• Published 16th Aug 2019
  • 518 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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Concerning Best Laid Schemes

It was Sunset Shimmer’s lunch period when she got Twilight’s message. She’d stopped by her locker on the way to swap out books for the period after lunch and noticed her magic journal radiating in that way which could only mean Twilight needed her help with something or other. Immediately, her mind went to maniacal villains and magical artifacts but then maybe she was just venting like the last few times. Moving to Canterlot and ruling Equestria was a big change after all, and it was stressful.

That in mind, she grabbed her journal, her lunch bag, and exchanged books before heading to the cafeteria. What she’d found by the time she got there was an unexpected trip down memory lane. As she read Twilight’s entry, she remembered what it was like being the progeny of Princess Celestia. How her mother approached dating as a ruler was strict, no stallion or mare she dated could ever share in or inherit her royal duty. The same applied to her offspring. They would hold no power or status greater than that of the highest ranking aristocrats.

The reasoning behind it was simple, though Sunset hadn’t been able to accept it at the time. Equestria’s monarchy was built upon a foundation which assumed an immortal, or at the very least several centuries’ long rule by the same ruler or rulers. When she was younger she’d tried to earn her wings. She tried to create her own spell, cobbled together from several others and nearly killed herself attempting to cast it. If not for her mother's intervention, she very well could have, though she felt very different about it then. More recently, she even attempted to take her mother’s position by force with an army of mind-controlled high school students.

Even now, as she looked back she felt the weight of her guilt. It began as such an innocent wish. She was just a filly who wanted to help her mommy.

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--Years ago

“But I wanna be a Princess, like you! I can help! You, yourself said that I have potential!” a young Sunset screamed from her spot on the bed.

“Potential is no substitute for temperament, my little pony,” the monarch replied in a tone which conveyed that she was tired and altogether done with the topic at hoof, “and it’s not that easy, even if you were an alicorn tomorrow, you don’t have what it takes to rule a kingdom!”

Sunset glared at her mother. “And what is that? I wouldn’t know since you’re hardly around to teach me outside of school! Even then you’re usually too busy helping the other fillies and colts!”

“Patience, understanding, tolerance, the ability to hide away inconvenient emotions like anger when acting on them would be unwise and the judgement to know when and how to go about venting them or utilizing them when necessary. These are just a few of the qualities a ruler must have.” She sighed, trotting over to the bed to sit beside Sunset. “You are my daughter, Sunset, and I love you. I take time out of my schedule to make you breakfast, lunch, dinner, eat with you. I spend any free time I get with you and your father. You want to be a Princess, I get that, but just try to understand that it’s a job with many responsibilities. Until the next Princess comes along to rule this land of ours or my sister returns to her senses, it's going to be hard for me to manage any kind of personal life. I can't bring myself to marry a mortal and even having a daughter was a big step for me. Just thinking that the time will come when I outlive you is terrifying, but I need to face that. That said, you need to face the fact that maybe your life can be more free than mine.”

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She couldn't remember how she'd responded to her mother that night. Knowing how she was then, she'd probably grumbled or argued, still convinced her mother was keeping her from fixing everything wrong with her life. Thinking back on it, there was so much about Celestia she had misunderstood back then. Actions taken to prevent her from having to live through the same pain and loss.

As Sunset read a second time through Twilight’s entry, she thought of what her royal friend would have to face when Moondancer and her friends died, when she died. This was the life her mother had been trying to save her from, and yet despite the love and no doubt motherly affection she’d had for Twilight, she let her have that life of pain and suffering.
That had been her breaking point, the reason she used to despise Twilight. Now she couldn’t help but wonder how her mother allowed it. Was it some sort of penance for driving her biological daughter away? Had she told Twilight anything or was she content to let her learn about her immortality through experience alone? And if the new Princess didn’t know, should she tell her? Should she ruin the illusion before Twilight had the chance to live what normal life she had left, before she realized?

Thoughts like these plagued her the next few days, distracting her from class and from her friends’ usual banter. She still hadn’t written back as Tuesday night approached. Sunset was getting ready for bed, having resolved to figure everything out in the morning when she heard a plink against her window. Then another. Then another. When she went to see what was causing the sound, she saw Pinkie Pie outside with an armful of pebbles. She sighed, then opened the window before she could toss the next one.

“What are you doing, Pinkie?” she called out.

Hearing a response at last, Pinkie Pie looked up to the window and smiled wide before launching into one of her mile-a-minute tirades. “Oh, Sunset! Well, it kinda seemed like you were fixating on how to tell Princess Twilight in Equestria about how she’s going to outlive her friends or if you should tell her at all, especially now that she may have a new relationship going on, so I thought about it and came to tell you that you should probably go talk to her yourself. Maybe ask Starlight for help, she’s good at being blunt.”
Sunset simply stared at her friend for a moment. Then, she laughed. “Y’know, Pinkie, you’d think by now we’d be used to your crazy good intuition.”
“It’s not so hard as all that, I just read ahead, is all. I just thought this part was taking waaay too long, so you might as well get to the point. No sense stretching it out another year, right?” she casually shot back, shrugging as if it were the most natural thing in the world.
She gave Pinkie an exasperated look. “Nope. Not even gonna ask. Hold on, I’ll get ready and we can go.”
“Okey-doki-loki!”

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--Earlier that day
Starlight looked at the recent addition to the school’s courtyard for the fourth time that day. The statue stood as still as ever, three villains trapped in stone, a changeling queen, a centaur, and a pegasus child. To anypony else, it would’ve appeared as a monument to the Princess of Friendship’s triumph over three powerful enemies. To others it could be interpreted to be a sign of the alliance between nations. She knew better than that though.

This was her assignment from Princess Twilight. Discord escaped stone imprisonment all on his own, how long would it take three villains who had learned to work together? Whether they hated each other or not, they’d proven they had the ability to act as a team. Or at least, that was the story she’d been given. If she knew Twilight though, and she did, she’d seen this cooperation as a sort of proof that there was still hope for them. That hope was all the reason Twilight needed.

It was a good idea, and Twilight’s tendency to redeem villains whenever possible was also admittedly a fairly genius defensive strategy for Equestria and beyond. Sure, there would always be the possibility that it would come back to bite her. Relapses and double-crossing could occur, but when it worked. Proper redemption meant another strong asset gained for the cause of friendship and one less villain who would attempt to take over. Keep that going long enough and though there could be setbacks, in time, she could see a stronger and more peaceful Equestria.

Despite all this, Starlight couldn’t help but feel anxious about the prospect of taking on the daunting task of showing them the light of friendship herself. Sure, she wasn’t alone in the endeavor and she had prepared countermeasures against their magic, but these were creatures so full of spite that she wasn’t sure she’d ever be able to get through to them.

A hoof landed on her shoulder, startling her out of her contemplation. She could’ve sworn she’d jumped at least a foot or two in the air in response, and she hadn’t even cast a Jump spell on herself. As she turned to see who disturbed her, she saw the familiar bearded face of her vice headmare.

“Sorry, Starlight, I tried to announce myself, but you were kind of checked out.” The stallion said, rubbing the back of his head with a hoof, a nervous habit he’d picked up from the Japaneighs manga that had caught his interest lately. She could thank Spike for that.

“It’s fine. I was just lost in thought.” she replied, her gaze falling back to the statue.

“Worried about the new assignment?”
“You could say that.” Starlight gestured with a hoof to the stone changeling queen “I mean, I’ve tried to get through to Chrysalis before and it didn’t work. I’m pretty sure she hates me for destroying her hive and taking away her changelings. Shouldn’t I be the last pony to teach her friendship lessons?” She trotted a circle around the statue, talking as she went. “You’re taking care of Cozy Glow, and while she is a manipulative brat, once you know not to trust her, she’s pretty much just the latter. And don’t even get me started on how difficult it’s going to be to convince Tirek.”
Sunburst stroked his beard for a few moments. This was a common mannerism for Starlight’s second in command. He was working through a tough puzzle in his head. She stopped her pacing and waited for his response. It didn’t take long, but his reply was tentative, almost nervous.

“I think I know what to do with Tirek, but you’re not going to like it.”

She sighed. “Sounds about par for the fucking course right about now. Just… out with it, okay. Even if it’s awful, it’s something and I’ve got nothing right now.”

He took a breath, “Okay, okay. I think we should send him to the human dimension, the one you told me about. Like the sirens, I feel like it’s the only place he can learn to live a normal life.”

Starlight put a hoof to the bridge of her nose. “You know how I feel about banishment.”

It was Sunburst’s turn to sigh. He put a hoof on her shoulder again. “I do. But this doesn’t have to be a permanent arrangement. If he can prove he has changed, we can let him come back. Just give him a few years over there. Maybe he can find some better calling on his own. Who knows, he may not even want to return to Equestria. From what you’ve told me, Sunset Shimmer rather likes her life there. Maybe he will too.”
A hard look passed between the two. “Any other day, I’d probably tell you that was a terrible plan and go rant to Trixie about how much you suck for even suggesting it.”
“But?” He replied, hopefully, a small grin beginning to form.
Starlight softened. “But I don’t have any better options I can think of. We already have our hooves full with two villains, if we can handle the third by sending him to a world where he’s harmless; magically speaking, even just temporarily while we figure out some contingencies or come up with an actual plan for reforming him, that’s at least better than keeping him trapped in stone anyway. It’s like Trix always says, ‘You can’t solve everycreature’s problems, some things they just have to figure out for themselves.’ Though admittedly nine times out of ten she only says that when she’s about to ask for time off.”
He chuckled at that before returning her a troubled look. “So, you’re serious then? You’re really fine going along with my plan on this one?”
“Why else did I appoint you as vice headmare if not to help me make the hard decisions.” She winked. “Well, besides organizing schedules and helping with fundraisers and all that other administrative work you do. Now, I’ll handle getting Tirek through the portal and releasing him from stone; you write Twilight a letter to let her know about the change in plans. And make sure Gabby delivers it, I know it’s not going to the griffon lands, but she’s super reliable and this is important.”
The stallion went pale. “W-wait, you want me to write the letter?”
“Yeah, it was your idea after all. If anypony’s taking the heat for this, it’s not gonna be me.”
Pulling a scroll and quill from his bag with his telekinesis, Sunburst muttered under his breath as she trotted off towards Twilight’s former castle. “I swear you’ve been spending way too much time around Trixie.”

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Minuette was back on the job, trusty camera around her neck and Twinkleshine at her side. The pair had arrived in Manehattan several hours prior and already they’d completed a couple interviews with local enterprises. She got several good shots of the cityscape from the vantage points provided by the highrise they’d just come from along with some pictures of the warehouse and a few profile shots of their interviewees. As always, very few of the shots would make it to the actual paper, but what didn’t make it to print still made for good scrapbook material.

Most days she could lose herself in her photography work fairly easily, have some fun, make some memories. This day in particular she’d found herself distracted. Her mind kept wandering to Limestone. Thoughts of the date the other day, memories of the feeling of her lips, her scent, and more filled her mind, making it hard to concentrate. At least twice now she’d been nearly left behind and once she’d even caught herself fantasizing about Limestone’s body and the R-rated things she wanted to do with her. Not now, brain. I’m at work.

It was at this point that she collided with Twinkleshine, who had stopped suddenly.

“Oh, shit. Sorry, Twinkle, I was miles away.” she said, wincing.

Her friend just smirked. “Uh huh, judging from that look you’ve had on your face I think I can guess where.”

Minuette’s face went red at that, “A-anyway, why’d you stop? This doesn’t look like the office for Filthy Rich Construction’s Manehattan branch.” She made a show of looking around at the buildings surrounding them. “You get lost or something?”

“That’s because it’s not. Look, Min, I uh, I need some advice.”

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Twinkleshine had been considering Lemon Hearts’ proposal for the past few nights, weighing pros and cons, thinking through the logistics of the potential fake relationship, looking at it all from every angle she could think of, but still she found herself at an impasse. Should she or shouldn’t she? Going with this plan had to be incredibly selfish and inconsiderate, right? She couldn’t put poor, sweet, selfless Lemon through that, take a year or two of her life all to herself, could she? But then, it was Lemon’s decision. She had been the one to bring it back up, and she seemed kind of excited about it, serious about it even. If she denied her, Lemon might be hurt, she didn’t want to give one of her best friends the impression she didn’t believe in and trust her or, conversely, the idea that she wasn’t good enough to be her fake wife. Twinkleshine didn’t even want to think about how that would affect the mare, especially given how far that was from the truth. Lemon was the best pony for this job, just like she’d said, no matter how she looked at it. A little too perfect even...

She’d been thinking about it all through work and she needed an outside opinion.

“Oh, yeah, of course I can help ya out. What’s going on?” Minuette replied, finding a nearby bench and taking a seat, and Twinkleshine took a seat beside her before continuing. This kind of conversation definitely warranted a bench.

“So, to start, you’ve met my parents, right? You know how prideful and pushy they can be.”

Minuette blanched. “Yeah, I hear you. Canterlot nobility like them can be an uptight bunch, you’ve got it rough. So what’s up their asses this time?”

“They’ve been trying to arrange marriage interviews for me. I’ve mostly been dodging them with work, but that can only go on for so long.” Twinkle sighed, “They keep going on about how I’m almost beyond marriageable age and how they want to have proper grandfoals sired by a stallion of good lineage.”

“You and a stallion? They must be dreaming if they think that you can lead a happy life like that. So, do you have a more permanent plan than hiding away in work until it’s over or is that what you’re asking me for?” The blue pony rubbed her chin in thought. “Maybe we could skip town for a while. Limestone’s parents in Rockville would be able to take us in if we worked for it.”

“Well, I’ve sort of got a plan, it’s just…”

“Just… what?” Minuette asked, intrigued.

“It was an idea I thought of off the cuff when I was venting to Lemon, the night after we went to the rock farm. I suggested that I could marry someone as a fake arrangement and stick with them until I get beyond my parents' idea of marriageable age. Then we could divorce and my parents wouldn’t hound me nearly as much if at all, given that it’s hard to find a noble suitor who would marry a divorcee, let alone someone outside the socially acceptable age range for such things.”

“Sounds like a decent idea so far. So what went wrong? Did Lemon suggest herself as a candidate or something?” her friend asked, nudging her in the side.

Twinkleshine stiffened.

Minuette examined her features, the look on her face, the blush, “Wait,” then realization dawned on her. “Oh, oh shit. Wow, that’s… I mean, I never expected our little Lemon to be so bold. So, what’d you tell her?”

Twinkle took a second to get her bearing before saying, “I went over the risks and what she’d be giving up. I figured maybe she was being impulsive and hadn’t considered all this plan would entail, but she was fine with everything. In the end, she just told me to think about it. And now, here I am, I can’t stop thinking about it, so I’m asking for your help figuring out just what I should do.”

“You wanna know what I think?” Minuette smirked.

“Of course, that’s why I asked! This is serious, please don’t tease me right now!”

“I think you should say yes!”

Twinkle froze for a beat, blinked once, twice. “Okayyy… can you walk me through how you came to that conclusion?”

“Well, to start, you could stand to be a bit more spontaneous.” her friend chuckled. “The two of you have known each other for years, so it makes sense for some romantic feelings to have developed over time, there’s plenty to work with for your cover story. You know each other pretty well, you’re both skilled actresses in your own rights, and who knows… maybe there’s some chemistry there?”

The pale mare’s cheeks went bright red. “Wait, wait, what was that last bit?”

Minuette slung an arm around her gal pal. “Oh, I dunno, maybe Pony Cupid is stealthily lining up her shot. C’mon, you dated half the mares in our class back in school, you can’t tell me you’ve never considered it.” She gestured an arc in the sky with her other hoof as if to emphasize the magic of romance.

Twinkleshine shook her head and removed Minuette’s arm. “We practically grew up together! I mean, she probably sees me like a sister.”

“A sister she’s willing to fake marry to the point that she brought that plan up herself. I’m just saying, we’ve both read enough trashy romance novels to know where this is going.” Aaand, she was doing the raised eyebrow thing. She must’ve felt so smug right then.

“They’re not trashy, and this is real life, not some book.” The periwinkle mare argued, unable to completely refute her friend’s point.

Minuette shrugged. “Sometimes life imitates art, and vice versa. Heck, look at my situation and try to say it’s anything but a textbook fated romance. This whole thing sounds like your basic fake relationship/childhood friend trope and we both know it!" Her voice took on an overly dramatic tone as she continued, "Two characters pining desperately for the other, but kept apart by misunderstandings until they’re thrown into a fake relationship by circumstances. This is totally your wheelhouse, y’know.”

Twinkle put a hoof to her head. “I know, it sounds like that cliche, but there’s no guarantee it’s gonna work out that way. Real life doesn’t have half of the happily ever after stories romance does, and I don’t do tragedies.”

“Just saying, if this really is Lemon’s hail mary attempt at a relationship with you, and you reject her, it will be pretty tragic for her. Even if it isn’t, you know Lemon doesn’t take rejection well, even if she does a good job keeping it in. Do you remember the last time she let it all build up and exploded?”

Twinkle gulped. “Fire pony?”

Minuette nodded solemnly. “Fire pony.”

“Okay, so I’m really doing this, huh?”

“You have my full support!” the blue mare gave a cheeky grin.

“Gee, thanks, have I mentioned what a great help you are?” Twinkle replied, deadpan.

Minuette’s smile only widened at that. “Not yet, but I could get used to it.”

Author's Note:

Hey guys, been a while. Sorry for taking so long to get back to this. I'm not even going to go into what all the last year has been to me. Or, well, I might've already vented a bit about it in a blog post. Either way, I'm trying to work through my depression and convince myself I can be a functioning human being who can exist without a consistent IV drip of escapism. Well, wish me luck.

Side note: Really got into isekai lately, so expect an isekai pony fic featuring common background characters with few voice lines in the show reincarnating as humans in a fantasy realm. This one I'm not releasing until it's all written, so it's gonna be awhile. Still, gives me something to work on when I'm not feeling pony romance and pony anatomy and figuring out all the pony lore behind something. This one's gonna be my own story with my own lore with ideas ripped off from a fairly repetitive subgenre of manga and anime!