Time in the little cave moved on. While Cadence’s sleep was brought on by exhaustion, Kingsley’s was more natural. Once Coffee Talk woke up after a few minutes, the mare and Prince Regent spent their awake time in contemplation of their current situation and their own, unique parts in the lives of their two formerly possessed ponies companions.
The brown mare tried looking over at the far side of the cave only twice. Shining Armor had extinguished his horn light once his wife had fallen asleep, so the weak glimmer of sunlight filtering in from tiny cracks in the cave ceiling high above them provided only barely enough light to see their outlines and no facial expressions. Bored, Coffee turned instead to look at the charcoal grey stallion laying next to her.
You sleep so much better these days, Kingsley, she thought, smiling. I dunno, but I think I’d never forgive myself if I’dve killed the Crystal Princess, her head shook slowly. But then she smiled wider, grunting quietly to herself. Then again, you did pay the price for her death by dying yourself - twice.
Memories have a funny way of turning a pony’s emotions from one extreme to another, however, and her smiled faded as the remembrance of seeing Kingsley’s/King Sombra’s body bathed in brilliant, iridescent blue light, then being torn apart from the inside out caught in her throat.
It had been horrible to watch - made worse by the glimmer of the old unicorn’s personality peeking through long enough to wink at Coffee in reassurance that this was absolutely the right and only thing that could be done to permanently banish the Uber for good, for forever. It was the only thing that had given her the strength at the time to close her eyes and throw the crystal heart above their heads, allowing it to do what had to be done.
Coffee shuddered involuntarily, remembering the terrible sound of Sombra’s metal crown hitting the crystal floor, echoing loudly, sending a shock at the time (and now) through her system, forcing her back to the reality she had just murdered her friend. What had been worse? Seeing that empty crown fall back to earth or finding his cracked, corrupted horn perched atop a pile of the ashes of his remains? Knowing it had to be done hadn’t stopped the sharp, painful stab of emptiness that had gripped her heart. Why had it had to end this way? Why hadn’t -
The mare jumped at the voice so close. The voice of a pony who she had just seen blown to bits in a memory that would not let her go.
The Earth Pony opened her eyes, finding them wet with tears blurring her vision. Oh Kingsley! she thought, throwing her hooves around his withers, squeezing her eyes shut to blink away the tears.
“What’s the matter?” Kingsley asked her, reciprocating the hug, his voice echoing eerily in the high-vaulted chamber.
His limbs were cold in that damp, darkish cave and their lack of warmth made her shudder.
She thought back to the emotional state she had drifted into...the pain of losing him, holding his shattered, broken horn to her chest, tears flowing uncontrollably from her eyes while all around her ponies were celebrating his destruction. “I - “ she began to tell him. “It - I...can’t...lose you again!”
She’d wished he’d cast a lighting spell. It was so dark she couldn’t see him. And as she opened her mouth to ask him, a weak, greenish light began to glow from his horn.
But the green was all wrong. Instead of its usual, darkish color, it was bright, pulsing with more power than the simple stallion Kingsley had ever displayed, glowing a sickly neon green...
“Why Coffee Talk,” Kingsley purred, his sharp, curved red horn coming into view below the light, sharp, white canines lining a cruel mouth below glowing, hot green eyes. “I didn’t know you cared!”
Coffee screamed, trying to shove him away, but his limbs turned into coils of black shadows as they wrapped tightly around her forelegs, her barrel, her throat.
“Coffee? Coffee Talk! SNAP OUT OF IT!”
The earth pony woke up sobbing, a scream choking her voice, robbing it of clarity and breath. Gasping, she only processed that it was a grey unicorn holding her and, still crying, tried desperately to get out of his grip.
Kingsley lit his horn and this time, outside of her nightmares it was a safe, darker shade of green. His matching green eyes were caring and concerned, no longer the cruel stuff of her nightmares. Once the simple grey unicorn’s features registered in her panicked brain, she dissolved into more tears and into his hooves. When she stopped fighting him, he drew her into a warm, comforting embrace, gently patting her back. “Whoa, hey,” he whispered in a perfectly normal, Kingsley-like voice. “That must have been some awful dream!”
Her trembling dissolved almost immediately. The emotional roller-coaster ride wasn’t through with her and she shoved him back, her earth pony strength landing him squarely back on his plot. “It was - and it was your fault, you big dumb jerk!”
Looking hurt, he sat there, stunned for a moment. “What’d I do?” he half-complained, half-whined. “I was only trying to help!”
The mare sniffed, shaking her head to clear the tears out of her eyes. “Help? HELP?!?” she wanted to yell, fighting to keep her voice low and level as not to cause a scene. “You killed yourself, you stupid horse! You left me in a room full of possessed ponies, a useless Prince and a frickin’ uber-possessed alicorn who would have killed all of us if that stupid plan of yours had failed!”
“But it didn’t fail!” he shot semi-quietly back. “I knew it would work.”
“And you couldn’t warn me?” Coffee argued back in return, knowing of course he couldn’t have. To warn her would have meant warning the demon inside him and that would have doomed them all. But she couldn’t help it, she couldn’t make her head tell her heart that it wouldn’t have been strategically sound to do that.
Kingsley patiently waited out his friend’s tirade. Somehow his big, stupid, understanding face reflected sympathy and compassion, those sad green eyes only making her madder. How could she stay mad at those eyes?
It was easy for a few more minutes.
“You didn’t know for sure it would work!” she said sharply. “It killed me to watch you die.” She turned away, fighting to push the memory of it out of her head. It wasn’t working. “That - that was the most horrible thing I have ever seen! It blew you apart from the inside out! Sweet Celestia, Kingsley, you never even screamed,” her voice dropped to a horrified whisper, her hooves going to her mouth, shaking her head.
“Yeah,” he shuddered, remembering, the color leaving the skin under his fur for a moment. “That was not fun,” he agreed. “And I’m not going to argue you, Coffee. It was a chance, it was the best chance we had at the time and it worked.” His ears laid back, withers slumping a little as well. “I’m sorry you suffered all those months before I came back.”
Silence hung on that last statement in the small cave. The mare sniffled, pulling herself together. When she seemed better, Kingsley’s quiet voice gently broke the silence further. “Have you felt this way these past three months?”
Coffee shrugged, then nodded. “I - I guess I have. I just didn’t realize it.”
“So hey, now who’s the dumb horse for not saying anything this entire time?” the ash grey unicorn gently teased, his eyes twinkling in the weak ambient light.
She lightly hit him in the wither with a hoof. “You dumb baby, you started it!” she teased back.
“Yeah,” he smiled. “Yeah I suppose I did.”