Author's Note: This takes place the year after the Grand Galloping Gala shown in The Best Night Ever.
Princess Celestia's was busily greeting the guests of the Grand Galloping Gala, standing in her usual place at the top of the steps in the Main Hall. There, everypony would be sure to see her, and have the chance to greet her if they wished.
A lull rose in the seemingly endless stream of hoofshaking ponies, and Celestia allowed herself a moment to relax. She knew it would be brief, but she breathed a sigh, taking a moment to take in the sights and sounds of the Gala. She caught something out of the corner of her eye, and turned her head sharply.
On either side of her were two staircases, leading up into other parts of the Canterlot Castle. At the top of the stairs to Celestia's left stood Princess Luna beckoning her with a hoof to come closer. Luna was out of view of any of the other guests, standing just inside the hallway so that only Celestia could see her.
Taking a quick glance down the steps in front of her to make sure that nopony was approaching, Celestia made her way up the stairs, a slight hurried-ness in her steps. But when she got to the top, Luna was gone...
Making her way down the hall, Luna was waiting at the first turn. The first thing Celestia noticed was her dress. It was elegant, yet simply, deep blue with a slight waviness, and adorned with peacock feathers. She looked...beautiful.
“Luna...” Her sister hadn't ventured out much since her return, preferring to devote her time to study and re-learning a few things. She'd stayed very much to herself, keeping to her room or other quiet and unoccupied places around the castle. But now—she was finally here, at the Gala! “Luna, you look amazing.” She paused. “Beyond amazing. You're absolutely stunning Luna.”
Luna looked down at the ground, her ears drooping.
“Luna, what's the matter?” Celestia prodded. “Come on, let's go enjoy the Gala together.” She caught a whiff of something fruity—was Luna wearing perfume, even? My, she'd certainly done herself up, hadn't she?
“I've already been to the Gala.” Luna mumbled.
“You have? Why didn't you tell me? Luna, really what is the matter?” Celestia's originally excited mood had been dampened by her sister's sorry look.
Luna turned to look up at Celestia, looking as if she was about to cry. “I went to the Ballroom, just to try out the Gala for the first time, and— there was this bright pink pony, she was absolutely crazy! So I turned to leave, but I bumped into one of the tables...” she looked at the ground, shuffling her hooves nervously. “I ended up with a punchbowl on my head. I don't know if anypony saw, but I just couldn't stay there after that. But I wanted to show you my outfit before I retired for the evening.” Luna blushed, slightly embarrassed to admit in front of her sister that she actually liked to dress up and look pretty.
Celestia felt so foolish. How had she not noticed before? Luna's slightly tangled hair, the fruity spell of punch, and the even darker patches of her dress where the drink had splattered.
“Luna, you're beautiful anyways. Always. And your dress is absolutely lovely.” Celestia complemented her sister.
“Thank you, Celestia. I think I shall go and bathe now. I'm starting to get rather sticky.” Luna lifted a front hoof to demonstrate, the slight suction-y sound proving her point.
“Alright Luna, if you're sure...” Celestia glanced back to the Main Hall where her subjects were surely wondering where she'd disappeared to.
“I am, quite. Thank you Celestia.” Luna turned, heading off somewhere else in the castle, as Celestia resumed her royal greeting duty.
* * *
After shampooing her hair and getting the stickiness off of her body, Luna debated getting out of the bathtub...and then decided to have some relaxation time instead.
Laying on her back in the warm water, Luna let the warmth seep into herself and warm her down to the bone. Taking a giant gulp of breath, she slid under, letting the world of water take her away. It was so calm and peaceful, like she was floating...
Wouldn't it be fine to just...float away? Leave everything behind, and slowly fade away... Luna let a few bubbles escape her lips, peering through the glimmering water to the ceiling. So warm, and such a calm feeling...
Luna let the rest of the air escape her, a mound of bubbles rising to the surface...but Luna stayed below.
Sucking in water through her nose, and feeling the sickly feeling inside her throat as, too fast, water made its way inside her. The edges of her vision became fuzzy and hazed.
Reflexively, her mouth opened, hoping to gather some oxygen. Air! Air! AIR! Her body screamed, and suddenly Luna was thrashing about, her hooves making contact with one of the sides of the tub...but pushing against it did not reveal her face to the surface.
Struggling get off her back and find bottom, Luna suddenly felt herself being pulled by her neck, and with a wooshing of water she felt the refreshing cool rush of air as she was brought to the surface. The upper half of her body was laid against the side of the side of the tub, while Luna coughed and sputtered water and gasped for air.
She felt something press against her cheek, before she heard somepony speak. “Luna? Luna can you hear me?!”
But seemingly in response, Luna's head fell limply to the side. Princess Celestia nudged her sister frantically, hoping, praying that she hadn't been too late. She couldn't forgive herself if— if— No! Not on the night of the Gala! Such a lovely night couldn't end— end with—
Just then, Luna's eyes fluttered, opening as her breathing became less shallow. She tilted her head so that she was resting on her chin on the side of the tub, and looked up at her sister with sorrow filled eyes.
Celestia breathed a heavy sigh of relief. “Luna! Luna I'm so glad that you're alright. I was so worried!” She checked Luna over with her eyes, wanting to comfort her, to reassure her that she was there. But she didn't want to crowd her. “Luna, what happened?” she prodded, slightly more calm than she had been.
Luna's ears drooped even further, and her face fell. Staring at the floor, she breathed a sigh, not meeting her sister's worried eyes. “I'm sorry.” she whispered, barely audible.
“S-Sorry for what?” Celestia asked, bending her head down to nuzzle her sister's face. “Everything's alright now. You're alright.” A tear escaped her, rolling down her slanted nose and dropping lightly onto Luna. Celestia gave a light sniff herself, bringing her head up again. She decided it would be easier to speak with her sister were she more on her level, and so she knelt beside the tub, placing her regal head next to Luna's on the edge of the bathtub.
“I'm here Luna. Alright? I'll stay here as long as you need.”
Luna closed her eyes and took in a sharp breath. “How can you say that if you don't love me?” Her voice was tainted with bitterness as she spoke.
Celestia gasped, raising her head back quickly. “Luna I—I don't—What in the world would make you think that?” she felt tears welling up inside her, and squinted her once to hopefully avoid the waterworks.
Luna vied to answer and instead began to climb out of the tub. With both front hooves on the edge, she placed on back hoof up as well, to hoist herself over. But it was far too slippery, and Luna fell over the side. Luckily, Celestia quickly stretched her neck in front of Luna to soften the tumble. Helping her sister up as best she could, Celestia meanwhile pulled a towel from one of the racks, levitating it to Luna using her magic.
Luna sat in silence, her shoulders hunched and ears drooping and eyes staring at the floor. Celestia wrapped the towel around her mane, gently soaking up the excess water. Grabbing another towel, Celestia laid it across Luna's back. She'd begun to shiver ever so slightly in the cool air, but still had not replied to her sister.
“Luna?” Celestia prodded. “Please Luna, talk to me.”
“You know why.” Luna mumbled, looking up at her sister, her eyes glaring and boring into her.
Of course Celestia knew. But bringing it back up wasn't helping anypony. She wouldn't say that Luna's punishment hurt herself more than her sister...but she had had to struggle too, through all those years.
“Luna, I'm so sorry! I don't know how many times I have to say it. I don't know what I can do to make it better. Not having you here tore me apart. I don't think I ever told you that. I felt so guilty, after I realized what I'd done. I don't know what that must have been like... I wish that I could take back all those years. But know Luna, please do... You didn't suffer alone. What I experienced may pale in comparison to what you had to go through. But I know that what happened to you is my fault. We were both so young, and I was foolish—I—I just...” Celestia rose, turning to leave. Several tears escaped her eyes now, rolling down her face and splashing to the floor. She'd finally said her piece, what had been bottled up for so long. She and Luna had been dodging around each other for the past year, avoiding each other or else avoiding the topics they both had so desperately been needing to talk about. Everything was just so hard and complicated now. Celestia hadn't brought anything up because she didn't think that Luna wanted to talk about it—that Luna didn't want to talk to her.
“Celestia!” Luna called after her, an edge of panic in her voice. “Please don't leave me alone.”
Celestia turned sharply, whipping around to face her sister. “Luna—Luna of course not!” She moved to her knees again so that she was closer to her sister. She wiped her eyes, a hopeful smile creeping across her face.
“You shouldn't blame yourself!” Luna exclaimed. “I do, but I shouldn't. Everything is my fault. It always was. I was selfish, and foolish—”
“But you didn't deserve that!” Celestia cut in. “If—If I had known... I didn't know what I was doing anymore than you did. We made a mistake—but we can't spend our whole lives thinking on one regret. This is tearing us apart Luna! It's tearing ME apart!” Celestia's voice cracked on the last bit
She shut her eyes tight, partially to keep from crying again and partially to keep from looking at Luna. She was so ashamed of what she'd done...what she'd made Luna go through. She was the older sister. She should have protected her from harm, not brought it upon her.
Luna shook off both towels and let them fall to the floor. Then she rushed to her sister, rubbing against her chest and lower neck, feeling her warmth and hearing her heartbeat. She'd been gone for so long, without contact from anypony...It was difficult to believe this was actually real.
Celestia opened her eyes, looking down at her sister. She wrapped her neck around Luna's, holding her close. This was how it was always meant to be, the two of them, together, in harmony. Celestia held Luna for several long minutes while silence reigned.
After they had let go, Celestia noticed Luna's mussed and still slightly damp mane. Telekinetically grabbing a brush from the counter, Celestia began to brush her sisters hair, while they both remained enveloped in their thoughts.
But after only a few moments Luna pulled away and whipped around. “I'm not a foal Celestia! I can brush my own mane!” she yelled, a sudden change in her mood.
“Oh!” Celestia exclaimed, jerking back a little at the sudden outburst. “Alright then.” she said softly, placing the brush back on the counter.
“But I—would prefer if you did it.” Luna sighed, almost in a defeated manner.
“Come over here, Luna.” Celestia motioned in front of herself with one hoof as the brush came over. Luna sat down in front of Celestia, her half tangled mane partially falling into her eyes.
As Celestia carefully brushed Luna's thick locks, both of them were silent. Celestia felt that they had talked enough seriousness for the night. Luna was just absorbed in the feeling that having her hair brushed by somepony else brought. She could her the slow breathing of herself along with Celestia's, and it was comforting just to have somepony nearby. She sighed with happiness, a moment of content settling upon her. For once, Luna was actually, truly happy.
But then Luna thought of something. “Celestia, what about the Galaaaaaa—” she'd turned to her sister, and had accidentally caused the brush to become caught in her mane.
“There will be another one next year.” Celestia said nonchalantly, smiling at Luna and trying to maneuver the brush back to her sister's hair again.
“But your subjects—” Celestia placed a hoof over Luna's mouth to hush her.
“Luna, there will also be somepony who needs me, somepony who needs my attention. But right now, that pony happens to be you. And I wouldn't miss this moment for all of Equestria. We're finally together again. And no number of Gala's could take the place of spending time with you.” Celestia smiled, rubbing her face against Luna's in reassurance.
Luna welcomed the gesture for a moment before she spoke. “But how did you know? That I was—in trouble?” she asked.
“Luna, we're sisters—I don't know, I suppose it was instinct.” Celestia mused.
Luna continued to enjoy the soft touch of her sister for a few seconds longer, before she took a couple of steps back. “You—You asked what happened. Earlier.” she paused and swallowed. “I tried—I tried to—I thought that—” Luna took a deep breath, holding it for a second before she continued. “I don't know what came over me. I was trying to—I almost took my life by my own hoof! Oh gosh, I almost—I could've—”
Celestia's eyes went wide and she gasped as it all became clear. Luna had attempted to take her own life—and had nearly succeeded.
“Luna—Luna why?” Celestia stared in shocked disbelief that her sister would attempt something so—so rash.
“I don't—I don't know exactly. I just—I guess I thought that things might be better that way. Without me... You know, being in the way of things.”
Celestia stood up, moving the couple of steps forward to her sister and nudging her with a leg. “Luna, you must never think that. I'll always love you, no matter what. I held on to the hope, for years...that you would come back one day, and be by my side again. I don't ever want to lose you like I did. I couldn't bear it, especially if I knew that I was the one who was responsible. Luna, I don't know if you can ever forgive me—and I don't blame you if you don't. But promise me you won't leave me again.” Celestia bent her neck so she could rub her nose along Luna's neck, hoping that she would understand.
Luna turned her cheek so that it touched Celestia's. “Why is it then that you have you been avoiding me so much since my return?” Luna asked, a pang of sadness in her voice now.
“Luna—I haven't spoken with you because I thought that was what you wanted. I only want to give you every happiness I possibly can. You deserve it after—everything that happened. If you'd only told me I would've stayed by your side every moment I could—”
“Celestia.” Luna made her way around her sister's front legs and under her belly, popping up again between Celestia's two front hooves and looking up at her. Luna placed the top of her head against the under side of her sister, placing her front hooves in front of Celestia's. Luna basked in the closeness, almost jittery with excitement that at long last, they were together again. She felt the warmth emanating from her sister, could feel the soft rise and fall of her stomach as she breathed. She could, perhaps, even hear the soft flutter of her sister's heartbeat, and feel the pounding of her own, in unison—just as it should be.
Luna spoke. “This won't be easy for either of us. I don't know who's going to have the harder time in all this. But you're here, now. We'll get through this, right? We're together now. We said we always would be—and truly, we always have.” Luna said thoughtfully.
“Luna, there is NOTHING that can ever separate us like that again.” Celestia bent to touch noses with her sister. “We're connected by destiny. But more than that, we are connected by blood.”
“And by love.” Luna added.
And for the first time, in a very long time, both of them smiled...