Her Final Flight

by palaikai

Chapter 1: Link


Twilight Sparkle made the ultimate mistake: rolling on to her side. It wasn't just the harsh sunlight streaming in through a minuscule gap in the curtains – aligned so perfectly that the Princess of Friendship couldn't help but imagine Celestia had planned it this way just to be annoying – which would have been at least manageable by hiding under the duvet or squeezing her eyelids tightly shut, but it was the pain which shot through her hip that made her sit bolt upright and contort into an unnatural series of poses to try and find a bearing which lessened the agony.

A curse had been placed on her years ago, Twilight reckoned, that meant that she was forever doomed to never be able to enjoy the sorts of things other ponies took for granted, like being able to sleep-in an extra hour or two on the weekends. Something always came up, though inflammation of the joints was certainly one of the more novel calamities to befall her. The alarm clock looked at her balefully, its hands winding their way slowly, almost hypnotically, around. “Go on,” they seemed to say. “We won't judge you for drooling into your pillow as you take a quick nap.”

She snuggled into the covers, trying to ignore the constant stabbing radiating from her flank. It had been bothering her for a while now, but there was very little that could be done to allay the aggravating twinge; normal pain-relieving medication and  healing cantrips had no effect, so it was something she just had to grit her teeth and bear until it vanished of its own accord.

It dawned on Twilight that getting out of bed meant exposing her toasty-warm hooves to the wrath of the cold, hard floor below. Why she had never had a carpet fitted, she still didn't know. A frustrated sigh escaped her muzzle. Had there been a carpet at one point and she'd had it removed? Or was that back in the old place, the library?

With a grunt that was borne of equal parts irritation and effort, Twilight let her body drop unwillingly to the floor; a frigid shock was forced through her body, robbing her of the last vestiges of sleepiness, and causing her to shiver. Even mired in the depths of Ponyville's harshest winters, she couldn't remember being this cold.

Leaning on her forelegs, Twilight pushed hard against the ground; a knot of tension had taken hold in her lower back, and she strained as hard as she could until a satisfying crack echoed noisily from her spine. After repeating the action with her hindlegs, the alicorn was starting to feel a bit more chipper about the morning; there was nothing quite like having all your vertebrae in their proper order to restore one's sense of equilibrium, she thought with a sardonic smile. A hollow growl rumbled from deep within her stomach, causing her to flush brightly even though nopony was around.

A wave of melancholy coursed through her as she spied the forgotten basket sitting at the foot of her bed, and Twilight wondered why she hadn't ever bothered clearing it away. A chill that had nothing to do with the ambient temperature gripped her, and she almost forgot about the gnawing sensation in her belly. Some problems were unsolvable, but this one wasn't: breakfast first, regrets later.

Twilight sat at the small table in the kitchen, munching quietly on a piece of stale toast and slurping tea made with a bag that had probably been used at least twice before from a mug that hadn't even been rinsed in at least a week, whilst staring at a note written three days earlier that had been pinned to the fridge. The hoofwriting was definitely her own, but the vulgar language – to the effect that she was a lazy slob who couldn't even be bothered going grocery shopping – made it feel as if it had come from the quill of a complete stranger. Okay, that wasn't the only reason.

Flipping the paper over to write another reminder, Twilight was aghast to discover that it had already been used for that very purpose. “I really need to start keeping tabs on all my notes.”

After finishing her breakfast, she tried to remember if there was anything important on the agenda for the day. There had been something, hadn't there? Something about … no, it was gone. Twilight rubbed her forehead with the palm of a hoof, straining to recall what it was. An appointment? A hospital appointment? She shrugged; apart from her hip pain, and feeling a mite scatter-brained, she was perfectly fine. It was all perfectly normal for an alicorn in her condition. At least she hoped it was, always assuming that the conversation with Princess Celestia had actually happened and wasn't just a fiction crafted by an ailing mind.

Had she ever had problems with her memories betraying her before? Ironically, she couldn't quite remember.

No! The word hit her with such stunning force that she actually recoiled, almost falling out of her seat in the process. It wasn't for herself! She was supposed to visit somepony in hospital. Somepony very important, though she was a little discomfited when she realised that she couldn't for the life of her call to mind the pony in question's identity. Frantically, she pulled the living area apart until she found the scrap of paper with the details.

The alicorn found it underneath a sofa of all places, and she wondered what it – the sofa – was even doing there. It wasn't a colour she was particularly fond of, and why in Equestria did it have antlers? Sheepishly, Twilight vaguely recollected having collapsed on the couch the day before when her back had given out; the note had probably slipped out of her hooves during the ensuing spasms, and given that the rest of that night had involved her lying prostrate, it was no wonder that she'd never retrieved it.

Finding that the appointment was only a couple of hours from now, Twilight quickly headed upstairs to shower and prepare herself. Promptly completing her ablutions, she caught sight of herself in the fogged-up mirror and was rather startled by the reflection glaring back at her. Wiping away the condensation to get a better look, Twilight Sparkle got her first good look at herself. “Wow,” was all she could say, “time has not been kind to you.”

“No, it hasn't,” an amused voice said mockingly. The sofa had, while Twilight was getting ready, turned itself into a bizarre conglomeration of dragon and equine features. His expression was etched into one of almost-permanent mischief.

“Discord,” said Twilight, her eyes widening slightly while her face reddened. “You mean to say it was you that I fell on top of last night?”

“At your age, I couldn't very well let you hit the floor,” the draconequus said with a toothy smile. “Besides, what are friends for?”

She was touched by the gesture, and also slightly weirded-out by the notion that it had been Discord she'd been writhing all over. As one of the few other immortal beings in Equestria, besides the Princesses, Twilight valued his company, his knowledge, and had even grown to tolerate his love of chaos. “Thank you,” she said, kissing his nose and actually bringing a blush to his cheeks.

The first hundred years is something of a transitionary phase for alicorn biology,” Princess Celestia had explained to her. “Your body will eventually adjust to all the changes taking place, but while the greatly-improved magical ability takes root, you will experience a phenomena very similar to ageing in normal ponies.”

Still, the greying mane, bags under the eyes, sagging neck flesh, and near-constant aches in pains in her back and hips were something of a jolt to the system. Surprisingly, it had been a source of comfort to her; Twilight had known as soon as she'd ascended that she'd outlast her friends, but growing old with them had lessened the pain somewhat. She hadn't wanted to stay looking eternally young while everypony she was close to withered to dust around her.


As the train pulled into the station almost a quarter-of-an-hour late, Twilight mused that very few things had changed over the years: getting to Canterlot, assuming you weren't flying or teleporting there, was a hassle. Once she was through the ticket barriers – a sad necessity, now that a favourite game amongst schoolfoals was to try and jump them in order to avoid paying the rising fare – she bolted in the direction of the hospital; some of her memories of the past were still a little cloudy, but there was no forgetting this place. Ponyville may have adopted her as a daughter, but Canterlot was always going to be where her heart truly lay.

It had changed little; even the smells were familiar, and a small pang shot through her as she passed some of her old haunts. Imposing, as always, stood the castle. Was Princess Celestia up there, somewhere, looking down at her? As unchanging as the mountain her home was set in to.

The interior of the hospital was clean, reeking of disinfectant and rubbing alcohol, and it tickled Twilight's nose; after the cosy, urban scents of the city, this was something altogether else. The soothing pastel colours of the walls never quite had the effect the painters hoped; instead of being reassuring, they'd always struck Twilight as being creepy. Maybe it was the combination of green and blue, but she always felt slightly nauseous if she spent too long looking at them. She quickly made her way to the reception, said a name, and was directed to the room that she sought.

An elderly orange pony was sleeping fitfully, tossing and turning every few moments, and Twilight hesitated in the threshold. She was loathe to wake them up, even though … she let out a soft breath, not wishing to put her thoughts into words. The dull throb in her heart was enough; another friendship about to end, another link in her chain to Ponyville about to be torn asunder. Making a decision, Twilight closed the door and approached the bed cautiously. “Hey,” she said softly, pressing a hoof gently to the pony's cheek.

The patient opened a single eyelid, and even that small gesture seemed to cause them no end of torment. A scrutinising gaze took in the alicorn and the inert pony was suddenly roused into life. “Twilight, hi!” she managed to croak out before a coughing fit overtook her. A long, spiky mane of pinkish-grey fluttered with each hack.

Using her magic, Twilight levitated a glass of water to the pegasus pony's muzzle and watched as she practically sucked the cool liquid in. She drank so greedily that it began to slosh around the sides, in fact, and Twilight had to take the glass away before the pillow got completely soaked-through. “Better?” asked the alicorn.

“Much, thank you.”

“It's good to see you again, Scootaloo.” Twilight pulled up a chair and sank gratefully into it, her sore haunches thanking her for taking them into consideration once in a while. She noted that there were several magazines and newspapers strewn about the table, some of them months old. It was good to see that the old pegasus was still trying to keep her mind active. Even if most of the magazines seemed to be about the Wonderbolts. Twilight saw a familiar cyan face on one of the covers and craned her neck to get a better look.

“You, too, Princess,” replied Scootaloo suddenly, causing Twilight to look up sharply. A one-time member of the Cutie Mark Crusaders and the former protégé of a certain awesome rainbow-maned pegasus, Scootaloo's life had been fairly eventful; she sat as straight as she could with her back against the headboard, but there was still a noticeable slump in her withers.

“You don't have to call me that,” murmured the alicorn, with only the faintest trace of annoyance creeping into her tone. After eighty-odd years of it, the title had become just another word to her, but that didn't mean she expected her friends to use it. Especially privately. “How have you been?” Twilight hated small-talk, and she wished desperately that she could've found a better opening than that.

“You know perfectly well how I am,” Scootaloo said with a cynical smile tugging at her muzzle. Despite her infirmity, there was still that same verve in her eyes that Twilight remembered so well from her days as a filly; days spent crusading with Apple Bloom and Sweetie Belle, seeking their cutie marks, their purposes. “You're here every chance you get. Just like you were there for the others, too.”

A look crossed Twilight's face.

“Sorry, I didn't mean to ...”

“No, it's fine,” Twilight stated, brushing off Scootaloo's apology with a wave of her hoof. “I knew that there'd be repercussions to going down this road,” she added. Watching her dear friends,  her family, growing old and eventually dying had been … well, it had been a pain beyond comparison. Celestia, Luna, Cadance, even Discord, had all been there for her to soften the blow, but there was a void in her soul that could never be filled. Scootaloo was the last; she clung to life with a tenacious zeal, as passionately as she'd fought for everything else, but her time was running out. The final link to Ponyville …

“I just wanted to make sure that you knew,” Scootaloo was saying, her tender words cutting through the alicorn's bitter thoughts, acting as a salve for so many untreated wounds, “that I appreciated everything that you did for me and the others over the years. Not just saving Equestria all those times,” she added with a crooked grin. “But being there for us, teaching us, looking after us. Being our friend. I don't think we always knew just how much you had our backs. I,” her voice began to crack slightly, putting Twilight in mind of another extraordinary pegasus. Scootaloo managed to find some of her old confidence and continued. “Everything you did for me, I want you to know that I'm so thankful that you tried.”

“I failed you.” Twilight turned away, pretending to be examining a portrait on the furthest wall. In reality, if she had to look into those earnest, purple eyes she was going to lose what little grip on her emotions remained.

“You didn't,” Scootaloo said firmly, trying to keep a reign on her anger. Twilight liked to blame herself, even when she wasn't at fault, and she didn't want the alicorn to succumb to self-pity despite all her achievements. “And neither did Rainbow Dash. It just wasn't meant to be.” A look crossed her face, and Twilight remembered the impish, spunky filly that had once brought almost as much chaos to Ponyville's quiet streets as Discord once had. “That said ...”


“I thought it would be nice to know, just once, what it felt like.”

A grin broke out across Twilight's muzzle, despite the tears forming in her eyes. “That can definitely be arranged.” She groped under the sheets until she found the orange pegasus' hoof and she took it in her own. “Ready?”


A blaze of mulberry-coloured light enveloped the room; when it dissipated, both ponies were gone.


What few clouds there were in the sky were distant and wispy; with no need for rain in the height of summer, their appearance was mostly to lend an aesthetic flourish, preventing the azure expanse from looking boring. Twilight Sparkle couldn't help thinking that Rarity would've approved of the fashionable embellishment. The alicorn was hewing as close as she could to Scootaloo without invading her personal space or shattering the beautiful illusion she was providing her with; altering the gravitational constant around a localised area was a fairly easy piece of spell-casting, but extending its reach to encompass another was a bit more difficult.

The blissful look on Scootaloo's face as the wind caressed it was enough to let her know that she was succeeding; of course, the pegasus was well-aware of what was happening – Twilight had explained the process in some detail before setting off – but she was content to believe in the little lie and that her underdeveloped, scrawny wings were carrying her through the air unaided.

Age had caused them to deteriorate further, but it was clear to see that, by typical pegasus standards, they had never been quite right; no one had ever really provided a satisfactory explanation for what had gone wrong, but once Scootaloo had grasped that flying would be an impossibility, she'd accepted it with remarkable maturity and good grace. Instead, she'd committed herself to being the best mechanic and stunt-pony in Equestria.

Gaunt though they were, Scootaloo's wings still managed to look uncannily graceful as she arced into the mid-afternoon sunlight, letting waves of bright orange light play over and mingle with her darker coat. The appendages extended to their limits, and the pegasus laughed giddily at the new sensations thrilling through her; almost two decades after her passing, Scootaloo finally understood Rainbow Dash's love affair with flying. It was freedom.

A concerned tone cut into her musings, dragging the pegasus grudgingly back to the reality of the situation. “Maybe we should think about heading back soon?”



It hadn't been planned, but Scootaloo realised that she had no intention of giving this up to return to the hospital. “I don't plan on dying in that bed, Twilight,” she said, her eyes rigidly focused on the endless vista of mountain ranges, forests and boundless sky ahead. “Apple Bloom got to pass on at Sweet Apple Acres, and Sweetie Belle at Carousel Boutique, just like they'd always wanted. At home, with their family and friends around them.” She cast a look back at the following alicorn. “You're my only family, my only friend, Twilight. That means you have to be with me.”

Twilight was moved by the words, but equally, she was concerned for the pegasus' well-being. “At the hospital ...”

“Yeah! For Another week or two, maybe a month, if I'm hooked-up to all sorts of machines.” Scootaloo's face hardened, and once again she was that strong-willed, intransigent filly Twilight had first met eight decades ago. “No, thank you. I didn't really think about where I wanted to die. I never thought that there was some place I belonged … until now. Twilight, please, allow me this,” she begged.

Tears formed in the alicorn's eyes, and her pace slowed somewhat as a maelstrom of emotions tugged at her; she tried to quiet her mind, to think logically. Scootaloo represented the last connection to her past; a past of friends, parties, silliness, danger, and so much adventure. Twilight hadn't wanted to lose any of them, but … it was selfish of her to feel that way, right?

None of them had bemoaned their fate, or tried to dodge the end when it finally came. They had been as stoic, brave and as wonderful as they'd been in their lives. The Princess of Friendship had a duty, and that was to teach everypony of her experiences; both good and ill, they were all part of a rich tapestry that had begun with an introverted unicorn taking her first steps into an unassuming village so long ago.

“All right, Scootaloo,” Twilight finally said, a solitary tear tracing the curve of her cheek. “We'll keep going until … until we reach our destination.”

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