No Nose Knows

by Irrespective

Chapter 11: 11. - A Grand Day Out

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“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.”

Next Chapter: 12. - Celestial Musings Estimated time remaining: 6 Hours, 24 Minutes
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