• Published 17th Nov 2014
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Crystal's Wishes - Crystal Wishes

Crystal Wishes thought she was content just writing about ponies falling in love. While her career takes off, her love life is somewhat... lacking. Can she be happy living vicariously through her stories or will she find her own happily ever after?

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A Latte Love

Crystal glanced between the letter she carried in her magic and the apartment complex in front of her. The addresses matched, but for some reason she had imagined Sunset lived someplace more homey with a white picket fence and a tree with a tire swing. Instead, he lived in the same tall, crowded structure as everypony else in Manehattan. That really shouldn't have come as a surprise considering the address said Apt 2712, but a part of her had still hoped otherwise.

She shrugged off her slight disappointment and trotted up the steps. Directly across from the front doors was an elevator waiting and ready, though it was nowhere near as fancy as the one in Eminence Tower. This one just had a self-operated lever, which she fiddled with for a few moments. It was heavier and harder to pull than she imagined, but she eventually tugged the lever down to the number 27. With a squeak and a grunt, the elevator's doors shut and it started to rise.

A soft but repetitive tune filled the space around her. For the first few floors, she hummed along. After ten, she went quiet. By the time she reached her destination floor she hoped she never had to hear that tune again for the rest of her life.

Finally arriving at the door, she gave it a few good knocks and waited just long enough for nerves to bubble up in her chest. The door opened, however, before she could make up her mind on if she wanted to flee the scene or not.

Sunset's face greeted her with a bright smile. "Crystal! You made it!" He tossed his head to call over his shoulder, "Girls, Crystal is here!"

Crystal blinked as a chorus of squeals resounded and two fillies popped into view. The first was a pale periwinkle blur that darted through Sunset's legs and skidded to a halt in front of Crystal, beaming up at her with bright magenta eyes. Her blue mane cascaded down in separated strands around her face, like the curled petals of a bluebell.

"Hi, Crystal!" the filly chirped.

The second, much younger than the first, hopped onto Sunset's back and was a collage of purple coat, yellow eyes, and a two-toned mane of dark purple and pale yellow done up in pigtails. "Hi, Crystal!"

Sunset chuckled and reached out a hoof to ruffle the blue filly's mane. "Crystal, these are two of my foals, Blu—"

"Blue Belle and Violet," Crystal said, earning surprised gasps from the fillies.

"How do you know my name?" Blue Belle asked with awe in her sparkling eyes.

"How do you know my name?" Violet repeated in a squeaky voice.

Crystal giggled and leaned down to put her head more at Blue Belle's level. "Your daddy told me a lot about you both and showed me pictures. How could I not recognize such pretty little fillies?"

Blue Belle squealed, prompting a similar sound from her copycat sister.

Crystal lifted her gaze to meet Sunset's. "Where is Miss Cocoa?"

"Oh, you know how fillies her age are." Sunset laughed and scooped Belle up with one foreleg, then stepped out of the way. "Come in, come in, make yourself at home! Bouqy's just put some tea on not a few minutes ago." He set Belle on the loveseat, chuckling when Violet leaped off his back to join her sister, then took a seat on the couch.

Crystal looked around the apartment as she set her overnight bag by the door and made her way to the couch. There was no foyer to speak of; stepping into the apartment meant stepping directly into the living room. Off to the right was a nook that housed a dining table, four chairs, and a high chair. The walls were covered in hoofdrawn pictures of varying recognizability. Judging by the sounds of a spoon clinking against the sides of a cup, the doorway set against one wall led to the kitchen, and the other likely led to the bedrooms.

"How was the train?" Sunset asked, leaning back into the couch. He eyed the overnight bag. "Hold on." Inclining his head, he called, "Cocoa! Sweetie! Come take Crystal's bag to your room please?"

Crystal shook her head as she sat on the loveseat with the fillies. "Huh? Oh, no, I can stay at a hotel, it's no trouble!"

Sunset waved a dismissive hoof. "Neither is you staying with us. It's less trouble, actually. It's free! And my girls are so excited to meet you." He paused, then hollered, "Cocoa Brew!"

"I'm coming!" a voice snarled and a blonde-coated mare stormed out of the hallway. Her chestnut mane bounced indignantly in its high ponytail as she stomped over to Crystal's bag. "I don't see why she can't stay with Belle and Vio."

"But it's supposed to be a sleepover!" Belle cried.

"A sleepover!" Violet pouted.

Sunset crossed his forelegs over his chest. "Now, Cocoa, that's not very nice. You didn't even say hi."

Cocoa groaned. She twirled around to face them, offered a wide, fake smile, and curtseyed. "Hi, Miss Wishes. It's nice to meet you, Miss Wishes. I hope you enjoy my room, Miss Wishes." She grabbed the straps of the bag in her mouth and dragged it back toward the hallway from which she had come.

Sunset sighed, shaking his head. "I'll be happy when this phase is over. She's so darn moody. Just yesterday she was running around the place with her sisters playing Dragon Attack."

"Dragon Attack!" Violet squealed and looked to her sister. She lowered her head to the cushion, wiggled her rump, then sprung forward to tackle Belle. "Rawr!"

Belle gasped and squirmed. "No! Bad Vi!"

"Girls," Sunset cut in, "behave for Miss Crystal."

They scrambled to sit upright. "Yes, Daddy," they said in unison.

"If they want to play, let them play." A vibrant fuchsia mare walked into the room with a tray balanced atop her head. Her pastel green mane was cropped in an asymmetric bob, short in the back and long in the front, with bangs that reached all the way to her eyelashes. Though her tail was the same color, only her mane had light yellow tips that matched her bright yellow eyes.

Crystal rose to her hooves. "You must be Orchid Bouquet! It is a pleasure to meet you, ma'am."

Orchid Bouquet lowered her head to set the tray on the table, poured a cup of tea, and held it out to Crystal. "Please, don't call me ma'am. Orchid or Bouquet is just fine." She smiled and sat beside Sunset. "Ma'am isn't a word that should be used between friends, and Coff has told me so much about you."

Crystal sat back down, a light flush on her cheeks. "What? Really?"

Bouquet nodded, her bob bobbing with the motion. Crystal noticed a flower, which vaguely resembled an orchid, tucked just above her ear. It twitched and settled back into place once Bouquet's head was righted.

"Of course," Sunset said. He reached out a foreleg to wrap it loosely around Bouquet's shoulders. "You're my favorite client, after all." He winked.

Crystal turned her teacup in her magic, her gaze fixated on it. "Oh, well, to be fair, you're my favorite agent." She giggled and took a sip that sent her ears perked upright and widened her eyes. "Wow! This is wonderful!"

Bouquet smiled. "Chamomile. I picked the flowers this morning from the garden."

Crystal stared at her with open surprise on her face. "A garden? In Manehattan?"

Blue Belle bounced closer to her and squeaked, "Mommy's super special garden!"

"The garden!" Violet chimed.

"It's a community garden just up the street that I started some years ago," Bouquet explained, laughing softly. "We have a plot where I grow our vegetables and flowers."

"A garden, huh," Crystal mused before taking another sip. It was so refreshing and the flavor of the chamomile really thrived as opposed to the dried version. "I've never gardened before. It's not much of a thing in Canterlot, after all."

Bouquet clapped her hooves together. "You should come with me after dinner, then! I tend to the garden every morning and every evening. It would be nice to have some company that isn't rolling in the dirt or trying to sneak a taste." She shot a playful glare at Blue Belle and Violet, who played beside Crystal, blissfully unaware.

The flower on Bouquet's head unfolded and started to climb down one of her tresses. Crystal stared at it with wide eyes and one hoof extended to point at the sight, words escaping her. Bouquet blinked, shifted her gaze, and smiled.

"Oh, yes." Bouquet raised a hoof, gently guiding the strange creature onto it. "I'm sorry. There's one more member of the family for you to meet. This is Petal, our orchid mantis."

"Man-mantis?" Crystal gawked. "You have an insect as a pet? But why?"

Blue Belle shot upright and stared at Crystal. "Insects are pre—preci—precious!" She scrunched up her nose. "Without insects there are no gardens and gardens are important!"

Violet nodded. "Yeah! Important!"

Crystal looked between them all and finally at Petal. "I, well, forgive me, but I've just, well, I've never heard of somepony keeping an insect as a pet. Cats, dogs, birds, but..." She took a breath in, then smiled. "I'm sorry. It's nice to meet you, Petal."

Petal moved one of her forelegs either by coincidence or as a greeting. Taking no chances for further offense, Crystal waved back.

Sunset chuckled, running a hoof through his mane. "It's okay. Bouqy's just special that way."

Bouquet's ears folded back. "Insects are a vital part of gardening. And Petal never harmed anypony." She set the mantis down on the coffee table.

Slowly, with careful and precise movements, the mantis made her way toward the far side, pausing to lunge her two front legs at a pencil.

Bouquet cleared her throat and rose to her hooves. "Come on, girls. Let's go play in the other room. Miss Crystal came here to see Daddy, so let's let them have some space to talk."

"Oh, actually, that reminds me," Crystal said, standing as well. "I brought gifts!"

"Gifts?" Blue Belle and Violet shrieked with delight while Bouquet and Sunset repeated the word with surprise.

Crystal winked. "Of course. Perhaps we don't have gardens in Canterlot, but we do bring gifts to thank our hostesses and hosts."

Bouquet raised a hoof. "You really shouldn't have. I don't very much like for my foals to receive unearned gifts."

When Crystal's ears started to droop and the fillies sighed, Sunset leaned forward. "I'm sure Belle and Vio will promise to be extra good while Crystal is here to earn their gifts. Right, girls?"

"Yes, Daddy!" Blue Belle jumped from the loveseat and ran to her mother. "Please, Mommy? I'll make sure Vi is extra, extra good!"

Violet ran over and just beamed at her mother with big, pleading eyes.

"They're really only small trinkets," Crystal added and bit her lower lip.

Bouquet glanced between them all before she sighed in defeat, but smiled nonetheless. "Well, all right." The smile straightened into a stern line. "But if there is one tantrum while Crystal is with us, I'm taking the gifts away, all right?"

The fillies responded with gleeful, rapid nods of their heads, then ran over to Crystal.

"What did you get us?" Blue Belle asked.

"Let me get them from my bag and you'll see for yourself," Crystal teased. She turned and walked down the hall, spying her bag defiantly sitting halfway into one room. Her gaze lifted to see Cocoa on the bed, back to the world. "Miss Cocoa?"

"What do you want?" Cocoa snarled.

Crystal winced. "Are you okay?"

The rolling of her eyes was almost audible as the not-quite-filly-but-not-yet-mare groaned. "Yes, I'm fine."

"Ah. Okay." Crystal flipped the bag open, and her magic retrieved one of the wrapped packages that was tied off with a brown ribbon sporting light cream polkadots. "I brought you a gift, to thank you for your hospitality."

One of Cocoa's ears twitched. Slowly, she turned her head to look at Crystal with a single, cautious eye. "What is it?" The package floated closer and after eyeing it a moment longer she rolled over and took it in her hooves. She tugged on the ribbon and the white paper unraveled to reveal the bottle of lotion. Cocoa's expression remained neutral. "Lotion?"

Crystal tried to smile, though nerves bubbled in her chest. "Mocha-scented lotion. It adds a lovely shine to your coat and smells delicious."

For a brief second, Crystal saw a smirk on Cocoa's face. "That's kind of weird. Why would I want to smell delicious?" She unscrewed the lid and took a sniff. "Oh, wow, that does smell good!" After putting the lid back on, she set it on the nightstand and offered Crystal a half smile. "Thanks, I guess."

Crystal managed to smile sincerely and nodded. "You're more than welcome." She levitated the other four packages before returning to the main area. "All right, who's first?"

Blue Belle gasped, started to walk forward, then stopped and looked at her mother. She reached out a hoof to stop Violet from bounding past her. "Mommy should go first, 'cause she said we could have gifts."

Violet stared at Belle, wide-eyed. "But—" A stern look from her sister was all it took. "Yeah, Mommy should go first!"

Sunset muttered in a mock-hurt voice, "Oh, all right, let Mommy go first, not Daddy, who fought for your right to get gifts..."

Bouquet raised her brow at him. "You shouldn't get a gift at all as punishment for going against Mommy's rule." She reached out to accept the gift that floated over toward her. After pulling back the fuchsia-with-green-polka-dots ribbon, she gasped. "Oh, no, no, no. This looks much too expensive!" She balanced the bottle of perfume on one hoof, holding it a safe distance away from her. "I can't accept this."

Crystal forced her ears to stay upright and shook her head. "It wasn't expensive at all! A friend of mine runs a little shop in Canterlot. He makes everything himself, so it's always very affordable."

Slowly, Bouquet's hoof moved the bottle closer. "Is that so? It looks so... commercial, though." One brow raised. "And you're certain it doesn't have any harmful chemicals in it?"

A short laugh escaped Crystal and she quickly shook her head again. "He has some peculiar experiments that go awry, but anything he puts on the shelves are perfectly safe."

Behind Bouquet, Crystal spotted Petal crawling up the curtains. The mantis paused halfway up and fanned herself out to resemble the flower Crystal had previously mistaken her for. Crystal blinked a few times, then returned her attention to Bouquet.

"Well, then." Bouquet finally smiled. "Thank you. I'm sorry for overreacting, but I just don't approve of strange chemicals anywhere near me or my family."

Sunset rubbed his hooves together. "Okay, my turn!"

Violet whimpered. She stuck out her bottom lip, but at the look she received from her mother and sister, she stuck it back in.

The ribbon for Sunset's gift was reddish-brown in color with yellow-orange polkadots. Sunset undid the bow and grinned at the revealed cologne. "Eau Chevaux? Well, doesn't that sound stallionly!" He chuckled. "Okay, girls, now it's your turn."

Blue Belle squealed and looked up at Crystal. "I get to go first, 'cause I'm older!"

"Aww..." Violet squirmed in place.

Crystal lowered the remaining gifts to their respective filly. "Why don't you open your gifts together?"

"Okay!" they chimed and tore through the wrapping, ignoring the ribbons entirely.

Blue Belle gasped while Violet just stared at her bottle with a muddled expression. "What is it?" the little filly asked.

"It's bubble bath!" Blue Belle exclaimed, waving hers at her parents. "And mine says it smells like bluebells! That's me!"

Violet's eyes went wide. "Bubble bath?!" She stared at the writing before her, sounding out the words under her breath. "Oh! Me, too! Me, too! Mine's violet!"

Blue Belle bounced up and down. "Can we take a bath, Mommy?!"

Bouquet blinked. "Before dinner?" At the pleading eyes she received, she sighed, set down her perfume, and started toward the hallway. "All right, all right. I did say I wanted Daddy and Crystal to have some time together." She paused as she passed by Crystal. "Your gifts were very thoughtful. Thank you." She smiled, then disappeared down the hall with the fillies.

Sunset leaned back into the couch and folded his hooves in his lap. "Well, then, I suppose I should have warned you about my wife."

"Huh?" Crystal blinked and shook her head. "Oh, no. I shouldn't have gotten ahead of myself, buying gifts for another family's foals."

Sunset shrugged. "I'm sure most parents would be fine with it. Bouqy's just a little particular about a lot of things." He winked. "All right, so let's get the business out of the way so you can have fun with my wacky little family. You had some drafts you wanted me to read over, right?"

Crystal shifted from one hoof to the other. "Well, yes, that is still true."

His brow raised. "I'm sensing a 'but' in there."

"But," Crystal confirmed, smiling sheepishly. "I think I'm ready to take this seriously. I just don't know how to do that." She sat down on the loveseat and twiddled her hooves. "I don't want to be just a housewife. I want to stand beside Silent on my own four hooves, but I can't very well do that if I keep hiding behind a pseudonym."

Sunset regarded her with open surprise, his brow raised even higher and his lips parted for a gaping expression. "Oh." He blinked a few times. "So, I suppose that ring isn't just cosmetic flair, then? Why didn't you tell me you were engaged? When did this happen?!"

Crystal gave a soft, breathless laugh. "I was distracted by your two adorable little fillies. It honestly slipped my mind!"

"That doesn't bode well for the marriage, then, does it?" Sunset laughed and slapped a hoof to his knee. "I jest, I jest! Okay, well, to your question, or rather, to your situation: of course there are things we can do. I just want to make sure you're absolutely sure." His expression sobered and he hooked his hooves together to rest his chin on them. "You can't stuff the secret back in the box. If you come out as C.W. Step to take credit for her success, you have to be willing to take the downsides to that, too."

Crystal swallowed. Her gaze darted away from his, spying Petal making her way back onto the coffee table. "I-I understand that."

Sunset shook his head. "Understanding's not enough. Maybe you should sleep on this one more night until you're sure you accept it. I'm more than happy to help you go the distance, but you're still young. You've done pretty well for yourself already. It'll take time and it'll take dedication. Book signings, more conventions, interviews. You'll also need to be more diligent about responding to fan mail you get. Happy fans are your life's blood."

Petal stopped to attack the pencil again, this time sending it rolling across the table. She followed after it until it disappeared over the edge, at which point she returned to walking in Sunset's direction. He reached down a hoof to offer a lift to the insect, which she accepted, and he set her on his shoulder.

Crystal finally stopped watching Petal to look back at Sunset. "It sounds like it will take an awful lot of dedication," she mumbled.

"Yup. That's why I think you should think on it a little longer. Now!" He clapped his hooves and rubbed them together. "Putting a pin in that, let's return to these drafts. Why don't you pitch me the ideas and I'll give you a hot-cold rating?"

"Oh." Crystal nodded. "All right."

While she talked, she couldn't help but repeat his words in her mind. More conventions meant traveling to other cities, as Canterlot only had the one. She did recall overhearing some of the authors in neighboring booths discussing the amount of time they spent on the road trying to promote their work.

How much of her time was she willing to give up in order to pursue her career?

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