The next morning, Celestia and Luna were waiting when Eclipse came out of the hospital. The moment he walked through the doors, Luna nearly crushed him in another hug. After being gently reminded of the fact that he was still sore by her sister, Luna let go.
"Sorry, Eclipse." Despite her mistake, Luna didn't stop smiling. "It's great that you're finally better!"
"For the most part. The doctor says I still need to lay off of using my chaos powers, since most of them are going straight to repairing the damage..." He shrugged. "I feel fine, but somepony told me to cooperate more, so I will." He rolled his eyes and smiled at the two sisters. "So, I want to get some fresh air. Celestia, I believe you invited me for a walk in the labyrinth?"
"Yes, I did. We can go after breakfast." Celestia smiled, happy that Eclipse seemed to be better emotionally, as well. She turned around and motioned for Eclipse and Luna to follow. Eclipse sighed and followed them on their way the dining hall without complaint. Whenever a servant or some kind of worker came anywhere near the trio, though, he would do his best to hide, sometimes jumping into a nearby closet, other times holding a pose and looking like stone. Celestia thought that the time he spent posing as a statue was particularly ironic, but chose to hold her tongue. When they arrived, the table was once again set, and everything had been inspected for even the slightest hint of Zap Apples.
"Are there any other foods that we should know that you have bad reactions to, Eclipse?" Luna asked as she sat down and began munching on a cinnamon roll.
"Not that I know of..." Eclipse picked up a cinnamon roll, as well, plucking it apart. "Zap apples are really the worst..."
"What are you planning on doing in the labyrinth?" Luna turned to her sister, eager for answers.
"Hopefully, just have some quiet time. Life has gotten very... chaotic as of late." Celestia winked at Eclipse. "I think that some quiet time on a walk through the labyrinth and a little fresh air will be just what Eclipse needs to top off his stay at the hospital."
"Can I come?"
"Sorry, Luna, but I wanted to talk to Eclipse about a few things in private... A few lingering questions." She turned to her stack of pancakes, drizzling a large amount of syrup on top.
"Fine... But no going on with the story without me!" Luna ordered as she finished off her first cinnamon roll and picked up another.
"Wouldn't dream of it, Luna." Eclipse muttered as he helped himself to a pancake. For the most part, he only ate what he was already familiar with or what the Princesses were eating. He didn't eat much. At least, not as much as the Princesses. His stomach still hurt, and he didn't want to push it. He finished eating first, followed by Celestia, who rose from her chair when she was finished.
"Luna, we're going to head out now, do you mind watching things while we're gone?"
"Watch what? The muffins?" Luna laughed. "I've got things covered, Tia."
With a nod, Celestia's horn began to glow, and she and Eclipse disappeared. When they reappeared, they were inside the entrance to the labyrinth and Eclipse was gripping his head.
"Ugh... Next time, give me a warning, Celestia. I wasn't expecting that..." When he looked back up, Celestia was already disappearing across the first corner. "Hey, wait for me!" He ran to catch up with her, and they were soon walking abreast again. "So, you have some questions for me?"
"Well, yes..." Celestia seemed distracted, switching back and forth between staring at the ground and up at the sun. "But I also have a few things I just wanted to talk to you about." She swung to the right without warning, taking a new path.
"Those are the questions, right?" Eclipse matched her pace.
"Not all of them. Like one thing I've noticed is that you and Luna seem to get along really well..." Celestia didn't look at Eclipse, she just kept looking back at the ground, then back at the sky.
"Well, we just both understand each other a bit better, both being younger siblings and all. It's not much more than that." Eclipse chuckled a little nervously. "I'm not used to venturing out in the light of day, either. Maybe there's some kind of symbolism there, but I like to think that I get along with you, too, Celestia."
"Yes... Yes, we get along. You're right, though. You definitely share more with Luna than with me." She took another random turn, this time nearly bumping into Eclipse. "Eclipse, I see a lot of similarities between the relationship you had with Discord and the relationship that I have with Luna. When Luna and I overcame Discord for the first time, we thought that nothing could ever separate us, just like how it seems that not even your own parents could split you can Discord apart. For 300 years, we were right..."
Eclipse began to see the path that Celestia was taking. "And then came Nightmare Moon. Luna became lonely, and she blamed the ponies who slept through the night for it... Her anger got mixed in with her loneliness, and she became a threat to Equestria and the ponies you had sworn to protect." He placed a hand on Celestia's shoulder.
"I don't know what happened between you and Discord that could have split you apart so easily... But you had to go through the same thing... Losing the one closest to you, seemingly forever." Celestia's eyes had finally settled on the ground, now, and tears were beginning to fall. "Discord was locked away in stone. Unable to talk, to touch, to comfort..."
"And Luna was imprisoned in the moon. So very, very far away..." Eclipse wasn't sure why Celestia had suddenly brought this up, but he didn't stop her. Each one was recounting the other's painful tale.
"In the end, Luna came back to me." Celestia sniffled softly and tried to stand up straight again, her eyes red and wet. "I thought that it was a miracle that the Elements of Harmony had freed her from Nightmare Moon... But Discord doesn't look like he's coming back. I'm afraid to even imagine what that must be like for you..."
"That's why I go to visit his statue." Eclipse whispered, resting his arm around Celestia's shoulders. "Sometimes, I talk to him. I don't know if he can hear me, but I try to help him understand that he can live if he lives in peace, rather than conquest." He shook his head. "I doubt that even if he did hear me, he would listen. Other times... I sing. I sing about how lonely I am, I sing about what I miss and what Discord became. That's how I live with myself after abandoning him..."
Celestia didn't even try to ask Eclipse about his choice of words. "I could hardly live with myself for the past thousand years... Every night, I was forced to think of Luna when I raised the moon. It tore me apart inside..."
"Both times, it wasn't our fault, but our greater responsibility to go against them..." They both sat down, taking positions against opposite walls and either staring at each other, or into their own laps..
"You fought Discord?" Celestia asked quietly.
"Well, more like refused to help him... It was only a fight of words." Eclipse let out a long sigh.
"Those are still battles, and sometimes the most brutal..."
"Yes, well... I can't say much, it's part of the story..." Eclipse chuckled. "Unless you want to go get Luna..."
Celestia shook her head. "This started as me just wanting to point out the fact that we're two different endings to the same story..."
"You're right... You were the happy ending, and mine was the sad one..." Eclipse spoke as if he was taking things in stride now, but he was blinking back his tears and struggling to keep his voice from cracking.
"Right. I just don't think that the sad ending for you and Discord..." Celestia did her best to pull herself together as she made the point that she had been trying to lead up to. "should be your sad ending, Eclipse. Deep down, I think that the reason that Luna and I are trying so hard to help you... is because we want you to have a part of the happy ending..." She pulled together a smile. "So finish your story with us, Eclipse, and maybe think about leaving what happened to end 'you and Discord' in the past, and move on to finding a happy ending for yourself..."
Eclipse was a bit surprised. He had never thought that what he was doing: living in the Everfree forest, avoiding almost all outside contact, was simply extended mourning for his brother. He had convinced himself that it was simply his life, and that he was going to live it as long as he could. His mind spun around like a puppy chasing its own tail as he tried to see what else he had been doing that could be interpreted as still mourning Discord...
"Eclipse." Celestia's voice pulled him back into glaring focus. "What is it that YOU want?" The question was genuine, and once again blindsided the draconequus. Celestia gave him time to ponder, not entirely expecting an answer. "Just think about that for a while, friend..."
"I... I want my brother back!" He choked as silent tears began to stream down his face. "I want my family! I want a home! Okay? You can't give me those things, Celestia!" His voice choked up as the dam of emotion finally broke, and he laid his head in his arms.
Celestia walked across the path, sitting down next to Eclipse and spreading one of her wings over his shoulders. "Maybe I can't give you back the Discord you once knew, maybe I can't bring back your parents or your brother, but Luna and I can give you a home. You just have to accept that ponies will be a part of it. No more hiding..." She was a bit surprised when Eclipse leaned up against her, but it made sense. Nopony ever wants to cry alone...
After a few minutes, Eclipse's crying stopped. He apologized for losing control of himself, and Celestia waved it away.
"We came out here to be where no one would see us cry, there's no shame in doing so!" She helped lift him to his feet again. "That's the main reason I wanted to talk to you out here, Eclipse, to put my offer of a place to call 'home' in its true light. To show you that Luna and I will always be ready to accept you... Like family."
Eclipse couldn't help but smile. "Thank you... Celestia. But be careful, I might just take you up on that offer!"
The threat just made Celestia laugh. "I'll be counting on it! You know, there are a few other, less emotional, questions that have been bothering me..."
"Go ahead, fire away." Eclipse was shocked to see a gun appear in front of his face, cocked and loaded. "NONONONO!" He snapped his fingers, and it disappeared. "Looks like my powers are coming back. Better watch my tongue..." On cue, his tongue floated out of his mouth and hovered in front of his eyes. He grabbed it, stuffed it back into his mouth. "Well, at least the cat didn't have it... I hate the taste of hairballs!"
Celestia raised an eyebrow. "For one thing, what is up with you and figures of speech? I never saw Discord have a problem with them..."
Eclipse nodded. "Discord and I complimented each other well, but that doesn't mean we're exactly the same. Over time, we saw the differences, and came up with a theory. Discord was the embodiment of sheer chaos, and his powers affected everything around him... I'm more so the personification of the expression, 'organized chaos.' My powers and their behavior are influenced by what are around them, like figures of speech."
"So, if you were looking sad, and I asked you, 'Why the long face?'" Celestia couldn't help but laugh as Eclipse's jaw fell all the way to the ground. He reached down and lifted it back up again, putting it back in place.
"I can't believe you just did that!" Eclipse chuckled. "As long as you don't say, 'What's eating you?'" This time, the fulfillment wasn't as comical, with a manticore jumping out of the bushes and flying straight towards Eclipse. Calmly, he snapped his fingers and it disappeared. "That's one of my less-than-favorite ones, but easily disposed of. It's a piece of cake!" A plate of chocolate cake appeared in his hand, and he began to eat, offering her an extra fork. To his surprise, not only did she take the fork, but most of the cake! "Got a bit of a sweet tooth, Celestia?"
Celestia took a moment to chew and swallow before answering. "Luna says I have a whole mouth full of them..." She laughed sheepishly.
Eclipse grinned. "Maybe you should have been the one trying to drink up all of the chocolate milk, and Luna should have tried to distract Twilight!"
"Ha! Well, that reminds me, what was up with that? Why did you make that cloud when you were trying to hide?" Celestia couldn't help but laugh as she pictured the scene from the previous day with her and her sister swapped.
"Well, if I get scared, I tend to start losing control of my powers... It's kind of like how some ponies might wet their pants when they get too scared..." He laughed. "Except I do it a lot more often!"
Celestia laughed even more. It felt good to laugh after the two of them had been so serious. In fact, there have been a few things that we've been doing lately since Eclipse came here that have been a lot better... Like private dinners, Luna and I spending more time together (albeit in the hospital), and taking time off...
"So, are we heading back to the castle?" Eclipse asked. "Or do you have any other questions?"
Celestia shook her head. "Your explanation about the whole 'organized chaos' thing covered a lot of it... And the rest ought to be covered in the rest of your story."
"Then, will we go back? You can show me where you want me to stay for the next few days..." He smiled and winked. "And maybe a bit longer..."
"Well, okay..." She smiled and her horn began to glow. "We're going to telepo-" She was cut off as they both vanished again.