• Published 11th Feb 2014
  • 19,877 Views, 234 Comments

The Terrifying Prospect of Swans in Love - Fedora Mask



Lovers have their reasons. To Twilight Sparkle, the reasons she loves Celestia are perfectly obvious. And to Princess Celestia the reasons why she can't love Twilight back are equally obvious.

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Chapter 1

They say you never quite get over your first love. Twilight Sparkle could certainly attest to that. No matter what romantic leanings she'd had over the years, through crushes and awkward first dates, there was one pony whose grip on her heart never really slackened.

Unfortunately, she was pretty sure it was a breach of court decorum to tell a princess you were in love with her.

It had started as hero worship. From the day they'd met—no, maybe from the first time she'd seen Celestia raise the sun—Twilight had been in awe of her mentor the way only a little filly could be. Celestia had been her favoritest pony in the world, over her parents, certainly past her brother... It was a little embarrassing to think how transparent she'd been about it, too. Maybe every parent had to face the day when their child decided they loved someone else best, but having to compete with the ruler of Equestria couldn't have been easy.

Anyway that had gone on for a bit, before puberty... complicated things.

Unfortunately, Twilight discovered the depths of her feelings just about the same time she discovered psychology, and the latter explained in no uncertain terms that the former were a) perfectly natural, and b) something she would outgrow.

She hadn't. And as time went on this became more and more humiliating. The whole thing was so very, very textbook—you fell in love with the first authority figure who showed you kindness and affection, and then as you became an adult, those feelings naturally sought others with whom you shared an equal footing.

So what was wrong with her? Why had something inside her rejected that change? Was she that desperate to cling to her foalhood? To stay safe and protected under her mentor's wing? Or was she just socially stunted? She had spent most of her life buried in books—she’d only had friends the past few years, for pony’s sake.

Whatever the reason, she fit all the classic signs of lingering hero worship: going to desperate lengths for the princess's approval, fixating on her every word and gesture, refusing to hear an ill word spoken about her. Or even a word that didn’t seem to love her enough. It simply wasn’t healthy to feel that way about anypony.

So the matter was, for all intents and purposes, settled. Her feelings for Celestia were something to keep to herself and be secretly ashamed of. They certainly were not to be enjoyed. Or fantasized about. Or written about in a notebook which she kept under lock, key, and strict magical orders to burst into flame if opened by anypony but herself.

“Twilight?” asked a voice. Celestia’s voice. In Celestia’s private quarters.

Twilight’s reflections vanished behind a glass of red wine, like a gopher diving into its hole. “Sorry, what?” she said, disoriented.

“You've been staring at that glass for almost a minute.” The words rippled with mischief, with a promise of laughter that Twilight was suddenly desperate to hear fulfilled. “Have you learned to taste by sight, my little pony?”

Now there was an idea... Twilight shot a sideways glance up at her mentor, and as always had to fight down a number of impulses at the sight of her. There was a list:

Jaw not-dropped: check.

Don't avoid eye contact like a scared foal: check.

Swallow excess saliva: che—

No, wait, not that hard!: Check.

Now you're holding eye contact too long, stop it! Stop it!

No wait don't stare at her flank instead how is that helping?

UGH!

Check.

It was a work in progress.

Somehow she managed to get her tongue around the words “Sorry, Princess. I got a little distracted, I guess.”

“Thinking deep thoughts? I'll have none of that, Twilight Sparkle. It's our night off.”

“Heeheeheeheeheeh—” Stop giggling like an idiot Twilight for the love of—

Twilight seized desperately on the wine glass, and took refuge in its ability to briefly occupy her mouth.

There was, it turned out, a reason ponies did not chug wine. Especially to control a fit of giggles.

Twilight, unfortunately, didn't really learn this until she was already hacking up an alcohol-soaked lung.

“Twilight! Are you all right? Here, drink this.” A glass of water floated in front of her muzzle, and Twilight felt the faint residual glow of the princess's magic as it was raised to her lips. It was like a tiny spark dancing across her tongue.

She swallowed the water and felt her breathing slow.

“Better?” Celesita’s face was concerned and somehow playful at once, a look that nearly made Twilight choke again.

She turned away, nodded, not trusting herself to speak. Then she remembered. “Oh um, sorry about the wine, Princess.” She ran the tip of her tongue over and around her teeth. “It was really good! Really! Um... '58 Marelot?”

Celestia smiled at her. “If you can tell that after nearly choking on it, then I'm not sure I have anything left to teach you, my dear student. Only...” the look grew sly, “'58 of what century?”

“Princess! That's not fair! You said only the past hundre—oh my gosh I just choked on wine from before my grandparents were born. I'm so sorry, Princess, I didn't realize—”

Celestia laughed, finally, and it was like a release valve had been thrown on all Twilight's nervous energy. Her muscles uncoiled, and she could actually feel the cushion under her stomach again, a smaller version of the one the princess was reclining on.

“No need to worry, Twilight. We still have half a bottle, anyway,” she said, shaking it gently. “You're free to enjoy it however you wish, of course, but I might recommend going slower.”

Twilight felt herself fidgeting again. It was silly, but even after all these years she could never quite bring herself to relax in front of Celestia. “But Princess, some ponies would give their right hoof to—”

“Twilight, what did I just say a moment ago?”

“That it's our night off?”

“Yes. Luna is in charge. So tonight, it's her concern what our subjects might or might not dismember themselves over.” The princess stared thoughtfully at her own glass before taking a sip. “Besides,” she said finally, “if the royal stores can supply state dinners and diplomatic lunches and holiday feasts and the international polo and wine-tasting championship—you're smirking; that was an annual event for almost a hundred years before it was deemed unbearably pretentious—then they can certainly afford the loss if I happen to feel like showing off socially for a change.”

Warmth bubbled up from the pit of Twilight's stomach to the very tip of her horn. Even the roots of her mane felt snug and happy. “Y-you don't have to show off for me, Princess,” she said.

Celestia gave her a droll smile. “But if I bore you, you may stop coming to visit.”

“Never!” Twilight shouted, rather forcefully. Then, shrinking, blushing under the princess’s startled look, she added, “Um... heheh... how much alcohol is in this, anyway?” She picked up the bottle, but before she could read it, it was snatched away by Celestia's magic.

The princess clicked her tongue. “Now now, Twilight Sparkle, that is another question that is expressly forbidden within these chambers. By Royal Decree of Princess Celestia of Equestria,” said Celestia, sealing the order with a grand, sweeping gesture.

Twilight looked away, certain she was blushing. “Um, Princess...” she said, fiddling with her empty glass. The bottle swept over in a yellow glow and poured. “Oh. Thank you. That wasn't actually what I meant...” Twilight fought down the urge to repeat her previous mistake with the wine, and contented herself with a sip as she tried to get her thoughts in order.

That was absurd. Her thoughts had been in order for months. She couldn't have stood it otherwise. She was just trying to find the guts to say them.

But this time, liquid courage let her down. “H-how's your horn doing?” she said, wincing at her own cowardice.

Celestia seemed a little taken aback, but said, “Apparently good as new, thank you.” Twilight had been one of the few ponies to know that Celestia had had trouble raising the sun after her confrontation with Chrysalis. It was a state secret of the highest order.

“That's good.” Twilight if you stall any more I will disown you. And since I am you, that will be extremely difficult for both of us. But I swear I'll do it.

“Princess!” Twilight burst out.

“Yes?”

“Um… I don't mean to bring this up on our... night together, and I feel like we've already talked it to death, but... about the invasion. When you got hurt I... I just...”

Celestia bowed her head, so that her mane fell almost into her face. “I deeply regret not trusting you Twilight.”

“No, it's not... I don't mean to...” Twilight looked desperately at the wine glass. It stared back, unmoved by her plight. This is your mess, pal, it seemed to say. You're on your own.

“What I mean is... it hurt that you didn't trust me, yes, and I was so afraid when you... fell, that that would be the last conversation we ever had—not because of what you said!” she hastened to add. “Well... a little bit because of that. But mostly... mostly because I never said...”

Twilight looked down at her hooves. They were shaking, and she wasn't even trying to do anything with them. Could she still back out? No. She’d started the sentence for crying out loud! And what else was she supposed to finish with? “I never said 'Gee, thanks for all the magic lessons?'” She was past having a choice. It was say it, or sit there in uncomfortable silence until she died of shame. Which could take weeks.

“I love you.” The works squeaked out as quiet as anything Fluttershy had ever said, and Twilight cringed to hear them even that small. She stuck her face in her pillow and waited for the end of the world.

She heard Celestia chuckle gently. “Is that what you've been worried about all this time?”

Twilight blinked. That was... unexpected.

“Um...”

Hooves clicked across the stone floor, and Twilight buried her face even farther as she heard the soft whump of the princess lying down beside her, felt the brush of feathers across her back.

“Of course I know that, Twilight. I love you too.”

Twilight finally let herself look up at her mentor, eyes wide with shock. Celestia's face radiated nothing but kindness and... now that she had said it... only now that she had said it, love.

“Really?”

“Twilight! You've been my student for years. You're the only pony in Equestria apart from my sister who I can spend time with in this fashion. You're a very dear friend. Of course I love you.”

Twilight blinked, gears already whirring away in her head.

Of course! This was perfect. The only way out of this without humiliating herself, and Celestia had given it to her. And of course Celestia thought she meant love as a friend, a mentor, a second mother. Why wouldn't she? It was only natural! Anything else would be... strange. Creepy. Wrong.

It was best this way, really. Celestia wouldn't ever have to know about any of it—her strangeness, the way she looked at her, the things she wanted to... Everything could carry on just the way it’d always been. That way was pretty darn good if you stopped to think about it. Great, even.

So why did it feel like being stabbed?

Twilight stood suddenly—the heat of Celestia's body was making her itchy with sweat. “No, Princess, I—” Even with her standing and the princess lying down, their heads were practically level. “I didn't... mean like friends.”

“You don't think of me as a friend, Twilight Sparkle?” It wasn't an accusation, and thank present company for that—if it had been Twilight thought she might have started to cry right there. “I suppose it might be strange for you, having been under my tutelage for so long. I hope you don't mind if I continue to think of you that way, though.” The princess smiled. Why did she have to be so nice about this? “And, perhaps someday—”

“No, I...” Twilight took a deep breath that did nothing to calm her at all. It was like language itself had deserted her—words were vanishing, flying over the sides of her brain, sailing into space. Leaving her alone. “What I meant,” said Twilight, taking her time on each syllable. “What I meant was I...” There was no way she could do this. She couldn't say it. “I love you like...” She couldn't say it.

But she was going to say something.

“I mean more like... like swans, you know? How they... they mate for life, like in that zoology book you assigned me once...” She wanted see Celestia's face, for confirmation, for that familiar nod and smile that meant I remember or Go on or... or just Yes. But she kept staring at the floor, kept talking. “I mean like... um... like in Ponymus and Palfrey. Like lovers or... like in that song, you know? When a maaaare loves a stallion... or a princess, I-I guess.” She finally let herself look, searching, hoping... at her mentor, who was looking right back at her, unreadable and yet whose face was suddenly so close to hers. “Like... I love you like I would give my right hoof if you would just please kiss me right now and stop me before I say anything else.”

She didn't. She didn't really move at all, just looked at Twilight for a long moment.

Twilight tried to smile. Her lips got stuck halfway. “That was a lot all at once, wasn't it?”

Celestia gave a nod, but there was no accompanying smile, just a thoughtful tightness to her lips. “You mean that you love me... romantically,” she said, it seemed as much to herself or the air as to Twilight.

Yes! Twilight wanted to scream, but what came out of her lips was a wavering, weak little “Yes?”

Celestia grew even more thoughtful. “I can certainly understand your reluctance to bring this up,” she said at last. “I... am very flattered Twilight, but...”

Twilight almost fell over at the word “but.” She always thought it was a cliché, but no, she actually very nearly forgot how to stand up.

“But you must see how inappropriate that would be,” the princess went on. “For one thing, there is the fact that I took you under my wing at a very young age. My having had a hand in your childhood would certainly appear... untoward if we were to... publicly acknowledge those feelings. To say nothing of the simply vast age difference between us. I have lived nearly a hundred times as long as you. Though we are together in the present, a large portion of myself belongs to the past. A pony should... be with somepony who shares their past, who looks towards the future the same way.”

“Maybe we do,” said Twilight. “How do you look towards the future?”

“Twilight...”

“A-and actually, Princess, I have more shared past with you than with anypony else I know. That was the point of your first objection.”

“Twilight, you're taking me rather literally,” said Celestia, not unkindly.

“Well—I—I'm sorry about that, Princess. Can you... explain it... to me?”

“Twilight.” Celestia rose and put a hoof on her shoulder. Twilight didn't acknowledge it. “We're friends. Aren't we? Friends, and mentor and student, and Princess and subject. Your love for me is very great, I know that. And I hope mine is even one tenth as strong for you. But I cannot love somepony like you, like that. I'm sorry.”

♦ ♦ ♦

Twilight Sparkle went very quiet, a silence that twisted Celestia's stomach into unforgiving shapes the longer it went on. For a teetering moment, there was nothing at all—her pupil, her friend, would not show her face—and the lack of a sign shot ice and panic through veins that had almost forgotten the sensation.

It wasn't that she doubted the rightness of her decision, only...

“Twilight?” she prodded.

A smile, like a burst of sunlight through the rain, beamed up at her. “Of course. I understand, Princess. You're...” She paused, and after a second too long, gave a laugh that hurt to hear. “I really don't know what I was... I just... Oh!” Before Celestia could say anything, Twilight fled the room in a clatter of hoofbeats and choked sobs.

Celestia's legs took the first few steps after her on their own, before her mind caught up and stopped them. No. If she has to see you now it will only make things harder for her.

That's what she thought once she got over the shock, anyway—but in the moment when Twilight turned and ran away from her, she couldn't think anything at all. Only a numb sort of realization that Twilight had left first. That this had never happened before. She was always the one to cut their visits short. Her faithful student would always linger, trailing behind her to the very threshold of meeting rooms and offices and state functions. For a few more words. She'd fallen asleep mid-sentence once, trying to get in a few more words, and Celestia had never found out how comets got their tails from the Sun.

And, now, perhaps she never would.

Stop it! She ordered herself. She just needs some time. This is a hard thing for a pony to accept, but if you leave it alone she'll realize... she'll come back.

Eventually. The word put another sting in her chest.

That self-pitying thought ended abruptly when the doors behind her crashed open, shaking the room from the floor to the vaulted ceiling overhead.

Celestia barely allowed herself to hope, or dread, but “Twilight—” was half on her lips as she whirled around.

And was met with a roar and rush of wind: “Sister! What hast thou done?!”

Her ears popped—the gale died down as if someone had thrown a switch, leaving the shutters banging in the windows, the curtains a tangled mess. The bottle of wine was tipped on its side, spilling out onto the carpet, the glasses nowhere to be seen.

Celestia turned her attention to the night-blue mare in the doorway. “And a good evening to you, Luna,” she said.

“Nay Sister, we see precious little good about it!” Luna roared. “Twilight Sparkle has just run past our chambers in tears! What has happened? An explanation is required, and an explanation we shall have!”

Celestia felt her chest heave, breaths coming quickly, trying to hold onto air that was rushing past too quickly. It was all she needed now, now when she hadn't been able to get enough air since Twilight had said... what she'd said.

“Luna, I beg you, more softly.”

Very well,” said Luna, still glowering. “Speak.”

It was just enough of a difference, with Luna no longer screaming at her, that she could think again. “Of course, you do realize that some ponies would consider this a private matter—”

“Such ponies lack the many years' experience of your stalling tactics which we have had, dear Sister.”

It was all she could take. In a rush, as if she wanted to make it a single word, Celestia said, “Twilight Sparkle told me she loved me.”

“Then the case is settled!” said Luna with great enthusiasm, though rather less volume. “These were tears of joy which we have witnessed! Rather a different spectacle than we recall, but we are still somewhat disoriented concerning... social... niceties.” Celestia's expression must have registered, as Luna's enthusiasm broke off, and her voice soon after.

“Luna, I didn't say I loved her back.”

She had braced herself for another gale-force accusation, but all she received were two quiet words. “Why not?”

“Why? Luna... because I don't. The way you mean. The way she meant.” Luna snorted, but Celestia pressed on. “Of course I love Twilight dearly. But… she is my student. I was responsible for much of her upbringing and education. I… I talked her through nightmares when she was just a filly. I couldn’t possibly… surely you can see what a mistake it would be, if she and I were to be… involved, romantically.”

“And yet,” said Luna, “you couldn’t get through that sentence without stopping yourself. Twice.”

Celestia frowned. “What exactly are you implying, Luna?”

Luna gave her a long, inscrutable look before responding. “What I’m implying... what I see, sister, is the way your eyes follow Twilight Sparkle around the room.”

“I’m very proud of Twilight—”

“I see the way you panicked, when she returned those Gala tickets.”

“I—I simply wished to—”

“Stop interrupting and listen!” Luna yelled. Then, softening, “Sister… Celestia. You claim not to love Twilight Sparkle, but you walk on air the week before she visits and scarcely smile the week after. I think it is time that you consider the possibility that you’re wrong.”

“I think I know my own heart, Luna.”

“Sister, if your heart were able, it would sue you for negligence.”

She opened her mouth to reply, and closed it again without uttering a word. She didn't know what to say. No? What good would denying it do, if that was the way Luna saw her? “Even if that were true,” she said at last. “I'm certain Twilight Sparkle still looks at me as someone above her. It wouldn't be healthy, Luna. I'd be taking advantage of her adoration.”

“Have you asked Twilight Sparkle?”

“Luna! You've seen the way she... fawns over me.”

“Oh, yes, of course. She loves you too much for it to possibly be genuine. Because the sun, and the moon, and all the lights in the sky will stop if Princess Celestia of Equestria finds something that makes her too happy.”

Celestia buried her gaze in the carpeting. Her heart felt withered in her chest—rebuttals, too feeble for consideration, faded in and out of her mind without leaving a mark.

A hoof touched her shoulder, the horseshoe cool on her skin. “That is all I want, Sister,” said Luna. “For you to be happy.”

Celestia met her sister's eyes. “Then help me.” Luna seemed stunned by the request—she was a little stunned to have made it herself, but now that it was there she could feel the wriggling doubt that made her speak oozing its way out. “I... I knew that saying what I did to Twilight... I didn't expect her to be okay with it at once. But the way she looked before she left... I am afraid I may have done irreparable harm to our present relationship.”

“What did you say to her?”

“I said I couldn't love her.”

Luna sighed and shook her head, but said nothing.

So why did she feel like she'd gotten something wrong? “No, I... I said I couldn't love somepony like her—”

What?!” The force of the shout almost sent her reeling, and when she looked back at Luna, her sister's face was wracked with horror. “Celestia, how could you think—Never mind, you must go at once!”

And then Luna was shoving her towards the door, while Celestia, baffled, could only ask, “Go where?”

“To find Twilight Sparkle! To apologize and right this most grievous wrong!”

“I don't understand... surely it's better to not have said anything about her personally.”

Luna stopped dead in her tracks, and regarded her as if she had just grown a third wing directly in the center of her face. “Sister! Art thou so blind to the ways of the heart? The worst thing thou couldst have done, and thou hast done it! In matters of love, even a rejection must be personal. Thou hast insisted that Twilight Sparkle is categorically beneath thy notice!”

Celestia felt the blood drain from her cheeks. Could she really have made such a huge mistake? It was possible. She hadn't exactly kept up on courtship rituals of late. Luna could very well know more about them than she did, between her power to see into dreams and the shelf-filling stack of romance novels she had been devouring.

Which meant that Twilight might...

“What have I done?”

Luna caught her chin with a hoof, forced their gazes together. “Sister, do not fear. We are most certain that Twilight Sparkle is made of sterner stuff than that. But nevertheless, it is thy place to apologize.”

Celestia nodded, though she took little enough comfort from her sister's words. Still, surely Luna was right about this, if nothing else. Twilight was—had always been—stronger than she gave her credit for.

Her sister's hoof nudged her towards the door. “Go. Apologize and repair your bond.”

“You're not going to try and convince me that I'm in love with her?”

“I believe you know my stance on the subject.”

“I would be shocked if there were anypony in the castle who didn't have a general idea.”

Luna frowned. “You have not gone yet.”

Celestia shuffled her hooves—an awkward gesture that she was quite certain she hadn't made in centuries. “I... don't know where she went.”

“Worry not!” A very worrying smile indeed came across Luna's features. “Get thee to the sky, Sister! We shall mobilize our agents to thy cause!”

Celestia looked from her sister to the open doorway. “But—”

Something metallic slapped across Celestia's rump, startling her forward through the door. By the time she'd collected her thoughts, the room was barred.

“Luna!” That wasn't—one did not simply—even if they were family!

“Thou seemed to require a kick on thy bottom, Sister! Let it speed thee ever onwards!”

Celestia stared a moment at her own closed doorway, before something like a smile played at the corners of her mouth.

Rather literal, Luna... she thought. But she ran—with worry chewing her heart and wings twitching at her sides, she beat sparks from the flagstones all the way to the palace gates.

♦ ♦ ♦

Something about flying through her sister's night had always calmed Celestia, in a way the daytime air, with its sun-driven updrafts and flurries never did. Thin, cool air whispered across her skin, between her feathers.

It had been almost an hour, and there was still no sign of Twilight Sparkle. She had run out of libraries and bookstores to visit, and with each stop her nerves had wound tighter. The early confidence that she could find her pupil—her friend—by tracing her through places that were familiar had crumbled quite spectacularly. And now even the calm of the night sky was worn with worry. What did she know of Twilight Sparkle, after all?

She pushed those thoughts aside, scanning the twinkling lights of Canterlot from the air. She would find her. Let Luna try her... agents. It was important that she remain calm for their meeting, that she keep her head on straight.

“Sister?” Luna's voice came to her on a trickle of magic. “Someone has found her.”

Where?”

So much for calm.

“That's the part you may not be so eager to hear.”

♦ ♦ ♦

The bar was simple, friendly, warm—well lit and polished and filled with soft music. A family restaurant during the daytime, it brought some of that neighborly attitude into its second life. Everything about it said that it was not the sort of place one went to drink alone.

Which did not stop the unicorn at the end of the bar. She sat and frowned into a scotch glass, several empty bottles littering the counter beside her. Everyone in the bar was giving her a wide berth—and the friendly atmosphere, the light and warmth, seemed to grow pale and droop with shadows in her proximity.

All things considered, Princess Mi Amore Cadenza had had better date nights.

“Um, Twily, don't you think maybe you've had enough?” That was her husband, Shining Armor, face alive with concern.

The unicorn at the end of the bar made a show of finishing her drink before turning slowly, deliberately around. Twilight Sparkle, wielder of the Element of Magic, star pupil of Princess Celestia, and savior of the whole of Equestria, looked her brother right in the face and stuck out her tongue.

“I don't know what went on between you and Princess Celestia—”

“Feh!” Twilight interrupted, seizing a fresh bottle from behind the counter with her magic and refilling her glass. “Princesses. Who needs 'em?”

For a moment, as Cadence watched, Shining seemed torn—he whipped around towards her with an apology on his face. “She doesn't mean that.”

Cadence met him with an ironic smile. “I know.”

“She's very drunk.”

“I can see that.”

Shining whipped back around. “Twily, really, you've had a lot. Maybe you should stop—”

“Shows what you know!” spat Twilight. “At my weight I'm good to have another...” she held up a hoof in front of her and considered it thoughtfully. “Five or six of these before it's anything like dangerous! I have math to prove it! See? Math!” A napkin, covered in messy scribbles shoved itself into Shining Armor's face, and he batted it away, retreating towards Cadence.

“So I'm striking out. You want to try?” he asked her.

“No, I think we should let her drink,” said Cadence. Shining gasped. “Honey, I love Twilight, you know I love Twilight—”

“Love you too, Cadence!” said Twilight. “We should just... forget my dumb brother and... and her, and the two of us should get married.”

Cadence blinked before continuing, “And I know you're her brother, and it must be strange for you to see her like this, but it seems like she's in control here.”

Complete control!” said Twilight. The bottle floating beside her swept about the room in a wide arc, making the bartender duck for cover and splashing drink across the floor.

Shining Armor pointed at the display as if it proved his point.

“Yes, she's drunk,” said Cadence, lowering her voice and taking him aside, “but we've told Luna where she is, and she's not in any danger. Not to mention, we have a date. A date which we have been planning for a very long time, remember?”

She searched his face for some reflection of the sheer bureaucratic nightmare of arranging to spend a single night in their hometown—the late nights plowing ahead through mounds of paperwork, the favors called in to arrange reservations at the hottest restaurant in town. Had he forgotten the hours they'd put in hiring a guard detail to keep them safe, then concocting a clever plan to ditch the guard detail, then bribing the guard detail to act fooled while following them at a discreet distance? It was all worth it, mind you, for a night back home and a meal at La Petite Carrote and the chance to dance with her husband at a society party until their retainer on the guards ran out.

His face showed the memory. But still, he hesitated.

“Shining Armor,” she said, “this is something that your sister and Princess Celestia need to work out themselves. You hovering won't help.”

“Couldn't you just... love magic them a little?”

She couldn't help smiling, just a little bit, at the earnest look on his face, a smile that said you're a dolt, but you're my dolt and I love you. “It wouldn't do any good. I can remind ponies how they feel about each other, but it sounds like Twilight and Celestia haven't figured that out yet.” Shining frowned at the floor. She put a hoof on his shoulder. “It doesn't mean they won't. One way or another. But they don't need the two of us. And for once, neither does the Crystal Empire.”

Shining sighed. “Not even temporarily? Just to give them a nudge?”

She cocked an eyebrow. “You really want me to cast a spell on the two most powerful magic-users in Equestria? When one of them is already mad, drunk, and related to you?”

That registered with Shining—his face made the sort of expression a stone would make plopping into a well. She smirked and began hurrying him towards the door. “All right. But we're paying for any damage—”

“Twilight can pay for her own bender!” she laughed, cutting him off. “Come on, Stud, we've got a date at La Petite Carrote. Where I'm sure our guard detail must be worried sick, but still holding our table.”

There was a very satisfying bustle of activity from one of the tables behind her, and a clattering of hooves on the wooden floor.

Just as the two of them approached the exit, the door slammed open—and there, panting heavily, stood Princess Celestia of Equestria, royal sweat shining down her sides.

“Princess!” gasped Shining, giving a hasty bow.

“I... is she...” Celestia gasped.

Cadence nodded. “In there, Aunt Celestia. And… good luck.” She tried to muster a smile. “Go get her.”

Princess Celestia nodded back with great gravity, and stepped past them into the bar.

Shining gave Cadence a look. “Are you sure we shouldn't—”

Cadence rolled her eyes and started pushing her husband back in the general direction of their dinner date. “Shining Armor, even you can't protect Twilight from everything.”

“It's not her I'm worried about so much as the innocent bystanders...”

“Come on.”

♦ ♦ ♦

Celestia stepped down from the street and into the bar, still panting. Every eye in the room fixed on her—the bartender's pleading look, the naked interest of the other ponies about the room who had given up pretending not to eavesdrop at this latest development.

It wasn't every day you saw a princess of Equestria looking like she'd just run a decathlon.

In fact, it wasn't quite every eye in the room—there were two whose owner did not even turn towards the door. Celestia almost—did run to her. Just two, three steps. Then she stopped. Trying to compose herself. Trying to think of what to say.

Twilight Sparkle took care of that for her. “Well look who it is!” Pushing off from the counter, Twilight swung around on her stool, overshot, steadied herself with a hoof, readjusted, and came back around to face her. “Equestria's favorite princess.”

“Twilight you're... drunk,” she said, more shock than anything else. Of course, she’d seen Twilight drink, had seen her tipsy before, but this was something different. Something wild and not a little dangerous.

“Nothing gets past you, Princess,” said Twilight. “Well, almost nothing.”

The barb stuck in her chest. “Twilight, I—”

“No! I got somethin' to say to you,” Twilight slurred. She straightened up on her stool, cleared her throat.

Dear Princess Celestia.”

Oh, but this was going to hurt.

“Today I learned that even though you might love and respect somepony, and think that they love and respect you—” Celestia longed to interject, to tell Twilight she wasn't wrong to think that, to make her stop, but Twilight was guarded, watching her with an intensity that warned against any interruption. So she held her tongue. “And even if the other pony is someone with more experience and wisdom than the whole of Equestria put together, even if they're the most special pony you know, and even if they've known you for forever, probably better than you know yourself... and they seem to like you anyway...”

It was too much for her at last, and Celestia blurted out, “Twilight, of course I—”

“They can still act like a big dumb jerk!”

Celestia blinked quickly. There had been a few brief moments in the speech where Twilight seemed perilously close to tears—but that was gone now. Twilight's eyes were all defiance, daring her to answer the challenge.

Celestia wasn't entirely certain she could. She stared down at her hooves, head swimming in words, without a lifeline out.

“I...” she tried. “I apologize. I...” It sounded so hollow, so thin in the air, yet choking her. “I'm sorry. I really... I'm so sorry, Twilight!” Words came faster now, without thought, carrying her along as much as being dictated. “You surprised me. Maybe that sounds absurd to you, that I would somehow not know how you felt, but you surprised me, you really did, and I thought I was being kind.”

The eyes staring at her from all across the room were bulging now—she could tell, could feel them on her without looking. But she couldn't bring herself to guess Twilight's expression—couldn't bear to meet it. “Please forgive me, Twilight,” she said. “For ever implying that you were somehow... unworthy. For saying that somepony like you was—”

“What?” The question, confused, slightly slurred, pulled Celestia's gaze back to her student's, where surprise was quickly turning into indignation. “You think that's why I’m upset?!”

“It... isn't?”

“No!” Twilight spat. “I mean, that hurt, sure. But I'm not mad about how you said it, I'm mad that you said it at all!”

Celestia blinked. The little bit of grounding she'd had in this conversation seemed to have just been ripped out from under her, and now a very angry Twilight Sparkle was unsteadily hopping down from her bar stool to cross the distance between them. “I don't understand,” Celestia said, backing up reflexively to match Twilight's advance.

“Princess! I opened myself up to you and you respond with... can't? I can't love you? With all this stuff about appearances and… and propriety? Maybe you don't love me the way I love you, but at least tell me like I'm a friend instead of a subject!” Twilight stopped where she was, and Celestia halted too, watched her pupil avert her eyes, for just a second. “I told you that I loved you, and you sat there and tried to be reasonable about it. As if the two of us weren't in the room when my brother and Cadence blew up an army with the power of love. As if how two ponies feel weren't the only thing that mattered. You talked down to me, and you didn't say a word about how you really felt and you... you princess'd me, Celestia!”

The accusation hit her like a slap, and for a moment Celestia couldn’t even draw breath to respond. She’d never meant to… surely she hadn’t done that to Twilight. Had she? “I… I'm sorry, Twilight. I didn't realize... It seems I've done nothing but disappoint you this evening—”

“You're doing it again!” Twilight snapped. “Stop being so... diplomatic!” Twilight took a deep breath, shaking her head as if to clear it. A strange smile, slightly bitter, crept into her face. “At least one good thing came out of this, Princess. I know that I'm not in love with some made-up perfect version of you in my head. Because you could not have handled this worse. I'm so angry I could... scream. More. And I still love you anyway.” She let her head droop.

Celestia started forward, started to say something, but before she could, Twilight shouted with what seemed all the force in her lungs, “I am in love with you, Princess Celestia of Equestria! And it's not because you're my mentor or my idol—it's because you're wise, and kind, and gentle. It's because I love the way you actually care about ponies and problems that would drive anyone else up the wall, and because I think it's cute how you always make up an excuse when you need to use the bathroom, even though you're not fooling anypony, and because the sound of your voice sends shivers down my spine. It's not because there's anything wrong with me. It's because of you.” Twilight took a deep breath, and then, in a rush, said, “And because you're the sexiest mare I've ever seen in my life and I would let you do anything to me!” The exclamation left her panting, eyes wide, surprised at herself. “Anything legal,” she added, after a moment. “Also nothing from that magazine Rainbow Dash showed me.”

Celestia sat down hard against the floorboards. Blood pounded in her ears and her face felt hot, like it wanted to squirm away to someplace secret, and her chest was tight and foreign. There was something she wanted to say but she couldn't even begin to.

Twilight looked at her for a moment, calmer now. “That's... that's how I feel, Princess. And I'll survive if you don't feel the same way. But please... just tell me.”

Celestia's mind reeled, too full to know what to do with itself. She tried to speak and what came out was, “Twilight... you are very dear to me—”

“Oh for pony's sake! Can't you just say it? Without taking a running start through pleasantries—”

“I am trying!” Celestia burst out. “This isn't... easy for me, Twilight. I'm not used to speaking freely. Everything I do has so many decades of decorum built up around it that sometimes I barely feel I know who Celestia is underneath it all. I don't... know how I love you. I only know that I'm so proud of how far you've come, of how clever and strong and beautiful you are. Of the way you throw yourself into everything, like the whole world depended on your doing it well. And that I love... I love the way you look at me a little bit more than I should, and I love that you can still yell at me in spite of it. Seeing you makes me feel happy in a way I'm not sure if I deserve. And sometimes, when I'm alone at night, when there's nothing between me and the morning but a mountain of paperwork, I find myself wishing you were there with me. Not to talk to, not as a distraction... just to have you there, in the same room, breathing the same air I am.” She swallowed hard, a tingling itch creeping into her cheeks as she continued, “And... sometimes... sometimes I think I... want you, the way you say you want me...”

As though the words had weight, as though she could shrink out of sight, Celestia had slunk lower and lower under her confession, until she could feel her heartbeat against the floorboards, eyes squeezed shut against a world she no longer knew what to expect from.

It was certainly not that somepony would start cheering.

Her necklace pressed hot and tight against her neck as she looked up to find ponies staring, smiling at her, all of them. Someone whistled. Hooves stamped the floorboards, a round of applause that sounded like thunder and resonated up into her chest through the floor, vibrating like a choppy sea, like something unsteady. Her ears burned, tried to tuck themselves into her mane. They were all staring.

And Twilight. Twilight most of all, with a wide-eyed look that bore no expression but shock, her lips parted but motionless. For the longest time, she looked at her and didn't say anything. Why wasn't she saying anything?

At last Twilight's mouth moved, just a fraction.

All of Celestia's being seemed to perch on a fine thread in her chest. She couldn't hear it. Whatever Twilight was going to say. She—she didn't know how to.

She wasn't even aware that she was doing anything, until her magic flashed like the rays of the sun. And the next instant, the bar, the crowd, and Twilight Sparkle were gone.

♦ ♦ ♦

The water played gently in the fountain, spouting up in neat arcs, misting through the air against Celestia's skin. Doing absolutely nothing to calm her down.

She was breathing heavily, and had not stopped since the teleportation spell had dropped her at the fountain's edge what seemed hours ago. She stared without seeing into the fountain's black surface. Around her, the garden was quiet but for the stray rustlings of crickets and night-birds, dark but for the half moon hanging above.

She had run. Run away. Everypony had been staring at her, and Twilight hadn't been saying anything and... and...

And she had run.

Go back, a voice in her head kept telling her, until it was practically pleading. Just go back.

She didn't move.

Even with all that prompting, she hadn't been able to just answer Twilight. Not the way she wanted. And knowing, suddenly, that everypony was watching...

Was she really as small as all that? Embarrassed to be on display, when she was on display every day of her life? Maybe in the end, however she... might, possibly, maybe feel... maybe it wasn't enough anyway. If she couldn't say it—if she couldn't let other ponies see her say it—if she couldn't even face a response...

The fountain splashed softly. She was getting quite cold, but though the palace towers loomed around her she could not bear to return there and face Luna, could not bear to face Twilight Sparkle, or anypony else. In all the world, Princess Celestia had no place else to go.

“Princess?” At the sound of the voice part of her tried to run and part of her tried to stay—she stood and turned and there was Twilight Sparkle, edging out from behind an old maple tree.

Her heart did flips, trying to dance and cower at once. “You found me,” was all she could think to say.

“I used to find you here whenever the guards wouldn't tell me where you were,” said Twilight. “You're pretty predictable, Princess.”

“You keep surprising me.” She nudged the ground with a hoof. “You seem...”

“Sober?” Twilight laughed, a little nervously. “I uh... after a few nights out with the girls I decided there really ought to be a sobering-up spell. So I made one. And then practiced until I could cast it... pretty smashed.”

Celestia blinked. “You could have done that any time?”

“I was mad at you,” she said, edging a couple steps closer. “On the bright side, nopony in that bar is going to talk to the papers about tonight. I may have... threatened them a little.”

Celestia smiled, but it was a weak thing, unsteady on its legs.

“Princess, I'm sorry, but I have to ask,” Twilight went on. “The way you were talking, back there... am I your... Have you never... been with anypony?”

Celestia turned towards the fountain, unable to meet Twilight's eye. “I wasn't always so kind, Twilight. When I was much younger, after Discord, it was very easy to see myself as... above other ponies. Naturally I turned down suitors as a matter of course. Then Luna... then Nightmare Moon happened. Perhaps if I had been less arrogant...” She shook her head. No sense following that road again. She'd mapped it quite thoroughly. “Ruling Equestria by myself I... learned a number of hard lessons about the way I'd viewed the world. Some of them I may have learned a little too well. So yes. I have never allowed myself to have feelings for another pony. There were... a few, over the centuries, but... I'm afraid I did to them what I tried to do to you.” Her eyes met her reflection in the water. She looked a mess—strands of mane hanging out of place, her face drawn with uncertainties, regrets.

After a moment, Twilight was beside her—her reflection watched Celestia's from one side. “I'm sorry, Princess,” she said. “I shouldn't have blown up like I did. I can't believe I accused you of trying to handle me.”

Celestia's breath caught in her throat. “You weren't far off. I've been pushing ponies away for so long, Twilight. I'm not sure if I really know how to... respond any other way.”

“Of course you do,” said Twilight. “You’re the kindest and most loving pony I know. You were just scared.”

Celestia blinked. “Scared? I suppose after you ran away, but—”

Twilight shook her head. “No, I mean... Love is scary, Princess. It gets into your chest and twists you up inside, and only lets you breathe when the one you love does. It chokes you when they look your way. Why do you think I stammer like a little filly whenever we're alone together?” She frowned down at the water's edge. “And I came in talking about how much I loved you, and how beautiful you were and... and swans mating for life, and you'd never even been in love before... I'm an idiot.”

Celestia looked back at her reflection, saw it blink along with her. Saw... finally, only now, saw fear etched between the ripples. She could have laughed, or cried. Fear. After 1,447 years of life. She'd been afraid.

But that was all it was.

“Never, Twilight,” she said. “You're the brightest pony I've ever met. I've often wished I could see things as clearly as you do. Even my own feelings... are sometimes a mystery to me.” She smiled ruefully. “Perhaps I'm not as wise as you think, my faithful student.”

“No,” Twilight agreed, and she leaned into Celestia's side, nuzzling the base of her neck. Warm shivers ran Celestia's side at the touch. “I love you, Princess Celestia.” Celestia felt the words whisper against her fur, her heart racing, bearing the message to the far corners of her body. “And I can't make my heart stop loving you the way it does, but I can be whatever you need me to be. And I… I will always be honored to be your friend.”

“I... I love you, too, Twilight Sparkle,” Celestia said, and the words seemed so different now from how they had sounded before. “I...” She half chuckled at herself, at the sudden thickness of her tongue. “Not that your friendship isn’t sufficient, Twilight, but I actually mean more... like swans. You know they—mmpph!”

Twilight's mouth flew against hers, lips meeting, teeth clacking together, breath mingling as their muzzles crashed out of alignment. Twilight's tongue found hers, led it in a dance she didn't know the steps to but didn't want to stop, that made her hooves tingle and her tail twitch. Her legs felt wobbly, unsure—she capsized under Twilight's kiss, falling and rolling onto her back, wings spread for stability. She tried to pull Twilight after her but Twilight hesitated a second, breaking contact.

“Princess, are you sure—”

Celestia answered her with a nudging burst of magic, pressing Twilight's lips back against hers. There was no further hesitation as they kissed, Twilight almost but not quite straddling her. Celestia’s crown fell from her head to land somewhere in the grass, where it lay forgotten.

Finally, out of breath after what seemed hours or mere seconds, their lips parted. The earth and grass were cool against Celestia's back, unheeded until that moment, and Twilight's scent filled her with the smell of parchment and sweat and the faint burn of alcohol. She felt like smiling—no, like grinning, the goofiest, widest grin she could muster.

For a moment, Twilight simply stood over her, panting, then she flopped onto the grass beside her. “I just... kissed Princess Celestia.” She seemed mildly in shock. “Andandand Princess Celestia just kissed me.”

Celestia's heaving breath almost turned to laughter. “Well, I hope you aren't too disoriented, Twilight.”

“Absolutely not!” said Twilight hastily, the eager student. Then, abruptly, with something murky and playful in her tone, “Why? Did you have something in mind?”

Heat rushed into Celestia’s cheeks. “I... I, um... I...” she stammered, for once inarticulate.

Evidently the novelty was not lost on Twilight either—she gaped, as though, of everything that had happened that evening, seeing her stutter was the real shocker. Then Twilight shook herself. “Um... no pressure, Princess. I didn't mean to rush you into anything.”

Celestia looked at her, her—she no longer had the word, and perhaps it didn't matter—her Twilight, then, with her purple eyes so full of concern. She felt fear, now that she could call it that, rising, but something warmer and larger too. “I... Twilight Sparkle, I don't really know how this is said but... W-would you... care to come back to my place? It's very close by.”

She nodded at her balcony, above them and to their left.

Twilight looked like she might pass out from some combination of joy and nerves. “You're sure, Princess? W-we can take this slower...”

She put a hoof out, taking one of Twilight's. “I don't... wish to run from this anymore. This part of myself. Or from you.” She swallowed. “Although I, er... I know the basic principles, but I'm afraid you may have to assume the mantle of teacher on this matter, Twilight.”

Twilight's pupils grew quite small in her eyes as she considered that.

“Twilight?”

“Yes, Princess!” said Twilight, a sudden burst of energy. “It's just... where to begin? Diagrams, diagrams are always good—do you still keep a chalkboard in your closet?”

The dam finally broke, and Celestia laughed, for real.

♦ ♦ ♦

Princess Celestia woke in darkness, as she always did, though today there was nopony pounding at her door to make sure she did wake up. The room was still, and through the curtains of her bedspread she could glimpse the moon, not quite set.

Beside her, a bundled up form rose and fell with the slow rhythm of breath—and Celestia let herself breathe too, a sigh of relief that the memories of last night were altogether real, that Twilight Sparkle was beside her and had not evaporated in the night. This state of serenity lasted all of four seconds, before a dozen strange tensions began to play at her mind.

She tried to banish the worries as they arose, snuggling closer to Twilight's back, but even the feel of the unicorn's warmth against her chest did little to soothe her.

“Morning... or whatever it is...” Twilight mumbled.

Celestia flinched a little. “My apologies, Twilight. I didn't mean to wake you.”

“Then you should have done something about your mane,” came the reply.

She blinked, sat up a little—noticing for the first time that her mane was sticking out at all angles, still wafting back and forth, like a great technicolor medusa. Celestia felt something like a blush on her face. “I hadn't realized...” A hairband from the nightstand yawned hugely and pulled her locks into a more manageable ponytail. “You should have said something.”

“You looked... really peaceful,” Twilight said sleepily. “You were drooling.”

Celestia blanched, wiped a hoof across her chin furiously. “I—I...”

“It was cute. I couldn't remember ever seeing you that... unguarded.”

Her heart hammered in her chest, as Celestia struggled for a time when she'd ever been called 'cute' before. “Twilight you were... I...” she fumbled, feeling she should return the compliment, but somehow at a loss.

She took a breath. “Maybe… Maybe I was unguarded because you were here,” Celestia said, in a voice she didn't quite know she had.

At last Twilight rolled over, a smile on her face, eyes still half-lidded with sleep. Celestia thought she might melt.

And yet, the worries wouldn't leave her alone. “Twilight I... we haven't exactly discussed... where do we... go from here?”

“Well, we could... date?” Twilight offered.

“Date?”

“You know... I show up here, with some... flowers or whatever, and we go out to a show or dinner. Or if you're busy, we stay in, and you can do work, and I'll just... be here in the room with you. Though I can't promise you I won't try to distract you.” Twilight yawned. “Or you could come to Ponyville. And I could send Spike to stay over with Rarity or Applejack, and we could break all of the... most of the library's noise regulations.”

She felt flushed all over again at the sleepy offhandedness of the suggestion. “That—that sounds lovely, Twilight. Though you realize a lot of attention is sure to fall on us. There may be ponies with... more than a few unkind words.”

“Lemme at 'em,” Twilight mumbled, burying her face in Celestia's chest. “Wait, no, on second thought, let Spike at 'em.” She paused. “Ugh, I'm going to have to admit he was right...”

“About what?”

“That I should just tell you how I felt. I had a plan. I was going to send you a series of of increasingly suggestive friendship reports. He thought it was too 'subtle.'”

Celestia considered this. “I believe we may owe him a very large cake.”

“Don't I know it. He's going to gloat for ages.”

There was a sobering thought. “I... I haven't even thought how to tell Luna.”

“I think she's already guessed,” said Twilight. “The moon was supposed to set about twenty minutes ago.”

What?” Celestia started up in bed. “She can't simply—all of Equestria relies upon our—I must speak with her.”

Twilight shook her head, as though clearing sleep. “She's just trying to do something nice for us. Besides...” she added, slowly, slyly, “I hear she can be kind of stubborn about the whole lowering the moon thing.”

And, unbelievably, Princess Celestia found herself chuckling at a joke that should have pricked an old wound, found herself settling back into bed, and saying, “Well, perhaps an hour's disruption won't be the end of the world.”

“Mmmm,” Twilight mumbled her agreement, laying her head across Celestia's chest. “In that case, I'm gonna... try to sleep a little.”

“I'll be here,” said Celestia. But though she smiled as she said it, worry gnawed at the corners of her mouth—and the warm pressure of Twilight's head on her chest, the tickle of her breath, did nothing to calm her. It was... they had come so close to hurting each other so badly. What if next time they couldn't stop themselves?

What if Twilight tired of... carrying her? Tired of teaching her how to share a bed, or even a heart? Of having to be patient with her?

And it was one thing to joke about how they would handle the press, but what if the stories about them got truly vicious? She'd panicked, even seeing other ponies supporting her. What if she did it again?

What if the love they felt for each other just... wasn't enough?

A tremor ran Celestia's length, ice that shot between her wings. Her heart pounded.

What if she just couldn't do this after all?

“Princess, I just remembered,” Twilight mumbled. “I never told you the secret.”

“The secret?”

“The reason why love is so scary,” Twilight said, “is because it's too big for just one person. That's why you have to do it together.”

Twilight draped a hoof across Celestia's stomach, and like that one touch had untied a knot inside, Celestia felt the tension ease, felt like she was suddenly floating in a sea of warmth. She loved Twilight so much at that moment, that she felt there ought to be music playing or... or flowers spontaneously blooming to life from her horn. She felt like singing, or learning a dance from this century.

Instead, she said softly, “Twilight Sparkle… You don't have any idea how much hearing that helps.”

“I can't take all the credit,” Twilight said, still yawning. “I'm paraphrasing. Marbell Pranced, I think... I can't remember the original quote. Something about, it arrests and… returns it to us...”

Celestia laughed. “Don't worry about it, Twilight. I liked your version.”

Twilight mumbled something, and half-nuzzled her chest before laying still. Mostly still, anyway. Her rear legs fidgeted beneath the covers.

“You're worrying about it, aren't you?”

“N-no.” Another fidget.

“I believe Pranced's works are on the second shelf of the left-hand bookcase.”

“Thank you, Princess!” Twilight sprang from the bed like a shot, and was halfway across the room before Celestia could even blink.

“Um... Twilight?” Celestia said, uncertainly.

“Yes?”

“About that...” she stumbled, blushing at the words on the tip of her tongue. “I really liked it when you called me 'Celestia.' Even when you were angry but... also all the other times. So could you... call me that from now on?”

Twilight was peering intently at her bookcase. “Hmm? Oh, um... if that's what you want, I... Of course,” the pause was a little unnatural, before she filled in, “Celestia.”

Even so, it sent a shiver trickling down Celestia's spine.

“Though you know,” Twilight went on, “you're ruining all of my teenage fantasies.”

Celestia fumbled for something to say to that, caught someplace between embarrassment and fear, when there was a flash of light and magic and something whumped into bed behind her.

“But,” Twilight's voice whispered in her ear, making her shiver again, “I think I like reality better.”

Twilight snuggled into her back, and Celestia adjusted the covers to accommodate her, as Twilight hefted a large volume with her magic. A candle sparked to life, bathing the scene in soft, warm light.

Celestia was struck by the strange irony of the two of them reading in bed together, like they had when Twilight was just a filly. And for the first time, the images of Twilight Sparkle in her head, as a filly, a student, her friend, her... her lover, maybe—all slotted into place beside each other, all the same and yet different, all loved at once and in different ways, in memories and in now and in thoughts of the future she had only begun to entertain.

And, as she listened to Twilight's murmuring voice, as the pages of the book turned, and the candle flickered beside them, and the improbable moon hung in the sky, Princess Celestia began to feel excited about the future.

She smiled. Just simply smiled.

And that was all.

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Comments ( 231 )
fferror #1 · Feb 11th, 2014 · · 1 ·

This was truly extraordinary. In a one-shot, you've captured more depth of character than many stories ten times this length.

I love the misdirection about what Twilight was truly angry about, from both Luna and Celestia. Twilight's reaction felt entirely justified: it'd be one thing for Celestia to say, personally, that she wasn't in love with Twilight, but when she said can't, she really meant won't, and that was uncalled for. Princess'd was the perfect term for it.

It's rare to see this much depth in Celestia's character, as well as this much realistic vulnerability.

Twilight's rant also managed to feel in-character and very Twilight, primarily because of how much reasoning and logic went into it: she saw right through the facade and decorum, and made Celestia take it to a personal level, where she had no excuses to hide behind. Drunkenness is a bit of a cliche, but you did something interesting and realistic with it. Besides allowing for Twilight's highly fitting rant, it led to the single funniest line for me: "So I made one."

This was not a simple romance, or a contrived one, or by any means a cliched one.

I'm not exaggerating when I say I enjoyed this as much as The Lavender Letter.

Wow, that was really beautiful. Truly outstanding characterization for both Celestia and Twilight, and a rare, but very welcome instance of Celestia being the one most hesitant and clueless about starting a relationship. And, as fferor said before me, Twilight's reaction was both justified and pretty impressive, and her calling Celestia out on her own mistakes was what made this possible.
And, of course, FINALLY more Twilestia. Can't have enough of that.

I am afraid we need more of this, please say thou art doing a sequal

whoever disliked this story will you please kindly go buck yourself.

This pleases me deeply. Twilestia fascinates me forever, for some reason.

Very, very good. The characters were pitch perfect, especially Luna. Beautiful story.

You sir/madam, are feeding my addiction. Thank you for that. I was going crazy without a good Twilestia story!

Heh, this story was just as fun to read the second time around. Nicely done, Fed. I definitely consider this a unique gem among the Celestia x Twilight stories out there. It was fun getting to be a part of this fic's process, and it's great to see it finished.

8.asset.soup.io/asset/3787/3896_740d_500.png
"Mmmyes, quite a good read, old sport."

That was absolutely wonderful. Bravo, sir. Bravo.

*lies twitching on the floor frothing from the mouth with one hand holding a pen over a piece of parchment that reads fluffy over and over and over*

You have written two of my all time favorite twilestia fics, that they are so wildly different from each other tickles me. :twilightsmile:

I want more (like always) but this feels so damn complete.
DAMN YOU!
*Twitching on the floor in over excitement*

This story was so well done and it will certainly be something I come back to when I want to read a favourite.

See, this is why I can't read Celestia shipping. There's just no way I can reconcile Celestia from the show with the Celestia here. I'm not saying one or the other is right or wrong, just that I can't make it fit. Also, I get the feeling that what Twilight was angry about was meant to be a surprise, but I'd already winced at every syllable of Celestia's atrocious rebuttal.

On the upside, this gave me a huge laugh:

Luna frowned. “You have not gone yet.”

-M

I'm not one for TwiLestia.

BUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUT I might just read this story. You have already gotten me interested.

3929477 I...find the disconnect not really present.

3929517 Heh...I think this is, what, the fourteenth time I've heard you say something along these lines on a Twilestia?

I had a big dumb grin on my face through out the entire thing. Very nice work here. :twilightsmile:

Well dang, that's more character development for Celestia than she's had in all four seasons and all the fan-fics I've read so far...In one chapter, no less. Bravo.

I loved this story for several reasons.

First off, you managed to write a one-shot shipfic with a conflict. That alone is enough to get me to favorite and follow.

Secondly, I absolutely loved the way you wrote Celestia. She is almost always portrayed as the epitome of perfection, but you didn't go down that path. You wrote her as a regular pony with regular problems, and that says a lot. You really dug deep into her character and gave us a nice look into what makes her tick beneath her cultured exterior. I appreciate that.

Next, you managed to explain why Twilight loves Celestia and vice versa. During the conflict you showed us why the relationship would work. I never liked the ship before now because I'd never seen it explained like this. You've changed that. That's right, world, I'll admit it. I NOW SHIP TWILESTIA!

Lastly, I didn't find a single error with your SPaG. That is mighty impressive.

Have a favorite and a follow. You've definitely earned it. :twilightsmile:

3928425
I literally couldn't have said it better. I tried, for thirty minutes. You hit every point perfectly to match my own thoughts. Even the story you mentioned I thought and compared to this one. Freaky and awesome.

Fedora Mask, you've accomplished something that maybe a dozen of the nearly 1400 stories I've read and enjoyed on this website. I am almost literally speechless and I've weitten my fair share of small-chapter sized comments. I enjoy Twilestia, have no doubt. But this story blew me away. I'm definitely going to have to keep am eye on what you write. Followed, thumbed, faved.

Normally, I follow an author when I enjoy 200k words they'd written, or three stories. You're a rare exception now. Ten thousand words and every one of them was awesome.

Brilliantly done, with wonderful characterizations throughout. Bonus points for nervous, scared, panicky Celestia. Thumbs up and gold star for you!

Let's just hope this isn't a prequel to Lessons.

“Twilgiht?”

Seems Celestia's mind fell to the great emotionally-inspired typo as well :derpytongue2:
Real cute, though I still find it hard to read Twi~lestia regularly.:unsuresweetie:

I struggle with reviews on stories like this because, honestly, I'm used to offering a constructive critique. All I have for this is praise.

It was a good, sweet story. It was well written. It was entertaining. It fit its tags perfect. And, most importantly, the characters were in character.

I really enjoyed it.:twilightsmile:

Also:

Twilight's pupils grew quite small in her eyes as she considered that.

Twilgiht?”

Should be Twilight.

3929691 Apparently you missed the one time I misspelled Twilight's name. Which two other people were so good as to point out.

(No, but actually thanks for the catch guys... in 10k that's not bad though!)

I mean, I'm fairly certain there are some sentence fragments in there, but they're on purpose, and hopefully they read that way.

On a more substantial note, thanks for the thoughtful praise! You hit on basically everything I was trying to do with this fic--finding conflicts that push the characters and reveal things about them (or at least provide good fodder for silly antics) is one of my perpetual goals for my writing. During the almost 2-years when I was working on this fic, I took a class on American film comedy, most of which were in fact romantic comedies (though perhaps not quite how we would define them today), and that had a huge influence on how I approached this fic. I believe Billy Wilder said something like "The plot of any romantic comedy is 'What keeps them apart?'" and that was an invaluable way of looking at this story. Studying how those stories came up with reasons for characters not to get together, and then managed to show that they belonged together anyway (although sometimes they failed to quite pull the latter off) helped me a lot when I was trying to build this fic.

As for characterizing Celestia... I mean, basically you have to invent who she is, or else you're stuck with a character who has a few interesting qualities but not much of an inner life. The genesis of my vision of Celestia here is pretty complicated, actually, but I knew I didn't want her to be the "experienced" or dominant one in this relationship, that her relationship to Twilight as teacher and student would have to reverse a certain amount for them to approach each other on equal footing. Anyway I really wanted to portray a Celestia who, in at least this one way, doesn't have the vast experience and wisdom that she tends to display in the show. There had to be something missing from her life that Twilight would complete, basically.

Anyhoo, I'm rambling a bit (it's funny, the writing of this story was long and complicated and potentially an interesting story, but whenever I try to write it, it comes out kind of a mess... rather like my early efforts at the fic, hah). I'm glad I made a convert of you. All part of my evil plan.

3929121 Heh, thanks for the second read-through Denim. I will actually read your thing now!

And I'm glad my incessant chattering/whining about the fic (which you graciously refer to as "being part of the process") didn't make you sick of it/me. Your comments and encouragements were quite helpful in actually getting things done, so thanks for that too.

Eventually there will be a story where Celestia is both Twilight's mother and lover.

In this fandom, you know it will happen... at least 50 times before 2015. :trollestia:

3928784 Hey, so I appreciate the support and enthusiasm, but please don't get aggressive towards people who didn't like the fic.

The stuff I write isn't going to be everyone's cup of tea, and it doesn't really help to be disrespectful towards people who say as much. Besides, I'd rather hear how much you liked it than that you're angry someone else didn't. :twilightsmile:

3930152 That's actually a really interesting way to approach a shipfic. I've tried my hand (hoof?) at them in the past, but it always ends up becoming "Hey, I'm going to put these characters in a relationship just because I feel like it." Naturally, none of those got published. Next time I take a shot at it, though, I'm definitely going to try that method.

As for Celestia, I find her inexperience adorable. Her insecurity and reluctance make her feelings seem that much more genuine. You certainly did an awesome job of building something from nothing with her character.

I'm glad I made a convert of you. All part of my evil plan.

Because of you, I'm probably going to be doing some serious binge TwiLestia reading later. I mean, who needs a social life anyway?

3929477 Celestia is over 1,000 years old.

You'd think after all that time she'd be used to dealing with filly-style romantic crushes from emotionally-immature ponies.

THAT is the biggest problem I have with Twilestia: Celestia is always portrayed as if she's either not ever dealt with romance before or she's a cougar having a midlife crisis.

The issue is the authors don't try to imagine how thoughts and emotions mellow after over a millenium's worth of experience.

3930182 I am sorry for that it just aggravated me that something of such beauty would get a dislike, It truly portrays the depth and hardships such a relationship would bring and the sheer profundity of their emotions are amazing for starters, it is by far one of the best fictions for Twilestia I have ever read for the fact that you have shown so much personality in just one chapter where many take at least ten-one hundred times the amount of chapters to show. I really loved this piece of art, I wouldn't be surprised if it became fabled on fimfiction, Sorry to put such a discriminating comment but it really frustrated me to see it there but again as you say some things aren't others cup of tea and I should not have put it. Just know I really loved this fiction enough to say I dislike the dislike, keep p the good work, Serra.

3930192 Exactly. Outside of that it was well written, so there's a lot to be said for a fic that I don't downvote. You know I'm not shy to do so :P

-M

3930188 Well if you're interested in any of the films that had a pretty significant impact on me in this process... I mean, anything by Billy Wilder is probably pretty great, but Some Like it Hot and especially The Apartment are both incredible films. Funny, great characters (Jack Lemmon is adorable in both), and yet Wilder almost always has this real sadness to his stuff. Maybe not so much with Some Like it Hot but oh my god The Apartment is such a sad funny movie. You get to this point where it doesn't seem like anything can save these characters, but somehow they save each other, at least enough to keep going.

Interestingly, if you want one where everyone in the class thought he failed to really explain why the characters should actually be together, Sabrina (who is a teenager, but not a witch) was pretty quintessential. Like, it does the "you think the budding romance is a ploy by one character to deceive the other" thing, and never really sells you on the idea that it's become genuine somewhere in the middle. Also very much a story about broken characters finding solace in each other.

The other director I really loved was Cameron Crowe. He's quite different--a very gentle worldview where even the most antagonistic characters have this humanity to them, and everyone really does seem to mean well. My top film of his is Almost Famous, where the love story seems sort of backseat to the story of the main character growing up, but it's a really fun movie anyway (also about Rock & Roll journalism, and the struggle between liking and admiring someone but also seeing how flawed they are as a person). Say Anything is perhaps more interesting from a "what keeps them apart?" perspective, though. Also worth watching because everyone misremembers the boombox-over-the-head scene. In context it's actually like... way more sad than romantic. And if you like Frasier (my favorite traditional sitcom), John Mahoney (Martin) plays the girl's dad, who has a really interesting relationship with her... it's sort of tender and honest and yet with this unnerving, manipulative undertone to it.

We also looked at a bunch of films by Preston Sturges, who is quite funny but his stuff definitely shows its age more (and I mean, Crowe is contemporary-ish and Wilder was working all through the middle of the 20th century, while Sturges was more active in the 40s). His comedy is really zany and manic, and he's also got this tendency to shoehorn in happy endings, like he's deliberately thumbing his nose at the idea of wrapping everything up neatly. Which was very much NOT what I wanted for this fic, heh. He is a favorite of MLP writers M. A. Larson and Amy Keating Rogers, though, and The Lady Eve is just an interesting/important film in general.

...Sorry I haven't had a film conversation in a while, getting a little carried away again. I do highly recommend those directors though. Also because nobody ever knows Almost Famous when I bring it up and it was probably my favorite film from that class.

I do think there's a place for low-conflict or conflictless shipping, but to me it's the sort of thing that has to be kept kind of short. Like it's great to just see cutesy moments between characters who you like seeing together. And visual art sort of gets a free pass there, because unless you're doing a lengthy comic we don't necessary expect art (even short-form comics) to have "stories." But in writing, anything longer than a drabble that's just there to be romantic can start to wear a little thin... one the reasons I don't read a lot of longer fics on this site (apart from the fact that I don't read enough in general) is the sense that most of them don't have a strong central conflict, or that, if they do, they're dragging it out a lot longer than is necessary without pushing the story/characters forward. That... may be a mistaken impression though, and obviously there are exceptions (though uh... I've not really read any long shipfics to test this theory in the first place...).

Also I probably have no business talking about dragging out conflicts when I have 2 unfinished 20k comedy fics that are both like 90% crazy antics... though I like to think that I'm at last developing a sense of how to escalate those antics in a way that keeps things interesting and makes the character progressively desperate. Real adherence to the principle that every scene should affect the direction of the story so that you couldn't cut any of them is... one of the hardest things, I think.

Well, this is one of the sweetest stories I've read in a long time. Your characterisation of Celestia never felt "wrong", and I like what you did with Twilight. Some nifty turns of phrase and jokes to lighten things up, too. Good work! :pinkiehappy:

3930321 Looks like I'll be binge watching as well as binge reading later. Though that's definitely not a bad thing. It's about time I made a serious effort to understanding what goes behind romance. Almost Famous sounds particularly interesting. I always love a good coming of age story.

Though I do enjoy fluffy romance fics, they are always fleeting. Chances are that I'll forget about it the next day, and that's what I want to avoid with my writing. Most authors' goal (or at least mine) is to leave a mark. I want somebody to read what I write and be affected by it. If my story is not short and plotless, then that won't happen.

But then there's the opposite side of the spectrum. A little while ago I read an AppleDash fanfic called A Taste of an Apple over on FF.net (not sure if it's up over here). It piles on the drama and conflict so heavily that I would have to stop reading for days, even weeks at a time. I'm not saying that the drama was unnecessary, but... the author did lay on a little too much. It was well written, but I wouldn't read another one of his stories because I don't want to go through that again. Everything moved way too fast. I didn't have time to crawl to my feet from the last punch to the gut before he swung at me again.

Which brings me to my next point. Being 20K words in and still not yet at the full conflict isn't a bad thing. It's good to feel out the story before diving into it completely.

But then again, I'm not really one to talk. I have serious pacing issues. I get a little bit too excited to start the main story line, so I speed things up so I can get there quicker. I'm working on fixing it, but I never catch myself when I'm in the act, only afterward. It's always a pain to go back and fix everything right when you finish.

This story was everything I hoped it would be. I have no complaints whatsoever.

And now my Twilestia shipping goggles have more bling than ever before!

3930425 Oh, it's not that I don't hit the conflicts pretty quickly in the comedy fics I mentioned, it's that I tend to... over-beat. As in, have too many story beats or moments that aren't entirely necessary to advance the plot/character arcs, but which provide some other moment of humor/coolness/what-have-you. I mean if you strip everything down to its most basic you get a pretty boring story, so it's sort of like the art of writing really tight stuff is figuring out exactly how much you can do with how little of your audience's time. And that doesn't mean hitting them with full-on drama at every possible second, it means stripping down to the exact right BALANCE between high and low moments of tension or comedy or what-have-you for the mood you want. The trick of it is that you need escalation, to get between where you start and where you end up, both in the overall plot and in each scene. It's just sort of a question of how much and where. It's "the minimum you can do to create the precise experience you want," and figuring out what that experience is, and how long it can go before people get bored.

It's why nobody has ever said that writing was easy, heh. (And I mean, tightness isn't everything. It matters more to film and television where every second costs a ton of money and there may be an actual upper limit on how long your story can go. But it's a valid goal for prose, too, like Kurt Vonnegut's writing rule, "Use the time of a complete stranger so they won't feel like it's been wasted.")

But I dunno, I think waiting too long to start the main conflict is a bigger sin than rushing into it. Really what you need to know before you hit main conflict is where the characters are coming from and what the "rules" of the world are. And that can mean easing into things or it can mean starting in the midst of everything and making the audience play catchup.

This is SO AWESOME :rainbowkiss:

I NOW TWILESTIA :twilightblush:x:trollestia:

Some of the lines in this story were so good I had to quote them at people.

She was past having a choice. It was say it, or sit there in uncomfortable silence until she died of shame. Which could take weeks.

Twilight shook her head, as though clearing sleep. “She's just trying to do something nice for us. Besides...” she added, slowly, slyly, “I hear she can be kind of stubborn about the whole lowering the moon thing.”

“Though you know,” Twilight went on. “You're ruining all of my teenage fantasies.”

There were lots of other bits in here that made me giggle as well.

And honestly, I think that's VITALLY important in a pony story. There is a certain level of levity in their world, and it needs to be reflected in pony stories unless you have a very, very good reason not to. Ponies kissing? Yeah, there needs to be levity there.

Oh, also:

Celestia said, backing up reflexively to match Twilight's advice.

That should be Twilight's advance.

A very enjoyable read, with a lot of content of high qulaity. There's a lot that can be learned from this as regards characterization and writing technique, taking the counter-cliche tone of the story and making it work just as well as any played-straight Twiliestia ever did.

Oh man, I absolutely loved this one. Twilight had some of the best lines ever, and the story as a whole was great too. Honestly, I'd say this is probably my favourite one-shot shipfic -- not by unseating a previous one, but by being the first of its length that has really wowed me at all. Most of them are brief, and feel that way, being just some cute story or quick concept idea, but this one really had some depth and meaning to it. And at the same time, as Titanium Dragon points out, it's punctuated with absolutely wonderful lines that add a sense of levity and fun to it. It's just brilliant, great work.

This is my first Twilestia.

You did not disappoint.

Now I can officially say I have respect for all of the Twilight x Princess Ships.

Lordy, lordy... best TwiLestia I've read to date. There's been lots of approaches to how to do this, and there've been some really fantastic ones, but I think your approach of "normalizing" the two of them, writing them like any other couple trying to manage the transition from friendship to love, was an excellent choice.

Also, your name is so much more awesome than "Tuxedo Mask". Fedoras are win.

3929518
This is the first time I have commented on a story with TwiLestia. You must be thinking about someone else.

Great story. But I have to agree with Celestia's first reason she couldn't love Twilight. The fact that she has sat through Twilight's life but now is her lover is... well, odd. Think about that for a second. It is like your mom's friend becoming your lover. I cannot imagine how odd that is.

But this story was still good. It was an enjoyable read.

I swear, I've seen that cover art used for a Twilestia story for the third or fourth time now… :applejackconfused:
Anywhores, nicely written story, even if it did feel a bit typical to me. :twilightblush:

“I think I know my own heart, Luna.”
“Sister, if your heart were able, it would sue you for negligence.”

i.imgur.com/CZGZOMA.png

3931251 Well, tell somebody who isn't Bri-sta (or the artist of this piece whose name I still don't know) to draw Twilight being the assertive one/instigator.

Or even tell Bri-sta to do it more than, like, twice.

Seriously I think I looked through like, most or all of the Twilestia tag on derpibooru, it is -not- common.

(I am accepting fanart submissions for this fic...? Or anything I've written? Something with the bar scene would be fun if anyone's taking requests.)

3931207 I could have sworn you said the same thing about The Lavender Letter...and Colloquim..and a few others. Perhaps I am confusing you with someone else. But I can't help but feel like I have heard you saying this statement like five times.

EDIT: Looking back at old Twilestia fics, it was not that you specifically said this often, but that I have heard this said at least twenty five times on at least five different stories. I think I'll just start reading them as a whole as "people aren't always comfortable with the Twilestia ship, but they like to acknowledge the competence of its writers."

3931251 I have to disagree in that it didn't feel like most of them characterization-wise, but agree that it read a lot like your standard Twilestia fic except for the role reversal of Twilight being the certain and Celestia being the uncertain one.

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