No Nose Knows

by Irrespective

First published

An ancient law thrusts the Common and the Royal together over a pair of noses.

Baked Bean is but one of the thousands of tourists in Canterlot, and he's looking for some inspiration to help launch his writing career. To this end, he pays a visit to the Royal Gardens, but while there he quickly and quite accidently invokes a long-forgotten law that will completely upend his life and thrust him into the spotlight...

As Celestia's husband.

And all this because of noses.

As seen on Equestria Daily!

Cover art graciously provided by the Right Most Awesome Backlash91!
Original cover art provided the Right Most Awesome Sipioc!

Proofreading and prereading services provided by Georg, Sipioc, and Moon Fire!

Fan Art for this story can be found right here!

1. - Whoops

The Grand Station of Canterlot is a sight that one must see to truly understand. It is a grandiose place of a scale that tends to boggle the imagination, yet is inspiring at the same time.

Baked Bean looked up from his notebook and considered the words he had just written there. As a first line in a travel brochure, it could use some work.

Well, a lot of work, but that was for the editing process later. Accentuate the positive, eliminate the negative, and all that. Nopony outside of Canterlot would want to read an advertising brochure that included the soot and loose cinders blowing around on the breeze, so a little creative adjustment was in order.

A visitor will first notice the sheer size of the building. With twenty-five tracks entering and exiting, the building encompasses such a vast territory that several small hamlets would be able to fit within it and still leave room for modest gardens. The ceiling is a grand, vaulted affair, with pale yellow glass interwoven between the steel girders and supports in oversized shield shapes and configurations.

The walls are a simple red brick, bound together with white mortar. Large bay windows are set every ten to fifteen feet along the sides, allowing a great deal of natural lighting to enter, and for visitors to catch their first glance of Canterlot proper as they leave their trains and move towards their destinations.

Several shops and open-air stalls are scattered among the tracks, offering such sundries as luggage, newspapers, magazines and a great many basic necessities that a pony may have forgotten in their haste to pack. The shops are surrounded by throngs of ponies, so business is brisk. With a train arriving or departing every seven minutes on average, one never has to wait long for customers to filter by. Bright signage advertises the wares, both from the rooftops and from the ground level, and one will occasionally hear the calls of the owners, enticing any and all to come and partake.

Baked Bean sighed, slid his pencil into the spiral binding along the top of his notebook, and placed both into his saddlebag. He had gotten a good start on his description of the station, but there was still one more stop he wanted to make before getting some food and heading back to his hotel room for the night.

“I hope I’m not overdoing the descriptions,” he muttered to himself as he merged into the crowd and began walking towards the exit. He was new to writing, and with no formal training he was forced to improvise for the moment and hope he wasn’t screwing up too badly. Still, he remained hopeful that he could perhaps earn enough bits to pay for a modest place out in the more affordable countryside with his tour guide descriptions, leaving enough left over to pay for some creative writing classes.

Then, he would feel confident to write his story.

The air outside the station felt clean and a bit crisp as he walked out into Celestia’s bright sunlight. He had been sitting in the station for a few hours before he’d begun writing, hoping to absorb the atmosphere and the feel of Equestria’s third largest rail terminal. Now that he was out in the fresh air, he realized he should have left a bit sooner, but a few deep breaths rejuvenated his spirits and sent him on his way with a sprightly step.

Indeed, he began using adjectives—or were they adverbs?—in his mind to describe the bright marble storefronts and homes that lined the broad avenue. Words like ‘resplendent’ and ‘radiant’ and ‘respectful’ first came, then followed by ‘stately’ and ‘magnificent’ so he wouldn’t use too many words starting with ‘R’. However he described them, the overall feel of Canterlot’s architecture was summed up to him in one word:


There was a small part of him that would like to live here, surrounded by the gilded trappings and the peaceful structures that made Canterlot the world-renowned capital that it was. Despite the obvious affluence that was on display before him, there was a definite feel of openness and acceptance, and everypony he passed was far friendlier than he had anticipated. The overall feeling of home that radiated from the core of this city outward was extended to all who came, just as Equestria was open to any who wished to avail themselves of the opportunities that could be found within her borders.

Yes, Baked Bean felt that he was being treated quite well. Of course, Canterlot was known for being very accommodating to tourists and visitors, whether they had come to petition the Royal Sisters as they sat in court or were simply here to take in the sights. It was delightfully easy to find a hotel room, and most restaurants featured a ‘light and thrifty’ section, so ponies from all across Equestria could enjoy the flavorful experience of Canterlot without breaking the bank.

But even in this generous city a pony needed to have some bits in hoof, and Baked Bean was quickly running out of them. Though he could possibly stretch his purse for another week or two, he would soon find himself in a soup kitchen line if he didn’t get some sort of income going.

Hence his trip to the station, and now his quick canter over to the Royal Gardens.

The flowers were said to be beyond compare there, with several unique varieties that could only be found within the neatly trimmed hedge walls. One could also stroll among softly gurgling fountains, great stone sculptures, and if one was really lucky, even catch a glance of Princess Celestia herself. It was rumored she frequently strolled the gardens, and while she didn’t usually have time to meet with ponies for very long, she would make an effort to at least greet and share a few pleasantries with those who happened to be nearby.

Baked Bean didn’t believe luck would be willing to favor him with such a visit, so he really wasn’t interested in waiting around to try and catch a glimpse of the fair Princess of the Sun. Though she was well-renowned for her beauty and her intelligence, he felt that nearly everything that could be written about the daytime diarch had already been produced, and that there was nothing he could add to the subject matter. He was content to write about the plants, and perhaps that coupled with his train station description would be enough to get sompony to give him a serious opportunity to make his mark... no. He had his cutie mark already. He wanted something more out of life, something beyond the destiny that was written on his flank, and maybe he could find it here.

The walk to the gardens was a short one, with only a couple of wrong turns taken and some cheerfully happy directions given by both patrolling guard ponies and pleasant locals. Once Baked Bean did arrive, he took a slow walk around and admired the beauty of the reds, blues and greens before him, and he especially enjoyed the smooth aromas that drifted past his nose. Everything he needed was there: the neat rows of shrubbery, the patchwork planting of roses, hyacinths, and gardenias, the soft and sweet grass, the cobble-and-flag stone paths that meandered about the place without a care in the world. He nearly forgot the reason why he’d come in the first place, and for several long minutes, he simply soaked in the serenity and balance. These gardens seemed almost indescribable, but he was determined to try.

“’The air is awash with the sweet smells of such a variety of fauna that—’” He stopped and shook his head. “No, it’s flora for plants, fauna for wildlife. Okay. ‘The flora is such that one can spend most of a day amongst the petals and vines, admiring all the lush life and distinct blooms that can only be found within this serene place.’ Hmm. Is that too verbose? Or maybe not enough? Perhaps I need to use a few more adverbs.”

But was he really after adverbs, or was it prepositional phrases? Oh, how it drove him nuts! He just knew he was meant to be a writer, but having a very loose understanding of the rules made it so difficult to know if he was doing things right or wrong.

Growing frustrated with his lack of skill, Bean moved towards a large sunflower patch that was shining nearby and glared at them for a moment, as if they were the source of his inability and defeats. There just had to be a way to describe these things, and by Luna’s left leg, he was going to figure it out or he would eat his horseshoes!

The best way to prevent adding far too much iron into his diet was to immerse himself in the subject material he intended to write about, and this was promptly accomplished by shoving his snout into the sunny suckers, and ignoring any discomfort he might feel until he came up with a way to write what he was sensing. Robust? Earthy? Homely and simplistic? Relaxing? None seemed to fit totally.

He struggled for perhaps a good fifteen minutes before deciding he needed to be more immersed. He moved his front half into the tall green stalks, so anypony else who was walking by would see nothing more than two rear legs and a twitching, swishing tail. With his eyes shut tight enough to see little lights on the inside of his eyelids, he began again: Peaceful. Ennobling. Uplifting. Inspirational. Motivational.

Wait, what? No! That was what he was after, not what the flowers were! He quickly shoved his whole self into the flowers so that nopony could see him as they walked by, and once again he took a stab at success. Standing straight and lifting his snout into the air in hopes of catching either a scent or a muse, he stood stock-still, inhaled a deep and calming breath, and proceeded to think.

So focused on inspiration was he that he began to block out anything that didn’t pertain to the feel of the flowers. His ears slowly washed away sound into a blissful background of white noise, his eyes clamped shut to prevent stray thoughts from seeing something not sunflower related, and his breathing stilled to a deathly whisper. Slowly, over a period of half an hour or so, he achieved a sort of bizarre zen balance with the tasty seed producers, and then…


Was this it? Was this what inspiration felt like when it began to distill upon a pony? Was he about to achieve the breakthrough he was so desperately seeking?

And why did inspiration feel like somepony was touching his nose?

His eyes slowly opened, with the hope that the words that would perfectly describe the sunflowers would be floating before him in a grand, golden-banded, swoopy-cursive style.

Instead, what he saw was a snow-white face, connected to a snow-white nose, touching his own.

“GAAH!” he shouted, and his legs jammed into reverse. He fell over himself as he tumbled out of the sunflowers, and then he stumbled, fumbled, flipped and flopped for a moment to both get himself oriented on the cobblestones and to figure out what in Equestria had just happened.

“Hello?” a voice called. “Who’s there?”

Baked Bean’s mind took a fraction of a second to race into the past. To his mind’s eye came a Summer Sun Celebration in Las Pegasus during a family vacation when he was but a small colt, and he recalled how in awe he felt at the time when he had watched Princess Celestia gracefully and dramatically raise the sun before the assembled crowd, thus beginning the longest day of the year.

He recalled hearing Celestia’s voice. Though the exact words she had said had been lost, he could still hear her tone, her pitch, her timbre.

Complicated math equations had never been a strong point, but his mind quite easily managed to put this two and that two together, and was horrified when the answer turned out to be four. The voice that had just called out a hello… was…

He had just booped Princess Celestia’s nose with his own.

His eyes went wide in shock. There had to be at least three dozen laws against doing such a thing, if not four! He probably had committed a capital offence by even standing in the flowers! And since he had been hiding in the flowers, and had booped the Princess, she probably thought he was some kind of thief or assassin who was just waiting to strike and had bungled the job!

Again his legs flew into reverse, and he tried to twist around and move as fast as he could down the path he’d entered by. Perhaps if he just ran away fast enough, they wouldn’t bother to pursue him, and…

“There! He’s running away!”

Well, didn’t that just bite the bark.

“Hold it! Stop!”

There was no way Bean was going to comply with that order. He could only think of running as fast as he could back to the train station, hopefully losing the guards in the crowd, and then hopping on a train bound for anywhere but Canterlot and never coming back. Every other option ended in him being banished to the Everfree Forest, imprisoned, or being imprisoned in a previously unknown jail in the Everfree Forest.

Now, in fairness, Baked Bean was a pretty decent runner. Though no all-star in high school, he had long enough legs to be one of the faster ponies among his friends, and he had been on the long-distance track team for three years straight. There was a somewhat decent chance of him eluding the guards who were chasing after him, and a respectable chance he could complete his poorly devised plan.

That was until Celestia’s magic seized him, hoisted him into the air, and began levitating him back toward her.

“Where are you going, my little pony?” Celestia asked. “Usually ponies run to me, not away from me.”

I’m dead, I’m dead, I’ve died and I’m dead and I’m going to be drawn and quartered and turned into glue. Maybe they’ll be nice and use my tail for a violin bow, at least.

“Please, come here. I need to talk to you.”

“I’m so sorry!” he wailed. “I had no idea you were there, and I’ll pay whatever fine there is for trampling the flowers! Just please don’t throw me in jail, or banish me to the Everfree, or build a jail in the Everfree and throw me in there, or—”

Celestia’s magic clamped Bean’s mouth shut before he could prattle along any more. “Why does everypony believe that I’m going to imprison them in the place I banish them to?” she asked herself. “I’ve never done that. I’ve never even threatened it. I bet Twilight is behind this somehow, along with that silly ‘magic kindergarten’ thing I keep hearing about.”

She then took a moment to appraise him, and there was an awkward silence for Bean before she spoke again. “Now, I’m going to let go of your muzzle. Please don’t beg for mercy when you don’t even know if you’re in trouble or not, all right?”

He nodded, and then felt the magic release.

“There. Now, let’s just talk for a moment, shall we? I want to discuss what happened.”

“All right, I can talk. I’m very good at talking, and—”

Her magic grabbed his muzzle again. “Stop that. You’re not from Canterlot, are you?”

“No, Your Highness,” he replied, once the magic released again. She lowered him enough to look him straight in the eye.

“You have a most interesting accent in your voice. You must be from Salt Lick, yes?”

“How do you know that?” he breathlessly asked.

“I see I am correct.” She chuckled. “Most likely born and raised there. It’s not too difficult to discern individual lilts and drawls after a few centuries of travel, you know.”

“I would imagine so, Your Highness. And you have a very keen ear, if I may say.”

She gave him an annoyed look. “Sweet talking me to get out of trouble won’t help you right now.”


“Now, I’m going to put you down, and I’m going to let you out of this magic field. I want you to not run away, understand?”

“Yes, I do.”

“Good. Instead of running away, I want you to tell me who you are and why you were in the sunflowers. You are not going to be banished, you are not going to be imprisoned, and you are not going to be imprisoned in the place that I banish you to.”

“I understand.”

“Good,” she replied while she lowered and then released him. “Now, your name please.”

“Baked Bean, Your Highness.”

“Mister Bean, then. A pleasure to formally make your acquaintance.”

“Would it be out of place to say the pleasure is mine?”

“Only if you are saying it to get out of trouble. If you mean it, then I will accept it as a compliment.”

“I very much mean it,” he said. “As for your flowers, it’s… uh…”

“Yes?” Celestia prodded.

“It’s a bit hard to explain. I was trying to describe the sunflowers.”

“You describe flowers by putting yourself in the middle of them?”

“Well, it was an experiment,” he sheepishly admitted, as one hoof rubbed the opposite leg in embarrassment. “I came to Canterlot yesterday to start a career as a writer, but I’m not very good at it yet.”

Celestia took a long time to respond while slowly shaking her head from side to side. “Just yesterday? No wonder you’re having problems. You should have seen some of the disasters Luna and I caused when we first started—”

She stopped and shook her head again. “Well, never mind about that. Did you receive any inspiration?”

“Why do you care?” he asked. “Look, I get that I screwed up, and I shouldn’t have been in the flowers. I appreciate you not getting angry at me, but I really am willing to take my punishment and then to just leave and never bother you again.”

She leaned in a bit, her eyes boring into his. The intensity made him flex backwards and gulp loudly.

“I believe you,” she finally said, after a few agonizing moments, “but I’m afraid I can’t just let you go, at least not yet. I will need you to remain here for the evening.”

“I can do that.”

“What hotel are you staying at while you are visiting here?”

“I’ve been at the Shoe and Nail, not far from the train station.”

“A fine choice. I have heard good things about that particular establishment. I will make sure your room is held for you while you are gone, and reimburse you for the cost.”

“Uh, thank you, I guess.”

She nodded. “I would like to have you stay in the north tower this evening. It’s a bit drafty in the winter, but in this summer heat it’s really the best spot in the whole palace.”

“I appreciate that, I guess.”

She nodded again and smiled at him, then motioned with one hoof towards said domicile. “You’re very welcome. I would also greatly appreciate it if you would join me and Princess Luna this evening for dinner. I understand there will be a very delicious rosemary salad with shredded carrots served for the main course.”

“Why are you being so nice to me?” he blurted, as they began walking.

“Why shouldn’t I be?” she countered. “I try to be kind to all of my subjects.”

“Well, yeah, but this is, like, way beyond what I would think is normal. I don’t get the feeling that you offer free lodging and personal dinners to everypony you meet in a day.”

“You would be correct in that regard,” she replied with a heavy sigh.

“Not that I’m ungrateful for the hospitality, really. It just seems a bit… much.”

Celestia nodded yet again. “And it most likely is. But it is to try to help ease you into what I need to tell you.”

“About my punishment for being in the flowers and touching your nose?”

“There is no law that says a pony can’t be in the flowerbeds.” A wistful tone slipped into her voice. “And you are not the first pony to be found in them. As for my nose, well…”

“I can take it,” he offered when her words stalled.

“I hope you can. There is a law about—not against—touching my nose. It is a very old law, and a very silly law. I should have revoked it many years ago, but I’m afraid it totally slipped my mind until now.”

Her words stalled again, and Bean glanced up at the Princess of Equestria while she apparently tried to sort her thoughts out. She was troubled, that was obvious, but what could possibly be so bad about touching her nose? Was it just really taboo and would create a very awkward social scene for her? He just wished there was something he could do to help fix the mess he’d created.

“C’mon, Celly, just spit it out,” she muttered under her breath, and then she inhaled deeply. “Mister Bean, the law states that the first stallion who touches my nose with their nose is to be my husband.”

Bean instantly locked up, both physically and mentally. Celestia managed to take four or five more steps before she realized he wasn’t by her side anymore, and she craned her neck around.

“Hah!” he forced out a laugh. “That’s a good one, Your Highness. You know, I had heard you could be mischievous at times, but I never really could believe it until now. Me, forced to marry you? That’s pretty good. You had me there for a second.”

“I’m perfectly serious,” she replied while he walked up to her again.

Bean’s legs again failed in the effort of forward motion, but he then barked out another forced laugh.

“All right, all right. I get it. I made things very awkward for you by touching your nose. You’ll have to explain what happened to somepony, and it’ll be embarrassing. This whole ‘marry me’ thing is just so I feel the discomfort you’re going to feel, but there’s no way I could be the first pony to touch your nose with mine. I really am sorry it happened, truly. If you happen to know a time travel spell, I’ll gladly go through it and pull myself out of those flowers so this’ll never happen. I’ll write a confession, whatever. Publicly shame me, if you have to.”

“I promise I am not trying to shame you or to make you uncomfortable as some sort of punishment. I am as serious as the sun is bright: you need to marry me.”

There was some kind of reply trying to get out of Bean’s brain, but it was squished like a bug under a wagon wheel as the full weight of what Celestia was saying settled in. There was no hint of joke, no mirth, no ‘gotcha’ look in her eyes at all. She really was serious.

She fully expected him to marry her.

“Buh…” he sputtered. “Wha… duh… buh… oh… guh…”

“Oh dear.” Celestia sighed. “Sergeant, will you run ahead and fetch some cold water for poor Mister Bean here, please?”

“Yes, ma’am.” The guard quickly saluted, then ran off towards the palace.

“All right, Mister Bean. Take some deep breaths. It will be rather embarrassing if you pass out in the gardens and I have to take you to the infirmary.”

“You…” he said breathlessly, “really… expect me… to marry you?!”

“There is no need to shout,” she chided. “And only for the moment.”

“For the moment?!”

“Yes. Please, do try to relax. There may be a way to resolve this issue without resorting to drastic measures.”

“I’m all ears,” he replied as he forced himself to breathe in and out to the count of ten.

“As I said, this is a very old law; in fact, it predates the unification of the tribes. Since it is so old, there is a very good chance there is a loophole or a technicality we can exploit to cancel the whole thing. As soon as I can find that, you will be free to leave and to go about your affairs. I am asking you to stay here as a precaution, more than anything.”

“Why in Equestria does this law even exist?”

“That is a long story,” Celestia sighed. “It might be better to explain in a more relaxed and friendly atmosphere.”

“All right. I guess I’ll follow you, then.”

“There! That’s the spirit!” Celestia beamed at him. “Just this way, please. We’ll soon have this sorted out, I promise.”

“Wait. You’re the Princess,” Bean spoke the sudden thought, as they began walking again. “Why can’t you just void this law out, or veto it, or whatever the word is for it?”

“Another long story. Believe me, I would if I could; it would make things much easier. Suffice it to say for now that there are very powerful magics at work with this law.”

“What happens if I don’t marry you?” he challenged. “Like, if I somehow did run away?”

“Well, I would cease to be a Princess.”

Again, Bean’s legs failed him. The revelations he was getting were beginning to feel more and more like anvils being dropped on his head.


“Say what?” he asked.

“It’s sad to say, but it is true,” Celestia replied, as Bean forced motion into his hooves once more. “The terminology of the law states that if I do not marry the stallion who touched my nose, I will cease to be a Princess of Equestria.”

“Is this cease as in your title is stripped away from you but you go on living, or cease as in you cease to exist?”

Celestia glanced at him with a pleased look. “I’m impressed you thought of both options, Mister Bean, but more than my titles will be stripped from me. I would also lose the ability to raise the sun.”

That one felt like ten anvils at the same time, with a Rockhoof-strength blacksmith beating out a sword on each one for good measure.

“You… you couldn’t… couldn’t raise the sun?” he sputtered again.

“Yes. Only a Princess can raise or lower a celestial body. It helps to keep rogue elements from messing around with things they shouldn’t be touching.”

“Why does everything you tell me just keep making the situation worse?”

“I’m just trying to be honest with you so you know what you’re dealing with. But please remember, I said there may be a loophole that we can exploit. If we find that, then none of this matters.”

“I sure hope so. This is sounding very horrible otherwise.”

“Would marrying me be so horrible?” she asked.

“Well, no,” he quickly offered. “I don’t think there’s a stallion in his right mind who wouldn’t want to be married to you.”

“Shining Armor does not,” she said with a glint of playfulness in her eye that Bean nearly missed. “He is only interested in a single mare, and that is not me.”

“I don’t mean him, I meant any stallions who are looking for a mare,” he clarified quickly. “And I also meant that all those bad things that happen would be horrible.”

“Is that going to be a problem?” she asked seriously. “If we cannot find a way out of this, would you really deny me and bring all of these ‘bad things’ about?”

“Of course not!” he replied. “I would do anything to make sure you’re still our princess, just like anypony else.”


“I just really hope we don’t have to go that way,” he continued, but softly and more to himself. “That’s the last time I stand in any flower patch.”

2. - Let Me Explain...

Dear Princess Twilight,

Please forgive the abruptness of this message, but I have an urgent matter at hoof that I am in need of your assistance with. I understand you are visiting your brother and Cadence in the Crystal Empire, so please believe I would not disturb you without due cause and concern.

The very first thing I want you to do is not panic! There is no great threat to Equestria, no vile villain who will destroy everything we hold dear bent on our destruction. I want you to now take seventeen deep breaths, calculate pi out to the one hundred and fifteenth digit, and then continue reading this letter.

Now that you are calm again, I need you to to do some research for me. Enclosed with this letter is a facsimile of an ancient law that was passed in the Pre-Unification era, a law that you will soon find to be quite interesting, to put it mildly.

And now that you have finished reading it, let me explain your task. As you can see, if the marriage clause was to be activated somehow it could lead to great difficulties. I would greatly appreciate it if you would review the law for any sort of loophole, technicality, or any other discrepancy that could be used to nullify it. If such exists, please notify me immediately of its existence and I will use it to render the whole thing null and void.

I’m afraid I cannot offer more details at this time, but I will share them when I am able. If it would help, please see if Shining Armor and Cadence would be willing to assist with your task. You have my permission to share the details of this message and the law with them.

Awaiting your response,

Princess Celestia

P.S. You may want to take a few precautions against your own nose being touched as well.

Celestia let out a breath she had seemed to be holding since beginning the letter. After a last check for errors—which would only disturb Twilight—she placed her quill back in the writing desk, capped the inkwell, and sent the stack of papers through her magic to Spike. Only then did she remember to check the clock, and was relieved at the hour. Twilight’s most faithful dragon assistant was probably not eating anything at this time of day, and since food and magic missives tended to mix during the delivery process, the probable panic would be lessened by a foodless document.

And while the task she had set her faithful student upon was urgent, Celestia felt quite embarrassed about having to pass her responsibilities on to others.


She then rose from her desk. Identical letters—phrased somewhat differently than Twilight’s—had also been sent to judges, attorneys, and the finest legal minds at the greatest universities Equestria could offer. Between that and Twilight’s own intensive review, Celestia felt confident there was some sort of simple way out of this little mess she found herself entangled within.

In the meantime, she really had neglected her forced-fiancé for long enough, and it was time to give him a more in-depth explanation into what was going on.

“Uh, Princess Celestia?” Baked Bean’s voice drifted in through her chamber doors. “Are you just about done? I could really use your help out here!”

“One of the guards is giving him trouble about lollygagging in the hallways, no doubt,” she murmured to herself, with a short laugh. “They’re always so dedicated, so sharp…”

Celestia’s magic opened her doors, and there was Baked Bean, sure as sure. But towering before him, and giving him the most intense and critical evil eye that had ever been given, was…

“Luna?” Celestia asked. “How did you return so quickly?

“This is your intended?” she replied, her gaze unwavering.

“Yes, but only until I find—”

“He’s a rather homely looking thing, is he not?”

“Hey!” Bean indignantly replied. “I’m no royal, sure, but that’s just rude!”

“But feisty,” Luna continued, and a small smirk emerged onto her face as she tilted her head to examine Baked Bean in a more introspective fashion. “You could have done worse, I suppose. That particular shade of yellow is not displeasing to the eye, and you have always had a weakness for the chocolate which his mane does bear a passing resemblance to.”

“It’s earth-brown,” he remarked with a subconscious swipe of his hoof through it.

“With that yellow coloration, it is little wonder that he managed to disguise himself among your precious sunflowers, Celly.” Luna’s eyes turned cold and stern. “Tell me, cur, how long did it take you to formulate this dastardly plan, and how did you come to know of the marriage clause?”

“I didn’t… uh…” Bean lost the ability to speak as Luna leered at him again with even greater intensity and a slight lean forward to punctuate her point.

“Speak, cur, if you wish to remain in this household with all of your limbs intact.”

“Enough, Luna. Quit scaring the poor pony.” Celestia bumped her shoulder to break her staredown. “This is merely an accident.”

“You intend for me to believe he somehow accidentally managed to touch your nose with his?” Luna flatly replied. “I suppose you have a bridge in Manehattan to sell me next, yes?”

“A rather nice one that spans the Hoofston,” Celestia replied. “Yes, Luna, I’m dead serious. It was an accident. My accident. I was sniffing my sunflowers, and over-sniffed.”

“Hmph!” Luna snorted. “If you insist. I shall forebear judgement against this cur for now. But I will be watching closely for any treachery, and I will not endure it if I find he is confederate with one of our enemies. His execution will solve the problem rather quickly.”

“Execution?” Bean whimpered, and the color drained from his coat.

“No pony is getting executed,” Celestia replied. “Please, Luna, be nice. This poor stallion has had an extremely difficult day, and he doesn’t need you adding stress right now.”

Luna didn’t reply verbally, but she did point to her own eyes with one hoof, then to Bean. She then turned with a snap and trotted out of the hallway.

“I still expect you at dinner!” Celestia called after her. She then sighed and turned back to the quite-thoroughly-intimidated Baked Bean. “Please, don’t mind her. She’s just looking out for me, that’s all.”

“She’s certainly forthright with you, isn’t she?” he replied, though his gaze remained on the hallway, as if fearing a surprise encore.

“She is, but it’s one of her better traits. You never have to guess what she’s thinking. Luna does not play those kinds of mind games. Now, I believe I owe you a better explanation as to why we are to be wed.”

The yellowish stallion nodded slowly, but with less panic than Celestia had expected. “I would appreciate some clarification on that.”

“Are you hungry at all? Thirsty? I can have something light sent up to enjoy while we discuss things.”

“Well, I don’t think I’m all that hungry, but—”

His stomach suddenly rumbled, and quite loudly. He smiled sheepishly as Celestia giggled behind a hoof.

“—I do believe I could snack on something if you were kind enough to provide it.”

“I know just the thing.” She then nodded to a nearby butler. He quickly moved over to them without messing up his pristinely folded towel, and bowed to the Princess.

“Yes, Your Highness? What can I get for you?”

“Would you please have my special blend sent to my drawing room, please? And make it a double this time.”

“Of course.” He bowed again. “I shall have it prepared at once.”

“Thank you,” she replied, and she motioned with a hoof down another hallway as the butler left. “Just this way, Mister Bean. Everything I need to help explain this problem is in my drawing room.”

“Am I even allowed in there? I am just a commoner, after all.”

“Well, if no loophole can be found, then you will be a Prince, and then that takes care of that,” she said with a chuckle. “My drawing room is really nothing fancy, just a cozy spot with a few soft pillows, some personal books and mementos.”

He nodded to this before following her down the hallway. It was only two left turns to their destination, thankfully, and Celestia pushed open the door with her magic before stepping out of the way and allowing him to enter first.

From his awestruck expression, Celestia was afraid she may have undersold the concept of a simple drawing room. Compared to the rest of the castle, it was not much, just over three of her body lengths to a side with a floor-to-ceiling window on one side to allow plenty of natural light in. The cushions were plush and overstuffed, made of the finest velvets and silks, and there was a distinct possibility that Celestia would be unable to get Bean off of them once he setted in. Bookshelves lined one wall, with hardbound codices of all sizes and colors and various scrolls scattered amongst the tops of them. The other wall held a few scenic paintings, a portrait of the Royal Sisters, and a few small sentimental items upon some shelves. A round table sat in the middle of the room for the final touch of elegance, with legs short enough to allow a pony to spread out on the pillows next to it and still reach across the whole table with ease.

“What do you think?” Celestia asked.

“I’m not quite sure,” he replied. “It’s everything you said it was, of course. I’m just trying to think of the right words to describe it.”

“What words would you use?” she asked while they both settled down by the table.

“Cozy, for sure,” he replied. “Comforting, even. Relaxing, serene. Oh, but see? I use the same words over and over for things like this!”

“You do?” she asked over his deep groan of frustration.

“Yes! I was using the exact same words to describe the sunflowers, and the gardens in general! I really need to broaden my vocabulary. This is ridiculous.”

“Have you considered a thesaurus?”

“A what?” he asked.

Celestia smiled and levitated a book from a nearby shelf. “A thesaurus. It’s a book that gives you words that are similar to other words.”

“Oh, yeah,” he replied, and he took the book from her magic with the same amount of care a pony would give to a crown made of glass. “I remember this. I never did seem to pick the right words, though.”

“It would be wise to use it with a dictionary,” she replied before leaning back slightly and giving him an appraising look.

“You look like my eighth grade teacher did before a pop quiz,” he quipped as he looked over a page.

“How appropriate. I would, indeed, like to give you a short questionnaire.”

“Oh, great,” he moaned.

“I am a Princess first, but I am a teacher second,” she added with a smile. “Asking me to not question and educate is like asking me to not raise the sun. I promise this will be a short quiz, and there will be no grade at the end. I merely wish to get an indication of your educational level.”

“I can save you the trouble. I am not a very good example of the Equestrian educational system.”

“Humor me, then,” she replied. “Really, I believe this would be useful for both of us.”

“All right, all right,” he replied.

“Thank you. I’m thinking five questions should suffice. First: what is your definition for the word verbose?”

“Verbose? Oh, well; that’s easy.” His body visibly relaxed, and he smiled. “That’s using too many words to describe a scene, situation, or pony, especially extravagant words.”

Celestia nodded, and her smile remained pleasant. “Second: What is an antecedent?”

“Oh, feathers.” He tensed up again. “Uh…”

“Take your time,” Celestia said soothingly.

“It’s about something before something else. I honestly don’t remember how or what, though.”

“That’s all right. Third: What is a quatrain?”

“Uh…” he grunted. “I don’t know.”

Celestia nodded again. “You’re doing fine, don’t worry. Fourth: What is a truism?”

Bean beamed brightly. “That’s a short quote or saying, like a proverb or axiom, that is accepted as true and sound but may not necessarily be so.”

“And lastly, what is the definition of innuendo?”

Bean sat up a bit straighter. “That’s when you say something and it has one meaning on the surface, but there’s a subtle underlying message that only some ponies will catch.”

“Very good.” Celestia smiled deeply. “In all honesty, Mister Bean, you have a good foundation in the Equish language. I think you learned a great deal during your elementary schooling, but have forgotten some of it since then, most likely because you haven’t needed it.”

“You really think so?”

“It happens to all ponies in some form or fashion. Unless I can have only one student at a time, I have to share a broad amount of information with a class in order to hopefully cover what each pupil will need in their future. A historian has little need for information in botany, so whatever I teach them about plants will probably be pushed aside a few years afterward. You, up until now, have not needed the formal rules of language, so you’ve forgotten some of them.”

A knock came at the door, and without invitation, the butler from earlier entered, holding a silver domed tray on one hoof. He deftly weaved between the cushions on the floor, deposited the delicious-smelling platter on the table, and then departed with a brief bow nearly as fast as he had arrived.

“He’s good,” Bean remarked. “He has been here for a while, hasn’t he?”

“How can you tell?” Celestia asked, and Bean chuckled a bit.

“Well, I used to work in an upscale restaurant, and I had to learn proper poise, position, and balance. It’s all in the fetlocks, really, but it’s also something that takes time to learn.”

“Interesting,” she replied, as she lifted the lid from the tray. “I’d love to hear more about this later, if you don’t mind.”

“I think it would be really boring, but sure,” he replied, as his eyes swept over the tray. “Hmm, not bad. Good presentation, nice variety. Tea, truffles, wheat crackers, and this?”

Celestia sat back and watched as he picked up a bite-sized, pretzel-shaped snack. He then sniffed it slowly and carefully, gently touched the tip of his tongue to it, and then his eyes rolled back a bit as he thought.

“That’s got too much salt,” he remarked after a moment. “Always a problem with pretzels. Ponies always go crazy with salt, usually to hide bad or bland flavors. That’s a shame, because there’s some nice spring wheat in there, and those slight notes of barley and oat give it a wholesome impression. But then you hit that salt like a brick wall, and… what?”

“And you want to be a writer?” she asked, one eyebrow cocked. “I hope it is as a food critic or cookbook author.”

“No, not about food,” he grumped, and then he shoved the whole pretzel in his mouth.

“Fair enough. Do you enjoy chamomile tea, Mister Bean?”

She had to wait for him to finish chewing first. “Never really liked tea. It all tastes the same to me. Chamomile is nice enough, I suppose.”

“You can’t tell the difference between teas but you can tell me what that pretzel is made out of?”

“Food and beverages are completely different things,” he defended.

Celestia simply shook her head and laughed lightly. “You are a very interesting pony, Mister Bean. Would you care for something else to drink, perhaps?”

“No, tea is fine,” he replied, and he gently took the cup from Celestia.

“Now, before we get sidetracked anymore, let’s go over this little problem of ours.”

“Please,” he replied as he settled into his cushion.

“But where to start?” she asked herself. She stirred in two sugar cubes into her own cup as she thought, but then she smiled. “Well, let’s go back to my youth to start. How did you do in your history lessons?”

“Average, I suppose.” He shrugged.

“So you know the basics of the Unification and my rise to power?”

“Yes, but probably not as well as I should.”

“Let’s recap a little bit then, just to make sure you know all the pertinent details. The Three Tribes had been at odds for decades; this you know. The constant bickering and fighting between them kept ponykind repressed and unproductive, a mere shadow of what we could be.

“I was born into this world of animosity to unicorn parents, a viscount and his wife in fact, and Luna was born two years later. From as early as I can remember, I felt a great deal of anxiety over the way we unicorns conducted ourselves towards our fellow ponies. I had been told all the reasons why we should hate and fear pegasi and earth ponies, but the reasoning and the logic behind it was flawed to me and unacceptable. It did not take long for me to become known as a rabble-rouser and a disruption, but nothing my parents did could stop me from speaking out at the injustice of everything that I saw.

“Luna also fell in line with my ways of thinking, much to my parents’ dismay. With enough time and between the two of us, we caused a sufficient enough ruckus to catch the attention of Princess Platinum and Clover the Clever, her assistant.

“Princess Platinum did not approve of my viewpoint, and she threatened my parents with a loss of titles and lands if I couldn’t be brought in line. Clover, however, was interested in our ‘rebellious nonsense’ and made arrangements to have another meeting with us to discuss my viewpoints.

“When we met for the second time, Clover was impressed with how well thought-out my reasoning was. Though she remained unconvinced and ultimately rebuffed Luna and me, she did tell us that we could be great statesponies if we could give up our views and work instead to bring about a greater Unicorn Kingdom. Obviously, being the young idealists that we were, we chose not to do so.

“Since we continued with our verbal rebellion, my parents were again threatened. Platinum made it quite clear that she was very serious, and that she would not tolerate our actions any more. Luna and I loved our parents, and we did not wish for them to suffer for our choices, so Luna proposed we leave the Unicorns and go to the other tribes. She correctly guessed that a message of acceptance, tolerance and unification would be received better by earth ponies and pegasi if it was spread by unicorns, and so we left one night with little more than a rucksack full of food and a note explaining our departure.”

Bean looked absolutely enthralled at this point. He leaned forward, as if trying to make sure every word Celestia spoke could reach him in the least amount of time and distance, and he held a wide-eyed look of amazement and eagerness. One half-eaten truffle was in his hoof, but it remained suspended halfway up to his mouth, seemingly forgotten in the midst of her tale. Celestia smiled deeply as she took a moment to sip her tea, since his overall stance reminded her quite a bit of a certain faithful student.

“Does all of this make sense so far, Mister Bean?” she asked.

“Yes,” he replied, and then he quickly stuffed the neglected truffle into his mouth. “I mean, this is way interesting. I always had wondered why you went out with Luna to the other tribes. I think my school described it in a sentence. A short sentence.”

“So what happens next in my narrative?” she asked as she picked up a cracker.

“Oh, uh…” he stalled as he thought for a moment. “You and Luna make enough of a splash in the other tribes that Smart Cookie and Private Patsy also meet with you, though I’m not quite sure of all the details surrounding that.”

“We’ll skip that for now. What happened after that?”

“Windigos.” He shuddered. “Then the conference, and the Three deciding to move to a new land to escape the blizzards. One thing I never understood was how all three of them managed to get to the same place.”

“Well, I may not have had much success with the policy-makers of each tribe, but our message of peace for all was received a bit better by the rank and file. Luna and I may or may not have made inroads with each of the official cartographers and scouts, and they ended up in the same place because they may or may not have been ‘persuaded’ to go there.”

“Of course,” he said with a chuckle. “I’d love to ask how you found Equestria but that’s off topic too, isn’t it?”

“Another time, perhaps,” she offered with a wink. “So, we were in a new place but with all the same problems. The Windigos quickly reappeared, and the blizzards were stronger than ever. The pertinent part of this moment is that Luna and I were at the forefront of providing shelter, warmth, and food to the suffering ponies while the three leaders continued to fight. Thankfully, we were able to keep everyone protected until the Three finally realized that Friendship was far better than the status quo.

“Now, this is where it gets a bit complicated, so please stop me if I need to clarify,” Celestia said, before taking another sip of tea. “Once the blizzards cleared, preparations were made to establish the new Kingdom of Equestria. Luna and I, at the recommendation of Clover, were thrust into the forefront of the negotiations and planning that went into forming a new country. Question?”

Bean had stuck his hoof in the air, but now lowered it. “Just so I have my timeline right: you and Luna Ascended before the Three had found the magic of Friendship, correct?”


“Okay. I’m good. Please continue.”

“We did give everyone a bit of a shock when we showed up with wings.” Celestia chuckled, and she gained a wistful aura once more. “I think we spent the vast majority of the very first meeting debating if we should be called alicorns or unipegs.”

“Unipeg doesn’t sound right at all.”

“No, it doesn’t.” Celestia chuckled again. “But as Alicorns, we had quite a bit of sway and pull on the negotiations; well, between the added wings and our previous efforts at reforms, that is.

“Now, this is really important to everything: I was sixteen years old when this process began. I was not three hundred sixteen, or eight hundred sixteen; just plain sixteen. Despite my advanced status, I was still but a child in many respects, and the young are prone to make mistakes.

“Anyway, Princess Platinum had a Duke by the name of Iron Hoof. Apart from Clover, he had the most pull with Platinum because he was Duke over the greatest number of ponies, had held the greatest amounts of land, and was the wealthiest by far. My parents were viscounts under him, so we knew him fairly well and we knew of his personality in private. He was not a pleasant pony to be around, to put it simply, and I won’t deny I was dismayed when he ended up coming to Equestria.

“He then began using his influence to change various things about the new by-laws and regulations we were drafting. For instance, Equestria was originally supposed to be led by a democratically-elected president, much like how the earth ponies did things, but he successfully changed it to be a monarchy like we unicorns had. At times, it made me so angry when I had to deal with him.” Celestia picked up one of the room’s cushions in her magic and lobbed it across the room with a quiet thud. “More than a few pillows met an untimely end at my hooves.

“He was absolutely set upon Equestria being a monarchy, and argued for it endlessly. At first, I couldn’t figure out why he was so adamant about having a King and Queen, but then it hit me like a lightning bolt: he intended to be the King of this new Kingdom.

“I won’t go over how we thwarted that, but the efforts that kept him out put Luna and I in as co-rulers. It seemed to solve the problem at first, until he countered my move with one of his own: he proposed to me in the middle of a subcommittee on tax revenues.”

“No!” Bean gasped. He was totally engrossed in her story now, and Celestia felt pleased that he was so enraptured.

“Yes. Obviously, I didn’t want to marry him, for a great many reasons that we won’t get into, but therein was the problem: if I refused him, I risked losing the unicorns. He had enough sway that he could have pulled us out of the negotiations, and thus undo everything Luna and I had tried to do.

“Now, please remember that I am sixteen years old when he pulls this stunt. Faced with the loss of my life’s work, I panicked. Every solution that I could come to in those few seconds between question and reply ended in either my marriage to him or the end of the Unification. In this panic, I did the first thing that came to my mind: I told him that I could not because he had not touched my nose with his.”

“Why did you…”

“Don’t ask! I can’t even remember why I did it now. I think I blocked it out of my memory,” she added with a pained wince. “My only excuse was panic. Sheer, dumb, childish panic. Naturally, he asked why he had to do such a silly thing to marry me, so I picked up my shovel and promptly dug the hole deeper. I explained that it was Alicorn Law, and that any and all Alicorns, including Luna and myself, were bound by it.

“Then I had to actually produce the law for him to see. I promised that I would show it the next day, and that night, Luna and I worked our tails off to come up with something that would not only look good, but have actual weight to it.”

“You cooked this thing up in one night?”

“Which is why I am hopeful we can find a loophole for our problem,” she answered. “Since we were rushed, there should be something in there we can use.”

“So, does that mean that Luna has to follow this Law too?”

“Yes. She was afraid that he would simply go after her once he failed to trap me, so she signed and agreed to the terms as well.”

Celestia lit her horn and levitated a scroll down from a nearby shelf. She unfurled the document before the visiting Bean for his perusal, and to his eyes a tight cursive script with very little spacing between the lines was revealed, and it threatened to make him go cross-eyed. The whole of it was perhaps as long as Celestia was tall, and the letters of it were actually glowing in a golden yellow hue.

“This is the original Alicorn Law that we authored. Some of it is filled with the ideals that Luna and I had talked over and had agreed we wanted for all ponies: respect for individual ideas, tolerance for those who are different, kindness in the face of anger, love in the face of hate. It was how we wanted to live our lives, and it was how we wanted to rule as Alicorns.

“This clause, though, is the one that affects us at the present.” Celestia used her magic to highlight a rather large section of paragraphs near the middle. “This is my ‘No Nose’ clause. You’re free to read it over, if you’d like.”

“I’ll take your word for it,” he replied. “I can’t read old Equish, and I don’t think I could understand the legal jargon even if I could.”

“As you can see, the script is glowing with my magic. Luna and I bound ourselves to this document once we had finished it, with the very deepest and oldest of magics that we could. We could not deviate from it without losing the very magics that made us, well, us.”

“But you could still veto it, couldn’t you?”

“If I had left it like this, yes,” she replied. “But remember, I was a panicking child at the time. To make sure the Duke couldn’t somehow trick us out of this, I took it to the Three and asked them to be signatories to it as well. That way, the only way it could be revoked is if all five of us agreed to do so.

“Commander Hurricane thought it was the most hilarious thing she’d ever heard of, and she signed off on it while laughing her head off and without even reading the details. Chancellor Puddinghead needed some convincing, but once I promised her that Equestria would have Taco Tuesdays and free balloons on a pony’s birthday she agreed to sign to it as well.

“Princess Platinum loved it, loved my solution to the problem, and signed it with this big loopy signature that took up all off the empty space at the bottom of the scroll.” Celestia’s gaze went distant again, and she turned her head to look out the windows. “You know, for all of the agony we gave each other in the early years, she was one of the greatest allies I had for governing Equestria. Most of what I learned on how to govern effectively was given to me under her tutelage. Her hooves still touch Equestria to this day, in some form or another. I still think about her sometimes, and those lessons. The greatest thing she ever taught me was how to be forgiving of others, and how a pony could change, if they were just given a chance. She was the ultimate example of how a change of heart could happen.”

There was silence for a moment in the room, and Celestia’s gaze drifted to the portrait that hung on the wall.

“Forgive me, Mister Bean. I tend to get sentimental when I reminisce.” Celestia cleared her throat and returned her attention to him. “So, with the backing of the Three, the Alicorn Law was presented to Duke Iron Hoof. I’m pretty sure he knew we’d pulled a fast one on him, but he didn’t try to fight it. He, instead, did what you would assume he would do: he tried his hardest to touch my nose with his.”

“I guess it’s good you picked your nose,” Bean commented. “It’s pretty easy to keep it protected.”

“It was quite fortunate. He tried all sorts of stunts and maneuvers in his efforts to make contact, but I always managed to elude him. As the years went by and as we kept working to keep Equestria going, his attempts slowly tapered off, until one day he finally stopped trying altogether. By the time he finally passed away I’d forgotten I’d even written the thing, and it’s gone on being forgotten until now.”

“Why didn’t Iron Hoof just ask if he could boop your nose?”

“Power. By tricking him like I did, he had to beat me at my own game, or else he would begin to lose the prestige he had. If asked to boop my nose, that put me in the position of control in the relationship. He wanted me to follow his rules, not the other way around.”

There was another pause, and Celestia allowed Bean to process everything he’d heard. The story was perhaps a bit outlandish, but it was the truth, and it was a lot to take in. She had to admit that she’d have a hard time believing it herself, if the tables were somehow turned.

“So, you can’t revoke the law because the Three signed on to it,” he summarized.

“I would need them to officially revoke their signatures. As you know, that would be rather difficult now. Without a shovel, that is.”

“Because your binding magic bound them to it, too.”

“It would take me several hours to explain how that happened, but yes.”

“Great,” he sighed. “How sure are you that there is a loophole?”

“I’m fairly confident there is something in there we can use,” she replied. “A pony does not produce their best work when they are working in a panic, you must admit.”

“That’s true. So, we just have to find it and then we both just walk away as friends and with a laugh?”

“Exactly. And you will have my apologies for the inconvenience. It will make for a funny story later in life, won’t it?”

“Yeah,” he chuckled. “I can just imagine trying to tell ponies how I was engaged to Princess Celestia. So how long do we have to find this loophole? A month, a year, or is there even a time limit?”

“There is,” she replied, and she took a deep breath. “We have three days to find it.”

“What?!” he shouted, and he recoiled off the cushion in shock. “Three days?!”

“Yes, and you really don’t need to shout. I’m right here.”

“Why in Equestria did you make it three days?!”

“Panic,” she stated flatly. “Mister Bean, it has been over a thousand years since I authored this. Despite what some ponies think, I do not have a photographic memory, and a great many details of what I did or did not do during those early days of Equestria have been lost to me. If I could offer you a specific reason for what I did, I would. I’m afraid I simply can’t.”

Bean took a moment to breathe deeply and compose himself again. After those few moments, he managed calm but looked remorseful and sad.

“I’m sorry I keep shouting. I just… it’s…”

She said nothing as he searched for the right phrase.

“It’s just a lot to process all at once.”

“That it is. I really can’t blame you for acting this way; in all honesty, you’re probably reacting much better than most ponies would. Just remember that I am trying to help you through this, and I will do everything I can to get your life back to normal.”

He now smiled slightly. “I appreciate that you are trying to help. I have to admit, though, that you’re not quite what I expected when I first came here.”

She gave him a wise, let’s-have-a-teaching-moment look in return. “Mister Bean, when you left your hotel room this morning, if a random pony asked you to describe me to them, what would you have said?”

“I dunno. I guess I would have told them that you’re the princess, that you raise the sun, and that you rule with your sister.”

“How would you describe me now, after meeting me in the flesh and having the ability to spend some quality private time with me?”

“Well, I would say you are kind, beautiful, thoughtful, that you like to teach, and that you’re generous.”

“So your description has changed, if only slightly,” she noted. “Now that you know me a bit better, you have different things to say about me.”

“I suppose so,” he replied while he contemplated her point.

“All ponies see the light from where they stand, Mister Bean. To most of my subjects, I am the wise and graceful Princess who raises the sun and brings prosperity to our fair kingdom. To my students, I am a teacher who enjoys sharing deep magics and ancient history. To the rulers of other nations I am a shrewd diplomat and skillful negotiator, to Princess Cadence I am an aunt, to Luna I am a sister, and to Shining Armor I am a military commander. Now that you’ve met me and seen me as I truly am, you have to reconcile what you thought with what you now know. You know that I am not perfect, and that I made some rather serious blunders in my early years. You know that even the Princess of the Sun can mess things up. It takes time to make those reconciliations, and each pony does it in their own way. This compounds the situation before you, but you’re taking it all in fairly well and with a fair amount of dignity, too. Don’t feel bad for how you’re reacting to all of this. You’re doing a good job so far.”

Bean didn’t respond to her, but Celestia could tell by the look on his face that her point had made sense to him. She allowed him a minute to think things over, but then popped several truffles in her mouth.

“You have also found out that your Princess eats like a pig sometimes, too,” she offered with a full mouth, a prime example of what she spoke of.

“I’m going to bet you don’t do that very often,” he replied with a smile.

“I do it all the time in private,” she defended. A wickedly pleased look overtook her features, and she leaned back to give Bean a rather sultry look as he took a sip of tea.

“And if we can’t find a loophole, my dear Mister Bean, then you will be the first I invite to accompany me for a roll in the hay.”

Baked Bean quite nearly shot Camomile tea straight out of his nose with that remark, but since it appeared he did not wish to spray the ruler of Equestria or her personal books (many of which were rather old and valuable, if not one-of-a-kind), he somehow managed to stifle most of it with a weird gagging-honking sort of noise and by dipping his head down quickly. Most of what did get shot out hit the table in front of him, but what did not dribbled and dripped off the end of his snout. Celestia laughed heartily at this, but she was also quick to conjure up a large towel for him to use.

“That—” he groaned as he dabbed at his now-burning nostrils “—was a good example of an innuendo.”

3. - Seeds Sown in Adversity

Baked Bean liked to think he was no stranger to formal dinners.

Yes, it was true that he had never attended one as a guest, but he was the go-to waiter whenever the Mayor of Salt Lick had decided to use his restaurant for important visiting delegations during his youth. Thus, it logically followed to him that he should have a bit of an upper hoof when it came to eating formal dinners, since he knew which fork to use, how to place the napkin, where to place his elbows, and what part of an individual course to eat first, second, third and last.

So he thought that attending an ‘as formal as it gets with only Luna and myself in attendance’ dinner with Celestia should be fairly straightforward. He wasn’t expecting to make much small talk, he didn’t have to win over any diplomats, and he wasn’t going to have his words dissected under a microscope by ponies who were itching to make power plays.

He actually felt confident about attending dinner, especially with what had happened after Celestia’s hay joke. She had invited him on a personal, private tour of the palace to make up for making him snort tea, and the tour had been captivating, to put it simply. She had been kind during the walk, and was even kinder in her explanations of the history behind the baubles and trinkets that now rested on plush velvets and marble pillars. He had been mesmerized by the overabundance of artifacts and the history behind all of them, and Celestia had seemed pleased that he was so interested in these trinkets from a bygone era. When she had shown him his room in the north tower he had felt an air of relaxing ease for the first time that day, and with said ease he dared to entertain the notion that he could get through dinner without too much trouble.

He was now regretting ever having any such thoughts.

It had started out innocently enough, as most descents into madness do. Celestia had escorted him from his room when the evening meal was ready, and the dining room was as grand as he’d expected it to be. The soft and relaxing light that filtered into the room through the large windows, coupled with the decorative curtains and stained glass windows calmed his nerves, and the smile he received from Celestia put his mind at ease. After sitting near the middle of the long table that ran through the center of the room, Celestia had selected a seat three chairs to his right, and she cheerfully called for dinner to be served.

And then it had gone downhill.


It started when Luna barged in through the doors, startling poor Bean and making him jump nearly out of his seat. Each of her hooffalls were loud and solid, and after she flung herself down into the chair that was directly across from him, she leaned forward and proceeded to stare at him.

The Princess of the Moon didn’t need to blink, it seemed, and it seriously creeped Bean out.

Her gaze remained fixated on him through the first course, but she made no attempts at communication. Celestia had quickly become distracted as her personal secretary had walked in with the fried turnips and had laid out several books, scrolls, and other loose papers in the space around her. From what he could hear, they were trying to clear her schedule for tomorrow so she could review her own Alicorn Law and undo what had been done, so she didn’t notice how intimidating Luna was being.

Or perhaps the Princess of the Night always glared at everypony, but that seemed rather unlikely.

Then the second course was served. It was, indeed, a rather nice rosemary salad, and Bean was able to enjoy two or three bites of it. He tried, for a few moments, to think of how he would describe it to somepony who hadn’t ever eaten it: subtly infused, perhaps, and strikingly balanced, with undertones of quiet restraint and delicate touch…

And then he looked up.

Luna was still glowering at him, and her seething rage seemed to be set at broil. She was angrily stabbing her salad, shoving large bites into her mouth, and then chewing the poor, hapless greens with extreme prejudice, dark purpose, and even with her mouth open.

And for a brief, horrible moment, Baked Bean feared that Princess Luna might want to add a certain yellow stallion into the greens for some variety.

So now he sat, his fork idly twirling in his salad, as he tried to avoid eye contact with the Butcher of Red Leaf Lettuce and possibly Baked Beans. With her fuming over there like she was, his appetite had decided it was going to vacate the premises without leaving a forwarding address and there simply no way to enjoy the food.

It was going to be a terrible shame if dessert was something delicious and he had to turn it down. Maybe he could throw it at Luna as a distraction if she tried to gobble his backside.

“What if we move the Ambassador to nine fifteen, and then the Mayor’s Roundtable to ten thirty?” Celestia’s voice drifted over.

“I’m afraid you have from ten to eleven blocked out for your class.”

“Ah, yes. I’d hate to deprive my students of the opportunity to dissect a worm.” She chuckled.

Maybe you could dissect me, Bean idly thought. It would save Luna a fortune in eye drops.

“What if you moved…”

Bean found his ears focusing in on a rather loud chewing sound, one that did not sound like Luna’s mouthy mangling. It sounded more like…

…like popcorn?

“I KNEW IT!” Luna roared in the Royal Canterlot Voice.

Before Bean really had a chance to figure out what she was shouting about, he found himself enveloped in her magic, flung across the room at near terminal velocity, and then slammed rather satisfyingly against the wall with enough force to nearly make him two dimensional. The secretary screamed, Celestia finally looked up from the paperwork before her, and Bean heard a new voice laughing uproariously.

“I knew thou wert in league with our enemies! Sister, quickly! Thou shouldst distract the draconequus while I deal with his inept assistant!”

“Luna, put him down!” Celestia commanded. “Discord is reformed now, remember?!”

“Oh, no, please!” the new voice that could only be Discord replied with a howling laugh. “If it means you’ll keep scrubbing the wall with Mister Bean then I’m as bad as they get! Please, let him have it! I want to see if he’s filled with jelly beans or if you’ll simply refry him!”

“Luna, now!” Celestia ordered.

“But he is using this diversion to gain the upper hoof on us!” Luna protested.

“Stop, stop!” Discord wailed as he rolled on the floor. “My tummy! Ha! I can’t take it!”

“He is not doing anything of the sort, either of them!” Celestia shouted. “Look! Discord is rolling on the floor and Bean is turning purple!”

Bean wondered how true that statement was as the world began to go blurry and dark, but then he wondered why oxygen was so essential for the sustainment of life.

Thankfully, Luna seemed to finally notice that the only chaos being generated in the room was by herself, so she gently set Bean on the floor and then retreated back a few steps.

“What are you doing here, Discord?” Celestia demanded, as her magic now gently picked up the battered Bean and began floating him towards her.

“Are you kidding?” Discord replied as he snagged Bean in midair and hugged him tightly with his arm. “This perfect little pony is going to be my new best friend! You wouldn’t believe the wonderfully chaotic vibes that are just oozing out of him!”

“Could you not squeeze so hard?” Bean moaned softly. “My ribs…”

“How can this cur be emanating anything other than idiocy?” Luna asked.

“Ah, my deliciously dark ruler, that’s where the fun really is!” he replied, and he gave Bean’s mane a playful ruffle. “This delightful little maniac right here has managed to create more chaos in the last twelve hours than I could in a month of Sundays! Telling me to stay away from such a wonderful source of chaos is like telling Fluttershy not to talk to cute little animals!”

A small image of Fluttershy then appeared in the space between Discord and Celestia, but she promptly frowned at Discord and shook her head in disappointment.

“You know what? On second thought, let’s not bring her into this.” Discord snapped, and the image disappeared. “But look at the readings! They’re off the chart here!” he suddenly donned a lab coat and safety glasses, and from behind his back, he pulled out what looked like a thermometer mounted to a board. The bulb at the top was pulsing and pounding like it would burst at any moment, and Discord tapped it to emphasize his point. “By activating that ‘No Nose’ clause in your manifesto, he managed to create enough energy to power a new small city in the chaos zone that I’m going to name Discordland! It’s simply impossible for me to not be around! I have to see this first hand! Or paw! Er, claw. Whatever.”

Celestia’s magic again wrapped around Bean, and she gently lifted him out of Discord’s grasp before replying. “Discord, while I am quite sure you are correct with all this talk of chaos generation, you do understand that this situation is unintentional and temporary?”

“That is the only sad part of this whole affair. If you find that loophole you’re after, then my fun will end. And just think of the poor residents of Discordland! Where will they get their power from when the chaos runs out?”

“Discord, this is a private affair,” Celestia replied in a low and threatening tone. “I graciously ask you to allow it to remain so until the matter can be settled. Then you may return and laugh at me at your leisure.”

“Oh, I’m going to hold you to that one, Celly.” He smiled wickedly. “But if you insist, I’ll leave. I am rather late for a teatime appointment with Fluttershy anyway, she was expecting me to be there quite some time ago. But understand that you won’t be able to keep me away if this chaos continues, and I simply must be at the wedding. Perhaps I could be your ring bearer? I would be oh-so careful, I really would.”

He demonstrated his ability to do so by producing a red velvet pillow with a snap, and a ring with a comically-oversized stone on top immediately followed. However, he promptly managed to lose his grip on the pillow, and the ring bounced once when it hit the floor before disappearing. Discord simply offered as sheepish smile to this, and then snapped again to make the pillow disappear.

“I’ll keep that in mind, Discord. But please, not a word of this to another breathing soul.”

“Always such a downer, Celly.” He pouted. “Fine. My lips are sealed.”

He then slithered up next to her and threw a clawed arm over her withers. “But I’m going to keep any innuendos you use. Those things are gold! ‘Roll in the hay,’ indeed!”

And then, with an echoing laugh and a snap of his claw, he disappeared.

Bean was finally allowed back on the ground, but he grunted in pain when his weight settled on his hooves again.

“Are you alright?” Celestia asked.

“I’ve been better.” He groaned as he reached a hoof up to rub his ribs. Both he and Celestia then turned to glare at Luna.

“Oops,” she offered sheepishly.


Foalish fool.

Bean winced as he moved to sit at the desk in his room. Despite being checked out and cleared by the royal doctor and Celestia, it still hurt like Tartarus to breathe, walk, talk, and even blink.

Idiotic, foalish fool.

He should never have left. He shouldn’t have come to Canterlot. Everypony who had tried to talk him out of the trip had been so right about everything, and he had been so wrong.

“You’re just having a moment,” Bean murmured the acidic words he had heard before leaving. “You’ll see. Your place is here, with us. You won’t find what you’re after out there.”

It was a shame he was just now realizing they had been right. If only he had listened. If he’d just stayed home.

He scoffed at himself. If he hadn’t had the ridiculous notion to run away from what he really was in an effort to find some illusion that he thought was truth, he wouldn’t be where he was now. He’d be safely tucked away from this nightmare. There would be no Princess Luna, who had no qualms about squishing him underhoof. No crazy half-pony, half-dragon, half-whatever-he-was who had given him a serious case of the heebie-jeebies.

And no ancient law that forced him to marry Princess Celestia so he wouldn’t undo a thousand years of progress.

He was a nitwitted clod, pure and simple.

He flipped open his notebook, and glared at the words he’d written. They had seemed like his friends when he’d penned them, eager and willing to take him to a wonderful place where he’d have everything he ever wanted and not be judged for it. Now they felt like spiteful enemies, laughing and frolicking in his misery. It was as if they knew they were responsible for his current situation, and they weren’t sorry in the slightest. They mocked him, reveling in his predicament. They held no mercy in their graphite souls.

“Imbecile,” he grumbled. The page holding his description of the train station was worse than trash, and deserved oblivion. He hated himself, what he’d become. He hated what he’d done.

If only he had listened. It was a shame it took a forced marriage and a near-death experience to finally convince him that writing was not his future.

He then flipped open the thesaurus Celestia had let him borrow, intent on finding synonyms for idiot so he could have new ways to berate himself. He paused for a moment, though, as his hoof ran along the outer edge, and his mind went back to their private conversation.

“All ponies see the light from where they stand, Mister Bean. To most of my subjects, I am the wise and graceful Princess who raises the sun and brings prosperity to our fair kingdom. To my students, I am a teacher who enjoys sharing deep magics and ancient history. To the rulers of other nations I am a shrewd diplomat and skillful negotiator, to Princess Cadence I am an aunt, to Luna I am a sister, and to Shining Armor I am a military commander. Now that you’ve met me and seen me as I truly am, you have to reconcile what you thought with what you now know. You know that I am not perfect, and that I made some rather serious blunders in my early years. You know that even the Princess of the Sun can mess things up. It takes time to make those reconciliations, and each pony does it in their own way.”

He paused for a moment more. Her unbidden words continued to rattle in his head for a moment, and he felt a…well, a certain warmth in them. Somehow, they had the power to burn clean through the miasma of depression that had settled onto his shoulders, and he felt his spirits slowly begin to rise. Everything had seemed so serene at that point, so sure. It was the mood, the feel of her words that had made the greatest impact. It was like she was just being Celestia, nothing more. No princess, no sun, no official duties. It had felt nice, and dare he say normal, even. It was almost…

Almost like she wanted to be just Celestia. She wanted to hold a plain, boring, regular conversation. Even though they had been talking about his preconceived notions, it was the pony, not the Princess who stood to gain the most from their shared moment.

Somehow in his musing, his pencil had slid out and into his mouth, and he chewed on the end in thought for a moment. He then pushed the thesaurus to one side, squared away his notebook, and began writing.

“But why all of this secrecy, my dear Celeste? Why hide behind the masks of illusion and deception?”

“Because, my sweet, it is those very masks that allow me to accomplish the greatest good. I cannot move the world as just Celeste; I must be more than that. Within these cloaks, I can leverage the power needed to bring to pass everything and defeat all who would oppose the Crown.”

“But at what cost, love? Why destroy everything that makes you so unique? I cannot bear to watch you bury yourself, so heedless to the shell it is turning you into!”

“Don’t you see, my sweet? In my emptiness is their foundation. Sacrifice has always been the great enabler in our world. One must give all they have, down to the very dregs, to claim the loyalty of those who serve around and beneath them. They gain because of my loss, and I would never have it any other way. Ponies may see me a certain way, but in that way lies the greater good.”

A light tapping on his door broke his thoughts, and he spat out the pencil before calling out to the knocker to enter. He wasn’t surprised when Celestia opened the door with her magic; he had figured she would want to check on him after cleaning up the mess in the dining hall.

“Hello, Mister Bean. I just wanted to stop in and see how you were recovering.”

“I think I am doing better,” he replied, and he rolled one arm slightly with a wince. “I’m probably going to be sore for a while, though.”

“I imagine you would be; you did take a fair amount of abuse. Is there something I can get for you to help with the pain?”

“No, I think I just need to rest and then take it easy tomorrow.”

Celestia nodded. “That should be quite beneficial. Before I interrupted your day in the gardens, what did you have planned for tomorrow?”

He shrugged and sighed. “I don’t think I really had any plans. If I did, I’ve completely forgotten what they were.”

“I see,” she replied softly, and her gaze moved around the room. “Are the furnishings to your tastes? Do you have enough blankets? I sometimes think this tower is cold even in the summer months, and the last weather schedule I saw indicated there could be a light breeze tonight.”

“Everything is fine, Your Highness. I appreciate your attentiveness, but I believe I have everything I need.”

Bean’s heart broke a little when he saw her diplomatic smile falter ever so slightly. “Well, I am glad for that. I apologize if I have disturbed your evening. I will trouble you no more, and—”

“No, wait!” he called out as she turned to leave. He then felt a burning in his cheeks as she looked at him again. “I mean, you don’t have to go yet. Maybe you could explain to me why Luna acted the way she did.”

Her smile became a bit more genuine, and with it Bean’s cheerfulness grew. “I can try to, if that will suffice.”

“Please.” He then stood and offered her the chair. She graciously sat in it—though she just barely fit on the cushion—and Bean moved to sit on the bed.

“Luna is…well, she’s very focused,” Celestia offered. “This is mostly a good thing, but sometimes she gets a notion in her head that just won’t leave, and she’ll become obsessed with it.”

Bean somehow caught the unspoken implication that this ‘obsession’ had been a rather large factor in the Nightmare Moon problem.

“She usually is very accepting of other ponies, especially since…” Celestia paused, then inhaled. “Especially since her return from exile. For her to inflict bodily harm is very uncharacteristic of her, but I think she did so because she worries about me. She’s a wonderful sister in that way, and she’ll grow to accept you too. Just don’t try to assassinate me and we should be fine.”

“That’s about the dumbest decision I could ever make.” He chuckled. “And what about that freaky, mixed-up, whatever-he-was?”

“That was Discord, a draconequus. You may remember him from such historical events such as taking over Equestria and stealing the Elements of Harmony. Luna and I turned him into stone a thousand-odd years ago.” She shook her head in a long suffering way but smiled. “He’s reformed now, but he is still the Lord of Chaos and it would have been more of a surprise if he hadn’t shown up at some point tonight. He practically bathes in the kind of confusion I caused today by touching your nose.”

“That’s a pleasant image.” He laughed with her. “So if he’s chaos, do you represent order?”

“I suppose I do,” she replied, and then she snickered. “You know, a thousand-plus years ago, I never dreamed I would be representative of so many things. I just wanted peace and harmony for all ponies, nothing more. I didn’t see myself as the Standard of Order, or the Eternal and Perfect Princess. I still don’t, in all honesty. All I really see when I look in the mirror is Celestia, the now very old mare who was given a kingdom.”

“So, is that how we get out of this marriage? I mean, compared to you I’m like a newborn foal still.”

“That would be rather convenient, but since I am biologically near the same age as you I don’t think that will work.”

“Well, it’s worth looking into, right?”

“It is. I will include that in my search.”

Bean gave a short little laugh, then sighed and rubbed one arm with the other hoof in an awkward way. “Princess, I know I’ve said it before, but I really am grateful for everything you’ve done today. You’ve been very understanding and accommodating, and I’m sure you cancelled quite a few meetings in order to spend the afternoon with me.”

“One or two perhaps,” she replied slyly. “Spending the afternoon with you was far more enjoyable, though. All of my Ministers seem to have collected a fair amount of dust, it seems, so it was rather refreshing to talk to you about Starswirl’s Staff of Serendipity as opposed to yet another presentation on why we should abandon the gold standard.”

“I really enjoyed the tour before dinner, too. All of those artifacts you showed me were really neat, especially that brass hydra thing with the five heads. If you do ever give up the Princess gig, you’d make a great tour guide.”

She smiled a bit deeper and nodded to indicate her appreciation of his praise.

“So thank you, again. I wish I had a better way of saying it, but I don’t.”

“I think you will find this to be useful in helping you with that.” She tapped the thesaurus with a hoof, but then she noticed his notepad. “Oh! Is this what you’ve been writing?”

“Yeah. It’s not much of anything at the moment.”

“May I be permitted to read it?”

Baked Bean, in any other place and time, would have answered that question with a resounding no. He still felt too self-conscious about his words, still too scared about his choice of phrases. To let another pony read his uneducated hash would be akin to asking him to sing the Lunar Overture while trying to grow a tomato plant and tap-dancing in a vat of oatmeal with chickens for his back up chorus to a sold out Bridleway theatre.

But as he looked at Celestia to properly deliver his rejection, his eyes went straight to hers. Somehow, in that sea of magenta, he felt his inhibitions dissolve and his concerns melt away. It was like…

His breath caught in his throat. In those majestic pools of light, somehow, he found himself. He had no idea how, or even why he felt such feelings, but there they were, all the same.

For the first time in his life, he felt like he was truly home.

“I would be honored to have you read my work.”

Celestia positively beamed at him, and he could only think of one or two other times when he had seen such a deep smile filled with as much pure joy. That smile could melt the coldest heart in seconds. She reverently picked up his notebook with her hooves, and her mouth moved a little as she read to herself.

“This is a fair description of the train station, if I may say,” she offered after a moment. “You have captured the feel of it quite nicely. Why did you write it?”

“I was hoping somepony would use it in a travel brochure, or something like that.”

“Ah, I see. Did you not write about the gardens?”

“I didn’t get a chance to,” he laughed. “I’m afraid somepony’s nose interrupted my musing.”

“I will have to have a word with that pony,” she offered with a wink while continuing to read. “I would like to see what you write about it when you do pen the words.”

“I’d love to show you.”

“Oh!” She gasped with a grin. “‘Celeste’, mm?”

“Not very original, is it?”

“Perhaps, but it works for now. What I would want to know now is what Celeste is sacrificing for. It it for a worthy cause, or is she needlessly throwing away her happiness?”

“That’s one of the problems with my writing. I can get a couple good scenes here and there, but then I can’t connect them together. I have a struggle with the journey between the main plot points. I need to be less random.”

“What you have here is interesting, and a good start,” she replied. “Let me see. I once thought I could be an actress, and I fancied that I had some theater skills. Let me try this.”

She put a hoof to her chest, cleared her throat, and then turned her head to the side in an anguished, dramatic pose. “’Don’t you see, my sweet? In my emptiness is their foundation,’” she quoted in a soft, contemplative, and slightly anguished voice. “’Sacrifice has always been the great enabler in our world. One must give all they have, down to the very dregs, to claim the loyalty of those who serve around and beneath them. They gain because of my loss, and I would never have it any other way. Ponies may see me a certain way, but in that way lies the greater good.’”

“Wow.” Bean whispered in wide-eyed awe. Celestia had completely nailed how he had envisioned that scene in his head. Her voice had held the nobleness of station, but yet the emptiness of loftiness; the desire of the forsaken that was slowly being swallowed by the numbness of the unobtainable.

He had no idea his words could carry such pathos.

“How was that?” she asked sincerely. “Too much, too over the top? Perhaps it was meant to be a bit lighter, a bit more devious?”

Bean slowly shook his head. “No, you were dead on. That captured the scene I envisioned perfectly.”

And Princess Celestia, Diarch of the Kingdom of Equestria, inspiration and guide to millions across a vast land, Standard-Bearer of Order and Mare of the Morning…

…blushed furiously.

“Oh, well,” she stammered, her pleased embarrassment obvious in both vocal tone and body language. She gently put the notebook back on the table and then patted it gently with a hoof. “The, uh, the source material helps. You set the mood, I simply vocalized it.”

Bean nodded dumbly. It was debatable if he’d even heard her.

“Well!” Celestia suddenly stood, thus breaking the trance. Bean stood quickly too as Celestia moved towards the open door. “Thank you again, Bean, for letting me read that. But it really is getting late—”

“It is,” he hastily agreed.

“—and I have a lot of work to do in the morning so I can review that law—”

“Naturally.” The word fumbled out of his mouth.

“—and I’m quite sure you are exhausted—”

“To a degree.”

“—and so I will bid you good night and leave you to your evening.”

“Thank you.” He concluded at nearly the same time she did. Celestia then stepped out of the room, but she turned in the hallway to face him again.

“As for tomorrow, you’re free to leave the palace grounds if you wish.”

“Really?” he asked, the surprise in his voice obvious.

Celestia nodded. “Of course. Just come check in with me in the afternoon sometime. I think I can trust you.”

“Thank you,” he replied with a small smile.

“Also, if you would like to join me for breakfast tomorrow I would be delighted to host you. I like to make pancakes, and if you ask nicely I might even put a silly fruit face on them.”

Bean laughed slightly at this. “What time?”

“Just after sunrise.”

“I’ll consider it, how’s that?” he asked, and Celestia brightened.

“That’s all I can ask. Good night, Bean.”

“Good night, Celestia.”

She then quietly trotted away. Bean softly closed the door, moved to the desk, and flipped the pages back to his train station description.

Perhaps they were not so foolish after all. The words had become meaningful to him again, somehow, and he almost felt like when he had first become inspired to become a writer. He’d keep them for sure now, maybe there was some home for them.

He would still need a job when Celestia found that loophole, after all. But as he switched off the light and crawled into bed, one thought kept replaying in his head, and it made him smile:

She called me Bean.

Princess Celestia cheerfully walked towards her own chambers, a happy nonsense tune on her lips and a slight spring in her step. Her conversation with Baked Bean had been quite delightful, and—

“Oh! Good evening, Twilight!” she hastily said after her vision cleared of lavender. She really wished her most faithful student wouldn’t just appear like that.

“Princess Celestia! Good evening!” Twilight replied.

Celestia was suddenly very grateful she had centuries of diplomatic skill to help keep her from laughing at her protegée. Twilight was wearing a black turtleneck sweater, but had the neck portion pulled up and over her muzzle. “Would it be a fair guess to say you are here to access the royal archives as part of the request I sent you earlier?”

“Yes. But I did have one question I wanted to ask you.”

Celestia mentally braced herself. “And what is that?”

“What in the wide, wide world of Equestria were you thinking?!” Twilight shouted. Though she was trying to look angry, Celestia could find nothing but humor since being able to only see Twilight’s eyes made it hard to take her seriously. “And when were you going to tell me about this law?! I’ve been running around this whole time with the possibility of having to marry the first stallion who bonks my nose? Why would you even write a law like this?!”

“Well, Twilight,” Celestia began, as she smiled serenely and stopped herself from rolling her eyes, “it was a very long time ago, and…”

4. - A Truce by Night

“How could you do this to me?!” Celestia roared in fury, with tears streaming down her cheeks in anguish.

“No, wait!” Bean yelled. “Celestia, please! I don’t—”

“Save your excuses, Mister Bean! I see clearly now what is going on!”

“I haven’t done—”


Bean fell back on his haunches, and raised one arm in front of him in a vain attempt to block the absolute terror flying before him.

“N-N-Nightmare Moon?!”

“I have seen into your soul and there is nothing worth redeeming in you!” Nightmare Moon shouted. “Now shall you deal with ME, O Bean, and all the fires of Tartarus!”

Nightmare Moon plunged a hoof into the earth, which burst under the impact and formed a wide and deep trench that continued to expand. Bean began backpedaling as fast as he could, but the fire-breathing trench was faster than he was, and soon it split around him and isolated him inside a large circle. Nightmare Moon cackled with wild and evil abandon as Bean pranced in place, scared for his life and unable to move in any direction.

“You have been weighed, Baked Bean, and have been found wanting.” Celestia’s condemning face appeared in the midst of the flames. “There shall be no mercy for you. It is time to become your namesake!”

“Please, no!” he shouted, with tears streaming down his cheeks. He backpedaled as far as he could until he felt his rump getting roasted, and Nightmare Moon’s laughter became more sadistic and maniacal. This was the end! He’d been a fool, and this was the price he would pay!

“That is enough!”

A beam of magic dissipated Nightmare Moon and silenced her cackle. A following pulse of magic stopped the fires, sealed and fused the rents back together and washed the area with a relaxing aura that smelled of lavender.

However, Bean still feared for his life. Even though he wasn’t quite sure where she was, he prostrated himself and buried his muzzle in the dirt.

Why else would Luna be here? She had to be coming back to finish what she had started at dinner.

“Arise, Baked Bean. You have nothing to fear from me.”

He dared to lift his head slightly. His eyes slowly moved upwards, but then they met the intense cyan irises of Princess Luna.

His face promptly went straight back into the dirt with a whimper.

Luna let out a sad sigh. “It would seem my actions have affected you more that I thought. Please, Baked Bean. I am here to offer you an apology.”

“Y-you are?” he sniffled.

“Yes. Will you rise and speak with me?”

He looked up again, a little faster this time. Again he met Luna’s eyes, but this time he kept looking and found them to be concerned, a bit wounded, and inviting. His hoof reached up to take hers, and Luna smiled for the first time while she helped him up.

Well, at least to Bean for the first time.

“That is better, thank you.”

“Are you really here to apologize?” he asked softly.

“I am. My conduct earlier was unacceptable, and I wish to make whatever amends I need to in order to gain your forgiveness.”

“My forgiveness,” Bean repeated.

“First, let us leave this place,” Luna replied. “Nightmares are hardly the place to discuss such weighty matters.”

He nodded. “What did you have in mind?”

Luna smiled a bit deeper. The world around them wavered and pulsed for a moment, but then it morphed into a rather remarkable sight.

A large lake, bathed in silver moonlight, stood surrounded by a large mountain range that was gently touched and highlighted in soft blues and greys. A waterfall fed the lake from a distant peak, and from where they were, the steady pounding was soothing and sweet. The two of them stood on a small island in the middle of this lake, and Bean noticed the olive green grass beneath his hooves was gentle and maybe a bit ticklish. There was just enough room on this island for the two of them to sit with an arm’s length between them, and the brightly sparkling stars that framed the moon overhead completed the overall feeling of calm.

“This is amazing,” Bean said, as he looked around in awe. “They don’t call you the Dream Weaver for nothing, do they?”

“’Tis but a small thing. This is your dream, so you supplied the imagery. I simply made it appear.”

“I don’t think I’ve ever had a dream this vivid.” He moved to face her again, and sat.

“Not many ponies do.”

“So why did you attack me?” he bluntly asked. There was no point in dragging this conversation out with small talk, so he cut right to the point.

“I do not delude myself into thinking I am anything like my sister,” she replied while settling down onto the soft grass. “Celestia has wisdom, patience, serenity, and the true peace of soul that comes from a life lived humbly and in the service of others. On the other hoof, I obsess over the smallest of trivia, and lose whatever temper I have upon even the slightest provocation. I know of my own faults, and I remind myself daily that if I am not careful I will undo everything that I want and everything that I have accomplished. I do not get a second chance.

“But mastering my own soul has never been easy for me. Even after a thousand years, I still struggle with my inner self at times. At this point, I fully accept that it will be an eternal struggle, and that means that my anger will take over my better judgement, especially when something precious to me is threatened.”

“A threat to Celestia, you mean?” he clarified, and Luna nodded. “But how could I possibly be any sort of a threat?”

“I have lived, breathed, bled, and nearly died with my sister for longer than I can even remember. When I allowed my jealousy to consume me, to guide my actions and surrender my will unto the Nightmare, Celestia could have destroyed me. She pulled back her power so I would only be banished, not obliterated. When I returned, my sister…”

Luna choked back some tears, but one managed to escape and slide down her cheek. “…my sister gave me the chance to be redeemed, to be whole again. She forgave me, instantly, despite my most heinous crimes against her. I received from her the most precious gift she could give, and then I found she had made a world that would give me everything that I had said I could not obtain. The bonds of Sisterhood are deep between us, and she will forevermore have my undying loyalty, just as she has been, and will be forever loyal to me.

“But that means I hold high standards for the one who has given me so much, and you do not measure up, to be frank. You were in a place you should not have been, doing something you ought not to have done, and while I now believe that you touching noses with her was an accident, it still should not have happened. I am not pleased with you, nor am I pleased with the circumstances that force my sister to marry. I am also not pleased with the fact she forgot to repeal that stupid law when that idiotic Duke died, but I suppose I share some fault there for not reminding her. At this point, nothing can be done to undo it, as far as I can tell.

“So you already have my animosity, and while I will work to accept what has happened it will take time. I attacked you because I believed you had ulterior motives, just as I said when I met you. I see now that assumption was wrong, and so I ask for your forgiveness for my actions. If you do not wish to give such, I will understand.”

Bean didn’t reply to her. That was quite the load she’d just dumped on him.

“Perhaps if I offer a truce,” she said after a few moments. “If you can treat my sister in a manner that is appropriate and becoming of a true gentlestallion, then I will make the changes I need to come to accept you. If you behave, so will I. Will that be equitable?”

“I suppose that’s all we can do for now,” he sighed, but then extended a hoof. “Princess Luna, I forgive you. I can understand why you attacked me, and I can’t hold that against you. I would much rather be your friend than your enemy.”

“Then I thank you, and I promise to try to be friends as well,” she replied, and she shook his hoof. “Though don’t expect any miracles. I’ll still probably glare at you for some time to come.”

“I can live with glares. Those aren’t so bad.”

“Fair enough.” Luna then looked around the landscape surrounding them. “You did say you are an aspiring writer, yes?”

“I hope to be, yeah.”

“Take this, then, as a first step in our friendship: this world you have created is far more detailed than most I encounter. The fact that you can dream so means that your mind is broad, open, and creative, and I believe that you will be able to translate this into the printed form, with practice and training. You could be a great writer, if you strive hard enough for it.”

“You really think so?” he asked. Luna laughed a bit at his eagerness.

“I do. And if you can create this, then perhaps there is a very remote chance you could create a meaningful and beautiful relationship with my sister.”

This set his cheeks on fire, and he scuffed a hoof on the ground as he stammered and glanced around awkwardly.

“Thank you,” Bean finally managed to blurt out. “But I’m pretty extra sure somepony will find a loophole to get me out of all of this.”

“If that is the case, then I hope that you and my sister can remain good friends, regardless. She deserves to have good friends.”

She stood, spread her wings, but then glanced backwards over her shoulder.

“You deserve to have good friends too.”

And then she ascended into the dream sky until she was lost to his sight.

5. - Terms and Conditions Apply

“Good morning, Mister Bean!”

“Good morning, Your Highness,” Bean replied with a smile.

“Please, have a seat wherever you like. I will have the pancakes out shortly. Luna may join us this morning, but I believe she will be better behaved than she was last night.”

“I’m sure she will be,” Bean replied. Celestia gave him a broad smile and moved back into the kitchens.

Bean was feeling pretty good about today. After his late-night discussion with Luna, he had slept pretty well. He wasn’t sure if Celestia could alter the brightness of the sun, but it seemed to be exceptionally shiny and perky today. He had watched it rise that morning before preparing for the day and now he was eager to go back out into Canterlot and to try his hoof at writing again. Perhaps he would only produce hen scratches and nonsense, but inspiration was like catching butterflies, to use an allegory, and he felt the need to get out into the fields to have a chance at catching something wonderful.

He was also resolved to try sending his descriptions of Canterlot out for review again as well. He would love to gain the interest of an editor, but at the very least he could start getting an idea of what he needed to work on and where.

Perhaps he should let Celestia look over more of his works. She was bound to be an expert in equish, having probably been alive when half the words for it were invented, and being a teacher she could at least give him a list of books to read that could go over syntax and grammar. Hopefully she would be willing to, as he suddenly realized that she probably had graded so many papers on said subjects that she might actually hate the things.

Just the book list, then. That would be useful by itself.

“Here we go!” Celestia reappeared with three plates of pancakes in her magic. She sat down next to Bean, set the plates on the table, and he was pleased to find that she had given him a funny face pancake, crafted with strawberry ears, blueberry eyes, a whipped cream mane and decoratively placed fruit pieces around the edge of the plate to enjoy.

“This looks delicious, Princess. Thank you.”

“You’re welcome!” she cheerfully replied. “I hope the silly face is all right. I thought it might be kind of corny.”

“I like it,” he replied. “It’s cute.”

“Now the true test. You are the food critic here, so tell me what you think. Is my cooking worthy?”

“I don’t know that I should be judging you,” he replied while feeling a knot of worry develop in his gut. He didn’t want to offend her by criticizing her cooking. There was a vacancy on the moon, after all. “I bet you’re a really good chef.”

“I haven’t had as much practice as you think I’ve had,” she replied. “Please, I want to know. I have a tough hide, I can take it. Be honest with me. Are they any good?”

Bean shook his head with a small laugh. She asked for it! He picked up his fork, cut a bite-size chunk from the short stack, stifled a snicker at cutting the ‘ear' off of the pancake head, and then he went to work.

Celestia watched him intently as he first took a deep sniff of the pancake. Out came the tongue, a brief lick, and then his eyes drifted upward again while he thought out his evaluation. “Hm. That’s… hm,” he said after a moment. This time he went for actually eating what was on his fork. “This is quite interesting, Princess. Different for sure.”

“You’re not just saying that, right?”

“No, no. I’m giving you my honest opinion. You’ve got all the expected ingredients: flour, milk, salt, eggs, but then you’ve added extra sugar and vanilla. Be careful with that, because you’d make this way too sweet if you get the balance wrong. Also, make sure you take the fruit of the face into account. The flavoring here could easily overpower the berries and banana. Hm, hm, hm. Pure Vermount maple syrup, but I wouldn’t really expect you to have that cheap imitation stuff. In all honesty, Princess, this is a really tasty treat. I’d maybe dial down the sweetness a few notches, though. It’s ok the way it is, but the syrup, fruit and vanilla all add together to make it a bit overwhelming. It could be argued you’re trying a bit too hard with this.”

“And now I know.” Celestia gave a pleased chuckle. “Thank you for your honest review. I'll maybe cut back on the sugar and vanilla.”

Bean made a show of eating a big bite, just to reinforce that the pancakes were indeed good. Celestia laughed at his theatrics before cutting and taking a bite of her own stack.

It was just then that Luna made her not-so-grand appearance.

Bean sat back a bit in surprise. He had assumed that her dream walking was easy enough; there was no physical exertion to it. All she had to do was dream too, right?

It appeared not. Her hooves were dragging on the floor, her head and neck were lowered in exhaustion, her eyes were lined and bloodshot, her ears were drooping, and even her ethereal mane seemed to have lost some of its luster and strength. He’d almost be willing to guess she had run a marathon the night before.

“Good Morning, Luna!” Celestia cheerfully called out.

“Muh,” she grumbled back.

“Long night?” Bean asked.

“Yes, and your little nightmare didn’t help anything,” she groused. “It would have been better without that.”

“You had a nightmare last night?” Celestia asked Bean, with a note of worry.

“It was quite vivid,” Luna answered for him. “You tried to incinerate him, Sister. Something about finding out his true motives.”

“I would never!” she protested. “Mister Bean, I have absolutely no wish for you to be injured in any way. Please understand that nightmares tell only lies, and that you should not heed anything they say.”

Luna shot him a mischievously wicked smile, then simply dropped her muzzle on to her plate and began snarfing down her pancakes with noisy slurps, snorts, and snaps of her teeth at every piece of fruit, real or imaginary.

“Oh, Luna! Really. You should have better manners for our guest.”

“Yeah. Probably should.” Luna’s words came out slightly mumbled and with little bits of food still stuck to them. “Good pancakes, by the way.”

Celestia gave her sister an annoyed look and muttered something under her breath. Bean forgot his own laden fork and simply watched the pancake carnage that Luna was creating as he contemplated the conversation he had shared with her last night. Had things really changed between them, or did Luna still hate his deceptive hide and was merely being civil… well, relatively civil for her sister?

It certainly gave him the impetus to behave, if he wasn’t going to already anyway. He still thought Princess Luna would be a much better friend than an enemy, and he really didn’t want to provoke her anymore. Besides, she could probably eat him. Whole, with the size of bites she was taking.

“Do you plan on heading back today?” Celestia asked her mess of a sister.

“I am not sure yet,” Luna replied through the vanishing crumbs. Once the last bit on the plate was gone, she stuck out her far-too-long-for-Bean’s-nerves tongue and licked the entire plate so clean that it could have gone back into the cabinet, then smacked her lips. Bits of pancake and fruit were still stuck in the syrup on her nose, and Bean struggled not to laugh. “I have sent a missive but have not received the reply. Once I do I will know if I am still needed.”

Celestia was clearly struggling to retain her own composure despite Luna’s antics. “You have some breakfast on your nose.”

“I’m sure I do.” Luna pushed away from the table and stood with her eyes just barely open under hooded lids, looking back to Bean much like he was on the menu. “Maybe your fiancé would like to help me clean it off.”

Baked Bean’s official response to the offer was to choke on a blueberry eyeball.

“Luna.” Celestia gave Luna stern glare and a fierce frown.

“Well, why not? Polygamy was still in vogue when you wrote the clause, so we could simply say we’re following the letter of the law.”


“What? It’s not like I'm proposing we divide him down the middle. If you do not wish to share, then fine.” Luna turned her sticky nose upwards as Bean started to turn purple again and gagged breathlessly on his food. “You can be selfish if you want. I shall say good day to you both for now. Mister Bean, you really should take smaller bites.”

And with that, Princess Luna strode away, her fruit-decorated nose held high in the air. Bean managed to clear his airway enough to cough up the obstruction, and Celestia patted him on the back as he tried to suck in as much air as possible.

“I really don’t know what’s gotten into her,” she commented. “She’s hardly ever this hostile towards any pony.”

“Hostile?” Bean replied through his gasps for air. “I wouldn't go that far. I think she just doesn’t like the situation.”

“She's hardly one to make judgements on worthiness,” Celestia grumbled darkly. “But I suppose what you say could be true. Will you accept my apologies for her behavior on her behalf?”

“It’s fine, I don’t hold it against her. I don’t have any siblings, but I bet I would be protective of them too.”

“I appreciate you understanding. I guess we can only hope she will tone down the hostility as she gets to know you.”

“Or until you find that loophole.”

“Then she will be very pleased indeed.” Celestia giggled a bit. “But I’m afraid my duties call. Did you decide what you will do today?”

“I’m thinking I’ll go back out into Canterlot and maybe try to write some more.”

“You should try the Natural History Museum, just to the south of here. There are a number of fine exhibits that might spark your imagination.”

“I will.” He nodded. “Thank you. When should I return tonight?”

“Let’s say around sunset. I should have at least some idea of how to get you out of this by then. When you do return, ask any of the guards on duty to notify me, and then just follow their directions.”

“I will.”

“Enjoy your day!” Celestia called back as she left the hall.

One simply cannot visit Canterlot without seeing the Equestrian Natural History Museum. Located in the Quarter District, it a veritable treasure trove of wonderment and enlightenment.

“Hmm,” Bean grunted in thought. What to write about next, and how? Should he write about the exhibit on ancient fossils and the recent Mesohippus finds? Or maybe the dioramas from the Cavepony exhibits would be a better choice. He knew he would need to write something based on the information he’d gleaned from the Founding of a Kingdom section, no matter what.

It was hard to decide.

“The Writer's Curse,” he muttered around his pencil. “Too many good ideas.”

He wasn’t even sure he liked his opening paragraph. It seemed a bit flat, with a grandiose statement but not enough support. It probably needed a few more adverbs –adjectives, adjectives– to get the proper feel across.

He had wanted to stay longer, but a sudden hunger had seized him while he had been contemplating the one and only Ode to The Waning Moon – a painting so masterful that nopony could speak of it but in hushed and reverent tones. So he had curtailed his studies to sally forth and procure lunch with an abundance of grandiose terms to make what he was doing sound more epic. He then planned on taking some time to try writing before going back to the Shoe and Nail to make sure they had held his room. There was a paranoid part of him that thought the front desk would not believe that the palace would be paying for a random tourist's room, and that they would give it away to the next pony in line. He still needed a place to stay after the loophole was found, after all.

He’d paid in advance for that room and he didn’t want to lose the bits, in all honesty.

Unsure of what to try for lunch, he simply settled for walking up and down a street until something smelled good and tempted him enough to try. He figured it wouldn’t take long, given how his gut was both mourning in respect for the long-digested pancakes and pining for another Royal meal, and he could try writing a few paragraphs while he ate as well.

“Maybe this: Any pony with a taste for history would greatly enjoy the masterful displays that can be— No, no. I’m using ‘masterful’ too much. I knew I should have brought that thesaurus. This would be easier if—”


Bean registered the shout too late, and he collided into the side of another pony. The force of the impact somehow took him off his legs, and he quickly found himself sprawled across the cobblestone street.

“Oh, feathers! Are you ok?”

“Ow,” he groaned deeply in pain as his ribs reminded him that they really would rather be introduced to immovable objects from a distance and over time, not all at once and with cracking results.

“Here, let me help you up.”

Bean felt a hoof grab him and help him upright. He groaned again as he did so, but managed to stay up and block some of the pain.

“You okay?”

“I think so,” he replied as he rubbed his injuries and looked himself over. “That was my fault, I wasn’t watching where I was going.”

He then turned to face the pony he’d collided with, and found the most intense pair of green eyes he’d ever seen. “I'm sorry,” he finished slowly.

“It’s okay, so long as you’re not hurt,” she replied. “That was quite the spill you took.”

A female pegasus was attached to those green eyes, with a soft yellow coat and powder blue mane. A sunflower was tucked behind one ear to complete the look, and Bean couldn’t help but think that she was pretty.

“I’ve had worse. Are you okay?”

“I’m fine,” she replied. “You broke my fall.”

“I really am sorry. I should have been watching what I was doing.”

“What were you doing?”

“Writing,” he sheepishly admitted. “Or, at least, I was trying to think of what to write.”

“You’re an author?” she asked as she turned and picked up his notebook.

“I’m hoping to be, someday. I’ve still got a lot to learn.”

“Well, that should be easy enough for you,” she replied with a laugh and a snort.


“Your cutie mark.” She smiled a bit as she pointed to it. “Doesn’t get much more obvious than an open book with blank pages, does it?”

“Oh! Oh.” He twisted to look at it himself. “Yeah. I suppose not. Although it would be nice if something were actually written on those pages.”

“I’m Sego Lily.” She smiled a bit deeper, and offered a hoof. “If you’re going to crash into me, we should at least have proper introductions.”

“Baked Bean,” he replied, and he shook hooves. He quickly snuck a look at her flank—a trio of sego lily flowers, made sense—and then he continued. “Are you from around here?”

“Nah, just visiting. My Nana lives nearby. You visiting too?”

“Yeah. I'm trying to get some inspiration.”

“Well, I tell you what. Since you crashed into me, you can buy me lunch. Fair enough?”

Bean smiled. “I can live with that. Do you have any recommendations?”

“I really don’t appreciate you being so mean to him,” Celestia stated in that familiar, mothering tone that Luna had not missed in the slightest. “The poor pony finds out he has to marry me—which is quite overwhelming in and of itself—and then while he’s still trying to sort that out you start breathing fire down his neck. It’s not like he’s trying to court me to conquer Equestria, you know.”

“Celly, I know. Just give me some time to come to terms with all of this. You know I have impossibly high standards for any potential suitors, accidental or not. I don’t like how this is turning out in the slightest.”

“I know. It’s not ideal, but if all goes well he’ll soon be on his way. Please give him something positive to remember about this whole experience, will you?”

“I will try.”

“Thank you,” Celestia sighed, then smiled. “Have you heard from Blueblood yet?”

“His reply missive is what awoke me. He reports that negotiations with Prince Rutherford actually seem to be progressing faster now—”

“HA!” Celestia blurted out suddenly. Luna gave her an icy stare as a hoof went to her mouth in alarm.

“I fail to see the humor in that, Sister.”

“My deepest apologies, Lulu. I have no idea where that came from. Obviously there is nothing to laugh about.”

The icy stare continued unabated. “As I was saying, progress is being made and Blueblood believes that he can gain more ground by himself than with me.”

“Your sudden disappearance yesterday didn’t upset the Yaks, did it?”

“It seems not. Blueblood reports that they assumed my work was done and that he had been left to continue negotiations.”

“Good,” Celestia replied as they rounded a corner in the hallway. “How much longer will it take?”

“I don’t think it will be anytime soon. The Yaks are temperamental enough that—”

Celestia suddenly stumbled over her own front hooves, and she careened sideways before hitting the wall and collapsing to her knees.

“Celly?!” Luna instantly was at her side.

“Woo!” Celestia hooted. “Me and my fat feet, ha! Gonna need to watch them more closely.”

“Sister?” Luna asked while Celestia began stumbling down the hallway again and intently staring at her feet. “Are you feeling alright?”

“Why of course, dear sister!” she called back, and her head dropped closer to the ground. “’cept for those cracks. I knew it! They’re the source of my woes!”

She then tipped to her right, but her wings flared out and helped her maintain her balance. Celestia stopped, looked over her shoulder, and gasped in wide-eyed awe. “Lulu! I have wings!” she whispered. “When did this happen?”

“Over a thousand years ago?”

“You think I woulda noticed by now. Hey! I can fly then, right?”

“I don’t dare answer that.”

Celestia gasped even more loudly, and she planted her rear to put both hooves in front of her mouth. “Lulu! You! You!”

“I have wings too?” Luna hazarded a guess.

“AND THEY'RE SO PRETTY!” she bellowed in reply. “Please say mine look jus as pretty, pleasepleaseplease?!”

“Celly, what has gotten into you?!” Luna shouted while Celestia grabbed one of Luna's wings and began poking through the feathers.

“…and then I decided to move to Fillydelphia. Not so crowded, but still close enough to see everyone.”

“I could see why,” Bean chuckled.

“What’s it like in Salt Lick?”

“Well, take every stereotype you have about what a small town is like, and then you’ve got it.”


“All right, that’s a bit of an exaggeration,” he chuckled. “It’s more like if you took a quarter of Canterlot and placed it down somewhere. We've got some theaters and a museum and such, but there’s probably not enough there to keep a filly like you entertained. If you go to Salt Lick, you’re going to be out in the woods. That’s our biggest claim to fame.”

“It still sounds like a nice place,” she replied. “Maybe I’ll come visit sometime.”

Bean’s gaze stayed on those green pools before him for a moment, and then he looked away and cleared his throat. “Well, I’m sorry again for running into you.”

“That’s all right,” she replied. “This was nice. Where are you off to now?”

“I’m not sure. Since you’re something of a local, what would you suggest?”

“Let’s see. Have you taken the tour of the palace yet?”

“Yeah, I’ve been there,” he replied a bit awkwardly.

“Did you visit the gardens? They’re really quite amazing.”

“I was, uh...” he stalled for a second. “I was there yesterday.”

“Did you like it? Oh! Did you get to see Princess Celestia? I visit every time I’m here but she’s never out there. I’d love to meet her sometime.”

“You've never seen her?” he asked, in the hope that she’d forget her question.

“It’s actually pretty rare for any pony to see her, even if you do live in Canterlot. Her schedule and duties keep her pretty busy. She doesn’t have a lot of time to just walk around.”


“Don’t feel bad,” she replied, and she patted his hoof gently. “Even if you don’t see her, there’s lots of other stuff to make memories with. Why don’t you and I go check out the bazaar?”

“What’s that?” he asked, as they both stood.

“Big open air market, not too far from here. There's merchants there from all over selling just about anything you can imagine. You ever have a macarena nut?”

“Once or twice.”

“You gotta try one from the stands. I don’t know what they do to them, but they are delicious!”

Bean smiled wide. “Well, lead on then! Maybe I’ll find something to write about.”

She gave him a winning smile back, took one of his hooves in hers, and gently began leading him towards the bazaar.

“Princess Luna?”

“Twilight Sparkle!” she shouted, but then she grunted as a large thump pushed on the door she was trying to hold shut. “Thank the Great Hasbro! No time to explain, I need you to go get a broom or mop or anything that will hold this door shut.”

“Is Celestia in there?”

“Luna!” came the Princess of the Sun's voice, along with another loud thump. “There's no cake in here! You lied! I’m gonna send you to the moon for this!”

“No time, Twilight!” Luna admonished. “Quickly!”

“What is going on?!” Twilight demanded.

“Hey, whas this pointy thing on my head?” The closet became quiet for a moment, and Luna looked at Twilight with absolute horror in every line on her face.

“It is too late!” she whispered. “Save yourself!”

Celestia suddenly teleported out into the hallway, but she promptly grabbed her head in pain. “Ow! Luna, I don’t know what this thing is, but it hurts!”

She then noticed Twilight, who smiled sheepishly and took a step backwards.

“TWILIGHT!” she roared. “My moos faifful student! I haven’t seen you in forever! When did you get here?”


“That long ago? Somepony needs to quit messing with time. Not nice to keep Twilight here for so long. HEY! HEY, HEY, HEY! You have wingie dings too! Mine are prettier but yours is okay too.”

“Luna?” Twilight asked, through her eyes remained on her oddly-behaved teacher.

“I don’t know why she’s acting so strangely, but she’s been this way since just after lunch. I’ve had my hooves full just trying to keep her from running into something sharp.”

Twilight watched her beloved mentor giggle to herself as she shuffled the feathers of her own wings for a moment, but then her face then went sour in a flash. “Discord! Show yourself!”

“I have nothing to do with this, for the record!” his voice replied. “But I have quite thoroughly enjoyed the performance. Do you think she does encores?”

“Where are you?!”

“Shh! You’ll startle her!” he replied. A clawed arm reached out from nowhere, grabbed Twilight, and pulled her back behind some sort of badly camouflaged duck blind.⁽*⁾
(*) Not blind ducks, because Fluttershy seriously frowned on such behavior. There was, however, a duck in a pair of dark glasses.

“What did you do?” she growled at him, as Luna tried to keep Celestia from walking away.

“I recorded the performance for future enjoyment,” he offered while he donned a beret and held up a camera and its tripod. “I have captured the Celestia in her natural environment, my life's work really. Now I can finally release my documentary, which I shall entitle “Celestia: Raw and Uncut!”


“Look, I really had nothing to do with this!” he protested, as something in the hallway shattered and Celestia guffawed loudly. “I’m reformed now, remember? I would hate to see what Fluttershy would say if I did do something to her beloved diarch. I’m innocent on all counts.”

“Then what’s wrong with Celestia?” she asked in alarm. Discord shrugged.

“Maybe she got into a bad batch of baked beans,” he offered. “Those things can cause all sorts of trouble if you’re not careful.”

“You think she ate something that caused this?”

“I’m just brainstorming over here,” he replied as a lightning bolt hit him on the head from a very small thundercloud. “Maybe she hit her head on something. Maybe somepony—not me, of course, but somepony else—used some kind of magic on her.”

“Of course!” Twilight brightened. “Magic! She must be under the influence of some magical curse! I just need to isolate the cause!”

“Say, is it just me, but is there something different about your teacher? I mean, other than her behavior of course. Maybe she put on weight?”

“What?” Twilight balked. Desperate to prove him wrong, she quickly jumped out from behind the blind and looked Celestia over intently. One horn, two wings, mane and tail, four legs. Everything that should be there was.

But then she saw it: Celestia's cutie mark had begun to fade.

“Somepony is pulling magic out of her!” Twilight shouted. “Princess Luna, quick! We need to find out who is stealing her magic!”

“You’re welcome, by the way!” Discord shouted, as Twilight ran off. “Ingrate. Oh well, this’ll be perfect for home movie night.” He cackled as he began turning the crank on the camera. “Maybe I’ll finally win a Ovation from the Moving Pictures Club. Those guys have been snubbing me for years!”

“…and then she ate it!”

Both Sego Lily and Bean laughed. It seemed Sego had quite the animated family, and she was a pretty decent storyteller herself.

“Is she okay?” he asked.

“Oh, yeah,” Sego replied. “She laughs about it now.”

“That’s good. Oh, but I gotta get going,” he suddenly said, as he noticed the sun slipping behind the horizon, although a little shaky and with an extra wobble. “I didn’t realize it was so late.”

“Do you really have to go?” Sego pouted.

“Yeah, I do. I’m sorry. I did have a lot of fun today, though. Thanks for showing me around.”

“No problem.” She smiled at him. “Are you leaving Canterlot anytime soon?”

“I’m not sure when I’ll be heading out.”

“Well, if you want to hang out again, I’m staying at the Shoe and Nail.” She pulled the sunflower out from behind her ear and put it behind his. “Just ask for me at the front desk. I’ll be there for the next two days, then I gotta head home. I’ll show you around some more, if you want.”

“If I can, I’d love that,” he replied. “Thanks.”

“If not, it’s been fun, Baked Bean,” she replied, and they shook hooves again. “Take care of yourself, eh? Try not to run into anypony else.”

“I will. You as well,” he chuckled.

“See ya!”

With that, Sego Lily took off and flew towards the hotel. Bean sighed contentedly, and then turned to get back to the palace. Hopefully Celestia wasn’t too worried about him, and she’d found that frequently-mentioned loophole. That would make his day complete.

He trotted quickly to the palace, and the guards gave him no trouble at the gates or at the front doors. One even told him to head up towards the dining room, and he’d probably find Celestia there, getting ready for the evening. He did so, but found no pony in sight. With a bit of confusion, he then turned back out into the hallways and began glancing around.

“Princess?” he called out. “Are you up here?”

“Baked Bean?!” Luna’s voice rattled the windows, and a light dusting of plaster rained down and into his mane. “If that is you, get your sorry flank up here right this instant!”

Now what had he done? He was beginning to wonder if Luna would even let him breathe in peace anymore. He quickly moved up a flight of stairs, around a corner, then followed what sounded like maniacally delirious laughter.

“What did you do?!” Luna thundered, as soon as he met up with the Princesses of Night and Day in the hallway. Celestia was sitting, staring into a vase with wide eyes and giggling slightly as she ‘ooo’-ed her reflection.

“I took a tour of town!” he replied in alarm. “What is she doing?”

“Admiring herself at the moment, which is better that what she has been doing. You better not have done anything else today!”

“I swear, all I did was walk around and tour the city,” he replied. “I don’t know what I could have done to make this happen.”

Celestia then turned her head, caught sight of Bean, and took in a huge breath.

“BEEEAAAANNN!” she shouted with unabashed glee and in the Royal Voice. “You came back! I just knew you would. Luna said you was long gone, that you would run to Slick Rock and hide in your bed, but I said, I said ‘No way, Seester! He’s totally gonna come back, jus you wait! Gimme hug, Bean!”

She then reared up and spread both her arms and wings out wide, thus hitting the vase next to her and sending Luna scrambling to catch it before it hit the ground. Celestia then promptly lost her balance, tipped over sideways, then had enough momentum to keep going until she was resting on her neck, upside down, with her rump on the wall and her limbs hanging in odd directions. Her eyes then clamped shut, and after a moment she began snoring.

“Did she just knock herself out?” Bean asked, as he took a hesitant step closer.

“I certainly hope so,” Luna sighed and gently placed the vase back on the pedestal. “She started acting like this right after lunch. Twilight Sparkle is in the Archives right now, trying to figure out how somepony could pull magic out of her. She has struck naught but dead ends so far.”

“Pull magic out of her?” he repeated.

“Yes. I fear time is short. Look at her cutie mark.”

Bean did so, and gasped. It was so faded that it was hard to make out where it was.

“The only thing I can think of that may have caused this is something to do with that marriage clause,” Luna continued. “I am sure she told you she would cease to be a Princess if she did not marry you. But if what you say is true and you simply looked at the sights, then I am at a loss.”

“Celestia,” Bean softly said, and a tear slid out of his eye. He was rapidly beginning to figure out what had caused all this. “This is my fault.”

Luna started to say something, but then stopped as Bean quietly stepped over towards the serenely snoring Celestia. There was something in the air; something compelling, something magical, and it seemed to be moving Bean towards his unintentional intended. If whatever he was doing would solve the problem, she was all for him doing it.

“I’m so sorry,” he whispered, once he drew close to her. “I did this to you. I hurt you. I never wanted to hurt you. I don’t want you to lose your magic. I’m sorry.”

He then went down on his knees, leaned in, and touched his nose to hers.

Luna stumbled back a few steps as a sudden rush of energy blasted down the hallway. It swirled and twirled around, like some barely-contained tornado, until it reached Bean and Celestia. Golden light began to swirl around with the energies, illuminating the hallway and forcing Luna to shield her eyes.

“Whatever you are doing, Bean, keep doing it!” she shouted over the rush of wind.

There was now an increase, both in luminosity and in energy, and Bean could feel the individual hairs of his hide standing on end while he stumbled backwards in alarm. Had he screwed up yet again?

He didn’t have time to ponder the question. There was something resembling a boom, a final surge of energy pulsed through the hall, and then all of the coalesced magic flowed immediately back into Celestia. The light decreased, the wind died out, and Luna eagerly moved up with Bean to evaluate the hopefully restored diarch.

After a moment, one magenta eye fluttered open, then the other. Celestia groaned, and her legs twitched a bit, although she still remained upside-down.

“Am I on my head?” she asked.

“You are,” Luna replied. “And you look like quite the old fool doing it, too.”

“Mister Bean! So good to see you’ve returned. I suppose I should set the sun… now…” Celestia trailed off, and her eyes darted about for a moment.

“What is it?” Luna asked.

“Did I say, at some point today, that Twilight had pretty wings but not as pretty as mine?”

“Something to that effect, yes.”

“And by any possibility, did I slide down a banister?”

“Two,” Luna confirmed. “You made it down five flights of stairs before falling off the second time.”

“And,” added Celestia, still upside-down and with a long, slow blink of both eyes, “did I at any time challenge a duck to a race across Canterlot Lake?”

“That was your dream last night,” said Luna. “Thankfully.”

Celestia paused, flipped herself down and upright again, then looked up and down the hallway again. “I believe I have been acting most inappropriately today.”

Luna let loose a snort of amusement. “To put it mildly.”

“Twilight is trying to figure out what is wrong with me.”

“She is.”

“Will you go tell her that I am fine now, and that she need not worry anymore?” Celestia asked, a hint of fear in her voice. “I think I will go freshen up quickly and then talk to her about my behavior.”

“Of course.” Luna nodded, and then left. Bean gulped as Celestia looked at him.

“What have you been doing today?” she asked. “And why is there a sunflower behind your ear?”

Celestia did not knock at doors.

This was her house, after all. Still, she tapped very gently at this door, and when she received no response after some time, she opened it and sighed at the sight on the other side. There was a Bean shaped lump under the blankets on the bed, and some slight sniffling coming from it. Luna followed after her sister, smirked at the sight, but said nothing about it.

“I think we need to talk about what happened today,” Celestia gently said, as both sisters sat on the floor. “Can you come out, please?”

Bean’s head poked out and rested on the bed, and Celestia shot Luna a look of warning while she stifled a snicker. Even if he resembled a turtle, this was no time for laughter.

It was beyond obvious that he felt miserable. His eyes were red from crying, his nose was raw and red from frequent nose blowings, and his gaze remained fixed in front of him in morose misery.

“You weren’t responsible for this, Baked Bean,” Celestia began with as much tenderness as she could offer.

His bloodshot eyes rolled over to her. “I severely doubt that statement. Everything is my fault.”

“That is a very broad statement. You’re responsible for every ill that befalls a pony?” Luna quipped.

Bean huffed out an annoyed sigh and let his gaze return to depressingly neutral.

“Mister Bean, really,” Luna continued. “The events of today were not your fault.”

“Ha,” he deadpanned. “Right. I’m the one who betrayed Princess Celestia, a noble ruler of our lands and respected… everything. I'm the one who threw away everything we talked about at the first pretty face that trampled me. My stupid impulses nearly destroyed the magic of the sun. I’m pretty extra sure that what happened was, indeed, my fault. I’m a walking disaster zone. Maybe you do need to imprison me in the Everfree.”

“We are not going to do anything like that,” Luna replied. “It’s hardly fair of us to punish you for something we do not even fully understand.”

“Bean, my sister is right,” Celestia added. “Neither of us knew that the binding magics were so strong, or so sensitive. If we had known, we would have warned you, and then none of this would have happened. If anything, the fault lies with us for not taking this more seriously.”

Bean didn’t reply. There were a few moments of silence, but then Celestia had an idea.

“Luna, may we have a few minutes, please? I think this might be better if I speak to my fiancé alone.”

Bean nickered sadly, but Luna nodded, stood and left without further comment. Celestia sighed as she again turned to Bean, and then she noticed a sunflower on his desk. She picked it up with her magic, but the transfer into her hooves was feather soft.

“Was she pretty?”

“I’m pretty sure I’m in enough trouble already,” he replied.

“Was she?” Celestia pressed.

Bean sighed deeply, and closed his eyes. “Yes.”

“What was she like?”

The look that passed over his face gave away his inner thought. After all, he probably couldn’t make things much worse at this point. “She was loud, and talkative. She had a lot of stories, and one reminded her of another, so it was hard to get a word in edgewise. She liked it when ponies praised her. She had deep, green eyes and a soft blue mane. She laughed a lot, she joked a lot. And she spent most of the afternoon walking and talking with me around Canterlot.”

“Do you want to meet with her again?”

A tear escaped. “Yes.”

“Your sadness is not caused by what you think you did to me,” Celestia said, “nor is it from a perceived betrayal. Your sadness comes from what you are missing out on.”

His eyes rolled back to her with some confusion showing in them, and Celestia nodded before she continued. “If you hadn’t bumped into me yesterday, this may have been the moment when you found your special somepony. This kindly mare you met was interesting, amusing, and worth getting to know better. Your depression stems from the fact that, despite how well your first encounter with her went, you will never be able to see her again. You will never know if there could have been something, because my law forces you to marry me. The future isn’t what it could have been, but rather is something totally out of your control.

“So, in a way, most of this is probably resentment. You hate what is happening to you and how it has happened. You are angry that you have to be stuck with me, a mare that you have no right having any relationship with, and you hate that your life cannot proceed on a normal path.”

Silence reigned supreme within the room.

“Well.” Celestia stood. “I hope you can forgive me, in time. I know that what has happened has greatly upset your life, and believe me, I regret everything that has happened as well.”

“This isn’t your fault,” he said. “You weren’t the one in the flowers.”

“But I did write the law,” she replied, “and I am the one who stuck my nose into the flowers. I am a firm believer in placing appropriate blame in the appropriate place, especially if it involves me. I am not above my citizens, in any way. I must be held accountable, the same as anypony else.”

Bean didn’t reply, but he did appear thoughtful.

“I have cleared my schedule for tomorrow so I may devote my whole efforts to finding your escape from this nightmare,” she continued while she turned towards the door. “I will have a definite answer for you by this time tomorrow. In the meantime, you should continue about your activities. I don’t know of any other issues that should arise, so you should be fine.”

“Why did the magic start draining out of you?” he asked as he sat up. “We aren’t married yet.”

“The Heart Magic I used to bind the law was very powerful and very complex, the primordial magic of creation even. When I activated it, it began following us, ensuring that we both followed the terms that had been laid out. When you met that mare—”

“Sego Lily,” Bean quietly interrupted.

“Very well. When you met Sego Lily, the Heart Magic sensed that there was the possibility you could betray me. It can feel what is in our hearts, and it felt that your heart was turning towards Miss Lily. The terms of the marriage clause then began to come to bear, and my magic was siphoned from me, thus causing my odd behavior. When you returned and touched my nose again, you reaffirmed your commitment to me, and the Heart Magic restored everything to what it should be. So long as you maintain professional relationships with other mares, you cannot cause any further damage.”

“And there’s nothing else?”

“Twilight has read over the law seven times now and can find no other ‘surprises.’ If she cannot find any, we should be fine.”

“How did you explain your actions to her?”

“I told her the truth," Celestia replied casually. “There really wasn’t any other way to explain the situation. It took her a few minutes to fully understand and accept the news, but she’s now deeply committed to finding a loophole too. She’s also agreed to not speak of this to anypony else, as has the staff who saw my erratic behavior. I don’t think either of us want what has happened to become general knowledge yet. Or ever.”

“Not really, no.”

“The staff has also been instructed to take care of any needs you may have tonight.” Celestia stood, placed the sunflower back on the desk, and began moving towards the door. “Simply pull the cord, and a servant will be along shortly. You are free to do whatever you like tomorrow, as I said before. Please just check with me again at nightfall. Good evening.”

She then drifted out of the room, but Bean groaned once she was out of sight. “Celestia, wait!”

“Yes?” She poked her head around the doorframe.

“Will…” Bean stalled out, looked at the floor sheepishly, then looked at her again. “Will you be making pancakes again?”

Celestia smiled softly and warmly. “Just after sunrise.”

“Could I join you for breakfast again?”

“I would be honored.”

Author's Notes:

Ok. I know what you're all thinking, so let's settle it right now: alternate universe. In my messed up reality, this is what happens when an Alicorn loses her magic. Having Celestia simply lying around with no energy and a flat mane is very boring.
(This also means things are going to get very interesting if Tirek shows up. :pinkiecrazy:)

6. - The Verdict

To her Most Royal Highness

Princess Celestia
Of The Royal Kingdom of Equestria

On behalf of the Juris Prudis Center of Law at the University of Canterlot, I wish to thank you for your recent submission to our department. This so-called ‘Alicorn Law’ is a literal and figurative treasure, and we greatly value your willingness to share such an historical document with us. Everypony has been beside themselves to have a chance to review this law, and if we could trouble you for a few hours of your time in the near future we would greatly appreciate hearing the history and the context behind it.

As to your request, I have personally reviewed your document, as have all department heads, professors, and a select group of undergraduate students who are at the top of their class. We estimate that, combined, over 300 pony-hours have been devoted to examining the ‘marriage clause,’ and I personally believe that no other legal document has been subjected to as deep and as through a study as this has been.

It is the considered opinion of all involved that, in all respects, this is the most legally binding document, and by extension the most legally binding clause, in recorded history. There are absolutely no caveats, provisions, loopholes, extensions, mitigating factors, errors, or contradictions that we could find that would allow for the marriage clause to be cancelled, modified, or nullified in any way, shape, means, or form.

If there is anything else I or my department can assist you with, please feel free to contact us at anytime.


Amicus Curiae,

Head Dean
Juris Prudis Center of Law
University of Canterlot

* * * *


“Oh! Good morning, Mister Bean!” Celestia said. “I wasn’t expecting you to be awake already. I’m afraid I haven’t had a chance to make the pancakes yet; I just finished raising the sun.”

“That’s okay, I actually wanted to talk to you for a minute, if I may.”

“Of course! What is troubling you?” Celestia asked with deep concern. “Whatever it is, I’m sure I can help.”

“That I don’t doubt. Look, I, uh…”

Celestia said nothing while Bean sorted out his thoughts. After a moment, he added, “I want to apologize to you.”

“For what? You’ve done nothing wrong.”

“I think I have, actually.”

Celestia tilted her head slightly and gave him a curious look.

“I’ve thought a lot about what you said last night, about me being resentful. You were right about all of that. The problem is I should have been less of a self-centered jerk about it.”

“Mister Bean, you have every—”

“No, wait.” He cut her off forcefully. “Just let me say all this first. I haven’t given your thoughts and feelings in all of this the due it deserves. You have been agonizing over what has happened, too. It’s obvious you feel bad, and that your creation has lead us to where we are. I should have been aware of that, and I need to remember you’re hurting as much as I am, and you’re probably just as confused as I am about how to move forward.

“I think, really, that I’ve been coming at this from the wrong viewpoint. This whole time, I’ve pretty much seen you and treated you as Princess Celestia, The Great and Powerful.” He dropped his voice an octave for emphasis, and Celestia giggled a bit at the show. “I’ve spent this whole time expecting you to waltz up at any moment and say: ‘Mister Bean, I found the loophole. You’re good to go,’ and then we part with a laugh and no further thought on the matter. Before last night, I figured you were just mechanically going through the motions until you reached the end.

“But you have a heart, the same as me, and it’s a heart that cares deeply for other ponies. I realized last night that you’ve probably agonized over this ten times more than I have, and have felt ten times worse. It’s not fair for me to have a pity party when you’ve dutifully carried on without crying on my shoulder about it all. So, I’m sorry I didn’t think about your feelings. I’m sorry I’ve been so callous. Can you forgive me?”

“I think I can,” she replied, with a somewhat stern look now. “But on one condition.”

“Name it.”

She leaned in close to his ear. “You tell me what ‘callous’ means,” she whispered.

“Well, it means… wait. What?”

Celestia laughed a bit as she straightened. “Well, if somepony tells me they’re being callous, I want to make sure they know what being callous is!”

“It means I’ve been thick, and unfeeling, and probably unwanted and very much me.”

“You’re not unwanted, Mister Bean. You’ve been a delight to have as a guest, especially compared to some diplomats I’ve met.” She gave him a warm smile as they began walking down the hallway. “As for unfeeling, you’ve been nothing of the sort. Most ponies do see me as the Great and Powerful—” she mimicked his deep voice “—so it’s just how you are. There’s nothing wrong with being yourself.”

“Yeah, but that’s just it. You mentioned how I need to reconcile what I knew with what I know now. I didn’t do that, and I should have.”

“I think you already did.”

The smile that Bean gave Celestia right then could have ignited a star on its own.

“I hope so. But that’s the other part of it: I betrayed you yesterday.”

Celestia shook her head. “Never! All I ever told you was that we needed to marry, nothing more. To me, that does imply that anything done before the marriage shouldn’t matter. As I said, you are not to blame. It was my fault, not yours. Besides, it doesn’t help that I keep mentioning a loophole. It’s just as you said: you were expecting to be released from this law, so you lived life as such. If I do find a way out of this for you, I fully expect you to go find Sego Lily and to ask her out on a formal date. I’ll even hunt her down myself if I have to.”

“And if you don’t find a way out?” he asked, and his face contorted with concern. “What if we really do need to marry?”

Celestia glanced at him out of the corner of her eye and smirked. “We’ll figure that out when the time comes, but for now, we should eat. It is always best to ponder weighty subjects on a full stomach, in my opinion.”

“Breakfast does sound good.” He began walking by her side as they strolled down the hallway.

“If you ask me nicely, I may even put a funny face on your pancakes again.”


“I didn’t do anything!” Bean recoiled and fell back on his haunches.

“Who said you did?” Luna remarked. “And didn’t you do something just then, thus negating your previous statement?”

Bean blinked. “What?”

“I am yanking your chain, Mister Bean. Relax.”

“Oh,” Bean replied in relief while he plopped into a dining room chair. Luna eyed him for a moment, but then scooped up a large bite of corn flakes, shoveled them in her mouth and went back to intently reading the nutritional content label of the cereal box.

“You like corn flakes?” He dared to ask the obvious after a few minutes in hopes of further conversation.

“Helps to regulate my constipation.”

“And I’m done.” Bean leaned back, more than a little grossed out at such a thought. “I just can’t win with you.”

“That all depends on how you keep score.” Luna glanced over to him, and offered a mischievous smile. “And on how you play the game.”


“If you are going to stick around, Mister Bean—and there is a very good chance that you will be here for quite some time—there are two things you must understand about me. The first is that I was the bearer of the Element of Laughter before my banishment.”

Her gaze went distant, and Bean felt a distinct chill as Luna’s demeanor dropped. “Those were the days.

“The second thing is that I am a prankster by nature. If you can learn to roll with my punches, you will be much better off.”

“I see,” Bean quietly replied.

Luna nodded, picked the bowl up with her magic, drained the contents in one massive chug, then stood and grabbed the box with her magic as well. “Do you like soymilk, Mister Bean?”

“I suppose so.”

“Good. I personally recommend it, I have found it helps to prevent bloating and other gastrointestinal issues. Very useful for long-winded dinners and other such formal events.”

“I’ll keep that in mind.”

Luna smiled, nodded, then left for the kitchen area.

It was just then that Baked Bean heard a humming noise, that quickly became a scatting be-bop mix. He glanced around the room but couldn’t see any ponies.

But then he saw spikes.

Green spikes.

Green spikes and purple scales.

And while no pony is quite sure, it is entirely within the realm of possibility that Baked Bean squealed in delight.

“Oh, hi! You must be Baked Bean. I’m Spike; it’s nice to meet you!”

Baked Bean was up, over, and shaking Spike’s claw faster than a sonic rainboom. “My dear dragon friend, the pleasure is entirely mine.”

“Oh, heh. Wow,” Spike replied, with a bit of embarrassed pride.

“Do you live here at the palace?” Bean asked, with the undertone that he desperately wanted Spike to say yes.

“I used to. I live with Twilight Sparkle in Ponyville now.”

Bean felt crushed for a moment, but then brightened again. “And you’re here to help Twilight Sparkle study Celestia’s law?”

“Yup! I am her number one assistant, after all.”

Luna then casually walked back into the dining hall.

“Wouldyouexcusemeforonemoment?” Bean managed to gasp. Before Spike could respond, Bean zipped across the room and nearly tackled Luna.

“What are you doing?” Luna protested.

“Luna, I know you hate every hair on my miserable hide and would rather turn me in for a profit at the glue factory than talk to me but I need the greatest favor in the history of Equestria. I swear on my own grave that I will never ask you for anything again and you can give me nightmares for the next hundred years if you want.”


“I need you to teleport my notebook and my pencil down from my room.”

He then used the most feared and effective weapon in the history of the world:

Puppy Dog eyes.

“THANK YOU!” He snatched the items out of Luna’s magic grasp. He then skittered back over to Spike—who had a completely dumbfounded look—sat down, ripped his book open, and then turned his whole focus to the young dragon.

“Please forgive my enthusiasm, Mister Spike. It has been a lifelong dream of mine to speak to a living, breathing member of your species. May I be impertinent enough to ask you a few questions?”

“What kind of questions?” he asked warily.

“General information questions. Like this, as an example: do you shed, molt, or lose any of your scales?”

“Well, I do get a little flakey sometimes. I find a loofah helps take care of that.”

Bean began writing furiously. “Are you fireproof?”

Spike scoffed. “Totally! We dragons are completely flame proof!”

“They will be at this for days.” Luna chuckled to herself.

“…well, it depends,” Spike drawled. He was sitting sideways in his chair, with one arm casually resting across the back of it while he used his other claw to emphasize his point by waving it nonchalantly in the air. “You see, it’s all in the mineral content. Emeralds have a distinct smoothness to them, but rubies? Ha! Rubies punch ya right in the mouth! I prefer a nice amethyst myself, though I’m generally not too picky about my gems.”

Bean was scribbling in his notebook with enough speed that there was the concern he’d set it on fire.

“How long do you think they’ll go?” Twilight asked her former teacher.

“We may have to physically pull them apart.” Celestia chuckled a bit. “I would guess Baked Bean has quite a few questions.”

“…the only ones who could dig faster would be Diamond Dogs.” Spike’s voice drifted over in the pause.

“But you find them by smell?” Bean asked.

“Yup! Ain’t no better sniffer than yours truly!”

Both Celestia and Twilight laughed lightly as Bean scrawled furiously again.

“Twilight? I need you to be perfectly frank with me.” Celestia continued, while keeping her gaze on Bean. “Is there any sort of a loophole in my law?”

Twilight looked like she might try to hem or haw for a moment, but then she sighed. “No. As far as I’ve been able to see, there’s no way out of this. You somehow made this water tight. I’m more than happy to go over it with you; perhaps we’ll see something together. But I really and truly think you’ll be forced to marry him.”

There was a long pause between the two Princesses. Both watched as Spike told the story of how he had heroically ‘saved’ Rarity from the Diamond Dogs, and both chuckled when Bean called him out on it.

“Well,” Celestia sighed finally, “I did clear my entire day, after all. Let’s go over it together. When I break the news to my—” Celestia paused for a moment before drawing in a deep breath, “—my husband, I want to be completely sure I am being totally honest with him.”

“There’s no loophole.” Bean repeated slowly.

“No.” Celestia sighed. “I’m sorry.”

Bean stared into his cup of tea, wishing that something considerably more potent than mere leaves was hidden beneath the surface. Then he managed with great concentration to return his cup to the saucer while looking at the ream of paper on the table between them. “I assume you’re completely sure on this?”

“I am. Twilight and I went over every letter in there. We tried contextual errors, contradictions, anarchisms. We debated for an hour on if we could cancel it based on what the definition of ‘is’ is. Nothing worked.

“This stack of papers contains the official replies from every individual and entity I sent my law to for review. All who looked it over are experts in the field of law: judges, professors, attorneys, deans of law schools, and so on. I don’t believe any law has ever had such scrutiny before.”

“And it’s all come back the same,” he replied while his left rear leg began to shake uncontrollably.

“Most are quite amazed at what I managed to produce,” Celestia offered, in what seemed to be a vain attempt to lighten the mood. “And I have over three dozen requests for appointments to discuss the background of it.”

“But I still have to marry you,” Bean repeated, trying not to sound like he was talking about a funeral.

“I realize this is a lot to take in all at once,” Celestia offered. “I’m going to try to make this as easy and as gentle as possible for you, believe me.”

Bean nodded slowly, but it took him a moment to translate the questions in his head into something comprehensible. “So, what’s going to happen now?”

“To make sure we don’t go over the time limit, we’re going to have the actual wedding tomorrow afternoon. However, since there are a lot of details we need to sort out with this, I’m not going to make our marriage public just yet. I’ll have you stay here, inside the palace, until I can determine how to move forward.”

“Well, I can practice my writing I guess,” Bean replied, but his gaze was not on anything in the drawing room.

“Bean?” Celestia gently said, and his eyes returned to her instantly. The great Princess of Equestria gave a low and mournful sigh before she continued. “Above all else, know this: there isn’t a pony alive who feels more remorse for their actions than I do right now for mine. I can only hope that I have not completely ruined your life. I will try to make whatever amends to you that I can.”

“Oh, well…” he stammered. “They say to look on the bright side of things, right? This isn’t so bad. The palace is wonderful, and I bet I can get a lot of studying done in the main library and the archives.”

“You are also free to use what I have here as you wish.”

“But this is your personal stuff. I couldn’t possibly touch it.”

“I insist.”

“All right,” Bean replied. “But there’s that, and the good food, and I can meet dignitaries sometimes I bet.”

“Some of them, yes.”

“And I’ll be married to you: Princess Celestia!” He threw his arms out wide in her direction. “There’s stallions who would chew their leg off just to get a chance to flirt with you. That’s gotta be the best part of all this.

“So yeah.” His arms dropped, and he exhaled slowly. “It could all be worse, I suppose. It’ll take some adjustments, but I, er, we will make this work. For the good of all Ponykind. I mean, I’d hate to be the one who succeeded where Nightmare Moon, Discord, Sombra and Chrysalis failed, right? That would just bite the bark.”

“Bite the bark?”

Bean smiled weakly. “Old saying in my family.”

“I’d like to meet them sometime.”

“No you wouldn’t,” he quickly retorted.

Thankfully, Celestia decided not to press the issue. “Why don’t we both get some rest, mm? It’s late now, we’ve both had a long day, and we have many things to accomplish tomorrow.”

“Yeah! Yeah.” Bean stood, but that rear leg kept shaking. “Should I, uh… should I meet you at sunrise?”

“I think that will be fine. Would you like a different room to stay in? We have nicer ones that are not as drafty.”

“No, that’s okay. I like it now, draft and all. It has a really nice view, and I can watch your sunrise over the mountains without anything blocking the view.”

Some color flared on Celestia’s cheeks, and the corners of her mouth twitched up. “Would you like me to escort you to your room?”

Bean thought for a moment. “No, it’s okay. I think I need some time alone to think about this. No offence.”

“None taken. Please let me know if I can do anything for you.”

“Good night, Celestia.”

“Good night, Bean.”

Baked Bean, the soon-to-be-prince of Equestria, then stood and mechanically left the room.

His head was swimming with questions, concerns, fears and doubts. How was he supposed to be a prince? What would they have him do? Meet with ambassadors? Kiss foals? Make laws? Would they send him off on his own, or would he be with Celestia all the time? Could he still write his story? Would he share a bedroom with Celestia? Would he share a bed with her?! Would Luna ever stop picking on him? What about Princess Cadence, and Prince Shining Armor? Would they hate him? Would Twilight hate him for marrying her mentor?

And the one that scared him the most: would he be doomed to live in a loveless relationship?

So consumed was he with all of this that, although his eyes were forward, he wasn’t paying attention to his walking. His steps were slow, measured, and rattling a bit since that rear leg kept shaking and it made his horseshoe skip and bounce on the floor. He wasn’t even heading in the right direction for his room. He was just going.

He suddenly got jarred back to reality when he rounded a corner and came nose-to-nose with another pony. Both recoiled at the impact, and Bean’s eyes took half a moment of blinking to focus in.

“You again, Mister Bean?” Luna grumped, as she rubbed the end of her nose. “Really, it is bad manners to run into ponies. Could you please make the effort to… watch…”

Her eyes went wide, her irises shrank, and she pulled her hoof away just a hair so she could look at the end of her nose. “What have you done?” she whispered.

“I was... just… oh no!” He gasped, stumbled a step backwards before landing on his rear and then put both front hooves on his own nose. “No! Princess Luna, please…”

“You touched my nose,” she softly said, her eyes planted on him now.


“With your nose!” She gasped and held a hoof to her chest.

“Oh, please no! It was an accident! No! I didn’t mean… I don’t want… I can’t…”

She dropped her hoof, her eyes returned to normal, and she gave a laughing scoff.

“I’m yanking your chain again, Mister Bean.”

She then brushed past the shell-shocked Bean, who was frozen in the same posture.

“But… your nose…”

“The law says the first stallion who touches my nose must wed me,” she called over her shoulder as she strolled casually away. “I have been wed before.”

And Baked Bean managed to summarize all of his thoughts, emotions, and feelings into one fluid movement.

He fainted dead away.

7. - The Feeling is Nuptial

This was it.

Bean took another long, deep breath while he walked out of his room and into the hallway. In a few short hours, he would be walking down the aisle with Princess Celestia, Princess of Just About Everything Under the Sun, and he would formally take her as his lawfully wedded wife.

The mere thought of that was enough to keep his lungs from drawing air in the proper fashion.

This had to be the most insane thing to ever happen to any pony in the history of Ever. He, Baked Bean, a nopony from a small town and worth no more than a wooden bit, was going to be the husband of Princess Celestia.

He swallowed hard, and he felt his left rear leg pulling the most fantastic version of the tango that had ever been witnessed. He had to get his mind off of what was going to happen or Celestia’s problem would be resolved by his timely demise via a massive heart attack.

Bean sucked in a long breath, and he forced his thoughts into what he had learned last night. Now that the dreaded panic of having to marry two princesses had been silenced, he found he was both surprised and not surprised that Luna had been married at some point. While he had never heard of her husband before, he could understand why he didn’t know. For most of his life, Princess Luna herself had been nothing more than a boogymare that had been used to scare him into being a better cook with extremely limited success. Most ponies were still learning about their lunar diarch, and it would still be many years before Luna’s full history could be understood properly. In this light, he’d be surprised if anypony besides Celestia knew of Luna’s husband.

Although, thinking of her did make him wonder how he had gotten back to his room last night. The last thing he remembered was her stunt in the hallway, and unless he had somehow walked back while unconscious, he should still be there. The obvious answer was that either Celestia or Luna had relocated him, but he would ask Celestia all the same about it.

“Mister Bean?”

“Princess?” Bean replied while he turned, but the next words came out before he could think about them. “You look horrible.”

“I’m not at my best at the moment, I do have to admit,” Celestia replied with a glance over her own disheveled coat and frizzed-out tail. “I will be more presentable before our wedding, I assure you.”

Bean’s trembling leg threatened to rip clean away from his body. “Oh, you l-look fine, Your Highness. You can come like that if you like.”

“You are a horrible liar,” Celestia retorted with a hint of a smile. “But I appreciate the compliment. Were you able to get any rest last night?”

Bean shook his head. “Not very much, no. An hour at most, if it was all added up together.”

“I thought so,” Celestia replied, and they both began moving down the hallway. “I apologize again for all of this, Mister Bean. I spent most of last night in one final effort to remove you from this fate, but I’m afraid there is nothing.”

“You tried, though. That means a lot to me. I suppose we’ll make this work, somehow.”

“We will indeed,” Celestia replied with a note of deep conviction. “In fact, I would like to speak to you about some of the details regarding your new position.”

Bean forced himself to laugh and to smile, although he was afraid his smile was more of a baring of teeth rather than any expression of feigned pleasure. “There’s a lot of new hire paperwork I have to fill out, isn’t there?”

Celestia glanced down at him, and the smile they shared gave Bean a small trickle of relief. “There is that, and we will need to fill out the tax exemption paperwork for you as well.”

“I think I can handle that part of it, at least. Paperwork was one of the rare things I could do well at home.”

“We’ll take care of it later, then. Right now, I believe a good breakfast would help both of us recover from the evening.”

Breakfast. Breakfast always came after waking up, and the familiarity of that repetition helped to calm Bean’s nerves a bit more. “I would like that, but I don’t know that I’m all that hungry.”

“I believe I will have Chef Beet provide us with some oatmeal, then. You will forgive me for not cooking, I hope.”

“Even the best of chefs need a break every now and then. Oatmeal will be fine.”


“And you awoke in your room?” Celestia asked.

“I did. I don’t know how I got back there, though,” Bean replied.

“I was unaware that you had even passed out,” said Celestia with a deep frown. “Lulu should have told me.”

“Maybe she felt bad over her stunt afterward?”

“Perhaps. Luna has always been something of a trickster, so it is possible she thought she was pulling a harmless prank.”

“Was she really married before?” Bean blurted. “I mean, forgive me for being doubtful, but it’s the first I’ve ever heard about it.”

“I would imagine you are one of the first ponies she has brought into her confidence since her return. She was married, yes, but I believe this conversation would be best continued with her in attendance. She will be able to correct any of my erroneous memories regarding their marriage.”

“I’ll ask her later, then.”

Celestia nodded. “Now, let us discuss your future here. I am willing to guess that you would be rather upset if I simply confined you to your room.”

“That would be a rather dismal fate, yes,” he replied.

“The idea does not sit well with me, either. Since it is my law and my actions that have now locked you within this gilded cage, I am willing to make whatever accommodations I can to make your stay as tolerable as possible. You will have free access to any part of the palace you wish to visit, and I will supply a guard detail for you if you care to roam outside these walls, or even beyond Canterlot. This may even prove to be an advantage for your career. You could safely travel across Equestria and refine your writing skills in the process. The Crown will cover any expenses you incur, without question.”

Bean thought this over while he finished his bite of oatmeal. “I think you’re being a bit too generous again, Princess. I’d hate to run up the national debt just so I can wander around.”

“The expense is trivial. My offer remains. Perhaps I should be asking you what you would like.”

Bean considered the idea for another few moments. “I’m not really sure, Princess. I don’t really like the idea of just sitting around, doing nothing. I’ve been a worker my whole life, and I still want to be useful, helpful even. Maybe I’m being presumptuous, but perhaps there’s something I can help you with.”

Bean couldn’t quite be sure, but it seemed like Celestia’s mane flowed just a bit faster for a moment with that statement. She did seem happier for sure, and Bean felt another small round of calm flow over him as she responded.

“I may be able to find something for you to help me with. I will need to verify a few details first, however.”

“That’s fine. Maybe while you do that, I can use a little vacation time to learn the layout of the palace and of Canterlot. Is it a use it or lose it type of thing?”

Celestia’s grin turned into a full smile. “I believe I can let you roll over any unused vacation hours.”

“Oh good. That’s better than what I got back home.”

Celestia started to say something, but she was interrupted by the entrance of Celestia’s secretary. The young mare wasted no time in crossing over to the Princess, and she whispered something in a low but urgent tone.

“Really, she is?” Celestia asked once the whispers ended, and the secretary nodded. “Oh dear. Mister Bean, I do apologize but it seems that there the Ambassador from Prance needs to speak with me. This may take some time, so please enjoy the rest of your breakfast, and if you don’t mind, I’d like to send one of our tailors up to take your measurements. If we are to be wed, we should look our best, and I believe a nice suit can be procured for you in short order.”

“That’s fine. I don’t plan on going anywhere.”

Celestia nodded. “Until this afternoon, then.”

This afternoon came far too quickly for Baked Bean’s liking. He had spent most of the time by sitting under the blankets on his bed and breathing deeply, in the vain hope that this would somehow stop time and prevent the inevitable from happening.

At noon, a tailor had knocked on the door and provided a custom-fit suit, along with a short note from the Princess. In it, Celestia explained that she would call for him at five minutes to three, and the ceremony would be held in an unused office to lessen the impact to the operations of the palace. Once the ceremony was complete, they would immediately leave, and Bean would again have time to himself until Celestia called him for dinner.

Or threw him out a window, he dryly thought. This was definitely not what he had expected in a wedding. There was not even cake on the schedule.

“Well, Baked, this is a fine mess you’re in, isn’t it?” he asked the frazzled pony in the mirror. The unfortunate wretch did not answer, which left Bean holding both ends of the conversation. “What do you have to say for yourself, eh? Nothing? Yeah. I don’t know what I could say at this point. You’re going to be a prince, and married to a princess.”

That rear leg seemed quite content to keep dancing by itself.

“How am I going to do this?” he whispered, and he peered closely at his reflection. There were no answers in the glass, sadly, just his own worried, confused and anguished face. Whatever came at this point, he was pretty well on his own.

And that just bit the bark.

He nearly jumped out of his own skin when there was a knock on the door. After a moment to try to compose himself, he opened the door, and found his bride-to-be standing before him. The sight did not help his anxiety, because Celestia looked just as frazzled and concerned as that poor yellow stallion back in his mirror. They were going to make a truly remarkable couple, in the worst possible fashion.

But he had to admit her wedding gown looked beautiful. It was a soft yellow, nearly the same as his own coat, with magenta trim along the edges and seams. It folded on itself in a crinkle pattern across her chest, leaving her wings fully exposed and able to be used in case she wanted to fly away from the oncoming disaster.

“Are you ready, Mister Bean?” came the question he was dreading.

“As ready as I can be,” he replied. That rear leg started to go one direction as the rest of him went the other way with her.

There was an awkward silence in the hallway as they moved, as neither was really sure what to say to the other. Bean opened his mouth once or twice to try to say something nice about her dress, but the capacity to speak seemed to leave as soon as he’d try, so then he’d shut his mouth again.

This was going quite well.

At roughly the halfway point, Celestia cleared her throat and looked down at Bean. “You look nice, Mister Bean. Does the suit fit?”

“I believe so, yes.”

“Have you eaten anything since breakfast?”

“I have not.”

“I will arrange for something a bit more substantial tonight, then. You must be hungry.”

“Thank you, but I don’t know if I’ll be eating at all tonight.”

Baked Bean quite honestly felt more dead than alive at that moment, and he drew in a slow, stuttering breath. His stomach was churning itself into a tangled knot of unease, his chest felt heavy, and he could see that the natural yellow of his coat was bleaching out.

He then glanced up to his imminent wife, and he felt a wave of disgust accompany his relief that Celestia looked just as harrowed as he felt. Her mane was limping along in small waves, her eyes looked a bit sunken, and the fine lines that had appeared at the corners of her face made her look far too old. He felt absolutely putrid and revolted at what he’d done to the Princess.

“Perhaps something light, then,” she gently offered.

“Perhaps,” Bean echoed.

Nothing more was said as they finished the walk to the office. Inside, they found Spike —who gave them both an awkward wave— and Discord, who was dressed in a garishly orange tuxedo and matching top hat. His amusement and enjoyment of the moment was obvious because he had his mouth literally clamped shut in a tight smile and his shoulders kept jerking up and down, like he was trying to suppress his laughter.

“Where is Luna?” Celestia asked.

“She said she had to use the little filly’s room and she dragged Twilight in there with her.” Spike rolled his eyes. “It’s like they can’t use the bathroom alone.”

A rhythmic tapping noise caught everyone’s attention, and Baked Bean’s rear leg began to tap dance him away. He briefly considered offering the suggestion to simply wait five minutes so his heart would probably seize up and solve everybody’s problems.

But then something came over him, something warm, and soft, and downy. It flowed over him, starting at his withers and moving down, and as it went he felt all of his fears, anxieties and concerns gently fade into nothingness.

He glanced over his left shoulder when the comforting feeling gave him a small hug-like squeeze, and he found that Celestia had slowly draped her right wing over him. Looking up, he became momentarily lost in the gaze of two sparkling magenta eyes, filled with both concern for him and a sincere wish for him to be at ease.

A soft smile spread across both of their faces. They shared a soft boop of mutual nose-touching.

And that left rear leg finally stopped shaking.

Luna strode grandly into the room with Twilight meekly following behind. “All right! Sister, I think I need to increase my corn flake intake but I am good to go now. Let us get this little mess settled already.”

In the wake of Luna’s grand pronouncement, Twilight Sparkle slunk into her seat with a look of defeated resignation, most probably due to her inability to dictate every action Bean would be doing during the ceremony.

Maintaining her proud stride, Luna moved behind a simple rostrum at the front of the room with a few sheets of notes floating behind in her magic. She mumbled to herself as she sorted them for a moment, then cleared her throat and looked up at the motley crew before her.

“Dearly beloved,” she began, but then she gave a sour glare to Discord. “And not-really-liked draconequus who is here because we have not figured out how to block his chaos magic yet—”

“She’s talking about me. I’m so flattered,” Discord whispered to Spike, with a nudge and a wink.

“—we are gathered here on this fantastically fabulous Friday to join this earth stallion and this Alicorn princess together in the bonds of matrimony because my forgetful sister did not listen to me, the younger, more beautiful, and more beloved Princess of the Night and she forgot to repeal her own silly law.”

“Luna.” Celestia growled much like a large dog would.

“What? You did!” Luna protested. “Now don’t interrupt; you made me lose my place. Let me see.” Her papers floated up closer to her, and shuffled again as she squinted at them.

“Mawwiage, that blwwesed awangement—no, wait, maybe I was here—that dweam within a dweam… oh, I can’t do it. Let’s just skip ahead, shall we?”

The papers shuffled again, Celestia gave off another low growl, and Discord tucked his lips into an inner pocket of his tuxedo coat, which promptly began giving out a muffled set of hysterical chuckles.

“All right, here we go,” Luna finally announced. “Baked Bean, do you take this Princess to be your lawfully wedded wife, even though you really don’t have a say in the matter?”

“I guess I do.”

“Smart move. Celestia, Princess of the Sun, do you take this stallion to be your lawfully wedded husband since you got all nosey with him?”

“Loving every moment of this, aren’t you?” Celestia darkly replied, and Luna nodded vigorously and with a huge smile. “Yes. I do.”

“Good, ‘cause that ball of hot air you have up there is heavy, and I always break out in hives when I have to move it around. I do not want to be responsible for it. And so, by the legal, lawful, and very legitimate power and authority that I hold as a Princess of Equestria, I do hereby declare you to be hitched, joined, connected, and/or married, and that you are now husband and wife. You may kiss if you are so inclined; I am going to bed.”

And with that, Luna tossed her papers in the air and left the room. Behind her, the floating papers formed into a beautiful bouquet and darted in Twilight Sparkle’s direction, making her duck, scream, then dodge as they corrected course and headed for her again. Putting on a burst of speed, she vanished out the door with the bouquet close behind, calling out in a tiny voice, “Catch me! Catch me!

Meanwhile the completely innocent Discord grabbed Baked Bean’s hoof and began shaking it furiously as he smiled maniacally. “Well, ol’ Bean, congrats. You finally managed to snag Equestria’s most eligible mare. I knew you had it in you. Oh, and the residents of Discordland send their thanks as well. They estimate you’ve generated enough chaos to keep them powered up for the next ten years!”

“Uh, you’re welcome?”

“And Celestia!” He put a clenched fist to his quivering lip. “You know, I had… I had always kinda hoped that, well, that one day we might have made it work between us. Oh, I know I’m a draconequus and you’re a princess, and we were mortal enemies for a time, but there was always… always that little part of me, that… that…”

He turned his head and loudly blew his nose into a large, polka-dotted handkerchief. “I’m sorry, I thought I was ready for this…”

“Are you quite done?” she asked flatly.

“Wait, just a little bit more,” he replied, with an earnest, eager look. He then cleared his throat and resumed his anguished expression. “I just hope you remember the time we spent together fondly. Like that time I stole your tail? That was one of the best moments of my life, it really was. And then when you turned me to stone for a thousand years? That was… well, it wasn’t the best time for me—come to think of it, it was actually a low point, being stuck like that for so long, gave me one wicked crick in my neck—but, the point is we had good times, somewhere, and I hope you come to appreciate them as you start your new life with Bean-o here.

“And now that I’ve gotten that off my chest, I’m afraid I have to leave. I really would like to stay for the reception, and I mean that truly, but there’s going to be a ribbon-cutting ceremony in Discordland to celebrate the construction of the new high-speed snail line, and duty calls. You know how it goes, being a ruler and everything. Don’t worry, though, I’ll come back for a visit as soon as I can. Until then, ciao!”

He then snapped his fingers and disappeared in a flash.

“Do you ever get used to that?” Bean asked Twilight, who was looking back over her shoulder as if the bouquet that had been chasing her was lurking in hiding somewhere for a second attack.

“Eventually, or so I’m told.” She rolled her eyes. “But Spike and I need to get going too. I was due back in Ponyville yesterday and I bet my friends are starting to worry. You should come visit when you have the time; I’d love to introduce you to everyone.”

“I’d like that,” Bean replied as he bumped hooves with her. He smiled a bit deeper when Spike shook his hoof.

“Congrats, I guess. Hey, if you think of any more questions, just have Celestia send them to me. I’m happy to help you understand more about dragons anytime.”

“I’ll do that.”

“Bean, perhaps you should accompany Twilight to the train station,” Celestia remarked while her wing hesitantly retreated from across Bean’s shoulders, where it had rested comfortably through the whole ceremony. “Don’t you still have some personal effects at the Shoe and Nail to collect?”

“Yeah, I do,” Bean replied. “Guess I live here now, huh?”

“I’d love to have you walk me to the train station, Bean,” Twilight offered. “If you want to, that is.”

“I think some sunlight and fresh air would do me good,” Bean replied. “Provided you feel safe around me.”


“Noses,” he simply said, as he tapped his own quickly. “First stallion? Unmarried Alicorn?”

“Oh!” She laughed. “Yeah, about that…”

“So you’re safe?” Bean asked as they wove through the crowd in the train station.

“With the way the law is worded, it only applied to the Alicorns then in existence. Any future Alicorns are not included, so I don’t have to worry about accidental boops.”

“Gee, that’s very thoughtful,” Bean remarked with some irritation.

“Hey, I understand how difficult this is,” Twilight stated in a resolute voice. “And I won’t say how lucky you actually are. I’m sure you’ve heard it all already. But I can say, unequivocally, that you are with one of the finest mares there is. My time as Celestia’s student was about as up-close and personal as it gets. Those years were among the best times in my life, and I wouldn’t have such a high opinion of her if she wasn’t everything ponies say she is. She’ll be kind to you, and she’ll take care of you. Give it enough time, and I think you’ll appreciate being with her too.”

“Thanks,” he replied warmly, but with a frustrated huff. “All of this is a huge adjustment for me, but you’re right. This could be a great thing.”

“Just remember she’s a pony too. I’m sure you feel intimidated, but you and her are not as far apart as you think you are.”

Bean didn’t say anything, but he did ponder Twilight’s words deeply, to the point where he nearly walked into a light pole.

“Well, this is it!” Spike announced. “Track twenty nine is just over there, and it looks like the train is waiting!”

“So, I guess I’ll see you later?” Bean asked.

“Count on it,” Twilight confirmed happily. “Just remember one thing for me, will you?

“What’s that?”

“If you’re going to take your relationship with Princess Celestia seriously, start by being her friend. She could really use one right now.”

“I think I can remember that. Thank you again for all of your help, Princess.”

“Just call me Twilight. All of my true friends do.”

Bean’s smile was nearly as wide as a train car, and he waved goodbye to Twilight and Spike until they had boarded their train. He then sighed deeply, and sat down on a nearby bench to catch his breath.

Baked Bean, the Prince of Equestria, who was sitting in the Grand Station of Equestria.

The commoner who was husband to a princess, and who was about to undertake the most unknown, unsure, and most fear-inducing ride of his life.

He smiled at the memory of Celestia’s soft feathers covering his shoulder in a gentle embrace. Perhaps Twilight was right.

As vast as the gap was between his station and hers, perhaps there was a chance it could be bridged. It was just going to take an extremely large bridge. Probably a toll bridge, with him out of bits.

All it would take was a leap of faith.

8. - The Talk

Bean’s concoction needed celery.

“Celery, celery, celery…” Bean muttered, as he rummaged around the kitchen. “Gotta be some around here somewhere. Premier kitchen of Equestria, and there’s no celery. What’s this? Carrots. Get far in the world with carrots. Apples. I’m not using apples. Stand aside, thou rogues. Your prince demands it! Heh, that’s right. I’ll make a pie out of you some other day, maybe. Ah ha! There you are! Come on, time to be cooked. Fat lot of good you do in here.”

It only took a minute for Bean to reduce the full stalk of celery into the tidbits that his cooking needed, and he took a deep whiff of his concoction while grabbing a spoon and starting to stir. This was one of his finest soups by far, and he felt a twinge of annoyance at his success.

“Mister Bean? Is that you?”

“Good evening, Princess,” he greeted with a quick glance over his shoulder. “And hello to you too, Princess Luna. I hope I didn’t disturb your evening.”

“Of course not, but I didn’t think you would still be up either,” Celestia replied.

“Couldn’t sleep,” he replied. “All the excitement of the day caught up to me, probably. And I finally got hungry.”

“Wasn’t there any soup left from earlier?” Luna asked.

“Too much salt,” he replied, and he looked over his shoulder again to give them a disgusted look. “Your kitchen staff uses way too much salt. It’s almost like they’re paid by the shake.”

“That would explain why Doctor Horsenpfeffer keeps getting after me about my sodium levels,” Celestia remarked, and she peered into the pot. “Minestrone again?”

“Done the right way.”

“Are you sure you’re supposed to be a writer?” She took a deep breath over the simmering pot. “I really think you’re missing your calling.”

“Well, it’s easier to be a writer than a cook when you’re married to Princess Celestia.”

She snickered a bit. “Perhaps. But why do you avoid cooking so much? If this tastes half as good as it smells, you’re going to make Chef Sugar Beet very jealous.”

“It’s complicated,” he said with a sigh before looking up at her. “But you’re probably not going to let me get away with that, are you?”

She shook her head, but with a smile.

Bean sighed again. “I thought not. Well, I guess since we’re married, you deserve to know about my past.

“Baked Bean, as he stands before you this evening, comes from a family steeped in chefs. My dad was a chef, his dad was a chef, and I don’t know how many great-greats on both my mom and dad’s side are chefs. My parents own the Zuerst, the self-proclaimed best restaurant in Salt Lick. They are actually that good, so if you’ve ever visited there, chances are you’ve eaten there.

“This means that Little Baked Bean was obviously raised to be a chef, and to take over the restaurant when he was older. I was taught everything from table placement, presentation, preparation, money management, labor costs to permits. But I learned about cooking from them. Up until I got my cutie mark, my parents immersed me right up to the ears in food. Sometimes, literally. Remind me to tell you about the joys of fresh grape juice from the other end of the process sometime. Anyway, I found out how to distinguish ingredients, how to tell when they’re at the peak of ripeness, how different flavors meld and enhance one another, on and on. Obviously I was somewhat decent at it, and I loved it. Cooking was fun, y’know? It was like a big coloring book for your mouth and nose, really.

“But then the doubts start to come. When I was in first grade, my class was taking turns reading Granny Bakes a Cake, one of those early chapter books foals read.”

Bean’s eyes drifted back to the empty book that adorned his flank. “I remember my cutie mark came while I was reading a section with some added ‘dramatic emphasis.’ I remember I felt something odd and tingly, but it wasn’t until later that I actually saw it. Once one of my classmates pointed it out, we spent the rest of the school day debating what the open book signified, because it didn’t seem to be related to cooking. One filly suggested it was blank because I was supposed to write in it, and that’s really when all the trouble started. She’d unintentionally planted the first seed of doubt.

“Of course, when I got home my dad proclaimed it was a cookbook and that it was blank ‘cause I was going to add all sorts of new recipes to it, so it was easy at first to believe that. I went back to the pots, eager to continue learning.

“Then the first hints of trouble came,” he continued as he stirred his soup idly. “With my cutie mark came the expectation that I be involved more. My parents had me start working the tables, for starters, and if you ever want to make a killing in tips, have a little colt in a tuxedo serve your customers. I don’t know how many times somepony screamed ‘so cute!’ and forked over an extra heap of bits.

“Anyway, I didn’t like serving all that much. It was okay, but there was just something about it that got under my skin. It didn’t help that on busy nights I had the tendency to mix the orders up and serve the wrong thing to the customers.

“Then I was off to actual order prep in the kitchen. That I turned into an unmitigated mess, and I’m not sure how my parents kept the place open with me screwing up so bad.”

“But your cooking here shows you have considerable skill,” Luna cut in. “How could this be a problem?”

“I guess I don’t do well under stress, and I don’t multitask well. Bad combination in a kitchen. You have me do one thing, like make one soup all night, then I’m fine. Ask for five different soups, seven entrees, twelve appetizers and nine desserts and everything goes to Tartarus. Everything just gets jumbled up in my head, and no matter what I try, I just can’t handle it.

“My parents kept me at it, though, and they were both convinced that I just needed one more chance and then I would be able to figure out a system that worked. I lost hope in being able to do the job as time went on, and I drifted into a pretty deep depression. I mean, who can really be happy when they dread having anything to do with their destiny? It’d be a bit like if you hated raising the sun.”

“Well, it is terribly heavy and far too warm,” Celestia casually replied. “So if a lesser alicorn had to work with it, I could see it happening.”

“Oh, whatever!” Luna retorted.

“You’re the one who said it!” Celestia laughed. “How many unicorns did it take to raise it before I came along?”

“The same number it took to raise the moon, you prissy little pony.” Luna grumbled.

Bean briefly wondered if Nightmare Moon was going to make a surprise appearance at that moment.

“Please, continue with your story, Mister Bean.” Celestia waved a hoof at him in encouragement. “Lulu and I do this all the time.”

“You don’t have siblings, do you?” Luna added, and Bean shook his head. “Well, if you did you would know this behavior is normal. You only need to worry if I grow fangs.”

“Oh. Well okay then, I guess,” he replied. “Anyway, I tried, I really did. I took a bunch of college courses, looked over all the Haute Cuisine books my parents have, and I ran myself stupid night after night trying to get it right, but I never could get it. Years rolled by like this, and each year I became more convinced that my flank was a huge lie.

“I think I suffered something like a mental breakdown there at the end.” He paused for a moment to sip the broth of his concoction. “I just… snapped. I don’t remember much of what I did, but apparently I upended the cheese trolley, shoved some tofu blocks in my ears and ran, screaming, from the kitchen through the main dining room and then out the front door. My parents found me later in my room, hiding under the blankets.”

“That sounds familiar,” Luna quipped.

“Probably goes back to foalhood. Monsters can’t get you when you’re under a blanket, right? Everypony knows that.

“Anyway, once they get me out from under the blankets we had a long talk about everything. My Dad tells me I’m having something akin to an existential crisis, and that it’s okay that I am. Both parents think I just haven’t quite ‘found myself’ yet, and that as soon as I do I’ll be as right as rain.

“So, they made me a deal. They tell me to go out and explore the world and see the sights. If I should find something that I am more passionate about than cooking, then I’m under no obligation to them and I’m free to start my new life. But they believed I would find my passion for cooking while I am travelling, and once I do they will be waiting to welcome me back with open arms. Mom gave me a thousand bits for traveling money, and the next morning I’m on a train bound for Vanhoover.

“It was on the train that I really thought things over. I thought about how I had gotten to this point, and why. I contemplated what I might find, and what I could do to earn bits. I spent a lot of time trying to figure out what to do.

“It was in that introspection that I figured out I wanted to be a writer. I don’t know exactly how the notion entered my thick head, but I think I remembered way back to when I got my cutie mark and how I’d been confused even then. I even came up with a ridiculous idea for a novel, one that I’m sure would be an instant flop.

“Anyway, you can guess the rest from there.” He turned his attention to the soup again and gave it a rapid stir. “I arrived in Canterlot the night before our infamous meeting, and I was thinking of going on to Baltimare from here. Of course, that would have depended on if I could get more bits. I only had enough left for a couple of cheap meals.”

“How long did you stay in Vanhoover?” Luna asked.

“Two days, I think? I’ve honestly lost track of where all I’ve been, and for how long.”

“It is a shame you did not stay there longer.”

“Why? ‘Cause I wouldn’t have been in the royal sunflower patch?”

“No. The annual Bits and Spurs rodeo just concluded three days ago. You could have seen some excellent cow ponies showing off their skills. I was there last year and it was quite the show. Didn’t you go the year before, sister?”

“Yes, and it was entertaining. From what I recall, though, I didn’t win any prizes.”

“Why would you?” Bean asked. “Don’t you just sit and watch?”

“If your name is Celestia, yes.” Luna replied smugly. “But if your name is Luna, then you ride a bull named Mark IX for 8 seconds and win the “Best New Wrangler” prize, along with a cash prize of two hundred bits that you generously donate back to the rodeo. I apologized to the bull afterward,” she added. “He was quite the gentlebull about it, and is looking forward to a rematch.”

“I can’t help that you want to act like some kind of wild animal,” Celestia replied with a sniff. “I prefer to maintain my composure and professional demeanor.”

“Says the mare who let her pet phoenix run loose and traumatize a poor Element Bearer during a visit to Ponyville. You’re just more subtle about your pranks is all.”

“I honestly thought Fluttershy knew about Phoenixes!” Celestia let out a muffled snort of laughter. “And then she foalnapped poor Philomena and tried to nurse her back to health! That was just a misunderstanding, nothing more.”

“Right.” Luna deadpanned. “How much longer on that soup, Mister Bean? You have made me hungry again. Is it done?”

“Define ‘done,’” Bean replied. “The celery will still be crunchy, but I think it’s good as is. If you want it softer, then you need to wait a bit.”

“I believe we shall try it. It is always a good idea to take the recommendation of the chef.”

“All right. I hope you’re not too disappointed.” He shrugged and glanced around. “Where are the bowls?”

“I’ll get them,” Celestia remarked. Three fair sized bowls floated out from a nearby cupboard, and Luna’s magic produced three spoons.

“Did I ever mention how jealous I am of unicorns?” Bean muttered, but with a chuckle.

“Why would you be… oh.” Celestia nodded. “I see. But you know you’re probably the chef you are because you’re an earth pony.”

“Yeah, I know,” he chuckled. “Connected to the land and all that.”

“’Tis very noble to be of the earth tribe,” Luna added grandly, as Bean grabbed a nearby ladle and began serving his soup. “My husband was an earth pony as well.”

“Was?” Bean asked.

“He passed away before my banishment, so it has been a long time,” Luna replied. She then sat on the floor as Bean served Celestia. “Though it doesn’t seem that long at times.”

Bean then felt something sweep softly into the room. It was quite unlike anything he’d ever felt before, perhaps akin to the sort of magic that memories brought with them. Whatever it was, it was powerful and it was deep, and he felt like he should be treading very, very carefully in this particular field.

“Look, Princess, if you don’t want to talk about him, I’d completely understand.”

“On the contrary, I would love to tell you about him.”

Bean looked over at Celestia, who nodded to him with a soft smile. “It’s all right, Mister Bean. She would not say that just to be polite.”

“You are family now, so it is fair I should tell you,” Luna continued. “Most of what will happen to you now will come from his time as Prince. He will have quite the influence on your life, whether you want him to or not.”

“All right. What should I know?”

“What do you want to know?” Luna replied.

“I don’t know.” He shrugged, as he began eating. “How did you meet, I guess. Did you boop noses with him too?”

“I did, but it was quite intentional,” she giggled. “I was so madly in love with him it was hard not to until our wedding day. I held out, though, so don’t get any funny ideas.”

“I wouldn’t dare dream of it,” he immediately replied.

“Good. We met at a ball that was being held for the second anniversary of the foundation of Equestria. He was… oh.” She hummed, and tilted her head slightly to put one hoof lightly on her cheek with a serene smile. “He was dark, and tall, and mysterious. I didn’t realize I had a weakness for those types until he came sweeping into the room, all dashing and debonair looking. He cut quite the impressive figure, too. He stood almost as tall as I did, with a dark grey coat and a mane and tail that was so black it almost looked blue in the light.

“We spent nearly the whole night dancing,” Luna continued, as she hugged herself and swayed slightly. “He was so light on his hooves, so sure in his steps. He was a stallion who could be strong when he needed to be but as soft as a rose petal any other time. I’ll never forget the way he caressed my cheek, the way he nipped at my ears. He was the perfect picture of romance, and it really didn’t take long for me to fall in love with him.”

“What was his name?” Bean asked softly.

“Star Struck.” Luna purred out the reply. “Oh, and he always said he was, too. He never let me forget how in awe of me he was. I was his polar star, his guide in the night, his one and only.”

Bean blinked. Perhaps it was just late and his eyes were tired, but was there somepony else sitting beside Luna?

“The two of them were horrible,” Celestia kindly added. “They were like kittens in a way: cute and cuddly but always into mischief. They fed off each other, but they also defended one another fiercely.”

“We were inseparable.” Luna cooed in memory. “I never understood what true love was until I had him as my own. Oh, we had our squabbles at times, all couples do. But he was so devoted to me, so committed to my happiness, that he never let that drive him away. He’d tell me that those times refined him, purified him. They knocked off the rough edges, showed him where he needed to change, and it did the same for me.”

“Why haven’t I heard of him?” Bean asked. There was definitely something next to Luna now, but since Celestia wasn’t saying or doing anything whatever it was probably harmless. In fact, Bean had the feeling it was welcome.

“Oh, he’s in the history. You just have to look for him,” Luna replied thoughtfully. “He did his work quietly, anonymously if possible, and never with the thought of how it would help him. He lived to lift up others, not himself. He,” Luna chuckled lovingly, “he would say often that being married to me was as high as he could ever get, and that he wanted others to have what he had. I learned so much from him, and he from me.”

There was a pause, and Bean felt an overwhelming rush of tranquility and…

He hesitated. The words to describe this feeling were beyond him.

But as he looked at Luna, he knew that, whatever this feeling was, it was the epitome of Love. True Love, Pure Love, and even that only described a fraction of the atmosphere.

This is what every pony hoped could be obtained in a relationship. This was the stuff of legends.

And it was in that marvelous outpouring that he saw.

There was Luna. Not Princess, not Mare in the Moon, not anything but just Luna. She was sitting in a relaxed way, her head tilted to her right and forward slightly. Her hoof went toward her cheek, but it met and slid easily onto the hoof of another.

Bean wasn’t sure how, or even why he was permitted to see this.

But he saw. He saw Luna.

And he saw Star Struck.

He was every bit as handsome as Luna had said and more: well-toned, as sleek as the night sky, and with a mane that was charmingly messy and fluffy. His head was just underneath Luna’s chin, so she was resting along both of his ears. One hoof held hers while it gently caressed her cheek, the other had wrapped around her barrel and was holding her in the softest and most tender hug that could possibly be imagined. His body was pressed closely against her chest, his tail wrapped as tightly as it could around her.

He was as real and as tender as anything Bean had ever experienced in his short little lifetime.

“I can still remember his scent,” Luna whispered, without breaking her embrace with her beloved. “It was always so clean, so pure. I remember the gentle joy that would caress me every time I nuzzled into his mane, and I would repay his kindness with all the kisses he could handle. He always held me so gently, but yet so firmly. He always said he was afraid I was the best dream he’d ever had, and that one day he’d awaken and I would be gone.

“Everything about that stallion was intoxicating. The dew-drop touch of his coat against mine, the ever-so-slight brush of lips he’d tease me with, the way he’d preen my feathers and play with my mane. I couldn’t have found perfection in any other place.”

Bean had to hold back a sob as Luna sighed, dropped her hoof from her cheek and allowed the vision to end. Star Struck faded away as Luna blinked her eyes open and looked right at him. “But I’m sure you don’t want to spend the whole night listening to an old nag talk about her long-gone love.”

Bean slowly shook his head. “You are not an old nag. You are a mare who has loved and lost. I cannot fathom any reason why I would not want to listen. I have no doubt that you had the type of marriage that they write fairy tales about.”

Luna smiled warmly and dipped her head. “I did, but all good things must come to an end eventually. My beloved Star Struck departed this life after eighty-eight years of life. I doubt I’ll ever find his equal.”

“I don’t think you ever will.”

“But it was wonderful to have him for the brief time fate permitted.” Luna paused in thought. “In a way, it still is. But enough about me. Since we are all here, we should probably settle one or two things.”

“Mm!” Celestia grunted, and she quickly swallowed her bite. “Mm, yes. Mister Bean, first things first: by Royal Decree, you are to give the recipe for this minestrone soup to Chef Sugar Beet as soon as possible.”

He snorted out a chuckle. “Take her usual recipe, but reduce the salt by twenty percent.”

“Good.” Celestia smiled a bit more. “Second, I would like to notify Cadence and Shining Armor of what has transpired. I think they would like to know they have a new uncle.”

“That’s gonna be way awkward,” he said with a chuckle. “Aren’t I close to her age?”

“Oh, now you’ve done it,” Luna said with a smirk.


“You said the word.

“’Aren’t’ is not a word,” Celestia replied flatly and with an annoyed look. “Neither is ‘ain’t.’”

“Do not use fake contractions around Teacher,” Luna admonished as she dipped her spoon into her soup. “They drive her crazy.”

“Isn’t it a contraction of are and not?” Bean asked.

“No, it’s not. It’s a fake word,” Celestia instantly retorted.

“I’m pretty extra sure it is a real word. Like, ‘Aren’t you going outside?’”

“I refuse to have this discussion so late at night.”

“Shall I conjure down the dictionary, dear sister?” Luna asked with a coy glance.

“You stay out of this.” Celestia’s stern glare was ignored by mirthful chuckling while eating soup. “As for you, Mister Bean, it appears I will need to give you some elocution lessons. I categorically refuse to allow such foul language in my presence.”

Bean figured it was best to not rile up his new wife anymore, but he did keep snickering at the way her nose wrinkled up when she was annoyed.

“To answer your question, yes. I believe you and Cadence are roughly the same age. However, I don’t think that will be an issue. She is a mature, intelligent mare. She had a changeling queen crash her wedding, so I believe she is able to handle a minor situation such as this.”

“I believe one of the first questions she will ask is when you want to hold a wedding party,” Luna added. “Ain’t no way she will let today be enough.”

Celestia glared extra fiercely at her sister. “You’re not helping, and now I’ve lost track of what I was going to say.”

“I think we’ve already established you’re the forgetful one.”

“Luna.” Celestia grumbled.

“Wasn’t it about announcing the marriage?”

“Yes, thank you. Mister Bean, I believe I told you yesterday that I was not going to make our marriage widely known until we settled all of the arrangements for your life here. However, once we do get that taken care of, I believe we should make the announcement as soon as is practical.”

Bean thought for a moment on this but then nodded. “I think you’re right. It’s always best to be honest, right?”

“As the former element of honesty, that is something I can confirm. So we will keep the news low-key for now but we won’t deny it. I don’t think it will take long to sort out the details with you anyway.”

“What kind of details are there?”

“Mostly little, nit-picky ones. The biggest one is whether or not you outrank Shining Armor. Both Lulu and I are inclined to say you do, since the Crystal Empire is a vassal state to us, but we want to make sure. While we don’t think the issue should ever arise, it’s best to have the rules laid out just in case.”

“Like if some half-baked writer is hiding in a flower patch and you boop his nose?”

Celestia chuckled a bit. “Exactly.”

“We must also consider your names,” Luna added. When she got confused looks from both of them, she happily continued. “There is the custom of taking the husband’s name and titles when marrying. Does that now make you Princess Celestia Bean? Or do you two take a more modern approach, where he takes your name and becomes simply Baked?”

“You would be the one to think of that.” Celestia groaned as Bean laughed.

“I dunno. I kinda like Celestia Bean. Sounds like something I would serve on a Luna Tortilla.”

Luna wrinkled up her nose. “If you just cursed me to be in a relationship with any pony who has ‘tortilla’ as part of their name I am going to hunt you down and make you suffer in horrifically painful but delightfully vague ways.”

“I’m not scared,” Bean replied defiantly. “Celestia will protect me.”

“That’s right.” Celestia took a quick step over and wrapped a wing over him. “No harm shall befall my Bean, not on my watch.”

There was a brief pause as Luna contemplated this ultimatum.

And then all three of them burst out laughing.

9. - Mind the Gap, This Way Out

Baked Bean sighed as he leaned back in his chair. Before him was an empty page in his notebook, and he was trying to figure out how to write what he was thinking.

He hated it when he couldn’t find the right words, so he settled on just using the simplest words possible.

How to flirt with, date, court, and/or woo Princess Celestia.

He leaned back again, looked over his writing, and then laughed. “I’ve done it! I have managed to write the single most ridiculous sentence in the history of Equestria!”

He then groaned and slammed his forehead into the desk. This would all be much easier if he was not dealing with the immortal Princess of the Sun.

But he was, and so he had to figure out something.

The thoughts that had led to the creation of this one mind-numbing sentence had been passing through his head ever since last night. He had enjoyed the casual conversation with Celestia and Luna last night, and a part of him wanted to have more moments like that. It had felt so free, so easy, so natural. It almost was like he had always been able to speak with the rulers of Equestria so informally.

And then he would remember that he was speaking so informally with the rulers of Equestria!

He sat up, ran a hoof through his mane, and took a deep, cleansing breath. In all of his musings last night, he had come to one overarching conclusion: he could either try to have a relationship with Celestia or he could not.

If he did not, he was in for a rather miserable experience. Oh, Celestia would be kind, genteel even. She would probably offer praises when he did good work, and assist when he needed help.

But it would be no more and no less than what she would have willingly offered to a stray dog with a captivating, yet mournful expression. Things would remain professional, but never have the possibility of being intimate.

Was intimate the right word? Bean reached for the dictionary he’d bought while he had been out with Sego Lily and flipped the pages.

“Intimate, let’s see.” He looked for a moment, then smiled. “Intimate, noun: a close friend. Adjective: Closely acquainted, familiar.”

It was an admirable goal that he could only attain if he tried. Unfortunately, he continued to read. “Used euphemistically to indicate that a couple is having a sexual rela—”

He slammed the book closed and took several deep breaths, trying to return to the comforting mental state he had just departed. The memory of Celestia, speaking quietly to him such a short time ago, made that easier than he expected.

“All ponies see the light from where they stand, Mister Bean. To most of my subjects, I am the wise and graceful Princess who raises the sun and brings prosperity to our fair kingdom. To my students, I am a teacher who enjoys sharing deep magics and ancient history. To the rulers of other nations I am a shrewd diplomat and skillful negotiator, to Princess Cadence I am an aunt, to Luna I am a sister, to Shining Armor I am a military commander. Now that you’ve met me and seen me as I truly am, you have to reconcile what you thought with what you now know.”

He rubbed his chin again as he recalled her words. There had been a moment or two where he had been able to see her as she truly was, and what he saw, quite honestly, made him want to see more. While Celestia the Princess was obviously an interesting pony and was wonderful to meet, he found that plain Celestia—the Celestia he had seen when she didn’t have to be a Princess—was the one he would like to know better, and even dare to know intimately.

In the first definition of the word, that is.

He stood, crossed the room, and propped himself up on the windowsill. The sun would be coming up in just a minute, and Bean had become strangely fascinated with watching it burst over the distant eastern hills. There was no real reason for him to be so enamored; the sun came up all the same every morning, after all.

Yet he watched.

His smile grew deeper once it did make its appearance. The rays swept across his coat in gently warming tones, and he felt revived and renewed in its embrace. This was peace, this was contentment. This is what he really wanted in life.

With the sun now up, he decided to go get breakfast and to worry about courtship later. Food really did help him think clearer, and there was a chance that Celestia would made funny face pancakes again.

But he shook his head at himself as he left his room, notebook in hoof. Given that she had just lost three perfectly good working days, in essence, because of noses she was probably overbooked and wouldn’t really have time for him today. He was fine with that; it gave him a day to figure out how to work on his question.

He paused in the hallway when another interesting thought hit him. He then trotted up to a nearby guard. “Good morning!”

“Good morning, sir,” the guard replied. “May I help you with something?”

“If you wouldn’t mind. I have a question.”

“Lay it on me.”

Bean smirked at the guard, and he smirked back. “It’s going to sound really, really dumb, but please just answer it anyway. Who am I?”

“Who are you?” he repeated, obviously confused. “Well, you’re Baked Bean, a guest of the Princesses.”

That’s what Bean figured. His new titles probably hadn’t had a chance to make the rounds yet. “Thank you, sir. I appreciate your honest answer.”

“May I ask why you’re asking, sir?” the guard replied.

“Well, someone recently told me I was having an existential crisis. I was just seeing how right they were.”

“Are you, sir?” The guard allowed his spear to drop a fraction.

“No, I’m not. I am who I am. Thank you for assisting me.”

The guard nodded, and Bean continued on for about five steps before he suddenly stopped and turned around. “Wait. ‘Princesses?’”

“Yes, sir,” the guard replied. “Both Princess Celestia and Princess Luna have named you as their friend and guest.”

“Did they say that together?”

“No, Princess Luna’s statement came a day after Princess Celestia’s.”

Bean chuckled. It seemed that Luna had been able to overcome her antagonistic annoyance with him faster than either of them thought they would.

Bean thanked the guard again and moved on. While he figured Luna might not like him, per se, she could at least tolerate him and that made him feel tingly inside. She was making the effort, and she could be a wonderful sister-in-law, if things ever got close to normal in his life again.

Once in the dining hall, he simply sat and waited for someone to come take his order. He was pleasantly surprised when, after a few minutes, Celestia walked in with two plates of pancakes in her magic. Both Bean and Celestia smiled brightly when they made eye contact, but she was the one who managed to speak first.

“May I safely assume at this point that you are a morning pony?”

“I guess so. I didn’t realize I was either until now.” He chuckled as a plate settled down in front of him. “I guess I have something to get up for.”

A hint of blush appeared on Celestia’s muzzle. “You can just admit that my pancakes are addictive, you know.”

“Must be all the sugar in them.”

She tried to glare at him, but the attempt failed and instead devolved into laughter. Just then, a scroll popped in from thin air a few feet away from them. Celestia’s magic quickly snagged it, and Bean looked at her curiously as she broke the seal and unraveled it.

“What’s that?”

“It’s a message from Twilight.”

“Really? Does she write to you a lot?”

“Not as much as she once did.” Celestia began to read with a peaceful smile, obviously pleased at getting a letter from her former student, but as her eyes darted back and forth, her smile faded slightly before turning into a deeply serious frown.

“Everything okay?” he asked.

“I’m not sure,” she replied, as she stood. “Forgive me, Mister Bean, but this does require my immediate attention.”

He nodded and watched as she trotted out of the room, although he tried not to show the worry that had begun to build in his gut. What could possibly unnerve the Princess that quickly? Some kind of national threat? If it was, it must be bad since Twilight, one of the Elements of Harmony, was the one sending the letter. Was there anything he could do to help?

He frowned at his pancakes. Whatever it was, he seriously hoped it wouldn’t take long to fix. She had said she wasn’t sure if it was good or bad, so maybe it was something that just needed some Celestia thrown at it to get it squared away.

“You didn’t hear anything, did you?” he asked the fruit face before him. The banana slices that made up the mouth were shut tight, and Bean didn’t figure the short stack would blab.

“Fine. I’ll just eat you until you confess!”

And he took a large bite to show he would make good on his threat.

“Mister Bean.”

“Princess Luna.” He turned to face her, and came nose-to-nose with her fierce scowl.

“Did you upset my sister?”

“No?” he nervously replied while leaning back. “She got a letter from Twilight.”

“And what was in this missive?”

“She didn’t say, only that it was something she had to deal with right now.”

Luna retreated a step and relaxed slightly. “Hmm. Such a letter from Twilight could be serious. Perhaps Discord is causing problems.”

“Oh, my dear sweet Luna.” A nearby syrup pitcher promptly sprouted mismatched limbs and a face, which looked up at Luna with mournful yellow eyes. “Why do you automatically assume I’m the one causing problems?”

“Because you have a great propensity for doing so.” Luna growled while the draconequus poured himself into Celestia’s vacant chair. “Did you come here to confess or to hide from your crimes?”

“I’m here because I want to be here,” Discord replied, as he reached across the table and grabbed Celestia’s uneaten food. “I still haven’t done anything, despite repeated requests from Pinkie Pie for chocolate milk rainclouds.”

“Then do you know what Twilight wrote?”

“I do,” he replied while he snapped a whisk into existence and used it to cut the pancakes. “But Celly will be awfully mad at me if I tell anyone. I can say it’s nothing that threatens life or limb.”

“What else could it be, then?”

“Something far more sensitive, I’m afraid,” Discord replied sadly as he scarfed a bite. “Mm, this needs more sugar.”

Luna glanced over to Bean, but he had no idea what Discord’s cryptic comment meant so he shrugged.

“So would it be safe to assume that, whatever this is, it will cause a great amount of chaos?” Luna continued.

“A healthy amount, yes,” he said, as he shoved another large bite in. “And now I’m stress eating, see? This is horrible. I’ll have to go on a diet for a month because of this.”

“I hope you can forgive our lack of sympathy on the matter.”

Discord took a moment to clear his mouth and to dab lightly at the corners of his mouth with a napkin.

“Yes, well, you were always known for your compassion weren’t you?”

Luna grunted and glared at him fiercely.

“Fine. I came here mostly for Bean anyway.” He stuck his nose in the air for a moment before he teleported Bean into his embrace. “Bean-o, you’ve been mi amigo in bedlam, so it’s only fair that I make you this offer: mi chaos es su chaos. If you ever need a place to crash, you just give me a call. I’ll come running, rain or shine, snow or sleet, Monday through Friday nine to five, Saturday ten to three with time off for good behavior, closed Sundays. You’ve been such a wonderfully unintentional deviant that I just can’t stand the thought of you living out on the cold, cruel streets of Canterlot.”

“May I ask what you are even talking about?” Bean replied.

“Just know that I’m still here for you, Bean-o. Us chaos creators have to look out for one another.”

And then Discord snapped his talons and disappeared. Bean flailed his limbs in midair for a split second before he went crashing to the ground, and he groaned in pain once there.

“I could have lived without that. Do you have any idea what he was talking about, Princess?”

“I am afraid I do. Let me speak with my sister about this first, however. Are you injured?”

“No, I’m okay.” He staggered back to his hooves. “But will you please let me know if I can help? I don’t want to just sit here and be dead weight.”

“I promise I will do so,” Luna replied with a quick nod of her head. She then turned and left without another word.

Bean sighed. He was really worried about what was going on, and why he seemed to be in the thick of it again. But since there wasn’t much he could do at the moment, he figured the best thing to do would be to stay out of the way and to let the Royal Sisters handle it.

He wondered if he could do some studying. It would be a shame to just sit, but he wanted to stay nearby in case he was needed, and if he could gain access to the Archives he could make some progress on his story. He would like to get that started, he had to admit.

First things first, though. There were pancakes to devour.

“Mister Bean?”

“Oh! Hi, Luna. You startled me.” Bean looked up from his notebook. “Can I help you with something?”

“My sister requests your presence in her private drawing room at this time,” Luna replied flatly. “If you would follow me, please.”

“Uh, okay. Let me gather up my stuff.”

Bean did not like Luna’s tone. Had he done something wrong, or something just stupid? Was he going to be punished? He didn’t think he’d done anything wrong in the last hour, so the Princesses shouldn’t have a reason to be mad with him.

It only took a second to gather up his things, and he fell in step behind Luna as they entered the hallway.

“So, what’s going on? Did I do something?” Bean asked.

“That is for my sister to discuss with you,” Luna replied without looking back. “But know that you have my best wishes going with you.”

That left rear leg took off in the familiar terrified tango yet again. Seriously, what had he done this time?! He was getting tired of constantly being in trouble.

The rest of the walk was in silence. Once they reached the drawing room door Luna knocked, looked at Bean, sighed, and then walked away while keeping her face impassive.

“Come in, Mister Bean,” Celestia called out.

Bean gently nudged the door open and slowly stuck his head in. Celestia gave him the saddest smile he’d ever seen before motioning for him to come sit by the table. He slowly did so, and while he did, Celestia poured out a cup of what smelled like chamomile tea for each of them.

“Thank you for being patient and understanding today. I’m sure you realize that I am called away for urgent matters on occasion.”

“Yes, I’m sure you are. What’s this all about?” Bean didn’t feel like wasting time in pleasantries.

Celestia started to reply, then stalled, looking down at the table instead. Even her proud ears drooped, and a brief rustle ran down the lengths of her folded wings as they shuffled position behind her. “C’mon, Celly,” she muttered. “Just spit it out.”

Taking a deep breath, she looked up and fixed Baked Bean with a steady gaze that he thought quite possibly contained a suppressed tear or two in the corners of her lovely eyes.

“Mister Bean,” she continued in a steady voice. “Twilight Sparkle has found a loophole for my law.”

Well, that was a fantastic way to suck the air out of the room. Bean’s rear leg began shaking wildly as the full impact of her statement sank in.

“Sh-she did?” he stammered.

Celestia nodded, then pushed a small pile of papers towards him. Bean leaned over and read the bold words at the top:

Divorce Decree

Bean slumped back. It felt like Celestia had just slammed both of her rear hooves into his gut at full force.

“A divorce?” he managed to weakly ask.


“Uh… well, uh…”

“I’ve arranged for very generous terms on your behalf. Alimony payments will be ten thousand bits per month, with annual reviews to account for cost-of-living expenses. You shall have free access to the palace, the grounds, and any services provided here, such as my personal carriage and chariots at any time you like. You will remain a friend of the Crown as well as maintaining the title of Duke, you may request an audience with me at any time and receive it, and Luna has even promised to keep all nightmares away. All you have to do is sign and date the last page, and you’ll be free.”

Bean wasn’t sure how to reply to all that, so he spat out the one question that seemed to be overruling all others.

“Why didn’t anypony find this sooner?”

Celestia heaved the deepest sigh Bean had ever heard. “Please permit me to answer that with a story, if I may.”

He nodded, and she continued. “When I sent Twilight Sparkle to Ponyville, I told her to write me a letter every week to tell me about her studies in friendship. My hope was that by doing so, she would recognize the lessons she was learning, and that it would imprint on her heart far more that it ever could on paper. She did so, dutifully, for well over a year. She grew by leaps and bounds, as she does in everything, and I was pleased she was learning so much from her new friends.

“But then a week came when there was no friendship lesson. It was a rather busy week for me, and I didn’t notice her missing report.

“However, just before sunset on the day of the ‘deadline’ I received a letter from Spike informing me of a most troubling development. Desperate for a friendship problem to write about, Twilight had cast a Want It Need It spell on and old stuffed rag doll she owned. Within the space of a few minutes, nearly the entire town of Ponyville had fallen under the enchantment and had devolved into fighting each other for possession of this doll. Thankfully, Spike sent this message to me with enough time for me to teleport and to clear the enchantment before anypony was seriously hurt.

“Now, let me ask you this: what should Twilight have done?”

Bean thought for a moment. “I can see her dilemma. If she did not have a friendship lesson to report, you might think her studies were over. She really should have written you to ask for your advice”

She nodded. “A prudent course of action. If she had, she would have been told the letters were not as important as she thought they were. I would have informed her that she could write when—and only when—a lesson happened.

“Now, Twilight is, arguably, one of the most intelligent ponies in all of Equestria. Why would such a pony be unable to come to such an obvious answer?”

Bean shook his head. “I don’t know.”

“Most behavioral experts call it ‘Tunnel Vision.’ For as smart as ponies are, we all have the propensity to see only what is in front of us and nothing else. Most believe it’s something that’s been passed down from our earliest ancestors, and that it is somehow related to the Fight or Flight response we see in wildlife.

“So, in simple terms, it means that when a pony is a presented with a problem, their tendency is to focus on one answer only. Usually the first response works, and normally it is an acceptable and reasonable solution, so the pony doesn’t even realize what they did.

“This is part of the reason nopony thought of divorce. The other part, I believe, is my fault. When I sent my law out for review, I asked if there was a loophole in the law itself. If one looks at it from the way I asked, there is no way to cancel it. However, there is nothing in the law that says we must remain married. As soon as Luna proclaimed us husband and wife, the terms were fulfilled. The only thing that binds you to me or me to you is the modern legal bonds of marriage. I also personally believe the subject matter hampered efforts.”

“How so?”

“Imagine if I placed before you a giant, one thousand year old boulder. The boulder itself is visually impressive one, with all sorts of swirls and colorful bands sweeping through it. I then give you a fork, spoon, and knife and ask you to find a way to move the boulder and command you to report back in three days. I then tell you that if someone manages to drill a hole into it, it will release a terrible plume of smoke that will turn my coat purple. What do you think would happen?”

Bean nodded as he saw the simile. It was a simile, wasn’t it? “I would probably chip away at it with the silverware for a few days before telling you that the task was impossible. I’d probably also laugh at the thought of you being purple, and get distracted by the colors in the rock, too.”

“Very well.” Celestia nodded. “What if I had not given you the knife, fork, and spoon? Just pointed to the boulder and let you go.”

“Oh.” The inspiration was dizzying. “I’d go buy some rope and a few pulleys. Maybe hire a couple of beefy earth ponies to help pull, and we’d have that boulder moved by the end of the first day.”

“Exactly.” A broader smile managed to work its way onto Celestia’s face as she nodded again. “I believe this happened with my law as well. Most anypony at a University would probably be far more interested in the insides of a previously unknown, thousand-year-old document. Judges and Lawyers would laugh at the subject and would assume such an occurrence is next to impossible. When we look at the problem from the outside, it’s easy to see how divorce could be overlooked.”

Bean didn’t reply for a few moments as he processed all this, but when he did, his voice was soft and thoughtful. “So, all I need to do is sign?”

“Yes. You can then go back to your regular life and your own dreams. I’ll even go find Sego Lily for you, if you want me to.”

Bean looked down at the divorce papers, and Celestia placed an inkwell and quill next to them. His mind began churning with thoughts, and he tried to keep them all in order.

This was, as she said, everything he had wanted. No more trying to figure out how to date a princess, no more worrying about being a prince and doing princely things, no more Luna glaring at him and yanking his chain. The terms were generous enough that he could very easily buy a home out in the country and be able to write his story uninterrupted. He would, in pretty much any way he could think of, be set for life. He could even probably use this amusing incident to launch his writing career.

He pondered this for quite some time, but then he made the mistake of looking up. Celestia was sitting calmly, her body facing him but her head turned to look out the window. She was the perfect picture of her reputation right then: peaceful, serene, stoic and steadfast. She looked like a Princess, in every way.

But Bean could also see something else. True, he didn’t have the centuries of experience in reading body language like she did. He really couldn’t say that he knew her inner feelings based on how she inhaled or how she blinked.

But there was still a feeling of sadness draped across her form. It wasn’t the sadness that came from doing something wrong. It was more like the sadness that came from the realization that something good was coming to an end.

He ran a hoof through his mane as she took a gentle sip of tea. It had not been a mistake to look up. As he watched her mane float on the ethereal breeze that moved it along, he knew what his answer needed to be.

Celestia inhaled slowly and deeply when she heard Baked Bean slide the divorce papers back across the table. She then slowly turned her head and looked down.

One eyebrow moved up as her interest seemed to grow. On top of the divorce decree, Bean had placed his notebook and opened to a page that had one sentence written across the top.

“How to flirt with, date, court, and-slash-or woo Princess Celestia,” she read, and then laughed slightly before Bean continued.

“Ridiculous, right? I mean, really. What chance does a commoner like me have with you?”

He paused to take a breath. “Three days ago, when we first booped noses, if you had told me this, I would have married and divorced you right then and there with no further thought on the matter.

“But then I started talking to you. I got to know you better. My preconceived notions were challenged, and I had to reconcile what I had known to what I had learned. You acted out my little paragraph of writing. You talked to me about Sego Lily. You made me funny face pancakes, and you ate my soup while listening to my little sob story.

“I realize there’s still a ton we don’t know about each other, and that would need to change. I’m also not sure if we can ever really love each other, but I’d like to find out for sure,” he admitted while his gaze went to the window. “As crazy as this whole thing has been, I’m delusional enough at this point to think that maybe, somehow, we could have something. I’ve had little glimpses into what life with you could be like, and I’ve loved them. I really would like to see if there could be more.

“I also want to keep your feelings in mind, too. If this is too forward of me, or if you want the divorce for whatever reason, I’ll sign the papers. I don’t want you to be forced into something you don’t want either.”

He then heard Celestia’s magic working. He glanced back, and saw his notebook had been picked up and she was flipping the pages of the decree. She stopped on the last page, and Bean saw that both he and she needed to sign it, but both places were blank.

His notebook then was placed back on the table. Under his sentence, she had written one simple line:

Call me Celly.

“I think you are slightly mistaken in one area.” He looked up at her, and found a completely different mare before him. The previously stoic and sad Celestia was now a perky, smiling mare, and her eyes were sparkling with mirth.

“How so?” he asked, as a smile invaded his face too.

“You said we don’t love each other yet. If that was totally true, you would have signed the paperwork. What we have is a start, an ember. I would like to see if it could be something more as well.”

“You would?”

She nodded. “It’s going to take time, though, and there’s still much that could change your mind. Let’s leave the divorce option open with the understanding that if either of us wants out in the future, we will part as friends and with no ill will.”

“I can agree to that, Celly.

The smile she gave him sent a shiver of joy throughout his whole body. Even his tail felt tingly.

“Then we are agreed. I’ll even help you add more things to that list.”


“But you need to add most of them,” she added slyly. “If you want this to work, you’ve got to put some effort into it. That’s how any relationship works, really.”

He gave his own sly smile back. “That sounds like a two way street to me.”

“As it should be, Mister Bean.”

He then pulled the notebook a bit closer, produced his pencil, and began writing. Once done, he pushed it back towards her, and she leaned over to see what he’d just added.

How to flirt with, date, court, and/or woo Baked Bean.

And underneath that, one simple line:

Call me Bean.

“You get to add things too,” he remarked.

“I would love to, Bean,” she said with a quick boop for his nose.

10. - So, Now What?

“So, I guess we could have annulled the marriage too,” Bean offered in thought.

“That we could,” Celestia replied as they left her drawing room. “But that would have left you with nothing, and I didn’t want that to happen. You have handled everything with a great deal of decorum, and you deserved to have compensation for your trouble.”

Bean didn’t have a reply to that, but he did blush a little.

“Oh ho!” Celestia cackled. “I was wondering if it was possible to bring any color to your cheeks.”

“I blush,” he said weakly. “I’m not used to ponies praising me. I’m also not used to having all this attention.”

“I’ll help you through it,” Celestia offered. “Once our union is more widely known, you’re going to need it.”

“So long as you’re there, I think I’ll survive.”

“Sister!” Luna called out from down the hallway. “Are you done with Mister Bean?”

“Our dilemma has been resolved,” Celestia called back as Luna quickly closed the gap between them.

“All right, I need a straight answer, not this cryptic nonsense. Are you two divorced?”

“No, we—”

“Good. I need your husband.”

“No!” Celestia instantly wrapped a wing over him and pulled him in tight. “He’s mine! Go get your own.”

Luna smacked her forehead with a hoof and groaned. “Not like that! I have the ambassador from Caballo arriving in an hour and I need his cooking skills. Some light refreshments will help ease the tension from your reschedules.”

“That it would. Bean, would you like to entertain your first diplomat?”

“Sure, I’m willing to help,” he said as Celestia’s wing retreated with a line of tingles across his flank. “What do you want me to make?”

“Something more to the elegant side,” Luna replied. “Ambassador Rompe Viento is known for his particular tastes.”

“How about a Popurrí de Vendura?”

“I don’t think I can even pronounce that. What is it?”

“A traditional Caballian dish. It might be a bit heavy, but I think I can cut back here and there to lighten it up.”

“If it will appease the ambassador, then I’m all for it.” Luna motioned down the hallway. “Shall we?”

“Go ahead. I’ve got more than enough work to catch up on while you’re gone,” Celestia offered.

“I don’t doubt that.” Bean chuckled. “Maybe I can help you with it later?”

“I would like that.” Celestia gave him a bright smile. “I’ll save the really boring laws for you.”

“Oh, great,” Bean groaned with a smile, then turned to Luna. “Your kitchen staff isn’t going to be mad that I’m taking over their job, are they?”

“Not at all. No chef has been able to satisfy all of the Ambassador’s demands to date,” Luna replied, as they began walking down the hallway. “You’re the only hope I have at the moment.”

“Are things really that bad between Equestria and Caballo?”

“No, so it will be fine if he doesn’t like what you have made, but it would help.”

“Okay. Let’s go give it a whirl, then.”

“So you decided to stay with my sister,” Luna casually remarked.

“I did,” Bean said with a slow stir of the vegetables in the skillet before him.


“Well, why not? Who wouldn’t want to be married to your sister?”

“Nice try.” She gave him a slight glare, but the corners of her mouth were upturned. “I need a better answer than that.”

“That you do. It’s a bit hard to explain, really. I just felt like there could be something more. I know that I’m just about the most common of commoners you could find in our broad land, and that there’s no reason for either you or your sister to have ever noticed my existence.

“But last night, when we were just talking…” Bean trailed off. There was a pause as he threw some spices in the pan, then began stirring again. “It was nice, I guess. I was talking to two princesses like they were my old friends, and it felt good.

“Just talking to Celly feels good, y’know? I know she has to stay professional and be diplomatic for both her own ponies and visitors, but the little bits that I’ve seen when she’s not being a Princess are… well, they’re wholesome. They’re delightful. This is probably going to sound really dumb, because this all applies to her anyway, but even in private she’s a smart, witty, and thoughtful mare who really does care about others.

“I mean, she’s tried to make my life easier, despite everything that’s happened. She’s trying to make up for her law, and she really wants to do what’s best. I dunno. Maybe I’m just being weird, but when I talk to Celly—not Princess Celestia, but just Celly—I feel like I belong. I’d almost like to say that existential crisis my dad said I was having is solved with her. I kinda feel like… well, like I’ve found myself.”

“What about the other mare you met? Sego Lily, wasn’t it?”

He chuckled. “Yeah. I don’t know how to explain that. She was attractive, and I can’t deny I wasn’t enamored by her. I guess I just fell for that trap where I let my guard down a little and I let her in when I shouldn’t have. If I could go back and do that again I would. I would have just apologized for crashing into her and then been on my way, and just skip getting caught in the depths of a pity party. I guess I need to take that as a lesson in watching my decisions.”

“At least you have learned from it,” Luna replied. “If you are going to remain with my sister, you owe her your complete fidelity.”

“She’ll have it, don’t worry. I mean, who could ever really measure up to your sister?”

“Somepony on stilts, maybe.”

They both chuckled at the mental image. “That’s about the only way. But I’m going to take this seriously. Celestia deserves it.”

“You do too,” said Luna. “You will never have to worry about Celly betraying you, either.”

“I never thought that would be an issue.”

“Celly is still a mare, Bean. She meets with a great many handsome stallions on an almost daily basis, stallions who would turn you green with envy. She will have to watch herself too, but she takes her commitments seriously. If you stay loyal to her, she will stay loyal to you.”

“Just as you stayed loyal to Star Struck?”

“Just as we did, yes.” Luna’s subdued smile made her light up like the moon. “I can tell you it was not easy all the time. As romantic as our beginning was, our relationship needed continual work. The same will be true for you.”

“I don’t mind a little work,” Bean replied as he pulled a saucepan off of another burner and poured the contents over his concoction in the main skillet. “Especially for what the reward is.”

“Is this it, then?”

“Yeah. I hope he likes it. This is something my parents came up with after an overseas trip to Caballo. They said it was inspired from their trip through the countryside.”

“I believe it will be satisfactory,” she replied. “He should be arriving any moment now. We will soon see if you are successful.”

“Princess, I don’t know who made this, but I simply must offer my compliments!” Ambassador Rompe Viento gushed. “This is the most incredible meal I have ever had the pleasure of enjoying!”

“I will be sure to pass your compliments along,” Luna replied with a wink to Bean. “The Chef will be very pleased to hear this.”

“Well, now that I am quite pleasantly full, I believe we can begin negotiations. May I be so bold as to invite you to join us?”

“I have already made arrangements to join you and Minister Penny Wise, Ambassador.”

Fantastico! Will Mister Bean be joining us?”

“I believe he is needed elsewhere, unfortunately.”

“In high demand eh?” The Ambassador bobbed his eyebrows at Bean. “But that is fine. I’m sure we will have an opportunity to talk later.”

“I look forward to it, Ambassador,” Bean replied.

“Just this way, Viento.” Luna motioned with a hoof down one hallway.

Bean stood still until they both had cleared the hallway, and then he let his breath out in relief. That had been slightly nerve wracking, but at least his meal had been received well. But now what? Should he go back to the Archives and study more, or should he try to meet up with Celestia?

“Excuse me, Prince Bean?”

That was definitely going to take some getting used to. He smiled politely as he turned to face Celestia’s secretary. “Yes?”

“Hello, Your Highness. I’m Wysteria Inkwell, and I’m your personal secretary now. It’s nice to make your acquaintance.”

“Likewise,” he replied with a quick shake of her hoof. “But you’re still Celestia’s secretary too, right?”

“Yes, Your Highness. I work for both of you now. You’ll be seeing me around a lot since the Princess believes you’ll be spending most of your time with her over the next few weeks.”

“Oh? Well, I can live with that.” Bean gave a quick nod. “So, what am I supposed to be doing right now?”

Wysteria adjusted her glasses and looked over her clipboard. “Well, the Princess is scheduled to be in Day Court until this evening. I guess you could join her there. She didn’t really say what she wanted you to do right now.”

“I don’t know if I should join her. Wouldn’t I be a disruption?”

“Oh, not at all, Your Highness! There’s a separate staff entrance near the back. I can bring you in there, and you can just sit off to the side until she’s done.”

“No one will notice me there?”

“I would be surprised if they did, Your Highness. Everypony who comes to court is so in awe of Celestia that they don’t bother to look around, and even if they did, we’ll just say you’re an observer. You’ll blend right in.”

“Oh! Well, okay then. I guess I just follow you?”

Wysteria smiled and motioned down a hallway with one hoof. “Right this way, Your Highness.”

Baked Bean liked Day Court.

Granted, he wasn’t the one making the decisions, and he knew that made a huge difference. But Celestia was an obvious expert, and the various petitioners were giving him a good look at what would probably be expected of him later.

His first observation was how many ponies came to the seat of the Two Sisters to beg for money. It seemed nearly half of the visitors wanted funds for any number of reasons: new house, start a business, hard times, et cetera. Celestia was uniform in her decisions. No matter what, the official policy of the Crown was not to distribute funding, no matter how worthy the cause. Business ideas needed to speak to a local banker for a loan (and she gladly named two or three who she personally recommended), and individuals needed to speak to the ponies in the Office of Personal Finance to determine what would be best for their particular case. Bean figured that this was because money distributed by the Crown was taxpayer bits, and that some oversight was needed to ensure the money wasn’t wasted. Even if Celestia did approve the funds, it would have to be accounted for somewhere so it ended up the same anyway.

The next most common request was requests for her to make some kind of legislative change. These she listened to calmly and attentively, no matter how strange they were. There was, for instance, a pair of goats who wished for a ‘National Feta Cheese’ day to be declared, and that made Bean giggle a bit, since he personally disliked Feta. Celestia diplomatically said she’d look into it, and that had worked.

Another asked for an official study into whether or not Cloudsdale’s method of replenishing their water reserves was damaging to the local ecosystems. He looked a bit put out when she told him comprehensive studies had been done every year for the last two hundred and twelve years and no damage had ever been noted. Well, other than a few confused fish that had to be screened out of the water inlets and returned to the donating lake every time the reserves were filled.

He was pretty amazed at how well she handled these requests, and how well she knew what legislation was already in place, but he also realized why she had forgotten about her nose law. With the constant influx of laws, ordinances and the other minutiae that went into running a country, it would be easy to forget a dusty old law that wasn’t doing anything.

The rest of the petitioners he labeled as miscellaneous. Some just wanted to chat with her, some wanted a photograph and/or an autograph, and one old mare asked if Celly could speak at her funeral. Celestia had danced around that one, saying it really depended on her schedule on the day of death.

The absolute best petitioner, however, was the last pony. He was a suave young thing, perhaps the same age as Bean, with a slicked back mane and sparkling white teeth. He sprayed his mouth with what Bean suspected was breath freshener just as he was announced, and he strode confidently into the room with an all-knowing grin.

“Good afternoon, Furious Thunder,” Celestia greeted evenly. “What do you have to present before the Court?”

Thunder cleared his throat with a practiced ease in his motions. “O great Celestia, whose strength binds our lands together and whose wisdom shines forth across the seas, I thank fortune and luck that I have been so privileged to be in your presence today.”

Bean was pretty extra sure he could hear Celestia’s eyes rolling.

“But I have come here today as a humble stallion, one who seeks only for the eternal happiness and indescribable joy of our beloved monarch. I wish to offer a present, O Celestia, a simple token of my own undying gratitude for your selfless work in our behalf.”

“And what present is that?” Celestia asked. Bean caught the note of wariness in her voice and moved up and onto his hooves, but he was also glad to see the Guards in the room tense up and give the great orator their undivided and pointed attention.

“Nothing more than a flower, my lady. A rare and beautiful flower, one that matches your own self.”

Baked Bean was no flower expert by any means, but the flower that the pegasus produced seemed to be nothing more than an ordinary white rose. Though Bean felt highly confused, Celestia’s face remained even and calm. She even let a small smile grace her features.

“What a lovely gesture! Thank you, Mister Thunder. Please, approach and present your gift.”

The guards at the foot of the dais didn’t look very happy about this, but they let him pass. Bean also was a bit concerned, but he figured Celestia knew what she was doing.

Furious Thunder’s posture was confident and sure, looking like a stallion who had just won a large prize and was about to collect it. Bean watched closely as Thunder made the climb quickly and then kneeled before Celestia with the rose held upward in one hoof.

“For my beloved monarch.”

Celestia’s hoof slowly moved out to take the flower.

And Furious Thunder sprung. Before Bean could even react, Thunder had pushed up from his low position quickly, tilted his head up and booped Celestia’s nose.

“Oh! My apologies.” Celestia retreated up and back a step, and Bean caught the mischievous wink from his wife. “I didn’t realize you were going to stand.”

“Oh, no, Your Highness. The fault was mine. I am such. A. Clumsy. Stallion.” Thunder made a great effort at enunciating his words.

“Are you really? You should take some yoga classes, then.” Celestia took the rose in her magic and sniffed it. “Or perhaps some Tai Chi would work better. Or is it Chai tea? I always get those mixed up.”

“I, uh. I’ll look into it.”

“Now, I could be mistaken, but this seems like a rather ordinary rose. What makes it so special?”

“It, um… it’s the first flower I gave to my future bride.”

“Oh! Well, that makes it far too special to give to me.” Celestia pushed the rose back in Thunder’s face. “You should return it immediately.”

“Um, Your Highness?” one of the guards piped up, after clearing his throat.

“Oh! Do you mean me, Mister Thunder?” Celestia put a hoof to her chest in dramatic shock. “Oh dear. You did just boop my nose, didn’t you?”

“I did, yes.” That winning smile was back in full force.

“Oh my, what a dilemma! I did write that law a thousand years ago that says the first stallion to touch my nose with his own has to be my husband.”

“You did, yes.”

“It’s certainly a good thing that law is no longer valid, isn’t it?”

“It is… wait, what?”

Celestia nodded solemnly. “Yes, I’m afraid so. You are not the first stallion to touch my nose. You’re operating under a misconception.”

“Somepony else got you already?” Thunder whispered in disbelief.

Celestia now frowned at him. “Yes, and it’s a good thing, too. What University are you attending right now?”

Bean was trying very hard not to laugh at the now thoroughly routed Furious Thunder.

“The University of Canterlot, Your Highness.” Thunder said.

“And did you read my law for yourself or did you just hear about it?”

“I heard about it from some friends on campus who’d seen it.”

“I see. Did you consider what would really happen if you were the first one?”


“Because it is no easy task to be a prince. You must be calm and collected at all times, never letting you emotions overrun your judgements and decisions. You must handle ponies at their very worst, as well as at their very best. Despite your own opinions and ideas, you must be open and receptive to all ponies, no matter how different they may seem, or how offensive their personality may be.

“You must also make decisions that will be tried and tested for years to come, and if you make an error then you will not only suffer yourself but you will impact the lives of potentially millions. A seemingly small and simple law can completely change the whole of Equestria.”

Bean moved over towards the dias when Celestia motioned for him. He knew all that stuff wasn’t for Thunder, it was for him. Celestia was warning him, he’d be in the hot seat with her in more ways than he knew about.

But that was just it. He’d be with her.

And with that being the case, he believed it could be done. He could be a prince, and have the love of a princess. It would take everything he had, and probably more, but it would doable.

“Mister Thunder, I would like you to meet—” Celestia stalled, looked over to Bean, and smiled “—my husband, Prince Baked Bean. Bean, say hello to Furious Thunder.”

Bean was really grateful that only Celestia, Wysteria, and himself were present for the big announcement, but there was still no shortage of embarrassment on his part.

“H-hi.” Bean stammered.

“Go easy on him, he’s had a rough few days.” Celestia added quickly. “It’s not easy adjusting to being a Prince.”

“How did you boop her first?” Thunder demanded, his face flushed with anger. Celestia’s magic flared, and the young stallion began to float away from Bean, held by the scruff of his neck much like a kitten being picked up by its mother.

“Now, now. Don’t be a sore loser,” Celestia chided. “My advice to you is to forget any of this happened, resume your studies, and look for your special somepony while doing so. You never know when destiny will strike. Now, off you go!”

Thunder yelped when Celestia’s magic swatted him on the bum as she put him down. He then grumbled and fumed his way out of the throne room, with a couple of guards following for good measure. Once he was out of sight, Celestia nodded to Wysteria.

“I believe we shall adjourn Day Court for now.”

“Very well.” Wysteria swung the double doors to the throne room shut with her magic.

“Now then, all of that excitement has worked up my appetite. Bean, what do you suggest we have tonight?”

He smiled. “How about a nice rosemary salad with shredded carrots, but hold the physical assault?”

“That sounds delicious. Shall we?”

“So, I guess we have to make the official announcement now,” Bean said.

“Not necessarily,” Luna replied. “If you are still not comfortable about your position, we can still use one of my favorite stalling tactics.”

Celestia rolled her eyes, but she laughed too. “The Crown can neither confirm nor deny the rumor that has been spread by Furious Thunder. No further comment.”

“Exactly. It is amazing how well that works.”

“No, that doesn’t seem right,” Bean replied. “I would feel like I’m deceiving ponies. Since I decided to stay, we should announce it.”

“The Bean has spoken,” Celestia grandly proclaimed with a chuckle. “Everything will be shut down tomorrow so we’ll make the announcement and have a press conference first thing Monday morning.”

Bean nodded. “I guess this means we should go meet my parents tomorrow.”

“Are you sure you want to?”

“I’m pretty extra sure I don’t want to.” Bean paused while he glared daggers at the floor. “But I don’t think they’d appreciate reading about how their son married Princess Celestia in the morning paper. They did send me off on this little journey, so it’s fair they should know how it ended.”

“I would not say it has ended.” Luna replied. “I think you’re still just beginning. This is just another step along the way.”

“That’s true,” he replied, before taking a bite of salad. “Were your parents still alive when you met Star Struck?”

“You should not talk with your mouth full,” Luna chided. “But they were, yes. It was not easy for them to accept him, but they did in time.”

“They didn’t like him?”

“He was a mouthy, temperamental thing at first. Though he treated me kindly, he would gladly have an argument at anytime and with anypony. He hated backing down, too, so there were frequent ego clashes. Father was ready to turn him into saddlebags more than a few times.”

“Our parents were also slow to adapt,” Celestia added. “The magic of friendship takes longer to work on some, and it was hard for Mother and Father to accept an earth pony as an equal, not to mention the additional hurdle of being worthy of their daughter. But in time, they did. We all worked together on it and he eventually became a beloved son-in-law.”

“Think they’d ever approve of me?” Bean asked.

“Hmm.” Luna tapped her hoof to her chin. “They would not approve of you being an earth pony. They also would frown upon your common status, and your accidental invocation of the law.”

“But then you stayed and took responsibility,” Celestia added. “They would appreciate that, even if they would not admit it.”

“Taking a thrashing from me would probably add to their appreciation of your tenacity.” Luna shook her head and chuckled. “Enduring my teasing would also be endearing.”

“Being an excellent cook is always a good way to gain a pony’s favor,” Celestia offered with a deep smile. “They would be displeased over your day with Sego Lily, but then they would be touched by your remorse over the incident. Being able to tolerate Discord would also impress them.”

“And then you stayed,” Luna concluded. “You had an out, but you did not take it. I think, overall, they would have approved. They would be chiding Celly for writing such a silly law, though.”

“They did when I wrote the thing.” Celestia laughed. “But even they begrudgingly admitted my convoluted solution was better than Iron Hoof.”

“Anything was better than Iron Hoof, Sister. The foal was an idiot.”

“I sense you have a high opinion of him,” Bean quipped.

Luna snorted derisively. “Go through the archives and look into his history. You will quickly see why I detested him. I shed no tears for him when he finally passed.”

“He was rather unpleasant, and that’s being nice,” Celestia added. “It may be a bit shameful but I wasn’t too sad when he passed either. He had very few redeeming qualities.”

“Huh.” Bean took a slow bite as he thought about this information. “So, if I’m the opposite of him I’ll be good.”

“That will be a good start.” Celestia gave Bean a serious look. “But it will only be just that. Everything I said to Furious Thunder will apply to you, and more. You will need to be at your very best, at every moment, and even if everypony around you is not. And worst of all, you will have to contend with a spouse who can be very disagreeable when she is having a bad day, who is pushy and prefers to get her own way, and has stinky wingpits on certain days.” Celestia made a brief sniff of her underwing area and wrinkled up her nose. “She’s not a very pretty pony sometimes, and worst of all, she snores and hogs all the covers in the middle of the night.”

“Oh, well,” Bean huffed. “I don’t think I can tolerate a blanket hog. I don’t know that I can make a relationship work with a pony who has such a fatal flaw.”

“You could just fight back, you realize,” Luna pointed out. “Just poke Celly in the ribs and she will relinquish her hold on whatever she’s stolen. She’ll also snort like a wee little piggy.”

“Luna!” Celestia gasped loudly. “You have just given away my greatest secret! How could you?!”

Luna blew a raspberry at her sister, then pulled Bean in close with one wing. “If you stick with me, Mister Bean, I will teach you all of my sister’s weaknesses. You shall emerge victorious from any tickle war my sister may dare to wage. I will not leave my brother-in-law defenseless.”

“I’m not so sure this is a good idea, but teach me, oh great Lunar Princess.”

“A traitorous alliance! Equestria is doomed!” Celestia shouted with a loud laugh.

11. - A Grand Day Out

“I honestly thought it would be harder to get out of the palace,” Bean remarked thoughtfully.

“It typically is,” Celestia replied while they both braced themselves against the lurch of the train as it began its journey. “But every pony understands that right now is a bit of an ‘unique’ situation. Wysteria is also very good at her job.”

“I am also a bit surprised that the private train of Princess Celestia is so plain. It looked like we were going to take the Express to Baltimare for a minute.”

“There is a problem with having a gilded train like the one you describe,” Celestia said. “With enough velvet and gold, one feels like a show pony in a three-ring circus.”

“I can see why you would want to avoid that.”

“I also tend to feel guilty if the pegasus guards have to pull me and my chariot long distances,” Celestia continued. “They tell me time and again it’s an honor to do so but I know it’s backbreaking work, so when I can I travel by rail.”

“Plus, you can get more paperwork done.”

“That I can,” she smiled, and she settled in behind the desk like a mother swan in a nest, or at least that was the image that Baked Bean was trying his best not to think about. “Sadly, there is never a shortage of it, and I believe some of the worst offenders at creating the cursed things will see you as an opportunity to ‘up their game’ as it is said.”

“I bet.” He chuckled while he watched her bring a stack of papers to the desk with her magic.

“So what should I know about your family?” she asked. “I hate walking into a battle blind.”

“Yeah, it may be a battle, I suppose.” Bean blew out a short and frustrated breath. “What to tell you about my parents. Isn’t that the sixty-four thousand bit question. Where do I even begin?”

“Start with the basics,” she replied as she began reading the stack of parchment before her, and writing on another off to one side. “All I know is that you have a mother and father and no siblings, and that they own a gourmet restaurant.”

“Upscale,” he corrected. “I have no idea why it matters, but it’s an upscale restaurant. From what Dad says, it means we serve real food, not just a half-dozen microscopic blobs of stuff on a lettuce leaf for a few hundred bits.”

“Fair enough. But what are they like? What interests do they have? How much do they travel? Are they earth ponies as well?”

“Why wouldn’t they be?”

“I have known many earth ponies who had pegasus and unicorn foals. It is a possibility.”

“Well, they’re earth ponies too.” Bean snorted and suppressed a smile. “Mom likes to call herself black beans over yellow rice, and Dad says he’s refried beans with hot salsa on top, due to their colors.” He eyed Celestia’s flowing mane. “I’m not sure how they’d describe you.”

“Rainbow whip topping on vanilla ice cream,” said Celestia with a twinkle in her eyes. “My sister can be double-double chocolate fudge. So how did your parents meet?”

Bean straightened up, although with most of his smile still remaining. “They’re foalhood sweethearts, actually. They were neighbors growing up, and somehow they always knew they would marry each other.”

Bean hesitated. Celestia was looking over one scroll quite intently and the quill in her magic seemed to be writing quickly next to her, but she still made an encouraging noise as if she wanted him to continue.

“They, uh, they opened the Zuerst just after they got married. They’ve done some advertising but most of their growth has been by word-of-mouth. When I left, they could pack the place, no matter what day it was. They haven’t let the success go to their heads, though. They have a modest house in town, and they insisted that I attend public schooling. I guess they thought if I had a normal foalhood I wouldn’t become an egotistical brat.”

…and she wasn’t listening, even though both of her ears were pointed in his direction. Bean sighed and plopped his rear on a convenient cushion. Why had she bothered to ask if she was just going to get wrapped up in her work?

“What else?” Celestia pressed.


“There was more you were going to tell me, wasn’t there?” she asked, without looking up.

“Well, yeah. But you don’t seem to be very interested.”

“I’m listening. These things,” she twitched her ears, “are able to work separately from these,” she pointed to her eyes, “or from this,” as she tapped her horn.

“Oh,” Bean replied, but his gaze went to the floor. An odd concoction of depressed, impressed, and self pity moved through him, and he twiddled a hoof while the sensation seeped into his bones. He really should have realized that the Princess would have learned how to multitask at some point in the last thousand years.

Bean gave a slight yelp of alarm when her magic picked him up, but then he visibly relaxed when his eyes met hers. His own feelings turned into deep concern when he saw the sorrow in the magenta pools before him, but he was also astonished at how expressive those eyes were.

“That was not the best choice of words,” she simply said. “Even after a thousand years of diplomacy, I can still say the absolute wrong thing at the worst time.”

“I don’t see how it was wrong. You’ve had centuries to learn how to multitask. I should have realized that.”

“That’s not the point,” she replied. He relaxed further when she playfully rubbed noses with him and then put him down. “The point is you’re not the only one who is learning in this relationship. I’m used to dealing with diplomats, so I suppress my frustrations until I’m in a more private setting. Like when I’m with Luna,” she added with a pained twitch in the corner of her cheek. “And now you.”

“Like a pressure cooker,” said Bean. “If you don’t vent, you’ll explode.”

Celestia nodded, then whistled a long, rising note, ending in a sharp popping noise from her cheek that made both of them giggle.

“I probably should try not to be so touchy,” said Bean. “Provided you do the same for me. I get frustrated too, but on a much smaller scale, I suppose.

Celestia made a much smaller popping noise with her lips, which left them cocked into a sly smile afterward. “Something we both need to work on, I suppose. What if we make a deal? If you want to talk to me about something that you feel is important, just say so. I will stop what I am doing and give you my full and undivided attention. Is that fair?”

“That’s fair. I’ll also try to remember that you’re not being mean or ignoring me. You’re just being… well, a princess.”

“That will work,” she replied with a smile.

“What are you working on?” he asked, and he tried to peer up at the papers.

“This is next year’s budget. Be careful, though. Long-term exposure can be detrimental to your health.” She wrinkled up her nose. “Makes you break out in Stuffy, and it can cause Snooty in extreme cases.”

“I hope not, or at least I hope you have some kind of protective shield in place.”

“Several layers, don’t worry,” she replied with a wink. “But, now that I think about it, you could help me with this.”

Bean’s depression was sent packing, and an eager desire to help took up quick residence instead. “Really? I’d love to help you in any way, if I can.”

Celestia chuckled a bit at his enthusiasm and pulled a chair from across the car over for him to sit on. “I think you will be an immense help. You see, the problem I have with budgets is that I am never totally sure how it will affect my little ponies. I have various officials and experts who can advise me, of course, but since they make a living out of crunching numbers I do tend to have a small grain of doubt when they give their presentations. You, however, have actually paid taxes and had to live with my decisions, so you can tell me if what is proposed seems fair and decent. I don’t expect you to be an expert on all of it, but take a look. This will be a good illustration of the concept.”

The whole stack of papers levitated, and from the middle of the stack she withdrew a small group of papers. “This is the restaurant tax.”

Bean frowned. “Repeal that thing immediately and then incinerate it.”

“And thus you prove my point.” She giggled. “Now, what is it about this tax that makes it worthy of a death by fire?”

The train’s whistle blasted long and loud as the journey began in earnest.

“So, how do you think your parents will respond to… well, me?” Celestia asked, as the train bumped to a stop. She was feeling far more nervous about this visit than she was letting on, and while she had appreciated Bean’s comments on the budget, it had distracted them from the original topic of conversation. She was going up against an unknown, and she never was comfortable with that scenario.

“I honestly have no idea, and that’s the worst part of all this.” Bean sighed. “I really hope they’ll be accepting of what’s happened.”

“Will it take long to reach the Zuerst?”

“Not too long, no. It’s about fifteen to twenty minutes from here, and even faster if you fly.”

“Do you want to?”

“Fly?” he asked, and she nodded. “Oh! You can carry me?”

“I can indeed.” She smiled as they stepped out onto the platform. “I only look dainty. I was a warcharger at various points in my life.”

“Oh, but I couldn’t ask you to—wooOOAAHH!”

His counterargument was silenced when Celestia wrapped her arms around his chest, flared her wings, and swept up into the sky with a mighty flap. Bean continued to struggle and flail a little while they ascended, but then he relaxed when she leveled out so they could look out over the city.

Salt Lick was a modest city, with modest homes and modest shops scattered about a modest scene. It would never be anything like the bustling metropolis that Manehattan, Baltimare, or even Fillydelphia was, but it was a pleasant-looking city all the same, and much of its charm came from its smaller size. Surrounded by the gently rolling Appaloosa Mountains and with the broad Misshoofi River running along its western edge, the city had a distinct outdoorsy feel that begged to be explored.

“So what am I looking at?” Celestia asked Bean, and her head dipped down to follow his hoof as he pointed.

“That’s city hall down there, it probably looks familiar. Over there is the university, and the natural history museum is next to it. The dockyards are there, markets up there. My house—well, my old house—is just over there.”

“And your restaurant?”

Bean scanned the city for a moment, the pointed. “Just right down theryyyaaahh!”

His shout of alarm turned into a whoop of joy as she built up speed, and it only increased when she leveled out for a moment to pull a barrel roll. Celestia caught on to Bean’s excitement, and she quickly twisted into a tight loop, and then a couple of quick knife turns to keep the feeling going.

When they did land, Bean staggered away from her, his steps wobbly and unsure, but only for a moment. He then turned to face her, and he had the most deliriously happy smile plastered on his face that he’d ever had.

“That… was… awesome!” he shouted. “The way you zipped, and zoomed, and that twisty thing you did, and… and…”

“I’m glad you liked the flight, but you need to breathe. You’re going to pass out on me if you don’t.”

“Breathe. Right. I can breathe, I’m very good at breathing.”

“I certainly hope so.” She giggled behind a hoof.

“Can we do that again some time, please please please?”

Celestia clicked her tongue. “I suppose I could have Wysteria make an appointment for you in my schedule.”

Bean pumped a hoof in the air and gave a quick “Yes!” to himself. He then turned and looked at the bay windows and slate-grey paint that made up the front of what he had once referred to as his former prison. “And the good feeling is gone.”

“I remember this place,” Celestia said thoughtfully. “I was here, oh, about twenty years ago for the Equestria Games. The Mayor insisted we eat here. She claimed at the time it was the best new restaurant in the city. From what I recall, the food was quite delicious.”

“At least they left a favorable impression,” Bean said flatly.

“You would have been a small foal at that point, I suppose. I also think your father was the waiter for that evening. I know I recommended it to a few of my advisors later.”

“He’ll be pleased to hear that.”

She now looked down at him and saw his face was drawn in consternation. “Bean, if you don’t want to do this we won’t. You’re not obligated to do anything.”

“No, I need to do this. Just brace yourself.”

“Brace myself?” she asked, but he was already moving into the restaurant. She followed, but she had to duck to keep from hitting the door frame.

“Baked!” a pony shouted. “Long time no see, dude!”

“Hey Sip.” Bean shared a quick hoofbump with the blue maître d’. “How’s things been?”

“Oh, you know. Shake and Bake are still at it, Grumps is still Grumps, your parents keep trying to invent new dishes. Same old, same old really.”

“Sounds like it. Are they in yet?”

“Should be out in a moment. Shake ran off to tell them you were here when you landed with the Princess. Oh, hey Princess, by the way.”

“Good morning, Mister Sip,” she diplomatically replied. She couldn’t remember the last time a pony had greeted her arrival so informally, but she rather liked it.

“Fresh in from Canterlot, are you? Heard it’s a nice place to visit but never had a chance to go. What brings you in with the Bean?”

“That’s a long story,” Bean cut in with a sigh. “To put it simply, the Princess is—”

“Baked? Is that you, sweetheart?” a feminine voice rang out.

“Here we go,” Bean muttered while he turned to the source of the voice. “Hey, Mom.”

Celestia smiled as Bean’s mother galloped from the kitchen and then smothered him in hugs and motherly kisses. She was just about the same shade of yellow as Bean, but her mane had a few flecks and streaks of grey creeping into it. She still looked very dignified, despite the motherly outburst, and she gave off an aura of pleasantness.

“Oh, I’m so glad you’re back, my little Baked.” She finally pulled away. “I’ve been so worried about you! Where did you go? What did you see? Did you have fun? Tell me you had fun. I want to hear all about it! It’s too bad you came back today, we’ve been so busy with the adjuster’s conference. We could have had a welcome home party.”

“Bean Buddy? That you?” The voice that now called out from the kitchen sounded very similar to Baked’s own pleasant timbre.

“Hey, Dad.”

Celestia filed away Bean’s nickname for future use, and she bit her lip to stifle her giggles as his father now gave him a brief, stallion-to-stallion hug. They both seemed rather pleasant and kindly, from their first impressions, and even Bean had a small smile.

“It’s good to have you back, son,” his father continued. “We’ve been slammed with the conference—”

“I just told him that, dear,” his mom interjected.

“—and we could really use the extra hooves in the kitchen tonight.”

“Dear, we’re being rude.” Bean’s mom nudged Bean’s dad with a hoof. “Baked brought a special guest with him.”

“Ha-ha! Of course. My apologies. Bean, why don’t you introduce us?”

Bean paused, and blinked once. “Um, I’m pretty extra sure you know who this is.”

“Manners, Baked,” his mother chided.

Bean sighed. “All right. Mom, Dad, this is Celestia, Princess of the Sun.”

“A pleasure to meet you, Princess.” Bean’s Father offered, as both he and his wife bowed. “I’m Garbanzo Bean, and this is my wife, Lima.”

And inexplicably, the ceiling let out a blast of laughter.

“This whole family is one big bean pun! I love it!” a decidedly Discord-esqe voice said from nowhere.

“You stay out of this!” Bean shouted upwards, and both he and Celestia scowled at the ceiling fans and rafters. Bean’s parents looked at each other, and then to Sip in confusion.

“Hmpf!” The ceiling replied.

“Is everything ok?” Garbanzo asked.

“Yes, just ignore that.” Bean replied with a huff. “It’s been happening on and off lately.”

“Okey dokey then,” his father replied warily.

“All right, how do I say this? Hoo.” Bean exhaled sharply. “Mom, Dad. Uh.. Phew.” He shut his eyes tight. “Celestiaismywifeandi’mherhusband.”

There was a healthy pause as the news soaked in. Sip looked like Bean’s announcement was a joke, and he was waiting for the punch line. Garbonzo merely nodded with both a frown and a smile fighting for space on his broad, squarish face. And Lima...

Celestia had always wondered just what expression a prospective mother-in-law would have when she considered the concept of grandfoals from a child who she had feared would never reproduce. It was a very nice expression, quite pleased, and it made Lima’s face light up like a beacon of joy, although it seemed to be moderated slightly by just who Baked Bean had decided would bear those foals, and if the concept of wings or horns would be in their future. Or both.

“Well, that is quite the announcement,” Lima said, thus breaking the tension. “Why don’t we sit and talk about it?”

“That would be delightful, Mister and Missus Bean,” Celestia replied warmly.

“Sip? Go get us some raspberry tea, would you?” Lima asked in a tone of voice that brooked no disobedience, and which any officer in the Royal Guard would have obeyed without hesitation. Sip did not salute when he left, but he give a brief nod and trotted away at a quite brisk pace “Now, let’s all have a seat and you can tell us how this happened, Baked.”

“… and then we decided to see if we could make this work.” Bean concluded, sounding much more relaxed than the bundle of nerves he had been earlier. “So now I’m a prince, and I need to return to Canterlot tonight with Celestia. There’s going to be a news conference tomorrow to announce all of this. Probably better than I just did,” he admitted.

“Well, it sounds like you’ve been on quite the adventure,” Lima said. “And such interesting luck! You might have just started a new trend in marriage proposals!”

“Good grief, I hope not.” Bean groaned. “That’s what we need, ponies standing around in hidden places, trying to boop noses and getting injured.”

“And you say you wrote this law to get out of a marriage proposal a thousand years ago?” Garbanzo asked the Princess.

“I did, yes. Believe me, Equestria would be very different today if I had accepted his proposal.”

“Well, it’s a lot to take in, that’s for sure,” he replied. “And to think! My little Bean Buddy, a prince! It’s gonna take a while to get my head around that one.”

Celestia calmly sipped her tea. Garbanzo, with that sentence, had revealed much more than he ever intended to. Celestia knew now, simply based on his tone and timing of delivery. She had centuries of experience with ponies trying to hide things or deceive her in every way imaginable. This was a new situation for her, but the clues and the ‘tells’ were the same.

Celestia could read Bean’s parents like a book. The large print edition.

With illustrations.

Lima also calmly brought her tea cup to her lips. “So, Princess, when can I expect to have some grandfoals?”

Bean made some sort of weird gagging-honking noise, and then coughed as tea dribbled out of his nostrils.

Celestia, however, laughed lightly. “I’m afraid we haven’t had a chance to discuss that yet, since we’ve been so focused on other things.”

“Naturally. But Baked, you need to think about things like that sooner rather than later. Your father and I aren’t getting any younger—”

Thankfully, Celestia managed to suppress an inner cringe enough so nopony noticed.

“—and neither are you! Besides, what better mother could there be than a Princess? You have a very wonderful opportunity here, so you need to take advantage of it.”

“I don’t think I’ll be taking advantage of anything for quite some time,” Bean muttered.

“You really shouldn’t mutter, dear.”

“Yes, Mom.”

“We should come visit some time. I don’t think we’ve been to Canterlot yet, have we?”

“No, I don’t think so,” Garbanzo replied. “I think we’ve meant to go several times but we never quite made it. You’d show us the sights, wouldn’t you Bean Buddy?”

“I suppose I could.” He shrugged, and glanced over to his wife.

“It can be easily arranged. Just expect to have a guard detail accompany you.”

“Oh yeah.” Bean thought for a moment. “That’s gonna be cumbersome.”

“Not at all. I have two ponies in mind who would be wonderful. They’ve stood in for my regular guards when they were on vacation, and they were trained by Captain Armor personally. I’ll introduce you to them as soon as we get back. They’re also very good at guarding without being underhoof. You’ll like them.”

“Oh! Okay then.”

“Boss?” Sip called out from the front. “Hate to interrupt but looks like we’ve got some live ones inbound.”

“Time to get to work.” Garbanzo declared. “I really could use the help, son.”

“Dad, you know I can’t handle it.” Bean groaned. “You really want me screwing things up during a conference crowd?”

“What if I help you?” Celestia offered.

“Help?” all three Beans asked in unison.

“I would like to, if I may,” she replied, as she stood. “Bean has spent most of the last week helping me and learning about being a prince, so it’s only fair I learn a little about his life too.”

“Do you know how to cook?” Lima asked.

“A little. I can also help keep track of things too.”

It was like a light bulb went off over Bean’s head, and it was clear to see what he was thinking from the expression on his face. Celestia was good at multitasking! She didn’t even need to touch anything, all she had to do was keep Bean organized, and his odds of ‘screwing up’ were bound to diminish greatly.

“I think that’s a wonderful idea. Grumps, Shake and Bake aren’t going to mind, are they?” Bean asked, and then he softly added “Sorry, Celly.”

She simply gave a long suffering sigh.

“I’m sure they’d love the help,” Lima replied. “You five can run the kitchen, while your father and I run the tables.”

“You sure you want to do this?” Bean asked Celestia, and she smiled brightly back at him.

“I would love to.”

“Can I keep the hat when we’re done?” Celestia asked, as she straightened it with her magic.

Toque, but yes. If the Princess wants to keep the hat, the Princess keeps the hat.”

She gave herself a soft “Yes!” and pumped a hoof in the air before laughing a bit with Bean. “I always wanted one of these. I remember when they first started wearing them in the palace.”

“When was that?” Shake’s voice carried from in the back.

“Oh, about six hundred years ago.”


“The practice actually started when the judges started wearing these white cloth caps to indicate their position. Then one of them got the bright idea that a taller cap meant higher authority. I had to put my hoof down when the whole bunch of them started staggering around under twice their height in hat, so they switched to powdered wigs, which were much more manageable. The chefs in the kitchens picked up on the idea to keep their manes out of the food, and thankfully never went nearly as crazy with it. So, ta-da!” She adjusted the poofy white hat. “A toque blanche with a hundred folds in it to indicate the chef knows a hundred ways to cook an egg.”

“And that, my dear Shake, is what will happen if you spend your life pursuing trivia,” Bake said.

“Bean Buddy! Need a bloomer and a boomer!” Garbanzo called back.

“And thus it begins.” Bean groaned. “Okay. Bloomer is easy, I got that. Go grab some triple-a’s from the stores.”

Celestia looked around the kitchen, then back to him with a hint of confusion.

“Right, sorry. That door there is where the produce is kept. Triple A’s are Sweet Apple Acres apples. I need five or six.”

“Got it.”

She moved quickly and opened the door. A cellar-type room was inside, with stacks of produce lining the shelves along both walls. Three bushels of apples were near the back, and she moved quickly to them.

“Let’s see. Not the Greenland, he wanted... Sweet Apple, here we go.”

Six apples floated out, and she smiled as she thought of Applejack bucking these particular apples out of one of her trees. She then swiftly moved back out as Bean dropped something into a deep fryer.

“Okay. Core and slice those, knives are right there.”

“You think I can handle that?”

“If you can make pancakes you can cut an apple,” he dryly replied, but he gave her a small smile.

“Three treat, the runs, and a double foxtrot!” Lima shouted back.

“Got the foxtrot,” Grumps called out.

“Three treat!” Shake yelled.

“Got the runs!” Bean shouted, and then he playfully glared at Celestia when she snickered. “You done with those apples?”

“I’m working on it.”

“Okay. Let’s see.” Bean ran into the storeroom quickly, then emerged with a load of mixed vegetables. These were then diced quickly and scooped into a frying pan. He then grabbed a bottle of something from his left, poured a healthy splash of it in, and then set it alight. Celestia flinched slightly at the flash of flame, but then she watched as he began stirring everything with a large spoon.

“You gonna cut those?” he asked.

“Are you going to pull whatever-it-is out of the fryer?” she retorted.

“Eep! Yes! Stir this!”

She took the spoon in her magic and stirred the vegetables as Bean quickly pulled the whatever-it-was out of the fryer, and she saw it was a large onion. Bean then fished it out of the basket with some tongs, placed it on a plate, and then grabbed the knife Celestia had been using. A quick smack to the top of it with the flat of the blade made it fall open along premade cut lines, and she was amazed that it resembled a flower.

“Keep stirring!” Bean admonished while he rushed to her unfinished apples. “Don’t let that sit!”

Bean rapidly sliced the apples, sprinkled cinnamon and sugar on them, and then placed them beautifully on a plate. He then grabbed both plates and swiftly moved them to the window countertop that separated the kitchen from the server’s area.

“Bloomer Boomer up!” he shouted, then moved quickly back to her.

“Moo goo, three rocks and a horseshoe!” Garbanzo shouted back.

“Got the rocks!” Bean shouted, and he grabbed the spoon from her magic. “I got this. I need a broccoli, four turnips, and two cucumbers.”

“I will be right back.”


“Lima! Psst! C’mere!”

“What? What’s wrong, dear?”

“Nothing is wrong.”

“Then why did you call me over, hon?”

“Nothing. Is. Wrong.” Garbanzo repeated with emphasis.

Lima processed this for a moment but then smiled. “You’re right! I haven’t had to send anything back all night!”

“Exactly! And look at Bean.”

Both of them peered through the serving window and into the kitchen. Bean was positively humming around the kitchen, moving quickly from one station to another. He was also chatting with Celestia, though they couldn’t make out what he was saying to her. She appeared to be simply standing at the moment, but her eyes kept sweeping the kitchen and over what Bean was cooking.

“He’s been like this all night.” Garbanzo commented. “He’s been happy, and he’s kept track of everything, and he’s holding a conversation with her.”

“Do you think it finally happened?”

Garbanzo smiled at his wife. “Yeah. I think he finally found himself.”

* * * *

“That’s the last one!” Sip shouted back, while locking the door with a dramatic flick of the hoof.

“Phew!” Bean exclaimed. “That was a rush crowd. What time is it?”

“Just a little after midnight,” Celestia replied.
Bean walked over to where Celestia was finishing the dishes. “I did mention I was jealous of unicorns, right?”

“What, this?” she asked. “Simple ‘Scrub Yourself’ spell. This is one of the nicer versions of the spell, too; even if I walk away they’ll keep going until all the dishes are done.”

Bean chuckled as he looked at the magic she had worked. As soon as somepony put a dirty dish in the magic field on the left, it would automatically float over to a pile of similar dishes. From there, a dish would float up, dunk itself into the soapy water, get scrubbed off by a scrubbing brush, move over and rinse itself off, and then move to the drying racks on the right. A broom, dustpan, and mop were also dancing around the kitchen, and a few rags were cleaning the stations.

“Black magic of the worst kind,” Grumps grumped.

“Not at all,” Celestia countered. “With the original spell, you had to sing to all of them. Plates, silverware, mops, brooms. Now that was black magic. Particularly if you broke a broom in the process.”

Grumps grumbled something out, but he had a smirk on his face.

“Well, that should do it,” Garbanzo remarked. “Grumps, go ahead and take off. Bean and the Princess can help us wrap up here.”

“All right. I’ll see you tomorrow.”

“Sip, you can head out too.”

“Later, Gator!” he shouted from the back door.

“Shake and Bake left earlier, so it’s just us. I guess all we need to do is count down the till and that should do it. Bean, I think you and I can handle that. Then you and the Princess can head out.”

“I’ll get some Linden tea made up while we wait for them.” Lima said to Celestia. “After such a big day, I know I need something to help me unwind.”

“That sounds delightful,” the Princess replied with a soft and tired smile.

Bean hesitated for a moment, as he was feeling uneasy about leaving her alone with his Mom. But then he realized there wasn’t really anything that could happen, so he followed his father into the back office.

The door was shut and locked, and Garbanzo twisted the dial on the safe in the corner. Once the door creaked open, he pulled out a sizeable tray of bits, and Bean whistled.

“Looks like business picked up while I was gone.”

“Most of this is from the last three days. I need to run it to the bank tomorrow. You count it down while I get the ledger ready.”

Counting was easy enough since the bits were stacked in towers of twenty five and then in groups of eight. Once Bean had the count and verified it matched the previous ledger entry, he and his father began stacking the bits from that day’s sales.

“So. Your… um... wife seems like a very pleasant pony,” Garbanzo said after a few moments.

“She is.” Bean smiled. “There’s still a lot I need to learn about her, but I love what I’ve learned so far.”

“Love, hmm?” Garbanzo replied. “You’re positive you’re in love with that mare, right?”

“Well, maybe not love yet, but definitely like.”

“Ah. And you are planning on returning to Canterlot with her tonight?”

“Yeah. I wouldn’t be surprised if Luna turns up here in a few minutes and gets after me for breaking curfew or something like that.”

Garbanzo almost dropped a stack of bits on the floor. “Luna?”

“Oh, yeah. Princess Luna. I should show proper respect.”

“You should, yes.”

“Hundred here.”

“Two.” Garbanzo added his towers to Bean’s. “You should keep those.”


“Well, you’re going to need more bits for your journey, aren’t you? I’m sure you spent the first thousand I gave you.”

“I don’t need any more bits, Dad,” said Bean with a snicker. “For all I know, Celestia has a giant bin of bits that she swims in every night. I’m not sure how my expenses are covered as her husband, but I’m pretty sure neither of us will need to borrow a bit from the guards to buy an ice cream cone.”

“Three,” Garbanzo stated. There was a long pause as coins clinked, and then he sighed. “You know, son, you can admit the truth to me. I’m not mad.”

“Truth about what?”


“Here we are.” Lima placed the small tea set on the table. “Nice and hot.”

“Thank you,” Celestia replied kindly. “Shall I serve?”


Celestia poured out the tea, and there was a pause as they both added sugar. Three lumps in Celestia’s case, because she was fairly sure she was going to need the energy to get through what was coming next.

Picking up the teacup, Lima took a deep breath of the rising steam and let out a contented sigh. “I needed this. I probably shouldn’t be drinking tea so late at night, but it is a weakness.”

“It does take some self control,” Celestia admitted.

“Thank you for helping my son, by the way. I don’t know what you did, but I’ve never seen Bean so happy.”

“It was my pleasure to assist.”


Celestia sipped her tea. “Yes. I kept an eye on his cooking, nothing more.”

“Is that all?”

Celestia calmly put her teacup down. “Missus Bean, let us not beat around the bush anymore. I know full well that both you and your husband do not believe I am who I claim to be.”

“Very perceptive,” Lima replied, as she now sipped her tea.

“Why do you not believe your son?”

“Baked is a wonderful, wonderful son. He’s very smart, and very creative. I believe he’s ashamed he didn’t find whatever it was he was looking for with that writing nonsense and he doesn’t want to admit his folly. He came back with you tonight to try and convince us he did find something so we wouldn’t worry about him, and probably to keep us from asking too many questions. He’ll have to confess sometime.”

“I see. So who do you think I am?”

“I’m not sure, but I would probably guess you are some sort of double, a pony who has enchanted herself to look like the Princess. You may even be an official stand in for her; the one they send to cut ribbons and visit schools when the real Princess is too busy.”



“Well, you really should have come up with a better story.”

“What?” Bean growled.

“You had to marry the Princess because you bonked her nose? C’mon. The very premise is ludicrous. Why in Equestria would the Princess write a law like that? If she wanted to get out of a bad relationship a thousand years ago, I’m sure there’s a dozen other things she could have done.”

Bean groaned and rubbed his temples. “I wish I could say I don’t believe this. Dad, we flew in together, and then she used magic!”

“A simple levitation spell. Very easy for a well-studied unicorn.”


“You also failed to bring any of her entourage. The Princess wouldn’t go anywhere without at least a couple of guards.”


“It wasn’t easy to get them to stay in Canterlot. I had to give a direct order to Lieutenant Spear Point to stand down, and then he begrudgingly admitted that there was little risk in visiting you unannounced. He’s not going to be very happy until we get back, and even then he’s going to be all formal and stuffy about it for weeks.”

“I’m sure. You’re also not tall enough.”

That one caught Celestia off guard. “I’m not?”

“Oh yes. The real Princess is quite a bit taller than you are, as I recall.”

Celestia snickered. “I hope not! I’ve hit my head on enough doorframes in my lifetime. I really don’t need to be any taller.”

“Your accent is all wrong, too. You have far too much of a Vanhoover lilt in your words.”


“And you’re an expert on Celestia all of a sudden?”

“No, but c’mon. It’s pretty obvious, son.”

Bean groaned and rubbed his face with his hooves now. “Of course it’s obvious.”

“Look, Bean Buddy. I appreciate that you didn’t want to let your mother and I down, but it’s really okay. If you need some more time to settle your mind, take it. Just say so. I’ll give you ten thousand bits this time, if you like. But I saw you in the kitchen with that mare and you had it, son! You didn’t have a single order go back!”

“You do realize that was because Celestia was helping me keep track of everything, right?”

“If that’s what you want to believe, then fine. I don’t even really care if you keep calling that mare out there Celestia. If it helps you get in the zone, do whatever you have to.”

“Dad, I came here to tell you the truth. When I leave tonight, I won’t be able to come back. I have responsibilities at the palace now.”


“Of course, of course. Just make sure he knows he can come back whenever he wants to. We will always welcome him, and you’re even welcome to come with him. Any friend of my little Baked is a friend of the family.”

“And if he does not come back?”

“He’ll be back,” Lima said with a grin. “He hasn’t got anywhere else to go, and he knows it.”

Bean then stormed out of the office, slammed his way through the swinging kitchen doors, and stamped out into the dining area with his face twisted in frustration.

Garbanzo followed in the wake of his son with a concerned frown. “Bean, buddy!”

“I’m done with this conversation, Dad. It’s late, and my wife and I have a press conference in the morning. Shall we?”

“Mister and Missus Bean.” Celestia stood with her words. “It really has been an honor to meet you, and I mean that truly. You will always be welcome in our home, and I’m sure Baked Bean and I will be seeing you soon.”

“I don’t doubt that for a moment,” Lima replied with a strained smile.

“Please lead the way, Bean.”

Bean held his head high and his steps were full of determined pride. He didn’t glance back or to the sides as he march through the kitchen and out the back door.

But as soon as the door shut, he broke.

Celestia felt her heart ache as Bean’s ears drooped with his head. He paused near some trash cans, remained motionless for a moment, and then lashed out at one with a rear leg in frustration.

“Sorry,” he immediately said. “I’m letting my anger get out of hoof. I just…” Celestia could see his inner struggle to vocalize his thoughts with the contortions on his face. “I assume you had just about the same conversation with my Mom that I did with my Dad.”

“I believe so, yes.”

Bean took a deep breath. “It figures, really. I could have brought you, Luna, Shining Armor, Cadence, and a full brigade of the Guard with a song and dance routine and they still wouldn’t have believed. I just… just…”

Celestia said nothing as he further sorted out his thoughts.

“The most important thing that’s ever going to happen to me, and they don’t even believe it,” he muttered bitterly.

Celestia felt horrible for Bean, but she also felt a little thrill run up her spine. Bean’s tone indicated he wasn’t talking about anything related to being a prince.

He was talking about her.

Celestia was used to being the most important thing to ponies in an abstract way. For a thousand years, she had raised the sun and moon, waiting for the return of her sister. It had become comfortable to live in that isolated tower above all the other ponies. Separate. Alone.

Then Princess Cadenza... that is Cadence had blasted several holes into the tower of loneliness with her love, Twilight had weakened the foundations with her insatiable curiosity, and Luna’s return had toppled the whole structure in one glorious and tearful reunion.

But yet, it had taken bumping into a nosy stallion for Celestia to realize how far she still had to travel in order to once again be appreciated for what was inside instead of her unchanging outsides.

Unaware of the thoughts whipping Celestia’s mind into a froth, Baked Bean continued staring at the ground. Then he lifted his head, gave the restaurant a long, determined look, and let out his breath in a huff of frustration.

“Let’s go home. There’s nothing left for me here.”

He then turned his back on the building and began walking away. Celestia came up alongside him, walked with him for a few paces, but then ducked her head down near him.

“Would you like to fly back to the train, or would you rather walk?” she gently asked.

He stopped, contemplated the offer for a moment with the cool night breeze blowing through his mane, then smiled slightly.

“If it’s okay, I’d like to fly.”

She smiled back. “I thought you might.”

12. - Celestial Musings

Celestia drew in a long breath as she finished removing her regalia. The day had turned into quite the emotional trip, and after everything that had happened, she was ready for it to end. The flight back to the train had been straight and short, but exhausted as he had been, Bean carefully thanked Celestia for the flight before entering the train car.

It was just one more desirable trait that needed added to Bean’s how to woo his wife list, along with the way he tried to hide his obvious depression in order not to disturb her. Unfortunately, the signs of the war between his troubled heart and his wounded soul were far too easy for Celestia to pick out with her vast experience, no matter how he attempted to put on a stoic front.

Still, she found it difficult to contain her own sorrow as she watched her husband first sit down on a cushion with a thud, then slowly collapse like a bridge that had lost its structural supports. Even then, his green eyes remained open, darting back and forth for a few moments until the physical and emotional toil he had struggled through took its toll, and they finally sagged closed.

Her musing was disrupted by the lurch of the train as it began the long trip home. And it was going to be a long trip, particularly for her Bean, who had been through so much in the last week that it was hard to believe he had not been crushed to a pulp yet. No mortal should be forced to bear her burdens, but he had put his shoulders to the load and lifted far more off her own back than she had ever expected.

Then he had continued to lift. Dealing with Luna and Discord. Deciding to stay with her despite the opportunity to escape matrimony. And that didn’t include his dalliance with another young mare that had almost undone her before he had even realized what he was doing.

And to top it all off, he had confronted his parents, a task that had almost broken him.

Yet somehow he’d come through all of it with a fairly good attitude and with a desire to do what was right. He had been fantastic about about asking for directions, and actually following them afterward, while eager to do more. It was like he thrived on being helpful and he wanted to contribute, no matter how or where.

Her heart broke all over again when his muzzle scrunched up in agony, and she nearly let out a soft gasp of compassion when he began to twitch and whimper. She had no doubt that he was being tormented by the events of the day, and this would not do.

Celestia tiptoed gently over to his uneasy resting place, then slowly lowered herself next to him until their sides were touching. She then spread one wing over him with a touch as soft as the first rays of morning light, and she smiled deeply when the tense muscles she could feel pressed against her belly began to relax, and he began to slip into peaceful slumber.

Is this what it had been like for Lulu and Star? Was this what they had felt when they first met? Celestia thought back and smiled fondly as the memories of how giddy and alive Luna had been during their courtship flooded her mind. The images were dull now sadly, yellowing and peeling in some places and the sounds were scratchy at best and incomprehensible at worst. Yet, out of all the remaining memories she held from that time, the ones with Star and Lulu were the best preserved.

After a few moments of fond reminiscing, Celestia’s thoughts wandered to her own situation and how she had gotten to this point. It was a bit astonishing, now that she really put some thought into it, that she had gone over a thousand years without a mate. Of course, a great many things had changed over the years: societal customs, trends and patterns always did. But really, as she thought about it, there were two things that had kept her single: procrastination and preoccupation. It was easy to say marriage and a husband could wait in the early years; she had grossly underestimated how long it takes to both form and stabilize a country. There was always something else to do, some crisis that took longer than expected to clear up, some foreign power that pushed on Equestria’s boundaries. After having to push away Iron Hoof, she had simply continued to push every time the opportunity came up due to the next crisis being more important. Losing Luna to the Nightmare had also been a moon-sized wrench in the works, and it had been only since her return that Celestia could find a free moment here and there.

Always another diplomat to host, always another treaty to forge, always another request to consider.

Perhaps it was destiny that had denied her over the years. Those mystic chords that bound all of ponykind to one another and from past to present shaped and directed events in strange and mysterious ways, and maybe she hadn’t found her mate on the simple fact that his introduction on the stage of life was scripted for a thousand years after her own debut.

She glanced down at Bean again. If that was the case, the wait had been worth it so far. Perhaps it was even sweeter because she had waited.

Even if this had all been just one large fluke, she really had been favored to have Bean as the one to fulfil the terms of her law. Out of the millions of stallions who lived in Equestria, she had somehow found the one who was kind, who was thoughtful, and who was…

…well, who was innocent.

She had first thought he was naïve, but his actions had shown he was trying to be observant and engaged. He was naïve in a very small way perhaps, simply because the life of a royal was a complete unknown to him, but he approached everything with amazement and a yearning to understand, and he was inclined to make the best of whatever situation he was in.

The fact he wanted to have a relationship with her proved that.

But even there, he was being respectful. He hadn’t tried to force anything in their relationship; in fact, he actually seemed to be holding back to ensure he didn’t cross a line. It was obvious from his mannerisms that he wanted her to be comfortable with how things were between them, and to not go too far and upset her. In reality, though, she was probably more comfortable with how things were than he was.

She smiled a bit to herself as she moved in and began nipping in his mane with her teeth. Star Struck had always enjoyed it when Lulu did this to him, to the point where he would freeze, his eyes would roll back in his head and his tongue would loll out. He had claimed at the time that all earth ponies enjoyed such grooming, and now she could see for herself.

The happy groan of pleasure escaping out of Bean after a minute or two settled the matter.

She smiled more and levitated his notebook out of his saddlebags. She quickly flipped to the How to Court page, and then pulled his pencil out of the bags.

Celestia stared at the writing utensil. Bean chewed on his pencils.

She allowed herself the smallest of frowns. Nopony was perfect, and that was something she’d just have to work on with him. She ignored the tooth marks and moved to write down a thought, but then she saw he had added another item for wooing her: frequent nose boops. She chuckled in agreement, then simply wrote nipping/grooming on his side.

There were so many other little things she could have written, from the way she loved to see that little wrinkle just above his nose when he made a face, to the look in his eyes when he saw something new that needed new words to describe it, but they would wait. So she returned the gnawed pencil and precious list to their places and regarded the pony responsible for them. She was content to let him progress the relationship at his pace, especially if that made him feel at ease around her. Above all else, that was what she really wanted. It was what any wife would want from her husband, she suspected.

Just as any good husband would want their wife to be at ease and happy with them.

She then let the word pass through again: wife. Wife. She liked being a wife, despite how strangely it had happened.

“I am your wife,” she whispered to Bean. “And you are my husband.”

And there was that little thrill of joy up her spine again. It was extremely pleasing to say it.

She had to admit, she had been a bit jealous when Luna had found love so easily and she had to dodge Iron Hoof. She had warned herself, both then and since, that true, meaningful love doesn’t happen in an instant. Just like the building of Equestria, it took time, effort, and patience. There had to be foundations, supports. There had to be understanding.

But a cornerstone had to be laid eventually, or else all one had was dreams. And once the cornerstone was laid, the structure needed to be built.

It would come. Bean was more in love with her than he thought, and he’d realize it sooner or later. Honestly, Celestia was confident it would be sooner. He just needed a few little nudges here and there. Celestia smiled a bit more with that thought and then she laid her head and neck down so her nose was as close as it could be to his. She hummed a few bars of her sister’s lullaby, then began singing.

“Hush now, quiet now, it’s time to lay your sleepy head.
Hush now, quiet now, it’s time to go to bed.

Hush now, quiet now, close your sleepy eyes.
Hush now, quiet now, my how time sure flies.

Drifting slowly off to sleep, the day’s excitement behind you.
Drifting slowly off to sleep, let the joy of dreamland find you.

Hush now, quiet now, lay your sleepy head.
Hush now, quiet now, it’s time to go to bed.”

A surge of delight flowed out of her chest and through her whole body as Bean smiled and snuggled into her side. Pressing her own body up against her husband in return, Celestia wrapped a wing around his shoulders, held him close, and ever-so-gently booped up against his delightful nose.

The joy of his presence was something she was learning to love more than anything she had experienced before in her long life, and to quote the Bean, she was pretty extra certain the feeling was mutual.

13. - Meet the Press

“You are a filthy yellow traitor, and I hate you. Did you know that? I would throw you into the fire and laugh as you burned if I did not have to promptly get another just like you who would be twice as aggravating.”

Bean glared at his pencil in righteous fury for a moment before chewing on the end of it in frustration. He then ripped a page out of his notebook, crumpled it, and threw it over his shoulder.

Traitors, all of them. First the paper, now the pencil. They were in league against him.
Bean grumbled as he tried to think. He had been awakened by his own shivering just before dawn, despite being bundled up in three blankets, and even now he still felt cold.

Cold, and lonely. That was adding to his problems, and to his frustration. He felt like he should know why he was this way, but he couldn’t quite make the connection. His best guess was that it had something to do with what had happened with his parents, but that didn’t seem to totally explain everything.

If there was a wrong side of the bed, he’d definitely gotten up on it.

Part of the worry was over what he would say at the press conference. He was sure he’d need to say something, he really couldn’t fathom a reason why he wouldn’t. But what? Should he say how proud he was? How nervous? Should he try to make jokes, or just give a straight delivery? It was so maddening that he was beginning to get a headache.

The floor was littered with his previous attempts at a speech, and now he was going to need a new notebook. If he didn’t get this figured out soon, he was going to make a lot of lumberjacks happy.

A knock at his door interrupted his thoughts. What time was it? It wasn’t that long after daybreak, so it couldn’t be time for the press conference already. That was at noon, and he’d be surprised if it was any later than eight at the moment. He slowly stood and groaned as his joints protested the movement, shrugged off the blankets, and then dragged his hooves over to the door.

He instantly forgot all his woes when he found Celestia on the other side.

“Good morning, Bean! Are you feeling all right? I grew worried when you didn’t come down for breakfast, especially given how our evening out ended. How are you feeling?”

Bean chuckled at her eager concern. “I’m fine, really. I actually feel a lot better now.”

Celestia gave him a smile that warmed him down to his tail. “Wonderful! I’m glad to hear that.”

“Would you like to come in?” he asked, but then he groaned and gently smacked his forehead with a hoof. “That was dumb. This is your castle, and you’re the Princess. It’s not like I can tell you where you can and can’t go.”

“This is your room, though, and I should respect that. I would like to come in if you will permit me.”

“You’re always welcome to come in.” He smiled, and he stepped back and out of the way. Celestia glanced around at the mess he’d made as she entered, and then clicked her tongue.

“You should really let housekeeping come in and do their job, you know.”

“Oh, yeah.” He rubbed the back of his head in embarrassment with a small chuckle. “This actually was all from this morning. I got cold, and I’ve been trying to come up with something to say to the press today.”

“May I look?”

“Yeah. I don’t think you can fix them, though.”

“Well, I have written a couple of speeches over the years, so perhaps I can offer a suggestion or two.” They both laughed as she picked up two of the crumpled papers with her magic and flattened them out. “Hmm, let me see. ‘Friends, Nobles, Countryfolk! Lend me your ears. No, no; illegible scribbling.’ Not very inspiring, is it?”

“Not so much,” he agreed with a small smile.

“’Today thus represents a moment of hope. We in Equestria stand ready to cooperate scribble scribble.’ That one wasn’t too bad, why did you reject it?”

“I dunno. It felt more like I was telling some foreign power to tear down a wall or something like that.”

“May I keep this?” she asked, and then she tucked it under a wing when Bean nodded. “Bean, if you don’t want to say anything you don’t have to. I can do all the talking. But from personal experience, you should always try to write your speeches from here.”

She then gently tapped his chest, right where his heart was.


“Yes. That is where your true feelings on this matter reside, so that is where you should pull your text from. It works a lot better than logic and cold facts do.”

“All right. I’ll try that.”

“You should also come eat. No pony works very well on an empty stomach.”

“I suppose I should. Did you make pancakes again?”

“Not today.” She giggled as they left the room together. “I let the staff handle it, given the hectic nature of everything.”

“Oh.” He paused for a moment, but then added, “but there’s always tomorrow, right?”

“I’ll make a double batch just for you.” She giggled more and booped him quickly, and he felt a pleasant warmth in his cheeks while he thanked her.

The rest of the short walk was spent reviewing the details of the day: after the press conference there would be a luncheon with a few of the various ministers and department heads, then some time in the afternoon to help Celestia get some work caught up before having an informal dinner that evening with more ministers and nobility. In reality, the dinner was more of a meet-and-greet, mingle and mix affair, and nopony was expecting him to remember who everypony was or what their job entailed.

“Really, it’s not anything to worry about,” Celestia concluded. “Think of it like a very relaxed and informal Grand Galloping Gala.”

“Uh…what is that?”

“It’s a ball I throw every year to celebrate the founding of Canterlot. You missed it this year, but I think we can get you in as my plus one next year.”

“I would certainly hope I’ll be your date,” he quipped, and they both laughed while stopping in front of the kitchen doors.

“There’s one other thing I need to tell you. I’ve invited a few ponies to have breakfast with us. I hope you don’t mind.”

“No, that’s ok. Who did you invite?”

Celestia pushed open the door in reply, and Bean’s eyes grew wide. The dining hall was full of…


…of the most important ponies in the whole of Equestria.

Bean swallowed hard. All six Element Bearers of Harmony were standing around the table, laughing with one another over something humorous. Princess Luna was off to his right, chatting lightly with Princess Cadence, and Prince Shining Armor was standing near the door. Shining was the first to notice them, and he smiled widely when he locked eyes with his new counterpart.

“Baked Bean?” he asked.

Bean extended an only-slightly-shaking hoof. “That’s me.”

Shining completely sidestepped the offered hoof and instead wrapped Bean up in a gigantic hug. “You have no idea how happy I am to meet you!”

To say Bean was confused was an understatement on the level of saying the sun is hot. He simply sat there until Shining released him, and then he wondered what in Equestria he had done to get a ruler of the Crystal Empire to smile like a mad mare.

“It’s nice to meet you too, I guess.”

“This is gonna be great! Tell me, do you follow buckball at all?”

Bean leaned back a bit. “Buckball?”

“Yeah. I’m trying to get a team started in the Crystal Empire. I’ve been showing some potential recruits the ins and outs and I was trying to take them to a game in Baltimare.”

“What, to a Broncos game? Are you nuts?!”


“When was the last time they got to a divisional game?”

“Well, ten, twelve, fifteen… no…”

“Thirty-eight years ago.”

Both stallions stared in surprised wonder at Celestia, who continued on as if she gave Buckball commentary on a regular basis.

“Bean is right; they’re not known as the Bad Luck Broncos for nothing,” Celestia added. “Now, if you really want a good model you should try the Las Pegasus Thunder or the Cloudsdale Manticores.”

“No, no,” Bean said. “The Thunder just lost Morning Glory, remember? I’d take the Tidal Waves any day. They’ve got the balance and the speed.”

“You know about buckball?” Shining asked Celestia, still clearly in shock.

“Why wouldn’t I?” She chuckled. “I met with the Thunder here after their world championship game not that long ago. The Crown can’t really show a preference, but I have to admit, I always did secretly root for the Solar Flares.”

“All right, you three can geek out later.” Cadence gave her husband a playful shove to move him out of the way. “Princess Mi Amore Cadenza, at your service.”

She then bowed to him, but Bean remembered his manners and gave a deeper bow back. “It is an honor to meet you, Princess.”

“Oh, please. Just Cadence will be more than adequate. May I call you Bean?”

“That’s fine.” He laughed. “Should I be worried about the Princess of Love is here?”

“You should be worried if I stay,” she replied with a grin. “You’re safe for now.”

“Twilight? Would you like to introduce your friends?” Celestia asked.

“I’d love to!” Twilight replied. “You know me, of course. Spike stayed in Ponyville; he said he wasn’t interested in standing around in a press conference all day.”

“Can’t say I blame him.”

Twilight chuckled with him. “Anyway, this is Rainbow Dash, the Element of Loyalty.”

“Nice to meetcha, Bean.” Rainbow said, and she shared a quick hoofbump with him.


“This is Applejack, the Element of Honesty.”

“Howdy! Real pleasure to meet ya.”

“Pinkie Pie, the Element of Laughter.”

A blast of streamers and confetti exploded out of Pinkie’s mane, and Bean suddenly found himself wrapped up in a giant pink hug.

“This is so great!” Pinkie shouted. “I’ve got all sorts of cupcakes and pies for you to try when you come to Ponyville and we can compare recipes and bake all kinds of yummy treats and talk about whether a cherrychanga will ever be a reality. We’re going to have the bestest ‘New Prince in Equestria’ party since the one I threw for Shining Armor!”

“And you still need to help me plan the official wedding party,” Celestia added.

Pinkie Pie froze. Her eyes went wide, her mouth went into a small o shape, and a high-pitched squeal slowly started to emerge and grow in intensity.

“I’ll defuse Pinkie.” Cadence quickly said while snagging Pinkie and pulling her aside.

“This is Fluttershy, the Element of—”


Twilight laughed with Fluttershy. “I don’t think Pinkie is going to sleep for the next week now. Fluttershy is the Element of Kindness.”

“It’s very nice to meet you!” Fluttershy said quietly but with a grin. “Discord told me all about you at our last tea date. He really likes you, you know.”

“That’s a good thing, right?”

“Oh, yes. He even said he wanted to have you come over and have tea with us. You’ve made quite the impression on him.”

“Well, that’s nice of him. I’ll say thank you the next time I see him.”

Fluttershy smiled more. “I know you’re going to be a wonderful prince. I look forward to working with you.”

“Me too.” Bean smiled back.

“And last but not least is Rarity, the Element of Generosity,” Twilight concluded.

Rarity, who was wearing a pair of fashionable bifocals and had a tape measure around her neck, stepped forward and bowed. “It’s a pleasure to meet you, darling, now hold still.”

“What are you—”

The tape measure sprang forward like a striking snake, leaping and wrapping around every part of his body⁽*⁾ from inseam and barrel width to hat size and fetlock thickness. Rarity quickly wrote all of these measurements down in a thin, small notebook, and then bowed to Celestia.
(*) Not there. You perverts. Behave.

“I shall get to work on your request as soon as I get home, Princess. I think I know just the thing.”

“Thing?” Bean glanced between his wife and Rarity. “There’s a thing?”

“Never you mind, darling. It’s between me and the Princess.”

“Great. There’s a conspiracy against me already.”

“Only a small one, nothing to worry about.” Celestia giggled, as Luna now approached him.

“Hail, fair stallion. I do not believe we have been formally or properly introduced. I am Luna, Princess of the Moon and sister of Celestia. It is a pleasure to make your acquaintance.”

“It is, indeed, a pleasure to make my acquaintance.” Bean replied grandly, while sticking his nose in the air slightly. “But it is also a pleasure to meet you formally as well.”

“Watch it, buster. You’re still on my short list.”

The two then broke into laughter, much to the relief of everypony who wasn’t aware of their unique relationship.

“Well, now that we’ve all met Bean, let us commence with breakfast, shall we?” Celestia announced.

Everypony sat at the table, with Celestia at one end and Luna at the other. Bean sat on Celestia’s right, and Shining next to him. The kitchen staff then appeared and swiftly delivered a plate to everypony, and Bean was interested to see that a breakfast burrito had been prepared, but the folded loaf before him had to be as thick as his arm. With the hope that he could actually eat the whole thing, he picked up his fork and dug in.

That proved to be a horrible mistake. The perpetual issue of too much salt manifested itself quickly, and he wondered if the kitchen staff had gotten wind of his complaints because now there was also enough pepper inside the lump to make him nearly sneeze. Anything resembling taste was thus promptly bucked into next week, and Bean really began to curse his upbringing since it appeared that everypony else was quite enjoying the meal.

He then tried picking around the edges, hoping that maybe only one side was ruined but it was for naught—the whole of it had been uniformly corrupted, leaving him with unsalted toast and unsalted juice. Maybe he could declare himself as his personal chef. He’d stand half a chance of getting something to eat then.

Depression was not long in coming for the new prince. The last twenty four hours had been a string of compounding misery, so it wasn’t very hard for the thoughts of inadequacy and inferiority to move in and begin their destructive work. There sat The Elements of Harmony, six mares who had repeatedly saved Ponykind from destruction, and from the worst of the worst one could imagine. There sat the Prince and Princess of The Crystal Empire, who had saved both Canterlot and the Crystal Empire and who had rapidly and literally brought the crystal ponies out of the dark ages and into near full integration with the rest of the world. Then there was Luna and Celestia, who were in a league all of their own. One only needed to say ‘The Two Sisters’ to have a respectfully awed hush come over any group.

And then there was Baked Bean: a bumbling bumpkin whose claim to fame was standing in a flower patch and forcing a Princess to get married because he was too uneducated to figure out what an adjective was, let alone how to use one. He was so far beneath the caliber of those assembled that it was really a mockery for him to even be in the same city as them. They were the true heroes of Equestria.

He was an imposter of the highest order. A mannulus non grata.

Maybe he should sign those divorce papers after all. What right did he have to drag Celestia down? He wasn’t even totally sure he loved her. He just wanted to see if he could love her, by his own admission. There was nothing he could truly offer her, other than a repeated complaint of too much salt.

This was not his place. She should not be burdened with him.

“So, Bean!” Shining leaned over. “Can I ask you something a bit personal?”


Shining leaned over a bit closer. “Do you feel so totally overwhelmed by everything that your soul feels like it’s being ripped apart by timberwolves?” he whispered.

That was a fair allegory. Analogy. Was it an analogy? Bean nodded slightly, and Shining had a knowing twinkle in his eye.

“I know how you feel. When I proposed and Cady said yes, I suddenly realized what I’d gotten myself into. I spent the rest of that day trying to calm myself down. I had the gall to ask the Princess of Love to marry me! What monkey had broken out of the zoo in my head and pushed the button to have me ask that? Why had she said yes, instead of kicking me over the edge of Canterlot?”

“But you’re the Captain of the Guard, and one of the strongest shield wielders that has ever been. I would think it’s pretty obvious.”

“Love and War aren’t exactly two things that go together.”

“I heard that,” Celestia grumbled.

“Private conversation, ma’am,” he replied, and Celestia stuck her tongue out at him briefly before turning back to her quiet conversation with Cadence.

“Anyway,” said Shining Armor, “the closer we got to the wedding the more overwhelmed I felt. I was just some dumb soldier, how could I be anywhere near her level, or be a prince for that matter? It got so bad that I couldn’t sleep at night sometimes.”

“So, how’d you come to terms with it?”

“I still haven’t. Well, not fully anyway. But that kiss that Cady and I shared, the one that banished the changelings? That moment gave me an epiphany. It really didn’t matter that I was inadequate or unprepared. What mattered was that I loved her, and that she loved me. Everything else would sort out somehow, and it would actually be easier to deal with because I had a companion now, an equal. If our love could survive the changelings, it could survive anything.

“Now, I know it’s different for you. If Auntie Celestia had bonked my nose, I’m pretty sure I would have simply keeled over and died on the spot. All of this has got to be so strange, so crushing really. The only way I can think of to relate is to take what I felt and then crank it up to eleven.”

“That’s not too far off.” Bean chuckled a little.

“Well, just know I’m here if you need an ear. When we got the letter from Celestia telling us what had happened, I was elated, and you can ask Cady if you don’t believe me.”

“But why? I’m sure I only made things more complicated for you.”

“Numbers. Up until now there’s been four princesses but only one prince. I have reinforcements now, a fellow male ruler to talk to now. Don’t get me wrong, Cady is a dream to talk with, and very understanding and supportive. But there’s just some things a stallion needs to talk to another stallion about, y’know? Sure, I can talk to the guards and my advisors, but they can only do so much since they’re not in my position. With another prince, I have sompony to throw ideas off of, to talk stallion stuff over with. You and I are in the same sinking boat, and we can help each other bail as needed.”

Bean felt a little surge of happiness fighting against his depression. “You really think I can help you?”

“You already have. You steered me away from the Broncos.”

“Why in the name of my wife did you think they were a good team to watch?” Bean chuckled.

Shining leaned even closer and glanced around to make sure no one was listening. “I wanted to show them how bad a team could be, and then tell them how much better they were.”

“Are your ponies any good?”

“Ehhh,” Shining replied with all the sincerity of a poor tipper. “They’re a work in progress. But they are better than the Broncos.”

“Are you any good at Buckball?”

“Ehhh.” He shrugged, and then laughed. “I played some J.V. in high school but not much after that.”

“Well, that’s better than me.” Bean laughed.

“At least you follow it.” Shining laughed with him. “Oh! Auntie Celestia?”


“Can I give him the thing now?” Shining eagerly asked, and Celestia smiled deeply.

“I believe now would be a most opportune time.”

“Everyone, can I have your attention!” Shining called, and the scattered conversations died out. “Thank you. Cady, do you want to do the honors?”

“I would be honored. Prince Bean, would you please come over here?”

He stood and walked around the table. Cadence also stood, and she produced a thin square box from under one wing.

“Prince Baked Bean, on behalf of the ponies of the Crystal Empire, it is my honor and joy to officially congratulate your marriage to Princess Celestia. As a token of goodwill and to honor the occasion, I am most pleased to present to you this gift on the behalf of the Crystal Empire.”

Bean’s eyes grew wide as the box was opened. Seated on a cushion of white velvet was an intricate crystal, carved and cut in the shape of Celestia’s cutie mark and at roughly half the size, with a thin band of gold attached through an eyelet on the top. It had been fashioned out of a beautiful translucent yellow crystal, and it caught the natural light in such a way that it seemed to almost catch fire as it passed through.

“Prince Bean, please accept this gift as a token of the Crystal Empire’s loyalty to the Throne of Equestria, the throne that you now share with Celestia. May your union be long and happy, and may you find fortune in all of your endeavors.”

Everypony in the room stomped and cheered as Cadence’s magic lifted the crystal out and then over Bean’s bowed head. It came to rest right above his heart, and he smiled brightly as he looked at it, then at the well-wishers in the dining hall with him.

This was a horrible way to keep a bad mood alive, and he loved it.

* * * *

Bean had come to the conclusion that he hated press conferences.

Granted, he hadn’t done anything yet, but the waiting and anticipation was killing him.
It had started long before Celestia had stepped up to the podium, of course, but now it was coming to a head.

Celestia, ever one for punctuality, had promptly started at noon with a quick greeting for the assembled members of the press before she launched into her prepared remarks.

Her speech was a straightforward and simple explanation of what had happened. This had yielded a new tidbit for him. Celestia really hadn’t seen him in the sunflowers, but she had thought she had heard something, so she had stuck her nose in to see if she could figure out what was there. She had been expecting to find a mouse or chipmunk, not a stallion, and from there Bean knew the rest. Celestia then spent a rather lengthy amount of time explaining her law and why she had written it, and then she explained that she and Bean had wed to prevent her removal as Princess.

She obviously chose her words carefully when she explained that this news had not been shared immediately due to both the option of divorce and the need to work out the details to keep Bean around. There were nods of agreement from the journalists when Celestia told them about the joint agreement that now was an appropriate time to inform the rest of Equestria.

Bean was glad that all of the Elements were present, as well as the Princesses. He could feel their support, and it was giving him the strength he needed to keep from passing out. He had his notes ready to go, and he was going to try to just read them straight and be done.

He had also determined that, from here on out, Celestia would be the public speaker. He wasn’t cut out for this.

“…and now, Prince Baked Bean has a few thoughts he’d like to share. After that I will take a few questions. Bean?”

Bean inhaled heavily. This was it.

His left rear leg was shaking slightly as he stepped up to the podium. There was a furious round of flashes, and Bean looked quickly down at his notes to keep from being blinded.

He let out the breath he’d just taken in, and then he drew in a new one.

“Good afternoon, everypony.” He flatly began reading. “I am Baked Bean, from the c-city of S-salt Lick. It’s a pleasure to be here before you today.”

Well, this bit the bark. The words on the page were doubling up and blurring on him. Bean closed his eyes and took a long, deep breath in. He then opened his eyes again, and he looked at his Celestial Crystal.

Speak from the heart, Bean.

He wasn’t sure if he had heard Celestia’s voice in his head or just his own approximation of it, but it didn’t matter. He crumpled his notes up into a ball and tossed them over his shoulder.

“Those aren’t helping,” he stated, and he heard Celestia grunt slightly, which he hoped was a good sign. “All right. Fillies and Gentlecolts, hello. One week ago today I was a common nopony on a train bound for Canterlot. I had never before visited here, and I really didn’t have much reason to come, other than to see if I could find some inspiration for a book I wanted to write. I had no idea what I’d find here, nor that I would soon find myself caught up in the events that have led me to this point now.

“When I left home, I was looking for something. I didn’t know what it was; all I knew was that my life up to that point was not what I wanted. I was trying to find my own little place in the world, and my purpose within it. I was adrift, lost in a sea of confusion and doubt.

“One week ago tomorrow, I made the choice to visit the Royal gardens in the hopes of finding a muse. I stuck myself in a patch of sunflowers in the hopes of finding one, and…”

He paused, and smiled.

“…and I did. I really don’t know if what has happened is just one huge coincidence, but I feel like it’s more than that. To me, this feels more like destiny or fate, and the feeling has only grown as I have come to know Celestia better.

“On my first night here, Celestia and I had a private talk, and she was kind enough to read a little bit of my writing. As she did so, and as I watched and listened to her, I felt like I was home, really Home, for the first time in my life. There was a spark that ignited a small flame of love then, and it’s only grown stronger from there.

“My friends, I will be the first to tell you I am inadequate to be your Prince. I can come up with several dozen reasons why I am unworthy. I’m as common as common gets, and I have no real qualifications for leadership.

“But I know that what I share with Celestia is special, and it completes me.” He smiled, and turned to look at her. She was smiling brightly, but had tears in the corners of her eyes. “And what is special to her is special to me. This is something I don’t want to lose.

“And so,” as he turned back to the press, “all I can say right now is that I’ll try. I’ll stumble, I’ll fall, and I will humbly ask for your patience and understanding. But I want to help my—” he smiled deeply with the thought “—wife to bring about a greater and more glorious Equestria. Please know, my friends, that although I am a prince by marriage, I will not be able to call myself such until I have earned it. I will do all that I can to serve you, to make your lives better. And hopefully, someday, I will even be able to bring to you a portion of the happiness that I have found for myself here. Thank you.”

Bean then simply stepped away from the podium and moved over to the nearly-crying Celestia. Luna looked extremely pleased, for her part, and Cadence had one hoof to her chest and an ‘Awww!’ look on her face, so he probably had said something right. But what he wanted, more than anything, came as his wife dipped her head down and they gently booped noses.

“You did good,” she whispered to him.

“Thanks. Can I go somewhere and faint now?”

“Holdin’ up all right there, Prince Bean?”

“I think so,” he replied with a smile for Applejack. “Though I was under the impression that this was an informal gathering.”

“Well, it probably was, but then Twilight made the mistake of sayin’ the P-word within earshot of Pinkie Pie.”

“PARTY!” Pinkie Pie yelled from across the ballroom.

Bean laughed a little with the outburst, but he also took a moment to fully appreciate all of Pinkie’s hard work. Yellow streamers hung from the ceiling and snaked in between white balloons of various sizes, the potted plants had gained some tasteful trimmings and yellow lights, and even the buffet table seemed to be extra festive and ready to party.

“How did she do all this so fast?” Bean asked Applejack after a few moments.

“Well, it is her thing, and she has that party cannon of hers. You give that mare ten minutes with that thing and she’ll whip out a shindig outta nothin’.”

“If this is what she can do with no advanced notice, then I’m interested to see what the party in Ponyville will be like.”

“It’ll be so super-fantastic that you’ll be telling all your grandfoals about it!” Pinkie replied, as she suddenly appeared out of nowhere and hugged Bean with one arm. “I’ve got all sorts of yummy Bean treats planned, as well as Bean Games and a ‘Round with the Prince’ that will be a blast!”

“Round with the Prince?” Bean asked, but Pinkie suddenly looked up and to her left, and then squinted in concentration.

“Hold that thought. Punch Emergency!”

There was a streak of pink, and she was gone. Bean looked back at Applejack, who was chuckling slightly.

“Pinkie is Pinke. Ya get used to her antics over time. Don’t worry, ah can tell ya from personal experience that Pinkie has never thrown a bad party. You’ll have fun, and the folks in Ponyville will love havin’ the chance to meet ya.”

“I hope so. That’s one of the things that really makes me nervous right now.”

“You’re worried that ponies won’t like ya?”

“I’m worried they won’t accept me.”

“Ah hear ya there. Ah worried about the same thing once ah found out about bein’ the Element of Honesty.”

“You did?”

“Oh yeah. More ah learned about what the Elements were and who had used ‘em in the past, the more ah thought ah wasn’t right for the job. Ah’m just a farmer, not some kinda heroine that saves Equestria. An Element Bearer should be somepony strong, committed, and knows just what to do at any time. Ah couldn’t be all that, all ah knew how to do was buck apples outta trees.”

“So how did you get used to it?”

“Well, I gotta admit, freeing Princess Luna from Nightmare Moon was a durned good start. Otherwise, there’ve been two things that have really helped. One, ah had to have faith in my friends. If Twilight said ah was Honesty, then ah was Honesty, hooves down. Ah had to trust that my friends would help me out, show me the ropes, and if’n I ever found myself in a barrel of pickles, they’d be right there with me.

“Second thing was to trust myself. Sure, ah didn’t have experience in monster wranglin’ or purgin’ evil nightmares outta princesses, but somehow ah have used what ah do know to get the work done. Just bein’ myself was enough, despite what ah thought otherwise.

“Ah reckon it’s gonna be like that for you too. Probably not my place to say what you should or shouldn’t do, but just bein’ yourself will solve a whole heap of trouble in the long run. Honesty, even with yourself, is always the best policy. Just do your best, that’s all anypony can ask. You do that, things’ll work out. Shoot, you’ve got Princess Celestia for support. Don’t get much better than that.”

Bean glanced down at his crystal, then up to Celestia. She was chatting lightly with a pony from the press, and he smiled a bit more.

“No, I don’t suppose it does. Thanks.”

“Anytime, sugar cube. Now how about we go get ourselves an apple fritter? Ah made ‘em fresh this mornin’, and ah’ve heard you’re somethin’ of a food critic.”

“So long as it wasn’t made here, I’m sure it’ll be delightful.”


“Your Highness, I simply have to settle one point in private,” Fleur de Lis said with a gentle toss of her exquisite mane. “What can you possibly see in a commoner?”

“Baked Bean!” Applejack shouted, and all eyes in the room turned to watch as the Element of Honesty began to swat the Prince with her hat while chasing him around the buffet table. “You no account, butter hatin’, no-taste snob!”

“What?!” he shouted back while he both ran and laughed. “I made one measly little suggestion!”

“And that sense of taste of yours needs to learn some manners! Get back here so ah can knock that ridiculous notion out of your head!”

Celestia did not restrain the natural smile that swelled up from her heart when she turned back to the stunned young unicorn. “Miss de Lis, I see everything in him.”

Author's Notes:

No offense to any fans of any team(s) with a Bronco for a mascot. :twilightsmile:

14. - State of Bean

“Mornin’ sweetie,” Garbanzo called out to Lima while she strode into the pre-morning peace that permeated the kitchen of the Zuerst.

He could not help but smile. This many years, and the mare still had the ability to make his heart skip a beat when she walked into a room. Lima was one peach of a Bean, and he would never regret the day when she had made him the happiest stallion in Equestria.

“Hey hon,” she replied, and she leaned over to give her husband a quick peck while she walked by. “Counting down the bread order?”

“Yeah. Looks like they shorted us a loaf again.”

Lima let out a small snort. “Maybe we need to find a new supplier. This is just ridiculous now.”

“I’ll look into it,” he replied, and then he looked up from the order sheet. “Sip got some tea ready and the paper should just be right over there.”

“Thanks. Anything good in it?”

“I’m not sure, I just glanced at the bottom part. Looked like there was some big to-do in Canterlot yesterday.”

“Did we just get another princess?” Lima moaned playfully.

“Probably.” Garbanzo chuckled. “They’re becoming a dime a dozen, aren’t they?”

“Yeah. Wonder what she is the Princess of?”

“Poached eggs I bet.”

“Be nice.” Lima giggled, and she playfully nipped his ear. “Maybe she’ll be the Princess of wayward ponies and she can help Baked find his way.”

“So are we talking about a princess or a life coach?”

“Oh, hush up and get that finished. We still need to get the soup prepped.”

“All right, all right.”

Garbanzo chuckled as his wife grabbed the paper, placed it on the tea tray, and then walked into the main area. He then quickly finished with the bread paperwork, filed it, and then began whistling as he started to fill the large stock pot with water for the minestrone.

The sound of a teacup smashing into the granite floor tile out in the main area quickly ended the whistling. Garbanzo hurriedly shut off the water and quickly moved to check on Lima.

“Hon? You all right?” he called out as he pushed the door open.

Lima didn’t reply, and what Garbanzo saw as he stepped through made him scramble in alarm. His wife was white as a sheet, frozen in place, and her eyes were wide in horror. The smashed teacup lay scattered by the feet of the chair, and the newspaper was scattered across the table before her, with some of the pages still floating down from the ceiling.

“Lima! What happened? Are you ok?!” he urgently asked once he reached her side.

She let out a small whimper through a tight lipped, horrified frown, and her eyes didn’t move to meet his. Instead, one hoof tapped the page of newspaper in front of her.

“What is…” Garbanzo asked as he glanced at the paper, but then he did a double take. His chest began to heave wildly as he grabbed the paper in both hooves, and his rear legs gave out on him as he read and began shaking.

“What have we done?” he asked in a gasping, breathless voice.

“Morning, Auntie Celly, Auntie Luna!”

“Good morning, Cadence!” Celestia replied with a warm smile. “Where is your husband?”

“Out in the hallway having a ‘discussion’ with Bean about the best Buckball team. Shining is adamant the Thunder will take the conference next season but Bean disagrees. They will probably join us when they settle the matter, so sometime next week, maybe?”

“Well, if they miss pancakes it’s their own fault.” Celestia hummed to herself while she placed a plate down for Cadence.

“So, how are things between you and Bean?”

“Just can’t help yourself, can you?” Luna quipped.

“Nope!” Cadence smiled brightly. She then propped her head in her hooves, put her elbows on the table, and gave Celestia a very eager look. “C’mon! I need details! How serious are you two?”

“We’re married. I don’t think it can get any more serious if we tried.”

“Yes, it can.” Cadence blew a raspberry. “So, how’s he in bed?”

After a moment of absolute silence, Cadence leaned forward with a teasing grin. “Okay, maybe that’s a little far for just a week. You’ve done some snuggling under the sheets, though. Right? Kissing at the very least? Anything? Really?”

“If you must know, no,” Celestia slowly replied, her smile fading. “Bean seems to be hesitant to do anything beyond rubbing noses. And even then, he’s very cautious.” Celestia could feel that smile returning. “He’s so sweet.”

“Well, look at what he’s working with,” Luna cut in. “For his whole life, the only way he’s known you is as Princess Celestia, The Bringer of the Day. You’re asking him to overcome twenty-odd years of conditioning in a week. That is a rather large jump to make. He is probably afraid of bursting into flames if he touches you wrong.”

“Auntie Luna is right. You have to admit you’re more than a little intimidating,” Cadence added, while waving a fork full of food in the air with her magic. “Marriage is sharing.”

“I understand that. I haven’t tried to push anything on him because of it,” said Celestia.

“But you’d like him to maybe give a little bit more,” Cadence said knowingly. “Without you telling him.”

“Well, we are married and we are planning on staying together. Why shouldn’t we?”

“I agree. You just need to encourage him a little.”


“Here we go,” Luna groaned with an ill-hidden smirk. “Cadence is going to be in rare form today, I can tell.”

“Of course I am. I’m trying to get my beloved Aunt Celly’s love life going,” she replied with a smug grin. “A thousand years with nopony to truly claim as your own is quite long enough.”

“She’s got a point,” Luna conceded, as Celestia sat at the table with food for the both of them. “My dear sister deserves more than a Bean Bag.”

“I am not calling him Bean Bag.”

“Probably for the best. You’d forget he was a pony and you’d sit on him.”

“How do you know he wouldn’t like that?” Cadence said with a knowing bob of her eyebrows.

“You two are insufferable!” Celestia proclaimed with a snort of amusement.

“No, the trick is to start small and work your way up,” Cadence continued. “I had to do that with Shiny, because the lovable dope kept locking up on me when I’d flirt with him. Seduce him, but just little bits at a time, and only here or there.”

“But don’t go overboard,” Luna warned. “You can gain much by simply being you. I would say you’re doing pretty good with this already, from what I see. Bean’s little flame of love for you has come about because he has seen Celly instead of Celestia. Lure him in, yes, but also still be you.”

“Right,” Cadence agreed. “Honestly, just try one or two things to start, and spread them out. Keep booping him, but maybe add a little nip on the neck, or a quick kiss on his cheek here and there, too. Shiny likes it when I go for the ears.” She giggled. “We play keepaway, but he always loses.”

“Ears are popular,” Luna agreed. “Especially on earth ponies. The neck is good too.”

“And you two really think he’ll like that?” Celestia said with a curious look.

“He’ll like it,” Cadence said slyly. “He’ll just be super embarrassed about it first. He is cute when he blushes, right?”

Celestia didn’t say anything, but the playfully intrigued look that suddenly overtook her was answer enough.

“Shiny is too.” Cadence said with a smug grin. “I have an idea, something we can try and we’ll see how Bean reacts.”

Luna groaned playfully. “This should be good.”

“I’m telling you,” Shining argued as the princes finally entered the dining hall, “Wild Wind is going to take them all the way this year.”

“But she is always on the injured reserve list!” Bean protested.

“Yeah, but when she’s healthy they’re unstoppable.”

“And when she’s down they lose everything. They really need to trade her and get some more balanced players in.”

“Gentlecolts, good morning,” Celestia greeted. Bean and Shining stopped in mid-stride, looked at the casually neutral faces of the Princesses, then at each other.

“What’s going on?” Shining asked.

“Breakfast, but not for much longer. Have a seat, I will bring your pancakes out shortly.”

The two then warily sat down, but next to each other. Bean looked at Luna, who was quietly and politely eating, and Shining’s eyes were on his wife, who was sitting with a pleasant smile on her face.

“Princess Luna.” Bean dared to offer a greeting.

“Bean,” she replied simply. “A pleasure to see you again.”

“Did I do something?” he jumped to the question.

“I’m quite sure you have. It is rather hard to be alive and to do absolutely nothing.”

“No, I mean did I do something wrong?”

“Not that I am aware of. Do you wish to confess?”

Bean gulped and left the question unanswered. This reeked of some kind of setup, and even Shining was looking worried.

The Empire’s Prince then decided to use a tried and true tactic: start apologizing and see if that makes the wife happy. Granted, it was always a gamble but it was all they had to work with at the moment.

“Hey, I’m sorry I held Bean up in the hallway. We should have come in sooner.”

“No need to apologize, my dear Shiny,” Cadence replied evenly. “We understand.”

Shining immediately clammed up. That had not worked, and if he kept going he’d make things worse.

“Here we go!” Celestia cheerfully announced as she entered. “The pancakes might be a bit cold, but you know a warming spell, don’t you, Captain?”


“Wonderful! Now, I’m afraid I’m late for Day Court, so I will meet with you both later. I’d like to go over some items relating to the Empire while you are here. Cadence?”

“Coming!” she called, and she quickly stood.

“You’re leaving?” Shining asked, as Cadence moved over to Celestia.

“Mm-hm. I’m going to help with Court today.”

“Oh. Well, okay. I guess we’ll catch up.”

“We’ll see you both later,” Cadence called over her shoulder, and the two Princesses began to leave.

Bean suddenly felt a furious heat burning in his cheeks as his eyes locked on to Celestia’s swaying hips. Did she always walk like that, or was she putting a bit more allure in to it this time? Why was he still watching it?! He couldn’t stop! He was entranced, and…

A bit of confusion worked in. Was he really attracted to her sway? Was he actually enjoying what he was seeing?

Celestia teasingly flicked her tail as she left the room, an impressive feat given the ethereal nature of it. Bean’s eyes stayed locked on the doorway as he tried to come to terms with what he had seen and felt, but he did hear Shining giggling like an lovestruck idiot.

“Bean, my friend,” he said with a nudge to Bean’s ribs, “you and I have to be the two luckiest stallions in the whole of existence. I’ve yet to find a better pair of hips than on my Cady, and I’d bet my horseshoes you’re feeling the same about Celly.”

A pleased smile began to show on Bean. “You know what? You’re completely right.”

“Did he really?” Celestia snickered furiously.

“Both of them did,” Luna replied. “For as yellow as he is, he blushed like a lit match.”

“See?” Cadence said smugly. “Now, don’t do that again for a little bit. Just throw it at him every now and then. Flirting like that will get things going for you.”

“Thanks, Cadence,” Celestia pulled her niece into a quick hug. “Lulu, thank you as well.”

Luna smiled and nodded. “It was my pleasure to assist, dear sister. I believe I shall leave you, though, and retire for the day.”

“I’ll see you tonight, then,” Celestia replied with a quick hug, and she watched her sister’s retreat for a moment before turning to Cadence again. “Well, shall we go have lunch?”

“What are they serving today?”

“I’ve asked for daffodil salads. I hope Bean will actually be able to eat this one.”

“Why wouldn’t he?”

“It appears my chefs have been using too much salt,” Celestia replied, as they walked towards the kitchen. “With his background, he notices nuances like that and he has a hard time eating.”

“So he’s a picky eater.”

“No, he’s not,” she defended. “He just has a certain threshold for sodium.”

“Picky,” Cadence repeated.

“Dear niece, I am going to have him cook something for you to prove my point. He made a minestrone soup a few nights ago that was the most flavorful soup I have ever had.”

“Are you talking about me?”

“Bean!” Celestia said warmly. “As a matter of fact, we were! How long have you been there?”

“I just came around the corner and saw you two, so only a couple of seconds. All I caught was minestrone the other night.”

“Yes, I was just telling Cadence about that. Might it be possible to request another demonstration of your cooking prowess? You can make anything you like, soup or no soup.”

“You want me to cook something for you two?” he repeated.

“I’m sure Shiny would like to eat too,” Cadence replied.

Bean had a sneaky smile on his smug face now. “Whatever I want to make?”

“Yes,” Celestia answered. She then leaned down to his ear. “And if you cook something extra delicious, I will personally see to it that you receive a fair reward.”

She then pulled back and smiled lovingly at his furious blushing.

“Chef Sugar Beet!”

“Oh! Princess!” Sugar Beet bowed. “Good afternoon! What can I do for you?”

“There’s been a change in plans for lunch today,” Celestia replied. “Prince Bean is going to make lunch for myself, Cadence, and Prince Armor. I need you to show him where things are and give him whatever he needs.”

“Really?” Baked Bean could not help but catch the surreptitious glance the chef made at a nearby fire extinguisher, but he tried to ignore it.

“Is that a problem?”

“Oh no, no problem,” the ruddy mare replied. “I’m more than happy to let Prince Bean cook. I just didn’t know he could.”

“Very well. Bean, I’m eager to see what you come up with.”

“I’ll do my best,” he replied.

Celestia then left him, and he glanced around. Pots were clanking and bubbling, plates were being tossed around like hot potatoes, knives were flying, ponies were shouting to each other in a sort of language that used foodstuffs as profanities, and all about was the steam and the smells of a truly efficient kitchen.

Baked Bean was well pleased.

However, he knew that another body would really be inconvenient right now. While he had a good idea of what to try, he didn’t want to compound things by being in the way. “Chef, this is obviously a bad time for me to be back here. Do you have just an out of the way corner for me, or perhaps a side kitchen somewhere?”

“Oh, it’s not a problem, Your Highness. I can get you whatever you need and get you in wherever you want. Just tell me what you need done.”

“All right. I need tofu, zucchini, and couscous to start.”

Bean then simply marched over to what looked like an unused stovetop. If he had stolen it from somepony, so be it. It only took a moment for Sugar Beet to bring the requested items, but Bean frowned deeply when she deposited a large salt shaker as well.

“What. Is. That?”


“Did I ask for salt?” he asked with a great deal of self restraint.

“No, but I know you’re going to need it.”

“And how, exactly, do you know that?”

Sugar Beet obviously realized the thin ice she was on, and she took a step back. “Because Celestia wants extra salt.”

“She does?” Bean asked, his annoyance flipping to confusion quickly. “Why does she want extra salt?”

“I don’t know. All I know is that she has asked to have extra salt in her meals.”

“When was this? When did she say that?” Bean asked.

“Two years ago, when she hired me as head chef. She had sent back the steamed broccoli I had made with instructions to add salt to it and any other meal I made for her.”

“Did she tell you that personally or was it the waiter at the time who told you that?”

“Well, um…” She grew embarrassed. “It was the waiter.”

“And was she talking about every meal or just that particular dish?”

“Uh… well…”

Bean smiled in a kindly way. “I tell you what. She can’t fire me, so let’s make this together and we’ll see what she says. If she likes it, then you know to cut back on the salt.”

“I hope she does. I have really hated having to add it in every time. It really limits what you can make.”

Bean chuckled. “That it would. Grab some knives and we’ll get to work on the tofu.”

“Wait, wait. How could his parents not believe it was you?!” Cadence asked incredulously.

“I had no guards or staffers with me, so that was part of it. The other part is just that they simply didn’t believe Bean. They’re both so convinced that Bean’s true calling is with them, cooking, so if anything is presented that runs counter to that then they find ways to explain it away. I’m really not surprised or offended by it; most ponies are the same way.”

“Why didn’t you just move the moon around a bit, or bring the sun up for just a quick second?”

“I promised Lulu when she returned that I would only touch the moon in an emergency or with her permission. It is rightfully hers, and I wish to show the proper respect to my sister and the Princess of the Night. As for the sun, well. I could have done as you say, but for one thing the Astrological Society would have had a collective conniption, not to mention the panic attack it would have given to Twilight and any other pony awake at that time. However, the more important reason is—”

The door to the dining room opened, and both Princesses watched Chef Sugar Beet enter with three domed trays on a trolley. Two of them were then placed on the table before them, and Celestia smiled as a delectable aroma drifted up to her nose.

“Where is Baked Bean?” Cadence asked.

“He sends his regards and says it’s bad luck for the Chef to eat with his patrons.”

Celestia offered a diplomatic smile. “Will you please go tell my husband—and I want you to use these exact words—that if he doesn’t get his sorry rump in here, I will plant him right back in the sunflower patch where I found him.”

“Uh, sure. I’ll go tell him.”

“Whatever he made smells wonderful,” Cadence remarked. “I bet I’m going to eat my words along with this meal.”

Celestia’s smile flipped over to genuine. “Maybe I can talk him into a rhubarb pie. I always did like those.”

“I’ve never had one. Are they any good?”

“I think they would be an acquired taste. Maybe with enough sugar you could tolerate it.”

“Plant me in the sunflowers, huh?” Bean quipped as he entered the room.

“Yes,” Celestia said firmly. “I do expect you to spend your mealtimes with me, cook or no.”

“In fairness, Chef Sugar Beet helped quite a bit. She gets at least equal billing for this meal.”

“What did you make?”

Bean smiled smugly and lifted the domes off the trays. A woosh of steam erupted as he did so, and two princess mouths began to water.

“Stuffed Zucchini Surprise. I’m sure you’ll enjoy. Please, please.” He motioned to the silverware. “Dig in.”

“Has anyone seen my husband?” Cadence suddenly asked as she glanced around the room.

“He’s out in the hallway discussing buckball with one of your guards.”

“Oh, for pity’s sake. Shining Armor, get in here!”

“I didn’t know you knew how to use the Royal Voice,” Bean remarked while rubbing the inside of one ear with his hoof.

“All wives know how to use it instinctively.” Cadence took a bite. “Mmm! And this is really, really good!”

“You bellowed, my lady?” Shining joked as he entered.

“Quit talking buckball for five minutes and come eat.”

“Yes, dear.”

“Where is your plate?” Celestia asked once Bean had delivered Shining’s plate to him.

“You said to feed Cadence, yourself, and Shining,” he replied smugly. “You didn’t say anything about me.”

She gave him a very sour look. “You know full well I meant you too.”

“It’s still bad luck to eat with your patrons. Besides, I sampled enough while I was preparing the meal to tide me over.”

Celestia stuck her tongue out at him. “Well, I expect you to eat with me next time, bad luck or no bad luck.”

“I’ll bear that in mind. Now, if you’ll excuse me. I promised Chef Beet that I would give her the recipe for the meal you’re enjoying.”

“Oh, no you don’t. You are going to sit down and at least make polite conversation. You can give her the recipe later.”

“Well, if you insist. Any chance I can learn how to use the Royal Voice? I am a royal after all.”

“It’s all in the diaphragm,” Cadence began to explain.

“Is it ever,” Shining added with exasperation.

Celestia had found over the years that Day Court typically tended to be slow on Tuesdays, given that it was a workday. However, today was slower than normal since Wysteria was dealing with any pony making inquiries into Celestia and Bean’s marriage, and thus the majority of the ponies who were coming to the palace.

She was glad that Cadence was there to chat with during the lulls in between petitioners, and they had been able to come up with some rather fun ideas for her wedding party in those times. They had also agreed that Shining and Cadence should go with Bean to Ponyville, as Shining could help Bean navigate the town while Cadence went over the party ideas with Pinkie Pie. Celestia had sent a letter asking Twilight if Thursday would be too busy for a visit, but she had not yet received a reply.

Bean had disappeared into the kitchen somewhere, and Celestia surmised that he had probably gotten engaged in a cooking-related discussion with the staff there. Shining was… well, missing, but Cadence was convinced he was doing something very productive to move the affairs of the Crystal Empire forward.

Or, the buckball part of the Empire, at least.

It was thus that Celestia found herself near the end of Day Court, with perhaps half an hour remaining. She and Cadence were chatting about some other flirtatious moves to try on Bean when a guard entered and bowed before the throne with a cough.

“Yes? What is it, Sergeant?”

“Two ponies are seeking an audience with you, Your Highness, but they are declining to give their names. All they will say is that it is urgent they speak with Prince Bean.”

“What do they look like?”

“One is a mare of yellow with a black mane, the other is a stallion of grey with a red mane. They are perhaps in their late forties.”

Celestia smiled a bit. “Go ahead and show them in. I believe I know them.”

The guard nodded and left.

“Auntie Celly? Who is it?” Cadence asked.

“You’ll see,” Celestia mystically replied.

It only took a moment for the two visitors to be shown in. Like all newcomers to the Throne, they were initially overwhelmed with the grandeur of the hall, and the stallion removed his flat cap as he gaped at the singular scene before him.

“Garbanzo and Lima! What an honor it is to see you again, and so soon!”

Two sets of eyes grew wide, and two noses immediately went to the floor in respect.

“O great Celestia! Please forgive us!” Lima called out. “We have been fools, and we have come before your greatness to beg your mercy!”

“Mercy?” Celestia asked, as she quickly descended and moved across the hall to them. Her wing then reached out and gently lifted their gazes to meet hers. “You have no need of my mercy, for you have done nothing that requires it. You are innocent before me.”

“But we have insulted you, deeply!” Garbanzo cried as a tear slipped out. “We called you a fraud!”

“No. If I had been in your position, I would have not believed myself either. You have done no wrong to me. However, I believe you have something to say to my husband.”

More tears came, and eyes went wide in hopeful horror as Celestia’s wing retracted and her horn glowed. She smiled warmly as her magic reached out across the palace, found Bean, and then teleported him into the throne room, but with his nose nearly touching the wall by the main doors.

“I mean, everypony knows the moon is made of cheese,” he stated, his eyes closed in an effort to look wise. He then opened them and blinked a few times.

“Uh, Celly? Did you just teleport...”

His sentence stalled out as he looked over his shoulder and beheld the visitors. He then turned, his face a picture of shocked surprise.

“Mom?!” he breathlessly asked. “Dad?!”

And to his everlasting credit, Baked Bean broke out into a dead run towards his parents.

Celestia felt tears flowing down her cheeks as the family shared both hugs and tears of reconciliation. She had been worried that Bean would not be so forgiving of his parents, that he would instead drive them away and proclaim the wounds they inflicted to be too deep, but she was most pleased to find that this was not the case. The Bean family was again as it should be.


She smiled a bit more as Bean motioned for her to come join the hug. She had to drop down onto her knees to do so, but the warmth and light she felt as her nose touched his and as several pairs of arms and hooves locked with hers was so rich and ennobling that she was proud to call herself a Bean. This was a family that was exemplary, and though they would still have issues and troubles in the future, this one moment would forever change the dynamics for all of them, and in all the good ways one could think of. The bonds between all of them were now stronger than steel, and that was as it should be.

“So, may I call myself Celestia Bean now?” she asked softly.

There was laughter from all, and then Bean spoke the thought that the others were sharing:

“Doesn’t quite roll off the tongue, but I think we could get used to it.”

Dinner that evening was one of the most pleasant dinners Celestia had ever had the pleasure of attending. As it turned out, Garbanzo and Lima had shut down their restaurant completely and had paid for the rest of their employees to travel with them, and so the dining room was now filled with such a wonderful assortment of ponies that it was making for quite a lively and happy scene.

She wasn’t quite sure how it had happened, but Celestia found Lima to her right, Bean next to her, Garbanzo next, and then Sip. Cadence was on her left, then Shining, then Grumps, Shake and Bake, and Luna—who looked amused and a bit perplexed—was at the end. The staff had made Bean’s stuffed zucchini, and everyone was quite enjoying the meal – though Cadence had whispered to Celestia that Bean’s rendition had been slightly better. There was laughter, there was a small argument when Garbanzo’s life long support of the Broncos came to light, but mostly there was happiness, friendship, and love.

If only all of her state dinners could be this way.

It was as the dinner was winding down that Celestia found Lima leaning towards her. She smiled, and asked if she was enjoying herself.

“Oh, yes. This has been quite an enjoyable meal,” Lima replied. “But I wanted to ask you something, if I may.”


“Why didn’t you just prove you were the princess the other night?” she asked, the confusion obvious in her voice. “If you had just raised the sun for a few seconds we both would have been convinced.”

Celestia smiled a bit more. “I suppose I could have. There was probably a few different things I could have done to convince you. But I am a teacher when I’m not a Princess, and that moment provided me an opportunity to teach you something.”

“To trust our son,” Lima said softly.

“To trust in your son, to have faith in him,” Celestia kindly added. “He’s a wonderful young stallion, and there are many reasons why I have the feelings that I do for him. But it’s hard to accept when your children’s plans differ from yours. By letting you suffer through what you did, I believe you have learned to not sell Baked Bean short. He can do wonderful things for Equestria, but what is far more important is that he has your full faith and support. As time goes on and as he assumes more responsibilities, he will need all the support he can get. If I had used my powers to prove who I was, you would not respect and trust your son in the way that you do now.”

“But Garbanzo and I were so worried he’d reject us,” Lima replied. “We spent the whole train ride here worrying about what he’d do, or what he might say.”

It seemed that panic was a family trait, but Celestia did not believe it was a bad trait. “Then perhaps this was a test for Bean, too.” Celestia put on her best wise look. “Could he offer forgiveness to you, despite your actions? There was the risk he would reject you, as you say. He would be understandably justified if he did. But now we all know a bit more about his true character, and I believe that, in the end, we have all been elevated by this event.”

Lima nodded thoughtfully. “I think you’re right.”

“Besides, now that you’re here we can go over your new titles.”

This made all three Beans stop in their tracks, and both father and son looked over to Celestia.

“Titles?” Garbanzo asked.

“Of course! I do believe, by ancient custom, that the in-laws of the Prince and Princess are to be a Duke and Duchess. Am I wrong, Sister?”

“I do believe you are right,” Luna replied with a small smile. “Though I believe in these modern times the titles are more symbolic than anything else.”

“Alas, that they are,” Celestia confirmed. “You both will be a Duke and Duchess, but there are no lands or tax revenues⁽*⁾ that come with it.”
(*) There was a ten bit per year⁽¹⁾ tax on royal titles to pay for the Department of Royal Regalia, but it had slipped Celestia’s mind at the moment.
(1) The tax was waived for Princess Luna on her return, since the sum total of fees, penalties, and back interest exceeded the yearly gross domestic product of Equestria by a large sum.

“That’s for the best,” Garbanzo replied. “I’m happy with just running my restaurant.”

“Bean, do you plan on taking your parents on that promised tour tomorrow?”

“Oh!” he exclaimed, and he looked to his parents with a broad smile. “Of course! I’ll take all of you out, and show you everything. We’ll make a day of it.”

“Could we possibly see the sunflower patch where you ambushed the Princess?” Sip asked.

“We’ll make that the first stop.”

15. - Good Night

“That was an impressive thing you did today,” Celestia offered to Bean, and he blushed slightly as they stopped outside his door.

“No, not really,” he replied. “It’s what I wanted to do. One of the greatest lessons my Dad ever taught me was a little axiom: ‘how would you want to be treated?’”

“That would more accurately be a proverb.” She giggled.

“I really need to have you give me some equish lessons,” he said with a groan and a smile. “But the point of the saying is true. If I was in the wrong, I would want to be forgiven. Besides, what good would it have done to stay mad at them? Was it really worth it to reject them? How would I feel about myself in the morning, or five days from now, or even five years from now? Grudges are horrible things. I’d much rather have things the way they are now.”

Celestia then moved in close to his ear, and he shuddered in joy as her warm breath tickled his ear. “All you say is true, and I am proud that you have chosen this path. It helps me to love you all the more.”

She then gave him a soft peck on the cheek. She did not mean to giggle when she pulled back and watched his reaction, but the way he blushed and stared at the ground made little bubbles of joy filter up in her chest.

“Oh, well…gee…” he stammered in embarrassed happiness. “I, uh…”

“You know, my room does tend to get cold and lonely at night as of late,” she lowered her voice to a husky whisper. “Has your room been having the same issue?”

This made his whole face go red. He knew exactly where she was going with this.

“Perhaps?” he squeaked.

She then moved in close again. “When you’re ready, dear Bean. First and foremost, I want you to be comfortable and happy with our relationship. Since we are married, there really isn’t any reason why we can’t be together, but if you are not comfortable with the idea just yet then I can wait until you are.”

“I, uh…” he stalled. “I think there’s something wrong with me.”

Celestia looked him over quickly, and then she gave him a curious look. “Really? What is troubling you?”

“Oh, it’s not a physical thing, I hope. I just…” He grunted. “I don’t know why, but it seems like taking that step would be taking advantage of you, somehow.”

Celestia smiled. “That’s because you’re still overcoming my Princess side.”

“Partly, but we’ve also only known each other for a week. I’m worried it’s too much too fast, even if you are my wife.”

“And that is fine. That tells me that you have a great deal of respect for me, and I am happy you do.”

“I do.” He nodded, and then he exhaled slowly. “I think the other small part is that I worry you don’t see me as your husband yet. I know you’ve introduced me as such, but I can’t help but think that you’re just saying that because we’re married.”

“What do you think I think about you, then?”

“Mostly that I’m just some foal who needs self-worth lessons. I know it’s dumb, but I worry that you look at me like I’m just a child who needs some mothering. You’re not really romantically interested, you’re just thinking ‘what a cute little colt, he needs my help.’”

“Have I given you a reason to think this? Something I have said, or that I have done perhaps?”

“No, no. In fact, you made me really question it with that little hip-sway stunt this morning.”

“You liked it,” she said with a giggle. “Don’t even deny it.”

“I did like it, so I know my line of thought is wrong.”

“Would you like to hear what I really think of you?” Celestia offered.

“Please?” he eagerly asked.

“I think you are a charming and delightful stallion who is thoughtful, kind, and concerned about others. You show a great deal of empathy and concern, and you’re cute when you scrunch up your muzzle when you’re thinking, just like you’re doing now.”

“I am?” he asked as he touched his nose.

“Yes. But I also realize you’re still adjusting to everything that has happened. Let me offer you this, so that you may set your mind at ease.”

She moved in close to his ear again, and he found himself wanting her that close.

“I love you, Baked Bean.”

Bean just about melted into a puddle of pure joy right then.

“When we came back from Salt Lick, I had some personal thoughts about how things had turned out and how we had ended up together. One of my musings was that, perhaps, it was destiny that had denied me a mate over these many years. The mystic chords that bind all of ponykind to one another and from past to present have a way of shaping and directing events, and maybe I hadn’t found my special somepony due to the simple fact that he—that you—weren’t due on the scene for a thousand years.”

She then drew even closer and she smiled deeply as she heard his breath catch. “I then thought that if that really was the case then the wait had made our relationship even sweeter.”

She then whispered a secret into his ear, one that made him blush harder than he ever had before. There were a few more whispered words, and then a quick nip of his ear.

“I don’t think I’m going to be ready for that anytime soon,” he whispered with some shame.

“That is perfectly fine, Bean. If I can wait one thousand two hundred twenty-four years I think I can wait a little while longer. As I said, I will go at your pace. But I don’t think of you as a foal, just as you don’t think of me as an impossibly old mare. We see each other as we are, and as what I think we were meant to be: husband and wife.”

Bean didn’t reply for a moment, but when he did, he looked very confused. “You’re really that old? You don’t look a day over five hundred sixty-eight.”

“I use an anti-aging cream at night.”

“That’s some cream.” He chuckled with her.

“That it is. Goodnight, Bean.”

She then turned to leave, but she felt something quickly working its way up and under her right wing. Bean’s adorable nose soon poked out, and Celestia smiled warmly while the rest of his charming face followed right behind.

“So this doesn’t look like I am acting like a little foal?” he asked gently.

“No,” she replied, with a quick kiss for his nose. “This looks perfect.”

“My room has been pretty cold and lonely lately, now that you mention it. Perhaps I can stay with you tonight? Then maybe I won’t be cold anymore.”

“And neither will I,” she replied, as they began walking. “You are most welcome to spend the night with me.”

“And the night after that?”

“And for many more.” She giggled, and she then shrieked out a laugh as Bean nipped under her wing.

“This is nice,” Bean remarked with a glance around her chambers while Celestia shut her door.

“Oh, you approve?” she giggled.

“Oh, yeah. I like the curtains, and the fireplace, and...”

He stopped as he turned around and found Celestia in the middle of removing her tiara and peytral. She glanced at him as her magic placed the gilded accessories on a nearby velvet cushion, and she blushed a little.

“What is it?” she asked.

He shook his head slightly and blinked. “I’m sorry. I just… It’s interesting to see you like this.”

“Is that a good interesting or a bad interesting?”

“Good. Definitely good,” he quickly said as she walked back over to him. “Seeing you like this helps me see the non princess side of you. You’re still the same mare, of course, but now you’re a bit more… well, more approachable, if that makes sense. The tiara and everything puts you on a pedestal, but this is just Celly right here.”

Bean felt Celestia’s magic gently lift his crystal off his neck, and they both smiled as she gently placed it next to her tiara.

“Shining and Cadence agonized over that.” Celestia motioned for him to follow her to a bed of cushions near the fireplace. “As soon as they got the word we were married, they had it commissioned. They were concerned that you would not like your gift since it had been rushed.”

“I’m really beginning to believe that princesses do their best work under pressure.” Bean laughed. “You and your ironclad law, Cadence and that crystal. It’s amazing, and probably one of the finest gifts I’ve ever received.”

“One of?”

“The gift of your love is better.”

That caused snowy-white cheeks to blush, and Celestia smiled deeply while she laid down on the cushions. She then lifted her right wing for him, and he happily moved under it with a contented hum.

“Do you use some kind of feather softener too?” he asked. “It feels so wonderful under here.”

“No, no softener,” she replied warmly. “But they might have some of my spit on them from when I preen and straighten them.”

“Ew!” He laughed with her. “I guess I’ll just have to live with it. Though that does make me wonder…”

“What are you doing?” she asked as he rolled onto his back, but then she let out a long sigh of enjoyment as Bean began to softly stroke the feathers on the underside of her wing.

“Ah! So you do like this. One for the notebook.”

“Write that one down two or three times,” she said with a delighted hum. A little more stretching left the full set of long primaries available to Bean’s long, slow strokes, and he continued his gentle ministrations until Celestia murmured, “That is incredibly... nice. So nice.”

“I’m not rubbing them the wrong way, am I?”

There was no answer forthcoming, so after stroking her feathers for a little while longer, Bean rolled back over and regarded Celestia... no, his happy wife in the low glow of the bedroom lighting.

She wrinkles up her nose when she’s sleeping. That is so adorable.

He was afraid that laughing would wake her up, so he suppressed it to a quiet giggle, snuggled into her side, stretched out his own shorter legs next to hers, and relaxed.

“Goodnight, my princess. I don’t know where this journey is going, but it’s going to be a fun trip.”

Her wing drew in a bit closer around him, and he sighed happily while he joined her in slumber. This is what he had expected married life to be like, and he was pretty extra sure that, despite the unknowns that loomed before him like Luna’s moon, he could get used to this life.

With a little help.

16. - Check This Out

Luna, Princess of the Moon and Stars, grumbled to herself as she forced her hooves down the hallway and towards the kitchen.

Those Cutie Mark Crusaders were going to be the end of her, but she did have to give them points for originality. Somehow, those adorably destructive fillies had given all of Ponyville a nightmare about marshmallows stacked into a bipedal form, dressed up in a sailor’s uniform, and throwing rubber tires at everypony.

The word vexing was being used quite a bit as her fatigued brain contemplated this.

Luna decided that the how and why didn’t really matter. What did matter was a quick bite to eat to calm her stomach, and then sleep. Dealing with the Tantabus wouldn’t be nearly so vexing.

It was a strange word if one really thought about it.

The dining room doors were sticking again, so Luna opted for the direct approach of simply forcing her way inside. She mustered enormous amounts of willpower to bridge the vast gap between her and a basket of fruit, and without looking, she selected one from the pile and bit into it.

Pineapple. A worthy fruit foe, but its reinforced hide was helpless before Luna’s sheer jaw power and sparkling white enamel.

Plus it got the lingering taste of burnt marshmallow out of her mouth.

She then looked up, and she let out a startled gasp. “Bean? Are you all right?”

The new prince looked absolutely horrible. His coat was matted in places and his mane looked like he had tried to eat a lightning bolt, but the most concerning thing was his eyes. They were bloodshot, sunken, and hollow, focused in on nothing but an invisible abyss of horror. He didn’t acknowledge her in any form, but Luna was fairly certain about what had happened to bake the Bean.

“Celestia snores?” she offered.

Bean slowly nodded. “Celestia snores.” He paused, and swallowed hard. “Loudly.”

“Ah, a dose of reality for the newlywed.” Luna chuckled. “You shall get used to it over time, do not worry.”

“You do?” he asked, with a bit more desperation in his voice then he intended.

“Of course. It only took Star Struck about fifteen years to get used to my snoring.” Luna considered her memories with a smile.

“Years?” he whimpered.

“Yes. Certes you can hold out that long, correct?”

“You snore too?”

Baked Bean wasn’t quite all there this morning, it seemed. “All alicorns do, even if they deny it. I think it has something to do with the wing/horn combination personally.”

Bean nodded slowly. “All alicorns snore…”

“A little like a tuba and a bagpipe quartet,” admitted Luna.

“Bean?” Celestia called while she entered the room. “Are you in here?”

“Yes and no,” called out Luna in return. It was intriguing to see Celestia wandering the castle hallways without her regalia on. Usually her silly sister would sleep in it, though that always had seemed rather uncomfortable to the Lunar Diarch.

“Are you alright, Bean?” Celestia followed up as she trotted over to where he was.

“Yeah, I think I’m okay. I just didn’t sleep well.”

“Oh dear,” Celestia gasped a bit as she reached over and booped him. “Another nightmare?”

“No, not that. You… well… you, um…”

She put a hoof to her mouth. “I was snoring, wasn’t I?”

“Loudly,” Luna added.

“Oh my. This hasn’t been a problem before. Lulu, wasn’t there a spell you used to stop your snoring?”

“Yes, but I don’t recall how it went. I’m sure a little searching in the Archives will turn it up.”

“Fifteen years?” Bean asked Luna with an annoyed glare.

Luna shrugged. “Years, minutes. It all blends together after long enough.”

“Your mane is a mess.” Celestia stated the obvious, and she moved to be directly behind him. “Hold still.”

“What are you—” Bean started to ask, but then his eyes rolled back in his head and he sighed in happiness as Celestia began nipping and tugging at his mane with her teeth. Luna simply rolled her eyes at the display and took another large bite out of her pineapple, relishing her victory over the rugged fruit.

“There!” Celestia announced after a minute or so. “Not the best, but it looks better that what it did.”

Bean did look better, and his eyes were back to normal when he opened them and turned to look at his wife.

“Thank you. That was just what I needed.”

She smiled and booped him again. “You’re welcome. I’ll make sure to find that anti-snoring spell too.”

“I hope so.” He chuckled.

“Luna, would you care to have breakfast with us?”

“I will have to decline your fair offer today, Sister. I am in need of rest more than breakfast at the moment.”

“Oh,” Celestia flatly replied. “Well, perhaps tomorrow.”

“Perhaps. Good day to you both.”

And with that, Luna departed with the remains of her pineapple.


“I did rather hope she would stay. I always enjoy having breakfast with her,” Celestia remarked as she sat down next to Bean.

“Well, she did look pretty rough. There were probably a lot of nightmares last night.”

“That could be, and if so I hope she gets the rest she deserves,” Celestia replied thoughtfully. “In any case, the day is young and there is much to be accomplished. Are you still planning on touring Canterlot with your family?”

“Yeah, so I should probably go talk to them and get that worked out.”

“I never did introduce you to your assigned guards, did I?”

“Not yet.”

“As soon as we finish breakfast we will do so. Sergeants Hokey Pokey and Clover Leaf will be happy to serve and protect you.”

“I guess you won’t be able to go out with me and the family for the tour, huh?”

“I do wish I could, but I am still far behind in my work. Thankfully, I think two days of focused effort should get things caught up. I also have my class to teach today.”

“That’s right, I forgot about that. Do you have any Twilight level students you’re working with?”

Celestia laughed. “No, but that actually makes life easier. Twilight was a joy to teach but she was so brilliant and so advanced that I struggled to keep ahead of her in certain areas of study. There are times I think she taught me just as much as I taught her.”

“That makes sense.”

“Now then, I would like to have breakfast with your family and our niece and nephew. Why don’t we go get cleaned up?”

Bean then ran his hooves through his mane a few times. “Okay, I’m good.”

“Oh, no, no. If you are going to be a proper Prince you must at at least use a comb.” She contemplated Bean’s suddenly awake expression with the mischievous sense of humor that he seemed to enjoy so much. “Perhaps even... the brush,” she added in a low, husky voice.

“Not the brush!” exclaimed Bean before popping to his hooves and making a run for the hallway. “Nooo!” he called out as he ran. “Help! I’m too ruggedly handsome to be brushed!”

Celestia laughed out loud while taking off after him. “Brushy, brushy!” she called, laughing even harder as he galloped through the hallways.

Baked Bean smiled to himself while he finished chewing his bite of breakfast. Chef Beet had provided a most pleasant breakfast of biscuits and rutabaga gravy for him and his family, and the conversations that floated between his parents and their employees centered mostly on how to replicate the dish. He had felt a twinge of sadness when Celestia had excused herself to go attend to her duties when breakfast ran longer than expected, but he also knew it could not be helped.

Since his family had left home in a panic without even properly closing the Zuerst, he understood why they needed to go back soon. That did not mean he liked it, an opinion shared by Sip, Shake and Bake. Grumps was true to his namesake and just grumbled about everything in general, but Bean knew the grizzled old cook never liked being far from home, even if his employer’s son was now his Prince.

Eventually, everypony settled on touring the palace and the grounds, heading to the flower patch where Bean had met his wife, and then catching an afternoon train home. Cadance and Shining agreed to go with the Bean horde on the tour, and Shining left sightly early to check on their security detail.

A few minutes later, Shining reappeared and waved Bean out into the hallway. “Bean, this is Sergeant Hokey Pokey and Sergeant Clover Leaf.” He pointed to each in turn, and they saluted as he did so. “These two will be with you anytime you go outside the palace. They both have exceptional marks and several commendations, and they’re honored to be your security.”

“Are you really?” he asked Hokey Pokey.

“Yes sir! No higher honor than to guard the Bean who is having an existential crisis, Sir.”

“Oh, so that was you in the hallway that day?”

“It was, sir.”

“And you, Clover Leaf?”

“Pleasure to be attached to you, sir,” came the surprisingly female voice.

“You’re a mare?”

“I am?” Clover turned to Hokey Pokey and gave him an accusatory look. “Why didn’t you tell me, Hokey?”

“I wasn’t totally sure myself,” he replied. “I’ve lost track of how many stallions you’ve drunk under the table.”

“The Royal Guard is about even in the male to female ratio.” Shining explained while Clover preened with pride. “Would you like to know how to tell the difference?”

“That would be nice.”

“It’s all in the ears,” Shining said conspiratorially. “Male ears are slightly more pointed than females.”

“They are?” he asked, as he looked closely at Hokey’s ears. “I don’t see it.”

“Right at the tips, Sir,” Pokey offered, turning one ear in his direction.

“What, right there? I don’t see it. You’re not messing with me, right?”

“Shiny is being serious,” Cadence answered as she and everypony else came out into the hallway. “You’ll get it, don’t worry.”

“You’ll forgive me if I get you two mixed up?” Bean asked the guards.

“Not a problem at all, sir,” Clover replied with a quick laugh. “We get it all the time.”

“Well, shall we?” Cadence asked, as she gestured with a hoof down a hallway.

“…and this is it: The Sunflower Patch of Destiny.”

There was a bit of silence for a moment as everypony contemplated the fateful spot, but then Sip piped up with a question. “Dude, did you really not see the sign and the fence?”

“Those weren’t there when I was here.” Bean looked at the new ‘Please Stay On The Path’ signs and short iron fences. “I wouldn’t have shoved myself in there otherwise.”

“Well, I can see how the Princess didn’t see you,” Garbanzo stated as he took a step closer to the patch. “These are pretty thick. You were just standing next to them, you say?”

“Not exactly. I was standing all the way in them with my nose up to try and catch a muse.” Bean let out a snort of amusement. “I guess I did. If I hadn’t been doing that, Celestia would have missed.”

“She could have missed anyway, or bumped into your butt,” Sip pointed out. “Just a few inches in any direction and she wouldn’t have got you. That was quite the lucky shot, Beanmister.”

“I didn’t think of that.” Bean rubbed his own nose. “That’s kinda funny.”

“It’s all history now, right?” Garbanzo added. “Nothing else to do but move forward.”

“Very true.”

“Baked, dear, could you show us the statues?” Lima asked. “I’ve heard quite a bit about one birdbath from Needle Point, and I would like to see what all the fuss is about.”

“Yeah, they’re just over there if I remember right.” Bean motioned down a pathway. “Shouldn’t be too hard to find.”

The entourage began moving again except for Garbanzo. He remained stationary, peering into the sunflowers as if he was expecting something to jump out of them. Bean noticed he hadn’t moved after taking a few steps, and he moved back as Cadance led the group onward and began talking about the birdbath in question.

“Dad? You ok?”

“Hm? Oh, yeah. I’m fine.” His father lifted his head up and took a long, deep breath of the garden’s fresh air. “Just lost in thought, Bean Buddy.”

“Wanna talk about it?”

“I don’t know where to begin.” Garbanzo sighed. “I’m just trying to get my head around all of this. My son leaves home, comes to Canterlot, and ends up marrying a princess. It’s the plot to the world’s dumbest story, and yet it’s real. Oh, no offense.”

“None taken. It is a pretty wild tale.”

“I just…” he stalled. “I guess I was wrong about things, and it’s hard to swallow.”


“I thought for sure this writing thing was just a phase, a moment of questioning. Even when you were a teeny-tiny Bean, I was sure you were going to be a chef, just like all Beans have been. I had grand plans for you, grand plans. You were going to take the Zuerst farther than I could even dream of with your skills. I agonized over the lessons we gave you when you were a colt, debated and triple-guessed myself. Would this really be useful for my Bean Buddy to learn? Would it make him the most respected name in cooking that ever was? Could he…”

There was a long and thoughtful pause.

“Would he carry on the family dream for me?” Garbanzo said softly. “It hurts to think that all that time, all that effort, and I was pushing you in the wrong direction. I was so sure of your destiny that I totally missed it. It sounds selfish, but now all my dreams have been defeated too. I wanted… bah. Me. I. Mine. That’s where I went wrong. Me, me, me. I didn’t pay attention to you. I was so set on having you share the dream that I squashed yours. You gave me the warning signs, you tried to tell me. I should have realized it was the end when you went running with those tofu blocks in your ears. No, I had to keep pushing, keep forcing. So long as I was getting what I wanted, who cared what else happened? My Bean Buddy would come around, I just had to be right. There was no way I could be wrong. I was so in denial that I even refused to believe a Princess was in front of me. It was all just an act. He’d come around.”

Bean put an arm over his father’s withers, and he stared into the flower patch with him. “Look, I don’t know what to say about your dreams. In all those years, the one thing that hurt the most was that I was letting you down. I really did want to be that great chef you had envisioned. I actually kinda hoped that once I got established as a writer that I could write a cookbook and put all the family recipes in it, share it with the world.

“But I know one thing, Dad, above all else: you did good with me. Maybe some of your efforts were misguided, but overall you were – and still are – a fantastic father. You taught me things that have been more help than I probably even realized, and all that training didn’t go to waste. I’ve already used some of your wisdom and your lessons, and I’m sure I’ll be using a lot more as time goes on. The only way I’ll be able to hack it as a prince is because you taught me foundational skills to use. Maybe I won’t be a world-renowned chef, but I know that when people look back at the odd reign of Prince Baked Bean they’ll see a strong family behind him, a father and a mother who really did care and look after him.”

Garbanzo turned a little and gave his son a soft smile. “Thanks, son.”

“Dreams don’t always need to die, Dad. Sometimes they just need a little adjustment.”

“Heh.” Garbanzo chuckled. “I guess so. You’re going to be a household name one way or another.”

“Don’t remind me,” Bean said while suppressing a snort of laughter.

“We should catch up before your mother starts to worry.”

“She already is, I bet.”

They both chuckled at this. “Yeah. You do realize she’s going to keep pestering you for grandfoals until you actually provide one, right?”

“I said don’t remind me.” Bean laughed. “One bridge at a time.”

Celestia paused for a quick moment to ensure she had written everything she needed to on the classroom chalkboard, and then she turned back to her students. “All right, everypony! I trust you all have your petri dishes ready?”

“Yes, Princess,” Celestia’s class droned.

“Good. Now, I want you all to take a cotton swab, and…”

“Princess?” a little filly interrupted.

“Yes, Wintergreen?”

“You look different today.”

“I do?” Celestia asked, and she glanced back at her tail while surreptitiously checking her teeth for leftovers from breakfast with her tongue. “I don’t recall changing anything in my appearance.”

“Yeah. You look like you’re brighter.”

“Brighter?” she giggled. “You know I don’t produce light, right?”

“I know, but you do. You look brighter, and happier too. Your smile looks nicer than it usually does.”

A colt in the back then piped up. “That’s because Princess Celestia has a special somepony, An’ they got married and everything!”

“That is true, but I think you could have found a better way to make that statement, Granite.”

There was a sudden explosion of questions from the young and eager learners, but Celestia had no chance at hearing them all. She did manage to hear “I heard you’ve been kissing in the hallways,” “I heard Prince Bean stole your tiara and you had to chase him down and get it back,” and “Did you really plant him in the ground and then harvest him?”

“My dear little ponies!” Celestia laughed. “Where in Equestria did you come up with these questions?”

“Did you really get married, Princess?”

“Yes, Wintergreen. I did,” she replied with a warm smile. “I wrote a law many, many years ago that made me get married, but it took a long time for me to find the one who I was meant for.”

“Do you love Prince Bean?” Granite asked. “My Mom said you just married him ‘cause you had to, and that you’re gonna kick him outta the palace once you figure out how to get rid of him.”

“Granite, you may tell your mother that your teacher, Princess Celestia, unequivocally loves Prince Bean. To the best of my knowledge, he is not going anywhere. He plans on staying, and I plan on keeping him.”

“Does he love you?” Granite replied.

“He does, but he’s a bit shy about it,” she replied. “Sometimes a special somepony needs a little extra time and that’s okay. He isn’t used to Canterlot, or being a royal. He’s also still getting used to me.”

“Getting used to you?” another filly asked.

“Yes, Marble. He doesn’t know me as well as you all do. He still has a lot to learn, and I have a lot to learn about him.” Celestia then had a delightful thought enter her head, and she gave her students a sly smile. “What if I make you this offer: if you all do well on this week’s test I will have him come visit. Then, you can ask him all the questions you want. Does that sound fair?”

“Yeah!” the class erupted.

“Good! Now, before our bacteria goes bad, let’s get back to the lesson. Everyone get a cotton swab…”

Bean took a moment to glance at the train that was waiting on track twenty-nine, and he sighed while turning back to his family and friends. “Well, this is it, I suppose.”

“Thanks for the tour, Beanmister. We’ll do this again sometime,” Sip offered, and they hoofbumped quickly. “Don’t be a stranger, eh?”

“Wouldn’t dream of it.”

Sip smiled and then stepped aside for Grumps.

“I’m telling ya, that Princess of yours is practicing some strange voodoo. You keep an eye on her for me, all right?”

“I can do that, Grumps. You take care of yourself. Don’t get too happy, you have a reputation to uphold.”

“Don’t worry about that, Prince,” he retorted, but with a small smile. Shake and Bake were next, and the twins looked rather sad.

“Think you can get us her autograph?” Shake asked.

“I think I can, yeah.”

“Yours too?” Bake asked.

“Well, if you think it’s worth something.”

“It will be. You take care of yourself, all right?”

“I will. You keep your brother in line in exchange.”

“No promises there.”

All three laughed, and then they moved aside to let Garbanzo and Lima have their moment.

“I wish you could come with us.” Lima sadly remarked. “But I understand why you can’t. You’ll brush your teeth, right?”

“I don’t think Celly will let me forget.”

“And I still want grandfoals. Don’t wait too long on that.”

“I’ll see what I can do.”

“You should make her some of your grandma’s fudge. I bet she’d really like that. Or maybe that sponge cake, or a nice rhubarb pie, or…”

“Mom, you’re rambling.”

“I know.” She put a tender hoof on his cheek and sighed. “My little Bean grew up too fast, and then he went and turned into a prince. Oh, I’m gonna miss you honey.”

“Hey, you’re welcome to visit anytime, and Celly and I will drop in on occasion I’m sure. This isn’t the end, it’s just a change.”

“And it’s for the best.” She replied as they hugged. “Just be safe, ok? I don’t want you getting hurt by some villain like Discord.”

“Funny you should mention him. Do you remember when the ceiling laughed and made a joke about one big Bean pun?”

“That was him?” she asked, and Bean nodded. “Well, you tell him to behave or he’ll have to deal with me.”

“I will. Between you and Fluttershy he’ll be too scared to misbehave.”

“Good. Write often, will you? I want to hear all about what you’re doing.”

“I will.”

Lima then fought back tears as she let Garbanzo in. The father and son hugged quickly, and then Garbanzo sighed. “I always thought I’d have to tell you to treat your special somepony like a princess, but I guess that’s a bit moot.”

“It’s still good advice.”

“It almost is. For you, I think it’s more appropriate to say make sure you treat her like she’s your wife.”

“How could I not?”

“Because she’s the Princess. Celestia doesn’t need another worshipper; she’s got a whole country of those. What she needs is a companion, a helper. She needs someone to be her friend. She probably hasn’t had many of those. Treat her as an equal, and you’ll be all right.”

Bean nodded thoughtfully. “Thanks. I’ll try to.”

Garbanzo then leaned in a bit. “Also try rubbing between her wings. Pegasi love that.”


“And if you’re really trying to turn her on, just—”

“Gah! Dad!” Bean shouted.

“What? I want grandfoals too!”

“I am not hearing this! I’m not!” Bean covered his ears with his hooves for a moment, but then he laughed with the group.

Garbanzo then nodded firmly. “You’ll do good. You’re a good Bean.”

“Just like the Beans before me.”

Sergeant Clover Leaf then cleared her throat. “Excuse me, sirs, but we need to have you leave now in order to catch your train.”

“I hate goodbye.” Garbanzo and Lima hugged Bean together. “So we’ll see you around instead, all right?”

“We will. Have a safe trip, Duke and Duchess Bean.”

“Duchess.” Lima repeated, as they broke apart. “Sounds like something that would have cream of mushroom in it.”

They all chuckled at this, and then a final round of goodbyes were shared by everyone. Bean then solemnly watched as Sgt. Leaf escorted his friends and family away, but he made sure to wave as they left.

He then let out his breath slowly. It was only one in the afternoon, so Celestia would still be busy doing whatever it was that she was doing. Shining and Cadence had left the group a short while ago to meet with a trade minister, so he was on his own until dinner.

He played with the crystal around his neck for a moment while he thought about what to do. He probably wasn’t needed anywhere, so he could probably go do more research for his story. He did have to admit he was eager to get some of his ideas down and then see what Celly thought of them.

He hoped she would like it.

And with that resolute thought, he started off for the Archives.

“He’s just over there, your Highness.”

“Thank you.”

Celestia stealthily crept up on Bean. He was totally engrossed in writing, and he had several books scattered around him on the table. Though she was curious as to what he was doing, she was going to have a little fun first.

Her approach went unnoticed, and she smiled as she softly blew on his right ear. It flicked at the irritation, but he didn’t react otherwise.

She blew on his left ear next, and for a bit longer. This time he reached up and scratched but still he kept writing.

She then nipped his ear. He gasped slightly, but then he smiled broadly when he turned and found her there.

“Am I ever glad that you’re the one that did that,” he remarked. “I was going to have a panic attack for a moment there.”

“I suppose that’s a good thing. Did your parents leave already?”

“Yeah, they needed to get back to check on the restaurant. They left just after lunch.”

“Oh.” She pouted. “I was hoping to say goodbye as well. I guess we’ll just have to go visit them again sometime soon.”

“I’m sure they’d love that.”

“What is all this?”

“Research. I’m trying to get my story started.”

“Really?” She asked with some excitement, and he nodded. “Do you have enough to share yet? I would like to see what you’ve got.”

“I don’t really have a plot yet. Most of this is the facts and details of the world, and the general outline. You are welcome to read what I’ve got so far, though.”

Celestia quickly and eagerly moved to the other side of the library table and smiled deeply as Bean handed her his notebook. It appeared he had started a new one, and he already had a dozen or so pages filled in.

“Let me see. No title yet, but that’s fine. I honestly think a title should wait until you’ve finished the story. Ah. ‘Premise: A unicorn with extraordinary power manages to open a hole in the universe during a science experiment and through it he discovers a new world. Once there, he finds a strange group of bipedal creatures who have something like claws instead of forehooves and flattened faces, kinda like a monkey’s.’ I’m going to deduct five points for using ‘kinda’.”

“It’s a rough draft.” He defended.

“Mm. ‘The Unicorn (Calm Breeze) finds himself inexplicably attracted to the females of this world, especially the ones who are virtuous and honest, forthright and pure. Using his magic, he makes it his mission to help these creatures resolve various dilemmas and difficulties. It ain’t gonna be’…ah! You little sneak!”

Bean tried to keep his chortling in but he failed miserably at it. Celestia tried to give him a sour look but it was obvious she was amused with the joke too.

“I’m sorry, I just had to!” he managed to say after a moment. “The opportunity was there, I had to take it!”

“Oh really,” she flatly replied. “Minus a million points for that one. I should have seen that coming.”

“I’ll take that part out. But what do you think?”

“It’s an interesting concept. Would Calm Breeze be able to enter and leave this world at will?”

“I’m thinking that somehow the magic portal opens when he’s needed there.”

“And he remains a unicorn while there? His form doesn’t change to match the creatures around him?”

“No, he stays the same. I think that will be one of the challenges he faces: he’s so different from anything they have on that world that the antagonists want to capture him. He wants to help but he has to stay safe.”

“Does the portal just open in mid-air, or is it tied to something like a doorway or…” she hesitated only slightly, “…or a mirror?”

“A mirror? Huh. I think it just appears. Seems a bit cumbersome to have to go through a mirror every time.”

“Interesting. Why don’t we get something to eat and then we’ll keep going over this?”

“That sounds good,” he replied, and they both stood.

“…but watch your tense. If you start out in past tense you need to keep it that way. You flipped it to present tense right here.”

“Oh, okay.”

He erased the offending words, then tried again through a yawn. Celestia watched him working under her wing, and she smiled. He had attacked this project with enthusiasm, and had drafted out most of the first chapter already. It was certainly an ambitious story, but he had the momentum to complete it, provided he received support and encouragement.

She was more than happy to provide both, but then she frowned. He had stopped writing and was chewing on his pencil, and that made the hairs of her neck stand on end. “Stop that.”

“Huh? Stop what?”

“You are chewing on your pencil.”

“I am?” he asked, as he chewed on it in thought.

“Yes! You’re doing it right now! Look at this poor thing!” Her magic quickly snagged the helpless instrument of writing away and she held it in front of Bean.

“Oh. I didn’t even realize it.”

“It’s a very bad habit. I don’t tolerate it with my students and I certainly won’t let you do it.”

“What’s so bad about it?”

“The wood can splinter and injure your mouth for one thing. The graphite isn’t healthy for you for a second thing.”

“Just those two things?”

“It’s gross,” she finished, with her nose in the air slightly.

“Ha!” Bean nosed the wing draped over his shoulder. “I seem to remember somepony telling me how she spits all over her feathers.”

“That’s different!” protested Celestia. “I don’t chew on them.”

He smiled from his comfortable spot beneath her warm wings. “Right,” he said with a yawn. “Totally different.”

“It is.” She looked at his mangled pencil while continuing, “I preen to keep my feathers neat, presentable and air worthy. I don’t just idly chew on them when I’m thinking. Chewing on a pencil serves no purpose. You don’t write any better, it’s bad for your teeth and gums, and don’t even get me started on how bad the dyes in the outer shell are for you. If you must chew on something when you think you should use a piece of gum. That way you can fight cavities and have fresh breath. Does that make sense?”

Having made her point with the most perfect of arguments, Celestia looked down at Bean.

He was sleeping beneath her ‘spit-covered’ wings. She could not even be irritated because of how happy he looked, and how that same look lit a fire of joy in her chest.

“This isn’t over,” she threatened, as her magic levitated the pencil and notebook to be tucked away for later, although after a moment’s thought, she put the splintered pencil in the trash and conjured him a new one. “I’ll be waiting for you.” She kissed him on the nose. “You sneak.”

Celestia then casually snagged the dragonfire scroll that popped in out of nowhere and opened it. Though it was a bit strange for Twilight to take so long to reply to one of her letters, Celestia was reasonably sure that her protege had been engaged in other endeavors and had simply forgotten to write.

Dear Princess Celestia,

It’s me, Spike. Twilight has been busy helping everypony in town get ready for Prince Bean’s visit tomorrow, so she totally forgot to reply to your letter.

Celestia smirked as she envisioned Spike secretly writing that admittance, even though Twilight had probably asked him not to.

She says tomorrow is fine and that he may come whenever he’s ready, but she also ‘respectfully’ asks that you give her an arrival time. From what I’ve heard around town and from what I’ve seen, Prince Bean should feel very welcome when he gets here.

Anyway, have a good night and we’ll see you tomorrow!

Celestia felt a glow of joy fill her entire chest with this news. A trip to Ponyville would be a wonderful and early self-esteem boost for her Bean, and if something horrible should happen to her, he would know who call on for help.

And if Pinkie Pie’s last ‘new Prince in Equestria’ party was any indication, Bean had a riotously fun event ahead of him.

She then simply placed the scroll on the table and yawned. She could understand why Bean had fallen asleep, because it had been a long day for her too. Just as she began to settle in next to her beloved Bean, though, she remembered something rather important. Her horn flared and produced a golden orb in front of her that was about the size of a golf ball, and with no joy whatsoever, she then ate said ball. A disgusted face from the bitter taste of it immediately followed, and she quickly levitated a nearby glass of water to herself.

“The things I do for love,” she muttered after draining the glass. “Though I suppose one little anti-snoring spell isn’t too much to ask. We should both sleep well tonight.”

She then sighed happily as she laid her head down next to Bean. He grunted a bit and shuffled a little, but then he gave a matching sigh of contentment as well.

“Goodnight, my Bean,” she whispered. “Sleep well.”

And with that final happy thought, the Prince and Princess drifted into deep and snore-free slumber together.

17. - Ponyville Part 1

Baked Bean found himself swimming in a sea of splendor, much like a minnow who had wandered into a group of hungry jellyfish. The festive and lively atmosphere of the Gala had little water involved, except for the way the drinks had been diluted. All around him stood ponies of renown and poise; ponies who moved the world and who enriched it with their very presence. Large fish in a very large pond, Elegance and refinement to the highest degree swept around him, and it was clear the guests took great pride in their satin gowns, silk ties, well-trimmed and perfectly coiffed manes and feathered hats.

For a young stallion from Salt Lick, Baked Bean felt horribly out of place. Armed with nothing more than his Celestial Crystal, he shimmied his way among and around the crowd, trying to figure out his place within it and his purpose for being there. He might as well have been invisible; no pony met his eyes or offered a word of greeting. All of the attendees were only interested in themselves and the company they were presently with. What was he supposed to do? Why was he here?

Somehow he felt his heart tug in a particular direction, and he followed the prompting for a moment until he found a opening on the floor.

It was there, on a dais that extended a good ten feet into the air, that he found the immortal and exquisite Princess of the Sun. Radiance and beauty flowed off of her in waves that mimicked her mane and tail, and he could feel serenity and balance from simply being in her presence. She stood, though there was a gilded throne behind her, and she observed the proceedings of the party with poise, grace, wisdom, and tact, but Baked Bean felt an undercurrent of sorrow relentlessly pull him toward her.

Eager to see if he could assist the fair Matron of Equestria, Bean began to navigate through the crowd again. The partygoers made the task difficult for him; the closer he got to her position the more ponies stood in the way. The words they were speaking drifted by as he moved, but they were empty and hollow to him. Those closer to her were abundant in praise but lacking in substance, and though he found that irksome he doggedly pressed on.

After some effort, he reached the base of the dais and he looked up the narrow stairs to her. He saw no guards nor obstacles in between them, so he began to climb with zeal.

Halfway up, though, his resolve faltered for a moment. Was he allowed up there? What would she think of him? Would he be called impertinent, over eager? Would she cast him aside, banish him from her presence because of his naivety and insolence?

He shook the thoughts from his head and began again to climb. Come what may, he had to reach her. For some odd reason, he felt like he was the only one who could.

He was most pleased to find that Celestia not only had a smile for him once he reached her, but a soft nose boop as well. He gave her a quick bow and then beamed up at her.

“Hello, my Princess. Might I be bold enough to ask to speak with you?”

“Yes, but on one condition.”

He tilted his head and gave her a curious look.

“Don’t ever bow to me again,” she said in a kind but stern tone. “We are equals, and I expect to be treated as such.”

“Fair enough.” He chuckled. “What party is this?”

“I’m not sure, but it doesn’t really matter,” she sighed, as he moved to stand next to her. “Over the years I’ve found there’s very little difference between an Officer’s Ball, the Grand Galloping Gala, or any other formal ball you could name. All of their Balls look alike, with a minor variation here and there.”

He looked over the crowd with her. “And you never get to participate.”

“I am the Princess, so thus I am the Master of all Ceremonies. I am not a participant in the festivities; I am simply here to observe, and to be observed in return. See how they are now? They want to be near me, but they don’t want to actually know me. It’s far better for their own personal prospects to simply claim closeness. Getting to know me would require more time and effort than they want to invest.”

“But I am here,” Bean noted.

“And I am most grateful you are.” She smiled brightly again. “You are one of the few who has made the climb to me. But now that you have, will you go back down to the crowd and boast of your accomplishment?”

Bean noticed the stairway down was now unbelievably wide, and moving. All he had to do was step on the first step and he would be automatically taken to the bottom with no effort needed. He would then be in the midst of a sizeable crowd, and they seemed eager to talk to him now. Doubtless they would ask about the Princess, but he somehow knew they only wanted the information to help themselves.

“No.” His answer came quickly. “I will remain here with you. A minute in your company is better than a day with them.”

“Good answer.” She booped him again. “So, what should we talk about now?”

“How about we talk about your favorite pie?”

“Really? You want to know that?”

“I can’t bake one for you if I don’t know what it is.”

“Rhubarb pie,” she happily declared. “I don’t know when I started liking them but there’s nothing better than that.”

“And how much sugar do you have put in them?”

“Oh, only four or five cups usually.”

“You have a serious sugar issue.”

“Better than salt.”

And from behind a pillar in the back corner, Luna smiled as the two laughed. “Enjoy this dream, dear sister, and may you have many more with him like this.”

And then she quietly slipped away.

Bean awoke shortly before dawn that morning but had no idea why. He was warm and comfortably snuggled into Celestia’s silky side, and her wing was wrapped snugly over and around him so there was no reason to be up. She was breathing softly and evenly through her nose, and the soft smile on her lips indicated she was quite content as well.

He simply laid there and soaked in her warmth and serenity for a few moments, but then a question came to him. It was one that had drifted through head once or twice before, and one that many ponies before him had asked:

Was Celestia’s mane made of hair or something else?

It seemed like it was made of hair. Slowly, he reached one hoof out, and he oh-so-delicately touched near her ears.

“It’s hair,” she said softly, and her sleeping smile grew bigger.

“Do you blame me for wondering?”

“It’s one of the most frequent questions I get,” she replied. “I’ve heard some pretty wild theories on what other material it might be.”

“So why does it float and wave?”

“Magic,” she succinctly stated.

“Har har.”

“Hair, hair. Seriously.” She opened her eyes and looked at him. “It takes a lot of magic to move the sun or the moon. The ethereal nature of my mane comes from the amount of magic that I possess. Luna has just as much as I do.”

“So Twilight and Cadance have less than you?”

“For now. Eventually, their power will grow and the same thing will happen, but it will take some time. Even once they cross that unknown threshold, it will take about three months or so for it to manifest in their manes.”

“Huh. That’s kinda interesting.”

A brush then floated into view, and Bean gently took it in hoof.

“Would you like to help me brush it?”

“I do believe I would.” He smiled, and her wing retracted to allow him to stand. Bean then stood and began brushing near the end of her mane while Celestia closed her eyes again and sighed in contentment.

“You like this?” he asked.

“It’s relaxing.”

He kept the brushstrokes even, soft, and slow, and he found that even he felt soothed and relaxed with the motions. It only took him a few minutes to finish, but when he did he quickly put the brush aside and popped his front hooves up and onto her back in between her wings.

“What are you… oooh!” she let out a squeal of delight as he began rubbing. Both wings flared out and then lay flat on the floor as he kept going, and after a minute or so Bean snickered a little.

“You purr?”

She purred a little louder to answer his question affirmatively. “You may keep doing this for as long as you like.”

“Don’t you need to raise the sun?”

She replied with another groan of pleasure. “It can wait. Or Luna can bring it up.”

“Won’t she break out into hives?”

“Meh. She’ll live.”

Bean, however, didn’t think Luna would appreciate that very much, so he stopped and returned his front hooves to the ground. Celestia pouted as she pulled her wings back in, but then she booped him softly.

“That was nice, thank you. I shall name you the official royal masseuse.”

“Only for you though.”

She smiled more. “I like that. But you are right, I should raise the sun. Then we can have breakfast before you head out to Ponyville.”

“Sounds good.”

Bean breathed in deeply as the clouds dodged and rushed by him. He was in one of Celestia’s carriages but with Shining Armor and Cadence instead of her, and he felt very lonesome despite the company. He had been secretly hoping that she would drop everything and come with him, but the backlog of work just couldn’t be ignored or pushed off anymore. After today things would be closer to normal, but for now he had to go without his Celly for a bit.

“Ponyville is just up ahead, sir!” Sergeant Pokey shouted back. “We should be on the ground in just a minute or so!”

Bean had wondered what Ponyville was like, and he had tried to envision it based on what Celestia had told him about it. Now that it was within sight, he smiled.

Celestia had described it perfectly.

The buildings that made up the quaint hamlet were simple but sturdy, with timber framed walls and thatched roofs that were neat and clean. A stately town hall stood in the center of the hamlet, a windmill towards the edge of town, and a large apple orchard just on the outskirts and across the small river. The whole town looked inviting and cosy, just the kind of place he would have moved to if he hadn’t met Celestia.

The carriage touched down right next to the town hall, and a sizeable group of ponies that had gathered broke out into applause as they landed. Bean followed the Crystal Empire’s leaders lead, and he smiled and waved back as he disembarked. Twilight, Spike, and another mare with a pale, grayish-amber coat and gray mane were waiting for them near the entrance to the hall, but Bean was was a bit embarrassed to have all three of them bow to him.

“Good morning, Your Highnesses,” the last pony offered, as they arose. “I am Mayor Mare, and on behalf of the citizens of Ponyville it’s my honor to welcome you here today.”

“The pleasure is mine, Mayor,” Bean replied. “And I thank you for having me on such short notice. I’m looking forward to my visit here.”

“Princess Cadence, Prince Shining Armor, it is a pleasure to have you back as well.”

“Likewise, Mayor,” Shining replied. He then reached out, grabbed his sister, and pulled her into a hug. “And you! It’s good to see you again, LSBFF.”

“You too, BBBFF. I’m glad you and Princess Cadence came with Prince Bean, and I bet he appreciates your help.”

“We do for him what we would do for you, Twilight,” Cadence replied with a quick hug and a smile for her fellow Princess. “But, where did Bean sneak off to?”

All the ponies on stage suddenly realized Bean wasn’t there anymore. Thankfully, it only took half a second to see that he had moved down into the crowd with Spike and he was now shaking hooves and offering greetings to as many ponies as he could.

“I’m sorry, Mayor,” Cadence offered. “Baked Bean is still learning.”

“Not at all! I was actually hoping he’d do this. Everypony in town was eager to meet him, so this couldn’t be better.”

“Where are your friends, Twily?” Shining asked.

“They’re helping with the last little bit of marshmallow cleanup,” Twilight said.

“Do they need help?”

“Oh, no. They’re probably finished now. This was nothing compared to the plunderseed vines from a couple of weeks ago.”

“All right, if you say so.”

“Well, once Prince Bean is done with the crowd, a light luncheon has been prepared at Sugarcube Corner.” Mayor Mare added. “And then I believe Twilight had a tour of Ponyville planned for the Prince.”

“Mm-hmm!” Twilight affirmed, while pulling a scroll out of thin air with her magic. “I have an itemized and alphabetized list of all the shops and scenic stops in Ponyville. We’ll just follow the list and everything will be perfect!”

“I’m sure he’ll love that,” Shining said dryly.

“All right,” Twilight announced while producing her agenda, and Bean noticed she had the whole day marked out in five minute intervals, complete with bathroom breaks. “We’ll first go check out the local shops in town, starting with the Carousel Boutique. Rarity will be ecstatic to see you again, but you might end up leaving with a new suit.”

“I probably need it. I don’t have much of a royal wardrobe yet.”

Twilight smiled in a knowing way. “You’ll definitely get one then, and you’re going to like the way you look. I guarantee it.”

It was a short walk to the Boutique, and Bean quite liked the external design of Rarity’s shop. A small bell jingled as they walked in, and Bean began glancing around at the various articles of clothing, trying to figure out what would go well with his colors without clashing against Celestia.

“Rarity!” Twilight called out. “Are you—”


Both princess and guest were tossed backward like leaves in a hurricane, passing through the front door and collecting a pair of guards in the process, then tumbling across the grass as the boutique door slammed shut. And from the sounds, possibly locked itself. Twice.

“Rarity!” Twilight struggled for a moment to pull her horn out of a nearby tree. “That was unwarranted!”

“The prince can’t see me yet!” echoed her voice out of the closed storefront. “Not until everything is just perfect! Now run along, Twilight, and I’ll send for you when I’m done.”

“Mares,” said Sergeant Clover Leaf in her normal breathy contrello. “Always so picky about what they wear.” The guard took a moment to brush off a tuft of grass clinging to her armor and reached down to give Bean a hoof-up from his sprawled position across the walkway.

“Oh my goodness! Are you alright, Twilight?” Fluttershy’s soft words held an amazing depth of concern for her friend.

“I’m fine,” Twilight replied while rubbing the base of her horn. “Ow.”

“Oh, good. I hate to be rude, but I need to go.”

“Do you need any help?” Bean asked, and he and Twilight fell into step next to her with a smile.

“Oh, no,” she quietly replied. “I’d hate to be a bother. Angel Bunny is just being a bit persnickety about his carrots again. He doesn’t like the ones I got yesterday.”

“A bunny that’s a picky eater?” Bean asked.

“Angel isn’t picky, he just has some… particular tastes is all. Once I get some fresh carrots everything will be fine.”

“Oh! Maybe the Prince can help then,” Twilight replied. “He used to be a chef at a gourmet restaurant.”

“Upscale,” he quickly corrected under his breath.

“Oh, that’s okay. I wouldn’t want to be a burden, and I’m sure you have lots to do today.”

“I’m pretty extra sure I could spare a minute,” Bean replied warmly. “I’d be delighted to help.”

“Oh, well, okay then,” Fluttershy said happily. “The stall is just right over there.”

Bean looked over the selection at the stand as soon as they arrived, and his smile deepened. They were quite obviously home-grown carrots, with slight zigs and zags and little specks of dirt still clinging to them, just perfect for cooking with. He dropped his nose in close and began to smell, then jerked his head up and looked at Fluttershy.

“Raw carrots, right? Not cooking carrots or stewing, or even for frying?”

“Oh, yes,” said Fluttershy. “He doesn’t like them cooked.”

“Very well.” Bean dipped his head back down and began his inspection of the rows of carrots.

“Your Highness?” The stall keeper asked nervously. “Is everything—”

He politely shushed her, his eyes closed, and his nose dropped so close that it was hard to tell if he was touching the produce or not. His breathing became deep for a moment, he gave a quick snort, and then he picked out three near the back of the rack.

“These ones are the absolute best ones on the cart,” he proclaimed. He then held them out in his hooves towards Fluttershy. “Here. Take a good long whiff.”

“Um, okay,” she replied with obvious confusion, and then did as she’d been asked.

“Can you smell it?” he eagerly asked.

“I smell carrots,” Fluttershy offered nervously.

“No, no. Slow down. Take a moment, clear your mind. Don’t smell the surface, smell deeper.”

“Deeper?” Twilight asked.

“Yes. A whole new world opens up when we do so. Go just a bit beyond what you smell at first, take a moment to truly savor it. Give the core of it a chance to come out, then you can tell it’s true worth and flavor. Smell them again, but this time reach with your senses. It sounds strange but try it. Close your eyes and open your mind.”

Twilight and Fluttershy gave each other a confused look but then decided to try it.

“Now, there’s a reason they use musical terms when describing food. Think of it like that: notes, chords, melodies. Don’t focus on the first notes of the carrot, smell for the background, the consonants and the countermelodies. Don’t listen to just the cello, listen for all the instruments.”

The stall keeper watched in confusion as both Fluttershy and Twilight tried to follow Bean’s instructions. It took a couple of moments, but then Fluttershy opened her eyes and smiled.

“I think I smell it,” she softly said. “It smells like rich and soft dirt.”

“The type of dirt that has been carefully tended to and is perfect for crops,” Bean added knowingly.

“I smell carrots,” Twilight said with a hint of annoyance.

“It’s going to be harder for you,” Bean replied. “You’re very analytical, and it’s not so easy for an abstract concept like this to get through to such a mind. When you listen to music, do you feel the tone and the movement of it, or do you pick out individual notes, keys, time signatures and beats? It’s the same here. You’ll need to work harder, but also let go of more.”

Twilight nodded, but she still looked a bit annoyed.

“How much for the carrots, Golden Harvest?” Fluttershy asked.

“Huh?” she replied, and she dropped the bundle of carrots she’d been sniffing. “Oh! Three bits should cover it.”

Payment was made, and then Fluttershy offered a quick thank you and goodbye-for-now as she flew back to her cottage. Twilight then summoned her list, and the two struck out once more.

“Can you really smell all that in a carrot?” she asked while they walked.

“I can, but I have practice. If you ever tried to teach me calculus I’d probably never understand, no matter how simply you explained it.”

This seemed to cheer up the Princess. “Yeah, I guess so. We all have our strengths, right?”


The conversation was interrupted by moaning behind them, and the group turned to see who or what was causing it. What they found was Pinkie Pie, who was green in the face and looking rather sick. Her hooves were dragging along in the dirt, her stomach looked oddly swollen, and she was being accompanied by three small fillies who looked extremely remorseful.

“Ooh.” Pinkie groaned. “So… much… marshmallow. I can’t believe I ate the whole thing.”

“You ate that?” Twilight asked in shock. “Just a minute, Bean. I need to help Pinkie.”

“Please do. I can wait.”

“Really, Pinkie, we’re super sorry about all this,” the little pegasus offered as Twilight rushed to her friend’s side.

“Yeah. We didn’t know marshmallows could do that,” the earth pony with the large bow in her mane added.

“It’s okay girls,” Pinkie replied with a weak wave of her hoof. “I just need a few minutes. Just remember that marshmallows should only be handled by -urp- properly trained and qualified ponies, okay?”

“We will,” all three replied in unison.

“Hey! Bean!”

Bean looked around and then up, and watched as Rainbow Dash landed in front of him. She looked rather irate, and the two sergeants moved to be between him and her.

“Relax, guys,” Rainbow said while folding her arms tightly. “I just want to ask Prince Bean a question.”

“It’s okay,” Bean replied, and the loyal royal guards stepped to the side but still stayed focused on Rainbow. “What’s up?”

“Why do you hate the Broncos so much?” Rainbow blurted.

That was definitely not what Bean had expected. “What?”

“Shining Armor tells me you’ve got something against the Broncos.”

“I do?”

“Yeah. He says you hate them.”

“No, I said they stink. I never said anything about hating them.”

“They don’t stink! They’re awesome! Back-to-back champions for five years in a row!”

It took Bean a moment to process that sentence, but then he snickered a little. “Yes, forty-five years ago though. They haven’t won a divisional game in thirty-eight years.”

“They’re just going through a rough patch, that’s all.”

“A thirty-eight year rough patch?” Bean asked flatly. “The original line from those years have grandchildren trying out for the team now.”

“So what? If they hadn’t lost Leading Edge last year they totally would have killed everyone! Just watch. They’re going to make some big moves and crush everypony who gets in their way.”

“If they actually do that I will gladly eat every bad word I ever said about them.” He chuckled.

“Rainbow! Hey!”

“A.J.?” Rainbow called back. Both she and Bean watched her quickly trot up to them. “What’s up?”

“Have either of you seen Apple Bloom?” she asked. “Ah need her back at the farm, pronto.”

“I think she just went by with Pinkie.”

“Dag nabbit, is she still helpin’ her? Ah got a rush order that just came in and ah gotta whole mess of apples to get harvested to fill it.”

“Where’s Big Mac?”

“Ah dunno, he’s disappeared on me too. Ah think he’s done snuck off to Cheerilee’s place again.”

“Can I help with anything?” Bean asked.

Applejack looked him over with a critical eye. “Ah dunno. You know anything ‘bout bucking apples?”

“Well, I know how to cook them,” he offered. “But if I can help out I’d like to.”

“All right. Ah suppose ah can give you a shot. Dash, can you give me a hoof as well?”

“Whatcha need?”

“Ah just need you to run the full baskets back to the wagon. If you and Bean can do that for me, this’ll be faster than Granny Smith on her laxatives.”

“You bet! I can totally do that.”

“All right. Let’s get to it!”

“You tin cans sure you don’t wanna help out too?”

“We’re here to guard the Prince, ma’am. Can’t do that if we’re harvesting,” Sergeant Hokey Pokey replied.

“Figures. All right, let’s get to it. Bean, you’re an earth pony so this shouldn’t be too hard for ya. Every tree has a sweet spot, so all yah gotta do is find it and them apples will tumble right out and into the basket pretty as you please. Now, all you gotta do is… Bean?”

“Find the sweet spot,” he echoed, as he walked up to the nearby tree and put his nose to it.

“What in tarnation are you doin’?”

“Shh, just watch,” Rainbow said with a slight squeal of delight. “His nose is, like, a super nose.”

Bean took a deep whiff of the bark, then took three steps to the left. Another sniff, and back half a step.

“Consarn it, we ain’t got time for this. Look, all you gotta do is…”

Bean turned around and bucked the tree with a smug smile. A full basket of apples tumbled out of the tree, pretty as he pleased, and Applejack whistled in amazement.

“Well ah’ll be a nanny goat’s aunt! How’d you do that?”

“Every tree has a sweet spot,” he repeated. “If you can feel it, you can smell it.”

“Yer gonna have to show me how you did that later. Right now, ah reckon it’s time to buck some apples!”

Between the two of them, it only took perhaps half an hour to harvest enough apples for Applejack’s order. She was faster than him by two trees to one to begin with, but after three or four trees Bean got a groove going and was barely able to keep pace with her, although he suspected it was mainly from Applejack constantly pausing to look back. By the end of it, Rainbow Dash reported hauling back fifty three bushels of apples, and the three of them stood and looked over the results of their work with pride.

“Shoot, Ah’d hire you on full-time if you wasn’t the prince,” Applejack remarked. “You got a good method goin’ there.”

“Well, thank you.” He chuckled. “Though I’m pretty sure I’ll be feeling this in the morning.”

“Ah reckon you will, but ah’m pretty sure the Princess will take care of ya.”

“She probably will,” he laughed with them.

“Say, have you ever played a game of buckball?” Rainbow asked.

“Not as part of a team, no. Just some playground games when I was a colt.”

“I bet he’d be pretty good at it, A.J.”

“He’s got the legs for it, that’s for sure,” Applejack agreed. “He’d be respectable enough, ah reckon.”

“We should totally get a game going!”

“Ah think the Prince has got better things to do today, Dash. Twilight is probably wondering where he ran off to.”

And right on cue, Twilight teleported right in front of them in a massive explosion, instead of her usual pop. “Have either of you seen Prince Bean?” she hurriedly and worriedly asked. “I lost him back in Ponyville and I can’t find him anywhere.”

“He’s right here, Twilight,” Applejack replied. “He was kind enough to… help…”

It was right then that both Applejack and Rainbow Dash noticed he was, in fact, not there. Both of them glanced around, and then Rainbow Dash went airborne as Applejack scratched her head.

“Well he was here,” she remarked. “Ah wonder how he slipped out on us. Looks like his tin cans took off with him too.”

“Well, that makes me feel a little better but we still gotta find him.”

“Calm down, sugarcube. Ah’m sure he’s just fine.”

Twilight went nose-to-nose with the farmer. “Do you want to be the one to tell Princess Celestia her husband is missing?”

“Heh, well, when you put it that way… ah’ll go check the south forty right quick.”

18. - Ponyville Part 2

Baked Bean couldn’t suppress his cheesy grin, even if he had tried. “You know, if you wanted some quality time together, I could have made room for you in my schedule. You didn’t have to foalnap me.”

“Yes I did,” Celestia replied, as she nuzzled her Bean. “I missed you.”

“I missed you too, and I’m glad you’re here. Your protégée is going to worry though,” he whispered into her ear.

“Not for long. I told Spike, Shining, Cadence and the Mayor I wanted to take you on a quick field trip. Once she meets up with one of them, it’ll be sorted out.”

“I still think she’s going to pop in on us and chew you out.”

“There is a good possibility of that.” Celestia withdrew far enough to look into Bean’s eyes, but no further.

“And how did my captive princess escape from her tower of imprisonment?”

She waggled her wings. “I flew, silly. These aren’t just for looks.”

“Did you seriously just up and take off?” Bean had to laugh with Celestia’s earnest nod.

“Seriously. I couldn’t stay focused in Canterlot. Every time I got started on a project my mind would drift to you. I just cancelled everything and then told Wysteria to send my guards to Ponyville as I flew away.”

“You are going to be in so much trouble,” he chided playfully.

“I don’t care,” she replied with a giggle. “What can they do? I am a Princess after all. I even brought our chaperones,” she added with a pointed wingtip towards Sergeants Clover Leaf and Hokey Pokey.

“Somepony will set Luna on your trail is what they’ll do. Where are we, anyway?” he asked, as he looked at the ruins around them.

“This is my old home, Bean. The Castle of The Two Sisters.”

Bean’s breath instantly stilled to a hushed awe, and his eyes went wide. This was a hallowed place, one that ponies spoke of in the most reverent of tones from the moment they learned how to walk. He’d seen sketches and old photographs in school, of course, but it was now obvious that those had only captured a fraction of the true majesty and devastation before him.

“Sergeants, could you stay here for a moment?” Celestia asked, and they both nodded. “Thank you. Come with me, Bean. I want to show you some things within.”

He nodded and followed as they entered through the remains of the old main doors. Sunlight filtered in through the holes in the roof, and Bean had to watch his step as he maneuvered around various fallen stones and debris.

“I can’t even recall the last time I was here,” Celestia remarked as she slowed and looked around the hallway. “I used to come every year to remember; a sort of pilgrimage if you will. It grew to be too much, after long enough. My heart couldn’t take the pain I felt at losing my sister. I finally had to stop or else I risked succumbing to a very crushing depression.”

“I can’t even imagine,” Bean replied reverently as they walked into a foyer.

Celestia sighed deeply. “There are times when this day has haunted my dreams for weeks. I’ve lived and relived the events thousands of times. So much was lost here, and all because of my blindness.”

He then turned and followed her into a large round room. The remains of a shattered stained-glass window was at the far end, along with two smashed and crumbling thrones that were weathered and worn. Scorch marks and potholes littered the floor, and Bean took it all in with profound and silent respect.

“Here,” Celestia said, as she slowed to a stop. “Right here. This is where I was when I watched my sister give in to the Nightmare.”

Bean could hear the pain of those ancient anguished words as if they had soaked into the ancient stones of this place and continued to reverberate through the centuries.

“Luna! I will not fight you! You must lower the moon, it is your duty!”

“And see, right there?” Celestia pointed with a hoof. “That was the statue that housed the Elements of Harmony.”

Bean quietly walked up and then put a hoof gently on the towering structure.

“Luna? I am… Nightmare Moon! I have but one royal duty now: to destroy you!”

He exhaled slowly. The air of both history and destiny was thick enough to chew.

“That was the last time the Elements answered my call,” Celestia continued. “I can’t say for sure why, but I think they somehow realized that Luna had fallen. Perhaps they were touched by my sister’s troubled heart? I wish I knew. They turned to stone after that, lifeless, cold, and devoid of their former power. I kept them here, in their appointed place, and I waited. I was convinced that they could be used to reclaim Luna, once they could renew themselves. I hoped and I watched for weeks at a time, but as those weeks quickly changed into months, then to years, my hope decayed and dwindled until it finally died entirely. I came to realize that my most earnest wish would go unfulfilled. I had to live with myself and with what I’d done. That kind of power was never meant to be used by one pony alone.”

Bean looked around the room. “Celly, I don’t… I don’t even…”

“You see why I had to stop coming, yes?” She let out a grim chuckle that held no joy. “There was so much I missed out on, so much I could have done differently.”

Bean turned to her and found his notebook floating in her magic before him. He gently took it, and saw it was open to his How to Woo Celestia page. She had added another item in her column:

Love me despite my failures.

“Celly, I…”

“Your father is not the only one who has had to live with the consequences of arrogance. Luna tried to tell me. I had some warning as to what would happen, but I did nothing. I couldn’t believe it. I had the endless praise of my ponies, surely Luna did as well! She was just ungrateful, or was a glory hog. I passed off her concerns as those of a pony who just wanted more, ever more. Even as I watched her fall into corruption before my eyes, I believed it all to be a show to gain attention. I didn’t take it seriously until it was far too late.

“Bean, when you rejected the divorce papers and told me you wanted to try to make our relationship work, I knew I had to bring you here. I have been worried that you fell in love with the Perfect Princess of the Sun, the Celestia who leads graciously and rules in peace. You must understand that I have and will continue to make mistakes. Some of them have been quite egregious, but the worst mistake I have ever made was ignoring a problem which nearly cost my sister, forever.”

Bean thought for a moment. “Do you fear this will happen to us?”

“I fear that as you learn about the true me—as you discover all the parts that don’t fit the perfect princess persona—that you will become disgusted by what you find and walk away. There has been darkness in my past, and you will come face-to-face with it sooner or later.”

“I don’t think I will walk away.” He smiled, and he sat so he could hold her hooves. “Shadows can’t exist in total darkness, after all. They need light, until they cease to be with the full power of the midday sun. You were a sun rising then, but now you are the sun shining forth with majesty.”

He then moved in to touch her nose gently against her neck and nuzzle upwards. “And while I mean no disrespect to your sister, I think the love we have is of the type that you don’t want to lose.”

“I don’t,” she whispered, her voice heavy with emotion. “But what if my true self is unforgivable in your eyes?”

“I love you, Celestia,” he whispered back, and his heart skipped with her fluttering breath. “And I also trust that, no matter what the outcome was, the decisions you made in your life were generally meant to be good, especially after what happened here. We all make mistakes, and I am more than willing to be forgiving of yours. I hope you will be forgiving of mine, too.”

“I’m pretty extra sure I can be,” she replied, and they both laughed a little as they pulled back to look at each other.

“You know, I also love how warm and expressive your eyes are,” Bean remarked, and Celestia blushed a bit. “They get so dark when you’re feeling low, and they sparkle when you laugh, almost like… lilacs in the spring.”

“They do, hm?” she asked. “I hated the color as a filly.”

“No, they’re…” he leaned in, “…they’re just…” his lips puckered, and so did hers, “perfect…”

A loud bang and a bright flash of lavender both interrupted and killed the moment, and Bean found he had recoiled a few feet backwards out of shock.

“AH HA!” Twilight shouted. “I found you!”

“Why, good afternoon, Twilight!” Celestia looked at her student with impeccable calm, which was a far cry from Bean, who was clutching his chest and hyperventilating slightly at Twilight’s abrupt arrival.

“Good afternoon, Princess,” Twilight called over her shoulder in her mentor’s general direction while she marched up and confronted Bean. “Look, you can’t just disappear like that! I’ve torn apart half of Ponyville looking for you! I’m responsible for your safety while you’re here, and I can’t do that if you run off on me! If you wanted to see the old castle that’s fine, and we could have made arrangements to wait until the Princess got here, but you’ve got to tell me these things so I can plan appropriately.”

“Twilight,” Celestia flatly said.

“Now, since you’re still new to being a royal I’ll let it slide, but I expect you to be more professional next time.” A quill and scroll appeared in front of her out of nowhere, and her magic began scribbling as she continued. “Thus, for all future visits I will need you to submit an itemized itinerary, complete with your arrival day and time, time and date of departure, and if you are travelling with or without Celestia.”

“Twwwiiiillliigghhttt…” Celestia tried to call out to her.

“I will need a list of all intended and requested stops and scenic locales you wish to frequent, and how long you intend to stay at each place. I can then coordinate with the shop owners and the other local ponies to keep everything on schedule, and…”

“Twilight, what is the square root of a negative number?”

Old habits kicked in quickly for Twilight Sparkle, and instantly she stopped talking so her brain had full power to calculate the equation her teacher had given her. Bean could have sworn he heard the crunch of mismatched gears grinding as Twilight’s eyes unfocused for a moment.

“There isn’t one. It’s an imaginary number,” she replied by rote. Her eyes then snapped back to normal. “Wait. What? What’d I do?”

“Bean didn’t know I was coming today. He was under the impression I would be in Canterlot, catching up on work. I ambushed and foalnapped him.”

“You stole him?!”

Celestia shrugged. “More or less. Is that a problem?”

“Well, no. I guess not. He is your husband. This is just very unexpected.”

“I can be spontaneous at times,” Celestia replied, but then she laughed. “Don’t you remember that game of snooker I played against your mother and father, and—”

“YES! Ha-ha,” Twilight nervously cut in. “Yes, I remember. I wish I didn’t, but I do. So, since this was all an honest mistake, may I ask why you came here?”

“I wanted to show Bean what he married into. It is crucial he understands the history of what happened here.”


“You know, it would be nice if somepony could tidy things up,” Celestia casually remarked. “Now that Luna is free of the Nightmare I think I might come back to visit from time to time.”

“Really? You might come back?” Twilight asked, as they turned to leave the room.

“Perhaps. But if I do I will submit an itemized itinerary for your review.”

“Oh! Heh heh…” Twilight rubbed the back of her head in embarrassment.

“Would it be possible to make a quick stop at the Tree of Harmony, Twilight?”

“Of course!” she smiled. “Not a problem at all!”

“Tree of Harmony?” Bean asked. “What is that?”

Bean couldn’t find the words.

It was a hundred times—no, a thousand times worse than when he had struggled to describe the sunflowers. The Tree of Harmony was just beyond his vocabulary.

Transcendent was about as close as he could ever get.

Though the visual sight of it was majestic enough, it was the the feel of it that was making the deepest impression. It was like he was awash in eternity, destiny, and harmony all at once, and that confluence of essence then flowed out to influence the lives of all ponies, wherever they may be.

“Have you made any progress with the keys?” Celestia asked as she looked the chest over.

“Not yet,” Twilight replied. “I’m actually really baffled.”

“Well, all we can do is trust in Harmony. The answers will be revealed to us, in time.”

“So, how vulnerable are we without the Elements?” Bean asked.

“That is, sadly, a question we can’t fully answer.” Celestia walked over to the tree and looked up into the tangled crystal branches where the six Elements of Harmony glittered like colorful fruit. “But I know the Princesses of this Kingdom will do everything they can should something arise, Elements or not. We are not totally helpless without them.”

Celestia paused, then slipped one golden shoe from her hoof before gently placing it on her symbol on the tree. Her eyes closed, and for a moment Bean wondered if she had stopped breathing.

He then walked up and placed his hoof on hers. It was a simple gesture, but he somehow felt like, in so doing, he had made their relationship all the more real.

It was an odd but yet wonderful feeling, and he hoped he might feel it more with her. In fact, it matched the feather-like touch of something else deep within the tree that seemed as if it too approved of their pairing, and was looking forward to seeing what kind of fruit they would bear in turn.

Lifting her hoof off the tree, Celestia looked down at Bean and smiled just as brightly as the sunshine glittering through the crystal tree above them. He returned it in kind, she nuzzled him quickly, and then they both turned back to Twilight.

“We should probably return to Ponyville now. Do you think I might be able to share a quick tea break with you and your friends before the party? I would like to see how they are all doing.”

Twilight couldn’t be any happier. “Of course, Princess! We can meet at the library if you’d like.”

“That sounds wonderful, thank you.”

Bean gave one last glance to the Tree before he left, but what he then saw made him pause for a moment. Somehow, Celestia’s symbol on the trunk of the tree had changed while they weren’t looking, and the new engraving seemed oddly familiar. Celestia’s stylized sun remained, but now there was a book on top of it, an open book with words that he couldn’t read.

Bean glanced down to his own flank. The book on the tree was nearly identical to his own cutie mark, save for the words. Why had the tree added his book to her symbol?

He glanced back up, and then he blinked. A glint of light had caught his attention, forcing him to look back up at the tree where Celestia’s symbol remained completely unchanged from the first time he had seen it. He blinked several times, then shook his head before turning to follow Celestia out of the beautiful cave. It was probably a trick of the light, or his own tangled thoughts playing tricks with his eyes.

Still, he took one last look back before they started on their trip back to Ponyville, just to make sure.

Stranger things had happened, after all.

“I do hope you can forgive my little outburst from this morning, your Highness,” Rarity said with a nervous chuckle, and she smoothed out a non-existent wrinkle from her breezy green summer dress.

“Call me Bean,” he replied cheerfully. “And I already have.”

“That is most kind of you,” Rarity replied with a smile.

“So, how is business for you?” he asked while shifting slightly on his cushion.

“A bit slow to be honest, darling, but it’ll pick up again soon. I have several fall fashion shows that I’ll be participating in, and that always drums up interest.”

“That’s good to hear.” Bean took the offered teacup from Twilight with a smile and a quick sip. “Have you ever thought of expanding, maybe opening a second store?”

“I would love to, but there are some details to take care of before I could do that. Though, if I did, I suppose Canterlot would be a good place to start.”

“Either there or Manehattan. Canterlot might be more expensive in rent but I’m not sure how their tax rates compare.”

“That does make a difference. But I do believe Canterlot would have more of the clientele that I’m after. At the very least I have more name recognition in the capitol.”

“Well, if you do open up there, I will give you my official royal seal of approval and send everypony I know to you.”

“Why, that would be fabulous, darling!” Rarity positively beamed.

“Hey, Bean!” Rainbow shouted from the other side of the library. “What kind of tea is this?” She then leaned over and nudged Pinkie Pie, who looked much improved from earlier. “Watch this. His nose is, like, freakishly awesome.”

Bean frowned. “I don’t know what kind of tea this is.”

“What? How could you not know? Just smell it.”

Bean sighed, then dipped down close to the cup. Whatever it was, it wasn’t anything he was remotely familiar with. His parents had always drank smooth, relaxing herbal teas, and whatever this was definitely had more energy to it. He too a deep whiff, then a quick taste.

“Well?” Rainbow asked immediately.

Bean fought hard not to gag. If this was tea, then he was a kidney bean. “I still don’t know,” he managed to get out. “I’ve never had this type of tea before.”

“What?! You’re pullin’ my tail. I saw you sniff out those carrots with Fluttershy and the apple trees with A.J.”

“Food and beverages are two different things,” he replied defensively. “I’ve never been able to tell one tea from another. They all smell pretty much the same to me.”

“Well that’s lame.”

Rainbow Dash then found herself at the receiving end of one of Celestia’s patented glares, and the colorful mare chuckled nervously as one of Celestia’s eyebrows slid upwards to emphasize her displeasure. “Uh, I mean…”

“Everypony’s talents manifest in different ways,” Celestia said in a kind but stern tone. “There is nothing wrong with only being able to distinguish the differences in food. Is Fluttershy ‘lame’ because she does not fly as fast as you? It is the same ability after all.”

“Of course not! Fluttershy’s flying is perfect!”

“And so is Bean’s delightful nose.” She displayed her preference by giving said nose a brief kiss, as well as a quick lick to collect the last few drips of tea still on the hairs of his upper lip. “See? He’s delicious,” she added while Bean spluttered.

“To be fair, I have personally wondered why I’m only good with food,” Bean offered. “I probably need to study my beverages more.”

“Just be very careful about disparaging others talents and abilities,” Celestia concluded.

“I will,” Rainbow said morosely.

“So, since we’re all here,” Twilight cut in now. “I wanted to ask and see if anypony has had any ideas about the chest at the Tree of Harmony?”

The reply from all was scattered head shaking and murmurs of no.

“Well, keep your eyes open. You never know where we might find those keys.”

Bean stuck a hoof in the air. “Have you maybe considered keeping a journal?”

“A journal?”

“Yeah. When us Beans try to come up with new recipes, we would keep a record of things that we thought might be inspiring, like if the smell of bread baking gave us any thoughts, or if we were travelling somewhere and saw something that looked delicious. Maybe if you each kept a record of your friendship lessons, you could get some inspiration that way. Then, you could share what you’ve seen with one another, and one of you might see something that was missed. Two sets of eyes on an event kinda thing, right?”

“It would give me a series of data points to correlate,” Twilight mused.

“And writing down your friendship lessons has given you a lot of insights in the past, right?”

“Yes, it has. What do you think, girls? I personally think It’s not a bad idea.”

“It’d help to keep us on the lookout during the day, too,” Applejack stated. “Ah’d be more observant of what’s goin’ on around me if ah know ah’ll be writing it down.”

The other five then agreed that keeping journals was, at the very least, a good start and better than sitting around and guessing. Twilight agreed to keep the journal collection in the library, but in a place where the girls could get to it whenever they wanted, and then all six thanked Bean for the idea.

He humbly took the thanks, and then he simply sat back and listened as the Ponyville friends began chatting about their previous adventures with each other and with Celestia. He had, of course, read about some of their adventures in the newspaper back home, but he was interested and quite amazed to hear the smaller stories, like how Applejack and Rainbow Dash had lost a ‘Running of The Leaves’ race to Twilight (and she had come in 5th place herself), or how Pinkie Pie had managed to create “at least a hundred dozen copies” of herself in something called a Mirror Pool, if Rainbow’s story was to be believed. He was amazed they had been through so much together, and at how strong the bonds of friendship were between them. It wasn’t hard to see how they had managed to rally together every time Equestria had needed them.

After perhaps an hour or so of this, Spike entered the library darted into the room with a quick greeting to everypony, and then he whispered something in Pinkie Pie’s ear. As soon as he did so, Pinkie grew a gigantic smile, but when the secret exchange was over Pinkie shooed him back outside quickly.

“Prince Bean?” she then said. “Could you come over here?”

He did so with a wary smile, but he felt his excitement inexplicably growing while the other mares in the room surrounded him by the main door.

“Prince Bean,” Pinkie grandly announced, “it is now high time for…”

“A PRINCE PARTY!” The Element Bearers all shouted at once. Pinkie then threw open the front door, and a large cheer broke out from the crowd that was assembled outside.

“C’mon!” Pinkie shouted, as she grabbed his hoof and dragged him outside. “It’s time to par-tay!”

Pinkie Pie was truly a master party planner.

Bean smiled as he looked over the ponies on the dance floor. The party had been so wonderful that he didn’t really want it to end. He had been worried that Pinkie would go all out and over-the-top, with his face on large poster boards and everything being bean-related somehow. Instead, it was much more like a simple birthday party. There were plenty of cupcakes and pies and ice cream to sample, but the only Bean tie-in was the bowls of assorted jelly beans that were scattered around for everypony to enjoy.

There were also plenty of games for ponies to play, with things running from a ring toss and a dunk-the-Mayor tank to Sister Says and tag. The ‘Round With The Prince’ game she had mentioned the other day had actually turned out to be a fun contest to see who could sink a putt from a further distance on a miniature golf green, and he had loved the ‘Guess What is In The Box’ game as well. Upbeat music provided by the local D.J. played in the background, and the yellow balloons scattered about made the whole thing complete. Celestia had happily joined in the festivities, and she even managed to win a small stuffed bear from the ring toss game, much to everypony’s delight.

At dusk, everything had been put on hold to allow Celestia to lower the sun. There was a respectful reverence as it slid behind Canterlot Mountain, but then there was a large shout and cheer of joy when Luna’s moon drifted upward.

He secretly hoped Luna had heard it.

Once done, it was time to dance under the stars. Bean was initially hesitant to join in, since he had no idea how to properly dance. However, once he saw Twilight’s own ‘interpretive effort,’ he decided to simply cut loose and to copy Twilight’s unique—if not a little back-breaking—style. Once that happened, everypony else simply joined in with their own interpretative dances as well, and Bean felt like the fun had been doubled, at least.

However, the hour was growing late and he had spied his wife yawning daintily behind a hoof once or twice in the last few moments. He knew there was no way either of them were going to escape a wagon load of work tomorrow, and so he took a little initiative and summoned Pinkie Pie over.

She was somewhat sad at first after he explained it was time for them to leave, but she had also understood and nodded in agreement. She then quickly made her way over to the D.J.—her name was Vinyl Scratch, wasn’t it?—and lifted one headphone off of her ear to speak to her. A nod and then a microphone was given to Pinkie, and the music came to a stop so she could explain.

“Hey everypony! Are we having a good time?”

“Yeah!” The crowd roared back.



Pinkie giggled and snorted once. “I think this has been the bestest ‘New Prince in Equestria’ party since the one we had for Shining Armor, am I right?”

“That was our wedding reception, you hijacker!” Shining shouted.

“Potato, potahto,” she replied, and everyone laughed. “Sadly, though, the Prince and Princess need to leave. I know!” She added over the sad groans. “I don’t want them to go either, but they have a kingdom to run. So, even though they insist we keep the party going for as long as we want, we’re going to have the last dance now for them and then let them go. Scratch? A little soul if you please.”

Bean stood and dipped his head towards Celestia as soft and slow music began to play. “May I have this dance, my fair princess?”

“I would be delighted to,” she replied cheerfully. He offered a hoof and she gladly took it, and the crowd parted to allow both sets of Royals to the middle of the floor.

“You’re going to have to give me some dancing lessons, too,” he remarked. “All I can do is shuffle my feet.”

“Sometimes that’s all you need to do,” she softly replied, and he smiled as she nuzzled him and then rested her head across his.

“Did you ever regret becoming the Princess?” he gently asked while they moved with the other dancers.


“Yeah. Did you ever say to yourself, ‘Self, I wish I had just left well enough alone and remained a unicorn?’”

“No. If I had, we’d be under fifty feet of ice and snow.”

“Okay, bad example. Let me rephrase the question. Did you ever want to be a commoner, provided everything else in the kingdom was taken care of?”

“Did I ever want to step away,” she offered. “Leave it all, be just a normal pony, with normal problems and regular dreams and—”

He waited for a moment.

“—and to possibly find my own special somepony. Well, the simple answer is no.”


“I never wished to give up the lot I was given. We may not have a choice on the role we play on the stage of life, but we can choose how we perform as the actors. There are some scenes I would redo but, on the whole, I am pleased and grateful for what I have.

“But I have contemplated how things would have been if I had not been a Princess. I’ve mused about the things I might have done, or the employment I might have had. I did, once or twice, wonder if I might have found a special somepony in that life.”

She then moved in closer to his ear. “If I had changed any of the details of my life, I might not have ever found you, and that, my dear Bean, would have been the greatest tragedy I would have never known. My lot has now led me to you, and you to me. It is irrelevant to me if I found you by fate, destiny, or sheer dumb luck. What matters is that I did find you.”

“And despite everything, you want to keep me,” he whispered back. “That is the most incredible part of all this to me. Of all the potential suitors, you hold me dear.”

“Ask Cadence sometime about the unpredictability of love.” She chuckled. “It is true that there are a thousand other ways I could have fallen for a thousand other ponies, but from here and forever more, I will want you.”

His whole body shivered with delight as he heard that sentence. “Then I do believe I shall stay for quite some time. I have found in you something I don’t think I could ever find anywhere else.”

“You had better stay,” she replied with a playful nip to his ear. “Someone has to help me torment Luna.”

“We shall be relentless and unstoppable then! Torments untold for the sister!” They laughed together while swirling around one more time on the dance floor before their return to Canterlot.

19. - 20,000 Leagues

“Bean?” Celestia’s delectable voice drifted into one of Bean’s ears.

He replied with a blissful grunt and a quick wiggle into her warm shoulder.

“Be-e-an?” Her dulcet call came with a gentle nibble at the base of his ears.

“Muh! Guhwai,” he replied with an ill-hidden smirk.

“Are you sure you want me to do that?” she whispered.

“Nuh uh. Stay. Cozy.”

He then wiggled so that more of him was pressed up against her, and she replied with a playful giggle. The wing that had been covering him began to stroke his back, and he let out a full smile and a grunt that any primitive cavepony would have been proud of.

“I stay here with pretty pony princess. Younger sister can raise sun. Hives are fun.”

“Younger sister looks funny when she breaks out and she gets incredibly grouchy.”

“There is that.” He grunted, and then he stretched his forelegs out straight in front of him. “Luna already has it out for me, so I should probably not irk her.”

“You are filthy,” Celestia noted with a kiss to his cheek.

“I was bucking apples,” he retorted with a return kiss of his own. “But at least I have been coated in a fine, high-quality soil, which is dirt with a good reputation, if I understand properly.”

“I see, but now I am dirty too,” she continued. She stood and lifted her wing, which made Bean snicker at the oblong brown smudge he’d left in her immaculate white coat.

“Oops?” he offered.

“Oops indeed.” She smiled. “I suppose we shall have to bathe before starting the day.”

“Bath?” he repeated, and he sat up quickly while shaking his head vehemently. “No way. I had one last year and I’m still good.”

She gave him a dubious look. “I doubt your hygiene is that poor, especially given your prior profession.”

“Nope, I’m being totally honest.”

“One bath since this time last year?”


She then offered a sly smile. “And how many showers do you take in a year?”

“Um, well...” he sheepishly replied. “Twice a day, so…”

“Well, it is high time you had another bath,” she declared with a laugh. “If you don’t like this one then you may wait another year.”

“Fair enough. I have no doubt you will convince me to bathe more frequently.”

Celestia gave him a quick nip on the neck, then crossed the room and stuck her head out into the hallway for a moment as he stood and shook the last bits of sleep from his coat and mane. She then trotted back, but paused at the doors that led to the balcony.

“Would you like to join me for the sunrise, Bean?” she asked kindly.

“Do fish swim?” he replied, and he trotted over to her. “I’d love to join you.”

She giggled at bit at his eagerness, and then they both walked out onto the balcony, side by side. Once they reached the railing at the far end Bean tried to move out of the way, but Celestia’s wing reached out and pulled him into a warm snuggle.

“If Luna could raise the moon with Star Struck under her wing then I can do the same with you and the sun,” she simply stated.

“Has raising the sun ever gotten old?” he asked.

“How so?”

“Well, you’ve been doing this for over a thousand years. Do you even think about what you’re doing anymore, or it just automatic now, like when a pegasus flaps their wings to fly?”

“I try to be very mindful of what I am doing, but at times it has become just one of many steps in my morning routine. Doing the same thing every morning will do that.”

“Huh. So, what helps you to keep it from being ‘just another step?’”

“I think back to how things were.” She closed her eyes, and Bean could feel the sea of memories flowing to her. “I remember how the unicorn tribe believed themselves superior and how fundamentally wrong that was. I remind myself of the suffering I saw among the earth ponies, the sorrow I felt when I walked amongst half-starved colts and spoke with frozen mothers. I hope I never lose the emotion I have attached to those images of families struggling to survive on the roots and scraps left by Hurricane and her soldiers.

“Mostly, though, I remind myself of how important my duty is by thinking back to when I first raised the sun. It was peaceful, but beyond any power I had ever experienced in my life. I realized then, as I strained against the weight of it for the first time, that I was controlling the one thing that could bring life or death to untold millions. The very survival of my world and everything that I held dear within it rested upon my back. If I remember the full scope of what I am responsible for, it’s easy to regain the proper perspective.”

Her horn then lit while she continued to speak, and Bean eagerly watched the eastern horizon. “I suppose the same thing will be true for us. We could become distant due to familiarity.”

“Then we should remember how we feel right now,” he replied before a blast of pure joy electrified his entire being with the first rays of morning light.

“I believe that will be quite doable,” she happily replied.

“But, I really was just expecting you to answer with a simple yes or no.”

“Have I ever done that?” she asked playfully.

“No,” he replied with a nuzzle to her neck.

“Now, we can’t spend very long in the tub,” Celestia reminded Bean.

“Wrinkles?” He lifted a hoof. “Mine get all scrunchy after a few hours.”

“No,” she chided mildly. “We have a lot to catch up on today.”

“’We?’ You have a lot of work to catch up on. I don’t have any clue about what to do.”

“Well, that changes today,” she replied as she pushed open the bathroom doors. “If you’re going to be my prince, then I want you to do prince-y things.”

“That might take awhile, you… realize...”

Bean’s eyes went wide, and it took him a minute to fully process and admire the opulence before him. The marble tub was closer in size to a swimming pool, large enough to accommodate his entire school swim team and still have room left over for both Celestia and Luna to do the backstroke alongside them. The tub was fed by a large waterfall at the far end of the room that cascaded down several layers of cool grey granite rocks. Similar rocks—which looked very much like enlarged version of those little hot stones Bean had seen used in massage therapy—lined the far edge of the tub and slowly rose from the main level in uneven steps, giving the impression that a pony could climb up to the top of the waterfall and dive in if they wanted to. Thick and verdant foliage ran around the perimeter of the room and bunched up around the gold-trimmed marble pillars, and Bean gawked at the frosted-glass ceiling for a moment as he tried to make out the swirling and swooping patterns. Steam was hugging the water like a soft, semi-transparent blanket, and he could feel his muscles relaxing just from thinking about the temperature. His hooves clicked alongside hers as they crossed the checkerboard tiles that ran up to and around the sparkling blue water, and he was eager to hop in, if he could only find the diving board.

At a momentary loss for words, Bean focused on something simpler. There were small clumps of suds being churned up by the waterfall, swirling around in the currents, and building up into frothy peaks in the corners of the immense tub. “It smells like strawberry bubble bath. Right?”

“You would be correct,” Celestia happily replied. “And there are enough for however many bubbles you desire.”

Bean whistled. “How deep is it? I never learned how to swim.”

“You may want to stay away from the middle, then. The tub is deep enough to allow me to be fully submerged, even if I am standing.”

“So if this is the bath, why is your shower so small and plain?”

“It’s only been used for one before,” she responded, then wrinkled up her nose with a smile. “No, I tried to keep my personal quarters simple when the palace was constructed, but there are some ponies who just get...” She paused, looking at the waterfall cascading down the back of the room.

“Carried away?” asked Bean. “I think I understand how that can happen.”

Celestia preened under the praise and continued. “This was built without my approval by a certain earth pony foreman who had a little too much access to the Royal Treasury for his own good. He thought he was getting in on my good graces. I then insisted that my shower and other facilities be unadorned and simple to make up for this, and twice a week there is an open plunge for the staff and their families.”

“Not a bad perk,” he replied, and he moved with her to step in.

“Not at all.”

“Oh! Wait! I need to grab something,” he suddenly announced, and he darted towards the bedroom.

“What are you doing?”

“Nothing! I’ll be right back!”

She chuckled with the thought of Luna giving him a hard time about how he was actually doing something, but then she simply shook her head in amusement and entered the tub. The water was the exact perfect temperature, and she sighed as she felt the tension in her muscles melt away.

She then flipped onto her back, spread her wings fully, closed her eyes, and then simply floated in bubbly goodness. Baths were a bit of a luxury for her as well, simply due to time constraints, but when she was able to sneak one in she reveled in it. Now that she had a special somepony to share them with, she was highly inclined to bathe more and shower less.

She giggled a bit with the thought. A special somepony. It was quite enjoyable to have the words apply to her. Her own Bean to hold, and to snuggle, and to kiss.

Oh, and they were going to. She had to fight back a constant urge to bar every door, pin him in place with her magic, and then smother him with kisses, but her Bean would soon find out that even her willpower had its limits. Whoever said the waiting was the best parts was a liar. There were a lot of best parts she was looking forward to just as much or more. Her new husband just needed a little bit more time to adjust to his new life, and then…

And then life would be perfect.

She floated with this happy thought for a moment, but then gave herself a small dose of reality. Her married life might be perfect at that point, but life in general would not be. Though Equestria was peaceful and prosperous, there were still plenty of threats, and eventually they both would have to deal with them. Chrysalis and her Changelings were still loose out in the Badlands, for one example, and they could very well try to return.

She then frowned. Was Bean a changeling? Could he be an imposter?

The thought left her mind as quickly as it came while Celestia remembered their dance from last night. He was real, he was a pony stallion, and he was really hers. The thought of him being a changeling was impossible based on his actions, his nervousness, and his eagerness to be respectful of her. He was giving her love, and that was a concept that changelings simply couldn’t comprehend.

She giggled a bit when she heard hooves clacking on tiles. She bit her lower lip in mischievousness, gauged where Bean would be—an impressive feat, if she did say so herself, given that her ears were underwater—and then quickly lashed out with her magic, seized him, and flung him in a neat arc into the bath.

She began laughing as she flipped and stood up, but her mood instantly ran into horror when she saw that the pony she had caught was not Bean.

“HAST THOU GONE COMPLETELY DAFT?!” Luna bellowed in the Royal Voice at her sister after she breached the surface like a furious whale. She then began hacking and wheezing to clear the water from her lungs, and Celestia moved over to assist.

“I am so sorry, Luna! I thought you were Bean!”

“Thou didst believe me to be Bean?!” She coughed again and glared as she pulled her mane out of her eyes. “How could thy magic not detect the weight difference between us?”

“Lulu, I swear, you felt about the same as Bean.”

“But, of a truth, I am taller and larger than he.”

“I know, I know.”

Luna coughed one last time, but then glanced behind and looked at her flank. “You are speaking truly, Sister?”

“On my word of honor, you did not feel any heavier than Bean.”

“Hm! Perhaps those rice cakes are working then,” she replied, while giving her hips a slight shake.

Bean then entered again, humming a happy little tune and holding a small rubber duck in one hoof. He stopped once he saw Luna wiggling her rear in the tub, gave a small shriek of alarm, and quickly grabbed a nearby towel to hold in front of him as he looked back to Celestia.

“Both of you?” Bean’s eyes darted back and forth, and he took a step backwards. “I didn’t think Luna would be joining our bath.”

“That makes two of us.” Luna tossed back a lock of sodden dark mane. “I was merely stopping by to inform you that the Duke of Maretonia has had to cancel his visit. I had no intention of staying, but since I am in here and sopping wet anyway I might as well join you.”

“So, how did you end up in there?”

Celestia’s ears folded back, and she let out an uneasy chuckle. “I thought she was you and I dunked her.”

“Oh! So, thank you for saving me from that, I guess?”

“I hope you appreciate my sacrifices for you, Bean,” Luna dryly offered while she removed her wet regalia and placed it on a small pile of towels.

“What do you have there, Bean?” Celestia asked.

“Oh! This?” he looked at the toy in his hoof, and he dropped his towel. “It’s just a little rubber duckie. I bought him the morning of our first meeting at the train station.”

“May I see it?”

Bean nodded and entered the tub with a smile, but he paused and shuddered in delight when the water washed over his back. “Wow, this feels good. I don’t know if I’ll ever get out again.”

Celestia giggled while she watched Bean bob over to her, the tips of his hooves bouncing against the floor and propelling him forward. “That would be nice, but don’t forget about the wrinkles.”

“Out of curiosity, do you know how to swim, Bean?” Luna asked.

“Not really,” he replied to her while handing the duck over to Celestia. “I can doggie paddle but not much else.”

“This is a cute toy,” Celestia remarked while Bean sat down on the bench next to her. “I like his little smile.”

“Yeah, I saw him in one of the stores and I thought he’d make a good little memento of my visit to Canterlot. Since I’m going to live here now I figured I should let him swim free.”

Celestia put the duck on the water and gave it a soft push. It floated along, as happy as any little rubber duckie had ever been, and even Luna chuckled a bit.

“I will admit the grin is cute,” she remarked. “He will be most welcome here.”

“Bean, could you scrub between my wings?” Celestia asked, as she floated a soft, silver colored scrub brush over to him. “Please?”

There was no way Bean was going to refuse. He took the brush and softly worked in some soap, but then kept going onto her neck and withers. She didn’t say anything, but the hum of satisfaction told Bean how much she enjoyed his actions beyond what any phrase could.

While he scrubbed, Bean’s mind began to ponder what was happening at that moment. He knew full well that Celestia’s beauty had been known for centuries. Sonnets had been written about it, pictures had been painted on the subject, and there was a good possibility wars had been fought over the matter. Though Luna arguably held the advantage in dark allure and mysterious seduction, it was Celestia who time and again was considered the consummate and preeminent example of the Equine ideal. Every angle, every curve, every part and portion of this Mare among mares was what defined the word ‘beautiful.’

So far, he had managed to suppress that knowledge by reminding himself that he was associating with Princess Celestia, and that it was very uncouth, at the least, to think of your liege in such a crude manner.

But now she was here, inches away from him. He could smell the softness of her coat, he could feel the silk of her mane, and he could not avert his eyes from the pure perfection that was before him. Even her very pose at the moment could not be any more enticing; she simply sat, her body tilted slightly forward and her wings lowered softly into the water but oh-so slightly angled to allow Bean to scrub. Her mane was still dripping, but she had pulled it over one shoulder and twisted it once to keep it from interfering in Bean’s work, and her head and neck were angled down as she looked into the water before her.

Bean swallowed hard. The vision of perfection before him was his wife. Try as he might, he could not simply call her Princess anymore and be done. By law and by love, she was just as much his as he was hers.

And then his gaze went to his own reflection in the silver of the brush. Granted, the image was distorted, but it still held enough truth in it to remind Baked Bean of what he really was.

A fool.

Oh, how he wished he had more strength against these feelings of doubt and inadequacy! Celestia had told him several times that she loved him, that she cared for him, that she found him attractive and cute.

But the far-too-yellow reflection in the brush just simply couldn’t be all that. He had no charms, no grace. He wasn’t tall, dark, or mysterious like Star Struck had been. He wasn’t well built, nor did he have roguish charm or stylish mane like Shining Armor had.

He had nothing, especially when placed next to her.

Tears started to silently trickle down his cheeks as he resumed scrubbing. Yes, Celestia said she loved him, but how could that ever be true? He just couldn’t comprehend it. How could the apex of Ponydom find anything attractive or redeeming in him, a mere smudge?

“Bean, is everything okay?”

He quickly dipped his head in the water as she glanced back toward him. He didn’t want her to see this. His tears would only make things worse.

After a moment, he pulled himself back out of the water. “Lost the brush.”

“It’s in your hoof,” she gently pointed out.

“Huh, how about that?” He went back to scrubbing, and he fought against himself to keep his emotions in check. Celestia didn’t need his insecurities on top of everything else she needed to deal with.

“Are you sure you’re alright? I thought I heard you sniffling.”

“Yup, I’m just fine,” he said. He tried desperately to have it come out in a normal tone, but it came out so meekly and quietly that even Fluttershy would have been impressed.

“He likes what he is seeing right now,” Luna quipped with a devious grin. “Garbanzo and Lima are going to get those grandfoals sooner than they think.”

Baked Bean deliberately dropped the scrub brush that time and then immediately went under after it. Why did she have to say that?! Of course he liked what he saw, that was the whole problem!

He stayed under for a moment as he pretended to search for the brush. He could make it through this. He could. He just had to keep those ridiculous emotions of his in check until he could get himself back to baseline. It hurt him to think of the hurt he would cause Celestia by not believing what she had said.

As he came back up that time, however, he felt her twist him so he came up facing away from her. She then pulled him into a tight hug, and her breath tickled his ear.

“Don’t block me out, Bean,” she whispered. “Talk to me. I am here to help you, to comfort you, and to love you. You will hurt me far more if you withdraw into yourself and push me away then you ever could by being open with me.”

She then started nipping in his mane and around his ears, and he forced himself to enjoy what she was doing. Though his fears and insecurities remained, they were made manageable and tolerable as she tugged and pulled and snuck quick pecks in on his cheeks and neck.

“Why?” he finally whispered.

He felt her lips brush his ear. “Because with you, dear Love, I am home.”

He dipped his head in pure shame, and the tears flowed freely.

“Why can I not believe that?” he whispered through the tears. “Why is that so hard for me to accept?”

“I do believe I have some moon rocks to sort,” Luna suddenly announced, and she paddled quickly to the ramp leading out of the tub. Water cascaded in small rivlets down her flanks and off of her mane, and a small puddle formed around her hooves when she paused at the top and looked back at Bean. “May I offer one bit of advice, from an old nag to a young buck?”

He nodded, and she flashed a knowing smile.

“Doubt your doubts before you doubt your love for—and of—my sister.”

She then levitated a few towels onto her barrel and began to dry herself off as she left the room.

“She left her crown,” Bean noted.

“She’ll get it later,” Celestia replied. “We need to discuss this.”

She then released him and guided him to the built-in bench she was sitting on herself. A wing slowly stretched out, as if to wrap around him in comfort, but it then retreated and settled on her side.

“I hate not having the words to say what I’m feeling,” he muttered with his gaze on his reflection in the water. “I wish I had your eloquence.”

“Sometimes there are no words for your true feelings. When ponies say they love each other, it usually means something much deeper than what is generally defined as ‘love.’”

He chuckled sadly but his gaze remained downcast. “That sounds like something Cadence would say.”

“She may be the Princess of Love, but she had to learn the concept from somewhere.”

“I suppose that’s true. I just…” He grunted in frustration.

“Take your time,” she offered.

“You tell me you love me. I see that you love me, I feel that you love me, and you act as one would who is in love. But when you sway your hips at me, or when you start bathing and don’t even try to entice me, I find I am drawn to you, but then I remember who I really am.”

The water had settled enough that Bean could see his face within it, and he glared at the pathetic pony he saw. “I’m nothing more than a common, low-brow yokel who has no place, right, or business in your life. Every time I a few little steps on that bridge over the gap between us, I remember that and I run right back to where I am safe, and I hate myself for doing so. You, as the perfect picture of female beauty, are weighed down and fettered with me.” A tear slid down his cheek and ripped the water. “A pony who looks like a bag of stale popcorn.”

“Do you believe yourself to be unattractive?”

“I find it hard to comprehend that I have something you like, or that you want. What could you possibly find enticing about me?”

“Let me first say that I am quite flattered that you consider me to be the ultimate in beauty.” She offered a warm smile. “There are many who would disagree with you on that point. In all honesty, Luna is probably considered to be better looking than I am.

“But if I am understanding you correctly, you feel that you do not possess anything that I should find attractive, and yet you believe me when I say I love you.”

“I’m just a fun little dichotomy, aren’t I?”

“I’ll let the aren’t slide since you managed to use dichotomy in a sentence properly. May I share something with you?”

He looked up at her and nodded sadly. “I need all the help I can get.”

“When did you first feel the embers in your heart?”

He looked down again. “That first night, when you read my henscratch. I felt… complete, I guess. I even wanted the feeling to continue.”

“Hmm. And then yesterday, you did say you could love me despite any darkness you found in my past.”

“I did, yes.”

“Is that still true?”

“Yes,” he quietly offered.

“Do you love me?” she flat asked.

Bean did not hesitate. “I do, yes.”

“Then remember that, when the doubts come. Luna mentioned the other day that you’re fighting twenty-odd years of conditioning. It’s not so easy to push past my exterior of Princess and see down to my Celly. But I think you can, and that you will.”

“You do?”

She nodded. “Doubts are natural, Bean. If things had been different and you had somehow married Sego Lily, they very well could have surfaced in their own way with her. It just becomes amplified and magnified when you’re with me. It’s not a surprise.”

“But I don’t want to keep feeling this way. I hate thinking these thoughts. It seems like I’m betraying you all over again when I do.”

Celestia smiled. “Perhaps there is a way I can help with that. Do you trust me?”

“Of course.”

Celestia’s horn flared, and the bathroom faded out of sight. In fact, everything left his view. He felt a small twinge of panic as he looked around for any sort of light. “Celly? Where are you?”

“I’m right here,” she instantly replied.


“I am all around you. You won’t be able to see me here, so don’t try to. Feel me instead.”

Bean decided the best way to do that was by flailing his front hooves in front of him.

“No, no. Not like that. Reach out with your heart. I can see you, after all.”

There was a pause for a moment as Bean tried to figure out how to do this, but he then relaxed, and began thinking of her. He thought of her kindness, her soft words and her smile. He thought about how he had felt when she’d raised the sun that morning.

And slowly, he began to see her. It was blurry at first, but after a few moments of effort he was able to bring her into focus.

But it wasn’t quite her. Before him was a unicorn, with a soft pink mane and light grey coat. She stood at about the same height as he did, but there was no mistaking those eyes.

This was his beloved wife.

“There you go,” she said happily. “Notice anything different?”

“One or two things, yes.”

“This place is, in simple terms, a place of feelings. While here, you see with your heart, not your eyes. This is the Celestia you love: the one who is just Celly. Luna’s advice is, indeed, wise council. Doubt your doubts before you doubt this. Your love is true, Bean, and it is right. Don’t be ashamed that you feel inadequate. You’re not the only one.”

She then pointed down, and Bean looked. They were both standing on what appeared to be a mirror or some other sort of reflecting surface, but the other side showed something completely different that what he was expecting.

The reflection showed Celestia, but as an old and wrinkled mare, with dark splotches on her sides, a grey mane and shaking knees. Her head was near the ground and her back was bowed, but yet she still managed to look royal and regal.

Next to her, and where his reflection was, stood a strong and noble-looking stallion. Straight off the cover of some romance novel, the image was broad-chested, with a chiseled chin, and stood as tall as Celestia usually did. Bean could hardly believe that the reflection was him. If this other stallion didn’t have his yellow coat, he could have easily passed off the stud as one of the innumerable nobility that he had seen in the palace.

“This is how I see you, Bean: strong, firm, and handsome. You are a dedicated and devoted pony, and one who will remain faithful to me forever.”

“But you look...”

“I am old, Bean, in heart and in body. I may not look like it or act like it, but I certainly feel it. Most of the time, I can forget that detail by diverting my attention into work or helping my little ponies, but I never can totally escape it. I have had moments—several moments, in fact—when I wonder why a pony like you would find an ancient geezer like me attractive. I don’t consider myself to be the most beautiful pony in all the land, but if you do then that is enough.

“The next time those doubts come, come back to here. Come back to when you first knew, and to what you know. It may take years, it may take decades. But if you will trust me, and trust your own heart, then you will eventually overcome those doubts. Truth always wins out in the end.”

He nodded, and a grand feeling of joy spread over him as the world around them faded away and reality came back. Once he felt like he had fully returned to the bathroom, he saw he had turned again, his arms around his beloved Celly and hers around him, as well as her wings. They were nose to nose, and he quickly became captivated by those divinely magenta eyes.

“And in the most unsurprising revelation in the history of Equestria, yellow just happens to be my favorite color,” she softly whispered. “To me, the shade of your coat is the exact shade of happiness one gets from a bright summer’s day. Don’t ever be ashamed of that.”

“Thank you,” he whispered, and his heart began thumping with delight as he felt his lips moving towards hers.

A voice then decided to rudely cut into the serenity from behind them. “Your Highnesses?”

“Seriously?” Celestia grunted out in a whisper, but then she put on the most diplomatic smile Bean had ever seen, a radiant display of happy cheeks and gleaming teeth that would have sent any diplomat screaming for home in terror. “Yes, Wysteria? What is it?”

“I really do hate to interrupt, but you have a meeting with the Minister of Transportation in twenty minutes.”

“We will be out momentarily.”

Wysteria wisely didn’t move, however, so Celestia released Bean and grabbed the brush. She then gave Bean a furious scrubbing from snout to tail, and he dunked himself to rinse and thus finish the process. Celestia then handed him the brush and lifted her wing, and Bean began scrubbing the long dark stain he’d left on her.

Out of the corner of his eye he saw movement, and he glanced up to see Wysteria mouthing and pointing.

Scrub where her wing meets her body.

He cocked an eyebrow, matched her slightly devious smile, and moved the brush up to the indicated spot.

Celestia then let out a very unregal screech and leaned back. “Stop that.”

“Stop what?” he asked innocently.

Celestia glanced back at Wysteria, then leaned back in towards Bean. “I’m ticklish right there.”

“Oh really?” he asked, and then he began scrubbing the ticklish spot furiously.

“No! Ah!” She laughed and snatched the brush from him, but he simply moved in with his own hooves.

“Right there?! Are you sure?”

“Stop it, stop it!” she giggled furiously. “This is unfair! I can’t ge-yah!”

Wysteria smiled smugly as she left the scene of the now furious splash fight.

20. - Meetings, Meals and Makeovers

“Wow, that was boring.” Bean couldn’t stop the truth from spilling out. “I could also use tedious, trite, monotonous, stupefying, dull, and to get any further, I’m going to need a thesaurus and a few minutes to find the really good words.”

“That it was, but it was also very important.” Celestia gave his cheek a kiss before they began walking down the hall. “The wrong gravel will lead to drainage issues and flooding, just as Minister Dusty Bottoms said.”

“Yeah, but still. Two hours to talk about rocks? And not even big rocks. Teeny-weeny rocks just the right size and made out of just the right rock-stuff to allow drainage without clumping or shifting. And what’s worse, I think I was starting to understand him at the end there, just about the time my brain started oozing out of my ears from boredom.”

“I’m afraid this is what the life of royalty is really like. There will be a healthy amount of tedium in your days from here on out.”

“Well, I’ll just stay by you then. I bet we can liven things up together.”

“Don’t tempt me.” She giggled with him. “I believe it will take very little to convince me to engage in your ‘nefarious’ plots.”

“Auntie Celestia! Bean!” Cadence called out from behind. The newest and yet oldest royal couple paused, and both smiled as they turned to greet her.

“Good morning, Cadence,” Celestia warmly greeted her niece. “You seem to be missing somepony.”

“I don’t know where he ran off to. I was actually hoping you’d seen him.”

“No, I’m afraid we haven’t,” Celestia replied, and Bean shook his head to emphasize the point. “We’ve been in a meeting for most of the morning.”

“Where’d he go, then?” Cadence asked herself.

“I’m sure he’s around here somewhere. Have you checked with the guards?”

“A couple of them, but they haven’t seen him either. Or they’re covering for one of his Hocus Pocus: The Get-Together games. He mentioned something about perfecting his agro deck last week.”

“Well, he couldn’t have gotten too far away. It is possible he was called away to deal with an issue within the ranks of his guards.”

It was just then that Sergeant Pokey rounded the corner and cleared his throat. “Excuse me, Your Highnesses, but Captain Armor wants me to inform you that he has lunch ready in the private gardens. He will receive you at your leisure.”

Cadence instantly went from worried to delighted. “He made lunch? That is so sweet! He hasn’t tried to cook since the talking cake incident.”

“Talking cake?” Bean asked.

“He somehow used an animation spell on a two-layer chocolate cake he made for me,” Cadence explained, as they all began walking with the sergeant towards the gardens. “It was a lovely cake but it kept shouting and hurling insults at us in Neighponese for some reason.”

“So what did you do with it?”

“Well, it wasn’t easy to find a translator, but apparently it had anger management issues stemming from when it was just a little Bundt cake and its cocoa father left its milk mother. We got it into some counseling, and now it’s on a speaking tour of the Empire, sharing motivational advice and positive, life-affirming lessons. Eventually it would like to settle down with a cute cream puff and have some mini lava cakes of its own.”

Bean really didn’t know what to say to that.

“I told him he needed to work on his animation spells,” Celestia casually replied. “He had a whole room of spears dancing around once with no way of stopping them.”

“Oh, but I’m sure he’s gotten better, though. He wouldn’t have tried cooking again if he didn’t feel confident.”

“Do you seriously have a talking cake walking around the Crystal Empire?” Bean blurted.

Celestia bit her lower lip to hold back a snicker but Cadence remained calm. “Why would you doubt my story, Bean?”

“Because if a cake had come to life in my house my mom would have stabbed it to death and then my dad would have sold it for twenty percent off.”

Celestia did snicker that time.

“All right, you got me,” Cadence replied with a laugh. “The cake started talking, yes; but as soon as it said that it was going to go straight to my hips I cancelled the animation spell on it. Sadly, I remember it being a bit dry too.”

Bean chuckled with the other two. “You had me worried there for a minute. I guess Shining Armor needs to learn how to put chocolate pudding in his cake mix and I need to learn how to be less gullible.”

“That’s not so easy, given your present company,” Cadence said. “I remember Auntie Celestia pulling a few fast ones on me.”

“If you can be good-natured about our teasing you’ll be fine,” Celestia added. “And you’re welcome to try to get one on us as well.”

“Right.” He gave them both a flat smile. “Nothing possibly could go wrong with that.”

The three of them chatted about a couple of their favorite stunts and pranks as they made their way out to the gardens. Bean was interested to find that this little area was walled in and guarded, but yet open enough to allow perhaps forty ponies or so at any one time. Other than that, it was a miniature of the regular gardens: stone paths, two or three small statues, a quaint pond near the middle, and small flower patches spread here and there. It was pleasant, and Bean liked it.

“You know, I have been neglecting that corner of the gardens for too long.” Celestia glanced down to Bean and gave him a smile that was brighter than her own sun. “I think I should plant some sunflowers over there. They would be just perfect, and add some much needed life and color.”

“I dunno,” he said with a wary grin. “There’s some weird pests that get into them. You’ll have to be careful.”

“Mm, I think the risk is acceptable.”

More laughter came with this, and the Royals then found Shining Armor near the pond and under a stately and shady oak tree, a large red-checkered tablecloth beneath him. He smiled and waved once they made eye contact, and he pulled a rather sizeable picnic basket from the side of the tree as they finished walking over.

“Shining Armor, you stupendous stallion!” Cadence gushed. “You made us a picnic lunch!”

“I thought I would try and give Bean some competition,” he replied, with a wide grin. “It’s nothing fancy, but I think it’ll work.”

Cadence peered in the basket, giggled a bit, and then levitated the plates and cutlery out as Bean and Celestia sat down together. It only took a moment for the picnic items to be distributed, and Bean thanked Cadence when she presented him with a fluted glass filled to the brim with freshly squeezed lemonade.

“So, Chef Armor, what exquisite cuisine have you created for our enjoyment?” Bean asked.

“Well, I tried to channel my inner gourmet chef as I prepared this, so I have a three-course meal. For the appetizer, I have fried green tomatoes.”

“Oo, those look good,” Cadence remarked as Shining levitated a bowl of them out. “You did this by yourself?”

“Chef Beet may have given me a few pointers, but I did do most of it. Please, dig in!”

Bean took a bite, chewed thoughtfully for a moment, then forced his face to a pleased neutral. He didn’t need to critique this, he just needed to enjoy it.

And, in fairness, they were decent. A touch on thin side, now that he took a good look at them, and a bit too thick on the breading. He also had used tomatoes that were a shade too green, and they were nearly swimming in pepper. Shining had let the frying oil get too hot, so the outside was seared dark while the insides were barely cooked. They were crunchy little concoctions, but they were made with love for those who he loved, and that was all that mattered.

Bean listened politely and tried not to crunch too loudly while Shining and Cadence discussed some things relating to the Crystal Empire over with Celestia as they ate. Production was up, and the manufacturing of crystal related items was really beginning to take off, but the overall capacity to manufacture was still stunted and the ability to get it to market was a concern as well. A few ideas were thrown about on how to alleviate these problems, and Celestia also encouraged them to work on broadening their industries so they could better weather any potential downturns in the economy.

Then the main course came out: daisy sandwiches. Bean smirked a bit as Shining described how he had slaved and toiled over a hot oven to make the sandwiches perfect, but he said nothing and allowed the Captain to play it up. Compared to the fried green tomatoes, the sandwiches were quite delicious, but Bean questioned the use of pumpernickel bread, and Shining really could have cut back on the amount of daisies he’d smashed into the middle.

“Bean, are you okay?” Celestia asked. “You seem awfully quiet.”

“Oh, I’m fine; I’m just listening. I don’t have anything to add to a discussion on factory output and logistical concerns.”

“Well then, let’s change the subject,” Cadence replied. “We did come here to get to know you better, Uncle Bean.”

“And I thought Prince Bean was going to be weird to hear.” He chuckled.

“It’ll grow on you. I know! Let’s play a game.”

Shining gave his wife a knowing look. “Twenty Questions?”

She smiled at him smugly. “Twenty questions, but I think we’ll just do a couple for today.”

Bean smiled a bit as he glanced between them. “I get the feeling this is not the twenty questions I’m familiar with.”

“No, I’ve modified it a bit. I would play this with my new clients when I was a foalsitter to help break the ice and to get to know the foal I was watching. I ask a question about you and then you ask me a question. It’s a fun way to learn about a pony, and I usually gave a little toy or permission to stay up past bedtime as a reward.”

“Can I not answer a question?”

“You can. The fun of it gets ruined otherwise.”

“All right,” Bean said with a smile. “Why don’t we all try it. This does sound kinda fun.”

“We’ll start with you, then. What is your favorite color?”

“Well, it was red but I’m thinking I like white now,” he replied, with a smile for his wife.

“Fair enough. Your turn now.”

“One for you, my dear Celly, and it’s one I was going to ask about yesterday. What was with that question you asked Twilight about the square root of a negative number?”

“Oh, that.” Celestia tittered a bit. “Twilight is a remarkable and intelligent young mare, but she has always had a tendency to obsess and fixate on details, as Cadence can attest to. Finally, in a fit of annoyance and desperation one day as she was prattling on about how I needed to conduct her math review before her first recess, I asked her that question. She ground to a stop, just like yesterday, and we later established that question—exactly the way I phrased it—as a signal for her to stop and to listen to me. It has been some time since I’ve had to ask her that, though.”

“My turn to ask.” Shining smiled deviously. “Bean, did you go to public or private school, and in either case, could you stand the meals they provided?”

“That’s two questions,” Bean noted.

“So answer twice.”

Bean rolled his eyes a bit. “All right. I went to public school, and yes, I ate school lunch most of the time. My family being in the business they were in meant that a home lunch was always over-complicated.

“In fact, there’s a kinda funny story with that. First day of kindergarten, right? Little Bean is elated to go, and my parents let me make my own lunch for the first day. I was so eager to show off what I’d made, and to see what everypony else had, ‘cause obviously everypony works in a restaurant and has access to premium ingredients.

“So we get to lunch. I sit down at the table, and I pull out a little napkin and put it in my lap before I begin, all proper and neat. I then started to unpack.

“Now, of course the other kids have the usual stuff—peanut butter and jelly, hay chips, little sandwich cookies, the like—and then Little Bean pulls out a mixed greens salad lightly tossed in a balsamic vinaigrette dressing, a glazed vegetable dumpling the size of my five year old hoof, a small container of apple puree—not applesauce, mind you, there is a difference—and six ounces of grape juice that was less than twelve hours old. I remember getting it all set up, grabbing my fork, and then finally looking around at what everypony else had. I was shocked they all had such common fare and they were all astonished that I had such fancy food. I think I spent most of that lunch trying to get my classmates to pronounce vinaigrette properly.

“And the worst part?” he added as they all laughed lightly at the story. “The worst was when I pulled out my dessert. I had a homemade pudding that was so rich and creamy it made everypony’s mouth water, including Missus Willow’s. I had to bring a tub of it with me the next day to share with everypony.”

“I would love to taste your pudding. Could you show me how to make it?” Celestia asked with a sly smile.

“I do. I’ll show you how to make it tonight, how’s that?” said Bean, trying to figure out why Cadence was snickering into a hoof and Shining Armor had turned away to cough vigorously into his napkin. “What did I say?”

“I’ll tell you when you’re older,” Shining replied somehow.

Bean shrugged before turning back to his wife. “Is that acceptable?” he added.

“It sounds delightful,” Celestia replied with a quick nip of his ear.

“Good. Now, let’s see.” Bean thought for a moment. “Cadence, have you ever regretted helping two ponies fall in love?”

“No,” she cheerfully answered. “But I don’t force ponies to fall in love either. That makes all the difference. I just help them to see what they already have.”

“Wow. Not one, not ever?”

“Not a one. Now, some relationships haven’t worked out, but even then they stayed friends. So I haven’t had any regrets⁽*⁾.”
(*) Except for the guppies. Don’t ask about the guppies.

“I hope that continues,” Celestia remarked. “Perfect streaks are hard to maintain, however.”

Bean somehow felt that she was speaking from some personal experience.

“It may have one happen one day, but even then I’ll keep at it. It is my destiny after all,” Cadence said.

Bean felt impressed, and he was sure it showed. Cadence’s devotion to her craft was inspiring, to say the least.

“One from me,” Celestia stated. “Where does the phrase ‘bite the bark’ come from?”

“Ah yes. That just bites the bark, doesn’t it?” Bean paused for a moment and gathered the details he would need in his head. “Honestly, no Bean is totally sure where it came from or how it started. However, folklore tells of an ancient Bean, the first to take up a ladle and knife and to ply the trade of cooking. He made music with mashed potatoes, soliloquies with string beans, and a fortune from figs.

“This Bean of beans, however, became cocky and arrogant. As his skill grew so did his fame, and as fame came so did ego. He soon proclaimed himself the greatest cook that had ever been or ever would be, and that none could or would dare challenge him. Interestingly, some versions say that you, Celly, sent a challenger to bring this Bean back down to reality, though I think you would remember if this happened.”

“It is rather amazing to see how often I commission a warrior for these sorts of things.” Celestia smiled and tapped her chin with a hoof. “I don’t recall sending a challenger for any cooking competitions or to eliminate rogue chefs, but it is within the realm of possibility, I suppose.”

“Well, Celestia sent or not, a challenger did step forward. The terms were simple: cook a better meal for a panel of judges. It would be an epic clash of skill, and the Bean agreed readily to the contest.

“To make a long story short, the Bean lost. It was then he realized he’d never bothered to find out what terms he’d agreed to, and the challenger set him to gather and split firewood with only his teeth. He began to do so, and thus began biting bark.

“It’s also not clear how long he had to do this, but once the lesson was learned the challenger allowed the Bean to stop, and from then on the phrase ‘to bite the bark’ came to mean either dealing with an extremely uncomfortable situation or as a reminder to avoid arrogance and pride. My parents on occasion would send me off to school with the admonition to ‘remember not to bite the bark,’ and it was a catchy little way to remember to be humble and friendly with others.”

“That’s a fun little story,” Cadence said with a smile.

“Now, a question for the good Captain,” Bean said.

“Uh oh,” said Captain replied while bobbing his eyebrows.

“What is the one piece of advice you would give me to help me transition into being a prince?”

Shining nodded his head in appreciation. “Honestly? Be yourself. You’re going to feel an immense amount of pressure to change or to be different so as to fit in with Celestia or the nobles better, but don’t let it get to you. Celestia loves you the way you are now. If you change in a way that is not true to yourself, you’ll ruin the magic you share. Don’t be afraid to do Bean things and to say Bean stuff. Don’t worry about if you’re being princely enough. Worry more about being Bean enough.”

Bean glanced up at Celestia, who gave him a warm smile.

“He is right, there will be some who will want you to twist and contort yourself to fit their mold and ideals. They will say you are doing a disservice to Equestria by being a Bean, that you are an embarrassment and an outrage. You’re not. I think you are perfect just the way you are.”

“Thanks. I’ll remember that.”

A few more questions were tossed back and forth as they finished their sandwiches, but they were light and fun in nature. Celestia, however, was eventually forced to announce that she and Bean needed to attend to Day Court. Before they left, however, Shining had one last part of the meal to share: fresh brownies.

“Oo, these look good,” Cadence remarked, as Shining handed out a sizeable square to everypony.

“I hope they are. Chef Beet said this was the absolute best recipe for brownies. Hopefully they measure up to Bean’s.”

“Ah, but I haven’t made brownies here yet. I need to now so we… can…” Bean squinted at the brownie in his hoof. He had given it his usual sniff for a new food, but something smelled very wrong. He took another deep whiff, then coughed.

“Shining, are you sure you put—”

“PLAH!” Shining spit his bite out and then began wiping his tongue with his hooves. Celestia and Cadence were a bit more dignified about it, having calmly lifted their napkins up, but still the offensive square came out and faces of disgust were pulled.

“—sugar in them,” Bean concluded. “I think you grabbed the salt by mistake.”

“You get to cook from here on out,” Shining groaned as the lemonade began to disappear quickly.

Bean chuckled a bit as he watched his love gargle yet another glass of water, swish it around in her mouth and cheeks, and then swallow it with a “blagh” thrown in for good measure.

“You going to be okay? I’ve lost track of how much water you’ve drunk.”

“I may be a little longer in the lavatory this evening, but I’ll be fine.”

“If you say so.”

“Bleh.” She stuck her tongue out at him for a moment. “Luna will love this when she hears about it. Wysteria, send in the next petitioner, please.”

Two pegasus mares then entered, and both looked extremely cross. One roughly bumped into the other as they walked up, but it was returned in kind without hesitation.

Bean groaned inwardly. He’d seen the look they shared back home, and it always meant that somepony was upset about their meal. They would now demand a refund, a free meal, and an apology while kissing their hooves and begging their forgiveness, in that order.

But how would this all work out since, by some fantastic means, he technically was one of the supreme voices in all of Equestria? He fought back a smile as the two pegasi bowed. No more apologizing because the carrots were slightly overcooked for him!

“Good afternoon, my little ponies,” Celestia greeted them evenly. “What do you have to bring before the court?”

“Your Highness, we’re here to appeal a court decision,” the mare on the right answered.

You’re here to appeal,” the other mare cut in. “I’m here to make sure your appeal fails.”

“Oh, go jump in a cactus!”

“Go spit in the wind!”

Celestia lifted one hoof just a fraction of an inch, but it silenced both mares as swiftly as if she had used her magic. “If you two can’t behave, I will dismiss you from this court. There is no call for your behavior. Now, let’s start with names, one at a time if you please.”

“I’m Foxglove, Princess,” the mare on Bean’s left spoke first.

“Calm Breeze, Your Highness.”

“Thank you. Calm Breeze, what is the nature of your appeal?”

“I’m contesting a ruling by a probate court on my father’s estate.”

Bean wasn’t surprised at all to hear that. Money always made for the most nasty fights.

“I see,” Celestia replied as a guard quickly handed her a bundle of papers. “This would be the lower court’s ruling then, yes?”

“It is.”

“Let’s see.” Celestia began skimming the first page. “The estate is that of one Rock Bottom, Esquire, a lawyer in Barrelstown. If I am reading this right, it says that Calm Breeze is a biological daughter, while Foxglove is a stepdaughter. Is this correct?”

“Yes,” both mares replied.

“Very well. Calm Breeze, since you are the one making the appeal we will have you go first. Foxglove, please go with Sergeant Pepper into the hallway, and we will call you in to testify momentarily.”

Foxglove nodded and left, and Celestia took a slow breath in. “Let us start at the beginning. Please explain why you are appealing this decision to Prince Bean while I read this over.”

Bean felt a small wave of panic before remembering Celestia could multitask. He then focused on Calm, and she cleared her throat.

“Your Highness, as was mentioned I am Rock Bottom’s biological daughter. My mother passed away when I was four, and Father remarried two years later. Foxglove is her daughter.”

Bean most definitely caught the note of anger in her voice. Her was fairly spat, as if it were a brownie made with salt and bile.

“My father suffered from some kind of senility after her death, however, and my step-sister took advantage of this fact by having his last will and testament altered to show her as the sole beneficiary of his estate, when he had planned to give it to me. She’s a manipulative, spoiled brat who will stop at nothing to—”

“Ah-ah,” Bean chided. “Just the facts, please. This is not the time for character assassination.”

“Well, she’s stolen Father’s things from me. I just want back what is mine.”

“Did your father leave literally everything to Foxglove?” Bean asked. “There isn’t a thing for you?”

“Well, there are a couple of token items for me in the revised will, but I was originally going to get most of everything.”

“I see,” Bean replied thoughtfully. “When was the will changed?”

“Five years ago, I think.”

“And you claim your father’s mental issues began shortly before this change, correct?”

“Yes, Your Highness.”

“When did your stepmother pass away?”

Calm pouted. “About five years ago, Your Highness, but that’s just a coincidence.”

Bean nodded. “I see. And your appeal requests that the revised will be revoked and the original reinstated, yes?”

“Yes, Your Highness.”

“Thank you. If you will, please step out while we speak to Miss Foxglove.”

The mares switched, and Foxglove bowed deeply before the throne of Equestria. “Your Highnesses, I appreciate your willingness to hear my side of this ordeal. Calm has been harassing me ever since my mother died, and I just want this nightmare to end.”

Bean nodded. “Why don’t you tell me how this all came to be.”

“Well, that’s a simple enough story. Calm’s mother died when she was four or so, and Rock Bottom married my mother a couple of years later. She—my mom, that is—had divorced my real dad a few months before this, so there’s always been some question about my mother’s real motivations. Mother and Father truly loved each other, though, and they had a wonderful marriage.

“So, when my mom died suddenly, Father took it really hard. I’m sure Calm told you he suffered from some sort of mental issue, but the only thing that afflicted him was a broken heart. He just… well, he lost the will to live, I suppose.

“A few months before he died, Father sat down and told me about the will. He’d rewritten it with Mother, and he explained that I would receive most of his estate, since Calm had squandered her part already. My sister couldn’t be bothered to visit us during Father’s last days, or for his funeral, but she showed up real quick when she found out she didn’t have any inheritance left. I don’t want her to steal what was left to me; she’ll just squander it on parties and expensive clothing and whatever else she wasted her portion on while she was in college. This is just a last-ditch effort on her part. I’m pleased the probate court has ruled in my favor, and I’m sure Your Highnesses will too.”

Bean asked one or two more questions about Calm Breeze and her wasteful spending habits before inviting Calm back into the throne room. The ‘sisters’ glared daggers at each other while Celestia continued to review the court ruling with Bean, but in low whispers, the Princess pointed out to her husband that there was no evidence to support Calm’s case.

“Princess, please,” Calm Breeze begged after a few minutes. “I just want what’s rightfully mine.”

“Yours?” Foxglove spat. “You spent your part already. Father was trying to protect me, you dunderhead!”

“Look, you hag! I was doing just fine until…”

“May I remind you that you will be dismissed if your behavior is not appropriate?” Bean stated. He wasn’t afraid to pull some authority on two squabbling foals; he’d done it dozens of times back home.

“Cram it, Mustard!” Calm shouted back at him, her face going red in anger. “You’re not in charge, Celestia is!”


Celestia sent a pulse of magic through the throne room that pushed everypony besides Bean and herself a foot off from where they were, and every flag and banner in the hall snapped loudly. The two bickering mares were immediately silenced by the outburst, and all eyes were on the Princess, who had her wings fully flared and her head slightly bowed.

“Listen to me very carefully,” she stated, without looking up. Her tone was cold and haunting, complete and absolute, and Bean felt a twinge of fear slink down his own spine despite not being the one who was in trouble. “Prince Bean has equal standing and authority with me, and I will NOT tolerate crass insults against him in this Court. Is. That. Clear?”

“Yes, Princess,” they both meekly replied.

Celestia gave her full and undivided attention to them now, and she took on an even more fearsome look in so doing. “Calm Breeze, I see no fault in this ruling. Do you have any physical proof—a statement from a doctor, a notarized document from a reliable witness, or anything of the like—that shows your father did suffer from the symptoms you have claimed, or that he was manipulated in any way?”

“No, I don’t.”

“Then until you can provide such, the ruling of the probate court will stand. You are dismissed. Foxglove, please remain for a moment.”

Sergeant Pepper moved to escort Calm Breeze out, but she was pretty quick to show herself the door. Foxglove then found herself under Celestia’s intense stare, and she gulped loudly.

“I am disappointed.” Celestia let the silence speak for her until she moved her head ever so slightly back and forth while taking a deep breath. “You did not need to provoke your step-sister. The flaw in her argument was quite evident. Egging her on like that was petty and beneath you. I was hoping that you could offer a path of reconciliation to her instead. She is, after all, your father’s other daughter.”

“But she wasted Father’s money!”

“There are things no amount of money can buy. A sister, for example. Luna tried to destroy me and bring about an endless night, yet she stands now as your Princess. For a thousand years, I would have given anything to have her back. Anything.”

Foxglove didn’t reply to that. She couldn’t even look Celestia in the eye.

“I grant there is much about your family that I do not know, so I will not pass judgement on your actions. I will only point out that forgiveness usually works far better than spite. I know I am grateful I did not condemn my sister for always and eternity because of what she did. Be willing to give Calm Breeze a second chance.”

“All right. I can do that.”

Celestia nodded, and Foxglove was shown out. Celestia then took a very deep breath, forced her wings down, and then smiled when Bean put a hoof on her shoulder.

“Remind me to never make you mad.”

“I may have let my anger get out of hoof slightly, but that really ruffled my feathers when she called you mustard. You’re not anything like that.”

“I can be a bit zesty sometimes,” he offered with a waggle of his eyebrows. “And I’ve been called worse. One bully back in middle school called me ‘piss spot’ for the longest time.”

“And you didn’t tell anypony?”

“Oh, I told. Didn’t stop him. I just accepted it one day, and I took all the fun out of it when I responded like it was my real name.”

The humorous anecdote released the tension that had built, and Celestia giggled with Bean a bit. “Wysteria, are there any more petitioners?”

“No, they were the last ones,” the faithful secretary said with a quick glance down the hallway.

“Good. Let us adjourn Day Court then.”

“Your Highness?” Sergeant Pepper walked back in with a large package on his back while the doors shut. “This just arrived from Ponyville for you.”

Celestia squealed slightly in delight, snatched the package up in her magic, and then eagerly ripped it open. She then tilted it up and away from Bean as he tried to peer in.

“What is that?” he playfully asked.

“Something that will help you feel more like a prince, once we deal with one little thing,” she replied with a wide grin. “Tell me, when was the last time you had your mane trimmed?”

* * * *

“Oo, I was hoping this would come today, particularly after what happened in the bath this morning.” Celestia giggled and clapped her hooves together gleefully. “Are you almost done, Bean?”

“I don’t know about this,” he called back from behind the blind. “I feel like a stuffed pepper that’s trying to pass itself off as saffron.”

“Don’t be silly. I bet you look perfect. Come out, I want to see!”

“Then why did you make me come back here?”

“So there could be a dramatic reveal! C’mon! Out, out! Unless you want me to have Rarity add a pair of trousers to it.”

“Pants?” Bean tried to put as much discouragement in that word as possible. “Isn’t that some sort of ancient torture device?”

“Only for stallions, and they fell out of fashion because I thought they looked funny and restricted free movement,” said Celestia with the full authority of her position. “If you really want to start a fashion trend, I can bring them back—”

“No!” he yelped. “I mean, that would be cruel and unusual punishment.” Bean tried not to think of thousands of uncomfortable stallions who would have blamed him for their plight due to a simple slip of the tongue.

Bean then slowly stepped out. He tugged at the collar of the jacket, but then turned to face Celestia broadside. “I look ridiculous, don’t I?”

Celestia didn’t reply. Instead, she levitated a full length mirror over from across the room, and stood to walk over to Bean as be looked at his reflection.

“You look magnificent,” she whispered to him.

Bean did have to admit he looked good. Rarity had created an official dress coat for him to wear, in a regal navy blue color with a royal gold belt and bright brass buttons running up the front that flashed brilliantly. The coat was trimmed in white, fit him like a glove, and yet felt as soft as a lamb’s ear against his barrel. Celestia’s solar emblem was affixed to each shoulder on a white pad, and coupled with his Celestial Crystal he looked as princely as anypony like him could ever hope to.

“You clean up well, too,” Celestia purred in his ear. “This is a good style on you.”

“Are you sure? I mean, the coat is nice, but do you really think the mane is okay? I haven’t had it this short in a long time.”

She gave him a sly look, then ran a bare hoof through it. She giggled a little as a shudder of delight ran through him.

“Mm, yes. I’d say it works. It’s a good thing I got to you first; I’d hate to lose this handsome Prince to Luna.”

“Naw,” he stammered. “It’s just a… just a coat, and a mane cut, and… well, y’know…”

He then turned and looked at her eagerly. “Do you really think I’m handsome?”

She smiled, and it was clear she understood his intent. He wasn’t asking because he doubted her, he was asking because he wanted to hear her say it again.

“You were handsome before in a messy way. You are handsome now, in a cleaned up way.” She then moved in close to his ear. “And you will be handsome to me even when you are old and gray.”

She nipped his ear playfully, and when she pulled back he felt an extremely dopey look spread with his joy. Bean then expressed how he felt in one word:


21. - Wysteria and Quill

Author's Notes:

You all know by now that the Right Most Awesome Sipioc has provided several fantastic illustrations for this story of mine. So, in celebration of twenty chapters - and because Sipioc is a pretty awesome writer too - I present for your enjoyment a Sipioc fan chapter! Enjoy! :yay:

Wysteria Inkwell flipped idly through the pages on her trusty clipboard, carefully reviewing the upcoming days’ events and ensuring that she had everything she needed to discuss with her employer. The day had been eventful, she had to admit, but all that remained was some quick confirmations and to file her paperwork before heading home for the evening. She was eager to slip off the flower-faced collar she wore that established her as Princess Celestia’s secretary, aide-de-camp, and overall right-hoof mare, warm up the leftover broccoli salad that was in her icebox, and then to slip into her favorite plush robe and vanish into the pages of the latest Love Lost novel.

Such was her life, and she was pleased to have it. Becoming Celestia’s secretary had been a combination of hard work, persistence, and a bit of sheer dumb luck, but it also entailed long days—and the occasional long night, prissy nobles with their heads in…well, never mind that; and dealing with some of the most frustrating and oddball circumstances one could imagine. There was prestige in her employment, but there was also more than enough figurative mud for her to wade through on any given day.

Yet, Wysteria never felt like she was underappreciated, and she flipped past all the pages on her faithful organizational tool to look at the custom engraving at the bottom right corner.

For Wysteria, the pony who looks after me and what I treasure most.

A small smile tugged on her lips. The clipboard had been a gift from the Princess on the fifth anniversary of her employment, and it was now one of her most treasured possessions. It was a fine thing, made of a premium tarnish-free silver and with Celestia’s emblem embossed on the back in colorful gemstones. It had a spot for a spill proof inkwell, extra metal quill holders, and the Princess had personally imbued it with an enchantment that kept it from being lost or stolen. Of course, the three weeks extra paid vacation—which she still had not taken—and the anniversary bonus in her paycheck had been most welcome too, but it was touching that Celestia had taken the time to have this custom clipboard made and had engraved it with her own horn.

It was the respect and appreciation that she received from her employer that had kept her there. Her skill set was impressive enough that she could find employment in the private sector and receive twice her current salary, but then there would be no Princess of the Sun. Celestia was an amazing pony even from a distance, but when one was able to work up close with her, as she had done, one quickly saw her as far more than just a princess. She was a mentor, a teacher, a friend and a role model of the highest quality. Celestia seemed to be able to naturally bring out the best in anypony she interacted with, and it had so thoroughly inspired and motivated Wysteria that she had willingly taken on more responsibilities, even at the expense of her family, friends, or even a potential special somepony. Celestia was the pony that others aspired to be, and Wysteria gladly did all that she could to make sure Celestia's light could shine as brightly as possible.

Wysteria twhen shook her head while her mind drifted back to the events of the last week. She had been beyond shocked to find that Celestia had written a law that forced her royal self into marriage, only if the oddest circumstance occurred, and that some stupid stallion had somehow managed to stumble right into it. There had been several all-nighters involved in keeping the news from getting out across the whole castle staff, and then to the general public. She had lied, fibbed, stretched the truth, obfuscated, misdirected, begged, pleaded, bribed, cajoled, whined, cried, and in one particular instance, used a little piece of blackmail she never wanted to think about ever again. She had run herself nearly to a nervous breakdown trying to keep ahead of the rumors and the tabloids, and there had been more than a few times when Wysteria had begged Harmony, Fate, or whatever had done this to help Celestia find the loophole or legality that would get them all out of this mess and get life back to normal.

Leave it to her boss to write a perfect, irreversible law when in a panic. Wysteria had personally gone over it herself and couldn’t find a single fault in it.

Wysteria's rage at the yellow freeloading scoundrel had multiplied tenfold on the day of their wedding. The mere thought of her illustrious Highness being forced to become Celestia Bean was enough to make the secretary's blood boil and her vision go red. With Celestia’s name being debased as it was, there would no doubt be far-reaching negative consequences, and the male menace didn’t seem to have a clue as to what he was really doing to the whole of Equestria.

Then the divorce had come to light. She had gleefully written the decree out with her own quill, using every single bit of willpower she had left to keep from dotting all the i's with little smiley faces. She was a bit concerned while taking down Celestia’s every word—she personally found the terms to be far too generous—but she let it slide with the happy thought that this would finally clear out the riff-raff and allow Celestia to get back to what she really needed to focus on: her ponies.

But then he hadn’t signed it. The fool wanted to try to make the relationship work.

And Wysteria had been even more floored when she found out Celestia didn’t want to sign the decree either.

What was the world coming to? Celestia should have forced him to sign it and then thrown him out without another thought. He was naïve, he was uneducated, he was totally unprepared to accept the role of Prince. He wasn’t even all that attractive, either: Wysteria had rapidly summed up his looks as ordinary and plain. What Celestia had seen in him was beyond her; if she was going to marry, then she should at least find someone whose beauty matched her own. The Baron of Fetloch, for example. Now there was a stallion, oh mama!

But stay the Bean did, and Wysteria had found herself with a new boss. For the first time in her career, she dragged her feet and resisted following her Princess’ instruction to help Bean acclimate and to keep him on schedule with the goings on in the palace. She was forced to work with the clown, and while she didn’t like it to any degree she hesitantly agreed to weather the storm for the Princess.

But then she’d talked with him, watched him work. He wasn’t anything like she had expected, and in a good way: he was reserved, thoughtful, and observant. He treated Celestia with deep concern and awed reverence. He actually cared about her. And in the day-to-day grind of dealing with the royal Bundt cakes that made up the Courts and Ministries, Wysteria found that he maintained a polite humility that gave a blast of fresh air to everything.

And within a short amount of time, Baked Bean won her over as well. What he lacked in birthright he more than made up for in true royalty and pure character.

Wysteria chuckled a bit to herself as she rounded the final corner to Celestia’s – or, now Celestia and Bean’s – chambers, and she thought about the remarkable change that had come over her employer. Celestia was, of course, eternally pleasant and endlessly gracious to everypony she met, but now? It was like a switch had been flipped, and the Princess went about her days with a spring in her step, a song in her heart and on her lips, and an overflowing dose of happiness for everyone she encountered. She was brighter now, with more vigor and pep than Wysteria had ever seen before. Baked Bean had managed to bring out a side of Celestia that hadn’t been seen in, well, maybe ever.

He had brought out her youth again, and the joyful optimism that naturally came with it.

Wysteria adjusted her glasses, made sure her papers were in order, and then knocked on the door once before opening the doors with her magic.

She paused just inside the doorway. In the middle of the room stood Bean, in a regal-looking jacket that must have been in the earlier package that had arrived from Rarity. He was looking himself over in Celestia’s full length mirror, and Celestia was right next to him, admiring the view and whispering something in his ear. He did look rather proper and, yes, even royal in it, and she had to admit that, given the right clothing, he did have a sort of unassuming charm about him.

Celestia then pulled back, and when she saw Bean's dopey expression, it was like … well, like he was so happy that his face could not smile enough.

Wysteria felt her heart melt a little at the sight. No matter what it took, she promised herself right then and there to do whatever she could to help their love blossom and grow. A love like this deserved no less.

“Wow,” Bean remarked.

“Wow indeed.” Celestia agreed. “My dear husband, you look positively royal. I do believe the expression on my secretary’s face says it all.”

“Wh-what?” Wysteria stammered, and her cheeks began burning. She quickly lifted her clipboard up to block her face and her embarrassment, but again the inscription came into sight:

…the pony who looks after me and what I treasure most.

Her smile grew bigger as the Royals chuckled. She would be most pleased to continue to do so.

Wysteria walked out of the Royal chambers with a happy little tune. With the details for tomorrow now settled, and she had only to file her paperwork and go home.

But across the hall stood Corporal Quillpoint, and after a moment of thought, Wysteria adjusted her glasses and marched up to the gold-plated goof.

“Good evening, Miss Wysteria. What can I do for you?” Quill asked.

“Quillpoint, I’m off in fifteen minutes. Why don’t you and I go get a drink tonight?”

Quillpoint hesitated. Protocol said he wasn't supposed to discuss personal things while on duty, but his eagerness to talk to her was obvious.

“But you’ve always rejected me in the past,” he stiffly whispered.

“Say yes or no. Going once...”

“Yes! Totally yes!” he blurted, and then he quickly sealed up the crack in his composure.

“Great. I’ll go talk to Lieutenant Spear Point about your schedule. You should take me somewhere classy, but not too expensive. If I see one pony with the title of Duke, Baron, Viscount, or Prince, I'm out.”

Wysteria then trotted away with a bounce in her step and a swish to her tail that she had not felt in years. If her boss could have a love life, why couldn’t she?

And in her wake, being careful not to be seen doing it, Corporal Quillpoint punched the air in silent success, then settled back into his relaxed guarding pose, only with a pleased smile on his face.

22. - Do You Feel the Love?

“Bean? Where did you go?”

Celestia peered around her room. He had been sleeping so soundly and with such a cute little smile on his face that she simply couldn’t bring herself to wake him when she had gotten up to raise the sun.

But now he wasn’t there.

Celestia’s ears then honed in on some faint singing that was coming from her bathroom, and she quietly snuck her way to the shower. Bean had a catchy nonsense tune echoing off the walls, and he was belting it out without a care in the world.

“Shoop-be-doo! Shoop shoop-be-doo!”

Celestia cringed. Bean was singing at least a full octave above where his voice naturally was, so the song was coming out very harsh, very screechy, and very discordant. It was bad enough that it was making her ears hurt. With a bit of magic to mask her footsteps, she maneuvered in behind her husband, who was in the midst of a vigorous lathering of his mane. She then sat behind him and snaked her arms softly around his barrel.

“Shoop-be doo, Shoop-shoop be wooeeEEK!”

“My dear Bean, you need to drop down an octave,” she breathed into his soapy ear. “You are most definitely not an alto.”

“You need to warn me when you’re going to do stuff like that,” he replied, with a turn and a quick swipe of his eyes to clear the soap from his vision. Since he was up on his rear legs, he was now eye-level to his beloved and he wrapped his own arms around her in one swift motion, and her wings wrapped around him in reply. “But, I must admit, the view just got immensely better.”

“Oh? Is that so?” she tittered.

“Very,” he replied as their noses and then their foreheads touched. “I definitely needed more Celly in here.”

“Mm, it’s a good thing I came then, unless you speak of another Celly.”

“Never.” He shook his head gently. “How could anything under your sun begin to compete with you? It is here where I shall find completeness.”

“I like the way you talk, dear Bean,” she whispered, and her lips began to inch towards his. “Even if your grammar is a bit rough…”

Oh, was this finally going to be it? Celestia could feel the anticipation building as he tilted his head slightly to one side, puckered his lips, and…

…and now she was in the dining room. The dining room?

“Celly, quickly! A crime of the most heinous nature has occurred! I need your immediate assistance!”

“Lulu, you have no idea what you’ve just done, do you?” Celestia replied with a great deal of annoyance and more than a little dripping on the floor.

“Well, you were probably making smoochy faces in the shower with your husband, so I do believe I am helping you get on with your day. Besides, this is a true emergency! A national crisis!”

“All right. Who died?”

“Died? Dear sister, don’t be so morbid.”

Celestia put a hoof to her forehead. “You ran out of corn flakes again, didn’t you?”

“Yes!” Luna pouted and sniffled. “You know how I love my corn flakes!”

“Did you check your emergency stash?”

“Yes, and they are gone as well! I believe they have been pilfered!”

“And your secondary reserve?”

“Is… well, it’s… I mean, it may or may not have been compromised, and…”

With a sigh as deep as one of the craters on Luna’s moon, Celestia teleported a box of corn flakes from Luna’s ‘so super secret it’s almost not a secret anymore’ stash and then shoved it into her chest roughly.

“Huzzah! Dear sister, you have redeemed the day!” Luna cheered, and she hugged the box of cherished flakes tightly.

“Glad I could be of assistance,” she grumbled. “May I go check on my husband now?”

“Oh yes, by all means.” Luna waved a dismissive hoof at her. “Come, Flakey. Breakfast awaits us!”

Celestia then teleported back without further ado, but it was as she feared: Bean was now out of the shower.

“Of all the rotten times to run out of cereal,” she muttered in ominous tones. “Bean? Where are you?”

“I’m in here,” he called out. Celestia followed the sound of his voice out of the shower, then promptly received a towel to the face for her efforts.

A pair of hooves then began rubbing her snout with tender concern, and a delighted smile emerged on an adorably yellow face while the towel moved down the left side of her neck.

“Luna should really let you dry off before she teleports you away,” he offered. “I bet you left a puddle wherever you were.”

“She should also not call me away for trivial matters. It seems a national emergency is now defined by running out of one’s favorite cereal.”

“Really?” he simply asked, and Celestia nodded. “Huh. So can I do that when you don’t make pancakes?”

“Yes,” she replied with a laugh. “I want you to shut down the entire government until you get my pancakes.”

“Will do!” he replied with a quick salute. He then laughed with her as he kept drying her side. “Why didn’t you wake me up today?”

“I just couldn’t. You looked so peaceful and comfortable, I couldn’t bear to disturb you.”

“Okay. That’s a good reason, but please wake me up from now on? I like watching you raise the sun. I can live with a little less sleep if it means more time with you.”

“You flatterer.” She giggled. “I’ll make sure to wake you from now on.”


Bean continued his rub down at a brisk clip, but when he reached her flank he paused and gently touched her cutie mark with his hoof.

“What is it?” she asked.

“Oh, nothing. Just a dumb question.”

“The only dumb question is the one that is not asked.”

“Right. Let me rephrase and say it’s an insensitive question.”

“Bean, just ask,” she gently prodded. “I don’t think it is all that.”

“All right. Do you remember getting your cutie mark?”

She grew thoughtful, and her eyes closed. “I’m afraid I do not. It is one of those things I wish I did remember. I know I had it before I ascended, and I know I was confused by it for a time, but now there is a blank void in my memory where that should be.”

“I suppose after twelve hundred years I could forget how I got mine too.”

“Sadly, any significant event in one’s life can be forgotten, given enough time. I have often thought that memories are a bit like plants: unless they are constantly cared for, they will wither away.”

“I could see that. I’ve never understood how a pony could forget an anniversary, but if a pony isn’t willing to tend to the memory and remember the special nature of it, it just becomes plain, regular and potentially forgotten.”

“Exactly. In the end, we all have to YEOW!”

Bean retreated four or five steps and quickly wound up the towel again as Celestia whirled and glared playfully at him. He had a delighted smirk, and then he began dancing to his left as he held his weapon of welt production at the ready.

“Oh, you are going to pay for that one!” she threatened with a smile and a snort.

She then made a feint forward, but her hoof got in close enough to get caught by the edge of the snapping towel.

“Oh, that is it!”

“Are there any welts left on my rump?” Bean whined.

Celestia quite thoroughly enjoyed checking Baked Bean’s posterior for any wet-towel-induced injuries once again. It had only taken her perhaps thirty seconds to snag the towel from him—with her hooves, not her magic, thank you—and then perhaps a minute more before she caught up to him in the hallway and rained down unholy-yet-pleasantly-plush towel torment upon his backside. While he had given her quite the welt from his surprise attack, he had suffered at least a dozen retribution shots in return.

It was a good thing Celestia also knew how to heal what she had hurt.

“I don’t see anything. You should be fine,” she replied, with a slight snicker. “Does it feel sore at all?”

“No, it feels alright. I think I should be okay.”

“I promise I’ll go easier on you next time. I’d hate to spoil the view back here.”

Bean’s cheeks went as red as a tomato and he tried vainly to cover his whole rear with his tail, but there simply wasn’t enough hair to complete the job.

“Oo, do that again,” she teased. “Your tail frames your rear quite nicely when you do that.”

“Don’t we have some kind of meeting to go to?” he said while trying to keep the squeak out of his voice.

“Alas, we do. We should have something other than corn flakes sent up to eat while we meet with Minister Penny Wise.”

“Okay, don’t tell me.” He wrinkled his snout in thought. “Finances, right?”

“Ministry of Finance, yes. Very good!”

“She’s the only one I remember. I suppose I’ll get them all straight eventually.”

“Wysteria should be very helpful in that regard,” Celestia replied as they started off. “She knows all of the Ministers, their deputies, and a great many lower managers too. If you’re ever unsure, just ask me or her.”

“I don’t envy her position.”

“It takes a special type of pony to handle the sheer amount of information she does, and she is probably the finest Executive Secretary I’ve ever had. I only hope she knows how much I appreciate what she does.”

“I think she does,” he said with a smile.

“You do?”

“Yeah. She’s coming up behind us and heard heard everything we were talking about.”

“I stand behind every word I said,” Celestia stated emphatically, and Wysteria gave her boss a gigantic smile.

“I only ask you remember all that when my performance review comes up, your highness. But for now, Minister Wise is running just a minute or two late but she is coming. Prince Bean’s desk has been set up and is ready to be used, and Prince Shining wanted me to relay that he and Princess Cadence will be out for most of the day on, quote very urgent matters unquote.”

“Very well, I see that Cadence has developed good instincts with regard to meeting with the Finance section also. I must remember to praise her for that later. I presume Minister Right Angle is still sending one of her deputies to discuss the plans from Baltimare?”

“Let me see...” Wysteria flipped through the pages of her clipboard for a moment “um…yes. Yes, Deputy Plumb Level.”

“Excellent, thank you.”

Wysteria nodded and then trotted off to attend to her other duties. Celestia turned back to Bean, who looked thoughtful.

“Question?” she simply asked.

“More a general statement. I didn’t know you had an office, but it makes sense if I stop and think about it.”

We have an office now,” Celestia replied. “But we won’t be spending a lot of time there. It feels too much like a jail cell, and I find it to be rather confining most of the time.”

“Yeah, I bet that sitting in a little room for hours on end gets old after a few hundred years.”

“Having you with me will be immensely helpful though,” she said while nipping behind his ear quickly.

“You sure I won’t be a distraction instead?” he retorted, and he flicked his tail just enough to brush her flank.

“If that is the case then it’s a good thing the door can be locked.”

Her tail smacked his flank, and she took off with a prance and a laugh while Bean tried to recover.

“I hope I never get used to that,” Bean muttered with a grin.

Bean was bored.

Very bored.

Bored, bored, bored. He was so bored, in fact, that he was wondering if it was possible for a pony to die of boredom. If such a thing could be, then his own life was in grave danger.

So, so bored.

“…this represents a thirty-eight percent increase in the total number of plows purchased, suggesting the reduction in the tariff on Griffonstone had the desired effect. It would be prudent to keep the level as is, and then to urge the manufacturers to increase production by twelve percent by offering incentives and…”

Bean thought backwards for a moment. Minister Wise had simply walked into the room with a quick three-tap knock, plopped in the chair in front of Celestia, and had launched into her prepared proposal on the budget without even so much as a ‘good morning.’

The proposal itself had two problems for Bean: one, Minister Wise was delivering it in the most uninteresting and monotone voice possible and two, she was using every technical term the realm of finances had. Bean had understood about one tenth of what she was saying, the rest of it was pure nonsense and gibberish to him.

Questions were right out too. At the beginning he had asked one or two questions on the parts he had understood, but this then led to her slowly turning her head to face him—a feat that, by appearances, took a titanic amount of willpower, dedication, and physical effort—answering the question as quickly as possible and with an obvious attempt to use very small words so Bean’s tiny brain could handle it, and then snapping her head back to Celestia to continue on with her spiel.

And the mare could probably frighten small children with that glare she had. It was making his orange juice curdle in his cup, that was for sure.

“…with a profit margin of five percent, the annual gains from this nominal expense will be adequate to…”

He wondered how much of what she was saying was real and how much she had just made up by using large and confusing phrases. He then began to think of all the big words he knew, and if he could use them to pass himself off as the Minister of Finance if he tried hard enough.

“…and that concludes my official report, your Highness. I trust that my reforms will be put into swift action.”

“Oh, I’m sure I’ll be reviewing this with my husband, so it may take a bit.”

Wow, emotion! Bean nearly fell over in excitement as Minister Wise’s eyes widened by several millimeters in alarm.

“Your Highness, with all due respect, this budget needs to be enacted as soon as possible to ensure the greatest returns for the Kingdom. There simply isn’t the time for—” her eyes narrowed and moved to the Prince “—him to review it! Please, don’t delay this!”

“Uh huh,” Celestia replied to no pony in particular as she scanned through a few pages of the budget. “Horrible things will destroy Equestria as we know it and reduce it to ashes if the corporate tax rate isn’t adjusted for inflation within the next seven days. Gotcha. My Prince, what did you think about this excise tax on wagon wheels? I’m afraid I got a little lost there.”


“Lady Penny Wise, I’m sorry to disappoint you but I simply cannot authorize this budget until I go over it with Prince Bean. Since your presentation was only to me and did not involve him in any way, I cannot ask him to sign off on this—as he will be required to do, if I may add—until I feel satisfied that he understands what he is signing off on. Now, unless you have something to share with Prince Bean, I’m afraid that we have completed everything that can be done today. Thank you for your time.”

Minister Penny Wise grumbled her way out of the office, and Bean was a bit worried he’d messed something up somehow.

“In case you’re wondering, you didn’t do anything wrong,” Celestia said him with a sneaky sidelong glance. “Lady Wise does this every year. I never just sign off on her budget proposals, but she always thinks I will.”

“That does explain a little bit but I don’t think she likes me very much.”

Celestia let out a long exhale. “She didn’t, and there will be more like her. We can’t really expect everyone to fall in love with you as quickly as I did. There are some who will need more convincing than others.”

“I suppose this is where Shining Armor’s advice comes into play. I need to be myself, even if others don’t like myself right now.”

“Just remember that they will. Once others start to see what I see, they’ll come around.”

“What you see, hmm?” he asked. “And what is it that you see?”

“I see a stallion.” Celestia stood, stepped around her desk, and smiled as she dropped her head down to meet his eyes straight on. “A stallion who is kind, and interesting, and wants to learn.”

She leaned in and tilted her head as her eyes ran over his lips. “I see a stallion who is sweet, who flatters me, and who dares to love a Princess for what she really is. A stallion who can do many great things, and who will cook many a romantic dinner for me.”

Her heart leapt up into her throat as she leaned in a bit closer and watched his lips begin to move towards hers. “I see a stallion who is winning me over with his devotion, his adaptability, his charms, and his wholesomeness. I see a stallion—” Celestia shuddered at the tickle of his breath across her own lips “—who wants to be mine—”

“Your Highnesses?”

“So close,” Celestia whispered to him in frustration.

“So very close,” he agreed.

“Oh! If this is a bad time, I can tell Deputy Level to wait for a few moments.”

“Nope, send her in,” Celestia replied in annoyance as she sat back and Bean hopped down. “The good feeling is gone now.”

“Sorry!” Wysteria offered. “You should lock the door if you don’t want me to come in unannounced.”

“What a novel idea.”

“So, which is worse, having no attention or having all of the attention?” Celestia asked playfully.

“When you have no idea what they’re talking about, I would say no attention,” Bean replied while they both sat on the throne and waited for Day Court to commence. “I have no idea why Deputy Level thought running over those sewer line upgrades with me was a good idea. You’re the one who knows the project.”

“I think she was simply eager to please,” Celestia replied with a laugh. “She wanted to make a good first impression.”

“Fine way to go about it. At least I know more about sewers now than I ever would have before.”

“There you go.”

“Princess?” Wysteria called out. “We are ready to begin.”

“Very well. Open the doors and let us begin.”

It was done as Celestia said, and Wysteria walked up the red carpet with the first petitioners of the day.

“Harvest Right and Barley Corn, Your Highnesses. Also, Chef Beet wants me to tell you she has a new creation being made for your lunch: miniature cheese calzones. She’s thinking of calling them ‘pizza rolls.’”

Bean tilted his head and gave a thoughtful hum. “A ravioli, but with bread instead of pasta. Interesting. I’ll have to ask her how she did it.”

“They smelled good, for what it’s worth,” Wysteria offered.

“Perhaps it’s a good thing Deputy Level went over her allotted time,” Celestia remarked, but then she turned her attention to the two earth ponies before the throne. “Now then, my little ponies, what can we do for you?”

“…just remember to floss really well next time,” Bean admonished. “You’ll save yourself a lot of trouble if you do.”

“I’ll remember that. Thank you, Your Highness!”

Bean smiled and nodded with his wife, and the now plucky pegasus flapped out of the throne room with a cheerful song. “That was interesting.”

“I did try to warn you.”

“That you did.”

“Who is next, Wysteria?”

“A nice couple from the Crystal Empire, Your Highness.”

“Goodness!” Celestia put a hoof to her mouth in worry. “I hope they didn’t come all this way because Prince Shining and Princess Cadence were unavailable! Please, please! Show them in immediately.”

Wysteria waved to the couple in the hallway, and Bean couldn’t help but chortle when it was, in fact, Prince Shining and Princess Cadence who walked in and bowed before the throne.

“All right you two,” Celestia said in both amusement and wariness. “What’s going on?”

“Oh great Celestia,” Shining began with a grand sweep of his hoof, “whose strength binds our lands together and whose wisdom shines forth across the oceans—”

“Seas, seas!” Cadence whispered and gave her husband a hard elbow in the ribs. “He said seas, not oceans!”

“Right, right,” Shining quickly whispered back, and he cleared his throat. “Whose wisdom shines forth across the seas, we thank fortune and luck that we have been so privileged to be in your presence today.”

Bean was finding it very hard to keep his composure together. A ‘sea’ of suppressed giggles was making a furious push against his tightly closed lips.

“But we have come here today as your humble servants, as two who seek only for the eternal happiness and indescribable joy of our beloved diarch. We wish to offer a present, O beloved Celestia, a simple token of our own undying gratitude for your selfless work in our behalf.”

“If you two brought me a flower I’m going to plant you in the bush you got it from,” Celestia warned.

“No, something even better,” Cadence replied with a massive grin. “We were able to get tickets to the opening night of Hinny of the Hills!”

“You what?!” Celestia shouted gleefully, and she was down to them in one eager bound.

“We may or may not have used our royal position to secure them, but you both will love it! Box seats, a perfect view of the stage, and maybe even a romantic double date dinner to go with it!”

Both Bean and Shining winced, along with all the other male guards in the room, as a squeal of pure delight was unleashed upon the hapless occupants.

“I have been dying to see this!” Celestia made a little ‘squee’ noise while Cadence showed her the tickets. “Thank you! Bean and I will be delighted to come!”

“Good! You do have tomorrow night free, right?”

Celestia glanced over to Wysteria, who nodded. “It’s open, Your Highness. I’ve already scheduled it in for you.”

“Thank you again,” Celestia offered. “This will be fun. Bean! You can wear your new coat, and I know just which dress to wear. This will be such a fun night!”

She then giggled and pranced back up to her assigned seat. The two of them booped noses and laughed, and then Celestia composed herself. “All right. Wysteria, who’s next?”

“A Mister Silver Tongue, Princess.”

“Show him in.”

A blindingly orange pony then strode in, dressed in a tweed jacket that clashed horribly with his coat color and with a mane that was far too slick to be real. Bean was instantly worried about what this mess of a pony could have.

“Good afternoon, Silver Tongue. What do you have for the Court?”

“A business proposition, Your Highness. Something I think you might find to be most interesting.”

He then pulled an old, yellowing newspaper from the pocket of his coat. “Tell me, Prince, does this look familiar?”

Bean’s heart instantly began to hammer wildly, and he swallowed hard. “Yes, it does.”

“Fascinating articles, aren’t they?” Silver went on, with an evil grin spreading over his face. “The Salt Lick Picayune has some top-notch reporters. But, I must say I found this article on page B5 to most revelatory.”

“Bean?” Celestia was looking at her husband in deep worry. “What is all this?”

“Ah, I was wondering if you had told her about this. Princess, I’m afraid your golden knight has a bit of tarnish on his armor. He—”

His mouth kept moving, but a sudden golden shield prevented his words from getting out. It took him a moment to realize this, but then he glared most ferociously at the Princess.

“I don’t want to hear another word from this petitioner for right now,” she said. “Captain Armor, keep him right there until we return.”

“Ma’am!” His salute was crisp and clean, and the shield changed from gold to purple.

Bean was then pretty extra sure he was going to throw up as Celestia turned back to him.

“We need to talk.”

23. - Bad Bean

Bean was having a hard time.

He was having a hard time seeing. His vision had gone unfocused and blurry, and he was pretty extra sure the tears were a contributing factor. There wasn’t much before him now other than outlines, vague shapes and grayscale colors.

He was having a hard time walking. His hooves felt as heavy as lead, his fetlocks shackled, double-bound and burning with a Tartarus spawned fire that he wasn’t sure would ever be quenched.

His hearing was totally shot. He wasn’t sure if anypony was speaking, but it wouldn’t have mattered. All he could hear was a thrumming, pulsing woosh that was steadily increasing in pressure, not volume.

His mouth felt cold; the taste on his tongue raw and metallic. His jaw was locked and his teeth were pressed so hard together that there was a distinct possibility they would start to chip, crack and deform. His throat was as dry as his beloved’s sun, and…

Oh, his beloved! He stumbled, staggered, nearly fell and somehow recovered as the mere thought of his one above all nearly made his heart burst. He didn’t know how to get through this, how to tell her. He didn’t know if he could tell her.

He wished Luna would take pity and simply dump a meteor on top of him. That pain would be less.

He wasn’t even sure of where he was at the moment. Had Celestia teleported him out, or had he walked? Was he still in the palace, or even in Canterlot? Was he in a hallway? Did it even matter?

It was at the peak of his despair that he felt something begin to sweep over him. There was a softness over his heavy back, and a sweetness for his sour nose. He felt surrounded by warmth, lifted by light, touched by kindness and delivered by understanding.

“I love you, Baked Bean.”

That penetrated. Through the haze, through the weight, through the darkness and the sadness, through the unyielding crush of horror, that celestial voice touched his soul and provided the love and the will to conquer this.

“I love you too,” he whispered.

“You’re not alone in this, my Bean. I am here, with you and for you. Forever will I be by your side, and forever will you have my support. Whatever this is, we will conquer it together.”

“You’ll hate me,” he replied, and he licked his teeth and lips in a vain effort to remove the blasted, searing metallic torture from his tongue. “You’re going to throw me out, and I’ll lose the greatest thing that has ever happened or could ever happen to me.”

“I don’t think you’re capable of such a crime,” she replied. “Not from what I’ve seen of you. Your disposition is one of harmony and peace. You will not be weighed in the balance for this, nor will I ever find you wanting.”

Bean fell to his knees, but Celestia fell with him. Nothing was said, but much was shared as Bean buried his face in her silken fur and simply wept.

It was here, in this place and in this time, that Baked Bean began to comprehend what Love really was and what it really meant. This was a moment that would forever define all other moments that came after it.

And this changed Baked Bean. He could sense that he would never fully know or understand the how, but he knew he could never be what he once was.

He had no idea how long it took him to regain enough composure to face her. Once he did, however, he sucked in a sob of delight when he found a magenta pair of eyes penetrating the gray that had seized his vision.

“When you are ready, my dear Bean.”

“I don’t even know how to begin. It’s… I just…”

Her nose softy touched his. “I have found it is best to just spit it out.”

He went with that. “I was fifteen. I had just tried out for and gotten a spot on the long distance track team, and I was eager to get to know the other ponies. I had joined with the hopes of getting some relief from my failures in cooking, but that’s besides the point.

“There was a team meeting the Friday after I joined. I eagerly went, hoping to make a good first impression, and at first everypony was cool. We went over some team news, when training and practice would be, and what was expected. I knew I wouldn’t be a strong competitor, but I did give the team enough bodies to compete so it didn’t matter. And then…”

His head dipped until his nose was nearly on the floor. “Then it happened.” He paused, and sniffed loudly.

“Tell me, please,” Celestia whispered.

“It was a hazing. I was… well. I grew up around alcohol, used it all the time in cooking. I knew full well what it did to a pony, how it reacted. I can tell you how long it would take a pony to get drunk, simply based on how much they had.

“And then, I found myself sitting there, watching in disbelief as the team captain began passing out the liquor he’d stolen from home. It was whiskey mostly, from what I remember. The largest bottle was passed to me, and I was told that in order to finalize my place on the team, I had ten minutes to drink the whole thing.

“It was impossible, and I knew it. There was no way anypony could drink that much that fast. I told them so, refused to take any part of it, and then started to leave.”

His tears began to fall against his will, but he fought through them. “But then Swift Hoof, that idiot, he popped up. While the others jeered at me, he talked me into staying, and he told me they were desperate and couldn’t afford the loss. He reassured me it was just a dumb prank, and that I just needed to drink as much as I could, throw up or get sick and let them laugh at me. He… he told me they’d all done it when they’d joined, and it’s been done for decades. Just a harmless stunt. Nothing could go wrong. They’d respect me for doing it after. He…he…”

Bean shuddered fiercely. “The final nail was when he offered to match me, ounce for ounce. He didn’t mind if they laughed at him too. He was the one who had encouraged me to join the team, so he was willing to help me get through the last part.

“I caved,” he stated, with a note of such disgust that it hung in the air, putrid and festering. “I knew I shouldn’t, and I did. I took that bottle, I took a glass, I poured out a shot, and I downed it.

“Things get muddled and fuzzy at that point. I honestly don’t remember how much I drank, or really what happened. There was lots of laughing and I’m pretty sure I threw up two or three times, but that’s about it. There’s nothing else.

“When I came to, I was in a jail cell. The police had found me behind the trash cans at school, with a couple of empty whiskey bottles nearby, and Swift Hoof…”

Bean couldn’t talk for a moment. The emotion was just too much.

“Alcohol poisoning, they said. He, um...”

“That wasn’t your fault, my love.” Celestia’s wing pulled him in tighter, and peace began to fight back against his depression. “What happened is as plain as the nose on your face.”

“I’ve never been able to believe that,” he whispered. “He took the drinks because of me. If I hadn’t… if I had just…”

“Baked Bean, the what if game is a horrible game to play,” Celestia said, and he felt her gentle touch lift his chin up so his eyes could meet hers. “If your case had come before me, you would have been innocent. You did not force Swift Hoof to join you, his choice was his own. Your choice was a foolish one, but it was one brought about from the pressure of others. How many fifteen year olds have done similar things in an effort to fit in?”

“But I knew better. I should have left, and I didn’t.”

“Perhaps. But are you sure Swift Hoof would have left with you? He might have stayed and this all would have happened anyway.”

“It was my fault.”

“Baked Bean, that may or may not be.” Celestia said in soft but firm tones. “What truly matters is what you have done since then. Has your life been one of deceit and criminal activity, or has it been honest and clean?”

“It’s been clean. I never had a desire to be a criminal and this incident further drove it in.”

“Then you have learned, and you have grown because of it. Blaming yourself for what happened will accomplish nothing. Making things better will.

“Let me tell you a story; one you may have heard before. There was once a princess who neglected and ignored her younger sister for so long that her jealousy turned her into a monster that was bent on destroying the sun and bringing about an eternal night. Sound familiar?”

“A little.” He had to chuckle.

“If you add it all up, I have probably spent centuries pondering what I could have done differently; how what happened to Luna was my fault. I was the one who neglected her, and the argument can be made that I created Nightmare Moon with my callousness.

“But Luna was the one who chose to turn to her anger. Whatever my part in it was, it was ultimately her choice to do what she did. I did not force the Nightmare upon her. She took it on herself. And whatever your part is, Swift Hoof made his choice. Learn from it, and be better because of it.”

There was a pause as Bean closed his eyes and contemplated this. When they opened again Celestia felt a wave of happiness when she saw the same joy reflected in his face.

“How do you do that?” he quietly chuckled.

She booped his nose with hers. “I look at the inside of a pony, and I try to see what they really are. I then simply help them to see it too.”

“Thank you.”

She pulled back a bit and gave him a compassionate smile. “You are welcome. So how does this incident end?”

He drew in a long breath. “Despite the urging of my parents and my attorney, I plead guilty to the charges. I was sentenced to probation and community service, and that newspaper article the tweed menace has is the article about my conviction.

“However, a week later the team came forward and confessed. They had panicked when Swift Hoof had passed out and stopped breathing, and they had taken both of us to the school and made it look like it was just me and him.

“The captain of my team eventually received my sentence, but we all voluntarily agreed to take community service as punishment. My conviction was expunged and erased, and I felt so horrible about the whole thing that I just suppressed it and forced myself to forget it. My parents never brought it up again, and neither did anypony on the team, so we just kinda moved on, I guess. That was pretty much the end of it there.”

Celestia gave him another boop. “How did Swift Hoof’s family handle all of this?”

“Hoo.” He blew out a breath. “Devastated, in a word. But yet, very forgiving; far more than they should have been, in fact.”

“Did they ever blame you for what happened?”

He thought for several moments on that one. “No, no. They never blamed anypony.”

“Then don’t blame yourself either.”

“So you don’t hate me?”

She chuckled a bit. “No, my dear Bean. I don’t hate you. I am still very much in love with you. But here is your chance to come clean; is there anything else you’ve done that a pony could use against you? Are there any other misdeeds or criminal activity that I need to know about?”

“I stole a candy bar from the corner market when I was four. Dad caught me and had me pay it back.”

“Oh, well,” she huffed, and the feathers on her wings ruffled. “I certainly can’t associate with a four-year-old candy thief.”

“I jaywalk on occasion. But only late at night, when I was trying to get home before curfew.”

“You are one bad Bean.” She laughed.

“Rotten to the core.” He laughed with her. It was amazing how relieving and ennobling that laugh was. “No, I’ve never been one to break the law. I haven’t done anything else.”

“Good,” she replied. “I didn’t get the impression that you were that type.”

“So what do we do about Mister Tweedy?”

“It’s clear this is a blackmail attempt,” she replied as they both stood. Her wing stayed over him, though, and Bean found they were in a hallway, but it was noticeably devoid of anypony, even guards. “He probably wants a nice payoff to stay quiet. The problem is that this can happen again; anypony who has a newspaper from that time could eventually reveal this. However, I think there is a way to resolve this once and for all. It may be rather painful for you, though.”

“I’ll do whatever I need to do. Just tell me.”

Princess Celestia strode back into the throne room with her wings locked in the full and upright position and with righteous indignation on her face. She was secretly pleased, however, to find that Cadence, Shining Armor, and Luna were all standing and glaring at Silver Tongue, and Luna was giving him the most wonderfully intimidating stare she’d ever given in her life. He was trying to glare back, but it was fairly obvious he was questioning this choice he’d made. Six guards also stood around him, each with either their spear or their horn at the ready and itching for an excuse to be used. Celestia glanced over all of them quickly before nodding to Shining Armor.

“This is an outrage!” Silver Tongue shouted as soon as the shield came down. “I have never been so insulted! I came here to—”

“Luna?” Celestia cut him off forcefully, but her stern stare remained on him. “Tell me, what was the penalty for blackmail against the Crown, again?”

Luna grew a evil and decidedly demented grin. “Why, as I recall, the penalty was fifty years on the racks, Sister. Or perhaps it was fifty years in the stockades? I always get them mixed up. Perhaps we could do both, but at the same time! That was always fun. Do you still have my iron maiden cabinet? I could substitute that for the stocks, if need be, but it might be a little rusty.”

“You wouldn’t dare,” Silver Tongue shot back. “I’m not doing anything wrong. I’m just looking to ‘educate’ the Princess before the press does.”

“Oh really,” Celestia replied. “And how much would this ‘education’ cost?”

“After having been treated so poorly, I do believe the offer should be withdrawn.”

“A marvelous idea, because here is what is going to happen. You are hereby fined five thousand bits and ordered to serve a month in the dungeons for attempted blackmail against the crown.”

“I’ll go public with this!” Silver threatened while holding the newspaper out. “The ponies of Equestria have a right to know the truth!”

“They do indeed,” Celestia replied. She then began inspecting one of her shoes quite closely as she continued. “The funny thing is, when a new prince comes into power, the press is, naturally, very eager to interview him. So, as we speak, Prince Bean is preparing to sit down with a rather sizeable press pool and to lay out his history before the ponies of Equestria. By this time tomorrow, I anticipate that every newspaper in Equestria will have a nice, full-length article about Prince Bean, and it will be a very detailed history. In fact, I do quite anticipate that his arrest and conviction will be covered.”

This turned a few pairs of curious eyes to her.

“Sister?” Luna managed to ask first.

“Oh yes. But I also am quite sure that his subsequent exoneration will be covered too.”

“What?” Silver Tongue finally cracked.

“You really should be a bit more thorough when you do your homework, Mister Silver. It would help you to avoid any embarrassing decisions. Yes, Prince Bean was eventually found to be innocent of the charges you found in that article. He will confess to what happened anyway, and you will have no story to share. I’m really disappointed that you thought bribery was a good idea, however. Are you really so desperate for money that you have to stoop to this level?”

“I am a very successful used wagon salespony, thank you very much!” he shouted again. “And when my lawyer hears about this, you’re—”

“You know,” considered Celestia thoughtfully, “if you had thought to bring this before a lawyer first, you would have saved yourself a considerable sum. But since you decided not to, let’s leave the lawyers out of it this time. Think of it as an educational experience. Professor Shining Armor, would you take our new pupil to his classroom?”

“Let’s go,” Shining ordered. Silver Tongue continued to protest loudly while he was escorted out, but the spears and horns provided more than enough motivation to keep moving.

Celestia then took a deep, cleansing breath. “Wysteria? Are there any more petitioners?”

“About a dozen at the moment, yes,” the secretary replied, then looked over her shoulder. “Well, three now. I think the rest of them got scared away.”

“Very well. Allow me fifteen minutes to inform Cadence and Luna of the situation, and then we’ll resume.”

“How you holdin’ up, Bean?”

Baked Bean gave a sad smile to Shining Armor as he sat in the chair next to him, graciously took the pink lemonade Shining offered, and then he drew in a long breath. “You still want to speak to the felon, eh?”

“Don’t do that to yourself. You were young, you made a dumb decision. I think you’ve already paid the price for it.”

“I bet you never did anything this dumb.”

“Last day of Basic,” Shining immediately responded. “I was in a class of fifteen cadets. We were looking forward to graduation, and one of the cadets offered to take us all out for a round in celebration. I told him no first off, but he and the others pushed and pushed until finally I joined in.

“Bean, that night we nearly drowned three good cadets, and seven were dismissed from the Guard. I bet I felt about as low as you did when I had to go home and explain to my folks and to Twily what had happened. My sister nearly killed me with that look of disappointment all by itself. That moment changed me, Bean; but one or two more shots and I would have been explaining to my Sarge why there were dead ponies in my platoon. You’re not the only one. Most ponies, in my experience, have made at least one serious blunder in their life. The trick is you realized how stupid it was. There’s plenty of ponies who never wise up to that fact, and just keep repeating the same mistake.”

Bean inhaled deeply. “I guess so. Y’know, it was strange, and yet kinda nice to just lay it all out there. Telling the whole story to Celly and the reporters was… liberating, I guess.”

“I’d say that’s a good sign,” Shining replied. “But now, leave it in the past. Don’t be constantly dragging it back to the present; it won’t do any good. It happened, yes. Acknowledge it if it comes up again, remember what you’ve learned from it and then move on.”

Bean hummed for a moment while he thought about that, and his vision went up to the evening sky. “I guess so. Can’t say I ever tried to destroy Celestia and bring about an eternal night, so Luna still has me beat.”

“Yeah, exactly. But look at where she is now. Her past does not define her present.”

“I never really understood why nopony gave her any attention back then. I know there were a lot of monsters or whatever, but whenever I looked up at the night sky when I was a colt I was amazed at what I saw.

“Then when she returned! I remember going out and looking at the stars that first night after I heard she’d returned. I mean, no offense to my wife, but Luna is the true Princess of the Night. The stars were… I’ve never been able to fully describe it. It was some grand celestial dance, a waltz to a scale I could never hope to fully comprehend.

“So, I guess if she could overcome then so can I. I bet there’s some whoppers that Celly could lay on me from her past, too.”

“And yet she’s still our Princess,” Shining offered.

“As she should be.” Bean’s glass went into the air towards Shining in a toast. “Here’s to being stupid and giving in to peer pressure.”

“Cheers.” Shining nodded his head, clinked his glass against Bean’s, and they both took a long drink of the pink sweetness. “And here’s to never doing it again.”

“Hear, hear.” Bean clinked his glass again, and another long drink was shared. “Tell you what. Let’s move on to a happier subject. It would seem that your wife made my wife very happy with those Bridleway tickets.”

“Aunt Celly loves anything that gets her out of the palace,” Shining replied. “She also loves anything that gets her out among her ponies. She is a social creature, so there will be a fair amount of socializing in your future. But I would recommend you find ways to get her out and about: museums, musicals, art exhibits. You could probably even take her out for Nightmare Night somewhere; she really likes going to the smaller cities and sharing in their local customs.”

“That totally makes sense. I was a little worried myself about being stuck in the palace too.” He looked out over the veranda in thought. “And she’s never seen Hinny of the Hills?

“Scheduling conflicts. She has really, really wanted to though.”

“So I gathered.” Bean chuckled. “And dinner afterward?”

“Cadence left that part up to me. So, what do you think of this…”

“That’ll be perfect, Auntie Celestia,” Cadence gushed. “He’ll be astonished.”

“I hope so. He needs something nice after today. Lulu, are you going to come too?”

“I fear I would be a fifth wheel in your festivities,” she replied.

“Not at all! We would love to have you,” Cadence replied.

“Well, if you insist.” The Lunar Diarch laughed a little at her niece’s enthusiasm. “I have heard good things about the play, and I am mildly curious to see it. If I will not be a burden, then I would like to come.”

“You are never a burden, dear sister.” Celestia gave her sister a quick hug. “It will be most delightful to have you accompany us.”

“Good evening, Wysteria!” Cadence proclaimed as the faithful secretary entered the room. “I thought you had gone home already.”

“I was just about to, but there was one thing I wanted to check on with Princess Celestia.”

“And what is that?” Celestia asked.

“Baked Bean had asked for a dossier to be compiled on… well, himself. There’s a team of ponies heading to Salt Lick right now to investigate his past. I’m told it will take about two to three weeks to have the full report back.”

“Thank you for telling me, Wysteria, I didn’t know he had done that. However, let the team carry on. I believe the Prince is doing this to prove he has nothing else to hide, both from me and from himself. I have full confidence that their report will be very boring indeed.”

“I’m expecting that too.” Wysteria chuckled. “Good night, Your Highnesses.”

The Princesses all bid her good night, and Luna then stood and stretched her wings while Wysteria showed herself out.

“I should attend to my duties as well. Celly, I’ll keep an eye on his dreams tonight. He may relive the incident, and if he starts to I will help him through it.”

“Thank you, Lulu. I wish you an uneventful evening.”

Luna then teleported away, leaving the two Princesses to look out at their husbands on the veranda.

“I wonder what they’re planning,” Celestia remarked.

“Dinner for tomorrow, hopefully. Shining said he would take care of it.”

“Well, since Bean is helping him I would venture to say it will be a most wonderful date. You and I are two very lucky mares.”

“Yes we are. Now we just need to work on Twilight! Are you totally sure your law doesn’t apply to her? I could set her up quite nicely with a special somepony if it did.”

“My dear Cadence,” Celestia replied on a haughty tone, “while it may have worked out for me, a flower patch is no place to find a special somepony.”

“Oh!” Cadence pouted. “But it’s so much funnier doing it your way!”

“No, no, no!” Celestia replied in the midst of both of them laughing. “No noses!”

24. - I Saw The Future

“Bean?” Celestia whispered into Bean’s ear with some trepidation.


“Should I let you sleep longer?”

“Mm, no,” he replied. Celestia gently kissed his nose, and she felt a small measure of relief when he chuckled. “Is it time to raise the sun?”

“Just about, yes. Are you sure you’re okay?” Celestia asked. “You were tossing and turning all night.”

“Really, I am fine. I am a bit tired, perhaps, but I think I can shake that off once I get moving.”

Celestia gave him a critical look. His answer had been given in a more subdued and reserved tone than usual, and he had a contemplative and depressed demeanor across his features. However, Celestia decided to accept his statement at face value, and she said nothing as he trotted along obediently with her to the balcony.

Of course, she could only stay silent for so long. “If I made pancakes, would you like some?”

“I would,” he said, but without his usual eagerness. “But only a couple, I think. I don’t feel very hungry right now.”

“I will make as many or as few as you like,” she replied, and he gave her an attempt at a bigger smile that died out almost as soon as it started.

Bean’s misery clung to Celestia’s heart with a gloom she could not shake off. It was as plain as dawn that he was depressed, but what was the answer to overcoming it? She missed his smiles, the little twitches he did at the tips of his ears when he was holding back a laugh, and most of all, his constant attempts to cook his way into her heart.

“You seem sad today, my love,” she offered.

“I do?” Bean did not turn to her as she wanted, but looked out toward the eastern hills. “I never could hide my emotions from you. I am a little depressed, I guess. I think I just need a little bit of time is all.”

“This is about yesterday, isn’t it?” she asked, and he nodded once.

“You should have known before. You should have heard that part of my past from me first, not Silver Tongue.”

“Is that why you asked Wysteria to do a background check?”

“I want to make sure,” he replied. “No more surprises.”

“I hope you can surprise me a little sometimes,” she offered with a half grin.

That got a small smirk out of him. “Okay, I walked into that one. I always want to be honest with you. This way, there will be no doubt.”

“I see. You didn’t hurt me yesterday, you know. I never asked for a detailed history of your past, so you didn’t deliberately deceive me. I don’t imagine you go around introducing yourself to others with ‘Guess what? I’m a former felon!’”

“That’s an interesting way to break the ice,” he chuckled, and there was a note of mirth in it. “But you’re right. I just… I just feel bad that you found out about my dubious history from a slick tweed jacket, not me.”

“Well, it is past us now,” she replied, and her horn lighted. “And just like how my sunrise comes from the sunset of yesterday, we both get a new day from the previous, one that will be much more enjoyable and filled with each other.”

“And I love that I have that,” he replied with a slightly larger smile. “With you, I’ll be able to get through anything.”

Breakfast was a quiet affair for Bean that morning. Celestia was kind enough to make pancakes for Shining and Cadence as well as for Bean, but his mood was still recovering so he ate little and said less. Their time together was still pleasant, however, and Cadence and Shining were somehow able to read his emotion and give him some personal space, and he appreciated that they didn’t try to push happiness on him. It would return, as it always did, and with Celestia offering her love to him he just needed to soak it in for a bit and then he’d be back to his old self.

After breakfast, Shining and Cadence excused themselves to allow some personal time for Celestia and Bean, and for perhaps some more selfish reasons as well when Bean thought about it. With most of the day now to themselves, Celestia did ask Bean if there was anything he would like to do.

“I don’t know,” he replied in thoughtful tone. “What do you suggest?”

She gave him a warm smile. “Tell me, how is your book coming? Perhaps we can work on that.”

“My book?” he asked. “Really? You want to work on that?”

“I do,” she replied. “What did you have planned for the second chapter?”

“Well, I… uh, I honestly don’t know. That’s where I really need the help, I guess. I come up with a few good scenes, but I can’t connect them together.”

“I see,” she replied with a tilt of her head and a smile. “I do believe I can help you make those connections.”

“You think so?” he asked, with a step in towards her. “And how would you help?”

“I have heard that I have inspired many poems and works of art,” she replied in a deeply seductive tone. Her mane flowed over his own and down his left side, leaving him with a most pleasing technicolor view. “So, by my astounding powers of inference, it stands to reason that I can inspire you as well.”

“I like this line of thought,” he replied softly, but with his eagerness returning in each syllable. “Go on.”

“Of course, proper inspiration takes time.” She brushed up against his neck, moving closer.

“We’ve got time.” He leaned back and began to lift his head. “All the time you want.”

“And then, with you thusly inspired by your beautiful wife—” her lips snuck in closer to his “—you will then write prose that will shake the heavens…”

“Um, Your Highnesses?”

“I’ll turn her into a potted plant,” Celestia threatened in a low and guttural whisper. “Just watch me. She’ll be a nice ficus that we can put on our balcony so she gets plenty of sunlight.”

“I’m sorry to interrupt, ma’am, but Captain Armor needs to speak with Prince Bean immediately,” Sergeant Clover Leaf offered. “There’s been some sort of complication with the reservations.”

“Naturally,” Celestia replied with only a hint of annoyance, and then she let out a sigh so heavy the sun was in danger of being pulled off course. “You better go see what’s going on.”

Bean nodded sadly and followed the good sergeant out of the room, but Celestia watched him—or more specifically, his backside, and that tail!—as he left, and she bit her lower lip.

“Soon, my love. Soon.”

“So everything has been taken care of?” Celestia asked while they walked.

“For now. Let’s try to kiss again; that’ll tell us for sure.”

She giggled at this, and dipped her head down towards him. “Can you kiss and walk at the same time?”

“Probably not,” he replied with a snort of humor. “It would be a shame if I got hurt and we had to cancel tonight. I’m really looking forward to it.”

“You are?” she asked in amusement, and he nodded.

“I’ve said it before: there are stallions who would do almost anything to date you. I am one of them. The more time I spend with you, the happier I am.”

“I can tell.” Celestia draped a wing over him and held her love against her side, relishing the warmth and little embarrassed wriggles he made. “I’m glad I can help you feel better.”

“Me too. Hopefully I can return the favor sometime.”

“There is no doubt in my mind that you will,” she said, with a quick nip of his ear. “And when that time comes, I will be most grateful that it is you who will help me.”

He nipped at her neck with that, and she giggled like a schoolfilly but made no effort to stop him. The two of them continued to share laughs and nips until they reached their drawing room, but Celestia got the final blow in as she bit him on the flank a little harder than she wanted as he entered.

Bean hopped forward and let out a rather undignified squeak of alarm, leaving him blushing furiously again from Celestia’s sneaky assault and his own undignified response. Thankfully, Bean did receive a quick boop as payment for enduring her enjoyable teasing, and the two of them shared a delighted smile.

“So, let’s work on that pesky chapter of yours.” Celestia settled into the cushions, tucked her Love in under her wing, and shuffled his papers in her magic. “I’m afraid I don’t recall where you left off at, so I’ll… I’ll need to…”

One of the most delighted hums in the history of Equestria escaped out of Celestia as Bean began gently stroking her feathers with his nose. Purring immediately followed, and Bean laughed a little as he worked.

“I heard once that one way to beat a mild bout of depression is to go out and do something nice for somepony else. Seems like whoever said that was on to something.” One lone feather popped out of her wing as he rubbed, and he looked it over for a moment before voicing another thought.

“Would you mind if I help preen your wings, my love?”

“I don’t mind one little itty bit,” she sighed in a dreamy bliss. “Preen away.”

“Quick technical question then: how?”

Bean loved hearing Celestia’s small laugh that came before her answer. “Since I don’t fly all that often there shouldn’t be any broken ones. If you do find one just give it a quick tug and it will come right out. It won’t hurt me either, so don’t worry about that. Otherwise, just keep doing what you’re doing.”


Bean worked softly and methodically on her wing, going over each inch and then over the same inch again just to be sure. It was a relaxing affair for both of them: Celestia was obviously in a state of serene peace and quiet enjoyment and Bean found the gentle touch he was using felt oddly like he was bringing himself into a balanced harmony. Once the underside was done, Celestia gently lifted her wing to let him out, but then again relaxed into a blissful bundle of completely relaxed princess as he worked and smoothed the upper feathers.

Bean then went top to bottom on her left wing, and there were several times he wondered if he had put his wife to sleep. The steady pulse of her purr was both tranquil and uplifting, so by the time he was finished his depression had been completely banished. It was a zen unlike anything he’d ever felt before, but it was also one he wanted to keep forever.

Bean then smiled brightly as he moved around to Celestia’s front. She blinked her eyes rapidly for a second to reestablish her connection with reality, then mirrored his smile back to him.

The simple “thank you” she offered held a far deeper and more intimate impact on him than the words had any right to usually have.

“Y’know, I like this view,” he replied, and Celestia giggled a bit as he grabbed his notebook and pencil. “Let’s see. ‘The Princess was lying on her stomach in a relaxed and calm manner. Her wings were fully extended and resting on the cushions around her, and her legs were tucked in and folded to help her demure look.’”

“Demure?” she asked.

“In the modest and reserved sense. Not a good choice?”

“Take a close look at me and then tell me I’m being demure.”

His heart took a skipping leap, and his breath hitched slightly. He eagerly drank in the smooth and seductive lines of her form, the gentle and yet powerful aura of her grace, and the pure appeal of her elegance.

“Maybe not demure,” he relented. “Coy would be better.”

She purred a little louder and treated him with an alluring tilt of her head. “Coy?”

His head slowly came down towards the magnificence before him. “Coy. But since my vocabulary is lacking, what would you recommend?”

“Kittenish,” she offered, with a tone in her voice that would make a siren jealous of her abilities. “Coquettish in a way. Flirtatious even.”

“That last one I know,” he replied in a soft voice that was heavy with anticipation. “Who would have thought that Princess Celestia could be so flirtatious?”

He drew closer, two pairs of lips began to pucker yet again, but then they both hesitated.

“Three…” Celestia offered.

“Two…” Bean added.

“One…” they said in unison.

Both of them pointed to the door, and on cue, a staccato burst of knocks happened before Wysteria marched through it, her nose in her paperwork.

“I’m not quite sure why the universe is so against us kissing,” Celestia remarked with a huff, and she pulled her wings back in.

“If I figure it out, I’ll let you know.” Bean offered a hoof, and Celestia gladly took it before she stood. “Maybe it will be so epic that every other kiss will be put to shame.”

“I would love to see if that is true,” she replied with a light giggle.

“Your Highnesses,” Wysteria offered with tart terseness. “If I may interject for a few minutes, I need you both to accompany me to the throne room so I can go over the security details of this evening with both of you, Shining, Cadence, and the assigned guards.”

“Is everything alright, Wysteria?” Celestia asked.

“Great! Fine! Never better! Just fine!” she snapped back. “Please follow me.”

Celestia glanced down at Bean as Wysteria turned and began leaving. His look of confusion matched how she felt, and they both shrugged at each other before falling in line behind her.

“…Clover Leaf and Hokey Pokey will maintain their positions here. Once the meal is complete you will be escorted to the secured area of Saddle Park for a standard meet-and-greet, which will end promptly at eight fifteen. You will all then be escorted to the theater where your evening will conclude in what will be, without a doubt, a most lovely and entertaining time.”

That had to be one of the most straightforward and clipped security summaries Celestia had ever heard. One eyebrow was firmly in the ‘up’ category as she regarded her secretary, who was shuffling her papers in her magic and giving a wilting glare to one Corporal Quillpoint, who was posted at the door.

“Provided the Prince doesn’t avoid you the next day,” she muttered with a growl. Her papers tapped on her clipboard, but her eyes remained on the guard, and there was the threat that he would be frozen into a large guardcicle.

The hapless Quillpoint’s ears splayed back with the icy not-looking from the secretary, and despite his efforts to maintain his composure, his face showed a great deal of guilt and remorse. His jaw kept tightening and relaxing, as if he was trying to offer a rebuttal to Wysteria’s remarks but was unable to do so by virtue of his current guard status. While it was clear to most of the ponies in the room that Wysteria’s clipped comments were intended to refer to herself and to him, nopony dared to interject and risk the ire of the mare who had been scorned.

Nopony except one.

“I believe we will skip the why on that one and go straight to how Prince Bean would manage such a feat,” Celestia stated.

“Oh, no. He wouldn’t,” Wysteria replied, seeming to shake herself out the brief slump. “My apologies. This will, undoubtedly, be a wonderful night for you both. Romantic. Magical. Magnetic. It will be fine.” She trailed off, and the papers began to shuffle again.

Celestia could not help but notice the confused glance that Bean and Shining exchanged. She had a sneaking suspicion about what was going on, but it would be best if Wysteria and Quillpoint could work it out for themselves without any Royal nudging. After all, Wysteria had never been this sour or snippy in her years of service, and Quill was a sensible stallion or he would never have become a guard. All she needed to do was wait…

Corporal Quillpoint, after just a brief moment, cleared his throat. “Captain Armor, sir?”

“Yes, Corporal?”

“Permission to speak freely, sir?”

“Granted,” Shining said with a great deal of interest. “What is it?”

“Well, I just wanted to say that Prince Bean and Princess Celestia will enjoy their time together, I’m sure. I mean, everything had been planned out so well that I’m sure it couldn’t be anything but. I bet they will have deep, meaningful conversations and will make a great connection with each other.”

“If that’s true, why would he ignore her afterward?” Wysteria shot back before anypony else could reply. “Why would he be so aloof?”

AlI doubt was removed at that point as to what was really going on, even for Bean. Shining inhaled deeply and prepared himself to take over as Captain.

Thankfully, Cadence stepped in. One petite pink hoof flashed faster than the eye could see until it was resting delicately across Shining Armor’s lips before he could utter the first word. True to his training as a husband and a guard, Shining gave each alicorn a sideways glance, took in the slow head shaking they were both doing, and stayed shut up.

“Maybe… maybe he,” the Corporal glanced down at his hooves in embarrassment “Prince Bean, that is, maybe he would have such a great time that he would think about getting her flowers the next day, and then deliver them by hoof to her office.”

“You were going to get me flowers?” Wysteria asked, all pretenses at third pony references being dropped immediately with her melting heart.

“They need to talk this out,” Bean whispered to Celestia. “Why don’t we step out of the room for a moment?”

“Not on your life.”

Bean glanced up to her just as she glanced down to him, and a small smirk appeared on his face.

“What?” she asked. “This concerns us and our plans for tonight.”

“Well, yeah,” Quillpoint went on, oblivious to the Royal whispering. “But… but then the Prince talked to some of his buddies at the barracks, and they said that would look really… well, really desperate? Needy?”

Bean was completely sure he heard the mares nearest to him gasp at the audacity of the advice. He was also mostly sure that the female guards in the room had gasped as well.

The poor Corporal looked like he’d rather sit on a halberd at that point, but he gave Prince Bean and Prince Armor a desperate look. “I mean, it does, doesn’t it?”

Bean stood a bit taller, and his eyes widened in surprise. It was clear he realized he was on extremely thin ice. He didn’t want to leave a brother hanging, but he wasn’t sure what the appropriate answer should be. Maybe if he faked a heart attack, or a sudden onset of laryngitis…

“Uh… maybe?” he replied half-heartedly and with trepidation. “A little? I mean, maybe you should have brought them to the second date, but not deliver them?”

“Not quite the best answer,” Celestia whispered kindly in his ear. “Corporal Quillpoint, there is nothing desperate about giving a nice mare flowers. It shows us that you enjoyed the time together, and none of us would see it as needy. I’m sure Wysteria—I mean, ‘the Princess’—would greatly appreciate such a kind gesture and would also see it as a sign that ‘Prince Bean’ wanted to meet with her again.”

“Really?” Quillpoint asked. “You? You really would? That wouldn’t be too forward?”

“No!” Wysteria replied with a tear and a smile. She quickly trotted over to the astonished guard and threw one arm around his armored neck. “Not at all! I thought we had something good going, and the flowers would have sealed the deal! I love flowers!”

“Corporal, why don’t you take twenty minutes and go discuss this in private, eh?” Captain Armor said with a smirk. “I think we can survive without you for that long.”

“Yes sir! Thank you sir!” Quillpoint immediately offered, and he laughed a little with Wysteria as they made their way out into the hallway.

There was a bit of laughter from the Princesses with this turn of events, but Bean leaned over to Shining with an urgent question. “So, we’re going to need to get Celly and Cady flowers, aren’t we?”

Shining smiled and put a hoof on Bean’s withers. “No. Bean, my friend, we are blessed with the opportunity to get them flowers.”

Bean nodded slowly as he thought for a moment. “Two dozen, do you think?”

“Bean, you can never have too many flowers. They are a delight for the eyes, a sweet scent for the nose, and a treat for the tongue, and we are talking about princesses here. We need three dozen per wife at a minimum.”

“That was strange,” Bean remarked, as he and his wife walked back into the drawing room.

“Perhaps,” Celestia said with a nod. “But in my experience, love defies normality. It has a way of overwhelming and consuming normal, and then it leaves normal laying in a ditch somewhere wondering what hit it. With Cadence giving them some guidance⁽*⁾ I think Quillpoint and Wysteria will have a very happy relationship.”

⁽*⁾To be honest, keeping Cadence from giving romantic assistance to the castle staff was a constant issue, particularly among the rapidly vanishing species of bachelors.

“I think so too. So, since we’re on the subject and it seems like something that I really should know, what are your favorite flowers?”

“Oh, I don’t know that I have a favorite,” she tittered. “I like all different types. Though, if I had to admit it, I think sunflowers are making a bold move up my list.”

“Oh really?” he laughed, as he sat but she remained standing. “I guess I could see why. Though I have heard some ponies call it a weed.”

“If it isn’t cultivated and properly cared for, perhaps. But if treated kindly, given good soil and lots of sunshine a sunflower can be a very remarkable flower indeed. It just needs a little help, that’s all.”

“Good thing there are excellent gardeners around here,” he replied, and she moved in a bit closer and started to dip her head towards him again. “Some sunflowers might need a bit more attention than others.”

“Ah, but those often turn out to be the most wonderful sunflowers of all. Potential is not defined by how much help one needs.”

“I’m very glad it’s not,” he replied as she inched ever closer. His world was quickly becoming awash in Celestial pastels again and he loved it. “And I’m also very glad that the gardener is such a beautiful one, and that she is kind, and patient—”

His lips again began to move to hers, and his heart hammered wildly in anticipation.

“—and forgiving, and willing to stay with the sunflower through anything…”

“Knock knock!” Shining’s voice came through the door, as he did what he said. Celestia let out a very strong nicker of annoyance while she retreated back, and there was a chance her glare would burn through the door and pierce the interruptor on the other side, nephew or not.

“GAAH!” That was it! Baked Bean reared up, took Celestia’s cheeks in his hooves, pulled her in quickly and planted his lips dead square on hers.

There was a brief moment of shock for the Princess, but that almost instantaneously disappeared as the whole of existence blissfully slid into perfect insignificance. She embraced him, he embraced her, and there wasn’t a thing that could have mattered more at that moment to either of them.

There was no language that could adequately describe what they felt right then, no combination of letters or words or phrases that could give the full impact of their state of being. Time became a distant irrelevance; space nothing more than a fleeting inconvenience. There was a vain attempt by rationality to put a tidy description to the event: euphoria, bliss, contentment, completeness, rapture, exultance, joyfulness, fullness and pure love.

They were all miserable failures. The scope of the moment between the Bean and the Princess was beyond transcendence itself.

When they did finally submit to reality’s rules again, Celestia and her Bean found themselves in the arms of one another, and her wings were wrapped securely and warmly around him. They both giggled, laughed, and then several quick pecks were shared between them as they celebrated this momentous occurrence. It was Celestia who, after a few moments of this, offered her one word summary of what had happened.


Celestia could hardly keep her fillyish laughter in. They’d kissed! They’d kissed! And it was Bean, that delightful stallion, who had made the move!

He was a far better kisser than he let on. Celestia had done well indeed.

Sadly, kisses did not fill the belly, and Celestia had postulated to Bean that Shining had been trying to ask them what they wanted for lunch. It had nearly taken a crowbar to separate the two of them from each other’s lips, but hunger had won out—as it always did—and Celestia had told Bean to work on his book while she went and procured food for them.

However, Celestia heard another giggling noise from somewhere down the hallway, and curiosity set her in motion towards it.

It didn’t take long to find the source. In a small alcove near Luna’s room she found two ponies, two whom she had hoped could reconcile their differences, and she almost burst with happiness when she saw what they were doing.

Corporal Quillpoint was standing close to Wysteria with a easygoing smile, and she was running her hooves up and down his breastplate while gazing into his eyes. Somehow his helmet had ended up on her head, thus breaking the look-alike enchantment and allowing Celestia to see his natural coloring. He had his own set of charms, she supposed, and she could understand why Wysteria was interested in him, but he didn’t come anywhere near the good looks of her Bean.

With a smirk, Celestia cleared her throat loudly and then gave the two of them a playfully stern look as both of them went flush with embarrassment.

“Well!” Wysteria quickly tried to work her way out of the situation, and she began rubbing her fetlock on his armor. “I’ll let this little violation in your uniform slide this time, but I expect you to be perfect the next time I see you. You’re a Royal Guard, so you should always look the part.”

“Yes, ma’am. A thousand apologies, ma’am. Won’t happen again.”

“Very well,” Wysteria sternly said, and she took a step back and Celestia giggled furiously behind a hoof. “You’re dismissed. Carry on.”

“’I’m afraid I can’t do that, ma’am.”

“What? Why?” she asked him quickly under her breath.

“I need my helmet back.”


Celestia nearly fell over laughing as Wysteria quickly removed and returned Quillpoint’s helmet. Once the enchantment had settled in again he saluted to Celestia, gave a wink and a nod to Wysteria, and then left with a slight spring in his step.

“Well!” Wysteria quickly made sure her collar was straight as her horn lit and retrieved her clipboard. “Let me see. I have your itinerary here, and everything looks acceptable, except I haven’t heard back from the courier on—”

She dared to glance up at the princess, who was giving her a smug smile. “—on the final…uh, final reservations, and… and please don’t fire me.”

“I wouldn’t dare. I can’t find my own tail without you,” Celestia replied in a soft and understanding voice.

“I didn’t mean for that to happen. We were just discussing what Princess Cadence had told us, and then one thing kinda led to the other, and…”

“Is he a good kisser?”

Wysteria found her hooves to be immensely interesting all of a sudden. “Yes?” she squeaked out.

“I am sure you will continue to perform your duties admirably, Wysteria. You are dedicated and loyal, and I will again state that you are the finest secretary I’ve ever had.”

Celestia held up a hoof. “But if you would like to talk about things that are of a more personal nature, I am here for you as well. You are my friend, after all, and as your friend I want to help you if I can.”

Wysteria looked back up at the princess with a sheepish grin. “Do you have any good recommendations for a second date?”

“Walk with me.” Celestia laughed with Wysteria. “I just so happen to know of two or three.”

Author's Notes:

...and it was glorious. :twilightsmile:

25. - Date Night

“Celly, are you just about ready? Wysteria just knocked on the door and gave me a look that either meant ‘you’re running late’ or ‘I’m feeling bloated.’”

“I certainly hope it’s the former,” Celestia said with a giggle. “I’m almost done.”

Bean was eager to see her dress. She had been teasingly vague about what she had selected, with no information other than it was one from a previous Grand Galloping Gala and that he would like it; but since it was Celestia he was pretty extra sure she’d be stunning.

Though he hoped it wasn’t brown. He had yet to see a brown dress pulled off properly.

“So, how many dresses do you have?” he asked, mostly to make conversation while he waited. He was admiring the way the light reflected off his Celestial Crystal as the reply came.

“Believe it or not, I actually only have about a dozen or so. Every now and then I round them all up and sell them at a charity auction for the low-income families in Canterlot. They use the money to help with housing and meals and educational needs.”

“That is pretty cool,” he replied while trying to imagine how many wealthy socialites would actually fit in one of Celestia’s dresses. Maybe they put them on display, or had them drastically taken in.

“All right. I’m coming out. Don’t laugh.”

“Why in Equestria would… I….”

If there was even a miniscule part of him that maybe might have made him laugh at her dress, it was quite thoroughly decimated when Baked Bean beheld his wife.

And again, to say he was both speechless and blown away was an understatement to a degree similar to saying the sun was a little warm.

It was a sky-blue dress that fit snugly around her barrel but then flared slightly where it went over her haunches and flank in pleated folds. Across her chest was snug as well, but the look was actually accented quite nicely by a golden pendant and chain that hung loosely over her shoulders. The fabric was a material Bean was unfamiliar with, but it was no doubt costly because it had both a slight shimmer and small sparkle effect, making the whole thing gently beckon to him as she crossed the room.

“Well? Do you like it?” she asked.

“Duh… wuh… buh…”

She gave him a quick and gentle kiss. “I’ll take that as a yes.”

“I am so out of my league with you,” he finally remarked. “Really.”

“I wouldn’t say that,” she replied. “You have a great deal of charm yourself.”

“Yeah? Where?”

Celestia smiled and kissed his cheek. “Here. And here,” after she kissed the other one. “Don’t sell yourself short, love. Your charm is very subtle. If I blink, I could miss it. But when one takes the time, one finds a very pleasing yellow pony before her.”

Bean could feel his cheeks heat up to a rosy glow with her compliments, but he could not complain. He was fairly sure his heart was about to burst with joy. He twiddled one hoof on the floor for a bashful moment but then offered a hoof to her. “Shall we, my princess?”

“Lead on, my prince,” she giggled, and she took him up on his offer.

They strode out of the bedroom side-by-side, hoof-in-hoof and found Wysteria impatiently waiting for them with a forced smile and and a furious tapping on her clipboard.

“You both look nice, but we’re behind schedule,” she admonished. “The others are waiting at the chariots for you. We need to hurry, unless you want to teleport there.”

“You look nice too,” Bean offered.

Wysteria scoffed quite loudly. “No I don’t, but thank you.”

“No, he’s right,” Celestia added. “Black is a good color on you.”

“This is a ten bit swath of fabric I found on the clearance rack at a thrift store. It’s as basic as you can get.”

“Sometimes the basic designs are the most flattering.”

Wysteria remained unconvinced, and her face showed it. “Well, whether or not that it true, we need to move. I’ll debate it with you later.”

“I suppose that our opinion isn’t what really matters, after all. Somepony else will be the one who makes the argument stick with our dear secretary.”

“Ah, you are quite right my love,” Bean cheerfully replied. “I wonder if he’s on duty tonight.”

Bean saw Wysteria’s rock-solid stoicism falter for half a second, and her eyes flitted to her trusty and faithful work tool. She obviously wanted to look. The only question was if her will would hold out until after the Royal Couple was out of sight, or if her resistance would crumble like cake.

“Go ahead and look,” encouraged Celestia with another giggle, providing an irresistible push.

Wysteria was flipping the pages with the first syllable out of her boss’ mouth.

“He is assigned to you, isn’t he?”

“You did this, didn’t you?” Wysteria gave her employer a playful glare. “There’s no way this just happened. Prince Shining could have expedited everything for you, too. This is all too easy, too convenient.” She chewed on her bottom lip for a moment, and her gaze went to the ground. “Should I have my mane up or down?”

“Let it down,” Celestia replied. “You always have it up. Down shows you are relaxed, comfortable, and willing to put work aside for a time.”

“Can you put yours up?” Bean asked while batting a curling bit of celestial mane with one hoof.

“Wavy buns look very silly and the last time I did it all of the guards laughed.”

Bean snickered at the thought of that as Wysteria quickly pulled out the pins that held her hair up, and then began fussing with it to try and make it presentable.

“Oh, go behind the ears,” Celestia offered. “Let him see your face and eyes.”

“Really?” Wysteria giggled happily. She did so, and both Bean and Celestia nodded in approval.

“That is a good look.” Bean offered. “Classy, but casual too.”

“Thanks. Now move or we won’t get to see him!”

Wysteria practically began shoving them down the hallway, and the two complied by moving up to a brisk trot with some laughter mixed in. Thankfully, the secretary’s nerves were saved from further fraying by their rapid arrival at the chariots, and the remaining Royals were simply chatting amongst themselves while they waited.

Bean had to compare his own dashing look to Shining Armor, which only made him more uncomfortable. Shining was wearing a fine red coat that was trimmed in gold, white pearls and cufflinks, and a royal blue sash; but since Shining was broader and had more muscle than Bean he filled the role of Prince better. That depressing feeling of being an imposter crept back in as he glanced down at his own blue sleeve, and he wondered if he should try adding some bulk to his own frame.

Cadence was… well, pink. Bean would never say it aloud, but her dress was too loose and frilly to be flattering and it was the same pink as her coat, so it came across as an oversaturation to him. But, not his wife, not his problem. If Shining liked it, then no other opinion mattered.

Bean did like Luna’s selection for the evening. He had expected her to go with something in navy blue or black, but she had instead chosen a deep burgundy color, and it highlighted her natural blues quite nicely. The train had more of a straight and simple cut than Celestia’s, but the silver highlights along the hem that matched her choice of a silver necklace made for a very elegant design. She had also applied some silver eyeshadow to complete the look, and Bean thought she looked quite nice indeed.

Celly looked better, though. By a wide margin, actually.

“About time you two showed up!” Shining joked. “We were getting ready to leave without you!”

“I’d like to see you squeeze into this faster!” Celestia replied with a laugh. “I could be ready in five minutes too if all I had to do is button a coat up.”

“I’m not even going to go there.” Shining chuckled.

“You were riding with us, right Lulu?”

“Indeed.” Luna nodded. “Someone needs to keep you two in line.”

“Schedule!” Wysteria admonished.

* * * *

Baked Bean determined he liked flying.

Granted, he probably knew this before now, but he had just made it officially official in his own mind. Flying was definitely better when he had Celestia next to him, with a warm wing wrapped around him and looking resplendent in a dress that felt silky and smooth.

Admittedly, it was a damper to have his sister-in-law on the other side of him, making annoyed noises when he and his wife stole kisses from each other, but it was still tolerable.

However, the kissing would soon have to stop. Manehattan was looming large in the distance, and Baked Bean sat up a bit in anticipation and excitement as they closed in.

“Have you been to Manehattan, Bean?” Luna asked.

“Not recently. I’ve been here twice: once when I was just a foal, so I don’t remember that; and then once when I came with my parents for a chef’s convention when I was seventeen or so. I remember being blown away at the sheer number of ponies crammed into one place and the insane height of the skyscrapers. I hadn’t ever realized how small Salt Lick really was until then.”

“Just remember to remain calm, and to not act overwhelmed. You are a Prince, and you need to portray yourself as such. The ponies of Equestria will look to you as a bedrock foundation. You must always be so for them, for they will gain the confidence they need to succeed in their own lives from seeing your own exemplary example.”

“You do remember I was one of them naught but two weeks ago?”

“And did you not gain strength from Celestia’s unwavering devotion and steadfast example?”

“Honestly, we local yokels hardly ever talked about you two or Canterlot. The only time you got mentioned was when taxes went up and my friends and family would say to each other ‘somepony really ought to say something’ and then do nothing. Salt Lick was far enough out and peaceful enough that both of you never really bothered with us, and so we never really bothered with you.”

“Well!” Luna huffed in great indignity.

“He’s got a point, you know,” Celestia replied. “Smaller towns really don’t get a lot of our attention. We always seem to focus on the large population centers. We wouldn’t have anything to do with Ponyville if the Elements and Twilight were not there.”

Luna couldn’t come up with a proper argument, so she simply pouted, slumped her shoulders, and began muttering about ‘disrespectful peasants’ under her breath.

“We should be landing in just a minute, Your Highnesses!” Sergeant Clover Leaf shouted back.

“So where are we going to dine?” Celestia asked, with a quick nose boop for her beloved. “You can tell me now.”

“I’m a bit surprised you didn’t see it on the itinerary. Shining and Cadence had heard good things about a place called Le Petite Café, so we decided to try that out. Despite the name, it’s a gourmet restaurant, so it should be decent enough.”

“You don’t sound very thrilled.”

“Well, maybe. I think it’s more because it’s a competitor, even though they’ve never had anything to do with the Zuerst, nor us with them. Family loyalty says that any other restaurant is only second rate.”

“Well, I suppose we shall soon find out.”

“Your most Royal Highnesses, welcome to Le Petite Café. I am Twice Baked, and on the behalf of the entire staff, it is my highest honor to have you here this evening.”

“Thank you, Mister Baked!” Cadence replied for the entourage. “You are most kind.”

“Please, follow me. We have reserved a private table for your pleasure, and we are honored to be your waiter for this evening as well.”

Bean had to suppress a twinge of self-consciousness at the waiter’s use of we. Obviously, he had never met Bean’s mother, and her rather strict rules on dealing politely with customers. Far worse was the way that everypony had quickly stood and bowed when the Royal Party had entered the restaurant, making Bean resist the urge to look behind him for somepony else who was really important. Once they had all been seated, their fellow patrons resumed their meals, and Bean felt a little better when it seemed like nopony was looking their way anymore.

Twice Baked smiled broadly. “Now, if we may be so bold, we have crafted a culinary chef-d’œuvre for your pleasure, if you would be interested.”

“Oh?” Celestia replied this time. “Please, continue.”

“For the appetizer, Chef Wafer has chickpeas, lightly roasted and seasoned with a signature pepper sauce of her own creation. The main course is a bulgogi tofu, finely dressed in a spicy sesame sauce and highlighted with onions and mushrooms we have grown in-house. For a wine, we personally recommend the Fers à Cheval Rouillés Parfumés à la Peau de Pomme de Terrete, which I think you’ll find compliments the dish quite admirably.”

“Oh, that does sound good,” Cadence remarked.

“How would the taste be affected if one opted to simply have mineral water for the evening?” Luna asked.

“Water?” Twice Baked repeated. “Well, Princess, it would not be affected dramatically, but the sweetness of—”

“I shall sample your recommendations, but with water,” Luna announced without leaving the matter open for discussion.

“I believe I’ll follow Princess Luna’s lead and have water as well.” Bean added.

The other three agreed water was the best choice, leaving Twice Baked a bit confused but still eager to please. Once he had disappeared into the kitchen, Bean leaned over towards Luna with a smile.

“Thanks. I wasn’t sure how to handle that.”

She smiled back at him and nodded. “You are welcome. I suspected you would have an issue with any wine selection offered, so I resolved to be of assistance.”

“Wait.” Bean leaned back and gave her an amused and questioning look. “You’re being nice to me.”

“You are fulfilling your end of our bargain so I intend to honor mine. I am a mare of my word, after all.”

“That you are,” he chuckled, but then he faced the others. “You all didn’t need to turn it down because of me, you know. I don’t mind.”

“I’ve never really been one for wine,” Cadence replied with a grin.

“I’m trying to cut back,” Shining added with a bob of his eyebrows. “Gotta stay in shape, be an example to my soldiers.”

“I utterly refuse to have another drop,” Celestia simply announced.

“You hardly had any drops before.” Luna pointed out.

“If my Bean doesn’t drink it, then I won’t.”

Baked Bean tried to keep his smile, but the way that Celestia made her proclamation pulled the corners of his lips down despite his best efforts. “Celly, really. I don’t want you to give up something you like just because of me.”

“I’m not. I am taking stand with my husband of my own free will. Just don’t take away my apple cider.”

“No problem there,” Bean replied. “My parents have a fantastic old family recipe for sparkling cider. I can whip some up this fall.”

This news was met with interest and enthusiasm, and Bean promised to make some for all of them when the time was right. The conversation then turned to what went well with apple cider and if it was better hot or chilled until the chickpeas arrived.

Bean then simply sat back and began listening again as the conversation turned to the budget that Celestia had been given. Luna offered the most input on the various proposals, but Shining and Cadence were both quick to point out how things might affect the Empire and what they would like to have done or not done. Bean actually found the back-and-forth to be stimulating and amusing, and he was glad it was undergoing such a vigorous discussion.

Then the main course arrived, and Baked Bean finally figured out what the difference between upscale and gourmet was.

Upscale, it appeared, was less fancy but more filling. One would obviously use the finest ingredients at the peak of freshness, but at the end of the meal you left feeling satisfied.

Gourmet was a fancier meal, and the fancier the meal, the less actual food, until Bean could imagine an empty plate being served as the pinnacle of high dining. Of course, some chef would have to top that with a plate that somehow had a negative amount of food on it, which might actually be a unicorn spell, now that he was thinking of it. That certainly would be better than what he had just been served.

“Voila!” Twice Baked grandly proclaimed. “We are sure you will be delighted by this most exquisite dish. We shall return right away with more water.”

The other Royals eagerly began eating, but Bean poked his with his fork and tried to figure out how he could sniff it without causing a scene, or accidentally inhaling the entire thing.

“Is there something wrong with your meal, my love?” Celestia gently asked.

“Oh, no. I was just expecting something more than a can of cat food on a decorative plate. The sprig of parsley is a nice touch though.”

“This actually appears to be a rather generous helping,” Luna remarked.

“Right.” Bean groaned. “Well, it does look good. How does it taste?”

“It is acceptable.” Luna shrugged.

Bean took a small bite. It wasn’t bad, that was true. A bit less on the sesame would help, and a bit more clover perhaps, but overall not bad at all.

“Does it meet your standards?” Celestia asked.

“Yeah. It’ll do.”

She gave him a quick wink. “That is good to hear. Now, would you like some diplomacy lessons while we’re here?”

Dinner quite rapidly became very interesting. Bean nodded once, and Celestia let out a high, tinkling laugh.

“You are just too much, my love!” she pronounced. “So, the first thing I have to show you is how to hold a conversation within a conversation.”

“I suspect the occasional laugh is part of that.”

“Most assuredly. When you do this, it is important to make it sound like you are still holding a normal conversation. By sprinkling in more common terms and phrases, and especially at the beginning and end of a statement, the bits and pieces that your conversation that float away from you become random and meaningless. Once you become a bit more proficient we can use the double entendre to share all sorts of wonderful secrets.”

“Fair enough. My talkifying is common enough so all I have to do is open my mouth and let the sounds fall out.”

“Talkifying.” Luna repeated with a laughing scoff. “What kind of a world have you created, Sister, when a pony gets away with such a blatant assault on the equish language?”

“My dear sister, there are many words that have entered our vocabulary thanks to those blatant assaults. I predict that within twenty years we will all use talkifying in our everyday conversations.”

“If that happens, I’ll send myself back to the moon.”

Both Bean and Celestia shared a giggle, and then Celestia continued her lesson. “Now, my precious, let us try this. Pick something in this room, and describe it to me while still following the instructions I gave you. Let’s see how marvelous you are.”

“Let me see. Let me begin with the chandelier, a rather impressive crystal… thing. I want to say infused but it’s not that.”

“What is it then?”

“Wait.” Bean gave his wife a knowing glare. “This has nothing to do with diplomacy. I mentioned I was having a problem describing the alternate world in my book. This is just a way to get me to practice describing things.”

“It is both,” she replied with a smirk. “The ability to describe, compare and contrast will prove invaluable in the future. The ability to mask what you are saying will allow us to flirt without anypony knowing.”

“Unless we are with our present company.”

“Guards are selectively deaf, dumb, and blind,” Shining chimed. “I’ll keep my flirting over here if you keep yours over there.”

“Deal!” Bean announced. “Celly, do you like shmoopy-doopy better or sweetie-weety?”

Luna groaned as the two married couples began booping and nuzzling their respective partner. “I suppose this is the penalty I pay for marrying young,” she muttered, but with a coy glance to a nearby waiter, who looked startled and pulled at his necktie in obvious concern.

Celestia suppressed a chuckle when yet another pony quickly trotted up and got in line to meet the suddenly famous Baked Bean. Ever since they had touched down in Saddle Park, ponies had been flocking to both him and to Luna, and that pleased her to no end. Bean deserved the attention, in her estimation, and the more he got out among their little ponies, the more he would be accepted and loved.

Most ponies who spoke with him were so astonished by the circumstances that had put him where he was that they just had to ask if it was all true. Bean chuckled each time and confirmed that it was, and then he would patiently answer the dozen or so questions that came after that. Her husband was doing well, and at this rate he would soon be as beloved as her dear sister was.

That was what made Celestia the happiest. For over a thousand years, she had been alone in the spotlight, so she was more than happy to let those whom she loved be the focus of the country’s praise and adoration for a change. It was bringing flavor and zest into her life, and it made it easier to remember just how magical friendship was.

She had been lonely for long enough.

“Excuse me, Princess, but I have something for you from the Prince.”

“What? Wysteria, what is… oh!”

Wysteria was holding a sizeable bouquet of red roses in her magic, and she gently transferred them to the Princess with a smile.

“He was really insistent they be red, something about tasting the best,” she remarked.

“Oh, they’re lovely.” Celestia dipped her nose into them and inhaled the sweet aroma. “I don’t remember the last time a pony gave me flowers with no political favors attached to them.”

“I certainly don’t remember anypony doing that,” Wysteria agreed.

Celestia giggled a bit and positioned the bouquet in front of her so that the next time Bean glanced over he would only see her eyes over the top of them. She then began staring at him with a sultry and inviting look, hoping that he would feel her stare and look over towards her.

It didn’t take long. Bean was telling a gray unicorn about his Celestial Crystal, and when he glanced over at her as part of the story, she quickly batted her eyelashes at him and tilted her head teasingly.

Bean had some red flare on his cheeks but he managed to keep his composure and continue on with his conversation. The next time he glanced, Celestia softly bit one of the blooms off and slowly pulled it into her mouth with her lips. This he chuckled at, and he shook his head slightly before focusing back on the ponies before him. With the next glance, Celestia made a great show of licking her lips while staring right at him. This made his cheeks nearly as red as the roses, and he did stammer a bit before recovering and forcing his eyes forward.

And then Celestia noticed one of the guards moving towards Luna with a large bouquet of flowers.

“Wysteria, who got those flowers for Lulu?” she asked, as she gently plucked one full rose and placed it behind her left ear.

“Prince Bean did. It took a bit longer to find them since they’re Night Lilies, though.”

“Night Lilies?”

“Yeah. He thought she would be appreciative of them.”

“Oh, I hope so,” she replied. “Those were the flowers she and Star Struck always shared. It might bring up some memories she doesn’t want to recall.”

Both Celestia and Wysteria watched in hopeful concern as the guard tapped Luna on the shoulder and then presented the arrangement. There was a gasp from Luna, a tear escaped, but then a warm smile came as she accepted and buried her nose in the bouquet as if she were traveling back in time by way of the scent.

And when Bean glanced over towards her, Celestia felt warm and tingly as she watched Luna mouth ‘thank you’ to him with one Night Lily petal dangling from her bottom lip.

“My dear Bean, you simply are amazing,” Celestia remarked to herself with a chuckle as Luna took a lily and placed it beside her own left ear. She then met Celestia’s gaze, gave her a nod of solid satisfaction, and turned her attention to another pony who had come to visit with her.

“And I’m a singing pony!”

Luna tried to hide her smile behind a false facade of minor grumpiness as Bean and Celestia’s serious expressions devolved into helpless giggles. The trip home had been insufferable, what with them belting out all of the songs from the play at full volume for the entire flight back home.

Of course, Shining and Cadence had done the same so she was stuck with off-key singing no matter what. Even so, she would not trade their flat notes for the finest choir in all of Equestria.

“Oh, my dear Bean, we simply must do this again!” Celestia laughed, an expression of joy that Luna relished beyond all things in the world. “This was fun, and that was a most fantastic musical! I am sure I’ll be singing ‘High Hinny Hey!’ for the next week!”

Then again, all good things had their limits, and there was only so much off-key joy that Luna could stand. “It has been a delightful evening, but I must tend to my duties now. If you’ll excuse me.”

“Oh,” Celestia replied sadly, and both she and Bean pouted. “Well, good night then, Sister.”

“Good evening.”

Luna then teleported away, but not to her quarters. She did fully intend to attend to the dreams of her little ponies, but first she needed something to eat. She wasn’t herself when she was hungry, and she doubted there was a gourmet meal in the whole of Equestria that would ever satisfy her.

A quick raid of the pantry yielded a slice of chocolate cake, and Luna tried to eat the first delectable treat with as much speed but as little sound as possible. The second slice disappeared with seconds and without a care for the noisy grunting she emitted as she ate, but she forced herself to slow down on the third slice so as to properly savor it.

And yet everypony thinks Celly is the cake fanatic, Luna thought with a snicker.

Her magic then pulled the night lily from her ear, and she smiled deeply as she looked it over. Bean probably had no idea why Luna loved them so—he had probably picked them because they had the word night in their name—but the flood of warm memories that had swept over her when they had been presented had helped her to feel not quite so alone, not quite so removed from her own beloved. In fact, she was quite pleased that Bean was able to help her remember him so often.

It didn’t hurt so much when she did.

A rattling noise at the door broke her thoughts up, and she stepped back into the shadows to avoid detection. Who could possibly be coming into the kitchen so late?

“Shh!” Celestia voice drifted in. “I thought I heard something.”

“Just don’t use your nose to go looking for the source,” Bean’s voice followed.

“Very funny. All right, I think the coast is clear. What can you make that’s quick?”

“I could probably throw a salad together real quick like, just a simple one.”

“That sounds good. Those roses were delicious but it just wasn’t enough. I think—”

“Hungry, Sister?”

Both Bean and Celestia yelped in alarm, and Luna simply laughed as they recovered and glared at her.

“I thought you said you were going to the dream realm,” Celestia said with a huff.

“I said I was attending to my duties. Eating is one of them.”

Bean rubbed one hoof against the opposite arm in embarrassment. “Guess I didn’t pick the restaurant so well, huh?”

“Do not be discouraged.” Luna admonished Bean with a kind smile. “It is difficult to find a restaurant anywhere that will offer more than what we received. I think our subjects worry more about our weight than we do.”

“Well, next time I’ll just take you home then. My parents won’t hold back.”

“I would like to visit them sometime.” Luna smiled a bit more. “Now, did you mention a salad? And not the kind of salad we were served at that place. One of your salads.”

Bean beamed at the princesses. “I’ll have a nice beet salad with candied macarana nuts whipped up in two shakes of my tail.”

“Celly, is the food at Bean’s restaurant any good?” Luna asked while Bean got to work, and her sister smiled warmly.

“We didn’t get to eat an actual meal when we were there, but I assure you that you would not leave feeling hungry based on what I saw them making.”

“But he wants to be a writer,” Luna shook her head. “I’m afraid I still don’t quite understand why.”

“Destiny is a fickle thing, Lulu. Some ponies find their purpose rather quickly, others spend a lifetime searching and never find it. If I may be a bit prideful for a moment, I personally think that his desire to be a writer was simply the means he needed to find the his true destiny.”

“Oh, very modest, Miss ‘I Am The End Of Your Searching.’” Luna scoffed with a laugh. “I suppose you could be right. He would not have found you if he had been good at running a restaurant. I suppose that this plays into your theory that cutie marks are simply suggestions, too.”

Celestia nodded. “Perhaps it does.”

“Well, for the record, I am most pleased you have him, and that he has you. He has proven himself to be a most devoted stallion, and I feel that he will be for you what Star Struck was for me. I may still tease and torment him on occasion, but I believe I can accept him now. You have accidentally done well for yourself.”

“Sometimes that’s the best way to go,” Celestia replied with a laugh.

A thud from the far end of the kitchen caught the sister’s attention, and both grew curious as the sounds of a pony muttering in frustration leaked through the open doorway.

“Shiny, they’ll hear you!” Cadence hissed. “Quiet!”

“How can they hear me? They’re at the other end of… the…”

Both of them froze as they rounded the corner and found both aunts staring at them with amusement.

“Uh, hi?” Shining tried, with a cheesy grin.

“Good evening,” Luna replied. “What brings you by here during this most glorious hour of my night?”

“I admit I may have not picked a very good restaurant,” Shining Armor said sheepishly. “Cady and I are still hungry.”

“Bean!” Celestia shouted back into the kitchen “Double up that salad, and stuff it!”

“Stuff a tree and double it!” he shouted back.

26. - Day Break

Celestia absolutely abhorred the sound of steel on steel.

It had a way of staying in her ears, ringing in a thunderous cacophony far beyond the actual battle. There were times when she’d hear it for weeks after the fight was over, an unrelenting, reverberating string of silver stings that would drive a pony mad with enough time.

If she could work her will, she would make the source of the sound disappear forever.

“Princess! We have another wave moving in on our left flank! We can’t hold it much longer!”

“Stand fast! We only need to hold out for a short while yet! General Picket, where is your Division? If we can wheel them to the left, we can—”

“Princess Celestia,” Picket cut her off with a cold and distant stare, “I have no division!”

Celestia could feel it. The panic, the fear. It was beginning to come to a head.

“No! You must have some ponies left! Take what you have, and wheel them to the left!”

“I cannot take what is not there, Princess! The day is lost!”

She could feel it pushing, pounding. It wanted out. It could help. It would win.

“No! I will not!” she grunted, and her hoof tore out a large divot of earth. “There is another way! There always is!”

She happened to catch her own reflection in Picket’s dented and smudged armor, and she could see it in her eyes. The magenta was gone, replaced with a gold that burned as hot as the sun.

“No!” she fought back. “I… will… not!”


Celestia gasped harshly as she awoke, and it took her a minute to reorient herself to her surroundings. She was home, with everything as it should be. All of her personal belongings were as they should be and untouched, and Baked Bean…

A spark of panic pricked her soul, but it was silenced when she glanced down and found him right where he should be. He snorted, gave a grunt of annoyance, then wiggled a bit to be closer to her. Once he had settled into her side he smiled softly and sighed in contentment.

Celestia’s smile matched his, and she drew her wing a bit tighter over him. After a quick and gentle boop she settled in again and simply gazed at her love.

I will never let it happen, she thought to herself as the warm embrace of slumber enveloped her again. You and I gain all the power we need from each other.

* * * *

Celestia nipped at Bean’s ear as they both laughed and entered the room. “You realize I’m going to get an earful on that one,” she remarked. “There are going to be dozens of ponies who ask why the sun suddenly wiggled back and forth on the way up today.”

“Do you want me to tell everypony I found a new ticklish spot or do you?”

“I will say you distracted me,” she replied. “And then we can leave it at that.”

“Okay, but I’m remembering where that spot is.”

“You tease!” she laughed, and she nipped him again as he went for her neck.

A knock at the door interrupted their play, but they did share one quick kiss before Wysteria walked in and adjusted her glasses. “Good morning, Your Most Serene Highnesses.”

“Serene?” asked Bean with both eyebrows lifted. “I thought we were Illustrious.”

“It depends on if you’ve been mediatized,” said Celestia in what Bean recognized was her teaching voice. “Technically, since I reign over the Crystal Empire, I should be Her Imperial Highness, but I’ve always been reluctant to put on airs like that. Plus, the nobles have been squabbling for centuries about their own titles, so anything above Her and His Highness just gives them extra title space to crawl into. In any event.” Celestia turned to Wysteria with a mischievous grin. “What do you have for Your Highnesses this morning?”

“Just a few things to go over with you before breakfast. First, Play Wright sends his profuse thanks for your attendance at the play last night, as does the cast, and they send their thanks for your visit backstage after the performance. They hope you will return again soon.

“Second, the Astrological Society has sent a very detailed and technical missive about a sudden surge in solar flare activity that occurred yesterday. I won’t even try to share everything since I don’t understand most of it myself, but they do wish to know if you are aware of the flares and if it something that should be concerning.”

“Solar flare, eh?” Bean ribbed her gently. “You didn’t tell me that first kiss was that good.”

“My dear Bean, you almost made it do a backflip in the sky. It was incredible.”

“Mm, we shall have to do it again then,” he remarked with a cheesy grin.

“Anyway!” Wysteria cut in before they got carried away. “What would you like me to tell them about the flares?”

Celestia glanced at Bean quickly before replying. “Send my thanks for their observance, and reassure them that I am aware of them and that they are harmless. Make sure to tell them they don’t need to worry about this morning either. Oh, and they should expect more. Many more.”

“Got it. Let’s see.” She flipped some papers. “The Juris Prudence Center of Law at The University of Canterlot is asking about that interview about the Alicorn Law again. In fact, I’ve gotten a quite a few letters asking about that from several different ponies.”

“Tell them I am planning to hold a symposium in about a month. I’d rather make them come to me and do it all in one swift kick then to travel out to hundreds of different places.”

“Got it. Let’s see. Oh! Prince Bean, your parents sent you a letter.”

“They did?” he eagerly asked, before snatching the letter from her magic and ripping it open with a gleeful laugh.

“I think that covers everything for now. I need to follow up on a few things so I’ll catch up with you later.”

“Thank you, Wysteria.” Celestia replied with a smile.

Wysteria returned the smile, then left the room while Celestia turned her attention to Bean.

“How are they?” she asked when he finished and looked up at her.

“Extremely busy,” he said with a chuckle. “Mom says they found a line down and around the block when they got home, and it’s been non-stop since then. They had to hire two more cooks in a rush, but she says they should work out. They’re thinking about moving to a larger location if they stay busy like this. She says she’s glad they’re so busy since it helps her to not think about how much she misses me. They also send their thanks again for your forgiveness.”

Celestia offered a quick hum of satisfaction to that. “Anything else?”

“Just that she’ll write more when she has time. It was nice of her to send this, though. I’ll have to write back.”

“I bet she will appreciate that.”

“But I think breakfast should be first.”

“Breakfast first then,” she said with a laugh. “Are you sick of my pancakes yet? I can whip some up if you’d like.”

“Nope, still good,” he replied. “I’m starving.”

* * * *

“Oh, do you really need to go?” Celestia pouted while placing the pancakes before everypony.

“We do,” Cadence replied with a note of sadness. “I dread to think about how much paperwork we’ll have to go through when we get back.”

“Well, we shall simply have to come visit you then,” Celestia replied. “Perhaps in a week or two so we can finalize plans.”

“That would be wonderful. I know the crystal ponies would love to meet Bean.”

“When do you plan to leave?”

“Around noon, I believe. We’ve already said goodbye to Auntie Luna so we can go whenever we want, I suppose.”

“Let’s have you stay for lunch, and then Bean and I will see you off. In fact, why don’t you spend the morning with them, Bean?”

“Are you sure?” he replied. “Didn’t we have some kind of meeting?”

“Yes, but I think I can handle it. Any meeting with the delegation from Cloudsdale tends to be long-winded.”

“All right,” Bean replied. “If you’re sure.”

“I’m sure. Your time would be better spent with them.”

“You can come with me while I do my review of the Guard.” Shining offered.


“Yeah. Anytime I come to Canterlot, I touch bases with Lieutenant Spear Point to see if I need to fix anything, and then I do a quick review of and offer a few inspirational words to the troops. It’d be good for you to get a glimpse of how the Guard works.”

“Ok. That actually does sound like a good idea. I’ll go with you for sure.”

“Great!” Shining replied with a small smile. “We’ll head over right after we eat.”

* * * *

“I didn’t know you participated in the review too,” Bean remarked to Cadence.

“I don’t have to, technically, but I like to stay up-to-date on what’s going on,” she replied. “If the worst happens, I will be the one to take over after Shiny.”

“Which I hope never happens,” Shining added. “That means something rather unpleasant has happened to me, Bean, Auntie Luna and Auntie Celestia.”

“Wow,” Bean said. “I hadn’t thought of that. I have to take over if something happens to you?”

“In a way. Celestia and Luna may be your equals in government, but they do outrank you in the military, or at least for now. If either of them give you a commission to Major General then you’ll be of similar rank. Right now you’re my equal at Captain.”

“Captain Bean,” he tried the title out. “Any other titles I can claim?”

“You can claim whatever you want.” Shining laughed. “But experience says less is more, if I may suggest.”

“I think I shall take your advice.”

The three shared a quick laugh as Shining pushed open the doors for the barracks, and Lieutenant Spear Point was waiting with a sharp salute for them as they walked into the reception area.

“At ease, Lieutenant,” Shining ordered, as he saluted back.

“Pleasure to see you again, sir,” Lieutenant Point replied, as he hoofbumped his superior. “Prince Bean sir, Princess Cadence ma’am. Glad to have you.”

“Thank you, Lieutenant,” Cadence replied. “How’s Needle?”

“Same as ever, ma’am.” He laughed as he motioned down a hallway with a hoof. “She keeps telling me to lose weight, get out from behind the desk, eat healthier. I’ll pass along your well-wishes to her.”

“Thank you.”

“Just in here, sirs,” he offered before pushing his office door open for them. Three comfortable chairs awaited royal posteriors in front of a finely lacquered oak desk that held Lieutenant Spear Point’s gold edged nameplate, and as Bean settled in to the furthest left chair he glanced around. It was a nice office, but a bit utilitarian. Of course, this was a barracks so he didn’t really expect it to be like his office or Celestia’s drawing room.

“Well, Captain, where shall I begin?” Spear Point asked as he sat. “Troop levels? Morale? The usual complaints about field rations?”

“Let’s start with troop levels,” Shining replied. “How are the recruitment numbers looking?”

For the next hour, Bean sat and listened to a fascinating and completely confusing discussion about the Royal Guard of Equestria. It was very similar to the discussion he had been in with Minister Penny Wise in the number of terms being thrown around that made no sense and references to things he knew nothing about. However, Lieutenant Point did try to clarify and explain here and there when he could, as did Shining, so by the end of the conversation Bean had at least a sporting chance of knowing what was going on. He knew that recruitment was up a very modest two percent, injuries were down twelve percent, and that a change of armor wax vendors would save over six thousand bits per year. Morale was high and holding steady, training was steady and, overall, the Guard seemed to be doing quite well.

Lieutenant Point then offered to escort the Captain and the Royals through the Barracks while Shining did his review. Bean was amused that the review turned out to be really nothing more than Shining walking around and greeting any guards who happened to be nearby, but this would also be a good way to orient himself with the layout of the rooms and to meet those brave ponies who had sworn to protect him and his wife from harm.

It only took ten minutes for Baked Bean to get lost, much to his chagrin. It was an honest enough mistake: he had paused for a moment to take a closer look in the armory, but then found they had turned down a hallway without him. A quick trot around a few corners to see if he could find them was futile, and left him even more lost than before, so he opted for the tried-and-true method of planting his plot where he was and then waiting for the rescue party to find him.

He was both grateful and embarrassed when he heard voices down the hallway, but he chuckled when he figured out who they belonged to.

“You totally were!” Hokey’s laugh drifted in. “Don’t even deny it! We all saw you checking her out!”

“I was not!” Quillpoint argued back.

“Dude, you totally were.” Clover’s voice was fast approaching. “Your eyes were on her flank the whole night. You’re lucky no one was taking pictures of Wysteria last night. You’d be running laps forever if someone—”

Bean winced a little when the three Guards clattered to a halt at the moment they saw him.

“Prince Bean, sir!” All three quickly saluted.

“Clover. Hokey. Quillpoint,” he greeted each in turn, and he hoped he had given the right name to the right pony.

“Sir,” Clover replied. “What are you doing here, sir? Can we help you with something?”

“Well, I would be grateful if you could help me find Captain Armor and Lieutenant Point.” He replied as he stood with an embarrassed laugh. “We were doing a review and I got separated from them.”

“Of course, sir!” Pokey replied, and all three of them chuckled. “If they’re on review then eventually they’ll end up in the training room. We can hook up there.”


“Not a problem, sir. Right this way.”

“Sergeant, can I ask you something?” Bean asked while glancing around the training room.

“Lay it on me, sir,” Pokey said.

“How hard would it be to get me in on training?”

“Training?” he repeated. “Well, you’re the Prince, so if you say ‘I want to get Guard training’ it’ll happen.”

Bean nodded, and he looked over the room again. It reminded him of the gymnasium back in high school with weights, a jogging track, mats for practicing hoof-to-hoof combat on, and some other equipment that he wasn’t sure what it was used for. A rack of staffs and blunt swords stood in one corner, and a few guards were practicing defensive maneuvers with both against an instructor at the far end of the room.

“Would you like me to look into it, sir?”

“Yeah. I appreciate everything you and Sergeant Leaf are willing to do for me but I’m pretty extra sure your life would be easier if I could help defend myself.”

“Only if you’re trained well, sir. Otherwise I’ve got to worry about a blade behind me and a blade in front of me.”

Bean nodded in agreement but with a thoughtful look. “Think you could show me anything right now real quick?”

“Right now?”

“Yeah. You could, right?”

“Yes sir. I was a drill sergeant for a time. I could just go over the stuff I drill into fresh cadets. Just with less yelling and pushups.”

“Maybe I need the push-ups.” Bean glanced back and over himself. “But it might be a bit awkward to be yelling at a prince, eh?”

“It’d be a bit like yelling at Captain Armor or Princess Celestia, sir, yes.”

“We’ll avoid yelling then,” Bean replied with a chuckle. “What can you show me, hoof-to-hoof stuff?”

“Yes sir.”

“Well, no time like the present.” Bean decided. “Doesn’t seem like Captain Armor or Lieutenant Point are really missing me, so I might as well do something productive.”

“Just over here then, sir,” Pokey motioned to a nearby mat.

“So, what’s first?” Bean asked once they had both stepped onto the mat.

“First, remove your crystal, sir. You don’t want to be stabbed by that.”

Bean nodded and quickly removed the Crystal, but he entrusted a few nearby towels to keep it safe for him in the meantime.

“All right. How is your balance on your rear hooves?”

Bean smirked as he reared up, then stayed perfectly balanced. “Earth pony who worked in a restaurant,” he smugly replied, and he started to walk around on the mat to show off his skills.

“Not bad sir. Now, let’s have you take a swing at me.”

“What, hit you?”

“Yes sir. Don’t worry, I have a thick head.”

“If you say so.” Bean shrugged, and he half-heartedly swung his right hoof at him. Pokey blocked it easily, but he also kept it in place.

“Hold right there, don’t move. Did you see what I did, sir?”

“You blocked me?”

“Yes, but look where my hoof is,” he replied, and he wiggled his hoof a little. “I blocked, but from here I can slide up and nail you in the side of the head,” with a slow demonstration of what he was saying, “or I can come back down and anticipate you coming at me from the left, or I can throw off your balance and sweep your feet out from under you. Blocking is good, but blocking in a specific way is better.”

“Really? How would you take me off my feet?”

“Come again, sir.”

Bean took a swing again, and he put a little more oomph into it. Pokey blocked it again, slid his hoof to tangle up his arm, and pulled slightly. The shift in his weight made him move his left leg, and Pokey was able to use that momentum to flip him over and down.

“Hah! That was awesome!” Bean laughed from the floor. “How do I do that?”

“Use their weight against them, sir,” Pokey replied as he helped him back up. “Here, I’ll swing at you this time. Make sure to—”

“Sergeant?” Cadence abruptly cut in while she trotted over to them. “What’s going on here?”

“It’s my fault,” Bean quickly interjected while Pokey helped him back up. “I asked him.”

“I thought you were doing the review with us,” Cadence replied to Bean, with a hint of confusion. “What happened?”

“I got lost and turned around,” he replied softly while trying to get his breathing under control. “The sergeant brought me here to hook back up with you.”

“Ah, I see,” she offered a quick giggle to this. “And then you decided to get beat up.”

“It sounded like fun at the time.”

“You boys and your macho egos,” Cadence shook her head in both amusement and disbelief. “Well, it’s a good idea, but now is probably not the best time for this. Lieutenant Point is rather perturbed that he lost you, and both he and Shiny are looking for you. Let’s finish the review, then you and Sergeant Pokey here can work out a schedule to continue your thumping.”

“All right.”

“Grab your Crystal and let’s hurry back. If we find them first we might be able to defuse some of Lieutenant Point’s ire.”

Bean quickly did as he was told, then fell in. next to Cadence. She gave him a quick, reassuring smile, but then had a devious look take over. “You know, Auntie Celestia is one of the supreme commanders of the Guard, and not just because she’s the princess. I bet if you asked her nicely, she could give you some pointers as well.”

“She could, couldn’t she?” he replied with a thoughtful expression. “Maybe I will then.”

“I know I like to work out with Shiny. I bet she would like to work out with you as well.”

Thankfully, Cadence was correct in her prediction about Lieutenant Spear Point. He was irritated over what had happened, and it was obvious in both his body language and from his clipped responses as they finished the review, but Shining had leaned over with a smirk and whispered that he was more irritated with himself since the barracks should be one of the most secure areas of the entire palace, and yet Bean had slipped away from him and had to be rescued. His ire did slowly taper out as they progressed, so by the time the review was finished and they had met up with Celestia for lunch he was somewhat back to what Bean thought would be normal.

His Royal Lostness, in an effort to not cause any more problems, stayed quiet and only replied if somepony spoke to him. He did receive a fair share of worried glances from his wife, but he met each one with a smile and that seemed to placate her, if only temporarily.

After lunch, Bean and Celestia escorted Shining and Cadence to the carriage that would deliver them to the train. Bean fought down a twinge of sadness when they hugged and said their good-byes, and he hoped they could make that visit to the Crystal Empire soon. Shining Armor had been an immense help and a good friend, and Cadence was just as sweet and kind as rumors had said she was.

“Oh, I always hate goodbye,” Celestia remarked as she and Cadence shared one last hug. “Let me know when you get home.”

“We will, Auntie Celestia,” Cadence replied. “Take care.”

The two of them waved as they hopped aboard their ride, and they continued to wave until the carriage disappeared into the city. Celestia then gave a deep sigh, and she glanced down at her beloved.

“I always enjoy their visits.”

“Yeah. They’re pretty awesome.”

“Do I have any in-laws beyond your parents?” she asked as they walked back inside.

“A couple. My mom has sister Sieva, who lives in Las Pegasus, but she never married or had any foals. Her parents, Soy and Pole, are still alive and kicking. Dad has his mother, Flageolet, his brother Pinto and his sister Cannellini, both of whom are married and have foals. Pinto has Jumping and Fava, and Cannellini has Haricot, Lentil, and Mung.”

“We should visit them sometime.”

“Flageolet, Pinto and Cannellini will be easy enough; they live in Salt Lick. Soy and Pole live in a retirement village in Las Pegasus, so I guess we would have to have a family reunion if you want to meet them all at once.”

“That will probably be the way to go,” she agreed with a nod.

“Do they get any titles because of all this?”

“We should probably figure that out,” she chuckled. “Like your parents, however, they will be mostly symbolic. They won’t have any actual authority.”

“Well, that’s probably for the best. You don’t want a bunch of Beans overrunning the place.”

She simply laughed with him at this, and then gave him a quick nip on his neck.

“Day court now?” he asked.

“Yes. But after that I think we should have a talk.”

“Talk?” he asked in concern.

“Nothing bad, but something you should know. It’s a bit like your arrest, in a way. It won’t take very long to go over, so we could go over it just before dinner if that is acceptable.”

“Sure. Do you think we’ll have many petitioners today?”

“I think it will be a bit slower today, but we will see.”

* * * *

“So, what is this ‘thing’ you want to tell me?” Bean asked once they had settled in next to each other in Celestia’s drawing room.

“It’s a somewhat serious thing, but nothing we can’t handle.” Celestia levitated a book off of a shelf and placed it on the table before him. “Obviously, you know that Luna was Nightmare Moon, and that she fell because of her jealousy.”

“Yes,” he replied with a bit of hesitation. Where was she going with this?

“There is a truth in that, one that you need to know. If Luna can fall, so can I.”

Bean didn’t quite understand, and his face showed it. “So, you can turn into Nightmare Moon too?”

“Not like that exactly,” she said as the pages of the book flipped open. “I have my own version of it.”

The pages stopped on a pencil drawing of what, at first glance, looked like Celestia. Bean then looked closer, and his eyes widened slowly. This Celestia had the fangs and the dragon eyes of Nightmare Moon, but she wore armor that was sun-themed instead of moon. She also appeared to have flames for her mane and tail instead of her normal pastel colors.

She was terrifyingly beautiful, and it sent a chill up Bean’s spine.

“This is Daybreaker,” Celestia softly said. “If I were to ever tread the path that Luna did, I would become this.”

“Wow,” he said with a note of fear.

“Thankfully, I have never given in to the darkness that would allow it to consume me, nor do I plan to. By keeping my negative emotions in balance and in check, this alternate me can never be.”

“But there is the possibility you could.”

“The only way Daybreaker can ever exist is if I allow any of my more negative emotions to grow out of control. For Luna it was jealousy, but for me it would be anger or arrogance.”


“Feeling that I must solve all problems by myself. The darkness had never possessed me, Bean, but it has come close a couple of times; and those times were times when I felt like I alone was the one to solve the crisis at hoof. The first time was when Luna and I fought against a dragon who had been destroying villages on the borders of Equestria. I didn’t realize what it was then, so I dismissed it as simply being enraged.

“The second time was during a war against the Sasquatch Barbarians. They were overrunning our position, and if they had managed to break through my lines they would have had a clear path to Canterlot. Thankfully, we were rescued that time by the timely arrival of a griffon brigade, but just before they appeared I felt it pushing, telling me it could defeat them all by itself. My desperation nearly won out, and it terrified me.

“Now, I’ve felt it try to force its way out at other times as well, but never as strongly as those two times. With Luna’s redemption and the problem-solving prowess of Twilight and her friends, I hope that the risk will be so small that it will never be a bother again. I didn’t want you to find out about this from anypony else, so I realized this morning that I needed to tell you.”

He nodded, and took a moment to contemplate all of that before replying. “So, as long as you feel like you don’t have to do everything on your own you won’t turn into this thing?”

“Exactly. And now that I have you, the risk is negated even further.”


“Daybreaker thrives on hate, not love. Since you truly love me, it has no power. Your love prevents this from ever happening.”

Bean nodded again and looked at the drawing. “You have seen this thing?”

“It occasionally pops up in my dreams, but never for very long. I use the love I feel from my friends and family to be rid of it and its destructive lies.”

“Well, then I shall simply give you all the love I have then.” He turned to give her a quick kiss.

“Thank you, my dear Bean. Now, let’s talk about some happier things, mm?”

“I’d like that.”

A soft tap came at the door, and Wysteria poked her head around with a tentative expression much like she expected to have to make a quick and silent exit at the sight of something she did not want to face right now.

“You didn’t lock it!” she quickly said.

“No, we didn’t,” Celestia said with a laugh. “What do you need?”

“Fleur De Lis and Fancy Pants are asking for a quick audience with you to sign off on that donation.”

“Oh! Of course!” Celestia replied, and she quickly stood. “This’ll just take a minute, Bean. I’ll be right back.”

“No problem,” he replied, and he smiled as she trotted out. His eyes then drifted back to the drawing of Daybreaker, and he took a deep breath in. He was glad she had told him about this, but it also scared him a little. To think that she could be… that.

He then made the internal resolution to never do anything to bring this horror out of his wife. Whatever it took, he would make sure she never had a reason to go there.

He loved her too much to let anything happen to her.

27. - Irritation

“Wait. You have to do that every night?” Bean looked on in fascinated horror while his beloved downed the golden golf ball sized pill she had just created.

“Bleah,” Celestia replied while pulling a disgusted face. “Ugh. Yes, I do. The anti-snoring effects only last for twelve hours. I think I might commission a study to find a way to make it last longer.”

“How bad does it taste?”

“See for yourself,” she said while her magic conjured up another orb. “It won’t do anything for you since you don’t snore.”

Bean ate the orb quickly, but then pulled the same contorted face of disgust. It had a sort of bland taste, like a stamp, but laced with centipede droppings and ear wax.

“Wow, you must really like me,” Bean said after downing the graciously offered cup of water.

“Well, a little.” She smirked coyly. “And thankfully a glass of water clears out the taste.”

“I’m glad it does. I’d rather put up with your snoring than have you be tortured with that every night.”

“I would gladly swallow a dozen of those to be with you,” she replied with a gentle kiss. “The goods that I receive far exceed the cost.”

“Heh,” Bean replied with a lopsided and very pleased grin. “Thanks.”

“Anytime, my dear Bean.”

Bean gave her a quick kiss, then another, then one last one before moving over to the cushions and settling in for the night. Celestia trotted to the bathroom while he did so, and Bean soon heard her toothbrush hard at work at removing food particles and plaque. He then rubbed his tongue over his own teeth as he tried to remember if he had brushed his own, and an embarrassed frown then followed as he realized he might not have.

“Bean, love?” Celestia called out from where she was. “This might be a nit-picky thing, but would you mind putting the cap back on the toothpaste when you’re done with it? It irritates me a little when it’s left off.”

Oh, so he had brushed. “Yeah, of course! That’s not a problem at all.”

“Thank you,” she called back before coming in to the room and trotting over to him. “I know it’s not a big deal, but it is a pet peeve of mine. Also, you might want to consider switching to a soft-bristled brush. You still get the same effect as the medium or the hard but without the damage to your gums.”

“Sure! Next time I get one I’ll make sure it’s soft bristles. I’d hate to go long in the tooth prematurely.”

Celestia gave him a minty kiss before settling in next to him and draping her right wing over him. He snuggled into her side a bit before glancing up and giving her a worried look.

“This doesn’t hurt your wing, does it?

“No, it’s fine. If I held it taut it would hurt but I relax it when it is over you.”

“Am I pushing into your side too much? I’m not making it hard to breathe, am I? Or maybe you get too hot with me so close. I can scoot over a bit, and—”

Celestia moved in and stopped his ramblings with a long kiss. The tension in his body released with the surge of joy and love that came, and she booped him quickly when she pulled away.

“Relax my love. You’re getting worked up over nothing. If you are doing something that makes me uncomfortable I will tell you.”

“Oh. Okay.”

“Why are you so worried all of a sudden? I appreciate your concern, but this is the first time you’ve been this way about it.”

“Well, I just want to make sure you’re okay,” he replied softly. “I’m just a little concerned you’re tolerating more than you need to just for me. You’re a busy mare, and I don’t want you to lose sleep because of something I’m doing.”

“Ah.” Celestia nodded. “I appreciate that, but I really am quite comfortable with you right there. In fact, I don’t think I’ve ever slept better.”

“Really?” he asked in disbelief.

“Yes. So please don’t worry about that,” she replied, with a nip in his mane. “In fact, I wouldn’t mind if you got a bit closer.”

“Oh, really?” he giggled, and he wiggled his rear so he was pressed up closer to her. “Better?”

“Much. We should get to sleep, though. We have much to accomplish tomorrow.”

“True. But I had a quick thought.”


“Yeah. Cadence said that you might like to do some guard training with me.”

Celestia gave him a wary smile. “I may. I suppose you would want me to teach you some defensive maneuvers, much like how Sergeant Pokey was?”

“Yeah, like that, but just when you have the time,” he replied with a yawn. “It’s not an urgent thing, but I don’t want to be a sack of potatoes if something bad happens.”

“I believe I can work something out,” Celestia replied. “I may be a stern taskmaster, though. I expected nothing less than perfection from my troops when I actively led them, and I will expect the same from you.”

“I’ll take my chances. Besides, I bet you can’t be so stern when I... tickle you!”

“GAH!” she laughed and rolled away from him, but he rolled with her and kept tickling. “You little—ha! Stop! Ha, you yellow tormentor you! I shall tolerate—HA!—no assault on my—stop!—my royal self!”

“You like this and you know it!” he replied back.

* * * *

Celestia snorted herself awake the next morning, yawned, then smiled as she moved to boop her Bean awake.

She then frowned most furiously when she found no nose to boop.

“Where did he get to?” she muttered, and she checked under her left wing just to be sure. The search turned up no Bean, and she grumbled a bit.

She missed him.

Duty called to the Princess, and Celestia trotted quickly outside to bring the sun up for the day. Once done, she sprinted back inside and prepared to use a searching spell to find him.

Before she could, Bean entered the room with a tray loaded with plates of food and a small daisy in a vase. He was smiling, but it faltered when he found her up and about. “Oh, feathers,” he pouted. “I was hoping to get back here before you raised the sun.”

“What is that?” Celestia asked.

“Breakfast in bed,” he replied with his smile back in full force. “I thought it would be nice, since you’ve been making me pancakes nearly every morning.”

“Oh!” Celestia matched Bean’s smile, and she teleported herself back to the cushions. “Here, we’ll pretend like I just got up.”

“Ah, well! Good morning!” Bean laughed, and he walked over to her with the tray. “I made you breakfast. I hope you like it.”

“What do you have?” she eagerly asked.

“Just a simple meal this time. Pancakes, of course, a couple of nice blueberry bagels and cream cheese, some freshly-squeezed orange juice, and a bowl of mixed fruit. Not much, but hopefully you’ll enjoy it.”

“I’m sure I will,” she replied while hungrily surveying the feast her husband had prepared. “Ah, and I am most pleased to see you brought enough for two.”

“Yeah, I figured I should, given how you reacted when I didn’t join you, Cadence and Shining for lunch the last time. Please! Dig in, let me know what you think.”

She did so with the pancakes, but she thoughtfully chewed them as Bean popped a few grapes in his mouth.

“Let’s see,” she remarked. “Flour, eggs, milk, butter. Very balanced, yes. But no sugar?”

“It’s there. I hid it.”

“You hid it,” she flatly said, but then she took another happy bite. “You hid it, or you used the proper amount and I’m still using too much.”

“No, no!” he instantly replied with a worried look. “The amount you use is perfect! I probably didn’t put enough in mine.”

“Each way is fine,” she gently offered. “Yours have a more down-to-earth smell and flavor to them. It’s just right for what you have here.”

“Okay,” he said with some worry. “I’ll double check the next time I make them, and if I’m not putting in enough I will.”

“I’m sure you’re doing it right,” she offered.

The rest of the meal passed pleasantly, and they chatted about Celestia’s upcoming class as they did so. Bean agreed to visit the class the next week, and he suggested that he could even cook lunch for all of them as a demonstration and as part of her lesson for that week.

“Or should I bake some bread?” he asked while Celestia finished the last of the orange juice. “If you’re talking about microorganisms, yeast would be a good visual example.”

“I think that is a good idea,” she said, and Bean looked extremely pleased. “Let’s do that.”

“All right. I have a pretty good wheat recipe I can use. I’ll talk to Chef Beet about getting the ingredients I need for it and some space in the kitchens.”

“Thank you again for the meal, my dear Bean.” Celestia replied with a kiss. “But we need to get on with the day.”

“Right you are. Here, I’ll take that—” he gently took the tray of empty plates away “—and I’ll meet you downstairs.”

“Why don’t you just let one of the staff take that? Then we can spend a few more minutes together.”

“Oh. Right. That would work, I guess.”

Celestia gave him a curious, sidelong glance while he opened the main door and called out to a nearby butler. He was acting strange this morning, and she was a bit concerned about it. Yes, she had greatly enjoyed the breakfast and their conversation during the meal, but it was almost like he was…

She frowned when the thought finished congealing in her head. He was doing all of this to appease her, to placate her. He was brown-nosing, sucking up, trying to buy her good graces.

No. Stop that, Celly. He’s trying to be a gentlestallion, she immediately countered in her mind. Don’t be so harsh, and don’t be rude. He made you breakfast because he wanted to do something nice for you. There’s no ulterior motive here.

“Well, shall we?” Bean motioned to the door, and Celestia smiled and stood.

“I suppose we should. The paperwork won’t shuffle itself, after all.”

He offered a hoof to her, and she took it with a smile. They then simply strode out of the room, ready and eager to attack the day.

* * * *

Bean glanced over the paragraph in the encyclopedia again, paused as he reread the short statement, and then made some notes on a loose piece of paper. With Celestia teaching and nothing for him to do, he had decided to take some time to get a refresher history lesson in.

He had started with Star Struck. The head archivist had been extremely helpful in helping him find the appropriate documents and records, and it had been a fascinating two hours as he had played a game of hide-and-seek with the life and times of Luna’s husband.

It really was as she had said, he found. He was mentioned quite a bit for the first year to two years, and there were also quite a few notes about his ‘stubbornness’, but then something changed and it was almost like he dropped off the planet. His policies and reforms were made vicariously through Luna, and there were clear and deliberate attempts by him to keep his part unknown. There was no reason given for the sudden shift, but Bean was pretty extra sure that Luna had somehow changed his approach and viewpoint.

The last hour had been spent in reviewing the history of Equestria in general. Since he was the prince of it, Bean figured it might just be more than a good idea to know what his country had been up to over the last thousand years.

That was, of course, after he had come down from a small panic attack from the fact that the Kingdom of Equestria was, by marriage and by law, his.

Thankfully, most of what he had reviewed sounded familiar, so he was hopeful that he could be up to speed with the major points in history fairly quickly, and then from there he could work on the so-called ‘lesser’ events with Celestia as time allowed.

A soft smile broke out over his muzzle when he felt a faint pulse of air push against his ear. He didn’t look up, but he did flick his ear and then focused on the almost silent sound of his wife’s approach. Another soft pulse moved across the other ear, but still he refrained. Just a step or two more…

He quickly bent his head and neck backwards over the back of the chair, and he gave Celestia a massive grin.

“Well, hello!” She laughed. “This is an interesting look for you.”

“What? Don’t like upside down?”

She gave him a quick kiss before replying. “No, I think I like you right side up. That doesn’t look comfortable.”

“Yeah, not so much,” he offered while sitting upright again and turning to face her. “How did your class go?”

“It was… interesting,” she replied with a sigh. “It just so happens that Granite’s father is a microbiologist at the University, and so he was full of information that he just had to share. I believe I spent half of the time trying to explain what Granite was saying to everypony else.”

“I bet that was fun,” he chuckled. “And you look like you are ready for lunch.”

“I am. What should we have today?”

“Oh, I’m good with whatever you want to get.”

There it was again. Celestia was almost sure she had heard a tone of appeasement in his voice, and the way he had tensed up indicated he was hesitant to share his thoughts. He was holding back so she could get what she wanted.

She didn’t like that.

“How about a carrot dog and a basket of hayfries?” she said. Bean looked confused for a moment, and she could see him wanting to ask about her choice, but he quickly suppressed it and forced out a smile.

“That sounds really good. Would you like me to get the kitchen going on that?”

She gave him a slight glare. “I’ll come with you. We can eat together.”

“Oh, okay. Let me get all this put away and then we can go.”

She frowned deeply again while he cleaned up the books around him. She really, really hoped that she was making something out of nothing, but the diplomat in her was hardly ever wrong, especially when it came to ponies who were trying too hard to make her happy.

Maybe he’ll stop after he eats, she thought, but if he keeps doing this he’s going to get on my nerves in a hurry.

* * * *

“That was an exceptional choice for lunch, my dear,” Bean brightly offered. “I don’t even remember the last time I had a carrot dog that good, and Chef Beet had just the right amount of salt on the hayfries.”

“I’m glad you approve,” Celestia replied with a thinly veiled grumble.

“Wysteria, don’t we have a meeting with the ambassador from Prance?”

“Yes, she should be arriving here in just a few minutes,” Wysteria replied.

“Well, best not to keep her waiting!” he replied with a healthy dose of enthusiasm.
“Shall we?”

“What was in that carrot dog?” Wysteria whispered to her employer as Bean trotted briskly away.

“I don’t know, but he’d better stop or he’s going to get on my nerves,” Celestia replied with a huff.

They both caught up to Bean in the throne room after taking a moment to review some details for a later meeting with the Tradespony Guild, and he was pacing in front of the doors and looking somewhat annoyed. He gave a quick smile to both of them, but then quickly focused his attention back on the doors.

“She’s late,” Bean said.

“She is always late,” Wysteria replied. “The Prench never start anything on time.”

“Well they should,” he muttered. “Celly has other things to get done today, we can’t just lollygag around here!”

“Bean, relax,” Celestia said in a stern tone. “We accounted for for the late start when we scheduled this. Everything will be fine.”

Bean stopped pacing immediately when he heard Celestia’s tone and his ears folded back. “Oh. I’m just worried you won’t get all of your work done.”

“Are you really?” she asked him with a deadpan expression.


A guard by the main doors interrupted the conversation with a loud crack as his spear struck the tile beneath him. “Announcing Ambassador Ligne Dure, from the Republic of Prance!”

“Ambassador!” Bean didn’t even give her a chance to clear the threshold before he was in her face and shaking her hoof. “Welcome! The Princess and I are overjoyed to have you here.”

“I suppose the pleasure is mine?” Ambassador Dure asked with a healthy serving of bewilderment. “You must be the new Prince, oui?

“Yes, ma’am. Baked Bean, and it’s my pleasure to make your acquaintance. Please! Come! We have a lot to discuss, I’m sure.”

“Forgive me, but I was under the impression that this was a casual meeting. I was unaware that there was an agenda.”

“There isn’t, Ambassador.” Celestia cut in, with a stern glare for her husband that was impossible to miss. “Prince Bean is letting his enthusiasm get carried away. Please, follow me. We have everything prepared right over here.”

Bean shrunk back and gave an embarrassed smile. That had not gone as well as he’d hoped.

But there was still a chance for him to get back on the right path. A small table had been set up in the throne room, with several soft cushions placed around the perimeter for their enjoyment. Three glasses sat on the table, and Bean noted with curiosity that a bowl of lemons, two large pitchers of water, and a bowl of sugar were sitting on top.

Then he felt like a right proper twit. Lemonade! How blind could he be? Obviously Celestia wanted him to make lemonade for everypony. He saw there was a knife, a reamer, and a small bucket for the rinds once he took a better look, and his spirits soared while everypony settled in on the cushions. Beverages weren’t a strong point for him, but lemonade was easy.

Celestia began chatting with Ambassador Dure about her family while Bean went to work. He focused on his methods and movements, took extra care to keep the balance of lemon, water, and sugar appropriate and proportional, ensured that no seeds or rinds snuck into the finished product in the glass, and then felt a smug smile pull his lips upward as he finished stirring his concoction.

It would be the best glass of lemonade ever.

“Here you go, Ambassador.” Bean offered the glass with all the pleasant charm he had. “I hope you like this.”

“Oh!” The Ambassador was… confused? “Thank you, Your Highness.”

Bean felt his own confusion growing. Ambassador Dure was giving Celestia a questioning look that was laced with irritation, Celestia was flat out glaring at him, and Wysteria was shaking her head with exasperation off in the distance. What had he done this time?

“My prince, this is citron pressé.” Celestia stated, her tone forceful and upset. “A pleasant summertime beverage that is enjoyed all across Prance. A pony makes the drink themselves by adding the sugar, water, and lemon juice as they see fit. It is extremely rude to the Prench to have somepony prepare it for them, especially if that pony is somepony they have just met.”

Now Bean felt like a right proper twit.

* * * *

“Look, I’m really sorry about that.” Bean offered as Celestia marched with him down the hallway. “I thought it was—”

“Look, I’m really not interested in what you thought.” Celestia cut him off. “That was highly embarrassing, Bean, and we’re lucky we have good relations with the Prench. With the wrong diplomat that could have been a major international incident.”

“I think you’re overstating things a bit,” Bean replied with his own irritation growing. “I messed up, sure; but it was a glass of lemonade. I’m pretty extra sure no one has gone to war over lemonade. Besides, the rest of the meeting went well.”

“No, it didn’t,” Celestia snapped. “Ambassador Dure was very hostile, and I didn’t get to bring up the Rosebud proposal. I’ll have to schedule another meeting for that now. And yes, a glass of lemonade could start a war, Bean. If that had been a Yak in there, I’d be begging for forgiveness, and I mean that literally. Do you know how embarrassing it is to Equestria when their Princess has to grovel? How that damages our reputation?”

“Well I’m sorry,” Bean huffed out angrily. “I’m sorry my help is taken in all the wrong ways and that I’m so horribly offensive to the country.”

“Now you’re putting words in my mouth. I never said you were an embarrassment. I said—”

“You did too!” Bean cut her off, and he snorted.

“Don’t interrupt me!” Celestia shot back. “I’m trying to explain to you what happened.”

“No, you’re telling me you don’t appreciate my efforts to help.”

“I hate that you’re doing what you’re doing so you can pander to me!” she argued back. “Ever since I brought up Daybreaker, you’ve been tiptoeing around me like I’m going to explode at the slightest provocation. I don’t need yet another yespony around, saying ‘of course, what a wonderful idea!’ I don’t need or want anypony treating me like a porcelain figurine that will break into a million pieces at the slightest touch of trouble! I can handle things on my own, I did so for a thousand years!”

Bean snorted out a derisive laugh at the end of her speech. “Of course, Your Highness. Forgive me for trying to be kind. I didn’t realize I had to be in lock-step with your ideals, and it’s especially hard for me to do so when I don’t know what your intents are. How could a poor, uneducated commoner like me have any hope of meeting your impossible standards?”

There was a tense pause as the two stared each other down in fury. When Celestia did break the silence, it was with a dangerously quiet tone.

“I’m not going to answer that. We both need to walk away before this gets out of hoof.”


They both offered a final hmph to each other before turning and walking away from each other in the hallway.

* * * *

Separating had prevented Baked Bean and Celestia from boiling over in the hallway after the botched meeting. After an hour or so apart, both were ready to talk to each other again.

The only problem was that the separation had also given them both time to create an extensive defensive trench system to hunker down in, and neither of them was willing to come out into nopony’s land to negotiate a truce.

So the reunion was tense, to put it mildly. Both remained convinced that they had done no wrong and that the other needed to apologize first, so their conversations through dinner and into the evening were short, one to two sentence affairs with copious amounts of silence in between.

But as sunset approached, Bean decided to step up and to apologize. He didn’t think he needed to, nor had his mind changed; all he had done that day was be his usual helpful self and she had no reason to be irritated. But he didn’t want this to drag on all night, so when Celestia moved out on the balcony to lower the sun he quickly followed her and rubbed against her side.

“Hey. I’m sorry about today. Things got a little out of hoof.”

“Yes they did,” she replied. Her horn then flared, and Bean waited as the sun bowed in reverence before the princess by sliding behind the hills. “But thankfully this can all be remedied.”

“It can?”

“Of course.”

And then, for the next forty-five minutes, Celestia delivered a lecture so thorough and watertight that Bean had no choice to submit to her superior points. It was a shame that all of the court stenographers were unavailable, for if one had been present and had recorded Celestia’s words, wives across Equestria would have been able to browbeat even the most stubborn of partner into submission. She went over his ‘helpfulness’ and how that had simply been an excuse he had come up with to cover for his efforts to appease her, how he had progressively irked her as the day had gone on, and how his desires to be endlessly appeasing would be a liability if he persisted. She grilled him over hot charcoal briquettes on how all of this had been wrong and how she really didn’t need any more ponies fawning over her. She informed him,in grand phrases, that she wanted him to be himself, to share his honest opinions and thoughts without fearing her anger, because she really didn’t get angry very often. She knew he had begun doing all of this in hopes of avoiding bringing Daybreaker to life, but that if he persisted in his ways he might very well bring it out of her anyway, so if he was serious about being helpful he needed to cease and desist immediately.

Once she had finally finished driving her points home with a sledgehammer she smiled and thanked him for being humble enough to admit he was wrong, and she gave him a quick kiss to conclude and then happily trotted back into their bedroom. Bean simply sat for a few minutes after this, trying to process what had just been shoved down his throat and how everything had spiraled out of control on him.

I didn’t do anything wrong. I was just being being kind. Why is she so upset about all this?

“Bean, love? Come in please. It’s going to get cold soon.”

“Yes dear.”

He forgot about his irritation when he heard Celestia cough a few times. He hurried back inside and found her drinking a tall glass of water, and he gave her neck a quick nuzzle as she drank.

“Are you all right?” he asked with genuine concern.

“Yes, I believe so. I just have a dry throat from talking so much.”

He remained unconvinced when she coughed again. “Are you sure?”

“I’m fine, really, but I am feeling a bit tired. Let’s head to bed, shall we?”

Bean nodded, and he snuggled in a bit closer when they settled down. He really hoped she wasn’t just telling him she was okay to placate him. The cough didn’t sound like a dry throat cough to him, and he was worried that she was coming down with something instead. If she was, he wasn’t sure what he would do.

How do you treat a sick Alicorn, after all?

28. - Sick Day

Baked Bean couldn’t remember the last time he felt so hot.

He was used to heat of course, having worked with hot plates, ovens, torches, and other such implements of baking through his whole life. The lick of the flame and the searing kiss of fire had almost been like his first love, in a way. But this sandstorm that swirled and surged around him now? This was something else, something that could not care less if he was the the one cooking or the one being cooked. It was unrelenting, unfeeling, and felt no need to give him quarter or mercy.

That’s what the difference was, really. He wasn’t the one in control of this heat. This was not the tender touch that he could command and control and rebuke when it grew beyond what it should. It was past him, answering to another who had earned the crown of victory over it. It followed the siren song of the one who had conquered it millennia ago.

This would answer to none but the Princess who moved among mortals as the one known as Celestia.

The ground beneath him began to rumble, and he paused and glanced at the cracks that were forming in the parched earth. It wasn’t a full-out earthquake, he somehow knew, but rather more like somepony had taken the edges of the world and was giving everything a firm shake. He wanted to press forward, but with this movement he wasn’t sure he could maintain his balance.

He couldn’t just stand there, though. He tried to take few steps forward, but the shaking was just strong enough to knock off his balance and send him tumbling to the ground.


Bean groaned as the impact of the dream trip sent him back into reality. He then grunted at the odd nature of his subconscious, yawned, and then blinked a few times to clear the sleepiness from his eyes.

He then discovered why he had been dreaming of an earthquake and heat. Celestia was shivering fiercely, her whole body twitching uncontrollably as her teeth chattered, but yet she felt hot to the touch.

He glanced at the fireplace quickly. The flames had died out and had left barely glowing embers in their place, so it wasn’t because of that. He stuck a rear leg out from under her wing, and the room air felt normal enough as far as he could tell.

His concern started to grow, but he forced himself to remain calm. She was sick, that was as plain as the horn on her head, but he was sure a doctor could be summoned in short order if he could just alert a guard or some other staffer.

Bean slowly began to extricate himself from under her wing, but she seemed to notice this and she moaned a bit as he did so. It tore at his heart to hear it, but she needed help so he switched tactics and slid out as quickly as he could. Once he was out, he trotted briskly to the door and flung it open.

“Sir!” The two guards at the door replied simultaneously, and they came to full alert. “What is it?”

“Any chance one of you could go fetch a doctor?”

* * * *

Bean paced outside his bedroom door as he waited for Doctor Horsenpfeffer to finish her evaluation. Luna had appeared shortly upon hearing the clattering and banging of the guard while they had been summoning the doctor, and while she looked concerned she still maintained a calm and orderly demeanor.

“Bean, relax.” Luna offered in an effort to calm him down. “She probably just has the feather flu or something. If it was serious there would be a great many more medical ponies up here.”

“I know, I know. But I didn’t really think alicorns could get sick.”

“We do, though perhaps not as often as other ponies do.”

Then the door opened, and both Royals turned eager eyes to the periwinkle medical professional. She gave a short sigh but then offered a tired smile for them while she placed her stethoscope back into her black medicine bag. “Well, the good news is that Princess Celestia seems to have caught the feather flu.”

“Told you,” Luna quickly pointed out.

“The bad news is the same: Princess Celestia has the feather flu.”

“Huh?” Bean replied. He couldn’t handle riddles under the best of circumstances.

“The Princess needs rest right now more than anything, Your Highness. If she can do that she should be over this in a day or two, tops. The problem is that the Princess hasn’t taken a sick day in two hundred and fifty years. She still presses on, and thus her illness not only lasts longer but spreads. Feather flu is highly contagious, so if she keeps going like she always does she could start a pandemic.”

“Why am I not sick then?”

“Feather flu only affects those ponies with wings. Princess Luna would be at risk if she entered the room, but you have nothing to worry about.”

“Oh. That’s a bit weird.”

“A little.” The good doctor chuckled. “At any rate, the best thing right now is to make sure she rests. If you could keep her in bed somehow that would greatly help.”

“I can try, I suppose.” Bean shrugged. “I don’t think I could stop her if she really wants to get up though.”

“You may have more sway than you think, Bean,” Luna said with a chuckle. “If you tell her to rest, I am willing to bet she will rest.”

“The more sleep she gets, the faster she’ll get over this,” Doctor Horsenpfeffer added. “Just do your best, keep an eye on her temperature, and keep any and all pegasi away from her.”

“All right. I’ll do what I can.”

“Thank you. Try to have her drink lots of orange juice too. A little extra vitamin C never hurts.”

Bean simply nodded in reply, and Luna thanked the doctor for making the late night visit.

“Well, I suppose I should return to my duties.” Luna sighed as Horsenpfeffer walked away. “Let me give you something first.”

“Lavender?” Bean asked after Luna had conjured up a large bouquet and presented it to him.

“A very effective sleeping aid.”

“Oh. I’ll put them near Celly then.”

Luna nodded with a smile. “I will also monitor both of your dreams closely, unless something pulls me away. I doubt Celly will be dreaming much, but an untroubled mind would be beneficial to her as well.”

“Thank you.”

“Good night, Bean.”

Bean watched Luna walk away before returning to the interior of the room. A few candles remained lit, and two delightful pools of magenta focused on him as he returned to his beloved’s side.


“Luna says it will help you sleep,” Bean said over a sneeze from his beloved

“Let’s place them just over there. Also, could I trouble you to bring me a blanket? I still feel cold.”

“Sure. Which one?”

“There is one in the closet, a nice blue quilt on the shelf by my dresses. If you don’t mind, that is.”

“Of course not. I’ll be right back.”

Bean knew right where to look, but the weight of the quilt did catch him off guard. He stumbled back a step and grunted as he adjusted, and he heard feathers rustling in the other room.

“I got it!” he called out. “I’m fine!”

“Are you sure?”

“Oh yeah,” he said with only a little strain. “This is a thick quilt.”

“Luna gave it to me as a Hearth’s Warming present when she first returned. I usually wait to pull it out until winter, but I just cannot get warm tonight.”

“This thing is huge!” Bean remarked while he tried to unfold it. “You might have to send a search party in after me.”

Celestia gave a slight laugh before being consumed with a round of coughs. “Luna also remembered me being larger and taller than I actually am.”

“It looks warm though,” he replied as he pulled the blue mass of comfort over her. “And cozy. She did good.”

Celestia gave a tired smile, lifted her wing for Bean, then sighed as he settled in next to her.

“Anything else you need?” he asked.

“No. I should be all right now,” she said with a cough. “I hate getting sick.”

“Well, I’ll take care of you, don’t worry,” he replied with a quick nuzzle.

“I appreciate that,” she said through a yawn. “Hmm. You know, this reminds me of my mother in a way.”


“Mm, yes,” she replied as she closed her eyes and relaxed her head. “I can remember one time, when I was five or six perhaps, when I got sick with a cold. She bundled me up in a soft, warm blanket, and she sat me up on her lap and read all the books I would ask for. She made some kind of soup that filled me with delight from my horn to my tail, and then she simply sat and sang soft lullabies to me until I fell asleep.”

“That sounds amazingly wonderful. You had a good mom.”

“I did,” she said with a soft smile. “And now I have you to snuggle with.”

“Provided you want to keep me.”

Her wing tightened a bit around him, and her breathing slowed as she drifted into Luna’s domain.

“I never want to lose you.”

Bean felt a tear tickle his cheek as she began to snore softly. He had wondered earlier if their fight had made her regret her decision to stay with him, but it appeared it had not. He realized that he would probably still feel slighted if Celestia wasn’t sick, but he could put that aside and deal with it later. For now he needed to focus on helping her.

His own injuries could wait.

He smiled a bit and booped her, then began humming quietly as he too started to join her in the realm of dreams. Whether his little tune was being recalled from a distant memory or if he was catching nonsense notes from the midnight air was unknown, but in the end it didn’t matter. The tune was pleasant enough to bring out a small smile from Celestia’s lips, and Bean felt his own smile growing as he partook of the sight before him. He was amazed all over again that this mare had chosen to remain with him, but instead of feeling overwhelmed Bean found he felt content and pleased. He was fine with feeling amazed, but he realized he was grateful too.

Perhaps that little feeling of gratitude could make all the difference in the end.

* * * *

“Good morning, my dear.” Bean laughed a little as he received a round of coughs and a sneeze in reply.

“Meh,” Celestia verbalized how she felt afterward. “Is it time to raise the sun?”

“I think so, but Luna just checked in on us from the balcony so I think she’s raising it today.”

“She is?” Celestia asked, and she groaned when Bean nodded. “Ugh. She better not complain about it then.”

“About what? The hives?”

“No so much that. She—”


“That—” Celestia said with a long-suffering sigh “—is what I meant.”

Bean looked on in amused horror as Luna, from within a magical shield, pranced into the room and blew out the small flame that had been burning on one of her wingtips. There was smoke rising from her back and from a few patches of singed hair on her sides, and it appeared that a few of her feathers had been turned to charcoal.

“You are hereby prohibited from ever getting sick again.” Luna announced, as she checked her other wing for any open flames. “And are you completely sure there is no way to turn down the temperature on that thing?”

“Still no,” Celestia replied.

“Lousy hot ball of air,” Luna grumbled.

“Hydrogen, actually.”

“Unless something changed in the last thousand years, I do believe hydrogen is still a component of air.”

“Told you she gets grouchy,” Celestia remarked to Bean with a weak smile. “Thank you for raising it, Sister.”

“Yeah, well, you owe me for that,” she replied as she turned her focus to Celestia. “I will think of something horribly embarrassing for payment, don’t worry.”

“I’m sure you will.”

“So, are you feeling any better from last night?”

“Slightly. I’m not cold anymore but I still feel very congested, achy, and tired.”

“But at least your condition is improved. I have informed Chef Beet to prepare oatmeal for you and to have it brought it up here. There should also be more orange juice for you as well.”

“Orange juice sounds good,” Celestia sighed with a quick nuzzle for Bean.

“Rest, dear Sister, and I will check on you again later.”

Celestia nodded, and Luna teleported away without further comment.

“All right. Now that she’s gone I can get some work done before day court. I just need my—”

“No, you don’t.”

Celestia slowly turned to face her husband. “No?”

“No,” he repeated. “You need rest, and the doctor told me last night you’re really contagious. You can’t do any work today.”

Bean wasn’t sure if she was impressed or irritated. He really hoped it was the former so he wouldn’t have to get into another fight with her already.

“Are you telling me no?” she asked. “Me? Your princess, your ruler, your bringer of the day?”

“I am telling my wife no. The fact that you are a princess and that you bring the day is irrelevant. You need to rest.”

She gave him a curious look for a moment, but then moved in and gave him a quick boop. “If you insist, then. But I really do hate to cancel everything today, especially day court. It would be horrible to find out a pony had made a long and arduous journey so they could offer their petition to the throne, only to find there is no opportunity for them to do so, leaving them with nothing.”

“Couldn’t Luna take over?”

“She could, but she never has shown any interest in doing so since her return. I almost believe she is afraid to handle the affairs of Equestria alone.”

Bean’s eyes darted back and forth as he thought through an idea that had just come to him. “What if… what if I helped her?”

“You?” Celestia asked with a cough. “You want to run day court with Luna?”

“Yeah. So long as she helps me out, I bet I could handle it.”

“I don’t know. I believe you could handle everything in time, but you haven’t had a lot of education or training yet. But if Luna was there, and if Wysteria helped out too…”

“Whatever it takes to keep you in bed.”

“Or I could just keep myself under a shield. That way nopony can get infected.”

“That is not resting twice,” Bean replied sternly.

“Oo, you’re so cute when you’re angry.” Celestia chuckled.

“I am not,” he retorted sourly. “I am very serious when I am angry, and I should be taken seriously.”

“But while being cute,” she replied with a soft laugh. “All right. If Luna is willing to keep an eye on things and if Wysteria will take notes for me to review, I think that will work.”

“You have to stay in bed though,” he said with what he hoped was an even sterner look, “and no work. No papers, no meetings, no nothing. You are allowed to snack and to drink orange juice and water and to sleep.”

“And now you are giving me orders,” she chuckled again. “All right. I promise I will not do anything work related.”

“And if something comes up that I can’t handle, I’ll come consult with you,” Bean offered.

“Sounds good. May I read a book while I rest?”

“Yes,” he said with a smile.

“Good. I have two or three that I’ve been meaning to get to in the last three hundred years.”

“That’s a long time to put off a book.”

She gave him a coy smile and a mischievous wink before a knock came at the door.

“Good morning, Your Highnesses!” Wysteria offered as she pushed in a trolley with a domed tray. “I’m sorry to hear you’re not feeling well, but Chef Beet made some delicious oatmeal for you.”

“Makes me wish I could smell,” Celestia muttered.

“I apologize in advance for this,” Bean said to Wysteria as they walked down the hall.

“Hey, I’m more than happy to help you out if it means the Princess will actually stay in bed,” she replied. “The last time she was sick she ended up giving half the staff in the palace—including me—the pony pox. She really just doesn’t know how to not work.”

“Well, she’s only just recently had the option to take a sick day. I think she needs to learn how to delegate a little bit better.”

“She is doing better about that since I first got hired, but you are right. I get the feeling she just wants to make sure because she cares.”

“I can believe that,” he said with a laugh. “This will be good for all of us in one way or another I bet.”

“I certainly hope so.”

* * * *

Bean and Wysteria entered the throne room through the staff entrance and chatted about the upcoming session of Day Court. Wysteria remarked that the day would probably be slower due to it being a weekday, which helped Bean’s nerves slightly, but he did admit to being a tad bit worried.

“You’ll do fine.” Wysteria patted his shoulder in reassurance. “If it is a tricky decision, I can pull some strings and have whoever it is remain in Canterlot until Celestia can render judgement. However, I think between you, me, and Luna, we’ll be able to handle most of the petitioners.”

“Where is Luna, anyway?” Bean asked as he looked around quickly for her.

“She said she’ll be right down. She had to take care of some hives first.”

“Oh, okay then. I thought she was just kidding about that.”

“No, she really breaks out. But only a little bit.”


“She’ll be fine, don’t worry. Go ahead and have a seat while I finish up a few details. Luna should be down by the time we start.”

Bean simply nodded before moving to sit as instructed. Up to this point, he had been maintaining pretty well, but he hadn’t anticipated being on the throne by himself.

And now he was. Not as some kind of stunt or reward, not for a photo opportunity. This was his throne, before his ponies in his country.

The full weight of what that really meant began to settle in on him. In the previous day courts with his beloved, he had felt like a spectator, or perhaps like a reporter being given an inside look at how Celestia went about her day for an upcoming article. All he had to do then was sit back and watch Celestia move Equestria along.

But it was becoming clear that this would not be how things would remain. Since he fully believed Celestia when she had told Minister Wise and the two bickering pegasi that he was her equal, that meant that he would be issuing edicts. His word would become law for millions across a vast and prosperous land, and he would be responsible for the results of his actions.

Bean took a deep breath in. He had agreed to this. Celestia had warned him, she had given him a way out. Even now it was still a valid option. He could ask for the divorce, walk away from this tremendous responsibility.

But how deeply would that cut? He shuddered as he thought about how devastated he would be if she was the one to ask him. He couldn’t, not now. He was too emotionally invested.

There wasn’t a thing in the whole of Equestria that could convince him otherwise.

But that led him back to the original thought, and he closed his eyes while he inhaled and exhaled slowly and deeply.

“I can do this. I can.”

“Yes, this should be quite droll.”

“Gah!” Bean jumped sideways, but still managed to remain in the seat. “Discord?!”

“Hey-o Bean-o. Miss me?” The Mismatched Master of Mayhem asked with a delighted grin.

“Uhm…” Bean wasn’t quite sure how to answer that. He really had not missed him, but he didn’t want to offend the Lord of Chaos.

“Don’t worry, I know you did.” He ran a paw over the cushion beneath him. “Ooh! Very nice! No wonder she sends Twilight and her friends off to do her dirty work. If this was my throne I’d never get off my duff either.”

“Look, I really don’t need…” Bean started, but then he stopped himself. If he was going to be Celestia’s prince, he needed to act the part. “Discord, unless you are here to make a petition, I will need to respectfully ask you to leave.”

“Relax, mon capitaine, I’m not here to cause any trouble.”

“You’re not?” he blurted before he could help himself.

“Nope! I’m sure you’ll cause enough of that without my help. I’m just here to watch the fun.”

Well, that was inspiring. Discord smiled and wrapped an arm around Bean in a friendly embrace, much like a boa constrictor.

“Do me proud, Bean-o.”

He snapped his talon, and in a flash of light he moved from Bean’s side and into one of the stadium seats that had just appeared out of nowhere. The seats ran the length of the throne room and back up the other side, and more Discords began to file in from large archways that were at either end of the seats. The real Discord was sitting on the front row and perhaps ten feet away from Bean, and he was now sporting an oversized foam finger on his paw with BEAN IS #1 emblazoned upon it, a large tub of popcorn, and a ballcap with two soda cans tied to it. He waved at Bean gleefully, let out a shrill whistle, then shoveled in a large talonful of popcorn as a few fellow Discords sat next to him.

“Are you okay, Your Highness?” Wysteria asked as she walked around the throne and glanced at the bedlam. “I can have the guards clear him out if you want.”

“Do you really think they could?” he wondered aloud. As capable as the Royal Guard may be, he was genuinely curious as to how they would go about doing that.

“No, not really.” Wysteria admitted. She gave a glaring glance to the draconequus as he playfully waved back at her. “But I will personally award the Hoofbel prize to the pony who can,” she snarled a bit under her breath.

“I guess he’s fine, so long as he behaves himself,” Bean said while he took his turn glaring at two Discords who seemed to be fighting over a bowl of nachos. They both laughed nervously and smiled sheepishly, and another bowl of nachos appeared to end the feud. “How much longer do we have before day court starts?”

“Well, it really should be starting now,” Wysteria admitted. “But I’m not sure why
Luna isn’t here yet.”

“Who’s the first petitioner?”

“Let’s see…” She glanced down at her trusty clipboard. “Oh! That’s interesting. It’s a unicorn by the name of Starlight Glimmer. She wants to start a new town out near Manehattan.”

“Why is that interesting?”

“I don’t recall anypony else asking to start a town the whole time I’ve worked here. It’s interesting that she wants to start a new one rather than move to a place that’s already established.”

Bean thought about this for a moment. While interesting and perhaps a bit odd, there didn’t seem to be a reason why this Starlight should be denied. “Send her in, Wysteria. Maybe we can figure out why she wants to do this while we wait.”

“Of course, Your Highness.” Wysteria nodded to the guards at the door. The massive double doors then swung open, and Bean took a deep breath again as his hoof touched his Celestial Crystal.

This was now his court.

He then noticed that Discord and his fellow… well, Discords, since he couldn’t think of a better name for the duplicates, had suddenly become deathly silent. The light in the throne room dimmed, and Bean groaned as he noticed every single Discord in the room was now dressed in long, hooded black robes that obscured their eyes but left the cheerfully malevolent smile visible.

A distant bell began to knell as all of the Discords followed Starlight Glimmer’s approach, but interestingly enough she seemed to be unperturbed, and even seemed to revel in the attention in a way.

“Here ye, there she!” A Discord shouted from beside Bean. He unfurled a long scroll and cleared his throat before proceeding. “The Court will now hear the petition of one Starlight Glimmer, who is accused of equality! How plead you before this Tribunal?”

“Tribunal?” Bean asked. “What tribunal?”

“Well, since you’re flying solo at the moment I thought I would help,” Discord replied as an aside but with a huge grin. “C’mon, Bean-o! You’ll still make the final call, I promise.”

“This is your idea of… never mind.” Bean began rubbing his temples. “All right, fine. But please try to have some decorum, all right?”

“Decorum, gotcha,” Discord replied with a wink from under his his hood. “That’s some kind of grubworm, right?”

“Of course he thinks it’s a worm.” Bean groaned again. He had the feeling he’d be doing that a lot today. “Back to the topic at hoof. Miss Glimmer, you want to start a new village, correct?”

“Yes, Your Highness.”

“Where, exactly, are you proposing to found this new settlement at?”

“I’m so glad you asked, Your Highness!” she replied with an overabundance of enthusiasm. Several large maps floated out of her saddlebags and she proudly held them aloft in her magic. “I would like to build Our Town here, just to the northwest of Manehattan.”

Bean then stood and took a few steps closer to the maps with Wysteria and Discord.

“‘Just to the northwest?’” Wysteria asked in confusion. “Miss Glimmer, you are aware that the location you’re proposing is many miles outside of the regular trade routes and guard patrols, right? You will be, for all intents and purposes, on your own. Isolated.”

“I certainly hope so, ma’am. That is the whole point.”

“It is?” Bean asked, as he glanced at Wysteria briefly. “Why?”

“For a fresh start, your Highness. I want to create a place with no distractions from outside, where we can be self reliant. A blank slate, if you will. This will be my chance to make the perfect place to live.”

There was something that didn’t sit right with the way she said that, but was there some sort of legal precedent to stop her from pursuing this?

“Prince Bean?”

“Yes, Miss Starlight?

“If I may be so bold, what does your cutie mark mean? The princesses’ are rather straightforward, but yours? I must admit it’s rather puzzling to me.”

“Well, it…” He stalled and glanced back at it briefly. “Well, it’s… huh. I suppose it’s just a blank book.”

“Really? That must be frustrating, if I may say, to be bound to something so vague.”

“Well, I’m not really bound to it.”

“Oh? It is something you’re going to have to live with for the rest of your life. That sounds pretty bound to me.”

“I suppose,” he replied. Now she really was creeping him out, and that smile wasn’t helping. “But in a way it’s rather open to interpretation. It brought me here in a roundabout way after all. Yes, I didn’t get my mark in being a prince, but perhaps my cutie mark helps anyway. Much like how blank pages provide the opportunity to create a new world out of words, I too have this new opportunity to make a difference in ponies lives, much like your request to start a new life in a new place. It is a part of me, and though I may not fully understand it that doesn’t make it bad.”

“Perhaps.” She seemed placated but her gaze rested uncomfortably on his flank.

“May I have this map for a second?” he asked as he pointed to one, and Starlight gladly levitated it into his hooves. “Thank you. Allow me to consult with my advisors for a minute.”

“Of course, Your Highness.”

Bean gave her a wary look before moving back and behind the throne with Wysteria and Discord. The savvy secretary then caught the meaning of his glance and put up a soundproof shield before they continued.

“Well? What do you think?”

“I think I feel my skin crawling every time she speaks, that’s what I think,” Wysteria replied.

“Yes, I’m getting that vibe too, but what about her petition?”

“Well, she does has everything in order: the application, building permits, fees and dues. I really don’t see why she couldn’t be allowed to go start this little commune of hers.”

“Yeah, but that’s just it. She wants to be isolated, intentionally. What kind of a pony wants that?”

“There are a few ponies that prefer solitude, Your Highness. The paperwork shows a small hamlet of about twenty ponies or so. Maybe they’re just all tree huggers and want to live in that minimalist fad that’s been going around.”

“Hm.” Bean tapped his chin thoughtfully. “Could be. A lot of ponies thought the Apple family had gone nuts when they settled down near the Everfree. Discord, what are your thoughts?”

Discord held up a talon and a squeak emerged from his throat, but then he stopped with a puzzled look. “Wait. You want to know what I think?”

“Yeah. You run Discordland, right?”

“Discordland?” he questioned. “Oh! That city I made up in… dah…” he stammered for a moment as he realized what had escaped out of his mouth, “I mean, hah! Of course! I am an expert on new settlements, how kind of you to ask for my expertise!”

“Relax, Discord,” Bean replied with a hearty chuckle. “I was pretty extra sure you were making it up all along. But really, what do you think?”

“I… well, nopony has ever really asked me what I think, except for Fluttershy. You really want to know?”

“I wouldn’t ask if I wasn’t serious,” Bean replied with a grin.

Discord teared up for a moment, placed a furry fist next to his quivering lower lip, and smiled like he’d never smiled before. He then reached out, grabbed Baked Bean, and gave him a gigantic hug.

“You’re all right, Bean-o,” he offered in all sincerity. He then snapped his talon, and Bean found himself back on the ground and looking at Discord in a dark brown trenchcoat and fedora.

“All right, here’s the scoop. But keep a lid on it, see?” He said in a harsh whisper while glancing around to make sure they weren’t being watched. “Bean-o, I don’t like it, not one bit. She’s up to something.”

“Why do you say that?” Wysteria asked.

“Exhibit A: the application,” Discord replied as he pulled it out of his coat and held it out in his talon. “She filled it out in triplicate. Triplicate!”

“What?” Bean had to ask. “Why does that even—”

“No, he’s got a point.” Wysteria cut in.

“Care to explain?” Bean asked with a little exasperation.

“All forms need to be filled out in triplicate to get processed properly, but she is the first pony to actually have all three ready at the time of her application. Nopony has ever had all their paperwork ready to go right off. And look,” Wysteria began flipping through the papers on her clipboard with her hooves. “Environmental study, done. Impact usage analysis, done. Stormwater mitigation plan, done. Every last thing you need to do any kind of construction is done. Nopony is that well organized, not even me. For her to have all this ready means she’s been planning this for… years, probably. That’s really eerie.”

“All right. So she’s exceptionally organized,” Bean summarized.

“Twilight Sparkle is that organized,” Discord added. “This is the sign of a seriously disturbed mind, and I should know. Which brings us to Exhibit Two: that smile.”

“Smile?” Bean repeated.

“Exactly. I don’t like it, I don’t like it one bit. I know smiles, and that smile? That’s just not right.”

Bean caught on to what Discord was saying this time with no trouble. Starlight Glimmer’s smile hadn’t waned, hadn’t faltered in the slightest during her whole time there. It was perpetual, and that really made it seem forced.

“Ok, so creepy unending smile.”

“Exhibit Next? That cutie mark!” Discord leveled the statement as if that was the most condemning thing about all of this. He leaned down and threw a furry paw over Bean before he continued. “Who has a mathematical symbol on their flank, I mean really?”

“Let’s see.” Wysteria’s eyes drifted upward as she thought. “Professor Cosine at the University has a math based cutie mark, and Deputy Plum Level has a math equation in hers, my third-grade teacher, Missus Millimeter, had two plus two equals four for her cutie mark, The Mayor of—”

“Fine, finefinefine.” Discord interrupted with an annoyed huff. “Strike Exhibit Next. But I’m telling you, Bean-o, I trust her about as far as she frowns.”

“Okay, but does any of that prevent her from going forward with this?”

“Well, no.” Discord was finally forced to admit. “I don’t suppose it does.”

“All right. Thank you, Discord,” Bean replied with a deep sigh.

“I can put her application aside until one of the princesses can take a look at it,” Wysteria offered.

Bean fiddled with his Crystal as he thought. What would Celestia do in this circumstance? How would she rule? Should he just pass it on?

No, he wanted to figure this out. He wanted to show he could be useful. “All right. I think I know what to do,” he finally announced. “Discord, can I ask you for a favor?”

Discord leaned back slightly and gave Bean a leery look. “Favor?”

“Yeah. Could you keep an eye on Starlight for me? Just check in on her randomly and see if she’s up to something.”

“What’s in it for me?”

“A Royal sanction to spy on a pony?” Wysteria dryly offered.

“Nah, I do that already. How about your first-born, Bean-o?”

“Absolutely not.”

“Second born?”

“You’re not getting any of my borns.”

“Well you’re no fun,” he replied with a huff. “How about one hour of your life every umpth Tuesday?”

“That… really doesn’t sound any better.”

“Oh, come now mon capitaine!” Discord replied. “That’s my tea day with Fluttershy. She keeps telling me to bring a friend, and now I can bring you!”

“I guess…” Bean stalled out in thought for a minute. “Celly could come too, right?”

Discord scoffed. “Please. We’re talking about Fluttershy here. You could invite Queen Chrysalis along and she’d still be fine with it.”

“I doubt that,” Bean replied. “But that doesn’t sound too bad, I suppose. I agree, with the understanding that I might need to cancel if something important comes up here.”

Discord gave a squeak of joy. “Done! I’ll watch her like Maud watches Boulder.”

“I… I have no idea who that is, but thank you all the same,” Bean offered.

Discord again grew misty-eyed and Wysteria nodded with a smile before the shield dropped and all three returned to their spots.

“I see no reason why you can’t go forward with your plan, Miss Starlight,” Bean announced. “The Crown will accept your petition and application, on the condition that you allow a contingent of inspectors and specialists to insure things are up to code and specifications during construction.”

It may have been his imagination, but her smile seemed to twitch slightly. “Oh, your Highness,” Starlight scoffed and waved a dismissive hoof. “That will not be—”

“I am going to insist on that.” Bean ordered forcefully. “To build a town in the middle of nowhere is quite strange, Miss Glimmer. I believe it would be in the best interest of the Crown to make sure you are not attempting to cover something illegal, yes?”

“Of course, Your Highness. Your inspectors will have free access to all the pertinent information they need.”

“Good. Did you have anything else to bring before the Court?”

“No, Your Highness. I have received everything I need.”

Bean nodded, and Starlight’s smile still held fast as she followed a pegasus guard out of the hall.

“Impressive, young Beanmeister.” Discord offered from under his hood. He steepled his fingers and smiled wickedly before continuing. “Most impressive. Soon your journey on the path of Royalty will be complete!”

“What are you talking about?” Bean asked.

“I dunno.” Discord shrugged.

All light in the room suddenly shut off with a loud clank, and an upbeat song from a pipe organ began playing from nowhere as spotlights danced across the hall. Bean looked over at Discord and he tried to ask what he was doing, but instead he found himself once again in Discord’s furry and excited embrace as he pointed to the staff entrance.

“Royalty and Draconequus!” Discord’s voice boomed out of the ceiling. “Coming on the court now for the home team, in the number two spot, batting .302 over the last three seasons and back in the game after a long stay in the penalty box, everypony’s favorite tortured ruler, Princess LLUUUUNNNAAA!”

The crowd of Discords erupted into cheers and applause as a spotlight followed Luna’s quite thoroughly confused entrance. The light slowly increased as she did so, and by the time she reached Bean and Discord they had returned to normal.

“I would ask what is going on but I fear the answer would be more confusing than the question,” Luna remarked, as she took in the still-cheering crowd.

“Discord wanted to help out today,” Bean said, and Discord nodded his head with enough force to make a rattling noise. “He actually was really helpful with the first petitioner.”

One eyebrow peaked as Luna gave Bean a sly smile. “Oh? You started without me?”

* * * *

“Thank you, Princess!”

“Not at all. Good day, fair subject!”

Luna chuckled as she waved to the departing petitioner before offering a satisfied sigh. “A most charming stallion,” she remarked to Bean. “My sister should have told me day court was this easy. I would have offered her a day off many moons ago.”

“I don’t think this is normal,” Bean replied. “Five petitioners in two hours?”

“It is unusually dead, Your Highness,” Wysteria added. “Usually we have this many petitions in the first fifteen minutes.”

“But if these petitions are indicative of what she usually contends with then she has greatly exaggerated her workload. Perhaps I will run day court on my own sometime.”

“I’m sure Celestia would appreciate the day off, Your Highness,” Wysteria said with a slight roll of her eyes.

“But since we speak of Celly, I understand you had a disagreement with her yesterday,” she flatly remarked to Bean.

“A small argument. Nothing to worry about.”

“Hmm. Was the argument her fault or yours?”

“Well, it was hers. She accused me of pandering to her when I was just trying to be nice.”

“And the incident with the citron pressé?”

“Heh, you heard about that?” he asked as he rubbed the back of his head in embarrassment. “Yeah. Not my best moment, but she never told me what was going on. I just assumed it was for lemonade.”

“I see. May I offer a small piece of advice?”


“From what I have heard of the incident, I believe my sister was more in the wrong than you were, especially with the lemonade. It was not fair of her to assume that you knew about Prench customs since you are an upscale cook and can make Prench meals.”

“But that’s just it: I can’t. My family specializes in Caballian and Equestrian dishes. My mom always said the Prench were too snobby.”

“But does Celly know that?”

“Uh…” he stalled out in thought. “I guess not.”

Luna nodded. “Exactly. In her mind, you are fluent in foreign customs because of your background. She had no way of knowing that you did not know.”

“So that was my fault?”

“In a way. If you ever find yourself making an assumption, Bean, ask somepony about it and make sure you are right first. You will avoid a lot of headaches and angry ministers by doing that.”


“My sister could have handled the situation in a more controlled and professional manner, however. I intend to speak to her about this as well.”

“Thank you. That would be nice.”

“I won’t make a habit out of this, however. You need to work out your difficulties with your wife without a mediator. In fact, you should really talk to her about what has happened.”

“I should?”

“Open wounds that are not treated will fester and decay. Your relationship with Celly is your responsibility, not mine. You need to deal with these issues as they come.”

“Oh, right,” he said thoughtfully. Though he had no idea how to even start that sort of a conversation with Celestia he knew that she was right. He needed to be the one to discuss the issues with her, not another.

“Wysteria, send in the next petitioner,” Luna called out.

“There’s nopony to send, Your Highness,” Wysteria replied over her shoulder as she looked down the hallway.

“Oh. Well, I suppose this would be a good time to relax. Tell me, Bean, do you enjoy—”

A sudden coughing fit overtook her, and Bean watched her hack for a good twenty seconds before she finally brought herself under control.

“You’re not getting sick too, are you?” he asked with concern.

“Don’t be ridiculous. I had a shield up when I visited this morning. I am not getting sick.”

29. - A Wrinkle In Time

“This is all your fault,” Luna grumbled as she blew her nose into an already-overused tissue.

“It’s always my fault,” Celestia replied with annoyance and a matching honk of her own.

“Oh, stop that, you two,” Horsenpfeffer admonished. “You’re worse than my twins.”

“She started it,” Celestia muttered.

“I’ll finish it, too,” Luna weakly threatened.

Horsenpfeffer groaned and bopped Luna on the nose just hard enough for it to smart. “It’s not her fault. You could have caught this from anywhere.”

“This is Bean’s doing. He infected me somehow,” Luna groused while rubbing her snout.

“He did not. Earth ponies can’t carry the virus. You picked this up from a pegasus somewhere.”

Discord’s amused chortling drifted over from the corner, and all three mares turned to give him an icy stare.

“You do know the feather flu can jump species, right?” the good doctor remarked dryly. “And, opposite though they may be, you do have wings.”

Discord immediately stopped laughing, sat up straight and emitted a honk from… somewhere, gulped as his left eye twitched and then promptly disappeared in a flash, leaving nothing behind but the smell of menthol. Both Luna and Celestia chuckled at the revelation before passing a tissue box between them for the eightieth time.

“Where did my husband disappear to?” Celestia asked.

“I told him to go order a nice warm stew from the kitchens,” Horsenpfeffer said. “And I believe he said something about checking with Wysteria to make sure there was nothing that needed to be done.”

Celestia snuggled down into her pillow with a sigh. “Order? My Bean is a most disobedient spouse. He’s going to make something, and since both of us are indisposed, he’s going to make a lot of it.” The corners of her lips turned up ever so slightly, even after another long nose blowing. “Don’t worry, dear sister. I’ll share.”

“Good,” Luna sighed. “A warm bowl of anything would be most welcome right now.”

“He shouldn’t be long.” Celestia chuckled. “If I were to guess, I imagine he is being a rather large pest in the kitchen right now in an effort to help both of us feel better.”

“Well, other than the Feather Flu, I think you’re fine,” Horsenpfeffer announced to Luna. “Your treatment is the same as your sister’s: lots of orange juice and rest. If you exert yourself, you’ll stay sick longer. Also, stay away from anypony with wings.”

“I will.” Luna nodded. “Thank you, Doctor.”

“You’re welcome. I’ll be back in the morning to check on you,” she continued. “If you need me before then, just send Prince Bean after me.”

“We will, but we will also try not to disturb you.”

“Sounds good. Good evening, Your Highnesses.”

Luna and Celestia shared a round of coughs between them as the doctor left, and then Luna moaned. “I hate getting sick.”

“That makes two of us,” Celestia added. “But, I do have to admit it has been peaceful to simply rest. I didn’t realize how nice it could be to let somepony else take over for a time.”

“Perhaps this will cure you of your workaholic nature then.”

“Probably not.” Celestia chuckled. “I know I need to ease up but it’s hard to do so after a millennium of being unable to.”

“You should, though. You’re going to drive away your Bean if you don’t.”

“Drive him away? He’s been helping me run the kingdom already.”

“Has he, in truth?” Luna asked with a wary eye. “From what I have heard, his help was most unwelcome yesterday.”

“That wasn’t help,” Celestia said, her mood souring instantly with the mention of the incident. “He was pandering to me, Lulu. I told him about Daybreaker, and then he decided to start walking on eggshells.”

“Hmm. Are you sure that was his only motive?”

Celestia glared at her sister. “Lulu, you know I can tell when a pony is lying to me, and when they’re trying to stay on my good side.”

“With most ponies, yes. But I would suggest your view might be a bit skewed when it comes to the one who has your affections. You look at Baked Bean in a different way from me, or Wysteria, or anypony else. He has a singular place in your heart, and that changes things.”

“Luna, he was trying to placate me when I wasn’t upset.”

“All right. Let’s say you’re totally right, and that all his actions yesterday were only to ‘placate’ and pacify you. How did you decide to tell him that you did not appreciate what he was doing?”

“Well, I had a talk with him last night after he apologized for being ridiculous. He agreed that he was wrong, and then we kissed and made up.”

Luna gave her a flat look. “Celly, you never just talk to anypony when you’re upset. You lectured him, didn’t you?”

“No. I had a conversation with him.”

“What was the ratio of talk time between you and him?”

“Well, he…” Celestia stalled, and offered a cough. “He really didn’t say anything.”

“Forgive me if I am mistaken, but I do believe a conversation requires two active participants. When one pony speaks and another listens, that is a lecture.”

“No! It was… was…” Celestia tried to think of how it hadn’t been a lecture, but her efforts failed.

“It was a lecture, and I would suggest that you really didn’t make up afterward. If I forced him to tell the truth, I am willing to bet he would say he did no wrong and that he felt irritated by your reaction.”

“Why didn’t he say so, then?”

“Bean is a pony who likes peace, Sister, and he’d rather let you be right than have a fight about it. He wants you to be happy, so he let you win.”

“But he should have said something.” Celestia pouted.

“If he had, would you have listened to him?”

Celestia didn’t answer, but her ears folded back and she glanced away.

“Celly, if you intend for him to be your equal than you have to treat him as such. He is no longer merely one of your subjects, or one of your students. You are not the first, last, and every word in between anymore with him, and this is doubly true when you are discussing domestic issues. You have to let him have an opinion, and you’re going to have to let him take the lead sometimes. If he is doing something that irks you then you have to be willing to listen to the why behind it. What if he really just thought he was being helpful, like with the citron pressé? Is it reasonable to suppose that he wasn’t actively trying to pander, and that he just assumed you wanted lemonade? There are a lot of moving parts to consider in these things.”

“I guess you’re right,” Celestia sighed after a moment of reflection. “I probably did come down a bit hard on him.”

“One of the biggest challenges Star and I faced was making sure we were actually communicating. You will need to watch yourself in this regard as well. Talk with him when you sense a problem, not at him.”

“Thanks, Lulu. I’ll work on that.”

Luna blew her nose in reply just as Bean came back into the room with a delicious-smelling pot of homebrewed goodness sitting atop the trolley cart.

“Not getting sick huh?” Bean smugly offered to Luna, and he received her tongue stuck out at him for a reply.

“Is everything alright, Bean?” Celestia asked. “Did Wysteria need anything?”

“Everything is fine,” he reassured her. “Wysteria has taken care of the reschedules, and I believe she’s heading home for the night.”

“Good. Hopefully I will recover enough by tomorrow to get back to work.”

“I hope so too, but more because I want you to get better.”

“Och, you’ve gone and gotten yourself sick again, haven’t you?”

Luna’s ears flicked. That voice, that delightfully deep brogue…

“What did you make?” Celestia asked Bean, as she tried to peer up and into the pot.

“Make?” He scoffed. “I ordered a nice cabbage stew, just like Doctor Horsenpfeffer asked me to.”

“I am not sick. This is naught but a tickle in my throat.”

“You did not,” Celestia challenged.

“I did too!” Bean protested with a laugh. “I ordered it and then ten seconds later I got impatient and forced my way back to make it myself.”

“That sounds right.” Celestia chuckled.

“Aye, Love, you’re sick. C’mon, I’ll get somethin’ warm goin’. Ya best be gettin’ that beautiful flank into bed.”

“Here, careful. It’s still hot.” Bean offered a bowl to Luna, and she nodded as her magic took it from him.

“Cabbage? Thou knowest I despise cabbage.”

“Ah know, Ah know. But the war ain’t been kind to the crops, and your sister insisted the staff cut back to half-rations to help feed the front lines. It’s all we have at the moment, Love.”

The smell of pinewood and moss drifted into Luna’s nostrils, smells that had not deigned to introduce themselves nor to keep her company for well over twelve hundred years. She inhaled deeply to savor them, to relish them, and to help recall the memories that they had brought as company with them.

“I should be at the front with my troops.”

“Och, and what good’ll that do? You’d spread that cough through the ranks and do more damage than the ‘Squatch ever could.”

“But my place is there, with they who labor under the banner of Equestria,” she protested. “I refuse to lead from the rear.”

“Ah, well, you best be restin’ then. Sooner you get over this the sooner you can get back to ‘em, ya mule.”

“I am not a mule!” she said with a laugh.

“You act it sometimes,” he replied with a scoff and a smile.

Luna watched silently as Bean sat down in front of Celestia and began gently blowing across the top of the stew. Celestia chuckled as he aimed the vapor towards her, and she took deep breaths of the savory aroma each time they wafted towards her.

“How are things at the front, Love?”

“There are steady gains, and my sister hath raised a flag of truce to offer terms of capitulation. Time will tell if the envoy is accepted or not, however.”

“Aye, it’d be a right day if’n them ‘Squatch could come to terms. It gets a mite bit hard explain’ why you’re gone, and I canna help but worry about ya. Spears pierce the hide all the same, immortal or no.”

“Oo, careful,” Bean cautioned. “It’s still pretty hot. Here.”

Celestia picked her head up and readjusted her front legs, and she gladly opened her mouth as Bean approached with the spoon. She hummed a little as he fed her gently, and with a gentle toss of her mane she prepared for him to come again.

“Och, here. Best not to burn you with this. Open up.”

“You sure you want me to keep doing this?” Bean asked. “I was just letting you sample it, to make sure it was the right temperature.”

“Oh, but my dear Bean, I am sick!” Celestia gently pouted. “And you were given instruction to keep me from exerting myself! I have just enough strength to chew and swallow. I will need your assistance with the rest.”

“You’re terrible.” Bean laughed, as the flames in the fireplace behind them whipped and surged slightly, and the crackle increased a tick in volume. “But if you insist.”

“I do insist. Thy princess requireth sustenance, and thou art the only stallion who can satisfy mine appetite.”

“Ah, yah must be sicker than I thought.” Star Struck chuckled a little, as he scooped out another spoonful. “Broken to the point of bein’ unable to feed yourself? I guess Ah’ll just ‘have to nurse ya back myself.”

“Thy princess expecteth it,” Luna said with a snort of happiness.

“Ah always knew you enjoyed bein’ pampered.”

“I am not being pampered. Thou art assisting thy very weak and famished wife.”

“‘Assisting.’ Darlin’, you may be a warrior on the surface, but deep down you’re a princess, and ya enjoy bein’ treated like one. You’d keep me here, waiting on your every need if you could.”

“And I would regret not a moment of it,” she said with joy.

The flames surged again in the fireplace, but Baked Bean and Celestia were so absorbed in each other’s eyes that the action went unnoticed. Luna smiled to herself as Bean would gently blow across the stew in the spoon, move carefully to feed it to Celestia, and then retreat and start again once she had delicately sipped the succulence off and smiled anew.

Luna smiled more as she continued to watch. Hundreds of years had passed, and yet love still had the astonishing power that it always held. A princess had, again, allowed a pauper into her heart, and a pauper was willing to climb the near-impossible mountains of expectation in order to have his princess. Love was weaving two hearts into one, caring not for station or power or custom. He was hers, and she was his. What else mattered in the end?

The fire once again surged, and Luna closed her eyes softly. Nothing else had mattered then either.

* * 🌙 * *

Aye, there ya go. How’s that cough feelin’?”

“Better.” Luna hummed. “If thou wilt continue to provide to my needs in such manner, I believe my recovery shall be swift and sure.”

“Glad to hear it. I hate to see you sick.”

Luna softly slurped the contents of the offered spoon, and she quickly booped Star Struck’s nose before he could pull back again.

“I love you.”

“Aye, I love you too.” He chuckled. “Even when you’re actin’ like a mule.”

“Thou wouldst be most displeased if I was not, and thou knowest it.”

He simply nodded to this, and offered another spoonful to her. “Aye. I canna deny that. Yer just perfect.”

Luna purred a bit, and a happy silence passed between them for a few minutes as he continued to spoon feed her. He then chuckled, and she gave him a curious glance.

“What doth amuse thee?”

“Ah, nuttin,” he said. “Just thinking.”

“Wilt thou not share thy thoughts?”

“Och, ‘tis nuttin’ but a memory.”

“Please?” Luna gently asked, before taking another sip. He gave her a soft smile, and then sighed happily.

“D’ya remember the first time ya raised the moon with me?”

She hummed as the memory instantly came back to her. “I shall never forget it.”

“‘Twas a night I dunna think I could ever forget either. Ah knew yer were up to something when you invited me out on that veranda, but no stallion in his right mind could turn away from that teasing flick o’ the tail ya gave me.”

“Thou hast always had a strange fascination with my backside.”

“D’ya blame me? That ‘backside’ o’ yours is mesmerizing,” he said with a laugh. “But then you draped your wing over me, and Ah thought Ah’d never find a deeper happiness.

“But then you raised the moon,” he continued that soft and smooth tone that drove her absolutely wild. “There Ah stood, under the wing o’ the most beautiful mare to ever grace the fields o’ Barra, watchin’ as the magic of the moon mixed with the gentle caress of your side against mine. Ah just couldn’t believe that a low-born mud-trotter like me could ever catch the attention of a princess, and Ah had not only done that but Ah’d somehow fallen in love with ya.

“And then you leaned in close to my ear. You have a voice that can shake the very stars above, but when you started to whisper you were as smooth as silk. You told me of your love for me, how you cherished me. You spoke of how Ah’d changed you, tempered you.

“And you told me you’d give it all up if you had to. The titles, the power, even the moon itself if’n it came to that. All of it was nuttin’ if you couldn’t have me.

“Ah knew, right then, that Ah couldn’t live without you. We had been woven together, so fast and tight that the only way to separate us was to rend the very heavens themselves. Come what may, my destiny was with you, from then to forevermore.

“Heh. It’s amazin’ how one moment like that can change everythin’. Right then Ah knew that Ah knew, and Ah could never turn away from you without turnin’ away from myself.”

“Hmm,” Luna sighed happily. “And thou hast remained, amidst toils and tribulations most severe. Thou hast been a most loyal companion, and I will forever be grateful for thy devotion.”

A soft tapping came at the door, and Luna visibly grew eager in anticipation while she sat up and turned to face the source of the sound.

“Och! Who’s makin’ all that fuss?” Star Struck called out playfully. “Get in here and present yerself!”

“Can Ah come in? Auntie Celly says Mum is sick.”

“Get in here, yah wee rascal!”

The door nudged open just enough for a small lavender unicorn filly to stick her head through. She wore a worried look, but as soon as she saw Luna’s outstretched arms she flung the door open and galloped over as fast as her little legs could carry her. Both she and Luna laughed as they embraced, and Luna gave the small bundle a quick noserub after they had done so.

“My precious little Twilight! How art thou this fine evening?”

“Ah’m good, Mum,” the blank-flanked filly replied with a huge grin. “Are you really sick?”

“Indeed, but ‘tis nothing more than the Feather Flu. Thy father hath been most attentive to my needs, and I believe my recovery shall be swift.”

“Good, ‘cause you said when you got back you were gonna show me how you raise the moon.”

“I did?!” Luna gasped in faux surprise. “Mine illness must be most severe. I do not recall any such promise.”

“You did too!” Twilight protested vehemently. “You said Ah could help you raise it!”

“Ah, now the memory returneth,” Luna said with a sly smile. “You will want to raise it tonight, I suppose?”

“Uh-huh!” Twilight replied with a vigorous nod of her head. “Ah’ve been goin’ over all the instructions you gave me. Ah calculated the relative velocity, accounted fer atmospheric interference and weight distribution—”

“Aye, that she has,” Star Struck confirmed as Luna glanced over at him in surprised joy. “Ah’ve even caught her mumblin’ things like ‘apogee’ and ‘sidereal rotation period’ in her sleep.”

“And how have thy studies with Master Starswirl fared?” Luna asked her daughter.

“Uh, well…” Twilight twiddled a hoof on the floor. “My grades are good, Mum, they really are.”

“But?” Luna asked after the pause.

“But he’s so BORIN’!” The little unicorn couldn’t help but blurt out. “All day! Nuttin’ but formulae and theory and conjectures. He dunna know how to have fun!”

“Aye, our little Twilight Starbright got herself into a wee spot o’ trouble yesterday,” Star Struck added.

“Oh?” Luna asked.

“Ah canna help it if Starswirl canna take a joke,” Twilight muttered. “All Ah did was turn his beard green.”

“Green?” Luna chuckled. “Thou madest his beard green?”

“Yeah! Wasn’t hard neither,” Twilight announced in pride. “All Ah had to do was sneak a reactive agent in to his prune juice. I dunna know how he figured out it was me, though.”

“Thou art a wee rascal indeed,” Luna said with a laugh. “While I do not condone thine actions, Master Starswirl doth need to ‘lighten up’ in my opinion. If thou dost vex him again, make sure thou art not caught.”

All three of them laughed at this before Twilight piped up again. “Ah will. So can ya show me how to raise the moon?”

“I suppose I can,” Luna replied, and her little filly whooped in joy. Another knock at the door interrupted the celebration, but all three were pleasantly surprised when they saw who had knocked.

“Auntie Celly!” Twilight cried out.

“Good evening, Twilight!” Celestia replied, as she placed her golden helm down and strode into the room. “I trust thou art well?”

“Yeah! Mum’s gonna let me help her raise the moon tonight!”

“Ah! Wonderful news!” Celestia replied. “Thou art sure to be an expert at it, just like thy mother.”

“What bringeth thee back here, Sister?” Luna asked. “Thou art still in thine armor, so thou must be leaving again soon.”

“Of a truth, I return only to share good news with my friends. The Sasquatch have surrendered and accepted the terms of capitulation! The war is now at an end.”

Twilight whooped again, and Luna shared a quick nuzzle with her husband to celebrate.

“I must return to oversee the disarmament and to ensure compliance with the terms, but I felt that thy recovery, dear sister, might be expedited if thou knewest of these things. I have given thy division to Flash Magnus to oversee, and thou art relieved of thy duties at the front. Stay, be with your family, and rest. I shall return when all is completed, and we shall then have a banquet in celebration of our victory.”

“Will it actually be ‘our’ victory this time, or wilt thou somehow make it thine own success again?” Luna replied darkly.

“Now,” Star Struck interjected. “this is not the time to be pickin’ more fights, love.”

“Very well,” she replied before focusing back on Celestia. “Now leave before thou art struck down by my illness as well!”

Celestia chuckled and recovered her helm with her magic. “By your leave, then. Fare thee well.”

“Well!” Luna announced after Celestia had left. “My spirits are most renewed. Come, my precious Twilight. Tonight thou shalt assist me in raising the moon.”

* * 🌙 * *

“Now, remember that the moon will be much heavier than thou art anticipating. Thou must—”

“Ah know, Mum! Ah know,” Twilight protested.

“Ya best be lettin’ her get to it. She canna take the anticipation anymore.” Star Struck laughed.

“All right. Since thou art so eager to proceed,” Luna replied. Twilight let out a grunt of anticipation, quickly twisted to face the east, then crouched slightly and flared her horn.

“Och, she looks like a right proper stinkbug she does,” Star whispered to his wife.

Luna began to protest, but she had stop and hold back her laughter as her daughter began wiggling her rump slightly and swishing her tail. “All right. Art thou in harmony with the moon yet?” Luna asked while draping a wing over her beloved.

“Just...about…” Twilight grunted.

“Remember, thou shouldst feel the harmony. Tis not something thou canst touch with thy natural senses.”

Luna’s own magic began to work, and she gently weaved her magic in with her daughter’s. She felt along the threads Twilight had created, and she was impressed. Her daughter had everything nearly perfect.

“Now, guide it up.”

Twilight grunted in exertion. Despite all of her bravado earlier, Luna could feel her young one straining against the weight of the moon, and she smiled deeply. With a touch of her own magic to assist, the moon gently rose over the treetops and into full view.

“Ah did it,” Twilight panted, the exertion showing in her flushed cheeks as she turned to face her parents with a pleased smile. “Ah did it! Ah raised it!”

“Aye, and a fair job ya did of it too,” Star Struck remarked. “Good job, Lass!”

“Can Ah help again tomorrow?” Twilight eagerly asked her parents. “Please?”

“I believe that can be accommodated,” Luna replied, and she laughed with her husband as Twilight began cheering and hopping around in a circle in joy.

“D’ya think she’ll be able to raise it on her own one day?” Star asked.

“That I am unsure of,” Luna replied, and her gaze turned back to the silver orb before them. “My magic is greater than hers, and…”

No. Not here, not now.

“Love? What is it?” Star Struck asked.

Luna’s eyes narrowed as the featureless expression of the Tantabus began to drift across the moon. There was only one reason why it would show now.

“Leave,” Luna commanded. “This memory is not given to you, nor will it ever. You are to remain within the dream that I have created for you. Disobey and you will cease to be.”

The Tantabus paused, and Luna almost thought she could see defiance moving across the deep purple aether that made up the nightly reminder of her betrayal. After that moment was over, though, it complied and slid out of view, and Luna turned to her husband and offered a wane smile.

“Forgive me, Love. My thoughts became troubled for a moment, but they are hampered no more.”

“Are yah sure? I dunna know what ya rebuked but it seemed serious.”

“I am sure, Star. Come. Let us dwell on this no more. I believe we shall now make a daring midnight raid of the castle’s stores in celebration of my daughter’s achievements!”

“Yes!” Twilight cheered. “C’mon! If we hurry we can beat the patrols!”

“Oy! How d’ya know how to do that?” Star Struck called out in amused alarm as his daughter shot off into the keep.

* * 🌙 * *

“Did she really?” Celestia asked.

“Yup. She’s out,” Bean confirmed.

“Dear Lulu.” Celestia chuckled warmly. “Good thing she raised the moon before her energy left her.”

“I’ll go get another blanket,” Bean offered.

“Good idea. She’ll need it tonight if she has the chills like I did.”

“I hope she doesn’t,” he said before moving back towards the closet. “What do you suppose she’s dreaming about?”

“Something pleasant, I hope,” Celestia said with a sigh. “She always seems so tortured when I see her sleeping, so restless. I sometimes wonder if all those nightmares that she fights off somehow affect her own sleeping.”

“That wouldn’t be fun.” Bean walked back into the room, nearly covered in a thick blanket. “She deserves to have sweet dreams when she sleeps.”

“That she does,” Celestia agreed. She smiled deeply as she watched Bean unfold the blanket, drape it over Luna’s sleeping form, and then tuck in the edges around her body to keep any cold drafts from disturbing her.

“There we go,” he announced once he was finished. “That should keep her warm.”

“We’ll keep an eye on her tonight, too,” Celestia replied, lifting her wing and allowing Bean to snuggle in beside her again. “But, I guess when I say ‘we’ I should really say ‘you.’ I may not be so easy to rouse this evening.”

“I don’t mind. One night’s worth of lost sleep is worth having the both of you feel better.”

“So devoted,” Celestia replied warmly as she nuzzled him. “Thank you for everything you’ve done today.”

“Aww,” he stammered. “You’re welcome. Just don’t get sick again!”

Celestia laughed. “If I can help it in any way, I will certainly avoid it.”

30. - Understanding

Celestia, Princess of the Sun and Ruler of the Day awoke with a bit of a start. She yawned, smacked her lips, and then moved to boop her Bean.

She would have succeeded, too, were it not for the fact that Baked Bean had pulled his disappearing act yet again. She really needed to ask him how he managed to do that.

“Bean?” she called out softly.

A loud snore from Luna came in reply, and Celestia winced as she realized that neither of them had taken the anti-snoring pill last night. It was little wonder he had slunk out, because he was probably worried about long-term hearing damage.

She then bit her lower lip in playfulness. A game of hide and seek with her Prince? The idea had great appeal. But where would he have gotten to?

“Hmm,” she cooed. Perhaps he had snuck away to the north tower again. It would be familiar, and not too far away.

A quick glance at the clock told her she had thirty minutes before sunrise, which was more than enough time to find him and then smother him with apologetic kisses. After a playful giggle and a quick check in the mirror to make sure she was presentable enough to leave the room, she then moved out into the hall and off towards her prize.

The guards in the hallway offered a salute as she exited and began her search, and she nodded pleasantly to each one when she casually strolled by. She felt quite renewed, she realized, and all of the horrible symptoms of her illness from yesterday had cleared out. This burst of energy was a bit difficult to contain, but she didn’t want to tip off the whole palace to her motives and fun.

Once she reached the north tower, she gently and carefully eased the door open and peered inside. Sadly, there was no Bean, only an unoccupied room that awaited a guest. With a mischievous huff, Celestia pulled the door shut and then casually began walking to the next potential location: the kitchens.

“He could be making breakfast.” She considered the concept with delighted glee. “A nice omelette, maybe, or some delicious buttermilk biscuits.”

But this turned up no Bean as well. Chef Beet and her staff hadn’t seen him that morning, but she was kind enough to offer waffles and hash browns for the morning meal. Celestia accepted the offer with a graceful smile, and then resumed her search.

She really didn’t think he would be in the dining room, but she peeked in just to be sure and quickly confirmed her suspicions. She then moved towards the throne room with a bit more enthusiasm, the throne was comfortable enough to sleep on. She should know; she had dealt with so many long-winded petitioners after long and restless nights that she had finally taught herself how to sleep with her eyes open.

This, however, came up clear as well, and now she was growing eager and a bit concerned. She was confident he wouldn’t leave the palace, but why would he go anywhere else within?

“Perhaps he asked for a guest room—any guest room—where could rest,” she considered softly to herself. “Mm, but that would take the rest of the day to search.”

In the interest of time Celestia decided to cheat a little. She sent out a quick searching spell to locate what room he could have been placed in, but even this came back Beanless, and that moved Celestia into the worried category.

“Why would he leave?” she muttered to herself as she moved back towards her room. “Unless he got called away for something, but what could possibly…”

She then had a sudden realization, and she smiled deeply to herself. There was one other place he could be, somewhere somewhat quiet and yet close enough that he could respond quickly if he needed to.

“The balcony.”

She opted for a teleport spell this time, and she was quite pleased to find her assumption had been correct. Her marvelous Bean was near the far edge, his body facing east and his head near his hooves. Her poor husband had fallen asleep while standing, and Celestia imagined he was going to be a bit sore once she woke him up.

She giggled a little while sliding up next to him, and she started to gently nip at the base of his neck. His tail flicked, and a soft moan of happiness gurgled out of his throat, so she slowly began moving up towards his cheek. His head rose as she moved upward, and a pair of puckered lips awaited her once she reached the top. She took the invitation but teased him with just a quick peck, and he let a moan of sadness out before blinking his eyes open.

“Ungh?” Celestia attempted to make a word out of Bean’s moan before offering another light giggle. “I think that means you were expecting more?”

“I was,” he simply replied.

“Well, you impertinent stallion you, I don’t kiss just anypony,” she said as she retreated back and stood at her full height. She tried to look stern, but the playful smile that tugged at the corners of her mouth gave away her true feelings as she continued. “I am the Princess of the Sun, after all. I have very exacting demands, and no stallion has been able to measure up. I reserve my affection for those who are deserving of it, those whom I trust and care for. I refuse to let my royal lips—”

Bean wasn’t going to wait for her to finish her speech. He simply reared up, and in one swift move he locked his lips to hers and wrapped his arms around her neck. They stayed in this embrace for several long minutes, and when Bean finally did pull back Celestia fluttered her eyes open and gave him a deeply pleased smile.

“You keep sticking your tongue in there like that and you’re going to reverse the colors of my mane.”

“Ah, but I’m just brushing up on my diplomatic knowledge. I think the Prench enjoy kissing in this style, don’t they?” Bean asked.

“Indeed they do, but that is only part of a true Prench experience. Tu parles prançais, mon amour?” Celly quipped, her transition to Prench flawless.

But Bean was not to be outdone without a fight on this one, and he smiled deeply. “Un semestre à l’école secondaire. Et c’était pour impressionner une fille,” he said, and Celestia smiled deeply. His words were choppy, provincial, boorish, and he was speaking through his nose; but it was respectable for Equestrian standards at least. In time, he could stand up to diplomatic scrutiny, with some tutoring.

This was a prospect that made her extremely giddy.

“Pour une fille? Comme c’est romantique.”

“ça n’a pas vraiment… something… oh, whatever the phrase is for ‘it didn’t work out.”

“Quel dommage,” Celestia said softly. And her loss is my gain.

“Is that what it is? I haven’t really spoken it since then. I’m probably giving the pronunciation a slow and painful death.”

“Not quite that bad. You could pass as a better than average tourist, but for what we do I will need to—” she snuck in so close that her breath tickled the fur of his ear “—give you a few lessons.”

How her heart leapt when his breath hitched and shuttered at her words. It was a completely new and wonderful take on the phrase ‘hanging on her every word.’

“And how would you do that?” he whispered.

“I would start with your pronunciation. You should speak slowly but confidently, much like how you would add spices to a simmering pot. Each word should be finely seasoned and dressed, and served in the most delectable manner possible.”

“Could you give me an example? I always do better if I can hear it as opposed to reading it.”

Celestia took a brief moment to deeply breathe in the scent of her beloved, and with his unique blend of eleven herbs and spices on her mind, she offered her deepest and truest feelings to him. “Mon amour le plus cher, vous n’avez aucune idée combien j’adore votre passion et votre fièvre.”

“My dear, your whispered words taste like the purest golden honey to me,” Bean softly replied, and she giggled as she watched his hair stand on end and his face flush with pleasure before he continued “I have never realized before how the fullness of your syllables and the elegance of your tones set my world alight. Even your lilts, oh sweet harmony! How your lilts make me ache for you to say more.”

“Quand nous nous embrassons, je suis à nouveau une jeune jument ravie,” she cooed into his ear. “Tu me fais frémir et souffre pour ton amour. Dites que vous serez à moi.”

Celestia knew he had only comprehended half of her words at best, but the magic of her love in her voice more than made up for the gaps. He really could only offer one simple and breathless response to her.


Her wings gently enveloped him in a deep, feathery bliss. “Ma moitié.”

His green eyes shone as deep as the waters on the coast of Mareseille back to her as he leaned close and simply stated, “Ma ange.”

“My stars, I am trying to get over being sick and I wake up to this.” Luna stuck out her wet tongue as she strolled up to them.

The moment was broken but far from forgotten, and the two lovers moved back to a neutral stance with a chuckle before her desired wing settled once again into its familiar place across his back.

“Well, you fell asleep in my room so it’s your own fault,” Celestia replied with another quick kiss for her prince.

“It probably is, so in the interest of not interrupting this moment any further—and to aid my own recovery—I’m going to lower the moon and then go to my bed. You two can do whatever you want, just leave me out of it.”

“We will, don’t worry.”

Bean simply watched as Luna took a few steps past them to do her work. She gave him a quick smile as she did so, and Bean felt his awe grow anew as her magic gently moved up and touched the moon.

“Celly?” he whispered while Luna slowly began moving her heavenly object below the horizon, “May I ask you something?”

“Of course. What is it?”

“Is the magic that you use to move the sun the same magic Luna is using now?”

“It is, but the technique is different. When I raise the sun, I have to use a more forceful and heavy touch, if you will. The moon is… oh, I hate to use the word delicate, but that’s really the approach you must take with it. If I hauled it up like I did the sun, I would fling it clear across the sky and the night would last for five seconds.”

“The moon is delicate, Bean.” Luna motioned with one hoof for him to come up to her. “Its purpose is to provide serenity and peace, introspection and revelation. There is a reason poets don’t use the sun when they speak of self discovery. In the day, one performs their labors, and their mind is consumed with the needs of the now. Night allows a pause, a moment to see beyond. The pressure of the day is lessened, and the mind is able to clear. Memories are more vibrant, and the pleasures of the past can be easily recalled.”

Her wing moved over the top of him, and as she finished floating the moon behind the mountains, she turned and gave him a smile. “And this works for all, be they pauper or princess. Thank you, Bean, for allowing me to see that again.”

“See what again?”

“Something I needed to see, a memory from long ago. Your love for my sister will have a far-reaching impact, whether you know it or not. Keep loving her, and you will bring about great things.”

He nodded with a hint of a blush, and Luna gave him a larger smile before releasing him. Luna then took flight, and Bean trotted back over to Celestia with a bit of a worried look.

“It is okay that she…?”

“That was a friendly hug, nothing more,” Celestia replied with a small grin. “You need not fear sharing the bed with the two of us again, unless we should come down with the flu in the future. This was simply her way of accepting you as family.”

“Okay,” he replied in relief. “I need a few lessons in that arena too.”

“I do believe I can help with that.”

“So may I safely assume at this point that you are feeling better?” he asked, as her wing again moved over him and gave him a squeeze.

“Mm, I feel marvelous.” Celestia purred while she lit her horn and began to raise the sun. “Thankfully, I think I caught the twenty-four hour version of the flu. I’ll still have Doctor Horsenpfeffer do a quick check to make sure, but I think she’ll say I’m just fine.”

“Good. I’m sure the staff will appreciate your recovery as well.”

“They’ll appreciate me not getting them sick,” Celestia said with a laugh. “But did you get any sleep at all?”

“Here and there. I wanted to still be nearby if you needed me, but between you and Luna snoring, I thought I’d wandered into a sawmill. Out here wasn’t so bad.”

“Not a very comfortable place, though.”

“Yeah, not so much.” He chuckled while the sun began to warm his ruffled coat. “But since you are feeling better it was worth it.”

“I will make sure I take three pills tonight to make sure you get the rest you need,” she said with a quick boop. “Do you feel rested enough to accompany me to breakfast?”

“I think I can handle that, yes.”

“Good. After that we’ll go over Wysteria’s notes and you can tell me all about day court.”

* * * *

Baked Bean was sure he was going to explode.

Really. He was going to literally explode.

All right, maybe not literally, but if she doesn’t say something soon…

“So, this is the only petition you looked over by yourself?” Celestia asked as her magic sorted the papers again.

“It is,” Bean whined. Celestia glanced at him with what he thought was a disapproving look before turning back to the papers.

“You came up with this all on your own?”

“Well, no.” he replied. “Wysteria and Discord helped me decide what to do,” he stated before righting himself. “But it was my call.”

“And Discord now wants you to attend his tea dates with Fluttershy?”

“Yes.” Bean cringed. “Depending on what’s happening here, of course.”

I will own up to my actions, no matter what.


Baked Bean was not going to be able to take this much longer. His heart was racing in his chest, and he was fidgeting with his Celestial Crystal as if it was the sun itself. “I, uh… I did get permission for you to come too.”

“You did?” Celestia asked flatly, and Bean nodded. “You invited me as well. Huh.”

“Well as my wife, you are my immediate choice for a plus one at parties.”

Celestia offered no reply to this, and Bean’s willpower snapped.

“I screwed up, didn’t I?” he moaned. “I should have waited for you to recover. I shouldn’t have made the decision without you or Luna. I overstepped my—”

Bean’s rant was silenced when Celestia’s magic grabbed his muzzle. She then leaned in close to him and gave him a sugary sweet smile.

“Stop that. You did nothing wrong.”

“I didn’t?” he blurted as soon as her magic released him.

Celestia gave him a long and reassuring kiss before replying. “You did not. In fact, I think you did everything right.”

“Really?!” he asked with a small squee of delight in his voice.

“Indeed my love. You took all the facts into consideration, consulted with a trusted advisor, listened to your instincts, and used some remarkable diplomatic skills to turn an unknown factor into an asset. I’m actually really impressed that you managed to not only include Discord in your decision process, thus giving him a chance to be useful, but that you also managed to enlist his help. I’m not sure I would have even thought of that. With him performing some occasional surveillance on Miss Glimmer on top of your inspectors I believe the situation is under control. You did good.”

He stammered and twiddled his hoof, but Baked Bean was immensely pleased that his wife approved of his work.

“I think this calls for a reward,” Celestia continued with a sultry look.

Bean’s eyes shrank to pinpricks. “A what?”

“A reward,” she offered in a soft and seductive tone.

“Oh! Uh, well…” he stammered.

“Oh, don’t worry. I’ll be gentle.”

Bean started to go white, and when he spoke his voice was just above a whisper. “Gentle?”

“Yes.” She nipped his ear, brought her body close to his, and rubbed her neck sensually against his. It was electric, and Bean really thought he might pass out from joy.

“How much further do I need to take this?” she cooed. “I didn’t take you for a voyeur.”

“Voyeur? What?” he asked, but then he noticed that the Discord in the stained glass had just folded his arms tightly and pouted.

Oh, foo!” The draconequus grumbled before pulling himself out of the glass and taking solid form before them. “I thought it was an odd tonal shift from you. I should’ve known.”

“Any particular reason you are spying on on us?”

“Spying?” Discord scoffed. “Really, Celly. I could care less about all that mushy stuff. I just stopped by so I could hear you say it.”

“Say what?”

“That I did a good job,” he smugly said. “C’mon! Admit it!”

“Discord, you did a good job.”

“Now, I know you’re not used to saying that… wait. What?” Discord looked at her with a bit of confusion. “You just agreed with me without an argument. No conditional hedging. Not even any whining or pouting. You even sound... happy.” He folded his arms and leaned across the bushy hedge that stretched across the corridor. “You take all the fun out of it.”

“I don’t need to argue with you,” Celestia said with a smile. “You did do a good job, and thank you. Your advice to my dear Bean was thoughtful, accurate, and wise; and I do greatly appreciate your willingness to help keep an eye on this Starlight Glimmer. You proved to be a good friend to Bean when he needed you the most, and for that you have my most sincere thanks and deepest gratitude.”

“Oh!” Discord replied, and he tapped his chin in thought. “There’s something ponies say at this point, what was it? Something that means ‘thanks for the thanks.’ I know I know it. Starts with a ‘W,’ I think.”

“Welcome?” Bean offered.

“That’s it!” Discord held a blinking sign reading ‘Winner!’ above Bean’s head. “You’re welcome! Oo, what a fun word. I bet Fluttershy will love it when she hears me use it.”

“I’m sure she will,” Bean said with a shake of his head.

“Well, I do have to run, but if you need me again just give me a shout. I’m more than happy to give you some pointers. I did rule Equestria for a time after all.” Discord chuckled, snapped his claw, and disappeared. Once Celestia took another look around the empty corridor, she gave Bean a long nuzzle.

“That got a little heated,” Bean remarked.

“That it did.” Celestia gained a bit of a blush across her cheeks. “I’m sorry for leading you on, but ruse or not, you did seem… receptive.”

“Well… y-yeah.”

Celestia paused and looked at Bean earnestly. “What was that?”

“I don’t know,” he muttered, and his gaze went to the floor. “I just… I do, but…”

“Don’t worry about it, my Bean.” She whispered with a nuzzle to his ear. “When you’re ready. I am a firm believer in letting love progress naturally. For now, I am most content to simply have you. You have brought a joy into my life that I did not know I was missing.”

“And you have done the same for me,” he said softly. “I don’t think I would have ever found true joy if I hadn’t met you either.”

“Then be reassured, my Bean, that I feel our relationship is right where is should be. The love you give me fills me with light and hope, and I do not want for anything. You have brought me pleasure incomparable, and I have no doubt that you will continue to do so.”

“Thank you,” he whispered. “I don’t know that I’ll ever fully understand how I won your love, but if I have it then I am complete.”

“And for us, that is all that matters,” she said with a nuzzle and a nip on his neck. “And though I do wish we could remain here and whisper sweet nothings to each other I’m afraid we have that meeting with the Ministry of Peace in five minutes. But, perhaps we can discuss this more later…”

She nipped his ear, and he replied in turn with a nip on her jawline. They both then laughed and playfully began bumping their rumps against each other as they began the journey to their next meeting.

* * * *

Bean sighed in contentment as he walked through the gardens. The meeting with the Ministry of Peace had ended quite a bit sooner than anticipated thanks to an intern forgetting to bring the documentation Celestia and Bean needed to look over. Since they had time, they decided that it would be nice to take a stroll through the gardens. Wysteria had then stopped them just as they had left the interior of the palace with a few rescheduled items to go over with Celestia, and she had told Bean to go ahead and they would catch up.

He still had to admit that the gardens were spectacular, and a part of him wished he had grabbed his notebook so he could take another shot at describing the grounds, and maybe even those fateful sunflowers.

“Well, maybe I’ll try again tonight,” he told himself softly and with a chuckle. “Maybe I’ll be able to do it without having to stand in them.”

He then stopped abruptly. Just around a bend, and on a bench that sat across from the sunflowers that had changed his life, sat a pegasus with a yellow coat, a powder blue mane, and what looked like a trio of sego lilies on her flank.

“Sego Lily?” he asked himself. “I wonder why she’s here.”

He quickly moved towards her, eager to share the wild ride he’d been on since their last meeting and to see what had brought her back to Canterlot. Given how their last meeting had gone, he figured she would get quite the laugh out of the story.

Her eyes were closed and remained so as he approached, so he was able to unintentionally sneak up on her.

“Sego?” he called out when only a few feet remained between them. “Is that you?”

Her eyes shot wide open and her pupils immediately shrunk to pinpricks. “Baked Bean?” she groaned. “Figures.”

“Hey, how are ya?” Bean asked with a smile. “Didn’t think I’d see you again so soon.”

“And I really hoped I’d never see you again,” she bitterly shot back.

“I’m… sorry?” Bean reeled back slightly at the sudden verbal slap to the face.

“You were engaged to Celestia and yet you led me on like that?”

“Celestia? What—?”

“Is that some sort of game for you, toying with mare’s hearts and then casting them aside once you’ve had your fun?”

“Now, wait a minute.” His voice was soft and defensive. “It was never my intention to lead you along, or anything like that.”

There was a most hearty scoff for this statement, but Bean pressed on. “When I crashed into you, things were different. Celestia and I were strangers tied to a curse that we were both trying to get out of. When we learned there was nothing to cancel out the spell we had no choice but to go forward with the whole thing.”

“And you couldn’t be bothered to tell me?”

“Tell you?”

“Yes, Your Denseness. I stayed at the Shoe and Nail for another two days, remember? I waited for you.”

“You did?”

“Wow, and she still married you,” Sego muttered. “Yes. I clearly said I was staying. I even watched you come back and collect your things on your wedding day. I… I was hoping that… well, that you would come back, and that…”

She paused, but then her glare came back in full and with a razor-sharp edge. “Then I saw the news about your marriage. It wasn’t hard to put the pieces together, and you couldn’t even afford me the common courtesy of a proper break-up.”

“Break up? We had lunch together and walked around town. That’s hardly a relationship.”

“Oh, please. It wouldn’t have been that hard.”

“Sego, really. I can understand why you’re mad, and you’re right, I should have explained things to you.”

“If you’re trying to apologize then you can just stop right there. I’m not interested in your apology.”

“I’m just trying to explain what happened,” he said with a note of exasperation. “I’ll offer my apologies all the same, though. You can take it or leave it.”

“I’ll leave it,” she snorted. “You’re an insensitive clod.”

“Fair enough. I probably was in this instance.”

“Now, if you’ll excuse me.”

“Why are you here?” Bean asked as she stood, and the question made her stop.

“Why else would I be in Canterlot?” she threw back at him.

It took Bean a moment to recall what she had said before. “Your Grandma?”

“She passed away four days ago.”

“Oh,” Bean said softly. “I’m so sorry.”

“I doubt that. But thanks for the sentiment, I suppose. Anything else?”

“Just that I don’t want us to end our friendship like this, with you storming off in anger. I’d like to talk about what happened, and to help you through whatever it is you’re feeling.”

“Was there a part of you that had any interest in me, even in the slightest?” she asked in a small voice.

“Yes, there was,” he answered truthfully. “That night, when I returned to the palace, I actually wept over what I couldn’t have. I felt horrible that I couldn’t have you.”

Sego turned to face him fully again. “You’re not just telling me that, are you?”

“Honest to Luna, that’s the pure truth,” he replied. “I really thought we could have had something, before I found out I was bound to Celestia because of everything. Had that law not been in effect, I would have pursued you.

“But, if I hadn’t booped Celestia’s nose there was a good chance I wouldn’t have ever met you, either. The only reason I was where you were that day was because Celestia told me to check out the museum. It wouldn’t have happened otherwise.”

Bean allowed Sego to think this over for a moment, and then he continued. “If you want to be mad at me, that’s fine. But don’t be mad because the relationship didn’t work out. Even if we had been given the opportunity to try and be something more serious, who says it could have been? There’s a chance we could have hated one another. With things the way they are now, we can still be friends, or at least I would like to still be your friend.”

Sego sniffled and wiped her nose on her arm. “You should have told me what was going on.”

“I should have, yes. I won’t deny that.”

“You shouldn’t have led me on.”

“I’m still not quite sure how I did. I was being a friend, nothing more and nothing less.”

Sego paused, and her wings ruffled a bit. “I’m still mad at you.”

“You can be mad for as long as you like. But at least understand that whatever harm I inflicted wasn’t intentional.”

Sego’s gaze turned to her hooves. “I suppose I might have put more into what was between us than I should have. You were just the first stallion who ever treated me kindly. Most just think of me as some kind of… well…”

“Then they are dead wrong,” Bean offered. “You are more than whatever they thought, and eventually you will find the one meant for you. One of the greatest things I’ve learned from this whole mess is that the future might not be what you thought it would be, but there’s a good chance it can be something even better, if you let it. If Destiny has it out for me, then I’m sure there’s something for you too.”

“I don’t know if I can believe that.”

“I think you’ll be surprised,” he offered. “I know I was.”

Sego didn’t say anything back. Bean let a mental sigh go across his mind, and then he decided to have this end, one way or the other.

“I can introduce you to Celestia, if you’d like. I know she’d like to meet you.”

Bean smiled in happiness when Sego looked back up at him with a small grin. “You could? I’ve always wanted to meet her.”

“I can. I do have an in with her now, after all.”

“That was lame,” Sego replied with a small laugh. “Will it be awkward for you?”

“No. Celestia knows all the details of what happened that day. We’ve made our peace with it. Maybe now you can be at peace with what happened too.”

“I hope so. And I hope what you said is true. I just want to be happy, y’know?”

“We all do. The only problem is sometimes happiness isn’t where we think it’ll be, and we have to look for it a little bit.”

“And sometimes it comes up and smacks you in the face like a wet jellyfish.”

“Sometimes, yes,” he chuckled.

“Thanks,” she offered.

“That’s what friends are for.” He smiled, and they shared a hoof bump.

“Bean?” Celestia’s voice called out. “Who’s this?”

Bean smiled deeper as Sego Lily bowed before her princess. “My dear, this is Sego Lily. She’s been dying to meet you.”

Celestia offered a warm smile as Sego straightened. “You have? Well, I hate to keep you waiting! It is a pleasure to meet you too.”

* * * *

“I can see why you liked her,” Celestia remarked to Bean as she gently lowered the sun. “Sego is quite a nice mare. You would have done well if you had gone with her.”

“I suppose so.” He shrugged under her wing.

“Do you still think about her?” she asked gently. “Do you still think about what could have been?”

“No,” he instantly replied. Celestia gave him a curious look.


“I hadn’t thought about her until I saw her in the gardens. I think it’s something like when I asked you if you thought about being a commoner. There’s no real point in doing so, since it’s not going to happen. I’d much rather spend the time thinking about you.”

“You are a shameless flatterer,” Celestia chuckled. “But I love it. You have my royal sanction to continue to do so.”

“Oh, really?” he asked, and he stood on his hind legs to draw closer to her ear. “Well, then…”

Celestia giggled as he nipped her ear, then began to whisper into it. But after a moment, her cheeks started to go red, and after another playful nip Bean whispered something into her ear that made her eyes open wide and her wings pop straight up and out with a pomph. She gave her amazed and slightly embarrassed look Bean’s full view, and he simply chuckled a little when he saw her reaction in its totality.

“I realized it when we were talking with Sego this afternoon. I know I’ve said I love you, and now I want to show you in a way that I haven’t yet.”

“Are you sure?” she asked. “I don’t want you to feel rushed at all. You don’t have to do this just to make me happy. I already am.”

“And I am happy with you as well, in a way that I could never be on my own. I would like to show you now, and I am as ready as you are.”

“Then we run the risk of the sun rising sooner than it should,” Celestia whispered to him.

“Let it,” he whispered back, and he began nipping in her mane. “Let it be as bright as noon, so everypony knows how deeply I love and care for you. Let it burn, let it soar. I never want any pony to ever doubt my true feelings for you, and I will never let you forget how much I care for you. I will be yours, forever and always, if you will be mine.”

“My dear, sweet Baked Bean,” she whispered back as she nuzzled his neck tenderly. “You will never doubt my love for you either. I will give you the one thing that I have never fully given to any other: my heart. It is yours, completely, to have and to keep.”

“Then I will treasure it beyond the stars and back again.”

31. - Afterglow

Princess Celestia, Ruler of Equestria, Matron of The Sun and Mare of The Morning awoke feeling like she never had before. The morning air was cool and refreshing, birds were tweeting joyfully as they danced among the bushes and trees outside, and there was an energy in the air that simply had never been there before.

There was also the slight hint of sweat that wafted up from the cushions when she stretched out her front legs, and a blush tickled its way across her cheeks when she recalled what had transpired the night before. Twice.

For a short time after the founding of Equestria, Celestia had listened in on an innumerable number of ‘mare talk’ sessions between both nobles and chambermares, and the accompanying stories of late-night rendezvous and succulent sweet nothings had been so steamy that she eventually had to start excusing herself from them. If the truth was to be told, Celestia did feel a twinge of jealousy and anger towards these fortunate females. While they were living life to its fullest, she was forced to play ‘Keep Away from Iron Hoof,’ and she had feared what might happen to her hopes and dreams if she were to be ever caught in an illicit affair.

As the years rolled by, she had forged a barrier around her heart. It was a grand fortress that allowed admittance to none save Luna and her family, and she learned how to find a measure of joy in the success of the mares who possessed what she did not. By the time of Luna’s banishment, her feelings were so tightly controlled by her duties and devotion to her ponies that she had stopped thinking about intimate love all together, and thus it had remained for a millennia.

But in one glorious evening, Baked Bean had completely and utterly obliterated a thousand years of work.

She smiled slightly to herself and gave a short hum of satisfaction. Her Bean had given her a fruit most succulent, and now she no longer had to suppress or ignore the cravings she felt. With him, she would experience a joy beyond compare, and if the residual tingling in her hooves were any indication, this joy would take both of them out past Luna’s stars.

She gave a loving glance down to her lover, her prince, and best of all, her husband. His body was still pressed closely against her, and an adorable smile of contentment resided on his face.

“You didn’t take your medicine last night.”

She jumped a bit at his husky voice, but she laughed outright as his smile brightened and he peaked one eye at her.

“I will admit I was a bit eager to get to bed.” She smirked, but then a hoof went before her nose in alarm when she realized what his statement meant. “Oh no! Don’t tell me…”

“If you did I slept right through it.” He chuckled, then angled his head up to kiss her, despite having morning breath that could kill a chimera, and she gladly indulged in his invitation.

“Think we’ll ever be able to match what happened?” Bean asked when they finally pulled apart.

“I certainly hope so. Last night was…”

She paused, and a pleased smile grew for both of them.


Bean simply nodded in agreement with a chuckle.

“Sadly, we have other things to do today.” Celestia whispered as she nipped in between his ears. “I would love to stay like this but I’m afraid we can’t.”

“Pesky things and their doing-ness.” Bean muttered in contentment, and a low groan of pleasure bubbled out of his throat while Celestia continued to nip and tug.

Celestia had a thought come to her as she nibbled through Bean’s mane, something additionally she could do to show in a small way how deeply she cared for him. She mulled it over while she moved through his hair, but by the time she had finished she was sure. “Bean, do you want to help me raise the sun today?”

“Don’t I do that every morning?”

“Mm, no, not like before,” she hummed. “You have given me something I will treasure forever, so I wish to show you something too. Here, come with me.”

Bean stretched quickly before rising, and he trailed Celestia out onto the balcony. Instead of turning to the east like she always did, Celestia instead faced him with a warm smile.

“Think you can go on a short trip with me?” Celestia asked.

Bean glanced around. “Where are we going?”

Celestia smiled, and her magic wrapped around him gently. “Up.”

Bean whooped a bit as Celestia took flight and brought him along with her. She made no special moves or course corrections, she simply shot straight up until they had reached an altocumulus cloud that seemed to be many miles above Canterlot. Bean gasped a bit in awe as he took in the panoramic scene before him, and he didn’t even notice that he was standing on the cloud unaided.

“This is incredible,” he softly said. “How high up are we?”

“Oh, only about six thousand feet or so,” Celestia chuckled. “This is just about the upper limit for the Weather Department. There are a few crazy ponies who go even higher, but only after a lot of training and conditioning.”

“Wow,” he softly exclaimed. “I wish I had my notebook.”

“You do?”

“Yeah. I’ve never… I mean…”

“Describe it for me, please?”

“Are you sure? It’ll be rough since I can’t edit and proofread, but…”

Oh, that blissful face! It would take an army of changelings to keep him from fulfilling the wishes of that most beautiful face.

“The countryside is now awash in the glow of the twilight of morn, and nature is still,” he began. “The view from here is near infinite, and all is accented most admirably the soft magentas, pinks and blues that now bathe the scene with a subtle and yet elegant touch of nobility.

“The rolling greens add to the picture, cascading across and along in such a way that all before it must bow in respect to the calm and respectful strength that it naturally holds,” Bean continued. Celestia gave one of the largest smiles she had ever given in her life when she noticed that his view was not on Equestria, but on her. “All of this blends into a perfect union of harmony, and for the stallion who finds himself in the presence of such vibrancy the words to fully describe the singularity of beauty simply do not exist. Here, in the pastel paints of the morning, there is the totality of meaning, of desire, of passion and of devotion. Here, in this moment, is where I find I have truly found Home.”

“Not bad at all, my dear Bean.” She giggled, and she gave him a nip on the neck in gratitude.

“Thanks. So, how exactly am I supposed to help you? I thought you said only a princess could raise the sun.”

“Yes, but I never said a pony couldn’t help me.”

“So, but…” he stalled. “But I can’t help you. I don’t have magic.”

“Yes you do,” she whispered.

“Earth pony magic?” he asked, and she nodded. “But? But how can that help?”

“Earth ponies are not just tied to the land, Love, though that is where they feel it the strongest. An Earth pony can also manipulate other things, if they try.”

“I think I was sick the day they explained that in school.”

Celestia chuckled a little before continuing. “It’s not very complicated. Earth is an element, but it is not the sole element in our world, and any element can be moved about by an Earth pony who knows what they’re doing. A pony who irrigates her crops is using those properties of manipulation just the same. My sun is an element, and I use the strength of the earth pony to lift it into position.”

“You do?”

“Yes. Here. Turn to the east.”

“All right,” he replied as he did so.

“East would be to your left, love.”

“Oh. Right.” He chuckled with a bit of embarrassment.

“Now, reach out towards the sun.”

“With my arms?”

“With your heart,” she replied. “In the same way your love reaches out to me.”

Bean smiled and attempted to do as his beloved had instructed. He focused on the feel of the sun, the warmth and the light and how it moved across the sky in its prescribed manner, and he let his heart yearn for that which Celestia commanded.

It took a moment of concentrated effort, but when he did feel his own ingrained magic connect with the power of the sun he staggered a step or two back in amazement. He could feel it! He could feel the power that would bow to no other celestial object, the strength that supported life for all who dwelled under it, and the heat that could incinerate all who approached unaware unless it was tempered, controlled. This was the heat he had known all his life, the heat that both baked bread and warmed hearts.

The heat of passion that he now felt towards Celestia.

“I feel it,” he whispered to Celestia. “It’s incredible.”

Her horn lit as she stood side-by-side with him, and he felt her magic begin to weave in with his. The weft and the warp of the two magics into one was as intense and yet resplendent as anything his mortal mind could ever possibly comprehend. He realized that if he would remain so intertwined with his wife—if he never allowed anything to tear what had just been woven between them—then he could not and would not ever want for anything.

She would give him everything he could ever need, want, and more.

“Bring it up, my love,” Celestia stated with a broad smile.

And when he attempted to do so, Baked Bean felt something. With the sun rising under the combined power of his wife and himself, he felt a magic surge that penetrated his whole being. It moved through him, enveloped him, and caressed him in a way that only Celestia’s magic could. From his nose to his tail, and from his ears to his hooves he felt it.

And there was only one other thing that could compare to the bliss he then felt.

When he finally felt that the sun was in the proper position for the day, he gently lowered his arms, and then felt a small jolt of surprise when his legs again touched the cloud beneath him. He had been flying, in a literal way? How could that have been?

“Bean!” Celestia called out with a gasp of surprise. “You! You’ve!”

“What?” he asked.

“Your cutie mark has changed!”

Bean twisted around and looked at his flank. “It did?”

Indeed, it had. A perfect replica of Celestia’s cutie mark now resided behind the book on his flank, and the pages now bore words, words that Bean was unable to read.

“Oh, Bean!” Celestia said with a happy sob.

“Wow,” was the best word Bean could come up with to describe the situation. “This is… just… wow.”

* * * *

“Uh, Twilight? I normally don’t question the scientific method, but are you really sure this is going to work?” Bean asked with a nervous chuckle.

“First off, the scientific method is a body of techniques for investigating the phenomena of our world. What I am doing simply one step in that process,” she replied while making sure the straps on Bean’s colander helmet were secure. “Secondly, I know this will work. The Whooves-Gait test is the most accurate and well-known cutie mark analytic test in existence.”

Bean gave Celestia a worried look, and she returned a reassuring smile before replying.

“She’s right. Besides, do you really think I’d let my faithful student do something that had the slightest possibility of harming you?”

“I suppose not.”

“Now, since I’m doing a test on your cutie mark you’re going to feel a slight tingle just under your fur.” Twilight handed Celestia a pair of welder’s goggles and placed a pair on herself. “This is normal, but please say something if you feel a burning sensation, all right?”

“What’s with the goggles?”

“Safety first!” she shouted. Celestia quickly pulled her goggles down over her eyes as Twilight reached for a large electrical lever, and Bean winced slightly when the switch was thrown with a slight maniacal laugh.

The test was… well, it was bizarre. Bean squirmed a bit and tried to keep from laughing, but it wasn’t easy. It felt like somepony had taken one of Celestia’s feathers and was somehow using that to make every square inch of him ticklish. Thankfully, it only lasted for about twenty seconds or so before Twilight switched the machine off again and moved eagerly to the printout that was now spewing from an opening on the side of the machine.

“See?” Celestia offered. “Not that bad.”

“It tickled,” he replied while trying to scratch everywhere. “That is normal, right?”

“It is. I would actually be more worried if it didn’t.”

“All right,” Twilight announced. She held the readout out for Bean to look at while she continued. “Your cutie mark is a cutie mark for sure. You are not suffering from cutie mark pox.”

“That’s good to know,” Bean replied. “And?”

“Well, that’s about it. There’s no anomalous readings.”

“Again, good to know. But how did this happen?”

“I think I have an idea,” Celestia said.


“Cutie marks indicate a special skill or talent that a pony has, but that doesn’t mean that they are locked into a certain position in life. Take Rarity for example: with a cutie mark of three gems one could infer that she is a miner, a jeweler, or a geologist. If you do not know her, it would be hard to believe that she is a seamstress and a fashion designer.”

“Okay, I’m following you so far.”

“So, your cutie mark was a blank book, and you admitted that you were unsure of your place in the world. I think that you had chosen the first step along the path to your destiny, but there was more potential for you to fill.”

“And... now I don’t follow.”

“It’s a bit difficult to explain,” she said. “Let me try this way. When a pony gets their cutie mark, they usually understand why. A pony knows what skill or talent it was that is connected to it. But your cutie mark led to more questions than answers. You’ve said you were confused, and that you never felt like you belonged in the world of cooking, so when you got your cutie mark there were still questions. I think you could have been an author, or a cook, or perhaps an editor, or an accountant, or one of the dozens of other talents that a blank book could apply to, and if you had chosen any of these then your cutie mark would have remained as it was and your destiny would have been set. Since you never found that clarity, your destiny remained in flux.”

“So, I could choose my destiny?” he asked while Twilight was removing the helmet.

“All ponies can choose their own destiny regardless of their cutie marks,” replied Celestia with a quiet giggle. “But we’ll save that for another time. For now, your choices affected your destiny, and now your cutie mark reflects it.”

“So…” Bean thought out loud while taking a moment to make another awkward examination of his rear. “So, my destiny now is to be your husband?”

“It would seem so.”

“Not a bad destiny to have. What does the writing on the pages say?”

“It’s a variation of the Alicorn law marriage clause, written in the old equish I used when I wrote it.” Celestia replied. “It says: ‘my nose now knows to whom it belongs, and I shall remain with her until the end.’”

“That is severely cool. My nose is smarter than I thought,” Bean remarked while twisting to look at his other flank. “So let me make sure I’ve heard you right. My cutie mark changed to reflect my new destiny with you.”


“With whatever being a husband to Princess Celestia entails?”

“Imagine what I have to teach you, and what we can learn together,” she replied with a nuzzle and nip of his neck.

“That’s a pretty good destiny. I think I’d like to to keep that.”

“I believe that means you have to keep me,” Celestia said with a small purr.

“Oh, how horrible,” Bean replied in faux agony while gently nuzzling Celestia’s neck. “I have to keep the most wonderful mare in existence? However will I manage it?”

“A good question. How will you keep me?”

“Tenderly,” he replied softly. “Gently, and with respect. I will keep you by showing you my love, in all the ways I can think of and hopefully in some ways that I can’t think of at the moment. I will tell you how much I love you, daily, and I will do whatever I can to make sure you are happy. I will be the husband you deserve, that you need, and if I ever am not, I will work with you so that I am.”

“A lofty goal,” she replied with a nip in his mane. “But may I add one thing?”

“Of course.”

“Be my equal,” she whispered in feathery light tones. “Don’t be my slave, or my servant. Work with me, together. Don’t let me pull too much of the load, but don’t pull more than you should either. We are partners now, and a dual-yoke cart only moves forward if both pull evenly.”

“Partners.” Bean moved to look her square in the eye. “I like that. Partners in love, partners in deed, partners in life, and partners in government. I’d even go so far as to be partners in crime with you.”

“Good thing I’m not that type,” she replied.

“Oh, there might be a naughty bit in there somewhere,” Bean said with a mischievous nip of her neck. “If there is, I’ll find it.”

“I have no doubt you will,” she laughed.

“Shall we return now? I do believe we still had some meetings planned for this afternoon.”

“In due time, my Bean.” Celestia replied with a kiss. “All in good time. But first, I think we should discuss those grandfoals your mother wanted…”

“NOT IN HERE!” Twilight protested. “Goodness, there’s a baby dragon here!”

* * * * FIN * * * *

Author's Notes:

What? You don't want this to be the end? There is still more in store for Celly, Baked Bean, Luna and the others?
Well then, have you seen this thing over here?

Bonus - Nightmare Night Special!

Author's Notes:

A little look into what Nightmare Night might look like for the royal couple. :twilightsmile:

“Nightmare Night?” Celestia asked with concern.

“Yeah!” Bean exclaimed with a prancing tapdance down the hallway while snagging the helmet from the nearest guard. He then placed it on his own head, but the intended effect would have worked better if he had put it on the right way. “Why not?” he asked through the ear hole.

“I don’t know, love,” Celestia replied, and her ears folded back slightly. “It’s not exactly an anniversary I like to recall.”

“Well, then we change the meaning,” Bean said. “Just like how the Summer Sun Celebration is different now.”

Celestia’s face was still set in concern. “That’s different. Changing a holiday to commemorate the return of your sister is one thing. How do we change the meaning of the day my sister became corrupted, and at my hooves?”

“Well, It’s not about your sister, I would argue,” he said softly while removing the helm and returning it to its proper owner. “It’s about the legend of Nightmare Moon. I never have heard anypony refer to Luna at all when they celebrate it, and we could argue Luna is dressing up like Nightmare Moon for Nightmare Night. Besides, you have to admit it would be fun to go play some games with the Elements and to just relax for an evening.”

“It does sound fun,” she admitted, and she gave his nose a kiss. “All right. I’ll try it, but only because you’re cute.”

He gave her a broad grin and returned her kiss. “Thanks. If it turns out you hate it, I’ll never bring it up again.”

Celestia then tapped a hoof against her chin in thought. “You know, I think I might even have a costume idea…”

* * * *

“Bean, love? Are you almost ready?” Celestia called out from the bathroom.

“How do they get this stuff on so quickly again?” Bean shouted back. Celestia finished applying the last of her fake eyelashes with a smile as he continued. “I’m not even sure if I’ve got it on frontwards or backwards.”

She chuckled at his frustration and she blinked rapidly to ensure the eyelashes were on securely. Once she was satisfied with her appearance, she strode out into the main room where she found Bean struggling with a buckle on his borrowed set of royal guard armor.

“Here, let me help,” she offered, and her magic quickly straightened out the strap and buckled it for him.

“Thanks,” he offered, but then he snickered a bit as he saw her completed costume. “I still can’t believe you’re willingly dressing up as a giraffe.”

“The giraffe is a noble species with exceptional taste in leaves,” she said with a sniff of haughtiness and a sly grin. “Besides, it plays well to my physical attributes, and from what I’ve heard everypony is going as a clown this year so I’ll be different.”

“Well, you’ve got me there,” he said as he grabbed his helmet. “Are you going to hide your horn and wings?”

She nodded, and with a small pulse of magic they disappeared from view. Bean took a moment to look over his wife, and he had to admit she’d done a good job. The spots running up her back and neck contrasted nicely against her now yellow body, the ossicones sat nicely in her mane and in between her ears, and she’d even wrapped part of her tail up in faux fur to complete the look.

“You look good,” he offered. “I’d almost bet some ponies don’t even recognize you.”

“Thank you,” she said with a toss of her mane and a giggle. “Are you ready? It’s just about time to go.”

“Just need my hat.” He placed it on his head with a grin. He then felt a small tingle go through his fur, and when he looked back over himself he found he now looked exactly like the other guards. “Ah, I see you got me a fully functional set of armor. How do I look?”

“Like a Guard.” She chuckled. “I’ll have to make sure I don’t lose you in the crowd.”

“I don’t suppose there will be too many guards there. Even if so, I’ll stay close.”

“Good. I think having my knight by my side will be most helpful.”

Bean gave her a curious glance. “Helpful?”

“I have never liked Nightmare Night, love. Who wants to celebrate the loss of a beloved family member? All it has done in the past is remind me of the loss of Luna. I’m only partaking now because you asked me nicely and because I would like to move to a different viewpoint on the whole thing. I don’t like feeling how I feel about this night. I want to enjoy it with my little ponies, and the only way I see to do that is to participate in it with you.”

“Hey, I’m sorry,” Bean said with a hoof on her shoulder. “I might have been a bit too forceful in participating in the festivities tonight. I didn’t fully appreciate your feelings on this. Really, we can just stay here.”

“Thank you, but you didn’t force it.” She smiled and kissed him. “I want to do this.”

“I tell you what: if it turns out that, for whatever reason, you want to leave we will. If you still hate Nightmare Night after this, I’ll never bring it up again.”

“Fair enough,” she replied, and she gave him a quick kiss. “Thank you.”

He gave her a warm smile and offered a hoof. “Shall we?”

* * * *

“Princess Celestia?”

“Good evening, Twilight!” Celestia replied, as she and Bean stepped off of the chariot. “Happy Nightmare Night!”

“Uh… thank you?” Twilight Sparkle replied. “Forgive me, but I really didn’t expect you to be taking part in Nightmare Night.”

“Well, I am hoping to change that. Besides, Prince Bean tells me he likes those chocolate covered wafers.”

“Oh. I’m a bit surprised he’s not with you.”

“Who says I’m not?” Bean said.

Twilight yelped, and she retreated a step. “Bean? You dressed up as a guard?”

“Why not?” he said slyly. “Celly says I look good in armor.”

“I just… okay.” She took a deep breath, then smiled. “I’m glad you’re both here, really. I think Spike is almost ready to go, so as soon as he comes out we can go check out the carnival.”

“My sister is still planning on attending tonight, right?” said Celestia.

“I haven’t heard otherwise,” Twilight replied. “Is that going to be an issue?”

“No,” Celestia replied, but with a bit of hesitation behind the pleasant smile. “It will be fun to spend the evening with her.”

“Oh, hey Princess!” Spike called out while he shut the door to the library. “I love your costume!”

“Thank you! You look quite dapper as well.”

Spike smiled smugly and straightened his top hat while twirling one end of his curled moustache. “Thanks. I didn’t go overboard, did I?”

“Not at all,” Celestia replied with a glance over his freshly-pressed suit and tie. “I especially like the monocle. It makes you look very distinguished.”

“Heh-heh, aw.” Spike laughed. “I thought it would match Rarity pretty good.”

“Oh? Who is she going as?”

“You,” Spike said with a dreamy laugh. “I even helped her find some gems to put in her mane and in the regalia she made.”

“It sounds like a most detailed costume! I can’t wait to see it,” Celestia said, and they began walking towards town.

“Hey, where’s Bean?” Spike asked. “He didn’t stay in Canterlot, did he?”


“Wah!” Spike shouted, and then he clutched his chest. “Bean, dude! Don’t do that!”

* * * *

Celestia smiled in joy as she looked out and over the crowd that was assembled for the Nightmare Night Carnival. The entire town had turned out and the festivities had already begun, and she was pleased to hear the gentle sprinkle of conversation punctuated the occasional laugh from both adults and foals as they walked into the thick of it.

Most of the costumes seemed pretty standard, with the common theme being animals of various varieties or clowns. A few were dressed as ghosts, vampires, or some other supernatural spook, and one pony had gone with a… well, a cardboard box, it appeared. She couldn’t suppress her smile as a few Baked Bean costumes, complete with an imitation of his Celestial Crystal, made their way around the stalls.

“Wow!” Bean remarked while he scanned the crowd too. “I’m all over the place. Hey, is that Wysteria’s sister?”

“Raven Inkwell, yes. The resemblance is rather uncanny, isn’t it?”

“I wouldn’t be able to tell them apart except for the horn,” Bean replied. “But they both dressed up as vampires?”

“Wysteria suggested it. She thought it would be fun to be identical, and Raven agreed.”

Bean chuckled a little as both Raven and Wysteria laughed at a joke that had been shared. It was fun to see them dressed the same.

“Howdy, Princess!” Applejack’s voice called out over the crowd. “That’s a mighty fine costume you picked out.”

“Why thank you, Applejack!” Celestia said, but then she put a hoof to her chin in thought. “Now, don’t tell me. I think I remember this from one of the letters I was sent. Hm.”

Applejack said nothing, but she did offer a smug smile.

“Ah! Of course. The Mysterious Mare-Do-Well! Your exploits have become legendary among the staff in the palace.”

“You told the staff about that?” Twilight asked.

“Oh, only the highlights of course. I would never share your names. Most thought I had found one of Spike’s old comic books.”

Bean made a mental note to himself to ask about that particular incident later. It sounded hilarious.

“Heh, well, comics seem to be the popular thing this year.” Applejack laughed. “And clowns. I dunno why though.”

“At least you know what a clown is,” Spike muttered. “Twilight had to go with something obscure again.”

“Obscure?” Celestia asked. “She’s an Ursa Major. What is obscure about that?”

“Thank you!” Twilight replied, with a smug grin for Spike. “See?”

“Whatever,” he scoffed.

“Well, care to try your hoof at bobbin’ for apples?” Applejack swept a hoof back towards the large barrel that held the game. “So far Bulk Biceps has the most apples at twelve.”

“YEAH!” Bulk shouted from somewhere in the distance.

Celestia drew back a little and had a playful grin on her face. “Are you sure this is an appropriate game for a princess?”

Applejack scoffed. “Oh yeah. This is one of Princess Luna’s favorites. It’s good enough for ya. Question is, can yah handle it?”

“There is only one way to find out,” Celestia said with a determined grin.

* * * *

For the next hour, Bean and Celestia had a fantastic and enjoyable time. The Princess managed to snag fifteen apples, but she also somehow managed to lose one set of her fake eyelashes in the water for a brief moment. Bean bested her in the spider toss game, but Celestia’s heart beat just a bit faster with joy when he ‘apologized’ with a large bundle of cotton candy that she was happy to share.

“All right, every pony!” Mayor Mare eventually called out from the main stage. “It’s time for the annual Nightmare Night storytelling! Everypony who wants to hear a spooooky story, follow Zecora!”

“At least the Mayor is actually spooky this year,” Spike remarked while he and Twilight began walking with Celestia and Bean. “That hockey mask is way better than what she usually comes up with, and the rusty machete is a nice touch.”

“Spike!” Twilight admonished her young assistant.

“What?” he replied with a defensive look. “I’m just saying she’s usually not that scary.”

“Twilight? Oh, Twilight!” Rarity called out from somewhere in the crowd, and the five paused for a moment as a miniature Celestia worked her way towards them. Bean had to admit she’d done a good job: her wings looked fairly real and her mane was both spot-on for color and sparkle with the small diamonds that had been woven into it. The tail was close but still had the trademarked Rarity curl to it, but overall she had produced a very good... well, it was certainly not a copy of Celestia’s distinctive look. Rarity did not do copies. It was undoubtedly inspired by Celestia’s appearance, and had yielded a fashionable princess of its own.

“Hello Princess!” Rarity said once she had caught up to them. “I must say, that is a fabulous costume!”

“Why, thank you!” Celestia replied with a chuckle. “And I love yours as well. Care to stand in for me at the next ribbon cutting I have scheduled?”

“Ah, well.” Rarity waved a dismissive hoof, but she was obviously pleased with the praise. “Just a little makeup and papier-mâché is all this is. Besides, I’m not much of a princess without my prince! Have any of seen my Spikey-Wikey? He promised to escort me to the storytelling.”

“Ah, my lady!” Spike popped out and bowed deeply to Rarity. “I was hoping I might find you here. Shall we away?”

“Oh, Spike! Aren’t you just the most precious thing!” Rarity cooed and giggled. Bean giggled a bit himself as Celestia rolled her eyes. “Please, let us away indeed!”

Spike offered his arm, Rarity eagerly took it, and the two walked out and ahead of the others.

“Those two are horrible.” Twilight chuckled.

“But sweet as well,” Bean added.


The walk to the statue of Nightmare Moon was a short one, but Celestia held back and allowed everypony else to fill in the area in front of them first. Bean didn’t mind this, he simply went up on his rear legs and leaned into his wife, and she gave him a quick nuzzle.

“Holding up all right?” Bean asked.

“Yes. I think so,” she said. “I am slightly concerned about this, though.”

“Just say the word and we’re gone,” Bean said firmly, and Celestia saw both sorrow and resoluteness in his face. “Or don’t even do that. Just teleport away. I’ll understand.”

“I don’t want to leave, though; I have enjoyed myself immensely. Let’s just see how it goes for now.”

“All right,” he said with more than enough worry in his voice.

A puff of smoke and a clap of thunder silenced the assembled crowd, and Zecora emerged from the white cloud with her usual white wig and spiders. She gave the audience a eerie glance before smiling devilishly. “Every year, we put on a disguise to save ourselves from her searching eyes.”

Luna, I will not fight you! You must lower the moon!

Celestia clamped her eyes shut. No, no, no. She wasn’t going to let the nightmare win.

“But Nightmare Moon wants just one thing: to gobble up ponies in one quick swing!”

I have but one royal duty now: to destroy you!

No! That was over a thousand years ago! She had paid her penance! Luna was back, and in her rightful place!

“Hungrily, she soars the sky. If she sees nopony, she passes by. So if she comes and all is clear, Equestria is safe another year!”

Did you really expect me to sit idly by while they all basked in your precious light?

“No!” Celestia muttered through gritted teeth. “I can beat this!”

Dark clouds moved in across the sky, obscuring the moon and bringing a furious round of lightning rolling along with a wicked gust of wind through the tree branches.

“Celly?” Bean’s hoof gently touched Celestia’s shoulder, but she did not feel or hear him.

“Fill up her belly with a treat or two, so she won’t return to come… eat you!”

A wicked laugh, one that had haunted Celestia’s dreams for centuries and had tortured her soul like nothing else ever could rang out from the sky with a furious round of thunder.

There can only be one princess in Equestria, and that princess… will be me!

“No!” Celestia screamed, and that was more than enough to set off more screams from the terrified fillies and colts in the audience.

“Twilight!” Bean shouted.

There was a flash and the familiar twist of teleportation magic, but then all was still. Crickets chirped their ode to the night over Celestia’s raw and ragged breathing, the cool night air caressed her coat and gently tickled the feathers of her wings, and a warm pair of arms wrapped around her neck while tears dripped from her love’s cheeks to her neck.

“I’m so sorry.” Bean’s soft words soothed away her agony and calmed her harried soul. “I should never have brought you here.”

Celestia’s wings instinctively went to cover her Bean. Her tears mingled with his, and she felt his love permeate throughout her whole system. In fact, it only took a few moments of consolation before she was able to sit back and look him in the eye.

“Thank you,” she said with a kiss.

“We should go. I’ve tortured you enough tonight.”

Celestia gently shook her head. “No. I want to stay, and you haven’t tortured me.”

“You do?” he replied to her.

“I’ve had a lot of fun here, Bean. I’ve loved talking with my little ponies, the games have been delightful, and I’ve been able to spend time with you. We maybe should have skipped Nightmare Moon’s entrance, but I think the rest of the night will be fine. Please, let’s stay.”

“If you really want to, then,” he replied. “But…”

She kissed him to silence him. “No buts. You and I are going to go have fun. Besides, we haven’t gotten any of those chocolate wafers yet.”

“It hurt though, didn’t it?” he whispered.

“Nightmare Moon will always hurt me, I think. I… I started reliving it, love. I was going back, hearing her words of denouncement and feeling the panic and horror that I felt then. It was… it was painful.”

“Sister?” A familiar and welcome voice disturbed their little snuggle.

Celestia smiled deeply and released Bean so she could face Luna. “Happy Nightmare Night, Sister.”

Luna glanced over Celestia’s costume with a smirk. “A giraffe? Really?”

“I like giraffes. They’re cute.”

Luna and Celestia then hugged. “I think I scared you when I entered as the Nightmare. I caught a glimpse of you before Twilight teleported you away.”

“Perhaps a little.”

“Know this, then: you are not the same mare you were then, just as I am not.” Luna then looked her sister square in the eye. “And I do not hold you responsible for what happened. I alone chose the Nightmare.”

“But I drove you to it,” Celestia whispered, and her head dipped in shame.

“No. I drove myself. Celly, you could have given me the sun itself and it wouldn’t have been enough. The only way you could have appeased me is by forcing our little ponies to worship me, and I realize now that such a thing should not and will not ever be. You were right.”

They both sniffled and fought back tears with this, and Bean simply stood aside with a smile. It was a touching moment of divine sisterly-ness, and it did warm and fluttery things to his heart that he was accepted enough to be present when both rulers of Equestria let down their manes to just be as they once were, and would be into the future.

“Thank you, Luna. I disagree with you in one area; there were many things I did wrong. But to endlessly review them does no good to either of us. This should be a night of merriment, so let us all go and be merry.”

“A wise idea,” Luna said. “Bean? Shall we away?”

“Let us away,” he quipped as he marched up between them. “Though I think I left my helmet back at the statue.”

“I’m sure Twilight will bring it to us.” Celestia smiled. “Now then. Where are we?”

* * * *

The rest of the evening turned out to be a blast. Celestia and Luna had fun challenging each other in the various games, though both were playfully indignant when Bean managed to haul out twenty two apples in the bobbing apples game. Any candy that was presented to Luna—or, Nightmare Moon, to be accurate—by the fillies and colts of town was split evenly with Celestia and Bean, and all three enjoyed dancing with the music being provided. Celestia cheered the loudest, in fact, when the Pony Tones finished their special Nightmare Night Review, but Luna cheered almost as loudly as Celestia did.


It was near midnight when the party finally began to wind down, and though all the visiting Royals were sad to have such a fun night end, they were pleased they had been a part of the festivities and they made sure to thank everypony for such a wonderful time before departing. As they took off into the sky to return home, Celestia gratefully wrapped one wing around Bean and gave him a quick nuzzle of appreciation.

“This was a fun night. We should do it again next year,” Celestia said happily.

“We should, but I think we’ll skip the story of Nightmare Moon next time.”

“I agree.” She laughed.

“So… how permanent is that dye?”

“Why do you ask?” Celestia questioned back.

“Well, I was just imagining you going to day court like that. You might summon a Discord if you do.”

“Mm, maybe I will then,” she replied, with another quick kiss. “He hates public displays of affection, so it would be the perfect way to torture him.”

Bean let out an undignified snort of amusement. “You are too much sometimes. I love you.”

“And I love you, my Bean.”

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