Rarity saw no need to hurry back to the room, not when she could aimlessly wander the castle hallways, catching looks of admiration from every pony she passed and ogling stallions as much as she felt like. That second part could hardly continue, but for this evening she’d let her biological urges have a modicum of say in the matter, and what they said, loud and clear, was that she belonged with her own species. How she’d ever fallen for the wiles of a dragon barely as tall as she was would remain a mystery.
It must have been The Pit. Isolation could do strange things to the mind, as could near starvation. That had to be it. She’d just have to keep walking the halls until she believed in those facts, and until all notions of crying passed. Hopefully that wouldn't mean yawning her way through her first, and hopefully not last, meeting with royalty. If she truly was going to start over, in this city or any other, as a socialite or a dressmaker, she'd need all the high-ranking connections she could get.
Her hoofsteps echoed through the dim hallways. Every now and then she passed a lit wall sconce crackling merrily with firelight. Hopefully the castle staff would light the rest of them before the sun set completely, otherwise she’d be stuck wandering in the dark. Still, if that happened she need only call out for help in order to have one of those delightfully muscular guards escort her wherever she wanted to go, be that her room or to that of a friend. She’d decide later.
A long stretch of unlit, nearly pitch black hallway lay ahead. No matter. She was in Canterlot Castle, the last place in the world to have monsters lurking in the shadows. With resolute and indignant “hmpf,” she set hoof in the darkness without a second thought.
At least until the darkness swam and coalesced before her into a hulking, all-too-familiar shape.
“Aah! Nightmare M—”
Princess Luna stepped into the light. “ ‘Tis only I, fair Rarity. We beg thy pardon for frightening thee so.”
Rarity prostrated herself on the cold stone floor, her fear far from gone. “Th-think nothing of it, Princess Luna. I should be the one apologizing for using that… that name.”
“Nay, unless thou wouldst have half the royal staff begging forgiveness in like manner. We… I must confront the damage left behind in my darker side’s wake. Arise and be at ease.”
Rarity rose, though ease bordered on impossible. She gave one more quick bow and did her best to smile. “Thank you.”
“Why dost thou wander these halls? Art thou lost?”
“N-no, your majesty. I merely… well I'm merely walking for walking’s sake.”
“Indeed. We are doing the same, lest we suffocate in the confines of our royal chambers. We have been trapped long enough. But where is thy beloved?”
Luna craned her neck as she glanced around, as if she'd expected to find Spike hiding around a corner or behind a tapestry.
Rarity shut her eyes tight, lest any tears escape. “He’s… elsewhere, and isn't likely to keep that title, I'm afraid.”
Luna stood up straight and nodded. “A pity. Our elder sister made specific mention of thy trials, and of thy companion.”
Rarity winced. Would she have to explain Spike’s absence to Princess Celestia too? How had she gotten trapped in his minuscule shadow of all places? “We did endure much together, but I'm afraid that… that what we had might have quietly ended the moment our trials did. It's just taken me until now to—”
She wiped a tear away and sniffled. So much for not crying. So much for slipping back into the hard-nosed persona that she'd spent the better part of her adult life cultivating; generosity itself wouldn't stand for it.
A sizable hoof touched her shoulder, and Luna spoke in the gentlest of tones, each syllable a lullaby. “Be not troubled. Should you wish to keep your own counsel, we shall take no offense. Should you wish to talk, we shall listen.”
Rarity nodded, wiped away another tear, and then nodded again. She couldn't stay silent, but what could possibly be said to a princes that hadn't known freedom for a thousand years?
“We were the only two creatures in the world, once. We lived in isolation and poverty, but we lived. We were happy, sleeping on ragged blankets in the bitter cold, eating whatever the forest provided… We were happy. But now I can barely tolerate the softness of a mattress, or eat actual food, or stand to look in a mirror at what I've become.”
“And thy companion?”
“He… isn't adjusting well either. On our own things are fine, unlike when anypony else is present, it seems. Our tastes, our desires, our species… we’re so irreconcilably different. Without dire circumstances forcing us together, I’m not sure I see room for there to be an us.”
Luna’s hoof left Rarity’s shoulder, and she turned to the darkened hallway. “Pray walk with us?”
Rarity fell into step beside Luna, “Where are we going?”
“Away from what has been said, nothing more. Let us seek out new roads and perspectives.”
Luna pursed her lips. “We have seen much, across the centuries. For all the ‘progress’ that this new age seems to have achieved in our long absence, much has been lost, too. We can recall a time when consorting outside of one’s pony tribe brought scorn. We can also recall a strategic marriage between a renowned pony and a griffon prince making interspecies unions a mark of increased social standing. We know not where on the spectrum this current age falls, but we presume not in a place that admires love between a pony and dragon.”
Rarity sniffed and nodded. “Indeed. Dragons aren't considered suitable as friends, much less lovers.”
“Does that alone erase all hope for thee and Spike?”
“It certainly doesn’t help, but my worries were manageable when I considered how kind and gentle he was, the exact opposite of what's expected of a dragon, and something a great many so-called gentleponies could learn from. I was prepared to fight for him, to see him accepted by ponies as any noble creature should be.”
“And what has changed?”
Rarity’s sadness gave way to annoyance. “Him. Me. We're being pushed in different directions: me to be the lady I've always aspired to, and him to… to act more like a typical dragon, honestly. At first his willingness to follow me here, to pledge to stand beside me seemed like enough to hold onto, but now…”
The conversation entered a lull, but Rarity didn't mind. The regular rhythm of their hooves on stone, and the idea that they were indeed leaving things previously said far behind them helped more than she’d expected.
At last Luna spoke, her voice barely more than a whisper. “Celestia and we… I barely interacted for years before it happened, before anger and resentment consumed me completely. Dear Celestia tried her best, but nothing, not even surrendering control of the sun, would have sufficed. It is a dark time in my memory, and because of the crowns upon our heads, all the world suffered with us. Such a debt shall never be repaid, not even by thee and thy friends returning balance to the heavens.”
“I'm so very sorry, Princess Luna.”
Luna huffed. “We do not share such intimate details in hopes of sympathy. We do so in hopes that thou wilt not make the same mistake.”
Rarity froze. “Pardon?”
“We royal sisters share little beyond history and blood. One brings the day, the other the night. One deals best with the waking world, the other with dreams. One grew jealous…and all was lost. If we can still love each other as sisters ought, then consider carefully if thou hast given up thy lover’s cause too soon. If he is truly willing to give up everything he holds dear for thy sake, should that not factor in to thy assessment of him? Could it be that thine differences are in fact the greatest treasure, and time will smooth away all rough patches? I do not mean to force thy hoof, but only to share what I have observed… what I have suffered. Do with it what you will.”
All Rarity could do was scuff her hoof against the stone floor while memory after memory came to mind. Spike really had given up everything, hadn't he? She'd been thrown into The Pit against her will, but he'd given it up of his own volition for nothing but a flimsy hope of rescuing Princess Celestia and the supposedly unbreakable bond of love they'd forged. Was everything that had transpired since then really cause to give up on what until today had been the love of her life? Could such decisions even be made in the unpredictable, stressful time and circumstance that they were in the midst of?
Clearing her throat, Rarity turned to Luna. “These… interspecies unions in ages past. Some of them were happy ones, weren't they? Did they remain so?”
Luna smiled. “Some. No more or less than creatures consorting among their own kind, by our estimation. The only sacrifice a member of such a union truly makes—” her smile vanished and her voice grew somber “—is seed. If thou can accept that limitation, then let the world show you no others.”
Rarity took a deep breath. “I won't. Thank you ever so much for your time, Princess Luna, but I'm afraid I need to hurry back and attempt to make amends.”
If I can, she thought. Oh I hope that I can.