By now Shining had come over to see what was going on. He too raised an eyebrow at Coffee’s statement. He gestured back towards the snoring unicorn. “Should I wake him for this?”
“No...I dunno,” she fretted, even more visibly irritated now. “No. He wouldn’t understand.”
“Won’t understand what?” came a voice from where he was.
Coffee facehoofed herself. “Dammit, Kingsley, just...go back to...sleep!” she snapped.
The dark unicorn sat up, mindful that he was still chained to the cave floor. “So far all of this has involved all of us and we all understand...where...we’re all coming from?” he said, almost losing track. “Anyway, I wanna help, Coffee,” he voice slipped from confused to gentle and concerned.
Shining genuinely smiled at him for the first time since had met. His horn lit up, undoing the stallion’s chain. Kingsley’s eyebrows raised and so did he, trotting over to the group. He was met by the warmth of the white Prince’s greeting.
“You really have changed,” he put a hoof on Kingsley’s wither. “It’s good to see.”
His smile was returned. “Thanks.”
That settled, all eyes turned back to Coffee. She fought off the smile that had briefly appeared seeing Shining’s sincerity, her anger dulled, but coming back. It didn’t take long to build back up once she resumed speaking. “I’m glad this all ended well for Kingsley and all and it’s good that you two lovebirds mended your issues, but if we’re airing all the dirty laundry in the room between us,” she paused, wondering how to say this without destroying the goodwill and moods it took such intense interaction to finally achieve. She decided there was just no good way to spin it, so she was going to go for the gold. “You two are a pair of royal assholes!”
“No, Kingsley, I have to say it and I am not going to sugar-coat this, even if it means we can finally get the tartarus out of here,” she countered.
Taken aback, but waiting on the ranting earth mare, Shining and Cadence bit back whatever gut reaction they might have felt should be said, as well as new questions as to what she meant by, "we can finally get out of here".
“I know Cadence had just gotten that uber ejected from her head and Shining was all over her making sure she was okay, okay?” the reporter started. “And no one had any reason to give a damn why I was standing over Kingsley’s remains - “
The Princess of Love put a hoof to her mouth, hit with the pain of Coffee’s emotions as strongly as if she had been slapped across the face by the angry mare.
“And he didn’t deserve any sympathy for the way he acted while possessed,” she glanced without reproach at the dark stallion. “But he was good at the end and caring and sacrificed himself to get that thing out of your hide, Princess.” Her head swung back to Cadence, her voice starting to shake with emotion. “But have you ever seen anypony you cared about murdered in front of you?” She stopped as she felt Kingsley’s hoof and she looked back to him. “You never even screamed - and you knew what was going to happen if you took it back - “ her own hoof went to her lips, her withers shaking with repressed sobs at the memory.
Somehow Coffee Talk got herself back under control enough to continue as her friend withdrew his hoof, knowing her well enough he should give her some space at this point, but still be there for her.
“I was in shock during the train ride back home,” she went on. “I can’t even remember how long I sat there in the dark after I put Kingsley’s old helmet and bloody, blown-up horn up on the mantle.” She looked at Shining. “Maybe you can do that in the field - just kill someone, or watch them be killed, Shining, and go on to the next victim or tell yourself it was for the good of the damn country, but I couldn’t. I did the only thing I could to work through the whole, horrible experience. I wrote it down.”
“And I could deal with that. I’ve lost ponies before, family I loved. My mother, but you your ‘Highness’,” she spat, turning full to face the love Princess now, the grief in her voice turning, betraying all she had felt afterward, a wall built by their silence, denial and her frustration and pain. She glared at Cadence with undisguised hatred. “You refused to even acknowledge it had happened. You can’t say you weren’t there, can you, your ‘Highness’?”
“She went through Tartarus - “ her husband finally spoke up, feeling defensive of her.
“Shut up!” Coffee yelled in his face. “This isn’t about what you think - or your pathetic, clueless subjects you have to hide the truth from because Celestia-forbid they’re so fragile that even the news of him being defeated a second time would send them into a panic!” She beat a hoof against her chest, glancing back and forth between them. “This is about my feelings getting the beat down as if they didn’t matter worth a damn! The only thing I could do to honor Kingsley’s sacrifice and his memory and you couldn’t be bothered to even just listen to me, you were so busy saving face and burying the truth!”
The brown mare broke down, anger spent, all she had left was sobbing. Kingsley moved in to put his hooves around her as her whole body was wracked with unexpressed pain and grief so violently forced to the surface. He endured the onslaught, rubbing her broad back in gentle circles, nuzzling her tear-soaked face while Cadence and Shining looked at each other with mixed and confused reactions stemming from “we screwed up” to “there is another side to this, you know” and yet knowing they had to let her get her grief out.
After enduring a few moments of soul-wracking sobs and a grip that was starting to turn his arms blue from her earth pony strength, the grey unicorn gently nudged Coffee away from them to their sleeping spot. It was to his credit with the couple that he gave them no reproachful looks, only glances that were awkward and just plain sad, but always quickly turning back to his distraught friend, closing his eyes as he nuzzled her face against his.
Behind them, Cadence turned to Shining. “She’s right, you know,” she whispered to him.
“Yeah, I suppose we could have handled that better,” he agreed. “But she wasn’t exactly letting us know she had such an emotional investment in him when she came back later to 'give her readers the truth'. Her entire attitude focused on her determination to shame us in public.”
His wife, nodded, nuzzling him in agreement. “She cares for him more than they’re willing to admit. Love and loss of love doesn’t let a pony think clearly.” She kissed his cheek. “I discovered that first hand when I thought I had lost you to Queen Chrysalis.”
Shining smiled, nodding in turn. He cast a sad look at the crying mare. “Is there any way we can make it up to her?” he wondered, watching Kingsley get up, letting Coffee’s physical exhaustion from the emotional onslaught work itself out until she fell asleep.
Cadence shrugged. “Apologize when she wakes up?” she suggested. “Right now that’s all I can think of doing. I don’t even know if we should try to explain what our reasoning was at the time. I don’t want to insult her intelligence. As a reporter, she should know that sometimes you have to leave out the truth to protect your subjects.” She finished as the dark unicorn came up to them.
“I’m sorry,” Kingsley apologized to them, keeping his voice low as well. “I’m sure she already knows that, but emotions can really bottle up until they explode. I had no idea she went through all this when I died.”
Cadence smiled at him. “She must love you very much to feel that way, Kingsley.”
He shrugged, blushing. “I dunno...we’re just friends.”
“Now...maybe later..?” grinned Shining Armor.
“Now, now, Shining, don’t tease him,” his wife mock scolded. “Let’s move away and let her get some rest.” She shooed the two stallions back over towards the other side of the cave.
“We still have the problem of getting out of here,” the prince sighed when they got settled away from Coffee, who had already fallen asleep.
Kingsley looked to her, then back to them. “I think that’s being taken care of,” he said simply, grinning...