Fluttershy had given Discord a bedroom. This was utterly ludicrous, of course; he could make a place for himself anywhere he chose, and he didn't sleep anyway, and yet, with Fluttershy asleep and the house boring as mud, somehow he found himself spending time here. Not all his time; he had things to do, he wasn't so pathetic that he needed to spend all his time hovering around this tiny little cottage. But as ridiculous and unnecessary as the gift had been... he found himself strangely moved by the fact that she'd given him one at all. No one gave him gifts.
It was unnerving.
In the beginning he'd let his imagination run riot in the tiny room, inverting and subverting the laws of physics, nature and good taste to the greatest extent he could without making the room fatal to ponies, mostly to try to irritate Fluttershy into throwing him out, which she had never done. Discord was willing to admit how much that impressed him. He wasn't used to being surprised at the outcome of anything, or losing any game he chose to play, and this particular defeat at Fluttershy's hands had been both less predictable and had had considerably less annoying long-range results than Twilight Sparkle beating him had. It was a better victory, too. He'd given Fluttershy a real challenge, and she'd still beaten him. Not like the other times. He'd underestimated Sparky and her friends and given them far, far too many chances. Maybe the others were right and he was slipping. First failing to notice that one of the humans he was testing was actually a Betazoid empath, letting what should have been a difficult and challenging test turn into a cakewalk, and then failing again with the humans, underestimating Picard's hold on the one he'd tried to recruit (and possibly underestimating the Continuum's willingness to tolerate the attempt at recruiting new blood in the first place, though really, if they didn't bring in anyone new the place would simply collapse of stagnation... not that that was his problem anymore)... and then flat out giving Sparky and pals a free shot. He was never going to admit this to anyone, but... yeah, he was a little worried. The occasional mistake was one thing but this level of screwing things up was new. Maybe the others had a point.
He'd let the room go back to mostly normal, now. The truth was he had a much higher tolerance for "normal" than he was ever going to admit to his ponies. This was the place where he got to cut loose, where his role and identity let him push the boundaries of his own whims and imagination in ways he never got to anywhere else, and if they knew how well he could fake "normalcy" in other places and times, they'd know that when he cut loose he was doing it on purpose and not because he couldn't help himself. It wasn't nearly as much of a hardship for him as he pretended it was to not turn the room into a funhouse mirror of every rule in operation on this planet, and it made Fluttershy more comfortable when he made things almost normal, and for some reason that he was deliberately not engaging the tiniest fraction of his vast intellect in trying to understand, he actually cared how the little yellow ball of fluff felt. So at the moment, the room had a bed and a desk and a dresser and a mirror, and he was sitting on a chair in front of the mirror building a hypercube. It was supposed to be a really amazing toy, full of educational traps carefully designed to be non-lethal, chock full of wordplay and clever visual gags, something really amusing he could suck Sparky into exploring for hours or days on end where she'd come out a wiser, smarter, and vastly more annoyed little pony. His heart wasn't in it, though. Sometimes the Muse was just with him, and sometimes it went out to a party and left him at home to mope and think about who he could go bother now. Maybe Luna. Luna had been hilarious to tease the past few days, but he had to keep himself restrained with it or Celestia would get irritated enough to declare him a public enemy again, and while that could be a lot of fun and he'd spent many long hours fantasizing about the marvelously entertaining fights he was planning to get into with the Bearers of the Elements once Fluttershy gave up on him... the fact that she never had kind of spoiled the fantasy. If he backslid and ended up in a fight with the Bearers now it would put him up against Fluttershy and that... didn't actually sound like fun anymore.
Definitely slipping. He'd be the laughingstock of the Continuum if they were watching...
...which, if he didn't mistake what was happening to his mirror, they were trying to.
He turned to the mirror in great irritation, tossing his hypercube into a box and then making the box turn into a smooth, seamless bouncy ball, which bounced away. The image in the mirror was another draconequus, with tan fur on his chest instead of brown and clear blue-grey eyes instead of yellow. "Do you mind?" he snapped at the image. "Last I checked this was still my territory."
"Ooh, fierce," the other said in that really annoying voice that made Discord sincerely wish he could drop-kick his fellows into a black hole as easily as he could put Yar in a penalty box, or dress Celestia in a dancer's costume and force her to escape from a giant cake. "Relax, buddy, I'm not on your turf. Just making a phone call here."
"Yeah, well, I don't recall inviting you to do that either."
"Good thing for me I don't wait for invitations. Nice digs. I see you're not in a palace."
"Not that it's any of your business, but no. They're boring. Been there, done that, sick of it."
"So you're slumming, huh? Heard you got yourself a new pony pal for a roomy. How's she managing to put up with you?"
"I'm sure it's difficult for her to adjust, but my fantastic wit and charm provides some compensation for my zany antics, no doubt. Does this have a point or is this a purely social visit?"
"Oh, you know. Just wanted to look in on you, see how you were doing. Last time I checked up on you here you were a rock."
"Laugh it up, buddy, I'm sure they love you just as much on Deltivia since you lost their asteroid belt."
"You always gotta bring that one up? You must have pulled, like, nine hundred stunts I could use for an example of how annoying you are, and you always bring up that one asteroid belt like it means something."
"In all fairness, it was a pretty enormous example of massive and ludicrous failure on your part."
"Whereas getting turned into a rock again was just good clean fun?"
Discord shrugged. "As you can see, I got better. Now, I have things to do, so unless there's a point to this tedious conversation—"
"Oh, I just had some news to give you, that's all. Figured you might be interested to know, but if you don't care—" The other in the mirror raised his eagle talon, ready to snap.
Discord held up his own paw. "Wait. Are you actually suggesting you might be helpful for once? Because if so, I'm all for it."
The other's grin was predatory. "I just figured I'd call up and let you know not to get too comfortable where you are."
Discord leaned forward into the mirror, scowling. "Exactly what do you mean by that?"
"Just what I said. It's coming to a verdict. Soon."
Despite himself his heart beat faster with a painful mixture of hope and terror. He didn't want to beg, to humble himself in any way before the other one, but... what choice did he have? "So... any hints you willing to drop me on which way the wind is blowing?" he asked, trying painfully hard to sound casual.
The smile on the other draconequus in the mirror grew, turning into a cruel mocking grin. "Just that if you had anything you really, really wanted to get around to doing one of these days, and you've been too busy to get to it so far... you might want to make time within the next year. Or less."
All the blood drained from Discord's head. Which thankfully was a lot less visible in a form with fur, but he knew, humiliated, that the other knew anyway. "A year?" he whispered, feeling like he'd been punched in the gut.
"Or less," the other one said. "'Course, maybe the outcome won't go the way it's leaning now... but me, I wouldn't bet on it."
And then the mirror cleared, and Discord's own reflection was all that was visible in it again. He sagged down into the chair.
A year. Or less. Right after he'd found friends among these mortals, begun to make a new home for himself.
Well. Wasn't that ironic.
He started to chuckle, because bitter irony was funny no matter whose life it destroyed, and he'd be a terrible hypocrite if he couldn't find the humor in his own misfortune. And then he took a deep breath, and got to his feet again, staring at himself in the mirror.
This changed nothing. He'd already decided, he wanted these ponies to accept him as a friend. For some reason. Maybe because somewhere in the back of his mind he'd known all along the verdict wasn't likely to go in his favor. And because Picard had said no, and he had to have somewhere to go, and being the bad guy hadn't been nearly as much fun as he'd remembered it being from a thousand years ago.
Nothing was certain except that his older brother was an ass and would enjoy twisting the knife, after the number of times he'd warned Discord something like this might happen. Discord privately thought the other one was actually on his side, defending him to the others, but he knew better than to think the other would ever admit that to him. Maybe it wasn't going to go badly. Maybe it wasn't going to come as quickly as his brother was suggesting. Nothing was actually any different than it had been ten minutes ago.
He wasn't going to let the news ruin his time with his new friends. Especially if the news really was as bad as it sounded, and the time he had was a lot less than he'd thought he'd get.
This story is part of my series "Next of Kin to Chaos." Because fanfiction dot net has no way of marking stories as part of a series sequence I am including the correct sequence at the bottom of the fics:
I Could Be Again: Q's days of making overconfident, stupid mistakes come to a middle. Pre-"Return of Harmony" in MLP sequence; post "Q Who" in TNG sequence.
The Princess and the Dragon: A dragon who isn't a dragon shows up in Celestia's bedroom to offer unsolicited advice about Discord. Post "Return of Harmony", pre "Keep Calm and Flutter On."
Discord's First, Last and Only Friendship Report: Somepony thought it would be a good idea for Discord to write a friendship report. Somepony was plainly out of their mind. Post "Keep Calm and Flutter On."
Negotiating Terms: Direct sequel to "Friendship Report". Discord wants to know why Celestia thought it was a good idea to reform him. Celestia wants to know why it worked.
The Tale of the Terrible Doctor Twilight: Twilight Sparkle has found a new weapon to hold Discord accountable with, a reforming spell he missed eating. But a cornered draconequus is a dangerous beast...
Hit Me: Discord wants Twilight to hit him. Twilight does not respond with the expected delight.
The King Who Would Be Man: Immediately prior to, and during, TNG "Deja Q". Discord's new life with friends and frenemies in Ponyville is disrupted when he is arrested by the Q Continuum.
Note: As of "Princess Twilight Sparkle" this series is officially AU, because my backstory for the Elements does not match the one in the series and I don't want to change it for this series.
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