“On my mark! Ready!” The cry echoed out over the Canterlot Royal Guard barracks training grounds. It was accompanied by the shimmering sound of wings with magically sharp edges being unfolded.
The sound of several logs being cut clean through at once sounded out as some of the more recent inductees to the Royal Guard were put through their paces.
“Not bad, not bad. Hm, Sergeant Hard-head not here today? I thought she was gonna be helping out with this.”
“Haven’t seen her. I was told she was given special leave today, though. Not sure for what exactly...”
“Well fair enough... I can see why she got it though. Her Highness Princess Luna’s certainly made plenty of special requests of her recently.”
“Yeah. I guess she wanted a proper break.”
“Where do you think she’s gone?”
The wind rippled through Freeze Pop’s feathers and coat as she glided along. Whilst the feeling of flight was normally an experience that brought her happiness, today she could not help feeling slightly subdued. The reason for this could be found in that she was accompanied by Blacklight, and the two of them were flying away from Canterlot. Their destination lay to the north, upon the shores of the Frigid Sea.
Blacklight was going home.
She had been expecting the day, of course. She’d known it would come, that sooner or later he would have to return home – after all, it was not fair to either one to expect her to sustain them both for an extended period. Whilst it was true that they had become fast friends, it was not as though the black pegasus did not have a roof to call his own, nor was he impoverished either.
“It’s been more of a holiday, coming here, than anything else.” was how he’d put it. “But... I’ll really have to head back home. My folks are probably wondering where I got to. They might be worried about me... I should really head back.”
Freeze Pop let out a small sigh as she glanced over at her flight buddy, though she gave him a smile as he looked over to her in turn. “I sure am glad the Princesses gave me today off.”
“Me too. After the crazy late nights they had you on recently though, you were kinda due it I’d say.”
“Yeah, true.” Freeze grinned. “Hey, the late nights have been worth it, though, y’know?”
“Going by what you’ve told me, I can tell.” Blacklight nodded back as the two of them glided lazily over the hills below, the ground naught more than a green blur of foliage from their vantage point. “I’m just sad I’m probably gonna miss that concert you were on about.”
“Eh, it can’t be helped. ‘sides, those kinda things tend to be filled fulla rather stuffy ponies, you probably wouldn’t enjoy it too much.”
“Well... not unless you were with me...” Blacklight pointed out, his voice trailing off towards the end of his sentence. His companion beamed at him at that remark, dipping below him to look up into his face from below as she spoke up again.
“You’re very sweet Blackie – and that’s kinda my point; if I was there at all it’d probably be in my official role. I wouldn’t be able to hang out with you in the audience.”
“Yeah... and I can’t say I’m a big fan of crowds.”
“I’m sure there’ll be other concerts, events and what have you.” the white pegasus smiled as she drew up alongside him again. A cheeky smile spread across her face as she went on “So plenty of opportunities for you to take me out somewhere nice and impress me.”
Blacklight let out a barely audible squeak at that, his cheeks flushing. “Er, yes... I suppose so...” he agreed with a slightly hesitant nod of his head. His friend’s grin grew as she spoke up once more.
“Relax, dude. I’m teasing.”
Blacklight’s own expression creased into a smile in reply. “Oh, I know. You’re not being totally serious. Just a little bit serious.”
“You got me pegged!” Freeze laughed in return, casting a glance down. “Mmm, I thought I smelled salt water in the air. Looks like we’re almost there!”
Sure enough, far below the two airborne pegasi lay the expansive glassy waters of the Frigid Sea. It was so called as it led out to the Frozen Ocean and the Lands Of Ice within. It was a place not unfamiliar to Freeze Pop; indeed, her heritage lay across the other side of those freezing waters.
Jutting out into the waters below lay Cape Sunrise. It was quite a long stretch of land, arching out towards the northeast. It was also not very densely populated, aside from by those who made their living from the sea or the land – and, of course, those in the business of offering hospitality to holiday makers and sightseers.
The two pegasi made their descent, coming to land in the small settlement’s main square – though it was closer to being simply a clearing among the scattered buildings, with naught but a community bulletin board and a slightly larger building nearby that was obviously the town hall to denote it as an actual village square.
“I’d almost forgotten how quiet this place is.” Freeze Pop noted as she folded in her wings, looking around at the assorted little guesthouses and occasional shops scattered about the area.
“Well, it would be.” Blacklight noted. “I mean, there’re few ponies that actually want to live here when we’re only a short while from Whinnypeg.”
It was true after all: the far larger city was not all that far from this small settlement. The average pegasus could be there within barely thirty minutes’ straight flight; thus it was not uncommon for airborne visitors from the city to descend upon the little settlement in the warmer parts of the year.
From Canterlot, however, it was a longer flight: it had taken the two pegasi roughly four hours to reach here, including the occasional break for rest en route. That had been more for the smaller pegasus’s benefit than that of Freeze Pop, though that was to be expected.
“Well, I’ve only got a short time to spare while I’m here, Blackie.” she stated, trying to keep the slightly let-down feeling out of her voice. It crept in regardless, however, and it didn’t go unnoticed by her smaller friend.
“Hey... don’t worry, Freeze. I promise I’ll come to Canterlot again very soon.” he smiled.
“You’d better!” she replied, at least managing to smile at his reassurance. She looked thoughtful for a moment, and then her smile broadened. “Hey, so! Seeing as we’re here now, and we just flew all this way... why don’tcha treat me to some refreshments?” she suggested with a cheeky wink.
“...oh! Uh hey... yeah, I actually could, now you mention it!” Blacklight nodded, his smile in turn spreading further as he began to make his way toward one of the little guest-houses nearby. A sign outside the establishment advertised the fact that the café inside was open house, and all were welcome to partake of its fare.
“Lovely!” Freeze chimed, drawing alongside him. “Hey, if you think about it, this is kinda almost like a date.” she added, playfully nudging his shoulder.
“Uhm...” her companion responded with a shy smile. “Yeah... I guess it kinda is, huh...”
“Hey, just relax Blackie.” Freeze Pop grinned at the smaller pony as he pushed open the door of the guest house and held it for her. “Sure it’s kinda like that, but at the same time it’s no different from us hanging out as usual. Oh, and thank you.” she added as she passed by him.
He led the way in to the cosy little café built into the establishment, parking himself at one of its booths. Freeze sat herself down opposite him, a smile still set on her face.
“I’m not gonna wanna have much anyway... long flight back, don’t wanna have a heavy meal weighing me down. What’ve they got that’s good for a light bite?”
Roughly half an hour later, the two were sat chatting away to each other. Or more accurately, Freeze Pop was doing most of the talking and her friend was for the most part simply listening appreciatively to her tale.
“And so then,” she went on, “she turned to me and was like ‘So was it you, then?’ and I was like ‘not directly, sorry!’. And then she finally put two and two together, and it added up to Sketchy.”
“Heehee. She got there in the end, huh?”
“She did, yeah. And then Luna lent me to her as an escort, cos of course you know it ain’t proper for a lady such as herself to be wandering about on her lonesome in the middle of the night. Anyway, so we headed all the way to his, and then they chatted for ages while I waited outside his door. I think they nearly forgot I was there for a bit, ‘fore I overheard him being all ‘ah heck, we left Freezy out there!’ and her being like ‘yeah, I’ll have to go home’ and all that. I didn’t mind it though; I’d considered flying off without her a coupla times. Knew she’d be in safe hooves.”
“And that was, what, about two weeks ago?”
“I think it was maybe more.” Freeze replied, shrugging her shoulders. “Heck, all I know is that since then they’ve patched things back up. Even gotten closer from it. It’s true what they say, trials build character. What doesn’t kill off a bond usually strengthens it.”
“Yeah. Uhm, speaking of which... when do you think we’ll have a chance to see each other again?”
Freeze Pop tensed slightly at the question, as it reminded her of the fact that she would soon have to head outside and make the flight back to Canterlot on her own.
“Good question... I think that’s going to depend mostly on you, Blackie. I mean, I have my duty to the Princesses to carry out. That has to take precedence most of the time.”
“That was what I figured... hmm. Oh! I should get a note of your address. Er, your postal address I mean. After all, I could easily find your place on my own by now.”
Freeze grinned at that. “Gonna put pen to paper some time then, huh? Sounds like a good idea to me.”
“Well, after going to all the bother of finding you, it’d be silly not to keep in touch, right? And er... for a first date, if you want to call it that, this hasn’t gone too badly...”
A broad smile spread on the white mare’s features as she nodded, turning her head and gesturing to the café attendant for some attention. “Pardon me! Could I borrow a page of your notebook?” Temporarily appropriating the attendant’s pencil as well, she saw to scribbling down a note for her black-coated companion.
“There we go. You better not forget to write!” she grinned, passing him the note.
Blacklight smiled, taking the note from her and tucking it away carefully. “Trust me, I won’t forget. With the trouble I went through to find you, I doubt I’ll have any bother remembering.”
“Good.” she smiled, rising from her seat. “Well... I guess I’ll have to get going.”
Her friend’s expression became a little more solemn at that. “I guess so, yeah...” he nodded, adding an aside to the attendant waitress to please put the meal on his tab. The two made their way outside once more, the larger of them casting her gaze skyward.
“Clear skies and sunny conditions. I couldn’t ask for better.” she mused, turning to look back at her friend. “Blacklight... don’t be a stranger now.” she smiled, leaning her head to his and planting a small kiss on his cheek.
“Uhm!” he squeaked at that, and then shyly returned her gesture. “You either, Freezy.” he replied quietly, a smile and a blush on his face.
A big smile spread across the mare’s face as she straightened up and flared her wings.
“I won’t. Hey, stay here. I’ll give you something to remember me by.”
With that she took to the air with a leap and a mighty beating of her wings, and soared upward in a gradually spiralling path.
Blacklight could already guess what she was going to do, but he still felt his heart beating faster in his chest with excitement.
Freeze Pop flew ever higher, feeling the familiar sensation of the air thinning out and the temperature starting to drop. Her wings shivered slightly, but she pressed on. She had performed this routine so many times that she was well used to these feelings by now. She stopped her ascent, feeling the biting chill along her wings. She could feel the stiffness from crystallising ice coating them too, and she knew now was the time to descend.
Her wings swept back over her body. She dove back towards the ground, her descent a near-perfect vertical angle. Through the sting of the wind whipping her face and eyes, a large grin of exhilaration wrote itself across her features. Her mane and tail blurred into a long blue streak, and as she rocketed downward the ice adorning her wings flaked and melted off.
Once more, Cape Sunrise was treated to the uncanny sight of an aurora out of season. As for Freeze Pop, she made a point of swooping down low over the buildings, flying directly over where she had left her companion. She left a smile and a shout of “Til next time!” in her wake.
Blacklight stood watching her go, the last of the ice crystals dissipating from her as she flew.
“Until then!” he shouted after her, a smile on his face despite the slightly melancholy thought that he would probably not see her again for some time.
Freeze Pop rose through the air once more, her course set for her home city. She felt herself in high spirits once more, even in the face of leaving her companion here. She knew, after all, that this would not be a permanent parting of ways.
It’s an au revoir, not a farewell.
It was about three days since Freeze Pop had returned to Canterlot. She was roused from a light nap she had been taking on her couch by the call of the local delivery pony knocking on her door.
“Just a moment!” she called melodiously as she picked herself up off the couch and trotted over to the door. Her appearance was a tad unkempt; she had been on the dawn patrol and hence had only recently gotten off work. She smiled blearily at the pony bearing an envelope for her, and took it with a smile.
“Fankff!” she said round the envelope, earning her an amused smile from the postal worker who simply nodded in return and turned to move on to the next door.
Freeze turned and shut her door, trotting over and plonking herself down on the couch once more. She carefully tore open the envelope and fished out the paper within.
Dear Freeze Pop,
hay there! It’s Blacklight here. I figured I should get to writing to you sooner rather than later, so I wouldn’t forget. Wait, what am I saying, there’s no way I’d forget... you know what I mean!
How was your flight home? I hope it was fairly uneventful – it’d be horrible if you’d had to deal with something unexpected after flying all the way out here and then flying all the way back. I do hope you weren’t too tired when you got back home.
How is home, by the way? I have to say since coming back to Cape Sunrise, and since you headed back to Canterlot, I’m already starting to feel... bored, I guess is the word? It’s weird, I never really felt that dissatisfied with life here before. I mean, it’s slow and all, but I never minded that. To be honest, I’m not a big fan of crowds and hustle and bustle. Yet, now I’m back here, it’s almost like it’s just too quiet. And I never thought I’d find myself saying that! Or, writing it rather.
I guess what I’m saying is, I’m going to have to see about coming to Canterlot again, and make it sooner rather than later. I mean, being there was just more... fun than here. There is so much more to do, so much to see... and, well, it’s where you live.
Being in your company these past several days has probably been the most fun I have ever had in my life. You are something else, Freezy. When I’m with you, I feel like we could go anywhere, do anything, and we’d pull through. You’ve got some kind of infectious indomitable spirit. I can’t quite put my hoof on it, but you just make me feel... invincible, I guess is the word I want. I miss that, and I’d really like to spend some more time with you soon. I don’t yet know when I’ll be able to make it out there again, but I promise you as soon as I do then I’ll write!
Anyway, I think that’s all I need to write for now. Please write me back soon, I’d really love to hear from you! Let me know how you’re doing – oh, and tell Sketchy I said hay! I owe him a proper thank you for seeing that I was properly introduced to you, after all. Guess I should take care of that next time I’m around, huh?
Until next time, Freezy.
A happy sigh escaped the pegasus guard’s throat as she read over the letter, and then read over it again, mentally sounding out each word in the author’s voice. After some thinking, she got up from her comfortable perch, picked up some paper and a pen, and saw to the slightly awkward task of composing a reply.
hay! Nice to hear from you so soon! Good timing too, I was just starting to really miss having you around. Jeez, I’m such a softy, right? Point is, I’m happy to have gotten a letter from ya already!
Flight back was fine, nothing unexpected. Made it back in pretty good time, in fact. I expect that’s cos I didn’t have to wait on you, heehee! (Don’t take that the wrong way: you’re not an endurance flier like me. I’d have been shocked if you never needed a rest on the way!) I’ll admit I was a bit worn out when I got back – not that I’d admit that to everypony though, ha!
Canterlot’s the same as always. Bright, vibrant, full of life, and in its own way as boring as ever. Surprised to see me say that? The thing is, when you’ve lived here most of your life, you get used to it. The marvellous becomes the mundane, I suppose. But with that said, I had a lot of fun having you around – even if a lot of that was just from showing off!
Yes, you will need to come here again! And sooner rather than later as you say! Having you around was indeed fun, and as sappy as it is to say, I miss you.
I’m glad you enjoyed yourself when you were with me – I enjoyed myself a great deal too, because I got to spend time with you. Your calm quietness is quite the contrast to most of the other pegasi I know – they’re all blowhards like I am. And I just know you’re going to say “You’re not a blowhard” when you read that, heehee.
I make you feel invincible? Ya know... other folks have accused me of that too. I’m glad you felt it as well. If nothing else, it sure made you come out of your shell some, and it helped me really get to know you properly. You’re a rare treasure, Blackie. You’re not some brash idiot trying to prove yourself, you’re just you – and you’re fine with being you, too. That makes you far more impressive in my book than anypony trying the tough guy act. Don’t ever lose sight of that.
Here’s hoping this letter reaches you with all due haste! Oh, and rest assured I’ll give that big lug a thanks for ya next time I see him.
Write me back soon!
~Freeze Pop. xoxox
With a contented smile, she carefully folded her letter and tucked it in an envelope, sealing it shut. Picking up a small pouch to sling over her neck, she tucked the letter inside and headed on out to send it off with all due haste. Making her way out of the building, she was quick to find a postbox and deposit her letter. She smiled happily to herself as she trotted away from the receptacle, humming a tune to herself.
“Someone’s in a good mood.”
Freeze Pop blinked at that and turned her head. Her gaze was met with the familiar sight of her earth pony artist friend – and, she noted, the premier cellist of the Canterlot Symphony Orchestra. She grinned to the both of them.
“Well, and why not? I just got a letter today from Blackie. Remember how I saw him back to Cape Sunrise a few days back? I just dropped a letter in the post back to him.”
“Ah, indeed? And how is he faring? I did not have the pleasure of meeting him personally whilst he was in town, but from what you have said of him he seems to be a nice enough stallion.” Octavia remarked.
“He’s doing OK. Says he’s bored though. Meeting me and hanging out here in Canterlot showed him just how dull his life is.” Freeze Pop replied in her characteristic bragging manner, a non-serious smile on her face.
“Ha! Well, you do have that effect on folks.” Sketchy commented, his expression mirroring that of the pegasus. “He gonna pay you another visit?”
“Oh, definitely. Said he’ll have to stop by again soon, so I’ve told him he darn well better.”
“How wonderful!” Octavia chimed in, a happy smile on her face. “It sounds like you have become very fond of each other. I am pleased to hear it.”
“That right, Miss Octavia?” Freeze Pop replied with a smirk. “I suppose you can imagine how pleased I am when I look at you and this big lout, then.” she went on, flashing a knowing wink at the big earth pony.
“Hmm, yes. I believe I can. And I will not ever stop being thankful to you for helping where you did in that. Never did I think that I would find, let alone have need of such companionship. I had always gotten by until now, somehow.”
“Oh, I know what you mean. You sometimes don’t realise what you’ve been missing out on ‘til you get to experience it yourself. I will say though, the pair of you look cute together.”
Both of Freeze Pop’s friends blushed slightly at her remark, which elicited a further grin and a giggle from her. “Oh, that’s just adorable! Still a little easily embarrassed, are we?”
“I think it’s somewhat of a new thing for us both, Freezy.” Sketchy commented, a sheepish grin on his face.
“Sketchy is correct, dear. For me, this is an entirely new experience. I am unused to being seen with another pony in... this sort of context.” Octavia contributed, adding “I will say though that, so far, I am finding it to be a mostly enjoyable experience.”
“Good! Well listen, I’ve some snoozing to do seeing as I was on dawn patrol. You two enjoy your day. Oh, and Octavia?”
“All the best for tomorrow!”
Freeze Pop blinked. “Tomorrow? You know? With the big concert, and all?”
The cellist blinked a few times, and then her eyes grew wide as she realised that the date was indeed very close by.
“My goodness! Tomorrow... yes indeed! My dear, you are quite correct! Tonight is the very last rehearsal, and then tomorrow...” she trailed off, leaning against her taller companion all of a sudden as she felt slightly weak at the knees.
“Hey, easy there Tavy...” Sketchy soothed, nuzzling gently at the top of her head. “It’s going to be just perfect. Don’t get yourself in a tizzy.”
“I... yes. I should not worry myself so, you are correct of course.” she nodded, turning her gaze back to the pony who had reminded her. “Should we be on the lookout for you tomorrow, dear?”
“I’d say no, Tavy, unless Her Highness asks for me specifically. I’m afraid my schedule and your concert’s timing clash. I expect I’ll be hearing all about it from Luna herself, though. Besides,” she added, leaning forward and winking conspiratorially, “I’ve already heard the whole thing through several times by now. If I was there in an unofficial capacity, I’d be sitting with Sketchy here – and if I was sat with him, I’d probably distract him from watching you.”
Octavia made a small squeaking sound at that remark, her cheeks turning red once more. “I see! Uhm, well... we certainly cannot have that.” she replied, clearing her throat and averting her gaze.
“Ha!” Freeze chuckled, straightening up. “Never thought I’d see the day when you were eager for the spotlight!”
A smile spread across Octavia’s face at that, as she glanced from the pegasus to her admiring companion. “Oh, that day is still to come, as far as the masses are concerned. But in this one particular case, yes, you are quite correct that I wish to keep the spotlight to myself.” she replied, her eyes turning upon Sketchy’s with a fond gaze.
Sketchy’s own expression softened as he returned the cellist’s look. “Centre stage only has enough room for one in my eyes.”
“Oooookay, I think that’s the cue for me to make my exit stage top!” Freeze Pop half-joked. “In all seriousness though, I’m sorry I won’t be there. But I know you’re gonna be amazing. You always are, and I’m not just saying that.”
“I know, Freeze Pop. And I very much appreciate your praise. I wish you a restful afternoon, dear.”
“What Tavy said, Freezy. Rest well, take it easy – and don’t pine too hard for Blackie, you know he’ll come again soon enough.”
“A-as if I would!” the pegasus replied, far less convincingly than she’d hoped. She had for once been caught off-guard, and her ordinarily cool demeanour failed to mask her slight embarrassment as she felt her cheeks flush.
“Ooh, my my. Someone’s blushing!” Sketchy grinned in a teasing fashion. It didn’t help the pegasus’s condition in the slightest, as she fought vainly against the spreading tinge on her face.
“Yeah but...! I mean... alright, fine!” she replied, shaking her head in defeat. “You got me, dude. Yeah, I... I do kinda miss having him around. He’s very different from most of the pegasi I know. And I mean that in a good way. So... so what if we’re maybe kinda sorta going out?” she stated, averting her eyes to the side as she trailed off at the end of her sentence.
“Really? Imagine that!” Sketchy chuckled, a knowing grin written across his face. “C’mon lass, I honestly was only looking for confirmation. I pretty much already had you figured out when the two of you called round on me a week or so back.”
“Well, I for one think it is wonderful that you have become close with this stallion. To hear you speak of him, he sounds like quite the find. I am all the more regretful now that I did not meet him whilst he was here.”
“Ah heh heh. Well then, maybe I’ll introduce you when he’s next in town.” Freeze replied with a brief shake of her head. “Anyway, I’mma get going before this daft bugger says something else he’ll regret.”
Sketchy chuckled at his friend’s description of him, and playfully shoved at her shoulder with a hoof. “On you go then, don’t let us keep ya.” he replied, moving his hoof to directly in front of her.
The pegasus smiled, and slapped her own hoof against his own. “Catch ya next time, Sketchy. Tavy, make sure he behaves!”
“Oh, I shall do that very thing!” the cellist affirmed, watching as the off-duty guard took to the air with a cheeky grin still on her face. She left a chuckle in her wake as she departed, leaving the two earth ponies stood where they had run into her.
“She is a lot of fun. Freeze Pop, I mean.” Octavia noted as she continued on her way alongside her artist companion.
“She is! I hope things keep going well with her and her squeeze. I think, on some level, the two need each other.”
“Much like I find myself needing you, dear?”
Sketchy could swear his heart skipped a beat at that comment from Octavia, and he turned his head to smile at her. “Depends on how you mean. Or maybe I should say, what you need me for.”
Octavia’s smile broadened, and she pushed up against his side as she walked. “Is it not obvious? I need you around to help me keep my mind together, for one. And I need you for the way you make me feel; to help me make sense of it all. But even if I did not have these feelings for you that envelop my heart when we are together, I would still have need of you as my friend.”
Sketchy paused in his stride, causing Octavia to stop as well alongside him. The reason for him doing so soon became obvious, as he threw a foreleg around her shoulders and hugged her where he stood.
“What you just said may yet be the sweetest thing I’ve ever heard from you.” he stated. His comment was met with a warm sigh from Octavia as he released her once more and they continued on their way.
“You bring it out in me.” the cellist stated melodiously.
“Likewise, lass. But as I was saying... it’s not just that, from what I can see.”
“Is that so? What more do you see, then? I expect as I am yet to meet this friend of hers that I would not have as much insight.”
“Well... Freezy is big and tough on the outside – but she’s still vulnerable in some ways on the inside. Oh, and she can be really really sappy sometimes when she feels like it.”
“Blacklight on the other hand... he’s shorter than her. And he’s also kinda timid, at times. I expect he was maybe blessed more with brains than he was brawn. But nevertheless, if he caught Freezy’s eye... he really must have a sensitive and caring side to him, or she wouldn’t have given him a second glance. And thing is, Freeze is Freeze. She was born to protect others. From a physical standpoint, she can do that with him – and I think it’s important to her that she feels able to do so.”
“I think I see where you are going.” Octavia nodded. “And in turn, this Blacklight must possess some skill for looking after our dear friend Freezy’s soft and squishy side?” she noted with a small grin.
“That’s my reckoning, yeah.” Sketchy nodded, chuckling a bit at Octavia’s terminology.
“Were it only so simple to put into words all that I see in you.”
The two continued on in relative silence for a while, up until they came to a halt at a crossroads.
“Well, Sketchy, this is where we must part for now.” Octavia noted with a slight sigh. “I shall have to make my way home prior to tonight’s final rehearsal, so I may have time enough to go through everything one last time.”
“I hear you. Should I come along for this one, cheer you on so to speak?” the stallion smiled.
Octavia’s own features creased into a smile, though she gently shook her head. “No my dear, and there are two very simple reasons why. One is that there have been alterations since your last attendance, and I should like them to be as much a surprise for you as anypony.”
“Fair enough. And the other reason?”
Octavia tilted her head slightly to one side, batting her eyelashes coyly at her stallion admirer. “The other reason, my dear, is that if you are present I fear I may not be able to focus my attention fully where it is required. And that would not be good for our rehearsal.”
Sketchy snickered at that, though he was nevertheless internally pleased to be considered that big of a distraction. “I see... reckon you’ll be alright on the night, that being the case?”
“Oh, I am sure that shall be no problem. When there are a few hundred pairs of eyes all trained upon me, it is much more difficult to be distracted. I expect that sort of pressure will keep me sharply attuned to my performance. Oh, and there is one other reason why I would prefer you not attend...”
“Do you recall before, when I called upon you after practice? I shall want to do so again this very night. It will, as I said formerly, be quite late. Will that be alright?”
Sketchy nodded, an affectionate look in his eyes as he gave an affirmative. “I’ll stay up especially.”
“You do not have to do so...” Octavia stated, a slight blush painting her cheeks.
“I don’t, no. But I want to.”
The smaller mare leaned her face up to his, planting a kiss on his lips. “You are too kind, Sketchy. I will see you tonight, then.”
“Until then, lass.” Sketchy nodded, nuzzling her forehead briefly. “Enjoy yourself tonight!” he added, trotting away with a last fond look over his shoulder in her direction – but he stopped, all of a sudden, and trotted back in her direction. “Just remembered something!”
“Oh?” Octavia blinked, tilting her head at him.
“Her Highness’ll be there tonight, right?”
“I should expect so, yes. Why?”
Sketchy grinned wide. “Can you ask her what her favourite kinda sandwich is, for me?”
“Well, certainly, but why...” Octavia began, but then a smile spread on her own face as she thought over what exactly he might do with that information. “You want to get our dear sandwich chef friend into the Princess’s good books, I take it?”
“Oh, it’s more than that, Tavy. Sally’s a big fan of Luna’s. Ever since her return from exile, Sally’s often been one to say how she’d really love to meet her. Maybe also fix her something nice to eat, y’know?”
“I see!” Octavia nodded, clapping her front hooves together happily. “That is a wonderful notion, dear. I would have had you both brought backstage following the concert regardless, but now I have even more reason to look forward to it.”
“Perfect. I’ll be sure to tell her to pack some eats, but I expect she’d do so anyway. It’s how she is.”
“I do not doubt it. Well, I promise I shall try to get you that information for tomorrow.”
“You’re a gem, lass!” Sketchy grinned. “Alright, I’m really off this time. Catch you later!”
With that he trotted off once more, this time without stopping or turning back. He flashed her a last smile over his shoulder before rounding a corner and vanishing from sight.
Octavia watched him go, and then headed towards home.
Sketchy, meanwhile, allowed his mind to take a wander down memory lane, to a few nights back as he made his way towards his own home.
It had been close to midnight when his doorbell had rung. He had been taken by surprise by it, up until he’d remembered that Octavia had asked to stop by after practice was over that night.
With that in mind, he had carefully covered up the masterpiece on his desk—after all, he didn’t want to give away to the cellist exactly whom his current client was just yet—and headed down the stairs to the Old Chapel’s main front door. Sure enough, stood outside had been Octavia – notably less sodden this time than the last she had been here.
“Did I wake you?” she had questioned quietly, even slightly anxiously.
“No, lass. I was still up, working on stuff.” he’d replied.
“That is a relief to hear. I had my shoes fixed as I said I would, you should not need to carry me up or down.”
“Good to hear. Shall we, then?”
Octavia had taken the lead, at that – thus giving him an unparalleled view of her behind as she’d climbed the stairs. He’d been quietly thankful for that, admiring her figure as she ascended the stairs ahead of him. She had turned about upon reaching the top, looking rather pleased with herself.
“Amazing. Class and utility all in one. I must remember to thank them for fixing my shoes!”
Sketchy had smiled upon hearing that, noting her buoyant mood. “Practice go well?”
“Excellently. I believe we are almost as ready as ever we shall be.”
“Good to hear.”
The two had entered his apartment as he said that, and Octavia had set down her bags and stretched out a bit, letting out a relaxed sigh.
“Anything I can get you, refreshment wise?” Sketchy had inquired of his guest.
“Ah... just some water would be fine. It is a long walk, after all. I was counting off ticks on the way here; I was able to go through four songs before I reached the door. I am glad I did not disturb you too much.”
The two of them had fallen silent as Octavia had moved herself to the washroom to tidy up her appearance a little. Even if he had told her that she didn’t have to worry how she looked for him, Sketchy knew that the prim and proper musician liked to keep herself looking her best regardless if she could help it. He wasn’t about to complain though as he saw to getting her a glass of water.
Octavia had emerged from the washroom shortly afterwards, her appearance restored somewhat to its usual brilliance. “Oh, thank you dear.” she had intoned as she partook of the water. She had then asked him how his day had been, at which he had regaled her with the fascinating story of his day spent doing little aside from working on his art for the majority of the time.
Octavia had listened, nodding and expressing the opinion that his day sounded to have been approximately as thrilling as her own. She had then nodded her head briefly toward the stairs, a slight grin on her face.
“I was about to suggest that myself.” Sketchy had smiled, his eyes a little bleary. The day was fast catching up with him, and he let out a yawn. As per the old axiom, it proved infectious as his guest had yawned too, shortly after finishing her water.
“Do excuse me!” she had chuckled, taking the lead once more as she headed up the stairs. “Ha! Hey, I was looking for that.” she had added.
“Hmm?” Sketchy had mused aloud as he followed her gaze. He chuckled as his eyes fell on her collar and bow tie, left behind from her previous waterlogged visit. “Ah, yes. Somehow, you accidentally left it behind the other day.”
The cellist had giggled at that, sitting herself down on the edge of the bed and letting out another big yawn as she stretched out again. She saw to pulling off her collar and bow tie, setting them down alongside the rather sorry looking ones.
As for Sketchy, he had flopped down on the bed alongside her, retrieving his night attire from under a pillow.
“Oooh! Would you like some help?”
He had looked round at that, and was met with the sight of Octavia looking at him with wide eyes, filled with the sort of childlike glee found only in the eyes of one being presented with something truly delightful. His expression melted into a grin as he nodded his head.
“I certainly wouldn’t object.”
Octavia had all but snatched up one of his socks at that, promptly seeing to the task of sliding it down over one of his hind legs. Her touch along his leg as she did so was incredibly gentle, and he had found himself pondering for a moment if this was how delicate she was with her strings. He found it easy to relax under her attention though, as she grabbed up another of the soft garments and slid it down easily over his other back leg. This time, one of her hooves traced along the outside of his leg, tickling a little. He had giggled slightly at that.
“Oh, you just had to tease me!” the cellist replied, clambering up the bed to sit alongside his forelegs, grabbing up another sock to slide over the nearest hoof.
“About finding where I’m ticklish? Who says I was teasing?”
“Hmm. I am glad you were not.” she had replied, attempting to reach over to his opposite foreleg as she picked up the last sock. Finding herself unable, she had simply climbed on top of him, her legs falling to either side of his body. She sat there astride him, and pulled the last sock down over his hoof. “All done.”
“Thanks for the help, lass.”
“You are welcome, dear...” she had replied, leaning herself down on top of him. Her face came to rest close to his own, and she smiled happily as she looked into his eyes. She had then pressed her lips softly to his own, her forelegs wrapping around his neck as she closed her eyes. He reciprocated in kind, a warm sigh of content escaping his nostrils. He had heard the cellist whimper slightly in her throat... and then, unexpectedly, felt her tongue push gently against his lips.
Even now, as he made his way upstairs and into his apartment, he still felt his heart flutter slightly at the memory. That night, Octavia had been the one to assert herself once more, to take things a small step further than previously. It had been a much more intimate kiss than any previous – and any shared since, as neither one of them had dared display such a level of intimacy in public. Due to both of them having been busier of late, their usual routine of meeting out in the open had been all they had time for.
Tonight, however, Octavia would be calling round once more. Nevertheless, he knew that neither he nor the mare who would call on him tonight would push things any further. They were comfortable where things stood, for now. With that said, though, he had a feeling that had grown stronger over the past few days. It was something that was ever present, and intensified whenever he was in Octavia’s presence.
Tonight... it needs to be me that takes the step. I don’t think it’s one she’ll take.
With that thought in mind, he settled down to continue his artistry. It would likely be several hours yet until Octavia’s arrival, and it was important to make good use of the time. Luna’s portrait was shaping up very nicely, and it brought a smile to his face to look at it the more he worked on it.
Sketchy sat up suddenly. He blinked. It was dark all around him, save for the ambient light of his desk’s drawing lamp.
Huh... what? What time...? he dimly thought, before the ringing of his doorbell sounded again. He shook himself out of his semi-conscious state and glanced over at a nearby clock.
Three in the morning...? Oh heck! Octavia!
Hastily, he peered outside over the edge of the balcony.
“Tavy...?” he called quietly into the darkness.
“Yes, dear. I am sorry it is so late!” came the soft reply from below.
Sketchy stifled a yawn. “Gimme a moment...” he called back, turning and stumbling away from the window as his waking mind fought to catch up to his senses. As he had done last time she called round, he quietly headed down the stairs and let the shorter-legged mare in through the front door.
Octavia looked at him with an apologetic expression as she was ushered inside. “I am sorry to have woken you... I really missed you.” she stated in a hushed whisper, not wanting to wake his neighbours. She gently nuzzled at his cheek and planted a soft kiss there.
“Relax, love.” he replied in equally hushed tones. “I was expecting you after all. I just passed out unexpectedly from not knowing when to stop work.”
“A feeling I know too well!” the cellist nodded as she began her ascent up the stairs. “Practice was superb tonight – I was distracted all night thinking of you, though.”
That elicited a quiet chuckle from Sketchy as the two of them reached the top of the stairs. “So, I’m a distraction regardless of whether I’m there or not, hmm?” he questioned as he passed her by, holding the apartment door open for her.
“Ooh, do not worry about that!” Octavia giggled as she passed over the threshold. “Pardon the immodesty if you will, but even my distracted nights are still on par with my quartet’s finest.”
Sketchy noted a blush painting his admirer’s cheeks as she set her bags down. Even if her statement was true, it was still a little embarrassing for the accomplished cellist to admit.
“I am sorry to have woken you.” she continued. “But I am glad you got up.”
“You kidding?” he replied, a mirthful tone to his voice. “No way was I about to leave you out in the cold. I’ve been there myself once or twice, it’s no fun.”
Octavia had, as before, vanished into the washroom. “I would never leave you out in the cold!” she called as she saw to repairing any damage to her appearance that her performance had wrought.
“Oh, I know you wouldn’t, lass. Water?”
“If you would!”
Some minutes later, the two were once more comfortably entangled in each other’s grip. Octavia had insisted on once more assisting Sketchy with putting on his socks, due to her finding it a thoroughly adorable thing, and as before, she was now comfortably settled atop him. He could feel her heartbeat against his own – something which accelerated as she brought her lips to his. He heard the familiar soft sound of her whimper, and almost instinctively tightened his grasp around her. She relaxed into it, welcoming the embrace – and once more he felt the gentle intrusion of her tongue between his lips.
Her grasp around him tightened. She seemed this time to be more confident about her actions than she had previously. Sketchy in turn was less apprehensive, as he shifted to welcome her actions.
It was Octavia who pulled back first, as she found herself short of breath. Her heart was racing in her chest as she stared down into the stallion’s eyes, her eyes slightly wide.
“I... never would have thought... this could be so... amazing...” she said between breaths.
“Me... me neither...” Sketchy agreed. His breathing slowed a little as he reached up to her, pulling her gently down to hug to him. She slid off from on top of him as he did so, ending up laid alongside him. Her head came to rest against his chest, and her own breaths began to settle into a more relaxed pattern.
“I... believe I may have gotten slightly carried away...” she mumbled quietly, sounding a little doubtful. She felt a comforting hoof laid upon the back of her head, and she flicked her eyes round to see Sketchy looking to her from an angle where his head was laid on the pillow. A small smile spread on his face, accompanied by a reassuring look in his eyes.
“It’s OK, hon... finding the rhythm of life takes a little time with each new part you learn to play.”
His words brought a smile to Octavia’s face, not least from the relation to something that they both had a great love for.
“You say the most wonderful things.” she sighed, shifting her nose up to nuzzle under his chin.
“Mmm, thanks. Uh, by the way... you’re getting warmer.”
It took a few moments for the cellist to process what he was getting at, and when she got it, a blush spread across her face from it. “Warmer? ...oh... OH!”
A snicker escaped the stallion’s throat as he looked fondly at her. “You’re terribly cute when you’re flustered, Tavy.”
“Hmmm. Simple inexperience.” she replied. Feeling a little more bold, she nuzzled further under his chin, and then down his neck.
Sketchy was not prepared for her taking such an action, and thus it was inevitable that, finally, she located the one spot on his neck that he’d found from fairly early on in his life was incredibly sensitive. What he had never realised up until this point was that such a spot was not simply ticklish. As Octavia’s gentle touch passed over it, he involuntarily gasped out, even whining a bit.
“Mmm, what is this?” Octavia’s soft tones inquired from the vicinity of his neck. There was an air of mischief in her voice, as she teased him slightly by running her nose softly over the same spot again.
“...nnfff!” Sketchy replied, finding himself unable to formulate an actual coherent reply. He felt the strength ebb away from his limbs as she mercilessly attacked the same spot again several times in the most delicate fashion. There was nothing he could do save for uttering the occasional slightly strangled sounding whine.
“It would seem I found something far more fun than a ticklish spot...” Octavia commented at length, finally giving up her assault. She seemed rather pleased with herself for having subjected him to her affections and had such an effect on him.
Sketchy felt her cling close to him, as she gently tucked her head underneath his own. Although he had thoroughly enjoyed her attack on his weak spot, he had to admit he was also partially glad she had stopped. It had made it very hard for him to try to think at all.
“Yeah... I noticed you did...” he managed to say, his voice still a little shaky as his mind recovered from the pleasurable feelings it had been swamped by.
“You seem a little out of breath there.” Octavia noted, bringing her head out from under his own to rub her nose against his.
“Well my my, I wonder why that is?” Sketchy replied with a small laugh. As the strength began to return to his limbs, he reached over and ran a hoof softly along the grey-coated mare’s long black mane. “Perhaps it has something to do with the mare of my dreams being here and showering me with affection?”
Octavia’s face flushed deep red, and she even moved a hoof to hide her face slightly. “Mare... of your dreams?” she questioned, seemingly unsure as to whether she deserved such a title. “Do you really see me like that? I... wow...”
It was clear to Sketchy that he had rendered her ever so slightly speechless – but he decided to allay her uncertainty. “Yes.” he simply stated, turning his gaze to meet with hers. There was a meaningful look in his eyes as he spoke, and yet also magnitudes of simple truth and adoration. “Meeting you was something I have honestly dreamed of, for a long time. In the back of my mind I always used to wonder, if ever we did meet, if anything would ever come of it. So... it’s a true enough description.”
Octavia’s expression softened, and she moved a hoof to wipe a small tear from the corner of her eye. “That is the sweetest thing I have heard in a very long time.” she said quietly. Her grasp around him tightened as she hugged closely to him, not wanting to let go.
“I am glad to have found you.”
Sketchy’s embrace tightened around her in return, as the strength had finally returned fully to his limbs. “I’m glad to have found you too, Tavy. I...” he began, but his sentence trailed off.
Octavia felt the stallion’s grasp around her tighten a bit more. She felt his heart beating faster in his chest, against her own. Almost instinctively, she held tighter to him in turn. Her eyes locked with his, and for several long moments there was naught but silence between the two.
Sketchy’s mind whirled like a hurricane as he fixed his gaze with Octavia’s. It felt like an eternity before, finally, the storm subsided and settled on one singular thing.
Celestia help me, I can’t keep this in any longer. I don’t know if this is the right time or place... but I know what I feel.
“I...” he began once more. His voice dropped to a low whisper as he spoke out the last of his sentence.
“...love you... Octavia.”