The first thing that Luna noticed about Fluttershy, besides her extreme shyness and delicate nature, was her bedside manner. The moment she had been filled in on what had happened she had asked to be moved next to where Twilight was to assist in binding her wound and examining the damage. Luna had honestly expected her to be more squeamish, but she supposed that spending all her free time serving as a caretaker for animals had exposed her to many unsavory things, and her overflowing concern for her friend likely blinded the pegasus to the grotesque nature of their work.
Nightmare Moon had, thankfully, missed Twilight's heart, but the wound was deep and had more than likely punctured a lung. Luna tried casting a simple healing spell to stop the bleeding, but her horn ached too much to focus properly. Once they were certain Twilight could be moved safely Applejack carefully lifted Twilight onto Luna's back to take her to the hospital, before scooping Fluttershy up to do the same, and with that they headed out the door.
Luna spread her wings a bit to provide a more level surface for Twilight to rest on, adjusting her posture to give the unicorn a more comfortable position. Fluttershy dozed off bit by bit, the strain on her body from her possession too great. Luna couldn't help but giggle at the adorable sight of Fluttershy sprawled limply across Applejack's back, mane and tail waving in the occasional breeze. Applejack kicked a rock along as she walked and cleared her throat, snapping Luna's focus away from her cute musings.
"Now, tell me, Luna. I'm no expert on magic, but it looked a little like you were wearin' my and Fluttershy's Elements back there. Pinkie's, too. Mind explainin'?"
Luna glanced at Applejack for a moment, then down at her own neck. Once more the chain had vanished without a trace, leaving only questions in its wake.
"I... honestly don't know. But..."
She hesitated a little.
"Kindness, to protect others... and honesty, to reveal the truth, or rather the true form... It seems like the Elements come to me when I need them most, or at least, when I embody their spirit. I have yet to understand it myself, but it seems likely to me that the Elements are connected to me in some way. It feels almost like a memory of a dream whenever I try to recall anything about them before my imprisonment, almost as though... well, almost as though Nightmare Moon didn't wish for me to remember them. Or perhaps they were created when she was. My memory of that time is quite hazy..."
Applejack nodded a bit and returned her gaze to the road.
"I suppose that'll have to do for now. Maybe when Twilight's all better she can help you work it out."
The earth pony glanced at Twilight and smiled a bit, and Luna felt Twilight shift a bit, mumbling something about Spike's cooking and heartburn.
"Seems like she'll be alright. It's gonna take some time, but the way I figure it, you've got plenty a that. If nothin' else her life ain't in any danger."
Luna nodded slightly and glanced over her shoulder at the mare on her back.
"Yes... But she doesn't have as much as I do. I..."
Luna sighed a bit.
"If my magic were stronger... I could heal her... even extend her life... As it stands I've all but forgotten the most simple spells, presuming for so long that I would never need them once I had grasped the higher concepts... Now I must start all over again, right when I need those basic charms the most."
Applejack chuckled softly and looked up at the sky.
"That sounds a lot like Rainbow Dash. She's all about the flashy tricks and sometimes I can't help but wonder just how many daring feats she actually knows how to do. Like... the sonic rainboom. She's perfectly capable of pullin' one a those off no problem, and all her loops and twists and stuff come pretty naturally to her, but I have to wonder how much effort she puts into stretchin' and limberin' up before her trainin' sessions, or how much endurance she's got. The two of you could stand to spend a little more time workin' on your basics a bit more."
Luna nodded solemnly.
"It would be a wise choice. Perhaps convince her that proper stretching and preparation will reduce her injuries in the future, and leave her with more time for flying?"
Applejack smiled and turned away slightly.
"Nah. With her I'm more likely to convince her to work on endurance trainin' if I poke fun at her for lackin' the... sexual stamina I expected her to have."
Applejack blushed and chuckled a bit, and Luna laughed along with her, turning rosy as well.
"I see. So Rainbow Dash is the sort to respond better to criticism than praise?"
Applejack nodded and smiled at Luna.
"Yep. She lets praise go straight to her head, and then she lets herself think she's reached the summit when there's still a whole lotta mountain left to climb. But if you make her feel inadequate she works as hard as possible to overcome the shortcomin', just so she can rub it in your face. She has the tenacity and grit, if you motivate her right."
"Well, so long as you're there to keep an eye on her, I shall expect great things from her."
Applejack smiled softly, and then glanced at Twilight and hesitated.
"...Prince- I mean, Luna, do you mind if I ask you a personal question?"
Luna blinked, then nodded.
"By all means."
Applejack gazed straight ahead, adjusting her hat a little.
"My friend Twilight... What is she to you?"
Luna blinked and stumbled a bit, blushing profusely.
"That's... quite a direct question, Applejack. Right to the honest truth of the matter, I suppose."
The both smiled, and Luna sighed wistfully.
"She's... perfection. She is my savior, one of the most intelligent and beautiful ponies I have ever known, and she makes my heart flutter with every word she speaks."
"And I take it you're both dancin' around the issue like a pair of shy schoolfillies?"
Luna blushed brighter and nodded. Applejack chuckled.
"Well, I have it on good authority that she's got feelings for you, Luna. So instead of bein' so fearful, maybe you can try and be brave? She's gonna need somepony there beside her when she's gettin' well again, after all. Somepony to be there at night when she's cold and lonely, who'll take good care of her? Might even present some chances to make a move, if you catch my drift."
Applejack raised her eyebrows suggestively, a gesture that Luna missed completely as she turned her head to look at Twilight. The purple mare's brow was furrowed, and a sheen of sweat had begun to form on her forehead. Luna nuzzled her softly and sighed.
"She's getting worse... We have to hurry."
"I'm faster than you are, Luna. You carry Fluttershy and I'll run with Twilight to the hospital. I'll meet you there, alright?"
Luna nodded and lowered her body to the ground. Applejack carefully set Fluttershy down and together she and Luna transferred Twilight over onto the earth pony's back. Applejack adjusted her saddlebags and draped a piece of rope around Twilight, tying it loosely to keep her in place.
"See ya in a bit then."
Luna gave a small nod and Applejack turned, jogging off and slowly breaking into a sprint, keeping her body surprisingly steady. Luna turned to Fluttershy and blinked, uncertain how to go about picking her up without waking her. Finally she settled on nudging her with a hoof, intent on waking her long enough to move her. Fluttershy roused slowly, sitting up and rubbing her eyes before yawning and stretching.
"Angel... did you steal my blanket again? You know that isn't a very ni-"
She blinked and looked at Luna, who smiled and gave a small wave. Fluttershy glanced around before looking back at Luna.
"Oh, um, hi, Luna. Where's Applejack and Twilight?"
Luna gestured down the road in the direction Applejack had run off in.
"That way. At the rate Applejack was running I expect they'll be at the hospital long before we get there."
Fluttershy gave a small nod and slowly stood up, her wings giving a soft flap when her legs wobbled.
"Then... we should hurry."
Luna shook her head.
"We should go at a pace that you can manage. I won't have you endangering yourself any further in your worry. Twilight... will be fine. We will make sure of that, together. Until then... Would you prefer I carry you so that we can make haste?"
"I'd rather not. Not to be rude or anything, I just... want to be the one in control of my body again."
Luna nodded a bit, giving Fluttershy her most reassuring smile.
"Then let us depart."
They continued on their way in awkward silence, and Luna couldn't help but feel as though Fluttershy was more afraid of the princess of the night than of not being in control. As the hospital came into view Luna noticed something in the sky, a golden something with wheels and pegasi pulling it. She squinted a bit and smiled when she realized who was riding it, her paranoia about the pegasi's perceptions fading rapidly.
"Fluttershy, I don't believe we'll have much to worry about now."
Fluttershy looked up at her and followed her gaze.
"What do you mean?"
Luna changed course slightly, heading to a clearing near the hospital.
"You'll see in just a moment. But I'm suddenly feeling very much relieved."
Silver Verve hopped off of the chariot as it touched down near the hospital, in the closest clearing that could accommodate a safe landing, and turned to its other occupants.
"Now then, we have to keep in mind that this is an emergency situation. Princess Luna might be in mortal danger for all we know, so we have to keep alert, find her, and ensure that she's alright."
He gave a salute that none of the other ponies copied and he suddenly felt particularly foolish.
"Anyway... As I said, we have to make sure that Princess Luna is fine. So, let's get mo-"
Luna walked into the clearing and smiled.
"Silver! It's good to see you again."
Silver blinked and turned around.
"Oh, hello Princess Luna. We were just talking about how you might be in mortal danger and need to hurry. And now, here you are. All in one piece. Perfectly fine and everything. Ah-hah... hah..."
The other ponies in the chariot glared at Silver, and the pegasi that had been pulling it sighed and stretched their wings. Luna gave a small nod.
"Indeed, I'm fine. But I have a friend who is not so lucky, one of Celestia's students that you might remember."
"You mean... Miss Twilight Sparkle?"
Luna gestured to the hospital.
"She's in there being treated for a nasty stomach wound. A puncture, to be specific, a deep one. It's quite fortunate you brought who you did."
Silver nodded and walked over to Luna.
"Then let's get moving."
Fluttershy looked around nervously for a moment before speaking up.
"Please pardon the interruption, but... Luna, who are these ponies?"
Luna blinked and looked at Fluttershy before smiling softly.
"Apologies. This is Silver Verve, my personal assistant. On the chariot are Dr Rip N'Tear, surgeon, Dr Sharp N'Burning, anesthesiology, and Dr Scar, an expert on magically accelerated healing."
Dr Scar gave Fluttershy a wink as Luna said his name, and Fluttershy quivered a little bit.
"Oh my... um, it's a pleasure to meet all of you. My name is Fluttershy, I'm one of Twilight's friends. Please, you really must help her."
Silver began walking off towards the hospital.
"And with that out of the way, let's go save a life."
The surgery was a fairly brief process, only prolonged by the number of hospital staff members crammed into the observation room to see the work of a Canterlot physician for themselves. Scar and Rip performed an examination of the wound and worked together to knit and heal each layer of tissue individually, while Sharp tinkered and tampered with Twilight's nerves, fixing damaged connections and shutting off her pain receptors temporarily.
When they were done the only visible sign that Twilight's life had been in peril was a tiny mark smaller than a keyhole that would one day vanish. The doctors who had been watching began to chatter amongst themselves immediately, and Luna had to excuse herself quite forcefully in order to get past them all. She followed the gurney down the hall and helped the nurses transfer Twilight to her bed, pulling up a stool and sitting there beside the unicorn, letting out a soft sigh.
"It should be me on that bed, not you..."
She reached over and rested one of her hooves on Twilight's.
"You didn't deserve any of this... It was my mistake, my weakness that led to this..."
Twilight shifted a little bit.
"What are friends for, right?"
Luna blinked, eyes widening.
Twilight slowly opened her eyes and sat up a bit, propping herself up with a pillow.
"Awake? Yes. Tired? Very. I feel like I was hit by a train... A train carrying other, smaller trains... I ache all over..."
Luna smiled, eyes watering a bit.
"I thought I'd lost you... I was so frightened when she hurt you..."
Twilight closed her eyes and took a deep breath, wincing a bit.
"Alright, no wistful sighs for a bit... got it..."
Twilight squeezed Luna's hoof a bit.
"I was scared too, Luna. But it's over now. Everything's going to be OK."
Luna hopped off of the stool and hugged Twilight, giving her a gentle squeeze.
"I hope so..."
Twilight wrapped her forelegs around Luna and smiled softly, then blushed a bit.
Luna loosened her grip and pulled back a little, blinking.
Twilight looked away a bit.
"I want to thank you. For saving me, and my friends. And..."
Twilight fidgeted a bit, bringing her hooves together and tapping them softly.
"Well, in... in my books, a hero who saves the day often gets a reward. They act as a champion and fight for their ideals and their... their lovers, and get showered with gold, jewels and... a kiss. And since I don't have any gold or jewels to shower you with, I... that is to say... This would be so much easier if I still had that book on romance..."
Luna tilted Twilight's face towards her own and they both blushed brightly, gazing into each other's eyes.
"Twilight... The only reward that I require is the knowledge that the mare I care for is safe and happy. Anything more is bonus, appreciated but not required. You need not force yourself, especially when you said that you weren't ready."
Twilight paused and nodded a bit.
"Y-You're right, Luna. I shouldn't force it..."
Luna gave a sad smile and nodded as well.
"So you see, Twili-"
Twilight cut her off by leaning forwards and pressing her lips to Luna's, closing her eyes and hugging her tightly. Luna gasped into the kiss, freezing up momentarily before relaxing and easing into the kiss as well. She slipped a hoof behind Twilight's head, cradling it loosely, and she felt Twilight's hooves gliding along her back in slow, uncertain circles. They pulled away from each other, breathing quite a bit more heavily than they had been moments before. Twilight smiled bashfully.
"I didn't force it, in case you were wondering..."
The sound of something hitting the floor by the doorway caught their attention and they both looked in that direction. Standing there were five ponies they both knew well, each wearing different expressions of shock and amusement, and Pinkie Pie's jaw had quite literally hit the floor. Twilight and Luna both began to stammer, pulling apart and turning bright red. Rainbow Dash smirked a little.
"What was it you said, Luna? 'Were these two always so close'?"
Applejack reached over and ruffled her rainbow mane a few times.
"Don't be rude. You remember how embarrassed we were when they walked in on us. Uh..."
Pinkie Pie, Rarity and Fluttershy turned to Applejack with quizzical expressions, and Rarity threw her hooves up in the air.
"So it finally happened. Honestly, we were all worried you two were going to dance around this issue for eternity. It's nice to see your relationships finally flourishing."
They all chuckled nervously and Luna stood up, walking over to Rarity and bowing.
"I've said it before, Rarity, but I'll say it again. It means a great deal to me to have your approval, all of you. When I came here at my sister's request it was to fix my mistakes and make amends with all of you, but knowing my sister it was also to forge bonds of friendship and get me out of the castle for a change. I thank you. All of you. Regardless of how terrible today has been, this moment now is the most wonderful I have ever experienced."
Pinkie Pie smiled and hugged Rarity, bouncing up and down.
"And we still have that party later! Oh! We can all celebrate Twilight getting better, Nightmare Moon being gone, and Twilight and Luna getting together! And Applejack and Dashie too!"
Rarity blinked, smiling demurely as she pried herself loose.
"...Well, I don't see anything wrong with that. But given how late it's getting we all need to hurry and get ready."
Pinkie Pie grinned and ran at the doorway.
"You're right, Rarity! Gangway! Party pony on a mission!"
She dove out of the door, leaving the occupants of the room to stare at the space she had been moments before with worry. Fluttershy began to follow after her.
"I should go make sure she doesn't hurt herself... I think we all remember last time..."
She walked out, calling for Pinkie Pie to please come back and be more careful, but a series of crashing noises indicated that the yellow pegasus probably wasn't getting through as well as she had hoped.
"So, I don't suppose ya'll would mind if we headed off too? I've got some things at the orchard to finish off before the party."
Rainbow Dash nodded.
"Yeah, AJ had to put off a bunch of work before and now she has to make up for it to keep time. I better tag along..."
Rainbow Dash gave Applejack a smirk, and the earth pony returned it before looking at Luna. The alicorn smiled a bit.
"By all means. We'll see you later then."
Applejack nodded and turned, flicking her tail at Rainbow Dash's face as she walked out. Rainbow Dash blinked, rolling her eyes and following Applejack out.
"Get back here, jerk."
Rarity sighed a bit.
"I suppose I should go as well. I'd hate to be a third wheel. See you both at the party."
She walked off, closing the door behind herself and leaving Twilight and Luna alone in the room. Twilight blushed a bit and smiled softly.
Luna turned and walked towards the bed, blushing softly and giggling.
Twilight paused and scooted over, making room beside herself on the bed.
"...Stay with me?"
Luna nodded and climbed onto the bed, laying down beside Twilight and stroking her cheek. Twilight leaned over and gave her a soft peck on the lips before curling up a bit and burying her face against Luna's mane with a soft sigh.
The unicorn blinked and shifted.
Luna kissed her gently.
Twilight snuggled up against her, blushing and smiling brightly.
"I intend to..."
Luna draped a wing around Twilight and pulled her close, closing her eyes and sighing contently, letting the mare beside her drift off and savoring every moment cuddled up together with her.
Trixie didn't think she had a very possessive nature. Showy, certainly. Perhaps even a little arrogant and decadent at times. But she only ever craved the applause of the crowd and their adoration, never material things, and certainly not anypony else. Which is what confused her so much.
She adjusted the scale and measured out ten ounces of the chalk-white powder into a small bowl, adding it to the pot and levitating the spoon to give it another stir. The recipe called for more pulverized arrowroot after it came to a boil so she set the pouch aside and watched the brew. In its swirling depths she caught glimpses of what she desired, that streaked mane, that raw magical force. That mare who had not only upstaged her, but single-hoofedly accomplished a task that Trixie herself had only been brave enough to lie about.
Just thinking about her made Trixie's blood boil and she felt a mix of anger, jealousy and shame. She had picked her out of the crowd, watched that lavender unicorn run off instead of confront her, and then sat amazed as that seemingly powerless mare saved the entire town. Trixie didn't know if Twilight had been trying to avoid embarrassing her in front of her audience or if she had simply been looking down on her but it hurt just the same.
The mixture let out a hiss as bubbles slowly began to rise to the surface and Trixie worked quickly to dump the rest of the arrowroot and the mandrake slices into the pot and stir quickly. The mixture was thickening rapidly and becoming syrupy and Trixie didn't know if the potion was going to end up another failure. She had been short on bits to begin with and she couldn't afford another coco de mer.
"That zebra... it's almost like she knows what I'm up to... And she's certainly milking every bit she can out of the deal..."
Trixie sighed and kicked the cauldron dejectedly. The love potion was turning into thick gunk and the sickly sweet aroma was turning her stomach. She lifted it up with her magic and prepared to dump the contents out when a cloud of pink smoke rose from the surface. She hesitated, turned to her notes, and grinned, dunking a large bottle into the rosy red liquid that had formed a shallow layer above the sediment. She capped it and gazed longingly at the bottle, imagining all the possibilities. She put out the fire and packed her things away, dusting her hat off and slipping it back on for the first time in months. As her wagon made its way towards Ponyville Trixie laughed to herself.
"The Great and Powerful Trixie is back in action, Twilight Sparkle, and this time we'll see just who the most powerful unicorn really is when I have you grovelling at my hooves!"
Her front wheels connected with a particularly large rock and the force knocked her backwards, landing in a heap on the floor and scowling. The wheel groaned softly for a moment before cracking, jolting her forwards onto her face. Trixie groaned.
"...Perhaps I should focus on my driving for the moment..."