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    Rarity was never one to arrive early to catch a train. No, she was the type of pony to spend hours packing, finishing barely in time to leave Carousel Boutique and arrive to the station fifteen minutes before departure time.

    That Friday, though, was a special occasion.

    For the first time in a very long time, Rarity hadn’t taken with her every single thing that came to mind, instead packing only the bare necessities. She had been too distracted by her thoughts to even bother with her usual frivolities.

    Why now? Why did she come now of all times?

    While she had been initially thrilled at having had the chance to meet the future version of her special somepony, she found that was no longer the case. In the spur of the moment, she hadn’t treated the older Twilight any differently than she treated the present time Twilight, but things had changed now that she had been given time to process everything that happened. A single question plagued her mind:

    Who was the future Twilight Sparkle that had visited her?

    She honestly did not know.

    Was she still the same Twilight as the one currently in Ponyville? Or had the years — or centuries? — transformed her into somepony else completely? Did Rarity even want to find out?

    Standing outside the station, she took out several sheets of parchment from inside her saddlebag and read their content for the fifth time that hour. A speech she had penned in a moment of extreme self-doubt; a speech that would have ruined her life had she had the courage to say it; a speech she had been planning on using to break up with Twilight.

    A month.

    That was how long Rarity had ignored Twilight, in the delusional hope Twilight would break up with her instead. The day she was confronted about it, however, she hadn’t been able to go through with it. How could she, after all, when she was still so desperately in love with Twilight?

    ”S-since you obviously don’t care about our relationship anymore, then I’m putting an end to it!”

    It had been almost a year already, but she could still hear Twilight’s choked words. She could still see the alicorn’s miserable eyes at thinking she had inexplicably become somepony Rarity loathed. She could still feel her heart breaking as she held the tearful mare and lovingly reassured her that she was the pony she most loved in the world — even though she feared the alicorn would not love her the same way for much longer.

    Rarity looked away from the speech and towards her hoof. Her coat was soft and shiny, but time would soon take care of that. She’d grow older and older, but Twilight? Twilight would stay a beauty for centuries to come, and how would an elder Rarity be able to compete with the younger ponies who would one day dare try to go after her princess? Even now Rarity knew Twilight had already become one of the most desirable mares in Equestria.

    What if Twilight ended up falling for them? Rarity dreaded the day she’d look into her eyes, and they would no longer hold any love for her.

    Which is why she hadn’t been able to throw out the speech. She might not have gone through with it a year ago, but who was to say she wouldn’t go through with it the ill-fated day Twilight stopped loving her? And yet… And yet, hadn’t Twilight come all the way from the future to see her? Surely she wouldn’t risk that much if it wasn’t because she honestly loved Rarity, would she?

    She didn’t know what to think about the entire affair anymore. She needed to think about the speech and about the intentions behind it, and maybe a weekend getaway was the place and time to do so. There shouldn’t be a problem since Twilight had made it clear she wasn’t coming. And maybe, when she’d come back on Sunday…

    Maybe she’d come back without the speech.

    “All aboard the seven fifteen train to Fillydelphia!”

    Rarity looked towards the distance and watched as the train left the station. Sighing, she put the speech back inside her saddlebag and trotted towards the building. It was unusually crowded for a Friday night, and she couldn’t really get a clear view of everypony inside. She wanted to go into the crowd and search for Twilight, but held back.

    She wouldn’t find Twilight because she hadn’t come. Again, Twilight hadn’t seemed at all interested in checking the journal back in the Boutique, and Rarity doubted she had checked it afterwards.

    Realizing there were still forty-five minutes before her train left, Rarity decided she might as well go get something to drink for the long trip. Thankfully, there was a coffee shop right next to the station she could go to, and she was most certainly not hoping Twilight might be in there.

    Oh, who was she trying to kid?

    Where is she?

    She couldn’t believe Twilight hadn’t come. It was just for a weekend! Honestly, what was the worst that could have happened? It suddenly occurred to her that she had sort of asked Twilight on an elaborate date, and she had sort of been rejected. Rarity had never been rejected by Twilight before, and she found the new feeling to be quite upsetting.

    Well, she’s not ‘my’ Twilight, she reasoned with herself. But she’s still Twilight, though. Does… Does that mean she doesn’t love me that much in the future? I know I’m… dead for her, but surely it can’t be more than a few years since I died? Has she gotten over me that quickly?

    By the time she entered the coffee shop and reached the counter, her thoughts and mood had soured quite a bit.

    “Rarity! Long time no see,” greeted the barista. “Same as usual?”

    “Hello, Nutmeg, and no. No tea today. I’ll take a coffee to go, please,” Rarity asked before specifying: “A very strong coffee.”

    Nutmeg trotted off and started preparing the order, eyebrow raised. “Damn, that doesn’t sound good. Train got cancelled again?”

    “Not this time,” Rarity replied, watching as Nutmeg poured the coffee inside a plastic cup. “I… just really hoped I’d run into somepony…” She drifted off, biting down on her lip. I really did hope…

    “Was it Princess Twilight you were looking for?” Nutmeg asked, giving Rarity her cup of coffee. She then nodded at something behind the unicorn. “‘Cause she’s right over there.”

    Rarity turned around and felt her heart skip a beat. There was Twilight with her cloak on, sitting down at a table near a window and idly looking out into the street. Her purple notebook lay open on the table, presumably at the page where Rarity’s future-self had written the letter.

    She came…

    “She got here like an hour ago,” Nutmeg continued, getting to work on another order. “Asked for a tea, and if somepony had been looking for her. I guess she must have meant you. I wonder if she realises that thing barely covers her?”

    As if somehow sensing they were talking about her, Twilight looked away from the window and blushed upon seeing the two mares looking at her. After a minute of embarrassed staring, Twilight closed the notebook and nervously waved at Rarity, offering a small smile. Rarity waved back, suppressing a goofy grin in favor of a much more reserved one. She thanked Nutmeg and trotted over to Twilight, watching with absolute delight at how the alicorn’s blush increased the closer she got to the table.

    Heavens, she is adorable, isn’t she?

    When Rarity reached the table, Twilight opened and closed her mouth several times, apparently at a loss for words. “Hi,” she finally said with vast eloquence.

    Rarity smiled broadly, unable to hide her excitement. “Hello, hooded stranger,” she answered. “Fancy meeting you here.”

    “Yes,” Twilight said, folding her forehooves on the table. She nodded towards the notebook. “I couldn’t resist looking. You…” She faltered and went quiet. After a moment, she pulled the notebook towards herself. “So, here I am.”

    “Here you are, indeed!” Rarity nodded. “Shall we head to the train then? It’s nearly time to leave.”

    Twilight scrunched up her eyebrows, looking from the notebook to Rarity. “You… don’t want to read it…?”

    Rarity shook her head. “I’m not interested in what it says. I’m only interested in the fact that it got you here.” She wanted to write it out herself one day, not just copy it from memory. “You are coming with me, are you not?” she asked, wanting to make absolutely sure that Twilight hadn’t just dropped by for a few hours.

    Twilight levitated a train ticket from out of her saddlebag and smiled. “Half past eight night-train to Manehattan, right?”

    Rarity couldn’t stop herself from grinning. She’s really going to come with me!… Oh Celestia, she really is going to come with me…

    She found that perhaps she was a little terrified, too. After all, the Twilight Sparkle in front of her was a very real, possible incarnation of what Rarity feared the most: a Twilight so old she had fallen out of love with her. Now that she would be coming along for sure, there was a very real chance Rarity would have to confront the very things that made her terrified of Twilight’s longer lifespan.

    “I have to admit,” Twilight said, snapping Rarity out of her thoughts, “I’m glad that the letter was there. I did want to spend more time with you.”

    Just like that, some of Rarity’s previous apprehension disappeared. “Well, in that case, I must remember to thank my future-self,” she said, winking at Twilight. Her heart fluttered when Twilight laughed in reply. “After all, she was kind enough to persuade you to go on a date with me.”

    “Wait, a date?” a surprised Twilight asked, blushing. “You mean a date date?”

    “Oh, I was just saying the term loosely,” Rarity quickly corrected, embarrassed at realizing perhaps she had put Twilight in an uncomfortable position. “I’m sorry I called it that. This doesn’t have to be a date, of course.”

    “Oh, but I’d like a date!” Twilight blurted out, only for her face to completely flush with embarrassment. “I mean, it’s just that…” She looked at her cup of tea and played around with the spoon. “I haven’t… been on a date in a while…” The alicorn continued fiddling around with her spoon, acting as if she had just confessed a very shameful thing.

    “And why would that be a problem?” Rarity asked, watching Twilight look up. “I find it rather exciting! It’ll be like a first date! Or, in our case, a second first date.”

    Twilight stared at Rarity, brow furrowed. “A… second first date?” she repeated carefully. A little smile made its way onto her lips. “That sounds nice.” She turned her gaze down and her smile grew even wider, cheeks still flushed. “That sounds really nice,” she whispered, loud enough that Rarity could hear.

    Rarity bit down the smitten grin that threatened to decorate her lips. Heaven, help me, she thought. She’s too adorable. She’s almost insultingly adorable. “Well, are you ready to go?” she asked when she heard a loud train whistle in the distance.

    “I think so,” Twilight answered, getting up from the chair and putting on her saddlebag.

    The two mares silently trotted out of the coffee shop and towards the station where the conductor could be seen ushering ponies inside the train.

    Reaching the door, Rarity trotted up into the train but stopped when she noticed Twilight had come to a halt in front of the door. “Something wrong, darling?” she asked, hoping her traveling partner wasn’t about to cancel on her.

    Twilight took out her train ticket and stared at it. “This whole thing is a little crazy, isn’t it?” she asked, glancing towards Rarity.

    Rarity took out her own ticket. “Oh, absolutely, darling! This is completely insane!” She locked eyes with Twilight, and provided the alicorn a dazzling, excited grin. “I can’t wait for it start.”

    Most of the train ride had passed by in silence, both mares lost in thought when they were not engaging in very brief small-talk. Rarity felt like she had spent half the night waking up every other hour to make sure Twilight was still on-board, and when the morning sun had woken her, she had spent the rest of the trip ‘reading’ her fashion magazine. In other words, she had spent the rest of the morning glancing at Twilight and wondering what was going through the alicorn’s mind.

    From what she had seen, Twilight had spent most of the trip either sleeping or looking out the window, seemingly deep in thought. A bit for your thoughts, Rarity had wanted to ask but admittedly had felt too embarrassed to do so. She could only hope Twilight’s thoughts were not ones of regret at having come on the trip with her. In the end, though, it didn’t matter. She’d no doubt soon find out if the trip was one they’d both regret.

    Though it was barely half past nine in the morning by the time their train reached its destination, the streets of Manehattan were already as busy as ever. Rarity and Twilight made their way from the station to the city’s main street, their leisurely pace contrasting with the ponies rushing past them. If Rarity had gone alone, there was a good chance she’d be galloping around just like everypony else, but Twilight’s presence made her feel like slowing down and enjoying the sights. After all, the train had arrived earlier than expected, so there was no need to rush.

    Millions of ideas on what to do whizzed inside Rarity’s head. The things they could do! They obviously had to do something special. There had to be an activity somewhere in the city that would be as unforgettable and unique as the situation they were in.

    “I wish you’d let me wear my cloak, Rarity…”

    “Darling, though I hate to say this considering you are a princess, I can assure nopony here will have time to care why you’re here. They’re far too lost in their own little worlds,” Rarity replied. “Besides, I don’t want you to be wearing that thing the entire time during our last date!”

    Twilight sighed reluctantly. “Alright, I guess…”

    “We’re supposed to meet Coco at around ten-thirty, so we can discuss a project,” Rarity continued, looking at the little schedule book floating in front of her. “After that, we have the day all to ourselves! Is there anything in particular you’d like to do?”

    Twilight shrugged. “Not really. I thought maybe we could just hang out and go to the park, or to the theatre?”

    “But, darling, we always do that,” Rarity pointed-out, closing the schedule book and floating it back to her bag. “Or, well, that’s what present-Twilight and I always do.”

    “Oh, I know, but I thought it’d be nice. I guess I just want a normal day with you, like the ones we used to have.” Twilight blushed a little. “If that’s alright with you.”

    “That’s perfectly fine with me, dear,” Rarity replied. “I’m quite content spending time with you, no matter what we do.” She was well-aware that their ‘second first date’ would also be Twilight’s last date with her, and she was determined to make sure it would be unforgettable… even if it meant doing completely normal things.

    Then again, going on a date with a future version of her special somepony could hardly be called a normal day, could it?

    “Where are we meeting Coco?” Twilight asked, observing the plethora of billboards plastered all over the buildings.

    “We’re meeting her at this little café in 60th Street. It is absolutely charming,” Rarity detailed. “Fluttershy and I read about it in a novel some time ago, and ever since I found out it’s a real place, I’ve been dying to take you.”

    “Oh, I know which one you mean,” Twilight said, her attention still stuck on the enormous billboards. “It’s very nice.”

    “You’ve been there already?” Rarity asked, voice dripping with disappointment. “That’s a shame. I wanted to be the one to take you there first.” Rarity loved introducing new things and places to Twilight, and she wouldn’t lie and say she wasn’t a tad upset at having been denied the chance to do so.

    “You did take me there first.”

    “I did?” Rarity asked, eyebrows raised. “Twilight, dear, I haven’t even gone myself so unless you can time-trav— Oh. Right.”

    Twilight glanced at her and smiled teasingly. “Forgot, huh?”

    “Yes, I’m afraid,” Rarity admitted, eyeing Twilight. “It’s hard not to when you don’t look like you came from the future.”

    Twilight’s smile grew bigger and even more teasing. “It’s okay. If you want, I can pretend I’ve never been there before and act surprised,” she suggested.

    Rarity rolled her eyes. “Hardy har har. I suppose I’ll just have to wait until I come with the non-future Twilight who doesn’t spoil my fun, hmm?”

    “Aw, I don’t spoil your fun,” Twilight whined, playfully poking Rarity with the tip of her wing.

    “Well, you do make it difficult when you already know everything in advanced,” Rarity noted. She suddenly came to a complete stop, struck by an idea.

    Twilight stopped as well, looking back at the unicorn. “Rarity?”

    “You know everything in advanced…” Rarity repeated, a mischievous glint in her eyes. She turned to Twilight. “I say, dear, did I ever tell you how vital it is in the fashion industry to be… ahead of the game?”


    Rarity sighed dramatically, looking towards one of the billboards announcing the newest fashion line of one of her competitors. “It’s been getting so difficult, you know, to stand out what with all these up-and-coming designers. I don’t doubt my own abilities, of course, but it makes me wish I had”— she looked at Twilight, eyelashes fluttering —” an edge.”

    Twilight immediately caught on to what Rarity was implying and backed away in response. “Oh no, no, no! I know what you’re thinking, and it is not happening.”

    “But, Twiiiliiight,” whined Rarity, pouting cutely at the alicorn and prodding at her wing. Her secret weapon. It didn’t matter how old Twilight was, Rarity’s big eyes were always very effec—

    “No! I said no, and don’t do that because it might work on your Twilight, but it doesn’t work on me,” Twilight admonished, shaking her head and resuming her trot.

    “Oh, come now, just one little spoiler? Surely, it can’t do that much harm,” Rarity insisted, following Twilight. “Just tell me the fashion item that will be in during the winter season! Or, not even that, just the color! Or the fabric! Pleeeeease, darling?”

    Twilight stopped trotting and glared at the unicorn. “Rarity, if you can’t respect my decision, then it means you just wanted me to come so I could be your own personal fortune-teller. If that’s the case, I think I may have made a mistake in agreeing to all this.”

    “You know that’s not true, Twilight!” she objected, stomping her hoof against the ground. “I just don’t see the harm when almost everypony else in the business has Celestia knows how many advisors, and I don’t have any,” she muttered. She then added with some reluctance: “But fine, I suppose you’re right.”

    “Thank you,” Twilight said, smiling as they both resumed their path towards the café. “Besides, you don’t need any of my help,” she continued, glancing critically at the publicity ads for Rarity’s competition. “They may have more advisors than you do, but you’re still going to come out on top.” There was not a hint of insincerity or flattery in Twilight’s voice. She might as well have been stating a scientific fact.

    “Why Twilight, was that a spoiler of my future? And here I thought you were serious when you said no more future-talk!”

    “That wasn’t a spoiler of anything,” Twilight replied, shaking her head. “I don’t need to be from the future to know you’re so much more talented than all your competition put together. And even then, you still keep studying and trying to surpass yourself, instead of relying on just your talent and then paying somepony else to do all the hard work,” Twilight declared, pride and admiration soaking her words. She then turned to find Rarity gazing intensely at her and blushed. “I mean it,” she nonetheless reaffirmed.

    Rarity felt her cheeks heat up, but not due to the sincerity and pride it the mare’s voice. It was more because of the surprise at seeing just how fervently Twilight still believed in her despite the presumably many years since her death. “Thank you,” she said, smiling with embarrassed and genuine delight.

    For the first time all day, Rarity was overcome with the urge to nuzzle Twilight, but… could she? Up until that point, physical contact between the two had been subconsciously kept to a minimum or had been strictly platonic. How would Twilight react to something with more intimate undertones. She remembered Twilight commenting the day before how “forward” Rarity had been with her flirting. Rarity felt herself go scarlet at the memory. Perhaps she had been a little too forward?

    It wasn’t like she could help it. She was used to being physically affectionate and shamelessly flirting with Twilight, and now she was being forced to tone it down several notches. Obviously, this only made her want to be anything but reserved. It really did feel like a first date, every move suddenly made with nervous excitement.

    “Rarity?” Twilight asked, snapping the unicorn out of her thoughts. “Everything okay?”

    “Yes, sorry, darling,” Rarity quickly said, the bridge of her nose still red. “I’m afraid I got lost in thought.”

    Silence followed, mostly because neither pony knew what to say. Rarity wished she could ask about the future, if anything so they’d have something to talk about. There had to be some things from the future she could ask about. Maybe she could inquire on events that would take place after her death?

    It occurred to Rarity that she actually had no idea how long it had been for Twilight since her death. Or, for that matter, she didn’t even know Twilight’s age. It couldn’t hurt that much to ask, could it?

    “Twilight? I don’t mean to be inappropriate, but… how old are you?”

    “How old am I?” Twilight’s ears went upright, her tone of voice defensive. “Why do you ask?”

    Rarity winced at the reaction. Ah, she should have known the mare might take the question badly. Was Twilight self-conscious about her age, or did it have to do with her no-future-talk rule? “I was only curious, darling,” Rarity reassured. “You don’t look much older than the current Twilight, and I’m impressed considering you said I died of old age. Unicorn life expectancy is certainly nothing to sneeze at.”

    Twilight relaxed a little. “Oh. Well, I’m pretty old,” she admitted, looking in front of her as they trotted. It felt to Rarity as if though Twilight was avoiding eye-contact.

    “I see.” Since it seemed Twilight had no intention on outright telling Rarity her age, the unicorn would have to squeeze it out of her somehow. Spouting random numbers would probably earn her a correction, and would thus give her an estimate of Twilight’s age. “So,” she began, trying to act nonchalant, “you’re already in your first thousand years, I assume?”

    “What? No!” Twilight corrected almost instantly. “I don’t look that old!” She glanced at her reflection on the window of the building they trotted past, apparently trying to confirm that she indeed did not look a thousand years old.

    And, goodness, was that a relief for Rarity, letting out a breath she hadn’t realized she’d been holding. It wasn’t that she’d mind if Twilight had indeed turned out to be over a thousand years old, of course, but it brought her a certain sense of comfort to know the age gap wasn’t that extreme. After all, if ponies could change completely in a matter of years, conversing with a thousand year old Twilight would be like talking with a complete and utter stranger. “Oh, I’m sorry, darling. I supposed I aimed a little too high,” she continued. “Two-hundred and thirties, then?”

    “I’m not that young, either.” Twilight replied quietly, pressing her lips together immediately afterwards and focusing her sight on the ground. It was enough for Rarity to realize how uncomfortable she was making Twilight with her line of questioning, but damn if her curiosity wasn’t getting the best of her.


    “I’m five-hundred and eighty six,” Twilight interrupted, having grown tired of Rarity’s guessing games. She picked up the pace as she confessed, like if she were trying to escape the reaction to her confession. “That’s my age. Five-hundred and eighty-six.”

    “Five-hundred and eighty six?!” Rarity gasped, stopping dead in her tracks and forcing a very unwilling Twilight to do the same. Unless she had lived to an extremely exceptionally rare old age, it hadn’t been decades since Rarity died for Twilight — it had been centuries.

    “Yes,” Twilight said through gritted teeth. Her cheeks had gone red as well, and Rarity hoped it was out of embarrassment more than it was anger. “I didn’t mention it before because I never thought it would be a problem. I can see I was wrong.”

    “Of course you were wrong! This means it’s been centuries since I died for you, not decades!” Twilight, her wings now splayed to her side in a defensive stance, opened her mouth to snap back a reply, but Rarity talked over her. “You actually intend for me to follow your rule about the future knowing that you have centuries worth of stories about you that I will never find out otherwise?! Really?!”

    “Wait, I don’t understand…” Twilight said, lowering her wings and relaxing her jaw. “You… don’t care that I’m almost six hundred years old?”

    Appalled couldn’t even begin to describe what Rarity felt by that question. “Of course not! The only thing I care about your age is how much of your life I will miss, and I’m not even allowed to ask about it!” she replied. “I’ve already come to terms with the fact that I’m going to be deprived of being there for you through a majority of your life, but it’s incredibly unfair that you’re not allowing me to at least hear about what I’ll miss.” She looked away from Twilight and quietly added: “Particularly when it shouldn’t be a problem considering I’ll be dead when they happen.”

    A silence followed, broken only when she heard Twilight remorsefully say: “I… I hadn’t thought about it like that.”

    “Well, now you have,” Rarity dryly replied, giving the alicorn a cold shoulder. But then she glanced at the other mare, and the sight she took in made her regret every single word she’d said.

    Forlorn and mortified, Twilight burned holes into the floor with her eyes, her ears pressed firmly against her skull. Guilt coursed through Rarity like a crashing wave, and she was forced to remember just who was standing in front of her. This wasn’t any Twilight. This was somepony that had risked a lot in coming to Manehattan — under Rarity’s insistence, no less —, and… and look at what I’ve done. I shouldn’t have said anything, Rarity thought.

    “It doesn’t matter,” she reassured, her voice now gentle and apologetic. “You’re right, darling. It is dangerous, and perhaps it’s better we don’t take any risks.” Hesitating a bit, she put her hoof on the alicorn’s shoulder but was discouraged by the lack of response. Nonetheless, she kept talking, putting on a small and nervous smile. “How about we put this behind us and go on our way? We’re nearly about to arrive to the café.”

    She resumed the walk, hoping Twilight would follow. After a few steps, she turned around and was distressed to see Twilight had not moved an inch, her eyes still firmly glued to the floor. And Rarity couldn’t do anything to help because how could she help somepony she didn’t know? Even though her eyes saw the same pony that waited for her back home, Rarity knew deep down this Twilight was a complete stranger. The idea that she no longer had anything in common with Twilight was a very painful reality for the unicorn to swallow, but what could she do? Nothing.

    “Twilight, please,” she pleaded, feeling as if though her throat was being constricted by useless words of comfort. “I’m sorry about what I said. I wasn’t thinki—”

    “Just because it’s you,” Twilight interrupted, still avoiding eye contact.


    Twilight lifted her gaze. “I’ll let you ask about the future,” she explained. “But just because it’s you.” Before Rarity could question her, she lowered her head and frowned. “There shouldn’t be any harm in answering questions from my life after you’ve gone. I’ll just reserve the right to not answer any question if I think it would be better for you not to know the answer, okay?” she asked, her eyes meeting Rarity’s.

    Excitement bubbled up inside Rarity’s chest, but the guilt from before remained. “I… Are you sure? I don’t… I don’t want you to do this if you really don’t want to, and—”

    Twilight interrupted her, waving her hoof in a dismissive motion. “Don’t worry about it. We’ve probably already broken at least fifty time travel rules by now, so what’s breaking a few more, right?”

    “You… Are you positive you’re really Twilight Sparkle?” Rarity asked, laughing softly. “Because I sincerely doubt Twilight would agree to this unless she’d spent a week worrying herself sick over the catastrophical hypothetical consequences.”

    Twilight laughed back, smiling for the first time in almost a half hour. “Well, honestly, I’ve just been trying very hard since this trip began not to think about that, but…if it makes you happy, then it’s worth the risk, Rarity. You’re worth the risk.” Seconds later, as if only just processing what she’d said, Twilight’s face flushed. Her words had taken Rarity by surprise, and she too found herself blushing rather profusely. Twilight hadn’t hesitated or thought for a moment what she had wanted to say. It had been a completely honest and immediate statement, once again giving Rarity the impression that Twilight had stated an unquestionable scientific fact, not an opinion.

    The two mares looked at each other in embarrassed silence until Rarity lightened the mood by flipping her mane and declaring, “Of course I’m worth it, darling!”

    Twilight rolled her eyes, shaking her head and smiling. She opened her mouth to speak but was interrupted by somepony shouting in the distance.

    “Rarity! Twilight!”

    Turning around, they saw none other than Coco Pommel standing further down the street, cheerfully waving at them. Rarity waved back, finding herself the teensiest bit disappointed that her future-themed Q&A would have to be postponed a few hours. She started trotting towards her friend, but Twilight pulled her back.

    “Rarity, wait!”

    Rarity tensed up at seeing a panicked expression decorating Twilight’s face. “What’s wrong?” she asked, on instinct checking Twilight for any physical signs of illness.

    “We have a problem!” Twilight whispered, throwing Coco worried looks.

    “We do?” Rarity asked, receiving a series of hasty nods in reply. “Alright, give me a moment.” She turned towards Coco and waved. “Coco, darling, give us a minute, please!” she called, receiving a nod from the mare.

    As soon as Rarity turned back to Twilight, the latter started going off in a ramble. “I can’t go and meet Coco with you! She shouldn’t have even seen me in the first place!”

    “What? Whyever not?”

    “It’s Coco, Rarity, not just some random pony.” Twilight shoved a hoof against her chest. “And I’m not your Twilight.”

    Rarity felt her entire body relax. She had expected the problem to be something actually serious. “Twilight, dear, I thought it would be obvious that you’d just pretend to be your past self,” Rarity pointed-out. “I sincerely doubt Coco will be able to tell the difference, and she’s far too polite to say anything about it if she does.”

    Twilight shook her head. “No, no, no! That’s not it! The point is that she’ll think I came to Manehattan with you.” Silence as Twilight stared at Rarity, awaiting a sign that the unicorn understood the problem — which she didn’t.

    “And the issue with that is…?” Rarity asked, not understanding at all why Twilight was making such a fuss. Why would Coco be bothered by the fact that Twilight accompanied Rarity on a business trip? Perhaps it was some type of social faux-pas in the future?

    The alicorn groaned in frustration. “Rarity, if she sees me here, then next time she sees the other me, she might mention this,” Twilight explained, pointing at the floor. “Coco isn’t a liar, so if she goes around telling the other me about us, I can promise you that I’m going to jump to the worst possible conclusion. I know myself.”

    “Oh.” Rarity bit her lip. Twilight did have a very valid point, and the unicorn would rather not have any issues with the other Twilight. “Yes, I see how that can be a problem,” she muttered, closing her eyes and rubbing her temples. Oh dear, this isn’t good at all, she thought, turning back and waving at Coco. “Terribly sorry, darling! Give us another minute, please!”

    “Rarity,” whispered Twilight, her voice strained. “What are we going to do?”

    “I don’t know,” Rarity confessed. “I’ll think of something. It’ll be fine. Just act normal,” she hastily instructed.

    “But, Rarity—”

    “Twilight, everything will be alright,” Rarity interrupted, trying to calm her down. “Have a little faith in me, won’t you?” She turned around and trotted over to Coco, a reluctant Twilight following behind. “Or, at least, act as if you have faith in me instead of dragging your hooves like that,” Rarity whispered before reaching Coco.

    “Good morning!” Coco greeted, smiling at the two mares.

    “Good morning!” Any trace of nervousness was gone entirely from Rarity’s voice as she leaned in and kissed the air next to Coco’s cheek. “I trust you’ve had a pleasant morning?”

    “You know how it is here. Lots of running around,” she answered, adjusting the saddlebag hanging from her hip. “But what about you two? How was the train ride?”

    “Comme çi, comme ça,” Rarity replied, shrugging. “I wasn’t able to get a wink of sleep.” She crinkled her nose. “There were some particularly noisy foals seated behind us.”

    “Oh, that’s always a drag,” Coco sympathized. She looked over at Twilight. “How about you, Twilight?”

    A rather pale Twilight stared at her in reply, lost in thought and making no signs of having heard the question. It wasn’t until Rarity cleared her throat that the alicorn reacted. “Huh?” she asked, blinking at Coco.

    Coco giggled. “I guess you didn’t get much sleep either, huh?”

    Twilight laughed nervously. “Not really, no.”

    “I’m surprised you came, though!” Coco continued. “Rarity told me in her letter that Princess Celestia was coming to Ponyville on Monday, so I thought you’d be over there preparing for her visit.”

    “Uh, well…” Twilight drifted off, throwing Rarity a pained glance.

    “She was going to get everything organized,” Rarity continued. “But she came with me instead because… I… was sick?” she ventured before suddenly coughing loudly. “Am sick! Yes, I’m afraid I’ve been feeling a bit under the weather, and I was afraid I might even have to cancel.” She suddenly leaned on Twilight and nuzzled against her. “But Twilight didn’t want me to miss my trip, so she was lovely enough to offer to come with me and take care of me.”

    “Oh wow, that’s very kind of you, Twilight!” Coco exclaimed. She then looked at Rarity and giggled. “You’re lucky, Rarity. I wish my partner pampered me like that.”

    Rarity couldn’t help but giggle back, closing her eyes and taking a brief moment to enjoy the feel of Twilight’s coat against hers. Although… why was Twilight so tense and silent? Rarity glanced up at her and was confused to find her heavily blushing. Odd, her marefriend wasn’t one to blush so profusely at public displays of affection anym— Except…

    Except her marefriend was back in Ponyville.

    Rarity’s cheeks burned up as she realized just who exactly she was snuggling up against. Every single sensation inside her was heightened, and she became extremely aware of their closeness. Rarity couldn’t stop herself from noticing how warm Twilight’s fur was, and how she smelled of old parchment and ink. With some surprising difficulty, Rarity quickly tore her body away from Twilight’s and coughed again, remembering the problem at hoof.

    “Coco, dear, I must ask for your discretion,” Rarity said in a hushed voice. “While I’m sure we both agree that Twilight is wonderful, I do not think that everypony else would be very keen on knowing their princess shirked her important duties just to take care of her marefriend.”

    Comprehension dawned on Coco. “Oh, of course! she said, nodding her head. “If anyone asks, Princess Twilight Sparkle was at Ponyville, and definitely not at Manehattan.”

    Rarity winked at her. “Correct!”

    Coco smiled and looked towards the end of the street. “Well, now that I’ve run into you and—” she giggled “—definitely-not-Twilight, we can all just go to the coffee shop together!” She looked at Twilight and grinned. “And get you out of the sun because I think you might be getting a bit of a sunburn! Your cheeks are red all over!”

    “Yes. Sunburn. Right.”

    The walk to the café had been a lively one despite the fact that Rarity and Twilight had been very quiet almost the entire way. Both would only speak when prompted to and would only address questions to Coco, never to each other. Thankfully, by the time they reached their destination, Rarity was pleased to see they had somehow reached a silent agreement to forget their… source of embarrassment.

    A small crowd of ponies were gathered outside a small building, the name “FORTUNA 3” inscribed on the front of the building. Rarity had read that the coffee shop was known for being a popular hangout place, and she was grateful that Coco had made reservations a week in advanced. Goodness knows she would have hated wasting half her day with Twilight by waiting in line. They trotted inside the establishment, and Rarity couldn’t stop herself from lingering near the entrance, admiring the décor. She licked her lips when the scent of hot chocolate and coffee beans wafted through the air and into her nose.

    “Oh, Rarity,” Twilight gasped, looking around with awe. “This place is amazing. And it smells amazing, too.”

    Rarity beamed at Twilight, putting her hoof on her chest. “You really think so?”

    “Oh yes,” Twilight replied, smiling back. “I’ve never seen anything like it!”

    Rarity couldn’t contain her excitement, stamping her hooves against the floor. “Oh, I’m so pleased to hear that! I knew you would lov—” She cut-herself off and narrowed her eyes. “Oh, very funny, Twilight.”

    “Sorry, I couldn’t resist. It was just a little joke,” Twilight apologized, snickering. Before Rarity could tell Twilight what exactly she thought about her ‘joke’, Twilight interrupted. “Oh! Looks like our table is ready!”

    On the other side of the restaurant, Coco was already seated down at a booth, flagging the two mares down. When they reached the table, Twilight and Rarity sat down together on the opposite side of Coco, making sure to leave a little space between them. Before long, Coco had placed an array of papers, sketchbooks and colored pencils on the table. All kinds of dress designs and annotations decorated the papers, and Twilight leaned in to take a better look.

    “You have a similar drawing style to Rarity,” she noticed, resting her forehooves on the table.

    “That’s because I drew those, darling,” Rarity informed, taking her glasses, a quill and red ink from out of her bag.

    “Rarity and I are collaborating on a fashion line,” Coco told Twilight, watching as Rarity put on her glasses and began making corrections to the designs. “We each make several different designs and then give feedback to each other. My designs are already final, but Rarity still wanted to make some adjustment to hers.”

    A waitress interrupted the conversation, having arrived to take their orders. Coco and Twilight ordered some hot chocolate, whereas Rarity’s hot chocolate was exchanged for chamomile tea when Twilight reminded her about her cold. Once the waitress was gone, Rarity got back to work with her revisions. The faint sound of her quill scratching against the paper was drowned out by Twilight and Coco’s conversation. Rarity, already lost in her own world, wasn’t really paying attention to the conversation, only catching a few stray phrases and words here or there.

    When the waitress came back with their drinks, Rarity put down her quill and admired her progress. She reached for her tea and turned to the other two ponies, quietly listening in to their vivid conversation on how Coco’s week had gone. While Rarity admittedly didn’t find the conversation particularly enthralling, she noticed that Twilight looked as if though Star Swirl was giving her a lecture on magical thermodynamics. She thought it odd at first, but it then occurred to her that Twilight hadn’t seen Coco Pommel in a very, very long time.

    No wonder she’s so interested… She observed Twilight in silence: how she nodded to every word Coco said, how she’d smile when a topic she was familiar with came up, how her eyes were glittering. All our friends, and families and everypony. She’s outlived them all. She must feel so alone. It broke her heart.

    Rarity noticed Twilight’s hoof on the table, and it was almost overwhelming how badly she wanted to be affectionate with Twilight, but her nerves did not allow her to do so. It would be so laughably easy and quick to lift her hoof and put it on top of Twilight’s, but she couldn’t. She couldn’t even with the knowledge that she had held her hoof the day before, and there had been no negative reaction. But, instead, she held on to her cup of tea for what felt like an eternity.


    If the fashion world had taught her something, it was that if she wanted something, she either needed to go for it with confidence or not at all. She put down her cup of tea and, without giving herself the time to hesitate or change her mind, she reached over and put her hoof on top of Twilight’s. She then focused her attention on Coco, trying to give off the impression that the affectionate gesture had been spontaneous and absent-minded, not heavily pre-meditated.

    It seemed like the gesture hadn’t bothered Twilight at first, but after a minute, she slid her hoof from under Rarity’s. Ouch. Now extremely aware of how cold the table felt against her hoof, she couldn’t help but be embarrassed. Had she made Twilight uncomfortable? She remembered how Twilight had tensed up earlier. It had been so long, perhaps she no longer felt at ease being physical with Rarity — even when it came to something as simple as hoof-holding. The unicorn didn’t dare look at Twilight and find out.

    She considered taking her hoof away, but felt it would be far too conspicuous to take it back seconds after Twilight took back hers. She thus left her hoof on the table while she took hold of her quill again, deciding she might as well go back to finishing her designs. Minutes later, having forgotten the awkward incident, she took back her hoof for comfort reasons and not so much her wounded pride. Or, she would have taken her hoof back if Twilight hadn’t held it in place the second the unicorn made signs of moving it away.

    Surprised, Rarity glanced from the hooves to Twilight. She was still talking to Coco, but a slight pink tinge now decorated her cheeks. Rarity looked down at their hooves again and noticed Twilight hadn’t just ‘put’ her hoof over Rarity’s, she had taken ahold of it completely. Reassured by the other mare’s action, Rarity dared to move a few inches closer, their coats almost brushing. She basked in secret delight when Twilight responded by closing the distance and lightly leaning on her.

    It’s not much, but it’s something, isn’t it?

    By the time Coco had to leave, Twilight was leaning completely on Rarity, their forelegs now intertwined on the table. Even if her outward appearance showed no sign of it, Rarity was almost giddy with pleasure on the inside. While their current interaction was tame compared to how she was used to acting with present Twilight, it proved that at least Twilight still felt comfortable at being somewhat close with the unicorn. It did not in any way mean she was still in love with her, but it mean that she still held affection for her, and the thought comforted Rarity.

    Coco got up from the table, leaving several bits next to her empty plate. “I better take off or I’ll be late to hand these in,” she announced, scooping up the papers and putting them away in her bag. “Are you coming back next week, Rarity? I’m guessing the client will want to talk to both of us after seeing the final designs.”

    Rarity nodded, floating the quill and ink back into her bag. “Yes, I believe I will. I might bring Fluttershy along. Her birthday is coming up, and I’d like to treat her to a nice, relaxing weekend.”

    “Sounds fun! Maybe I’ll be able to spend more time with you next time.” Coco closed her bag and smiled at the two ponies. “Well, have fun! See you soon!”

    Twilight waved, smiling brightly. “It was nice seeing you!”

    “See you next weekend, dear.”

    The two mares waved, and then fell quiet after Coco had left the restaurant. They stayed like that for several minutes, Twilight once more resting against Rarity, both of them idly looking at their intertwined forelegs. Rarity had the sudden urge to take hers back and wrap it around Twilight’s waist, but she resisted the temptation. Things were going very well, and she didn’t want to risk ruining the progress they’d made.

    Twilight was the first to break the silence. “So…” She glanced up at Rarity. “What do we do now?”

    Rarity rubbed her free hoof against her chin, eyes narrowing. “Hmm… I seem to recall you owe me a Q&A session,” she replied, smiling teasingly.

    Twilight remained silent for a moment before sighing in defeat. “Okay, okay.” She took her foreleg back and sat up straight. “Remember there are some questions I may not answer, though.”

    Rarity quickly got up and moved to to the other side of the booth, so she’d be facing Twilight directly. “Ready!” she announced, tapping her hooves against the table in anticipation.

    “Whoah,” Twilight laughed. “You really are excited about this, aren’t you?” She cleared her throat and crossed her forelegs on the table. “Well, here we go, I guess. So… what do you want to know?”

    Rarity leaned in, putting her hooves under her chin. She fluttered her eyelashes and whispered, “Absolutely everything.”

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