• 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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22: A Family of Immortals

In her many years, Luna had seen things the likes of which most ponies could not even begin to fathom. She had stood shoulder to shoulder with her sister in the face of Discord’s reign, she stood watch over the dream realm and beat back her subjects’ worst nightmares, and had seen horrors the likes of which she dared not speak again.

However, nothing could prepare her for the way her niece squealed with joy as Twilight walked out onto the balcony with Shining Armor in tow, nor was she ready for the pair to bound toward each other and stop short of hugging in favor of prancing in place.

Then the singing started.

“Sunshine, sunshine! Ladybugs awake! Clap your hooves and do a little shake!”

Luna stared a moment, her mouth dropped open as she watched Cadence and Twilight shake their rumps at one another, then embrace, giggling as they caught up with one another. A quick look to Shining Armor all but confirmed this as the norm, he hardly even batted an eye as he joined their hug, his calm smile a contrast to their excited grins.

A snort of laughter made her ear flick to the left. Frowning, she turned to regard Celestia with a piercing stare. She furrowed her brows and hissed out of the side of her mouth, “You planned for this.”

“What ever do you mean by that, Lulu?”

Blast that name. “You know very well what I mean, sister.” She leaned forward, trying to loom over her sister, which only served to bring forth another laugh. “You were waiting to see my reaction.”

Celestia hummed, giving that annoying, all-knowing smile. “Only a little,” she said, turning to watch the scene playing out before them. After a beat, she added, “It may have been one of the things I was looking forward to upon your return, especially when you took such a shine to Twilight.”

Wrinkling her muzzle, Luna turned away. “I suppose I cannot fault you for that. T’is a rather silly thing to be irritated at you over.”

“I’m glad you agree! Consider it a thousand years’ interest for—”

“All of my mischief in days long passed, yes, I know.” Luna rolled her eyes. “You have been using that excuse since my return, and it has not gotten any more amusing with the passing days.” After a beat, she added, “And stop calling me ‘Lulu’ in front of company.”

Celestia threw back her head and laughed, wrapping a hoof around Luna’s withers and pulling her into a tight hug. “Oh, Lulu,” she said, her smile took on a rather sly edge. “It’s been a very long time for both of us. If you think I’m not going to take every chance to play my big sister card, I’m afraid you just don’t know me well enough.”

Luna grumbled, letting her head lay against Celestia’s shoulder. “I miss stuffy Tia. You were far easier to tease back then.”

“Too bad. I’ve learned to unwind.” Celestia released her hold on Luna, then stepped forward, her eyes fixed on her next target. “I believe,” she began, her playful tone drew a shiver down Luna’s spine, “that somepony promised us she wouldn’t need to be fetched for dinner.”

To Luna’s amusement, Twilight blushed and tried to hide behind her brother’s broad shoulders as Cadence giggled.

“Oh, really, Twily?” Cadence asked, a playful tone to her voice. “Do we need to revisit the importance of good nutrition again? I can get the diagrams…”

Shining snickered, nodding along with her. “Might have to bar her from the library a couple days. Or maybe just a limit on the number of books she can take out. What do you think, Twily?”

Twilight shook her head. “No thanks!” she said, squirming her way out of the hug and backing away before either pony could pull her back in. “I just lost track of time while I was reading a bit of, er…” she trailed off, her eyes flitted to meet Luna’s.

For the briefest of seconds, uncertainty flashed in her eyes. Those same purple eyes that bored into Luna’s when she was still tainted with darkness, shining with determination as Twilight dashed forward to face her, and again when she vowed to help Luna find her place in Equestria again—the uncertainty seemed foreign to her. Wrong, even.

There had been awkwardness and unease before, but they had since moved passed that and become fast friends.

Or so Luna thought.

Twilight blinked and broke her gaze, looking to Cadence again. “I just lost track of time reading through some art history texts.”

Luna’s ears perked up. More art history study? It would seem that her interest has been piqued again. “Which period were you examining this time? If I might be so bold to ask.”

“I was looking into Werner of the North, actually.” Slowly, Twilight’s ears began to unpin, her shoulders relaxed. “I found what seems to be a journal of his, or at least a recounting of his days before he rose to prominence.”

Giving her tail a merry swish, Luna stepped forward and made to press for details, but a golden-shoed hoof laid upon her shoulder.

Celestia lips were curved into that serene smile again. “Perhaps this conversation might be best suited during dinner. Or, better still, perhaps it would be best kept for Twilight’s visit to the Night Court this evening.” She raised her eyebrows, awaiting Luna’s confirmation.

One Luna was happy to give. After all, Twilight would likely be the only attendee.

It would make the night between them far more interesting, not to mention all the more special with a shared interest.

“I would be delighted,” she said, bowing her head. With a flick of her starry tail, Luna moved to take her seat at the table, just as she heard the telltale sound of a dining cart being pushed along by one of the castle staff. Sniffing at the air, she tilted her head. “I believe I smell eggplant parmesan. Feeling a bit Roaman this evening, sister?”

“As a matter of fact, I was hoping for Neighpon, but somepony—” she shot a look to Cadence, who fluffed her feathers and gave a rather cat-like grin “–decided to have a little word with Chef Al Dente and convinced him to cook an old favorite of hers. No doubt, foul play was involved.”

Luna flicked her tail, narrowing her eyes at Cadence. “Foul play? Surely, you didn’t use magic on our own staff, niece,” she said, a tinge of warning creeped into her tone.

Laughing, Cadence shook her head. “Oh, heavens no, Auntie Luna! I’d never use magic on somepony to get my way like that. After all, I have other ways!” She tossed her mane and fluttered her eyelashes. “A few kisses to his cheek, a wistful sigh on how I missed my old homeland, and a comment about how I always loved his speciality were all it took!”

“Hey!” Shining protested, furrowing his brows. “I thought you said you were gonna stop flirting around!”

Cadence pouted. “I’m sorry, Shiny,” she whispered, looping a hoof around his neck and pulling him in close to nuzzle against his nose. “Forgive me?” Before he could reply, she darted forward and caught him in a deep kiss, he flinched back at first, but quickly melted into her embrace. With a happy purr, she wrapped her free hoof around to cradle his head and let her eyes flutter shut.

Wrinkling her snout, Luna looked away in search of something, anything, to distract her from the lovers’ play. She had her fair share in her day, but such a display was just unsightly—and at the dinner table no less.

Her eyes met with Twilight’s. Purple and teal locked, each shone with a hint of awkwardness, punctuated by the rosy blush coloring Twilight’s cheeks.

For a moment, she couldn’t tear her gaze away. Luna felt her breath hitch in her throat, her heartbeat pounded in her ears. Something about that look, the raw emotion, the way Twilight started to fidget in place beside her oblivious brother and former foalsitter and ducked her head was just so… so… picturesque.

If she could capture the moment in a single frame, Luna would do so in a heartbeat. She would be perfect for an oil painting right now. All I would need is the right lighting, a single lantern to make it work properly.

Luna coughed, she glanced toward the couple, her lips curved into a stern frown. “Cadenza—er, niece,” she amended. “I do not mean to seem prudish, but methinks the dinner table is not the place to engage in such activities. Certainly not among family.”

The two started, Shining broke the kiss and scooted into his own chair as though he’d been hit in the tail by a stray lightning bolt. “Yes, Princess,” he said. “Sorry, Princess.”

Cadence, on the other hoof, sucked in a breath through her teeth, but gave a smile all the same. “I’m sorry, Auntie. I’m just so used to having Shiny all to myself when his shift ends, and I just can’t help it sometimes.” She leaned over and nosed against his cheek, stealing a little kiss just below his ear that brought a bright blush to his cheeks.

“Cadence,” Celestia said, a hint of scolding in her tone. “We’ve talked about this.” She stole a sidelong glance to Luna, lingering a moment, then fixing Cadence with a stern look. “You agreed to tone it down so we wouldn’t make certain others uncomfortable…”

Bowing her head, Cadence replied, “Sorry, Auntie. It slipped my mind.”

Perplexed, Luna looked between the two. She made to interject, but Celestia turned toward the doorway and called out, “Al Dente! I see you decided to deliver the meal yourself this evening! Please, come forth.”

With a tinkling of magic and a tiny squeak of wheels, Al Dente stepped onto the balcony, pausing to sweep his chef’s hat off his head and bow to the princesses. “Good evening, Your Highnesses,” he greeted, his voice tinged with a hint of a Roaman accent. “Likewise, Captain Armor and Miss Sparkle. Forgive me if it seems a bit impetuous, but when I learned that I was preparing a meal for all three of Their Highnesses and favored guests, I simply had to deliver it myself.”

Celestia chuckled. “I can hardly fault that reasoning,” she said, giving a playful wink. “Though, now I know who to blame if the meal is anything less than perfect.”

He brought a hoof to his chest. “You wound me, Princess. I believe you’ll find that eggplant parmesan is my signature dish—after all, mama’s recipe has never failed to impress.” Deep forest green magic wreathed around his horn, then engulfed five covered plates, floating them over to rest before each pony at the table. With a flourish and a bow, Al Dente lifted the metal covers to reveal their meal. “Your Highnesses, esteemed guests, enjoy.” He backed away, bringing the cart with him, then he turned and strode from the balcony, leaving them to their meal.

The smooth scent of parmesan cheese and tangy bite of marinara hit Luna with full force, her nostrils flared. Only the age-old lessons on ettiquite helped her refrain from licking her lips, though she did swish her tail as she took her silverware in her teal aura.

“Thank you, Chef Al Dente,” she said, nodding to him. “I do believe I will enjoy this, immensely.” A glance to Twilight, who seemed torn between waiting for them and diving right in as though she were with her friends. “T’would seem there is another who agrees with my sentiments.”

Twilight ducked her head and gave a wobbly smile. “I haven’t had Al Dente’s Roaman cooking in a while. There really isn’t anything that compares to it outside of the Apple family cooking their own fares.”

Humming to herself, Luna gave a nod. “I shall have to take your word on Apple family fare until I sample it myself, until then, however—” she directed a raised eyebrow at Cadence “—I shall be judging my niece’s choices in our Royal Chef’s cooking quite harshly.”

Cadence simply smiled and folded her hooves in her lap. “I’ll await your approval, then.”

Without further ado, the five dug into their meal. Luna brought a forkful of eggplant to her mouth, surveying it with a critical eye before taking a bite.

Her ears perked up straight, her eyes went wide. She quickly schooled her expression, hoping to avoid the knowing smiles that were no doubt already spreading across her sister and niece’s muzzles.

Instead, she met Twilight’s gaze. Her friend’s eyes were alight as she chewed, savoring the taste. Luna watched with no shortage of bemusement as fuzzy purple ears waggled. Somehow, she had a feeling that if she were sitting in Cadence or Shining Armor’s place by Twilight’s side, she would have confirmation that a neatly and meticulously groomed tail would be swishing from side to side like a happy puppy.

Luna allowed herself a private chuckle, then resumed her meal. For the first time in centuries, she could sit at a dinner with family and friends without worry.

Dinner had been wonderful, just as Cadence promised. With that in mind, Luna was willing to allow the stolen nuzzles and sweet nothings whispered into a beet red Shining Armor’s ear go on without mention as she chatted with Celestia and Twilight.

It was a bit strange to have everypony together—in a good way, though.

The similarities between Cadence and Celestia were quite prevalent, as both so loved to tease and slip in little sideways quips that would leave their target struggling not to blush or duck shyly, and both seemed to love to share stories.

One particular story about Twilight and Shining being caught playing princess and guard had garnered quite the reaction. The moment they realized what was coming, Shining’s horn flashed pink and Cadence found her head engulfed in a shield that trapped sound within, then Twilight added a spell to make sure she couldn’t just break it with the counter.

As she regarded the trio, Luna found herself curious. Cadence’s smug smirk, the heated glare on Shining’s face, and the way Twilight tried to hide the wide-eyed horror that flashed upon her face, all of it drew her to prod for details.

However, the chance for mischief was not lost on her. With a sly smile, she asked, “So, which of you was the princess, then?”

Shining turned, his mouth dropped open, working wordlessly a moment. His magic flickered and sputtered, the bubble shield around Cadence fell for only a second.

It was all the opening her niece needed.

With rather impressive speed, Cadence caught both unicorns in a hug, her horn lit up with cerulean light as she cast her magic to block theirs out. Twilight gasped as her horn was engulfed in Cadence’s magic, tiny sparks sputtered from her own as she tried to fight it off.

“Well, it’s a very interesting tale!” Cadence crooned, nickering when Shining tried to duck out from under her hug. She pulled him in close and wrapped a wing around him, then used her hoof to turn his head toward her. “My sweet Shining Armor was all dressed up in his play armor—”

His horn flashed pink, but sputtered out. “Cady, no!” he protested. Struggling against her grasp, he tried to free a hoof to cover her mouth. “Princess Luna, she’s lying!”

“Actually,” Celestia put in, “I can confirm it. Cadence has shown me some pictures; I must say, I’ve never seen such an adorable Royal Guard! And Twilight looked lovely in her dress!”

“P-Princess!” Shining and Twilight cried in unison.

“Hush, Shining,” she said. “My niece is in the middle of embarrassing you in front of your future in-laws.”

“But—” he was silenced by a quick peck on the lips, then a nip to his nose.

Cadence leaned up to whisper in his ear. Again, Luna watched in fascination as red began to creep into his cheeks, and his ears stood on end.

If this keeps up, the poor stallion might faint.

“I’ll be good,” he mumbled, a goofy smile crossing his muzzle.

Twilight blanched at the loss of her ally. She struggled, pushing her hooves against Cadence’s side to try and slip out of her grasp. But her efforts were in vain.

Cadence wrapped her other wing around Twilight and held her tight, then leaned in to nuzzle her mane. “Now, now, Twily, this is story time with Auntie Luna!” she chided. “Don’t be rude!”

“This is not a story for sharing! It was a moment between Shiny and I that you walked in on!” Twilight protested.

“And it was so cute!” Dotting a kiss on top of Twilight’s head, then stealing another to Shining’s lips, Cadence gave a wistful sigh. “I remember it like it was just yesterday: there I was, being lead into the house for the first time, having to pry instructions from your parents because they thought it odd to have a princess foalsit, let alone tell her when she was to put their filly to bed and what she was allowed to make for dinner, curious to see who I might be sitting for.”

“Please, no.”

“As luck would have it, the first thing I see when I walk into the living room is a cute little filly dressed up like a princess, and a handsome colt in play armor kissing her hoof after protecting her from a mighty dragon!”

Luna snorted. “I take it young Spike was the fearsome beast in question?”

“Oh, yes! And so fearsome!” Cadence struggled to withhold her giggles. “His mighty roar certainly left an impression on me!”

“He yawned,” Twilight deadpanned.

“And what a fearsome yawn it was! Why, I was shaking in my horseshoes!”

Bringing a hoof to her mouth, Luna smothered her laughter as best she could. Her shoulders shook with silent mirth. She glanced out of the corner of her eye to Celestia, her smile faltered as she took note of her sister’s serene smile as she raised her wine glass to her lips.

As per usual, her sister was the very picture of elegance and royal status, at least to those who didn’t recognize the mirthful twinkle in her eyes.

Celestia’s eyes flitted to meet her own, casting a wink before she turned to the younger trio. “What a lovely tale, indeed,” she said, the corners of her lips tugging upward. “I must admit, I admire your valor in the face of such a great foe, Shining Armor. We would have lost a wonderful mare had our formerly wicked young friend taken our dear Twilight Sparkle.”

The siblings dropped their gazes to their respective plates, pinning their ears back to block out Cadence’s giggling. Their movements were almost in perfect stereo, so cute that, for once, Luna couldn’t take fault with Cadence for dotting another kiss on the end of Shining’s snout.

A flurry of movement over Twilight’s shoulders drew Luna’s attention to the door. Captain Erebos stood before her and gave a slight incline of his eyebrows, then tapped a hoof against his shin as if motioning to a watch.

It was time.

With a rueful sigh, Luna raised her glass and drained the remainder of her wine. She stood, looking to each pony in turn, then spoke, “Enjoyable though this evening has been—and I do say that with utmost sincerity—I’m afraid I must leave you.”

“Ah.” Celestia’s ears drooped a little. “Time for Night Court already? I thought we had more time together.”

Luna shook her head. “I am afraid not. We shall have to do this again sometime.” She directed her gaze to Cadence and Shining Armor, nodding at both. “Even our erstwhile couple.”

While Cadence nodded in agreement, Twilight finally managed to duck out of her grasp and scoot out of her chair. “I’m going too,” she said, earning a look from her brother. “Er, I promised that I’d spend time with Luna while she held Night Court. I thought it might be a good chance for us to talk.”

“Oh, that was nice of you.” Shining stood, wrapping her in a tight hug. “It’s good to see you again, Twily. Try not to take so long to come visit again, okay?”

She laughed and returned the hug. “I could say the same for you. Ponyville is nice this time of year. You’d both love it, and I know the girls would love to meet you.”

He gave a little waggle of his ears. “We might have to take you up on that.” With a sidelong glance to Cadence, he added, “I’ve been itching to see if I can’t finagle a piece of that apple pie you keep raving about. And maybe hit that bakery.”

“Sugarcube Corner,” Luna said. “I am quite familiar with the fare. T’is very tasty, especially the cookies.”

Celestia snorted. “The cakes are better—they’re the owners’ speciality, and Pinkie Pie’s as well.”

“Ah, better in taste, maybe, but not for your form, oh ravenous sister of mine!” Luna was quick with a flick of her magic to fend off a tendril of gold that tried to tweak her ear. She flashed a mischievous grin, then made her way to the door, waving her wing at Twilight. “Come, my friend. Let us adjourn to the Night Court before my sister decides to avenge a rare loss in her favorite game.”

With a poorly disguised giggle, Twilight bowed to Celestia. “Have a good night, Princess. Sleep well!”

It took all her self-control not to scoff and fix Twilight with a sidelong stare. She will, of course. I would be a terrible sister if I allowed anything other than the sweetest of dreams to touch her sleep. Not that Twilight would know.

Twilight then gave Cadence a tight hug and a nuzzle to her cheek. The pair shared a quiet whisper, bringing forth another bout of giggles from both before they parted and Twilight moved to join Luna.

As her friend fell into step at her side, Luna addressed Captain Erebos. “Lead on, Captain. I trust Miss Moondancer is awaiting us in the Throne Room?”

Captain Erebos bowed low, then trotted alongside her. “Yes, Your Highness. When I noticed your meal running a little late, I had her tend to her other duties rather than disturb you.” He gave a subtle flick of his wing, the signal for Nightingale and Cygnus to follow in their wake. “Forgive me if it might seem out of place,” he continued, “but I felt we could spare a little extra time since you were with family.”

“No apology is necessary, Captain.” Luna gave a bright smile. “You have my thanks, as does Miss Moondancer.”

His lips curved into a small smile, and were then schooled into a more neutral expression as they rounded the corner and made their way down the hallway to the Throne Room.

Turning her attention to Twilight, Luna gave a sly smile and raised a brow at her. “Studying Werner’s texts, my friend? Did our conversation pique your interest that much?”

Twilight nodded. “It did, actually. Along with your mention of that old monicker. He spoke rather highly of you and said some rather…” she trailed off, her brows furrowed together in thought. “Honestly, I’m not sure how to take it. The way he spoke of you was almost as though he were torn between elation and horror at meeting you.”

“Ah, Werner.” Luna sighed wistfully, closing her eyes as the image of the old griffon composer came to the forefront of her mind. “Such a silly griff, in that regard. Worry not, my friend, there is plenty of time to answer any questions you may have. The Night Court these days is ever-empty, and I do not foresee that changing this evening.”

“That’s… rather sad.”

She shrugged. “It can be lonely. However, it works to our advantage tonight—we will not be forced to limit ourselves to bits and pieces of conversation in between petitioners. Now, tell me, which of Werner’s books did you find in the Archives? It has been some time since I last read his work.”

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