"And as long as you promise to keep using your magic for good, I hear-by deem you fit to live freely in Equestria." The sun princess stepped back, gazing up at the draconequus with a look of pride, and a beaming smile to Fluttershy.
Returning a timid look of her own, the pegasus nodded as Celestia turned back to her carriage. She gave the spirit's feline paw a light nudge and glanced pointedly at the princess, who was set to leave as soon as one of her carriage stallions untangled himself from the reins.
Discord resisted the urge to roll his eyes when he realized what his friend wanted from him. She had got him to graciously bow to the prissy alicorn and even say that humiliating line. Didn't this pony know any boundaries?
Still, with a grunt, the draconequus stepped up to the princess and bowed again. "Thank you...for giving me a second chance." Surprisingly, he wasn't lying through his teeth. He really was grateful the stone cold mare's heart had somehow melted enough to consider letting him go free, but did he really have to thank her?
Celestia nodded with a polite smile, which he begrudgingly returned, before she took off.
Instantly, Discord conjured up a hose and sprayed cola in his mouth to wash away the foul taste of his words as he shuddered. Gargling away the remnants of his 'thank you', he turned to the mares.
They all gazed back cautiously, still looking too suspicious of him to form smiles. Fluttershy was the only one that grinned warmly and reached out to take his paw. Despite everything, Discord felt a warm glow in his heart, which he supposed he needed to get used to with friendship.
"You can take your elements off, ponies," the spirit told the group of mares. Immediately, the five paranoid bearers glared at him and he rolled his eyes.
"Girls, take off your elements," the pegasus advised. She smiled gently, which slightly eased their nerves. "It'll be okay, trust me."
Never taking their eyes off him for a second, the ponies reluctantly unfastened the golden necklaces and slipped them back into their box. Twilight Sparkle boldly shoved her face up to Discord's as she glared at him.
"I'm watching you, Discord. Don't think I won't know if the Elements go missing, or you try to replace them or something."
He immediately held his hands up in surrender. "Hey now, I have no interest in putting myself back into stone, and the elements are protected anyway." He smirked and mockingly caressed her crown—before she slammed the box on his fingers. "Besides, these aren't really my style~"
"So what should we do now?" Rarity asked. The ponies all looked at each other, wondering the same thing.
"Well, we could try to finish our dinner party," Fluttershy suggested, a smile lighting up her face. "I baked a delicious blueberry pie for us earlier and it's still waiting in the oven. I think Discord made a cake as well."
Neither mare looked too keen on trying a possibly-poisoned dessert made by the formerly evil embodiment of chaos, but they all knew well enough to support their friend, and supporting Fluttershy meant they should give Discord a chance.
The girls started their walk back to the wooden cottage, and like the compassionate creature she was, Fluttershy took the spirit's feline paw to lead him back. He didn't budge. The gentle teal eyes made the spirit's heart twist uncomfortably.
"Come on, Discord. We don't want to keep them waiting. That's not very nice..." She blinked as he wiggled his golden paw out of her grip and took a step back.
"You go ahead, my dear. There won't be jumping candles or gravy-boat dogs, so everything should go smoothly enough." He was turned away from her, and Fluttershy could sense a tinge of sadness in his quiet tone.
The persistent pegasus stepped in front of him and flashed an encouraging smile. "Oh come on... No one is mad at you anymore. Come on and join us. I want you to try some of my blueberry pie."
"I'll pass..." came the dejected mumble. When he turned back to her, Fluttershy felt a flutter of concern at the pain in his face. "But here!" With a pulse of shimmering power, each pony was now dressed in a gorgeous gown. "Fit for a ball even~!"
As the girls fawned (other than Rainbow Dash and Applejack) over their beautiful new dresses, Fluttershy looked to see the spirit in front of her was walking away.
"Discord, wait!" Running in a bulky dress was quite a challenge, and if not for his magic that stopped her, she would have careened into him. "What's the matter?" Shouldn't he be wanting to celebrate over his new found freedom?
"N-nothing at all, Fluttershy." There was an evident warble to his tone as he cleared his throat. "Why, I merely want to find myself a nice cave to spread a little harmless chaos in without hurting anypony. What's so wrong with that?"
At that, the spirit let loose a bitter and pained laugh. "Why not? I've been that way most of my life." He bit his lip and winced at the slip up, but he wasn't able to take it back. Not even his magic could do everything.
The saffron pony's mouth creased with sympathy and she fluttered up to him. The moment her hoof extended to touch his face, he cowered back from it. It broke the pegasus's heart to know he was shown so little kindness in his life that he was afraid to accept it.
"Why would you want to be alone after you have been for so long? After all, the princess has use for you in Canterlot. I'm sure you'll get a better home there."
Oh that deserved its own laugh, as the spirit went from melancholic to amused in a second, almost falling down laughing. Really? Him stay with Celestia? He'd rather have all of his teeth pulled, and then his eyeballs stretched from their sockets until they turned into slinkies. Living with the tight flank snob was a worse punishment than stone.
"I'll pass." Admittedly, it would be fun to torment her day by day and make her wish she lived in Tartarus instead. "I'm just going to go..."
"But...why would you want to be alone?" Fluttershy asked softly.
He turned to her, and the pegasus felt like she could cry by the pain in his eyes. "Because I don't know how not to be."
"I can help with that," Fluttershy told him, squeezing his paw again. He looked away, a shy and timid frown on his face. Along with it being adorable, it certainly contrasted with his usual maniacal sneer. It was amazing how much his heart had changed in just a few minutes.
"If you'll just let me help you..."
This look in his vermillion eyes was, if possible, even more painful than before. It held such hope and yearning, but it was blocked with pain and the fear to take a chance. Instead of responding, the draconequus soared up into the air and onto a cloud.
The disheartened pegasus gazed back to see her friends in the distance, still making their way back to her cottage. She should catch up with them, but the pony still found herself gazing up at the cloud above. It looked like Discord wanted to be alone, but Fluttershy didn't want to leave him. She wasn't just going to have him moping up on a cloud while they all had an enjoyable evening.
Besides, friends didn't give up on each other.
"Discord..." The pony pulled herself up onto the plush cloud and settled beside the spirit. He was scrunched up, arms encircling his knees and his droopy face pressed against them, looking more like a sad child than any lord of chaos.
"Discord, please come to the dinner party."
The spirit scowled, but he certainly had to admire her persistence. "I said no, Fluttershy. Just go have fun with your friends."
"I intend to," Fluttershy said sternly. "All of my friends, and that means you too, Discord."
"I've been alone for so long, and I don't know how to live life with someone caring about me."
What a fate. As if being turned to stone wasn't bad enough, the poor thing had been on his own without anyone to love and care for him. That must have been why he always mocked friendship. He hadn't had it before. Even with how shy she was, Fluttershy always had someone to love her. She had her parents, Rainbow, and then her animals and friends from Ponyville. She couldn't imagine anything more painful then being utterly alone.
"You won't know unless you try... My friends are really wonderful and I bet once you give them time to trust you, they'll become yours as well."
He rather doubted that, and truthfully, he could care less. Twilight Sparkle was nothing more than a mini Celestia, Rainbow Dash was just mean, and Applejack fell in that category as well; Rarity was just plain annoying, and Pinkie Pie would be the only one he could ever expect to get along with.
"I'm not leaving you out here," the pegasus said firmly. "So if you stay out here I'll have to as well. Then I'll miss a fun dinner party with my friends."
The spirit's mouth twitched. He didn't know she had this kind of evil in her. "That's blackmail."
Huffing, the draconequus realized she was adamant in her decision, which meant he had very little choice but to comply with her wishes. He slid off the cloud and floated to the ground, the saffron pony following happily.
"Alright, I suppose I'll behave like a...gentlecolt...for the most part," he muttered.
She giggled. "Well you best look the part then."
With a snap he was back in his butler attire—mustache included. "Allow me to get the door for you, my dear." With a spark of magic, the door disappeared.
The transformed cottage was the way it was when they left, the red carpet even rolled out and leading to the table of five impatient, dessert-hungry little ponies.
"Stay here everyone and I'll go get the pie."
Discord took his seat at the table as the pegasus left, resisting the urge to enchant the dinnerware to run amok again. This reforming business was going to be difficult. ...Well, there was one thing he could do.
The five ponies hopped back in fright at a sudden pulse of magic—instinctively thinking something was going to come to life and attack them like before. Instead, in front of each of them was a large glass of chocolate milk with a red curly straw, and a dollop of whipped cream. Pinkie Pie squeaked in delight.
Discord smiled. "I heard you like whipped cream."