• Published 1st Apr 2015
  • 4,465 Views, 64 Comments

You Can't Have Everything Your Way - Xepher

A young Twilight learns an important lesson from Cadance, when she finds the filly playing cards with her stuffed animals one night.

  • ...

Chapter 1

You Can't Have Everything Your Way
by Xepher

"Thank goodness you're here," Twilight Velvet said, opening the door. "We're running late already."

"My apologies if I've held you up," Cadance said. "I thought you said seven o'clock."

"Oh, we did, but Night Light got a call, and now we have to swing by the office on the way to the theater." Twilight Velvet turned away from the door. "Honey, she's here," she shouted up the stairs. "Let's get going or we're going to miss the first act!"

There was a mumbled reply and the sound of hooves clomping down the stairs. Twilight Velvet turned back to Cadance. "She's in her room, as always, and I'm sure you know the drill. Help yourself to anything else in the kitchen, but the cake is for an office party tomorrow."

"No worries, Mrs. Velvet, I already ate."

"You aren't the one I'm worried about, deary."

Cadance chuckled. "I'll keep Twilight well away from it, I promise." The sugar high alone was reason enough to keep the filly away from such sweets after dark. She turned and trotted toward the young filly's room.

Pushing open the door, Cadance found the young unicorn sitting at a small table, with Ms. Smarty Pants and two other stuffed animals arrayed around it as well. In front of each were some playing cards, and Twilight Sparkle—complete with a green visor that was several sizes too large—was using her magic to deal more.

"Well what have we here?" Cadance said, by way of announcing herself.

"Oh, Cadance!" Twilight said, excitement in her voice. "You're just in time for the next hoof. Sit down there!" She was a rather imperious little thing, Cadance thought to herself.

"What are we playing?" Cadance asked, tucking her wings and legs in as tightly as possible to fit at a corner of the small table, just to the right of Twilight.

"Poker," Twilight said flatly, and she dealt a hoof of cards to her.

"I'm not sure that's exactly the type of game a filly your age should be playing."

"Tell me about it," Twilight said with a melodramatic sigh. "It doesn't make any sense. But don't worry, I've spent the past two days fixing it. We're playing it my way now."

"Your way?"

Twilight just nodded, and finished the deal, before picking up her two hole-cards and glaring at them. When in Roan... Cadance thought, and looked at her own cards. Not bad, she realized, a pair of kings.

"Okay," Twilight said. "Miss Smarty Pants is first." The unicorn then used her magic to animate the doll, who pushed a small button into the center of the table. Next up were a pig of some kind, who "bet" a small teacup, and a duck, who put forward a piece of chalk.

The action then moved to Cadance, who realized she hadn't brought much of anything with her. On a hunch though, she dug in her saddle bags and found an old ticket to a carnival and put it on the table. Twilight nodded, then looked at her own cards again. "I'm in," she announced, pushing forward a pencil. Smarty Pants made a knock—well, more of a soft thump—on the table, checking.

Twilight dealt the flop: A three, a king, a nine, and another king.

"Aren't you supposed to deal three cards there?" Cadance said.

"No. I told you, we're playing it my way."

Well alright then, Cadance thought to herself.

This time, for reasons known only to herself, Twilight started the betting, by raising a massive book. Cadance recognized it as one of the filly's most prized possessions. The first two dolls folded, but the duck took a bubble pipe from his mouth and pushed it forward. Cadance dug in her bags again, and came up with a half empty pack of gum.

"No," Twilight said. "It has to be something equal to the other bets. It has to be something valuable to you."

"Like what?" Cadance asked, not sure at all how the filly was evaluating the bets.

"Like that," Twilight said, pointing to Cadance's necklace. It had been a gift from Shining Armor when they'd first started dating last year.

"I'm not so sure that's a good idea." Cadance found herself suddenly worried just what the filly had picked up about gambling.

"Why not? I put in my favorite book, and Doctor Quack is betting his favorite pipe."

Cadance frowned.

"Come on Cadance, it's just a game!"

Despite herself, Cadance did want to continue, if only for the glimpse it was providing into the odd little mind beside her. "Fine," she said, taking the jewelry off. "I call with my favorite necklace."

Doctor Quack tapped to check, and Twilight added two more cards, both nines.

Cadance had played a fair bit of poker since she'd started hanging out with Shining and his friends, and she knew her hoof was rather unassailable at this point.

Doctor Quack raised, sliding a piece of paper across the table.

"What's that?" Cadance asked, genuinely curious.

"His medical degree," Twilight answered. When Cadance looked confused, the little filly continued by defining the phrase for the obviously-ignorant princess. "It's what makes him a doctor."

Rolling her eyes, Cadance decided to let that one slide. She probably should have stopped this before, but the winning hoof she had made her want to play it out, even if it was just a fake game. "Okay," she said, reaching for the tiara on her head—what made her a princess—before realizing that wasn't how Twilight's mind worked. Doctor Quack wasn't just betting a piece of paper, a symbol; he was betting his actual degree. She thought quickly, and then the Princess of Love cast a simple illusion spell on a glass heart trinket she had in her bag, making the small, pink token glow softly. "I bet my love."

Twilight's eyes went wide as saucers. "All in!" she said immediately, though she didn't put anything further on the table.

"What are you betting, exactly?"

"Oh, sorry, I thought you knew how to play." Twilight said, her voice calming slightly as it fell back to lecture mode. "'All in,' means that I'm betting everything I have."

"But what is that?"

"Well, I don't have a list prepared, but my friends, my family, my name, all my toys and books of course, and my room, and..."

Cadance held up a hoof. "Twilight, maybe we shouldn't be..."

"No!" Twilight nearly screeched. "You can't take it back. You bet it. You have to finish the game now. You can't take it back!" The filly was nearly on the verge of tears with panic.

"Calm down," Cadance said, reassuringly. "That's fine, and you're right, I did bet. We'll finish the round, but then we're going to have a talk." She was, frankly, worried about her young charge.

Twilight turned back to the table and, concentrating, moved the duck's head in a speaking motion as she let out a "quack" from the far side of her own mouth.

"He's all in too," Twilight said, by way of explanation. "He's betting everything in the pond, and his very duck-ness." The filly turned nervously to Cadance. "Are you going to... to raise?"

"But I haven't even called yet."

"But what you put in was way more than what we had, so the pot is good."

Where did she learn these phrases? Cadance wondered.

"And if you raise," Twilight said. "Then... then we couldn't call. So..." she sniffled, lip quivering, but continued. "So, it'd probably be the smart thing for you to do, because then we couldn't win."

Oh how her heart ached at that. Cadance knew Twilight had a lot of... well, "issues" in that smart little brain of hers, but what sort of twisted logic caused her to give advice to an opponent even when the thought of losing (due to her own mis-or-reinterpretation of the betting rules) was obviously bringing her to tears?

"I check," Cadance said, causing Twilight's quivering lip to hesitantly turn into a smile.

"Okay, let's see 'em folks." Twilight said, back to playing the dealer, even though the redness in her eyes betrayed the now-calm voice. Cadance, knowing now just how much this meant to Twilight, didn't want to win, but she also knew that cheating, even to try and lose, would be a moot point by now. Twilight was surprisingly observant when she tried to be, and right now, her eyes were positively glued to the cards in front of Cadance. The Princess had no choice but to turn them over.

"Four kings," she said.

"Not bad," Twilight said, seemingly nonplussed. "Doctor Quack?"

Doctor Quack obediently turned over his two cards, showing a five and a seven.

"Ooh, three primes," Twilight said. "That definitely beats four kings."

Cadance shook her head in amusement at that. Of course the little prodigy would think a sequence of primes was powerful, but...

"How so?" She found herself obligated to ask.

"Well, poker is about odds. But the original game gets the odds wrong, using only a limited, boring space. But now we're playing it my way, and so over an infinite space, the odds of four out of five random ponies being kings is infinitely more likely than three out of five numbers being primes. And in poker, the lower the odds of a pattern, the more valuable it is."

"I... I can't actually argue with that," Cadance said. And she actually couldn't either. Math had never been her strong suit. "So what do you have, Miss Sparkle?"

Twilight grinned, holding her cards close to her barrel with her hooves, hugging them before placing them on the table. Cadance leaned forward to look at them better. Paper was taped over the front of the cards, the original faces completely replaced by crayon sketches of what looked like her and Princess Celestia.

"I have two princesses." Twilight declared. "Which obviously beats everything."

Cadance quirked an eyebrow.

"There're only two of you in the entire universe, so it's the lowest odds possible."

Smiling, Cadance acquiesced. "Okay, I guess you win."

The little filly dove onto the table, reaching for the pile of bets. Her hooves scrambled to grab the pink heart, but when she pulled it close to herself, the glow disappeared.

"What? What happened?"

Cadance realized she'd forgotten to renew the spell, and the illusion only lasted about a minute or so unless refreshed.

"Give it back!" Twilight started to hyperventilate. "You lost! It's mine, you can't take back your bet!" The little unicorn had tears forming in her eyes.

"Calm down, Twilight, it was just a little illusion, that's all."

"But... but you said it! You said you bet your love! You can't pretend! That's not... That's not FAIR!" She ended with a shriek, loud enough that it was probably heard by the entire block.

"Twilight!" Cadance said in a stern voice. "You know better than to scream and worry the neighbors."

Cheeks turning red, Twilight's anger turned into pure disappointment, even as her voice dropped in volume as requested. "But... you... you said..." she sniffled, before muttering further. "I won it... it was fair, and I just... just... wanted your love and..."

"Oh, Twilight," Cadance said, her own heart aching as she reached out to the filly. "Come here."

Twilight wiped her nose on her fetlock, then hesitantly stepped toward Cadance's embrace. "Twilight," Cadance said after giving her a big hug and bending down to look her in the eye. "You can't win love."

"But... but I just wanted your love like..."

"Twilight, you do have my love! I thought you knew that."

Sniffling still, Twilight wiped her eyes. "I know I... I used to. But you love Shiny now! I wanted it back!"

"Love isn't a prize, Twilight. It's not something that can be won... or lost. It's a gift, one that ponies give to other ponies they really care about. Just because I love your brother doesn't mean I love you any less."


"Do your mom and dad love each other?"

Twilight thought a moment, then nodded. "I think so."

"And do they love your brother?"

"I... I guess so."

"And they love you too, don't they?"

Twilight hung her head, realizing the flaw in her logic. "Yeah..." she muttered.

"That's the magic of love," Cadance said, lifting Twilight's chin up to face her. "You can never run out of it. In fact, the more of it you share, the stronger it gets."

Twilight cocked her head in a way Cadance had come to know as "Recalibrating world-view, please stand by." The Princess of Love imagined she could see the phrases "entropy" and "conservation of energy violation" flickering just behind the tear-filled eyes, before the young genius eventually returned to the physical world.

"So," Twilight said hesitantly. "I won, but... you can't actually win love, right?"

"Now you're getting it."

"So even though I won it fair and square, it was really just a small trinket, right?"

"Exactly! In fact, it's not even a real gem, just some cut glass to go on a hoof bangle. Love though, is something much, much bigger."

"But I get to keep the trinket, since I won, right?"

"Umm," Cadance wrinkled her brow. "Yeah, I guess so. But it's not actual love, you do get that, right?"

"I know, it's just cut glass." Twilight hugged her, before stepping back as a smile grew on her face. "But I'm pretty sure the necklace is an actual diamond!"

"Now wait just a min..." Cadance's objection petered off as a the little filly's smile shifted to an off-centered smirk.

"Heh, just kidding," Twilight said, the laughter nervous as she held out the jewelry—the symbol of Shining Armor's love—for Cadance to reclaim. "You, umm, know that, right?"

Cadance wished she could believe that, but nothing in Twilight's world was ever so easily resolved. "No," she said. "You're not."

Twilight's eyes threatened to leap out of her skull before Cadance continued. "But that's okay, Twilight. You can keep the necklace." Shining would understand. In fact, he'd probably understand far better than Cadance herself did. He'd been around his bizarrely wonderful little sister far longer than she had. But she was trying!

Ears slumping, brows furrowing, Twilight pulled the necklace back to her barrel. "Are you... sure?"

"Shining gave that to me, promising he'd always love me. But I know he loved you first. So I give it now to you, with a promise that I will never come between you and your brother."

Cadance looked down, seeing tears forming in the big eyes of the little unicorn. "Re...really?" Twilight sniffled. "I know it me...means a lot to... to you."

"But not as much as you do..." Cadance grabbed the filly with her magic and pulled her into a deep hug, before tussling her mane with a hoof to lighten the mood. "....you little card shark."

"Awww," Twilight said, pulling away and running running her hooves through her mane, trying to straighten it back out, "You know I hate that!"

"Well tough," Cadance said, with a smirk of her own. "You can't have everything your way, you know!"

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Comments ( 64 )

You know, if I were Cadence, and I'd just experienced this conversation and series of events, I'd predict that Twilight would either grow up to be a tyrannical warlord that overthrows the Princess, or a mad scientist whose inventions go awry and wipe out all of ponykind.

You had my fave and thumb from the moment I read this when you shared it with me. Now you're just cementing it, heh...

5807932 Heh... and who knows, she could still do either! :twilightsmile:

I love heart warming stories.

5808328 5808384 D'aww, thanks! :twilightblush:

Diabetes... to... a-adorable... *dies*

Poor, poor Twilight, thinking that love is a finite resource.

I can fully believe Twilight rewriting the rules for poker lol

5808602 *grin* Yeah, but... can you picture it any other way?

5808624 We've always known she didn't really grok friendship until she moved to ponyville. This kind of sets that up... in a plausible way, I hope.

5808658 AND acting like Cadance is ignorant for not understanding. (To be honest, I don't quite understand her rules myself, and I wrote them!) :pinkiegasp:

5808934 Be thankful it was not Pinkie Pie writing the rules...

I could read it, but I think I'll just sit here and imagine filly Twilight the card shark.

That was a nice little read. Now I'm thinking, Cutie Mark Crusader Card Sharks has a nice ring to it. It should happen. ^_^

Aww, this was simply adorable, and it had a good lesson in it too. All you need now is the comedy tag! :twilightsmile:

Very nice and touching.

Tiny typo:

Cadance knew Twilight had a lot of... well, "issues" in that smart little brain of her's


There's only two of you

For nice grammar: There are

"All in" just Mega Evolved.

"Recalibrating world-view, please stand by."

I laughed way too much at this one line

Alternate ending:

Cadance: "Okay, I guess you win."

:twilightoops: *Eyes, horn, and cutie mark start glowing*

Cadance: "Twilight, what is going o-" *Eye, horn, wings, and cutie mark starts glowing*

*Explosion of light*

Cadance: "What... happened..." *rubs her headache, only to notice she no longer has a horn. She looks back and see she doesn't have a cutie mark either*

:twilightoops: *Suddenly has wings and Cadance's cutie mark in addition to her own.* "What? Why? I just wanted your love back from my brother! I didn't... I didn't plan for this..."

:trollestia: *Smashes through a window* "Twilight? Did you have another magical surge? Are you... Oh. Buck."



Cadance: "Yes, but it was a silly poker game, and I was just doing this for Twilight..."

:trollestia: "Magic doesn't give a buck why you did, magic will accept any contract for magic. Now since you lost the power of love, you lost the power which I ascended you to Alicornship for and Twilight got it instead. Now she will have to be a princess!"

:twilightoops: "But... I don't know anything about being a princess! I wanted to be a librarian!"

:trollestia: "I was going to turn you into a princess already..."


:trollestia: "...Err... I mean... your all princesses on the inside?"

5809692 5809768 And now I'm picturing that a card shark is literal like a timber wolf... a shark made of cards!

5809874 I wasn't sure if "comedy" would imply a less heartwarming type of story, so I left it off. It's funny, but it's not a joke... if that makes sense. I am glad you found it funny though, it's certainly meant to be.

5810399 Fixed now, thanks! And I'm glad you found it touching!

5810469 Heheh... I guess that's one way to put it, but that's a pretty good summary of the inspiration. The contest prompt was "All In" and I thought how Twilight would blow even that way out of proportion.

5810801 :twilightsmile: That was my favorite line that "just happened." I was just picturing Twilight's face in the scene as I wrote, and those words appeared, meme-like, over her head in my mind. I laughed out loud, and wrote it down immediately. One does not question the muse!

5811212 Heheh, nice! You definitely got me on that last line, too... "...Err... I mean... your all princesses on the inside?" Classic!

5811454 No, no, no. The scene: a Las Pegasus casino. The door opens. In walks...

5808937 The scarey thing is that Pinkie Pie would more likely to have won that game despite it was Twilight rewriting the rules....AND having both princesses!:pinkiehappy: :twilightangry2:

5811454 Yeah, well although it was a heartwarming story it DID have some funny parts in it. That's all I'm saying! :derpytongue2:

but the duck took a bubble pipe from his mouth and pushed it forward.

Hah! I see what you did there.

Soooo, the canon show then?

5812569 I'm a bit, really lost, on the reference. Is this some reference to Scrooge mcduck?

Mini Twi has a very penetrating gaze.

Yup! Pinkie wins with four Princesses, because the only way that's possible is through plot devices or time travel.

I'm not sure how to feel about this
But then again "re-calibrating world view" is pretty great so.

5811454 That is all kinds of awesome and I don't think I've ever seen anyone do that in a story before. I can totally picture that being a thing.

You could write all kinds of stories about such a creature. XD

Rethorical question in the description. Can't read.

either that one or the duck in the Ponies The Anthology video (1or 2)

So, filly Twi had a gambling addiction. Yeah, sounds about right. Great story.:yay:

T-Twilight... Twilight is a genius. As a FILLY, she was able to set this up, plan everything, and manipulate Cadance (I know, I know, it's Cadence, but Cadance sounds better) into betting her love? :twilightoops:Wow. Wow... I am so glad she didn't turn evil. She truly would be a force to be reckoned with.

Imagine trying to beat that animal in a game of poker!

Nah, we know in Ponyland evil cuts anyone's IQ down by half.

I wrote a review of this story. It can be found here.

What are the odds that Kenny Rogers' "The Gambler" would start playing while I was reading this?

5814492 Didn't spell rhetorical correctly. Can't read post.


And now I'm picturing that a card shark is literal like a timber wolf... a shark made of cards!




Commence read.

A nice, lighthearted story.

The way Twilight changed up the rules was interesting. Plus with their being 4 total queens in a regular deck, guess that accounts for Luna and Twilight? Or something like that?

Glad that the conversation went well and makes for a good educational tool.

Sometimes all you need is just some fluff :3

Adorable little story! :raritystarry:

5811485 Perfect!
5811755 No, because that'd keep Twilight from smiling. Pinkie would've somehow figured out how they could both win!

5813062 5812569 Really? Because I have no idea what I did there. The fact that he was named "Doctor Quack" I thought was clever, but don't know what you see with the pipe. :-)

5813425 Yeah, saw that pic and just had to use it. No artist or label on it at all though, so no idea where it came from

5813995 Heh... must keep that in mind for a sequel!

Thanks! I'm really amazed how much this story took off and resonated with people. I was just thinking for it to be filler while I finished up the next Hole in the Sun chapter, but... I do love me some D'aww moments, and apparently so do a lot of you!

5821937 I didn't even think of Twlight/Luna adding up to four queens later. Heh! I mean... uh... I totally meant to do that!

5819159 Heh. Bad visual puns are still bad puns. :rainbowwild:

5816803 I know, right?

5819128 5814492 I assumed first comment about rhetorical comment was sarcastic.

5818765 Depends on much Kenny Rogers is on your playlist I guess. But you do need to know when to hold 'em...

5816803 5815824 Oh, there's still plenty of time for her to turn evil! After all, Discord turned good, right? :trollestia:

5813518 Assuming Pinkie doesn't just put herself on every card and the answer is "Because Pinkie Pie."

5817911 Thanks for the review, TD! Glad you found it at least worth the read. I'll admit it is a thing that's been done before. I like to think the character interaction sells it as better than the standard trope though.

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