• Published 30th Apr 2020
  • 2,778 Views, 52 Comments

Does she know— - semillon



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

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that I didn't mean anything I just said?

“How does griffon romance work?” I ask.

The Annual Hearts and Hooves dance is in full swing all around us. Pink lights and students in red dresses swirl across the floor. Me and Gallus are sitting at a table off to the side. None of our other friends are around—they’ve gone to Hayburger to fetch food so we can all head to our wing of the dorms and play O&O.

Gallus blows a raspberry.

“Come on!” I prod him with a hoof. I wanted to wear a dress tonight, but we all agreed not to dress formally, so I didn’t. It turned out that Gallus thought that that agreement was a joke. He showed up in a baby blue suit and tie that nearly melt into his feathers.

He scratches his neck under his collar. “Why does it matter?”

“The exchange of cultural heritage can lead to stronger friendship,” I say. “According to—”

“Twilight’s textbook on interspecies friendships, yes, I’ve read it too, smartypants.” He boops me with a claw.

I respond by doing a perfect impression of an Ursa Major growling.

“Fine!” Gallus sighs, booping me again. “Just stop that.”

“Aye aye, Cap’n.” I wink and salute at him.

“Stop being cute and listen up, because I’m not going to explain this again,” he says. I sit a little straighter. The band up front changes from a slow love song into something more fitting for a fast-paced salsa. “Griffons aren’t very complicated creatures. I’m sure you’ve already figured that out. We look at romance as something stupid and pointless. The point of two creatures getting together for a reason other than money is sex. Every spring, we all end up shedding our fluffy winter coats—don’t even think about mine unless you want me to stop talking—and we end up looking pretty crisp and clean. That’s usually the best time to try and find someone to hook up with for the rest of the summer. Once that’s done and winter comes again, it’s everygriff for themselves until Blue Moon Fest.”

“That’s lame,” I tease.

“Tell me about it. I figure changelings are the same sorta deal, given the many years you spent under an evil queen who only looked at love and friendship as sources of food.”

“That’s a pretty logical conclusion,” I say, looking on at the crowd of couples dancing energetically. “And it used to be accurate. We used to be paired off by Chrysalis’s supervisors. Here’s your partner! And that’s it. That was your partner for life, and there wasn’t supposed to be any love involved whatsoever.

“When my mother and my father were paired, they truly found that they loved each other, but they concealed their feelings for so long, pretending that any passion that could be found in their relationship was just biology, and it was all just for the sake of adding more drones to serve the glory of the hive.

“But not anymore. I don’t think I’ve ever talked about this with anyone but Smolder, but a few weeks after...after we all changed, we had about a month of weddings. Changelings like my mother and father finally found that they didn’t have to pretend anymore, that they could love each other and that it was a good thing. Others could finally confess their feelings; males to males and females to females, utility be damned; nursery drones talking protector drones for the first time and immediately finding their perfect matches where they would have been prevented by their jobs from ever meeting in the first place...when love became more than food, it became something so much more precious. It was a beautiful time for the hive. It still is.”

I sigh in delight, and Gallus chuckles beside me.

“What?” I ask. “Too gushy?”

“Nah.” He waves a claw my way. “I just think it’s funny when you talk about a new change in your hive that’s for the better. Your wings get all twitchy.”

I blush, and glance back at my elytra. “Sorry.”

“Don’t be,” he says, leaning back in his seat. “Man, I hope the others come back soon. I’m hungry.”

“I’m not,” I say. To punctuate that statement, I open up my empathic senses and get a good taste of the dance-goers. Strawberry ice cream and creme de cassis practically flood my mouth. I have to stop feeding within a few seconds.

“Lucky bug.” Gallus snorts.

We’re quiet for a moment. Then he speaks again: “I’ve seen Sandbar giving Yona looks.”

Pining. Tastes piney. I try not to make a face. “I’ve noticed, too.”

Another moment passes. This time, I feel a little strangled by the quiet.

“Do you ever feel lonely?” I ask.

“Not really,” he says. He’s not really lying, either, but that’s because he’s telling the truth about something I didn’t ask about. “I’ve got you guys, don’t I? If it were only me at this school I feel like I’d hate it.”

“I meant romantically.”

“I know.” He huffs. “I don’t understand why you’re so nosey about my love life, anyway.”

A textbook quote would be perfect in this situation! I scoot my chair closer to him, stealing his full attention away from the dance. “Sharing something that you’re going through alone with someone, even if they can’t really understand what it’s like, can help you feel less alone.”

Gallus leans forward. Only now do I smell his cologne. Bright, masculine freshness combines with sophistication and nonchalance to create a fresh, yet deep and mysterious scent with notes of cardamom, cedar, and coumarin. It’s very...attractive.

I don’t have time to notice anything else about him before his beak touches my lips and I close my eyes and we both sink into a kiss. It’s short and fleeting, and the noise that the parting of our mouths makes only spurs us into kissing again. I feel an arm wrap around me, stroking my elytra gently.

An anxious moan leaves me. My breath comes out of my nose ragged. I open my mouth slightly and our tongues meet and we kiss again. I hear wisps of yearning in his voice, muffled by me, and then we finally pull away from each other, panting.

His face is flushed. I know that mine is, as well. But there’s not a single thing that just happened that felt good to me. I feel as if beetles are crawling underneath my chitin, and I know that he feels the same because all I can taste right now is the ash of regret.

“Nothing about that was good,” he says.

“Agreed.”

“It was really weird.”

“I feel a little dirty.”

He nods in agreement. “We should probably shower before the others show up.”

“Like in separate stalls, right?”

“Yes. Obviously.”

Quiet passes over us. Then we start giggling. The tension that was wound has now released.

“I still, uh, love you,” he says, his emotional confusion still clear, despite the smile now on his face . “But like, like a sister.”

I nod. He’s not lying. Neither will I. “I think of you as a brother too.”

“Let’s not talk about this ever again.”

I nod again. “Yeah.”

The rest of the night goes fine. There’s nothing weird between me and Gallus. A simple mistake is all that happened. Not even that. It was an exploration into something new that we quickly decided wasn’t going to work.

But something builds in the back of my mind. I don’t know what, and I don’t know how I know it’s there, but when I go to sleep at the end of the night all I feel is...strange.

♥♥♥

The next day, once classes are all done for the day, I do what I usually do: go back to my room to get started on my homework and hopefully I’ll have enough time to get something done before one of my friends shows up to drag me away from my studies.

When I open the door I find Smolder sitting cross legged on top of my desk, rolling a white rubber ball from side to side in front of her. Her eyes brighten up when she sees me, kind of like one of Professor Fluttershy’s animals seeing her after being crated for a while.

“Hey!” Smolder chirps, waving at me with a claw.

The word feels like an attack on my senses, but there’s nothing wrong with her emotions. I stiffen up. I feel sick all of a sudden.

“You okay?” Smolder asks, lowering her claw and fixing me with a look of concern.

“F-Fine,” I say automatically. Why did I lie? I walk to the rug in front of my bed, throw my saddlebags off and lie belly down on the floor, not facing towards her but not facing away, either. My body’s working on overdrive to not let her...not let her…

What am I doing?

“I waited for you after Honesty but you went dashing off,” Smolder says, now examining her ball. “Something wrong?”

“I just needed to use the washroom really badly.”

“Hmm.” She clicks her tongue. “Any plans for the rest of the day? I’ve really been craving a gem-crusted cupcake for the last few. I don’t think I have homework, and you probably don’t either, so do you wanna go to Sugarcube Corner with me?”

“No,” I say. After a moment, I realize that my tone of voice was hard. I clear my throat and look at her apologetically. “I mean, sorry. I just really want to get ahead of Professor Rainbow Dash’s new unit on epic feats of loyalty.”

Smolder squints at me for a second. “You never study for Professor RD’s classes.”

“I thought I’d switch it up a little.”

Smolder holds her suspicious look, but then backs off with a shrug. “Makes sense. I’m gonna go find Yona.”

I stare at the wall as she hops off of my desk and closes the door behind her.

What is wrong with me? I have zero reason to be acting weird about this and yet...I really have no idea. I even talked to Gallus completely normally earlier this morning! Is that what this is about? But why would this be about me and Gallus kissing? That had nothing to do with Smolder. What is this? Why am I being so weird?

It’s just—it’s just that looking at Smolder just now made me feel so filthy.

My bedroom door swings back open.

Smolder steps in and closes it behind her unceremoniously. She crosses her arms, which somehow spurs me into standing up to face her. My face is flushed. Hers is angry.

“You’re being weird,” she says. Her voice is terse.

“What do you mean?” I ask.

“Drop the act, Celly.” Her eyes soften. “What’s up?”

“Nothing’s up!” I assert. I wouldn’t even know what to tell her if I was being honest!

“Don’t lie to me,” Smolder growls. “It’s cool sometimes but it’s really getting on my nerves right now.”

“I’m not!”

“Did you forget I know your tell?”

I really don’t appreciate her tone of voice. Talking to me like an animal or something. “I don’t have a tell.” My voice lowers. “You think I do.”

“Well if you don’t want to tell me then fine,” Smolder says, baring her fangs at me with that last word. The anger coming off of her is building, boiling like water. If I do any more to make her angry then it won’t feel very good for either of us.

The problem is that, in this moment, I don’t care. “Fine,” I spit.

Her eyes widen slightly. “So there is something that you’re not telling me.”

“Yes! Why does that matter? I don’t have to tell you anything that I don’t want to, Smolder!”

Smolder scoffs. “Yeah, but—”

“But what?” I interrupt.

She rolls her eyes. “You tell me everything. If you have something that you’re not telling me then it must be something serious.”

My indignance is tangible. I feel it swirling in my chest. “Maybe I don’t tell you everything.”

A harsh, raspy laugh. “That’s not fair, is it, Celly? I tell you everything! That’s not exactly a fair trade, am I right?”

“Oh, I’m sorry,” I say. “I didn’t realize that we were doing business at the market.”

“We’re not!” she retorts. “You’re being weird!”

“That’s my right!”

“Sure but why won’t you tell me?”

“Because I don’t want to and that’s the only reason that should matter!” I yell. Or maybe I’ve been yelling. We’re definitely a lot louder than when we started. I don’t remember when the volume became raised.

“No.” Smolder shakes her head. “No! I don’t buy it. You tell me literally everything that comes up.”

“I don’t. Maybe we’re not as close as you think we are.” I look away from her.

I nearly vomit as my mouth floods with a terrible, bitter taste.

“I don’t think we’re close!” Smolder screams.

I cough and gag, stepping away from her before I yell back. “Good!”

Smolder’s eyes narrow. “I don’t even fucking like you, dude. I only tolerate you because you’re in the group.”

And my heart shatters as my empathic senses pick up on something familiar, and something new all at once. I’d know the taste of hate anywhere. It’s not worth describing to anyone. I’ve never had it directed towards me—towards me specifically and not a vague, general hate towards my race, that is.

I don’t let it show. I jab a hoof at my door. “Get out.”

“Gladly,” Smolder says quietly. She turns and walks towards it, but once she’s under the frame she freezes. She turns back to me. I open my mouth—

Smolder breaths a loud, roaring stream of fire at the stone ceiling. The heat is unbearable. I know for sure that if I had skin it’d be melting. The light forces me to close my eyes and skitter away until I hit the wall, and then I hold myself close to it until the fire stops.

When the light fades from my eyes, Smolder is gone.

♥♥♥

Gallus finds me sobbing on my floor not long after that. He doesn’t say a word. He just sits by me and he lays a wing over my back, and when the worst of it is done I find myself holding onto him, burying my face into his neck.

“Friendship is hard sometimes,” he says. I’m inclined to agree.

I don’t need to say a word for him to know that once I’ve calmed down enough, I’m going to need Sandbar and Silverstream. He fetches them once that exact thing happens, when I’m less sobbing and more staring at the floor in tears.

Sandbar and Silverstream and Gallus surround me a few minutes later. I revel in the warmth of them. I don’t remember their words, but they’re all sweet, and I’m eventually relaxed enough to fall asleep with Sandbar on one side, Silverstream on the other, and Gallus laying on his side in front of me, a wing outstretched that I use as a pillow.

When I wake next, it’s the early morning. Sometime around two o’ clock. No one has stayed with me. At first I’m hurt, but then I remember that the three of them are going on a fieldtrip with Professor Pinkie to her rock farm, and they didn’t have much choice in the matter. I find a letter on my desk, but I don’t open it. It probably explains exactly what I just theorized.

I can’t get back to sleep after half an hour of trying. I end up in front of my mirror, staring at myself, or at least what little I can see of myself in the dark. The only light covering me is the soft light of my desk lantern.

I change. Pony form. Yak. Griffon. Dragon, but only for a second. All of my faces are sad.

I try and smile, but I can’t hold it. A failure of a changeling, I am. I keep changing. Abyssinian. Diamond dog. Alicorn.

Wingbeats in the hall stop me as I’m about to turn into the saddest draconequus in the world. I see my face tighten with shock. I’d know the sound of Smolder flying anywhere. The way that she flies is urgent and full of stubborn passion. It’s something that I’ve never really realized until now.

The wingbeats crawl down the hall, moving quickly. They stop right in front of my door.

I hear her take a breath. Or maybe that’s me. Then I hear her land.

The door opens, and in the mirror I watch her step into my room.

Neither of us say a thing.

“I kinda kissed Silverstream last night in the Hayburger parking lot,” she says.

My elytra open up and my wings buzz angrily, but the calm sadness in my expression remains constant. I’m really, really bothered by that. I don’t know why. I don’t want to know why. I don’t want to think about that image for longer than I have to.

“I don’t see what that has to do with anything,” I tell her.

“It’s why I was acting weird,” she explains. “I don’t know why it was making me act weird. We didn’t do anything else! I—I don’t know why I’m telling this to you. We sort of just decided to be friends like, immediately after. I just...wanted to kiss someone last night.”

“It was Hearts and Hooves Day,” I offer.

“Yeah.”

My gaze strays from her reflection over to mine. “I kissed Gallus. The same kind of result happened.”

My peripherals see her eyes widen. “Oh.”

I taste her emotions—sad, sympathetic, relieved. And then I stop frowning, because now there’s something new in the air between us that I can’t quite explain or even talk about yet, but it doesn’t make me sad. The reasons for me to be sad are suddenly gone. A weight’s been lifted from me.

“I’m sorry,” she says. Her voice has gone from sharp rocks to honey.

I whine and close my eyes. “I’m sorry too.”

“Don’t cry,” Smolder whispers, flying to me, sitting at my side.

I feel her petting my head. I open my eyes to see it, and I see her smile as she looks at me. I taste our friendship and her affection and it’s breathtaking. I don’t say anything out of fear of ruining the moment.

When the moment passes she whispers again. “Can you change into Twilight?”

“Why?” I ask.

“Just wondering.”

“Yes.”

“What about Spike?”

“Him, too.”

“And my brother? I have a really great idea for a prank.”

“I’ll need a picture.”

“I’ll be back with one!” she chirps, dashing away, but not before she stops just before my door and we meet each other’s gazes in the mirror again.

Smolder smiles. She looks beautiful. She always does.

By the time the door closes, I know something important.