To be a Princess
This was the day. She was determined it would be. She had delayed it for a long time, but no more.
The day had arrived: Princess Celestia, Ruler of Equestria, would confess her love to Princess Twilight Sparkle.
How long had Celestia felt this way? She could not recall exactly; perhaps since shortly before she sent her faithful student to Ponyville. The Solar Princess watched the little filly grow both physically and mentally under her care; when the unicorn chose to stay in Ponyville, she felt a little... saddened? Lonely? An emptiness in her life? At the time she didn't know the cause; each time her student rose above her challenges, or defeated some great enemy, Celestia felt emotions other than pride. There was also happiness, but not the sort that springs for a job well done. No, it was a very gentle warm that filled her heart. Without mentioning the fact that it was Twilight and her friends who brought Celestia’s little sister back to her, after a thousand years of banishment.
Finally, on the day of the coronation of Equestria’s newest alicorn, Tia realized it. She loved her faithful student. Not as a mentor, but as a mare. To be honest, her first reaction had been fear. Why? To begin with, the age difference was enormous, measured in millennia. To make matters worse, Celestia never had any partner or lover. Really. That could be very surprising, but was the pure truth. How could be possible that someone like her didn’t have a relationship? A long time ago, the reasons she gave to herself were that she was one of two Princesses of Equestria and she had a duty, responsibilities. Big ones. Then, she banished her own sister to the moon, the most difficult and painful decision she ever made. After that, the mare put away her feelings to prevent more suffering.
Until Celestia met Twilight.
Regardless of that, Celestia began to spend more time with the young scholar. She could see then how beautiful she really was: her coat, her mane, her smile. Before that, she only knew her intelligence and now she understood that Twilight was much more. She sought company in Twilight, and often had no excuse. But her fears forced the Princess of the Sun to wait months before she realised; love is what it is. You don't need to think, only to follow your heart. So she would.
It was a few hours after dusk when the alabaster alicorn walked through the corridors of the palace, on her way to Twilight's room. She didn't normally reside in the castle or even Canterlot; she still in her library in Ponyville. However, as a Princess, she still made regular visits to Canterlot, staying for a few days at a stretch. The visits were regular enough that she still had her own suite in the palace for that. Somepony might think that it was a little late, Celestia knew very well the young alicorn always read well into the night. Perhaps even more so, with full access to the Royal Archives, even if the young alicorn was due to leave early next morning, as this occasion. Thinking about that, Celestia remembered that she never told Twi that the Royal Librarian would be very happy to deliver any book she wished, at anyplace and anytime. Of course Tia didn’t, because that would remove one of the lavender pony’s reasons for visiting the palace.
For now, Celestia knew Twilight would be alone. The perfect chance for her plans.
There were no guards in front of her faithful student’s door. They made Twilight uncomfortable. Perfect for 'Tia, of course, who wished to keep what was going to happen a secret. The Princess of the Sun froze in place, mid-step, upon hearing voices inside the bedchamber. One was Twilight's, the other...
Lulu? she recognized, confused. What brought her sister to the young alicorn's room?
The door wasn't locked, and Celestia half-opened, not wanting to rudely interrupt. In that moment, there was silence inside. She took a furtive look inside. Her eyes widened and her wings flared in shock, at what she witnessed.
Twilight Sparkle and Princess Luna were kissing.
Princess Celestia of Equestria could never remember clearly how she returned to her room, nor her collapse into the mound of pillows that served as her couch. Somewhere in that hazy recollection, a half a bottle of wine went missing. She didn’t think she ran into anypony besides her door guards (she dismissed them to her quarters at the moment she saw them), on her way back to her bedchambers. And that was for the best. It wouldn’t do to have her little ponies see her so rattled.
When the alicorn finally reacted, she had to bite her lower lip to avoid screaming in frustration. How in Tartarus that did it happen? Her sister and Twi? Together? And she didn't notice?
“It can't be…” she whispered to herself, finishing the drink. The shock gave way to disbelief, and this, slowly, to anger. An anger which exploded seconds later with a very clear target. The bottle flew and crashed against the wall, breaking in a thousand pieces by the power of Tia, who started to scream.
“Damn you, Luna!” Celestia shouted, “How dare she? HOW?” The princess was standing with her wings fully spread, using the Royal Canterlot voice in her rage. “Twilight was mine. MINE! She had been my student since she was a filly. I took care of her like another mother... and you, little thief, you stole her from me! But no! No, I won't let you! Not now!” Her cheeks were burning, and wet with tears. Her breath was coming in ragged gasps. Without thinking, she was trotting for the room till stepped on the pieces of the bottle. She jumped in pain and surprise, looking in shock her wounded foreleg hoof. There was a crystal stuck and she was bleeding. That vision made her react and she forced her breath to come slower, and more evenly. “Not... now... Not when I’m finally ready... to tell her the truth…”
Finally. That was the key word. She knew the truth about her feelings long ago, but didn't say anything to anypony. Not even Luna, who would have helped her in any way. She’d squandered her time. That was something she thought she’d never do. She, the Immortal Ruler of Equestria, The Goddess, the mare who took care and protected all her little ponies. Always brilliant, always wise… But, at the moment which could bring her more happiness than anything before, she failed herself. That thought crossed her mind, and the anger disappeared. The alabaster pony lowered the head. "I've been a fool," Celestia muttered, her head hanging low, and her ears and wings dropped down. Tears dripped from the end of her muzzle. "The greatest one of all.”
Even she made mistakes. In this case, the mistake was crystal clear to Celestia. Because of that, Twilight Sparkle found a special pony. But she wasn't her. If there was anypony to blame, the Solar Princess knew it was herself.
After Celestia dressed her wound with a simple healing spell, she went to her bed, mentally exhausted, to collapse bonelessly upon it. After a short while, she embraced a pillow with all her strength. There was only one thing a mare could do, princess or not.
She cried like never before.
The following day, Celestia could barely raise the sun, without waking up from the bed. After the revelation last night, she didn't want to do anything at all. Nevertheless, two hours later, she left her room to take a small breakfast. The servants were clearly surprised, because she always had breakfast right after dawn, but nopony said a thing.
She knew she looked horrible, but she didn’t care. She only wanted to finish quickly and go back to the bed. Of course, the universe then saw fit to inflict Celestia with what she dreaded most; her sister Luna entered the room.
Oh... Not now, please... She pleaded, to nopony in particular.
“Good morning, Tia!” Luna greeted cheerfully, a jaunty spring in her gait as she moved to join her sister. Her cheer died instantly, upon nearing, giving way to concern. “Sister, are you all right? You look terrible.”
Nothing. I just saw you kissing with the love of my eternal life, last night, Celestia thought. Though she didn't dare to say it. Luna had returned 4 years ago and still had trouble coming to grips with her new life, without Celestia condemning her for finally working up the courage to seek companionship. Though a dark, jealous, and wounded part of her bitterly wanted to.
“I'm okay, Lulu.” She lied, “I had a bad night, nothing serious. A cup of coffee will help me.”
“A very bad night, it seems…” The other alicorn remarked. “Anyway, I... eeehm... Can we talk, sis?”
“About what?” Celestia quirked an eyebrow.
“It's... it's private”, Luna looked away for a second, seeming nervous. “and very... very important to me.”
Horseapples. Nopony ever saw Celestia saying such a word because nopony would believe that their wise ruler could think it. Will she...? The Princess of the Day felt like somebody had thrust a knife into her chest, and twisted it. Lulu only got nervous when she was expecting to be a bother to her. In that moment, it could only be one thing. The same thing that Celestia wasn't prepared for.
But, no matter how much it hurt her, the alicorn knew that she couldn't say no.
Celestia moved her breakfast aside and looked her sister in the eyes, keeping her expression carefully neutral and her corporal reactions under control.
“I'm all ears, dear sister.”
Luna, increasingly nervous, swallowed, taking her time. Her wings shook and her ears twitched. She even breathed deeply twice before she started talking.
“Well... Tia... I.... I must confess something. I don't want you to get angry... but... but I'm very serious about this.” She swallowed again, dropping her ears. “I... I'm dating... Twilight.”
It was official now. The pain inside Celestia grew, but she didn't let it reach the surface.
“For how long?” She asked, faking curiosity.
“Five... five months. We... we didn't tell you, or anypony, before because we didn't know how you would react.” She explained, still nervous. “But last night... we decided to tell you and her friends, at least. So... she left this morning to explain it to them. And I'm telling to you.”
Five months and she hadn't noticed. All of that, for being a stupid pony and not telling her when she first realised her love.
“And why would you think I would get angry, Luna?”
“It's Twilight, sister... You have been like a mother to her, not only her teacher. I was afraid”, Luna confessed, “that you wouldn't accept it. And... I’m still afraid of that.”
How could Tia answer to that? She couldn't oppose to the relationship, no matter how big her pain was. Twilight didn’t belong to her...
“You two are serious?” Celestia wanted to know. Right now, that was very important to her.
“I... I really love her…” The younger alicorn lowered her head and shrinked. “She helped me a lot since I came back... And to come back. I admit that, at the beginning, I didn't believe in her like you, but... now I understand. She is... is…” Lulu shook the head and looked to her sister’s eyes. “I feel very... peaceful when I'm with her. When I'm with Twi... I don't have any fear about my past or about what others think about me. And you know better than anypony that there’s only one other pony capable of making me feel like that, my sister.”
Celestia knew that all too well. But what could she say?
“Sis?” Luna broke the silence shyly. Celestia almost jumped where she sat. She’d been so deep in thought that she hadn’t realized how long the silence had held. “Are... are you ok with this...? Your... your approval is very important to me... to us. If we don't have it…” The words clearly came to Luna only with great difficulty, “well... we'll be disappointed... but we’ll stay together regardless.” The younger alicorn regained some confidence and added more serious. “I told you: I love her. We love each other.”
With that last phrase and the tone used, Celestia knew what to do. She was a pony, but also a princess. And, to be a princess, mean to do painful things for the good of others, even if it's painful to yourself.
To be a princess demanded the greatest sacrifices.
To be a princess demanded that one lie, if necessary.
To be a princess demanded that she do anything for her little ponies.
Without a doubt in her mind, Celestia extended one of her forelegs and stroked her sister’s cheek with a hoof, whispering slowly while she was trying to hold back the tears that nopony, specially Luna, couldn’t saw. “My dear Lulu... I don't know of anypony better than you to take care of and love my faithful student, Twilight Sparkle. And,” she smiled the best smile she could, to not let Luna knew that her heart was bleeding while she spoke. “I don't know of anypony better to take care of and love my little sister than she.”
Tears started in the blue alicorn's eyes, who was staring at Celestia. Her ears drooped down and her breathing became irregular.
“Yo... you mean…” She stammered.
“Yes, Lulu…” Celestia agreed, trying to ignore her dry mouth and the great pain in her chest and soul. “I'm happy for the both of you and I will help you and Twi in any way you need.”
Luna begun to cry with joy and she overenthusiastically hugged her sister, “Thank you! Thank you! Thank you!”
“Shh…” the older alicorn hugged back. “It's nothing, Lulu. Both of you are happy and that it's the most important thing to me.”
The most important... Celestia thought, closing her eyes. A single, silent and lonely tear crept down her cheek. A tear full of feelings which she would bury in her heart for all eternity. For the two ponies she loved most in the world.
Because that is what it meant to be a princess.