Once upon a time, Twilight Sparkle celebrated multiple Equestrian holidays in a single day. Back when things were easier. Simpler.
She’d been reading a book in her library and stopped when she heard noises in the distance, her strange new non-displaced acquaintance having returned to visit her.
She’d put her book down and made her way through her library—literally so, her body going through the bookcase aisles of her permanent home. When she reached the main entrance, she found Rarity there, levitating several closed bags.
“Rarity,” she said, teleporting next to her and ignoring Rarity’s startled shriek.
“P-Princess Twilight!” Rarity gasped. “Must you really do that every time?!”
“What are you doing here? You’re not due to return your book until tomorrow.”
Rarity pulled at her mane. “Ah, yes, I know, Princess, but I wanted to visit you anyway.”
Twilight frowned. “…You did? Why?”
“Why?” Rarity faltered. “Err… Well…”
At the unicorn’s stammering, Twilight continued.
“Did I do something wrong?”
“Princess, no, heavens no!” Rarity stepped forwards, raising a reassuring hoof and then quickly lowering it when Twilight stepped away, even more uncomfortable. She cleared her throat. “No, I just… Well, I really just wanted to visit you! If that’s alright?”
Twilight pondered this a moment. “…I suppose it is.” She gestured to the bags. “What are these?” she asked next, her curiosity dampened by her lingering trepidation towards the unicorn. “More books?”
She lifted a bag in her magic and frowned when Rarity quickly swiped it back.
“Oh, wait, please, Your Highness!” She moved the bags away from Twilight and offered a strained smile. “Good things come to those who wait.”
Twilight’s frown deepened. “For what? For waiting? Why would things come to you if you’re just waiting?”
“No, Princess, it’s a saying, an idio—You know what? Nevermind.” She cleared her throat and took a breath. “I… Well, I was wondering if—Princess!” She snatched away the second bag Twilight had started to open and gestured to a spot in the distance. “Sit! There!… Please, Princess Twilight, if you will.”
Though annoyed, Twilight indulged her and teleported a few feet away.
Rarity sighed. “Thank you. Now, as I was saying, you mentioned the other day that Hearth’s Warming Eve was your favorite celebration from when you weren’t…” She gestured to Twilight haphazardly. “…well, that. So! So.” She opened the bag and took out dozens of Hearth’s Warming Eve decorations. “I thought perhaps we could make up for the ones you’ve missed?”
Twilight blinked. “But…” She teleported over the calendar Rarity had given her, the one where she’d diligently marked down the days Rarity was scheduled to visit. “Hearth’s Warming isn’t for several more months.”
“I am well aware, Your Highness, but I thought it would be fun.” Rarity fluttered her eyelashes. “Perhaps?” Her horn lit up and a neatly-wrapped box came out the bag. “I brought you a present.”
That had been the first time she’d celebrated Hearth’s Warming Eve in a thousand years.
And a short time later, Twilight would find that other ponies thought it was a brilliant idea.
“Okay!” Scootaloo exclaimed, standing atop a bookcase next to Twilight and throwing dead leaves into the book aisles. “Running of the leaves is all set!” She turned around towards Sweetie Belle, standing atop another distant bookcase and throwing paper snowflakes into the aisles. “How’s Winter Wrap-Up coming?!”
“We’re running out of snow!” Sweetie called back, and looked towards the entrance of the library. “We need more snow, Rarity! More snow! Did you hear me?! More snow, more snow!”
“Yes, I heard you the first time!” Rarity called back, and Twilight couldn’t help but smile at the exasperation in her voice.
She quietly teleported to the entrance and found Rarity surrounded by piles of paper and unfinished snowflakes while Fluttershy looked over a checklist of events. The pegasus immediately saw Twilight, and though she attempted to greet her, she was unable to when Twilight quickly kept her mouth shut with magic.
Fluttershy’s eyes filled with confusion at first, until she noticed Rarity hadn’t seen Twilight, and so she turned to the grinning alicorn and shook her head disapprovingly. Twilight moved behind Rarity, got very close and…
Rarity’s shriek pierced the air, snowflakes flying everywhere, and the endlessly-delighted Princess gladly faced the wrath of her friend.
“Princess Twilight, for star’s sake, why are you like this?!”
“We need more snow,” Twilight innocently said and giggled when Rarity rolled her eyes and turned back. “Also, you don’t have to keep calling me Princess, remember?”
“Ah, yes, because that implies I have respect for you, which is rather unfair when you have none for me, apparently,” she grumbled and then turned back to Twilight, pointing at her with the scissors. “Isn’t that right, Twilight?”
“Rarity! That’s dangerous!” Fluttershy gasped.
“Oh, it’s not dangerous, she’s not even real. Physical. Oh, you know what I mean!” She then gathered all the snowflakes into a bag and gave them to Fluttershy. “In any case, be a dear and take these to Sweetie, won’t you?”
Once Fluttershy trotted off, she turned back to Twilight and raised an eyebrow.
“You know, I don’t miss Princess Serious-All-The-Time, but sometimes one can’t help but be nostalgic for when you weren’t sassing me at every turn.”
“I learned from you?” Twilight replied, taking the checklist in her magic and looking it over.
“Fair point.” Rarity took off her glasses. “What else do we have pending? We should be done now.”
“Sweetie told me she added something.” Twilight said. “Here it is. Hearts and Hooves? The instructions for it say that you and I have to be alone and that you… have to prepare a special event for me?”
“What?!” Rarity snatched the checklist and furrowed her brow. “I see,” she whispered under her breath and then turned back to Twilight, her cheeks pink. “It’s a joke, dear. Don’t pay it any mind.”
“But what is it? Is it a real event?”
Rarity faltered. “I… Yes, but… it’s only supposed to happen under certain circumstances, and…” She drifted off again, but was forced to continue under Twilight’s earnest gaze.. “It’s to celebrate two ponies that are… well, in love.”
“Oh.” Twilight looked back to the checklist, confused. “Why would Sweetie think you and I would want to celebrate that? That’s silly,” she said, looking to Rarity and interpreting her expression as one of similar confusion, not something else.
“Yes,” she said, curtly. “Yes, I suppose it is.” She put her glasses back on and turned to her snowflakes, the scissor cutting through paper. “Silly, indeed.”
Twilight stayed in place, her ears lowering. “Rarity—”
“You know, Twilight ” Rarity turned back to Twilight. “Some ponies take it as a celebration of friendship rather than love.”
“Oh! That’s interesting. I suppose that makes sense.”
“It does, doesn’t it?” Rarity said, staring intently at Twilight. “Very interesting, indeed.”
After a moment in which neither said a word, Twilight cleared her throat.
“You know!” Rarity interrupted, having a hard time looking at Twilight and instead poking away at another snowflake. “We could celebrate that, if you want? It might be fun.”
“The friend version of it, you mean?”
Rarity forced a smile. “Of course! Of course.” She met Twilight’s eyes and grinned. “As you said yourself, we are friends, are we not?”
Twilight’s ears perked up. “Oh, I don’t see why not. I’ll go get the others so they can celebrate with us,” she offered, not noticing Rarity deflate ever-so-slightly.
“No, that’s all right, Pri—Twilight. We don’t really need to celebrate it. It’s a silly event, and we’re all spending time together regardless,” she said quickly, turning back to her snowflakes. “Be a dear and fetch Fluttershy, won’t you?”
And then the scene paused right there, on that very moment, on Rarity swallowing her pride and lost opportunity and Twilight failing to see what was only clear in hindsight, much like the many other events she’d seen in a whole new light now that dreamwalking had given her unrestrained access to her own memories.
Twilight, the real one, the one who’d been observing the events, flashed her horn and the memory around her disappeared, faded away until she was back inside the hallway of doors.
She stood there for a moment, a few seconds at most, and then did what one did at realizing the errors of their past, as she’d been doing throughout so many of the memories she’d revisited so far.
“Ugh!” she groaned, slapping a hoof to her forehead. “‘I’ll go get the others’? Really?!”
Twilight yelped as her mentor spoke beside her. “Princess!”
“Are you done going through your memories?” Princess Luna asked. “Were you successful in your task?” At Twilight’s expression, she smiled sympathetically. “I presume you’ve discovered that knowledge from the future taints the past when looking back?”
Twilight bowed her head. “Yes.”
The princess nodded, taking this in. “Did you find memories that framed your library in a more agreeable light? One you can use to guide you?”
“It was hard. Everything was… Nothing was really happy? I mean, it was, but then I know it wasn’t really happy forever, and so it was just bad.” she said. “I thought that the sleepover would be a good memory, but that happened right before they all got cursed. And then I thought of that moment when Rarity used the necklaces to show me she loved me, but that was basically the day before Cadance happened, and… It’s like every time something good happened, something bad was waiting around the corner! And yet…”
“And yet?” Princess Luna prompted.
“And yet I miss it. Does that even make sense? I miss back then, when Rarity and I were fine, and I didn’t have to deal with…” She gestured aimlessly. “This.”
“Your past only seems simple now because it is the past.”
“I know,” Twilight said. “But I don’t know if things are better.”
“Would you like to go back to being trapped?”
“No. No, that’s not what I meant. It’s just—” It was so hard to explain. It felt silly and bothersome. “Even despite the bad times, things still felt better, and now they don’t. I don’t know how to explain this. It’s like I was reading a book and it was great, and then I got the sequel, but it’s not what I thought it would be?”
Princess Luna was quiet for a moment.
“What did you want it to be? One where you kept letting others deal with—” She gestured to Twilight. “—this, while you ignored it?”
“I didn’t know I was something to deal with,” Twilight replied, hurt.
“Yes, you did. Lying to yourself is an exercise in futility, Twilight Sparkle. The truth remains that you were either willfully ignorant or blind to the book you were reading. I suspect both.”
Twilight kept quiet. Even though she was used to Luna being blunt with her observations, it was often a difficult pill to swallow—particularly so when she was right.
“This book, however, still has Rarity in it,” Luna offered, and when Twilight couldn’t help but smile, so did she. “And many others, too, who are more than glad to stay with you as you continue to improve, as you already have.”
“Do you think I’m ready?” Twilight asked. “For the library?”
“That does not matter. All that matters is that it is happening whether you are ready or not.”
Should we wake her up?
Twilight frowned. “What was that?”
The princess raised an eyebrow. “What was what?”
“Didn’t you hear that?”
“I fear I heard nothing. What did you—”
Do you think she can hear us?
“Pinkie?” She looked around, but she couldn’t see her even though she could quite clearly hear her.
“Pinkie?” Luna asked, ears alert.
Do you think she can feel it if we poke her?
“And Incantation!” Twilight blurted out. She turned to Luna, confused. “Can you not hea—Ow!” She pressed a hoof on her ribcage, where she’d distinctly felt something jabbing into her. “I… I think they just poked me?” When she looked at the princess, she was surprised to find her smiling. “Princess? What’s going on?”
“Dreamwalking is not the same as sleeping, Twilight. You are merely meditating. Your mind may be elsewhere, but it is still cognisant of events happening around your physical body.”
Pinkie, dear, have you see—What are you two doing?! I said wake her up, not—whatever it is you’re doing! What are you doing?
Twilight cleared her throat. “I think I have to go. I’ll see you when we’re back?”
“I don’t expect to be freed in a weekend, so yes, you will,” Luna replied, smiling at Twilight’s eye-roll.
“Wish me luck?”
“Not luck. Success.” She raised a hoof and placed it on Twilight’s shoulder. “Luck is arbitrary. Success is a choice. I wish you and Rarity success in your endeavor.”
And with that, her horn flashed and Twilight was pushed out of the dream realm, opening her eyes to find Pinkie and Incantation insisting to Rarity they weren’t planning on testing the limits of Twilight’s responsiveness.
“Hello, everypony.” She noticed the suitcases behind Rarity. “Are you done packing?”
“I am,” Rarity said, and then floated up several train tickets. “And I’ve gone ahead and bought our tickets for Ponyville and Trottingham.”
“You’re just going to be gone for a weekend, right?” Ink asked.
Rarity nodded. “Just a weekend, yes, so please don’t let the foals set the place on fire while we’re gone.”
“What else are we missing?” Twilight asked.
“Just you, darling,” Rarity said and added after a pause, “Are you ready?”
Twilight nodded. “I am. You?”
Rarity smiled. “I am.”
Though she’d intended on exploring the train, Twilight ended up sleeping most of the way to Ponyville, a consequence of her erratic sleeping schedule. Then again, sleeping was a somewhat inaccurate description considering the multiple nightmares she’d had on the way there.
The whistling of the train woke her up from one, and when she fluttered her eyelids open, her attention was first drawn towards the sleeping owl nestled against her, and then towards Rarity. Unlike the rest of the passengers, she didn’t seem in a rush to leave the train, and in fact, as she looked out the window, a frown marred her face.
Rarity glanced her way, the same expression on her face.
“Good morning,” she said. “How did you sleep?”
“All right,” she lied. “You? Did you sleep at all?”
Rarity looked back to the platform. “Not really, no.”
“Is everything okay?”
Rarity looked at her again. “Why do you ask?”
“You, er, look upset.”
After a moment’s pause, Rarity smiled. “I’m just upset you fell asleep and deprived me of your company, of course.”
Rarity’s smile faded. “It’s nothing to worry about, dear. I’m just… I’m just still worried about Seeking Night, I suppose.”
“Everything will be alright, Rarity,” Twilight said, smiling warmly. “I promise.”
“You promise,” Rarity repeated. “Well, in that case—” She jumped off her seat and opened the carriage door with her magic. “We should be off. We have a lot to do!”
Deciding to put the matter to rest, Twilight smiled and did as her marefriend bid, jumping off her seat and following Rarity out onto the platform and the unfamiliar station, Elara perching herself on her back.
“Now, I was thinking we should go to the Boutique to freshen up first,” Rarity said. “Have some lunch, and then visit Fluttershy and Applejack, too. I told them we were coming so they’re expecting us today, and then… Oh! I also want to schedule an appointment for us with the spa. They usually don’t take walk-ins but they make exceptions for moi.”
Twilight playfully raised an eyebrow. “Did you schedule actually going to the library somewhere in there?”
“Oh. Yes, that. It is why we came here, isn’t it?” Rarity sighed theatrically. “I suppose I can fit it in somewhere. Maybe we can do a two-hour spa session instead of a four-hour one. We can go to lunch first, then the spa, after which we’ll see Fluttershy, then Applejack, then back to the boutique to get suitcases for the books, and then we can go to the library.”
“Actually…” Twilight took a breath and made a choice. “I want to go to the library first.”
The sooner she could deal with it, the better, after all.
“To the library first?” Rarity said, surprised. “But, Twilight, that wasn’t in the plan! You can’t just change things last minute! You of all ponies should know this.”
“Rarity, you literally just made the plan.”
“…Well, be that as it may, I don’t think that’s a good idea. We should at least go have lunch first and see Fluttershy, if only because she’s expecting us, and—”
“Rarity,” Twilight interrupted. “Please. I want to get it over with.”
Rarity relented somewhat. “I… Twilight…” She petered out, looking towards some passing ponies and then back to Twilight, placing her hoof on Twilight’s shoulder. “Are you sure? Red Lining has more than enough books for us. You don’t have to do this.”
“I know,” Twilight said, “but I want to.” She smiled affectionately, placing a hoof over Rarity’s and giving it a squeeze. “You don’t have to keep coming up with plans so we don’t have to go.”
Rarity harrumphed. “Pardon me, I actually did want to go to the spa,” she said indignantly. “But… I suppose if you’re sure.”
And she was, as they walked past Sugarcube Corner; she was as they passed Quills and Sofas; she was as they got the suitcases from Carousel Boutique; and she was, more than ever before, when they finally left Ponyville’s outskirts.
But then they made their way through the forest, and suddenly she wasn’t so sure anymore, especially when everything reminded her of nightmares of the library.
Some details were different, yes, but the whole was mostly the same. The leaves crunching under Rarity’s hooves, Elara hooting as she led them through the forest, and Twilight…
Twilight herself trailing behind and eventually coming to a full stop.
Her ears twitched at the distant sound of Rarity calling her name, but she ignored her. Instead, she put down the suitcases she was levitating, opened her saddlebag, retrieved a book from within and stared at its title.
A Reality Entirely Our Own
A Study of Dreams
She opened it up to a bookmarked page and read the highlighted paragraph.
…and this is perhaps the biggest similarity between dreams and fiction novels, it said. Both are strange in design, portraying scenarios said to be entirely made up, and yet both hide reality within their depths. A truth, per se, that we are either trying to embellish or, more often than not, uselessly trying to avoid, to refuse to see even as it leaks into a reality entirely our own—a warped reflection of our deepest thoughts.
She closed the book once she was done, counted to three, and when she opened it up again at the same page, her heart fell at the realization that nothing had changed. The words were the same, the page was the same, and if she were to ask herself how exactly they got to the Everfree from Hollow Shades, she would be able to say so.
This wasn’t a dream, was it?
She finally looked up and saw Rarity a few feet away, ears lowered and quietly waiting for Twilight to be done.
“I was just making sure,” Twilight said hastily. “I don’t want to lose the habit.”
Rarity smiled sympathetically. “I understand.” She looked to the distance and then back to Twilight. “Are you really certain you want to do this?”
The memories of her nightmares returned, of the Rarity she’d disappointed.
“I’m sure,” she said, firmly.
“All right,” replied Rarity after a moment’s hesitation, and then said nothing else when Twilight forced herself to take the lead and walk past her.
They walked in silence, step by step, each lost in their own thoughts. The silence felt awkward, so dissimilar to what it was in her dreams of that journey. Eventually, Twilight concluded Rarity was the difference. In every dream, she was talkative, unpreoccupied, doing what had to be done without a second thought.
In reality, however, she was quiet and serious, her expression twisted into a moue of dissatisfaction. When again asked what was wrong, she said the same as before. The stress of Seeking Night was getting to her. Nothing more, nothing less.
Though Twilight was unconvinced, her dissection of potential reasons Rarity could be upset was brought to a halt when Elara perched herself on a branch and hooted loudly, signaling their arrival.
There it stood, as she’d seen it once before when she’d escaped, quiet and hidden in the embrace of the forest trees, waiting and waiting and waiting for her to return.
She ignored the pain in her chest and forced herself to walk forwards, to not look back to Rarity and instead jump down into the sinkhole, gritting her teeth when her hooves met the ground. This was it, wasn’t it?
No more running.
She turned around and looked up to Rarity, the unicorn standing at the edge of the sinkhole. She said nothing else. Her downcast ears, scrunched-up brow, and pursed lips said enough.
“I can do this, Rarity.”
“Are you sure about that?” Rarity asked, and the more she asked it, the less sure Twilight was.
“I am. Really.”
She turned away from Rarity before her body language could betray her. She took a few steps forward until a cracking sound filled the air and Rarity teleported in front of her, blocking her path.
“Rarity? What are you…?”
“Twilight, maybe I ought to go first?” she suggested.
Twilight shook her head. “No. I can go first,” she said, and smiled. “As long as you’re right behind me.”
“But, dearest—” Rarity sputtered, moving in front of Twilight when she tried to keep walking. “What about ladies first?”
“That’s why I’m going first,” Twilight replied with a giggle.
She then walked around the unicorn and continued on her way, only for another crack to fill the air and for Rarity to again appear before her, now slightly out of breath.
“Rarity!” Twilight exclaimed. “Stop that!”
“Twilight,” Rarity said forcefully. She composed herself and smiled. “My darling, I—”
“No, don’t ‘my darling’ me. What are you doing?” Twilight interrupted with force of her own, irritated at Rarity’s actions. If she wanted to make Twilight doubt herself, she was certainly succeeding. “Rarity?” When Rarity kept quiet, she narrowed her eyes. “What is it? You don’t think I can do it?”
“That’s not what I said,” Rarity replied, diplomatically. “Of course I think you can do this.”
“It doesn’t feel like you do.”
“Well, I do.”
“Then move,” Twilight shot back and then forced herself to control her flaring temper. “Please. You’re not making this any easier for me.”
After a brief stare-down, Rarity stepped to the side, pointedly looking away. Twilight waited for her to say something else, but when she didn’t, she swallowed a sigh and moved on.
She honestly didn’t want to deal with it. Not now, at least, so she walked to the trapdoor and stood before it, her eyes lingering on the dirty plaque nailed to the tree.
PONYVILLE PUBLIC LIBRARY
Donated by Princess Twilight Sparkle
She looked higher still and saw Elara perched on the windowsill, waiting for her to proceed, and when she glanced back, she saw Rarity watching her silently. She turned back to the trapdoor, and every hair on her coat stood on its end when the trapdoor creaked open and revealed a long and dark stairway leading into an even darker tunnel, waiting to swallow her whole.
A sickening feeling washed over her, forcing her to step back. Was this really a good idea? Was… Was Rarity right to be worried? She turned back to the unicorn in question and found her still watching and waiting in dead silence.
“It’s dark in there,” Twilight noted, hating how her voice trembled as she spoke.
“So it is,” Rarity replied. “An illumination spell should help, I imagine.”
She said nothing else after that.
Twilight laughed nervously. “Right. Why didn’t I think of that?” Embarrassed and uncomfortable, she turned back to the hole and swallowed the lump in her throat. She cast the illumination spell and lit up the dirty steel staircase leading down into the tunnel.
Discord is gone, she told herself, transfixed by the abyss. He’s gone.
He was gone, and she had already made such a show out of going down that backing out now was no longer an option.
The sound of her hoof colliding against the metal staircase hit her first, resonating in her head and her chest and her entire body. A simple sound, quick and easy, that sounded to her no different than the chaos puppet growling.
But she’d taken a step, and so she forced herself to take more, her eyes and mind glued to the ground. There could be no multitasking here, no thinking of each and every step, for if she thought too much…
Her breath hitched when her hoof moved from steel to ground, forcing her to look up into the endless tunnel until the void was too much and she looked down at the ground with a whimper.
“Twilight?” Rarity called, her hoofsteps clanking against the stairs. “Twili—”
“I’m fine!” Twilight gasped, and then fell to a murmur. “I’m fine, I’m fine, I’m fine.”
She took another step after that, and another and another, each as sickening as the last, but each moving her forward until eventually the light around her expanded and she looked up to find she had crossed into the library.
There she was, back in the familiar darkness that had imprisoned her for over a thousand years. There she was, like a frightened animal looking around a once-familiar darkness.
But all that mattered was that she did it. She was in.
And yet it didn’t feel like a victory.
It felt like waiting for it to happen, whatever it was.
She moved forward, almost by sheer will to do so, and scrambled back when her hoof bumped into something and knocked it on its side, the sound of glass hitting the floor echoing throughout the library.
“Twilight?! What was that?!” Rarity called in the distance.
Panicked eyes scoured the floor, and a wave of relief flooded her at the sight of just a fallen inkwell.
“It’s just an inkwell!” she stammered back.
An inkwell, she noticed, that had been used on dozens of foalish, scribbly drawings strewn nearby.
Drawings, she noticed, that were nothing like the ones left for her in the tunnel when she was trapped. Those drawings, she remembered, were gentle and kind, encouraging and loving.
These? These were different.
These weren’t messages of support.
These were reminders.
Of Discord fighting ponies while the princesses stood by helplessly.
Of Rarity being threatened by dragons, and another of her being stalked by Discord, and another of her being attacked by timberwolves, her hindleg scarred beyond recognition.
Drawings and drawings, in all sorts of colors and scrawls, of all the terrible things that, in one way or another, she’d been responsible for.
And, in the middle of them, the ink still fresh, was a drawing of Discord trapping her in the library, her eyes pitch black as he watched.
“The real show, Twilight, is what will happen when you realize what I did to you.”
The memory overpowered her mind, as clear as the day it happened, her lungs now struggling to breathe.
“Ra… Ra…” The words tumbled out, muted and clipped in the total paralysis taking her over at the sight of her mistakes, her actions, and the voice of Discord that haunted her still.
And it was too much. Too much, too much, too much, and she stumbled back, her hornlight fizzling out as she tripped over the inkwell and fell to the floor, her tear-filled eyes clouding her sight as she lifted a hoof towards the distant light inside the tunnel.
She watched as the light rushed to her and soon enough Rarity stepped into the tunnel, standing before Twilight and looking her over, ears pressed against her skull and eyes wide with fear.
“Twilight! Twilight, what happened?!” Rarity gasped, kneeling down on the floor and holding Twilight when the alicorn threw herself at her, clutching onto her for dear life and burying her muzzle in her chest. When Twilight didn’t immediately reply, Rarity’s voice emerged alarmed. “Twilight. Twilight, look at me. Look at me.“
Twilight looked up to meet Rarity’s gaze, the latter searching Twilight’s eyes for something. After a moment, she visibly relaxed and stroked Twilight’s cheek.
“You’re fine,” she said, to what felt like herself and Twilight. “What happened, sweetest?”
“Dis… Discord,” Twilight choked out between sniffled sobs. She glanced back, still holding Rarity, and tried to point to the drawings.
“He… He left… drawings… and… and…” She turned back to Rarity, burying herself in her marefriend’s chest.
“Drawings?” Rarity asked, craning her neck to look at the drawings without letting go of Twilight. “What…” There was a moment of pause, a silence filled only by Twilight’s sniffling, until suddenly Rarity spoke again, her tone cold. “It wasn’t Discord.”
“Wh… What?” Twilight asked, looking up at her and finding her staring at something behind Twilight. She looked back in the same direction and saw the familiar sight of Sweetie Belle’s school backpack, surrounded by more inkwells and paintbrushes.
“…Sweetie drew this?” she asked, completely at a loss, her eyes going back to the drawings. “Why would…”
“It doesn’t matter,” Rarity said brusquely, gathering the drawings up in her magic so they were out of sight. Once that was done, she turned back to Twilight and the warmth returned to her face. “Come now, dearest, let’s get up.”
Though Twilight wanted to, her eyes watered and she bowed her head, pressing herself against Rarity.
“You were right…” she whispered, pained. “I can’t… I can’t…”
“Don’t think of that anymore, dearest,” Rarity whispered, brushing her mane. “You don’t have to come here again, all right?”
“B-but the books…” Twilight pleaded, desperate for something to go right.
“Red Lining has more than enough. Come on.”
Trembling, Twilight allowed Rarity to help her stand up, trying her best to hold it together. She waited until Rarity finished putting the drawings back in the backpack and then, feeling pathetic as she did so, followed her out into the tunnel and up the stairs.
She had tried, and it had been humiliating.
But perhaps not as humiliating as what came next.
“What were you thinking, going to the library?!” Rarity snapped, slamming her hoof on the Carousel’s kitchen table, the little filly on the other side of the table flinching as she did so. “Have you gone absolutely mad?!”
If Twilight had hoped going back to the boutique would help her, she had been sorely mistaken.
“Rarity, please,” she whispered.
“But you said I could go if I went with Zecora!” Sweetie protested, valiantly standing her ground. “I needed to look at the library for what I was working on—”
“What you were working on? What? These?”
She opened the backpack and grabbed the drawings, slamming them down on the table. To Twilight’s growing humiliation, now that she saw them in proper lighting, she could see them for what they really were. Childish drawings, and nothing more. A filly’s silly drawings had sent her into a full-blown panic attack.
“What is this, Sweetie Belle?!” Rarity continued. “Is this your idea of a joke?! Well?! Is it?!”
“No! I don’t even know—!”
“They’re drawings! Why are you so upset?! They’re just drawings!” Sweetie shot back, glaring at her sister. “Why are you yelling at me in front of Princess Twilight?! I didn’t do anything wrong!” She looked to Twilight helplessly. “Did I?! I didn’t! Princess Twilight, tell her!”
“Of course you didn’t, Sweetie,” Twilight replied immediately. “It’s ju—”
“They nearly frightened Twilight to death, that’s what you did!” Rarity interrupted, and Twilight felt her heart drop at Sweetie’s eyes growing wide and filling with tears, looking at Twilight in horror.
Sweetie looked at Twilight. “Puh…Princess?”
“No, you didn’t. Don’t listen to her,” Twilight insisted before turning to Rarity, angered. “Rarity, this isn’t necessary—”
“Yes, it is, Twilight! You didn’t see your face down there!” she exclaimed, and for the first time, Twilight saw in Rarity’s eyes that it wasn’t just anger driving her, but fear.
Rarity turned back to her sister and brandished the drawing of Twilight and Discord. “We thought these were from Discord, Sweetie Belle! That he’d put them there to taunt us! Do you understand how serious this is?!”
“I’m sorry,” Sweetie blubbered, looking aghast. “I just— I was trying to— to make a book for— for you and Princess Twilight about—- about your ad— adventures…”
Her horn lit up and she shakily levitated her backpack to her, reaching in and taking out a folder titled PRINCESS TWILIGHT’S BOOK, from which she extracted several more drawings, all of them more colorful than the ones from the library and depicting much happier scenes.
The two mares fell silent, Twilight burning with shame as Rarity looked over the drawings, her ears dropping.
Rarity sat on her hindlegs and rubbed the bridge of her nose. “Oh, Sweetie Belle.”
“I didn’t mean to scare you,” Sweetie said to Twilight.
“I know,” she replied. “Don’t feel bad. It was my fault.”
“No, it wasn’t, Twilight,” Rarity interrupted rather forcefully. She then composed herself and continued. “It was no pony’s fault.” She looked at Sweetie. “I’m sorry I yelled at you, Sweetie. I… You just have to be smarter about where you leave things like that, please.”
“I’m sorry…” Sweetie bowed her head, pawing at her drawings and then looking at Rarity. “You’re afraid of the library, so I didn’t think you’d go there first…”
This jolted Twilight, her eyes shifting to Rarity immediately. She was afraid of the library?
For an instant, as if knowing Twilight’s thoughts, Rarity glanced at her before immediately turning back to Sweetie.
“Well, be that as it may,” Rarity quickly said, “I hope you’ll be smarter about this in the future. And…” She smiled, taking a nearby drawing of herself facing off against the dragons and using it as a peace offering. “I really like this one.”
“That’s my favorite one too!” Sweetie exclaimed, seemingly fine with putting things to rest. “Wait, I’ll go get the others!”
Twilight waited until Sweetie was gone before turning around to confront Rarity.
“You’re afraid of the library?”
“Stars above,” Rarity muttered, closing her eyes and rubbing the bridge of her nose again.
“Twilight.” She turned to her. “No, I’m not afraid of the library. I just…” She hesitated, idly toying with a nearby salt-shaker. “I don’t think we should be going back there again.”
A strange sense of indignation shot through Twilight. It was one thing for her to have issues with her library, but the thought of somepony else having issues with it? Why would they? It was a fantastic library! Ventilated despite being underground, updated with all the literature of the time, hidden for maximum reading privacy, and she didn’t even charge late fees!
And not only that, but some of her happiest memories not just in a thousand years but in her entire life happened inside that library.
“Not go back there again? Why not?” Twilight protested.
Rarity stared at her like she’d gone mad. “Why not? Twilight, look at what—Look at how you—”
She cut herself off and looked away, gritting her teeth.
“Look at how I what?”
“Look at how you reacted back in there,” Rarity forced out. “Look at what that place did to you, and you think I want you to go back there? Back to the place you keep having nightmares about?”
“It’s my home.”
“It was your prison,” Rarity shot back. “Nothing good ever came from that place.”
Fury flared in the alicorn. “That’s not true, Rarity,” she protested, slamming her hoof on the drawings of the happy memories she clung to, tears in her eyes. “What about these? All of these happened in there! All of my memories of you happened in that library!”
“Twilight, for two years, the last memory I had of that place was you being imprisoned.”
“But I’m not anymore!”
“I know that, Twilight, but I can’t exactly go back there and pretend that never happened,” Rarity snapped, in tears. “I can’t! And then when you screamed my name, I thought that thing had trapped you again! And, and—”
She fizzled out, looking away.
“And?” Twilight pressed, as gently as she could.
“And I suppose… I suppose I wish I had listened when Princess Luna said I wasn’t ready.”
Twilight’s eyes widened. “You… You’ve been having nightmares of the library?” At Rarity’s silence, she pressed. “Of Discord?”
It took a moment, but eventually, Rarity nodded.
And there it was, the flashing nightmare door Twilight had been seeing in the dream realm, plainly opened.
And there it was, the dawning realization that it was one thing to let Discord taint her happy memories of her home, but it was another thing entirely to allow the same to happen to Rarity’s.
And there it finally was, Twilight’s chance to help Rarity conquer her fears—not in the way Princess Luna had intended, maybe, but beggars shouldn’t be choosers, should they?
So she stood up straight.
“Here they are!” Sweetie Belle rushed into the room, a few more drawings floating behind her. “I brou—” She stopped in her tracks, concern awash on her face at the sight of her sister. “Rarity?” She turned to Twilight. “What’s going on?”
“We’re going back to the library,” Twilight said, levitating her cloak from a nearby chair and putting it on.
Rarity frowned, eyes still red. “Twilight.”
“We are?” Sweetie asked.
“Yes,” Twilight continued, gathering Sweetie’s other drawings into their folder and passing it to the filly, “so we can help you with your book about our adventures. Can you go get your things?” When Sweetie rushed off, she turned to Rarity. “Do you want to come?”
Rarity frowned, resistant. “What about all the other things we had planned?”
“We can reschedule, or they can come with us. I don’t think Fluttershy would say no.”
Rarity gritted her teeth. “What if something goes wrong again?”
“It won’t,” Twilight promised.
“You can’t possibly know that.”
“I can, in fact,” Twilight replied, smiling assuredly. There was little Twilight wouldn’t promise if it meant helping Rarity. She walked to her and bent down, extending her wings to serve as a platform. “Come on.”
Rarity balked at her.
“Come on?” she asked, leaning back and eyeing Twilight suspiciously.
“Climb on,” Twilight elaborated, glancing back at her back.
“You said you were afraid of the library, so we’re going to both go in.” Twilight flapped her wings again. “Together.”
“Twilight Sparkle, don’t be ridiculous. What if I fall?”
“Rarity, we’ve done this before. And I was blindfolded!” When Rarity pursed her lips, Twilight raised an eyebrow and smiled politely. “I guess I’ll just ask Sweetie Belle to help me, then?”
Rarity puffed her cheeks.
“Well! If you think that’s going to work with me, Twilight, you’re sorely mistaken. You do whatever you want, and that’ll be fine with me.”
“Faster, Princess Twilight!” Sweetie exclaimed, one hoof on Twilight’s neck and the other furiously tapping the side of her shoulder as the princess cantered through the Everfree Forest. “Faster!”
“Sweetie Belle, she’s not a race horse, for sun’s sake! And stop moving so much or else you’ll fall!” Rarity scolded, sitting right behind Sweetie, one hoof holding onto the filly and the other to Twilight’s cloak. “Twilight, if you drop us—”
“Rarity, I’m not even going that fast!”
“She’d be going faster if you’d let her fly us there, Rarity!” Sweetie tapped Twilight again. “Go faster!”
Twilight sighed, grateful for the silence that followed magically muzzling her two companions. She stopped and glanced back at them, finding them frowning at her.
“Are you two done?”
Though Rarity didn’t deign to reply, Sweetie nodded effusively which was good enough for Twilight. Giving them one last warning stare, she let go of their muzzles and resumed her path.
“I’ll have you know that was very rude,” Rarity politely pointed out.
“I didn’t think it was rude!” Sweetie quickly said. “You should do it on Rarity again!”
“Oh?” Rarity said. “You mean do this?”
“What’s that, Sweetie? Did you say something? Goodness, you really must learn to spe—mmmph!”
“Sweet Celestia,” Twilight muttered, again coming to stop and glancing back to find the two sisters muffling each other. “Girls.”
The two let out muffled protests, pointing at each other.
Twilight’s horn lit up, and Sweetie’s protests grew when she was levitated up into the air, forced to stay there as Twilight continued the journey.
“Princess Twilight!” she whined, uselessly trying to swim down through the air towards the alicorn. “I want to go on your back! Why does Rarity get to go on your back?!”
“Now, now, Sweetie Belle,” Rarity said innocently, adjusting to having more space and placing her hooves on the sides of Twilight’s neck. “Not everypony can be the princess’s favori—” She cut herself off when Twilight abruptly stopped to look back at her, and she quickly amended her statement. “Err, what I meant was, you can have a turn on the way back…?”
“Are we flying on the way back?!”
“No, I already told you that’s dangerous! Do you want to fall off fifty feet from the ground?”
Twilight shook her head and went on her way as the sisters continued to squabble, allowing herself a smile when Rarity wasn’t watching.
All in all, despite the sisterly fights, Twilight was grateful Sweetie was there. The library wasn’t too far away now, and Sweetie’s presence had inspired in Twilight a relief she hadn’t really expected to be feeling. With the filly acting and truly believing nothing was wrong, it made Twilight feel as though maybe there really shouldn’t be anything wrong.
She cantered to the edge of the sinkhole and plopped Sweetie down inside before jumping down herself, vaguely amused by Rarity’s frightened eep.
“Come on!” Sweetie exclaimed, rushing to the trapdoor, propping it up and running downstairs.
“Sweetie, wait for us!” Rarity called out, hooves pressing against Twilight’s coat. “It’s dark down there! Sweetie?!” When no filly popped her head out of the tunnel, Rarity sighed. “Honestly.”
“She’ll be fine,” Twilight reassured, mostly to Rarity but a little to herself as well.
Once she reached the trapdoor, the familiar sinking sensation returned at the sight of the dark tunnel. The desire to turn back was there as well, but having Rarity there—physically there—with her was actually managing to stave it off.
“Twilight,” Rarity said when the alicorn paused. Her hooves again pressed into Twilight’s neck. “Are you sure about this?”
“Yes,” she replied, the confidence in her voice faltering slightly when she asked, “And you?”
Rarity adjusted herself upon Twilight.
“I’m sure. After all, I very well can’t let you do this alone, now can I?” Much like Sweetie had, she patted the side of Twilight’s shoulder. “Onwards, noble steed!”
Twilight nearly choked. “Excuse me?”
Rarity leaned in, fluttering her eyelashes. “Am I wrong? Are you not a steed who is also a noble?”
“I mean. Yes. Technically.”
“Then onwards, noble steed!”
“Hrm.” She rolled her eyes when Rarity kissed the back of her head and patted it amiably, though she allowed herself a smile as well. A teasing, silly Rarity was definitely an improvement over one afraid to go in. “Anyway. Hold on while I’m going down.”
So began the descent, once again different than before. While earlier she’d been preoccupied by the sounds and the memories, now her only concern and focus was on the unicorn—on keeping her safe, keeping her secure and, admittedly, indulging in making her yelp in surprise by jumping over three steps at once.
Hooting interrupted them, as Elara returned from her hunting trip and perched herself on Twilight’s back, behind Rarity. The claws digging into her coat were also a fantastic distraction from her fears.
Sweetie was waiting for them on the other side of the tunnel, her horn light barely illuminating the room.
“Princess! Where are Star and Swirl?”
“Uhh…somewhere?” Twilight offered, stopping right before crossing into the library.
Her eyes immediately went to the ground, and her shoulders relaxed when she found no unexpected reminders.
“Darling?” Rarity whispered.
Twilight’s eyes lingered at the threshold, searching for a barrier that obviously wasn’t there. She’d crossed earlier, after all, and yet she couldn’t stop herself from lifting a hoof and waving it in front of her just to be extra sure.
When nothing happened, she took a breath and took the plunge, jumping into the library with a yelp. Once she did, she was relieved to still feel Rarity on top of her, and when she glanced back at the tunnel, there wasn’t any barrier either.
“…Are you okay, Princess Twilight?” Sweetie asked.
“Yes! Yep! Great!” Twilight blurted out, turning to her. “Uhm. Yes. Where were we?”
Sweetie blinked. “Finding Star and Swirl?”
“Finding Starswirl?” Twilight exclaimed. “I mean, Star and Swirl. Not Starswirl the Bearded. Why would he be here? He’s dead! I think. Yes, he is. Yes. Right. Yes.”
Rarity brushed her hoof against Twilight’s shoulder. “Twilight, are you sure you’re fine?”
“Haha!” She swallowed. “Sorry. I’m a little nervous, but I’m fine.”
She had to help Rarity, and she had to help Sweetie Belle finish her book. She needed to remove her emotions from the situation. She would be fine. End of discussion.
She shook her head and cleared her throat.
Her horn lit up and a wave of magic burst out, covering the room. After a moment, clanking sounds surfaced in the distance and Star rose up into the air, its candles lit up. It floated towards them, and Twilight frowned at one of its twisted, broken branches.
“Twilight!” Rarity gasped as the candelabra excitedly circled them. “Poor thing! It’s injured!”
“Rarity, it’s a candelabra,” she pointed out. “It can’t feel anything.”
“Well, it’s still a perfectly lovely candelabra that’s been ruined.”
Twilight playfully rolled her eyes. “Right,” she said, glad that things were moving along smoothly.
“Can it still go all big?” Sweetie asked, peering up at Star.
Twilight examined it. “I don’t see why not.” She used her magic to bend Star’s branch back to its original position and smiled, satisfied. “There. It should work now.”
“Star!” Sweetie exclaimed. “Light, please!”
At her command, Star flew high into the ceiling, a burst of magic transforming it into the familiar sprawling chandelier that engulfed the library in light and brought to Twilight’s attention the wreckage she’d left.
Rarity got off her back, shaking her hoof in the air.
Bookcases on their sides, books strewn all over, tables overturned and ink splattered on the floor. Though Twilight could no longer detect the presence of chaos magic in her library, it was sad to see it had left a mark.
Rarity stepped forward and picked a book from the floor, inspecting it for damage. “Goodness, they look brand new! That spell of Celestia’s really is something, isn’t it?” She levitated an overturned table up from the floor and stood it upright, placing the book on top of it.
Sweetie followed after her, placing her backpack on the table and taking out her drawings and pens.
“Err… Why don’t you start first?” Twilight asked, making her way to a pile of books on the floor and gathering them up in alphabetical order. “I’ll clean up in the meantime.”
“If you can figure out where to start, that is,” Rarity noted, joining her while Sweetie got to work at her table. “And find the time, as well, because if you want to have this place clean in one afternoon, you’re going to need a miracle.”
Twilight grinned. “I thought that’s why you’re here.”
“My, my.” Rarity fluttered her eyelashes. “How charming of you, thinking flattery will persuade me to help you.”
“Oh, I didn’t think that. You left so many of your things lying around my library all the time, I think it would be a miracle for you to actually help pick up.”
“Well! I never! I’ve left nothing in this library!”
Twilight raised an eyebrow. “Right.” She looked around the mess and then pointed at a bundle of books strewn on the floor.
“Those aren’t mine!” Rarity marched towards them, picking one up. “See! This is—Oh, my romance novels! I’ve been looking for them ever—Wait.” She turned to Twilight, embarrassed. “Well! Well, this hardly counts as ‘so much of my things’!”
Twilight grinned. “Is that a fact?”
“Yes. No. Maybe. Yes.” Rarity stamped a hoof on the floor. “Yes it is.”
The crackling sound of Twilight teleporting filled the library. She teleported near the back, looked around and picked up a scarf from the floor, she then teleported near the left side of the room, picked up two sketchbooks and a pair of red glasses on a desk, and she then teleported to the other side of the room and levitated a whole slew of fabrics.
When she teleported back to Rarity, she delicately placed them all before her marefriend and smiled.
“…Alright, alright!” Rarity grumbled, taking the glasses and putting them on. “You’ve made your point!”
“Come on.” Twilight walked past her and headed to the right side of the room, her tail brushing Rarity as she did so. “We can start here.”
Twilight liked to think she enjoyed organizing her things. One grew to love organizing when it was the only thing one could do to keep themselves busy for a thousand years. It was a nice way to revisit memories and long-forgotten memorabilia.
Memorabilia like the camera tucked away under a fallen table, photographs littered around.
“I think it still works?” Twilight murmured, looking it over for scratches and damage. She heard Rarity laughing and turned to find her looking at a photograph. “What’re you looking at?”
Rarity showed her a terrible photograph of half a desk.
“Oh, that’s not very good.”
“It’s the first photograph you ever took, don’t you remember?” Rarity said, looking back at it. She looked at another and laughed again, showing it to Twilight and revealing a picture of a perplexed Elara. “This one, too!”
Twilight took the photographs and looked them over. There were several of Elara and Themis, of her library, and even of her, but…
“You’re not in any of these?” she noted, upset.
“I’m not,” Rarity said. “You didn’t feel inclined to take pictures of me.”
“Twilight, are you forgetting you didn’t like me very much?” Rarity asked, amused.
“What? Yes, I did!”
“Oooooh, sure you did, Your Royal Seriousness,” Rarity said, lifting her glasses on top of her horn and circling Twilight. “I’m sure that’s why you never said goodbye when I left, or why you never smiled at me, or why you frightened me at every chance you got?”
“That wasn’t me frightening you, that was you being easily frightened!” she protested. She absolutely did like Rarity! Sure, she was too busy dealing with her plethora of mental traumas to express it properly, but— “Actually, I can prove I liked you.”
“Oh? In that case, please do.”
“Do you remember how I gave you books to read before you left?”
Rarity tilted her head, intrigued. “…Yes?”
“Well! You probably didn’t notice, but—”
“But you kept making the return dates shorter so I’d have to come back sooner?”
Twilight looked away, embarrassed. “…I guess you did notice.”
Her embarrassment grew when Rarity laughed fondly.
“All right, Twilight, I’m willing to concede you appreciated me somewhat, then,” she said. “Somewhat.”
“It wasn’t just somewhat! Look, wait.”
Without explaining, she trotted further into the library, lifting bookcases back to their place as she did so. Eventually, she reached her destination in the shape of her personal desk and the calendar hanging from the wall.
She took the calendar from the wall, flipped the months over and then showed Rarity several dates with her name on it.
“See! I’d mark down the days you were supposed to come over!”
Rarity looked very pleased, taking the calendar. “I do love how there’s more and more circles as time go—Twilight!” She flipped the calendar towards Twilight, prominently displaying a date with her own name surrounded by hearts. “This one has hearts!” She turned the calendar back towards herself. “Was this before or after you confessed you loved me?”
“You mean before or after you confessed,” Twilight playfully corrected.
“Details, details,” Rarity murmured, continuing to look at the calendar. “Drat. It’s after I confessed.”
“Does that matter?”
“Well, no,” she said, putting the calendar back on the wall. “I just liked the idea that one of us wasn’t alone in pining over the other for months.”
Twilight’s ears perked up. “For months?” A second question arose in her mind, which she couldn’t stop herself from asking. “When did you realize you liked me?”
Rarity blinked at her, thrown off. “When did I realize I liked you?” She blushed when Twilight nodded. “Well. Well, I don’t know.”
Twilight frowned. “What? You have to know. It’s you.”
“What’s that supposed to mean? And I don’t! You were a fairy tale princess! I was impressed by you from the very start!”
“But when did you really know you liked me?” Twilight insisted, purely out of curiosity and nothing else.
Rarity made an exasperated noise. “I don’t know! I suppose…” She mulled it over for a moment until her eyes landed on Twilight’s necklace and she pressed a hoof against her own. “I suppose it was the first time we used the necklaces.”
“Since the necklaces? That was only a few months after meeting each other,” she exclaimed, only for her elation to quickly die. “Oh wow. “
“I am dense.”
“A tad, yes. In any case, we sho—”
“Wait, wait!” Twilight interrupted. “What did you like about me?”
Rarity gave her a pointed stare. “Twilight.”
“Was it my books? Or my essays? I write great essays.”
“Sweetheart,” Rarity said, turning around and trotting off into the aisle, “we’re supposed to be cleaning, not building up your ego.”
“We?! I’m the only one who’s been cleaning!”
“Keep at it, then!”
“But was it the essays?!”
Though she felt tempted to chase after her, she decided she should at least finish cleaning up the room. More mementos were uncovered as she did so, including her map of old Equestria, her old notes and letters, and a few more photographs she’d taken while testing the camera.
It was nice, honestly. Despite it all, even with the bad memories, she had fallen into her old routine with more ease than she’d expected, like she’d travelled back in time to the rose-tinted days of yesteryear.
Such was the comfort and the impression of being back in the past, she almost forgot she wasn’t displaced anymore.
“Not today,” she told the bookcase she almost slammed herself into when she tried to move on to the next aisle.
She moved around the bookcases and figured she ought to see how Rarity was progressing, if she’d progressed at all. When she peeked into an aisle, she found her in the middle of a pile of things, intently reading a scroll.
As quietly as she could, Twilight made her way over and then, once she was sure Rarity hadn’t noticed her…
Rarity yelped, practically jumping five feet into the air before turning to Twilight, furious.
“Twilight Sparkle, I swear to—”
Twilight quickly teleported out of the way of the scroll being chucked at her, and reappeared on top of the bookcase, where she had to avoid yet another scroll
She tilted her head to the side. “Rarity, you’re supposed to be cleaning the messes, not making them.”
“Come back down here, you—! You—!”
“You cat? I think that’s what you called me when I was up here.”
“‘That too,” Rarity mimicked, watching as Twilight levitated over the scroll she’d been previously reading.
“What is this?” she asked, looking it over. “‘Lava Lamps. Mechanical objects that extract molten lava from under the ground, then store it for cooking, melting objects and launching projectiles at high speeds.’ Oh! Scootaloo gave me this, remember?” She teleported back down. “Can we go to a lava lamp extraction soon?! How often do they happen?!”
Rarity gave her an unimpressed stare. “Oooooh, I see. First you scare me, and then you ask for favors?”
“Pleeeeeease?” Twilight asked, pleading as cutely as she could, which wasn’t very much, but it seemed to do the job.
“Very well then,” Rarity said after a theatrical sigh and roll of her eyes. “Remind me tomorrow in Trottingham, then.”
“There’s a lava lamp extractor in Trottingham?!”
“You’ll seeeeee,” Rarity said sing-song, rolling up the scroll and putting it to the side. “Regardless, now that you’re here, I can show you what I found!” She gestured to some closed and bulging trash bags. “I’m actu—Twilight! Wait a minute!” Harrumphing, she grabbed the bag Twilight already started opening and forcefully put it to the side. “Now, as I was saying, I’m actua—Twilight, really!”
Ignoring Rarity’s protests, Twilight opened the second bag she’d levitated over and reached in, taking out a pair of wrinkled cardboard wings and matching cardboard crown.
“The contest!” she exclaimed, inspecting the crown intently. “Wow, I haven’t worn mine in weeks.” She patted the top of her head, suddenly feeling naked without it and her regalia.
“I also found these,” Rarity continued, turning to another one of the bags. She opened it up and took out a case of unopened fine wine, some wine glasses, and a bag of chocolate cookies. “I bought them for us a week or so after breaking my curse, if I remember correctly.”
“For us?” Twilight took the wine and looked it over. “But I couldn’t have these anyway. Well, not then, at least.”
“Oh, I know!” Rarity said, peering into the cookie bag and wincing. “Dear stars, these are going straight into the garbage. Anyway.” She put the cookies inside the trash bag. “I bought them because I was, errr… shall we say, a little overconfident in how long it would take me to free you. So much for that, hm?”
Twilight bit her lip, taking the wine. “Do you think this is still good?”
“It should be, or else the vendor who swore it would last me decades unopened owes me money.”
“Well… Why don’t we have it now, then? A late celebration!”
“Now? As in right now?” Rarity raised an eyebrow. “I’m never one to refuse a glass of good wine, but I thought you wanted to clean.”
“I guess you’re rig—”
“Alright, you’ve convinced me!”
Rarity took the bottle in her magic, uncorked it and then poured a decent amount into two of the glasses.
“You know, Princess Celestia told me once that a glass of wine is good for giving you energy in the middle of a task,” Twilight added helpfully, taking one of the glasses. “One glass should be fine.”
“I’m sure it will.”
Half a bottle of wine later found the two mares lying on top of a makeshift bed of pillows and blankets, Rarity resting the side of her head on top of Twilight’s barrel as she watched the alicorn take another spoonful of peanut butter from a jar somepony had left lying around.
“Can you even imagine what would have happened if Discord’s magic hadn’t saved us from Dragon Lord What’s-His-Face?” Rarity asked, readjusting the cardboard crown threatening to fall off her head. “What if he’d, I don’t know, threatened to keep us in his lair until you showed up to rescue us?”
“Wasn’t he going to eat you?” Twilight asked after another spoonful, passing it and the jar to Rarity.
“I don’t remember, actually.” She tapped the tip of the spoon against her lips. “Who do you think he’d have tried to eat first?” She paused. “Don’t answer that.” She paused again. “Rainbow Dash, I bet. She actually exercises, so she looks meatier. Then I’d be second. And I don’t think he’d eat Pinkie. She’s too pink.”
Twilight’s horn crackled and she summoned a book on dragons Celestia had given her once. “I don’t think dragons eat ponies,” she said, flipping through the pages. She then put it down and smiled playfully at her marefriend. “And this is a silly conversation.”
“I like silly,” Rarity complained. “I’ve done many silly things for you, Twilight Sparkle. I…” She fell silent, rubbing her hoof against her mouth. “Goodness, I really have done many incredibly daft things in your name, haven’t I?”
“Not too many,” Twilight said, amused. “Just one or two.”
Rarity laughed. “Just one or two? I’ve done much more than one or two, Your Highness. What about walloping a timberwolf with a can of pepper spray? Or confronting a horde of dragons, hm? Or what about investigating a changeling village? Or telling the Professor off, and telling Princess Cadance off, and telling Discord off.” She fluttered her eyelashes. “Twilight Sparkle, there’s an entire picture book being made of the ‘just one or two’ things I tripped over myself doing for you.”
“Okay, okay,” Twilight said, opening the book again and trying to hide how pleased she was, which was made impossible when Rarity snuggled her way into Twilight’s forelegs and pressed her face into her chest, mumbling something.
Twilight struggled not to laugh. “I can’t understand you like that.”
“I said,” Rarity mumbled, only vaguely more clearly, “that loving you is going to be the death of me, I tell you! Death by Princess Twilight!”
“Drunk in love!”
“No, drunk from too much wine.”
“A lady does not get drunk, she gets fun,” Rarity protested, humming contentedly when Twilight wrapped a wing around her. After a minute, she confessed, “I did miss this.”
“Even the library?” Twilight asked, and Rarity smiled.
“Yes, even the library and everything that happened inside it,” she said, leaning in to kiss Twilight. She then looked around and sighed. “Dearest, must we really clean this entire place? It’s late, and we’re drunk, and I need a two-hour long bath to make up for the lack of spa.”
“At what time is our train for Trottingham leaving tomorrow?”
“At an ungodly hour I don’t want to be reminded of.”
“Well…” They hadn’t really even managed to clean even half of the first floor, but it was late. “I guess we can take some of the books lying around back to Hollow Shades and then reorganize them next time we’re here. Do you think Sweetie is done?”
“Let us find out!” Rarity craned her neck around and yelled out into the distance. “Sweetie Belle! We’re leaving soon, dear!”
“Wait, wait! I’m done, I’m done!” Sweetie called back, and sure enough, the little filly trotted into view a few minutes later, a book, a stack of drawings and their folder floating behind her. “Look!”
Though Rarity patted an empty spot next to her, Sweetie promptly ignored her and wiggled—or rather, pushed—in between the two mares. She then took out her multiple drawings and showed them off, displaying rather embellished versions of past events. Twilight was pretty sure the dragon Rarity fought didn’t have two heads, and she wasn’t particularly “heart-eyed” the first time she met Rarity either.
“These are all lovely,” Rarity said, genuinely, taking a few of the drawings and looking them over, a warm smile on her face. “I expect a signed copy once it’s published!”
Sweetie nodded. “I’ll give it to you for the special price of five hundred bits because you’re my sister!”
“Five hundred bits!? Dear girl, I should be getting this for free!” She shot Twilight a piteous look. “Twilight, tell her!”
“Sweetie, this is your hard work. You shouldn’t be charging Rarity a discounted price just because she’s your sister. She can pay full price, like everypony else.”
“Authors are poorly paid, Rarity!”
“Alright, I suppose I can pay whatever actually reasonable price it ends up being,” Rarity conceded, grabbing the folder and looking it over. “But! If I’m to spend a single bit on this, then I’m allowed to say that I find ‘Princess Twilight’s Book’ a rather uninspired title.”
“It’s a work in progress!” Sweetie stammered, with a blush. She grabbed the book she’d levitated over, revealing it to be a thesaurus. “I have a better one!”
“How about The Tales of the Fairytale Mare?” Rarity suggested, fluttering her eyelashes at Twilight while Sweetie went through the book.
“I’m a fairytale mare?” she asked, amused.
“Sweetest, darling, Twilight! Obviously I’m the only fairytale here.”
“I got it!” Sweetie cleared her throat, waiting a moment for dramatic effect, and then announced: “The Ethereal Archives.”
Twilight frowned. “The Ethereal Archives?”
“Do you like it?!”
“Err… I do. I do!” Twilight said.
Rarity smiled politely. “It’s certainly quite… flowery!”
Sweetie nodded gravely. “I was going to call it The Magical Bookstacks, but Scootaloo said that wasn’t cool enough.” She got up suddenly and rushed off. “Wait, I can show you the names we came up with for the sequel!”
“The sequel?” She turned to Twilight. “Better get started on daring exploits, then. It’s only fair the sequel is about you tripping yourself over me, hm?”
Though Twilight had a snappy reply, Rarity’s words and the book itself struck her, taking her back to her last conversation with Princess Luna.
“Even despite the bad times, things still felt better, and now they don’t. I don’t know how to explain this. It’s like I was reading a book and it was great, and then I got the sequel, but it’s not what I thought it would be?”
“Rarity,” she asked carefully, “was this what you thought it would be?”
“How do you mean?”
“This,” Twilight repeated, unable to bring herself to look at Rarity first and instead looking to the drawings. “All of this. Me being out. What we’ve been doing. Us.” She forced herself to look at Rarity. “Was it what you thought it would be?”
Rarity looked away for a moment, and then turned back to Twilight.
Twilight winced. “Oh.”
She tried to think of something else to say, something to move things along, to swallow the lump that now was in her throat, but any attempt to do so was thwarted when Rarity got up and ceremoniously dropped herself right next to Twilight, nuzzling her for good measure.
“No,” she repeated, “I think it’s very different from what I thought it would be, because not even a few months ago, I thought I would never see you again. So, no, this may not be the fairy tale dream I imagined two years ago, but for now, this works splendidly.”
For now, Twilight thought, wrapping a wing over Rarity and settling on that thought. Things would still go wrong. There were still many, many things she couldn’t yet solve, fix or save ponies from.
But for now worked.
Today, she’d helped Rarity overcome her nightmares, and tomorrow she’d have to deal with more nightmares, more problems, and rescuing Princess Luna herself.
But for now…
Solving one nightmare was good enough.