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    Her eyes flickered briefly towards the window and the snowflakes pelting against it. It reminded her of her home in the north, and with a pang, she wished she were there. No one could really cheer her up like Shining Armor could.

    Well, maybe I could, but I had been the one to do the hurting, in this case.

    “Only Fluttershy is coming?”

    Though she likely did not mean it in that way, Lady Celestia’s question hung heavy in the heart of the woman seated on the other side of the Lady’s desk. It was an innocent question, Twilight knew, and a compassionate one if she was interpreting the Lady’s tone correctly, but it still didn’t take away from the fact that it stung.

    “Yes. It’s not a hundred percent confirmed, but she’ll try to come after dinner with her family,” Twilight replied, affecting a smile and trying her best to look content.

    She was, really! Fluttershy, who she’d only really met twice, was nice, and there was also… Well, there was also no one else, for in the few months she’d been in the city, Twilight Sparkle had hardly made friends. She felt pathetic at the realization. Wished that perhaps she’d tried harder to befriend the people her age at galas rather than shadow Celestia and impress elderly aristocrats.

    “Making friends can be hard, can’t it?” the Lady mused, interrupting Twilight’s train of thought and surprising her instead.

    It surprised Twilight that Celestia had made such a comment simply because it was so… so vulnerable, so personal, so distinctly outside the realm of questions asked in what had thus far been a mostly strictly student-teacher relationship.

    Grant me an aside, will you not?

    I’m sure you’ve noticed this, or at least realized that out of all the times we’ve sat here to talk, I’ve hardly ever spoken of Twilight’s relationship to the Lady. I’ll admit it’s been mostly because the subject doesn’t interest me, but it’s also because there was nothing to their relationship. To try and tell you about it would just result in a beautifully narrated tutoring session, nothing more.

    Their dinner conversations, for example, remained focused almost exclusively on magic and books, theories and debates, and when it veered towards the personal, it stayed mostly on Twilight’s aspirations, her family in the North, and the Lady’s tales of her trips through the realm.

    All she knew of Twilight’s personal life was what Twilight relayed. Many nobles had tried to gossip to the Lady what they’d heard of Twilight, who they’d seen her with, but every single time, the Lady refused to listen.

    “What Twilight does in her free time,” she’d say kindly but decisively, ending rumors before they began, “is for Twilight alone to know.”

    Beyond that, Lady Celestia herself asked so few questions to Twilight about her life that my beloved once wondered if she even cared at all.

    And she did, make no mistake. She did care, absolutely and certainly, but Lady Celestia had learnt her lesson on caring too much.

    Where were we? Ah, yes.

    “Making friends can be hard, can’t it?” the Lady said, for once discarding the barriers around her. It was disarming, and Twilight could hardly stop herself from replying in kind.

    “Yes,” she said, disheartened, feeling ill at the thought of failing at something so fundamental in life. Things were easier before, she thought, when she didn’t care about having friends at all.

    Neither said anything for a moment, each lost in their own thoughts, until the Lady felt bold and decided to cautiously dance towards dangerous territory.

    “What about the person you meet up with secretly every week?” she asked, and I wish I’d been there to see Twilight caught off-guard.

    “Excuse me?”

    The Lady laughed. “Twilight, I know we’re still getting to know each other, but after your mother insisting you’d marry books if you could, I don’t think you’d be compelled to leave the house so much unless your heart was set on someone else.”

    My darling turned a lovely shade of red, and the Lady laughed warmly.

    “Did you ask our mystery stranger to come for dinner?”

    “I did,” Twilight replied and then spoke without thinking, “she said she couldn’t.”

    No sooner had the specific pronouns left her mouth, Twilight wished she could go back in time and take them back. It was one thing to reveal your sexual preferences to a stranger and another thing entirely to reveal them to someone who’s opinion mattered a lot.

    And yet, if the Lady cared, she did not show it.

    “I’m sorry to hear that,” she said instead, sympathy coloring her tone. “I assume she’s the real reason you didn’t go home for the holidays?”

    Twilight’s silence was answer enough.

    “I’m sorry, Twilight,” she said. “If you’d like, I can speak with Jet Set and see if you can attend the gala with me?”

    Twilight shook her head. “It’s all right,” she said, not wanting to be a bother to the Lady. “Flint will be here, and Fluttershy might come.”

    The Lady hummed. “Well… If your friend changes her mind, you’re more than welcome to host her.”

    Twilight thought of me for a moment, tried to find a flicker of hope only to instead force herself to let go. “Thank you,” she said sincerely, “but I don’t think she will.” At the Lady’s expression, she offered a conciliatory smile. “It’s all right! I have my books, after all.”

    And dear Flint, too.

    All things considered, having Hearth’s Warming dinner with Flint was enjoyable for my beloved. Flint was a wonderfully good cook, and his lack of propriety was refreshing to Twilight. A change of pace she rather enjoyed.

    “What about your family?” asked Twilight, sitting at a kitchen stool and watching the older man amble about, carrying ingredients to and fro.

    “Haven’t seen them in years,” he replied. “I’ve only got some cousins up in the north, and I’m too old to travel up there.”

    Twilight grinned. “Didn’t you go to Saddle Arabia with Lady Celestia last year, though?”

    “That’s different,” he said, opening the oven and stuffing a turkey inside it. “The Lady didn’t expect me to work while we were there. My cousins do.” He turned to Twilight and brushed his hands together, getting rid of crumbs. “My wife would push me to go, but the only way that’s happening now is if she decides to haunt me into going.” He looked up towards the heavens—or ceiling, in this case—and wagged a finger. “And that isn’t an invitation to do so, Tulip!”

    For the briefest of moments, Twilight Sparkle wished Tulip Sparks was still alive. It would have been nice to meet her, or to at least have someone else to talk with in the empty mansion she called home.

    “Is it hard? To take care of the mansion all by yourself, I mean,” she asked next.

    “Not anymore,” he said, sitting down on a chair with a great big sigh. “Tulip and I grew used to it.”

    “Why didn’t… Why doesn’t the Lady hire more people to help?” she asked. She felt rather inclined to point out the Lady clearly had the money for it, so it made no sense having a single older man take care of an entire estate.

    “She used to have a bigger staff.” He took a pause, debating how much Twilight deserved to know, and decided he might as well be sincere since he was on his third glass of wine. “Most of them quit.”

    This took my beloved by surprise.

    “They quit? Why?”

    “The girl,” he said simply.

    “The girl…? You mean the Lady’s protegée?”

    A strange laugh left his lips. “I told you, didn’t I? That child had enough charm to woo the city. When she and Lady Celestia had that falling-out over her new job, most of the staff followed after her. This place—The Lady wasn’t the same after she left. ”

    “I didn’t know they’d had a falling-out…” Twilight murmured. This certainly changed things, even if it was obvious in hindsight that such a choice would be poorly received by Lady Celestia.

    Flint blinked at her, and then the poor fool caught up with his words. “Twilight, for lord’s sake! Look at what—I told you to stop poking your nose into this!”

    “What?! You brought it up!”

    He opened his mouth to protest, but closed it when he realized he had, in fact, brought it up himself.

    “Ah, I’m too old for keeping secrets,” he grunted, getting up and busying himself with glaring at his turkey in the oven. “Not a word, Twilight,” he said, looking over his shoulder.

    “Not a word,” she repeated. “Except… can I ask one last question?”

    He grunted in reply, which could have meant no, but Twilight pretended it meant yes.

    “What was her name?”

    He grunted again, louder now, and now she could hardly pretend that was a positive noise in the least. As such, she decided not to press, he decided not to tell, and I am allowed to dance around that little revelation for a bit longer.

    If you are frustrated, dear friend, do bear with me a little more, will you not? I will make it worth your while.

    Where was I? Ah.

    Even despite being so rudely shut down, Twilight’s brilliant mind reeled with this revelation and with growing curiosity over this girl that had so profoundly changed the Lady. There used to be a full staff in the mansion! A full staff, and another student, and all of it… was gone.

    A wonderful life in what could arguably be considered the lap of luxury discarded in favor of…

    … of being a prostitute.


    Twilight Sparkle thought of this woman when Flint ushered her out so he could finish cooking. Who was she? Where did she live? What did she look like? What was her name? So many questions she had, and no one to answer them.

    Rarity would know, she thought to herself.

    Obviously, I didn’t know who this mystery woman was because I would have obviously mentioned it when she brought it up, but surely I would be able to help her investigate, wouldn’t I? If… If I had agreed to come to dinner, she could simply ask me to help her right there and then.

    But I hadn’t.

    And even if she tried not to think about it, it still hurt.

    She made her way towards the dining room table and sat down on a chair, deciding not to think of me any longer and instead direct her thoughts towards Lady Celestia’s mysterious student.

    Who was she?

    In her thoughtful haze, her eyes roamed the many paintings hanging on the walls and settled on the monochromatic painting of the child she’d seen before. The grinning, darling little girl that seemed to always be amused by everything she saw.

    Trepid realization dawned on her.


    Was that a portrait of the girl? Her eyes shot towards the other two paintings, portraying the two sisters she knew so well, and suddenly nothing else made more sense than…

    It had to be her, staring down at Twilight with a smile that almost seemed to confirm it.

    In fact… maybe… if she levitated the painting down…

    Maybe the artist had written down the model’s name?

    With new determination, she stood from her chair and walked towards the painting, magic crackling in her hand as she did so. She looked around, making sure no one was watching, and then carefully lifted it off the wall, dust sprinkling down from its edges.

    Her heart drummed in her ears, louder and louder the closer the painting drew, and it felt like everything came to a stop when it was right in front of her, the child gazing straight into her eyes.

    One, two, and…


    In a rather dramatic fashion, if I do say so myself, she turned the painting around and quickly scanned the back for any name, any sign, any clue as to who it was.

    She found nothing of the sort.

    “Great,” she muttered, a little too soon.

    The sound of the doorbell startled her right out of her disappointment, enough so that she almost dropped the painting. With a frantic fear of being caught, she quickly put it back in its place right before Flint opened the kitchen door and blinked at her.

    “What are you doing?” he asked her.

    “Nothing! Why would I be doing anything?!”

    She was never adept at being nonchalant, though he didn’t care enough to ask.

    “Go open the door, won’t you? My potatoes are burning.” he said instead. “And if it’s those two brothers trying to sell to us again, tell them I will be calling the police.”

    Relieved to have avoided confrontation, my beloved quickly set off towards the main entrance, wondering who exactly could be ringing their doorbell at such an hour and on such a day. Maybe it was Fluttershy, which would be great, but not ideal as she’d hardly had time to prepare activities for them to do together.

    To her great disappointment, it was not Fluttershy who she heard behind the door once she reached the lobby. In fact, it wasn’t just one person but several, whose arguing was loud enough to stop her in her tracks.

    What?! Where are YOU going?!” one exclaimed in muffled indignation. “Come back here! You can’t chicken out now!”

    Wait! Are we playing tag?! But I can’t run carrying these cakes!”

    A child’s voice piped up. “Hurry, ring the doorbell again, Sweetie Belle!”

    “Sweetie Belle?” Twilight asked, her heart drumming up a stampede as she rushed towards the door.

    She grabbed the handle and turned it down, the great big door opening with a loud creak, and was immediately greeted by a stunning—if slightly winded—woman in a gorgeous blue gown and her bizarre entourage that had rudely formed a barrier behind her to prevent her from running away again.

    Not that she had in the first place.

    There, standing under Lady Celestia’s front door, Twilight stared at me.


    “Twilight!” I exclaimed brightly, wonderfully, composed. “How are you?”

    Twilight frowned. “I. Uh. Fine?”

    “Teacher Twilight!” Sweetie Belle exclaimed, walking past me and rushing to Twilight so as to grab onto her shirt and tug on it. “We came to have Hearth’s Warming dinner with you!”

    Twilight, the poor dear, turned back to me, undecided between being delighted and absolutely confused. “You did?”

    “Yes, if that’s alright with you?” I asked tentatively. “I know it’s a little short-notice…”

    And finally, Twilight’s shock wore off enough for her to regale me with a raised eyebrow and a wonderfully playful smile. “A little short-notice?”

    Pinkie Pie spoke before I could, nearly shoving me to the side as she walked straight past Twilight and into the mansion, carrying with her several boxes of food. “I’m gonna go put these in the kitchen!” she exclaimed, walking down a hallway to the left, Sweetie Belle and her two little crusader friends following behind. “The part-ay is her-ay!”

    Twilight spun around. “Wait! That’s not where the… kitchen… is.”

    Additionally, she thought, that wasn’t even a real rhyme, but she decided there were more pressing matters than telling Pinkie that.

    Applejack, carrying her own sets of pies, let out a weary sigh. “I’ll go get ‘em,” she muttered before turning to Twilight and nodding her head. “ I’m Applejack. Nice to meet’cha.” She nodded towards me. “Heard plenty about you from Rarity here.”


    My darling could hardly hide her delighted smile. I’d been talking about her? Well, well, well! That did bode well, did it not?

    She watched as Applejack marched right into the mansion and when she turned back, she now found herself in the overbearing presence of the Sapphire’s head of security herself.

    “Er, hello!” she greeted Rainbow Dash, who in turn crossed her arms and hummed.

    “So you’re Twilight Sparkle, huh?” asked Rainbow, who clearly had no manners whatsoever. She looked Twilight up and down as if we were in a line-up from work and grunted approvingly. “Not bad!” She turned to me, and I still wonder how she failed to light up in flames under my fiery glare. “Not bad at all, Rares!”

    “Yes, yes!” I said quickly, stepping forward in an attempt to put some distance in between Twilight and this heathen I called a friend. “I told you she was fabulous! My taste in friends is impeccable—” I glared at Rainbow once more. “Most of the time.”

    Rainbow Dash replied with a hearty laugh. “Love ya too, Rares!” she lied through her teeth, strolling into the mansion like she owned the damn place and leaving Twilight and me alone.

    “You know, Rarity, a warning might have been nice,” Twilight noted.

    “Oh, Twilight, you know me! I live in the moment, and besides, wouldn’t want you to spend the holiday alone what with Lady Celestia being gone, hmm?”

    Twilight smiled.


    “Wait,” she said, frowning, “how do you know that Lady Celestia isn’t here?”

    An expletive I will spare you from voicing rang in my mind.

    “How… How do I know she—?” I stumbled over my words, grasping at straws. “I—! Well, darling, dearest, if she were here, you wouldn’t have let six complete strangers barge into the mansion, now would you?”

    She stared me down for an eternal second until a blush tinged her cheeks.

    “Good point.”

    She cleared her throat and stepped to the side, inviting me inside the house with a warm gesture. There always was some sort of thrill to the idea of welcoming your crush inside your home, and it certainly helped that I seemed so taken aback by it all. Every step I took was filled with trepidation, and well, she could hardly blame me! Such an imposing mansion! It made sense I’d be more than impressed!

    She didn’t like to assume, and she never would, but she was sure this was the first time I’d ever set foot in such a lofty place.

    “So? What do you think?” she asked after closing the door.

    My only reply was a nervous laugh. My hands, she noticed, were balled into fists, and my earlier cheer had all but vanished. Concern awashed her entirely. She’d never taken me to be someone who could be quite literally paralyzed by interior design!

    “It’s a lot to take in?” she ventured, and relaxed when I finally came to.

    “Yes! Yes…” I said, turning to her with an embarrassed smile. “Quite a lot, yes.”


    Twilight winced at Flint’s voice booming through the halls. Right. She was not alone, was she? A little detail that had slipped her mind.

    “I’m in the lobby, Flint!” she called out, embarrassed and turning around just in time to see me looking more than a little stricken.

    Flint?” I asked, stepping back with alarm.

    “Don’t worry! He’s the Lady’s butler!” she quickly explained and put on her best smile when in came Flint Sparks, a rag on his shoulder and a scowl on his face.

    “Twilight, who on earth are… are…”

    Very few words left his lips when his eyes found me, and though I usually revel in leaving others speechless, this was not one such case. Twilight, however … my poor, darling, dense girl was nothing but pleased. Yes, I was a beauty, thank you very much! What pride she felt, like a child being told she’d done well on a test.

    “Flint!” she exclaimed, stepping beside me. “This is Rarity. She’s a friend of mine. Her sister is the little girl I tutored in magic a few months ago, remember?”

    His beady brown eyes shot between us two, showcasing a truly spectacular range of emotions from surprised to confused to overjoyed to upset. Eventually, he set his gaze on mine and wordlessly conveyed a sentiment oft expressed to me as a misbehaving child.

    Rarity, he said with his eyes, what in blazes are you up to?

    “Flint!” I exclaimed, stepping forwards and extending my hand. “What a pleasure meeting you! How do you do?”

    He stared at me, this man who’d spent many a day covering up my childhood disasters, and made a choice.

    “I am well, Miss Rarity,” he said, shaking my hand and interlacing himself in the tangled web of lies that threatened to trip me very, very soon. “A pleasure to make your acquaintance.”

    “Flint, Rarity and her friends brought us some food for tonight!” Twilight continued. “Why don’t I—”

    “Why don’t you go find our other guests,” he interrupted politely, his eyes still on me, “while Miss Rarity tells me what she would like for dinner?”

    Twilight nodded her head. “All right.” She turned to me with a grin. “Have fun!”

    “Oh, we will,” Flint said in an absolutely non-threatening way that made it absolutely threatening. He gestured towards a nearby hallway. “After you, Miss.”

    After me, indeed.

    Now, as much as I’m sure you’d like nothing more than to know how that conversation went, I fear I shall have to dash your expectations away. There are rather more important things I’d like to discuss, and we will have time later to explore the nuances of our relationship.

    Suffice to say, as pleased as he was to see me, he was decidedly less pleased by the circumstances surrounding our meeting.

    “Well, really!” I think I said. “I don’t know why everyone has to act like I’ve done something wrong!”

    “Don’t you think, child,” he replied, “that might be indicative of something?”

    “I’m sure I have no idea what you mean.”

    “What did the Missus always say? Lying isn’t befitting of a lady.”

    I laughed. “And neither is judging others, yet here we are, Flint darling. Here we are.”

    And so on and so forth in a discussion that really didn’t matter. All that mattered, you see, was that Twilight Sparkle was having a wonderful time with all of us.

    Dinner had been a much more jovial affair than she’d prepared herself for during the day, and it was her great honor to sit at the head of the table and have me sit right next to her in a chair that, incidentally, I was not wholly unfamiliar with. We spoke about everything and nothing at all, but mostly about my sister and her little friends who insisted on being the center of attention.

    After dinner was done and the children went off to explore the gardens, Twilight roped us all into the living room to do something she’d not been able to do recently.

    Decimate others at Word Scramble.

    Which is why I intelligently decided to watch rather than play.

    You can’t be humiliated if you don’t play at all, no?

    Furthermore, I couldn’t really complain. It was much more interesting to play with Twilight, you see, since she’d been so kind to rest her back against the couch I was lying on and allowed me to practice tressing her hair.

    “You’re a security guard?” she asked Rainbow, somehow managing to focus on my friends despite me being right there next to her. It was highly impressive.

    “Yeah,” Rainbow explained, trying to find a new word to put down after having been told that K-E-W-L-E-S-T did not count as a real word. “I keep our, uh, employees safe from weirdos.”

    Twilight raised an eyebrow. “Safe from weirdos? What kind of establishment do you work for?”


    “Retail!” I interjected from the couch, which is technically accurate, thank you very much. “You know how that goes! Some clients hardly have respect for people providing a service! Isn’t that right, Applejack?”

    Applejack grabbed a new word tile. “Eeeyup,” she said.

    “And you sell…?” Twilight prompted, eager to know all of my friends.

    “Apples! Just about everything to do with apples. The family farm sells the best ones from here to Trottingham.”

    “Yep! She’s the only apples I buy for the bakery!” Pinkie added, taking a bite out of her apple pie as a show of evidence.

    Twilight nodded severely, storing the information in her mind for later use. She licked her lips and prepared herself for the question she’d most wanted to ask.

    “And how did you all meet Rarity?”

    A stilted silence swept over the room, my three friends blinking at her like a herd of deers caught in a headlight of passing train. You see, one way or another, all three of my friends had met me through the Sapphire Carousel. Pinkie, by virtue of being Lady Luna’s favorite caterer; Applejack, by virtue of her brother being a co-worker; and Dash, by virtue of being one of the few women around who enjoyed nothing more than, as she says, throwing down with creeps.

    I intercepted. “Through my job.”

    “Your seamstress job?” Twilight enquired.

    “Yes,” I said with a smile.

    “Yep!” Pinkie added. “She made a dress for me!”

    “K-e-w-l totally counts as a word!” Rainbow grumbled, and then looked up. “What? Oh! Uh, yep!”

    “Eeyup,” Applejack said, carefully putting down the letters I-A-R next to an L on the board.

    Twilight deflated, looking over her tiles. “Darn. I was going to use that L for one of my words. Hm… Oh! Applejack, that’s a great idea!” With great delight, she put down the word G-O-B-E-M-O-U-C-H-E. “There! That’s twenty points for me!”

    Rainbow was appalled. “That is totally made-up!” She looked around and gestured towards the open-book lying face down on the floor. “Pass me the dictionary!”

    “Aren’t all words made-up, though?” Pinkie asked.

    “Gobemouche,” Rainbow said with appalling pronunciation. “Aw man. It is a word. A fly-eater? Oh, wait, no. A silly or credulous person.” She furrowed her brow. “It’s a foreign word, though! Does that even count?!”

    “While you figure that out, I’m going to go get my wine refilled in the kitchen,” I said, getting up from the couch and fetching my glass from a nearby table.

    “Do you need me to go with you?” Twilight asked.

    “Oh, stars, no, I’ll be perfectly fine,” I said. “Only come fetch me if I’ve been gone for an hour!”

    Though she wanted to come with me, Twilight forced herself to remain with the others. She didn’t want to be rude to them, and she still had enough wine in her glass that she couldn’t justify going to the kitchen for a refill.

    Perhaps she could discreetly finish it all in one gulp?

    “How did you meet Rarity, Twilight?” Applejack asked, fixing my beloved with her gaze and interrupting her from a very poor choice.

    “Oh, er, I met her at the station near here. King’s Pike,” she replied. “I was waiting for the train, and she was sitting next to me and she…” She drifted of, unsure of how to continue her sentence. She wanted to say that she and I had a conversation, but what we had wasn’t so much a conversation as it was… a very strange thing.

    “And she…?”

    “Well, she told me the story about the boy who died there, and that’s how we started talking.”

    Applejack blinked. “…That’s one way to start a friendship, I reckon.”

    A question drifted into Twilight’s head, harmless and innocent, and finding herself in front of my friends, she could hardly stop herself from asking it.

    “Do you know where Rarity’s workshop is?” she asked. “I’ve been meaning to visit it, but she…” She licked her lips. “She never talks about it? Is it because she works for a private contractor?”

    Applejack faltered. “I ‘spose you could say that,” she said, another lie that wasn’t technically incorrect. “A lot of her dresses are for a private contractor, but not all of ‘em.”

    Twilight couldn’t hide her disappointment. “Oh.”

    Applejack, in return, made a choice.

    “Ah, dangit. I’ll give you the address and you can go visit her anyway,” she said. “It’s in the Lunar Distr—”

    Uhm, AJ?” Rainbow loudly interrupted, staring at her friend as though she’d lost her mind.

    “That’s private, silly!” Pinkie replied next.

    “You don’t have to be honest about everything!” Rainbow added.

    “What?” Applejack shot back. “There ain’t nothing wrong with giving her the address to Carousel Boutique!”

    And, for all intents and purposes, there really was nothing wrong with it. It was simply her way of alleviating the guilt of keeping up with my lies.

    Adding a harrumph as a further measure, she turned back to Twilight and cleared her throat. “So, as I was saying, it’s in the Lunar District by—”

    Actually,” Twilight interrupted, raising her hand after having seen enough from my friends to make her next choice. “It’s fine, Applejack. I’m sure Rarity will tell me herself.”

    Speaking of which…

    She put down her tiles and got up from the floor, dusting herself off.

    “What? Where are you going?” Pinkie asked, waving a tile into the air. “I was just about to put my word down!”

    “I’ll be right back! I’m going to find Rarity,” Twilight quickly said, grabbing her glass of wine. It had been ten minutes since I’d left, after all. “I think she really did get lost.”

    However, to Twilight’s surprise, I was not in the kitchen.

    The only person she found was Flint.

    “Flint!” she exclaimed, holding her still-full glass of wine. “Where did Rarity go?”

    “Where did she go?” he repeated. “I haven’t seen her.” His tone shifted ever so slightly, from at-ease to all but. “I’ll go look for her, if you want.”

    “No, no! I’ll go!” Twilight blurted out, telling herself it was to avoid inconveniencing Flint and not because she wanted time alone with yours truly. “She probably got lost. I’ll go find her.”

    About five minutes later, Twilight Sparkle truly regretted bringing the glass of wine with her, and she wished it weren’t so costly so she could simply throw it away without much guilt. Thus, she had no choice but to carry it around with her as she made her way across the expansive estate, poking her head into every room.

    “Rarity!” she called out, making her way upstairs to the second floor where one could find the bedrooms. “Are you lost?”

    “Yes, I am!” said no one, because honestly that was a silly question and as Twilight made her way into the hallways, she wondered why she’d even asked it in the first place.

    “Raaaaarity!” she called again, louder now, and her search was finally rewarded in the shape of a yelp in the distance. “Rarity?”

    “Coming! Coming!” I called out from the beyond, the alarm in my tone jolting my beloved.

    With determined steps, she pressed onwards and turned the corner just in time to find me in front of a chest of drawers, slamming the topmost shut.

    “Rarity?” she asked, confused by my actions.

    “Twilight!” I stammered, practically jumping away from the furniture. “Darling, I—”

    “What were you doing?” she asked me as soon as she reached me, a severity now present in her voice. This was Lady Celestia’s house, after all, and she couldn’t allow it to be disrespected. “Were you looking through the Lady’s things?”

    “What?! No! Me?! Never, no! Twilight!” I exclaimed, and Twilight’s concern melted away at my clear horror. “I was—! The bathroom key! I was merely looking for the bathroom key! Flint said it was upstairs in the first drawer!”

    “Oh,” Twilight said.

    Though her brain wanted to point out that there were bathrooms downstairs, she simply accepted what I said as true. After all, I had said it, and she had no reason not to trust me.

    “Sorry about that,” she said, trying to figure out why the bathrooms would be closed at all. She opened the topmost drawer and looked it over, finding it a little bit of a mess. Papers moved about, receipts blurred out, and blue bedroom key on top of it all.

    But no sign of the bathroom key.

    “It’s all right! The feeling’s passed anyway,” I said, grabbing my empty glass from atop the chest and regaling her with a dashing smile. “Shall we go back to the others?”

    She nodded, closing the drawer and stepping back. She intended on saying something else, particularly something along the lines of asking me to relieve her of her wine, but her attention was drawn instead towards something else we were standing in front of.

    A door.

    And not just any door, mind.

    “Twilight?” I asked. “Are you all right?”

    Her eyes drifted down towards the doorknob and the little silver bracelet that hung from it.

    “This was her room,” she stated.

    Pardon?” I asked next.

    “This room,” she repeated, looking at me. “This was her room. You know, Lady Celestia’s former protegée. The prost—”

    “The sex-worker, you mean?” I asked. “This was her room? Fancy that!” There was a pause in my speech. “Have you been inside?”

    “No,” she replied, and then confessed. “I’ve wanted to, but I don’t want to be rude.” There was a certain longing in her voice, a burning curiosity that refused to be extinguished despite the multiple waterfalls crashing down upon it. She stepped closer to the door and rapped her fingers against it, as if it might open to her touch. “I wonder what she’s doing.”


    “Or who she is.”

    “Who knows, darling,” I said. “It’s a big city, after all! For all we know, you might have made her acquaintance already! She could be anyone!” She didn’t notice the strain in my voice as I made a choice. “For all we know, she could be me.”

    She turned to me, brow furrowed.


    “For all we know,” I repeated, “she could be me.”

    It was a visceral reply, what followed next. Not cruel in its intent, not… not meaning to be disrespectful, simply coming from a place of ignorance, but one could not deny it was visceral.

    “No,” she said. “You can’t.”

    If I seemed struck, again, she did not notice.

    “Why not?” I asked.

    And again, as I’ve come to learn, Twilight Sparkle is anything but tactful.

    “Because you wouldn’t,” she said innocently, and just as fast, just as hard, did her words strike her back. Because you’re not one of them, she’d wanted to essentially say, a fact that felt grounded in the logic she’d been raised with, and yet…

    Wasn’t right.

    To hear it said aloud, it felt… uncomfortable.

    Maybe it was our own conversation we had on this woman after Lady Luna’s presence at dinner. Maybe it was the fact that somehow, deep inside, she knew. Maybe it was a plethora of things.

    I suppose it doesn’t matter what it was save for the fact that it made her feel… wrong.

    “Ah,” I replied.

    “Wait,” she said next, prompted by her own conflict or by my expression, I do not know. Maybe both. “That’s not what I meant. It’s just…”

    “Y’all sure do like taking your sweet time, huh?”

    Like a crack of a highly convenient whip, Applejack’s voice startled us both into jumping three feet away from each other. We turned around to find my friends all clustered together at the end of the hallway, and to Twilight’s dismay, our conversation was clearly over.

    Between us two, at the very least, as it certainly hung over her like a stormcloud during the next hour. Though we’d spent the night practically glued to the hips, now we spoke focused on others instead, avoiding the awkward haze that surrounded us.

    It wasn’t until later that she finally caved in.

    “I win again!” Applejack exclaimed, brandishing the paper with their tallies like a victory award.

    Rainbow sighed, lying down on the floor and glaring at the ceiling. “Aw man…”

    “I thought you were supposed to be unbeatable, sugarcube,” Applejack said to Twilight as a well-meaning jab.

    “I thought so too,” replied Twilight, frustrated by her loss and by the fact that she knew damned well why she was losing.

    Rainbow sat back up and slammed her fist on the ground. “Okay! This time, I’m going to wi—Twilight? Where are you going?”

    Twilight, now standing up, smiled uncomfortably at the two women. “Er. I forgot I need to tell Rarity something. Why don’t you play a round without me?”

    She looked around and saw me sitting by the corner of the room, my attention completely taken by whatever animated tale Pinkie was regaling me with. She made her way over to us, feeling confident in her decision, and immediately regretted it when calling my name utterly killed my conversation with Pinkie.

    “Yes?” I asked, a little too bluntly.

    Twilight was a brave girl, however.

    “Uh, Pinkie? Can I talk to Rarity alone for a moment?” she asked and felt some relief when Pinkie gladly acquiesced. It at least meant that Twilight hadn’t upset me enough for me to complain to my other friends.

    Once she was gone, she sat down before me and took a breath, wanting to get it over with as soon as possible.

    “Rarity, I—”

    “Twilight, wait,” I interrupted instead, an almost frenetic pace to my tone, like I’d just come to an urgent realization.

    She stared at me. “…Okay?”

    My expression changed from cold to… conflicted. “Twilight, I… There’s something important I need to tell you,” I said at length. “I really should have earlier, but…”

    “You mean now? Tell me now?” she asked, my tone troubling her. “All right. Do you want us to go to another room or—”

    “No, no, not now! Stars, no!” I said, quickly smiling at her to counteract the nerves in my voice. “Today isn’t the right time for that. How about tomorrow? We can meet up at Moonshine Bar again and—”

    Twilight grimaced.

    “I’m going to be out of town tomorrow, remember? I’m going home.”

    “Ah. So you are,” I said. What felt like eternity passed between us before I continued. “Then it’ll have to be when you come back. We can sort out the details later.”

    “Right,” Twilight said.

    “Right,” I repeated.

    Again, that awful awkward cloud settled itself between us.

    “What did you want to tell me?” I asked.

    Twilight hesitated, wondering if it was worth bringing up again or not. She decided that it was.

    “Rarity, uhm, about what you said upstairs about you being… What I said about you not being like that, I—I didn’t mean it like that.”

    I didn’t hesitate.

    “Yes, you did,” I said, “you absolutely meant it like that.”

    She froze up immediately, her emotions a mix of defensiveness and guilt, and though she opened her mouth to try and defend herself, I was far too quick.

    “You absolutely did mean it like that, Twilight,” I said with disarming kindness, leaning forwards and placing my hand on her knee, “but it’s not your first thought that counts. It’s what you do about it that does.” I then allowed her a blessed reprieve by grinning. “And judging by the fact that you’ve lost twice at Word Scrabble, I think you’ve really been thinking about your actions a lot, hm?”

    “I—I was letting Applejack win! That’s all!” she protested, but her smile betrayed her real feelings.

    A return to normalcy had been granted for now, at the very least, and as we continued to speak of this and that, our little… thing became a thing of the past.

    Sweetie Belle and her friends eventually came back and joined in with the board games, until eventually one by one they fell asleep next to Rainbow Dash, the poor woman still hopelessly losing at Word Scramble.

    “Well, all in all, I think tonight was a tremendous success,” I said, using what little telekinesis I had to levitate my sleeping sister up off the ground onto the couch.

    “It was!” Twilight agreed. She looked around, took in the scene, and then turned to me. “I’m glad you came, Rarity,” she said with an almost intimate sincerity. “This was a much better way to spend the holiday than reading books all alone in my room.”

    “I’m glad I came back, too, darling,” I said. “Spending Hearth’s Warming all alone here with grumpy Flint? Can you imagine? What if you ran into him under the mistletoe?”

    “Ew!” Twilight exclaimed. She let out a guilty laugh and said, “Can you imagine?”

    “Now, now, let’s not be rude,” I said in a hushed whisper. “Or else karma will find you and you’ll be finding him under the mistletoe tonight.”


    “There, there,” I said, patting her knee with my hand. “Look at it on the bright side, dear. At least it won’t count as your first kiss.”

    “Count as my fir—Rarity! You’re the only person who thinks that way! Your first kiss counts with whoever it is!” She lowered her voice. “Regardless of their orientation!”

    I grabbed my wine and took a sip. “That’s exactly what someone who hasn’t had their first kiss would say.”

    “What? But—! I—! But you—!” She groaned and rubbed her forehead. “Why is this even important?”

    “Twilight, whyever are you asking me?” I said. “You’re the one making a big deal out of it!”

    You’re the one making a big deal out of it!”

    “Twilight.” I put my glass down and reached out for her hand, enveloping it in mine. My gaze did not waver even when she started to blush ever so delightfully. “Twilight, darling, dearest. Do you want me to kiss you and just get it over with?”


    “You heard me.”

    “No, I know I heard you. I just want to confirm that you heard yourself.”

    “I thought it might make you feel better, though honestly maybe you shouldn’t because it will absolutely ruin all future kisses for you! Not a single one would compare.” With a great sigh, I let go of her hand and leaned back. “It was just an offer, dear.”

    “Wait,” she blurted out, “I didn’t say no.” A second went by and she raised up her hand in scandalized horror at herself, and at me, and at the fact that she was raising her hand in the first place. “Wait.”

    I smiled. “Yes?”

    “What if we… What if we do it for research?” she said which frankly was the most Twilight Sparkle thing she’d ever said, and I’d have asked her how on earth she ever managed to seduce a boy if I wasn’t too busy being seduced myself.

    Gulping down the last of my wine, I stood up and offered her my hand. “For research it is, then!”

    There are things that happen in this world that you aren’t quite prepared for. Events that you rehearsed for in the mirror, in the shower, in the train, and thought you were ready until they happen and you realize you weren’t.

    For Twilight, this was one such time.

    As she followed me through the mansion’s labyrinth, her fingers interlaced with mine, a single thought burned in her heart.

    She was going to kiss me.

    For research, of course, clearly, absolutely, but still! It was a heady thought, the idea that something she’d only dreamt of so far was about to happen, and it clouded her from so many questions.

    Was I kissing her because I wanted to? Was I kissing her purely for strange philanthropic reasons that included donating kisses? Why was my hand soft and warm? What if she didn’t kiss well? What if she ruined her first kiss?! Or, rather, to be technically correct, her first kiss with a woman, which wasn’t actually her first kiss, but—

    “We’re here!” I exclaimed, stepping into the cozy, secluded private library from which hung the single branch of mistletoe as it had every year since a brilliant little child suggested as much to Lady Celestia.

    “We’re here,” Twilight repeated, her mind now panicking at a thousand anxieties per hour, so much so that it completely distracted her from focusing on a passing question that slipped into her mind.

    In a mansion with over a two dozen rooms, how did I know where the mistletoe was?

    A very vital question which she unfortunately could not ponder for long as she was too busy with the fact that I had now placed ourselves right under the dangling plant.

    “Now what do we do?” she asked, eloquently.

    “First of all,” I said, reaching down into a concealed pocket in my dress and retrieving a worn golden lipstick tube. “We do this.”

    Right in front of her eyes, I took the top off my crimson lipstick and slowly put it on, making sure that every single inch of my lips were covered in the red hue Twilight Sparkle couldn’t help staring at. Not because I needed to reapply it, mind, but because much like always, I did terribly enjoy driving her mad.

    Once I was done, I put the lipstick away and licked my lips for no other reason than because I could.

    “There,” I whispered, tilting my head so slightly. “I daresay we’re all set to kiss now, don’t you think?”

    “Kiss for research purposes,” Twilight clarified.

    “For research purposes,” I repeated.

    “Because kissing a girl is very different than kissing a boy.”

    “Oh, stars, yes. It should be very interesting.”

    I soon regretted saying that.

    “You know what’s also interesting?” Twilight began in a frenetic pace, her mind now locked shut into what I—lovingly, I assure you—call ‘Twilight Mode’ which can also be called ‘Trivia Mode’. “There’s an actual scientific branch reserved for studying kissing called philematology. In fact, a questionable scientific journal I read claimed that kissing for one minute can burn up to twenty-six calories, and it also helps lower your blood pressure. I can’t currently corroborate that, but I feel that—”

    “Twilight,” I cut off, stepping up very close to her and forcing her to freeze in place when I put my hand on her waist. “I’m going to kiss you now, all right?”

    “Okay!” she said in a high-pitched tone I had no idea she could even reach.

    She looked at me, frozen in the frenzy of wanting something very badly but fearing it at the same time, and her poor frayed nerves were not comforted by the fact that I suddenly giggled.

    “What’s wrong?” said my beloved soprano.

    “Twilight, I hope you don’t kiss with your eyes open,” I teased, and giggled again when she slammed her eyes shut.


    There were no words to describe what Twilight felt. Try as she might, and try she did, the only thing that could even remotely describe what it felt like to stand there with her eyes closed and wait for my kiss was the word torture.

    That’s what it was, and what it became more of when my free hand softly cupped her cheek, the slim fingers sending jolts all over with every gentle caress. Her own hands were at her side, wanting quite desperately to hold on to me but too afraid that trying to grasp me would wake her from this absolutely absurd hallucination she was probably having.

    A hallucination that, I assure you, felt very real when my lips touched hers.

    It is not my place, dear friend, to tell you whether or not it was everything she imagined, but I can certainly tell you that that’s exactly what it was for me and what it seemed to be for her.

    I could sit here, yes, and describe her thoughts, but I could also describe how a kiss that started smooth and soft and careful became decidedly less so with every passing second, with every moment Twilight Sparkle decided she ought to indulge this manic fantasy by pressing me against her, a hand finding my waist, the other my back, and her heart deciding that this was not a dream she was just about to let slip in between her fingers.

    Just like with learning, just like with her studies and with magic, just as with everything that she did in life, Twilight was pleased to learn that where kissing was concerned, practice was so much more interesting than theory.

    Eventually, it ended, and we pulled apart from each other, our cheeks a matching shade of red and our eyes struggling to meet after such intense research.

    “Well…” I said, finding myself breathless. “Well then.”

    On her side, Twilight was still struggling to find the words I’d literally stolen from her mouth. They escaped and escaped her, left her only with almost mindless actions, like lifting her hand to her lips and touching them with her fingertips.

    I had kissed her.

    This was the only coherent thought she could form, the only thing she could think of when she lowered her hand from the lips my own had claimed and found her hand…


    “Oh wow, your lipstick didn’t rub off!” she blurted out, her mind trying to find stability by voicing whatever thought crossed her mind.

    The sincere surprise in her voice was disarming and endearing all at once, and I couldn’t help a laugh.

    “A lady,” I said with a proud grin, “never leaves a mark.”

    “I guess not,” she replied with a hint of disappointment.

    “So, Twilight! Do tell, what did you think of your first real kiss?”

    She stared at me, smitten, in love, delirious. She thought many things of our first-ever kiss, many many things, but I’d toyed with her before and our relationship had always been a back and forth, had it not?
    She smiled at me.

    “It was okay.”

    Excuse you?!” I gasped, indignant, offended, insulted, and incredibly attracted by her remark and her subsequent laughter. “That kiss was the greatest kiss you are ever going to get, Twilight Sparkle!”

    She grinned mischievously, crossing her arms behind her back.

    “Well, Rarity, statistically speaking—”

    “Twilight Sparkle!”I exclaimed. “Well, you know what?! If tha—” I stopped myself in my drama-filled tracks. “Oh. Oh, I see. I see what’s going on here.”

    “Do you?” she asked.

    “Yes, I do,” I said, stepping forwards. “You’re just trying to trick me into giving you another kiss.”

    “I knew tha—Wait, what?” she said, her smug charisma fading quickly. “Wait! That’s not—! I mean—!”

    “Oh, ho, ho, you don’t fool me, Twilight,” I purred, stepping closer again and reveling in watching her step back all the way until she was trapped against a bookshelf. It was everything I ever wanted up until my hands pressed the bookcase on either side of her and her surprised yelp really made things divine. “I would suggest, my darling, that you close your eyes if you want that second kiss.”

    And close them she did, not even bothering to hide what she wanted.

    How hard it was to keep her breathing steady, to keep her heart from beating out of her chest, and to keep the anticipation from killing her. She waited, and waited, and waited until she was certain a minute had gone by.

    “Rarity?” she ventured.
    No one replied, and honestly how could I when she opened her eyes to find that though the effects of my charisma remained, my actual self was all but gone.

    “Ra… Rarity!” she called out, setting off a string of distant giggles and accompanying footsteps running far away.

    Twilight’s cheeks were still flushed when she walked back into the living room, still hot and bothered and certainly a much less composed sight than yours truly who was looking absolutely innocent, sitting on the couch next to her sister and blinking at Twilight.

    “Twilight, goodness, are you all right?” I asked, innocently swirling the wine in my glass. “Your face is red!”

    “I’m fine, thank you,” she replied shortly, not amused by my terribly amused smile.

    “Looks to me someone’s had a bit too many drinks,” Applejack teased. She got up from the floor and bent down to carry her sleeping sister off the couch. “And someone needs to get back home to her own bed.”

    And with that, our surprise visit came to an end.

    We’d gallivanted long into the night, children had to wake up early to unwrap presents, and I had a long night of lying in bed giggling awaiting me.

    One by one, we began to leave, each lingering as long as we could and giving Twilight hope that this wouldn’t be the first and last night my friends would come see her. She liked them tremendously, and it was a thrilling thought to know they might one day be her friends too.

    “So, then,” I said, standing under the frame of the entrance door, my arms occupied with carrying my dozing sister, “we’ll meet up when you’re back?”

    Twilight nodded. “The seventh at Moonshine Bar. I’ll be there.” An excited, bashful smile graced her lips. “I can’t wait.”

    My smile was subdued. “I can’t wait, either,” I said, even if I now debated whether I still wanted to go through with my intentions. That night, that kiss, her… To have her so close now and to potentially lose it all?

    It was a choice I didn’t want to make.

    “In any case,” I continued, pushing away the thoughts in favor of revelling in a perfect night, “I shall take my leave before Sweetie Belle wakes up and demands to stay longer.”

    That would be fine, Twilight wanted to say.

    She didn’t. She would later be glad she didn’t. But let’s not get ahead of ourselves.

    “All right,” she said instead, standing awkward under the door she didn’t want to shut. She still had so many things she wanted to say, to ask, and ninety-eight percent of them related to our little kiss in the library.

    “And about that second kiss,” I said.

    Her entire body snapped alert when I stepped closer to her, taking one hand away from Sweetie to grab hers so as to pull her close enough that I could leave a kiss on her cheek. I pulled back as quick as the kiss and stepped back, adjusting Sweetie’s position and admiring the stunned woman.

    “Happy Hearth’s Warming, Twilight.”

    “Happy Hearth’s Warming, Rarity,” she replied, watching with a full heart as I turned around and walked away from her, from our kiss, from the mansion, and from a past that simply wouldn’t stay where it belonged.

    You see, dear friend, my night ended there, but Twilight’s? Twilight’s night, well…

    It was not over yet.

    Picture, if you will, my Twilight closing the door and leaning against it, a hopelessly smitten smile on her lips as she pressed her forehead on the door and sighed.

    What a night! What a perfect way to spend her last day in Canterlot before going home to see her family. It was almost midnight, too, yet she could not bring it in herself to pack, to sleep, to do anything else but think of me.

    And she did think of me all the way up until the loud ringing of the doorbell startled her out of her scandalous thoughts.

    She blinked at the door, confused. Who could be visiting at this time of the night?

    She opened the door and peered outside to see no one but dearest Fluttershy looking very, very pale.

    “Fluttershy!” she exclaimed, her surprise quickly shifting to concern. “Fluttershy, what’s wrong?”

    She replied as if stuck in a trance, the words clung in the woman’s throat. “Twilight, uhm, I, my dinner, and I—” She looked back towards the main gate, clutching her chest. “Twilight, I think I just saw…”

    “Saw? Saw who?” my darling asked, her concern only growing as she looked out into the darkness with wary eyes. “Is someone following you? Come in, come on.” She ushered Fluttershy in, closing the door and making sure to lock it, and then turned to her friend. “What’s wrong, Fluttershy? Who did you see?”

    Fluttershy stared at her and made a choice.

    “No one, Twilight,” she said with a nervous smile. “I think it was just a mistake.”

    Or was it? She certainly didn’t seem to think so when the doorbell rang again less than a minute later, sending the poor girl a few feet into the air.

    “Who keeps ringing at this hour?!” Flint boomed, walking into the foyer hung-over, annoyed, and having spent an entire night debating whether to lie to his employer or not.

    “Flint,” Twilight said immediately, “I think someone might be after Fluttershy.”

    “What?!” Fluttershy gasped. “No, it’s—”

    “Whoever it is,” Flint grumbled, walking to the door, unlocking it and swinging it open, “is going to have to explain themse—” His insolent remark was strangled in his throat at the sight of Lady Celestia herself, beaming at the three of them and wearing a lovely lavender dress. “L-Lady Celestia!”

    “Heavens!” she exclaimed, delighted. “What a reception!”

    She stepped into the room and greeted them all, giving the two girls a kiss on the cheek and Flint a hug.

    “I thought you were at a dinner in Trottingham, Lady Celestia,” Twilight said, surprised to see her there so early.

    “I was! A lovely dinner, too, but I wasn’t able to stay long at all,” she explained. “Something’s happened and the Mayor asked to see me tonight.” She rolled her eyes theatrically. “Her timing was never the best.”

    “Yours is, my Lady,” Flint said, severe. He looked to Twilight and Fluttershy for confirmation as he spoke. “It seems Fluttershy is being follow—”

    No!” Fluttershy boomed, her complete and uncharacteristic shift in attitude startling all present. Realizing this, she clenched her hands before her chest and smiled nervously. “It’s fine, really. It was just my imagination.” She turned to the Lady. “It’s nice to see you, Lady Celestia. Happy Hearth’s Warming.”

    “…And you, Fluttershy,” Lady Celestia cautiously said, her tone matching what Twilight was thinking.

    What had that been all about?

    Flint cleared his throat. “My Lady,” he said, “didn’t you have to go see the Mayor?”

    The Lady blinked. “I did? Oh, goodness, I did! Yes!” She clapped her hands together and looked around, her mind seemingly far away from whatever had just happened. “I came back here to get my notebook! Can you go get it, Fli—”

    “I’ll go,” Twilight said, cutting her off, grasping Fluttershy’s hand. “It’s in your office, isn’t it?”

    The Lady shook her head. “But I want to hear about your night! Flint can g—”

    “I insist, Lady Celestia,” Twilight said, and rather unsubtly gestured towards Fluttershy. “Fluttershy can come with me.”

    Understanding flashed through Lady Celestia’s eyes. She relented and nodded them along.

    “Don’t take too long, then.”

    Through the mansion did Twilight drag Fluttershy, all the way up to the second floor where they could not be heard. Once she was sure they were alone, Twilight spun around and fixed Fluttershy with a worried gaze.

    “Fluttershy,” she said, “what’s wrong?”

    “Twilight, please,” replied the woman, quietly yet firmly, “I don’t want to talk about it. Please understand.”

    A few moments passed, my darling’s fists closing and opening, until she relented. Another thing she was being shut out of, it seemed. Another secret, another depth denied, but like with all the others, Twilight told herself she’d find out eventually.

    “All right.” She relaxed her shoulders and looked around, finding Celestia’s office in the distance. “The Lady’s office is over there. Let’s get the notebook and go back down.”

    The Lady’s office was just as Twilight always found it. Everything in it was pristine and perfectly in its place, except for the assorted objects on the desk. Those were a mess, and yet even that mess seemed perfectly organized.

    Fluttershy waited by the entrance while my darling strode all the way through the room and planted herself firmly behind the Lady’s desk. She scanned it, trying to find the familiar purple notebook the Lady oft carried around. She moved the things all about, levitating papers and wrappers and pens into the air, until finally she found it beneath a large manilla folder.

    “Did you find it?” Fluttershy asked.

    “Yes,” Twilight replied, putting everything down on desk and grabbing the notebook.

    Once that was done, she tasked herself with trying to re-organize the desk, looking it over until her eyes landed on a blue-framed photograph on it.

    I doubt you, dear friend, remember it, but Twilight did.

    It was the framed photograph that had been removed from the reading room, leaving behind an imperfection in the otherwise perfect mansion. There it was, the elusive missing link, and with just one glance at it, Twilight knew why it had been taken off the wall.

    Everything else blurred into the background. Fluttershy calling to her, the notebook in her hands, the Lady still waiting.

    With fingers that almost trembled, she reached down and took the frame, lifting it up and coming face-to-face with the most damningly lovely portrait she’d ever seen.

    A beautiful photograph of a younger Lady Celestia swinging on a swing-set, her eyes sparkling with a joy Twilight hadn’t ever seen in her. Her left hand gripped the swing chain tightly while her right hand occupied itself with a vital task.

    Holding the thirteen year-old purple-haired girl sitting on her lap, the child laughing without restraint.

    There she was, clear as diamonds, the great mystery of Lady Celestia’s mansion.

    The name left her lips without her even realizing it.


    “What?” Fluttershy asked, the nervous eyes now alert. “What did you say?”

    As if it were burning her, Twilight put the frame down on the desk and stepped back.


    It couldn’t be me.

    And yet, there I was, or seemed to be, and it didn’t make sense, and yet it did, and how dizzying were her thoughts until they slammed to a halt when a voice entered the room.

    “Twilight! You said you wouldn’t take long!”

    Dazed, she looked up to find Lady Celestia in the room. She was speaking, too, but she couldn’t rightly tell what she was saying. Something or other about her notebook, and time, and so many things that didn’t matter or mattered to much.

    “My, look at what a mess my desk is!” the Lady said after Twilight had given her the notebook. She organized it quickly, startling Twilight again with a gasp. “Oh, here it was!”

    Like a sword brandished into the air, Lady Celestia held a single, golden, familiar tube in the air for Twilight and Fluttershy to see.

    “What’s that?” Fluttershy asked, intrigued.

    “Lipstick,” the Lady replied, completely missing Twilight’s widened eyes and her sharp intake of breath. “And not just any lipstick, but a magic lipstick.”

    “Magic lipstick?” Fluttershy queried.

    The Lady nodded, excited. “It’s been imbued with a spell I created! It… Well, it’s easier to show you.”

    In a practiced motion Twilight had seen before, the Lady opened the tube of crimson lipstick and applied it on her lips in a slow motion. When she was done, all under Twilight’s penetrating gaze, she lifted three pale fingers, kissed them and turned them around to show her pristine skin.

    “A lady,” she said, “never leaves a mark.”

    And Twilight Sparkle went from thought to thought.

    To Flint’s reaction when he met me.

    To Fluttershy’s acting as though she’d seen a ghost.

    To my defense of Celestia’s former ward.

    To Rainbow and Pinkie’s reaction at Applejack telling her where I worked.

    To me never speaking of my work, never letting her visit my home.

    To the sewing needle she’d found on the chair.

    To the L.R. scrawled over the children’s cup, the formal title of the mansion’s third lady.

    To the most damning thing she’d ever been told.

    For all you know, she could be me.

    I did tell you I’d make it worth your while, did I not?

    “Twilight?” Fluttershy asked, distant past the haze that now made up Twilight’s mind. “Twilight, are you all right?”

    The Lady’s voice came next, sharp and cutting and tainted by an entirely new light. “Twilight, you’re pale!”

    “I… I feel sick,” she replied which was not altogether a lie, but was enough to convince Lady Celestia and Fluttershy that she needed help.

    Offers of taking her to her room were thrown at her, but she refused.

    She could do it alone, she said, she needed time alone, please, and so did they comply. Goodbyes that didn’t matter were exchanged, Fluttershy following Celestia down into the foyer while Twilight?

    Twilight Sparkle did what she did best.

    A thundering crack left the room, and in less than an instant she was somewhere else. She’d been taught it was rude to teleport without warning, but she’d also been taught that lying was rude and no one seemed to care for that lesson, did they?

    She was somewhere else entirely, though not her room, not the kitchen, not the study or the library, but a hallway.

    A hallway with a chest of drawers and a very haunting door.

    She turned to the chest and opened the first drawer I’d earlier been looking through, its contents still a mess but above it all, as if for her to see, a blue bedroom key.

    It surprised her when she took it. She half-expected doing so would wake her from this dream.

    She turned to the door, her eyes landing on the bracelet hanging from the doorknob. She grabbed it and let it fall to the floor, not really noticing it had fallen.

    She tried to open the door.

    It didn’t budge.

    The key burned her skin, her soul, her mind and in an almost mechanical fashion, as though it was someone else controlling her body, she lifted it and felt her heart stop when it slid right in.

    Only then did the fear settle in.

    Only then when all she had to do was turn the key to find out, only then did she have to ask herself the real question burning her every thought.

    Did she want to know for sure?

    All she had to do was just a simple twist.

    Well, you’ll forgive me for being cruel, for that is who I am, as I tell you next that Twilight stood there, took a breath and…

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    1. Silver Mint
      Sep 16, '22 at 12:04 am

      “Eeyup,” Applejack said, carefully putting down the letters I-A-R next to an L on the board.

      I still really like this section of this chapter, it’s so in character, so gentle sand subtle.

      The rest of this chapter is masterfully woven, everything clicks into place, and while it seems that Twilight figures it out by pure chance, it easy ultimately Rarity who inadvertently have her the tools.

      Ending the chapter on that cliff hanger is very, very, very mean, by the way.

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    3. A Deer
      Sep 3, '22 at 12:54 am

      When that photograph on the desk was mentioned I was like ‘oh no the tower of lies is falling and poor Twilight is standing below’. The last three chapters did a great job skipping between the past and present and setting up the moment of Twilight putting it together about Rarity. The feints of Rarity and Fluttershy almost revealing the truth set me up for the photograph moment being the reveal. I’m wondering how Twilight’s going to process this. And wondering how Rarity and Celestia meeting again will go when it happens. Many questions still to answer.

    4. platinumSKIES
      Jul 7, '22 at 7:45 pm

      There’s some part of me that feels like Twilight was set up to fail when Rarity asked her question. Like… everyone knows her upbringing and her social issues. There are massive secrets almost everyone she’s met are hiding. No one seems to want to give her straight answers on the Sapphire Carousel, Luna, brothels/sex workers, and Rarity.

      The fact that she clearly felt awful for the first thing she said says a lot about her, and I just….I feel so bad for her and kinda mad at Rarity and everyone else for basically dropping her into a situation where she almost can’t win.

      So while I definitely overall agree with Rarity….it just seems unfair to Twilight.

      Also, just add on…

      deep internal screaming to the sky

    5. Pinky102368
      Feb 4, '22 at 3:21 pm

      I have nothing articulate to say this time, just “AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA”