Merely a Mare, Final Interlude: Love

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Literature Text

"Well. Here I am again, and there you still are." Heavens Sparkle said. He had never heard his own voice sound so weary. His mouth twisted in distaste. Still, it was better than his old fire and bite, more justified at the very least. He leaned forward, leaning the tip of his horn against the black marble obelisk before him and releasing a long, slow breath. He stood in a place of rest, but such repose was not for him. He couldn't bring himself to cast off his burdens so easily. Life was a more fitting punishment.

A thick curtain of gray fog hid the seemingly endless field of graves that surrounded the alicorn. It did not matter; he had never paid the rest of the cemetery much attention. That much, at least, had not changed since the night before. The stallion only had eyes for the stone front of him, and for the gilding upon it. He had only ever had eyes for her... or so he hoped.

That too may have been a lie, but Heavens didn't think so.

"Every day, for thousands of years. I don't know what I expect. It's not like you're going to come out to have a conversation." He sighed. "Every day. How long has it been since I said I was sorry? How long ago did I decide to forget? Who was I, when you were still alive?"

Heavens Sparkle reached out a hoof, and traced the the gleaming stem of the inlaid rose that marked the grave. Her cutie mark was immortalized in gold; it was only fitting. "Would you still be able to love me, as I am today? Could you ignore my scars? Would you forgive me for what I did? Would you want bury it all, to forget, the way I did?"

The stallion laughed, a bark of bitterness and self-derision. "If you were here, there would be nothing to forgive! I'm not making any sense, am I?" His conciliatory smile had no impact on the stone.

"I suppose you're surprised, if you have any capacity for it. What happened to the angry ranting? The swearing of vengeance and eternal hatred?" Heavens fell to his haunches and rubbed the back of his head with a hoof. "I don't suppose I could convince you that I got tired of it? No? It's the truth, believe it or not, even if it's not the whole truth. I was tired of it, but I had been so tired for so long that I just didn't realize it anymore. Admittedly, that doesn't explain this," he said as he looked over his shoulder, taking in the sight of the five pointed star on his flank. It was alien to him, but still somehow familiar, like something glimpsed long ago, in a half-forgotten dream. "Does it?

"I'll tell you all about it... eventually. When I'm ready. It's not like we don't have the time, is it, my love?" Heavens sighed. He looked around and took in the sight of a world that seemed to fade into a grey obscurity a few hoofsteps away. For once, his perception of space matched his perception of time. The thought amused him, and his lips curled upward.

The smile was sickly. It faded almost as soon as it appeared.

"I've been reading a bit of what I wrote before I... well... you know. Or rather, I know. Now. It's a journal. I was so happy, then. You're in it. Well, of course you're in it." The stallion closed his eyes and swallowed the lump in his throat. "I'm babbling. You're just so beautiful, even there on the page, and when I'm reading, it feels like I can almost see you out of the corner of my eye, smiling or laughing or just standing beside me. I can't remember any of it, but it feels so familiar, like I could almost reach out and touch you." He extended a hoof, and felt it press against cold, unyielding stone. "But I can't. I never will, and it hurts to read about when I could. To read about when we were together. When we were happy. It hurts, but it's a good hurt. A cleansing hurt, like a tension that's built for so long and is finally, finally breaking. A more merciful pain than I deserve, to be sure."

He clenched his eyes, trying to call forth a vision of the mare he loved. He wracked his memory  for any scrap or fragment of a broken image, but came up short. All that he could see was a golden rose on a black stone obelisk, a grave where a mare should have been.

"I miss you," he breathed.

Long minutes passed before Heavens Sparkle spoke again.

"What else is there to say?" He tapped his chin with a hoof. "I suppose I can bore you with shop talk for a bit. There's nothing new, really, though I've gotten a bit of inspiration for a new project. I think it might be similar to some of my early experiments, but I can't be sure; a fire destroyed all my notes from that era at some point. I wonder if that was why I invented that fireproofing charm."

The stallion snorted. "I'm just putting it off, aren't I?" He sighed. "I don't know why I'm nervous. Maybe when you do something every day for as long as you can remember, and centuries more besides, even the small details become set in place. They become important, hard to change, even if change is an improvement. Yellow roses to match your mane, every day. I hope you liked them, even if you aren't going to be getting any more."

Heavens Sparkle shot his most winning smile at the stone. It slipped as he remembered that the anger he was trying to defer could never have come. "No more flowers, you may ask? How can this be? Don't be so quick to jump to conclusions, my love. I never said that. No more yellow roses, certainly. You see, my old journal reminded me of something I had forgotten long, long ago. Maybe even before...," he trailed off and was silent for a few moments.

"I am referring, of course," he continued with forced enthusiasm, "to your favorite color! All these years, I've been giving you flowers of the wrong hue. I don't know how I failed to guess it before." He glanced at his own coat and stretched a scarlet wing, watching it unfurl. "It does explain why you fell for somepony like me," he joked.

He levitated the bouquet of flowers he'd left at the base of the stone the previous morning. With a crimson flash, they disappeared. "Things are different now. Out with the old, in with the new. Even if it hurts. Even these beauties have their thorns, after all." He wove a bit of magic and a new bouquet appeared in front of him, twelve roses as red as blood. He laid it at the base of his mate's gravestone.

"There. Roses of your favorite color. Much more fitting. At least some good has come of this. I'll get out of your mane. I've got a lot more reading to do, after all. Maybe even some research." He smiled, even though he didn't feel like smiling.

"One last thing, before I go. I'll say it now, and I'll say it again. I'll say it every day for the rest of eternity, if I live that long. I'm sorry, Golden Rose. I'm so sorry."

With that, he disappeared.

* * *

Luna levitated a pebble, studying it through the aura of her magic. The small, lumpy, irregular stone was a uniform and uninteresting grey; the royal gardens had countless paths and beds full of functionally identical bits of rock, all entirely unsuitable for her purposes.

The alicorn minded little. She didn't care about what the pebbles were. It was the things she could do with them that truly mattered. There was destiny in this rock, as there had been destiny in so many lifeless rocks before. She balanced it on a hoof, and set it spinning with a burst of magic, turning the dull mass into a grey blur. She channeled energy into it, and the pebble began to glow red, then orange. When waves of heat radiated from the now brilliantly glowing blur, it began to distort. The stone bulged around its axis, slowly but surely transforming into a smooth, flat disk. When the shape satisfied Luna, she stopped it with a flash from her horn, and it came to a rest on her hoof. The glow stopped and the shimmer in the air disappeared as she cooled her work. She smiled; it was just about perfect.

The princess raised her hoof to her mouth and blew a gentle stream of air and magic onto the pebble. Its surface changed slowly from dull grey to brilliant green. She nodded to herself; it was ready.

Luna raised her hoof to her eye and squinted as she looked past the stone, to the opposite shore of the pond in front of her. Well, it might have been a bit big to call a pond, but it was certainly too small to call a lake. She had never been too clear on when a body of water stopped being one and started being the other.

The mare blinked and shook her head, returning her focus to the pebble and what lay beyond. She took aim again, and with a flash of magic she propelled it toward the other shore.

The stone danced across the surface of the water, impacting with a splash at regular intervals before landing on the opposite shore among a pile of other skipping stones. Luna grinned; she was getting better.

"Nice shot," Celestia said from her place behind her sister.

The smaller alicorn smiled, but did not turn to face the other mare as she replied, "Hello sister. I am glad you could join me. No court today?"

Celestia snorted. "A lunch break, actually," she replied.

Luna could hear the grin in her sister's words. The other mare's mirth was infectious, and it crept into her own speech as she asked, "Do they know that you don't need to eat?"

"What they don't know," Celestia whispered, "won't hurt them."

"I suppose," the other princess replied with a laugh, "but I was enjoying myself before you interrupted. You could have waited until the evening."

"And let you ruin all the good stones? I think not."

A large black bird landed on a nearby branch, knocking loose a shower of leaves and catching the sisters' attention. The beast's oily black feathers and red prune of a wrinkled head did little to recommend its appearance.  As Luna studied it, the avian began to vibrate, and a loud buzzing emanated from it. She frowned up at it, somewhat concerned.

"Don't worry, little sister. You'll get used to it," Celestia said.

"It seems that I will have to," Luna agreed, looking over her shoulder at the other mare. "In any case, what brings you out to the garden on this fine day?"

"I could say," the princess of the day answered as her lips curled into a half-smile, "that I'm just out to enjoy the sunshine, but the true answer is 'curiosity.'"


Celestia nodded. "So who is it?"

Luna's brow furrowed in confusion. "Who's who?"

"Your..." The white alicorn snickered. "special somepony?"

The other mare tilted her head. "What do you mean?"

"There's no point to playing coy, dear Luna. I can tell by your mane and tail," Celestia said. She continued in a whisper, "The same thing happened to me."

"So this..." Luna gestured to her newly colored mane, which rippled in a wind that wasn't there. "Means something?"

"Oh my," Celestia said, covering her grin with a hoof, "You don't know, do you? That's adorable."

"Sister!" Luna stomped a hoof into the grass as she insisted, "I am not 'adorable'"

"Whatever you say," Celestia replied, her voice transparently insincere.

The dark mare rolled her eyes. "Will you at least tell me what you're talking about?"

"Well," the other princess replied, drawing the word out, "There's a pony that you've been meeting, talking to, laughing with. A pony whose company you very much enjoy. A pony that you feel a special connection with. When they're gone, you feel like something is missing, and when you're with them, you feel complete. They bring you more joy than you ever thought a pony could." She lowered her voice as she continued, "Most importantly, you know exactly what pony I'm talking about, do you not?"

Luna swallowed. For a moment, she had been sure that she could taste apples. "Perhaps. What of it?"

"Dear sister, you...," Celestia paused for a moment, allowing her self-satisfied smile to grow with the tension, "are in love."

The other alicorn gaped at her sister. "Love? What do you mean, 'love'?"

"Exactly what I said. Love. The kind of love that two ponies who raise foals together feel. Love that inspires poems and launches ships. Romantic love, Luna."

"But we... they...," Luna stammered, "I didn't think that it was possible for us. Romance is theirs alone. We are not ponies."

Celestia walked forward, stopping just shy of the water's edge. She looked down, and a regal image on the calm surface stared back up at her. "I used to think that too, sister. I would have agreed that we are different from them, above them, but I relied too much on inconsequential measures." The princess paused and reached out a hoof, brushing it across the surface. Ripples and waves banished Celestia's reflection, and she turned away from the water before the dancing fragments of color could resolve themselves once more. "four hooves, two ears, haunches and withers, mane and tail, blood and biology. These things do not a pony make. The essential characteristic of ponykind is not a part of their bodies but a quality of their hearts. The feelings one pony has for another, the pain of loss, the joy of togetherness, those are what matter in their lives, and in our lives too." She paused, and a fond smile spread slowly across her face as her gaze grew distant. "Love, Luna. Love makes them what they are. I see that you feel love; I too have felt it. We are not something different from them, separate and apart. We are mares, sister. Love makes us so."

"So... you're saying I love Applejack?" Luna's eyes widened as the name left her lips.

"Oh?" Celestia asked with a knowing smirk, "Applejack is the one? She must be; you can remember her name. Very interesting. I wouldn't have expected you to go for the muscular type, but to each her own."

The princess of the night felt her jaw drop. She blinked at her sister for a moment before mustering a stammered reply. "That is not a factor in my opinion of Applejack." Her ears folded back. "And could you please refrain from telling anypony about this? This matter requires... consideration." She studied the ground intently, hoping fervently that the heat in her cheeks would dissipate if she ignored it.

Luna felt the reassuring touch of a hoof on her shoulder as Celestia spoke warmly,  "Sister, I would not be at all surprised if she already knew." The princess paused, and a wry twist distorted her grin. "Though if she returns your feelings, I've no idea what she sees in you," Celestia joked.

The dark mare snorted. "You've learned much of wit in the last thousand years." She grinned. "Took you long enough."

The sisters fell silent. A gust of wind rustled the trees and the buzzard flew off with an offended squawk.

"You seem much closer to your current personal student than you were with any in the past," Luna said, her conversational tone quite transparently forced.

Her sister nodded. "That is true."

"Just how close are you?" the dark mare asked.

"I thought that would be painfully obvious by now, sister." Celestia paused, then continued in a lower tone, "I'll admit that I love her, and I know that she feels the same of me."

Luna tilted her head. "Then why is she in Ponyville and not here, with you?"

Celestia sighed. "Because it is better for her. She deserves to live her own life, become her own mare. She will find her way back here, once she has learned the lessons that Ponyville has to teach. We will have time enough together." She smiled, her tone brightening. "Until then, there are always letters. And the occasional visit, of course."

"Of course," Luna replied. She hesitated a moment before adding, "What about your other student?"

"He got what he needed. He will move past his anger, with time. If I know him, he'll be back to his old research before we know it.," Celestia said, and added with a decisive nod, "And I do know him."

Luna frowned up at the other alicorn. "How much of this did you foresee, sister? How much did you plan?"

Celestia's gaze grew distant as she looked away from her sister. "Enough of it, Luna. Enough." Her horn flashed. "Now I must return to court. I hope you enjoy finishing your mural." With a flap of her wings, she took off.

Luna stared across the lake, to where Celestia had rearranged the unordered pile of red and green stones into an outline of three apples, laid out on the grass. She smiled, levitated a fresh pebble, and set to work.

* * *

As Luna relaxed into the rough comfort of the grass beneath her back, the first star appeared in the night sky.

"Well how's that for timing?" Applejack said, "Moon ain't even over the horizon yet and we've already got somethin' ta gaze at. Leastways, we do if stargazin' involves gazin'. I can never tell with you, Luna." She frowned. "Come to think of it, not with anypony that's got a horn. Y'all make things so much more complicated than they oughta be. What were we talkin' about, again?"

The alicorn laughed as she looked over at the pony lying beside her. The other mare's questioning gaze only increased her amusement. "Gazing is pretty much all there is to it," she assured Applejack.

The farmer snorted. "I still don't know if I'm gonna enjoy this. I don't think I'd be exaggeratin' to say I've spent my whole life lookin' at things. Doesn't seem like stargazin' is gonna be much of a challenge."

"Don't speak too soon, Applejack," the alicorn said, "In an hour or so, you'll have a lot more to gaze at."

A few seconds passed in silence.

"Well, I'm bored." the earth pony sighed. "Stars have names, right? What's that first one called?" She pointed a hoof at the light in question.

"That," Luna replied, "is the Evening Star, though next year it will be the Morning Star. That one recently became my favorite."

"Why's that?" Applejack asked.

The alicorn thought for a moment, trying to form words from impressions and assumptions and half-formed insights. When her answer came, she spoke slowly, but was sure of her words. "Because it's the smallest, and the brightest, and the first, and the last," she said. "It's not a true star; it cannot match their size or power. It has precious little luminance of its own. Still, beings see it, and it inspires them. The Evening Star appears in poetry and stories of many cultures: ponies, zebras, dragons, buffalo, and more. It's a fine example of how the importance of something is not determined solely by its size or radiance." She paused, smiling as she whispered, "Sometimes, the things that touch our hearts the most are the things that are closest to us."

"Ah," the farmer replied simply.

In time, the two had far more to gaze at. As the Luna stared up at the full moon, she found courage. "Have you ever experienced... romantic love?"

When the reply came, the alicorn heard amusement in the other mare's voice. '"And here I thought I was bein' as obvious as you." Applejack chuckled softly to herself before continuing, "I hadn't before a certain princess came and swept this farm filly off her hooves, sugar cube."

Luna smiled up at the star-filled sky.
Edited by :iconsosweetntasty:
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ItsTheWhinyGuys's avatar
I feel sorry for Heavens Sparkle; that part almost made me cry. However, the d'aww of Luna and AJ at the end helped bring my mood up. Nicely done!