Twilight Sparkle was having a nightmare about misfiled books. She was running down the stacks in the library, trying desperately to get all the books filed, except that everywhere she turned, books were in the wrong places and she couldn't find the correct places for anything. And Spike had turned into a full-grown dragon and gone away and she was never going to see him again and he couldn't help her, and she couldn't defeat the Changelings if she didn't put all the books away. She cantered around a stack, the cart she was pulling tipping dangerously behind her but not falling over because she willed it not to fall, and encountered Discord sitting in front of the checkout desk, smoking a cigar.
"This is your fault!" she shouted at him. "I should have known you were still a villain! You can't smoke in a library!" With a pulse of magic, she snatched the cigar from him.
He leered at her. "Twilight, your dream symbolism is entirely too revealing. Really? You're going to steal my cigar? A bit of... magic envy there?"
"Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar, Discord," she snapped.
"And sometimes it's a goldfish," he said, and it was. "You're really going to have to wake up. I came here to have a rational conversation and besides, sweet little Loonie's going to have conniptions if she finds me on her turf."
Twilight blinked, and took a deep breath. She was at home. In bed. At night, with the library locked up tight and Spike sleeping in his own bed and everything the way it ought to be, including the Cutie Mark Crusaders being ponies again and the books all filed. It was just a silly nightmare.
A pair of yellow eyes hung down in front of hers. "Boo."
"AAAAAH!" Instinctively Twilight cast a protection spell, flung herself out of bed, and threw herself into a defensive stance. She could barely even see the draconequus in the darkness of the room. How could somepony that massive disappear into the shadows so completely? If it weren't for his eyes she still wouldn't be certain he was even there.
"Nice scream. Lots of 'hero launching herself at the villain' in there, only a tiny touch of 'little filly shrieking for her mommy'. I give it a 9.2."
"Discord, is there a reason I am not summoning my friends to turn you back into a statue right now?"
"Because I haven't done anything to threaten you, and you'd look absolutely ludicrous if you tried to explain to Celly Belle that you had to stone me again because I said 'boo'?"
"You appeared in my bedroom while I was sleeping! You invaded my dream!"
"It's hardly my fault you dream so loudly. I'm surprised Luna wasn't down here yelling 'OH FOR OUR ROYAL SISTER'S SAKE, WILT THOU KEEP THE RACKET DOWN THERE, TWILIGHT SPARKLE? WE ARE TRYING TO RULE THE NIGHT, NOT BE DEAFENED BY IT.'"
"It is your fault you're in my bedroom at night when I have distinctively not invited you."
"Does that mean I'm invited to your bedroom in the morning? Twilight, I'm flattered, but I'm much too old for you—"
She hit him in the head with the books from her nighttable that she'd been reading before bed. "Discord. You woke me up. If this is some kind of stupid prank, you're going to regret it."
"What if it was a very, very clever prank?"
"Then you'd regret it even more."
"What're you going to do, tickle me? Oh, I know, you're going to make me write another friendship report with thinly disguised threats. Or, or! I know! You're going to become the Terrible—"
With a silent apology to the music teacher, she reached out with her magic, grasped the music teacher's piano, and dropped it on Discord's head. He went down like a stone balloon, amidst a horrible crash of musical notes. I'll repair it with my magic afterward and return it before morning, she promised herself.
Discord pulled himself free from the wreckage of the piano, staring at Twilight as if she'd just grown a second horn, or maybe a second head, and then began laughing uproariously. "Sparky, Sparky, that was brilliant! Oh, I didn't know you had it in you. That was amazing. Why, if I were actually here to threaten you, that little bit of slapstick would've amused me so tremendously I'd have agreed to hold off on any dire assaults of chaos at least until morning, just to reward you for the laugh." He started snickering again. "You, Twilight Sparkle, teleported a piano and... and dropped..." Now he was laughing too hard to keep talking.
"What did you do to Spike, Discord?" Twilight asked coldly, holding her magic at ready.
"Why, what makes you think... oh, my... oh, I think I might actually have hurt my rib... a piano..." Anything else he might have said dissolved into his laughing fit.
She summoned a spell, her horn starting to glow. "Discord. Spike didn't wake up even though I dropped a piano on you, and he's not waking even though you're laughing loudly enough to wake the entire street. I am asking for the last time, what have you done to him?"
"I'm just making sure he gets a peaceful night's sleep, Sparklepie. After all, I came here to ask you for a favor, and it would be terribly rude of me to let our negotiations disturb your friend's rest! He's a growing dragon, he needs his beauty sleep." He stood up, started brushing himself off, caught sight of the piano again and re-started laughing. "You dropped a piano... on the god of chaos... ohhh. Ohh, I needed that. That was... you've made my whole night, Sparky. That was hilarious."
"Glad you approve," Twilight said shortly. "If Spike doesn't wake up tomorrow in exactly the condition I'd normally expect, it's going to be something a lot more painful than a piano next time."
"Oh, relax! Your wittle dragon baby will be just fine. Truth is, I haven't actually put him to sleep... I really do not have the patience to maintain a sleep spell worth casting. I just took us out of time."
She relaxed. "Oh, well, that does explain – YOU DID WHAT??"
"Stopped time, locally. You and I are in a little bubble. While the world all around us is frozen between moments, you and I are the only creatures still stirring. Oh, and that Doctor fellow, but he's got bigger tomatoes to fry at the moment than widdle old me." He chuckled. "Honestly you know that makes the piano even more impressive? You had to pull it across a time differential. Quite a lot of power there."
"I was motivated. What do you want, Discord?"
"Why, what makes you so sure there's something I want? Maybe I was just looking for a bit of entertainment."
"Do you not listen to yourself? You said just a minute ago that you were here to ask me for a favor."
He slapped himself in the forehead. "Of course! How could I have forgotten? It must have been that bump I took on the head."
Twilight took a deep breath. "Well, it's going to have to wait until I fix this piano." She concentrated her magic on repairing the piano. Since she wasn't an expert on pianos, it was going to take a lot of focus. Maybe a book on piano repair. She couldn't just undo what she'd done, since it wasn't magic that had destroyed the piano but gravity; she had to actually put it back together as if she were assembling it.
Discord snapped his fingers and the piano suddenly stood in front of her in pristine condition.
"Or, I guess that works," she said. "Wait, does it actually work now? Or does it play horns or something?"
He rolled his eyes. "I'm here for a favor, remember? Yes, the piano works in exactly the incredibly dull way pianos are supposed to work. Though I'll let you put it back where you got it from, after we're done here, because after all, you must remember that even the most hilarious prank isn't consequence-free."
"That's rich, coming from you," Twilight said.
"Au contraire," he said. "I have far more expertise than you do in the consequences of playing hilarious pranks." He sat down on her bed.
"Like being turned into a statue?"
"Like that," he said, a wry smile tugging at his mouth, with just a hint of something... bitter? Sorrowful? It was so hard to tell; Discord's face was incredibly expressive, but exactly what he was expressing was frequently unclear since he seemed to have the ability to display four or five different emotions at the same time, all of them contradicting each other to some degree. "Or... other things."
"Well." Twilight pulled up a chair and sat down at the piano, since there was no room to sit anywhere else and she sure as hay wasn't going to sit next to Discord on the bed. "What favor do you want, and why do you think I'm going to do you a favor?"
"You're going to do me a favor because of the magic of friendship, of course!" Discord announced cheerfully. "And also the commutative property of algebra."
"What does the commutative property of algebra have to do with your favor?" she sighed.
"It doesn't, directly. But the commutative property of algebra applies to friendship. Fluttershy is your friend, and Fluttershy is my friend, and therefore by the commutative property of algebra we can cancel Fluttershy out of the equation and declare that you are my friend, and that's why you're going to help me!"
"Friendship is not an algebraic equation."
"Maybe it's not." He leaned forward. "But if you don't help me, the consequences to your friends might be... unendurable. And no, that is not a threat. Believe me or don't, but I'm trying to prevent something bad from happening to Fluttershy."
"Well, of course I'll do anything I can to help Fluttershy. You should have said that in the first place! What is it you need?"
"I need to know how badly everypony on this planet wants me dead."
Twilight blinked. "You... what?"
"Let me rephrase, since I didn't... exactly limit my activities to ponies, in the old days. And there may actually be some dragons around who still remember me, personally. You're the researcher, you have practically all the books ever written on this planet stashed somewhere around here—"
"Well, that's a little bit of an exaggeration—"
"Perhaps not. I could give you all the books ever written on this planet, if it would help."
He actually sounded serious. Discord never sounded serious. "What do you need me to research?"
"Exactly what I said. How badly do the beings on this world want me dead? Who remembers me, and holds sufficient hatred toward me that they'd be willing to try to kill me if they thought they actually could?"
"Probably everyone," Twilight said without thinking.
Discord didn't move for a moment. He drew a deep, slow breath. "Well. That's... rather what I expected, actually." He got up. "I—"
"Wait!" As he looked down at her, Twilight said hastily, "I was just talking off the top of my head. I don't actually know. Why do you need to know? How does this affect Fluttershy?"
"Well. Let us say, hypothetically, that I have received word that... there is a possibility... that..."
He was looking away, at the floor, as if he was ashamed. Discord being ashamed of anything was new, and frankly, odd. "A possibility that what?"
"Let's just say that my grasp of the power of Chaos is possibly more precarious right now than I would have ever imagined it becoming." He sat back down again. "Twilight. If I... if I no longer had all my power... if those who despise me and want to destroy me learned that their ambitions might actually be achievable... how much danger would Fluttershy be in?"
"What's wrong with your power?" Twilight asked, alarmed. Not that she didn't think he absolutely deserved it if his power levels dropped drastically, but the thought of Discord's enemies coming after Fluttershy to get to him was a horrible notion. "Maybe there's something we can do."
"There's nothing wrong with my power," he snapped defensively. "Right now. And there's hardly any certainty that there ever will be. This is... a hypothetical. A... possibility... with a statistical probability that's risen to non-zero. I just... I'm quite certain it's going to be nothing and I'll end up smacking myself in the forehead for having even the tiniest concern, but... well, you wouldn't want me to take the slightest risk with Fluttershy, would you?"
"So. I need a realistic assessment, Twilight. Most of the beings I... um, tormented a bit, back in the day... well, few beings on this world live a thousand years. And I hardly had time for more than a little harmless fun and games before you six spoilsports locked me up again, the last time."
"It wasn't exactly harmless fun and games, Discord."
"It also wasn't the sort of thing that leads anypony to declare their eternal hatred and swear to spend the rest of their lives seeking vengeance. Whereas... some of the other beings on this world... have possibly even less of a sense of humor than you ponies."
"And a longer lifespan?"
"Yes, you see my concern there." He shrugged. "Possibly no one remembers me except as a story to tell their children. But... ponies are not the only beings with the potential to live a very, very, very long time, and... some beings have a better collective memory than ponies do. If, hypothetically, I were... unable... to defend myself... or anyone else... I need a quantitative assessment of the danger."
Twilight looked at him hard. "For Fluttershy's sake, of course. Not your own. You're not worried about the danger to yourself one little bit."
He laughed. "Now, Twilight, don't go putting words in my mouth, or you might wake up my appetite and I'd have to go snack on some more of your spells. Obviously I'm concerned with the danger to myself, I'd be foolish not to be. But why would you care about that? One thing we can both agree on is that neither of us want to see Fluttershy threatened by anypony coming after me. And if the information that you give me in order to help protect her ends up helping me protect myself as well, I'm sure you'll consider that a small price to pay to ensure your friend's safety."
"You're despicable. You'd hide behind Fluttershy so that we'd all protect you?"
His eyes narrowed, and his voice was cold. "Say of me what you will in any other regard, Twilight, but question my desire to keep Fluttershy safe again and I may break my personal resolve not to turn ponies into stone, are we clear? There's absolutely nothing wrong with my powers right now." Discord stood. "I would really rather not leave my new home and the first being in millennia to reach out to me and offer friendship when they had no reason to believe I'd return it. Particularly not if I've... become... vulnerable, in any way. But if my presence would endanger her, then should worst come to worst, I'll go. And that's what I need to know. Before... anything... bad happens."
"I... I'm sorry." Maybe he was using his magic, maybe he was manipulating her, but Twilight found she couldn't believe he was anything other than sincere. He really didn't want to lead his enemies to Fluttershy's door. "You... if it came to it, couldn't you take refuge in Canterlot? I'm sure Princess Celestia could protect you from pretty much anything."
His smile didn't reach his eyes. "I'm sure she could. But I would very much prefer to know what the odds are before I go begging to her with hat in hand."
"All right." Twilight got up, pushing the chair away from the piano. "I'll do your research. For Fluttershy's sake if for no other reason. I mean, she's a lot tougher than she looks, but she's so kind and sweet, she'd never abandon a friend in danger... so you're right, if someone came after you she'd be right there in the line of fire, and if you didn't have your magic who knows if you could get a message to the rest of us in time?"
"Thank you, Twilight Sparkle, it's been delightful doing business with you." He lifted his eagle talon to snap it, and then stopped. "Needless to say, I would appreciate you keeping this particular task to yourself, along with the potential necessity for it. I'd hardly wish to worry Fluttershy... or tip off any residents of Ponyville who found my games particularly unamusing that there's any possibility they could... express their displeasure, in the near future."
Twilight nodded. What he said made sense. "But I'm going to tell Princess Celestia. Because if this is some kind of elaborate trick I just can't see through, she'd be more likely to see it than me, and if you're honest... you can't say the Princess can't keep a secret, or that she wouldn't deserve to know."
He smiled sardonically. "She already knows, but by all means, Twilight, report on me to your shining spymaster. Reassure yourself that this isn't some elaborate plot of mine to make you do wholly unnecessary work, exhaust yourself, and wind up with a nasty head cold. Or whatever you thought my dastardly plot might be. " There was now a fedora on his head, and he tipped it to her. "I'll bid you good night. Don't go waking up your little dragon to send Celestia a letter, I've already woken her up once tonight and at her age, she really needs her beauty sleep."
"I'll contact the princess in the morning. She might have some books I'll need to check into anyway."
"Good. Let me know what you find out. Don't bother sending a letter, I'll hear you if you just call my name. Unless things have gone farther than I'd expected, in which case the point will be moot."
He vanished. Twilight leaned on the piano, sagging. Without adrenaline driving her, it was going to be really, really hard to teleport this piano back, and she should have known better than to do it in the first place. The fact that Discord had approved of her dropping a piano on his head was simply even further proof that she should never have done it. But she didn't look forward to trying to explain to the music teacher in the morning what the piano was doing in her bedroom, either.
She sighed. She was never going to get back to sleep tonight. After she moved the piano, she might as well get to work. Researching all the beings that hated Discord seemed like a task that could possibly take a very, very long time.
There was somepony lying next to Fluttershy.
Her heart jumped into her throat, which seemed to have the effect of making her throat freeze, so she couldn't scream. Her body felt equally frozen. There was somepony lying in her bed with her, curled up against her like a... like a coltfriend or something, except... wait. There was a feathered wing lying across hers, and something softer than a hoof laid over her shoulder and against her foreleg, and... a tail curled around her feet... a very long tail...
Some, although not all, of the sheer terror left her then, and she took a deep breath. "Discord?"
Another deep breath. So she was right, it was him. In the dim light of the moon shining through her window it was hard to see anything. "Why are you lying in bed with me?"
"I'm... I'm serious... this is kinda weird, you know."
"Only 'kinda' weird? I must be slipping."
"Discord, why are you laying in my bed?"
"If I were laying in your bed, there'd be an egg in it."
"Nevermind. Wordplay's not your strong suit, I see." She felt a nuzzle at the top of her head. "It's all right. You're tired. I understand."
"I don't. I'm trying to ask you, why are you in my bed?"
"How else am I supposed to spend time with you while you're sleeping?"
She rolled slightly, onto her legs so she could get up off the bed, though his wing was folded over her body, making it hard to manuever. She didn't remember Discord's feathered wing being big enough to do that. "I, uh, this, this isn't a good idea. I don't think, uh, I don't think this is really, uh, appropriate..."
"You have sleepovers with your friends all the time."
"Oh, sex discrimination now? I thought you ponies were beyond all that."
"It's, uh, it's just weird, Discord. I'm a mare, and you're, well, I guess you're not a stallion but you're male, so..."
"Would it reassure you if I told you I was only interested in my own species?"
"Is that true?"
"Not even slightly, but I'll lie about it if it will make you feel better."
Fluttershy stiffened with a tiny "eep!" Discord made an annoyed noise and raised his head. "Fluttershy, weren't we just over this tonight? I have absolutely no inappropriate intentions toward you, any more than you'd have toward Angel. Wait, if you do have inappropriate intentions toward your bunny rabbit, don't tell me. Let me keep my illusions."
"Then we're good." Discord lowered his head again. "Unless you're so overwhelmed with lust for me that you're afraid my proximity may overwhelm your common sense, I think it's fairly safe to say both our virtues are entirely safe from one another. There's exactly one pony on this planet I have ever had any such intentions as you're implying toward, and you're not her." He started to get up. "But I should have known this 'friendship' thing only goes so far. You don't want me next to you while you're sleeping, because of some bizarre rule of social propriety, fine--"
"Wait... you don't have to get up... were you even sleeping? I thought you didn't sleep."
"I don't. I was watching you sleep."
"Isn't that boring?"
"You'd have been mad at me if I woke you up." He sighed. "Even I can want peace and quiet on occasion. Am I not allowed to want to lie still for a bit?"
"Well, of course you can, but... why are you in my bed?"
She felt Discord shrug. "You're warm."
He could manufacture clothing, or fire, or weather conditions at will. He could be any temperature he wanted. He wasn't here because she was warm.
And then Fluttershy realized, and felt embarrassed that she had taken this long to figure it out, when it had actually been the first thing he'd said. Admittedly, it seemed out of character for Discord for that to have been anything other than a joke... but he didn't sleep, he didn't need somepony to keep him warm, and he wasn't interested in her romantically, so the only possible explanation that made any sense for why he'd been lying in bed snuggled against her, holding her like she'd have held Angel Bunny, was that he'd wanted somepony to cuddle. He was Discord; he was never going to admit that and make it sound like he was telling the truth, but he was perfectly capable of telling her the truth in a way that made it sound like a joke so she wouldn't realize it was the truth. "I'm sorry, Discord," she said, settling back down on the bed. "You just startled me. You can lay next to me if you want."
He settled back down against her back again, his tail curled around her legs and the end of it twitching, his wing folded over hers. "It's all right? You're not going to panic and run screaming out of bed again?"
"I... I didn't really run screaming..."
"Oh, but it was close. You were seriously considering it."
"It's just... you're not really someone I'd expect to want to cuddle anypony."
"I'm large. I contain multitudes. If I never get to do anything that seems completely out of character, then I'm predictable, and how could I ever bear to be predictable?"
Now that her racing heart was slowing down and she was relaxing again, she realized that this was actually surprisingly comfortable. Discord had moved her so that her head was pillowed against his chest, where his brown fur was thicker and softer than the gray fur on his neck, and her back was snuggled against his underbelly. Since he was much, much longer than she was, and obviously much more flexible, he'd bent himself into a semicircle around her, his feathered wing covering her like a down blanket (and yes, now that she was paying attention, it was much bigger than usual... as if he'd enlarged it precisely so he could fold it over her. He'd also reversed the positions of his forelimbs, so now his lion's paw was on the same side as his feathered wing.) He was very, very warm, almost as hot as Spike, but the fur distributed the warmth better than Spike's scales did so he felt more like an enchanted heated blanket and less like, well, a dragon.
Fluttershy giggled. She was small enough in comparison to Discord that she was practically a teddy bear to him. Then she thought about the reasons why she sometimes slept with Angel Bunny, and felt troubled again. "Are you sad?" she asked softly, remembering the discussion about his family.
He chuckled. "No. I'm not sad." The tufted lion's tail end of his tail swished restlessly for a moment before going still. "Go back to sleep, Fluttershy."
"I just want to know you're okay."
"I'm just peachy."
Fluttershy sighed. She didn't believe him. But whatever it was that was bothering him, he was plainly not willing to open up about it. Maybe he'd be willing to talk about it later, in the morning; for right now, if the only thing she could do for him was be a warm body to cuddle for comfort, she could do that.
His heartbeat was loud. And fast. Surprisingly so for a large creature who was lying down. "Does your heart always sound like that?" Fluttershy murmured.
"So fast. Like – like a foal, or a bird, or a bunny rabbit, but... like it's racing."
"Stop trying to dissect me with your brain, Fluttershy. I swear you're as bad as Sparky sometimes."
"I just worry about you." Large creatures had big hearts, physically, and therefore, slow heartbeats. A fast heartbeat in a large creature usually meant adrenaline. Fight or flight or meet or mate; it was the sound of arousal or excitement or anger or fear. Discord was uncharacteristically quiet and still at the moment, so it was very unlikely that he was angry or excited, and given his indignation at her fear that he might see her in a romantic light or be making advances on her, it seemed unlikely that he was aroused; it was possible, given how he'd mocked the very concept of friendship up until the moment she made him realize he needed it, but Fluttershy thought she knew Discord well enough to know that if he wanted her and didn't want to admit it, he would be making fun of her rather than being indignant.
Was he scared of something?
She didn't know how to bring it up. She knew all about being scared, oh yes, and she herself wasn't too proud to admit it... fear was her greatest weakness, something too powerful for her to hide or pretend not to feel. But she had friends who would hide it if they could. Rainbow Dash and Rarity were both very proud ponies, in different ways, and neither of them would easily admit to fear. And Discord was so arrogant, and so powerful, and so rarely faced with anything to fear, and so new to the concept of friendship and the idea of confiding feelings in anyone. If she said anything to him, she was afraid he would immediately throw up defenses, make a joke, pretend there was nothing bothering him. She had to wait for him to come to her.
She lay against his side, eyes open in the darkness, trying to be there for him, trying not to be lulled back into sleep by warm soft fur against her face and neck and light fluffy feathers spread over her. It was hard, almost too hard. She was on the verge of falling asleep again when she heard a quiet voice in the darkness murmur, "Fluttershy?"
Fluttershy startled slightly – since she had been almost asleep, and his voice, though quieter than she'd ever heard from him, was still louder than the silence of the room had been. "Uh—yes?"
Another moment of silence, during which she wondered if she'd dreamed him speaking. And then he said, "You're mortal."
Well, obviously. "Uh... yeah?"
"Do you... you must, I'm sure, but I never thought about... do you think about dying?"
"I guess every mortal does," Fluttershy said, "but, you know, we grow up knowing we're going to die someday and it'd be silly to worry about it all the time, so we don't think about it too much." Was that what this was about? Had it just sunk in that he'd made friends with someone who'd be dead in an eyeblink by his standards? "Discord, are you worrying about me? That's so sweet!" She scooted herself back so she could get her own forelimb up over his neck to hug him.
"That's not... exactly..."
"You mustn't worry about it," she said. "I know it must bother you to think about a friend dying, when you're immortal and everything, but death is a part of life and it's just natural. It's just the way things are. But I'm still a young pony and I promise you I'll be here for you for a good long while, okay?"
He sighed. "You have an entirely too flattering picture of me, I'm afraid. I'm not... well, I do, but... that's not what I was... you know what, never mind."
"You can talk to me about anything, you know that? That's what friends are for."
"I wouldn't even know where to begin."
"You open your mouth and start talking, silly, that's how to do it."
Again he was silent for a minute. Finally he said, "No, I was right the first time. It's nothing, Fluttershy, don't worry about me. Just go back to sleep."
"But if something's bothering you or frightening you... a burden shared with a friend is a burden cut in half."
"Is it? In my experience it's a burden doubled."
Fluttershy sighed. "But how much experience do you have with having friends?"
"Well, it's not like I've never had any friends before, ever, in all of eternity."
That wasn't what he'd said that day with the ice skates, but she let it go. Discord was both prone to exaggerating the facts and downplaying them depending on how he felt at the moment; maybe he'd had friends once upon a time and he'd said she was his only friend ever because of how long it had been, or maybe he'd never had friends before now and he'd just decided he no longer wanted to admit to that now that he was willing to admit he liked having friends. "All of eternity was a long time ago, though, wasn't it?"
"I suppose it was."
More silence. She finally said, "Did you... did you want to talk about it?"
"You know what? No." He lifted his head slightly and spoke sharply. "What I want is to lie down in peace and quiet and pretend that nothing is wrong. Can I do that? Am I allowed to not spill my guts and blather on about my feelings about something that neither you nor I have the power to change? Can I just possibly simply lie here and not think about it? If that's quite all right with you?"
Fluttershy trembled. "I... I'm sorry... I didn't mean..."
Discord sighed. "Fluttershy. I'm not angry with you. I just... don't want to talk. Can I just... be here, without having to talk about things?"
"Of course you can," she said. "I... I just thought... maybe you would like to?"
"Not really, but thanks for the thought." He settled his head back down on her bed.
"You know... you know if you change your mind... you can always talk to me, right?"
"Yeah. I know." His lion paw tightened slightly around her, pulling her closer. "Just... go back to sleep, okay? You're a pony, you need your sleep."
She didn’t actually intend to do that just yet, not when she was worried for a friend who wouldn't talk to her about whatever was obviously bothering him; she was hoping if she stayed awake, maybe Discord would change his mind and open up to her about whatever was on his mind. But his rapid heartbeat slowed, turning deep and regular, and his breathing evened out. Probably the only things about him that were ever in a consistent rhythm for any length of time. His wing was surprisingly light and fluffy, and his fur was soft and his body warm. Lulled by comfort, Fluttershy slipped back into sleep again.
When she woke, he wasn't there, and there was no evidence he'd ever been. There was a note on the cabinet with no letters on it, just an imprint of lips, and when she went over to inspect it the lips spoke in Discord's voice. "Gone swimming! Come to Mane Street in Ponyville if you want to join in!" it said cheerfully, and then the lips vanished and it was nothing but a piece of paper.
There was no swimming pool anywhere near Mane Street. Fluttershy sighed. Probably she had to go check this out, as Discord's more-or-less supervisor to make sure he didn't do anything terrible. She fed all her animals, left a note on her door so ponies with injured pets would know where to find her, and headed to Mane Street.
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