Sometimes Never

by Blueshift

Chapter 1: Sometimes Never

Luna stood outside the door to Celestia’s chambers for what felt like hours. Days. Years, perhaps. She didn’t dare knock, not yet. It wasn’t time. The time had to be perfect, the scene properly set. Instead she just stared at her reflection in the ornate gold door, tilting her head this way and that, watching it ripple and distort in the panelling.

She was smaller than she had been. Weaker. Her hair had lost the ethereal glow that had characterised her as princess of the moon and night sky while Celestia – yes, she was still as magnificent as ever. Not like Luna; stripped of her powers, helpless, no longer her sister’s equal.

She closed her eyes and took a deep, deep breath.

No. She wasn’t weak. She wasn’t small.

She knocked on the door.

“W-wha?” The door creaked open to reveal a bleary-eyed Celestia, wrapped in a pink dressing gown with her sparkling hair trussed up in curlers. She stared down at Luna, a furrow deepening on her brow. “Luna?”

“Sister!” Luna couldn’t hold back and pounced at the larger alicorn, wrapping her hooves around her neck and burying her face into Celestia’s chest, sending her sister staggering back into her bedroom. “It’s so great to see you again!” she cried in a quivering voice, looking at with wide, open eyes. “You didn’t forget, did you? You didn’t!”

“Forget?” Celestia held Luna in an almost hesitant embrace, eyes darting about for any clue. “Of course, I didn’t forget that… ah…”

“You forgot!” Luna wailed, pulling away from Celestia and galloping across the large, plush room to the window. Outside, night had gathered and the moon had begun to slowly rise over Canterlot, casting a pallid silver glow over the city, haloing Luna as she turned back. “I know you’ve been busy with everything over the last few days, but you promised we could have a slumber party, to celebrate my return from the moon! Just like in the old days! Listen!” She leant out the window, the cool air washing over her face and causing her paled mane to wave in the air. “They’re still celebrating, even days later, see!”

From outside, the cheers and catcalls of the ponies of Canterlot drifted across the city.

Luna turned, face falling. “They didn’t forget!”

“Oh, Luna!” Celestia rushed forwards, picking her sister up again, this time not letting go for a good few minutes. “Of course I didn’t forget, I’ve just been busy with everything over the last few days.” She pulled Luna closer. “Luna, oh Luna, it’s so good to have you back.”

Luna smiled. “You got big though!”

“I…” Celestia looked Luna up and down and a crestfallen expression crept across her face. “I’m sorry. Your powers will return in time.” She started to pull the curlers out of her hair, carefully putting them back in her dresser.

“I know,” Luna gave a reassuring nod, and hopped onto the bed eagerly. “What’s first, then? I brought some snacks!” She lifted up a cardboard cylinder in triumph. “I was informed this vessel is full of sliced potatoes that have been deep-fried. However – ” Her voice dropped an octave and she took on a more serious demeanour. “I understand that once they are popped, they will not stop!”

Celestia couldn’t help it. She threw back her head and laughed, dumping the rest of the curlers in a pile. “Oh, Luna, I’ve missed this!” She made her way over to the bed, sitting down beside her sister with a bounce. “It hasn’t been the same without you,” she sighed. “It’s like a piece of myself was on the moon for countless decades.”

“I know,” Luna pressed herself into Celestia’s side, giving her a hug again. “Do you blame yourself?"

“Mm.” Celestia simply mumbled, staring down at the plush carpet. “I often wondered every night, every single night when I had to raise the moon all alone, and stare up at that place where I had put you. I wondered what else could I have done? I should have been better.”

Luna didn’t reply. Instead, she just held up a packet. “Marshmallows?”

Celestia looked at the marshmallows, then at Luna. “But there’s not a fireplace in my room.”

A few minutes later, fifty scrolls of legislature had been transformed into a happily roaring fire in the middle of Celestia’s bedroom, over which two ponies sat with gooey marshmallows affixed to sticks.

“Think of it as symbolic,” Luna said, carefully trying (and failing) to twist her stick and stop her marshmallow from dripping everywhere. “You’ve been working too much! You don’t need to do it all on your own anymore.”

Celestia stared at the paperwork as it went up in smoke. “Sketchy Quill spent hours copying those out, she’ll kill me!”

“Good thing you’re immortal then! One of the perks of the job!” Luna gave a wry grin, which soon faded as her marshmallow fell into the fire with a plop. “Oh.”

“Here.” Celestia passed her marshmallow to Luna. It was perfectly cooked. Of course.

“Best sister.” Luna took the offered marshmallow gratefully and popped it in her mouth. Then she realised her mistake and spat it into her hooves to give it some time to cool down.

Celestia looked down at Luna with warmth. “If only I was…” she sighed.

“It’s okay,” Luna patted her forehoof gently. “Now, what about a ghost story! I’ve got one that will give you bad dreams.”

“They call them ‘nightmares’ now,” Celestia replied softly. “I’m sorry.”

“What?” Luna’s jaw dropped open, her earlier enthusiasm forgotten. “Why?”

Celestia looked out across to the window, through which the cheers of the crowd could still be faintly heard. “They remember. And whenever someone wakes up, frightened and terrified and upset, they… they call it what they remember. A nightmare.”

“Oh.” Luna felt a sharp pang rise in her chest. “The Night Mare of the Moon. A dream of terror? Is that really my only legacy?”

Celestia didn’t respond for a moment. “I thought it’d be best to let you know like this. Not wait until your full powers return and you find out in dreams.”

Luna stiffened. “Oh, you remember that?”

“Of course.” Celestia gently nuzzled Luna’s mane. “You helped so many ponies by stepping into their dreams and shouldering their burdens. I was – no, I am proud to call you my sister.” She stroked a hoof down Luna’s cheek. “Do you miss being able to do that, Luna? I promise you, it will return in time.”

Luna stared up at Celestia silently for a moment, searching her expression, and then lunged forwards, hefting up an empty glass bottle. “Spin the bottle!” she exclaimed with excitement.

The bottle span. It slowed to a halt, pointing at Celestia.

Luna pouted. “I didn’t really think this through properly. But hey.” She gave a weak smile up to Celestia. “This is good, isn’t it? Just like old times.”

Celestia picked up the bottle and set it back upright. “You don’t have to try so hard, Luna. You’re back, that’s all that matters now.” She embraced her sister, holding her tight, pressing her warm body close. “It’s all I’ve ever wanted.”

Luna sighed, letting herself fall into the hug, rocking back and forth. Celestia was warm and comfy and cosy and felt like a thousand childhood afternoons. “I missed you too, so much. So, so much. More than you can ever know. It’s so lonely on the moon, and now I’ve come back, we’ll be together forever!”

“I know, I…” Celestia froze. She could still hear the cheering crowds outside. The moon had risen to its zenith and hung in the night sky, a silent witness to the past. The fire they had started was forgotten. It might not even have existed. She continued to hold her sister but with none of her previous warmth, and when she spoke it was with a voice tinged with steel. “How long, Luna?”

“What?” Luna looked up at Celestia, blinking. She felt her sister stiffen and pulled away from her. “I-I don’t know what you m –”

Celestia’s eyes flashed with a sudden burst of light and her wings flared up like a vast, predatory bird. She cut across Luna’s words with a barely restrained shout. “What are you doing here, Luna? How dare you? How dare you!”

Luna skittered across the room in a chaotic fumble, eyes wide and a panicking gibber rising in her throat. “C-Celestia! You know why I’m here!”

“Do I?” Celestia squared up against Luna, her horn burning with a furious, barely-restrained energy. “How did you come back from the moon, Luna? Tell me that? Because I don’t remember!”

“Y-you must remember!” Luna cowered in the corner beside the door. “I… uh… I...” Before her, her sister – no, the goddess of the sun – stood in condemnation. Luna’s words trailed off. “I just thought.”

Celestia took a step forwards. Luna tried unsuccessfully to shuffle back. “How long have you been entering my dreams?”

“Just the once!” Luna exclaimed, rather too quickly. “J-just this once! I thought if I could make you remember how much you missed me…” She flapped her forehooves fruitlessly, face crumpling. “Please, I did it for you! You had fun, you could have that every day if you wanted! I’ve been on the moon for a hundred years! A hundred years, Celestia, but it’s okay now, because we’ve had fun and you’ve been guilty and sorry, and I can get what’s owed to me! I've got so many plans!”

“Luna, I…” Celestia faltered. “After everything that’s happened, I want to believe you’ve changed. But to trick me like this? I forgive you, of course I do, but – ”

“What?” Luna’s lip curled into an involuntary snarl. “You forgive me? You don’t get to forgive me!” She thumped her chest. “I get to forgive you! Because I never did anything wrong! That’s how it works!”

“I see.” Celestia hung her head with a sigh of shattered disappointment. “I’m sorry, Luna.”

“No!” Luna flinched as she realised she had pushed her sister too far, and wailed piteously. “No, don’t, please! Don’t take this from me too! I did it all for the best, you know that! I di –”

She woke up.

The moon dust clung to her coat as she stared down at the perfect, blue-green disc of Equestria beneath her as it lay shrouded in night. A world where everyone lay dreaming. No, not everyone. One sleeper had awoken from a troubled dream, and had closed a door that had been carelessly left unlocked.

Luna could no longer feel the dreams.

“No!” She shouted as loud as she could across the barren waste. “No!” A familiar rage boiled in her heart, her kindness and mercy towards her cruel sister once more rebuked. “NO!” She screamed up at the heavens, incandescent in her anger as her magic grabbed chunks of moon rock, ripping them out of their bed and smashing them futilely against the invisible barrier that lined her prison.

“How dare I? How dare you!” Her cries echoed over the empty land with the pent up indignation of one hundred years of frustration. “How dare you forgive me? HOW DARE YOU?”

Trapped in her empire of dust, the Night Mare of the Moon continued to rage.

Author's Notes:

A prompt fic written for the UK of Equestria forum thing! The prompt was "Slumber Party".

I don't do prompt fics that often! Not sure if that is a good or bad thing!

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