• Published 6th Aug 2018
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Sugar and Spice - Pearple Prose



Saving the damsel in distress is less impressive when you're the one who ruined her life in the first place. Pony Joe is going to try anyway.

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Love's in Bloom, But You Gotta Make Room

Sunny Skies didn’t get to go to Donut Joe’s as often as she would like, so it was always a lovely morning when she did. And it was a lovely morning, at that – she was up as early as she always was, watching the Sun lift lazily into the sky and shine its light upon the fluted towers of Canterlot Castle, making them sparkle.

And the Castle wasn’t the only thing sparkling that morning, she realised. She opened the door to Joe’s Diner, listened to the delightful tinkle of the bell ringing in her arrival, and then stopped when she noticed the interior.

The tables were spotless. The glasses were clean. She could see through the windows. Even the photos of Joe receiving various awards on the far wall made him seem like he was happy to be there for once. A strange scratching sound caught Sunny’s ear, and she turned and saw that Joe was tinkering with the broken gramophone at the far end of the bar.

“Good morning, Joe!” Sunny Skies sang, bounding over to him and climbing onto one of the barstools. “Wow! You’ve really cleaned this place up, haven’t you?” She looked down at her hooves and realised that they hadn’t stuck to the floor once on the way in. “And you even got rid of the Pa–”

Joe flinched at the sound of Sunny’s voice, and he turned his head slowly to look at her. His face was coated with grime and sweat, and his eyes noticeably avoided staring at the spot on the floor where the Patch had once lived. “Please,” he said. “Don’t say its name.”

Sunny Skies stared at him. Then she said, “Never mind!” and followed it up with, “Can I have a coffee, please?”

Joe fell silent for a moment. And then he smiled, too. “Yeah, I can get you a coffee. How much sugar?”

Sunny Skies smiled a very big smile indeed. “All of it!”


It had been over a week since Cuckoo Capone had been wrangled into the courtroom at dawn by roughly an entire city block’s worth of Canterlot civilians. Normally the guards would have sent them all home, but they’d had an angry dragon with them so they’d chosen to let it slide this time for the sake of expediency.

The trial had been very irregular, to say the least, but Cuckoo’s guilt had never really been in question.

There had been heavy pushback, at first, to the verdict – first by the nobility and second by the various businesses that Cuckoo had maintained close ties with. If nothing else, the crook had been admirable in knowing precisely whose pockets to stuff.

But it hadn’t really mattered, in the end; when the entire population of Restaurant Row rose up and threw the book at somepony – and when that book was also a damning piece of evidence – the Sisters themselves had arrived to ensure that Cuckoo Capone’s days of tyranny were put to an end for good.

Last Joe had heard, Cuckoo had been put up in a nursing home, his wealth redistributed and his estate – at his request – to become a bird hospital. Strangely, the old coot had become even more beloved amongst the ponies of Canterlot as a result – probably because the Bearer of Kindness had been overjoyed at the idea, and made a point of going to visit him regularly so that he ‘wouldn’t feel lonely without his bird friends’.

Joe didn’t really care either way – although now he knew for certain that at least two, maybe three, of the Elements of Harmony were completely bonkers. But as long as he never had to look at another one of those damned birds again for the rest of his life, he was happy to let sleeping dogs lie.

The Diner was remarkably quiet the morning that Sunny came to visit. Immediately following the trial, ponies would come in just to speak to him, thank him, get angry at him. Normally Joe would have hated it, but they usually bought a coffee and a donut before they left, so it had been worth it in the end, after the novelty had worn off and they’d left him in peace.

Pony Joe had been called a lot of things in the last few days. But, if nothing else, he was damned good at being Donut Joe.

“So, is it for a special occasion or something?” Sunny asked. She was on her second cup of coffee by this point, and had already consumed enough sugar to make Joe genuinely anxious for her wellbeing. “I don’t see anypony else around, but you must have spent days cleaning everything!”

“Hm? Yeah, something like that.” Joe sipped from his own mug. He was taking his coffee hot, black, and bitter as a bit lip. “Place needed whipping into shape. I’ve been getting a bit lazy and it was starting to get a little….” Once again, he tried to avoid staring at that one particular spot on the floor. The Patch had not gone quietly. “...Powerful.”

“Well, I think you’ve done a wonderful job.”

Joe looked at her and smiled. “Thanks, Sunny. It means a lot.”

“You’re so welcome!” Sunny sipped her coffee and looked over at the display case. “Hey, could I have a donut, please?”

“Uh.” Woops. He still had some of those left, right? He glanced into the display and breathed a sigh of relief. “Yeah, sure. What would you like?”

“Double-glazed chocolate with extra sprinkles, please!”

Joe picked up a regular chocolate-covered donut. It was a little bit stale. “Don’t have any of those left, I’m afraid. Take this one, on the house.”

“Yay!” Sunny took it in her hooves. “Thank you!”

“No problem. Thanks for coming in this early. It can get a bit boring on the morning shift.”

“Mmm.” Sunny nibbled on her donut thoughtfully. “I always thought that it must be difficult working here by yourself.”

“Eh, you’d think but, if I’m being honest--” Joe knocked back his coffee and banged the mug down on the countertop. “It’s kinda nice when you only have to worry about yourself.” He went over to the sink and began to rinse out his coffee mug.

Sunny blinked. “Oh.” Took another bite of donut. “You sound just like my sister.”

“Really?”

“Yeah. She stays up all night and goes on weird adventures and hates everyone.”

“Geez.” Joe inspected his mug and noticed that he’d chipped it when he’d slammed it on the counter earlier. Whoops. “That sounds familiar.”

“Also I’m pretty sure she just. Doesn’t sleep. Or something.”

“We’d probably get along like a house on fire.” Joe said, rummaging through the cupboards.

“I know, right? I should bring her along next time.” Sunny rested her head on her hoof and yawned. “It’d be nice to get her out and socialising again.”

“Next time, huh?” Joe trotted back, fresh mug in his magical grip. “I’ll probably be gone by then, honestly. I’m sure the new owner would appreciate the extra business though– Hurk!

Sunny Skies had leaned right across the counter and grabbed Joe by the collar. Her face was shoved right into Joe’s, their noses touching. “What did you just say?

“I said–” Joe pushed Sunny back into her chair and rubbed at his chafed neck. “Ow.”

Sunny sulked. “Sorry.”

“Don’t do that.”

“Okay.”

“I said that I’ll be gone by the time you come back next time. With any luck, at least.”

“I don’t understand what you’re saying.”

“I’m selling the diner.”

“…”

“…”

“I don’t underst–”

“I’m leaving, Sunny.” Joe turned back towards the sink. “I’m sorry, but I don’t really think I want to be around here anymore.” He stood there for a moment, staring at the cups and cutlery that he hadn’t washed yet. Sighing, he turned on the tap and started washing up.

The diner was quiet for a moment.

“Is that why you…”

“Yeah. Wanted to make the place all spic-and-span, y’know. Make the old girl look good in the pictures.”

“So,” Sunny said slowly, “Where are you going to go? What are you going to do?”

Joe shrugged. “Dunno yet. Family’s from Manehattan but I think I’d rather go somewhere quiet. Get some fresh air. Ponyville, maybe.”

“No,” Sunny interjected, her tone deep and oddly ominous. “There is nothing quiet about Ponyville.”

Joe glanced at her over his shoulder, slightly worried. “Oh. O-Okay then. Somewhere that isn’t Ponyville, I guess.” He turned back to his pots and pans.

“Hmm.” Sunny scratched her chin with the tip of her wing, thoughtfully. “And there’s no way I can convince you to stay?”

“Probably not,” said Joe. He held up a mug and made a face when he realised that there’d still been coffee in it from the last time it was used. “And besides, it’s not like it’ll actually matter. I dunno what the buyer will want to do with this place after they buy it, but there’s plenty of other places that you can grab a coffee and a donut on a morning.”

“You’d think so,” said Sunny. Joe heard her barstool creak. “But you would be incorrect. Canterlot is a loud city, Joe, and it is often more beautiful for it – but on the mornings, sometimes, I look around at the flurry of servants and indignant nobles when I eat my breakfast and I realise I cannot hear myself even think above the din. And it follows me everywhere, Joe. I walk amongst you all and I seek out these places, cafes and coffee shops and the fanciest places of finery and dinery in all the realm, and, always, I am suffocated. Always, I find them wanting.”

Joe paused. “Uh. Huh. Guess I never thought about it like that. Yeah, my diner’s definitely comfortable, I have to admit. It’s got a nice atmosphere.”

“It is. And, yet, it is also so much greater than that.” Sunny sighed deeply. “There had been a place just like it, once, several centuries ago now. There was something magical, something heartwarming and comforting about that place. It reminded me of my dear sister. I had hoped to show it to her upon her return. "

Joe’s ears twitched. Was he going crazy, or was Sunny’s voice getting… deeper?

“But the owner had taken to his bed one night,” Sunny went on, “and then he did not wake up again. Your diner reminds me of that place, and so I find many excuses to come visit.”

There was a long, contemplative silence for a while. Joe, rubbing his coffee mug with a towel, slowly turned around to look at Sunny. “Hang on, did you say something about several centureeeee oh my Celestia you’re Celestia.”

It’s true. Princess Celestia was sitting right there, in a barstool that was nowhere near capable of withstanding an alicorn’s size. She looked like she’d realised that by this point, and so she daintily stepped off and watched it sproing back into place, noticeably more stunted than it had been pre-transformation.

“Sorry,” said Princess Celestia, “I did not think this would have been necessary for another, oh, decade or so.” And then she sat down on her Sun-marked haunches and smiled right at Pony Joe, who didn’t really have enough tension in his slackened jaw to do the same. “I can replace it, if you’d like.”

“That’s. Uh. That’s okay,” Joe said. His tone stayed remarkably even. “I’m sure it’ll sort itself out. Are you Princess Celestia?”

“In the flesh,” said Princess Celestia. The smile on her face was the Celestia Smile, the one that any pony in Equestria could look at and say, definitively, that, ah yes, that is the Celestia Smile. “I’m rather a fan of yours. Could I possibly have another cup of coffee?”

The cup Joe had been holding fell to the floor and smashed.

“...Is that a no?”

“No!” Joe was quick on the reply. “No, I – wait. I mean. Yes! Yes, you can.”

“Wonderful!”

“Not that one, though. That one was cracked.”

“I noticed!” Celestia looked down. “...Would you like me to clean it up?”

“Haha, no, of course not, don’t worry, it’ll sort itself out.”

“Are you sure? It smashed on your hoof.”

“Did it? I hadn’t noticed!”

“You’re bleeding.”

“Am I?”

“Yes.”

“Oh. Yes. Quite a lot. Haha, what a funny thing not to notice, eh? Haha, hahaha, HAHA–”

So Princess Celestia fixed Joe, and then Joe fixed Princess Celestia a cup of coffee.

He even gave her his favourite mug – the one that had 'Equestria’s Horniest Unicorn' written on it – which he didn’t think Celestia would notice.

She did. “I would have been perfectly happy with any other mug, you realise, Joe, as sweet a gesture as it is.”

“Oh, I know,” said Joe, “but usually I just spit-polish the other ones.”

“Oh.” Celestia blinked. “Oh! Well. That’s good, then.”

Joe nodded, and continued to stare at her. He’d never seen her mane up close before – he’d always assumed there was some trick to it, or that it had always just been the wind blowing through it, but no – it really was just… moving on its own.

Celestia watched him over the rim of her coffee cup. “It’s really quite distracting, isn’t it?”

“You don’t even know the half of it.” Joe paused. “Well, I mean. You do know the half of it. You know all of it. So where did Sunny Skies go? Also, do you remember when you dropped in to visit after that whole Grand Galloping Gala fiasco?”

“I do. Thank you, again, for that.” Celestia tilted her head. “And I am Sunny Skies, Joe. You’re looking right at her.”

“No, but… Wait, so like, you’d disguised yourself as her, right?”

“I did indeed. A very useful polymorph spell that my colleague is rather fond of. Impressive, no?”

“Very. So how long have you been, y’know… doing that?

Celestia blinked. Thought for a moment as she sipped her coffee. “You opened the Diner roughly nine years, seven months, and one week ago, correct? So it would have been four years and nine months after that, give or take a couple of weeks.” Celestia set down her mug and stared off into the middle-distance. “The texture. The moistness. The chocolate. Melted in one’s mouth like a dream. Yes. I remember it well.”

Joe continued to stare at her. “You’re drooling, your highness.”

“Oh, whoopsie.” The moisture on her chin evaporated into steam. “Sorry about that. But, yes, I’ve been coming here, oh, every week or so. Whenever I can get away from the castle on a morning, or a weekend afternoon. Much more often now that my sister has taken up her responsibilities once again.”

“And you’ve been Sunny Skies every time?”

“Well. Not every time.” Celestia fluffed her wings thoughtfully. “Sometimes I just wanted to sit on my own and drink too much caffeine. But I like talking to ponies when it isn’t me doing the talking, and so I’d usually come as Sunny and have a nice chat about. Well, you know. The things we usually talk about.”

“…Your sister?”

“Hm? Well. Sometimes.”

“You talk about your sister a lot,” Joe pointed out.

Celestia gave him a patient smile. “Well, she is my dearest sister, after–”

Complained about her constantly, honestly. And I’m talking real personal stuff here.” Joe sat back and wondered aloud for a moment. “I mean, there was even that time when you drank too much coffee and came in rambling how she would come into your room covered in hummus and say–”

Celestia immediately slurped her coffee extremely loudly. “So, Joe,” she said, “have you figured out how you’re going to talk to your marefriend without being broken in half by her very intimidating father figure?”

A long silence. Then: “So I guess you know about all that, then.”

“In my position, dear Joe,” said Celestia, “it is incredibly difficult not to know all about these things. Do you have a plan in mind yet?”

“Do I have a–” Joe rubbed his temples with his hooves. “There is no plan. The plan is to go away and stop thinking about it.” Joe leaned back and looked out a nearby window wistfully. “‘Sides, was getting a little tired of the whole Diner thing anyway. It’ll be nice to be able to work on my other hobbies, like, y’know…”

He trailed off.

Celestia dropped a cube of sugar into her cup and watched him think.

“Like…” Joe frowned, squinted, and finally ventured: “...Sleeping?”

“Hmm. Well, sleeping is all well and good,” said Celestia, “but I’m afraid I have to insist that you reconsider.”

“Wait.” Joe looked at Celestia, then took a step back. “Was that a threat? Are you threatening me right now?” He glanced around at the corners of the Diner, as if some assassin was going to step out and attack him. “Because I’ll have you know, my bones are very fragile, and I’ll probably scream extremely loudly.”

“…What? What are you– Oh, for the love of…” For a moment, Joe thought Celestia had rolled her eyes at him, which was such a weird idea that he immediately pretended he hadn’t thought of it. “No, Joe. I’m fond of you.”

“O-Oh.” Joe felt a blush warm his cheeks. “Really?”

“If you moved away then we’d never get to talk, or I’d have to find an excuse to come visit. Or I’d just arrest you.”

“…You can do that?”

“I’m Princess Celestia. Of course I could arrest you. I command armies.” She paused. “That was a joke, by the way.”

“Of course.”

“But honestly, though.” Celestia got up from her seat on the floor and began to pace, gracefully, back and forth. “Joe, are you really telling me that you have yet to think of any way to resolve things with Saffron and her father? In a week?

“Hey, your Highness, with all due respect–” And Joe shrugged helplessly. “–I just make donuts for a living. Of course I have a plan, but it’s awful. Do you have anything better?”

“Maybe,” said Celestia, “but I want to hear your idea first.”

“Mmm. Ehh.” Joe glanced around. Tried not to feel too embarrassed. “Okay, but I’m gonna have to whisper it to you.”

Celestia raised an eyebrow at him. Considered him. Lowered it. “Alright. Tell me.”

Joe told her. The two of them looked at each other for a long moment.

“Hm.” Celestia tapped her chin. “Intriguing.”

“Do you…” Joe was sitting on his haunches and tapping his hooves together, trying not to look as anxious as he felt. “Do you think it’ll work?”

“It’s certainly worth a try.” Celestia stood up off the floor and dusted herself off. Then her horn lit up with a soft glow, and Joe watched as her form began to shift before his very eyes – her legs shortening, her mane deflating, her horn somehow retreating back into her skull.

Sunny Skies opened her eyes and smiled at him. She nodded towards the door. “Shall we?” she said, in a familiar sing-song voice.

“Was that as painful as it looked?”

“Only a little bit!”

Joe shuddered. “Oh, geez. I’d forgotten that your voice sounded like... that. I have to ask: was that on purpose, or does the voice come with the body?”

Sunny looked hurt for a second. Then she closed her eyes, and Joe felt the hum of magic in his horn even if he couldn’t see what was casting it. Sunny opened her eyes again and coughed. “Is this better?” she said, and this time her voice sounded much closer to Celestia’s own.

“Oh, wow, much better, yes. Now it doesn’t feel like my ears are bleeding anymore.”

“I chose that voice myself.”

“Oh. Well.” Joe felt sweat going down his face. “Your, uh, your normal voice is so elegant, I suppose it’s just a shame not to use it?”

Sunny arched an eyebrow.

Joe gulped.

And then Sunny smiled. “You’re quick on your hooves. I like that. You’ll go far.”

“Oh, phew.” Joe smiled back at Sunny. “You know, I was just thinking about that whole debacle with the Elements and that play you were going to star in.”

“Oh?” Sunny looked at him curiously while the pair of them stepped out the door.

“Yeah.” Joe closed the doors and locked them, then turned back to face Sunny, a smile on his face. “Everypony kept talking about how terrible at it you were. But you’ve been pretending to be Sunny Skies of all ponies for the last, I dunno, three years?” Joe laughed, and began to trot towards the Tasty Treat. “By Celestia, can you even imagine? All that singing and squealing and stuff? We were wrong, you’re the best actor in Equestria!

“Ah. Yes,” said Sunny, very diplomatically. “Acting.”


Saffron didn’t hear the knock at the door at first. There were a couple of reasons for this.

The first reason was the fact that the influx of customers to the Tasty Treat had spiked massively after the Cuckoo Capone story had been broken, just like it had after the Zesty Gourmand debacle – they’d even had to hire on a few extra hooves as staff, mainly from among the many unfortunate, newly-unemployed victims of the implosion of Cuckoo’s criminal underworld. Some of them were capable in the kitchen, many were not; so, while Saffron greatly appreciated the custom, her work in the kitchen had turned from a practical hobby into a industrial maelstrom.

And the second reason was the fact that they’d been knocking on the back door, which nopony would ever knock on if they hadn’t been one of precisely three different ponies.

So when she realised what the source of noise actually was, she’d looked up from her crowded oven to see her father march to the offending door, yank it open, and shout, “BEGONE.” into Pony Joe’s terrified face. “Oh. It is you. Begone.” And then he went to shut the door in his face.

“Oh!” came a voice from behind the door that Saffron didn’t recognise, “Sorry to bother you, sir, but my friend Joe here would like to–”

“I do not want him. Remove him from my doorstep, if you would be so kind.”

“No, wait, but I–” Joe wedged his hoof in the door. “Ow! I just want to talk to Saffron, Cumin!”

“That is what I was afraid of.” Coriander cracked his neck. “Now, I am afraid I must break y–”

“Father, no!” Saffron left her pots and pans on the boil and hurried over to his side and peeked through the gap in the door. “Joe, why did you come back here?” Then she paused, because she wasn’t looking at Joe – a mare she had never met before was peeking through from the other side of the door. “Excuse my impoliteness, but who are you?”

“Oh!” said the mare. “No, I’m afraid I must apologise for my impoliteness here. I didn’t think this would become so heated so suddenly, you understand.”

“Oh! It is no bother, really! What is your name, if I might be so rude as to ask?”

“Oh! My name is Sunny Skies. I am a friend of Joe’s. It’s wonderful to meet you!”

“Oh! It is a pleasure to meet you as w–!”

“You can stop – oof – ‘oh’-ing at one another at – ow – any time, you know.” The sturdy oak of the door muffled Joe’s voice. “Hi, Saffron. Your dad’s slammed your door on my hoof.”

“Joe?” Saffron craned her neck around the edge of the door, but she still couldn’t see him. “So you did come back, then?”

“Of course I did. You can’t get rid of me that easy. Haha. Seriously, though, the door please? I’m in agony.”

Saffron looked down at where his hoof was being crushed against the doorframe. “Oh, right.” She gave Coriander a look. “Father, could you please let go of the door?”

Coriander squinted his eyes at her. Scratched his hoof for a moment. Hummed to himself in thought. Then he looked right into his beautiful daughter’s eyes, and he said: “No.”

Father!

Fine.” Coriander pulled the door open and watched Joe stumble backwards with a yelp as he was freed. “There. Now you may leave in peace. Goodbye once again.”

Sunny cleared her throat. “We are happy to leave if you insist, sir, but–”

“I do. I do insist.”

“--okay, you’re supposed to let me finish first.”

“Why have you not left yet?”

“Because there is somethingI would like to say first. Something rather important.”

And then Sunny Skies began to glow with an inner light and – with the lengthening of limbs and the unfurling of white wings and the flow of a mane in an impossible wind – she transformed.

Princess Celestia stood before them, now. Coriander stepped back, his expression rapturous. Saffron bowed her head and whispered a quiet prayer to a forgotten deity. Joe looked very smug.

Celestia smiled upon them all. And then she raised a hoof to her throat, cleared her voice, and sang a singular verse in the language of Saffron’s homeland, and it was beautiful.


Please don’t break Joe in half,” Celestia said, “for he is very apologetic, and his bones very brittle.” And then she beamed at them.

There was a long moment of silence. Saffron and Coriander looked at one another. Then they looked at Celestia, who looked very pleased with herself. Then they looked at Joe, who was still looking smug. It took about fifteen seconds of staring before he started to become nervous.

Then the two proprietors of the Tasty Treat held a conversation entirely through their eyebrows. A pair of arches. A tight frown. A tilt of the head and a puppydog expression. A single, questioning raise of the left brow. A glance to the side and a tiny shrug. A blank gaze.

Then they returned to staring at a very anxious-looking Pony Joe and the completely oblivious Ruler of Equestria.

“Look,” said Joe, “if it’s any consolation, she just wanted to send you a letter.”

Celestia frowned. “Now, what was wrong with that idea?” she mumbled, slightly hurt. “Everypony enjoys a nicely worded letter. I think. Do they not?”

Coriander stepped aside. “Five minutes.”

Joe stopped and looked at him, dumbfounded. “Whuh?”

“Starting now.”

“Wait, that worked?

Coriander stroked his moustache. “No. Not really. I am rather offended, actually.” He squinted at Celestia. “I was debating whether or not to simply slam the door on you, but I will allow it considering that you are, technically, the leader of my religion.”

Celestia clapped her hooves. “Hurray!”

“Also, because threatening you with violence does not seem to be working, which means that Joe might have finally grown a backbone.” He looked at his wrist. “Four minutes. Now, if you will excuse me, I am going to go back to doing my job.” And then he turned around and returned to doing exactly that.

Saffron watched him go. Turned back to Joe, expression kept carefully neutral. “So. Five minutes.”

Joe stepped inside. He didn’t take his eyes off of Cumin’s retreating behind. “Four minutes. Three-and-a-half now, I guess. Your father is absolutely terrifying.”

Saffron smiled. “He is very protective, as I am sure you are aware by now. I would not pay him too much mind. I think he likes you, deep down.”

“No,” Joe interrupted, “I really, really think he hates me.”

“He does. But he still likes you. He is a complicated pony.” Saffron sighed, and wandered back over to the oven. “So, go on then. Say what you wished to say.”

“Oh, right. Yeah. Okay. I just–” Joe stopped. Took a deep breath. Started over. “Look, I just wanted to come here to say that I’m sorry, and that I want to be friends with you.”

Saffron stared at him, and then looked past him at the towering, alabaster alicorn standing by the door, who was looking around the kitchen curiously. Then back at him, strangely sad. “Did you really need to bring her along just so you could say that? To put on that whole display?”

“I honestly didn’t bring her along just to show off, I swear,” said Joe, sitting back on his haunches. He rubbed the back of his head with a hoof. “It turned out that like… A pony I thought I knew had really just been her, putting on a costume for me. Pretending to be someone else just so that I would chat with them.”

“I thought you said you were not coming here to brag about your friend being a literal goddess.”

“Right, no, yeah, sorry. What I’m getting at is…” Joe frowned, tried to find the right words. “Well, the pony that I knew as Sunny Skies is just gone, all of a sudden, and now there’s somepony else in her place. She could come back tomorrow, looking and acting exactly like Sunny always had, but it’s not like I’m not gonna be aware that it’s just Princess Celestia underneath all that. I can’t look at her the same way anymore.” Joe looked away. “And then I kinda realised how you must be feeling right now.”

Saffron said nothing.

“So, then.” Joe turned back, smiling nervously. “Let me introduce myself. Hi. My name’s Pony Joe. I make donuts for a living. I have a friend named Ginger, who’s a dragon, and another friend who’s secretly Princess Celestia. I’ve made a lot of mistakes, and I’d like to make up for them. I own a diner down the street. I was wondering if you’d like to come and drop by? Whenever you’ve got a spare moment or two?”

The pair of them stared at one another. Then, slowly, she began to smile. “Do you have any tea?”

“I have Earl Grey.”

“Earl Grey’s tea is disgusting.”

“Oh,” said Joe. “Darn. I happen to agree. Got anything better?”

“Maybe. I have been experimenting with my own, home-made blends.”

“Wait, really?”

“My father tried it once. Before then, he had been unable to grow a moustache in over twenty years.”

“Sounds terrifying. Bring a whole pot.”