It was only the night after the gryphons’ raid on Ponyville that I realized—I had no way of figuring out who had tainted Pridefall’s fear without letting Celestia in on it. He was held in captivity under close watch upon arriving in Canterlot, and his Emperor wasted no time in relieving Equestria of him. The Emperor himself came with the retrieval detail; his remorse and embarrassment for what happened was clearly evident as he apologized to Celestia, over and over again for his “former Legionnaire’s” crimes. The Emperor was a rather proud, boisterous gryphon with his fair share of scars, but he was, all in all, a fairly nice guy; he did express concern that Celestia hadn’t mentioned me to him, but shrugged it off as an ‘Equestrian concern’ and didn’t mention it again. He was very interested in conversing with me, though, as his men prepared Pridefall and his troops for transport; he offered me his respect as a fellow fighter, even if I did “stick to the shadows like a viper”, which he stated with raucous laughter.
At the end of the day, however, the Emperor and his men took the rogue brigade home, bidding fond farewells and a last few earnest apologies. But with Pridefall gone, I had no way of safely questioning him regarding what had made his fear so volatile that he was willing to execute innocents. I didn’t want anyone to know about it, and I worried that any attempts to speak with him, either in person or by letter, would arouse suspicion from Celestia. But I couldn’t just ignore it, either—something had happened to Pridefall, and I feared whatever did it would strike again… Though if it did, I’d have another lead, and could probably persuade Celestia to let me investigate, in the face of these repeating incidents. Until then, however, I could only watch and wait.
In the meantime, though, Luna and I continued to spend the nights together, all troubles forgotten. For six straight nights we’d sit beneath the stars, simply talking or enjoying one another’s company. There were even times Luna would seek my advice, regarding ponies whose real-world struggles had manifested into nightmares; they’d discuss problems that troubled them deeply, which Luna couldn’t find an answer for, so she’d turn to me. The first time this happened, she started speaking directly to me without slipping out of the dreamscape, explaining her issue and asking for some advice. I was glad to help, though I was so taken aback by her asking me for help I don’t think I was very helpful.
On the seventh night after the attack, Luna and I were sitting quietly on the tower balcony again. I liked this… sense of tranquility; back on Earth, every night on the job usually called for some measure of awareness, since some folks would think the MHAs of the day were dozing off. Yet here, Equestria was… peaceful. I noticed that there weren’t a great deal of criminal ponies, and any transgressors were quickly set upon by the quick-acting guards that patrolled the streets and skies of the city. I was glad to help when I was needed, sure, but that had happened a grand total of one time—otherwise I could just kick back, even with the concerns over Pridefall.
“Dread?” Luna asked, breaking the silence.
“Are you… happy, here?” She asked softly, carefully. “I know you must miss your home, but… Do you…?”
“If I’m gonna be stranded far from home, I’d rather it be somewhere like this…” I said simply. “Somewhere nice… Peaceful… Beautiful…” I turned to her and smiled. “A place where I can make good friends.”
She gave a faint smile. “Yes… Friends…” She said quietly, her smile fading somewhat.
There was a beat.
Luna slowly placed her hoof on my claw.
I stared at it for a moment.
...DOES NOT COMPUTE. ERROR ERROR ERROR. I suddenly, quickly, withdrew my claw. “UH…” I said… Then I said it a few more times for good measure.
What? Why? How? Does she…? What? I forced myself to focus. Need to think… NEED TO THINK…
“HOLDTHATTHOUGHTBEBACKINASECOND,” I said rapidly, before throwing myself off the balcony, spreading my wings and gliding towards the courtyard; I didn’t even glance at Luna to see her reaction.
I could only hope I hadn’t just made a horrible mistake.
I landed in the courtyard, some distance from the door leading inside. The guards on either side of it jumped at my sudden appearance, but, thankfully, did nothing else. “‘Scuse me!” I said quickly, my voice loud and stiff as I hurried over, threw the doors open and streaked inside. I moved swiftly down the hall towards the Guest Quarters, desperately needing some time to myself, time to think…
I arrived at my room, not even bothering to open the doors and simply seeping through the cracks. When I was sure I was alone, I bundled up at the foot of my bed, my mind still spinning, overflowing…
STOP. I thought, forcing my mind to come to a complete halt. I needed to take things into account. I needed to keep cool, to be rational about this…
I began to lay everything out in front of me; I needed to look at this, bit by bit. Okay… What just happened?
Luna made a move on me.
She put a hoof on my claw, which can be taken as a hint that she’s interested, in addition to the fact that she didn’t seem that thrilled to be just considered a ‘friend’.
So why the massive freakout?
Because I don’t know how to take this. Do I say ‘no’? Should I give this a ‘maybe later’? Do I return the gesture? WOULD I return the gesture? That’s just naming a few reasons…
My mind began to calm down, but it was still violently shaking at the thought of what I should do. Easy, easy… I thought. This doesn’t have to be VERY complicated… Either we do or we don’t, and neither is necessarily a permanent choice…
I straightened up. “Okay…” I said aloud. “Here’s what we’re gonna do…” I formed my claws into a pair of mouths, looking very much like I was wearing two black sock puppets. I shook my left claw. “You’ll be Yay…” I shook my right. “And you’ll be Nay. You’ll each argue why I should, or shouldn’t, be with Luna, respectively…”
I suddenly imagined how I must have looked, talking to my two hands and letting them make my decisions for me. It was not a very appealing sight. I sighed. “Alright, let the debate begin… We’ll start with pros and cons.”
“Well, for starters, you like Luna…” Yay said—I felt another wave of ‘dignity’ as I saw myself talking for them, muttering their speech out of the corner of my mouth. “You think she’s smart, kind, gentle or assertive when she wants to be, and, let’s be honest, for a pony she’s actually rather… pretty, especially in the moonlight.”
“This is all true…” Nay said. “But the key words there are ‘for a pony’. You’d essentially be dating a horse—a sapient horse from a world ruled by sapient horses, yes, but a horse nonetheless. Perhaps you could overlook this in time, but are you willing to commit to a relationship when you only might get over it?”
“But odds are he’s never going to get home,” Yay said. “And if he’s gonna be here, he might as well be happy… Might as well be with someone who makes him happy… and is interested.”
Nay nodded. “This is also true… The odds of returning home are, indeed, astronomical… But what if, by some miracle, the way home does become apparent, and he has chosen to be with Luna? He’ll have a very, very tough choice to make, assuming this hypothetical way home was a ‘one time’ deal.”
“But if he is stuck here, and he likely is…” Yay said. “Luna has been nothing short of amazing to him… She’s been kind, supportive, she gave him the chance to prove he’s not a monster, even after everything that’s happened… She actually cares about him, just as he does for her.”
“Yes, I’m not disputing whether it would work…” Nay said. “But what if he’s with her for the long term? Would he marry her?”
“...That’s kinda thinking way far ahead…” Yay muttered.
“But it’s a concern we should address,” Nay said. “And then there’s the… physical issue; this is something he would have faced on Earth, when thinking of a relationship. I hate to bring up the species issue again, but... Even if he was human here, it would be an issue… What about sexual affairs? What if he’s in it for the long run? What if she wants children? His… ‘condition’... Would it… ‘play ball’? He has no clue if his form even works like that…”
“Forgive me for being crass, but that’s basically talking about his metaphorical dick, in a discussion regarding a relationship that leans far on the more emotional side of the Romantic scale,” Yay said firmly. “If it does come to that, he’ll… figure it out as he goes. Not a very advisable way to approach things, but, hey. And if it doesn’t work, through ‘complications’ or making some kind of… well, aberration, Equestria has such a thing as ‘adoption’.”
“Of course, this is all hinging on whether or not he even wants to be with her…” Nay said.
“Yeah…” Yay said. The pair turned to me. “Ask yourself: how do you feel about Luna? Are you sure you just like her as a friend?”
I slowly lowered my claws, and leaned my head back against the foot of my bed. “...Do I like her like that?” I muttered softly.
I ran over the time I’d spent with her these past few days… Why exactly I’d spent every night at her side…
The first night was because I wanted to help her grow comfortable with going into the dreamscape again…
The second night was because I had such an enjoyable time with her… AND because, well, my internal clock was screwed…
But what exactly did I enjoy?
The way she practically GLOWS when she’s in the moonlight…
That sense of ease, of peace… of happiness when I’m with her, even when we’re… not saying ANYTHING…
I just like being with her…
I like being with her…
I like… HER…
I like her.
I LIKE HER!!
“Holy shit, I LIKE her!!” I blurted out, springing into a standing position. I slithered to the window and gazed out at the tower; I couldn’t see her, but I wanted, more than anything, to be there with her, to hold her close, to be there when she was sad, to be there when she was happy, to be there, period.
I wanted to hear her laugh, see her smile…
I wanted to be with her.
And I’d ran away when she seemed to want the same thing.
I was out the door in seconds.
- - - - -
I didn’t bother taking the stairs up to the tower; I went back the way I’d came, out into the courtyard, past the guards, who jumped once again at my sudden appearance, and began scaling the tower like a mad cat. Please don’t be upset… I thought desperately.
I reached the balcony and peered through the bannister. Luna was looking heartbroken… I hated the scene before me—a miserable-looking Luna, sitting alone with only her night for company.
I’d never let it happen again.
I slithered over the bannister; Luna glanced at me, her eyes widening with surprise.
I reformed, fiddling with my claws anxiously. “...Hey…”
Luna didn’t say anything; I slowly sat back in my normal spot, the enthusiasm I’d felt moments before suddenly nowhere to be found.
I managed to reach deep into my mind and drag some willpower, kicking and screaming, from behind the sudden nervousness that had gripped me. “Sorry…” I said. “I… I just needed to think…”
“No, I’m sorry…” Luna said, her gaze falling to the ground. “I… I was too hasty… I shouldn’t have done that…”
“Well, actually…” I said, slowly placing my claw on the ground. “I’m… kinda glad you did… It made me… think about things…”
Luna glanced, shocked, at my claw, then at me. She blinked, astounded, her jaw slowly slackening.
Then her eyes relaxed, her mouth forming a warm smile. She put her hoof on the ground, some distance from my claw. I reached over and gently gripped it.
Luna scooched over, and rested her head on my shoulder; I firmed my mass at that point so she wouldn’t just fall through me, and gently rested my head on hers. I released her hoof and delicately reached around her back, pulling her close in a one-armed hug. She extended a wing over my arm and draped it over me. Her breathing was light, quiet, gentle… Her mane draped across my back in the wind, sending a surprising warmth through my mass…
“...We should probably keep this quiet from Celestia…” I said. “At least for now… Until she learns to really trust me…”
“Maybe…” Luna shut her eyes tranquilly. “But for now… It’s just us…”
I tightened the hug. “All I care about, really…”