Princess Luna was not a morning pony. It wasn’t personal, of course—and hadn't been for almost a year now. She simply maintained a healthy dislike for waking up at seven o'clock, like all creatures of the night and most creatures of the day. It was a grueling job ruling the night, after all, and when that was over, one rather liked the idea of peace, quiet, and a warm bed. Instead one received a cascade of too-bright sunlight through their bedroom windows and that blasted trumpet that told everypony in Canterlot it was time to wake up and dance, or frolic through the fields, or—or whatever it was ponies did with their days these days.
She had never quite bothered to keep track of that one.
If there was one saving grace to morning time, it was the tradition of breakfast. Luna was quite fond of breakfast, with its piping hot bowls of fresh oatmeal and plates upon plates of cooked eggs—served in the curious fashion of 'sunny side up.' More than the food, though, she liked the opportunity it presented to connect with her older sister. Schedules being what they were, breakfast was one of those rare times the Princess of the Night and the Princess of the Day could sit and talk and have tea together.
Princess Luna was not a morning pony, no, but those moments were rarer than she liked to admit, so she did her best to keep them from getting any rarer. It was not an effort without cost, though. It meant staying up when she was at her most grumpy and grouchlike. It meant subtle hints to the servants that a less-than-stellar breakfast may result in summary exile. And, most importantly, it meant entertaining her sister's... questionable new habits.
She tried to keep an open mind about that one, though, and smiled brightly when Celestia appeared at the table in a flash of white light. As poor choices went, time travel wasn't that much poorer than attempting to bring about nighttime eternal, so perhaps she wasn't the best pony to judge.
“Good morning to you, Luna,” said Celestia, yawning. “For today and from next Monday—which is going to be a bit cloudy, by the way.”
“A... ah, good morning to you also, Sister,” said Luna, trying her very hardest not to judge. “I hope next Monday went... will go... goes well?”
“About as well as could and can be expected,” said Celestia. She slumped roughly into her chair and began piling her plate high with scrambled eggs and hay bacon. “The mayor of Cloudsdale will be fond of the boxes of chocolates I've sent her, so I'll need to mail those out immediately.”
“I see, I see,” said Luna, nodding as though she'd understood any of that. Her grasp on modern speech was still somewhat rough, and it wasn't helped by her sister's increasingly tenuous grasp on proper tense usage. She nodded for another few seconds, to keep up appearances, and began to focus on filling up her own plate.
“Do try the hash browns,” said Celestia, chewing thoughtfully at a strip of hay bacon. “I'll hear they're divine today.”
Somewhat suspicious of what her sister had heard—or may hear—Luna gathered a few forkfuls of hash browns to go with the rest of her meal. She was surprised to find that they were indeed quite good—divine, even. Crispy, greasy, and golden as she liked. “Truly so,” she muttered, impressed. “Hashed as well as any brown I have ever eaten.”
“And you'll want to stay away from the eggs,” Celestia continued. “All of them. They won't be very good today.” She gave her own helping of scrambled eggs a forlorn glance and scrambled them a bit more with her fork. “Or all that edible, really.”
Luna looked down at her plate and frowned. She'd already taken a generous portion of eggs, served sunny side up, for herself. It would be a waste to dispose of them now, she supposed. And there was no guarantee she'd hate them either. Yes, her sister had been right about the hashed browns—mucking about with the timestream did carry some benefits—but Celestia had only gotten the scrambled eggs. What gave her authority over those that had been served sunny side up?
Save for the name, obviously.
She sprinkled a bit of salt and pepper over them and gave her plate a furtive look. The eggs... did seem a bit off, somehow. The yolk a sickly jaundiced yellow. The whites a dullish gray. Surely, though, that wasn't as ominous as it seemed. They were only eggs, after all. How terrible could they be?
She took a bite.
And made a face.
There was something wrong with what she'd just eaten. An unpleasant, grotesque taste that she'd never quite encountered before. A bad egg. She desperately wanted to spit out, but that would be displaying manners unbecoming of a princess, so she swallowed, drowned it in orange juice, and prayed it would never haunt her again.
Celestia simply chuckled. “Well, you won't say I didn't warn you.”
“No...” said Luna, still reeling from the awful, lingering aftertaste. “I will not.”
How could the servants have allowed such a travesty to be served at their breakfast table? Were Canterlot's chefs not the finest in all Equestria? Had she not 'encouraged' them this morning with her most bloodcurdling of stares, fierce enough to chill even the most lax of servants to their very core? After that, how could they have possibly let such rotten eggs reach their princesses' plate?
Luna felt her cheeks grow hot as she realized that question contained its own answer. Perhaps... she had been a bit too harsh with the castle's servants. Her policy toward them would require some adjustment for the future. She pushed her plate away, no longer all that hungry, and was careful to give the servant who collected it an extraordinarily toothy grin for her troubles.
The servant, upon seeing it, dropped the plate and ran in the opposite direction at full speed.
Luna coughed, embarrassed. Clearly her policy needed further adjustment. “At any rate,” she said, hoping to draw attention away from that unfortunate display, “I am rather curious, Sister. If you were aware that the eggs were neither good nor edible, why would you stock them on your own plate?”
“Because I'd already done so,” said Celestia, sighing. She played around a bit more with her scrambled eggs before pushing her plate away as well. “Why else?”
“I do not quite understand.”
“Not unexpected,” said Celestia, nodding. “I don't think you will until—I want to say this Thursday?”
“Undoubtedly.” Luna decided to leave it at that. She was no longer quite in the mood to deal with her sister's time travel talk. The eggs had already soured her taste for that—and plenty of other things besides. Rather than continue and risk encouraging her, Luna simply decided to sit and pout until her sister noticed.
Which she did. Eventually. “So... how was your night, Luna?” Celestia asked, flashing her a smile. “Surely it was better than my boring old day.”
Luna stuck out her lip, determined to play her indignation for all it was worth. “What,” she said petulantly, “do you not already know?”
Celestia simply shrugged. “So what if I do? It's the conversation that counts, Luna. Knowing the details isn't a replacement for hearing it straight from the horse's mouth.”
“Ah... well then,” said Luna, a bit caught-off-guard by her sister's bluntness. She'd rather expected more cryptic nonsense. “It's... been the same as always, Sister. Our subjects slept as soundly as could be, and dreamt the sweetest dreams. A few nightmares, yes, but nothing unusual.”
Technically, that wasn't untrue. It was not unusual that most of those nightmares still featured her in a prominent role. But of course her sister didn't need to hear about that, if she could help it.
“Well, that's good to hear,” said Celestia warmly. “Things in that department sound better than they've been for a thousand years. You always were much better at managing dreams than I was, you know.”
Luna could not help but blush a bit at that. She hadn't quite been prepared for a compliment like that, but she accepted it nonetheless. “'Tis nothing, Sister,” she said modestly, though of course it was something. “I can merely dedicate more time to the task than you were able to, since the night is my sole domain and not the day also.”
Celestia laughed. “You do yourself too little credit Luna. I never quite had your knack for subtle dreamweaving. I keep going for flowers and sweets. Not to mention the odd mistake, but since you took the reins again I haven't heard a single peep about giant frog dreams or that awful one where the gelatin—”
But whatever she had been about to say about the gelatin was cut short by the sudden and panicked entrance of a gold-armored guard. He ran as fast as he could to Celestia's side of the table and whispered something that Luna couldn't quite make out.
“Now?” said Celestia, just loud enough that Luna could make it out. “I'm already dealing with an emergency in Manehatten today. There couldn't have been an... Oh, no.” She groaned and buried her face in her hooves. “Because I'm supposed to deal with it now. I see... All right, then. I'll get to it in just a moment.”
A moment passed. Celestia made no move to leave her seat.
The guard tilted his head in confusion and whispered something to her again.
“No, no,” said Celestia. “The matter will be dealt with. I am simply multitasking.”
Another moment passed, and a blinding flash of light filled the room, and another Celestia stepped up behind the guard. Luna couldn't help but feel a bit sorry for him as his eyes widened and his jaw dropped. Most of the castle's staff had still only heard about her sister's ‘multitasking.’ She wasn't entirely used to it yet herself.
Celestia gave the shellshocked guard a wave goodbye as he stumbled off with her other self. “Sorry about the distraction, Luna,” she said. “You know how it is.”
Luna, of course, did not quite know how it was. “I would, perhaps, have preferred if you'd informed me of it earlier,” she said quietly.
“I didn't know about it myself until just now,” said Celestia. She frowned at the dining hall's door as it closed behind the other Celestia. “Or maybe I’d just forgotten about it. I don’t... remember going back for that one. I hope I did, at some point. Or do. Remind me, at some point, won’t you, Luna?”
“Oh, but of course I will, Sister,” said Luna, lying straight through her teeth. She had no desire to continue enabling her sister’s temporal escapades. And, really, nopony could fault her if she were to simply and conveniently forget to remind Celestia of this incident, could they?
As soon as she thought that, though, she hesitated. Time travel was a risky business, after all. “But on the off chance that I were to forget,” she said innocently, “what might be the consequence of such a purely hypothetical slip of the memory?”
That one gave Celestia pause. “You know, I’m really not sure. My best bet would be an explosion.”
“An explosion?” Luna snorted. “You do not seriously mean that—”
“Conservatively speaking, of course,” said Celestia. “I suppose Starswirl’s notes would have given us more definite information on what might happen were I to break a stable time loop.” She drummed her hoof on the table, as if deep in thought. “Had they not been incinerated in an explosion, anyway.”
“Point taken,” said Luna, quietly resolving to remind her sister of this after all. It did not take all that much thought to decide that her concern for Celestia’s time travelling antics was rather less than her concern for Celestia’s potentially fiery demise.
“So then,” she said, deciding that yet another change of subject was in order. “What was that you were saying, Sister, before we were interrupted? About the dreams and the gelatin therein?”
“Oh, yes!” said Celestia. “Well, it’s really quite fascinating now that you mention it. Before the reports about it came in I’d never even thought it was possible to...”
The discussion continued cordially for perhaps another hour, which was much improved over the last Sisters’ Special Breakfast Together. And substantially better than the one before that, which had kept cordial for precisely two minutes. Luna considered it a very welcome change of pace, to speak of trivial and inconsequential things, instead of time travel or fatalism or whatever else was going on with her or her sister. She did so treasure the small talk with her sister, whenever she could get it, and she’d rather hoped that it go on even longer.
Perhaps it might have, had Celestia failed to notice the time.
“Ah, well, would you look at that,” said Celestia, glancing at the clock. “Nine, precisely.” She stood up from her seat, yawning. “I’m sorry, Luna, but I’m afraid I’ll have to cut this wonderful breakfast short.”
“Truly?” asked Luna, somewhat disappointed. “But I did so desire to hear about that four-hundred pound vat of—”
“And I’ll be glad to tell you about it,” said Celestia. “But some other time. I’ll be back at the castle any moment now, and I’m quite sure I didn’t see myself here today.” She shot Luna a wink. “Don’t want any explosions now, do we?”
Luna was about to raise an objection to that, but caught it before it could slip out. “No... No, I suppose not,” she admitted. “I did quite enjoy our time together, even if...” she coughed, then caught that objection too. “Yes, it was time well spent. A customary hug to mark your departure, though, Sister?”
“But of course,” said Celestia, trotting over to Luna’s end of the table and wrapping her arms around her younger and smaller sister in a brief hug. Luna returned the favor, as best she could.
“You didn’t mind too much, did you?” asked Celestia, breaking the hug. She bit her lip and her eyes shifted guiltily downwards. “That I wasn’t able to make it to the breakfast we’d scheduled today? I honestly didn’t know I was going to be so busy in Manehattan this morning, and I’d already gone back to tell myself...” She stopped, blushing. “You can forgive me, can’t you, Luna?”
Luna looked up, deep into her sister’s face, riveted with concern and fear and shame. If she’d ever entertained the desire to tell Celestia the truth—to say exactly what she thought whenever her sister was too busy to speak to her, except from the future—it melted right then and there. “Yes,” she whispered. “I can forgive you, Sister.”
She did not need to be reminded that, not so long ago, Celestia had forgiven her for much worse.
“Thank you, Luna,” said Celestia, smiling. “I’ll see you next Monday, then.”
She turned away, walked a few paces, and then—
She was gone.
“Next Monday,” repeated Luna. She looked to the windows and saw a dot in the distant sky, slowly growing as it approached. Celestia’s golden chariot. “Or sooner I suppose.”
She stood up from her chair and made toward the door, preparing herself to greet her sister for the second time that day... or the first, perhaps, depending on how one looked at it.
At any rate, she was glad that she had not yet lost her sister to whatever insanity time travel seemed to bring on. Beneath the talk of stable time loops, scrambled eggs, and her almighty schedule, it was clear that Celestia was still in there, somewhere. Just as Celestia as ever, notwithstanding her newfound concern for predestination.
Perhaps she could yet be saved.
She followed the winding hallways of Canterlot Castle as quick as she could. Right turn, right turn, left, forward, and right again. Straight to where her sister’s chariot would arrive. If she was lucky, the Celestia of the present would still be awake and alert and willing to listen to her younger sister’s concerns.
It was a hope, at least, and it kept her in good spirits. Good enough that she couldn’t help but give the occasional wave to the servants as she passed them in the halls, gracefully ignoring their panicked squeals as she did so. Maybe her plan, foolishly optimistic as it was, could even work. If she moved quickly enough, spoke well enough, and pouted hard enough, it would maybe—just maybe—be possible to convince Celestia that this time travel business was dangerous while there was still time.
All said, Princess Luna could not help but admit that this morning had been much better than most. Breakfast had not quite proven itself up to par, but what did that matter to her? She was content to know that she had not yet lost her sister to some form of temporal madness, and that it was still possible to save Celestia from herself—with some prodding. Truly, as good a morning as she was ever likely to have, as Princess of the Night.
And if Luna had noticed the dark circles growing beneath her sister’s eyes, her hopes were too high to think much about them. No one, not even Celestia herself, could be a morning pony all the time.
Or, at least, that’s what she hoped.