Romance and the Fate of Equestria
Hey, folks. Long-time brony, first-time contributor. Sure, I don't create episode art which is online before the episode is even over, and I don't analyze and name every little background character, and I don't create epic-scale remix music videos for the series' songs… but despite my shortcomings I assure you I'm quite loyal to the show. So bear with me as I present to you: Romance and the Fate of Equestria. This is gonna be huge, folks.
Six friends gathered in the Ponyville library. There was no particular reason, no special occasion. It was simply time… time for all of them to join together for a sleepover.
Twilight smiled at the sight of her five friends, sitting in a circle with an empty space for her. She bounded over, beaming wildly. "Yay!" she spouted. "I love it when we're all together—and now we're all together for a slumber party! For the first time!" She started rapidly prancing in place. "It just makes me so happy! Aaaah!"
Rainbow Dash laughed. "I love it when you get your geek on, Twilight," she said affectionately. "Makes me proud to be one of the ponies who provokes that reaction."
"Will Spike not be joining us tonight?" Rarity asked.
"No, of course not," Twilight said. "This is girl time! He and Owloysius are watching the animals over at Fluttershy's place."
"Ain't that dangerous?" Applejack said, concerned. "A big ol' raptor in a house full of bunnies and rodents?"
"Oh, no," Fluttershy assured her. "I've worked with owls before. The trick with any carnivore is to make sure they're never hungry, and keep them on strict rations at all times, so they know they're not allowed to hunt or kill. And in the meantime, large predatory birds do have a knack for making small creatures sit down and shut up." She giggled.
"So anyway," Twilight said, levitating in a small, white cardboard box, "I bought this set of suggestions for games and activities we can do."
"Yup, there it is," Rainbow said dryly.
Twilight pulled the top off the box and began glancing through the cards. "My brother's wedding really got me thinking about some things," she explained. "The blue cards are games and the orange ones are the puzzles, while the pink ones are deep personal questions that the entire group is required to answer. So, you know…" She chucked all of the orange and blue cards to the side.
"Hmm… that's pretty good," Rainbow Dash admitted, after turning her head and seeing that all of the cards had landed perfectly stacked on a table.
"Sometimes you just feel like you don't know somepony you thought you knew," Twilight went on, shuffling the pink cards. "I think these questions might get this problem out of the way for the six of us." She set the cards back in the box, and set the box gently on the floor in front of herself. "Here's what we do: one of us pulls out a card and asks the question, then we go clockwise around the circle until the pony who first asked the question has answered it, we pass the box counterclockwise and the process is repeated. Everypony got that?"
The others merely blinked.
"Eh, how about we play it by ear?" Applejack offered.
"Okay, I'll begin," Twilight said eagerly, floating a card out of the box. "It says, 'Will you ever get married, and who would your ideal mate be?' Ooh, how appropriate! Rainbow Dash, you start."
Rainbow Dash, immediately to Twilight's left, scratched an itch on her neck as she considered the question. "Will I ever…? Yeah, probably. I mean, most ponies do. Who would it be? I don't have a flapping clue." She laughed. "Think about it. What kind of pony goes for a smokin'-hot tomboy who kicks hindquarters and takes names? It's more 'can I get your autograph?' than 'can I have your number?' So, uh, yeah. Put in a big 'unsure' for me. Fluttershy?"
"Oh," Fluttershy said, surprised. "Well, I… I always wanted to get married, ever since I was little. I still do… I dream about it every night." She stared off into space, seeming introspective.
"Um… Fluttershy?" Rainbow Dash said cautiously.
Fluttershy was quiet for a few more seconds. "You guys wanna hear something crazy?" she said absently.
"Oh, sure!" Pinkie Pie said. "Why do you think I wake up every morning? Hit us!"
"Right," Fluttershy whispered, returning her focus to the group. "Well, here goes… I've never spoken to a stallion in my life."
Twilight frowned. "Fluttershy, you must be exaggerating…"
"Obviously," Fluttershy said with a tiny grin. "Obviously I had to talk to one if I had to buy something, or help him, or if he was an authority figure… but I've never really spoken to one… never had a real conversation on a personal level. I have trouble talking to anypony, you all know that. How could I ever… ever ask for… for…"
Her lip trembled, and her eyes grew misty. Rainbow Dash lifted a hoof and gently rubbed her back, just between the wings. "It'll be okay," she whispered.
"So…" Fluttershy choked out. "Short answer, no, I'm never getting married."
Rarity gasped. "Oh, Fluttershy! Sure you will! If it's what you want, it'll happen."
"Yeah, Fluttershy," Twilight said. "You don't have to worry about being alone."
"We're your friends, we'll help you out," Rainbow finished. "It'll be a breeze!"
"Yes," Rarity said firmly. "And you know, darling, I think I can say without hyperbole that you are the most attractive mare in Ponyville."
Fluttershy blinked away the hints of tears which had appeared in her eyes. "R-really?" she stammered. "I thought that was you."
"Oh, that's very sweet of you to say," Rarity said with a smile. "But look at me… it's only because I try really, really hard. Whereas you, well, you roll out of bed every morning already looking like the goddess of a freshwater spring."
Twilight stared at Rarity in surprise, her eyebrows raised. "Rarity, that was beautiful."
"Thanks, I'm taking a poetry class," Rarity said. "Anyway, Fluttershy: why do you think you had such success as a model? To this day, Photo Finish calls you her favorite subject of all time. She was devastated when you quit, and never really recovered."
Fluttershy frowned. "Rarity, I appreciate what you're saying, but you don't have to lie to me to—"
Rarity's horn glowed blue, and she pulled a magazine out of her saddlebag, opened it to a certain page, and shoved it into Fluttershy's face.
It was an interview with Photo Finish, Fluttershy realized. Her eyes were drawn to passage which, apparently, Rarity had gone over with a highlighter pen. "'Of course I would like to talk about Fluttershy,'" she read. "'She remains my favorite of all the subjects I have ever captured across my lifetime. Her running away from the life was an immense blow to my career. It has never been the same, no, never the same at all.' Wow. It actually says that." Flipping to the cover, she saw that the magazine was dated from that very day.
"So you see?" Rarity said cheerfully. "There's no reason we can't get you married off in a flash! Who did you have in mind?"
Fluttershy blushed. "Oh… nopony, really. But you're all so kind! So, um… can we move on now? Pinkie?"
"Right!" Pinkie Pie said, bouncing on the spot. "The getting-married thing. Let's see… well, that's a toughie." She leaned back into a contemplative position. "I remember when I was a filly, I never wanted to get married. Never ever. My parents never seemed to be happy with each other. But then…" she said, returning to her previous position so rapidly that some of the others jumped. "Then I started working and living with the Cakes! And they were so perfect together, and I realized, somehow, someday, somewhere beyond the borders of Equestria…" She breathed in dramatically, her eyes wide. "…there is somepony… WHO ENJOYS A GOOD PARTY AS MUCH AS I DO!"
"Waaaaay beyond the borders of Equestria," Rainbow Dash commented dryly.
"Yeah," Pinkie Pie said, nodding. "And I figure, you know, as long as I'm out there I can discover an alien civilization too."
"…And marry it," Rainbow said.
"The whole civilization? I hadn't thought of that. It has possibilities."
"…Right," Twilight said, chuckling. "So, um, Applejack? How about you?"
"Ah, I dunno," Applejack said earnestly. "I'm kinda married to the farm right now. Never did meet a fella who caught my eye as anything special… but, hey, life-changin' epiphanies do happen. So, that's my piece. Rarity?"
Rarity pondered for a moment, then responded simply: "Meh."
"'Meh'?" Applejack repeated.
"Yes, 'meh'," Rarity said, shuffling uncomfortably. "The whole 'prince charming' thing… I'm pretty much over it." She sighed bitterly. "It's an uncommon pony who's truly all they're cracked up to be. Celestia knows I've tried, in fact she's probably witnessed some of my more pathetic attempts… but it's just not a priority, not anymore. I suppose I've grown. Besides…" She averted her eyes and grinned mischievously. "We all know that if I ever got married, it would break my poor little Spikey-wikey's heart."
Twilight turned to face Rarity in shock for the second time. "Um… what?" she said blankly.
"Well, I said—"
"No, I heard you, it's just… Spike? Really?" Twilight said. "Rarity, are you actually implying that… I don't know what you're implying. What are you actually… what is… what was I saying…?"
"You want to know if I'm implying that Spike has a chance with me," Rarity said calmly. "Well, you know… I'm certainly not about to accept his romantic advances anytime soon, but… well, we'll see what he's like once he's grown up a bit. Just a bit, you know. Is something wrong, Twilight?"
Twilight blinked, then shook her head to clear it. "Um… no, no, it's nothing. Just that now that you've said it outright I owe Donut Joe money… He's always had faith in Spike, a little too much, I think… anyway, back to the game…"
"Yes, that's right!" Rarity said, her eyes sparkling. "How about you, Twilight? Is there room for romance in the heart of the determined academic?"
"Oh, are you kidding?" Twilight said. "Absolutely! Think about it—friendship is magic, right? We've seen that for ourselves more than once. And now, we've seen that romantic love has a bit of punch behind it too. I want to find out more about that, to unlock that potential in my own heart. I bet if I mentioned it to the princess, I'd get a huge research grant!"
Applejack tilted her head. "Why would you need a grant to study romance?"
"Um… I don't know. Makeup? Dinner reservations? Look, I'm clearly unschooled on the subject, okay?" Twilight grumbled, her momentum broken. "Let it go. My point is… part of the reason I called this sleepover is because I wanted to tell you all that I've resolved to start dating. Around Ponyville, and maybe beyond… and just see what happens."
"Well, that sounds like a mighty nice thing to try," Applejack said. "Could change your life! We're all behind you a hundred percent!"
"Mm-hmm!" came a general call around the circle.
"So, I read the next card, correct?" Rarity said, drawing one. "Let's have a look at it then… 'Discuss the traits of some of the most desirable colts at school'—at 'school'? Twilight, what age group is this for?"
Rarity attempted to lift the box to read the bottom of it, but Twilight set her horn on it as well, and her more powerful magic quickly wrested the box back to the ground. "It's for everypony," she said firmly. "Let's pretend it says 'in town', all right? 'In town'."
Rarity chuckled. "If you say so. Go ahead, then, Twilight."
Twilight thought. "Well… wow, I really don't know. I don't really know many of the stallions in town. Who are the most eligible ones?"
Rainbow and Fluttershy both perked up at the question, and in unison said, "Big Macintosh!"
Startled, they gaped at each other. Applejack, meanwhile, spat out the glass of water she had just been drinking. "Say WHAT?" she demanded.
"Oh, come on, Applejack," Rainbow Dash said calmly. "Everypony knows Big Mac gets all the ladies."
"Since when?" Applejack said skeptically.
"I don't know, at least as long as I've lived here," Rainbow said, shrugging. "Sometimes I find myself thinking, you know what this guy is? He's an enigma. A mountain that a mare feels she's just gotta climb."
"You know, metaphorically," Rainbow said hastily. "I mean, metaphysically. No, no, wait, it's metaphorically. Had it right the first time. Metaphorically… climb him. Heh… hehe…"
Applejack's eye twitched.
"Um, anyway, like I was sayin'…" Rainbow said nervously. "I figure he's the kind of guy, you just know he's got the fillies chasing his tail at every turn. You know, 'cause he's big, muscley, quiet, kinda strange…"
"Oh, that is it!" Applejack said, standing up. "Twilight, where do you keep the liquor?"
Twilight blinked. "Um… I'll break out a champagne bottle if you stop doing whatever it is you're doing with your nostrils just there."
"All right, done," Applejack said calmly. "Lead the way."
Twilight and Applejack departed for the kitchen together. Rainbow Dash turned to Fluttershy. "So, you got the hots for Big Mac too, huh?"
"Oh, well… who doesn't?" Fluttershy replied, giggling. "I remember the first time I ever saw him. He was tending to the orchards. Being so gentle with the fruits, I could tell that he cared for plants as much as I do for animals. And… and I remember thinking, is this the stallion I've been searching for? And then thinking, no, of course not. Surely other mares, mares much more outgoing than me, have noticed the level of his… perfection." The last word was barely a peep.
Sensing that Fluttershy needed comforting, Rainbow resumed massaging her back. A moment later, she stood on two legs in mock celebration. "I lose!" she whooped.
"What?" Fluttershy said blankly.
Rainbow bowed. "As is par for the course, I'm shallow, with a big old side of ''cause it's there'. But you? You've got a real reason to like him, a connection with who he is and what he does. And I'm gonna help you land him!"
"Um, really?" Fluttershy said.
"Sure! I mean, I could be wrong, I might be totally projecting, but it sounds to me like you might actually be in love with the big guy."
Fluttershy's face flushed. "Oh, that's stretching the truth just a… just a little bit…" Her voice trailed off as if something had just occurred to her, and she burst into tears.
"There, there," Rainbow whispered. "Dash is here for ya…"
Twilight and Applejack returned with the champagne. "Um, hey Twilight?" Rainbow Dash said. "Can we cut the game short? I think we've traumatized Fluttershy enough for one night."
"Well…" Twilight said anxiously, noticing Fluttershy's state. "If she wants to get herself off to bed now, I guess that's fine… maybe we all should…"
"Aw, I wanted to take my turn!" Pinkie protested.
Twilight raised her eyebrows. "Well?" she prompted.
"Well, I was gonna talk about Big Macintosh, but—"
"Oh, fer cryin' out loud!" Applejack snarled, throwing her hooves into the air. "Is there anythin' else I don't know about my immediate family that y'all'd like to fill me in on? What the hay kind of nonsense is this?"
"But… Applejack," Twilight said gently. "You must have known that your brother is an extremely attractive stallion."
"How do I know?" Applejack fumed. "He's my brother!"
"Okay, this has really gone far enough," Rainbow interjected. "I'm taking Fluttershy upstairs before a gunfight breaks out." Supporting Fluttershy, she took to the air and sped to the upper floor. "We call Twilight's bed!" she shouted as she zipped away.
"Wait… both of you?" Twilight called up. "You can't both call my bed!"
"Just did," Rainbow's voice replied from upstairs.
"But it's my bed," Twilight grumbled.
"Try and drag us out of it," Rainbow Dash retorted.
Applejack chuckled and rolled her eyes. "I'm gonna hit the hay too. Pinkie, help me haul in that old mattress."
As the pair of them left, Twilight and Rarity started upstairs to the spare bed.
"I admit that's not what I was expecting when I whipped out those cards," Twilight confided. "I thought we were all adults, but instead all this schoolfilly drama started cropping up…"
"Oh, not at all!" Rarity said, surprised. "There were some very adult emotions behind this whole scene. I know just what they're talking about, and why they feel the way they do."
"Do fill me in," Twilight said, genuinely eager to hear about it.
"Well," Rarity began, "I don't have a brother, but I can see why it drives Applejack crazy, the notion of her brother… being… well, you know. He's hardly an immoral pony, far from it, but it is true that many a filly in Ponyville would give their tails and hooves just to get an 'eeyup' in their direction. And Applejack is bothered by this, which you can understand. Even you objected, at least a little, to the very idea of your brother getting married. Is that fair to say?"
"Hmm… I suppose," Twilight said. "How do you know this stuff, Rarity? Do you have a psychology degree you never told us about?"
"Well, I do have a very nice couch, but that's about as far as it goes," Rarity said. "I mostly understand this situation." Having reached Twilight's spacious room, Rarity lowered her voice. "You see, Rainbow Dash and Fluttershy are exactly right about Big Macintosh being a prize. Several years ago, I had the fortune of running into him at the annual hoedown. I managed to strike up a conversation with him, and we… danced."
"Danced?" Twilight repeated, matching Rarity's tone curiously.
"Yes, danced," Rarity repeated, slipping elegantly into the spare bed while avoiding Twilight's eye.
"Um, your eyes look kinda shifty there," Twilight said. "When you say 'danced'…"
"It's a euphemism, yes," Rarity said snippily. "We spent the night at my place. Okay? I regret that part of my life. The point is, he was extremely polite about the whole thing… and I can say from experience that the local girls are right to admire him."
Twilight clambered into bed, her brow furrowed as she attempted to process a few things at once. "You regret which part of your life, exactly?" she said.
"You know… my college days."
Twilight still didn't understand. "What, you mean non-stop studying? A lust for new things to learn?"
"Hmm, well, you got 'non-stop lust' right…" Rarity mused.
"Where the heck did you go to college?" Twilight muttered.
"Someplace normal," Rarity replied irritably. "Where did you go to college?"
"SGU. You know, the School for Gifted Unicorns. As in, Princess Celestia's."
"Well, of course," Rarity scoffed. "You were all right under the nose of the princess, there would be no hanky-panky at that place…"
Twilight was now more confused than ever, still stuck on the part of the conversation where Rarity and Big Mac had spent a night together. "Um… what is 'hanky-panky'?" she asked.
"Go to bed, Twilight."
"Um… okay," Twilight said.
The lanterns were doused, and the town of Ponyville was quiet.
A few minutes later, a tiny speck of light appeared on the tip of Twilight's horn as she floated a quill and parchment above her head.
Dear Princess Celestia,
Friendship produces no shortage of interesting questions. This means, of course, that my studies will never end, which I'm sure was exactly your intention.
I'm writing to ask you about a very special project I'm hoping to undertake…
Incidentally, I've had this chapter quasi-composed for a few months now, but decided I shouldn't post anything until the season was over. The "Canterlot Wedding" finale was, if anything, extremely apropos of this intro. I love it when things work in my favor!