"You want me to… act more alien?" Shane repeated through the unlit cigarette in his mouth. He turned around just enough so that Celestia could see the one cocked eyebrow.
Celestia shuffled on her throne. She wasn't really sure how to explain it in a way that would make sense to him. "In a way," she clarified. "You seem to have a basic understanding of how you came to be here. Your spacecraft tore space-time and you have landed here...somehow." She looked at the human for affirmation.
"Well you've seen Twilight or Luna teleport have you not?"
Again, he nodded.
"Trans-dimentional teleportation is not an unheard of concept for us. Theoretically speaking, if based on similarly crafted magics, it should be possible."
"Trans-dimentional travel?" he asked.
Shane hummed. "I'm sensing a 'but' in there somewhere."
"But," she continued. "It has never been successfully accomplished. Without boring you with the history and details, when teleportation was discovered and refined many ponies attempted to then breach the confines of this reality itself by crossing dimensional barriers with magic." Shane made a motion with his hands indicating her to continue. "Hundreds attempted it. History books downplay the actual results but to put it bluntly, most were killed or horrifically injured during the attempt. Either the spell fatally drained their bodies of magic trying to fuel the jump or merely managing to botch teleportation spells and slinging half their bodies a mile away or in one particular case, just their internal organs.."
"Ouch…" Shane muttered rubbing his stomach.
"Indeed. Needless to say the practice was outlawed for a time only to be legally researched by very specific, highly trained individuals."
The human cleared his throat. "You know, Princess, this is fascinating and all but… why are you telling me this again?"
"Major, we are perpetuating the falsehood that you are an alien from a very distant planet for a reason. We do not want the announcement of a trans-dimentional creature to rekindle an interest in an art that cost hundreds of lives in the past."
"And that's why you want me to act like an idiot," he came full circle.
"That's not what-"
"You already act like an idiot, Major." Luna interrupted as she approached the throne, apparently having entered without either of them noticing. "We merely need you to act like a more specific breed of idiot. I am certain that is within your purview."
Shane reached a hand down into the fountain he was sitting on and flung a handful of water at the lunar alicorn who yelped and hid behind her wings.
"I just preened these!" she cried in horror as she surveyed the moistened appendages.
"Go preen your sass mouth you blue-WHAARBBGGRRGBRLLGGRG-" was all that the human was able to finish as Luna lit her horn and shoved him back into the fountain in a tangle of flailing limbs and bubbles.
"LUNA! That's enough!" Celestia shouted as she pulled the gasping human from the water by the scruff of his shirt. While he kicked and slashed wildly in Luna's general direction with his bayonet while dangling from Celestia's magic.
"I'M GONNA FUCKING CUT YOU! AND THEN I'M GONNA GO INTO YOUR ROOM AND TAKE A SHIT ON YOUR DESK, YOU GIANT BLUE PIGEON!"
"ENOUGH!" Celestia roared, already developing a headache from their bickering. Both Shane and Luna shrunk at the outburst. Luna's ears pressed against her skull as she hid once more behind her dripping wings as Shane somehow managed to curl into a ball and duck his head halfway into the soaking wet shirt from whence he hung.
"She-" Shane started to mutter through his shirt.
"I don't care if she started it!" Celestia interrupted angrily. "Be an adult. BOTH OF YOU!" she tagged on, giving Luna an evil glare. "Shane, stop reacting! Luna, stop escalating!"
Celestia set the human down next to her throne and conjured up several fluffy towels. Shane sheathed his bayonet and stripped out of his blouse, scowling at Luna the hole time.
Celestia continued while Shane wrung out his wet shirt, dabbing himself dry as best possible. "What I was TRYING to say, was that IF you went out in public I would consider it a great personal favor if you could occasionally throw in some general confusion about the way things work around here."
"Princess, you're all talking multicolored magical equines that can move the sun… I AM generally confused about how things work around here. I don't have to pretend."
"Well then try to be a bit more expressive about it then." Celestia groaned, exasperated.
"How bout I start by expressing my distaste for blue alicorns."
Luna paused re-preening her wings and stuck her tongue out at the biped, who presented his middle finger. She was beginning to understand the basic concept of the gesture.
Celestia rubbed her head. "Just think it over, Shane. Please?" she gave the human her most desperate puppy dog eyes.
Shane rolled his own at the sappy attempt, but relented nonetheless as he scrubbed himself with the towels. "Fine. I'm going into town today, so I'll make sure to be absolutely baffled by everything equine."
"Thank you…" she reshuffled her wings. "Wait...you're going out where?" She exclaimed suddenly alarmed.
"Rarity said she would take me shopping today before I have to meet with Aegis," he explained.
"I wasn't aware of either of these things," Celestia complained.
"I know you weren't. I didn't tell you." Shane removed his boot, wringing water out of his socks.
"What are you even shopping for?"
"Nothing. I just wanted to see the city. I might try and see if I can get Rarity to buy me a soft pretzel," he contemplated as he re-laced his boots.
"A soft pretzel?"
"Yeah you guys have those right?"
"Yes, we have those." Celestia sighed.
Shane licked his teeth. "Or a burrito…spicy steak with sweet habanero sauce..." the human muttered to himself, swallowing thickly, lost as he was in his culinary thoughts.
"You have been back for two days and have still yet to meet with any of the nobles or house members requesting your attention. Not to mention the countless foreign dignitaries and reporters that are waiting to speak to you."
Shane shook his blouse out, before tossing it aside, apparently deciding it was too wet to bother putting back on. "Feel free to tell them to come find me. I'm not hiding. And feel free to also tell them that I don't come when summoned like a dog."
"They won't know where to find you if you keep making plans without telling me." Celestia frowned.
Shane made an exaggerated Hmmmm sound. "That does present a problem."
"You also haven't slept a wink since you came back from Whitetail woods." Luna interjected.
"You pay an unusual amount of attention to my sleep," he noted casting the alicorn a dubious glance. "Speaking of which, shouldn't you be asleep right now yourself there, little miss nocturnal?"
Luna ignored him. Moving closer to prod him in the best with the tip of her hoof. "It's not healthy."
"Blue is a stupid color," Shane retaliated.
"Shane…" Celestia warned.
Luna frowned. "We are merely concerned for your health. Perhaps we should re-dunk thee to ensure you do not fall asleep on your date with the element of Generosity."
"It's not a date and if you dunk me again and I'm gonna scalp all the pretty hair off your head," he assured, gestring at Luna's astral mane with the tip of his bayonet.
"Aww, you really think my hair is pretty?" Luna placed a hoof on her chest, not bothering to suppress her smile.
Celestia groaned and rubbed her temples. "I'm done with this. Either kill each other or don't. I'm going to the kitchen for a slice of cake. Whoever's left alive, clean up after yourself. I have to reconvene court in twenty minutes." The alicorn disappeared in a flash of solar light.
The lunar alicorn and human exchanged uncertain looks in the following awkwardly silent room. Luna refolded her wings and cleared her throat.
Shane pushed the bayonet back into its plastic scabbard on his belt as he pursed his lips and hummed. "It's not as fun when she's not here to yell…" he complained.
Luna cleared her throat. "Celestia ever was the more serene stoic. Seeing her so flustered of late is, we must admit, indeed somewhat amusing."
Shane leaned against the gate outside the palace entrance, cleaning his fingernails and smoking a cigarette. After a change of clothes he had forgone the blouse in favor of a breezier selection of skivvy shirt under his plate carrier. His rifle hung dutifully under his arm.
Luna trotted over, nudging the human with a wingtip to get his attention. "Major, I've assigned a few of the Solar Guard to escort you." She gestured to three celestial guardsponies, two pegasus mares and a unicorn stallion. "I have no doubt Ms. Rarity is a fine tour guide but you are a somewhat high-profile guest right now. You're quite likely to draw a crowd. We hope we do not need to remind you that not all of Equus' inhabitants are thrilled you are among us."
"Cocked and locked, head on a swivel.." he confirmed cockily biting at one of his fingernails. "I'll be sure to keep em' safe."
"They are there to protect YOU, Shane. I know you think think little of our species but there is more to fear out there than hoof or horn. Listen to them, they know this world and this city, you do not. If they tell you to do something. Do it."
"I get it, relax. It'll be fine," he droned at the princess like a begrudging teenager would his nagging mother.
"And get some sleep!"
"It's on my list of things to do. ….little hypocrite…" he murmured, blowing a piece of fuzz from his finger. Shane spit the smoldering cigarette butt on the ground, grinding it to death with the heel of his boot before checking his watch and stretching lazily. "I'm beginning to think I've been stood up…" Shane noted somewhat amusedly as he scanned the courtyard, finding no trace of his unicorn escort.
Luna scoffed. "If we know anything of the element of Generosity, Major, it is that she is ever the fashionable one, including in her tardiness."
"Sorry, darling!" came the voice of the posh unicorn as if summoned.
The mare wore a tasteful pink sundress, complete with an equally stylish sunhat and, in Luna's opinion, overly large sunglasses.
"Ms. Rarity, don't you look pretty," Shane laughed at the approaching mare.
Rarity feigned herself taken aback, "Why, Major, if I didn't know any better I would dare say you're poking fun at me."
"Not at all," he assured still laughing. "I've just never seen a pony wear clothes. It's infuriatingly adorable." Shane made a spinning gesture.
"Why thank you, dear." The unicorn obliged giving herself a twirl to show off her outfit. "Canterlot is a very fashion forward town after all. It wouldn't do to make an appearance and pastels are in this year."
Shane tsk'd. "I'm really more of a winter, myself. I've never been fond of pastel." the human explained with a pleased grin. Luna wasn't quite sure if he was being serious or just surreptitiously making fun of the unicorn.
"Of that, I am acutely aware, Major. I assure you." Rarity confirmed. "I was actually rather fond of the darker uniform you wore the other day when you got back from your little camping trip."
"I like them too, but deserts reflect more heat. Function over form today. You'll have to forgive me."
Rarity scoffed. "Think nothing of it darling. If anything I'll have to set some time aside to make you some casual attire. And I dare say I'm somewhat tempted to make some improvements upon your dress blues if you'd permit me."
"Oh I'd permit you to improve anything upon me," Shane winked at the unicorn.
"Shameless, Major." Rarity smiled through a faint blush. "Or are you simply using me to make another alicorn jealous now?" she nodded her horn toward the Princess.
"Ooh, good question. Hey, Luna, on a scale of one to ten, how jealous are you right now? Because I am prepared to flirt…" Shane thought for a moment, "...at least three times harder than this if need be."
Luna rolled her eyes, as she turned. "You seem to be in good hooves, human. I shall see you this evening." Luna directed her attention to Rarity. "Do be careful, and try to have him back by noon. He is supposed to meet the guard commander and I'd hate for him to be late."
"Not a moment later, your highness." Rarity bowed.
"Very good. We shall see the two of you later then. Farewell for now." Luna turned and headed back toward the castle.
"Do try to get some rest, Princess. It's not healthy to stay awake for long periods of time," Shane called after her with a sour smile.
Luna had to physically bite her tongue to prevent her retort from escaping. She wouldn't give him the satisfaction.
Shane's smile only fell a little. Rarity had the good sense not to comment on it.
"Are you ready, Major? We're picking up Twilight at her brother's townhouse in an hour. I hope you don't mind."
Shane seemed to brighten. "Shining Armor would have a townhouse, wouldn't he." The human shook his head. "Fuckin' tool."
"Shall we then?"
The human gestured toward the city. "Lead the way."
Rarity pranced in place and giggled. "Splendid. This will be fun."
Shane smiled at the little unicorns excitement as he began to follow her into the city proper. "Hey I been meaning to ask, can you cut hair?"
Cadance's eyes roamed over the mostly empty room. It used to be Shiny's office. She supposed it still was technically. There was a desk, reading lamp, plush chair. All the makings of a comfortable quiet workplace. When they moved to the Crystal Empire the majority of her husband's belongings went with them. The townhouse was a family heirloom of sorts, originally belonging to Shining's great uncle.
The Sparkle family was one of Canterlots oldest noble families. It wasn't uncommon for nobles to bequeath their estates to a deserving relative. Night Light was a distinguished servant of the crown long before Shining was ever a twinkle in his eye. Even Cadance wasn't entirely clear on what Night's job was while he was still working for Celestia. There were rumors, whispers, really. Cadance did her best to stay objective when it came to her father-in-law's past. Whatever it was it earned him a noticeably early retirement, which he seemed to be enjoying immensely.
The townhouse would stay in the family despite its frequently unoccupied status. They could just stay in the castle of course whenever in Canterlot. But it was nice to have a home away from home. Somewhere private. Just the two of them.
Three of them.
Her mind reminded. She reflexively held a hoof against her stomach, feeling butterflies fill her chest.
"Cadance?" Twilight's voice from the doorway shook her from her thoughts, causing her to jump.
The alicorn of love turned toward her sister-in-law, smiling apologetically. "Sorry, Twilight, you caught me daydreaming."
Twilight laughed, looking around the mostly empty room. "Things sure have changed, haven't they?"
Cadance laughed at Twilight's eerily accurate prediction of Cadance's thoughts. "You can say that again."
"Are you alright? Shining said you weren't feeling well this morning." Twilight asked looking the alicorn up and down with thinly veiled worry.
Cadence's feathers rustled. "Oh I'm fine, just ate something that didn't agree with me, I think."
"Good," Twilight smiled. "Wanna come out with me and Rarity? We're gonna show the human around town." Twilight offered. "It's something to do if you're looking for a distraction."
Cadance thought for a minute. Shiny was at the castle and wasn't due back until tonight. It might do her good to get out of the house and off her maternal thoughts. "I'd like that," she agreed.
"You know I've noticed something," Shane started. "...and don't take this the wrong way," Shane stipulated to the unicorn at his side.
"I'll do my best, darling, but I really can't promise anything until you tell me." Rarity warned over the rim of her sunglasses.
"At first I admittedly thought I was just having a difficult time distinguishing the males from the female ponies…" Rarity pursed her lips, unable to help but feeling a twinge of offense. "But now I think that's not actually the case. And I seem to notice that there is genuinely a pointed lack of male representation in this city." Shane said casting a critical glance around the street full of ponies giving the duo a wide wide-eyed berth. The human's presence was anything but secret at this point. Few enough expected him to be literally walking amongst them so soon though. "Or am I wrong? I haven't exactly been checking the plumbing on every pony I pass."
Rarity hummed. "You're not wrong. But it's a fairly average ratio compared to most cities I've been in. The ratio of male to female foals in Equestria is about one male to three females if memory serves." Rarity did her best to recall the results of the latest census.
Shane scoffed. "Well that's JUST my luck."
"Whatever do you mean, dear?"
Shane laughed again, "That I'd be stranded on a planet of predominantly females only to find all the females are fuzzy quadrupeds. It's kinda like that one episode of the Twilight Zone, only instead of books and glasses it about horse vaginas and my labido."
"Twilight Zone?" Rarity asked, eyeballing the crowd and chuckling awkwardly hoping none of the surrounding ponies heard the alien mention his reproductive disappointments.
"It was a television show in the early nineteen-sixties about a bunch of little twisty stories and thought experiments."
Shane deflated. "Nevermind. The payoff isn't honestly worth the explanation-" The human stopped in his tracks, gasping and nearly causing one of his guards to collide with one another. "Rarity…" he said as if he's seen an apparition.
"What's wrong, darling?" She asked suddenly concerned.
"What's that?" he asked pointing fatally at a small stand on the street corner.
Rarity followed the human's finger. "I do believe that would be a hot-dog stand, Major."
Shane's jaw dropped as he inhaled in the slowest gasp Rarity had ever heard.
The diminutive earth pony mare behind the stand seemed suddenly all too aware of the vast attention. Not only was the alien from the newspapers giving her stand the widest most gobsmacked stare she had ever received from any living creature. The surrounding crowd, all too aware as they were of the alien intruder seemed to follow his gaze to the small purveyor of street foods.
She did the only thing she could really think to do in this situation and dove headfirst under her stand and curled up into the tightest ball she could possibly manage.
Rarity was the first to break the silence. "Major, would you like a hot dog?"
"I don't have any horse money," he said still somberly looking at the stand.
The unicorn chuckled. "You know, considering I'm the one who invited you out, I could probably be persuaded into paying for you, dear."
"Well, at the risk of sounding easy, if you were to buy me a hot dog with spicy brown mustard, onion sauce, and relish, I would be tempted to kiss you square on the lips."
Rarity laughed again. "Be careful, Major. You may be a stallion but you'll find I wrote the book on flirting to get what I want," the unicorn teased as she approached the stand.
The small earth pony poked her head out from under her cart after what felt like an appropriate amount of hiding in terror from aliens.
The mare yelped and dove back under the cart. Rarity rolled her eyes, suddenly remembering the years of dealing with Fluttershy's panic attacks
"Terribly sorry dear, but could I trouble you for a hot dog?"
The mare opened one eye to find a stylish unicorn poking her head under the cart. "A hot-" she began, seeming to find her voice.
Rarity looked back at the human who was shifting his weight from foot to foot in some kind of anticipatory dance. "He's harmless, darling. I promise. Just hungry."
"He...wants to eat here?" She asked her confusion slowly replacing her fear.
Rarity didn't pretend to understand it any more than she did. "So it would seem. One hot-dog please."
The mare crawled out from under her cart and began to tentatively make the unicorns requested snack. "Um…does he want any... fixin's?" she cast a tentative glance at the alien, who's dancing had only seemed to increase in speed and intensity now that he saw the pony preparing the desired treat.
"Relish, mustard, and onion sauce," Rarity repeated.
The small earth pony completed the dog and placed it in a paper tray, hoofing it over to the unicorn. Rarity deposited two bits in the jar on her stand. "Thank you, darling."
Rarity handed the hot dog over to the human. Who oooohed appreciatively.
"You're a gem, Rarity. Don't let anyone tell you different. You want your kiss french or standard?"
Rarity laughed. Keep your kisses, Major. I'm not yet to the point where I need to trade food for affection. This one's on me."
"Suit yourself." He inspected the snack with wide hungry eyes as he practically drooled on himself. All eyes were on him as he took an enormous bite.
He froze at the unexpected noise. Visible confusion on his face.
Hot-dogs weren't supposed to crunch.
He looked at the food in his hands, then back to the small pony behind the stand, who ducked a little bit.
He chewed once, producing another muffled crunch. And inspected the hot dog once again.
"What's wrong, dear?" Rarity asked acutely aware of the stares of the crowd and Shane's bewildered look.
Shane took a minute to shift the food around in his mouth to answer.
"This is a carrot," he said plainly.
"Yes, Major. That's what a hot dog is. A steamed carrot in a bun."
Shane looked like he was about to cry.
"Do you... not want it?" she asked hoping to console the human.
Shane looked at the not-hot-dog, considering it for a moment. "No it's still pretty good." He took another crunchy bite.
After a few blocks, Shane had calmed down somewhat from his hot-dog incident. Word had apparently gotten out about the human roaming the city with the Element of Generosity and more than a few curious citizens had taken to following the duo around. Some of the bolder ones even going as far as to take pictures or shout their curiosities at the pair. Shane would either deflect, answer vaguely, or simply ignore the majority of them.
They passed a mare carrying her foal on her back.
Shane gasped at seeing the foal. "Awwww… look how small it is, Rarity."
"I see her, Major." Rarity couldn't help but smile at the human's delight.
The filly gasped back at the tall biped. "Mommy! Wook its da awien!" The mare gently admonished her for staring before moving along.
Shane clasped a hand over his mouth. "Oh my god, she can't pronounce L's. I don't know if I can handle this. Rarity, look. She's just riding on her moms back."
"Yes Shane, I see her." she repeated. "It's very cute. We do need to keep moving though, we're running late."
"If I see an unattended pony baby, I'm taking it."
"Please don't." Rarity was pretty sure he was kidding but didn't need to take that risk.
"This place is neat, it kind of reminds me of a more cartoonish Prague." Shane commented looking around the city as they walked. "Do you live here?"
"Oh my, no. I live in Ponyville with Twilight and the girls. I've got a small business down there. I'd like to open up another up here some day but I don't think I could live here. Wonderful city, but Ponyville is my home. I'd hate to be so far away from my family."
"I'm gonna come back to mock the fact that you named the town, "Ponyville" later but for the sake of continuity of conversation, what's stopping you from opening up a shop here and having someone else run it?"
Rarity sighed, "The same things that stop any small business owner, I suppose. It's a lot of work. You need to scout locations, hire help, file the proper paperwork, pay the taxes. And not to mention that you still need to create and deliver a product that will sell. Which, in of itself, is a full time job. You need to research designs, trying to predict what will be in style, advertise different lines, and then do it all over the next season." She adjusted her sun hat. "I'm afraid I've got my hooves full as it is," she finalized. "One day I'll find the time and ambition but for now I've got enough on my plate."
"I know the feeling," Shane sympathized, as he lit a cigarette.
"Here we are, dear," Rarity announced as they came upon the front of Shining Armor's townhouse.
Shane Pfffttt'd at the building. "He fucking would have his ass-mark carved into the door."
"Cutiemark, Major." The unicorn corrected as she approached the door where two of Cadance's Crystal guards stood vigilant. "Hello, we're here to pick up Twilight Sparkle. I'm Rarity Belle, we're expected."
The crystal guard looked over at the human with poorly concealed disdain.
"And who's he?"
"I'm fucking Santa Claus. Go tell Twilight we're here."
"No entry without proper identification," the guard frowned.
"How many other bipedal aliens you got running around this bitch?" Shane asked condescendingly.
"Shane!" Twilight poked her head out of an open second story window. "Stop antagonizing Cadance's guards. Hi, Rarity! I love your dress!" the purple unicorn waved animatedly to the white unicorn below.
"Hello, darling! And thank you!"
"Twilight, get your purple butt down here, before I eat this glossy pony," Shane demanded, pointing at the Crystal guard who was literally just doing his job.
"We're still getting ready. Come on in. I'll be down in a sec."
The guard stepped aside, letting Rarity into the townhouse. Shane followed close behind after putting his cigarette out in one of Shining Armors potted plants.
Shane wandered his way upstairs the mostly empty townhouse. Rarity and Twilight were still downstairs in the kitchen talking about whatever young twenty-something mares talked about.
He found the Alicorn of Love, giving the wall of Shining Armor's office a thousand-yard stare. As far as he could tell she hadn't heard him approach. She just stared at the wall, lost in her own little world.
Shane audibly cleared his throat. Cadance turned to see him leaning against the doorframe. He cocked an eyebrow at the alicorn. Asking without asking.
Cadance blinked a few times, still struggling to control the sudden flood of emotions in her brain. "I was just thinking about how this room would make a good nursery," she squeaked. Sudden tears fell from her eyes as she spilled the words. She wasn't even sure why she was crying. She just couldn't help it. Her lip quivered as she tried to suppress the sudden flow of teardrops.
"You know this is just hormones right?" he asked sighing at the sobbing pink pony with a tired kind of sympathy.
Cadance nodded, blinking moisture out of her eyes and fanning herself dramatically with her wings and hooves. "I know, but I can't help it!" She took a few deep breaths but a few sobs still broke through.
Shane looked back out the hallway to ensure the coast was still clear. "Well you better pull it together, hun, because I can't exactly cover for you if someone sees this."
Cadance sniffed again, nodding, but it seemed like the harder she tried to stop the stronger the sobs became.
"Come on, babe. Wrap it up." Shane encouraged, anxiously looking over his shoulder. He suddenly cocked his head to the side grinning. "Although if you two were good at 'wrapping it up' I suppose you wouldn't be in this situation to begin with." He then made the ba dum tss noise along with subsequent drumming motion.
"You're not helping!" she glared through her tears.
"Shhh!" he winced again at the alicorn's volume. "I don't know what you expect me to do about it! Get it under control!" he replied in a hushed shout.
Cadance took several measured sobbing breaths. "I want a hug," she decided.
"I'm not hugging you." the human frowned. "Just stop being emotional."
"I can't just stop emotions!"
"Yes you can. It easy. I do it all the time."
She fell on her rump and opened her forelegs, still sniffling and still requesting an embrace.
"No!" he refused again. "Lady, you have a fucking husband. Make him do this!"
"He isn't here and I'm sad!"
"You're not sad. You're stressed and hormonal. Get it together."
"You don't knooow what it's liiiike!" she wailed.
Shane winced at the noise checking the hallway again. "Jesus fucking Christ, okay! Fine. Fine!" He stepped inside the office and closed the door behind him urgently before the alicorn's cries reached the mares downstairs. He came down on a knee and beckoned the alicorn. "C'mon, hurry up."
Cadance didn't hesitate to crash into the biped, burying her face in between his neck and his shoulder. He may have been a killer alien but at the time he was also her only confidant. He wrapped his arms around her neck and gently stroked the fur on the back of her neck.
"You're okay," he cooed comfortingly if not somewhat urgently. He maneuvered his head around her horn doing his best to not get an eye poked out. He ran his free hand over her mane and neck soothingly as he whispered. "Shhhhut the fuck up, shhhhh. You're okay."
Cadance let out a choked sob. "What's wrong with me?"
Shane rocked the alicorn back and forth. "Nothing's wrong with you. I know it's confusing right now, but it's just hormones. I promise, it'll pass." he squeezed the alicorn. "You're okay," he repeated. The human soothed the pink alicorn into a fitful little ball on the floor while pregnancy hormones ravaged her mind. It all felt like the whole world was crashing down around her. The weight of it was just too much. Surely it wasn't this bad for other mares. Ponies had babies all the time. She couldn't be the first one to go through this.
"Breathe, Cadance," Shane reminded as she hiccuped out another sob. "Big deep breaths. Come on. You just need to keep it together for a few more hours, then you're someone else's problem." Cadance laughed in a choked half sob. "Breathe," he repeated as the alicorn slowly regained control of her outburst.
She nodded against his chest.
Shane set her back up on her hooves where she took several deep breaths.
Shane stood back up as well, frowning at the alicorn tears staining his shirt collar.
"Are you guys ready?" they heard Twilight shout up the stairs.
"Go to the bathroom and pull yourself together. I'll buy you five minutes." The human nudged the alicorns rump toward the door with his knee.
Cadance took another calming deep breath as she began to move before a thought stopped her. "Shane?" she turned back around. "Why are you helping me?"
The human blinked. He opened his mouth to reply but closed it again. There was a brief silence. He eventually frowned and opened the door to the office and gestured the alicorn out. "Five minutes."
Cadance didn't press the issue. It seemed perfectly clear the human didn't really know himself. He probably didn't like whatever conclusion he came to in his own head.
She made her way to the bathroom to assess the damage to her hair and mascara.
It could have been worse, she decided, dabbing her cheeks with a towel. There was a loud crash from downstairs as Shane presumably created whatever distraction he needed to get the alicorn her promised five minutes. It was oddly endearing but she wondered idly what, of her husband's possessions she indirectly sacrificed for the time.
~ One would hardly know it from speaking to him. The alien spoke as plainly to me as one might to any stranger on the street. Given Equus' vastly diverse species I must admit somewhat to my own embarrassment, having never seen the creature, I mistook him for some long forgotten native species ~
The typewriter smacked letters upon the paper, forming words, forming sentences, with mechanical precision. But for the life of her the mare couldn't really describe the experience with any semblance of coherent thought.
Dandelion ripped the paper from the typewriter before crumbling it up in her hooves and discarding it upon the cafe table. She inserted a new blank sheet form her briefcase. Her editor back in Cloudsdale was expecting a complete story on the alien in just two days. And here she was, having spoken direct words to the creature and couldn't come up with a single page to say.
Truth be told she was having trouble coming to terms with the incident herself. Only a few days earlier she was inches away from an alien species and didn't even know it until he identified himself as such. If only she knew then she could have interviewed him then and there and retired off the commission.
She had played the conversation in her mind again and again. How the biped sat next to her as the Lunar Princess fielded questions about him. Her cheeks flushed somewhat with embarrassment as she remembered the encounter. The alien must have been quite amused with himself, willfully withholding the truth from her. At the time she thought him a pleasant enough fellow. Only now realizing that he was likely toying with her for his own amusement.
She huffed exasperatedly. Stretching her wing and pulling her cappuccino a little closer. It was too nice to stay cooped up in her hotel and type up the story, so she had elected to sit outside at a little cafe a few blocks from where she was staying. Canterlot was a busy place, she often found inspiration from pony-watching. However, despite the heavy hoof-traffic the words eluded her today. Despite the increasingly loud commotion that seemed to be coming down the street.
Shouts and calls echoed off the marbled walls, causing the mare to look up from her spot, nearly spitting out her drink as she saw the human himself walking down the road with no other than the Empress of the Crystal Empire accompanied by Celestia's protege and the element of generosity themselves.
Several Solar guards kept the bulk of the ponies away. There were several Canterlot natives along with what, she imagined, were dozens of members of the press and a few other species including griffons,minotaurs, and even what looked like a pair of abyssinians.
Her heart began to beat rapidly. This might be her chance. Would he remember her? He was getting closer, occasionally pointing at things and asking one of the mares in his retinue to explain what he was seeing.
"Major!" she shouted, buzzing her wings and standing on her chair.
The human looked over, cocking his head curiously at the call. He locked eyes with the mare as she waved animatedly. "It's me!" she exclaimed, hoping to jog his memory.
Sudden realization crossed his face as he began toward her, much to the confusion of his escorts. He came to a stop at the railing separating the cafe from the street. She gulped as she trotted over to meet him. She swallowed, somewhat apprehensive, as she remembered how big he was up close.
"Dandelion, wasn't it?" he asked with a slightly smug smile. Kneeling down to be closer the pegasus' level. "It's been a few days. How's your newspaper coming?"
"I seem to be suffering from a rare case of 'writer's block'." she admitted. "You know, I'm a bit cross at you, for lying to me."
"I didn't lie. And also get in line. The queue of creatures I'm upsetting is pretty long." Shane laughed. "But if it's any comfort I'll let you cut right in behind Celestia and Luna, Shining Armor, about half of the royal guard, a bunch of castle staff, several of this world religious leaders, apparently all of the zebras…"
"You're making a lot of powerful enemies it seems."
"I must have a natural talent for it. I'm really not even trying."
"I've been thinking about what I'd say to you if we ever met again. I even rehearsed it in my hotel room a few times."
The human nodded, and hummed amusedly. "Is it everything you imagined?"
"Not exactly," she admitted, folding her ears.
"Shane? Who is this?" Twilight asked very confused by the human's apparent familiarity with a random mare at a street cafe.
This is, Dee," he introduced. "She's a spy of some kind from Cloudville."
"Dandelion," she bowed as she introduced herself properly. "-Lady Sparkle. And I am a reporter from CloudsDALE," she clarified extra loud for the human to hear. Who merely shrugged away the correction. "I became acquainted with the Major, at the Royal Summit. He sat next to me in the audience."
"Ah… I'm sorry if he was a bother. He told me he was going to the bathroom and snuck off. Allow me to apologize on his behalf." Twilight, lowered her head.
"Not at all," the mare waved. "I'm honestly most upset that nopony is going to believe the truth if I tell them. I'm trying to think of a way to write down what happened without being laughed out of my building when my editors read it."
"You could lie," Shane offered.
"I really can't think of any lies that are more ridiculous than the truth," she admitted, gesturing at her typewriter haplessly. "Besides I do have my journalistic integrity to consider."
"Sounds like an oxymoron to me," Shane mumbled to Twilight just loud enough for the reporter to hear.
Dandelion ignored the quip. "I will consider forgiving you for lying to me, however, if you agree to give me an exclusive interview."
"I did not LIE to you. I just sat down next to you and was willfully unspecific about my origins. I don't make a habit of randomly expositing my backstory to every stranger I encounter on the street." Shane clarified.
"Lies of omission are still lies." Dandelion frowned.
"So are you married or not?" Shane suddenly demanded.
The pegasus blushed at the sudden personal question. "W-what?!"
"Do you have a significant other? Boyfriend? Girlfriend? Just answer the question."
She stammered for a moment, looking to Twilight for some help. The unicorn just smiled knowingly and remained silent. "I'm recently out of a relationship if you must know," she admitted tucking her wings, cheeks somewhat flushed with a mix of embarrassment and anger.
"So, you lied to me." Shane stated suddenly again pulling the conversation right out from under the journalist.
"I did not! You never asked! Not that my love life is any of your business."
Shane make an over exaggerated face of realization. "I thought lies of omission were still lies though? You didn't tell me you recently had your heart broken when we met. What is that if not an omission."
"It's irrelevant information that had no contextual pertinence to the situation, UNLIKE the information YOU withheld, for your own amusement." She fired back. "And I never said I had my 'heart broken'! It was a mutual separation!"
Rarity and Cadance finally wandered over to investigate what was holding the two from their walk.
Shane motioned at the pair. "Rarity, Cadance, meet Dandelion. But be careful she was just brutally dumped and is still pretty beat up about it."
Dee flustered her feathers with embarrassment. There wasn't really an emotion to accurately describe what having your failed relationships explained to a literal Alicorn Empress by an actual alien was like.
Shane carried on with introductions regardless. "Dee, this is Cadance, Princess of Ice and Rarity who is both a seamstress and, from what I understand, some kind of state-sanctioned Power Ranger."
Dandelion continued to be flustered for several seconds before finding the wherewithal to bow to the alicorn princess. "You're majesty,"
Cadance waved hoof. "Oh please, that isn't necessary, but thank you. Please stand up. I'm sorry if the Major is bothering you. We can make him leave if you'd like to get back to work," she nodded toward the typewriter. "And um… I'm sorry to hear about your breakup?"
The pegasus sputtered. "It was mutual!" she assured desperately.
Cadance looked up at the human who shook his head and made a breaking heart gesture with his fingers.
"Thank you, your highness but I was actually trying to see if I could guilt him into an interview. I'm sorry if I interrupted your morning."
"I don't feel guilt, because I did nothing wrong," Shane assured. "But if you buy me a drink I'll give you until I finish it to interview me."
"Done!" the pegasus exclaimed. She waved over the waiter who was luckily watching with rapt attention, as was everyone else sitting outside the cafe and a not insignificant crowd in the street. After all it wasn't everyday you saw an alien, a princess, and two national heroines walk down the street.
Shane lifted his leg, stepping over the (to him) small railing separating the cafe's sitting area from the general population. He sat in one of the miniscule chairs opposite the pegasus and her typewriter.
"Shane I don't know if this is a good idea," Twilight warned. "Celestia scheduled interviews for you already and you keep blowing them off. If she finds out you agreed to one with a random Cloudsdale agency she isn't going to be happy." Twilight turned to the pegasus. "No offense."
"None taken," she smiled.
"I know it'll be hilarious," Shane daydreamed.
The waiter approached somewhat hesitantly. "Your order, sir?"
"Tall draft beer, please."
"It's ten in the morning," Twilight panned, frowning.
Shane spun around to glare at the unicorn. "Is it? Already? Wow time sure does fly," he noted condescendingly before turning back to the waiter. "You better make that two beers." The pony nodded before trotting back toward the kitchen. Shane folded his hands in his lap and cocked his head at the purple unicorn, silently daring her to comment further.
"Do you and Princess Celestia not get along?" Dandelion asked, not used to hearing anyone speak negatively about the well-beloved diarch.
"I like Celestia just fine. We do however have a tendency to disagree about how things should be done."
"Facilitating the public reveal of alien life to the population… just to name one off the top of my head," Shane listed.
"You disapprove of how she's handling it?"
The waiter deposited Shane's drinks. She reached one and took cautionary sip. "Not really. I told everyone at the summit I have no interest in becoming involved in your politics and I meant it. So she has my blessing to handle it in whatever way she sees fit. Sometimes she asks for my advice and sometimes I give it. I don't coach her what to say and she does her best not to do the same to me."
"She does her best?"
"She's the controlling type," he added. "As I'm sure you've noticed."
"Princess Celestia has ruled us benevolently for thousands of years. She's saved Equestria and the world itself on multiple occasions," Dandelion retorted feeling somewhat defensive.
"So I've been told," Shane nodded over the rim of his glass. "And I like Celestia. Don't get me wrong. But I don't trust her implicitly. And neither should you. Never trust an immortal on their word alone. Because that's really all you have. Her promise that she acts in your best interest. And its worked out well so far so you've stopped questioning it." Shane tilted his head back and finished his first beer. "I could be history's greatest monster but eventually time will bring me to heel. A hundred years from now I'll be dead and in the ground. And the world can heal from whatever I did during my short time on it. With her you don't get that. She could be playing a long con that no one generation could ever piece together."
"You think Celestia is a con-artist…" Dandelion panned disbelievingly.
Shane stopped mid sip and frowned. "You're putting words in my mouth. All I said was that you can't know that she's not. 'But let's say you're right and she's a perfectly benevolent little sunflower. What if she manages to spawn a child who isn't? Now you've got an all powerful alcorn demi-god who will live for centuries and you can do exactly fuck-all about it."
"Princess Celestia would step in and stop them," Dandelion remarked confidently.
"I think your dear Princess has no qualms about fighting dirty but do you really think she could fight her own family?"
"She stopped, Luna."
Shane blinked. "What?"
Twilight attempted to intervene. "Dandelion I don't think-"
Shane silenced the unicorn with a hand. "Luna as in… Princess Luna?"
Realization washed over the pegasus' face. "She didn't tell you…"
"Celestia stopped Luna from doing what?" Shane asked, clearly beginning to understand there was something he'd been left out on.
"Shane," Twilight interrupted. "This is really something that you should hear from them."
Shane eyeballed the ponies dubiously. It seemed for a few moments he was going to press the issue. "Fine." he knocked back half of his second beer. "I'll ask her myself."
Dandelion shifted uncomfortably. She had the sinking feeling she had just facilitated a very uncomfortable situation for her Princesses. "Well," she attempted to change the subject. "I don't think you have to worry about the Princess having an evil child. Neither Celestia or Luna have ever birthed an heir that history knows about at least. Most ponies think alicorns can't actually get pregnant."
"Sure they can," Shane dismissed casually over his drink.
Dandelion grinned. "And you, the alien from deep space, would know that... how?"
"Because-" Shane's eyes widened and froze in place. His eyes flicked over to Cadance who was glaring at him hard enough to make a boulder shiver with fear. "Becauuuussee…." he continued to stall. "It's… just common deep space alien knowledge." Shane nodded. "Your small primitive pony minds would not understand," he waved.
"That sounds like a lie."
"It's not a lie it's an evasion. But you're entitled to your opinion. I have to go." He drowned the last of his beer and stood.
"But I didn't actually get an interview. We just talked about Princess Celestia the whole time," she complained.
"I finished my drink. That was the deal. If you're bad at time-management, that's on you." He stepped back over the railing and rejoined the mares on the other side. Princess Cadance still glaring at the human for his nearly spilled beans and subsequent less-than-stellar recovery.
"Good luck with your paper. If I don't like what you print I'm gonna eat you," he added casually as he waved as he left.
"Stop threatening to eat ponies, Shane. It's bad for you image," Twilight scolded once again. Twilight turned and waved sheepishly. "He doesn't mean it," she promised. "It was nice meeting you, Dandelion." The unicorn trotted off catching up with the group.
"...you too," she muttered.