A Final Question

by Grayson Gears

Chapter 1: Gray Skies

She has to know...

It was just another day. Waking up naturally to a pitch black room, slowly pulling herself out of her luxurious bed. She had stepped through the darkness, slowly removing the cover from a beautifully sculpted bird cage.

"Time to get up Philomena," she'd whispered to the sleeping phoenix. Her pet's eyes slowly opened as her shining red feathers began to glow, filling the room with warmth and light. Ruffling her wings, Philomena glided out of the cage, coming to nestle gently on her back.

Taking a quick moment to don her regal attire, she stepped out of her room, heading towards the balcony of her castle.

Her little sister was waiting for her, like always, staring down at Ponyville.

"Good morning Luna," she said, walking up next to her.

"It's not morning yet big sister," Luna said back. It was always the same conversation, and it always brought a small grin to her face.

"Of course Luna..."

So she raised the sun, bringing warmth and light to the entire land of Equestria. She could picture the rays of light piercing though the windows of her subject's homes, letting them know that another day was here, letting them know that she was there for them and would always care for them.

Just another day.

Funny how something, no matter how grand, can become simple routine once you do it enough.

She smiled up at the sun before turning back to her sister.

"Happy now?" she asked.

"Very much sister. But now I believe you have quite a few meetings to attend," Luna replied with a sly smile of her own. Oh yes, that was the part of her routine that had still stayed boring and trivial over the countless years of her rule.

Always there was the endless stream of nobles, delegates, and ambassadors, so many of which was convinced that they knew more than her. That they had the one idea that would revolutionize Equestria, and that they were the perfect pony to put it into action.

It was never that simple, there was no perfect pony with the perfect plan.

She knew that all too well.

She has to know...

The one funny thing was, she didn't have to meet with all those ponies. She had secretaries that could turn them away, or underlings able to outline why their plans would not come to fruition.

But she met with them all the same. So many years of life and she almost always knew the precise words to tear their ideas apart, and perhaps turn their enthusiasm towards for beneficial purposes. It could never hurt to have a few more allies in the world.

Most of the time, her words were enough for them. But there were always the few that refused to listen, that stormed out of the castle enraged that a mere Princess had tried to tell them what to do.

For them, there was little she could do.

Just another day.

"I don't suppose this is the day you offer to take over my political duties, is it Luna?" she'd offered, already knowing the answer.

"You know very well that own duties do not end with tending the night sky 'Tia," Luna chided. "And if I did take over your duties, you would have nothing left to do. I daresay that left to your own devices, our entire supply of cake may vanish in an afternoon." Luna widened her eyes in mock terror.

"That article was printed ages ago Luna! As I have said again and again I was merely sampling a cake for a later banquet. Won't you ever let it go?" her little sister was always so good at remembering events like that.

"I think not big sister. Now go on, I'm sure you have quite the line of ponies waiting for you," she had only shook her head at Luna before heading back inside towards the throne room.

Her sister had been right of course, she could hear the murmurs of all the impatient ponies right outside of her door. Sitting down in her throne she had quickly composed herself, putting on her 'Princess Face.' A calm collected face that showed anypony who looked at her that she not only fit into this position of power, but that she deserved it, and woe on those who thought otherwise.

She gave a quick nod to the door guards, letting them know it was time.

And so began the flood of ponies, each one projecting their voice so it would echo around the throne room, thinking it somehow gave more weight to their opinions.

All it managed to give her was a headache.

Then there would be the ones fighting for their chance to see her next, not physically of course, that might actually be interesting. No, it was always with their haughty words, how they obviously had the right to speak the her next.

Those would be the hardest ponies to get rid of.

Just another day.

She was nursing quite the headache and just the hint of an annoyed mood when a lull in her guests finally happened, allowing her a moment of silence.

"Please tell me there aren't that many more out there," she said to one of her guards. "Though you could lie and just say that we are done for today."

She didn't know why she was having such a hard time today, something about today was putting her in a dark mood. She paused for a bit, thinking...

"Princess, your next guest..." a guard stepped forward, bowing down to her.

"Right, and what great country will this diplomat be hailing from?" she motioned for the guard to stand back up. She wondered how many times she'd told them there was no need for bowing...they never seemed to listen.

"No Celestia...it is a dragon. He is awaiting you out on the balcony," the guard explained, rising up from the ground. She couldn't help but reward him with a brilliant smile.

"Now that is a pleasant surprise," she gave one last nod to the guard before stepping off her throne and heading back outside.

The dragon was waiting for her, rising magnificently above her. The sun glimmered off of his sparkling purple scale and dangerous curved spikes and talons. Seeing her step out the dragon's wings had opened up, fluttering in the air, almost as if he was nervous.

"It is always a pleasure to see you Spike, what brings you to Canterlot this fine day?" she'd asked, so happy to see an old friend.

She has to know...

Spike continued to fidget, glancing from side to side while playing with his hands. Looking at him fully now, Celestia felt a weight grow in her chest.

She did not need to be well over a thousand years old to recognize those signs.

Spike was the bearer of bad news.

"Spike...what's happened?" she asked, the smile dropping from her face.

"I'm sorry Princess Celestia, I would have sent you a letter but..." he stretched out his clawed hands, far too big now for any of the quills used by ponies. "I told Twilight to write one instead, but she didn't want me to send it, she didn't want-"

"What's happened with Twilight Spike?" she had stepped forward, making Spike flinch unconsciously.

"She's gotten sick Princess...we thought she would pull through like she always has...but she's just so old now. She can..." Spike paused, taking a moment to compose himself. "She can barely even leave her bed anymore..."

Celestia had almost found herself shaking her head. Twilight couldn't be that old, could she? Why Twilight had been an absolute pillar of health the last time she'd seen her.

It had only been...

Only been...

How long had it been? She'd gone down to Ponyville to check on its development, talk with the mayor, all of her usual duties. She stopped by Twilight's for some tea. True her former student may have had a little more gray in her mane...but it was hardly anything to worry about.

It couldn't have been more that...two months...three? How could she have let so much time pass?

"Did you come to see if my magic could help her?" she found herself asking.

"No, I already took her to the best doctors in Ponyville, I was even tempted to fly her over to Manehatten...but I knew the doctors there would only say the same thing," he took a deep breath. "There's nothing they can do...nothing anypony can do."

He stared directly at her, and only now did she notice the redness of his eyes.

"I came so...so you could say goodbye to her..."

She has to know...

She and Spike had stood outside the library, which had grown quite a bit since she had sent Twilight to stay there. Rooms and more rooms had been added to the tops of the tree limbs. Something, most likely magic, kept the building from falling apart as it swayed gently in the breeze.

She could not make herself step inside.

"Are you coming as well Spike?" the dragon sat outside the front door, staring down at the ground.

"No we...we already talked. I think this is something...just for you. You were always her favorite teacher you know," he tried to smile at her, it almost worked.

"Spike...I was her only teacher," she said to him.

"Yeah...I know," he reached a claw out and pushed open the door for her, a final incentive.

She took a deep breath, and stepped inside.

Even with all of the changes she still knew the way to Twilight's room by heart. She didn't think she could ever forget it.

Walk in, step to the right, go all the way back to the staircase. Walk up the stair, be careful not to trip. One, two, three...all twelve steps. Then there was one more door. It wasn't even closed, standing slightly ajar. Push it open and you'll find yourself at...

"Twilight..." she murmured.

The unicorn was laying in her bed, the sheet pulled up to her chin. Even with the covers, Twilight looked so thin to her, her mane so ragged. The gray was in there that she remembered, but it just seemed so...striking now.

It almost reminded her of a storm of gray clouds, hovering on the horizon...ready at any moment to blot out the sun.

"What happened to you?" a whisper. She didn't move any closer to Twilight, it looked like her old student was sleeping.

A low groan proved otherwise.

Twilight's eyes fluttered open, focusing on her.

She has to know...

"So...Spike did go get you," Twilight's voice was so weak, she could hardly bear it. "I'm sorry Princess..."

"Twilight...what in Equestria do you have to be sorry for?" she was tempted to step closer, to hold her close. But her regal training prevented the latter.

"For getting sick like this...for not being strong anymore," a short burst of coughing stopped Twilight from talking. "That's why I didn't want to send you message...I didn't want you to worry about me..."

"Twilight..." she drew one of her wings over Twilight's body, she was so cold. "It's far too late for that, I've been worried about you ever since I first took you on as my student." She smiled down at her old student, her vision blurring slightly.

"Really Celestia?" Twilight replied, just a tiny bit skeptical. She smiled at that too.

"Of course, I saw how strong you were, how much potential you held withing yourself. I knew..." she paused, these words were harder to say than she expected. "I knew that because of that, I would have to send you against terrible dangers."

Twilight opened her mouth to say something but she had held up a hoof, stopper her.

"I had to send you against my corrupted sister, against Discord, to save the Crystal Empire, to-"

"Please Princess, if you name everything I've done you're going to be here all day," Twilight interrupted, struggling to push herself up in the bed.

"Twilight, if it would keep you here longer I would happily sit here and talk until the end of the world," she'd promised, moving a little closer to Twilight. She had wondered if Twilight knew how much time she had left, but that was last thing she wanted to talk about.

"But Celestia, I was only able to do all those things thanks to your teachings," Twilight argued, now sitting up fully in her bed.

"I'm not sure you can call me a great teacher anymore Twilight. I should have been here more, I shouldn't have let myself get so caught up in my royal duties..." she shook her head.

"Nopony is perfect Princess...besides, you're here now," Twilight said to her.

"I hardly think that makes up for everything Twilight...I just wish there was something I could do for you."

"Well...do you remember that song Princess? The one you would sing when I couldn't sleep?" she nodded at Twilight, she could still picture her as a filly, begging for the song before the light was put out. "For some reason...I can't remember the words anymore. Do you think you could sing it for me?" Twilight nestled back down in her covers, suddenly looking so very tired.

"Of course Twilight," she knelt down next to the bed, drawing her wing back. She took a deep breath and let the song flow out of her.

She has to know...

"You are my sunshine..."

Her eyes found the gray in Twilight's mane, again reminded of a storm of clouds.

"My only sunshine..."

The storm grew, marching across the sky.

"When you're not happy..."

It seemed so large now, so powerful, so unstoppable.

"My skies are gray..."

It drew closer, bringing rain and cold.

"You'll never know dear..."

The storm blotted out the sky, the sun.

"How much I love you..."

There was nothing left but gray.

"Please don't take my sunshine away..."

She stopped, looking out Twilight's window. Outside, the sun was still strong, its rays of light were beaming through the glass.

"But that song isn't completely true, is it Twilight?" she could not look away from the window. "After all this time, you have to know how much I care for you..."


Author's Notes:

Anyone else bugged by the fact that internet auto-correct accepts 'gray' and 'grey?'

And I just really wanted to use "You Are My Sunshine" in a fic.

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