Bon Bon checked her reflection in the compact mirror for what had to have been the thirtieth time. Everything was right, not one lock of her swirled mane out of place, but the face still felt like a stranger to her. Her lips pursed in a grumpy frown that looked all too familiar, then brightened up into a big, genuine smile, a sight she figured not many ponies had ever had the opportunity to see.
With a snap, she closed the mirror shut and put it back into her saddlebags, taking care not to crush the sealed roll of parchment tucked away there. It had been difficult – difficult and time consuming – to convince her hive to let her abandon her duties as junior-ambassador-in-training to the ponies. In fact, if it weren’t for the rather surprising backing of Princess Celestia herself, she doubted they would have allowed it at all.
Even so, it had taken months and months of argument and legal wrangling before she had secured a writ of emancipation. She was a changeling without a hive now, a situation that would be terrifying for just about anyone else, but for her… it gave her a flicker of hope. Hope that either her plan would work out, and all of it, every bit of trouble, would be worthwhile. And if it didn’t…
Bon Bon shivered. Then alone and unloved, she wouldn’t be around to suffer for too long.
Bon Bon steeled herself and stepped forward into Ponyville, the pleasant thatch-roofed cottages lining the narrow streets putting a smile on her face. A pony watering flowers in his yard called out a greeting to her, and she waved back.
The path led all the way into the market square at the center of town, at least according to the map she had bought. And from there she would be able to—
Bon Bon froze. Ahead, and coming right towards her, a familiar green unicorn dragged her hooves as she trudged down the street.
Her mouth opened, her mind running through the planned conversations she had thought out over and over again. It was then that Lyra happened to look up and catch sight of her, and the unicorn’s eyes grew as wide as saucers. She stared as she kept walking, headed for—
“Lyra!” Bon Bon called out in alarm.
With a clang, Lyra walked muzzle-first into a streetlamp. Bon Bon rushed over, worry written all over her face.
Lyra had fallen back, sitting on the dusty ground of the street with both front hooves covering her bruised nose. She stared at Bon Bon, still unspeaking.
“Are you—” Bon Bon caught herself, and her face shifted into a smirk that only quavered slightly. “Uh. I mean. Jeez! How dumb do you have to be to walk right into a post?”
“Bon Bon?” Lyra said.
Bon Bon rolled her eyes. “Of course, it’s me. Who else would it be?”
“What are you doing here?” Lyra’s eyes narrowed. “How did you find me?”
Bon Bon shrugged lightly. “Oh, I talked with Windy and she said that you had—”
“When? Where did you see her?”
Bon Bon blinked, her assuredness slipping for a moment at the unexpected probing. “It was a while back, she was… was headed overseas, I believe. Moving far away.”
Lyra kept watching her, eyes narrowed.
“You know how she could be, very flighty. I don’t know how you put up with her for—”
“Shut up,” Lyra snapped.
Bon Bon’s mouth swung shut. She took a step back, wilting under the anger flashing in Lyra’s eyes.
“I never want to hear you talk about her again,” Lyra said. “Never. Are we clear?”
“Y-yes,” Bon Bon said.
“Then why are you here?”
“I changed my mind,” Bon Bon proclaimed, returning to the script in her head. “I figure, I’m breathtaking. You’re… well. Let’s call it satisfactory. Averaging it out, we would indeed make a pretty good pair.”
“With a few changes, I’m sure,” Lyra said.
“Well, if necessary, there might be a few things that would improve—”
Bon Bon’s heart seemed to stop beating.
Lyra got to her hooves, her muzzle still red from colliding with the lamppost. “We may not have ever officially dated, but I’ve already spent enough time with you, Bon Bon. There’s always something.” She shook her head. “I hate myself when you’re around.”
“No. Go away, Bon Bon.” Lyra turned and started walking in the opposite direction, her hoofsteps sounding as loud as thunder in Bon Bon’s ears.
Bon Bon’s words came out as a whisper, but somehow Lyra heard. She halted, and looked back, still expressionless.
Bon Bon stood in the middle of the street, head hanging low, the sorrow and vulnerability on her face a side that Lyra had never before seen.
“Then let me change,” Bon Bon said. “For you?”
The first sound that startled Lyra out of her reverie was a muffled clatter of metal against metal. A moment later, a bell quietly dinged, and she could hear something creak open.
She stood up, almost falling down again as one of her back legs had fallen asleep entirely. It had been… her eyes moved to the clock on the mantlepiece before she realized that she didn’t even have a frame of reference.
It had been too long of her sitting on the floor, not moving, not even thinking.
She kicked out her leg, working feeling back into it while wincing at the pinpricks and odd tingling. More soft sounds echoed in the quiet house. Familiar sounds. Normal sounds.
Lyra walked into the kitchen to see Bon Bon pulling a metal tray out of the oven. Perched on top of her head was that poofy white hat Lyra had given her as a joke years ago, the one she was wearing when she made her first batch of really good chocolate, and which she subsequently refused to do any baking without.
Bon Bon paused as she saw Lyra standing in the doorway, before her eyes slid away and she turned back to stirring the gloopy contents of a mixing bowl.
Lyra watched for a moment longer, her expression unreadable, before trotting out of the room.
She returned a moment later, a small black case on her back. It lifted in her magic and landed on the kitchen table as Lyra pulled a chair out to take a seat. In a practiced motion, she flipped the clasp open and took out her lyre.
The melody Lyra plucked out started out awkwardly, a handful of notes hesitantly strung together without much in the way of forethought. She pressed on, the disconnected sounds slowly flowing together into music as she played the first things that popped into her head.
It was only when she looked up to see Bon Bon had stopped and turned to watch, tears flowing down her cheeks, that Lyra realized she had been playing ‘Song for Sweetie Drops’.
Her hooves fell still, the last notes still ringing out. “Sorry,” Lyra said quietly.
“N-no…” Bon Bon said, wiping her eyes.
The awkward silence stretched out between the two.
“Remember the night before my parents visited the first time?” Lyra said, “I think you were up the whole night making… was it peanut brittle?”
“Yes, because you said your father liked peanuts,” Bon Bon said. “And you stayed up, playing music for me, the whole time.”
A fleeting smile crossed Lyra’s face. “Yeah. And we both fell asleep on the couch the next afternoon and missed picking up Mom and Dad at the train station. They loved you though. Couldn’t believe that someone as responsible and professional as you would put up with a mare like their daughter.”
Bon Bon looked down at her hooves.
“You always bake when you’re nervous or upset about something,” Lyra said.
“It’s stupid, isn’t it?” Bon Bon’s eyes strayed to her flank. “It’s not like it’s my real cutie mark or anything.”
“That doesn’t mean you’re not good at it.”
Bon Bon’s face flushed red. “When you ate my first batch of chocolates, you were sick for a week!”
“More like a day, tops,” Lyra said, smiling again. “And look at you now!”
“Yeah.” Bon Bon breathed out slowly, her voice draining away into melancholy. “Look at me now.”
Lyra’s smile slipped away, and she stared off in a corner of the room as silence once again stretched out.
“Can I ask a question?” she said.
Bon Bon looked up sharply, biting her lip. “Y-yes…”
Lyra closed her eyes. “Why?”
“Why her? Why me? Why… everything? I don’t know much about changelings but… I mean, surely there are plenty of other ponies out there to feed on that’d be easier and with less chance of being caught.”
Bon Bon didn’t reply. Lyra opened her eyes to see Bon Bon’s pained expression as tears began to fall again.
“W-why would you—” Bon Bon gasped out. “Is that what you think?”
Lyra blinked. “No, I—”
“I love you, Lyra!”
Lyra felt her own eyes grow wet and she blinked furiously, trying to stay calm and ignore the twisting pain she felt in her gut at seeing Bon Bon so hurt.
“And I thought you loved me,” Bon Bon said, her words barely audible.
“I… I…” Lyra’s head drooped. “I don’t even know who you are.”
Bon Bon took one last long look at Lyra. “I’m sorry. I should leave.”
“No!” Lyra cried out, surprising even herself with the intensity.
She paused and collected herself.
Her lyre floated up in her magic and she got to her hooves, crossing over to stand right in front of Bon Bon. “I—” Lyra took a deep breath, squeezing her eyes shut and then opening them to meet Bon Bon’s own, a deep intensity shining. “I want to know who you are. You. Not Bon Bon.”
Lyra raised one wavering hoof, extending it towards the other pony. “Hi,” she said. “I’m Lyra Heartstrings. It’s nice to meet you.”
“I…” Bon Bon looked down at the hoof, then back up at Lyra. “I’m so sorry, Lyra.”
Lyra forced a grin. “That’s a silly name for—”
In a flicker of green flames, Bon Bon was gone. In her place stood a white pegasus, her cutie mark a cumulus cloud trailing a small swirl.
“Windy,” Lyra breathed out.
Bon Bon heard a thunk sound, as the lyre Lyra had been levitating fell to bounce off the floor. Her eyes widened. “Your—”
And then Lyra lost it. She started bawling, and Windy found herself locked in her embrace as Lyra hung on tightly, shaking like a leaf but clinging to the pegasus with all her might.
Windy could feel the hot tears on her coat, and not knowing what else to do, she raised one hoof to gently smooth down the back of Lyra’s mane.
“Hey,” she said quietly. “It’s okay.”
Lyra kept sobbing, her shoulders heaving as they held one another.
Finally, her tears slowed, and Lyra caught her breath, still refusing to let go. “It’s you? It’s really really you?”
“Yes,” Windy said. Her mouth twisted into a troubled frown. “I thought you hated me.”
“What?” Lyra gasped, squeezing her again. “Why?”
“You never wanted to talk about her. I mean. Me.”
“Because out of everything, losing Windy was the one thing I could never fully forgive you—" Lyra winced. "Bon Bon – for. And… I could never forgive myself either.” Lyra pulled back slightly, her hooves on Windy’s shoulders as she looked into her eyes. “It took me a while to get over it when Bon Bon rejected me, you know? Weeks. But then… you were gone.”
Windy nodded slightly but couldn’t look away from Lyra’s golden eyes.
“It took me a whole lot longer to get over you being gone. You were my best friend! I didn’t even realize how important you were to me until… until it was too late. Every time something good happened, I’d glance back over my shoulder, expecting to see you there with that huge smile on your face. Every time things were bad and I felt lost, it hurt even more not having you there to talk with, to make me feel better, to cheer me up and make me feel like I could conquer the world again.”
Lyra sighed, her face clouded. “I asked everyone, tried everything, but no one knew where you had gone. Windy Wander had just vanished off of the face of Equestria. That… That’s why I went through with dropping out and moving back to Ponyville. I couldn’t handle it. I couldn’t do anything without you.”
“Lyra…” Windy whispered.
“And then Bon Bon showed up, and things were different. She said she had changed, and slowly, painstakingly, I began to believe it. I started to feel like life was worth living again. I had you again, I just didn’t know it. All I knew was that I was happy.”
Lyra took a shaky breath before continuing. “And then today, and nothing was right anymore. Bon Bon, the real Bon Bon, had to show up and ruin everything. And I don’t know anymore! I’m just so confused. I don’t know what was a lie or the truth, and I feel so empty and I don’t know what to believe in. I just want—”
Windy moved forward and Lyra’s words were cut off as their lips met. Lyra’s eyes slipped closed as they kissed and she drifted off into the one sensation that felt fully right, and in every possible way, solid and familiar.
After a moment that was both an eternity and far, far too short, Windy pulled back gently. Lyra leaned forward, not wanting the kiss to end, but their lips pulled apart.
“I love you,” Windy said, her breath warm against Lyra’s lips.
“And I love you too,” Lyra whispered back. “You. So much.”
“Then that’s the only truth that matters.”
Lyra didn’t have any words for the perfect certainty of the agreement in her heart. But as she leaned forward and they kissed deeply again, embracing one another in the quiet stillness of the kitchen, Windy heard her answer just fine.
“So, you don’t feed on me?” Lyra frowned. “I don’t get it.”
Windy looked over at the mare sitting next to her, one of Windy’s wings protectively draped across her back. “Lyra, your love is too important to me to just be food,” she said with the faintest hint of reproach.
“I wouldn’t mind if you did...”
“When I left the hive, the second time, they told me I’d come crawling back once I got sick of you and your love. And so I told myself never.” She shook her head vigorously. “Never ever.”
“Then, you can eat pony food and be okay?”
“Well... No.” Windy bit her lip. “But I learned how to make something that other ponies like. And ponies here are so friendly and giving with their love that I’ve always had far more than I even needed.”
“You mean, at the shop? It doesn't... hurt, does it?”
“Some ponies may feel a little more tired, and that’s why I’m always sure nopony leaves without a free sample of something sweet and sugary for a pick-me-up.” Windy closed her eyes. “I-I can stop though. Figure out something else, though I’m not sure what. I’ll do it for you.”
“No.” Lyra pursed her lips. “There’s one thing. One thing I want you to promise me.”
“I don’t want you to be Bon Bon for me.” Lyra frowned. “I don’t even want you to be Windy for me.”
“I just want you to be you.”
Windy’s head dipped down. “But I don’t know who that is, anymore.”
“Don’t be silly.” Lyra leaned her head in to nuzzle against Windy’s neck. “You’re the same pony you’ve always been. The mare that I fell in love with.”
Windy smiled as she felt the warmth of Lyra against her side.
“Can… Can I still make candy?” she whispered.
“Of course,” Lyra said.
“And…” Windy’s eye drifted to her sides. “Maybe keep the wings?”
Lyra wiggled, snuggling herself closer underneath the warm blanket of feathers. “I like the wings.”
Windy fell quiet for a moment as she chewed on her lip. The room lit up in green light as flames lit up across Windy’s body, casting a pale light even though a rather surprised Lyra could feel no heat.
The wing draped across her was now cream in hue, and Lyra looked up to see a swirled pink and blue mane. “Y-you don’t have to do that for me,” she said.
Windy smiled. “I know. But I’m so used to seeing this face in the mirror now, it feels a little odd otherwise.”
“I guess it’ll be easier for everypony else too.”
As soon as the words were out of Lyra’s mouth, she could sense a change in mood. Windy had stiffened, turning her head away to stare at an empty corner of the room.
“Windy...” Lyra frowned. The pegasus wouldn’t meet her eyes. “You can’t keep hiding forever. Eventually the other shoe is going to drop.”
“I can’t just tell everypony that I’m a changeling! They’ll run me out of town!”
“I doubt that,” Lyra said. “Ponies here are nice. Everyone likes you!”
“What if you’re wrong? What if I’m exiled?”
“Then we’ll find somewhere else to live. It doesn’t matter, as long as we’re together.”
“I just… I love everything here so much. I’m so lucky to have friends here, and a job that I love, and the best marefriend ever. I don’t want that to change a single bit.”
Lyra hesitated for a moment. “Changes aren’t all bad,” she said, slowly.
Windy looked back at her, head tilted slightly.
“What if…” Lyra took a deep breath. “What if you had the best wife ever?”
Windy’s face turned beet red. “A-a-are you asking m-me—?”
“You deserve better, I know. But after all this... After losing you once, and feeling like I almost lost you a second time, I don’t ever want that to happen again. I want to be with you forever, no matter what. So yeah. I guess I’m saying… Will you marry me?”
Windy’s lips met hers softly as the pegasus turned, wrapping both forehooves around Lyra and pulling her close. When they pulled apart, Windy’s lips were curled back into a smile of perfect contentment.
“I take it that’s a yes?” Lyra said.