• Published 13th Feb 2015
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Twilight, Good Night - Carapace

To better herself, Luna has studied Twilight's actions and friendship reports. She never expected to find herself under the microscope in turn.

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1: Visits By Starlight

"'Tis just a social visit. That is all." Why, then, am I still standing out here staring at a door? Few ponies could claim to make Princess Luna pause and consider the impression she wanted to give. By all rights, the roles should have been reversed.

She was used to ponies bowing as she walked past, either in reverence of her majesty or in fear of her power. She was used to being hailed as a goddess, in the same manner that ponies once looked upon her elder sister. Now, she was regarded mostly with fear or uncertainty, whereas Celestia was admired for her wisdom and kindness.

Perhaps that’s why she was so uneasy when she should usually be in her element. Her image, her reputation, it had all changed. Luna had heard the stories, how her deeds had cast her as the mistress of darkness.

Nighttime in Equestria was her domain, the time when her powers were at their peak—here in the light of the moon, the chill in the air. More than that, it gave her the reassurance she so desperately needed to achieve her objective.

Hoof raised to knock, Luna stared at the wooden door of the Golden Oaks Library and bit the inside of her cheek. Something wasn’t right.

Is it my appearance? She quickly conjured a mirror and floated it in front of her to double check. Her onyx tiara was properly polished and centered, her regalia was in pristine condition, her coat had been brushed to perfection, and her starry, flowing mane was in order. No.

Sending the mirror away, Luna raised her hoof to knock, but stopped short—again. The traitorous little voice returned, the same one responsible for planting the seeds of doubt during her practices. She shook her head to rid herself of its hold on her thoughts. No, not again. It will not win tonight.

She had had more than enough time to work everything out.

Each night she told herself that she would go through with it, only to think twice. Something always came up—there was always a reason to put it off for a bit longer. Each time, the voice had rambled on about Twilight Sparkle and her latest, amazing exploits and how such a unicorn wouldn't possibly have the time to accommodate her.

“Oh, Celestia has given her a project? She should concentrate on that, I can wait until she is done.”

“She stopped a rampaging Ursa Minor? Impressive. Truly remarkable. The damage to the town must be extensive, I will wait until her schedule is not so full.”

“Winter Wrap Up is a rather old tradition, a truly excellent way for her to immerse herself in Ponyville’s culture and develop her connection with her friends. I should not interfere.”

“The Grand Galloping Gala? No, I do not think I’m quite ready for such a grand, formal appearance yet, much less conversing with her publicly. Thank you though, sister, I do appreciate the invitation. I shall try some other time.”

There was always something—always an excuse to justify putting it off.

Just one more night. It can wait.

Luna flicked her tail. Am I not the all-powerful ruler of the night, the mare who could bring down the wrath of the heavens on a whim? And yet she couldn’t move past her near constant state of self-doubt.

Stars above, have I not written countless speeches, practiced each in front of a mirror, agonizing over every word? With each version, and the growing pile of failures, she struggled to find the right words to articulate her respect and admiration. That is, until a certain sister's curiosity over the great volume of paper had nixed the practice.

Would that I could make a proclamation, and declare "Twilight Sparkle, thou art a great pony, and I would have thee know of our admiration!" How much easier that would have been. She snorted and turned aside from the door.

The last time she’d spoken to somepony in private and admitted her respect had been… Stars, she couldn’t even recall. It must have been centuries before everything changed, before she had unknowingly set herself upon the path to her corruption.

Her thoughts returned to Twilight Sparkle, the one whose bravery and persistence had freed her from her thousand-year madness...

Even thinking of her, I am confounded and driving myself mad! For what?

Luna stomped a hoof and snorted. She glanced to the door again. For whom would be the better question. To think I would struggle with nerves at the prospect of meeting one of my own subjects. I am being silly.

“There is no need to fret!” she whispered.

All she wanted to do was visit and talk with her sister’s favored student, the very same pony who had correctly predicted her return, stopped her second attempt at world domination and freed her of the corruption that plagued her mind.

She bit her bottom lip and breathed deeply. To Tartarus with nerves and silly angsting. She had come at night, when she held dominion over the land.

But as she finally managed to bring her hoof forward to knock, Luna found herself wincing as the doorframe shook from the force. Her ears pinned back. The familiar, heavy-hooved habits still reared their ugly head at the most inappropriate times, despite Twilight’s help on Nightmare Night.

True, they had at least made some progress on her speech, but she still found herself stomping her hooves and calling down lightning for emphasis.

“Restraint, Luna, restraint,” she chastised herself as the sound of quick hoofsteps reached her ears whenever she wanted to emphasize a point.

The latch rattled as a spell took hold, and grated as it slid back. No turning back. The door yawned open to reveal a young unicorn of deep purple coat and her, violet mane and tail, with a single pink streak in vibrant contrast to her darker colors. Almost as if nature wanted to give some added indicator that this pony was special.

Special in appearance, talent, and heart. Twilight Sparkle truly was her sister’s greatest student.

“I’m sorry, but the library is closed for the evening.” Twilight stifled a yawn, then continued, “If you wouldn’t mind returning at another time, I’d be happy to help with whatever you may need.”

Twilight’s eyelids hung low, her purple mane was a tangled mess, with strands sticking out every which way, and her eyes seemed unfocused and bleary.

She is exhausted. Twilight almost seemed unaware of the world around her, and escaping would be easy. But Luna stood her ground. No! You are here, now. Speak!

Luna raised an eyebrow and held back a chuckle. “And what if I have come to speak with a pony whom I hope to call friend?”

Twilight’s ears twitched, her eyes widened and lost all traces of sleep as she matched the voice to the pony before her. Her head jerked up, Twilight blinked twice to clear her vision. “Princess Luna?”

“Indeed,” Luna answered with a smile. “I apologize for coming unannounced, but I wish to speak with you privately. Is this hour inconvenient?”

Twilight stared silently for a beat and shook her head. “No! Oh, not at all! I just, uh, well, I had been doing a bit of late night reading and haven’t had a chance to clean up, so… if you wouldn’t mind waiting, I can take care of the mess and have Spike prepare tea or…” She trailed off, glancing over her shoulder and quickly back at Luna. Twilight rubbed a hoof against her foreleg, her cheeks tinged pink. “Could you just give me a minute?”

Her concerns were waved off. “A few books out of place is of no bother. Though, after such a long flight, a cup of tea would be much appreciated. Might we take this inside?”

“Oh, yes, of course!” She all but leapt to the side, pulling the door open and bowing low as Luna passed. “I’m so sorry, I didn’t mean...”

“Please,” Luna spoke softly, giving what she hoped was a reassuring smile. “There is no need to stand on ceremony with me. If anything, it is I who should bow to you, Twilight Sparkle.”

Twilight’s ears perked up, she tilted her head and fixed Luna with a curious look. “Bow to me? No, no, no! I mean, not that I don’t appreciate the gesture, Princess, but that’s a bit much!”

“Why should I not show respect? You have earned it, along with my gratitude, Twilight Sparkle. Let that never be in doubt.” Luna shuffled her hooves into the wooden floor and inhaled deeply, her eyes flitting around in favor of finding something else to focus on. She found a verifiable tower of books, sitting on the small table in the center of the room—Twilight’s “mess”. Though her little speech was confident, her mind raced.

The urge to flee, to make some excuse to put this off once more hit. That treacherous voice spoke up, whispering to her. Twilight offered you an out: she was in the middle of some reading. You’ve interrupted her studies. Apologize and walk away. There’s always tomorrow.

Yes, that would be most welcome. Her ears pinned back and lay flat against her skull. She had been mistaken.

She wasn’t ready to face this. Whatever she had to say wouldn’t be enough to express the gratitude and respect Luna held for this mortal before her. Luna needed more time to prepare, more time to give Twilight Sparkle the official gratitude of a princess, just as she so rightfully deserved.

That’s right, little princess. Walk away. You aren’t ready. You only need one more night. Then, everything will be fine. Everything will be perfect.

If only Luna could trust herself to actually follow through. Months passed without proper thanks, save for those hastily muttered when she had been at her weakest. Though, Luna would hardly call hanging her head and meekly whispering an apology to the entire town proper thanks.

Before she knew it, Nightmare Night had come. A holiday made in honor of an old tale made to scare naughty foals. Yes, Luna had been able to offer her thanks face to face - albeit by nearly deafening the poor mare with the Royal Canterlot Voice - but it had been tainted by her social failures. If not for Twilight Sparkle’s aid, Luna would’ve tarnished her reputation once again, thanks to her bombastic demeanor. But, mercifully, she had taken pity on the Princess of the Night.

Luna had come close to her goal a couple of weeks ago; she made it all the way to the library door again, hoof raised to knock before she turned surrendered to her doubts and returned to Canterlot.

If not now, then I never will. Having beaten her traitorous voice, Luna looked over her shoulder at Twilight and gestured to the table with a wing. “May I?”

Twilight blinked once before shaking herself out of whatever distractions ailed her. “Oh! Yes! I’m sorry, I was just a million miles away! Just let me clean that off and…”

“If this is a mess by your definition, I think I should be able to suffer it,” Luna murmured. She let her eyes wander over the titles, humming in appreciation and mild surprise at Twilight’s current selection.

Twilight gasped, drawing Luna’s attention once again. Her eyes darted around the room, before settling on the kitchen. “Spike!” She called, a hoof shook as she waited for his answer.

Spike poked his head out and shot her a tired glare. “What is it, Twilight? Your book fort collapse again?”

“I haven’t made one of those in years!” Twilight sputtered, her muzzle flushing pink. “And no! I was going to ask that you make tea. We have a guest!”

Spike sighed and stepped around the corner. “I thought I heard somepony coming in. What do you take it with?” Only after his haphazard greeting did he take note of just who that visitor was. His eyes widened. “Princess Luna! I am so sorry! I didn’t realize—I mean, it must’ve just slipped my mind that you were planning to visit!”

“The fault is mine, young Spike,” Luna replied. “This visit was unannounced. I do hope this is not an inconvenience to you.”

“What? No! Not at all! I’ll just be, uh, right back!” He bolted back to the kitchen before either mare could blink.

They shared a look, Twilight winced at the clatter raised by Spike’s frantic racing about the kitchen. She turned to address Luna, a sheepish smile playing upon her face. “You’ll have to excuse him, he can get a bit excitable.”

Luna waved her off again. “As I said, the fault is mine. I should have anticipated that my coming unannounced would be counterproductive to my goals, but I wanted to speak with you as an equal.”

“Princess, please don’t take this the wrong way, but I don’t quite understand. Why would I be considered an equal? I’m just a student who works in a library. And you’re, well, you.”

“I have my reasons, Twilight Sparkle. So, please, cease this cheapening of yourself. Prior to my banishment, it was considered most unbecoming to refuse the respect of a princess,” Luna raised an eyebrow in a manner her sister so loved to use whenever trying to tease a pony into taking a hint, “I do hope that is not your intent.”

“I-I’m sorry! I didn’t mean to—It’s just that I’m not—and you’re…” Her voice trailed off as she looked down and shuffled her hooves against the floor.

“Twilight Sparkle!” It came out far louder and harsher than she’d intended, and, as the younger mare’s head snapped up Luna saw what she had too often seen in the eyes of others: fear. She sighed heavily. “Cease this! Cease treating me as thy princess and... “ Think! Think of something! “Speak with me as thou wouldst with Applejack. Speak with me as thou—” She paused to correct herself, grumbling at her slip back into old Equish. “As you would if I were one of your friends!”

If she thought snapping would help, Luna was sorely disappointed. Twilight’s ears pinned back, she shuffled a hoof into the floor. “I… I suppose I could try, Princess—I mean—”

Luna sighed and glanced to the stack of books. She quickly skimmed through the titles, looking for something to change the subject to one that would alleviate Twilight’s anxiety.. A History of Chamber Music in Pre-Banishment Era Equestria? Twilight was studying texts on music? Of a time she was familiar with?

She found herself giving a mental nod of approval. “My apologies, Twilight,” Luna bowed her head, “I did not mean to lose my temper with you. Please, sit with me,” she said with a gesture to the space across from her.

Twilight looked up, rubbing a hoof against her shin before tentatively stepping forward and sitting on her cushion. She shifted awkwardly in place, with her left ear flicking towards the kitchen every now and again.

Into the silence, Luna nodded to the books stacked beside Twilight. “Studying the classical arts?”

“Y-Yes,” Twilight stammered. “I’ve taken a few art and music theory courses. The Enlightenment Era was always my favorite. It’s all quite interesting, really.”

“I see. You have good taste,” Luna smiled and closed her eyes, thinking back to the old days. She could hear the hum of strings and the booming timpani. Remnants of her own time instilled a sense of home, a sense of peace in her. “Tempo Rubato was a favorite of mine."

For the first time since she’d opened the door, Twilight’s lips turned upward into a genuine smile. Her eyes sparkled like the night sky. "The Tempo Rubato? The composer of Song of the Meadowlark? You knew him?"

"I was there at his first concert in the old palace. He was a peer of Beethooven.” Luna chuckled, looking off wistfully into space. “If you think the modern performances are done well, you should’ve seen both in their day. They could write songs that melted even the hardest of hearts, truly masters of the art.” She opened her eyes and returned to present time. “But, perhaps that is a discussion for another evening. If you are not averse to it after this one.”

“Why would I be?” It almost killed Luna to watch the pure excitement for learning slide off Twilight’s face as she tilted her head to the side. Purple felt ears perked up, Twilight’s mouth fell into a frown. “Is something wrong?”

Come on, work on delivery, Luna. You sound like you’re about to give bad news. “No, nothing wrong. I merely wished to deliver a message." Luna lifted a hoof quickly. "One of good tidings, I assure you.”

It was now or never. Luna inhaled deeply and focused on the serenity of her night, the majesty of the moon and stars. She found peace. “If you recall, on Nightmare Night, I addressed the role you played in freeing me from the corruption rooted in my being?”

“Yes, you were rather...” Twilight fiddled with her hooves, searching for the right wording. “You were rather vocal on the matter.”

“Indeed.” A smile played on Luna’s lips.. “But I have not properly thanked you for your deeds, nor for your aid in connecting with the townsfolk.”

Twilight raised a hoof. “Forgive me for correcting you, but you thanked me. Remember? You commented on my costume, too.”

“Yes, your costume was most accurate. But, I must disagree. I would hardly call bellowing and nearly deafening you proper gratitude, not by your modern standards.”

“Well, you’re hardly to blame for being a bit behind on the times considering that… Oh.”

“Save for the small matter of my banishment,” Luna supplied. “My lack of understanding is directly connected to my own failure. Again, one which you helped to rectify and afford me the opportunity to redeem myself.”

Twilight bit her lip and fidgeted in her cushion, trying to find comfort. “I had help…”

Luna hummed. True, but, once again, she plays off her role. “Yes, your friends. But without your research on the subject, no pony would have known of my imminent return. Equestria would very likely be plunged into eternal night if not for your persistence.”

A light blush and more fidgeting in place. Twilight’s eyes turned away, flitting toward the kitchen yet again. What was it about complimenting her that made Twilight so finicky?

In days of old, many a pony would puff out their chests and crow should they receive such praise from a princess. Certainly, a level of modesty was a virtue then as it was now, but not to this extent.

Luna made a quick mental note to ask Celestia upon her return to Canterlot. A bit of teasing about her reasons for visiting Twilight would be worth the information.

...Even if she had to endure that damnable smirk.

She refocused on the present. If anything, she would watch for other examples. Perhaps the embarrassment was brought about due to her own involvement in both incidents. That would certainly explain it, and she could sympathize with Twilight if that were the case.

Well, there was only one way to find out.

Luna placed her hooves on the table, crossing one on top of the other. “Having friends does not diminish the worth of your own actions. Nor does it account for those you took in aiding me on Nightmare Night. I distinctly recall Pinkie Pie deliberately scaring the foals and running in mock fear, purely for entertainment.”

“Well, yes, but she didn’t know,” Twilight stammered. She ducked her head and chewed on her bottom lip. “And Fluttershy helped you with volume control. So, not all me.”

“After she tried to flee from my presence, yes. But, once again, your persistence won out. With your reassurance, Fluttershy confronted her fear of me so that she might teach me to speak in a more appropriate manner.”

Another sideways glance towards the kitchen. “It wasn’t anything special. I just wanted to help.”

Luna bit her tongue, lest she respond too hastily. She breathed deep and focused on the night, listening to the whispered voices of a thousand ponies’ dreams. Peace. Tranquility.

Again, she made a mental note to address Twilight’s choice in words later. Preferably after her original piece had been said.

Losing my temper and lecturing her on decorum would only add to her unease. There was a bit of irony in this: after months of fretting over what to say and how to approach Twilight Sparkle, Luna found that she was not alone in such unease.

She had been so fearful of being turned away that she never gave thought to how Twilight might feel being confronted with this out of the blue. She would take that into consideration with Twilight's... humility? No, that wasn't quite it. Humility was an admirable virtue, to be sure, but this was a tad much. Either way, Luna would take note and address it appropriately.

"Your kind intentions are appreciated." There, nice and simple. Show the impact and segue into the rest of it. “In combination with your actions, they have helped me greatly. For that, you have my gratitude, though I do apologize for the delay in stating it.”

Twilight shook her head quickly. “You don’t have to apologize Princess, I…” she trailed off as she noticed Luna’s raised eyebrow. She cleared her throat and smiled. “You’re welcome, Pr - Luna. I was happy to help.”

Progress at last, Luna crowed. Now with that out of the way, she could move forward. With her gratitude stated, she could get to the important part.

Well, it was all important; Twilight Sparkle was involved.

Their ears perked up in unison at the sound of shuffling against the wooden floor. Spike walked into the room with a wooden tea tray in his grasp and a crooked, a forced grin pasted across his face. He came to a stop a short distance from the table and shrugged his shoulders slightly to lift the tray just into view. “Uh, the tea’s ready,” he offered with a slight chuckle.

He’d only assembled the basics of traditional tea time: the teapot itself, two cups, a bowl of sugarcubes, a cup of cream, and a few lemon wedges. Though, given that it had been dropped on him, quite literally out of nowhere, Luna didn’t expect anything extravagant.

Spike placed the tray onto the table, within easy reach of both mares. He made to leave, but Twilight quickly reached out to grab his shoulder and pulled him in for a nuzzle.

Luna smiled happily at the open display of affection and politely waited for its end. However, her attention was drawn to the tray itself.

Two cups. One for Twilight and one for me.

She glanced up to find that they had parted. Spike ducked his head and mumbled something about “Not doing that mushy stuff in front of Princess Luna” before turning to face her. He bowed low and took a step around Twilight, headed in the direction of the stairs leading to their loft.

Luna’s mind raced. The affectionate smile on Twilight’s face as she nuzzled him sparked something. She recognized that look, that familial adoration. As were the benefits of having one close at her side during times of discomfort.

It was an easy decision to make. “Did you not wish to sit with us?”

Spike froze in place. He slowly turned his head to meet her gaze. “I thought you just wanted to talk to Twilight,” he brought his claws together and tapping them.

“There is nothing I have to say that you cannot hear,” Luna replied. She directed a small smile in his direction for reassurance. “That is,” her gaze flitted back to Twilight. “Unless you object?”

Twilight sat upright with a quick jolt and shook her head rapidly. “No! Not at all!” Her tone betrayed her underlying relief.

If Spike’s poorly-hidden grin was any indication, he was all in favor of the idea. He was being invited to sit and talk with the big ponies, why shouldn’t he be excited?

“I’ll be right back!” If Luna hadn’t known better, she would have sworn that Spike left an outline as he bolted to the kitchen in search of his own cup. She didn’t bother hiding her amusement—he truly was like a foal in personality. She chanced a quick glance toward Twilight and caught her sighing and relaxing her shoulders.

Excellent. It would seem that her previous observation was on the spot. Twilight wanted something familiar to latch onto when confronted with something out of the ordinary. In this case, that something was her assistant, Spike.

Luna made another mental note, this time to check into the actual relationship the two shared. It certainly seemed beyond employer and employee.

She watched as Spike hurried back into the room and all but jumped onto the cushion at Twilight’s right side. Luna stifled a laugh as Twilight leveled a stern glare at him, clearly a silent reminder of the rules. Rules which, if Luna were to venture a guess, were repeatedly ignored during Spike’s more excitable moments.

The cheeky grin Spike sent back in return nearly made Luna snort. And Twilight’s long-suffering sigh and shake of her head, with a poorly hidden smile of her own completed the image. Luna was looking at an eerily familiar scene. One that had played out with two young alicorns sitting down for tea thousands of years ago.

Luna sat patiently as Twilight levitated the teapot and began to pour the tea. “How do you take your tea, Luna?”

“With cream and one sugar, please,” her request was fulfilled with a flash of telekinesis, a cup of hot tea floated was then presented to her.

She accepted it with a smile and nod. Luna took the cup in her telekinesis and brought it to her lips, savoring the warmth that flowed through her. She lowered the cup and swallowed, sighing deeply. “A fine brew, young Spike. Exactly what was needed after a nighttime flight.”

Spike sat up straight, puffing out his chest in what could only be described as the most adorable display of pride Luna had laid eyes on. Twilight seemed of similar mind, her eyes alight with amusement as she poured tea for Spike and herself.

Twilight seemed more relaxed, more at home with Spike present.

As said, there was nothing she had to say that he couldn’t hear. In fact, his presence would help drive home the importance of her message. The stage was set properly. Now, it was up to her to follow through and deliver.

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