• 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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36: Butterflies

Moonlight washed over her velvety smooth coat and her starry mane flowed elegantly despite the rushing wind. Her sister had ceded the day to her night a tad early, allowing her to wrap the land in its cool embrace and craft the perfect sky for her date.

Luna hummed one of Tempo Rubato’s melodies under her breath, beaming as his star twinkled back like a jubilant colt whose mother praised his first drawing. Yes, old friend, I do so love your works to this day. You know that well enough. Her gaze flitted down to the small bouquet of tiger lilies tucked beneath her wing.

A tiny hint of doubt crept into her breast, bringing with it the feeling of the bite of cold water splashing against her coat. Would the flowers be too much for a first date? She had asked for only a hooffull, and the salespony had said that they would be enough to fit in a modest vase any commonpony might have in their home—after she’d stopped that infernal stammering and bowing, of course.

Truly, a question worth pondering. On one hoof, Luna fully intended to do away with Twilight’s pesky habit of shying away, but on the other, she didn’t want to overwhelm her. Just lavish some affection upon her and show a little love.

“Ten minutes out from Ponyville,” Erabos said, cutting through her brief lapse.

Luna jolted back into the present. “What? Oh!” She coughed into her hoof, rustling her free wing nervously. “Very good. Thank you, Captain.”

“My pleasure, Your Highness.” He shot her a sidelong smirk. “Perhaps,” he began with a hint of indignation in his tone, “it would have been better if you had stuck around for Princess Cadence’s three hour lecture on how to woo a mare rather than me.”

“Three hours?” Luna stifled a laugh. She would have to do something nice for Cadence. “Oh, my! I do hope you took notes.”

His brows flatlined. “She insisted that I did. She also was quite happy to nitpick every little story I had in which I spent time with Moondancer for ‘hints’ of attraction.” Erebos shifted in place, a pinkish tinge blooming across his muzzle. “Apparently, in her expert opinion, I am smitten. Ludicrous!”

Luna shot a mischievous smirk in his direction. “Ludicrous,” she drawled, “yet, I cannot help but notice how close you hold her when her nerves act up, or how she is focus the bulk of your teasing as so many foals—bat pony or otherwise—are wont to with the objects of their affection.”

Predictably, Erebos recoiled and sputtered as the streak of pink spread across his face. He stammered and averted his gaze, hiding from her knowing eyes like a colt from his mother.

She threw back her head and laughed gaily, tears of mirth gathering at the corners of her eyes, chilled by the night air as they descended and touched down in Ponyville proper. Strider and Shooting Star cantered forward, pulling Luna’s chariot along until they reached the well-trodden dirt path leading to Golden Oaks Library.

Luna disembarked from her chariot almost the instant the twins came to a halt. She gave a nod of thanks, then turned her attention upon the living library Twilgiht resided in.

The butterflies from so many moons ago fluttered in her stomach. All the anxiety and doubt rose in her chest like a snake, ready to strike. That voice—that accursed, treacherous voice—whispered in her ears, Your first date in over a thousand years. How can you be certain you’ve planned it right? Would it not have been better if you consulted Cadence rather than brush her aside? Or worse, it purred, what if dear, sweet Twilight simply doesn’t enjoy the evening you planned?

Questions, questions, questions! Always such nagging questions! Luna flicked her tail and banished the voice once more. “One of these days,” she muttered to herself as she began the trot up to Twilight’s front door, “I will be put my past mistakes behind me. And then, I will have peace.”

You know full well you don’t deserve peace.

Growling, Luna ground her hoof into the dirt. “Begone, remnant of Nightmare Moon! I am no longer what I once was!”

For a moment, she had it. A smile spread across her face as she stopped on the dirt porch. In a flash of blue magic, a mirror appeared before her. She turned her head this way and that to check over her appearance. Her coat had been brushed to perfection so the moonlight seemed to caress her every curve, not a single strand of starry mane or tail was out of place, and her crown and regalia were polished so they shone like her beautiful night sky.

Perfect. She was ready.

Luna took a deep breath as she raised her hoof and knocked thrice upon the door.

But just as her hoof hit the third time, the voice gave a familiar laugh—her own—and returned with a parting parting shot:

I, it crowed, am not Nightmare Moon. And you are exactly who you once were. That I am still here is all the proof you should need.

The voice was gone after that. For several moments, there was silence, peace for Luna’s troubled mind.

It did nothing to stop the chill running down her spine. Luna squeezed her eyes shut and took a shuddering breath. She knew the truth.

All she could do now was pray that the sands of time had buried those past mistakes well enough that no pony would find them. Least of all, Twilight Sparkle.

“Maybe I can have Spike send her a quick letter and reschedule!” Twilight said, her right eye twitching. She stared at her reflection in the mirror, her knees quaking as she let her gaze wander over her coat, checking for any sign of imperfection.

Rarity sighed, drawing a flick of her ear. She turned to find her friend closing up her makeup kit and her lips forming a thin line. “Darling, I know I’m usually the one for dramatics and fretting over appearance, but for heaven’s sake, mare! Take a deep breath and relax!”

Around the room, four mares and one baby dragon chorused in agreement. Each had come over to offer support in the face of her nerves, their affection and knowledge of just how her mind worked drove them to stage a little intervention before her nerves could get the better of her. Naturally, their hunch was right, no matter how she might like to pretend otherwise.

“Relax! How can I relax? I’m supposed to go out on a date with Luna—a Crown Princess of Equestria, might I remind you—and I’ve never even been on a date!”

“You’ve read a few books haven’t you?” Rainbow asked, eying the stack of precariously balanced texts resting on Twilight’s favorite reading table. “Well, more than a few. Point stands, though. Looks to me like you’ve been cramming worse than Scoots before a math test.”

“And Apple Bloom, too,” Applejack mused. “Probably ‘bout as much as both combined, really.” With a shrug, she smiled at Twilight. “Dash and Rarity have a point, though, Sugarcube. Ya really oughta loosen up. Why, I’ll bet a barrel of cider Luna’s just as worried ‘bout this date as you.”

Pinkie and Rainbow perked up their ears. “Was that for real?” Rainbow drawled. “Cuz, I can fly toward Canterlot and see if I come across a certain Princess of the Night fretting over how she plans to woo our egghead—yeeowch! I’m joking!” She held her hooves up over her head in defense to prevent another swipe from Applejack.

“Knock it off, she don’t need that. And you—” Applejack pointed straight at Pinkie Pie “—don’t you start up, or I’ll come ‘round this table and give you a good boxin’ too.”

Though her smile never faltered, Pinkie nodded once, then mimed zipping her lips and turning the proverbial key before sitting in her chair and humming a bouncy tune.

Twilight bit her lip. She let a strangled whine sound from the back of her throat and flicked her tail as she turned to look at her reflection again. “I just don’t know what to actually do!” Stomping her hooves, she shot a glare at the tower of books looming over her friends. “So many of them say so many different things! Half of them conflict with one another and end up muddying the waters!”

Neither her books nor her friends had any immediate response. Rainbow had the grace to offer an uneasy, supportive smile despite herself while glancing furtively at Rarity, silently electing her to give more viable support. The mare seemed to struggle with the task as a bead of sweat rolled down her brow.

With a low growl, Twilight lashed out with a tendril of magic and banished the tower of books back to their shelves, nearly taking Spike out with a copy of So You Want to Dazzle Your Princess. She took a small measure of satisfaction in the series of thuds as each book hit the back of their respective bookshelves.

Or so she thought.

Spike eyed one of the shelves for a moment, then turned to ask, “Is there a particular reason A Thousand and One Ways to Court and Be Courted is now in the foals’ section, or did it just annoy you?”

Twilight deadpanned, “It failed to adequately explain how to be courted by a nigh-immortal Princess of the Night and Matron of the Arts in a way that gave me any idea of what I should expect or how I should respond.”

“Ah. Fair enough. Into the foals’ section it goes then. And I suppose Love Poetry 101 will be taking up new residence in the gardening section?”

“Right next to fertilizer, yes.”

“Noted.” Spike clicked his tongue and hopped out of his chair, padding over to survey the rest of the shelves. With a sigh, he muttered something under his breath that sounded like “I’m not reorganizing this mess, or Celestia help me.”

A small part of Twilight demanded she turn around and demand, in a tone that would have made her mother proud, just what he wished to finish that threat with. But she beat it back in favor of focusing on the task at hoof. She would just have to make a note about chastising him for such behavior later.

Instead, she stared at her reflection again, letting her gaze travel over her coat for the hundredth time. One last check would be sufficient to reveal any signs of imperfection. There was none. Rarity had outdone herself, as per usual. Her coat was as smooth as silk, and warm candle light traced her body and highlighted every curve from her thighs and hindquarters to the slight pudge in her belly. Twilight winced. Maybe I need to start a working out a tad more. Hopefully, it wasn’t too noticeable.

Her mane had been brushed to perfection. Not even a strand fell out of place. She ran a hoof through, marveling at how soft it felt with the new conditioner Rarity insisted—more demanded, really—she use at least for tonight. Curious, she drew her hoof under her nose and sniffed a bit. The scent of strawberry still lingered, just as fresh as when she stepped out of the bath.

“Twilight?” Fluttershy’s soft voice made her flick her ears. She turned to face her friend, who ducked her head and rustled her wings nervously. Her eyes flitted down to the table for a second or two as she seemed to steel her resolve. When she raised her gaze to meet Twilight’s, a rare glimmer of confidence and supportive strength shone in her eyes. She took a deep breath and said, “I don’t mean to be pushy, but do you really think Luna would put high expectations on you for a first date?”

“I … well …” Twilight squirmed beneath her gaze. Since when did a look from Fluttershy make her feel like the times her mother caught her trying to liberate an extra cookie from the jar? “No,” she admitted, “I don’t think she would, I just don’t want to mess things up.”

“How would you even do that?” Pinkie blurted out. She winced, then turned to Fluttershy. “Sorry, Flutters.”

“Oh, no, I agree entirely.” Fluttershy gave a tiny shrug.

“Oh, good!” Beaming, Pinkie turned her attention to Twilight again. “But really! How would you even ruin a first date?”

Rarity raised a hoof. “Er, Pinkie, dear,” she began slowly, “I can think of a few ways. Most of which involve belching, or shouting, or chewing loudly. Or talking with your mouth full.”

“So, all the fun stuff,” Rainbow teased. Before Rarity could scold her, she held up her hooves in surrender. “Joking! I’ve been on a couple dates, Rarity, I know how this stuff works!”

“Then why don’t you take a moment to stop teasing Twilight and start helping her?”

Wincing, Rainbow ran a hoof through her mane. “Fair point. My bad.” She cleared her throat and looked to Twilight. “Honestly? The worst thing to do on a date is exactly what you’re doing now: stressing and trying to follow rules. Sure, mind your manners, don’t talk politics, and yada yada, but, really, be who you are—a complete and utter egghead who gets excited about learning things, and is pretty darn twitterpated for one Princess of the Night.”

“Twitterpated?” Applejack raised an eyebrow.

“What? It works.”

“Not sayin’ it doesn’t. Just surprised to hear ya talkin’ like Granny.”

“Hey, the mare is old, but she’s got her moments of coolness. I give allowances for age. Anyway, my point stands!” Rainbow gestured wildly with a hoof, a cocky smirk spread across her face. Upon looking at Twilight again, though, her smirk faded into a small smile. “Just be you, Twi! You’re awesome as you are, and, if that poem was any hint, Luna’s noticed. And if she hasn’t, she’ll figure it out.”

A fuzzy feeling tickled Twilight’s chest. She ducked her head between her shoulders and laid her ears flat. Her cheeks burned. “You really think so?”

“Do we need to revisit that poem? Spike? You can find where she hid it, right?”

“Spike! Don’t you dare!”

“Top drawer of her nightstand,” Spike said as he reclined in his seat, “carefully folded and disguised as a bookmark for her copy of Mystics and Mages Throughout the Ages.”

Whining, Twilight stomped a hoof. “You,” she said, fighting as best she could against the smile that threatened to spread across her face, “are so grounded, young drake.”

He shrugged. “Worth it. And Rainbow’s right. Luna likes you as you are, so just be you.”

Just be herself? Normally, the mere thought would make Twilight’s coat stand on end. She was a basket of nerves at best, a neurotic mess at worse, and that didn’t even get into her lack of social experience. For the sake of her own dignity, she tried not to think of her lack thereof in dating.

Still, Luna liked—or, dare she think, loved?—her for who she was. Precious, Twilight thought. She said I was precious, more than I could ever know or she could ever put to words. Warmth spread through her chest, up to her cheeks and ignited a blush that painted her face a deep purple. A wobbly smile spread across her face, she took a deep breath and let her shoulders relax. “Thanks, everypony,” she said softly. “You girls are the best.” After a beat, she added, “You’re also the best, Spike.”

“You know it, Twilight.”

Three knocks against the door made her ears perk up. Butterflies flew in her chest, whipped into a frenzy. Every muscle in her body went rigid, like somepony had hit her with a bolt of lightning.

Gentle hooves gripped her shoulders. “Twilight, breathe!” Rarity commanded. “Deep breaths, in and out. This is nothing to be afraid of.”

She obeyed. Slowly, she took a deep breath, until her lungs were almost fit to burst. She held it a moment, then let it out. “I-I’m not afraid,” she said, licking her lips. “Just nervous.”

“That’s natural, darling. Everypony gets nervous on their first date. I’m sure you and Luna will have a wonderful evening.” With a smile, Rarity gave her a gentle push toward the door. “Now go have fun.”

“And don’t forget to dazzle her,” Rainbow teased. “See if we can’t get another poem or two out of tonight—ha!” She ducked a swipe of Applejack’s hoof and stuck out her tongue. “Missed!”

Rolling her eyes, Rarity waved Twilight over to the door, then set about herding the rest of their friends into the kitchen. “Come on,” she said as she levitated Spike out of his chair and onto her back, a change he did not look the least bit upset about. “Let’s leave them alone, they don’t need us tossing quips. Yes, Rainbow, you too.”

Each of her friends followed as asked, though not without offering at least one more word of support or wish of a fun evening, but they came as though through a heavy fog. Twilight swallowed a lump in her throat and approached the door with trembling knees. A thousand scenarios in which their date went wrong flashed through her mind.

But with them came several where it went right—wonderfully so. The butterflies in her stomach tickled her chest, she gripped the door handle with a tendril of magic and pulled it open.

The Princess of the Night and Matron of the Arts met her with eyes that twinkled like her stars and a smile as bright as her moon’s light, and a bouquet of—her heart leapt—beautiful tiger lilies tucked beneath her wing. Her horn flashed, wrapping her offering in the soft blue glow of her magic and holding them out to Twilight. “Good evening, Twilight,” she greeted. “I have come calling as promised.”

Twilight felt her cheeks burn as she accepted the bouquet, she took a moment to bury her snout in it and drink in the wondrous scent of her favorite flower. All the tension in her body seemed to wash away.

“Hello, Luna.”

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