A Breakfast of Time Loops

by Obselescence

First published

Princess Celestia, in her infinite wisdom, comes to the conclusion that she doesn't have nearly enough time to do everything on her busy schedule. Not a problem for her, though. The solution to having no time is obvious: just make some more.

If you think that your day is a little too short,
With too much to do for twenty-four hours,
Then you fall back on the final resort,
And go back in time with your magical powers.

Princess Celestia, in her infinite wisdom, comes to the conclusion that she doesn't have anywhere near enough time to do everything on her busy schedule. Not a problem for her, though. The solution to having no time is obvious: just make some more.

Chapter One: Ourobor-O's

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“I cannot believe this,” said Celestia, nibbling anxiously at her toast. She opened up another letter and read it over with a great heaving sigh. “Simply cannot believe this.”

Sighing again, she took another letter from the pile and another piece of toast from her plate and continued the routine. By the second bite of parchment and third paragraph of burnt crust, she couldn’t help but wonder if perhaps the stress was getting to her. Just the teensiest bit.

“It’s madness!” she grumbled aloud, crumpling the half-eaten letter and stuffing the toast in her mouth. She chased it down with a glass of orange juice and took a deep breath to steady herself. Calm, Celestia reminded herself. She had to keep calm. She’d been through this before, year after year. Some years, even, without suffering a minor breakdown. She only had to keep her head.

From the other end of the Royal Dining Table came the smallest ahem, shaking Celestia out of her thoughts and reminding her that—oh yes—she was sharing breakfast with Luna this morning. She’d almost forgotten.

“What madness do you speak of, Dearest Sister?” Luna asked, giving her a rather too-wide smile. “Is it that you have finally deigned to spend some part of your busy morning with me? Or is it that you have brought your correspondence to our meal together?” She took a sip of tea and her smile stretched just a little wider. “Yes,” she said thoughtfully. “That would be madness indeed.”

Celestia buried her head in her hooves. Of course, Luna would have been looking forward to this. And, of course, the Sisters’ Special Breakfast Together had been scheduled for the worst possible time. Was it Luna or her who’d made that particular mistake? She couldn’t imagine ever agreeing to anything right at the start of spring, but—oh, what did it matter? She only had so much time to spend with her little sister, and here she was, squandering it.

“I’m so sorry, Luna,” she said. “It’s just... you know.” She motioned to the huge stack of letters sitting beside her at the table. It was a small mountain of parchment and ink, some of which was already spilling over onto the table, encroaching on the toasted oats. “Springtime.”

Luna took another sip of her tea, looking somewhat mollified. “I grant you my forgiveness, then, Sister,” she said. “But, pray tell, what is so special about the time of spring that you’ve received such plentiful... numerous...” Luna paused as the pile of letters shifted, finally burying the toasted oats. “I have honestly never seen so much mail,” she finished.

“Oh, yes, right,” said Celestia. “I’d forgotten. It started a little after your time. Mmm... eight hundred years ago, I want to say?” Her horn glowed bright white for a moment as she levitated a dozen or so letters over to Luna’s end of the table. “Perhaps you ought to see for yourself?”

Using her own magic, Luna organized the letters into a neat stack and held them up. Celestia sat back, helped herself to a plate of hash browns, and awaited the inevitable.

To Your Royal Highness, Princess Celestia...” Luna read. “We understand that your schedule is demanding and... but it would be our greatest pleasure... if you could visit our wonderful city of Baltimare.”

She raised an eyebrow and gave Celestia a patronizing glance, but continued on to the next letter without a word. “We anxiously await your arrival in Ponyville...” She flipped through a few more. “If you would consider appearing in Las Pegasus for the grand reopening of... The town of Appleloosa hopes... I’m throwing a wild house party while my parents are out this weekend and if you wouldn’t mind coming over too much...”

She set the letters down, took another sip of tea, and politely wiped her mouth with a napkin. She took a deep breath.

These are all invitations?” she shouted. “All of them?

“All of them,” said Celestia, polishing off the last of the hash browns. “And those are just the ones from last night. We’re expecting another dozen or so by noon.”

“By the stars above!” Luna gasped. “How do you manage?”

“I don’t,” said Celestia simply. She levitated a plate of gooey yellow eggs over to Luna’s end of the table, hoping to change the subject. “Eggs Benedict, Luna? There’s still some left.”

Luna shook her head, pushing the plate away. “No eggs, Benedict or otherwise, Sister. I would much rather hear more of your predicament.”

“There’s not much else to tell,” said Celestia, taking the plate back. “It’s become custom for the Princess...es to make appearances at every town once winter ends.” She picked sullenly at the eggs, toying with the idea of finishing them. “To usher in the new season, you see. It’s just that there are quite a few more towns these days than there used to be...”

“A burdensome commitment, it sounds,” said Luna. She drained her tea and tapped the cup to signal the servants for a refill. “Quite the onerous obligation to put on a princess.”

“It’s just how things are,” said Celestia, giving her food a light jab with her fork and nibbling at what came up, “and have been for a long time. You’ll get used to it, I suppose. Someday.”

“Perhaps I might, once I rejoin the public,” said Luna. She chuckled. “But it seems to me that you are not quite used to it yourself, Sister, even with eight hundred years’ experience.”

“Not that I ever said I was.”

“Ah, well... true,” Luna admitted, her chuckle fading. She stopped for a moment, deep in thought. “Surely, though, you cannot accept every invitation?” She gestured toward the massive pile of letters sitting by Celestia. “I mean, there cannot possibly be enough time for all of them.”

Celestia shrugged, hoping Luna could see it from her end of the table. “Well I can’t be everywhere at once, obviously.” She stared down at her plate, into the mutilated remains of her once-proud Eggs Benedict. “And this spring is looking busier than ever. I probably will end up refusing some of these.” She sighed and pushed her plate away, allowing a servant to pick it up and scurry off. “Hopefully not too many,” she said. “I never enjoy saying no to my—our subjects.”

“Well,” said Luna teasingly, “you might consider my assistance in handling these matters. I have been working on my demeanor when speaking with our subjects, and I believe I could easily become quite popular amongst them.”

The servant stallion refilling Luna’s tea coughed.

Luna coughed louder.

“In all seriousness,” she said, glaring at the servant as he slipped away, “I do not have a solution. It seems a conundrum wrapped in a quandary.” She paused for a moment, then added, “Ensconced in a pickle, of course.”

“No, it’s not an ideal situation,” Celestia agreed glumly. “Not at all.”

The two of them sat in silence for a while after that, sipping tea and exchanging meaningful glances. A few remarks about the weather—perfect, as usual—were made, but for the most part, the mood had been permanently dampened. Most of what was there to say had already been said, so the rest of it amounted to simple brooding.

There had been worse endings to a Sisters’ Special Breakfast Together, Celestia supposed.

Eventually the silence was broken by the entrance of a gold-armored guard. Celestia held her breath and braced herself as he advanced toward her end of the table. She knew exactly what he was going to say, and she knew that she wasn’t ready to hear it. Slowly, almost menacingly, he leaned toward her until his muzzle was only a few inches away. She could feel his breath, warm and moist, on her neck...

“The time now is almost eight o’clock, Princess,” he whispered. “Your chariot to Baltimare awaits.”

“Ah... yes... thank you, Holt,” said Celestia, holding back a groan. She made a few mechanical dabs at her mouth with her napkin and stood up from her seat. “I’m... sorry, Luna,” she said, “but I’m afraid I must be off.”

“No, it is of no trouble to me,” said Luna. She nodded and gave Celestia an encouraging smile—perhaps the most genuine she’d worn all morning. “I only hope you will forgive my prior frustration, Sister. If I had only known...”

“Oh, it wouldn’t have made what I’d done any less rude,” said Celestia, returning the smile and adding a wink, “but apology accepted. You can make it up to me later.”

And with that final parting shot, she turned to Holt, her smile hardening into something altogether more stonelike and solemn. “Lead me to the chariot now, Holt,” she ordered. “Every second counts.”

“As you command, Your Highness,” said Holt with a salute. He rushed to open the doors for her and bowed. “Right this way.”

“Fare thee well, Sister,” called Luna, waving goodbye as Celestia followed Holt into the halls, “and best of luck to you.”

Celestia gave a half-hearted wave back as the double-doors to the Royal Dining Hall closed behind her. She sighed one last time before composing herself. A cohort of guards formed up around her in the corridors, as escort to her chariot, and she followed them quietly, with customary grace and bearing.

Breakfast with Luna was all well and good, but it was time now for her to fulfill her duties as Princess. To follow what had been tradition for eight hundred years, give or take. To go out and share the joy of welcoming spring with every one of her manifold subjects...

Or at least, Celestia thought, as a rather sickening pit began to form in her stomach, with as many of them as can fit in the schedule.


It was midnight when Celestia finally returned to the castle—or thereabouts. She wasn’t entirely sure. Time had taken on a strange and blurry quality since she’d left to meet her subjects. Seconds bleeding into minutes into hours. If she’d left at eight, and spent eternity in Baltimare, the time now was anypony’s guess. In fact... it had been midnight for quite a while, hadn’t it?

Well, who could say?

She staggered and swayed as she stepped down from the chariot, trying her best to keep standing in a room that had gone on full tilt. She focused on Luna, standing near the corner, and started tottering toward her. It wasn’t too hard to work out a path from there. Just a quick detour to the left, a stumble to the right, and an adorable little gasp from Luna to punctuate every uneasy step. She’d even almost made it by the time her knees buckled and her legs gave out entirely.

“Sister!” cried Luna, running up to stabilize her. “Are you all right?”

Celestia hiccuped. “Am I?” she asked dreamily. “I suppose I might be. It’s hard to tell when you’ve had a taste of that old Baltimare brew. Takes the edge right off of reason.” She laughed. “No, no, I’m fine... It’s fine. Just give me a second to get my bearings.”

“More than a second, I should think,” said Luna, helping her back on her hooves. “Shall I escort you to your chambers, Sister?”

“Ooh, that would be nice, wouldn’t it?” She steadied herself on Luna’s outstretched wing, still a little woozy, and hiccuped again. “I do think you shall.”

“It will be naught but my pleasure,” said Luna. She opened the door to the corridors with her magic and helped Celestia forward. “We will call it the recompense I owe you from this morning... Or perhaps,” she said, with a teasing twinkle in her eye, “you shall now be in my debt.”

“Of course, Luna.” Celestia chuckled. “But you’ll have to remind me about it in the morning.”

“Believe me, I shall.”

Celestia would have had a witty reply to that one, had she not been interrupted by a particularly loud and guttural throat-clearing. “Erm... Princess?” asked one of the guards still holstered to the chariot. He gave a meaningful glance toward the harness mounted squarely on his armored shoulders. “Not to be rude, crude, or in any way disrespectful to your conversation, but if you could, uh, please—”

Oh, dismissed, the lot of you!” shouted Luna, shooing them off. “Get thee gone, wastrels, and darken our discussion no more!

“Volume, Luna,” Celestia whispered. “We’ve talked about this.”

“And you,” hissed Luna, “require rest.” She pushed Celestia past the herd of scurrying guards and shut the door firmly behind her. “Come now, let us find you your mattress.”

As had been tradition since time immemorial, Celestia’s royal chambers were kept in the highest tower of Canterlot Castle. Always. Symbolically, it was important, to establish the position of Princess as highest amongst all those in the land.

Practically, it meant that going to bed required a long and grueling climb along a series of winding staircases.

Tonight, though, she didn’t quite mind. Every step extra meant just a little more time with her sister, and if that required some huffing and puffing and leaning on Luna’s back... Well, she could bear it. And hopefully Luna could too. Quality time between sisters was currently at a premium, what with her busy schedule, and Luna’s own, not-quite-so-busy schedule. Still, Celestia intended to grab as much of it as she could, before it was all eaten up by travel, tradition, and town visits.

Celestia’s heart sank at the very thought. Time had become a rare commodity lately, hadn’t it?

“You know, I saw so many wonderful ponies today,” Celestia mused, as she trudged up the stairs beside Luna. “But I couldn’t help but think of all those I didn’t see.”

“I am most sorry to hear that,” said Luna, with a note of strained sympathy. Perhaps it was from helping her bigger, heavier sister up a few hundred steps and then some. Or maybe it was because she was sick of hearing about how popular Celestia was when she had the opposite problem. Either way it sounded very much like a subtle clue to shut up.

But the old Baltimare Brew had a way with restraint, in that there was never much left after drinking it, and so Celestia kept talking. “‘All those poor, poor ponies in Appleloosa,’ I said to myself,” she continued, the words almost spilling out of her mouth. “‘What are they going to think when they’re told their Princess is too busy to see them?’”

“Perhaps you should consider giving thought to the positives?” Luna suggested politely as she pushed Celestia up another step. “Oh, do watch the floor there—cracked, I believe... But yes, perhaps you would prefer to think on that which has been accomplished, instead of that which has been left undone?”

“I just don’t know about that, Luna,” she said sadly. “You saw the letters this morning, right? I’ve gotten so little done today, and there’s so much more left to do...”

“Well, for all that it is worth,” said Luna, “it might please you to know that your subjects appreciate your attentions. Baltimare, Cloudsdale, and Manehattan have already sent in their thanks for your visit.” She coughed and gave Celestia a hasty shove. “Not that I have been reading your correspondence, of course.”

“Of course,” Celestia chuckled, plodding up another few steps in response. “And I’ll bet you’ve never been through my diary ei—” she stopped as her brain processed all of what Luna had just said. “I didn’t go to Cloudsdale today. Baltimare and Manehattan, yes, but Cloudsdale was scheduled for tomorrow.”

The news gave Luna pause too. “Odd,” she said. “They seemed quite apologetic about the incident at the—I mean, surely they would not have sent thanks for your visit if you had not already visited?”

“I’ll sort it out before going to bed,” said Celestia, yawning. “Or maybe after. I don’t know. Just keep me moving, or I might fall asleep here.”

Eventually, the two princesses reached the top of the tower, where the golden door to Celestia’s room stood before them. “I should be fine from here, Luna,” said Celestia, finally managing to stand on her own four hooves. “Thank you for sticking with me this far, though.”

“’Twas no trouble to me, Sister,” said Luna, gasping from the effort. “My pleasure, in fact, to accompany you to your chambers. Though, before I tell you good night, I should say that I think—”

But she did not manage to say what she was thinking, because at that very moment the door to Celestia’s chambers flew right open.

And standing in the doorway was none other than Princess Celestia herself.

“Oh, good, you’re finally here,” said the Celestia at the door. “I’ve been waiting for hours.”

Celestia’s eyes widened in shock. Well, that was unexpected. Not the strangest thing she had ever seen greet her at her bedroom door, but it was certainly up there. Slightly above the three-hundred pound vat of green slime and somewhere below the four-hundred pounder.

Luna, behind her, was visibly paling at the sight of not one, but two older sisters. She whispered something Celestia couldn’t quite hear, but it sounded very much like a word that had been unspeakably foul a few centuries ago.

“You’ll be wanting this,” said the Celestia at the door, holding an ancient yellow scroll out to the Celestia on the stairwell. “Do be a dear and remember to give this to yourself later.”

She accepted it wordlessly, trying to keep an open mind about the mysterious present she had just received. At least it didn’t seem to be green slime. That, in itself, was fairly promising.

“That’ll be it then,” said the Celestia at the door, giving her a cheerful wave. “Happy trails.” And in a flash of light, she disappeared.

A pause.

“Well,” said Celestia.

“Well indeed,” agreed Luna.

They took just a moment more to stare at each other, then leapt into the room and shut the door behind them as quickly as they could manage.

Open it, open it, open it!” Luna shrieked.

“I’m trying, I’m trying, I’m trying!” said Celestia, fiddling with the knot that kept it rolled together. When she’d finally managed to loosen it, she trotted over to her writing desk and spread the scroll out. She leaned in close and read out loud, “His Eminence, Star Swirl The Bearded Presents: A Spelle For Travel Thru Time.”

Luna’s eyes widened. “A spell...” she began.

“For travel through time...” finished Celestia. “I’m a genius!” She could almost feel all her prior fatigue melting away at the thought of it, replaced instead with a kind of manic energy. “Luna! Do you realize what this could mean?”

“Sister...” said Luna, sounding somewhat less excited, “Perhaps you should put that scroll away and rest first, so as to avoid the perils of a hasty decision. I fear that your wits may yet have been dulled by exhaustion and copious quantities of the olden Brew of Baltimare.”

But neither exhaustion nor the ol’ Baltimare Brew nor Luna’s concerns were much on Celestia’s mind at the moment. “Why, if I did that! Just imagine!” She giggled to herself, practically giddy with excitement. “It’s what I’ve needed all along!”

Sister!” cried Luna. “Reconsider, I beseech you! Do you not remember the perils of time spells? Did we not forbid Star Swirl himself from the practice of such magic?”

That brought Celestia back to her senses. Back from the point of hysteric giggling, at least. “You might be right, Luna,” she said, rubbing her eyes. “Time magic can indeed be dangerous. But just imagine, if I used this spell, I’d have enough time to do everything!”

“My advice to you is to forget of this,” said Luna, placing a hoof on Celestia's shoulder. “Dispose of the scroll, and do not let such matters darken your thoughts again. You have borne this burden before without the use of dangerous spells and I have faith you shall do so again. Please, Sister. Let the past remain as the past, and the future remain as the future.”

Celestia sighed. "I... Yes, you might be right, Luna." She sat down for a moment, deep in thought. So close! For a moment—that one fleeting moment!—it had seemed like she’d found the solution to all her problems. What better way, after all, to get more time than to steal some from time’s gnarled clutches?

Yet, Luna did have a point. Time travel was risky business and always had been. Starswirl had proven that much when he’d managed to blow up half the Canterlot library. Twice. Perhaps the matter did bear a little more thought. She did, after all, have plenty of time to think it ov—

Wait. No, she didn’t. Even now, she was well behind schedule. She still had to get her allotted four hours of sleep, plan the next day’s visits, answer letters... Every minute Celestia spent dithering was a minute she’d never have back. A minute that could have been spent being a better princess for her subjects, lost forever—unless she went back and took it.

Then it hit her. The answer. She turned to Luna with a grin on her face, well aware that it was a bit wider than healthy. “Luna,” she said slowly. “I have a question for you.”

Luna gulped, looking remarkably like a mouse caught in the sights of an eagle. “Yes... Sister?”

“You said that Cloudsdale sent me a letter of thanks for my visit?”

“A letter of thanks arrived, yes, though as you said, you never—” Luna’s eyes widened as she realized the trap. “But I beg you once more—!”

“Well then!” said Celestia, barely bothering to conceal her glee. “It seems that the decision has already been made for me!” She laughed, relieved. She felt so much lighter, with the weight of responsibility off her shoulders, and with a little alcohol in her system. "Don't worry, Luna. I'll be back before you know it."

And before Luna could raise any further objections, she cast the spell. The air hummed with magic and blinding white light flooded the room. Celestia couldn’t see a thing in the midst of it all, but she could feel herself losing substance. Becoming less and less there as her body faded into thin air. She was on her way.

But as she slipped into the timestream, a faint and faraway voice seemed to ring in her insubstantial ears. Perhaps it was just an errant memory making its way into the stream, an echo from the past as she departed the present, but she could almost swore she had heard Luna, telling her...

“Fare thee well, Sister, and best of luck to you.”

Chapter Two: Chicken and Eggs

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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.

Chapter Three: Möbius Bacon Strip

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The letters were endless. Unceasing. Infinite. There had been a time once, lost in the mists of the distant past, when this hadn’t been so, but Celestia could not remember it. The letters had always been, always were, and always would be. They were a law unto themselves, greater by far than her petty influence as Princess of all Equestria. Towering mountains of Could-you-please-visits and vast parchment oceans of If-you-could-helps. No longer ink and envelopes, but a complex geography of requests, through which there was no navigation, and never could be.

Such was the nature of correspondence with her subjects.

Why?” she screamed, tearing the current letter in two. She downed the rest of her tea in one gulp and grimaced. “Fillydelphia again? I could’ve sworn I’d seen them only yesterday!”

“A few weeks ago, actually,” said Luna, serenely seated at her own end of the Royal Dining Table. She flipped through a page of her newspaper without looking up. “And volume, Sister. I believe we have spoken about this.”

“Yes, yes, I know,” said Celestia, rubbing her temples in an effort to stave off her own mid-morning crankiness. She racked her brains, trying to recall if her last visit to Fillydelphia had in fact been a few weeks ago. It felt to her like only yesterday, but what had that been in real time? The calendars had said the eighth when she’d visited for a—a what was it—another one of those Spring-Has-Sprung Festivals... “What day is it now?” she asked.

“The twenty-fourth, according to the Foal Free Press,” said Luna, flipping past another page. “Though, beyond that, their reporting leaves much to be desired.”

The twenty-fourth. Well, it had been a while after all. Celestia groaned. Another visit to Fillydelphia then. No doubt a future version of her was already there, but that was small compensation. If anything, it meant even more work. She’d have to work out the details, pen it into her schedule, and then go back to make the visit on her own time.

And there would be five more letters just like it waiting for her when she returned.

“More tea, please!” Celestia called. “I need a drink...”

In a flash, a Future Celestia was there, kettle ready to refill her cup. She poured the tea out and delivered an exaggerated bow before returning to whence she came.

Celestia took the cup and drained it again. Future Celestias. Honestly. They acted like she was demanding the world of them. Yes, she could have relied on the servants, as she had before she’d started time travelling to pour her own tea, but this was faster. Slightly more work, but in her ever-present duties as Princess, time was of the essence.

She took another letter, opened it, and got as far as Ponyville would be honored before ripping it to shreds. Another trip to Ponyville, another Future Celestia dispatched, another mess to go deal with once she became that same Future Celestia. It was practically routine now. Hard for her to imagine that things had ever been another way.

But surely they must have been, before she’d ever even thought of making time into her plaything. How had she managed back then with so many letters, demands, and requests? She couldn’t have possibly dealt with them all as just Present Celestia.

“Gah!” She slammed her hooves down on the table. It was too much, really. Simply too much. “Gaaaaaah!”

“Do pull yourself together, Sister,” said Luna. She took a sip from her own cup of tea, attention still riveted to her paper. “It’s a bit unbecoming of you to act that way.”

“I don’t see you offering any help,” Celestia grumbled, moving to the next letter in the pile. Ninth out of... nine hundred, maybe.

“Ah, well, I believe I’ve offered my solution already, Sister,” said Luna with syrupy sweetness. “And you have, in your great wisdom, chosen to reject it, so I have no further advice. It is your choice to listen, after all.”

“Harumph.” Celestia tore the letter in half, unamused. “Be that way then.”

“Believe me, I shall.”

By the twentieth letter, which urgently requested her assistance for the disastrous marble crop at the rock farms, Celestia was fit to burst. The stress of it all was too great for any one pony to bear. She couldn’t be expected to deal with it by herself, even with all her Future selves to help with the load. And with all the work she’d been doing lately, she didn’t even have time for her creature comforts, like—

“Cake!” said Celestia, her face suddenly brightening. “That’s it! I’ll have myself some cake!” Nothing better for stress than a sweet little treat, she’d always said. Or two... or twenty, even.

“Oh, is that what this one was about?” asked Luna. She folded up her newspaper and levitated it over to Celestia’s end of the table. “I was wondering...”

“Which one?” Celestia took the paper and unfolded it. Immediately, her eyes were drawn to the headline, beneath which was a picture of Her Royal Highness, Princess Celestia... eating cake.

In an entirely unflattering pose, she had to add.

She looked at Luna. “That... This picture... It wasn’t me!”

Luna looked back at her, eyebrow raised dangerously high.

“...Yet,” Celestia admitted.

“Yet,” agreed Luna, apparently satisfied. “Really, Sister, how many of you are gallivanting about Equestria right now?”

“That’s a little hard to say, Luna. I’d have to go over my notes and check the reports to really—”

“A rough estimate, then.”

“Maybe a dozen,” said Celestia sheepishly. The number did feel a little high now that she’d said it out loud. Somehow, for the past thousand years, the land of Equestria had made do with one Princess Celestia. Did it really need twelve of her at once now?

A small pile of letters, one of many occupying the table, suddenly fell over of its own accord, scattering envelopes everywhere and reminding her that—yes, it really did.

“It doesn’t matter how many, though,” she said firmly. “It’s for the best.”

Luna, for her part, did not look quite so convinced. “Well, you know my opinion on the matter, Sister,” she said, shrugging, “so I shall not belabor the point.” She drank down the last of her tea and tapped the cup for a refill. The call was promptly answered by a servant stallion. “Thank you, Earl Grey,” she said, as he poured her a steaming fresh cup of tea.

“A pleasure to serve, Princess,” he said, bowing with—and Celestia couldn’t help but notice—considerably more enthusiasm than a Future Celestia. She was maybe a bit jealous for that, but not entirely unsurprised. The Castle’s staff had warmed considerably toward Luna since the last Nightmare Night celebration... and cooled somewhat toward Celestia, since she’d started replacing them with her own future selves.

“You know I could’ve gotten that for you,” Celestia mumbled as Earl Grey departed. “It would have been faster.”

“Faster, yes,” said Luna, blowing on her tea to cool it off. “But more effort, and a waste of our servants’ talents. Not to mention their pay. Why bother?”

“Well...” said Celestia. She paused, not entirely sure she had an answer to that one. “I’m only saying that I could have, if you’d wanted me to.”

Luna set her tea down and stared at her. “There is a difference,” she said, “between something that can be done and something that should be done.”

“Much like offering you anything,” said Celestia, only half-joking.

“Likewise,” said Luna, likely not joking.

Celestia huffed and settled back into reading her letters. She was far too busy to deal with Luna’s antics right now. How much time had she lost already, bantering with her? Too much, that was for certain. Even with time travel, she couldn’t escape the tyranny of her own schedule. She was due to give an address to all of Canterlot in only a few hours, and she wanted to make a dent, at least, in her workload before then.

To her great relief, two Future Celestias soon winked into existence beside her and began on working through the pile. The Present Celestia was vaguely aware that she’d have to do the same work over again when she became those Future Celestias, but for now she was simply glad for the help. Certainly she wasn’t going to complain about tripling her workpace.

“You’re both lifesavers,” she said to the Future Celestias working beside her.

“Don’t mention it,” said the one to her right.

“No, really, don’t,” said the one to her left.

“Well, I have seen quite enough,” said Luna, getting up from her seat. She finished her tea and made for the door. “I shall be in my chambers if you need me, Sister.”

“Leaving already, Luna?” Celestia asked, ripping open a new envelope. “You normally stick around a bit longer for a Sisters’ Special Breakfast Together.”

“Do I?” said Luna, looking back briefly. “Then kindly inform me when you intend to hold one.“

And with that parting shot, Luna slammed the doors shut behind her.

For a moment, the room was completely silent. The Future Celestia to her left coughed quietly. “Well, I told you not to, didn’t I?”

The Present Celestia stared at the door, wondering if she should go after Luna and apologize. It wasn’t too late for that, was it? If she ran now, it wouldn’t be entirely impossible to say something to the effect of how sorry she was, and maybe plead for Luna to realize how this was all necessary and that maybe if she’d stop being unreasonable for a moment, she’d...


The thought was interrupted by bright light flared up from behind her, marking the appearance of another Future Celestia. “Another shipment of letters incoming,” she said. "Brace yourself."

“Mmm,” Celestia nodded, distracted. “Yes, all right.”

The new Future Celestia placed a hoof firmly on her shoulder. “I know what you’re thinking,” she said. “Don’t.”

“But—” Present Celestia stopped. In the end, there was no point in arguing with herself. If it wasn’t time yet to reconcile with Luna, it simply wasn’t time yet. Future Celestia would know that better than she did. Better than anyone, really. It wasn’t Present Celestia’s place to alter the future. No, her place right now was still down here, with her letters. With the hundred thousand pleas of all her subjects, and the hundred thousand more soon to follow.

She nodded to the Future Celestia and redoubled her pace. Maybe, if she moved fast enough, she could get through a sizable chunk of unanswered prayers by the time she had to deliver her speech to all Canterlot. A request from a young filly to spend a day with her favorite Princess. A plea from Cloudsdale to preside over the Springtime Races. All wishes she could easily grant, once she’d read them.

And as for Luna... Well. There would be time enough for apologies later. Time enough for another breakfast. Time enough to patch up the damage she’d done this morning. Time, time, time. Whatever else Celestia had given up for the sake of her subjects—her sleep, her sanity, her own sister—she still had time.

If only she knew better how to spend it.

Chapter Four: Ourobor-O's

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Princess Luna had had enough. She had tried to be reasonable. She had tried to be understanding. She had tried everything short of the five-hundred pound vat of green slime. She hadn’t yet figured out how to get a vat that large into her sister’s chambers, but in every other respect, nopony could say she hadn’t tried.

The time for trying was over. It was time now to end this.

Determined, she marched through the corridors of Canterlot Castle, glaring icily at each and every Celestia as she passed them by. A few brave Celestias simply tried to ignore her, but the rest knew enough to get out of her way. An entire crowd of them dispersed as she stomped through the Dining Hall, sweeping up a couple servants—those few who had not been put on paid leave—in their panicked stampede.

The Future Celestias were not the object of her anger, though. At best they were distractions. Errand-ponies who merely happened to resemble her true target, who was even now lying soundly asleep in her tall tower. It would not save her, though. If before the excuse of exhaustion had been enough for Celestia to avert her wrath, then no longer.

Not even the thousand steps of the staircase to her sister’s chambers could stop her for long. Doggedly, she climbed, taking only a short break every hundred steps to catch her breath. She could feel the tension thickening in the air, the sense that each and every step brought her that much closer toward finishing this foolish time travel business. Ironic, in a way. The entire affair had started with the long and arduous climb to her sister’s chambers.

And soon enough things would end with it too.

Eventually she found herself standing before Celestia’s bedroom door. She took a deep breath, steadied herself, then shouted at the top of her lungs, “Sister, I demand to speak with you this very instant! Open your door now that I may do so!

From under the doorframe, a flash of white light. Luna’s eyes narrowed.

“Luna!” said Celestia, yawning as she opened up the door. “What a... surprise.” She blinked slowly, her tired eyes bleary and bloodshot. “I’m sorry, but can’t this wait? I just got back from Ponyville and I'm thoroughly exhausted. I need at least a little beauty sleep now so I can look rested for the—”

“No, Sister, this cannot wait,” said Luna firmly. “I have waited for quite long enough, and I shall wait no longer. You have earned a piece of my mind and I fully intend to deliver it unto you without further delay.”

Celestia frowned. “Well, okay then. Let’s hear what you have to say, Luna.” She added something under her breath, so lightly that Luna could hardly hear it. It sounded very much, though, like, “Again.”

Luna took a deep breath, trying her very hardest not to scream. “It is exactly this that is my problem, Sister,” she said, as calmly as she could. “You have so often dismissed my objections, time and time again, without giving them even the slightest consideration. Can you not see I persist only because I am so concerned for your safety? Have you truly grown so blind?”

“My safety?” Celestia laughed, but it sounded strained. Forced. “Luna, I’ve already explained this to you. There’s no other way I can address all the concerns that get sent to me without a little cheating. It’s for my—our subjects. Nothing more.”

“Only a little? I do not think so. Our subjects have done well enough without your ‘cheating’ for centuries. I can assure you now, it is not worth working yourself to death, simply to satisfy their every last demand.”

“It’s hardly that bad, Luna.”

It was Luna’s turn to laugh now. “There are more of you in this castle than there are servants. A Celestia now haunts every city and town in Equestria—do not think our subjects have not noticed. Even now, you spend most of what time you have in the present in bed, pushed beyond even your limits. If that is hardly bad, then I shudder to imagine what you would find worse.”

“Maybe...” For a moment, it seemed as though Celestia was faltering, but she quickly reasserted herself. “No. No. I’ve told you before, Luna, I can handle it. Equestria needs me to do this, and I’m more than capable of it. What will it take for you to understand that?”

“I—you—what it will take for me to understand?” spluttered Luna. “It is clear to me that you are confused. I do not obsess over the opinions of our subjects, I have not flooded Equestria with my own future selves, and I... I have not turned my back on my own sister! You have.

“You know, Luna,” said Celestia. “Much as I would love to hear this argument again, I’m quite busy, so kindly get to the point soon. I don’t have time for this.”

That was the final straw. Luna could no longer see straight, could hardly still think straight—but she heard what happened next. The animalistic scream of rage. The shriek of surprise.

The whiplike crack of her hoof against her sister’s face.

“If I have but one point to make, it is this,” said Luna, her voice low and dangerously soft. “You are too sure of yourself and too willing by far to sacrifice for our subjects’ approval. I have walked down this very path. I know where it will lead you. The last time this happened, you begged me to turn back, and I did not. It ended with one of us banished for one thousand years. If there was one thing I had expected of you, Celestia, it was that you had learned from my mistakes, Sister, so that you would not repeat them.”

“You... you hit me.” All the color drained from Celestia’s face. “You actually hit me.”

“And I shall do so again if you insist on ruining yourself,” said Luna. She meant it too. She had tried so very hard to be a good sister again, to make up for a millenium spent as a bad one. She had stood idly by for so long, hoping that Celestia would make the right choices, would know to turn back, would be wise enough to see what was staring her in the face... But sometimes a good sister must stand firm and say no, because she can see what is best for her sibling, even if they cannot.

Celestia herself had taught her that much.

For a long while, Celestia stood silent. For the very first time, she had no rebuttal, response, nor witty remark, and she made no effort to manufacture one. Then, a moment later, she finally spoke. “No...” Celestia croaked. “I... yes, you’re right, Luna. I’m—I’m so sorry, I didn’t realize this had meant so much to you. I’ll fix it. Everything. I’ll clear my schedule right now, in fact.”

The air around her began to crackle and spark with the familiar energy of gathering magic. Celestia’s horn glowed, softly at first, then slowly brighter... and then faded away altogether when she saw Luna’s glare. “Sorry,” she said, smiling guiltily. “Old habits die hard.”

“Quite all right, Sister,” said Luna. And for the first time in a long while, she gave Celestia a genuine smile back. “I understand completely.”

“I’ll call my steward to make the necessary arrangements,” said Celestia. She opened the door to her chambers a little wider, making way for Luna. “Would you like to keep me company until then?”

“I... would like that, yes.” Luna felt surprisingly light as she stepped into Celestia’s chambers. She hardly even noticed that the room had turned into a mess, or that the chair Celestia had found for her to sit in had been buried beneath a pile of unopened letters. What mattered most of all was that Celestia had listened to her. Whatever else Luna had told herself before the confrontation, she’d never really, honestly expected to succeed. But she had. By her own efforts, she had managed to save Celestia from herself, and all her future selves too.

She had been a good sister.

“You know I still have some work cut out for me,” said Celestia, working her way back under the covers of her bed. “I’ll need to make a few more trips back to account for all the Future Celestias in Equestria right now, else there might be a few—”

“Explosions,” finished Luna. Suddenly, she grinned. “And yes, Sister. I understand. Just so long as you make no more of yourself in the future.”

Celestia laughed, head nestled snugly in her pillow. “I promise, Luna. I’m past that.”

“Then everything shall be fine for the present,” said Luna, stifling her own laugh. She stood up and walked over to the door, carefully navigating a path through the letters that littered the floor. “I think, to celebrate, I shall call upon the kitchens to bring us some food. Are you hungry also, Sister?”

“Oh, sure, why not?” said Celestia. “It’s been ages since I last had breakfast in bed.”

Luna nodded and shut the door behind her as quietly as she could. She whistled to herself as she skipped down the stairs. At the end of it all, it had proven a good morning. Better than good, even. Among the best she’d ever had. And it was about to get even better.

There was, after all, no better way to greet a new day than a Sisters’ Special Breakfast Together.