• 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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25: Cadence of the Heart

Organization was good. It kept things all nice and orderly so little details didn’t go missed, and ensured that ponies could attack problems with a clear mind and as little stress as possible. Without organization, there was disorder and chaos, which only led to stress and panic and things slipping through the cracks.

Twilight sat at her desk in the comfort of her old room, and did her very best not to start hyperventilating. She inhaled and brought her hoof to her chest, held her breath a moment, then let it out and pushed her hoof out. Cadence’s breathing exercise would help her. It always did.

It had to.

If she was to sit down and properly digest the fact that Luna could manipulate dreams to be more pleasant and, for all intents and purposes, just came out and said “I have romantic feelings for you, Twilight,” she needed to calm down and think things through. Not to mention just how soft those lips felt …

Her shoulders tensed. Why wasn’t it helping?

She tried again, this time holding her breath a bit longer as she tried to push it from her mind. The feeling of soft lips upon hers, warm breath washing over her face, and the scent of Luna’s perfume—dear Celestia that scent!

So familiar, yet she couldn’t quite place it. Like a word on the tip of her tongue.

Twilight clenched her eyes shut. No! No! No! She hook her head, and her mane whipped back and forth. “Focus!” she scolded herself. “I need to think through this problem thoroughly and rationally. No distractions. No thinking of how soft her lips were or how much it tingled when her feathers ran across my coat—Oooooh!

With a cry of dismay, she buried her face in her hooves and laid upon her desk. Her chest heaved as she drew in several deep breaths. It still didn’t help.

Nothing could make her forget how Luna’s eyes shone with raw emotion the instant before she darted forth and pressed her lips against Twilight’s, or how butterflies fluttered in her chest and warmth spread from her lips all throughout her body as if Luna was all she was missing in the world to make her whole.

“It’s all just chemistry,” she said. “Adrenaline was already running through my veins when Luna confessed her ability to dream walk and manipulate dreams, and it grew when she began to explain why she chose to craft one especially for me.”

The dream flashed through her mind again—that beautiful day in Canterlot park with all her friends, Spike, Cadence, and Shining Armor there to enjoy a picnic. It had all seemed so very real, so lifelike. As if it were crafted from her sincerest want to see the ponies (and dragon) she loved come together for an afternoon of fun.

And it had been crafted for her. By a pony Twilight held close as a dear friend, no less.

She took another deep breath in through her nose and held it as she reflected on everything leading up to the kiss. How Luna acted the very first night she came to Golden Oak Library to talk with Twilight, bringing original copies of her favorite records to their nighttime music talk, sitting so closely to her when they worked on a puzzle with the girls, and then the stars.

Twilight brought her hooves away from her face and sat upright. Her eyes went wide.

The stars.

She released her breath.

There hadn’t been such a display for sunset and moonrise in over a thousand years. Princess Celestia said so herself, and even made sure to emphasize just how close Luna held her to do show her something so beautiful, so very …


Had Luna meant it when she said she saw another side of Twilight? One shown to her friends, but not Princess Celestia?

Certainly, they had their heart to heart moment about Luna’s want to reconnect, and they got along very well together or in large groups, but what was it that made her hold Twilight in such a light? What made her so … so …

“Precious,” Twilight whispered. Unbidden, she ran her tongue along her lips, her heart skipped a beat at the lingering taste of Luna’s. She reached up to touch them with a trembling hoof, as if she were testing the feel. “I’m precious to Luna.”

A shiver ran down her spine as she considered the meaning of the word. If Luna held her in such regard, far above that of a friend, she would be the center of media attention—just like Shining had been when it came out that he was dating Cadence! Perhaps even more so since Twilight had somehow attracted the attention of one of the Royal Sisters.

Twilight’s heart leapt into her throat. “Oh no!” she whimpered, bringing her hooves up to cover her face. “They’re going to come poking around all of Ponyville trying to find everything they can about me! And then they’ll pester my friends! Then the whole town! Then everypony will get angry that they’re being hounded by reporters! Then they’ll want me to leave because I’m the reason the reporters are there! Then I’ll fall out of touch with all my friends and we won’t be able to use the Elements of Harmony again! And then—”

She clapped her hooves over her mouth and closed her eyes. After a moment of silence, she brought her hooves down and took a deep, shaky breath.

Relax. Don’t jump to worst case scenarios just yet. It was just a kiss. Just one kiss that happened to make me feel warm and fuzzy inside, and made me want to hold her tight after she told me how much I meant to her. Twilight sighed and shook her head. “Yeah, just a kiss. No big deal, right?” She reached up to rub her shoulder, giving an anxious flick of her tail. “It’s not like I’m Luna’s first friend in over a thousand years, and Princess Celestia definitely didn’t imply that my opinion of Luna carried a lot of weight, right?”

Of course not. And Luna hadn’t just called her “precious” in Night Court.

It was all just a dream. She’d wake up any moment now, and find herself sleeping on a book in the library. It wouldn’t be the first time, nor would it be the last.

If only that were so.

Twilight heaved a sigh, letting her shoulders slump as she brought her hooves up to massage her temples. “What am I doing?” she muttered. “I need to think through this thoroughly, logically, and objectively.”

Easier said than done. Aside from a few conversations with Cadence—which basically involved her old foalsitter carrying Twilight in her magic and sitting her down in a room for a lecture on the intricacies and importance of romance—and various forays into reading romance, she didn’t have any experience with such a relationship. Let alone how to make the transition from friendship to romance.

The sound of a hoof knocking against her bedroom door jolted Twilight out of her thoughts, her ears stood up straight. “Who is it?”

“Twily?” Cadence’s called, her voice muffled by the door. “It’s Cadence and Shining Armor. Can we come in?”

Oh, thank Celestia! Twilight took a moment to gather herself before replying, “Yes! It’s open!”

A soft cerulean glow engulfed the handle as Cadence pushed the door open and trotted in, with Shining Armor following close behind. She smiled brightly and made to speak, but stopped short upon seeing Twilight. “Twilight?” she began. “Are you alright?”

“Yes—no—ugh!” Twilight wrung her hooves. “I don’t know how I am right now! Elated, distraught, excited, and horrified all at the same time.” She scrunched up her snout then added, “And confused. Definitely confused. Very much so, in fact, let’s go with that, thank you.”

Her smile fell. “Oh dear, not taking Auntie Luna’s little revelation well, are you?”

Twilight’s ears drooped. “You know about that?”

“She came to talk to Princess Celestia, so … yeah, we know about it” Shining replied. He walked over to her side and wrapped her in a tight hug. “Want to talk about it? Like we used to when you still lived here?”

Biting her lip, Twilight returned the hug. She laid her chin in the crook of his neck and nodded. “I really don’t know what to do, Shiny. Luna’s my friend and I care about her feelings, but I don’t know what do to about them!”

Shining patted her back. “Relationships are a funny thing, Twily. Especially when a friend starts showing signs of wanting something a bit more.” He drew back to look her in the eye and gave a crooked smile, then motioned to Cadence. “Just look at Cady and me; I became best friends with the ageless embodiment of love, and now I’m dating her! That was a heck of a transition!”

“Oh?” Twilight perked her ears up to give him her full attention. “I don’t think you ever told me how you asked her out.”

To her surprise, Shining flinched. His smile seemed to grow rather forced. “W-Well, there’s a, um, funny story about that, actually,” he said. His ears drooped low, his cheeks took on a light pinkish hue. “You see, it was around the time I had started in Cadet School, and—”

“If I recall,” Cadence cut in, her eyes shone with mischief as she stepped close to join the hug, “I was the one who asked you out, Shining Armor.” She gave a coy smile and brought a hoof to her chin. “Hmm, how did you react again, dearest?”

Twilight watched with no shortage of amusement as her brother’s bleach white coat turn an astonishing shade of red, like a ripe red gala waiting to be bucked out of an Apple family tree.

“N-Now, Cady,” he stammered. “We’re trying to help Twily here, this is hardly the time or place to embarrass me, don’t you think?”

With a shark like grin, Cadence swooped down upon Shining and wrapped a hoof around the back of his head then darted forth to capture his lips in a kiss. “Hush, my love,” she whispered as they parted, her tone husky. “Or I’ll tell her how I stole your first kiss as well.”

Shining’s eyes went wide in horror, his horn flashed pink as he readied a spell. His magic flickered around Cadence’s mouth, ready to silence her.

But Cadence was quicker.

She reached up and flicked his horn, eliciting a wince and a grunt of pain as his magic faltered. Then her horn flashed as a cerulean glow engulfed his. “Naughty boy,” she scolded, stealing another kiss as she slipped her hoof around his neck again and pulled him tight against her, then wrapped a wing around him for good measure. “Just for that, I’m blocking out your magic and I’m going to tell her the full story!”

“Cady, no!”

Tutting, Cadence pressed her free hoof against Shining’s lips. “I believe I told you to hush, lover.” Her eyes flitted to Twilight. “Twily, would you like to hear about Shining’s first kiss?”

Twilight glanced between the pair, lingering on her brother’s eyes as he tried to communicate some silent plea for mercy before turning to Cadence’s brilliant purple which shone with mirth. “Would it in any way help me figure out my situation with Luna?” she asked.

There was a moment’s pause as Cadence and Shining shared a look, then nodded—albeit with a resigned sigh from the latter.

“Teasing aside, it will,” Cadence said. She removed her hoof from Shining’s mouth and pecked his lips. “I have to ask one thing first, though, Twily: did Auntie Celestia tell you anything about my nature in your history lessons?”

Twilight nodded slowly. “She told me that you were her first student after Luna’s banishment and that you’re … um …” She ducked her head, biting her lip as she tried to find the words.

Fortunately, Cadence supplied them for her. “A lot older than I look?” she suggested, amusement tinging her voice.

“Yes. That.” Twilight gave a sheepish chuckle, fidgeting as she felt Cadence’s free wing unfurl and wrap around her in comfort. “Princess Celestia told me that your connection to love gave you a rather unique condition to go along with your longevity.” She licked her dried lips, her eyes flitted to Shining again. “She said you’ve had quite a few, um, lovers in your time.”

Shining smiled. “You don’t have to try and sugarcoat it in front of me, I’ve known about it for quite some time.” He turned to nose against Cadence’s cheek. “Cady was up front with me about it the day she convinced me to give us a chance.”

Her ears twitched. Give “us” a chance? Not give “her” a chance? Or“romance” ? Twilight furrowed her brows, curious as to why her brother would go with that word choice. She kept her questions to herself and let them continue.

“It’s true, I’ve had many husbands and wives in my time,” Cadence said with a nod. “Occasionally I had the pleasure of having multiple wonderful ponies to share my love with. These days …” She smiled fondly as she took Shining’s hoof in hers. “I don’t know if I could give it to any other than my Shining Armor.”

“Aw, c’mon!” Shining ducked his head in a vain attempt to hide a sheepish grin, his blush returned in full force. “You know you only stay monogamous because I said I wasn’t comfortable with polyamory. You’ve got more love to give than anypony else.”

Beaming, she nuzzled his nose. “You’re worth it, my love.” Dotting him with another kiss, Cadence turned her attention to Twilight again. “Sorry, no more distractions. The reason I ask is that I wanted to make sure you knew some of it at least. As for the ‘condition’ Auntie refers to, it’s connected rather directly to love itself.”

Cadence paused to take a deep breath, the smile on her muzzle faltered a little. “The bulk of my power is connected to love itself, just like Auntie Celestia and Auntie Luna’s are connected to the sun and moon—or rather, day and night. They’re at the height of their power when Equestria is under one of their respective domains.” She leaned against Shining Armor, laying her head on his shoulder. “I’m at my most powerful when I fall in love and a pony shares my affections. Losing them causes me to … well, think of how Luna appeared when the Elements purified her. And that hurts. A lot.”

Twilight caught a little shift in Cadence’s posture as she hugged Shining tighter, as though afraid he might slip away from her. True to form, Shining sensed her distress.

He nosed into Cadence’s mane and whispered a few sweet nothings in her ear, then he dotted her on the head with a kiss before he spoke. “That sort of played into why I was so against moving toward dating Cady,” Shining said. “She lost her previous husband—I … wanna say that was Nor’easter?”

“Yes.” Cadence nodded into his shoulder. “I lost Eastie just a month before our thirteenth anniversary,” she said, her ears drooping a bit.

Shining grimaced. “Right, about ten years before she first foalsat you for mom and dad.” He tightened his grip on Cadence. “Cady was always the one who pushed me to be more of an extrovert throughout our friendship. If not that, she’d always make sure I knew when I’d done something to impress her, and I often found myself a little bit flustered whenever she did so.”

“A little?” Twilight and Cadence parroted in near perfect unison, each turning to raise an eyebrow at one another and then him.

His ears drooped, their tips tinged a bright pink to match his cheeks. “Okay, so I would get really flustered and stammer and I’d prefer we just stick to the story!”

Twilight held her gaze a moment longer, biting her tongue to hold back the laughter threatening to bubble forth. Her cheeks puffed up, she sucked in her lips and looked down at the ends of her own tail. Oh, my, I have a couple split ends. I should probably do something about that instead of thinking about how Shiny used to choke on his milkshakes if Cady—no! Keep it together! Tears stung the corners of her eyes. She wrapped her hooves around her barrel and sucked in a breath through her nose, then slowly released it.

But then, Cadence’s façade fell. She gave a loud snort and broke down into a fit of giggles, burying her face in Shining’s shoulder.

Twilight lost control. She fell into peals of laughter, leaning against Cadence’s side for support.

“Oh, shut up!” Shining grumped. “It’s bad enough I have to tell you about how Cady cornered me, do I really have to sit through this too?”

“I’m s-sorry!” Twilight said between giggles. She waved a hoof at him. “Go—pffft!—go on!”

He sighed. “Anyway, I always thought Cady was really pretty—hay, who didn’t?—and she’s a great pony, and I had a really big crush on her for a really long time.”

“How long is ‘a long time?’” Cadence cut in, still fighting down her laughter. “You never did give me a straight answer.”

“None of your business,” Shining replied as he cheekily poked her nose. “I figured I had no shot because a lot of colts and fillies had their eye on Cady, and they all came from more important families or looked really nice, while I felt plain and awkward.” He fidgeted in place and glanced down at his hooves, mumbling, “Didn’t help that I had braces and everypony teased me for it.”

Cooing, Cadence shifted closer to him and took his face in her hooves. “I always thought you looked cute with your braces.” She nuzzled his nose and stole a quick peck. “They gave me an excuse to hold you just like this and pester you to give me a smile.” Cadence paused to lick his cheek, grinning as he ducked his head to hide a wobbly smile of his own.

“You’re still so cute,” she whispered, before glancing at Twilight again. “Shiny’s braces came off just in time for him to start Cadet School, so I decided to make my move. I knew the Cadets had to go on routine assignments after their first semester, in which they’d either get stationed with a senior officer or they’d join an escort patrol. However—” her grin turned decidedly smug “—I also happen to know quite a few of the school’s officers, including the pony who made the shadowing schedules for Shiny’s class.”

Twilight gasped, broad grin tugged at the corners of her mouth. “You didn’t!” she cried.

Shining raised his head to fix her with a flat stare. “Of course she did.”

“I did!” Cadence cackled as she rocked herself, and Shining, back and forth. “Shiny got stationed as my personal escort, so I had plenty of time to talk with him and try dropping a few subtle hints—”

“Some about as subtle as a rampaging timberwolf,” he grumbled.

She drew back, frowning as she glared at him. “Subtle hints,” she repeated, almost daring him to contradict her.

Shining scoffed and rolled his eyes. “Oh, please!” He looked to Twilight, pointing a hoof toward Cadence. “Okay, let me paint a picture for you here! I’m supposed to escort her like a real guard—so, maintain a distance of three paces out of respect, but also stay within easy reach if something goes wrong.”

Giggling, Twilight laid down on her belly and perked up her ears. “I’m going to guess that’s not what Cadence had in mind for you,” she said, earning a shrug and a casual toss of her mane from Cadence.

“Far from it. Whenever we were walking somewhere, she’d sidle up all close, throw a wing across my withers, and chatted with me just like she would if I were off-duty.” He snorted. “Pretty much every other cadet hated me for that, they thought it was unfair that I could get away with cozying up to Cady.”

“It would’ve been so much easier on me if only you had!” Cadence cut in with a shameless grin and fluff of her feathers.

Shining quieted her with a light elbow to the side. “Yes, well, the other thing she liked to have me do was stand at post while she worked in her study. So it’d just be Cady and I alone in her office for hours, and I had to stand right by her desk the entire time.”

“Mmm, those were the days! I could have you at my beck and call, and you would just squirm in your armor whenever I got close or complimented you.” She closed her eyes and hummed. “I think we might have to revisit that one.”

“You wish! I’m the Captain of the Day Guard now, you can’t have me reassigned willy-nilly!”

Cadence cracked open an eye and smirked. “I’ll have to pester Auntie a bit, but I think she’ll see it my way.”

Twilight cleared her throat, drawing their attention before they could get back to their teasing. Raising her eyebrows, she rolled her hoof through the air.

“Er, right.” Shining coughed, rubbing the back of his head. “Well, since I had to stay with Cady, she had free rein to pester me to talk, and she could actually order me to reply instead of standing their stony-faced like I started out. She gradually started floating the idea of us going out for dinners or shows, y’know, like the old days. Didn’t see a problem the first couple times she asked, so I went.”

“I took him to a really nice Istallion restaurant the first time,” Cadence added. “We had private seating on the balcony, it was quite a romantic set up, though a bit light compared to past endeavors.” She gave an innocent shrug that didn’t seem to match the grin on her muzzle. “I didn’t want to scare him off with something too extravagant but I also wanted it to be clear that I was interested in him.”

Ducking his head, Shining nodded. “I was sort of in a self-imposed ‘just the best friend of the beautiful filly’ mindset, so I thought I was reading too much into it that time. But for our second night, she got us really good seats at Hinny in the Hills and held my hoof the whole time, and laid her head on my shoulder during the big finale.” His cheeks turned bright pink as he added, “What really clued me in was when she kissed me on the cheek when the show was over, and then again when she had her carriage drop me off at home.”

Wrinkling her nose, Twilight thought back. She furrowed her brows. “I don’t think I remember that.”

“It was awful late, so you were probably asleep at the time. Anyway, after Cady left, I started to panic—kinda like you’ve been tonight.”

“Oh?” Twilight perked her ears up a little straighter.

“Yeah, I just about went into a full blown panic. Dad had to calm me down and talk me through the whole thing.” His tail swished across the floor. “We talked about my crush on Cadence and how I worried that acting on it would mess up our friendship. Basically, he helped me organize my thoughts until I decided that I wasn’t going to act on my feelings.”

Cadence snorted and flicked her tail. “Your father is lucky I helped him pick out that anniversary gift for your mother after you told me that!”

Twilight stifled a laugh, then reached over to pat her shoulder. “I’m sure dad was just trying to help Shining, he wouldn’t scuttle your plans deliberately.”

Sticking her tongue out in reply, Cadence laid her head on Shining’s shoulder and took up the story. “The next time Shiny came by for his post, I asked him out again. He turned me down flat and told me that he valued our friendship too much to risk it on his silly crush and he was going to start acting like a proper cadet while he was on duty.”

She smirked and nuzzled into his neck, speaking in a husky tone, “I’m many things. Persistent is one of them, attentive to Freudian slips is another. So I called Shiny out on his little crush. Oh, how he blushed! Then the silly colt tried to go into that silly ‘keep his bearing’ routine where he gets all stony faced.” She paused and stared ahead, setting her jaw into a stern scowl for a moment before breaking down into another fit of giggles. “Unfortunately, he forgot that I’ve got centuries of experience flirting, and he’d been the sole object of my affection since I’d met him.”

“You make it sound like we were on a battlefield,” Shining quipped.

Twilight jumped at the chance to join in. “Love is a battlefield, Shiny!” she cooed in a high falsetto, earning a mock glare from Cadence.

“I don’t sound like that when I say it!” she huffed and turned up her nose at the siblings. “And it is so a battlefield!”

In practiced unison, the pair sighed and rolled their eyes. “We know, Cady!” they chanted.

“Then hush!” Cadence scolded. “As I was saying, Shiny went into his military bearing and refused to say anything but ‘Yes, Princess’ and ‘No, Princess’ for the rest of the day. Knowing how easily flustered he was and having verbal confirmation of his crush on me, I wasn’t going to let him off the hook so easy.” She cupped Shining’s chin and turned his head until their snouts touched. “I stood up and decided to tease him a little. I nuzzled his ears, kissed his cheek, and told him how much he meant to me. All the while, he had his eyes shut tight while he blushed and tried not to smile. But then, I moved a little further and stole Shining Armor’s very first kiss.”

Shining’s ears pinned back. “I don’t think I’ve ever felt my breath leave me like that before or since,” he said. “Everything just sort of stopped for me and I couldn’t figure out whether to pull away or act on my feelings. Before I knew it, I fell back on my haunches, wrapped my hooves around her, and started kissing back!”

Twilight felt her heart leap into her throat. Her kiss with Luna flashed before her eyes. How her coat seemed to prickle as soft feathers brushed against it, her own hooves wrapped around Luna’s barrel and she pulled closer to deepen the kiss. “But you said you didn’t want to risk your relationship!”

“Love doesn’t work in a neat, orderly way, Twilight,” Cadence said with a shake of her head. “It can be obvious, like how I knew I wanted to court Shining; it can be a crush, like Shining’s feelings for me; or other feelings can build to drive friendships toward romance.”

It harkened back to the light in Luna’s eyes as she drew in for the kiss, the feeling of her breath washing over Twilight’s face before their lips touched. Raw, unbounded passion.

Emotions driving us to act contrary to what we might say aloud.

But was there reason to say no?

Twilight hadn’t been able to come up with one based on her own feelings. Luna was a close friend and a wonderful mare with her own interests and desires. For the most part, all the negative aspects of such a venture were how fickle public opinion could be, Princess Celestia’s reaction, and what it might do to their friendship if it should fail.

I have to know. “What happened then?”

Cadence beamed. “I told him I meant everything I said and that he was dismissed if he wanted to take some time to think.” She paused to wink at Twilight, then added, “Not quite what he wanted, though.”

“As I recall,” Shining continued, “in my slightly addled state, I asked if I would get more kisses if I changed my decision.” He waggled his eyebrows. “The answer to that one is yes, in case you didn’t figure it out.”

“I had, thanks.” Twilight rolled her eyes and shook her head. So they made the transition after Cadence confronted Shining about his feelings. That was one way, but not applicable for her current situation. “What about your worry about risking your friendship?”

“It was … strange,” he admitted. “At first, I mean. For the most part, we kept talking about the things we always had, the only difference being that we’d do more couples stuff, like going to fancy restaurants, buying gifts on Hearts and Hooves Day, and kissing.”

“Among other things,” Cadence added, smirking as she planted a kiss just under Shining’s jawline that drew a sharp intake of breath.

Twilight watched them flirt and tease with a smile as she thought. If they’d been able to make the transition with little change, maybe there was nothing to worry about after all.

There was something else they’d mentioned in their story that nagged at the back of her mind. Cadence had lost all her lovers; they all died, while she remained.

As an alicorn, Luna would suffer the same loss.

How does Cadence cope? She looked down at her hooves, crossing them over one another. And how does Shiny deal with knowing he’s eventually going to leave her?

They were happy together, and had been for as long as Twilight could remember.

How did they get over that hurdle?

If she was going to make a decision, she needed all the data she could get her hooves on. Luna’s feelings were at stake.

Twilight cleared her throat, bringing their play to a halt long enough for her to ask, “How do you deal with … knowing she’ll outlive you?”

Their smiles faltered. Cadence’s ears pinned back against her scalp, her eyes downcast. “I try to focus on the years I’ll have him with me. They’re worth knowing that some day he’ll … pass on,” she whispered.

Shining hugged her tight and stayed quiet a moment, simply content to hold her and nuzzle into her mane. He glanced at Twilight, then closed his eyes. “I think it’s time we showed Twily the gallery.”

“Agreed.” Cadence nodded once, then stood with Shining, keeping her wing around his withers. “My private gallery has something that’ll help you understand just how I cope with it. If you want to, that is.”

Twilight stood slowly, raising an eyebrow at the pair. “I suppose it couldn’t hurt. What exactly is in this gallery of yours that’s going to help me?”

Cadence led Shining over to the door and beckoned Twilight to join with a flick of her free wing.

Her tone made Twilight’s heart skip a beat.

“You’ll see.”

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