"Yes. We went to camp together," Photo Finish said.
"It's been so long that I barely recognize you." A silence followed. Blue Berry's eyes darted between Blueblood and Photo Finish.
Finally, Blueblood attempted to break the silence. "Remember when—" Photo held up a hoof to stop him. She replayed the memories of camp fairly often, like a favorite record. She used to feel like they belonged to the both of them. Used to. Another silence.
"How come you never visited?"
"I did. They wouldn't open the gates for me."
Blueblood put a white hoof to his chin, clearly making an effort to remember what had happened. He grinned sheepishly. "I may have forgotten to tell them that you might stop by."
Photo sighed. For a long time after camp, she thought about Blueblood, and about whether he was truly happy with himself in his royal status. From what he'd said to her at camp, she gathered that he wasn't. That his royal personality was a façade. One that was necessary, because, she concluded, a rich and famous life consisted of performance that many ponies were not capable of.
The day she travelled to the gates of the estate, she was brimming with excitement. Excitement that deflated almost immediately when the voice over the intercom rejected her. Why didn't he say anything? Photo wondered to herself as she slowly trotted away from the gates, head down. Seeing him again now, she understood.
Opening up to her at camp must have been painful for him. To share your true self is difficult. Blueblood lived this lifestyle, and if Photo galloped into it, there would be questions, and maybe even resentment, from Blueblood's relatives. She never forgave him for choosing not to talk to her after camp, because if he truly cared, the gates would have opened for her. But at the same time, she felt sorry for him, to be trapped in a world where he couldn't be himself. She couldn't imagine what the reaction would have been if Blueblood had fallen for another pony at camp, one from Ponyville.
"But look, you're a renowned photographer now! Fairly famous, I'd say. I'll see to it that you're added to the list of approved visitors," said Blueblood animatedly.
"Thanks, I guess," replied Photo. She wasn't sure what to say to that.
"Am I still just as handsome after all these years? Do tell." At this, Blueblood posed again, the crooked smile dominating his chiseled white face. Photo couldn't deny it, he was handsome as ever. On the outside, at least. But the personality that he donned like a cloak had somehow become even less attractive, and Photo doubted that she'd ever see him without it again.
"Let's just take the photographs," she said to him. He was still posing, walking around the garden. He bent over, pretending to inspect one of the carefully curated flowers.
"The camera's still good to go," said Minty. "Do you need me to help position again?"
"Yes. That would be great."
The shoot was over in an hour. After shooting the last photo, Minty began to pack up the equipment while Blueblood and Blue Berry whispered to each other.
"So this is it then?" said Blueblood to Photo, finally.
"Yes. We are done taking photos, are we not?"
"Are you sure you don't want to stay for a while? Catch up?"
"I don't mind," said Blue Berry. "You and Minty seem nice! I'd love to sit with you guys and talk."
Minty and Photo exchanged a glance, their expressions mirroring one another. Absolutely not.
"I think we're okay," said Photo Finish. She looked at Blueblood. Looked into his bright blue eyes, and for a moment, the hollowness of his gaze evaporated, giving way to something akin to desperation. Briefly, Photo considered changing her mind. She imagined chatting with Blueblood again, as she had all those years ago. But that was then, and this was now. As much as it pained her to leave him a second time, she had to, for her own sake.
Before parting, she said, "You could always visit me, you know." She knew he probably wouldn't. That entering one of Canterlot's less wealthy (relatively speaking) districts would be an affront to him, but the offer was out there.
"Ah yes. Your studio is..."
"In the southern district, near the gates."
"Maybe I'll drop by some time." He smiled. "Goodbye then, I guess. Let me show you out. It's the least I could do." Minty looked surprised. To Photo, however, the kind gesture was no surprise, because she knew deep down that Blueblood could be kind if he chose to be. But that choice was his.
Together, the group of ponies walked back into the mansion, through the hallway filled with portraits and the grand lobby before settling on the marble stairs that marked the entrance. As Photo and Minty walked away, Blueblood and his marefriend waved goodbye before closing the doors, heading back inside.
"I didn't know you and Blueblood had history," said Minty as the metal gates swung open.
Photo gave a faint smile. "It's a long story."
At the studio that evening, Photo pulled open a drawer, revealing a collection of pristine photographs, hardly ever touched. She stared at them a long time. At Blueblood, existing in his natural state, the sunset illuminating his eyes, his coat. She wished that every photo could look like this one. Like the photo of Coloratura on her desk. The natural state was more beautiful than anything in Equestria. After a few more moments, she placed the photo in the drawer and pushed it closed, smiling softly to herself.