• Published 17th Oct 2018
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Moonlit Waltz - Carapace



A young woman catches the eye of a stunning vampiress and finds herself transfixed, longing for the undying embrace of Twilight Sparkle, the former Regent of the Night.

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4. Keepers of Night

If Rarity had thought the splendor of Canterlot Castle was enough to render her imagination inadequate during her visit, the sight before her was overkill.

It looked as though someone had read that very thought and decided to take things a step or three further, just to show that she couldn’t begin to fathom what magic they could work.

The banners had been replaced by sparks of gold and silver which came together in a dance between sun and moon, the visage of the eternal harmony between night and day restored at last. With them, paintings from an age long forgotten had replaced some of the more classical pictures of Princess Celestia and Lady Sparkle’s rule—now, the sisters stood side by side in some; in others, they stood in their respective courts, surrounded by loving attendants; and in others still, they were accompanied by their young students:

Princess Cadence, Lord Shining Armor, and Lady Twilight Sparkle. The students they each taught, and the one they shared together.

Rarity didn’t bother pretending that didn’t sound like something straight out of a classical romance era novel.

The Little Folk, the lesser fey who loved to dance and play in the meadows and glens and through the flowers, flitted about like tiny bulbs of multicolored light, giggling and crooning at each guest who passed beneath. With them, pixies and sprites waved down from the planters of jasmine and moon lilies hanging from silver wall hooks.

The décor itself was as much a celebration of Princess Luna’s return and the mending of ties with her sister as the event itself. Fitting, really. And it only became more clear as Rarity followed the crowd through the double doors leading into the ballroom and had her breath promptly stolen away.

Streamers of regal purple and midnight blue began at opposite ends of the bannisters above, entwining around the wooden beams until they met at the stone columns and wound together all the way down to the very base. The ballroom itself was crowded with nobles, high-end businessmen and women, pale-skinned vampire lords and ladies, foreign dignitaries from far off lands, and even those elegant, inhumanly beautiful elves and Sidhe, the high fey, had come from their forests to grace Canterlot Castle with their presence. A pair of young Sidhe, one boy with lime green hair and the other midnight blue, darted through the crowd, laughing and pulling other children into their games.

Much to the chagrin of all those noblemen and women who so prided themselves on image above all else.

Rarity had to allow herself a moment to smile and take it all in. So many of the most powerful men and women in the world—mortal or otherwise—all in the same room. All here to see Princess Luna’s grand return to the public light.

At the far end of the room, she spotted them. The Royal Family and eldest vampire lords, and with them, their closest allies in the elven and fey courts.

Princess Celestia looked stunningly beautiful, even more so than when they’d met that morning. Her dress was a radiant display of oranges and reds, blended together like tongues of fire. Glittering gold jewelry adorned her fingers and a single gold chain with a pendant displaying the sun and moon dancing together hung around her neck.

Her smile? Well, Rarity had to say, it was more dazzling than the one she’d been greeted with—and why shouldn’t that be so? Her sister had returned to her at last. Her house was whole.

In her company, were Princess Cadence, looking radiant in a powder purple dress and golden tiara, and her husband, Lord Shining Armor, clad in his blood red ceremonial Knights of the Dual Crown jacket with countless ribbons and medals decorating his breast, much to the delight of their newborn daughter, Flurry Heart. The Princess of Love planted a kiss on her undead husband’s cheek, then turned to clasped hands and listen with rapt attention to a beautiful Sidhe woman clad in a blank dress, gleaming green eyes with catlike pupils, and a crown of twisted silver resting atop a mane of long green hair which fell down to her waistline. The Queen of the Fey, Chrysalis, had come in person?

Truly, an auspicious evening. Yet there was no sign of either Princess Luna or Lady Sparkle, much to Rarity’s disappointment.

Where ever could they be? Surely the vampiress wouldn’t allow her princess to be late to her own return party? It was she, after all, who stressed the importance of making the right impression that fateful night she’d commissioned Princess Luna’s dress. What in sanity’s name could be keeping them, then?

Her thoughts turned back to Lady Sparkle’s words that night. The vampiress had been surprisingly frank with some of her concerns regarding her princess. Namely, her social skills.

Or, more to the point, her utter lack thereof, coupled with a rather unfortunate case of anxiety.

Rarity managed to smoothly snag a glass of wine off the refreshments table with a nod to the young man pouring the glasses and bring it to her lips for a drink, a handy trick Fleur had taught her to hide an untimely smile or look of surprise. This, of all places, would be the worst to lose face.

If her worry should be realized, there was little she could actually do to help. In one of her harlequins, this would be right about the time the protagonist—the precocious little thing—would drop her wine glass, let it shatter upon the tile floor, and dash through the castle until she found that object of her affection and beat back all her problems with love, passion, and a good helping of wit.

In reality, that would probably get her a stay in the Royal Guard’s finest accommodations for a few days before she was brought to trial for attempting to break into one of the Royal Suites and harassing a Crown Princess and noble.

Not quite the ending to the story she envisioned for this eve.

On the other hand, Lady Sparkle visiting her in jail to demand just what in heaven’s name she was thinking might just add a bit of spice to things. Certainly some possibilities …

Two sharp thuds against the tile floor brought all conversation to a halt and directed Rarity’s wandering mind to focus and pay heed. A squat man in his mid fifties clad in a black suit and purple and blue striped tie stood in the doorway, his head inclined and eyes half-lidded.

If she didn’t know better, Rarity might think he needed to retire a bit earlier.

“Ladies and gentlemen, nobles of the courts, esteemed guests and friends,” he said with a nod, his rich voice carrying over the room. “May I present Her Royal Highness, Princess Luna, Herald of the Night, Protector of Dreams, and Slayer of Python. Accompanying her this evening, Lady Twilight Sparkle, Commander of the Night Legions and Lady in Waiting to Princess Luna.”

He took a big step to the side, then folded one arm across his belly and bowed at the waist. Rarity couldn’t help but let herself stand on tiptoe and crane her neck to try to get a glimpse of the pair as they entered.

She wasn’t alone. Like someone had simply taken all those social norms drilled into every man, woman, and child in high society and just tossed them into an open fire, each person openly gawked, like they were children watching a parade. Each of them so eager to see the long-lost princess they’d only known in story and song.

Much like her sister, Princess Luna had been done a great disservice by those artists who tried so hard, yet fell so woefully short.

Everyone who so craned to get a glimpse needn’t have done so, for Princess Luna stood head and shoulders taller than any in the room save for her sister or the Queen of the Fey. Her midnight blue hair shimmered with starlight and comets and flowed in an ethereal breeze, her teal eyes seemed to dazzle like glittering stars. Her dress—Rarity’s finest work, if she could be afforded but a second to preen—was a long, flowing piece, perhaps the slightest touch lighter than her hair, that sparkled in the light with her every movement, as did the obsidian crown and matching bracelets adorning her form. Her soft, bow shaped lips were painted the same color as frozen raspberries, spurring thoughts of the nipping breeze and falling snow just outside the frosted windows.

She was a stunning beauty, the likes of which only her fellow princesses could hope to match.

Yet, she didn’t carry herself as such.

Princess Luna’s eyes flitted about, the corners of her mouth twitched and steps slowed as though she were a young girl who happened upon her arguing parents.

Rarity just happened to glance down at the princess’s right hand, just in time to see it happen—it was but a little tell, barely more than a twitch of her fingers and sudden clenching into a fist. No, not a fist. She was grasping at something that wasn’t there.

Fortunately, Lady Sparkle was at her side, looking every bit that ageless beauty with enchanting crimson eyes and dress the same color as the blood she so craved. But the Lady of the vampire court cared not for her own image or what impression she made—hers was written throughout history. She was there for her princess.

That much was evident, Rarity noticed, in the way she so smoothly matched Princess Luna’s step and subtly brushed the tips of her fingers against the fretting princess’s knuckles. Just enough that she began to unclench her fist and, without breaking stride, bumped her hand against Lady Sparkle’s.

They continued on together in that manner. Princess Luna trying her best to maintain a stately aura to her smile and stay strong beneath the gazes of all the guests, and Lady Sparkle with her, right within view and easy reach for support and comfort.

The crowd politely parted for them, bowing their heads in deference. A sudden shift that left Rarity standing in the middle of the ballroom. Alone.

And quite well in their path.

Crimson, slitted eyes met her own and pierced through to her very soul. In Lady Sparkle’s gaze, Rarity could swear she saw a spark of recognition and something more.

The slightest upward tick on the right side of her mouth certainly hinted at such. She held Rarity transfixed with but a look, then, with the slightest little flit to the side, gave silent prompting:

Step to the side with the rest so my princess may pass, that look seemed to say.

With a little gasp—and very nearly dropping her wine glass—Rarity made to scurry to the side to try to slip into the crowd and hide, her cheeks aflame. She cursed her lapse. What a way to begin the evening. Perhaps the ground could just open right up and swallow her then and there, anything would be better than the looks from crowd she’d only just noticed.

A feeling which only billowed like a wildfire beneath heavy winds when she noticed someone else staring at her, though not with any sort of disdain or mockery for her apparent lack of decorum.

Princess Luna’s eyes held something more akin to recognition and a hint of wonder before they flitted to meet Lady Sparkle’s. The corners of her mouth tugged into a knowing smile, the sort Rarity knew so well from her own mother and sister, despite the attention.

For a bare moment, Lady Sparkle seemed to falter. She glanced between Rarity and her princess, a poorly crafted mask of innocence and confusion worn upon her face.

A mask which faltered when the Princess of Night bit her lip as if to withhold laughter. Then, she returned her attention to Rarity and actually began to stride forward at normal pace.

Enough to make the young dressmaker linger in place just within her path, a mere step from fading back into the crowd. And as the Princess of Night drew level with Rarity, she stopped and turned to face her fully.

The sharp intake of breath from the assembled guests nearly stole the air from the room, then came absolute silence as they watched and waited. And why not?

Princess Luna and Lady Sparkle had just stopped to acknowledge the foolish woman who stood in their path—someone might just be making an unexpected visit to the Royal Guard’s finest accommodations after all!

No such cry of outrage or stern words came.

Instead, the Princess of Night smiled and spoke in a soft voice which seemed to echo throughout the room, “Twilight tells me I have you to thank for this dress.”

Rarity blinked, nodding slowly. She didn’t dare speak.

“You have my sincerest gratitude. Your work is like none I’ve seen in my years.” She glanced between Rarity and Lady Sparkle, mischief danced in her eyes. “Perhaps we’ll see more of one another in the coming days.”

“Your Highness,” Lady Sparkle muttered with a meaningful glance ahead.

Her princess’s smile only widened. “Yes, of course. Pleasantries can wait a while longer.” She gave a little nod to Rarity, then turned to resume her procession until at last she met her fellow princesses and rest of the Royal Family and friends, and greeted each with a smile and hug.

Rarity had about three seconds to actually appreciate the scene of the happy family reunited in public for the first time in a thousand years.

Three seconds before she was surrounded on all sides by her fellow guests and subject to a thorough questioning as to when and how she’d won herself that commission. And, more importantly, when she’d be taking her next.

For perhaps the first time in her life, Rarity wasn’t entirely sure she wanted it.

Storybook endings weren’t exactly made with big crowds mobbing the heroine, and touching scenes such as the one she’d only just gotten to glimpse were far and few between.


By the time Rarity managed to extricate herself from the throng of guests clamoring for her attention, she was shocked to find her own dress not in tatters and her perfectly coiffed hair intact. Quite a change from her early years, when she could scarcely hope to get a look, let alone a noble to take the time to talk.

The word of royalty certainly had an impact.

Of course, she couldn’t very well just blow off so many potential clients, no matter how she wanted to find some way to edge closer to Lady Sparkle or at least grab her attention—and in fact, she hadn’t! Had she thought to bring her purse, Rarity would dare wager she might leave with half of the realm’s most powerful people’s business cards at her disposal. All ready to be put in line for her works and contacted at her leisure.

Though that last bit came about only as a result of her commission for royalty.

So with a promise to take appointments in the coming weeks—and a couple pointed looks with emphasis that theirs should be first in line—Rarity did manage to escape to the safety of the drinks table. Another glass of wine would do well to grant her some reprieve.

A little break before she tried to wade back in and see if she could manage to catch Lady Sparkle’s attention again.

“Well, well, someone’s been keeping secrets from us, hasn’t she dearest?” a familiar voice drawled, full of teasing. “Who could have ever thought she’d do such a thing?”

Rarity turned, a sheepish smile spread across her features, and ducked her head as she faced her benefactors and friends, Fancy Pants and Fleur de Lis. “Lady Sparkle insisted on secrecy?” she offered.

Fleur de Lis rolled her eyes and idly rolled her glass about in her hand. “Ignore my husband, you know how he loves to act like a schoolboy.” She made a point to ignore how he turned and stuck his tongue out in reply—whether an actual habit or a want to indulge in irony, Rarity couldn’t say—and took a sip of her wine. “We had heard from Princess Celestia that there were plans in the works to commission a dress in secret. I should have known by the way she smiled when we recommended you.”

Heat spread through her cheeks. “I-I appreciate your recommendation, regardless. It means a lot.”

“Of course. And, naturally, I can see you put every bit of your heart and soul into that piece.” The former model nodded toward something over Rarity’s shoulder. “Our fair princess looks as lovely as her night sky, and I daresay she looks quite pleased with the impression she’s made.”

Turning, Rarity took a moment to survey the Royal Family once more. Sure enough, there was Princess Luna standing close by her elder sister, smiling and laughing as they talked with the rest. Every now and again, some nobleman or noblewoman would venture near to engage and gesture to her dress, no doubt giving their compliments to the figure she struck upon her return.

Oh, the way her face just lit up when they complimented her so.

And how the vampiress standing just a step or two to her left, in the company of Lord Armor, Princess Cadence, and the Queen of the Fey, smiled approvingly as she watched each and every one come speak with her princess and former teacher.

The heat filling and coloring her cheeks drifted low to billow within her chest. “Yes,” Rarity said softly. “Yes, she does.”

“Truly a feather in your cap, I should think.” Fancy Pants was at her side, humming a tune to himself. “Though I think someone else has caught our young designer’s eye.”

Fleur moved in on her opposite side. “Indeed. Quite an eye she has—Lady Sparkle, unless I’m mistaken she’s pining to join her brother and sister-in-law …”

The young dressmaker let out a squeak, then hid her face behind a hand. “Don’t say it so loud!” she whispered, her voice shrill and strained. Glancing about, she fidgeted in place. Why couldn’t one of her talents be teleportation or invisibility?

Her benefactors shared matching smirks, like a pair of sharks who smelled blood in the water. “She did glance over while you were surrounded, didn’t she dearest?” Fleur purred.

“Quite so, darling.” His monocle glinting, Fancy paused to sip his wine and said, “So, is that glass of wine for comfort or a bit of courage before you make your way over?”

“What makes you think I’m going over there?” Rarity asked with feigned disinterest.

“You haven’t looked away from them since we pointed them out, for one.” Out of the corner of her eye, she could see him grinning like the twelve-year-old boy Fleur claimed he still was. “You’re wearing a new dress you’ve made special for the evening for another, and, of course I just know you.”

He did.

Damn him.

Rarity blew a breath through her nose and aimed a glare at the grinning gentleman. “Fancy, what I’m about to say is something you will never again hear at such a high-class event and it pains me that I’m going to use verbiage I’d hear from my sister—so I want you to know that I genuinely mean it when I say that you suck.”

The warm chuckle which came in reply only served to stoke her ire. That blasted man thought he knew her so well—he actually thought he knew her so well he could just read her like an open book!

The nerve of that man! And his wife, for that matter!

That they both had the gall to grin so openly when she huffed, drained the rest of her glass, and began to walk toward the gathering of royals, trying her level best to look as though she belonged.

Of course she belonged! For heaven’s sake, she’d just dazzled a crowd full of nobles thanks to a secret commission for Princess Luna, ordered by Lady Sparkle herself! Her ticket, as it were, had been punched.

Easier said, though. Far easier. When she had approached Princess Celestia a few hours prior, it had been during court, when she received her subjects and listened to their cases or needs. Here? Now?

Would they be so welcoming?

It was these thoughts, above all else, which gave her pause and guided the young dressmaker to alter course as innocently as possible, her new destination, just a few steps away from one of the windows with a lovely view out over the Royal Gardens and a glimpse of a lonely, empty balcony. She drank in a deep breath and forced herself to look through the window, cursing her cowardice all the while.

To think she could come asking after Lady Sparkle, but not actually follow through. And so soon after earning Princess Luna’s favor in front of everyone, no less.

Pathetic.

Rarity squeezed her eyes shut, releasing that breath slowly. The frosted window fogged and spurred memories of lazy nights spent cuddling her girlfriends and drawing faces or shapes.

Idly, she wondered if Lady Sparkle would entertain such folly or call it childish. Or if she might smile that cryptic, fanged smile and watch in amusement herself.

She stole a quick glance over her shoulder to watch the vampiress once more. Good heavens, Lady Sparkle was stunning—striking, just as she’d told Princess Celestia, in fact. Yet, gracious enough not to outshine her princess, as a proper Lady in Waiting and friend at such an event.

Somehow it just made her all the more lovely in Rarity’s eye. Paradoxical, perhaps, to some. But such generosity and thoughtfulness—well—they weren’t commonplace.

And, frankly, a dress as crimson as blood just fit her too perfectly, even if she had decided to forgo that lovely collared cape. Though, the low cut did serve well to draw the eye and spur more than a few fantasies and visions. The fluidity of her muscles as she turned to murmur something to the royals and the sensuous sway in her hips as she walked away, passing through the dance floor with a wide berth on all sides, toward the entrance to some side room and the doorway leading out to that lonely balcony.

A few of those treacherous visions in Rarity’s head began to take deeper root. Who was to say something couldn’t happen on that balcony?

Her face flushing, she shook herself and closed her eyes again. “Idiot,” Rarity scolded herself. “Such an idiot, I’m like a child playing adult.”

“If any in love have not felt the same, I shall eat this dress you made me.”

When Sweetie and her friends pestered her later on her reaction, Rarity would swear quite vehemently that she did not shriek. Nor did she nearly jump out of her heels and drop her wine glass! Completely ridiculous accusations, all fabrications! No matter what anyone said!

The mirth dancing in the purple and teal eyes of Princesses Cadence and Luna only made her wish she could add time spells to her repertoire. Alas, they were not, so there was only one thing to be done.

She bowed at the waist. “Y-Your Highnesses! I-I’m sorry you had to—I didn’t mean to speak so coarsely in your presence, I mean!”

“Okay, you and Auntie Celestia were absolutely right about her.” Princess Cadence beamed. “She is adorable when flustered!”

“Isn’t she just? The way she and Twilight flushed so when I praised her reminded me of the old days.” Laughing, Princess Luna shook her head. “The old days. I sound positively ancient talking like that.”

“To be fair—”

“Not another word, young lady, or I’ll share a few of your tales. Tia and I did share.”

A shiver ran through the Princess of Love, but she kept her smile. “Well, that’s not quite what brings us over here, does it? Though, you were a bit wrong—that thread between them is more than a little pink, trending toward a deep red right about now.”

Princess Luna gave a happy hum. “Is it? From both ends?” At her niece’s nod, she eyed Rarity with a coy smirk. “The mind does wander, no? Rather understandable that you might feel worry over seeking Twilight out by yourself.”

Rarity let her eyes flit downward. There wasn’t really anything she could say to counter or steer the conversation other than a rather lame, “I’m glad you liked the dress.”

“I love it, actually. It reminds me of my stars. I’m quite glad Twilight went behind my back to commission it.” Rarity looked up just in time to catch the Princess of Night winking. “Don’t tell her that, though. She and her brother do so love being proven right, and one of them has to be kept in line.”

Princess Cadence simply rolled her eyes. “If this weren’t your night, I’d shove you into the pond.”

“You’d certainly try.” Princess Luna nodded her head in Lady Sparkle’s direction, her eyes never left Rarity. “I am no Princess of Love, though I do have her opinion backing mine. The opportunity you seek is there, but such windows only remain open for so long.”

Beneath the gazes of the two princesses, Rarity gaped. Her mouth worked wordlessly, she glanced between they and the vampiress continuing on her path outside. “You expect me to just … just go to her and what?”

It was Princess Cadence who nodded first. “Love requires action, Rarity. You’re young enough to take a risk or two, and you’ve earned the approval of three princesses, if that’s the silly little holdup you’re lingering on.”

Again, she looked down. The tile was certainly interesting this evening. “She’s above my station.”

“Funny,” the Princess of Love replied. “I was just a little orphan girl Celestia had taken in when Shining told me he loved me and wanted to hold me forever. It hasn’t mattered since. And, again, approval of three princesses.”

Fingers as soft as silk cupped her chin and tilted her head up until she met Princess Cadence’s eyes.

“You’ll never get anything in life if you don’t try. I watched you prove that much in fashion.” She nodded toward the balcony just as Lady Sparkle slipped outside. “The worst she’ll do is tell you no.”

The words sparked something within her. Wasn’t that always what she told herself when she was trying to get that foot into the fashion industry? Rejection was the worst thing they could give, but it wouldn’t destroy her.

And she had faced rejection before. Several times.

Each time just made her better for it.

Rarity drained the last of her wine, then set the glass on the window sill and took a deep breath.

The princesses nodded and stepped to the side to allow her passage. “Go get her, Rarity,” Princess Cadence praised.

“She doesn’t bite.” Princess Luna smirked and raised her brows. “Unless you ask nicely.”

It was no easy task to ignore how that pesky burn filled her cheeks and spread to the nape of her neck as she turned on her heel and strode toward the balcony with the eyes of two princesses on her every step of the way.

All the while, she let her gaze linger unabashed on the beautiful vampiress awaiting her on that balcony. Through each window she watched Lady Sparkle stop near the railing and rest her hands upon the cool stone edges, her back to Rarity, like a scene straight out of her novels.

Which made her the daring suitor making the first move for love.

Small comfort, in an odd way, but she would have to take it. Rarity steeled herself for the trial to come and tore her gaze away from the figure in the window as she rounded the corner and stepped through the open doorway with a flutter in her heart and skin tingling with nerves.

She made it two steps out onto the balcony before she noticed something amiss. Namely, someone.

Lady Sparkle was no longer by the railing. She was gone. Not gone, as in, Rarity saw her springing across the lawn when she hurried over to the balcony railing herself to see if she’d jumped or gone as in she was hiding behind the cushions set out for comfort.

She was just simply gone like a puff of smoke.

An icy breath across the back of her neck made her hair stand on end, drawing a shaky gasp. “Stalking a vampire so openly?” Lady Sparkle whispered in her ear, her lips teasing the delicate skin. “Did I not warn you against making yourself so enticing, Rarity? One might think you’re asking for a bite.”

For the second time that evening, Rarity found herself having to make a suitable alibi just in case some gossip spread word that she’d shrieked again. She spun around in surprise, her heel caught on the tile and sent her stumbling.

Or it would have were it not for the firm hands which caught her by her elbows and held her upright and close against Lady Sparkle’s chest. Her touch felt as cold as ice, like a body completely devoid of any heat.

The vampiress’s crimson pupils shone with humor. “And falling into my arms with such a heated blush as well.” Lady Sparkle grinned and bared her fangs. “My dear, if you’re trying to avoid looking so delectable, you’re doing a terrible job.”

Nothing Rarity did could spare her from the way her face flushed and burned like the surface of a hot stove. A feeling which only served to make her take extra note of the gentle hands still holding her by the elbow, those cold fingers brushing along her skin in a gentle caress, like a lover’s subtle teasing.

As soon as she made the connection, Lady Sparkle gave a rumbling, inhuman purr from the back of her throat and released the smaller woman. “Whatever your intent,” she said, “I’m glad you finally worked up your nerve. I owe you my thanks.”

“Oh? I mean, what ever for?” Rarity asked.

“Rarity, I know you’re young and new to this, but please,” Lady Sparkle chided. “Do you really think a princess just stops to voice favor to someone without reason? Do you think Princess Luna, who is literally a woman a thousand years out of touch, would? And I do say that affectionately.”

“Of course.” Pausing a beat, Rarity bit her lip to try and hide a smile. “Please tell me the one she wanted to wear wasn’t going to be one of those frumpy things with frills and that she didn’t fight for it.”

The vampiress laughed, her eyes twinkling merrily. “I’ll have you know I used to wear the frilliest of dresses when I was a little vampire myself. And I’m currently on a grounding because of my ‘insolence’,” she replied with mock air quotes.

“Insolence?”

“That’s what we’re calling me going behind her back to commission you, then hiding all her old dresses to force her to look at yours. Don’t take offense, though. I’d wager she just wants an excuse to keep me around the castle for another week or so.”

Pure reflex allowed Rarity the chance to cover her mouth to disguise a fit of giggles as a couch. Of all people, Lady Sparkle? Grounded?

Oh, if she didn’t think Sweetie would spread it all throughout Canterlot, it would be such a tale.

Lady Sparkle closed the distance between them once more, narrowing her eyes playfully. “Giggling at me now as well? You do love to live dangerously.” She licked her lips slowly, her tongue lingering almost sensuously on the tips of her fangs. “She did mention your company would be quite welcome.”

Her mirth caught in the back of her throat. “J-Just a little bit ago, you mean?”

“No. I don’t.”

Cold fingers brushed against her skin once more, tracing circles in the back of her free hand. Rarity tried to force herself to breathe, she tried so hard to pretend her heart didn’t skip a beat as she looked up into those blood red eyes and imagine what sort of company she might serve.

“You seem to enjoy being an enticing little thing,” Lady Sparkle murmured softly. For once, the teasing, knowing tone in her voice seemed absent. “I wonder if you might be so bold to dance with a vampire as well.”

The only reason Rarity knew her heart hadn’t stopped was the steady drumming in her ears. “I-I—us—you?” she sputtered. A gust of wind blew across her skin, drawing a shiver and step forward as if to try and steal away some of the vampiress’s body heat—if only she had any. “Yes, Lady Sparkle,” she forced through clenched teeth.

To her credit, Lady Sparkle didn’t tease. Instead, she offered an understanding smile as she took Rarity’s hand in hers. “Perhaps we might dance inside so you don’t freeze. The curse of my kind, unfortunately. However.” She arched a slender brow, then thought better and shook her head. Her smile never faltered. “Never mind. After you.”

Her head spinning and heart racing, Rarity gave a nervous little smile and dip of her head before turning to lead the vampire noblewoman back into the ballroom.

All eyes fell upon the pair the instant they stepped through the open doorway together. Then, they all began to cluster together into their groups—noble, businessmen, and vampire alike—and the muted, snakelike hiss of hundreds upon hundreds of voices whispering filled her ears.

Lady Sparkle knew just how to trail a comforting thumb along the back of her hand and continue her pace, the perfect way to send those pesky nerves drowning beneath an anticipating shiver and racing heart until they reached the very center of the dance floor. Then, with a quick tug, she spun Rarity about and caught her around the waist, her opposite hand still clutching Rarity’s as they stood nose to nose.

Her world was naught but a warm smile, perfect, alabaster skin, and gorgeous crimson eyes which pierced into her very soul.

Still, she squirmed beneath the others’. “L-Lady Sparkle,” she whispered. “Are you sure this is—”

“Are you dancing with them?” Lady Sparkle teased. “Or me?”

“Er. You?”

“Exactly.” The vampiress squeezed her hand. “So ignore the crowd or your partner might feel neglected. I can tell you she certainly isn’t thinking of anyone or anything else.”

Focus.

Rarity took a breath and nodded slowly. She could certainly do that. In all honesty, the most difficult thing was ignoring that incessant tingle down the back of her neck she felt with all those eyes staring. Focusing her gaze, on the other hand …

Who in the world would want to look anywhere else?

With another squeeze of her hand, Lady Sparkle gave a little nod off to the side where a string quartet awaited. Then, as they began to play a slow, upbeat waltz, the vampiress traced her finger along the inside of Rarity’s thumb and took the first step of their dance. Like a leap across the Ghastly Gorge together.

A leap Rarity followed quite happily. Damn the fall if it came.

What awaited on the other side was far too sweet to refuse.

Rarity had to send silent thanks to Fancy and Fleur for taking the time to teach her the proper steps, just in case such an opportunity presented itself. She followed along with Lady Sparkle in perfect sync—quite a feat, given the little difference in height and the pacing she favored.

The vampiress did flow with the music, but her every movement, every step was taken with such sensuous liquidity that it only served to highlight her unnatural beauty and grace. If ever poetry could be put to action, Lady Twilight Sparkle had it in spades.

Yet, somehow, she was generous enough not to overplay her skill. By all right, she should’ve looked as though she were dancing with an utter child by comparison. That much, Rarity knew for certain.

But that telltale tingling sensation which came with being watched never left, nor did the hissing whispers, even through the music and dancers turning about as they joined—if anything, they managed to gossip at the same time! Quite a feat!

If only Rarity could find the reason to tear her attention away from Lady Twilight’s clutches.

After so long searching her out in history, she was held so close by the vampiress herself. Somehow books, stories, and gossip just didn’t mean anything.

The cool touch of her partner’s hands, however, did wonders to offer some reprieve from the heat which slowly bled into the very air around them as the first song song died and was reborn in a livelier tune that favored the violinists nimble fingers and bow backed by the cellist artfully coaxing deep, soulful thrum.

Around them, dancers bowed and traded partners. Lady Sparkle simply held her fast and made no move to acknowledge any who might seek her hand.

“You’re a lovely dancer,” she praised softly as she guided Rarity to spin on her toes. “I wonder if you lead as well as you follow.”

Her confidence billowing in her breast, Rarity spun back into her partner’s embrace until her back was pressed against Lady Sparkle’s torso. She looked up and smiled. “A lady knows her place in your company.”

A snort of laughter came in reply. “Well played.” Lady Sparkle turned her into a more formal dancing pose once again and idly resumed that playful game with the inside of her thumb. “Yet you so enjoy setting bait for me.”

“And you, me.”

“Oh?”

Rarity brushed her thumb against Lady Sparkle’s knuckle, and was rewarded by the slightest intake of breath. “Appraising me in my own home?” she asked. “Calling me enticing? You’re not so easy to find in history, Lady Sparkle, but I doubt you’re the type to play with any peasant woman you come across.”

Humming, Lady Sparkle tugged her in close and leaned down to her level. Their noses lingered but a hair’s breadth apart. “You have a keen eye,” she whispered, her voice telling of excitement and a sense of eagerness. “Call me Twilight.”

Any thought to sputter some hackneyed insistence that she couldn’t possibly take such liberty was ambushed, viciously bludgeoned, and stuffed into a trunk by a tag team formed by her childhood and teenage selves.

Unfortunately, they held no power over her flushing cheeks or stammering. “I-If that’s what you’d like,” Rarity replied, struggling to keep a shameless grin off her face. “Twilight.”

Another squeeze of her hand and caress of icy cold finger along the inside of her thumb joined together with a sudden brush of Twilight’s nose against hers.

The rest of their dances were spent somewhere on cloud nine. Each song and dance seemed to just flow together without so much as a hint of pause or thought to step to the side or switch partners for a song. It was as if the entire world around simply faded and left only the pair of them together.

Only after Rarity finally managed to let her eyes leave that vision of inhuman beauty did she notice they’d stayed together so long the other pairs had formed a loose circle around them as they might for a couple who wished to stay together.

A thought which brought a flutter of butterflies into her breast. “They seem to think you and I are together, Twilight,” she whispered.

“Yes they do.” The vampiress chuckled. “Does it bother you?”

“Not at all.”

“Good.” Twilight stopped dancing so suddenly Rarity took a step straight into her. She leaned down, bringing her face close enough to nuzzle her nose once more as she said, “Because I was thinking we might depart a bit early and discuss the prospect.”

Those butterflies whipped into a frenzy. “I-I thought you were grounded and confined to the castle,” Rarity blurted.

“I am, but that changes nothing.” A little tremble in her fingers earned a curious look. Twilight tried to disguise it as another of her teasing little caresses as she added, “Would you care to join me?”

The string quartet’s latest song ended with a soft croon of violin strings as polite applause filled the room. Rarity could hear Princess Celestia thank them for their beautiful music on her sister’s special night and mention something about a brief break for the group. Something about enjoying refreshments and Princess Luna’s want to speak with them in person.

She swallowed a lump in her throat and nodded slowly, afraid her voice might come out as naught more than a strangled squeak.

Twilight’s smile was as beautiful as the winter night. She let go of Rarity’s waist and, still clasping her hand, turned to guide her toward the door, out of the ballroom, past the guards all standing at post to guide and keep guests out of certain wings, and into the halls of Canterlot Castle.

More to the point, straight into one of those wings Rarity was certain she didn’t belong.


Starstruck though she was walking through Canterlot Castle hand in hand with Lady Twilight Sparkle—and fresh of a declaration of intent, no less— Rarity was at least aware enough to take a moment to savor her place. Where, exactly, one might ask?

The West Wing of Canterlot Castle. Or, as it had come to be known over the last thousand years or so, the Night Wing. Perhaps not the most inventive of names, but what else should they call the wing which housed the Regent of the Night and someday its returned princess?

Those bright, cheery portraits and stained glass windows had given way to a more gothic, fantastic style of art, depicting the world in shades of blue and purple which served to highlight the mystery and wonder waiting in the shadows. Images of Princess Luna playing with her vampire subjects, heralding naughty children back to bed, or battling nameless monsters fashioned from pure nightmare and hellfire graced the walls and windows. And quite a few of Twilight and Shining Armor too!

“They kept your portraits up?” Rarity asked.

Twilight laughed and shook her head. “Luna and Celestia are far too proud to not keep some of mine up. There are a few in the East Wing too, I think. Probably a few they’ll try sneaking back into the foyer while I’m not looking.” She turned, guiding Rarity down another corridor. “They’ll argue it’s their right to be proud, I’m sure. Cadence and Shiny will just watch and smile, Chrysalis will laugh if she’s here for it.”

“You all seem like quite the family. Almost … normal.”

“Were you expecting that we’d be the model of propriety at all times after so long together? I’ll have to disabuse you of that notion and quickly,” the vampiress teased as they came to a stop before a lone door with wood as black as a moonless night and a silver handle.

She turned to clasp both of Rarity’s hands in hers. Idly, she began to trace circles in Rarity’s skin, her icy cold touch sent shivers down the young woman’s spine.

They stood there in silence a moment. A small eternity with such shared anticipation and want in each.

Twilight looked down and smiled ruefully. “Twelve hundred and six years old,” she said, chuckling. “Twelve hundred and six years old and I still get like this around the women I like.” When she raised her head again, her face was less the picture of a vampire Lady and more that of just another woman with a heart. “None quite like this though.”

Rarity did her level best not to swoon. “Twelve hundred and six?” she repeated. “Darling, you must be joking—you don’t look a day over two hundred!”

Another laugh. “You’re sweet. And witty.” Twilight released one of her hands, idly rubbing her fingers against her palm. “You know, that night in the boutique wasn’t the first time I saw you. Just the first I had the chance to speak with you.”

“It wasn’t?” Blinking, Rarity tried to wrack her brain. “Where else—“

“Your last string of fashion shows. And a couple times in a club nearby. I’m quite versed in illusions. I was there to look for candidates to commission and I fell in love.”

For the first time in ages, child, teen, and adult Rarity could agree on something.

There was no reason not to ask, “W-With me or my dresses?”

“I loved your dresses enough to commission you before any other were mentioned.” With a snap of her fingers and flash of raspberry light, Twilight opened the door to her bedroom.

Rarity allowed herself to be led into the vampiress’s private chambers, her eyes flitting about to take in the décor as the door swung shut behind them. It was rather … girlish, honestly. For a vampire.

Pictures and paintings of family and friends adorned the walls, vanity, and a wooden desk. A few amateur pieces, mostly of bats, vampires feeding, and a young vampiress sitting with a girl beneath the night sky, her face turned in to the crook of her neck as if to nuzzle in askance for a meal. Across the room, a sprawling bed with pillows in red silken sheets and a bat pattern comforter awaited.

She felt Twilight stop and slip behind her, wrapping her arms around Rarity’s waist in a loose embrace and setting her chin upon her shoulder.

“And you enough to risk my heart,” Twilight said softly, her voice tinged with nerves and excitement all her own. “For a woman more beautiful in body and mind than I could ever imagine.”

Rarity squeezed her eyes shut and bit her lip. If she gave in and let out the squeal building in her chest, she’d simply die. She drew in a deep breath, then another. And a third just to be sure.

By Celestia, if this was a dream, she wanted to sleep forever.

She turned about in Twilight’s embrace and looked up into those beautiful crimson eyes. Practiced restrained stopped her from stealing a kiss, but only just. “Not risking again?” Rarity couldn’t help but ask.

Twilight shook her head. “I … maintain certain appearances for the country.” Slowly, her hands began to slide up Rarity’s sides and she took a step forward, prompting Rarity to take one back.

Back toward the bed.

“I’ve never married,” she continued. “I always bury myself in work when I feel myself falling in love. It just takes the edge off when I just …” she trailed off, swallowing a lump. “Cadence hates that I do it. Everyone in my family tells me I should try, even if it hurts to hear someone refuse it.”

Her shoulders trembling, Rarity dared to reach up to rest her hands upon Twilight’s. “Being turned?” At Twilight’s confused look, she ducked her head. “Princess Celestia said something about it earlier today.”

“Ah. Yes.” The vampiress began to trace circles upon her back, her fingers lingering just near the zipper as her touch sent tingles down Rarity’s spine. “I would be a liar if I denied it. I keep my friends forever. I’ve never quite managed to cope. So I’ve just never …”

She couldn’t say it.

Then again, who could in her position?

Rarity offered a comforting rub of her shoulders. Even immortals could feel such fear, it seemed. Confirmation of Princess Celestia’s words that morning.

But not quite the question on her mind at that moment.

“What changed it?” she asked. “If it’s not too much—”

“Luna,” Twilight interrupted. Her lips tugged into a nervous smile. “I brought her to the last show to make sure I was right in picking you. Then she caught me slipping out one night and insisted on joining me and saw you.” With a shaky breath, she added, “And when she saw how I looked at you, she told me I could either figure out a way to tell you myself by tonight, or she’d make an announcement.”

Well, well.

After a thousand years helping to run the country, Lady Sparkle was being repaid in full in the only way family knew how—meddling and steering her toward something she so craved.

Something they thought would make her whole.

“I would be a liar,” Rarity whispered as she rose up on the tips of her toes and slid her arms around Twilight’s neck. Their lips were but a hair’s breadth apart, if at all. “If I tried to tell you yes or no to being turned tonight.” Before Twilight could speak, she gave into temptation and stole a chaste kiss from those sweet, cool lips. “But I’d be a bigger liar if I told you I didn’t want to spend the rest of my life in your arms.”

Hope flashed across the vampiress’s features, and with it a slow, unabashed grin. “I can’t promise I won’t ask again even if you say no,” she blurted.

By the stars, she was just precious. Rarity stole another kiss and leaned up to whisper in her ear, “I can’t promise if we spend a single night in bed together clothed, I won’t be disappointed.” She drew back once more to fix Twilight with a sultry smile and flutter of her lashes. “Starting after you kiss me properly.”

Twilight blinked joyous tears from her eyes, then closed the distance and captured her lips in a heated kiss. One hand slid up to cup the back of Rarity’s head and entwine in her hair while the other took hold of the zipper and slowly, torturously tugged it southward.

Never before had the cool caress of wind upon naked skin or the feeling of a soft, warm bed upon her back felt so good.