Tie Fighters

by re- Yamsmos


Show Me The Rule Book, Octavia!

"So, how's your salad?"

He watched as she stabbed her fork into the heap of green leaves on her plate as delicately as a butterfly. Bringing it up to her open mouth, she chewed on it awhile, her face contorted into one of curiosity and suspicion before she swallowed it loudly. Licking her lips, she looked to the side for two heartbeats before she put her fork down and picked her brown napkin up from the side of her drink. Giving a casual look, she shrugged and spoke simply.

"Eh."

"'Eh?'" He asked in disbelief, "Seriously? C'mon, this is like, one of the best places to eat in Ponyville!" Rolling his eyes, he turned around in his chair and swept a hoof around the large dining area, adding, "I mean come on! They've got, geez, they've got like... fancy tables!" He bit his lower lip, looking for something else. Clearing his throat, he began to grasp at straws, "Look, they've got Dutch ovens for soup and, uh, lamps and stuff!" Suddenly, he grinned and aimed a hoof to the ceiling. "They even have a chandelier!"

The mare simply gave him a soft smile, blowing a raspberry as she placed her cloth back onto the polished table, "That chandelier is home-made." Pointing a hoof, she continued, "You can tell. The lights aren't perfectly downward, and the light bulbs themselves are very obviously store-bought–"

The stallion turned, mouth open and eyes lidded in a feign attempt at annoyance, "Shut up. Like you know anything about chandeliers."

She grinned, tilting her head at him, "Actually, I just so happen to know a lot about chandeliers, thank you very much."

He crossed his arms. "Oh," he said, "is that so?"

They looked at one another, smiles desperately trying to tug away at the sides of their mouths. They remained like this for quite some time, unblinking in the brightly-lit main dining room of the restaurant. Staring into each other's eyes, neither secretly wished to stop, but as nature took its toll with storms and rain, as did their eyes with blinking in vain. They chuckled softly, finally smirking at each other from opposite sides of the table.

Giving a low sigh, he reclined in his seat and looked to the ceiling, commenting, "Didn't think so, Octavia–"

"Hey, you don't know anything about chandeliers either. Right now, I'd say we're equal in our knowledge of ceiling decorations." Crossing her hooves, she raised a brow his way and added again, "they're still not real chandeliers, though."

"Whatever," he replied with a smile.

"'Whatever?' That's it? Done fighting so easily?"

He gave her a blank look, shrugging.

"Or, sorry. Done losing so easily?"

"You do know I could just leave you with the check, right?"

Octavia giggled, lightly stabbing her fork into the blue foreleg currently resting on the table. "You wouldn't. And for Celestia's sake, take your leg off the table. We're at a fancy restaurant, Noteworthy. Do you not have any manners?"

Noteworthy growled, leaning forward in his seat and giving his mare the stink eye, "Don't you start with me. You just poked your fork in that leg. You don't know where it's been." She turned the fork round and round with her hoof. "Hey, I may have just given you Pony Pox. That'll teach you to mess with me."

"We have knives at the house, Noteworthy," Octavia replied, the corners of her mouth rising. Receiving no response, save for a raised brow and a disbelieving look, she gave a sigh and continued eating her salad. Watching as Noteworthy resumed the attack on his pasta, she blew air out of her nose happily and raised her head to look at the Earth Pony. "So. How's work been?"

Noteworthy slacked his shoulders, groaning into the air above his head. Dragging his hooves down through his eyes, he ranted, "Oh Celestia, it's so boring now. Like, you'd think that selling flowers would be really easy since we, I mean, like, we eat them and stuff."

"Or in your case, give them to ponies."

He blushed, scratching his head at her large smile, "Well uh... heh heh, that too." He cleared his throat, "But like, you'd think we'd get a lot of money, y'know?" Noteworthy saw Octavia nod in response. "Yeah but, we haven't had much in terms of business. I mean, one day we'll get maybe thirty, thirty-five ponies and another day we'd get maybe five. I don't really understand it, but it suuuuuuuucks." Blowing air onto his pasta in anguish, he frowned slightly, "It's really boring– hey, you think maybe you could come by one day and actually make it worth it?"

Octavia shrugged, a quizzically goofy look on her face, "I meeeeean... probably. Maybe I just want to watch you suffer." Picking up her cup of tea, she sipped at it as she finished her thoughts with a simply cruel, "But that's none of my business."

Noteworthy screwed up his face as he and Octavia quieted down, the sounds of the live jazz musicians across the restaurant beginning to come back into their lives. As they listened to the soft piano, the buzzing trumpet, the deep double bass, and the humming clarinet, they both sighed in synchronization, both incredibly happy to be there. Thankfully, due to the high status of the otherwise busy restaurant, the noise and conversations around them were kept to moderate levels, and the two were able to sit and smile at one another in a happy silence.

The stallion suddenly looked down at his own plate and found it about halfway done. Reaching for his fork, he stopped as he saw the mare across the table giving him a look that told him to stop what he was doing immediately. He glanced down at the middle of the table and froze for a split second as he saw her hoof lying by itself on the polished oak table.

An idea creeping into his mind, he decided to play dumb. "What are you doing?"

She gave an instant sigh, an eyebrow attempting to reach the sky. "Noteworthy..."

"I mean, do you want a high hoof or something? You're not doing it the right way–"

"Just give me your hoof already you featherbrained stallion."

Noteworthy chuckled at her insult and carefully placed his hoof onto the mare's, currently glaring at him in doubt and anger. She rolled her eyes as he smiled at her, purple irises glancing back down at the salad on her plate. Shaking her head at the large amount still present there, she gave a low groan and looked at the stallion across the table. He looked back, his eyes half-lidded.

Finally, he spoke.

"You look beautiful, by the way–"

Octavia retracted her hoof, giving him an unimpressed look as she raised her mug of tea to her lips. Before she began to drink, she looked at him out of the corner of her eyes, smirked, and said into the bottom of her cup, "Liar."

"Well," Noteworthy grumbled, retrieving his fork and resuming his feast, "don't take the compliment Tavi, that's fine."

"It's just that you always say that," Octavia beamed, holding her cup of still-steaming tea.

"It's always true," Noteworthy replied happily, stabbing his fork into a sizable family of noodles. Eating them, he smirked at her beneath his eyebrow, his muzzle currently dipped toward his plate of food. Seeing her waggle her eyebrows in response, he nodded lightly and continued eating. Almost finishing his plate, he caught quick glimpses of the mare staring at him. Perking up, he put his fork down and reminded her, "Octavia, it's rude to stare. Don't you have any manners?"

She giggled, but took one hoof off her cup and pointed at his neck. "I was just looking at your tie, Noteworthy. It's nice. Is that a half windsor?"

Noteworthy looked down, finding the accessory glaring up at him in the light. Moving a hoof up its length, he watched as it fell back onto his body and raised his head to answer her, "Uh, yeah... I think. You like it?"

Octavia simply nodded, idly swirling her tea in her hooves. "I do." Almost immediately after she said so, she suddenly narrowed her eyes and leaned closer, attempting to get a better look. Sucking in a breath, she shook her head as she licked her lips and changed her mind, "Actually I uh, don't. It's... not right." Placing her mug on the table, she rested a hoof on the table and leaned on it, tilting further toward Noteworthy. Waving the outstretched hoof, she called, "Here. Let me see it."

Noteworthy flushed his cheeks, cautious of what was about to happen. "You're going to strangle me for not having my tie right, aren't you," he spoke, more of an answer than a question.

"Worthy..."

Golden irises rolled around in their home, and Noteworthy sighed heavily, rising out of his chair somewhat for the mare to grab hold of it gently. Giving her a blank look, he scanned the ponies around him and found a select few staring their way a couple tables off. Frowning, he looked back at his mare and deadpanned, "Octavia, you've amassed a bit of a crowd."

The mare turned, looking the viewers' way. Giving them an over-exaggerated shrug, she raised her voice up a decibel, asking them, "What, never see a mare look at her stallion's tie before?"

The crowd continued watching for two heartbeats before swiveling around in their chairs, disinterested for the time being. Shaking her head, Octavia looked back to Noteworthy, gazing at his tie as he sat both comfortably and uncomfortably. Humming, her eyes scanned the knot and immediately lit up. Raising her hoof, and the tie with it, she explained, "The knot isn't right. It's not a half windsor. It's more like a, uh..." she rolled her hoof and placed her tongue against her cheek. Snapping, she a-ha'd and concluded, "a half-attempt."

Noteworthy looked up at her with annoyance. "It's just a tie–"

"It is not just a tie! It's very important to look your best, especially if you're in a fancy restaurant!" Octavia snapped, jerking him toward her as she pulled her hoof.

"Oh yeah? Very important? Says the mare who wears the same bowtie everywhere..."

Octavia dropped Noteworthy's tie, almost dunking it into his drink as she hissed at him, "Oh, you're going there now are you? Well. I'm not the one who ties ties like a five-year-old filly with arthritis."

The stallion narrowed his eyes, matting his tie back against his chest as he defended himself, "Hey! That's my insult! You can't just use it without my permission–"

"Well guess what," Octavia began, getting in his face and staring him down, her purple irises beautifully shining into his golden ones. Waggling her eyebrows, she smirked and finished, "I just did."

The two stared each other down like enemies, daggers promptly stabbing into the other's eyes, daring them to back down. By now, both had gotten out of their seats, and were quite honestly making a huge scene which attracted the attention of the ponies at the tables next to them. They gave the odd Earth Pony couple looks of curiosity and expectancy, waiting for one to make the first move. Instead, minutes passed by, and so without any new events, they returned to their respective dinners.

Meanwhile, Octavia spoke the first sentence in the standoff. "So you think you can tie ties, do you?"

Noteworthy gave her a defiant smirk, "That's right."

She tilted her head, looking at him slightly from the right, "And you think you can tie ties better than me?"

"That's right."

Octavia huffed, blowing a few loose black locks out of her eyes. The right side of her mouth curving upward, she brought a hoof up and quickly booped him on the nose. Giggling as he stared down at the appendage in surprise, she motioned for him to sit down as she did so herself, their chairs creaking in tandem as they took their seats once more. As they simultaneously sighed into the clean air of the restaurant, Noteworthy took his chance to look at his tie again and mumbled audibly.

Octavia caught this, and leaned toward him, her brow knitted. "What was that, Mr. Noteworthy?"

"I can tie ties better than you."

"You'll have to speak up... Mr. Noteworthy. Lest you try my patience, and end up having been left with the check!"

"I can tie ties better than you. That's what I said." Noteworthy looked up at Octavia, lips flat as he gave her a shrug and a no-care expression. "Plain and simple. In my experience, I've kinda learned that if you just know only one thing, it doesn't make you better." He was pointing at her pink bowtie, she realized.

Eyes squinted, she pushed his hoof away and looked at her unfinished salad for a brief moment of her life. Noteworthy gave her a cock-eyed expression, not sure of what she was about to do in the course of five seconds. Suddenly, without warning, she dipped her head and brought her hooves to her neck, beginning to undo her bowtie.

Noteworthy bit his lower lip as he laughed, "Really, Tavi? Right now, in–"

"Shut up Noteworthy," was the mare's reply as she finally unbuttoned her collar, discarding it carefully on the black tablecloth in front of her. Her hooves underneath the table, Noteworthy leaned this way and that to get a closer view. Unsuccessful, he instead opted to sit back in his chair and cross his forelegs, humming to himself about the sun's rays of light. Without warning, he flinched at the loud thump emanating from the table in front of his face. Staring at what was there, his straight face fell to a frowning form.

Octavia grinned at him, sweeping a few strands of hair out of her eyes as she laughed, almost out of breath for seemingly no reason. Tapping her hoof next to the object, she nodded her head, "That, Noteworthy, is a half windsor. That's how you do it–" she slid her pink tie over to him, "the right way–"

"I did it though."

"That's not doing it," Octavia replied, waving a hoof in front of her face, "that's almost doing it." Watching as he frowned and rolled his eyes, she flitted her hoof toward him, "I'm the Tie Master now!"

"No," Noteworthy said, sliding her tie back across the table, "you're not."

"And why not, hm?" She batted her eyelashes, intent on listening to his response.

He leaned back in his seat again, yawning, "Easy. Photoshop."

"In real life?" She asked, brow raised.

"Yeah."

"Alright then. Here's what's going to happen, Mr. Denial River. You and I? We're going to have a little competition here." She quickly retrieved her tie and held it up in the air for the stallion to see. "You are going to tie some tie knots. They have to be perfect."

"All half wind-whatever?"

Octavia rolled her eyes, "You can choose, but, again, they have to be perfect. No mess-ups. If not, I'm the Tie Master still. And," she continued, pointing at his chin, "you shave that beard."

Golden irises narrowed to dangerous levels, their owner currently beginning to smile at the mare before him. Finally, he nodded and brought a hoof out over the middle of the table. Octavia frowned at him, seemingly unimpressed, but returned the gesture and shook hooves with him. A thought suddenly hitting him, he asked quickly, "What happens if I win?"

The mare threw her tongue into her cheek and hummed, wondering that herself. Opening her mouth in an 'o' shape, she moved her head his way and spoke, "You're the Tie Master." He gave her a raised eyebrow in response. Rolling her eyes, she sighed and tried her hardest not to facehoof. "...and I'll... pay for dinner that night–"

"There we go!"

"That night!" Octavia repeated, planting a hoof in his face, "And only that night, Noteworthy."

Noteworthy frowned at this revelation, but wrinkled his nose and stayed his prior expression. Sucking in his bottom lip, he looked at the hoof at the end of his snout and breathed air onto it, prompting the hoofs owner to recoil in disgust. Chuckling, he raised a foreleg and pushed Octavia's back onto the table, watching as she lowered her head and snorted.

"Okay," he beamed, "you're on."

She rose from her seat, a happy smile on her face. She positively glowed as she began to walk out. Noteworthy was too much in a stupor to realize so, and called after her right when she was about to leave through the nearby front door.

"Octavia, where are you going?"

Raising a hoof to the door handle, she winked at him and simply responded, "I said that night. Not tonight." Opening the door, she added, "See you at the house," and left the restaurant. Noteworthy gave a pouting expression, nodding as he realized how easily she had just gotten out of that. Smacking his lips, he scratched his mane and reached for his saddlebags on the ground. Finding his coin bag, he pushed the small case on top of it out of the way carefully, intending on giving that later. Throwing the bag onto the table, he opened it up and waved a hoof toward the nearest employee.

A red stallion caught sight of him and walked over.

"How may I help you, sir?" He asked, his voice light and young, practically out-of-place for such a locale.

Noteworthy scratched his stubble, then tapped his hoof on the hardwood table and politely requested, "Can I have the check, uh, please? And quick. I need to get home."

"No problem, sir," was his smiling reply, and he quickly walked away to retrieve it. Noteworthy blew air out of his mouth, reclining in his seat as he awaited the presumably pricey check. Though business was slow, he still had enough money to pay for an admittedly expensive dinner. Thanks to Octavia also giving double bass lessons at the local music shop, the couple were able to maintain their house and even afford luxuries like eating at fancy restaurants. How he was able to successfully do so after so long was a complete mystery to him.

He frowned, glancing down at the pink tie still sitting on the table. Smirking, he picked it up and held it up to the light, giving a short snort of recognition. He opened his mouth and breathed a likewise brief sigh, picking the white collar up as well and tossing the two items into his saddlebags. Deciding to leave the flap open, he sucked in a large breath and dispelled it not a moment later, flattening his lips as he gazed at the two plates laying forgotten in front of him.

His pasta was cold by now but still present, and as was her salad, though hers was more finished than his could have hoped to be.

Popping his neck, he leaned forward and looked at his own tie.

He frowned.

"Can't believe she didn't even notice it was pink..."

"I hate you."

"I know."

Noteworthy looked down at the bed, his brow sweating profusely. Wordlessly, he turned to the gray mare next to him, out of breath. Licking his lips, he threw his hooves toward the sheets and almost shouted angrily, "Seriously?"

She held a hoof to her mouth, stifling a giggle. "Yes."

The stallion fell to his haunches, opening his mouth and swiping his face heavily with his forelegs. He droned, "You've gotta be kidding me..."

His hooves falling to the ground, he stared at what was awaiting him when he had walked into the room.

A dozen pink ties gazed at him in kind, their sparkly exteriors glimmering in the illuminating light of the ceiling fan. Their thick ends dangling off the foot of the bed, their bedazzled sides threatened to blind him as he strained his golden eyes. Shutting them and shaking his head vigorously, he turned left and gave Octavia a frown that would rival any anger-issued stallion on the planet. He spoke through grit teeth as grouchy as a one-legged whale hunter.

"I hate pink."

She only smiled in response.

"I hate glitter."

She only smiled deeper in response.

"I hate you."

She turned tail, stepping on the threshold to escape to the downstairs. Throwing her head back at Noteworthy, she tilted her head and stated matter-of-fact, "No you don't," and left, shutting the door behind her. Now alone in his bedroom, Noteworthy blew a raspberry and looked at his bed. Giving an unimpressed glare, he harumphed loudly and told himself that he'd get her back somehow.

Head snapping up, he realized he was doing so already.

Golden eyes rolled in their sockets, and Noteworthy gave one last outburst of breath before advancing toward his mattress. Standing in front of it, he shut his eyes, sucked in air, and let it out, popping his neck shortly after. He fell to his haunches without a word and picked up the first tie on the top of the pile. His expression changed rapidly, like a mare after having eaten a hooful of raw Rainbow Juice. It finally settled on anticipation, and, with one final hum of acceptance, Noteworthy went to work.

Or, rather, attempted to.

His lips flattened as he sat back.

He gazed down at the tie in his hooves, bit his lower lip, and issued a short curse.

"F..." He suddenly peered to his left and stared at the gray wall. The sign above his dresser was given a pair of dark, squinted eyes as their owner read the fine, hoof-written cursive across it.

NO PROFANITY, NOTEWORTHY.

He shook his head and grit his teeth so hard he thought he would snap them in two. His face slowly growing red, he felt his veins pop as he looked to the ground and kicked it idly, his tongue still issuing the beginning letter of his favorite curse. Thinking more family-friendly, he resumed it with a twist.

"...Fidge gunkhaus..."

He threw his forelegs into his hips and glanced at the door, almost begging the gray mare he lived with to barge in at that very moment in time so he could give her the biggest look of annoyance she would have ever been witness to in her entire life. Quite frankly, he didn't know what he was doing in the first place. He had made that half windsor—excuse me—half attempt solely because she liked it when he wore a tie. And he had made it with instructions.

And it had taken him two hours to get the first step just right.

The first step. Out of five.

A blue hoof found itself embedded in his forehead, and then found itself dragged down his muzzle and back down to the clean-as-soap carpet. Noteworthy licked his lips idly, still holding the pink, bedazzled tie in one hoof. He gave the thing one final, pitying look before he simply chucked it clear across the room, watching as it landed in the corner, nestling behind Octavia's bedside desk and almost knocking over her picture of her precious double bass.

Why she had a picture of her own instrument was puzzling to him. Looking behind him and adjacent the door, he wondered further why she had it when said instrument was sitting mere feet away from her.

He chuckled.

His mare was weird.

Noteworthy clapped his hooves together, giving his bedroom one last happy glance before turning to walk out the door. Cracking it open, he was immediately greeted to a ridiculous sight in front of him. He gave it a deadpan look, his hoof still on the door's wooden frame. Octavia stood in front of him, a large collection of pink ties wrapped around her face and dangling like noodles off her chin. She gave him a surprised look, her own gray hoof raised as if attempting to knock on his head.

Quickly, she assumed an angry expression, adjusted her tie beard, and cleared her throat, shouting in a deep, gravely voice, "I am the one who knocks!"

Noteworthy blinked, a frown on his lips. "You didn't knock, though–"

"I was about to, though. But you stopped me because you're just rude like that..." Octavia replied, pouting out her lower lip from underneath the tie beard. She looked up at Noteworthy, widening her eyes until they rivaled a sad, adorable puppy's whose parents were sadly murdered in a freak rodeo accident regarding a clown, a midget, and a pair of phosphorous matches. Sadly, to her dismay, her attempt didn't work. Noteworthy casually coiled his hoof around each and every tie, bringing them over the mare's head and finally holding them by his side as he started to walk toward the living room, the gray Earth Pony mare following him in close pursuit.

"I thought it was funny," she spoke, giggling like a school filly, "don't tell me you don't know what I was referencing just then–"

"Tavi, go to bed."

"Don't tell me what to do," she spat, joining him as he entered the living room. Opting to stand on the threshold bordering the hallway and the parlor, she watched as he tossed her ties onto the coffee table. Noticing that he didn't turn to look at her as usual, she suddenly gasped, her face lighting up excitedly. "You're mad!"

"I'm not mad–"

"No, you're mad. Don't deny it, Noteworthy." He only grunted in response. She sucked at her lower lip furiously, trying her hardest to stave her laughter. "You're getting absolutely flustered over our little tie war–"

"Oh, it's a tie war now is it?" He asked, falling onto the couch with one eye looking her way.

"Yes," she answered, leaning to her left. Cocking an eyebrow, she resumed her prior position and chirped, "You're not using my ties, are you?"

"I don't drink anymore, Tavi–"

"Shut up."

"...Yeah. Why, can I not?" He asked, rolling a hoof her way in disbelieving explanation. He looked as if he were about ready to walk out to the nearest store, buy a door and some nails, get his hammer from the closet, and make a doorway right where she was just so he could close it on her in the grumpiest way possible and with as much force as could capably send the right message.

Unfortunately for Noteworthy, they were currently out of doors at Home Dehpit, and he wasn't a handystallion as it was.

Instead, he decided to just uselessly flail a hoof her way, which the mare took purposefully wrongly to enter and join his side. Watching as he began to wrestle apart the half windsors she had made for her Tiesenberg beard, she laughed and saw him look up, giving her an incredulous look and a dead flinging of his hoof across the foreleg rest to his left. Blowing air out of his nose, he shook his head and looked to the lamp sitting by his right, successfully and involuntarily allowing the mare to snatch the tie from his hooves.

Feeling the sensation, he glared daggers at her, his cheeks rosy red in a mix of embarrassed denial and pure anguish. He opened his mouth to speak, but Octavia hugged the tie close to her chest and stopped him.

"You're not using my ties." She pointed a hoof behind her and through the drywall, making a memorized path to the bedroom. "You're using the ties I set out for you, because I'm a nice mare and I'm going to win anyway–"

"You didn't say I had to use those ties..."

"Well... I did now. This is, like, a tie war, and a tie war has rules." She smirked at him, enjoying his look of absolute displeasure. Raising a hoof, she idly mussed up his mane. She was instantly glad he was okay with her doing so as he snarled but stayed, crossing his forelegs and giving the candle a thousand yards away from him a stare-down that would make Clint Westiron back down out of fear, pants dripping with fluids Noteworthy suddenly shook his head at, attempting to work the image out of his mind.

The gears in her head began turning, and she threw a hoof in the air and a-ha'd, walking into the kitchen.

Noteworthy, listening as she left, grumbled something about the sun's legitimacy, glumly staring at the pink ties he wasn't able to use. Tongue against his cheek, he blew a raspberry once again. It wasn't the umpteenth time, but it sure was a time. Sounds of his garbage can rattling came to him like water to a lake. The candle still burned, and he lost focus on the area around him and began staring at it from the confinements of his own home.

Meanwhile, a little over a thousand yards away, Pinkie Pie sat, suddenly wondering why she was out in the middle of the night holding a wax candle on a hill.

A sound roused Noteworthy from his stupor. He jumped, looking to his left as his back smacked into the rear of his couch cushion. Feeling the now-bruised area, he grit his teeth and seethed, the mare at the threshold waggling her eyebrows, "Good job, Worthy." He heard something shift, and opened his eyes to half a dozen pink and glittery ties sitting on his lap. Eyeballing them, he flinched as a small hoofbook fell atop the pile. Giving it a confused expression, he mirrored it to the gray mare now reclining against the large post in the side of the room.

He flipped through it as she explained, "That," he imagined her pointing at it, "was my tie knot hoofbook for the Canterlot Symphony. They had us memorize each and every single one for different kinds of concerts."

A single eyebrow threatened to destroy the ceiling at its speed. "Why's the top all... fringey?"

"Oh! Dan, our uh... conductor, had us tear out the names after we had written them down. I believe he said it was so that we could get... better..?"

Noteworthy shrugged.

"I... never understood it myself—anyway! Choose some knots from here. Any you'd like." She snorted out her nose in amusement as he quickly flew through the pages, practically tearing the poor things apart.

Finding the final, blank page, he tossed the booklet onto the coffee table and turned to Octavia, inquiring, "And you're just... letting me use your notebook?"

Her right cheek clenched as she gave a doodoo-eating smile. "I'm not that mean. My name isn't Noteworthy, Noteworthy–"

"Oh ha ha."

The room was silent for a brief few seconds, and Octavia swore she could hear a cricket chirp from all the way down in San Palomino. She laughed, "Alright! Guess you're all set to lose tomorrow!" Raising a hoof toward the hallway, she continued, "I'm gonna go to bed now. I'll see you in the morning." She walked over to him as he began to slide the notebook back toward him. Bending over, she gave him a quick peck on the cheek and smirked as his cheeks flamed as heavily as a Mareizonian oak tree. His lips wobbly, he smiled awkwardly at her, surprised.

Waving at him, she called, "Don't stay up too late. I'll see you in the morning."

With a wave of his hoof, Noteworthy witnessed as she returned to the bedroom. Clearing his throat, he decided to have part of his mind keep the memory of the past minute somewhere safe and gazed down at the pink ties still nestled in his lap. He flattened his lips, exhaling as the silence of the house began to absorb him.

The tick-tocking of his clock was the only sound emanating.

Noteworthy leaned forward, issuing a quick, "Okay!" and wiping his hooves together as if he were about to hoof-wrestle someone. He surveyed the counter in front of him and all the items on top of it. The pile of coral ties sat on the right side, their thick ends facing him at attention. The Symphony booklet was to his left, the page still open to what he assumed to be a kind of wind-whatever. Past the book, almost on the other side of the table, was a small blue box. Eyes widening, he stumbled and fumbled out of his seat, quickly swiping it from the bench and stuffing it by his side. Teeth clenched, he swept his eyes around the room, panicking.

How could he have been so stupid as to have left it out? What if she had seen?!

Thankfully, she hadn't, and he gave a long sigh as he heard the unmistakably loud sounds of her snoring in the other room. Smiling at this, he delicately placed it next to him and reverted his attention back to the table. Letting out a prolonged breath, he popped his neck both ways, psyching himself up for the task at hoof.

He stared at it.

His mouth formed an 'o' shape, and he let out a low, "Whoo!" of anticipation.

Sitting down, there was a pregnant pause as he continued to just watch the immobile ties and book.

Noteworthy facehoofed so hard that he sincerely believed he had broken something. Shaking his ear fillings loose, he leaned forward and began to look through the manual, his tongue hanging limply out as he scoured its contents for a knot of interest.

For the next few minutes, he swore his hooves would catch fire. On and on he flipped through the novel's pages, like a mad pony desperately looking for something, anything that could cure what ailed him. Constantly, Noteworthy found instructions ranging from ten to even twenty-five steps, finding himself pressing a hoof to his forehead more times than he had his entire life. Throwing the final page to his left side, he stared at the blank page for the twenty-second time that night.

No no no there had to be something.

Sweat poured down his brow, and he wiped it subconsciously. Groaning, he titled his head and told himself that he'd look again.

It was about half-past-two in the morning when the notebook found itself flung violently across the room. Paper fluttering in the wind, it ricocheted off a painting hanging innocently on the wall and sent both it and the picture tumbling to the ground as one. The one responsible gave a grunt of exasperation, throwing his hooves over his head as he fell backwards onto the carpeted ground, cursing all the while. He lay there for a while, the appendages now rubbing away vigorously at his eyes in an attempt to drain away any thoughts of sleep.

He had to win.

There was no way around it. His masculinity told him that it couldn't end any other way. He would not lose to a mare at a tie war. His mind told him that everypony would be ashamed of him, and that he'd have to lock himself away for months while rejecting the sun and visitors and forbid sleeping and drinking and eating all the while contemplating life and throwing things at other things and generally acting as mopey as a one-legged fat feline.

Oh wait.

He had done that already.

He chuckled, but immediately regretted it as he coughed loudly. Holding a hoof to his maw, he rolled over and pouted into the carpet, eyes wandering everywhere and anywhere but in front of him. He gave a long yawn, lifting his head and letting it fall five times to further accentuate his stupidity and incapability. His eyes focused on a dirt stain not two inches from his nose, but eventually found such a sight boring and slowly began to crawl upward.

He found the thing he didn't want to see, and cringed inwardly at the sight of it.

A lone eyeball stared at him, its green iris reminding him of his florist boss.

He wondered why Octavia liked to keep it around. Probably just to screw with him because he threw out that pink teddy bear she liked so much. It wasn't his fault. Half the thing was burnt for some reason. You don't keep things that are ruined. Everypony knew that, right? Speaking of which...

Noteworthy got up, looking toward the coffee table. He frowned, and fell back to the ground.

Not a single tie had been tied. He had tried desperately for the past few hours trying to get one just right. Turn the page, follow the instructions, mess up, turn the page. Loop over end, end over loop, end through loop, loop through end, end over end and back around again he swore he would stumble, fall, and break something. Probably his head. It'd be pretty radical.

He clenched his eyelids, feeling a wave of pain coming to pass by his skull. Bracing himself, it came and went as quick as he had imagined, but the dull discomfort still rang in his head. As the world came to, he realized that he was absolutely boiling, his fur wet and clumpy as if he had entered and won the Running Of The Leaves five times. Flailing a hoof in front of his face, he breathed heavily, desperately trying to cool off. Gulping down a lump he hadn't realized he was harboring, his eyes rolled to the top, finding a small crack of space that showed a small area of the kitchen.

Golden irises flew to the sink.

Water.

He felt his throat with his tongue and found it desert-dry. Swiftly, he scrambled to his hooves and went to the kitchen, flicking the sink on with a forehoof and promptly throwing his head underneath its watery torrent. The sound of rushing water filling his ears, he as well filled his stomach with heavenly, much needed fluids. He felt like he was sitting underneath it for hours, days, weeks, before finally shutting it off and stumbling backwards, wiping his eyes with a hoof as his spine bumped against the granite island in the middle of the room.

Dragging his hooves through his face, he turned right and glanced at the clock.

Two forty-six A.M.

Tick.

Thirty-one seconds in.

He raised a hoof to his mouth, not even attempting to stave off the yawn that escaped his open maw. Struggling to keep his eyelids up, he began to pace the kitchen, talking to himself in a low whisper.

"I can do this. I can do this. Just... stay awake Noteworthy. You've got this." He looked toward the couch, smiling as he remembered the blue box. "Tomorrow is the big day. You've got this, alright? You've got this. You just gotta try your hardest... she's not winning this war."

A hoof went across his chin quizzically, scraping his stubble in the process. Gradually, he began to nod, and finally stepped a hoof back toward the living room.

He stopped mid-step. The hooves fell to the floor, clattering on the tiles. His gaze went to his right and found the rather sizable bag sitting atop the island. Raising a brow, he trotted toward it and placed his forelegs on the edge, leaning on his hindlegs to get a better view. The heavy-duty gray bag showed nothing of interest save for a few binders of what he presumed to be music and a small box he dared not to open. Falling back to the floor, he caught notice of the pattern emblazoned on the side and smiled, running a hoof across the purple treble clef.

He gave a sigh, but a happy one. Clearing his throat and shaking his head like a dog, he about-faced like a Royal Guard, intent on letting no more distractions... well... distract him. He stepped a single hoof toward the living room once more, knowing full well he'd make it this time.

Once again, he stopped, groaning outwardly this time. The trash can was out-of-place, open, and filled with assorted papers. Scraps, pieces, fringe, you name it. It was there. He rolled his eyes, knowing that Octavia had done this just to mess with him as per usual. Bending over, he reached for the handle on the side and found it, coiling his hoof around it. Looking inside quickly, he caught notice of something. Slowly dropping the trash can—so as to not disturb the heavily-sleeping gray mare a couple doors down—Noteworthy dug through the trash like a year-old raccoon, fumbling this way and that before finally pulling the pile out.

Laying it out on the granite top, he examined it and realized what it was immediately.

Eldredge Knot

Prat Knot (make sure you don't mess that name up Tavi)

Noteworthy's eyes widened, rivaling the size of his dinner plates.

The tops of the notebook. Each and every singly scrap that Dan had told the Symphony to tear out. He gasped. He couldn't believe his luck.

Thinking quickly, he hoofed through the stack, intending to put them all in order out of a mixture of OCD and personal assistance. Maybe if he knew the name, he could go and get some help... or maybe check out a book specifically for that knot. Humming disinterestedly at many of the knot names, he froze as he reached the end. Blinking, he discarded the rest of the stack. He held the single sheet of paper to eye level, mouthing its name at least a dozen times to make sure it was right.

His face lit up.

He found the perfect one.

Noteworthy sat patiently, his hooves in his lap as he stared at his menu laid out before him. He gave an evil smirk, happy that Octavia would have to pay for such a pricey meal. He made a mental note to order the most expensive thing on the menu. Letting out a long breath, he looked to the clock hanging above the front door and watched as it ticked and tocked loudly. Five-thirty P.M. She'd be here soon.

As if on cue from a backstage crew, the mare of the hour stepped through the door, her pink bowtie brightening up the otherwise black and white decor of the restaurant. Looking every which way, she finally turned to her left and found a waving blue stallion sitting by himself. Smiling deeply, she proceeded to walk toward him.

"Hey, Tavi," Noteworthy said, getting up out of his seat as she approached, "how was your day?"

She chuckled, "Fine, thank you." She watched as he pulled her seat out and kindly sat down when he waved a hoof toward it. Placing her forelegs on the table, she waited for him to take his seat before speaking. "Thank you, Noteworthy. Anyway, Sweetie Belle, you remember her?" He nodded. "She's doing absolutely amazing. I swear, she could be the next me." Octavia suddenly blushed, realizing the implications of what she had just said.

She raised a hoof to defend herself, but was cut off by a blue hoof gently pushing her other foreleg off the table. "Forelegs off the table, Miss Philharmonica. Now's not the time to be an egotist–"

"Hello there!"

The two turned, finding a red stallion looking at them with a huge smile on his face. Horn lighting up, he levitated a small notebook out from his apron and beamed, "I'm Chili Pepper, I'll be your waiter today." He turned to Noteworthy and added, "Glad to see you again, sir."

"My pleasure."

"So, what'll it be you two?"

Noteworthy looked expectantly at Octavia and found her staring blankly into space. Rolling a cart wheel with his hoof, she suddenly gasped in realization and scooped up her menu. Scouring it for a brief moment, she folded it back and placed it onto the table where it prior sat. Giving a grin, she responded, "I'll have the garden salad."

"I'll have the uh, non-boring fettucine, thank you." He tilted his head to Octavia, who stuck her tongue out at him with annoyance. As Chili Pepper wrote it down, he turned to leave, but stopped and stumbled back.

"Really sorry guys, what would you like to drink?"

"Wa–"

"Water for both of us."

It was Noteworthy's turn to scowl at Octavia. She simply blew a raspberry in response.

"Alright, thanks guys. Your food will be ready here shortly."

He left, the Earth Pony couple giving him a pair of thanks before turning to each other. A pause filled the air, only interrupted by the slightly far-off playing of the local jazz band on the stage. As they both reclined in their seats, they gave each other long looks, as if attempting to look deeply into the other's soul.

Noteworthy basically destroyed the silence with a nine-inch samurai sword.

"So you're paying tonight, right?"

Octavia kicked her hindlegs into the table, rattling the contents atop it. As it settled, she slanted her head and gave him a deadpan look. "No. I think you've got that the other way around, Worthy..."

"I'm gonna win–"

"Alright," she interrupted, beckoning a hoof his way, "let me see what you have." Watching as he gave her a look of confusion, she flailed the hoof as if it were dead and limp, sputtering, "The– the ties. Let me see them." Noteworthy's eyes brightened as he sighed in comprehension, and so was not able to witness Octavia's look of misunderstanding stupidity as he bent over to retrieve his saddlebags. Coming back to his seat, Noteworthy threw the first tie onto the table, laying it out before her.

She strained her eyes, looking at it.

She suddenly flinched as another was lain out before her. She raised a brow.

Another.

She mouthed something even she didn't understand.

Another.

She looked up at him and mouthed, "What?"

He looked at her for two heartbeats before his hoof went back down into his bags, finding the final tie. He flung it onto the table, and Octavia unfurled it and spread it apart. She dragged a hoof through her face. The ties sat in front of her in a row, like ducks in a pond. She blinked at them, purple irises sending signals to whatever inhabitants were taking residence deep inside the fabric of the neckties.

Each had a knot.

And each knot was exactly the same as the last.

She pondered Noteworthy, confused.

He shut his eyes and smiled at her, his hoof going into the bag one last time. This time, it didn't bring a tie with it. Instead, an old, worn piece of paper sat crinkled in front of her. She didn't immediately recognize what it was, but as she looked to the ties and back to it, she realized.

They were the exact same knot.

The top end was folded, and she unfolded it.

Her breath caught in her throat, and she slowly looked up at Noteworthy, who was blushing deeply. She felt the corners of her mouth rising, and she looked back down at the paper, reading the name of the knot out loud for him to hear with her.

"True Love Knot."

She threw her hooves over her face, trying to hide her facial expression. She sputtered and fought a hard war to make sure that the tears wouldn't dare try flowing. Lowering the appendages, she quickly retrieved a tie from the table and got out of her seat. Noteworthy didn't move an inch as she placed the tie around his neck, and she didn't move a centimeter as he placed one around hers. They both tightened theirs in tandem, smiling happily at one another.

Octavia croaked, "I... I guess you win. You're the Tie Master, N-Noteworthy..."

"You need to go the bathroom?" He asked, a caring look on his face.

She nodded, "Yeah," and got up to go.

Noteworthy was left alone to cheer for his success. Hoof pumping the air, he beamed happily as he waited for Octavia to come back. Seconds turned to a minute, and a minute turned to two minutes. Noteworthy began tapping the table impatiently. At five minutes, he leaned into a hoof, pressing his cheek against his mouth. Blinking at the circular bar to his right, he flinched at the sound of something else tapping with him. Looking to the source, he gave a surprised gasp.

Octavia stood outside the window, sticking her tongue at him. Quickly, she waved her bitbag in the air and giggled. Noteworthy's eyes narrowed. Octavia gave a smile nevertheless, and raised a hoof onto the glass. Slowly, she traced a familiar shape and added a few letters before turning tail and booking it back home.

Noteworthy shook his head, snickering all the while.

Chili Pepper roused him from his actions, two plates of food and two cups balanced on a tray in a white aura. He raised a brow and looked at Noteworthy. "Uh... where's the other one at?"

Noteworthy considered him, simpering. "She uh... she decided she had to be somewhere."

"Well that sucks man... you still wanna eat?"

Noteworthy nodded as he leaned over to his saddlebags and retrieved an important, small blue box. Straightening, he watched as Chili Pepper placed both plates and cups on the table carefully. Done, he joined Noteworthy in watching the gray, Earth Pony mare sprint home. Pointing a hoof her way, Chili glanced at Noteworthy and remarked, "One heck of a mare, if you ask me."

"Didn't even pay for dinner," Noteworthy responded, slowly cracking open the blue box. His eyes lit up, reflecting the diamond currently glimmering brilliantly in his face. Sighing, he whispered to himself, "maybe another day," and closed it shut, looking out the window and at the drawing sitting there.

He heard Chili speak up once again, "Well, hope you two work out whatever is goin' on with her just leaving like that."

Noteworthy smiled.

And he admired the crooked heart in the window, the letters N and O connected with a single plus sign in the center. He spoke softly, chuckling.

"I think it'll be alright. My Sunshine knows what's what."