• 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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33: A Dialogue Between Immortals (Plus One Mortal Brother)

Celestia had gotten used to having Luna home.

As she sat on the balcony beneath yet another of her sister’s beautifully crafted night skies, she smiled and sipped at her tea. Truly, Luna possessed a talent for art like no other. Any pony, given the power and knowledge of how to use it, could raise the moon and set the stars in place with a wave of their hooves.

But no pony held the same connection with them as Luna. No pony knew that Tempo and Werner liked to be close together, even though they bickered and bantered over musical theory to this day. Or that the founders six stood together, just south of the moon itself.

To everypony else, they were just stars.

To Celestia herself, they were all reminders of the days Luna’s smile could bring life to a room and ponies would come from far and wide to garner her favor.

“You know,” Cadence’s voice cut through her thoughts. “I think they’re shining a bit brighter than usual tonight.”

“It’s a product of their connection with Luna,” Celestia noted absentmindedly, stealing a glance across the table at her niece. “Even in death, they watch over their Princess of the Night. When she is happy, they are happy and light up bright for all of Equestria to see.”

Cadence hummed. “Interesting. I have to ask, is it just me, or is the star nearest to the moon’s right shining brighter than all of them?”

Furrowing her brow, Celestia looked to the star in question. Her eyes went wide. Cadence was absolutely right!

The star was practically dancing, begging for all of Equestria to pay attention and take note of its splendor. Celestia felt her breath hitch in her throat. There were only a few reasons for Luna’s stars to behave in such a manner, and for one to shine like this …

A smile tugged at her lips. “I believe that star has just been named,” she said, taking another sip of her tea. “How lovely.”

For a moment, neither said a word. Then, Cadence huffed. “I don’t suppose you know who it is?”

“I’m quite sure we both do,” Celestia replied. “The real question, my dear niece, is whether or not Luna realizes it yet.”

“That’s just maddeningly unhelpful!” Cadence whined, slumping in her seat and pouting like a foal.

How long had it been since she had last been a filly? It must have been nearly twenty years, now. Yes, twenty.

She met Shining and Twilight after her last change.

Celestia smiled and shrugged. “Perhaps that’s why I was never able to have the same relationship with the night as Luna—I prefer things to all be neat and orderly, with very little deviation from my routines. You and Luna are rather similar in your affinity for those, especially with romance being so close to the arts.”

“I know!” Cadence let her chin fall to the table. She glared at the tea pot resting at the center. “But how am I supposed to help things along if I don’t know where exactly they are in their relationship?”

Celestia made to retort, but to her right, Shining Armor coughed. “Pardon me for interrupting, but you make it sound as though the stars are as fickle with Luna as love lines can be with Cadence.”

Too easy. “I don’t mean to imply anything, Shining.” Celestia’s smile broadened into a full toothy grin. Shining was at ‘work’ in the most technical sense of the word. All he had to do was stand nearby and wear his armor, he could talk or drink if he so chose unless she or Cadence said otherwise.

Since the matter at hoof involved their own siblings, Celestia was quite happy to allow him the chance to speak freely.

Still, that didn’t mean he’d get his answers anymore straightforward than his sister might. They were both rather adorable in how huffy they got over such things.

Something that dawned on him after only a few seconds of pause. He fixed her with a flat look. “Princess,” he said with a sigh. “Would you please clarify for those of us who don’t fully understand how alicorns’ domains work?”

“I was hoping you’d ask!” Celestia beamed. “You see, Luna and I have always been rather differing in how our temperaments matched our domains: while we both like order, I prefer things to be as routine as the rise and fall of the sun. Granted, I don’t mind little changes to spice things up, but I think you both know I rarely deviate from my habits.”

“You never miss morning tea,” Cadence quipped. “Not even if you’ve got the Yakistan ambassador screaming at you over something not being to his preferences.”

Celestia shook her head. “Yes. Such a lovely fellow, indeed. Anyway, Luna bears quite a bit of similarity to Cadence as far as temperament, and her connection with the arts and the night sky is very similar to Cadence’s with love.” A wry smile played upon her lips. “I do believe you know more than anypony how my niece can be passionate in every meaning of the word.”

She couldn’t help but chuckle at the visible shudder he gave in reply, and the sidelong smirk Cadence sent his way.

“Though she is quite lovely, Cadence can be just like love itself—sweet, sensuous, and beautiful, but painful, tricky, and, when her temper is roused, wicked.”

Cadence raised a hoof. “In my defense,” she began, “those bandits tried to ransom Cornucopia for gemstones. So, forgive me if I’m still not exactly remorseful.”

Snorting, Celestia raised an eyebrow. “The diamond dogs still live most of their lives underground, Cadence. I think you were just a tad excessive.”

“My husband, my love, my domain.” Cadence’s eyes hardened. “I don’t step into matters of law when I disagree with you.”

Celestia held up her hooves in surrender. “I don’t mean to imply a want to intrude, just making an observation.”

With a frown marring her muzzle, Cadence sat up straight and huffed. “Sorry. You know how I can get.”

“I do, and I sympathize.” Sighing, Celestia took a sip of her tea. The urge to kick herself was almost too great to bear. She should have known better than to prod at Cadence’s defense of one of her lovers—she did know better.

Shining shifted in place, his armor clattered with his movement. “Er, Princess?” he half-mumbled. “I really don’t mean to be rude, but about my question …”

Oops. Celestia felt her cheeks burn. “My apologies. It seems my habit of letting my mind wander while I explain is still very real. I believe I was covering the similarities between Cadence and Luna with respect to their domains.” Pausing a moment to her throat, she continued, “Much like Cadence, Luna has always been one of multiple fronts. When we were younger, she was always the more mysterious of us, preferring to do her good deeds in the shadows, sing lullabies to frightened foals, and whisper encouragement to lost travelers, while I preferred to be rather showy.”

“So, literally like night and day,” Shining supplied.

“Indeed. But as we grew older, Luna began to come out of the shadows, at my behest, to share a bit of her hobbies with our ponies.” She chuckled to herself. “You should have seen how they fell in love with her old paintings. She showed them a way of looking at our land that none had ever dreamed.”

Her throat tightened, Celestia took a deep breath through her nose. “I’d never seen her so happy. The stars shined so bright, I had to beg her to calm down so our ponies could get to sleep that night! As a matter of fact, I’m pretty sure that’s where the phrase ‘think of the foals’ came from.” She snickered to herself, then schooled her expression, forcing her lips to form a stern scowl. “Luna, though I am as pleased as thee, sister mine, to see that our ponies love thy works, I implore thee, think of the foals and curb thine excitement!”

Cadence beamed. “I love that story! I remember you telling it when I was a filly!”

“Which time?” Shining quipped.

Slowly, Cadence turned to fix him with a hooded stare. “An age joke, dearest?” she purred. “You’ll pay once we get home.”

His cheeks took on a rosy hue. Shining pointedly avoided her gaze, looking toward the moon instead. “I mean, what a nice story, Princess!” he praised as though he hadn’t heard the grinning Princess of Love. “Always a treat to hear one of yours!”

Humming, Celestia took another sip of her tea. She hid a bemused smile behind her cup as she watched her niece cross one hoof over the other and slowly raise her brows as she ran her tongue over her lips.

Celestia could almost see steam rising from within poor Shining’s armor. She chuckled and shook her head as she set her tea cup down on the saucer. “I’m glad you enjoyed it. Luna’s joy that night was unlike any I’d ever seen. Although …” Her eyes wandered skyward, scanning the countless twinkling stars that decorated her sister’s lovely night sky.

They’re all dancing. She traced the constellations, noting the name of each star with practiced ease. What has you all so excited tonight?

With a shrug, she returned her gaze to Shining Armor. “Let’s just say that sometimes, Luna’s stars like to play games with her, too. Just as she did them when they lived, or still do with those alive.”

Shining wrinkled his snout. “It almost sounds like she doesn’t have total control over them.”

“She does, and she doesn’t.” Celestia fluffed her feathers. “Luna has all the control over her stars as a mother does her foals—she can tell them where to go and chide them for misbehaving, but they can be stubborn and needy. Heavens knows they refused to shine for me like they do her!” Huffing, she cast a glare at Werner and Tempo. “Those two, in particular, were pains in my backside from the first night I had to put them in place, to the very last. They were overjoyed when she returned, the cheeky little things!”

“I’ll … have to take your word for it.” Shining shifted again, his ear flicked. “Sorry. I don’t mean to sound like an idiot, but a lot of this goes right over my head.”

Cadence laughed and stood, then trotted over to nuzzle his cheek. “It went over my head for a while as well,” she said, sharing a wink with Celestia. “You wouldn’t believe how maddening it was for me when I tried to understand why I could see ponies’ love lines in ways they couldn’t, but didn’t know how to get them to the point they’d be happiest! Love is a wonderful thing, but it can be a pest to hold dominion over!”

“To say nothing of living with the starstruck filly while she was learning to govern it properly,” Celestia teased. “How many times did you try to set me up with—”

“We aren’t talking about that!” Cadence cut her off with a glare. “I maintain Whimsy Mimsy would have been perfect for you back then!”

An well-trimmed white brow raised. “I was grieving the loss of my sister.”

“You played that card for a thousand years, Auntie, it doesn’t count! And you loved Whimsy!”

“She was a friend. A very close friend.” There was a beat of silence, then she added, “Whimsy was also married.”

Cadence pinned her ears back and shot her a glare that could’ve curdled milk. “You know that only means something if they don’t want to be courted.”

Shrugging, Celestia opted to let the argument die. Eight hundred and eighty-seven years later, and I’m still hearing about this. Let it never be said the Princess of Love doesn’t know how to hold a grudge.

A return to the original topic would be for the best.

And not just because she knew full well that Cadence was right.

Certainly not.

Celestia averted her gaze, instead looking to the dancing star nearest the moon. “I wonder if this one is being up front with her.” She hid a laugh behind a hoof. “Or if it’s being as tricky as some of the others!”

“Hopefully so.” Cadence’s ears perked up, her tail whipped from side to side. “If it’s who I think it is, I’ll finally get to help Auntie Luna!”

“Help her?” Celestia raised an eyebrow. “Whatever with?”

“Courting Twilight of course!”

What? Celestia tilted her head, blinking a few times. “I’m sorry, I’m not quite sure I understand. Do you think my sister needs help because it’s Twilight, or is it because you think she doesn’t know how to romance another pony? If it’s the latter …” she trailed off, her voice broke as a laugh threatened to bubble forth.

Cadence furrowed her brows. “I’m not trying to be funny! I’m just saying, she’s been gone a long time, and she’s shown a bit of skittishness with regard to making friends! So, it’s only logical that—would you stop that sniggering! I’m trying to help!

Fluffing her feathers, Celestia shook her head and covered her mouth with a gold-shoed hoof. “I’m sorry!” she said, still tittering at the thought. “It’s just—oh, goodness, dear, did I never tell you? Did I really never tell you how Luna’s courtships usually went back in our day?”

“Not that I recall.” Her brows raised, Cadence pouted. “I thought you told me all her stories—why wouldn’t you tell me about her romances? Of all ponies, me!

“An oversight, I’m sure.” Celestia gave an awkward cough. “Well, I won’t go into too much detail—unless you’d like a hint as to what your sister may be in for, Shining?”

Shining started. His deep blue eyes flitted between both princesses, he flinched away when Cadence fixed him with an expectant stare. “Er … is it too late to say that I shouldn’t be involved in the personal business of the Royal Family?”

Oooh. Celestia hid a wince. Wrong answer, Shining Armor.

A spark flashed in Cadence’s eyes. She moved in close enough that their noses touched, her lips brushed against his as she spoke, “If I have my way, you’ll be in the Royal Family soon enough, lover. Answer the question.”

“I … really think it’s safer if I don’t and just pretend I’m not here instead.”

Oh for two.

Though the temptation to sit back and watch her evening’s entertainment was quite real, Celestia sent a tendril of magic to tweak Cadence’s soft, pink ear tips. “Now, now, dear, don’t bully him just because you want gossip,” she chided, winking at Shining. “There will be plenty of time to tease later.”

Shining blanched and made to back away, but Cadence looped a hoof around his shoulders and held him tight. A hooded stare and coy grin brought the roses back to his cheeks.

He was in more than just a little hot water.

Celestia opted to take a small measure of pity on her poor Captain of the Guard. She coughed, then spoke, “I won’t deny you the right to help, Cadence. That’s your right, both as Princess of Love and as family. I would happily do the same. But not unless Luna asks.” She held up a hoof to forestall any argument. “Trust me, Cadence. When it comes to courtship, Luna is fully capable of handling herself. The mare could make the dragon lords of old blush beneath their scales with her honeyed tongue.”

For a moment, Cadence seemed to wrestle with something. Sadness, agitation, and curiosity flashed across her face in rapid succession. She wanted to be involved in Luna’s life, and had waited to long for Twilight to show any interested in love, it was almost an affront to her domain.

Standing, Celestia trotted over to lay a hoof on her niece’s shoulder. “I know I ask much of you,” she said. “But please? For me?”

Cadence looked down at her hooves, frowning. “Fine,” she muttered bitterly. “I won’t pry unless she asks for help.” She raised her head to meet Celestia’s gaze. “On one condition.”

Of course. I trespassed into Love, so I must pay a toll. Celestia smiled. “I’m listening.”

Her smile faltered as Cadence fixed her with a wicked grin. Brilliant purple eyes danced with unrepressed glee, like a cat who’d caught a canary. “You, my dear Auntie Celestia, have to let me help you find the one who’s meant to be your special somepony—and there will be no silly arguments or distractions this time!”

A heavy silence hung over them. Celestia sucked in her lips and gave her tail a flick.

Then Shining snorted, his cheeks puffed out and he sucked in his lips. He turned away, shoulders shaking with poorly suppressed laughter.

Celestia sighed and did her best to ignore him. Damn. “Very well,” she said, nodding to Cadence. “But that doesn’t give you carte blanche to start lining ponies up against a wall to date me, or something silly.”

“Of course not. I have more respect for you than that.”

“How very magnanimous of you. Now, with that—” Out of the corner of her eye, Celestia noticed a familiar figure standing in the doorway, flanked by Erebos, Strider, Shooting Star, and Moondancer.

Luna stared back at her with an unreadable expression, her mouth set in a thin line, her brows furrowed, and her eyes brimming with tears.

Crying.

Her little sister was crying.

Celestia felt her heart race, her mind went into full overdrive. “Luna? What’s wrong?”

It was as though a spell had been lifted. Luna strode forward, her shoulders shook. Her watery gaze fixed on Celestia.

She stopped just within hoof’s reach. “Sister,” Luna managed to choke out.

“Luna, please, what’s wrong?” Celestia laid a hoof on her shoulder. “Why are you crying? Did something happen at the party?”

Before she could blink, Celestia found herself wrapped in a tight hug.

Luna buried her face in Celestia’s chest, tears spilled freely down her cheeks. Her horn flashed teal. Cadence let out a startled squeak as she was pulled over and snatched up in the hug.

“Thank you,” she whispered. “Thank you for keeping me alive all these years.”

Confused, Celestia wrapped a hoof around Luna’s back, more out of instinct than anything. She glanced out of the corner of her eye at Cadence. Her niece shook her head, likewise returning the hug if only to appease the weeping Night Princess.

What in the name of the sun and moon brought all this on?

“Why?”

Celestia blinked and drew back, her brows furrowed. “Why what?”

Luna raised her head, her watery teal eyes bored into Celestia’s. “After all the things I said that night, after I turned away from you and tried—” she hiccuped, choking on the words. “Why did you go to such lengths to keep my legacy alive? How could you not want all memory of me removed?”

The sun’s flames burned within her chest. Celestia drew in a sharp breath, closing her eyes. “Why ever would I do such a thing?” she asked like a mother speaking to her foal. “Why ever would you think I would want to?”

A whimper made her ear twitch. She could feel Luna stiffen as though afraid to reply. “I always thought you must’ve hated me,” she whispered.

The flames dimmed just a moment, leaving her with a cold pit at her very core.

But only for an instant before they returned in full force. Was that truly what Luna thought happened?

Celestia sucked in her lips. She would not rage, she would not scold. Nor would she break down in tears. Not this time.

Luna needed to know the truth, so she would be strong.

Slowly, Celestia drew in a breath through her nose. She opened her eyes and took Luna’s chin in her hoof. “Never,” she whispered in reply. “Not for a second, Luna. From the moment I lost you, up until the moment you returned to me, I spent a thousand years wishing to see you.”

Luna pressed her face into Celestia’s chest again, her grip tightened. “I tried to kill you,” she whimpered. “I don’t deserve—”

“You deserve every bit of my love and affection, you silly mare.” Celestia kissed the top of her mane. “I forgave you the moment I knew what punishment the Elements had chosen, and longed for the day my little sister would find her way home.”

A weak, muffled laugh tickled her coat. “If not for Twilight, I wouldn’t have.”

“I don’t care. You’re home and you were forgiven many centuries ago.” Gently, Celestia pushed Luna back so she could look into her eyes. She smiled and unfurled a wing to wipe away the tears marring her lovely sister’s face.

She missed this so. Every moment for a thousand years felt incomplete.

What was the sun without the moon? Or the day without night?

Who was Celestia without Luna?

A shade.

“The only pony left to forgive you is here.” Celestia placed a hoof over Luna’s heart. “It’s time, little sister. Stop hiding in the shadows, stop trying to hide what you did to protect those you loved—to protect me! Please!” Hot tears stung her eyes.

She would not cry.

Not again.

She pulled Luna in close, wrapping her in a tight hug as she did when they were fillies. She cursed herself, as she had done countless times since the Night Court’s fall from grace, for letting Luna give that happy part of herself up.

Just for tonight, the trio of alicorns weren’t princesses.

They were just two mares comforting one who needed to know she was loved, by none more than her family.

The stars above shone down upon them, twinkling in merriment for their beloved Matron.

None brighter than the one nearest to her moon.

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