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Twilight’s Gloom

(The epic conclusion of Darkness Descends)

By Gearheart

(Warning: This story contains graphic violence, alcohol abuse, OC ponies and romantic innuendo between two thinking and feeling creatures. If any of this offends you read no further.)

        “Shut Up! Shut Up! Shut Up!” The moon Princess screamed over and over, the stones of the tower beginning to tremble from the force of her mounting anger.

        “Why should I? It's the truth... you and I are nearly one and the same, Nightmare Moon... dark soul cast adrift in this sea of putrid sunlight. Or have you lost your nerve? Did precious Celly put you in your place?” In the darkness a smile glimmered.

        Luna shook with tears of anger rolling down her cheeks. “Don't you dare call her by that name!”

        “Why shouldn't I?!” The sweet voice boomed in the shadows before coughing softly. “Do you know how I tortured her in the dark? You would have been proud, dear Nightmare. I looked into her thoughts and I became you... I stole your face and your voice from her memories and I let Celestia know how you really felt about the banishment... oh how she wept...”

        Luna trembled and her wings spread wide on their own, she pawed at the marble floor. She tried and failed to hold the thoughts and feelings back as the mare whispered in the darkness again. “Did she cry when she saw you again? Did she fear your words? Has dear Celly been avoiding you?”

        Luna screamed, her rage knocking stones from the tower and letting in silvery tendrils of moonlight as she charged forward. All her frustration boiled forth as the dark pony was flung into bookcases and then tables, kicked viciously and made to suffer. Punishing blows of hoof on bone but all the while the dark mare made no noise save for the sound of breath being knocked free with an accompanying gurgle of blood.

        Luna reared onto her hind hooves and loomed over the prone mare before a titanic jolt of force pulled her back against Celestia's side. The glow of murder faded from Luna’s eyes, her coat slick with her sweat and spattered with blood. The sad eyes of her sister gazed down into her own. Neither alicorn said anything; it took a cough from the floor to draw their eyes.

        Slowly the pale creature lifted her head and grinned, her voice rasping as blood ran from over her chin. “What’s the matter, Mooney? Don't have the stomach for this? Or has the master come to put the dog in her place?”

        It took nearly all Celestia's telekinetic force to hold Luna back this time. The moon Princess was frothing mad, spouting curses and death threats while the elder alicorn only cried.

The royal palaces of Canterlot shone glimmering gold in the sunshine, perched on the mountainside. Tall spires of pure white marble with gardens and observatories and all that it needed to be the center of enlightenment and learning for an entire civilization. At its center rose the castle itself. Grander still than all the buildings that surrounded it but today a dark cloud swirls around an outlying tower. There were always dark clouds where she was staying.

        The tower was a prison only because the occupant had tried to escape so many times. The freedom she had been given had been abused and so the door had been barred. It had been weeks but Celestia steeled herself and took flight, passing through the bank of shadowy clouds to touch her golden shod hooves down on the marble of the balcony. Even with the dark clouds swirling and blocking most of her sun's rays, the curtains were drawn. Slowly the solar Princess parted them and slipped into the room. It was dark as a crypt within.

        “Come to see me finally... I was beginning to think you had forgotten...” A voice touched the silence of the room and a pair of dark eyes opened to shine up at Celestia in all her muted radiance.

        “I assure you I have not forgotten... our last meeting was somewhat less than pleasant... it has taken some time for me to calm Luna down.” Celestia spoke and used her magic to pull the curtains open, and dispel the clouds, letting in the sun, which was more of a comfort to her than anything. She heard the dark pony hiss as her precious darkness was expelled by the daylight.

        Celestia let her eyes wander over the room and gave a small shudder. It was once a guest room, a rather nice guest room but now it was in shambles. The bed had been upturned and the mattress rested in a corner. The walls were splattered with uneaten food and the the tapestries had been torn from their mountings to lay sprawled in a heap in the center of the room. Every book on the shelves had been relocated to the heap. Much to Celestia's displeasure, she noted the signs of Luna's rage here and there.

        “I redecorated... do you like it?” She whispered up to Celestia and grinned, drawing the Princess' attention. She was sickly, more so than when she had arrived. Her mane and tail were matted from lack of attention and she was gaunt from self-imposed starvation. Dark bags hung under her eyes and around her nose was old blood caked into her coat.

        “Oh look at you...” Celestia spoke softly, not thinking first, shocked at seeing a pony in such horrific condition.

        “Yes! Yes look! Look at poor sickly Gloom... look at how pathetic she is.” The dusky mare coughed violently from her outburst and spat at Celestia's hooves, what now marred the goddess' pearlescent coat was clearly blood. Slowly she got up to a shaky standing position and took a calming breath. “Pity poor Gloom who does not sleep... who does not eat... who coughs and bleeds and cries and waits for her body to expire.”

        “You know how much it troubles me to see a pony in pain...” Celestia spoke slowly and the dark mare snorted in indignation.

        “I am not one of your puppet foals... I was not born of your little world... I was a passing thought given form and now I am trapped within its fleshy prison... don't for a moment confuse me for one of your subjects, Celly.” Gloom grinned her usual heartless smirk.

        Celestia's cheeks burned red and she stamped her hoof onto the marble, sending creeping cracks through the stone. “Do not call me by that name! That name is reserved for those I love!” she took several breaths to steady herself before she continued. “You may be able to provoke Luna to violence... but I have had more practice at reining my emotions than she has.”

        “That reminds me... do tell Mooney the rib and my dainty nose have healed nicely... no need to worry about little Gloom drowning in her own blood.” Gloom grinned bigger still and Celestia felt her anger rise once more.

        “Gloom you are infuriating... were I less reserved you would have been banished beyond our borders weeks ago... but I would not loose you upon this world for anything, not even my own satisfaction. No, you are an enigma that must be unraveled.” Celestia paced a little around the room. “I sought to banish you... I felt Twilight lending her own power... why were you locked to a mortal form when you should have simply ceased to exist?”

        “I... I blame Twilight...” Gloom mumbled gently, looking down at the mention of the purple unicorn.

        Celestia raised an eyebrow and looked at the dark pony; her body language betrayed her feelings. At the very mention of her prized student, Gloom had lost all her rage and seemed simply sad. Celestia gave a little grin. “You feel do you not? You said yourself that you cry... what do you cry about?”

        “I... I won't talk to you about it...” Gloom stuttered but Celestia just grinned more, she had found a gap in the dark mare's armor, it was time to press her advantage.

        “I believe I know...” Celestia trotted closer and Gloom looked up with true fear in her eyes, backing up slowly. “You cry over Twilight Sparkle...” Celestia was about to grin in satisfaction but instead let the words fall away as Gloom's deep indigo eyes overflowed and she began to tremble.

        “Yes...” She let out in a squeak, her tears turning into sobs, which shook her gaunt frame.

        Celestia closed her eyes and nodded slowly. So Gloom really does have a heart in there somewhere. She looked back to Gloom who was curled in a ball on the floor. “Gloom... would you like me to tell Twilight you are alive?” she asked, now becoming more concerned at the dark mare's behaviour as she cradled her head in her chipped and mistreated hooves.

        “No... No you can't!” The dark pony jumped up in shock and looked pleadingly into Celestia's eyes. “You mustn’t tell Twilight... it couldn't... it won't...” Gloom looked down and slumped, her shoulders sagging.

        “You could see her again, Gloom...” Celestia stepped closer to the dark creature who was trembling with every breath she took.

        “I... ask, Celestia... I ask politely and humbly... that I be forgotten... that Twilight go on believing that I am dead and gone... and to show my sincerity... I will tell you why...”

        Slowly Gloom spoke and Celestia could only listen as the dark mare told her everything, everything that had tormented her and burdened her from the moment of her creation at the hooves of the purple unicorn with so very much potential. She talked until the sun was low in the sky and until there were no words left to say.

        Twilight Sparkle was trying hard to sleep, her cup of soothing herbal tea was already cold beside the bed, every book on insomnia she could find lay out neatly on her desk and she had long ago run out of milk to warm up and drink. She tossed and turned but could not shake the feeling that had plagued her since the end of the war.

        She felt alone. Not just lonely, she felt truly alone. Even in a room full of her closest friends, she felt like she was the only pony there. Many of her friends had lost ponies they knew to the fighting. Nopony alive didn't carry a feeling of loss in their hearts for all those who hadn't made it, but what Twilight had felt was different. It just felt wrong.

        Finally, with a grunt she lifted herself from the bed and trotted to her bathroom. The face that greeted her in the mirror looked terrible. “Good evening to you too...” She mumbled to herself and set to work combing the tangles out of her mane. “If I can't sleep I might as well get some work done.”

        When she looked something like her old self, she trotted down to the library and lifted the nearest stack of books with her magic, neatly setting them back where they belonged or as close to it as she could with Spike's unique book filing system. “You’d think he never heard of the Dewdrop Decimal System... “She grumbled before there was a resounding burp from upstairs and a sleepy Spike stumbled his way down the stairs rubbing his eyes with one clawed hand while the other clutched a scroll.

        “You’ve got mail...” He managed as he reached the bottom of the stairs.

        “Leave it on the desk Spike... I’ll deal with it in the morning.” Twilight didn't even look up from her sorting efforts.

        “You sure? It’s marked urgent...,” he asked, examining the sealed scroll in detail.

        “Yes Spike!” She snapped and Spike took a step back. “I’m in no mood to be reading a letter right now even if it came from the Princess herself! Leave it on the desk and I’ll get to it in the morning...” Twilight watched as Spike grumbled his way to the desk and set the scroll down. She instantly felt bad for yelling at him, he was only doing his job but she was too tired and grumpy herself to get into another argument tonight. She made a mental note to make it up to him tomorrow and got herself back to work.

        The first rays of golden sunlight were creeping up the floor of the library towards a sleeping unicorn. She didn't even wake at the sound of hooves clopping along the wooden floor towards her or even when a soft pearly white wing touched her side.

        “Twilight?” Celestia spoke as gently as she could to her student and tried to stifle a giggle as the young unicorn rolled over onto her back and mumbled.

        “Just five more minutes mom...”

        “Well that's certainly new. I don't remember you ever calling me 'mom' before.” Celestia chuckled and Twilight let her eyes open.

        “P-Princess!” the purple unicorn bolted upright from her makeshift bed of books and papers upon the library floor, struggling to make her mane a little neater, failing to notice the parchment stuck to her cheek by a generous amount of nighttime drool.

        “You have a little something...” Celestia did her best not to burst out laughing as she indicated to the page and Twilight quickly ripped it off, blushing brighter and brighter.

        “W-what are you doing here so early? Not that you can't show up whenever you want anyway but if I would have known I... I could have cleaned... or made tea at least.” Twilight stammered.

        Celestia gave a little grin and took a seat before her student. “It’s quite alright... though I am a little concerned. I sent a letter ahead, it was marked urgent.”

        Twilight's eyes went wide and she looked over to the note, still unopened where Spike left it on the desk and then back to Celestia. “Ooh right... the letter...”

        Celestia sighed and shook her head before motioning for Twilight to make herself comfortable. “It’s probably for the best actually... I was not in a very good frame of mind when I wrote it.” Celestia waved her horn, which glowed briefly like pure sunlight, and the note dissolved in pale golden flames, “There is something I must tell you, but please know that I am going against the wishes of another pony.” Twilight nodded slowly and sat in fascination as Celestia continued. “This may come as a shock to you, Twilight, but... Gloom lives.”

        Twilight gasped, “Oh no! What is she planning? Can we stop her in time? Wait, how is that even possible... she was never real!” She was beginning to panic but the touch of one regal wing helped to calm her.

        “Twilight... that night when we did battle with Gloom... she appeared as a pony to you... and did her best to seduce you.” Twilight looked back and forth nervously before gulping and giving a gentle nod.

        “Don’t tell anypony please... I mean I like stallions just fine! I'm not attracted to mares at all...” Twilight squeaked with a little mania creeping into her voice. Celestia just shook her head with a smile.

        “You don't have to worry about me gossiping, Twilight. Though I think, it may be a lesson for another day. Right now our concern is Gloom... you locked her mind into a mortal body. How you did this isn't clear to myself or even to Gloom who remembers us facing her down and then waking up on the edge of the Everfree forest in pony form.” Celestia spoke as Twilight's eyes widened with shock. “Twilight... Gloom has told me that she misses you.”

        “M-misses me?” Twilight stammered a little. Her half-awake mind was reeling at the implication that the instigator of Equestria's darkest days still lived only to be told that the enemy of all ponykind 'missed' her, not to mention finding out that she brought her into being.

        “I had hoped Luna could talk to her but she... provoked my sister to terrible violence. Gloom begged and pleaded with me to leave her locked in a tower to starve... to simply die... because...” Celestia began but the look in her student's eyes was becoming worrying. “Let’s just say she feels incomplete without your presence...”

        “Princess, I...” the purple unicorn was beginning to tremble, her words trailing off. She was thinking back to the empty feeling that has consumed her for so long.

        “Is there something you need to tell me, Twilight?” Celestia nudged her student's cheek softly and Twilight turned her head down towards the floor.

        “It’s... n-nothing... I... what should we do about Gloom?” Twilight pushed the thoughts to the back of her mind, the feeling of loneliness and pain that had become her constant companion, and evidently, Gloom's as well.

        Celestia looked to Twilight and sighed inwardly at her student's reluctance to open up to her but let it pass for now. “Gloom is a difficult and infuriating pony, she provokes Luna and I at every turn and it is becoming evident she does not wish to be helped. I had hoped perhaps you could speak to her... you and your friends have done an excellent job in making Luna feel more at home. Perhaps you could convince her that we mean her well.”

        Twilight felt her heart sink. She wanted to yell at Celestia and tell her over and over that there was no way she was letting Gloom anywhere near any of her friends. She felt anger welling up inside but she quickly put a cap on it. “I... if you... think so... Princess.” She managed to get the words out and Celestia closed her eyes slowly.

        Twilight Sparkle and her friends had been her final hope in reforming the dark mare or at the very least making her time in Equestria a less evil one. Despite all the rumors about secret dungeons and banishing ponies for the slightest infraction against her Celestia was, and always had been, a kind ruler. It pained her on an almost physical level when her beloved ponies suffered.

        The war had taken much of her spirit, the loss of so many and the pain of those who remained. It tormented her to think that the final casualty of those dark and terrible days would be a pony who would die friendless and alone in the dark from a broken heart. “I do think so, Twilight...” Celestia spoke again and tried to smile for her student. “All the arrangements can be made as soon as I get back to Canterlot and the carriage should arrive by tomorrow afternoon. There are always affairs of state to deal with but it should thankfully give you ample time to warn... I mean inform your friends of her visit.”

        Twilight gave a little nod in reply and did a very poor job of hiding her feelings on the matter, Celestia excused herself and Twilight watched her leave with a new and heavy feeling in her heart.

        “She's what!” Rainbow Dash was hovering in the library, bristling with rage. “If she shows her face around here she's gonna have a lot more to worry about than not eating or being in the dark! My wing still hurts! Still! It's been a month!”

        “Dashie... try and calm down...” An unusually reserved Pinkie Pie was tugging at Dash's tail in an effort to make the pegasus land.

        “I’m not about to let the most evil pony who ever lived anywhere near my friends!” Dash spouted still in anger while Pinkie still attempted to get her girlfriend to land and be reasonable.

        “Like it or not I gotta agree with Dash.” Applejack took off her hat and set it on the table. “There’s no tellin' what kinda evil powers that mare has at her disposal. I seen stuff in those nights that made goblins look tame... me and Mac got the scars ta prove it.”

        “You simply cannot allow this... creature... to come to Ponyville!” Rarity had been holding herself back as much as she could but the thought of her friends and family being placed in possibly mortal danger propelled her to speak.

        “I don't like this either!” Twilight snapped and rested her face in her hooves, sighing loudly. “But this is an order from the Princess... not a request... she showed up and told me face to face... Gloom comes to Ponyville tomorrow...”

        The room descended into chaos at that point. Almost everypony trying to talk at once about how the situation should be handled, everything from leaving town for a few days to outright violence. At the back of the group, Fluttershy huddled with wide eyes and hooves over her ears, trying to drown the anger out. “STOP IT ALL OF YOU!”

        The outburst drew every eye in the room; Fluttershy let out a little eep but took a breath and continued. “I... I am very disappointed in all of you. A pony is hurting and suffering inside and you all want to hurt her more...” Fluttershy felt a strange determination roll over her, she had come this far, it was time to finish what she started. “All of you have an element of harmony inside you... you're all supposed to be the best ponies that Equestria has to offer... and you are all my friends... but after what I heard... I don't know if... if I want to be your friend anymore...” Fluttershy finished with a few tears and by then the eyes of everypony was looking down at the floor.

        “You’re right... you're really right, Fluttershy.” The sadness in Pinkie's voice seemed to take some of the curl out of her mane. “I’m supposed to make ponies laugh not be mean to them... but this is a challenge right!” She bounced back to her usual perky self and grinned wide. “We’re the elements of harmony! Super duper ponies! If we can't make somepony happy then who can?”

        “A challenge...” Rainbow Dash spoke softly. The blue pegasus never backed down from a challenge, never shied away from danger. She nodded, setting her resolve.

        “I reckon Pinkie has a point...” Applejack looked at her hat with its new nicks in the brim. The hat that had been passed down to her from her father while the stallion was on his deathbed accompanied by his final words. You be a damn good pony now, Sugarcube, and you better believe I'll be watchin'. Y'all got the whole Apple name ridin' on yer shoulders now... be better than I ever was... “I gotta be a better pony than this...” she finished, looking determinedly at her friends.

        Rarity huffed a little but sighed. “I suppose... we can try...” Rarity felt shame beginning to well up within, imagining what Sweetie Belle would say if she had seen the way she acted. She had always told her sister to help those in need before thinking about her own desires. With a gentle sigh, the pearly unicorn looked at the rest of her friends before her eyes fell on Twilight who was still staring down at the floor.

        Twilight was seething. How could her friends just turn around so quickly and be prepared to forgive a pony who had brought ruin in her wake. “Promise me all of you... watch her...” Twilight began, not able to keep the anger out of her words. “If she slips up... if she does anything even a little evil... we stop her... for good... I don't care what it takes and I don't care what the Princess says...”

        The other ponies didn't answer, they didn't need to. It wasn't a polite request from their friend.

        Twilight shook a little as she watched the horizon and the golden carriage being towed slowly across the afternoon skies. Each of her friends was at her side before her library home, but it didn't help her mood at all. Twilight Sparkle was beyond angry.

        “Here we go...” Rainbow spoke gently on Twilight's right and pawed at the ground, ready for anything. The carriage landed and when the door opened, the grand form of the solar Princess stepped out. Everypony bowed low except Twilight who was breathing fast and deep in an effort to hide her discomfort.

        “Rise ponies...” Celestia spoke and her friends obeyed, but Celestia's eyes never left those of the purple unicorn. What Twilight couldn't see was the tear rolling down her teacher's cheek, concealed by her flowing mane, heartache weighing heavy on the Princess. “Allow me to present Twilight's Gloom...” there was a long silence that caused many ponies to blink and look between themselves.

        Celestia cleared her throat. “Gloom...?” she asked politely as she could manage.

        “I am not coming out!” Came the sweetly voiced but nonetheless childish response. “You can stand there until you sprout roots and grow into a tree!”

        Celestia sighed and rubbed her forehead with a delicate hoof, trying to ignore the snorts of laughter barely held at bay coming from the Rainbow-maned pegasus. “Gloom... Twilight is waiting...” she spoke softly and as gently, as she was able.

        Twilight noticed the tone and softened a little as a gaunt skeleton of a pony slowly stumbled from the coach. The memories of the dark and seductive mare of her deepest and darkest dreams flashed before her and for a moment, she couldn't believe it was the same pony. She was sure her mouth was open but couldn't bring herself to close it, or to care.

        Gloom didn't speak but her eyes were rimmed with tears as she looked upon Twilight and her friends. She looked vulnerable, pained and so very sad.

        “She doesn't look that tough.” Rainbow Dash, almost on cue, broke the silence and grinned in a bit of satisfaction.

        Gloom twitched and looked over at the blue pegasus, the slight smile that was creeping into her lips faded away into a scowl. “Oh dear... were you expecting somepony who was stronger so you could engage in some pointless contest of brawn to prove yourself? How insecure you must be... oh that reminds me... how is your wing? I apologize... my aim was a little off... I was trying to sever it!” She snapped before coughing hard. Celestia covered her face to hide her shamefully pained expression as Rainbow Dash sputtered and stammered in indignation.

        “Hey! You don't talk to my Dashie like that.” Pinkie stepped up and Gloom snorted. Celestia slumped to her haunches and looked down at the earth; this wasn't going according to plan.

        “Oh please... she was begging to be knocked down a few pegs...” Gloom sneered and Pinkie fell silent, looking at Celestia and then to Fluttershy, the ponies two who looked heartbroken rather than furious.

        “Look at all of you!” Gloom trotted past all of the assembled ponies. “It’s nothing but dumb luck you all survived... certainly not skill... frilly, prissy, laughing excuses for ponies. Pale shadows of what real ponies should be...” Gloom stopped before Fluttershy and was taken aback at the expression in the yellow pegasus' eyes. “W-what do you want?!” She snapped before descending into a coughing fit.

        Everypony cringed when she spat blood down to the cobblestones, everypony except Fluttershy. “I’m sorry...” Fluttershy whispered, just loud enough that the assembled friends could hear. “I’m very very sorry... I wish... there was something... anything I could do...” Fluttershy began to cry softly and Gloom's dark mantle fell. Her anger draining away at the sight of Fluttershy's heartfelt tears.

        Gloom leaned close and whispered in Fluttershy's ear, the yellow Pegasus giving a nod in return and a small smile.

        “Inside... now everypony...” Twilight finally spoke and Gloom shut her eyes cringing, there was venom in every syllable spoken by the purple unicorn. “Princess...” Twilight gave a stiff bow and turned to walk back into the library.

        The other ponies filed back into the library following Gloom all except Pinkie who turned to Celestia and mouthed the words 'I’m sorry'.

        The afternoon fell from discussion to anger to violent outbursts. Gloom's snide remarks and biting retorts made talking to her a very hard thing indeed. Twilight was honestly glad when Rainbow and Applejack stormed out, followed by Rarity who would always claim she 'made a ladylike exit' trailing Spike who was more red than purple from his building anger. Pinkie stayed a little longer, offering for Gloom to come by the bakery in the morning for something good to eat. The last to leave was Fluttershy, her and Gloom sharing a glance that made Twilight wonder what the pair had whispered.

        The library was silent, Twilight finishing off her tenth cup of coffee since she had skipped a great deal of sleep the night previous. With more than a little frustration, she cast her gaze to Gloom whose eyes wandered the shelves, reading titles. “You love your library...” The dark mare finally spoke, Twilight didn't answer. “I know... I could feel it... books bring you comfort.”

        “So do my friends...” Twilight spoke with finality and went to pour herself another cup of coffee.

        “That much caffeine isn't good for you...” Gloom spoke with what passed for a smirk.

        “Neither is that much starvation.” Twilight shot back

        “Touché...” Gloom was smiling gently, Twilight only scowled in return. “Celestia told you that I missed you... did she not?” Twilight didn't answer, diving into a book about old combat magic. “I felt emptied out... as if there were a great hole in my being...” Gloom continued, looking around the library with misty eyes.

        “Good...” Twilight mumbled between turning pages.

        Gloom turned to Twilight and began to tremble, “You do know it stings whenever you insult me... you are aware that I have feelings of my own?” Gloom placed a hoof against the book to draw Twilight's gaze.

        “Again... all I can say is good... you've caused a lot of pain to a lot of ponies... it's honestly nice to know you're hurting, Gloom...” Twilight slammed the book closed, making Gloom jerk her hoof back.

        Twilight felt a flash of guilt for a moment as genuine heartache registered in Gloom's face. “Well excellent!” The dark pony snapped and turned her gaze away. “Marvelous, Twilight Sparkle... your hatred will make everything so much easier. I believe I know where your spare bedroom is. Please don't bother me.”

        The dark pony trotted towards the door to the disused guest room with a few muted coughs and Twilight bit her lip. “Gloom... I’m sorry... I didn't mean-” She was cut off sharply as Gloom spun on her, crossing the distance quickly and jamming both hooves against the unicorn's shoulders.

        “I do not need your pity! I do not want it! You did bloody well mean every word you have said! Did you even see Celestia crying at the 'welcome' you and your companions gave me?! Damn you! Damn you Twilight Sparkle!” Gloom shouted in her face before her eyes slammed closed and she began to cough again. She clung tightly to Twilight as she choked and shook with each merciless gasp and sob.

        Twilight looked down at what she could see, feeling the hot wetness against her chest. Part of her felt disgusted but she kept still and silent as Gloom regained her composure. “I’m sorry... I appear to have bled on you...” She spoke with a hint of dark humor and even managed a bit of a giggle. Twilight gasped gently at the sound of that voice, it had been a long tine since she had heard Gloom laugh but it was still almost beautiful.

        “I... I’ll go clean up...” Twilight mumbled before prying herself from Gloom's grasp and stumbling to the stairs. She looked back only once at the dark pony where she had slumped, gazing forlornly at the floor. She felt her heart calling out to her, begging her to ask Gloom if she wanted to clean up as well, maybe share a light meal. She nearly killed your friends... her rational mind reminded her and Twilight pushed the warm thoughts as far away as she could. Gloom was evil at heart and tomorrow she would prove it.

        The morning had begun as Gloom had expected, with an argument. She had lost her temper once more and Twilight had done nothing to soften the jagged feelings she had towards the dark mare. The pair had parted with curses that would have made sailors blush and Gloom trotted out into Ponyville, grinning at the dark cloud hovering over the library.

        She went unnoticed, as much as she could in a small town, and soon she reached the edge of the Everfree forest and the cemetery there. Standing tall and proud was a gleaming, white marble statue of no-pony in particular though the mare wore a shield slung over her back and a look of determination over her face. It was brand new down to the gilded plaque at the base, which read. For those who gave their lives, lost in shadows and darkness, never to return home. Rest here in peace for all time, remembered of the heavens and the world below. Immortal saviors of the lands and the ponies of Equestria.

        Gloom looked upon the grand statue and the grass, which grew healthy over the graves of the many ponies laid to rest here. Rows upon rows of new and rather expensive looking gravestones, each with an accompaniment of beautiful flowers, no grave going forgotten. She stood still in the drifting breeze as insects buzzed in the nearby forests, now so full of life with the darkness driven from them.

        “Come to pay your respects, milady?” A familiar voice spoke behind her and Gloom spun to face the unicorn stallion. He was dressed plainly and practical, as always, though he wore no smile on his lips.

        “It’s you... that ranger?” Gloom looked him over and tried to straighten up. “What could you want from me?”

        “Lancer, ranger of the crown... and I am here to ensure you do not run... again.” He spoke slow and took a step towards the grand statue. Gloom winced, her plan to escape the maddening ponies having been swept away. He touched a hoof gently to the statue's pedestal and spoke once more. “And to ask you how you fare, milady.”

        “How I fare? Ask me how I fare?” Gloom laughed with derision and sat back on her haunches. “Poorly, Sir ranger... very poorly... my life is meaningless... oh how I wish it would simply end...”

        Lancer took a seat and regarded the statue, not once turning back to look upon Gloom. “Do you know how many ponies were lost in all of Equestria during the war?” He didn't wait for her to answer. “A great many... nearly a thousand all told. The confirmed dead and those poor souls who went missing in the long dark. Do you think any of them would care for their life back... even a half life...?”

        Gloom looked down slowly, the words biting deeply. “Are you seeking an apology?”

        Lancer turned slowly and shook his head. “I am merely... hoping... you are not so quick to dismiss this rare gift you have been given.”

        The ranger turned back to the statue and hung his head with eyes closed.

You have lost loved ones?” she spoke gently and he only nodded.

        “Yes... two sisters, in service as I am, they have not reappeared since the war began...” There was great sadness in his voice though he did a very good job of restraining it.

        “You have my condolences... truthfully.” She added as she looked over the rows upon rows of brand new stones. “And I will take your words to heart, Sir Lancer...” She turned back towards the town.

        “What will you do?” he called back to her and she only smiled.

        “I believe I have an engagement for breakfast with a certain pink filly.” There was more bounce in her step as Gloom trotted down the winding path back towards Ponyville.

        Pinkimina Dianne Pie worked diligently in the kitchen of the bakery. Today was not starting out as a good day. She hadn't gotten in until very late. Taking a long time to calm and soothe Rainbow Dash's bruised ego. Dash always acted like the most confident and headstrong pony in town, it was troubling watching her blubber about her insecurities, but Pinkie accepted it as just another part of being with somepony this intimately. She was a shoulder to cry on as much as she was somepony to roll in the hay with. That didn't mean it was an easy night, Pinkie had to put her usually unruly mane in curlers the night before or everypony would know how she was really feeling today.

        Some of her sadness leaked through though, the Cakes were giving her a lot more patience than usual especially about her 'sample' cupcakes that she seemed to be digging into from each and every batch. She was in the middle of icing a cake when she felt a pinchy sensation run up her ankle and her right ear flopped over on its own. “Hmm...” She thought before setting the piping bag down and trotting her way to the front of the shop to put on her best smile.

        The little bell rang and the most troubled of ponies trotted into the sweet shop. She looked just as bad as she had the day before though maybe a little more nervous. Pinkie didn't need to know about medicine or to even be a very observant pony; all she did need to do was hear well, hear very well. Gloom was very much more than just a sick pony; Gloom was a pony with a hoof in the grave.

        “Gloomy! Welcome to Sugarcube Corner!” She bounced forward and the dark mare recoiled slightly. “I’m so super duper glad you showed up! Now Pinkie can work her magic and get you looking more like a pony and less like a Hallow's Eve decoration.”

        “Simple food will suffice...” Gloom managed to get out, her eyes trying to focus on the array of sticky sweets and over frosted cakes that lined the shelves. Never before had so much colour been displayed before her eyes, it was as if she had stepped from Equestria into another world. A world where the dentists must make a fortune.

        “Ooh no no no no!” Pinkie smiled and motioned for Gloom to walk further into the bakery. “Simple just isn't going to cut it. I baked something super special just for you! Just let your Auntie Pinkie Pie get everything sorted out.”

        Gloom found herself herded to a small table near the back of the shop and to a soft cushion. She stumbled into a sitting position and blinked. “Auntie? I am immeasurably older than you!” She called out but the pink pony was already gone.

        “If you want to get all Twilighty technical... you're probably less than two months old.” Pinkie smiled and called back before she reappeared with a tray. The silver cover obscured the contents but the smell that seeped from within assaulted Gloom's senses with something new.

        “What... in the name of the deepest darkness... is under that?” The dark pony stared as the tray was deposited and Pinkie giggled, waiting a little longer before pulling the lid away to reveal the humble spread.

        Gloom let her eyes drift closed as her nose drank in the scents. Everything in perfect balance. Warm and sweet, sticky and spicy, old fashioned for certain, but very welcome. She found her mouth watering; all pretenses about her self-imposed starvation began to dissolve. She wanted to dive into that tray, to bathe in the sticky sweetness and let the flowing warmth consume her.

        “You like it?” Pinkie said with half lidded eyes, watching Gloom like a lover would. Her smile wide at the expressions plastered over the face of the normally dour pony.

        “U-uh huh...” All her usual articulation failed her in that instant and she wiped the drool from her own chin. “H-how? Why does this smell so... marvelous?” Gloom was wide eyed and Pinkie giggled.

        “That is a Pinkie Pie secret... but I think I can let you in on it. Now eat up, I have a whole other one waiting if you finish that one.” Pinkie took a seat across from Gloom and the dark pony's eyes lit up with warmth, an inner fire sparked by her half buried emotions. She only nodded before beginning to unceremoniously stuff her face with food. “I had to dig really super deep to find that recipe... usually you only cook it for the winter solstice but I thought it had everything you needed... fruit and nuts and sticky sugar... and home... and family...” Pinkie trailed off and Gloom slowed her chewing, starting to savor each bite.

        “H-home and family? Whatever do you mean?” The dark eyed mare managed between mouthfuls.

        “Uh-Huh! Home and family, silly!” Pinkie giggled happily and used a cloth to dab a little sugar off Gloom's chin. “You cook solstice pudding for your friends and family to finish up the big midwinter feast. You make it to share with ponies you love. I feel a little silly cooking it now, in the summertime, but it had everything you needed...”

        Gloom looked at the plate and closed her eyes for a moment; tears began to run down her cheeks. “Love... such a strange word...” Gloom trailed off and Pinkie only watched. “You know... don't you... you look at me and you feel like crying... how do you know?”

        “Pinkie has very good hearing...” The pink party pony answered with a little sigh. “I have to make you better, Gloomy... it's a mission... a quest... even if it's just-” Gloom cut her off with a wave of the hoof.

        “Don’t breathe a word of that to Twilight... and... thank you.” Gloom managed a little smile and Pinkie grinned her usual huge grin.

        The dark mare finished off the rest of her solstice pudding and dug into the second one as well, savoring each and every bite though her eyes were clouded with tears. Pinkie left her special customer to dine in peace, busying herself with the rest of her little plan.

        In the dark of her bedroom, with the blinds drawn tight, Twilight Sparkle cried. The tears had just come, unbidden and unwanted but they came and wouldn't stop. She felt a lightness in her heart that had been absent for a long time but none the less she buried her face in the pillow and bawled.

        “I don't want her! I don't miss her! This isn't fair!” she screamed into her pillow while hooves pounded her headboard in frustration. She rolled onto her side and stared at the bookshelf closest to her bed, the shelves painted a cheerful pink and written in neat curly script atop the very highest shelf stood the word 'Romance'.

        Twilight felt the anger beginning to build. She had assembled the books in her small collection over several years and she recalled the titles. A Tale of Two Mares... The Petals of Love... Of Love and Friendship. “I’m not a lesbian!” she screamed, bolting upright as the books were torn from their shelves and cast around her room with abandon. “It's a lie! A trick! It's just a backfired spell gone wrong!” Twilight swirled the torn pages around her flinging some books into the air to be blasted with bolts of lightning. “I like stallions just fine... nothing wrong with a big... strapping...” Twilight trailed off and looked at the books fluttering down before she threw her head back in a titanic curse, pulling more objects in her room from their shelves in her mounting frustration.

        Unknown to Twilight, Spike watched from the stairs, unable to ignore her rantings any longer. The little dragon watched and wept as she stomped and bucked books and other objects from the shelves in a screaming rage.

        Twilight lifted a wooden case over her bed and was preparing to throw it through a window when it opened and a bottle dropped out onto the mattress. She looked down at it and let the wooden case drop. It was a bottle of blackberry wine that her mother and father had given her just before her reassignment to Ponyville. Just incase you meet a nice stallion and need to celebrate... you know... getting engaged or maybe for your wedding night. Twilight could almost hear her mother's hopeful words in her ears and her purple cheeks turned the same shade of crimson as they had back then.

        “Nice stallion...” Twilight began to mumble, picking up the bottle. “Engaged... wedding night... BAH!” She bit the cork and pulled, sloshing some of the sticky sweet wine against her coat before she put the bottle to her lips and drank a mouthful. “So much for that huh, mom...?” Twilight slumped to the floor and the tears returned silently this time. Twilight Sparkle imagined living her life in the shadow of the dark mare that had stolen her heart away and bitterly drowned the thought in more wine.

        “Certainly not, Pinkie Pie!” Rarity spoke up without taking her eyes off her designs. “I will not waste my time and energy on a pony who thinks of me as...” She cleared her throat, “‘A tired old nag who bedazzles dish rags'. Whatever that could mean.”

        Pinkie pouted and shuffled her hooves; again, her day was not shaping up well. “But Rarity... she needs you... she needs your super special talent. She's messy and tense and... and she needs generosity...”

        Rarity sighed and lifted the glasses off the end of her nose, looking back to the slightly mopey pink pony. That little pout, the sparkle of tears in her eyes. How could Rarity possibly resist. “Oh fine... but if she insists on being so... abrasive... then I will have to take steps.” Rarity blinked as she went from sitting comfortably one minute to being smothered in a hug the second.

        “Oooh thank you Rarity! It'll mean so much to Gloomy, I’m sure of it. I'll go get her, she should be finished her food by now!” Without further ceremony, Pinkie was out the door and away.

        Rarity let the pencil drop and closed her eyes with a sigh. She rose from her simple desk and trotted out into the floor of the boutique. Calm thoughts, Rarity. This will go swimmingly. She thought over and over to herself before the little bell rang above the door and she slipped into her best smile.

        “Welcome to Carrousel Boutique where every garment is chic unique and magnifique.” She let her eyes open; it took everything in her not to gasp at the appearance of the pony before her. The day before she hadn't been truly concentrating her skill upon the dark mysterious mare but now that she was standing beneath the warm lights of the boutique; Rarity nearly felt like bursting into tears.

        “Miss Pie suggested I come for... 'A super duper special spa experience'. Though I am skeptical at best...” The dark mare spoke, the tone was so different from the scathing remarks of the previous evening. It was clear to Rarity that this mare with the strange coat and ancient eyes was making an effort to be polite. Rarity traced the lines of her form in her mind, very nearly regal. She peeled back the neglect with her mind's eye and saw a beauty that would rival any in her countless copies of Clotheshorse Magazine that she had in her bedroom closet. She was a rare gem, a unique work of art... at least that was what Rarity's mind saw. In her eyes, plainly, was a mare who had been abandoned by everypony in the world, including herself.

        “Oh my dear we simply must!” Rarity couldn't hold it back any longer. “Your mane and tail are in tangles! And your coat... your hooves...” Rarity felt her heart beating faster and faster as she looked at every single abnormality or hair out of place. It triggered something deep inside, her OCD was screaming at her. “This way! Not a moment to loose!”

        Gloom blinked in true confusion as the pearly unicorn pushed and guided her out of the shop and down towards a building marked ‘Spa’. “A spa? Are you certain this is necessary? Surely a bath would suffice!” Gloom began to protest, trying to squirm away from Rarity as she was pushed through the spa doors.

        “Nonsense! You will look beautiful once more if it takes all day! The usual, girls!” Rarity called out and the spa sisters stepped into action.

        “A-all day?” Gloom managed before gentle hooves guided her down the halls. Gloom was about to open her mouth and scream, to unleash another barrage of pure burning rage at the ponies. Instead she felt, deep inside, the warmth of her meal, she imagined the smile of the pink pony who prepared it. The promises to look and feel happy again, and for just a moment a thought snuck into her mind. Maybe Twilight will think you are beautiful again. Gloom closed her eyes and took a breath to steady herself before submitting to the attention.

        Applejack's hooves thudded with impressive force into the trunk of an apple tree. She winced a little, her hooves still bruised from all the punishment they received in the name of Equestria. The Rainbow maned pegasus swooped through the tree, grabbing the few apples that had not tumbled down before landing beside the cart and depositing her harvest. If the scene were played out a year ago, nopony would have believed it. The two most competitive ponies in Equestria working together, but today they had somepony else to complain about.

        “The nerve of that pony...” Dash grumbled for the hundredth time that day.

        “I know Dash... she's what my pappy would call a manure-disturber.” Applejack wiped her brow and flopped down into the shade beside the wagon where Dash joined her. “Plain and simple attitude problem... makes yer ol' friend Gilda look tame.”

        “Tell me about it...” Dash sighed, “I can't wait for her to slip up... she's begging for a blast from the elements of harmony.” Dash reached up and touched her neck as if she could still feel the weight of the necklace hanging there.

        “She’s beggin' for a blast from these here hooves iffin' she makes one more crack 'bout the way ah talk...” AJ slipped off her dad's hat and looked down at the worn material. “What do ya suppose Fluttershy and her whispered about? It's been buggin' me fer a while now.”

        “Who knows...?” Dash grabbed an apple from the basket and took a bite. “I haven't seen Flutters that down since last winter though...”

        Applejack went quiet and actually dropped her hat. The memories of that winter coming flooding back, the cold was much more than many ponies had expected. It hit the forest animals hardest of all, many hadn't survived. “Could it be that easy?” She mumbled and Dash raised an eyebrow.

        “What are you getting at AJ?” Dash reached over and nudged her friend's shoulder. The farm girl pony looked up at Dash with haunted eyes.

        “I... I think I know what's eatin' her but... I better go ask ta be sure.” AJ spoke softly and almost cradled her precious hat closer to her chest.

        “What you mean actually be nice to that pony... darkness... thing?!” Rainbow Dash stood up and looked at her friend in disgust.

        Applejack glared daggers at the blue pegasus and rose to her hooves. “If my hunch is right... we got no right ta treat her with anythin' but kindness.”

        Spike arranged the daisy sandwich neatly on the tray along with the glass of water. He wasn't the best cook going but he could still put a sandwich together. I don't care who twilight wants to take to bed. He thought as he slowly carried the tray up the stairs towards the now silent room. I just want her to stop wrecking the place...

        He paused at the top of the stairs and looked upon the pony who was, for all intents and purposes, the only family he had. She was sitting with several empty bottles surrounding her now. Carefully the dragon picked his way over the glass-strewn floor and deposited the tray on Twilight's small writing desk. He fought back the growing tears as he collected the empty bottles and tried to get them out of Twilight's line of fire.

        “Hey Twilight... I ummm... I brought you some dinner... it's not much but umm...” Spike began, feeling his resolve slipping as Twilight sat stock still with her eyes glued to a photograph of the six friends (plus Spike) in its delicate frame. “I'm... real sorry for what happened... and I... I just... it's ok if you like mares... I-” Spike never got the rest of his sentence out, Twilight's eyes shot up to meet his gaze with a look of pure anger in them. Spike had never seen Twilight this angry for this long and he stumbled over his tail as he backed towards the stairs.

        Twilight yelled at the top of her lungs and shut her eyes tight as she could, bolts of bright white lightning arcing through the air and burning black holes in the woodwork and very nearly in Spike's hide. Spike scrambled down the steps, just dodging the thrown picture frame, as the sound of complicated and extensive destruction rattled the upstairs of the tree. The purple and green dragon, for his part, simply cried.

        Gloom trotted from the spa feeling like a new pony. Everything was relaxed and cared for. Her unique coat shone in the soft sunlight and her long curls had been restored to their former glory. She even had the luxurious and no doubt expensive pony-pedi to brighten her hooves. Her eyes opened and she let out a gasp, regarding the scene before her. Pinkie Pie stood with several balloons tied into her mane and tail and a large cardboard sign that read 'Cheer up Gloomy Pony’. Beside her stood both Rainbow Dash and Applejack as well as a bashful Fluttershy. They all had expressions on their faces, which spoke volumes.

        “You... you all know...” Gloom's eyes went wide and Fluttershy immediately came forward.

        “Oh... Pinkie knew... and I did... but Applejack and Rainbow worked it out all on their own, I’m sorry... but... Twilight still doesn't know.” Fluttershy mumbled a little and looked away.

        “A-and you... all want to cheer me up? Like... f-f-friends?” Gloom let the last word fall from her lips as if it was unfamiliar to speak it, the corners of her lips twitching up a little. She turned back to Rarity who was a little confused by the display but smiled nonetheless. “F-friends? I... I have... friends...” The assembled ponies came closer and each nodded a little to Gloom. Her heart just soared; it was all far too good to be true.

        Before she could react more, a pink blur of a pony began to herd her towards the sweet shop, the late afternoon sun making the building glow with the invitation of delectable food. With her newfound companions at her side, for the first time since her mortal life began, Gloom felt happy and a sound that had not been heard in Equestria before filled the air in the street. It was laughter, high and pure though so very warm and inviting. Everypony who heard couldn't help but smile as the dark clouds that had frequented their town over the last two days began to fade away into nothingness.

        It was much later in the evening but Twilight kept the blinds drawn, looking through her tears at the bright pink envelope that had been slipped beneath her door during her little episode. An invitation to a Pinkie Pie party, a party for the one pony in Equestria that she hated with a passion.

        “T-Twilight...” Spike whispered from the stairs, afraid to get too close. “D-don't zap at me again... ummm please... but... they're asking where you are... again...”

        Twilight twitched and her horn sparked in the darkness of the room. “Tell them... tell them I’m not coming out! I mean going... going out! I don't want to see her again! Do you understand?!”

        Spike ducked out of view and slowly slipped back down the stairs, sighing gently before he spied the pink pony waiting downstairs. “No luck... she still won't come...” The little dragon watched as Pinkie's mane let out a little frizz.

        “You can come, Spike. There's still plenty of party left.” Pinkie smiled gently to the young dragon but Spike only shook his head.

        “Nah... Twilight might need me.” Spike looked back at the stairs.

        She took a breath and sighed before setting down a slice of cake with swirled purple and ivory icing. “Tell Twilight that I’m sorry I bothered her... enjoy your cake Spike...”

        Spike looked from the cake slice to the stairs, the darkness at the top seeming even more saddening that usual. Spike sighed again and cringed as the sound of breaking glass filled the upstairs of the library. “Oh great... she snapped again...” Spike muttered to himself and sniffled a little. “this isn't fair...” He sighed digging into his cake in silence while the pony who he considered his big sister was upstairs tearing her room to shreds in frustration.

        Pinkie slipped back into the party, all eyes turning to her as she shook her head. There was a round of disappointment from everypony save Gloom who only looked down in concern.

        “Perhaps I should go see her myself.” Gloom offered, chewing her lower lip gently. “Not that I’m eager to leave this wonderful party but... it does feel empty still without Twilight.”

        “You might wanna be extra super careful... Spike said that Twilight almost zapped him with lightning when he tried to bring her some supper.” Pinkie offered before dropping another hot sauce covered cupcake into her mouth. Gloom blinked a little at how easily she could unhinge her jaw.

        “Twilight ain't the type ta hold a grudge this bad, why's she so upset with ya?” Applejack trotted over to Gloom and nudged her softly.

        Gloom took a slow breath and looked at her new friends. “I will try and tell you... then I think I should face Twilight... and settle our differences.”

        The five elements of harmony sat around as Gloom spoke. Explaining the best she could about why their good friend was acting so out of sorts. Each pony let out a gasp as the tale ended, Fluttershy and Pinkie descending to tears, each bid Gloom to talk to Twilight and bring their good friend back.

        Twilight looked around at the ruin of her room, broken picture frames and books, which would now need a great deal of tender mending spells. Twilight had spent her heartache and rage; she had emptied herself out of all her pain and was left staring at the darkness, basking in the feeling of being alone. She didn't notice the library door open or the sound of a pony climbing the stairs.

        Gloom looked upon Twilight Sparkle and her heart sank once more. The rage of her actions was clear in the littered devastation. The purple unicorn looked like she had been through hell in the course of the day. “Twilight?” Gloom finally whispered and the deep purple eyes slowly turned to where she stood.

        “I give up...” Twilight let the words fall from her lips. “I don't care anymore... I like mares... maybe I like them a lot... probably even more than stallions... you're living proof...” She stood slowly and stumbled in the dark to her little desk and the bottle of wine that had remained un-emptied and miraculously unbroken. “Living Celestia damned proof!” Twilight popped the cork and lifted the bottle using her magic, taking a long swig.

        “Twilight... your friends are worried...” Gloom spoke slowly, as if to a child. It was clear that the purple unicorn had been drinking but it wasn't clear how much she had consumed already. Gloom had to be kind, had to remain calm but inside she wanted nothing more than to beat the unicorn silly for doing this to herself.

        “My friends! HA!” She pulled the bottle from her lips and staggered over to Gloom. “Turned on me the moment Fluttershy started crying! Why couldn't they just hate you like me! Why can't they just see that you're some kinda evil firecracker waiting to explode?”

        Gloom began to tremble, looking into Twilight's eyes. “They’re worried that you're hurting yourself...” The dark mare stuttered gently, trying to hold her mounting anger in check and hold back the tears that were coming.

        “Too bad!” Twilight slurred and took another drink from the bottle. “You’re evil! Dark hearted and bad! They just need to see it... just for a minute then they'll see that I’m right! And we can blast ya like we blasted Nightmare Moon!” Gloom was shaking now as Twilight continued like a runaway train. “Why do you have to get angry at them all the time and shout and yell... and nearly kill us... and... and Why did you kiss me!? I don't want to love you!” Twilight smashed the half-empty bottle against a wall, the deep crimson of the wine running down the empty shelves and onto the floor like blood. With her horn glowing she advanced on the object of her all consuming rage.

        Gloom finally snapped, her eye twitching as all her pain boiled forth. “Twilight Sparkle! Sit down and shut up!” she commanded, her voice resonating with an echo of her former power, the time for gentle patience was over. Twilight stopped her advance and blinked. “You kissed me! You created me from images in your own mind! I am the embodiment of all you could desire in a companion! Romantic! Intelligent! Seductive and so very in love with you! I love you with everything I have in my rotten black heart! How do you think I feel seeing you like this?! Or seeing you try to turn your friends on me like a pack of wolves!”

        Twilight’s eye twitched, “If you're so 'in love' with me then why have you been insulting me and my friends!? Even Celestia is fed up with you! I heard that you brought Luna to blows. What's wrong with you?!” the purple unicorn moved foreword and pressed her nose against Gloom's, trying to push the dark mare back.

        Gloom wound her hoof back and struck Twilight solidly in the cheek, sending her stumbling a few steps before she bellowed at the top of her lungs. “Because I’m DYING you twit! How would you feel if you knew you only had a few months to live? You would rage at the world just like ME!” Gloom winced and let out a high yelp of pain before choking hard and descending into a pained coughing fit. Finally, she drew a breath before spitting a glob of near black blood against the library floor, her eyes red and overflowing with tears of near agony.

        Twilight blinked as a new feeling crashed into her, sobering her in an instant far better than the blackest coffee or the coldest shower. All her anger evaporated in an instant to be replaced by deep black fear. “D-dying... why?” She breathed; feeling like her whole world was pulled out from beneath her.

        Gloom sighed and slumped back onto her haunches. “You bound immortal evil to the body of an earth pony... I am capable of such horrible things... the goblins were nowhere near the worst things I could have loosed on the world.” Gloom trailed off with her dark eyes gazing downwards. “The ancient degradations, the hoard of travesties... the nightmare child... the nameless horrors that would drive ponies insane by their very mention... Twilight, these things were never meant to be inside the mind of a pony. The evil is poisoning me... it has been killing me since the day I was given this mortal shell...”

        Twilight choked back her tears and stumbled closer. “You... can't die... you said you were ancient... and forever... you said you were forever.” Twilight stammered and mumbled as she sat before Gloom.

        “I was... now I will end... I... I wanted so badly to be forgotten, Twilight... I begged Celestia to lock me away until I died but she insisted that I spend my final days with... with you...” Gloom looked up to Twilight just as her own tears began to fall. “To try and be happy before the end...”

        “Why didn't you tell me...? Why would you want to be forgotten?” Twilight whispered and reached a hoof out to touch Gloom against her chest. The dark pony didn't recoil from the touch.

        “Twilight... I feel your sadness... I know it... I can feel it in you now.” Gloom looked deeply into Twilight's eyes and let out a shivering sigh. “It would be cruel of me to give you my affection only to have me fall over dead within a year. I risk having my heart explode in my chest every time I loose my temper. I can't bear the thought of hurting you... oh Twilight...” Gloom broke down into tears, shuddering all over. “I missed you... I have missed you so very much... tell me... tell me do you feel the same?”

        Twilight’s eyes overflowed as well and she squeaked, nodding to Gloom and mumbling almost incoherently. “Yes... yes I felt so alone... like a part of me was gone... it was you... the missing piece.” Twilight took a breath and pulled Gloom close, for the first time noting how clean her coat looked and how radiant her long locks looked. She was restored, just as she had been in the world of darkness when they first met. “What do we do Gloom? Where can we go from here...?”

        Gloom clung tightly to Twilight as if she expected the unicorn to be swept away in an instant. “I don't know Twilight... we... we could just handle each day as it comes... as long as I last...”

        Their eyes locked and slowly they shared their second kiss. This one given freely by both, a kiss to dispel their pain, regret, and sorrow. Locked in the embrace they let the rest of the world fall away.


        Twilight Sparkle sat in the grass calmly; eyes half closed as she gently laid a flower before the pearly white gravestone. She was sniffling a little before a gentle hoof was laid upon her shoulder. “How long have you been there Fluttershy?” Twilight smiled and looked up at her friend, the pale yellow pegasus smiling shyly as always.

        “Only a few minutes... I was worried you would catch cold... it is nearly winter you know.” Fluttershy took a seat beside Twilight and the purple unicorn chuckled, shaking her head.

        “I know... but I had to come visit... today is the day after all...” Twilight turned her eyes back to the stone and smiled a sad little smile.

        “It’s been a year since she passed Twilight... t-tell me... umm if you want to that is... but... was it worth it?” Fluttershy carefully laid a wing over Twilight's back to keep the chill breeze off her coat.

        Twilight nodded gently and her smile spread wide. “It was wonderful, Fluttershy. One hundred and three days. I... lived more in those months than my whole life... remember the party?” Twilight laughed and curled a little upon herself. “My 'coming out' party... everypony was so supportive... so kind... and they treated Gloom like family... and the picnics at Sweet Apple Acres... or... or the time we went stargazing... or when I... took her to Canterlot to see my mom and dad...” Twilight was crying unashamedly now, trembling. “Oh, Fluttershy it was so wonderful... even knowing it would end didn't matter... I learned to treasure each moment... even the little moments. But she hung on so long...”

        “We all miss her... we may have been scared at first but seeing how happy she made you was all the reassurance we needed.” Fluttershy gently dabbed her eyes dry, smiling a little herself. “We are a little worried though...”

        Twilight looked up at Fluttershy who blushed meekly once more. “Why would everypony be worried? Well I mean I’ve been a little depressed but... not enough to worry anypony. Have I?”

        “Well... ummm... you see... we're all worried that it's been a year and you're not... well... everypony is getting older and settling down.” Fluttershy blushed and scuffed her hoof in the grass shyly and looked over her shoulder to where Big Macintosh stood patiently at the edge of the cemetery.

        Knowing spread over Twilight's face and she blushed. “I... had noticed, yeah... I just think I need a little more time... Gloom left some awfully specific shoes to fill...” Twilight stood slowly and helped Fluttershy to stand as well.

        Fluttershy gave a gentle nod as always and started to walk back down the path out of the little cemetery towards the waiting embrace of her soon to be husband. Twilight went to follow, smirking to herself at Fluttershy. She and Mac had danced around their relationship for ages. Pinkie and Dash were so obviously together and there were whispers of Rarity and Applejack spending long nights in each other’s company. Twilight still smiled while she turned back to the grave. “Life goes on here... but I promise you won't ever be forgotten... not ever, Gloom...” Twilight whispered softly before her tear-filled eyes read over the inscription that she had written carefully for the dark mare of her dreams. The the purple unicorn made her way back to the glowing lights of Ponyville and her friends, knowing that tomorrow would bring more laughter and more fun and maybe, just maybe, the chance to find somepony who could fill that little empty space in her heart.

        The sun slowly set over the Ponyville cemetery. The last golden rays touching each pearly marble marker while the air carried the silence of the cool fall breeze. For the briefest moment, the sunlight set words ablaze across a familiar polished stone...

Born Of Shadows Given Breath

She Learned Love and Laughter

Now Forever She Sleeps

With Sunlight in Her Soul