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You Can’t Be Missed If You Never Left

“But Ms. Sparkle, if I do that, everypony in class will laugh at me! It’s not worth it!” A filly, her face drawn in a pout, stomped her hooves on the ground, staring up at a much older mare, whose face was darkened slightly with age. Lines ran across the once-supple skin, and the eyes which had once beheld the would-be destroyer of Equestria’s daytime frolicking were dim and listless. However, she smiled down at the filly before her, ruffling the girl’s hair with her hoof.


“Now now, Marina,” she said, “if you go getting all upset like that, all you’re going to do is make it harder for me to help you.”

The filly paused a moment, her bottom lip retracting slightly. She was an energetic young thing, with a shiny blue coat and short curls of yellow-red hair which were lit up by the sunlight filtering through the windows of a large, regal building.


“But Twilight!” she cried, sighing at her accidental breach of etiquette, “didn’t you once tell me that it’s not always best to run after what you want, or what you need? That it could possibly get you into a lot of trouble?” Twilight Sparkle chuckled a little, turning and walking away from her student, towards a bookshelf. Her horn glowed momentarily, and a small book floated out from the shelf, laying itself open on a nearby desk.


“Come here, Marina,” she said. “There’s something I need to discuss with you. It’s a story I’ve never told you before; one which took place many, many years ago, all about two ponies who were too afraid to go after what they wanted.” Marina raised an eyebrow, a humorless look on her face.


“Teacher,” she said, “are you sure this isn’t going to be another of your ‘This is a story about something that happened to me, and you can learn from it’ stories that you try to disguise as tales from a book?” Twilight laughed heartily, a sound Marina had gotten very used to in the years she’d spent with her beloved teacher.


“You know me far, far too well Marina,” she said. “Yes, it is one of those stories. But believe me, it’s one you need to hear.” She flipped the pages of the book, rifling through the photos which had been stuck inside. “This is an old scrapbook of mine, and inside, there are many ponies who were very special to me.”


“The other bearers of the Elements of Harmony, if I’m not mistaken, teacher?” The little filly smiled widely, her big blue eyes lighting up. “I always love hearing stories about them! They sound like they were a wonderful group of ponies!” Twilight smiled back at Marina, looking out of the window dreamily as the pages of the book stopped flipping, landing on a pony with a radiant rainbow mane, glowing magenta eyes, and a big, confident smile.


“They still are, dear student,” she said with a smile. “They still are—even my earth pony friends have hung on well past the ages anypony expected them to, even if they don’t get around as well anymore.” She chuckled. “But I digress; this is a story about two ponies who were scared, far too scared to go after what they wanted. But, after realizing that they’d both regretted the decision to hold back, things improved for them greatly.” Marina sat down in the chair across from Twilight, listening with interest. “And when they did come to that realization, things were happier than ever…”



It was a beautiful day out, and Twilight was enjoying reading out in the sun. This particular day, she was reading an old copy of Narrow Minds: The Study of Claustrophobia in Ponies. Princess Celestia would most likely have told her that such a book was worth less than spending time with her friends, but Twilight had always been a studious mare, and even now that Nightmare Moon had been defeated, several Grand Galloping Galas had gone by, and the age was beginning to show in her once-exuberant group, she was still sometimes more interested in having her snout buried in a good book.


“Twilight!” came a loud voice. “Twilight, you around here?”

The purple mare smiled, closing the book after dog-earing the page she was on. “Yes, Rainbow,” she said, hauling herself to her feet and turning around, “I’m here. Did you need something?” The colorful pegasus lighted down next to Twilight with a big grin.


“Nothin’ special,” she said, rolling onto her back to place her hooves behind her head, “just comin’ out to see what Ponyville’s favorite bookworm is up to.” She paused for a moment, looking at the book the purple mare was reading. “Uh…so what exactly are you up to, anyway? Been having some trouble with small spaces or something?”

Twilight laughed, the sound clear as a bell in the still air, and shook her head. “No, Rainbow, you should know by now that I’m not claustrophobic.” Rainbow giggled a little, rolling her eyes.


“Puh-leaze,” she said, “you do something new every day, Twilight. I change the weather less often than you change your brain!”

Twilight smirked a little, nudging the pegasus. “In any case,” she said, “I haven’t suddenly developed claustrophobia, no.” She sat back on her haunches in front of the brash pony, cocking an eyebrow. “And what about you? Gotten stage fright about this weekend yet?” Rainbow snorted, standing on her back legs to pound her chest with one hoof.


“Me?!” she asked, as though the question were an insult, “You know I’m the coolest pony around, Twilight! I don’t even know the meaning of stage fright!”

Twilight rolled her eyes with a smile, unable to resist a friendly jab. “Is that why we all thought your heart was going to leap out of your chest at the Best Young Fliers competition, Dash?” she asked with a smirk.

Dash frowned a little. “Hey now! I went and performed a Sonic Rainboom during that thing, plus I was the one who won the trophy! You callin’ that stage fright?!”

Twilight giggled a little, shaking her head. “I guess you’ve got a point. But you still can’t slack off, Dash.” She gave her friend a look of slight concern. “I know you’re a wonderful flier, but the Wonderbolts take these auditions very seriously, and it’s been several years since you last tried out.” She looked deep into the blue pony’s eyes. “Are you ready for this, Dash?” The pegasus shrunk back, biting her lip.


“Twilight,” she said, “I’ve been practicing for this for years and years now…if I can’t pull it off this time, well…there’s probably not much point trying again.” She chuckled a little, moving her mane back with a hoof. “Even if I do get in, Soarin’ and Spitfire have both retired, and I’ll get maybe five or six years with the Wonderbolts.” Twilight was taken aback by her friend’s sudden honesty—the last time she’d said anything this plainly had been right before the Best Young Fliers Competition!


“Rainbow…” the purple mare said softly, her face a mask of concern, “I know you can do it, but...why do you want to do it now? The Princess already contracts you to teach the Royal Guard initiates how to fly, and she pays you really well!” She paused, seeing Dash put her hoof up in a silencing gesture.


“Twi, it’s called ‘having a dream’.” She smiled, then sighed. “I’ve wanted to be in the Wonderbolts since I was a dumb little filly in flight school who could barely spell ‘wing.’” Twilight nodded, prompting Dash to continue. “And well…ugh, I’ve never been too good with words, but, I guess if I have to explain it…” She paused, rubbing her chin with a hoof. “I just gotta do it. It’s something I promised myself I’d do, so I gotta do it. I’ve never been a promise-breaking pony, I guess.” Dash hovered off the ground, flexing her forelegs with a big smile, an oft-used gesture from yester-year. “So I’m gonna go out there, and I’m gonna make the Wonderbolts realize that I’m best flier in Equestria!”


Twilight couldn’t explain it, even with all the knowledge stored in her brain, but at just that moment, her heart fluttered in her chest. Seeing her friend so confident, so secure in herself, so committed to her dream…it brought a big smile to the purple unicorn’s face. “I know you will, Dash,” she said simply, reaching her forelegs out to hug her pegasus friend tightly. “I’ll be there to watch you knock them dead.”


Dash’s forelegs wrapped around Twilight’s back tentatively. “Hey, c’mon,” she said, the heat from her blush on Twilight’s neck, “you know I’m not into all this mushy-gushy stuff. All you had to tell me was ‘good luck.’” Twilight let go, rolling her eyes at Dash.

“Just get out there and practice before I hug you some more,” she said, laughing. Dash made a face of mock horror.


“Nooo!” she cried. “Anything but that!” She turned to fly away, but turned back for a brief moment, grinning. “Uh…thanks, Twilight,” she said. “I feel a lot better now.” With that, she took off, leaving a rainbow streak.


Twilight levitated her book into her bag, still feeling heat radiating from her cheeks. What were these feelings? Why was she having them? She’d known Dash for so many years now…they’d been through so much together! Dragons, flying contests, auditions for the Wonderbolts, late-night study sessions, magic practice; it didn’t make sense that anything would be cropping up now! The purple mare shook her head, sighing as she began the walk back to the library—she figured the complicated years of her life were already over.


“Is that it?!” came Marina’s voice as Twilight shut the book, turning back to her student.


“Of course not, Marina,” the studious unicorn said with a giggle. “There’s never been a well-written story which ends on the first few pages. I just need to take a small break and rest this old voice of mine.” She levitated a glass of water over to herself from the faucet, taking a few sips. “And here I thought you weren’t interested in my stories?” She giggled a little.


“Well, teacher,” Marina said with a small sigh, “it’s a very interesting story…I’m looking forward to seeing what happens between you and Rainbow Dash! I’m sorry if I was rude before.”        


“I’m sure that if I was your age, I would have been as well,” she said with a smirk, “but try to keep in mind that patience is a virtue, and you must think before you speak. The entire story will be told in due time; nothing about me works entirely right these days.” She sighed. “Not like it did back then.” Marina nodded once more, sitting down on her haunches, the wood flooring actually quite comfortable underneath.


Twilight, meanwhile, looked out of the open window at the sun-stained day outside. Ponies were talking walks with their children, colts and fillies were playing cute little games of tag while simultaneously trying not to touch each other, and vendors were set up in the cobblestone streets, peddling ice cream and candies. It was definitely a summer day.


And so the two sat in silence, one enjoying the peace of a warm day, the other eagerly awaiting the next chapter in the great tapestry of her teacher’s life.

You Can’t Be Missed If You Never Left, Chapter 2

It would be several hours before Twilight felt able to continue the story—she’d fallen asleep in the middle of her pony-watching, and Marina hadn’t had the heart to wake her up, as eager as she was to hear the rest of the exciting tale. When Twilight did finally wake, she snorted rather loudly and sat up from the slouching position she’d taken in her chair. Across from her, Marina sat, a look of glee on her face. The fading sunlight cast a golden aura across the pair.

        “Teacher!” she cried, eliciting a grimace from Twilight, “you’re awake!” Twilight chuckled a little, shaking her head.

        “I can see you’re as energetic as ever, Marina,” she said, a yawn slipping from her snout. “Please do try to keep it down, if you would. I did just wake up, you know.” The filly blushed and shrunk back a little, her wide smile fading into a smaller, embarrassed one.

        “Um, sorry, Ms. Twilight,” she said. “I’ll be good. I promise.”

The purple mare laughed a little, levitating the book and flipping through the pages once more. “It isn’t a matter of being well-behaved or anything like that, my dear.” The unicorn laid the book out on its spine, another yawn escaping as she cleared the last remnants of sleepiness from her mind. “I’m just asking you to please keep your voice down.” She looked at the picture on the page, sighing blissfully. It was a blown-up picture of Rainbow Dash posing with a medal around her neck, the sun glinting off her eyes. “I still remember taking this photo…” she sniffed, and a single tear rolled down her cheek, which she quickly wiped away. Marina simply smiled.

        “I bet you two were the best friends in the world!” Marina cried. Twilight giggled, patting her student on the head.

        “We were!” the mare said happily. “And we were also so much more than that. Everypony can tell you; what we shared was unlike anything else.” Marina cocked an eyebrow.

        “What do you mean by that, Teacher?” she asked, leaning onto the table with her elbows, a look of disgust on her face, as though she hated the time period she was discussing. “I thought mares weren’t really…allowed to be like that back then. Isn’t that what you taught me in those history books?” Twilight laughed heartily.

        “Marina,” she said, “that era is long, long past. It was even before my time! I’m not that old!” She looked at the well-decorated walls around her and smiled. “It was perfectly legal when I was just starting out as a mare, you see.” She sighed. “But, to be honest, everypony who felt the same way Rainbow and I did, well…they were always afraid to say anything.” Marina seemed dumbstruck.

        “Afraid to say anything, Teacher?!” she cried, earning another cringe. “But…I thought being in love was one of those things you just had to accept, and no one could tell you otherwise! Being afraid to say anything…that’s almost worse than not being allowed at all!” Twilight pursed her lips and shook her head.

        “I know all too well, Marina.” She leafed back through the pages until she came to rest on a newspaper clipping. Fillyfooler Caught In Back Of Flight School With Another Mare! it read. “They were always wonderful masters of the obvious, the newshounds,” Twilight said, closing the volume. “Fear kept us from telling each other our true feelings for quite some time. We didn’t want to be called fillyfoolers, cast out of our town in ridicule!”

        “How awful!” replied Marina, getting to her feet to slam the table with a hoof. “Nopony should have to be treated like that! I heard some dumb colt call my friend Jazz Belle a fillyfooler, and he got detention for four days!” Twilight giggled a little at how up-in-arms her student was, but motioned for her to sit back down.

        “Yes, it was awful,” she continued, “but somehow, we were able to overcome all that. Now, that part of the story isn’t coming up for a little bit, so please be patient while I build up to it.” When Marina pouted, she ruffled the filly’s hair. “Now now, it wouldn’t be much fun at all if I just skipped straight to the end, would it? That’s not how a good story works.” The filly nodded, sitting down with a straight face, ready to listen. “Now, after that little encounter, I was beginning to feel that things might be more than I thought at first…”

Twilight grunted as she sat up in bed, the light from the moon shining in on her. She groaned loudly, rubbing at her face with her hooves. Unbelievable, she thought, this is the third night in a row! I can’t believe my stupid dreams are keeping me up! She rolled out of bed onto her hooves, shaking her hair out. I’m gonna go crazy if this keeps happening…

        The dream she’d had was an odd one, too: the very same dream she’d had two nights in a row before tonight. She was laying out in a field with Rainbow Dash, their hooves wrapped around one another, heads resting against each other. They spoke for a bit—weather, Pinkie, etc. But suddenly, the sky blue pony rolled over a little, her nose brushing against Twilight’s.

        “Come on, Twi,” she’d said, “nopony will know, it’s just you and me. You know we’ve both been waiting on this for a while.” Twilight felt herself drawn in, unable to resist.

        “Rainbow…” she’d said,  moaning a little as their lips met, bodies meeting on the soft grass, and—

        The clock on her wall startled the daydream out of her with finality as it softly bonged the hour: 2:00 a.m. The bookworm blinked her tired eyes, trying to get them to focus. I know! she thought, I’ll just read through some of my books! Look for some way to help me get to sleep, and then I’ll just go to sleep! Perfect! Now a little happier with the situation, she levitated a book out from her shelves, brought it up to the loft, and cracked it open.

        “Here we are!” she whispered, not wanting to wake Spike. “Hoof-Fungus and You, a Guide to…ugh, this isn’t right!” Angry now, she tossed the book aside with her mouth, not caring about the thunk it made when it hit the floor. Desperate, she floated over two more books, leafing through them. “Bloody Mare: The Story of a King’s Jealousy—no!” She tossed it aside, looking at the other one. “The Rising of Sun and Falling of Moon: Cycles in Equestr—no!” She groaned loudly and hucked that book out of the way too. She needed Spike’s help!

        She turned to face his basket, figuring that if she’d startled him awake with her loudness, she might as well take advantage; if anyone could find the book she needed, he could. But, of course, he was sound asleep in his basket, snoring his cares away, not knowing the torment Twilight was going through. She didn’t want to wake him up, and so turned back to the stairs and carefully descended them, looking out of the window.

        As expected, nopony was out this time of day—they were all sane enough to actually get some sleep. The unicorn sighed wistfully, wishing she could just hit the sheets and go to bed, but there was a bug in her heart, and it kept jumping back and forth, making her burn up inside. What was she feeling? Why in Celestia’s name was she feeling it?

        She flopped down in the chair at her desk, putting her head between her hooves. Nothing was making sense to her anymore, and that worried her greatly. Every time she would see Rainbow flying around, every time she would talk to the Pegasus, she would feel a chill run up her spine, followed by an extreme heat in the pit of her belly. What was her body trying to tell her? To stay away from Dash? Or…to get closer? The beleaguered mare slammed her head down with a moan of frustration.

        She ran through everything in her fevered brain once more, trying to pinpoint what had caused these feelings to start popping up. It couldn’t just have been Dash’s confidence about her tryout for the Wonderbolts; Twilight had seen her act like that time and time again! Just because she was so brash, so bold…just because she was everything Twilight wasn’t, and there was a sense that she completed her…

        The purple mare shook those thoughts from her head. There was no way, no way in Equestria these feelings had been bubbling below the surface all these years! She would’ve seen the signs, there would’ve been some indication, like her heart stopping during the Sonic Rainboom, just to make that moment all about Dash, even as she cheered her lungs out. Or perhaps her secretly rooting for Dash during the Iron Pony Competition.

        And, of course, as she thought more about those things, she realized—that’s exactly what had happened. This caused another slam into the desk by Twilight. Unbelievable. She’d loved Rainbow Dash for years, and only just now was it making itself known. Through all of the sleepless nights she’d sat there, analyzing her relationships with her friends, only just now was she realizing she loved her brash, loyal, daring friend.

        She loved the way she felt in the pegasus’ arms, loved how her hair always smelled like strawberries and other fruits…she loved Rainbow Dash. A few teardrops hit the surface of the desk as the waves of recognition washed over her. How could she tell her? How could she tell a mare so clearly involved with her career, at such a late stage in their lives, that she loved her? There was only one answer to that question:

        She couldn’t.

        Even in these times of advanced thinking, having these sorts of feelings for another mare still carried a sort of stigma. There were still ponies walking around who wouldn’t hesitate to call somepony a “fillyfooler” or worse if they saw her with another mare. Twilight knew she couldn’t ruin Dash’s life like that.

        Even as the tears poured down her face, she knew that there was only one course of action now: she had to tell somepony. There had to be somepony in her group who could help her come to terms with the sick feeling in her stomach. Standing, she figured out the first pony she should talk to. “I really don’t want to wake her up, but…” She sighed, grabbing her coat from the rack to protect against the chilly night air. “I guess I have no choice, if I ever wanna sleep again.” She magically got the coat on and opened the door, stepping outside. The wind, slightly high this night, immediately caught the door and closed it behind her, so she walked out into the night, with the one pony who might be able to help her in mind: Rarity.


“That’s just terrible!” Marina cried, her face a mask of pure shock. “How come you decided not to tell Rainbow about your feelings, Teacher?”

The purple mare sniffed and wiped away a tear, smiling. “I told you, Marina,” she said, “I was very afraid that we would be ridiculed, cast out for the way we chose to feel. Even if ponies around tolerated us, ‘fillyfoolers’ that we were, I knew I couldn’t live my life in Ponyville like that—a life of awkward smiles and sideways glances…I didn’t want to wreck everything for Dash, or myself.”

        “You should have went and told everypony, and not cared about what could’ve happened!” Marina cried, slamming her hoof down on the desk. Twilight remained calm, however, even as a few tears broke loose onto her cheeks. The truth that her filly student was slinging was painful—who would’ve thought such an innocent thing could unwittingly say something so insightful?

        “I am aware of that, Marina,” she said, “and I wish I had done that. It would’ve saved everypony a lot of time and heartache.” Marina’s eyes grew big, and she laid a hoof on Twilight’s foreleg.

        “I’m sorry, Teacher!” she said, bottom lip quivering, “I didn’t mean to make you cry; I didn’t mean it!” But the purple mare shook her head, smiling at her pupil.

        “Don’t cry about it, Marina,” she said softly. “You’re just hearing about the mistakes an old mare made in her youth, that’s all. There’s no need for you to be upset.” She nosed the crying filly, helping the tears to stop flowing. “I will resume telling the story in a half-hour; I just need that much time to get my mind in order. I’m sorry to put it on hold.” Marina shook her head.

        “It’s no problem, Ms. Twilight,” She said, nosing her teacher in return. “I just hope you feel better.” Twilight smiled, closing her eyes for a moment.

        “I will, Marina,” she said. “I promise I will.”

You Can’t Be Missed If You Never Left, Chapter 3

Twilight needed the half-hour to rest in the bathroom and cry with her head between her hooves—even with everything resolved, talking about what had happened, reminding herself of the way everything had felt during that gut-wrenching period of her life was nearly too much for the old mare to bear. But no matter how many tears she cried, Marina was still waiting out in the living area, dying to hear the rest of her tale. And so, with considerable effort, Twilight picked herself up from her resting position on the countertop and wiped away the remaining tears, opening the door magically and stepping back out into the sunlit living room.

        As soon as Marina saw her, she bolted away from the table, wrapping her forelegs around her teacher’s neck with a sniffle. Twilight let a smile crawl across her face as the little filly spoke.

        “Teacher, I’m so sorry about what happened!” she cried. “You don’t have to tell the story anymore, it’s okay!”

Twilight shook her head slightly, signaling for Marina to let go. “The story will continue, Marina,” she said, clopping back over to the small table where the book still sat. “I told you that you needed to hear the whole thing, and you will, no matter how painful it may be for me to retell it at certain points.” The little filly, still seemingly upset, took her place at the other end of the table, one eyebrow cocked.

        “But Teacher,” she said, tone puzzled, “how can the story be painful to tell if it has a happy ending? That’s the one thing I haven’t understood since the beginning of the lesson!”

Her instructor smiled somberly, the sunlight catching in her grey mane, which had lost its bright pink streaks. “It might be hard for you to understand, Marina—you are still a filly, after all—but things have changed a lot since these things happened. I’m not the same mare I was, and Dash, well…she’s not, either. After all, it’s been four decades. I’m sure you can understand how big a span of time that is, especially for those of us not gifted with long lifespans like the princesses. Unicorns and pegasi only live a few decades longer than earth ponies.”

Marina nodded. “I remember, Ms. Twilight,” she said, “you taught me all about how long all the pony spe--uh, speci--um…what was that word, Ms. Twilight?”

The purple unicorn laughed. “‘Species,’ Marina,” she responded, “the proper word is ‘species.’ And yes, I remember that lesson as well. Pinkie Pie and Applejack are the exception, not the rule. They’ve both lived many years past what was expected of them.” Twilight bit her lip, not able to tell the filly that both ponies had been infirm for the past few years of their lives—Applejack was too stubborn to be the first to go, and Pinkie wanted to throw one last party before it was all over, with everyone gathered together.

        “Yeah, species!” Marina cried, happy to be able to pronounce it. “Your friends must be really great ponies if they’re still alive!” She was smiling widely, which pulled at Twilight’s heartstrings all the more. “I bet they could, like, beat up a dragon or something!” Twilight finally allowed herself to laugh at the filly’s precociousness.

        “I doubt Applejack or Pinkie would want to fight a dragon, though I have no doubts about them winning that fight,” she said, smiling. However, she noticed that the sun was waning further outside, and shook her head. “But that’s enough about those two for right now—it’s getting late, and I wouldn’t want you to get scolded by your parents because I kept you late.” Marina shook her head.

        “I promise they won’t be mad, Teacher!” she said, “They know your lessons are really important! They won’t be mad!”

Twilight sighed, smiled, and nodded. “Even so, it’s best that I continue with the story. It’s been long enough.” When Marina gave an accepting nod, Twilight flipped the pages of the book open to a picture of a beautiful white unicorn, with curly purple tresses, all dressed up in finery.

        “Wow, she’s really pretty, Ms. Sparkle!” Marina said, marveling at the photo. “Is that Rarity?”

The purple mare nodded, smiling. “Yes, it is. She is a pony of grace, civility, and the absolute peak of what it means to be a lady.” Twilight chuckled. “She was always dragging us into the boutique she owned to have us try on dresses she was creating. As soon as I realized the full extent of my feelings for Rainbow Dash, I knew Rarity was the first one I needed to talk to about it…”

The walk across town had been less than easy. The wind whipped at Twilight, slapping her long hair across her face and threatening to tear her coat straight off her shoulders. However, even with the wind screeching around her, Twilight felt safe and secure in the chaos, like nothing bad could touch her. Even with the wind, she was nearly at her destination.

        Rarity’s boutique had grown in size over the years; what was once a small, yet colorful shop was now an expansive store, spanning several acres and four floors—Rarity’s bedroom still sat all the way at the top of the building. Twilight had hoped she might get lucky and find the lights still on for a late-night project, but no such luck.

        Twilight raised her hoof and rapped on the door several times, hoping that she could be heard over the howling wind. When several minutes went by with no answer, the unicorn knocked a little harder. Still no answer. Twilight knew that Rarity would be unable to hear her on the fourth floor without magic and so, despite her reluctance, Twilight allowed the familiar glow of magic to spread throughout her horn, materializing a hoof right next to the window of Rarity’s bedroom. It knocked a few times, loudly, before vanishing.

        An eternity went by, and Twilight’s stomach refused to stop its nervous churning, but finally the window opened slightly, and a white unicorn, hair mussed up from sleep, peeked out, ducking back in upon seeing who was waiting at her door. A few more minutes passed, and finally the locks on the door clicked open, allowing the pink door to swing free and reveal Rarity, dressed in a frilly pink bathrobe, her hair showing signs of being hastily fixed.

        “Twilight, darling!” she yelled over the wind, “what are you doing out at this time of night?! And in this weather?! Shouldn’t you be in bed sleeping?” Her expression indicated that this statement didn’t apply so much to Twilight as herself. I should be in bed sleeping, is what it seemed to say.

        “I know, Rarity,” the purple mare responded sheepishly, walking past the white unicorn as she was ushered in, “but I just haven’t been able to sleep. I haven’t gotten a proper amount in three days!” Rarity balked at this statement.

        “Three days?!” she cried, “Darling, that’s terrible! Oh, the bags under your eyes must look so awful by now! Please, have a seat, dear!” Rarity magically pulled out one of the chairs, a small scraping noise echoing throughout the boutique. Twilight gratefully took the seat, smiling over at Rarity.

        “I really appreciate you being so understanding, Rarity. I know it’s late, and I woke you up.” The other mare shook her head dismissively, sitting down next to Twilight.

        “Darling, you and I have been best friends for years now!” She grinned, the laugh-lines showing clearly on her once-flawless face. “I would be a terrible friend if I weren’t always there for you! Now, what seems to be the problem? I, Rarity, will do my very best to assist you!” Twilight couldn’t help but giggle at the white unicorn’s pseudo-gallant demeanor—it was an act she had learned to love over the years.

        “Well, see, it’s probably not the type of problem you’re used to dealing with. I mean, I know you’ve helped me out with wardrobe choices when I see Celestia, things like that, but this is, well…it’s very complicated.”

Rarity nodded. “Even so,” she said, “it is my duty to help in whatever way I can. If you have been losing sleep over this issue, then we must do whatever we can to deal with it. Not sleeping is terrible for one’s health. You really should have come and spoken to me sooner.” Twilight nodded, leaning her cheek into one of her hooves.

        “I know, Rarity, I know…but I was just a little afraid. See, my problem is something that I’m not too sure many fillies or mares around here have dealt with, and, well…” She sighed in frustration.

        “What is it, dear?” Rarity said, leaning forward. “Please, stop beating around the bush and tell me! I can’t help you if you don’t tell me.”

Twilight bit her lip for a few moments, hesitant, before finally shouting out, “I’m in love with Rainbow Dash!” Immediately, she clapped her hooves over her mouth, embarrassed that she had said it that loudly. Rarity sat there, staring at her for a few moments, blinking slowly as recognition came over her.

        “You’re…what?” she asked, her voice a little soft. Twilight knew this was a bad idea; she just hoped Rarity wasn’t going to disown her, or worse…

        “I’m…in love with Dash,” she repeated, swallowing hard. “When I’m around her, well…my stomach gets all full of butterflies and my heart beats a little faster. And when I see her flying, I can always feel myself blushing, and my tail starts doing that stupid thing where it swishes back and forth, and—” Rarity shoved her hoof into the mare’s mouth, smiling and shaking her head.

        “Dear, you’re rambling,” she said, taking her hoof away. “I understand what it’s like to be in love perfectly well, believe me. There is no need for such elaboration.” She giggled a little. “At least, not this early in the morning.” Twilight felt waves of relief wash over her; she just knew that Rarity would understand!

        “Rarity…” Twilight said softly, “I’m so glad you’re okay with all this. I was just really confused. I didn’t really know how to feel about being, y’know...a fillyfoo-” Again the hoof silenced her, and Twilight found Rarity giving her a look, her eyes hard.

        “Do not use such a despicable word within my boutique, please,” she said, her tone serious, “I will not allow one of my friends, especially one who has just discovered love for the first time, to think of herself in such a horrid way.” When Twilight nodded, tears beginning to form in her eyes, Rarity pulled her hoof away. “Why are you crying, dear?” she asked, concerned.

        “It’s just, well...Rarity, you have to realize that this is pretty much the first time for me! I mean, I had schoolyard crushes when I was just a filly, but nothing like this.” She paused to take a deep breath, steadying her voice. “I thought that these feelings just crept up on me out of nowhere, but the more I think about it, the more I realize that I’ve always loved Rainbow Dash!”

        Rarity raised an eyebrow quizzically. “You have spoken to Rainbow about this, have you not? You’ve told her these things?”

        “No,” Twilight said, more tears beginning to seep out, “she doesn’t know a thing about it. I didn’t want to tell her because, well…Rarity, I know I can trust you, but I’m worried about what everypony else will think.”

Rarity nodded, but sighed. “Dear, if you hold these feelings inside, you are going to spend the rest of your life wondering whether Dash loved you as well. You cannot continue to hold onto this until you’re old and grey.” She giggled a little, ironically. “After all, it won’t be very long before we’re all old and grey, now will it?”

Twilight sniffed, rubbing her eyes. “But, even past the concerns about being a…you know…” She paused for a moment. “Dash has her tryout for the Wonderbolts! If she makes it in, well…who’s to say she won’t be too focused on her career to love me? I don’t want to put that kind of pressure on her.”

Rarity nodded. “An understandable concern, love, but there’s one problem with it.” Twilight raised an eyebrow. “Even if she was too busy, you know that she would tell you, rather than holding it inside. Not to mention, I haven’t a doubt in my mind that she would be all the more upset with you if you neglected to inform her about this. You must tell her. If you ask me, there will be no better opportunity than tomorrow—the day of her tryouts.”

Twilight’s jaw dropped.

“The day of the tryouts?!” she cried. “There’s no way I could do that! I mean, what if she says no? She’ll probably feel so terrible for the rest of the day that she would fail her tryouts!” The purple mare shook her head. “I can’t be responsible for something like that.”

Rarity sighed and shook her head. “If you don’t do it tomorrow, you never will, darling.” Her tone was concerned, but her eyes commanding. “There is no reason to allow this golden opportunity to pass you by. Especially not when you have the Elements of Harmony ourselves backing you up! You know that we’re all here for you. And as for Dash...she can get through her audition no matter what. She’s a strong pony.” She giggled. “Go home, get some sleep, wake up tomorrow, find Dash, and tell her this...”

The white unicorn took Twilight by the hooves, looking deep into her eyes, and began, “You are the most beautiful pony I have ever laid eyes on. We have known each other for a long time now, and these feelings have been bubbling underneath the surface the entire time. You are brash, bold, and I love the way I feel when I’m in your arms.” Twilight felt a blush in her cheeks. “Please, Rainbow Dash, be mine. You will make me the happiest mare in all of Equestria, if you will just be mine.” She let go and grinned. “Easy.”

Twilight nodded dumbly. “Right…easy,” she said, standing up. “I think I’m gonna get going. If I’m going to get any kind of sleep, I need to get home right now.”

Rarity nodded, standing up as well. “And I have some beauty sleep to catch up on. Goodbye and goodnight, Twilight Sparkle. I wish you luck in your romantic endeavors!” With that, Twilight turned and left, the door closing and locking magically behind her.

        The purple unicorn looked up at the sky, letting a wistful sigh slip out as she began to walk; it seemed the windstorm, which had made her feel so secure, so safe within even as she was out in it, had died down, leaving the night chilly, forbidding, and far, far too silent.

        What Rarity had said…could it really be as easy as just telling Dash all that stuff? Would Twilight be able to find the sky blue pegasus in time to tell her before tryouts? All these thoughts swam about inside her head as she walked. However, as mixed up as her head was, her mouth continued forming the same words, over and over again.

        “You are the most beautiful pony I’ve ever laid eyes on. You are the most beautiful pony I’ve ever laid eyes on. You are the most beautiful pony…”

“Aww…that’s so cute!” Marina cried, smiling widely. Twilight nodded, chuckling a little.

        “I suppose it is,” she responded, “but it certainly didn’t seem cute back then. I had my insides all tied up in knots over Dash, you see. I had no idea then whether she was going to say yes or no. Of course, knowing what I know now, it should’ve been obvious that she was going to say yes. She later told me that she’d been in love with me for a while, but she’d held back because she was afraid I’d be too busy as Celestia’s student to love her.”

Marina laughed. “That’s silly!” she said, tail swishing back and forth a little. “You two should’ve just told each other right from the start! But I guess I already said that, huh?” The filly giggled softly. Twilight mirrored the action, leaning back in her seat.

        “You have, though at least the statement is funnier this time.” She sighed, looking out of the window. “I’m just glad she and I finally came to our senses and stopped miscommunicating. We’ve been so much happier ever since.” Marina was silent for a few moments, but finally piped up.

        “Ms. Twilight?” she asked, leaning forward on her hooves. “If you and Ms. Dash got married, like you’ve told me before, well…how come I’ve never seen her around here? I’ve been your student for four years, Ms. Twilight, and I’ve never even talked to Ms. Dash!” She grinned, not noticing the look of anguish on Twilight’s face. “You weren’t lying to me when you said that this was your house, were you?”

The faded-purple mare shook her head, trying not to show that she was fighting back tears. “Dash, well…she’s not really around here anymore,” she said, swallowing hard. “Seven years ago, she went off to take a vacation. She was getting very old, and as you know, unicorns live the longest out of any species, so she, uh…went to find a fountain of youth, to be with me longer.”

Marina cocked an eyebrow. “Fountain of youth?” she said disbelievingly. “Is there such a thing? You’ve never taught me anything about that, Teacher.”

Twilight took a deep breath, smiling at Marina. “Well…that’s because it’s so exciting, and so very far away, that I didn’t want to tell you when you were too young and have you go looking for it alone or something. You know as well as I do how young fillies can be.” Marina still had her eyebrow raised, but seemed appeased for now.

        “I guess so…” she said. “But when she gets back, I wanna meet her! After all, if you married her, she’s gotta be, like, the most awesome pony around!” Twilight forced a giggle, the sound masking a great pain. “But, Teacher…don’t you miss her? I mean, if she’s been gone seven years…that’s a really long time to be without the pony you love!”

The purple unicorn bit her lip, smiling and nodding. “It is, Marina, but there was something a wise pony, one who I consider much wiser than myself, once told me, and it’s helped me get through these long years without her by my side.”

Marina tilted her head inquiringly, smiling. “What was that, teacher?”

Twilight looked over at a bookshelf, where a framed photo of her and Rainbow Dash sat in a frame. In the photo, they were both done up in extravagant gowns, their lips meeting in front of a cheering crowd as Celestia stood above them, smiling knowingly. A single tear slipped down Twilight’s cheek and plopped onto the table as she recited the words: “‘You can’t be missed if you never really left.’ That’s what the pony told me. And as far as I’m concerned, she never did leave. She’s always been right here, by my side.” Marina smiled so big Twilight thought her cheeks might break.

        “That’s so sweet!” she cried. “That must’ve been one smart pony.” She giggled a little. “I guess it wasn’t Dash, huh? The way you talk about her, she sounds too simple for mushy stuff like that.”

        “Her simplicity was one of the best things about her,” the purple mare said, “alongside many other things. But I’m getting off track.” She looked behind Marina, and saw that the last golden fingers of the sun were receding over the horizon. “I’m going to go upstairs for a few minutes, and then I’ll come back and continue the story. We’re getting to one of the better parts.”

Marina giggled and nodded, staying put as Twilight rose, heading up the stairs. “You never went away, Dash,” she whispered to herself, “you’ve always been right here.” And as she spoke, she could swear she felt her mate’s blush on her neck once again.

You Can’t Be Missed If You Never Left, Chapter 4

It was the wall-clock which finally brought Twilight back to her senses, letting out a loud bong that hung in the air for a few moments before letting loose with another bong. The purple unicorn raised her head from where it had been placed, against one of the walls of her bedroom, and looked around.


        The room was still dark, sparsely decorated; only a pair of purple curtains and the wall-clock, done up in rainbow patterns, were visible—just the way she’d left it after Dash… She sighed, shaking her head and lighting up her horn to get a look at the numbers on the clock: it was 8:01. A few pangs of guilt thumped in the mare’s chest—she’d left Marina sitting out there, waiting for her, for 40 minutes while she sobbed against the wall. She grinned ruefully to herself. Just like after the tryouts, eh Twi? she thought.


        Knowing she needed to gather herself together and go back downstairs, Twilight shook her head, trying to get herself straight, and slunk away from the wall and out the door leading into the upstairs hallway. When she reached the bottom of the stairwell, she was greeted by the sight of Marina slumped over on the table, a small stream of drool leaking from her open muzzle. The purple unicorn chuckled; kids could be so funny sometimes. Attempting to be quiet, Twilight softly clopped over to where her student lay, nudging her head with her snout.


        “Marina,” she whispered in the filly’s ear, “Marina, wake up. We’ve got to finish the story.” With a small snort, Marina woke, her bleary eyes looking around for a moment before focusing on her teacher.


        “Ms. Twilight!” she said, her voice thick with sleepiness. “I was starting to get worried about you. You were gone for a long time.” Twilight smiled, her horn glowing as she pulled out the adjacent chair and sat down in it.


        “I know, Marina, and I’m very sorry about that. I shouldn’t have left you down here all by yourself. I was just looking through some things and lost track of time.” This was, of course, a blatant lie, but it seemed to satisfy Marina.


        “I understand, Teacher,” she said, smiling as she rubbed her eyes. “Whenever my mom shows me pictures of me as a foal, or my little brother comes out of his room to play, hours can go by and I never notice.”


        Twilight nodded, levitating over a glass of water to quench her ragged, pained throat—all that crying had worn her voice out a little. “I can see why you’d be concerned, Marina,” she said, sipping on the water. “I am an old mare, and if I’d fallen, it could’ve turned out very badly.” She chuckled ironically.  The book glowed and opened up, the pages flipping quickly.


        “Ms. Twilight,” Marina said, cocking an eyebrow skeptically, “you’re not that old, right? I mean, Green Leaf, my neighbor, is a unicorn too, and she’s, like, a million years old!” Twilight made a face of mock surprise as the book laid open on its spine, showing a picture of the Wonderbolts—Soarin’, Spitfire, and the pony who had always refused to disclose his name.


        “A million, you say?” the purple mare cried, recoiling. “Why, she’d be older than the princesses, in that case!”


        Marina rolled her eyes good-naturedly. “You know what I mean, Teacher,” she said. “She’s just really, really old. I’m sure she’s older than you.”


        Twilight chuckled a little. “I know, dear, I know. I’m just having a bit of fun with you.” She shook her mane a little, the grey locks swaying back and forth until the tail-end of her mane rested on her neck.

        “You know, Ms. Twilight,” Marina said, her eyes soft and caring, “no matter how old you get, even if Ms. Dash doesn’t find that fountain of youth, I know we’re still going to be best friends forever!” Twilight felt her heart give a pang of sorrow at the unexpected sincerity.


        “What makes you say that, my student?” she asked, her eyes threatening to let loose all over again. “I am like any other pony—if the fountain of youth does not turn up, well…you know as well as I do what will happen. I will pass away, much like Fl…” Twilight paused a moment as Marina raised an eyebrow.


        “Like who, teacher?” she asked. Twilight swallowed hard.


        Fluttershy, she thought to herself, tears welling up, the very first one of us to go…The mare was roused from her thoughts when Marina shifted the position of her hoof, blue eyes still searching for an answer. Twilight didn’t want to tell this story, so instead she quickly dismissed the issue.  “Uh, nopony, Marina.  Never mind.”

        “But I want to know!” Marina insisted.


        Twilight bit her lip, and was floundering for a response when the clock struck nine.


        “Marina, I would love to continue this discussion another time, but the story is almost over. We must finish it up if you’re going to get home at a decent time.”  Marina pouted, but reluctantly motioned for Twilight to continue. Twilight cleared her throat and began again.


        “Now, when the day of the tryouts came, I found Rainbow Dash first thing in the morning, but…”

Twilight hadn’t slept any better than the last few nights, that much was certain. She’d rolled around, disgusted at the fact that her sheets were soaked through with sweat from her burning body. When she had caught an hour or two, her dreams were invaded by visions of Dash laughing off her declarations of love and flying away, or of all the ponies in Ponyville pelting her and Dash with rocks, screaming at them to leave town before they infected every mare with their fillyfooling. Despite all this, however, Twilight had finally gotten a bit of lasting sleep, her fevered mind shutting down around 4:30 in the morning.


        The sun finally roused her from her slumber with her hair twisted in unmanageable knots, matching the sheets around her legs quite nicely. Spike’s basket was empty, except for a note.


        Twilight, it read, I can see you need to sleep, so I’m gonna leave you there and let you wake up when you need to; within reason, of course. Just to make sure you don’t miss Dash’s auditions, I went ahead and set the wall-clock to go off extra loud at 11:30. Remember, the auditions are at 1; don’t be late to the flying field!


        The purple unicorn blearily processed the information, eyes slowly drifting over to the clock on the wall. 11:23. Thank goodness. With considerable effort, Twilight hauled herself out of bed, dragging her hooves tiredly over to the clock to shut off the alarm before it went off.

        She hurried through her morning routine, swallowing a plate of hastily-made eggs, pulling a brush through her hair until it looked decent, and scrubbing her teeth as quickly as possible. Then the unicorn took a deep breath, held it for a few moments, and walked out into the sunshine just as her clock struck 12.


        Outside, the sun was much too bright. It seemed to invade all of Twilight’s body, soaking her through with uncomfortable heat. The wind was mellow, wafting lazily through the air. It was a fine day for the best flyer in Equestria to show her stuff in front of the Wonderbolts, but it was an awful day for a nervous pony to spill her guts to the one she loved. Still, Twilight dragged her hooves through the grass, making her way towards the flying field, muttering half-hearted words of encouragement to herself. The walk, at most, took 45 minutes, but to Twilight, it seemed to drag on forever.


        The flying field mentioned in Spike’s note was located on the southeastern end of Ponyville, past Sugarcube Corner. The field itself was unremarkable—a large, flat area of land populated only by shrubbery and short grass, with virtually no air obstructions; it was where Dash always practiced, and where Twilight liked to come and read on nice days. The air was still and quiet, much like it had been four days ago.


        As more and more time passed, and she finally arrived at the flying field, she began to feel better. Her stomach was settling down and her brain had blood flowing through it. Yes, she was finally going to reveal her true feelings to Rainbow Dash after four grueling days of silence. It was going to be easy; cake, in fact. As she clopped further and further into the field, seeing Rarity and the rest of the gang waiting up ahead, she could feel her belly settling back down again.

        But as soon as she saw Dash, all of that went out the window.

        The pegasus was dressed up in her old Gala outfit, which sparkled brightly in the sun, especially in comparison to how plain the rest of the pegasi looked. Twilight had forgotten just how good Rainbow looked in that dress; her eyes fizzled with energy, her blue coat shined, and she looked altogether ready to destroy the competition. Twilight tried to turn and walk away sheepishly, not wanting everypony to see the bright blush on her cheeks, but her flight was cut short by a loud, beckoning voice.


        “Twilight! Boy, am I glad to see you! For a minute there, I thought you weren’t going to show!” Rainbow’s smile faded into a look of confusion as she saw the blush lighting Twilight’s cheeks. “You alright? You look hot.”

        The unicorn shook her head, forcing a smile. “No, I’m okay, Rainbow. It’s just…I had to rush out here so I wouldn’t be late.” She took a deep breath. “But I’m okay now, I think.”

        Dash smiled. “Glad to hear it! I couldn’t have my number one fan all worn out, now could I?” The pegasus laughed and gave Twilight a friendly jab to the shoulder, which elicited a nervous giggle.

        “Yeah, right, number one fan…” she responded. Things were quiet and a little awkward for a few moments, but eventually Twilight looked up into Dash’s eyes, her own sparkling a little. “Dash, I, um…there’s something I really need to tell you.” The blue pony cocked an eyebrow, continuing to hover.

        “What’s up, Twi?” she asked.

        Twilight shuffled her hooves nervously. “I, um…well, you see, uh…” She was stammering. Why couldn’t she remember anything she needed to say? Why was everything Rarity had taught her going straight out the window?! “I think, er…Dash, you’re the most—”


        “Ms. Dash?” came a deep voice from behind the pair. “You’re needed. The Wonderbolts would like to see your audition now.” Dash turned around, a look of shock on her face as she stared at the dark-blue pegasus behind them.

        “But I’m, like, fourth in line! Are you telling me the other ponies already went and I missed them?!”

        The stallion nodded.

        “Well, can’t I at least get a little more time here? My friend has something important to tell me.”

        The dark blue pegasus seemed to think about it for a few moments, but nodded, his expression hurrying. Rainbow smiled and turned back to Twilight. “Now, what was it you needed to tell me?”

        Twilight fidgeted, her hooves making small holes in the ground as she scraped them nervously. “I, um…” She looked behind Dash, at the stallion, who was glaring at her. “Um…good luck. Knock ‘em dead, Dash.”

        Dash smiled happily. “Thanks, Twi. You know I got this!” With that, she floated off to the starting line, leaving Twilight alone, feeling farther away than ever. She trotted up next to her friends, and immediately Rarity grabbed her foreleg, smiling over at her.

        “Well, how did it go, darling?” she asked, her tone excited, “Did Rainbow say she loved you too? Oh, did you two kiss? You must tell me everything!” Twilight hesitated, but finally the truth came trickling out.

        “I didn’t tell her,” she said.

        Rarity seemed dumbstruck. “Didn’t tell her? But darling, why would you not have told her? I don’t understand!” Twilight felt tears brimming up, but sniffed them back.

        “I don’t know,” she said softly, “I almost did, but then this stallion came up and I felt so rushed that I just…didn’t tell her.” Rarity sighed, visibly deflated by the news.

        “Okay, dear, it’s not the end of the world,” she said, eyes not sharing the smile on her face. “You can still do this. All you must do is find another way to get her attention. Just…surprise her, that’s all.” Twilight thought on this for a moment, trying to gather herself, but was interrupted by a voice over the loudspeakers.

        “Now flying—candidate number four: Rainbow Dash. Ms. Dash will be performing a standard series of aerial maneuvers to be judged by the Wonderbolts. The candidate will also be given the opportunity to perform one elective trick for the judges. Please stay seated on the grass until the performance is over. Thank you.”

        Rainbow flew from the gate like a bat out of hell, her multicolored trail following her as she screamed into the air. Twilight had seen her pegasus friend fly many, many times, but never like this. She was graceful, she was fast, and above all else, that day, nopony would be able to match up to the performance she put on in the sky. The standard maneuvers flew by with absolutely no trouble—Dash had practiced them dozens upon dozens of times in this very field.

        Twilight could feel her heart pounding in her chest, as though it were leaping and flying around just like Dash. Her mind was on fire, screaming at her to tell Rainbow Dash exactly the way she was feeling. Her throat burned more with every passing second, the words threatening to claw their way up and out of her mouth.


        When it came time for the elective trick, Twilight found herself tapping her hooves on the ground, unable to hold still at all. Her body was brimming with a volatile mixture of emotions, and it was taking all of her concentration to keep them from bursting out.

        The move Dash performed was unlike anything anypony had ever seen! She rocketed through the air, her rainbow hair trailing behind her, and began making a tight loop, creating the illusion of a circular rainbow in midair. She then broke away, screaming through the middle of the circle to form three prongs—the official symbol of the royal guard!

        Ponies all around the flying field rose to their feet as the jaws of the Wonderbolts hit the floor, and cheering ripped through the once still air, filling Twilight’s ears, blocking out all other sounds. The cacophony lasted several minutes before dying down, letting the head Wonderbolt speak through the loudspeaker.

        “Ahem. Well, now that the celebration is over, we would like to give a special message. Rainbow Dash, you are the seventh pony in the history of the Wonderbolts to score perfectly on her entrance exam. With that in mind, and seeing that our list of applicants is quite hefty this year, we would like to ask that you come forward and collect your suit, medal, and plaque now, please. Afterwards, you may leave. We will assign you to a group and schedule shows for you another time.” The blue pony nodded, and everypony around could see that she was trying to conceal her excitement.

        “C’mon, let’s move closer in for a better view.” Rarity’s voice slipped into Twilight’s ear and, following her lead, she stood, clopping over to the stage with her group straddling her.

        Once everypony had moved closer to the front, they could see Dash standing next to a pegasus with bright green hair, but a black coat—the current leader of the Wonderbolts.  His eyes sparkled with the pride of his position. She looked collected enough, but Twilight knew that underneath she was bouncing off the walls with excitement. As the pony handed Dash her suit and medal, Twilight could see a single tear slip out, but she quickly wiped it away and sniffed the rest back. After years of trying, she’d finally made it. She was a Wonderbolt.

        But even with all the excitement, as happy as Twilight was for Rainbow, she could still feel the words bouncing around inside her mouth, tearing her tongue to pieces as they begged to scream to the heavens. She couldn’t say it, not now, not in front of everypony…

        “Rainbow Dash,” the black pony said, “it is with great pride that I welcome you, our historic seventh perfect-scorer, into the wings of the Wonderbolts. We are a group dedicated to perfection, both in and out of the sky. We perform, we help in our communities, and we maintain our stature above all else. The Wonderbolts shine as an example of what every pony should be. Are you ready to accept that responsibility?”

        Rainbow Dash, her lip quivering, nodded. “I am,” she said. “Always have been.”

        The black pony chuckled a little at the statement, picking up a large plaque which was inscribed with the Wonderbolts insignia and placing it in his own hoof, then extending it to Dash. “Then I present to you this plaque, the symbol of your great accomplishment on this day. Please accept it, along with our heartfelt welcome. Member number 62, Rainbow Dash of Ponyville, welcome.” In that moment, despite her brash attitude, her bold ways, and her lack of forethought, Dash stood tall, accepting the plaque and even pausing to smile for the photographer standing a yard or two away, a big smile on her face.

        “Thank you,” she said simply, turning to gather her things.

        “Rainbow!” Twilight paused for a moment as Rainbow turned, along with everypony else, to look at her. Had that been her? Twilight tried to stop herself, but words spilled out from her mouth unbidden. “Rainbow,” she said, her voice full of passion, “you are the most wonderful pegasus in Equestria. Heck, you’re the best pony in Equestria! The most beautiful, the most passionate, the most bold, the most talented…” Rainbow’s jaw slowly dropped open, along with most of the crowd, but Twilight continued. “I have loved you ever since we defeated Nightmare Moon. You’ve always been there for me, helped me, and…” She paused once more, trying to remember what Rarity had told her. “I love the way I feel when I’m in your arms. I love you, Dash. Please be mine. You’d make me the happiest mare in Equestria if you’ll just be mine.”

        Nopony made a sound as Twilight finished. As the last words rolled off her tongue, the air went still once more, thick with tension. Realization hit Twilight like a ton of bricks; she’d just made her big speech to Dash in front of the entire crowd. The blue pony raised a hoof, her mouth opening as though to answer, but Twilight never gave her the chance; she turned and ran away, fighting back tears. Rarity tried to call after her, but she ignored it, charging forward at breakneck pace.

        The purple unicorn didn’t stop until she was all the way home. She threw the door open and slammed it shut behind her, not even bothering to lock it as she fell to the floor, banging her hoof into the wood. “Stupid, stupid!” she screamed. “Why did you do that? You made a fool out of yourself, and worse, out of Rainbow Dash! Oh, I bet she’s out there already, wanting to give me a piece of her mind…” As though on cue, there was a loud knock on Twilight’s door. “I knew it,” she said, slumping around to open the door and reveal Dash standing there, looking awkward.

        “Hey Twi,” she said, shuffling her hooves.

        “Hello, Dash,” Twilight responded robotically.

        “Um…that was some show you put on back there. Everypony was totally shocked. I got outta there before anypony said anything, though.”

        “I understand. It was a little shocking.”

        The blue pony nodded, looking away. “Well, I’ve never been too good with mushy-gushy stuff, but, uh…”

        Twilight cocked an eyebrow. “What is it, Dash?” she asked. In an instant, the blue pegasus skipped forward, locking lips with Twilight. The two ponies kissed for a few fleeting moments before Dash pulled back, smiling and blushing.

        “I love you too,” she said softly.

You Can’t Be Missed If You Never Left, Chapter 5

Marina had just about fallen out of her chair when Twilight finished up the story, a huge smile painted on her face. Twilight laughed as she pulled herself back up into her chair, still grinning ear-to-ear.

        “Ms. Twilight!” she cried. “That was, like, the sweetest thing ever! When Rainbow Dash showed up at your door and said, ‘I love you too’, I thought I was gonna die!” The purple mare giggled a little more, levitating the book back onto the shelves with a contented sigh.

        “It was very sweet of her to do that,” Twilight said, “and it was the last thing I’d expected after the fiasco at the auditions. Rainbow later told me that she was kinda upset about getting rushed out the door like that, but seeing that they had dozens of candidates, well…I can see why they did it, myself.”

        Marina nodded. “I don’t think it was a bad thing for them to do,” she said. “After all, I bet they’d seen plenty of auditions when they were Wonderbolts—I’d be pushing ponies along too!”

        Twilight nodded, taking a sip from her water. “Though you do realize that rushing ponies through auditions is not the moral of this story, I hope?” She chuckled. “I’d feel pretty silly if I sat here and told you all this and that’s the idea you walked away with.” The blue filly shook her head, smiling.

        “No, Teacher,” she said, leaning on a hoof. “I understand what you were trying to tell me.” Twilight raised an eyebrow quizzically, prompting her student. “You wanted me to realize that sometimes, we just have to get out there and go after what we want, regardless of appre…um…appr…uh…”

        Twilight giggled. “‘Apprehension’, Marina?” she offered, and her blue-coated student nodded happily.

        “Apprehension, that’s it! That’s a hard word, Ms. Twilight,” she said, yawning.

        Twilight laughed. “I imagine being out this late isn’t doing your brain any favors, Marina,” she said. “You really ought to be getting home, don’t you think? It’s going to be a big day for you tomorrow.” Marina stifled another yawn, shaking her head.

        “No, Teacher!” she cried, “I’m totally wide awake! I want to hear how the story ends!”

        Twilight shrugged. “There isn’t much more to tell you, my student; at least nothing I’m willing to tell you in tonight’s session. Rainbow Dash and I, well, we sewed a tapestry together—our lives were very rich and robust.” Marina pouted.

        “Can’t you tell me anything else, Teacher?” she begged, putting her hooves together.

        Twilight rolled her eyes good-naturedly, smiling. “Very well, my little pony,” she said. “I can summarize what happened after Dash declared her love for me, but that is all you’ll get until the next time I must tell you a story.” She smiled. “Is that satisfactory?” Marina nodded happily, bidding her teacher go on.

        “Dash and I ended up talking for the rest of the day,” Twilight began, “and even most of the night, about what had happened for all those years, why I’d never told her how I felt, and why she’d never told me, either.” Marina nodded. “It turned out that Dash had felt the same way about me for a while, like I said earlier. But beyond that, she was pretty sure I didn’t feel the same way. I’d spent so much time around my books that, well, she figured I wasn’t interested in anypony, much less her.” The unicorn chuckled a little. “I only dealt with those feelings for four days—I can’t imagine what it was like for her.”

        “It must’ve been awful, teacher!” she cried. “Did you ever ask her about it?”

        Twilight nodded. “She told me that, after a while, she just learned to focus her energy elsewhere—flying, mostly. It was tough at first, but, like anything else, time gives us the perspective to deal with things which seem insurmountable.” Marina tilted her head quizzically, and Twilight laughed. “What I mean is, after a while of feeling like that, Dash just learned to accept it.” Marina nodded as though she got it, and the purple unicorn continued.

        “Anyway, Dash was in the Wonderbolts then, but she knew that we had a lot of discussing to do. Living arrangements, shopping trips, our respective jobs…” Twilight blushed. “…Kids…” She cleared her throat awkwardly. “These were all things we needed to talk about in preparation for the future.”

        Marina had an eyebrow raised. “Teacher,” she said, “I thought mares couldn’t have kids if they were with another mare? That’s what my mommy told me.” Twilight was a little taken aback, but chuckled.

        “Well, there are ways of…circumventing that, Marina,” she said, indicating her horn, “magically, of course. Celestia offered to give Dash and I a child, you see. Her magic was much more powerful than anypony else.” Marina smiled.

        “And you and Ms. Rainbow accepted, right?” she asked. The filly recoiled in shock when Twilight shook her head. “Why not, Teacher?!” she cried. “I’d have thought you’d want kids!” The purple mare nodded.

        “I did, Marina,” she said, “but…I was a little over-the-hill by that point, and so was Dash. We had many jobs to do: Celestia was talking about promoting me to head librarian in Canterlot—the job I do now—and Dash had the Wonderbolts to think about, plus training the royal guard. Put simply, as much as we wanted kids, we felt too old and busy to handle them. Perhaps if we’d been younger, you’d have little purple-and-rainbow haired fillies and colts running around. Though Dash surprised everypony: she lasted 10 years in the Wonderbolts and retired as their captain, when everything was said and done.” She laughed, patting Marina on the head.

        The filly seemed a bit deflated after the explanation, but nodded. “But, Ms. Twilight…you never did tell me what happened when Ms. Dash left for the fountain of youth all those years ago.” She leaned on the table. “What happened then?” Twilight swallowed, looking out the window.

        “That…may be a story for another time, my student,” she said. “It’s very late, and I’ve done as you asked me; I’ve told you, briefly, about Rainbow’s and my life. It’s time to go.” Marina pouted, but it didn’t work this time. “Now, Marina. I’m sorry, but it’s nearly 10:30, and I won’t have you in trouble.” The filly nodded and slunk towards the door.

        “I’ll get going, Ms. Sparkle…” she said, opening the door with her magic.
“Um…thanks a lot for the lesson. It really helped me figure a couple of things out, Ms. Twilight. I swear I’ll go and do what I need to tomorrow.” Twilight nodded.

        “I just know everything will work out for you, my little pony,” she said, “don’t worry about it too much, or you won’t get any sleep. Goodnight.”

        “Goodnight, Teacher,” Marina said, the door closing behind her as she left. Twilight slumped back into the chair, looking over at the book, now shelved, with a sigh.

        “Oh Dash…” she said, closing her eyes as the memories came flooding back, “You didn’t have to leave…what I wouldn’t give to have you in my arms again…”

“Dash!” Twilight cried from the doorway of their bedroom, her voice tinged with fatigue. “Dash, where are you going? It’s five in the morning!” Across from her, Rainbow Dash had just risen, and had been trying to flutter out of the room when she was interrupted. The pegasus sighed and turned around.

        “Twi, you oughta go back to bed,” she said. “I just…gotta go and take care of something.” She gave an awkward grin. “You know me—I’ve always been an early riser!” Twilight held the sheets up near her chest, but threw them back at that statement.

        “I do know you, Dash,” she said, her crow’s-feet-studded eyes wrinkling in concern, “and one of your most distinguishing traits is being a horrible liar. What’s really going on, Dash?” She turned to the side, getting out of bed to walk towards her mate. Dash floated back a little, her grey mane swaying with the motion.

        “Twi…c’mon, don’t make me say it. Don’t gimme the eyes, please.” But Twilight did not heed her pleas, and opened up her eyes a little, quivering her lower lip.

        “Please, Dash…you’re not the type of pony to keep secrets from me, are you?” she asked, knowing she was being unfair. Dash groaned, settling down on the floor.

        “That was a cheap shot!” she said, though her tone was-good natured. “Alright…I guess I gotta tell you now, don’t I?” Twilight nodded, her mind now swirling with worry, and Dash spoke. “I, well, see, the thing is, Twilight…I’m leaving. I’m gonna get flying right now, and I don’t really know where I’m gonna go.” The purple mare’s eyes widened with shock.

        “Dash, what’re you saying?!” she cried, making the pegasus grimace. “You’re…leaving me?” Dash’s eyes widened, and she shook her head vigorously.

        “Twi, you know I wouldn’t do that,” she said. “If I didn’t want to be with you, I wouldn’t have stuck around for 33 years would I?” Twilight shrunk back a little, stung by the response. “I just…I have to leave.”

        “Dash, you don’t have to leave,” Twilight said. “At least tell me what’s going on!” Rainbow looked out the window, seeing that the sun was rising—golden fingers spread throughout room, lighting up Rainbow’s eyes; they were the one part of her that sparkled just like the old days.

        “Twi, you know what the doctor said. About my age…about my heart…about how much longer than me you’re going to live…” Twilight’s eyes grew hard.

        “Dash, that doctor is wrong!” she said. “I’m a unicorn! I can use my magic to—”

        “Twi, the doctor was a unicorn, too, and he said there wasn’t anything he could do!” Dash shook her head. “I know you’re powerful, Twi, but there’s nothing to be done about it, okay?!” The air hung still for a few moments, Twilight beginning to cry a little, Rainbow’s eyes shut tight.

        “But Rainbow…don’t you want to be here when it happens, at least?” she asked, sniffling. “I don’t…I don’t wanna be left alone, Dash…not at this age. Not after we’ve been through so much together.” The blue pony looked physically pained by the statement, and drew Twilight into a hug.

        “Twilight…” she said, whispering. “I don’t…want anypony to see me when it happens. Especially not you. I want you to remember me like I was, not as this creaky old pony who can barely get herself around anymore.”

        Twilight swallowed hard. “Dash, you’re still teaching other pegasi how to fly in the royal guard! You still get around perfectly well!”

        “Look, I’m not gonna let all my friends see me as a wrinkled husk in a bucking coffin, Twilight!” The purple unicorn’s mouth hung open, tears washing out of her eyes. Dash was silent for a few moments, but then continued. “And…there’s another reason, too.” Twilight took a deep breath, feeling as though her heart was going to collapse.

        “What is it, Dash?” she asked, her voice incredibly small.

        The blue pegasus looked down and away, letting an ironic chuckle slip out. “Well…you remember how I used to tell you about those promises I made to myself? Well, when I was just a dumb little filly in flight school…”

        “Who could barely spell ‘wing’, right?” Twilight finished for her, a weak smile on her lips. Rainbow smiled and nodded.

        “Right,” she said, “barely spell ‘wing’.” She looked back up, towards the window, the wrinkles on her face showing up in the sunlight, denting her blue coat. “Well this was another promise I made…since I’ve always loved flying so much, I wanted to go doing what I loved. I told myself that, no matter where I was later in my life, that I would kick the bucket in the air.” The pegasus unfurled her wings, sighing. “And that’s what I’m gonna do. I’m gonna fly off today and…well…wherever the wind takes me, I’ll die out there, in my element.” Tears were rolling down Twilight’s cheeks in fat drops as her mate spoke.

        “Dash…take me with you. Please…at least take me with you. We’ll go together.” Dash shook her head, looking deep into the purple mare’s eyes.

        “Twi, you know that’s not an option.” She messed with the joints in her wings, listening to them groan in protest. “Even if I wanted to, there’s just no way for me to. My back would give out two feet off the ground. As it is, well…I’m not betting on making it very far.” When Twilight opened her mouth to rebut her, Dash held up a hoof for silence. “This is, well…it’s just something I gotta do… Never been a promise-breaking pony, I guess.” She smiled, pulling her mate close.

        “You’re breaking my heart, Dash,” Twilight said, her heart currently swimming in her digestive tract. “I love you, but you’re breaking my heart…” The blue pony swallowed hard, but nodded, the heat from her blush making its way into the familiar spot on Twilight’s neck.

        “I know,” she said, “and I’m so sorry…but I’ve got to do it. I can’t die on the ground, weary and tired…I gotta go being me, reckless and carefree, with the wind in my hair.” She pulled back a bit, giving Twilight a tender, lingering kiss on the mouth. “You know I’ll always love you, Twilight.” The unicorn sniffed and nodded.

        “I’ll always love you too, Dash,” she said, sighing brokenly.

        “But, hey, it’s not like this is the last goodbye, right?” Twilight looked up as she heard Dash’s voice, her heart leaping up a little. “I mean, well…I’ve never been too good with words, but lemme try and explain it.” She paused a moment, allowing Twilight to wipe the tears from her cheeks. “Well…it’s like this. Even if I’m technically leaving, I’ll always be right here, right?” She brought her hoof up, indicating Twilight’s heart. The unicorn nodded. “Well, see, if I’m always in your heart, then it’s like I never left, right? And you can’t be missed if you never left, right?” Twilight giggled a little, finally, and Dash blushed. “Help me out here, Twi. I look like an idiot.”

        Twilight walked forward a bit, snuggling her head under Rainbow’s jaw lovingly. “Let me see if I’ve got it,” she said. “I can’t really miss you if you never left, and if you’re always in my heart, then it’s like you never left, right?” Dash laughed a little, and the vibration comforted Twilight.

        “You always were better with stuff like that than me, Twi,” she said, kissing the top of her wife’s head.

        “You mean mushy-gushy stuff?” Twilight responded, prompting the two to break out into fits of giggling. Twilight removed her head and looked into Dash’s eyes, smiling. “I’ll always be sure to keep that in mind, Dashie.” Rainbow blushed—it was a nickname Twilight hadn’t used for a while.

        When a few moments had passed, Twilight sighed, pushing her grey mane over one shoulder to lean in and kiss Rainbow Dash on the cheek. “Bye, Dash,” she said, eyes filling now with tears of happiness.

        “Bye, Twi,” Dash responded. “Look for me when Celestia sends you to the next realm over, alright? And...tell everypony else where I went, and that I said goodbye. Can’t just leave ‘em hanging, y’know?” Twilight giggled a little, but nodded, and Rainbow turned, slowly fluttering off, hesitation obvious in the way her muscles moved.

        When her lover’s form finally disappeared from the view of the window, Twilight sat down on the bed, feeling the lukewarm spot where Dash had lay. There were no tears, no hooves hitting the bed, and no protestations of cruel fate. All Twilight felt as she fell back, her hair splaying on Dash’s pillow, was an odd mix of emotions:

        An overwhelming sense of emptiness, and a massive swelling of her heart.

Twilight woke up on the table, a small string of drool hanging from her muzzle. She shook her head, feeling a familiar ache in the old muscles of her back—she’d fallen asleep out here many times while thinking about Dash.

        The purple mare rose, shoving a hoof into her back, satisfied with the series of cracks which emitted from it, and drained the warm water left over from last night, looking out the window.

        Directly across from her, she could see the house of another student of hers, this one only studying history—Flare Nymph, an earth pony with a fiery attitude and a mouth to match; she was always speaking up in defense of somepony or another when Twilight would see her on a shopping trip.

        The unicorn smiled as she saw the door open, her clock ringing 12 in the back of the room. Her smile switched to a look of shock as she saw Marina emerging, Flare walking out right behind her.

        Seeing that the pair were holding hooves, her smile returned, growing ever wider as she saw the huge smiles on their faces.

        Thinking back, seeing the two ponies so happy with each other, she realized that there was another thing Rainbow had said, one that she’d forgotten to tell Marina:

        “‘If you ask me, young love is the best thing around. It’s got room to grow more than old mare love, like we got.’” Twilight had giggled at that at the time, feeling that her love was the strongest in the world. But now, seeing these two together, she reconsidered.

        It was going to be amazing when she and Rainbow got to experience it for the first time, a few years from now, far away from the old tree-house Twilight was sipping her new glass of water in, all the way off in the embrace of the stars above...

         Flare leaned over and gave Marina a kiss on the cheek, eliciting a nervous giggle and a lighting-up of her horn, which made her blush heavily. Twilight smiled, leaning against the window as she suppressed a tear with a sniffle.

        Yeah, young love really was the greatest thing around.

The End