Dating is Hard

by GentlemanJ

The Last Lunch

The Last Lunch

“So, where exactly are we headed?”




“Ah. I see.”

It wasn’t often you saw a fully grown man being dragged through the autumn streets of Ponyville by an overexcited child. It’s even less often that you see one of Equestria’s illustrious marshals being the one dragged along. But the sight, though still quite uncommon, was growing increasingly less so thanks to good, old Sweetie Belle. Now that her older sister and the soldier were officially an item, her little sister privileges had been formally extended to include the grey-eyed soldier. This meant many more impromptu visits and arm yankings as the girl with the cotton candy curls pulled Graves along according to her giggling whims.

So hurrying along as best he could, the marshal made sure to keep his head down and feet moving as he kept pace with the little girl tugging on his coat sleeves. Oh sure, the townsfolk were nice enough not to overtly embarrass him about such scenes, but a man can only endure so many hidden smiles and discreet chuckles before heated cheeks become an issue. That's why it was with a slight, but very relieved sigh that the marshal found himself in front of Carousel Boutique and out of the common eyesight.

“Oy! Rarity!” Sweetie Belle called out at the top of her squeaky lungs as she pounded on the door, “I’m here, and I brought Graves!”

Much more quickly than expected, the whitewashed door flew open and there she stood, Ponyville’s resident beauty and dressmaker, pristine apron on her waist and an oddly intent look in her eye.

“Graves,” she breathed with a happy, if surprised look. “You’re here already?”

“Yup!” her little sister piped up. “I was over with Scootaloo at the pond, so I thought I’d bring him over on the way!”

“Thank you Sweetie Belle, that was very thoughtful of you,” the violet-haired woman absentmindedly smiled as she patted her sister atop her fluffy head. “I just wished you’d told me first so I could have given Graves a little warning.”

“Warning?” the marshal intoned, eyebrow arched as a faint chill ran down his spine. “Why exactly would I need warning for lunch?”

“Oh, it’s nothing big,” Rarity chuckled, the usually melodious sound now sounding slightly strained. “It’s just that… well… we may be having some unexpected company today.”

“Company?” Graves repeated, the chill growing into a full blown, spine-rattling frost. “What company?”

“Rarity, is that him?”

The strong Midwestern accent from inside the house was soon followed by the sound of pounding feet, which in turn was quickly followed by the appearance of two new faces at the door.

“So, you’re the Graves we’ve been hearing so much about,” a man with a fabulous moustache grinned as he seized up the marshal’s hand in a firm handshake. “Good to finally meet you. Rarity and Sweetie Belle have been telling us all about you.”

“Er… they have?”

“Oh my word, yes,” the lady laughed as she gave him a hearty slap to the shoulder. “But we can talk about all that over lunch. You’re in for a real treat, you know. My little Rarity’s gone all out and made her world famous soufflé; isn’t that just lovely?”

Grey eyes grew to the size of silver dollars as neurons fired and put two and two together.

“My little Rarity?” he repeated, throwing a very startled look towards the woman in question. All she could do was smile sheepishly in response.

“Graves? Dear? These are... my… parents.”


The marshal was not a very expressive person. In fact, rumor had it that seeing more than two emotions a day from him would mean a week’s worth of good luck, so unexpressive was he. But that was just on a normal day. On special days like today, Graves could give totem poles lessons on stiffness and teach stoicism to Moai head carvings. Yes, today was special because it was on this day that Graves had to face the most terrifying ordeal in all of creation:

Meeting the parents.

And it actually went quite well. Sort of. During lunch, Graves really didn’t do much since between Sweetie Belle and her mother chattering away like magpies, nobody else could get in a word edgewise. In fact, it wasn’t till Rarity had brought out the bread pudding for dessert that the interrogation officially began and even then, it was mostly predictable, obligatory inquiries: how long have you known each other, when did you meet, what hobbies and interests you share, so on and so forth. Overall, it was a fairly low-key and – thanks to Sweetie Belle – almost enjoyable event.

“And the besht par ish,” the girl in curls continued around a mouthful of pastry, “tha Diamon Tiara doeshn’t have a big broffer, sho I finally have shomethin she doeshn’t. Ish grea!”

“Please swallow before speaking, dear sister,” Rarity smiled.

“Well it sounds like you’ve really taken to him, haven’t you?” their mother grinned.

“Oh yeah, Graves is the best!” Sweetie Belle beamed, now speaking clearly for having taken her sibling’s advice. “In fact, I think Graves is just about the bestest thing Rarity’s ever done!”

Her father sputtered into his sweet tea, mustache bristling in wide-eyed alarm.

“I think what she means,” Rarity added with notable hurry, “is that Graves is the finest gentleman I have ever met, one who would never do anything even remotely inappropriate. Isn’t that right?”

“Yes. Definitely. Absolutely,” Graves nodded, a great deal more vigorously than he’d ever nodded before in his entire life.

“Well that’s good to hear,” the visored lady smiled. “Don’t want you kids to move too fast, you know? I don’t intend for folks to call me granny for a good while yet, don’t you know.”

Two pairs of cheeks flushed apple red as one little pair of emerald green eyes watched in oblivious delight.

“Anywho, I think that about wraps it up for lunch now,” the girls’ father announced as he leaned over to ruffle his younger daughter’s hair. “Sweetie Belle, why don’t you help your ma and sis clear up the dishes so we can play a game?”

With amazing alacrity, the little girl jumped up and began gathering up dishes like they were limited edition trading cards, all the while hurrying her mother and sister to help out as well. Rarity, unable to withstand the hurricane that was her little sister, could only throw Graves one last, pitying glance before she was bundled off into the kitchen.

That meant that Graves was left alone. Alone with Rarity’s father.

“So,” he began, stroking his moustache in consideration. “You are… dating my daughter.”

“That is correct. Sir,” Graves hastily amended. This brought a smile to the older man’s face.

“Please, call me Magnum. After all, I’d like to start thinking of you as family. No need for too much formality, now is there?”

“If you say so, si- ah, Magnum.”

The two lapsed back into silence, the older man scrutinizing the younger while the younger did his best to look as non-threatening as possible. No mean feat, considering he’d spent a good chunk of his life doing the exact opposite, but hey, desperate times right?

“Graves,” Magnum grunted as he settled back in his seat, “I see you as a straight forward sort of man, so I’ll be straight with you. What exactly are your intentions with my daughter?”

“I… what?”

“Intentions boy, intentions!” he repeated with some hearty knee-slapping for point. “Where do you see yourself going in the next year? Next ten? You have any thoughts of starting a family?”

“Magnum, I –”

“Don’t you be getting all cozy with me boy,” the man barked, mustache bristling in indignation. “I’m asking what you plan on doing with my daughter!”

“Sir, I don’t really have any plans,” Graves answered, thoroughly bewildered by the conversation’s unexpected turn.

“Oh, so you just intend to string my baby girl along for fun, is that it?”

“What? No!” the marshal retorted as grey eyes grew wide in alarm, “I mean I don’t have any plans because I have no idea what’s going on! It’s not like I’ve ever done this before!”

Magnum paused, not exactly placated, but eyes narrowing in suspicion.

“What do you mean, ‘never done this before?’”

“I mean, I’ve never done… this,” Graves replied, trying to clarify his flustered statement with nonsensical hand waving. “I’ve never done this… you know… ‘relationship’… thing, before. I’m still trying to figure it out as I go.”

Slowly, Magnum settled back in his seat, still suspicious of the raven-haired youth, but now at least stroking his mustache in less hostile contemplation.

“You really have no idea what you’re doing, do you boy?”

“Not really, no.”

“I guess I can live with that,” the older man nodded grudgingly. “Then tell me this at least, and mind you answer proper now. What exactly is my Rarity to you?”

“Rarity?” Graves repeated, hesitating at the question. “I… don’t know what else to say except that she’s important to me.”

“Important, eh?” Magnum snorted. “How important?”

“Really important.”

“Is that it?”

“… Really, really important?”

“... Graves, I’ll be honest with you,” Magnum sighed. “I’m finding it hard to trust a man who can only say that my daughter’s ‘really, really important’ to him. I mean, I’d expected that a soldier like yourself would have said something at least as hokey as ‘I’d give my life for her’ or what not.”

“I’m definitely not good with words,” the marshal admitted, “but I do know I’d never say something as stupid as that.”

“Oh?” Magnum remarked, now leaning in slightly as his interest piqued. “And why not?”

“Well…” Graves paused, then shrugged. “Dying’s easy. Really easy. I mean, just about everyone ends up doing it, minus the occasional princess or two.”

“You've got me there, I'll give you that,” the father chuckled.

“Problem is, what then?” the young man continued. “Sure, dead is dead, but what about everyone else? They've got to live on knowing you’re gone. It’s not exactly pleasant, so I’d rather Rarity not go through that on my account.”

“That so,” Magnum mused. “Then tell me, what would you do for her instead?”

The marshal paused, once more looking bewildered like a dog playing fetch with two balls at once.

“I’d… live for her, I guess,” Graves said, words and thought forming almost in tandem. “I do my job right, then I can come back and make her happy. Probably won’t get it right every time, but as long as I’m breathing, there’s another chance, right?”

Magnum slowly nodded.

“I suppose there is.”

Once more, the two lapsed into silence, though the older man was slightly less intense and the younger slightly less nervous than before. Slightly. Finally, Magnum heaved a long, weary sigh.

“Near twenty years now,” he said, his voice sounding tired and sad. “Twenty years of being the only man in her life, the one she turned to when she needed a hug or a shoulder to cry on. Twenty years, and it’s all coming to an end.”


“No boy, let me finish this,” he sniffled, now looking to be on the verge of tears. “I knew this day would come, obviously. I was just hoping it’d be a little later than now. But… I guess I can rest a little easier now, knowing I’m passing the job on to a man like you.”

“… Sir?”

“You’ll take care of her, won’t you?” Magnum said, laying a heavy hand on the marshal’s shoulder as he peered earnestly into his silver eyes. “You’ll take care of my little Rarity?”

“Yes sir,” Graves nodded. They were the first words he’d said yet where not a speck of hesitation could be found.

“Good,” the older man heaved in relief. “Because I’ll say this now. If you ever hurt my baby girl, if you ever break her heart like in those hokey chicky books she reads, then so help me boy, I will end you. I will see to it that every waking moment of your pathetic, miserable existence is like a COPS marathon featuring the best of police brutality. I will personally bake you a cake made of pain, frost it with suffering, and serve it to you on a plate of despair and garnished with savory agony! SO HELP ME BOY, YOU HARM ONE HAIR ON MY BABY GIRL’S PRETTY LITTLE HEAD AND I WILL SKIN YOU ALIVE AND EAT YOUR SOUL WITH A SIDE OF FRESH POTATO SALAD! ARE! WE! CLEAR?!”

“… Sir, yes sir…”

Magnum beamed.

“Great! Now, how do you feel about Monopoly?”


For the rest of the day, things went swimmingly as Graves joined Rarity and her family for a rousing afternoon of board games. But every now and then, the violet-haired beauty would glance over at the marshal and touch his hand with a considering look. He was fine of course, just a bit rattled. After all, a man like him had faced death before, so frequent and so closely that the two were practically on a first name basis.

He’d just never expected to see death in a Hawaiian shirt and straw hat.


To Be Continued

The Journey of Graves will continue in the next story: Nightmare Night 2: Halloweening Harder