Zipp touched down on her bedroom balcony with a thud. She walked inside, shrouding herself in shade before Pipp had even found the courage to land. When the starlet finally did she placed her phone down on her sister’s dresser and hurriedly joined her side.
“Zipp, I know you’re upset, but please talk to me. You’re starting to scare me. What’s going on with you?”
Zipp looked up. Bright green eyes full of concern scanned her, looking for something, anything to decipher. She looked past them, to the glitter-ridden device that was, for once, left silent in the back of the room.
Just like that, the brazen heat in her chest was gone, replaced by something softer.
Pipp stared for a moment. Then, she did as she was told, sitting down next to the older pegasus and pressing up against her. As she did, Zipp tilted her head and pressed her cheek into her sister’s violet mane. Her feathers flexed like a hundred fingers, wrapping around Pipp from folded wings.
“I’m sorry for yelling,” Zipp said softly. “And yeah, I believe you. As much as I’d sometimes like to think you and your fans have a hive mind thing going on, I know you don’t. If the situation got away from you then it’s not entirely your fault. I was just frustrated. Frankly, some of this stuff has been a long time coming.”
Pipp said nothing. She closed her eyes and breathed deeply. She leaned into her sister with her entire weight, but Zipp didn’t budge. There was a sense of safety here, of serenity that she’d nearly forgotten. Her stresses melted away, as did her willingness to stay awake.
“Y’know, I remember a time when I was still the coolest thing in the world to my little sister.”
Pipp’s eyes opened up. She pivoted her head to see her sister’s somber smile.
“Like I said, I’m not usually one to complain. Lately, though, it’s been getting harder not to. You’re a star, Pipp, and shining bright is what stars do. I get that. Still, sometimes I can’t help but lament. I miss how things were back before you got your first phone, back when it was just the two of us. I miss having my sister’s undivided attention, wowing her with my tricks or making her laugh. I guess I’d just prefer it if Siblings Day could stay like that, you know?”
A sting came to Pipp’s eyes. Her lip trembled. Zipp’s smile blurred through a film of tears, and sniffs and sobs started to fill the air.
Zipp gently laid her chin on her sister’s head. A firm forehoof reinforced what her wings had started.
“What are you crying for?”
“…I don’t know. Anything. Everything.”
“I’m gonna need a little more than that.”
Pipp shook her head. She hid her face away in conveniently-placed chest fluff and felt the vibration of her sister’s laugh.
“Alright. Just hugs, then.”
Several minutes passed with nothing said. Content in her feathery embrace, Pipp listened to the busy sounds of Zephyr Heights just beyond the balcony. She listened to the murmuring of ponies in the streets below; to a pair of bluebirds singing on Zipp’s balcony railing, unperturbed by everything else.
All was slow and calm, but Pipp cried regardless.
Why hadn’t she come here sooner?
“I miss you, too, Zipp,” she said at last. Her voice was plagued by shakes. “I miss this. I see you almost every day but it’s not the same. You’ve been so standoffish for so long, and I’m always so busy. And even when I’m not busy, I don’t know how to relate to you at all. I feel like we hardly interact anymore.”
Zipp’s wings tensed, wrapping the distraught pegasus in a blanket of cotton feathers all the tighter.
“I think that’s partially my fault,” she said, just above a whisper. “I’m not exactly a poster pony for socializing. Whereas, that’s everything you are. Maybe we’ve been hiding from each other in plain sight.”
“I’ve been trying to reach out and plan things for us to do, Zipp, but you always avoid them, even the ones where running away isn’t part of the idea. Karaoke, shopping trips, even weekend spa day invitations. I’ve sent you, like, five.”
Zipp chuckled. “All thoughtful ideas. But maybe activities that don’t involve mega fans, large crowds, or excessive pampering would yield better results?”
Pipp pouted through what remained of her tears. “Okay, I should be more subtle. But you could be less subtle, yourself, Zipp. You’re so independent and hard to read. Most of the time I don’t even know how to get your attention, let alone open up to you about wanting to spend more time together. That’s where all of these silly stunts came from in the first place.”
Zipp’s smile dared to show teeth. As confined within wings as Pipp was, she was unable to stop her sister from making their noses touch.
“Yeah, I can be hard to read. I also should’ve told you way sooner about how much the theatrics were getting to me. But there’s two sides to that bit. You should’ve told me a long time ago about how upset you were. Pipp, I thought all of this stuff was more about your fans than us. Standoffish or not, you should know you can always talk to me. I mean, really, all you had to do was ask me.”
“Ask you what?”
Zipp grinned wider.
“‘Hey, big sister, I feel like we don’t spend much time together lately. Do you think maybe we could cuddle for a little while and talk about it?'”
The room rebounded with Zipp’s laughter as she was lightly punched. A maddened blush claimed Pipp’s face.
“Ugh, don’t ruin the moment, Zipp! I was just getting comfortable.”
“What, and now you can’t be because you’re embarrassed? I’m just teasing you, Pipp. Honestly, this is really nice. I think the last time I held you like this was when we were fillies.”
Pipp looked back at the balcony and the stream of warm light flowing over them through it. As if pulled by gravity, she found herself pressing against her sister again, her eyelids drooping more forcefully this time. Sleep had found its opportunity, and it would not give up without a fight.
Several more fleeting minutes passed by.
“Somepony sure looks comfy.”
Pipp’s whole body twitched, jostled from a state of half-sleep.
“Well, I am tired from flying around all afternoon looking for somepony,” she mumbled through chest fluff. “Somepony who must finally be using that coat wash I bought them for their birthday, by the way. See? I told you, didn’t I? Wildberry Zest fits you perfectly.”
A chuckle tickled her ear.
“It does. And you know something, Pipp? I think I understand how you got so many fan ponies. You’re pretty cute when you wanna be.”
“First of all, you’re just noticing this now?” Pipp remarked. “Second of all, ‘pretty cute’? Those are fighting words in the influencer world, Zipp. I’ll have you know that I’m totes cute.”
The corners of Zipp’s mouth curled.
“Oh, is that right?”
“I understand you don’t care about social media, Zipp, but I thought you’d have overheard chat lingo from me enough times by now to remember it. I know you can hear my morning livestreams, given all the grumbling I hear from upstairs. Would you like me to make you a cheat sheet for—”
Pipp was cut off. Her thought had turned into desperate giggling and subdued flailing that shook the both of them. Zipp’s wings, so precariously wrapped around her sister’s sides, had begun to wriggle.
“I’m sorry, princess, I don’t think you understand the delicate position you’re in,” Zipp bantered, grinning slyly. “Last I checked, we were having a breakthrough. Where’s this sass coming from? I think you should’ve curled up and gone to sleep while you had the chance, sis. You would’ve been ‘totes’ cuter that way.”
The room filled with pleas and laughter. As Pipp thrashed around, she pulled Zipp to the ground with her. Together, the royal sisters rolled about on the floor, bumping into furniture and knocking items from their spots upon them.
“You’re s-so mean!” Pipp continued giggling. She attempted to roll herself into a plush, pink ball to escape quivering feathers. “You lured me in with that hug! This is not how a princess should be treated!”
“It is if you’re the big sister of the princess, and are thus, also a princess,” Zipp countered. “My princess status cancels out yours, Pipp. Those are the rules.”
“You’re making stuff up as you go!” Pipp squealed. “But that’s fine. If you’re gonna play that way, then so will I! Let’s see how you like it!”
Golden-tipped hooves assailed the crevice of Zipp’s wings, and she jolted. Her composure remained intact, but the same could not be said for her grip. Before she knew it, Pipp had scrambled from her grasp.
“Okay, then, if it’s a fight you want—” A pillow collided with Zipp’s face. It fell, and she blinked incredulously at the pink pegasus now tossing a second throw pillow up and down with one hoof.
“Oh, it’s not a fight. It’s a war,” Pipp said venomously. “One I think I’m better equipped to win now that I’m free.”
Zipp cracked her neck.
“Oh, we’ll see about that.”
With a flash of her wings, she darted forward, even as another pillow launched towards her face.
Two sets of hooves hurriedly echoed down a castle corridor.
“Thanks for coming, Your Majesty. I wasn’t sure who else to turn to. Pipp’s fans started to form a mob and chase after Zipp, and I was getting unpleasant flashbacks.”
“Oh, it’s no trouble. Pipp has been antagonizing her sister every year like clockwork on this day. Live news feeds, mobs of fans—I’m just about used to all of it. I think Pipp and I need to have another sit-down. If her sister doesn’t feel comfortable entertaining her affections, she simply cannot make her, especially when it throws all of Zephyr Heights into chaos.”
“Well, it’s funny you mention that. I have a sneaking suspicion that things are a little more nuanced than that.”
“Hmm? Whatever do you mean?”
“Call it a hunch. I don’t think Zipp disapproves of her sister’s sentiment. I think she disapproves of her methods. It’s probably a huge lack of communication more than anything.”
Queen Haven stared at the stallion for a moment, stopping as she did so. With her hooves laid along her daughter’s bedroom door, she raised her brow, and the corner of her lip with it.
“Have you ever considered royal advisory, Hitch?”
“Uh, no, ma’am. Why do you ask?”
“No reason. You’re just surprisingly thoughtful for a stallion so handsome. Makes a queen wonder if her staff is due for an upgrade.”
Haven winked. As she turned away, Hitch reflexed a grimace.
The polished oak doors parted, and a scene of pandemonium was revealed. Pillows, sofa cushions, and other soft things littered a landscape of strewn rugs and fallen knickknacks. The balcony’s glass door was wide open, revealing further messes beyond it. Its curtains were crumpled to one side of their rod, twitching in the breeze.
But it wasn’t the mess that Queen Haven was paying attention to. It was the pleasant laughter coming from her daughters, wrestling on what remained of the sofa.
“Well, would you look at that. Hug reacquired,” Zipp teased, effortlessly flopping back down to the sofa with a bounce, Pipp securely in hoof. “What was that you were saying about being the best equipped for something? Couldn’t have been ‘fending off your sister after goading her into playing your game.’ I must’ve been hearing things.”
“You are such a bully, I swear,” Pipp murmured tiredly. She uselessly flopped her head back against Zipp’s chest and smiled. “Fine, Zipp, you win. This time. Happy?”
Zipp nodded smugly. Her chin found that violet mane once again.
“Don’t sound so defeated. This was all your idea in the first place, after all. ‘I’m gonna give you the biggest sister cuddle you’ve ever had,’ remember?”
Pipp blushed at the obvious, mocking impression. Before she could retort, however, a high-pitched noise caused both of them to perk their ears. Zipp released Pipp, and when they turned, their mother’s waterworks were waiting for them.
“Oh, my darlings, can it be? I’ve not seen you play together in years!” she proclaimed, trotting up to them and forcing them into a new embrace. “What a lovely surprise! So you two made up after all, then? Oh, please tell me you did. I don’t believe the city can handle much more of the alternative.”
“Mom?” Zipp said with a crack in her voice. “What are you doing here? And how did you find us so quickly?”
“Hitch alerted me to what’s been going on, honey. I was out running errands with Thunder when I ran into him. He explained the mob, and then Thunder received a text from the palace guards saying that you two had come home, and that they needed assistance with a crowd outside.”
Once his name was mentioned, Hitch not so subtly attempted to blend into the background. It proved futile. Zipp found him from over her mother’s shoulder.
“That’s some impeccable timing, sheriff,” she said, eyeing him shrewdly. “I thought I left you somewhere nice and quiet to hide out until things blew over. Shoulda known you’d find some way to continue helping.”
The sisters were released, and they all gathered together in the middle of the room. Hitch cleared his throat.
“Well, it’s not like I went looking for your mother. She was right where you left me, shockingly enough. I figured I’d try and get that mob of fans under control, in case your sister didn’t. Who else could do it but the queen?”
He picked up a throw pillow by his hoof. He dusted it off before tossing it to Zipp.
“I had a feeling you’d make the right choice this time, and talk with Pipp directly. All you needed to do was work up the courage.”
The room grew quiet. Zipp looked off to an empty corner. It was Pipp who came to her rescue, resting a hoof against hers. Their eyes met, and they both smiled.
“I should apologize, for realsies this time, Zipp,” she said quietly. “I kept doing these little games and randomly inviting you to things instead of just talking to you. I could’ve said something about how I felt, or asked how you felt, but I didn’t, and I started involving the Pippsqueaks. I guess I’ve gotten so used to carrying my social life into everything I do, and how we were doing things in general.”
Zipp shook her head. “No. It took me this long to tell you that your fans were ruining something that I wanted to enjoy. We both could stand to communicate better, but I’m supposed to be your older sister, so I think this is more on me. I enabled you by not being honest with you. I let the Siblings Day hunts continue even when I really started to hate them.”
“You—wait, you did? But why would you lie?”
Zipp turned to face her sister and smiled a little brighter.
“It wasn’t a lack of courage that kept me from telling you the truth. It was because from my perspective, you seemed to be really enjoying yourself. On some level, I hated the fact that you started livestreaming everything, Pipp, and doing all these different things just for your fans. But I couldn’t ruin your fun just because I didn’t care for it. I told myself I could put up with showy livestream hugs every now and then if they made my sister happy.”
Zipp was grinning before Pipp’s tears started streaming down her cheeks. When she was desperately hugged once again, her wings offered comforting pats along Pipp’s back.
“You are such a sweetheart, Zipp, oh my gosh!” Pipp sobbed.
Zipp looked at Hitch.
“Hitch, thank you, seriously. I probably wouldn’t have said anything today if you hadn’t. I guess the sheriff-turned-detective makes for a pretty good relationship counselor, too.”
She winked, and the stallion fumbled over his words.
“W-well, you’re welcome. I did say I was going to help, didn’t I? I’m just glad my hunch was mostly correct.”
Zipp looked up to see her mother move around her and Pipp. She stopped to part a stray lock of Pipp’s hair, catching her daughter’s attention.
“Pipp, my sweet,” Haven cooed. “I know you’re a little excited right now, but do you think maybe you could have some words with the mob outside? They’ve been quite patient so far, thank hoofness.”
Having been previously distracted by feathery bliss, Pipp only now processed the hundreds of voices from outside. She pushed herself out of Zipp’s embrace and gave her mother a sheepish smile.
“Right, the Pippsqueaks, of course. I’ll go corral them, Mom. No problem.”
Pipp fixed her mane, and with a swift motion, she rounded the room in flight to grab her phone and head out into the sunny afternoon. She was greeted with rounds of cheering that shook the sky.
“Hello, everypony!” she called out enthusiastically. “Wow, there’s a lot of you here. I assume you’re all here to see what’s become of me, huh? Sorry for blacking out like that. Zipp and I had a heart-to-heart today that needed my full attention. No Siblings Day hug livestream today, I’m afraid, but rest assured, your girl got plenty of hugs and couldn’t be happier.
“Everypony, I have to say that I have the greatest big sister in the world, and from now on, I’m going to celebrate that far more often. I want to spend more time with her, and that starts today. You can expect a vlog first thing tomorrow that goes over all of this in detail. For now, this little sister has places to be. Thank you so much for coming out today, you guys! I love you all so much! Pipp-Pipp-Hurray!”
The crowd thundered with applause, repeating the chant while Pipp returned to her sister’s bedroom. There, three pairs of eyes awaited her, but only Zipp’s carried such pride in them.
“‘Spend more time with me starting today,’ huh? You sure you’re not Zipp’d out already, sis? I mean, we’ve made up, thoroughly demolished my bedroom, and hugged like three times already. What more could you want out of Siblings Day?”
Trotting by with a spring in her step, Pipp leapt upon her sister’s bed with a bounce. She relished the confusion creeping up Zipp’s face.
“Well, before you or mom inevitably make me help you clean up your room, I wanna catch up on my favorite show. Some of my fans in chat reminded me that a new episode dropped today. So, I thought we might watch it together.” Pipp twirled her phone, now opened to a remote control app. Glee filled her face. “You’ve heard of My Petite Pony on Hoofflix, right, Zipp?”
“Oh, Petite Pony, right. Hey, isn’t that one of the shows you’re in?”
“No, this was a cartoon they made years ago. I’m in—” Pipp stopped dead in her tracks. Her sister’s grin was shameless. “Height jokes, Zipp? Really? You know you’re not funny.”
“I’ve no idea what you’re talking about, Pipp,” Zipp dismissed, still grinning. She approached her bed, but a pink hoof jabbed her before she could climb up.
“Hang on. We can’t watch a show without snacks, Zipp. Mom said she’d pick up that gourmet popcorn I really like today. Would you mind getting some for us before we start? Pretty, pretty please? For me?”
Pipp rolled onto her back, protruding her lip. Zipp scoffed, but the warmness had yet to leave her eyes.
“Popcorn? First of all, I haven’t agreed to any of this yet. Second of all, my bedroom, my rules. That means I get to decide what we watch first, sis, so don’t get too comfortable with that remote.”
Pipp gasped, clutching her phone. Zipp smirked.
“Alright, tell you what—we’ll watch Petite Pony first if you can keep that remote away from me for more than, say, ten seconds. If not, it’ll have to wait. But hey, I’ll get your popcorn for you either way as my treat. Happy Siblings Day, Pipp.”
Sheer terror filled Pipp’s face. Zipp pounced upon her without warning, and once more, the room filled with pleas, threats, and contagious giggling.
From not so far away, Queen Haven gave an adoring little hum, placing a hoof to her chest.
“You can’t know how happy it makes a mother to see this, Hitch. My darlings, getting along for the first time in years.”
A pillow sailed through the air and bounced off Zipp’s dresser mirror, tilting it.
“Well, relatively, anyway.”
Hitch nodded. When Haven motioned to the still-open door, they both stepped out together. Haven slowly closed it behind her.
“I’m sure Zipp says goodbye to you in spirit, Hitch.”
“Oh, sure thing. I should probably head back anyway. My deputy tends to need a lot of supervision.”
“Come back anytime! You helped my daughters see eye-to-eye again, and I am eternally grateful.”
“Well, I appreciate that, Your Majesty. I most certainly will.”
“And should you ever wake up one morning and feel that being the sheriff of your humble town isn’t all it’s cracked up to be, do write to me. I can always find a position for such a talented stallion on my staff, with or without wings.”
“Um, sure, I’ll keep that in mind, Queen Haven. I definitely, definitely won’t forget the offer.”