If You Tarry 'Til You're Better

by Cynewulf

Chapter 1: Come Find Me

Twilight Sparkle had spent much of the day below ground. Specifically, she had spent much of the day in the castle’s strange, empty belly.

Exploring the halls that had sprung fully formed with the rest of the palace had become something of a hobby. It was really fascinating just how far they spread and how deep they were dug. Where had the dirt gone? The stones, the old roots? She couldn’t answer these questions. At least, she couldn’t answer them yet. But they were interesting topics for a mind in need of diversion.

Twilight happened to be possessed of such a mind.

She always had been, really. She thought and she thought and she thought, and out of that great and unending rumination sometimes things clawed their way into the world that somepony would tell her was “smart” or “exciting” or some other word that applied loosely at best.

Part of the process of unravelling the mysteries of the lower levels was mapping them. This she did by magic, as she did most things. Her hooves were tied by enchantment to a pen and parchment which recorded the room around her. It was nice not to have to think about what she did. All in all, it was the perfect mixture of mindful and mindless.

Another large chamber. She hummed as the torches sprang to life in response to her entrance, and admired the space’s grand scale. It really was magnificent. Perhaps, in time, she would find uses for these chambers. Archives, perhaps! Her own rival to Canterlot’s royal library, though that was impossible to think upon for long without feeling dizzy. Treasure rooms? No, she wasn’t want for treasure.

Art, maybe. Or wine cellars. Rarity would like that.

Rarity. Twilight sighed, bit her lip, and turned around. She walked back the way she’d came.

Rarity, Rarity, Rarity. There was only that name and nothing else that broke through the malaise.

Malaise. It was such a dramatic term for something that was, sadly, not very dramatic. No, if anything, it was mundane and dreary. She was simply listless. Nothing satisfied her. She did not fill the time, even when she was busy. It just limped by.

And she wasn’t sure why, really. There wasn’t one reason.

Her pace was slow but uneven. She drifted more than walked. Where her wayward steps led, the torches flared to life--another useful bit of unexplained magic. A few weeks before, perhaps it would have called to her. She would have stopped and studied those torches, poking and prodding until their secrets writhed in the light of discovery. But instead, they might as well have not lit at all. The alicorn who walked their halls could not be bothered to care about them.

What would Rarity think of this wandering of hers? The thought made her frown, but not much else. She had enough energy to think about Rarity, but actually…

Twilight shook her head. It was just a funk. Another early day to bed, and perhaps in the morning, a fresh start. Maybe if she slept, if she surrendered her sight and hearing and taste and self, laid them out like offerings on Night’s watchful shore, maybe then this long affliction would lift.

But it wouldn’t. She knew that. Because it was just… forever, really.

She headed upstairs.

First, the great hall, and then the hallways, and then bed. Simple. Quick. It was all she had planned. So it was a surprise when some one greeted her at the top of the stairs.

Spike. Right. Of course. Twilight felt a tiny shame. She’d forgotten all about him that evening. She opened her mouth to apologize and ask if he’d been fine with making his own dinner, but stopped short. The look in his eye…



“Rarity came by.”

Twilight tried to smile at him but failed. Her face mostly just scrunched up into an unreadable scrawl. “She did?”

Spike crossed his arms and tapped his foot. Twilight mostly marveled at how tall he’d gotten in the last year. He was really growing up, wasn’t he? Oh. He was talking.

“Seriously, since when do you forget?”

She blinked. “What?”

Spike gaped at her. Genuinely gaped in something that Twilight would call awe only with a smirk and horror only with chagrin. His arms fell to his sides. “You’re… are you alright?” he asked. “Like, for real Twilight, are you okay?”

She stared at him.

“I’m fine.”

“No you aren’t. First you start disappearing for hours on end. Then you start… I mean, I’ve had to remind you to come up and eat dinner like three times this week. And now you forget date night with Rarity? I mean…” He gave a little huff. “You shouldn’t do that to her.”

Twilight sat on her haunches. It wasn’t that she was confused, in that she couldn’t keep up. It was more like what Spike was saying was obviously impossible. “Forgot? We had a date tonight?”

“You two do something every friday,Twilight,” Spike said slowly. Some of the fire was going out of him. “Like… like for two years now. Every single friday that you’re in town, you two do something. I’ve even gone to the movies with you on fridays in Canterlot. You remember all that, right?”

She did. Of course she did. “I… She came here?” was all she managed.

“Yeah. When I told her you were somewhere down there, she said to tell you she would come back tomorrow and that she missed you. We talked for a while. I said I would help her look, but…” he shrugged.


Spike sighed again. “She’ll be back tomorrow, I guess,” he said, and then he turned and walked back towards his own room.

Twilight sat before the stair in mute anticipation of something that wasn’t coming. As if Rarity would walk through the great double doors of her palace, smiling as she always did, graceful as always she was, beautiful before and above the mares of earth. She would cross the long distance like a caravel on calm seas, the sun behind her like it might shine through sails.

And she would say--I’m glad I didn’t miss you. Or maybe Twilight would say that. And then--

And then Twilight turned slowly and walked to her bedroom in a daze. She blinked at everything inside, laid on her bed, and stared.

“I forgot.”

Twilight spent the day in listless staring. Most of her mundane, official work as princess consisted of reports from local councils and things which required some royals’ signature. She didn’t make many important decisions. In fact, much of what she did do was probably because Celestia had manipulated the flow of work just for that purpose. Twilight assumed it was meant to give her experience. Honestly, she couldn’t summon up the energy to care.

She signed and she stared and then signed. The day passed achingly slow.

When something touched her shoulder, she didn’t jump so much as she froze.


Rarity’s voice. Twilight licked her lips automatically, trying not to break into a cold sweat, as if it were something she could control.

She had woken in the night, over and over again, every time lying alone in the dark and thinking--when was the last time I saw her? When was the last time we walked together? And knowing that she must be so close to the end. Any day now, Rarity would cough her polite little cough, and ask Twilight to sit, and then they would have a conversation and then it would be over.

She had thought of almost nothing else since she woke for the last time, a little before dawn.

“Yes?” It was all she could manage.

“I came by to see if you were in… I don’t suppose you could put your work aside for a bit, could you?”

Twilight had still not managed to unfreeze herself, and yet somehow her mouth responded of its own accord. “Yes. I… yes, I can take a break.” She couldn’t even think to call on her magic. She simply shoved paper out of the way with her hooves, still staring straight ahead.

How had she gotten in? Twilight wasn’t ready. She just wasn’t--

“Twilight? Love, are you alright?”

“I... “ Twilight swallowed. She took an axe to her own panic and then she gave it a burial at sea. “I’m fine. Sorry, just spaced out.”

“Of course. I was just saying, would you mind awfully much if we had lunch today? It has been some time, hasn’t it? I know you’ve been busy, and that you’ve been ill.”

Twilight blinked. Ill? She must have misunderstood something Spike said, obviously. Yes, that was it. Twilight kept looking ahead, but something had changed. Her panic was far now, suppressed but waiting to rise up again in revolt, but beneath it all along had been a thrill of delight, as soon as Rarity spoke. “I’d love to,” she said, and her voice finally sounded normal.

Rarity nuzzled her cheek and finally came into view, smiling. She wore saddlebags, and atop her hat sat one of her many sunhats. Somewhere, the part of Twilight that was still interested in laughing recalled that they were all equally ridiculous.

There was a moment that passed strangely between them, where Twilight wasn’t sure if she read those beautiful eyes or pushed her own fears onto them. There was something there, she just knew it. She thought she knew it. Something not happy, not at peace, something--

She was getting distracted again. It was hard to focus these days. She just wanted to… she wasn’t sure. Something.Many things, probably. But among those many, shapeless things that wanted doing, one of them happened to be being with Rarity, so she rose and smiled a smile that was as strong as it was calculated and fake only in that she did not want to smile. She hoped what was under it could be seen.

What was Twilight so afraid of?

Well, everything, but more specifically: the inevitable.

She’d had a conversation once with Luna at a party in High Canterlot. As they strolled, they had played at postulates. I’ll trade you one for one, she’d said. An idea for an idea. An old game, and usually a fun one, but it had a way of stepping on sore points here and there, and that night it had been her hoof that stepped through the rotted timber and fallen through the floor beneath. Nothing is constant--as the seasons changed, as the days changed, so too must ponies change in degrees until they are renewed.

And, of course, being that she was Twilight, and possessed of a mind that was both in need of diversion and eager to find it in unfortunate places, naturally she focused on this idea until it led her to an inevitable conclusion. Rarity and she were going to change and change and then what then? Well, anything, if she were honest, good and bad all mixed together, but this was Twilight Sparkle whose mind did the pondering, and in the mind of Twilight Sparkle all of the wonderful potentialities faded until only the bleakest remained.

So, when Rarity dragged her into Silver Shield’s on the north side of town, chattering away about their friends and her clients and whether or not scarfs would be profitable this winter, there was a part of Twilight honestly expected this to be their last meal as a couple.

There was, of course, another part of her that said that this was ridiculous. Rarity had seemed perfectly happy. She was happy when they got a table near the window, and she smiled as the waiter came around and greeted them cheerfully. Rarity returned his greeting with the same air. Twilight smiled thinly and attempted small talk but it felt flat.

They didn’t seem to notice. The waiter left. Rarity reached across and touched her hoof and smiled even larger.

“It’s so good to have you out of the palace,” Rarity said, resting her head on the other hoof. “You’ve been scarce this week, Twilight. Do you remember what I told you about being busy?”

Of course she did. She recited it all by rote. “There’s a difference between working hard and trying to be a martyr.”

Rarity chuckled. “Yes, that. Though, it’s a bit overdramatic, isn’t it? You’re sure you aren’t working yourself too hard?”

Twilight shook her head. “It’s not that.”

Rarity hummed. The waiter returned after a moment with their drinks--water for Twilight, tea for Rarity. She stirred it with her magic, and Twilight wondered why. It was already brewed. She wasn’t adding sugar, so why--

“You wandered off again,” Rarity said.

Twilight looked away from the cup and caught her eyes as Rarity chuckled. “It’s… it’s been a weird week,” Twilight managed to say. A weird week, yes, that was one way to put it.

Rarity hummed, and her brow furrowed slightly. She kept looking at Twilight, who felt at once not simply examined but wholly invaded. This was not an unfamiliar feeling, really. She had felt it before, and would not doubt feel it again. The gazes that felt safe were those that slid over her. Those that lingered she always felt poking at her inmost being and weighing the components, as if that were possible. Usually, when she had felt this way under Rarity’s sapphire attention, her discomfort was mixed with a strange delight--she is watching me, she is seeing me--but even that deeper connection just fed her growing worry.

Because, if the tiny part of her that was insistently growing was right, she wouldn’t be enjoying that intimacy of sight and knowledge much longer, would she?

Whatever Rarity searched for, she seemed to have found it. Her brow smoothed out, her smile returned in force, and she tapped Twilight’s hoof again. “I understand. Spike did tell me about how hard it’s been for you, after all. That’s why I’ve gone ahead and planned it all out. I was going to tell you yesterday, but Spike said you couldn’t be disturbed.”


“Yes. Now, do tell me, what have you been working on? It does seem to be a vexing problem.”

She tried not to hear that as a veiled accusation. Hadn’t they done this before? She recalled Rarity venting about frustrating orders coming in from the branch locations, and having to help Coco put out fires in Manhattan.

Twilight sighed. “Well, it’s a lot of things,” she began, because it was a good place to begin. It helped make the incoming evasiveness seem less, well, evasive. “Bits of odds and ins that need my signature. The Princess has me reading reports from the council now, and wants me to give her recommendations alongside theirs. I mean, most of the time I agree and I could just write, I don’t know, ‘ditto’ and be done with it. But that would defeat the purpose of having me read them, and I know that. I’ve been a little stressed about Spike growing up. Dragons age differently from ponies. Some official things I have to sign now that I have an official demense. And the Castle. Palace. Whichever. I keep changing my mind.”

“I thought you’d decided it was a castle, dear,” Rarity said lightly, as if Twilight had succeeded in making some sort of joke. Which certainly wasn’t true.

The amazing thing was that Twilight actually felt a little glowing happiness as she proceeded upon her pedantic course. “Yes, but is that really the best word? I mean, honestly, it doesn’t have walls. It’s more of a keep than a real castle. Defensively it’s a bit useless.”

“My, are you planning on being attacked?”

“No, I mean… anyway. But it’s ornate and impractical, and on top of that I’m a Princess now. So, it being my home, it must be a palace. I’m mostly sure.”

“You’ll find no quarrel here with such logic,” Rarity said. “I’m sure the Palace of Friendship and Magic will be a grand place for visitation regardless of its name. After all, with such impeccable hosts, how could it be anything else?”

Twilight blinked. “Oh. You mean us.”

“Well, yes. It may not be your forte, but I like to think that I’ve trained you well in the fine art of hosting the perfect soiree. You know, I do think you should consider starting an annual event of your own. After all, don’t both of the senior princesses have balls? I know that the Grand Galloping Gala can be a bit, ah, stale, but the Masque of Dusklight is rather splendid. I’ve enjoyed it both times we’ve attended. Haven’t you?”

Twilight thought about the dance floor, the strange mixture of austere, stately grace and the thrumming energy of the summer night, infectious and carrying the intoxicating fragrances Rarity so loved.

“I have, yes.”

“Ah, but what would we call it? I almost want to retreat to the Boutique and start drawing up designs and plans! It can’t have ‘dusk’ in the name, that’s already taken. But naming it ‘Twilight’-something would be a bit on the nose…”

Twilight managed something akin to a smile. Watching Rarity at work, even if it was in the course of an altogether silly conversation, never ceased to make her happy. She let her continue on, and never once thought of telling her to stop.

They took a walk out in the park. It was really more of a village common, held over from older days, but ponies called it a park. Twilight supposed that things were what we called them, in the end. And it didn’t really matter, and that she was trying to distract herself.

Rarity had walked close to her all day, chatting about everything under the sun. Twilight had not spoken much, but all the while she’d hung on every word that fell from those blessed lips. Rarity had a beautiful voice.

They stopped in a familiar place. Twilight smiled automatically as they came upon it. Stargazer’s hill. Twilight had named it herself, and nopony seemed to mind. It was where they’d shared their first kiss. To another, it would have been mundane: just a little bump in the landscape, with a single magnolia, bursting white with blooms.

Rarity went on ahead, and Twilight followed. Hadn’t it often been this way? Not exclusively. But so many times.

When Rarity stopped, she pulled a blanket from her saddlebags and laid it out with great care in the shadow of the lonely tree. She settled upon it, and then looked back at Twilight, who followed.

Twilight fidgeted. She was comfortable, so that wasn’t the problem.

No the problem was that Twilight was in the middle of yet another example of her own inadequacy in their relationship. Here Rarity was, planning out a day together for the two of them, and Twilight had spent the last week hiding from everypony, and especially her.

They didn’t say anything at first. Rarity snuggled close, and sighed contentedly.

At last, she murmured, “I’m not one for more open-air adventure, but I must say that this is a lovely spot. It’s become dear to me.”

Twilight nodded.

“Might I ask you a question?”


“Well, I’ll back up a bit. First things must come first, after all. Spike told me some worrying things, Twilight. You’ve been busy, yes, but he seemed to think that you were… upset.”

Twilight didn’t say anything.

“And, this whole time, you’ve seemed awfully uncomfortable. I thought at first that you were tired, or perhaps merely stressed. But… well, every time our eyes meet you flinch. It’s not a very noticeable thing, don’t worry. I daresay if I didn’t know you as well as I do, I wouldn’t have noticed it, and… Twilight? Twilight, love, are you alright?”

Twilight wiped a hoof across her eyes and then laid it there, not wanting to see anything.


Rarity was wrapped around her in an instant, making desperate little comforting noises. “Shh. Twilight, please, what’s wrong? Have I done something? Has someone else? Did the Princess give you bad news? Oh, goodness, is it your bro--”

Twilight shook her head violently. She simply repeated over and over--no no no. Until she couldn’t anymore and she just tried to regain some sort of composure.

Rarity stopped asking questions. She rocked Twilight and bit by bit it came tumbling out.

“I don’t know why I’m this way.”

“What way?”

“I don’t even know what to call it because no word seems to work. The more I push, the worse it seems. I know that doesn’t make sense. And it’s awful that I can talk about literally anything, but as soon as I try to describe what I feel when I… when I get this way, all of my eloquence just evaporates.”

“You can try, can you not? Try for me. At least then you can say you have.”

“I’ll be fine, and then it’ll come back. That lingering doubt, and then… and then… Rarity, I was convinced you were being nice to me before you dumped me.”

Rarity pulled away. “What?”

Her voice was harsh, even angry. Twilight tried to hide but there was nowhere to go. She uncovered her eyes.

“Twilight Sparkle, you tell me what on earth has gotten into you. Why would I do that?”

“Because I’m not really worth… this.” Twilight gestured to her marefriend, then back to herself. She rested her hoof on her chest, and then let it slide down. “I can’t even bear to be outside sometimes. I can’t stop… thinking. And the more I think, the worse I feel. Because all that’s going to happen is that I keep sliding back into this, I don’t know, funk? Can you call this a funk? Is that even a word? I don’t know! I’d have to go look it up! I’m just… I’m not sad, I’m just tired. Everything is flat. None of it means anything, but I know it does mean something, and… and…”

Rarity touched her hoof, as she had before, at the table. “You’re rambling,” she said softly. “You also are starting to breath a little fast, Twilight. Remember the exercises? The ones that Cadance taught you? You told me about them.”

Twilight breathed. Once in, count. Let it go, count.

“I’m sorry if that seemed condescending,” Rarity said when Twilight had done this several times. “Twilight, why would you think that you aren’t worthy of, well, this? Do you think I lack judgement? Be honest with me.”


“And that I am not discerning?”

“No. No, you know that I don’t--”

“I do know that. They’re really more rhetorical questions.” Rarity sighed. She reached out and Twilight leaned into her touch so that the hoof rested upon her cheek. “You are wonderful. I’m not sure if I have gone about this the right way. I had meant to draw you out into the open, because to be so isolated is bad for you. But… I shouldn’t have said anything. Or maybe that was exactly what I should have done.” She let out a dry chuckle. “I’m honestly unsure either way.”

Twilight looked down at the blanket. It certainly was a nice one. Held the attention, which was good, as suddenly she found herself completely out of words.

“Twilight, might I ask a favor?” Twilight nodded, so she continued. “Turn around, would you, please?”

Twilight shuffled around awkwardly on the blanket and waited for what she was coming. Rarity’s nervous habit--if it could be called that--coming into play again. She felt magic combing through her mane and sighed softly.

“Thank you,” Rarity said. “Do you mind?”

She shook her head.

“I love you,” Rarity said after a few moments. “I do dearly love you, Twilight Sparkle, and I hope you do not forget it. I certainly cannot. I’m sorry if I did anything to help encourage that worry. You’ve had bouts of anxiety before, and you have had weeks and even a month or two at a time where I worried over you immensely. It is not an easy or a light thing, to be sick with worry while your beloved suffers from their own spirit turned against them.”

Twilight wanted to sink into the grass. But she couldn’t. She couldn’t move. There was something sacred about this ritual that held her fast.

“And I know that. You have always struggled, and I love you all the more for that. But I want you to promise me something. Will you?”

“Yes.” It was a quick answer.

“Don’t hide from me.” Rarity tugged at a knot, and Twilight winced. Her voice was firm, but without heat. “Never hide. You simply cannot, for your own sake. If you retreat, you’ll never pull out of it. Don’t you see? Or, perhaps it is easier to see that from a distance.”

“I just don’t want to be a burden. I can’t be. I have responsibilities and ponies depend on me to be upstanding and someone they can look up to, and…”

“And you are flesh and you are blood,” Rarity said evenly.


“Ah, ah--none of that, now. Chin up. No, not literally, keep your silly, beautiful head still. Metaphorically, as in your metaphorical chin. Bah. You understand.”

Twilight smiled. “I think so.”

“I do not ask you to pretend to be happy in my presence, love. Nor do I ask you to feel responsible for my unhappiness, as if it is dependent upon you and you alone. These things are not healthy for any relationship. At least,” she said, trying not to chuckle, “so say all of the guides. Which I know for a fact that you’ve read in great detail. I found one with whole pages underlined a few months ago when I was staying the night. Did I tell you?”

Twilight groaned. “No. I’m glad you didn’t. Except that you just did.”

“Well, sorry to say…” Rarity leaned in and kissed her back, between her wings, and Twilight shivered.

“And you’re okay with a princess who’s all broken in the headspace?” Twilight asked, smirking at nothing.

“No. But I am perfectly happy to be in love with and be loved by a mare who is imperfect just as I am imperfect, and who bears my burdens as I bear hers. There are far worse things.”

And Twilight sighed. The magic faded. She leaned back, and Rarity caught her. She sighed softly at the little kisses that dotted her neck.

“I suppose there are.”

Author's Notes:

this story was an amalgamation of like four or five ideas. I'm kinda dissapointed in myself. Ah well.

Back to other things. Onwards/upwards

If you tarry 'till you're better, you will never come at all. It's a hella old hymn and one of my favorites. I do a fast paced, mildly aggressive version of it on accoustic when I play live. It's great fun. Four to the floor stompin' music.

For Monochromatic.

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