Going back in time to see her friends one last time wasn’t a decision Twilight Sparkle took lightly. After all, it had taken a couple of centuries for her to finally fall into temptation, and then another entire century of studying and analyzing all the potential risks before she even dared consider embarking on the journey.
How foolish she had been before, thinking that missing somepony was a thing one just stopped doing after a while — or centuries, in her case. Even during the night of the painfully anticipated trip, resting on Spike’s back as he flew towards the Canterlot Castle archives, part of her wished she had the strength of will to turn back.
“I know I said this already, Twi…”
Spike, now a magnificent adult dragon, soared over the city he had called home for decades now. After all their friends had passed away, Twilight only lasted a few years in Ponyville before grief forced her to move away — Spike, driven by his endless devotion and affection for Twilight, followed without hesitation.
It had been he, actually, who had insisted on taking Twilight to the castle, still attempting to persuade her from using the time-scrolls in the Archives.
“…But I really think this is a bad idea,” he added, proving once more that it didn’t matter how old or how big he was, at heart he was still the same baby dragon she had raised and loved.
Twilight sighed, idly brushing non-existent dirt from her graying coat. “Spike, if you offered to carry me here just so you could talk me out of it, I’m afraid you’ve wasted your time,” she replied, adjusting the saddlebag on her back before patting the dragon. “Time and space won’t collapse if I take a quick, harmless trip back a few centuries. Trust me, I made sure about it.”
“I know time and space won’t collapse,” Spike replied, before quietly adding, “but you might.”
Twilight remained silent for a few minutes before concluding, “Sometimes, it’s worth it, Spike.”
For Twilight Sparkle, seeing her friends again was worth all the pain that would come after. A thousand more years of yearning and hurt would be a small price to pay if it meant hearing the sound of their voices one last time.
Especially if it meant seeing a certain unicorn again.
It both frustrated and amazed Twilight how much she still loved Rarity. It was as if time had made a miscalculation somewhere, and instead of healing wounds and helping Twilight move on, it had only intensified her affections for the mare — such had been the impact Rarity had left in her heart.
It wasn’t that she hadn’t tried to move on. She had tried dating — centuries after Rarity’s death — but things never worked out. Every attempt at dating always became the focus of society (“Extra! Extra! Princess Twilight Sparkle starts dating after century long celibacy!”), and it only served to make her miss Rarity and the private romance they once had even more.
Twilight had and would always despise being the center of the Equestrian Press’s attention. It had been no different back then, just when Twilight was still a relatively new addition to the Equestrian Royalty. It was this same aversion to the publicity and her private life becoming gossip in magazines that had made Twilight take so long to confess to Rarity.
“We’re almost there,” Spike pointed out, waking Twilight up from her reveries.
The alicorn stood up on his back and extended her wings. “I can take it from here, then,” she said, squinting her eyes as she tried locating the castle garden nearest to the archives.
“Twilight, please, I don’t want you to get hur—”
“I’ll see you back home in an hour,” she interrupted, her voice soothing yet authoritative. “Everything will be fine.”
The dragon opened his mouth to protest but finally conceded defeat. “Fine,” he muttered, circling the castle. “But don’t expect me to pick up the pieces left of you when you come back.”
Twilight took off from his back and flew besides him. “I think you’ve done enough for a lifetime, Spike.”
“Don’t say it like that. You make it sound like you’re not coming back.”
Twilight grinned. “’Course I’m coming back! Someone has to pick up the pieces left of me, right?”
Before he could answer, Twilight took off towards the castle garden, barely hearing Spike’s “Try to come back in big chunks so it’s easier to put together!”
She landed right in front of the library doors and vaguely remembered the time she found herself at the same spot with Pinkie Pie and Spike. She could almost hear Pinkie urging her to go in through the window. It happened, sometimes, that she’d hear them in her head — the voices of the long dead. Maybe she was losing her mind… or maybe it was the only way to keep herself sane.
Right before entering the archives, Twilight looked up and noticed Celestia’s tower was lit up. She felt a sudden urge to go see her mentor and discuss what she wanted to do, but she knew it would be very hard on Celestia to see her beloved pupil and friend in such distress — particularly when Twilight’s extremely lengthy lifespan was thanks to Celestia.
Twilight didn’t hold it against her. Well, not anymore, at least. A long time ago, the young alicorn had once broken down in tears in front of her mentor, going on about how she hated living for so long, and how she missed her friends, and why couldn’t she have died with them too. Celestia had comforted the young princess, gently whispering to Twilight that she understood how she felt.
It was then that Twilight became aware that perhaps there had been another reason over why Celestia gave Twilight princesshood and the lifespan that came with it.
After another minute of staring, Twilight finally tore her gaze from the tower and entered the building. While the seemingly endless wings of the Canterlot Archives might have intimidated any other pony, Twilight herself felt a welcoming sensation at being surrounded by so much knowledge. She already knew every single book, text and scroll contained in the archives, so her search for the time-travelling spells ended fast.
While the original spell only allowed its user to time-travel only once and for a very brief time, Twilight – being the embodiment of the element of magic— had been able to create a second spell that would bend the first spell to her will. If all went according to plan, not only would Twilight be able to time-travel again, but she’d also be in complete control of how long she’d be in the past.
After retrieving the scroll, she proceeded to take out a notebook from her saddlebag. The notebook, so old that the purple colouring of its cover had begun to fade, had been a present from Rarity. Twilight had already used every page of it long ago, but it was within its pages that she had written the addendum spell. It was a sad thought, honestly, that even when her friends were still alive, she had already perhaps unconsciously started looking for a way to ensure she’d see them again.
She opened the note and her eyes lingered a few minutes on the first page, where Rarity had written a note in purple ink for Twilight. With her elegant calligraphy, Rarity had explained finding that notebook in a quaint little marketplace, and “simply had to buy it so Twilight would cease leaving loose sheets of papers all over Carousel Boutique”. Twilight laughed softly at the memory, before brushing her hoof against Rarity’s greeting.
For my darling Twilight…
Back then, Twilight took a special pleasure in the fact that Rarity would use the possessive pronoun when it came to Twilight. For Rarity, everyone was a darling, but Twilight was her darling.
She sighed and started flipping through the pages of the notebook, eyes scanning for the spell. Upon finally finding it, it felt as if her chest had tightened around her heart. Several words had been blotched up, as if water had been sprinkled on the pages.
Was she really sure of what she was doing? She had come all that way, but had she really made up her mind about it?
If… If this goes wrong… If I messed up somewhere, or mess up somewhere back in the past…
She shook her head. No. Everything would be all right. She had prepared for this moment, and she knew what to do. She wasn’t going to talk to anypony nor was anypony going to see her. She’d just see her friends one last time from afar, and then she’d finally be able to just move on. Or not. But at least she got to see them one last time.
Twilight took the original scroll and placed it next to her notes. After a few minutes of carefully studying them, she was finally ready to cast the spell. Taking a deep breath, she closed her eyes and a magical aura started enveloping her horn. This was what she wanted…
It was a beautiful day in Ponyville. The sun shimmered, the sky was blue and free of any cloud, the birds sang, and there was no doubt everypony was up to their usual business.
In a secluded section of the Everfree Forest, Twilight suddenly appeared to the crackling sound of magic. After a few minutes of slight disorientation, she took in her surroundings and was ecstatic to see her spell had worked. Well, the teleporting part of it, at least.
She put the notebook and scroll back into her saddlebag, her heart beating thunderously in her chest.
Part one had worked.
Part two was next: disguise.
While she usually would have gone for a spell, she’d need a very powerful spell to completely hide herself, and she didn’t want to risk anypony, particularly her younger self, detecting the magical surge. Besides, she didn’t know if such a spell would have adverse effects if being casted when her body was already under the influence of a time-travelling spell. She reached into her saddlebag and took out a hooded cloak, large enough to cover her completely. After putting the cloak on, she did however cast a voice modifying spell just in case she found herself in a place where she’d need to talk.
Which she wouldn’t, of course.
Making her way towards Fluttershy’s Cottage, she listened to the sounds of the forest for fear of running into Zecora. No matter how much she missed the zebra, she knew Zecora would no doubt know something wasn’t quite right. Some time later, she finally made it out of the forest and found herself looking at the familiar cottage.
The place was surrounded by all kinds of critters, just as she had always remembered. She felt her heart tighten in her chest upon hearing the sound of a familiar voice singing from inside the cottage.
Fluttershy had been the third one to go, right after Applejack and Pinkie Pie. It was common knowledge that earth ponies had a smaller lifespan than pegasi ponies, who in turn had a smaller lifespan than unicorns. Rainbow Dash had been next, and then Rarity had been the last one to go. To Twilight, it had always felt as if it was both a blessing and a curse that the fashionista had been the last one to die.
A blessing because Rarity had always been there to soothe the heartbroken alicorn after one of their friends passed away; a curse because, when Rarity died, there was nopony in the whole of Equestria who could console Twilight’s crushed heart.
Twilight gingerly made her way to one of the nearby windows, careful not to alarm the little animals surrounding the place. Luckily for her, Angel Bunny wasn’t outside since he would have ratted her out almost immediately if he was still the rabbit she remembered. Reaching the window, she peeked inside and sure enough, Fluttershy was there. The pegasus sang as she cleaned her house, looking radiant and carefree, probably because she thought she was solely in the company of her animal friends.
It was overwhelming how much Twilight wanted to call out to her. She wanted to rush into the house and hug her, ask her about everything she had done that day and just talk, talk, talk. Funny how the first time they met, she had wanted nothing more than for Fluttershy to stop talking to Spike. Now, though? Now she wished for nothing else in the world but to hear Fluttershy talk and never stop.
But she couldn’t.
In that moment, even though she was just a short distance away from Twilight, Fluttershy was just as far away as she’d been for the past centuries. All in all, Twilight couldn’t complain considering she knew that was how it was going to be. She had known exactly what she was getting into by time-travelling, and she tried to find comfort in that fact that, if anything, she had at least seen the yellow pony again.
After imprinting the image of the happy, singing Fluttershy into her brain, Twilight tore herself from the window and made her way towards Ponyville. Her mind wandered towards Rarity, and she felt nervous excitement bubbling up inside her at the thought of seeing the unicorn again. Except, right after the excitement, apprehension would start clawing its way into Twilight’s consciousness. If… If Fluttershy had proven to be difficult not to interact with, she didn’t even want to think of the amount of self-control it would take to do the same with Rarity.
Twilight entered Ponyville through the west side, relieved it wasn’t crowded by ponies. She realized it would be very difficult to move around without being seen, but rationalized that it didn’t matter if she was spotted as long as it wasn’t by someone she personally knew. After all, if a stranger saw her, they wouldn’t think twice of questioning her or making conversation.
Taking in the familiar sight, she walked as inconspicuously as possible through the marketplace — which wasn’t very inconspicuous at all considering she was wearing a huge cape, but hey, nopony was asking anything. She recognized ponies as she walked and couldn’t help but smile at seeing all those old faces again. They were her Ponyville, and it felt good to be home again after so long.
Making her way towards the main square, she tried guessing which one of her friends she might catch sight of first. The sun was shining high in the sky, and she decided to sit down in the shade of a little restaurant, enjoying the view.
Twilight felt herself panic at hearing her name being called out. Quickly, she looked around and her eyes landed on the source of the call: Applejack. Oddly, though, Applejack wasn’t looking anywhere near her. It wasn’t until moments later that Twilight realized what had happened when she saw her younger-self galloping towards the farm pony.
It was an odd sight, to say the least. Past-Twilight, already an alicorn, looked so much younger compared to the reflection Twilight saw in the mirror each day. She observed herself for a few minutes, feeling rather narcissistic, before finally directing her attention towards Applejack again.
The earth pony was pulling a little cart with assorted apple-based merchandise. Twilight watched as Applejack pointed to her cart, prompting the younger mare to trot over and select one of the delicious treats. Twilight felt a wave of affection for Applejack wash over her, remembering how the pony was always very happy to treat her to free and delicious apples.
She watched with envy as her younger self, having finished her apple, went over and initiated a friendly hug with the other mare. She couldn’t help but slightly resent just how much her past self gave her friends for granted. One day, the time would come Applejack would pass away, and Past-Twilight would find out that without her friend, Sweet Apple Acres apples would just never taste the same.
After engaging in brief conversation, her younger-self and Applejack left the main square, leaving Twilight alone to her thoughts again. She got up all of a sudden and took off, headed in a completely different direction: Carousel Boutique.
She wanted to see Rarity. Mind you, it wasn’t that she wasn’t interested in seeing her other friends — she was —, but she wasn’t going to deny that Rarity was the one she wanted to see the most. There was also the fact that she didn’t want Rarity to be the last one she’d see. She’d much rather it be Pinkie Pie, knowing she’d leave on a much happier note than if she saw Rarity last. After all, she knew the unicorn would be the departure that would hurt the most; the sooner she got it over with, the better.
It felt like her steps grew slower and slower the closer she got to Carousel Boutique. She stared at her hooves as she trotted along, deep in thought. Was she ready? No, but that wouldn’t stop her, would it? She looked up and spotted Golden Oak Library in the distance, a knot forming in her throat. Her old home… How dearly she missed it. The temptation to go in and look inside was strong, but Spike might be inside, and the little dragon would most likely go into shock if he were to be confronted with a five hundred plus year old Twilight.
There was, however, no time to dwell on her past moments with the unicorn. Throwing one last look to the library, Twilight took a deep breath and went on her way.
It was nearly paralyzing, the tightening she felt around her heart, the moment she saw Carousel Boutique in the distance. The time had come. After hundreds and hundreds of years forcing herself to try and move on, she had succumbed to the innermost desires of her heart, and she was about to get what she wanted.
She was about to find out if it would be worth the heartbreak that would come afterwards.
She wasn’t sure she was ready.
What was that noise?
Turning around, her eyes widened when she realized a pink blur was headed right for her at an extremely alarming speed. Before she could even react, an over-excited Pinkie had come to a screeching halt right in front of her, startling Twilight half to death.
“Hi, Twilight!” Pinkie exclaimed cheerfully. “Why are you wearing a cloak? Are you playing hide-and-seek?”
Twilight almost wanted to demand how Pinkie had known it was her, but… it was Pinkie.
“Did I surprise you? I hope I didn’t surprise you! Unless you like being surprised! In which case, I hope I did surprise you!” Pinkie continued, the words coming out of her mouth at a hundred miles per hour. “It’s just that I was standing waaaaaaay over there, and then I saw you and I thought ‘Look! It’s Twilight!’, but then I remembered I hadn’t seen you at all this morning, which meant I hadn’t said hello to you today!”
“And then I realized that since I hadn’t said ‘Hi!’ today, then maybe you were sad because I ALWAYS say hi to you!” Pinkie continued, oblivious to Twilight’s shocked expression. “And if you were sad because of me, then I’d be sad because you were sad because I hadn’t said hello, and since I didn’t want to be sad because you were sad, because I hadn’t said hello, I knew I had to come over and say hello so you wouldn’t be sad!”
She looked at Twilight, waiting for an answer, but the alicorn could only stare, mouth hanging slightly open in what Rarity would consider a most unladylike gesture.
“Aww! You’re so happy I said hello, you can’t even talk,” Pinkie said, affectionately patting the shocked mare several times on the head.
Twilight was indeed speechless, but not for the reason Pinkie thought she was. Just like with the others, there were certain details Twilight had forgotten about the mare with time, and one of those things was not only just how hyper Pinkie Pie was, but also just how much Twilight had missed that boundless enthusiasms.
Twilight and Pinkie looked up to find a quite upset Rainbow Dash hovering over them, her forelegs crossed and a frown on her face. “Pinkie,” she yelled. “You were supposed to stay still so I knew where I had to put the raincloud!”
“Oh, I’m sorry, Rainbow Dash!” Pinkie apologized, hopping towards her. “It’s just that I hadn’t said hello to Twilight today, and since I hadn’t said hello, she might have been sad, and if she was sad, then I’d be sad because she was sad, and I kn—“
“Okay, okay! Whatever,” Rainbow interrupted, rolling her eyes. “Just, next time, don’t get distracted again!” Rainbow flew down and landed next to Twilight, throwing the alicorn a questioning glance. “What’re you doing wearing that, egghead? Did you accidentally ruin another one of Rarity’s dresses again?” she teased, taking off Twilight’s hood before the mare could protest.
Pinkie’s explanation of why she would never ever, ever, ever get distracted again was only heard by Rainbow, for Twilight was far too busy gawking at the pegasus to pay attention. The very last memories she had of Rainbow Dash were of a very old pegasus who constantly lamented the fact she could barely take off the floor anymore.
Truthfully, there had come a time where Twilight had begun avoiding at all costs having to fly in front of the elderly Rainbow. She had felt very guilty that she — who had never really found flying such a thrill — was the one who could keep doing it, while Rainbow — whose entire life had always revolved around flight — couldn’t do so any longer.
Tears stung at Twilight’s eyes, but she couldn’t pinpoint the reason they were there. Was she moved to tears by the sight of Rainbow once more doing what she loved? Or, maybe, was it the fact that she was talking to Pinkie and Dash one last time?
Wait a second. It suddenly occurred to Twilight that she was doing exactly what she had been supposed to avoid at all costs. Her eyes grew wide as her mind was flooded with thousands of hypothetical catastrophic consequences to her idle chat with the two mares.
“Hey, Twilight,” Rainbow suddenly said, eyebrow raised. “You okay? You’re acting kiiiinda strange. I mean, besides the cloak.”
“Uh…” came Twilight’s reply with an eloquence Celestia would be envious of.
Don’t panic, she thought, trying to ignore her accelerating heartbeat. Don’t panic, don’t panic, don’t panic, do not panic.
“I’m fine!” she said, laughing somewhat awkwardly. “I’m just tired. Stayed up late reading and didn’t feel like talking to anypony.” There. A perfectly reasonable excuse, which Rainbow was sure to believe!…Or not, it seemed.
The pegasus’ eyes were narrowed. “You sure you’re not sick?” she continued, landing next to the lavender pony and taking a step towards her. “You don’t look so good, actually. Your voice’s all hoarse.”
Pinkie took a closer look at Twilight. “Rainbow’s right, Twilight! You do look sick! Your coat’s all greyish!”
“Girls, really, I’m fine,” she said, a little more forcefully, hoping to put an end to any more inquiries on her health.
Rainbow, however, was quite the stubborn one. “Twilight, we’re just worried about you,” she said, obviously meaning it. She reached over to put a friendly hoof on Twilight’s shoulder, but the second her hoof made contact with Twilight’s coat, the alicorn violently jerked away on instinct.
“Woah, Twi!” Rainbow exclaimed, backing off. “Now I know for sure something’s wrong!”
If her mind had moments ago been instructing her to keep calm, it had started doing the complete exact opposite. The word ‘panic’ looped itself endlessly in her mind while she tried to articulate a reply. “I… er, I have… I have to go!” she blurted out finally, putting the hood back on, turning around and galloping away, ignoring Rainbow’s pleas for her to wait.
Regretting that her final moment with Dash and Pinkie hadn’t ended as she would have liked, Twilight made her way towards a mildly populated area of Ponyville, hoping she wasn’t being followed. She blended in with the crowd, ignoring the inquisitive looks some ponies threw her way. She spotted a small alley in the distance and went inside, sitting down once she was sure nopony had followed her. She made sure her back faced the crowd, not really wanting to see the many ponies that were surely peeking inside the alley to see what their princess was doing.
Well, that went well. So much for not interfering or speaking to anypony…
“Great job, Twilight,” she muttered, taking off the hood and sighing. “Maybe next time you’ll actually listen to Spike.”
It had all been a big mistake. Every single thing she had done thus far had been an awful, terrible mistake. She never should have gone back to the past. What was the point of it, anyway? Seeing them again? She had thought that was what she wanted, and that she’d be fine afterwards, but who had she been trying to kid? She wasn’t going to be fine when she wanted so much more than just seeing. If she really had wanted to just see them, she could have looked at the old photo albums.
No. She wanted more than that. She wanted to talk to them, to spend time with them, but she couldn’t. She couldn’t, she couldn’t, she couldn’t. Look at what had happened with Rainbow Dash and Pinkie Pie! Sure, they had just thought she was sick, but what about the others? Rarity would figure her out in a split-second.
Celestia, she didn’t even want to imagine what would happen if she saw Rarity, because, with her, not even talking would be enough. And even if she did talk to her, what would she say? Hi, Rarity! It’s me! Twilight from the future! I came from centuries in the future because I have hang-ups about our relationship, and so I came to see you even though you’re a zillion years younger than me, because that is definitely not creepy and weird!
Or maybe she’d be thrilled.
It would, after all, be a scenario straight out of one of her romance novels, wouldn’t it? Immortal lover risks all and goes back in time to spend one last hour with the love of their eternal life. She smiled, practically hearing Rarity swooning. Princesses, she missed her. And it was because of this, she reflected, that she needed to go back to her time. Staying would just make things worse for her.
Whispered voices made their way into her ears, and she realized that ponies were no doubt theorizing behind her back on why she had chosen to sit in the middle of a dark alley. When she finally got up, she heard the muttering almost immediately die down. Better think up an excuse to her behaviour, or else her past self would be getting a lot of weird loo—
Twilight felt her entire body go stiff, her ears straightening. She wanted to turn around and look, but she couldn’t. I’m hearing things, she thought to herself, closing her eyes and waiting in silence. She had longed so much to hear Rarity’s voice again, she had reached the point where she was hallucinating it. She had to be, for she didn’t know what she’d do if she wasn’t.
“Twilight?” the voice repeated, this time a little louder. The call was accompanied by the sound of several approaching hoofsteps. “Sweetheart, is everything okay?”
Maybe she could run away.
This was the thought that danced around Twilight’s mind when she realized she wasn’t hallucinating. She’d run away, or even better, teleport out of there. Even if Rarity got mad, it would be her past self’s problem to deal with, not hers. It was the only thing she could do. After all, in that very moment, Twilight realized that if she turned around to look at Rarity, no power in Equestria would be strong enough to make her go back to the future.
And yet, even with that knowledge, and even though every single section of her brain urged her to leave and never come back, the moment Rarity called out to her once more, Twilight Sparkle turned around.