Crystal took a deep, shaky breath. According to the time, Velvet wouldn't be home for at least two more hours, giving her plenty of time to herself. She glanced around to ensure she was alone before opening a manilla envelope and pulling out the Cosmarepolitan magazine inside. The cover was emblazoned with a mare posed in the most provocative way, the words 'Satisfy Your Stallion' boldly plastered over her lower half.
Her face turned bright red and she quickly opened the magazine to get away from the image only to be presented with another. She swallowed. "This was a bad idea," she muttered, flipping through the pages. Finally, she arrived at the Erotic Shorts section and, after another glance around, started to read.
Just as she wandered into the more dangerous territory, a low, sultry voice whispered in her ear, "Tonight's da night, huh?"
Crystal screamed and whirled the magazine around in her magic to slap the surprise guest in the face. She stared, wide-eyed, as Velvet's laughter turned into coughing. The mare's eyes were droopy and slightly dull and there was a somewhat nasal tone to her voice when she said, "Calm down, 's'just me."
"Wh-what are you doing home?!" Crystal shrieked as she snatched the magazine out of her magic and clutched it close.
Velvet sniffed. "Godda cold. Di'n't go in today." She grinned lopsidedly. "Sooo... ?"
Crystal stared at her with wide eyes. Inwardly, she cursed herself for not thinking to check Velvet's room or just hiding in her own in the first place. "It's not what you think!"
"What isn't?" Velvet's grin widened. "Looks like you're readin' 'bout—"
"N-n-not true!" Crystal squeezed the magazine as though she might force it out of existence, her face turning bright red. "You've got it all wrong!"
"Don't think I do." Velvet raised her kerchief and blew her nose, then continued, "You godda date wif Silent. You're readin' sexy stuff. I can do da math." She gave a cracked, wheezy snicker. "Wan' me to go to my parents' house tonight?"
Crystal shook her head quickly from side to side. "Nope! Not necessary! This is just a date, a normal date!" She jumped off the couch and ran to the kitchen, where she stuffed the magazine into the trash can. "Now, let's get you back in bed, and hopefully your delirious mind will forget all about these absurd notions."
With a small roll of her eyes, Velvet turned and flicked her tail. "Fine, but if you change your mind, I godda lodda advice. Like ignore dose magazines. Bad advice in 'em."
"Not necessary!" Crystal repeated, her voice squeaking. "Back to bed!"
The door shut after a small cackle from the sick mare, and Crystal sighed heavily. Her heart still pounded from the shock, surprise, and embarrassment. After a brisk pace around the living room, she collapsed back onto the couch and buried her face in one of the throw pillows. A high-pitched whine escaped her into the smothering embrace of the pillow until she ran out of breath, and she just laid there with a sense of dread clouding her thoughts.
The bell chimed to announce Crystal's entrance into Sunridge Sweets, but the sound could hardly be heard over the cacophony of ponies talking in all directions. Her eyes widened as she looked around to see the bakery completely full and she approached the counter to ask Pepper Ridge, "What's going on?"
Pepper Ridge beamed at her. "Isn't it great? Since school's out for the day, everypony decided to come here! Looks like you had the same idea, huh?" He winked.
Crystal's ears folded back and she looked around at the busy tables. "It's not great!" She glanced at him when he frowned curiously. "Well, of course, it's great for your business, but I was supposed to meet Silent Knight here for a date."
"Oh!" He frowned. "Really?" He rubbed the back of his neck, glancing around the bakery. "I mean, there is the kitchen, but Sunbeam's rushing about trying to keep up with all the orders. Wouldn't want to get in her way. There is—" He cut himself off with a chuckle. "That is, if you're desperate to have your first date here..."
Crystal twiddled her hooves. "Somewhat. This place is important to me."
Pepper reached across the counter to pat her on the head. "Aren't you just the sweetest? Well, we do have the little table in the corner open."
"The little table in the..." She trailed off when her eyes landed on the small, foal-sized table and chairs that sat unoccupied off to the side. Her skeptical gaze returned to him. "Papa Pepper, you can't be serious."
He shrugged helplessly. "It's all we got left!"
She dropped her face into her hooves, releasing a long groan, before she held her head high and started over to the tiny table. "I'll make do... Somehow."
"Good luck!" he called and she acknowledged him with a bob of her head.
Crystal sat herself at the table. No matter how many different ways of sitting she tried, she felt silly. She finally hunkered low to peer through the forest of hooves and table legs. Not long after, four white hooves moved across the floor and her gaze followed them up to his unmistakable face. "Silent!" she tried to call above the noise. "Over here!"
Silent approached and tilted his head when he saw her at the tiny seating. "Hi?"
Crystal's tail curled around herself bashfully. "Hi. It's, um, rather busy today, it seems. I suppose I forgot that every other student would have the day off, as well."
"I see." Silent stared at the available chairs for a moment, then very carefully lowered himself onto one. "Why do you not have school, again?"
"Some old holiday." She shrugged. "Neighbraham Lincoln Day. My history teacher said he unified..." Her nose scrunched up. "I don't know, but he had a lot of speeches I was supposed to memorize."
Silent arched his brow. "I guess you didn't memorize them very well," he teased.
"Well!" Crystal's ears shot straight up. "I don't find most history lessons very engaging, so..." She pouted. "You're messing with me."
He laughed softly. "I am, I'm sorry." He tried to shift to get more comfortable. Pepper Ridge came over with two cups of tea before he hurried to get back to the other orders. "So, then... How is the writing coming along?"
Crystal flushed and hurried to raise her glass to take a sip in the hopes the heat of the brew would explain her reddened face. "Fine. It's fine. Her Silent Love will be ready to send off soon. I don't have a title for the new one yet, but I'm fairly prepared already."
"The frost pony one, right?" He picked up his cup of tea and took a sip. "Do you need me to arrange a meeting for you and Cobalt?"
She nodded. "That would be wonderful!"
A moment of silence fell between them, though they were surrounded by noise. Silent shifted and nearly slipped out of his little chair.
"I'm so sorry, Silent," she said in a quick voice, guilt causing her to tremble slightly.
He shrugged and replied, "It's okay."
"It's not." She glanced up from the table. "This isn't what I had in mind for our first date at all!"
He shrugged again. Slowly, he picked the cup back up to take another sip, then worked to set it down without knocking it or himself over from the rigid movements.
"I just..." Her ears fell while she looked around. "I just thought it would be fun to have a trip down memory lane, at least for me. You may not remember, but you and your hoofball teammates had come here to celebrate after winning some sort of tournament." She sighed, shook her head, and added in a quiet grumble, "I have no idea where all these ponies are coming from. Sunridge Sweets is never this busy, no offense to Pepper or Sunbeam."
Silent's gaze focused on nothing in particular while he thought for a moment. "Oh." He smiled. "Oh, yeah, senior year. We were unstoppable back then... Didn't know you were here, too. What a coincidence." His gaze returned to her, his smile melting her nerves away. "I'm glad you have a good memory here. Now you'll have a silly one to go with it."
Crystal laughed softly, shaking her head. "Too silly for my liking. Would you like to go?"
"Very much so, yes."
She stood and he followed suit, though he continued to move slowly and carefully. She had to smother a laugh with one hoof at how ridiculous he looked, a large stallion seeming even larger by the tiny furniture. He dropped some bits on the table, then followed her out of the bakery.
"Now where to?" she asked, looking around their surroundings, then at him.
Silent's brow knitted in thought. "Well, Dot and her friends are having a sleepover at my place. I don't want to get in their way." His expression lightened and he glanced up at one of the tall buildings that stood out on the Canterlot skyline. "We could go to the observatory and look at the constellations."
Crystal nodded and smiled. "That sounds like a lovely idea." She paused, then tilted her head. "Why is Dot at your place?"
"Iridescence is on duty later tonight. Winterspear decided to play denmother to the fillies." His ears flattened to the sides as he said in a droll tone, "The place was total chaos. I can't go back. Not after what I've seen. I wasn't aware that four fillies could wreak such havoc in such a short period of time."
A soft laugh bubbled up from her chest. "It's probably wise to stay away, then, especially since you have duty tomorrow." She looped a hoof around his foreleg and shifted closer to him to enjoy what heat she could feel from their closeness in the brisk evening air.
Silent nodded and they started on their way before he stopped suddenly to look down at her. "Wait. We went to secondary school together?"
"Academy," she corrected. "In Canterlot, we call it academy."
He rolled his eyes and playfully retorted, "Calling it an 'academy' doesn't change the fact that it is still secondary school."
She giggled. "Oh, you." She squeezed his foreleg briefly. "Yes, we went to school together." She giggled again. "Although, you were a senior when I was in my first year, and you were always on some team doing something. Usually solo despite being on a team, which I think rather defeats the purpose." Her ears perked up and she gazed up at him, smiling. "You were in my theater club, though."
He furrowed his brow and corrected with a light frown on his lips, "I wasn't in theater club. I built sets."
"Yes, I remember that..." She trailed, her smile lifting into a grin.
"I never realized we were there at the same time," he continued with a small chuckle, "Then again, I never had any friends back then. I just went from team to team, anything to stay fit and work on my group dynamics."
She laughed under her breath. "By group dynamics, you mean in sports. The stallion I remember wasn't exactly known for being very social."
He simply shrugged in response. When they reached the observatory, a sign taped to the front doors read loud and clear in bold lettering: 'Closed for Renovations!'
"Really?" Crystal stuck out her lower lip and her ears drooped low. "I hope this isn't some sort of bad omen. This has been a lousy first date."
He nudged her lightly and said, "I wouldn't call spending time with you lousy. Dates are more about the company, aren't they?"
She paused to think on it for a moment before smiling up at him and nuzzling close. "It sounds like I trained you too well."
He snorted. "We didn't have a class on simply being polite. That is all me." He puffed out his chest, then took a step away from the observatory and gently tugged to guide her away from it. "Come on, let me walk you home."
She sighed, but relented with a nod and allowed him to lead the way. Despite her disappointment, she couldn't really say that she regretted their date. After all, she was walking close to him, her hoof around his foreleg. What more could a mare want?
Her ears shot straight up as her mind jumped back to the morning's magazine perusal, instantly coming up with several ideas of what she might want. She gave her head a quick shake of and did everything she could just to focus on the present.
Before she knew it, they were standing outside the door to her condo. She held onto his foreleg a while longer, not quite ready to call it a night. Her ears perked up and she offered, "Won't you come in for a bit?" She giggled. "I have seating sized for a stallion."
He chuckled. "There has never been a more tempting offer from a mare to a stallion in all recorded history."
She winked over her shoulder as she opened the door and walked inside. "Oh, I can think of more tempting ones. For now I'll just settle on making you tea."
When she went to the kitchen while he sat down on a pillow, her gaze fell on the trash can and she froze. There was no way he would go rooting through her trash, was there? Her face heated up and she shook her head quickly, focusing instead on making tea. "It didn't go quite as I had planned, but I had a nice time with you tonight."
Silent glanced at her with a smile. "Me, too. Besides, I like the way it turned out. You're cute when you pout."
"Pout?" She huffed and shot him a light frown. "A lady does not pout, and neither did I."
He returned the frown with one of his own. "If I take back the part about pouting, then I have to take back the part about you being cute."
They stared at one another, neither giving ground until the tea kettle whistled and she broke off with a small laugh. As she poured the tea into two cups, she said, "Fine, I pouted, but you had best not tell anypony about it. I have a reputation to maintain." She winked as she set his cup in front of him.
"I won't. And thank you." He raised the cup to take a sip.
A strange moment of quiet fell on them. It wasn't exactly awkward, but it wasn't completely comfortable. It simply was, nothing more, nothing less. They sipped their tea and seemed to be testing the situation of being in each other's presence without an agenda.
Crystal swallowed. Perhaps she was mistaken and it was an awkward silence. "You're being quiet."
"Oh? Sorry." Silent smiled, his shoulders lifting and falling in a small shrug. "I guess I'm content with how things are now. They're different. Every time I've been here before it was as a friend or a student. Now I'm not."
"I see." She waved a hoof absently. "Sometimes, things change for the better. I think this would be one of them, myself. Now I don't have to try to subtly hint at my interest in you and embarrass myself when you miss the signals."
They both laughed, and he said, "In my defense, I didn't miss them. I just misinterpreted them. You and Velvet did make a cute couple." He set down his empty teacup and started to stand. "Anyway, I should get back. I'm sure things will go smoothly on our second date. Perhaps a ride through the country?"
Crystal's ears perked up and she tried not to squeal at the delight that surged through her. A second date! She smiled as she sidled up to him. "Yes, please. Although it is rather late and your place is full of fillies. Why don't you stay?"
He stopped and arched his brow. "Stay? But what would the neighbors say?"
She shrugged. "Probably something along the lines of, 'What is that fillyfooler doing with a stallion?' That is what I'd say, although perhaps in more polite terms."
"I see." He laughed, but kept his brow raised. "And you're not worried about having a stallion stay the night?"
She walked toward the front door to secure the bolt, her tail flicking playfully. "You've been a perfect gentlestallion thus far." She looked at him over her shoulder. "Is there something I should know?"
He retrieved his cup and took it to the kitchen, placing it in the sink and turning on the faucet. "Evidently, I snore."
"Oh, yes, you do." She went to the small closet set near the door to retrieve a set of spare blankets. "If you recall, I was at your bedside in the hospital for quite some time. We'll just have to make do. Now, come along, I'll make the couch and deal with the dishes tomorrow. You need your duty sleep and I need my beauty sleep."
"I see." He laughed softly and turned off the faucet to return to the main area. "You shouldn't need too much beauty sleep, I think." He stopped just a pace away from her, his eyes gentle and warm when their gazes met.
"I-I," she stammered, her face heating up, and she hurriedly spread out the blankets and tossed a pillow on the couch. "Good night, Silent Knight." She turned away from him to try and hide her embarrassment as she walked to her bedroom.
"Good night, Crystal Wishes," he said as he climbed onto the couch and pulled the blanket over himself. "Thank you for everything."
"Mm." The door shut behind her and she leaned against it, the sound of her pounding heart filling her ears.
The door to Crystal's bedroom burst open and a newly rejuvenated Velvet stood proudly, the light shining in from behind her making her seem larger than life. Crystal blinked a few times at the vision before groaning. "What?"
Velvet grinned wickedly. "He stayed the night."
"On the couch," Crystal added. "He stayed the night on the couch."
Velvet huffed. "Semantics. The point is he totally stayed the night which means next time it won't be on the couch."
Crystal jolted upright and shot a glare at her. "We've only just started dating!"
"And?" She shrugged, turned on her heel, and pranced out into the living room. "You're the one reading Cosmare, not me."
Her tired eyes widened and she ran after her. "I told you, it's not like that!" Though she intended to only give a light but meaningful tug on Velvet's tail with the aid of magic, an abrupt series of knocks threw her focus to the door and Velvet gave a yelp of pain.
"Crystal!" she whirled around to face her, a mixture of surprise and irritation on her face. "I was just teasing!"
"Magic-jerk reaction!" Crystal exclaimed, then walked to the door. "Who is it?"
"Horsey!" the unmistakable voice squeaked. "Are you two fighting in there?"
"Yes!" Velvet snarled while Crystal yelled, "No!"
There was a pause before Horsey asked, "Can I come in?"
Crystal undid the locks and opened the door, tilting her head when she saw Horsey and Savoir standing at their doorstep, holding hooves. Horsey trembled slightly with visible nerves. "What's wrong, Horsey?"
Velvet walked over, misgivings forgotten. "Horsey?"
Horsey sniffed, but Savoir gave her hoof a reassuring squeeze. She tried to smile. "I-I'm getting married."
Crystal raised her brow. "No offense, but I think I know that."
"No, I mean—"
Crystal lifted a hoof and sighed. "What happened now? Do you have more flower fillies again?"
Savoir cut in, "Mademoiselle Crystal, we—"
"You could just ask him to do something about them." She gestured at Savoir. "I don't mind, but he's just as capable of firing little fillies as I am."
Horsey puffed out her cheeks. "Crystal, it's not flower fillies!"
"Ring bearers?" Crystal arched one brow. "Something wrong with the cake? What is it?"
Vevlet swallowed and nudged Crystal's side with her elbow as Horsey started to look more and more frustrated. "Um, Crystal..."
"I'm not trying to be rude, I just,"—Crystal sighed—"it seems a little excessive to take the train all the way out here for—"
"Oh my gosh, Crystal, shut up!" Velvet clamped a hoof over Crystal's mouth, then smiled at the other mare. "What is it, Horsey, sweetie?"
Horsey took a deep breath, then said quickly, "I can't take the stress anymore so Sav and I are getting married. Today. Right now. So, please come with us?"
Velvet and Crystal gasped, the latter pushing the former's hoof away to exclaim, "What?! Today?! But how?!"
"We shall go to the town hall and sign the papers," Savoir explained. "My brother and you two are here, so it makes sense to wed in Canterlot." He looked down at Horsey with a soft smile. "I wanted a big wedding for ma cherie but it is too much for her. So, we will sign the papers, be wed, and be happy."
"Just... sign papers?" Crystal furrowed her brow, her gaze darting about for an explanation. "But you already bought the dress, ordered the cake and the flowers..."
Horsey shook her head. "I don't care about any of that. I never cared! I thought Sav wanted the big wedding."
"And I thought it was she that would want a big wedding," Savoir added with a small chuckle.
"So," Horsey continued, "I told him the truth and we decided to get married in secret. We'll still do the wedding so the ponies at Ponyville aren't disappointed, but I just want to be married." She leaned against Savoir, smiling softly. "That's all I want." She blinked a few times, then looked back at them. "What were you two fighting about?"
"Huh? Oh." Velvet waved a hoof. "She tugged on my tail too hard, that's all. Water under the bridge. What's more important is that you're going to be a married mare today!"
Horsey giggled. "I am!"
Savoir cleared his throat. "My brother is waiting already at the town hall. Shall we go?"
"Yes!" Velvet bounced forward and the three started to leave. She paused when she noticed Crystal lingering behind. "Crystal? You coming?"
Crystal blinked a few times. "I, yes, I just... didn't expect this." She started to follow along, then came to a halt with a stomp of her hoof. "Oh, you all go on without me! There's something I need to do first!"
Velvet regarded her with a suspicious look and one raised brow. "Uh, okay. Just be quick. This is Horsey's wedding, not yours, so we're not gonna wait for you."
Crystal pivoted on her hind legs and hurried back to the condo. "I'll be there as soon as I can!" She urged her hooves to move as quickly as they could as she ran into her bedroom. Town hall wedding or not, she was determined to make it special.
"Really?" Velvet asked, her tone dripping with disbelief.
Horsey clasped a hoof over her mouth as she struggled against laughter. "C-Crystal..."
"What?" Crystal stuck her nose in the air and posed in the light blue bridesmare's gown. "Horsey picked this dress, and by Celestia, I am going to wear it to the real wedding." Her magic levitated the bag she had brought closer to Velvet. "I brought yours, too, in case you changed your mind."
Velvet pushed the bag away. "No offense, but I think you're crazy."
Crystal huffed as she turned to face Horsey. "Here." A silver tiara rose out of the bag and nestled on top of Horsey's head. "As your mare of honor, it's my privilege to make sure things are perfect. Now, they are."
Horsey finally released the laugh she had been holding back. "Oh, Crystal! You're too much!" She stepped forward and hugged her. "Thank you."
Savoir put a hoof on Horsey's shoulder, smiling when she looked up at him. "Are you ready, mon coeur?"
"I am." She nuzzled against him, then they all walked up the steps and into the town hall.
While Savoir and Horsey waited in line, Velvet and Hors D'oeuvre stood off to the side. Crystal was just behind them, pacing back and forth, worriedly glancing around the building.
Hors glanced down at Velvet and started, "So, you are..."
"Velvet Step. Crazy over there is Crystal Wishes." She offered a hoof. "We haven't really met, have we?"
Hors shrugged. "I have heard many things of you and Crystal through Horsey and Savoir. That is enough to know I am happy they have friends like you two."
Velvet giggled and looked to Crystal to say something, but rolled her eyes instead. "Oh, would you stop pacing already? It's not a test. They can't fail."
Crystal spun around to frown at her. "No, but what if two, three, five, ten years from now, Horsey resents me because I didn't force her to have a proper wedding?"
"A proper wedding?" Hors raised his brow. He stepped closer and used his height to his advantage, nearly leering down at her. "This is their decision. Do you not think what they want is what makes it proper?"
Crystal squeaked and shrunk back. Her ears flattened against her mane, then perked back up when he laughed.
"I tease." His stern look lifted into a smile. "But my point still stands. This is what they want, and I support them."
Crystal sighed. "Of course I support them, I just... wanted this to be perfect for them."
Savoir cleared his throat, drawing Hors and Crystal's attention to himself and Horsey. "It's our time."
They moved from the main area into a small room where a stallion stood on a raised platform. He turned to face them all with a smile. "Good morning. Who is the happy couple?"
"We are!" Horsey responded with a big smile, squeezing Savoir's hoof.
"Then step on up here so we can get you two wed," the stallion said, gesturing at the platform beneath him.
The ceremony was rather simple. The judge gave a standard speech about commitment, but Crystal didn't hear it. Instead, all she could pay attention to was the look of pure love and adoration on Horsey's face as she gazed up at Savoir. They exchanged their vows, kissed, then turned to their witnesses with big smiles as they were presented as wife and husband.
It couldn't have been more perfect.