• Published 9th Jul 2013
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Stories and poems too short for individual publication (including some award-winning minifics).

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We Only Live Twice

As strange as it was to see Bon Bon walking into her own funeral, the real shock was when Lyra stepped into the doorway after her.

The unicorn's mouth dropped open and stayed there. The room full of Bon Bons, who had swiveled to face her as one, stared back with the same wide-eyed horror. The Bon Bon at Lyra's side was the only one smiling, but she was a coiled spring beneath that gentle mask.

I was the first to react — I had been facing the back of the basement as I spoke at the lectern by Bon Bon's coffin, so I had a fraction of a second longer than the others to process the scene. I cleared my throat, which didn't break the tension so much as sharpen it. "Number One," I said, "what's she doing here?"

The noise seemed to galvanize Lyra, and her head swung to the Bon Bon at her side. "Bonnie," she said to Number One, "what's going on?"

"Please carry on, Seventeen," Number One said, gently pushing Lyra with her shoulder toward a seat at the back. "It's important that she sees this."

"Who are they? Are they changelings? Are you …" Lyra's eyes slid toward the coffin as if rolling down a rain-slicked hill. "Wait, is she …"

"Number Eight," One said, her voice carefully controlled but her emotions bleeding out. "The Bon Bon who brought you breakfast in bed on the day of the attack, while I was in Canterlot delivering a report. When the bugbear showed up, she tried to lead it away from Ponyville, but it killed her." One's voice wavered. "Then it realized she wasn't a pony, and went on a rampage to look for the real me."

Lyra's eyes widened again. "So the rumor about you dying in the woods that freaked me out until you showed up to reassure me —"

"Was true. Was her." One sighed. "Please, Seventeen. I don't mean to interrupt."

I swallowed, trying to reassemble my speech from the fragments of the moment. "I, ah … was just reminiscing about how brave Eight was. How she was one of the only drones to fight our queen alongside you to rescue the rest of us from the hive. How she set an example every day that the rest of us are still struggling to live up to." Panic crept in as I sensed Lyra's shock swirling into fear; I had no idea what to do about it, but unlike One, at least I could sense the pending storm. "And," I ventured, "I think she loved Lyra nearly as much as you did, Number One."

Lyra's eyes whipped back and forth between me and One, and both her voice and emotions frosted over. "Bonnie —"

"We're changelings, but Number One's a real pony," I frantically clarified, and felt the ice fractionally recede as Lyra latched onto my words.

One turned to Lyra and looked her in the eyes. "I am, and I'll do whatever you want to prove it," she said firmly, and then her voice softened. "Listen, Lyra … I love you more than anything, but once you do undercover work, you can't ever leave. I can't always be here with you, and I was scared to explain why, so when I stumbled on a way for you to have me 24 hours a day … it was the only way to give you what you deserved, and it was both kinder and easier than being honest. But when you asked for the whole truth today, and promised me you'd try to love me no matter what … I had to come clean."

Doubt crept into Lyra's indignation, so I jumped back in. "We never fed from you," I said. "That was the first promise One had us make, before we ever laid eyes on you. But we wouldn't have, anyway. We owed her so much, and when we saw how happy you made her … we would have starved ourselves to death to keep you two together."

I saw Lyra's neck muscles shift as she clenched her teeth, and doubt raged inside her. "How much of you was the real you?" she finally asked One.

"About half," One immediately said. "That's the most my job will allow, but I spent every moment here that I could." She squeezed her eyes shut. "I never should have lied, Lyra … but I only ever wanted you to be happy."

Lyra chewed her lip, and her emotions were too roiled to read, and I could feel One bracing herself against an even murkier terror. My stomach twisted in knots. This was beyond my ability to help.

"I …" Lyra finally whispered. "I'm going to have to think about this." Then a thin sunbeam broke through the clouds of her emotion, and I could feel the whole room clinging to that tiny lifeline of hope. "All I know is that I want you, Bonnie. You." She leaned in and curled her neck against One's.

Simultaneously, fifteen Bon Bons bowed their heads and dissolved into green flame, leaving two ponies hugging each other amid a sea of black chitin.

I reached over and silently closed the lid of the casket. Eight would have wanted it that way.

Author's Note:

Tenth place out of 65, "It's Your Funeral" minific Writeoff (3/2016). This is more or less the original Writeoff version.