• Published 11th Feb 2014
  • 5,568 Views, 90 Comments

Love, Friendship and Chaos - alarajrogers



"Three's A Crowd" endcap. Why *did* Discord want Twilight to go to the ends of Equestria for him?

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Two

Cadance was accustomed to waking before dawn, and being in a strange place only accentuated that. She was physically worn out from the day's experiences, but she was too excited to be here in Ponyville with Twilight to be able to sleep late. Also, she ached. That had been a workout for her wings like nothing she'd experienced in years.

She crept downstairs quietly, looking to find something for breakfast. Something simple, country fare like hay or oats, not the elaborate fancy meals she'd been served in Canterlot or the Crystal Empire most of her life. Maybe an apple or a nice glass of juice.

The sound of the draconequus coughing his lungs out (not literally, thankfully, given that he didn't seem to have the ability to use his powers at the moment) in the quarantine bubble was disruptive enough to her appetite to put a kibosh on that plan, at least for the moment. Instead she went into the main library. "You're awake?"

He looked up at her with bloodshot eyes. "For some reason it's extremely difficult to sleep when your lungs are on fire and your magic has stopped working for no particularly good reason."

"I know, isn't it?" Cadance said. "It must be as bad as having your wings feel like they've been stretched on a rack because you just had to fly for ten hours round trip because a spirit of chaos wanted somepony to pay attention to him."

Discord rolled his eyes. "I know what it feels like to overuse your wings," he said. "This is much worse. Trust—" He began coughing again.

"You do sound miserable," Cadance said.

"Good, because I am miserable. When is Fluttershy supposed to get home?"

"I believe Twilight said around noon."

"What good does that do me? I have no idea what time it is now!"

"5 am."

Discord's eyes widened in an exaggerated expression of despair. Though actually he seemed to be childish enough that it might not be all that exaggerated. "Six hours? How am I supposed to survive that long? Everything hurts, and Fluttershy's the only one who'll care."

Cadance decided not to tell him his math was wrong and it was really seven hours. In his current state that seemed cruel. "Well, I'm no expert, but if you'd like some warm broth, I was about to make myself some breakfast. I could heat you up an herbal broth for your chest and throat."

"You would do that for me?" His tone was both surprised and plaintive.

"Of course I would. Twilight would, if she was awake, and while both of us are her guests, I'm her family, so I feel obligated to do for her guests what she'd do if she could."

"When is she going to wake up?"

"Twilight sleeps late. And you kept us both up very late last night having to fly you back here. So I wouldn't guess she'd wake up until around ten."

Discord sighed. "Well, it's very gracious of you to extend me Twilight's hospitality when she can't be bothered to do it herself, Princess Cadance," he said. "I do apologize that my little test for Twilight interfered with your family fun time."

"Don't apologize for things you're not sorry for, Discord," Cadance said. "You did that on purpose and you know it."

He slumped slightly. "Well, if I'd known what a sweet, caring pony you are, maybe I would have thought better of it."

"Also, you don't need to try to butter me up. I'm going to make you the broth anyway," Cadance said, smiling. She headed for the kitchen before Discord could respond to that.

It took a few minutes to figure out where Twilight kept everything, but since she was obsessively neat and organized, once Cadance figured out which cabinet served which purpose it became obvious where the supplies she needed were. She made herself a bowl of oatmeal with raisins and a glass of apple juice, and for Discord a bowl of vegetable bouillion broth and a mug of ginger tea with a lot of honey in it for his throat. With a health bubble up around her, she opened the quarantine bubble, lowered the mug and bowl down to him, and closed up the quarantine bubble again. "Please don't make a mess. I'm going back to bed in a little while, so if you spill that, you'll have to clean it up, and without your magic I'm sure that will be inconvenient for you."

"If I spill it, then I don't get to drink it," Discord pointed out. "I'm fond of chaos, but not the kind that gets between me and my breakfast." He breathed in the fumes from the ginger tea. "Why, I think this might be helping already."

She sat by the bubble and ate her oatmeal, watching the sick draconequus mix a portion of the vegetable bouillon into the ginger honey tea, then pour some of the tea back into the soup bowl. He did spill a little bit of it onto the blankets, but not enough to worry about. He then proceeded to drink the contents of the soup bowl, and eat the liquid from the mug with a spoon –for a few bites, anyway, and then he seemed to get bored, or tired, and drank the rest of it.

When he was done, he made puppy dog eyes at her. "I don't suppose you'd be willing to get me a teensy tiny glass of water?"

"I'm considering it," Cadance said.

Her answer took him aback. "Considering it?"

"On the one hand, I'm sure it's important for you to keep your fluid intake up with this illness of yours. On the other hand... you did just set up an incredibly elaborate plot to put Twilight and me through the wringer just to prove that Twilight really does care about you at all. And also secondarily to ruin her day with me."

"Now I never said that," he objected, and then started coughing again.

"Of course you never said it," Cadance said. "But you did say you were responsible for the tatzlwurms, because you wanted to provide a challenge—"

"They were supposed to have been a lot smaller."

"And you admitted that you deliberately interfered with my time with Twilight, just a few minutes ago."

He closed his eyes. "Is this an interrogation? Should I be hiring a lawyer? Or are you just going to torture me with thirst so I'm forced to answer your questions?"

Cadance sighed. She got up, went to the kitchen, and poured a large glass of water for him. "Here you go," she said, putting it through the bubble with the same technique she'd used last time.

"Thank you," he mumbled.

"I don't need you to answer my questions; the answers are obvious," she said. "There were other things you never said in so many words, either, but to me, they were equally obvious."

"Oh, what is that supposed to mean?"

Cadance glanced at the staircase. There was no sign of either Twilight or Spike. "I mean," she said quietly, "that you chose the day your friend was out of town, rejected Pinkie Pie when she offered to take care of you, made Rarity and Applejack sick so that they couldn't-"

"Temporarily!"

"Temporarily sick," Cadance agreed, "all in order to make sure the only available pony to care for you would be Twilight, on a day when she was supposed to be spending time with me, a friend and family member she hasn't seen in a long time. You made the two of us carry you to the literal ends of Equestria to prove that Twilight would be willing to help you if you needed her to, even if she had other priorities she'd have much preferred to engage in. And I think you know your craft far too well for me to think you seriously thought you could disrupt my friendship with Twilight."

"Well, of course not! You're family. No one gives up on family simply because of one annoying day."

Cadance nodded. "You had no nefarious plot ahoof to ruin our friendship. You weren't trying to get us killed, given that you didn't even recognize that creature and you keep saying it wasn't supposed to be nearly as dangerous as it ended up... you were simply trying to annoy me and make me regret spending the day with Twilight, and make her regret the day as well." She smiled at him. "But you made a grave miscalculation."

"What, in letting that creature get its snot all over me? I admit that was unforeseen—"

"No, Discord." She leaned against the bubble so she could speak even more quietly. "In that you did all this in front of the Alicorn of Love."

Discord blinked goop-encrusted eyes at her for a moment, and then widened them. "I'm sure I have no idea what you're trying to imply," he said snappishly, but far too quickly.

Cadance shook her head. "You're in my domain now, Discord," she said softly. "I'm not mistaken about such things, any more than you'd be mistaken if you noted me having a fight with my husband. Do you actually know yourself well enough to know what you're feeling, and you simply think you can misdirect me? Or are you clueless enough that you don't know?"

Discord stared at her in utter shock. "I – you don't – I'm the avatar of chaos, Cadance! Surely you don't think you can comprehend my emotional states the way you could a pony's!"

"No?" Cadance smiled broadly at him. "As nearly as I can tell, being the avatar of chaos doesn't do anything to stop you from having the same emotions ponies do. It just makes you respond to them in remarkably immature ways." Her smile grew bigger. "Love is chaos, Discord. I know more about the kind of magic you wield than possibly any other pony in Equestria. That screen you use so nopony can really get a fix on your mind or heart, so lie detection spells don't work on you and heart reading spells don't work and nopony can ever use magic to figure out how you really feel about anything? I can see how that would work very well against ponies that know nothing of chaos magic... but I couldn't master my domain without learning a good bit about it. Love can bring about the most perfect of harmonies, but in its fundamental nature, love is chaos. One must know both harmonic and chaotic magic to master love. And since you don't expect ponies to know anything about chaos magic... you never built that shield to block a heart reader who understands your magic."

She leaned forward into the bubble, pressing her face into it, as Discord shrank back from her. "I see right through you," she said softly. "Don't try to lie to me about this. I know."

He curled back against his pillows, pulling his covers up to his chin, his wide eyes terrified. "Don't tell her," he whispered. "What do you want? Magical weapons to defend the Crystal Empire with? Secret tomes of forbidden magic? Eternal life for your hubby? Whatever you want, Cadance, just... please don't tell her."

"I want your word that you will never, ever do something like this to her again," Cadance said. "With the understanding that if you break your word, I will tell Twilight exactly why you felt the need to do this... and exactly what form of friendship you wish you had with her."

"I don't wish any such thing!" Discord said bitterly. "Love's a weakness, a weapon to use against its victims."

"Yes," Cadance said. "It is. But you shouldn't be ashamed of your feelings, Discord, love is the most chaotic emotion there is. It brings the greatest joys and the most tragic of sorrows. It heals and it destroys. It weakens us and it makes us stronger. It's nothing but contradictions. I'm surprised you haven't explored it before."

He scowled. "I don't use chaos against myself."

"Which is why you didn't recognize the tatzlwurm you yourself created to harass Twilight and me, and why it was able to make you sick. Because your chaos never, ever gets away from your control and turns against you."

"Rub it in, why don't you."

"I'm not here to torment you."

"You're doing a magnificent job if you're not even trying."

"Why, thank you. Coming from the master of torment, that's quite a compliment," Cadance said sweetly. Her eyes narrowed. "But that isn't my objective. My objective is to make sure that you either choose to reject your feelings entirely – which I don't believe you can do, and I don't believe you should do, but it would be a better choice than what you did today – or that you choose to treat Twilight with respect and kindness. Because if you insist on acting like a colt who'll dip a filly's tail in ink or put earthworms in her mane because he likes her, then I'm going to tell Twilight exactly why you're behaving this way toward her."

"She'll never believe you. Me? In love? Her orderly little brain would simply break on the concept."

"I'm her friend, her foalsitter, her sister-in-law... and the Alicorn of Love. You're a well known liar. I think that no matter what you say to her, she'll believe me."

Discord curled up under his blanket, turning into a semicircle. "Fine," he mumbled ungraciously. "I'll be nice to her. This is blackmail, you know."

"Yes," Cadance said, still smiling. "I know."

"It's not like I think I have a chance anyway," he muttered. "I just... everything I've done for her, and she doesn't even know about it, and she doesn't even care. And she wouldn't believe me if I told her. And every moment she spends in my presence, I can tell she wants to be anywhere else, and why am I even doing this? If I wanted to be despised and barely tolerated, I could be plunging Equestria into utter glorious chaos right now – well, not right this minute, I'm sick, but I could have done it yesterday! I thought doing this whole friendship thing and reforming meant I wouldn't be hated anymore. That ponies would want to spend time with me for once. But she doesn't."

"Pinkie does. Fluttershy does."

"Yes, yes, Flutters will make friends with any creature who needs her. It hardly even seems personal. I wish I could believe our friendship was based on something other than her feeling I'm some sort of wounded bird who needs friendship because I don't have any... but I don't see any evidence of it. And Pinkie is so relentlessly cheerful. It's unnatural! I know what she's suppressing, but if I tried to help her set it free and become the pony she truly is rather than the pony she thinks she needs to be, everypony would be calling for my head on a platter."

"Twilight's not going to want to spend time with you if all that ever happens when she does is that you make demands on her or taunt her. If you want her to be a friend, you have to be a friend to her."

"She thinks horrible things about me. She doesn't even want to be my friend. She just doesn't want me taking over Equestria."

"So change it."

"I'm not allowed to. Mind control spells are a one-way ticket to Stonesville, according to Princess Sunny Sunny Sunshine. And while I suppose I could get up to all kinds of mischief now that the Tree has taken back its Elements... it seems like it would be completely pointless if I had to use magic to do it."

Cadance sighed. Trust Discord to totally misunderstand what she was saying. "You're right. It would be. The first thing I learned when I learned to do love spells is to never do love spells. Making a pony love you, or somepony else, is completely pointless. You might as well be a foal hugging a plush doll; the thing you love isn't the other pony then, it's yourself reflected off the other pony. You've made them into an object, and if you love an object, that's not the same thing as loving a thinking, feeling being."

"There never used to be a difference," Discord mumbled.

"Really? Because if there was never a difference why didn't you just animate rocks and trees to watch your chaos with you?" Cadance asked. "I know what you did when you got loose, and I've been told about what you did before you were turned to stone. You wanted an audience. You wanted actual ponies who could have actual reactions to what you'd done. If you really couldn't tell the difference between ponies and objects, you could have stuck with objects and then nopony would have tried to turn you to stone. But you needed it to be ponies, because you needed something that wasn't you."

"I... suppose so."

"The most I ever do is strengthen love that already exists, or give those that love the courage and confidence to admit their feelings, because I know the other one feels the same way. I've helped ponies who had fallen out of love with their spouses to rekindle their feelings, but only when they asked me to, and only when I felt that the love was still there buried under the pressures of everyday life. That wasn't what I was talking about when I said for you to change it. You can't mind control Twilight into being your friend, or anything else, because it wouldn't mean anything if you created the emotion. But you can try to be a friend to her. You can try to offer her some reason to enjoy your company. Something about you that she would like. That's how friendship works. Something about the other pony makes us feel good, something about their personality and behavior is something we enjoy, and they feel the same way about us."

"And how am I supposed to do that?" he asked bitterly. "I'm Chaos. She's psychotically obsessed with order."

"Well, what do you like about her?"

"The fact that she's so unbelievably annoying," he said, almost dreamily.

Cadance blinked. "What?"

"Psychotically ordered. As I said. She represents everything I can't stand, and she challenges me with it! But that isn't truly what she is... she has so much power, so much chaos inside her. Why, she swapped out her best friends' cutie marks and brought their lives into total chaos and confusion! It was wonderful! And she denies it about herself, she denies everything about it, all she wants is order and control and precision and she can't have it because she's Magic, and Magic is Chaos! So delightfully contradictory! I never know what she's going to do next. And she's so brilliant and so young and so completely stupid about everything because she's a genius who thinks she knows everything and she has so much more to learn. I could spend the next several centuries challenging her and tormenting her and she'll fight back, she'll learn from it, she'll get better and she'll challenge me, she already has."

He sagged against the mattress and pulled his covers tight again. "But I'm disharmony. I love what I hate because that's what I am, because I'm all about contradiction and conflict. She isn't. So she'll never see in me what I see in her. I know that. I just want... I just want her to not hate me. I thought I'd done it, that I'd proven she cared, that she would go to the ends of Equestria to help me... but then she got so mad at me for doing it she left me behind when I really did need her. I know it was you who talked her out of it."

"It wasn't," Cadance said. "It was always her plan to get far enough away from you that you wouldn't sense a scrying spell, and watch to see what you did when you thought she wasn't watching."

Discord's eyes went wide. "Really?"

"Really. She never intended to leave you there if you were really sick. It was a test, just as she said." Cadance decided not to mention that it had been obvious to her that he was really sick long before Twilight had been willing to admit it to herself.

"Oh." He looked absurdly pleased, given the circumstances. "Well. That's surprising."

"It must be hard for you," Cadance said gently. "As old as you are, as powerful as you are, to be at the mercy of something you've never experienced before."

"Yes, this flu or whatever it is is positively dreadful."

"I wasn't talking about that. I meant love, actually."

He scowled at her. "And how exactly would you know what I've experienced before or haven't?"

"Well, Twilight filled me in on the details of your reformation while we were carrying you out to the flower yesterday, and she said you said Fluttershy was the first friend you'd ever had."

"And having had a friend is a necessary requirement for being in love?" he snapped. "I know a lot more about this than you think I do. I never had anything quite exactly like a friend – I'm not wholly convinced I know what that even is – but I have had a.... I have no idea what to call her."

"Someone you loved? Who didn't love you in return?"

He chortled. "You really don't know half as much as you think you do, Princess Cadance. I had someone I loved who did love me in return, or at least claimed she did, for all the good it ever did either of us."

Cadance frowned at him. "Then how is it you never had a friend?"

"Can you call that a friend? When we met, I was too young to understand romantic feelings, so I thought, she must be like a sister. Then puberty hit and I realized my feelings weren't brotherly in the slightest." He chuckled. "I thought she was my other half, my anchor, the melody I was born to counterpoint. She promised me she'd be there forever to keep me tied to this reality, to keep me from drowning in my chaos. Then she abandoned me. And I found out, not only do I have gills, I actually quite like it here at the bottom of the sea." Discord sighed ostentatiously. "I tried to show her how beautiful chaos is, but she couldn't comprehend it. She kept trying to call me back to her reality, as if I could possibly ever want to go. As if it wasn't her fault in the first place for leaving me behind. At least chaos would never leave me."

That... sounded like the other half of a story Cadance was familiar with. "What happened then?"

"Who cares? Ancient history." He coughed again. "I've been blissfully free of the entanglements of this stupid emotion you ponies call 'love' for nearly two thousand years, now, and I have no desire to be enmired in it ever again. You say your powers can tell what I'm feeling? Well, then feel this. I don't want this. If I had the power to make it stop I would. She'll despise me even more than she does now if she knows. So if you know what's good for you, Princess Cadance of the Crystal Empire, you won't tell her."

"Don't set out to ruin her day just to get her attention, and I'll never have to." She levitated her oatmeal bowl, and the soup bowl and tea mug she'd given him earlier, pulling them out of the quarantine bubble and keeping them encased tightly in a health bubble. "I'm going to go wash these and sterilize them, and then I'm going to take a hot shower for my wings, and then I'm going back to bed. You should get some rest too, it'll be a while before anypony else gets up."

"I'm sooooo bored," Discord moaned. "There's nothing in here to distract me from how awful I feel even for a nanosecond."

Cadance shrugged. "Sorry. Being sick is boring. That's why I said you should get some sleep."

"Every time I try to get back to sleep I start coughing again."

She sighed. "Maybe I can find something in the medicine cabinet for you."

First she washed the dishes, in boiling water heated by magic, with a health spell on them for good measure. Then she hunted around through several of Twilight's cabinets to find a menthol neck rub. "Here you go," she said, putting it through the bubble. "You're supposed to rub it on your neck and ch--- oh no."

"Bleah, this tastes awful," Discord said, making a face.

"If you'd waited a moment to listen to me... you weren't supposed to eat it, you were supposed to rub it on your neck and your chest!"

He pointed at his neck. "Really, Cadance? This small bottle wouldn't even cover my neck, let alone my chest. Bleah. That is really a horrible taste. Guh." He then proceeded to lick his own neck, a feat Cadance would have sworn would be impossible without his magic. "Well. Maybe that's a little better."

"How are you doing that without breaking your spine?" Cadance asked in horrified fascination.

Discord leered. "I'd show you precisely how flexible I am, but I wouldn't want dear Twilight's BBBFF to feel... inadequate."

Cadance rolled her eyes. "Try using your paws to apply the rest of that bottle, if you left anything in it when you tried to eat it. I'm going back to bed, and you should try to get back to sleep if you can. You need your rest."

"My fur tastes like sour avocados. I wonder if that's why it turned green?"

She didn't dignify that with a reply. Hot shower, maybe some more of the muscle rub Spike had put on her wings last night, and back to bed.

Author's Note:

Whether you love or hate Discolight, readers who have an opinion on the matter should be aware that this is not the kind of story where Twilight falls madly in love with Discord. I cannot help interpreting "Three's A Crowd" to support Discord having an unhealthy fascination with Twilight, but if it was ever going to go the other way around they'd have to at least be friends first.

Those who read the scene from my blog... this is substantially edited (as well as expanded) because when I actually built up story around it, it turned out that some of my assumptions made no sense and had to be reworked, and other things would have been redundant.

It's part of my headcanon that because love is inherently chaotic, Cadance knows more about chaos magic than any other alicorn and the vast majority of unicorns. That doesn't mean she casts it; she's firmly in favor of using harmonic magic. It just means she knows something about it.