A violent twinge ran through Discord's body as he heard those supremely chilled out, relaxed words being spoken. The spirit of chaos hooked his legs around the tree branch upon which he'd been napping, close to the far edge of the Everfree Forest, and swung down towards the source of the noise. Viewing the world upside down for a moment or two, Discord gently removed his eyes from his face and rotated them until his vision was correctly positioned once more. He glanced left and right, searching the untamed undergrowth for the owner of that all too familiar voice. Sure enough, his gaze soon settled upon a particular patch of foliage, several bushes and ferns clumped together, out of which was protruding a rather lush, dreadlocked tail.
Soft spoken, awed murmurs escaped the owner of the tail, her hindquarters slowly rocking from side to side in placid excitement. It took all Discord's willpower not to conjure up a thorn bush right then and there, and locate it just close enough to give the poor pony a sharp jab in the cutie mark. Instead he vanished from where he was hanging in the trees, and re-appeared a split-second later within the very bushes in which the earth pony's head was buried. A fraction of his usual size, the chaos creature's hung in the air for a moment, before gently lowering himself down to stand upon the very tip of the wide eyed pony's snout.
For a few seconds, a surprising length of time given the shock most ponies normally displayed when Discord materialised in front of them, the pony barely seemed to acknowledge this new figure dominating her field of vision. Then, very slowly and calmly, her eyes began to drift inwards, focusing their attention on the bridge of her nose and the grinning little figure standing with his arms folded and an impatient frown upon his face, atop it.
"Hey... could you, like, move out of the way for just a second, friend? There's some totally keen bugs down here that are farming their own little moss garden. Its, like, such a microcosm of Equestria's agricultural sustainability. Y'know? No matter how much we grow and how much we know, nature can always show us the right way to go."
She closed her eyes, giggling warmly.
"That one's like, totally getting pulled out at my next poetry slam. Dig?"
Glancing over his shoulder, Discord turned white as a sheet as he was immediately greeted by the sight of several pairs of glittering black pincers slashing their way through thick strands of tough, Everfree forest moss. The earth pony's nose was perilously close to those supposedly 'keen' beetles as they went about their business, and while a nip from one of them would surely have just been a mild discomfort, at Discord's current size it would have been a more mortal wound. With a yelp of fright the spirit of chaos promptly disappeared, only to flash back into existence another moment later; perched nervously atop the daisy-printed bandana tied round the pony's vibrant reddish brown mane.
There Discord remained, trembling in traumatised shock for a short while, until at long last the pony upon which he was sitting lifted her head free from the bushes and out into the comparably open air of the forest itself. She looked upward as Discord floated himself off her head, swiftly returning to his normal size, and smiled at him.
"Really digging your matter compression. Do you, like, shift it trans-dimensionally, or is it all illusionary... y'know, like life, and stuff."
Discord stared down at the earth pony in disbelief, slapping a hand over his face in dismay.
"Oh, my... you haven't changed a bit, have you, Tree Hugger?"
The pony glanced down at her own body. Holding out her forelegs in front of her face and gently waving her hooves in a series of circular motions.
"We're always changing. Life is an ebb and flow of energies being exchanged. Grass to pony, pony to grass. And then there's magic. Magic never stands still... and we're all magic."
Tree Hugger and Discord looked at one another, the pony smiling placidly, Discord not so much. Eventually, still smiling, Tree Hugger tilted her head to one side.
"Have we... met? In this life, this plane of existence, I mean?"
Discord rolled his eyes.
"You have got to be kidding me. Have you really met that many chaos spirits that you can't remember who is who? Because I'll let you in on a tiny little secret, Tree Hugger... I'm the only one."
Again the earth pony beamed up at the floating form of Discord.
"Radical. You're like, Chaos given form or something?"
She looked him up and down, at the various aspects of his anatomy, and giggled to herself.
"They should call you, like, Discord. Or... would that name be kinda, tacky?"
Discord bristled, folding his arms stubbornly across his chest.
"Oh, because Tree Hugger is such a complex and deeply meaningful name?"
Waving a dismissive hoof, the earth pony shrugged.
"Like, all names as just labels. We should judge ponies on their actions, not their names."
Though he tried not to react to this, Discord could feel himself wincing. He had not, after all, made a very good impression upon Tree Hugger following their first meeting. Indeed she, supposedly one of the most caring souls his dear friend Fluttershy had ever met, had been reluctant to accept his apologetic hug at the end of their only prior encounter. And yet, despite knowing that because of his previous behaviour it would be harder than ever to win over this pony's confidence, Discord couldn't help but poke fun at her. Even now he found himself not praising or showing interest in what she had to say, but instead simply opting to pick her comments apart.
Turning his head up haughtily, Discord tightened his folded arms; knotting them around one another multiple times over.
"I would have thought a pony like you would tell others not to judge at all, not by names, actions or anything else."
To Discord's surprise however, Tree Hugger's reaction was far from negative. It wasn't even met with her usual placid indifference.
Her eyes widened, and she blushed, turning her gaze downward in shame.
"W-whoa. Truth. I totally didn't think of that. It's scary, how much prejudice can hide inside a pony's heart without them even knowing it."
Tree Hugger's eyes remained downcast, her face sullen with shame, all traces of her peaceful smile and that dazed twinkle in her eyes having vanished.
With a swift pop, Discord vanished, reappearing with his head directly positioned between Tree Hugger's own and the ground.
"Oh, come now... Treesie..."
It hurt to use that fond nickname which Fluttershy had bestowed upon her friend. But right now, that level of tender familiarity seemed appropriate.
"...it was hardly the crime of the century. Besides, now you know better. Right? I'm the only one who heard you say it, and I forgive you."
Tree Hugger raised her head slightly, her eyes looking deep into Discord's own with hopeful sincerity.
Swallowing nervously, unaccustomed to receiving such affection in a look from anyone but Fluttershy herself, Discord nodded.
The earth pony smiled, shuffling at the ground before her with one hoof. She lifted her gaze further, and that oddly calm, pleasantly glazed expression returned to her eyes.
"That's totally way cool of you to say. Listen... um, if you want to hang out. To chill with me and catch some vibes, that'd be just awesome"
Discord smirked, his own golden hues widening with delight.
"You want to... hang you say?"
With a flash, both he and Tree Hugger vanished from the forest floor, only to reappear some fifty feet up in the tree canopy immediately after. The earth pony's head span, and she waved her unburdened forelimbs in the air as her long mane flopped down like a nest of snakes over her face. Beside her, also hanging from his knees, Discord grinned at the pony's amusement. Giggling and swinging more and more wildly, she called out; unable to see him or anything else through her hair.
"Way cool. We're like tropical fruits. Sweet, ripe and ready to drop."
Totally carefree and unafraid, Tree Hugger straightened her hind legs and let herself fall from the branch towards the earth below. She closed her eyes and tucked in her limbs, sighing peacefully as the ground plummeted towards her.
Discord re-appeared upon the ground, and with a soft grunt collapsed as Tree Hugger crashed down upon him; his large body completely cushioning her fall. From beneath the pony, Discord groaned in confusion.
"W-why did you let go?"
Tree hugger giggled once more, blowing her hair out of her face and prodding at Discord's torso with one hoof.
"Because I knew you'd be there to catch me, duh!"
The spirit of chaos considered this for a moment, still lying there with the earth pony sat astride him, before asking what to him was a rather obvious question.
"You... knew I'd be there? You do realise I'm the spirit of chaos, right? Not exactly the most predictable fellow in all Equestria. Most ponies would think I'd get a laugh out of watching them hit the ground with a splat."
With a smirk, the earth pony scrambled off Discord and offered a hoof to him as she responded.
"Yeah, but like, that's because most ponies don't understand you. Right?"
Discord raised his eyebrows, leaving them hanging in the air about fifteen feet above the top of his horns.
"Oh? And you do?"
Tree Hugger shrugged, non-committally.
"I dunno. I just think that chaos is... y'know, totally natural. Totally cool. Magic is all around us. In ponies, sure, but also in every rock, every leaf, every bug. Ponies can harness that magic, and so they think of it as something ordered and controlled. But really, in its natural form, magic is wild and free spirited. Raw magic is chaos, and chaos is just another aspect of magic. Free from rules and expectation."
She smiled at Discord.
"The more chaotic something is, the more totally free that thing is, you get me? And the more free anything is, the more chaotic it is. The only reason so many ponies distrust chaos is that in the past, ponies and other harsh nasties have used chaos as an excuse to get their own way and bum ponies out. "
Discord cringed, but straightened up again as he realised that Tree Hugger wasn't talking about him. Or that even if she was, she wasn't judging him for his past actions.
"But, like, chaos isn't evil. It isn't good or evil. It's just another form of expression... and so long as you don't hurt other ponies doing it, expressing yourself rules."
Falling silent for a brief while, her somewhat metaphysical treatise almost complete, Tree Hugger turned her head and watched a leaf floating slowly down from the forest canopy. By her side, Discord stood and stared.
The spirit of chaos' mouth hung down to the floor, resting amongst the leaf litter as he tried to wrap his head around the philosophy which had slipped so seamlessly from the mouth of the supposed hippy standing before him. He couldn't tell if what she had said really made sense, or if she was just spouting yet more of her blissed-out beliefs regardless of any real knowledge on the subject. Either way, Discord felt as though despite how vastly different they seemed in terms of attitude and outlook on the world at large, Tree Hugger was somehow managing to not only understand him... but to make him want to understand her, too.
The leaf which Tree Hugger had been following landed gently upon the ground, and almost as though she'd merely stopped to take a breath, the earth pony picked up where she'd left off.
"Harmony and chaos. They're two sides of the same coin. Both have their place in this world. In the lives of ponies. In magic. Even in love and friendship."
Craning her neck down to the forest floor, Tree Hugger picked up that fallen leaf in her teeth and turned around on the spot. Smiling, she presented the leaf to Discord, who took it from her with trembling digits, staring down at the gift with awe as the earth pony continued to talk.
"I love seeing harmony in nature. Witnessing a rare wild critter in its natural habitat, seeing it chilling out and spreading its life force through everything it touches. But let me blow your mind with this, my friend. One of the reasons I cherish my place in this world so much is that I get to visit and explore places where nature follows its own rules. Where rare plants and animals have to try their hardest to survive and thrive in the strangest parts of Equestria. Seeing how animals react to chaos and uncertainty is radical, because the more I learn about how they react to chaos, the better I can understand how to help them discover their path to peace."
Tree Hugger sighed contentedly. Quite involuntarily, still staring at the earth pony with a rather stunned look in his eyes and a rosy glow upon his cheeks, Discord did the same. He didn't move. Didn't speak. Didn't crack a joke or transform any of their surroundings into a comically misplaced prop. He just stood there with Tree Hugger, until with all the casualness of a pony who had been chatting with an old friend about nothing more consequential than the weather the earth pony spotted a beetle crawling between her legs, and began placidly to follow it.
Glancing back over her shoulder as she trotted after the bug, she murmured warmly to Discord.
"You can still come hang, look at some bugs with me if you want."
She paused as finally she noticed the chaos spirit's unnatural stillness. The glassiness of his eyes and the redness of his face as he stared, unblinking, right at her. She smiled, nodding with understanding.
"Chilling out, huh? That's cool. Keep it relaxed. Stay mellow, yeah? And if it feels right, come find me when you're done."
Turning back towards the bug's trail, Tree Hugger trotted off after the small, many legged creature. She called out one last time as she departed though, the words ringing loud and clear in Discord's bashfully glowing ears.
"I'd enjoy it if we could hang out more, Discord. That'd be pretty righteous."