As she tossed and turned in her bed, she silently cursed her inability to get to sleep. Twilight had never been known to have very bad nights sleep, yet something was keeping her from getting one tonight. The room was the right temperature. The bed was comfortable. There was nothing physically wrong with her or anything around her to keep her from falling asleep, so what was going on? Grumbling, she opened her eyes and stared at the ceiling of her room. Hers were an ornate chambers of the palace of the Crystal Empire which, like her friend, had been gifted to her while she'd been visiting.
It had been less than a day since she returned from her most recent adventure. She and Spike had, by way of a magical mirror, been sent to a world of strange creatures called humans. She herself had been changed into one and had been tasked with retrieving her crown. Fortunately for everypony, she'd been successful in her task and had returned without much incident. Well, at least no incident that hadn't been fixed along the way. She smiled to herself, silently thanking to be back in her own world, with her friends and family. But that smile faded a little when she started thinking about what she left behind in the other world.
For that other word had, much to her surprise, contained humans that reminded her a great deal of her own friends, their personalities down perfectly. Leaving them behind had been difficult to do, but she knew they weren't her friend, not her real ones. But that had not been the only thing she'd left there. Sighing, she pushed aside that thought as she got out of bed. Given that she wasn't falling asleep anytime soon, she decided that maybe some cool night-time air would help. She walked over to the large window adjacent to her room and pushed it open, walking out onto the balcony beyond.
The air was cool as she expected, and it helped her to relax more. As she walked to the edge of the balcony, she looked up at the sky. Most nights in the Crystal Empire had the benefit of clear starry skies, but not today. Today there was an almost endless swathe of clouds concealing the stars, making the night darker than most. She looked out from her balcony to the city below, with many dots of lights indicating ponies homes. She smiled to herself, knowing that her actions in retrieving the crown had ensured those ponies safety. There had been a time when she questioned her ability to lead as a newly-crowned princess. But after what she'd just been through, she knew she was read.
As she looked out, her ears pricked up as she heard the sound of a door closing below her. Looking down over the edge she some a second balcony, from one of the lower floors, and somepony step out onto it. In the gloom of the night, Twilight couldn't make out the figure, but it was undoubtedly one of the Empire' guards on night patrol. She was about to walk back into her room when, all of a sudden, there was a gap in the clouds above, which let through some light from the moon and stars. This allowed Twilight to finally see who the figure was below. It was indeed a guard, but one very familiar to her. A stallion pegasus, with a light orange coat and dark blue mane. Her heart practically skipped a beat when she saw him.
Flash Sentry. A stallion pegasus of the royal guard posted here in the Empire. He was your typical guard, loyal, brave, compassionate. But what set this one apart, at least for Twilight, was the fact that she had met him once before, but not this version of him. Back in the world of humans, it was not simply human versions of her pony friends she had met there. She had also become acquainted with a boy who had helped her greatly in retrieving her crown. His name was also Flash and, much like the others, he was undoubtedly a counterpart of a pony from her world, specifically the one standing down on that balcony below her.
She had met several humans like that but him in particular was difficult to think of for her because, as they spent time together, they'd actually grown quite close. She hadn't told anypony about this, not her friends or her family, but the truth was that the two had become quite affectionate, to the point where Flash had even asked her to the dance. It would have been a lie for Twilight to say that she hadn't felt something for him back then. And when she returned to her own world, and saw this pony Flash there, those feelings remained.
She shook her head, trying hard to quell such thoughts. It was foolish, she tried telling herself. It was just a childish infatuation, at least that's what she attempted to convince herself it was. And even if her feelings were what she feared they might be, he was a human and she, in real life, was a pony, and one from a whole other world at that. Things would never have worked out between them, no matter what she might have wanted them to. And, as she looked down at this other Flash, she felt saddened, knowing that this Flash was not THAT Flash. He didn't know her, at least not beyond her being a princess of Equestria.
For all she knew, this one could be completely different, and not the kind of pony she'd want to get to know. She began to turn away from the balcony and started walking towards her room again. But then, she stopped. A thought began to grown in her mind. Every single person in that other world was exactly like their counterpart here in her world, their personalities pretty much exactly the same. There was no reason that this Flash wouldn't have the same traits she'd come to admire so much in the other one.
She wrestled back and forth with the idea for a while before letting out a deep sigh. She knew she might regret this decision, but she'd regret it even more if she didn't at least try. She began making her way towards the door again, planning to go down a floor to get to that other balcony. She then stopped as she remembered, after looking at the sides of her body, that she had wings. In spite of that rather embarrassing lapse in her memory, she chuckled. Even now she kept forgetting she could fly. She walked back over to the edge of the balcony and spread out her wings. With one jump she leapt over the edge. Using her still new flying skills, she gently glided down to the other balcony, landing softly without having made nay noise whatsoever.
She'd landed a fair few metres away from him, she he had no idea she was even there. She approached, still nervous about how this would go, before deciding to announce her presence by clearing her throat. That got his attention immediately as he spun around. When he saw who was behind him, his eyes widened with surprise and, per his duty, bowed in the presence of Equestria's newest princess.
"Princess Twilight! Forgive me! I was unaware you would be out here tonight." He said nervously.
Twilight sighed at that reaction. She understood that ponies like him would react this way out of respect for her new position, which she appreciated. But, truth be told, she'd never been comfortable with it and as such decided to let him know.
"It's alright. This isn't anything official or anything. I was just getting some fresh air."
He raised his head, looking like he didn't quite know how to react in this situation. Raising himself up, the two stared at each other for a few moments. Twilight was still unsure about all this, and as for Flash, he had no idea why the princess would be here like this. Finally, the silence was broken by the unsure young guard.
"Can........can I help you?"
Silently, Twilight cursed her decision to do this. What could she possibly tell him? What was she even hoping to achieve out here? The answer was simple, even though she wanted to deny it, but as for what to tell him, she knew she would have to speak the truth about her experience in the other world.
"Um.....I assume you know what happened with me a few days ago?" She asked.
Flash nodded before replying.
"Indeed Princess. You were sent by Princess Celestia on an important task to another world. It is fortunate for all of us that you returned safe and sound."
She nodded at that. He knew the basics at least, but the details were something she'd probably have to fill in for him.
"Yes. But that other world had.......strange creatures in it. They were called humans and they were quite unlike anything we have here in Equestria. What's more, they seemed to be exact copies of many of the ponies here in this world, at least in their personalities." She explained.
Flash raised his hoof to his chin, clearly interested in what she was saying.
"That must have been quite an experience your highness."
Another form of address she didn't much care for, but she put up with it all the same. A knot began to develop in her stomach. She was fast approaching the one piece of information in this story that she knew would make thinks awkward. But she knew that she'd set herself on this course now. For good or ill, she'd have to see it through.
"One of the humans I met there was a great help to me. His name was......."
She hesitated. This was it. The moment she'd been dreading. She had no idea how he'd react once he heard it. Though, deep down, she hoped that he would at least stay to hear everything else.
".......his name was......Flash Sentry."
Silence fell between them. Flash's hoof was placed back on the floor and his face grew into an expression of clear shock. He'd not been expecting that, not that Twilight could blame him. His eyes were darting about, his mind no doubt trying to wrap his mind around the fact that, out there in some other world, there was another version of him running around. That concept alone would be enough to cause a pony distress and alarm. But what surprised Twilight was that his next question was not what she was expecting.
"You say this.......Flash.......helped you?"
Twilight nodded. Flash's expression was difficult to read. But amidst all of it, she could have sworn she'd seen discomfort. An uncertainty of some sort, as though what Twilight was really trying to tell him was making it's way past her carefully-chosen words.
"Were the two of you, you know.........friends?"
Twilight nodded again, this time looking a little ashamed. The two had indeed been friends, but looking back on their time together, it was clear to her that, had she stayed in that other world, they could have been more than that. Looking at Flash before her, it was obvious that he had a great deal on his mind. When he looked at her, at the expression on her face as she answered his question, he'd clearly seen the hidden meaning behind the answer. His eyes widened as, with Twilight's uncomfortable expression, he began to understand what had happened.
Twilight looked away. He'd figured it out. Her feelings of shame and embarrassment were almost overwhelming at this point. Flash now knew why she'd come to him. How would he react? Would he leave? Inside, she was regretting her choice in confessing all this to him. Trying to imagine how all this must have seemed from his perspective didn't help. To him, this was just some random mare coming up to him and telling him that she had a crush on an alternate universe version of him. How was he SUPPOSED to react?
"I'm sorry. I shouldn't have come here. It's just that I........I'm sorry."
Twilight hung her head, not wanting Flash to see her face right now. The stallion looked at her, still struggling to get his head around what he'd just learned. But, looking at her, and knowing what he now knew, something started in him. He could tell that twilight had not come here to make things difficult for him, nor to mock him in any way. What he saw before him was an earnest young mare who was simply going through a difficult time due to her recent travels.
"No, your highness. There's no need to apologise. If anything I'm actually rather glad to learn this."
Twilight looked up, her expression one of confusion. If there was any deception in his voice, she couldn't sense it.
"Why?" She asked.
Flash opened his mouth to respond, but stopped just short of speaking. His face was, much to Twilight's surprise, starting to blush.
"Well, I suppose it's good to hear that, out there in some other universe, a guy like me was fortunate enough to earn the affections of a mare like you. I mean, all the things you've done, saving Equestria more than once, earning the title of princess, make you a pony that any self-respecting stallion could want. You're smart, kind..........beautiful. Any guy, human or pony, would be lucky to have you in his life."
Twilight was taken aback by that statement. The way he'd said it, so confidently, it was how the other one would have said it. Looking at him and the way he looked at her, she had to keep reminding herself that this was a different person, otherwise she couldn't have been able to tell. Suddenly, his expression changed as his face grew even redder, as though he suddenly realised what he'd just said. His words becoming more stuttered as he started waving his hoof nervously.
"That's not to say that I'd try anything! Not that it wouldn't be worth it. I mean.....what I'm trying to say is........I don't really want to overstep by boundaries here........I mean......"
Seeing him in this nervous state as he tried to figure out the right thing to say snapped Twilight out of her low-point and, in spite of the extreme awkwardness of this situation, giggled. Flash was still fumbling over his words, leading to Twilight raising a hoof and placing it gently over his to calm him. Looking down at Twilight's hoof on his didn't exactly help the redness of his face however. The young princess did what she could to ease his discomfort, her voice more soothing than it had been before.
"It's alright Flash. You don't have to worry about anything. Thank you for saying what you did. I appreciate it, really. And as for overstepping your boundaries, if my brother can get together with a princess, then so could you."
That statement didn't cause the reaction she'd expected. Flash's eyes widened further and he looked rather startled. Twilight didn't know why, but then her own words started to sink in. She realised how her previous statement must have sounded to him and what he thought she was implying. This realisation caused her face to become just as red as his, and it was now her turn to stumble over her words.
"Oh! I didn't mean to say that....you know.....that you and I should....."
She stopped before things got worse. There was sheer silence between them for the longest time. Then, in spite of how awkward things were, both of their faces started to crack into smiles. That set both of them into a big laugh. This was what they needed, both of them. They laughed at the whole thing, relieving them of much of the tension that had built up between them. After a good laugh, they calmed down before smiling at one another.
"I'm sorry about all this Flash. I'm sure you were hoping for a quiet patrol tonight."
Flash shook his head.
"No need to say sorry. I'm glad we could have this talk. And I appreciate that you felt you could come to me about it."
Then, all of a sudden, Flash started looking more awkward again. He opened his mouth, but then hesitated, as though he was struggling to decide whether or not he should say what was on his mind. Eventually, he simply let out a long sigh before speaking.
"Um.....princess?" He said.
Twilight smiled at him.
"Twilight." She replied.
It took a while, but Flash smiled at that.
"Twilight.......I have some time off from my patrol duties tomorrow. I don't know if you're interested, but there's a lake near the city I like to visit during my off-hours. I don't suppose you'd like to.....you know........accompany me?"
The smile faded a little from Twilight's face. This was not an offer she'd expected. Deep down, she was happy that he was giving her the chance to get to know him better. But still, she was unsure whether or not it was a step she was willing to take. Having returned from the other world, she had been denied the chance to really be with the other Flash, something that she regretted a great deal, despite her attempts to banish such thoughts. Realising this, she knew that if this one did indeed have all the things she'd come to appreciate about the other, she was not going to make the same mistake. Her smile returning, she gave her answer.
"I would like that. I really would."
Flash smiled at her answer. Twilight was pleased that her acceptance had made him happy. And in truth she was looking forward to such an outing. However, for the time being, she suddenly felt very tired. The first time she'd felt as such all night. As such, she decided that now was probably the best time to get back to her room.
"As much as I'd love to stay and chat, I've got to get some sleep tonight. But I'll meet you tomorrow. Goodnight Flash."
Flash gave a brief bow before giving his response.
Twilight chuckled at that before turning around. She spread her wings and flapped them, launching herself into the air. Flash kept her eyes on her until she was high above, making her way up to the upper balcony before gracefully landing back down upon it. She looked over the edge to give Flash one last smiling before making her way back inside. Flash meanwhile sighed, never imagining he'd have been this lucky, before turning back towards the city beyond the palace and returning to his duties.
Making her way inside her room, Twilight closed the door behind her. The tiredness within her was growing and she soon found herself back in her bed. As she gently placed her head upon her pillow, she closed her eyes, drifting off into a more peaceful sleep than she thought she was going to get tonight. Her smile remained throughout, as she considered the possibility that she could have that chance she thought she'd lost once before, back when she returned to her own world.
Twilight did not know if she was doing the right thing with Flash by agreeing to his offer. Was she doing it out of genuine affection for him? Or was it simply because of the loss she felt at having been separated from the other one? She did not have the answers to those questions. But what she did know was that it was better for her to at least try things with him and find out. Otherwise, she might have spent the rest of her life wondering if things would have worked out between them. For her, it was better to try.
And if she was right about him, then maybe, just maybe, she hadn't left behind as much in that other world as she'd feared. That thought gave her comfort, and let her drift into her sleep, her heart no longer bearing the weight it once had.
"Well, Flash......let's see how this goes."