A Different Perspective

Long Path, an earth pony living in Canterlot, and his best friend, a griffon named Free Agent, set out in the company of Twilight Sparkle to visit various places and species to look into what makes them different, and hopefully learn how to get along with them better. Things rarely go to plan though, and along the way, they discover things about themselves, and find love, drama, and laughter. Then Chrysalis changes everything, and the fate of the whole world might be at stake. Their lives will never be the same!
This story is set mostly after the events of Conversations in a Canterlot Cafe and builds on the fanon of the series, especially changelings, so you might want to read those stories first for background material.

https://www.fimfiction.net/story/246414/a-different-perspective

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8. Chapter 8: Romancing the Alicorn

Fortunately for everyone, but especially for Path, the next few days were relatively uneventful. While he was still recovering, Path spent a lot of time in the library doing research, but on the first day, it was Roseclaw who kept him company.

“It’s your turn to go out and meet the common griff,” Path had told Twilight. “The pub was a great start, but as much fun as that is, it’s not the only aspect of their lives that we’ve come to study, and you should be getting some impressions of your own. Besides, I don’t think that I could persuade Rose to leave my care to somepony, or somegriff else right now.”

Roseclaw did not say anything, but merely fixed her gaze on Twilight with one eyebrow lifted in question: ‘Do you want to argue with me?

Twilight took the hint and spent the day in the company of Free for a change, and she ended up in places she never would have dreamed of seeing otherwise. It left her quite thoughtful as they made their way back to the castle that afternoon.

Free had been delighted to be able to spend the day with Twilight. He made it a point to find those aspects of the griffon society that would most pique her interest. Not all of the things that they learned that day were aspects that they liked, but they did provide valuable data on how to better understand the griffons here as opposed to the Equestrian citizens, and Twilight was already working on a paper in her head. In other words, she was a very happy pony right now, and a happy Twilight Sparkle made for a very happy Free Agent.

The second day, Roseclaw decreed that Path was recovered enough to do some light touring, and she would take him to places that she thought would intrigue him, so Twilight was allowed to work in the library, partly to do more research, and partly to start writing up her findings. While Path did get to see a lot of new sights, it was the fact that he was so readily recognized and welcomed virtually wherever he went that was the most surprising.

“I think my notoriety might be skewing many of my observations on your culture, Rose,” he told her later that afternoon.

“I’m sure you’re right, dear, but it also highlights a significant point about us.”

“And that is…?”

“Once you are accepted by us, it’s wholehearted and unreserved. Aside from the fools like Ravenwing, you will forever be regarded as a true griffon. You have in one fell swoop gained an enormous amount of honor and status, and in a spectacular manner that was witnessed by a great crowd. When we start putting the House of Path together, we are going to get flocks of griffs who will want to join our House. The fact that you are a pony has become irrelevant.”

“Yes, I get that feeling too. Putting together a noble House seems both exciting and daunting though.”

“A new House being created rarely happens. We have to decide a lot of things such as our charter, our goals, the type of griffs we want joining…”

“Or the type of ponies,” Path added.

“That too. So you’re still thinking of opening an auxiliary branch in Equestria?”

“Of course. This whole venture started as a quest to better understand and make friends with other species. While the Griffonian and Equestrian Houses will likely each just take the local race initially as they get established, it will be expected that they will soon interchange freely between the two nations. A House Path griffon in Equestria will be equal to a House Path pony in Griffonia, or any other race that joins in the future. We will lead by example!”

Roseclaw smiled. “And you say that you are daunted? You are already so far ahead of what I have been considering. You dream big, Long Path.”

Path blushed a little. “And I also still get a bit preachy. However, I do have big plans, and I hope that perhaps we can make a difference in this world.”

Roseclaw leaned over to nuzzle him. “You already do.”

# # #

One other thing had changed for Path – he did not get to sleep alone any more. Although he was adamant that he and Roseclaw should get to know each other a lot more before becoming intimate, she was equally adamant that she would share his bed at night, if only for sleeping. Path found that his heart was not into disagreeing with her, and he had to admit that he found her to be a comforting presence at night.

Thus Roseclaw was there sharing breakfast with the others on the morning of the third day when a strange ringing bell sound started coming from Twilight’s room.

“What’s that bell?” Roseclaw asked. “I don’t know of anything in these quarters that could make that sound.”

Twilight got up from the table. “It’s an alert from my Talkie Trottie. Excuse me, please.” She headed off to her room.

“What’s a Talkie Trottie?” she asked bewilderedly.

“It’s a magical communications device that Twilight invented,” Path answered. “I think Talkie Walkie is a better name for it, although Prince Shining Armor insists on just calling it a comm. The stallion has no imagination!”

“Either name means nothing to me. More explanation, please.”

“It’s a means of talking to people over enormous distances. There’s another that has been left with Princess Celestia so that she can contact Twilight immediately in an emergency. The ringing bell is a secondary spell that is activated when the other TT unit is used, and makes a ringing bell sound. That way no pony has to have it with them all the time, or have someone awake every moment in case a call comes in.”

“That’s a sensible idea.”

“Yeah, I wish I’d thought of it.”

“So who did?”

“Um… Shining Armor.”

“The stallion with no imagination?” Roseclaw said pointedly.

“Ah… yeah,” Path admitted with embarrassment.

“So, what do you think Princess Celestia is calling about?”

Path shook his head. “I have no idea other than it must be very serious. They agreed that they would not use the device for idle chatter.”

Twilight re-entered the room just then, the TT device held to her ear in the glow of her magic. She had a frown on her face as she listened to whatever Celestia was saying. Then she shifted it to speak into it.

“How sure are they that it’s her? We’ve had false alarms before.”

Twilight listened to the reply, and then sighed.

“I understand – it’s certainly not worth the risk. I’ll start preparations immediately. Goodbye, Celestia.”

Free said, “What’s up, Twi?”

Twilight replied glumly, “I’ve been recalled to Equestria. It seems that there has been some reliable intelligence that Queen Chrysalis is about to make some sort of attack on the Crystal Empire. We suspect that information on the effects of the Crystal Heart on changelings may have leaked out, and she seeks to control that power.”

“Didn’t the news that it would burn out a changeling also leak out?” Path asked.

Twilight shrugged. “Who knows? Either she doesn’t know, doesn’t believe it, or reckons that she can control it safely. In any case, her army can wreak a lot of havoc in the attempt, and Celestia wants me to join the other Harmony Bearers in supporting the defense. So I have to leave immediately for Equestria.”

“What about the barrier?” Free asked. “I know it was pretty damn solid to m… um… to changelings.”

“Cadance and Shining Armor have already started modifying it for the purposes of allowing authorized and controlled visits as recommended in the report. It’s possible that something has gone wrong, or even that she has found a way around it. Considering how the Crystal Heart powers them up, it’s not a possibility that we can afford to ignore.”

“But we haven’t even come close to completing our mission here!” Path objected.

“I know, but you don’t have to go back with me. You can stay and keep working on your project.”

“It’s our project, Twilight. You’re just as big a part of it now as me. All of us are.”

The alicorn smiled a little sadly. “I know, but sometimes there are higher priorities and obligations. I’ll return as soon as I can, or if I can’t, I will be waiting eagerly for your return to hear what you’ve learned. I’ve got to send word now for Captain Fairweather to prepare the dirigible and its crew for immediate departure.”

Twilight then trotted hastily out of the room.

“Well this sucks!” Free said emphatically.

Path considered his friend’s displeasure at the turn of events, and grinned. “Why don’t you go back with her, Free?”

“Huh? I can’t abandon you. I’m here to help you with this project just as much as Twilight was.”

“Yes, but I have Rose to help me until you return. However, I reckon that Twilight is going to need a little company on the journey back, don’t you think?”

Free stared at Path for a long moment before he burst out laughing. “I can’t believe you are setting me up with a girl. Oh you’re awesome, mate!”

“Just promise me one thing, Free.”

“Yeah?”

“Make her happy.”

“That’s what I do best! And may I suggest you do the same in my absence?”

Path looked up at Roseclaw who smiled back at him. “Already working on it, Free.”

# # #

Immediately nevertheless took a few hours as crew were recalled from shore leave, and the dirigible prepared for its journey. Twilight used the time to gather her notes and take her formal leave from King Glimfeather’s court.

It was therefore late morning before the dirigible hove into sight above the city and Twilight made her final farewell to the others. “I’m leaving the Talkie Trottie with you so that I can keep you up to date once I get back to Equestria. I’ll call every day, I promise.”

“We’ll be thinking of you, Twilight,” Path said, stepping up to give her a hug.

Roseclaw followed suit. “May fair winds follow you, House Sister.”

Twilight looked around. “Where’s Free?”

Path pointed up. “He’s up there waiting for you. Perhaps he wants to give you a more personal send-off?”

“Oh. Alright. I hope he realizes that I intend to teleport up there.”

“I’m certain you won’t miss him,” Path said confidently.

“Okay, I had better be going.” She stood there for a moment before adding, “Huh! I didn’t think it was going to be this hard to leave.” Her horn lit up, and with a pop of air rushing in to fill the void, she was gone.

Twilight materialized on the observation deck, and was a little surprised to find Free already there waiting for her. She smiled and said, “So you did guess that I’d teleport up here.”

“You had intended to teleport down when we arrived, so it wasn’t a big leap to guess that you’d want to teleport back up.”

“Logical – I like that. Anyway, I get to say goodbye to you too now.”

“No need, babe. I’m going with you,” he replied with a grin.

“Huh? Why? Won’t Path miss you?”

“Path knows and approves. As for why, I have lots of reasons. For starters, you’re part of House Path now, and we don’t abandon each other. Path has Rose, and you get me. Secondly, I think that you’d appreciate the company on the way back. Sure, there are some good ponies on the crew, but they are on duty and shouldn’t be fraternizing, even if I think that’s a pretty silly rule. But thirdly, I want to spend some time with you, Twi.”

Twilight’s ears pinked a little at the latter. “Um… well, that’s nice. I mean, I have a lot of work to do, but I would appreciate the company when I’m not doing that.”

“Just ask. I’m here for you anytime.”

“Right. Well, I had better check in with Captain Fairweather. Talk to you later!”

Twilight hustled inside, leaving the griffon satisfied. ‘She didn’t teleport me off the airship, so that’s a good start.’ He went to the railing and looked down to the castle courtyard. With his griffon far-sight, he picked out Path and Roseclaw still standing in the castle forecourt. He waved farewell to them, and apparently Roseclaw was watching just as keenly for she waved back, immediately followed by Path who was cued by his fiancée.

Okay, Free, you have a couple of days to do this, so better get it right. It might be the biggest change in your life in years, and maybe the second-most important one. I have a promise to keep to Path too.’ He waved one last time before turning to go inside. ‘I’m going to miss you dearly, Thunderhooves.

# # #

Twilight busied herself with her notes and writing up her observations and speculations so far. She started working in her cabin, but just as it had on the journey to Griffonia, it rapidly grew stuffy and uncomfortable, and later that afternoon, she moved out to the observation deck. Unsurprisingly, she found Free there already, painting once again. She had not anticipated seeing Captain Fairweather there though, posing for a formal portrait.

“Good afternoon, Your Highness,” she greeted the alicorn.

“Hello, Captain. What’s going on?”

“I requested a portrait from Free Agent that I plan to give as a present to a special somepony,” the mare replied.

“You mean Quiet Words?”

“I see that I have been less than discreet. It seems everypony knows of our relationship.”

“I have no objection to it, and it’s none of my business anyway.”

Free said, “Hey, Cap! Stop stiffening up! You want this to be a portrait or a mug-shot?”

Twilight hastened to add, “Don’t pay any attention to me. I just want some fresh air while I work.”

“It’s not surprising that you don’t like the confines of your cabin,” Fairweather replied. “Neither Princess Celestia nor Princess Luna enjoys prolonged stays in there.”

Twilight gave her a look filled with curiosity. “Oh? Why is that? It’s certainly a very comfortable room, obviously built for important passengers.”

“Because you are an alicorn. You are part pegasus, and whether you are thinking of it or not, you are up in the air and yearning to fly.”

“I’ve never thought of it like that.”

“Ma’am, I’m an earth pony, and all I have ever wanted to do since I was a filly was to fly. I can only imagine how much more that urge must be to one who has wings.”

Twilight flexed hers for a moment. “You may be right. I think that I take these for granted sometimes. It’s been years since I ascended and gained these, but I couldn’t wait to learn how to fly properly back then. Now it seems I never have the time to do so.”

Free put his paintbrush down and said, “I’m not going to be able to finish the portrait this afternoon, Cap. Wanna pick this up again tomorrow?”

Fairweather nodded. “It’s about time that I went back and checked up on our status anyway. A captain’s work is never done. I’ll see you at dinner time, Your Highness.” The mare then left the observation deck.

Free started cleaning up and packing away his art materials while Twilight carefully arranged her notes and journal.

“She’s right, y’know?” Free said.

“About flying, you mean?”

“Yep. I’ve been feeling the need myself. We’ve all been too ground-bound lately mostly because of Path. Back in Canterlot, I probably walked more than any other griffon who lived there for the very same reason. Not that I minded, but still it takes away from fulfilling that need to feel the wind in your feathers. In fact, that’s exactly what you should do right now.”

“What? But I have work to do!”

“It’ll keep, and you need time just for yourself occasionally. Put away those books, Twi. We’re going for a flight.”

“Right now?”

“Yep! Right this moment!” He grasped one foreleg, and urged her over to the railing. “Go on, you know you wanna. Or do I have to do to you what I did to Path?”

Twilight looked at Free with a mock glare. “Don’t you dare!” She then spread her wings and took off.

Free immediately followed suit, and as they turned to fly in the same direction as the dirigible, they passed a startled guard pegasus who had been stationed out of sight of the deck. “Tell the captain that we’re going for a joyflight if she asks,” Free shouted to the guard.

Free caught up to Twilight, but let her set the course. He looked at her, and realized that she had closed her eyes and had a smile on her face. ‘Yeah, you’ve missed this.

For a while they just flew ahead of the airship until Free suggested that they fly a bit higher.

“I don’t want to lose sight of the dirigible,” Twilight objected.

“Don’t worry, babe, I won’t lose track of it. Just have some fun.”

Twilight did as he urged, and started climbing, banking and diving, closely shadowed by the griffon. Without interfering with her exuberance, he subtly kept her moving in a westerly direction, keeping them in the vicinity of the airship. Then he did a little showing-off of his own, demonstrating his own aerial skills, playfully tagging Twilight and trying to keep out of her reach as she tried to tag him back. Minutes turned to hours before the duo finally settled down on a cloud to rest.

Twilight panted hard, but she had a smile glued to her face. Free lapped up the happiness that she was radiating, replenishing the energy that he had spent on the exciting flight.

“That was wonderful. I don’t think that I have had so much fun just flying for years,” Twilight said when she caught her breath.

“Y’know, I think I can say the same thing.”

“You’re a very good flyer. I know that I’m only an average flyer myself, although that is enough for me usually.”

“You didn’t have wings from birth, so you’ve done quite well, I reckon. Who did you get to teach you?”

“One of my best friends is Rainbow Dash, the best flyer in Equestria. She made it her goal to get me airworthy.”

“How did that work out?”

Twilight giggled. “You want to know how many times I made a one-point landing?”

“One-point?”

Twilight raised a hoof to her nose. “Yeah – face-first!”

Free chuckled. “I think she should have told you how to make landings before getting you up in the air.”

“Yeah. Not that her flying instructions were much help either.”

“Why? What were they like?”

“Oh, for example, she would say things like ‘you have to flap your wings real hard’, and then I would end up smashing into a tree.”

Free laughed. “I would have loved to have been watching that. I don’t think much of her as a flying instructor though.”

Twilight smiled ruefully. “True. She is such a good, natural flyer that she really doesn’t understand how she does it, so she isn’t good at communicating how to do it to a learner. I ended up going to flight school with a class of foals to get some real instruction. Don’t you dare tell her that though! She still thinks she was the one who taught me to fly properly.”

“Don’t worry, Twi. My beak is sealed.”

“Thanks. How about you? Did being a changeling affect you when learning to fly?”

“Well, I certainly didn’t know I was a changeling back then, and it was a long time ago, so I don’t recall everything, but I was a bit of a precocious learner. Just like griffon parents have done for centuries, he used to take me out regularly as a young chick on a training leash and pull me along, letting me get the feel of the air under my wings. He really didn’t expect me to start flying for several weeks yet, but I surprised him one day and took off. He wasn’t expecting it and was off balance, so I ended up dragging him along with me.”

“A little griffon chick dragging along a full-grown male?” Twilight said incredulously.

“Yep. Dad says my wings were whirring like a buzz-saw. He kept calling out for me to stop, but I was just too excited. I wore off the feathers and fur on his belly that day.”

 

 

Twilight laughed. “Oh, that beats my story. I can just imagine how hilarious that must have looked.”

Free grinned. “It’s one of my favorite memories from my childhood. Dad was so proud of me! I took him for a drag a few more times after that, just so he could show me off to his friends.” He sighed happily. “I had a great childhood.”

“What was your relationship to your mother like? After all, she didn’t give birth to you. She knew that you were not only adopted, but also not a true griffon.”

“If I had never learned the truth about myself, I would never have known the difference. Mom was just as stern and loving as any griffon mother could be. She taught me so much about being a true griffon, while leaving out the stupid stuff that we saw back in Griffonia. Twi, I can be any species I want, but I can’t imagine being anything else but a griffon. I love so many aspects of ponies and other species, but I will always revert to griffon form as my true self.”

Twilight considered that, and then said, “I think that I know how you feel. I entered into Princess Celestia’s School for Gifted Unicorns as a young filly, and as Celestia’s personal student, no less. I grew up with her being almost a second mother to me, and I wanted to emulate her so badly.” She giggled and fluttered her wings. “I never really expected to emulate her physically also.”

“You earned your wings, Twilight; now you get to enjoy them. I hope that you take the time more often to do so.”

“It’s funny, but it’s always because of my friends that I end up accomplishing things, or doing things that I would have considered a waste of time. But it isn’t a waste, is it?”

“Nope. There’s little point to being alive if you don’t live it to the full.”

Twilight looked at him appraisingly. “That’s you, isn’t it? You take every single moment and live it to the fullest, don’t you?”

Free grinned widely. “Now you’re getting it! What’s the point of having wings if you don’t fly? What’s the point of being talented if you don’t make great accomplishments? What’s the point the point of having friends if you don’t share your life with them?” His expression turned serious and he gazed Twilight in her eyes. “What’s the point of having a heart if you don’t take a risk having it broken?”

Twilight blushed and turned away. “Perhaps we should return to the dirigible now?”

“No, not yet. The sun is setting, and we should have an awesome view from here.”

It was a procrastination, and Twilight knew it, but it was a seemingly safe one. “Okay, I’ve never seen a sunset from the clouds before.”

“What? In all the years that you have had wings, you have never checked out a sunset or sunrise from the sky?”

“No,” Twilight admitted in embarrassment.

“You’re going to love this then!”

The sun had reached the horizon, and as it slowly sank out of sight, the reddening light lit up the surrounding scattered clouds. As the sun shot beams of light up between the clouds, Twilight almost did not notice Free’s wing come around her and draw her close to the griffon. They enjoyed one of Celestia’s best sunsets together, and it had sunk well out of sight before Twilight felt like stirring.

“Now we had really better head back to the airship before we lose the light.”

“You’re right. Follow me.”

Twilight said not a word about the experience, but then again she did not have to. Free had tasted her enjoyment of the moment, spiced with the thrill of feeling his wing about her. It was a great end to the day.

# # #

They had been late to dinner, and the cook had scolded Free for keeping the princess away for so long that the meal had been less than optimum, but the griffon did not care. Twilight probably did not notice anyway, and he wasn’t going to let an overcooked dinner spoil his day.

Afterwards he headed back to the observation deck and gazed at the moon rising in the east for a while. Twilight joined him a few minutes later, and they both quietly appreciated the night seascape. Eventually it was Twilight who broke the silence.

“Thank you.”

“You’re welcome, but for what in particular?”

“The flying, and the sunset.”

“I only encouraged you to do what any pony should enjoy.”

“But you were the first to do so. I’ve had wings for years, but I’ve never had someone take me on a flight like that before now.” She was quiet for a long moment before asking, “Is that how you’ve made so many conquests?”

Free was startled. “Conquests?”

“Yes, all those ponies and others that you’ve banged over the years. Did you take them on a joyflight or equivalent to get them to have sex with you?”

Free sighed and replied sadly, “Is that how little you think of me after all? Okay, so you really want to know? None. I’ve never ever ‘conquered’ anypony. I have an unfair advantage in that I can taste their emotions and have a good idea of what they need rather than what they think they want. I awake them to the joys of life and frequently we end up banging to celebrate it. There are never any second thoughts, and never any regrets. Some of them have occasionally come back to me when life has got them down and I help them again, and we bang again. Some of them just want to bang anyway, and that’s good too. Whatever the reason, there are only winners in my relationships – no conquered or conqueror.”

“Oh… so have you never had a steady marefriend?”

“Actually I’ve had a couple.” He gazed out at the night scene with his eyes unfocused as he recollected. “One was a griffoness, and she was a real cute thing, but I knew it wouldn’t last. There just weren’t any griffon cocks her age in Canterlot and she was a little desperate. Even though I was a little older than what she was looking for, I did my best to help her, and we banged a lot, but it wasn’t me that she really needed. When I found that a new griffon family that moved into Canterlot had a son her age, I introduced him to her. They’ve been married for over two years now. The other was a pegasus mare. Unlike most, she was attracted to me first, and she enjoyed a lot of the things that I did too. We were together for a few months before she moved on. No regrets – she was just not prepared to be tied down to anything permanent.”

Free turned back to Twilight. “Now that I’ve bared all, what about you? How many coltfriends have you had?”

Twilight did not meet his eyes. “I’ve got plenty of stallion friends,” she replied.

“Not the same thing, and you know it.”

Twilight refused to answer for a long time. Free waited patiently though until she finally said, “None.”

“Really? Not even a date?”

“I make time for my friends, and I’m even godmother to a couple of cute foals, but otherwise I have a lot of responsibilities that take up my day. I really don’t have the opportunity to date or spend time with a coltfriend.”

“I didn’t know the bit about being a godmother. I want to hear about that.”

“Funny thing – it involves another changeling.”

“There’s an odd coincidence. That why you’re so involved with changeling affairs?”

“Part of it, although I ran into this one by coincidence. This emotion harvester met a unicorn mare, fell in love, and they had a couple of sweet fillies.”

“Whoa! Stop right there. I may not be the best informed changeling in Equestria, but even I know that drones are not fertile, let alone with other species.”

“You’ve never heard of the Loving Deceit?”

“Nope.”

“It’s how changelings have children with ponies. Basically, he took the form of a mare, had sex with a donor stallion, then changed back to a stallion and impregnated his wife.”

“Well, I can certainly see the deceit part. I suppose it’s loving too if it gives her what she really wants.”

“Yes, although she knew exactly what was happening. She knows he’s a changeling.”

“That’s weird. I didn’t think that changelings ever gave away their real selves.”

“They don’t normally, but times have been changing lately, although in this case he revealed himself when he saved her from some timber wolves. However, I have something even more amazing to tell about the children.”

“They look like him?” Free replied jokingly.

Twilight giggled. “Close, but not quite. I crafted a special spell that when used during conception, part of his nature is imposed on the donor sperm, so both of the fillies truly are his daughters.”

“Wow, that’s really cool. So that’s why you’re their godmother?”

“That’s right. It’s a real privilege.”

“And you’ve not considered having foals of your own?”

Twilight’s smile faded. “Maybe, but it’s the same problem as finding time for a coltfriend.”

“I’m willing to bet that you didn’t have time to be a godmother either before you did become one.”

“Heh! You’re right, I didn’t.”

“We all find the time to do what we need to do, if it’s really important.”

“So you think I need a coltfriend, and you want to be that coltfriend. Why me and not somepony else?”

“You know, that’s the first question that you’ve asked that I’m having a hard time answering. I’ve rarely had a hard time understanding what my companion of the moment needs, but when it comes to myself, it’s not as simple. You know I enjoy sex a lot – I’ve never made a secret of how many I’ve banged, and I look forward to banging many more, including Path one day, I hope. My emotional needs have been fulfilled by him for years, and I love the guy with all my heart, but he isn’t a mate, and I think I feel the need for one. It’s not as if I haven’t looked at any of the other mares for that possibility, but it’s never worked out. Then you came along and captured my imagination.”

“And how did I do that?” Twilight asked, genuinely curious by now.

“When we first met you at the True Brew Café, I could tell that you were every bit as intelligent and caring as your reputation painted you to be. You were practically ambushed by Path’s rant and yet instead of being angered, you waded right in, found out what was going on, and started us on the adventure that we’re now living. That’s so awesome! My life, and of course Path’s as well, has become so much greater because of you. For once in my life, it wasn’t me giving somepony what they needed, but you giving me something that I never realized that I lacked. You had given me a greater purpose, one that I could share with Path, and now I can share with Roseclaw and you too in House Path. You give of your entire self, and make others happy, just as you should as Princess of Friendship, but you never think of yourself. I want to be the person who thinks of you even as you are thinking of others.”

“So you think you’re the best choice, do you? Why not Path, for example? He’s a handsome stallion, intelligent, has the same tastes as I do, and even has some unusual talent with magic. If he and Roseclaw weren’t betrothed, I might even consider asking him out on a date.”

Free grinned. “Don’t let that stop you; he’d make a great herd stallion.” Then his expression grew a bit more serious. “But he isn’t what you need.”

“Oh? And what do I need? A horny griffon?”

“By coincidence, yes. It’s the same thing that Path needed. If I hadn’t been his friend, he would have buried himself in books and never made friends. He certainly would not be in Griffonia today and have a fiancée. You can see for yourself how happy and full of life he is though. It was always within him, but he needed someone to bring it out, and I had that privilege.”

Twilight was uncomfortably aware of how closely that echoed her experience up until she was sent to Ponyville and finally made some friends. And here Free was showing her that despite that, she was still holding herself back from the next step – finding a life partner. Still, she was not going to be convinced that easily. “Perhaps you should have changed into a griffoness and became his wife.”

Free chuckled. “Don’t think that I wouldn’t have if I thought that was what he wanted. I even would have become a mare for him, but as much as I love him, I’m not what he needed in a mate. Rose is that person. You don’t know how bloody thrilled I was when he got interested in her when we were at Celestia’s party for the griffon ambassador.”

“I heard that you were annoyed not to get a chance at her,” Twilight pointed out.

Free grinned back. “I was that also. It was damn ironic that the she-griff that I intended to ask out, turned out to be exactly what he needed.”

“Why did you think Roseclaw was a potential mate for Path so soon?”

“You needed to see them to appreciate that. She was bored, and he was there expecting to have a crap time. Both came alive when they started talking. It wasn’t their similarities that made it work, but their differences. It’s the same thing that has made Path and I lifelong friends. And it’s the very thing that you need too. If you and Path had become mates, you probably would be happy enough, but you would never be challenged as much. You would just reinforce each other’s habits and become so much less than your potential.”

“Wow, you certainly have thought this through. Think you’ve sold yourself yet?” Twilight asked drolly.

Free laughed. “I hope I’ve made some impression. I wouldn’t go to this much effort for just anyone.”

“You’ve given me a lot to think about, Free. And with that, I think I’ll turn in for the night.”

“Not a bad idea. I might just do the same.”

Free followed Twilight inside and they headed for their rooms. She paused outside of her room and said goodnight. When he just responded with the same, she gave him a quizzical look.

“Aren’t you going to ask if I want company tonight?”

“Why? Do you want some?” he replied with a leer.

Twilight rolled her eyes. “I trotted right in to that one, didn’t I? No, I just meant that it seems strange that you aren’t asking that anymore.”

“Perhaps my goals have been set a bit higher. Some mutual fun in the bed just doesn’t seem enough now. Sweet dreams, Twi.”

Free left then, and as she closed her door, Twilight wondered if perhaps she should not have let him.

# # #

When Twilight went to breakfast the next morning, she found out that Free had already had his and gone. It wasn’t too surprising as the changeling needed less sleep than she did due to his nature. She asked about the captain, and was told that she was unavailable for a while unless it was urgent. Twilight guessed why that might be, and went to her room to gather her notes once more.

Stepping out onto the observation deck, she found Fairweather there with Free, as expected. After exchanging greetings, they all quietly went about their tasks. Free occasionally asked the captain to adjust her pose, but that was all that was said for a couple of hours.

Eventually Free put down his brush and palette and said, “That’s it for now, Cap. I don’t need you to pose any more. I’ll be able to finish off the details without you.”

Fairweather got up from her seat and asked, “May I see it?”

“If you wish. As I said, it isn’t quite finished yet though.”

“I understand.” She moved to where she could see the canvas and regarded it thoughtfully before nodding. “Very good. I look forward to seeing it completed.”

“I’ll have it ready for you before we disembark tomorrow.”

“Excellent. Have a good day, Mister Agent. You too, Your Highness.”

When the captain had left, Twilight asked, “How much are you charging her for the portrait?”

“Charging? I’m doing it for free! Do you know how rarely I can get someone who is willing to pose quietly for the time it takes for me to do a detailed portrait? She gets a painting and I get a lot of practice.”

“So you get no payment at all?”

“I’m an artist, Twi. I get my payment in the creation of art.” Free then grinned. “Of course if you do it for free, people feel they owe you a favor, and one day I might have a need for a favor.”

“I was beginning to get worried there, Free. You seemed to be getting too good to be true.”

“Daddy didn’t raise no dumb griff. Building up a store of goodwill could pay off handsomely in the future. Best of all, everyone wins.”

“I suppose I can’t argue with that.”

“Good, because I’m hungry and I don’t want to argue either. I’m going to get me some lunch. Want me to bring you some sandwiches or something?”

“That would be nice, thanks.”

About ten minutes later, Free returned with a tray laden with a plate full of sandwiches and a couple of tall glasses of fruit juice, and he was already munching on a sausage that he had brought with him from Griffonia.

“Help yourself, babe.”

Twilight put aside her work and started tucking into the sandwiches. Free also had a few after finishing his sausage.

“Y’know, I could get used to this,” Free said.

“What exactly do you mean?” Twilight asked between mouthfuls.

Free waved his arm expansively. “Everything! The travelling, the excitement, the new faces, these restful periods in between. But especially, doing it all with you and Path and Rose.”

Twilight smiled and nodded. “I’ve done a lot of travelling around with my friends, or for my obligations, so I understand what you mean. Still, it’s nice to come home again too.”

“It’s a bit too easy to let inertia take hold if you spend too long at home. I was always pushing Path to get out and do things. This quest of ours has been the best thing to happen to him… and frankly to me too. I might never have met you otherwise.”

“It’s been a real eye-opener for me also. I’m rather torn between this quest and my normal life back home. Both are important to me, and both have their merits. There’s only one thing that keeps me returning.”

“Your role as one of the Bearers of Harmony?” Free guessed.

“Exactly. It’s Equestria’s greatest defense, but it requires all six of us for it to work.”

“It seems to me to be a rather fragile defense if it can so easily be nullified simply by removing one of you six, whether deliberately or accidentally.”

“You’re absolutely correct, and it’s something that I have been looking into. The encouraging thing is the nature of Harmony – it does not need exactly we six ponies, but somepony who embodies one of the Elements. In other words, we should be replaceable. The biggest problem of course is finding those replacements.”

“Without meaning to flatter you, wouldn’t that be particularly difficult in your case?”

“Believe it or not, I already have somepony in mind who could fill my role. The difficulty would be in persuading her to come back to Equestria to take it.”

“She lives in another country? Maybe our travels will take us there so that we can help try to convince her for you?”

Twilight laughed. “Oh, a lot further than that. In fact you could say that she’s out of this world.”

Free looked puzzled. “You’re speaking in riddles, Twi. I take it that there’s magic involved?”

“Yep. She’s in another universe only accessible via a magic mirror. I’ve been there, and it’s a very strange place, but some things are universally true, and that’s the power of friendship. That’s what’s keeping her there, and what makes it hard for me to ask her to come back.”

“Another universe? You’ve lost me.”

“There is more than one reality, Free. Some of them are very similar to our own, and some can be unrecognizably different. The Laws of Magic or Physics can vary too. Some can change you too. In hers, I took a different form that is called a human. It’s very weird, and I couldn’t do magic at all in that body. Celestia knows what you would become if you went there.”

“I’d be game to find out!”

Twilight giggled. “I bet you would at that. However, that’s not a practical idea at this time, and for the moment I must balance my time with you and with my obligations back home.”

They finished off the sandwiches in thoughtful silence.

“Well, I had better get on with my work,” Twilight said after finishing her drink.

“And I have some detail work to complete on the painting.”

They worked in companionable silence for the moment. After about an hour, Free was satisfied with the painting and started packing up his art tools and materials. He carefully placed the canvas aside to dry before taking the rest away to his cabin. When he returned, he had his lute with him, and he settled down in a chair to play. He started with some gentle tunes, and Twilight looked up from her work to smile at him appreciatively.

They spent a considerable amount of the afternoon like this. Free had almost made his way through his considerable repertoire of easy-listening music before Twilight gave a sigh of satisfaction and laid aside her quill.

“That’s done,” she declared. “Thanks for the pleasant music, Free. It helped a lot.”

“You’re more than welcome, babe.”

“That’s another thing that puzzles me. You’re obviously a professional level musician, but you don’t do it for a living. Instead you work at a gymnasium.”

Free grinned. “No big mystery. You see, I’m an artist, and I make music for the joy and inspiration it gives. Turning it into a profession introduces limitations for me, especially when it comes to staying at home with Path. Professional musicians almost always have to go on tours of the country to make a living, and that keeps them away from home sometimes for months at a time. I don’t want to do that. Besides, I really do enjoy my work as a trainer at the gym, and I don’t have to tour for that.”

“But this quest took you away from home too,” Twilight pointed out.

“But it was with Path, which is the whole point. And now it’s also with you, and he has Rose for when I can’t be there.”

“Goodness! You’re like an old married couple sometimes.”

“Ha! I suppose we are. The only thing missing has been the sex,” he said a little wistfully.

“You still want to have sex with him then?”

“Of course! I love him, and I’ve wanted to bang him ever since I realized that.”

“But his relationship is and should be with his new mate, Roseclaw.”

“I don’t see those facts as being mutually exclusive, Twi. That’s not my nature.”

“Even though you have indicated you want a relationship with me?”

“I’ve been nothing but honest with you, Twilight. I’ve laid my soul bare, and you know my deepest secrets. I have my special talent tattooed on my butt. I’m a changeling but I’m a griffon too. This is me! I love Path, but I think we two can have a future also. These are not things that I see as conflicting. We four are all embarked on a journey together, and I see us not just as united in a House, but also as a herd. Would you give up something so promising over this?”

“It’s… tempting.”

“No, it’s frightening. I understand; I really do. Your decision will change your life forever, and not in a small way. You already know the benefits, but you fear the consequences. Tell me though, what happened the last time that you made a big frightening choice?”

Twilight thought back and smiled. “I came out so much the better for it. You’re right, fear is one thing that is holding me back.”

“Then I’ll ask you straight out – will you be my very special somepony?”

Free could taste her indecision, her fear, and her hopes. Had he pressed her too hard, too soon? Had he done everything possible to convince her of his sincerity? This was a huge step for him also, and perhaps he had made a mistake? What more could he do? Then a thought occurred to him and he mentally kicked himself.

“You know that I love being a griffon, and if I couldn’t shape-change, it wouldn’t bother me to be stuck in this form forever. However, I admit that there’s one thing that ponies can do that griffons can’t.” With a flare of changeling magic, Free’s griffon form was replaced with a pegasus whose fur was identical in color to his mahogany feathers, and his tail and mane matched his leonine tail tuft’s bright red hue. He leaned over and said softly, “A pony has lips with which to kiss you.” And he did so, gently and lovingly kissing the alicorn on her cheek.

Twilight was thrilled by the touch of his lips, and she felt a surge of emotion – something both familiar and new; something that she shared with just a few ponies, and yet was uniquely different. All she knew was that she wanted to feel it again.

 

 

Free spoke up once more. “Twilight Sparkle, in a moment I am going to kiss you again, this time on your lips, and I will kiss you long and passionately. All you have to do is say no, and I will not bother you again.”

He tasted her whirl of emotions as they calmed down and steadied into decisiveness. As she opened her mouth to reply, he already knew her answer.

“Yes.”

Free did as he had promised, and Twilight returned the kiss with equal fervor. They paused only to catch their breath before resuming kissing once more.

Eventually they parted and grinned at each other.

Free said, “Wanna fly with me, Sparkles?”

“Love to, Firetail!”

Together they dived over the railing and flew away with powerful strokes of their wings, laughing with joy.

“The lookouts are going to wonder where the strange pegasus came from,” Twilight said with a giggle.

“I don’t care! Nothing could spoil this moment for me.”

Free reached out with his hoof, and Twilight met it with her own. They flew together, at last united in heart as well.

# # #

They were late for dinner again, but Free was oblivious to the cook’s glare. In fact neither he nor Twilight could later recall exactly what they had to eat. They spent the evening back out on the deck, with Free playing the lute. The big difference this time though was Twilight cuddled up to him, with his wing possessively around her. Occasionally she would sing along with him to a familiar tune. Neither paid attention to the time until she yawned hugely.

“Time for you to go to bed,” Free told her.

“I don’t want to,” Twilight replied dreamily.

“I know how you feel, but you need your sleep.”

“What about you?”

“Hon, you’ve given me a feast of emotional energy today. I’m so hyped up, I’m not sure that I could get to sleep if I wanted to. Now up you get!”

Free chivvied her up and they walked together to her room.

“Sweet dreams, love,” Free said, kissing her on the cheek.

“Thanks, dear. You too, I hope.”

Free walked further down the corridor and opened the door to his room as Twilight watched.

“Y’know,” Twilight said as she walked down the corridor to the griffon, “I think Roseclaw has the right idea. I think there’s room enough in that bed for the two of us to cuddle, don’t you?”

Free grinned. “I never doubted it,” he said as he ushered her into his room and closed the door behind them.

# # #

It was nearly midday when they rounded Canterhorn Mountain and Canterlot castle hove into sight. With practiced skill, the crew brought them to a smooth landing in the airfield from which they had departed over a week ago. The gangway was quickly extended and Twilight exited along with Free. Naturally they were expected, and a group was waiting for them. Five ponies trotted up to meet Twilight and they all exchanged hugs.

“Welcome back, Twi,” the orange earth pony said with a country twang.

“About time! Did the griffon fly you over?” the blue pegasus with the colorful mane complained.

“Now girls! She had to come a long way,” remonstrated the white unicorn.

“A very long way,” the yellow pegasus insisted almost inaudibly.

“But she’s here now and it’s time for a welcome back party!” squealed the pink earth pony.

Twilight held up her forehooves to stay her enthusiasm. “Wait a minute! First I have to introduce you to someone.” She gestured for Free to join her. “Free, I’d like you to meet my very best friends, Applejack, Rarity Belle, Pinkie Pie, Rainbow Dash, and Fluttershy. Girls, I want you to meet my coltfriend, Free Agent.”

“Hi, guys!” Free said with his most dashing grin.

Applejack stared and said, “Seriously?”

“But griffons are so uncouth!” Rarity objected.

“Nah! Griffons can be cool too,” Rainbow disagreed.

“He’s kind of cute,” Fluttershy decided.

“Hey Twilight, did you know that he’s m-m-mph…” Pinkie started before Twilight stuffed her hoof in Pinkie’s mouth.

“Not now, Pinkie,” Twilight told her, removing her hoof cautiously.

“Oh. Okay!” Pinkie replied brightly.

“Now we had better go see Princess Celestia,” Twilight said, starting off in the direction of the castle with Free beside her. “I did have to come back for a very important reason, after all.”

“We all did, dear, and I agree. Business before pleasure!” Rarity said, bringing along the rest of the group, with Pinkie happily pronking along in the rear.

I wonder how Twilight knew that Free isn’t an ordinary changeling?’ she thought to herself. ‘He’s going to be fun!

# # # # # # # # # # #

Author's Note:

Phew! This was a hard chapter. Shipping an OC with a Mane 6 character, Twilight especially, was never going to be easy. I dare say a number of readers aren't going to like that no matter how well I've written it, but I do hope that the rest of you think it works. I figured that Twilight would need persuading. She's a very logical and methodical person, and would want to understand why she feels an attraction to Free. Anyway, it's done, and I hope you enjoyed it.

The illustrations were done by Kat Miller a.k.a. Foxenawolf.

 
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