• Published 15th Feb 2012
  • 14,082 Views, 610 Comments

Tears in the Snow - Wintergreen Diaries

Twilight sees a vision after casting a spell to see the future and ends up saving a mysterious colt.

  • ...

Talk of the Town

Chapter 3: Talk of the Town

When a mare runs away from somepony, it can mean several things. In this case, given that her last words were spoken in a slightly flustered tone, Cerulean couldn’t help but wonder if it were infatuation. He immediately chided himself for such thoughts, given that they had known each other for an hour’s time at the most, while at the same time being strangely open to the idea. Romance was something he pushed away, being something he wanted more than anything, but knowing at the same time that he would only bring disaster to anypony who tried to get close to him. But as Twilight cordially greeted the townsfolk along the way, most of whom acknowledged them with a wave of the hoof, he had a hard time disregarding the slight burning sensation in his chest. A good deal of the ponies they passed saw fit to stare at the odd pair, whispering as they stole concerned glances their way.

"I'll apologize now for tarnishing your reputation," Cerulean said with a slight smile. Twilight shook her head and returned the smile.

"Don't worry about it. It's not everyday somepony new comes parading through the town, covered in blood and dirt." she said coolly.

"Well, you're not exactly in top condition yourself," he retorted, motioning to her mane. The thought of her physical appearance hadn't even crossed her mind, not being something she paid a terrible amount of detail to. However, upon examining her mane and coat, she found herself very much in the same position as him, coated with grime and generally looking like that one pony who, as far as most were concerned, had never bathed in his life.

"Not the best way to make a first impression, is it?" she laughed lightly, suddenly self conscious about her appearance.

"Nah, you made a great first impression! Though waking up to you on top of me, while a pleasant surprise, is moving a tad fast, don't you think?" he said, laughing as she nervously looked around to see if anyone had heard.

"Would you keep it down? Being seen in this condition is bad enough, we don't need to fuel the fires. I didn't mean try to ruin my reputation," she huffed, glaring at him. He nodded, dropping silent for a moment.

"...Which fires?" he whispered in her ear. Sensing her reaction, he quickly galloped ahead, narrowly dodging a swipe from her hoof. He turned around, grinning ear to ear like a schoolcolt that had just aced his test. Twilight found it hard to stay frustrated with him, sighing and walking ahead passed him. Dang it, I made her angry already? I was just trying to play around... He chanced a glance in her direction, trying to assess the damage but unable to translate the now neutral facial expression she wore. The thought of her simply walking away crossed his mind, and he stopped in his tracks as the muscles in his chest contracted, causing a sharp pain accompanied by a consuming fear. It was unlike anything Cerulean had ever experienced, and he expelled the thought with all haste, scrambling to catch up as the pain slowly faded.

"We're here," Twilight's voice snapped Cerulean out of his thoughts. He turned to face her, regarding her with a look of concern.

"Twilight, I apologize if I upset you. I know I can be a... well, a pain sometimes. I don’t really know you that well yet, so I may cross a line here and there, but I really do appreciate your offer of friendship. I'm sorry for teasing you," Cerulean offered, hanging his head slightly. Any lingering resentment that may have been present melted away as she felt the sincerity in his words.

"Don't worry about it, I wasn't really that upset. Besides, I reserve the right to tease you just as much," she said, an evil grin stretching ear to ear. They shared a laugh before entering the spa amidst gasps of shock. It was a good thing Rarity wasn’t present or Twilight was sure she’d be given the third degree for her utterly disgraceful appearance. "Girls, this is Cerulean Snowgleam. He's had a rough night of it, so give him the full treatment." The attendants looked at each other, unease clearly written on their faces. Cerulean took a step forward, cleared his throat, and adopted the voice of a true gentlecolt.

"Please, forgive me for my dreadful appearance," he said, bowing low and speaking softly. "I would be most honored if you show me to a bath. I will not ask you for anything more." His soothing words had their intended effect, and the employees relaxed a bit.

"Of course, sir. Right this way, please," Aloe replied, collecting herself and motioning down the hall. He nodded and started to follow.

“What about you, Twilight? You’re in desperate need of some assistance as well,” Lotus chimed in, trotting over.

“No thanks, perhaps another time. I’ll shower at home,” she replied with an apologetic smile, at which point Lotus followed her sister, eager to undertake such a lofty project as cleaning up the messiest customer they’d had in months, even if it did mean an extra thorough cleaning of the spa was on the immediate horizon. "Cerulean? I'll be back in an hour, ok? I have some errands to run," Twilight called after him.

“What, you’re not going to have a bath yourself?” he asked, not having heard her conversation with Lotus. Seeing an easy opportunity to try and learn something more about teasing, which according to Rarity could be an incredibly useful tool, she thought for a moment before adopting a coy smile.

“I’m perfectly capable of grooming myself, thank you. And besides, I haven’t known you long enough for that yet.” Rather than becoming flustered as she expected, he gave her a vexingly cheerful look and responded without batting an eye.

"But of course, milady," he said with a grin, offering a small bow. Twilight stamped her hooves on the tile floor, causing a reverberating clacking noise to echo through the salon.

"I am not your lady!" she shouted, her voice causing a second echo. She turned and stormed out the door, Cerulean's laughter still ringing in her ears.

“So, is Twilight your fillyfriend?” Aloe asked, leading him into a back room where a waiting spa tempted him to forego manners and dive in.

“What? No, I just met her this morning! Or last night, actually.”

“Oh, really? I would have guessed you had been dating awhile, the way you two were looking at each other,” Lotus continued, giggling at the stallion’s consternation. “Where did you two meet?”

“Um... that dangerous forest on the outskirts of town.” At this point, the twins began speaking very quickly, alternating back and forth as they belted out fragments of thought that together barely managed to make sense.

“The Everfree Forest?”

“That place is dangerous!”

“Yes, dangerous, and scary!”

“Very scary!” They both paused and looked at each other before returning their gaze back to Cerulean and mirroring each other’s words.

“Why would you go there?”

“True, it’s not the ideal place to meet somepony,” he muttered, drawing close to the bath. “Thank you both for your hospitality, even if this is what you do for a living.”

“Our pleasure!” they replied in unison, cantering out of the room. The spa felt amazing, and worked wonders on the tension in his muscles as he scrubbed himself off, ducking under the water and blowing bubbles like a little colt. Taking a bath was one of life’s simple joys that he hadn’t had the chance to experience in a long, long time. Resurfacing, he leaned back with a contented sigh, letting his worries drift away, at least until he wiped his eyes and found that Aloe and Lotus were back inside the room, leaving him feeling very awkward and very exposed.

“Um... can I... help you?”

“Help us? We’re here to help you!”

“That’s right, help you get clean because you’re dirty!”

“We can fix that!” To say Cerulean was uncomfortable with the proceeding was an understatement, and despite his protest he was forcibly cleaned, shampooed, conditioned and rinsed from mane to hoof, all save certain more delicate areas that not even the spa sisters dare go, regardless of the fact that it crossed their minds more than once. As he toweled himself off, he made for the door but was instantly blocked by Aloe and Lotus.

“Not so fast.”

“Yeah, what’s the rush? There’s still more to do.”

“Much more! Come, right this way.”

“Um, I don’t really need...” Cerulean started before the two turned and gave him the saddest faces he had seen since the last time a foal was bereaved of its candy. “Ok, ok, fine. Twilight did say the full treatment. What all does that...”

“Horn filing!”

“Hooficure!” they giggled a moment before responding together, which no longer came as a surprise, seeing as how they ended most conversations that way.

“A massage!” What’s this, the stallion’s horn is glowing? “We can fix that, too.”

"Honestly, that little... He just... Grrr!" she growled, stomping her way back to the library. In truth, she wasn't actually angry with him, it was more the effect his words had on her heart that was bothering her. She just felt... comfortable around him, something she rarely experienced with other stallions. She'd been afraid to show certain aspects of herself even to her closest friends, recalling the whole ordeal with Trixie. But with Cerulean, she felt like she could be anypony and he'd still accept her with with no reservations. She fell deeper into thought before a frantic shout snapped out of her daze as Spike came dashing to meet her.

"Twilight, where have you been? I've been looking all over for you! After you disappeared, I waited and waited but you never came back!" he cried, throwing his arms around her. Twilight put a comforting hoof around him and drew him close.

"Oh Spike, I'm sorry I worried you. A lot has happened," she cooed, adopting a reassuring tone. She proceeded to explain how she couldn't wait to test her new spell, and then she had a vision and had to act quickly. Spike listened, fascinated, as she described what transpired in the forest and the following morning, though he couldn’t quite understand why Applejack was so upset. "Don't worry yourself about that," she muttered, looking away.

"Twilight? Why are you blushing?" Spike asked, examining her face intently.

"I'm not blushing!" Twilight argued, resuming her trip back to her house.

"Twilight, you're totally blushing." Spike pressed, his grin being the only thing saving him from a harsh reprimand. Twilight sighed and ignored him. "All right, if you don't wanna talk about the juicy bits, I understand."

"Rrrrrrgh, what's gotten into everypony?" she said, rearing and holding her head in both hooves. She then broke into a run, leaving Spike in the dust. She arrived at the library with fifty minutes left before she had to be back at Ponyville Spa & Massage. She took a moment to examine herself, mentally recoiling. The dirt that had caked onto her coat had turned again to fresh mud from her sweat, making her feel sticky and gross. Her mane and tail were much the same, with clumps stuck together and hairs sticking out at crazy angles. She made straight for the shower, set the output to max, and let all the stress, dirt and sweat wash away in a blissful cascade of warmth.

“Applejack? Is somethin’ wrong?” She turned to see Big Macintosh trotting over, and she gratefully took a break from bucking the trees, slumping to a sitting position and leaning the matured sapling.

“Ah wouldn’t say somethin’s wrong, exactly. Ah found Twilight with some stallion this mornin’ in a right awkward position, an’ ahm just worried ‘bout her bein’ near ‘im.”

“Not all stallions are evil, Applejack. You ain’t got no right suspectin’ somepony you just met.” He was right, of course, but she still couldn’t shake that image of Twilight laying on top of Cerulean from her head. Even if she had agreed to call him friend, she wasn’t ready to accept him fully so easily.

“Ah’ll do mah best t’ give him a chance, but ahm goin’ t’ be watchin’ him closely. Ain’t nopony gonna lay a hoof on my friends.”

“Nnnope. That’s all ah can ask, Applejack. Now, back t’ work, this orchard won’t harvest itself.”

It was rare that Twilight indulged long showers, but she decided to make an exception, exiting a full thirty minutes later. She felt recharged and rejuvenated, at least until her stomach made a cavernous growl, reminding her that she hadn't eaten since dinner the night before. Descending to the first floor, she rooted through the refrigerator, not seeing anything particularly interesting and settling with an apple. She nibbled on it thoughtfully while perusing one of the books she had left on the table the last time she ate, careful not to let the juices drip onto the pages.

Upon finishing, and realizing that Cerulean was likely as hungry as she was, Twilight grabbed her saddle bag from upstairs and loaded three apples into one of the side pouches. Looking at the clock and seeing she had a little bit of spare, she decided to pick up a box of cupcakes from Sugarcube Corner. Grabbing some bits and stowing them separate from the apples, she returned to the main floor where Spike was busy cleaning up the mass of books that were perpetually re-scattered every day.

"Spike, I'm going out for a bit. It's a nice day out, so when you finish with the books you can take the rest of the day off." She levitated her brush over, spent no more than a few minutes on mane and tail combined, then trotted out the door.

"Wow, thanks Twilight! Have fun today!" Spike called after her, grateful for the much needed break. To called her obsessed would be putting it lightly, and she’d been burning the midnight oil both literally and figuratively as of late. As such, his cleaning duties had shifted from manageable to downright exhausting, and he eagerly went about his chores in the hopes of being able to catch some time with Rarity, or maybe the Cutie Mark Crusaders if she was too busy being beautiful.

Whatever tension the spa had removed had been re-instilled by what was, perhaps, the most traumatizing spa visit one could imagine. Being forcibly bathed by two cute mares? Tolerable. Getting a hooficure? Not as bad as would be expected. The massage? Divine, though the two sisters were rather disappointed that they weren’t the ones to do it. But he put his pony pedicured hoof down at the horn filing, after both ponies sidled up beside him and went to work.

“You know, sometimes you can be a real pain,” he muttered, glaring at his still faintly glowing horn. Not having any idea of where Twilight lived, he decided move just far enough to be out of sight lest the infamous spa sisters catch sight of him and drag him back to complete his “treatment.”

Twilight was making great time until she made it into the town centre, where she was mobbed by curious ponies wondering about the newcomer. Unable to focus on any one question, she looked for an opportunity to run, but seeing none, she teleported out of the circle and dashed towards Sugarcube Corner, disregarding the soreness in her legs from the previous evening’s foray into Everfree Forest. She barreled through the door, the crowd hot on her heals, and swiftly locked it, leaned it against it, and slid into a sitting position as hoofbeats sent reverberations through her body. Regaining her breath, she walked up to the counter and rang the bell. Mrs. Cake appeared, giving Twilight a warm smile.

"Hello Twilight! What can I do for you today?" she asked sweetly, before she noticed the throng of ponies crowded outside. "Oh dear, I could have sworn I unlocked that door," she said hurrying over. Her mission was hindered as a wild eyed Twilight teleported in front of her, barring her progress.

"No! Don't open the door, Mrs. Cake. They're after me!" Twilight begged. Mrs. Cake just stared at her.

"You're not making any sense, Twilight. And that's odd for you." Twilight shook her head, ignoring the comment as the crowd outside grew larger.

"Please Mrs. Cake, I just need some cupcakes, then you can open the door." Twilight's pleading eyes won Mrs. Cake over, who walked back to the register and rang up the purchase. Twilight set the bits on the counter and turned to face the crowd, still gathered outside the shop. Focusing her magic, she teleported outside to the back of shop, expecting to escape the crowd but instead found herself in the middle of a much smaller group, though still very much surrounded.

"Over here, she's over here!" a voice shouted, causing a miniature stampede as they rushed up to her, bombarding her with their inquiries, assumptions, and accusations. Twilight's mind was again filled with countless voices and questions and, unable to take it any longer, her patience snapped.

"His name's Cerulean, I don't know where he's from, and he's not my coltfriend!" she shouted, her voice silencing the crowds as they stared at her, mouths slightly agape.

"Well now... That's an interesting way to introduce me." Twilight's eyes grew wide with disbelief as a handsome cerulean stallion made his way towards her, a warming smile gracing his muzzle. The crowds parted down the middle to make way for his entrance, speaking in hushed whispers. His mane flowed down to the base of his neck, perfectly combed and free of any traces of dirt or blood. His white hair perfectly accented his snowflake Cutie Mark, both seeming to shine in the sunlight. And his eyes... Those shimmering, teal eyes. Cerulean had never really considered himself that much of an eye catcher, but he couldn’t discount the wonder with which the mare beheld him, nor could he deny his own. For all the walls he had built around his heart, this mare sure could circumvent them easily enough. It was frightening. It was exhilarating.

"Could this really be the same pony I saw in the forest?" she whispered to herself as he cantered over and stopped just short of her, meeting her gaze. Time seemed to freeze as everything melted away until they were the only ones present. He suddenly chuckled, shattering the moment as he put a hoof on her nose.

"You're late," he whispered into her ear, leaning in close. Twilight blushed softly as his warm breath brushed her face, temporarily scrambling her thought processes. Saying nothing, she retrieved her bag which had fallen off in the commotion and lifted out a simple white box and set it down in front of him. She then used her magic to remove the lid and levitate a cupcake up to him which he gratefully accepted, Twilight's purple aura blending with a deep cerulean momentarily before being overtaken by blue. It was a simple act, but Twilight couldn’t have understood just how much it had meant to him. He looked beyond what others saw as her delivering a tasty snack to one taking the effort to show him kindness that he didn’t ask for, that he didn’t feel he deserved. "Thank you... Truly, thank you."

His reaction to her cupcake was vastly different than she had been expecting. While she set her silent chiding of herself for not spending more time on her appearance aside, she couldn’t figure out why her offering had coaxed tears to the corners of his eyes. It was like he wasn’t used to being shown simple kindness of any kind.

“It’s just a cupcake...” Cerulean let out a soft snort, smiling at the statement.

“Yes, it is, but no, it’s not.”

“Now you’re just trying to be confusing. You’re good at that, by the way.”

“I suppose so,” he replied, bringing the cupcake to eye level and staring at it. It looked and smelled delicious, no doubt the best there were in town. He prepared to take a bite when a sudden, sharp gasp turned everypony’s head to a single pink mare staring at Cerulean’s tear-filled eyes with a look of abject horror, as if his imminent consumption of the treat were some heinous crime.

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