A Slightly Cruller Fate
Thunk. Thunk. Thunk.
“Excuse me, Princess?”
“Just one moment!” Thunk. Somewhat dazed, Luna pulled her face away from the desk. “Come in!” she said, her horn and muzzle throbbing slightly.
Through the door trotted - oh, what a surprise! Yet another pony levitating a stack of papers about twice the size of the last. “Princess,” he said, oblivious to the piercingly-annoyed glare in Luna’s eyes, “The request to change the Equestrian national tree from the Holly Oak to the Bay Willow has been withdrawn, so the reinstatement paperwork needs to be filled out.”
This late at night? “Alright,” replied Luna, already readying her quill, “I think I can-”
“And,” he interrupted, “The budget cuts for the School for Gifted Unicorns need to be finalized.”
That again?! “Of course.” Luna nodded, keeping her voice as level as she could. “Just give me-”
“And, lest it be forgotten,” said the rather daring delegate, “The paperwork regarding regulation of the Canterlot squirrel population needs to be renewed again.”
Oh, by my sister’s name... “Not a problem.” Luna’s left eyelid twitched every-so-slightly. “I’ll have it done as soon as I can.”
The stallion nodded. “Thank you, your majesty.” He bowed his head, setting the stack of papers on the Princess’ desk before he crept out.
Luna waited to hear the door click before collapsing on the newest pile of bureaucracy. She turned slightly, aiming her gaze out the window and at the night sky.
“I swear,” she murmured, unusually exhausted for a near-omnipotent alicorn princess, “I swear if I receive one more paper to litigate, delegate, renew, or anything of the sort, that I’ll...” She sighed. “Well, I’ll certainly do something.”
The door clicked open. “Oh, one more thing: the authenticity of Blueblood’s family tree still needs verification, so if you could-”
Before the astoundingly dull stallion could utter another syllable, Luna certainly did something.
Pony Joe had seen a wide variety of sights at the donut shop. He’d seen ponies sleeping soundly after half a donut, and a dragon down three boxfuls without batting an eye. He’d seen pegasi doing barrel rolls around the ceiling, and unicorns having jousts near the bar. He’d even borne witness to some long-haired stallion accidentally letting loose a half-dozen starving crazed weasels.
The one thing he’d never seen, nor expected to, was a blue alicorn suddenly materializing in the middle of the shop, teeth bared and wings fully extended as scorched bits of paper fell to the floor around her. Not to mention having not one, not two, but three of his tables simultaneously light on fire.
“One more thing, hrm?” she muttered viciously to herself, “Sure, just one more thing to an ever-increasing pile of ‘one-more-things!’ Well, they can just stick all of those...things, up their-”
Before Luna could finish her self-gratifying rant, she was coated in white foam. She blinked, beginning to notice that this location failed to look the least bit like her office. The tan unicorn wielding a fire extinguisher certainly hadn’t been part of the decor, nor had the blackened tables surrounding her.
“Uhm...” Luna stood for a moment, still, wide-eyed, and terribly confused. “...Hello?”
Pony Joe, ignoring Luna’s timid greeting, immediately dropped the red canister and bowed deeply. “So sorry, your majesty! I didn’t know that...I mean, I didn’t expect...erm...” He looked up sheepishly. “...Do you need a towel or something?”
Luna emerged from the restroom, heaving finally removed the last remnants of extinguisher foam from her coat. Pony Joe had done the same to the tables, and was currently in the process of moving the damaged ones to the back and pulling out slightly less burnt replacements.
“Do you need some help?” she asked.
Pony Joe looked up and then away, still embarrassed. “No, your majesty, I -”
He turned back to the Princess. “I’m sorry?”
“Luna,” she repeated, “I appreciate the cordiality, but I’d prefer if the atmosphere was a touch more casual for the moment.”
“Uhm, alright then, Luna...” Pony Joe paused, the name sounding alien without ‘Princess’ preceding it. After a few seconds of him dragging tables and Luna standing uncomfortably at the side, he spoke again. “So, what brought you here?”
Constant irritation was the first answer to cross Luna’s mind. “Constant irritation,” she said, immediately biting her tongue.
Pony Joe froze in mid-stride. “Pardon?”
Luna sighed. “Ever since I resumed my duties as Princess, I’ve yet to have more than a few moments where I wasn’t engulfed in paperwork and politics. I was desperate to get out.”
“And so you decided to come to a donut shop?”
So that’s where I am, she thought, Explains the donut display. “Well, I didn’t really mean to go anywhere besides ‘away from my office.’ Speaking of which, I do apologize for the tables.”
Pony Joe smiled. “Don’t worry about it, prin - Luna. I’ve had far worse.” Seeing Luna raise an eyebrow, he quickly added, “N-n-not that you’re...I mean, it’s all...um...”
He felt an immeasurable surge of relief when Luna began to laugh. “It’s fine.”
He nodded, the blood slowly draining back away from his cheeks. “Thanks,” he said, making his way back to the bar.
Luna nodded, then noticed something: “Might I inquire as to the current absence of customers?”
“Well, I was actually closing up when you came in.”
“Oh.” Luna started towards the door. “I suppose I should depart, as well.”
“Hey, wait just a sec!” Pony Joe slid open the donut display. “I’m not letting a princess leave my shop without a batch of donuts!”
Luna paused, then turned her gaze towards the display.
“C’mon, it’s on me. Whatever donut you want, free of charge. Least I can do.”
Luna smiled, hiccuping a laugh. “For letting me demolish three of your tables?”
“Sure, why not?” he replied, chuckling softly. He gestured to the bar. “C’mon, take a look. Name’s Pony Joe, by the way.”
“Can I call you PJ?” asked Luna with a giddy smile and not the slightest hesitation.
Pony Joe paused, the smile fading from his face. “If anypony else asked that (and believe me, they have), I’d say no, but for you...” His smile then returned with a much brighter intensity. “Just don’t wear it out.”
Pony Joe (or PJ, as he was now going to be relentlessly referred to) could almost swear that he heard Princess Luna squeak. That’d be two once-in-a-lifetime events in one night, he thought.
Luna trotted up to the bar, pulling herself onto one of the stools as she looked at the carefully arranged assortment of donuts.
“So, what’s your favorite? Glazed? Chocolate cake? Blueberry butterscotch and sprinkles?”
“Um, I’m not sure...”
“C’mon, everypony has a favorite donut! Everypony that’s tried one, at least!”
Smiling, it was a moment before he noticed Luna staring to the side, uncomfortably shuffling her front hooves. “Oh...you’ve never...?”
“Yes,” she replied bluntly.
“Well...” Pony Joe smiled somewhat awkwardly. “It’s hard to go wrong with donuts, so pick any of ’em.”
“Alright. Erm...” Luna scanned the rows of pastries. “I’ll take that one.”
“...And for the entire night, I thought that this dragon was gonna be my only customer. But a couple hours before closing, in trot six mares who really looked a mess, I’m tellin’ ya. And then, you wouldn’t believe it, in trots nopony other than -”
Pony Joe, somewhat irritated at having his story interrupted, turned to the door. “Sorry, pal, but we’re clo-” The color drained from his face as he realized who the regal pony entering was. “Y-your majesty! I’m sorry, I thought-”
Princess Celestia laughed, waving a dismissive hoof. “Oh, it’s quite alright.” Then, having addressed the faint stallion, turned to her stunned sister. “Luna! I’ve been looking everywhere for you!” Laughing, she added, “I have to say, you made quite a show.”
“By teleporting?” asked Luna quizzically.
“Well, less by teleporting, and more by rendering your office to a heap of rubble and ash.”
Celestia laughed again. “It’s nothing. Just another few hours of work for the janitors.” She paused, looking between the two ponies in front of her. “Sorry, am I interrupting?”
“No, you’re fine, sister,” said Luna as her smile returned, “Me and PJ were just talking.”
Celestia raised an eyebrow, turning to the stallion. “I could have sworn that everypony referred to you as Pony Joe.”
“Well, of course that’s my name, but...”
“But I call him PJ,” interrupted Luna, grinning as she suppressed a giggle. At that, Pony Joe blushed slightly.
Celestia’s eyebrow remained raised, then lowered as her smile widened. “Well, I assume you won’t be going anywhere else, then, Luna?”
Luna shrugged. “Not that I can think of.”
“Alright, then.” Celestia turned, trotting towards the exit. “Just come back to the castle when you’re done, I’ll be waiting. And don’t rush yourself; you two take all the time you want.”
“Thank you, Celly!” called Luna. She turned to Pony Joe, who still looked a little pale. She laughed. “Okay, you can breathe now.”
“What? Oh, yeah, sorry.” There was a moment’s pause. “Say, what’s your sister like?”
“You should know,” replied Luna, “Everypony should. She makes enough public appearances.”
“I know, but what I meant was whether she was any different in private.”
Luna chuckled, shaking her head. “Not in the slightest. She’s a decent ruler enough of the time, but all too often, she acts...she acts like a big filly, for lack of a better comparison.”
“Well...” Luna leaned on the bar, nibbling on her donut as she searched for an example. “You remember that big disaster at the Gala this last year?”
“That was her. She invited some ponies that she knew would ‘spice things up,’ as she’d put it.”
“And by spice things up, you mean...”
“Destroy just about everything, yes.”
Pony Joe coughed up a laugh. “Heh...not exactly behavior I’d expect from a princess, to be honest.”
“Can’t say I blame you. Then again, I’m the princess who’s spent her night talking in a donut bar.”
Pony Joe frowned. “Sorry, you not enjoying yourself?”
Luna nearly choked on her bite of donut. “What? Oh, no no no, that’s not what I meant! It’s just...why are you smiling?”
Pony Joe shook his head, chuckling softly. “Nothing, you’re just being...cute.”
Luna blinked. “Cute?”
“Erm...” Luna found her cheeks very suddenly and very uncomfortably warm. “Thanks, PJ.”
“Don’t mention it, Luna.” Pony Joe took a look at the clock. “Say, it’s getting late. You need to start heading back?”
“What? Oh, of course. I still have work to do...and an office to replace,” she added with a chuckle.
“Well, you need anything to go?”
“Oh, yes. I’ll take some of those...what did you call them? The little ball-things?”
“Yes, those. A bag of those, please.”
“No problem.” Pony Joe levitated out a paper bag, scooping out a generous portion and handing it to the Princess. “Take care, and come back soon.”
“Thanks,” said Luna, taking the bag and smiling, “I will.”
Luna trotted through the door, the bell ringing above her as she exited onto the dark Canterlot streets. She began trotting back to the castle, then jumped when she heard: “So did you enjoy yourself?”
Luna turned, her heart ready to burst. “Celly?” She picked her bag off the ground, thanking the Goddess that none of the donut holes had spilled out. “I thought you went back to the castle?”
“What a surprise. Now, would you care to tell me why you decided to frighten the living moonbeams out of me?”
“I can never resist a good scare, you know that.”
“Also, I felt the need to ask you something.”
“It couldn’t have waited until I returned?”
“It could have, but I felt as if it was something better to be answered sooner rather than later.”
“Well, what is it?” asked Luna with a heavy tinge of impatience.
Celestia, smiling mischievously, whispered in her sister’s ear, “You like him, don’t you?”
Luna’s face instantly went a deep shade of red, and she leaned away from her sister. “Celly, I just met him!”
“That’s a yes.”
Luna sighed. “Alright, so I find him...appealing, to say the least. But why -”
“Luna,” interrupted Celestia, “If you ask ‘why would he like me,’ I swear to me that I’ll send you to the moon right now.”
Luna scowled at her sister.
“Alright, I’m sorry. But honestly, my own star pupil couldn’t find a number high enough to count the reasons why anypony, let alone Pony Joe, would be attracted to you.”
“I...” Luna sighed again. “I suppose you’re right.”
“Of course I am,” agreed Celestia, “But let’s not focus on that. We have more pressing matters at hoof.”
“Like when you and PJ are going to see each other again,” replied Celestia with a barely-contained smile.
Luna glared at Celestia. “You’re mildly evil, you know that?”
“Evil is such a harsh word, Luna. I prefer...‘fun-loving.’”
“Oh, what’s the difference? Anyways, I’d prefer you to stay out of my affairs from here on out.”
“Oh, I will, Luna,” swore Celestia, “I promise.”
Pony Joe looked up from the counter, which he had once again been cleaning. “Evenin’, sir, what’ll it be?”
The stallion trotted uncomfortably through the donut shop, glancing around awkwardly at the donut-devouring ponies surrounding him. “I assume that you’re Pony Joe, the proprietor of this establishment?”
“I have a private message for you from Princess Luna.”
Pony Joe could almost feel the weight of the immediate silence, as well as the numerous stares immediately thrown his way. He sighed. “What’s it say?”
The stallion scoffed. “I certainly didn’t read it,” he said, levitating it to Pony Joe, “That’s generally what the term ‘private’ is meant to imply.”
“Oh, erm...right.” Pony Joe took the letter, unrolling it.
I enjoyed our time last night, and I’m hoping to get to know you better. Would it be possible for you to meet me at the park tomorrow, say, around noon? Much appreciated.
“Luna? It’s Celly.”
“Just one moment!” Luna gulped down one more donut hole from the near-empty bag. “Come in!”
Celestia trotted into Luna’s new office. “I must say, the decorators did a good job in here.”
“Well, they’re paid for something, are they not?” replied Luna, turning back to her work.
“Heh, yes, of course,” agreed Celestia tentatively, “Paid.”
Luna blinked, looking up from her papers with a slightly loosened jaw.
“Oh, I’m kidding, Luna. You really need to lighten up.”
“Well, pardon me for not pranking everypony at every possible opportunity, Celly.”
“Oh, I do not -”
Luna simply stared at her sister.
“Well...maybe a little,” she admitted.
“I thought so. Anyways, what was it you wanted?”
“Well, I was thinking of how stressful things have been for you, lately. I mean, not everypony gets so worked up that they destroy their office...”
Luna eyed her sister suspiciously. “Alright, what do you have planned?”
Celestia’s smile dripped with mischief. “Oh, nothing grand,” she said with horribly-feigned innocence. Then, “What time is it?”
Luna, reluctant to take her eyes off of Celestia, glanced briefly at the clock. “A quarter to twelve. Why?”
“Oh, nothing. Just somepony I have waiting for you down at the park...”
“Celly, what -” Luna froze, her mouth hanging open in horror. “Oh, Celestia...tell me you didn’t...”
Celestia’s smile only widened in response.
“...You did.” Luna glowered at her sister, receiving only laughter in response.
“Trust me, Luna. You’ll thank me later.”
Luna sighed, her glare keeping in strength as she stood. “For a so-called benevolent ruler, you can be a real pain in the flank.”
“It’s just one of the perks, Luna. You might learn to enjoy them, someday.”
“Whatever you call it, we’ll talk about it later.” Luna checked her mane in a nearby mirror before heading towards the door. “Thanks to you, I have less than fifteen minutes to get to the park.”
“Well, best not to be late,” said Celestia casually, “Be a shame to waste those flowers he got you.”
Luna paused. “How do you...?”
Celestia smiled again.
“...Nevermind.” And she was gone.
Pony Joe sat on the bench, gazing languidly at the park fountain as he waited, only a tickle of nervousness at the back of his mind.
And just like that, the nervous tickle became a throttling anxiety. He leapt up, smiling timidly with the flowers beside him.
“H-hey, Princess!” He levitated the bouquet towards her. “I thought it’d be best if I brought these. You don’t mind, do you?”
Luna smiled, graciously taking the flowers and sniffing them. “Not in the slightest. I’m glad you came.”
“Well, it’s not every day that a princess asks you to join her in the park.”
“No,” agreed Luna, “I suppose not.” There was a pause. “So, how’s business?”
PJ began trotting, Luna following behind. “About as good as you’d expect, really.”
“You get by, don’t you?”
“Yeah, ‘course I get by. It’s just...” He sighed. “Donut-making’s not exactly the most glamorous profession, ya know?”
“I suppose not,” conceded Luna, “But you enjoy it, don’t you?”
“Well, I sure don’t hate it,” he replied, “The donut-making itself ain’t that bad, and I’ve made good friends with some of the regulars.” He chuckled. “Plus, I’ve heard some pretty good jokes in my time there.”
Luna smiled. “Can I hear one?”
PJ returned the smile. “Sure. So, these two colts are talking at school, and one of ‘em says to the other, ‘I know a great way to make some bits off your folks...’”
“Wait for it...”
“Snapshot, would you please...”
“Wait for it...”
“Wait for it...”
“Snapshot!” hissed the sandy-maned pony, “I’ve been at this as long as you have, I know how and when to take a bucking picture!”
The blue-maned pegasus shrunk back. “Sorry, Dee.”
Dee ignored the apology. “And in three...two...one...” Click.
The princess turned, prompting the two photo-ponies to duck further into the bushes.
“...Did you hear something, PJ?”
Pony Joe looked around, then shook his head. “Did you?”
Luna shrugged. “I guess not.” She then smiled, trotting ahead. “Now, come, I want to hear more of that story.”
Pony Joe chuckled. “Well, like I was saying, this customer just comes up to the bar and - I kid you not! - suggests that I start making oatmeal donuts. So of course I tell her...”
When the two were out of earshot, the two hidden ponies simultaneously let out a relieved sigh, followed by light giggles.
“‘PJ?’” Snapshot snickered. “Oh, this is gonna be fun...”
Dee smirked. “It will be, if you don’t get us caught.”
“C’mon,” replied Snapshot indignantly, “When have I ever gotten us caught?”
Dee, still smirking, raised her eyebrow. “Never. But it wouldn’t be hard to imagine.”
“Ouch.” Snapshot put a hoof to his chest. “That hurts right here, Dee.”
“Oh, suck it up, you filly. Now c’mon, we’re gonna lose ‘em.”
As Dee trotted ahead, staying in the trees, Snapshot sighed. “The things I put up with...”
“What was that?”
“Er, right behind you!” he lied, flapping his wings frantically to catch up.
Dee, trotting ahead, giggled smugly. “That’s what I thought.”
Katalus Talrius, here, back from the dead with something of little relevance.
Sorry about the relatively short chapter, the ones to come should be longer. But anyways, if you were a ‘The Melting Pot’ fan, I hope this lives up to those expectations. If not...well, I still hope you enjoyed this. And, if you’re not busy, maybe give ‘The Melting Pot’ a gander. I mean, if that’s okay...
Anyways, in case the ‘Part One’ wasn’t clear enough, this will be one of a series. How long a series? Nopony knows, but likely not more than four.
And that’s about it. Oh, except for one thing: for better or for worse, through hell and high-water, and regardless of how y’all like this story...
It’s good to be back.
Pre-story note: Slight edits to Part One, mostly to bits of Luna’s dialogue. Nothing major, but feel free to take a gander. I mean, if that’s okay...
A Slightly Cruller Fate
Mid-morning, Canterlot Castle.
Celestia glanced away from the police reports spread over her desktop to her sister standing in the doorway. “Oh, Luna, come in. Excuse me a moment, I’m just...” Celestia chuckled. “With an F-1 racing chariot? Where’d he even get the costumes?”
“Erm, Celly?” Luna’s urgent tone proceeded to be ignored as Celestia’s giggling grew stronger.
“At a soccer game? And no one realized? Oh, Goddess...”
“Celly, I need to -” Luna was interrupted again as Celestia’s laugh became a bellowing guffaw.
“That one in a zoo!” she exclaimed with a mix of disbelief and admiration, “And with so many other ponies, too! Oh, Rémi, if only I had your brilliance...” Luna witnessed her sister’s eyes close as she began to subtly bite her lip, clearly lost in some fantasy nopony should ever be made aware of, and lost it.
Celestia jolted, refocusing on her sister. “Oh, yes? What’s wrong?”
Luna, fuming, slammed a magazine on her sister’s desk. “This.”
Celestia looked at the magazine, then at Luna with her eyebrow raised. “The tabloids?”
Celestia stared at her enraged sister for a few more seconds, then turned back to the magazine. “‘Pony Joe as first recruit of the radical New Lunar Republic?’ Oh, dear...‘Eating disorder to blame for Princess Luna’s choice of stallion?’ Now why would they...’Princess obliterates her own office in a night of donut-ridden passion?’” Celestia looked back to Luna with a visage that managed a quizzical, concerned, and slightly amused tone all at once. Luna ignored this, her muzzle scarlet with fury.
“Exactly!” Luna’s voice ran with deep reverberation, and she began to pace around Celestia’s office. “They think they get away with slander of this breadth, do they?! I demand that everypony working in the establishment printing this publication be tried, put in the stocks, and thrown in the dungeons! It’s a villainy most foul, I tellest thou!”
Celestia blinked. “Luna, I thought we’d fixed this...”
Luna froze in mid-stride, the red in her face turning to blush for a moment. “Erm, my apologies, Celly. Relapse.”
“‘Relapse’ indeed,” agreed Celestia, “And anyways...” She sighed. “I’m sorry, Luna, but what we called ‘slander’ one thousand years ago now goes by another name.”
“Which would be?”
“‘Journalism.’ And, might I add, it’s legal.”
Luna’s jaw dropped. “S-so we can do nothing?”
Celestia smirked, reclining slightly. “Oh, I wouldn’t say that, but -”
Both princesses jolted as somepony began knocking.
“Come in!” beckoned Celestia.
Into the office trotted a pony bearing the unmistakable armor of a royal guard. He bowed, then removed his helmet before speaking.
“Princess Celestia, Princess Luna,” he said flatly, “We have two ponies out here, both requesting to see...” He turned to Luna. “...Well, you.”
“I’m certain that about everypony in Canterlot wants to see my sister,” said Celestia, “Why these two?”
“Well, the first one,” he replied, “I thought you might want to see...”
Thirty-seven minutes earlier...
Pony Joe was gasping for breath, pacing around the donut shop floor while listening to the spastic flurry of hoofbeats on the front door.
“Okay,” he murmured to himself, “Okay, PJ, what now?”
He looked around his shop, from the front counter, to the thumping door, to each of the locked and covered windows, and back to the counter.
“...That was helpful,” he muttered angrily, “Come on, think!”
He paced in a circle around the central triad of tables, the very same which he’d had to replace not days before.
“The roof?” he thought aloud, “...Nah, wouldn’t work. Teleporting?” A few seconds passed as he considered it. “...Who am I kidding? I’d make it ten feet, at best.” About the sixth time around the tables, he paused, looked up, and grimaced. “...Aw, no. No, no bucking way.” Without ceasing his self-objections, Pony Joe trotted slowly to the back of his shop and to a familiar chute, gingerly opening it and looking down the black void of discarded pastries. He sighed.
“...Well,” he said, “It wouldn’t be the first time.”
The star-maned princess blinked, observing the trash-covered donut salespony standing before her. There were violet grape-jelly stains along the side of his apron, sugar-glaze smeared through his coat, butterscotch cream under one eye, and, for some reason unbeknownst even to him, a banana peel hanging from his wrinkled paper hat. “How did -”
“Don’t ask,” he interrupted with a sheepish grin.
Luna returned the smile. “I was going to ask how you made it to the castle.”
“It’s not obvious?”
This drew a chuckle from Luna. “I meant after that.”
“It wasn’t as tricky as you’d think. Not many ponies were outside the castle; your guards were making sure of that.”
The royal guard pony, still in the doorway, interjected: “The crowds were getting unruly, and we were forced to disperse them. We were about to send him away, as well, but one of the gate patrols recognized him. I decided that it would be best to let you deal with him personally.”
Luna turned to the armored unicorn, and nodded. “Well done, I’ll see that your diligence is rewarded.” She paused. “And you said that there was somepony else?”
“Ah, yes,” he confirmed, “I’m sure that you’ll want to deal with this one, personally, too...”
Approximately one hour earlier...
Snapshot only smiled at Dee. “Come on, it’s like any other job we’ve done.”
Dee paused, staring at her long-time partner incredulously. “Are you even listening to yourself, Snapshot? This is Canterlot Castle you’re thinking about!” Taking a breath, she continued. “And how do you plan on getting inside, anyways?”
Snapshot just stood there with a dumb smile.
“...I take it you have a way in, then?”
He nodded, then began to make his way to the office door. “Come on, time’s wasting.”
Dee sat for a moment more, and sighed, chuckling softly to herself. “You crazy foal.”
Dee, mouth agape, stared back and forth between Snapshot and the metal chute hanging above the rancid metal dumpster before her. “You’re joking. Please tell me that you’re joking.”
“Hey, I’m not saying it’ll be fun.” Climbing onto the edge of the dumpster, he added, “But a story like this doesn’t come around every day.”
Dee shook her her head, smiling. “You’re insane, Snapshot.”
“So you’ve told me. Now, are you coming, or not?”
“Um...” She pointed a hoof at his wings. “I’m not quite sure if I even can.”
Puzzled, Snapshot looked at his wings, then at the chute. “Oh, right.” Undeterred, he turned back to his old friend. “Tell you what: when I get out, I’ll tell you all about it.”
Snapshot’s smile shrunk. “What is it?”
“Nothing,” replied Dee in an unusually apologetic tone, “It’s just...I’ve got plans tonight.”
Snapshot felt his heart skip a beat. “Oh.” Within moments, however, his smile made a triumphant return. “No worries, then. See you at work tomorrow?
“Alright. And Snapshot...”
He paused, one hoof already in the dumpster. “Yeah?”
Dee sighed, taking an unusually concerned tone. “Just be careful. Alright, old buddy?”
Snapshot scoffed. “Trust me, Dee; I’ll be fine.”
Snapshot stood trembling in the doorway. He looked pitiful with caviar streaked across one wing, creamed carrots over the other, salad dressing smeared on one side of his neck, and, inexplicably, a banana peel hanging off his fedora.
“We found him when he was walking out of the kitchen,” reported the guard, “Doesn’t seem anything more than a nosy paparazzi, though.”
Celestia, any essence of even the lightest amusement vanished from her face, leaned over on her front hooves. “Paparazzi, eh? Well, then, I -”
Before Celestia could finish, Luna urgently interrupted, “Did you have anything with...with...” She levitated the magazine up and to the terrified pegasus. “With this?”
“Y-y-yes,” he stammered, “I-I mean, no! I mean, kind of...”
Luna glared. “You’re not coming through...”
“I...I’m Snapshot, your majesty. I just take the pictures.”
The admission left Luna suddenly unsure of her next response. “Just...the pictures?” she echoed.
Luna stood there, silent. Celestia cleared her throat. “Well, then...guards, please escort him to the dungeon while Luna and I discuss his punishment.”
“Yes ma’am.” Turning to Snapshot, he barked, “You heard her majesty. Come on!”
As Snapshot was escorted from the room and the door closed, Celestia turned to her sister. “So, then. Your opinion, Luna?”
Luna frowned, her brow furrowed. “I...” She paused, then trotted out the door before saying, “I need to think.”
The room was silent for a moment. After that moment, Celestia turned to Pony Joe, nudging her head towards the door. “Go on, then.”
Pony Joe nodded. “Yes, your highness.” He started towards the door, then paused and turned back to Celestia. “Can I wash up first?”
Pony Joe found Luna sitting in one of the private courtyards, sullenly staring at a nearby fountain. He trotted up, having discarded his paper hat and left his apron in the castle laundry room (with Celestia’s permission). Awkwardly, he spoke. “Hi, Luna.”
She looked up, chuckling in spite of herself. “You certainly took your time getting here.”
He returned the laugh. “I wasn’t gonna be cuddling with a mare of royalty while there’s a banana peel hanging off my head,” he replied jokingly.
Luna’s sulking was immediately replaced by confusion. “What is this ‘cuddling’ that you speak of?”
Pony Joe’s lower jaw dropped slightly. “Erm...”
“Well?” asked Luna persistently.
Pony Joe stammered, “W-well, um...cuddling is when...it’s two ponies who...uh...” He sighed, then boldly declared: “Let me show you.”
Luna watched as he sat next to her, and her eyes widened and her heart raced as he softly put his neck over hers, holding her close. She began blushing madly, almost as madly as he was.
“...S-so...i-it’s like a...a hug, then?” she stuttered, “Exc-cept from the side and...longer?”
Pony Joe laughed. “You’re adorable.”
Luna’s eyes narrowed slightly, contrasting with her pink cheeks. “N-not to mention taller, older, more powerful, a-and...oh, stop laughing!”
His chuckling softened, but failed to stop. “Sorry, Luna. It’s just not everyday that you get away with calling one of the royal sisters ‘adorable.’”
Luna was silent for a moment, then burst into a giggling fit, her face still a raging pink. “Point taken.”
The silence stretched on for several minutes, the blush in Luna’s cheeks slowly diminishing as she grew more comfortable in this ‘cuddling’ position. Finally, Pony Joe asked the burning question: “What now?”
Luna frowned, and sighed. “I don’t know, PJ. What they wrote about me was beyond insulting...”
“I’m sure it wasn’t that bad,” replied Pony Joe somewhat stupidly.
Luna chuckled. “‘Princess Luna is also rumored to indulge in perverse practices involving a quartet of socks, an abacus, and a tennis racket during her nights with Pony Joe.’ And that was hardly the worst of it...”
“...All right,” Pony Joe conceded, “So it was that bad. But I’m not sure sending that poor guy to the dungeon is a good move.”
Surprisingly, Luna’s reaction was to laugh. “I miss something?” asked Pony Joe.
Luna shook her head. “No, no, you’re right...” She snickered once more before resuming her semi-somber tone. “Still, though, I don’t...I’m not...” She sighed. “Things were so much simpler a thousand years ago.”
Pony Joe coughed out a laugh. “Yeah, back when bathing was unhealthy and leeches worked for everything.”
Luna looked up, defensively proclaiming, “I’ll have you know, I personally made great strides in the use of leeches to cure the Vapours!”
Pony Joe stared, confused. “Err...Vapours?”
Luna sighed. “Nevermind. My point is that a millennium ago, nopony would even think this situation possible, let alone common.”
Pony Joe shrugged. “I’m not saying you’re wrong. Times just change, I guess.”
Luna scoffed. “No need to tell me.” Semi-reluctantly, she uncurled herself from under Pony Joe and began pacing around him, her eyes locked on her cyclical path. “From the moment I returned, I’ve faced change after change. I find myself bewildered by modern entertainment, I still cringe at the sight of unshorn fetlocks...” She paused, taking a moment to look back at Pony Joe. “You couldn’t even imagine what happened the first time I tried using a microwave.” She turned her gaze forward again, and her trot continued. “But I’ve adapted as best as I possibly can. In fact, one of my most difficult adjustments is now possibly my favorite time of the year.”
“And that would be?” asked an intently listening Pony Joe.
Luna paused once more, smiling at the memory before once again taking up her pace. “Nightmare Night, to tell you the truth. At first, I could not help but to find the concept positively abhorrent. Annually, ponies across Equestria would make a mockery of their princess, equating her - erm, me, to the manticores hiding under their beds. At least, that was what I had feared. Within one night, however, my initial impressions were proven false. I had desired love and admiration, and as shown to me, that’s precisely what I was receiving. But what’s happened today...” Once more, she paused, and she closed her eyes. “I see no redeeming quality. What these ponies have done is slanderous, it’s ignorant...”
Pony Joe noticed a growing shakiness in Luna’s voice.
“...It’s spiteful...” Luna’s eyelids grew tighter together. “...It’s cruel,” she said, a rim of moisture forming on her eyelashes.
Pony Joe quickly realized that he had just become quite possibly the only pony alive to witness Luna - the revered and all-powerful princess of the night - be brought to tears. Tentatively, he trotted up, gently putting his neck over hers.
Luna curled into Pony Joe, shaking her head as she stemmed the flow of tears. “I’m sorry,” she said quietly, “A princess should remain more composed.”
“Says the pony that obliterated her office not days ago.”
Luna laughed in spite of herself. “My point exactly. Since my return, the very essence of calm has all but eluded me. I can’t help but to almost constantly feel anxious, or hostile, or bewildered, or...or...” She laughed softly. “Or in this case, loquacious.”
“Well, what do you mean?”
Luna sighed. “To tell the truth, I can’t quite put my hoof on what’s been causing it.”
“...No, what does ‘loquacious’ mean?”
“Oh.” Luna paused. “Erm, I believe that a proper synonym would be ‘talkative.’”
Pony Joe nodded. “Right.” Pony Joe took a step back from Luna, looking at her with a reassuring smile. “And I get it, Luna. I’ve been there.”
Luna’s expression morphed into one of mildly confused skepticism (as well it should have).
“...I’m not trying to say I’ve been through anything you have,” he added, “Kind of hard to match a generation gap spanning a thousand years, even I know that. But either way, I’m familiar with those feelings. That things are passing too quickly, that nothing’s making sense...” His smile faltered, and it seemed as if he were staring into the distance. “...Wanting everything to go back to how it was before.”
Luna cocked her head to one side. “...Is there something that you’re wishing to tell me?”
Pony Joe’s eyes immediately refocused, and his smile returned. “It’s nothing,” he lied. Changing the subject, he asked, “So, have you decided what to with that paparazzi pony?”
Luna stood still for a moment, then nodded.
“Good.” As they trotted towards the courtyard entrance together, Pony Joe couldn’t help but to ask, “What’s this dungeon of yours like, anyways?”
The dungeon, as it turned out, was a light gray, 8-by-10 cell placed between the Lost and Found and the Canterlot Castle Souvenir Emporium. Its original and primary purpose had been to detain shoplifters, but Celestia could hardly resist the archaic title. Its current occupant was a very specific fedora-wearing pegasus that smelled vaguely of moldy alfalfa and rotten bananas. Currently, he was passing the time with a decidedly racy magazine that one of the guards had been kind enough to lend him. He maintained, however, that it was ‘just for the articles.’
He looked up at the sound of the door opening, reflexively obscuring the magazine’s front cover. In trotted two royal guards, one of whom stood at the side while the other one unlocked the cell.
Snapshot looked at both of them, then finally asked, “Am I leaving, then?”
The guard at the side nodded, declaring, “You’re free to go, by order of Princess Luna herself.”
Snapshot stood up, trotting out of the cell before setting the magazine on a nearby desk. “Well, good-bye, boys. It’s been...” He searched for the proper word. “...Gray?” Receiving no response, he trotted hurriedly out the door, and after that, out of the Canterlot Castle gates.
Within yards of leaving, Snapshot saw a familiar, sandy-maned pony napping against a tree trunk. Smiling, he strode up to her, waking her up with: “What, your date get canceled?”
Dee snapped awake and looked at Snapshot, quiet for a few seconds. For a moment, Snapshot swore that he saw relief in her eyes. Immediately after, however, she bolted to her feet and began furiously smacking Snapshot over the head. “You moron,” she spat, “You big, bucking idiot!”
Snapshot covered his head, trying to ward off Dee’s blows. “Ow! Dee, would you - ow! By Celestia, Dee, what’s - ow! - what’s your problem?”
Dee ceased her assault, taking a step back from Snapshot. “You have no idea, do you? Oh, you idiot...” She began pacing over the same three feet of grass. “You couldn’t have just waited for Luna to leave the castle, or started on another story. No, you had to go and break into Canterlot-bucking-Castle!”
Snapshot chuckled, nursing one of his several sore spots. “Come on, Dee. The worst thing in there was the coffee.”
Dee froze, glaring at Snapshot, then sighing sadly. “No, it’s not just -” She paused. “It’s not that. It’s...Mr. Bugle wants to see you when we get back.”
Snapshot was still for a few seconds, but slowly and surely, realization crept into his mind. “Oh.” For the second time that day, Snapshot’s heart skipped a beat.
The next evening, about closing time...
Pony Joe was calmly cleaning off the bar once again, happy to have had a relatively quiet day. Some ponies still had asked him about the whole Luna fiasco, but there weren’t swarms of ponies pounding on his door. He looked up at the empty tables, smiling slightly as his gaze crossed the middle three.
Pony Joe looked up. “Sorry, pal, I’m about to close up - oh.” He chuckled. “Didn’t think I’d be seeing you again.”
The blue-maned pegasus with the stained fedora didn’t say a word, but instead pulled up a stool to the bar, keeping his gaze downward. “Get me a double-chocolate cream-filled donut with extra sprinkles,” he said sullenly, “And keep ‘em coming.”
Pony Joe grabbed a plate and floated out one of the donuts in the display, setting it in front of Snapshot. “Long day?”
Snapshot sighed, taking a large bite out of his donut. “Longest day of my life.”
Hey there, everypony!
First off, especially sorry for the long wait on this one. I went through something of a ‘My Little Pony’ slump while writing this part, and it ended up lying dormant for a few weeks. Rest assured, though, I’m back and ready to rock, and next chapter should take nowhere near as long.
Second off, sorry for the not-as-long-as-it-should-be-chapter. I would have made it longer, but if I tried, then this likely wouldn’t be hitting EQD before ‘The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim’ came out. And I think we all know what we’d choose if the choice were ‘reading an obscure MLP fic’ and ‘playing Skyrim.’
Finally, if anything is to delay this chapter, it would be one of two things: one, that I’m too busy playing the aforementioned ‘Skyrim,’ or that I’m working a bit on a lil’ project I like to call...
‘The Melting Pot 2: Carnival Night.’
A Slightly Cruller Fate
“The Canterlot Garden Party?”
Celestia, her smile bearing an (un)surprising tinge of mischief, nodded eagerly.
Luna, her suspicions already heightening, turned back to her private copy of Canterlot Decorator’s Guide. “What of it?”
Celestia shrugged. “Oh, you know. One of Canterlot’s premier events, a good chance to get out of the castle, make a few new acquaintances...”
“First off, Celly, I have a lot of work to do. Second, that fiasco several weeks ago has somewhat lessened my desire for public appearances -”
“Understandable,” admitted Celestia.
“Quite. Anyways, my third point: even if I had no concern for points one and two, there is no way in a thousand years -”
“Not that alien a time, in your case,” interjected Celestia. This quip, as it always did, elicited a near-lethal glare from Luna. “...You were saying?”
“Thank you. Anyways, there is no way that I would even consider bringing PJ to the Canterlot Garden Party, which I am almost certain was your suggestion in the first place.”
“Am I that transparent?”
“Well, no matter.” A pause. “So, what, are you ashamed to be seen with him?”
Luna’s gaze snapped up from her book, shocked. “No, of course not!”
“Then what’s the problem?”
Luna sighed. “The problem, Celly, is that the last time me and PJ were seen together, it resulted in a massive smear job on the both of us, a near-riot at the castle gates, and - lest we forget - multiple ponies crawling through garbage.” She turned back to her book. “It’s much simpler to keep our dates private.”
“Simpler, yes,” agreed Celestia, “Boring, too, I’m sure.”
Luna looked up, indignant. “Our dates are not boring!”
“In the next ten seconds, tell me the most interesting thing you two have talked about in the last week.”
Luna blinked. “Um...”
“Let’s skip to the part where I’m standing here smugly with my point proven.”
Luna sighed. “Fine, Celly, you win that one. But I’m not putting more strain on this relationship with yet another slander-fest, and that is final.” With that said, Luna once again turned back to her book.
Celestia nodded. “Alright, Luna, I understand.” She turned, trotting out of the room before pausing. “Of course, it’ll be somewhat awkward retracting that invite I sent him...”
Luna glanced back up. “Invite?” Celestia simply smiled over her shoulder. “...You really went ahead and invited him?” Celestia raised one eyebrow, still smiling. Luna glared, then sighed. “Fine, you win. Happy?”
“More than you know.”
“Right...” Luna turned back to her book, quietly fuming. “I’ll make my way to PJ’s shop tonight to make arrangements. And Celly?”
“If you ever do anything else to meddle in my love life, I swear that I’ll -”
“What? Send me to the sun for a thousand years?”
Luna looked up again, an uncharacteristically devilish smile on her lips. “No,” she said, “I’ll make sure that that Rémi you’re so interested in never pulls another caper again.”
Celestia’s eyes widened. “You wouldn’t.”
“Try me,” said Luna, “Give me the slightest provocation, and I’ll send his picture to every costume shop, vehicle rental agency, and golf course in Equestria. He tries to buy so much as a soccer ball, and the Royal Guard will be breaking down his door. As the ponies say nowadays - you get me?”
Celestia stared for a few more moments in shock, then sighed, smiling lightly. “You have learned a few tricks from me.”
“One or two, yes. Now, give me some peace, would you?”
“Of course, Luna,” replied Celestia, feeling the slightest bit more respect for her younger sibling.
“A modeling agency?”
“Eeyup.” Snapshot blinked, the word having spontaneously erupted from his mouth and feeling rather alien. Marking it as nothing worrisome, he shrugged it off and continued. “Photographer, of course. And it’s nothing official yet, just a friend of a friend got me the interview there tomorrow.”
Pony Joe looked at Snapshot quizzically, sliding another donut across the bar. Snapshot returned the gaze. “What?” he asked, “Is me getting employed somehow a bad thing?”
Pony Joe shook his head. “Naw, of course not. Just...you’re not even gonna try for your old job?”
Snapshot shrugged. “I did. Twice. And Mr. Bugle said ‘no’ both times.”
“Yeah, somewhere between calling me something to the effect of a ‘good-for-nothing, embarrassing example of a paparazzi photographer’ and that ‘mashed alfalfa had a higher IQ than me,’ and having security chuck me out.”
“Eesh. That had to hurt.”
“Yeah. Especially for that old couple trotting up right about then.”
PJ froze, his jaw loosening slightly. “You’re not serious.”
Snapshot stayed silent for a moment, before looking down and taking a bite of his donut, saying simply: “Twice.”
Pony Joe stared at his friend for a moment more out of some diluted form of horror. “Alright then...aren’t you gonna miss Dee?”
Snapshot thought for a minute, and shrugged. “She’s been my best friend for years, so I’d have to say...about as much as I’ve ever missed anypony, yeah.”
“You can’t try to see her outside of work?”
“PJ, she’s a paparazzi photographer. Her work schedule is always fairly...iffy, to say the least. It wouldn’t be easy.”
PJ nodded, ignoring sub-par quality of that excuse. “Right. So, what, you’re moving on?”
“Well, not every love story can be a fairy tale like you and Luna.”
PJ scoffed. “I wouldn’t exactly call it a fairy tale -”
“PJ, she’s a bucking princess. It’s pretty darn close.”
“...Point. Still, you’re really just gonna forget about her completely?”
Snapshot opened his mouth to respond, then proceeded to smack his muzzle into the counter. “No, I’m not.”
“I figured you wouldn’t. So what do you plan on doing about it?”
Snapshot laughed, his face still pressed down on the bar. “If I knew that, I wouldn’t be at a donut bar in the middle of the night trying to talk it through.” Suddenly, a small realization clicking in his head, Snapshot sat back up and took a look around the empty store. “Say...aren’t you supposed to be closed about now?”
PJ smiled reassuringly, shrugging. “Eh, it’s not like I got better things to do.”
Snapshot sat for a moment, a blank stare on his face before it broke into an ear-to-ear grin of pure, unrefined gratitude. “Thanks, PJ.”
“Hey, ever since I opened this place, I’ve had to give ponies all kinds of advice. I don’t see any reason to stop now. So, please, talk away.”
Snapshot nodded, still smiling. “Well, let’s change the subject for a while, if you don’t mind.”
PJ nodded. “Alright, fair enough. So, who exactly got you the interview for this new job?”
Snapshot shrugged. “Like I said: friend of a friend.”
North Star, a purple-maned pony who could be pointedly described as a friend of a friend, was quietly killing time with a fashion magazine as she went to bed before hearing a knock on her front door. Releasing an annoyed sigh, she dropped her magazine on the dog-eared page showing the newest dress line from Canterlot Fashions (It’s simple and practical!) and went to the door, being brushed to the side by a particularly irate sandy-maned earth pony.
“I hate him,” hissed Dee as she stormed into North Star’s living room, helping herself to the couch.
North Star stood for a moment, contemplating the pros and cons of asking exactly who ‘him’ was meant to refer to.
“All of them!” Dee added, obviously expecting North Star to have responded by now and not giving a damn one way or the other that she hadn’t, “I hate my new partner, I hate Mr. Bugle for hiring him - and I hate Snapshot for getting himself fired!”
North Star sighed, taking a seat in the nearest chair. “Alright, first off: you have a new partner?”
Dee sighed, covering her eyes with her left hoof. “Yeah, a big pegasus colt named Kodak. And...well, you remember how awkward Snapshot was?”
“Oh, goddess, yes.”
“Now imagine if he was a dozen times more awkward, had no idea of that fact, and was constantly hitting on me.”
“Oh, maybe I’m exaggerating a bit,” replied Dee, “Then again, the line ‘you should have an astronomy cutie mark, because your flank is out of this world’ leaves a certain impression.”
Under any other circumstances, North Star would have been on the brink of an epileptic fit from laughing so hard. Under the specific circumstances, she settled for a brief giggle before apologizing.
“It’s fine,” Dee assured, “Seriously, though, and that was just the one he greeted me with. I could give you a list the size of your favorite dress with all the others.”
North Star nodded slowly, her eyes remaining focused on Dee. “Alright, so you have a bad partner.”
“Yes. One that my boss hired. Without bothering to tell me that I was getting a new partner.”
“Well, did you try telling him about Kodak?”
Dee sat up. “Yes. Constantly. On good days, he tells me that he’s very busy but that he’ll get around to it.”
“What does he tell you on bad days?”
Dee paused for a moment, and quoted: “‘Just take it as a compliment, and get your flank back to work.’”
Dee nodded, reclining so that she was staring at North Star’s ceiling. “It’s been a long road downhill since Snapshot left.” She sighed. “I miss him.”
North Star leaned back, chuckling softly. “That’s funny...”
Dee quickly sat up. “Pardon?”
“He misses you, too.”
Dee stared blankly. North Star leaned forward again, and elaborated: “I talked with him yesterday, we, uh, bumped into each other at that new restaurant near the park.”
“...And?” urged Dee.
“Well, a couple things, after a little conversation. First, well...” North Star leaned on one hoof. “I heard he was still unemployed, so I told him about the new photographer position open at the agency.”
“You got him a new job?”
“Technically, I just got him an interview. But there’s not a lot of competition, I mean, photographing models all day long isn’t exactly a widely-advertised job.” She glanced upwards in thought. “Although you think it would be...” she mused.
Dee smiled. “That was sweet of you, Northie. Thanks.” A pause. “And the other thing?”
“Well, he asked about you. And told me how much he misses you.”
Dee was silent, her eyes slightly wider than usual.
Tears rimmed around Dee’s eyelids, which she tried blinking away. “He always did have terrible timing,” she said hoarsely.
North Star got up, switching seats to the couch. “Come again?”
Dee succeeded in blinking back the tears, but her eyes were still glassy. “We’re partners for years, we spend so much time together, and he picks now to admit he likes me.”
“...Better late than never?” said North Star, shrugging awkwardly.
Dee flicked North Star a scathing glare.
“Right...um, better to have loved and lost than -” Another glare, more caustic than the last one. “...Sorry.”
Dee chuckled in spite of herself. “It’s fine. Y’know, Snapshot would’ve finished that.” Dee checked the clock, getting off the couch. “Look, I gotta get going.” She wiped her eyes. “I’ll sleep on the whole thing, we’ll talk over lunch tomorrow. Deal?”
North Star nodded. “Deal.” She watched Dee head for the front door. “Oh, and Dee?”
Dee stopped and turned. “Yes, Northie?”
“If you ever drop by my house this late at night again, I will flay you alive,” she said with a (hopefully) threatening tone. Seeing no response from Dee, she added, trying her best to look intimidating, “With my mind.”
Dee stared at her with a single raised eyebrow, then broke into heaping fits of laughter. “Oh, Northie,” she said between chortles, “Y’know, I really needed that.”
“I mean it.”
“Yeah, sure you do. See you tomorrow,” she said before bucking the door closed behind her.
“‘Let’s skip to the part where my point’s proven!’” recited Luna with the utmost contempt, walking through the castle hallways, “Goddess, what a foal. And how dare she accuse me and PJ of having nothing to talk about on our dates?” She scoffed. “Me and PJ talk about plenty of interesting things...don’t we?” She shook her head rapidly. “Of course we do!” she assured herself, “I mean, the history of the Canterlot fountain gardens is interesting, right?” She stood for a moment, as if she were listening to the echoes for some semblance of confidence. She found none. “Oh, I’m not fooling anypony,” she sighed, slumping into a rather un-majestic posture.
“Excuse me, your majesty.”
Luna turned around, finding herself face-to-face with one of the royal guards on patrol. “Erm, yes?”
“I’m sorry, but I couldn’t help noticing that you seem to be holding an in-depth conversation with yourself,” he said with the brazen tone of a soldier, “Do you need to talk with somepony, your majesty?”
Luna stared at him quizzically. “I’m sorry?”
The guard clicked his hooves together. “As a fully-trained member of the royal guard, my duty is to insure the well-being of both princesses, which I believe to apply both physically and mentally. So, I hold it my responsibility to provide a listening ear - should you need one, your majesty.”
Luna stood for another moment, contemplating. “Did my sister send you to try and trick me?”
The guard shook his head. “No, your majesty.”
“Really?” Luna trotted around the guard, eyeing him from head to hood. “This isn’t just a set-up for some elaborate prank?”
“No, your majesty.”
She continued pacing around the stoic soldier, satisfying herself about the third lap around. “Alright,” she decided, “You really want me to tell you what’s wrong with my life?”
“If you so desire, your majesty.”
Luna thought, then took in a deep breath: "I have a childhood fear of alfalfa,” she wailed, “I had to wear a bit until I was one-hundred and thirteen years old, I spent a thousand years on the moon- which my sister won't stop joking about - and I have a recurring dream of sensually being fed donut holes by an island of scantily-clad PJ's!"
The guard blinked, the closest thing to an emotional response he would allow. Luna took in another breath, continuing.
“And, y’know, my parents never admitted it, but Celly was always the favorite child. It was always, ‘Why can’t you be more like your sister?’ and ‘You should really lighten up, it was just a prank,’ and ‘Stop playing with those socks this instant and get back to your studies!’”
The guard’s left eye twitched.
“And Discord used to be such a nice draconequus, but then he fell in with the wrong crowd and before you knew it, he was warping reality. I mean, we tried an intervention, but that fell apart when he turned the banner into glue.”
The guard let out a small shudder.
“And now, I’m in love with donut shop owner and the last time I spent any real time with him outside, it nearly destroyed both our reputations, but now I have to risk it again because my sister can’t keep her nose out of my business!”
Luna, exhausted from digging up so much trauma, let herself sink to the floor, breathing deeply. The guard kept in exactly the same position. “Well?” she asked sarcastically, “What do you think?”
The guard clicked his hooves together again. “In order, my thoughts are as follows: there are more irrational fears than alfalfa, having to wear a bit is nothing to be embarrassed of, your sister is simply trying to make light of what was an awful experience for all involved, your dream is simply taking some base desires and expanding them to unrealistic proportions, I’m sure your parents loved you but just had trouble expressing it clearly, don’t live in the past with Discord, and...” He paused, taking a silent breath. “As for your love life, my advice is this, your majesty: your sister isn’t intending to be a nuisance...”
Luna shot him one of her patent death glares.
“...Well, perhaps it’s an ulterior motive, but certainly not her primary one. The truth, as I see it, is that she wants you to be happy with Pony Joe as much as you do, and she’s simply making sure that your fear doesn’t cause you to miss this opportunity.”
Luna stared at the guard, slowly getting to her hooves. “...You think so?”
The guard nodded. “I’ve been part of Celestia’s Royal Guard for years, Princess. I know so.”
Luna looked at him for another moment, and smiled. “Thank you...what’s your name?”
“With all due respect, your Highness, Royal Guard members are discouraged from giving their names to you and Princess Celestia.”
“And why is that?” she inquired.
“Telling you our names risks creating an unnecessary emotional bond, making it more difficult for when we have to lay down our lives in your name.”
“...Exactly how many Royal Guardsponies have died in service?” she asked numbly.
“Fifteen, your majesty, since our initial formation.”
“Seven foiling attempted assassination plots, five while patrolling Canterlot, two from ignored symptoms of fatal diseases, and one from a flaming wheat thresher.”
Luna stood, horrified, then said, “I-I need to get going, but...thank you.”
The guard nodded. “Anything for the royal sisters.”
The guard stood in place until Luna turned the next corner out of sight. He then did a quick spin on his hooves, trotted back down the hallway, and into a very specific office.
“And?” asked Celestia expectantly, her gaze focused on a stack of police reports.
“Your sister has taken the sage advice of the stoic guardspony and is on her way to meet with Pony Joe. Just as you planned, your highness.”
Celestia nodded, smiling contentedly. “Thank you for your help in this. I didn’t like seeing Luna so upset.”
The guard nodded. “Permission to speak freely, Princess Celestia?”
“Your sister is bucking insane. Seriously, she should be seeing a therapist or something.”
“Noted. Now, if there’s nothing else, be on your way.”
“Yes, ma’am.” The guard turned and made it about halfway to the door before curiosity got the better of him. “You majesty...”
“Did she bring up the alfalfa?”
Celestia tsked. “I thought she’d be over that by now.”
“...May I ask what happened?”
Celestia looked up in thought. “I recall that it involved a sieve, a hoof-ful of moist alfalfa...oh, and the detached head of a statue.” She paused. “And it may or may not have all ended up in her bed. While she was sleeping.”
“...I see, your majesty.”
“Yes...” Celestia looked back at the guard, gesturing him to shoo. “Go on, then.”
“But why was there an old couple in the first place?”
“Well, apparently, they thought the place was a -” Snapshot paused, noticing the somewhat shocked princess standing in the doorway. “Um, PJ...”
PJ looked to the side, and chuckled. “Well, if it isn’t my favorite customer. Take a seat, Luna.”
Luna, impolitely keeping her gaze on Snapshot, made her way to the seat nearest Pony Joe.
“You remember Snapshot, don’t you?”
Luna nodded. “Yes. And -” She swiveled her seat towards Snapshot. “Snapshot, please understand that I harbor no personal resentment towards you.”
“Of course, Princess,” replied Snapshot.
“Thank you.” She swiveled back towards PJ. “Anyways...what in the name of a thousand flaming donut holes is he doing here?”
PJ blinked, then shrugged. “He got fired from his job after the whole disaster at the castle and wandered in here to put himself in a sugared stupor.”
“And I’m guessing that instead of allowing him to delve into such a self-destructive act, you listened to his problems and gave him some helpful advice?”
Before PJ could respond, Snapshot interjected: “Actually, I ate about six double-chocolate cream-filled donuts -”
“- With extra sprinkles,” added Pony Joe.
“With extra sprinkles, that’s right,” continued Snapshot, “Anyways, ate six of those, passed out, woke up fifteen minutes later, ate three more, passed out again, woke up, threw up, passed out one more time, and then PJ here got some Canterlot guards to take me home.”
PJ nodded. “Then he came back in a couple nights later, and that’s when I started giving him advice. Since then, he’s become one of my regulars.” After a few seconds, he noticed Luna staring oddly at the both of them. “Are you alright?”
Luna hiccuped, then nodded. “Oh, fine, fine,” she assured, “Anyways, back to the reason I’m here.” Luna cleared her throat, inhaled, and began: “Seeing as the Canterlot Garden Party is within the next week, our personal preparations must commence immediately. While I, of course, can see to my own affairs with such brief notice, you might face some more difficulty in getting high-quality garments and the like so quickly. To expedite matters, I plan on giving you direct access to the royal tailors. From there, we’ll see about everything else, such as a timetable for that evening and our method of transportation, although I’m sure some of those details were already covered by my sister’s invitation.” Reaching the end of her spiel, Luna gasped and panted, having been out of breath since ‘high-quality garments.’
PJ nodded politely, smiling. “Alright, Luna, that all sounds fine and dandy, but I do have one question.”
Luna took another few moments to catch her breath. “Yes?”
Yello, everypony! It’s me, Katalus, back from the dead! ...Again. Sorry this took so long...again.
Anyways, seeing as I’ve already played Skyrim to death, and I’ve been focusing back on my writing so much more, part four should take a much shorter time, as well as any part/epilogue after that. Also, an important announcement:
After I finish this story (which, God-willing, shouldn’t be much longer than a few months), I plan to immediately start work on a little project I like to call, ‘The Melting Pot: Carnival Night.’ I plan to finish and release by May, seeing as that’s the first anniversary of ‘The Melting Pot.’ So, cheers. Let’s see how the rest of the new year rolls, shall we?
A Slightly Cruller Fate
"OW!" Luna danced around her office, waving frantically at her tongue. "Ow, ow, ow-ow-ow!” As the pain died down, Luna took a look at her tongue in the nearby mirror.
The papercut was surprisingly small, considering that Luna felt as if a flaming hot donut hole had been crammed into her oral cavity. She turned from the mirror, tongue still sticking out, and glared at the half-open envelope on her desk.
“Blathted pen requithithon forms,” she spat.
Almost immediately, somepony knocked at the door. “Who ith it?”
“It’s Celly. May I come in?”
After a quick effort to put her office in some recognizable semblance of order, Luna sat calmly behind her desk. “Come in,” she said, barely remembering to suck her tongue back in.
Celestia entered. “Good morning, sister.”
“Good morning, Celly,” replied Luna, wincing slightly, “Do you need me for something?”
“Some of our out-of-town guests for the Garden Party have arrived already, and they’re expecting a welcome of sorts. Would you mind?”
Luna smiled weakly. “Not at all,” she replied, “Just give me a moment.”
Celestia nodded, casually exiting the room.
Luna held her posture for a moment, then emitted a high-pitched, muffled scream into the crook of her front leg. “Ow.” She took another look at her tongue in the mirror, giving a resigned sigh.
“...It’s not like things could get much worse,” she mused. Very, very stupidly.
North Star cautiously crept behind Snapshot, giving him a soft tap on the shoulder. “Uh, Snapshot?”
“One minute, Northie.” Snapshot turned away from his friend and back to the rather comely model he had been flirting with moments ago. “Now, then, like I was saying, photography’s a difficult thing to get right, sure...but I definitely can’t complain about the subject material,” he said with an oddly out-of-character wink.
North Star gave a quick eyeroll before tapping his shoulder again. “Snapshot, I really think you should -”
“Hold on, it’ll just be another minute. Anyways, my last job was a pretty dull affair, though. Too many old nobles, not enough good-looking models like yourself,” he said with yet another unbearably cheesy wink.
North Star couldn’t take it anymore. Tapping him on the shoulder one more time, she said, “I was just letting you know that your doctor called. Your T.R.O.T.S. test came back positive.”
Snapshot entered into a stunned silence, only recovering after the mare he’d been talking to was long gone. Craning his neck slightly towards North Star, he asked in a pained voice: “Why?”
“First, because it’s funny. Second, that was excruciating to even watch. Third, and most importantly: what’s gotten into you?”
“You were flirting, Snapshot,” said North Star incredulously, “Flir-ting.” After a brief pause, she added, “In the time I’ve known you, I’ve never seen you even get close to flirting. Except for Dee,” she added with a shrug, “But only barely.”
Snapshot twitched visibly at Dee’s name, his mouth creasing downward. “I guess you’re right,” he said, his voice wavering.
North Star’s expression morphed from that of mild irritation to one of concern. “You alright, Snapshot?”
He shook his head, sighing and slinking onto his backside. “I miss Dee,” he muttered pathetically.
North Star looked at him sadly. “I know, buddy,” she said in a comforting tone, “And I wish I could help somehow -” Suddenly, with her mouth still half-open, North Star’s eyes widened. An idea was taking form in her head. “Snapshot...”
“You know how the Canterlot Garden Party is tomorrow, right?”
“And the paparazzi are usually there in full force, right?”
“I still don’t see what you’re getting at...”
“Which would include Dee, wouldn’t it?”
Snapshot’s head rose, and an overjoyed smile briefly stretched across his face. As it faltered, he dejectedly pointed out, “That would only matter if I could get in, though.”
North Star, unfazed, gave him a sly smile. “Trust me,” she said in the smuggest tone of voice she could muster, “I have my ways.”
“Luna, please be reasonable -”
“DON’T PATRONIZE ME, YOU ARCHAIC SOLAR BITCH!”
“...Well, this clearly isn’t working. You there, guard!”
“Do you know how to get to Pony Joe’s donut shop?”
“Yes, your highness.”
“Then I need you to gallop down there as fast as you possibly can, find Pony Joe, and bring him back here to the castle. Drag him here if you have to. Understood?”
“Yes, your majesty. Permission to speak freely?”
“I told you your sister was bucking insane.”
“Noted. Now get going!”
“Right away, ma’am.”
Six hours earlier...
“Blueblood, may I inquire as to what in the goddess’ name are you doing?”
Blueblood turned away from the stage his lackeys - ahem, prized servants, were busily setting up. “Oh, good day, Luna,” he said with a bow that was somehow more pretentious than it should have been, “My servants are simply setting up for the magic show I’m preparing to do at the party tomorrow.”
Luna was literally unable to speak for a few moments. “I’m sorry...magic show?”
“Oh, don’t you worry,” said Blueblood assuringly, “It’s not going to be anything like those that you’ll find in the peasant country. It’s rather tasteful, in fact. I even arranged for an assistant with some experience in the field, although she, sadly, won’t be arriving until tomorrow...”
“Blueblood...do you even know how to perform magic of this caliber?”
“What? Oh, yes, of course I do, Princess. Here, allow me to demonstrate.”
“No, no, that’s quite alright -”
“You two!” bellowed Blueblood, pointing at the nearest two of his ‘servants,’ “Bring out...the SAPPHIRE TOMB!”
In a matter of minutes, a large and decorative box, more than big enough to fit even princess Luna, was set up in front of the unfinished stage. Blueblood, stepped in front of it, assuming a rather dramatic posture.
“Now then,” he said loudly, “I need a volunteer...Luna, if you’d be so kind?”
Luna rolled her eyes before trotting inside the tomb, closing the door behind her. “From the depths of Equestrian history,” began Blueblood to his invisible audience, the hamminess growing with every word exiting his mouth, “Comes a relic of untold power and mysticism! Why, not even I, the Great Sangbleu -”
“Sangbleu?” asked Luna incredulously from inside the tomb.
“If you say so.”
“Anyways...not even the Great Sangbleu cannot grasp its full power. But be warned...even with my limited understanding of the Sapphire Tomb’s abilities, I cannot discount the possibility that it is, in fact...” Blueblood paused, opening the door to the tomb. “Cursed.” Inside the tomb, Luna was nowhere to be seen. After a few seconds passed, during which there was nothing but the sound of the stage’s construction, Blueblood shut the door, and continued. “Do not fear, plebians, for I, the Great Sangbleu, will do what I can to return this unfortunate mare from whatever nether regions she has been cast to!”
Blueblood hunched over, his horn glowing as a magical aura swirled around the tomb. After several tense seconds of this, there was a brilliant flash of light, and Blueblood strolled over to the door. “Lo and behold,” he bellowed, opening the door, “She has...returned?”
To Blueblood’s surprise and horror, the tomb was empty. Panicking, he looked around for where Luna might have ended up. “Princess?” he shouted, “Princess Luna?”
Blueblood cringed, then turned to face...the duckpond, from which Luna was emerging, sopping wet, covered in pink lily pads, and a rage in her eyes that was almost lethal.
“...You know what?” said Blueblood as he sheepishly stepped back towards his servants, who were already packing up his magic tricks in a panicked rush, “I think I’ll try out my show on the road, first...”
“What a wonderful idea,” hissed Luna through bared teeth, not breaking her gait towards Blueblood.
“...Well, then, I suppose I’ll see you...another time.”
The hardening of Luna’s glare was response enough.
“...Alright, then,” said Blueblood, still walking backward in an utterly terrified fashion, “Come on, lads, I think it’s about time we were going...”
“Yes,” agreed Luna, “Yes, it most certainly is.”
Luna kept her furious visage centered on Blueblood until he and his cohorts had all departed. Afterwards, she finally relaxed, sighing and attempting to shake some of the water out of her mane.
“Could things get any worse today?!” she said to herself.
Yes, yes they most certainly could.
North Star tentatively knocked on her boss’ door, Snapshot close behind her.
“Vait, vait, one moment!” North Star waited patiently until a certain gray-maned, accented fashion photographer answered the door. “Ah, North Star, good to see you. Who eez your friend?”
“Er, Snapshot, ma’am.” A beat. “...The new photographer you hired just a week ago.”
“Ah, yes, yes, of course, I remember,” Photo Finish lied, “Come een, come een.”
North Star and Snapshot followed Photo Finish into her office. Snapshot took the opportunity to survey his new boss’ office, noting the numerous photos lining the walls. He realized that he couldn’t even tell what the color of the wallpaper was through the swath of photographs; there seemed to be layers of them. The weird thing was, more than half of them seemed to be of the same pink-maned pegasus.
Aside from that, there was a desk at the back of the room (also covered in photographs), behind which Photo Finish sat herself down. “Now, what eez it you were needing, North Shtar?”
“Well, ma’am, I was thinking...do you remember the shoot you had scheduled for Friday?”
“Of course I do,” Photo Finish replied in her thick accent, “I haven’t forgotten a shoot date seence I first started thees agency.”
“Right, my apologies, ma’am. Anyways, I had an idea: why don’t we have it tomorrow, instead? At the Canterlot Garden Party?”
“Bear with me: what would make the outfits look better than showing them off around the Canterlot nobility? Not just catching everypony’s attention, but absolutely stunning them.” Allowing a beat, North Star continued. “Plus, the publicity would work fan-tastically for the agency, not to mention the clients supplying the outfits. Not only would the magazine-buying public adore these...these ‘fashion in-action’ photographs, but word of mouth would seal the deal. And I’m sure you have enough pull to get us in on such short notice.” North Star leaned back, a smug grin on her face. Meanwhile, her gut was doing cartwheels. “What do you think, ma’am?”
Photo Finish rubbed her hooves together thoughtfully. “I don’t know, North Shtar...it seems rather -”
“Who’s the pony in all these pictures?” asked Snapshot, who’d yet to listen to a single word of this conversation, or even keep his gaze on Photo Finish for more than a second. North Star facehoofed quietly.
“Who?” Photo Finish followed Snapshot’s line of sight. “Oh, herr,” she said with a hint of nostalgia, “Flootershy. My greatest creation.”
“Really?” Snapshot leaned forward, sliding one of the photos on Finish’s desk toward him. “How so?”
“Oh, she was like nothing you’d ever seen!” gushed Photo Finish in a dramatic fashion, “She was graceful...elegant...everything you’d want in the perfect model. But, most importantly, she was a natural in front of the camera. She truly had...de magicks.”
“A real natural, huh? I get how rare those can be.” He carefully set down the photo he was holding, and began looking at another. “What happened to her?”
Photo Finish shrugged. “She go. Just...up and left. Poof.” Photo Finish put her hooves in the air to illustrate her point. “Sad, really.” Photo Finish sighed, picking up one of the photos herself and gazing longingly at it. “Never got around the nude shoots,” she muttered.
North Star shifted uncomfortably, while Snapshot simply chuckled, setting down the other photo. “Sounds like you really had your perfect model.”
Photo Finish nodded, not changing her position.
“Well, her natural essence was what mainly caught your eye, yes?” Another nod from Finish. “All the more reason to do the shoot tomorrow, then.”
Photo Finish shifted slightly for a better look at Snapshot. “Vat?”
“Think about it, ma’am. If you want natural, what better than to be photographing your models in a setting like this? Sure, things can be a tad stuffy around the nobility at times, but at least a few of your models are bound to be in a much more casual demeanor for this party. Chatting with friends, laughing at each other’s jokes, all the while slipping into a much more natural form of grace and elegance...I tell you, this photo shoot could be the closest thing to your Flootershy you could get.”
Photo Finish considered this very carefully. “...Fine, then,” she said, “I’ll make the needed arrangements.” She waved them away. “Now, you go. Leave me to my musings.”
“Yes, ma’am,” they both said. Snapshot and North Star exited the office, and the latter made sure that the door was shut perfectly before asking the question most prominent in her mind:
“What the buck just happened?”
Snapshot gave North Star a self-satisfied smirk, smugly straightened his fedora, and replied with total honesty: “I have absolutely no idea.”
Three hours earlier...
Luna reclined in her office chair, smiling contededly as she popped open another bag of donut holes. It had been a...less than enjoyable morning, no doubt. However, after a few donut holes, a quick shower to wash off the pond scum, some more donut holes, and a confirmation from the city watch that Blueblood was indeed off the city limits, she was finally beginning to relax. Now, she thought as she grabbed another hoof-ful of donut holes, Only one thing left to make it better.
Instinctively looking about to ensure her solitude, Luna began rummaging through her desk. “Where is it? Where is...ah!” From the second-down right drawer (which had otherwise contained an unused cup of quills, several awkward attempts to write a love letter to PJ, and a moldy bag of cinnamon-swirl donut holes that Luna had long since forgotten about stuck to the back), Luna drew forth one of her most recent but cherished acquisitions: a record, encased in a red-and-white sleeve with the title ‘Popular Equestrian Love Songs: Extra Amorous Edition’ emblazoned on the front in reflective gold lettering.
Growing more relaxed by the second, Luna levitated the record to the phonograph tucked away in the back of her office. Seconds later, the soft sounds of her favorite song were flowing through her office, wiping away any remnants of stress from Luna’s psyche. A small smile grew across her face, and she began:
“You know, I can’t smile, without you...” she sang in a proud (albeit in a slightly off-key) voice. She’d found the record a few weeks ago in one of the Canterlot antique stores, and ever since, she’d spent much of her free time listening to it with a bag of donut holes beside her. The songs were positively delightful, and they’d matched her recent moods to a T. The current one playing, track number eight, was her personal favorite. “I feel glad, when you’re glad...” The relaxed joyfulness in her voice was palpable as she continued to sing, growing stronger and stronger so that by the time she hit the song’s apex, she was nearly shouting the lyrics.
“I just can’t SMIIIIILE, with-out -”
Luna jolted, snapping her gaze towards the door. The pony standing in the doorway looked shocked as Luna’s record continued to blare in the background, though not quite as shocked as the full tour group standing behind him.
“...Alright, then!” The tour guide quickly turned back around, waving the group down the hallway. “Now that we’ve seen the Princess of the Night at work, I think we can head on down to the gift shop! Come right this way please...”
Luna remained frozen for the rest of the song, and through the opening verses of the next before magically moving the needle of the track. She then groaned, slamming her face into the desk.
“Goddess,” she said into the mahogany desktop, “Discord, Flying Alfalfa Monster...whichever of you is doing this to me, can you please just cut me a break?”
None of those divine beings, of course, had anything to do with Luna’s misfortunes. Not that said misfortunes were in any way over just yet.
Celestia impatiently paced about the hallway. “Luna, I’m telling you, you’re not -”
“DON’T LIE TO ME! I CAN SMELL LIES!”
Celestia turned, pacing back the other way. “Sister, please, this is ridiculous -”
“SILENCE, THOU IMPISH, AGITATING HINNY!”
Celestia sighed, rolling her eyes. “Great,” she muttered, “Now she’s waxing Royal Canterlotian.”
“Your (*huff*) majesty!”
Celestia whipped around, seeing the Royal Guard, thoroughly worn out, and Joe galloping down the hallway. Oh, thank goodness.
“Sorry it (*wheeze*) took us so long,” panted the Royal Guard, “There was (*cough*) a little emergency on the way down.”
“Well (*huff*), I was turning onto Golden Trough Boulevard when I saw a baby carriage on fire and rolling down an incline -”
“Yes, yes, wonderful, we can discuss it later!” Celestia turned to Joe, a pleading look in her eyes. “PJ, please - and pay attention, because I only say this to somepony once a century - I need your help.”
“DON’T LISTEN TO THAT BLATHERING WITCH, PJ! SHE’S MAD, MAD I TELLEST THOU!”
Celestia sighed. “That’s what’s wrong.”
“Would you care to explain?”
“THERE’S NOTHING TO EXPLAIN! NOW, RETURN TO THY PASTRY SHOPPE AND PRETEND THAT NOTHING HAST OCCURRED HERE!”
“...As I was saying, she’s been under a lot of stress, and today...well, she just snapped.”
“Oh, yes.” Celestia shook her head pityingly. “Yes, indeed, there was.”
Forty-five minutes earlier...
“Pins ‘n’ Needles?”
The royal tailor looked up from her sewing, smiling brightly at the princess. “Your highness!” She stood up, giving a quick bow. “What can I do for you?”
“You said that my dress would be finished this afternoon?” asked Luna tensely.
“Right, of course!” The tailor slipped to the back, making a fair ruckus as she looked around. “Sorry it took so long,” she said as she delicately carried it out in an aura of unicorn magic, “But I wanted to make sure that it fit exactly to your measurements.”
Luna sighed with immeasurably relief. “Finally, something goes right today...” She looked around nonchalantly. “Is there anywhere for me to try it on?”
The tailor gave Luna a puzzled stare.
“...Well, you certainly don’t expect me to change clothes right here, do you?”
“What cl -” The tailor stopped herself. “No,” she said, still rather puzzled, “I suppose not. There’s a fitting room back there you can use.”
“Thank you.” Luna trotted to where the tailor had shown her, disappearing behind a curtain. A minute or two passed before she spoke again: “Erm, Needles?”
“Yes, your highness?”
“You tailored this to my measurements, correct?” asked Luna, her voice quavering.
“To my exact measurements?”
A pause. “...When did I last have my measurements taken, again?” she asked hesitantly.
“Not too long, I don’t think -”
“When?” repeated Luna in a volume just a few decibels short of the royal Canterlot voice.
“Erm...” The tailor took a few moments to recall. “A few weeks ago, I believe.”
There was another pause, one that stretched into rather uncomfortable territory. “Princess Luna?” The silence stretched on for a little longer, only to be brutally crushed by one of shrillest and most blood-curdling shrieks in the history of Equestria.
“I’M REPULSIVE!” cried Luna through her office door, “FATTER THAN A FARMYARD SWINE!”
PJ looked at Celestia. “...Seriously?”
Celestia nodded. “She’s put on a couple pounds over the last month or so. Not noticeably, but -”
“NOTICEABLY? NOTICEABLY?! I CAN’T EVEN WEAR A GARMENT THAT WOULD HAVE FIT ME NOT A FORTNIGHT AGO!”
“...But she won’t believe me, in case you couldn’t tell. I think it’s all those donut holes, personally. I see an empty trash can in the morning, and it’s filled with paper bags by nightfall -”
“OH, NOW I’M AFFLICTED WITH AN EATING DISORDER, TOO?”
“What? No, Luna, I was just -”
“WELL, I WISH I HAD ONE, NOW! PERHAPS IT WOULD PROVE USEFUL IN LOSING THE EXCESS MASS I’VE ACCUMULATED!”
Celestia sighed once again. “Okay, this is just getting preposterous...PJ, you’re up.”
“What do you expect me to do?” PJ asked incredulously.
“I don’t know!” Celestia threw her hooves into the air in exasperation. “You’re her coltfriend, you figure something out!”
“Fine. Erm...” He tentatively trotted up to Luna’s office door. “Uh, Luna? Maybe you want to...oh, I dunno...come on out of there?”
Quietly, Celestia and the guard facehoofed. PJ ignored both of them, sitting up against the door. “Mind tellin’ me why not?”
“BUT...CELESTIA JUST TOLD YOU -”
“She told that you’re stressed,” interrupted PJ, “That’s not exactly the whole picture. Talk to me, Luna.”
“WELL...” Luna sighed at a decibel level equal to an Equestrian Filly-monic Orchestra concert. “TO BEGIN WITH, THERE’S AN UNHOLY AMount of paperwork that goes into the Canterlot Garden Party...” Luna’s voice had now reached decibel levels below the threshold of pain. “...There’s streamer orders, then there’s spreadsheets for the maintenance costs, and don’t even get me started on the squirrel euthanization forms -”
“Just making sure that you were listening.” PJ heard a small chuckle through the door, and he smiled. “Still, it was not a relaxing week for me, especially considering that I ended up doing most of the paperwork.”
Celestia, in another rare moment for her, shifted uncomfortably. Luna went on.
“And then there’s today, which was meant to be a fairly light day for me. I’d finished the last of the paperwork, and I’d had only four things to do: get pens to replace all the ones I’d used up for said paperwork, greet the early arrivals, relax in my office for the afternoon, and then pick up my dress. Somehow, each and every one of those things managed to go wrong. I got a papercut on my tongue, was teleported into a duckpond, had my private habits exposed to a tour group, and found that I can’t fit into an absolutely beautiful dress.” She paused, then there was another light chuckle.
“What?” inquired PJ, ignoring the awestruck/confused looks from Celestia and the guard.
“Nothing, just...it seems rather stupid, doesn’t it? I’m a princess complaining about a bad day off.”
“No,” PJ disagreed, “You’re a tightly-wound mare that had a bad day to end a bad week, and now you have to act prim and proper and pretentious for the full day tomorrow. Ponies have gone crazier over more ridiculous things.”
“Like what?” asked Luna, giggling.
“Come on out and I’ll give you some examples.”
No one spoke for several moments, a silence ringing through the hallway. Finally, the door clicked open, and Luna timidly poked her head out.
“...E-evening, all,” she said, smiling weakly.
Without missing a beat, PJ strolled inside her office, already starting: “So this colt - Hayseed, I think his name was - comes into the shop...”
The door closed behind them, leaving the still-dumbstruck guard and equally stupefied Celestia standing in the hallway. Finally, the guard slowly turned towards the princess, asking, “Permission to speak freely, your majesty?”
Greetings once again, everypony, from Katalus!
Once again, sorry this took so long to make, I quite literally have no excuse aside from general laziness. This time, though, I promise - promise, cross my heart, hope to fly, stick a cupcake in my eye - that the next one will be out sooner. A month, at most, rather than three.
Anyways, hope you enjoyed this part. The next part should be the big finisher, not counting an epilogue. Thanks for sticking around for the story, and I think (hope) you’ll like how it closes out!
P.S. Wow, I just realized that I finished this on the last day of the season. Time flies, no?
P.P.S. Please forgive the real-world song I used. I couldn’t think of a good song to ponify, and I was not about to try and write one of my own.