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Out of Time · FiM Short Story ·
Organised by RogerDodger
Word limit 2000–8000
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An hour of quiet in my private chambers is ended by the distinct sound that Twilight’s letters make upon arrival—a breathy gust of flame followed by a sharp pop of magic. The sudden noise awakens my room’s other occupant.

“Would thou just catch the cantaloupe?!” Luna bolts upright, eyes wide and wildly unfocused.

During the moment before she realizes where she is, the only part of her thoroughly frazzled figure that isn’t frozen in place is her peacefully billowing mane. I giggle at her expense, but just a little.

“Oh.” She blinks. “I’m sorry, dear sister. There is a lyrist in Ponyville having a very… strange dream. I suspect it might not be something I can help her with.”

“Is she afraid?” I ask.

“Nay,” Luna says as she rubs the sleep from her eyes. “Simply confused, but she was clearly enjoying herself as well. I suppose there’s no harm in letting it play out.”

“Good. I think you could use a rest from your work, Luna.”

Luna steps off of my bed—which she swears is more comfortable than her own, but only during the hours before midnight—and stretches her limbs. I can’t help but worry about her sometimes; her sleep schedule is in tatters, as usual. And with her dreamwalking, I honestly don’t know if it’s better or worse to let her nap like she does.

Luna is her own mare, I tell myself. She can take care of herself.

Twilight’s letter has fallen to the ground. Luna’s awakening distracted me, and I did not catch it in the air as usual. Tilting my head, I wrap my hornglow around the scroll and undo its seal.

As I read, I smile. Twilight’s letters are familiar, happy things. I’ve read scores just like this one, but each time I’m always thrilled at how—

I pause, furrow my brows, and read one of the sentences again. With the slightest of frowns, I read the entire letter again from the beginning, this time in a new light.

Luna is too sharp not to notice my masked displeasure.

“Is there something wrong, sister?” she asks, approaching my side. Her eyes dart down to the letter’s signature. “One of Twilight’s? With a look like that on your face, I would have thought this to be a bill from the bakery.”

When I don’t rise to her little jab, her posture shifts.

“Okay, Celestia, I’m beginning to be worried.” She puts a hoof on my shoulder and her eyes meet mine. “What’s up? I am all ears.”

She doesn’t quite nail down the tone of the modern expression, but her sincerity is apparent.

I sigh.

“Twilight has somehow found out that this Friday is my birthday.”

Luna’s eyes flash with mischief, but just for a moment. It’s gone before I think too much of it.

“So? She is a smart mare, isn’t she?” she says. “What’s so upsetting about her unearthing a little ancient history?”

“She… wants to throw a little party for me with her closest friends.”

“Egh?” Luna raises an eyebrow, and her jaw drops slightly. “What could possibly be wrong with that? Unless, she told you not to bring me or something, I’m afraid I don’t see what the matter is.”

I glance through the letter again.

“She doesn’t seem to mention you.”

Egh?!” Her face scrunches. “What does she—I mean to say, why am I… H-how? What? Shouldn’t there be some kind of—”

Luna’s confused sputterings are interrupted by another fiery whoosh. A pop of sparkles deposits a new letter in the air in front of her.

Wings a-flapping, Luna fumbles before catching it in her hooves. The scroll is torn open, its contents devoured by a pair of greedy eyes. Relief washes across Luna’s form as she reaches the end.

“Whew!” she says, wiping imaginary sweat from her brow. “All is well, dear sister. I have been invited to your party as well.”

“That’s good,” I say, distractedly.

Luna’s ear flicks.

“If that wasn’t the problem, then what worries you?” says Luna. “Has Twilight invited the court nobles as well?”

“No, Twilight was very clear that she wanted to respect my privacy in that regard.” I purse my lips. “She knows that I’d rather not make this another political event.”

“Then what is it? Is it that you don’t want to celebrate your birthday?” Luna blew a raspberry. “Stars know you could use a rest, even if only an afternoon.”

“I know… It’s just that…” I let out a stressed breath through my nose. “I suspect that Twilight Sparkle intends to confess her feelings for me at the party.”

“Whaa?” Luna’s jaw drops for the second time that evening. “Twilight fancies you? How do you know?”

“I had my suspicions since her coronation,” I admit. “Cadence confirmed them some time ago when she tried to subtly drop hints about it to me over dinner.”

Luna rolled her eyes. “That girl has all the subtlety of a foghorn, especially when it comes to matchmaking.” Her voice drops a tone. “But this about Twilight is… unexpected to me. How are you certain that she wants to reveal her feelings now?”

“Some time ago I let slip that I didn’t give much for Hearts and Hooves Day. I told her that I thought personal occasions were far more romantic. She must have remembered,” I say. I motion to the scroll. “Her invitation is also written very strangely. Twilight’s letters have always been, if nothing else, concise. But this is almost rambling. And I have never seen her sign her letters with ‘Love’ instead of ‘Your Faithful Student.’”

Luna studies the letter and nods. “I see. What will you do about it, then?”

I bite the edge of my lip. Sighing, I say, “I suppose I will have to break her heart.”

In response, Luna ruffles her feathers, uncomfortably. “So, it’s still like this, then?”

“Yes, it is.” A familiar ache starts to scratch on the inside of my heart.

“And even while I was gone?” Luna asks carefully. “It hasn’t gotten any better?”

I shake my head. “I can’t help the way I feel.”

A warm wing covers my back as Luna cautiously offers comfort.

“Let me tell her then,” she says.

The thought is tempting. I very nearly give in to her offer.

“She deserves to hear it from me,” I say.

“Are you sure?”

“Yes, Luna.” I hold her tight and kiss the top of her head. Like an embarrassed foal, she squirms in my grasp. “You don’t need to worry about me.”

“Of course, sister dearest,” she says as she extracts herself from my over-affections. “Just know that if you need me, I will be ever at your side.” With a mischievous grin, she adds, “As will my sword, too.”

My head tells me that it’s a poor joke, but I snort anyways. At the very least, I ought to pretend to chide her.

“It will not come to that; you know this.”

“You have said those words many times. Perhaps this time, you’ll be wrong.”

“Let me be make this clear,” I say with as much mock authority as I can muster. “No matter how badly this goes, you will not hurt my very faithful Twilight.”

“Hurt? Who said anything about hurt?” Luna flashes me a predatory grin. “Now, on the other hand, intimidation is something that I’ve become very good at. I get good practice every year, after all.”


“But just picture it, sister!” Luna gesticulates excitedly. “I break out the nightsteel armor, draw Shadowbane, and fix her with the ol’ death-to-my-enemies glare! She’ll never be anything but perfectly professional with you ever again!”

“Oh shush, you old nag.” I push her. “Your brand of humor quickly wears thin.”

“And yet, you still laugh.” Luna lets out a little chortle herself. “Which of us is the bigger fool, then?”

I shrug. “Beats me.”

My sister’s last waning set of giggles is interrupted by a yawn and then a stretch.

“I’m afraid I might have to retire for the second time this evening,” she says.

Nodding, I say, “Try to get some actual rest, this time. Too much dreamwalking isn’t going to do you any favors in the morning.”

“You worry too much, sister.” Luna sticks her tongue out at me. “But, yes, I’ll keep to my own dreams, tonight.”

“Good night,” I say, as she slips out my door.

“Sweet dreams, sister.”

The latch clicks behind her.

With a private sigh, I fetch quill, ink, and paper from my desk and begin penning my reply to Twilight.

As promised, the party’s venue is as comfortably private as can be. Avoiding the eyes that surround both our castles, Twilight had picked a little secluded field on the south side of Sweet Apple Acres for the celebration. There is nothing but a table, some chairs, an awning for shade, and the wet, green grass under our hooves. It’s a wonderfully simple arrangement.

As soon as Luna and I arrive, the party begins. There is food and drink—courtesy of our gracious host, Applejack—and there is talk and laughter—compliments of the close friends that have gathered.

For the next little while, each conversation blurs into next until I can scarce remember how the current topic was brought up.

Then comes a lull. Luna finds herself in the midst of a bet between Applejack and Rainbow Dash, while Rarity pulls engrosses the rest with a story of how her new boutique is doing. For once, I find myself not in the center of attention. It’s a rare treat for me: to hear a conversation without being obliged to take part in it.

The others have begun to drift away from where I am sitting, but that’s okay. I’ve found a spot on the grass that I like; I am content to stay here feel the sun on my wings and listen to their laughter for a little while longer.

My quiet thoughts are interrupted by a warm, fuzzy object bounding into my lap. Applejack’s dog—what was her name, again?—looks up at me with big, inquisitive eyes.

“Hello, friend.”I reach up to scratch the back of her head. I don’t have Luna’s way with animals, but I can tell that she’s very pleased.

She stretches, paws splayed, as a yawn splits her muzzle. Laying herself in a little ball across one of my forehooves, she finds a comfortable position and closes her eyes. The last dog I have seen act so comfortably around me was Luna’s old warhound.

While Philomena has been my stalwart companion since the beginning, Luna has had many animal friends over the centuries. In her own words, she’s never been one to let the old get in the way of the new.

Brutus was beast of a dog: built like an ox, and nearly as large as a stallion. Many a passerby had mistaken him for a bear at first glance, and it was said that our enemies thought him to be a pup of Cerberus himself. He was fiercely intelligent and ruthless in battle, a second sword at my sister’s side.

He also enjoyed having his belly rubbed, especially after a big meal. Many nights he stayed up with Luna, while she told him stories or read aloud for him. He had a fondness for cakes and cheeses that my sister couldn’t help but indulge, even when they both knew that it was no good for him.

Brutus lived and died happily almost twelve hundred years ago, but I can still remember the stench of the slimy drool he applied both lovingly and generously to the faces of the ponies he loved. Luna said that his kisses were adorable. I said that she was a nose-dead fool.

My ears perk up as I hear a pony approach, slowly and carefully.

“Well, it looks like Winona there really to a shine to ya, Princess,” came the low, steady drawl of an old mare.

“And I, to her, Mrs. Smith,” I reply.

“Oh shucks, now, Princess, don’t you call me miss or nothin’! It don’t sound right on my ears,” replies the proud matriarch. “I’ve been Granny for a while now. Don’t want no adjectives or surnames in the way.”

“Of course, Granny Smith. Thank you again for your hospitality. I’m sure my sister feels the same way.”

“’Twas nothin’. Nothin’ at all, yer highness,” she insists, with a creaky wave of her hoof. “Now if you don’t mind, these old bones of mine need a rest. I try to keep ‘em loose with a bit of walking, but I can only go so far nowadays.”

Before waiting for my permission, she begins the slow process of lowering herself down to a sit. She’s wise enough to know that my position isn’t important right now and old enough not to care even if it was. I like her very much.

“There we go,” she says as her frame finally relaxes. “Ain’t nothin’ like enjoying the outdoors, is there? Grass and sunshine are really all a pony needs. I reckon if those stuffy types in Canterlot figured that out, you’d have a lot less bickerin’ and poutin’ to worry about, Princess.”

“I think you’re absolutely right,” I say. “And please, there’s no need for titles right now.”

Granny shrugs. “If that’s what you want, sugar.”

Several minutes pass, and the two of us are content to simply listen and watch the younger ponies. The peaceful moment ends when a whoop from Applejack catches Winona’s attention. Yipping excitedly, the ever-loyal dog raced across the field to see what the commotion was about. Granny and I share an amused look.”

“Winona’s still a young’un at heart,” says Granny. “Give ‘er a couple of years, and she’ll be spending the whole afternoon with us.”

“Does that mean you’d have me over again?” I ask, bemused.

“I can’t say I don’t enjoy it.” Granny’s wrinkled face crease at the eyes as she smiles. “At my age, havin’ somepony older than me around—excuse me, wiser is what I meant to say—is a rare treat nowadays. Sure helps calm down the pace of things around here.”

I giggle. “I’m glad you enjoy my company as much as I enjoy yours.”

There’s a shorter silence between us, until Granny breaks it with a thoughtful hum.

“There somthin’ on your mind, sugar?” she says.

“What makes you think that?” I ask, genuinely curious.

“Well, for somepony we’re throwin’ a party for, you seem awfully far away.” Granny stretches her foreleg carefully. “Not the polite kind, neither. I know polite, and I know thinkin’, and you sure as sunfire are thinkin’ ‘bout something.”

“Yes, I am,” I admit. I purse my lips. “Perhaps you can help me out, if you don’t mind.”

“’Course not, sugar,” says Granny with a wave. “You fire away, now.”

I swallow, wondering how to phrase it. “The question on my mind today is about love. Do you think it’s a young pony’s game?”

Granny Smith chuckles. “Love? Lemme tell you, if somepony threw me in a body that’s half-a-century younger right this instant, then I can guarantee you that I won’t get a wink o’ sleep tonight. Why, I’ll be busier than a hog in the feed box! Happier, too.”

I laugh at the image, and Granny joins me with a raspy, throaty chuckle.

“Of course, though, I don’t believe I’m nearly as old as you are,” she continues. “I reckon you think I’m downright foolish, with all my romanticizin’ and all.”

“No, not at all,” I insist. “Somedays, I feel exactly the way you do.” My voice begins to trail off, without me realizing it. Then I finish my thought. “Other days… other days, I don’t.”

Granny nods, understandingly. “Yeah, I get that. It wears on the soul, to love all the time. I know it ain’t what poets like to say, but the heart really doesn’t go on forever.”

“I… I wish it could,” I admit. “I wish I could forget. But then I think myself a coward for wanting to.”

“Now, now, sugar.” Granny pats my shoulder. Her hoof is small and cold, but it carries a comfort that goes beyond words. “Ain’t no one can blame you for wantin’, and ain’t no one can judge you, neither. I suspect anypony would get to where you are, if they had the time.”

“Luna doesn’t seem that way,” I whisper, almost before I realize the words are leaving my mouth. “She never lets the old get in the way of the new.”

“I see, sugar.” Granny nods. “You’re being jealous,” she says, flatly.

I have never been this surprised by mere words for many, many years.


“You’re jealous of your little sister, aren’t ya?” Granny shrugs. “There ain’t no shame in it; it’s as natural as can be.”

“I… I don’t think—It’s not about—”

“Now you’re stutterin’, sugar,” Granny grins, knowingly. “Don’t think for a moment that I don’t know what jealousy looks like. I’ve got three grandkids, and the middle one’s a big, famous hero. Would you take a guess as to what that sort of thing does to the other two?”

I take a deep breath and calm myself. She’s entirely right, I realize.

“What should I do?” I ask. It strikes me that I can’t remember the last time I’ve asked for help like this.

“Same thing I told Mac and ‘Bloom,” says Granny. “You be you. Ain’t nopony else can turn you better or turn you worse. You do what’s right for you, not what’s best for Luna or ol’ Granny Smith. You’re your own pony, and you’re special, and you should treat yourself special, too. Ain’t no point ruminatin’ on what works for somepony else.”

I close my eyes and give her words the thought that they deserve. I’m smiling peacefully when I open my eyes again.

“Thank you, Granny. That helps a lot.”

“It ain’t nothin’, sugar,” she says grinning like a cat. “I’m just glad I can still feel useful to somepony now and then.”

“Celestia!” Luna’s distant cry follows Granny’s words like a tail. “Celestia, thou would not believe it! Applejack does leap farther than Rainbow Dash when her wings are tied! You must see it!”

Granny chuckles again. “I guess you’re wanted elsewhere, sugar.”

“I will stay if you want me to,” I reply.

“No, it ain’t no big deal. Was just about to head on back inside, anyways.” Granny begins to pick herself up from the ground. “You tend to take a lot of naps, when you get to my age,” she says, with a glint in her eye.

I laugh at her joke.

“Take care, Granny.”

“And you too, sugar.”

Just as she begins to leave earshot, Luna bounds to my side, giggling like a maniac.

“Where have you been all this time, Celestia?” she asks. “Rainbow Dash will not admit defeat, and she demands an impartial judge. We require your keen eyes!”

I smile and rise to my own feet.

“Lead the way, Luna.”

When the sun begins to set, and the conversation begins to wind down, Twilight finally approaches me with an adorable excuse for the two of us to be alone. I warmly agree to allow her to show me the view of the sunset from the western hill, and we quietly depart from the dinner picnic that Pinkie Pie and Applejack have prepared for the party.

When we are out of earshot of the others, Twilight leans in, cautiously.

“So, did you enjoy the party?” she asks, as we walk.

“Of course I did,” I say, and her eyes light up like fireflies. “You are one of the most thoughtful ponies I have the pleasure of knowing.”

“Th-thank you, Princess.” She blushes, and tries to walk a little faster to hide it.

“Speaking of which,” I say, pretending not to notice. “I’ve been wondering how you managed to figure out my birth date. I thought everypony had forgotten it centuries ago. It’s a wonder that you managed to unearth it.”

“Oh, it wasn’t that hard,” she says. As she talks, she eases into a slow, comfortable gait. “I cross-referenced Classical-era records of courtly celebrations with the Pre-Discordian solar calendar. When I eliminated dates that correlated to historical events, known festivals, and the birthdays or weddings of other court members, I was left with one annual celebration that fell out of practice in the Reneighssance era. I deduced that it must be your birthday, and Luna confirmed it.”

“Luna helped?” I remember her impish grin when I first mentioned this to her. “I should have figured as much. But regardless, I’m touched that you’d put so much effort into it.”

“It’s, um, no problem at all, Princess.”

Twilight’s blush is back, as is her hurried pace. A little frown threatens to tug at the edge of my lip. This is going to be harder than I thought it would.

We finally reach the crest of the hill, the western orchards below us.

“Here we are!” Twilight chirps. She takes a seat and motions me to do the same. “I know you’ve seen sunsets a thousand times, so I really hope I’m not wasting your time… but the way the light comes off those trees is something really magical, I think.”

“I’m eager to see it,” I say with a nod. “Shall I begin?”

“Oh, yes, please.” Twilight makes eye contact for a moment, then she casts her gaze out to the horizon.

Horn aglow, I reach out with my magical senses and ask the sun where it is. The way the magic flows around the sky is its response; the sun is moments away from being ready to be set. As I tug and pull at the celestial cords that hold it in place, my magic is joined by my sister’s. In practiced unison, we turn the giant wheel that holds up the sky, and the sun retreats to its resting place, giving way to the moon’s rise.

As the last rays of orange light begin to fade, I watch the fields below. The trees and leaves cast shadows that shift and turn, overlapping with one another until it almost looks like the whole orchard is sparkling. Finally, the last of the sun’s glow disappears.

“That was just as beautiful as you said it to be.” I say “Old as I am, I have yet to see every sunset. This was certainly a lovely one. Thank you.”

I smile at my former student, and she beams back at me in the moonlight. Together, the two of us watch as Luna sets the stars in the sky, one at a time. When there are too many to count, Twilight sighs.

“Celestia, I have something I need to tell you.”

Here it comes. I smile and wrap a wing around her.

“You can tell me anything, Twilight.”

Nodding with determination, she continues.

“I’ve been wanting to get this off my chest for a long time, but I’ve never really gotten the chance. I hope it’s okay when I say that…” She gulps and begins again. “When I say that you’re the most beautiful pony I’ve ever seen, and I’d us to get to know each other more. I think I’ve been in love with you for a while.”

Twilight squeezes her eyes shut, as if afraid that I’d retract my embrace. But I don’t. When she opens her eyes again, she sees the peaceful calm on my face.

“Oh,” she says as understanding washes over her. “You’ve known, h-haven’t you?”

“Yes, I have, Twilight.” I stroke my wing gently over her back, easing away the tension. “I’ve known for a little while, but I’m nevertheless glad that you trust me enough to tell me.”

Twilight chews her lips and thinks. A worried crease begins to circle her eyes.

“That… That wasn’t a ‘yes’, was it?” Her voice is soft, and defeated.

“No, it wasn’t,” I say as gently as I can. “I’m very sorry, Twilight.”

“It’s okay,” she says, blinking away an involuntary tear. “I kinda figured things wouldn’t be that simple. I’m just… I’m just glad I can get closure about it. Even if it hurts a little that you aren’t interested in me.”

A pang of guilt scratches at my heart, again.

“No, Twilight, it’s not like that.” I give her a squeeze. “You’re wonderful, and anypony would be lucky to call your theirs. It’s me, Twilight. It’s all on me.”

“What do you mean?” she asks. There is confusion in her voice, mixed in with a little bit of hope.

I sigh.

“Did you know—” My tight throat chokes my words. I swallow away the lump and try again. “Did you know that I am a widow, Twilight?”

Her eyes widen, and I can tell that the wheels in her head are spinning madly.

“I… I knew you were married, once.” She says, turning to look at her hooves. “I never thought of it that way.”

“I don’t blame you,” I say, and I make sure she can hear that I mean it. “But it is true. Living without him has been difficult in a way that time has not made easier.”

Twilight is quiet, in a subdued but inquisitive way. I take it as a cue to go on.

“We never had children, but some days I wish we had.” I look up to the stars, infinitely numerous overhead. “I know it would have been hard to keep track of my descendants after a thousand years, but it would have been worth it, just to know that there could be a part of him still here.

“I am not resilient, like Luna. To her, the past only matters so much as how it affects the present. It’s a kind of thinking that I’ve only recently discovered that I am envious of. Because to me, the past is a map of what could have been.”

Twilight nods. She is beginning to understand, I can tell. So I keep going.

“We were married in the old earth pony way, with very simple vows. We only said five words to each other on our wedding day—five words that we spent weeks beforehand preparing. We chose them carefully and hid them away in the deepest parts of our hearts. And when we shared them with one another; we were so in love that we memorized each other’s words on the spot.”

“Do… do you mind if you shared them with me?” Twilight asks.

“I’m afraid I can’t,” I say. My head dips down. “I forgot them. One morning, centuries after that day, I happened to stumble on something that reminded me of him. And then I realized that I couldn’t recall his words, or mine. It tore at my heart, as if I had lost him for a second time. I remember his face, his name, but not his voice.”

“Oh, stars,” Twilight rubs a hoof to her head. “I’m so sorry. I don’t know what to say.”

“It’s okay; you needn’t say anything.” I hugged my wing tightly against her. “It was all a very long time ago.”

“But…” says Twilight. “But it still hurts, doesn’t it? I don’t think it really matters how long ago it happened if it still hurts.”

“It does. But it is not something you should concern yourself with.” I smile to show her that I’m okay. “A wise pony told me that there’s no point in worrying yourself over something that isn’t yours to worry about.”

“Okay,” says Twilight. She’s much more composed than she was a few minutes ago. “I’m sorry that I brought this up.”

“Don’t be,” I say. “I’m actually glad I can share it with you. My life may not be an easy one, but it’s all the better for you being in it.”

“Thank you, Princess. I’m happy that you’re in my life, too.”

I smile, and the two of us stay together on top of that starry hill for a long time.

Heart: Of brilliant gold and softest cloud.

Safe: What was lost now is found.

Love: Like a mountain, unmovable.

Complete: In you, and you in me.

Forever: And evermore, and evermore shall be!

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