It had been a long, long time since the ghostly Princess Twilight had been ill, but this did not mean she couldn’t tell when someone was ill.
Rarity, the unicorn who’d been consistently visiting her for at least two months now, was supposed to visit that day. She was supposed to arrive early in the morning, bringing the two books Twilight had lent her.
By the time Twilight’s newly-gifted modern clock struck noon, Rarity had not arrived… not that Twilight had completely noticed, as she tried not to care too much whether Rarity came or not.
She was spectacularly bad at it, admittedly, but that is neither here nor there.
Though her mind was quick to try and offer several reasons ( such as “her work got in the way!” or “she got hurt” or the ever familiar “she hates you, actually, and wants nothing to do with you, and you deserve to be alone”), the princess did her best to push them aside and focus on the fantasy book Rarity had given her.
That is, she focused on it right up until the clock showed thirteen past one and she felt somepony enter her library. As was the norm, she teleported above one of the bookcases in the upper floor, intent on verifying the identity of the intruder–which she hoped was Rarity.
Mostly because she already had a hard time adjusting to one strange mare visiting her, and she didn’t think having to adjust to some random new stranger would be pleasant.
To her great relief, it was Rarity who’d arrived, but she seemed distinctly off.
Though the mare usually arrived with great strides, quick to announce her arrival, now… Now, Rarity slowly walked into the library’s lobby, looking plain tired.
Twilight watched, curious, as the mare made it halfway into the lobby before carefully sitting down, closing her eyes, and exhaling a painfully raspy breath.
“Stars…” said the unicorn, taking another breath and then standing back up, clearing her throat and trying to call out: “Princess Twilight?”
The call petered out halfway, the unicorn’s head hanging for a moment.
She was… sick?
Though Twilight usually preferred to teleport, Rarity’s condition deterred her from such and she instead flew down to the unicorn, quietly landing a few feet away from her.
Though ill, Rarity still got slightly startled, looking up at the princess. “O-Oh! Princess Twilight,” she exclaimed, standing up as straight as she could. Twilight noticed her eyes looked beyond tired, and her pale face lacked its usual makeup. “Hello!”
“You’re sick,” Princess Twilight stated.
Rarity winced. “No! No, no,” she insisted. “I’m fine.”
“You’re sick,” Princess Twilight repeated. “Is that why you’re late?”
Caught, Rarity looked away, apologetic. “…Yes, unfortunately. I… I’m not feeling well.”
Twilight frowned. That much was clear. What wasn’t clear was why had Rarity come in the first place?
“You look terrible,” Twilight said, completely missing Rarity’s rather hurt glance. “I don’t understand. Why did you come if you’re sick?”
“I… Well, I promised I’d come, princess,” she said, matter-of-factly. “I didn’t want to upset you by going back on my promise just because I had a fever.”
Rarity was so strange, Twilight thought. Didn’t she have to travel a dangerous forest to get there? Why would she think it would be okay to weakly travel through it?
“You should have stayed home. I wouldn’t have been upset,” Twilight said, concern washing over her. “It wasn’t very smart of you to come in this state.”
Rarity laughed weakly. “Ah, princess, you of all ponies should know I’m lousy at doing the sensible things in life,” she said, moving past the princess and heading towards one of the large throw pillows on the floor.
“Yes, I’m starting to really see that.”
Twilight followed after her, her concern lacing with slight irritation. She had things she wanted to do with Rarity! They were supposed to go over some of the unicorn’s modern books, and discuss new Equestrian cities! But obviously that wasn’t going to happen with Rarity sick.
Rarity carefully lay down on the pillow, her breathing unsteady. As if she’d heard Twilight’s thoughts, she shot the princess an apologetic look.
“I am sorry, Princess Twilight…” She was being sincere. “I know you wanted me to go over some things with you…”
Guilt seeped the alicorn, and she internally chastised herself for her irritation.
“It’s all right,” she said, teleporting away from the table the books she’d prepared. Oh well. “We can do it some other time.”
“We have all the time in the world,” Rarity added, and then offered a weak grin. “Or, you do, at least. Thousands of years and all that.” She cocked her head to the side. “Does time even matter to you?”
“No,” Twilight replied, sitting several ways away from Rarity. “Time doesn’t really matter to me. Or, well, it didn’t until you provided me with time-measuring instruments. With those, time matters again.”
“Oooh.” The unicorn closed her eyes, snuggling into the pillow, her words slurred. “Tiiiime matters. Interesting.”
“Rarity.” Twilight frowned, uncomfortable at… whatever was happening. “Are you well?”
“Admittedly, no. My headache is mostly gone, but now I can’t decide if I feel tired or drunk or both.” She opened her eyes, squinting them slightly and shivering. “Stars! It’s cold here.” She squinted at Twilight. “I don’t suppose you have ponycetamol?”
“Ah… Medicine. From my time, I mean.”
Twilight shifted uncomfortably. “No, I don’t have… that. I know willow bark grows near here. I could ask Elara or Themis to bring me some when they come back from their hunt.”
“Willow bark! Now, that’s a home remedy if I’ve ever heard one. I don’t think anyone’s used willow bark for fever in ages.” She looked to the princess and giggled. “You’re rather antiquated, Princess.”
“…I’m over a thousand years old, Rarity.”
And Rarity giggled some more. “Positively ancient!” she declared until she groaned in pain and closed her eyes, burying herself in the pillow. “I really don’t feel well.”
“You’re really not acting well.”
“Princess…” Rarity peered at Twilight, frowning. “Don’t be rude.”
Twilight’s ears flattened against her skull. “I wasn’t rude,” she quickly protested. She was just stating facts! And now she’d upset Rarity. Who was shivering pretty badly, actually.
Though Twilight certainly wasn’t going to risk a fire in her precious library, there had to be something she could do for the unicorn. Maybe a knitted cover? She still had the one Spike had left behind ages ago, kept intact by the same spell that protected her books.
She teleported to the floor below and retrieved the folded blue cover she’d kept stashed away for centuries. Moments later, she teleported back up, standing next to Rarity and carefully levitating the cover over her visitor.
Rarity stirred, taking in the blanket and then giving Twilight a genuine, grateful smile.
“Thank you, Princess Twilight.”
“It’s fine,” Twilight replied, wanting to look away, struck by something in Rarity’s haze yet focused gaze. However, rather than follow her urge, she held Rarity’s gaze, focused, focused, focused until the unicorn tilted her head on the pillow, and it was too much.
“Is something wrong?” the princess asked.
Rarity was silent for a moment.
And then she weakly spoke.
“I must be nothing to you.”
There was no malice in the statement. No offense or anger or anything of the sort. But it wasn’t empty either, not a sentence stated as a fact. There was wonder in this strangely negative sentence.
“Excuse me?” Twilight asked, thrown.
“You’re a thousand years old,” Rarity continued, still fascinated, then as she had been the day they’d met. “You’ve lived so long, and I’ve only lived the start of my life. I must be nothing to you. Just a second. Here and gone in a blink.”
That said, she closed her eyes and fell silent, leaving the princess to stare in stunned shock.
She could see Rarity was saying ridiculous things, but… but something about that statement clung with Twilight, haunting her. Here and gone in a blink.
Rarity wasn’t wrong, either.
She wasn’t. Twilight Sparkle had lived in that library for centuries, and had seen so many things that those that were notable were only really notable for a moment before they faded and blended into her memories, drifting off until they didn’t matter.
But something about Rarity saying that hit differently.
Something about Rarity thinking that hit differently.
The princess stood up and walked away, perturbed. Well, no, not perturbed, but… affected? She stopped in her tracks and turned back to look at Rarity, because she was so strange. So strange, and peculiar, coming into Twilight’s life and making her feel things she didn’t know how she felt about feeling.
Rarity stirred, her eyes fluttering open.
“Maybe… Maybe I should go home,” she murmured.
“No,” Twilight replied abruptly, almost as if something beyond her had compelled her to speak. She caught herself and moved over to Rarity. “It’s not safe. If you collapse in the forest, nopony will be able to help you. You need to stay here until you recover enough.”
Rarity didn’t protest. She didn’t say much.
“I… I don’t have medicine right now. I’ll have to look at some books for help. Unless you have an idea?” Twilight asked.
“I think sleep should help.” Rarity’s eyes drifted off. “When I was sick as a filly, my mother used to sit next to me and make up stories until I fell asleep.”
“…You want me to read you a story?”
Rarity laughed softly. “Oh, no. I was just thinking of my mother. They never worked out, because even so sick I felt like death, I was still too enraptured by the stories to fall asleep. But they always helped.”
Now this piqued Twilight. She always enjoyed a good tale, after all.
“What kind of stories were they?”
A long silence followed, Rarity’s gaze drifting off.
“…Well?” Twilight pressed.
“Ah…” said the unicorn, her pale face gaining a light blush. “I’ll admit I’m embarrassed to say.”
Twilight cocked an eyebrow. “Why?”
“Well,” Rarity said, slowly, “mostly because she’d make up stories about Princess Booky.”
Twilight blinked, surprised. “She made up stories about me? Why?”
And now Rarity’s blush was quite prominent, as obvious as how she closed her eyes so as to avoid looking at the princess.
“Oh. I suppose that would be because Princess Booky was my favorite.”
In truth, Twilight was glad Rarity wasn’t looking, because she felt rather embarrassed. But pleased, as well.
Ugh! Rarity was so strange. Life and feelings were much simpler before she came into Twilight’s life.
Rarity’s eyes opened when a crackle of magic sounded off, and her curious eyes drifted towards the leatherbound journal Twilight had teleported over.
“My diaries,” Twilight replied matter-of-factly. “I assumed this would be a satisfactory replacement to your mother’s stories?”
“You’re going to read me your diary?” Rarity asked, as shocked as one could get when sick. “But, princess, you don’t have to do that! Don’t be silly.”
“You said they always helped.”
“…So, this will help,” Twilight said, opening her journal and ending the discussion. Honestly, she was planning on publishing her diaries anyway, so this would be a good way to do an editing pass. “Though, Rarity…” She frowned at the unicorn. “Next time you’re sick, I won’t be upset if you don’t come.”
“Ah. I didn’t actually come because I didn’t want to upset you.”
“What? You didn’t? Why did you come, then?” Twilight asked, chastizing.
And Rarity giggled, charming even when sick.
“I thought that would be obvious,” she said, closing her eyes and drifting off. “It’s because you’re my favorite princess.”