Misty waited at the end of the pier, clutching a white lily to her chest while she whispered a simple request under her breath. "Please return him to me..." She closed her eyes and tightened her grip on the flower. If there was no ship cresting the horizon when she opened them, then she would toss it into the sea.
How long, she wondered, could she keep her eyes closed? What if she simply never opened them again? Then she would never have to see the empty seascape that would break her heart...
Crystal's ear flicked at the distinct intonation of her teacher's lecture coming to a close. He always started to use a more questioning tone when he was finishing class for the day, so she looked up and feigned attention.
"—and that just about wraps up today's lesson, everypony, okay? Remember: it's not the size, it's how you use it!" The professor smiled as he set an oversized test tube on the table.
Crystal blinked a few times. "What the hay did I miss?"
"A lot, as usual," her classmate, Clarity, teased and giggled. "Do you need to borrow my notes again?"
"Maybe... Yes," Crystal admitted with a sheepish smile. "Do you mind?"
She floated her notebook over. "Nope! Just be sure to give it back to me tomorrow, okay?"
Crystal slid the notebook into her saddlebags and the two started to walk out of the room together. "It must be nice to have such a good memory."
Clarity shrugged. "What good is remembering things, anyway? At least you can be an author or something someday! What kind of job am I going to have with my talent?"
"I don't know." Crystal hummed in thought as she pulled her locker open. "I'm sure you'll think of something when you're not having to study for exams." She winked. "I'll see you tomorrow! Thanks again!"
Crystal trotted down the hall and toward the main doors. The next half hour was one she could do with her eyes closed: take a right once off school grounds, two blocks up the street, one block left, and she'd be right outside the hospital. Of course, Canterlot's sprawling layout meant the blocks were hardly straight lines like in Manehattan, but they were close enough.
She smiled when she opened the door to Silent Knight's room. The scent of flowers overwhelmed the usual hospital smell. "We could run a flower shop out of this room," she commented as she walked over to the bed.
Runic inclined his head to look at her. "A flower shop, huh? I wonder if there are any rules against shopkeeping in a hospital." He rubbed his chin. "I wonder if I could run my shop from here?"
"A flower shop is less likely to explode at random, so I think I like that idea better." She floated a vase over to the sink, raised the flowers out, and emptied the water to replace it.
"How do you know?" Runic huffed. "Flowers can be volatile. Especially when you mix them together!"
Crystal shot him a light frown. "And how many innocent flowers have you combusted?"
Runic shrugged and got up from the chair. "Potions have to come from somewhere, you know! Anyway, how was school?"
"School?" She rolled her eyes and returned her attention to the next vase, replacing its water before moving onto another. "Pointless, but I just have to make it through this last year and then I'll be done with the whole waste of time."
"Aww, school isn't so bad! At least, it wasn't while I was there." He tilted his head with a small frown. "Did school change after I left?"
Crystal waved a hoof at him. She laughed softly and set about rearranging the freshly watered flowers. "I'm sure it's not so bad once it's over. Nonetheless, you have a store to get back to."
Runic nodded, offered a coltish smile, and started for the door. "I'll see you tomorrow!"
"Of course." She waited until the door clicked shut before she sighed and shook her head. The room was quiet for a moment as she avoided turning around, instead keeping her focus on the flowers. "Everypony is so certain they'll see me tomorrow," she finally said, glancing over her shoulder at Silent. "What about you, hmm? I'll see you tomorrow here as well, same time, same place, same condition?" A small smile briefly lit up her face. "Perhaps tomorrow you will open your eyes and see me, too?"
There was no reply, of course.
"Well, I suppose you wouldn't want to see the state of your room." She giggled and prodded at a tulip. "Look at this one! Drooping its head so low. How disrespectful!" Her horn lit up as she focused on the wilting petals. "Want to see something neat?" She squinted, directed all of her thoughts toward the flower, then clenched her eyes shut as a burst of energy bubbled from her chest to the tip of her horn and shot out in a concentrated beam.
When she opened her eyes again, the tulip stood tall and proud among the rest of the bouquet.
"Hah! See there? See what I did?" She panted lightly. "A florist taught me that when I mentioned just how many flowers you have in here. It's only temporary, but it's a neat party trick, don't you think?" Walking over to the bedside chair, she gave a breathless laugh and tossed her mane. "You're right, it's a very neat party trick."
Once seated, her smile wilted, and there was no magic spell to fix it.
"So!" she exclaimed, clapping her hooves. "I made more progress on my novel. I've decided to just let my muse lead me instead of trying to guide it myself. It is determined that Stoutheart goes overseas, and so he has." She rested her elbows on the bed, hooked her hooves, and lowered her chin onto them. "Poor Misty Glen... She doesn't know if he'll ever return..."
She swallowed. The air was dry and stagnant. Through the floral scent she could detect the stench of over-sterilization.
"Have you figured it out yet? Her Silent Love?" Her lips quirked into a coy smile. "Hmm?" A somber expression overtook her face. "Oh, why aren't you smiling, Silent? Do you still not get it? It's not a very well-conceived hint, you know. In fact, I don't know if it's a hint at all."
Her gaze wandered the room. "I was thinking they would dance, and that is when she would tell him. Of course, she's not a very good dancer, being a mare of simple upbringing." She giggled softly. "The problem is I'm afraid I don't know any true knights, and the only things I can find at the library are romance novels." The giggle returned as a laugh. "But you're a Knight, aren't you? Perhaps you can tell me."
She finally looked at him again, her eyes soft as her brow knitted. "Would a Knight know how to dance? Is that part of chivalry? I'm not making too wide of a leap by assuming that is part of their training, am I?" As she continued, her voice grew weaker, almost desperate as she pleaded, "Do you know how to dance, Silent Knight? Could you tell me?"
He said nothing. As usual.
"Please?" The last question fell out in a breathless whisper before her throat caught on a lump. She shook her head quickly, patted him on the hoof, and said with forced cheer, "It's all right. A stallion is entitled to his secrets. Nonetheless, my readers will like a knight that dances. I certainly would."
An image flashed across her mind and goosebumps prickled her skin. She imagined it all: the music playing and swaying their hearts as they swayed across the floor, his forelegs wrapped around her, silently promising to never let go... The daydream was cut short by her sighing heavily. "Is it strange for me to dream like this of you when I don't even know what you think of me? Am I a lovelorn fool? Could you just open your eyes long enough to tell me once and for all?"
He did neither, so she stood rather abruptly and walked over to the nearest vase. She busied herself by rearranging the flowers. "I'll keep waiting for your answer, Silent Knight, but I do hope you'll give me one soon. It's rude to keep a lady waiting."
The aroma of coffee and pastries enveloped Crystal as she stepped through the doorway into the cafe. She breathed it in before sighing contentedly. It was a much welcome reprieve from a month of rubbing alcohol and hoof sanitizer. After looking around, she spotted Raven sitting at a table over against the wall.
"Hello, Raven!" she chirped as she walked over.
"Oh!" Raven's magic flickered out as her focus was torn away from the notebook floating in front of her. "I didn't think you'd get here so soon."
Crystal sat down across from her, brow raised. "When you say it's important, I assume that means important."
Raven flushed lightly. "W-Well, yes, but perhaps I exaggerated a little." Crystal stared at her with an expectant smile, and she continued, "It's still a way's away, but Moore and I are starting the wedding planning now."
"Oh my goodness!" Crystal squealed in delight. "How long is a way's away? Six months? A year?"
"Seven months, currently," Raven replied. She turned the notebook around to show its contents: a timeline.
Crystal scanned the dates until she found the current day's date and gasped. Next to the date was written, 'Ask Crystal Wishes to be a bridesmare.' When she looked up, her words were halted by Raven's guilty expression.
"I'm sorry," Raven said. "My brother is going to be my stallion of honor. When he found out I was engaged, he jumped on the assumption that because we are related, he would have the honor." Her nose scrunched up. "But he is stuck in Vanhoover for his job and is only going to be in town for the wedding. I... I can't say no to him, but I need somepony here to do the work he should be doing." She stared at the table, her ears folded back. "I know it's very gauche, but could you stand in for him in duties but not in title?"
Crystal smiled, nodding with enthusiasm. "Absolutely! I don't mind at all! I'm just happy you'd consider me at all." The smile darkened into a playful grin. "So does that mean I am in charge of the bachelorette party?"
Raven looked up at her, wide-eyed. "I-I suppose? What are you planning?"
"Oh, nothing yet." She rubbed her hooves together, then giggled. "But I will do my best to make it wonderful. Now, let's see." She looked over the timeline again. "Wow, you went all-out with this schedule, didn't you?"
"Yes and no." Raven's ears pinned back and she sighed. "Loath as I am to admit it, Willow helped me put this together. She has a spectacular eye for arranging these things."
Crystal laughed behind a hoof. "Oh, don't look so green. Yes, she's good at scheduling, but you're good at managing the castle as a whole. I'm sure if you had to swap jobs for a day, she'd be the one grumbling with envy."
Raven visibly fought it, but she eventually smiled. "I suppose you're right."
"Now, back to this." Crystal tapped on the notebook. "You want to have the dress picked by next week? We should start shopping now, then! Oh, no, I see, you want to start dress shopping on Friday..."
Raven tapped her hooves together. "I hope it doesn't seem strange, but I'd like to keep to the timeline as much as possible. Willow and I accounted for buffer days to reduce stress so not too many things happen all at once, especially since I will still be working throughout all of this."
"Don't worry," Crystal assured. "Nothing ever goes according to plan, but we'll try anyway."
They laughed, then Raven said in a serious tone, "We'll do more than try. Isn't that right, honorary mare of honor?"
Crystal gulped and nodded. "Yes, ma'am."
"Good." Raven straightened her glasses. "Now, let's discuss when and where we'll meet on Friday to look at dresses. How do you feel about wearing yellow?"
Crystal nodded again, somewhat dumbly. What exactly had she gotten herself into?
Crystal hummed while she flipped through the pages of Bridal Bridle. "Look at this!" She faced the magazine to show a selection of bouquets toward Silent Knight. "White roses with blue hydrangeas. What do you think?" After a pause, she turned the magazine back to herself. "I agree. It's a little too simple for Raven."
Her left hind hoof tapped lightly against the floor in rhythm with her occasional humming. "What about something exotic, like a bird of paradise? Hmm? No, you're right, she's not that showy."
The sound of conversation outside the door caught her attention. "Oh, come on!" cried Velvet's recognizable voice. "Do we have to do this every time? Just let me in!"
Crystal wrapped her magic around the door handle across the room and opened it. "Thunder Tumble, don't be contrary. You know Velvet."
"Protocol, ma'am," Tumble mumbled.
Velvet upturned her nose at the guards as she walked past, huffing. "I know I don't come by very often, but I'm not a total stranger."
"You've only come by once." Crystal smiled and looked back at the magazine in her hooves. "That pretty much makes you a stranger around here. Anyway, what brings you by? Shouldn't you be at the bakery?"
Velvet stared at her for a little while, glancing up and down before she said, "Well, I came by to say hi, but now I'm here to ask... is that legal?"
Crystal blinked. "Is what legal?"
"Planning a wedding with a stallion in a coma," Velvet deadpanned.
"What?" Crystal furrowed her brow before she gasped and laughed. "Oh! No, no! I'm sorry, I didn't get to tell you the news last night. Raven asked me to be one of her bridesmares, so I'm helping with that. This isn't—No, this isn't for me."
"Oh." Velvet sat in the seat on the other side of the bed. "That makes more sense. Sooo..." She swung her hind legs. "How are you doing?"
Crystal floated the magazine over to her friend. "What do you think of peonies for Raven?"
"I don't care about Raven's wedding." She swatted it away. "I asked how you're doing. You seem so... content lately."
Crystal stuck out her lower lip in a pout. "You say that like it's a bad thing."
Velvet raised one brow and gestured at the stallion between them.
"Well, yes, I see your point there." Crystal grabbed the magazine out of her magic. "It's easier to be happy than sad. Every day is another day he might wake up. Isn't that better than dreading every day as another he might not?"
"You know how I feel about that attitude," Velvet said slowly and carefully.
"I know." Crystal smiled. "I know, and don't worry. I won't sit around here forever. I don't know when I'll give up, but I know I'm not ready to yet. I'll be all right either way."
Velvet eyed her with clear suspicion, then smiled. "You've changed." Her tone grew more playful as she teased, "So how many pages in that magazine have you marked for your own wedding?"
Crystal's face heated a bright shade of red. "Three, of course." She bit her lower lip and leaned closer. "Do you want to see?"
"D'uh! Why else would I have asked?" She rolled her eyes. "Hoof it over!" Eagerly, she looked over the pages with the corners folded in. "Uh-huh, I see... So you want a princess gown? Big surprise there. Rose garden venue?" Her gaze raised from the magazine. "I take it back. You haven't changed in the least."
Crystal stuck out her tongue and blew a raspberry.
"Nope. Definitely haven't changed at all."
They stared at each other before both breaking out into giggles that slowly died down into simple smiles, neither looking at the stallion for a while. Finally, Velvet glanced at him first.
"I don't know how you can spend hours here," she said, standing from the chair. "It's a little creepy with him just... there, unmoving, totally silent."
Crystal shrugged. "I can't describe it, but I don't mind. It's worth it if I can get to see him open his eyes."
Velvet scrunched up her nose as she started for the door. "Well, I'm going to go to the bakery and have some fun with ponies that talk back. I'll see you tonight?"
"Of course." Crystal waved her off and waited for the door to shut, then sighed and slumped in her seat. "She has a point, you know. I wouldn't necessarily call it creepy, but I do feel a little crazy, sitting here and talking to you for hours." She sighed again, flipping the Bridal Bridle back to where she had left off. "Anyway, back to Raven's bouquet. I know she doesn't have that on her schedule for another two weeks, but you won't tell, will you?" After a pause, a bitter laugh escaped her. "That's what I thought."
Crystal rambled on about flowers and eventually transitioned into accessories and, after about an hour, silence. The machine continued to drone its usual beep, though it was faster than normal. Her attention was fixated on her surging emotions, however, and not the monitor, while Silent Knight groaned ever so slightly.
Her resolve wavered and brought her to the point of begging. Though she didn't know to whom she pleaded, she couldn't keep the questions trapped inside. "What more do you want from me? What have I not done that I still need to do?"
Her lower lip quivered. "Oh, Celestia, please help him. Please help me. There is so much I want to say to him, so much I didn't say because I was afraid." She choked on her words as she continued in a quieter voice, "Did you know that I got his last letter just a few days before I found out what happened to him? I was so excited, so determined to tell him how I feel, and then..."
She sniffed and rubbed at her stinging eyes. "And, well, if you can hear me, then you already know the rest, don't you?" She bowed her head. "Please, our story can't end this way. Not like this. This isn't how it was supposed to end at all. Anything but this..."
Silent Knight's eyes opened just long enough to wince and clench back shut, then slowly cracked open again.
Crystal blinked through her tears and, when she saw him staring at her and that it wasn't just her imagination, she gasped. "Doctor!" she cried, jerking her head toward the door. "Somepony, quick, get the doctor! He's, he's awake!"
The sound of metal hoofguards scrabbling against the floor responded as the guards outside mobilized to track down the nearest doctor. She looked back at him to see half of his mouth curled up in a smile, the other wriggling its way up but not quite making it.
"Hello, beautiful," he whispered in a raspy, tired voice.
Crystal's ears stood straight up. It was hard to tell if he was truly seeing her or if he was just hallucinating a mare in her place, but the feel of his gaze on her sent electricity up her spine. She could have sworn her heart jumped into her throat as she added, "And he's delirious!"