It was mid-morning on the day of the Winter Solstice, the longest night of the year, and Ponyville was bustling like some sort of deranged beehive. Not only was the festival taking up most of the ponies' time, but there was an added rush as a winter snowstorm was blowing in. Although Mayor Mare would have rather the snowstorm be driven away, Luna actually asked it simply be kept in check long enough for everypony to see the night sky and full moon. Like everypony else, Luna loved the snow, and the thought of having a snowball fight with Twilight and her friends gave her a warm feeling inside.
Until the winter wind blew and she had to tighten her snowcloak. It wasn't the same one she wore when she went to meet Mac though. This one was actually a lovely sky blue, accented with black fur with glass beads that created an effect like a night sky. It was a gift from Rarity, and she just couldn't refuse after seeing how happy wearing it made the unicorn.
As the sun crept higher into the sky, Luna went over everything with Twilight Sparkle, making sure everything was as perfect as possible. And, even though it was a bit tiring, the alicorn genuinely enjoyed that morning. Sure, everypony bowed low and gave the usual "your majesty" or "your graces", but after the formalities they were all open and happy. She chalked it up to last Nightmare Night. After having fun with the townsfolk that evening, everyone spoke and thought of her like an old friend. Such openess was so foreign, yet wonderful to Luna that she almost bounced as she walked beside her sister's student.
It was during one such conversation that Twilight pulled her away. With a smile on her face, Luna asked," Yes Twilight, how may we help thee?"
"I wanted to introduce you to a friend of mine," she said just as kindly. Then, as Luna's gaze left the librarian and met that of the pony beside her, the queen of the night actually wished she were still trapped on the moon.
"This is Big Macintosh, Applejack's brother," Twilight continued, but Luna could only gawk in shock.
Sure enough, Mac stood merely a few feet from her. He gave her a low bow and a friendly "Howdy" before Luna allowed herself to breathe again. He'll recognize me She thought, panic flowing through her veins, If we speak a single sylable, four months of secrecy shall be lost. Macintosh shall see through our disguise, he shall flee from the Night Mare, just like every other pony. Those days of innocent banter and joyous song will end...
No, not again! Luna calmed herself. Her mind frantically tried to formulate a plan. In a few split seconds, the queen of the night filtered through every memory of her late rendezvous' with the red stallion. But the more she thought, the more Luna realised the simple truth. She'd used every possible tone of voice during her nights with Macintosh....All but one... It would be more than embarrasing, and she'd need to explain herself to Twilight and probably a few others, but it was her only hope.
Luna untied the knot in her throat, arched her head, and boomed," GREETINGS, SIR MACINTOSH! 'TIS A PLEASURE TO MEET THEE!"
Every mare, stallion, foal, animal, and single celled organism in the room watched her, trying to register just what happened. Mac stared at her, an odd expression on his face as he kindly replied," You too ma'am."
"WE DID NOT MEET THEE ON NIGHTMARE NIGHT. PRAY TELL, WHERE WAS THOU DURRING SO GLORIOUS A CELEBRATION!?"
Mac just flinched a bit as he said," When y'all first showed up, ah was pullin' a hay wagon. Then, after everypony knocked over the decorations in the main square, ah helped put everythin' back in place. By then Applebloom was dun' tired, and so was I, so ah headed home Yer Majesty."
"MOST NOBLE OF YOU SIR!"
"Umm, Princess Luna?" Twilight asked sheepishly at her side," Why are you using the Royal Canterlot Voice..?"
"'TIS TRADITION TWILIGHT! AS DOES OUR SISTER, WE HOLD THE UTMOST RESPECT FOR THOSE WHO BRING FOOD TO OUR ROYAL TABLE, AS WELL AS THE KINGDOM WHOLE! 'TIS A COURTESY TO ADRESS THEM IN THIS TONE!"
"Thank ye kindly," Mac said, to which Luna once again began," MY APOLOGIES FAIR TOWNSFOLK, BUT THE MENTION OF FOOD HAS BROUGHT OUR OWN HUNGER TO OUR ATTENTION. WOULD THEE EXCUSE US, TWILIGHT SPARKLE, FOR AN EARLY LUNCHEON?!"
"Umm, not in the least," Twilight replied. At that, Luna gave a quick bow before running from Town Hall at full gallop.
"Well that was weird," Twilight thought aloud before Mac simply replied," Ee'yup."
* * *
Luna ran as fast and as far as her hooves would carry her. Right now she didn't care what anypony else thought. She just wanted to get away from Big Macintosh. It wasn't until she found a quiet alley that the alicorn allowed herself to stop and fully go over what just happened.
That was awful! She though, covering her face with her forelegs. During the two years since her return, Luna had brushed up on everything that had changed. Much sleep was lost reading not just history books, but novels, dictionaries, biographies, diaries, and notebooks of ponies who lived at any time during her imprisonment. She didn't want to just know what happened while she was away, Luna wanted to understand how society and the people had changed as well.
At the time of Nightmare Night, she'd been stuck at roughly six-hundred years after her banishment, trying to figure out exactly why a two storied tool shed was considered such a revolutionary invention. Since then, however, she'd caught up on more modern times, and it was for that reason she felt so bad about using the Royal Canterlot Voice. She didn't just understand that yelling in someone's face was rude, but she fully understood how strange it looked to everypony and how utterly inappropriate it was.
Luna still liked using the "royal we" and other olden terms because she felt it gave her more personality, but to shout in someone's face was just so embarrassing-
"Princess Luna?" somepony asked. Luna took her head out of her hooves to see Twilight Sparkle staring at her, concern spread like a tarp over he face.
"We apologize, Twilight," Luna replied, smiling despite her current emotional state," We...we do not know what came over us..."
"Your Highness," Twilight began, a smile creeping onto her face,"...were you nervous around Big Macintosh?"
Luna's ears perked up, her entire body moving to face Twilight at a speed that Rainbow Dash would be jealous of. "Beg pardon?" was all she mustered before Twilight started to giggle a bit.
"Were you nervous around Mac? I mean...do you like him?"
It was then that Luna realised Twilight's implications. She...she thought Luna was nervous? Because she thought she believed Macintosh to be attractive? Well, of course Macintosh was attractive, she was not blind, but she was more attracted to him for his kind actions than visual appeal. The princess then found herself blushing at the comment. The sudden realization brought Luna to laugh a bit as well, and admit to Twilight," Well...yes. We do not find him very difficult to look upon."
"I should have realised," Twilight said, giving Luna a helping hoof as the alicorn got back on her feet," I have to admit, I've had the same thoughts a few times too."
"Oh really?" Luna mused, laughing at her foalishness. The two began to walk through the streets, laughing as they discussed how everypony had reacted to Luna's outburst. Worry faded as Luna realised Twilight would simply spread the word that Luna had gotten nervous around a handsome colt and everyone would accept it as fact. Nothing to worry about.
After awhile though, Luna's stomach started to growl. It was then that she gave Twilight her last goodbyes before setting off on her epic quest for Lunch.
* * *
It would seem she was once again on the universe's bad side, as Luna soon found herself trapped in a line that stretched several blocks. The reward for their patience: one of Sugarcube Corner's many wonderful treats. It was a tempting prize, but after waiting fifteen minutes, the princess of the night lost all patience. Forfeighting her spot, she strode over to the front of the line to see exactly what was taking so long.
What she found was a sight that would bring a twisted grin to Discord's distorted face. Pinkie Pie was rushing to decorate the multitude of cakes, pastries, punches, and other fare the little shop had been asked to serve at tonight's festival. She shot orders at various assistants, teleporting between tables and desserts like some taskmaster evaluating the servant's work. As Pinkie worked, a sky blue mare with pink hair was caring for two crying foals. Not only that, but a yellow colt with an orange mane rushed between tables to serve the lunchrush at such a pace that Luna actually made a temporary "derp" face as some called it. It was a scene of unparralled chaos.
For just a moment, she thought about using her status as Princess to get her lunch, but this horrible thing Celestia called a conscience told Luna otherwise. She simply groaned and trotted off for some other eatery.
By the time she reached the nearest cafe, her stomach was churning. It too was hopelessly overcrowded, forcing Luna away. The same thing happened over and over for at least an hour. Her worst experience was waiting in line at one bakery, choosing to get out of line after five minutes of standing still, only to have the entire line somehow move into the place as her back was turned.
Once Luna reached the outskirts of town, she was practically crawling in her search. She'd checked off every eatery in Ponyville. Twice! The proud Night Mare, bringer of the Moon, Caretaker of Galaxies, and Painter of the Milky Way clutched her belly as it sent another roar through her system. She considered just laying down and letting the weakness overtake her. She always imagined dying by the breath of a dragon, or fighting off an army of zombies, or even passing as an old mare still caring for the last star in the sky. Never had she imagined dying of hunger in the middle of a town, praying to Faust that Sugarcube Corner were actually made of gingerbread she could sneak a bit of. Celestia could handle the night, she did so for a millenia, the world did not need her. Then, as all hope was lost, a shining beakon smiled on Luna.
Sweet Apple Acres stretched out before her. The trees were baren and the soil brown and withered, but there was hope for Luna yet. A column of smoke stretched from the farmhouse, the smells carried to the starving princess enough to make her drool a bit. Apple pies, apple fritters, apple tarts, apple strudel, baked apples, caramel apples. Smile beaming on her face, Luna made her way to the farm...
...until she saw Big Macintosh lounging under a nearby tree.
Nooooooooooooooo! She wanted to scream, but screaming would mean Mac would hear, and if Mac heard her he'd ask what was wrong and she'd be expected to explain herself, which would mean...speaking. What if he turned around? Would she risk it? Was she really that hungry? But if she did go in...he might come in as well, and she'd have to use the Royal Canterlot Voice again. Sure, if Applejack's letters were to be believed, Apple Bloom would just ask Luna how to use the Voice, and Granny Smith would think she were whispering. But it wasn't just her disguise that she cared about, it was simply rude to impose on someone because she was too impatient to wait in line.
Luna felt like her brain would just split in half due to the inner conflict. Fearing for her sanity, she just decided to walk away.
As she headed back to town, she cursed herself, cursed lunch-rushes across space and time, cursed evolution for giving ponies stomachs that needed to be filled. Then, just as she let out a tiny whine, in the middle of the road...was....A pie?
Could it be? Yes! It was not an illusion or sick joke! Still warm and steaming, the circle of crust and filling beconed her like a lighthouse on the shore. "Is this really happening?" she asked aloud. The pie answered when she lifted a tiny note beneath the confection that read "Ee'yup."
She smiled, pressing the note to her chest as she sais softly," Thank you, Big Macintosh."
It was at that moment that she decided something. Taking the pie with her magic, she reflected on this small act of kindness from the burly farmer. Luna vowed she would not let her fear get the better of her. No longer would she fear the red stallion of Sweet Apple Acres. Never again would she need to flee at his sighting. Tonight, after she raised the moon on the longest night of the year, Luna would reveal herself to Mac, regardless of what may happen.
But for now, Luna swore to the heavens she would consume this pie A.S.A.P.