• Published 20th Mar 2015
  • 4,812 Views, 439 Comments

The Shield's Protector - Carapace

There is nothing he wouldn't do to protect her from harm, nothing he wouldn't do to show his love. But, whether he was Captain of the Guard or Prince of the Crystal Empire, Shining Armor was her stallion, first and foremost. Her beloved.

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2. Walling Off the Garden of Love

Stout Heart and Valiance stood side by side, spears at the ready and armour gleaming in the sunlight. The image of perfection was only marred by their flattened ears and the matching grimaces that were evident on their faces as they tried to block out the yelling from within the Royal Chambers.

Princess Cadence might seem to be an unthreatening, gentle mare, but those few times that her patience ran out, it was rarely good for the parties involved. Unfortunately, Shining Armor made a habit of drawing her ire, with his insistence of going beyond the walls of the Crystal Empire to lead training missions, and returning riddled with cuts and bruises.

Being the younger of the pair, Stout Heart cringed, momentarily breaking protocol. He glanced down the hallway at the ornate, crystal door and took a couple of steps to the side, closer to his superior officer. “Her Majesty has been yelling at the Captain for quite some time.” He noted, shuffling in place. “Should we–“

“We can’t leave, you know that.” Valiance sighed and shook his head. With a roll of his eyes, he explained as if he were talking to a foal. “One pair of guards must be stationed near the Prince and Princess at all times, no excuses.”

“No, I meant, should we… I dunno, stay by the door and just be ready in case something… breaks?”

Valiance turned slowly, leveling Stout Heart with a piercing stare. “Private, off the clock, you’re my friend, almost like a brother to me. But what you just said has to be the most idiotic thing I’ve ever heard come out of your mouth.”

“Huh? But isn’t it—“

“If you want to get in between one of the most powerful unicorns alive and his alicorn princess of a wife when they’re in the middle of a lovers’ spat, be my guest. Just make sure you leave me the hay out of it!”

“—you thick-headed, musclebound buffoon of a stallion!”

Shining Armor grimaced, his ears laying flat against his scalp as his wife ranted at him.

The insults didn’t bother him so much, Shining had known Cadence long enough to realize when she really meant to be hurtful; this wasn’t one such time.

The reason he was being chewed out this particular time was a triple whammy of length of time spent away, keeping said time away a secret, and the fact that he had returned from the trip sporting a few minor injuries. They really were just minor injuries of course, as he’d mentioned several times by now. Really, a couple fractured ribs and a gash on the flank weren’t the worst injuries he’d ever come home with–compared to that little trip to the Badlands that went sour a few years back, the mother bear hadn’t done much more than give him a bit of a scratch!

Which was exactly what Shining had tried to explain to his dear, sweet, loving wife at the hospital.

Fat lot of good that had done him. Cadence ripped into him in the room, grumbled as he was released from Gentle Touch’s care, and fumed silently to herself until, finally, they were back in the safety of their suite.

Shining would object to the term ‘safety’, but not verbally. Certainly not while his wife had him engulfed in the cerulean glow of her magic, scanning his body with a special spell to check over every bit of his body and her hooves and wings wrapped around him as though he might disappear should she let go. “Shut up and hold still! I’m going to make sure she didn’t miss something!” She’d snapped. “Letting a bear maul you like that! The very idea!”

His hair raised as the magic ghosted over his body and tickled lightly against his skin. Shining squirmed in place, wincing at the pain that shot through his right flank. “Uh, honey,” he mumbled, “it’s, ah, tickling. Could you—“

“No, I can’t make it stop and you know that, Mister ‘Graduated at the Top of My Class’.” Cadence huffed. “Just hold still and don’t open up that cut anymore!”

Biting back a groan, Shining replied, speaking slowly and in a level tone to hide any hint of annoyance. “Sweetie, Gentle already patched me up. You watched her put my leg in a wrap at the hospital.”

She snorted at him, wrapping her wings tighter around his back. “Yes, but she also said it was deeper than she thought! I’ve half a mind to make a separate appointment to have it that leg scanned. No offense to Gentle Touch, she’s fully qualified,” Cadence glanced at his flank, eyes lingering on the bandages, “but I’d feel better if we knew just how deep it really is.”

“All right, we can do that.” Can’t argue with her there, mamma bear was about as happy to see me as I was with the recruits. Shining Armor shifted a bit in her grasp, just enough so he could bring a hoof to his forehead and massage it to stem the growing headache. “I think we’ve just got a post inspection tomorrow, so I should be—“

“Somepony else can handle it, you’re going back to get that leg checked out.” Cadence turned his head with a hoof to force him to meet her eyes. Her mouth set into a thin line before she spoke in a clipped tone. “And then, after that, you are taking it easy. No patrols, no work, no exceptions. You’re staying in the Throne Room, at my side, like the prince you are. Got it?”

Shining nodded once, pasting a smile on his muzzle. Hoo boy, not even gonna try that one. Not when she looks like she’d beat an Ursa Major senseless with her bare hooves. He shifted his weight so he was pressed up against his wife, booping their noses together. “If that’s what you want, Cady.”

“You’re darn right it is!” She snorted, gritting her teeth together. Her eyes widened a fraction as the spell finished reporting in. Cadence nodded once, mumbling something incomprehensible under her breath before canceling it out.

“So, how does it look?”

“There’s no infection, at least, Gentle did a fine job of cleaning the wound. But I still say we need to go back and get it looked at.”

“Okay,” Shining whispered, tightening his grip around her and ignoring the twinge in his ribs, “I’ll send a letter in the morning and we’ll both go down after lunch.”

“All right. Tomorrow.” Cadence closed her eyes and leaned into him, taking a moment to calm her raging temper. With a quick shift, she buried her muzzle into his shoulder. “I’m sorry,” she mumbled, her voice strained and watery, “I don’t want to be angry. I just get so worried when you go out.”

“I know,” he wrapped his hooves around her barrel, ignoring the pain in his left side as he tried to hold her tight. The young Captain grit his teeth, setting his head on top of his wife’s. “And I don’t like worrying you, but this is part of my job. Just like it was back in Canterlot.”

“You had an office in Canterlot, and you rarely went out on patrol.” She pointed out, pulling away to meet his gaze again. “Why can’t you just go back to that? Can’t you just call a few more guards in and let them lead?”

Shining Armor hummed. Truth be told, yes, he could easily do so. But, that took control out of his hooves. After so long without a voluntary recruitment system, it was already tough enough to get them to join up. Leaving them in the hooves of some of my old Drill Sergeants would be… counterproductive.

A shudder went down his spine. If he thought those heavy-hooved old ponies were bad, he could only imagine how they might seem to some of the meeker crystal ponies.

“I like to keep an eye on things,” he began, choosing his words carefully, “especially since I have to teach them everything from the ground up in such a short time. I mean, they literally had no idea how a patrol guard walks a beat and maintain a good face with a little chitchat! I told you about Glimmer and Twinkle, right?”

Cadence blinked, cocking her head to the side. “Uh, I don’t think so. Why, what happened?”

Shining’s eyebrows formed a line across his forehead, his left eye twitched at the memory. “I took a group of recruits on a walk through Sparkling Square, through the shops so I could work with them on making a good impression on the ponies while out on patrol—routine stuff I did as a Private! So, we came up on a couple going about their day, I tell them to go up and say hi, just see how things are going. Usual stuff.”

“Doesn’t sound too hard. What happened?”

“Those two goofballs got up in their faces and started interrogating them! In broad daylight! Half the Sparkling Quarter must’ve been there!”

Cadence brought a hoof to her mouth. “Oh, dear. I can imagine that didn’t go over well. Wait.” her eyes went wide as it finally dawned on her. “Wasn’t that the day—”

“You got reports of panic in the Square, yes,” he grumbled. “It took me hours to get the crowd to calm down and explain it all to both sides.” Shining let out a groan and buried his face in his hooves. “It was just supposed to be a simple, bloody ‘Hello, how are you?’!”

Shining took solace in the way Cadence leaned forward to nuzzle his cheek. “They really are that green, aren’t they?” At his nod, she sighed in resignation. “All right. I guess I can’t fault you for wanting to take a hooves on approach to their training if it’s really that important. But,” her gaze hardened, “if you come back home with some injury because of something silly like holding back against a mauling bear, I will have you chained to this bed and a suppressor slapped on your horn!”

“Yes, dear.” Wisely biting back on the low-hanging fruit of an innuendo, Shining simply submitted the point. Better to let her simmer down and talk to her when ‘mother pegasus’ doesn’t think I need to be held under wing.

With a satisfied nod, Cadence buried her muzzle in his shoulder again, softly nuzzling against his alabaster coat. Shining gasped as she planted soft, fluffy kisses on his shoulder, trailing up his neck. “C-Cady!”

“Hush,” she whispered, her breath tickling against his cheek. Cadence tightened her grip, pressing his barrel against hers. “You kept things hidden from me, Captain. You know I don’t like that.”

“I didn’t—Yipe!” He nearly jumped when her lips found that ticklish spot at the base of his jawline, right beneath his ear. His pearl white cheeks colored deep fuchsia. “Cady!” Shining protested in spite of the goofy grin spreading across his face.

“Didn’t mean it? Is that what you were going to say?” His eyes crossed as her warm breath ghosted over his ear. “I wasn’t born yesterday, Shiny, I know you don’t mean to do such foolhardy things. You just seem to forget that I’m a big mare, who can listen and understand why you have to do things for the Guard. A big mare who loves you very much.”

Shining licked his lips to wet them, but his tongue seemed dry. “Honey, it’s not that I forget, I just know you’re busy and—“

“You don’t want to wait for me to sign off on every little detail, because that means you have to explain it.” She finished for him, smiling wickedly. “You can’t fool me, Shining Armor, I know how you think. I spent enough time around you while I was foalsitting Twily to know how you try to weasel your way out of trouble, silly colt.”

And this is the problem with marrying your closest foalhood friend. He squirmed away laughing, sparing a wince at the pain that shot through his side. “Honey,” Shining hissed, “my ribs!”

All playfulness washed from Cadence’s face, the teasing, affectionate mare replaced by the mother pegasus in her. “How bad is it?”

“Just hurts when I move too much or if I laugh. Or, well, if you touch it,” he added with a rueful grin. “That’s kinda obvious, though.”

“Yes. Yes it is.” She sighed and looked upward at the ceiling with a wry grin, mouthing ‘Why me?’

“I saw that.”

“You’re a big colt—as you’ve told me so many times—you’ll get over it.”

Having no retort, Shining Armor fell back on his old standby: crossing his eyes and sticking his tongue out at his wife, just as he’d done as a colt.

He snickered at the deadpan stare Cadence directed at him. “Really? You still haven’t grown out of that?”

A shake of his head, with his tongue still sticking out, was the only reply he offered.

“Well, then, if that’s the way you want to play, fine!” With all the grace and etiquette of a Princess of Equestria, Cadence stuck her tongue out and blew a raspberry at her cheeky husband.

The pair devolved into peals of laughter, though Shining was forced to drop it down to a light chuckle to relieve his aching ribs.

Well, at least I got her back in good spirits. Fully aware that he wasn’t entirely out of trouble, Shining settled on bringing a smile to her face; a small victory in the long-running game of being a good husband.

Of course, being a good husband also meant taking his lumps. Even if he might want to get by without doing so. Better to tangle with the hydra now than later, as dad always said. Shining let the smile fall from his face, drawing a curious look from Cadence. “So, how many nights?”

“Huh?” Cadence drew back and raised a brow. “How many nights of what?”

A grimace nearly found its way onto his muzzle. Oh, look, you could’ve gotten away if you’d shut your darn mouth. Sighing, Shining jerked his head in the direction of the door to their room, the one that lead to the common area of their suite. “How long am I on the couch this time?” He asked, only just keeping the irritation out of his voice.

Cadence stared silently, blinking a few times while she let his question sink in. “Oh! Oh, I wasn’t sure—wait...” the confusion vanished in favor of a wide-eyed stare, her mouth setting in a thin line. “You really think I’m going to make you sleep on the couch with fractured ribs?”

“Uh, well, you were kinda mad…”

“Of course I’m mad, you dummy! That doesn’t mean I want you in more pain!” Without warning, Cadence reached up and lightly bopped him over the head.

Shining rubbed his head, grumbling under his breath. “What is it with mares bopping me today?”

“Oh, stop your bellyaching and lay down, you great, big foal!” Cadence gently placed a hoof on his chest and pushed him backwards until his head touched the soft, blue sheeted pillow on his side of the bed. She kept her hoof in place, only putting a bit of weight to pin him down so she could lean in and peck his snout. “You are going to take it easy for the next few days, buster, no arguments.”

“I feel like there’s an ‘or else’ somewhere,” he noted, grinning wryly at the beautiful mare looking down upon him. “You already threatened to clap me in irons and put a ring on my horn—well, another one–what else do you have on me?”

Shining immediately regretted asking. His heart sank into his stomach at the sight of Cadence’s lips curving into a familiar smirk, the one that always meant she was up to mischief when they were younger. She leaned in, lightly pecking his muzzle again before moving to whisper into his ear.

His eyes went the size of dinner plates. “My mother gave you those?

Cadence threw back her head and laughed heartily at the way he gaped up at her. “That’s right.” She crowed. “Now, are you gonna be a good Shiny-winy for me, or should I call for a quick assembly of our new recruits? The horseshoe is in your court, dearest.”

Biting his lip, Shining mulled over his options, carefully considering all possible strategies in order to spare himself the humiliation.

But there was no alternative to surrender in this case; Cadence held all the cards, not to mention that she actually had a point.

Shining closed his eyes and nodded once. “Cheater,” he grumbled.

“All’s fair in love and war, Shiny,” Cadence teased, stealing a peck to his cheek. “And I am the Princess of Love!”

“I haven’t heard that one a thousand times before.” He didn’t even try to duck as his wife reached to bop him on the head again. Grinning in reply, Shining Armor settled back into their bed. “So, feel like eating something or would you rather just call it a night?”

Cadence glanced over her shoulder at the clock mounted on the crystal wall. Though she was turned away, Shining noticed a small frown on her lips as she saw the time. Probably just realized how long she’s been lecturing me. He forced himself to withhold a heavy sigh. And feeling bad about it.

Sure enough, her wings dipped at her sides, matching the way her ears began to swivel back to lay against her scalp. But almost as quickly as the signs appeared, Cadence perked right back up as she turned around to face him with a bright smile. “I’m not all that hungry, just too much stuff going on today that I don’t know if I could bring myself to eat.” She trailed off, shuffling in place a bit. “If you’re hungry, I could have something brought up for you. I can’t imagine you had much time for meals on your run.”

“I, uh, actually could go for a quick snack. I just grabbed one of the MRE’s and ate when the recruits were on break.”

Her nose scrunched up. “That is not food.” Shining had to bite his lip as Cadence shuddered visibly, her own experience with one of the Royal Guard’s finest culinary arts was always a fun memory to revisit.

I never knew she could turn such an interesting shade of green. He couldn’t hide the grin on his face. “Well, it’s just supposed to be something quick for us, the only reason we ate that today was so they’d get used to it.”

“Well, you need to eat something else, not that stasis spell garbage! Between that and the magic you used earlier, you need a good meal to recover. ” She pushed herself up and shimmied off their large, plush bed. Trotting toward the door, Cadence turned to call over her shoulder. “How does a dandelion and daffodil salad sound?”

“Perfect, Cady!” He replied with a grin. “I could demolish one of those right about now!”

“I’m sure. I’ll be right back, don’t go anywhere.”

“Hey, you know me,” Shining made a show of sitting up and getting comfortable against the headboard. “Once I’m comfortable, I’m not moving.”

Cadence nodded and vanished out the door, leaving the bruised and battered Captain-Prince alone to his own devices. He looked up at the ceiling, shoulders slumping as he let out a breath. Way to go, blockhead. You worried her again. Shining thumped his head, closing his eyes. And you managed to get her mad that you hid something from her.

The fact that he had to lead training regiments was no excuse. If he’d pulled something like that back in Canterlot, Princess Celestia would’ve been just as angry, albeit for very different reasons.

A guard is loyal to his princess, and a husband is loyal to his wife. Shining nodded to himself. Hiding it from Cady to guarantee that it was a surprise for the recruits was just silly, she wouldn’t have given anything away if I’d asked her to keep it quiet.

“I should’ve said something.” He grumbled. A few days taking it easy and staying by her side are exactly what I need. After that, I make sure I don’t worry her like this again.

His ears pricked up at the sound of hoof steps growing closer, Cadence’s light trot echoing off the crystal walls and floor. Shining fixed a smile on his face and sat up straight, beaming at her as soon as she stepped back through the door.

Move forward and make tomorrow a better day. She slid into bed, he leaned over to nuzzle her cheek. Breathing deeply, he took in her scent. And make sure it brings a smile to the mare I love.

Running her hoof through her husband’s mane, Cadence smiled at the sleeping stallion.

Busy all day, barking orders at recruits like such a big shot, only to fall asleep as soon as he winds down. She idly brushed down a patch of hair that stuck out stubbornly, Shining only hummed sleepily and leaned into her touch in reply. “You really are just a big colt,” she whispered, pecking his forehead. “My big colt in shining armor.”

As she watched his chest rise and fall, eyes coming over pristine white coat and firmly bound bandages, Cadence couldn’t help but let her mind wander back to those days of summers past; playing in the backyard with Twily, baby Spike, and Shiny, letting their imaginations run wild until she had to return to the castle.

And with them came the visage of that little colt she’d fallen in love with all those years ago. Friendly, kind, handsome, and strong, even as a foal. Those brilliant blue eyes could gleam with joy and coltish mischief, or burn with passion and dedication.

The fire behind those eyes captivated her, whether it was something as simple as playing the part of her loyal guard or when he’d actually become her personal guard, and made her heart quiver. For each time she saw it, Cadence found herself a little filly standing before her closest friend, listening as he vowed to one day enlist.

“When I grow up, I’ll be one of them.” He’d say, with that grin on his muzzle. “I’ll be strong enough to protect everypony!”

And then, I’d ask, “Oh, really? What about Twily, Spike, and me? You’re not gonna leave us to go off on adventures, are you?”

Cadence had to stifle a laugh at the memory of how he sputtered, indignant that she’d ever suggest such a thing. “Of course not!” She whispered, her heart filling with warmth as she recited his reply. “I won’t let anything bad happen to you guys! I’m gonna be by your side forever!” With a happy coo, she nuzzled his ears. “You try so hard to live up to that promise, don’t you?”

To her amusement, Shining only hummed in his sleep, shifting so that he pressed up against her body and wrapping a hoof around hers.

My great, big colt, always wants his Cady close. Cadence laid down, draping a wing and hoof over his body and resting her head on his right shoulder. Closing her eyes and breathing deep, she savored his musty scent.

Cadence relaxed for the first time since he’d missed reporting in, blanketing his injured body with her pink and purple tinged wings, just as a mother pegasus would hold her foal.

But, as her thoughts wandered back to those tense hours waiting, the letter from the Council of Shards came to the forefront of her mind; their insistence growing more frequent with each passing week.

Cadence wrapped her wing tighter around her husband’s barrel. He’s not ready to hear that yet. Once things settle down with the recruits, I’ll talk with him. Everything will be fine. Sighing heavily, she kissed Shining’s cheek, lingering for a moment. You promised to protect me from harm, so I’ll guard your heart, my love. And I will stand by your side, no matter what.