Ships That Pass in the Night and The Three Notes are two short, related pieces on fan fiction by Ebon Mane. They can be read in any order and independently of each other, but the former takes place first chronologically and was also published a few days earlier. Both stories are preceded by an author's note warning readers that they deal with romance, though they arguably don't meet the definition of a typical "shipping fic" due to the outcome they have.
Ships That Pass in the Night
|Ships That Pass in the Night|
|Date published||March 1, 2011|
|Related to||The Three Notes (sequel)|
The story's title references the idiom of two ships passing at night (as well as to the concept of shipping itself); in the context of the story, the two "ships" who pass each other "once" but can't rekindle their connection are Twilight Sparkle and Big Macintosh, both in love with each other, but too timid to tell their prospective partner. Structurally, the story consists of two brief vignettes, the first told from Twilight's perspective, the second from Big Mac's.
For months, the Earth stallion regularly enters the library late in the evening, intent on confessing his love to Twilight. But he never finds the courage, leaving merely with a random book so he has an excuse to come back again. Twilight, too, would like to express her affections for him, but is unsure the feelings are mutual. So instead of asking Big Mac directly, she takes to leaving notes inside the books he checks out every few days. When he never replies, she believes Big Mac's silence is letting her know that he's not interested, but doesn't want to hurt her feelings by telling her so directly. In truth, the Apple pony never so much as pops open one of the books, returning them unread. He never notices any of the short letters.
The Three Notes
|The Three Notes|
cover image on Equestria Daily and other sites
|Date published||March 4, 2011|
|Related to||Ships That Pass in the Night (prequel)|
Like its prequel, this story is structured into a number of distinct segments, each focusing on a different character or set of characters: the Cutie Mark Crusaders, Ponyville's Mayor Mare, and Twilight. All three "chapters" deal to some degree with the loneliness of their protagonists and with a deal of remorse for paths not taken in the past.
The first segment focuses on a day deep into the Cutie Mark Crusaders' senior year of school. They have all long received their cutie marks, and drifted apart as a consequence. The story reunites them only briefly, having been assigned the same book to read for their thesis papers. Flipping through the book, they notice a brief love letter, addressed to an unnamed "special costumer" by an also unnamed pony. After talking it over - Scootaloo thinks the whole thing is lame, Sweetie Belle has the romantic notion that maybe the note will still be found by the person it is directed at, and Apple Bloom pities the writer - they put the note back into the book.
The second segment takes place some time thereafter, on the night of Mayor Mare's only electoral defeat. Her opponent: Twilight Sparkle. Losing to the unicorn is not unexpected to the (now former) Mayor and she is not particularly upset, just uncertain what the future now holds for her. She decides to finally crack open a book she had borrowed from the library, a biography about a famous Fillydelphia mayor. She finds a note, this one clearly written by Twilight and addressed to Big Macintosh. The Mayor briefly wonders what she would have done with that piece of information had she come upon it before the election, but dismisses the thought; Big Macintosh seemed happy with Fluttershy, and in any case she would not have wanted to win an election that way. Unlike Big Mac, the Mayor recalls, Twilight never did settle down, and that reminds the Mayor of herself and her own lack of time for romance. She places the note back into the back and decides to move away from Ponyville and to a larger city, where she hopes to at long last find love after all.
Many years later, most of the characters from the show are dead, and of the Elements of Harmony, only Twilight remains. She is now very old and has long retired from politics, but she has returned to the library to take care of it as long as she can. When this last segment sets in, the library is being visited by a school class on a field trip. They eventually leave, but later that day, one of the fillies returns, intending to check out a book on introductory magic. She remembers what it looks like because she noticed a scrap of paper folded between two of the pages. That piece of paper is the final note Twilight wrote to Big Macintosh, just seven words long. Twilight lets the filly borrow the book, but tells her to leave the note in; it may prove useful to another reader. It is the only note whose contents are quoted in their entirety: "I love you. Please don't ignore me."
The cover image for "The Three Notes" used on Equestria Daily, FIMFiction and this page is a piece of art commissioned to accompany the story, depicted an aged Twilight the way she is described by Ebon Mane. The author's deviantArt page also links to an authorized alternate story by Time-Diver called "Communication", which takes the place of "The Three Notes" and gives the story more of a conventional happy ending. On the evening of Twilight writing her final note, Sweetie Belle happens to stay over at Sweet Apple Acres. She finds the book, thumbs through it, and happens upon the note. She shows it to Applejack, who in turn shows it to her brother, causing him to run over to the library and finally speak openly about his love for Twilight. It uses a similar structure as "The Three Notes", but is stylistically different, utilizing an omniscient narrator instead of a limited one.