“Good morning, little sister.”
Princess Luna smiled broadly to herself as she felt the warmth of her older sister drawing alongside her. She turned to look at her pastel-stripe maned friend and relative, her smile growing as she looked up into her kind eyes.
“Good morning, Celly. Did you sleep well?” she asked, a small yawn escaping her throat. She leaned against the taller mare gently, nuzzling her head against the latter’s long neck.
“I did, Lu-Lu. And, how was your night? Your sky was breathtaking.”
Luna giggled softly, pulling her head back to face her sister’s once more. “Oh, I had a most delightful evening! There were so many of our dear subjects out even until the early hours, enjoying the night. I believe some of them may still be out, awaiting you picking up your own brush, Celly.”
Princess Celestia nodded her head slowly at that, a knowing smile on her face. “It would not surprise me.” She tilted her head thoughtfully at the younger alicorn. “Something tells me, though, that there may even be further reason for your elation. Have you had some good news?”
“Well, as it so happens... I did happen to have a most positive report from Sergeant Freeze Pop.”
The older alicorn frowned momentarily, putting a face to the name. “Hm? Ah, I remember. You sent her on a reconnaissance assignment the other day. Am I to take it that the intelligence she gathered was put to good use?”
“You might say that!” Luna replied happily, stretching out her wings for a moment, then folding them away once more. “I have missed this feeling.”
“That of assisting a friend, or friends, in need?”
A warm smile spread over the night blue pony’s face as she nodded her head. “The one and same, Celly. That dear little cellist is doing such amazing work for me... I hardly feel I am doing her justice in my reciprocation.”
The Princess of the Sun looked on her little sister with the kind of wise smile that only a life as long as theirs could bring. “Luna, my love... if everything you have been telling me is as you say, I think you’ll find that your little interferences here and there are worth a lot more than you credit yourself for.”
“I guess we’ll just have to wait and see.” the younger ruler replied with a giggle. “Anyway, I do believe it’s your turn to paint the skies. My moon is already heading for the horizon.”
“So it is. I am almost sad to see it go, but I know you’ll want to take your rest as well.”
“I shall – but not before I watch you give our kingdom a beautiful sunrise, big sister.”
Celestia felt her heart melt at her little sister’s sentiment, and she couldn’t have stopped the smile that broke out on her face even if she’d wanted to. Looking down at her, she saw in the younger pony’s teal eyes the same wide-eyed look of adoration she had worn in centuries past when they were both far younger; when the midnight blue alicorn had watched in silent awe every time her big sister turned the night into day.
She flashed her younger sibling a wink, turning her face toward the western skies.
“As you wish, Lu-Lu. This will be one of my best!”
Warm sunlight filtered its way through the blinds of the large window opposite Sketchy’s bed. Slowly but surely it found its way across the floor, over the top of the bed, and to the faces of the two sleeping ponies therein.
Octavia was the first to react to it, murmuring in her sleep and briefly clinging more tightly to the larger pony to whom she had held onto even in her sleep. She made a slight whimpering sound as her consciousness began to surface. As she became dimly aware of the fact she was clinging to something soft and warm, she relaxed her grip slightly and rubbed the side of her face against the chest of her friend where her head still lay.
Sketchy was stirred into a state of semi-consciousness by Octavia’s awakening, and his eyes slid partially open. For a brief moment between his body waking up and his mind catching up to him, he wondered why he felt a weight upon him – but as his memory caught up to him and he recalled the previous night’s events, he smiled happily to himself. Turning his head slightly he saw a visual confirmation that, indeed, he had not dreamed the whole thing.
“‘morning, Tavy...” he intoned gently. Her ears perked up at that, and then the strings player lifted her head slightly from his chest. A relaxed smile spread across her lips as she slowly blinked her eyes, gaining for herself the same realisation that the stallion had just had.
“Mmm... good morning, Sketchy.”
“I’d ask how you slept, but it’s pretty obvious.”
Octavia’s smile broadened at that comment, as she propped herself up a little on his chest.
“So, what’s on the agenda today, lass?” Sketchy questioned, resting his head back on the pillow and staring up at the ceiling, a relaxed smile on his own features. He felt the cellist’s hoof shift playfully against his hip, tickling slightly.
“Oh, nothing much. Just enjoying the day, until practice is due.” she replied, giggling as she flashed him a bright smile. “That is,” she continued, facetiously pouting at him, “unless you have something better to do.”
Sketchy let out a snort of laughter at that, grinning broadly. “Oh gee, tough call. Let’s see, I can either spend the day doing stuff that is almost done and isn’t at the deadline yet, or have fun entertaining a refined and beautiful mare. Ooooh,” he said, sucking air in between his teeth on that last word, “how am I going to decide!?”
“How indeed! The options are staggering!” his companion giggled aloud, hugging herself to him. “Good dreams?” she questioned, though before he could reply she had gently pressed her lips to his own.
“Mmm!” Sketchy replied, as both an answer to the question and an expression of his delight at her being so affectionate, hugging her in return. He heard a soft whine from her as she relaxed in his grip. She pulled her face back from his own after a few moments, her ears pinned back and a rosy hue painting her cheeks. It took the stallion a degree of self-restraint to not squeal over how cute she looked right at that moment.
“We should probably get out of bed, much as I’d like to just lounge around here all day.”
“You are right, we probably ought.” Octavia agreed, pushing herself up from him. She stretched out her limbs and yawned, rolling her neck and shoulders a bit. “Mmm... I must have slept rather well.” she stated approvingly.
“I think I could make an educated guess as to why.” her stallion companion chuckled as he rose to his feet himself, sliding off the side of the bed.
“It would not take much, I expect!” Octavia agreed, trotting to his side and nuzzling his cheek briefly. “Your kisses taste good.” she added, her tone a mix of shyness and playfulness.
Sketchy’s cheeks flushed at that compliment, though he smiled as he met her gaze. “Same goes for you, Tavy.”
“It must be the tea, leaves me minty fresh!” Octavia replied with a giggle, picking up her sodden collar and bow tie and making a disgusted looking face. “Eh... weather team.” she muttered, setting them back down. She trotted back over to her host and pecked him on the cheek. “By the way...”
“I claim first use of the washroom!” the cellist declared, turning and rushing off down the stairs with a giggle.
“Hey!” Sketchy laughed, amused by both the explanation for how she tasted and her rushing off down the stairs. He gave chase, though he knew it was a lost cause: his bed socks were hardly designed for traction on the smooth floor, and the shorter pony had a head start in this little race.
Octavia’s playful taunting sounded from within the bathroom. “Aww, I shall be quick, I promise! I just need to make myself presentable before I head out to get a new tie, that is all!”
True to her word, she was quick to emerge from the bathroom after having taken a few minutes to tame her hair; all the while humming a merry little tune to herself. Sketchy had simply sat himself outside and listened to her doing so, and he smiled to her as she emerged looking closer to her usual prim self.
“There you are, you see?” she smiled. “Not all that long. And besides, you would never have caught me in those adorable socks of yours.”
“True, I wouldn’t have.” the taller pony agreed, parking his hindquarters on the floor and putting a hoof to his mouth to remove the fabric covering.
“You are cute, you know that?” Octavia giggled, her face scrunched up slightly with the sort of smile one might usually reserve for a young foal doing something adorable. “I don’t wear them so often myself... If I am honest, I only tend to put them on if, well... I want to feel a little seductive.” She averted her gaze slightly, a bright blush tinging her face pink at having admitted that little secret.
Sketchy paused, mid sock pull, and blinked in surprise. Granted, he hadn’t thought it improbable that she might be the owner of a set of such clothing herself – it wasn’t that uncommon after all, as socks were a handy means of keeping your hooves warm in bed for one thing. But to hear her say what she had...
“Hmmm.” he mused, then continued pulling on the sock he’d been removing. “I’ll have to remember that.” he added, a glimmer of mischief in his eyes.
Octavia prodded him in the side with her nose, a smile forming on her face. “Tell anypony that little secret and I will... something!” she threatened, once more illustrating her incapacity for nastiness. It earned her a snort of laughter from her target.
“Ooh, how terrifying! Not something!”
The smaller pony paused to think for a bit. “I know! I will get the dreadful pink pony to descend upon your home for a jam session!” she declared, laughing slightly – although she shuddered momentarily at the thought of it.
Her host paused again, midway through pulling off his other front sock. “...no you won’t. That’d mean having to get in contact with her.” he grinned.
Octavia let out a groan, both at her defeat and the very idea of having to deal with Pinkie Pie again. “Oh, drat. I give up, I will just have to find where you are ticklish and exploit that.”
“As vengeance for last night?” Sketchy replied, rolling onto his back in order to get at his hind hooves.
“Quite so!” Octavia affirmed, taking hold of one of his rear hoof coverings. “Let me give you a hoof here.”
“Oh, it is no bother. You must realise, I am merely taking advantage while you are downed to spy out where you may be most vulnerable.” the stone grey mare replied with a devious giggle.
“That so? Spy all you want, lass.”
A nervous squeak emanated from Octavia in reply to that, her eyes going wide. She hadn’t expected such a response – and although the idea of eyeing up her companion in some detail appealed to a part of her, it was somewhat overshadowed by her own shyness.
The stallion grinned up at her in a slightly cheeky fashion. “Something the matter, lass?” he teased.
Octavia took a sharp breath in, directing her gaze to his face. “Oh, nothing. I... pancakes.” she blurted, turning her eyes to one side.
“...pancakes...?” Sketchy repeated, having pulled off another sock.
“I love them, yes.” the cellist replied, her eyes snapping back to look at him as she vigorously nodded her head.
“...right, I see.” the artist shrugged, yanking off the last sock and rolling back up onto his hooves. “Well, maybe we can go get some for breakfast?”
“Breakfast? Oh... I mean... yes... what?” his guest agreed, shaking her head vigorously to clear it. Now you are just being ridiculous!
“I mean, yes. I would love nothing more. You know...” she paused, stammering slightly. “I, ahh... I am sorry for acting the fool. I seem to be realising certain things faster than I am used to, and getting a little overwhelmed.”
“Oh, Octavia!” Sketchy replied with a happy smile, wrapping his forelegs round her and lifting her off the ground into a warm hug. “You worry yourself too much sometimes, lass.” he stated softly, squeezing her gently before setting her back down.
“I guess it is simply how I was raised.” she added, feeling somewhat less nervous and now perhaps even a little silly. Her smile had returned, though, as overall she was happy to be reassured so easily.
“Could be, could be.” Sketchy agreed. “The way a pony’s raised can affect them a lot. I wouldn’t be who I am without my mum and dad.”
“The same is true of me also.” Octavia stated with a nod, trotting over to where she had left her bags the previous night and taking a quick rummage through them. She felt as though she may have forgotten something, though she couldn’t think what.
It is probably nothing important.
The cellist wiggled a bit as she pulled on her bags, making them jingle. “I think so, Sketchy. What did you have in mind, again?”
The stallion’s gaze shifted from her wiggling hindquarters to her face. “...uhm, you mentioned pancakes?”
“When did I mention pancakes?” Octavia questioned, tilting her head.
Sketchy in turn looked mildly puzzled at her question. “When I was pulling off my socks...?”
“Oooh! Yes, I did, did I not. Hmm.”
“There y’are, see? I’m sure you already know somewhere we can stop off, then.”
“I do, as it happens.” Octavia replied with a flick of her tail. “It is in the middle of the city, though. I may get mobbed a little.”
“Hmm. Might not be a good idea to go there then.” Sketchy pointed out. “You just know the gossip columns would be all over you wandering around with a big handsome guy by your side.” A silly grin spread across his face at referring to himself as such. It earned him a giggle from his shorter-legged friend, as she let out a small sigh.
“It would not be all bad. I would simply hate to be distracted from your company, that is all.”
Sketchy’s expression softened at that, and he kissed her cheek. “You’re very sweet.”
“Let us be on our way. I am sure we shall find something, and any place with you there will be quite nice.”
“Alright.” Sketchy nodded, opening the apartment door. “Oh, will you manage the stairs alright, or would you rather get a lift?” he enquired, remembering her previous apprehension of the stairs. Octavia promptly moved to his side, looking to him expectantly. He smiled and lowered himself to the ground to let her clamber up on his back.
“I shall most definitely have to make an adjustment to my shoes, since I imagine I shall be back here more often.”
“I’m happy to hear that!” her steed commented, carefully rising to his feet once more. Octavia wrapped her forelegs around his shoulders more snugly as he did so.
“My cowboy? Let us hear that drawl?” she giggled. “I can hear Salad’s voice in my head when I do this... how is it? Y—all?” she said in a somewhat poor facsimile of their friend’s rustic mannerisms. Her own refinement was overpowering her attempts at impersonation somewhat.
“It’s y’all, sugar-cube!” Sketchy replied with a laugh, mimicking Salad’s twanging intonations much more closely as he headed out the door. “It doesn’t really suit your way of talking, though.” he added in his normal mannerisms.
“Whatever it is, I find it adorable.” Octavia replied happily. She glanced at the obstacle before them as her stallion steed began his descent. Oh you stairs, I shall beat you one day!
“As I previously noted, I must pay the farriers a visit as regards these stairs.”
“True. I can’t be carrying you down each and every time. Not that I’d mind, but it’s hardly practical.” Sketchy agreed as they reached the bottom.
And I would miss the sight from behind... A part of Octavia thought. She hastily slid off Sketchy’s back.
“Quite...!” she said, quickly ordering her thoughts. “Let us be on our way to the Royal quarter. There is food that way, I know for sure.”
“Lead on then, my lady.”
Unsurprisingly for the time of year, the weather outside was bright and sunny. The air carried the assorted scents and sounds of a typical summer’s day: floral scents from assorted shrubs, bushes and trees; the sound of bees and other insects buzzing around the plants; and the dull clamour of a few hundred ponies going about their business in the bustling city.
Octavia’s tail flagged back and forth as she walked along, swaying slightly in her step as though she heard music no-one else could hear. “You know, I was so distracted last night that I walked right up this road and then on ahead without even thinking? It was strange.” she commented. They came to a corner and she stopped, looking up and down the street.
“I believe it was around here that I first heard your playing... it was very warming to my heart, almost like a blanket being tucked in around my soul.”
Sketchy smiled as he recalled the memory of the previous night, hearing her call out to him from below and the vision of her standing there in the lamp light. “Hearing you put it like that, I can certainly understand why you felt compelled to follow your ears. You and I both know the power of music, after all.”
They continued on around the corner, Octavia nodding briefly as she started moving once more at a more brisk pace, skipping slightly as she did so. “Somewhere along here there is a place I know – and it is a perfect day to sit outside and enjoy the weather with something good to eat and agreeable company.”
The grey-white stallion upped his pace a bit to stay level with her as she trotted along. “Sounds good to me. Your treat then, this time? It was me that spoiled you last time we shared a bed, after all.” he added with a wink.
“Of course!” Octavia replied happily, slowing her pace as she approached a cosy looking bistro nestled on the corner of one of the quieter streets. “Here we are. I come here when I want to listen to the birds singing over in the garden, there.” She gestured with a hoof to the perimeter of the expansive royal gardens, just across the road from the eatery. “There is a lot of guard traffic around here too. I do love their uniforms. Oh! Maybe madam Freeze Pop is working today and we could make faces at her, and she could not do a thing!”
Sketchy shook his head, laughing openly. “You’re terrible!”
“Ahaha. What a foal thing to do, yes?” Octavia chuckled in reply, trotting over to a table and seating herself. “By all means, pick whatever takes your fancy. I believe they have a bit of everything here.”
Sketchy seated himself opposite her, eyeing the little restaurant’s selection of foods. It read like a list of every possible kind of pancake ever conceived in the entire kingdom. “Hmm, you weren’t kidding.”
“Take your time, dear.”
As Sketchy looked back over at his companion, he was slightly surprised to note the presence of a pair of delicate looking square-framed reading glasses perched low on the end of her snout. He blinked a few times, taking in her altered appearance.
“I didn’t know you wore glasses.”
“Oh, these? Have you any idea how difficult it is, at times, to see those tiny little notes? And stage directions?” She shook her head, blowing a small raspberry of annoyance.
“They look good on you.”
Octavia smiled at that, a faint red tinge painting her cheeks. “To be honest, I rarely find need of them. But I shall admit they do look fantastic.” She flicked an eyelid in a brief wink, in an attempt at emphasising the eyewear. “Mmm, pancakes. I have to agree that I can come up with some good ideas sometimes.”
Sketchy let out a small laugh at her antics, nodding and smiling. “I can’t read sheet music myself to save my life. That said, I’ve laid eyes on it enough times to see why you’d sometimes need those glasses of yours.”
The cellist’s lilac eyes flicked back up at him over the rims of her glasses. “I would never wear them during a performance. When I am on stage, the sheet is merely for appearances’ sake; an illusion to my audience. I will let you in on a little secret...”
With that, she leaned forward over the table, lowering her voice. Her stallion companion leaned forward in turn, his ears perked to hear her confession.
“...sometimes, I would put pictures of a filly I knew of in there. One whom used to cause my heart to flutter. Now, I am going to have to change that.”
An appreciative smile spread over the stallion’s face at that. “I take that to mean you’re going to need me to pose for your camera some time?” he chuckled.
“You catch on quick!” Octavia replied with a giggle, leaning back again with a flick of her tail. “Have you decided on what you would like?”
“Yep! Something sweet that tastes real good.” he replied, deliberately giving her a somewhat saucy look. His words had the desired effect, as the stone grey mare opposite him blushed rather deeply; her ears pinning back over her head. Before she had a chance to formulate a coherent response, though, a waitress strode over to their table.
“What may I—oh! Miss Octavia, what a pleasure! What can we get you, madam?”
The interruption was enough to quickly shake the cellist out of her flustered state, and she hastily cleared her throat.
“Madam, I would like a stack of your sweetest Canterlot pancakes, with light syrup, thank you. And my stallion companion would like something... what was it you said, something sweet that tastes really good?” she questioned, shaking her head slightly with a small smile.
“Uhm...” the waitress noted, glancing at Sketchy.
“I do indeed,” Sketchy hastily cut in, “though unfortunately she—” and with that he gestured to Octavia “—isn’t on the menu... So, a good-sized pile of Trottingham style pancakes with a good helping of golden syrup and lemon juice will do me just fine.” he grinned.
The waitress looked considerably relieved at him narrowing it down for her. “Yes sir! And ma’am, would you—”
“Madam, some of your warm mint tea also, please.” Octavia cut in with a smile. She had obviously frequented the place often enough to know what they would have on offer.
The waitress smiled in turn, scribbling furiously on her notepad, and trotted off back inside. The cellist’s violet gaze fell on her companion once more, and she shook her head briefly with an amused smirk.
“I am not on the menu, hmm? Perhaps we should have asked for a delivery service?” she joked. A somewhat devious grin wrote itself across Sketchy’s face at that.
“Nah. I’ll save you for dessert.” He was rewarded for his comment with the sight of Octavia’s eyes going wide, before she let out a giggle and shook her head.
“Oh you! And you say I am terrible!” she lightly scolded, removing the tiny glasses from the end of her nose and carefully tucking them away in her bag. “I will have to get my camera from home some day soon and keep it to hoof.”
“Hmm. Well, I’ll be perfectly happy to pose for you – so long as you’ll return the favour.”
Octavia turned her head to the side, blushing a little. “I most certainly will... for a fee of one kiss.”
Sketchy felt a slight shiver run through him when presented with the sight of his enchanting companion acting coyly once more, and he leaned forward over the table slightly.
“Are you sure you want to set the price so low as one?”
“I am sorry to interrupt, sir and ma’am... your food is ready.”
Sketchy hastily straightened back up, turning to look at the unicorn waitress stood by their table with a pair of plates, a teapot and a teacup held in her telekinetic grasp. “Ahh, thank you!”
Octavia quietly cleared her throat, sitting up straight as well as the attendant unicorn set down their breakfast.
“If there is anything further you require, just call!” she stated before trotting off again. The two ponies watched her go, then turned to look at each other. After a few moments, both of them laughed out loud.
“Her timing was nigh impeccable!”
“Sure was! Bet we both looked right silly there!”
“I would imagine!” Octavia agreed – before briefly leaning over the table and stealing her fee from the stallion. She set herself back in her chair with a small smile and a wink to her admirer before turning her attention to her food.
The two of them descended into silence as they grazed through their meal. Either due to starvation from the previous night’s longer than usual walk through the rain or simply the draining excitement the whole day had wrought, the cellist found herself with quite the appetite. Her companion appeared similarly hungry, although considering his stature it was of little surprise that he had quite the capacity to fill.
As she finished off her meal, Octavia rummaged in her bag for a small package. She sprinkled the contents in her tea, then eagerly took a sip or two of it. A relieved sigh left her throat as she felt the special herbs work their magic on her hearing. Her cup was soon emptied, and she then took to doing something a little odd. As her breakfast companion finished grazing through his own meal, he was greeted with the sight of the cellist putting her hooves over her mouth, then opening her jaw wide and wiggling it from side to side a bit. His expression was soon reminiscent of one she herself was known for making on occasion.
Octavia slowly became aware of the fact she was being stared quizzically at by Sketchy, and she hastily shut her gaping mouth.
“Ahaha... do excuse me. I was trying to speed my ear canals opening up.” she explained. Wow, I bet that looked classy!
“Ohhhh, right!” Sketchy nodded, a look of realisation dawning on his face. He was about to say something more, but his lady friend suddenly pointed with a hoof towards the garden.
“Look! Guard change!”
Sketchy turned to look, and indeed caught sight of a pair of unicorn guards marching along the perimeter of the garden. Their eyes were set straight ahead, focused and unyielding. They moved perfectly in step, the metallic clanking of their footfalls on the pavement precisely in unison.
“Is that not just fantastic?” the cellist enthused, mesmerised by their marching.
Sketchy nodded, caught up in his friend’s enthusiasm and the impressive sight. “Sure is something. Must take incredible discipline to be able to move like that.”
“It must! Ooh, do you and Freeze Pop ever talk of that? I would imagine she has seen some very interesting things in her time—oh, and how did she become a guard to begin with? I mean, I have never even considered the thought, but I assume some ponies simply want to do that kind of thing...”
A small chuckle came from Sketchy as he listened to Octavia happily rambling on. “Well, in her case it was both her wanting to protect those dear to her and getting headhunted for the position. But... actually no, you should let her tell the story herself some time. She tells it better than me.” A broad smile crossed his face as he pictured his pegasus friend’s boisterous enthusiasm when it came to talking about her own brilliance.
“Indeed? I shall do that very thing next time I have the pleasure of her company.”
“Sounds like a plan. Hey, that could even be tonight if Her Highness is along to rehearsals again.”
“It could, at that!” the strings player smiled, then glanced up to a nearby ornamental clock in the gardens. She let out a slightly disappointed sigh as she went on. “Alas, time is not our friend today. If I am to have my shoes re-fit, I shall have to get on with that – and I expect that, following that, there will be little time left in which to fit in my other errands of the day.”
Sketchy nodded slowly, feeling slightly put-out by the realisation that they’d have to part ways again, but happy nonetheless that it was only out of necessity. “Well, that’s life for you. I will have to finish off that commission for the—” he caught himself hastily before letting his client’s name slip “—ah, for my client. Art doesn’t make itself, after all.”
“Indeed it does not. Oh and I must also get a chan—oh!”
Octavia smiled, rolling her eyes at herself as she patted a hoof to her bare neck. “I forgot my collar and tie, they are still at your place. I suppose I shall have to come by again some time soon and pick them up.”
Sketchy grinned widely at that: it couldn’t have been more obviously planned. “I guess so.”
The smaller mare giggled at that, smiling herself. “Though, I really must have a bath and get my grooming done. I cannot be seen looking anything but my best, even for a rehearsal!” The light tone in her voice told Sketchy she was only half-serious about her statement.
“Of course not.”
Octavia’s smile grew further, before giving way to a slightly anxious look as she leaned forward over the table again.
“May I come and stay with you again, in a few nights’ time, after practice is over? It... it may be somewhat late...”
Sketchy leaned his head down towards her own, half closing his eyes in a warm smile. “Of course you can, lass.” he said quietly. “I’ll look forward to it.”
A happy sigh escaped the cellist’s throat as she gazed up into the artist’s green eyes. Then, without giving thought to their surroundings, she tilted her face up and planted her lips on his own, a quiet whimper sounding in her throat. Sketchy was surprised, but not averse to her actions, closing his eyes completely and gently pressing into the embrace.
A few moments later, Octavia broke from it as she straightened back up with a smile on her face. Her gaze momentarily shifted to the side as she realised that her open gesture of affection had not gone unwatched by a few bystanders down the street.
...oh, forget them! she decided, shrugging to herself and turning her attention back to her company. She rose from her seat, tipping out some bits onto the table to cover the bill.
“I must get going, as I said. I promise you, next time those stairs will give me no issues.”
Sketchy nodded, smiling at her promise and at noticing how she hadn’t given a care to who saw her with him as they were just before. “Alright, Tavy. Enjoy the rest of your day... I’ll look forward to seeing you again later this week.”
Octavia’s tail flagged back and forth happily as she scooted round the table and hugged the larger pony tightly. “I have enjoyed myself a lot, dear.” she commented softly as she released him. “I look forward to what the week has in store.”
Sketchy’s tail flicked happily as well as he returned her affections before rising from his own seat. “Likewise, lass. Til then!”
“Until then!” she nodded, turning and trotting away with a last glance and a smile over her shoulder.
Sketchy watched her trot off, then started on his way back towards home. He moved at a leisurely pace, taking his time to enjoy the fabulous warm weather the summer sun brought. It matched the feeling in his heart well, and he whistled a cheerful melody to himself as he made his way back up the hill.
“How has your day been?”
A smile spread over Celestia’s face as she heard the silvery voice of her little sister approaching from behind. Stood as she was on one of the highest balconies of the royal palace, she had a spectacular view across the entire city and the lands below.
“Remarkably quiet, Lu-Lu – for which I am grateful. Did you sleep well?” she asked, turning her head to look upon the one thing she cherished more than the sight of her home.
“Most restfully, Celly – though I must confess to rising earlier than I planned. Perhaps I am simply too excited about the concert.”
“Just the concert, or catching up with its composer?” Celestia teased, nudging at the younger alicorn’s shoulder. The latter let out a playful giggle, shoving back against her.
“Ha ha! Guilty as charged, dear sister. But I cannot be faulted for such a thing now, can I? Was it not you that sent your protegé to that little village to deepen her understanding of friendship?”
Celestia stretched out her wings, a hearty chuckle escaping her throat. “Quite right! And no, I can’t fault you, Luna. You’re doing something to bring happiness to a friend. Seeing you do so warms my heart.”
Luna’s eyes narrowed into a teasing smile as she looked up at her older sister. “All these years and you never got any less sappy, Celly!” she teased, serving only to bring a further round of laughter from the sun princess.
“Look who’s talking!” she replied, a fond smile on her face. Her little sister stuck out her tongue at that, blowing a defiant raspberry. Celestia simply shook her head in return, giggling softly. “Well, it is about time for us to swap over.”
Luna nodded, taking a step sideways from her sister. Both their horns began to shimmer, as Celestia focused on guiding her sun towards the horizon. At the same time, Luna reached out for her moon, coaxing it from rest to slowly make its way heavenward.
Celestia’s task was accomplished first, and she turned to watch the silent spectacle of the darkening sky being slowly lit by the rising moon. The stars too began to shine overhead, and Celestia found herself briefly reminiscing over a time many years ago when a much younger and smaller pair of sisters had worked together every morning and night to accomplish these two same tasks.
“Beautiful as always, Lu-Lu.” she said softly as she noted the younger pony’s horn stop glowing. “Even in a thousand years, I could never match your skill.” She turned her attention once more to the night sky – and was hence taken by surprise by her little sister forcefully tackling her on to her side.
“You are sooooo sappy, Celly!” Luna’s voice stated, her tone vibrant and happy as she grinned down at the larger pony under her. Her expression softened as she then leaned down, throwing her forelegs around the sun princess’s neck. Her voice was barely a whisper as she spoke, hugging tightly to the elder alicorn.
“And I love you for it. Don’t ever change, sis.”
Celestia’s foreleg wrapped snugly around the smaller princess’s shoulders as she replied in equally hushed tones.
“Never. And don’t you change either.”
Luna gave her sister one last tight squeeze before releasing her, rising to her feet and putting on her more regal airs.
“Well, dear sister, I must be on my way to the rehearsal.”
Celestia picked herself up and dusted herself off, her own royal composure returning as swiftly as Luna’s.
“Indeed you must – and I shall need to seek rest soon. Enjoy yourself, my dear. I will see you tomorrow.”
“Until then!” Luna replied with a nod, climbing up on the balcony railing and spreading her wings. She leapt from the balcony and glided downward toward the amphitheatre, a detachment of Guards soon falling into formation around her.
Her role for the day complete, Celestia turned and headed inside the palace, making her way to her room. The day had indeed been one to be proud of; and her sister’s praise, though a common occurrence, was nevertheless something that never failed to bring a smile to her face.
She sang a soft melody to herself as she slipped off her adornments, running a brush through her long pastel-striped mane. Sleep was, as she had detailed to many of her Royal Guards over the years, a luxury for her – and one that she had only been able to once more afford since Luna’s return. Even though she could have rested during the night during her sister’s banishment, she would never have done so. For one, it would have left her kingdom unprotected to the more severe threats the surrounding lands had to offer – but for another, she knew from personal experience that if she had even tried sleeping during that time, she would not have been able to escape the terrors that her unconscious mind would have wrought upon her. Even now, sleep was something she approached with the slightest bit of trepidation. Although her sister had long since returned to the world and forgiven her for what had been necessary, the memory still remained locked away in her head. Every so often it would escape its cage as she slept, and she would wake in a cold sweat with her heart pounding.
But, she reminded herself as she saw to making herself comfortable in her exceptionally roomy bed, even when such things occurred, she always had the reassurance of her closest friend and most cherished sister that everything was fine.
That was an assurance that she clung to every night when she drifted off to sleep, and one which she now reminded herself of as she closed her eyes.
“See you in the morning...” she mumbled to herself, a small smile still present on her features.