Quiet Sunsets 3 (AiE, Celestia)

Oct 25th, 2013
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  1. >Before you went to bed
  2. >You found the note from two days ago
  3. >You read it again, now knowing who's quill composed it
  4. >The calligraphy was perfect, the lines evenly spaced and the font was ideally sized to utilize the entire sheet of paper
  5. >Not a single mistake in grammar or spelling, the page clean from any marks of erasure or mistake
  6. >Even where the words darkened from a fresh dip in the well, there wasn't a drop of misplaced ink
  7. >Yet the content itself was still what you'd expect from an Hearts and Hooves day note.
  8. >Elegant words and sentences to say something so simple
  9. >Either Celestia's millennia of letter writing has made her next to perfect at composition or...
  10. >You can't help but chuckle as you picture a frustrated Celestia at her desk
  11. >Crumbled parchment surrounding her hooves
  12. >Nightstand candle burnt down to the bottom
  13. >While she crumpled another piece of paper and tossed it away, due to a mistake or a misuse of a prose
  14. >How long did she work on this, you wonder?
  15. >How many times did she almost change her mind before sending Stonehoof out to you?
  16. >Did she watch you read it from her private terrace?
  17. >Could you even imagine her nervous? Or blushing like a schoolgirl?
  18. >She's always so composed and maybe even slightly aloof
  19. >It hurt your head to picture her any other way
  20. >Not to mention made you sleepier
  21. >You fold the letter and return it to your nightstand
  22. >Before you know it, you're asleep
  23. >The next day, you go about your morning routines
  24. >Just like every other day
  25. >Though Stonehoof was sporting a nice shiny medal of achievement
  26. >He looked so pleased with himself as he stood sentry, occasionally adjusting it so it reflected the most sunlight
  27. >Celestia must have pinned it on him herself
  28. >You knew it was partially a guilty conscience that lead to that medal, but you're sure he earned whatever he was told it was for
  29. >He seemed to think so and you saw no reason to tell him otherwise
  30. >Besides, like he would believe Princess Celestia felt guilty about using him to deliver a love note
  31. >Heck, you could hardly believe it
  32. >The rest of the day was spent thinking about this meeting of yours
  33. >It would be the third time you and her shared a quiet evening
  34. >But the first time you really knew the motivation behind it
  35. >What do you say? How do you act?
  36. >Do you talk to her like you would talk to a woman now?
  37. >Like a triggered explosive, your mind rapidly reminded you of every lame, creepy, and otherwise poor experience you've ever had with the women back home
  38. >Except with Celestia in the place of all of them
  39. >You get a chill at the thought
  40. >No, no, don't complicate this
  41. >That's why she was so...skittish
  42. >How many clueless ponies...or other species, must have thrown themselves at her during her thousands of years of...
  43. >Jesus, she's over a thousand years old!
  44. >And yet she said some things that...
  45. >And what if you don't...what if you misread a signal and...
  46. >You wipe some sweat from your brow and grip the wood of your spear a little tighter
  47. >You don't know how you were so sure of yourself last night but now you're a little frightened
  48. >You barely at when lunchtime came
  49. >And by the time the evening bells began to chime
  50. >You were seriously considering running to Twilight and asking her to send you home
  51. >Not that she knew how
  52. >But even a botched spell may be better than--
  53. >Wait, what are you honestly afraid of?
  54. >Get a grip, Anon!
  55. >You're just sitting down with her on a balcony, talking
  56. >It's not the end of the world
  57. >"Daydreaming again?"
  58. >Stonehoof is there to relieve you
  59. >Still displaying his shiny medal
  60. >"You're never going to get one of these if you're half asleep at post, Anon."
  61. >You nod in agreement, not wanting to argue with him
  62. >If only he knew the story behind that
  63. >That's for another day
  64. >You hurry to the west balcony
  65. >Stopping only at a restroom to wash your face and fix your uniform up
  66. >You took a little longer than you would have liked, by the time you got there the sun was well below the horizon
  67. >There were a few ponies there this time
  68. >Celestia hadn't closed it off to the public like she had last night
  69. >Your favorite bench is still free, so you take a seat
  70. >The sunset is pretty normal looking
  71. >Compared to the last two days
  72. >Which looked like masterpiece paintings by comparison
  73. >Today it looked manufactured, as if no real thought went into it
  74. >You look back to the entrance
  75. >Then back to the sky as it darkened more
  76. >No sign of the princess
  77. >You relax slightly, using the extra time to collect your thoughts
  78. >You get a little more time than you bargained for
  79. >You look back to the entrance when the sky is nothing but deep purples
  80. >And again when those colors faded to Luna's night
  81. >And one more time when her moon began to shine and the stars appeared brighter and brighter
  82. >It was not till the bells began to chime again, signaling an hour since your shift ended, that you realize
  83. >She's not coming
  84. >You sigh quietly, leaning back in your seat, looking from the city below to the marble below your feet
  85. >A small part of you is relieved
  86. >But those feelings are quickly overridden by disappointment and even a little sadness
  87. >It could have been one of a million things
  88. >Changelings, dragons, an angry griffon diplomat, parasprites, her sister scared of the vacuum again
  89. >The world doesn't stop for the Princess of the Sun
  90. >At least, that's what you hope went wrong
  91. >Something urgent and this rendezvous slipped her mind
  92. >That's all
  93. >Even if she did feel different she was far too courteous to stand you up
  94. >Right?
  95. >Your only answer is a gust of wind from the west
  96. >You rub your arms and suppress a shiver
  97. >It feels a lot colder than usual
  98. >Sighing again, you decide you've waited long enough and head back inside, your head hung a little low
  99. >Maybe you'll head to the pub and have a few
  100. >You push the doors open then shove your hands in your pockets to warm them up
  101. >Pony cider is pretty weak but you'll find a way to--
  102. >"Mr Anonymous?"
  103. >You look up
  104. >A pegasus guard is standing before you
  105. >He has a letter pinned to his helmet
  106. >"Message for you, sir"
  107. >He stands at attention, making no effrot to give you the letter
  108. >You eye him for a moment, then take the letter from his helmet
  109. >"Princess Celestia instructed me to deliver this to you here, sir"
  110. >You recognize the voice, even if he looks identical to every other guard
  111. "Thanks, Storm long have you been there?"
  112. >"Close to an hour, sir. Princess Celestia said to wait for you by the West Balcony Gate and deliver this letter to you. I was instructed not to read the message"
  113. >Yea, he was one of those kinds of guardponies
  114. >Celestia never told him to go onto the balcony and look for you
  115. >Just to wait by the door
  116. >So he did exactly that
  117. >While you sulked and froze outside
  118. >You had half a mind to go upside his head
  119. >But you were too busy reading the note
  120. >And feeling the color drain from your face
  122. >"Dearest Anon, I must respectfully request we forgo our usual meeting spot for a more formal venue. A meeting with the Griffon Kingdom took the entirety of the day and we were forced to skip lunch. I believe you also deserve a break from the questionable cuisine of your barracks as well. Dinner will be served in my private dining room at 7 o'clock. That should allow you enough time to change from your uniform to something a little more agreeable for dinner."
  124. >You don't finish the rest
  125. >7 o'clock
  126. >That was right now
  127. >Her dining room was about 10 flights of stairs an entire castle's length of space between right here and--
  128. >"Is everything alright, sir? You look absolutely--"
  129. >You stuff the letter in your pocket and bolt toward the stairs
  130. >Your legs couldn't move you fast enough
  131. >You were already late
  132. >How long would she sit there and wait for you?
  133. >As far as she's concerned you got the note an hour ago!
  134. >If this goes wrong for you, Storm Dancer is going to wake up with no feathers tomorrow
  135. >Your lungs were on fire
  136. >Your legs felt like lead
  137. >But you made it to the door of her dining room
  138. >The guards stood aside, expecting you
  139. >You hit the doors, shoving them open
  140. >You nearly fall headfirst into the chamber
  141. >But you keep your balance long enough to simply burst into the room
  142. >Only to bend over at the waist, panting
  143. >Holding your knees
  144. >Trying very hard to explain what happened
  145. "Didn't....note......guard....ran...sorry...late..."
  146. >You steady your breath enough to look up
  147. >There is a small table with two seats, candles, wine, and various plated vegetables and what smells like fried eggplant
  148. >One chair is empty
  149. >Celestia is in the other
  150. >She's wide eyed
  151. >A fork with a bit of salad floating near her mouth
  152. >Speechless
  153. >You're still panting too hard for complete sentences
  154. >You try again to explain between gasps that you didn't know she was waiting for you till right now
  155. >And that you didn't mean to be late
  156. >And no matter how much you insisted it wasn't your fault, that you were sorry
  157. >And hope she wasn't angry with you
  158. >She continued to look surprised but she placed her fork down at least and walked over
  159. >When she reaches you, she rubs your back with her hoof, to help your breathing
  160. >Then leans forward and says
  161. >"Anon, you could have told Storm Dancer and had him fly ahead of you. He can fly faster than you can run"
  162. >She begins to chuckle, trying her best not to burst into laughter
  163. >You do the same
  164. >Before you know it, you and Celestia are both laughing pretty hard
  165. >It hurt your chest but you didn't care
  166. >It was hard to say if you two were laughing at how ridiculously you entered the room
  167. >Or from a collective relief that one hadn't stood the other up
  168. >Either way, it felt really nice
  169. >When her laughter subsided
  170. >She looked guiltily to the table of food while you finished catching your breath
  171. >"I must apologize, Anon. I...well had I known you would be late I wouldn't have began without you"
  172. >You shake your head, assuring her its ok and you understood, offering your own apology
  173. >"And you're still in your uniform! If you'd like I could call my chamber mare and have her find a robe that may fit you"
  174. "I thought you liked me in my uniform?"
  175. >It had to be done
  176. >You felt a little bad but you weren't going to spend who knows how long dancing around the subject
  177. >Besides, no matter what happens from here on
  178. >It was worth catching her off guard
  179. >If only to see the slight blush creep on her surprised face
  180. >"Oh...well, yes I do prefer you that way. Cross Stich did some magnificent work, especially with the embroidery when you completed your training"
  181. >Right, of course, that's what you meant
  182. >You had to admire how quickly she compsed herself again
  183. >You begin to smooth and tuck in the parts that were discheveled from your little run here
  184. "It fits me perfectly, best pieve of clothing I ever wore"
  185. >No lies there
  186. >But the Princess was definately interested in more than the materials as her eyes followed your movements
  187. >"He was...looking for a challenge, you provided him much more than he bargained for. I'm sure you're hungry lets see what you like!"
  188. >She had already trotted back to the table
  189. >No matter, you can prod her about her note after a little food
  190. >She didn't think of an excuse to bail on dinner so, its a good start if there ever was
  191. >And the smells of sautede vegetables, fried eggplant, and some kind of tomato sauce were calling you over
  192. >"If this isn't to your liking, the chef assured me he would cook anything you asked for. Please don't feel shy about requesting something else"
  193. >You assure her the food looks delicious
  194. >She looked pleased and returned to her seat
  195. >You took your seat on the other side of the table and began to make yourself a plate
  196. >The food tasted as good as it looked, maybe even moreso
  197. >Food fit for a Princess, afterall
  198. >Along with the veggies you found freshly baked rolls, butter, some sort of queeche, and a pie that would put the marketplace to shame
  199. >You tried your best not to load your plate up more than she was, but the more you tasted the more you wanted
  200. >Her smile encouraged you to enjoy the meal anyhow
  201. >But after a few moments of silence, she began to talk to you again
  202. >"In retrospect, I should have picked a more creative messenger to deliver that note. Some of the newer guardponies can be a little bit too literal."
  203. >You shake your head
  204. "Don't worry about it, your majest--"
  205. >"Celestia. Please, no titles when those doors are closed. You're my guest, not my guardsman"
  206. >Your turn to be taken slightly by surprise
  207. >But you nod and continue
  208. "OK...Celestia, I've been in their shoes too..and I've seen a lot worse"
  209. >She chuckles and encourages you to elaborate
  210. >You tell some stories, leaving out names just in case she finds any of them a little too ridiculous
  211. >One incident involving a unicorn who spent an entire day searching for a phoenix down pillow
  212. >Another of two cadets trying very hard to guard the great clock's pendulum
  213. >Choice incidents involving one of her guest's cat
  214. >And finally one with you
  215. >Celestia leaned forward for this, likely surprised you'd tell one where you were the victim
  216. >Your Sergeant had done a very good job convincing you Luna only ate Dodo eggs, and brought it up just enough for you to believe it
  217. >Being from a foreign world you assumed they might have still existed here
  218. >Celestia laughed particularly hard when she learned Luna was not only in on it, but took great delight screaming at you when you couldn't find any, and had the gall to try and serve her chicken eggs instead
  219. >Dinner with Celestia continued like this, you mostly talking, her listening and laughing occasionally
  220. >Followed by a few moments of eating, but it never lasted long
  221. >She wanted you to keep talking to her
  222. >And when you told a particularly long story or simply carried on
  223. >She had the same warm, beautiful smile you've come to enjoy every evening
  224. >As if you were an old friend from her past
  225. >And this was a chance to catch up with lost time
  226. >But you were running out of things to say and desperately wanted to get back to eating
  227. "So...what happened with the griffons today? They must have been upset about something."
  228. >She chuckled, shaking her head and rubbing her forehead with a hoof
  229. >You only realize then she wasn't wearing her crown
  230. >"You know how they can get. Some piece of land a hundred years ago belonged to one of their great grandfathers and.."
  231. >She sighs, memories of the day's nonsense coming back to her
  232. >"None of them cared about it till a few frontier ponies settled there. Then all of a sudden its 'claim' this and 'birthright' that. They're like a child who sees his younger sibling playing with a forgotten toy."
  233. >You nod, finishing off another helping of food
  234. >"We reached an agreement about a hour before sunset. The entire day was lost over who had the right to pick apples from one particular tree in an orchard of hundreds."
  235. >She sighed and used her magic to begin cutting a slice of pie for herself
  236. >You've heard rumors of her love of cake and pie
  237. >Don't laugh if she proves them, Anon
  238. >Not like she'd shovel the thing down
  239. >But that was an awfully big slice considering how small the rest of her portions had been
  240. "At least they got to stay in their homes. I'm sure the ponies are very happy about that"
  241. >She nods as the slice lands in a serving dish and floats over to her
  242. >"Oh, where are my manners, would you like a piece? It's cherry"
  243. >You nod and her good spirits return as she cuts a piece and serves you
  244. >You would have found it amazing that the Princess of Equestria was serving you pie
  245. >And looking absolutely delighted to do so
  246. >But you didn't have time to think about that because the rumors were true
  247. >Now to be fair, the pie was delicious
  248. >Like, exactly the right amount of sugar and somehow still warm from the oven delicious
  249. >And the cherries might as well have fallen from the branch to the crust
  250. >But you weren't halfway done with your first slice
  251. >And she had stealthily cut and finished a second
  252. >Somehow managing to remain graceful the entire time
  253. >She offered you a second piece but you declined
  254. >This made her slightly disappointed
  255. >You having seconds must have been excuse to have a third piece
  256. >You failed your mission, Anon, and now pie will go uneaten
  257. >How could someone this regal and mystical be so cute in regard to a pastry?
  258. >You really were stuffed though, and you clean your mouth with a napkin and tell her so
  259. >Adding that you never thought in a million years you'd enjoy a dinner like this
  260. >She smiled brightly and took a napkin for herself, standing from her seat
  261. >"I'd like to go for a walk after a meal like that. Care to join me, Anon?"
  262. "Of course, Celestia."
  263. >She opens the doors to the dining room with her magic, a different set behind her
  264. >They lead down a hall to a pair of glass double doors
  265. >A balcony
  266. >Her private balcony
  267. >You felt a little more special at that moment
  268. >And somehow, she could tell
  269. >And the room seemed to warm with her quiet grin
  270. >She motions with her head for you to follow
  271. >You do her one better and walk right beside her
  272. "Have I been a good date, so far?"
  273. >You smirk when she looks away for a second
  274. >Hiding another blush, you could only assume
  275. >"You've been wonderful, Anon. It has been far too long since I've had a dinner that wasn't formal or interrupted or..."
  276. >She trails off at the last word but you made it out
  277. >Truthfully, even with the company of your colleagues in the barracks
  278. >You know what it was like to eat alone night after night
  279. >"I could become accustomed to more meals like this. I must confess, I haven't laughed like that in quite some time"
  280. >You nod and look forward when her balcony doors open
  281. >The cold wind of the night hits you and even Celestia's radiant warmth wasn't enough of a shield
  282. >You wrap your arms around yourself and try not to shiver
  283. >But when you see the view, you shiver alright, but not because of the cold
  284. >The view is breathtaking
  285. >The entire palace of Canterlot below you, lit up by lights and magic
  286. >With the city stretched below that
  287. >You walk a little further but notice there is no railing or glass
  288. >This was a balcony made for someone who could fly
  289. >You took a step back but still kept your eyes glued to the sky
  290. >The moon was a silver sliver in a sea of stars
  291. >They somehow were more brilliant here than even in the countryside
  292. >"There are a magical wards that keep the lights of the city from obstructing the stars"
  293. >She seemed to know what you were thinking
  294. >Or it must have been a common question for the lucky few who've been allowed here
  295. "Do you come here a lot? After a long day?"
  296. >You turn back to her
  297. >She's sitting, her wings slightly open
  298. >Her mane blowing softly
  299. >Her eyes on only you, as if the entirety of the world behind and above you was insignificant to you being here
  300. >"I do. Not nearly as much as I'd like. It can be a bit cold and.."
  301. >Again, she trails off when she gets to a word she doesn't like
  302. "Lonely?"
  303. >She nods quietly, looking away
  304. >You walk back over to her
  305. >She looks back to you
  306. >Despite the shift of the conversation, she still smiles, still keeps a sunny demeanor
  307. >You take a seat next to her
  308. >The floor is surprisingly warm, despite being exposed to the high altitude and the night
  309. >"This platform was a gift to me from a gifted unicorn from long ago. He said I should have a place where I could take refuge from 'the terrors of high society and free loading nobles'"
  310. >She chuckled at the memory
  311. >One of someone who must have been gone for centuries
  312. >"At the time I was grateful, the world was a very different place. The country was not as peaceful and serene as you have come to know it"
  313. >You nod, slipping a little closer to enjoy more of her warmth
  314. >"But times change. The country began to run itself, ponies naturally desire harmony so the squabbles lessened. Before long, the world was at peace. Even the dragons found our presence tolerable, more so when we found them more gems than they could ever eat"
  315. >"And like some sort of magic spell was cast, the world became quiet. My life became..very quiet"
  316. >She closes her eyes and it was her turn to slip a little closer
  317. >"For a time I rested. I enjoyed the quiet. Welcomed it. Told myself that it was my reward for centuries of hard work and painful sacrifices. And for a time I believed that. But...lately I had become more and more aware of how much I had forgotten how to live. Twilight Sparkle helped me realize just how much I missed company. But she grew up, as young fillies do, and I had to let her go. Then...."
  318. >She turned back to you
  319. >Her eyes were moist with what could only be tears
  320. >But they remained at bay, held in check by centuries of dignity and etiquette
  321. >Through all her soul searching, she was still the glowing vision of a benevolent ruler of a perfect kingdom
  322. >You began to wonder if she even remembered how to cry
  323. >"Then you appeared, Anon"
  324. "Me?"
  325. >You had a feeling you tied in here somewhere
  326. >But you were sure if anything was going to make her feel like she needed another in her life it would be Princess Cadence's wedding
  327. >Not the day you showed fact--
  328. >"Anon, refresh my memory. When you arrived in Canterlot, what did you say to me when I asked you to calm down?"
  329. "Princess, I was scared you can't possibly--"
  330. >"Please, for old times sake. It amused me then, and the mood is somber, we could use a little enjoyment."
  331. >She smiled and nudged your back with one of her wings
  332. "I....told you...."
  333. >You clear your throat
  334. "That I wasn't going to listen to a....*ahem* giant talking horse"
  335. >She chuckled and gave you another prod with her wing
  336. >"I believe there were a few more colorful words in that sentence, but yes, Commander Highwind nearly fainted"
  337. >You fidget and look around nervously, the memory a bit too fresh considering where you were now
  338. >She keeps her wing on your back, giving it a reassuring rub
  339. >That does the trick and your nerves fade away
  340. >She's so warm and soft you can't help but lean a little closer to her body
  341. >She doesn't protest, if anything her wing pulls you into her
  342. >A sigh escapes her, a much happier one than the last few
  343. >How long has she wanted to do this, you wonder
  344. >"Nobody has spoken to me like that in....I cannot even remember. Even Discord at his absolute worst was never You had no idea who I was and to you I was just another strange creature. When you finally calmed down, we talked till for the entire day and into the night. About your life, my life, about the worlds we lived on and the lives we lived. At first I thought that was to help you come to terms with what happened but...deep down somewhere it was for me too"
  345. >Her wing tightened its caress around your body
  346. >You lean forward and wrap your arms around her body
  347. >Pulling her into a tender hug
  348. >You can feel her heart racing beneath her soft fur
  349. >"It had been so long since I've had someone who spoke to me as an equal. A true equal, not a rival or an enemy. You spoke to me as if I was a common mare asking how your day had been."
  350. >You nod against her fur, not wanting to interrupt her
  351. >She returns the affection with a light nuzzle of your head
  352. >"I love listening to you. You're not afraid. Even Twilight, as smart as she is, still had an air of reverence about her I could never get past. But you, you met me as an equal first. We spoke, we laughed, we even bickered as the night dragged on. And you never once skipped a chance to tell me how absurd this all was to you."
  353. >The last bit was followed by a weak giggle as her wing gave you another squeeze
  354. >"As time flowed on, you began to realize who I really was. What I meant to all these ponies. When you asked to join the guard I was heartbroken, I worried you saw me as they did. But as time went on, when I passed you in the halls or asked you how your training was progressing, you spoke to me the same as you always have."
  355. >It was your turn to chuckle
  356. >Your lax attitude when it came to talking to Princess Celestia earned you more than one run around the barracks
  357. >You didn't want to make her feel guilty so you kept that to yourself
  358. >"So I watched, and waited....till lonely night after lonely night passed and I couldn't wait any longer. I had to know if you were ready to invite another into your heart. So I sent you that note. I'm ashamed of myself for being so timid...but I couldn't think of a better way."
  359. "You could have asked me..."
  360. >She shook her head
  361. >"I wouldn't know if it was your heart or your uniform saying yes. I had to know your heart was open for something more than devotion to the Princess you took an oath to serve. That it was just as I felt, just a desire not to be lonely anymore.."
  362. >You see her napkin from early levitate above you, followed by a very quiet sniffle
  363. >Despite her best efforts, a tear or two falls to the marble below
  364. >But, as always, her emotion passes as quickly as it arrived
  365. >"Thank you for listening means far more than I could ever express with words or even actions."
  366. >She gives you another squeeze with her wing and you look up
  367. >She's smiling, her eyes moist but bright as always
  368. >Though you can see a little speck of hope glinting against the light of the stars
  369. "Your welcome, Celestia. I enjoy spending time with you. You make me feel like this place can actually be home. Even now, even after I've been here as long as I have. When I'm with you, that's the only time I really I don't want to leave."
  370. >Her smile brightens and her wing rubs your back some more
  371. >You give her another squeeze
  372. >There was more you wanted to say and you could tell she felt the same
  373. >But there would be time for that another day
  374. >Right now, there was the entire night ahead of you.
  375. >"I...may have taken the liberty of having your duty assignments for tomorrow cancelled. It would be unfair of me to invite you to a private audience...only to expect you at your post at sunrise."
  376. >You nod and laugh a little
  377. >She thinks of everything
  378. >"Luna can handle my duties in the it punishment for her little stunt with the eggs"
  379. >She really thinks of everything
  380. "So...what would you like to do then?"
  381. >She looks back to the doors
  382. >"Tell you what, I'll go fetch that cherry pie while you think of something fun to talk about. Anything you'd like, so long as you do one thing"
  383. >You tilt your head, wondering what it was.
  384. >"Please, don't let it get too quiet"
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