the way I lost him..." Luna pulled back to look into her sister's eyes.

"Celestia, if you do not see her, she will perish. She needs you more than ever before, sister. Twilight Sparkle has remained faithful to you, so mustn't you return that kindness?"

"Luna, I'm afraid that if I see her this way, I will make the same mistake." The Princess of the Night nuzzled her sister's neck comfortingly.

"It was no mistake, sister."

"...Isn't it ironic, Luna? There is but one true recovery from this illness, and it is to become the shunned Draconequus. A unicorn could get their horn removed, but that would not stop the flow of magic within the pony's body. Would it be better to accept your fate, or twist yourself into something beyond recognition?" The two Princesses watched as Rainbow Dash flew back to the hospital.

"It is for the pony themselves to decide, Celestia. I cannot speak for Twilight Sparkle, but she must wish to speak with you at least once more. I am sure you have noticed, but she does look up to you like a second mother." Princess Celestia said nothing. "Sister, do you really wish to hear from somepony else that Twilight Sparkle has passed on? Do you really think that this problem will solve itself if you run away from it? Celestia, you know better than that."

"I know, Luna... I've just been thinking about the stallion Discord used to be. No, he is not the pony I once loved, but rather a disappointment. I loved who he used to be, not what he is now. I do not wish to think of myself saying these same words about my faithful student."

"Sister, you should see her before making any decisions. Isn't that the least you could do on your student's behalf?" Luna reasoned.

"...Perhaps, sister... Perhaps I will pay a visit before I retire tonight..."

Luna let out a sigh, figuring that this was the best she was going to get from her sister. She let out another yawn. "I am planning to visit your student now, Celestia. I will tell her that you plan on visiting her."

Luna trotted over toward the railing, opening her wings. Celestia put a hoof on her shoulder. "Please do not inform her about anything that we have said here. Namely, the creation of a Draconequus. Promise me, Luna."

The Princess of the Night smiled knowingly. "I will not say a word, sister."

She took flight toward the hospital.

As Luna trotted into the busy hospital, many ponies stopped to stare. The Princess simply walked to the desk purposefully.

"In what room number does the unicorn Twilight Sparkle reside in?" The mare at the desk stared open-mouthed at the alicorn, before looking down at her papers, stuttering.

"U-Uh, you can find the patient Twilight Sparkle in room number two twenty-four, Your Highness. Dr. Sweetheart does not want any other visitors to see her, but I will allow you access, as long as you're careful."

Luna nodded, trotting over to the hallway. She was no stranger to the ogling looks of the ponies around her, so it didn't bother her much. It didn't take long to find the room she'd been looking for, but just to the side she saw a pony crying, and another one comforting her. She recognized them from the time she'd visited Ponyville for Nightmare Night.

The Princess quickly made her way over, feeling the need to help rise within her. "Why are you crying, little pony?"

Applejack moved her head slightly, still sobbing. Rarity jumped in surprise. She looked over to the alicorn, and once she realized who'd spoken, she bowed.

"Oh! Your Highness, what are you doing here?" Rarity had been having trouble calming AJ after her outburst, and still was. Luna nodded at Rarity, keeping her gaze on the crying mare.

"I have come to see Twilight Sparkle. Why are you crying?" Luna put a hoof under the earth pony's chin, pulling her up. AJ averted her gaze, tears still falling.

"A-Ah was just... remembering somethin' from a long time ago, P-Princess..." Her sobbing increased, and Luna looked over towards the white unicorn for explanation.

"She was... recounting the events of a break-up." Rarity said simply, watching her friend worriedly. Luna understood, and looked back at the upset pony.

"Your name is Applejack, and yours, Rarity. Right?" Both mares nodded, and Luna spoke again. "You must not fret about what has happened in the past, my little pony. You must learn to forgive yourself, and the pony with which you've broken ties to. Only then will you be able to find peace with yourself, and perhaps find somepony new."

AJ remained quiet, so Luna continued. "Whoever your special somepony was, do not regret what you have done, whether or not you think it is wrong. You must let it go."

The Princess glanced at Rarity, reading her eyes easily. "The same goes for you, little pony. The sadness borne from your misplaced love should be forgotten. I do not know where you've placed these feelings, but if they hurt you so, you should either pursue them to gain happiness, or get rid of them entirely."

The white unicorn blinked back tears she didn't even know she'd had. "H-How did you know...?"

Luna smiled sadly. "It was all in your eyes, my friend. Ponies may frolic in the day, but many despair and think about their problems in the night. I've learned much since I've gotten back, and I have helped ponies with their complications before. This is something I can do, that my sister cannot."

Applejack was finally able to calm herself, sniffling. "A-Ah'm sorry, Princess, Rarity... Ah just can't forget how hurt Rainbow was that day..."

The Princess watched AJ solemnly. "Do not apologize. If ever you need anything from me, you know where to find me. Or, in the night, all you must do is ask for me, and I will personally come to speak with you. I have a pressing matter I must attend to now... Twilight Sparkle is in this room, correct?"

"Er, yes, but she is currently sleeping..." Rarity said, patting her friend's back comfortingly. Luna walked closer to the door.

"It is no matter. I must see her for myself, and talk to your other friends." Luna stated, realizing that everypony would be in a similar state. She'd been through plenty of hardships herself, and had helped enough ponies to notice these things. Neither mares objected, contemplating the advice they'd been giving.

Luna knocked on the door, pushing it open. Inside, Twilight Sparkle lay on a hospital bed. A yellow pegasus mare was crying into her hooves, sitting right next to the unicorn. The pony Luna had assumed was the doctor, was writing on a clipboard with a furrowed brow. Both ponies looked up at the sound of the door opening, the pegasus still sobbing.

"Princess Luna?" Dr. Sweetheart questioned, raising an eyebrow. Luna nodded, stepping into the room and closing the entrance behind her.

"I have recently heard the news of Twilight Sparkle's condition... How is she?" The Princess of the Night trotted over next to the familiar pony, looking at Twilight.

"She..." The doctor glanced at Fluttershy, sighing. "She doesn't look very good." The other mare cried harder. Luna finally recognized her from Nightmare Night--she was the pony Twilight said had a soft voice, but she only ran. The alicorn had long since forgiven her, but seeing her this broken was strange. Luna had only seen ponies this upset when they'd lost somepony very dear to them--and it was obvious Twilight was still here.

Twilight Sparkle's horn caught her attention, as well as a scar over her eye. Luna sat on her haunches. "Are you planning on removing her horn?"

Dr. Sweetheart nodded solemnly, and the Princess looked back at the injured pony. She felt a pang of sadness for her, as she knew how hard she'd tried to improve her magic under Celestia's wing. It was a risk for her sister to even think about teaching a unicorn such strong magical spells, so why had she even done it? Was it worth it?

Fluttershy's body-wrenching sob brought the older mare out of her thoughts. She glanced at the pegasus. "Your name is Fluttershy, yes?"

The pony made no sign that she'd acknowledged the Princess talking to her. Luna sighed, lowering her head slightly.

"Fluttershy, I can see that you are deeply affected by this... Have you anything to get off your chest?" She suggested. Twilight adopted a pained look on her face, and she gritted her teeth. Fluttershy watched with glassy eyes, more tears escaping. Just as Luna was about to speak again, the pegasus finally said something.

"I-I wish this wasn't happening to Twilight right now... I wish I'd never met her, because then I wouldn't have fallen in love with her, we wouldn't have gone into the woods together, and she wouldn't have gotten this... this... illness!" She let her mane cover her face. "It's not fair... Twilight never deserved any of this..."

Luna put a hoof on Fluttershy's shoulder. "I agree, little one, but you should not wish for things like that. Do you honestly wish you'd never met her? I think not." The pegasus' shoulders slumped, and her head fell lower.

"No, of course not... I just think she'd be better off without me..." Dr. Sweetheart slowly trotted to the door and leaned against the wall, wanting to give them privacy, but still not wanting to go too far from the patient. Luna frowned.

"That's not true, either. You should not tell yourself lies... I'm sure Twilight Sparkle wouldn't want to hear you say such things. She's your... special somepony, right?"

Fluttershy nodded meekly. Luna wrapped her wing around the smaller pegasus, giving her at least a little warmth in this otherwise cold environment. The yellow pony accepted it gladly, leaning into the Princess' embrace. Twilight squirmed on the bed, still looking hurt. Her hoof pressed into the bed, and she was mumbling incoherently.

"She loves you, too." Luna said, choosing her words carefully, "I can tell. She may be hurting now, but she does need you. Look, she seems to be saying your name..."

Twilight's eyes squeezed tightly, and she did say something. "Flutters..." She bit her lip, breathing slowly. "I'm sorry..."

That caused more tears to well up in the yellow pony's eyes. "Twilight, y-you don't have to apologize to me! I-I messed up, not you! Please, don't say something like that again...!" Fluttershy rubbed at her eyes furiously, "Don't say it... Please... Don't say sorry..."

Luna could barely stand this display. It was tear-jerking even to the Princess of the Night, who'd been able to help all the ponies before her without so much as a single tear. Celestia's long lost love invoked feelings within her, but she hadn't cried for her sister about it in years. Rainbow's undying loyalty and pleas to save her friend didn't push her so far, and neither had the sad love lives of Applejack and Rarity. This pony, however, was one she could actually help... Her special somepony, Luna's first friend in thousands of years, was suffering. There was a single way to save her, but Celestia had made her promise not to tell anypony.

One last look at the sobbing pegasus forced her to cave.

"There's... There's a way to save Twilight Sparkle... but you won't like it."

The Dragon, the Bunny, and the Pink Party Pony

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Pinkie Pie trotted in the direction of Twilight's room, but that was just for show. She didn't want her friends to know where she was going, because then they'd try to dissuade her. The pink pony looked around when she reached the end of the hallway before jumping out the window.

She hadn't really understood what was wrong with Twilight, but knew that it could be fatal. The unicorn was one of Pinkie's best friends, and it really made her sad to think about never seeing her again. And, even more depressing, was the thought of how Fluttershy would feel. Those two had looked really cute together, though Pinkie hadn't known for very long.

Pinkie's main purpose in life was to make other ponies happy, and to make them smile. She had to make sure that she could keep that up, even though everypony was falling apart on the inside. At the very least, Pinkie had to keep herself together, and knew she had to pick up the pieces of her friends.

And she was going to start with Spike.

The dragon was still somewhere in Canterlot, Pinkie was sure, but he didn't know about Twilight's condition. Even though everypony didn't want him to know, the pink mare knew what it felt like to be left out of the loop because ponies thought she couldn't handle the truth. She didn't want Spike to feel that way.

Though she'd been really sad about what happened to Twilight, and blamed herself for it, she knew everypony would feel a lot worse had she been crying, too. If she were the same pony from years ago, before she met Twilight and the rest of their friends, she would have given in to that primal instinct to cry over it. But now that she had real friends that needed her to be strong, well... She couldn't let them down.

Pinkie Pie looked around once she landed on the ground. She wasn't sure where she would find Spike, but decided to check the castle first. As she got closer to Canterlot's proudest establishment, she saw Rainbow Dash flying away from Princess Celestia, only to turn around and enter through the castle's backside.

Initially, Pinkie was a little confused, but she shook her head and approached the main gate. Two guards that'd just returned to their posts were quick to stop her. They were a little flustered, for some reason.

"Halt! Who goes there?"

Pinkie smiled her friendliest smile. "I'm Pinkie Pie, one of the Elements of Harmony! Namely, the Element of Laughter. Anyway, is Spike here? Twilight Sparkle's dragon helper?"

At first, the pegasus guard was hesitant, but Princess Celestia had (finally) told them which ponies could enter the castle without question. And, as a matter of fact, that included the ponies who'd saved Equestria numerous times, the Elements of Harmony. The two pegasi slowly withdrew, opening the gate for her. The second one spoke firmly.

"You may enter, but do not disturb Her Highness, Princess Celestia. She wishes to be alone. Do you accept these terms?" Pinkie Pie nodded exuberantly, and was about to enter, but was stopped by the other guard.

"Wait! You must sign in, and wear this badge to show that you have done so. Also, the dragon you seek is in his chamber, second floor, first door on the right." Pinkie Pie wrote her name and the time in her barely legible hoofwriting, and pinned the badge onto her chest proudly.

"Okay, thank you!" At last, Pinkie Pie bounced through the gates and into the castle. She pushed thoughts of Dashie's random appearance to the back of her mind, opting to get to Spike's room as quickly as possible without running into her. Even though the pegasus was a great friend, she couldn't have her finding out what she was there for.

It didn't take long to reach the dragon's room. Pinkie knocked three times, then waited. When there was no response, she knocked another three times. Just as she was about to do it again, the door finally opened. A slightly annoyed Spike peered up at her, but his expression turned into one of surprise.

"Pinkie Pie? What are you doing here?"

Pinkie smiled, though it wasn't as happy as she'd wanted it to be. "Can I come in, Spike?" A little confused, the assistant stepped aside. The party mare walked inside as Spike closed the door behind her.

"What's going on, Pinkie? I thought Rarity was the only one here in Canterlot on business, or something..." He stared into Pinkie's cerulean eyes curiously, his eyes flitting toward her badge briefly. Pinkie's resolve faltered slightly, but she was determined to tell him. He needed to know.

"Spikey... It's about Twilight..."

Nopony had noticed Angel's sudden disappearance. The white rabbit had sympathized with Twilight, because he too had been ruthlessly attacked by the Sphinx. Initially, when his owner's mate had taken all the attention away from him and forced him to take his medicine, he'd hated her with a passion, along with that weird lion thing in the forest.

Speaking of which, that animal had been the weirdest thing Angel had ever seen. The only reason he knew the unicorn had been attacked by it was because of the scar she had directly over her eye. Even if the pony creatures thought differently, Angel knew for a fact the mare had been clawed at by the Sphinx. His own experience with that thing was probably the worst out of all the animals. For one, the monster had chased him throughout the entire forest, and when it did catch him, it broke his leg. Then, without mercy, it continued to twist it.

However, a pony, or rather, a zebra, had saved him. She distracted it with something, and Angel was able to pull himself away, and back to the cottage. He was hurting beyond belief, but he managed to get away. But even so, he passed out the second he made it into his home.

Angel shuddered at the memory, clutching his leg. He was a lot smarter than most animals. The rabbit hopped away from the hospital, hearing the anguished cries of both his owner, and her friends. Angel didn't care for the rest of them, but he did feel remorse for Fluttershy and the unicorn.

He knew he didn't have much time before somepony did notice his absence, but now, he needed to fix this. Fluttershy had always needed him to help her with all her problems, and in turn, she cared for him. She was the only pony he would ever even consider depending on in that way.

Angel blended into the crowds of the common ponies, making his way to the train station. He knew exactly where he wanted to go.

What surprised him, though, was the sight of the pink pony and the dragon, both of which were friends of his owner. They were both boarding the train to Ponyville. In confusion as to what they were planning, he quickly jumped onto the train after them. The dragon didn't look very good, but did have a determined glint in his eyes. When the train began moving, the bunny made his presence known.

"Angel Bunny?" Spike questioned in surprise, "What are you doing here?"

Pinkie Pie soon looked over, joining the conversation. "Woah! It's Fluttershy's baby rabbit!"

Angel rolled his eyes at the two clowns. He then pointed at them, and attempted to make a question mark out of his body, using his fluffy tail for the dot at the bottom. It was... an interesting sight.

"Um... Are you asking who we are?" Spike scratched his cheek. Angel face-palmed. He pointed at the pink pony, then the dragon, and then the floorboard of the train.

"Why are we on the train?" Pinkie provided, to which the bunny nodded rapidly at. "I love these games!" She smiled, before getting serious again. Well, what could be considered serious for Pinkie Pie. "We're going to go find the zebra we know might have a way to save Twilight. Zecora's always found a way in the past, and we know she'll have a solution for this!"

Angel took a moment to consider his options. One, he could lose these two and try to get to the zebra himself. Two, he could ban together with them and, with the help of their native speaking, could get the oddly-striped pony to understand their problem. And three... was to get away while he still could. He didn't even consider that train of thought. After thinking over the pros and cons, it seemed choice number two was the best of the three.

So, the rabbit thrust out his paw toward the two, averting his gaze. He still had his pride. Both Pinkie and Spike understood (for once) what he was trying to say, and Spike went ahead and shook his paw. They had a mutual understanding--to help save the unicorn by any means possible.

The train ride to Ponyville didn't take long, and the oddly matched trio made their way off it.

"So..." The dragon began shakily, wringing his claws thoroughly. Angel watched him curiously, though he was addressing the pink pony. "Pinkie... Could you tell me a little more about what's wrong with Twilight? We'll... We'll finish this up fast, right? I want to see her..."

They began their walk toward the other side of town where the forest began. "We are in a hurry, so it won't take too long!" The earth mare said, telling it to him straight, "And about Twi... She saved everypony from a Sphinx in the Everfree Forest, but she had to use a lot of magic. Then she had some kinda magic-related illness that could end up... making her leave. But that won't happen, because we'll find a way to get rid of it!"

Her trot became a lot more bouncier, and both Angel and Spike had to rush to keep up. The bunny just hoped he wouldn't twist his ankle in the process.

Eventually, they were standing in front of the Everfree Forest. All three of them gulped in sync, each having a bad experience in there. Though Spike hadn't met the Sphinx, he did run into the forest long ago after feeling threatened by Twilight's pet owl.

"Are we gonna run into the Sphinx thing, by any chance?" Anxiety was obvious in the dragon's voice. Angel rolled his eyes at the baby's cowardice, and already began walking into the wood. He wasn't afraid of it, and he wasn't afraid to prove it!

"Angel Bunny's right! We gotta get going, Spike." Pinkie answered, trotting after him. The dragon was then racing to keep up. Even though it was light outside, it was almost completely dark inside the forest. They instinctively stayed close as they wove their way through the trees. Pinkie was the only one who had explicit knowledge of where the zebra's home was, but Angel didn't trust the random ball of energy much. He'd never put his life in her hooves.

Luckily, they didn't come across any creatures or anything scary in general. And, also luckily, the pink pony was able to lead them to Zecora's hut. That was a relief.

But would that luck last?

Pinkie Pie raised her hoof and knocked three times as Spike glanced left and right, shivering. Angel could've sworn he'd never seen another pony dragon THING so cowardly in all his life.

At long last, Angel's former savior appeared from the door. Her hesitancy and tenacity was obvious.

"Pinkie Pie? I do not need you here to fill my head with lies." The zebra was closing the door in their faces, but Pinkie stopped it quickly.

"What? I didn't tell you a lie, nohow!" She exclaimed. Zecora let her own hoof fall back down to the ground, though her lips were still drawn into a thin line.

"You told me about the wonders of pranking. I tried it, but it left Twilight Sparkle and Fluttershy aching." Pinkie giggled, despite everything that'd happened up to this point.

"Really? Haha, that sounds funny... Did you--"Angel stomped his foot into the ground in both impatience and disapproval, effectively getting Pinkie to shut up. The zebra's gaze was now lowered onto the rabbit, who nodded in acknowledgement of her deed.

"Why, if it isn't you! It seems your leg is brand new." Angel only stared.

"Ahem, anyway, we really need to talk to you, Zecora." Spike said, getting the subject back to where it needed to be. Zecora's eyebrow raised instinctively, but she opened her door wider.

"Come in, and then you may begin."

The three shuffled in, and Zecora watched them curiously. Pinkie decided to speak.

"We really really really need your help, Zecora! There's a Sphinx in the forest, and we had to stop him. But he was like, really strong, and Twilight had to use her magic, but then she passed out, and she's got something called the Magic Rebound Effect, and it could be fatal... We were hoping that you could help us out somehow."

Three sets of pleading eyes were now trained on the zebra. Zecora's mouth had dropped. She attempted to regain her bearings and hide her surprise.

"The Magic Rebound Effect? This is much worse than I feared..." She didn't even rhyme.

That was a bad sign.

"What do you know?" Spike questioned. The three leaned in to hear correctly. Zecora only shook her head.

"There is no hope. All you can do now is try to cope."

Pinkie's brow furrowed as she pushed herself into the zebra's face. She looked desperate. "Zecora! You know something--I know you do! Please, there's a way! I know it!" The pink mare stared into the other one's eyes. Zecora hesitated.

"There is a treasure in Equestria known only by the name given by its owner: the Crystal Antidote. It is said to be able to cure any illness and provide happiness forever more." It sounded too good to be true.

"But...?" Spike continued, sure that there was more to the story. Angel knew it, too.

"But that is the treasure the Sphinx is guarding with its life."

The realization crushed their spirits. There was something Spike didn't understand, though.

"What kind of pony would ever give something like that up? Surely somepony has tried to get it by now!" Zecora had the faintest hint of a smile at his cleverness, but her eyes held sadness.

"Yes, dragon, it is true. The original owner of the Crystal Antidote was a tyrant known as King Sombra, who knew of his fate. He sent his last loyal servant, the ever clever Sphinx, to guard it until he escaped his prison in the arctic. The Sphinx is loyal to the core, and has waited patiently for the day his master will return... Nopony knows of this tale, because nopony has lived to tell it."

"But you--"Spike began, but Zecora kept speaking through him.

"I've only recently learned of this. The Sphinx has been growing restless, perhaps sensing the rise of his master. It leads to his recklessness in harming the simplest of creatures, but the matter cannot be dismissed."

Angel didn't really understand all the chitter-chatter, but he could read their tones and expressions, as well as the simpler words. Pinkie Pie didn't really seem to get the big picture, either.

"Wait... Is it still possible to save Twilight with this antidote-thingy?"

Zecora nodded slowly.

"Then we have to do it!"

A Dash of Generosity: Part One

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Is it true...? I... I'm not sure I'll be able to move on. Now, or ever... Rarity thought grimly as AJ was finally able to get a hold of herself. The earth pony sniffled once more.

"A-Ah'm sorry, Rarity, it's just..." Applejack sighed, clenching her eyes shut. "I ain't ever gonna be able to get over this. I sure do appreciate the Princess's advice, but it's not goin' to happen."

"Darling..." Rarity's voice caught in her throat. She really, really, truly wanted to tell Applejack that eventually, she would get over it, but it felt empty to her. The unicorn couldn't tell her friend such a cruel lie when she herself was in the same boat. The only difference between them?

Applejack had a chance.

"...I understand. I don't think I will be able to, either." Rarity's own accepting tone surprised her. As sad as moving on felt to her, she knew she stood no chance in gaining Twilight's love. "...And to the only mare that I've ever fallen in love with."

Applejack gasped. At least she was distracted from her own sorrows. "Rare... You're into mares?"

Rarity smiled sadly, shaking her head. "No. Only her."

AJ pushed herself off the ground, rubbing the last of her tears away. "I... I'm sorry, Rarity. Ah shouldn't have brought it up." The white mare stood up as well, and hugged her friend.

"There's nothing for you to apologize for, darling. She's... She's already found her special somepony, and I wish them the best of luck." They hugged in silence for a long time. Though this whole situation brought misfortune to everypony, it was comforting to know that she wasn't alone.

That somepony was just as hurt as she was.

"Rare..." AJ began quietly, "Ah'm jealous of you. I wouldn't be able to do that. You're always so generous, helpin' everypony else, and me... Ah'm cryin' my eyes out like a filly over something that happened so long ago, even when one of mah best friends might die soon."


Rarity pulled away from their hug, giving Applejack a confused look. "Applejack... You're the strongest pony I know. I admire you for that. You did your best to find love with Rainbow Dash, and did everything you could to keep it. Your honesty, even now, shows how wonderful of a pony you are. I'm just... a coward."

How ironic... Applejack and I are so different, and yet so alike. We argue so often, and now... we are able to comfort each other like no other pair of friends. Ah... such is the power of a strong friendship, I suppose... Rarity thought as they remained in a contemplative silence. I just wish things hadn't turned so badly. Whatever happened to the days when the worse things on my mind were whether or not Twilight liked me back?

Finally, the two ponies pulled away. Rarity felt about as good as a mare could with the current circumstances, but that was better.

"Applejack... Why don't you go and get some rest?"

AJ snorted immediately, and Rarity was met with the defiant glare she knew so well. "Like hay I am! A-Ah've been enough of a nuisance already!"

Rarity knew that her friend was still hurting, and that she needed some down-time. As reliable as AJ was, she was in a bad state of mind now. Obviously, she was more sensitive than she let on, especially when it comes to her friends being hurt and a bad love life.

She was just a pony, after all.

But even so, Rarity knew that Applejack wouldn't just walk out of the hospital knowing that she was "abandoning" her friend. So, she knew she had to come up with something else. Honesty may have been AJ's element, but generosity was definitely Rarity's.

"Darling... I believe Fluttershy will need some food. Would you mind getting her something from the cafeteria? I'll check on her. Let's do our best to support them."

Applejack's eyes softened, and she nodded slowly. The least Rarity could do was give her some space to clear her head enough to get through this. The unicorn watched as the orange pony trotted away. Then, when AJ was out of sight, she moved closer to the door.

Of course, she'd fully intended on going inside. But something kept her there. Rarity could hear the conversation going on through the door, and it sounded important. Like, something you shouldn't walk in on.

And, as fate would have it, that was when Rainbow Dash showed up. The pegasus wasn't sure how to feel, and it showed in her every step. Luckily, she didn't rush in like she might've in what seemed a lifetime ago. Rarity could see the fire in her eyes; she wasn't giving up. No. To her, it was likely only the beginning.

Rarity couldn't help but admire that about her.

"What are you doing?" Rainbow's brow came down accusingly at Rarity, and only then did the unicorn realize just how she looked next to the door. "Shouldn't you--oh, I don't know--go in?"

It stung. Just a little bit. However, the pegasus caught her tongue and seemed to realize her wrongdoing. She sighed and cast her eyes downward. "I'm sorry. It's just... well... I talked with Princess Luna."

Rarity stared at the pegasus. Suddenly, the reason why the Princess had shown up in the first place came into focus. Words were beyond the white mare at that point. "You... She..." The unicorn took a moment to compose herself, finally able to get a coherent sentence out. "What happened?"

Dash's brow furrowed in that familiar way--the one that said This is bad news. "...I told her about what was happening with Twilight. She didn't know. And... I asked her to make sure Twilight would live."

Rarity didn't understand why Rainbow Dash was speaking so glumly, until she realized there must've been more. The pegasus continued quietly. "I... I don't think there's really a way to save her... Princess Luna doesn't think that she'll live." Rarity gasped in response. Without a word, she pressed her ear against the door once again. Just what was going on here?

At first, Rainbow glared at her for seeming not to care at all about the weight of the words she'd just said, but then she heard Luna's voice through the door. Curiousity and confusion mixed within her, but she pressed up against the door beside Rarity, too.

"...There's a way to save Twilight Sparkle... but you won't like it."

Both eavesdropping ponies cast an uneasy glance at each other. This couldn't be good.

"W-what? Really? Oh, please tell me what it is!" Fluttershy's pleading tone cut through the door, easily making Rarity's heart lurch in response.

"W-what's goin' on?" Rainbow urgently whispered to Rarity, who only shoved a hoof into her mouth.

"Are you sure you want to hear this?" Princess Luna's hesitancy could be heard, and Rarity could somehow tell that her hoof was dragging on the floor.

"Yes, Princess. I'd do anything for Twilight..." Rarity felt the cold bite of jealousy bare its fangs at her, but she shoved it away. Fluttershy was her friend. She deserved to have a pony so wonderful--a pony like Twilight.

The unicorn felt Rainbow's wings flap slightly, perhaps in impatience.


Finally, Princess Luna spoke once again. "...Would you mind being turned into a monster, into something that you could no longer assossiate with yourself as, just to continue living? Even though you would be shunned by all of ponykind?"

"I... I don't understand, Princess..."

Rarity imagined Fluttershy's confused expression, though she was no better. The unicorn had to keep Dash from just racing into the room, demanding to know the truth.

A sigh.

"Would you spend the rest of your life with a Draconequus?" Luna paused once again. "The only way to save Twilight Sparkle is to turn her into a Draconequus--the very same beast Discord is."

Rainbow Dash shot up in alarm. Rarity, though surprised herself, looked at the airborne pegasus for explanation.

"T-that can't... That can't be true...!" Rarity could see Dash's eyes well up with unshed tears. She was beyond surprised to see Rainbow even tear up, when she'd tried so hard to be cool. "I don't get it... There has to be a way...!"

Dash's entire body shook, and she didn't try to hide it. Rarity was overwhelmed, and couldn't get herself to say anything fast enough. The pegasus could take the emotional bashing no longer. Tears finally spilled over her eyes, and a look of utter betrayal crossed her features, as if the world had wronged her terribly. Rainbow Dash said no more, and flew off faster than ever before, leaving only a rainbow trail behind her.

Stunned into silence, Rarity was unsure of what to do. She was stuck between a rock and--no... She was stuck between half a dozen ponies who needed her support at the exact same time, but it was just too much.

"...I could never ask that of Twilight. That sounds like... like... torture." Fluttershy's voice shook, and Rarity heard a sob. "I-I'm sorry, Princess, but there's no way she'd want that..."

She felt numb. Never had Rarity thought of friendship like this before. Maybe they were too close. Maybe friendship was a double-edged sword. Rarity loved all of her friends, and her heart ached when she thought of how hurt they all were. This was an impossible mission; however it ended, their lives would never be the same.

Assuming Twilight still had one.

There it was. That inexplicable feeling that seemed to be drilling a hole in her heart. Rarity couldn't keep her thoughts at bay any longer.

Twilight was going to die.

But Rarity still couldn't accept that. Twilight was important to her, even if she couldn't have her the way she wanted to. Rarity would give up her own life if that meant her friends could be okay... If Twilight could be okay.

"No... I understand. You needed to know about it." She paused. "I'm sorry."

"U-um... Princess..." Fluttershy hesitated, and Rarity could tell that she was just barely able to quell her tears. "Is Princess Celestia going to be coming? I think... I think Twilight would want that..."

It was unbearable now. Tears escaped Rarity's eyes. She'd had so much time to get rid of her feelings over the past few weeks, so much time to get a hold of herself. But this was real. Their friendships were real. And no matter what, their fates were forever sealed together. Twilight's death would not change that.

Rarity couldn't stay there anymore. She just couldn't. Tears blurred her vision and smeared her make-up, but she managed to trot to the nearest restroom.

Not long after, Princess Luna had left. She promised Fluttershy that Celestia was going to be coming soon, and Doctor Sweetheart was dragged out of the room for an emergency. It was quiet in the room, until somepony finally spoke.

Somepony who shouldn't have.

"...Why do you keep talking like I'm already gone?" Twilight's single, unharmed eye opened and stared at Fluttershy unblinkingly. The pegasus blinked, feeling a slight warmness in her heart, though it was subdued by what she'd said.

"T-Twilight... How long have you been awake?" Fluttershy didn't hesitate to nuzzle her marefriend's cheek.

"A little bit... What was Luna talking about? Discord? And what wouldn't I want?" Twilight pushed herself up, nuzzling Fluttershy back.

The pegasus paused in response. Should she burden Twilight with the truth, or lie for her wellbeing? "...Nothing. She just wanted to make sure you were alright. And to tell you that Princess Celestia is going to be visiting today."

Twilight didn't say anything. Her head felt heavy, almost numbed, and if she didn't know any better, she'd have been sure she didn't even have a horn. But she did, however faulty it was now.

Wait. Twilight's entire course of mind froze. Princess Celestia?

"Princess Celestia's coming?" Her face lit up and she straightened her back. Twilight had been wanting to talk to the Princess since she'd woken up the first time, and her heart lifted at the thought. Her mentor was always so wise; if she couldn't save her, then she'd definitely have some sort of advice that would put everything into perspective.

Fluttershy nodded. "Once the sun sets."

After the initial excitement of seeing the Princess, Twilight noticed the nearly empty room around her. "...Fluttershy, where are the others?"

"Um... I'm not really sure..." Fluttershy frowned slightly. "After they, um, you know, left the room, I've only seen Rainbow Dash. She went to talk to the Princesses, who then came here."

A short pause followed that.

There was this question in the back of Twilight's mind that she'd been desperately trying to avoid, but she found that the longer she avoided it, the more it burned. That feeling was only amplified by the fact that Twilight's head felt so... drugged? She wasn't sure what to make of that, but she really wanted to get it off her chest now.

"...Fluttershy..." She steeled herself for what she was about to say next, despite how much it was going to hurt her. "You don't have to do... this... anymore. I understand if you don't want to be my marefriend. It'd probably be better if you got out of this while you still can."

Twilight looked up at Fluttershy, trying to gauge her response. The pegasus was surprised at first, but her gaze hardened just a little. "Twilight, I--"

Suddenly, there was a knock on the door, interrupting Fluttershy. The yellow pony swallowed, and glanced at the unicorn. Her message was clear: I'm not finished.

"Come in," the pegasus called, and two ponies entered. Applejack had a tray in her mouth, and Rarity trotted in after her. They both looked a little worse for the wear. AJ seemed to have some of her fire back, but Rarity was a bit more deflated. However, both smiled and entered the rest of the way into the room.

The earth pony placed the tray on Twilight's lap and stepped back. "How're you feelin', Twi?"

Fluttershy could see Rarity's make-up smeared slightly, in the way that you could just tell somepony had been crying. The pegsus was worried for her friend, but more importantly, she was worried about what Twilight had said.

"...Better." she consented. "A little bit better."

Applejack smiled at her, and Fluttershy turned to Rarity. "Um... Where's Pinkie?"

The white mare blinked at her before answering. "I'm not entirely sure... She said something about having an idea, and left..." Twilight stared at the food in front of her, not very hungry. But even so, she didn't want to worry her friends any more than she already had. The unicorn leaned down and took the apple into her mouth. It was good, but nowhere near Sweet Apple Acres' apples.

"Fluttershy, dear? Could I have a moment with you?" Rarity's formality surprised Fluttershy. The pegasus glanced back at her marefriend, and upon seeing her nod slowly, followed the unicorn out the door.

In Rarity's mind, this confrontation was a long time coming. Well, not so much confrontation, but more of a... conversation between two good friends that just so happened to love the same pony. But that wasn't what Rarity wanted to talk about. Not really.

"Darling, I believe there's something I should tell you. I've been keeping it from you for far too long..." Fluttershy's interest was peaked. "I've been in love with Twilight for a long time."

The pegasus' eyes widened and she gasped. "O-oh my..." Her mind reeled back to when Twilight had told her that Rarity was acting weird around her, and that she'd been in love with somepony. Then, she remembered her marefriend asking her to make sure she was okay. Fluttershy felt guilty that she'd forgotten about it for so long, and a little uneasy that her best friend had feelings for her marefriend.

" 'Oh my' is correct. I'm afraid these feelings won't ever go away, and I can see that yours won't, either." Rarity shook her head slowly. "But don't get me wrong, Fluttershy. I may love Twilight, but I'm not going to take her away from you. I'm not that kind of pony."

"Rarity..." Fluttershy swallowed thickly. "For how long? Why... Why didn't you tell me?"

The unicorn had a small, sad smile. "Since the day I first met her. And the same goes for you, darling. Why didn't you tell me?"

"I, um... I didn't think I was going to ever confess, so I didn't tell you... But then Twilight came to my cottage with me one day and, well... um... I couldn't keep it to myself..."

Rarity nodded once. "And I couldn't believe I'd fallen for a mare."

Tears sprang to Fluttershy's eyes. She couldn't believe her friend had been silently suffering the same thing she had been once, and for the same pony. Even worse, she'd gotten Twilight even though her feelings had developed after Rarity's. It wasn't fair. "Oh, Rarity...!"

Fluttershy hugged her friend tightly. "I'm so sorry! If I'd known, I wouldn't have done it... And maybe then Twilight wouldn't be here in this hospital today.f you'd confessed before me, maybe you two would be happily reading books and sewing together--"Rarity placed a hoof over Fluttershy's mouth, pulling away from the hug.

"I don't blame you, dear. I'm happy for you two. The reason I wanted to talk to you out here isn't about that, though... Not entirely. For me, won't you please stay by Twilight's side? In the way I wish I could?"

"I don't understand what you're trying to say, Rarity..." Fluttershy frowned at her friend. Rarity tried again.

"I've accepted my fate. I just want to know that she'll be in good hooves, darling..." The unicorn's pleading expression bore into Fluttershy's eyes. Her recent conversation with Twilight sprang to mind.

"Of course I'll stay by her side, Rarity. What... What are you trying to say?" Fluttershy got the feeling that Rarity knew more than she let on.

"Even if she becomes a Draconequus?"

There was that alternative again. It almost seemed like everypony was just testing Fluttershy's love. "No matter what, she'll have my heart. I love her for who she is, not what she is. She could turn into a Princess and live in Canterlot, but I'd still love her."

Rarity's smile was genuine. "Good. I was hoping you'd say that. It'd be best if we went back now, right?"

The marshmallow pony turned back to the door, but Fluttershy stopped her. "Rarity... Thank you. For everything."

Then, the two mares re-entered the room. Fluttershy wondered what the other two ponies had been talking about while she was with Rarity when she saw Twilight's troubled expression. Everypony knew that Princess Celestia would be coming soon.

A Dash of Generosity: Part Two

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The Princess was supposed to be getting here any minute now--the sun was setting. Both Rarity and Applejack were doing their best to have an engaging conversation and distract Twilight, but it was obvious by her constant glancing to the window that it wasn't working in the least. Fluttershy just watched.

She wasn't exactly sure what she should've been doing. She really wanted to get back to her earlier conversation with Twilight and wash away her doubts with a bit of affection. But after being told of Rarity's feelings, it wouldn't be fair--or kind in the least--to do something like that in front of her. Speaking of Rarity...

Fluttershy had mixed feelings about it. She felt guilty that she'd done something so cruel without knowing about it, but at the same time, the pegasus was a little suspicious. Fluttershy hated that she felt that way, but she couldn't help it. Had Rarity ever tried to make a move on Twilight? Did she have the same thoughts about her that Fluttershy did? And, even more importantly...

Would Rarity always feel this way?

Fluttershy couldn't keep to herself any longer--she needed some form of reassurance that Twilight was still there. The pegasus, still at the unicorn's bedside, reached her hoof out and placed it atop Twilight's. The lavender mare smiled slightly at her, before rotating her hoof so she could hold Fluttershy's, too. Had the yellow pony not known any better, she wouldn't have noticed the sad look in Rarity's eyes.

It was nice to see Twilight feeling better. Fluttershy wasn't exactly looking forward to what Princess Celestia was going to say, as it would probably crush Twilight even more. If that did happen, the pegasus was ready to do her part in comforting Twilight--the way Rarity reminded her only she could do.

Finally, though Fluttershy was unsure how she knew, the Princess had arrived. All she could really credit was that gut feeling you got whenever you met with someone important. Celestia was soon walking in, her all-knowing eyes scanning over everypony but Twilight. They lingered on both Fluttershy and Twilight's intertwined hooves long enough to make the pegasus nervous. Then, the Princess sighed and gazed directly at her student. Fluttershy didn't have to look at her marefriend to know she was dying of anxiety.

"...Twilight." said the alicorn simply, though she looked troubled. Fluttershy found that discouraging. She'd only seen Princess Celestia look this upset when Discord had escaped his stone prison. And that must've spelled out bad news for Twilight.

Twilight sat up a little straighter. "Princess..." A small, wry smile crossed Celestia's features, but her eyes remained sad.

"Must we be so formal?" She shook her head, answering her own question. "I think not."

The unicorn didn't say anything. Her eyes sparkled with devotion and anticipation and fear, but mostly love. It wasn't the same kind Fluttershy was used to seeing from her marefriend, but more like that of a foal gazing up at his mother. Some sort of understanding seemed to pass between them when they locked eyes, and Fluttershy came to the realization that they really were like mother and daughter. Finally, the alicorn broke the silence.

"I apologize for not coming sooner, Twilight. But my sister has brought me to my senses. How... How do you feel?"

Twilight squeezed Fluttershy's hoof. "I... I..." Her eyes lowered, and she trembled slightly. She couldn't get the words out of her mouth, though she was desperately trying to. Princess Celestia sighed and leaned back until she was sitting. Now that the subject had been laid out in the open, the atmosphere became tense. Twilight sputtered out, trying to remain in control of herself but failing terribly. Her composure had been shattered by that simple, well-meaning question. "...Is this one of your tests, Princess? Why didn't you come sooner?! You're the Princess Celestia, the pony who knows all and protects all! So why?! Why me?" Tears formed in her eyes and she choked back a sob. "I feel like my horn's detached. My cutie mark is meaningless. I'm going to die, and I won't get to be your student anymore!"

She collapsed into full body-wracking sobs. Both her hooves came to cover her head. Fluttershy was at her side quickly, wrapping her hooves around the pony she loved and nuzzling her neck. The pegasus' wing unfurled itself and lay on the unicorn's back. Fluttershy tried not to contemplate what Princess Celestia and Rarity would be thinking. However, seconds later, Fluttershy's side went cold and suddenly she was hugging the air.

Her eyes darted around in alarm, but the subject of her worry was just in front of her, being held in a magic field. Celestia's magic field. The alicorn herself stood with her wings open in a powerful display whilst her face was the clear definition of emotion.

"...You must see the truth."

And then, Princess Celestia rested her horn on Twilight's forehead, and the unicorn's entire body went slack.

When Twilight was aware of her surroundings again, she was in a dream-like void that stretched on and on with never ending nothingness. She floated there for a long time, unable to comprehend the situation. Her body was still in the same state as it was just before her consciousness had been hijacked--throbbing headache and no magic, paired up with the painful scar on her eye. The unicorn knew it hurt, but she didn't really feel it.

Just as she was getting used to this blank canvas of a world, the scene changed. Suddenly, she was standing in a familiar courtyard...

The Royal Courtyard. It didn't look nearly as old as usual, and even gave off that "new shoe" smell. In fact, there was a pavillion just to the side that Twilight had never seen before. She heard voices from wihin and decided to investigate. As she grew nearer, the voices echoed louder, but they were clearly whispering. When Twilight saw who was within, she was shocked.

A miniature Princess Celestia--normal pony size to everyone else--crouched there, along with a dark brown unicorn stallion. Twilight didn't recognize him, but his voice sounded as if she should. He looked calm and troubled at the same time, and his cutie mark resembled... fog? There appeared to be a light in the center of it, though. Twilight wasn't sure what it meant.

" 'Tia... Do you really think your father would disapprove of me?" said the male, frowning at his companion as if he already knew the answer. The mare looked happier than any time Twilight had ever seen her, despite the troubled look on her face.

"You're of the lower quarter... Nopony would approve of a princess courting with you." she commented in a teasing way, nuzzling his neck. Obviously, the stallion was still stressed.

"But don't you want something more? A family?" he replied. Celestia frowned into his coat.

"Of course I do, Misty Haze. I just... cannot imagine my family's acceptance of our relationship. My mother suspects, but my father is clueless. He will imprison you!" Twilight had never once heard Princess Celestia speak of her parents before--for some reason, the unicorn had never even thought of it. She imagined the father as a huge, scary figure while the mother a kind, nurturing alicorn.

"I do not fear your father." The glint in his eyes proved he was serious, and only doubled the emotion evident in his voice. Celestia hesitated in a way that Twilight would never have thought possible.

"If you... If you wish. I will do whatever it takes to be with you." said Celestia, leaning up for a kiss. The stallion smiled into it, and the scene changed again. Twilight stumbled through it.

Then, the bright, friendly courtyard transitioned into a prison. It was dark, and water droplets dripped from the ceiling, making noise in the otherwise silent cells. A brown unicorn lay within one, his hooves reaching out to another pony on the other side of the bars. Celestia's hooves shook as she clung onto her love's.

"I-I told you he'd do this...!" she sobbed out. The stallion frowned at this sight, and reached his hoof up to wipe her tears away.

" 'Tia, I... I'm sorry..." Twilight still couldn't place where she'd heard his voice before. Her legs wobbled from underneath her from the most use they'd gotten in weeks, and this saddening scene wasn't helping. Soon, her knees buckled and she panted on the ground.

"It couldn't be helped... I-I'm sorry." she replied woefully.

"They cried and held each other as best they could between the cold bars. The room wisped away for a third time, and Twilight only scrunced her eyes tight until it was over. This time, she appeared to be in an ancient-looking throne room. Misty Haze lay on the ground at what was obviously the king's feet. The huge alicorn demanded all attention in the room without even speaking, and his coat was jet black. Luna, who'd obviously inherited more from her father than her mother, cowered by the door of the room. Celestia remained next to her love, whilst her mother did the same. The mare was about as tall as Celestia was today, with an angelic aura about her and a beautiful, white coat. She seemed gentle where her husband was harsh. Guards flanked the entrances, as well as behind the royal family.

"I will not stand for my daughter to court with some stallion off the streets!" exclaimed the king, glaring icily at Misty Haze. Celestia didn't flinch, and instead spread her wing across the unicorn's back to say I'll protect you.

"Nightshade..." began the serene voice of Celestia's mother, "They are in love. We were once young, too. Perhaps you are being too hard on them?"

Nightshade's jaw clenched. "But Majestic Light, this is our daughter, a princess--next in line for the throne, no less!" He protested, giving his wife a hard look. "Why, I say let him rot in the dungeon!"

They appeared to have had arguments like this before, from the way it came off so naturally. "Dear... Misty Haze is a unicorn. Perhaps there could be a lesser punishment, if any at all...?"

The male seemed to consider this. Misty Haze interjected, though it was up for debate on whether or not that was a good decision on his part. "I'll do whatever it takes, Your Majesties. I love your daughter with my whole heart."

Silence reigned. Nightshade's expression turned into one of pure hatred, while Majestic Light looked surprised. Finally, the king turned to the nearest guard. "You! Take off your armor. Consider yourself fired." The poor pegasus seemed stunned by this sudden turn of events, but did as he was told. He took the walk of shame out of the throne room, though he was intercepted by Majestic Light herself. She gave him a bag of bits and apologized for Nightshade's actions against him. Twilight figured these two alicorns balanced each other out.

Nightshade rounded back at Misty Haze and spoke tightly, as if he would have rather just burned him at the stake. "I, King Nightshade the First, hereby sentence you to a lifetime service in the armed forces. You will be a private until you are promoted by me or your commanding officer. This will make you at least somewhat suitable to court my daughter. However... if you fail in your tasks even once--if I hear ANYTHING about your incompetence, you WILL die. Your appointment is active as of today."

Nightshade shoved the armor into Misty Haze's hooves. "This hearing is over. NEXT!" boomed Nightshade's impossibly loud voice. Majestic Light took the time to nuzzle his neck, silently thanking him for his "restraint." Maybe he was a softie on the inside, since he nuzzled her back.

"Thank you, father... mother." Princess Celestia said with upmost gratitude in her tone, tears threatening to fall. She pulled her love out of the room, leaving behind her parents and sister. Twlight felt somewhat relieved that they could be together now. She wondered why the hay the Princess would show her this.

The vision morphed again. It took a long while for it to come back into focus, so a lot of time must have passed since the last scene. When Twilight could see again, she was in a recently familiar place that made her insides twist.

A hospital.

Misty Haze lay bundled within a bed, though it wasn't much more than a pile of wood with a blanket over it. Princess Celestia sat next to the moaning and groaning stallion, her eyes glassy. The guard's armor and weapon lay forgotten at the foot of his bed. They'd both aged since Twilight had seen them last.

"Doctor Whooves... Please, do tell me what ails him." she pleaded to a pony that looked exactly like Time Turner from Ponyville. Strange.

"I'm afraid I know exactly what is happening here." the doctor said in a hesitant tone, in a weird accent Twilight didn't hear much of. The ponies she'd asked about it previously had said it was Proper Equestrian. "Has he been using magic as of late?"

Princess Celestia thought for a few seconds before replying. "He might have been at work. He's been working over time to please my father..."

"Yes, this appears to be very serious." said the doctor. "There is nothing anyone can do to save 'im. He will die from magic usage within the week. Sorry, my dear." Doctor Whooves apologized shortly, as if this was enough of an explanation.

"W-what?!" Princess Celestia jumped to her hooves. "That can't be possible!"

He shook his head. "It is. First time I've diagnosed it before, but it's a unique illness to unicorns. I don't see any way for him to survive. Unless you're the magic incarnate itself. Perhaps if you performed a powerful counter spell? Maybe. Slight chance." The mad-pony shrugged as if it didn't concern him.

Celestia seemed to be torn between these choices. "He can be saved?"

Dr. Whooves stared at her calculatingly. "Depends on how far you're willn' to go."

"Please, you must tell me how to perform the spell!"

Doctor Whooves seemed to be considering this. His frown deepened as if he could already sense the outcome of what he was about to do. Twilight didn't like that at all. "Star-crossed lovers, eh? Fine. I can't make any promises, but this could be his only hope. Which means make sure you put all your love into the spell. It's the only way." Celestia gave a brief, determined nod. "Good. Think about your love for this creature. Concentrate on it. That's right. Now think about how much you want to help him."

A magical aura enveloped Celestia's horn, and she shuddered from it. Then, the vision began to swirl as if it was losing signal. It started getting darker. Twilight blinked, trying to discern what was happening. She could barely hear Doctor Whooves' startled yelp, "NO! You've made a mistake!"

The silhouette of Misty Haze transformed into something else. It wasn't normal. It was...


Twilight blacked out.

When Twilight opened her eyes next, she was in the loving embrace of Fluttershy. The forcefully induced flashback left her head spinning moreso than earlier, and her legs ached despite never having actually used them.

"Oh, she's awake..." Fluttershy said thankfully. She nuzzled Twilight's neck, but the unicorn didn't really notice. Her eyes were locked on Princess Celestia.

"Misty Haze... He became the spirit of disharmony, Discord himelf. A draconequus. But I don't understand... What happened?"

The Princess sighed lightly. "Misty Haze... was the pony I fell in love with long ago. I was not powerful enough to succeed. He was shunned by all of society, and could no longer be in the guard. My father, Nightshade, no longer approved of him. Slowly, he grew to resent everypony. I tried to stop him, to teach everypony to tolerate him, but nothing worked. He soon took over the throne, forcing my parents to recede into spirits. It is because of Nightshade that there is darkness in the world, while my mother ensures there is light to balance him. Discord went on to rule, doing everything in his power to make everypony unhappy. It was his revenge. Soon my sister and I had had enough... and everything else is history."

Rarity and Applejack stared in confusion at the Princess, while Fluttershy seemed to be dividing her attention evenly between cuddling with Twilight and listening to the Princess. The unicorn swallowed thickly.

"Why did you show me that? Did he... Did he have the Magical Rebound Effect?" Princess Celestia nodded gravely.

"Yes. Doctor Whooves remains as the best doctor Equestria has ever known. After that day, his career grew dull. Eventually, he moved to a small town and left this world. His memory lives on with me." said Princess Celestia, avoiding the former question.

"Ponyville? But Princess--a pony still lives there! His name is Time Turner. He looks exactly like the doctor; same cutie mark and everything...!"

She seemed stunned. Applejack joined in. "Ya mean that lonely ole stallion off 24th Street? Time Turner's always trottin' around town, but he doesn't talk to nopony." Rarity nodded, too. Fluttershy didn't say anything. Twilight was getting excited from this sudden news, despite the spots in her vision.

"Maybe he knows how to get rid of this illness!" exclaimed Rarity with so much hope it invigorated Twilight, too.

"But ponies can't live nearly that long... He might just look similar." Princess Celestia interrupted. She didn't seem to like getting her hopes up to have them dashed soon after. Maybe she'd had too much experience.

Twilight pushed herself up despite Fluttershy's protests. She tried to hide the wince the action provoked, realizing that the strain the daydream had put on her body had been real.

Once she was sitting up all the way, her marefriend's grip tightened. "What are you doing?" she whispered into Twilight's ear.

"...I have to speak with him." Twilight's response sounded weak even to her, so she continued a little louder. "Science and logic are things I understand. I'm a scientist. I've made discoveries of my own. Time Turner and I could compare notes. Maybe we can make the world a better place for active unicorns." She didn't include the part about saving her own life, seeing as how selfish that would sound. She continued to try and get out of bed.

Fluttershy's hooves, now wrapped around the other pony's waist, kept her from succeeding. "You can't get out of bed yet...!"

That sudden exclamation upset her. Before she could respond that she could do it, Princess Celestia continued. "Your marefriend's right, Twilight. This goes without saying, but the more you move around and use your magic the more serious your condition will become. If this stallion really is the very same pony I knew long ago, he may yet reveal answers. We don't have much time." she said, shifting her weight to one side and frowning deeply. Her eyes were thoughtful. Normally Twilight would have been nervous about being so open with Fluttershy, especially in front of the Princess, but it didn't even register, nor did the fact that she'd said "marefriend".

Applejack's face twisted in contemplation. Suddenly, her entire expression lit up. "Rainbow Dash is the fastest pony in Equestria! She can get to Ponyville and back quicker than Ah can buck an apple tree!"

Rarity's eyes suddenly glazed over. "I'm not sure she'll be able to help..."

AJ's expression turned sour. "Why not? She ain't gonna go 'bout saying I sit around and do nothing while she does the same thing!" Twilight, Fluttershy, and Princess Celestia watched this exchange. Rarity was quick to remedy this. She pulled Applejack aside and whispered into her ear secretively. The earth pony's eyebrows knit together and she would murmur something occasionally.

"Rainbow and you... listenin' in?... She flew away? Cryin'? Rainbow Dash?!" she exclaimed, her voice raising an octave or two. The orange mare then realized her voice had been really loud. "Ah'll... Ah'll get her. Maybe I'll find Pinkie, too. I ain't seen her since... well, a long time ago." Now that Applejack had pointed it out, Twilight felt a little hurt that her friend had just abandoned her. And the pony who wanted to make everyone happy, too. That wasn't a very good sign.

Applejack trotted over to the door. The expression on her face clearly said she would not be stopped. Twilight decided not to say anything, trusting in Applejack to do what she had to, and she also trusted Rainbow wholeheartedly. None of these ponies had ever let her down. The only pony in the room that ever had was Twilight Sparkle herself.

However, before Applejack could make it out of the room, a nurse came in. "Visiting hours are over. I'm afraid you'll have to say your goodbyes now. Five minutes." she reported with a bow to the Princess before trotting to another room. Twilight hadn't even realized how late it'd gotten. She was aware that the sun had already set, but the Canterlot hospital usually let visitors stay late. Maybe her vision had taken a lot more time than she'd initially thought.

"...What happens now?" asked Twilight nervously. She didn't want to be left alone in this place, and she was sure it showed. Princess Celestia answered her.

"Applejack will find and convince Rainbow Dash to find Time Turner. They'll make haste here, where we'll discuss Twilight's fate. Maybe there really is a way to save her, but we can't waste much more time. Her horn will be removed soon, and it won't come back. But still the illness will eat away at her body... If we succeed, she may yet be able to use magic and live fully. If we take too much time, Twilight's horn will be removed and her magic will be void, but she could still be saved. If we fail altogether... Twilight won't survive."

"Or she may become a draconequus." Rarity added. "Right?"

The Princess frowned. "...Maybe."

It was quiet for a moment after that. Fluttershy broke the silence. "Um... Could I have a second with Twilight?"

Four sets of questioning eyes were cast on the shy mare. She recoiled from the attention. Twilight wondered what her marefriend wanted to say, if anything at all.

"Sure, darling." Rarity smiled understandingly, pulling AJ out of the room with her. Princess Celestia nodded at the two of them and promised she'd return soon enough. She also made Twilight promise not to do anything rash, and to wait for her. Then, she flew away, leaving the two ponies alone.

Immediately, Fluttershy kissed her. Not like a peck, or even a make out. It was somewere in the middle, with the same amount of emotion as the latter but enough respect and restraint to keep it from being just that. When the pegasus pulled away, Twilight was left breathless. It'd been awhile since she'd been kissed like that by the shy mare.

"...What was that for?" she questioned. Fluttershy was only blushing a little bit, but she looked like she was trying to build up confidence.

"I love you." Fluttershy said with so much feeling it made Twilight blush. Her expression was firm and fierce at the same time, as if daring the unicorn to say otherwise. When Twilight made no attempt to speak, Fluttershy continued. "I want to be with you no matter what happens. Even if you can't get your magic back, even if you turn into a draconequus, and even if you won't be able to stay long. I'll be by your side forever." Then, Fluttershy realized the weight of her words. She blushed and said, "I mean, if that's what you want..."

Twilight was just about moved to tears. She remembered what she'd said to Fluttershy before everypony had shown up, about how she wouldn't blame the pegasus if she wanted to back out of the relationship while she still could. Apparently the yellow pony hadn't forgotten about the conversation like Twilight had. The little speech made her feel a lot better, and more secure. Almost as if she were more attached to the world now, like she couldn't leave it even if she wanted to.

Twilight nuzzled Fluttershy's neck, hoping to hide the fact that tears really had gotten out. Troublesome little things. "Fluttershy... Do you remember when I asked you what love was? I think I know now." She took in a shuddering breath before whispering out the rest. "I'm afraid I'm falling too deeply in love with you." No response. Audible, at least. After a few seconds, her words finally registered in Fluttershy's head. The pegasus wrapped her hooves around Twilight and pulled her into a tight hug. Her wings were warmer than any blanket Twilight had ever owned.

Of course, this feeling of warmth and affection and comfort made Twilight the happiest she'd been in a long time. There was hope in the shape of a pony named Time Turner. She was cuddling with her love. Her head didn't hurt if she squinted really hard and ignored the bright sounds... So, in other words, it did hurt. But that was okay.

There was hope.

Rainbow Dash had had it up to here with feeling useless. It all started when she was a foal getting bullied. She tried to be strong for Fluttershy, but for awhile it seemed there would be no end to the misery. Then, she'd gotten into a relationship with AJ where the earth pony had made a stupid mistake and Rainbow had made a mistake--and their relationship had been destroyed because of an even stupid-er argument. Not long after that she'd fallen for Pinkie, who showed equal affection to everypony, so there was no way she could put one over the rest. The feeling of uselessness increased until it was driving her up the wall. The thing that really set her up was this whole confusing Twilight situation.

Rainbow was the Element of Loyalty. Nopony felt pain for a friend more than her, except maybe Fluttershy for Twilight. But still, it was a part of her very soul to do whatever she could for a friend in need. But the world was cruel. It proved again and again that despite appearances, Rainbow was nothing. That super hero gag and the constant bragging was just to fill that void of emptiness. Rainbow had sealed that fear long ago--the fear of being useless, of being unable to do anything. The last time it'd manifested itself was back at the flying competition Rarity had joined last minute. She'd been so afraid of failing... of being useless to her idols.

The world was cruel.

But now, this was much worse. Her friend's life was on the line, and she was in this corner crying about it. It was stupid and totally uncool, but it was all too much. This was the pinnacle of uselessness. She'd had her hopes dashed from the very beginning, and there wasn't even some bad guy she could beat up to solve it. That was her specialty: Being stupid and blunt, using force to solve everything. But even Rainbow could see that this was different. Why'd it have to be the egghead that got hurt?! If it were somepony else--like Rainbow herself--Twilight Celestia-damned Sparkle would come up with a solution and everything would be all sunshine and rainbows. But her magic was gone, her brain muddled with, and her life was soon going to be stolen from her. Nopony else could possibly take her place. Twilight Sparkle was the glue in their group of six friends; she'd brought them all together. If she were taken out of the picture, nothing would be the same. It'd hurt to see her old friends, the library... even Ponyville itself.

Which was precisely why she lay on the ground outside of the hospital in the shadows, letting her tears flow. This was wrong. Everything was suddenly twisted into something it never should have been--all because of a stupid Sphinx that didn't even matter. The animals didn't have to go to the Everfree Forest. Fluttershy could've moved into town. Zecora could've come up with some weird concoction to convince the thing to leave. But no, the bearers of the Elements of Harmony had to march in and do something about it. It wasn't fair.

"I don't get it... What the hay am I supposed to do now?!" she sputtered out, scrunching her eyes tightly. She hated crying, but she hated this situation even more.

"There ya are, Rainbow!" exclaimed none other than Applejack. Rainbow scowled and covered her eyes with a hoof, hoping the pony she'd recently gotten into a fight with hadn't seen her moment of weakness.

"W-what do you want? I already told you--I don't want anything to do with you anymore!" the swirl of emotions within Dash said. It wasn't exactly true--Applejack was still a friend, a friend that'd hurt her a lot, but a friend nonetheless. Loyalty was always hot on Rainbow's tail, but it didn't define her. She was a pony that cared for her friends a lot more than most and would do anything to protect them, but it cost her, too. Loyalty came with trust, and trust was easily betrayed. Rainbow Dash had been formed into a pony who cared far too much about what others thought, loved them more than she should, and she'd never learn her lesson. Always, always she would make the same mistake, and end up hurt because of it.

"Look, Dash, this ain't about me! It's Twilight." Immediately, a million bad things swirled into her mind--most of which consisting of Twilight dead.

"What?!" She jumped up to her hooves at the same speed her heart had leapt. She didn't even care about her red, puffy eyes now. "What's wrong with Twilight?! Why wasn't I there? Oh, Celestia, if she's dead I swear I will--"Applejack shoved a hoof over her mouth.

"It's nothin' like that. There's hope for Twi, but it's in Ponyville. We need him here quick. Ya know Time Turner?" AJ asked, removing her hoof. Rainbow was feeling hopeful, but at the same time, unsure if she should fall prey to that emotion. It seemed too good to be true--like reality was taunting her with exactly what she wanted, only to take it away in the end. Dash swallowed. Loyalty won over her uncertainty as always.

"Seriously? He's that weird pony that locks himself away in his house and only comes out on market days... Right?" Applejack glared at her like she'd personally insulted her, but replied anyway.

"Yeah, he's the one. I don't know much about the details, but Twilight thinks he's some sorta doctor that knows all about this here thing she's got. You're the fastest pony in Equestria, Dash. We need ya to fetch 'im and bring him back real quick. Twilight's life's on the line." the earth pony reported briefly. Rainbow was in the air even before AJ had finished.

"I'll be there and back so fast you won't even know I'm gone! I swear I'll bring him here before it's too late!" The pegasus was about to dash off at top speed in the general direction of Ponyville, probably fast enough to create a Double Rainboom, but AJ stopped her with only her voice.

"...Rainbow... Ah didn't mean what I said before. Back then... You aren't useless. I... I'm sorry." AJ looked like she was blinking back her own tears, but she pulled her hat down to cover it up.

Dash hesitated. Before... she hadn't been sure why bad luck followed her round. But then... That argument that ended their relationship and scarred her... Rainbow had been so upset she'd called AJ bad things, and she'd taken it. But when Dash had called her a liar, the earth pony snapped and started insulting her right on back. She hit her while she was down, pointing out all her flaws and exposing the filly she once was. That day, Rainbow Dash had realized how shallow and empty she was, and just how "useless" she was. That was exactly what Applejack had said--useless.

Maybe that was why Dash had fallen for Pinkie. The pegasus had been filled with depression, but Pinkie had always been so cheerful. So willing to help. Pinkie was probably the reason she'd been able to get over AJ at all, and she was forever thankful for that. The scars were still there, though. Rainbow was sure they'd never disappear.

Dash blinked back the tears she didn't know had accumulated. She looked away. "...I'll be back soon." And with that, she flew off as fast as she could.

...What a useless, cowardly pony she was.

A Dangerous Venture

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Angel Bunny wasn’t the most patient of creatures. Now, Zecora had joined the weird band of misfits, consisting of him, Pinkie, and Spike the cowardly baby dragon. The zebra was the only one he really trusted, seeing as how he had been saved by her before.

“Are you certain you wish to go on? I’m afraid the Sphinx will not be withdrawn.” she said worriedly, directing her concerns toward Pinkie Pie and Spike.

“Yes, there’s no going back now! Twilight needs this antidote-thingy, so there’s absolutely no possible way for me to go back empty-hoofed! No sir-ee!” Pinkie replied as she led the crew determinedly through the throngs of trees in the Everfree Forest.

“Yeah, I can’t… I can’t give up on Twi now—not when she’s always been there for me.” Spike gulped, but even then he trotted up to keep pace with Pinkie Pie.

Angel hopped atop the zebra, deciding he’d rather not risk hurting his leg again. Besides, that was also his way of saying he wasn’t turning back either.

Zecora only smiled wistfully, and continued along with the others. The forest’s trees grew thickly around them, and it became darker the farther they went. Zecora pointed them in the right direction of where she assumed the Sphinx would be lying in wait.

Angel was only slightly nervous. He was going back into the den of a creature that had almost claimed his life—who wouldn’t be anxious? But the rabbit did have pride, so there was no way he was going to show his fear—especially not in front of the cowardly dragon.

“Do you think it might… you know, give the antidote to us without a fight?” Spike’s voice was loud in the eerie silence of the Everfree, and Angel cast him a glare for possibly giving away their position. Zecora also didn’t seem to approve of his words.

“Don’t worry, Spike,” Pinkie replied, her eyes peeled, “We’ll get it. With or without a fight!”

The dragon nodded, and said no more. His footfalls were fast and even louder than his voice, though. Perhaps being without an owner scared Spike just as much as it did Angel. Not that he’d ever admit that.

Finally, the brush began to thin out into a clearing. Pinkie drew her limbs nearer to her body—this must have been the place they’d seen the Sphinx and battled it.

“Where did you last see the beast? Perhaps we can figure out if it is deceased.” The zebra was back to rhyming—apparently after the initial shock of the Magical Rebound Effect she’d calmed down.

Pinkie swallowed before trotting over to the center of the clearing, where a crater had formed. “Right… here. This is where Twilight blasted the Sphinx with a spell and he just… disappeared.”

“Hm…” The zebra trotted around the crater, shaking her head a few times. “There is no proof of the Sphinx’s demise. We must not make any assumptions if we plan to be wise.”

“Meaning…?” Spike scratched his head.

Pinkie answered him. “I think she’s saying the Sphinx is still alive, Spikey.” The dragon’s shoulders slumped and he sighed.

“I was afraid you were gonna say that…”

Angel Bunny rolled his eyes. There was never any doubt the Sphinx was still alive in his mind.

“We must begin our search, before the Sphinx learns of our perch.”

Suddenly, as if responding to Zecora’s voice, the bushes where the Sphinx had first originated began rustling. Spike dove behind Pinkie, and everyone tensed.

“There is no need,
For it is very easy to see your breed.
I fret killing one of your kind,
But my master told me to keep him in mind.”

The Sphinx appeared from the bushes, only with a meaner look on his face. Scars covered his face and all over his body, but he was very much alive. Pinkie scowled at him angrily.

“You hurt my friend, ya big meanie!” Behind her, Spike shook in terror. Zecora stood confidently with an almost more confident looking rabbit on her back. The Sphinx gave Pinkie a heated look before turning back to Zecora.

“Zebras are my weakness,
With their lack of numbers and uniqueness.
I am willing to give you my test,
Which few have been able to come out as best.
Now, I must ask, do you accept my request?”

Angel didn’t make much sense of what the Sphinx was asking, and only glared at him. Pinkie looked like she was shaking from anger, while Spike was still cowering. Zecora noticed all of these things simultaneously.

“I would prefer to hear what it is I am to do, before the challenge I begin to pursue.”

The Sphinx nodded in acknowledgement, and perhaps respect at the zebra’s own rhymes. It began to speak its challenge:

“There is but one true prize to my riddle,
And it is something I was meant to keep, not belittle,
But for a soul so logical and lacking the cheater’s magic,
I shall make an exception.”

“HEY! Twilight isn’t a cheater, you—“Spike clamped a claw over Pinkie’s muzzle to stop her from upsetting the Sphinx. The beast only continued its riddle.

“In this forest, there lies a secret,
That rests in my cave at its deepest,
I require you to solve the puzzle,
And bring to me the answer that you find.
Once the contract has been signed,
One thing left behind,
And a soul to forever weep,
The Crystal Antidote will be yours to keep.”

Zecora pondered these words. Then, gravely, she nodded. The Sphinx’s smile widened until it looked almost as if it were leering at her, perhaps cackling inwardly at her stupidity. It then stepped aside and pushed the bushes away, revealing its den. Angel and Spike both mutually gulped at the sight, but the ponies stepped up almost fearlessly. The group stepped into the cave, and disappeared into its depths.

Only three of them would return.

Rainbow Dash had never flown quite as fast as she did now. Nopony could compare—not even the captain of the Wonderbolts, Spitfire herself. The rainbow-maned pegasus rushed through the skies, not even flinching as wind tore at her wings and fur.

She knew she was getting close to Ponyville, even though night had already been cast over the land. There was no way she was going to be the reason Twilight didn’t make it. She’d never forgive herself. Fluttershy would be so crushed…

Soon, Rainbow Dash was gliding over the town. She’d never spoken to Time Turner before, and only considered him to be a “loony pony” with a few loose screws upstairs. Soon, she was landing at his doorstep and knocking loudly.

“Just a moment!” a stallion’s voice said in an accent Rainbow determined as “Proper Equestrian,” which were mostly the easterners, or those that were taught to speak a certain way for generations.

Finally, a brown pony with a sand timer on his flank answered the door. He looked somewhat annoyed. “What’re you doin’ here?”

“Time Turner! I know I’ve never actually talked to you before, but my friend really needs you!” Rainbow pleaded, but was only met with a confused expression.

“Who are you?”

The pegasus pulled Time Turner out of his home. “Look, that’s not important! We need to go now.”

“What?! I will not be taken outta my home by some brute the likes of you!” he retorted angrily. The stallion reared back and was resisting Rainbow immediately.

“You’re a doctor, aren’t you? My friend Twilight has this thing called the Magic Rebound Effect and you’re her only hope! She’s only got so much time left, so we’ve gotta move fast. I’m not afraid to use force, either!”

“I have no idea what you’re talking about. Me, a doctor? You must be joking!” His eyes were nervous. “I’m just a stallion that’s lived his whole life in Ponyville.”

“Look, we need you. You gotta come!” Dash tried again.

“I’m not the doctor anymore, alright? Leave me be!” Time Turner pulled away from the pegasus, glaring daggers at her. There was some hurt in his voice, thinly concealed behind his anger. He began to make his way back into his house.

“Wait!” The stallion only stopped his trot, but did not look back at her. Rainbow continued quieter. “My friend’s life is on the line. If I don’t bring you back, she’ll die. She’s the Element of Magic—one of the Elements of Harmony, and her cutie mark is magic. She keeps me and the rest of our friends together. If she hadn’t show up in Ponyville, I’d still be that same old Rainbow Dash that bragged and had only her pride to back her up. I’m not asking you to come to Canterlot because you’re really smart, but because I know you can save her. Please, Time Turner…”

Rainbow was sure she’d never sounded so pathetic, but at the same time, it was liberating. Time Turner just stood there, his back facing the other pony.

Then, he walked into his house without a word.

Dash let her head drop. She was such a failure—she had no doctor, no friends, and no way of saving Twilight. She couldn’t believe she’d let the only way of saving Twilight without consequences slip through her hooves!

She felt a hoof on her shoulder, so she looked up to see who could possibly still be around. Time Turner was there, his other hoof holding what looked like a screwdriver.

“I understand what it’s like to lose someone important.”

The two had a moment of mutual understanding, in which Rainbow couldn’t believe her eyes. He’d only gone back inside for whatever it was in his hoof… and he wanted to save Twilight? That was—that was good news! She’d done it! Twilight was gonna be okay!

“But I do have something you may want to know before we go anywhere… Are you friends with a pink mare and purple dragon?”

Dash’s heart leapt at the thought of Pinkie. “What? Did something happen to them?”

Time Turner shook his head. “Nah, not really. They just marched right off a train and straight into the Everfree Forest is all.”

“Seriously?!” The pegasus face-hoofed and groaned. “I can’t believe this! Urgh, Pinkie is so stupid sometimes! Great, I can’t just go back to Canterlot knowing she’s walking straight into a death trap—but if I do go save her then… what will happen to Twilight?”

She scrunched her eyes tightly and pressed both hooves over them. This was impossible! She couldn’t choose between two friends—not when both could die, and not when she was in love with one!

“Perhaps we ought to split ways for a little while?”

Dash barely heard the male speak over her thoughts. “What do you mean?” She peeked over the tips of her hooves at the stallion, who only shrugged.

“What I’m saying is you save your sweetheart and I make my way to Canterlot by train. Eventually, you catch up with me at the hospital—which is where this Twilight Sparkle is currently residing, correct?”

“Yeah, that’s ri—hey, how did you know her last name was Sparkle? And that I like Pinkie?” Rainbow’s voice had a hint of accusation in it. Time Turner winked.

“Lucky guess, that’s all. I’d best be on my way if I want to make it there by mornin’… Guess I’ll see ya there.” Time Turner nodded at her, before trotting toward the train station. “Oh!” He suddenly seemed to remember something, and looked back at the cyan pony. “Good luck!”

Then he continued on his way, as if everything was completely normal. Each step filled with purpose toward a new destination…

Somehow, Rainbow had complete confidence in this stallion. He seemed to be genuinely interested in saving Twilight. Maybe it was her mind playing tricks on her, telling her she could trust Time Turner, but she wanted to believe in him.

Loyalty came with trust.

With that, Rainbow dashed off toward the Everfree Forest in search of Pinkie and Spike—heck, maybe she’d even get back to Time Turner before the train left. She just hoped she wasn’t too late.

“There is a trick in the midst of the Sphinx’s words…” Zecora spoke once they were well enough away from the beast. “He assumes it went by unheard.”

“He was givin’ me the creeps…” Spike commented with a shiver not entirely from the cool of the cave. Pinkie remained silent—most likely brooding over the Sphinx’s rudeness toward Twilight. “And just what did he mean by those last couple of lines? ‘One thing left behind, a soul to forever weep?’ I don’t get it!” the dragon continued with a snort.

Zecora shook her head as they continued to walk. “It means exactly as he has spoken. We will leave behind something in this cave, and someone’s will shall be broken. But that is not what troubles me; what I am finding difficult is what this secret could be.”

Pinkie finally spoke up. “Isn’t it supposed to be the antidote?”

“No,” Zecora answered simply, “the antidote will be our prize. A puzzle will be our surprise—but I fear what will happen once we do solve it.”

Silence reigned as they continued deeper into the cave until total darkness dominated. They clung to each other—some more dignified than others—to avoid getting lost. Angel just held on to Zecora’s mane.

Soon, they arrived at a lit up part of the cave. Torches were placed all around the room, though the fire didn’t seem to be running out at all. A pedestal stood directly in the center, with what looked to be a pressure-sensitive plate atop it—not unlike that of a button. Strewn across the floor, if you looked with a keen eye, were thin ropes that probably tripped traps when you touched them. And, even worse, were the stone ponies littered across the floor. They all wore similar expressions of terror and surprise, though some were reaching for the pedestal in the middle.

Apparently some ponies had tried to get the treasure before.

What struck Angel odd, though, was that each one lacked wings and a horn, which made them all earth ponies.

Spike gulped. “A-are those—are they real ponies?” He pointed a shaky claw toward one of them.

Pinkie looked toward Zecora, who was still analyzing the scene in front of them. Angel then wondered why the path here was so straight—like, it was impossible to miss this room. Perhaps everyone who accepted the challenge was meant to get to this point, but then something happened…

“I am certain that those are real. I fret what caused them to befall this ordeal.” Spike was about to step into the room—about to trip over one of the strings—until Zecora pulled him back roughly. “Do not rush through, you silly boy! This trial is not meant to be a toy.”

She motioned for everyone to step back as she examined the nearest string thoroughly, just in case she accidentally touched it. She reached a conclusion soon enough.

“If anyone or anypony happens to touch these strings, I fear they will become stone like these things.”

“What are we supposed to do then?” Pinkie asked miserably. Spike’s eyes nervously traced every detail of the room, as well as the space around him.

“We must continue with care, and figure out the secret this cavern has in its snare.” Angel glanced around the room, realizing he was the most careful of the bunch. He also happened to be the smallest, and most agile. If anyone could investigate further, it was him.

So, he hopped of the zebra and proceeded toward the room. He feared nothing ahead of him—not in the least. He was only afraid of things that directly concerned him.

…Okay, so he was scared. But only a little!

Immediately, the dragon was uttering, “Angel, what’re you doing?!”

The rabbit carefully stepped over the first string, which ensured that none of the others would be able to stop him. Pinkie tried to follow him as well, but Zecora pushed her back.

“The rabbit knows what he is doing. His love for Fluttershy is what he must be proving.”

Angel decided to ignore that last bit. He didn’t love anyone—or pony. He just tolerated her presence…

So what if he loved the butter-colored pegasus? Gosh, everyone is so quick to judge…

The bunny delved deeper through the weaves of strings, wary of his every movement. His first destination was to a stone-pony, to see if he could figure out what had petrified them. It was obviously not natural—seemed like something a Cockatrice would do.

Eventually he neared a mare that’d looked like she was trying to escape before she’d been petrified. The look on her face was one of pure fright, her eyes wide open. It almost looked as if she’d been looking at something behind her—the pedestal, no doubt—when she’d been frozen in time.

Angel placed a paw over her muzzle, and traced up to her eyes. The stone felt the same; cold, lifeless, and hard. There was nothing besides the initial appearance of the statue that made it seem like a pony. The rabbit leaned in and sniffed the stone, but there was no scent. Whatever had happened to this poor soul, it wasn’t by something that touched her.

But then again, this could’ve happened a long, long, time ago.

Angel continued to investigate through his last two un-used senses—he pressed an ear against as close to her heart as he could get, but heard no beat, and licked tentatively. Tasteless.

She was as dead as a doornail.

The rabbit turned towards the on-lookers. Spike was gagging, most likely from the thought of tasting dead ponies. Zecora and Pinkie, however, gave him curious looks. He shook his head and shrugged, not sure what else he could say. Then, he held a paw up to his neck and slid it across—signaling to them that these ponies really were dead and he had no idea what had done it.

Then, Angel looked around for something else he could check. The torches and pedestal were the only things left that he was sure he could look at without somehow ending up petrified. But the torches were way too high for him to reach, and even if he could bounce that high, there was no guarantee he’d land safely on the ground and not on any strings.

So, the rabbit set his sights on the pedestal—the creepiest thing in this room. It demanded all attention, which he found somewhat suspicious.

Angel began walking slowly to the center of the room, dodging every string and pony neatly.

However, his composure didn’t last. He hadn’t noticed one of the stone-pony’s tail jutting out just ahead of him until he’d tripped over it. Everypony at the entrance gasped and held their breath as Angel began furiously swatting at the air to regain his balance. There was one of those dreaded strings right underneath him—if he fell, he was a goner.

“Angel Bunny!” Pinkie’s voice rang out desperately.

Then, something clicked in his mind. Pinkie’s voice sounded just like Fluttershy’s in that moment, and it somehow gave him the strength to right himself. Angel, thankful to still be alive and on his feet, glanced back at the gang.

They all had similar expressions of relief, but his gaze was locked on the pink pony. He was torn between being angry that Pinkie had impersonated Fluttershy, or thankful that she did.

Angel looked back at the stone that’d tripped him, and kicked it lightly. Worthless piece of junk. At least he didn’t have to acknowledge the fact the pink pony had saved him.

Now that he’d expressed his hate for the thing that could’ve caused him his life, he continued (albeit more carefully) over to the pedestal. After a while of shuffling around, he finally made it. Checking to make sure it wasn’t surrounded in ropes, he pressed a paw against the stand.

It was rusty, and certainly not made of the same material as the statue ponies. It seemed older somehow, and made of wood.

But… not made of the same kind of wood found in the Everfree Forest. Angel continued his investigation as he clambered up the pedestal, intending to reach the top. The wood felt callous and unforgiving underneath his paws, and warm.



As soon as Angel reached the top, he made sure to only stand on the edge. The pressure-sensitive plate in the center begged to be pressed, but it looked like a switch for something dangerous. He looked back at the others with a questioning gaze, unsure of his next move.

Should he press the plate?

Before he could get a reasonable answer from any of them, his ears picked up on a whistling sound emanating from behind the zebra, dragon, and pony. He perked his ears and listened, trying to determine what it was.

None of the others noticed it—they didn’t have as sensitive ears as he did.

But just as he did figure out what it was, it was too late.

I've Never Heard Silence So Loud

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“I’m coming for you, Pinkie!!!” a certain brash pegasus’ voice echoed in the cavern nearer than anypony could have guessed. Before anyone could react, the blue pony had barreled past both Zecora and Pinkie—directly toward Angel and the pedestal with a speed unmatched by anything.

The whistling sound must have been the wind screaming past Rainbow Dash’s wings as she blazed here.

But the pegasus’ sudden appearance surprised Angel so much he took a step back—right onto the button.

Pinkie Pie was able to stop Rainbow with a quick latch of her tail, and pulled her back with a snap. The pegasus landed on her flank before she’d tripped any wires.

But Angel felt the pressure-sensitive plate underneath his foot give underneath his weight until it was level with the rest of the pedestal.

If he thought it was warm before, it was hot now.

Pinkie spat Dash’s tail out. “Dashie! What’re you doing here?!”

“I should be asking you that!”

Zecora’s eyes were frozen on Angel, whose own eyes couldn’t get much wider than they already were. He was afraid—very, very afraid. He tried to communicate with the zebra about what had happened, what he’d just done, but he could not utter any words.

Spike had been watching the exchange between the two ponies, but his gaze soon drifted toward Angel Bunny. His eyes lingered on the rabbit’s foot. “Wait… Did he just…?”

The room groaned suddenly. Rainbow and Pinkie stopped speaking at the same time. The ground started shifting underneath their hooves.

“What’s going on?” Spike cried as he began jumping from foot to foot.

Zecora’s gaze was set on the other side of the room, where a new entrance had made its appearance. “We must continue!”

The zebra grabbed Spike and threw him onto her back before running through the maze of strings. Pinkie and Rainbow hesitated before following her example. However, the pegasus hadn’t taken flight and still didn’t know about the strings.

What happened next would’ve been hilarious had it not been such a dire situation. Dash tripped over the first rope and tumbled to the ground.

Strangely, nothing happened.

Pinkie helped Rainbow up and the two continued to the other side. Angel was still stranded on the pedestal, the churning of the room making it hard to remain atop it. It was blazing hot at this point.

“Angel!” Pinkie exclaimed yet again, her voice mimicking Fluttershy’s in every way. She’d stopped right next to the pedestal and gestured toward her back. “Come on, we gotta go!”

The rabbit tried to lift his foot from the pedestal, but couldn’t. It felt heavy under some unseen force. Then, something became clear to him: He had escaped death with this foot. The Sphinx had attacked this exact same leg, and nearly took his life.

Maybe, the only reason he’d survived was for this exact moment. He’d cheated life back then to use it for a noble cause—for his beloved owner’s happiness.

At least he knew Twilight would take good care of Fluttershy. He would die happy if Fluttershy could live on with her love.

He only wished he could see her one last time.

“Angel?” Pinkie’s voice had risen an octave. The room wouldn’t stop shifting behind her, making the torch’s light reflect off her pink mane in a way that made her seem angelic.

Angel Bunny shook his head gravely. He smiled at her and pointed to where Zecora, Rainbow and Spike waited anxiously.

Pinkie didn’t understand. “What’re you trying to say? Angel, we don’t have time to play around! Please!”

The rabbit reached toward the pink mare and patted her head. She was more like Fluttershy than he’d initially thought, and that made him wish he’d gotten to know her better. Realization was just beginning to dawn on Pinkie.

“No, we won’t leave you behind! There’s no way—“Pinkie was interrupted as her tail was jerked back suddenly. Rainbow Dash was pulling her away. “No! No, Dashie, we can’t leave him here! I won’t!”

Angel made eye contact with the brash pegasus. He really disliked her, mostly for her demeanor toward Fluttershy, but he knew she meant well. He nodded toward her.

“We hafta keep goingmf!” the pegasus spoke through Pinkie’s tail. She kept tugging the pink mare toward the rest of the gang.

Pinkie dug her hooves into the ground, and her wide eyes were gazing into Angel’s. “No, we can’t!”

However, Rainbow was stronger than she was and soon had her safely on the other side. Then, Angel felt the heat of the pedestal reach a new height. He felt his leg burning more than ever before, and looked down to see his foot turning to stone.

It hurt more than anything he’d ever felt in his life. Angel stumbled back, falling over the pedestal and onto the floor. His confidence crumpled as the pain peaked. Even though he was off the pressure-sensitive plate, his body continued to freeze.

It felt like something was constricting his entire body. The room around him seemed to resonate with his resistance, shifting more as he fought back. He didn’t make sense of it at all. Eventually, he stopped fighting altogether and just gazed at one of the brightly lit torches. He thought of Fluttershy, of the moments when he was happiest.

Then, he was no more.

Pinkie was sobbing uncontrollably. When Angel had completely solidified, a torch resurrected from the darkness and lit itself. Apparently, each torch represented one of the lives claimed in the chamber.

This realization doubled with the fact Angel’s burned brightest sent Pinkie into tears. She couldn’t believe she’d let him give his life up like that. She’d brought him here in the first place, and she was responsible for his safety! Fluttershy would be so upset…

“Those strings were just a decoy?!” Spike exclaimed angrily. He glared back at the now silent room, devoid of any movement. The only difference from when they’d first seen it was a stone rabbit now joined the collection. The pressure-sensitive plate had even snapped back into place.

“I think they were meant to trap those that touched the pedestal.” Zecora said sagely. A door suddenly dropped down behind everyone, blocking them from returning to the Stone Cavern. Pinkie cried harder.

Rainbow swallowed thickly, and her wings rustled. “Pinkie… I’m sorry, it’s just… there wasn’t anything we could do.”

Pinkie sniffled. “What do you mean by that?! I brought him here and it’s my fault he didn’t make it!”

Rainbow grabbed Pinkie’s cheeks and forced her to maintain eye contact. “Pinkie! It’s not your fault… It’s never your fault. If anyone has to take the blame, it’s me. I pulled you away and besides, the rabbit wanted to sacrifice himself. Fluttershy will be upset, but let me break the news. She’ll go easy on me. Okay?”

“No, Dashie, it’s my fault and I won’t let you get in trouble with Fluttershy! I couldn’t live with myself knowing I caused a rift between you two!” New tears sprung to her eyes. “You’ve been friends for forever…!”

Rainbow sighed and let her hooves travel from Pinkie’s face to her back. She pulled her friend into a hug. “Look, we’ll sort this out later. Right now, we need to keep going so Angel’s sacrifice won’t be in vain. Twilight’s getting worse.”

That got Pinkie’s attention. “What?! S-she’s getting worse? What do you mean? What’s happened?”

Spike and Zecora turned their gazes on the pegasus as well. Rainbow was vaguely aware of their presence. “It’ll be okay. I sent an experienced doctor to go see her, and he should be able to save her. We just need to find another way out of here…”

Spike moved over to where the two ponies were. “But Rainbow Dash, we’re here to save Twilight too!”

The cyan pony’s gaze locked on the dragon and she gave him an inquisitive look. “What could possibly save her that’s in this cave?”

“The Crystal Antidote.” Zecora spoke suddenly. “Whose powers could revitalize anyone of their ailments.”

“Didn’t you see the Sphinx outside?” Pinkie asked with a frown. Rainbow shook her head.

“No, I didn’t realize that thing was still alive. But seriously guys, we need to get out of here. Time Turner can save her, no doubt about that, so we won’t need this Crystal Antidote thing. Trust me.”

The dragon clenched his fists and glared at Rainbow. “The Crystal Antidote can cure any illness! We won’t need a doctor with it!”

Sparks flew from the pegasus and dragon’s glares. “I said the doctor can take care of it. A Crystal Antidote sounds like something from a fairy tale.”

“Yeah, well, Canterlot’s got the most experienced doctors there are and none of them could help Twilight! What makes you think this one will be any different?! What if he can’t do anything? What then?”

Zecora pushed Rainbow and Spike away from each other, giving them a look that closely resembled that with which a parent gives their children when they’re fighting. Spike scowled.

“We must not fight, for our path is not ours to light.” She pointed a hoof at the hallway ahead of them, opposite of the Stone Cavern they’d just escaped. It was then that Rainbow realized there really was no other direction that they could go.

“So that means we have to go forward…?” she mumbled. She watched from her peripheral as Spike puffed out his chest and gave her a smirk. Rainbow tried to ignore this.

Pinkie sniffled one more time before taking a step forward. “Let’s… Let’s keep going.”

“Pinkie…” But the pink mare only continued walking. Rainbow thought back to when she’d been so hurt by Applejack, and how much she wished she could’ve just gotten up and moved on. Even now her scars hadn’t completely healed. But Pinkie… She’d just witnessed someone’s death, cried for a bit, and shrugged it off. Sure, she was still sad, but she moved on.

Maybe that was what Rainbow liked so much about Pinkie. Where Pinkie openly admitted how much she looked up to Rainbow Dash and her tricks, the brash pegasus kept her admiration to herself. If only the pink mare understood how much she’d affected Rainbow…

Dash trotted to catch up with the rest of the gang. Spike was still holding himself awfully high for such a small guy, but Rainbow was more concerned with Pinkie. Instead of bouncing she was walking, and her eyes were cast on the ground. But despite that, she still had a smile on her face.

Rainbow’s brows furrowed as she watched this display, but said nothing.

Spike wondered aloud, “So, guys… Um… We’ve been walking in this hallway for almost five minutes, and it doesn’t seem like we’re going anywhere.”

Dash blinked. She looked away from Pinkie and examined her surroundings to see if what the dragon had said held true.

The hallway stretched out farther than the pegasus could see, and when she glanced behind herself, the exact same sight greeted her. The cavern itself was just as cold and damp as the previous room, and unlit torches spanned on either side of her. Above, stalactites of varying sizes reached down as if to try and kill some unfortunate pony.

“How could we have walked this far in five minutes?” Spike continued. “The hallway hasn’t changed at all, either.”

The zebra trotted toward one of the walls, her hooves clicking along the ground. She tapped one on the wall and frowned. “An illusion,” announced Zecora, “that wishes to lead us to confusion.”

Rainbow Dash decided she’d rather do something than talk. So, she flapped her wings to get airborne and flew up toward the stalactites. But when she reached out to touch one, her hoof went through it and the image flickered. Obviously, these weren’t real.

“Dashie?” Pinkie called with a slight quiver in her voice. Rainbow, distracted by her new find, traced her hoof up to the ceiling. It was solid.

“Zecora,” Dash began with a thoughtful frown, “This illusion isn’t entirely real. I mean, you can’t touch these stalactites. I need to try one more thing before I reach a conclusion, though.”

With that, Rainbow took off down the expansive hallway as fast as her wings could take her. She watched as the path zoomed past her and unlit torches became a blurred mess. It seemed like her vision was fluctuating at this speed, but she couldn’t make any sense of it. Vaguely, she could hear her friends speaking from behind her.

But then… the voices’ direction changed. Now, she could definitely hear Pinkie’s high-pitched speech in front of her. Seconds later she realized that they really were in front of her, and she immediately screeched to a stop. Luckily, she was able to land before anyone got hurt.

Pinkie rushed over to her friend. “Dashie! What were you doing? Are you okay?” Rainbow Dash felt Pinkie’s hooves wrap around her and pull her closer. The captive blushed despite herself, and was frozen stiff.

“That really scared me. I thought you weren’t gonna come back—that you’d be a stone pony too.” The pink pony was shaking. When Rainbow had snapped out of her stupor, she returned Pinkie’s embrace just as tightly.

“Don’t worry, Pinkie. Nothing like that’s going to happen. I promise.” Her gaze lifted from the side of Pinkie’s face to Zecora, her hooves never leaving Pinkie’s back. “I was testing the limits of the illusion, and it looks like it goes in circles. I have an idea, but I don’t know if it’ll work.”

Zecora seemed puzzled by her words. “As long as it doesn’t put us in a bind, what do you have in mind?”

“While I was flying, I noticed something. The illusion—the entire hallway—was fading, and it looked like there was something there, just beyond the illusion. I think if I can manage to go faster, I can get the illusion to disappear completely. But for that to happen, I think I’d need to make a Sonic Rainboom.”

Both Pinkie and Spike gasped. The dragon’s words came out in a rushed manner, “But that could make the ceiling cave in on us!”

Pinkie spoke as soon as Spike had stopped. “And last time you were doing a nosedive… How could you do it in an enclosed space like this? I believe in your flying abilities, but you could get hurt!”

Dash swallowed her nerves and stared straight into Zecora’s eyes. She knew the risks the other two were spouting. But they had little choice and besides, if there was another way through this illusion, it would take too long to figure it out. Twilight didn’t have that much time.

After what seemed forever, Zecora sighed and looked away. “If it is what you wish to do, I will not stop you.”

That was all she needed to hear.

Dash pulled away from Pinkie even though it was hard. Every fiber of her being ached for her to be back in the air, doing something she loved for someone she cared for. If she got hurt, it was worth it—for Twilight.

Despite Pinkie’s reluctance to let Rainbow go, Spike seemed adamant. His eyes, ripe with determination, told a story all their own. The baby dragon seemed conflicted behind those orbs of his, but his expression showed nothing. He spoke with a guarded tone. “Rainbow Dash… You don’t know about the Sphinx’s riddle, and I think it’d be best if I told you. He said that there’s a secret in this cave, but that we’d leave something behind and there’d be a ‘soul to forever weep.’ We had to leave Angel behind. I’m afraid that what you do here… just might end up having to do with that last part.”

A chill shot down Rainbow Dash’s spine. She hadn’t known about that. “I… I…” The pegasus understood why Spike’s eyes had looked the way they did. If what he said had been true and that this part of the riddle was about her, she must’ve been destined to screw up really bad somewhere. ‘A soul to forever weep’ sounded like something she’d read in a Daring Do book, not in real life. It just seemed like something meant for a fantasy.

But at the same time, it definitely was a scary thought.

“…I have to do it. Even if it means something bad, Twilight needs me.” Rainbow stretched her wings out as far as they could go and squared her shoulders. In all honesty, she didn’t feel as confident as she sounded. She’d only performed the Sonic Rainboom three times—once when she was a filly, once when she was saving Rarity and the Wonderbolts, and the third at Shining Armor and Cadence’s wedding. But each time she had pulled it off, it was for a special occasion.

Would she be able to do it a fourth time?

Rainbow Dash took in a shaky breath before flapping her wings. She hovered for a few moments, letting her gaze wander from each of her friends. “You guys might want to stay close to the wall; I don’t want to hurt any of you.”

Spike and Zecora nodded and took a few steps back. Pinkie slowly followed, though Rainbow could tell she’d rather not have. Her big blue eyes were full of grievances untold, but she only said, “Be careful.”

Then, Rainbow began flying. She started at a lax pace and built up speed. It wasn’t until she’d passed the group three times before she knew she’d hit her limit. But still she pressed on, forcing herself to go faster. The hallway was fluctuating so much that it was starting to give Dash a headache.

All she needed was a bit more. Something to push her harder. Rainbow Dash thought of how amazing Pinkie was and she deserved so much more. All of her friends flew past her mind’s eye until only Twilight and Fluttershy remained. They deserved a happy life together. Fluttershy had suffered from her nerves ever since she was a filly, and Twilight had never so much as had a friend until she’d come to Ponyville. They’d changed Rainbow’s life more than they’d ever know, and Rainbow would give anything for things to go back to the way they were before the Sphinx ruined everything.

With all these things spinning in Dash’s mind, she felt herself speeding up. Her wings beat harder and she knew she was about to break the barrier. She closed her eyes when the wind became too much, and then…


Rainbow felt her body tense up before going a speed she’d only done three times before. Wind tore at her feathers and fur, but it was a beautiful sensation. A second, more pronounced boom made itself known when the Rainboom had slammed into both sides of the cavern’s walls.

Dash’s ears were ringing from the first blast, and the second intensified it. Rainbow ignored the pain and forced her eyes open to see if her plan had worked.

It had. There were no stalactites hanging from the ceiling any longer, and the hallway didn’t extend nearly as far as it seemed. Rainbow began slowing herself down as her friends came into view. She couldn’t help thinking about what Spike had said earlier, and felt proud that nothing had happened. Her wings were just fine, her slender body unchanged, and her beautiful mane and tail as silky as before. Everything was okay.

When Dash had finally landed, she let herself lean against the wall as she panted. Behind her, where the Sonic Rainboom had made contact, the cavern had caved in on itself. But that was okay because it wasn’t like they could go back the way they came.

Pinkie, Zecora and Spike were rushing over to where she stood. “Did I… Did I do okay?” she panted out with a wry smile.

Concerned expressions filled her view. Pinkie’s mouth moved like she was speaking, but Rainbow didn’t hear any words.

The pegasus reached a hoof up to her ear and poked it a couple times. “I didn’t quite catch that.”

Come to think of it… Rainbow couldn’t hear her voice either. Her brows furrowed when she saw Spike’s mouth forming words, too. It looked like he was trying to say “Are you okay?

“Is there something wrong?” Rainbow found herself saying. Or, she hoped her mouth was saying. “Why can’t I hear you guys talking?”

Zecora leaned forward and pointed a hoof toward Rainbow Dash’s ear. Her eyes were soft, but the zebra’s lips were saying words faster than Rainbow could read them.

What’s going on? Rainbow thought, her brows drawing together. She pressed both of her hooves into her ears and felt something wet.

Her hooves were covered in blood.

I'll Love You No Matter What Happens

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“What the heck?!” Rainbow exclaimed as she stared down at her own bloodied hooves. They were shaking. “I-I don’t—I don’t understand.”

Her gaze drifted upwards and met everyone else’s, one at a time. Horror dawned on her expression. “I can’t have… I can’t be deaf, right?”

Pinkie stepped closer and nuzzled the pegasus’ cheek, but Dash hardly noticed. It must have happened when her Rainboom had made contact with the cavern. The sound was amplified in the small space. Rainbow should’ve known—she shouldn’t have been so rash! If she’d been thinking straight, if she’d taken Spike’s advice to heart, then she could’ve found a way to avoid this. It would’ve been easy to plug her ears with something, or to have a plan in case something went wrong.

And now look where it got her.

Rainbow took in a shaky breath, blinking back tears. She spoke even though she could hear no words. “We have to keep going.”

She pushed Pinkie away and walked forward. Ahead, a new room had appeared—one that didn’t match the rest of the cave. The walls were white and smooth, its walls nothing more than a blank canvas. There was no other way out of the room than which they’d come, and the only things in it with them were several cans of paint. The others followed silently, brooding over their latest misfortune.

Spike walked up to a can and peered inside. His mouth formed the words, “It looks like paint. Maybe we have to color the walls?

He reached a claw down into the can, but a purple tentacle wrapped around his arm and pulled him in with a startled yelp.

“Spike!” Rainbow raced over to where the dragon had disappeared and she too stared down into the paint’s depths. The purple liquid looked normal, and there was no sign that her friend had just been taken hostage.

Without thinking, Dash shoved her muzzle into the paint can as far as she could, but was met with its steely bottom.

Spike was gone.

Rainbow pulled back, paint dripping from her face, and dared to look around. Pinkie and Zecora both looked as startled as she, if not more so. Pinkie then rushed over to the very same paint can and did what Rainbow had, but was met with the same results.

Panic was set deep within her eyes and visible with every shake her body emitted. Pinkie couldn’t handle this. Especially not so soon after losing Angel—not so soon after what happened to Dash. Rainbow could tell that she was scared out of her wits, but was too afraid herself to do anything about it.

Zecora intervened before anything else could happen. Her voice had risen an octave, Rainbow guessed, as she spoke. “It’s… It’s a—

Rainbow really wished she had brushed up on her lip-reading, and hated that she couldn’t understand what the zebra was saying. She had no idea what was going on, but both Zecora and Pinkie looked freaked.

“What’s going on?” she tried. “Where’s Spike?”

Just then, the ceiling caved in, and the Sphinx Rainbow hated dropped down. It landed on the ground with a thump, the paint cans spilling over from the contact. Dash tensed, but couldn’t get herself to move. Zecora and the Sphinx shared words, heated ones it seemed, and Pinkie adopted a shocked expression.

Rainbow wished she knew what was going on.

Pinkie couldn’t believe it. First Angel, then Dashie, and finally Spike. When was the tragedy going to end?

The Sphinx had dropped down from above with a sneer plastered on his face, and Pinkie wanted nothing more than to put him in his place.

“I see you’ve made it to the end of my cavern,” the Sphinx said. “I must congratulate you. But first, what challenges have you overcome? Have you solved my puzzle?”

Realization seemed to dawn on Zecora. She gritted her teeth and glared. “It’s all been a trick, hasn’t it? You don’t have the Crystal Antidote, do you?”

The Sphinx grinned with its shark-like teeth, his eyes glinting. “Perhaps.”

“But—but that can’t be!” Pinkie stuttered. She glared at the Sphinx, who leaned back against the far wall. It looked like he was getting happier by the second.

“Lord Sombra, my master, is returning. Even if I did have the Crystal Antidote, I wouldn’t have given it to you. Alas, I lost it years ago. But I know of a way to create another.”

“You—you lied to us?!” Pinkie exclaimed, anger licking at her fur. “But what about Angel Bunny? And where’s Spike?! Just look at what you did to RAINBOW DASH!”

“It is not my fault that you mortals decided to pursue a fool’s dream. You’ve received only what you have deserved.”

“W-we didn’t—we didn’t—“Pinkie was unable to speak any longer. Tears welled up in her eyes and she collapsed into sobs. The Sphinx smirked.

“Suiting for the weak-willed. I am a Sphinx of my word, however. The Crystal Antidote you shall still receive. You just have to sign this.”

The Sphinx pulled out a document with golden trim edges and the finest print, as well as what looked to be a Phoenix’s feather. Dash stared at the items, entranced. Zecora glared at the document.

“And what is this?” she asked.

“The contract. You will get some of the Crystal Antidote I am about to brew if you sign. In fact… Your friend, the rabbit, shall return from the ashes. I will bring him back if you agree to my terms.”

Zecora pondered these words. She was the only one left that could think level-headedly, what with Rainbow being handicapped and Pinkie’s incessant crying. Slowly, she nodded. The Sphinx handed her the contract and quill.

“Wait,” croaked Pinkie, “What about Spike?!”

Zecora stopped herself before she’d so much as lowered the quill on the parchment. Her eyes were leveled at the Sphinx. He twitched.

“What are you talking about?” He shrugged. “You three and the rabbit were the only contestants that entered my cavern.”

Where’s Spike?” Pinkie asked again, standing back up. The Sphinx sighed before reaching a paw behind his back. He brought his fist back in front of him, the drake squirming in it.

“Let go of me!” Spike shouted as he struggled against his constraints. The Sphinx paid him no mind.

“If you wish to have the Crystal Antidote and your Angel back… your dragon friend must stay with me.”

Pinkie gasped. Zecora’s lips set in a firm line. The pink pony spoke at once, “We won’t do it! Spike won’t—“

Zecora yanked Pinkie aside and whispered harshly. “You have to make a decision,” she said, “of which is more important to you. Angel and Twilight may yet be revived, but at the cost of Spike the dragon. I will do nothing. You must decide where we go from here, Pinkie Pie.”

Pinkie’s eyes widened. “But, Zecora, I’ve never been good at decisions! I can’t do this, please just—“

“Do what?” Zecora cut her off, her steely gaze anything but understanding. “These are your friends. I may yet have wisdom, but there is nothing I can say that will make the choice any easier.”

Pinkie swallowed, and at that moment she wanted nothing more than to have never gone on this journey. The stakes were way too high. Rainbow’s hearing was gone, Angel turned to stone, Spike about to be used to create the Crystal Antidote—and how was any of this fair? Was that a small price to pay for Twilight’s survival? For her happiness?

No… Pinkie thought with growing confidence. Twilight would never be happy if she knew Spike had died for her. She would never get over it, and neither would I.

Pinkie marched straight up to the Sphinx and glared, each step filling her with more conviction than the last. “I am not weak-willed, I can make decisions, and I won’t let you do this.” Pinkie bounced up before the Sphinx could react and snatched Spike out of his paw.

“What are you doing?!” the Sphinx screeched in reply. At once he was reaching for the pony and dragon, but Dash had snapped out of her reverie. She collided with his massive body and sent him hurling against another wall. Pinkie’s eyes met Dash’s.

“We have to get out of here!” Pinkie almost screamed, and it looked like Rainbow understood. She zoomed toward the earth pony and wrapped her hooves around her. Seconds later she dashed off to Zecora and, thanks to the adrenaline, lifted her up onto her back. The Sphinx was just starting to get back to his feet.

STOP!” it wailed, “You will not escape!”

Pinkie felt Rainbow’s hooves tighten around her torso as the pegasus said, “Zecora! Hold on to me no matter what, okay?!”

Then, Dash beat her wings as fast as she could upwards, where the Sphinx had broken the ceiling, and was met with sunlight. Thanks to the beast’s oversight, they were back in the Everfree Forest. Rainbow kept flying, headed straight for Canterlot. When Pinkie glanced back, she saw the Sphinx climbing out of its cavern, very much alive, and very much angry.

Sleep had come to Twilight easily that night. Fluttershy had hidden underneath the bed when the nurse returned to check on Twilight, and once she left she’d gotten back on and cuddled with her the whole night. It was amazing.

Fluttershy had even woken her up with a kiss and said, “Good morning, beautiful.” It’d made Twilight so happy that she could barely contain her enthusiasm. Instead, she’d kissed Fluttershy once again and told her she was even more beautiful. That led to a playful exchange of “No, you’re cuter!” and “No, you are!”

It went like that for a while until Princess Celestia, Applejack and Rarity had returned. Twilight had been smiling, expecting Rainbow Dash to return with Time Turner, but they didn’t show up. Over time, Twilight’s smile had slowly dipped down until worry settled over. She wondered what Spike was doing, and how he would react if she’d told him…

“Why, if it isn’t the Princess herself!”

All eyes were cast on the door where a brown stallion now stood. Princess Celestia’s eyes had widened to the point that she looked like an entirely different pony.

“Doctor Whooves?” Celestia managed, but he shook his head.

“The name’s Time Turner now.” He trotted past her and up to where Twilight sat. “And you must be Twilight Sparkle, correct?”

“Yes, I am,” Twilight replied, stunned.

“You’re a pretty one. And you,” he pointed a hoof toward Fluttershy, “are her marefriend, right?” Fluttershy nodded. “Wonderful.”

“Doctor…” Princess Celestia walked closer. “It’s been such a long time. How are you still…?” Time Turner smiled kindly, but his eyes told a different story.

“That’s for another time. Twilight Sparkle looks like she’s been suffering for quite a while.” His eyes were cast on Twilight. “You’re lucky your friend got me when she did. She should be gettin’ here soon, too.”

“Where is she now?” Applejack interrupted. Time Turner placed a hoof over Twilight’s forehead, tracing up her horn. He frowned thoughtfully.

“Went to the Everfree Forest after the pink pony and dragon. I think there was a rabbit as well.” He hummed. “Looks like this is more serious than I thought… I believe Rainbow mentioned something about your talent being magic, yes?”

“The Everfree Forest?!” Rarity exclaimed. Time Turner shook his head.

“There isn’t anything to worry about. Love always pulls through, and it’s the greatest magic of all.”

Silence reigned for several moments in which Time Turner continued his evaluation. Fluttershy had moved to the chair next to Twilight’s bedside and held her hoof, keeping it steady when it had started to shake.

After a long five minutes, Time Turner finally spoke up.

“Hm… I’m afraid the same thing has befallen you as did Misty Haze.” He craned his neck toward the Princess. “I’d hate to make you go through it again, but just like before, the only way to—“

The window busted open and a rainbow blur flew past everyone, smacking straight into the wall. Everyone jumped at the sound, and was surprised to see three ponies and a dragon on the floor.

“Ow…” Spike groaned as he sat up, pressing a claw into his back. His eyes widened when they landed on Twilight. “Twilight!” At once the dragon had leapt onto her and gave her a big hug. “Oh, I missed you so much! You shouldn’t have kept me in the dark like that!”

On the other side of the room, Zecora had stood up as well. She was pressing a hoof into her forehead, and beside her lay two more ponies. Pinkie was clinging to Rainbow, who was more than a little unbalanced.

“Pinkie Pie?” Rarity didn’t try to hide her surprise. “Just where have you been all this time?”

Twilight held the baby dragon in her forelegs and turned her eyes toward her two friends. At least now everyone was here.

“I was… I was doing something stupid,” Pinkie said with a sniffle. She helped Dash up.

“What’re you talking ‘bout?” Applejack came to stand next to the two, offering Pinkie a friendly smile. “You’re here now. That’s all that matters.”

“No, it’s not that…” Pinkie averted her eyes. “I… I took Spike and Angel to Zecora’s, to see if there was another cure. The Sphinx had been guarding something called the Crystal Antidote, and we blindly followed his word and went into the cave... He didn’t even have it, and… and…”

“Pinkie!” Rainbow said entirely too loud. All eyes were on her at once. “All of it was my fault. Angel, Spike, the lack of potion, this…”

Twilight couldn’t help wondering why she was speaking so loudly. Her eyes were drawn to her friend’s ears and she gasped at the blood she saw.

“Rainbow Dash, what did you—?”

The Doctor trotted in a short clip over to where Rainbow was. “My word. Just what have you done?”

“S-she—“Pinkie began, but Fluttershy spoke up.

“And what was that about Angel Bunny?”

Pinkie began to well up with tears yet again. Dash looked like she wanted to offer her comfort, but Time Turner was still examining her ears.

“Ruptured eardrums,” he reported. “Complete loss of hearing, it seems. I have no idea what you could have done to cause this, but a good doctor may be able to fix it.”

Rainbow only stared at his mouth, but it didn’t look like she understood. He continued, “I can’t handle two patients at once. Is there another doctor around here?”

Applejack stared in disbelief at the pegasus, her eyes wide. Twilight deduced that she must’ve been feeling guilty for having sent Rainbow off to get the doctor, and Twilight found herself starting to feel bad, too.

Spike never moved from his spot against Twilight’s chest.

“I’ll go find one,” Celestia said finally, trotting out of the room as fast as she could. She didn’t want to see the same fate befall Twilight as did Discord. Zecora then decided to speak.

“It is my doing,” she said, “for I gave the knowledge that led to our pursuing. The Crystal Antidote was what we sought, but lies and death were what we got. Through perilous encounters we did face, we made it through with little grace.” A sigh. “It is my deepest apology that I have caused all of this.”

“No, Zecora, I’m the one that pushed you on that pointless journey.” Pinkie said, “I’m the one that didn’t stop Dashie from doing the Sonic Rainbow and I’m the one that brought Spike and Angel. I’m the one that’s really made a mistake…”

“As much as I’d like to chat…” Time Turner interrupted, “we really do have a problem on our hooves. Can’t we talk about this later? Every second we spend dawdling may be the difference between saving Twilight Sparkle’s life and having her die at our hooves.”

Twilight didn’t like the sound of that, and apparently neither did the others. They all shut up at his words.

He continued. “The stakes are the same. If things go well, you will be able to use magic again. If things go astray, your body will be torn apart like that of Misty Haze’s. Are you sure you wish to continue? We can stop now and request that your horn be removed, but it would do little good.”

“I…” Twilight’s gaze wandered over everyone in the room. To Rarity, whose eyes showed sadness and a tint of longing. To Pinkie, who was unable to quell her tears any longer. To Rainbow, who wasn’t sure what was going on, but was still able to show support. To Applejack, who’d never looked so unsure about anything in all her life. To Zecora, whose expression showed more emotion than ever before. To Spike, who clung to her like a baby dragon afraid of losing its family. And to Fluttershy, who was just as scared as Twilight was. She gave her a kiss.

“I’ll love you no matter what happens,” she said adamantly. Twilight’s eyes finally landed on Time Turner’s, who watched her curiously.

“I’m ready.”

And she was sure of it. Time Turner smiled. “Good choice.” He turned to the other ponies. “All the things you’ve done up to this point have made me realize something. Whether you have fallen in love with Twilight Sparkle, whether you’re good friends with her, and whether you’re willing to die for her… You all are connected by the bonds you share. Every single one of you have proven in one way or another that you will do anything for each other, and most importantly, for your dying friend.”

The Doctor’s smile turned kind. “And love conquers all.”

“What is it we need to do to save her?” Rarity asked. Time Turner took it in stride.

“I was getting to that. All of you, the bearers of the Elements of Harmony, I believe have a strong enough bond to dispel the Magical Rebound Effect. You, as the only unicorn—“he pointed to Rarity—“will have to cast the spell. You must think about your friendship with Twilight Sparkle and all the things you like about her. The rest of you must do the same, and our unicorn friend here will channel those feelings into Twilight. You must not let your mind wander, none of you, lest the spell go awry.”

Rarity was appalled. “I… I must do it? Such a huge responsibility?” Her eyes met Fluttershy’s, perhaps asking for permission.

“Yes.” He turned to Rainbow Dash. “Does she understand?”

The pegasus stared at him for a long second before nodding. “I’ll do my part to help out.”

“Then I believe it’s high time for us to get started.” He approached Twilight’s bedside and tore Spike away from her before headed to the far wall. Spike hadn’t wanted to leave, but reluctantly let go. Zecora came to stand next to the doctor, though she also didn’t seem to want to leave.

The remaining ponies gathered around Twilight’s bedside, making her more nervous than the day she got her cutie mark. Rarity’s horn lit up as she began the spell, and all their eyes closed.

Twilight thought about what all of her friends had gone through. About how each of them had changed since she’d met them, and about how lucky she was they were her friends. She was reminded about how much she loved Fluttershy and hoped she could continue to love her long into the future. Thoughts of Rainbow Dash’s sacrifice plagued her mind and confused thoughts of Angel Bunny wormed their way in there.

She felt the familiar sensation of magic envelop her. She recognized it as Rarity’s, but it was different. It felt… softer than regular magic, warmer even. She opened her eyes she hadn’t even known she’d closed, and noticed her body covered in a light blue glow. Soon it became a mix of colors, and the light grew stronger.

Then, it felt like she was burning alive. She emitted a yelp and clenched her eyes shut. It was worse than when she’d tried using magic. It hurt so much she almost couldn’t handle it.

“Concentrate!” Time Turner snapped. “You must not lose focus!”

It felt like her limbs were being torn apart. When Twilight forced her eyes open again, for a scary second she was sure she saw a lion paw and an eagle’s claw.

Then she blinked, and her equine forelegs had returned.

The pain slowly receded back to a comforting warmth, until it disappeared entirely. Twilight was panting, sweat coating her fur and the bed.

“Are you okay?” Fluttershy’s voice resonated from far away. Twilight opened her eyes and was met with varying levels of worried friends’ faces. She looked down and, much to her relief, still had her pony legs.

Time Turner stepped forward. “That was close… Can you perform magic?”

Twilight was still breathing hard and was unable to speak up. Applejack placed a hoof on her friend’s shoulder. “I think she needs a sec, Doc.”

She continued to pant for a few minutes more before she finally had it under control. She sat up in the bed. “I… I’m not sure, but—“

A deafening shriek interrupted her. Twilight’s head whipped to the window Rainbow had crashed through earlier and saw something she’d never have expected to.

The Sphinx.

He was charging straight through Canterlot, scaring ponies to death. Its red eyes were locked on the hospital, and even scarier, locked on Twilight herself.

Spike yelped and jumped onto Pinkie. “I don’t wanna go!” he cried as he gripped her neck with all the strength he could.

“You won’t have to, Spike,” Pinkie replied. “Just hold on, okay?”

“What are you talking about?” Twilight asked as she tore her gaze away from the Sphinx.

“Remember what I said about the Crystal Antidote earlier? The Sphinx wanted to use Spike to make it again!” Pinkie said. They watched as the Sphinx got closer and closer, knocking guards away with ease.

“What did you do to make it so angry?!” Rarity said, accusing eyes on Pinkie.

“What were we supposed to do, leave Spike with him?” Pinkie glared back at her friend. Tensions were rising high with the Sphinx gaining on them. Twilight pushed herself out of bed and began to stand up.

“Twilight, please just stay here!” Fluttershy pleaded, “I don’t want to see the same thing happen to you again. I don’t want to lose you!”

“I can’t, Fluttershy… All of you have gone through so much for me, there’s no way I can sit here and do nothing—I can’t! Not with Spike’s life on the line… Not if you plan on going out there without me.”

Fluttershy swallowed. She was trembling more than Twilight had ever seen her before, and unshed tears gleamed in her eyes. She slowly pulled away from Twilight, and gave her a resolute nod. “Okay. You do what you have to do, just… be careful.”

Twilight leaned toward Fluttershy and gave her a peck on the lips. “I will.” She stared into Fluttershy’s eyes for a long second before getting onto her hooves. She felt lighter than before, like the spell had worked. She walked over to the window and peered down at the Sphinx, her scarred eye burning.

The lion-pony stopped in its tracks and stared up at Twilight. It looked angry. “Why, if it isn’t you!” All of a sudden, his glare turned into one of scorn. “I doubt you can do much good in your condition. Now, where is the drake? His assistance is needed.”

Twilight jumped out of the window and landed on her hooves with ease she didn’t believe she had. “I won’t let you hurt my friends this time.”

The Sphinx looked like he was about ready to laugh. “How? Perhaps you don’t recall, but the last time I saw you I knocked you flat on your face. You even have a memento to remember me by.” He stood up proudly. “Besides, what can you do? Your magic has been taken from you.”

Twilight swallowed and focused, ignoring the Sphinx’s taunts. It had been so long since she’d last performed a spell. What if she couldn’t do it again? What if the Sphinx was right?

She mentally slapped herself. Focus, Twilight. You have to do this. The familiar sensation of wishes and dreams unspoken filled her with the desire to end this—to get rid of the Sphinx for good. He’d done so many bad things, he’d hurt so many ponies—

The energy she’d been gathering in her horn backfired. Her head ached from it, and at the sound of sharp laughter, hurt more.

“What did I say? You’re pathetic.” His tail swished from behind him and knocked her sideways. Twilight regained her step and charged up a spell again.

“When will you learn your lesson?” the Sphinx said with growing annoyance. He swiped a paw at her, bashing her back into the hospital’s wall in which she’d come.

“Twilight!” Fluttershy jumped out of the same window Twilight had earlier. She put herself between the Sphinx and Twilight, glaring daggers at the beast. “You won’t hurt her anymore!”

“This could all be avoided if you’d just give me the dragon, you know.” The Sphinx’s eyes wandered up the building, hungrily staring at Spike. Pinkie held Spike tightly and glowered at the lion-pony. “I wouldn’t have to kill any of you.”

Rainbow Dash leapt down and stood beside Fluttershy. “You can hurt me, but you won’t touch them!”

The Sphinx sighed. “I am not merciful by any means, but my master would not tolerate this in the lea—“

“Sphinxy, remember me?” Time Turner grinned from the window. The Sphinx’s eyes widened in shock. “It’s been quite a long time, hasn’t it?”

YOU!” The Sphinx barreled past all three of the ponies in front of him and began climbing up the hospital. “HOW DARE YOU SHOW YOUR FACE, YOU LITTLE—“

Time Turner hopped out of the window, landed on the Sphinx’s head, and jumped again so he was on the ground. The Sphinx let go of the building and was after him at once.

“What in tarnation?!” Applejack exclaimed. Rarity was just able to grab her shoulder before she joined the battle as well. “Let go of me!”

“If something goes wrong, they’ll need us to help!” Rarity said, “If we go out there now, all of us could very well end up in a ditch like last time. We need to wait.”


“We must wait.”

Their eyes met, and Applejack sighed. She pulled back. “…Fine.”

Below, the Sphinx was growing reckless. He was trying to capture Time Turner by any method he could. Twilight had just begun to stand back up with the help of her marefriend. “Why is he chasing you?” Twilight called out.

Rainbow Dash took this as her cue to give Time Turner a breather. She launched herself at the Sphinx for a third time since she’d met him and knocked him over again. Time Turner turned toward Twilight.

“I stole the original Crystal Antidote from him!” he shouted. The others stared at him.


“We don’t have time for that! Listen, I need you to cast the spell Exitium on the Sphinx!” The Sphinx had gotten to his feet and in blind rage chased after the stallion. Twilight closed her eyes and began focusing her magic into her horn once again. The Spell of Destruction was one she’d only used once before, and she knew she only had one chance to get the Sphinx.

The magic gathered in her horn, almost painfully, and she aimed at the Sphinx. Only, the Sphinx wouldn’t stop moving. Twilight couldn’t keep her spell at bay much longer, but she knew if she released it now it would hurt innocent bystanders on the other side of the street.

“I-I can’t do it! He won’t stand still!”

Time Turner just barely avoided a fatal paw swipe from the Sphinx. He glanced over at the unicorn. “You must do it! Your magic is yours to command—if you don’t do something now, if you don’t face your fears, everything will be lost!”

Twilight didn’t make sense of it. All she knew was she felt different than before all of this had started. Her hooves felt light and her mind clear. It was with self-reflection that she realized she had gotten to the point that she was afraid of magic. Afraid of the very thing she’d dedicated her entire life to. If her entire life had led up to this point, it was do or die.

What the future would hold was a mystery, but Twilight was determined to see it through. She would see the next chapter of her life, and she would make it through.

The spell Exitium exploded out of her horn—the first spell she'd cast since she’d last hurt the Sphinx—and it was headed directly for the beast.

However… the Sphinx was just barely able to dodge. It was with dread that Twilight realized her spell had missed.

The Sphinx was cackling now, whether at Twilight’s ignorance or at his own genius no one knew. “You idiot!” He laughed. “Did you really think you could hurt me? Did you actually—“his eyes went wide and a yelp escaped his muzzle before he turned into dust.

The spell had curved back and gotten him square in the back.

Twilight collapsed to the ground, everything around her blurring. This time, she didn’t pass out. This time she was able to pick up the pieces and stand back up. All of her friends soon joined her.

“Is he gone?” Spike asked, still holding fast to Pinkie’s mane.

No reply was attempted by anyone. Ponies that had been hiding now came out, staring in amazement at their heroes. Soon, Princess Celestia returned with several doctors that took Rainbow Dash away on a stretcher. Pinkie, Spike and Zecora had followed after while the others tended to Twilight.

"I love you, Twilight," Fluttershy said out of nowhere, giving her a long, drawn-out kiss that Twilight was all too happy to return.

The new chapter of her life started now, and she was going to make the most of it.


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“Mmm… Fluttershy, what’re you doing?” Twilight mumbled as she felt feathers brush against her nose. The urge to sneeze caused her muzzle to wrinkle in distaste. A giggle elicited from somewhere to her side, confirming that it was indeed Fluttershy.

“It’s time to get up, Twi,” Fluttershy said instead, still chuckling. Twilight opened her eyes, closing them back with a groan.

“It’s too bright…” The pegasus brushed her lips against Twilight’s the way she did every morning before hopping out of bed.

“Come downstairs when you’re ready. I’ll make some breakfast.” Twilight listened as Fluttershy trotted out of the room, allowing herself a moment’s peace. When she knew she was in danger of falling back asleep, she forced herself up and over to the mirror.

She wouldn’t have recognized her reflection two years ago. So much had changed since then. The young naïve mare that had almost lost her life had finally learned to stand on her own hooves. Strong, defiant eyes stared back at her, ones that had almost lost their spark. Her gaze drifted to the scar that still rested over her eye, a constant reminder of her close encounter.

Twilight lifted a brush in her hooves and ran it through her mane. She parted it the way she did in the old days, back when she was still under Princess Celestia’s tutelage. A reminiscent smile played on her lips, and if she didn’t know any better she’d have thought she still looked the same. She moved the brush back into her mane before putting it up in a bun.

This was who she was now. Twilight combed over her figure once more before making her way outside of Fluttershy’s room and down the stairs of her cottage.

Fluttershy was in the kitchen, standing on her back legs, flipping pancakes the way she always did. She hadn’t changed much in the past two years, save for her attitude. She’d come out of her shell a lot more since those days, and it was a change everyone had welcomed.

“Hey, Flutters.” Twilight trotted over to Fluttershy and kissed her cheek. The pegasus smiled before turning her head to catch Twilight’s lips. The unicorn felt the brush of fabric against her chest and realized that Fluttershy was wearing an apron.

When Twilight pulled away, the two smiled at each other. “Good morning, Twilight!” A plate was handed to her a few seconds later, “You really should eat breakfast. We have a big day ahead of us.”

Twilight nodded as she took a seat at the table. “Oh, it’s today? Time flies by so fast…”

Fluttershy leaned back until she was on four legs. “I know.”

The two ponies made their way outside. What little of the animals Fluttershy still cared for remained inside, and the others had moved in with the new veterinarian. Fluttershy hadn’t minded in the least; she was happy for them. Life had essentially slowed down for the two, giving them all the time in the world to enjoy it.

As always, they crossed the bridge and paused at the statue that lay in wait. Angel Bunny—the brave little guy—stood there, frozen in time. When Pinkie had explained to her all that had happened in the cave, Twilight hadn’t been able to see straight. She’d charged into the cave after him, almost getting herself killed in the process, and brought him back out. There was no way to revive him now that the Sphinx was gone, but at least they’d gotten something to remember him by.

Fluttershy hummed a sweet tune Twilight recognized as the lullaby she’d often sing when the unicorn had trouble sleeping—“Hush Now Quiet Now.” It had no words, but its meaning was clear: Put him to rest.

Twilight let Fluttershy lean into her as she sang. It was another thing that Twilight had come to hold dear; something that reminded her of her past.

When Fluttershy had ended her melody, the two shared a hug before making their way into Ponyville. They no longer cared who saw them together or what other ponies might think. All that mattered was their love, and those they held dear.

Sugarcube Corner was their destination, and they had soon reached it. Outside, two of their closest friends stood—Rainbow Dash and Pinkie Pie.

Fluttershy had smiled and waved to Pinkie, who returned the gesture with just as much enthusiasm. Rainbow turned away from Pinkie to grin at the two ponies.

Twilight gave Rainbow a big hug when she was close enough. When she pulled away, she drew a hoof across her chest and tapped it on the ground twice. She said, “How are you doing?”

Dash’s lips were still upturned as she nodded. “Great!” she exclaimed, a bit louder than necessary. She pointed a hoof up to her mouth.

Pinkie’s smile became tame. “We’ve been doing good! Rainbow’s actually improved since the last time we saw you; she can do backflips again!”

“Oh, that’s wonderful news!” Fluttershy smiled brightly, turning toward her childhood friend. She tapped a hoof against her chest before pressing it into Rainbow’s—I’m proud of you.

Rainbow’s smile grew wider as she flared her wings out. She poked a hoof at herself before clapping them together—“Let me show you!”

“Be careful, Dashie!” Pinkie said as the pegasus took flight. Twilight watched with happiness splayed over her features as her friend flew circles in the sky, something she hadn’t been able to do in so long. She wasn’t deaf, but her hearing was so bad you wouldn’t be able to tell the difference. The Rainboom in the cavern had done dastardly things to Rainbow Dash, not only hindering her ability to hear, but also her ability to maintain balance properly.

Two years ago, the day Rainbow had been wheeled into the hospital, the doctor had said she’d never be able to recover—that flight was next to impossible. Too much time had passed since she’d gotten herself hurt, they said, and there was nothing they could do. The news had been heartbreaking to all of them.

Dash had stumbled aimlessly for days as the effects had finally settled in. She’d never be able to get into the Wonderbolts with the loss of her hearing—how could she listen to orders?—and flight wouldn’t come as naturally any longer.

Pinkie had been Rainbow’s savior for the second time in her life. She’d helped her out of the rough and helped her learn sign language—Pinkie had practiced at it when Rainbow hadn’t been paying attention, until at last she’d perfected it. Though they weren’t officially together—to the knowledge of their friends, anyway—their relationship was something special. With Rainbow grounded for the better part of two years, they’d even gotten an apartment and moved in together. Pinkie still worked at Sugarcube Corner, but had stepped up to help take care of Rainbow.

Twilight always felt a stab of guilt when she thought of Rainbow Dash. It was her fault all this had befallen the pegasus. Her dreams shattered, her talent suddenly meaningless… But every time she tried to apologize, Rainbow had pushed her away and told her there was nothing to be sorry about. She always said she “wouldn’t leave her friends hanging”—the very same words she’d spoken the first day they’d met.

“Go, Rainbow Dash! Wooo!” Pinkie cheered, jumping up and down as the pegasus did her first back flip. It was slow-moving, but it was definitely progress. Had Rainbow watched another pegasus do the same maneuver a few years back, she would’ve laughed at them. A grin stretched across her face as she performed each one, and Twilight was sure it was all thanks to Pinkie’s over-exuberance and her wings finally being able to hold her up.

“Why, is that Rainbow Dash flying? My word, is she alright up there?” Rarity trotted up next to the group, her eyes cautious. Pinkie nodded.

“She’s a-okay, Rares! We’ve been practicing for today.” Twilight smiled at Rarity, who gave her a hug.

“It’s been too long, dear. You really must come to the boutique every once in a while.” Twilight pulled away with a grin. Rarity had decided to stay in Ponyville despite getting the offer to work with the biggest fashion lines in the country’s capital, saying she much liked the nature of her hometown. It had filled Twilight with such warmth that she couldn’t keep a smile from her face for a whole week after she’d heard about it—knowing Rarity had declined so she could be with her friends.

“I know, I know… You’re right; I’ll try to stop by more often.” Her gaze drifted toward Fluttershy. “I wonder where Applejack and Spike are. They certainly are taking their time.”

The pegasus let her wing rest on Twilight’s withers, placing a kiss on the underside of her chin. “Spike’s probably closing the library right now, and I’m sure Applejack’s on her way.”

A sudden crash brought Twilight’s eyes back to the scene ahead of her. Rainbow Dash had swerved off course due to an unexpected harsh bout of wind, causing her to slam into two other ponies. Luckily, she hadn’t hit the wall just to the side of her landing.

“Rainbow!” Pinkie catapulted herself over to the three entangled ponies, pulling Dash up at once. She was checking all over her for injuries, to which the pegasus shook her head in a dazed fashion. Twilight looked over to see what two unlucky ponies had happened upon the veering flyer, and was surprised to see Applejack and Time Turner.

“Oh, thank goodness you’re okay, Dash. I was scared there for a second!” Pinkie nuzzled into Rainbow’s neck, briefly giving it a kiss. The pegasus smiled in the way only a pony completely in love could.

“Are you two okay?” Twilight approached her other two friends, who were muttering under their breaths. Time Turner had gotten the brunt of the blow, laying over the other earth pony.

“Quite,” he murmured, getting to his hooves and dusting himself off. He helped Applejack up, a smile playing on his lips.

The mare grinned, her eyes on Rainbow now. “Hey, Dash!” The pegasus untangled herself from Pinkie, a slight blush on her face. Applejack lifted both of her forelegs up and clapped them together a few times. Good job!

The two proceeded to bump each other’s hooves and catch up, and Twilight began to wonder where Spike could be. At this point everyone else had shown up—even Applejack and Time Turner, who were notorious for arriving last. As weird as it was, the two had actually hit it off and had started dating a few months ago. They were so cute, it was hard not to be happy for them.

Two years ago, Time Turner had been chased down by the Sphinx, and at the time, no one knew why. Anytime Twilight had asked him about it, he’d get this far away look in his eyes. He’d say the same thing every time: “I was a fool back then. Woulda done anything just to get back home… to be me again.” He would always walk off after those words, shaking his head. Twilight had stopped asking him about it when it became clear it hurt him, and she was glad to see him opening up to Applejack.

The orange pony turned away from Rainbow for a second, her lips dipping down. “So, where in tarnation is Spike at? He’s usually here before you are, Twi.”

Twilight shrugged. “I’m not sure where he is. I know for a fact he takes a break at noon, so he should be here.”

They waited for thirty minutes for him to show up, but when he didn’t, they decided to try looking for him at the library. Time Turner and Applejack walked next to each other, making jokes, Pinkie and Rainbow trotted side by side, the earth pony resting a foreleg over Dash’s shoulders to help guide her. Twilight and Fluttershy, both having been in a relationship far longer than any of the others, only spoke to each other lovingly. Rarity was smiling, jumping into the various conversations.

When they’d finally made it to the library, the first thing Twilight noticed was that the lights were off. Now she was starting to get worried—if he wasn’t at the library and they hadn’t seen him on the way there, where could he be? She pushed the door open and stepped inside, all her friends walking in behind her.

It was when the lights flicked on and the door closed that she realized what was happening.

“SURPRISE!” A purple dragon jumped out, a huge grin on his face. Streamers and confetti and balloons were everywhere, and a banner overhead read “To My Best Friends, Who Have Always Been There For Me”.

He’d grown some since Twilight had been in the hospital. No longer was he the little, cowardly baby dragon, and though he was still young, he’d matured a lot. He’d taken on the responsibilities of the library when Twilight had moved in with Fluttershy, and even more than that he’d helped out everyone around town. Twilight knew he still harbored feelings for Rarity, and had a feeling he always would. She was sure it was only a matter of time until Rarity finally came around.

Spike wheeled a huge cake out, his smile rivaling even Pinkie’s on her best days. “This one’s for you, Pinkie. I still remember back when you saved my life, so this is the least I could do for ya.”

Pinkie let out a gasp before a smile overtook her features. She bounded over to the cake, which was pink all over and had a really well-drawn Pinkie Pie on the top of it. “Oh, Spike, you really didn’t have to! I thought you’d forgotten all about that!”

He started handing out cupcakes to the other ponies, still smiling. “It’s my dragon code, Pinkie; I would never have forgotten something like that. If you hadn’t been there for me, I might not be here today. I’m not gonna be your lifelong servant or anything,” he gave Applejack a lopsided grin, “but I still need to make it up to you.”

Everypony let out a laugh at that, and partied to their hearts’ content. It was great to be with friends, and though they’d overcome many hardships over the years and had suffered through just as many tragedies, they’d braved the storm. This was their time to shine.