the story's cover art on Equestria Daily
|Date published||August 21, 2011 (Equestria Daily)|
December 23, 2012 (FIMFiction)
|Words||6,246 (Equestria Daily)|
Two versions of the story are available as of May 7, 2012: the original one from Equestria Daily, and a reworked one published three months later on FIMFiction. The original version, written before the release of Luna Eclipsed has Luna speak normally; the reworked version published after the new episode's release has her speak in faux-archaic diction. Her visual appearance has also been slightly updated. There are no major differences in plot.
The story takes place on the night of the Grand Galloping Gala, one year after the events pf The Best Night Ever. Two guards refuse to let in anyone who doesn't have a ticket, which becomes a problem for Bad Apple, a grifter who expected to be able to con his way into the Gala. Princess Celestia overhears his attempts to bluff his way past the guards. She knows him - or at least his reputation - and allows him entry, provided that he refrains from pilfering anything. Said reputation makes him out to be a bit of an affable scoundrel, and in his own opinion, he generally holds himself to be an honorable stallion and claims he is on the side of the innocent and abused, despite occasionally resorting to illegal activities.
Other guests are unwilling to engage him because his dress isn't very fashionable, and Bad Apple doesn't mind; he's more interested in the free food, and in listening for juicy bits of gossip which might come in useful in his travels, possibly as blackmail material. After briefly greeting his niece Applejack, he moves away from the main portion of the reception and into other sections of the palace. While technically off-limits, Bad Apple manages to follow his curiosity up several flights of stairs simply by pretending he has permission and knows where he's going. He eventually ends up near a balcony occupied by Princess Luna and an assortment of astrological devices.
The two strike up a conversation over the starry sky. Luna knows the stars better than anypony and has decided to review the work the court astronomers over the thousand years she was imprisoned on the moon instead of helping her sister host the Gala. Bad Apple doesn't have her scientific zeal or patience for names and numbers, but he travels under the night sky a lot in his line of work, and he assures Luna he appreciates its beauty.
When he reveals just what his line of work involves, Luna is initially taken aback, but accepts that he means her no harm when he claims he approached the Princess because, after all, "it's not polite to simply let someone be all alone at a party". The two also bond over the revelation that he was exiled from his family and all the lands his extended family owns by his own mother, Granny Smith, turning him into a vagabond by default.
At some point, Bad Apple and the Princess move to her quarters, where they continue to have a conversation. Celestia walks by in search of her sister and, upon overhearing them, decides not to bother the two. Instead she notifies the palace's kitchen staff that they should add a second set of silverware to Luna's breakfast tray. The story skips ahead to the morning after. Bad Apple has clearly spent the night, but against Luna's expectations, has not left before she woke. He pretends to be shocked at her assumption; after all, why would he skip enjoying "the foodstuffs of the rich and famous"?