• Published 16th Aug 2019
  • 534 Views, 19 Comments

The Pros and Cons of Working Over Time - meanderingNekomata



Minuette and Limestone Pie are bound by the Choosing Stone.

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The Lives and Times

It was nearly midnight by the time Twinkleshine made it back to Canterlot. She saw a mare with a yellow coat and cerulean mane waiting for her on the platform and trotted over.

“Sooooo?” Lemon Hearts asked, brow arched.

“So what, Lemon? You’re gonna have to be more specific?” her friend coyly replied.

“Soooo, I was wondering how everything went? You’ve been reporting on celebrities and models for like, ever. This is your first time writing a column that’s not about the kind of product Fleur de Lis uses on her mane or what designers Countess Coloratura is wearing for the upcoming Shining Bright tour. Now you’re writing your own piece, you have your work covering travel expenses and to top it all off, you’re working with our best friend as your photographer! Oh, and speaking of that little ball of sunshine, where is she?” Lemon made a show of looking around the station, then turned, making a show of shrugging.

Twinkleshine grinned at that. No matter how much she’d deny it, her friend had a flair for the dramatic. More than a flair even. It wasn’t hard to imagine her on Bridleway or even on the silver screen in Applewood. Ever since the Hearthswarming Eve play in Ponyville way back when, she simply couldn’t deny how stunning she could be in the spotlight, even with their admittedly minor roles. It had taken a few weeks after for Twinkleshine to come to terms with the green-eyed monster which might’ve threatened their friendship had it not been for Minuette.

The mare sighed wistfully at the memories. “She wanted to stay behind since she wants to take more photos, I made sure Igneous Rock and Cloudy Quartz would be okay with putting her up for the night. You know how she can be once she has an idea in her head.”

Lemon groaned. “Don’t remind me, I’m a royal caterer and I don’t think I’ve worked half as many events as she dragged us to. I mean, I wouldn’t trade those memories for the world, just sometimes she can be a bit much. Anyway, enough about that. You didn’t answer my other question! How’s the story going?”

“Well, I’ve only started my research for it, we’ve touched base with some of the local designers and we just finished up at one of the more prominent farms in Rockville, but we still need to visit some manufacturers and refineries in Manehattan. Then there’s some construction firms I wanted to reach out to, both local and in the Crystal Empire, and maybe a day trip to Ponyville to visit Twilight’s school and have some of the kids there answer a small survey about how mineral based products and structures have impacted their lives.” Twinkleshine’s brow furrowed. “I’d love to go beyond the borders of Equestria for further research, but I haven’t quite made a big enough name for myself to get that kind of funding.”

“Sounds like a lot of work. Sure you’re not taking things too far? I’m sure you could write your piece about life on a rock farm with the information you have and call it good. Maybe you’re trying for a promotion or something, but it seems to me like there’s more to this than just the job.” Lemon eyed her suspiciously.

The two mares made their way out of the station and up a Canterlot street. During the day, these streets would be filled with ponies. At the current moment, only a relative few creatures stirred. The atmosphere could’ve passed for eerie if not for the constant glow of street lamps which passed above their heads as they trotted by.

“It’s nothing like that, Lemon, I’m just doing my job the best I can. I’m covering a new topic and I want things to go well. Is there something wrong with taking pride in your work?” Twinkleshine replied.

Lemon rolled her eyes at that. She paused a few moments before speaking, biting her lip. Twinkle noticed, if they weren’t best friends it would’ve been a total move. “Y’know, your mom came to see me the other day. She said you’ve been constantly missing some ‘meetings’ she and your dad set up for you and that I ‘had to talk some sense into you.’ Oh, and she asked if you were seeing anypony.” Twinkleshine grimaced at that. Her mother was a noblepony, and she made sure everypony knew it. And by everypony, that included her daughter.

“Don’t worry,” Lemon continued, sensing her friend’s irritation. “I just told her I’d look into it and asked her to give you some space. I know how overbearing she can be.” Another pause, then: “Tell me if I’m wrong, but it feels like you’re throwing yourself into work to avoid something.”

The ivory mare sighed, her curly pink mane seeming to deflate a little. Lemon Hearts didn’t need the words which came next to tell she had hit the mark.

“Maybe you’re right about that. You always were perceptive. Sometimes too much for your own good.”

Lemon chuckled at that and gave her friend a small nudge. “You’re right about that. If it hadn’t been for me, we might’ve avoided the whole royal wedding fiasco. Still, all that aside, wanna talk about it? C’mon girl, dish, you know I’m not letting you off the hook for this until you spill those beans!”

“Okay, okay, fine. So, you know how I haven’t exactly been thriving when it comes to romance, right?” That earned her an odd look.

“Didn’t you date a mare about six months ago? What was her name? Amethyst something?”

“Amethyst Star, and yes, we didn’t last too long. She was a bit too high maintenance for me. Of course, where my mother is concerned, it doesn’t count since it wasn’t a stallion of noble lineage. You know how the ‘Canterlot elite’ can be.” Twinkle replied a bit too sharply for her liking and she winced. “Sorry, I’m just so… peeved with it all.”

Lemon gave a sympathetic nod, her soft cerulean mane accentuating the gesture as it bobbed and swayed with the motion. “It’s okay, I mean, I still don’t understand that. I get the desire for noble lineage and all among snobby ponies, but why must it be a stallion?”

Twinkle shook her head. “Any noble family who takes their status as seriously as my mother does wants nothing more than to continue their lineage. Adoption to her would be the same in her eyes as foaling a commoner.”

There was an almost imperceptible change in Lemon’s expression. Her face seemed to scrunch up just a bit in the most adorable way, like whenever she tried to work through a puzzle or crossword. “Don’t they have other magical means for two mares to bear children though? Celestia, even for a single mare if she’s up to it.”

The pale pony gave another sad shake of the head. “Any foal brought about by magical means would be an aberration to her.”

“What about artificial insemination or a surrogate? They’re a bit archaic, but there are ponies out there who still do that still…”

This time, Twinkleshine simply cut her off. “Bastard foals, in her opinion. Ridiculous, I know, but that’s how she sees it.”

The yellow mare let out a frustrated sound somewhere between a grunt and a growl. Then she sagged in seeming defeat. “So what’s she trying to do now with these ‘meetings’ you’re apparently missing? Is she dissatisfied with your job? Does she think getting you a more extravagant position may increase your chances of attracting a qualified mate or something?”

Her friend paused for a bit. As a pony of noble upbringing, Twinkleshine had been taught to control her temper from a young age, especially in front of her parents. Thus, the venom which tinged her voice when she finally spoke was like a finely honed dagger. “No, that would almost be better than what she’s doing. She and my father have decided that I am getting to the age where I’m beginning to lose my… 'appeal'. Mother is worried about my chances to such an extent that she has decided we as a family must resort to scheduling marriage interviews in order to ensure I end up with the right pony. Of course mother insists that they are being generous and considerate by not simply arranging a marriage without my input.”

As Lemon listened, her expression shifted from concern to anger, and finally to worry. Finally, a soft, warm fetlock met with Twinkleshine’s shoulder, stopping her in her tracks. Looking over at her friend, she noticed tears were beginning to form. “Twinkle, what if they do? I-if you’re not going to their interview things, maybe they’ll just decide for you.”

The pale unicorn mare beside her took the hint and pulled her dear friend into a calming embrace, stroking her mane in a rhythmic pattern, taking almost instinctual care to ensure not a single lock fell out of place. As Twinkle took in the familiar scent of lilac, she felt the tension within her begin to fade. “Shhh. It’s okay. I’m going to figure this out. If worse comes to worst I can maybe elope with somepony so they can’t go through with it. Keep the act up for a few years and no Canterlot noble worth paying attention to would consider me worth marrying. Tainted goods, and all that garbage. Bonus points if I marry a commoner or a family of lesser standing, even better if my mother particularly disapproves of them.”

Lemon wiped away some of her tears with a hoof. “Won’t your parents disown you?”

Twinkleshine met raspberry eyes with her electric blues. “I don’t care anymore. I’ve lived off my own wages just fine for awhile now. I guess I kinda saw this coming and wanted to make sure I wasn’t completely reliant on them when everything finally fell apart.”

As much as she tried to stay strong, somehow she couldn’t help but tear up a bit. She wasn’t wrong about the situation with her parents, she had every right and reason to hate them and how they’d raised her like their little puppet, but for some reason she just couldn’t. They were her parents, they’d been there for her when she really needed them to be. All that they did was for her benefit, at least in their minds. They loved her in their own twisted way, and as their daughter she couldn’t completely avoid loving them back. There were so many times she wished they would change, that they could just be a normal family, but the only thing that ever seemed to change was their expectations, the height of the hoops she had to clear to avoid their disapproval.

She felt herself pulled back into the hug and just like that, the dam burst. Tears streamed from her eyes for what felt like an hour. When she relented, they made their way to Lemon Hearts’ apartment in silence. Twinkle didn’t deny her invitation to stay the night. It was a small, one bed, one bath, combined kitchen and living room situation with walls which could’ve been paper thin, but she didn’t mind. She welcomed her friend’s comforting embrace as the two drifted off to sleep in each other’s hooves, ignoring the strange, intrusive feelings which could surely only bring pain.

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The usual busy streets around Sugarcube Corner had slowed to a virtual crawl as midnight approached and most ponies lie sleeping, cozy in their beds. Mr. and Ms. Cake spooned in their King mattress in a master bedroom upstairs. The Cake twins slept surprisingly soundly in their crib. Meanwhile, in the depths of her Party Cave, Pinkie Pie was wide awake solving her latest mystery with her trusty sidekick, Gummy. She paced back and forth occasionally smacking her pin-covered cork board with a wooden pointer.

“...My Pinkie sense woke me at about 11:37 Ponyville Standard Time tonight, which, if you look at the diagram here is approximately 10:37 in Rockville since they fall under Las Pegasus Eastern Time! Given the time and the fact that there were two tail shakes, we can only assume that the event took place at or around the Choosing Stone, the left eye flutter indicates that it must involve one of my sisters, and the fact that I felt the distinct sensation of a buck to my rear end can only mean that the sister in question can be none other than one Limestone Pie!”

Gummy stared blankly into the distance.

Pinkie nodded several times in quick succession. “That’s exactly right, Gummy! Which brings us to only one conclusion. The Choosing Stone has united my sister with her soulmate, and it’s somepony I know well! So really, it could be anypony. You know what this means, right Gummy?”

The gator sat, sucked in a breath through his nostrils, then released it moments later. He licked his right eye.

The excitement became too much for Pinkie and before even she knew it; she found herself bouncing happy circles around the cave. “You’re on a roll tonight Gummy. We both know I can’t be in two places at once, well, I can, but we don’t want a repeat of the Mirror Pool incident. We’re still not sure if we got all the Pinkies last time. I could’ve sworn I saw one or two back in Manehattan last year. But never fear, Gummy, for I trust you to take care of this place in my place. You really did prove yourself at Twilight’s coronation, even if everything else went wrong. Now I’ll be off to deal with this Super Serious Sister Romance Emergency first thing tomorrow.” The pink pony posited, sliding to a sudden stop. “Good night, Gummy, and gooooooooood luuuuck!”

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“Log L96-60W09 Time: 11:53 PM, Location: Canterlot Archives, Code Names: Sweetie Drops and Rook, we are currently in pursuit of a monster called the Librocabra. Our information leads us to believe that its Size Classification is Small and its Threat Classification is Infohazard. While there have been no recent sightings of the beast, it has been brought to our attention that several books have been found entirely empty of contents in the past few days. In the interest of keeping uninvolved citizens out of the way, the Archives are currently closed due to “fumigation.” Instructions are to capture and detain so long as it remains in the public section of the Archives, and to use all necessary force to take it down should it reach the restricted section including potential neutralization. We will now proceed with the search. End of log.” With that, Bonbon pressed the button again on the recorder and turned to Lyra.

"So when do I get an actual code name like yours? I've been thinking something like Lyra Hands or maybe just something short, like Fingers, y'know cuz…"

Bonbon chuckled at that. "I get it Ly, you only bring up humans all the time. Princess Twilight will give you your code name once you've completed a few missions. It's a rule Celestia came up with when the organization was founded. Too many ponies died during their first few missions back then. Giving them codenames early became a bit of a jynx of sorts. That and it gave rookies a reason to be overconfident and you can guess how that ended up. Still, gives you something to work towards and if you make it through enough missions, you get to pick your own. Just don’t forget our motto."

Lyra sidled up to her wife and draped a hoof over her midsection. "Yeah, yeah, ‘dead ponies are the enemy.’ Good thing I got one of Celestia's finest to watch my flank."

"And as much as I don't mind the view, we'd best be getting on with the mission. Don't want this bugger gobbling up anything too important so soon after you made it through basic training." She winked. "Besides, the sooner we finish, the sooner you get to try the new eclair recipe I whipped up."

"Only if I get to try them in bed. I have ideas for a recipe of my own." Lyra said, returning the wink.

Bonbons rolled her eyes. "Okay, okay, later though, if we're successful you can consider it a reward. Now no more distractions. You search the southern bookcases, I'll check the northern ones. Use the Message spell to contact me if you see it. Remember our numbering system for the bookshelves?"

"The letter 'A' followed by the bookshelf number based on the order I check them in from east to west starting with '1,' right?"
"Just so, love. Now let's cut the chatter and get to it."

The two trotted off and began their search. The Canterlot Archives building was about the size of four of Minuette's townhouse, and each row held six bookshelves which were divided into rows of three by a wide central aisle which cut through the center of the establishment. More shelves lined the walls from one end of the room to the other, providing enough space for ponies to comfortably trot between these and the rows of shelves opposite them. With the lights off, the entire place may well have been enveloped in darkness if it weren't for a large portion of the ceiling made of glass which functioned as a sort of giant skylight. At the time, the entire chamber was lit only by the soft luminescence of the moon above and the occasional dim flicker of Light spells when the mares encountered areas too dark for their normal eyesight to make out.

Bonbon was nearing the final group of shelves when Lyra's Message came through the ley lines, penetrating her mind with a shrill shriek of I GOT IT!!! THE WORM IS IN THE BAG!! ER, RIGHT, A15! BON, CAN YOU HEAR ME!? to which she responded, Ow! I can hear you just fine, no need to think so loud! I'll be right over.

When she arrived at Lyra's location, she found the mare dangling the containment unit in her telekinetic "hand" while striking a pose like a foal presenting a large bass after a day on the lake with whichever member of their family was the fishing buff. There was always one, or at least in her experience. "Yep, that's the worm alright, kind of a strange reversal considering the worm's usually the bait, but I'll take it." Bonbon took the clear, cylindrical container and made sure the lock was properly engaged before locking it in her briefcase for safekeeping. As she looked back at Lyra, she noticed her looking around warily. "What's wrong?"

Lyra met her gaze again. "This was way too easy, you sure this was all?"
"Sounds like somepony needs to be reminded of rule 11."

"Don't jynx the mission, I know, it's just that ever since I learned you were some secret agent monster hunter, I thought it was a super dangerous job all the time. And the way the teachers in basic talked about it all seemed so difficult and treacherous."

Bonbon nodded, "Some missions are harder than others, but even some of the simplest missions can go wrong for one reason or another, and the ramifications can be just as bad for failing what should have been an easy mission gone complicated as failing a difficult mission. Fortunately, most of the S-Tier ‘end of Equestria as we know it’ cases are handled by the Elements of Harmony, the Princesses, the Pillars, Discord, one or more of Equestria’s allied powers, and so on down the line. There are times we get called in, but mostly for cleanup or when something needs to be handled quietly. It’s a mixed bag, but its a good idea to err on the side of caution if possible. We probably should check the rest of the Archives just in case.”

“Good idea, I wouldn’t want to return to HQ only to find that the thing reproduced.”

Uneasy looks passed between the two at that thought. “Right, I’m fine with most assignments, but infestations are definitely some of the worst. I still remember the parasprite infestation in Fillydelphia. Sure, they’re easy enough to herd with music but containment or neutralization is another matter entirely. Took twelve agents two whole weeks before we discovered an area with enough natural predators to effectively minimize their population to normal levels and another month to make sure we hadn’t missed any. We still have to send operatives to ensure they haven’t gotten out of hand…” Lyra grinned smugly. “hoof, I meant hoof, at least once a moon. As much as I like to act like the job’s all cloak and dagger, sometimes it can just be a chore.”

“Yeah, I guess that’s most jobs for you,” said Lyra, running a hoof through her mane. “But at least this way I get to see you more often and you don’t gotta be all cagey telling me what happened at work. Besides, the pay is pretty amazing, we both get free lodging pretty much wherever, and the skin tight stealth suits are sexy as Tartarus!”

“I’ll be sure to file that last bit away for later,” her wife replied with a wry grin. “For now, let’s check the rest of the Archives and return to HQ. This place is waaaay too silent for comfort at night.”

The seafoam green mare agreed and the two trotted off to their respective shelves. Meanwhile, dull gray eyes peeked out at them from under a matching fedora. Dull gray eyes belonging to a certain pony with a dull gray suit concealing the front half of a coat slightly lighter in tone. The pony said nothing, watching in silence, and then the pony was gone.

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It was an odd situation Minuette found herself in to be sure. There she was, tied up, back to back with a pony she somehow knew was Limestone, and dangling precariously over a jagged cliff. The strange thing was, she barely noticed the situation or, more accurately, she was more concerned with how Limestone was feeling.

She felt the other pony squirm against the ropes and just wanted to comfort her. Time and again, she tried to placate the panicking pony, but each time she opened her mouth, no sound came out. As her fellow bound pony struggled, she found it harder and harder to breathe. Then the rope they were dangling from snapped and they tumbled end over end into the abyss below.

Then she was somewhere else, an empty space. A rope seemed to extend from somewhere inside of her heart into a fog which manifested all around her. The rope grew taut and she was being pulled. So she chose the most logical option she could think of. She chased the rope as fast as she could, but when she reached the mare on the other side, she started running too. Running away from Minuette.

Seeing this, Minuette stopped. The rope grew taut once more and for a few moments she was afraid that her heart would burst out of her. Then the rope moved towards her, as though being reeled in by her heart. There was resistance on the other side, and Minuette understood that the other mare was struggling. Each time the mare struggled, she felt wrong somehow. Like pain, but different.

Slowly, the form of the mare reappeared through the fog, coming closer and closer until the two mares were muzzle to muzzle. The other mare looked terrified. The other mare was Limestone.

Then a form materialized between the two. It was another mare with wings and a horn and dark fur and a flowing mane of stars and it was Luna!!! The third mare looked to Minuette, then to Limestone, back to Minuette. Limestone and the world around Minuette went dull, all except for Luna.

The retired Princess of the Night put a hoof on her shoulder. “It seems that destiny troubles you, my little pony.”

Minuette stared blankly for a few moments before responding, her waking mind slowly catching up. “I guess I’m dreaming, huh. Oh, and welcome, Princes… I mean, Luna? You’re retired now, so is that all right? It’s like it feels wrong to call you Princess now since Twilight’s the new Princess, but I don’t feel right calling you just Luna like we’ve been pals forever either. And also, I figured you were retired, didn’t plan on you dropping in on my dreams anymore. I guess I kinda get it though, not like Twilight… oops, I mean Princess Twilight and her friends can visit pony dreams.”

Luna smiled at that. “You may call me Luna, and we could be friends if that makes it any better for you. So long as you don’t mind the fact that I’ve seen at least a decade worth of your dreams, some of which may have been particularly private or embarrassing. The reason I continue to scour dreams and purge nightmares is in part as you’ve stated. Few other ponies have my abilities in the realm of dreams. Even those that do don’t always feel inclined to help or if they are, may be inexperienced and require guidance before I can begin to leave any portion of Equestria in their hooves. Beyond that, I take joy and pride in my work with dreams, so even when the time comes that I am no longer needed, I cannot guarantee that I will not feel inclined to lend my assistance. As for Twilight, I’m sure she’d make an exception to that formality for an old friend. She is the Princess of Friendship after all.” She ended with a knowing wink.

“Well, I guess being buddies with you is not too different than being friends with my doctor, and we get along well enough. And you don’t even bill me for this dream therapy thing. Hey, maybe you, me, and Celestia could hang some time, wouldn’t that be something!? But anyway, I’m guessing you had a reason for visiting this traumatic nightmare of mine. You said something about destiny?”

Luna looked caught off guard for a moment and Minuette had to stifle a laugh. That certainly was a face. A few seconds later, the former princess’ shoulders relaxed. “I’d love to take you up on the offer, I’ll have to ask my sister if she’d like to join us, of course. Best to brace yourself though, I’m the more… relaxed between us. Back to the matter at hoof though, it seems that you have a fear regarding fate’s ties betwixt you and somepony you care about. It is an interesting situation to say the least, am I in error thinking that the two of you have been bound by the Stone of Prophecy?”

If the moon butt hadn’t had Minuette’s attention before, she did now. “Stone of Prophecy? Is that the real name of the Choosing Stone? Guess it can predict more than somepony’s future spouse, then. Look at us, only maybe our second time meeting and already we’re doing the filly talk gossip thing. Well, if you must know, the answer is yes! A big rock in the middle of Nowheresville, Equestria just pronounced me future mare and wife with Pinkie Pie’s hot sister, Limestone! But wait, there’s more, she has a gruff exterior and a soft interior if you catch my meaning.” She paused a moment, cheeks flushing red. “That’s not innuendo! Anyway, if that’s not enough, she has a life here, never expected to find her soulmate for life so soon, is Tartarus-bent on running the farm one day, and doesn’t want to inconvenience me by making a farmer’s wife of me. It’s all so exciting and confusing and frustrating and I kissed her and it felt so good and Luna, I don’t regret it!” She slumped against the dream alicorn. “So anyways, it’s like you probably figured out when you decided to pop by. I need help. I want to make this work, I’m willing to make compromises, but I don’t wanna just get married and skip all the dating and romantic tension of it all. I’d feel like I was missing out. I don’t wanna grow old with her and have our whole story revolve around some magic rock. But then, she’s a hardworking mare and from the look of things, I doubt she ever takes a break. How does one date that? Do I rush? Do I take things slow and draw her out of her shell? Maybe I’d be better off consulting Princess Cadence with marefriend troubles; call that ‘Plan B’, but for now, what do I do, Luna?”

The ex Mare in the Moon gave her a pensive look. This was gonna be a looooong night. She smiled. She thought of a young foal on a Nightmare Night not too long ago from her perspective. Long, but fun…

Author's Note:

Hey again, so here's another chapter. This ones's a bit side character focused, so I'm kind of worried about that. Maybe I should've spaced this out, but in my experience if I don't plow ahead, I have a tendency to stagnate and I wanna finish this story before I end up leaving it for a whole year without an update because reasons. Maybe once it's done, I'll go back and fix as many weird things as I can, but for now full speed ahead!

Grammar mistakes I can fix on the fly though. Point those out with wild abandon and I'll go to town. Oh, and have a good night!