Party. Sleep. Repeat.

by A Pony Farce

Party. Sleep. Repeat.

Luna walked through the streets of Canterlot, still hardly believing her eyes. The city was awake, even at night, and although she had spent the last months studying it from afar, being in the thick of things was an entirely different experience.

As much as she admired the city, she was a little uneasy. Her visit to Ponyville had gone well enough in the end, but only because she had deigned to visit on the one day ponies wanted to be scared by her. The citizens of Equestria had yet to really accept their second Princess, even in her own home; the frightened looks and furtive whispers from the courtiers in the castle were bad enough, even with Celestia there to set them straight, and Luna knew it would only be worse in the city proper. Ponies are always much more agitable when there are a lot of them all crammed into a small place, and cities didn't come much more cramped than Canterlot. If you introduce a herd of stressed-out city ponies to somepony who- for all they know- is a malevolent monster that tried to steal their beloved leader and bring eternal night… well, who could blame you for being a little scared about what might happen?

Celestia had told her she was being silly, that there was nothing to be afraid of, but it still took Luna a long time to work up enough courage to visit Canterlot. In the end, though, she knew she had to go sometime, if only to satiate her own curiosity. The city had changed in the last thousand years, and watching the town buzz with activity even in the dark gave Luna hope that it would be more… hospitable, perhaps, or at least less crushingly apathetic. If nothing else, she could tell that she was no longer the only pony here who appreciated the night.

So far, at least, her hopes seemed justified. Even though the streets weren't as busy, Luna could tell that Canterlot was still alive. It was in the lampposts that lined the street, the furtive ponies flitting through back allies, the chatter from the donut shops and the thumping bass from the clubs. The city was different- darker, more mysterious, and just a bit suspicious, as if it were ready to bite if you didn't treat it right- but it was still there. To be honest, she liked it better this way.

In fact, the more she saw of Canterlot, the better Luna felt about it. Some of the ponies she passed stared or made a point of looking at anything else, but most were so wrapped up in their own business that they didn't even notice her. By the time she reached her destination, she was feeling happy and self-assured. Maybe this wouldn't be so bad after all.

When Luna entered the small donut shop, the room slowly grew quiet as one by one the patrons all stopped talking and turned to stare at the princess. Her newfound confidence immediately vanished and she froze in place. "Oh, um… hello," she said nervously, taking care not to slip back into the royal dialect that had long ago fallen out of favor.

Sensing trouble, the shopkeeper looked towards the door, then came out from behind the counter and addressed his customers. "Is there a problem, fellas?"

Every pony turned to look at him, but none were willing to say anything. Finally, a particularly large pegasus colt stood up. "Joe, c'mon, you can't-"

"You're not gonna tell me what I can and can't do in my own shop, Phil. Now you mugs leave the poor lady alone or I'll throw you all out myself, got it?"

Phil sat down, grumbling to himself, and the pervasive murmur of conversation slowly returned to the store, albeit with a more hushed and fearful tone. Luna smiled and nodded her thanks to the salespony, who winked in response.

The princess started walking forward, slowly scanning the room. She was glad Pony Joe had stepped in on her behalf, but she knew he couldn't do anything about the dirty looks and whispered conversations pointed at her by the other patrons. None of them would dare try anything, of course, but that didn't make their disdain any more tolerable.

Finally, Luna spotted the pony she was looking for sitting in the back of the room with a pair of headphones. The white unicorn was bobbing her head in time with the music; it seemed that she hadn't noticed any disturbance.

Luna walked up to the distracted pony's booth and politely cleared her throat. "Um, excuse me…?"

After several moments, the unicorn noticed that she had company and turned to greet her visitor. When she saw Luna, her mouth dropped and she fumbled with her headset, trying to pull it off of her ears as quickly as possible. "P-Princess Luna! Hello! S-sorry about, uh, I mean…"

"Wouldst thou happen to be Vinyl Scratch?"

"Uh, I, um, that is… yes?" said the white unicorn, gulping. She desperately hoped that was the right answer.

Luna breathed a sigh of relief. "Oh, good. I was searching for thee."

"Oh, really? H-how about that, huh?" Scratch was growing more nervous by the second.

Luna nodded. "Thou seest, I have not been… in town… for some time, and Spike informed me that thou knowest Canterlot better than anypony." She let her royal demeanor drop a bit and looked at Scratch with a touch of humility. "I was hoping thou couldst show me around, if thou wouldst not mind."

Scratch laughed a bit, finally regaining her composure. "Yeah, that sounds like something he would say."

"So… will thou? I mean, 'tis fine if-"

"Of course! It'll be my pleasure." Scratch grinned. "Just stick with me, Princess. Canterlot won't know what hit 'er."

"Oh, no, 'tis alright, really," said Luna, glancing around nervously. "I do not desire anything… untoward, I merely-"

"Don't be ridiculous!" said Scratch. "You're Princess Luna! Your first night on the town can't be anything short of spectacular."

"Well, I suppose…" Luna said, still uncertain.

Scratch motioned towards the other seat. "C'mon, sit down and we'll grab something to eat before we head out." She turned towards the front of the shop. "Hey, Pony Joe! Some donuts over here, alright?"

Luna slid into the seat across from her new friend. "I thank thee for thy kindness," she said. "I suspect most ponies may still be, um…" She glanced towards the other tables nervously.

"Ah, don't worry about them. Joe's a decent guy, but some of the regulars here are just jerks."

"I do not know if I believe that. Even at the castle-"

Scratch rolled her eyes. "Oh, please. Don't get me started about the kinda ponies you run into at the castle- present company excluded, of course," she added, grinning sheepishly. "Trust me, you're much better off out here. No half-decent pony's gonna hold anything against you."

Luna had to admit she'd never liked most of the ponies she met at the castle. She always figured she was being unfair to them, but it certainly seemed like Scratch was on to something. Maybe they really were just jerks. That would explain why Celestia didn't seem too fond of them, at least.

The DJ leaned forward conspiratorially. "Truth be told, I think you're just what this city needs, Princess. Canterlot's been slipping ever since Spike left, but that changes tonight." She grinned mischievously. "We're gonna remind this town how to party."

The unicorn's enthusiasm was beginning to break down Luna's uncertainty. "Thou mayhap hast a point," she said, holding a hoof to her chin. "'Tis true I have already had more than enough quiet nights in my life. Perhaps now is the time to let go and have some… fun."

Scratch's grin widened. "That's the spirit, Princ… Actually, you know what? Let's forget this 'princess' stuff. I'm just gonna call you Luna."

"That shall be fine," Luna said, smiling.

"And here we are." Scratch stopped outside of a large building with a neon sign reading DARK HORSE placed at an angle above the door.

Luna was still more than a little bit behind the times, but she could tell they were standing in front of a dance club. The telltale flutter of strobe lights leaked out from underneath the entrance, and even though she couldn't quite hear the music, she could certainly feel it; the melodic thumping of the bass shook the ground even out on the street.

Scratch turned to Luna and grinned. "You're gonna love this place. It's the best club in the whole city- most nights, at least." The DJ pricked her ears up, trying to pick out the music coming from inside, then frowned. "Sounds like we might be outta luck, though."

The princess was about to ask what that meant, but before she got a chance Scratch turned to face the entrance, smiling once again. "Well, we won't know for sure unless we try, right? Let's just go for it," she said, opening the door and stepping through. Luna followed, creeping forward timidly.

Even though she had some idea of what to expect, Luna wasn't quite prepared for what she found inside. The atmosphere was overwhelming; between the flashing lights and the ear-splittingly loud music and the writhing mass of ponies on the dance floor, the princess was convinced that her head would explode from sheer overstimulation.

After she had a few moments to adjust, though, she decided that it wasn't so bad, really. In fact, she quite liked it; the dark room and the strobe lights and the dance floor just felt right, somehow, like she could slip into the crowd and dance the night away, even though she was… well, herself. She quite liked the music, too, once she got past the volume. It was simple but infectious, and she couldn't resist tapping her hoof to the beat even as her whole body resonated with the boom of the subwoofers.

Scratch, on the other hand, seemed displeased. She scowled and turned towards the front of the room, where a tan-colored earth pony colt in a flannel shirt stood behind a set of turntables, fiddling with the controls and occasionally giving his records a quick spin. "Figures it'd be him," she muttered.

"What was that?" Luna called out. She knew the unicorn had said something, but she had no idea what it was.

Scratch motioned toward the front of the room. "C'mon, Luna. I've gotta take care of this guy."

Luna still couldn't hear, so she just followed her friend up to the DJ's booth.

The colt stood at his station, still tweaking the controls on his equipment. He didn't notice Scratch and Luna's approach.

Scratch stepped forward while Luna hung back nervously. "For Celestia's sake, K. All these years and you still don't have a blasted clue."

The DJ turned from his rig with a friendly smile. "Well, well, well. It seems the great DJ PON-3 has decided to grace our humble nightclub with her presence." His face fell into a scowl and he dropped the sarcasm. "What're you doing here, Scratch? Don't you got a date with some suits?"

"C'mon, K, we both know the record deal doesn't change a thing. The day I go corporate is the day you learn to DJ."

K grinned. "Then I guess I was right. You've been a sell-out all along."

Scratch rolled her eyes. "Look, we can talk about your bizarre fantasy world some other time. Right now me and my friend just want some decent music."

For the first time, K noticed the princess standing in the back. He stared at her and his eyes widened.

Luna still couldn't make out anything either of them said- in fact, it completely baffled her that they could have a conversation at all- but when she saw the earth pony DJ looking at her, she shrunk back nervously.

K looked at Scratch again, eyes still wide open in shock. "Is that- what the hay do you think you're doing, Scratch?"

The unicorn glared at him. "Don't be like that, K. I know she's a princess and all, but she doesn't know the town and she's nervous. I'm just here to make sure she has a good time."

"'Nervous?' What're you-" K closed his eyes for a moment, bringing himself back under control, then glared right back at the other DJ. "Alright, I see how it is. You think that just 'cause you're famous now, the ol' Spin Doctor K isn't good enough for you and your new royal friend, huh?"

"Don't be stupid. You were never good enough."

K's scowl deepened and he shot a dirty look towards Luna, who looked surprised and raised her head indignantly. The earth pony DJ looked back at Scratch with a wicked grin. "Is that so, huh?" He walked back to his turntables and turned down the volume, preparing to make an announcement.

Sensing trouble, Scratch tried to intervene. "C'mon, K, this is between you and me."

K ignored the unicorn and pulled his mic towards himself. "Fillies and gentlecolts," he said, pausing for a moment so the crowd could stop dancing and turn towards the front, "you might like to know that we've got some very special celebrity guests in the house tonight!" He fiddled with a small control box and the lights began to move around haphazardly. "I want you all to give a warm welcome to Canterlot's own… DJ PON-3!" He gestured towards Scratch and directed the lights onto her.

The crowd applauded and Scratch waved towards them half-heartedly. She couldn't wait for K to finish his little game; taking a swing at the DJ while he introduced you to the audience was never a good move.

Luna shrunk back again, suddenly feeling very frightened. She considered making a mad dash for the entrance, but she doubted that her legs would comply.

K gave Scratch a sinister smile, then turned back to the crowd and let the lights loose once more. "And now for our very special guest, come all the way from the castle… fillies and gentlecolts, give a huge round of applause for the Princess of the Moon herself, Luna!"

Luna froze in place as the lights congregated on her. "Uh… hello!" she said as a frightened hush ran through the crowd, punctuated with the occasional tinkle of a broken glass. "Oh, no, please, don't-"

Scratch grabbed the other DJ by the collar. "K, you son of a-"

She was interrupted by a large, brown hoof on her shoulder. "Put 'im down, Scratch," said its owner, a bulky pegasus wearing a distinctive black jacket that marked him as a member of the Dark Horse's security team.

"But, Sunny-" Scratch began to protest.

"No buts. You know I don't put up with that in my club."

Dejected, Scratch dropped both her hoof and her quarry onto the ground. It took every ounce of willpower she had not to knock the triumphant grin off of K's face.

Sunny gave the unicorn a stern look. "Listen, I'm gonna have to ask you and your… friend… to leave."

"What?" Scratch said, becoming indignant. "Sunny, c'mon. Throw me out if you have to, but don't bring her into this. It's not her fault."

The bouncer looked off to the side guiltily. "Maybe not, but… Look, it's my job to keep this place running, and like it or not, right now that means you have to go. Both of you."

Scratch glared at him, but she knew there was no point in arguing. She let herself be escorted out, motioning for Luna to come along. The princess was more than happy to oblige.

K hopped back on the mic as they left. "Well, that was certainly interesting, eh, folks? It's too bad they had to leave so soon, but, well, such is the price of fame, right? Here, lemme put some music back on for you all…"

"I don't wanna see either of you back in here tonight, got it?" Sunny said, standing in the entrance.

Luna raised herself up on her hind legs and flared her wings. "Who art thou to-"

"Simmer down, Luna," Scratch said, tapping the princess's leg with a hoof. "It's not worth the effort."

Luna backed off, still glaring at Sunny.

The bouncer looked at her and sighed. "Look, I'm sorry about this, but I have to do what I have to do. It's my job to keep this place running, and with K singling you two out like that…" Sunny glared at Scratch. "You shoulda known better. If ya can't control yourself around the guy, then you just gotta stay away."

The unicorn didn't say anything. She knew he was right.

"Alright, I hafta get back to work. You two have a good night, okay?"

Scratch seemed to cheer up a bit. "Well, we'll try, at least. See ya later, Sunny."

Once the bouncer returned inside, Scratch threw a foreleg over the still-fuming Luna's shoulder. "Hey there, big girl. What's with the long face?"

The princess snorted. "I cannot believe we allowed that pathetic excuse of a stallion-"

"What're you going on about?" said Scratch, grinning. "We're doing just fine! We got ya kicked out of your first club, and it didn't even take ten minutes!"

Luna looked at Scratch curiously. "Is this supposed to happen?"

"Not unless you're doin' it right."

"Oh, well, then… good!" Luna smiled and ducked out from under the DJ's leg. "So what shall we do next?"

Scratch looked back towards the Dark Horse, then turned to the princess with a mischievous grin. "Now comes the fun part." She started walking down the street and motioned for Luna to follow. "C'mon, there's some stuff we gotta take care of."

After making a brief stop at Scratch's apartment so the DJ could grab her trademark goggles and a tote bag that she claimed held her turntables (Luna had a hard time believing this, considering the size of K's setup, but she couldn't argue with words like "lightweight" and "collapsible"), the two made their way into one of Canterlot's more upscale neighborhoods. The buildings here were all dark, and there were no signs of life from the residents; the ponies who lived here clearly had no business being up at night- at least, not any that they wanted others to know about.

Scratch stopped outside of a small condominium and knocked on the door, motioning for Luna to stand off to the side just a bit so that she couldn't be seen from inside the building.

Several moments passed and a grey-haired earth pony opened the door. Her disheveled mane suggested that she had just been woken up, and the look on her face said she was neither pleased nor surprised to find Scratch on her doorstep.

The DJ didn't seem to notice or care about the other pony's disgruntlement. "Hey, Octavia, go grab your bass. We're headed down to the Dark Horse."

Somehow, the bassist managed to radiate even greater disdain without changing her blank-but-annoyed expression. It was actually quite impressive.

"Ah, c'mon. Don't give me that look. We could really use your help."

Octavia raised one eyebrow, mixing mild curiosity into her expression without losing any of the irritation. "We?"

"Yeah, sure. Here, let me introduce you," Scratch said, grinning and waving her hoof at the princess with a "come here" motion. "Come on out, Luna. Don't worry, Octavia doesn't… well, she probably won't bite you, at least."

Luna stepped in front of the door and Octavia's eyes widened in shock.

"Luna, Octavia. Octavia, Luna," Scratch said, gesturing from the princess to the earth pony and vice-versa.

"Greetings," Luna said with a hint of uncertainty.

"G-greetings, your h-highness," stuttered Octavia, desperately trying to comb her hair back.

Scratch frowned and made a disapproving noise. "C'mon, none of that 'highness' stuff. We're all friends here, right?"

"Oh, uh, yes. Of course."

"Good to hear," Scratch said, smiling again. "So will you help us?"

Octavia glanced from Scratch to Luna and then back again. "Well, I guess I don't have much of a choice, do I?"

"What? No, of course thou-"

"Nope!" said Scratch, cutting the princess off.

Octavia groaned. "Oh, alright, then. Just give me a minute." She stepped inside and closed the door.

"So, how's the orchestra business going? Anything new?" Scratch asked as the trio made their way back to the club.

Octavia rolled her eyes. "Oh, of course. Why, just last week we unearthed a long-lost Beethoofen piece and played it for an appreciative crowd of music lovers." Luna had to admire the earth pony's resilience; her sarcastic demeanor had recovered rather quickly, and she seemed to be entirely unimpeded by the bass strapped to her back, even though it was larger than she was.

"So thou art a professional musician?" asked Luna, trying to place where she had seen the bassist before.

Octavia lifted her nose in the air and spoke in a haughty tone that seemed intentionally exaggerated. "Why, yes. I happen to be part of the finest orchestral quartet in all of Canterlot."

"In other words, she plays stuffy old music for stuffy old ponies," Scratch said with a giggle.

The bassist shrugged. "Well, I'll give you the second half, at least."

"Ah, now I remember!" said Luna, recognition spreading across her face. "Thou played at my sister's last Grand Galloping Gala, didst thou not?"

Octavia winced a bit and her mouth bent down into a grimace. "Please, don't remind me. That night was an absolute disaster."

"Yes, Twilight Sparkle and the others certainly livened things up," Luna said with a laugh. "I almost wish I had attended."

"Yeah, I heard it got pretty nuts. Too bad this old grump can't appreciate fun," Scratch said, nudging Octavia.

"I can appreciate fun just as well as anypony," Octavia said, her voice rising with indignance, "but believe me, there is a huge difference between fun and-" the bassist shuddered slightly- "the Pony Pokey."

"That is what putest thee over the edge?" asked Luna, sounding a little surprised. "Not the stampeding animals or the collapsing ballroom?"

"The Gala was already a wash by then. At that point I was just enjoying the schadenfreude."

"Thou art not a fan of the Gala's patrons?" asked Luna. "I was under the impression they were the sort of pony to appreciate thy talent."

"Oh, please," the bassist scoffed. "They don't care about music." The look on Octavia's face was somewhere between disgust and contempt. "They only hire us to make themselves look classy."

Luna thought about the aristocrats who often came to visit her older sister. Few things were more obvious to an immortal god-princess than a pony who thought throwing money into being fancy made them better than everyone else, and that described… well, all of them, really. "Yes, that seems accurate."

"See, this is why I wouldn't let the record company move me uptown," said Scratch. "Like hay I'm putting up with those crooks on a regular basis."

Luna nodded. "I do not know how I would manage if Celestia made me deal with them. There is one colt, Mr. Faroe-"

"Ugh, that guy," Octavia said, scowling. "What a cheap old scumbag."

Scratch grinned. "I sense a story."

"Not really. He just tried to skip out without paying us."

Luna sighed. "Would that I were surprised."

"It really is incredible. You'd think a pony who's got enough bits to fill a swimming pool wouldn't need to try and stiff us."

"So what didst thou do?"

Octavia grinned deviously. "Nothing much. I just asked if Mrs. Faroe knew who he spent the night dancing with."

Luna laughed. "To be honest, I am shocked to find he hath a wife, let alone a mistress."

"Maybe he's got a heart of gold under the cold, miserly shell," Scratch said sarcastically.

The princess snorted. "I doubt that highly. He hath been coming to Celestia regularly for the last… oh, 'tis about four months now. Every time he brings the same story about his 'unruly' employees demanding a raise, and I simply cannot comprehend why he thinks she shall stop saying he should give it to them."

"What a nasty old stallion," Octavia said with a shake of her head. "Remind me to call his wife sometime." She turned to Scratch. "You know, you still haven't explained why you're dragging me out here."

"Alright, alright." Scratch started to outline her plan. "So here's the deal: we're gonna sneak back into the Dark Horse without Sunny noticing, and then we're gonna beat K at his own game."

Octavia interrupted her. "Wait. Is this all part of your petty rivalry?"

"C'mon, you know me better than that. This is about honor!"

"So that's a yes."

Scratch sighed. "Okay, fine, it is. So what?"

"I never said I disapproved."

"Anyway," Scratch said, pulling the conversation back on track, "the club's actually got two spots for a DJ to set up, one in the front and one in the back." She turned to look at her earth pony companion. "Octavia, you and I are gonna come in through the side door. It opens right onto the rear stage, so we won't have to worry about anyone noticing us. Once my gear's hooked up, taking the club back from K and wiping the floor with him'll be a piece of cake."

"I still don't see why you need me for this."

"Maybe I just thought your good nature and cheery disposition would come in handy."

Luna snickered.

"Yes, okay, very funny," said Octavia. "But seriously, why am I here?"

"Insurance," Scratch said, grinning. "I can spin circles around K any day of the week, but it takes a little bit more than that to derail the DJ who's running the show. A live bass is just the thing to put me over the edge."

"Scratch, that doesn't even begin to make sense."

The DJ waved her hoof dismissively. "Don't worry. I know what I'm doing."

"All is well, then," Luna said, unsure if she was disappointed or relieved that she didn't have a role. "It would appear thou hast things covered."

Scratch turned to her with a mischievous smile. "Don't be silly. You get the fun job."

"Oh… I do?"

"See, Sunny's gonna be expecting us to pull something like this, and I guarantee you he's the only pony in the place who'll be paying any attention to the back of the room. That's why we need you to keep him busy."

Octavia looked at Scratch incredulously. "Wait, you're making her be the distraction? Are you out of your-"

"Do not worry on my behalf," Luna interjected. "'Tis a fine role."

Octavia turned to her, frowning. "Look, Your Hi- I mean, Luna, you don't have to go along with Scratch's stupid plan. I'm not gonna let her make you-"

"No, it truly is fine," said the princess. She was a little scared to face the crowd again, but Scratch had given her a chance even when most ponies wouldn't, and Luna wasn't about to let her new friend down. Besides, she wanted to be involved. Ponyville had taught her that the best way to earn the love and respect of her subjects was to simply let herself be a part of their world and have fun with them, and if doing so also gave her a chance to show that bouncer a thing or two she wasn't about to complain.

"Actually," she said with a smile, "I would be honored to assist thee."

Luna slipped into the entrance and glanced around, looking for Sunny. She spotted him off to the side of the room, keeping an eye on the guests, and waited a moment before heading towards the dance floor. She had to make sure the bouncer had enough time to notice her, but not enough to stop her from slipping into the crowd.

Several moments later, Sunny saw Luna and took the bait. He started heading towards her, but it was too late; she was already on the dance floor. If she thought she could give him the slip, though, she had another thing coming- just because she was lost in the mix didn't mean he couldn't track her down. He spotted her just a couple of feet away and started working his way through the crowd; there was no sense in taking flight and worrying the patrons.

Once Luna was on the floor, she made a point of being just noticeable enough for Sunny to pick her out. The room was dark, and the strobe lights didn't do much for visibility; between the chaos of the dance floor, her natural talent for blending into the night, and her magic, it would have been trivial for her to disappear completely and never be found. That wasn't her job, though. She was here to keep Sunny busy, not to lose him entirely, so she had to make sure he felt just close enough to catching her that he would keep up the chase.

Still, Luna was enjoying herself. There was something comforting about melting into the crowd, moving through the dancers along with the beat of the music and the energy of the club. In here, she was just another body; as far as the club's patrons knew or cared, she was no different from anypony else.

But there was more to it than that. There was also the thrill, the gleeful buzz of mischief. Luna had never been as much of a prankster as her older sister, but it wasn't exactly an unfamiliar feeling, either. There was a reason she had enjoyed the Nightmare Night celebrations so much.

After a couple of minutes, though, Luna began to worry. She had no idea how long it would take Scratch and Octavia to prepare, but she knew it wouldn't be much longer before Sunny gave up chasing her; he was bound to have figured out that Scratch was up to something by now.

The princess glanced at Sunny, and the look on his face told her that he was just about fed up. She couldn't risk having him run off, so she did the only thing she could think of to buy her friends some more time: she let herself get caught.

Sunny brought his hoof down on her shoulder and held it there firmly; he wasn't about to have her run off again. "I thought I said I didn't want you back here tonight."

"With all due respect, meager as it may be, I am a Princess of Equestria. I shall do as I please." She resisted the urge to flare her wings and draw attention to herself. Luckily, none of the nearby ponies seemed to notice or care that Sunny had flagged someone down; they were used to it by now.

The bouncer sighed. "Look, I know I can't do much about you being here, and to be honest I don't really mind so long as you don't make any trouble. But I also know that Scratch dragged you into this, and whatever she's cooking up is trouble, so let's make a deal. Just tell me what she's up to and I won't bother you anymore, alright?"

"Thou art incorrect. I came alone." Luna glanced around nervously and made a point of looking in the opposite direction from where Scratch and Octavia were setting up.

Sunny followed her gaze for a moment. "What're you…?" he began, but something clicked and he put two and two together. "Ah, geeze. She's tryin' to pull something in the back, isn't she?"

"Wh- I… No! I promise you, I truly am alone," Luna said, desperately trying to recover.

"Sorry, Princess, but that ain't gonna work. Listen, you just stay here and I'll forget I ever saw ya, okay? I gotta go stop your crazy friend before-"

From somewhere in the back, a haunting bass melody began to float out across the room.

"Aw, hayseeds," cursed Sunny. "She's in on this, too? Celestia almighty- erm, no offense." The bouncer leaped into the air and took off towards the rear stage.

"Wait!" yelled Luna, almost forgetting not to use the Royal Canterlot Voice, which would have made everypony in the room notice her. Sunny ignored her order and continued on, leaving Luna with no choice but to take to the air herself and stop him.

Nopony noticed either of them leave the ground; the dancers were all busy looking for the source of the sound as the club's music faded out.

K grabbed his mic, furious over the disturbance. "Alright, who's the joker?"

In the back, a single light turned on and illuminated Octavia, standing alone and playing a slow, mournful tune on her bass.

The crowd was less than pleased, and a chorus of jeers began to ring out.

"Whaddya think you're doin'?"

"Get off the stage, lame-o!"

"This ain't Camargue Hall!"

"Philistines," Octavia muttered under her breath, taking care not to let it get picked up by her microphone. One of these days she was going to have to invest in an electric upright bass.

The ceiling in the Dark Horse was tall, but there still wasn't much space to fly around in. This proved to Luna's advantage; she was larger than the average filly her age (relatively speaking, of course), but that still meant she was slightly smaller than Sunny, and leaner to boot. What she lacked in strength she made up for in agility, so even though the bouncer had a head start she was more than capable of cutting him off before he could interfere. She hovered in front of him, preventing him from reaching the stage.

"C'mon, Princess! Get outta the way!"

"Dost thou truly think thou canst order me around?" Luna asked as the audience's protests began to float up from below them.

"Well, no, but… Ah, geeze. See what you guys have done? I gotta stop this before things get any worse!"

"…I am certain 'tis nothing of concern," Luna said, frowning and looking at the crowd with an uncertain gaze. "Miss Scratch has it under control."

"C'mon, don't fall for that," Sunny said with a scowl. "The girl's not as clever as she thinks she is. Please, just let me clean up this mess before she makes it any worse."

"No," Luna said, standing her air. "I trust her, and I refuse to let thee interfere."

Sunny glared at her. "Look, I've got a job to do, and nopony's going to stop me from doing it- not even you, Princess. You understand me?"

"If that is thy wish, then so be it."

As the last note of Octavia's solo faded out, a heavy techno beat started up and quickly took over the club. The bassist resumed playing, this time melding into the background and adding an extra instrumental melody to the mix. The rest of the area lit up and revealed Scratch at her turntables, hooves in the air and head bobbing along to the music. The cheers from the crowd came almost as quickly as the look of rage on K's face.

Sunny called something out, but Luna couldn't hear it over the music. "What art thou saying?" she shouted, cocking her head to the side.

Seeing an opportunity, Sunny darted forward, trying to slip past the princess and make his way to the stage. It almost worked, but at the last minute Luna slammed into him, knocking him off course and dazing both of them.

As the cheers subsided, Scratch threw down her hooves and reined in her head. Grinning, she grabbed her mic and addressed the audience. "Hey there, Dark Horse! My name is DJ PON-3 and I'll be your second host tonight, in number if not in intelligence, skill, or lack of bad fashion choices." The crowd laughed at her jabs while K sat back and steamed, knowing that any rebuttal would make him look like a poor sport. "Oh," Scratch said, continuing her speech, "and while we're doing introductions, why don't you guys give a big hoof to my good friend Octavia on the bass?"

Octavia kept playing but glared disdainfully at the ponies in the audience even as they applauded her.

"Anyway," Scratch continued, "me and the good ol' Spin Doctor K over there are gonna have ourselves a little duel…"

K snapped out of his rage and started desperately flipping through his library, trying to find a track that would match the other DJ's beat.

"…But it looks like he's not quite ready yet, so let's just go ahead and get the ball rolling." Scratch kicked the volume up and did what she did best.

Sunny was the first to recover, and he made a beeline towards the stage before Luna had a chance to stop him. The princess tried to chase him down, but it was clear that there was no way she could catch him in time. She sighed and reluctantly began to cast a spell. "Well, 'tis not terribly sporting," she muttered as her horn lit up, "but…"

The bouncer came to a cold stop as he was surrounded by a magical glow. He struggled against Luna's telekinesis, but it was no use; he wasn't about to go anywhere. "I really should have seen this coming," he thought as he gave up and started to look around the room. It seemed that everything had returned to normal: the music was back, the crowd was happy, and if anything the dance floor was livelier than it had been all night. "Alright, Scratch, you win," he muttered, shaking his head.

Sunny turned around, threw his hooves in the air, and shouted something to Luna, but the music drowned him out. "What?" she called back, holding a hoof to her ear.

The bouncer shouted again, to no avail.

"I still can't hear you!"

Exasperated, Sunny put a hoof to his face, then motioned for her to come over.

Luna flew to him, keeping her guard up in case it was a trick.

Once the princess was close enough to hear him shout, Sunny tried again. "I said, 'I give up!'"

"Oh! Really?"

"Look around!" yelled the bouncer, motioning towards the crowd. "There's no point shutting her down now. It'll just get the customers worked up again."

"So… thou shalt leave us be, then?" asked Luna, still a little suspicious.

"Sure, so long as you don't cause any more trouble." Sunny shrugged. "No point creating a problem where there is none, right?"

Luna nodded. "Indeed."

"Oh, and, I just wanna say… I'm really sorry about all this, Princess. I know I was a little unfair before, but… well, I just gotta do what's best for the club, you know?"

"I understand," Luna said, smiling. "I hold no grudge."

"Now would ya mind lettin' me go? I see a coupla bozos tryin' to start a fight."

"Oh! Right. My apologies," said Luna, the glow fading from her horn as she released the spell.

Once he was free, Sunny saluted and flew off to deal with the capricious ponies. Luna landed near the back and waved to Scratch, signaling that everything was taken care of. The DJ was busy with her turntables, but she grinned and nodded in acknowledgement.

The princess looked around a bit, then slipped back onto the dance floor and lost herself in the mix.

Octavia would never admit it to anypony, but she was actually enjoying herself. Nothing could be further from the music she usually played or the places she usually played it, but she didn't really mind that; to be honest, it was a nice change of pace. She wouldn't want to do this all the time, of course, but it was kind of fun as a novelty.

Besides, watching K freak out was its own reward. She didn't really know the guy, but Scratch had a pretty low opinion of him, and for all her flaws the girl was a good judge of character. Of course, it probably would have been funny even if he wasn't a jerk; the look on his face as he rummaged through his tracks was priceless, and even the insufferable grin when he finally picked one out was bearable knowing that it would soon vanish.

Scratch, seeing that K was ready, signaled to Octavia and the bassist prepared herself to back off and let the other DJ take over. At the end of the next measure, she stopped playing and the DJs made their first trade-off.

The difference was immediately apparent. K's mix was catchy and easy to dance to, but placing it next to Scratch's made the flaws all too obvious. His beats felt manufactured and lifeless; there was a mechanical similarity to them that made the music seem dull and uninspired despite its frantic pace. Scratch's work was a little more complicated and demanding, but she played things looser and gave them room to breathe. She knew how to match the feel of a track beyond what a beat detection algorithm could do, and it showed whenever she brought her hoof to the record and gave it a spin.

The crowd responded in kind, even though most of the ponies couldn't explain the difference between the two. Whenever Scratch started to play, the floor became livelier as the dancers picked up speed and moved more freely without even noticing that anything had changed. The DJs saw it, though, and it drove K mad. He glared at his rival from across the club, and she smiled in return. She had made her point, and they both knew it.

Even Luna, who knew little about dance music, could tell she liked her friend's set better. Scratch's work was a little harder to get into, but once she got the feel of it down the princess enjoyed it much more. K wasn't bad, but his mixes were missing something and it just wasn't as much fun when he took the lead. Luna supposed that could have been favoritism at work, but she liked to think it wasn't. She didn't really care either way, though; she just wanted to dance, and in the end it didn't particularly matter who had the floor.

"What gives, Sunny? You can't just let some other DJ and her crazy friends sneak in and mess up my set, Princess or no Princess! I've got half a mind to-"

The bouncer poked K in the chest. "Whaddya think you're tryin' to pull? Don't act like I don't know you were in on this."

The DJ looked at him incredulously. "C'mon, don't be ridiculous. I had nothing to do with-"

"Ya can't fool me, K. Scratch walks in here, says you're gonna duel, and then you go ahead and take her on? If you didn't have anything to do with it, you woulda shut her down and let me deal with it."

"B- but I…"

"Face it, kid. You lost, and I'm not gonna clean up the mess for you."

K glared at Sunny, then turned and headed for the exit, seething with anger.

Scratch was waiting by the door with Luna and Octavia. She smiled and waved to the other DJ as he passed. "Hey, nice playin' with ya, K! We should do it again sometime."

K showed her the back of his hoof as he left the club.

Once he was gone, Octavia snickered at him. "What a loser."

"Ah, c'mon, at least give him some credit," said Scratch. "Not everypony would've been able to keep up with me like that."

Luna thought for a moment. "No, I believe Miss Octavia is correct. He's a loser."

The DJ laughed. "Yeah, okay, you're probably right."

The trio's levity disappeared as Sunny approached them with a stern look on his face. "You three are awful lucky," he said.

Scratch grinned. "Nah, I knew it'd work out."

Her smile faded under the bouncer's firm gaze. "I'm serious, Scratch. I can't keep bailing you out like this. You can't just walk in and mess with somepony else's show, no matter how much you dislike the guy."

The DJ sighed. "Yeah, yeah, I know."

"No. No, you don't." Sunny turned toward Octavia. "I'd give you a lecture, too, but I'd rather not waste the effort. At least Scratch'll pretend to listen."

"Fine by me, gov'nah," Octavia said, accentuating the last word with a fake British accent.

"And you," said the bouncer, turning towards Luna, "you just…" He sighed. "Look, just be careful what you get yourself into, okay, Princess? Scratch's a good kid, but she's gonna get both of you in big trouble if you let her, royalty or not. I'm sure I don't have to tell you this, but there are plenty of ponies out there who ain't exactly gonna respect your authority, you know? They're not all as understanding as I am." With that, Sunny walked away, leaving the three of them to ponder his advice.

Scratch was silent for a couple of moments, lost in thought, while Luna and Octavia stood there awkwardly. Finally, the unicorn's good mood returned and she threw her forelegs over the other ponies' shoulders, smiling. "So, whaddya wanna do now?"

Octavia extracted herself from Scratch's grasp. "You two can do whatever you like, but I'm going back to bed. Some ponies actually sleep at night."

"'Tis a shame, is it not?" said Luna, also freeing herself from the DJ's leg.

"Uh, well, I mean…" Octavia began, stammering nervously.

The princess laughed. "Don't worry, 'twas merely a joke. Go ahead; I wouldn't ask that thou stayest up for my sake."

Octavia bowed her head respectfully. "Thank you, Your… Luna, I mean." The bassist slung her instrument onto her back and left the club.

"I feel somewhat guilty for dragging her into this," said Luna, once Octavia had gone. "I do not think she enjoyed it much."

Scratch chuckled. "Ah, don't worry about her. She's just grumpy."

"Oh, really? I had not noticed," said the princess, smiling.

"Trust me, she had fun, even though she'll never say so."

Luna turned to face the door and frowned a bit. "Still, I wish there was something I could do for her…."

The Princess of the Moon crept back into the castle as the first signs of morning appeared on the horizon. She started heading back to her chambers and ran into her older sister in one of the castle's many hallways.

Celestia smiled at the younger alicorn, her flowing mane slightly frazzled by bed-head. "Had a good night out, little sister?"

Luna nodded. "I did, in fact."

"See? I told you it wouldn't be so bad."

The smaller princess rolled her eyes. "Yes, thou wert right all along. 'Twas honestly pretty fun."

"Good to hear," said Celestia. "I trust you didn't get into any trouble?"

"Yes, well…" Luna began, hesitating a bit.

Celestia laughed. "It's okay, Luna. I'm sure you can handle yourself."

"Uh… right. Yes. Of course." The younger pony yawned. "Anyway, I am off to bed. Good morning." Luna started walking down the hallway, but then a thought occurred to her. She stopped and turned around. "Big sister?"

"Yes, Luna?"

"I was wondering… Hast thou invited Twilight Sparkle and her friends to the Canterlot Garden Party?"

The white alicorn chuckled. "As much as I'd like to, I don't think I can. Best not to agitate the guests too often."

"Well, then," Luna said with a smile, "perhaps I could make a recommendation in regards to the entertainment."