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Bearing Fruit

by MasterThief

“Mount Eris Station, all passengers visiting Hippogriffia, please have your passports ready!”

The announcement pulled Luna out of her daydream-staring out the large picture window of the train, the massive island rising like a giant tree trunk with a split down the middle. Luna flipped open the compartment of her saddlebag, saw her new passport inside, and made a satisfied stretch.

Ahh. So this is a vacation.

Not that she didn’t enjoy her first vacation with her older sister (fighting aside). But this time, she was traveling alone while Celestia stayed behind at their new home in Silver Shoals.

But retirement was, so far, boring. It was a permanent vacation where you didn’t have to do anything. Celestia had made her post-princess life work. Luna had been going stir-crazy. Hence the long vacation, of indefinite duration, to unknown destinations, flower-covered tourist shirt and all. The first of which was Mount Eris, and the Hippogriff kingdom.

***

“Princess Luna!” The young hippogriff customs officer snapped to attention after reading the name on her passport – or the birth date 1,000 some-odd years ago, Luna could not be sure. “Welcome to Mount Eris! It is an honor to receive you! This is most-“

“Please, just call me Luna. I’ve renounced the title,” she said, with a wry smile. “No fanfare, no processions. Just a vacation.”

The hippogriff’s beak hung open for a second, the he closed it and made a slight bow. “Of course, Miss Luna.” He stamped her passport and handed it back. “Have a pleasant stay, as long as you like. If you need assistance, please do not hesitate to ask any guard.”

When Luna took the booklet back, she saw it had been stamped “Royalty – Entry Without Expiration.” At first she was annoyed, but then she appreciated that it was one less thing she had to worry about. It wasn’t the privilege she liked; she remembered that Princess Twilight had been trying to form a new “Union” among Equestria and her neighbors that would have made passports unnecessary, so that everyone would someday have the ability to cross borders as freely as she did, but that was politics.

In other words, somepony else’s problem. Luna was on vacation.

***

She was idly walking down a boardwalk, looking at everything and nothing – the waves rushing up over the sand, the cloud-covered peak of Mount Eris, hippogriffs enjoying themselves, ponies and griffons and buffalo and changelings and yaks and kirin too.

Then she saw the fruit stand, and felt a rumbling in her tummy, something that only exotic tastes could satisfy.

“Welcome, ma’am!” The hippogriff who ran the stand gave a giant smile. "We’ve got fruits from all over the world! If you have any questions, just ask!"

Luna nodded. She started picking up fruits one at a time with her magic. There were the familiar fruits - apples, oranges, bananas, mangoes, watermelons. There was a large, spiky melon that smelled like sulfur and bad eggs, which made her gag slightly and she put right back down. A much tinier and squishier fruit covered in a rough fur-like fuzz. Bananas, except small and red. Apples, which looked like clusters of tiny green bananas.

And then she saw it, a fruit that looked like a literal fireball, bright red with green tips. She picked one up with her magic, smelled it, squeezed it.

"Ah, those are dragonfruit!" The attendant said. Care to sample one?"

"Yes, but-"

In a split second, the attendant chopped one in half with her claw and offered one of the halves to Luna, along with a wooden spoon. "Just scoop out the white part with the black spots." Luna did, and the taste was sublime, like a tangy pear or a sweet citrusy custard.

"I'll take a half dozen," she said. "Oh, and the other half of this one, too."

Nice start to this vacation.

***

Luna sat down on the rocks overlooking the beach, eating the last of her dragonfruit, watching a group of young hippogriffs jumping between land and sea, changing between long legs and fish tails at whim.

"OH MY SEAFOAM AND STARS IS THAT YOU?" Luna almost spat out her dragonfruit as she was glomped from behind. "Princess Luna! What are you doing here!"

Luna coughed. "I... I was just on vacation and-"

The hippogriff behind her whirled into view. "Silverstream?" Luna said. "From the School of Friendship?"

The pastel-colored half-pony half-bird's eyes widened and ever-so-slightly teared up. "You remember me! Oh, this is so exciting! I'm gonna have to tell everyone you're here! Queen Novo will be thrilled and Uncle Seaspray and of course my brother Terramar, did you ever meet him, I'm not sure, but OOOOOOOH!"

Luna bowed her head, and sighed. It wasn't the vacation she wanted.

But maybe it's the vacation you need, something inside her said.

"Well," Luna said, "I'm sure I could stop by and say hello..."

***

The flight up to Queen Novo's estate on the Harmonizing Heights was short, but tiring. Luna huffed and gasped as the nearly straight-up ascent took its toll, taking a few seconds to shake her aching wings after they landed. The next few hours were a blur, as Silverstream had landed Luna right in the middle of a giant royal garden party. Queen Novo had talked Luna's ears off about all the times she and Celestia had spent together - which Luna remembered none of. General Seaspray held court on politics and his opinion of Princess Twilight ("capable but unseasoned, and she needed better advisors." Luna had wisely held her tongue.) Silverstream and her "best friend absolutely ever" Princess Skystar had talked, and talked, and talked, about everything and nothing.

Luna, for her part, had said practically nothing all evening. This sort of thing had been her sister's specialty. Not hers. So she smiled, and went along, and ate hors d'oeuvres, and felt distinctly out of place in her flowery tourist shirt.

"... so anyway," Skystar continued, "it's really fun to make stuff out of shells, and I still do even though I spend most of my time up on the mountain, Silverstream and Terramar are always bringing me shells. They're easy to work with! You can sculpt things with shells, and paint with shells, and make music with shells if you can tune them just right or cut holes in the right place..."

"Skystar is gonna be a shell artist!" Silverstream said, enthusiastically. "She's even got me doing it!"

"Wanna see some of my collection?" Skystar asked.

Luna, half distracted by her own thoughts, nodded. "Oh... sure! That would be wonderful!"

"Yay! Be right back!" The two young hippogriffs bolted off towards the house. Luna sighed, and drank another mimosa.

"I swear, those two girls are inseparable," Queen Novo said. "Sisters from other mothers."

"Yeah, they are quite the pair," Luna nodded.

Queen Novo must have seen something in Luna's expression. She sat down next to Luna. "You look like you've got something heavy on your mind. Everything all right?"

Luna sniffed, "Oh, it's nothing, really. I just took a vacation to... well, kinda get away from everything having to do with royalty and crowns and all that. No offense."

Queen Novo was sympathetic. "Celestia told me all kinds of stories about you."

"Good ones, I hope." Luna felt a frission of dread. She'd have so many bad ones.

"All the ones." Novo replied. "Even when you were gone, she missed you terribly."

Luna sighed. "Well, it's not like she had a choice, what with me being a demon and all..."

Queen Novo chuckled, "Oh, honey, trust me, I've seen demons. You ain't one of them."

"I had fangs. Slit pupils. Bat pony followers. I was a mess."

"You got better." Queen Novo put a clawed paw over Luna's shoulder. "I know being royalty ain't easy. Especially when it's something you never asked for and want to give up."

Luna exhaled, slowly. "That is the truth."

"But bein' royalty ain't all decrees and parties. Sometimes it's about just doing what you can. I mean, you didn't ask to be linked to the moon. I didn't ask to lead my people after we got kicked out of our homes. But we did. Mistakes and all. You can give up the crown, but folks will never stop looking to you to step up. Don't you still go a-walkin' through pony's dreams?"

"Celestia told you about that?" Luna was shocked. Only a few ponies were supposed to know about her dream-walking powers.

"She did. She also said that you are the best one-on-one dream counselor and problem solver she's ever seen." Queen Novo smiled. "And she also sent word that Mount Eris was gonna be your first stop."

Luna looked at the Queen, who had a fish-eating grin on her beak. "You royal sneaks. You sent Silverstream down to the boardwalk didn't you?"

"She said you had a thing for fruit. She wanted me to tell you to take your time away, she knows you need lots of it. But she also wanted me to let you know that you need folks around you. Quiet folk, in particular. Believe it or not, I don't really like parties either."

Luna gave Novo a hug. "You are both sneaky rotten scoundrels. Thanks."

"We sisters gotta stick together," Queen Novo said, as the two young hippogriff seashell artists came back, claws full.

***

A few nights later, Celestia fell asleep after eating the strange fireball-looking fruit she'd gotten in the mail from her sister.

"Hello, you sneaky sister of mine." Luna said, stifling a grin.

Celestia rolled her eyes. "The fruit. A Dream Linking spell. Should have known." She strode forward and gave her sister a nuzzle. "How's the vacation going?"

"Pretty good," Luna said. "Queen Novo sends her regards." Luna looked up at her taller, older, no-longer-princess but still amazing sister. "I've been thinking..."

"Yes?" Celestia asked.

"I'm wondering if there's... other ways I can keep helping out?"