Hi everyone! Here's a sequel I've been working on to my Donut Nights stories—and this one is set during Nightmare Night! ^_^ It's going to have three chapters, so stay tuned for more this week!

Donut Nights 3: Nightmare Night Canoodling

Chapter 1:

Nightmare Night

Nightmare Night—the most frightful evening of the year filled with scares and surprises and spooks. And made all the more complete by the sound of…

"Attention! Our guests shall be arriving shortly! We hope the festivities are in order!"

…Princess Luna's Royal Canterlot Voice as she trotted into the castle ballroom with the smile and air of a leader perfectly at ease with her domain.

Indeed, now that Nightmare Night's matron, Princess Luna, had returned to Equestria and grown comfortable once again in her royal role, she wanted to do something special to celebrate this particular occurrence of the holiday marking a little over a year since the end of her banishment. And what better way to celebrate a special night than with a party? A Nightmare Night Ball—the biggest fearful formal bash Equestria had ever known!

A smiling Luna moved briskly through the ballroom, calling out to various castle staff (all in costume already) who were in the middle of making the room into a truly enchanting display of midnight blue streamers and black glittering gossamer curtains and silver paper moons hanging from the ceiling with areas set aside for apple bobbing and spider tossing, and bowls of delicious candies set out on tables, and of course chocolate sculptures of Nightmare Moon carefully placed all around.

Though Luna's attention remained on her staff, she had a companion at the moment. Indeed, behind her trotted a certain yellow stallion (dressed in his usual baker's outfit and with a saddlebag on his back), humbly looking down as he felt the eyes and smiles of the other ponies glance to him each time they looked over to acknowledge one of Luna's orders. And he couldn't help smiling as well as Luna's commanding display continued—even after dating for months and spending time with her in public now as well as in private, he still found her passion as a leader fascinating to behold.

Luna raised a hoof as she addressed each group of hard working ponies. "You guards, see that the rest of the stallions are in their traditional Nightmare Night armor!"

"Yes, Princess."

"And you decorators—make sure the decorations are done being set up before sundown completes!"

"Yes, Princess."

"And you, steward—make sure that there are enough bats in the courtyard. We need lots and lots of bats!"

"Yes, Princess."

"And you six maids—excellent group costume portraying Twilight and her court!"

"Thank you, Princess."

(Donut Joe tried not to chuckle at the sight of six maids dressed up as Twilight Sparkle and her friends: he would have to show them to Spike when the baby dragon arrived at the party tonight).

"And you, chef—please make sure we have ample candies for all of our guests throughout the night. This is most important!"

"Yes, Princess."

Princess Luna smiled as she (and Donut Joe) finally reached the far end of the ballroom. "Excellent, everypony! Thank you all so much for your hard work and for coming up with such creative costumes! All may participate in the costume contest later, and I shall be rooting for each of you!"

The staff all smiled and replied with various words of gratitude.

Luna nodded and headed out the ballroom exit, Joe still in her wake.

The door closed behind them to leave the pair in an empty hallway, slightly dim in the fading light of sunset.

"Now let's see…" Luna still didn't turn around; her eyes hazed and her smile picked up on one side, "I've instructed the guards, the stewards, the maids, the chef…who else could be left? Ah! Yes, you…baker." She turned to Joe, still with her commanding air. And then her voice softened, and she blushed lightly. "Kiss me?"

Donut Joe blinked then smiled and nodded. "Yes, Princess," he replied in a playful version of the tone of the staff. He came forward, laid a foreleg over her neck to pull her close, and gave her a deep peck on the lips.

He pulled back to find himself holding a giggling night princess. "Joe, don't call me 'princess', it makes me feel silly." Luna smirked.

Donut Joe smirked back at her. "But I can't help myself when you're so commanding, Luna Baby."

She rolled her eyes. "Joe, be serious. There's still a lot to do before the party. You and I aren't even in costume yet. We must…we…" he moved closer and now started nuzzling her neck. Luna let out a dreamy sigh but still tried to keep going. "There are a lot of preparations and…" She gave up when he started giving her cheek little kisses. A deep sigh escaped her. "Thou art preventing us from doing our royal duties, Joe of the Donuts—we could have thee brought up for high treason."

Donut Joe chuckled as he pulled back slightly. "If you're going to be my judge and jury about that, I think I'll take my chances."

Luna smiled more. "I am going to get you back for this the next time you have a large order to fill at the shop."

"Please do." Donut Joe just chuckled more.

The two remained gazing at each other for a moment, clearly about to come together for a few more kisses and giggles in the hallway when suddenly a burst of magic nearby made their eyes go wide.

"Well, well, well…fraternizing in the hallways. My, princesses these days are quite liberal. Next thing you know, Tia, Twilight'll be throwing raves in her new castle and Cadance will be promoting free love throughout the Crystal Empire. Or better still, you'll be spending half your nights getting into hilarious shenanigans with former villains. Oh, wait a minute…"

"Discord, don't tease them."

Yes, indeed, Celestia and Discord had just appeared in a flash before Luna and Donut Joe.

Luna merely glanced to Discord with an undiminished smile. "Discord, your material about this matter is growing stale. Really, we announced our courtship to everypony long ago, so Joe and I are no longer flustered by your comments about our intimacy. See." She held her head high…but then, seeing Discord holding back a chuckle, she glanced over to see Donut Joe blushing and standing a foot away from her now.

The baker pony did his best to smile too. "Yeah, um…no one's embarrassed. Luna and I have been, you know…seeing each other for months now. No big deal." He cleared his throat.

Luna's smile softened. She looked to her sister. "Celestia, manage your draconequus somehow, please? Discord actually almost listens to you sometimes."

"Hey!" Discord crossed his arms with a playful pout. "No one manages me! I'm a free spirit…of chaos. Get it?" He chuckled.

Celestia only smiled more. "Discord, I really am surprised that you're still teasing them. Shouldn't you be much more focused on getting into your Nightmare Night costume and planning how you'll be the life of the party?"

Discord considered, twirling his beard. "Hmmm…point taken. Very well then." He grinned down at Luna and Donut Joe. "You two go back to canoodling. I'll get started on donning the winning costume for tonight's contest. Prepare to be bested at your own holiday, Luna. Tia, you coming?" He held up his fingers to snap them both away again.

Celestia smiled but shook her head. "I'll catch up."

"Ooo, that'll give me time to get into costume and surprise you. I'll meet you in your room then, Tia—ta ta!" He gave them all a little wave and then departed in a burst of magic.

Celestia shook her head and then looked to Luna again. "I'm sorry for the interruption, you two. Luna, I just wanted to see if you needed any help with the final party preparations."

Luna smiled but shook her head. "Thank you, Celestia, but Joe and I have everything in order. You just arrive in costume and enjoy yourself. And do your best to distract Discord from causing too much mischief if you can. Please?" She smiled sheepishly.

Celestia laughed softly. "I'll do what I can." She nodded to her sister and then looked to Donut Joe. "And Joe, I'm very happy to have you here tonight. It's so nice to see you at the castle."

Donut Joe nodded and smiled more, though he still blushed. "Aw, I'm just glad to be here for Luna, Princess Celestia."

"Joe, I've told you—you can just call me Celestia." Her smile grew.

He nodded. "I'll try. Sorry about that."

"It's okay." The sun princess's eyes narrowed playfully as she looked from one to the other. "And I know the ball is scheduled to continue until past midnight, but if you two wanted to sneak off before then for a little while, Discord and I would be happy to take over hosting things."

Donut Joe blushed scarlet as Luna giggled. "Thank you for your consideration, sister…" The night princess held her head high. "We shall consider your offer."

Celestia nodded. "Well, I'll be off now to get into costume and to see whatever Discord's cooked up. I can't even imagine." She rolled her eyes then waved to the happy couple. "See you both at the ball." In a burst of light, she teleported away.

Luna glanced to Donut Joe as his blushing now finally subsided. Her eyes hazed. "Joe, do you want me to just explain to Celestia that she's the one flustering you so much rather than Discord? I'm sure she would understand."

Donut Joe just sighed deeply. "No…it's all right. I'll talk to her about it myself." He shuffled his hooves. "I'm sorry, Luna. I just get really stuck on wanting to make sure she knows I care about you a lot and that I'm treating you good. But then I end up getting all tongue tied and probably seeming like a real goof. I don't care so much if Discord's got some cheeky thing to say about us, but…I want your sister to be just as happy about us being together as we are." He smiled a little. "She's the only family you've got around here, Luna. It's important to me that she thinks I'm good at taking care of you."

Luna was blushing now, her eyes a little wide.

Donut Joe's smile softened. "I know you can take care of yourself of course, Luna Baby. After all, you run an entire nation each night. But I like to be there for you too, just in case you ever need help." He leaned in close. "Anything I can offer is yours…" and then he shrugged with that adorable grin of his, "even if it's just a donut."

Luna blinked…and then she and Donut Joe smiled and burst into giggles.

Finally Luna sighed and shook her head. "Always so sentimental, Joe of the Donuts. Whatever shall I do with you?"

"Try not to laugh to much when you finally see my costume?" he suggested sheepishly, rubbing the back of his neck with his hoof.

The night princess raised an eyebrow but nodded. "Very well. I'm quite excited to find out what you've planned, actually." She glanced to the filled saddlebag on his back.

Donut Joe shifted back a little. "No peeking." He winked. "But I guess since the party's starting soon, I should put it on now. It's…sort of simple though. But also kind of not simple. It's complicated."

"I'm sure I'll love it."

He nodded. "Okay…close your eyes."

She did so.

"And turn your head so that big beautiful mane of stars is blocking your view—just in case you get tempted to look at the costume while I'm putting it on," he added with a grin.

"…Or if I get tempted to look at you while you take the apron off…" Luna added, unable to help herself.

Donut Joe blushed scarlet then sighed. "Very funny, Luna Baby." Now though, he couldn't help doing the 'apron taking off' part of his changing very quickly and donning the costume quickly as well. He brushed off the sleeves with his hoof, straightened his mane a little, and then cleared his throat. "Okay, Luna…um, what do you think?"

Luna turned forward and opened her eyes. She was speechless for a moment then blinked a few times and smiled. "Joe…you're a prince!"

And indeed Donut Joe stood before her now in a white coat with gold tassels on the shoulders and gold buttons down the middle. He also wore a read sash with several royal-looking medals on it in various colors. And with his hair straightened out a little, he really could have passed for a visiting dignitary or a young noble. "Yeah." He shrugged. "I don't know, maybe it's a little much but…do you like it, Luna?"

Luna's smile warmed. "Of course, Joe. It's very creative. And you did a commendable job copying royal attire."

"Thanks." He smiled. "And you're going to go as Nightmare Moon, right?"

"Yes." She nodded. "It's going to be a tradition now, I think. Besides, it helps me work through some things. If I keep my feelings from the past hidden, they make me feel worse. If I face them though, I feel better." Her smile brightened. "Plus I get to tease the small children with scary faces! I was in Ponyville earlier doing that, and it was quite fun. I…" She blinked. "Oh, but my fangs!"

"Fangs?" Donut Joe raised an eyebrow.

"Yes, I use false fangs," Luna explained. "Transfiguring them is too difficult and rather unpleasant as well." She brought a hoof to her chin. "Hmm…I believe they are in my room. Will you come with me for a moment? We can also drop off your saddle bag in there for the evening."

Donut Joe nodded. "Sure, Luna Baby."

Before he could say anything more, Luna had teleported them into her room.

When they reappeared, Luna was smiling normally and Donut Joe was blinking a lot. Finally though he regained his bearings and took his usual seat on her rug at the center of her room as Luna trotted off to her vanity in search of her fangs.

With a moment to himself, Donut Joe glanced around and raised an eyebrow in slight wonder.

Luna was still moving things around on her vanity, but in her mirror she could see Joe, and she noticed his curious gaze. "Joe?" She smiled. "What is it?"

Donut Joe blinked. "Oh, er…nothing. I just, um…" he smiled sheepishly, "…I've never been in your room at night before. It looks different…even prettier than usual actually." In the daylight, the dark tones of Luna's room created a somber, muted effect—the space seemed elegant, classy, professional. But at night, with the moonlight coming in through the window, the deep-toned satins and silks shone and made the place look like a temple of soft darkness. The black gossamer curtains billowed in a lovely way, her walls bore pale stars and moons that only glowed after sunset, her books and little telescopic devices glinted like mysterious treasures, and her canopy bed looked like a piece of the night sky with two white cloud pillows at the head.

Donut Joe quickly turned his eyes away from there and back toward Luna. "It's interesting," he went on. "Did you decorate so it would look so nice in the moonlight?"

"Yes." Luna nodded as she opened a drawer in her vanity. "I chose certain fabrics that pop more in moonlight, and of course I wanted a color scheme to fit my nights."

Donut Joe smiled more. "You're so creative, Luna Baby. I'm no good with stuff like that at all. You've seen my room…you know, when I have a nightmare sometimes and you come visit…or a good dream and you come visit." He blushed a little again.

Luna smiled warmly, moving to another drawer to search. "Joe, your room suits you. And besides, you are quite creative—look at all the various donuts you make."

"I guess you're right." He grinned a little in pride. Then he caught sight of something out of the corner of his eye. "By the way, I think your fangs are on your nightstand." He gestured over there with his hoof.

Luna turned her head, and sure enough her fangs sat on top of the nightstand. "Huzzah!" She dashed over and took them up. "And now I shall show Discord what a real Nightmare Night costume looks like." She trotted back over to Donut Joe.

"I don't know," Donut Joe chuckled, "Discord probably went all out with his costume. I think he'd really like to impress Celestia by winning." He raised an eyebrow. "Any progress with those two yet, or…"

"No." Luna sighed and shook her head. "They still seem blissfully unaware that they're more than friends in everything but physical action." She rolled her eyes. "Really, they practically spend more nights together than you and I do, they're always giggling together over something, and sometimes they talk for hours, yet Celestia still does not realize how like a couple they are or how good of a couple they could make."

"I still think Discord does even if he acts like he doesn't," Donut Joe had to add.

"Perhaps." Luna smiled a little. "But he's even more stubborn than she is. And in a way the two of them are shyer about feelings than you and I were—I'm not sure what could get them together. Even the kiss of the sleeping beauty spell didn't work."

"Maybe they just need more time. Each guy and gal goes at their own pace." His gaze warmed. "Relationships change, feelings grow…" Donut Joe blushed a little.

Luna nodded, blushing lightly too. "Perhaps you're right. I just hope the two of them continue to find some happiness together, wherever their relationship goes."

For a moment, Donut Joe and Luna just watched each other with tender smiles, eyes full of warmth…the silence almost begging for something to be said. And indeed, they both swallowed now, certain words on their minds and on the tips of their tongues, even if neither of them was aware of what the other was thinking, and even if both thought they were each the only one who finally wanted to say…

'I love you, Luna.'

'I love you, Joe.'

Yet now the moment went on too long, and with light sighs, Luna and Joe shied away from finally saying those words after all of these months….

…Though both ponies had plans to finally say them on this particularly special evening.

Donut Joe's blush darkened as his eyes still lingered on the mare he adored, radiating kindness and brilliance and care so much that how anypony could ever have shunned or feared her still bewildered him. Beautiful lady of the moon who had touched his heart in a way no pony ever had. And now he wanted to share with her some of how that experience made him feel. 'Under the night sky later—that's where I'll tell her: under her stars and moon, and on her special night. I'll hold her and say I love her. Even if she doesn't feel the same way yet, I want her to know.'

Meanwhile, Luna's heart raced against her yoke. After all, she had been somewhat young at the time of her banishment; she had never had a chance before to develop such strong feelings for any suitor. And now to find herself, at the end of it all…in love. But she knew she must be. She looked at Donut Joe, and the words practically begged to leave her. Sometimes lately she had even practiced in the mirror, whispering the words, and the spark of happiness she felt each time was joyous. And tonight was the perfect night. 'I am a mare in love, Joe…with you. And I'm not sure if it's taken me too long to say it in the terms of a normal pony's life or too short in terms of my own life, but I don't care. I want to say I love you. I want you to know how much you mean to me.'

Donut Joe finally cleared his throat and returned to their topic of conversation. "So, uh…Discord and Celestia…." He smiled and moved closer. "They'll be okay, Luna. And for now, you and I can lead by example by making each other happy." He held out his foreleg. "For instance, it'd make me real happy to escort you down to the ballroom, Luna Baby. How about you?"

Luna blushed and nodded, her smile growing. "Yes, that would please us as well, Joe of the Donuts. But one more kiss first before I put in the fangs and change to Nightmare Moon?" She moved closer.

He nodded. "You've got it, Luna Baby." Donut Joe then fell silent as she moved forward and attached her mouth to his: lovely creature who kissed with passion but uncertainty, who sometimes had to be guided through, who sometimes held him with such force that he fell to his knees. He savored kissing her in return.

And Luna, meanwhile, thoroughly enjoyed herself as she kissed one of the only stallions she had ever encountered who could keep up with her, who could manage not to be overwhelmed despite her passion and size…and who could almost overwhelm her with his own advances sometimes.

They pulled back eventually.

Panting lightly, Donut Joe smiled. "I'll miss Luna when you change."

Luna smiled more. "Don't worry. She's always here deep down." She winked and popped in her fangs. Then she closed her eyes and concentrated—a bright glow came over her body—and then Nightmare Moon stepped forward.

Donut Joe's eyes went wide. He smiled. "You look great, Luna. Very scary." He winked.

"Yes, we are quite frightening!" She maniacally laughed, making lightning flash outside.

Joe grinned more at the lightning. "And also quite magical and quite pretty—like the mare in the moon I used to talk to when I was little. You know—the one who always seemed like she got a bum wrap." He moved closer and lightly tickled her with a few nuzzles.

Luna chuckled. "Have I mentioned you're my favorite subject?"

"Yes…and you've let me know in other ways too." He gave her a final nuzzle then pulled back. "Come on, Luna. Let's go enjoy the party…and prepare to finally see whatever crazy thing it is Discord's cooked up for himself to make your sister smile."

Luna nodded, and they laughed together as they headed out of her room and down to the ballroom, foreleg in foreleg.

"Discord, can I open my eyes yet?"

"Just a minute."

"Discord, you said that five minutes ago."

"Oh, and what—I'm eating into the eternity of existence you have left?"

Celestia sighed deeply, her eyes still closed as she sat on the floor in her room. "I just don't want to be late for the party."

"Oh fine…" There some more sounds of movement from him, then…. "Alright, Tia…open your eyes and prepare to be dazzled!"

Celestia opened her eyes, and they went wide at the sight before her: there stood Discord dressed in a long blue cape and hat with stars and bells, wearing a false extension to his beard and holding a long staff. He was dressed as none other than…

"Ta da! Starswirl the Bearded!" The chaos master laughed raucously and floated in the air. "How great is this? Met the old codger a few times when you weren't around, you know: he actually could put up a decent fight against me. But now as long as we're making peace with the past, I figured what a way to celebrate—am I right?" He landed. "Anyway, tell me how great I am, Celestia, and how original my costume is. I'm listening!" With a proud grin he snapped up a horn and put it to his ear.

However, he heard nothing at first…until the sound of Celestia suppressing a laugh met his ears.

Discord snapped away the horn and pouted at her with a scowl. "You have a critique or something, Princess?"

Celestia tried to hide her chuckles better (but to little avail). "No, no, it's very nice, Discord."

"Hmm, you're darn right it is." He held his head high, arms crossed.

"It's very authentic…"

"Well, I've actually met the pony I'm dressed as, so, yes, it is." He put his hands on his hips.

"It's also very much the exact same costume Twilight had last year."

There was silence. Then Discord's eyes popped open. "What?"

"Oh, yes." Celestia nodded. "And she'll be happy to see your rendition." She looked to the cape. "You paid very close attention to detail—got the bells right and everything."

Discord blinked a few times. "You're kidding me about this."

"Afraid not." Celestia shrugged.

Discord sighed and shook his head. "No, no…you're teasing me with a little friendly lie. Good one, Celestia." He attempted a grin.

"Not even close, Discord." She grinned back at him.

"Then you must be mistaken—clearly Twilight went as some other bearded sorcerer from the past." Discord waved her off.

Celestia rolled her eyes to the side and smiled more. "Discord…"

"Oh come on!" He held out his arms. "I worked really hard on coming up with something ironic and original and unpredictable! Who would peg me to dress up as a goody two shoes, after all? And now you're telling me Twilight already did it last year! Well this is just great—now I have to change." He snapped, and his costume disappeared.

"Discord, you can still dress up as Starswirl," Celestia assured.

"So everyone can think I'm copying Twilight? No, thanks. I insist on being original!" The chaos master nodded his head firmly then sighed and floated up on his stomach to rest in the air. "Now then, I need a bit of time to think. Let me see what your costume is, Tia—maybe that'll inspire me."

Celestia nodded. "Okay. Close your eyes."

Discord did so with a sigh. "I'm expecting big things from you, you know. Don't disappoint me."

"We'll see, Discord." A couple of seconds passed, then, "Okay, you can look now."

Discord opened his eyes and blinked.

Celestia stood before him in a pink apron with a sun on it and a pink chefs hat set atop her flowing mane.

"And you are…?" Discord raised an eyebrow.

Celestia shrugged. "A baker. I thought it might help make Joe feel more comfortable. I know he still gets a little nervous around me…even if he tries to pretend it's because of you. Whenever I go into his shop by myself these days, he blushes the entire time he serves me…"

"And you don't realize that this get up is going to make him even more self conscious?" The chaos master grinned.

"What are you talking about?" she raised an eyebrow.

"Celestia…" Discord shook his head, "come on, you'd be intimidating to him even if you were a normal big sister of his girlfriend—but you're the infamous sun princess too! Joe grew up thinking of you as a flawless goddess; no wonder he can't look you in the eye like he's good enough to be dating Luna. A little background baker for a suitor instead of the noble prince you've probably always imagined she'd take by her side? I'm surprised he holds his own as much as he does." He arched over her in the air, examining her get-up more. "My point is, if you come on so strong with this costume, it's only going to make him even more uneasy. He might even think you're mocking his profession by using it as a Nightmare Night costume."

Celestia's eyes went a little wide. Then she used her magic to make a mirror appear in front of herself. "You're right, aren't you?"

"I usually am, yes." Discord grinned, admiring his reflection in the mirror too for a moment.

She sighed then made the mirror and costume disappear. "And now I don't have a costume either, I suppose." She smiled and gave a sheepish shrug.

"Hmm…" he flew in front of her again and landed, "well, you know what this means… Now we're both free to come up with a costume together!"

Celestia tilted her head and smiled. "You mean like a partners costume?"

"Absolutely!" He winked.

"Discord," Celestia raised an eyebrow, "…isn't that something that couples usually do? And isn't the mare you're dating now supposed to come tonight? I don't want her to feel strange if you and I are…"

"We broke up," Discord interrupted casually as he snapped up a rack of costumes and started to glance through them.

"Oh. I'm sorry." Celestia frowned. "Discord…" she moved closer, "that's the third girl this month. Is there something bothering you or…"

"No, no…" He sighed, flipping through clothes. "It's just, well…ladies these days want so much commitment, especially the rather pretty and high maintenance ones I go after, and I'm afraid I'm very busy with other things." He pouted. "I understand marefriends like attention, but they have to understand that quite a few of my friends are girls who like some attention as well. I'm not about to start neglecting Fluttershy or Twilight or any of my other friends just to impress some female."

"They've all had problems with you being close to the girls?" She raised an eyebrow again.

"Some of them." He shrugged, pulling a costume up to look at it.

"And the others…" Celestia prompted gently.

"The others…" He sighed. "It's really not important, Tia." He didn't look at her.

Celestia hesitated but nodded. "Okay, Discord, I understand. But if you want to talk about it, I'm here." She went to the other end of the rack to start looking.

Discord swallowed then spoke again in a quiet, casual tone. "Actually, quite a few of them have had a problem with…you and I."

"Come again?" The sun princess blinked and glanced to him.

The chaos master shrugged. "They think it's strange that I spend so much time with you and go on adventures with you at all hours of the night and that I always show up to parties with you even if I'm meeting one of them there. They'd like me to do stuff like that mostly with them. But I'm not about to shorten my time with you—it's fun paling around with someone you swore vengeance against for a thousand years." He glanced at her with a smile just as she was about to open her mouth and speak with a frown. "Celestia, don't worry yourself about it. Dating's just a fun thing for me for now; I don't have my heart set on anything serious. So I'm not about to rearrange my whole life for anypony. And I'd be much more unhappy losing out on exploring our quirky friendship than I would losing another so-so marefriend." He winked. "Now, let's get cracking on this costume problem."

Celestia finally nodded with a smile. "Okay, Discord. If that's really what'll make you happy." She glanced at a couple of costumes again…then lowered her voice as she added, "But I would understand if we needed to spend less time together so you could give someone else more attention…"

"Yeah, I know—you're understanding to a fault." Discord's voice was low too. "But part of the problem is just me being selfish. You're more fun than any other mare I've tried to see so far. So unless I find someone more fun than you to amuse myself with, I'm afraid you're stuck with me and my shenanigans."

Celestia blinked and chuckled as she looked to him. "I'm fun? Really? Not grim or stuffy or a stick in the mud?"

"Not entirely, apparently." He chuckled too.

She sighed. "Well, I'm glad at least you've warmed up to me. That just leaves Donut Joe…"

"Oh come on, Tia, he'll come around." Discord waved her off. "Like I said, you're just a lot for him to process. But he's bound to get over his nerves eventually. I know guys like him—he's a simple, straight shooter." He grinned more to himself. "He'd probably even ask your permission before proposing to Luna."

Celestia blinked. "Luna? Married?" Her smile warmed. "You know…something about the idea suits her. She can get lonely at night and she's always liked formality, and she's quite a romantic deep down." She sighed. "My little sister…" She shook her head, coming out of some thoughts. "I know my costume might have been a bad idea for how to connect with Joe, but I still have to find a way to let him know that I love his relationship with Luna. I think he's the best thing that's happened to her in a long time."

"I think offering to let them sneak off tonight helped." He smirked at her.

She smirked back at him. "Were you eavesdropping?"

"Always." He winked.

She laughed. "Discord… If we really are going to help run the party at any point, we really should get a great costume together."

"You're working with the chaos master—I guarantee we'll come up with something spectacular." Discord snapped to make several more large racks of brightly colored costume clothes appear. "Now, let's really get looking."

Celestia nodded, and the two proceeded to search through the racks.

Downstairs, Donut Joe and Luna were walking through the entrance hall, still foreleg in foreleg as they greeted guests and complimented them on their costumes. Normally Donut Joe might have been a little shy about greeting so many ponies, but in his prince costume his confidence couldn't help but grow a little. And his confidence grew even more at the sight of Luna using her costume to take a painful moment from her past and turn it into a source of delightful fright and fun for other ponies. 'You're the strongest lady I know, Luna. I really have to add that in when I tell you how I feel about you later…' He sighed to himself.


Luna shouting that name in joy (and quickly bounding forward, pulling him along) snapped Donut Joe out of his thoughts. He blinked and grinned as they suddenly came to stand before Twilight and Spike and all of her friends. Donut Joe even let go of Luna's foreleg to wave and greet them with a big smile. "Twilight Sparkle! And Spike! And all your friends! Aw, it's great to see you!"

"Yes, indeed!" Luna smiled brightly and nodded. "We are so happy you could come to the festivities. And what excellent costumes."

"Thank you kindly, Princess Luna, Donut Joe." Applejack nodded, dressed as scarecrow.

"A princess party with costumes and candy! Who wouldn't be happy to come!?" Pinkie Pie bounced up and down, dressed as a cheerleader. "And hi, Donut Joe! Got any donuts?"

Donut Joe chuckled. "Not right now, Pinkie. But if you come by the shop tomorrow, I should have a fresh batch of pumpkin spice donuts ready."

"I bet tonight is going to be awesome." Rainbow Dash swooped down and grinned, dressed as a pirate. "Thanks again for inviting us!"

"I'm just glad your invitation said we could dress up as anything and not just in scary costumes," Fluttershy added (dressed as a pink bunny). "And it's so nice to see you, Luna, and you too, Donut Joe. I like your costumes."

"Thank you, Fluttershy." Luna laughed softly. "And yes, I think Joe looks very handsome this evening myself."

"Princess Luna, Donut Joe, an absolute pleasure to see you both." Rarity stepped forward (with an all-knowing gaze), dressed as a roaring twenties flapper. "So nice to see society's most intriguing royal couple at a grand affair."

Luna smiled more and blushed faintly while Donut Joe grinned and nodded to Rarity. "Thanks, Rarity. And it's such a special holiday—Luna and I just had to share it with our friends."

"Well, it looks like a great party so far!" Spike added, standing beside Rarity (and dressed as manticore) grinned. "I don't even think the Grand Galloping Gala was this fancy!"

"Yeah," Donut Joe's smile warmed, "Luna really made sure tonight would be special, and it's going great so far. And I'm really happy to get to see all of you girls, and especially you two, Spike and Twilight. It feels like it's been ages since you used to come into my shop for a Prench Cruller and hot chocolate while you were studying for the Unicorn Academy."

Twilight stepped forward now (dressed as scientist) and nodded with a warm smile. "I'm just really glad to get a chance to see you and Luna together. You both look so happy."

Luna and Donut Joe smiled more, first to each other and then to Twilight.

"We are very happy together, Twilight," Luna started. Then she laughed softly and added, "And I mean 'we' as in Joe and I. Thank you for noticing."

Twilight nodded. "You're welcome." Suddenly the castle clock tower chimed the hour. The rest of the guests looked up and started to make their way into the ballroom. "Well, I guess we should head into the ballroom now. Is Princess Celestia already inside?"

Luna smiled more but shook her head. "Nay, not yet. I'm afraid she's still upstairs with Discord comparing costumes." She glanced to Donut Joe.

He tried not to chuckle. "Yeah, I'm sure they'll be down…eventually."

Twilight raised an eyebrow. "They've been spending a lot of time together ever since Tirek's defeat. Does Discord really need that much extra guidance about friendship? If it's getting to be too much for Celestia to handle, I could help," she offered with a smile.

Luna chuckled but shook her head. "No, no, that's, erm…all right. Their time together isn't usually a matter of education so much as a matter of bonding and fun. Celestia doesn't have too many companions for the evenings, especially with me seeing Joe so often. So Discord's been filling in. They're quite good friends now."

"Yeah." Donut Joe rubbed the back of his neck (trying to keep his smile under control). "It's been an interesting friendship to watch happen. I never imagined Celestia liked late night parties in Las Pegasus that much or that Discord could like reading and talking all about magical theory and stuff, but somehow it's all working."

"Wow." Twilight blinked. "I didn't realize." She smiled more. "Well, that's great then…right?" She couldn't help but raise an eyebrow once more though at Donut Joe and Luna still looking like they were trying to contain laughter over some secret joke. "But…are you two sure everything's okay?"

Luna cleared her throat. "Oh, tis nothing, Twilight. We're sorry. It's just been amusing to us watching Discord and Celestia go from stubborn allies to, er…"

"A couple of warm, close buddies," Donut Joe supplied. "And we're just happy to see the two of them so happy."

Fluttershy nodded. "Oh I know what you mean. Discord's seemed a lot calmer ever since Tirek was stopped and he's had time to get closer to everypony. And he talks to me about his adventures with Celestia all he time. I'm glad he's coming to the party tonight."

"As are we." Luna nodded. "And speaking of the party, yes girls, please do go inside and enjoy yourselves. Joe and I will fetch Celestia and Discord."

The girls all nodded.

"Thank you kindly!" Applejack.

"Awesome, thanks, Princess Luna!" Rainbow Dash.

"Yeah, extra super duper thank you!" Pinkie Pie.

"Thank you very much, Princess Luna, Donut Joe. This evening will be simply delightful, I think!" Rarity.

"Yeah, what Rarity said. Oh, and thanks Princess Luna, Donut Joe!" Spike

"Oh, yes, um…thank you…." Fluttershy.

"Thanks, Princess Luna." Twilight waved, bringing up the rear behind her friends as they all headed toward the ballroom. "I can't wait to see Discord and Celestia's costumes!" she called out as they all headed inside, Luna and Donut Joe waving after her.

Once the girls were gone, Donut Joe sighed, still grinning. "What do you think we'll find once we go up there and knock on Celestia's door to get them?"

Luna sighed, still grinning as well. "I'm never sure…." She laughed softly. "Come, let's see what cute thing they're doing together now."

Donut Joe nodded. "I'm ready when if are, Luna baby."

Luna nodded and lit up her horn.

"Oh, uh…" he stepped forward, "let me try." He lit his own horn. Luna blinked but nodded as the light from her horn faded. Then Donut Joe squinted, concentrating very much. His horn glowed, and an orb of light started to swell, hesitated, but finally surrounded himself and Luna and made them disappear.

A moment later they appeared in the hallway outside of Celestia's room. Donut Joe was panting a little as he wiped some sweat from his brow. "There." He smiled. "See, I've been practicing. I'm getting real good at some of this advanced magic like you princesses do. Pretty soon you won't be able to tell me from Twilight Sparkle." He held his head high.

Luna smiled more. "No, I suppose not…except for those broad shoulders of yours and those powerful legs and that thick, unruly mane, and that firm jaw…" She reached up to gently touch his jaw, and by now Donut Joe was wide-eyed and blushing. She giggled. "Teleportation is just icing on the donut. " She nuzzled him.

He sighed, his gaze gazing. "Luna…"

She giggled. "Just getting you back for what happened in the hallway earlier."

"Very funny." He kissed her cheek and pulled back. "Now let's go check on…"

Then from behind Celestia's door, two voices were heard.

"Discord, can you use your hands to help me clasp this necklace? Even with magic it's hard because of my mane."

"Oh fine. The most important thing is we've finally found a costume for us that works. While I'm doing that, will you button this up for me around my wings in the back?"

"Sure, Discord."

Joe and Luna looked at each other with raised eyebrows and then looked to the door. Luna knocked and opened it slightly with her magic. "Erm…pardon—Discord, sister…tis almost time for the party. Joe and I were wondering if you were almost ready."

"Luna?" Celestia replied. "Oh yes, of course. Come in! You and Joe are just in time to see our costume."

"Our costume?" Donut Joe raised an eyebrow.

"Of course." Discord chuckled. "Drum roll please!" There was a snap; the sound of a drum roll started. "And you can enter…now!"

Luna pushed the door open the rest of the way with her magic.

The drum roll ended, and there before her stood Discord and Celestia…posed in costume as Frankenstirrup's monster and his bride.

Indeed, Discord, wearing brown rags, had his fur dyed green, fake stitches painted on his face, and two fake bolts coming out of his head. And Celestia stood beside him wearing a tattered white dress with her normal rainbow hair colored in shades of black and white and gray and a few stitches painted on her cheeks.

"Presenting the future winners of Luna's Nightmare Night costume contest!" Discord held his head high.

Celestia laughed. "Discord and I decided to change our costumes at the last minute to something we could do together: a partners costume. What do you two think? I'm sure we'll get quite a few stares when we enter the ballroom."

Donut Joe just looked at them both with wide eyes while Luna's jaw fell. But now, at her sister's final words, she blinked and came forward, smiling. "Sister, your costume really is unique. Er…but might I talk to you for a few moments before we go down to the party…in private?" She glanced behind her. "And Joe, perhaps you and Discord could stay here and discuss, erm…how interestingly their costume shall certainly be perceived….? Frankenstirrup's monster and his bride?" She looked into his eyes meaningfully.

Donut Joe nodded (still blushing), "Uh…yeah, sure. You ladies take all the time you need."

Discord shrugged. "Fine by me. Besides, Joe, it'll give you a good chance to see how a real Nightmare Night costume is supposed to look. A prince—seriously?" He eyed the unicorn's fancy jacket. "You couldn't be more transparent if I snapped the color out of you." He chuckled to himself while Donut Joe just rolled his eyes as the two ladies walked out into the hallway.

"Luna, what's this about?" Celestia asked with a smile.

Luna smiled too as she used her magic to close her sister's bedroom door behind them. "It's about you and I needing to have a discussion, my dear sister."

Celestia just raised an eyebrow.

Luna smiled more and took a breath, ready to explain, as the two mares proceeded down the empty hallway.

In Celestia's room, meanwhile, Joe and Discord stood in silence for some time until Donut Joe noticed Discord looking at him with an eyebrow raised and an intrigued grin.

Donut Joe blinked. "What?"

"Oh…nothing." Discord shrugged. "It's just this is the first time you and I have been alone since we've met. I'm curious if it'll turn out you really are skittish of me…and not just of Celestia who always happens to be with me when we see each other." He smirked. "Really, you act like she's going to smite you for daring to encroach upon the sanctity of her little sister." He chuckled. "Though I think we all know Luna's more than capable of seeing to her own passionate affairs."

Donut Joe's gaze became firm. "Look, Discord, first—no, you don't scare me. I know you're more powerful than me, but I don't care. I won't run and hide from you; I'm a stallion, and my pop taught me to have a little more pride than that. Second, you're right, I am a little intimidated by Celestia, but that's my own business. And third…" he moved closer to him, "that last comment was dangerously close to an inappropriate crack about my marefriend. But I think you just weren't thinking when you said it, so I'm going to let it slide…this time. But keep yourself in line when you talk about her, or I'll challenge you to put up your dukes right here and now—no magic, just two guys in a fight…that is, if you think you can manage without snapping your fingers. Got it?"

Discord blinked a couple of times and then twirled his beard. "Hmm…you really are an interesting one, aren't you? Quite the bold little pony…. You might actually be good enough for Luna—prince material even." As Joe opened his mouth with a scowl, Discord snapped to zipper it shut. "Relax, that was a compliment to Luna if you think about it. Now then…" he snapped the zipper away, "what, pray tell, do you think Luna wanted to talk to Tia about? And what are we supposed to talk about while they're gone?"

Donut Joe sighed, his anger ebbing. "Well, I think they're talking about this 'partners' costume you and Princess Celestia put together…and I think you and I are supposed to talk about the same thing… and also what's been going on with you and Celestia exactly." He looked him in the eye.

"You mean our friendship?" Discord replied as casually as could be.

Donut Joe gave him a dry look.

Discord gave him a dry look back.

Donut Joe sighed. "Come on, Discord—you two are practically dating, and I know you know it. And wearing the spooky couples costume while you're running around laughing and giggling and being inseparable is going to make everyone at the party realize it too."

Discord blinked, but quickly resumed his bored look. He dusted off his costume. "What makes you think our costume is anything more than a romantically suggestive accident? And what makes you think I have any clue what you're talking about with Celestia and I and dating?"

The baker pony's tone went dry as he came closer to look the chaos master in the eye. "Because no guy, and especially no guy as stuck on himself as a guy as you are, would spend so much personal time having fun at all hours with a mare as pretty and nice and great as Celestia without at least thinking about more than friendship."

Discord sighed and crossed his arms over his chest. "You know, you're even more clever than I've given you credit for. I don't like it, but I respect it. So fine, I'll admit I'm a little more aware than I used to be that Celestia's a mare…and a lot more aware that we're pretty good at having a good time together. So what? I've got lots of friends who are mares who I have good times with. And I've had lots of marefriends lately who I can say the same thing about." He shrugged with his normal charismatic grin. "Really, I don't know where you and Luna come up with these wild romantic accusations—probably from having too much lovey-dovey stuff on the brain all the time."


The chaos master sighed a bit more dramatically. "Okay, maybe this will make it clearer: Celestia has never treated me like anything more than a friend. And I don't ever try anything on her. Period. You have my word."

Donut Joe sighed. "But that still doesn't explain the costume…"

"The costume is just a goof, a gag, it's really nothing. I told you, I don't try things on Celestia…" He floated up and away from Donut Joe then added in a mumble, "I accidentally did try something on her once, and she lost it on me—kicked me out and everything. I'm never doing a repeat performance of that… I think it almost cost me our friendship." He gave Donut Joe a glare.

Joe blinked. "Wait, you mean something already did happen?"

"Last Hearthswarming," Discord explained curtly.

"Luna's spell?"

"Yes and no…and yes." Discord shrugged as he looped back around in front of Donut Joe again in the air. "It's complicated. It was sort of unexpected, and it sort of did and it sort of didn't go over very well. And now we're past it, and I'm not going near it with her again no matter how anyone feels." He scowled. "She's just my friend. She doesn't like me like that."

Donut Joe put a hoof to his chin, considering, then glanced up. "But…do you like her?"

Discord landed and rolled his eyes so dramatically that they popped out of his skull and he had to gather them up and place them back into his head (in an equally dramatic fashion). "Oh what kind of ridiculous, foalish, mushy question is that?"

Donut Joe couldn't help smiling just a little. "The yes or no kind."

"I am not talking with you about this." Discord pouted completely and scoffed. "We're not buddies now just because we both happen to be close to the pony sisters." He held his head high, eyes closed.

A smug grin couldn't help come to Donut Joe's features. "You do like her—at least, you do now even if you didn't last Hearthswarming. Are you nervous she won't like you back? Is that it?"

Donut Joe knew instantly he'd struck gold: Discord normally never gave an inch around him (or most ponies) but now his eyes went wide and his features flushed crimson.

The baker unicorn grinned and was about to add more when Discord scowled with a stubborn pout and shot back, "And are you nervous that your little getup for the evening actually makes you seem like less of a prince instead of more of one? After all, what real prince would have to dress up as one for Nightmare Night!"

Donut Joe blinked but then just shook his head. "You're trying to get me angry and change the subject. But I'm onto you, Discord. It won't work. Look, I just want you to know that if you want to talk about this, you can with me." He smiled sheepishly and rubbed the back of his neck. "I know what it's like to have special feelings for a special friend and not know what to do next."

"Why would I ever care if Celestia 'liked' me?" Discord huffed and plowed on defensively. "I'm Discord, I'm legend, I'm hilarious—I can have any girl I want! And I've been taking my pick lately!" A smug smirk managed to return to his features.

"But if Celestia's the one you want…" Donut Joe couldn't help but start.

Discord flew up to glare down at him. "Again we're not talking about this! And I don't like her! I just like hanging out with her. And I like how she's always up for some fun if Fluttershy's sleeping or too scared and if I don't want to be alone. We're oddly comfortable together! And she's not nearly as grim when she isn't trying to banish you! Okay?" He let out a breath and landed again.

Donut Joe smiled a little. "And you went with this 'monster and bride' partners costume because…"

"Because it seemed funny." Discord held out his arms. "A great way to get attention. And it seemed like a way to, um…" He blinked a few times, then shook his head. "Never mind…"

Donut Joe sighed and rolled his eyes to the side, trying not to smile too much. "Hey, if you really don't like Celestia, then saying whatever you were about to say shouldn't be a big deal…."

Discord glared at him again as he finally admitted: "The partners costume seemed like a good way to get her to hang out with me tonight, all right?" He crossed his arms over his chest. "Look, Fluttershy's here but she's spending time with the girls, Luna's going to be busy making kissy faces with you, I broke up with my last marefriend who was supposed to come here with me tonight, and I don't know anyone else who's going to be here except Celestia. So if we did a costume together then maybe we'd have to stick together! I'm not good at this kind of fancy, debutante, society parties, and I'd feel better being with her, all right?"

Donut Joe smiled softly and came closer. "Discord…" his tone was gentler now, "look, from one guy to another, if you care about her that much, you've got to realize something else is going on here besides friendship. Don't deny it—Luna and I wasted a lot of months doing that. Just talk to her." He gave a little shrug. "And even if you didn't do a partners costume, I think Celestia would still hang out with you at the party. She'd probably even dance with you. I think you make her happy."

Discord blinked a couple of times, his eyes a little wide again. But then he cleared his throat and looked down at Joe dryly. "Well, I'll keep your advice for my non-existent attraction in mind. But like I said, all that's going on tonight is that I just don't want to end up a wallflower at the party. And all that's going on lately is that Celestia's both amusing and relatable to me—it's not easy to find a buddy who's lifespan isn't over after a paltry hundred years."

Donut Joe blinked then frowned.

Discord raised an eyebrow. Then he blinked as well. "Oh. Sorry. I didn't mean to bring up… I know you're…but Luna's…"

"It's fine," Donut Joe interrupted.

Discord hesitated but then cleared his throat, nodded and went on. "So, to recap, there's nothing going on with Celestia and I outside of buddy bonding. It would be ridiculous and difficult and awkward and impossible for it to go beyond that." He shrugged, awaiting whatever final challenge Donut Joe could give him.

Donut Joe, however, just sighed and looked down with a slight scowl. "You think you have it 'difficult?' You know…" his voice was low and quiet, "sometimes when I'm with Luna I think she's having the time of her life like I am. But then sometimes I realize that every hour we spend together might feel like less than a second to her. And I think about how lonely that must be for her…and how lonely it is for me too. We're not just separated by the past or race or society…we're separated by time." His eyes came up for a moment to meet Discord's, wide and sincere. "You don't know what difficult is, Discord. Stop being so silly. Don't do that to yourself and Celestia."

And then with a deep breath he turned and left the room.

Discord watched him go, a hand held up like he was about to say something. But as Donut Joe left, it lowered.

The chaos master blinked a few times and looked down in thought.

While the guys had been talking, the ladies had been having an interesting conversation as well.

Luna had pulled Celestia out into a secluded corner of the hall and turned to her sister.

Celestia raised an eyebrow. "Luna, really, what is it? Is something wrong with the party?"

Luna blinked. And then she couldn't help herself—she burst into muffled laughter.

Celestia blinked. "Luna?" Her eyebrow arched even higher.

"I'm sorry, really." Luna did her best to slowly get her stifled chuckles under control.

Celestia glanced down at her costume. "Is it my costume? Do you really not like it? I thought it was a very classic idea." She glanced up at her sister with a frown.

Luna let out a deep breath and shook her head with a smile. "Oh, no, no, sister, not at all—you look wonderful. I'm impressed. And I'm sorry to laugh. But Celestia…you and Discord…and Frankenstirrup's monster and his monster's bride…and you and Discord…

"Discord and I…what?" Celestia tilted her head to the side.

Luna gave her a dry look. "Celestia, come now—you and Discord…"

The sun princess still looked at her with perplexity though.

Luna sighed. "The nights out together, the playful banter, being joined at the hip whenever you see each other, the sheer amount of shenanigans you let him get away with and actually giggle at, the partner costume of a famous fictional couple…" She smiled gently. "Celestia, I would have said something sooner, but I thought it would be better for you to come to the conclusion on your own. But if you two are really going to the party in that costume, I need to say something now before anypony else does and catches you off guard."

Celestia finally blinked. "Luna, what are you saying?"

The moon princess took a deep breath. "You and Discord are dating."

Celestia's eyes went wide. "What?"

"You're dating." Luna smiled a little more.

Celestia laughed warmly and shook her head. "Luna we are not dating. In fact, up until recently he had a marefriend. He always has a marefriend these days. You know that."

"That's nice." Luna smirked a little. "You're still dating."

Celestia laughed more. "We are not dating."

"Are too."

"Are not."

"Are too."

"Are not."

Luna sighed. "Very well—then describe to me what you two are doing."

Celestia smiled as she started to explain. "Discord and I are just two friends who like to spend time learning about each other and getting closer and making jokes and singing songs. We're very comfortable together." As her explanation went on now though, something in her tone slowly started to shift. "…We go to parties or shows at night and always escort each other home afterwards, and we make plans to see each other during the day sometimes too. And we laugh over his pranks and spend time talking about common interests, and he meets me at a lot of the affairs we have around Canterlot. …And sometimes he gives me flowers…and sometimes he spends the night on the sofa in my room if we're up too late… And now we decided to attend nightmare night dressed as a monster and that monster's bride…and we started getting close in the first place after an accidental kiss last Hearthswarming Eve, and…and…." By now her eyes had gone wide.

Luna just watched her with a smug smile.

Celestia's voice quieted as she finally brought a hoof to her chin. "Sweet Starswirl…we're dating."

Luna nodded. "Well, your physical relationship could probably use some progressing, but otherwise…yes, you are indeed dating."

Celestia's lily features broke into a crimson blush. "Luna!" She quickly lowered her voice to a hush. "Why didn't you tell me? Do other ponies realize this?"

Luna chuckled softly, likewise lowering her voice. "I thought it would be less shocking for you to figure it out on your own. But, no, other ponies don't see you two together as often as I do, so I don't believe they suspect. But I didn't want you two going down to the party dressed as a romantic couple and someone pointing it out to you or making you feel awkward by asking about your relationship out of the blue."

"O-Oh…" Celestia just looked down at her costume, eyes wide.

Luna tilted her head to the side. "Whose idea was this costume anyway?"

Celestia blushed more and nearly stammered as she looked up. "It was one of Discord's ideas…but I was the one who picked it from the options he suggested."

Luna gave her a smug grin again.

Celestia blinked. "Luna, don't look at me like that."

The smug grin only persisted.

Celestia scoffed. "Luna, really," she tried to smile, to regain some of her composure as she went on, "nothing is actually going on with Discord and I even if we are technically dating."

Luna's eyes hazed a little.

Celestia's little bit of regained poise fell away. "Luna! I am not attracted to Discord! And he doesn't have those feelings for me. I'm not his type! Believe me, I've seen his marefriends." She rolled her eyes. "I'm better as a wing pony. And besides I wouldn't want to complicated our friendship by suggesting…what you're suggesting." She attempted a small sheepish smile.

Luna raised an eyebrow. "So you've been sizing yourself up against his dates?"

Celestia blinked and pouted with a slight scowl (her blush persisting). "That's not what I meant…."

"Celestia," Luna sighed and moved closer to put a hoof on her sister's shoulder, "I'm sorry, I don't mean to tease you, and I'll stop. I just wanted to talk to you about Discord because you seem to make each other happy, and your happiness is very important to me. I would have brought up the subject sooner or later even if your costume choice hadn't prompted the conversation tonight."

Celestia's features softened, and she brought a hoof to her forehead. "Luna, this is all very…sudden. I need time to think."

Luna smiled warmly. "Oh Celestia, it's just dating. I promise, it's not nearly as scary as it seems. I can give you some pointers if you'd like."

Celestia actually cracked a small smile again and rolled her eyes. "Luna…"

"First pointer," Luna removed her hoof from Celestia to raise it as she went on matter-of-factly, "Tell him you like him so much that the very idea of dating him sends you into a complete fluster like it's doing right now. Then try going on a date on purpose if you'd like and seeing where things lead."

Celestia just cleared her throat. "I, um…I don't think we should talk about this anymore for now, Luna. You have a party to hostess after all." She smiled a little again.

Luna sighed but nodded as she lowered her hoof. "Very well, we can resume this matter later, if you'd like—whenever you're ready."

Celestia smiled a little more and nodded, about to head forward down the hall back to her room.

Luna, however, held up a hoof. "But just one question—have you ever felt even a little jealous each time he's announced a new marefriend?"

Celestia paused, and her blush returned. She was quiet.

Luna smiled softly, not waiting for any further reply. "Come along, sister, let us return to your room. The party will be starting soon, as you say." She headed forward.

Celestia followed. Then in a quiet voice, she replied, "Not 'jealous' exactly, Luna. I just hoped those mares were being kind to him—he can be sensitive. And I hoped they were challenging and could engage him because he deserves that. And I hoped that…he wouldn't stop spending time with me just to spend time with them." She looked down a little. "And maybe I've enjoyed his company sometimes just as much as a male companion as a friend. But that's all. And nothing's ever happened…exactly." She blushed lightly again.

Luna nodded. "Last Hearthswarming? My spell…"

Celestia cleared her throat. "Sort of. Things got a little complicated…"

Luna raised an eyebrow, but at her sister not explaining further the moon princess gave her a smile that even looked gentle coming from Nightmare Moon's mouth. "Sister…please consider this conversation and you feelings and then talk to Discord. For your happiness. That's all I ask."

Celestia only gave a shy nod.

They came in sight of Celestia's door just as it opened and Donut Joe walked out. He was looking down at first, but once he saw Luna his smile returned and he waved. Luna waved back to him and then addressed her sister again. "I shall now depart with Joe to the party and return you to Discord."

Celestia nodded. "All right. I-I mean, Discord and I still have to put the finishing touches on our costume…or decide on another one…so that would be fine."

Luna smiled more. "Well, I for one hope you stay with this costume actually. You and Discord look splendid together."

"Okay, sister." Celestia's smile returned. "Thank you…I think."

Luna laughed softly as they finally came to Celestia's bedroom door. Donut Joe held out his foreleg to Luna. "My lady?"

Luna's eyes hazed and put her foreleg in his. "My dashing escort—let us adjourn to the ballroom to commence the party."

Donut Joe nodded. "As you wish, beautiful." He winked at her.

Luna giggled. "Oh Joe."

As they walked off, Celestia and Discord (as he popped his head out of her room now) watched them go with wide eyes and eyebrows raised.

They turned to each other with half smiles, almost like they were going to make a joke, but then their eyes met and they blinked and blushed. Discord cleared his throat. "Uh…want to get back to putting the finishing touches on the costume?"

Celestia nodded. "Sure, Discord. Let's, um…let's do our best for the party." She slowly walked back into her room.

Discord hesitated, his gaze following her, before moving back inside as well and closing the door behind them.

Meanwhile, Luna and Donut Joe were approaching the ballroom.

Luna smiled a little. "Did your talk with Discord go well?"

Donut Joe smiled a little too, though he glanced down. "In terms of talking about Celestia? Yeah, I think so. He's definitely thought about the two of them being together. Knew it."

Luna nodded and laughed softly. "And it seems Celestia has too, though only at the back of her mind. Though I'm afraid the thought's at the surface now."

"It might be a little awkward for them at first, but I think they'll be okay." Donut Joe looked to Luna again and winked.

"I do as well." Luna smiled more. "And it would be nice to have such a close couple to double date with…and for my sister to have someone special to her just as I do." She moved close and nuzzled him.

He nuzzled her in return, smiling more. "If it'd make them as happy as we are, I hope they get together soon too." They pulled back a little. His voice lowered. "You really are special to me, Luna Baby. Most special mare in the world."

Luna's eyes hazed with warmth and tenderness. "And you're special to me, Joe. No pony has ever held such a place in my heart."

Donut Joe chuckled. "It's cute when you say things like that while you look like Nightmare Moon."

'Nightmare Moon' blushed. "We are not cute…we are dark and brooding and the bringer of eternal night."

"You are sweet and charming and bringer of eternal moonrises and moonsets that are almost as lovely as you are." He smirked a little. "Either way though, I still don't see what's so scary about eternal night. It just means more time to dream about you."

Luna rolled her eyes and smirked too. "Enough, Joe of the Donuts. We—as in you and I—have a party to commence."

"Does this mean I finally get to see the big grand entrance you've been keeping secret from everypony including me?" He raised an eyebrow.

Luna held her head high. "Oh yes. And try not to be frightened—I really have gone all out this year for this first annual ball."

"I'll be brave, Luna Baby." Joe held his head high too. "After all, a 'prince' should be."

"Then when the entrance is over, shall we dance?" She smiled more to herself with a blush. "We could mingle among the crowd, and I'm sure Celestia and Discord will attract a lot of attention, so there's a chance everypony won't be staring at us."

Donut Joe nodded. "Sure, Luna. But if you start to feel shy, just let me know. We could always go to the balcony and talk—just you and me and the night."

She nodded. "I'd like that, Joe."

They reached the doors that opened to the top of the ballroom staircase.

Donut Joe used his magic to pull back the door and gesture forward. "Now, get in there and show those ponies the scariest night of their lives. It's time for a little night princess magic."

Luna nodded with a determined grin. "Yes, the fear shall be doubled! Come, my escort—let us bring terrifying fun to the kingdom!" She took Joe in her foreleg and pulled him along.

"Whoa!" He just managed to right himself as they entered and the door closed behind them.

Donut Joe blinked once they were at the top of the steps, expecting bright lights and lots of ponies looking up at him. But just as his eyes were about to adjust, the room went dark.

Ponies gasped, and a few screams of fright sounded.

Then Luna she cleared her throat and spoke in a voice that actually did make Donut Joe's heartbeat quicken in a touch of pleasant fear. "ATTENTION SUBJECTS!" she boomed as her tone took on an icy edge and an eerie green glow came from her horn to flicker shadows over her barely visible face. "Tis another Nightmare Night, and you dare to enter the home of the princess of the night dressed in costumes to mock her legend? Very well, then—you have asked for our wrath, and thee shall have it! As punishment for your insolence on this most hallowed of nights we command thee to…" a bright burst of blue magic came from her horn, and suddenly the lights came up (chandeliers sporting large dancing orange and silver flames), "…party all evening long so that we may celebrate this great holiday together in friendship! Thank you all for attending! Let the Nightmare Night Ball begin!" Her magic suddenly made wrapped candy rain down to the floor, and all of the ponies smiled and cheered.

Donut Joe just looked out over the crowd with a big smile and then to Luna—so caught up in her element, so happy, so ready to be part of a perfect night between them. He pushed is hoof more against hers. "Does the best hostess in the world want to dance now?"

Luna giggled. "Yes, I'm ready, Joe. But I'm not sure about me being the 'best' hostess…"

"Oh please," he chuckled as he led them down the stairs to the dance floor, "you're dynamite. If you were looking for work, I'd hire you to greet customers at the donut shop on the spot."

Luna giggled more as they reached the floor and moved through the crowd of couples. "Joe, be serious. You know I'm actually rather shy—I couldn't greet individual ponies so personally like that even if I wanted to."

"I think you could—you're strong, Luna Baby." He nodded at her over his shoulder. "And you'd definitely look cute standing by my counter all day dressed in a little pink apron and hat."

"Could they at least be lavender or teal? Pink's always been more Celestia's color." She smirked.

Donut Joe smirked back. "Anything goes for you, Luna Baby." He turned to face her and bowed low as they finally found themselves in a clear spot on the dance floor. "Now, may I have this dance?"

Luna nodded. "Yes, please. It's been ages since I've danced at a formal ball."

Donut Joe moved closer and put a hoof on her shoulder as he began to lead their movements—Luna followed along. And soon they were talking and twirling and having the loveliest night ever among the large crowd ponies likewise enjoying the ball.

Indeed, the only two guests who remained not in attendance as the glorious evening commenced were a certain sun princess and her charming draconequus friend.


That's all for now—thanks for reading, and I hope you like what's to come!