Best Friends Forever

by Obselescence

Chapter 1: Chapter One

The wind whipped through Celestia’s mane as she flew to the furthest corners of her realm, past the hills and over acres of apple trees. The leaves rustled softly as she flew overhead, juicy red apples bobbing in the breeze. They would be ripe for harvesting soon, but she doubted they would ever be picked. None of the ponies in the village nearby dared to venture this far, and Applejack wasn’t quite ready to care for them yet. The crop would be left to rot this year.

She shook her head and flew on. A shame, really.

Webs of sparkling magic filled the sunset-orange skies as she neared the castle, ready to ensnare any pegasus who got too curious and careless. Celestia broke through them with ease, snapping the spells without slowing down. They were there to keep most ponies out, but Celestia was here on business, and she wasn’t most ponies. There were other measures in place to keep out the truly unwelcome guests, and she didn’t qualify as one of those—not yet, at any rate.

The castle was a stony gray, almost black against the setting sun. It was slightly smaller than Canterlot Castle, and much blockier, but it had been designed for safety more than beauty, surrounded on all sides by thick walls and tall, dark towers. Imposing, but nothing else. The magical defenses, though...

“Where, oh where,” Celestia muttered to herself, looking for the forcefield she knew to be there. It took a few moments to spot it—a faint, almost invisible shimmer hanging in the air—and a minute or two more to push past it, even with all the proper counterspells. She stopped for a brief rest on the castle’s balcony, just long enough to catch her breath.

It hadn’t been too much trouble on the whole, but every break-and-entry took a little more effort, and she wasn’t getting any younger. Immortality notwithstanding.

When she’d finished resting, she opened the balcony doors and stepped into the castle proper. She’d landed at one of Rainbow Dash’s rooms, if memory served, and the mess that greeted her inside could only confirm that. Graying Wonderbolts posters covered the walls, marking piles of Wonderbolt action figures, baseball caps, and other merchandise. A single bookshelf stood in the corner, lined with those ‘Daring Do’ novels Rainbow Dash had always enjoyed so much, waiting for the day when she’d read them again.

Celestia nudged a few piles of junk off to the side and made her way quickly to the door. The nursery wasn’t all that far away now, and the sooner she could get there, the better.

The halls were dark but clean, as she’d come to expect. The door to Rainbow Dash’s room shut behind her as soon as she was clear of it, and an enchanted broom soon arrived to sweep up the dust she left behind. The corners of her mouth curved just slightly upward as she walked on, the broom swishing in time with her hoofsteps. Neat and efficient, as always.

Some things never changed.

The door to the nursery was made of plain walnut, marred only by a few scribbled doodles and scratches—the marks of childhood. Celestia opened it as quietly as she could, hardly bothering to break the spells on it. She knew she had to be tripping a dozen-odd magical tripwires and alarms in doing so, but it was as good a way as any of grabbing Twilight’s attention, and she didn’t want to wake the babies.

She crept softly through the darkness of the nursery, stepping lightly past scattered party hats and Mare Do Well action figures. She stopped at one of the cribs—Pinkie Pie’s, she supposed—and smiled down on the sleeping filly tucked beneath the covers. “Don’t worry,” she said, running her hoof through Pinkie’s little pink mane. “I’m here now.”

“And what are you doing here?” a voice whispered from behind her.

“I’m only visiting, Twilight,” said Celestia, turning to face her former student. It was hard to see much of Twilight in the dimness of the nursery, but she could tell that Twilight was tall enough now to stare her straight in the eye. So much had changed in so little time. It wasn’t all that long ago that Twilight had looked up to her.

In a manner of speaking, of course.

“The Summer Sun Celebration is coming up soon,” she said, “and you didn’t respond to any of my invitations, so naturally I thought I’d come down to check up on things.”

“I don’t respond to any of your letters anymore,” said Twilight. “I thought I’d made that clear last time.”

“Hence my concern.”

Twilight paused. “Well, as you can see, we’re fine,” she said curtly. “Now back off from her.”

“If you insist,” said Celestia, stepping well away from Pinkie’s crib. It wasn’t worth arguing over. Not that she was strong enough to argue with Twilight in the first place. “I was only—”

“Doing what you always do when you break in,” Twilight finished.


Twilight’s horn began to glow and the air around her hummed softly. Celestia gasped, the breath forced from her chest by the pressure of Twilight’s power. She used a little of her own magic to push it back, just enough to keep herself breathing. It was impressive, in a way. Twilight hadn’t been nearly this strong the last time she had tried to intimidate her.

She always had been a quick study.

“I think you should go now, Celestia,” said Twilight. “Don’t you?”

“I haven’t spoken with your friends yet,” said Celestia. She grinned weakly. “I’d like to hear what they think first.”

“They don’t want you here either,” said Twilight, her horn glowing steadily brighter, the hum pitching up to a dangerous whine. “I told you that last time. They told you that last time.”

“I’d—” Celestia groaned as the pressure increased. She could feel her legs shaking, her knees threatening to buckle out from under her. Beside her, Pinkie Pie whimpered and squirmed. “I’d like to hear it again.”

“For the last time, no!” Twilight hissed. Sparks of magic crackled around her and the room itself started to shake. “You aren’t taking them from me. They don’t want you to. I won’t let you. There’s nothing you can say that will change any of that, so go away already!” She stomped her hooves on the floor. “Now!

Suddenly, Pinkie Pie burst into tears, wailing as loudly as her little lungs could manage.

“Eep!” Twilight gasped as the other foals also started to cry. “Now look what you’ve done!” The lights switched on and Twilight darted to Pinkie’s crib. “There, there,” she said, taking the little foal up in her hooves. “No, don’t cry, Pinkie. I’m sorry. I wasn’t thinking.”

“Weren’t you?” Celestia muttered.

Twilight ignored that little remark, her attention focused entirely on the wailing Pinkie. “Look!” she said, levitating a polka-dotted party hat up from the floor. “A party hat! You like these, don’t you, Pinkie?” She put the party hat on and dangled another—rainbow-striped—up in front of Pinkie’s face. “You can’t have a party without them, right?”

For a moment, Pinkie stopped crying, her gaze transfixed on the rainbow party hat. “There we go,” said Twilight, smiling. She put it carefully on Pinkie’s head, making sure it didn’t catch on her bouncy pink mane. “It’s party time. We’ll figure out what we’re celebrating after I’ve cleared everything else up, okay?”

Pinkie, for her part, simply giggled, and made no further protests as Twilight lowered her back into her crib. “One down,” Twilight sighed. She looked back to Celestia. “And I hope you’re happy with all this.”

Celestia shrugged. If only she were.

She waited patiently as Twilight ran from crib to crib, soothing each of her friends with their favorite toys. A glittering blue sapphire for Rarity, a shiny red apple for Applejack. Soon enough the room was calm and quiet, save for some idle babbling from Pinkie Pie.

“Tia?” she gurgled, looking up at Celestia with wide-open eyes.

“Yes, Pinkie,” said Celestia, smiling down on her. “You may call me that, if you’d like.”

“Party?” She pointed to the rainbow party hat on her head. “Hat?”

“Well, I suppose I could party too,” said Celestia, picking up a silver-and-gold foil party hat. She looked to Twilight, on the other side of the room. “That is, if your caretaker will allow me to stay.”

“Which I wouldn’t count on,” said Twilight, setting Rainbow Dash back in her crib. “She’s not invited, Pinkie. She’ll be leaving in a few minutes.”

“But... But...” Pinkie’s face screwed up, her eyes starting to water. “Party!

Twilight grimaced. “Okay, okay!” she said, rushing over to comfort Pinkie. “Don’t cry, don’t cry! Of course she’s invited too. Everypony’s welcome at a Pinkie Pie party.” She glared again at Celestia. “For now, anyway.”

“For now,” Celestia agreed. “Why don’t you show me around, Twilight? Before the party, that is. It’s been such a long time since we’ve talked, you know.” A long time indeed, she realized. How long had it been, exactly, since they’d last spoken without threatening each other? Decades, certainly. Was it already pressing on centuries? “And, of course,” she said quietly, “It will give your friends some time to rest.”

“Well...” Twilight looked to Pinkie, who only nodded in approval. She sighed. “Well, fine. If it’ll keep you from bothering them.”

Celestia stood by the nursery’s door as Twilight kissed each of her friends a quick goodbye. “Don’t do anything too crazy while I’m gone, all right?” she whispered as she passed by Pinkie’s crib. “And don’t put that sapphire in your mouth, Rarity,” she said, chuckling quietly as she passed by Rarity’s crib. “That used to be part of your favorite dress, remember?”

When she’d said all her goodbyes, Twilight dimmed the lights and met Celestia at the door. “Come on, then,” she said, shutting it gently behind her. “Let’s get this over with. I’m running out of patience.”

Celestia smiled. “Didn’t you tell me once that you’d always have time in your schedule for me?” she asked—only half-joking.

Twilight frowned. “Didn’t you tell me you’d always support me, no matter which path I chose?”

“Ah,” said Celestia, her smile evaporating. “I suppose I did.”

“Things change,” said Twilight, beckoning her along. “Everything does, given enough time. Unless you’re a princess, that is.”

“Unless you’re a princess,” Celestia agreed quietly. “And sometimes not even then.”

She followed Twilight down the corridors in silence, looking occasionally off to the sides. She’d never paid much attention to it before, whenever she’d broken in, but the castle was filled with various souvenirs, keepsakes, and portraits. Memories, she supposed, of all the years Twilight had spent with her friends. Rainbow Dash’s old flying awards. Pinkie’s ancient macaroni art. A faded pink scarf, woven with butterfly patterns. Years and years of friendship were kept on these walls.

Far, far too many years.

Twilight broke the quiet first. “I don’t know why you keep trying,” she said as they walked down the stairs to the second floor. “You have to know you can’t take them from me. Not anymore.”

Celestia raised an eyebrow. “Can’t I?”

“You can’t,” said Twilight simply.

“No,” Celestia admitted. “I can’t.” Maybe if Luna had been there, it would have been possible to fight Twilight evenly, but—well, perhaps not even then. “I should have put a stop to this a long time ago. You’ve improved much faster than I could ever have guessed.”

“I had a great teacher,” said Twilight, giving her a rueful little smile. “And I still appreciate everything she did for me. I just don’t understand why she hates me now.”

“I expect she’s just disappointed,” said Celestia. “You showed so much promise.”

“Showed?” Twilight asked. “Past-tense?”

“There was a time when I would have given anything to see you fulfill that promise,” Celestia sighed. “But you do have to learn to let go.”

She stopped to look at a picture of Applejack, aged and elderly, hanging on the wall. Beside it hung a picture of baby Applejack, cuddling her very first apple—a granny smith, if she wasn’t mistaken.

“She still grows the best apples,” said Twilight proudly. “I’m going to teach her how to handle the orchard, when she’s ready for it. She’ll be a pro again in no time, and once we start harvesting, I can teach Pinkie about apple pies again, and—”

Celestia nodded absently, listening vaguely to what Twilight was saying while she studied the two Applejacks on the wall. They both had Applejack’s bright green eyes, sparkling with honesty and good-natured cheer... and in both pictures, those eyes seemed very tired.

She couldn’t help but wonder if it was the same Applejack staring out through them.

“And maybe once we’ve done that, we could set up another Iron Pony competition between her and Rainbow Dash,” Twilight continued. “We haven’t had one of those in a while. It’d be a great jump start on rediscovering their friendship, and I could even—”

“Do you ever think about what you’re doing to her?” Celestia interrupted, reaching up to take the baby Applejack’s picture off the wall. Almost immediately, a sharp, stinging sensation bit into her hoof and she was forced to draw it back. Even the pictures were protected by magic, it seemed.

“What I’m doing for her,” Twilight corrected, without missing a beat. “For all of them. They’re happy. I’m happy. The only one who isn’t happy about this is you. And don’t you ever forget that.”

An enchanted broom passed them by, swishing across the floor as if they weren’t there. Twilight coughed. “They still hate you, you know. For trying to take them away.”

“Pinkie seemed rather happy to see me this time,” said Celestia, nursing her injured hoof.

“Pinkie’s still too young to know better,” said Twilight. She shrugged. “She’ll grow out of it. She always does.”

“Mmm.” Celestia remembered her last visit only too well. How desperately they’d all kicked and screamed. How they had yelled for Twilight to save them from the awful Princess Celestia, come to take them away from their very best friend. Where had they heard that about her, she wondered? “Well, perhaps someday she won’t.”

Twilight snorted. “Is that what you’re waiting for?”

“In a manner of speaking,” said Celestia. She turned away from the pictures of Applejack, both old and young. “I suppose I’m still hoping you’ll change your mind. It’s not too late to stop.”

“There’s no reason to,” said Twilight, following close behind. “You keep treating this like it’s something wrong. Like it’s evil.” She stomped the floor, stones cracking from the force. “I hate that.”

“Not evil, per se,” said Celestia, careful not to upset Twilight too quickly. That, perhaps, would have been unwise. “But aging is natural. Age spells aren’t. You didn’t have to cast them on your friends.”

“No,” said Twilight darkly. “I didn’t. But you taught me to never give up on them.”

“I suppose it’s my fault, then, if that’s all you learned.” Celestia sighed. “I’d hoped I was a better teacher than that.”

They entered into what could have passed for a throne room, if it weren’t lined with bookshelves and occupied by a large bed. Twilight’s, Celestia supposed. She stopped by another ornament, kept beside the bed on a nightstand: a purple dragon’s scale. “Did Spike ever approve of your little foray into age magic?”

“He was asleep before he ever found out.” Twilight took a breath on the scale, and polished it until it shined. She smiled fondly at her reflection in it. “He’ll wake up someday, though, when the hibernation cycle ends. And when he does, I’m sure he’ll side with me on this one.”

“Would Fluttershy?”


“Hm?” said Twilight, turning slowly toward Celestia. She set the scale down on the nightstand. “What was that?”

“Would Fluttershy agree with you?” Celestia repeated.

The air began to spark and crackle again with that familiar magic charge. “What do you think you know,” Twilight whispered, “about Fluttershy?”

“I’m only asking,” said Celestia calmly. “Haven’t you thought about what Fluttershy would have wa—”

“Don’t ask about things you don’t know anything about!” Twilight snapped, her horn glowing bright. The entire room began to shake. Books fell from their shelves and the floor itself rumbled beneath Celestia’s hooves. “You weren’t there when she died. You didn’t see...”

“No, I didn’t,” said Celestia. “I’m sorry, Twilight, I didn’t mean—”

“She was so tiny...” Twilight whimpered. “I could see her ribs through her skin. She couldn’t do things for herself anymore. Almost like a baby... It wasn’t fair. She was so old.”


“I couldn’t just let that happen to the rest of them. Even if they didn’t want—even if they couldn’t see—they came around, eventually. It only took a few tries. They were happier starting over. We were happier starting over...”

“Twilight, please, listen to yourse—”

You be quiet!” Twilight shouted, and the room shook again. “You aren’t going to take them away from me!” The shelves themselves tumbled over and the floor cracked. The castle would fall, if this kept up. “What do you know about friendship, anyway? How many friends have you ever had?”

“How many?” Celestia repeated quietly. She took a step forward, struggling to keep herself steady in the face of so much power. “I’ve had many friends in my time, Twilight. I’ve watched so many of them succumb to age. More than I’ve ever spoken of, and more than you’ve ever known.” Another step. She was standing now almost in front of Twilight. Just a bit closer...

“Then where are they?” Twilight demanded, cracks running up the stony gray walls. “How many did you save? Or did you stand back and watch them all die? Is that why you can’t leave us alone? Because I didn’t?”

Celestia took another step forward. “Do you want to know why I think this is wrong?” she asked. “How I know it’s a horrible burden to wrest your friends from time’s grasp?” Twilight’s magic was approaching hurricane force now. Books and shelves flew in a spiral around the room, colliding with the bed and Spike’s purple scale. Still, Celestia took another step forward, until she was standing face-to-face with her former student. Together in the eye of the storm. “Do you really want to know how many friends I saved?”

She reached out a hoof and brushed it gently through Twilight’s mane.


Instantly, the storm grew calm, books and their shelves falling to the floor. Twilight’s horn burnt out. Her eyes widened as she slumped back. “I—no... You didn’t—”

And in that moment, it happened. A spear of pure light shone from Celestia’s horn, straight through Twilight’s heart. Too fast for a counterspell. Not that Twilight had been in any state to cast one.

It was over.

“I’m sorry, Twilight,” Celestia whispered as Twilight fell to the floor. “It’s my fault.”

She looked back, briefly, at Twilight’s body as she left the room—but not for too long. A minute or later she left Twilight behind and set out for the nursery. Twilight’s friends had waited for her long enough, and it wouldn't have been fair to delay any longer. She’d spent too many centuries grieving for her own mistakes, paying penance for the burden she’d placed on her most faithful student. Watching, waiting, hoping that she wouldn't have to...

Well. It was time now to let go.

The castle seemed strangely empty and quiet with Twilight gone. The enchantments on the brooms had died along with their creator, and the corridors lay in ruins from Twilight’s wrath. Celestia stepped quickly over the rubble, avoiding anything that had fallen from the walls.

She wondered briefly if that had been one of her own letters she’d seen, framed on the wall, but she didn’t stop to look. It was too late now for any of that to matter.

The nursery was in no better shape than the rest of the castle, but it seemed intact, at least, and Twilight’s friends were all unharmed. Which was what mattered.

“Twilight?” asked Rarity, peeking up from her crib when Celestia entered. The rest of the foals looked up too, eager to see their old friend again. “Twilight back? Twilight back?”

“Twilight...” For a moment, Celestia’s breath caught in her throat. “Twilight is taking a very long and well-earned rest,” she told Rarity. “It’s my job now to take you all home.”

“Oh...” said Rarity, uncertainly. “Twilight back soon?

“You’ll see her again someday,” said Celestia. “I... can’t say much more than that now, but you’ll see her again.”

The fillies all nodded. “Promise?” Pinkie asked.

“Yes, of course,” Celestia put on her bravest smile for them, blinking her tears back before they could see. And they would see Twilight. Not for a long time, perhaps, but someday, without her age magic to keep them young... they would all find themselves together again.

“I promise.”

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