Princess Luna lay on the balcony, staring at the moon she had just raised. Although she knew her nighttime was appreciated, still she felt darkness creep at the edges of her heart. It wasn't bitterness this time, no...she just felt so...alone. She sighed, lowering her eyes, trying to blink away the tears that began to form at her eyes.
Luna leapt to her hooves, turning. "Twilight Sparkle," she said, addressing the purple mare that stood before her. "We did not realise you were there. Is there something you need of us?" By long force of habit, she spoke in the royal plural, although she did not use the royal voice as she had at first.
"Not exactly," Twilight said, stepping onto the balcony with the princess. "Actually, three nights from now, my friends and I were going to hang out at Applejack's barn, and I was wondering if you might care to join us if you had the time?"
Luna blinked for a time. "And what is it we would be hanging? And why must it be at Applejack's barn?"
Twilight giggled a little. "No, no...I mean, we're just going to spend time as friends. You know, play games, eat snacks, maybe sing a few songs or tell a few stories...just have fun."
Luna lowered her head a bit. "And...you would desire our presence for this?"
"Of course!" Twilight said quickly. "You're our friend, too, after all."
Luna smiled. "We would be honored to join you in this...fun."
"That's great!" Twilight skipped off with a smile, pausing in the doorway. "I'll meet you just after moonrise on the bridge over the river, and walk with you to the barn. I can tell you about the games we'll be playing." She continued to skip off.
Looking up at the moon, Luna smiled. Suddenly, she felt more hopeful.
Three nights later, after raising the moon, Luna prepared to head to Ponyville when Celestia approached her. "Sister, where are you going?"
Luna smiled at her sister. "Ponyville," she said happily. "Twilight Sparkle invited me to 'hang out'." She didn't use the royal plural when speaking only to her sister.
Celestia smiled. "Well, I hope you have fun." As Luna prepared to take off, she called after her, "Don't stay out too early!"
"TIA!" Luna whined, and they both laughed. Luna flew out to Ponyville.
She landed easily on the bridge. Twilight was waiting for her. "Right on time, Princess," she said happily. "Come on, it's this way."
Luna followed. "We thank you for inviting us for this, Twilight Sparkle."
Twilight glanced at Luna. "You know...since it's just friends tonight, you don't have to use the royal plural when speaking."
Luna blinked. "You...you truely think so?"
Twilight nodded. "I'm sure of it."
Luna swallowed. "I...I suppose I can try," she said quietly. She found herself flushing. The emotional intimacy implicit in the singular...she hadn't used that with anyone outside her family before. She glanced at Twilight. "But if I do...then I'm not here tonight as a Princess, am I?"
Twilight smiled reassuringly at her. "Don't worry, we're all here for you, tonight. Just be glad it was me giving you this advice, Luna."
Luna blinked. "Why?"
Twilight laughed. "If it had been Pinkie Pie, she'd have done it with a musical number!"
They both laughed. "With 17 stanzas and a dance line chorus!" Luna gasped out.
"About how friend is spelled with I not we!" Twilight replied.
"That would be the title!"
They laughed more for a time, and then Twilight began to explain some of the more popular games in the present era, such as pin the tale on the pony. As they reached the barn, Twilight went ahead. "Just a sec, Luna. Gotta make sure Rarity won't start calling you Princess." Smiling, she ducked into the barn and whispered something. There was a brief shuffling. Twilight stuck her head back out. "Come on in, Luna."
When Luna stepped into the barn, the lights were all out. "Twilight, what-" She was interrupted as the lights came on, and she saw nearly every pony in Ponyville - and some from beyond - gathered there.
"SURPRISE!" they all shouted as Luna stared in shock at the decorations - in her own blue colors - and the banner which read, "Happy Birthnight, Luna!" 'Princess' had been hastily scratched out, eliciting a smile from her.
When Pinkie Pie and the cakes wheeled out a large cake, she was smiling so wide she had tears in her eyes. "THANK YOU ALL!" she cried out, accidentally slipping into the royal canterlot voice...causing the cake to splatter all over Pinkie Pie, the Cakes, and several others. Luna sank in on herself, worried she had upset them.
Then Pinkie Pie hopped up onto the trolley. "CAKE FIGHT!" she yelled out, scraping some of the cake off of the trolley and hurling it. Before long, everyone was throwing cake around, and everyone had some stuck in either mane or coat. Even Luna had joined in on the action, finding great fun in this.
At the end of the fight, she smiled apologetically at the Cakes. "I'm sorry for ruining the cake. You must of worked hard on it..."
"Don't worry about it, Dear," Mrs. Cake said happily. "It's your party. If you want to throw your cake, go ahead."
"Besides, we baked dozens!" Mr. Cake said, grinning. "No way we could fit all the candles - over a thousand - on one cake, and no way one cake could feed this many mouths."
"And who says it's ruined?" Pinkie Pie proclaimed, licking cake off her face. "Just cause it's messy, doesn't make it any less yummy!"
Luna laughed heartily as Twilight approached. "I'm glad you like your party, Luna."
Luna looked at her. "How long have you been planning this?"
"Remember when I invited you out here?" Luna nodded. "That day, I had been in the royal archives for some research. While I was there, I discovered that tonight was your first birthnight since being freed from the moon. I figured you deserved a special celebration for it."
Luna's eyes widened. "How did you manage to set all this up in only three days?"
"Easy," Twilight said with a smile. "I told Pinkie Pie."
"I KNOW how to throw a party!" Pinkie Pie said happily, bouncing.
Luna smiled and glanced around. "I'm surprised my sister isn't here," she said, a little sadly.
"I sent her an invitation," Pinkie Pie said quickly, "but she said that even informal affairs she attends become very formal when she's there, and she wanted your first birthnight party to be a night of great fun for you, and it wouldn't be if she attended, so she'll come next year."
Luna smiled. "Sis..." She blinked away tears and raised her head. "Well, Twilight promised me fun games. Let's play!"
The night progressed quite happily, as they played games, sang songs, and danced the night away. Luna tried her best to dedicate every moment to her memory, but only a few really stuck out, such a blur of activity there was.
Once, while she was playing "Pin the tail on the pony," while blindfolded, she accidentaly poked Big Macintosh in the rear with her horn, causing him to leap into the air with a yelp of pain.
"I'm terribly sorry!" she had said when she'd raised the blindfold and seen what happened.
Big Macintosh had smiled easily and said, "Ah'm not!" bringing a blush to Luna's cheeks and laughter all around.
Shortly after, during a large group dance, several young - and not so young - stallions had had the audacity to claim her for a dance partner. After quite some time, she had to beg away from teh latest one, since she was falling off her hooves. Moving to the edge of the dance floor, she lay down for a time, sipping some punch, next to Fluttershy. "Enjoying yourself?" Fluttershy asked quietly with a smile.
Luna nodded. "A part of me wishes this night would never end." At Fluttershy's shocked expression, Luna hastily continued, "Not literally. It is just a figure of speech. It is just...I can't remember a time I have ever had so much...fun. Even before my imprisonment." She noticed something odd. "Why does this punch taste like dragon?"
Twilight walked over. "I can explain that. See, a book I read on parties said that, if people needed help relaxing and having fun, it could be encouraged by spiking the punch." She pointed to where Spike was swimming in a punch bowl. "I'm not sure how it helps, but..." Even Fluttershy laughed aloud at that one.
After a full night of games, songs, dancing, sweets, and another cake fight...the moon finally began to set, and Luna bid everyone farewell. She flew easily - but heavily - back to Canterlot palace, cake in her mane, tail, coat and face...and possibly other places she didn't want to think about. As the moon set beyond the horizon, she could see the sun was not yet rising. "I wonder what's keeping Tia?" Luna asked, confused. However, she was very tired just now, certain that - for once - she would sleep straight through the day till net moonrise. She entered her tower room from the balcony.
Celestia waited there with a cake and gifts. "Happy Birthnight, sister. You didn't think I was going to let this night go by without celebrating, did you?"
As joy bubbled up inside Luna, she let it fly out of her. "THANK YOU, SISTER!" she cried, once again accidentally slipping into the royal canterlot voice...causing the cake to splatter all over Celestia. As Celestia blinked at her, Luna chuckled nervously. "Uh...cake fight?"
With a smile, Celestia tackled her sister, rolling around the floor smearing her with cake as they both giggled and laughed.
Some time later, as Celestia began to raise the sun, Luna was out like a light on her bed. Leaningover her, Celestia moved to clean the cake off of her...but she shifted out of the way. "No..." she mumbled sleepily. "...messy still yummy..."
Celestia chuckled and turned to leave...but noticed a parchment scroll that had slipped out of Luna's armor as she'd shed it for bed. Picking it up, she moved to set it on Luna's nighstand...then noticed it was a letter in Luna's hornwriting that began, "My dearest Sister..." Curious, Celestia unrolled it and began to read.
"My Dearest Sister,
"Twilight Sparkle tells us that you have ordered her friends to write you a letter when they have learned something of friendship. As we are now counted amongst that circle, we, too, shall obey this edict. Tonight, I learned something very important about friendship.
"When we were first released from the moon, darkness still ruled our heart...but through the strong hearts and bonds of friendship Twilight and her companions shared, the darkness was purged from us. At first, we were delighted when we learned you held no rancor towards us, as the divide between us and the seperation had been as painful as a physical wound, for it was surely a wound on our heart.
"However, that joy soon wilted as we came to grasp just how much time had passed. 1000 years we were locked in the moon, a time we did not even truely experience. Equestria had changed drastically in our absence...and everypony we had known personally was no more, save you. We were unsure that the new Equestria even had a place for us. ...but then Twilight Sparkle extended a hoof to us in friendship.
"This is what we have learned this night. Although time may pass, and friends leave us - through their own journeys progressing or coming to an end - the friendship they gave us never goes away. So long as we remember them in our hearts, they are never truely gone. And so long as we keep our hearts open, friendship - and love - will find its way in, and we will never truely be alone.
"Your loving sister,
Tears in the corners of her eyes, Celestia rolled up the letter and set it aside. Picking the blanket up in her teeth, she pulled it over Luna's sleeping form, and kissed her on the forehead, just under her horn. "Sleep well, little sister," she whispered.
Pausing, she impishly licked some of the cake from Luna's cheek. "You're right Luna," she said, walking out. "Messy is still yummy."
Luna stirred briefly in her sleep, a contented smile on her face, as her sleep was filled with pleasant dreams.