The Adventures of a Reluctant Foalsitter

by CharmingChaos

First published

Cadence has to foalsit for a school fundraiser. Her first client, of course, is Twilight Sparkle.

When shy Princess Cadence is told she has to help out with a fundraiser for school, she isn't quite sure what to think. She doesn't even know if she's good with kids. When she meets her first clients, the studious, firm Sparkles, she really doesn't think much of her new job. But that's only because she hadn't seen their adorable filly.Soon afterwards, she meets Twilight's even more adorable older brother.

School Announcements

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"Princess Mi-Amore Cadenza? Are you with us today?" Miss Silver Hoof of the Pony Princess Academy was the strictest teacher in the whole school. Princess Cadence snapped to attention, then shrunk back in her chair and squeaked, "Yes Miss Silver Hoof."

"Good. Now, as I was saying--" A loud voice blared into the classroom, announcing that there would be a school fundraiser and a contest to see how mant bits everypony could produce in the course of a week.

"All fillies attending the school absolutely must participate," the principal said in a polished accent. There will be several ways to earn bits, which your parents have been informed of, and will tell you in which category you have been placed when you return home."

A quiet rush of whispered comments rose from the princesses like steam from a kettle. Only Cadence was silent, as she thought worriedly about which awful thing she would be forced to do.

"Hush, fillies," Miss Silver Hoof said loudly. The girls quieted down guiltily.

"The filly who earns the most bits will be awarded a student of the year award, as well as two weeks of no homework." The announcement ended, and the rush of excited babble began again. Miss Silver Hoof had to stand on her stool and pound the desk with her hoof to get everyone to quiet down.

"Now, girls, we will have foalsitting, a craft fair, a play, and a talent show as the events." The fillies turned to their friends to inquire about who wanted to to what, and Miss Silver Hoof had to raise her voice slightly to continue. "As the announcement said, we have already notified your parents as to which category you have been assigned."

The fillies groaned and Princess Cadence glanced at the clock in the back of the classroom. Only five more minutes. She quietly began to gather her things, not bothering to listen to the teachers final words on the subject of the contest.

"Goodbye, class, it is time for you to go home now."

The princesses rose with a great scraping of chairs and chanted tonelessly, "Goodbye and thank you Miss Silver Hoof." before making a mad dash for the door, chattering and giggling all the way.

As usual, Princess Cadence was the last out the door. She carefully walked down the stairs to the exit and scanned the crowded road for her coach. It was painted white, gold, and purple, her family colors, and it shone brightly in the sun due to the generous polishing the driver gave it every day. At last she saw it, weaving through the traffic to meet her.

The coach pulled up and Cadence hopped in, pushing her saddlebag ahead of her in a cloud of magic.

"Hi, Florence," she said amiably to the light brown stallion who always pulled her carriage. "Anything exciting happen to you today?"

"Sorry, Princess," Florence said. "Unless you like listening to stories of me being stuck in traffic with your grouchy Prince Daddy griping at me the whole time."

Cadence giggled. "Is he really that bad?"

Florence gave her a wink as he continued to trot towards home. "Just awful, sometimes. You should see him when he's late for some important meeting."

Cadence laughed and tried to imagine her grumpy father ever doing anything but grousing at people. She'd seen a picture of him and her mother once, from before they were married, where he'd been laughing, but usually he just stayed in his study now, only coming out to shout at the servants or tell Cadence goodnight.

"We hef arrived at yewr distineshun mileddy." Florence said with mock formality. He swept a low bow as she hooped out of the carriage and handed her the pink saddlebag with a flourish. Cadence giggled and hurried toward the house, and Florence broke into a grin and shouted "See ya later, Kiddo!" as she skipped through the door.

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Cadence sat in her favourite comfy chair in the living room, only half listening to her mother read the scroll which had just come from the school, announcing the students categories in the fundraiser.

"... And, because of this, we have decided that your daughter, Princess Mi-Amore Cadenza is best suited for the foalsitting category" Cadence snapped back to attention.

"WHAT?!" Surely she had misheard. Foalsitting? That didn't sound very good.

"You've been appointed as a foalsitter," her mother calmly repeated. "No, don't look at me like that. You'll love foalsitting. I did."

But you weren't the shyest pony in the world, Cadence wanted to tell her mother. And besides, you had to. you had younger siblings. She stared reproachfully at the pale yellow mare, as if it were her fault.

"You're first clients are... let's see... aha! The Sparkles! The only live a few blocks away. I think I might have known a Sparkle in middle school." Cadence stared at the floor. "Come on, Cadey, it'll be fun."

"I'm going upstairs," Cadence said, sliding out of her chair. "I have a test tomorrow." Of course, that wasn't true, but it was an excuse to leave to leave the room and do something else. Cadence trotted up the stairs, careful not to make too much noise because her father hated it, and went into her sunlight-filled room. She flopped onto her bed, humming a frustrated little tune, and absent-mindedly stroked her pet cat, Snowy, who was sleeping busily on her pillow.

"I'll bet you never had to babysit," she said to Snowy. Snowy opened one eye, flicked his tail, and went back to sleep.

"Oh, well. I guess I'd better do my homework," Cadence said to herself. She trotted downstairs to get her saddlebag, then moved to her desk and began struggling over her maths.

Meeting the Sparkles

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Princess Cadence was in Florence's carriage again, but this time her mother was there, and besides, she was too nervous to joke with the driver.

Her mother patted her hoof reassuringly. "Don't worry. You'll be fine. Foalsitting's a cinch, you'll like it once you get to know Twilight Sparkle. I hear she's a really sweet little filly."

The fact that Twilight was such a little filly, barely two years old, was what really made Cadence nervous. The fact that she was nearly ten years older than the child wasn't all that helpful for Cadence's nerves, though.

"We're here, miladies," Florence said formally, helping Cadence's mother out of the carriage and letting Cadence hop down. Cadence followed her mother's shining, perfectly styled tail up the stairs to an expensive-looking house. It wasn't as fancy as her own, but then again, the Sparkles weren't royalty.

A light blue mare with a stiff-looking purple mane answered the door. "Good afternoon. You're Princess Mi-Amore Cadenza, I assume?"

"Just Princess Cadence is fine," Cadence said quickly. Her mother kissed her mane and said, "have fun!" Before getting back in the carriage and going home. Cadence watched her go then turned her attention back to Mrs Sparkle.

"Well, I suppose you ought to come in," the blue mare said doubtfully. "But, you'll have to be quiet. Twilight is sleeping." Cadence walked into the purple and blue-hued house, glancing at the family photos on the wall as she followed her host into what appeared to be a sitting room. Mrs Sparkle offered her a seat on the cornflower-colored couch and took a quill and paper from a nearby table.

"Mr Sparkle and I will be away until nine tonight. Twilight goes to bed at seven-thirty, sharp. Make sure she goes to sleep and doesn't just stay up trying to learn how to use her magic. Let's see, it's four now, she should wake up in about half an hour. Twilight's and your dinners are on the counter, ready to eat. she eats at five, usually, or five-thirty. Oh! Here's a spell that you can use to contact us, all you need is a mirror or a bowl of water. That's it, I think. The nursery is through there, and the library is that way, if you want to read. Goodbye, Princess Cadence, have a good time." With that, Mrs Sparkle swept out of the room, calling for her husband, and then the two of them paraded out the door, without so much of a backward glance.

Cadence sat on the couch for a shocked minute, then got up and searched for the nursery, with no luck. A wave of panic swept over her. What if she couldn't find the filly? That certainly would be bad. She hunted around some more until she came to the master bedroom. The enormous, indigo-clad bed had little transparent purple curtains around it. Cadence noticed a half-open door across the room with a little light lavender wall decorated with pink stars showing. She pushed it open and crept into the nursery on silent hooves.

At least she thought she was silent. The lavender filly in the crib, whom she suspected was Twilight, pricked up her ears, opened her eyes and, upon seeing an unfamiliar face looking down at her, promptly began to howl.

Cadence was shocked. She hesitantly picked the squalling filly up and held her against her chest. "Um, there, there, Twilight. Please don't cry. I don't know anything about this, and I haven't the faintest idea how to calm you. But I'm doing the best I can, so please stop." Twilight stopped just a moment to consider this strange mare who was holding her, then obviously thought better of it and went back to squealing. She shut her eyes and howled, a piercing, ear-shattering sound that was near unbearable.

"Here, I'll-I'll sing you a song." Cadence hummed a few bars of her favourite melody, to no avail. "Oh! How 'bout this? Sunshine, sunshine, ladybugs awake." Twilight paused two watch as her captor acted out the little rhyme. Encouraged, Cadence finished the poem, still miming the words. "Clap your hooves," Cadence lightly tapped one of Twilight's hooves. "And give a little shake?" Cadence set the filly in her high-chair and turned away, shaking her long, curly tail at Twilight.

Twilight sat up and smiled, then clapped her own two hooves and slid out of the high-chair to the floor. She toddled over to a basket of toys and pulled out an old, worn-looking grey doll. She hugged the doll, and then mimicked Cadence's rhyme acting for the toy, complete with tail shake. Cadence found this adorable, and she picked up her charge and hugged her. Twilight wiggled free and waddled to the closed door, tapping a hoof on it to show she wanted out. Cadence opened the door and followed the filly as she made her way through the sitting room, into the library, up some stairs, and to a closed door with a sign labelled Shining Armour-- Keep out!

Twilight nudged the door with her horn, a spark of magic fizzing to life for a moment before bumping into some sort of force field and disappearing.

Twilight came behind Cadence and tried to push her forward. "Shiny Ammo." She said, tapping the door. "Shiny Ammo in."

Cadence figured Twilight meant Shining Armour, the name on the door. "I don't think he's home right now, sweetie," She said gently, tapping the force field with a hoof. "Do you want to find something else to do?" She gently guided the dejected filly back to the kitchen, where, true to her word, Mrs Sparkle had left a bottle, a bowl of something mushy and slightly green, Cadence suspected it to be spinach applesauce, and a plate of magically kept hot dinner for herself.

Cadence remembered that she used to have to eat the same sort of green mush as a filly, and she had hated it. So she did what her mother had done, a little family trick that easily fooled small foals into eating. She concentrated a beam of magic and changed the green applesauce's shape so it looked like ice-cream. The stuff was naturally sweet, but Cadence distorted the flavour a little for good measure.

"Ooh, look at this." Cadence said loudly, drawing Twilight's attention. "It looks like someone is supposed to eat ice-cream for dinner. I sure wish it was me."Cadence picked up the "ice-cream," bottle, and her own steamy dinner in a cloud of light blue magic, and felt a sharp tug on her tail. Twilight had gripped the end of it in her mouth, and was doing her best to drag her foalsitter to the nursery, a spoon held in a wobbly purple aura just in front of her face. Cadence laughed at the silly filly and walked backwards to the nursery, where Twilight finally let go of her tail to climb into the high-chair.

The meal was uneventful, Twilight seemed to adore the trick ice-cream even more than Cadence had as a filly. Her own meal was delicious, probably because she was very hungry.

Twilight practiced picking up her toys with magic until around seven, and then she began to get cranky. Whenever Cadence asked her a question, she answered with an ornery, stubborn sounding, "No." At the mention of bedtime, she threw a fit. unable to hold her in her arms without dropping her, Cadence enveloped Twilight in a cloud of magic and gently rocked her back and forth in the air to calm her. Eventually she took the semi-calmed filly in her teeth by the diaper, unaware of the raggedy doll falling from Twilight's grip, and carried her to bed. Twilight picked up her toy in a purple magic aura and continued to squall.

That was when Cadence noticed the smell. She delicately set Twilight on the changing table and, from the other side of the room, using magic, disposed of the old diaper and gave her a new, clean one. Pleased with her work, for now Twilight was quietly teaching her doll to play patty-cake, she carried the yawning filly to her crib, tucked her in, and gave her a kiss goodnight. The pink stars on the walls glowed in the dark when Cadence turned off the light, and she smiled to herself as she looked at the clock. Seven-thirty exactly. Twilight sighed in her sleep, and Cadence turned and crept out of the room to find a book to read.

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Cadence was laying on the couch, reading a Daring Do book when the Sparkles came home. She'd read it before, but it was better then the textbookish things the Sparkles seemed to prefer.

"How was little Twily?" Mr Sparkle asked quietly. Obviously, he knew his daughter's light sleeping habits, and knew to tread softly when she was asleep.

"Oh, she was just fine." Cadence said, sitting up. "She got kind of grumpy around seven, but that was just because she needed a diaper change. By seven-thirty she was out cold."

"Well, I'm glad she wasn't any trouble," Mrs Sparkle said as she bustled in, still wearing evening attire.

"Twilight kept asking about Shining Armour--" Cadence started.

"Oh, yes, she does love her brother. He's about your age, but he's busy with his Royal Guard training, and can't babysit anymore." Mrs Sparkle levitated some coins out of her purse. "Here's twenty bits, dear. Thank you again."

A knock on the door prompted Cadence to say goodbye, and make her way outside to meet the coach.

"Hey, Florence," She said tiredly.

"Hey there, kiddo. How went the foalsitting? As awful as you thought?"

"No. It was fun, actually. It's just... tiring."

Cadence didn't talk for the rest of the ride, but simply sat in silence. She said goodnight to Florence, and went inside.

"How was it, Cadey?" Her mother was reading a magazine on the couch, her little pink glasses perched on the end of her nose.

"It was good. But I'm beat. Goodnight, Mom." Cadence tramped upstairs and put on her favourite pajamas. She pushed Snowy down to the hoof of the bed, and crawled in, sighing. She clicked off the light with a little burst of magic, closed her eyes, and melted immediately into sleep.

8th Time's the Charm

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"Cadey? The Sparkles called, could you foalsit again tomorrow?" Cadence sighed at her mother's call. The phrase came nearly every week, and, even though she loved Twilight, Cadence was getting a bit tired.

"Yes, Mom. When?" Cadence put down her book and trotted down the stairs.

"Mrs Sparkle said that they'd be gone from around ten AM to four-thirty. It's Saturday, by the way." Princess Melody walked out of her lounge, her usual magazine floating ahead of her.

"Sounds good. Hey, isn't it Twily's birthday this weekend?" Cadence sat down on the couch, pulling her mane into its usual ponytail.

"I don't know, dear. They didn't say. Don't you know better than I?"

"Yes Mom."

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Cadence knocked on the big purple door for the 8th time. The house, and the drive, was so familiar now that she was sure she could navigate it in her sleep, as could Florence.

As usual, it was Mrs Sparkle who opened the door.

"Good morning, Princess Cadence." She said cheerfully, balancing Twilight on her back. Upon seeing Cadence, the purple filly stood up on her mother's broad back and reached for her foalsitter.

"Shiny Ammo home," She said ecstatically. "Shiny Ammo home!"

"What?" Cadence looked to Mrs Sparkle for an explanation.

"Oh, yes. Shining Armour is coming home tomorrow, for Twilight's birthday." Mrs Sparkle smiled, obviously happy that she would be seeing her son soon.

"Well, I certainly hope she has a good time tomorrow. Is there going to be a party?" Cadence took Twilight on her own back, bouncing slightly to keep the filly entertained.

"Oh, no. Twilight doesn't really like that kind of thing."

Cadence was shocked. Twilight was turning three, and there was no birthday party? That made no sense. She made a mental note to tell her mother to have a little cake sent over. After all, Twilight was the best filly in the world.

Twilight's mother excused herself to change for whatever scholarly event they were attending that day, and Cadence, directed by tugs on her ponytail from Twilight, was led to the nursery to see a new drawing Twilight had made. The room was lit with sunlight from the large window, and pinned on the wall was a foalishly adorable drawing. It was a scene of Twilight and Cadence at the park, on the swing. They were stick ponies, but the colorful manes and tails, as well as the happy smiles on their faces made Cadence give Twilight a big hug.

"I love it, Twi," she said earnestly. "It's beautiful."

Twilight grinned happily. "It's for you, Cadence." Twilight levitated the drawing off the wall and in front of Cadence's face, and expectant look on her face.

"Thank you, Twilight. I'll send it home right now." Cadence sent the picture teleporting to her house, making sure to direct it to her bedroom.

Mrs Sparkle stuck her head in the door and planted a kiss on her daughter's head. "Goodbye, girls. Have fun." A few minutes later, the front door slammed shut, and Twilight giggled.

"I have a idea," she said happily. Cadence was about to correct her grammar, but thought better of it, because, however smart, Twilight was only three. "I think we should both draw something, Cadence. Then I can see your pictures, too." Twilight sounded proud of her idea.

"I think that's a great idea. Do you know if there's any paper?" Cadence knelt down to let Twilight ride on her back. The filly hopped on and tugged Cadence's ponytail and jumped up and down before settling down.

"In Daddy's office! There's paper in Daddy's office!"

"Okay. Lead the way, Twily." Cadence stood up and moved toward the door.

--------------------------------

Twilight and Cadence were in the sitting room, drawing and talking. Twilight told Cadence several times that she liked to draw a lot, and also that they were getting a cat, for her birthday, but not until next week.

The door clicked, making Cadence jump. She glanced at the clock. Only eleven-thirty? Cadence thought to herself Who the hay is coming in? Twilight jumped up, her drawing forgotten and trotted to the door.

At once Cadence was on her feet, hurrying after the little filly. The door opened, and Twilight hurled herself into the arms of the strange-- but very handsome-- stallion on the step.

Unexpected Pleasures

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"Twilight!" Cadence was alarmed. "Who is that?" Twilight shouldn't have simply jumped at a random stranger like that. Even if he was incredibly cute.

"It's Shiny Ammo, Cadey! He's home early!" Twilight kissed the stallion's cheek ecstatically, making him blush slightly in embarrassment.

"I'm Shining Armour, Twilight's big brother. And I guess you're Princess Cadence? My parents told me they'd hired a new foalsitter."

Oh, sweet Celestia, he's cute. Was he talking to me? Yes. Okay, Cadence, you got this. Just act normal, 'kay? No tricks, Mr Brain. This is no time to be---

"Um, Princess Cadence? You there?" Shining Armour was giving her an odd look. "You, uh, are Princess Cadence, right?"

Okay, he's talking to you. ActnormalactnormalactnormalpleaseforCelestia'ssakeactnormal.

"Huh? Um, yes, that's me. I'm the, uh, the new foalsitter. P-pleasure to meet you." Thank you so much brain for not screwing this up.

"Yes, well, I've heard a lot about you. All of Twilight's calls are to tell me what a great time she had with the foalsitter. So when the Captain gave me the day off, I decided to come early and see this amazing foalsitter for myself. Now, um, can I come in? I have a ton of stuff to put down."

"Oh! Uh-of course! Sorry 'bout that." For the first time, Cadence noticed that the white stallion had an enormous saddlebag on his back. Embarrassed, she stepped out of the way. Shining Armour crossed in front of Cadence, dislodging Twilight from his neck and dropping her expertly on Cadence's back.

"See ya later, kiddo," he said to his sister. "I've got work to do."

Cadence watched him go with a stupidly dreamy look on her face. Twilight looked at her worriedly.

"Are you okay Cadey? You look funny."

"Yes, Twilight, I'm fine. Do you want to finish your drawing for Shiny Am--- Shining Armour?" Regaining her usual composure, Cadence carried the purple filly back to the sitting room to finish their project.

The rest of the day went by in a blur, with not much going on except Twilight chattering on about "Shiny Ammo." Cadence was about to leave without seeing Shining Armour again, but as she left he came running up to say goodbye.

"Hey! Uh, I just wanted to say that I think you have a great gift. It isn't easy to get Twilight to go to sleep. You should be proud of yourself." He looked nervously at the ground. This wasn't the reason he was here at all.

"Oh! Um, thanks, I guess."

"Okay. Bye then. See you soon."

"I hope so." Cadence said earnestly as her coach pulled up. "I gotta go. Bye!"

"Hey there, Princess!" Florence greeted her in the usual way, then said mischieviously, "Meet anyone special today?"

"What?! No. He-he's just a friend. He's Twilight's big brother." Cadence struggled not to blush, despite the fact that Florence couldn't see her.

Unexpected Pleasures Pt 2

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Cadence was strolling down the street near her house, on a walk. She was thinking of nopony in particular, just enjoying the pleasant day and the splendid view of the glittering palace in the distance.

It had been a year since Cadence had started foalsitting for the Sparkles, and she'd been running into Shining Armour more and more often. He almost always came home in the middle of her jobs, and she was almost willing to believe he meant to. But no, she told herself. That was too good to be true. Shining Armour proved to be kind, funny, and very sweet to his sister, which Cadence liked. She'd never really cared for boys who drove off their little siblings without so much as a backward glance, merely to look good. Cadence looked forward to seeing him again, next week, when she would be babysitting again. They always had nice, long talks when Twilight was asleep.

Without realizing it in her dreamy state, Cadence had walked farther than she had intended. She found herself by the park which she sometimes went to with Twilight. So she bought an ice-cream from a little vendor, and sat on a sunny park bench and watched the foals in the playground enjoy the warm day.

Lost in thought, Cadence was unaware of the passing time as she imagined ridiculous scenarios where Shining Armour gallantly saved her life and they lived happily ever after. Clouds covered up the warm blue sky, and Cadence was startled back to reality by a cold drop of rain landing abruptly on her head. She sat up straighter, wondering what time it was, and shook her head in confusion. The rain had started in earnest now, and she was getting thoroughly drenched.

"Princess!" said a familiar voice. "What in Equestria are you doing out here in the rain?" Shining Armour had Twilight in a pram, covered by a little shield of magic, and he himself was carrying an umbrella.

"Hi Shining Armour. It was sunny when I got here, but then I must have lost track of time, and before I knew it, it was raining. And, um, You can call me Cadence." She explained taking her place under the umbrella when he gestured. "What are you doing out here?"

"Well, Twi likes the rain. She falls asleep better if I take her for a walk in the rain, for some reason. But she doesn't like to get wet, so..." Shining Armour gestured at the little magic cover surrounding the filly's ride. He hesitantly put his hoof around her shoulder, looking at Cadence to judge her reaction. Cadence noticed that it was considerably warmer here, partly because Shining Armour's hoof was over her shoulder, but somehow the air seemed warmer, too. Cadence searched around with her mind to sense the spell, and was surprised that it was one of the first simple spells every unicorn and alicorn ever learned. She laughed lightly at the thought.

"And I suspect you don't like to be cold and wet either?"

"Nope. Getting sick isn't really my thing."

Cadence giggled and nestled closer to his warm body. "I should probably call Florence. You probably don't want to walk all the way to my house with me, and I don't have an umbrella." She began rummaging through her bag, looking for her calling mirror.

"No! No, please, I don't mind, really. It would give me something to do. Mother and Father don't expect Twi and me back 'til four."

"Alright. If you're sure it isn't any trouble..."

"Of course not. Shall we go?"

The two of them---or three, if you counted the sleeping Twilight, which Cadence didn't---walked slowly, enjoying the peacefully empty streets and talking quietly. When they finally came to Cadence's house, she was almost disappointed---okay, she was disappointed---to leave him.

"Well, it seems we've arrived at your house, Princess." Shining Armour swept a low bow, nearly tripping in his mock respect.

"Stop it, you. And, as I've said a million times before, you can stop calling me Princess, Shining Armour."

"Whatever you say, Princess." Cadence scowled, and he clapped a hoof over his mouth, pretending to be shocked. "By the way, you can call me Shiny. Twilight does."

"Okay, Shiny." Cadense made a point of using the nickname, giving him a light shove to boot.

"Well, g'bye, Princess"

"CADENCE!"

"See you next week, Princess Cadence."

Cadence scowled at him again before going inside, and finally letting a blissful smile take control of her face. She drifted towards the stairs, oblivious to the world in her happy mood, when---

"Going somewhere, Cadey?"

"Oh! Hello, Mom. Sorry I came home a bit later. I was caught in the storm, and then I ran into Shining Armour, Twilight's older brother, and then he walked me ho---"

"Yes, well, we're going to dinner at the palace. Special dinner with Her Majesty. Go get ready, we're leaving in half an hour."

As usual, Princess Melody was lounging on the sofa, magazine floating above her face, the pages flipping randomly as she skimmed through. The golden-yellow mare was in no way getting ready, so Cadence had no doubts that they would be leaving late. But, because she had the feeling her mother wasn't listening, Cadence simply said, "Yes, Mom," and quietly retreated to her room.

Cadence was half dressed, wearing only a slip, and writing in her journal when Princess Melody decided it was time to leave. She was an hour late, of course, but palace events never started until at least nine, so Cadence wasn't worried. It was only seven-thirty. Still, she wriggled into her favourite dress, slipped on some formal shoes, and came downstairs for her mother's inspection.

A Feast of New Thoughts

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Sorry for the short chapter. It's kind of an in-between chapter.


Cadence stepped out of the carriage, letting Florence hold her hoof only because they were at the palace, and, to Princess Melody, proper behaviour was of utmost importance, especially at the Palace, or around ponies other than family members.

The Palace grounds were scattered with rich, elegant mares and stallions, with a couple of shy, or perhaps simply well-behaved, fillies and colts, and even fewer awkward young mares and colts of Cadence's own age. Most of the ones she did see were there by choice, and walked with muzzles in the air and servants trailing behind them, ready to show off their wealth and grandeur right alongside their parents.

Cadence didn't particularly like the ponies like that, in fact, she usually made a point of avoiding them. She especially disliked her cousin Prince Blueblood, whom most of the other mares in her school giggled over nonstop, because he refused to even socialize with people below his rank. The stupid foal wasn't even really a prince. It was simply an honor which his scholarly, kind, and un-showy father was awarded, but which Blueblood adopted as his own, because, being who he was, it "only seemed the logical thing to do." Cadence rolled her eyes at a few of her classmates, who stood in a tight bunch, comparing tiara prices and giggling stupidly about boys.

Then she spotted another mare from school. She was a plain, coffee brown colour, with a soft, flowing baby-blue mane. Cocoa Belle, Cadence thought her name was. Cocoa was about a year younger, and she only went to the Academy because she had won a scholarship from something called Poise Class at her old school. She was quiet, and rather like Cadence herself, disapproving greatly of the gossipy mares, preferring to keep to herself. Cadence pushed through the thin crowd, leaving her parents to make small talk with some wealthy Fillydelphian, and said hello.

"Do I know you?" Cocoa Belle said, squinting suspiciously. Cadence tossed her hair out of her face, mentally noting that she would never wear that manestyle again before replying.

"I go to the Academy too. I'm a year ahead of you though." Cadence saw a slight hardening in Cocoa's expression, she obviously thought Cadence was another gossip. "I-I'm not like the rest of the class though. I don't only care about showing off my money."

Cocoa looked at her, a bit fearfully, and said slowly, "You're the girl who won the fundraiser, aren't you? You're Candle Light."

"No. I'm Princess Cadence, but please just call me Cadence. I don't like being reminded that I'm related to Blueblood."

Cocoa Belle smiled slightly. "Yeah, I see your point there. He's pretty awful, isn't he?"

"You don't know the half of it. He's even worse when he's not in public. Sorry to change the subject, but did you participate in that fundraiser we had?"

"Didn't we all have to? I wasn't in your group though. But I heard you still fillysit for the Sparkles. How is it?"

Cadence was a little surprised. "You know them?"

"Yeah. Shini--Twilight's brother and I were foalhood friends before the moved here from Fillydelphia. Have you met him?" Now that Cocoa had warmed up, she seemed to know more than what appeared at first glance. Cadence struggled to keep her face neutral as she spoke.

"We've met. He sometimes comes home when I'm babysitting."

"He's pretty cute, isn't he? We went out for a while, but he broke up with me when he started going to Guard School. Weird, huh?"

"I guess. I never really noticed," Cadence lied, heart thumping. Just then, the trumpet fanfare sounding the beginning of the feast began, and she was able to make a quick escape. "Well, I'm supposed to go in with my parents and the sit next to Bluebrat for dinner. See you later!" She hurried out, to begin her painfully boring evening with her royal pain of a cousin.

But Cadence's mind was awhirl with thoughts of Cocoa Belle's conversation. Shiny had had a marefriend? What if he had one now? Maybe he was only being friendly. She was able to go through the entire evening without noticing, and still the questions haunted her into the night when she went to bed. Cadence tossed and turned, hideous nightmares, both realistically heartbreaking and bizarrely random, laced her sleep with charred and blackened fears and sorrows.

In Which We Skip Through Time, and Cadence's Mood Changes Greatly

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The story will be taking a slightly darker turn for a while in the next chapter, (it was an accident.) but I promise there will be a happy ending. Satisfied?

It had been a while since Cadence had stopped foalsitting for the Sparkles, but she still communicated with eleven-year-old Twilight on a daily basis, sending little birthday gifts and receiving little scroll reports on what was going on in Twilight's everyday life, mostly what she was learning in school, but also her personal opinions on the books she was reading.The teleportation of small matter spell was one of Twi's favourites, but once in a while she used the common speech spell like most unicorns. Today came such a message, but the spell was shaky with Twilight's excitement.

"Cadence!" The excited filly in her mirror bounced up and down, uncharacteristically hyper. "Cadence guess what! Wait, don't guess, come right over, I have something really super-duper extremely important to tell you. Hurry!"

And the spell was cut. It was quite possibly the shortest call ever, Cadence didn't even have time to speak. Maybe it was a recording. But Cadence, who was lounging on her bed, still in pajamas, at the time, got up quickly and summoned Florence, leaving a note on the table for her sleeping parents.

The Sparkles door was already wide open when Cadence arrived, and Twilight was parked directly outside of it with an unfamiliar creature by her side. She bounced down the steps and attacked her foalsitter almost before she could get out of the carriage.

"CadenceCadenceCadenceIgotintotheSchoolofMagicandI'mgoingtobethePrincess'sspecialstudentandI'msosohappyandlookat- mycutiemarkanditgotspiked!" Cadence had never heard Twilight use such an un-gramatical sentence in her life, and she struggled to understand the way-to-quickly shouted news. When she finally understood the gist of the statement, Cadence hugged Twilight hard, jumping along with her.

"That's wonderful, Twi! But what got spiked? Punch?"

"No, silly. I got Spike. My baby dragon. And my cutie mark is for magic. Look!" Twilight shook her rump, drawing Cadence's attention to her new pink star-shaped cutie mark.

"Wow. I think we need to celebrate this with, hmmm, how about some green ice cream?" The fake ice cream had become a joke between them, and Cadence couldn't resist bringing it up. Now a small bowl of the stuff appeared out of thin air, and Cadence lowered it in front of Twilight's face, pretending to taunt her with it. "Come on, Twilight. You know you want it," she said persuasively. With an uncharacteristic shriek, the filly skittered away, the pushed the bowl back into Cadence's face n a burst of purple magic.

"But you never met Spike. He's right--oh, ponyfeathers, he's hiding again. Come out, Spike, she isn't scary." Twilight disappeared behind a bush and came back dragging a little purple-and-green blob with spines.

"That's a dragon?" Cadence eyed the thing doubtfully.

"Of course he's a dragon. Stand up, Spike. stop being a baby." At Twilight's command, the purple-and-green blob unfolded himself into a tiny, rather pokey-looking dragon. He stood for a moment, yawning, before plopping himself down on the ground and sucking the pronged end of his tail peaceably. Twilight cuffed it away from him gently, with a firm, "Stop it," before turning back to Cadence. "Isn't he wonderful? I hatched him myself." She added proudly.

"He's certainly very cute, but doesn't he take a lot of work to take care of? He's still a baby, you know." She squinted at the creature who, finding the scene rather boring, retracted into his blob form and, beginning to suck at his tail again, promptly fell asleep and began to snore softly with a wheezing sound. Cadence knew that Twilight probably had a whole shelf full of books on how to care for baby dragons, but she knew firsthand that babies of any kind were a lot of work, books or no books.

"Oh, don't worry, Cadey. I know just what to do," Twilight said confidently, patting her former foalsitter's hoof. The, predictably, she added, "I have a book all about it!"

oOo

As months passed, and months turned into years, Cadence saw more and more of Shining Armour, even though she didn't foalsit his sister anymore. They almost never fought--there was something about Shiny that made him almost impossible to quarrel with. More often then not they stayed at Cadence's family's unwanted summer lodge, peacefully spending all the time they could together before Shiny was called to serve in the Royal Guard. Sometimes the now determinedly bookish teenage Twilight visited near the beginning, but then she was sent to Ponyville, where she stayed, and she quickly fell out of touch with her brother and his marefriend.

One night at the lodge, Cadence lay folded into the crook of Shining Armour's body, warm and comfortable and safe, but unsure. Lately her sleep had been laced with unpleasant and disturbing nightmares, often distorted and awful versions of her own foalhood, that left her scared and conused. So while Shining Armour snored softly, content to sleep next to his marefriend despite the fact that she often woke up screaming, Cadence lay awake for as long as possible, to keep the terrifying dreams at bay.

Eventually, however, Cadence did drift off to sleep, and almost at once she was hurled into another unfamiliar dream realm.

oOo

A little Cadence walked down a dirty, narrow street, a torn and patched saddlebag drooping at her sides. The place was familiar to the filly, even though Cadence didn't recognize it. Her younger doppelganger gingerly opened the creaky old door of a dingy little shack, and stepped inside.

A dirtier version of Cadence's parents stood in the little room, which was heavy with the stench of alcohol and rot, seemingly in the middle of a heated argument. Cadence watched the greyish pink filly creep behind the dirty sofa and take a battered picture book out of her bag, trying her best to ignore the rest of the room. But the unfamiliar, drunken, not-princess Melody gave a piercing scream sending a bottle of dark, stinking liquid to shatter on the wall just to the left of her husband's head. Melody charged across the room, her horn glowing ominously, and pinned the stallion against the wall. Then, with a wordless, or perhaps simply distorted with drink, cry of rage that would haunt both old and young Cadence for a long time, she plunged her sharpened horn directly into the poor stallion's heart. He crumpled, and the little filly gave a terrified but quiet shriek of despair. Cadence flew to her, a comforting word at her lips, only to find that she couldn't speak, and her soothing hoof went straight through the unknowing filly in question.

"And now," the mad un-princess Melody turned, horn dripping with blood and her face nothing but a gaping black pit. She stared directly at the two trembling Cadences and said, "You."

oOo

Cadence screamed and woke up shaking and soaked with sweat next to Shining Armour. He woke too, rubbing her back soothingly and yawning. Cadence simply lay there, trying to control her emotions as tears of relief trickled down her cheeks, letting his gentle touch comfort her back to reality before she dared try to explain.

"Nightmare...again. I s-saw myself a-as a filly, but poor and lonely, and my mother...killed him...no f-face..."

"It's okay, Cadey. It was only a dream. I'm here for you. I'll keep you safe. I promise. Shining Armour said quietly. His hoof still gently massaged her taut shoulders, and now she felt the other softly caress her cheek.

Cadence rolled over so that her face was buried in his neck, then moved slightly to kiss his lips before trying to sleep again. She had fitted herself in the warm embrace between his forelegs, where she felt safe, protected by his bulk. She whispered a shaky goodnight into his chest before falling into a deep, exhausted slumber which blocked out any dreams until sunrise.

The Proposal

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Cadence woke up aching all over, as if her body was weakened from the dream as well as her soul. She gazed fondly at Shining Armour's sleeping form, his hoof still wrapped around her waist. The sun streamed in the window, a liquid stream of golden light which warmed and soothed Cadence along with her compassionate coltfriend. She gently ran a hoof through his tousled mane, lovingly smoothing the soft blue strands, and Shiny opened his eyes sleepily, yawning.

"Morning, Sweetheart," Cadence said softly, kissing his nose. He smiled, eyes bleary from sleep, and rubbed his head with his hoof, mussing his already tangled mane even more. "Thanks for keeping an eye on me last night. These nightmares are just awful."

"S'okay. I still love you, so you're alright."

"Love you too, Shiny." Cadence layed back down, closing her eyes and enjoying the early morning peace.

"I have a special day planned for us, remember? Are you still up for it?"

Cadence smiled, eyes still closed, and replied, "Of course I am. A little nightmare couldn't stop me from spending time with you." But she wondered, could it? The dreams were getting more and more disturbing, and coming more and more frequently. She hardly went a night without at least one. But she had to stay strong. They were only dreams, and she was stronger than they.

"Come on then," Shining Armour prodded her side gently, urging her to get up. "Let's get moving then, we have to make the reservation."

The pair walked along a quiet street to a pretty little restaurant, where a pale pink and yellow mare served them a delicious brunch in a secluded corner of the patio. They talked quietly, laughing every so often, at times simply sitting in silence, each enjoying the others company, but engrossed in their own thoughts.

Eventually, the waitress came back to take away their plates, and Shining Armour left a hoof-full of bits on the table. They left hoof in hoof, and the waitress watched them, a contented smile on her face. How she loved seeing the little pony couples come and go, it was a nice change from the ordi--

Just then, the cook came out. he was a dusty cream colored earth pony with an orange, curly mane. He elbowed the waitress, eyes glowing warningly, and a single thought-line was pushed into her head. Stop. You know your duty.

oOo

Cadence and Shining Armour walked along the beach, picking up shells now and again. Shiny had a towel on his back, waiting for the perfect place to sit, but at the moment both were content to simply walk down the water's edge and enjoy the pleasant day.

Cadence walked halfway in the water, trailing her hooves in the tiny, lapping waves, her head turned to see her coltfriend. "This is amazing, Shiny. I'm so glad we have some time together before you have to go to Canterlot and work again."

"I know, Cade. This is a beautiful spot, isn't it? Twilight and I used to come here sometimes when we were little. I'll show you show you her favourite spot. Come on!" With that he trotted forward, picking up the pace as he showed the way to a little cave with pure white sand and the slight echo of waves lingering in it.

"This is beautiful," Cadence breathed, looking about her. The walls of the cave were a bluish gray, and light oozed through in seemingly impossible manner. "But, where is the light coming from?"


"I don't know, Princess," Shining Armour used the term 'Princess' as an affectionate nickname, but still, it made Cadence scowl at him and shove his leg playfully. "But Twily always just said it was magic, and, because she found it, and we don't have any other explanation, I guess I just went along with it."

Cadence nodded thoughtfully, but remained silent.

It was already near noon, and Shining Armour still had a few surprises. He had a packed lunch of sandwiches stashed in his saddlebag, among a few other things. They ate at the cave, enjoying the peaceful sound of the waves. Then they packed up, and the happy pair found a sunny spot on the beach to curl up together. Cadence opened a book she had been meaning to read for at least a month, and Shining Armour tucked himself into the little niche in front of her stomach and took a nap.

It was just the beginning of sunset when he woke up. His marefriend had left her book face down in the sand, and was down at the water's edge, looking for shells, probably, and humming something he'd heard her sing to Twilight to put her to sleep. It was a sweet song, about how the day was over now, and how peaceful everything was. Her pure, sweet voice put him into a state of bliss, and he thought dreamily of how lucky he was to have her. He pushed himself out of the sand, and joined the mare he so loved in the shallow water.

"Hey," he said softly, kissing the pink ear which stuck out from her mane. "What's up?"

"It's nice here, don't you think? Thanks for showing me."

"Any time, Princess. But before we go home, I've got something very important to tell you."

"Spit it out. I'm listening."

"Well--this may come as a shock to you, but, well, I don't want you to be my marefriend anymore." Cadence leaped at him, eyes blazing with hurt and fury.

"WHA--"

"Hold your tears, Cadey. What I'm trying to say is that I don't want a marefriend, I want you to be my wife, instead. So, Princess darling, will you marry me?"

By this time, Shining Armour held out a beautiful silver ring in a cloud of pink magic, and Cadence threw her arms around him, kissing him until they both had to stop for breath.

"Oh, Shiny, of course I will. But why ever did you ask in such a bizarre way?"

"I don't know, Cadey, I guess I was nervous. But still, won't you take the ring?" With eyes full of love and care, he gently slid the shining ring onto her horn, and they kissed again, tenderly, before they walked back to the carriage.

The creatures in the water hissed, malevolently, and dipped back down to alert their kin.

Abduction, and the Beginning of a New Life

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oOo

The cave was dark now. She had changed back to her normal form, and the poor thing at the restaurant was back. The dimly lit palace was filled with rustling black shapes, their thoughts buzzed through her head. A single, larger one pushed to the center, his voice rang clear in every mind.

It has begun.

oOo

Cadence's dreams grew worse and worse. Sometimes Twilight would turn into a big, monstrous creature with foaming jaws and fangs dripping with blood, and Cadence would wake up screaming for mercy from her old client. Others, Shining Armour would be the murderer, and waking up in his tender embrace would only terrify the poor pony more.

It got worse and worse, until there were only a few hours in a day that Cadence was sane, that the horrible visions didn't plague her mind with their awful, twisted reality. They went back to Canterlot shortly after the visions took over her mind, and soon she fell into a half-coma, too far gone and weary with terror to respond to anything or even eat. Cadence stayed in a continuous state of unrestful sleep, tossing and moaning all day. Shining Armour visited when he could, and when he wasn't with his fiance, his heart was sore with worry, and he lacked concentration.

But as other reports of such happenings began popping up around Equestria, Shining Armour was forced to leave his fiance's side to work out a spell to keep the land safe.

oOo

Cadence stood in a stony tower, lashed to the wall. Her stomach was empty-- no-one had been up for days, maybe weeks. She was to weak to move, all there was to do was hang there and hope somepony helpful might come along before she starved.

She heard hoofsteps on the stairs, and a gruesome, dark alicorn with glowing green eyes and scaly looking, bat-like wings stepped majestically in.

"Wh-who are you?" Cadence asked tremulously. The sheer energy of voicing the simple phrase sent her beyond exhaustion.

"Why, I'm your host, of course." The strange pony seemed to speak in three voices at once, as if many were speaking in a chorus. "I do hope you're enjoying your stay."

"No--"

"Oh, dear, how could I forget? You're chained to the wall, of course you aren't comfortable. I'll come to the hospital instead, yes?"

oOo

And with that Cadence found herself sitting in a white-clad bed in the Canterlot Hospital. The black mare was still by her side, but when Cadence blinked, she found herself staring at her clone instead.

"How did you do that?!"

"Simple. Let me show you." The Cadence-clone swirled into a cloud of green smoke, and then Shining Armour stood next to her, looking at her tenderly. "Hey, there, Princess," he said amiably

"What? No! You aren't Shiny, I know that. Who are you? Don't you ever go by your own shape?"

Shining Armour's eyes flickered, and his features melted into those of the black mare.

"I'm truly sorry I had to invade your mind all these weeks," She-he continued. "But it was only to assure myself that you would co-operate. I'm sure you understand perfectly."

"No, I don--"

"But that's not important, dear. What is important is that you are a vital part of my little plan, in that in order for it to work, I have to get rid of you."

"But--"

Enough! Now farewell, Your Highness" The creature swirled back into Cadence's form, and the changeling's voice turned soft to match hers. "I have a wedding to go to."

Cadence felt herself melting to nothingness, and everything went black.

oOo

Cadence woke up crumpled on the ground with the changeling staring down at her from a dozen different windows above and around her. She looked bedraggled, bruised, and a bit scared, and after staring defiantly at her for a few minutes, Cadence realized she was simply watching her own reflection. She shook her head at her own stupidity, then winced. She'd obviously been dumped here with little or no care, because she had a pounding headache to match all the bruises.

The days, or weeks, seconds, hours, Cadence couldn't tell, as the light was always the same, were excruciating. She managed to find a small, underground river which tasted of metal, but no food. As time passed, Cadence became too weak from lack of nutrients, so she simply lay on the floor, waiting to die.

oOo

"It was what I suspected to be my third day when Twilight burst through the wall," Cadence informed Princess Celestia. She was comfortably supported by her husband, who had refused to leave her side after she had appeared, leaving her no space to be scared of return from the nightmares, or the changeling queen, whose name she now knew was Chrysalis. Twilight stayed with her pretty often, too, but she had the sense to leave them alone some of the time. "She didn't believe it was me, as you know, but I did convince her, and now, here we are, safe and sound."

The wedding had been splendid, as was the honeymoon to their old summer house. Celestia had had something else planned, but after all the trauma with the changelings, both Cadence and Shining Armour agreed it would be best to simply have some peace and quiet.

"We have one more little bit of news for everyone," Shining Armour said, looking at his wife fondly.

"Oh, yes. We do have something else to say." Cadence looked at Twilight and her friends, standing to the left of their Princess. "I'm pregnant!"

Epilogue

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This is it, guys. Thanks so much for all the support. It's finally over now.
P.S. There might someday be another story about Octave and Shadow, but don't get your hopes up. It probably won't be for a while.

Cadence jumped out of her chair at the sound of the doorbell. She hurried to answer it, almost knocking over the vase that her mother had given as a wedding present in the process.

"Hey, Twilight. Glad you're here," Cadence said nervously, running a hoof through her already tousled mane. "But, um, do you really think you're ready for this? And are you sure they're old enough to be left alone? What if--"

"Calm down, Cadence," Twilight said reassuringly, brushing past her into the house. "Don't worry. After all, I got foalsitting lessons from the best."

"What? Who's that?"

"You, silly!" Twilight gave her nervous sister-in-law a hug. "Who else do I know that foalsits? Pinkie Pie?"

"Oh! Uh, of course!" Cadence was off again, hurrying to the nursery. Shining Armour intercepted her with a light peck on the cheek.

"Woah there, Princess. What's with all the panic? Oh, hey Twily. Is she still worried Octave and Shadow won't be able to handle being under somepony else's care?

"I think so. But I can't think why. I did learn from her, and besides, the foals love Spike." Twilight shook her head in mock disapproval.

Cadence disentangled herself and trotted off to the kitchen to find her schedule sheet. Twilight and Shining Armour gasped at the large stack of paper which floated ahead of her when she returned.

"What?" Cadence asked indignantly. "She needs to know all their usual habits and bedtime and what books they like and--"

"Yes, but you didn't have to write a novel about them," Shining Armour laughed, earning a scowl from his distraught wife.

"It's okay, Cadence. I-I'm sure I'll manage. Spike?" She called out the front door. "Come on, we haven't got all day."

The little dragon emerged from the carriage slowly, one earbud dangling at his side. Twilight laughed. "Spike sure does love these new non-magic music thingies."

Cadence nodded, her pupils down to small specks of worry. She laughed nervously.

"Come on, now, Cadey," Shining Armour draped a jacket over her shoulders. "I think we'd better get going."

"O-okay, well, um, bye then, I'm sure you'll do just fine, um, I guess. And don't forget the li--"

Twilight shut the door on Cadence's worried rant, smiling. "Okay, Spike. Can you go through that pile of notes and tell me where the foals Octave and Shadow are now? Oh, and find out when and where their dinner is, will you?" A muffled giggle floated out from behind the sofa. Twilight smiled to herself. "Never mind, Spike, scratch that first one. I think I found them."

The End
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