Pinkie pulled open her bedroom door, entered, kicked it shut, and collapsed onto her bed with a contented sigh.
What a day.
What a week, really.
Hosting a party was one thing, but being the Grandmaster of Ceremonies for a whole wedding was something else entirely! Not to mention the draining days she'd had just before; filled to the brim with event planning, catering coordination, finding out the bride is an evil changeling, fighting off her swarm of shapeshifting spawn, and restoring the castle to presentable condition before finishing the ceremony.
Even with her level of energy, that takes a lot out of a pony.
But now it was all over. The guests had left, the happy couple were honeymoon-bound, and Pinkie herself was finally back home where she could rest!
"Sweet jelly gumdrops, I am one pooped-out party pony," she moaned into her pillow. "I feel like I could sleep for a week! It's times like these that make me wish for some kind of party apprentice to share the workload with."
A stray cloud drifted by in the dark sky above, uncovering the moon and letting its silver light pour into her bedroom through the broken window. A small red light flickered on in the 'Warning' section of Pinkie's brain.
"Was that broken before I left?" She didn't think that was the case, but she also didn't quite trust her memory at the moment. She shrugged and rolled over, facing the room so the moonlight shone only on her back. "Eh, probably just a stray ball. Snips and Snails, I bet."
She wriggled on top of her sheets, performing a strange dance to try and coax a blanket to cover her through as little motion as possible. It reminded her of Twilight's dancing at the party, and she giggled despite herself.
And then she heard it.
She cut off her giggles and perked up an ear like a pink periscope. A soft hissing noise cut through the otherwise silent room. She decided that that was odd. Had she left a helium tank leaking? No, even if she had, after several days away it would have been completely empty by now.
Using her ears like a sonar, she sat up and tried to zero in on the source of the sound, blinking away the sandmare's light grasp as she did.
There, cloaked in the darkness of the far corner of her ceiling. Like a pair of baubles on a holiday tree, two blue orbs reflected the soft moonlight, slowly blinking as she watched.
"Oh." Her voice came out as barely more than a whisper.
The eyes did not respond, other than to blink once again. Pinkie didn't react. This was not the first time she had found a strange creature in her room (and she doubted it would be the last). It was times like these that being friends with Fluttershy paid off.
She slid off the bed, making each move as slow and deliberate as possible so as not to frighten whatever had taken up residence while she was away. Its eyes tracked her every move, seemingly just as wary of her as she was of it. She took a tentative step forward. And another. And ano-
It hissed again and she stopped. It was a threatening noise, but it didn't sound angry. More... frightened. And confused. Like a cat lost in an unfamiliar part of town.
So she sat down and waited. If the animal would not let her come to it, she would wait for it to come to her. She was tired, true, but she was sure she could stay awake just a little longer. All she had to do was keep her eyes open. And not think of sleep. Or how tired she was. Or how a teensy little nap would probably be fine.
The last thing Pinkie saw as she decided to close her eyes for just a second was a small forked tongue flitting out to taste the air, and the eyes growing wider.
Pinkie awoke at the crack of dawn to find herself laying on the floor with no blanket or pillow. A few mental cogs started to click and recognized the strangeness of that fact. She didn't remember going to sleep and certainly not on the floor.
Her eyes widened as memories of the previous night caught up with her, and she quickly checked the corner where her mysterious guest had been.
Nothing. Just a small, empty alcove atop her dresser. It seemed that her surprise visitor left during the night.
With a regretful sigh at the loss of a potential friend, Pinkie sat up, only to feel a strange weight on her chest. She looked down and her mouth opened then snapped shut as she quickly cut off a yelp of surprise.
It was a changeling. A sleeping changeling. There was a sleeping changeling latched onto her chest like a leech.
Panic-induced adrenaline flooded her system even as she remained perfectly still. What was she supposed to do? Call for help? Get the girls? But it was still clinging on so firmly! There was no way to move nor make a sound without waking it up, and she could only imagine what might happen then! This was different from when she and her friends had fought them in Canterlot! It was in her room! Right on top of her! It was... it was...
It was purring?
Pinkie fought the panic down and forced herself to really look and listen. Yes, the changeling on her chest was purring, or something close to it. It was more like the sound a piece of paper makes when taped to a fan. Not only that, but it seemed quite peacefully asleep. She could feel each little fluttering beat of its heart as its chest rose and fell in time with hers.
It was also a rather small changeling. Bigger than a foal, but clearly smaller than the ones she'd fought in Canterlot. And she wasn't being crushed or strangled either. Rather, she was being clutched, like a hot water bottle or a stuffed animal.
From this angle, staring down from above as it clung to her like a baby koala, it was almost... cute. In a weird buggy way.
The changeling gave off a small sigh as it nuzzled deeper into her chest fluff and Pinkie silenced a squee.
Oh no, it was cute! Like a big kitty with plated armor. Maybe this one was different from the others. It certainly wasn't scary, not like the big snarling ones from the invasion, and it hadn't tried to attack her last night even while she'd slept. Outside of the unexpected hug. Cautiously, she moved her hoof to give it the barest of touches.
It nestled into the gesture, still quite asleep, but practically nuzzling her as she slowly stroked its frilled head fin. The warm fuzziness that lived inside Pinkie's heart hummed and surged in response.
Who knew changelings had this side to them? She continued to stroke its fin, gaining confidence as it failed to wake. Possibilities and ideas blossomed and died in her mind. What now? She could turn it in, but to who? Twilight? The Princesses? It'd probably be thrown in the dungeon whether or not it had been one of the ones under Chrysalis's command and that thought didn't sit right with her. Maybe... she could keep it? They were smart, weren't they? Could she make friends with a changeling? Were they even capable of friendship? There were so many things she didn't know. But imagine how much fun having a changeling friend could be! She was pretty sure no one had ever done that before!
Her hoof moved lower as her thoughts wandered and began stroking its back. It was thinner than she'd realized, its chitin weak and nearly brittle. She glanced down for a better look only to come face to face with a pair of eyes looking back up at her with a mixture of surprise and confusion.
The changeling fled clumsily from her chest and rounded on her, crouching down and hissing aggressively.
"Hey, hey, hey! Don't be scared." Pinkie hopped up, making a placating gesture with her hooves. If she was going to make friends with a changeling, she was going to have to overcome this first hurdle. What could she do to calm it down? What would Fluttershy do? She could practically hear her friend's quiet voice echo through her mind.
The best way to gain the trust of a frightened animal is to cautiously offer it some food. That way, it knows you're a friend.
Food, huh? Well, that couldn't be too hard.
"You hungry? You guys eat love right?" She hesitated. How was she supposed to feed love? On a hunch, she tried calling forth some positive memories. Thoughts of her family, precious moments with friends. The little changeling seemed to perk up, sniffing the air as his tongue sampled it. Pinkie took this as a good sign.
She pushed the memories harder, striving to relive the emotions as vividly as possible. The changeling stepped closer, close enough to set a curious hoof on her foreleg. It opened its mouth (which made it slightly less cute, but also reminded Pinkie of Gummy in a way) and began to inhale. Pinkie gasped as a soft pink haze started emanating from her chest. It danced through the air for a moment before being gulped down.
Whatever she was doing, it seemed to be working! Eager for success, Pinkie closed her eyes to focus and supplemented her mindscape with further memories. Playing with her sisters, seeing a rainboom for the first time, her first party, her second party, and all the many, many parties that followed.
A small yelp made her open her eyes again. The changeling was still sucking, but looked rather startled. The miasma had changed from pink to blue. Was love a blue emotion? Pinkie had never thought of it as one, but whatever it was, the changeling seemed to enjoy it as he gobbled it down doubly quick.
A few minutes later, apparently satisfied, the singular customer of the All-you-can-eat Pinkie diner ceased his magic and rolled back onto his back with a small burp. Pinkie giggled. She had been worried that feeding a changeling might leave her tired or drained, but she felt fine. If anything, she felt peppier than before, as she was now one hundred percent awake.
Sensing an opportunity, Pinkie flopped onto her back and sidled up alongside her satisfied friend, who seemed too full to move. If he was going to be her friend, then it was time to start treating him like one. "You know," she said with a teasing lilt, "After the invasion, there's a lot of ponies on the lookout for changelings. Probably not a good idea to venture out on your own."
It stopped and turned it's body so they faced each other, muzzle-to-muzzle. Pinkie wasn't sure if he really understood her words, but it was something.
"On the other hoof, if you decided to stay here, I could keep you safe and let you eat as much as you wanted. Whaddya say?" She wiggled her eyebrows. "Wanna be roomies?"
The changeling considered this for a moment. That, or it was pausing to let something digest. Hard to say. After a time, it leaned forward and booped Pinkie's nose with its own.
A wide grin broke out on her face. She'd done it! New friend, GET! Also, trophy for being-the-first-pony-to-make-a-changeling-friend also acquired!
"You need a name," she declared. "Do you have a name? No? Okie dokie then. In that case, I'm gonna call you..." She considered him for a moment. There weren't many easily identifiable details on him like there would be on a pony that she could pull a nickname from. She watched as the sunlight passed through the thin chitin, making it shine in a half-translucent way that reminded her of a particular kind of rock from back on the farm. "Feldspar."
Feldspar smiled. It seemed he liked the name.