"Do I have a dress coat?" asked Blueblood, trotting around the center of the campsite. "I didn't realize that we were supposed to bring dress clothes. Why are you asking, anyways?"
"I mean, I just think it'd be funny, y'know, to dress up a little for this party," said Photo Finish. The glasses her mom had given her were perched atop her white mane.
Oh no, Photo thought to herself.
Berryshine's party was going to take place later that night. Photo received a sheet of parchment with specific directions. If camp counselors found out about the party, Berryshine would surely get kicked out of camp.
"But don't worry about it," she'd said with a wink last night. "I'm experienced."
The parchment instructed those who were invited, which was nearly everypony, except for Blueblood, apparently, to meet at the abandoned windmill about a mile north of the campgrounds.
Blueblood stared at Photo Finish intently.
"You mean, you didn't get an invitation?" said Photo. Maybe he was joking. Blueblood was a pony that was difficult to read, after all.
"No." Blueblood stood still for a moment, then said, "Of course. How cliché. I'm not invited to a party and a great amount of drama ensues." He approaches Photo Finish. "Here's what we're going to do. I'm going to go with you to this party and show everypony that I'm more than my royal status. No drama required."
Photo wanted to say that that was a terrible plan. She knew Berryshine and other ponies would not be happy about Blueblood's attendance. But she imagined what the party would be like without him. Before she could give it more thought, the words "That sounds great," escaped her lips through a wide grin.
Blueblood pushed Photo's side with his hoof, a wide grin on his face as well.
Were they... friends? Photo still wanted to dislike him, but she wasn't so sure that she could anymore, because beneath the snobbishness of royalty, there was a pony who was funny, who was caring. Other ponies at camp didn't like him because he hadn't been vulnerable with them as he had with Photo Finish. If Blueblood was himself around them, Photo had no doubt that they would enjoy his company. The thoughts rolled through Photo's head, and slowly, an idea of her own began to form.
"I'll see you tonight then," Blueblood said as he headed towards his cabin on the side opposite Photo's.
Once inside her room, the sweet smell of wine hit her. A bottle sat uncorked on the nightstand beside Berryshine's bed. A purple hoof extended the bottle towards her.
"No thanks, I'm good," said Photo. "You aren't... drunk already, are you?"
"Me? Nah. Takes way more than a few sips for me to even get buzzed," replied Berryshine lazily. "I'm just tasting it." She sat up. "To make sure it's good, y'know?"
"Uh huh," said Photo as she sat down on her own bed. "How many ponies are invited tonight, by the way?"
"Almost everypony at this camp." Photo couldn't help but notice that Berryshine lingered on the word almost.
"Why not just invite everypony then? Everypony is going to know about it anyways."
"Like I said earlier, I'm experienced." Berry turned towards Photo Finish. "Do you doubt my ability to plan and throw an illicit party?" She said this with a mock royal accent. Photo knew immediately who Berryshine was making fun of. Berryshine laughed, then took another sip of wine.
"This wine is really good," said Berryshine. "Are you sure you don't want any?"
"Also, I see you're wearing those again," Berryshine pointed at the glasses. Photo forgot that she was wearing them. "I know I made fun of them earlier but they're actually kind of cool. It's like one of those trendy fashion items that I see in my mom's magazines."
"Thanks, I guess." To Photo, they were still obnoxiously large and odd looking, but she smiled at Berryshine's comment.
Photo looked at all of the booze under the bed, then looked at Berryshine. "How are you going to—"
"I have help. Never underestimate the power of female charm." She winked. Took another sip of wine. "And free alcohol."
There was a knock at the door. Berryshine welcomed in two stallions, both of whom were eagerly looking at the stash of alcohol in the room. "Promise there'll be plenty tonight," said Berryshine as she began to pass bottles to the stallions.
"I see you chose to wear the glasses anyways," said Blueblood.
Blanketed by darkness, many ponies made their way towards the "secret location" that was mentioned in the invitation. Photo and Blueblood stood on the edge of the campgrounds as ponies passed them.
"Where's your camera?" he asked. "It's rare to see you without it."
Photo instinctively touched a hoof to the place where her camera would be. She thought about bringing it to the party, but decided against it. She'd taken a lot of photos over the duration of the camp, and didn't want to risk losing them before she could get them developed. "I don't trust myself to hold on to it tonight," she said with a smile.
Blueblood smiled back. "But then you'll have nothing to remember the night by."
She laughed nervously. How often does Blueblood drink? she wondered to herself.
Blueblood cleared his throat. "Well then," he said, gesturing in the direction of the abandoned windmill. "Shall we?"
Together they trotted through the darkness, their hooves crunching branches and twigs. Photo thought she felt the slime of a few squashed bugs. If the mud bothered Blueblood, he wasn't complaining about it.
In fact, something about him seemed different. It was in the way he carried himself. Photo snuck a glance at him as he walked. He no longer donned the posture, the expression of the royal pony he was. He looked like any other stallion at the camp. Their eyes met, and Photo looked down at the ground.
"What? Surprised that I haven't uttered one word of complaint about this dirt yet?"
The two of them continued on in silence until they could see the windmill up ahead, atop a hill. Even from a distance, they could hear the shouts and laughter of merry ponies. Was that a trumpet being played?
"Remind me who planned this whole thing again?"
"Berryshine. She's my roommate."
"Wow," was all he said as he stared at the windmill.
"I know. It's impressive."
A pink mare with bushy hair streamed past them, one Photo didn't recognize. "LET'S PARTY!" the mare shouted, with so much energy that Photo could practically feel the fur of her coat stand on end.
Blueblood and Photo Finish followed her into the chaos that was unfolding at the base of the windmill. Berryshine stood in the middle of a crowd of ponies holding plastic cups. She and Golden Harvest were pouring drinks. Photo waved at them and the two beckoned her to push through the crowd.
"You made it!" said Berryshine. She glared at Blueblood. "And I see you've brought a friend with you too."
"Indeed she did." Blueblood stared right back into Berryshine's magenta eyes. "Give me Ponyville's finest."
"You... aren't going to ask for something from Canterlot? I didn't know royalty drank anything but 'the finest'."
"In the spirit of the event, I am more than willing to try whatever Ponyville ponies use to ah, how do you say it? Get sloshed?"
Berryshine cracked a smile. "Well then, I've got just the thing for you."
"Hurry up!" said a pony near them.
Plastic cups in hand, Photo and Blueblood wandered around the grassy hilltop watching ponies run around frantically. The pink mare they had seen earlier, who was obviously not one of the campers, had somehow procured a colossal cannon that other ponies were trying to prevent her from climbing into.
"How is it?" asked Photo.
"What?" Photo gestured towards the cup. "This? It's great, actually. Delicious." Blueblood sipped on his cider with the elegance exclusive to members of royalty. Photo stifled a giggle as she watched him take a drink.
Photo herself had a cup full of wine, produced by Berryshine's family. She expected it to taste bad, but it was actually sweet, and she kept returning her lips to the cup to drink.
Until there was nothing left in the cup. Photo stared at the white bottom, wishing that there was more.
Now that most ponies had their drinks, Golden Harvest moved away from the base of the windmill and mingled with others. Photo stopped her to ask a question that suddenly occurred to her.
"Won't the counselors realize that everypony is gone?" she asked Golden Harvest.
Golden Harvest just smiled. "We've go that covered, trust me." She then proceeded to tell Photo all about the elaborate lie she and Berryshine had concocted. Berryshine's family farm was not far from camp, and Berryshine pretended that her family needed after hours help preparing for the Summer Sun Celebration. It was true, to a degree. Her family worked in the fields all day, and producing the amount of wine necessary for the celebration was going to be a massive undertaking.
"And you can't do this during the day?" Joe had said.
"And interrupt the many awesome camp activities that you have planned?" Berryshine batted her eyelashes.
"Yeah, but still..."
"My family also works in the fields all day, so there would be no adults to supervise, and you wouldn't want that, would you?"
"I guess not..." Then Joe said, "I'm going to come with you, if that's okay. For additional supervision."
"What, am I not allowed to supervise? That is my job, after all."
"No, no. I just thought you'd relish the opportunity."
"When are you going to get the entire camp to yourself again? I know the camp master doesn't like it when your special somepony is here because she's a 'distraction', but if everypony is gone for a few hours, then it doesn't matter, does it?"
"That's... true. We haven't been able to spend much time together the past few weeks because I've been here watching all of you." Joe put a tan hoof to his chin, mulling over the prospect of a night alone at the campsite. "Okay. I'll go tell the camp master that some of our campers are going to help your family out."
Photo listened to the story intently. "What did the camp master say?" she asked.
"I guess he didn't question it," said Golden Harvest. "I mean, we're here, aren't we? Besides, I'm pretty sure he knows Berryshine's family."
"Wait," started Blueblood. He looked around, head turning to one side, then the other. "That story seems kind of ridiculous. There's no way that the camp supervisors would let everpony out of camp, at night no less."
"It's called trust." Golden Harvest looked at Blueblood. "And we're breaking it." She raised her eyebrows and took a large sip from her cup, her eyes never looking away from Blueblood. He could see the challenge in her eyes. Pushing past her, he headed towards Berryshine, towards another cup of cider.
"We're about to play games. Are you in?" Golden Harvest said, turning to Photo Finish.
"Sure." Photo replied, though she had no idea what game she would be playing. She followed Golden Harvest to a small group of ponies who sat in a circle, laughing. When Golden Harvest and Photo arrived, the ponies looked at them and smiled. Then they saw Blueblood.
Before the situation became too tense, Golden Harvest said, "'s cool, guys. He's with Photo Finish." Some of the ponies looked at each other nervously. Others laughed. Photo shuffled away from Blueblood before saying, "As friends, that is. Just friends."
"Uh huh," Golden Harvest looked at the two of them, then motioned for them to sit down. As they sat, Blueblood slid another cup her way without looking at her.
A pink mare with blue hair spoke up. "So Lotus, truth or dare?"
Blueblood groaned audibly, a groan that was quickly silenced when Photo elbowed him in the ribs. Blueblood leaned over to whisper in Photo's ear. "I can't believe ponies actually like this game."
Photo didn't reply as the took another sip of her drink and watched as Lotus lowered the white headband she normally wore so that it covered her eyes. She sighed, forced to remain blindfolded for the rest of the game. "This one's for Golden Harvest," she said. "Truth or dare?"
"I'll choose... truth." Photo heard the hesitation in Golden Harvest's voice.
"What's one thing that nobody knows about you?"
Golden Harvest was silent for a moment. "One thing... nobody knows about me? Uh..." Everypony was looking at her now, her eyes darting nervously. She sighed. "I like to write. I'm even in the process of writing my own novel."
"Well, what's it about?" said Lotus. "You can't just stop there!" There were murmurs of agreement from the ponies in the circle.
"It's about 'broadening your horizons', I guess. The main character goes on this life changing journey across Equestria, the one I wish I could take."
"What's stopping you?"
"Life. Responsibilities. That sort've thing."
"You do realize that we're all young, right?" said another pony, a gray stallion with a short purple mane. "We've got our whole lives ahead of us to do whatever it is that we want to do. Make friends. Travel. Write, which, by the way, is an awesome hobby. I would know." He flashes his cutie mark, a scroll and quill. Everypony cheered, then took a drink.
It was at this point that Photo realized the alcohol was beginning to have an effect on her. The ground was spinning and her head felt strange. A bit lighter than usual. Her attention turned to the glasses on her head, glasses that nopony had yet to mention. Perhaps they aren't all that strange after all, Photo thought.
"Blueblood." Blueblood, opened his eyes and turned to look at Golden Harvest. "I know you're bored or whatever because they play more exciting games in Canterlot—" Ponies giggled. "—but since you're here, truth or dare?"
"Dare." Blueblood said this without hesitation. Photo looked into Golden Harvest's green eyes, and felt a twinge of nervousness in her stomach wondering what was about to happen.
"I dare you—" she paused for dramatic effect. "—to kiss Photo Finish."
Photo imagined it. Imagined it for one second before shaking the thought from her head. He wasn't going to do it, right? She felt the touch of his hoof against hers. Slowly, he brought it up to his muzzle and kissed it gently before releasing it. It was a tender gesture that Photo had not anticipated.
"You didn't do it right," said a stallion on the other side of the circle. "We want a kiss on the lips, not that royalty garbage."
"I was dared to kiss her. Nobody said where or how."
Blueblood and Photo locked eyes, and Photo could see, could feel a hint of desire in them. A desire for more than just a kiss on the hoof.
There was a beat of silence, and everypony looked at Blueblood. "What? Why are you all looking at me?"
"You have to ask someone next, dude," said a stallion.
"Right, right, well then, I'll ask you. Truth or dare?"
The stallion scoffed. "Dare, obviously."
"I dare you to eat this bug." In his hoof, Blueblood held a slimy creature about an inch long. Completely unappetizing. The stallion looked at the bug, his expression full of regret, and reluctantly held out a gray hoof. Blueblood smirked as the stallion chewed on the bug, grimacing the entire time.
Breathing heavily, he said, "That was disgusting." He smiled. "But you gotta do what you gotta do, right?"
The game continued until ponies began to leave, be it out of boredom or drunkenness or a combination of both. The pink pony from earlier, however, had no intention of stopping. In the distance, Photo and Blueblood could see her jumping around and hear the music from whatever instrument it was she was playing. Neither of them could tell.
"So... you guys make out or what?" Berryshine approached them from behind. They looked at each other, startled, and quickly moved apart. "'s okay. Don't have to hide it from me," Berryshine slurred, wrapping a hoof around Photo's shoulder.
"We didn't 'make out'," Blueblood said, miming quotes with his hooves. "I didn't think that the missus wanted to."
Berryshine laughed. "The missus. That's funny." She sat down beside them. "Some party, huh? Ran out of booze like, an hour ago. Public booze, that is. I've still got my own stash."
I can tell, thought Photo. Her surroundings were still spinning and she felt a warmth in her stomach.
"Didja have a good time?" said Berryshine.
"Yeah." Photo and Blueblood replied in unison.
Berryshine smiled at them, then wandered off to wherever she was headed next. Looking up at the sky, watching it spin, Photo could feel the curvature of the earth. Blueblood brought her back to reality. "We should probably head back." He was right. It was pretty late, or at least it felt late to Photo.
In a sultry tone, Photo said, "Going to walk your 'missus' home tonight?" Blueblood blushed under the pale moonlight. "And how did you know that I didn't want to make out?"
Blueblood wrapped a hoof around Photo Finish's, white and blue intertwining. "Maybe I said that more for my sake than for yours."
"What do you mean?"
"It's funny, because we started this camp out as enemies, and now we're friends, I think." He paused. "I don't know. I'm just not quite sure how I feel about you, because after camp, what happens?"
"We can still talk. Come over to my place sometime!" She smiled. Blueblood didn't smile back.
"I thought I would hate it here, but honestly, you've made the entire experience worthwhile. When I go back home, will I revert to my old self? The snarky pony that nobody likes? I think tonight went well, all things considered. The others weren't bothered by my appearance. Maybe it was the alcohol, maybe it was the spirit of the party or whatever, but I'd like to believe that there was more to it than that. For the first time in a long time, I feel like myself."
Photo slowed her pace a moment to take in all that Blueblood said. She opened her mouth to speak, but before she could say anything, Blueblood continued.
"And I know what you're going to say. You're going to say that I'm royalty, and that you wish you were me because then you would have it all. I guess what I'm beginning to understand is that there's more to life than wealth and fame."
"And a clean coat?" Photo joked to Blueblood. After seeing his stare into the distance, the frown on his face, she regretted her words. But then, to her surprise, he pulled the corner of his lip into a smile.
"Oh no. I'll always value a clean coat and mane. Sometimes though, you have to get dirty to have some fun." His smile widened. Photo got closer to him, leaned towards his face, butterflies in her stomach flittering nervously. Their lips locked, and Photo was overcome with emotions that she never felt before. It was as if, by kissing him, she could feel what he was feeling. She felt the melancholy. She felt the hope. She felt all of it as they continued to kiss, standing on a path between dark green thickets.
When Photo pulled away, Blueblood was speechless. "I'm sorry. I—I think I got a bit carried away," she said.
Blueblood stared at the ground for a few moments, collecting himself. "Don't be sorry. It was nice. The kiss, I mean." They held hooves again, walking back to the camp in a strange sort of silence, their minds both louder than thunder.
"Well, uh, good night I guess," said Blueblood pulling away from Photo Finish. Before he turned around, he pressed his lips to hers once again and the two of them kissed outside of Photo's cabin. The glasses on her forehead fell to the ground as they became absorbed in each other. How long the kiss lasted, Photo wasn't sure. When Blueblood finally turned around to head back to his cabin, her mind was blank.
What just happened? she thought to herself.
Her room was empty. Berryshine was likely still out near the windmill, managing the party. With tired eyes, Photo put her head against the pillow and fell asleep quickly, floating into lovely dreams of a prince.