Eclipse was terrified. He was back in the void, despite his attempts to try and put walls up around his mind. He knew that it was only a matter of time before he had to face the consequences of his decision.
"Clips... What are you doing back in the castle?" Discord sounded more than annoyed, his voice booming through the void. "I told you, you're going to die there if you stay." The most frightening part, however, was how calm he sounded, despite his obvious anger.
"I- I don't believe you, Discord! Celestia and Luna have my trust! You lost that a long time ago!" Eclipse jumped backwards as the area in front of him was replaced with a giant stained glass image of his brother, surrounded in fiery colors of orange and red.
"Oh, Eclipse, what one earth makes you think that you can't trust old Dizzy? The one who protected you all of those years? The one who kept you safe, tried to give you a home?" his voice was dripping with sarcasm, and the image in the stained glass spoke his words. Without warning, the glass shattered, raining huge shards towards Eclipse. Out of desperation, Eclipse snapped his fingers, but nothing happened. A huge orange shard bore down on him, and Eclipse was paralyzed with fear. Just as it was about to strike, however, he heard another finger snap, and they all froze in mid-air. Eclipse opened one eye, having shut both so that he wouldn't see the glass when it sliced into him. When he saw that the onslaught had been stopped, he gently reached up and tapped the glass. The massive shard lost all color, dissolving to gray dust and floating away on the breeze. Behind it, though, was Discord, glaring down at Eclipse with anger that he had usually saved for those who had attacked them when they were moving from place to place.
"YOU are the one who stopped us from having a home! You could have helped me, and we could have made this place into our own home! One just for us!" He floated down to eye level. "But you just couldn't go out on a limb for your own brother, who had risked his neck for you countless times!"
"You wanted to conquer! It wasn't about a home for you, anymore! It was trying your hand against a whole country! You just wanted a challenge! And you bit off more than you could chew!" Eclipse shouted, losing his inhibitions in desperation.
Discord growled and grabbed Eclipse's shoulder, digging his eagle claws in deep. "Eclipse, don't try and blame me for my imprisonment when you hold the keys to my escape!"
Eclipse tried not to show the pain, throwing off Discord's grip. "I'm not the warden! You brought this on yourself by hurting so many others! It's not my responsibilit- gaack!" Eclipse was cut off as Discord's lion paw shot forward and wrapped around his throat.
"And it wasn't MY responsibility to keep you safe all of those years!" Discord snarled. "You owe me, Eclipse! You have a debt, and you can pay it by letting me be free again!"
"The realm of nightmares is not your domain, Discord!" Eclipse's pounding heart felt a thrill of hope at the familiar voice. From out of the darkness, a tall pony with a black coat and shining blue armor strode out. "You had best let him go..."
Discord let go of Eclipse, but only to grip his stomach in laughter. "Ha ha ha! Night- Nightmare Moon? Are you kidding me? Is that supposed to scare me or something? I mean, seriously! Celestia managed to beat you, and I'm ten times more powerful than she is!"
"Would you care to test that? Because we figured out what's happening..." Luna smiled, eliciting another round of chortles from Discord. "You're leeching off of Eclipse to do this. You're barely alive, Discord."
"Making two alicorns more than a match for you!" In a flash of sunlight, Celestia appeared next to Eclipse. "Eclipse never told us what happened to separate the two of you, but I think that we understand now. After fighting for so long, you started to enjoy watching giants fall... And you began to enjoy the fighting."
"After so many years of rejection, you grew angry..." Luna began to slowly walk forward, horn lowered and ready for an attack. "You enjoyed punishing the ones that you saw as being responsible for denying you a home..."
"Which, in our case, seemed to be everyone." Eclipse rasped, rising to his feet. "You thought that we would have to make a home, but there are good and kind creatures in the world, Dizzy."
"And you just made two of them very angry." Celestia mimicked her sister, lowering her horn and slowly advancing towards Discord. "You're not going to be a parasite to Eclipse any more... Eclipse, you should say your goodbyes."
Discord had finally begun to see what was happening, and snapped his fingers to teleport away... But nothing happened.
"I told you, the realm of nightmares isn't your domain. It's mine." Luna's horn began to glow. "You're not in control of this dream anymore..." A ring of dark violet and golden yellow energy formed around Discord, springing from their horns. Discord tried to run, but suffered a violent shock when he met the ring.
"Dizzy... I'm still going to miss you." Eclipse rubbed his neck. "I'm going to miss the big brother that I ran away from home with... The one who thought a peace offering of chocolate could tame a savage swarm... The one who kept me safe because we were family..." Eclipse was beginning to tear up. "I've missed you for a long time..."
"Eclipse! Help me! Don't let them get me again! Help me!" Discord's cries went unheeded as the diameter of the ring grew smaller and smaller. Luna and Celestia both grew closer and closer, until their horns both touched Discord's body. With a final, tortured scream and a flash of light, Discord vanished.
The void of darkness seemed to fade away, revealing a new setting: a sunny day at the entrance to the Royal Labyrinth. Luna had reverted back to her normal form, and the three of them all remained silent for a moment.
"Thank you..." Eclipse finally whispered. "I see now. All Discord was doing was playing off of my fears to try and free himself. He didn't care anymore... I'm sorry that I doubted you... both of you." He dropped to the ground, deciding to sit down, rather than keep standing.
"It wasn't your fault. Discord can sew discontent in even the most stalwart of hearts." Luna smiled, pulling him close in a quick hug.
"He won't be able to reach you again, though. We severed the magic that was tying his mind to yours." Celestia quietly added. "He won't hurt you again..."
"Thank you..." Eclipse's reply was half-hearted. "I guess that he just didn't want to change... No matter what happened."
Celestia didn't bother to ask him what was wrong, she could tell that he was trying to come to terms with the fact that he had lost the last connection that he had to his brother. "Do you want to wake up? Things aren't always the clearest in a dream..."
Eclipse shook his head, raising a glass of chocolate milk to his lips. "I'm good. Thank you for rescuing me when I couldn't run..."
Luna smiled. "It's nothing, Eclipse. We're your best friends, why wouldn't we come to help you?" She sat down next to him, leaning against his shoulder. Celestia did the same, smiling at the fact that Eclipse didn't tense up or become nervous when they did that anymore.
Eclipse downed all of the milk, then drank the glass. "You're right..." For the first time since Discord had appeared, Eclipse smiled. "You girls are my best friends."
"Well, I can assure you, you can rest easy for the rest of the night!" Luna smiled with a yawn. "So, I'm going to head back to my own dreams... Ready to go, Tia? All aboard who's coming aboard, as they say..."
"I think that I might stay, Luna. I rather like it here..." Celestia smiled. "The sun is bright, the sky is clear... I think that I'll stay."
Luna looked a bit confused. "You'll be here until Eclipse decides to wake up, you know. If Eclipse sleeps in, so will you."
"Celestia, you don't have to stay with me, you know. I'll be fine." Eclipse smiled, giving her a friendly pat on the back.
"I know what happens if I stick around without you to pull me out, Luna. Go ahead and leave."
Luna shrugged. "Whatever you say, sis... If you want to run around in his head all night, that's for you to decide." He horn glowed for a moment, and she faded out of existence.
Eclipse looked down at Celestia with a bit of confusion. "So, we're here... in my head?"
Celestia nodded. "I thought that it couldn't get much more private than this..." She rose to her hooves, stretching her legs.
"Private? Why would you want things to be private?" Eclipse raised an eyebrow, choosing to stay seated.
"Well, I wanted to talk to you about what happened today..." Celestia turned towards the maze and motioned for him to follow.
"What about it? You and Luna saved me... Twice." Eclipse stood up and caught up with Celestia. "Once from myself and twice from Discord."
"Yes... But the fact that you went missing without warning really made me think about a few things. About what's important..." Celestia looked up at Eclipse with a smile. It was easy for her to forget how out of the two of them, Eclipse was actually the elder. Being here, though, in a representation of his mind, she could feel his age as a wrinkled edge in the air, like she felt in the library.
"Celestia, I don't really see where you're going with this..."
"Eclipse, there are very few alicorns left... And there's only one draconequus. The loss of any one of us is a great loss for the world... I really think that together, we might be able to save the world from that loss." Celestia was having trouble putting her thoughts into words.
"So, we're going to stick together! Watch out for each other, like friends do!"
"Like family does... We can be a family, Eclipse. You, me, Luna, even Cadence and Shining Armor!" She let out a long sigh. "I guess that what I mean is, you don't have to feel like some kind of guest in our home because it's your home, too. When we realized that you had disappeared, it felt more like you had run away from home, not checked out of a hotel!" Celestia had to assemble every sentence ahead of time, words simply refused to come easily.
"Thank you, Celestia. You don't know how much it means to me to have a home..." Eclipse smiled and put his arm around Celestia's shoulders in a quick hug. "I promise, I only ran away because of Discord. I know that this is my home now."
Celestia still felt like she hadn't said what truly needed to be said. "Eclipse, that's not the point that I'm trying to get across... I mean..." She stopped walking for a moment to think. "Seeing you and Luna playing together, seeing how much you two are alike... It warms my heart." She resumed her walking, finally feeling as if she had gotten onto the train of thought that she wanted. "It shows me even more the similarity between our two pairs of siblings... And I think that I'm beginning to feel a bit like Discord did about you." Celestia had hit her stride now, but judging by the blank look on his face, Eclipse wasn't getting the point. "When we found out that Discord was responsible for your vanishing act, I nearly lost control of myself. I was just so angry that somebody had threatened you and was trying to pull us apart..."
"Well, he wanted me to free him, it wasn't really an attack towards you..." Eclipse muttered. "It was all selfishness, not vengeance."
"Still, it felt like he was trying to rip you away from me!" Celestia shouted, stomping her hoof. "If Luna hadn't been there to help me find you, it would have felt like 'Nightmare Moon' all over again for me..." Celestia's pace slowed as she looked down at the ground, beginning to struggle for the right words again. "I know that out of the two of us, Luna's been more social with you, Eclipse, but I don't want you to think that I don't care, okay? I want to try to spend more time with you, even if I am busy, so that you won't think that Luna's the only one who cares. I care a lot..." Celestia tried hard to keep her voice from dropping much farther down in volume, but she suddenly felt very embarrassed.
Eclipse smiled and walked in front of Celestia, cutting her off. He dropped to his knees so that he could look her in the eyes at her eye level. "I think that I get it. You don't want me to think that just because we won't be having our 'secret meetings' in the labyrinth, you don't care anymore." He smiled and winked at her as he stood up again. "Tell me, I was asleep for two days after the incident with the zap apples, correct?" Eclipse reached into his pocket and pulled out a zap apple. He seemed to ponder it for a moment, then took a large bite before Celestia could stop him. "HA! It can't hurt me in a dream!"
Celestia thought about bringing up the point of what would have happened if it could hurt him, but quickly decided that it wasn't worth fighting over. "Well, you woke up near the end of the second day, yes..."
"And you were there." Eclipse smiled. "That didn't go unnoticed, Celestia. How long had you been there?"
Celestia began to turn a little red. "Well... Luna would have been there too, but there were things to take care of... important business!"
"But, you took the time to be there... for how long?" Eclipse had already guessed at the answer.
"Well, almost the whole time... I would leave to go eat with Luna, and raise the sun in the morning-"
"But you spent the rest of your time there, in the dark, watching to make sure that I was okay." Eclipse gave Celestia another one-armed hug from the side. "I can see that you care, Celestia. No one has done that for me before except Discord..." He smiled wider as he began walking again, this time taking the lead. "You were the one who began the pestering to get me to come to dinner with you, and you were the one who convinced me to stay in the castle. Luna and I get along really well, Celestia, but I know that you and I have a deeper understanding of one another. There couldn't be another pony who cares and understands me the way you do. Maybe because it's because I'm like Luna or because you're like Dizzy, I don't know. All I know is that the connection is there."
Celestia felt much better now. She felt like she had finally gotten the confession off of her chest, and Eclipse's understanding of the true nature of the situation only helped. "Thank you, Eclipse. You really put that better than I could..."
"As for trying to spend more time with me... I wonder if we could find something that we could do together, like how Luna and I play video games!"
"Well, video games are how Luna relaxes..." Celestia thought out loud. "But they're also her hobby. She collects some, obsessively plays others... She even holds a few Equestrian records." Celestia couldn't help but roll her eyes. "I don't usually get as much free time as her... That's another reason that I wanted to talk to you here, nopony will interrupt us while we're asleep."
Eclipse put his mind to the task. "Well, maybe I could come with you when you're being so busy? I could probably help!"
Celestia frowned. "I don't know... You would probably just be bored, what I do isn't very exciting, just politics. Maybe after I've finished my work tomorrow, we could find some time?"
"Oh, what's the worst that could happen?" Eclipse laughed, jumping up and sitting on Celestia's back. "If I get bored, I can entertain myself! At least we'll be hanging out together!"
Celestia rolled her eyes and bucked him off, sending him over the wall. "I hope that you can entertain yourself pretty well, then!"
Eclipse laughed as he climbed back through the bushes. "Okay, note to self: don't sit on Celestia."
The two of them laughed together for a moment, and the sun seemed to shine a little brighter. "Well, still, it would be nice to just have times like this, without work to be done or ponies to talk to..."
"You're the ruler of all of Equestria! Can't you just appoint somepony to take care of a few things so that you don't have to?"
Celestia couldn't help but chuckle. For all of his experiences... He has no idea about politics. "It's not that simple. I'll tell you what: You can follow me tomorrow, come to all of my meetings with me, and see exactly what it is that I do here. You'll be my shadow for the day!" As soon as the words had passed her lips, Celestia realized exactly what she had said...
"I really hate figures of speech..." A voice came from the wall behind her, and she turned around to see Eclipse's shadow... being cast by her body! She looked back at where Eclipse had been standing, and sure enough, he was gone.
"Whoops. Sorry." Celestia couldn't help but giggle at Eclipse's situation. "I forgot about that..."
"Well, at least it wasn't in the dark..." Colors began seeping into the dark form, and Eclipse was soon restored to his former, three-dimensional glory. "Who knows what would have happened then?"
The two began laughing again, and the night carried on very much like a dream. Which, of course, it was.
[Okay. Fine. The PRANK chapter will come later. So far, only 1 private message has been received, and thus, only one idea has been pitched to me. Maybe Chapter 25, if this story even makes it that far. I have a feeling that we're reaching the end. I'm going to resume work on my other fanfic, "My Little Ponybots", so updates here may start come less often.
Seriously, though. If no one PM's me with ideas for the non-related, funny, joke chapter, then there may not be one. I'll assume that no one wants it. (Except, of course, for Neon Fracture, who was kind enough to PM me with a VERY good idea.)]