Half-cock/Black Rose carefully adjusted the bridle on her face and then gave herself another appraisal in the full length mirror. The lingerie ensemble she was wearing would've made Rarity proud. With critical eye she checked everything was exactly right.
Never imagined I'd wear threads like this again. She thought. Slowly she started strutting around in a small circle. Completing it she came to a stop again. Well one advantage of a trotting around all them hills is that I haven't gotten flabby, and them mares in the salon sure did clean me up all nice.
Her internal monologue was interrupted by a knock at the door. The unicorn froze for a moment before replying. In her normal, somewhat gruff voice.
"Who is it?"
From the other side of the door Celestia replied. "It is I. May I please come in?"
Half-cock closed her eyes. Took a deep breath and let it out. Then she replied as Black Rose. "Why of course yer Highness! Please do come in!"
The door opened and pale alicorn gracefully stepped into Half-cock's palace apartment, closing the door behind as she did. The princess walked up to the mare-in-waiting and received her graceful bow. "Well Black Rose that's quite a fetching outfit you have there. Is that something you recently had made for you?"
The Scale Bearer rose from her bow and looked down at it. "Oh this little thing here! One of yer seamstress here in the palace was all so kind and made this fer me!" Once again mare made a small strutting circle. Coming to a stop facing away from the princess she looked back and smiled while giving her tail a little flick. "So yer Highness what do ya think?"
Celestia raised an eyebrow. "Oh you are quite a sight in that." She strolled over and gently nuzzled the light tan mare. "How are you doing dear?"
The unicorn giggled. "Well I will say that gitting Long Shot and Squall up ta speed has been a bit of a challenge.
But I assure ya they seem ta be coming around ta the concept! Give them a few more days and I think be up ta the job!"
The alicorn nuzzled the mare again and looked her square in the eyes. "I didn't ask you how your teammates were doing. I asked you how you were doing." She said in a firmer voice. "I picked you for this job because of your past, but will that same past be a liability? I need to hear you say you can do this."
The mare-in-waiting sighed and gestured over to a large pile of cushions that were strewn across the apartment floor. The mare plopped down and Celestia laid down alongside her. Neither mare spoke for several seconds. Finally it was the gun-slinging mare who broke the silence.
"Yeah yer Highness I kin do this." She looked down at the clothes she was wearing. "Although I'll be honest there's a lot of old memories bubbling back up ta the surface."
She closed her eyes and slowly shook her head. "I, I was never angry, or embarrassed about what my ma did fer a living, and she was very proud of her work."
Noticing a small knot in Celestia's mane, Half-cock levitated a brush over and gently began to brush the princess's mane. The alicorn smiled. She recognized this as one of Half-cock's coping mechanisms. From her earliest days in the Crown's service this was a habit she did when in private with her. As she brushed she continued speaking.
"But, but it just wasn't my a calling. That, hurt her a lot. I tried ta make her see that, but she took it as a slight. I think she saw me as a being part of her legacy, and when I didn't she was deeply offended. That's, that's why I skedaddled out of town on her when I turned 15."
Half-cock stopped brushing and looked down at the dark hoses sheathing her front legs. "So now wearing this here threads as a fully grownup mare I, I feel a connection ta her again. I remember helping her git ready fer customers in the evening." She resumed brushing Celestia's mane. "Helping ta brush her mane and tail. Gitting the ribbons, in them just right so she was the prettiest darn mare in town."
The brush paused again. "And she was beautiful. Not just on the outside, but on the inside. She never swore, and she a rarely raised her voice. She just, just had this way gitting ponies ta do what she wanted. A strength, intelligence, grace and confidence in the way she moved and acted. "
There was another longer pause. "Unlike me." The mare glanced over at her holstered whippet guns that rested on her bed. "Ma, definitely didn't approve in me being interested in shooting irons.
She was crushed when I ran off, and she definitely wasn't a happy when she found out I'd become one of yer Mares-in-Waiting and a Scale Bearer. I, I think she felt I was once again slighting her. Despite all the letters I sent her telling that it wasn't so."
Celestia opened her left wing and laid across the mare. Gently she closed it again pulling her against her. Half-cock closed her eyes and pressed her head against the princess's neck. Letting the warmth of the alicorn's body seep into her. She always felt at peace when this happened. For a minute or so neither spoke. Then in a soft whisper of voice the princess spoke.
"Half-cock. Each of us has path we must walk in our life. It is what defines us as who we are. Sometimes that path is one that others have chosen for us. Other times it is not. I know your very proud of what you and your team have done in service to Equestria and me." Celestia gave her a wing hug. "And I've never regretted bringing you into my court. You've made me very proud, and I think you are a beautiful, strong, intelligent mare. It has been an honor having you in my life."
I shiver ran through the mare at these words and she nuzzled deeper into the alicorn's mare. "Thank ya Celestia." Her words muffled a bit by the mane. "I'm a fortunate pony ta be able ta be a service ta ya."
Celestia relaxed her wing and then gracefully rose to her hooves. Smiling she looked down at the mare-in-waiting. "Now I have other matters that demand my attention. I just wanted to checked up on you. Remember we have briefing tomorrow at 09:15. Sleep well dear."
"Good night yer Highness." said the mare.
Celestia smiled. She then turned and gracefully departed. Half-cock watched her leave, then she rolled over grabbed one of the still warm pillows Celestia had been lying on. Pulling it close against her chest she closed her eyes and breathed in the princess's scent and smiled.