As she walked down the main street of the village, Twilight couldn't help but feel content with everything that was going on around her. Today was the last day that Flash had off before he would have to return north to the Crystal Empire, and yet, even knowing that, everything seemed to be perfect. The weather was beautiful, she was spending the day with the stallion of her dreams, and everything else that had happened in his visit so far, barring a rather rude interruption from her friends the week prior, had been pleasant. Even now, as she walked down the street with him, the ponies of Ponyville wouldn't stare at the as they would have done back in the past. Now, the knowledge that Equestria's latest Princess was dating a guard was old news to them, something she was truly grateful for.
And yet, even in spite of that, she couldn't shake the feeling that something was a little off. Looking to her left, at Flash walking beside her with his saddle-bags on his back and a smile on his face, there was something about the way he carried himself that seemed off to her. That smile was one she knew she'd seen many times before, in herself whenever she was worried about something. But as far as she knew, there was nothing going on that might have been on Flash's mind to make him be this way. Whatever was going on, he looked down at her, forcing her to quickly smile back at him, lest he think she too was worried about something.
"Beautiful day, isn't it?" he said.
Twilight nodded back at him and the two moved closer, enjoying this pleasant moment between them. They carried on like this for some time, walking through the Ponyville park and enjoying all of the beautiful new flowers that had been planted there recently. It was here, as Twilight was smelling some nearby roses, that she felt the hoof of Flash upon her shoulder. Looking up, she now saw that there was a rather nervous expression upon his face.
"What's wrong?" she asked.
Flash looked around, presumably to see if anypony was watching, before speaking to her.
"Um, Twilight? There's something important I need to speak to you about. If that's okay with you."
Twilight looked a little worried about all this, but even so she nodded silently at him in response. He nodded before starting to look around. His eyes widened and he smiled. He then pointed with his hoof over at something away from them, prompting Twilight to see where he was looking. He was pointing at a nearby park bench, and it was here that Twilight grew even more worried. For she remembered that bench well, as it was the same place that she herself had spoken something important to him some time ago, back when they first started dating. She'd spoken the truth about what had happened to his first filly-friend, Sunset Shimmer, something which she'd been very nervous about.
Looking at his face now, she could tell that he hadn't quite remembered that this was the same place, but even so, it gave her all the information she needed. There was something big on his mind right now, just like she'd feared. Even so, she didn't want her colt-friend to think that she felt nervous about what he had to say, so she simply nodded back at him, and the two made their way over to the bench. Once there, Flash gestured to it, inviting her to sit upon it, which she did. He however, remained standing, and Twilight looked on as he appeared to be thinking hard over what he was going to say next.
Eventually though, he looked at her and a warm expression covered his face as he began speaking.
"Twilight. Ever since I first met you, my life has been better. Before I met you, I'd never known what love, TRUE love, really meant. You have made my life better in every way I can imagine. And for that, I am more grateful than I can ever say."
Although her heart was warmed by the words her beloved colt-friend was saying to her, Twilight couldn't shake the feeling that something was still wrong. For him to suddenly ask her here to say these things was unlike him, especially when he seemed so nervous about doing so. Even so, she kept on smiling at him as he continued speaking.
"As I told you once before, I couldn't stand being away from you while the chaos of Discord's vines were rampaging all over. To know you were in danger, far away from me, that you might get hurt...or worse. To think, even for a moment, that I might never see you again. I couldn't bear it. I could not tolerate the notion of not having you in my life".
He looked away, his expression almost one of shame, which Twilight understood immediately. He hadn't said it, but she knew him well enough to know that when he told her these things last time, he would have wanted to be here alongside her, fighting with her and keeping her safe, even knowing full well that she could handle herself. That protectiveness, although certainly unwarranted in her case, was always something she'd appreciated of him. The stallion turned to face her once more, gaining her full attention.
"It put something into very sharp focus for me. You deserve far more than just a colt-friend. You deserve a pony who is willing to stand beside you...always".
Twilight tilted her head in confusion upon hearing that. As far as she was concerned, she could not envision a time, now or in the future, when Flash wasn't going to be with her. What was he talking about?
"You deserve...you deserve a greater commitment than what I've been giving you."
His nervous expression returned, which soon started to make even Twilight a little worried about where he was going with all of this. She then saw him turn away from her and towards his saddle-bags. Reaching out with one hoof, he began rummaging around until he pulled something out of the bag and held it clenched in his hoof. Turning back to her, his expression became one of determination. He held out his hoof and showed her the object he was holding. A small black box.
It was here that Twilight's eyes widened with shock. She couldn't believe it, but there it was, staring her right in the face. Even a complete novice to relationships could tell what was going to happen now, and the impact of realising that almost left her incapable of breathing. A thousand thoughts and worries and doubts began flooding her mind as she considered what it was that her colt-friend was undoubtedly about to ask of her. And sure enough, Flash opened the box before her, revealing it's contents. A small, golden ring, adorned with a sparkling crystal of some sort. Flash got down on three knees, with his right foreleg still holding out the box and ring within it. Taking a deep breath, he spoke what Twilight now knew he would ask.
"Princess Twilight Sparkle, will you-"
But he did not have the chance to finish, as Twilight's hoof had darted up and gently placed upon his lips, stopping him from speaking. Flash looked up, confused by what had just happened, and saw Twilight's sparkling eyes looking right back at him. She opened her mouth, trying hard to get out what she felt she needed to say. But, like many difficult situations, she found she could not get the words out. Instead, she merely looked at him with a look that was easy to read. One of sadness. Flash didn't need to be a genius to figure out what that meant, and he looked down at the ring he'd offered her, looking utterly crestfallen as he did so.
"You...you don't want to...do you?"
Twilight could not bring herself to look him in the eye. In her mind, she had now hurt him. This stallion had bared his soul for her, offered to share his entire life with her, all because he loved her so much, because she meant so much to him. And she had not accepted what he had offered. There was no doubt in her mind that Flash's feelings for her would be dented from this, something that made her feel a great deal of pain. Glancing at him through the corner of her eye, she saw he was still looking at the ground. She wanted to say something, anything, to soften what had just happened between them.
"I...I'm sorry. It's just...I'm not ready."
It was here that Flash finally looked up at her, paying close attention to everything she was saying.
"I just don't think either of us are ready for this. We're too young. We live so far apart. I don't know if I can go through with something like that."
Flash remained silent, simply listening to every work she spoke. While Twilight had indeed told him the truth about why she didn't want the union he'd offered her, she still felt rotten inside about having refused him like this. That frame of mind brought back many fears she'd thought she'd banished from herself long ago. Thoughts and fears and worries of how strong their bond really was. There had been many times when Twilight had worried that she and Flash might part from each other. And now, in her eyes, she'd created yet another possibility of that, which was something she desperately wanted to avoid.
"Flash...please understand. I still love you. I love you more than-"
But this time, it was Twilight's turn to be interrupted. Like what had happened with him mere moments ago, Flash had raised his hoof and placed it upon her lips gently, stopping her. The two ponies stared into each other's eyes in total silence, oblivious to the rest of the world. Twilight feared what he might say to her, as his expression was hard to read. He seemed to be thinking about things very carefully, which was understandable given what had just happened. In time, he let out a long sigh before speaking to her.
That was, perhaps, the absolute last thing she'd expected to hear from him. Fine? He was fine with this? Flash lowered his hoof from her before speaking again.
"If you say that you're not ready...then I accept that".
To say that Twilight was shocked would have been an understatement, as she looked at him with both concern and confusion in her expression. Seeing this, Flash finally broke a smile, albeit a very small one.
"Twilight, if something like this could lessen how I feel about you, then I would never have been worthy of being with you in the first place. So believe me when I say that I still love you."
In an instant, the young Princess could feel the great weight of this situation lift from her heart. In that one brief moment of doubt, she truly believed that things between her and the one she loved was in jeopardy from her rejection. But he still loved her. Still wanted to be with her. And that knowledge filled her with a relief that was beyond description. She broke into a smile before leaning forward, pressing her forehead against his in an affectionate manner, taking great care not to hit him with her horn as she did so. As the two lovers stayed like this, Twilight heard him speak up.
"If anything...I should apologize to you."
Twilight broke away form him, looking confused at that statement.
"I say I know you. I get it in my head that I understand you fully. And yet, in spite of that, I couldn't see that you weren't ready for this. I put you on the spot and ask a question this massive, something that clearly caused you great distress. I never wanted that for you, and for that, I am truly sorry."
Looking at him, Twilight's expression became a warm one as she moved forward, embracing him in a hug, which he promptly returned. As they held each other, Twilight spoke.
"It's alright. I'm actually happy you asked. To know that you loved me that much that you wanted to make that big of a leap with me...it's more than I can say. It's just not for me. At least, not yet anyway."
As they moved away from one another, they smiled at each other, safe and secure in the knowledge that their relationship, something that had become a precious and integral part of their lives, was in no danger of being damaged from this. Sighing, Twilight looked down and saw that he was still holding the box with the ring inside it. She gave him a look of understanding, which he returned, before placing her hoof on the lid of the box, ready to close it. But before she could, Flash placed his free hoof on top of hers, prompting her to look up at him. His expression was an affectionate one as he spoke.
"Keep it. Even though you and I might not be ready for the union I had planned, I still feel that I need to make some sort of commitment. Some way of saying that, no matter what, I am still yours, and always will be".
Twilight sat there on the bench, looking taken aback by that, before her face became one of happiness. Looking down, it was only now that she really paid attention to the ring he'd offered her. Examining it, she could see now that the crystal it was adorned with was, in fact, the bud of a crystal rose. Understanding crept onto her face as she now knew his reasoning for choosing it. A fully-bloomed crystal rose was the gift he gave her on their first date. It brought many happy memories back for her, causing her smile to grow even wider.
Looking up again, she saw that Flash was now standing tall once more. She joined him, hopping off the bench with the black box still in her hooves. She held it close, displaying great affection and gratitude for the gift she had been given. Although no words were spoken, both knew what was going on in the other's mind. Both had felt a blow from what had happened between them today, but it didn't matter. They knew their feelings for one another were strong enough to endure something like this. If it wasn't, then Flash would never have loved her enough to ask the question in the first place.
Even so, as they looked lovingly into each other's eyes, they knew that this would not, perhaps, be the last time that such a question was asked, something Flash was now willing to speak aloud about.
Thinking it over, at how the two might grow closer as time went on, and what their future might one day hold, Twilight looked back at him and, with no lie in her eyes, smiled and responded.