Happily Ever After

by GentlemanJ

Chapter 5

Chapter 5

Graves was aware that he was moving, but only just. Like the murky consciousness that comes right after sleep and just before waking, the marshal was only dimly aware that he sailed through a black sea of stars. One in particular drew him close, a lodestone pulling him like a tiny bit of iron dust. He quickly approached, the twinkling spot of light growing larger and brighter until…

Graves found himself at the royal palace, the explosions of fireworks ringing through the air and the shrieks of nobles milling around in panicked confusion. For a moment, he wondered how he’d gotten there, why everything seemed so familiar, but those thoughts quickly receded into the back of his mind. After all, there were far more pressing matters for him to deal with.


Moving with swift, but directionless energy, Graves wandered aimlessly through the palace corridors as his mind churned over the events of the last half hour. Half of him was convinced it had all been a dream. I mean, he was just a soldier, a common, rough around the edges normal sort of guy. There was no way, absolutely no bucking way that the most beautifully, charmingly, amazingly perfect woman he’d ever seen had actually come up and kissed him.

Sure, they say that the Grand Galloping Gala was a night of magic and miracles, but even miracles could only go so far. He knew he must be dreaming; he just had to be. But, no the cheek that still ached from the half dozen slaps he'd served upon himself confirmed that this was not the machinations of his subconscious, but the real, waking world. This kiss had irrefutably, undeniably happened.


Now what the hay was he supposed to do?

His pace picked up as his mind furiously worried away at the problem. He knew he really liked her, and he did mean really, really liked her. At least, he think he did. Graves didn't exactly have much experience with these kinds of emotions, what with his colored past and odd set of life experiences. Fortunately, he’d overheard more than enough from other soldiers - who seemed to talk of nothing else when out in the field - to make a somewhat educated guess about his own somewhat misunderstood, yet undeniable feelings. And since she’d been the one to initiate, it was safe to assume the feeling was mutual.

So where did it go from here? Suppose they did... get together, or whatever it is people called it; how long would it last? General Ironside had already told him he’d been posted there for R&R, so what would happen when it was time to leave? He supposed he could just break up with her then, but that just didn’t seem right. He could come back and visit, but honestly, how often would that be? It wasn’t like he could stop by every weekend or anything: Rarity might end up waiting for months on end, if not years, and that certainly wasn’t fair to her. No matter how he sliced it, his duties as a marshal made the situation impossible.

Or was it? If he wanted to consider every option, he could request a permanent post in Ponyville. With his current service record and the Right of Petition still in effect, the chances of getting such a post would be almost guaranteed. He could stay in Ponyville, live in the town he’d come to think of almost as home. He could stay close to Rarity.

The marshal paused in midstep, his body reacting to the thought as it would in approaching the edge of a yawning canyon.

Could he really do that? To ask for a permanent post would be tantamount to retiring as a marshal, giving up the fight and handing in his gun. Granted, he’d always be there to protect the town where he lived, but it just wouldn’t be the same. His duty was to fight, and staying in Ponyville meant he’d have to give up that fight. He really did want to be with Rarity, but how could he just walk away from what he knew he had to do? What he knew was right?

Graves sighed and reached over his shoulder, rubbing his neck before sliding his hand down to the marking on his back. He’d always known who he was and what he was supposed to do. But what was he supposed to do when for the first time in his life, he wanted something else?

In his musing wanderings, the young marshal found himself in a large, empty courtyard of flat marble tiles, the wide expanse surrounded by a border of low trimmed hedges. In the open space, Graves had an unobstructed view the starry night sky above. Here, with the moon shining bright and the din of festivities but a faint rumble in the distance, the atmosphere was soothingly tranquil and quietly serene, the perfect place for a man who needed time to think.

“Penny for your thoughts?”

Turning around, the marshal caught sight of Shining Armor striding up, his crimson coat only slightly rumpled and his bright smile undiminished whatsoever. Graves arched an eyebrow in question.

“Aren’t you supposed to be getting things under control?” he asked suspiciously. The guard captain just grinned in response.

“Already did. A few mages with fire suppression spells here, a few enchanters with sleep charms there, and we got that mess cleared out in like, ten minutes tops. Engineering corp’s getting things patched up even as we speak.”

Graves nodded, sufficiently impressed as always. Despite his happy-go-lucky attitude, Shining Armor hadn’t come to his post by accident. In fact, Graves suspected the reason that the guard captain could act so footloose and fancy-free was that his skill gave him time to do so. In a position as demanding as a military officer, that was definitely saying something.

“So,” Shining Armor continued, joining Graves out in the courtyard to gaze up at the moon, “what’s on your mind?”

“What makes you think I have something on my mind?” the marshal countered. The guard captain shrugged.

“Just a hunch. You’ve got this look on your face like you don’t know whether to laugh or cry. Maybe both.”

Graves looked over at the young officer, who simply continued gazing up at the moon. Truth be told, that was sort of how he was feeling. There was no doubt that what had just happened ranked in the top three best things that had ever happened to him, but the crossroads that formed as a result of it...

“You married Princess Cadance,” Graves blurted out before he could help himself. “How’d that happen?” Shining Armor gave his companion a funny look.

“Well that’s kind of an odd question. Why would you be interested... in.... that... ” He froze, his aquamarine eyes growing very large and round indeed as the corners of his lips trembled in barely contained glee. “No. Freaking. Way. Graves, are you... I mean, did you....?”

“Just answer the question,” the marshal mumbled, already feeling the heat rising in his face. Maybe this wasn’t such a good idea after all. It wasn't like the guard captain was exactly known for his sensitivity...

But amazingly, Shining Armor actually had the courtesy not to press the issue, for once in his mischievous life. Granted, it took him a while to fully suppress the shivers of mirth wracking his body, but he did nothing else to add to Graves's already considerable discomfort.

“It was kind of simple really,” the azure-haired captain said, an amused smile still playing across his lips as he turned his attention to the starry sky above. “Cadance was Twiley’s babysitter ever since she became Celestia’s pupil, which was right around the same time I joined you at the Academy. Mom and dad wanted me to check in on her, make sure she was doing okay and everything-”

“So that’s where you kept disappearing off to,” Graves replied, now enlightened. “I always thought it was to raid the cafeteria.”

“Hey, that only happened once,” his friend retorted with an indignant grunt, “... or twice... Anyways, that’s where I met Cadance. First time I saw her, I was so nervous, I introduced myself as Aiming Sharmor, or something equally stupid.”

“Smooth,” the marshal smirked.

“Yeah, “Shining Armor grimaced. “Fortunately, she thought it was cute. I’d stick around and play with Twiley, and then, you know, after a while... we started hanging out when Twiley wasn’t around either.”

“So when’d it turn... you know...”

“Not till after we graduated,” the guardsman nodded. “I didn’t want to move forward till things finally got settled. Once I finished officer's training and got assigned to Canterlot, I felt like it was a good time to go ahead and ask her out. Lucky for me, she said yes.”

Graves fell silent, his grey eyes growing cloudy as his brow furrowed in thought.

“So...” he began, thumbing his nose awkwardly, unsure of how exactly to word his next inquiry. “What would you have done if you hadn’t been able to stay in the same place?”

“You mean if I were posted elsewhere?”


“Hmm...” Shining Armor paused and cupped his chin as he considered. “Guess... I would have done the same thing.” Graves blinked.

“Hold on. You just said you waited for things to get settled.”

“True, but that doesn’t mean I had to settle here.”

Graves blinked again.

“That makes no sense.”

“Guess it doesn’t,” Shining Armor laughed. “How do I put this? It’s like... whether I stayed in Canterlot or not, I knew that Cadance was important to me. If I got to stay, that’d be great. But if I had to leave, well...” he shrugged. “I would have found a way to make it work.”

“Sounds awfully convenient,” Graves muttered, and the guard captain just laughed again.

“Maybe,” he admitted. “I guess I’m just lucky that things worked out for me. You, however,” he continued, giving Graves a somewhat sad smile, “aren’t that lucky, are you?”

“So it would seem,” the marshal flatly intoned.

The two stood silent for a moment, the only sound a faint whistling of wind as it rustled through the hedges around them.

“Ever thought about quitting the marshals?” Shining Armor asked. “Don’t get me wrong, you’re good. Really good. But it’s not exactly the easiest lifestyle, is it?”

“No, it’s not,” Graves sighed wearily. “But I still know it's where I need to be. Until that changes, I’m staying put.”

“I see,” the young captain nodded. “Then, what are you going to do about... this?”

“... I-”

Before the marshal could answer, a series of clattering footsteps sounded as three guardsmen trotted forth from the covered walkway.

“Captain, thank goodness we found you,” the leader said as he threw a quick salute. “Your presence is required at the west gate. It seem we have some problems there.”

“West gate?” Shining Armor repeated puzzledly. “I wasn’t aware the issue had spread that far.”

“Apparently it has sir,” the second soldier nodded. “If you don’t hurry, things could escalate really quickly. We need to go now.” Turning to Graves, he gave him a quick bow. “Begging your pardon sir, but we’ll need to escort you to where the other civilians are gathered.”

“Really?” Graves asked, eyebrow arched curiously.

“I’m afraid so,” the third guardsman agreed. “Captain, if you would go ahead, we’ll catch up with you as soon as we can.”

Shining Armor looked over to Graves, who simply thumbed his right earlobe with an idle nod. The guard captain scratched his nose, then nodded as well.

“Alright, I’ll go on ahead,” he said, immediately turning to head off. “I’ll catch you later Graves, alright?”

“Sounds good,” the marshal nodded. “Good luck.”

Graves watched as Shining Armor jogged off further down the walkway before turning at a fountain and disappearing from sight. As soon as he was gone, the three guardsmen turned to the remaining man.

“Sir, if you would?” the asked, hands gesturing towards the other direction.

“Alright, let’s go,” the marshal nodded, turning and walking back towards the palace.

He never even felt the knife sink into his back.