• Published 30th Apr 2020
  • 3,243 Views, 54 Comments

Does she know— - semillon

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

  • ...

how STUPID she is?

Yona and I are at the very back of the slender line that our group makes to travel through the Everfree. We’ve done a lot of extracurricular work for this class (a joint venture from Fluttershy, Zecora and Twilight to teach about Ponyville’s local flora) in the past, so we’ve the luxury of enjoying our time in the forest while the rest of the class has to embark on a scavenger hunt for local magic-infused plants. It’s about three o’ clock in the afternoon, evident from the slowly declining pace of our peers as they hit their biological slump in energy for the day.

Meanwhile, I’m attempting to not-so-subtly ask Yona about her love life. She’s not quite getting the hint.

“Yona would smash Gallus’s puny legs, for sure!”

“That’s not quite what I meant,” I say.

“Bugpony being weird.”

I blow a raspberry. Ever since Smolder and I shared certain views on our romantic interests we’ve grown a lot closer as friends. Our tea parties have become one of my favorite parts of the week. After class, of course.

For the past month or so I’ve been trying to get to the same point with the rest of the group, but Gallus and Sandbar can hardly say a word about their love lives without blushing hotter than the sun, and Silverstream is...a little too detailed. It seems that the language barrier between Yona and I is a little too much for this topic as well. That, or she’s intentionally being obtuse, which is the more likely possibility. And that’s fair enough. Some creatures need their privacy. Maybe she’s not ready to share yet.

That doesn’t stop me from trying just one more time.

“You look really pretty today!” I chirp.

Yona smiles. “Bugpony look second-best!”

“Has anycreature else told you that you look pretty lately?”

Yona takes a moment to think. Then her smile widens. “Everycreature!”

I laugh. “That doesn’t surprise me one bit.”


I stop my gait and look behind me. Yona’s stopped to admire something on the tree. Once I get closer, I see the lizard in question.

It’s the length of a paperback book, its scales are blue and it has these big, amber eyes that stare thoughtlessly at the beetle that it’s about to make a meal out of. We watch as it creeps forward, slowly making its way to the unassuming beetle just centimeters ahead of it…

It pounces. I look away before I hear the crunching of the beetle’s exoskeleton. Yona stays perfectly attentive.

“Is it over?” I ask.


I look back to see that the lizard is licking its lips. And then its back spontaneously combusts into purple flame.

Me and Yona give identical surprised gasps as we back away.

“Bugpony know if this is normal?”

“Um,” I cough. My memory’s a little fuzzy. It takes me a few seconds to remember the scientific name for it. “Yes. It’s an Azuralis Acanthurus. The spirit-fire monitor. They’re supposed to bring good luck.”

“Should yak catch it?” Yona asks as she turns to look at her saddlebags, which contain multiple vials and jars ready to be used for plant and animal samples.

“No. It’ll just melt the glass.”

Yona whines. “Friend and me catch up to group?”

I nod. Yona frowns, but her (literal) sour mood doesn’t last too long. It’s not very hard to catch up to the rest of our class, since everycreature’s stopping to draw or collect leaves and flowers.


“On this boat we have had a murder, and following that murder, two other murders in rapid succession. If I further give you the information that the weapon which killed Madame Flowerbloom was a revolver owned by Monsieur All’s Well Endswell, then perhaps you will realize that it is actually your duty to tell us all you can.”

“Jamjar was silent for some minutes. At last he said: “You have a rather odd way of going about things, Monsieur Cheval, but—”

“I’m bored,” rasps a voice above me. A flapping shadow has crept over my yard of sun.

I close my copy of Death on the Neighle and look up.

Smolder’s got her arms crossed. She’s staring down at me expectantly.

“What do you expect me to do about it?” I ask.

“Fix it,” she says, landing beside me and giving my sun back. The class has stopped in this flower field to recuperate and have lunch. Most of us have finished already and are enjoying the heat. Smolder was, too, until now.

I tut. “Are you finished all the work required for today?”

She fakes a gasp. “Can’t believe you’d doubt me.” And before I can retort she pulls out a book, flipping the pages while rattling off the names of the pictures of flowers I see before me. “Common lily. Poison Joke. Moonflower. Sunflower. Sleepweed. Bubble berry bush. Silver licorice. Now can you please hang out with me? Yona keeps playing with bugs and I like bugs and all, but sometimes too much is too much.”

“Where’s Gallus?”

“Where do you think? Cozying up to Zecora so she’ll give him a better grade.”

“He doesn’t need one,” I raise a brow.

“He doesn’t think it’ll hurt to try and be personable.”

“I don’t have anything left that we can do.”

She smiles. Her teeth are so sharp and so shiny. “One ear. Then the other. What is it? Is it dangerous? Teacher-supervision only kind of stuff?”

I sigh. “Maybe. But I really don’t want to—”

“Come on,” Smolder whines. She gets down on both knees and stares at me. Her expression is pure need—I’m reminded of an orthrus begging for treats.

How can I say no?


The cave is cold. We shouldn’t have come here alone.

Smolder’s eyes are so—no. No. She can’t be scared. If she’s scared, then what should I be?

No. Don’t think like that.

She breathes. Her fire illuminates the cave, and for a second I see it.

“There!” I shriek. “Smolder!”

Hospitals are terrifying. I don’t understand how someone can be so okay with their existence. So many ponies so close to death. So much life teetering back and forth between the line of it. I could hardly breathe the first time I stepped into one. So much sadness in one place. Do you know what that tastes like?

No. I can’t explain it because taste is the wrong word. There isn’t a taste for the kind of sadness that coagulates inside of the emergency room. There is only the physical feeling of it worming its way into my emotion receptors, and the only word that I can use to describe it is wrong.

I wake up with a scream halfway out of my muzzle, but I slap my hooves to it and muffle myself before it makes it out..

Smolder’s still in the hospital bed. It’s just the two of us, now. Like it was in the cave.

Scars and raw, scaleless skin mark her body like continents and rivers on a map. Her wing is broken, fully encased in a cast. Her leg is the same.

I am struck again by a realization that I’ve had a thousand times today. I’m an idiot.

I hate it here. Changelings don’t have hospitals. We’re extremely hardy beings. The only points of vulnerability that we really have are during our molts, and we always make sure to be somewhere safe for those.

Changelings don’t get sick. They stay alive, die of old age, or die when their exoskeletons are so badly cracked that there’s nothing that can be done for them. To be sick—even injured—is something alien. Something that I can hardly fathom. A plague on your body that you have to live with, to watch consume you until your body makes it leave or you die. It’s suffering. Long, slow suffering.

I shiver. The tears start coming shortly after.

This is my fault.

I’m an idiot.

We were supposed to go into a harmless cave. Somewhere where the worst thing we would find would maybe be a timberwolf. Glowing lavenders—scientific name Lux Lavandula—grow deep in the heart of moist, dark places. They’re theorized to have grown to provide light for small animals, but that’s more of an old mare’s tale than anything. We were supposed to find a nice bouquet of glowing lavenders and leave.

We weren’t supposed to have discovered the lair of a scorpius.

The scorpion looks like it’s made of stars. It’s a constellation. A celestial beast.

It skitters towards us. My eyes can barely keep up with it as it dashes across the cave ceiling.

It drops, pouncing at me. I’m frozen. Scared. We weren’t supposed to find anything.

Smolder yells my name. I hear her, but I still don’t move. How did I let this happen?

She pushes me out of the way. The next thing I hear sounds like something chewing on a mouthful of pennies, combined with the pained moans of my friend.

That’s when I remember that I’m a changeling.

The professors found me sobbing over Smolder’s body in my dragon form. We were covered in starry lymph.

I hear Ember’s words to me as I stare at Smolder’s sleeping form in the bed. I hear Pharynx too. Their voices sing about my failure, my recklessness, my idiocy…

How did I let this happen?

I hear my professors’ reassuring tones. I feel Thorax petting my back. I feel Silverstream and Gallus’s feathers over my back.

I close my eyes, and suddenly all I can see is Sandbar, and he looks so disappointed. I taste his emotions, and the lingering notes of forgiveness—an awareness within his emotional sphere that thinks I’m not to blame, but his unbridled frustration with the situation tastes much worse.

I hate myself. I am an idiot.


When I open my eyes next I feel like I’ve barely gotten any sort of sleep, even though it’s been at least a few hours. I look back to Smolder, who is still unconscious. She hasn’t moved at all. I’d be worrying about her life if there wasn’t a heartbeat monitor hooked up to her.

I look to the screen to her side and my eyes follow the jagged line her heartbeat creates. She’s alive. I should be thankful, shouldn’t I? Happy that the both of us survived?

Well, I’m not. Guilt is destroying me. Slowly nibbling holes into my heart like moths in a textiles factory.

Are there any words to describe how sorry I am? Next semester I’m in a speechwriting class run by both Headmare Twilight and Professor Rarity, but that’s not going to help me now. I don’t have anyone to write a speech for. The professors and my friends and me and Smolder’s authority figures already know the story. They’ve already made their judgments. A good speech might sway some negative opinions into positive ones, but frankly, that doesn’t matter to me right now. What matters is Smolder herself.

Smolder won’t care for a speech. She couldn’t give less of a shit about beautiful words or well-structured arguments. All she would care about is if I was sorry. If I was sorry, and I am sorry, she would forgive me in a heartbeat. And that’s the entire problem. I don’t want to be forgiven. Not this easily.

I start crying again. I’m so stupid.


This is all Smolder’s fault!

Who was it that convinced me to go into the caves because she just needed something to do? Who was it that made that dumb puppy dog face at me and persuaded me into making one of the worst decisions of my life? Who was it that landed me a private talk with Headmare Twilight, where she told me that there wasn’t even going to be detention because I’d been through enough? I don’t even get the one thing that I’d hate the most! How ridiculous is that? It’s like she was trying to tell me that I’m currently experiencing something worse than detention! How does that even cross her mind?

I start pacing. There aren’t any other patients in this ward. It’s just me and Smolder.


I hate her. I hate everything about her and I always have. She’s so unbelievably cocky about every single possible thing and she’s not even good at half of the things that she does! She does them with confidence and she shines like the freaking sun! She’s like Gallus but without any character flaws. She’s so…

I hate her. I hate her. She landed us here in this stupid hospital with its stupid beds and the way that it smells like new bandages. She steals and lies and she gossips like there’s no tomorrow at our tea parties. She also decided to be my friend, which is why the both of us are even in this situation. If she had just left me alone for all this time I wouldn’t even know her name and she wouldn’t be unconscious in a hospital after convincing me to sneak off to a cave we weren’t supposed to be sneaking off to. This is selfish of her. She’s selfish. She’s making me stay in this stupid smelly room and freak out because—

Because it’s my fault.

There aren’t any tears left for me to cry. I stop pacing and turn to Smolder.

It’s strange. When someone is sleeping or unconscious and you aren’t, it’s like you’re in two separate worlds. It’s the closest thing to being a ghost that I can think of.

I come closer to her, watching her breathe.

“I’m sorry,” I say. I drag myself back to the chair I’ve set beside her bed and I sit in it, and I close my eyes.


Confusion is sparkling water and too much lime juice. I smack my lips and open my eyes.

Smolder is awake. She’s looking at me, relaxed, like she isn’t in a hospital bed and it’s not my fault that she’s here. She’s looking at me like she just asked for a pen in class.

“Why are you crying? Where am I?”

I can’t speak. I can’t say anything. I’m trying but I can’t.

“I guess this is a hospital, huh?” she remarks, looking around at the room. She laughs softly. “Can’t believe I’m alive.”

“S-Smolder, I…” I sob.

“Hey,” she says. “C’mere.”

I shake my head.

“No? Why not?”

“It’s—it’s my fault,” I tell her, whipping a hoof against my chest.

That makes her laugh again, this time hard enough that she winces in pain halfway through. “I wish that was true, Celly. Then I could get you to do my homework for the rest of the semester. But the fault’s all mine here.”

“No!” I say.

“Yes,” she groans. “Now please, come here. I’m gonna hug you. Do you not want a hug?”

I do. I nearly pounce on her, but I remember her injuries at the last second. I move as fast as I can, given her state, and every second I’m without her embrace it’s like my muscles are on fire. Eventually I get close enough to hug her, and then I’m pressing my face against her warm, warm chest, making sure that I don’t get in the way of her wing or her leg. She wraps her arms around me and rubs my back, shushing me over and over until my crying calms down, and then while she’s saying something undoubtedly comforting and sweet I fall asleep.