• Published 30th Apr 2020
  • 3,244 Views, 54 Comments

Does she know— - semillon

Love is built up over time, and no one knows that more than Ocellus.

  • ...

that she smells?

“Okay, everycreature!” Headmare Twilight calls just after the bell rings, stopping most of us from getting up and leaving. She’s looking especially beautiful today. The late afternoon light really suits her coat. She gives all of us a big smile—one that most of us return. “Don’t forget about your one-on-one slumber party assignment that I gave you at the beginning of class! They’re going to be due first thing on Monday, so make sure to take the weekend to have some fun with a friend for a night!”

We (the entire class) give a murmur that sounds positive and then we vacate the class. Once we’re (me, Gallus, Sandbar, Smolder, Silverstream and Yona) in the hall and walking back to our dorms, Gallus turns to me. “Have a partner for the thing yet?”

I shake my head. “Were we given time to choose partners in class? How would anyone have a partner already?”

Gallus gives me a wry smirk. “The moment that Twilight said the words ‘find a partner’, most of us looked up from the assignment sheets and found one with eye contact. You were probably busy examining the Headmare’s syntax to notice. I managed to steal Yona before anyone else could. Gonna have the comfiest sleep of my entire life and I cannot wait to rub it in all your faces the morning after.”

Ahead of us, Yona trails behind a bantering Smolder, Sandbar and Silverstream. Her coat is looking extra fluffy today. She must have taken that special shampoo Professor Rarity offered to lend her.

I push my jealousy aside to bat my eyes at Gallus. “You mean that you don’t want to cuddle with me. Gally? I have special changeling training. I’m extra good at it, you know. Bet you no one else in the school could do it like me.”

Gallus blushes, but only for the second before he laughs it off. “You know, I don’t get why I’m the one you show your confident side off to. The rest of the gang would get a kick out of you acting all griffon-y and sarcastic.”

“Being realistic here, I think Sandbar and Silverstream would just chew you out for being a bad influence on me.”

Ha! Maybe. You know that they’re having their slumber party with each other, right?”

I blink. “So I’m with Smolder.”

“Well, you could always go outside our group.”

“I like the rest of our class, but I think I want to be with someone I’m close to for this project. Seems like a good opportunity to get to know a friend I’ve already made a little better.”

“...but?” Gallus drones, knowing that there’s more on my mind.

“But Smolder still kind of...you know. I don’t know how to handle her just yet. Whenever we’re alone I’m just so scared of boring her! She thinks I’m, I’m this cutesy little fragile flower. She probably feels like she’s got to have grub gloves on when she talks to me.”

“Y’know,” Gallus says, “there’s a reason why I brought up your sarcastic side just now.”

I sigh. “I don’t know.”

In the old days of the hive, we were taught that physical affection was a gateway into the deeper flavors of love. It was a sort of achievement you had to gain before truly consuming the good stuff. That’s why I hear a happy little chime in my head when Gallus touches my shoulder with a claw. He truly cares about me!

“Just relax,” he says, nodding his head to the scene in front of us—Smolder, Sandbar and Yona are now holding an impromptu wrestling match in the hallway, just before the door leading to the courtyard. Silverstream’s reffing. The sight of them brings a smile to my face, and all of my stress nearly washes away. Gallus continues to speak. “You two are already friends, aren’t you? What’s the worst that could happen?”

Smolder arrives at my room later, just before night falls. She’s drenched in sweat and—my hive she smells like someone dipped the entirety of an old oak tree into sulphur and then lit it on fire with the help of chili oil!

Somehow, she still greets me with an easy smile. “‘Sup?”

“Oh, you know, this and that.”

She breezes past me, taking in my room. I struggle to maintain composure under her, um, her scent.

“Your room’s so neat,” she says, looking my bookshelf up and down, wandering over to my desk, and turning around to examine the bed. When Headmare Twilight was designing the school, she had every dorm outfitted with a bunk bed, for sleepover emergencies and because it was fun. Both my bunks are impeccably made. Even though I don’t use the top one that often, I make it everyday anyway.

“Very nice,” says Smolder. “Which bunk do you want? Mind if I take the bottom one?”

I start to answer, but Smolder’s snuggling into bottom bunk—my bunk—before I can really protest. I walk over to her, trying to keep my voice energetic. “Did you...did you just have gym class or something?”

“Kinda!” Smolder chirps. She snorts a little bit of smoke into my pillow. “Rec dodgeball. I’m beat. Can’t wait to relax and hang out with one of my best pals at school, you know?”

She says it with such honesty that I’m taken aback. My wings flutter a little bit. No deceit is tainting her feelings. “You mean that?”

“Of course I do,” Smolder says. “I think this is gonna be fun. You’ve made a checklist of things to do already, haven’t you?”

I smile. “Headmare Twilight gave one out with our assignment papers.”

“But you’ve made your own ‘cause you wanted to plan better for tonight and for me specifically, right?”

That makes me blush. I step back from her a little, looking everywhere but my sweat-soiled bunk and the dragon lounging under the covers. “W-Well...yes. But we don’t have to do anything that I’ve mandated. It’s more of a guide—”

“I wanna do everything,” Smolder says. Her face and feelings are just as genuine and pleasantly excited as they have been for the whole conversation. “Seriously. You can overthink stuff sometimes and you like studying just a little too much, but as long as ‘do our homework’ isn’t an item on your checklist, I’m down for anything.”

My heart goes the way of cold butter on a hot pan. Smolder sees my mouth quivering and she sits up. “Whoah, don’t cry, dude. What’d I say? If you want to do homework that bad, then we can do homework.”

Even without the anxiousness I’m tasting on my tongue, I’d be able to tell that’s a blazing lie. I laugh and sniffle. “Sorry. I was just a little worried at how tonight would go, so hearing that you’re okay with anything is...it’s a relief. I never expected you to be so open.”

“Why would you be worried?” Smolder raises a brow arch. “Are you scared of me?”

“No! I thought that you might not be looking forward to spending time with me because—”

“You still think I’m some big, stupid, scary, village-raiding dragon, don’t you?” Smolder interupts. “Well, I am. Deal with it.”

“Smolder! That’s—”

“Not what you were gonna say? Come on, Ocellus. You’ve been looking at me like I’m a walking bonfire ever since you answered the door.” Her teeth flash for an instant before her snarling muzzle settles into a frown. She gets off my bed, leaving it stained in sweat and stink and she makes for the door. “Look, I’m gonna go cool off or something. We can continue this later, if you’ve gotten over how scared—”

“I’m not scared!” I screech. My wings buzz and I block her path to the door. I’d be sweating if I were a mammal right now. I bare my fangs at her. “Stop drawing wrong conclusions and acting on them before I can explain myself!”

“Then explain,” Smolder says as she crosses her arms. Her tail wags slowly behind her, reminding me of a snake getting ready to strike.

“You smell awful,” I say.

Smolder blinks. “What?” She lifts one of her arms and sniffs herself. “No I don’t.”

“You do. You really do.”

“Why would I be—”

“You just came from gym class!”


“You’ve been sweating.”

“...So? I don’t smell anything.”

I narrow my eyes at her, buck my door with one of my hindlegs hard enough that it opens on its own, and turn around. Directly across the hall, muffled giggling can be heard behind Sandbar’s door. I put a hoof up to my mouth and yell, “Hey! Sandbar!”

Smolder tries to talk, but I whip my head 180 degrees and shush her. The horror on her face says she’ll be quiet.

Sandbar answers the door. “Hey Oce—whoah.” I crack my head back into place, watching as he turns a little green. Greener than he already is, I mean. “Could, uh, could you always do that?”

“Thorax says it’s not polite and it freaks involuntary vertebrates out,” I explain. “Now, come here. Hi Silverstream.”

Behind Sandbar, Silverstream, wearing a sombrero and holding a full poker hand, waves at me from her seat on the floor.

Sandbar walks until he’s a polite distance away from Smolder and I. I step aside, keeping my eyes on him. “Sniff Smolder.”

“What?” Sandbar asks, at the very same time Smolder does.

My eyes look from one to the other repeatedly. “Do it.”

Smolder and Sandbar turn to face each other, but don’t move.

“Do it,” I repeat.

“I...don’t have to,” Sandbar says, stepping back. His eyes are apologetic, and directed submissively to Smolder. “I can kinda already smell you, dude.”

“Okay, that’s all. Thanks!” I say. “Have fun with your sleepover!” And then I slam the door and point a vindicated glare to Smolder.

She glares back at me, and my bravado vanishes. The sheer impact of what I’ve done dawns on me as Smolder advances, her arms raised slightly.

Smolder stops just in front of me. I try not to cower, but both of my hindlegs are shaking.

“Why didn’t you tell me?” she asks.

“I don’t know.” I look down at the floor. “I don’t know what you think of me yet. Gallus is surprisingly smart, and he’s really fun to talk to. Sandbar, Silverstream and Yona are all sweethearts. But you’re the most different from me. I don’t want you to think we have nothing in common, but I don’t know if we have anything in common.”

“Do we have to?”

“I don’t want to bore you! I’m so…” I wave a hoof. “Not dragon.”

“That thing you did just now was pretty dragon.”

“What, waving my hoof?”

“No. Marching Sandbar out of his room to prove a point.” Smolder crouches, and suddenly it’s hard to stare at the floor. I reluctantly meet her gaze.

She smiles. “I wanna hang out with you. You’re my friend. And you can tell me about anything you want. If you think I’m being stupid, then say that. If I’m smelly, then tell me.”

“Okay,” I say.

“Cool. Sorry about your bed, by the way. I just realized I soaked it in sweat.”

“That was so gross.”


“It’s okay. You smell like garbage. Garbage dipped into kerosene.”

“What’s kerosene?”

“And you’re rude sometimes and I hate when you talk with your mouth full of gems.”

Smolder grins. “See? Is that so hard?”

“You could crunch into my chitin like it were made of toast.”

“But I won’t!” Smolder says. “Hey, seriously. Are we okay?”

I smile a little. “Yeah.”

“Great. I’m gonna go shower quick and then I’ll be back here for our slumber party, alright?”

And she does that, giving me enough time to make my bed again, light a few candles, and cross ‘do homework’ off the special slumber party list I made. When Smolder comes back to my room, I don’t feel any tension between us at all, and I don’t even bother feeling out her feelings for the rest of the night, because the fun is palpable.

We gossip about the others and the professors, Smolder tells me a couple of stories from her childhood in exchange for my detailed analysis of how terrible pony security is (a topic distanced enough from my old life to not be as painful as it could be) and we end the night with Truth or Dare. Neither of us picks dare. We just spend the entire night telling each other the truth. Smolder still feels insecure about her reading comprehension. I’m still worried that Sandbar is scared of me. Smolder likes it when Silverstream talks a million words a minute, because keeping up feels like a game. I admit that I’ve always wanted to wear one of Professor Rarity’s more risque pieces, to a long bout of chortling from Smolder.

After that, I don’t ever find it hard to talk to Smolder anymore. Whatever I say, she listens, and she doesn’t always agree, but something that I notice is that unless it’s something that feels like a personal attack on her, she rarely judges, and that makes talking easy.


Talking is easy now, but sometimes talking isn’t possible.

Dragons are greedy creatures. Every thread of their biology is geared towards guarding, admiring, and taking.

I have no qualms with Smolder when she’s protective over her textbooks or her food and gems. Recently, we’ve even been mutually gushing over certain fabrics that Professor Rarity has been bringing into class. What I hate, however, is when Smolder helps herself to my things without asking.

Back in the hive, we’re still getting used to owning things. We’ve never had possessions before. I remember the day after we redeemed ourselves en masse. It was hour and hour of scuffles involving whose bed of moss belonged to who. A complete nightmare for Thorax, I’m sure.

I wasn’t any of those changelings, of course. It would have been stupid for me to try and take on any adult drones. I’m still a couple of molts away from my final form. Being completely honest, it’s a total miracle that I somehow got away with my only possession from the old days: a pretty arrangement of colorful wild mushrooms that I made myself.

Since arriving I’ve come to own more things. Blankets. Books. Oh, the books. I have enough to qualify them for a draconic horde, and they’re all mine. Not to mention all the apple-related products that we keep getting for free during our Honesty lectures.

Which is where Smolder comes in. To be fair, she warned us about this. She even told me about it during our sleepover a few weeks ago. It’s supposed to be “gathering season” in the Dragonlands right now, which is when all the dragons in the Dragonlands have their sense of greed (which is a sense to them in the same way that touch or taste is) amplified ridiculously. Hearth’s Warming is coming up, meaning that Winter is as well, meaning that this is probably the dragon version of storing food for the winter.

Smolder’s been taking my stuff. Sandbar’s, too. She’s taken stuff from the rest of the gang as well, but they’re only missing trivial things. Toothbrushes, pillows, glasses of claw polish, in Silverstream’s case. What she’s stolen from Sandbar and I are exponentially more important. From Sandbar she’s snagged the only photo of his family that he bothered to bring with him when he moved. From me, she’s taken the first gift I’ve ever been given: a jar of Zap Apple jam.

The most rational thing for us to do would be to have a kind, mature talk with Smolder and ask for our stuff back. Except Smolder’s a ninja and in the few times that I’ve attempted to confront her, high decibels and all, dragon style, she looks at me like she can barely hear me. I’m convinced there’s a weird part of her brain that’s just making her scratch this itch that she has that wants her to take things, and that it’s completely incorrigible and unreasonable, and will continue to be until we take it back from her.

We choose take it back from her, obviously. At midnight, we don our catsuits from Professor Pinkie’s seminar on surprise parties last month and meet outside of Smolder’s room. Our hooves are muffled by the magic in the hallway carpet that activates past ten. This is a heist. The kind that you read about in stories.

There could be better partners to have when robbing a dragon. Gallus comes to mind as someone particularly light-footed and morally gray. I’m just glad that it’s not Yona or Silverstream that I cooked up this plan with. Sandbar smiles at me through the hood of his suit, and I smile back.

It’s go time. I go first—for the past eight hours I’ve been skimming a book detailing the specifics of picking locks. Sandbar hands me the kit that he went into town to buy and I get to work, sliding the tension wrench across the bottom and using the pick to trigger the pins.

Minutes pass. Sandbar waits patiently. I’m not sure what he’s doing, but he nearly lets out a cheer when I manage to crack the lock and push the door open slowly. I have to glare his excitement away, which doesn’t feel the best because I’m feeling peckish and I could use a snack.

Sandbar’s turn is next. He sneaks through the doorway, taking care not to make any noise, before he peeks at which bunk Smolder is sleeping in. He turns back to me and twirls a hoof, which means that she’s asleep on the top bunk and sleeping heavy. I’m really glad that we both paid such attention to Pinkie’s seminar. Who knew we’d be using the things we learned over the course of it so soon?

I transform into a butterfly and fly ahead of him, which is when I spot the sty.

Pillows are strewn about the floor. Some of them are ripped up. Some have odd stains on them that I’m going to guess are from cider.

On Smolder’s desk are the toothbrushes that she’s stolen from Gallus, Yona and Silverstream. They’re laid out in an odd pattern that reminds me of old changeling warrior sigils. But the toothbrushes aren’t important. What’s important is the jar of jam by Smolder’s nightstand, and the framed family photo beside it.

Smolder’s curled up on the top bunk, as Smolder said. She’s hugging her own tail, and in the middle of the little donut that she’s making with her body is a patch of blue velvet fabric that she nuzzles on occasion. The crown jewel of her horde, maybe? I know that makes no sense, but I don’t have much idea as to what does.

I flutter across the room and transform back when I’m close enough to the nightstand. The jam and the photo are easy enough to pick up. My running thoughts make it a little harder to simply take them. Smolder wanted these things. She needed them. Maybe I’m taking away my friend’s comfort for the sake of my own selfishness. Maybe the generous thing to do would be to leave them.

I put the jar of jam down, but take the framed photo. Sandbar probably needs it more than Smolder, but I don’t think I’m going to die without my gift. Smolder can have it. We’ll have words if she eats the contents of the jar, of course, but for now, she can have it.

I turn back to bring the photo to Sandbar, but he’s taken his hood off and he’s actively staring at something on the top bunk of Smolder’s bed.

What a surprise. It’s Smolder. Her eyes are feral and her teeth are bared. There’s an orange glow behind them, the fire building in the center of her throat. The heat in the room rises by about ten degrees. “What,” she growls, “are you doing?”

I back away, shrinking into myself. “S-Sandbar,” I stutter. I’m trying as hard as I can to talk to her like normal, but I can’t help my own whimpering. “Sandbar needs his photo back.”

“Well, he can’t have it!” Smolder roars, full volume.

I turn my head away and hold the photo up as a last second defense against her fire, but she doesn’t breathe any out.

More seconds pass without an inferno coming at me. I put the picture down. Smolder’s expression’s completely changed.

“Crap,” she says. There’s a sudden clarity to her eyes. “Sorry. This…” She gestures to the stolen things around her room. “This isn’t cool, is it? I’m being a total—”

“Dumb, stupid, rude idiot?” I say.

“I’ll return it in the morning,” Smolder says. “Sorry, Sandbar. You can have your picture back.”

I trot to Sandbar and hand his picture to him. He gives me a grateful smile before turning to Smolder. “It’s no prob, dude. Just ask me next time, ‘kay?”

Smolder gives him a thumbs up. Her gaze inevitably drifts to me. “I took something from you too, didn’t I?”

I look at the jar of Zap Apple jam on her nightstand. “...You can have it. It feels good for you to hoard, right?”

“Nothing better,” she says sheepishly. “But it’s still not okay, I guess. I don’t wanna sit here and be the ass of a dragon who obviously doesn’t belong at this school.”

“You’re not,” I say. “I’m serious. Keep the jar.”

“Uh, thanks.” Smolder blinks. A burst of affection and gratuity comes off of her, and it’s just what I needed to get back to sleep.

I still end up borrowing like, four books from the library the next day to make me feel better about losing the jar, but I take extra comfort in the fact that I’ve done something good for a friend of mine. And I’m glad that I did.