Reader of stars, teller of tales. Secretly a bat, or something.
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Twilight scanned Canterlot from the library balcony. It always amazed her how quickly the city could cope with one catastrophe or another. The castle expected a clean-up after the royal wedding, certainly, but there were at least twice as many craters as were expected to be pocking the streets.
As tired as she was, Twilight couldn't rest. No one could, really, and it gave Pinkie an excuse to rage the reception until the coming dawn. The distant thump of music still echoed from the walls of the city like a soothing, if bass-heavy, lullaby.
She sighed into the stillness. Canterlot was safe. Shining Armor and Cadence were on their honeymoon, and after all that had transpired, all of the wedding guests were welcomed to stay in the castle to recuperate. All of it kept playing through her head, frame by frame. The moment she thought she'd lost everything. The moment she was banished to the labyrinthine caverns beneath Canterlot. She could still feel the chill of magic evaporating like a death sentence, and only by sheer luck did she rescue her dear friend and former caretaker. It could have gone so much worse, so easily, and she knew it. She couldn't help imagining...
She jerked her head up, and then looked away immediately to wipe the wetness from her eyes. “Sorry, Princess Celestia. I wasn't expecting anyone.”
Celestia took up most of the glass doorway as she peeked herself out from the darkened stacks of the library. “May I join you?”
Twilight bobbed her head automatically, dusting the stressful thoughts beneath her mental rug. “Of course.”
The princess lifted another purple cushion and folded her legs upon it, laying down next to her student. They watched the night-life of Canterlot continue for some time, lamplight flickering in the streets, the distant din of musics mixing into one thrumming harmony. It seemed almost everypony was awake that night.
Twilight lifted her head and looked at her mentor. Although there were no visible injuries on her, she still looked tired and ragged after her fight with the changeling queen. She opened her mouth, and then closed it again. Celestia looked at her and shook her head, and made a point to smile.
“It seems like every time I turn around, you and your friends are saving Equestria,” Celestia laughed. “I'm not sure even I could keep up with you anymore.”
Twilight flustered. “It's nothing. Besides, if we had a tiny bit of the responsibilities you do, I'm pretty sure the country would fall apart in a week.”
Celestia laughed, and Twilight thought that it sounded more natural, more tired than she'd heard before. A volley of star-like bulbs struck the sky and exploded into light, the fireworks canting streams of purple and silver across the night, muting with the crackle of flame. The wind rolled past, blanketing the balcony with cold.
Twilight huddled up a bit, basking in the warmth she found nearby, and blushed when she realized what it was. Celestia's body heat was so pronounced, like the glow of the sun itself; it comforted Twilight to rest so close to her.
“Princess Luna is taking care of things right now?” Twilight ventured.
Celestia smiled. “Mm, yes. I don't see her as often as I'd like. She assures me she wishes to be more involved in Equestria's well-being, but I can't help but feel like I'm pushing my responsibilities off on her.”
Twilight's eyes widened a bit, and Celestia did not notice, for she was staring intently at the distant towers. She'd never confessed any sort of doubt before. Twilight knew she had to say something to put her mind at ease.
“She really does love everypony, and everypony loves her. I think that's why she wants to stay involved, even if it means giving up her freedom.” She swallowed, hestitated. There were some things she never should say, but she couldn't help herself. “It's the same with you, right Princess?”
The princess' gaze snapped back to Twilight, surprised. “Of course,” she stammered. “Equestria is my heart. I'm always grateful to have the power to keep her safe and well...”
Twilight tilted her head, but didn't press any further. Then before the moment could grow thicker, the princess nudged her with a gold-shoed hoof. “You know, I'm sure your parents are wondering, too. What with your brother getting married and all... when do you think it'll be your turn?”
“Whuh?” Twilight sputtered, much to Celestia's amusement. “Married? I don't even...” She took a couple deep breaths and rapped her hooves on her head, frantically trying to compose herself. “I don't know. I'm so wrapped up in my studies, and with my friends, I hadn't really thought about it,” she said.
“Though... once I got my brother's invitation, I tried to imagine it. I just can't. Some magical somepony sweeping into my life and connecting this to that and next thing you know we're walking down the aisle...” Twilight shook her head. “I don't know.”
Princess Celestia replied, gentle and certain. “If you want it, I'm sure it will be there for you, someday. You're very special, Twilight.”
The unicorn's cheeks burned. “Princess...”
“In fact, I wouldn't be surprised if there was somepony close to you who had special feelings.” Celestia giggled, as if imagining it.
“You should do what makes you happy,” concluded Celestia, brushing a wing over her student. Twilight couldn't help but urge into her regal feathers just a bit.
Another question bubbled up in Twilight's mind. Curiosity and embarrassment made a strange alchemy, and she leaned back a bit. “What about you?” she asked. “You've been around for so long... has there ever been any special somepony for you?”
A beat of fireworks and song interrupted the conversation and when it ceased, Celestia was still staring at the distant stars. Twilight wondered if she'd overstepped her bounds and began to coil away from the princess. Before she could shy too much, Celestia spoke up again.
“I find that in the worst of times, it's thoughts of love that keep me going beyond all odds. For my people, for my family... and maybe there was a time when I loved more freely. It seems so distant now.” She shut her eyes and bowed her head to the cushions, ears laid back. “If I did, it would not be fair. All eyes in the country would be upon them, and if we had a proper marriage? They would be buried under the position...”
Twilight snickered and wished she hadn't. Celestia raised an eyebrow. “Did I say something funny?”
The unicorn turned beet red, a marvelous shade caught in the purple of her ears and cheeks. She shook out another giggle. “No,” she said. “Yes, sorry, I... you just made it sound... 'under the position...' I'm really, really sorry.”
Princess Celestia held her stern, schoolmarm expression for as long as she could before she burst out with laughter. They laughed long and hard together before finally catching their breath.
“Goodness,” said Celestia. “I had no idea that my star pupil had become such a pervert. Perhaps I should be paying more attention to whom you make friends with...”
“Well,” said Twilight, winking, “were it not for you, I never would have come to learn all the fine details of innuendo. Still,” she continued, “I really am sorry. It's not fair that you can't openly be with somepony.”
The princess put on one of her brave smiles and exhaled. “Oh, Twilight... If you truly care about somepony...” she bit her lip and tapped both hooves against her cushion politely. “If you love somepony, they will always be with you, no matter what happens.”
Twilight smiled, too, and nodded. She took it to heart. And yet, the openness and honestly brought all of her doubts back to the surface. The sadness still itched at her brain, and with her walls coming down she could do little to stop it. She pushed herself up and rubbed her face alongside Celestia's neck.
“Oh, Princess... I'm so very sorry.”
The princess' white wings stood up a bit in surprise. “Why? You've done nothing wrong.”
“Oh, but I did...” she dug her hooves together tight. “At the wedding. I was so jealous, and angry, and no one was listening... I didn't hurt you or Cadence or anyone but I could have. I almost ruined everything and...”
A calm came over her as Celestia lowered her head and tucked it against Twilight's nape. One of her wings came over and she wrapped the filly against her side. Never before had she felt quite so warm, so protected, and the princess gave her a little nuzzle.
“I'm sorry, too,” she whispered. “You saved us and I pushed you away. Even if I meant it, even if you were wrong, I should have been able to guide you.”
“You did nothing wrong...” Twilight muttered, squeezing her eyes tighter. “I was the one who...”
Celestia continued to coax her with little nuzzles and brushes of her wing. “Shh. Twilight.” She slowly leaned back, and lifted her wing, and Twilight looked a little sad for her embrace to lighten but the two lay there together. When she'd finally relaxed, Celestia folded her wings back as if nothing had ever gone wrong.
“Twilight Sparkle, I want you to know that if you ever need anything, if you ever have any trouble or doubt, no matter what it is, no matter who it involves or how dire the time, you will always be able to confide in me. If ever you wish for me to listen, I shall.”
“Princess Celestia, I...”
“You've proved yourself time and time again,” she said, “and perhaps if you had had the opportunity to...” she shook her head. “We can't change what happened, but in a way, it brought everypony closer. That's all thanks to you.”
Twilight could only bring herself to say, “thank you.”
The two of them sat together and began to genuinely enjoy looking over the bustle of the night. Celebration in Canterlot was not rare, but the occasion of the wedding and the relief of their victory over the changelings meant that there would be no rival to the ensuing festivities for quite some time.
Twilight giggled and tapped her hooves together. “So, Princess...”
“Since Cadence is your niece... and she married my brother... does that mean I can call you Auntie Tia from now on?”
Princess Celestia laughed and rolled her eyes. “Twilight, that makes me sound so old!”
“You're not that old,” Twilight mused, letting the idea slip. “Still, I guess we're family now.”
“Oh, Twilight,” said Celestia, leaning down to nuzzle her protege again, “I'd like to think that we were always like family.”
The unicorn managed a giddy, “yeah,” before falling into giggles. The two of them settled in. Twilight knew she needed rest, and the princess moreso, but she couldn't help up but soak up the moment. Celestia, she knew, would leave when she was good and ready. And though they'd have much to talk about, much to think about, it felt good just to let everything go and spend a few cherished moments together in the wake of all the madness. And though she knew that the Princess would have to return to her duties, and she would have to return to Ponyville, they would only ever be as far apart as their hearts would allow.