Flitting between dreams, she is everywhere at once. She lies in every bed she has ever slept in. In the first moments after waking, they all look the same. She is hesitant. Who will she be when she rises? A happy foal who yet knows too little of the world? A stranger, feared by the village ponies? A clumsy leader, inexperienced and naive? A warrior, fighting alongside those she loves? A negotiator, pleading for peace? A defender, standing tall before the charging horde? A sister, realizing her mistakes too late? A betrayer, with no other choice? A mighty queen, ruling over a vast kingdom? A mother, to all and to everyone?She has played so many roles. She has been so many things to so many ponies. In her wavering dreams, she passes from one to the other to another. She is each of them, for a short time, before moving on again. She blinks and looks around the room. Past the shadows, she sees her bedchamber. She remembers. She is in Canterlot Castle. She is a Princess of Equestria. Many ponies depend on her. She keeps them safe. It is a time of peace, of culture and music and art and learning. The ponies—her little ponies—are happy, and do not want. She is happy. It is a good life. Luna is nearby. Luna has returned, and they are at peace with each other. Celestia could go to her, if she wanted.Through the wide tall window, past a part in the curtains, moonlight falls onto her floor. She looks through the part, and up at the moon. It is still early. The moon is high in the night sky. It is not yet time for the sun to rise. She should go back to sleep.Celestia lies down, but she does not close her eyes. Luna is nearby, in that very same castle. Celestia reminds herself of it again and again. She whispers just loud enough to hear her voice, Luna is nearby. Celestia could even go to her, if she wanted.But—How can Celestia know? In the night, her dreams and her memories look too alike. She has dreamed of Luna’s return too many times. She has lived through a hundred homecomings, and a hundred first embraces, and a hundred tearful apologies.Celestia has lived through the old mistakes, too. She has dreamed them. She has neglected her sister more times than she can count. She has ignored her sister’s jealousy and waved off her rising resentment. She has thought of all of the things she could have done differently, and lived those as well—all the different directions time could have taken her. She has done so for a millennium, and after a millennium she no longer knows which are dreams and which are memories.Celestia’s memories are old. They are twisted and confused with time, faded and fickle with age. Celestia remembers Luna’s return, doesn’t she? Yes, and she remembers seeing Luna before going to her chambers that same night, and wishing her a goodnight.But—Celestia remembers dreaming of those things.She rises out of bed. Her heart beats quickly. Her breath is shallow. She leaves her room, not bothering to fix her mane or to put on the royal regalia.Outside her door, her private guards jump and quickly straighten their stances. They nod to her, but she does not nod back. What do they call themselves now? The Royal Legion? The Equestrian Army? She does not know the guards who stand by her door. She has known too many of them. How many guards have stood beside her? How many have fought beside her? How many have died for her? How many has she seen fall, and then forgotten? She looks at the guards by her door, and she sees them all. All at once.Her breath catches. She turns away.She must see Luna. She must touch her sister’s cheek with her hoof to know for certain that she is returned.Celestia gallops down the hall. As she runs, the hall changes. She runs through the Everfree Palace. Now she runs through the Ironhoof Fortress. Now she is running though the Acies Manor. In her memories, they look so similar, she cannot tell the difference.But the Everfree Palace was destroyed? She only walked the halls of the Ironhoof Fortress after its walls crumbled? The Acies Manor, never built past its foundations, burned a millennia ago? What did she dream, and what did she remember?She must find Luna. She runs faster. The beating of her heart is loud in her ears. She gallops down the hall.Celestia bursts through the doors of the Lunar Court. She looks to the throne, but it is empty. A burning lump of bile rises in her throat, and she swallows it down. If Luna had returned, she would have been presiding over the Lunar Court.A few scattered ponies, guards and Castle staff, look up at her in surprise. They ask her questions, but she does not hear and she does not try to listen. Luna is not here.Celestia turns and runs back out of the room. She gallops down the hall again. She does not know where to go and she does not know where she is going. She must find Luna. She must touch her sister’s cheek with her own hoof. As she runs, she sees a face she remembers. A stallion standing in the hall.“Brighthoof!” Celestia cries as she runs up to him. “I need your help.”He turns, looking confused. “Princess?”Celestia stops so quickly she nearly trips. It is not Brighthoof. Of course it isn’t, she realizes. Brighthoof has been dead for five hundred years.Celestia swallows. She tries to steady her breathing. “Where is Princess Luna? I must see her at once.”“Has something happened?” he asks. He is not Brighthoof. Brighthoof has not breathed for five centuries.How can that be? It was so soon that she remembers talking with him by the fire late into the night. But Brighthoof is truly dead. None of his descendants still survive. Nothing of his work remains. She is the only one who remembers him. He only lives through her. He had a wheezy laugh and he loved vaudeville shows. But how can she know that for sure, anymore?Brighthoof is gone. Luna is gone. Celestia’s legs begin to tremble.“Princess?” He steps towards her. “Are you hurt?”Celestia realizes that until that moment, she had forgotten Brighthoof and their late nights together. She has forgotten too many. Too many ponies and too many nights are lost to her.Or was Brighthoof only the title of a vaudeville show? No, she remembers now, Brighthoof was only the name of the character. The play had been performed in the Acies Manor. Celestia had seen it with Luna. She had thought about that night often after Luna fell.Or did the Acies Manor burn before it could host any performances? Who did she talk with late into the night when Luna was gone? How many ponies die a second time when Celestia forgets them? “Princess?”Sweat falls down into Celestia’s eyes, and they burn. She blinks back tears as she looks down at the floor. “Luna… I’m so sorry…”“Luna?” the stallion asks.Celestia looks up, her eyes widening as she remembers the night Luna returned and she remembers the nights she dreamed of Luna’s return. “Luna?”The stallion hesitates. “You asked about Princess Luna—”“Where is she?!” Celestia yells. “Why isn’t she attending the Lunar Court?”The stallion stumbles backwards, falling down onto his haunches. He points a shaking hoof down the hall. “She closed the Lunar Court early! I think she went to the observatory. But I don’t know for sure. I’m sorry, Princess!”Celestia has already turned away. She finds a window and pushes it open. She does not have time to navigate the labyrinthine halls of… of… wherever she is. She must find Luna. She must see her.Celestia throws herself out the window. She drops. The passing air tears at her mane and her eyelids and her legs and her feathers. It is cold and dark. A city is spread along the ground before her, far below. She spreads her wings, they catch the air, and she rises.The sky is clear. The stars shine. It would be an excellent night to stargaze. Luna loved to stargaze.Celestia angles herself up, towards the towering observatory.She pumps her wings fiercely, again and again, higher and higher, until each move of her wings is pained. Her throat burns and her eyes water. She must see Luna. She teleports as she flies, disappearing and reappearing in open air, blinking in and away as she flaps her wings harder. She flies up the stone walls of the castle, between turrets and over the heads of startled guards.Celestia sees the observatory tower. She cannot breathe.She sees the wide balcony. She must find Luna. With one final, mighty flap that rattles the window panes of the tower, she raises herself over the balcony edge. She falls on its stone floor. On the far side, she sees a tall, dark figure hunched before a telescope.Celestia charges straight at it, galloping and flying at the same time.Luna turns at the last moment. “Sister?”Celestia trips and slams into Luna. Even as they fall to the ground, Celestia wraps her hooves and wings around her sister. She pulls Luna close. She feels Luna’s warmth, and hits the stone floor.They roll across the balcony, until Luna comes to a rest on top of Celestia. They lie together on the floor of the balcony. Celestia holds Luna close to her for a long time, her back aching. She feels Luna’s breath and her heartbeat, and Celestia knows she is real. Celestia’s breath calms.“Sister?” Luna finally whispers. “What is wrong?”Celestia reaches a hoof up and touches Luna’s cheek. Luna’s dark, piercing eyes look down at her.Luna pulls back and steps away. She kneels down, looking concerned. “You haven’t hurt yourself, have you?”Celestia suddenly feels very silly. All that useless worrying and fretting, like a mother sending her foal off to school for the first time, and of course Luna hadn’t gone anywhere. She blushes as she thinks of what she has just done, running wildly all about the castle and scaring that poor stallion. “No,” she says quietly, and stands up. “I am sorry.”“What was that?” Luna asks, smiling a little. “If I didn’t know better, I would think you wanted to play tip-you’re it.”“No,” Celestia says. “It was just…” She smiles and shakes her head. “You will think I’m acting like a foal if I say.”Luna smiles. “I already think you are acting like a foal. Tell me. What possible reason could you have for ambushing me while I stargaze?”“I…” Celestia turns and looks up at the stars. Her sister made them. Celestia thinks they are beautiful. “I have lived for a very long time, sister. I have seen many ponies, and many places, and many times. I lived a long time without you. Sometimes… sometimes I worry that...” She turns to Luna and tries to smile. “But not now. I know you are here, with me. I am in Canterlot, and my little ponies are safe. I know that now.”Luna frowns. She doesn’t say anything for a long time. “Are you feeling unwell, sister? I will help in any way I can.”“I know you will.” Celestia tries to look calm and serene. It is a performance she mastered long ago, but she has trouble holding it now. “I think I am fine.”Luna nods, hesitantly. “If you are certain.”Celestia bites her lip, then yawns dramatically even though she does not feel tired. “I am exhausted, though. I think I will go back to my bed now. Good night.”“Good night,” Luna replies quietly.Celestia turns and begins walking away. She steps more confidently, more decisively. This is how a Princess should walk, she reminds herself. She is sure of herself now, she tells herself. She is Celestia. She is a Princess of Equestria. Her sister is with her. Her little ponies are safe. She is in Canterlot. She is going to her bedchamber, and there she will fall asleep. She knows this. She does. She assures herself that she does.But the sound of her hooves on the tiled balcony is loud and lonely, and she stumbles.“Sister?” Luna says.Celestia stops and looks over her shoulder, steadying herself again. “Yes?”“Will you stargaze with me?”And then, with those few words and that simple question, Celestia is gone again. She is still with Luna, but they are both smaller. They stand on the edge of a cliff. Far below them, a dense forest is lost in the darkness. No lights of cities or towns or villages or campfires shine anywhere in the darkness. They do not look down. They are looking up at the stars. They sit close together so their sides touch.The stars have changed. They have moved across the skies. The oldest have faded and gone. The youngest have just begun to shine. Celestia has seen constellations break apart and come together. Where do the stars go when they plunge into darkness?Celestia looks up. She does not know these stars.“It has been too long,” she replies, and walks to Luna.They sit down beside each other, and they tilt their chins up. They do not speak. They do not need to. They both remember, and because they both remember, they know it was not a dream.It is quiet, and they are together. Celestia looks sidewise at Luna. She sees many Lunas, all the different Lunas she has sat beside and looked up at the stars with. One of them is small and lonely. One of them is prideful and strong. One of them is jealous and her eyes burn with hate.“Sometimes, when I wake,” Luna finally says, looking at the moon, “I think I’m still there. Sometimes I think I’m in other places, in other times.”“I know,” Celestia says.Luna still looks up at the moon. “Sometimes I try to remember my past lovers, and I cannot think of what their faces looked like. I worry I never will again. Do you remember Primrose?”“I…” Celestia looks up at the unfamiliar stars. “I do not remember that name.”“Perhaps I only dreamed him, then,” Luna says.They do not look at each other. They only look up. They do not speak. A cold breeze passes across the balcony and pulls at their manes.Celestia spreads one wing and wraps it around Luna. She pulls her sister close so their sides are pressed together. Celestia feels warm. She nuzzles her sister. “You are here now,” she whispers. “We are both here now.”Luna rests her head on Celestia’s shoulder.In that moment, Celestia knows just where she is and just where she is supposed to be. She is with her sister, her only truth in a lifetime of memories and dreams, of countless ponies who pass by and turn forgotten to dust, of palaces that rise from the ground and fall amongst ashes, of stars that sparkle and then fade to darkness. She holds onto this single moment of clarity for as long as she can.They wait together through the night, not once moving. They watch the stars shine above them. They listen to the wind pass over the turrets. They see the moon descend behind the mountains and pale light wash away the stars. All through the night, they sit close together.Finally, on the horizon, the eternal, unchanging, unfeeling sun rises alone. Celestia rests against Luna and closes her eyes.