• Published 5th Mar 2020
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Expecting Expectations - ROBCakeran53



Celestia wakes up with a minor hangover. The castle has no running water. Her fiance is a human named Mark. Life's grand!

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1: The Morning After

After about fifteen hundred years of ruling a nation, almost twenty-four seven, one would imagine the day to day of Princess Celestia’s life to be chaotic and manic. The truth was, ninety-nine percent of her days were well handled and tended to fix themselves with little effort on her own part, with the occasional small push here and there. Her little ponies were easy to lead onto the right path, and strong encouragement usually set them the right way.

Today, however, was to be that one percent, and her little ponies were about to push her past a breaking point.

It all started as any day does: with the raising of the sun.

Luna’s voice broke Celestia from her slumber. “Sister, it is time.”

Celestia’s eyes, dry and full of dust, barely registered that her sister was standing inside her room, looking upon the bundle of blankets, pillows, and plush figures strewn about and trying to pick out an alicorn in the pile.

With a knowing smirk, Luna played ignorant to the human leg sticking out off to the side.

“Good morn, Tia. It is time to raise thy sun.”

Celestia huffed, her mane blowing from her face. With a golden glow of her horn, she began her sun’s slated course. Luna had told her ages ago the raising of her moon was akin to a Jack in the Box. Constantly cranking the lever, until the moon popped out, and there it stayed until it was time for the sun.

Celestia’s sun, however, was a slow crawl, going from one side of the horizon to the other. Much like the bed-maned alicorn who fought awareness, it wanted no more than to go back to sleep. The adverse aftermath of one too many margaritas.

Behind Luna, their trusted servant/guardian/foal sitter/father figure Kibitz strode in.

“Good morning, Your Majesties,” said Kibitz, floating a cup of coffee to Luna. “It’s decaf.”

Luna rolled her eyes, but took a drink anyway.

Another cup, along with the morning paper, landed on Celestia’s bedside table.

“Earl Grey, steaming hot, and any articles worth note highlighted(*) by importance, but of course opened to the funny pages for your immediate enjoyment. Although I am sorry to report they replaced the Garfield comics again.”

Celestia pouted. “Oh, not Garfield. He always brightens up my mornings.” She rolled around in bed. “What took his place?”

“Marmaduke, I believe.”

Celestia let out a raspberry, while Luna clopped her hooves.

“Oh, the entertaining dog! Yes, We shall read it before We go to bed.” With her magic, Luna removed the one page of the paper, much to the protest of Kibitz.

“Princess, please, you mustn’t…”

With a sigh, Celestia sat up in her bed, rubbing her eyes, her mane and tail a tangled mess. Ignoring the banter between her sister and Kibitz as the two chased around her room, she stepped down, catching her sister in a hug and a goodnight kiss. “That is fine, you may take the comics page. I think I can wait another day to read Li’l Abner.”

“Huzzah! See, trusted steed, We are victorious!”

“But… Your Majesties… there’s something you—”

Celestia calmly walked past and ignored her sputtering scheduling advisor. Her first stop for the morning was the bathroom, before any further interruptions. With a click of the latch, Celestia was alone in the confines of her spacious bathroom. First thing first, the water needed time to warm up, so allowing her time to relieve herself. Afterwards, Celestia could begin to get out her soaps and conditioners, ready to start the day off right.

Instead, the pipe let out a gurgle, and a single drop of water fell into the tub.

There was a knock on the bathroom door, followed by Kibitz’s voice. “I’m sorry, Your Majesty. The water system is down, and the repair ponies are working on it. I’ve instead called in your groomer to freshen you up. With any luck, I’ll have a fifteen-minute gap opened up by noon so you may clean before holding court.”

With a dejected sigh, Celestia went to brush her teeth, but froze.

Right. No water. Very well.

Having lived for so long, Celestia knew the everyday commodities that ponies took for granted today were but a scarcity growing up. If anything, she knew how to adapt, change, and above all else, survive.

She applied her toothpaste, then began to brush vigorously. Another wave of magic came to life, and she went for her bubble-gum-flavored mouthwash, but found the bottle empty.

“Drats,” she hissed, sending toothpaste specks onto her mirror.

Luckily, her prince-to-be-consort’s mouthwash was there, although she hated his tastes, or lack thereof. The burn of alcohol, he would constantly advise, meant that it was working and to embrace the pain. She could not meet with nobles and guests with breath holding the traces of mixed drinks and… human flavors; this would be one of those mornings to embrace the pain.

One minute later, thirty of those seconds in misery using the burning, evil mouthwash, she exited; sister and Kibitz were replaced by a thestral maid and earth pony groomer. Normally, Celestia was all for taking care of herself, but with rough nights that bleed into the morning like today, she was thankful to know she had the staff willing to aid.

Her bed was, mostly, made up, ignoring the lump of one human consort. The maid went to take her leave, but with a hoof Celestia halted the mare. She walked over to the one leg hanging off the bed edge, his bare foot giving the occasional twitch saying: I’m awake, but don’t want to be, so let me pretend I’m asleep.

With one long, wet lick from heel to big toe, Celestia was sure her two staff ponies were struggling to look away while also ready to watch the madness unfold.

It was spectacular, either way she looked at it.

The heap of human shuddered, bolted out of bed, got tangled in the once-mostly-tidied blanket, and fell to the ground in a heap and loud thud.

“Don’t do that! I hate when you lick my foot like that, you damned giant—”

“Language, Mark. We are not alone.”

“What?” Mark struggled to escape the blanket, his head poking through an edge, and saw the maid and groomer both fighting back giggles.

“Women…” Mark rolled his eyes. “Mares, whatever. You’re all against me.”

She planted a kiss on his head, then moved towards a stool in the center of the room and sat.

“Oh, my love, there is no water, so you’re going to have to do your best without.”

“What? Did you use it all again?”

Celestia blushed. “I did no such thing, nor have I ever! Do not start such rumors around our staff!”

“Well excuse me, but how else am I going to clean off the smell of a giant white horse?”

“You are my human, therefore you should smell like me. Don’t you agree, Glow?”

The groomer nodded with a smile. “Of course, Princess. My husband always has my scents on him. It lets other mares know he is mine, so no touching.”

Celestia turned her head. “See? No problems.”

With a grumble, Mark wrapped the blanket around himself like an improvised tunic, and dragged it into the bathroom, with a slam of the door behind him. Seconds later, the blanket was thrown out, landing on top of the maid.

“Oh, the smell!” she cried, struggling to escape.

Both Celestia and Glow giggled, and with a golden glow, the blanket was raised off the incapacitated pony, finding itself folded up, and placed onto the laundry cart.

“Yes, it probably does need a good cleaning after last night.”

The maid replaced a new set of linens, a red blush on her face, changing pillow cases and freshening up the flower vase, all in a matter of seconds and a few beats of her leather like wings. Meanwhile, Glow began combing Celestia’s mane, brush in her mouth, and continued to fight back giggles.

Stepping out of the bathroom finally, Mark wore only a pair of boxers – covered in little suns with smiley faces and sunglasses – and a white t-shirt. “Well, I feel marginally better.”

“Yes, I see – owch – you do.” Celestia flinched as another knot was caught and slowly worked out.

Mark looked on with a grin. “I’m so glad I keep my hair short.”

Celestia rolled her eyes. “Now if only I could convince you to get rid of that horrid goatee.”

“What? What’s wrong with it?”

“It’s soo out of fashion.”

“Is not! Slaves, agree with me!”

“Ipths ubly,” mumbled Glow, brush still in her mouth.

“I despise facial hair on a stallion,” agreed the maid, eyeing up Mark. With a whisper she added, “Uniforms, however…”

“Traitors! I’m not a stallion, so you can’t compare!”

“Could have—yeowch! Fooled me last night,” Celestia struggled to keep her sly grin up, while tears ran down her cheeks.

“Sphorry, Phrinshesh.”

“It’s quite alright, Glow. I know my mane is always a tangled mess without a hot soak.”

Mark shook his head, making his way towards the wardrobe.

The maid opened it, pulling out two already prepared ensembles.

“Damn it, Ensemble, stop going through my clothes!”

The maid, Ensemble, blushed. “I’m sorry, sir. You just have no sense of fashion.”

“Celly! Make your maid stop being mean to me!” Mark whined.

“Ensemble, stop going through my eventual husband’s clothes. I know you enjoy his musk(1), but please find a stallion of your own.”

Ensemble pouted, but Mark gave the mare a pat on the head, and grabbed the hanger on her left from her hoof grasp. Smiling, she replaced the other, closed the wardrobe, and walked to her laundry cart, giving Mark’s leg a flick of her tail.

“If that is all, Princess. Consort Mark.” With a bow and subtle wink, she pushed the cart along and she was gone.

Mark sat on the edge of the bed, putting on his socks. “You really should get her hooked up with a guard before we wake up to a threesome.”

“We have tried. Multiple times.” Celestia winced, Glow having moved to her tail where some of the worse knots were. At Glow’s hesitation, Celestia let out a huff. “At pairing her with a guard, not the other thing.”

Glow fought back her blush, combing Celestia’s dock, but grunted in agreement.

Once done with her tail, Glow brought out the currycomb and began on the princess’ coat. Thankful for no more winces, Celestia brought over her tea and paper within her magic, and skimmed the highlighted articles of interest, although minus one missing page. No yellow, thank Faust.

There was a pause in Glow’s brushing, nearing her rear, but Celestia chalked it up to the groomer being shy of touching the royal flanks. She’d been in this position for five years, and still worried about it.

However, a firm hand grabbed one cheek, while the other, with currycomb in it, continued brushing.

“Mark, love, you’re going to put Glow here out of a job if you keep doing that.”

“What can I say? I can’t keep my hands off these delicious, cake-plumped flanks.”

Celestia froze, the paper, and its articles, forgotten as she rolled it into a tube.

Things in Canterlot are calm. I can go a day without reading the boring news...

She slowly turned to Mark, a combination of a grin and glare on her face. Ignoring all of this, he continued to comb, a dumb smile on his face.

Glow, for her credit, had felt the temperature spike and hastily scurried out of the bedroom suite with her supply cart and soft click of the closing door, sans one currycomb that could easily be replaced.

----------

Some time later Celestia stepped out of her room, mane slightly disheveled. Mark, right behind her, followed out with his shirt untucked and one shoe still unlaced.

“You know, we really need a safe word.” Mark kneeled down, tying the laces as best he could.

“Until you came around, I never had the need for one.” Celestia watched Mark stand, and with a flare of her magic, tucked in his shirt.

Mark took a step forward and ran his hands through her mane to try and straighten out the few freshly formed knots.

“True. Do you think anypony will notice the small scalp of fur on your right flank? I didn’t realize a curry comb could get stuck like that.”

Celestia sighed. “It will have to be. Just because I’m an alicorn princess doesn’t mean I’m not just another pony, who has the same problems as others.”

“Well, there’s one problem you got that they’ll never have.”

“Oh? And what is that?”

With a quick stolen kiss, Mark turned to leave. “Me. See you around lunch time.” With a wave of his hand, he walked down the hall, a pegasus guard hastily joining in line beside her human.

Celestia smiled and turned down the opposite direction, her own guard, a stout earth pony, following along.

“Good morning, Hank.”

“Princess. How are you this beautiful morning?”

“Sore, but in good ways.”

“I did not need to know that, Princess.”

“I know, but I’ll get a reaction out of you one of these days.”

“I’d be flattered if I could afford to give such emotions.” With a cough, he continued, “Sir Kibitz is waiting for you in your study. Would you like me to have breakfast brought to you there?”

“Isn’t that a task for Raven?”

“She has taken ill, I’m afraid, and is running late. Something about having too much to do with a Miranda.”

Celestia snickered. “Oh, the poor thing.”

“I did not know she was seeing anypony.”

A giggle escaped Celestia. “Oh Hank, never stop being you.”

“Discord willing, I shall continue to be me.”

Stopping at the study, Hank knocked once, then opened the door to allow Celestia entrance, and quickly took his position at the door side. With a curt nod, Celestia entered, and Hank closed it behind her.

Kibitz sat at Celestia’s desk, in his own seat, and continued to go through a list.

“Kibitz, so glad to see you’re recovered well from last night's activities.”

“Yes, Your Majesty. Shame Raven was not.”

“She will be fine, so long as she makes court.”

“I will see to it,” Kibitz said, then made room for Celestia to sit in her chair. “I presume you went through the morning’s paper?”

With a practiced smile, Celestia nodded. “Oh, yes, all is well.”

Kibitz blinked. “It… is?”

Caught off guard at his hesitation she was about to question him, but after last night’s party, even he was allowed some break in character.

“Yes, why wouldn’t it be?”

“Well, I just… that is to say, Consort Mark… and you…” Grumbling, Kibitz straightened up his collar and let out a huff, checking off a mark on his clipboard. “Very well, I shall begin writing up the announcement papers for this afternoon’s press conference.”

“Oh, how I despise the Monday press conference.”

“Shall we cancel it today? Give you another day to… properly make your announcements?”

“No, there was a reason I made it on Mondays. Get it done and over with.”

“Very well, Your Majesty.”

Getting herself comfortable, Celestia readied her quills, ink, and parchment as she liked them, however a thought occurred.

“Now, before we get into my activities for the day, what of Mark?”

“What of him?” he raised a brow.

“With you assiting me and Raven indisposed, I can only imagine what torture activities do you have in store for him.”

Kibitz raised a hoof to his chest in mock shock. “You say it as though I get some sick satisfaction from parading him around Canterlot, pushing him into groups of nobles and house politics.”

“No, of course not. That’s Luna’s fun.”

“Verily. Ahem, until Miss Raven returns to your side, I shall aid you, so Consort Mark is on his own until your lunch date.”

“Oh my, his first solo trip around the castle? Did you give him a list of what not to say?”

In his magic, a list was placed in front of Celestia. Celestia looked it over briefly. “Yes, his guard, Composite, has been briefed on what he is doing this morning, and has all the needed papers to make sure Mark does not do anything…”

“Foolish. Dumb.”

“I would say childlike, but I’ve already got two of those.”

“Oh hush, you.” Celestia gave a playful slap of her wing on the old unicorn’s back, causing his spectacles to nearly fly off.

Kibitz composed himself. “Ahem, before we become further off track. You have a meeting with Prince Blueblood later this morning about another budget proposal.”

“Figures.”

There was a knock, and Kibitz looked on with alarm. “Oh dear, that’s breakfast.”

“What’s the matter with that?”

“Well, since we’re running behind, I shifted around some things, and you’re having breakfast with—”

The door opened, and in walked Shining Armor.

“Captain Armor!” Celestia jumped from her seat to hug her nephew-in-law, a squeal escaping the trapped stallion.

Then a smell greeted her, and behind him was a food cart.

“Oh, and breakfast! How delightful.” She released the poor pony, and brought in the cart with her magic.

“Good morning, Celestia. It’s a fine morning, isn’t it? Kibitz asked if I could bump up our trade agreement while over breakfast, and I thought it would be enjoyable.”

“Always is, with my former Captain of the Royal Guard.”

With Kibitz’s magic, a table was cleared, and the two ponies sat down to eat while discussing trade between the Crystal Empire and the rest of Equestria. It was a good hour before conversation began drifting from business to personal matters.

“It seems to be getting harder and harder to get good produce up there that isn’t all… crystally.”

Celestia let out a laugh. “No, I’m afraid not. We should be able to push some things ahead for you, Shining.”

“That would be great.”

A cough from Kibitz later, Shining looked to Celestia with a nervous gaze. “S-so, how is Mark?”

“Oh, he’s doing just fine,” Celestia said, pretending to not notice the two stallion’s interaction. “I would have loved him to join us for breakfast, but a prince-to-be has tasks as well.”

“Right, right.” Shining pulled on the collar of his uniform. “So… uh…”

Deciding to help the stallion out, Celestia said, “How is dear little Flurry Heart?”

Shining Armor let out a held breath, grateful. “Oh, she’s still getting into trouble. I don’t know if I was such a rascal when I was her age, but if so, I feel pity for Mom and Dad.”

“Mhm. You were always on your best behavior around me, especially once little Twilight became my protegee.”

“Of course. I wanted to be a guard, and—”

“Ahem.”

Both ponies looked to Kibitz. Celestia raised a brow, but Shining tried his best to avoid direct eye contact.

“Right. That thing.” Shining turned back to Celestia, pushing his empty plate towards the center of the table.

Then took a long drink of water.

Then started to fumble with his napkin, before Kibitz’s magic yanked it away from the stallion with a fierce glare.

Shining gulped. “So… did you read the paper this morning, Celestia?”

“Why yes, I did. Good things happening in Canterlot, no fires needing to be put out.”

“Yes, and one article in particular…?”

“Hrm?”

“Well, the one about you and Mark’s—”

Suddenly, the study door slammed open, an irate Blueblood storming in followed by a overly calm Hank the guard.

“Sorry, Princess, Captain Armor, but Prince Blueblood said it was urgent he enter,” said Hank with all the enthusiasm of being swallowed by a boa constrictor.

“Yes, I was told you were meeting with Prince Shining Armor, over a trade deal without me.

“Well, yes, because this has nothing to do with you,” Celestia said with a smile.

“Outrageous! I am your legal financial advisor(2), and I cannot have you throwing countless bits into a kingdom within our kingdom!”

Shining Armor sighed, although more grateful for the topic change. “Here we go…”

Blueblood brought over his own chair and took a seat at the table, facing the two. With a wave of Celestia’s hoof, Hank bowed and exited, closing the door.

Blueblood floated over a single bagel and took a small nibble. “Normally I’d rather be in my own study for our meetings, but no sense in wasting time bringing two ponies there when I could come here.”

“Sensible, Blue,” Celestia said with a forced smile.

“Princess! You should know not to call me such pet names around guests!”

“Shining Armor is my nephew—”

“In law!” Blueblood protested.

“—and therefore counts as family, such as yourself.”

“As former Captain of the Royal Guard, he is also an employee of the crown, and now prince of a foreign nation, therefore making him a guest.”

Shining Armor ran a hoof down his face, eyes bloodshot. Giving Celestia a look, he shook his head in surrender.

“Very well, my apologies, Prince Blueblood.” Celestia’s voice dripped venom.

“Apology accepted, Princess.” Not that he would notice any, his blood poisonous already.

Not one for decorum since wedding Cadance, then managing a whole kingdom, followed by raising Flurry Heart, Shining Armor placed both hooves on the table. “Okay, now that I’ll never get those last five minutes back in my mortal life, can we please move on? Cady is waiting for me to wrap this up and—”

“Oh heavens no, Prince Armor. We have much to discuss.” With a burst of magic, a large stack of papers appeared on the table, all the foodstuffs, plates, and even their glasses of water vanishing, followed by a ruckus of crashing dishes outside the door.

“Now, about the tax on those crystal berries…”

----------

Two hours later, Celestia was beginning to think staying in bed was the right thing to have done. Or sent Mark in her stead and watched the fireworks from her balcony. He was so much like Luna at times it was scary, but his compassionate side made up for his brash behaviour and foul mouth when it seemed to come out.

Plus the sex was just that damned good.

She was just so glad that their conflicting minds didn’t drive a wedge in their relationship. If anything, it bonded them further, although it was a rough, shaky start.

“So, after an increase of point zero one two percent annually, on your side, Armor, then an increase of point zero one five on ours, your new kingdom shall still prosper respectively, while also helping compensate the crowns for the extra reserve guards, extra time for pushed-up training courses, and drawing in approximately five guards out of retirement to assist with said training, we should be compensated in a matter of a few centuries.”

Comparatively, Shining Armor looked like he was ready to just outright murder somepony. A white unicorn, to be more exact.

If Celestia didn’t say anything soon, the popping vein on Shining Armor’s forehead was going to burst.

“Well, dear nephew, I think that’s fair. Would you be willing to draw up the paperwork?”

The very idea of Blueblood drawing up paperwork was a nightmare in itself, but there was one positive outcome that at the current moment outweighed the future editing and spike in price of red ink.

“Why, of course, Auntie! I shall begin drawing the pages posthaste!” His horn glowed as all the strewn papers disappeared, and with a bow, Blueblood took his leave.

The whole time, Shining Armor did not move, and barely blinked. Upon Blueblood’s departure, Hank walked in with a pink plush pillow, embroidered with a blue crystal heart.

Celestia watched in rapt fascination as Hank closed the door, walked up to Shining Armor, hoofed over the pillow, and turned around so he was back to back with the former Captain.

Hank motioned to his side. “Princess, if you could join me, please.”

Brow raised, Celestia joined Hank, back to her nephew-in-law, and waited.

The next thing she heard was a new sound to her. It was like the motor of a zeppelin going rampant, out of control and only getting louder, but shoved into a glass ship bottle, corked closed, so the sound was muffled.

At the very last second, there was a muffled, high-pitched shriek, and all was quiet. The pink pillow was floated back to Hank, now covered in what Celestia figured to be saliva, and with a salute the guard left the room.

Celestia turned back to her nephew-in-law, the popping vein gone, and a warm smile on his face.

“Sorry about that, Celestia. I knew there was one large, white-and-gold-haired reason that the Crystal Empire was worth the distance from home.”

Giggling, Celestia asked, “And no pestering of the parents?”

Shining shrugged. “Well, they got Flurry. Pressure’s off my back, but Twiley, on the other hoof…”

Celestia went silent. “No. I would not allow a stallion to even get near her.”

Both looked at each other, then burst into a laughter fit.

After several seconds, another knock on the door, and Hank entered.

“Princess, Captain, both Consort Mark and Princess Mi Amo—”

“Hank, please don’t call me by my full name.”

“—And Princess Cadance.”

Knowing the guard for so long, Celestia caught there was a sigh in there, but Hank was one not to show outward emotions when on duty.

That was when Celestia had a thought. One she needed to share with Cadence when they were alone.

Hank continued. “They’re wondering if you would like to remain in the study for lunch or head off to the dining hall?”

Celestia and Shining Armor shared a glance.

“If it’s all the same, Celestia, I’d like to leave this room.”

“Agreed. Hank, let them know we shall convene in the dining hall.”

“Yes, Princess.” Hank turned around, flanks still in the study. “Princess Celestia wishes to meet in the dining hall.”

With an audible clop, Celestia’s gold-clad hoof found her forehead.

----------

Lunch was always a wonderful meal for Celestia. Breakfast and dinner were better, because she got to share the time with her sister, but lunch was the only time that she spent it with all the important ponies in her life. Friends, family, castle staff. It was a special time for special ponies, the castle staff would rotate shifts so that everypony in the palace would have lunch one day of the week with Celestia and those closest to her. And the best part?

The nobles hated it, and stayed as far away as possible. Well, most did… Fancy Pants and his wife, Fleur, were good company and frequented lunch(3) a few times a month.

Today, Celestia and Mark were sharing lunch with Princess Cadance, Prince Shining Armor, Kibitz, a very hungover Raven, and upon her insistence, Royal Guard Hank and maid Ensemble.

The two seats to Celestia’s right had been reserved for a couple of Saddle Arabian visitors staying in the castle, but apparently they had canceled some weeks ago. The seats, however, were still “reserved” in the sense that Celestia said they were until she said they weren’t.

“Oh here, Hank, Ensemble, please have a seat.”

And it was at that very moment when she offered them to the Royal Guard and maid, respectively, Cadence gave Celestia a sly smirk at the seating placement. She knew well enough of the two very single ponies, all the while Celestia playing shocked that she would insinuate anything.

Celestia raised a hoof to her chest. “I mean really, Cadence, what do you take me for?”

Cadence looked over to her husband, then her future uncle.

Mark shrugged, hands up. “I have no comment. I rather enjoy sleeping in her large, oversized bed instead of the couch.”

Patting his head with a wing, Celestia beamed. “That’s a good prince-consort.”

“Plus she apparently likes to rub herself all over me so I smell like her. I also smell horrible because we didn’t have any running water.”

That pat became a harmless slap, and Mark was quick to grab the wing and give it a kiss before she could pull it back to her side.

“Yeah, I did find it odd that the water was out,” Cadence mused, happily munching on her salad.

“These things happen,” Celestia said. “When he first joined Shining and me, I thought Blueblood was sitting at the far end of our table in the study to keep an eye on us, but after a while…”

“Aha ha ha!” Mark burst into laughter. “You two stunk to high Hell! Owch!”

Celestia retracted her wing once more, glaring at Mark. “YOU didn’t shower either, you know.”

“Yeah, but I’m a guy, and I’m a human. We naturally just smell bad all the time. Your little ponies haven’t invented deodorant yet(4).”

“Nor do we really see the need. We rely on scents and sweat for all manner of tasks.”

“This nose knows that we all just smell bad.” Mark waved a hand, fanning away the smell.

Celestia dabbed a napkin on her lips. “Miss Raven, could you make sure there is an extra pillow and blanket on my lounge tonight? I have a hunch the space will be needed.”

Raven Inkwell nodded, fork still hovering in front of her face, her food cold, and mumbled, “As long as you can turn down the brightness of the sun, Your Majesty.”

“Raven!” Kibitz shouted, causing the mentioned mare to shy away, ears folded. “That is no such way to speak to Her Majesty!”

“My apologies, Your Majesty. I’m still a bit under the weather.”

Celestia smiled. “No worries Raven. Kibitz, please ensure Raven keeps hydrated and stays away from any Miranda.”

“Miranda?” Mark asked.

“Her marefriend, I think,” Royal Guard Hank said, taking a bite of his food.

Everypony went silent, staring at the guard. He didn’t notice the strange looks, enjoying his oatmeal.

Ensemble cleared her throat. “Wow, he really is dense. At least he’s got a uniform…” She grinned, eyeing up the guard.

Cadence and Celestia rolled their eyes, and eating resumed around the table.

----------

A servant had called Kibitz aside, and when the elderly stallion returned to the table, his face wore a heavy-set frown.

“Apologies, Your Majesties, but it seems the water is still not fixed,” Kibitz said, giving Mark a glare.

The human raised a brow. The aid simply rolled his eyes knowingly.

Celestia shrugged her shoulders. “Such is life, we shall prevail.”

“Speak for yourselves. I feel like I’m back at the Heartland horse ranch(5).” Mark took a drink from his glass. “Surrounded by mood-swinging women and the smell of horse sh—”

This time, both Celestia’s and Cadence’s wings smacked the human. His head hit the hardwood table with a resounding thud, glassware and silverware rattling from the impact.

“So, speaking of mood swings, Celestia, how are you doing?”

Everypony, save for a mumbling Mark, went deathly silent as they looked from Cadence to Celestia.

Celestia, brow raised, stared at her niece in confusion. “Well, I’ve been quite well. Why do you ask?”

“Oh, I just assumed by this morning’s paper, things might already be starting. You know, unusual cravings, mood swings, lust.”

Both Shining Armor and Mark shuddered.

Her brow still raised, Celestia studied the ponies around her, all staring on with rapt attention.

Except for Hank, who was being lectured by Ensemble about beverages other than water and sports drinks.

“I… don’t quite follow.”

“Well, it’s just, we all read a very… interesting article this morning in the paper, and while it wasn’t on the cover, it did grab our attention.”

Princess Celestia tapped her chin. “Hrm, no, I cannot say that anything caught my attention. All seems right in the world this fine morning.”

Several ponies’ jaws dropped. Cadence was brimming with a large smile taking over her muzzle.

“Really? Truly!? That means you’re—”

Cadence was cut off by a Royal Guard marching into the dining room.

“My apologies, Your Highness, but the situation is growing out of hoof.”

Celestia looked around the table at the still ponies.

“Situation?” Celestia asked. “I see no situation. We’re having a rather peaceful lunch.”

The guard shook his head. “No, Your Highness, not here. The throne room is being overwhelmed by ponies for this afternoon’s weekly conference. We’ve had to break up several fights already.”

Celestia balked. “What? Why? Kibitz, do you know anything about this?”

“Well, honestly I’m not quite sure. At first I thought it a rumor in the paper that was make-believe.”

“And what rumor would that be?” Celestia asked.

“Well, that you and Prince Consort Mark are expecting, of course.”

“Expecting?” Celestia asked.

“Expecting what?” Mark quickly followed up, brow raised.

“Oh really now, Auntie! You don’t have to hide it from us! We all know!”

Cadence was quick to pounce on her aunt, hugging the white alicorn with all her might.

“Yeah, congrats, ya big lug!” Shining Armor slapped Mark’s back with a resounding thud, nearly taking the wind out of him.

“Uh… thanks? I guess?” Mark questioned, looking at his future wife.

Celestia shrugged, and pushed her niece away. “Really now, I know the wedding is coming up, but you all really need to calm down. Now, we must take our leave, we’ve all got very busy afternoons.”

Both Mark and Celestia stood from their seats and gave each other a brief kiss.

With a wave of magic, Kibitz produced two scrolls, one of them vanishing. “I suppose this is the correct one for the occasion then. My congratulations, Your Highness.” He quickly bowed, and then marched over to Mark, pushing the human along. “Now chop-chop, we’ve got a very busy day!”

Celestia hollered to her lover, “Now, be nice to Kibitz. Do as he says.”

“Yeah, and try not to kill Raven any more than she’s already dead. She really hit it off last night with that batpony.”

“Thestral, dear, do please make sure to not offend anypony!”

“I’ll try, but no promises.”

Mark quickly rushed over for another kiss, and with physical insistence by his Royal Guard Composite, the two marched out of the dining room and followed Kibitz down the hall.

Letting out a small laugh, Celestia also exited the room, dragging a very drowsy Raven and Royal Guard Hank with her.

The Crystal Princess and Prince watched them all leave, and leaned into one another, contented smiles upon their muzzles. “I’m so happy for them.”

Cadence nodded in agreement. “Yeah, just imagine, a foal in time for the wedding.”

Ensemble, who was smelling the seat Hank had sat in, froze, and slowly turned to face the two partners. “Wait, their what?”

----------

Celestia, the kind-hearted alicorn that she was, walked at a slow, gentle prance so that she didn’t outpace her still-recovering aide.

“Raven, my little pony, if you could just hold out until after court today, you can turn in and rest. I’ll make sure to get a temporary lined up for tomorrow so you can compose yourself.”

Raven shook her head, her bun nearly undoing itself, her usual bun pin(6) replaced with a pencil. “No, no worries, Princess, I’ll be fine…”

With a warm smile and gentle shake of her head, Celestia continued on. Her magic briefly came to life, fixing her aide’s mane, and wiped off a trace glob of food on her chest. They rounded the corner to enter her throne room, where Celestia would make her weekly speech before opening court.

Stepping in from a back door, she could already hear the literal mob of ponies outside the solid oak double doors. “My, my, they really are foaming at the bits, aren’t they?”

“It would appear so, Your Highness.”

Celestia nearly jumped, Royal Guard Hank magically at her side. “When did you… Oh, never mind, Hank go ahead and let them in. Let's get this party started.”

“Yes, Your Highness.” Hank strode to the doors, knocking twice, and before he could turn around, the doors burst open, sending him flying backwards.

Waves, nay, scores of ponies rushed in, brandishing cameras, notepads, recorders, all manner of things. Media ponies of all sorts fought to take a seat, some nearly biting one another over chairs and cuts in line.

She watched this all with shock. It had been quite some time that one of her weekly speeches riled up ponies like this. Even her engagement to Mark hadn’t caused this much of a ruckus, nor the return of her sister to power.

Several more minutes of ponies arguing, fighting, and guards trying to calm everypony down, Celestia had had enough, and stood.

“SILENCE!”

Everypony shut up quickly.

“Today has been a rather tiring day, my little ponies, and I’d appreciate it if you’d all act with civility and compassion. There is more than enough room for you all, and if we need to, I will request more chairs. However, let it be known that this room, for safety reasons, may only house four hundred and twelve ponies.

“So once we hit that number, you will be turned away. I apologize, but that’s how it is.

“Do I make myself clear?”

All at once, everypony, even guards, nodded their heads, and quietly took their seats. Ponies giving each other their seats, allowing shorter ponies to the front, all the right kinds of civility that Celestia expected in her ponies, and rarely got to see.

“Thank you,” she said, and sat once again in her throne.

“Are you alright, Rav—? Raven? Where? Oh.”

Against the wall, Royal Guard Hank was knocked out, slumped over the also-knocked-out body of Raven.

“Of course. On my own, as it seems.”

A wave of magic removed the two ponies from the throne room and into the infirmary, where they would hopefully be treated as seen fit.

----------

Ensemble waited casually on the medical table, awaiting her usual pre-heat exam, when a puff of magic dropped two unconscious ponies literally in her lap. The stud Royal Guard Hank, and the hot-ass cougar Raven.

The two groggy ponies began to stir, and looked up into the glowing eyes of the mare before them.

Ensemble grinned madly. “Alright, threesome!”

----------

The commotion had picked up once again with everypony comfortable and yet fidgeting with excitement in their seats. Celestia’s right ear twitched when she thought she heard a scream, but let it be. So long as it involved Mark, then Kibitz would have it all under control. Anything else… she’d just let it get swept under the rug, like most of the castle happenings she wasn’t always supposed to know about, but did anyway.

----------

“Alright, so this wasn’t technically my fault,” Mark said, pointing to his knocked-out guard. “Somepony seems to have swapped out the new Mark 4 Armor(7) helmet with a dummy version, but what should have happened, was the baseball bat splintering into pieces and leaving Composite here conscious and unhurt.”

The prospective investors, developers, and horrified designers looked to Mark with varying expressions, but most were not of a positive light.

“So while I go find another guard and the correct helmet, would somepony take this guy down to the infirmary? Oh, and just make sure you don’t leave him alone, I think Ensemble is down there, her heat’s come on early. Her scent is literally glued to my clothes, the little freak batpo— Er, I mean, thestral.”

----------

With another sigh, Celestia watched the clock strike one, which meant it was time.

She cleared her throat, gathering everypony’s attention. She sat up straight in her seat and began talking in a loud, authoritative voice. Booming, but not forceful, so that all of her little ponies could hear her clearly.

“Fillies and gentlecolts, thank you once again for joining me for this weekly update on the crown. As is customary, I shall go over the finances, the stocks, the good, the bad, and lastly any small personal matters I think you all need to know about me, or Prince Consort Mark. Then we will have fifteen minutes of questions, and then once everypony has left the throne room, I will begin my day court.

“Hank, would… oh right, my guard is… Raven can… oh no, she is too.”

Everypony stared at Celestia, still gawking.

“I suppose I’m on my own. Very well, let us begin.” With her magic, Kibitz’s scroll came up to her muzzle, and she began.

Author's Note:

Because I'm a salvage man and I like to use parts of things on other things, I stole a thing I saw Georg do a few times, so have at it!

(*) The scale went Yellow: World Ending, Blue: Important, Green: Good news, and lastly Pink: Cake competition. Unbeknownst to Celestia, Kibitz often “lost” the pink highlighters, so they were never addressed as frequently as they appeared.

(1) If she could, Ensemble would bottle and sell the scent of a stallion, or in this case, one human consort. Although she would end up hoarding it all to herself to enjoy.

(2) Self appointed, mind you. He was a braggart, arrogant, and a royal pain in the flanks, but he knew how to balance a checkbook and keep one from going broke. Luna only surrendered the position to keep the knave from driving her batty(2a).

(2a) A term widely frowned upon by the nocturne, many other ponies use it to describe when a pony is on the verge of maiming another. Very common among the guards, even those of Luna’s Night Guard, for when Princess Luna wanted to maim somepony, she’d bare her fangs(2b).

(2b) Fake, but still good for intimidating.

(3) Being of the generous type, Fancy would always offer to bring something to share for lunch, on him. Be it three dozen cheese cakes, or five tubs of strawberry ice cream for dessert.

(4) https://practicalhorsemanmag.com/health-archive/scoop_on_sweat_032310-11484 Horses DO sweat! It’s important for a pony to sweat to help them keep cool. Most of their shampoos and conditioners are imbued with scents so that they can smell nice, while being allowed to sweat.

(5) Mark’s mother was a horse girl growing up, and still loved to watch the live horse races, rodeos, and the many television shows. Heartland was one of the few he himself also enjoyed, and it could be argued that he had, in fact, lived the life, if not in reality, then through that show.

(6) A bun pin is a special, ornate, or even homemade stick of wood, metal, brass, gold, whatever, for holding a hair bun firmly in place. Very common for ponies who do a lot of moving around and don’t want their long manes, or even tails, getting in the way. Raven had thought about cutting her mane shorter like her tail, but insistence from Celestia that “A mare’s gotta let her mane down sometimes,” she decided to leave it the normal length.

(7) A joke taken too far, even Mark himself is disgusted with the name choice. He just never thought the pun, as well as the reference to his childhood video game obsession, would haunt him in Equestria.