The next few hours were all a blur to Hoity as he hastily wove a strip of cloth about his injured hoof and pressed on to work. His glasses were shoved up to rest atop his head, pressing down on his scalp as he went to sketching and scribbling.
His quill raced across blank parchment, twisting and twirling in a graceful dance, pausing only when the stallion jerked his foreleg over to dip the pointed edge into his trusty inkwell.
In his own blind concentration, his tongue poked out from the corner of his lips in a childishly determined expression, curling up at the tip like the stem of a pumpkin. His brow was perpetually furrowed, ever solemn.
Upon the paper was a simplistic sort of drawing, with soft, roundish lines and curves. Creating a likeness of Blueblood had been surprisingly easy, if a bit uncomfortable to transfer onto paper. Most of the stallion models that Hoity designed for were broad, muscular beasts, with lumpy bulges for arms and unsteady, bulbous backs.
Blueblood was different than that. He was softer, less muscular in favor of girlish curves and a slim torso. His mane and tail were longer, too, trailing down to the end of his neck and the backs of his hind legs.
The cutie mark was more difficult, the customary compass sign that many individuals of the royal family seemed to carry. Hoity had never quite understood how cutie marks and special talents could be hereditary, especially when said marks were near identical to each other like the royal families'
With as much precision as he could muster, the stallion drew a rather crude representation of the symbol upon the sketch's empty flank, the lines slightly shaky compared to the natural neatness of the actual mark.
Such pointless details didn't quite matter in the long run, though. What mattered was the actual outfit.
"'Nothing too boring or scratchy', eh?" Hoity murmured to himself. In a way, he wanted to make something dull and contrived, perhaps constructed out of cheap velvet to try and spite the pompous prince. Sadly, though, he had a reputation to uphold, like it or not.
Humming in thought, he lifted the feathery tip of his quill and brushed it against his furred cheek. Coming up with something was certainly going to be harder than he thought, unless he chose to go the natural route and make something simple and formal.
His train of thought was sharply broken off as his office door slammed open. Ears perked up, he casually looked up from his work to find Photo staring right back at him.
"Wunderbar!" she cried. "You got rid of him, ja?"
Hoity forced a little smile. "Oh, no. We had a little chat and he just left on his own. Not that big of a deal, really," he assured her, turning back to his paper. "No screaming brawl or anything.”
The mare raised an eyebrow. “You? Fighting? Don’t make me laugh.” She snorted. “I vouldn’t have believed you.”
“Really?” Hoity sighed, though kept his eyes locked to the sketch before him. “You wound me, Photo.”
“Your mane is twice as long as mine,” Photo retorted. “Und you put clips in it, too.”
Unthinkingly, the stallion reached up to smooth his bundled mane. “Yes, but at least I don’t wear a foppish dress every day of the week.” He chuckled softly and took up his quill.
“Pah!” Photo spat, her arched tail whipping to the side in her own little sense of spitfire anger. “You vere alveys a sissy-boy,” she muttered, lips pursed as she glanced down at her brother’s desktop. “You’re sketching clothes for him?”
Hoity nodded and freshened the tip of his quill with a splash of ink, tapping it lightly against the inkwell's rim before hovering it over the paper. “I’m in a bit of a slump, I suppose you could say,” he admitted, gingerly pressing the quill’s tip against the arch of the likeness’ back. “Did you have any thing in mind?”
“Mm... Something ‘princey’.” The mare rolled back her shoulders in a careless shrug. “How should I know? I don’t design! I capture faces, pony faces und their magicks!” She threw her forelegs up in a theatrical gesture, her chin snapped heavenwards.
Hoity was hardly moved. “'Princey', eh?" he murmured to himself. The tip of the quill was still resting upon the drawing, with the ink slowly bleeding through the thick paper. The arch of Blueblood's back almost looked as if it had grown a tumor of sorts. "So I should go with the cliche formal route, then?"
He looked up, eyes widening when he found that Photo was no longer there. What lay was simply empty space, the only trace of her presence being a carelessly left open door and the fading click-clack of her hooves racing up the stairs.
"Well alright then." The stallion sighed. "Ignore me. See if I care." He turned back to his work and sketched an outline of a dress coat about the model, with the sleeves barely touching the backs of its knees.
Satisfied, Hoity dotted in details as they popped into his head. A few ruffles in the back, and a cufflink or two were all shaded in generously, coupled with a simplistic ascot and a modest top-hat.
It certainly wasn't the most original thing that he had designed, but it was passable all the same. The colors would be the hardest to pick and choose, but he didn't need to worry about the gritty details right then.
"Torso, upper forelegs, neck..." Hoity grumbled to himself as he rattled off the basic list of measurements that he would have to take for such an outfit.
Unlike most other designers, Hoity went out of his way to keep the professional ties with his models just that, professional. Being an Earth pony meant that he had to do all of his measurements by hoof, and that often led to more than one awkward occurrence when it came to models more used to a unicorn's magic brushing up against their fur, rather than a pair of intrusive hooves.
It was those little things, those little cruxes that often made Hoity wonder how he and Photo had managed to thrive in the business as well as they had, especially in a city that seemed so powered by the fashion industry.
"That should do it!" Without even offering it a second glance, Hoity took up the wet parchment and gently waved it about in the air for the ink to dry. "Not too scratchy, and hopefully not too boring, either."
And even if it was 'boring', Hoity couldn't care less. What else was he supposed to make for a well-known figurehead? Lingerie? The thought brought a stressed chuckle to the stallion's lips, despite the alarming images that flashed through his brain.
With the ink dried, Hoity rolled up the parchment and clumsily pulled a rubber band around it. Menial tasks kept his mind from the greater (namely, uncomfortable) conflicts that he often found himself struggling through.
Despite his own personal aversion to it, Hoity was no stranger to romance. Many a potential model had often tried to needle their ways onto his appointment sheet with their dolled up faces and honeyed words. Unlike Blueblood, however, they had kept themselves under his word, coming only when they were needed, whereas the prince had merely waltzed in as he pleased, when he pleased.
And that was what annoyed Hoity so much. It wasn't the blatant flirting, that could be ignored easily enough, but rather it was the fact that his own authority was being brushed off. He was dealing with a the equivalent of a spoiled child, something as unpredictable as a thrashing animal.
Grunting, the stallion shook his head and placed the scroll in the the fold of his waistcoat. Perhaps he'd have an epiphany for a better suit idea later on, but it wasn't likely considering his bothersome subject.
He glanced over at the circular clock mounted upon the wall, grimacing when he saw the time, only three P.M.
Was there anything else worth doing? Hoity scanned his work area, glancing over the general mess of things. It certainly didn't seem like it, in any case.
"There's no harm in taking the rest of the day off," he mumbled to himself, as if some part of him could convince him otherwise. Truthfully, he was never all that keen on abandoning precious work hours; it made him feel guilty to waste such time.
With some reluctance, he slid out of his chair and gently placed his bandaged hoof on the ground, careful to not put too much weight on it. The base was still sore, but tolerable enough. At least he wouldn't have an embarrassing limp to deal with.
Well, where he was going, limping wouldn't have been all that unnatural anyway.
At that thought, Hoity smiled to himself and strolled over to his office door. "Photo?!" he called, turning to the stairway. "I'm going out!"
There was no answer, not even a bitter mutter or a crash of a toppled over stage light. The stallion waited for a few seconds before sighing in relief. For once, he was glad that his sister wasn't around. She always had a thing for chastising him for his usual quest for bourbon and gin.
Once it was apparent that Photo had indeed gone out, Hoity cantered across the small waiting-room and paused to slide his glasses back down above his eyes before he opened the door.
A bright, purple tinted world greeted him, with the afternoon in full swing. Unicorns of all colors had flooded the streets, with one or two pegasi gliding about the open air. Little kiosks had been risen up, with their vendors trying ever so hard to squall out the names of their wares above the general clattering cacophony.
The sight was one that never failed to comfort Hoity; for him to be able to watch the normal, mundane lives of ponies that he would likely never learn the names of. They were all blur, a sea of pastel bodies that looked as if they could just suck him up at any moment in their void of normalcy.
Out of nowhere, a distinctively white unicorn faded into the stallion's view from across the trampled road. While hard to make out from the distance, it was quite obvious to see who it was.
Lounging upon a bench on the opposite side of the street was Blueblood, his back stretched out on the entirety of the seat as he stared up into the cloudless sky. His blonde mane and tail were carelessly strewn over the seat's edge, the tips of hair catching up the dust and grime from the ground.
Hoity felt his blood run cold at the sight of him, and he quickly ducked back into the safe confines of the studio, keeping the door open as to maintain a close watch.
While the prince's earlier intrusion might have been excusable (though not by much), the fact that he seemed to be outside waiting for him to leave work sent paranoid shivers down the stallion's spine.
A flurry of random choices popped through his head, and all of them were unfavorable. He could either confront the stallion head-on, or attempt to slink away unnoticed and pretend that he hadn't seen anything.
While the latter option sounded much nicer to him, being the non-confrontational pony that he was, the lingering thought that Blueblood might follow him all the way to the bar was simply nightmarish to think about.
Blueblood certainly didn't seem like a stalking serial killer, but Hoity would certainly take no chances when it came to his petty, fashion-filled existence.
Taking a deep breath, Hoity stepped back into the sunlight and promptly marched down the doorstep and into the crowds. It was easy enough to weave through individual ponies left and right, particularly when his goal was so easy to pick out from the all the dark lavenders and pinkish tints that clouded his view.
As he got closer, Hoity could see that Blueblood wasn't even looking at the sky at all, as his eyes were closed. His breath was slow and steady, and his lips were slightly parted.
Needless to say, Hoity was quite puzzled. Here was Prince Blueblood, a rather well-known (albeit not well-liked) figurehead sleeping on a bench in the heart of Canterlot. What was even stranger was that nopony seemed to even take care or notice. As far as the cobalt stallion could see, there were only a few individuals daring to toss him some glances, but that was about it.
Against his own better judgement, Hoity reached out his bare hoof and lightly prodded the stallion's shoulder. "Mister Blueblood?"
"Mn?" Blueblood flinched away and cracked open an eye. "Oh, hello, Hoity." Wincing, he forced himself to sit up. He arched his back and yawned. "Aren't you doing work? It seems awfully early to quit now, don't you think?" he asked pleasantly, despite the groggy tone of his voice.
"Pardon, I wasn't aware that you were going to wait for me to quit," Hoity retorted. "Were you intent on following me home, Mister Blueblood?"
Blueblood rubbed a hoof against his eyes, his face comically scrunched up as he did so. Even after all the accusations that Hoity had piled onto him, he seemed completely calm. "The world doesn't revolve around you, you know," he merely replied. "Why would I bother following you, anyway?"
"Uh..." Hoity was lost for words. He hadn't been expecting such a casual, innocent reaction. "I... You... What else was I supposed to think?" he babbled, stamping his good hoof on the ground. "First you come to my studio uninvited and now you're sitting across the street from me. Any rational pony would assume the same thing!"
"Then all of those 'rational' ponies are pretty stupid, if you ask me." The prince shrugged and raised up his forelegs to stretch his back before he reached down to pat the seat next to him. "You wanna sit down?" he asked.
"No, I don't."
"You sure?" Blueblood smiled. "It's still warm from when I was laying on it. Everypony likes a warm seat, as far as I know."
Hoity opened his mouth to say something particularly ungentlemanly, only to clamp it shut and take a few deep, practiced breaths. "Look, I just want to know why you, of all ponies, are out sleeping on a bench in the middle of Canterlot." He spoke slowly and evenly, taking good care to keep his anger in check.
"Frankly, that's none of your business," Blueblood replied. "Honestly, it's a little rude of you to ask that."
If Hoity had been holding another quill in his hoof, he probably would have crushed it into splinters. He wasn't aware that he was, quite literally, beet red from all of his frustration and pent-up anger, nor was he aware that his nostrils were flaring in a most unsightly fashion. "Rude of me?!" he growled, the nail of his hooves scraping against the ruddy ground.
Blueblood's horn lit up with a soft hum as he lifted his own long tail into his forelegs. As he stroked at it to clean all the dust and grime away, he turned to Hoity with an amused grin. "Do you happen to have a blood pressure problem?" he asked casually.
"And asking that isn't rude?!" Throwing up his forelegs in frustration, Hoity promptly turned tail and stormed away. "Forget that I asked, then!" he cried, his voice nearly cracking to a high falsetto.
By now, several ponies had stopped to stare, and a collective knot of them had formed to gawk. Hoity couldn't blame them. It wasn't often that you could witness a couple of fairly well-known ponies shouting at one another.
Well, one of them shouting, at least.
Out of the corner of his eye, Hoity glimpsed a rather tall unicorn pausing at the doorstep to his studio. From the satchels and the plain stamp for her cutie mark, he could only assume that it was the mailmare. As he looked over at her, her face brightened and she waved him over.
As badly as he wanted a drink, and as humiliating as it was to dawdle in a crowd of onlookers (including Blueblood himself), Hoity quickly galloped over to the studio door, much to the mailmare's delight.
"Looks like I caught you just in time!" she chirped, clearly oblivious to all the going-ons. "I've got a telegram for you." With a flash of magic, she rummaged through her satchel.
Her friendly demeanor was like a lullaby to Hoity, and for a few seconds he didn't even feel angry. Stressed, but not really angry. What else could he expect from Blueblood's mouth? At the thought of him, the stallion cautiously glanced around to find the prince still sitting on the bench, carelessly inspecting his hooves.
"Oh!" The mailmare grinned and fished out a small card. "Here you are, Mister Toity!" she held it out to him.
"Who's it from? Do you know?" Hoity gently took it from her and carefully sliced open the envelope.
"Mister Fancy Pants, I believe." She closed her satchel and trotted off. "Have a nice day!" she cried cheerfully.
The stallion didn't reply, as he was too busy staring at the plain white card in his hoof, with the envelope hastily tossed aside.
Forgot to ask you earlier, but do you want a long term or a bed buddy? Please respond.
With love (platonic love, mind you!),
Without any hesitation, Hoity tore the card in half and let the pieces float to the ground, a curiously blank expression pasted onto his face. With a few stiff, robotic movements, he stepped back onto the street and away from it all.
He needed a drink, badly, and it didn’t help that he could clearly see Blueblood scramble up from his bench to gallop after him.
“Wait, Hoity!” he called desperately, his mane and tail flowing back behind him like a tattered banner.
Hoity sighed. It was going to be a long day, not nice, as the mailmare had promised, just long.