Ruling the night? Guarding dreams? Guiding ponies? Luna's got that down pat. But after an abandoned foal takes her heart, she takes on a whole new challenge: motherhood
During her usual nightly patrol of the dream realm, Luna happens upon a filly whose nightmares concern her. Twilight and Celestia investigate the filly's whereabouts, only to discover the filly is homeless and has not attended school in some time. During the night, Luna hunts the filly down to bring her to a foster home where she'll be cared for until a family adopts her. Everything ends well.
So, why is Luna heartbroken?
Author's Note: I started writing this story in January 2018, before seasons 8 and 9. I know what happens in those seasons, but with 20+ chapters (and getting longer if I continue it), it's too much to go back and try to integrate those seasons into the story. The last full episode I watched was Fame and Misfortune from season 7, so if anything in this story contradicts the actual canon, it's not on purpose. This is why I marked it "alternate universe", despite I wanted it to be a future version of the canon. Oh, well.
This story was inspired byWelcome, Princess Light Breezeon fanfiction.net bySnoopy7c7. I'm also aware there's already a story where Luna has a foal, but I haven't read that, so any similarities are coincidental and nothing more.
Several years had passed since the end of the legend of the "mare in the moon". The time and tale of Nightmare Moon had long been forgotten except by Princess Luna and Princess Celestia themselves, and Celestia had made it clear Luna was forgiven and very loved. Though Luna struggled a lot to forgive herself over her past, badly enough to the point she psychologically tormented herself for a period of time, the help of her sister and her friends who embodied the Elements of Harmony pushed her through it. In the end, it took one powerful heart-to-heart talk between Celestia and Luna, and a lot of tears shed while in her sister's comfort, for her to finally let it go. Afterwards, they never spoke of Nightmare Moon again and over the incoming months, she truly began to feel like Nightmare Moon had never existed. That same year, Celestia secretly created what would be the annual Winter Moon celebration in honor of Luna and the moon, and for Luna's birthday that year. She pretended it was an ordinary celebration, only announcing it on the day of the event, in front of the whole public with Luna front and center. Though initially shocked, Luna was speechless with gratitude and while she had already moved on by this point, it truly hammered in that she had more than amended for her mistakes and Nightmare Moon would forever remain nothing more than an extremely distant memory.
As Luna stood today, she was a fully grown mare, as tall as her sister, who happily ruled Equestria by her side as her equal as the Princess of the Night, and they shared their citizens' love for them. They also ensured they took time for each other as sisters, no matter how crammed their schedules became, and it proved to be worth it, allowing their relationship to stay closer and more open than they remembered. Sure, they still had their petty bickers, but less than a day and an apology later got them over it.
Weeks before one birthday of Celestia's, Luna worked with Twilight Sparkle, her first friend and who she knew Celestia referred to as her most faithful student, to repair the shattered magic mirror and allow Celestia to be with the love of her life again. It'd been difficult, but they finished just a day before Celestia's birthday and presented it to her the next morning as a gift as soon as she woke up. Celestia had been too joyous for words and, though initially nervous, headed through to get back her first love, the mirror world's Sombra, for whom her feelings had never faded. To neither Luna or Twilight's surprise, they returned, their love for each other still strong, and were married by Luna with a wedding ceremony shortly after. To keep things in balance, their world's reformed Sombra traveled to the mirror world to reside there. Luna got along well with her new brother-in-law, who also thanked her and Twilight Sparkle profusely after Celestia explained they'd been the ones who made their lovely reunion possible.
In the Crystal Empire, Princess Cadence and Prince Shining Armor helped their kingdom flourish over the years under their rule. Their daughter, Flurry Heart, was now a teenage alicorn mare. Due to not wanting to receive so much unwanted attention in public, which was inevitable because of her status as the daughter of her kingdom's rulers and an alicorn, she was homeschooled through private tutors. To help her learn about and control her powerful magic, she was taught by Sunburst and Starlight Glimmer, and it was a responsibility the old friends took on with great pride and gratitude.
Twilight Sparkle, now very experienced in her duties as the Princess of Friendship, worked hard to spread its magic and bring many ponies together through the help of the cutie mark map and her School of Friendship. She and her friends had less time for each other over the years, as they'd gone down their own separate paths, but they kept their friendship intact through letters. Much technology had been developed over the past years, but they stuck to letters for the nostalgic feeling, and they occasionally still got together for an adventure or two. Were Twilight ever truly in need, she could still count on her friends to be there for her, and she gave them the same regard. Spike remained her loyal friend and assistant, and she didn't miss a chance to remind him he was family to her either.
Apple Bloom, Sweetie Belle, and Scootaloo, still known as the Cutie Mark Crusaders, had grown up to travel Equestria in their mission to help others discover their cutie marks. However, they too followed paths that occasionally separated them from each other. Apple Bloom returned home periodically to assist on her family's farm, Sweetie Belle occasionally performed songs at charity events, and Scootaloo competed with Rainbow Dash in races in the latter's hometown of Cloudsdale. The CMC always reunited to continue their mission, declaring they'd keep traveling until they no longer could.
Everypony was living a busy life, but a happy one.
On a rainy autumn night, a lone filly took refuge in a deep alley on the outskirts of Ponyville. Her blanket, her only companion, provided a thin shield against the chilly rain. The alley was lit by a street light, but she was concealed from view by the garbage cans. The ground was muddy from the few blossoms that grew between the cracks in the pavement. This wasn't her only option to sleep for the night, but it was the easiest to hide from the few ponies who trotted through this area. Surely, she thought, none would tonight due to the weather.
She closed her eyes to try to sleep, but the sound of the rain pounding against the trash cans and the pavement wouldn't allow it. She assumed she'd get used to these sounds by now, yet they still kept her awake until her tiredness itself became strong enough to overtake her. She sighed in frustration and wrapped herself in her cold, soggy blanket.
"Just another night, huh, blankie?"
Most would judge her as too old to even carry a blanket, let alone treat it as an imaginary friend. Ever since she became old enough to attend school, she'd been told it was time to let her "blankie" go. Her classmates teased her, sometimes viciously, from time to time about it and, to the surprise of nopony who ever dealt with such a problem in school, her teacher never stepped in. Eventually, she learned to shrug it off and keep to herself. Of course, if she had to choose between being picked on in school and sleeping in an alley, she'd choose the former. But things changed.
She still had yet to understand how. It seemed to happen so fast. Bit by bit, her young life changed until it became this. Often, she would try not to think about it to avoid crying for what felt like the hundredth time, and simply worry about sleeping through another night. Was a little filly even supposed to worry about these things, she'd wonder. She tried to shake the thoughts out of her mind to let herself sleep. Fortunately, she got a tiny bit of luck when the rain slowed down to a drizzle and the clouds began to part. She could see some of the starry sky. The sight of a speeding, bright flash caught her eye and she sat up instantly. A shooting star? She could make a wish!
"I wish... I wish..." She turned her sad gaze to her blanket before returning it to the sky.
"I wish for a mother."
She lied back down, wrapping herself again in her blanket, and closed her eyes. She could still hear the rain, but its sound was now more soothing since it was reduced to a drizzle. Finally, her tiredness had grown enough to let her fall asleep easily and she did so, clutching her blanket tightly.
"Sister! I have mail for you!" Celestia called with a giggle as she carried a sack of letters in her magic's grasp.
"I'm certain you do," Luna replied dully, not even looking up from the mountain of paperwork she'd been sharing with Celestia and Sombra that evening. Celestia took her seat between them and placed the sack near Luna. Luna simply pushed it aside and continued reading.
"Sister, read at least one!" Celestia teased. Only an annoyed glare was Luna's response, which forced Sombra to futilely try to hide some snickers of his own. "Don't you enjoy our citizens' frequent letters? Isn't it kind of them to let you know of their affections?"
"Yes, the stares and occasional drooling of the nobility during my nighttime court had me baffled," Luna remarked dryly. Despite her lack of interest, she did open one of the letters... and burned it to ashes with her horn's magic immediately after reading it.
"Burn it?" Celestia asked.
"Burn all of it!"
"I'll take it to the fireplace," Sombra offered, letting out one last laugh. He took the sack in his mouth and walked away, leaving the sisters by themselves until he returned to help them finish the paperwork.
"For what it's worth, I did the same when I got more than my fair share of these," Celestia told Luna, no longer laughing. "I assumed when the letters stopped coming, those who wrote them recognized how inappropriate they were. I'm surprised to see them flood in again."
"Then, why do you encourage it?" Luna asked, her tone still one of annoyance.
"I don't," Celestia answered. "That's why I burned them too. But you certainly have grown, sister. I admit I am a little stunned by it. I still recall when you were small enough to fit on my back."
"Yes, you'd take me riding and flying," Luna remembered, now smiling too. "When I would cry, you'd cheer me up by bouncing me on your back."
Celestia sighed contently. "Sombra teases me about how I still call you my little sister. I can't say he's wrong."
"You're the only one I ever allowed to call me little," Luna said. "I will always call you my big sister."
Sombra returned and the three rulers continued to whittle down the load of paperwork they had before them. It took two hours more, but they finally finished it all. Celestia and Sombra opted to retire for the evening and they bid Luna good night before she made her way to the balcony to raise the moon. Many of the ponies in the castle had also gone to bed, leaving only the night guards awake. Luna appreciated the guards, if only for being able to look at her normally instead of stare at her with creepy fondness. Even if she were interested in pursuing some kind of romance, overly flirtatious letters were not her idea of a good start.
She put the annoyance out of her mind as she finally reached the balcony and began to raise the moon. She noticed there were many clouds in the sky, enough that the stars were barely visible. Though she liked her nights to be clear, Luna was grateful for nighttime rainstorms since it meant she wouldn't have to hold her nightly court. The stuffy nobles just couldn't bear having to travel in the rain, and she could be spared of hearing their petty complaints. Granted, not all of them had trivial concerns, but the loudest ones did. The only upside was she and Celestia could laugh over whose court exhibited the worst behavior. So far, Celestia's still reigned as winner.
Luna eased her mind as she teleported herself into the dream realm. She was unsurprised she didn't see a dream from Celestia or Sombra among the various ones that appeared around her, but grateful she'd talked Celestia into soundproofing their bedroom at night. For obvious reasons.
It seemed to be a good night for most of Equestria's residents. Luna came across few nightmares and those few were nothing major. She spoke with some of her friends in their good dreams, shared tea with Sweetie Belle as she'd done every night in Sweetie's dreams since the incident over Rarity's headdress (it was a nostalgic pasttime for both Luna and Sweetie), and was almost ready to call it a morning. She had only one more batch of dreams to inspect. Most of these also seemed to be good dreams, but one of them made her uncertain.
She entered the dream. Its setting seemed to be a chilly ghost town. The town seemed to be intact, only deserted. At first, it seemed there was truly nopony else there, but after she wandered around for a few minutes, she spotted what she thought was a shadow dart past her. She trotted after it. It got faster and so did she until the figure tripped. Luna stopped herself a few feet away from it. She used the moonlight from above to reveal the figure as a frightened filly who was now cowering before her.
Luna lowered herself as much as she could to be at the filly's eye level. "I will not hurt you, little one. It is okay."
However, the filly backed away and pointed ahead. It wasn't Luna she feared. A moment later, Luna heard loud footsteps coming up behind her. She turned to see a large pony furiously trotting in her direction. The pony didn't appear to be of abnormal size, but it was obvious this is who the filly was afraid of, and the pony himself soon made it clear why.
"You are coming with me, young lady!" he boomed in a voice that made even Luna's hair briefly stand on end. "I will teach you respect!"
The young filly tried to run again, but found herself stuck. Her hooves had sunk into the ground, firmly trapping her. Trembling heavily, she closed her eyes and waited for whatever would come. But she had no idea until it did.
"HOW DARE YOU!" The filly heard hooves land around her with a stomp. She opened her eyes just in time to see Luna vaporize her chaser in a brilliant flash. Stunned, she looked up to see Luna was standing over her. Luna gently held her with her hooves, which made the filly flinch, but she calmed down as she realized Luna was pulling her up to free her from the spot she'd sunk into. She shook her hooves. She could move freely again!
Luna stepped in front of her and lowered herself to her eye level again, but the filly was quiet out of curiosity now instead of fear.
"My name is Luna. It's my job to look after others as they slumber," Luna explained calmly. "Yours is the strongest nightmare I've seen tonight. What troubles you?"
The filly looked at the ground, too shy to reply. Though Luna had saved her and she calmed down considerably, she was still anxious. Luna quickly picked up on this, so she tried another tactic.
Calm now, relax now The monster's gone from your head Calm now, relax now Rest easy in your bed
Drift off to sleep Leave the day's sorrows behind you Drift off to sleep Let its serenity find you
Now looking up at Luna, the filly smiled a little and walked over to her. Luna sat up, though not at her full height in case she was still skittish. The dream's setting faded from the eerie town to a colorful child-like bedroom. The filly climbed into the bed and under its cover, making herself comfortable. Finally, she spoke to Luna.
"Can you sing one more time?"
Luna smiled and obliged. The filly rocked in tune to Luna singing until she fell asleep, her anxiety fully gone and looking peaceful. Luna left her be since her nightmare had ended, and exited the dream realm. She returned just as her sister finished raising the sun.
"Good morning, sister!" Celestia greeted her. "Long night as usual?"
"Indeed," Luna answered, letting out a yawn after. "Almost everypony slept well."
"Come join Sombra and me for breakfast. He's cooking this morning!"
"Sure, but Sister, may I ask your advice first?" Luna asked.
"Of course," Celestia replied. "Anything."
"What option do you take when you are concerned somepony is troubled, but uncertain of your suspicions?"
Celestia considered her answer for a few moments. "It would depend on what my concern is, how severe it may be. If it's a trivial problem, I'd simply ask. If I'm worried somepony could be in danger, I'd keep an eye on them if I couldn't pull them aside privately."
It was what Luna expected to hear, but hearing it was useful nonetheless. "Thank you, Sister. I will keep your words in mind. Let's go to breakfast."
"Is somepony in danger?" Celestia asked as they left the balcony.
"I am going to find out."
With the arrival of morning, the young filly slowly awoke. The morning was dry and bright. As she woke up, she caught herself with an odd feeling of peacefulness. Despite she'd slept in an alley for the night, she felt good. Not merely okay, but good. She moved from under her blanket, which had begun drying, and stretched herself.
Then, she remembered. That pony. A tall mare with a coat that matched the night sky had stood over her and protected her. The only other detail she could remember was a lullaby. She couldn't even recall the pony's name, if she'd been told it.
If she saw another shooting star that night, she'd wish to see that pony again. For now, she headed down the road, trying to hold the good feeling for as long as she could.
The following night, as Luna rose the moon, she already knew where she wanted to go. The night was clear, but she cancelled her night court on the grounds of urgency. This meant Celestia would hear the nobles' complaints during her day court the next day. Luna promised to join her to make up for it, but after she explained her worry, Celestia told her not to mind it. It wasn't the first time either of them had cancelled their respective court.
Luna teleported herself to the dream realm. She traveled quickly as she checked over all the incoming dreams, making haste in fixing all of the nightmares among them. She still paused to enjoy tea with Sweetie Belle without any hurry. After they finished, Luna hurried to the dream of the filly she helped last night.
This time, she walked into a cottage. She remembered the room as the one the last dream had faded into, but it was dim and had an uneasy feel. Luna heard yelling from outside the room, so she stepped out to see what was going on. She saw the large pony from the previous dream, but he was yelling at a television set instead of the little filly. Between the dreams, Luna drew the connection this pony was the filly's father. Some bottles caught her eye, one of which had been broken in half with its shards scattered around a small table, and she spotted the filly sleeping beneath it, lying on a puzzle set and wearing a pair of earmuffs. Luna's heart broke. It was now no wonder how that nightmare came about.
Luna stepped back into the bedroom for a moment to think, but she accidentally stepped on something with one of her back hooves. It turned out to be a family photo of the filly, as a newborn, with her parents. Her father was an earth pony, who looked more vibrant and healthy, and her mother was a pegasus. Luna hadn't noticed before, but she could see from the photo which side of genes had won out. When Luna looked more closely, she noticed the frame and its glass had been broken and poorly repaired with glue. The photo itself looked like it'd been crumpled up, though the colors didn't seem faded.
Luna's attention was drawn back into the living room when she heard a loud crash. The filly's father, likely in his drunken TV cheers, had knocked over the table and one of the bottles had landed on the filly's head, waking her up and knocking off her earmuffs. She was rubbing where it'd hit. It was only what the father said that irritated Luna more.
"Selene Skyla Rose, look what you did! I told you do not bother me! Go to your room!" He stomped his feet on the floor as he stood up, and she whimpered as she backed up in fear. Luna's eyes grew white with fury. So help Luna, if he touched that filly...! Only not wanting to scare Selene any more restrained Luna from her instinct to create a bloodbath.
Selene's father stomped off, leaving the filly alone. Luna took out her anger on the television, shattering it, and quietly called Selene's attention. Selene remembered her from her last dream and ran to her. They went into her room and Luna shut the door.
"You're here again!" Selene exclaimed quietly, not shy at all this time.
"Yes, Selene. That is your name?" Luna asked, simply to confirm.
"Yep, and I'm a pegasus," Selene answered, sprouting her wings briefly for Luna to see. "I haven't flown yet. You're... uh... umm..."
"Luna, little one. My name is Luna."
"Luna. Luna," Selene repeated.
"Selene, where are you?!"
Selene ran under her bed, fearful of her father's bellowing voice, but Luna sealed the door shut with her magic and put a soundproof spell over it. "It is okay, Selene. He will not hurt you. I will not let him enter." She held out a hoof and Selene grabbed it as she slowly came out from under her bed. She climbed on top and rolled herself in her blanket sitting above the comforter.
"This is Blankie," Selene said. "Blankie is glad you're here too."
"This is only the second time I've seen you, but we must talk," Luna insisted. Using levitation, she brought the picture frame she'd stepped on to Selene. "Is this your family?"
"Yes," Selene answered softly, frowning as she looked at the picture.
"Where is your mother?"
Selene stayed quiet, but closed her eyes. She opened them again when she felt a gentle touch on her shoulder.
"I understand you may not want to talk about what I'm asking," Luna told her, "but these nightmares will continue if you do not accept help. If you won't talk to me, I cannot help you because I won't know how."
Luna waited patiently for several moments, but Selene finally answered, only because Luna saved her.
"And your father has been this way since she... left?"
Selene nodded her head. "He drinks. A lot."
"How long have you been without your mother?" Luna asked.
"Last year," Selene answered, becoming tearful. Luna was able to put the pieces together from those small answers, but she had one more question.
"Do you still live with your father?"
"...No." And Selene would answer nothing more. Tears fell down her cheeks and she turned away from Luna. Luna didn't need to ask more. The dream's environment began to fade out, meaning Selene was starting to wake up. Before leaving, Luna gently placed her hoof on Selene's shoulder again and said one final thing.
"You will see me again soon."
Luna left Selene's fading dream and exited the dream realm. She was exhausted, as usual, but she couldn't rest just yet. She returned again just as Celestia had finished raising the sun.
"Sister, I need something important!"
"What is it, Luna?"
Twilight waited patiently in front of the map, going over the details of the letter again. Of all the problems she'd ever had to handle, this was really a new one for her. But even if it wasn't necessarily a friendship problem, one of her subjects needed help. Not much information had been included in the letter, but she assumed that was done to save it for face-to-face conversation.
Finally, a bright flash appeared a few feet away in her throne room. Even after all these years, Twilight felt awed at the sight of her mentor, immediately running for a hug.
"I got your letter, Princess. What do you need the map for?"
They walked over to the map again and sat. "Luna is worried about a particular filly," Celestia explained. "For the past two nights, she visited this filly's dreams. She believes this filly is in danger, and from what she described, so do I, but she does not know her whereabouts."
"So, she's hoping I can find it on the map," Twilight concluded.
Celestia nodded. "Yes. This is the only clue she has." With a spell, Celestia displayed a visual of the cottage from the filly's dream of the previous night. "Is it possible to match this scene to an area on the map?"
"I can try." Using her own magic, Twilight blended the visual onto the map and scanned it over until the map appeared to indicate a match. The map highlighted what Twilight and Celestia both noted as one of Ponyville's less populous areas. "It looks like this cottage is near the outskirts of Ponyville. Should I send the coordinates to Luna?"
"Yes, please, Twilight," Celestia replied. "I must attend to my daily matters, but I am going to pay a visit to this area."
"Let me come!" Twilight insisted. "If a filly is in danger, I want to help."
Celestia smiled. "Thank you, Twilight. If you wish to help, could you travel to the local schoolhouse? Luna gave me the filly's name. I would like you to ask if they know of her and when she last attended. I'd suggest you call ahead if you don't want any surprise attention."
Using her nearly dry blanket as a makeshift hood, Selene headed into the busiest area of Ponyville. During the day, she spent most of her time there, blending in with all the other ponies who were minding their business and going about their day, which let her do the same. On the occasion she was noticed, she would simply be said hello to.
Hungry, Selene headed for her favorite stand, one that sold a variety of fruits, including strawberries, her favorite. She snuck beneath and waited, keeping her ears perked. Several minutes later, she finally heard another pony walk up to the seller to buy something. She watched raptly, and the second neither were peeking, she popped up, swiped a few strawberries from one basket, and scurried away with her take safely stored in her "hood". She ducked behind a shady tree, peeking over to ensure she hadn't been noticed. She breathed a sigh of relief, and removed her blanket from her head to place it on the ground.
"I'll pay it all back someday," she mumbled sadly. She gobbled down the strawberries in a matter of seconds. Their sweet taste made her feel that much worse about stealing, but what else could a filly do? She placed her blanket over her, tying it again as a hood, and headed back into the busy square, intentionally avoiding the sight of the fruit stand. Now that she had her daily take, she could find something to occupy herself for a little fun.
"I spy, Blankie?"
"Selene Skyla Rose. Yes, Princess Twilight, we did have a student by that name," Principal Cheerilee stated. "She transferred away several months ago."
"Transferred? Do you know to which school?" Twilight asked.
Cheerilee shook her head. "I'm afraid not. Her father was not specific with us about where she'd be attending, but we were told she was moving away."
Twilight's serious expression failed to hide her suspicions. "What kind of student was she?"
"She was a lovely young lady, though she had a little trouble with other students at times," Cheerilee answered. "She never gave her teachers any problems and she was quiet, but bright and cheerful."
"Did she seem any different before she transferred?" Twilight asked.
"One of her teachers expressed concern she was withdrawing from her peers some weeks before she left, but she said she was nervous about moving. We had a class party for her on her last day with us."
Twilight finished the notes she was jotting down. "Thank you so much, Cheerilee. I hope I didn't take too much of your time."
"Not at all, Princess!" Cheerilee quickly said. "I am happy I could help."
"Excuse me." One of the teachers knocked on the open door with a grouchy-looking filly at her side. "I apologize for interrupting, but I'm afraid we have a... problem again."
Cheerilee sighed. "Golden Crown, again?"
"Seems I'd better let you go," Twilight said, getting back onto her hooves. "Thanks again for talking with me." Twilight made her way out as the teacher stepped in with the student. Outside of the schoolhouse, she sent her notes in a scroll to Celestia and hurried to make her way to the cottage from the visual Celestia showed her earlier.
Twilight arrived to find Celestia waiting for her and reading over the letter. Strangely, there was no cottage in sight and Celestia looked a bit dismayed.
"Maybe I didn't make the right connection on the map," Twilight sighed sadly.
"No, Twilight, look over there." Looking where the elder pony was pointing, Twilight saw what was unmistakably the bulldozed remains of a building. "This cottage has been torn down," Celestia explained. "Much of this area is under construction. When I arrived, some ponies were working. I gathered from them this cottage had been requested to be torn down by its former owner."
"But... that means..."
Celestia nodded. "It seems this filly Luna is trying to help is in worse straits than Luna thought. We need to find her immediately."
"But how?" Twilight asked. "She doesn't attend school and her home is destroyed. Where could she be? Did Luna describe her?"
"No. I've already sent what we gathered to Luna," Celestia stated. "She will have to take things from here when she wakes up."
"But what if something happens to her? We can't just wait!" Twilight insisted.
"Twilight, I understand," Celestia said gently, stroking the younger princess's back to soothe her from panicking. "But at this point, we have nothing more to go on and Luna cannot help if she's exhausted."
Twilight did not like that answer, but she knew Celestia was right. The two alicorns retired to their regular duties, silently sharing the same thoughts.
Normally, Luna was well-rested when she woke up from her day's sleep, but she hardly slept a wink. She read the letter Celestia sent while she slept and, naturally, her worries were only heightened. She would have to visit Selene in her dreams again, but after last night, she knew getting any more answers would be difficult, if not impossible. More so, she was getting the idea Selene did not want to be found.
She had to come up with another plan. She read over the letter again, and after reading what Twilight provided about where Selene's home once stood, that plan formed.
"Are you positive about this, Sister?" Celestia asked.
"Yes. After I hold my nightly court, I will travel to Ponyville's outskirts to search for the young one," Luna replied. "Twilight had a point earlier. We cannot keep waiting. Interrogating her in her dreams will only achieve so much."
Celestia relaxed a little and smiled. "You have always had a way with children, Sister. I know you can do it. I do hope she will be alright."
"As do I. Again, thank you and Twilight for your help."
"You're welcome." Celestia retired to her room for the night while Luna headed away to begin her court session.
"Ah, there's my beautiful wife," Sombra sighed as Celestia lied next to him. "How is the search for the filly going?"
"Luna is intent on finding her tonight. Rarely have I seen her so worried," Celestia replied.
"You says she's always been fond of kids, right? Is it really surprising?" Sombra asked.
"Not in the slightest," Celestia answered with a small chuckle. "It is a serious situation, but Luna knows it better than I do. This is in her hooves."
Sombra pulled Celestia close and rolled on his side, wrapping around her tightly. "And you are in mine."
Luna's patience with the nobles was thin tonight. With all she had on her mind, she was in no mood for their over-privileged "plights". But she already postponed one court and she wanted to get it over with. She announced the start of her court's session, and the first group of nobles trotted in, carrying that same vibe of snobbishness Luna and her sister griped in jest about over dinner or breakfast when they could.
"Good evening, Your Highness," one delegate greeted her, head and nose poised high. "On behalf of my family, the noble Trills, we would like to request funds for---"
"Excuse you!" another delegate interrupted. "I don't recall the princess giving you permission to speak before me!"
"Perhaps," the Trills family noble retorted, getting directly in the other delegate's face, "you'll be quicker with your speech if you want to speak first, sugar."
The second delegate scrunched her face in anger, but Luna spoke up at this point to interfere, getting their attention with a strong stomp of her hoof. "I believe I shan't need to remind you of the rules about mine and my sister's courts. Discourtesy is not tolerated!"
The second delegate shrank away, embarrassed, but Luna quickly wiped off the smirk of the Trills house noble.
"That includes inappropriate pet names!" she added strongly. "Should you need to address each other by name, you will do so properly." She then addressed the remainder of the group. "If anypony exhibits further disrespect, I will revoke your privilege to speak for the remainder of this session. Is that quite clear?"
Every noble in the group nodded, all taken aback at Luna's strictness. It wasn't that it was strange to see her enforce her court's rules. Luna and Celestia usually provided a little leeway and didn't really speak up unless an argument became heated. But the mere tone of Luna's voice couldn't have made the message clearer: Princess Luna was having none of it tonight.
"Now, again," Luna stated. She gestured to the Trills house noble. "You have the floor. Continue your request."
"T-thank you, Y-your Highness. As I was saying..."
To Luna's surprise and pleasure, tonight's court ended in only an hour and half instead of its usual three hours. Some of the nobles had receded their requests and arguments, deciding they'd see Celestia about them instead. A few did test Luna's patience, but it took one stern glare and reminder to get them back in line. To Luna, it was an amusing decision to save their complaints for Celestia's day court and she had no doubt her sister would later come to her to mention how the nobles complained of her unusual strictness tonight. For a reason neither sister had ever been able to understand, some of the nobles believed if they couldn't get their way with one of the princesses, they could with the other. Sometimes, the sisters swore they needed to invoke a time-out corner. Not that most of the nobles seemed to have such self-awareness to begin with.
Luna stood on the railing of the balcony, wings outstretched. She gazed over all she could see of Equestria as more and more residents turned their lights out, heading to bed for the night. Except for Manehattan, of course. She still fondly remembered when her sister, years ago when Luna was going through a bout of depression, took her for a visit one night. That night was one Luna still considered the best of her life, even if the boisterous activity of the night scene itself over there wasn't her preference. But Luna had no time to admire that tonight.
She took off from the balcony and headed directly for Ponyville's outskirts. She glided until the area Twilight described in the letter she received came into view. She made a quiet landing and began to walk down the single path that lied in front of where Selene's former home stood, traveling in the direction opposite of Ponyville's center. She passed a few ponies, but all were going home. Luna was rather relieved they were too sleepy to notice her. Or maybe she blended that well into the night. Either explanation satisfied her.
Luna paused when she came a few feet from what seemed to be the end of the road. A few streetlights kept the area lit enough to see clearly. There seemed to be not a soul around, yet Luna had some kind of nagging feeling that wouldn't let up. She continued until she came to an alleyway. No light shone into it, but Luna could see a small silhouette as she peered over its corner.
Selene had just wrapped herself in her blanket and seemed to finally be giving in to her tiredness. As her eyes nearly closed, her ears caught a small sound. She tried to ignore it, assuming it was just a passerby, but the small clicks got closer until she looked up to see a dark looming figure peering at her near the alley's entrance. Selene shuddered and pulled her blanket over her head, hoping it was simply some figment her imagination formed out of tiredness.
"Selene Skyla Rose?"
Selene uncovered one eye to peek up at the figure when she heard her name.
"Do you remember me?"
Luna stepped beneath the nearby streetlight, revealing herself fully to the young filly. Selene let out a gasp of relief and surprise, popping up from beneath her blanket when she saw the dark mare clearly.
"Luna!" Selene threw herself at Luna's hooves. "This is a dream?"
Luna stayed calm as Selene had her fit. She kept her voice to a gentle tone. "I understand you don't want to hear this, but I cannot permit you to remain living this way."
"No! I won't go!" Selene argued, eyes full of tears. "I hate you now, Luna!"
Luna stood quietly, allowing Selene to tire herself out with her tantrum, saying nothing more until she calmed. After she lost too much energy to continue, Luna spoke again.
"What scares you, Selene? What scares you so much to make sleeping in an alley the better choice?"
Selene didn't reply, but poked in her lips.
"I think I know," Luna whispered, lowering her head to Selene's ear. "You don't want him to find you. You ran away and you're scared you'll be forced to be in his care again. Is that it?"
Selene nodded as her eyes filled with tears again, but with too little energy to cry, she could only whimper and gasp a few times.
"That won't happen."
Selene looked up at Luna, trying desperately to wipe her eyes dry. Luna wiped them gently for her before continuing to speak.
"I am taking you to this place, so you will be safe. That includes from your father." She laid down to be at eye level with Selene. "When I said he will not hurt you, I didn't mean solely in your dreams. Listen to my words. He will never hurt you again. Will you come with me?"
For a few moments, Selene only stared at Luna. She couldn't answer her, not because she didn't want to, but because she could get no sound from her mouth. This had to be a dream. This pony, who she met in her dreams, who saved her twice, who was trying to save her a third time... It had to be a dream. You only meet strangers who save you in dreams, right?
"Why?" Selene finally asked, so softly, Luna had to ask her to repeat herself.
"Because," Luna replied as she gestured for Selene to climb on her back, "you need help."
Selene grabbed her blanket, set herself on Luna's back, and held her hooves around Luna's neck. Luna walked off, heading toward Ponyville's central.
"And I care."
By the time Luna reached their destination, Selene had fallen fast sleep, though Luna singing at her request was partially to blame. Luna came to a large, two-story house, where two ponies, one with eyeglasses and another with her wavy hair tied into a ponytail, were waiting outside. So as not to wake Selene, Luna quietly approached and spoke to them.
"Melodía, Ivory," Luna whispered.
"Good evening, Your Highness," Melodía replied with the same softness. "Ah, this must be the little one?"
"Indeed," Luna answered with a nod. "If you were expecting us, I presume Princess Twilight spoke with you."
"We were shocked to get a visit from the princess---"
"---let alone, two of them now," Ivory muttered.
"But after Princess Twilight explained, we were onboard," Melodía finished. "We promise you she will be in good hooves in our care."
"You aren't planning to drop her off and leave her, are you?" Ivory asked, nervously playing with her ponytail. "While she sleeps?"
"I will return before she wakes," Luna assured them. She passed Selene onto Melodía's back. "She is very tired, so I am certain she'll sleep through the night. I can ensure that." Luna hopped off her hooves and spread her wings. "Good evening to you. I must go."
Luna flew off, leaving the two ponies with the young filly. They headed inside, trotting quietly to avoid disturbing her even the slightest, until they came to a small bedroom. Ivory picked her up from Melodía's back and both ponies set her into the small bed, using the blanket they took notice she had to cover her. Ivory sighed.
"So many, Melodía, and my heart is no less tender for each of them."
"I agree, but like the others, we will work to find her a loving home. It's what we signed up for."
"I know, but she will be no different, will she? We will get attached and when it's time for her to go..."
Melodía placed her hoof around her friend. "I share the feeling. But we can always smile we had the chance to have them."
Luna returned from the dream realm later than usual this morning. She took extra time to keep an eye on Selene's dream, though she did not interfere this time, and the moment her dream began to fade away, Luna exited the dream realm to return to Melodía's and Ivory's house. Both ponies were awake and let her in, and she made it to Selene's bedside mere moments before she started to fully awake.
"Luna?" Selene mumbled as she she rubbed her eyes.
"Good morning. Did you sleep well?"
"I didn't have a bad dream. But I don't remember if it was a good dream..." Selene then looked around and realized she was in a bedroom. It was nothing like her old room, but with its light blue walls and a few toys she could see pouring out of a toybox in one corner, she still thought it was a nice room. It took her only a second more to notice she was in a bed, smaller than her old one, but no less comfortable and so much better than a dark alley.
"Where am I?" Selene asked, though it wasn't as fearful of a question as it sounded.
"The place you didn't want to go," Luna answered. At that point, Melodía and Ivory appeared in the room's doorway. "And they are the ones who will look after you."
"Good morning, little one," Melodía said gently. "I'm Melodía and this is my friend, Ivory. We're the ones in charge of this house. When little ones like you need a place to stay, you come to us."
"Are there other fillies here?" Selene asked.
"Yes. Several," Ivory answered. "You are our newest guest. Would you like to join breakfast and meet them? We've told them about you."
Selene clung tightly to her blanket. "Umm, I don't know."
Luna placed a comforting hoof on her back. "All will be okay, dear Selene. Go on." It took a few moments, but Luna's assurance eventually got to her and she agreed. Selene climbed out of the bed, taking her blanket with her, and walked toward the two ponies, but paused when she saw Luna wasn't following.
"Are you coming?"
Luna shook her head. "No, it's time for me to leave. I came because I didn't want you to be scared when you woke up. Now that you're in a safe place, I must go."
"But... but..." Selene ran back toward Luna and hugged her forelegs. "You can't leave!" she begged with tearful eyes.
Luna's heart suddenly felt heavy and a sad expression also came over her face. "You will be in good care here. Melodía and Ivory will take care of you until you find a new family, dear Selene."
That was no comfort to the little filly, instead only making her hold Luna tighter. "No! You can't go! You can't! I'll never see you again!"
"Yes, you will," Luna told her. Still holding tightly, Selene looked up at her with sad eyes Luna swore tore a piece of her heart. "Remember, I look after everypony as they slumber. You'll see me in your dreams."
"...I promise." Luna spread her wings and enveloped Selene in a hug, and Selene spread her own little wings in return. Luna suddenly felt some tears of her own threaten to build, but for Selene's sake, she fought against them. After a few moments that felt too quick, Luna finally let go and Selene slowly did too. "Goodbye, dear Selene."
Luna teleported away, disappearing almost instantly right before Selene's eyes. The little filly stared at the spot the dark blue mare once stood and sniffled for a little longer. Melodía and Ivory waited a while before one of them spoke to her again.
"Selene?" Melodía whispered.
"I'm coming." She slowly walked over to them, still bringing along her blanket. She looked back one more time before walking out of the room with them.
Outside, just beneath that room's window, Luna lied, finally shedding the tears she built up. She had to spare herself another glance at Selene or she wouldn't go. Yet, at that moment when she had leave, she could only teleport out of Selene's view instead of to the castle. She wanted to help Selene and she did. She had done what she was supposed to, so why did it feel so hard? She just... hadn't expected that.
Luna knew she had to go now, or she would stay under that window forever and make it harder for herself and Selene. She closed her eyes, thought about Selene one more time, and teleported away to her chambers. Luna heaved a heavy sigh as she climbed into her own bed to sleep for the day. She didn't even care about having breakfast for herself. She pulled her comforter tightly over herself and, thankfully, fell asleep quickly.
With Selene in safe care, Luna was back to minding only her regular duties and sleeping for most of the day. As she expected, over dinner, Celestia told her of the nobles' complaints of her strictness, and they shared a good laugh over it. Luna found it particularly amusing when Celestia mentioned one noble even referred to her as a "dictator of the royal court".
"Had he not nearly put me in hysterics, I would've excused him from the court for insulting you, Sister," Celestia laughed. "Would you like to hear what I officially name the worst request?"
"The representative of the Zest household asked for funds for renovations."
"That doesn't sound so unreasonable, Sister."
"Renovations for his own home!" Celestia finished.
Luna burst into laughter again. "No, I do not believe it! What were his specifics?"
"He wanted to improve property values, so he said," Celestia remarked, rolling her eyes. "I'm unsure gem-encrusted walls and furniture, and a golden two-story kitchen would accomplish that."
"Sister, he was pulling your hoof!" Luna insisted, still laughing. "He had to be. None of the nobility could be so preposterous!"
Celestia shook her head in jest. "I thought so, but he was truly serious. If I never trained myself to be stoic when necessary, I would've had to pardon myself briefly."
"Sombra," Luna said, turning to face him, "why have you yet to join Celestia in her day court?"
"Luna, your sister will always be more gracious than me when it comes to her court," Sombra answered. "I can handle the nobility at other times, but the day court requires patience I've yet to have. I tried once and had to leave after thirty minutes for headache painkiller."
The three of them ended dinner and Sombra excused himself to some privacy, leaving the sisters at the table together. The servants cleared the table as they shared more incredulous stories from their courts, playfully trying to beat out each other for "most ridiculous requests in one session". After the servants finished and left, the two spoke seriously.
"Luna, have you been alright since last week?"
"What makes you ask?"
Celestia appeared a little skeptical, a face Luna recognized to mean she wanted to know something. "After what you did, I was wondering if it's been weighing on your mind."
"Why would it weigh on my mind, Sister?" Luna asked, genuinely not understanding what Celestia could be suggesting. "I did what was right and she is in a safe place."
"She is. You showed amazing compassion and guidance toward her," Celestia praised. "But when I see you going about alone, you seem to be sad."
"You are mistaken. I have no reason to be---" Luna paused when Celestia held up her hoof.
"Luna, please. I am your sister, and we have grown so much over these years. I know when you aren't being honest about something bothering you, just as you can see through me when I carry a false smile."
Luna sighed, but she really should've known better by now. In front of others, they wouldn't call each other out, but when they got some privacy between only the two of them, they would use the time to say anything that was wrong. Old habits simply died hard sometimes.
"I have wanted to ask you a question," Luna admitted. "Do you remember all those years ago when you made Twilight your protégé?"
Celestia smiled fondly. "Absolutely. It's a day I'll never forget, and one I'm certain she never will either."
"You always say you love Twilight like a daughter. You even cried when you had to finally send her away to Ponyville for the first time."
"Yes, I did. I'm very proud of her and how she's grown."
"But did you expect to feel that way about her when you took her in as your personal student?"
"No," Celestia answered. "It just happened over the years I mentored her. I didn't offer her to be my student with the intention of becoming her substitute parent. Even I was surprised when I realized I loved her that way."
Luna became quiet again as she fell into her thoughts, but Celestia quickly pulled her back when she asked, "Is it the filly?"
"Yes," Luna admitted. "I was only doing what was necessary to help her. You and Twilight also helped. Do not misunderstand. I did care about her when I first discovered her nightmare and helped. But to me, the whole matter was doing what's right for somepony in need. Yet, when I had to finally say goodbye, I felt..."
When Luna didn't continue, Celestia finished for her. "...heartbroken."
"Yes. I said I had to go and she threw herself at my hooves. She would not let go. She cried. I... I did not know how to react. The look in her eyes tore my heart. I had to force myself away and even then, I couldn't immediately leave. I teleported outside and laid beneath her window to cry a bit myself. It was a sudden feeling. One I don't recall ever feeling, not even so long ago with the cutie mark crusaders when I mentored each of them."
Luna moved her gaze from the floor to Celestia, only to discover her sister was giggling. In that instance, she became angry.
"Sister! My feelings amuse you?!"
Celestia immediately stopped, but still smiled. "Not at all." She placed her hoof around Luna and pulled her closer. "I was giggling because what you said makes me feel nostalgic. I know how you feel. I really do. That was the difference between being Twilight's mentor and being Sunset's."
"Yes, I recall you telling me of Sunset Shimmer," Luna said, her brief anger now gone. "You had different feelings for Twilight than you did for Sunset?"
Celestia nodded. "I cared about Sunset and did my best for her, but I never felt more for her than as my student. She was as dedicated to her studies as Twilight, but though I wouldn't admit it publicly, I never felt toward Sunset how I did over the years I mentored Twilight."
"Consider their dedication to their studies is where the similarities end," Luna reminded her. "Twilight was still mild-mannered, kind, and respected you. She studied out of a true love to learn. Sunset was greedy and wanted achievements she did not earn. She studied to gain power and she had no respect for your authority. I recall my disgust when you told me she had the audacity to demand you make her a princess."
"I understand what you're suggesting, but even before I realized her greed, I had no such feelings toward her," Celestia explained. "What I'm saying is everypony has different needs. As fillies, the crusaders needed to be pointed in the right direction from time to time, correct? But Selene was in danger. She needed more than an occasional nudge in the right direction. Your actions truly saved her life."
"But it was over such a short time," Luna muttered. "Three nights and a brief meeting in the morning. A bond cannot be formed in such a short time."
"Untrue, Sister. That is what happened between us when you were born," Celestia told her. "Before your birth, I had the same worries of any filly who is soon to become an older sibling. I didn't want to look at you for the first time. You were still crying in your cradle. But when I did, you calmed down and reached for my mane. I loved you since. Years later, Mother and Father would tease me about how I was unenthusiastic before you were born. I felt the same way when I adopted Cadence as my niece, and she could probably tell you similarly about Flurry Heart. Twilight and her friends shared a bond before they met. And you still share nightly tea with Sweetie Belle in her dreams after helping her once because you related so strongly to her problem during that time. Bonds form in different ways, Sister."
Luna finally smiled. "Thank you. What you say helps me feel better. But do you truly believe to feel this way is always a good thing? I don't know if I'd call how I feel motherly, but I fear I could make adjustment harder for her."
"That's a call you have to trust your own judgment for," Celestia replied. "Do you think one more pony who looks out for her has a risk to it?"
"You're not really asking a question if you put the answer in the question."
"Then, my work is done."
"You and your mentor tricks..." Luna muttered with a playful eye roll.
Later that night, Luna decided she'd finally make good on her promise and pay Selene a visit in her dreams. First, however, she had another friend to visit. She teleported to the dream realm and sought out the dream of Sweetie Belle. Among the other pleasant dreams, she found Sweetie Belle's and entered.
Almost immediately, her ears were assaulted by extremely loud rock music. Sweetie was dreaming of having a rock concert with Apple Bloom and Scootaloo, and probably deafening everypony within a 100-yard radius while she was at it. Luna blocked her ears with her own magic until the concert ended and Sweetie finally spotted her above the audience.
"Luna! Did you like our concert? What did you think of my song?"
"I think though it's a dream, you'll have hearing loss before you're twenty-five, Sweetie Belle," Luna remarked with a deadpan expression. Apple Bloom and Scootaloo went to put away their instruments while Sweetie took Luna behind the curtain and into a small backstage room. There, a table with an umbrella and chairs were set, and hot tea was waiting.
"Tea with you is one of my favorite parts of my dreams," Sweetie said as they each took a seat.
"I enjoy visiting you for tea too," Luna told her. "I want to ask you a question tonight, Sweetie. What do you think of me as? Besides a princess?"
"You're like my other big sister," Sweetie Belle answered. "And my best friend too. Sure, I'm big now, but I still love you like a big sis. I used to be scared you'd stop having tea with me because you thought I was too big."
"Really?" Luna asked.
"Yeah! I'm glad you still visit me every night," Sweetie said. "Especially when I have a bad day, and I can't talk to Apple Bloom or Scootaloo or Rarity. I can count on you to come and listen to me. I always feel better when I wake up after talking to you when I've had a bad day. That's what I think about when I feel really bad."
"That you'll have tea with me at night?"
"It's that one thing I can always look forward to. I hope you never stop visiting me, Luna, even when I'm really, really old!"
Luna blushed a little. For her, having tea was a small gesture that helped keep her and Sweetie in contact over the years. She never realized it meant so much to Sweetie. She thought about the conversation she and Celestia had earlier. All at once, Sweetie Belle made the answer to her question clear for her.
"Thank you, Sweetie. I just needed to know that tonight. And yes, I'll still visit you, no matter how old you get."
"Yay! Oh, did I tell you I have a boyfriend now?"
Luna gagged on her tea and almost spit it out on impulse before she swallowed it instead. "I beg your pardon?!"
Sweetie Belle fell into a fit of laughter. "I did the same thing to Rarity! She almost fainted!"
Luna laughed too, and the two continued their tea and conversation for a long while until Luna had to finally leave to resume patrolling the dream realm. She thanked Sweetie Belle for answering her question and made her way out. She checked over several more dreams as she made her way through, ensuring they were also peaceful and tending to ones that weren't, until she came upon Selene's.
At first, Luna watched without interruption, to see if it was a pleasant dream or she truly had to interfere to stop it as a nightmare. She saw Selene with a few other fillies, presumably the others the caretakers looked after, playing a game and appearing happy. For a while, the dream continued like that, shifting through various scenes of Selene having fun with them, which made Luna smile and gave her relief since she was seeing Selene had adapted well in her new home. However, the dream eventually shifted a scene of night and Luna saw Selene running away. Luna immediately flew in to intervene, but she was beaten to it... by herself! The dream had become a re-enactment of the nightmare where Luna first met Selene. However, something was still different.
The dream Luna still saved Selene, but flew away right after while Selene begged for her to come back.
"Luna! Wait, wait! Luna! I want to you tell about---" The dream Luna vanished fully from sight before Selene finished her sentence and the little filly cried. "You promised, Luna. When you will come back?"
"Right now." The real Luna, her heart again torn, appeared behind Selene, standing tall and steady.
"Luna! You did come to visit!" Selene threw herself at Luna for a hug, and Luna gladly returned it. "But why did you leave before?"
"That was not me, dear Selene," Luna explained. "You were dreaming of me. I am the real Luna."
"Do ponies dream of you all the time?" Selene asked, wide-eyed.
"Not in particular," Luna answered.
"You came! You came!" Selene was bouncing up and down at this point, and her dream shifted to place them in her new bedroom. "I thought you wouldn't visit!"
"Forgive me for worrying you," Luna said, trying not to let her regret show in her voice. "Before your dream became a nightmare, I saw you were having fun with other fillies. Are you going to tell me about them?"
"Yes!" Selene replied, jumping into her bed. "They're my new friends! They live here with Melodía and Ivory too! Did you know Ivory likes cupcakes with white chocolate frosting? And...!"
Selene went on and on, telling Luna about how she befriended the fillies, how she liked her caretakers, and that she liked her bedroom. Luna listened to her talk with zero interruption, though she did give a small laugh when Selene talked about being able to stay home because she couldn't attend school again yet. As Selene explained it, they couldn't access her papers "or something".
Eventually, of course, time called and Luna had to leave once again, spelling the end of her visit. Selene frowned.
"Will you visit me again tomorrow night?"
"You want me to visit every night?" Luna asked.
"Well... I guess you have grown-up things," Selene muttered. "Every week?"
Luna thought about Sweetie Belle. Over the years, she only ever missed a night to have tea with Sweetie if Sweetie either didn't sleep that night or fell asleep too close to morning. Otherwise, no matter how hard of a night she had patrolling the dream realm, she made time to visit Sweetie and after their conversation earlier, she had no regrets she'd made it a priority. The extra time was worth being a little more tired at the end of the night.
Yet, just as Luna was going to agree to visiting Selene on a nightly basis, she came up with a better idea.
"Dear Selene, do you enjoy talking with me?"
"Yeah! I wanted to see you again to tell you everything because you helped me," Selene answered. "And... I really thought you wouldn't come back."
"What if I do visit you every week?" Luna asked with a small smile. "But you must tell me something special when I visit."
"Special?" Selene asked curiously. "Like what?"
"Anything. A game you played with your new friends, a treat your caretakers made for all of you, a story of you and Blankie braving the dark." Selene giggled at that last one. "Something special for you. Do you agree?"
"Okay!" Selene squealed. "Deal! I'll find something special right now to tell you next week!"
"Selene, dear, you're still sleeping," Luna reminded her.
"Right. When I wake up."
"I would love to hear it. But I must go now, so this is goodbye until next week," Luna said, unknowingly forming a solemn face.
"Wait!" Selene jumped off her bed and wrapped herself around Luna's hooves again. "Bye-bye hug!"
Luna's smile returned and she hugged Selene with one of her hooves. There was that feeling again, though it didn't hurt as much as previously. They let go, exchanged goodbyes, and Luna exited Selene's dream to return home.
To Luna's surprise, she returned to find Celestia waiting for her on the balcony. It wouldn't have seemed to out of the ordinary if Celestia weren't sporting what looked like a sly smile.
"Good morning, Sister. Was all of Equestria having pleasant dreams?"
"Most, and I assisted those with nightmares," Luna replied. "Has Sombra made breakfast?"
"Not this morning. He decided to check up with the guards' training in the fields," Celestia answered. "So... how is she?"
"Who do you refer to?" Luna asked, raising an eyebrow. Celestia merely held her hoof to her cheek and kept her sly smile. In another moment, Luna figured it out and her tone became deadpan. "You must get enjoyment from being cryptic."
"At times. Now, how is she doing?"
"She's well. She's adjusted nicely to her home with the caretakers and other fillies."
"Good to hear," Celestia said as she stood up. "Let's have breakfast. I'll make blackberry pancakes. Or are you too tired?"
"No. I did miss breakfast once last week because of how I felt after I left Selene that morning," Luna recalled, "but it shan't be a common occurrence. You know for us to have breakfast and dinner together matters very much to me, Sister."
As promised, Luna returned the next week to visit Selene in her dreams. She walked in on Selene dressed in a pirate costume, rummaging through a chest with her blanket carried in hoof. She waited, charmed at Selene's imaginative dream, until the little filly took notice of her.
"Good evening, dear Selene," Luna greeted her. "Now..." She set herself down next to Selene. "...do you have something special to tell me?"
"Yeah! My friends and I became pirates! Argh!"
"Pirates?" Luna asked, amused. "Hath thou sailed the rough skies?"
"We took back our treasure!" Selene declared. "From the evil blankie-stealer pirates! They walked the plank!"
"What is the treasure?" Luna asked.
Selene flipped up the chest's top. "Blankies!"
"A fine treasure indeed," Luna joked. "Where are you and your friends headed next?"
"To Mount Chocolate to save the chocolate fillies!" Selene declared.
"From evil pirates?"
"No. From their veggies."
The following week...
"Luna! Don't move!" Selene cried. "I'll save you!"
Luna looked down to see they were standing on pads of rock and floating down a river of "hot lava". Selene hopped from rock to rock until she was atop Luna's back.
"Jump, Luna! The waterfall is coming!"
Luna hopped from where she stood to a rocky bit of land. Just as she made it to safety, all of the rock pads fell down the "lava" waterfall.
"That was close!" Selene exclaimed. "We were almost goners!"
Luna couldn't help laughing. She lied down to let Selene off her back. "An adventurer, are we?"
"Me and Blankie used to have lots of adventures!" Selene explained. "And I didn't forget! I have something special this week."
"And what might it be?" Luna asked.
"My friend's name is Cinnamon Sweets and she likes cinnamon! And she knows a game called The Cinnamon Test!"
"The Cinnamon Test?"
"Yeah. When we had dinner, she ate two big spoonfuls at once and blew it out her nose because it tasted hot, hot, hot!"
"Hot like lava?" Luna asked jokingly.
"Yeah! I tried one spoonful. I thought cinnamon was sweet, but I was on fire!" She briefly exploded into flames as she said this. "Don't play The Cinnamon Test!"
"I'll take that warning to heart," Luna laughed.
And the week after...
Luna entered into what was clearly a nightmare. The environment was dark except for a small amount of light and Selene was cowering again. Fillies bigger than her with evil eyes were taunting her.
"Look at the big baby and her blanket! Where's your bottle, baby?"
"Go back to preschool, baby!"
"Watch out! Babies like to cry!"
"Babies are supposed to be cute! She's so ugly!"
Luna brightened the surroundings, making the bullies fade away. Selene looked up and relaxed when she saw Luna. "You saved me again!"
"No adventure tonight, I see," Luna said. "What brings you this nightmare?"
"Melodía and Ivory got my papers and stuff, so I can go to school again," Selene explained. "But I'm... I'm scared. I don't want to go back!"
"I can imagine why. Did this happen often?"
"Yeah. Every day. We're supposed to tell the grown-ups at school, but that never works."
"Yes, I know," Luna agreed sadly. "I've worked with many a filly in their nightmares to learn that. But I think I can help."
"You can come to school with me?" Selene asked, smiling.
"No, but I can teach you how to stand up to bullies like that. Copy what I do."
For the next several minutes, Luna gave Selene a little lesson in standing up for herself. She taught her how to stand firm, how to keep calm, and how to make her voice sound serious. Luna threw in some scowling faces for her to mimic to make her laugh too.
"Now, let's see what you have!" Luna said.
Selene took a breath, planted her hooves firmly on the floor, and made a serious face. "It's my blankie and I love my blankie and I didn't ask you!"
"That's good, Selene," Luna praised her. "And next?"
Selene huffed and trotted a few steps with her nose high in the air.
"Does this really work?" Selene asked.
"For the fillies I've taught it to, they've told me so," Luna answered. "Though, it can take a few tries. Just remember to never turn into the bully. Stand up for yourself, but don't do what they do."
"Okay. I'll try it when I go to school, Luna."
And another week later...
"How was your first week of school?" Luna asked as she and Selene bounced a ball between each other.
"It was really fun! There were no bullies!" Selene replied excitedly. "Some of my friends at the house go to school with me. I think they made the bullies go away."
"Yes, some bullies pick on people who seem lonely," Luna explained. "What else happened?"
"I got my old teacher and my old class back. She said she missed me. My friends and I played pirates at recess. We had fun the whole time! Melodía and Ivory packed lunches for us too! Oh! That's my special thing to tell you this week."
"I guessed so. I am happy you enjoyed returning to school, dear Selene."
"I'm glad I can tell you everything!" Selene beamed.
And that's how it continued every week. Luna would visit Selene and they would play a game or have an "adventure" together while Selene told her something special, or Luna would help Selene with a small problem she had. Most of Selene's dreams were happy ones and even the few nightmares took merely moments for Luna to fix. Like her nightly visits for tea with Sweetie Belle, visiting Selene became a break from the usual difficulty of governing the dream realm on her own.
Then, one week, Selene had a bittersweet special something to tell Luna: some of her friends were gone.
"What has happened to your friends?" Luna asked while trying to console the sad filly.
"Cinnamon Sweets, and Winter Gale, and Charm Key," Selene muttered. "They're gone because they found new families. I should be happy, but... I really miss them. We were going to be best friends. I never had best friends before. Do you know what that's like, Luna?"
Luna's heart tore a little and she had to look away from Selene for a moment. That question had an answer too painful to give.
"You cannot keep contact with them?" Luna asked.
"They promised they'd call Melodía and Ivory to talk to me," Selene answered "But their new families live really far. And what if the other fillies get new families that live far away too? What if none of us can be friends anymore?"
Luna sighed. "I'm sure they are all thinking the same. Sometimes, we grow apart from our friends and we can't change that."
Selene continued to cry, burying her face in the wing Luna spread as comfort. "So, I'll lose all my friends someday? Even you?"
"Dear Selene, I didn't say that," Luna told her, trying to sound assuring. "I'm certain you will find a friend someday you keep for a long time. Please don't worry about me. As long as you dream, I will be here."
That calmed Selene a little. She stopped crying and Luna gently wiped her eyes with her wing. "Luna?"
"I'll always be your friend. Even if I find a new family too. I promise."
And there was that feeling in Luna's heart again. Why did she feel like crying?
"You are a delightful young filly," Luna assured her. "There is a family out there for you. I do not know where, but I have no doubt."
Selene finally smiled and until Luna had to leave to call it a morning, they sat quietly together, Luna letting Selene get settled in her comfort. Somehow, at the same time, the small one's presence was equally comforting to Luna.
"Sister! You have mail!" Celestia called, carrying a package in her magic's grasp. "Twilight sent it, but she says it's from Melodía and Ivory's home. They requested a visit to ask her to send it to you."
Luna paused from her task of lining the halls with aromatic flowers as she'd done for years, though it'd been reduced to a weekly task now, to take the package from her sister. She opened it to find a hoof-made picture book and a letter inside. She tore open the envelope with her horn and held up the letter with her own telekinesis to read it out loud.
To Princess Luna:
Thank you so much for helping Selene. She became close to the other fillies in our home not long after you brought her, so she was very sad when three of them moved far away. We have gotten some postcards from them to let us know they are settling well into their new homes. Selene speaks a lot of you. She is a very happy, hyper chatterbox much of the time. She asked Ivory and I to help her make this book for you. Would you be able to visit her outside of her dreams any time soon? We don't doubt you are very busy as a princess, so we understand if you must say no, but if it's possible, it would mean a lot to Selene. Thank you.
Luna placed the letter back in the box and picked up the book. On its cover was a crayon-drawn picture of her and Selene, and the book was titled "Selene and Luna's Adventures". Every left page had a picture of a dream Luna entered, and the right ones described what the picture was. Luna's facial expression became more and more tender with every page. On the back of the book, a crescent moon was drawn with hearts in it and beneath, it was captioned "I like this "Luna" too" with a small happy face next to it. Luna placed the book back in the box and carried the box away in her magic grasp.
"Seems you've made a strong impact on this young one," Celestia said, following her. "Where are you going?"
"I can't frame this since it's a book, but I'm going to place it below my rose garland in my chambers."
"The red and white one I received when I was first seen as Princess Luna on the morning I was freed from Nightmare Moon. It has hung in my room all these years. The roses are artificial, so they never died."
In Luna's room, she moved the small table she had to sit beneath the rose garland, which hung next to her bed. She carefully placed the book on upright, wanting it to stand, but not wanting to damage its pages even the slightest. "I'll see about getting a glass box for it sometime. That'll have to do for now."
Luna returned to the hall where she left her flowers to continue lining the hall with them. "Are you going to send her some of your flowers in return?" Celestia asked. "I know you're thinking of something."
"I am thinking I will find a way to make time for that visit," Luna replied. She then sighed in frustration. "Although, I am uncertain how I could do so without other ponies making an event of it. I do not enjoy going into Ponyville during day hours. I would do it for Selene if I knew my visit would stay casual, but I know that is wishful thinking. I would not have a moment of peace with the little filly. Even an evening visit would attract attention."
"We can teleport over great distances, sister," Celestia said. "If you sent notice and explained to her caretakers, they may understand and allow you entrance that way. They do mention in the letter they know you're a princess."
"She does not."
"Selene does not know you're one of our princesses?"
"I introduced myself as Luna to her, and never more," Luna explained. "Either she is still unaware or she doesn't care for the fact. I truly hope they haven't told her. I would not want her to feel she's keeping me from other duties."
Celestia mumbled to herself for a moment before speaking again. "Luna, how do you feel between her and your duties?"
"If anything, I feel the opposite," Luna answered. "I have wanted to visit her here in the waking world for some time, yet it seems something pops up when I find even a short amount of time and I can't continually push my duties back. It was different when she was in need. That was urgent. But with her in good hooves, I can't use the reason of urgency anymore."
Celestia was quiet for a few moments as she observed the sad expression on her sister's face. She felt like she was looking in a mirror.
"I understand, Luna." She rested a comforting hoof over Luna's side. "Again, it's how I felt with Twilight. When she was still my young student, I could not always give her the attention I wanted because my other responsibilities had to take priority for the time being. Your feelings reflect mine. I also felt that way with you, so long ago when you were recovering after you returned to us. It's written all over your face. I understand very well."
"What did you do about it, if anything?"
"As you said, I found a way to make time. After all, when I made Twilight my student, I took on a responsibility, and she was every bit as important as the others I had. In the end, if it was not urgent, if it did not have to happen right now, Twilight came first. I'm not certain what you view Selene as, but I can tell you I have no regrets."
Luna smiled again. "The answers feel obvious, yet it still helps to hear them from you. Thank you, sister."
"Sometimes, we simply need to hear things. Even I need assurance at times. We are still ponies, after all."
A short time later, Luna was resting in her quarters with a scroll and quill in front of her, held in her telekinetic grasp. She took a deep breath as she considered her words before she began to write.
To the home of Melodía and Ivory:
I have received your letter. Thank you. Though, I cannot give a date, I can assure you I will plan a visit for Selene within the coming month. However, I must ask a favor of you. When I first met Selene in her dreams, I introduced myself to her only as "Luna". To my knowledge, she still remains unaware I am a princess. I am asking you to please refrain from informing her of this fact. I fear should she know, she'll believe she is preventing me from other duties. That is not case. I do not want her to concern herself with my duties. I am glad to know she remains well and is happy in your care.
Luna set down the scroll and took hold of a second one to write out another letter. Before considering it done, she made a special note on the back. She rolled up the scrolls and tried to fit them into two separate envelopes before she remembered letters had to be folded to fit into these rectangular seals, not rolled up to be sent plainly by a shot of magic. For a brief moment, she pondered what she'd say if Selene ever got the idea to ask Luna her age. And here, she thought she'd broken out of most of her old habits.
"Has she really gotten close to her?" Sombra was asking, trying to change the subject from the aggravation of the royal day court that ended just minutes ago.
"I don't think it could be more obvious," Celestia replied as she flexed her elegant wings to relax herself. "It reminds me so much of how I felt when Twilight was a filly."
"How you felt? My sweet Celestia, you still feel that way about her," Sombra said with a small chuckle. "Admit it. You couldn't love her more if she were your own daughter."
"I don't recall ever denying it," Celestia stated proudly.
"Luna's coming! Luna's coming! Luna's coming!" The little filly could not stop bouncing on her bed with joy. Not even when she fell off and hit the floor with a thud did she stop cheering. "When? When? When is she coming?"
"Calm down there, Selene," Melodía told her. "Luna didn't specify a date for her visit."
"What does that mean?"
"It means she doesn't know when she's coming either," Melodía answered. "We only know she's coming next month."
That was a little upsetting for Selene, but rather than feel down, she took it as Luna's way of surprising her. She drummed her hooves happily at the idea. As long as Luna was really coming, it didn't matter when.
"In the meantime, Luna wants you to have this," Ivory said, passing a blue envelope sealed with a crescent moon sticker.
Selene quickly ripped open the envelope, but her excitement quickly faded after she took out the letter and remembered a problem: she couldn't read so well yet! Ivory alleviated that problem by offering to read the letter for her, instantly bringing back her excitement.
"Ooh, maybe she'll surprise me by teaching me how to read when she visits!"
"Maybe," Ivory said. "Let's read what she wrote to you."
Your book is the loveliest gift I've received in a long time. I have it displayed in my room. You are quite the artist, young one. Though our time together is in your dreams, know that it is still special. It is no less meaningful than it would be if we met in the waking world. I enjoy the dreams you've shared with me. Those dreams show me how spirited and full of life you are. I look forward to my visits of your dreams as much as you do. Should there ever be a time when I don't visit as much, please know it's not because I don't want to or I've forgotten about you. I want to always be here for you.
I love you, Selene.
"I love you too, Luna!" Selene said, hugging the letter.
"Look on the back, Selene," Ivory told her.
Selene turned over the letter. On the back was a drawn, detailed picture of Selene riding on Luna's back, holding on to her neck as Luna was flying through the air. "Do you think this is the surprise? Luna's going to take me flying?! We did that in my dreams!"
"You'll have to wait and see when she visits," Melodía told her. "But don't get too excited or you might be disappointed if that's not the surprise."
"Oh. Okay. But she's coming!" Selene went back to her joyful bouncing. "Luna's coming! Luna's coming!"
Melodía and Ivory could only watch sweetly as Selene reveled in her excitement. It'd been a long time since they had such an energetic filly in their home. But they'd been fostering long enough to know the time was getting closer. They would miss her.
Selene searched through the dress-up chest. She knew she didn't really need to dress up, but she wanted to look special for Luna's first visit to her in the waking world since she dropped her off at the foster home. The costumes were fun, but the only one close to something she felt appropriate was a lime green princess gown. She stared in the mirror at herself for a while. She didn't really like it, but it would have to do. She searched again through the chest and found some accessories to match: a pair of small, pearl earrings and glittery green plastic slippers. The slippers weren't really comfortable, so she tossed them aside and chose a pair of green bracelets with small, white bows on them instead. She looked in the mirror again. Still not the best outfit, but it looked a little better. A little.
"Selene?" She turned to see Melodía in the doorway. "Why are you wearing that?"
"I have to look special for Luna!" Selene answered with delight. "This is the only dress I could find."
"I'm sure Pri---" Melodía quickly cleared her throat. "I'm sure Luna will be glad to see you, no matter how you look."
"I know! I know! I just can't believe she's really coming when I'm awake!"
"I guess you're ready to go," Ivory said, joining Melodía at the door. "Let's not be late then."
"Late?" Selene asked.
"Ivory is taking you to meet up with Luna," Melodía explained. "I'm going to stay behind to look after the other fillies."
"Don't you want to see Luna too?" Selene asked.
"I'll get to see her when you two return tonight," Melodía assured her. "Now, hurry along. We're sure Luna is a patient pony, but you wouldn't want to keep her waiting, would you?"
"No! No! No! I'm ready!" Selene cheered. She raced out of her bedroom and hurried out of the front door.
"If you hurry, you can catch her before she runs to the other end of Equestria," Melodía laughed to Ivory.
"I'll give you a transcript of the journey when I come back," Ivory joked. She then rushed out the door to catch up with the excited filly before she could get too far.
Thankfully, Selene had only gotten as far as the town's square. "Wait, Selene! We must go this way!" Ivory called. Selene stopped in her tracks, turned around, and ran to where Ivory was pointing while Ivory hurried to catch up with her again. This time, she blocked Selene's path, and caught her in her hoof when she tried to jump around her.
"Sorry, Ivory! I want to hurry so we're not late!"
"I know, dear, but don't go running off on your own," Ivory warned her. "Let's walk together. I can't have you getting lost."
"I won't get lost. I know how to get all around Ponyville!"
"But do you know where we're meeting Luna?"
"Oh... Guess not. Okay, I'll stay next to you."
"Good. Now, this way." Ivory and Selene headed down to the outskirts of Ponyville, where Selene hadn't been since coming to her foster home. Selene tried to imagine all the games they'd play and the fun they could have together. It could be just like her dreams! Well, without the danger.
Though it felt like forever for the little filly, up ahead, she finally caught sight of the tall, blue mare. She couldn't help herself and dashed right up to her for a hug. Despite Luna had never been one for public displays of affection from anypony except her sister, she immediately returned the excited embrace. And there was that strange, warm feeling again.
"Luna! I'm so glad you're here! Are you happy to see me?"
"Of course, dear Selene," Luna replied tenderly. "I'm happy I can be here with you today."
"I'll leave you two to have your day," Ivory said. "Have a good time. We need to have her back by 8pm."
"I will return her punctually," Luna promised Ivory.
"I'll tell you all about it! You and Melodía have fun without me!" Selene shouted as Ivory left. "Bye now!" She looked toward Luna again. "What do you have for us to do today? Are we going to fight snake bandits like in my last dream?"
"No." Luna grabbed a book from one of her saddlebags and placed it in front of Selene. "But I can teach you to read about bandits."
"Luna, can we do something else?" Selene complained. "I don't want to do this anymore! It's too hard!"
Only 30 minutes passed while Luna had been trying to help Selene read for the first time, but it proved to be slow, difficult, and frustrating for the little filly. Naturally, for an excitable child her age, she didn't have the patience to get it right.
"Are you certain?" Luna asked. "You successfully read through a few of the first pages."
"But I'll be reading forever!" Selene moaned. "Can't you read it to me instead and I copy what you say? Then, we can read together!"
Luna shook her head. "We can take a break if you're upset, but I won't read it for you. If I do, you'll never learn to read for yourself. I know it's hard at first, but you'll---"
Luna stopped speaking when Selene knocked the book away in frustration.
"No! Let's do something else!"
"Selene, please retrieve that book," Luna requested calmly.
"No, Luna! I don't want to practice anymore!" Selene whined. "Let's play a game!"
"I said we could take a break, yes," Luna agreed, letting her voice take on a firm tone, "but first, please retrieve the book you tossed aside."
Selene did retrieve the book, but when she returned with it, she threw it down, unintentionally hitting Luna. Now was when Luna's expression became a clear one of anger, but she didn't lose her temper. For a reason she never knew, being around fillies expanded her patience beyond what it normally was. However, it wasn't so much, she let them get away with being troublesome.
"Selene, there's no need for that."
"But I got the book like you said!" Selene's own tone was raising.
"You also hit me."
"No, I didn't!"
"Perhaps not on purpose, but yes, Selene, you did. And we will not do anything further unless you apologize."
"But! But! We're supposed to be having fun!" Selene cried, stomping her little hooves.
"Yes, you're right, but you're beginning to throw a tantrum."
"No, I'm not! I am not! I am not!" She stomped her hooves with every word.
Luna bit back her sarcastic tongue. Instead, she sat quietly and waited, letting her face return to a more neutral expression. Selene calmed down quickly and stared at Luna for a few seconds.
"Luna? Can we play now?"
Luna shook her head.
Each time she whined, Selene was only treated with Luna's silence as a response. It was about five minutes before Selene took the hint Luna wouldn't give in. She was still upset and now a little teary-eyed as she fully realized she made Luna angry with her. She threw herself at Luna's hooves and hugged one of her legs.
"I'm sorry, Luna! See? I said it! Please stop being mad at me!"
Luna smiled a little. "What are you sorry for?"
"Throwing your book."
"And hitting you and being mean! Now, stop being mad and be my friend again! Please!"
Luna affectionately rubbed the filly's cheek, and Selene held the hoof at that spot, still looking up at Luna with tearful eyes.
"I accept your apology. Thank you."
Selene smiled. "Do you still love me like you said in your letter?"
"Of course," Luna assured her, changing her tone back to a gentle one. "I didn't stop for a moment."
"But you were... weren't you mad at me?"
"And you were angry with me," Luna pointed out. "Do you still love me?"
"Getting upset with the ones we love is normal, dear Selene," Luna explained. "We can be angry and still love them. What we can't do is hurt them. But you're calm and you apologized, so never mind it now."
"So, we can play a game now?" Selene asked excitedly.
"Yes, but if you continue having a tantrum, I must cut this visit short and return you home."
"No, I'll be nice! I promise!"
"I'm glad to hear that." She took out a tissue box and gave a tissue to Selene to dry her eyes with. "Now, what would you like to play? Or..." She grabbed a basket Selene had originally paid no attention to and placed it next to them. "...would you like to eat instead?"
Selene's instant attention to the basket and licking of her lips answered the question. Luna rolled her eyes in amusement before pulling away the basket's cover to reveal it contained several chocolate and vanilla treats. Celestia baked them as a surprise to take with her for the outing. A few pieces of fruit were also in the basket to provide a little balance to the junk food.
Selene took two of the treats, one of each flavor, while Luna chose one treat and one fruit, a pineapple, for herself. After seeing Luna's choice, Selene took an apple too, but kept both of her treats.
"7... 8... 9... 10! Ready or not, here I come!"
Selene began her search, checking the most obvious spots first. Luna wasn't up in the tree Selene counted at, or hiding behind it. She wasn't under the picnic blanket. She wasn't hiding in any of the bushes.
Selene checked the other trees, but she still didn't find Luna. She looked in a small field of flowers, up and down the pathway, and across the street. No sign of Luna. She even searched the ground for holes, thinking Luna could've hidden in one she dug herself. But it was perfectly flat.
Selene wouldn't give up on one of her favorite games, though. She got the idea to check the trees again, starting with the biggest one, the one she counted at. She inspected it a second time, circling it, until she caught something new. The tree had a small opening at the bottom. When she peered into it, she saw a familiar pair of shoes. She looked up and saw a larger hole several inches above the one at the tree's base. She tried to fly upwards, but she could only hover, so she climbed up and poked one of her hooves into it. Sure enough, her hoof was touched by something soft. Something cloudy...
"Luna! I found you!" she declared gleefully. Luna revealed her face and smiled. "You were here the whole time!"
"Yes, I was. I'm surprised you checked everywhere else before you noticed the tree had holes."
"I can find everypony!" Selene exclaimed. "It's your turn."
Selene waited until she saw Luna turn around and close her eyes. As Luna counted, she fretted to think of a hiding spot. Then, she glanced at the basket and got an idea. She grabbed it in her mouth and scurried off to find a hiding spot.
"9... 10." Luna turned around again and the first thing she noticed was the missing basket and its cover. "Now, where is that clever filly?" she thought.
Picking Luna's previously chosen hiding spot would've been too easy, but Luna checked anyway to be certain. She began searching for the basket, a search that may have taken more than a grand total of three minutes if Selene didn't look like a huge bump beneath the basket's cover. Still, Luna decided to humor her.
"I wonder where Selene hiding," Luna teased as she slowly came nearer to the filly's hiding spot. "Maybe she's... in the bushes!" Selene giggled. "No, not in the bushes. Did she crawl into the rabbit hole? No, not the rabbit hole." Even stifled, Selene's snickering could be heard. Luna finally gave up the ploy.
"Is this my basket? Did Selene move my basket?" Luna leaned her head near the cover. "Is that Selene in my basket?" She poked the "bump" and Selene shook with giggles before revealing herself. "Found you."
"You're a good seeker too, Luna!" Selene climbed on top of Luna's head. As she balanced herself, she looked down to the ground, as if it was the first time she realized how tall Luna was. She tried to fly with her wings again, flapping them as hard as she could and arching herself up, but she could only hover for a few seconds before she fell down. Luna caught her before she hit the ground and set her upright on her hooves. They brought the basket back to their picnic spot and placed the fruit and treats Selene had sprawled out to use the basket back inside.
"Luna, can you teach me how to fly?" Selene asked. "I really want to fly, but I think my wings are broken."
"Your wings are not broken," Luna assured her. "Every pegasus flies when they're ready. I was late at many things."
"I did not get my cutie mark until I was an adult, to start."
"You mean some ponies don't get cutie marks until they're all grown up?" Selene asked, wide-eyed and mouth agape. "Were you really happy when you got it?"
"Indeed, and it didn't matter that I was so late. I'm positive you will feel the same when you fly for the first time."
Selene smiled. Nopony had ever told her that before.
"And if you're still worried, you can try a scooter like a certain friend of mine did when she struggled to fly."
By the time their outing came to an end, Selene had fallen fast asleep. Most ponies had also headed indoors by now, so Luna was able to return Selene to her home without attracting any unwanted attention. Rarely did Luna let herself loosen up as she did today, but with them on the outskirts, Luna felt little need to worry about it. That said, if Luna was to be honest with herself, she was unsure she really cared about a thing like "image" today. She cared more about keeping her time with Selene from being interrupted.
Luna arrived at the foster home at exactly 8:00pm, where she was greeted by Melodía waiting outside.
"How did it go?"
"It was wonderful," Luna answered as she passed Selene to Melodía. "Thank you for letting me have the chance."
"We should thank you for bringing her to us to begin with," Melodía told her.
"I've no doubt she's a delight in your home," Luna said. "Forgive me, but I must take my leave now."
"May I ask you one question before you leave? Why would you rather Selene not know you are a..." Melodía whispered the last word. "...princess? Surely, you could tell her she doesn't prevent you from anything if she worried about it."
"It is more than that," Luna answered. "At most, Selene seems to think of me as her friend or sister. I imagine it sounds odd to most, but I'd prefer ponies, especially young ones such as Selene, see me as an ordinary pony at times, not a sort of omnipotent being."
"Understood. I promise we won't tell her if you don't want us too. Have a good evening."
"You as well, Melodía. I bid you good night."
Luna flew off quickly, as if she wanted to hurry away before she had a chance to look back. Melodía carried Selene inside to put her to bed.
"We won't tell," Melodía muttered to herself, a bit amused.
Luna arrived home just in time to find Celestia and Sombra about to retire for the night. From her view, they looked so exhausted, she questioned if they may need a seeing-eye pony. Neither spotted her until she walked ahead and stood directly in front of them.
"Luna! How was your day with the filly?" Sombra asked.
"Splendid. I suppose the same can't be said for you?"
"We don't want to talk about it," Celestia moaned, which was so unusual for her, Luna knew whatever it was must've been truly awful.
"Please don't let me slow your way to your slumbers. Go on."
"Wait," Celestia said. "Sombra, you go on. I want to speak to Luna for a moment."
Sombra gave his wife a quick kiss and continued toward their bedroom.
"Yes, Sister? What do you wish to discuss?" Luna asked.
"Are you still questioning yourself about how you feel towards Selene?"
"Not at all."
"Are you positive?"
"If I were, I wouldn't have allowed time for the outing we had today. I am certain."
Celestia gave her a small smile. "Then, do what your heart says. You know it. I know it. Follow it. Don't be afraid. Should you ever need advice, I'm here. I know you better than anypony else, Luna, and you will be excellent."
For a few moments, Luna merely stood speechless. Then, a slight blush came across her face. No magic had been needed, but Celestia read her mind and she was glad.
"Thank you so much, Sister. Now, hurry to slumber before you topple."
Some weeks passed since Luna and Selene's picnic together. Luna paused her weekly visits to Selene's dreams while she worked in secret with Melodía and Ivory. At home, Celestia and Sombra made preparations to lift some of the work off Luna's shoulders. For the time being, the matter was kept between the three of them, per Luna's request because she didn't want it to be announced to the rest of their family yet.
Unaware of what was in store for her, Selene went about her days as she normally did: attending school, playing with the other fillies of her foster home as they came and went, and practicing reading a little before going to bed. The last one in particular was more for Luna than her. Learning to read was hard, but she wanted to surprise Luna the next time they visited each other.
Between taking care of the other fillies and helping them find permanent homes, Melodía and Ivory tried to spend some extra time with Selene when they could manage. She had been in their home longer than most of the fillies who came to them, and they inevitably became attached to her and almost didn't want her to go. At the same time, they knew from the beginning the time would come for her to leave, though they didn't discover until much farther down the road whose hooves she'd be in. In a way, it almost seemed like an honor of some sort, or perhaps they should've seen it coming all along.
On Selene's second-to-last night in their home, they gathered with Luna to talk while Selene and the other fillies slept soundly. One would imagine the discussion taking place would be a little awkward, yet the two friends felt comfortable in the night pony's regal presence, and vice versa.
Luna started off with a heavy sigh.
"I must admit I don't do this without a twinge of guilt," the princess confessed. "I know you love her as much as I do, and I feel I am tearing your hearts out."
"Please, Your Highness, don't feel like that," Melodía pleaded, giving her a sincere smile. "Ivory and I have fostered young ponies for a long time. We experience this with every filly, little and big, who becomes part of our home, no matter how short the stay."
"And we know how you feel too," Ivory added. "You didn't expect to feel this way about her, but it happened. When Melodía and I first became foster parents, we didn't believe we would love them so easily."
"Then," Melodía continued, "we naively believed we'd get used to the heartbreak of watching them go. That it'd someday become so normal, it'd pass without us feeling it. We were so wrong. We are used to it, but it never passes without hurting. But it also makes us happy because we are doing what we feel we're meant to."
"To know she's going with somepony she has already become close to makes us feel that much better," Ivory assured. "It makes seeing her go that much easier because we know for certain she's in the best hooves."
"I must admit I am curious. Has she really never been considered by another potential parent?" Luna asked, genuinely finding the idea unbelievable.
"The way our process works is we allow the potential parent supervised time with the filly they're considering," Melodía explained. "Either Ivory or myself makes the arrangement. We skipped that with you because you've already spent ample time with Selene, not to mention saving her to begin with. A few ponies who've come to our home have considered Selene, but in the end, they've opted for another of the fillies in our home each time."
"Selene has never told me of this. Only about other fillies leaving. Have those ponies ever explained why?"
"For some, the reason is as simple as it was a bad day," Melodía answered. "For others, the reasons boil down to they didn't believe they could really support her."
"Selene is a delight, Princess, but I'm sure you can't disagree she can occasionally be a handful," Ivory said.
"Indeed." Luna thought back to the night she brought Selene to the foster home and, more recently, their picnic. "But 'tis not true of all fillies? Nopony is perfect, especially not the young ones."
"Of course, but some are tougher to care for than others," Ivory explained. "Melodía and I love what we do, but if we told you we didn't have our challenges with some fillies, it'd be a lie. Many ponies interested in adoption don't see a filly Selene's age as their first choice, and fillies with a history like hers make finding a permanent home even harder. We can count how often we come across an unbiased pony like you, Princess."
Luna was uncertain she deserved that compliment. "I couldn't call myself unbiased. Our first meeting was in her dreams, after all. Even my sister would admit to personal bias. That is how our Princess of Friendship came to be her private student so many years ago, and that is still less bias than I have."
"That kind of bias is acceptable," Melodía said. "What we mean is many of the ponies who say they want to adopt are looking for a "perfect filly". Ivory and I have turned several ponies away because we could see they looked at adoption no differently than casual shopping. There have also been times we misjudged a pony and allowed an adoption, only to learn down the road it was a mistake. We would fight hoof and nail to get that filly back."
For the next several minutes, Melodía and Ivory told Luna incidents of turning away potential parents and reversing adoptions they handled across their years of being foster parents. As they expected, Luna reacted with shock and disgust at each tale until they finally stopped out of fear of making the night princess genuinely physically ill from the growing sick feeling in her stomach. Melodía made her a small cup of tea to ease her a little, which she thanked her for, but many moments still passed before Luna could find her voice again.
"The two of you are truly to be respected," Luna praised. "You do work I'm uncertain I or even my sister could stomach. Know I will always think of you with the highest honor. The fact remains you were truly Selene's parents after she lost her birth ones, and I will keep contact with you. After all you have done, and all you continue to do, that is the least I can offer you."
The caretakers couldn't prevent themselves from tearing up at the princess's words. A brief, friendly silence followed until their eyes were cleared and all three spent the remainder of their time chatting casually until Luna finally had to return home for the night.
The next night, Selene's final night in her foster home, Melodía and Ivory allowed her to stay awake later than usual for them to play with and talk to her while the other fillies slept. They read her stories, played games with her, and made her favorite treats. Finally, they tucked her into bed and told her the news.
"What's the really special thing happening tomorrow?" Selene asked.
"How do you know something really special is happening?" Melodía asked teasingly.
"I didn't. I guessed," Selene laughed. "Because you made my favorite treats just for me."
"And we let you stay up past your bedtime. Or do you stay awake without us?" Ivory teased as she pulled out a hidden flashlight from beneath Selene's pillow.
"What's going to happen?" Selene asked excitedly. "Tell me or I won't go to sleep!"
"You probably won't if we do tell you," Ivory said, glancing and smirking at Melodía for a second before turning back to Selene.
"Selene, we love you and we enjoy having you here," Melodía began. "But tonight is your last night with us."
"You mean I... can't be here anymore? Did... did I do something bad?"
"No. Not at all," Melodía assured her. "Remember how sad you feel when the other fillies find new families because you miss them? And sometimes, you ask us if you'll ever find a new family?"
Selene quickly caught on, but she wasn't so quick to believe them. "Everypony loves the other fillies better. You're the only ones who love me. And Luna. Luna loves me."
"Yes, Luna loves you very much," Ivory agreed.
"And I love all of you too!" Selene exclaimed.
"We know," Melodía told her. "We love having you here, but tomorrow, it's time for you to go to your new family."
"But what if they don't really love me?"
"But you just said it. She does love you," Ivory replied.
"I said Luna loves me."
"Yes!" Melodía and Ivory said in unison, smiling at her. Selene thought about it. She thought and thought until it finally clicked.
"Luna is... Luna's... Luna wants to adopt me?! You mean it?"
The two friends nodded, causing Selene to feel a wave of excitement and confusion.
"But why didn't Luna tell me?"
"It wasn't planned," Ivory explained. "When Luna first met you, she didn't know she would love you so much. But it's true."
"And she's promised to write letters to us to let us know how you're doing," Melodía added.
"Can I still visit you?" Selene asked.
"Of course," Melodía answered. "Just like Luna visits you. Tomorrow, after we drop the other fillies off at school, we are taking you to Luna."
"But for now, it's time to go to sleep," Ivory said. She and Melodía gave Selene a good night hug and left her to fall asleep. But Ivory was right. After hearing that, Selene was too excited to fall asleep. At least, at that moment. After Melodía and Ivory were gone, she switched on her flashlight and hugged her treasured blanket like it was trying to escape from her.
"I can't believe it, Blankie! I really, really can't believe it! Luna's going to be our new mommy!"
Out of her bedroom's window, she caught a glimpse of a speeding, bright flash. She gasped happily, remembering the last time she saw a shooting star. It was the same night she met Luna in her dreams for the first time.
Somehow, Selene finally got herself to sleep amidst her excitement about tomorrow. For a while, she slept soundly as she usually did. Only when a small voice called for her was she disturbed from her sleep.
She drowsily pulled from her sleep and rubbed her eyes. When she noticed morning hadn't yet arrived, she tried to go back to sleep.
The voice continued to call her name and she tried harder to ignore it, assuming it was only her imagination.
"Selene... Answer me... Selene..."
The voice didn't become louder, but it did become more haunting as it continued to call for Selene to reply. Selene hid beneath her blanket, trying desperately to cover her ears.
"Why, Selene? Why did you betray me?"
Selene curled herself into a ball, squeezing her blanket more tightly, as she kept wishing desperately to herself the voice would go away. She closed her eyes, fighting to restrain herself from crying. She didn't want to cry in front of it, wherever the voice's source was. She heard something begin to circle around her, but she didn't dare take a peek. The voice only continued to taunt her.
"Why did you betray me? Why, my sweet baby?"
Selene's fear briefly became anger, and she may have finally responded if that anger lasted longer than a second.
"Why, my sweet baby? Why did you betray me?" The voice suddenly became distorted. "Come to me."
Fierce winds suddenly picked up and Selene found herself shivering in the midst of an uprising tornado. She tried to plant her hooves firmly on the ground, but the winds were too strong. The furious funnel yanked her off the ground and swirled her upward as she screamed in terror, clutching her blanket, the only thing she could hold, for dear life.
At the sound of that shout, Selene's screams were silenced as she found herself shielded in a protective blue bubble. The tornado blew out and the distorted voice ceased. Selene gently, but quickly, floated to the ground, the bubble bursting as she landed. Another pair of hooves softly landed in front of her seconds after she did.
Selene wasted no time, immediately running into Luna's hooves and letting her tears run loose. It took only a few seconds for her to calm, but after the tears were gone, she smiled.
"Luna! I thought it would it hurt me."
"I would never allow harm to come your way."
Luna set Selene back on her feet, and the filly's natural excitement returned to her.
"Guess what Melodía and Ivory told me?"
"Hmm." Luna put her hoof to her chin, pretending to wonder. "I can't guess. What did they tell you?"
"They told me..." Selene smiled widely "...you're going to be my mommy! Is it true?! Is it?"
Luna nodded. "It is, dear Selene. I am adopting you. Though, you are still welcome to call me Luna."
"I have a secret to tell you!"
"Before I met you, I wished on a star. I wished for a mother. And you came in my dreams later! The star granted my wish! It was you!"
Luna couldn't help being charmed by her innocence. "I consider myself fortunate. I hadn't known either. But there is something important I must tell you about that. Walk with me."
Selene walked forward with Luna as the scene of her dream changed to a more vague environment, one with a violet night sky where the stars passed along.
"Selene, I have also kept a secret from you all this time."
"Is it a little secret?" Selene asked with an innocent giggle. "Or a big secret?"
"A very big secret," Luna replied, briefly looking away. "Now that you are coming into our home, I must tell you."
An astral wave of stars passed around them, obscuring Luna from Selene's view for several seconds. When Selene could see her clearly again, a black crown with a green gem had materialized atop Luna's head. Beneath, Luna wore a black neck plate with the same green gemstone, and on her feet, Selene saw she now wore tall, light purple shoes. The young filly gazed at the accessories in awe.
"Luna, you look like a princess!" Selene exclaimed, still admiring the attire. "Can I try on your crown?"
Luna took her crown off and gently lowered it onto Selene's head. The large piece of jewelry blinded her.
"It's too big!" Selene laughed as Luna took it back. "Are you a princess, Luna?"
Luna quietly nodded.
"What?" Selene sputtered. "You... you're a real princess?!"
"I am Princess Luna, the princess of the night and moon."
Luna watched carefully for Selene's reaction. She saw the filly's face slowly change from surprise to wonder to confusion.
"Young one, I kept this secret because I feared were you to know, you would feel guilt."
"Because princesses have lots of respon... respon... grown-up stuff to do, right?" Selene asked sadly. "Does that mean I kept you from doing important stuff? That's why you couldn't always visit me?"
Luna set herself down, making the regal accessories vanish. "Selene, you have never prevented me from doing anything. You are also important to me. These past weeks I've not visited your dreams were spent preparing to welcome you into what will be your new home. I will explain more when you arrive."
"Okay, Luna. Princess Luna."
"Luna is enough," the night princess assured her again. Selene smiled at this, though still did a little bow out of respect. Luna bid her farewell, and she waved as Luna exited her dream.
Selene waited excitedly at the train station, her blanket neatly folded and placed into a saddlebag, with Melodía and Ivory by her side. She was also nervous, unsure of what to expect, particularly after her dream the previous night, but her excitement about living with Luna remained stronger. She'd been thinking about what Luna told her since she woke up. To know she was going to be the daughter of a princess was thrilling, but at the same time, she really only wanted to spend lots of time with Luna.
Selene stared down the track, ever impatient for the train to finally arrive. Having never ridden a train before, she envisioned the trip as a small adventure. Or it would be if her desperate wishes could make the train arrive faster.
"This train is taking forever!" Selene whined. "Is it late?"
Ivory checked the nearby clock in the station. "Seems so. It was supposed to arrive five minutes ago. Sometimes, trains are delayed."
"Delayed? What does that mean?"
"It means the train is late because something is slowing it down," Ivory answered.
"Like a... pirate?" Selene asked. "An evil pirate who wants to steal the train treasure?"
Ivory and Melodía chuckled and rolled their eyes in amusement at how Ivory's simple answer had sparked Selene's imagination.
"Yeah, pirates! Argh!" She put on a mock gruff voice and mimicked a storybook pirate. "Search the train and find their treasure! Take all their gems! And their... candy!"
"Candy?" Melodía questioned teasingly.
"We need this candy for energy to soar the skies! Give us your candy or walk the track! Grrrrr!" She finished her improvised display of acting with a low growl through gritted teeth. Then, she laughed to herself as she fell over, but was startled a moment later when she heard a loud whistle.
"All aboard, our fierce pirate," Melodía joked as she pointed to the oncoming train. Selene immediately jumped upright, staring at the large, long vehicle in pure shock as it began to slow down to allow them to board. She'd seen trains in storybooks, of course, but she never pictured them to be so big. The popping colors and loud noise only drew in her attention further. To her, the train looked like oversized, rectangular cakes linked together. And she was going to ride it!
Ivory and Melodía led her aboard, keeping her close to prevent her from getting lost in the crowd of passengers boarding on and off the train. Once they were on, Selene made a beeline for an empty seat so she could sit near the window. Her caregivers sat next to her, but she didn't notice when they sat down, as she had her hooves pressed firmly against the window to avoid missing a moment of scenery when the train departed.
"All aboard!" The loud announcement shocked Selene and for the few seconds the conductor spoke, she looked up toward a speaker on the ceiling. "Our next stop will be Canterlot station! Canterlot station will be next!" The train's whistle bellowed once more and Selene quickly returned her attention to the other side of the glass as the train rode away to its next destination.
The train ride was long one, but the passing scenery was enough to keep Selene entertained and in wonder. Melodía and Ivory envied her bliss. They were so happy for her, yet so sad at the same time. She had come into their home, fit herself nicely into their lives, and would take a small piece of their hearts with her when they finally passed her on to Luna for the last time. Though they'd see and hear from her again, that assurance just couldn't do enough to fade away the sadness of losing yet another beloved filly who came into their home.
But their job with this particular filly was done. And like all those who left before her, and who would leave after her, they'd do it all over again.
"Melodía?" Ivory whispered, catching a few tears in her friend's eyes that hadn't fallen.
"I know," Melodía whispered in response, catching sight of Ivory's own nearly inconspicuous tears. For a few seconds, they seemed to have a silent conversation before they finally let their sight remain on the still blissfully oblivious filly next to them trying to count the trees as the train rode by.
"Canterlot Station! We are now arriving at Canterlot Station! Please watch your step!"
Selene moaned as Ivory gently shook her awake. "We're here, Selene. Time to get off."
Upon remembering she'd been riding the train, Selene burst up and hopped off her seat. Melodía and Ivory led her out of the train car and onto the platform, again keeping her close among the crowd of passengers getting off.
Selene didn't remember falling asleep, but she didn't think much of it. Wonder quickly found her again as she took in the view of the new city she now stood in.
"Canterlot," Melodía corrected.
"Canterlot!" Selene repeated. But despite her amazement of the city, she had no desire to explore as she usually would. "Where does Luna live?"
"Did Luna tell you her... secret?" Melodía asked.
"Yeah! She visited my dreams last night and told me she's a real princess!" Selene replied. "But I can still call her Luna."
"So, look ahead and tell us where you think Luna lives," Ivory told her, smirking.
Her caregivers gave her a boost up and Selene looked as far ahead as she could. When Ivory whispered to look ahead and up, it only took a moment for the answer to hit Selene.
"A castle?!" The two friends let her back on the ground. "Luna is a real princess and lives in a real castle?!"
The older ponies nodded as they began walking with a very shocked Selene, who remained wordless for a long while. She was trying to piece it all together. Luna, a princess who lived in a castle, who visited her dreams, who saved her, who loved her. She was really lucky. Too lucky. Selene wanted to be with Luna, but what if she couldn't be a princess? What if she messed it up? What if Luna changed her mind? What if... what if Luna stopped loving like her parents had?
"Selene, what's wrong?" Melodía asked when she and Ivory noticed Selene's usual smile had suddenly melted into a frown. They stopped to give the filly their attention. Upon realizing she was crying, they brought under a shop's awning and tried to soothe her. Ivory hugged and patted her back while Melodía soothingly shushed her in her ear.
She calmed down quickly, but she was still upset, so they again asked what was wrong.
"Luna won't love me anymore!" Selene cried, followed by a small hiccup.
"Why would you say that?" Ivory asked.
"Because! Because I'll be a bad princess and she won't love me anymore! Like my mom and dad!"
A brief flash of anger came across the older ponies' faces, though it was not directed at Selene. In that small instance, they hated her parents, but they quickly tossed aside the anger to mind Selene.
"Luna will always love you," Melodía assured her. "She wouldn't have done all she has if she didn't. We heard you were a little rowdy at the picnic she shared with you. Did she stop loving you?"
"No," Selene answered. "She said... she said everypony gets upset with their loved ones."
"That's right," Ivory agreed, nodding her head once. "It doesn't mean you stop loving them. You try to fix things and go on with your lives."
That seemed to be enough to convince Selene, so she smiled again and hugged the older ponies. "I'll always love you too." The three of them sat there for a few minutes, quiet as the small filly was lovingly sandwiched between the adults.
After the minutes passed, they continued toward the castle. Selene's wonder of the city's environment resumed, but she stayed close to Melodía and Ivory by her own choice instead of needing them to chase after her. She still enjoyed the sight of the new, unfamiliar shops, and she even begged to stop at a floral shop that caught her attention to get a small bouquet of flowers for Luna. Most of Canterlot's residents weren't known for exhibiting humility, but the shopkeeper gave her a small bundle for a discounted price since all the real bouquets he had were too large for Selene's tastes.
Their trek to the castle was longer than Melodía and Ivory realized it would be, but when they finally arrived, all three were stunned in awe. Selene hadn't thought she'd ever seen such a huge building in her life. It was almost too intimidating to believe this would be her new home.
The entrance doors opened and a very familiar mare stepped out, adorned in black regalia. She treaded gracefully down the steps until she was standing merely a few feet in front of a brightly smiling Selene.
"Luna!" The delighted cheer was accompanied by an equally delighted bounce.
"It's lovely to see all of you. Did you enjoy your trip?"
"I love trains now!" Selene cheered. "These are for you!" Selene passed Luna the bundle of flowers she bought, which Luna gratefully took in her magic's grasp and thanked her for.
"They are gorgeous, Selene. Thank you for your gift."
Selene then spotted two other ponies at the top of the entrance's staircase. They began making their way down and Selene hid behind Melodía's left foreleg. When they finally joined Luna's side, Selene hid her face.
"It is alright, dear Selene," Luna assured her, speaking gently. "This mare and this stallion mean you no harm. They also want to welcome you."
Selene uncovered her face and looked up, still apprehensive as she held tightly to Melodía's leg.
"Do you remember I told you my true identity? That I am Princess Luna?"
"I do not reside here alone." She gestured to her sister. "This is my older sister, Princess Celestia. She is the princess of the sun and day."
Despite her anxiety, Selene took a few moments to take in Celestia's appearance. To Selene, Celestia looked like Luna, except much brighter in color and with a mane that had more colors than she'd ever seen anypony with. Celestia lowered herself to Selene's eye level just as Luna did to settle Selene's anxiety when they first met. Selene slowly walked from behind Melodía's leg and moved forward until she was standing in front of Celestia.
"I'm happy to finally meet you, my sister's little pony," Celestia said with a soft smile as she extended her hoof for Selene to shake. Relaxing a bit, Selene gave her own hoof and briefly shook Celestia's.
"Do you go into dreams too?" Selene asked, the only question she could think of.
"No. Only my sister has that power among us. The dream realm is her domain to guard," Celestia answered. She then gave her a sister a somewhat naughty smirk. "She has peeked into my dreams before, however." Luna stifled a light giggle with her hoof. Selene laughed a small bit too, catching the hint Luna probably played not-so-nicely with her sister in her dreams. It was funny to think Luna could be a prankster.
Celestia stood up and Luna now gestured to Sombra. "This is Prince Sombra, my sister's husband." Sombra also lowered him to Selene's level, and she was less anxious as she shook his hoof."
"Husband? So, you and Ce... Ce... less... uh..." She looked up worriedly at Luna when she realized she was struggling to pronounce the older princess's name.
"Ssss... less... tee... ah," Luna sounded out for her. Selene repeated the syllables twice before she put them all together, and received an encouraging nod and smile from both sisters when she pronounced the name correctly.
She resumed her question. "So, you and Celestia are married? Like a wedding and rings and stuff?"
"We certainly are," Sombra replied.
"Do you have a filly too?"
Sombra shook his head. "No. You, small one, will be the first filly who lives in our castle."
"I thought married ponies had fillies. Why are you married if you don't have fillies?"
Celestia and Sombra were taken aback by Selene's naïve bluntness. Sombra stood back up and exchanged an awkward glance with Celestia. Thankfully, Luna spoke up, though she now sported a frown.
"Selene, it is okay to ask questions, but some questions are not to be asked," Luna explained firmly, but still in her kind voice. "Some things are private and not to be known by others. Such questions can be rude."
Selene looked downward. It was a subtle way of scolding her, but she got the hint. She shouldn't have asked.
"Please forgive her, Prince Sombra," Ivory pleaded nervously. "Her question was only in innocence."
Much to their and Selene's relief, Sombra smiled again. "I understand. She is young and does not know much better. It's not the first time we've heard an awkward question."
"I'm s-sorry," Selene muttered.
"Worry not, child," Celestia assured her. "We all make mistakes."
It was Luna's returned smile that calmed Selene the most. "Let us go inside," Luna insisted. "We'll show you to your room. Melodía, Ivory, please come along."
She still felt shy, but Selene followed the three ponies into the castle, walking between Melodía and Ivory, who stayed a small way behind. Once she entered the castle, Selene's eyes lit up in wonder, as if the castle's interior was too much for the filly to remotely comprehend. She wanted to ask more questions, but for the time being, her astonishment could only leave her mouth silently agape as she gazed all over at the castle's interior. She was not the only one who found it breathtaking, though Melodía and Ivory were doing a better job of containing their disbelief they were really in the castle of three of Equestria's monarchs.
Finally, after a seemingly endless walk for the non-royal ponies, the group stopped at a particular door. A silhouetted image of a filly hung on the door as a sign. With her hoof, Luna turned the knob and pushed the door open, allowing the group to walk inside. Selene finally managed to pull her jaw up, but had to hold it with her hoof to keep it there.
The bedroom was overly large, unsurprising for a castle, but naturally surprising for anypony who'd never resided in one. The walls were painted light blue, the same shade her room at the foster home had. A toy box and a crammed bookcase twice Selene's height took up the space of one corner while a bed larger than she'd ever seen took up the opposite side. The bed itself was ordinarily narrow, but the whole piece of furniture had the shape of a dollhouse. A third corner had a table and chair full of craft supplies, and in the center of the room lied a big rug in the shape of the letter S.
"Such a beautiful room," Ivory exclaimed. "Don't you think so, Selene?"
Selene's only response was continuing to gaze around, but the older ponies, amused, took that as a yes.
"Melodía, Ivory," Celestia began, "Luna has told Sombra and I about your work in Ponyville. For what you do and all you have given, and will continue to give, please know you are always welcome to request our help if your home should be in need of anything."
"As I promised, I will keep in contact with you," Luna told them. "You are welcome to visit Selene as often as you please. Send me a notice and I shall do my best to make the time."
Melodía and Ivory came close to joyful tears. "Princesses, you are too generous..." Melodía muttered.
"It's nothing less than you deserve for keeping Selene in your care all this time," Luna assured them. "I would not dare cut you off from her."
"We owe you thanks for bringing her to our home to begin with," Ivory replied. "Without you, we wouldn't have known her. So, we thank you too, Princess."
Happy tears were shared all around, including from Selene, who the adults seemed to momentarily forget was present and could hear. Celestia and Sombra stepped back to let the four of them exchange a last goodbye before Selene's now former caregivers took their leave.
"We love you, Selene," Melodía assured the tearful filly. "Enjoy your new home."
"Behave yourself, dear. Don't give Luna a hard time," Ivory teased, getting a small smile out of Selene.
"I will! I promise! I love you too!"
One tight hug later, Melodía and Ivory were being escorted out by Celestia and Sombra. Selene watched until they were out of sight before she turned back to Luna, who was watching her with sympathy.
"Are you okay, Selene?"
"I... I miss them. Can't they live with us?"
Luna shook her head. "They must return to care for the other fillies in their home, and help them find families. But remember, they love you. When you would like to visit, you only need to ask and we can arrange it."
"Luna? Can we read a story? I've been practicing for you."
Celestia and Sombra took up some of Luna's evening responsibilities to allow her extra time with Selene to help the young one settle in more quickly. Sombra decided to finally try his hoof at holding a full court session by himself, taking charge of Luna's night court with her permission. It wasn't particularly strenuous. Simply tedious and aggravating. Merely the first night made him regret his decision.
"Please! More aspirin, my dear!" he begged his wife, who couldn't hold in her laughter. She placed two aspirin pills into a glass of seltzer water and passed the glass over to him.
"Shall I assume you'd prefer me to take charge of my sister's night court for the rest of the week?" Celestia asked sincerely.
"No," Sombra answered with exasperation after he downed the water. "It wouldn't be fair to you to deal with two courts. And Luna should have time to help Selene get settled, so I won't quit. That said... how do you ladies handle this?!"
Celestia had to force her laughter to cease. "I can't speak for Luna, but I suppose I'm used to it because I had no choice. Over a millennium ago, Luna and I shared day court. We used to take turns, but we started holding it together because it moved along faster that way. After Luna was lost, I had to take up whichever duties of hers I could. The court became vicious without her, the attendees believing they could win over just one princess. I built up a tolerance I didn't know I had."
"I don't know if I should be stunned or annoyed things haven't changed," Sombra groaned as Celestia got him more seltzer water. "They kept asking me where Luna was, questioning my capability, and threatening to report me to her. I suppose I'm not a true prince in their eyes. I'm just some lowly stallion married to a princess."
"Don't speak that way," Celestia consoled him, nuzzling him for a few seconds. "When Luna began her night court so many years ago, she got the same treatment. They even dared to use her banishment against her, and it took all my restraint not to give them a piece of my own mind. I had to let Luna defend herself and she did so gracefully. It took several months, but they got the message. Luna was to be taken seriously."
Sombra relaxed a little as his headache began dying down. "Thank you, dear. If you and Luna can do it, I think I can manage. But right now, I'm ready to turn in."
"I can't imagine you wouldn't be."
The couple walked together to their bedroom, the stallion letting the sight of his beautiful wife wear away his aggravation.
Selene's first full day in her new home was spent with Luna touring her around the castle. It essentially doubled as the day Selene couldn't keep her jaw off the floor. From just how large it was to how many rooms there were, there was so much to be amazed at. Her favorite part of the day, without a doubt, had been watching Luna raise the moon. She hadn't taken her eyes away for a moment. Luna offered to wake her up early enough to see Celestia raise the sun, which she excitedly accepted.
For now, the two of them were relaxing in the gardens. Selene was atop Luna's back as Luna lied in a bed of lavender, and they were enjoying the night's starry sky.
"How many stars are up there?"
"Too many to be counted."
"Where do the stars go when it's daytime?"
"The stars never leave the sky. The day is too bright for them to shine."
"I think they should shine all the time. They make the sky really pretty. They could make the sky look pretty in daytime too."
"Tis the sun's job. The sun is also a star."
Selene asked no more questions and they watched the stars together until Selene began to yawn and stretch her hooves a little.
"I believe somepony is getting sleepy," Luna teased.
"No, I'm not sleepy," Selene insisted, though her yawns betrayed her words.
"Let's get you to bed."
Luna began to stand up, but Selene grabbed her neck. "No, Luna! I'm not sleepy! I want to stay out here with you!"
"We can spend some time in the gardens tomorrow. It's time for you to sleep now."
Selene hopped off Luna's back before she could carry her back inside. "Please, Luna? Can't I sleep in the garden tonight?"
Luna shook her head. "Selene, it is not warm enough for you to slumber in the garden tonight. And I know if I permit you to, you won't fall asleep."
"Yes, I would!"
Luna briefly stared at Selene with a skeptical face before letting it become neutral again. "On a warmer night, I will permit you to sleep in the gardens. Tonight, you must sleep in your room. Please come along."
"Hmph!" Instead of following, Selene plopped herself on the ground, pouting and glaring at Luna. Luna had enough at that point.
"Selene!" She raised her voice, but did not yell. "If you will not behave, I will not permit you to be in the gardens at all. It is time for bed. That is final!"
Selene slowly stood upright and walked back to Luna's side without so much as a mumble. Luna walked her to her bedroom, and both were quiet along the way. They passed by Celestia, who seemed to be coming from the kitchen.
"Good evening, Sister! Good evening, little one." When Selene didn't look up, Celestia became curious and Luna gestured for her to lower her head.
"I'll talk about it after I put her to bed," Luna whispered. "Meet me in my room."
Celestia nodded and continued on while Luna led Selene to her bedroom. Selene climbed into her bed and grabbed her blanket. Luna pulled a book from the bookcase with her magic and held it next to Selene. "Would you still like a bedtime story?"
Selene was quiet.
"Selene." Luna placed the book on her bed. "I am not angry with you. If you refuse to listen to me, I must do what will get your attention. I tried three times before I raised my voice."
"I was having fun in the garden with you."
"I also enjoyed the time, but it is not warm enough to sleep outside. On a warmer night, I will consider allowing you."
"That means no."
"It means if you behave yourself, the answer is yes. Now," she said gently as she picked up the book again, "would you like a story before you fall asleep?"
Selene hesitated for a moment before relaxing. "Can I read it with you?"
"Of course. And Selene, dear, I still love you when you act out. I don't love what you're doing. Does that make sense?"
"Like at the picnic."
"Yes! You understand." Luna opened the book to the first page and placed it between them. "Go ahead. I know you can do it."
Selene took a small breath and began to read, followed by Luna shortly after.
Celestia waited patiently in Luna's room. The small snack she brought from the kitchen had long been devoured, so she was playing with Luna's pet opossum while she waited. Finally, she heard the doors open.
"I get the feeling something happened tonight," Celestia said upon seeing her sister's frustrated expression.
"You'd be correct," Luna replied as she walked in and rested next to the older pony.
"It's not a huge matter," Luna assured her. "The day went well, but she had a fit when it was time to put her to bed. She wanted to sleep in the garden and she did not comply with me until I raised my voice and stunned her."
"That doesn't sound abnormal. When we were fillies, we didn't go to bed without a fight either."
"That is not what concerns me," Luna explained. "We had a similar occurrence when I had a picnic with her some weeks ago. She believes one cannot be angry and still love the one they are angry with. That is why she didn't look at you when you addressed her as you passed us in the hall."
"My, that sounds very familiar," Celestia said.
"Do you recall when Twilight was my student, she was often anxious? She always worried the smallest mistake would have me punish her."
"I do," Luna answered. "You hated she viewed you that way. I believe merely your disappointment was enough punishment for her. Many years ago, before she ascended to an alicorn and title of princess, she did confide in me her worst fear was you'd dismiss her as your student. Do you believe Selene could regard me similarly or am I narcissistic to suggest such?"
"No, I think she does," Celestia agreed. "She has lost her genetic parents and was never chosen to be adopted before you stepped up to do it. Melodía and Ivory were probably the first real parents she had, and now, you're working your way onto that list."
Luna's heart was already pulling apart at the idea Selene could fear she'd give up on her. "It seems I'll have to prove her fears are needless."
"You don't need to act special," Celestia assured her. "You'll prove it just by loving her and helping her grow. And of course, if you ever need some advice or just somepony to hear you out, I'm here. Believe me. I know the challenges all too well."
"I'm coming! I'm---" In his rush, Shining Armor tripped over his packed bags, falling flat on his face. "---ready."
Cadance chuckled as she went over to help him to his hooves. "You don't need to pack so much. We're only staying for one night."
"I want to be prepared! I don't want to forget anything. It's been a long time since we last traveled to Canterlot."
"You're right, but this isn't a public event," Cadance reminded him. "It's an informal party. Family only. I'm relieved. It's nice for all of us to just be together once in a while."
"It sure is. All these years and these royal events still wipe me out. By the way, where is Flurry Heart?"
As if on cue, Flurry trotted in, lugging a set of obviously overfilled saddlebags on her back. She set them on the floor and they landed with a conspicuous thud.
"Flurry, what are you bringing?" Cadance asked suspiciously.
"For once, it's not all for me!" Flurry insisted. "I'm bringing some of the spell books from the castle's library. I'm sure Great-Auntie Luna could use them when the new baby gets older. I can't believe she finally had a foal! I've been waiting forever to not be the baby! Don't you think---"
She cut herself off when she noticed her parents glaring at her with annoyance.
"Sorry. I'm just really excited to meet the baby! There hasn't been a cuter baby since, well, me!" An adorably, annoying giggle followed.
"Flurry," Shining Armor said as he looked through her saddlebags, "we're glad you're excited, but there are a few problems."
"Like? You don't think Auntie Luna will like them?"
"Flurry Heart, first of all, the new filly is a pegasus, not a unicorn," Cadance told her. "Second, she's not a baby. She's bigger than that."
"Oh, so that's why we never heard Auntie Luna was pregnant," Flurry concluded. "Can I still take the spell books?"
"After you almost obliterated the library?" Shining Armor callously reminded her. "No."
"I fixed it! Come on, let me off the hook for that!" Flurry begged. "I spent days making it perfect again!"
"No!" her parents said in unison. Flurry groaned, but placed the saddlebags on her back again and carried them away toward the library.
"I know we shouldn't complain," Shining Armor said to Cadance after Flurry was out of sight. "All things considered, we're getting lucky with her teen years. But I'm starting to miss those months when she was obsessed with "aesthetics", or whatever it's called."
"Look on the bright side," Cadance replied, somewhat deadpan. "Starlight and Sunburst aren't arguing with her to study anymore. I'm sure they love her new eagerness."
Luna and Celestia set the table while Sombra worked on dinner. Normally, he or Celestia cooked only in the morning, but since this was strictly a family get-together, it felt more personal to do the cooking himself. Of course, it'd be easier if a certain curious filly wasn't trying to "help", but Sombra didn't want to discourage her after she started opening up to them. It'd been a little over a week since Selene came into the family, and all it took was some patience for her to break out of her shell around ponies who weren't Luna. The castle had yet to become less intimidating for her, but otherwise, she settled in well. Luna decided it was a good time to introduce her to the rest of the royal family, but under a better setting than a surprise visit. The gathering was to be casual, however. No fancy attire was necessary, which was a breath of fresh air to everypony.
Finally getting bored of watching food cook, though much to Sombra's secret relief, Selene tried to help with preparing the table.
"Selene, please keep your body off of the table," Luna firmly told her.
"Sorry, Luna," Selene said as she jumped down. "I wanted to make the cloth straight. It's not straight." Seconds later, she was distracted as she saw Celestia's pet bird flying about in the kitchen. She flapped her wings as hard as she could to try to join the flight, but when she, unsurprisingly, could only hover, she settled for playfully chasing after the bird on hoof.
"I think our pets are the only two family members she got used to right away," Celestia laughed. "Has she asked for one of her own?"
"She insists her "Blankie" is her pet, but she would want a duck if she had a live one," Luna answered.
"She really wants a duck?"
"No," Luna chuckled, "but when she talked about it, she said she wants a pet that waddles like Tiberius and flies like Philomena."
"That does sound like a duck. Will you allow her one?"
Luna glanced at Selene making rather bad cawing sounds to mimic Philomena, who seemed to be having a good time leading her on.
"Perhaps in the future," Luna replied in a deadpan tone. "The very distant future."
"I knew you'd be splendid at this," Celestia teased, chuckling a bit.
A royal guard entered to announce the arrival of Princess Cadance and her family. Sombra and Celestia went out to greet them while Selene, overhearing the announcement, hurried to Luna's side.
"Luna? Who's Cadance?" she whispered.
Luna lied down to be on eye level with Selene. "I told you about Cadance. She is the niece of myself and Celestia."
"I know, but... is she nice?"
"Cadance is very kind, and Prince Shining Armor and Princess Flurry Heart are also pleasant ponies," Luna assured her. "They're looking forward to meeting you. This dinner is for them to get acquainted with you, and for you to do the same."
"But what if they don't like me?"
Luna didn't have a chance to answer her question because Celestia and Sombra walked in with their guests at that very second, one of whom couldn't resist making her arrival known.
"We're here! Where's the baby?!"
Selene squealed and hid in Luna's chest while Flurry's parents scolded her. Luna stood and walked toward her extended family as Selene clung to her leg like it was a lifeline, keeping her face hidden from view.
"We're sorry about that, Aunt Luna," Cadance apologized. "Flurry is going through another phase. We call it Please stop talking!"
"Flurry Heart, you can stop talking?" Snickers sounded from everypony except the talkative teen alicorn, who missed the joke, and the filly still hidden behind Luna's foreleg. The joke was quickly forgotten as everypony turned their attention to the latter. Selene could feel all eyes were on her, and she only held Luna that much more tightly. Luna sat down to use her other hoof to stroke Selena's back a few times, but Selene grabbed that one too and held it to her face.
"All is okay, Selene," Luna spoke soothingly. She gently moved one of her hooves, but Selene wouldn't let go, only shaking her head. Luna used her snout to gesture to Cadance. "Selene, this is our niece, Princess Cadance. She's the princess of love and lives in the Crystal Empire."
Celestia whispered in Cadance's ear. "Lie down as much as you can. If you're on eye level, it calms her. Sombra and I did the same when she first came to the castle."
Cadance nodded and did as Celestia suggested. She held out her hoof to Selene and spoke in a soft voice. "We're so happy we can meet you, Selene." Selene let go of one of Luna's hooves and slowly shook Cadance's. "Aww, you are a sweet filly, aren't you?" That got a smile out of Selene and she relaxed a little. Cadance stood up and Shining Armor decided to go next. Just as his wife did, he lowered himself as much as he could to be on level with Selene.
"Hi there, little filly. I'm Shiny."
"Shiny," Selene softly repeated.
"Shining Armor, but I'll let you call me Shiny if it helps. Want to hear a joke?"
"A joke!" Selene did giggle a bit. Everypony else inconspicuously rolled their eyes, but were glad it worked. Now, it was Flurry's turn. She followed what her parents did, lying down and smiling softly, and spoke to Selene in a similarly soft tone.
"Hey. I'm Flurry Heart. Sorry if I scared you." Selene shook her hoof and slowly loosened her grip on Luna's leg, but didn't fully let go. "I was just really excited to meet you. I thought you were a baby, but you are big. Too big to be a baby. I used to be the baby, but now, you're the baby! Well, the too-big-to-be-a-baby baby! Oh, I bought stuff for you in my saddlebags. Do you like books? I brought you books! I got... well, just books. Normal books. Plain, normal, magic-less, boring books! So, if you like those books, you can have the books! Or I'll get you different ones! I'd have to go all the way back home, but I could come back and give them to you, and if you didn't like those---"
"Flurry Heart, I think she'll enjoy the books you brought," Luna interrupted, noticing that the chatter, while friendly, wasn't really helping much.
"Oh. Well, I'm Flurry Heart," Flurry repeated. "I'm so glad I have a cousin!"
With all the introductions done, Sombra resumed cooking while the rest of the family sat around the table. The wait for dinner to finish wasn't long, and Celestia and Luna joined in helping to serve everypony. Still a little shy, Selene sat close to Luna when the latter returned to her seat. Celestia sat between Luna and Sombra while Cadance sat between Shining Armor and Flurry Heart, who was already making easy work of clearing her plate. It was preferred to her constant talking since she had the manners to not speak while eating.
"Where is Twilight?" Celestia asked. "She's not one to miss a chance for us as a family to be together."
"Little Sis came down with the flu at the last minute," Shining Armor explained. "Said she was feeling okay when she woke up, but she got a fever and chills by evening. I was going to stay with her, but she insisted I come. Wouldn't give me a chance to protest."
"Sounds like Twilight," Celestia laughed, giving Luna an amused glance that was returned.
"Who is Twilight? Is she a princess too?" Selene asked.
"Yes," Luna replied with a nod. "Princess Twilight is the princess of friendship, and she lives in Ponyville."
"In the big castle?" Selene's eyes widened.
"Indeed, and she and Celestia helped me find you before I took you to Melodía and Ivory," Luna explained. "Perhaps when we have the time to meet with Melodía and Ivory again, I can introduce you to Twilight."
"Uh... can Twilight---Princess Twilight---come here instead, Luna?" Selene shyly asked, piquing Luna's curiosity. She quickly looked away, not wanting to explain herself, but her shyness seemed to give Luna a hint about why she asked.
"If that will make you comfortable, yes," Luna answered, and she immediately took note of Selene's quick expression of relief.
Dinner finished on a good note and, after cleaning the dishes from dinner, the family gathered in one of the many guest rooms. Selene felt a little better than she had when their guests first arrived, though Flurry's constant talking was still grating, to say the least. She had particularly taken a liking to Shining Armor, who was making her giggle with silly stories and pun jokes. Meanwhile, Flurry Heart was telling Celestia about her newest studies with Starlight and Sunburst, which Celestia listened to with genuine interest, as she always appreciated the younger generation becoming educated. Luna and Cadance sat a few feet away from the four of them to speak semi-privately.
"How are you finding motherhood?" Cadance asked with a smile that was too delightful to be purely innocent.
"I truly am happy to have her, but I have many concerns, many doubts, if I am to be honest," Luna admitted. "I wonder if I have made a good choice, if I am truly fit to be her parent."
"You sound like a mother to me!" Cadance exclaimed, giving a small chuckle. "You'd better get used to that."
"I beg your pardon, dear Cadance?" Luna questioned.
"That's what being a parent is! Worrying!"
"Yes, I know of your concerns about Flurry, but---"
Cadance shook her head. "No, no, Aunt Luna! When you're a parent, you worry about every little thing all the time. Not just the big things like their education, but the little things like their bedtime and which foods to let them eat. You worry if you're doing right, if you're doing wrong, and even if you know it's right, you still worry it's wrong."
"That is how I felt when I took back my throne so long ago. It's how I still feel."
"Me too, and so does Aunt Celestia," Cadance reminded her. "But just like we have to be calm and confident for our subjects, you have to be calm and confident for her."
"If I may confide in you, I must admit I feel most nervous when I must discipline her," Luna confessed.
Cadance sighed briefly. "I know the feeling. You never want to do it, but you have to. And she probably needs it more than most fillies and colts."
"What makes you say so?" Luna asked.
"Before you adopted her, did she ever have any structure? Anything steady in her life?"
Luna thought about it. With Selene's biological parents, the answer was an obvious no, at least as far as her father was concerned. She did in the foster home, but she was one of many other children who resided there, disallowing her troubles to be focused on. Not to mention the various times she was rejected for adoption. The closest to structure she probably had was school, but that hadn't been consistent either.
"Very little," Luna finally answered. "You are suggesting she needs more discipline as a result?"
"I'm saying it's even more important with her because of that," Cadance clarified. "Not that she'd know it, but she's probably used to things falling apart. If you don't stay consistent with her, she's never going to know what to expect. And let me tell you, she will test whatever limits you give her. It's what ponies her age do. No matter how much it kills you inside for the moment, you have to go through with what you say. Be reasonable, but if you say you'll let it go once, let it go only once. If you say she's in trouble, carry it out. You get it."
Luna nodded. "I do. Yes, my responsibility of traversing the dream realm has taught me time and again young ponies require patience. I suppose I can only do my best. I just want her to feel safe with me. I do not want her to fear I will give her up."
"You'll grow into it. I promise," Cadance assured her. "And so will she."
Everypony took to sleeping shortly after Luna raised the moon. Celestia and Luna took to their own rooms while Cadance, Shining Armor, and Flurry Heart slept together in a guest room. Selene slept in her bedroom as well. Wanting to be with her family for the night, Luna decided to put aside her duty of guarding the dream realm. Ordinarily, she'd simply leave a bit later than usual and return later than her normal time in the morning, but a feeling she couldn't name nagged her to stay home tonight.
Only one pony wasn't enjoying her slumber. Selene enjoyed meeting her new extended family. Even Flurry Heart, as chatty as she was, proved not to be so bad. Yet, Selene couldn't sleep easy. She tossed and turned too many times until the agitation finally woke her up. She looked around her room before falling back onto her pillow. Did she have a nightmare? She couldn't remember it. Maybe she just wasn't sleepy.
Carefully, Selene climbed off her bed and pulled open one of her bedroom's large doors. She still hadn't quite become accustomed to having such a large room. She peeked into the hallway, glancing up and down. It was dark and the only ponies to be seen were the nighttime guards, standing firmly at their posts. The guardsponies of the castle frightened Selene more than much else. Not because they really were scary, but because they didn't do anything except stand about. At least, from Selene's point of view. It was unsettling.
She tip-toed out of the room, not bothering to close the door behind her. She didn't know which way to go, so she just started walking downward to one end, gazing all around the hall. The castle had such a different aura at nighttime. As she passed a window, not hidden by its curtains, she couldn't help staring at the moon for a short while. She was grateful, but still in huge disbelief she'd really been adopted by a princess. Though, she herself didn't want to be a princess. No, royalty was too busy for her liking. She'd seen that for herself. Luna never left for the dream realm before putting Selene to put and saying good night and she always returned before Selene woke up. But after breakfast, Luna would retire to her bedroom to sleep, leaving Selene in Celestia's or Sombra's care, whichever one of them had less to manage that day. Selene would go back to Luna's care in the late afternoon, when she woke, and most of her time would be spent with Selene, thanks to Celestia and Sombra picking up some of her evening duties. Still, that was soon to come to an end. Selene didn't know who would be in charge of her then. She just hoped whoever they were, they were nice.
Selene pulled herself away from the moon's glow and continued down the hallway. She paused at the doors and glanced back and forth between the two guards.
"Uh... can... can I go through?" she asked in an anxious whisper.
The guards shot each other a quick glance before looking back to Selene. "Do you need Princess Luna's attention?" one guardspony asked.
"No. I, uh, just wanted, uh, a snack?"
She didn't sound convincing in the slightest, but neither guard felt reason to reject. Besides, she didn't need to ask them to pass. They allowed her to go ahead, opening the doors for her, and she trotted ahead, trying not to look back at the guards as she passed through the doors.
Selene never traversed the castle without somepony escorting her, but she had yet to memorize where anything was, though she could recognize a room if she'd seen it before. She continued forward, no particular destination in mind, until she eventually did find herself in the kitchen after making a turn somewhere. Unsurprisingly, it was dark and empty of anypony. Selene was able to see it was spic-and-span. She went about trying to find the refrigerator, bumping into and tripping over counters, chairs, and one of the table legs, and knocking over a basket of something on the edge of the table. Despite the noise, nopony else came into the kitchen, so Selene assumed she wasn't disturbing anypony. Despite the dark limiting her vision, she did find the fridge and pulled open the door, letting the light pour out. The fridge was plentifully stocked, so much so, Selene felt anxious to take something without permission. Luna hadn't told her she couldn't, but she didn't feel confident she could. After mulling over it for several seconds, she closed the fridge without making a choice and stumbled her way out of the kitchen.
Exiting through the opposite of the kitchen she entered, she trotted down a different hall, still taking in the size and awe of her new home, until she came to a different room. She cautiously pushed open the door and peered inside. Instead of dark, this room was dimly lit, enough for Selene to see it was full of armor and weaponry. Likely not a room Luna wanted her to play around in. Still, her curiosity was piqued, so she stepped in and closed the door behind her. She approached one armored mannequin and stared at its golden armor. It was too high for her to reach and she couldn't fly. She looked around the room and spotted something that seemed like it could help: a broom. She grabbed it, returned to the mannequin, and as carefully as she could, stuck the broomstick beneath the helmet. She repeatedly tapped the helmet upwards until she finally managed to knock it off, tossing aside the broom so she could catch it. "Yes!" she squealed to herself. She set the helmet sideways on the floor and stuck her head in. Not at all to her surprise, it was too big a fit, but she managed to hold her head upright with it on anyway.
"I'm a guardspony!" she whispered in mock declaration. She picked up the broom with one hoof and held it over her small shoulder. "Nopony shall pass!" Putting on a comically serious face, she "marched" back and forth across the room. "Hup! Hup! One, two, three, four! I declare a pony war!" She pointed the broom menacingly at her shadow on the wall. "Halt! Who goes there?"
After she tired of pretending to be a guard, Selene slipped her head out of the helmet, set it next to the mannequin she'd taken it from, and left the room, remembering to close the door behind her. She looked up and down the hallway before running off, now feeling less nervous than she had before. The castle's halls still remained empty except for the guards on shift, who let her pass without trouble when she came by.
The next room Selene found herself in was the throne room. She'd only been in this room once: the day she came to the castle. The first sight that grabbed her attention were Celestia's and Luna's thrones. Unable to resist her playful instinct, she rushed over to the dais and climbed the staircase, but paused at the top. She stared at the regal pieces of furniture for several more moments before placing two hooves on Luna's throne. She hesitated a bit more, as if she was defying some unwritten rule, but she soon pulled herself up and sat on Luna's throne. It felt strange. She couldn't believe Luna really sat here. She fidgeted around, trying to make herself comfortable, but it seemed the throne was just too big for a little pony. Like everything else in the castle.
She set herself on the edge and hopped off Luna's throne, but instead of landing on her feet, she stepped on one of her hooves and slipped onto the dais before tumbling down the small staircase. She landed on the floor with a soft thud and a little bit of dizziness. She was mostly okay, but one of her front hooves was sore. She looked it over. The hoof was bleeding and had a light bruise. It wasn't a serious injury, but the sight of her blood scared her, and Selene began crying.
Instantly alert, the guardsponies standing outside the throne room rushed in. They surrounded her and, upon seeing she was hurt, tried to settle her down to let them take her to the infirmary.
"I want Luna! I want Luna!" Selene cried, holding her sore and still bleeding hoof.
Thankfully, the castle had an announcement system, something the royal sisters had installed some years back to prank each other with, but had become useful for more practical reasons later on. One of the guards picked up the system's microphone and hurriedly spoke into it.
"Princess Luna, your presence is requested in the throne room immediately!"
The announcement woke the whole family from their sleep and less than thirty seconds later, they were all in the throne room. The guards stood aside to allow Luna to approach Selene, who'd been made further upset by all the attention.
"Your Highness, she has injured herself," the guard explained. "She refused to allow us to take her to the infirmary."
Luna quickly spotted the injury. Selene's hoof had stopped bleeding, but Luna could see the bruise and that it still needed to be cleaned.
"Thank you, everypony. Please resume your posts. I will care for her." The guards bowed and did as instructed. Luna sat down and held Selene close with one of her wings until Selene calmed herself, which didn't take long once she felt Luna's warmth. She wiped her eyes with her unhurt front hoof and showed Luna the injured one.
"I can see." She laid down briefly to let Selene climb atop her back. "We shall take care of that." Luna turned to her family. "Thank you all, but you may return to bed. She will be alright."
The others nodded and returned to their rooms to sleep while Luna carried Selene to the infirmary.
"Luna, that stings! I don't like it!"
"It'll stop quickly. Be still," Luna whispered, holding Selene's hoof to prevent her from moving it. The sting from the rubbing alcohol did stop in a few seconds, and Luna dabbed the cut dry with a cotton ball before wiping the dry blood off with a moist wipe. She pulled out a box of large band-aids from a drawer and carefully stuck one on Selene's hoof. Selene's short treatment was done.
"How does it feel?" Luna asked.
"Better. Thank you, Luna."
"How did you injure yourself, Selene?"
Selene clammed up and looked away from Luna. She didn't want to admit she'd been doing something she wasn't supposed to. She didn't want Luna to scold her, or worse. She nervously looked back to Luna, who was patiently waiting for her answer and, to Selene's relief, didn't appear angry. Still, Selene was hestiant. She opened her mouth to speak, but shut it a second later and looked down, softly rubbing over her band-aid instead.
Luna pushed Selene's hoof away from her band-aid. "Selene, please look at me."
Selene raised her eyes until they made contact with Luna's line of sight. That sad face almost struck through Luna's heart like a stake.
"Tell me the truth. Whatever you say will not anger me."
Selene looked down again, but quickly brought her eyes back to Luna. Slowly, she began to confess. "I... I... went... to... I..."
Ever patient, Luna didn't rush her, yet that somehow seemed to be less helpful than it should've been. But eventually, Selene got it out.
"I was... I was playing. I couldn't sleep and I... I just wanted to explore the castle a bit. I was playing on your throne and... and I fell. I'm sorry, Luna. I'm really, really sorry!"
She became teary-eyed as she spoke, but she didn't have a chance to cry again. Almost as soon as she stopped talking, she found herself enveloped in that warm wing again.
"L-Luna? You're not mad?"
Luna shook her head. "I said I wouldn't be."
That was a first for Selene.
"Selene, I never forbade you to go about the castle on your lonesome. Nor did I give the guards orders to restrict you from passing."
"So, it's okay?" Selene asked.
"No," Luna replied. "You should not have played in the throne room, but you violated no restrictions. I cannot punish you for that."
"You didn't break any rules, so I have no reason to be upset with you," Luna clarified. "However, if you could not sleep, what prevented you from coming to me? You knew I did not travel to the dream realm tonight."
"I wanted to, but I didn't want to bother you," Selene admitted. "I didn't want to wake anypony up. And exploring the castle was kind of fun. I just wanted to try to find stuff by myself for once."
To Luna, "exploring" sounded more like an excuse to go snooping and get herself into some trouble when she wasn't likely to get caught, but in hindsight, it wasn't really a bad thing for her to learn to navigate the castle alone. She'd eventually need to because Luna and the others couldn't be her escort forever. At the same time, Luna was faced with a fact she already knew: Selene needed somepony to be there. When she adopted Selene, she made the choice to be that somepony.
"Let us return to slumber, Selene," Luna finally said. "You shall remain in my chambers tonight."
"You will sleep with me tonight in my room."
"Oh! Okay!" Selene jumped onto Luna's back again. Luna only smiled and the two exited the infirmary. Before they were even halfway to Luna's bedroom, Selene began to drift off.
"I must speak with Celestia about this," Luna mumbled to herself.
In the morning, Cadance, Shining Armor, and Flurry Heart were all ready to return home. The family shared breakfast together before they went, with everypony making good conversation, exchanging thank yous and future plans. Before they departed, however, Luna secretly requested to speak to Cadance in private, which Cadance agreed to without question. After breakfast was finished, Luna and Cadance left the table after telling their family they'd be back shortly. Nopony thought anything strange of it, so they simply continued talking while they waited.
Cadance and Luna walked into the hall. It was only right outside the kitchen, but they wouldn't be heard.
"I can already tell whatever is on your mind, it's about Selene," Cadance said with a small laugh.
"Do you really need to guess?" Luna asked. "You and the others saw what happened last night."
"Was she badly hurt?"
"Not at all. Only a minor cut and bruise," Luna answered. "My decision was to speak to Celestia, but as you are a mother, I consider your insight as valuable."
"Ask away, Aunt Luna!"
"Cadance, when Flurry Heart was but a small filly, what became of your regular duties as a princess?"
Cadance already knew where this was going. "I know what you're asking. I've been there. And I'll tell you what I learned the hard way: something has to give."
"I fear I do not understand."
"After I had Flurry Heart, Shiny and I tried to stay on top of our duties too. We were doing the best we could, but it didn't take us long to see things just couldn't work that way. We tried putting Flurry Heart on a schedule. We would exchange roles, but that only worked for so long. Then, one night, I was crying. I don't know why, but I was just so tired. Shiny and I were trying so hard and it felt like we were bad parents. And you were the one who told us what to do, Aunt Luna."
"Was I?" Luna questioned. "I apologize, but I do not recall."
"Aunt Celestia was doing something with Twilight at the time," Cadance went on. "I called you, just needing to talk for a while. I believe I cried on the phone."
"Oh..." Luna did remember this, and though it was many years ago, the memory brought back the heartbreaking feeling of hearing her niece so distressed, as if this had happened just a week ago. "I do recall this, Cadance. I insisted you and Shining Armor allow me to look after Flurry Heart for that night while the two of you spent time together as a couple."
"And we were so grateful you did!" Cadance exclaimed. "It was after that night we realized the problem. We were not "super ponies". We couldn't do it all. We couldn't do everything we did before, raise Flurry Heart, and have our romantic time as a couple. We had to give something up. Not completely. That wasn't an option, but we couldn't evenly split ourselves three ways."
"You had to give less of your time," Luna realized.
"And I think you can guess which we chose to take time away from," Cadance said. "We went through our lists, shifted around what wasn't immediate, and decided as long as all matters were taken care of, the evening was ours. We would put Flurry Heart to bed before 9:00, and after she was asleep, every minute before we went to bed was ours to spend as a couple. And do you know what, Aunt Luna? It worked."
"I understand," Luna said, nodding.
"If you're thinking what I think you are, you don't have to do things that way," Cadance assured her. "Make your own schedule. Figure out what will work for you. I hate to bring this up when it's been so long, but Aunt Celestia told me when you became Nightmare Moon all those years ago, she blamed herself because she paid more attention to royal duties than you. She always said if she stopped to think about something other than how busy she was, that wouldn't have happened."
"Yes, well, her blame for my sins has never been mutual, and she was nothing short of a wonderful sister upon my return. She postponed every duty for an entire week to see to my recovery."
"I know. She swore she'd be a better sister," Cadance said. "And after that incident Starlight settled with you two some years ago, you always made sure you spent some time together as sisters each day. Didn't you stick to that even after Aunt Celestia married Sombra?"
"Yes, and Sombra was not at all bitter for it. He encouraged it."
"Then, you've got your answer," Cadance told her. "You didn't need to ask me. You already knew." She gave her aunt a quick hug. "Just like a mother."
"It was still nice to talk about it. I thank you, Cadance."
"Sister, are you there?"
"Please enter," Luna answered, though she didn't look away from her task. Celestia came in and rested next to Luna, who she couldn't help noticing was very focused.
"Is something the matter? After Cadance and the others left, you rushed off like you had an emergency."
"There is a matter, Sister, but I am handling it," Luna replied. "Worry not."
Celestia leaned in close for a second. "Is it about Selene?"
Luna finally looked at Celestia and her frown gave the impression she didn't want that to be known. "Is it truly so obvious?"
"Luna, you're my sister. Some things are just instinct. That, and..."
Luna raised an eyebrow.
"...Cadance mentioned on her way out I should talk to you."
"Yes, that would be appreciated. If I am to be truthful, there is a part of me that simply feels I have no idea what I am doing."
"Welcome to parenthood," Celestia joked, though she quickly dropped the humor when she saw Luna wasn't in the mood for it. "There isn't an instruction manual. Being a parent is trial-and-error, just like being a mentor or a teacher. You'll have that feeling a lot."
"Cadance would agree," Luna said with a sigh. "I have also felt guilty about how often she is in yours and Sombra's care. I am grateful for your help, but you are not my live-in nannies."
"You have nothing to feel guilty for. You're doing your best," Celestia tried to assure her, though she knew her words weren't as comforting as she wanted them to be. Glancing down, she saw Luna had a scroll of her duties unrolled. "Are you trying to make time for you and Selene to spend together soon?"
"When you mentored Twilight, you put her needs above anything that was not urgent. Cadance and Shining Armor prioritized Flurry Heart and their marriage over all that was not urgent. That is what I am doing now."
"Ah. That's good, Sister, but do remember to make time for yourself," Celestia warned her. "I didn't mentor Twilight with every free second I had. I'll go so you can make your schedule in peace."
"Sister, I was hoping I could have your opinion on one more thing," Luna said before Celestia could turn to leave.
"I know it will be good for Selene to return to school for her education and for her to socialize with other ponies her age. However, I was beginning to give consideration to homeschooling her."
"That's essentially what I did with Twilight. Cadance and Shining Armor did the same with Flurry Heart with private teachers. I encourage it!" Celestia replied. "Do be careful, however. You know of my mistakes with that. If you homeschool her, it will be that much more important to let her be around other ponies."
"That is what I was hoping to request your help with," Luna admitted.
"Obviously, she is not a unicorn, but could she have some time with the students of yours in her age group? Perhaps at a time such as recess?"
"I'd be happy to. That's no problem. Just tell me when you're ready for it. And if you still need a sitter from time to time, Sombra and I are glad to. You're not alone in this."
Luna finally relaxed and smiled. Just then, Selene ran past Luna's bedroom, laughing and carrying what looked like Sombra's royal robe on her head. Sombra was chasing after her, but he was laughing too. Luna and Celestia peeked out the door to watch them.
"You come back here, you little mischief-maker!"
"Got to get me! Got to get me!"
Celestia looked back to Luna with a smirk. "I don't think you need to worry much."
Luna didn't reply, but she returned the same smirk before forming it back into a calm smile.
Selene chatted excitedly on the phone to Melodía and Ivory, telling them all about her life in the castle thus far. They could barely get a word in as she talked endlessly about how big the castle was, the family dinner, how much she loved her room, and how much she had fun with Luna, Celestia, and Sombra. They were glad to hear she was so happy and having fun. Then, like whiplash, she sank their hearts with one question:
"Are you going to visit soon? I miss you."
"We miss you too, Selene," Ivory assured her. "Maybe soon."
"I know!" Selene exclaimed, instantly back to her joyful self. "Princess Twilight is going to come! You can come too and we can all have fun! I'll ask Luna!"
Melodía and Ivory were uncertain about that idea. Luna had given them permission to visit Selene whenever they pleased with reasonably timed notice, but they still felt shy, and in disbelief, about taking advantage of the princess's generosity. Before they could reply, they heard another voice join Selene's in the background.
"I'm sure Luna and Twilight would agree to that."
"Princess Celestia!" they heard Selene squeal, sounding surprised by the appearance of the sun princess behind her.
"We can ask Luna when she wakes up this afternoon," Celestia promised Selene. "If she says yes, we'll ask Twilight if she'll meet up with Melodía and Ivory, and all three of them can visit you." Selene's eyes lit up like stars as her mouth grew into the widest smile it could. "But no promises until we get Luna's answer," Celestia quickly added. "Understand?"
Selene nodded and relayed the information to her former caregivers, but they heard everything Celestia said in the background. They were besides themselves, but of course, very grateful. Melodía told Selene to give the phone to Celestia.
"Thank you so much, Your Majesty! We really appreciate you and your sister would think of us!" Melodía told her.
Celestia chuckled a bit. "Luna has only respect for the two of you. I can't make a promise, but she wouldn't dare exclude you from Selene's life. If it can't be this visit, I can promise she'll make time for another."
Celestia returned the phone, and Selene talked for a few more minutes before finally saying goodbye and hanging up.
"Come along, Selene," Celestia urged the young pony. "I'm going to take you on a little trip."
Selene hopped off the chair she was sitting on and followed Celestia along. "Where are we going, Celesta?"
"Celestia," Celestia corrected. "You'll see for yourself."
The large pony and little pony walked together, heading outside of the castle. Selene assumed they were going to play in the gardens until Celestia lied down and told her to climb on her back. Curious, Selene obeyed and Celestia took off in flight, though she was gentle so as not to give Selene whiplash. She smiled as she heard the little filly squeal in delight.
"I can't wait to tell Luna you took me flying!" Selene cried with joy as she bounced on Celestia's back.
"Selene, please hold on to me," Celestia said firmly. "I don't want you to fall."
"Sorry." Selene grabbed hold of her neck. "I really like flying! I can't fly yet."
To Selene's disappointment, the flight wasn't a long one, but her disappointment was quickly replaced with wonder when she saw where they landed.
"Another castle? Is this Princess Twilight's? But I thought she lived in the one in Ponyville!"
Celestia chuckled. "She does. This is not any princess's castle. This castle is a schoolhouse," Celestia explained.
"School? You mean you and Luna are teachers? I'm going to go to school here?!"
The bright, excited smile that lit her up her face when she asked that question nearly sank Celestia's heart, knowing she couldn't give the answer Selene hoped to hear. Maybe she could still let her down gently. After all, the last thing Celestia wanted to do was ruin any young pony's excitement about learning.
"This is The School for Gifted Unicorns," Celestia stated. The joy in Selene's eyes quickly dimmed, but returned when Celestia added, "but you will be somewhat of an exception."
"What does that mean?" she asked in a tone that was obviously hopeful to Celestia.
"When it's time for you to begin schooling again, you will come here to have lunch and recess with the other students."
Selene tried to imagine herself having lunch and playing with a school of unicorns. The fantasy wasn't as nice as she wished it would be. She could make friends, but what if the ponies didn't like her because she was a pegasus? What if they decided she didn't belong? What if they said they didn't want her there?
"Selene?" Celestia asked, nudging her a bit.
Selene broke out of her thoughts. "Umm, Celestia, can I just do lunch and recess with Luna instead?"
The change in her expression and tone didn't go unnoticed and Celestia wasn't going to pretend it did. "What's wrong, Selene? Did you not have friends when you were in school?"
"I did, but... but some ponies were really mean to me too," Selene answered. "Luna showed me how to stand up to bullies once."
"Did it work?"
"Kind of, for a while. But I just... I hoped being with Luna meant I didn't have to go to school," Selene confessed.
"You seemed so excited when you thought I'd you'd enroll here," Celestia pointed out, confused, but only briefly as she suddenly pieced things together. "But... oh, I understand. You really just want to be with Luna, don't you?"
Selene gave a shy smile and nodded. Celestia wished Luna was awake, so she could be here to hear this. She had to remember to tell Luna later on.
"Selene," Celestia said gently, kneeling down to be close to the filly, "I'm so sorry school wasn't good for you, but I promise if any of my students give you trouble, you can tell me. Or you can tell Luna, or Sombra."
"I would tell the grown-ups in school, but it never worked," Selene lamented. "They said they can't do anything if they don't see it."
"Let's just say I have ways of verifying somepony's story," Celestia tried to assure her. "If anypony bullies you and standing up for yourself doesn't work, you can come to me, or have Luna or Sombra bring it to me. I promise I'll see to it being resolved."
A few moments passed with neither pony saying a word. Selene looked the school castle up and down several times before looking back to Celestia, who was patient for a response. Luna hadn't lied to her yet, and if Luna didn't lie, her big sister wouldn't either, right?
"Okay," Selene finally said.
Celestia smiled and stood up. "Come with me. Let me show you what the playground looks like."
Feeling a little reassured, Selene followed Celestia around to the back of the school castle. That same excitement she had when she first saw the castle resurfaced, and before Celestia could stop her, she made a beeline for the playground. She ran across the seesaw, jumped over the swings of the swingset, slide down the slide, spun around the merry-go-round, and climbed through and to the top of the jungle gym. "I'm on top of the world!" she declared playfully.
She scurried down, right in front of Celestia next to the jungle gym. "Let me show you the cafeteria next."
"Wait! I want to play more on the playground! I didn't try to monkey bars yet!"
"Selene, I didn't---" But the hyper filly darted off before Celestia could finish, making a mad dash for the monkey bars. Before she could so much as step foot on it, she felt herself be pulled back. She struggled, but she couldn't move until she was released by what she realized was Celestia's magic's grasp. "Selene!" Celestia's voice was stern, a tone Selene had only heard from Luna until now. "I didn't bring you to the school to play right now. I wanted to show you the playground and cafeteria, but we are going home after. Don't run off."
"But why come to the playground if we can't play?"
"I suppose she's not entirely wrong about that," Celestia thought. "You'll come here for recess. You'll have lots of time to play then. Now, I'm going to show you the cafeteria."
"But I want to play now!" Selene whined. "You can't not play at the playground!"
"Can't we come back after the cafeteria?" Selene pleaded. "Please?'
"I'm not ready to go yet! Let's just stay for a while! Pleeeeeease? Pleeeeeeeeeeeease?!"
"I said no!" Celestia replied sternly, now a bit cross. "I will show you the cafeteria another time! We are going home this instant!"
Celestia teleported both herself and Selene back home before Selene could whine any more, specifically right outside of Selene's bedroom. Just as they did, Luna walked out of the room.
"Ah, Selene, there you are," Luna said with a smile. "Sister, did you take her to the school already?"
"Yes, but it did not go as planned," Celestia answered, looking down at Selene, who was now shying away and refusing to look at either of the celestial ponies.
Luna's smile vanished and she looked worried instead. "What happened, Sister? Was she dismayed at the idea of being at the school for recess?"
"No, she was very excited," Celestia replied honestly. "She couldn't contain herself."
"That sounds great. If that is the case, why do neither of you appear happy? What went wrong?" Luna asked.
"Go on, Selene. Tell Luna what happened on the playground." Celestia's tone had lost its sternness, but it didn't matter. Selene only looked down, brushing her hoof back and forth across the floor. The sisters waited for her to speak, and Selene silently swore she could feel their eyes on her. Her silence made Luna suspicious, but she wasn't going to give it away.
Luna and Celestia waited a minute. Then, two. Then, three. Throughout that time, Selene glanced at them once or twice, but still said nothing. She was too embarrassed.
Without breaking the silence, Luna walked behind Selene and gently nudged her into her bedroom. With her magic, she pulled the chair from Selene's craft table and placed it in an empty corner. A gesture of Luna's hoof toward the chair was all that was needed for Selene to know what Luna was telling her, and she silently walked over to the chair. She glanced at Luna one time, who returned it with nothing more than a serious stare, before she climbed onto the chair. With a spell, Luna encased all of Selene's toys, including the bookcase, and locked Selene's door from the inside as she left. No words were needed. Selene knew she was in trouble, and if she didn't want to be in more, she'd best not move. At least, Luna had placed the chair forward-facing, so Selene didn't have to face the corner.
Outside the room, Luna finally broke the silence, now between her and her sister, though they didn't remain outside Selene's bedroom to talk.
"I suppose I can assume she misbehaved at the playground?" Luna asked, though it was hardly a question now.
"Yes. Granted, I should've known better than to expect anything else from taking an excitable filly to the playground," Celestia sighed, "but I didn't think she'd have a tantrum. I didn't show her the cafeteria. When she would not stop whining, I brought her back instead."
"Did she play with anything on the playground, or did you stop her before she could?"
"She ran off almost as soon as she saw it. I did let her play around for a while," Celestia admitted. "Her tantrum came when I insisted it was time to stop and we didn't come to play to begin with."
Luna sighed sadly, appearing more downtrodden than angry. "Perhaps she's not ready to be there."
"Now, wait a minute, Luna," Celestia quickly interjected. "Don't give up so easily."
"What do you mean?"
"I wish it hadn't happened, but remember, she's only a foal. She's acting her age. You or I or Sombra can always take her back to the school another time. None of my students have ever been perfect."
"You... you are right," Luna agreed. "But it is your school. You have the right to change your mind about permitting me to have her be there."
"And I haven't changed my mind one bit," Celestia assured her. "She expressed concern about dealing with bullying. I think it's more of a sign she needs to begin schooling, not less. Homeschooling her lets her spend time with you and allowing her to have lunch and recess at the school allows her to be with other ponies. Isn't that what you want?"
Luna nodded. "It is. I want to wait until she meets Twilight and they are acquainted."
"Oh! You just jogged my memory! I have something important to ask you and Twilight!"
Selene had tears running down her face. She'd never get to go to Celestia's school now! She had gotten so excited, and she just ruined it! All she could do was ruin things. She only wanted to be perfect for her new family, especially Luna, but she kept messing up. Maybe she was just a---
Her thoughts were interrupted when she heard her name, though the voice was familiar enough she didn't have to look up to see who said it. She did look up, however, when she felt a hoof on her back.
"Please tell me what happened earlier."
Selene sniffled a bit, but finally gave in. "Celesta... Celestia took me flying and we went to her school castle and I got excited about the playground and I went to play and I got mad when she said we had to stop."
Despite how much of a mashed-together, run-on sentence it was, Luna understood. "What did you do?"
"I argued and I whined and I made your sister mad at me and she took me back home and didn't show me the cafeteria."
"Is that appropriate?"
"No," Selene answered, biting her lip to not cry again, an attempt that was slowly proving to be futile. "I'm sorry."
"You owe that apology to Celestia, not me. Why didn't you tell me what happened when she told you to?"
"I didn't want you to be mad at me too." Selene huffed a little. Trying to hold in her tears was starting to hurt. "I'm sorry I am a bad pony, Luna."
Just like that, Luna's heart shattered into a thousand pieces. Selene bit her lip harder and let out a whimper.
"Stop that," Luna told her, not losing her gentle tone. She then remembered Selene's toybox and bookcase were enclosed, and she lifted the spell restricting them, also unlocking the door from the inside. Luna stroked her back a few times, something that was usually soothing, but Selene stayed put like she was frozen in place, minus the tears still falling down her cheeks. "Your punishment is over. You can get up now."
Luna pulled Selene into a hug, and Selene returned it by grabbing Luna and crying into her neck. She wasn't loud. It was a lot of hiccups and huffing rather than outright sobbing. Luna returned the chair to Selene's craft table, and continued holding Selene until the filly cried herself out in a few minutes. "I love you, Selene."
After Selene calmed enough for Luna to put her down, she replied, "I love you too, Luna. I'm sorry I am a bad pony."
"Don't call yourself that. You are not a bad pony."
"But I ruined the trip! Celestia won't let me go to her school now!"
"That's not true," Luna told her, lying down for Selene to climb on her back. "Let's talk about it and go see Celestia."
Selene climbed on Luna's back, and Luna carried her out of her room and down the hall, walking slowly to give them time to talk before they reached Celestia.
"You aren't a bad pony. Never call yourself that," Luna told her. "You are a good pony who made a mistake. All ponies make mistakes. You do, I do, Celestia does. Everypony."
"Your visit to the school was cut short, but we can try again. Of course, that's up to Celestia. Let's hear what she says."
"I also know there is something you want to ask me. You were on the phone earlier when I was sleeping, weren't you?"
Selene became anxious. "Yes."
"So, what would you like to ask me?"
It took some hesitance, but Selene forced the question out of her mouth. "Can... can Melodía and Ivory come with Princess Twilight so they can visit me too?"
"Of course," Luna repeated. "They are welcome to visit the castle with Twilight. I would love to see the four of you together."
"Really, Luna?" Selene asked with a noticeable lift in her spirits. "You'll let them visit? After I ruined the school visit?"
"Dear Selene, I will never punish you by disallowing you to see your foster parents," Luna promised. "We don't have to tell them what happened today. We can sweep it under the rug. You need to apologize to Celestia - sincerely - and this can be over."
A bright smile showed on Selene's face and she joyfully hugged Luna. Luna began walk faster until she was galloping down the hallway, much to Selene's enjoyment. She carried Selene out to the gardens, where they found Celestia enjoying some moments of peace. Upon hearing them coming, Celestia picked her head up.
"Sister, are you taking a break from court?" Luna asked.
"I needed to re-discover my sanity," Celestia half-joked. "What do you need?"
Luna lowered herself for Selene to climb off her back. Selene did and, despite her nervousness creeping back, stood directly in front of Celestia.
"Yes, Selene?" Celestia said in her gentlest voice.
Selene glanced at Luna, who was, surprisingly, sporting a small smile instead of a serious frown. She turned her attention back to Celestia and took a deep breath.
"I'm sorry for ruining the trip to your school. And I'm sorry for having a tantrum."
"That is a good apology, Selene, and I accept it."
Selene looked at the ground and began brushing her hoof back and forth again.
"Selene, if you would like to ask Celestia a question, you should let her have your attention," Luna reminded her.
Selene uttered a low sound and brought her eyes back to Celestia.
"What is it, little one?"
"Can I still come to your school? And see the cafeteria?"
"Another day, yes."
"Do you... do you... do you... still love me?" Selene asked softly, though audibly enough for both sisters to hear.
Celestia nodded. "I do. Luna and I love you a lot."
Selene finally smiled again, and it stayed this time. Luna was going to return with Selene inside the castle, but Celestia insisted they relax with her. Luna lied next to her sister and Selene rested under Luna's wing on the opposite side. She quickly fell asleep as the older ponies watched her fondly.
Ivory and Melodía waited at Ponyville Train Station, talking between themselves on a bench. Several weeks passed, yet it still felt like yesterday that Selene had come into their home and left. The other foals in the foster home she'd gotten to know had missed her too. Another foal who came into the home was given the room Selene slept in. They briefly laughed over the idea of Selene's reaction to a new pony sleeping in "her" room. It was pure luck Selene had a room to herself. They allowed their home to be filled until there were two ponies to a bedroom. After that, they would close off receiving more fosters until the foals they had were adopted out. It was never something they liked to do, but it was necessary. An overfilled home brought more problems than needed.
They paused their conversation when they noticed a purple alicorn come onto the train platform. She walked right over to them, and they stood and bowed to her out of respect, making the alicorn blush. After so many years, she still wasn't quite used to that.
They nodded. "Good morning, Princess Twilight," Melodía said.
"Good morning to you. Did you buy train tickets?"
"No, we didn't yet," Ivory replied. "We were waiting for you."
"Good, because Princess Luna wanted me to give you these." Twilight pulled two tickets from her saddlebag and passed them to the ponies. Before either could protest, Twilight spoke again. "Think nothing of it. I can't believe I've been in Ponyville all this time and never met the two of you. If you ever need anything for your foster home, don't be shy in sending me a letter, okay?"
"We're still very grateful to you and the others! You've been more generous than we could imagine!" Melodía exclaimed.
The arrival of the train interrupted their conversation. All three ponies boarded, and found a three-pony seat for themselves. The ride to Canterlot felt fast and slow at the same time. Melodía and Ivory couldn't help thinking about all the events that transpired. To them, what they did was just, well, what they did. It was undoubtedly hard, and heartbreaking, but somepony had to do it. Never did they picture they'd one day have the respect of Equestria's monarchs.
Twilight was also eager to finally meet Selene face-to-face. She'd been mentally sulking since she missed the dinner party due to getting the flu. She couldn't resist bringing along a small gift, and after Luna mentioned Selene had a craft table in her room, Twilight settled on a paint set. She only hoped Luna wouldn't kill her for it, a thought that made her snicker.
Sooner than they realized, they arrived at Canterlot Station and stepped off the train. "I hate to ask, but would you know a short way to the castle, Princess Twilight?" Melodía asked. "The last time we came with Selene, it was a rather long walk."
"I do!" Twilight answered. "Stand still."
In a flash, Twilight teleported all three of them from the train platform to the stairs of the palace.
"Uh, okay. That works!" Ivory laughed, a bit surprised.
"Celestia taught me that one," Twilight explained.
At that moment, a very familiar cheerful voice called out.
"Melodía! Ivory! You're here!"
The group looked up the stairs to see Selene rushing down the stairs with Luna walking behind. Selene leaped right into her former foster parents' hooves, and they hugged her tight. "I missed you! I missed you!"
"We missed you too, Selene," Ivory told the filly.
Twilight was eager to introduce herself, but she didn't want to interrupt their moment, so she stayed quiet until Selene noticed her.
"Melodía, Ivory, who's that?" Selene asked, snuggled into their embrace and now shy at the sight of the unfamiliar purple pony.
"Selene, this is Princess Twilight," Melodía replied.
Twilight smiled. "Yes! I'm Princess Twilight, the princess of friendship. I live in Ponyville."
"In the big castle!" Selene remembered. "I've seen it! I never went there, but I've seen it!"
"So, what do you have planned for today, little one?" Twilight asked teasingly.
"Umm, uhh..." Selene looked up at Luna. "What are we doing, Luna?"
"We're having a picnic in the gardens," Luna replied. "Just the four of us. Come along, everypony."
Luna led the others behind the castle, where the gardens were, to the spot she'd set up their picnic. The blanket was large enough for all five of them to sit on, and one of the trees shaded them from the sun. Three baskets of food and a few toys were placed around the edges of the blanket. To no one's surprise, Selene made a beeline for it, quickly followed by the adult mares. Grabbing a stuffed animal, she squeezed herself between her former caregivers while the two princesses sat opposite to them so everyone could speak to each other with ease.
"So, Selene," Twilight began, "I heard you all had a family dinner some time ago. How was it?"
"It was fun!" Selene answered with glee. "I met Princess Cay... umm, Cay..."
"Cadance," Luna said for her.
"Princess Cadance! And Shiiiii... Shining Armor. Isn't that your big brother? And I met Flurry Heart. Uh, she's kind of nice."
Twilight chuckled. "She's a talker, isn't she?"
"Yeah. Too much. She's too hyper," Selene agreed, to the inconspicuous smirks of the other ponies who weren't lost on the irony. "I like Shiny best! He taught me jokes! Like this. Knock knock!"
Despite their silence, the internal groans could've been heard on the other side of the castle. Twilight only gave a sigh and smile. If a degree existed for bad jokes, her brother would have it. Still, she couldn't help humoring the little filly.
"Who's there?" Twilight asked.
Selene stifled a giggle. "Canoe not rock the boat?"
"Booooooo!" Ivory playfully exclaimed, turning Selene's giggles into a blatant fit of laughter.
"Oh, Selene. I hear you have a craft table," Twilight said. "Do you use it?"
"Oh, yeah! Luna lets me have lots of paper and glitter and stuff!" Selene replied gleefully. "I get messy and it gets on my hooves and in my hair and I look silly!"
"Do you?" Twilight's sly smirk tipped Luna off, and Twilight had to stifle a laugh. "Well, I have something I'm sure will be a great addition to your arts and crafts. Can you guess?"
Behind her back, Twilight slowly began to pull the paint set from her bag.
"Crayons? More paper? Lots of glitter glue?"
"Nope! It's a..." She swirled the paints in the air and around Selene, making a big show of the gift until finally letting it land in the filly's lap.
"Paint set!" Selene cried. "I wanted paints! Thank you, Princess Twilight! Luna, it's a paint set! We can paint together!"
"Oh, did I mention they're hoofpaints?" Twilight teased, struggling not to burst into laughter over the daggers Luna was shooting her.
Selene's eyes lit up. "Hoofpaints are the best! I'm going to make lots of hoofpaint art! Luna, can we play with them later? Pretty please?"
A mischievous smile then grew across Luna's face. "I'm afraid I have some business to attend to with Celestia. But I'm sure, absolutely positive, Twilight would be more than happy to stay late to help you with some hoofpaint artwork. Isn't that right, Twilight?"
Selene's hopeful gaze was too much for the princess of friendship to resist. With an unwilling smile, she agreed, to cheers from the excitable filly and a small, smug laugh from the princess of the night. Well, Twilight couldn't deny she deserved that one.
"You can do it! Keep trying, Selene."
Selene flapped her wings as hard as she could, but she couldn't get more than a half inch off the ground. Tired and frustrated, she finally let herself plop on the ground. "I can't do it, Princess Twilight!"
Twilight lowered her head to Selene's eye level. "Sure, you can. Keep trying. It took me a while to learn to fly too. Don't give up."
Selene only pouted in response.
"Are you sure you don't want to try again? How about one more time?" Twilight kindly urged her.
"No! I want to do something else!"
Realizing Selene was on the verge of a temper tantrum, the other three adults interjected.
"Twilight, I do agree. We should stop for now," Luna said in a matter-of-fact tone.
"Why don't we eat?" Ivory suggested. "Nopony has touched the food."
"Yummy! Are there sticky buns?" Selene asked, her frustration immediately forgotten for the moment. Luna magically lifted a few buns and a plate from one of the baskets and served them to Selene. She hastily started one bun's journey down her esophagus while the others fixed plates for themselves. The three baskets contained enough food for all of them, but at the rate Selene was going, it wouldn't last long. Luna gave Selene some napkins to wipe the stickiness from her hooves.
The food wasn't meant to be eaten all at once, but before anypony knew it, the baskets were empty, and a certain filly was complaining of a bellyache. Ivory suggested a nap, but to nopony's surprise, Selene objected. However, she agreed to Ivory's suggestion of "walking it off", so the two of them began circling the garden, leaving Twilight, Luna, and Melodía to chat among one another.
"I assume she keeps you on your toes," Melodía chuckled as they watched Selene and Ivory walk around.
"Myself, Celestia, Sombra," Luna agreed. "We all have to watch out for her. But we love having her here."
"Ivory and I knew you would," Melodía said with a smile.
"Celestia told me about her getting hyper at the playground," Twilight laughed. "I would've loved to see that!"
"Oh?" Melodía asked.
Luna described the incident of Celestia taking Selene to her School for Gifted Unicorns, and how Selene became over-excited at the playground. She also mentioned it wasn't so funny at the time, as Luna had to discipline her for her trouble.
"Yes, it's hard when you have to be firm with the children," Melodía agreed. "But necessary."
"My niece has told me it's of greater importance for ones like Selene," Luna said.
Melodía nodded. "Most of the foster foals we receive had very little structure before coming to us. Selene is really easy in comparison to some other foals we've had. She's hardly different than most foals her age. But Ivory and I have had some foals who were destructive, wild, and sometimes a danger to other foals in our home. For them, we need professional assistance. Selene doesn't need that, but as I'm sure you've figured out, she worries a lot about losing those she loves."
"Indeed, she does," Luna thought as she remembered Selene fearing she'd punish her by refusing to allow Melodía and Ivory to visit. Then, Selene asked Celestia if she still loves her. Not to mention the first time they had an outing together, Selene's immediate worry was Luna stopped loving her over something as petty as a book.
"She needs to know she's safe," Melodía continued. "Physically and emotionally. You could say she's learning to trust again."
Ivory walked back over to the group with a sleeping Selene on her back and carefully set her onto the picnic blanket. "Awww," Twilight uttered. "What a cherub!"
Since Selene had taken to a nap, Luna and Twilight brought her inside while Melodía and Ivory were treated to a tour of the castle by Celestia and Sombra. Luna discussed her plans for Selene's education with Twilight, who thought it was a good idea. Were she not busy running her school, she would've asked to be one of Selene's tutors. Luna assured her if she ever found the time, an offer would be on the table. After all, she'd known Twilight for years now and Twilight had become an amazing teacher over the years. Celestia had praised her many times about that, and Luna was always in agreement. Her School of Friendship was proof.
"Bet she feels like a princess in this bedroom," Twilight joked as she studied every inch of Selene's bedroom.
"Quite the contrary," Luna laughed. "Seems she doesn't want much to do with being a princess. She has never asked about becoming one."
"I never thought about becoming a princess either until I did," Twilight remembered. "I thought I'd spend my life as a librarian."
"Celestia and I weren't born into royalty. We were elected, but we've been rulers for so long, we struggle to remember what our lives were prior."
"I thought you were born as alicorns long before Equestria existed," Twilight said.
"We were, but alicorn is not synonymous with being a prince or princess. Rather, it isn't supposed to be, but it seems the rules changed at some point in our lifetime."
"So, if I never became an alicorn, I wouldn't have become a princess?" Twilight asked.
Luna gave the question some thought before she answered, but she had to admit she was unsure of the truth to that question. "I think you may have to take that up with my sister. She is the one who granted your ascension. To my knowledge, she also granted Cadance her ascension to that of alicorn and princess. She should have the answer."
Twilight decided she'd talk to Celestia about it another time. Today wasn't a good day for that type of discussion. Selene began to wake from her nap, so they decided to find the others to let Selene have more time with her former caregivers before they had to leave. Luna carried Selene on her back, but once she was fully awake, she darted off to find Ivory and Melodía herself. Luna and Twilight hurried behind her, not wanting her to get lost in the castle.
The group found the others near the infirmary. Nopony had gotten hurt. They were just walking by when Selene happened upon them.
"Hello, Selene," Melodía greeted her. "Did you enjoy your nap?"
"Come on! I want to play with you more before you leave!"
Celestia chuckled. "Go ahead," she told them. "She doesn't get to see you every day."
Selene took Melodía and Ivory back to her bedroom while Luna and Twilight stayed with Celestia and Sombra. They waited until the little filly and her former caregivers were out of sight before they spoke.
"I think I'll leave when Ivory and Melodía do," Twilight said. "I should see them back to Ponyville, after all."
"I am happy you were able to come, Twilight," Luna told Twilight. "You did have a hoof in saving her. I feel she should know you."
Twilight blushed a bit, politely brushing off the praise. It was a princess's duty to protect her subjects, after all. Plus, it'd been a good excuse to see Celestia and Luna again. It always seemed like forever since her last visit to their castle.
Meanwhile, in Selene's room, Selene decided to try flying one more time. She wanted to do it this one time just for Melodía and Ivory to see. At least, she wanted to do more than hover for two seconds. But it seemed like all she was good at was tiring herself out from flapping her wings. Finally, she fell onto the floor, obviously dissatisfied and fed up.
"I hate my wings!" Selene shouted. "They don't work! I'll never fly!"
"Don't say that," Ivory tried to assure her. "You're just not ready yet. You'll fly when you fly."
Selene stood up and flapped her wings again. Just one more try. This had to be the one. She flapped them as hard as she could and lifted herself off the floor. She struggled as much as she could to pull herself higher or move forward, but it didn't take her long to realize her struggling was in vain. Finally out of energy again, her belly landed on the hard floor.
Before she could have a fit, Ivory swooped her up, and she and Melodía comforted her.
"You can't force yourself to fly before you're ready," Melodía said gently. "You'll fly someday. It's just not today."
"But I wanted you to see me fly," Selene moaned, teary-eyed.
"We'll see you fly someday and we'll cheer for you," Melodía promised as Ivory wiped Selene's tears away. "How about instead of stressing yourself out, we read for a while? Luna said you've been great with that."
Selene smiled. "Yeah. She lets me read the bedtime stories. But I like her to do it."
Melodía pulled a book from Selene's bookcase, and the three of them sat together. "The Unicorn and the Dragon. How about this one?"
"Oh, this one is funny!" Selene exclaimed. "The unicorn meets a little dragon and they fall into a hole and everything is weird."
"Let's read it!" Ivory encouraged her.
Selene gleefully opened the first page and began reading aloud as the older ponies listened. Her reading did sound better, being more fluid and with less stuttering over words than the last time they heard her read.
The day had been fun, but to Selene's dismay, it couldn't last forever. Sooner than she liked, it came time for Melodía and Ivory to head home. Tearful goodbyes and hugs were exchanged, but not without promises to see each other again and talk over the phone. To Twilight's surprise, she also got a hug from Selene, in exchange for a promise to let Selene visit her castle next time, which she happily agreed to. Luna reminded them not to be shy about asking for any help they needed for their home, and they thank the princesses for giving them the privilege to begin with. After all the thank yous, goodbyes, and hugs that were could be exchanged had been, Twilight led Melodía and Ivory away from the castle to head back to the train station. Everypony watched, especially Selene intently, until they were no longer visible.
From atop her back, Luna heard Selene make a small whine. "There now. They're only a phone call away." Selene smiled for a moment before everypony returned indoors. Selene climbed down from Luna's back to walk off on her own, but the others followed. Selene returned to her bedroom and went right over to her craft table. She pulled out a piece of construction paper from a stack she had and, to everypony's relief, carefully pulled open the paint set Twilight gifted her. They watched for a while as she painted, genuinely trying not to make a mess, and eventually decided to leave her in peace and let her have some time to herself. Luna snuck an extra glance before quietly closing the bedroom door.
"Awww, she loves them so much," Sombra whispered.
"I thought she'd feel better about being away from them as time passed," Luna admitted. "Am I being impatient?"
"No," Celestia replied. "I think you're worried. She's been here for several weeks now and she's settled herself in, but she still worries about losing them. Keep letting her have contact with them and visit when possible. She'll come around to realize she doesn't have to worry about it anymore."
"Her parents are who-knows-where, right?" Sombra asked. "Can't blame her for having separation anxiety with them."
"She took well to Twilight, and she clearly likes all of us. She steals Sombra's robe at least once a week," Celestia laughed, getting an eye roll and a smirk from her husband. "It's a good sign she's outgoing like that. She's doing fine for a little pony who's been through what she has."
Luna breathed a sigh of relief. "You're right. I must remember she is a bit troubled. Let's leave her be to make her gift for them."
Now that Selene was acquainted with Twilight and had settled herself in nicely with the royal family, Luna thought it was a good time to get her into a school routine. She and Celestia converted an unused wing of the castle to be Selene's "school". Celestia built a classroom, made in the traditional style with things like an alphabet banner and a puzzle rug. She considered adding toys in one corner to make the room more appealing, but decided against at Luna's objection that it'd distract Selene from learning. She opted for some plants instead. There was a seat in the back of the room for Luna to oversee as Selene was taught, though it would only be for a few weeks to let Luna feel confident she was wise in her choice of tutors. A different corner of the room was left bare with only a small chair facing the wall. Luna and Celestia hoped it wouldn't be necessary, but they were wise enough to realize that was wishful thinking. Selene was a child, after all.
Cadance recommended some of the tutors who taught Flurry Heart in the past, which Luna accepted after seeing how Flurry Heart performed under them and their experience with other students. Celestia warned Luna not overwhelm Selene with too many teachers at the start. After all, since Selene attended ordinary school beforehand, she was used to having one teacher for all of her subjects. Luna kept her warning in mind. In the end, she decided alternating between two teachers - one for morning and one for afternoon - would be an easy start.
Celestia took Selene for a second visit to her schoolhouse. Luna offered to tag along, but Celestia declined, certain there wouldn't be a repeat of the first visit. Besides, Selene had to learn she needed to behave herself around other ponies besides Luna. Luna couldn't argue, and she liked Celestia was willing to spend one-on-one time with Selene. This time, Celestia chose to walk Selene to the school instead of flying her there. Naturally, that made the trip much slower, but Selene seemed to not care.
"Caaaaan... terrrrr... lot! Cannerslot!"
"Canterlot," Celestia corrected.
"Aww! I messed it up again!" Selene groaned. "What am I doing wrong?"
"The T sound," Celestia answered. "Say canter."
"Say it together."
"Canter. Lot. Canter. Lot. Canterlot! I got it!"
"Good job, Selene," Celestia praised her.
"I like easy stuff," Selene said. "Like Selene! And Luna! And Sombra! And... not your name! Your name's hard."
Celestia chuckled. "It rolls off the tongue after you learn it."
The remainder of the walk consisted of Selene's random opinions on whatever she could give an opinion about. It was funny to think this was the same filly who hid her face when she first met Celestia. Now, she was content to talk about this and that.
Suddenly, Selene froze in her steps, appearing shocked at something ahead. Celestia paused too, but before she could ask, Selene ran under her belly and hid behind her forelegs, clinging tightly. Celestia didn't see anything or anypony to be afraid of. After two colts with their parents walked past the two of them and were out of sight, Selene breathed a sigh of relief and stood at Celestia's side again.
"Thanks for not giving me away."
"Do you know those colts?" Celestia asked, concerned.
Selene nodded sadly. "They're not really nice."
"They wouldn't be some of the foals who bullied you, would they?"
"Y-yes. They used to pull my mane and tail, and it always hurt. One of them sat on me."
"I'm so sorry you had to deal with that." Celestia kneeled down and spread a comforting wing around Selene. "It won't happen in my school. I promise. Don't be afraid to come any of us."
Selene felt better and was back to her cheerful self in an instant. Their walk continued, with Selene singing to herself what Celestia recognized as a lullaby Luna liked to sing.
They reached the school before Selene could recognize where they were, but the moment she did, she was in awe as much as she was the first time. However, she quickly remembered their first visit and how badly that ended. Her excitement died before she could show it.
"Let's go inside, Selene," Celestia insisted. Selene followed wordlessly, which was enough to Celestia to pick up on Selene's sudden change in mood. She led Selene to where she wanted to take her last time: the cafeteria. It looked no different than other school cafeterias, but its size was still enough to impress Selene. Its elegant decor gave it the feel of being a room from the royal castle itself. Small chandeliers hung from the ceiling, though the windows brought in enough natural light to illuminate the room without them. The tables were in rows, but there was enough space between each table for a group to eat on the floor between them. The arrangement looked more pleasing than at her old school, where the cafeteria tables were put as close as they could be with only enough space between them to walk sideways.
"What do you think?"
Selene's agape mouth answered without sound.
"Glad you like it!" Celestia giggled.
Selene snapped her mouth shut. The thought of being the only pony who wasn't a unicorn in a room full of unicorns still made her nervous, but if Celestia promised everything would be okay, Selene would try to believe her. Plus, she did want to play on that playground again. Without getting in trouble for it.
Celestia declared it was time to go, so Selene followed her out without fussing. Since she behaved herself, Celestia flew her back to the castle. Selene held tightly to Celestia's neck, but spread out her own little wings, wanting to feel the wind beneath. If only she could fly by herself. Pretending was the next best thing.
The flight should've been a short trip, but Celestia slowed down as she spotted some gray clouds coming toward them. The wind picked up, and Selene clung to Celestia and shivered. The sky began to grow dark.
"Is Luna making it nighttime?" Selene asked as Celestia slowly descended toward the ground.
Before Celestia could answer, a clap of thunder boomed, scaring Selene out of her skin. She almost fell off Celestia's back, but Celestia caught her and quickly landed.
"C-can you ask Luna to make it sunny again?" Selene pleaded.
"Shhh, shhh," Celestia soothed. "Luna isn't doing this. It's a storm." A clap of thunder and Selene curled into a ball in Celestia's hooves. Celestia placed Selene on her back again and teleported them both directly outside the castle, where Luna was waiting. The moment Selene spotted her, she dashed to the night mare's side and clung to her for dear life. The sisters hurried to bring Selene inside just as the rain began and thunder continued to roar.
"There now, Selene," Luna consoled her. "The storm will pass. We'll stay inside until then." But the thunder made Luna's attempt to soothe the scared filly useless. Every time it clapped, Selene shuddered, curled into a ball of fear.
"It's only loud noise," Celestia tried to assure her as she stroked her back. "Thunder can't hurt you. It only annoys you for a while."
Still nothing. Luna gazed at the downpour and thought for a few moments. Thankfully, an idea didn't take long to come to her, though it was a rather silly idea she never thought she'd do with anypony who wasn't Celestia.
"Hear me, thunder!"
Selene recognized that voice! She remember when Luna used it to scare off her father in her nightmares. Selene uncurled herself and stared at Luna, standing at the entrance doorway and facing the storm.
Selene slowly started to giggle. Celestia caught on to what her sister was doing, and she stifled her own laugh.
Luna stomped. So did Selene. Then, Celestia.
Luna and Selene roared, though Selene's roar ended in giggles. Luna came back to her side. "Feel better?"
"Yeah! That was fun! Can we do it again?" Selene begged.
"You two have your fun. I need to see Sombra," Celestia said. "Don't bring down the castle!"
"We promise!" Selene agreed as Celestia trotted off. More thunder sounded, followed by the playful roars and silly stomps of the two ponies each time the storm made itself heard. They continued until Selene was laughing too hard to fake another roar. "Wheeeeeee!" she cried as she pounced on Luna, knocking her over (well, Luna let her think she did) for a hug. "That was fun, Luna! You're so silly!"
"So are you, silly filly," Luna replied, tickling her for a few seconds to keep her laughter going. Luna felt a huge smile grow across her face. Something besides the silly game was making beam and feel joyful like she hadn't felt before. She'd figure it out later. In the meantime, she kept her attention on the giggly filly snuggling on top of her. "Selene, I didn't ask. How was your trip to the school?"
"I was good!" Selene exclaimed. "And the cafeteria is really, really, really, reeeeeallly big! I can't wait to go!" She let out a wide yawn.
"Naptime?" Luna suggested.
"No nap! Naps are for babies!"
"I'll read you a story."
"Hmmm." Selene made a mock suspicious face.
In the privacy of their bedroom, a fire spread warmth while luscious curtains blocked the rainstorm from view. A thick comforter provided further warmth as the couple amorously nuzzled each other, taking in each other's beauty and savoring every moment of each other's touch. A groan escaped the sun mare when she felt a gentle bite on her neck. A kiss near her chin and another on her lips followed that, and the latter lasted for what felt like a long while. She shuddered lightly, but with pleasure, when she felt his hoof gently scratch down her back. She pulled back from their kiss, face blushing brightly, and let herself be pushed over, only to ensnare and embrace him before he could do it to her. They gazed at each other smugly, but affectionately, as she pulled herself above him and their passionate kiss resumed.
She didn't realize the disadvantage of her position until she felt a touch beneath her wings that instinctively made them sprout. She gasped, he snickered, and she slyly declared he was in trouble. Her golden hold pulled their comforter over them, and the blanket came alive with the intimate actions and sounds of the ponies beneath it.
Several minutes passed before either pony emerged from beneath the blanket. Resting on their sides, they held each other close, his chest supporting her head as a pillow. She let his heartbeat give her comfort and slowly lull her into sleep. He caressed her cheek and whispered he loved her, reminding her he knew he was a fortunate stallion. She was too humble to accept that without returning it, exclaiming she couldn't ask for a better husband. Finally, she allowed her mind to drift off and she fell sound asleep. He planted a light kiss on her nose before he joined her trip to the land of dreams.
Selene awoke from her nap after about thirty minutes. Just as she stretched out, she heard hoofsteps enter her room.
"Hello, Selene," Luna said pleasantly. "Are you refreshed?"
A yawn and a stretch from the still sleepy-eyed filly answered that question.
"I will assume so. Come along. I want you to meet your teachers."
"It's time for school already?"
"Not yet, but I want you to be prepared." Luna walked to Selene's bed and lowered her head. "Come on now."
Selene smiled and hopped from her bed onto Luna's back. Luna carried her to the classroom she and Celestia made some time ago. Luna felt a little anxious. She had everypony's support in doing this, but there was still a little nagging feeling she made the the wrong choice. Then again, Cadance did say worrying is essentially what parenting is.
"Luna, are you going to come to school with me?" Selene asked, fully awake.
"For a few weeks, yes," Luna replied.
"A few weeks? What's a few weeks?"
"Perhaps a month."
"Do you they make you leave after that?"
"Certainly not, but I cannot always be around," Luna explained.
"I know! That's why Celestie and Sombra babysit me, right? And they're really fun! Oh, I get it! You'll get Celestie or Sombra to be with me in school when you can't be there!"
Luna slowed down to think. How could she explain this in a way that wouldn't upset Selene? She didn't want Selene to think she didn't want to be there nor did she want to ruin her enthusiasm. Of course, any answer that wasn't yes might upset Selene, but she could at least try to minimize it.
Luna breathed deeply and answered Selene. "No. That's not what I meant. When those few weeks have passed, you will be alone in class. Only your teacher will be present."
Selene frowned. "But why? I want to be with you!"
"I am happy you enjoy your time with me, Selene, but you must learn to be without me."
"But that's why I have Celestie and Sombra, right?"
"School is different. School is a time when you are to be without pare... guardians."
"Oh... Like regular school." The sad tone that took over Selene's voice cracked Luna's heart. "Okay."
"It won't be as bad as it sounds. You are the only student, so you get all the focus," Luna told her, trying to perk her back up. "You have your lunchtime and recess at my sister's school, and she is there while her school is in session. Did she not assure you it's okay to go to her if you have a problem?"
"Yeah. She said I could talk to her," Selene remembered.
"That's right. And I want to hear about your school day too. You can tell me when I arrive to escort you to Celestia's school and---"
"You're going to take me to Celestie's school for lunch?!" Selene's smiled came back and her eyes shined.
"Indeed! Sitting in class with you will last for only a month, but I will be there every day to take you to and from her school. If I cannot, Sombra will escort you instead. I suppose I should've mentioned that?"
"Yay! Can we fly?"
"Of course. And Celestia will escort you to the cafeteria until you memorize the way. Then, you can follow the other students."
"I can't wait! I can't wait!"
"Yes, Luna, you should've mentioned that!" she scolded herself, though she was happy to see Selene joyful again. "Selene?"
"Please remember this. It will always be okay to talk to me about anything."
"Okay!" Selene replied, not thinking much of it. They arrived inside the classroom, and Selene immediately noticed two ponies she'd never seen before. She squeaked and hid her face in Luna's coat. Luna approached the ponies, but Selene didn't peek.
"Selene, it's alright. My sister and I are very familiar with these ponies. As are Cadance, Shining, and Flurry Heart. They tutored Flurry for years."
Selene looked up with one eye, but quickly hid her face again. "Are they princesses too?" Selene asked with her voice muffled by Luna's coat.
"If we were, I'd be a prince instead of a princess, young pony," one teacher chuckled.
"Awww, so shy. How about we introduce ourselves?" his friend suggested. "Can I have your hoof?"
Selene apprehensively stuck out her hoof and peeked again with one eye when she felt the unfamiliar pony touch it.
"Pleased to meet you. My name is Starlight. Starlight Glimmer."
Starlight stepped aside, and the other teacher shook Selene's hoof. "I'm Sunburst. And you are?"
"Selene?" Sunburst asked.
"Selene Skyla Rose."
"What a lovely name!" Starlight complimented. "Selene, Sunburst and I will be your tutors. I'll see you in the morning and Sunburst will see you in the afternoon. Princess Luna will sit in the back and observe, but she won't participate."
"Why not?" Selene asked Luna.
"Because school is for you and your teachers," Luna answered. "I am staying to ensure your class time goes well. If I participate, I can't watch. You must ask Starlight or Sunburst to help you instead of me."
"We know that'll be easier when we've been around for a while," Starlight said. "So, no offense taken if you don't want to talk to us just yet. But we will be your teachers, so we'd love if you did."
"Uh, okay," Selene muttered.
"Selene, please look in that corner," Luna told her, pointing a hoof toward it. Selene looked in the back corner farthest from them, where the small chair was placed.
"You're going to sit there, Luna?" Selene asked.
"No," Luna replied with some sternness in her voice. "You will if you misbehave. Do you remember what I did when you disobeyed Celestia? The same applies in school."
"I'll be a good pony! I promise!"
"We're sure you will," Starlight agreed. "But so you know, you have three strikes."
"No! I'll be good! I promise! No strikes!"
"Selene, please relax!" Luna rubbed her back for a few seconds. "She does not mean physical strikes."
"Oh... Oh, no! I wasn't talking about hitting you!" Starlight explained. "We would never do that! Princess Luna would have our heads!"
Selene stared at Luna with a pleading face. To her relief, Luna reaffirmed their words. "Nopony is allowed to hit anypony, for any reason. I don't hit you, Selene. Nopony else is allowed either."
"Whew!" Selene felt much better. "So, what does strikes mean?"
"Chances," Sunburst answered. "Starlight meant to say you have three chances. If you misbehave three times, that's when we have Luna interfere."
"If that happens," Luna spoke, "you won't be allowed to have recess and you won't be allowed your toys after school either."
"That's boring! I'll be bored all day!" Selene protested.
"It would be punishment. That's the point, Selene," Luna reminded her.
"And if you exhaust your chances when Princess Luna isn't here," Starlight said, "you'll have to tell her you misbehaved when she comes."
"I don't want to do that!"
"Behave yourself and you never have to worry about it," Luna told her. "Does that make sense?"
Selene nodded. She remembered when Celestia made her do that. She would actually prefer sitting in the corner to having to tell Luna she hadn't been good.
"Now that we have the rules out of the way, let's talk about the fun stuff!" Starlight exclaimed. She led Selene to a desk in the center of the room, and helped Selene onto the chair. "This will be your desk. Open the top."
Selene lifted the desk top to find textbooks, notebooks, pencils, crayons, and a coloring book. "Wow! What's this stuff?"
"For your classwork. Princess Luna says you have a little trouble with reading, so I'm going to teach you phonics and arithmetic."
"Math," Starlight said. "Reading and math."
"Then," Sunburst cut in, "after you return from lunch and recess, I'll be here to teach you geography."
"I know that!" Selene exclaimed "It's, uh, places! Where places are!"
"Can't say you're wrong," Sunburst agreed. "That's the simple way of putting it. We heard you like arts and crafts."
"Yeah! I have a craft table in my room!"
"Well, at the end of every school day, I'll do arts and crafts with you," Sunburst told her. "Whatever you would like."
"Do you think you'll enjoy learning with Starlight and Sunburst?" Luna asked.
"Yes! I like art the best!"
The adults looked among each other and stifled laughs. "Shocker," Starlight muttered. She spoke out loud to Selene. "Your first day of school is next week. Bring a big smile!"
"Wait! What time does school start?"
"10:00 in the morning to 3:00 in the afternoon," Luna answered. "Each of your subjects is an hour long."
10am? That was later than her old school. And she liked that idea! Mornings sucked.
Selene had no more questions, so Luna told her to wait in the corridor for a few minutes while she spoke to Starlight and Sunburst in private. Selene obliged, but asked if she could call Melodía and Ivory to tell them everything. Luna said yes and teleported a phone from elsewhere for Selene to use. She only warned her to keep the conversation low. Selene agreed and took the phone into the corridor, out of earshot of the adults, and vice versa.
"I appreciate the two of you will take on this role. Are you certain you have no regrets?"
"We're honored, Princess Luna!" Starlight insisted. "I mean, teaching a filly will be different than teaching a teenager, but from what you told us, she's not much different than Flurry Heart."
"Flurry Heart gave us the usual trouble you expect from students," Sunburst said. "Not always paying attention, maybe acting up once in a while. Never anything serious. Starlight and I will be fine."
"And it'll be nice to teach something different than magic," Starlight added. "I'm thrilled to help a young pony learn life skills."
“My only fear is if she becomes frustrated and throws a temper tantrum when I am not present,” Luna confessed. “She becomes frustrated easily when she struggles.”
“Flurry Heart sometimes pitched a fit when she thought she was taking too long to get the hang of something,” Starlight remembered. “That’s easy. If she’s getting upset because she’s struggling, we break down what she’s having trouble with. Worked every time with Flurry Heart. Eventually, she’d ask for help instead of getting mad.”
That reassured Luna. Starlight and Sunburst seemed well prepared, and Luna felt confident the first day, at least, would be no trouble. She checked on Selene in the corridor, who’d finished with her phone call, so they saw Starlight and Sunburst out of the castle. Selene happily waved goodbye, her initial shyness completely forgotten.
“Luna?” Selene said when her new teachers were out of eyesight.
“Starlight reminds me of Twilight. Are they sisters?”
“No, but they’re asked that question often. Starlight was Twilight’s student several years ago.”
“Really? Was Twilight a good teacher?”
“From what I heard, it was a learning experience for her.”
“What does that mean?”
“It means Starlight taught Twilight as much as she learned from Twilight.”
“Do you learn from me?”
Luna nodded. “I learn every day with you, young one!”
"Alright, Selene. Take out your math book, and we'll start from the first chapter."
Selene quietly did as Starlight asked of her, quickly finding the page of the first chapter. The title was Introduction to...
"T... r-r... ih... I don't know what it says, Starlight."
"Well," Starlight spoke harshly, "if you've been reading, it should be easy."
"But... But Starlight, it's my first day!" Selene argued weakly.
Out of nowhere, Starlight pulled out a pointer stick and slammed it on Selene's desk, making the filly jump out of her seat in fear. "That's no excuse, young lady! Now, no more arguments!"
"That is Miss Starlight to you! Now, solve the first problem in chapter one."
Selene looked over the math problem, but she had no idea what any of the numbers or symbols meant.
"I can't read it," she moaned. "I didn't learn this before."
"Then, I suppose..." Starlight came to close to Selene for her comfort, soon looming over her like a tower. "...you can sit there all day until you figure it out."
"B-B-But you're supposed to teach me! You and Sunburst!"
"How could we ever teach such a stupid little filly?"
Selene tried to contain herself, but Starlight's words hurt. Before she could try to defend herself, she heard another pony join behind her.
"I think the princess made a mistake." Selene turned around to face Sunburst. "A filly who can't read. What could we possibly do with you?" he sneered.
Selene sank into her seat. "I c-can read." The tears slowly began to slide down her face.
"Then, read this!" Sunburst plopped a huge textbook on top of the open math book. Selene couldn't read so much as the title. It was one huge word she struggled to sound out.
"We knew it! You can't read!" Sunburst chided her.
"I-I-I... can so!"
"Looks like a certain filly won't be getting recess today." Celestia stepped in, her regal appearance, for once, looking intimidating instead of welcoming as she carried a cold glare on her. She joined the two unicorns near Selene, and Selene felt like an ant as she cowered beneath the glares of the adult ponies. Selene was too scared to utter a sound.
"Well, young lady? Do you have anything to say for yourself for wasting our time?" Celestia scolded her.
After a few moments, Selene cried out for the only pony who had ever protected her from harm.
"I want Luna!"
"Luna?" Celestia scoffed. "My sister doesn't want a filly who can't be taught!"
"But... but... Luna loves me!"
The regal alicorn and the unicorns roared with laughter as the filly hid her face beneath her hooves as she sobbed. She wanted to ignore their taunts, but they were too loud. She wished she could curl up and shrink into thin air.
The older ponies rose to mid-air and swirled around her, eyes glowing, and their taunts growing even louder until her crying was drowned out. Nopony could hear her.
The taunts immediately and abruptly stopped. A moment later, all three ponies vanished in puffs of smoke. Selene felt a hoof nudge her cheek. She looked up, her face still soaked with tears, but she smiled.
"Luna! You came! You didn't leave me!" She jumped into Luna's hooves and clung to the night pony like her life depended on it.
"Of course not, Selene. Forgive that I took so long. I was helping another pony, and as soon as they were okay, I saw your nightmare."
Selene began to wipe away her tears. "Luna, can't you stay with me in school? Please?"
"Selene, I know you are anxious, but I promise this nightmare is nothing more than that: a nightmare. Neither Starlight nor Sunburst, and especially not my sister, would ever treat you that way."
"But... what if I can't do it?"
"They will help you learn," Luna assured her. "And so will I."
Selene didn't seem reassured, merely sinking her face into Luna's coat as she tried to stop crying. Luna continued to soothe her until she came up with an idea. With her magic, she and Selene traveled far into the past within a few seconds. When Selene looked up, she didn't recognize where they were. Nothing was familiar.
Luna pointed toward two ponies who Selene could see weren't yet adults, but were obviously a few years older than her. The smaller of the two had a blue coat and light blue hair while the bigger one had a white coat and a pink mane with blue and green highlights. It took a few seconds, but Selene put the pieces together.
"That's you and Celestia!"
"That's right! Now, pay attention."
The younger Luna was trying to envelope herself in a bubble, but was having difficulty. The bubble began to form, but as she struggled to enlarge it, it popped. She threw out a frustrated sigh and lowered her head.
"Sister, it's no use. I will never be good with magic."
The younger Celestia picked her sister's head up. "Of course, you will! You made a portal to another dimesion! Another world! You have great power, Luna!"
"It could be." Younger Celestia frowned. "I know I probably stressed you out a lot from all the grief I gave you. I mean, you made the portal because I was getting on your nerves."
Younger Celestia smiled warmly. "Maybe if you relax while you concentrate, the bubble could work. It is a hard spell, but nowhere as hard as a portal."
"Are you sure that would work?"
"It's worth a shot. I wouldn't want to practice magic if it was stressful all the time. Just breathe, think about what you want to do, and go for it."
Younger Luna closed her eyes, took a deep breath, and slowly began to perforn the spell. A small bubble formed. Luna opened one eye halfway, and closed it again as she began to enlarge the bubble.
"Relax," younger Celestia reminded her. "You can do it."
The bubble continued to enlarge and Luna opened her eyes just as it fully enveloped her. Slowly, it carried her off the ground.
"Celestia! I did it! Ahh! Get me down!"
Younger Celestia chuckled and lowered the sister to her ground. Younger Luna popped the bubble to free herself.
"See? It's not so bad. Want to make another one?"
Present day Luna faded out the memory and looked down to see a seemingly bewildered filly. She couldn't help laughing a little to herself.
"Luna, was that really you and your sister?"
Luna nodded. "Yes. Do you think I'm bad at magic?"
"No way! You're amazing! You go in dreams and fight monsters and everything! And... and you can pick up the moon!"
"I can do those things now. But as you saw, I wasn't always a powerful pony. I practiced a lot. And I definitely failed a lot."
"But Celestia said you opened a portal to a world!"
"I did! But only because she annoyed me with her teasing and I wanted to prove her wrong. Just as I was once not so powerful, my sister was once not so kind."
Selene's mouth was agape. "But she's the nicest pony ever! And you too! And Sombra and Cadance and---"
"Indeed, Selene. What I'm saying is we were not always the ponies you know us as. We grew and changed, and so will you. You may struggle to read now, but if you continue to practice, you will get better. Everypony cannot be the best, but everypony can get better. As adults we are still growing and changing."
"Well..." Luna spread her wing around Selene. "...I've learned a lot about taking care of a certain filly. And so long as she's with me, I will continue to learn."
Selene smiled and hugged Luna.
"Just because I am not physically present does not mean I am not here for you. Part of growing up is taking care of yourself, but I will still be here when you need me. You must learn when you are truly in need is all, and to trust others the way you trust me. So, you can have many ponies who support you. Do you understand?"
"I do. I love you... Mama."
Luna's face blushed. She hadn't heard that correctly, had she? She looked down to see Selene leaning peacefully against her leg. She sat down and gently stroked Selene's back with her hoof for a moment before simply holding it around her. Her grin grew into a cheesy one.
Selene looked up. "Can I call you that?"
"Are you comfortable referring to me that way?"
"Yeah. You make me think of my mama. But she never came back. You did."
Luna almost shed a tear. "Oh, Selene, I'm sure she loved you until her last breath."
"Huh? Last breath?"
Luna quickly realized her mistake. "The second time I visited your dreams, you stated your mother was gone."
"I fear I don't understand. I got the impression your mother passed."
"Oh... Oh! No! She's alive. I think."
"I apologize. I misunderstood." Luna relaxed on all four legs, but kept her head up. "Would you like to talk about it?"
"She said she loves me. She said she'll come back someday. Then, she left. Then, my dad started being mean. Then, he left."
"Did he say he'd come back?"
Selene shook her head. "No. I went to school and I went home and he wasn't there. That's all I know."
Even in the dream realm, Luna was sure all of Equestria could've heard her heart snap in two. Selene perked up and nuzzled her head under Luna's, giving that sweet smile again. Luna held her a little more tightly.
"It's not," Luna insisted.
"But I have a new mama." She gazed at Luna hopefully with her innocent eyes. "Right?"
Luna's cheesy grin returned. She nodded. "Right."
Selene relaxed and rested her head on Luna's hoof. Luna finally recognized that strange warm feeling she felt around Selene, and she embraced it. She felt more at ease than she had since she first welcomed Selene into her home.