Canterlot still had snow in April, and Cadance still had yet to get used to that. There was nopony to teach her how to look at the little things the city had to offer without new eyes, and while she wasn’t sure her excitement over living in the grand citadel would ever dim, there was always a longing to feel less like a stranger. She didn’t have Princess Celestia to instruct her on the breezie tale details of her new world, because to Princess Celestia, this was normal. Cadance only had the chill and crunch of fresh snow soaking into her coat biting into her with its message: stay inside!
So that was what she did. Cadance had cantered out of castle etiquette lessons with only a light cardigan (cute blue to match her bows) and into the city in search of a good way to spend a few hours of break time. She had not considered that the choice was ill-suited to the weather until enough feeling returned to her hooves and shoot up to her chattering teeth.
She also had not considered that some friends were better to be cooped up with others. Taking the first warm airship to the next mountain over from Canterhorn to the Blueblood estate would not provide the boredom relief she had in mind when she left Canterlot proper.
“Mud,” Blueblood muttered behind her, the pacing of his hooves on marble clear and prominent. “Only you would think to be tracking mud into my grand foyer on the maids’ off days.”
Cadance knew he was pacing before she turned around; the Blueblood heir was always pacing. Blueblood was a tempest, muttering and huffing about one of his mini-castle’s (manor was too small and boring for Blueblood’s house, as they had both agreed) many parlors. The shimmer from half a dozen gold trinkets cast highlights in his mane. Cadance dared not to mention their crookedness.
“Sorry, Blue. Next time I come over, I promise I’ll-”
“-wipe your hooves exactly fourteen times before even thinking of stepping off the mat? Why thank you, your consideration has been noted.”
There was an exasperated, nasal sigh to punctuate Blueblood’s words. Most ponies would be bothered by that kind of tone, but Cadance knew he didn’t mean anything wrong by it. She cracked a bright smile in his direction, twirling her ponytail around a forehoof and letting the curls bounce.
“Of course, Bluesy.”
Blueblood took in a breath like a stallion who had been kicked swiftly in the gut. “I humbly beg you in the name of all that is sacred, never call me that again.”
“Or else what, Blue? You gonna call your lawyers on me?”
In response, Blueblood made the exact same disapproving clucking noise Celestia did to express disapproval. “Lawyer. Only one lawyer is summoned against friends.”
Cadance snickered. “Gods, how merciful of you.”
“I am nothing if not merciful, even to those who try and do ill to the family name with such cursed attempts at endearment.”
“Hey!” Cadance protested, her wings flared to exaggerate the gesture. “It’s not that bad! Haven’t you been called worse?”
“Oh certainly,” Blueblood retorted quickly, his tone faintly sour. “Do I need to bring up the ‘Blue Cheese’ incident again?”
“Dunno,” Cadance singsonged, trying to hide her growing grin with a forehoof. “Maybe~?”
The pacing duke halted his motion to offer a theatrical sigh. “Cadance, I have absolutely no idea what I’m supposed to do with you sometimes.”
“We should make a snowpony!” Cadance cheered, pulling away from the cushy snow-dampened window alcove. She ignored how Blueblood winced when she disturbed the highly specific cushion arrangement. “That’s what you and I should do!”
“Absolutely not,” Blueblood insisted, tugging at his scarf with his magic to undo the perfect, even knot. “I think there shall be no more messes today.”
“Aww, c’mon, Blue. That’s not even a maybe.”
Unfortunately, Blueblood was caught up in a plight of his own, looking at something behind Cadance. “Goodness me, I think you’ve already gone and smudged the window too.”
“Nuh-uh. I swear I wasn’t touching it this time, too. I promise on the names of all the gods and stars.”
“Is that so?” came Blueblood’s tone of disbelief. The young stallion’s voice was filled with all the chilling skepticism of a mother doubting why her prized vase was broken. “Then why do I see a smudge exactly three-quarters of an inch from where you insisted your breath wasn’t fogging up the whole thing five minutes ago, hm?”
“If we were outside building a snowpony, there would be zero reasons for this to be an issue. Plus, who else will build a snowpony with me, Blue? The guards?”
“Of course not; they aren’t hired to build snowponies. Have you tried asking the little moody little phoenix of the castle to play with you?”
Cadance puffed up her cheeks in a pout, the tween’s last baby fat working with all they had left. “Philomena is just gonna make the snow melt away!”
“I was talking about Sunset Shimmer, young lady.”
“Sunny isn’t very nice to me,” Cadance mumbled, dragging a forehoof along the carpet — much to Blueblood’s distress — and pouting more.
“Sunset Shimmer isn’t nice to anypony. Why didn’t you go bug Auntie about this?”
“I didn’t know it was going to snow today! Also, she has a court to run. Do you really think she would rather be building snowponies with me?”
“Maybe?” Blueblood offered weakly.
“Well, did she ever build snowponies with you when you were a foal?” Cadance blinked innocently up at Blueblood, half in genuine curiosity and the other half of her emotions already guessing at the answer and waiting to spring a ‘gotcha’ on her friend.
“Of course not, but that’s not the point. I do not think there is even enough snow to build snowponies.”
Cadance squealed, hopping in place and fluttering her wings. “We won’t know unless we go outside, you dingus!”
“Dingus?” muttered Blueblood, ruffling his mane in confusion. “Alright, regardless of whatever this ‘dingus’ is that you speak of, we are not going outside. That is final, young lady.”
“Blue.” Cadance rolled her eyes. “You’re starting to sound like the princess.”
“And for good reason, I would hope. It’s very chilly outside-”
“Lemme borrow a jacket. We can use some crazy warm lazer spells or something-”
“Lazer spells are absolutely forbidden!” Blueblood crowed, puffing out his chest and sternly fixing his eyes on Cadance. Their clear blue color was flooded with authority and force to match the firmness in his tone. “With all the magical mishaps you and your new horn have brought to this estate, I hereby ban any further mentions and thought of silly ‘lazer spells’ from this fine, ancient home.”
“My horn isn’t that new,” Cadance replied, swishing her tail and casting a quick glance at the window. “At least, not anymore…”
“My ship isn’t going to be able to get back to Canterlot with the weather, and if she can’t do that then we simply will not be going outside.”
Blueblood’s ears perked up when he received no retort from Cadance, and he took the time to neatly arrange his scarf upon another alcove’s seat.
Cadance blinked, watching Blueblood.
Blueblood cleared his throat, watching Cadance.
“Blue, are you sure there’s no other reason you want to stay inside?” Cadance lifted an eyebrow, bearing a smile and unable to contain some giggles.
“Absolutely none at all!” Blueblood insisted, and all too unconvincingly for Cadance. She saw how his face flooded with a red flush underneath his white coat and the way his muzzle crinkled so obviously. His ever-so-slight disdainful sniff was not helping his adamant insistence that everything was peachy keen.
“Uh-huh.” Cadance blinked. “Is this going to be about the outside having germs or something like that again?”
Blueblood went bone-pale quicker than a Wonderbolt winning a race against a snail. “Erm. The outside always has germs.” He winced noticeably. “And dirt, bugbears, and hydras.” Blueblood shuddered. “Your insistence we make mischief in this horrid weather could make us sick! What if you get the feather flu?”
“You don’t have wings, Blue.”
“Gracious me, what if I chip my hooficure? Or we get frostbite?”
“Let me guess, next up on the ten worst pony plagues we can get by playing outside is ginger vitalis?”
“Gingivitis,” Blueblood corrected swiftly, running a forehoof through his mane in exasperation. “And no, you don’t get that by going outside. At least, I should hope not. Now shush, I can’t hear myself think.”
“Did somepony say something mean again?”
With one long sigh, Blueblood blew the mussed strands of mane out of his eyes. “Maybe.”
“Maybe?” Cadance asked, her eyebrow raised once again as she patiently waited for the rest to follow.
“I had plans.”
“Aaaaand? Care to share what those plans were?”
Blueblood had only a tired, weary look to offer her. “You won’t let any of this go, will you?”
“Spill! Those! Beans!” chanted Cadance, wide-eyed and giggly. Her mane and tail bobbed and flopped with each jump to accompany her words.
Rolling his eyes, Blueblood strutted over to an ornate chair nearby. He made the biggest possible show of relenting, with all his exaggerated flustering and dramatics. At last, he seated himself in one of the parlor’s ornate chairs, sinking into the plush cushions in an eerily proper way.
“Heavens only know the lengths I must go to in order to discourage you from freezing to death. Now, where should I start?”
“The beginning!” cheered Cadance. She hopped up, fluttered momentarily, and flopped back into the cozy nook where she had been and with none of the elegance Blueblood possessed. His look of abject horror when she nearly grazed a jeweled chandelier was lost to Cadance’s carefree ruckus.
“At least try not to crumple any of the doilies and seat-cozies. If you think that I can’t stand them rumpled, then you know the staff can’t stand them rumpled either.”
“Gotcha!” Cadance tugged one of the neat silk doilies draped over the window seat’s pillow back into what she thought was its proper place. Only the beads of sweat that trickled down Blueblood’s temple showed her that she had chosen her movements carelessly.
“Jeez, Blue. It doesn’t look that bad, right?”
“...I-I suppose your readjustment isn’t a complete travesty.”
“Hey!” Cadance harrumphed, crossing her forelegs to her chest and trying to summon up a shred of propper moodiness into her pout. “At least I didn’t mess with your mom’s birdbath again.”
“Torching my dear mother’s birdbath with a surge is not the same as messing with it. That had been in the family for centuries.”
“Ugh,” Cadance groaned into a pillow she promptly buried her face in. “Are you going to remind me for centuries too?”
“If your lifespan is going to be anything like Auntie’s is and I am blessed with anything past two centuries, then I will gladly remind you, your future husband, and foals of every past embarrassment. If I am to be the villain known as ‘that cousin’, then it is a mantle I shall bear with dignity.”
“Blue, any more droning on like that and I’m gonna throw a pillow at you.”
“No, you will not. I expect my rule of ‘Little Miss Mi Amore Cadenza will not cast spells because she is an untrained hellion’ to be obeyed regardless of any special circumstances.”
“Laws are not fair, they are just. Now, do you want to be snowed in with a story or without one?”
“Definitely with a story. I’m so bored I think my brain will melt right out of my ears. Oh, and I’m pretty sure the princess would disagree with you on the law thing.”
“She’ll only disagree with me if you tell her that, you know. Well, if it does, then don’t get any on the carpet. I certainly won’t be the one to clean it up if you do that.”
Blueblood tutted and tucked a strand of his mane behind his ear with a shimmer of magic. His hooves were folded nearly in front of him, and he kept his posture impeccable. Meanwhile, Cadance lounged with all the poise of a boneless snake.
(The duke retained his duty as a gentlecolt not to comment on how her ponytail was getting in her mouth.)
“I suppose you’re getting just a bit too old for ‘once upon a time’ beginnings?”
“Blue, I’m fourteen. Nopony is ever too old for ‘once upon a time’. At least, not unless you skip out on all the jokes.”
“My, my, we’re certainly demanding today.”
“Ahem. Once upon a time in the magical land of Equestria, there was a duke who found himself heir to a very, very important family in the gentry. His first name, we shall leave secret, as secret as, ah, some other parts of his identity.”
“And if he just told his princess aunt what she probably already guessed, he’d totally, one-hundred percent be no less appreciated and loved as her nephew.”
Blueblood paused abruptly, only starting up the story again when the silence between Cadance’s interruption and his odd dip into serious grew too big. “Anyway, this extremely handsome stallion was dreadfully single.”
“Oh no!” Cadance hugged a pillow to her stomach and gasped so that even Blueblood was hard-pressed to call it fake. “Whatever did this mysterious duke do?”
“Well… he had met a stallion earlier that week-”
“AND HE DIDN’T TELL ME?!”
“-and agreed to go on an afternoon stroll with him-”
“OH MY GODS AND STARS YOU AGREED TO A STROLL LIKE IN A MESSY, UNCONTROLLED PARK AND STUFF-”
“In Auntie’s name, please don’t remind me.”
“AND YOU DIDN’T ASK FOR MY HELP?!”
“...the outing with the duke and his admirer was not to be.”
“Oh no, no, no!” cried Cadance. “You didn’t get stood up, did you?”
Blueblood’s posture threatened to fall. “The duke wasn’t the one who got stood up.”
“Blue…” Cadance whispered, her purple eyes already damp-looking. “You didn’t break this stallion’s heart, did you? Please tell me you at least sent a card! A dragonfire scroll! Something!”
“...Cadance, you know how these things always go. I did no such thing.”
“Can we make this story end better?”
Blueblood bit his lip.
“That’s better than a ‘no’.” Cadance sat up and tried to smile.
From where he was sulking, Blueblood watched Cadance rub her eyes. They weren’t dry. Every time he had a story like this to share, they were never dry. He tried to make a suitable distraction from discomfort in the form of fiddling with a pocket watch discarded on a table nearby, only for Cadance to speak up again.
“Was it just because you were embarrassed?”
“Mmm,” Blueblood hummed absently, his lips never parting, as though they were stitched up with secrets.
“C’mon, Blue. Don’t give me that noncommittal stuff. You’re starting to sound like the princess.”
“...I wish I would have figured that out sooner, but his claims of being a six out of ten were completely and utterly unfounded. He hardly had any idea about how to properly part his mane. I think he had lemon-lime breath mints instead of mint. He tried to touch my mane instead of just ask what products I used! All of it was completely unacceptable!”
“Blue… maybe just… tell ponies?”
“You know I can’t do that. Cadance, you know what my mother is like.”
Cadance’s hoof toyed with the pillowcase tassels. There was a sudden glumness to her that filled the room with a sense of wrong. “I wish there weren’t creatures like her. Why is your dad with somepony who thinks those kinds of things still? Even though he knows about you, Blue.”
Blueblood shrugged helplessly.
“Don’t you wish she was different?”
“She’s my mother, Cady. I don’t know if I could ever wish anything about her to be otherwise.”
“Well, I do. Now how are things going to go from here? What is the totally anonymous duke going to do?”
“...I might have a letter to write.”
“It’s… difficult, Cadance. I’m considering misplacing all my quills to make it even more difficult. Why, at this point that is the only thing that would make this easier for me.”
“Blue, if you do that you bet I’m going to replace all your quills with a bunch of fountain pens.”
“You wouldn’t dare!” Blueblood’s gasp was one of authentic terror this time.
“Leaky ones,” Cadance pressed.
Blueblood hummed, the sound came out flat and impatient. “I’m different… so, so very different from you. When you find a coltfriend here, you’ll start to notice that. Nopony will make a peep about him being what he is, or at least I can’t imagine anypony doing so. A few bad apples spoil the whole sparkling cider — isn’t that how you countryfolk say things?”
“However you yokels have your phrase, it’s true, alright? No matter how few such creatures may be, I never want to have to hear such awful things said. Not about me, and certainly not another stallion who might be better off being anything but a horseshoe nail sticking out and ready to make us both stumble.”
“Oh Blue, love isn’t supposed to be like that!”
“I don’t care if Auntie says you’re some sort of paragon of love, Cady. You’re still just a teenager.”
“Yeah?” Cadance laid both her ears to the side, ignoring a curl that fell in front of your face. “Well, you’re just a big ol’ brooding grumpy-grump and we are going to find you a coltfriend if it’s the last thing I do.”
“Ah, yes. That doesn’t sound hopeless at all.”
“The only hopeless you’re allowed to be from now on is a hopeless romantic!” Cadance declared, rubbing her forehooves together mischievously. “Now, let’s work on finding you a secret coltfriend! Isn’t that just the best idea? Nopony will say anything bad about you if your coltfriend understands. Maybe you’ll even be his secret coltfriend too!”
“Ah-hah. What exactly makes you think this will work? Do you even know anything about dating as a stallion? Or how the plenty of sirens in the sea drivel doesn’t work when you have fewer sirens to begin with by nature's own doing? Because I don’t have sirens, I have stallions! And do you know how many stallions like stallions?”
“Probably tons if you actually bothered to go outside and find out.”
“For the last time, we are not going outside!” Blueblood’s eye twitched and he flailed his forehooves about for an attempt at serious emphasis. “You are straighter than that ghastly immortal trend of socks, sandals, and hideous cargo shorts! Or uncookable, unbreakable spaghetti! We have nothing in common that could possibly make you a good matchmaker, and I do not care if you have a heart on your hiney!”
“We’re both friends, Blue. That counts as something in common, and I’m not going to let any of my friends down.”
“Cadance, I know you mean well you dear, innocent soul-”
“Hey, hey, hey! Enough of that negative thinking! I’m not innocent! Back home, I kissed a colt once! On the lips! I also know how taxes work and how to befriend witches.”
“Oh joy, once my mother finds out about this ‘secret coltfriend’ nonsense you can befriend her and I’ll have you as my secretary for the rest of my disgraced life. Hearing that truly warms my heart.”
“Blue, could you think some happy thoughts for a change? I know that things might not be the best, but isn’t jumping into acting like this is the worst life in all of Equestria to have is only going to make it feel like that.”
Blueblood only gave another shrug.
“I promise I know what I’m doing!”
“And really, how do you know that?”
“Neither of us likes fillies. Duh!”
Blueblood cringed. “Mares, Cadance. In my case it would be mares.”
“Okay, but just think of the whole thing like a sandwich. We’re absolutely like peanut butter and jelly; our perspectives will work together, just from different angles!”
“Peanut butter and jelly sandwiches are a messy abomination — and your metaphor didn’t make that much sense.”
“Alright, alright, then forget that! Forget all the metaphors! We don’t have to be a sandwich!”
“Good. Sandwiches are common food.”
“Blue, do you want a coltfriend or not? There’s still a lot of possible Mister Rights that could be out there, and unless we go outside how are you ever going to meet them?”
“By not meeting them, Cady. By staying inside.”
“Mister Right can always be a friend, you know. Wouldn’t that be better than always going through these things alone?”
“How alone am I when you’re here?” said Blueblood with a tired sigh.
“That’s the spirit!” Cadance cried happily, excitedly leaping up from her nook and throwing her forehooves around his neck in a strangling hug. “I super-duper promise on my magic we will find you the best secret coltfriend ever!”
Blueblood gagged spectacularly, prying off the filly’s tackle hug and then frantically patting his mane back into place. “Goodness, is there anything else you demand from me? Snowponies and cocoa? Let me guess, you’ll want those dastardly asymmetrical marshmallows in it too?”
“LET ME BE YOUR BEST MARE FOR THE WEDDING!”
“Hooray!” Cadance jumped up, her feathers flapping with a joyful rustle. “I love you too, Blue!”
“Bleh. ‘No hetero’ — is that how foals your age still talk? If so, I am fond of your company as well too, Cady. Still, it must be said: no hetero.” Blueblood pretended to wipe dust off his withers.
“Not quite,” Cadance chirped. “No hetero all the way, though.”