Crystal paced the living room while she waited for the clock to chime the hour. Her mane was dolled up in voluminous curls and she wore a fluffy white shawl draped over her shoulders, kept together by a silver brooch. It wasn't anything special, but it sparkled in even the dimmest light, so she couldn't help puffing up her chest to ensure the brooch was as visible as possible.
"Oh, darling, you look beautiful," Upper Crust commented while she walked down the stairs. "If this stallion doesn't fall head over hooves the moment he sees you, then he certainly isn't worth your time."
Crystal trotted in a circle, practically walking on the air. "I know!" She turned sharply to strike a pose and her tail snapped to whip the air. "I—" She choked on her words when realization struck her. "Wait! What are you doing here, Mom? I thought you had that event this morning and you and Dad would be gone by now!"
Upper Crust raised her brow and said, "You sound almost as if you don't want me here, dear."
"I don't." She marched up to her mother with a stern frown. "You're going to embarrass me! Or him! Or both of us!"
"Why, Crystal Wishes!" Upper Crust put a hoof to her chest. "Your false accusations wound me, truly. I merely wish to meet the stallion with whom my daughter will be spending her time today. Did you expect to run off with a mysterious colt of whom I know so little?" There was a hint of amusement in her haughty tone.
Crystal rolled her eyes, turned away, and huffed. "I'll wait for him outside." She started toward the door, but froze when a few knocks resounded. "Oh, ponyfeathers," she muttered.
Upper Crust walked past her, saying all too happily, "I'll get it."
Upper Crust smiled as her magic opened the door. Midnight Poem blinked a few times as he looked through the doorway to see an angrily shocked Crystal and a mare smiling like a hungry fox.
"Well, hello there," Upper Crust purred as she offered a hoof. "So delightful to meet you. Why don't you come in and have some tea before your date with my daughter?"
"Act—Actually," Midnight stammered, bowing his head politely before glancing between them, "we have a bit of a tight schedule to keep, though it's nice to meet you, ma'am." He tried to smile, but it looked more like a nervous twitch.
Crystal's eyes lit up and she bounced forward a few steps. "Really? A schedule?"
Upper Crust slowly lowered her hoof. "I see." Her smile softened. "Do take care of my little girl, young stallion."
Crystal groaned under her breath and pulled the door closed behind her as she walked out. "Bye, Mom!" Once outside, she put a hoof to her forehead. "I swear," she muttered, then looked up at Midnight with a smile. "Sorry about that."
"It's okay." He offered the crook of his foreleg to her. "Shall we go?"
"Certainly." She hooked her foreleg with his.
They started to walk down the street, Crystal glancing up at him periodically. He continued to look straight ahead. She tilted her head one way, allowing her curls to bounce and fall into her face. When he still didn't look at her, she puffed out her chest so the brooch shimmered in the sunlight. There was still no response. Her confidence deflated and she returned to her normal posture, her gaze returning ahead.
"So, where are we going? What's this 'tight schedule'?"
"Oh." He bit his lower lip. "That was a bit of a lie. I mean, we do have a schedule, it's just not a tight one. I was just scared of your mom. I've heard a lot of stories about her."
Crystal felt a small pang of disappointment, but she laughed. "You're right to be scared of her! She has been nagging me nonstop about you."
He glanced down at her. "Really? She has?"
"Well, of course. She wants to know if you're rich, if your parents are rich, what they do for a living, what you plan to do with your life." She paused when she noticed his ears were pinned back, then quickly added, "Not that I care about any of those things."
Midnight laughed nervously. "That's good to know." He stopped and looked ahead of them. "So, this is the first stop."
Crystal stared up at him for a moment. She flipped her curls over her shoulder, stuck out her chest, and inclined her head to peer at their surroundings. While he remained ignorant of her fishing for a compliment, she tried to figure out what exactly the first stop was.
"We're at an antique shop?" she finally inquired.
His face lit up with foal-like excitement. "Yes! The most magical place in Canterlot, if you ask me!"
While Crystal could have easily listed five places she considered more magical, the expression on his face was too cute to not smile at. "Well, then, lead the way, monsieur."
Midnight let go of her foreleg to open the door for her. He bowed his head politely. "After you."
Once they were inside the dimly lit shop, Midnight took a deep breath of air. She followed suit and tried not to cough. It wasn't necessarily unpleasant, but it was a little dusty. The air tasted old, which wasn't entirely surprising for an antique store. She raised a hoof to delicately rub her nose to stave off a sneeze.
"Isn't it wonderful?" Midnight asked as he exhaled. "It's the smell of the ages, of time gone by, all stowed away in this little store."
Crystal gazed at him, then took another deep breath, this time with his words in mind. She held the air in her lungs before exhaling with a small cough. It still tasted dusty and stale.
"It's—unique," she said cautiously.
"Certainly." He trotted down a crowded aisle. "Come with me!"
She stepped lightly behind him, careful not to bump into anything that was spilling out into the walkway. He moved effortlessly through the disarray of mismatched items as though he had been there his whole life. She paused in mid-step. Perhaps he had! One of his parents—or even both—might be in the antique business. She smiled and continued to follow him.
"Here we go," he announced. He stepped to the side and gestured with a hoof. "What do you think?"
She stopped. Three bookshelves lined the wall they had come to, all of them nearly overflowing with old silk-bound tomes. Her jaw hung open as her gaze drifted across the gilded spines, some of them written in scripts she didn't recognize.
Midnight glanced between the books and her. She didn't move or speak. His hoof slowly lowered and he asked in a quiet voice, "You like books, right?"
She blinked a few times and looked at him. "I love books!" Her face brightened with a smile and she stepped closer to the bookshelves. She carefully raised a book off its shelf and levitated it closer for inspection. "These are so, well, old! This book was transcribed by hoof by old earth pony scholars!" She stared at it in awe. "What if my magic damages it? Do you think that could happen? I've only read this story in modern collections, copied effortlessly by unicorns. But somepony, some time ago, had to carefully write out each word, translating it without losing the meaning!"
Midnight's own magic pulled the book closer to him. "You want this one, then?"
Crystal stared at him with wide eyes. "Want it? It must cost a fortune! A book this old, with this much care—"
"Then I'll buy it." He started toward the desk at the front of the store, the book following behind him.
"Wait! No, it—" She choked. When the book rotated and left to follow him, the back cover faced her and the price tag was in sight: three bits.
Confusion bubbled in her chest. Only three bits? Her gaze darted around and she found herself surrounded by ridiculously low-priced items. Seven bits for a grandfather clock? Five for an end table? How could this store stay in business?
The real confusion stemmed from her own feelings, however. She was both relieved that he was only going to be spending three bits on her, but at the same time, she was a little underwhelmed by the gesture now that she knew the cost associated with it. She shook her head furiously and walked after him. How could she even think such things? It wasn't the money that counted; it was the thought, and the thought was sweet.
She walked up just in time to watch the clerk wrap the book with care and put it in a box while Midnight put his bits on the counter. "Thank you," she said softly as she stopped beside him. "I'll treasure it."
Midnight beamed at her. "I'm glad." He looked around the store. "Is there anything else you want?"
Crystal eyed the simple, unassuming box as it was placed on the counter. "No, that's more than enough for me."
The clerk, an older earth pony with no remarkable features, chuckled and leaned against the table, one brow raised. "Are you two on a date?"
Crystal flushed and glanced up at Midnight, who nodded and responded in a matter-of-fact tone, "Yes, we are."
"Well, then, for the special occasion, I'll throw in a little something special." The clerk pushed off the desk, walked around a corner, and rummaged through some things. "Here it is." He returned to the desk and set a mane clip on top of the box. It was a small rose, encrusted with rubies for the petals and emeralds for the stem.
"Why don't you put it on the little mare?" the clerk suggested with a wink.
Midnight raised the mane clip and turned to face her. His gaze darted about her face as he tried to decide where to place it. Crystal's heart pounded in her ears and she tilted her head in practiced form, the dim light catching in her eyes. It was too perfect of a moment to not use her special eye-glittering technique!
However, he seemed relatively unfazed, instead smiling and attaching the mane clip just above her ear, which twitched when his magic tickled it.
"There," he said. "That looks nice, don't you think?"
The clerk gestured at a mirror behind Crystal, and she turned to look at her reflection. Although the mane clip certainly did look nice, she wanted to pout. What about her? Didn't she look nice, too?
Despite the thoughts, she smiled. "It's lovely. Thank you so much, sir." She turned back to face them and nodded at the clerk.
"Absolutely, little miss. You two run along now, 'fore it rains."
"Rains?" Midnight blinked a few times. "I didn't hear anything about any rain scheduled."
The clerk nodded. "Nope, but my knees tell me it's going to rain. I can feel it. This old stallion's knees never lie."
"I don't doubt you, but I hope you're mistaken." Midnight glanced at Crystal, then at the door. "We should hurry along if it does rain, though."
"Oh, all right!" Crystal smiled at the clerk. "Thank you again!" She trotted after Midnight out of the store, the box trailing behind her.
Midnight stopped a few paces down the street and tilted his head back. "The sky is perfectly clear," he muttered. "I can't imagine it's going to rain."
Crystal sidled up to him, her shoulder pressed to his. She fluttered her eyelashes a few times. "Is the next destination outdoors?"
"Yeah." He shuffled his hooves together as he started to blush. "I wanted to watch the clouds."
She paused, her head tilting one way, then the other. "Watch the clouds?"
"Together, of course," he said, his voice growing softer. "I'm sorry. I've never been on a date before, so I'm just—" His gaze darted away from her. "Well, taking you to the places I like to go. I hoped you might like them, too."
Crystal giggled. "Then let's go watch clouds. Together." She bumped her shoulder to his before she started to trot forward. "Where's a good place to watch them?"
Midnight smiled brightly as he hurried ahead of her. "This way!"
He led her through the streets, all uphill, taking them into the higher sections of Canterlot until he took a turn that kept their altitude. They walked into a small park, more of an untouched green space than a cultivated area, and he flopped down onto his back rather unceremoniously.
Crystal hesitated as she focused on setting the box down carefully beside her, then looked at the grass. Midnight stared obliviously up at the sky. She raised a hoof to her shawl, then to one of her curls. She had worked so hard to pretty herself up, but it didn't seem that he noticed anyway, so what the hay? She folded her legs beneath her before rolling onto her back.
"What do you think that one looks like?" Midnight pointed in a vague direction toward the sky.
Crystal squinted. "Which one? There are three clouds where you're pointing."
"The one that looks like a puppy."
Crystal stared for a moment longer, then laughed. "I don't see a puppy anywhere! I see a sword, a hoofball, and a bird."
"Hmm." Midnight lowered his hoof to tap his chin. "I could see a bird in my puppy."
They were silent while both stared at the cloud in question until Crystal gasped.
"I see the puppy now!" She clapped her hooves together. "You're right!"
He turned his head to look at her. "Nopony's right about cloud watching. I'm sure if you tried, you could see something else, too." He looked back upward. "It's just perspective."
"Oh." She tilted her head some. "Well, I see—That one looks like a crescent moon. And those little ones—" She giggled. "That's an ellipsis! And, oh."
"What?" He was gazing elsewhere in the sky, his hooves folded neatly over his chest.
"That one's angry."
He started to rotate his head. "Angry?" When he saw the dark, ominous grey cloud she was gesturing at, he furrowed his brow. "Yes, that one certainly does look angry, doesn't it."
She squirmed. "And it's getting closer."
Midnight started to sit up. "It is, isn't it."
Crystal glanced between the nearing cloud and him. "Should we take cover?"
Before they could come to a decision, the cloud stopped just near them. A head popped out of the cloud, sage green with a spray of brown mane showing.
"Oh, hello there!" Crystal called.
The pegasus's ears pinned back and he disappeared into the cloud again. It swiftly moved closer to them and the stallion jumped back out all the way, his wings flapping to keep him aloft. He stared down at them, scowled, and reared up his hindlegs. With all his might, he bucked the cloud to start a downpour of rain—directly above them.
The rain stopped just as quickly as it had begun, and the pegasus perched on top of his cloud, looking rather smug. Midnight tossed his head to shake the water out of his mane, wincing when most of the spray hit the already soaked Crystal.
"Sorry," he said softly and raised a hoof. He held it in the air, though, as it seemed rather futile to try to help when she looked at him with wide, shocked eyes.
She stared at Midnight another moment, then down at herself. Her coat clung to her skin and when a breeze drifted by, it chilled her to the bone. Her gaze rose slightly to her shawl. It was definitely ruined, so she took a moment to unclip the brooch. The shawl fell to the ground with a squishy thud. Her head lifted all the way to stare straight ahead, now noticing the once-curls clinging to her face, a few bedraggled strands drooping over her eyes.
Finally, she turned her head to the side and looked at the box, now a crumpled mess from the weight of the water. Her magic lit up and lifted the lid, though she knew what she was going to see. The water had seeped inside and the book was surely ruined.
After taking all of this in—and sure that her makeup was running, too—she looked back at Midnight. He winced and withdrew his hoof. She took a small intake of air before she broke down into tears.