Twilight stopped, realizing she could no longer hear the sound of hooves clip-clopping beside her. She looked back, at the unicorn who was staring around in admiration.
“You coming, Chrysi?” she asked, cocking a questioning eyebrow upwards.
That name had been a point of contention between her and Chrysalis before they left for Canterlot, as was the form the changeling used as a default when she wasn't impersonating anypony in particular.
Chrysi, Twilight had argued, was hardly the least suspicious pseudonym for someone named Chrysalis. Along the same lines, a tall dark gray unicorn, with teal hair and a cutie mark of a green heart dripping with slime, was not the best disguise for a changeling. Twilight had pushed for a pony disguise that looked as little like the Queen as possible, and had even offered to use her art skills, rudimentary as they were, to design one.
But Chrysalis had refused, claiming she had a sentimental attachment to the form. The cruel and ruthless changeling Queen had abused the fact that she was preening Twilight's feathers while they had the discussion, and had teased and tormented the poor alicorn's wings until she had given in.
“I'm sorry,” said Chrysalis, hurrying to catch up. “I just forgot how beautiful the palace is. I was only here for a few days, after all.”
“It's quite something,” said Twilight, nodding. “Although, trust me, you get used to it after a couple of years.”
Chrysalis sighed. “Sometimes... I wonder if I made a mistake by not taking this place when I had the chance.”
“Really, Chrysi?” said Twilight resignedly, staring at her through half-lowered eyelids. “I mean...”
“Oh!” Chrysalis put a hoof to her mouth in shock, then ran up next to Twilight. “Not like that! I'd never regret anything about what we have! These last few years have been amazing.”
She put a foreleg across Twilight's back, nuzzling up against her. Twilight opened her mouth, ready to explain what she had really meant, then thought better of it. Arguing wouldn't help anything. Instead, she just gave Chrysalis a light nuzzle back.
She let out a small sigh as they continued on their way to the throne room again. She really shouldn't have returned that nuzzle. She shouldn't have returned any of them, or the hugs, or the happy smiles each time they made eye contact.
But it was getting harder and harder not to. Chrysalis was just so... affectionate. She was nice to Twilight, and so Twilight was nice back, and that just made the situation worse.
She glanced over, cheeks heating slightly as she peered at 'Chrysi'. That disguise didn't help either. The more Twilight looked at her–not that she was purposely looking of course, it just happened sometimes in the normal course of being around each other–the more she realized that the disguise was identical to Chrysalis, except in pony shape.
Well, 'shape' was the wrong word. That was Chrysalis's shape, every curve and long, graceful limb. 'Form' would be better; if you turned Chrysalis into a pony, and shrunk her a bit, she would look just like her disguise. Of course, to be fair, that was exactly what had happened.
The physical attraction wasn't the problem–not too much of the problem–as much as the fact that she'd started to think of this as a solution. All her reservations about having a relationship with this pony that loved her and was kind to her disappeared when she was, well, a pony.
What this came down to was yet another solution that was unfair to Chrysalis. Asking the changeling to permanently stay in pony form just to make Twilight comfortable wasn't right–even if Chrysalis would do it without question, and even if that was kind of a changeling's thing.
If this relationship was going to work–BIG if, something the jury was still very much out on, but an idea that, Twilight had been forced to admit, didn't seem as utterly repulsive as it once had–she had to like Chrysalis for who she was. She had to like the changeling. Making the Queen hide behind a disguise just so Twilight wouldn't have to deal with the fact that she actually couldn't love Chrysalis after everything that had happened wasn't the way to go. Chrysalis changing into other attractive ponies was something they'd save for later–nonono, bad thoughts, go away!
In any case... Princess Celestia would know what to do. The Princess always knew what to do. Twilight might not even have to deal with her confusing feelings at all–Princess Celestia would present the perfect solution, everyone would be happy, and everything could allllll go back to normal.
Please, please let it all go back to normal.
They stopped at the huge, arched doorway to the throne room, in front of the two royal guards that were blocking it.
“Hello,” said Twilight, “I'm here to see the Princess, please.”
“Sorry, the Princess is not seeing anypony right now,” said the guard on the right.
“Ahem.” Twilight ruffled her wings, and a small spark of magic leapt off her horn. “I am Princess Twilight Sparkle, here to see Princess Celestia.”
There was no response, and Twilight narrowed her eyes.
“Perhaps you've forgotten me? You know, Twilight Sparkle, Princess Celestia's personal protege? Recently became the Princess of Friendship? Here, right now, in front of you, telling you that I have a pressing need to talk with Princess Celestia?”
“I'm sorry, ma'am, but–“
“Because you see, my old friend Lieutenant Cuirass, I haven't forgotten you. Why, I still remember the cadet I met when I was a simple filly, having just moved into the palace to learn magic under Princess Celestia. And I remember watching that cadet from my tower, as he ran lap after lap as punishment for breaking a stained glass window after trying to show off while practicing with a spear.”
The guard's ears went flat against his head and his eyes widened, flickering over at his companion. That guard wore the standard stoic guard expression, but a close look could, just barely, make out one corner of the guard's mouth starting, ever-so-slightly, to curl upwards.
“I also remember finding that same cadet huddled under a stairway, clutching a letter from home that was soaked in tears–“
“Right this way ma'am the Princess will see you now!” cried out the guard, leaping to one side and slamming open his side of the door with a hoof.
“Thank you, lieutenant,” said Twilight politely, trotting past him with Chrysalis in tow.
“Mmm, I love it when you're all... Princessy,” whispered the changeling into her ear, causing her to flush.
She shook her head as they crossed the throne room to the smiling Princess Celestia. She needed to be calm for this. And, she found, she was calm. After all, Princess Celestia could fix anything.
“Twilight!” cried Celestia happily, rising from her throne. “It's so nice to see you.”
She stepped forward, embracing Twilight with her wings. Twilight moved her own wings under Celestia's, hugging her back.
“It's good to see you again too, Princess,” she said.
Celestia broke the embrace, moving back and looking over at the unicorn who had followed Twilight in. “And now who is this? Another new friend?”
“Well, yes, in a way,” said Twilight. She walked back, to stand next to Chrysalis. “Princess Celestia, meet... my wife.”
“Oh.” Celestia blinked a few times, looking back and forth between the two ponies leaning against each other–well, the tall unicorn leaning against the slightly uncomfortable looking alicorn.
“Tea?” asked Celestia with a bright smile.
“I must say, I didn't even know Twilight had a special somepony, let alone a wife,” commented Celestia, taking a deep sip of her tea as the three of them sat in her drawing room. “You've been keeping secrets from me I see, my faithful student.”
“I-I didn't mean to,” said Twilight nervously. “It's just... well, there are some things you don't know about...”
“Oh?” Celestia raised an eyebrow, which just increased Twilight's nervousness and completely shut down her ability to talk.
“Shouldn't you at least introduce us?” prompted Celestia gently after a moment. She did, of course, know how to deal with her student's occasional lapses into anxiety-induced silence. “I can't just keep calling her your wife, after all.”
“Oh!” Twilight jumped in her seat. “I-I guess so, but... you've actually, ah, kind of met already. Sort of.”
“Interesting. She doesn't look familiar, and I typically have a good memory for ponies.” Celestia glanced over at the tall unicorn, who just smirked and giggled. “Where did we meet?”
“Well, at my brother's wedding,” admitted Twilight “That's also where I met her.”
“Hmm. I must say, you have me stumped, Twilight. I don't recall her at all.” She gave Twilight the raised eyebrow again, adding a small bit of admonishment to her tone. “You seem to be keeping more secrets from me. Is there a reason you're hiding all this?”
“I, um...” Twilight looked over at Chrysalis, who let out a snort of laughter and shook her head.
“Oh, tell her already. I can't wait to see her reaction.”
“Okay, okay.” Twilight took a deep breath. “Princess, you trust me, right? I mean, you know I'd never do anything I thought was risky, or that would put Equestria in danger, and you know me, so you know this is me, and that I'm not doing anything against my will or being controlled by someone else–“
“Calmly, Twilight,” said Celestia, smiling. “Yes, I trust you completely. You know that.”
She took another deep sip of her tea, contemplating the grinning gray unicorn sitting across from her. “Although, I have to say, I don't have the faintest idea what could be so shocking about such a pleasant-looking pony.”
“Well, you see, the thing about that is... she's not a pony. She's a changeling. I married Queen Chrysalis.”
Princess Celestia's self control was legendary. So great was it that her teacup hardly rattled as her magic placed it back in its saucer and slowly lowered it to the table. Of course, the saucer quietly broke in half once she released it, but nopony is perfect.
“Explain.” Gentle-smile Celestia was gone. This was imprisoning-in-stone, locking-in-the-ice-of-the-frozen-north, sending-to-Tartarus, banishing-to-the-moon Celestia. But, very importantly, it was also Twilight-trusting Celestia, and she'd given Twilight exactly one chance to have all this not turn into a bloodbath.
So Twilight explained.
She told Celestia about how changelings courted, what they considered love to be, how they handled relationships. She told Celestia how Chrysalis and herself had gotten involved with each other, how everything that had happened since had just been Chrysalis 'dating' her. And she told Celestia how she'd spent the last few days in the changeling hive, how she'd learned there was more to the changeling Queen than she'd thought, that there could be a chance–a hope–for everyone to live in peace.
She finally stopped, letting her head hang down, short of breath and nearly panting. And when she heard Princess Celestia say, “Okay, Twilight. I believe you,” she almost collapsed. She'd done it. Chrysalis was safe.
“I will admit to being... hesitant, still,” continued Celestia, and Twilight raised her head. “However, as I said, I do trust you. And I do know you enough to know if you weren't acting like yourself.”
The smile finally returned to Celestia's face, gentle but now, for some reason, almost sad as well. “I doubt any changeling, or mind controlled Twilight, could get as flustered as you have. Nor could they rattle off their research on changeling society as thoroughly–and as much like, well, you–as you just did.”
“Thank you, Princess,” said Twilight quietly. “This means a lot to me.”
“I... I know it does,” replied Celestia, closing her eyes with something that was almost a sigh and nodding.
Reopening her eyes, she turned to Chrysalis Her expression changed, hardening. She wasn't angry, but... unwelcoming. Chilly. And, again, there was that hint of sadness. “Would you mind removing your disguise? I know it matters little to you, but I'd prefer to talk to you 'face-to-face'.”
“Hmm, very well.” Green fire wrapped around the unicorn, parting to reveal the changeling Queen in all her glory.
“I suppose I can let you gaze upon me once more,” she said, voice buzzing with dual tones. “After all, this is going to be your last chance.”
Celestia narrowed her eyes, her neutral expression changing to a frown. “And exactly what is that supposed to mean?”
“Oh, nothing. By the way, did you enjoy your tea?” Chrysalis let out a loud cackle, taking a sip from her own cup, eyes dancing gleefully at Celestia over its rim.
“It took me a long time to find a poison that works on alicorns, and even longer to get close enough to use it, but now Equestria shall finally be in the hooves of those who deserve it!”
“Guards–!” Celestia rose to her hooves, starting to shout, but was silenced as a band of green magic wrapped around her muzzle.
“Ah-ah, getting all worked up would be a bad idea.” Chrysalis grinned happily, leaning forward on crossed forelegs. “You don't have all that long left, and getting agitated will just help the poison do its work faster.”
Shaken, Celestia sat back down, and the magic holding her mouth shut disappeared.
“That's better,” said Chrysalis, then gave Celestia a pouting look. “Aw, don't be so sad! Imagine Equestria, as you know it now, but filled with ponies who only love! Such a peaceful land, don't you agree? And wouldn't you sacrifice everything to bring your ponies that happiness? My changelings and I will ensure they feel only love, for us to feed off of, and soon the entire world will–“
“Chrysalis!” barked Twilight finally, causing the changeling Queen to jerk back in surprise. Twilight had been rubbing the bridge of her muzzle with one hoof, and now held out the other in front of Chrysalis's face. “Give me the antidote.”
“T-the antidote?” Chrysalis looked away, eyes wide. “There is no antidote–“
“Are you telling me,” said Twilight, deadly calm, “That you brought me here, with a poison that could kill me, and you didn't bring an antidote?”
“I... of course not–“
“Then give it to me.”
Chrysalis's eyes moved back and forth, desperately seeking someway out, but finally she dropped her head.
“Here,” she grumbled, a real pout on her face this time. A small vial floated out from inside her mane encased in emerald magic, and was deposited in Twilight's hoof.
“Thank y–“ Twilight, starting to turn and give the vial to Celestia, paused.
Peering suspiciously at the vial, she asked, “Chrysalis, is this the antidote? Or is this more poison?”
The Queen's eyes widened even further, and she turned away. “It's the antidote, of course. Why wouldn't it be?”
“Okay, well, just in case some of the poison got into my cup too I'd better take some of this–“ Twilight uncorked the vial and began moving it towards her mouth.
“No–!“ Hooves going to her mouth in shock, Chrysalis turned with a gasp, to meet Twilight's angry eyes.
“The real antidote, Chrysalis. Right now.”
The changeling's mouth worked silently, as she tried to come up with some excuse, but the eye contact was too much. A supremely unhappy frown on her face, Chrysalis brought another vial out from her mane and passed it to Twilight.
“Thank you, Chrysalis,” said Twilight politely, and handed the vial to Celestia.
She looked at it critically, and Twilight nodded in apology. “Feel free to check it first. I trust that she gave me the real antidote this time, but you clearly don't have any reason to.” She cast a dirty glance over at Chrysalis, who had turned away again and was angrily sipping her tea. “I'm going to have to have a long talk with her after this.”
Celestia closed her eyes briefly, casting a spell, and the vial glowed blue. Satisfied, she quickly gulped it down, grimacing at the taste.
There was a long moment of silence as they all looked at each other. Well, Twilight and Celestia looked at each other; Chrysalis was still sulking.
“I'll be honest, Twilight,” said Celestia finally. “I don't know how to react to your wife trying–successfully–to poison me.”
“I know,” sighed Twilight. “It's just... here, watch this. Chrysalis?”
There was no response, and Twilight tried again. “Chrysalis!”
“What,” came the sullen reply.
“Chrysalis, can you please tell me what a friend is?”
Chrysalis sighed, rolling her eyes, her annoyance overcoming her grumpiness. “'A friend is an enemy who isn't trying to kill you',” she said, voice nearly monotone, repeating the definition by rote.
“You see?” said Twilight, shrugging and turning back to Celestia. “Even that took me days. Changelings don't have friends, Chrysalis has trouble even understanding the concept. There's just the hive, and enemies. I'm trying my best to change that, but there are occasionally... hiccups.”
“Hiccups,” repeated Celestia flatly. “Hiccups like, say, fatally poisoning me.”
“Well... yes,” said Twilight, cringing.
Celestia gazed at her for a long time, then finally sighed.
“You really must care for her,” she said softly, almost inaudibly, then looked up and smiled. “I'm glad you're so happy, Twilight. And I'm glad you've found someone who means so much to you. Even if...”
She trailed off, and Twilight cocked her head to one side. “Princess? What...”
“There's something I need to talk to you about, Twilight,” said Celestia, standing up briskly. “If possible... it would be better if we were to talk alone.”
“Oh, no, don't mind me,” said Chrysalis as Twilight turned to her. “I'll just stay here, alone, while you go off with your 'friend' that you won't even let me kill. See if I care.”
“I'll miss you too, Chrysalis,” said Twilight, with a smile. She at least got a little smile back, so thankfully the Queen wasn't too upset.
That was a small comfort as she followed Celestia out of the room, though. 'Let's have a chat' or 'How was your day' were good things. 'I need to talk with you' was the predecessor to unpleasantness.
Twilight was getting more and more nervous as she followed the silent Princess Celestia up a winding staircase. While there had been many moments of joy in Celestia's personal study, it was also the room she was always called to when there were punishments and reprimands to be given out.
They entered the room, golden magic closing the door behind them. Twilight jumped slightly as the lock snapped shut. Spells crackled briefly along the walls, blocking any attempts at eavesdropping, and she gulped.
The familiar surroundings, the musty smell of ancient scrolls, all the various artifacts and knick-knacks–each with their own personal meanings to Celestia, meanings Twilight had learned bit-by-bit over the years–calmed her down, set her fears at ease.
But seeing Celestia walk around to stand behind her desk, smile gone, and start shuffling papers, brought back all her worries. This was exactly how Celestia acted when she was upset with Twilight.
“Princess Celestia?” asked Twilight finally, when she could stand it no longer. “Are you... are you mad at me?”
“Mad?” Celestia looked up in surprise, and smiled briefly. “No, Twilight, I'm not mad.”
She put down the papers she'd been idly playing with, and moved to a window that looked out over Canterlot.
“No, I'm not mad,” she repeated with a sigh. “Just... disappointed.”
“Oh.” Twilight's head fell, ears folding back against her head. “I didn't mean–“
“No, Twilight, it's okay.” Celestia's head was bent as well as she gazed out into the distance. “It's my fault. I should have talked to you earlier. I should have let you know how I felt about you a long time ago.”
“I just thought I had more time, I guess.” Celestia turned from the window, beginning to pace along the bookshelves behind her desk. “You had ascended, become an alicorn... we had eternity before us... what's a few lifetimes, if it takes you that long to realize how much I love you? I was prepared to see you take lovers, even marry. And I was prepared to see you deal with their inevitable deaths, and help you through them.”
She looked over at Twilight, misinterpreting the expression on the frozen Princess's face. “Does that seem cruel to you? Perhaps it is. But dealing with loss is a part of life, part of growing up. And now that you're immortal, you have a whole new level of growing up to go through. I've dealt with the pain of losing more loved ones than I can count; Luna has as well. It's why I was so happy to see you become an alicorn: here at last was someone I loved who would last as long as I. A pony who would one day, perhaps, come to realize that I could always be there for her no matter how long her life went on.”
Celestia laughed bitterly. “And what happens? You go and fall in love with one of the few other immortals in all the world. Once again my penchant for trying to manipulate things from behind the scenes, to guide rather than simply tell or command, has cost me someone I love. I wasn't able to stop Luna from succumbing to her darkness with those tactics; I'm not sure why I thought they would get you to fall in love with me.”
“Princess, I'm sorry–“ Twilight tried to speak, but Celestia shushed her with a gentle wingtip down the side of her face.
“Ssh, Twilight, no apologies. Never apologize for what you feel in your heart.” She gave Twilight a warm, bright smile, her first real one since finding out it was Chrysalis that Twilight had married. “I am truly happy for you. You have found a pony you love, and who clearly loves you back with all her heart. I could wish for no more. Don't let me ruin that for you; I'll be just fine.”
Celestia moved away, returning to her desk. “Go back to her, Twilight, and enjoy your life together. You deserve it, more than any pony I know.”
Numbly, Twilight nodded and got to her feet. Just before she reached the door, though, Celestia called out to her again.
“Twilight?” She turned back, to see Celestia shuffling in place behind the desk. For the first time Twilight could remember, the Princess looked nervous, unsure of herself, her eyes darting about and refusing to meet Twilight's.
“I said my preference for trying to guide events to my liking, rather than simply acting directly, has been a mistake. If I'm going to move beyond that, get past that way of thinking, I need to do it now.
“So. If you and Chrysalis... I don't know what you two... like to do... I'm not sure of your opinions on... certain things that ponies sometimes...”
She shook herself, ruffling her wings. “Oh, horsefeathers, I'll just say it.”
Twilight gasped; she'd never heard Princess Celestia swear before. Then she realized Celestia was looking directly at her, face flushed and determined.
“Twilight,” she said, voice rushed but steady, “If you and Chrysalis ever want to have a threesome, just know that I'm always available, okay?”
Twilight's mouth dropped so far open it went back the other way and her teeth clamped together. Time stopped, frozen in one perfect crystalline moment of pure embarrassment, disbelief and utter horror. Finally, after eons had passed, the crystal shattered and Twilight could act again.
Had Twilight not already earned her wings, she would have at that moment, as she became the first pony to teleport out of a room without using magic.
Halfway down the stairs, Twilight finally managed to process what had just happened. She stopped, breathing deeply, using Cadence's calming technique.
It's okay, Princess Celestia, the ruler of Equestria, the pony who practically raised you, your teacher your entire life, the pony you respect more than any other, just told you she's had a crush on you for years, her panicky mind said unsteadily. Oh, and then when you told her you were married she totally just offered to have a threesome with you and your wife, no big deal either, happens every day I'm sure, and you–
And you forgot to tell her you don't actually love Chrysalis, so she could help you figure out a way to get out of this. Twilight dragged a hoof across her face and turned to go back up to the study, then froze. Desperately, she tried the calming technique again, but there was no stopping this panic attack.
I can never tell Princess Celestia that I have no feelings for Chrysalis! I can't ask her for help or advice about this!
If she ever did, Princess Celestia would see it as being her own fault. She would think Twilight wanted to break off her relationship with Chrysalis to pursue one with the Princess, and blame herself. The guilt would eat her up, and she would have to reject any attempt by Twilight to deepen their relationship, out of principle.
Worse, trying to push the subject would just alienate Princess Celestia, and no doubt word would get back to Chrysalis, resulting in both hating her, the Queen would leave her, Princess Celestia would despise her for leaving her wife as soon as a 'better' option came along, she'd be alone for all eternity–
Her breathing was becoming more ragged as she began hyperventilating, holding herself up with one hoof against the wall, and the only thing that stopped her from passing out due to this crisis was the realization that there was an even worse disaster developing below.
Groaning, her breath coming under control again, she trotted back down the stairs as the walls shook with the Royal Canterlot Voice.
The drawing room looked about as she had expected it to; tea service scattered about, table upside down, at least two chairs, maybe more, in a pile of splinters near the stairs. What she hadn't expected to see were the two Princess Lunas, locked together in a death struggle, rolling about the floor.
“FOUL IMPOSTER!” boomed one. “I SHALL SMITE THEE FOR ATTEMPTING TO IMPERSONATE OUR ROYAL PERSONAGE!”
“YOU DARE TO IMITATE US?!” screamed the other. “THIS IMPUDENCE WILL NOT GO UNPUNISHED!”
“Stop it!” cried Twilight, afraid to go more than a few steps into the room as the two rolled and thrashed past her. “Luna, Chrysi, I said stop it!”
They ignore her, both focused on attempting to subdue and/or kill the other. Twilight grabbed them in her magic, lifting them off the ground, but all that did was result in them bobbing up and down as their fight continued unabated. Finally, scrunching up her face, she managed to let loose an enormous burst of power, ripping the two apart and depositing them on opposite sides of the room.
“Okay, so what happ–“
“THIS FRAUD WAS SITTING IN OUR SISTER'S DRAWING ROOM WHEN WE ENTERED!”
“WE CAME TO VISIT OUR SISTER AND FOUND A FAKE US ATTEMPTING TO TAKE OUR PLACE!”
Both Lunas pointed hooves at each other, bellowing out their responses at the same time. Luckily Twilight was directly between them, so instead of being blown one way or the other by the shouts she was merely deafened.
“Okay, okay,” she said, rubbing at her ears. “First of all, dial down the shouting, please. I know one of you is fake, and no, Luna, she's not trying to replace you–at least, if she knows what's good for her, she'd better not be. Now, come on, Chrysi. I'll admit this was a little bit funny, but the joke's over now. Change back please.”
“Who is this Chrysi?”
“We do not know this Chrysi.”
Both Lunas looked confused, tilting their heads in puzzlement, then turned furious glares on each other.
Twilight groaned. “Please, Chrysi. Don't do this.”
The Lunas simply continued to glare, and Twilight sighed. “Alright, I don't want to, but if you're going to make me do this...”
She started forward, but then tripped on the wreckage of the chairs that were nearby, falling to her knees with a cry. “Ow...”
“Twilight! Are you okay?!” cried a Luna, from next to her.
Twilight stood up suddenly, a wide grin on her face. “Gotcha!”
The Luna's eyebrows rose in surprise, then suddenly fell back down into a scowl as she puffed her cheeks out. “You cheater,” she growled under her breath.
“Well, that's what you get for causing trouble,” giggled Twilight.
Luna was watching all this, even more puzzled than before.
“I... will admit I am baffled by this,” she said finally, sitting down with a lost look on her face. “Is there some joke I'm not getting? Is this one of Pinkie's pranks, perhaps?”
“Ah, no, Luna, sorry,” said Twilight, turning to her as Chrysalis moved to stand by her side. “This is Chrysi, my wife.”
“We are pleased to make thy acquaintance,” said the disguised changeling, with a small bow–earning herself an elbow in the side from Twilight.
Luna looked back and forth between the copy of herself and Twilight, and finally cocked an eyebrow upwards.
“Well, I can see the appeal, but if you wanted the real thing you could have just asked.”
“No, no! T-that's not what this is!” cried Twilight, face turning red. “You've had you fun, Chrysi, but change back please.”
“Yes, very well.” There was a brief flare of green fire, revealing the changeling Queen once again standing next to Twilight.
“This is Queen Chrysalis,” said Twilight, gesturing to her side. “She's my wife. I don't believe you two have met, have you?”
“Queen... Chrysalis...” repeated Luna flatly. She began to move forward slowly. “The Queen of the changelings? The creatures that invaded our city during our niece's wedding, as I slumbered in my tower? The same Chrysalis who felled my sister and essentially had control of Canterlot for several minutes?”
Luna had stopped in front of Chrysalis, peering at her through narrowed eyes as the Queen looked back, unimpressed.
“Um... yes?” gulped Twilight
Luna continued to stare at Chrysalis for several more seconds, then said, “That was a mighty feat indeed, to bring our sister down with merely one blow. When I tried the same, she was only stunned for a handful of seconds.”
“Well, I did embed her in a cocoon immediately afterwards,” said Chrysalis, waving a hoof nonchalantly. “It makes things easier if you fully subdue them as soon as possible.”
“Interesting, interesting,” mused Luna, rubbing her chin with one hoof. “And how did you deal with the Elements, again? That was what really finished me off in the end.”
Twilight sat there, whimpering, as the two discussed various schemes to defeat Celestia. While Luna might be doing so out of a sense of sibling rivalry, Twilight had a very strong feeling everything Chrysalis said was in earnest.
Well, at least it was a little bit better than Luna offering herself for a threesome. Although, judging by the way she was looking at Chrysalis, that might not be out of the question...
Twilight considered what Chrysalis's response to such a proposition might be, and immediately began to have another panic attack.
“Well, this trip hasn't been too much of a disaster so far,” said Twilight, dragging herself through the door of the guest suite Celestia had lent them.
“It hasn't been a disaster at all,” declared Chrysalis, prancing along beside her, head held high. “Why, I could even say I had fun!”
“You poisoned Princess Celestia!” cried Twilight, throwing her hooves out wide. “After we specifically had that talk about not trying to take over Equestria! You promised me you wouldn't do anything like that!”
“You said no usurping the throne or invading Canterlot, and we wouldn't have been,” said Chrysalis innocently. “If the Princesses had happened to die today, you would have simply inherited rulership of Equestria naturally. That's not usurping the throne at all.”
“Oh, thank you,” replied Twilight caustically. “Thank you for following the letter of my word and completely ignoring the spirit.”
“You know,” said Chrysalis, as she wandered around the room inspecting the furnishings, “While I am still no fonder of Big Princess than I was before, I did quite enjoy talking with Blue Princess. I would like to do so again in the future, which has had the odd effect of making me not want to kill her.”
Twilight had snuck someone into the palace who was technically still the most wanted villain in all of Equestria, said villain had then proceeded to poison her mentor and closest friend, said closest friend had then confessed her love for Twilight and made the offer of a threesome, and Twilight had then had to spend far too long listening to said closest friend's sister and said villain discuss the best way to overthrow said closest friend.
It had been a stressful day, to say the least.
“Chrysalis, they have names,” snapped Twilight. “Princess Celestia and Princess Luna. Learn them, if you ever want to do this again.”
“Hmph.” Chrysalis frowned back at Twilight over a shoulder, as she continued on her mission to, apparently, give every object in the room that caught her attention a solid poke with her hoof. “You ponies take names far too seriously. Changelings don't care about unimportant things like that.”
“That's not what I've seen,” replied Twilight snidely. “Most of them like to have real names.”
“Is that so? Let me humor you for a moment, then, to teach you a lesson.” Chrysalis closed her eyes, horn glowing. “Changeling W37-583MG, do you–“
“Ooh, is that Wayne?” asked Twilight, maliciously cheerful. “I like him, he's funny.”
“His name is not–what do you mean, call you Wayne?!” Chrysalis turned away, a snarl on her face, as the worker changeling answered back through the hivemind. “I will do no such thing, and if you persist in this–fine. G93-482PE, buck W37-583MG into a wall.”
“What?! No!” cried Twilight, but a moment later Chrysalis nodded in satisfaction.
“Good. And keep that in mind next time you think you have a name.” Chrysalis's horn stopped glowing, and she turned to glare at Twilight.
Who glared right back. “You had another changeling buck him into a wall?! What if he's hurt?! How could you do that?!”
Chrysalis tapped her side with a hoof, producing a dull thumping sound, and sneered at Twilight “We are chitin, not weak flesh and fur. He hardly felt a thing, aside from my displeasure. It will be a reminder to him not to forget his place again.”
“All he wanted was a name! There's nothing wrong with that!”
“He doesn't need a name, he's a changeling!” Chrysalis, striding forward, gave Twilight a sharp poke in the chest. “And I'd thank you to remember that the next time you try to ruin the hive I've spent so much time caring for.”
“He deserves a name,” said Twilight, standing her ground. “Everypony deserves a name!”
“He's not a pony! We're not ponies and don't want to be! Why do you think we would want to be a bunch of cowardly, mewling prey?!”
“You really are a monster,” Twilight said quietly.
Chrysalis stared down at her, face screwed up in fury, then spun around and stalked away. “Then maybe you should leave. I wouldn't think you'd want to spend any time around a monster.”
“I think you're right.”
Twilight stomped to the door, putting a hoof up to the handle, but just as she did a soft sound came from behind her. She froze, gritting her teeth, trying to resist the urge... but she couldn't, and looked back.
Chrysalis was sitting on the far edge of the bed, facing away. Barely, just barely, it looked like her shoulders were shaking.
There was no resistance this time. Twilight took her hoof from the door and walked quietly back to the bed.
“Chrysalis?” she called out softly. There was no response, and so she climbed onto the bed, scooting her way across it on her knees.
She couldn't think of any words to say, and so she simply climbed halfway up onto the back of Chrysalis's shell, wrapping her forelegs around the changeling and embracing her from behind. She pushed her face up against Chrysalis's neck, and after a moment felt a tough chitin chin nuzzling down on top of her head.
“I don't like fighting with you,” said Chrysalis miserably. “It's no fun when it's for real.”
Twilight just nodded, squeezing the changeling tighter.
“I should have just explained to you how the hive works, instead of getting angry,” continued Chrysalis, practically speaking into Twilight's mane. “With the hivemind, we need clear ways to identify who is speaking. Each changeling has a designation that identifies their caste, what specific skills they have and which tasks they perform. Were 'Wayne' to simply speak to me, I would have no way of knowing what he can do that I might need without having to spend precious time trying to match the name with a specific changeling. When I'm trying to coordinate the actions of dozens of changelings at once, that can be an annoyance, or even dangerous.”
“They don't feel... I don't know, like just cogs in a machine?” asked Twilight.
“They are cogs, and they all know it. And they're proud to be; each cog helps the hive to grow and prosper. You fear they suffer from some sort of loss of identity?” Twilight nodded, making Chrysalis nod as well. “That's not true. In the hivemind... I can't explain it to you very well... each mind has a taste, each one is like a fire glowing a multitude of colors. It's impossible to mistake one mind for another.
“Their designations do not detract from their individuality, either. You see merely a series of numbers and letters... but I see a worker changeling, one who is skilled in mining and gathering. I see a guard, there for protecting my changelings and enforcing my will. Each designation is unique, far more than your pony names. Those numbers and letters to me each represent a specific changeling, one whom I know well and care dearly for.”
She paused for a moment, musing. “You said W37-583MG was funny? That would be the knock-knock jokes, yes?”
Twilight nodded with a chuckle, and Chrysalis grimaced. “It's been years, and we still haven't been able to get him to stop.”
Twilight slid down off Chrysalis's back, to sit beside her on the edge of the bed and look up at her. “I'm sorry I tried to make your changelings into ponies,” she said quietly. “You aren't ponies, and that's what makes you all so special. I shouldn't have tried to change that.”
“I'm... sorry too,” said Chrysalis, with a resigned sigh. “I guess I shouldn't have called ponies mewling cowards.”
“What about calling us prey?” asked Twilight, expression offended. Chrysalis just looked back, grinning to expose all her sharp teeth and fangs.
Twilight glared at her, but it was short lived, and she quickly started giggling. “Okay, okay, fair point.”
She stretched out more comfortably, leaning against Chrysalis slightly, then looked back up at the changeling as the conversation brought a thought to her mind. “What does our love taste like? I've always been curious...”
Chrysalis sighed happily. “It is the most wonderful flavor there is. I have tasted many foods, all across the world, and there are none that come close. If I had to make a comparison, I would say the closest pony food would be... ice cream.”
Twilight blinked in surprise. “Ice cream?”
“Yes. Strawberry, to be exact.”
Twilight was silent for some time. “I can't tell if you're serious or not.”
Chrysalis chuckled. “I would say, in fact, that there is probably only one taste that might even come close to comparing with the taste of love.”
“Oh? What's that?”
In answer, a hoof cupped the side of her head, drawing her around, and her eyes widened in shock as Chrysalis kissed her.
It was a quick kiss, hardly more than a peck on the lips, but still both pony and changeling faces were flushed when they separated.
“Until you have decided to give your love to me, that will have to do,” murmured Chrysalis.
Twilight, staring into her eyes, just gulped and nodded. Chrysalis's eyes had always been striking, with their double-ringed irises, but now, so close to them, Twilight was noticing for the first time how beautiful they were. She could see herself, and stared in wonder at that blushing, awe-struck pony looking back at her.
After a moment, Chrysalis put her hoof around Twilight's body, pulling her in close and nuzzling against her, and Twilight returned the nuzzle without hesitation. They remained on the edge of the bed, not talking, just being together, for what little time was left before they had to slumber.