Stay Seventeen

by nagoluckywriting

The Times We Felt Alive

She unfurled the parchment, hand-delivered by a gray mail courier. Photo Finish had taken many photos for Royalty, a tabloid centered on Canterlot's elite. The opportunity to do so excited her, always. Amongst the curls of painstaking calligraphy, she noticed his name.

Prince Blueblood.

From behind her, an intern scoffed. Then she said, "Do I like, have to help you with this one?" Photo didn't blame her. Not one bit. Blueblood was, for lack of a better word, a prick. A selfish stallion whose charming personality fell victim to the highbrow culture of royalty. But no, the intern's help was needed.

"Yes. I require your assistance."

Photo set the scroll on a cluttered desk, bits of wood surface peeking from behind countless sticky notes and photographs. She had photographed countless photos throughout her career. Kept some of her favorites. One square in her hoof. A photo of Coloratura in Ponyville. No makeup. No fancy outfit. Just her and the piano. A natural state of being.

Another square, creased in the bottom left corner. A yellow mare with a pink mane. Fluttershy rejected the allure of modeling, which was a shame. There was something deeply alluring about her teal eyes, her kind aura.

Then, her favorite. One of the first she considered worthy of keeping. It was a photograph, but so much more. Four sides of a square were not enough to contain the emotions brought about by the orange sunset, pink sky, from atop that hill outside of Ponyville.

Her brief period of reverie was over. She turned her attention to the blue sticky note. Then to the black camera bag in the corner of her office, then sighed. A knock on her office door. "Come in," she said.

The intern stood in the doorway. "I brought you coffee. Black coffee. I still don't understand how you drink without cream and sugar but like, whatever." Photo approached her. Took the paper cup, hot in her hoof.


Photo Finish stood outside her offices in Canterlot, intern beside her. The camera bag draped over the intern's mint green shoulders loosely as the two of them travelled to Prince Blueblood's estate.

The gleaming black gates loomed before them, shutting out undesired visitors. Photo tapped a button on the metal buzzer. "This is Photo Finish. My intern and I are here for the Royalty photo shoot."

"Intern's name?"

"Minty Chip," said the mint-green mare. She rolled her eyes.

"Of course," the voice over the intercom began. "Prince Blueblood is not here right now. He had prior obligations. Please do come inside while we await his arrival." Minty rolled her eyes. Again. The gates opened.

"Like, where do you think he is?" Minty asked Photo Finish.

"Don't know. Don't care."

Together, they entered the estate. Prince Blueblood was a jerk, no doubt, but the two mares couldn't help but marvel at the beauty of the grounds that surrounded them. Every blade of grass was trimmed to precisely the same length. Hedges were spaced evenly along the path to the main building, each one a perfect cube. Within the circular path outside of the main building, a statue of a stallion in shiny marble. Minty reached for the camera in the bag. "This is incredible!" she exclaimed.

The doors opened, and a blue mare stood beneath the entrance of the colossal building. Quickly, Minty placed the camera back into the bag, then turned her head to one side, then the other. The mare waved at them, her magenta mane bobbing. Their steps were slow, measured. They reached the steps, then the mare said, "I can't believe you're here! One of the most famous photographers in Equestria!" Up close, Photo could see that the mare was young. "I'm Blue, by the way, Blue Berry officially, but you can call me Blue." She reached out a hoof, which Photo shook gently, before scanning the inside of the building.

"So where's Prince Blueblood?" Minty asked.

"My special somepony? He went out to lunch with some of his pals." Photo and Minty looked at each other, eyes wide.

"So... how long have you like, been together?"

"A few moons. Doesn't feel like it though. He's gone all the time."

What a surprise, thought Photo Finish.

"Please, come in." Blue gestured inside, and they entered. The interior of the building was just as marvelous as the exterior. Photo, who had been many places, from the dingiest shacks to the most extravagant palaces, was impressed. The floor was polished marble, the walls trimmed with gold.

"Even I'd go out with Blueblood if it meant I got to live in a place like this," joked Minty.

"As extravagant as it is, it's lonely without him here." Blue sighed. "I miss him already."

How old are you? Seventeen? wondered Photo Finish, refraining from asking the question aloud.

They walked through a hallway lined with portraits of stallions done in oil. A smirk united all of them, a smirk that was intimately familiar, deceptively attractive to Photo Finish. The last portrait, the largest, was of Blueblood himself. It towered over the mares, spanning nearly the entire wall, from floor to ceiling. His chin was angled upwards so that his eyes looked down on those who viewed the portrait.

"Looks just like a photo, right?" said Blue. Photo shifted. How long had she been staring at the portrait? "I know. The first time I saw it, I stood there a while too. I mean, look at the fur! The light! Beautifully rendered." Blue turned, then said, "The room Blueblood wanted to shoot in is this way."

Minty bent over to whisper in Photo's ear. "Don't you usually choose where to shoot or whatever?"

"Yes," replied Photo Finish. What a jerk.

They continued onwards, through a lush outdoor garden, before arriving at a small chapel. Trotting inside, Photo cringed at the dim light and unappealing stained glass. Taking photos here would be terrible, no doubt.

The dark room was made even darker by the appearance of a shadow in the doorway. The mares turned around to see Prince Blueblood, closely followed by a servant. "Good afternoon, ladies." He winked. Gross. He turned to Photo Finish. "It's quite an honor to have you here, taking photos of me for Royalty magazine." Looking around the room, he said, "I chose this room for its ambience. Pretty good, don't you think?"

"It's much too dark," said Photo Finish.

"I beg your pardon?"

"The room. It's too dark. The photos must be taken somewhere else."

The white stallion frowned. Stared at the stained glass windows for a moment, his face reflecting colorful light. "I'm sorry. Whose photos are you taking? That's right. Mine. I insist that you take them here."

What a jerk, thought Photo Finish. Minty rolled her eyes for the umpteenth time.

Blue approached her special somepony and spoke softly. "Listen, you are one of the most handsome stallions, maybe ever. How are people going to see that in this dark room?"

"My looks are so good that they shine. But... I guess what you say is true." Blueblood turned to Photo Finish. "I've had a change of heart. This room is much to dark to bring out my good looks, wouldn't you agree?" Photo stared at him through her reflective glasses. "Let's move to the garden just outside. I'm sure there will be enough light there." He promptly trotted out of the small chapel, failing yet again to obtain Photo Finish's professional opinion.

Outside, in the garden, the light certainly was better, and Photo could get a good look at Prince Blueblood. She could see now that the portrait she viewed earlier was unbelievably accurate. His eyes, blue like the ocean, were captivating and elegant. His blond mane shimmered in the gentle breeze. It was such a shame, then, that his good looks were marred by an ugly personality.

Does he even recognize me? Photo asked herself. Prince Blueblood began to pose, even though nothing was set up, not even the tripod. Minty dug a hoof into the camera bag and removed it.

"So Photo Finish, who else have you photographed? Nopony so handsome as me, I hope." Blueblood laughed, still posing for an invisible camera.

Photo sighed. It was not often that she engaged in photo shoots unrelated to fashion. The scroll she received mentioned that nearly every other photographer was "on holiday", and that she would, upon delivering the photos, receive double her normal rate. "Have you seen Rarity? I assume you have, what with fashion being a main interest of yours. How can you interact with such a bitch?" It almost wasn't worth it. Almost.

"Can you like, not be rude or whatever for one second? I'm trying to set up the camera here," said Minty.

"It's true though. She forced me to eat—" He shuddered. "—commoner food. She also shook cake all over me! And right after I groomed! Can you believe it?"

Yes. thought Photo Finish.

"It's okay. I'll never make you eat carnival food. Or dirty your groomed body. Unless you want me to," Blue said in a sultry voice.

"Oh-kay," Photo Finish said with emphasis, then cleared her throat. "Stop talking. Please. A master needs silence to capture you and your natural beauty."

"Are you serious? You think that's natural?" said Minty. "I'm like, an avid tabloid reader. I know what's natural, and that—" She gestured to Prince Blueblood. "—is not natural."

"Stand over there to help me position him, Minty." Reluctantly, Minty moved closer to the hedge, closer to Prince Blueblood. With Minty near the stallion, Photo finish began to issue directions. "Little to the left."

When Prince Blueblood was in a satisfactory position, Photo Finish looked through the viewfinder of the expensive camera to ensure that the lighting conditions and pose were undoubtedly desirable. To do so, she had to remove her trademark glasses, revealing eyes of deep purple. Through the glass, she could see Prince Blueblood. What was with his expression?

"You were smiling just a moment ago," she said. He stood still, looking at her quizzically. Her glasses were still perched upon her forehead.

Blueblood shook his head and muttered, "No. It can't be." Then his gaze returned to her, her amethyst purple eyes. "You and I... we went to camp together, right?"

This was about to get incredibly awkward.