Armoured Hearts

by Milo_Chalks

4: Plot

“Hey, Starry.” Silver Heart stood at the doorway to Starry’s living quarters, already prepared and ready for their upcoming morning shift.

“GAH!” Starry fell off the chair he was sitting on at his desk, the dim light from the lamp being tossed about the room as it too collapsed onto the floor.

“Sorry! Are you alright? ” Silver rushed over to give him a hoof up. Quickly helping Starry up, Silver noticed a book lying on the desk filled with beautiful hoof writing he couldn’t quite read. “Hey, is that your poetry book? Can I have a read?” Silver asked, peering over the book as Starry regained his balance.

Noticing Silver looking into his book he dived in front of the book and clutched it tight to his chest. “NO! Uhh, it’s not finished.” Starry blushed, trying to hide his book.

“Aww come on, just one of your finished ones?” Silver asked, taking a step forward, sending his friend a step backwards.

“But we… we have our shift!”

“In half an hour, Starry! I won’t judge, promise,” Silver added.

“They’re really boring!” Starry desperately replied, sitting on his bed, clutching the poetry book like it was sustaining his life.

“Starry, I promise I won’t judge.” Starry sat on the bed, looking at the floor, not budging. After a while, Silver let out a sigh and put the chair back in place. “Alright, alright. I won’t look at your poetry, just please. Give me a smile, you’re scaring me over there, Mr. Grimm,” Silver smiled as he sat on the chair.

The Crystal Guard slid the book delicately under the bed and gave Silver a weak smile as they both sat there.

“I’m sorry, it’s just-”

“Hey, I get it, don’t worry about it,” Silver smiled, sitting on Starry’s bed and tapping his hooves together as his friend removed his head from under the bed. “Probably won’t have enough time before shift anyway, how about we check the Equestria Games scores before we go on shift?”

“O-okay, uh, I’ll just be a minute, I have to finish getting ready.” Starry began making his way across the small room to the bathroom.

“No problem,” Silver waved him off as Starry closed the door. The second he could hear the lock click, Silver dashed under the bed and felt around for the poetry book. Upon feeling the leather cover, he used his aura to carefully move it over to the desk littered in paper and writing equipment. Tip toeing himself over to the table, Silver silently sat down and began reading the first page.

WHY should I wish to hold in this low sphere
'A frail and feverish being?' wherefore try
Poorly from day to day to linger here,
Against the powerful hand of Destiny?
By those who know the force of hopeless care
On the worn heart--I sure shall be forgiven,
If to elude dark guilt, and dire despair,
I go uncall'd--to mercy and to heaven!
O thou! to save whose peace I now depart,
Will thy soft mind thy poor lost friend deplore,
When worms shall feed on this devoted heart,
Where even thy image shall be found no more?
Yet may thy pity mingle not with pain,
For then thy hapless lover--dies in vain!

“That’s Charlight Pony… He loves the classics, I bet.” Silver whispered to himself flipping the page carefully.

Jeez, he must have had this book since he started… He thought. Just as Silver went to turn the next page, he heard the door starting to be opened. Quickly, he flipped the book shut and stood up he shuffled the book under some papers on the desk.

“Ready to go?” he asked, trying not to look guilty as Starry finished adjusting his uniform.

“Yep!” he smiled. “Let’s go.”

Starry opened the door and held it for Silver to go through. Taking one last concerned glance at the exposed book on the table, he smiled and walked through the door, Starry shutting it behind him.

“So, any news how our little plan went down?” Silver Heart asked, grinning wickedly to his friend on the other side of the doorway.

Starry chuckled, offering his hoof out for a hoof bump.  “They’ll be scratching their backsides for weeks.,” Silver quickly returned. “Itching powder in their bidets, that was genius!”

“Growing up with an older brother had its advantages,” Silver snickered back.

Upon calming down again, Starry spoke up, a new tone taking over the conversation. “You’re leaving in four days, aren’t you…”

Silver looked across the room. “Well... yeah,” he looked down, “but we will still write and stuff! And I am definitely going to visit every now and again.”

“Yeah, that sounds g-good,” Starry looked away sadly, staring into blank space.

An awkward silence filled the empty hallway as both thought about the inevitable. A strange feeling welled up in Silver’s chest, an emotion he couldn’t quite describe, yet it burnt away at him strongly.

“But let’s not think about... that.” Silver felt a pang as he said the words. “Four days is still plenty of time to have a blast!”

It didn’t do much to make Starry feel better, yet a small smile appeared over his face as he stood a little straighter.  Unexpectedly, Starry eyes widened as he looked across at his friend, laughing to himself. He furrowed his brow at his friend’s strange behaviour.

“We are terrible guards,” Silver laughed as he leant on his spear for support. Starry looked onwards, chuckling a bit himself.

“I guess. We aren’t exactly cut out for this role, are we?” The shy stallion began laughing a bit harder as the realisation sunk in.

After another minute of laughing, Silver settled down enough to go on. “How did we ever make it out of basic training?” He coughed and stood straight again, taking the weight off his spear. “But seriously though, I really hope you decide to maybe start publishing, or at least move on to bigger and better things. You are a lot better than…” Silver looked around, moving his spear to where he was looking in the wide corridor, “this.”

Starry smiled. “Thanks, but you should practice what you preach,” he replied, nudging his friend off balance.

“Hey! I’m keeping the dream alive, just need the bits to do it.” He smiled recentering himself in front of the doorway. “But if I don’t get to read a book written by some author called Starry Scroll, I won’t be happy. I will stalk you to the ends of Equestria to kick your butt.” Silver ruffled his mane and smiled playfully. Yet, when it finished, Silver was closer than usual. He looked into Starry’s eyes, the shy smile coming through at the attention he was receiving. The larger stallion looked down, entranced in his guard friend’s gaze.

As soon as it had happened, Silver shook himself awake, quickly retreating back and chuckling nervously. “Sorry, you… have something in your mane.”

Starry’s confusion turned to shock as he quickly pulled at his mane in an attempt to remove the phantom object Silver had pointed at.

“Here, let me get it.” Silver came close, pretending to brush something out of Starry’s mane and quickly returning to his post.

Silver looked away awkwardly as Starry’s cheeks reddened, causing him to start biting his lower lip. The silence grew between them for a while until Starry finally managed to cover for his typically extroverted friend.

“So you have… haven’t told me much about Canterlot… D-do you have family there?”

Silver quickly snapped his attention back to the conversation. “Yeah. Dad and my older brother lives there, but they’re thinking about moving to Manehattan. I probably wouldn’t be able to move without them.”

“Your mum?” Starry leaned in. Silver thought for a second and looked forward.

“Nah, she died years ago.”

“I’m sorry to hear it…” Starry looked away too, not knowing how to continue.

An uncomfortable silence filled the room, both stallions choosing to look away. Starry could have heard a pin drop from the next hallway over, his hooves getting restless over the large bout of silence. After a while, Silver began to scoot a little closer in his post. “It’s alright, it was a while ago now. I got some good times before she left, anyway,” he finally replied, giving Starry a warm smile.

Starry took a quick breath; he could feel his heart beating and his breath getting heavy as he thought of his next question, “And.. what about a marefriend?” He shuffled his hooves and looked down.

“Don’t have one of those” Silver chuckled. “Haven’t found the right mare yet that’s for sure. I always have this… dream? I guess? This dream of walking into a house after a long day work and wrapping my hooves around somepony. This may sound weird. Like absolutely crazy, but I just see a blob. Like… something in place of who that pony should be. A pony-shaped blob that would lay on the couch with me and cuddle up to me, but I can’t put a face to it, I can’t put anything to it. I guess I don’t know what I’m looking for if that answers your question.”

“Yeah…” Starry blushed slightly.

“What about you?” Silver quickly asked, turning to face the blushing stallion.

“Oh… no, not really, mares aren’t really into me.” Starry could do nothing but shuffle his feet and blush harder.

“Oh, come on! Don’t bring yourself down like that, you are adorable.” Silver quickly stopped himself, his chest tightening. “From… a mare’s perspective, I can see that…” he added.

Starry looked down, kicking an invisible rock with his hoof. “No I’m not,” he looked up sadly.

“Don’t be ridiculous! You know what? I’m gonna set you up. In fact, better yet, we are gonna go on a double blind date! Yeah!” Silver perked up, nudging his solemn friend.

“Silver, I don’t think—” Starry was cut off by Silver putting a hoof to his lips.

“Come on, Starry! What do you have to lose, it will be so much fun!” Silver interrupted, jumping in front of his friend.

“Silver, please. This is so stupid! I am in no way built for this stuff.” He huffed.

“Don’t be ridiculous, if anything it will help get you out your shell more. What is the worse that could happen?”

“Why don’t we do something else?” Starry moaned.

“I don’t wanna hear it! We are going to go on a blind date together tonight! You and me! It will be great! Just you wait and see, Starry.”

Starry and Silver walked down the moderately busy main strip of the Crystal Empire in their formal guard attire. It was Saturday night and the various bars and restaurants lit up the street. Various types of music spilled through the doors giving the place a warm, vibrant atmosphere as groups strolled around the warm night.

“I’m not gonna lie Silver, n-nervous is an understatement,” Starry shivered despite the warm weather, instantly tensing as his friend pulled him close with a gentle hoof.

“You have nothing to be scared of. These two mares seemed very lovely, one of them very willing to meet you, too,” Silver gave him a cheeky smirk, removing his hoof from Starry’s back.

“How did you find these two mar… mares that so happened to be free and interested in two guards anyway?” Starry looked over to his friend skeptically.

“Charisma, wit,” Silver quickly used his magic to pull up Starry’s shirt collar, giving him the look of a disgruntled vampire, “and pretty sexy looking uniforms,” he winked.

Starry huffed. Half frustrated, half flustered, he used his own magic to tuck the collar back in. “I hope you know what you’re doing, cause I d-don’t.”

Silver stopped suddenly, forcing Starry to turn around, a confused look spread across his face as his friend smiled at him. “Starry. You’re totally overthinking this whole thing, just relax. Whether it goes good or bad, I’ll be right here next to you.” Silver’s smile slowly turned into a cheeky smirk. “Not that a dashing stallion such as yourself needs much encouragement.”

Starry blushed, turning around and resuming his somewhat exasperated trot to conceal it. “Stop it, Silver! I don’t wanna hear it.”

“Okay, handsome.” Silver winked as he caught up.

They walked along for a little bit longer until the restaurant where they decided on came into sight. Two mares stood out the front, talking to the maître d’. After the brief exchange, neither colts could make out the waiter leading the two mares inside. As they began to enter, Silver quickly pointed them out to Starry before they disappeared behind the elegant glass doors.

“That’s them! Just going in now,” Silver smiled, picking up the pace.

“Yeah? They look… alright…” Starry tried his hardest to look away from the confused look Silver was giving him.

“Alright… Really? You judging my decision making?” Silver raised a cheeky eyebrow towards Starry as the other pony threw his hooves up in defence.

“No no! I- I didn’t mean it like… like th-tha… tha-”

“Starry, Starry! I’m just joking!” Silver let out a nervous chuckle, putting his hoof on Starry’s back to calm him down. “It’s fine! Don’t worry…”

Starry returned a nervous chuckle just as they made their way up to the maître d’, the overly dressed stallion giving them an award-winning smile as they stood in front of the doors.

“Reservation for Starry?” Silver piped up, taking his hoof off of his friend’s back.

The other guard looked sideways at Silver as the maître d’ signed them in. “They thought your name was really cute, so I put the reservation under it.” Silver winked as the waiter gestured for them to come through.

“Right this way,” the waiter smiled as he opened the door for them. “The rest of your party is waiting over here.” He gave them another smile, indicating to the table where the mares were seated, talking amongst each other. “Enjoy your night, gentlecolts.”

The room was light bright, with deep velvety red black accents and deeper shades of rich, dark colours splashing through the room. The tables all came in four and two: clearly, it was a popular date spot. The tables themselves were deep ebony, the table placements being all similar colours. Starry looked all the more nervous as the formality of the place truly set in.

Silver took the lead, quickly approaching their dates. Both mares noticed the two guards coming their way and both sat straighter, smiling to them as they approached. Silver came right up to the table as Starry stuck close behind, throwing an awkward, over-the-top smile their way.

“Hi again, girls! This is my friend, Starry Scroll,” he smiled, sliding to the side to reveal a nearly-sweating guard behind him, awkwardly waving his hoof.

“H-hi,” he stammered as he came forward. Both mares smiled brightly at him.

Quickly, the mare with a beautiful purple coat with a sapphire blue dress stood up, hosting a bright smile filled with warmth. “Hi Starry! My name is Violet Ember, it’s lovely to meet you.” She quickly moved to the side to reveal the other mare sitting down on the other side of the table, a red-coated mare in a rich black dress who gave a small wave as Violet gestured towards her. “And this is my friend, Silver’s date, Ribbon Twirl.”

Starry resumed his awkward smile, moving to the side of the table that Silver was not sitting at himself. “Nice to meet you both,” he quickly added as he sat down quickly. Violet giggled as she took her seat opposite and leaned towards Starry.

“So!” she started excitedly once Starry was seated, looking quite uncomfortable. “Tell me about yourself Starry, what do you?”

Starry silently gulped, thinking long and hard. ‘What do I do? How do I not know this!’ “Uhhh…” Suddenly he looked down and noticed the guard uniform he was wearing. “Oh! I’m a uniform... — a guard!” He quickly corrected himself, his heartbeat rising as he looked on to see if his date had noticed.

She smiled, either not noticing or caring about the nervous guard’s slip up. “Oh, totally, of course, matching dress gear, I could have guessed.” Violet pretended to slap her hoof to her head. “Well, that’s great! Guard work, wow… is it really hard?”

Starry rubbed the back of his head as he slowly got more comfortable with the conversation. “I mean, n-not really. Once you g… get the marching and the standing still, there isn’t much else to it. Just a bunch of formal work.”

“Huh, and that’s like a long-term thing?” she asked, pouring some water from the jug on the table. “Water?” She held up the jug in her hoof.

Starry quickly waved his hoof. “No thanks… and to answer your question… well, no. I am working on being an… an author,” he finished as she began drinking from the glass, yet as soon as he finished, her eyes lit up. Immediately after getting through her mouthful, she put her glass down.

“Really? That’s amazing!” she added.

Quickly he managed to take back the conversation before Violet dug more into his work. “And what do you do?” he asked, rubbing his hooves together under the table.

“Oh, of course! I’m a gem cutter, I cut gems to fit into jewellery.” She took another sip of water as the waiter glided over to their table, smiling a smile far too large for where he was, a notepad in his aura.

“Good evening, everypony! How are we doing? Would you like me to take your order?” he shot off in quick succession.

“Oh!” Starry quickly lifted up his menu and panicked as he realised he hadn’t even paid attention to his order yet.

“Five minutes? Sorry, we haven’t even looked,” Silver piped up, making Starry sigh with relief. Hiding behind the large menu, he looked across to Silver, who gave him a small wink.

“Of course, I’ll be back soon,” the stallion replied, leaving the double date to decide.

The two pairs sat in brief silence while their eyes scanned the menu clearly designed for someone on a date.

“Caprese salad, garden salad, caesar salad, quinoa salad, pumpkin salad… What is with all the salads?” Silver slapped his menu down. “Well I for one am going to get a club because I actually want to walk away full.”

Both Violet and Starry placed their menus on the table, looking at them with growing intensity.

“Hmmm,” both said at the same time as they looked at the menu options. Starry and Violet looked up at each other, Starry quick to add a nervous chuckle.

“Look at that, first date and we are already in sync,” she giggled back, looking into Starry’s eyes. Both sat there, locked in each other’s eyes. Starry’s mind went blank as he tried to look away. Violet finally gave him a warm smile and turned back to her own menu, leaving a slightly in shock guard across the table staring into empty space.

Finally snapping out of his trance and quickly looked back down, “I-I might get the Caprese salad,” he stuttered out, clumsily folding his menu.

“I kinda like that idea.” Violet looked back up to the salad section, closing her menu with much more confidence. “I think I might do the same,”

It didn’t take long for the waiter to come over and take their order. One round of drinks and a table bread later, and the date was in full swing. All throughout the bread, Starry and Violet exchanged conversation, Starry getting more uncomfortable by the minute. Glancing over Silver’s direction every minute or so, it seemed as if him and Ribbon were hitting it off. Starry felt a slight pang in his chest every time she smiled in Silver’s direction. Yet, after a few minutes of half paying attention to his friend’s date, Starry noticed his friend’s smile faltering every now and again. It was subtle, but evident.

The main course came around, and Starry was slowly feeling confidence return as he began to start dinner. Violet seemed to be enjoying herself, and Silver was having a good time. He should have been feeling good, like he was having a fun time, but he didn’t feel invested. He started to feel anger well in his chest. Anger he didn’t know how to direct. He could feel the room warming up. Suddenly, everything was uncomfortable and he was getting a headache, the heat in the room rising more, making him feel as if his clothes were clinging to him. He wanted to tear them off, to scream, to run, to just do anything except be in that room. Violet had said something to him, but it went completely through him. Breathing was getting more difficult, as if a boulder was pressed onto his chest, his anger rising. :ifting the fork to his mouth, he noticed he had bent it slightly.

“Starry?” Silver nudged him in a distant world, but he didn’t reply. He could hear it, but he couldn’t at the same time. Standing up abruptly, he managed to briefly return to reality. “Excuse me for a moment.”

Starry started walking towards the exit. Not thinking, he knocked into a waiter, knocking her off balance as she was taking a table’s order. He barely felt her as he pushed past, slamming his body into the glass door and galloping into an alley next to the restaurant. Tears streamed from Starry’s eyes as he ripped off his uniform and threw it to the ground angrily. He wanted to scream, to run, to do anything except be where he was right now. He punched the wall of the restaurant in anger, turning around and sliding down it with his back. Sitting down, he wiped his eyes angrily, taking deep breaths as he sat in the alley.

Slowly he managed to come to his senses, and eventually he just sat there, barely noticing the world move around him. What seemed like minutes passed and he eventually, managed to see past his nose, reality coming back to him. Yet, the anger still lingered. Shortly after coming to, he noticed a thud next to him. As he looked to the ground, he tilted his head in confusion.

“Th… what?” He picked it up, brushing the alley’s dirt off of it. Looking at it he only got more confused. On the front, in his hoof writing, sat the title. Wiping his eyes to  look at the words, his pupils shrank.

“Poetry Book…” he whispered. His poetry book, being slapped next to him in the alleyway. Looking up he finally noticed something come out of the shadows.

Suddenly there were more somethings, surrounding him in the alley’s shadows. Movement flashed before his eyes as the somethings came rushing towards him. Starry quickly threw his hooves up to block whatever was approaching. However, his face remained unscathed. He felt something pulling on his mane as he was yanked to his hooves and held up against the wall. Pulling his hooves away from his face, Starry could make out the face of a stallion shoving him against the wall. With him stood three others, something he could see even with his vision getting blurry as the back of his head was shoved against the wall. Pain shot through his head and neck as he tried desperately to wiggle free. Once his vision began returning, he could make out one of the figures firmly holding his poetry book.

Starry could only hear dull ringing for the first few seconds, not being able to pick up what the four were saying to each other. Yet,the ringleader put his mouth close to Starry’s ear, sending a chill down his neck, what he said next making the guard’s blood run cold.

“How’s the date going, Colt Cuddler.”