• Published 16th Aug 2019
  • 518 Views, 19 Comments

The Pros and Cons of Working Over Time - meanderingNekomata



Minuette and Limestone Pie are bound by the Choosing Stone.

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Anxieties of Bond Consolidation

Time seemed to somehow simultaneously move at both breakneck and snail’s pace during the days leading up to the date. Minuette was just so excited and nervous with anticipation of the event that it seemed she couldn’t decide on whether she never wanted the day to arrive or wished that it had been yesterday. It was for this reason that when the day itself was upon her, her feelings seemed at war between impatience for the date to begin and a sense of complete unpreparedness, even in spite of her friends’ assistance the past few days.

Lemon Hearts had helped her with her outfit. They decided on something relatively simple for the time being. No dresses, no socks, just some pastel pink horseshoes, blue saddlebags, and a simple yellow scarf. That way, they reasoned, she wouldn’t seem too overdressed if they went somewhere casual or underdressed for anything more elaborate. Or at least, that was the plan. In truth, it wouldn’t be the best if they went anywhere too nice, but then Limestone would stick out as well, so they opted not to worry too much over that possibility.

Twinkleshine and Lyra gave her advice, occasionally disagreeing about dating etiquette and the necessity of certain formalities. While she didn’t expect a date to pull out all the stops, Twinkleshine still expected dates to follow certain rules while Lyra had a more casual, laid back approach.

Moondancer ended up being unavailable ever since their Midnight Donut. She wasn’t sure if that was a good or bad thing. Still, her nerves had kept her from focusing on her friends’ potential problems for the moment, or at least forced her to put them on the backburner for now. Didn’t keep her from being curious though, what was up with Moon Moon? She’d have to get ahold of her once the date was over.

“Okay, Minuette, only an hour left. You’re dressed, ready, you can do this!” She paced another small circle around the first floor of her townhouse. “Just a ten minute walk from here to the station. Should I be early? Would that make me seem too eager? Still, beats sticking around here for another forty-five minutes…” she nodded to herself. “Right, who knows, maybe she’ll be early too. If I really need to, I could just wait in the bathroom and pretend to show up maybe a couple minutes late? Alright, it’s decided…” she breathed in, out. “Opening the door.” Minuette said, narrating her actions aloud now as though the narration itself drove her forward. “And heading to the station.”

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-- 50 minutes before the date

“Hey, Twinkle?” Lemon Hearts asked.

“Yeah, Lemon?”

“You know that stuff you told me about your parents and the marriage interviews?”

“Of course, it’s only the stressful background noise of my life right now. Why? You got some harebrained scheme to save me from a loveless marriage and parental disappointment?” Twinkleshine asked, leaning her head back with her right hoof draped over it before giving her friend a wry smile and a wink.

“Well, it’s not really my scheme. You were the one who brought it up last time.”

Twinkle cocked her head to the side, giving her friend a confused expression. “I’m blanking, help me out here?”

Calm down, just be casual about it. Ugh, what am I even doing? She’s one of my best friends, I can’t just… Lemon just stared blankly at Twinkleshine for a moment, caught up in those eyes, the manestyle after which she’d modelled her own. She knew Twinkle wore it better. This just helped her feel closer… closer to the unattainable. Even if she went through with this, she knew her friend would never see her that way. But then, maybe that was why she had to. Right, I can’t just consider myself here. This is about Twinkleshine, not me. The next few years won’t be any different for me, nopony ever measures up anyway. And this is just another way I can help her. As her friend.

Evidently, she had been silent for too long, as she soon saw a white hoof waving in front of her face accompanied by the words “Hey, Equestria to Lemon Hearts. Anypony home?”

“Oh! Sorry! I kind of spaced there a moment, didn’t I?” Lemon replied with a sheepish grin.

Twinkleshine waved it off. “No, it’s fine, now, you were gonna remind me about my brilliant plan.”

“I uh, the marriage plan. You said, y’know, that you could just elope with a friend. Somepony who could act the part of your significant other long enough to get your parents off your back.” Lemon swallowed, as though the action would wash away the anxiety she felt even suggesting what she was about to suggest.

“Oh, right, that.” Twinkleshine gave her a sly grin. “You trying to set me up with somepony, Lem?”

“No, no, no!” Lemon answered almost too fast, waving her hooves as she turned several shades redder. “Y’know what, better to just drop it, it was a stupid idea anyway.”

“Lemon, don’t do that, just tell me. I promise I won’t laugh, no matter who you suggest.” she gave her friend a wink before saying, “If it’s a stallion though, I may have to question if you’re secretly in league with my mother.”

“Oh dear sweet Celestia, no! I’d never do that to you.”

Her friend giggled. “Hey, lighten up, I was only joking. So, who is this mystery mare you’ve got in mind? C’mon, Lemmy, don’t keep me in suspense here.”

Encouraged, Lemon took on a teasing tone. “Okay, I’ll give you a few hints. She’s a unicorn with a yellow coat, a mane on the lighter side as shades of blue go, and she’s known you for years.”

“Wait,” Twinkle said, voice tinged with uncertainty, “you’re not suggesting…“

“I am. I’d like to apply for that position, if it’s open to me. We both know I can be a pretty good actress, and with all the history between us, I’m sure your parents would find it believable.” Lemon smiled wide, aiming for a look of confidence. Fake it til you make it and all that. “Besides, we’re friends. Best friends, even! This way, I can be there for you anytime you need me and we can face your parents together!”

There was a long silence between them. It was the most uncomfortable silence Lemon had ever experienced with Twinkleshine. A chorus of alarm bells sounded in her head, telling her she’d just blown it. Telling her that she was maybe all of a minute away from losing Twinkleshine’s friendship, if not immediately, then gradually through awkwardness. She’d just popped the cap off her feelings for her friend and was about to pay the price. Lemon winced in anticipation of the other mare’s next words. She wanted to take it all back, say it was a joke, some prank, but it was too late now.

Then Twinkleshine spoke. “Are you sure about this, Lemon? It’s not gonna be easy for anypony I go this route with. We’d have to lie to your family too, even if we tell our friends the truth. You’re a really good friend, and I know how selfless you can be, especially when it involves our group. Whoever I do this with would have to be committed to the role, if my parents so much as hear of any outside affairs, they’ll throw us both to the timberwolves in some hope that I’d come to my senses. They’ll put everything we do under intense scrutiny. I really do appreciate you stepping up as my friend, but no matter how I look at this, I’d be asking far too much of you.”

And all at once, Lemon Hearts released the breath she hadn’t realized she’d been holding. “Is that all?” she asked, barely containing her smile.

The ivory mare stood dumbfounded for a second. Two. Then, regaining her footing in the conversation, “I’m being serious right now. This isn’t going to be another stage play. If we go through with this, it would be the next year or two of our lives at least. And didn’t you have a coltfriend the Hearth’s Warming Eve before last? You won’t be able to look for love during that time if we do this, and if anypony deserves to find the pony of her dreams, it’s you! Hell, maybe even the creature of your dreams, as blasphemous as mother would find me even suggesting that.”

Lemon had to fight to keep from saying what she was thinking at that moment. That she had already found that pony. That it was Twinkleshine who ruined any relationship she tried simply by existing. That the mare who stood before her now was the standard to which she’d held every single date she’d had for the sole reason of forgetting her attraction to one of her best friends. That nopony ever managed to reach that standard. Instead, she said, “My relationships never last. You know that. I’ve been looking for an excuse to stop looking for awhile anyway. And I can’t see myself letting you go through this with anypony else. All our besties have a special somepony in their hearts right now and I wouldn’t trust some random stranger or acquaintance with this. Maybe any skilled actress could make the act believable with enough effort, but if you’re going to spend upwards of two years with a pony you don’t even love,” she sucked in a breath, steeling herself, “then wouldn't it be better if it was somepony you at least like a whole lot. Besides, you’re going to need somepony who can be there for you when things get rough. You’re strong, but I know you. You’ll need somepony to vent to, somepony who understands you, and what better place is there for me at those moments except by your side. I know there’s no place I’d rather be. I'd only worry otherwise.”

Twinkleshine didn’t respond to that. Didn’t have a response for that. Instead, she looked out of the bushes again, and sounded relieved when she announced that the birdie had landed. Minuette, had entered the station.

Her yellow friend put a hoof to her shoulder, waiting for Twinkleshine to turn once more and look her in the eye. “Just think about it, okay. I’m serious about this.”

Swallowing the lump which had lodged itself in her throat, she answered. “I will.”

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--30 minutes before the date

Dear Sunset Shimmer,

Hey, how’s it going? What’s new in your world? Any Equestrian magic seeping through the portal and wreaking havoc? Just asking because I know I could use the distraction right about now. That was a joke. I'd probably be too busy to help at the moment even if that were the case. But probably best if I stop wasting both our time and get to the point, huh?
So, about a week ago, an old friend told me she had a crush on me ever since we were in Celestia's School of Magic and I might have told her I’d give her a chance. And by might, I mean that I definitely did. The problem is that I haven’t really seen much of her since we reconnected and I’ve never really properly dated anypony before. Well, that and we haven’t really talked since then. It has been busy between running the kingdom and teaching at the School of Magic, so maybe I missed her. I don’t know, we didn’t exactly set a date last time we talked. Is it normal to spend so long apart from someone you agree to date?
Sorry for writing when you’re probably in class, the royal schedule doesn’t always allow for the best timing and I really need some advice. I know plenty about friendship, but not a lot about dating aside from romance novels and nothing specific to my circumstances. On that note, I’m pretty sure Celestia and Luna never really dated during my lifetime and I’m not sure what the protocol is here. Do I have to disclose this to the whole kingdom or is it something we keep to ourselves? Do I have to invent a new protocol since it's been so long? Is this something I need to talk to Moondancer about or is it my civic duty to share it with my subjects? Did Celestia ever tell you anything?

With that, Twilight closed the book, set down her quill, and let out a sigh. This was going to be a long day.

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--10 minutes before the date

Moondancer trotted between a row of bookshelves, eyeing the shelves as she went. She’d been searching for a particular book for the past week now. Apparently, a number of books in the library had been irrevocably damaged during some sort of infestation. Since then, they’d had the library fumigated and orders for copies of damaged books were put out.

Most of the orders came in on Tuesday, but the book she’d been waiting on was one of the few whose delivery had been delayed. According to the head librarian, it had just come in that morning though.

Her eyes traveled over titles, reading them with a speed that came naturally to anypony who read as much and as often as she did. It didn’t take much more than a couple minutes to find what she’d been searching for. Moondancer smiled as she levitated Dating and Romance: A Beginner’s Guide from its place on the shelf. It was a book she’d seen regularly over the years, but until now she simply hadn’t had reason to actually read it. That didn’t mean she wasn’t intrigued by it in the past, only that she usually found herself putting it back with a sigh, telling herself there was no point.

As she placed the relatively thin tome on the table of her usual bench, she found that the usual feeling of hopelessness had morphed into feelings of anticipation of future dates, anxiety over how she might mess up, and regret that she hadn't asked Twilight out before she became the Princess of the entire nation. That, and the fact she hadn't bothered reading this ahead of time. She just wasn’t used to being this unprepared, and romance novels could only help so much. Moondancer was almost certain that over half of Twinkleshine’s suggested reading list was heavily exaggerated. Love was a process, it had rules, ponies didn’t just end up inexplicably attracted to each other for Celestia knew what reason. She had no trouble listing off every single quality she liked about Twilight. Now, it would be up to her to show the Princess of Friendship that she was worthy of her love, and for that she’d need every bit of help she could get.

With no further delay, she flipped the book open to Chapter 1: Planning A First Date.

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Limestone took another glance at the tickets she bought on her last trip to Canterlot. She really hoped she was right about Minuette being into this sort of thing. Feeling the train grinding slowly to a halt, she returned the items to her saddlebags and headed to the exit. Her sister’s words echoed in her mind: “Trust me, she’s going to love it. It was Ma’s favorite, remember?”

“Guess I finally get to see for myself at least.” she grumbled under her breath as she detrained. Limestone spotted Minuette almost immediately. The mare was pacing by one of the benches, glancing at the clock which was suspended on a pole like a streetlamp, then to the bathrooms, then to where the train was and back to the restrooms again, and finally freezing in place as her gaze fell upon Limestone. The outfit she was wearing looked nice. But then, she got the feeling that there weren’t too many outfits that Minuette couldn’t make work one way or another.

Noticing that her date hadn’t moved to come meet her since they made eye contact, she took the initiative and trotted over. “Hey, Minuette,” probably best if I start by saying something about her outfit. “that’s a nice look on you.” She, by contrast, was wearing only a set of saddlebags a few shades darker than her coat.

“Thanks,” Minuette said, cheeks flushing slightly, “my friend Lemon Hearts helped me pick out clothes. I’d be lost without her keen eye for these things. So, uh, where are we going?”

“You’ll see when we get there. I figured you for the type who loves surprises. You’ve got a lot in common with Pinkie to be honest, not in a bad way, you’re much more even tempered. Not always ‘on’ like she is. She’s my sister and I love her, but she can be a real hooffull sometimes.”

Minuette giggled at that. “Yeah, I can see that. And you’re right, I do like surprises, I’m just excited and wasn’t sure whether it was the ‘hear about it at the station on the day of’ kinda surprise or the ‘find out when we get there’ kinda surprise. We’re on the same page now. Go ahead, lead the way.”

“Right. Let’s go then.” Limestone replied, sounding as stiff as a board. Worse than that, she realized exactly how her words came out. It was the kind of situation where she’d wish she could go back in time and rephrase or say something better, and somehow she had a feeling that there’d be a lot of that over the course of the date.

Ah well, too late now. Better to plow ahead than waste time on regrets, or so Ma had always told her. So she did just that, absentmindedly taking Minuette by the hoof and striding with purpose in the direction of Canterlot Square.

Author's Note:

Looks like another late chapter from me. Almost 9:00 PM here. I'd have finished sooner, but had to help my mom set up Thanksgiving. In other news, I ended up cutting out a lot of what I initially wrote for this chapter, saving those bits for later. As a result, this one's a bit on the short side. Oh, and the last-minute editor strikes again here, so if something seems off, misspelled, etc. feel free to let me know. I do have the date itself mostly planned out though, so next chapter might not take as long if troublesome relatives and life doesn't intervene too much.