Shining Armor and Flam wake up in bed together, no memory of how they got there or what they did the previous night. All they know is that Apple Bloom has been kidnapped, and they're the guilty party.
When Shining Armor woke up, he did not expect to find Flam sleeping next to him, crumpled up ransom notes on the ground, or Apple Bloom tied up in a closet. But that's exactly what he found, and now he has to work together with Flam to restore their memories, navigate through their lies and friendships, undo their mess, and most importantly, not get caught.
A random comedy / drama adventure about good intentions, bad execution, deception, friendship, romance(?), and straight up craziness.
Rated T for kidnapping, alcohol consumption, sexual innuendos, and discussion of murder and infidelity.
Even though he knew he was already awake, he wanted to go back to sleep. After all, he was so comfortable under the covers of his bed. His entire body was warm, his legs were perfectly placed, and the snoring of the pony next to him provided the perfect soothing noise for sleep.
The pony next to him. Princess Cadance. His wife. His love. Shining Armor turned over to face her, absorbing the warmth from her body. This, in particular, was the feeling that made him want to stay in bed. With an alicorn foal, an empire to rule, and Equestria seemingly ending up in danger every two minutes, moments like these were hard to come by.
Shining Armor leaned close to his beloved’s face, and gave her a quick kiss. Except, something didn't feel quite right about it. He had kissed Cadance numerous times, but this experience felt more… hairy. He opened his eyes.
Shining Armor yelped and fell right off the side of the bed, taking the cover with him. His heart began racing.
Who is that pony?! he thought, backing up into the corner of the bedroom. Why was in bed with him? Why did I kiss him?! Am I cheating?! I have a wife and a child, I can’t--
His flood of thoughts was interrupted by a sudden observation. He was not in his bedroom. Instead, he was in a beige room, with a king-sized bed on one side, and a closet on the other. Three open, but empty, suitcases were strewn across the floor, and several crumpled up pieces of paper surrounded a trash can.
Where am I? What’s going on?!
Gasping for air, Shining Armor slowly stood up. He stumbled around the room, making his way to a window. He saw several, regal looking buildings in the distance, and high-class ponies decorating the streets. Canterlot.
He heard a noise behind him, and jumped. It was the sound of the other pony yawning. He rolled over in bed and blinked his eyes a couple times.
“Good morning, Flim,” he said, stretching his legs out. He looked around. “Flim?! FLIM?!” His eyes locked onto Shining Armor’s. “You’re not Flim!”
“Who’s Flim?!” Shining asked, backing away from the strange pony, who he could now see was dressed in a blue and white striped shirt. “Actually, who are YOU?!”
“Who are you?” the pony shot back, before shaking his head. “Actually, I know who you are. You’re the king of the Crystal Empire! What are you doing in my--” He paused, and took in his surroundings. “Wait a second. This isn’t my bed!”
“I’m the PRINCE of the Crystal Empire,” Shining corrected. “And you still haven’t answered my question!”
The pony got up from the bed and stroked his mustache. “I’m Flam. You might’ve heard of me. I’m the better half of the Flim Flam brothers.”
“The Flim Flam Brothers?!” Shining gasped. “Twilight’s mentioned you before. She says you’re con-ponies!”
Flam’s face dropped. “Con-ponies is a strong term. Slightly unethical businessponies, sure, but--”
“What is this? Some sort of con? Kidnap Equestrian royalty and ransom me off for a quick bit? Cause I’m telling you, it won’t work! My sister and her friends will take you down with the Magic of Friendship!”
Flam scoffed. “One, that’s not a real thing. And two, I don’t perform cons without my brother. I have no clue why either of us are here.” He twirled his mustache, and a smirk emerged on his face. “Wait a minute. I see what this is. This is some kind of secret Royal Guard initiation, right? Well, you can send me on home, cause I have no interest in defending the door to the throne room for seven hours a day.”
Shining Armor rolled his eyes. “No! I don’t know what’s going, either! I don’t even know you, and yet here I am sharing a bed with you!”
Flam started pacing around the room, casually stepping on the crumpled up papers. “Wait a minute. What’s the last thing you remember?”
Shining Armor thought for a moment. “Umm… I think… Cadance threw me out of the house for some reason yesterday? I don’t know. Everything is kind of… hazy.”
Flam nodded. “Well, the last thing I remember is having an early dinner with Flim. So, something must’ve happened last night that brought us together and prompted us to share what I assume is a hotel room.”
“Except neither of us can remember what that something is, apparently,” Shining sighed, putting his face in his hooves. “I can’t believe this. A whole night just… gone. Out of our heads! I don’t even remember meeting you!”
As Shining Armor sat back down on the bed, Flam noticed a piece of paper stuck to his flank, and used his magic to bring it towards him. “And the plot thickens,” he muttered, reading over the note. “It’s a letter from us addressed to… Applejack?! You’ve got to be kidding me!”
“Applejack?!” Shining gasped. “What does it say?”
Flam shook his head. “No idea! I can’t read a word of this past Deer Apple Jeck,” he admitted. “Everything else is either misspelled or illegible. You must’ve wrote this. My hoofwriting is impeccable.”
“Well, if Applejack is involved, then I say we find her,” Shining said, heading for the door. “Maybe she can clue us in on what happened last night and bring back some memories!”
“Noooo!” Flam moaned. “Applejack hates me! I can’t show my face in Ponyville!”
Shining telekinetically pulled the other unicorn toward him. “Come on! If we want to figure out what’s going on, we need her.”
Flam dragged his hooves against the floor, trying to resist the pull of Shining’s magic. “Wait! I need my hat!” he cried out, leaping away from the prince and frantically searching the room. “Where’s my hat?!”
Shining Armor let out a heavy sigh, then sat down on the floor. He uncomfortably shifted in his seat, until he realized he was sitting on another crumpled up piece of paper. Using his magic, he straightened out the paper and levitated it toward his face. The words were crossed out, so it was hard to read, but Shining Armor thought he could make out, “Applejack, leave us alone.”
“Hey, Flam, I found a--” Before he could finish his sentence, he looked up and saw Flam, frozen in front of the closet with a horrified look on his face. “Is everything okay?”
“There’s a pony in there.”
Shining Armor rushed toward Flam’s side, and, sure enough, in the center of the closet was tied up, blindfolded, unconscious Apple Bloom.
The two unicorns just stood there in silence for a full minute, unable to take their eyes off the filly.
“This is bad,” Flam muttered, breaking the silence. “We kidnapped a child.”
“M-Maybe she was kidnapped by somepony else,” Shining Armor said, nervously rubbing his nose, “and we came to save her!”
“And then decided to take a nap before freeing her?”
“Okay, maybe it’s a little far-fetched,” Shining admitted. “But so is ME kidnapping a filly!”
Flam gasped. “Wait. Are you saying that I would kidnap a filly?! Hold on, stallion! I said I was only SLIGHTLY unethical!” He thought for a moment. “Wait a second. The note was written from us to Applejack. This is her little sister. Do you think…”
“...we kidnapped her and were holding her for ransom?” Shining asked, unbounding Apple Bloom. “Maybe. But in exchange for what?”
“Does it MATTER?!”
“No, not really. But, the good news is, it looks like we didn't actually send any of these letters, so Applejack has no idea we kidnapped her sister. We can just send her on her way to Ponyville without facing the Apple Family’s wrath! No one would know we did anything!”
“Unless Apple Bloom still has her memories!” Flam pointed out. “She might remember who kidnapped her, and tell the authorities! She could tell PRINCESS CELESTIA! We could get sent to Tartarus!”
Shining’s heart began to race. “That would destroy my reputation as the lovable leader of the Crystal Empire!”
“Don’t flatter yourself,” Flam chuckled. “I’ve heard some gripes about your ruling. Mainly revolving around that demon-filly of yours.”
“Hey!” Shining shouted. “Flurry Heart is a sweet, innocent filly! Everypony loves her!”
“If it helps you sleep at night, keep telling yourself that. But right now, we have more pressing matters to deal with! Remember, there’s a pony in the closet.”
Shining Armor banged his head against the wall, trying to think of something. A plan. An idea. Even the faintest piece of an action. But nothing was coming to his brain.
“Obviously, Applejack is out of the question now,” Flam said, thinking aloud. “But maybe her friends aren’t.”
The prince gasped. “You’re right! You’re so right! With my sister, we could kill two birds with one stone!”
“We already kidnapped a filly, Shining. Bird slaughter is not exactly on my to-do list.”
“Hush. Twily probably knows about memory spells. We could get her to restore our memories AND erase Apple Bloom’s! That way, we know what happened last night, and we don’t have to worry about being ratted out for kidnapping!”
“Great plan,” Flam said, slowly nodding his head. “Except for the fact that Twilight Sparkle would NEVER erase a filly’s memory.”
“She owes me,” Shining casually replied. “Besides, if she won’t, we could just steal the spell from her library. I used to be Captain of the Royal Guard. I can get past whatever security she’s set up. If any.”
“Kidnapping, bird slaughter, and now theft,” Flam sighed. “This is past my level of unethicality. Unethicality? Is that a word?”
“We’re in this together,” Shining said, grabbing onto Flam’s frowning face. “Look, I don’t like this either, but what other choice do we have?! This is the only way to set our lives back to normal. Besides, I KISSED you! I need to know HOW that happened!”
“You KISSED me?!”
“Come on,” Shining Armor said, levitating Apple Bloom and the crumpled papers into one of the empty suitcases. “We’ve need to make it to Ponyville!”
The prince ran out the door, taking every step with urgency. Flam bit his lip, shook his head, and followed in close pursuit.
“Okay, but don't think we’re done with this kissing thing!”
It was the middle of the morning, and the streets of Canterlot were bustling with ponies late for their jobs, tourists taking pictures of every little thing, or citizens looking for a quick bite to eat. For most ponies, this was a normal day. For Shining Armor and Flam, it was a minefield.
The two slowly crept toward the train station, taking every back alley and shortcut they could find. Any time a pony walked near them, they froze and gave them an awkwardly large smile, which garnered many confused glances. It also didn't help that both of their manes were disheveled, and their Apple Bloom-carrying suitcase was oversized and a bright, flashy pink.
“That pony is onto us,” Flam whispered, looking back at Jet Set, who had just turned his nose up at them. “He knows. He KNOWS, Shining!”
“Hush!” Shining replied in a similarly quiet voice. “Nopony knows anything. We’re almost at the train station. Do you have any money for tickets?”
“NO?!” Shining shouted, drawing the attention of several nearby ponies. He clumsily waved at them, then led Flam behind a café. “You con ponies for a living. How do you not have any bits?!”
“I keep my spare bits in my hat,” Flam admitted. “Which is why I wanted to find it earlier! And besides, you’re the king of the Crystal Empire! Where’s your money?”
Shining rolled his eyes. “I’m the prince. And I got thrown out of the house yesterday! That’s the ONE thing I remember from last night. I didn't exactly get the chance to take any money with me!”
“Great,” Flam sighed, leaning against a wall. “How do we get to Ponyville now?”
Shining Armor thought for a moment. “Well, compared to everything that’s happened or is about to happen, I’d say sneaking onto a train isn’t THAT bad, right?”
Shining Armor and Flam sat in silence for most of the ride.
Sneaking onto the train had been easier than expected. The conductor was too busy checking the time to notice them get on board, and nopony questioned them once they were there. Shining hoped every other part of their plan would be as easy as this.
“So,” Flam said, breaking the silence. He was lying across two seats, his legs resting on the suitcase. “Is now a good time to bring up the kissing?”
“Not in the slightest,” Shining replied, his face glowing red. “Listen, once we get to Ponyville, just follow my lead, okay?”
Flam looked taken aback. “Your lead?! Why not my lead?!”
“Cause I’m the one who came up with the plan,” Shining pointed out. He then looked around and lowered his voice. “Besides, I’m not the one who kidnapped Apple Bloom, am I?”
“We BOTH kidnapped her!” Flam exclaimed, a little too loudly. The ponies across from them glared. Shining and Flam gave them wide, toothy smiles and shakily waved.
“Thank you for proving why I should be the leader,” Shining said. Flam pouted, but didn't argue. “We’re going straight to the Castle of Friendship, because that’s probably where Twily is. I’m going to do all the talking, so all you have to do is hang back with the suitcase, and try not to be noticed by anypony.”
Flam nodded his head. “I’m an incredible performer, so ponies just tend to notice me, but I’ll try to rein in my showponyship for our cause.”
Shining furrowed his brow, then sighed. “This should be easy. We go in, we go out, no problems whatsoever. Then we never have to see each other or worry about this again.”
“Perfection. Now, can we talk about the kissing?”
The trek through Ponyville was even harder than the one through Canterlot.
Unlike Canterlot, Ponyville had almost no back alleys, and every shortcut was still out in the open. Even worse, Shining Armor knew nearly everypony there, so every ten seconds some mare or stallion was walking up to him, asking for a picture or wondering why he was there. Flam, on the other hand, hid behind every bush, tree, and barrel he could find, knowing his reputation in Ponyville had been soiled.
“Shining, get in the bush with me!” Flam whispered, his horn sticking out from his green cover.
“What? No!” Shining exclaimed, shaking his head. “I’m not getting into a bush with you!”
“We shared a bed, we shared a kiss, but you won’t share a bush?”
“You look suspicious,” Shining pointed out, tapping the other unicorn’s horn. “I look like a regular pony, walking through town.”
“But we’ll never get there if ponies keep stopping you,” Flam whined, swapping Shining Armor’s hoof away. “Why do you keep taking pictures with them?!”
“Like I said earlier! I have a reputation as a lovable leader to uphold!”
“And I have a reputation as a conniving con-pony, but you don’t see me trying to sell broken tchotchkes to ponies!”
Shining sighed, then got into the bush beside Flam.
“Hey, you’re so big!” Flam said, rustling in the leaves. “Leave some room for me!”
“Do you want me in the bush or not?!” Shining shouted, causing some nearby ponies to stare at the bush. “Look, it’s just a straight shot from here to the castle. How fast can you run?”
“Ha!” Flam laughed. “You know how many times Flim and I have had to run out of a town that caught on to our tricks? Nopony is faster than me. Except for Rainbow Dash. And the Wonderbolts. And--” He looked beside him. Shining Armor was no longer there. Instead, the prince was already sprinting toward the castle. “Hey, wait for me!”
The unicorn duo arrived at the castle, and Shining used his magic to crack open the door. They peeked inside, saw nopony by the entrance, then walked in. Shining Armor silently gestured for Flam to stay put and watch the suitcase, then walked through the halls to find Twilight.
Flam began to whistle.
“Shining Armor?!” the alicorn princess exclaimed, dropping the books she was levitating with her magic. As predicted, she was in the library with Spike. “You didn't tell me you were coming to Ponyville!”
“Surprise!” Shining replied, his voice ever so slightly quivering.
“I’m so happy to see you!” Twilight said, running over to give her brother a hug. Shining smiled at the gesture, but couldn’t help but feel guilty.
I don’t deserve this hug, he thought to himself. I’m a cheater, and a kidnapper, and a--
“So what brings you around these parts?” Spike asked, interrupting the flow of thought. “Is Equestria in danger? Do you need us?!”
Shining Armor let out a fake laugh. “Not today, no. I’m visiting a friend who retired from the Canterlot Royal Guard. And while I was in town, I wanted to ask you something. What do you know about memory spells?”
Twilight raised an eyebrow. “Depends on why you’re asking.”
Shining Armor hadn’t thought that far ahead.
“Uh, you know,” he hesitated, heart racing fast. “This friend of mine… they experienced trauma… and, um… I want to erase that trauma. That’s it. The whole story.”
Twilight shook her head. “Sorry, Shining Armor, but memory spells are extremely dangerous. Cast one incorrectly, and you accidentally erase ALL of their memories, instead of just one. I trust you, but…”
Shining sighed. “No, I understand. What about spells that bring memories back?”
“You want to bring back your friend’s trauma?” Spike gasped. “That’s horrible!”
“What? NO!” Shining said, facehoofing. “You know what? Never mind. I’m just gonna go. Twily, let’s make plans to hang out tonight. I'll take you out to dinner, maybe."
The alicorn smiled. “Sounds perfect. Oh, and sorry about the spell.”
“Don’t worry about it. I’ve got a backup plan.”
Flam was whistling the song he sang to promote his Miracle Curative Tonic. It was his personal favorite of the songs him and his brother performed, and what he viewed as their most successful scheme. It brought back happy memories, which Flam needed. He had learned that kidnapping ponies was rather stressful.
In the middle of his reminiscing, however, the door opened, causing Flam to jump. He turned around to see who entered, and his heart dropped.
It was Applejack.
“FLAM?!” Applejack shouted, curling her lip. She was sweaty and panting, as if she had just ran to the castle. “What in tarnation are you doin’ in Twilight’s castle?”
“Well, howdy to you, too, Applejack,” Flam said, trying to mask his nervousness. He sat on top of the suitcase and gave her a big smile. “I’m here for a business venture. Why are you here?”
“My sister, Apple Bloom, has gone missing!” Applejack shouted, tears in her eyes. “I’ve looked for her everywhere but I can’t find her!”
Flam’s heart was racing. “Sister? I didn't know you had a sister.”
Applejack was taken aback. “Excuse me? You’ve met her at least twice.”
“Yes, but… um… do I really know her? Do I really know YOU? We’ve never just sat down and talked. Gotten to really know each other. We should fix that.”
Applejack gagged. “Not interested.” In her frenzied state, she hadn’t previously noticed the suitcase, but now her eyes gravitated toward it. “What’s in there?” she asked suspiciously.
“Oh, well, that’s my latest product!” Flam improvised, giving Applejack a wink. “It’s, um, well, tools... for, uh… bird slaughter.”
Applejack froze. Her face was blank. “Bird… slaughter?” she repeated.
“Uh, yes!” Flam confirmed, smiling. “Birds are so pesky sometimes, you know, with their constant calling, and their gross worm eating, and their pecking… not to mention their droppings! Sometimes, you just get so fed up that you want to KILL ‘em, right?!”
Just at that moment, Fluttershy walked into the room. Her entire body turned white. She looked traumatized.
“Hi, Flutterpony,” Flam said, smiling at the pegasus.
She took one glance at the suitcase, and ran off crying.
“I don’t think that’s going to do very well on the market,” Applejack said, her eyes shooting daggers at him. “Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’ve got a friend to comfort, and a sister to find.”
“Best wishes!” Flam called after her. He let out a deep sigh, and wiped the sweat off his brow. “Waaay too close, Flam,” he muttered to himself.
He laid on top of the suitcase, trying to get comfortable, until Shining Armor walked back into the room, his head hanging low.
“No dice?” Flam asked, making sure nopony was watching them.
“Unfortunately, Twilight’s moral compass is stronger than ours,” Shining sighed. “Which means we go to Plan B. Steal Twilight’s memory spells from her library!”
“Alright, let’s go!” Flam said, trotting off. After a moment, he realized Shining wasn’t behind him and stopped. “Why are you not trotting?”
“Twilight is currently in her library.”
“We’re going to have to wait a few minutes,” Shining continued. “Let’s check on Apple Bloom. Make sure she’s still unconscious.”
Flam nodded, and the two walked into the bathroom, trying find privacy. They opened up the suitcase, and, sure enough, there was Apple Bloom, still asleep like they’d left her.
“You know what?” Flam said, patting Shining Armor on the back. “I think this plan just might work.”
“WHAT IS GOING ON IN HERE?!”
The two unicorns turned around, and saw Starlight Glimmer staring directly at Apple Bloom. Shining Armor gasped and quickly closed the suitcase.
“Hey, this restroom is occupied!” Flam shouted. “Find your own bathroom!”
“You were supposed to lock the door!” Shining Armor angrily whispered to Flam. “Why didn't you lock the door?!”
“Excuse me?! You were supposed to lock it!” the stallion replied, glaring at the prince. “Why do you blame me for everything?!”
“I don’t like taking responsibility for things that are obviously bad!”
Starlight Glimmer stamped her hoof. “GUYS!” she shouted, levitating the suitcase toward her. “What is going on?! Shining Armor, why are you in Twilight’s castle?” She turned her attention to the other pony in the room. “Who are you?!”
Flam held out his hoof. “Flam of the Flim Flam Brothers. Pleasure to make your acquaintance.”
Starlight rolled her eyes, then opened the suitcase. Her jaw dropped.
“Why is Apple Bloom’s corpse in here?” she quietly asked, unable to look away.
“It’s not a corpse,” Shining Armor corrected, closing the suitcase again. “She’s not dead.”
“Actually,” Flam chimed in, “we never checked her pulse.”
“What did we say about me doing all the talking?”
“There’s a perfectly normal explanation for this,” Shining said, going back to Starlight. “We just… don’t know what it is.”
Starlight Glimmer backed away. “You kidnapped Apple Bloom.”
“You kidnapped Apple Bloom.”
“You kidnapped Apple Bloom.”
“You can stop repeating yourself, I think you’ve got it,” Flam said. “Yes, we kidnapped Apple Bloom.”
Starlight Glimmer blinked, then took off running. “APPLEJACK!”
“Crud!” Shining Armor said, dashing after her. At this point, his heart was getting used to beating fast. Flam quickly followed suit, and within seconds, the two unicorns were chasing Starlight Glimmer.
As they passed door after door, Starlight kept calling Applejack’s name over and over again. She wasn’t as fast as either of her chasers, so they were quickly gaining on her, but she had something they didn't. She was an expert at levitating herself.
Right as they passed the library, Starlight began glowing, and she flew outside to one of the castle’s balconies. Shining and Flam, needing to catch their breath, sat down on the ground.
“This is the end,” Flam panted, patting Shining Armor on the back. “There’s no way we can catch her. Applejack is in the castle with us! We’re gonna get exposed!”
“No, no, no,” Shining said, shaking his head. “Leave this to me.” He got back onto his hooves, then began running up the stars. Flam remained on the ground, taking deep breaths.
Shining Armor made it to the top of the stairs, and ran through the first door he found, leading him to the balcony. He was immediately met by Starlight Glimmer who was looking over the edge.
“Where is she…” the mare muttered under her breath.
Shining Armor put one of his hooves on her back, causing her to jump. “Starlight Glimmer,” he said slowly, “please, let me explain.”
Starlight backed away from him. “Applejack is looking for her lost sister, and you have her! What is there to explain?!”
“The fact that we don’t remember doing it!” Shining exclaimed, lowering his head. “This morning, I woke up in a hotel room with that con-pony, and no memories of who he was or how I got there. While we were trying to figure things out, we found Apple Bloom in the closet!”
“I don’t remember anything,” Shining admitted, walking closer to Starlight. Still, she backed away from her. “Flam and I were trying to get our hooves on a memory spell so that we could find out what happened.”
“Why not just return Apple Bloom?” Starlight asked. Her horn was glowing, as if she was poised to attack.
“Because, then she’d rat us out!” Shining Armor said, this time backing away from Starlight. “If word gets out that I kidnapped a filly, I would be exiled from the Crystal Empire! And think about the ramifications of another Equestrian leader turning out to be the bad guy. There’d be an uproar! Equestria would fall into shambles!”
Starlight Glimmer seriously considered this for a moment. Her horn stopped glowing.
“Please,” Shining begged, finally meeting Starlight in the middle of the balcony. “You’re a guidance counselor. Guide me.”
Starlight bit her lip and moaned, then sighed. “You are SO in the wrong, Shining Armor, and, I know you should just return Apple Bloom and serve whatever sentence you’re given,” she said. “But, at the same time, you’re right. That would cause a mass panic, which would help nopony.”
“So… you’ll help us?”
Starlight Glimmer hesitated. “How were you planning on keeping Apple Bloom quiet?”
“We were going to erase her memory,” Shining admitted, a little too nonchalantly.
“Yeah, no,” the mare replied, walking back inside the castle. “That is a horrible plan.”
Shining ran in front of her, blocking her way. “If you’ve got something better, I’m all ears.”
Starlight used her magic to pick him up and put him to her side. “Why not just explain what happened to Apple Bloom? If she knows it’s a misunderstanding, maybe she won’t rat you out.”
“That requires knowing what happened last night.”
Starlight Glimmer groaned, and rubbed her temple. “Alright, fine,” she finally said, looking Shining Armor in the eyes. “I’ll help restore your memories, and then you will figure out how to solve this in a smart, sensible manner.”
Shining Armor’s face lit up. “Oh, thank you so much!” he exclaimed, giving the mare a big hug. She quickly pushed him aside. “I promise, I will fix this.”
“You better. And don’t think that, because I’m helping you, I agree with what you’ve done.”
“Wouldn’t dream of it.”
The two came back down the stairs together, where they found Flam lying on the ground, moaning.
“I thought you said you were good at running,” Shining Armor joked. Flam opened his mouth to respond, but decided he was too tired and just glared.
“Good news, Flam,” Starlight Glimmer said, magically lifting him onto his hooves. “I’m going to restore your memories so you can set everything right.”
Starlight raised an eyebrow, but decided not to question it and continued speaking. “It’s a complicated spell, though, and it requires two ponies that aren’t either of you. We’ll have to find somepony else.” She looked around the hall, then frowned. “Where’s Apple Bloom?”
Flam and Shining looked at each other. Both of their faces turned white. Without a word, they ran back to the bathroom.
“Well, we had a good run,” Flam sighed, shaking his head. “I think I’m going to ask for a chocolate cupcake tower as my final meal.”
Shining Armor and Starlight Glimmer stared at the floor of the bathroom. The suitcase containing Apple Bloom was gone.
“Okay, it’s not over yet,” Shining said, trying to remain calm. “All this means is that somepony found Apple Bloom. She’s still unconscious, so until she wakes up, there’s no way of connecting the kidnapping to us.”
“Except that Applejack and Fluttershy saw me with the suitcase,” Flam said, his eyes bugging out.
“Well, then there’s no way of connecting the kidnapping to me,” Shining corrected.
Flam began anxiously pacing around the room, taking deep breaths. “This is bad. This is very, very BAD. I’m going to Tartarus. Flim and I never even got to say GOODBYE!”
“Calm down,” Starlight interrupted, magically stopping him in his tracks. “As long as Applejack or Fluttershy aren’t the ones who found her, you’re both off the hook. For now.”
“We need to make a list of suspects,” Shining suggested. “Flam said he saw Applejack and Fluttershy earlier, and I found Twilight and Spike in the library. So that’s four creatures who might’ve found the suitcase. We can narrow that down with ease.”
“Except, Rarity’s also leading her students tour of the castle today for her decoration class,” Starlight said. “And that tour started… five minutes ago.”
“Bad, bad, bad,” Flam repeated, rocking himself back and forth on the ground.
“Let’s put restoring our memories on the back burner for now,” Shining Armor decided. “Right now, we HAVE to find whoever has the suitcase. If we can grab it before Apple Bloom wakes up, we’re still in the clear.”
“Except we’re not,” Flam gasped, having a sudden realization. “The crumpled up notes inside have our signatures on them! Even if Apple Bloom is out, those put the blame directly on US!”
“WHAT?! How did you two mess up this badly?!” Starlight Glimmer shouted, putting her face in her hooves. “Look, we need to split up. Flam, go check the tour. Shining, look for Applejack and Fluttershy. I’ll talk to Twilight and Spike. Maybe, if we’re LUCKY, they haven’t opened up the suitcase and found what’s inside yet.”
“And what if they have?” Flam asked, sweat dripping down his forehead.
“Then I wish you the very best of luck.”
With that, Starlight Glimmer ran out of the room, leaving a panicked Flam and a nervous Shining Armor by themselves.
“...and these beautiful, slightly off-magenta curtains have an intricate cotton lace,” Rarity mused, magically waving a curtain past her tour group of eight students, including Gallus and Sandbar. “Watch how it flows! Why, this fabric would make an EXCELLENT dress!”
“Except it’s a curtain,” Gallus pointed out, lazily resting his head on his talon.
“Darling, don’t be so narrow-minded,” Rarity replied, spinning the fabric around. “You may just see a curtain, but there is beauty in everything.”
Gallus scoffed. “Don’t get me wrong, it’s a beautiful curtain. But it’s still just a curtain.”
Rarity scowled at him, then put the curtain back on its rightful window. “Moving on!” she said, leading the group down another hallway. “Remember, students, take notes. This will all be on your decorating final.”
The students collectively groaned. “What even is a ‘decoration final’?” Gallus mumbled.
“I heard that. Now, to the left, you will see an exquisitely designed vase, delivered straight from the Crystal Empire. And on the right, the kitchen, which we will enter shortly. Ahead of us is-- FLAM?!”
In front of the group stood the mustached stallion, casually leaning against a wall. He winked at Rarity, who cringed.
“Flam?” Gallus asked. “Is that a type of decoration or…”
“Decoration?” Flam repeated. “Why, I’m a traveling salespony, nonpareil!”
“More like a traveling con-pony,” Rarity snarked, backing up to keep a distance between the stallion and her students. “What are you doing here, Flam?”
“Selling my latest product of course!” Flam said. “A wonderful set of tools, perfect for slaughtering your least favorite bird.”
“For WHAT?!” Gallus exclaimed, his claws raised. Flam nervously chuckled.
Oh no, he thought. There’s a bird here. I didn't consider my audience. Flim always tells me to consider my audience! This is why he left me!
“Flam, I suggest you leave,” Rarity said.
“I suggest that, too,” Flam replied, hanging his head low. He turned to leave, but quickly perked up. “Wait! Before I go, I seem to have misplaced my product. Have any of you seen a bright pink suitcase, big enough to fit a filly and several pieces of paper?”
“That was oddly specific,” Sandbar observed.
“Can’t say I have,” Rarity admitted. “Now run along before you offend any more of my students!”
Flam tried to tip his hat to the tour group, but had forgotten he wasn’t wearing his hat, and just stood there awkwardly with a hoof on his head for a moment. With every creature’s eyes on him, he blushed and quietly ran off.
Shining Armor found Fluttershy singing quietly to herself.
The pegasus was all alone, simply sitting in her chair beside the giant map of Equestria, softly vocalizing what Shining thought was a beautiful melody.
“Your voice is great,” the unicorn said. Fluttershy, who had not seen him walk in, jumped up and yelled.
“S-Shining Armor!” she exclaimed, failing to recompose herself. “What are you doing here?!”
“Looking for a bright pink suitcase.”
Fluttershy’s eyes began to tear up. Her ears dropped, and her lip started to tremble. “You’re… you’re with Flam?” she asked, in a more hushed voice than usual. “But… but… that suitcase full of…”
“WHAT?!” Shining shouted, noticing the pegasus shaking. “How much did Flam tell you?! I promise, it wasn’t my fault!”
“He told me enough!” Fluttershy said through her sobs. “I can’t imagine you would do something like that!”
“Look, it just happened, okay?!” Shining panicked. “We didn't mean to cause so much trouble, but we’re trying to fix it!”
“It’s too late! The damage is already done!”
Shining Armor’s ears drooped. He hated seeing Fluttershy cry, especially if he was the source. He went in to give her a hug. She did not reciprocate the gesture.
Instead, she flew into the air in a panic and kicked him in the face.
“I’m so sorry!” she gasped. “B-But that’s how the birds feel! Think about that!”
She ran away, crying, with her wings covering her face. Shining Armor fell to the floor, unsure of what had just happened.
Birds? he thought to himself.
As Shining rubbed his cheek, Flam walked into the room. After seeing the prince on the floor, he quickly rushed to his aid and got him back on his hooves.
“Are you okay?” Flam asked.
“What did you tell Fluttershy?” Shining growled, clenching his teeth. Flam grinned nervously at him and backed away.
Just then, Pinkie Pie bounced into the room.
“Oh! Hi, friends!” she sang, hopping her way toward the kitchen. “What are you doing here in Ponyville? It’s not a holiday!” She gasped. “Unless it IS and I missed it! Oh no! I have so many gifts to make! Good thing I found this handy-dandy suitcase to hold them in!” In one swift motion, she pulled the giant suitcase out of her mane and presented it to the stallions.
“It was Pinkie Pie?!” Flam whispered, jaw dropped. “We hadn’t even considered her!”
“She’s a wild card,” Shining sighed. “But, given how happy she looks, I don’t think she’s opened it.”
“I dunno. She always looks happy,” Flam replied. “Maybe she knows and is trying to trick us!”
“Come on. It’s Pinkie Pie.”
“Yeah. It’s Pinkie Pie.”
Flam and Shining looked at each other, and then at Pinkie. She was widely grinning at them.
“Say, Pinkie,” Flam said, stroking his mustache. “Could we, maybe, take that suitcase off your hooves? Or, out of your mane? Whatever, I don’t know how you work.”
Pinkie Pie snorted. “No, silly!” she laughed. “I just found this, and it perfectly matches me! It’s pink, and I’m Pinkie Pie!”
“Oh no, pink is not your color,” Flam replied, without realizing exactly what he had just said.
“See what happens when we let you do the talking?” Shining groaned. “Pinkie, look, that’s my luggage. I’m visiting an old friend of mine here in Ponyville, and I lost that suitcase. I’ve been looking EVERYWHERE for it. Could you please give it back to me?”
Pinkie Pie stared at the suitcase, then sighed. “Alright,” she said, holding the suitcase out for the stallions to take. “If it’s yours--”
“DO NOT GIVE HIM THAT SUITCASE!”
The voice boomed through the room, freezing Shining, Flam, and Pinkie in their tracks. It belonged to Rarity, who was standing at the other end of the room with a sobbing Fluttershy and the group of students.
“Flam is selling a weapon to ponies!” Rarity continued, pointing a hoof at the stallion.
“A very offensive weapon,” Gallus added, growling.
“And Shining is working with him!” a shuttering Fluttershy confirmed.
Pinkie’s jaw dropped to the floor, appearing to dent it.
“Hey, whoa!” Shining chuckled, putting one of his front legs around Flam. “This is all a big misunderstanding. There’s no weapon in that suitcase.”
“Right!” Flam agreed. “Because the prototype is inside!”
Shining could feel a part of himself die.
“Well, if that’s the case, let’s prove it,” Rarity said as she levitated the suitcase toward the group. Slowly, she began to open it.
Shining could feel the sweat fall down his face like a waterfall. Flam was audibly breathing heavily.
This is it.
When Rarity had opened the suitcase fully, her and her students simply stared at it awhile, not one daring to look away from what was inside. After a moment, however, they turned it to Shining Armor and Flam.
“What do you have to say about this?” Gallus asked, pointing at the inside of the suitcase.
Shining Armor sighed, and he could feel his whole body weighing him down. He opened his mouth to confess, but Flam quickly covered his mouth with his hoof.
“Don’t,” the mustached pony whispered, pointing toward the suitcase.
Shining couldn’t believe his eyes.
It was empty.
Chapter Five: Every Creature's A Winner! ...Except Shining Armor
He could not stop staring at the suitcase. It was empty. He couldn’t tell if he was overjoyed or traumatized. Sure, he wasn’t about to be exposed in front of Rarity, but at the same time, Apple Bloom was free and could tell anypony what happened.
“Care to explain?” Rarity asked, levitating the suitcase.
“He’s a changeling,” Sandbar whispered to Gallus. “I bet he’s a changeling.”
“I’m not a changeling,” Shining scoffed. “This was, um, a… social experiment!”
The students looked confused. “A what?” Gallus asked.
“It’s a psychological study done to see how ponies react when put into various complicated situations,” Flam explained, earning a shocked look from Shining Armor.
“Right!” Shining continued. “As part of my duties as prince, I want to prepare ponies in case an… abstract threat comes to town. Twilight told me the Flim Flam Brothers were in desperate need of redemption, so, I partnered with them to construct a narrative where ponies and other creatures, like you all, would have to make the right decisions when presented with a pony who has the potential to be dangerous, but isn’t quite yet.”
Rarity and Fluttershy blankly stared at each other.
“So, this was all fake?” Rarity asked, raising an eyebrow.
“Yup!” Flam said. “And you all WON!”
“Uh, I thought you said this was a study,” Gallus pointed out. “There are no winners in a study.”
“Au contraire, my feathered friend,” Flam responded. “Every creature's a winner in a study!”
Gallus opened his mouth to talk, but shook his head and fell back into the crowd.
“Just to be certain,” Fluttershy quietly said, her face hidden behind her mane. “There aren’t really any bird slaughtering tools?”
“Nope!” Shining Armor confirmed. Fluttershy immediately perked up and beamed.
“Thank you all for participating in our study,” Flam said, bowing to all the students. “Your reactions were very helpful, and will be passed onto the Royal Guard for future instruction on civilian well-being and what to do in crises.”
“Goodbye, every creature!” Shining called, gesturing for the group to leave. “Please, return to your regularly scheduled activities.”
Most of the group simply shrugged and walked away, indifferent to the events that had just occurred. Rarity, however, stayed behind and stared Shining Armor straight in the eyes.
“I’ve read enough Shadow Spade to know when something feels wrong,” she whispered, glaring at him. “There is more to this story, and I fully intend to find out what it is.” She trotted away, but when she reached the doorway, she dramatically turned her head back and stared the stallions down.
Shining Armor and Flam smiled and waved at her, then stood in silence until they were sure they were in complete privacy.
“That was closer than the time almost Flim and I almost got caught selling sweaters made out of unicorns’ manes,” Flam said, shuddering at the memory. “But see what happens when I do the talking? It doesn't always end up in flames. Every so often, I DO have a winner.”
Shining laughed. “I’ll admit, I was a little shocked and impressed. You really helped make that excuse seem believable.”
“Like I said, I’m a traveling salespony, nonpareil,” Flam bragged, once again trying to tip his non-existent hat. “But, you helped, too. It was a team effort.”
“Friendship is magic,” Shining replied with a grin.
Flam cringed and shook his head. “Yeah, spare me your ‘Magic of Friendship’ nonsense. Remember, Apple Bloom is gone!” He paused, realizing what he had just said. “Dear Celestia, Apple Bloom is gone. We’re so DOOMED. Again!” He began pacing and hyperventilating.
“Flam, calm down,” Shining Armor said slowly. “I’m sure we can find her before she tells anypony what happened. Let’s regroup with Starlight, and figure what to do.”
“You found the suitcase, but you lost Apple Bloom?!” Starlight hissed, looking down at the two frowning stallions. “How did you two manage to make this situation even worse than it already is?!”
“It’s a talent,” Flam said, before Shining nudged him.
“Look, we desperately need your help,” the prince begged. “Apple Bloom must’ve woken up while we were chasing you and snuck out. For all we know, she could be anywhere in Ponyville, talking to anypony now!”
“And she took our letters with her,” Flam added. “Meaning we are so going to Tartarus.”
Starlight shook her head. “Not necessarily. The only places I can imagine Apple Bloom running to are the Cutie Mark Crusaders clubhouse and the Apple Family farm. All we have to do is figure out which one she’s headed to, and then stop her before she gets there and exposes you.”
“But how do we know where she’s going?” Flam asked.
“We don’t,” Starlight admitted. “BUT that’s the great thing about teleportation! If you teleport to the wrong place, you can just keep teleporting until you get it right.”
“Teleporting? Where are you teleporting to?”
Starlight Glimmer, Flam, and Shining Armor all jumped when they heard the voice. It’s owner was Twilight Sparkle, who had just peeked her head into the room. Before the princess could see him, Starlight Glimmer magically lifted Flam and placed him behind a curtain.
“Oh, you know,” Starlight replied, leaning on a banister. “Here, there… Everywhere if we have time.”
“Wait a second,” Twilight said, noticing her brother beside the mare. “Shining, was Starlight Glimmer the ‘backup plan’ you mentioned earlier?”
“Umm, maybe?” Shining responded with a shrug.
Twilight sighed. “When I told you I wouldn’t help you, I didn't mean to go to my pupil behind my back!” She turned her attention to Starlight. “Sorry, but I already told Shining Armor he can’t have access to those memory spells. So, while I appreciate you being so willing to help my brother remove his friend’s trauma, I’m afraid I’m going to have to put an end to this.”
Starlight Glimmer turned to Shining and shook her head. “I’m so sorry,” she said, over-enunciating her words. “But you heard the princess. I guess I can’t help anymore.”
“Shining Armor, I can’t believe this,” Twilight continued. “You went behind my back to get memory spells I said you couldn’t have!” She paused. “I think we need to talk. Starlight, if you would excuse us.”
Starlight nodded her head and walked out of the room, sneakily levitating Flam out with her.
The prince frowned. “Twily, look, I agree, we should talk, but maybe now isn’t the best time--”
“I feel betrayed,” Twilight interrupted. There were tears in her eyes. “I’m cancelling our dinner tonight.”
“I understand, but--”
“You’re not leaving here until you explain to me what is really happening.”
Flam was right. We really are doomed.
After dismissing her students for the day, Rarity immediately dashed to her storage cabinet. The other teachers in the School of Friendship used their cabinets for paper, quills, ink, books, and basic classroom supplies. But not Rarity. Her cabinet was filled with as much homemade clothing that she could fit.
She dug through the myriad of dresses, hoping she had correctly remembered where she placed the exact item she was looking for. Lucky for her, she had.
Rarity walked toward a window, looking into her reflection. With serious eyes and a sinister smile, she put on her “femme mystique chic” hat.
Flam couldn’t stop pacing up and down the staircase leading to Twilight’s Castle. His mind was racing with a million thoughts a minute, most he couldn’t process.
“Shining Armor is trapped, Apple Bloom is missing, and Rarity is onto us,” he muttered to himself repeatedly. “I’m all ALONE.”
“I’m right here,” Starlight Glimmer said, levitating Flam to stop him from pacing. “You’re not alone, and this isn’t the end. We can go ahead with the plan, even without Shining Armor.”
“But if he tells Twilight what really happened, it’s game over!” Flam cried. “I can’t go to Tartarus! I have a family, Sunlight!”
“SUNLIGHT?!” Starlight screeched, taken aback. “My name is not Sunlight!”
“Um, Moonlight?” He was met with a headshake. “Daylight?” A glare. “Just… Light?”
Starlight sighed. “Look, if we want even the slightest chance of stopping Apple Bloom before she exposes you, we need to teleport now. Make a decision: clubhouse or farm?”
“I barely know the pony!” Flam admitted. “What’s even at this clubhouse you speak of?”
Starlight thought for a moment. “Flam, you’re a GENIUS!” she suddenly blurted out.
“Why, thank you. Wait. I’m not complaining, but why is my genius suddenly being recognized?”
“The clubhouse belongs to the Cutie Mark Crusaders,” Starlight explained, “Apple Bloom’s best friends. But they don’t live there, and they only ever really go there as a group. So, if she went there...”
“She probably wouldn’t run into anypony!” Flam exclaimed, picking up on Starlight’s thought process. “Whereas on a farm, there’s always somepony doing work!”
“Exactly!” Starlight grabbed Flam’s hoof. “To Sweet Apple Acres, we go!”
Before Flam could even blink, the crystalline structure of Twilight’s castle was soon replaced by an orchard of seemingly infinite apple trees. He looked around in awe. Everything seemed so… green.
“To think we almost put this place out of business,” he muttered to himself as Starlight pulled him in the direction of the barn.
Flam and Starlight peeked inside the wooden building, and saw Big Mac and Granny Smith talking to each other. Both of them were frowning, their ears had fallen, and the stallion’s arm was around his grandmother’s.
“Good,” Flam said. “If they’re sad, that means they haven’t found her yet! We beat her!” He paused. “Is it bad that I’m this happy at other ponies’ misfortune?”
“Very much so,” Starlight replied. “If Apple Bloom isn’t here yet, that means all we have to do now is wait until she comes through the entrance, then grab her before the others see her.” She looked Flam straight in the eyes. “I want to stress that we are NOT kidnapping her again. We are just bringing her someplace so we can talk to her.”
“Don’t look at me! Shining Armor’s the one who kidnapped her!”
“How do you two get anything done with all this bickering?”
“You just answered your own question. We don’t get anything done. Except cons. We pulled off a pretty nice con on those students earlier. It was good. Very good.”
Starlight sighed, then pulled Flam into a nearby pile of hay. “We’ll look out for Apple Bloom from inside here. The moment we see her, I’ll use my magic to bring us to my guidance office, where we can have a nice, friendly, calm conversation.”
“You emphasized calm. Why did you emphasize calm? I’m ALWAYS calm, Stoplight!”
“Shot in the dark,” Flam admitted.
“Just look out for Apple Bloom,” Starlight groaned, digging a hole in the hay she could see through, pointing directly at the entrance to the farm.
Flam tried to follow suit However, every time he dug, more hay seemed to cover the hole, making it impossible for him to see. After two attempts, he gave up, and tried to peek out of Starlight’s opening.
“This isn’t big enough for both of us,” Starlight said, nudging him away. “Look, just… sit there and do nothing.”
“I can’t do nothing,” Flam admitted. “It’s not my style. I have to move, or talk, or--”
“Well, then, talk to me,” Starlight interrupted. Flam opened his mouth, but she stopped him again. “Quietly. We are hiding in a haystack, after all.”
Flam chuckled. “I really want to know why Shining Armor kissed me. I mean, did we have a secret love affair last night? Because if we did, you know, I’m not opposed to it. In fact, I’d be willing to continue on with it. Of course, there’s the issue of Princess Cadance and that devil-foal, but other than that--”
“PLEASE talk about something else,” Starlight interjected, her face bright red.
“Okay,” Flam agreed, as Starlight continue peeking out of the hole. “Well, in the panic of losing the suitcase, then finding the suitcase, then losing Apple Bloom, I didn't get to tell this to Shining Armor, but I was able to remember something from last night!”
Starlight turned around and gasped. “WHAT?!”
“Unfortunately, it’s not about kidnapping Apple Bloom,” Flam clarified. “Prior to even meeting up with Shining Armor, I had lunch with my brother, Flim. It wasn’t great. I don’t remember where we went, but the crème brûlée was terrible.”
“Too much crème, or too much brûlée?” Starlight asked.
“Maybe both,” Flam responded. “But anyway, we were going to share the dish, like we always do on a Friday night, but then we got into an argument. He was yelling something about me being the reason so many of our schemes fail, and that he would be so much better off without me. The last thing I remember is him storming out, leaving me all alone with the crème brûlée. Which I ate, because, well, who wastes food?”
“Flam, I’m so sorry,” Starlight said, putting a hoof on his shoulder. “That must’ve been awful.”
“Eh, siblings fight,” Flam replied with a shrug. “It’s not the first time. I’m sure we’ll make amends soon enough. We always do. Assuming I don’t go to Tartarus.”
“You know you only go to Tartarus for trying to take over Equestria or hurt ponies, right? If you get caught, they’ll put you in jail, probably. But definitely not Tartarus.”
“Huh. That’s reassuring,” Flam said, smiling. “You know, that’s the exact kind of thing Flim would’ve told me to calm me down.” He gasped. “You’re like my temporary replacement brother!”
“Umm, I’m a mare. Wouldn’t Shining Armor be your replacement brother?” Starlight asked.
“No, because he’s my temporary lover, so that would make things weird. Besides, I like working with you more than him. You’ve got kind of a calming vibe.”
“Why, thank you,” Starlight chirped, beaming at the stallion. “That’s what I strive for as a guidance counselor.”
“Well, mission accomplished.”
The two smiled at each other, then returned back to their respective jobs of lookout and conversationalist. For a couple of minutes, nothing changed in Sweet Apple Acres.
Until Big Mac came out of the barn.
The stallion, who seemed distraught, unknowingly planted himself right in front of the hole in the haystack, meaning all Starlight could see was red.
“No!” Flam whispered. “What do we do now?!”
“Shhh!” Starlight shushed. “He’s right next to us! He’ll hear--”
Sure enough, before Starlight could finish her sentence, a tired, green eye filled the peephole. Starlight put her face in her hooves.
“Hey, friend,” Flam said, waving at the stallion.
Shining Armor walked out of the castle, and sighed. He wasn’t sure if he had done the right thing concerning Twilight, but knew that there was no going back now.
Since Flam and Starlight were nowhere to be found, he hoped that they had continued the plan without him. He wanted to meet up with them, but without knowing which destination they had decided on, he took a wild guess and teleported himself outside Cutie Mark Crusaders clubhouse.
He opened the door, and much to his surprise, the inside was near empty, except for a table and two chairs in the center of the room. Each window had a curtain covering it, so barely any light made its way inside the clubhouse.
Why does this feel like an interrogation room? Shining Armor thought to himself.
Suddenly, the door closed behind him. He turned around, and there was Rarity, dressed in a stylish maroon hat and cloak. She turned her muzzle up at him and stared for a moment, before sitting down at the table and addressing him.
Shining Armor sat across from me, his hooves twitching at my slightest movement. He was antsy, sure, but the cause, I was uncertain of. The evidence I had collected was circumstantial, yes, but who would I be if I didn't trust my gut? After all, I was--
“Um, Rarity, are we gonna talk, or are you just going to keep staring at me?”
Shining Armor waved a hoof in front of her face, bringing Rarity out of her silent narrating thoughts.
“Oh, my apologies,” she said, shaking her head. “Let’s talk.” Her horn began to glow, giving the clubhouse a brief, dim blue light. The blue light also flowed around another object, which levitated off the ground and was placed on the table in between the ponies. Rarity pushed it toward Shining Armor.
It was the pink suitcase.
“You seem to have forgotten a crucial part of your social experiment in the castle,” she said, giving the prince a side-eye. “I discovered it on the ground, simply thrown away as if you didn't need it anymore.”
“We don’t,” Shining Armor replied, trying to keep his cool. “The experiment is done. We got all the data we needed for the study.”
The stallion clearly wasn’t going to budge easily, Rarity thought, raising her nose at her suspect. I was going to have to try a different approach.
Shining Armor looked around the dark room. “Are these awkward gaps in our conversation supposed to mean something, or…”
“Have you heard that our sweet, young, innocent Apple Bloom is missing?” Rarity asked, twirling her mane.
Shining winced at the filly’s name. “I had not,” he lied, attempting to make his reaction appear as a sneeze by rubbing his nose.
“After my field trip, I ran into Applejack, and she told me the news,” Rarity continued. She was consciously choosing not to make eye contact with the prince, hoping it would intimidate him enough for a confession. “She was devastated, and frankly, so was I. Apple Bloom is a pony with good friends, strong morals, and a bright future helping ponies understand who they are. Her job helps Equestria and its residents so much. The thought of somepony taking her away is simply, well, unforgivable.”
Shining Armor could feel himself starting to sweat. For a split second, Rarity’s eyes locked onto a single droplet running down his face. Shining quickly wiped it away.
“I agree,” he said, a small tremble in his voice. “Kidnapping is serious. I can hardly imagine what the Apple Family is going through.”
He’s good, Rarity thought. But I’m better. It was time to play my ace.
Shining Armor rolled his eyes, growing more and more agitated by the repeated pauses in the conversation. “RARITY!”
“SHINING ARMOR!” she shouted, matching his tone. “Earlier, you claimed to be working with the Flim Flam Brothers! Is this true?”
“One hundred percent,” Shining Armor said, giving audible sigh of relief. Finally, an answer that wasn’t a lie.
“Interesting,” Rarity replied, slowing nodding her head. “Well, during this so-called ‘social experiment’ of yours, your associate Flam provided a rather intriguing detail about the suitcase your murder weapons were supposedly inside.”
“What, that’s it pink?” Shining Armor chuckled.
Rarity leaned onto the table and bore into his eyes. “That it was big enough to fit a filly.”
Shining Armor’s eyes widened. He couldn’t control it. His jaw dropped for a split second. He closed it as fast as he could, but the damage was done.
I’ve got him.
“If the experiment was about a suspicious product inside a suitcase,” Rarity said, her voice increasing both in volume and speed, “why would he even mention that it could hold a filly?”
“Don’t play dumb with me! Apple Bloom mysteriously goes missing, Flam hints he had a pony in the suitcase, and you’re working alongside him! There’s only one conclusion I can reach, Shining Armor!”
The stallion shut his eyes. It made the blow a little easier to take.
Just a little.
Big Mac kept staring at Starlight Glimmer and Flam without saying a single word. While this wasn’t unusual, it felt more intimidating than the stallion’s usual act.
“So, um, Big Mac,” Starlight began, emerging from the hay. “I’m sure you have questions.”
“Lucky for you, we have answers!” Flam shouted, enthusiastically leaping out of the pile. He thought for a moment, then raised his hoof in the air. “Granny Smith just seems so lonely these days, doesn't she?”
Big Mac and Starlight looked equally taken aback. “Ee-- Nope?” the stallion replied, confused.
“Well, Limelight and I thought she did, so we lined up a couple potential suitors for her,” Flam said. “Because the old deserve love too, you know.”
Big Mac froze, his mouth gaping open. Starlight pulled Flam to the side.
“I am not going along with this,” she tartly whispered to him. “If an actual suitor doesn't show up, our cover is blown!”
“Fear not,” Flam replied. “Hopefully, Shining Armor wasn’t found out by Twilight, and he’ll be arriving here any minute. Since he clearly has an open-relationship with Cadance--”
Starlight put a hoof over his mouth and gagged. “Flam,” she said, slowly and clearly, “while I appreciate your energy, exuberance, and con-ponyship, some of your ideas just aren’t great. And this is one of them.”
“It’s a little half-baked, I agree, but just trust me--”
“You kidnapped Apple Bloom!” Starlight blurted out, stamping her hoof. “How can I trust you?!”
Flam started pouting. “Because we’re temporary siblings, Lowlight!”
“You don’t even know my name!”
“I thought we were bonding!”
“We were,” Starlight admitted. “But I--”
“You kidnapped Apple Bloom…?” Big Mac interrupted, his eyes darting back and forth from Starlight and Flam. They both sighed.
“Whoops,” Starlight said, slowly backing away from Big Mac. “That was my bad. Clearly, both of us aren’t the best at this.”
“That’s why we work great as brothers,” Flam replied. “But we don’t work great as spies.”
“Not in the slightest.”
“Hey, you know what I do when a scam goes bad?” Flam asked.
Before Big Mac could get out a word, the two were bolting out of Sweet Apple Acres, running as fast as their legs could carry them.
Princess Cadance opened her eyes and yawned.
She had gotten a bit of a late start this morning, but she wasn’t too worried. Sunburst was around to play with Flurry Heart, and there were no royal activities scheduled for the next couple days. If she wanted to, she could simply stay in bed, cuddling with her husband.
Where was her husband?
She couldn’t feel his body heat. She looked to one side, then to the other. He wasn’t in the bed with her! Panicked, she quickly got up and flew around the castle.
He was nowhere to be found.
She began searching every nook and cranny of the castle, hoping to find some explanation for where he went. And as she went into the closet in her bedroom, she found something.
One of her many pink suitcases was missing, and in its place was a note. Cadance eagerly levitated it toward her face, and read as fast as she could.
Suddenly, she dropped the note. She could feel her blood boil. In a rage, she stomped on the piece of several times and growled.
I will find you, Shining Armor, she thought, putting on her crown. You’ve got some explaining to do.
He had done too much running today. As much as he liked to brag about being a phenomenal runner, not a single one of his schemes had ever required this much trotting. He could barely keep up with Starlight, who was several feet ahead of him.
Eventually, he just fell on the ground. After a moment, Starlight quickly ran to him and looked down at his face.
“Just… leave me… to die,” Flam panted, his body completely numb. “I’m sure the birds… will love picking at my corpse… serves me right… for slaughtering them…”
Starlight began levitating him. “You didn't actually slaughter any birds, you know that, right?”
“Apparently… I kidnapped Apple Bloom… so who knows what I’ve done?”
The mare began trotting away from Sweet Apple Acres. “Just breathe, okay? We’re almost there.”
The exhausted stallion could barely keep his eyes open. Within seconds, he had passed out.
When Flam came to, the first thing he saw was Shining Armor’s face.
He could barely see it, since the room he was in was very dark, but he recognized Shining Armor’s eyes, alongside the dim magical aura around his horn.
“Shining Armor, are you about to kiss me again?” Flam asked through a yawn, invoking a jump from the prince. “Cause if you are, it’s okay, but I just wanna know.”
“What?! No!” Shining Armor shouted, backing away from the other stallion. “I didn't even mean to kiss you the first time!”
Flam raised an eyebrow at him. “How do you accidentally kiss somepony?”
“Okay, the kiss was intentional, but I-- I mean-- Look, I was just making sure you were awake.”
“If you say so,” Flam said, winking. He blew a kiss to Shining Armor, who ran to the opposite side of the room, straight into Rarity’s face.
“Goodness!” she cried out, falling to the ground. “That wasn’t very gentlemanly of you!”
“Thank goodness,” Starlight Glimmer said, emerging from the shadows.
“Excuse me,” Flam started, walking around the room, “but where are we exactly? How did we get here? And what are we even doing here?!” He turned to Rarity. “Although, it’s always a delight to see you.”
“Choose one pony to flirt with and stick with them,” Starlight sighed, her hoof on her forehead. “Or even better, don’t flirt with anypony at all!”
Shining Armor took a giant step over Rarity, who was still on the floor. “Rarity found us out, Flam,” he said, ears drooped. “She’s quite the detective.”
Rarity flipped her mane and posed from the ground. “Darlings, it’s easy. Just a little observation, a little luck, and a lot of fashion.” She levitated her hat onto her head.
“She got me to confess, but once she realized that we hadn’t kidnapped Apple Bloom on purpose and that we’re just trying to find the filly to solve things peacefully, she generously decided to help us.”
“Huh,” Flam said, nodding his head. “I guess there is something to this ‘Magic of Friendship’ thing after all. Although, I take it you didn't mention to her that you wanted to erase Apple Bloom’s memories.”
The mare looked at Shining Armor in shock, who nervously chuckled.
“That was the old plan,” Shining groaned through gritted teeth. “The current plan is talking to Apple Bloom and clearing things up before she exposes us.”
“We found you wildly running through Ponyville like a bunch of hooligans,” Rarity continued, finally getting up, “and quickly brought you inside before anypony saw you. We’re inside the Cutie Mark Crusaders’ clubhouse now, trying to come up with a plan.”
“Yes,” Starlight agreed. “We’re working as a team to fix your mess.”
“Alright!” Flam cheered, doing a little dance on his front hooves. “The Unicorn Squad has assembled!”
“We’re going to be a team for, like, twenty minutes,” Shining Armor replied. “We don’t need a team name.”
“Well, I want a team name, so we’re The Unicorn Squad now.”
Shining rolled his eyes. “Okay, fine.”
“Listen, we’re running out of time,” Starlight Glimmer said, trying to recapture everypony’s attention. “Apple Bloom is still on the loose, plus Big Mac knows you’re the culprits.”
“What did you tell Twilight?” Flam asked.
“Assuming they haven’t already,” Starlight continued, “we’ve only got a matter of minutes before Apple Bloom and Big Mac start telling ponies that you’re kidnappers. And once that happens, it’ll be hard to undo. So, we need to: one, silence Big Mac so he can’t spill the truth, and two, find Apple Bloom so we can talk to her and explain that this is all a big misunderstanding.”
“Hopefully, when she understands that this was all an accident, she won’t go to the authorities, and everything can go back to the way it was,” Shining said, a tone of hope in his voice. “My reputation as lovable leader as pristine as ever.”
“Right,” Starlight agreed. “Plus, no Equestrian panic over one of their rulers being a foal-napping creep.”
“Now, it would appear your theory about Apple Bloom running to either here or Sweet Apple Acres was incorrect,” Rarity said, “since she is neither here nor there.”
“Which means we’re back to square one with all of Ponyville,” Flam sighed.
“Not necessarily,” Rarity replied, twirling her hat on her hoof. “What you failed to consider is that Apple Bloom trusts the CMCs more than anypony else. She would undoubtedly go to them in a situation like this. But they’re not always here. Sometimes, they hang out at Scootaloo’s house.”
Flam marched to the door. “Great! Let's roll out, Unicorn Squad! To the house of a Scoot-achoo!”
“Scootaloo,” Starlight corrected. “You’re really bad with names.”
“What even is a Scoot-achoo?” Shining Armor asked, shaking his head.
“What’s a Scootaloo?!” Flam retorted.
The other unicorns looked at each other, deep in thought. They didn't have an answer.
“Listen, we’re using up precious time,” Rarity said, pushing Flam out the door. “She’s probably already told Scootaloo and Sweetie Belle. Let’s make sure that she can’t tell anypony else.”
“I’ll spell Big Mac so he can’t talk and meet you guys there,” Starlight Glimmer stated, walking back toward the farm. “He already doesn't talk much, so I’m sure nopony even notice.”
“Boys, you’re with me,” Rarity said to Shining and Flam, tossing her hat to the latter. “Try to keep up. Remember, the ‘Unicorn Squad’ is doing this for you!”
Rarity began a speedy, yet graceful trot toward Ponyville. Shining and Flam stayed behind for a moment and looked at each other.
“Glad to have you back,” Flam said, nudging the prince, who smiled. “How are you enjoying conning ponies for your own benefit?”
“I have a strong distaste for it,” Shining admitted. “It's causing a lot of anxiety within me. How do you do this daily?”
“I have a partner,” Flam replied, before running off to join Rarity.
Shining Armor took in his words for a couple of seconds, then followed.
Chapter Nine: Breaking and Entering and More Breaking
Rarity, understanding the urgency of the situation, tried to briskly stride through the streets and get to their destination as soon as possible.
Shining Armor, understanding the urgency of the situation, followed Rarity to the best of his ability, although the mare was significantly faster than him, which made him feel a little self-conscious.
Flam, paranoid as ever, hid in a bush.
“Darling,” Rarity said, pulling Flam by the tail out of his hiding space, “while I admire your attempt at staying incognito, we simply do not have the time for it.”
“Yeah,” Shining agreed, jogging in place. “Nopony knows what we’ve done yet! We don’t have to hide!”
“But what if they DO?!” Flam grunted, his teeth clinging onto the bush. “What if they’re calling Princess Celestia right now to take us away?!”
“Honestly,” Rarity replied, pulling harder on his tail, “this is attracting more attention to us than normally walking ever could.”
Flam thought about that for a moment, then finally conceded. “You’re right. Onwards, Unicorn Squad!” he exclaimed, pointing a hoof in the air and running ahead.
Rarity rolled her eyes. “That is the wrong direction.”
“I’ll go get him,” Shining sighed.
Eventually, the Unicorn Squad made it to Scootaloo’s house. The two minute walk had almost taken ten, but the important part was that they had arrived.
“Okay, so there’s a good chance Apple Bloom is in there,” Rarity said, peeking through a window. “And if she’s told the other Crusaders what happened, I doubt they’re going to want to see you.”
“Right,” Shining agreed. “We’ll fall back and let you do the talking for now. Ease them into the idea of talking to us.” He took a step back, then pulled Flam’s tail back with him.
Rarity knocked on the door. She waited a couple of seconds, but there was no response. She knocked again, and was met with the same silence.
“That’s strange,” Rarity muttered to herself. “I was certain they’d be here.” She looked through the window again, hoping her observation skills would provide a clue.
Meanwhile, Shining Armor looked around, making sure nopony was watching them. He looked up at the second floor of Scootaloo’s house, and noticed a pair of eyes through the window, peeking out from behind a curtain.
“Oh no,” he sighed, nudging the other stallion. He pointed at the window. “Look. They know we’re here.”
“Um, isn’t that the point?” Flam asked, searching the ground for something. “We’re here to talk to them.”
“Yes, except they don’t know that! All they know is that Apple Bloom’s kidnappers are back, probably here to take her away again!”
“Well, that’s not why we’re here, so I’m sure we’ll be okay,” Flam replied, picking up a stone from the ground. He looked at the window. “Scoot-aboo! Open up! We just want to talk!”
“What are you doing?!” Rarity hissed, dashing over to the stallions.
“Scoot-aboo! Hey!” Flam continued calling, eliciting no response from the fillies. “You up there! Can you hear me? Open the window!” Still garnering no response, Flam turned to Shining Armor. “I don’t think they can hear us.”
Flam closed one eye, balanced the stone on his hoof, and leaned back. In one swift motion, he tossed the stone straight at the window.
It went straight through and shattered the glass.
The Cutie Mark Crusaders screamed, as sharp shards of glass rained down on the Unicorn Squad. Rarity quickly used her magic to make a big umbrella, shielding her and the stallions from the glass daggers, then shot her own daggers at Flam.
“WHAT WAS THAT?!” she shouted, pulling Flam by the shirt.
“It was only supposed to hit the window, not break it!” Flam explained, through a mix of panic and shock. “That’s what happens in movies, right?!”
Scootaloo suddenly appeared in the remains of the window. “We’re never letting you in!” she shouted down to the Unicorn Squad. “You’re never going to take her away again! We’re going to protect Apple Bloom with our lives!”
“Wait, could we die from this?!” the voice of Sweetie Belle screeched.
“We better not!” Scootaloo replied. She turned back to the ponies on the ground. “If we die, my parents are going to beat you up, I promise!”
“Scootaloo!” Rarity called. “I demand to speak to my sister!”
“No!” the filly yelled down. “You’re working with Apple Bloom’s kidnappers!”
“Hey, hey, not so loud,” Shining Armor said, lowering his voice in hopes that it would lower the entire conversation. “We just want to talk.”
“Oh yeah, we’ve heard that one before,” Scootaloo replied. “Nice try. Why do even want to take her away?!”
“We don’t know!” Flam admitted.
“Once I figure out which spell it is,” Sweetie Belle piped up, although the group could not see her, “we’re sending a letter to Princess Celestia, telling her what you’ve done!”
“Sweetie Belle!” Scootaloo whispered through clenched teeth. “You’ve said too much!”
“It’s over!” Scootaloo shouted back at the Unicorn Squad. “You’re never getting to Apple Bloom, and you’re definitely not getting away with this! Game, set, and match!”
She tried to close the window for dramatic effect, but then remembered it was broken and just walked away.
Flam started hyperventilating. “Princess Celestia?!” he panted. “Oh no, we ARE going to Tartarus!”
“My reputation? Done for!” Shining panicked, pacing in a circle. “My position? Done for! My marriage? Done for!”
“That’s not the worst thing,” Flam said through his heavy breathing.
“Stop it,” Rarity said, interrupting Shining Armor’s circle. “This is not the end. Sweetie Belle’s magic is excellent, if I do say so myself, but she’s not quite at the level where she can send a letter just yet.”
“So we have time!” Shining Armor said, his eyes wider than usual. “All we have to do is to do is stop your sister!” He began chuckling to himself, without any signs of stopping.
“Uh, Shining Armor, are you okay?”
“Never better,” the prince laughed. “I know what to do.” He walked up to the door, then his back to it. “We’ve already kidnapped a filly. What’s a little breaking and entering?”
“At this point, it’s pretty much just entering,” Flam said.
Shining Armor nodded, and in his sudden delirious state, leapt onto his front hooves and bucked down the door. It fell over with a loud “thud,” revealing Scootaloo’s well-maintained house.
“Easy-peasy,” Shining giggled, his eye twitching. He walked into the house, and Flam followed. Rarity, after using her magic to put the door back in place, looked at the prince.
“Um, Shining Armor,” she said with some trepidation. “Not to alarm you, but you appear to be… Twilight-ing.”
He turned and looked at her. “Twilight-ing?” he asked, clearly confused.
“You know. When she starts freaking out just a tidbit… hyperventilating, over-planning, eye twitching, mane-frizzing…”
“Oh no,” Shining sighed, sitting down with his face in his hooves. “I’m sorry. There’s just so much happening. I’ll admit it, I’m struggling! Yesterday, I was a happy father, co-ruling the Crystal Empire with my beautiful wife. Today, I’m kidnapping fillies, accidentally kissing grown stallions, lying to the ponies I care about, and running around Ponyville like Flurry Heart before bath time!”
“It’s okay, honey,” Flam said, putting his hoof on Shining’s back. “We’re going to figure this out.”
“Please don’t call me honey,” Shining Armor replied. “But, thank you. I feel better now. I think I just needed to vent.”
Shining Armor shared a smile with Flam, which quickly turned into a frown when the latter blew him a quick kiss.
“Well, while I don’t agree with breaking in,” Rarity admitted, “we’re already in, so I suppose we have to keep going now.”
“Right,” Shining agreed. “The Cutie Mark Crusaders are upstairs! Let’s go!”
Shining Armor ran towards the steps, and began taking them two at a time. On the fourth step, however, he felt something under his hoof.
He slid on the marble, and, unable to regain his balance, fell back down to the bottom of the stairs.
Suddenly, Scootaloo emerged at the top of them.
“That’s right,” she said, looking very proud of herself. “We booby-trapped the house! You’re never getting Apple Bloom! I told you, game, set, and match!” She ran away, giggling.
Shining Armor looked up at her from the ground. “My child better not be like this.”
“Well, the joke’s on them!” Flam laughed, using his magic to levitate all the marbles off the stairs. He proudly began walking up the steps. “Game, set, and match, huh? More like game, set, and Fla--”
Suddenly, he walked straight into a wall of plastic wrap. In shock, he lost his balance and fell back down the stairs, landing right on top of Shining Armor.
“Get your flank out of my face!” the prince shouted, pushing the other stallion off of him. He got up slowly. “Clearly, this is going to be harder than we thought. Get up, Flam, let’s keep trying!”
“If you two want to keep falling for the most juvenile pranks,” Rarity sighed, shaking her head. “Go right ahead. I’m going to find another way up.” She walked away, into what looked like the kitchen.
Shining Armor and Flam just looked at each other and shrugged.
“Let’s go!” Flam exclaimed.
Slowly, they took out the Crusaders’ traps, one by one. Shining Armor made it halfway up the stairs, but was met with a pie to the face, sending him back down. Flam made it to the top, but was shot with a confetti cannon and tripped down to the bottom. They tried going up together, but Flam slipped on a banana peel, taking Shining down with him.
They even tried taking a break, but ended up sitting on thumbtacks.
“Oww!” Shining Armor said, jumping a foot into the air. “How did they even know we’d sit there?!”
“They know everything,” Flam replied, his eyes wide with horror. “We’re about to lose to a bunch of children!”
“No, we’re not!” Shining growled, running back up the stairs. He made it to the very last step, but then tripped on his own hooves and tumbled back down. “Okay. Yes, we are.”
Rarity walked back into the room, and raised an eyebrow. Shining Armor was lying on the floor, whipped cream in his mane, and Flam was rubbing his flank, sporting a disheveled mane full of confetti and a banana stuck to his hoof.
“Honestly,” she sighed. “I leave you alone for one minute.”
“We need help, Rarity,” Shining Armor moaned from the ground. “Your sister and her friends are creaming us!”
“Oh, I get it,” Flam said, perking up. “Cause you have whipped cream all over you?”
Shining groaned and rolled over. Rarity picked him up with her magic and brought him over to window. “See that building next door?” she asked, pointing to the neighbor’s house. “It has a fire escape. All we have to do is climb on top of it, and we’ll be able to jump through the window onto the second floor of this house. And by we, I mean you, because I am not jumping through a window.”
Shining Armor held his head back and sighed. “Nothing’s ever easy, is it?”
“Not in the slightest.”
When Princess Cadance made it to Canterlot, dozens of ponies were asking for her autograph and for a picture, but just walked right past them. She didn't hear or even see them. Her mind was focused on one thing, and one thing alone.
Shining Armor looked at the fire escape. The top was very high up off the ground, which was great for getting jumping into the second-floor window of Scootaloo’s house.
It was just horrible if he missed.
“Are you sure you can’t just levitate me to the window?” Shining Armor asked, feeling the lump in his throat get bigger.
“I can't hold you up for that long,” Rarity said, nudging the prince toward the ladder. “I lift fabric for a living, remember? I’ve never lifted anything heavier than a sewing machine.”
Shining whimpered. “But what if I miss the window? What if I fall and die?!” His breathing sped up, until Flam rubbed his back.
“You’ve got this,” he said, winking at the prince. “I mean, after all we’ve been through, a death by falling would be… pretty pathetic.”
“It’s two stories,” Rarity pointed out. “You’ll be fine. Besides, Flam will be right here to catch you, if the worst should happen.”
“I will?!” the con-pony gasped, caught by surprise.
“My Sweetie Belle is very determined,” Rarity continued, physically pushing Shining Armor forward. “It won’t be long before she actually figures out how to send that letter. If you want to save your flanks, you’ve got to hurry!”
Shining Armor glanced at Flam, his eyebrows low and his teeth biting his bottom lip. Flam shot back a similar look, and the prince sighed. With his ears drooped, and every muscle in his body shaking, he began to climb the ladder.
Once he reached the top, he looked across the way. Sure enough, the window was straight ahead of him, roughly five feet away.
All four of his legs were trembling. He looked down, and saw Flam and Rarity waving to him. Even though they were only a floor below him, in Shining’s eyes, they seemed like they were a hundred feet below.
“Come on!” Rarity called up. “Before the Crusaders found out what we’re doing!”
Shining Armor took a deep breath. He looked directly at the window, and shook his body out. After three more seconds of hesitation, his front left hoof left the surface.
Then the front right hoof. The back left hoof. The back right hoof.
And then, he was fully in the air. Nothing touched his body except the wind and the heat.
And then the glass.
He slammed into the window, shattering it. As he flew into the house, shards of glass surrounded in him, seemingly in slow motion. He landed on the floor with a thud, then looked up.
He was in.
From the outside, he could hear Flam and Rarity cheering. Slightly injured from the jump, Shining slowly got up, his body aching, but his mind more invigorated than ever. His mane was a mess of glass and whipped cream, but he didn't care. The Crusaders were close, and he was going to talk to them.
He walked through the halls, looking into every room to see if the fillies were there. After the third try, he opened a door, and there they were. Completely unsuspecting.
Scootaloo, to the left, looking through a toy box for more potential booby traps.
Apple Bloom, to the right, drinking a glass of water.
And Sweetie Belle, in the center, her magical aura surrounding one piece of paper.
Until the paper was gone.
“I DID IT!” Sweetie Belle shrieked, clapping her hooves together. “I sent the letter!”
The other two Crusaders ran over to congratulate her, only to see a very disheveled looking Shining Armor, frozen before them with his mouth gaping open.
All three girls screamed and ran behind Scootaloo’s bed.
“Stay back!” Sweetie Belle shouted. “Leave Apple Bloom alone!”
Scootaloo grabbed a rubber sword from the toy box. “I have a weapon, and I’m not afraid to use it!”
“Girls!” Rarity shouted, appearing behind Shining Armor with Flam. With the Crusaders distracted by Shining Armor, they had finally been able to make it up the stairs. “Get out from behind that bed this instant.”
The fillies looked at each other with hesitation. Scootaloo kept her sword close.
“You’re with the kidnappers,” she said, sheltering the other two behind her. “How can we trust you?”
“Well, you can not trust me all you want,” Rarity replied. She turned to her sibling and pouted. “But, my dear Sweetie Belle? We’re sisters!” As if it were her second nature, she started crying on command.
“I gotta learn how to do that,” Flam murmured to himself.
“Rarity!” Sweetie Belle whined. “Don’t make me choose between my best friends and you!”
The mare kept crying, to the point where Shining Armor and Flam started feeling uncomfortable. For a while, the Crusaders stayed put, watching her sob.
After the longest two minutes, however, Sweetie Belle couldn’t take it anymore. She ran over and gave Rarity a huge hug.
“Awww,” Rarity replied. Her tears had vanished, as if she had never cried in the first place. “I love you, Sweetie Belle.”
“I love you too, Rarity.”
Shining Armor could feel his heart warmed, until Scootaloo’s cold glare stabbed him in the chest. He tapped Rarity on the back. “This is a touching moment, but…”
“Oh, right,” Rarity said, letting her sister go. “Fillies, gentlecolts, join me. There is no need for hostility, as my sister and I just demonstrated. Let’s all have a normal conversation like civilized ponies.”
Begrudgingly, Scootaloo met Shining Armor and Flam in the center of the room. Apple Bloom stayed to the side for a second, then stood behind Scootaloo.
“Perfect,” Rarity said. “Let’s all take a seat and chat. Who wants tea?”
“Wait, so you don’t remember kidnapping Apple Bloom?” Sweetie Belle asked, sipping her overly sugary tea.
“We don’t remember anything that happened last night,” Flam admitted. “Besides Shining Armor kissing me.”
Shining Armor’s face turned red and he covered Flam’s mouth. “That happened this morning.”
“Doesn't make it any better,” Scootaloo scoffed. “What’s Cadance going to think?”
“Cadance isn’t going to find out,” Shining Armor growled. “But that’s not even what’s important. What is important is the fact that we woke up this morning, and Apple Bloom was in our closet. We had no idea what was happening. Our plan from the start was to just talk to you and sort this out without any trouble or ”
“Actually,” Flam corrected, taking a big gulp of tea that burned his tongue, “our initial plan was to erase your memory.”
Scootaloo spat out her drink. “Excuse me?!”
“You’re excused,” Flam replied.
“It was a very short-lived plan that was not my idea,” Shining Armor lied. “Look, Apple Bloom, we’re so sorry to have put you through this traumatic experience. We didn't mean you any harm. We can’t remember a thing, and we’re really just looking to set things right.”
“And also save our respective careers,” Flam added. “You know the truth now, so could you maybe not tell anypony what happened?”
Apple Bloom remained silent, and just stared at the stallions. There was a twinkle in both of their eyes, and their smiles seemed genuine. She sighed.
“Okay,” she finally said. “I’ll stay quiet.”
“YES!” Shining Armor and Flam simultaneously exclaimed, jumping up into the air. They started cheering and dancing, obviously knocking over everypony’s tea. After a moment, they smiled and stared into each other’s eyes. Flam went in for a kiss, but Shining Armor anticipated that and turned it into a hug.
“But,” Apple Bloom continued, breaking up the hug, “only on one condition.”
“Anything! We’ll get you ANYTHING!” Flam said, clinging onto the other stallion.
“I need to know why you kidnapped me in the first place.”
Shining Armor and Flam nervously looked at each other, then nodded.
“Um, sorry to break up this tender moment,” Sweetie Belle interjected, a tremble in her voice, “but did everypony forget that I just sent a letter to Princess Celestia explaining what happened?”
Just as they had simultaneously risen, Shining Armor and Flam simultaneously fell to the floor.
“Tartarus,” Flam moaned, curling himself into a ball. “We’re going to Tartarus.”
“You know, I’m sure she gets a lot of fan mail,” Scootaloo tried to reason. “Maybe she won’t read it.”
All of a sudden, a scroll poofed into existence above Shining’s head, landing in his whipped cream hair.
“Or maybe she will,” Scootaloo nervously chuckled.
Rarity levitated the scroll towards herself and read it aloud.
I am appalled to hear that one of our own members of the Equestrian royalty would commit such a heinous act. I am sending several of the Royal Guard to Ponyville at once to protect you and arrest the perpetrators. Please, stay inside the house, and do not answer the door unless you hear five quick knocks in a row. I will personally see that Shining Armor and Flam are brought to justice, and that you and the other Apples are given counseling or anything you need to make up for this horrific event.
Please alert me with any more details, should they arise.
“THE ROYAL GUARD?!” Shining Armor gasped. “She’s sending the Royal Guard?!”
“Forget Tartarus!” Flam cried, rocking back and forth. “We’re going to die!”
“No, no, no, stop that ridiculous talk!” Rarity said, stomping her hoof down. “Sweetie Belle, quickly write Princess Celestia another letter explaining that this was all a misunderstanding, and that they royal guards can return to Canterlot.”
Sweetie Belle nodded, then ran to get a quill. As she looked for one, she peeked outside the window.
“So, minor issue,” Sweetie Belle said, returning to the group. “The guards are right outside the building.”
Everypony collectively screamed. “WHAT?!”
Downstairs, there was a pounding on the door. Five quick knocks in a row.
They had arrived.
Chapter Eleven: Shining Armor and Flam Try Not to Die
Sweetie Belle peeked through the broken window again. There were five guards standing by the front door. When their first knock was met with no response, they knocked again.
“This is the Canterlot Royal Guard,” a deep, gruff voice shouted. “Open up!”
Flam was clinging onto Shining Armor’s back, trembling. “What do we do?!” he asked, starting to hyperventilate again. “WHAT DO WE DO?!”
“Maybe if we don’t answer the door,” Scootaloo suggested, “they’ll just go away.”
They knocked one more time.
“There’s several broken windows,” Rarity pointed out. “Even if we don’t let them in, they have probable cause. They’ll just come inside!”
“We can’t let that happen!” Flam panted. “If we get found out, they’re going to arrest us, or send us to Tartarus, or even execute us!”
“Equestria executes ponies?!” Apple Bloom gasped.
“What do you think happened to King Sombra?!” Flam said. “It’s not the ‘Magic of Friendship,’ it’s the ‘Magic of Murder’!”
Scootaloo, Sweetie Belle, and Apple Bloom looked at each other in horror and shock. Rarity levitated the rubber sword and bonked Flam in the head with it.
“Stop scaring the children!” Rarity hissed, shaking her head. “My friends and I are not murderers!”
“Really?” Flam challenged. “That what actually happened to Sombra, huh?!”
Rarity opened her mouth, thought, and then closed it.
The Royal Guards knocked one last time. “If nopony answers this door, we’re coming in!” one of them shouted.
“Everypony, focus!” Shining said. “We have to get out of here, or our lives are over! Scootaloo, this is your house! Is there any way to escape?”
“We have a back door,” Scootaloo replied. “But it’s on the first floor. If the guards come inside, you won’t be able to get to it!”
“Not if somepony answers the door and distracts them!” Apple Bloom exclaimed, clicking her front hooves together. “Shining Armor, while we’re talkin’ to the guards, you’ll only have a couple of seconds to escape! Don’t waste them!”
Shining Armor beamed. “Thank you so much, Apple Bloom.”
“Don’t mention it.” The filly grabbed the other Crusaders by their hooves, and led them down the stairs. “Let’s go!”
Shining, Flam, and Rarity watched as the girls vanished from their view, and waited for their cue.
“Wait, you’re sticking with us?” Flam whispered to Rarity, confused. “Why?”
“Obviously,” Rarity scoffed, “somepony has to keep you from sitting on thumbtacks and slipping on banana peels.” She grinned at him.
“That is so hot,” Flam murmured to himself.
The Unicorn Squad intently listened downstairs, waiting for the door to open and the Crusaders to speak. After about thirty seconds of silence, they heard the creaking sound of a door hinge.
The three ran down the stairs as quickly and quietly as they could. However, in his rush, Shining Armor didn't look where he was stepping and accidentally slipped on a spare marble, sending him tumbling down the steps, right onto the thumbtacks.
It took the strength of every muscle in his body to not scream.
“I heard a noise,” a Royal Guard said in the distance.
“Oh, yeah,” Scootaloo improvised. “My pet chinchilla is very clumsy.”
Rarity and Flam silently helped the prince onto his feet. One of the thumbtacks had lodged itself on Shining’s flank, but there was no time to remove it. The prince cringed from the pain, but kept going, successfully following his team out through the backdoor.
“We made it!” Flam exclaimed, feeling the sunlight on his face. He let out a deep sigh. “That was absolutely insane! How did we do that?!”
“It’s not over yet,” Rarity said, walking ahead. “We need to get you hidden someplace safe. Come on!”
The mare began running, and Flam followed to the best of his ability. Shining Armor, however, limped slowly behind them, his pain incapacitating him.
“A little help!” he called out to the ponies ahead of him. They quickly dashed back to him, and Rarity removed the final thumbtack with her magic. Shining Armor fell to the ground, moaning.
“Are you okay, babe?!” Flam asked, hovering over the fallen stallion.
“Don’t call me babe,” Shining groaned. “Ugh… I’m starting to think jumping through a window wasn’t such a great idea. And falling down the stairs certainly didn't help.”
“Yeah, probably not,” Flam sighed. “Looks like you’re out of commission for now.” He looked up at the sky. “Gee, if only we had Discord. I’m sure he could help us out right about now.” He continued looking up, as if waiting for something to happen. “Discord, that’s your cue. Discord? DISCORD!”
“Flam, dear, please stop shouting at the sky,” Rarity said, once again shaking her head. “Did you actually expect Discord to appear just because you shouted his name?”
“Well, I had hoped. Isn’t that what he does for you? Shows up out of nowhere and then solves all your problems?”
Rarity rolled her eyes. “More like causes them,” she muttered to herself. “Listen, Flam, if Fluttershy’s not involved, Discord isn’t either.”
“So you’re saying that we have to kidnap Fluttershy now?”
“Please help me,” Shining Armor moaned from the ground. “I can’t feel my… Actually, I just can’t feel.”
Rarity and Flam helped the prince onto his hooves, and the trio began walking away from Scootaloo’s house. With Shining Armor leaning on the other stallion for support, they couldn’t go very fast, but at least they had lost the Royal Guards for the time being.
They had made about six houses down, when a male stallion in a hat appeared from an alley perpendicular to them. He stared for a moment, then pointed at them with his teeth bared.
“...Us,” Flam replied, waving to them. “Do we know this pony?”
“That’s Braeburn,” Rarity said, taking a step back. “Applejack’s cousin. Is it just me, or does he look upset?”
Braeburn’s nostrils were flaring, and his eyes appeared to turn red. Without warning, he charged at them.
“Uh, yeah, he’s upset!” Shining shouted. “RUN!”
The Unicorn Squad turned around and ran to the best of their ability, though it was difficult with the injured prince. Even at their fastest, Braeburn was still gaining on them.
Flam looked over his shoulder. Two more Apple Family members, Red Delicious and Apple Cinnamon Crisp, had joined Braeburn in the chase.
Rarity screeched to a halt. Apple Fritter and Baked Apples had appeared in the road ahead of them, gunning for the unicorns. To the left was Apple Honey, and to the right was the pony Applejack referred to as “Just Apple.”
“WHAT IS GOING ON?!” Flam cried out, looking around. More Apples were popping up from every direction. “We’re surrounded!”
Braeburn, who was the closest to the group, was dashing with all his strength. He was less than an inch away from Flam, when suddenly…
Flam looked up. He saw the blue sky painted with fluffy clouds, but no Apple Family members. Below him was the ground, but it looked like it was several feet away. All of a sudden, it hit him. He was on top of a building.
“How did we--”
To the right of him was Shining Armor and Rarity. To the left of him was none other than Starlight Glimmer.
“BROTHER!” he exclaimed, giving the purple unicorn a hug. “Oh, I’ve missed you!”
“I missed you, too,” Starlight replied, warming returning the embrace. She then took a good look at the others. “What happened?! You’re covered in glass, confetti, and… is that whipped cream?”
“Long story,” Shining admitted. “Thanks for the teleport-save back there.”
“Of course. Did you find the Cutie Mark Crusaders?”
“We did!” Rarity confirmed. “They were happily willing to forgive Shining and Flam for their forgotten crime…”
“I’m sensing a but,” Starlight worried.
“...but the Princess Celestia was called and, long story short, the Royal Guard wants their heads.”
“Judging by what just happened, I’m assuming it didn't go much better with the Apples.”
Starlight shook her head. “I got there too late. The barn was filled with more Apples than I could count, and Big Mac was telling all of them about who kidnapped Apple Bloom. There were too many of them to spell, and, long story short, the Apple Family wants their heads.”
Shining Armor groaned. “First the Royal Guard, and then the Apples. What’s next?”
“There he is!”
He jumped. The voice belonged to Rainbow Dash, who, along with a squadron of Wonderbolts, was in the sky, flying towards the Unicorn Squad.
“THE WONDERBOLTS?!” Flam shouted. “What do they have against us?!”
Spitfire dove at Shining Armor, nearly knocking him off the roof. He barely jumped out of the way, and immediately collapsed from the pain from before.
“That was for Twilight!” Spitfire yelled.
Starlight and Rarity gasped. “Shining,” the former asked. “What did you do to Twilight?”
Shining nervously chuckled. “Well, I was too scared to tell her the truth about what happened, so I, um, well…”
“Spit it out!”
“I trapped her in a magic bubble, okay?!”
Starlight facehoofed, Rarity nearly fainted, and Flam just sat there in shock.
“Rainbow Dash found her, so I trapped her too, but I guess they escaped. Long story short, Twilight and the Wonderbolts want our heads.”
“Well, hey, if all these ponies want our heads,” Flam said, “we must have very good heads.”
“Or very stupid ones,” Starlight snapped. She looked up, and the Wonderbolts were charging at them from above. “We have to move! Come on!”
Starlight levitated Shining Armor, and, with the help of a running start, leapt onto the closest building. Rarity and Flam did the same, and the four began jumping from rooftop to rooftop.
“What do we even do now?!” Flam asked, dodging a swipe from Soarin. “The Apples know the truth, the Royal Guard knows the truth, and the Wonderbolts are supremely annoyed at us! The secret’s out! We’re officially wanted criminals!”
“There’s two options!” Starlight suggested, clearing a six foot gap. “One, you turn yourselves in.”
“No!” Shining cried. “I’m the lovable leader! I can’t lose that!”
“News flash, you already did!” Rarity angrily said.
“Two,” Starlight continued, “we go to Princess Celestia, explain to her what happened, and hope she pardons you and sets the Royal Guard, Wonderbolts, Apple Family, and whoever else knows at this point, right.”
“That sounds like a very big chance to take,” Flam admitted. “I’m not sure if I’m willing to take it.” He looked below him, and saw a sea of Apple Family members. Above him was a wave of Wonderbolts, and what appeared to be Royal Guards joining the mix. “On second thought, I’ll gladly take it.”
“How do we even get to Canterlot?!” Shining asked. “Teleporting from here all the way over there requires an amount of magical power we don’t have!”
“We take the train, duh,” Flam replied.
Rarity’s entire face lit up. “Oh! And we’ll need disguises!”
“Good idea,” Starlight Glimmer agreed. “That’ll keep us from getting chased every three seconds!”
“More like every two seconds,” Flam corrected.
“Starlight, would you please teleport us to my boutique?” Rarity politely asked.
“With pleasure,” the unicorn replied.
The swarm of Royal Guards, Wonderbolts, and Apples watched as the Unicorn Squad vanished into thin air, gone without a trace.
“Search every house, every room if you have to!” a Royal Guard ordered to his squadron. “Find Shining Armor and Flam! NOW!”
From inside Sugarcube Corner, Gallus heard the shouting and looked out the window. He saw waves of ponies rushing around, peeking in every window. Through the mess of noise and hoof stomping, he heard two names: “Shining Armor” and “Flam.”
“Something tells me that wasn’t a social experiment,” he said, backing away from the window.
Suddenly, the Cutie Mark Crusaders burst in through the door.
“Can somepony help us?!” Scootaloo asked, panicked.
Gallus immediately rushed over to them. “What’s wrong?!”
“We need to get to Canterlot,” Sweetie Belle explained. “But we don’t have train fare!”
Gallus nodded his head. “I’ll take you. Come on.”
The griffon and Crusaders left the Sweet Shoppe and started heading for the train station, working their way through the crowd of ponies.
“I hope this works,” Sweetie Belle whispered.
Chapter Twelve: The Farmer, The Cheerleader, The Gentlecolt, and The Hayburger
The Unicorn Squad was each in their own separate dressing room at Carousel Boutique, changing into their respective disguises. Even though they were low on time, Rarity had still made an effort to pick out specific clothes that not only hid each pony’s identity, but also made them look good.
“We don’t have time for a fashion show, Rarity!” Shining Armor called from his room. “Our lives are hanging in the balance, remember?”
“Oh, right. There’s that.”
“Awww, I’d love to do a fashion show, ” Flam chirped from behind a locked door. “I wanna see you strut down a runway, Shiny!”
Shining audibly gagged. “Why are we even in dressing rooms? We don’t normally wear clothes!”
“I do!” Flam responded.
“It’s common courtesy,” Rarity answered, rolling her eyes. “You could learn a thing or two about that.”
Shining heavily sighed.
“Is everypony ready?” Starlight asked. Rarity and Flam gave sounds of affirmation, while Shining Armor stayed silent. “Okay, let’s come out on three. One… two… three!”
The doors opened, and each member of the Unicorn Squad stepped forward.
Rarity had straightened her mane, removed her makeup, and put on a straw hat and overalls, giving her the appearance of a farmer, which would easily blend in with the Apple Family.
Starlight’s mane was put into pigtails, and she wore an orange and white tank top and skirt. Accompanying the look was two orange and white pom-poms, making her look like a cheerleader.
Flam had slicked back his mane and dyed it and his tail a deep, navy blue and straightened out his mustache so it now covered his mouth. He wore a smart, slick black business suit, with an accompanying blue tie to match his hair.
Shining Armor was wearing a hayburger suit, with his hooves being his only visible features.
Flam and Starlight burst out laughing.
“Why am I a hayburger?!” Shining shouted, his face turning red, although none of the other ponies could see it. “Why do you even have this?!”
“The Ponyville Schoolhouse was putting on some play about the dangers of fast food,” Rarity said, looking off into the distance. “Sweetie Belle played a hayburger. Aww, I was so proud of her that night. She had one line, and she delivered it perfectly.”
“What was it?” Flam asked.
“‘Don’t eat me if you want to live!’”
“Dramatic. I like it.”
“Rarity!” Shining Armor whined. “I’m already struggling to walk normally. Why are you making it so I can’t see?!”
The mare scoffed. “You’re probably the most recognizable of us. If nopony can see any of your defining features, they won’t be able to tell it’s you.”
“But a giant hayburger walking through Ponyville is definitely going to attract attention!”
“Just pretend you’re advertising something,” Flam suggested. “Flim had me dress up as a giant sock once. It’s not that hard.”
“A giant sock?” Starlight asked. “What were you advertising?”
Flam cringed. “You really don’t wanna know.”
“Just be a hayburger, please,” Rarity said, patting the top bun of Shining’s costume. “It’s either that, or the giant eggplant I had to make for Scootaloo.”
“I’ll take the hayburger,” Shining Armor sighed.
“Great. Now that that’s settled,” Starlight began, bringing the Unicorn Squad into a huddle, “let’s talk strategy. We’ll leave the Boutique one at a time, and each take separate roads. I say we meet up at the train station in fifteen minutes, which is right before the next train to Canterlot.”
“Perfect!” Shining said, nearly tipping over. “Let’s not waste any time. It’s a miracle nopony has barged in here looking for us yet, and I’d rather not test our luck. I’ll go first and--”
“Wait,” Flam interrupted, stepping in front of the hayburger, which bumped into him. “Seeing you dressed as a burger made me realize I haven’t eaten since yesterday. Can I go first and get a bite to eat?”
“With what money?”
“Oh, right.” A pause. “Hey, can I borrow some bits?”
Rarity sighed, then opened a nearby drawer and levitated five bits over to Flam. “Take longer than five minutes, and we’re leaving you to the Apples.”
“Understood!” Flam replied, jauntily exiting the boutique. “I’ll see you all soon!”
As he walked away, he directly passed by Royal Guard. The pegasus took a quick glance at him, then flew off, completely unaware that he was looking at his target.
“Huh. Maybe this plan will work after all,” Shining said.
"What, did you doubt my fashion capabilities?" Rarity asked, staring the prince down. He nervously smiled.
“No, I just-- I, um-- Alright, see you ponies later!”
He anxiously dashed out of the Boutique, but tripped on his own hooves ten feet away from the entrance.
"We're going to be lucky if they make it out of this alive," Rarity sighed, shaking her head.
Flam entered Sugarcube Corner with a spring in his step and a smile on his face. Perhaps it was the fancy expensive suit, or the fact that the plan was successful and nopony recognized him, but something had given him a bit more swagger than usual.
“Why, hello there!” Mrs. Cake said, waving at him from the register. “Welcome to Sugarcube Corner. What can I getcha?”
Flam walked over and leaned one leg on the counter. “I’ll take a chocolate croissant,” he replied with a wink.
“Um, we don’t serve those here.”
The stallion laughed. “Oh, you will once you see this!” As dramatically as possible, he raised his hoof through the air, tossing several bits onto the counter. All of them rolled onto the floor.
“It--It’s five bits,” Mrs. Cake stated, blinking at the change on the floor. “Apologies, but am I missing something here?”
“I’m missing something,” Flam responded, giving the shop owner a big grin. “A chocolate croissant.”
Mrs. Cake sighed. “I’ll see what I can do for you.” She left into her kitchen.
As Flam leaned on the counter, completely oblivious to how unreasonable his request was, a pony in the corner of the shop began looking at him. At first, it was just quick glances, but then the pony began taking longer, harder looks.
“FLAM?” he eventually said, causing the stallion to slip right off the counter and onto the floor.
From the ground, he looked up and saw none other than his brother, Flim.
“Flim?!” he gasped, barely able to catch his breath. “What are you doing here?! How did you recognize me?!”
“I’m looking for you,” Flim said. “And I barely recognized you. What in Celestia’s name are you wearing?”
“You like it?” Flam asked, flaunting his suit with a spin. “Rarity picked it out, just for me.”
“I hate it. And why are you hanging out with Rarity? She helped expose our Friendship University scam!”
“Never mind,” Flim cut him off. “Take that off and come with me. I’ve been trying to find you all morning. I have a business proposition that I want to discuss with you.” He started walking out of the shop, but Flam did not follow.
“I thought you said I was the reason all of our schemes failed,” Flam pointed out, his ears slowly lowering. “And that you were better off without me.”
“I am,” Flim admitted. “But I wouldn’t forgive myself if I left you alone. I mean, you’d be totally lost without me. You need me. Otherwise, you’ve got nothing.”
Flam gasped, and backed away from his brother. At that moment, something snapped in him.
“Nothing?!” he shouted. “I’ve lived a whole life without you! I formed the Unicorn Squad! I found a temporary brother! I kissed a married stallion! I pulled off a con with nothing but a pink suitcase and a prince! And all of that was just this MORNING!”
Flim froze, completely speechless.
“I’ve got a lot without you,” Flam continued. “As much as I love you, I don’t need you, brother. In fact, I do pretty well on my own.” He started walking out, hitting Flim in the face with his tail. “Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’ve to go back to being a wanted criminal.”
Flam buoyantly walked out of Sugarcube Corner, letting out a huge deep breath. He started beaming, and didn't look back.
“Um, the best I could do was a cream puff,” Mrs. Cake said, walking back to the counter with a pastry. The stallion was gone, but his bits remained on the floor. “Hello? Mr. Fancy-business-pony? Hello…?”
Shining Armor was sweating buckets in the Hayburger costume.
Since he could barely see through the layers of fabric in front of him, so he could only hope he was headed in the direction of the train station.
As he continued walking, he felt himself knock something over.
“HEY!” a voice yelled from below him. He crouched down, and saw that he had brought a member of the Royal Guard to the ground. He gasped.
“I’m so sorry!” Shining said, trying to come up with an accent. He couldn’t.
“Your voice sounds familiar,” the guard grunted, lifting himself up. “Have we met?”
Shining was trembling. If he couldn’t come up with a believable excuse, he was doomed.
Just pretend you’re advertising something, Flam’s voice echoed in his brain. Shining Armor took a deep breath, then looked the Guard straight in what he thought was his eyes.
Turns out, he was looking at his flank.
“You might’ve seen me in your dreams,” Shining said, scaring the guard and making him turn around, “when you’re craving for a tasty, tasty hayburger! Head on over to… um… that hayburger joint you know and love! Come on, take a bite outta me!”
“No thanks,” the guard replied, backing away. “I saw that play about the dangers of fast food. I’ll stick with the eggplant.” He walked away, leaving Shining Armor alone. The prince sighed in relief.
Thank you, Flam, he thought to himself, heading on his way. I think I’ve gained just a little respect for what you do.
Just a little.
Starlight was the first to arrive at the train station.
She had had no trouble making it there, only being stopped once when a pony asked her for directions. She wandered around the train station for a bit, looking for the others, but instead found Gallus and the Cutie Mark Crusaders, sitting on a bench.
“Gallus? CMCs?!” she called, waving at the group. They waved back. “What are you doing here?!”
“We’re goin’ to Canterlot,” Apple Bloom stated, “to talk face to face with Princess Celestia!”
“There’s a matter that needs some serious clearing up,” Scootaloo piped in.
“Would this matter involve Shining Armor and Flam?” Starlight asked, sitting next to Gallus. The Crusaders nodded. “That’s very kind and selfless of you.”
“What are you doing here?” Sweetie Belle asked.
“Waiting for Shining Armor, Flam, and Rarity. We had the same idea.”
“Except you’re going to shake your pom-poms and do a little dance when you arrive,” Gallus chuckled. Starlight glared at him.
“It’s a disguise, Gallus,” she clarified. “Remember, your grade is in my hooves, so I’d recommend not mocking your future headmare.”
Gallus yawned. “Why are you even still helping Shining Armor and Flam? Apple Bloom told me they kidnapped her. That seems kinda like an action we don’t approve of as a society.”
“I guess… because I like them,” Starlight Glimmer admitted. “Sure, Shining Armor’s a bit of a prick, and Flam can be a little dimwitted, but I can’t help but root for them, you know?"
“Even though they’re very blatantly in the wrong?”
Starlight rolled her eyes. “Wait. Why are you here?”
“The Crusaders needed a lift,” Gallus replied with a shrug. “I obliged.”
“Well, hold onto your feathers, friend, cause this is probably going to get crazy.”
Gallus gulped. What did I just get myself into?
Princess Cadance barged into Princess Celestia and Princess Luna’s throne room, ignoring all the guards. Each of her hoofsteps was a loud, deliberate stomp, and she was fuming. The two rulers were shocked to see her, especially in such a rage.
“We need to talk about Shining Armor,” Cadance said, marching up to the princesses.
Celestia looked at Luna, then nodded. “Indeed, we do. Have a seat.”
Shining Armor was the last to arrive at the train station.
The combination of being injured and being trapped in a giant hayburger made the journey slow and painful, but he eventually made it, two minutes before the train was scheduled to arrive.
“You made it!” Flam exclaimed, noticing the prince walking toward them. He tried to give him a hug, but he couldn’t successfully wrap his hooves around the hayburger buns and instead went with a chest bump, which almost knocked Shining Armor over.
“We were getting worried that this was all for naught,” Starlight said, rushing over.
“We’ve gained a Gallus and some Crusaders in your absence,” Starlight continued, pointing to the group by the bench. “They had the same idea as us, so we figured we should all head to Canterlot together.”
“The more, the merrier,” Shining Armor replied.
The train arrived seven minutes late, much to every creature’s chagrin, but they were successfully able to get on without any hassle, outside of figuring out how to fit a giant hayburger through a small door. After forcefully shoving the costume inside, they group took seats in separate cars to remove suspicion from themselves, with Rarity, Shining, and the CMCs in one, and Flam, Gallus, and Starlight in the other.
“Why am I doing this?” Gallus asked himself, banging his head on the window. “This is wrong. This is very clearly wrong.”
“Curiosity killed the cat,” Starlight joked.
“Wait, are we killing a cat now, too?!” Flam exclaimed. “Haven’t we already done enough?!”
As they settled into their seats, Shining Armor, who had scored a window seat, noticed a pony out of the corner of his eye. He gasped, then rapidly tapped Rarity on the shoulder.
“Ow! Stop tapping me!” she hissed. “Honestly, you do need a class on common courtesy.” As she brushed herself off, the hayburger pointed a hoof at the pony.
It was Soarin.
“Oh, great,” Rarity sighed. “The Wonderbolts must’ve caught wind of our plan!”
“Well, we did say it on a rooftop while they were flying at us,” Shining realized. “They were definitely in earshot.”
“Maybe he won’t recognize us in these fabulous costumes.”
Soarin noticed the farmer and the hayburger pointing and glancing at him, and started walking over.
“OR maybe he will,” Shining panicked, trying to climb over Rarity out of his seat. “I’m going to warn the others!”
“Hey! Stop! Wait!” Rarity cried, being crushed under the stallion’s weight. Shining tried to squirm toward the train aisle, but got his back hooves tangled in the hayburger and fell over, knocking both him and Rarity onto the floor.
In the commotion, Shining Armor’s horn tore through the top of the burger, creating a giant rip in the fabric. As his body was lying on the floor, he noticed that he could see much better than before.
His head was sticking out of the costume. His eyes met Soarin’s, and both stallions gasped together.
“I would’ve let you out if you had just waited three seconds--” Rarity began, until she noticed the pegasus looking at the prince. “Hmm. This is quite the predicament.”
Gallus had fallen asleep, his cheek pressing against the window. Every time he breathed out, the glass fogged up, prompting Flam to reach over and draw a heart in the moisture.
“You know that heart’s going to fade in, like, ten seconds,” Starlight pointed out, chuckling.
“Then, I’ll just draw a new heart,” Flam replied, smiling. “By the way, I really like your pigtails, Starlight.”
“Thank you. And I’m digging your suit!”
The pair stayed silent for a second, but then it hit Starlight. “YOU REMEMBERED MY NAME!” she exclaimed, her sudden loudness startling Gallus. The griffon woke up with a yelp, his wings extending and hitting Flam in the nose.
“Owww!” the stallion said, rubbing his nostrils. “That hurt!”
“Sorry,” Gallus snarked, glaring at Starlight, “but some of us don’t appreciate being rudely awakened.”
“My bad,” Starlight admitted. “You can go back to sleep now.”
Suddenly, Shining Armor burst into their train car, rushing down the aisle past them. Soarin was right on his tail, speedily flying past.
“On second thought, you might want to stay awake,” Starlight sighed.
Gallus banged his head on the window again.
Shining Armor was running as fast as he could, dashing through train cars, the hayburger suit clinging to his torso. Soarin was flying close behind him, almost able to touch the prince’s tail.
“Stop right there!” the pegasus shouted. “Twilight Sparkle just wants to talk to you!”
“I really don’t want to talk to her!” Shining Armor yelled back, nearly tripping over himself. Adrenaline had given him the strength to run for now, but he knew it wasn’t going to be long before he curled up in pain again.
Shining opened a door, hoping to make it to the next train car, only to be greeted with a burst of sunlight and fleeting train tracks before him. He had reached the caboose.
Looking up, the prince saw Spitfire, Misty Fly, and Rainbow Dash flying closely behind the train. The Wonderbolts had the train surrounded.
Shining Armor quickly shut the door behind him, but Soarin to crashed straight through it, slamming directly into him. Both of the stallions went tumbling off the train, but Shining managed to grab onto the railing before falling off. He tried to pull himself back up, with no success.
“End of the line, fake Shining Armor!” Spitfire yelled, swooping in to grab him. Shining used his back legs to kick her away.
“Fake?!” Shining asked, nearly slipping. “I’m not a fake!”
“Then why’d you trap Twilight and I?!” Rainbow Dash shouted. “The real Shining Armor would never do that!”
“You can’t run from us, whatever evil creature you are!” Misty Fly added.
Flam, Starlight, and Rarity emerged from the caboose, and immediately caught onto what was happening. Starlight used her magic to lift the prince into the air, and was about to bring him back onto the train, when suddenly, a squadron of at least twenty Royal Guards started flying in from the distance.
“For Celestia’s sake!” Rarity cried out. “Give us a break!”
“Hey, that rhymed!” Flam chirped.
“Not the time!” Starlight shouted.
“Oooo, that did, too!”
“FLAM!” the mares shouted simultaneously.
Flam and Rarity leaned on the railing, and started firing blasts of magic out of their horns at the pegasi. All of them were expertly trained flyers, however, and easily dodged the shots.
“Starlight!” Rarity said, charging her horn. “We could really use a spell right about now!”
Starlight Glimmer nodded, then put Shining Armor down beside Flam. “I’ll meet you in Canterlot!” she called out, engulfing herself in her magical aura. She flew straight up into the sky, and, like a bowling ball trying to knock out pins, started hurtling herself at the Wonderbolts and guards. Not expecting such a move, many of them back out of the way, pushing them further into the distance.
Suddenly, without the slightest noise, two stray Royal Guards swooped in from the back of the caboose. Before they could even blink, Shining Armor and Flam found themselves hoofcuffed together.
“What the-- WHOA!”
Shining Armor and Flam had no time to react. One moment, they had been safely on the train, the next they were being lifted into the sky, looking down on the train as it grew smaller and smaller in the distance.
They could hear Rarity below them, screaming.
Shining looked up, and saw the two burly armored guards carrying them. He sighed. “Well, time to say hello to our new home in Tartarus.”
“Wait, our new home? We’re going to be living together?!” Flam asked, hopefully. Shining Armor growled at him. “Oh. Sorry! Focusing on certain doom right now. Got it.”
Shining groaned, the wind flowing through his mane as he was flown toward Canterlot.
The dungeon underneath the Canterlot Castle was illuminated by a sole torch.
Shining Armor looked around. Him and Flam were behind metal bars, with two guards alternately watching over them. Their cell was made of stone, with nothing but a barred window on the wall and a wooden table in the center.
He looked down, and saw the metal cuff around his hoof, linking him to the stallion next to him. Flam was trying to pace around the room, but since Shining Armor was sitting still and wouldn’t budge, he had settled for walking in place. The constant clip clop, clip clop of his hooves against the stone floor was starting to get on Shining Armor’s nerves.
“Flam, please, calm down,” Shining Armor grunted, yanking on the cuffs, “or your hoof steps are going to haunt me in my nightmares.”
“I’m sorry,” the stallion apologized. “As much as the idea of getting to live with you excites me, I can’t say I’m as pleased with the notion of being sent to Tartarus.”
“Why did the Crusaders have to write to Princess Celestia, of all ponies? What was wrong with the local law enforcement?” The prince sighed. “This is why I’m never having kids.”
“Uh, you already did,” Flam pointed out.
Shining laid his face down on the table, and moaned. Flam patted him on the back.
“Hey, you know,” Flam began, “even though our lives are about to end, at least they ended on what was kind of a fun day. I mean, look at us! You’re a beaten-up hayburger who somehow still has whipped cream in his mane, and I’m a sleek gentlecolt in an expensive suit with jet blue hair! We’ve never looked better!”
“Maybe you haven’t…” the prince grunted.
“Come on. I know everything’s about to go down in flames, but at least we’re together. Maybe there is something to this whole ‘Magic of Friendship’ thing.” He paused. “Actually, no, it’s still the ‘Magic of Murder’. I mean, look at what happened to King Sombra!”
Shining laughed. “That was almost touching.”
Suddenly, in the distance, they heard a door creaking, and a stream of careful hoof steps heading in their direction.
It was Princess Cadance.
“Honey!” Shining Armor exclaimed, jumping from the table to the cell’s bars, unknowingly pulling Flam to the ground. “I’ve missed you so much!”
“I can’t say the same about you,” Cadance coldly stated, unable to look her husband in the eyes. She glanced at Flam. “Is this him?”
Shining raised an eyebrow. “Is Flam who?”
“The pony you left me for!”
Shining Armor and Flam both looked at each other in shock. “Left you?!” the former said, reaching for Cadance’s hoof through the bars. “Sweetie, I would never leave you! I love you and Flurry Heart!”
The princess pulled her hoof away, and shoved a piece of paper in his face. “Then what’s this?!”
Dear Cadence, I’m leaving, just like u asked. I found a new pony to share my time with in Canterlot, and we’re going to have the best love anypony has ever seen! Byeeee! Shiny Armor
Shining’s mouth dropped. “There’s no way I wrote this,” he said, shaking his head. “Shiny Armor? You as just the letter? Spelling your name wrong? Come on, that’s not me!”
“Then why is it in your hoofwriting?” Cadance snapped back. “Why did I find it in our closet?”
“I feel like this is a good time to mention that I’m all for a polygamous relationship,” Flam interjected. Shining shot him down with his eyes.
“Cadance, I swear,” he pleaded, “I would never leave you! I don’t remember ever writing that!” He paused, and looked at the stallion beside him. “I don’t remember it. Flam, this must’ve happened last night, just like the kidnapping!”
“So we did hook up last night?” Flam asked. Shining rolled his eyes.
“Shining Armor,” Cadance said, tears in her eyes. “I’ve given you nothing but love. And yet, last night, when I told you to get out of the house for a couple hours so I could spend some quality time with Flurry Heart, you went and betrayed that for this random stallion!”
Flam’s ears drooped. “I’m not random…”
“Cadance, you’re my everything,” Shining begged. “Please, listen to me. I could never hurt you.”
“You already did.”
The princess ran out of the room, sobbing. Shining reached out to her, but it was too late. She was gone.
One of the Royal Guards glared at the prince. “She didn't say this, but I know she was thinking it,” he grunted. “You make a terrible hayburger.”
Shining banged his head on the table.
After about an hour of complete and utter silence, the Royal Guard put a key into the lock and opened up the dungeon cell. The two stallions perked up.
“I’ve been instructed to bring you to the princesses,” the guard said, grabbing onto the chain connecting Flam and Shining Armor. “They will hear your case, discuss your actions, and decide your fate.” He pulled them forward. “Come along.”
“Hi, Mr. Intimidating-But-Attractive Guard,” Flam said, giving him a wave. “I just wanted to know. What are the chances of us going to Tartarus?”
“Whatever the princesses decide, they decide. But kidnapping a filly? Not a good look.” He paused, then blushed. “Although, that suit is a good look.”
“Why, thank you. It’s a Rarity.”
“Oh, I know her! She interrogated me once!”
“Ughh, kill me now,” Shining Armor groaned. “Let’s just get this over with. Not that it matters anymore.”
“Uh-oh,” the guard whispered to Flam. “Somepony’s upset about his failed romance.”
“I heard that.”
The three walked through the long, regal halls of the Canterlot Castle. While Flam and the guard continued quietly conversing with each other, Shining Armor moped, trudging behind the others with his head down and his lip out.
As they passed room after room, Shining Armor heard a noise.
At first, he ignored it, but then he kept hearing it over and over again. He looked to his side to find the source, and on the opposite side of a window, he saw Starlight Glimmer.
He nearly jumped at the sight of her, and quickly gestured for her to leave before she got caught. The mare nodded, and mouthed a phrase to him before leaving.
We’re going to get you out of this.
Princess Celestia and Princess Luna sat in their respective thrones, with Princess Cadance and Princess Twilight Sparkle sitting on the floor between them. From their elevated surface, they all looked down upon the shaking Shining Armor and Flam in the center of the room, solemn looks on their faces.
“Shining Armor, Flam,” Twilight began. “We have called you here today to discuss the charges recently brought against you, including, but not limited to, kidnapping, breaking and entering, and trapping me in a magical bubble.”
Flam leaned to Shining Armor. “Sounds like they didn't hear about the bird slaughter,” he whispered. “We might be better off than we thought.”
“Honestly, I’m simply appalled,” Princess Celestia said. “To think one of our own would commit such a series of terrible crimes.”
“And your choice in partner?” Luna added. “Rather questionable.”
“B.B.B.F.F.,” Twilight continued. “We all love you here, and before we make any rash decisions, we want to hear your story. So, please, explain yourself. What is happening? Why have you done this?”
Shining Armor and Flam looked at each other. “We don’t know,” they said simultaneously.
“We can’t remember what happened last night,” Shining Armor clarified. “Like, at all. We just woke up this morning, in a hotel room together--”
“After he kissed me,” Flam interjected. Cadance gasped, and Shining quickly punched him in the arm.
“--and then we found Apple Bloom in our closet. Honest. We don’t remember why we kidnapped her, how we kidnapped her, anything!”
The four princesses looked at each other, and then collectively nodded.
“In that case,” Princess Celestia said, getting up from her seat, “we cannot properly come to a decision yet. There’s only one thing we can do” Twilight Sparkle stood up next to her, and their two horns began to glow.
“Let’s find out what really happened now, shall we?”
Their horns began to glow brighter and brighter, until the entire room was engulfed in a blinding white light.
Chapter Fifteen: A Night in Shining Amour - Part I
He wasn’t asleep, but the small foal lying on his chest was, and he didn't dare disturb her. After all, Flurry Heart taking such a long nap was a rare occurrence, and any time it happened deserved celebration, which in parental terms meant a moment of shut-eye.
As he rested on the couch, he gave Flurry Heart a quick peck on the forehead.
This is the life, he thought to himself. I love you, Flurry Heart.
“Shining Armor, wake up.”
He opened his eyes, and standing above him was his lovely wife, Princess Cadance.
“Hey, honey,” Shining yawned, carefully stretching out his legs in a way as to not disturb his sleeping daughter. “Good to see you. I’m just chilling here with Flurry Heart. How was your day?”
“Not so great,” Princess Cadance sighed, barely able to get the words out. “First, I had to attend a royal meeting with the other princesses in Canterlot. Then, I came back here and had to stop a dispute between two former lovers who were both cheating on each other with the same pony. After that, some buffoon broke into the Crystal Library Archives, so I had to catch him instead of going to lunch. And now, I’m supposed to attend Prince Blueblood’s Birthday Extravaganza, back in Canterlot.”
“Wow, you must be exhausted,” Shining Armor said, rubbing his wife’s leg. “How about you go take a nap before the party? I can hold down the fort with Flurry Heart and--”
“NO!” the princess snapped, causing her husband to jump. The baby stirred in her slumber. “Sorry, I just-- I don’t think this arrangement we have going is fair.”
“Well, look at you,” Princess Cadance replied, gesturing to the stallion on the couch. “You stay home with the baby everyday, while I’m working my flank off tending to a million and one royal duties! I never get to see our daughter anymore!” She sighed. “I know taking care of an alicorn baby isn’t easy, but at the same time, you have help with Sunburst and the guards. I have nopony to help me. We’re supposed to be a partnership, but it doesn't feel like that.”
Shining Armor’s ears dropped. “I’m sorry. I had never thought about it like that.”
Cadance kissed him on the cheek. “Don’t worry, I’m not upset with you. I just need a break. I want to spend time with our daughter and relax.”
“I totally get that.”
“So, I was hoping we could maybe switch jobs tonight? I can take care of Flurry Heart, while you go to Prince Blueblood’s birthday party.”
Shining bit his lip. “Honey. You know how I feel about Blueblood.”
“I do,” Cadance admitted. “But we can’t just ignore the invitation. One of us has to go.”
“How about we say that we both came down with the flu? Or that Flurry Heart got hurt and needed extra attention? Or that we exploded?”
“Shining Armor, please,” Cadance sighed, rubbing her temple. “Do this for me.”
The prince pulled his mane and groaned, but eventually nodded his head. “Okay, fine. I’ll go. But I won’t enjoy it. I will have absolutely no fun.”
“That’s the spirit,” Cadance said, pinching her husband’s cheek. “Thank you so much, Shiny. I really appreciate it. You’re the lovable leader this Empire needs.”
Shining Armor blushed and chuckled, but on the inside, he was writhing in pain.
“What are husbands for?”
Blueblood’s party was loud.
All the lights in the Canterlot Castle ballroom had been dimmed, replaced by glowing flashes of blue, yellow, and white. The music had been cranked up to the highest setting, and everypony kept bumping into each other.
The worst part, though, was the giant inflatable balloons of Prince Blueblood’s head floating around.
Shining Armor walked in, and almost walked out immediately.
You’re doing this for Cadance, he repeatedly thought to himself, working his way through the crowd of rambunctious ponies jumping to the DJ’s deafening pop music. You love Cadance, and you support Cadance. This is for her.
“Hey-o, Shinybutt!” a voice called from across the room. A shudder went down Shining’s Armor’s back.
“Hi, Blueblood,” Shining replied, walking over to the birthday stallion with an overly toothy smile on his face. “Happy birthday.”
“Isn’t it? The servants stayed up all night doing this just for me.”
Shining rolled his eyes. “I thought you were all about regal gatherings and fancy parties. This is neither.”
“I wanted to let loose,” Blueblood said with a shrug. “After all, this is a celebration of me!” He handed Shining Armor a plate with his face on it. Shining Armor tossed it when the other stallion wasn’t looking. “Everything is absolutely perfect. Oh, have you seen my birthday throne? It is pristine.”
“I’m sure I’ll see you sitting on it later,” Shining grunted.
Blueblood stuck out his lip. “Aww, poor Shinybutt doesn't seem happy. Jealous, I imagine. Such luxury doesn't come to everypony.” Shining Armor glared. “Or, perhaps, he’s still upset about the incident.”
“You disrespected my entire platoon of guards!”
“It’s not my fault they weren’t a fan of my perfect physique!”
Shining Armor growled. “You know what? Let me show you something.” He walked over to one of the balloons, and stabbed it with his horn. It popped, exploding into a shower of pictures of the birthday stallion. Shining’s mouth dropped.
Blueblood was laughing. “See? You can’t win. This day is mine, Shinybutt.”
He bumped Shining Armor with his flank, then walked off to enjoy his party, leaving the other stallion fuming.
I need an apple cider, Shining thought, stomping off to the nearest server.
He hastily grabbed a drink off their tray, and chugged it down in one gulp. It didn't taste like apple cider, but it served its purpose of numbing the pain of being around Blueblood. He licked his lips and grabbed another glass.
I need MORE.
Shining Armor could barely feel his body.
He had found the bar, polished off five drinks with ease, and was waiting on a sixth. There was some commotion behind him at the party, but it couldn’t matter less to him. He was in his own, boozy world.
“Hey, bartender-pony-lady,” he said, his words slurred and muffled. “How long before that next drink?”
“You know, I’m going to have to cut you off soon,” the bartender said, wiping a glass with a napkin. “This much alcohol isn’t healthy.”
Shining Armor shook his head. “I’m a prince. I’m Equestrian royalty. You can’t cut me off. I’ll cut you off.”
“Yeah, no, you’re not getting this next drink.”
Shining Armor moaned, and laid his head on the table. He looked down the bar, and saw a stallion in a white and blue striped shirt with an untied bow tie and a boater hat two stools down from him. The unicorn was drinking a drink similar to his own, tears in his eyes.
“Hey, you,” Shining Armor called out, patting the seat next to him. “Why are you crying? This is a party, not a funeral.”
“It’s my funeral,” the pony replied, putting his face in his hooves. His words were just as, if not more, slurred than Shining’s own. “I’ve hit rock bottom. My brother abandoned me, and all I have now is this drink.” He kissed the glass. “This drink is my new best friend.”
“That’s really pathetic,” Shining Armor laughed. “You’re so funny, man. What’s your name?”
“Flam.” He paused. “Hey, wait a minute. You’re that prince from the place with all the shiny rocks. Um, Radiant Metal.”
Shining Armor guffawed. “See? You’re hilarious! What is a good pony like you doing at such an obnoxious party?”
Flam leaned in close to the stallion and whispered in his ear. “Don’t tell anypony, but I snuck in. Power of persuasion, baby!”
“Wow, humor and brains. You’re the whole package, Flam!”
The two howled with laughter, nearly falling off their stools. The bartender rolled her eyes.
“What about you, Mr. Metal?” Flam asked. “What’s an attractive stallion such as yourself doing at a rager like this?”
“My wife forced me to come,” Shining Armor sighed. “She told me to leave the house, so she could have the baby all to herself. I think she’s trying to torture me.”
“Uh-oh. Asking you to leave the house? Keeping the baby to herself? Sending you here as torture? Woof, I wouldn’t be surprised if divorce papers and a custody case showed up in your future.”
Shining Armor gasped. “Wait, seriously? You think Cadance wants to break up with me?!” Flam nodded his head, and the prince began sobbing. “B-B-But I love her!”
“It’s okay, man,” Flam said, patting the stallion on the back. “I’m here for you. I’ll help you through this. I know we just met, but I feel this kinda connection to you all of a sudden. Do you feel it, too?”
“I feel wasted.” The two burst into giddy chuckles.
“Let’s get out of here,” Flam suggested. “We’re way too good for this party.”
“Agreed. I wanna have some fun.”
The two got up off their stools, and stumbled toward the exit, bumping into everypony around them. They passed Blueblood, who simply rolled his eyes at them.
“How uncouth,” he sighed.
Shining Armor and Flam hobbled their way through the streets of Canterlot, with nothing but the moon and stars above watching them.
“Equestria, the land I looove,” they sang off-key, hooves wrapped around each other. “A land of harmonyyy! Our flag does wave, from high above, for pony kind to seeeeee!”
Shining Armor tripped on his own hoof, sending the two stallions tumbling onto the ground. They burst out laughing.
“Man, I love you so much,” Flam giggled. “You’re so great. I don’t understand why your wife wants to break up with you!”
“Man, I love you,” Shining chortled. “You’re amazing. I don’t understand why your brother abandoned you!”
“Cause he’s the worst. Blames me for all of our schemes going awry. But you know who’s really to blame? Applejack.”
Shining Armor rolled over onto his back. “Oh, I know Applejack. She’s quite the headache-inducer.”
“Right? First, she makes us break our Super Speedy Squeezy Cider Machine-y thing, then she exposes our Miracle Tonic, and then she makes ponies stop buying our Hearth’s Warming dolls! If it wasn’t for her, Flim and I would be richer than Prince Blueblood.”
“Wow. That’s a lot of bits.”
“I know,” Flam agreed. “But no matter what we do, Applejack is always in the way.”
“Well, then, you just gotta get Applejack out of the picture!” Shining exclaimed, hopping onto his hooves. “Send her a message that says, ‘Don’t mess with me anymore!’”
“Do they make a greeting card for that?”
“I doubt it,” Shining Armor said. “No, you need to think big. Something that lets her know you mean business, and that she should back off!” He thought for a moment, then gasped. “I’ve got it!”
“What?!” Flam asked eagerly.
“We should kidnap her sister, and hold her for ransom until Applejack agrees to leave you alone for good!”
Flam thought it over for a minute, then nodded his head.
“That’s absolutely perfect! Flawless, even. You’re a genius!”
Flam started clumsily dashing away. “Let’s go right now! I have train money in my hat. To Ponyville!”
“To Ponyville!” Shining Armor echoed.
And off they trotted, hoping to catch the last train of the night.
Chapter Sixteen: A Night in Shining Amour - Part II
There were no ponies wandering the streets. All the shops were closed, and all the houses were dark as their residents settled in for a good night’s sleep. Everything was quiet, except for the soft cooing of owls and the wind blowing through the trees.
And the two drunken stallions, of course.
Flam and Shining Armor had successfully caught the train and taken the short ride to Ponyville, and were now staggering through the town, loudly talking and laughing.
“One time,” Shining giggled, his words slurred, “I accidentally left Flurry Heart under my bed when the wife and I were having a romantic night.”
“Oooo!” Flam laughed, nearly tripping over a flowerpot. “Thank Celestia she won’t remember that!”
“Keep it down out there!” a mare yelled from second-story window. “Some of us are trying to sleep!”
“Well, some of us are trying to awake, so deal with it!” Shining shouted back, sassily shaking his head at her. The mare groaned, then slammed the window.
Flam and Shining burst into another fit of chuckles.
“You sure showed that mare who’s boss!” Flam said. “You’re amazing, dude. I’m so glad I met you.”
“I’m so glad I met you!” Shining replied. “Who needs a Cadance when you’ve got a Flam? I don’t think I’m going to be that bad off when she breaks up with me.”
Flam’s face suddenly lit up. “Here's an idea. Why don’t you break up with her first? Save yourself the drama, man.”
Shining gasped. “That’s an incredible idea! Once she’s gone, you and I will be able to spend way more time together.” He hugged Flam, and the stallion blushed. “Wow, you’re so smart.”
“I’m hammered, that’s what I am.” He paused. “Wait, why are we in Ponyville again?”
“To kidnap Apple Bloom and get that crazy stalker Applejack out of your life!” Shining reminded. “If I remember correctly, Sweet Apple Acres is thataway.” He pointed toward the bowling alley, which seemed to be one of the few places that was still open.
“That’s not an apple farm,” Flam scoffed. “Clearly, I’m the brains of this operation.”
“It’s not a farm, but it is a place where we can get more booze,” Shining laughed. He grabbed the other stallion’s hoof, and both of their faces turned red. After a moment of looking into each other’s eyes, he pulled Flam toward the building. “Come on, pal! The night is young!”
Similar to Ponyville, Sweet Apple Acres looked uninhabited. There were no ponies working the night shift on the farm, so the massive fields of trees were completely silent and empty.
Before arriving, Shining Armor and Flam had polished off another hard cider each, and were barely able to walk without tripping or falling onto each other.
“We made it,” Flam yawned, leaning against an apple tree. “What do now?”
Shining Armor observed his surroundings, and his eyes gravitated toward the giant red farmhouse. “I’m gonna guess the Apples are inside. We sneak in, grab Apple Bloom, and bolt outta there.” Flam nodded, and the two mosied their way to the front door. Shining tried pulling it open, but it wouldn’t budge. “Why isn’t this working?!”
He kept pulling and pulling, until his strength tore the knob right off, leaving a big hole in the wooden door. Flam and him looked at the broken entryway in silent shock and horror.
“I think it was a push door,” Flam said eventually.
“No, the last time I was here, it was definitely a pull door,” Shining Armor whined. “Why did they have to change the door? It was a perfectly good door!!!”
Hearing Shining Armor’s shouts, a dog started barking from inside.
“A dog?!” Flam gasped. “I didn't sign up for a dog!”
“We have to keep it quiet!” Shining said, angrily pushing the door open and trotting in, the other stallion beside him. “What keeps a dog silent for a really long time?”
Flam thought. “My first thought doesn't seem very practical or appropriate, unless we have a change of clothes.”
“I’m not wearing any clothes,” the prince pointed out.
“Okay, so, new plan.”
A door creaked from another room, and the slow treading of hoof steps against the wooden floor neared the stallions.
“Somepony’s coming!” Flam whispered, accompanied with a blech. “What do we do?! What do we do?!” He started pacing, but in his intoxicated state, didn't process the chair in front of him and fell right over it, banging into a counter and knocking a plate onto the floor, which shattered into pieces.
“Make more noise, apparently,” Shining grunted. The hoof steps drew closer, increasing in speed and frequency. “We gotta hide! Quick! Get in the closet!”
“Noooo!” Flam moaned. “I spent so much of my youth in the closet! I don’t wanna go back in!”
Shining Armor shook his head and grabbed onto Flam’s shirt, pulling him into a closet and shutting the door behind them. The small room was a tight squeeze for the stallions, who were squished together side by side, surrounded by an abundance of bows and hats.
“Who needs this much head clothing?” Shining Armor asked, rubbing against the fabric. “Although, it’s so comfortable. So soft…” He started massaging what was against his hoof, which turned out to be Flam’s flank.
“Aww, yeah, that’s the spot,” the stallion purred, stretching his legs. “Keep going… Don’t stop…”
Shining Armor giggled and used his other hoof to pick up a rodeo hat and put it on Flam’s horn. “Hey, you look great in that!”
The mustached stallion blushed, and grabbed a bow. “And you look great in this!” he chuckled, wrapping it around Shining’s head.
The two kept laughing, as their muzzles slowly inched closer and closer together.
Big Mac walked into his living room, having been woken up by Winona’s rapid barking. His eyes were barely open, and all he could think about was sleep. He yawned, then walked over to the barking dog, putting his hoof over her mouth to silence her.
He started walking back to his room, but noticed the broken plate on the ground. Groaning, the stallion grabbed a nearby broom and dustpan, and started sweeping up the remains. After a minute, however, he began hearing a low moaning noise from the closet.
“Anypony there?” Big Mac called out, clutching onto the broom. When he got no response, he took a deep breath, then opened the closet door.
There was nothing inside but the many hats and bows his sisters wore. He thought he heard something similar to the sound of a kiss, but shrugged it off, thinking he was just paranoid from his exhaustion. He shut the door, turned away, and went back into his room to continue his slumber.
Shining Armor and Flam hadn’t even noticed him.
The two were leaning on the back of the closet, completely covered by the sea of headgear. They stared at each other, eyes wide open and faces completely red.
They both burst out laughing.
“Man, my wife wouldn’t be too thrilled with that,” Shining heartily laughed. “But me? I’m exhilarated!”
“Blueblood’s party has nothing on us!” Flam cheered, pushing the door open. “Come on, pal! Let’s go kidnap a filly!”
Apple Bloom was peacefully sleeping in her bed, quietly snoring. Perhaps she was dreaming of her next adventure with the Cutie Mark Crusaders. Perhaps she was dreaming about farming with Applejack and Big McIntosh. Perhaps she was dreaming of spending time with Grand Pear.
Regardless, she was completely unaware of the two stallions staring over her.
“We did it!” Flam whispered, raising a triumphant hoof in the air. However, he could hardly balance on his other three legs and nearly fell over. “Now what do?”
“I dunno,” Shining admitted, scratching his head. “Do we just carry her outside?”
“Nah, somepony might see us. We need to find a way to hide and carry her at the same time. Like, stuffing her in a box or sumthin’.”
Shining Armor’s face lit up. “Or a suitcase! Cadance just went shopping with Twily and bought a bunch of those. I’ll head to the Empire, grab one, and we’ll shove her right in! Easy-peasy.”
“But how are you gonna get there?” Flam asked.
“Teleportation, duh,” Shining Armor replied. “I’ve never tried teleporting while drunk before, but c’mon. What could possibly go wrong?”
“We are such responsible adults.”
Shining Armor’s horn began to glow. “You tie her up or something while I’m gone. I’ll be back in, like, two minutes.”
Flam nodded, and with a blink of his eye, the prince was gone.
Shining Armor appeared inside a toilet.
All four of his hooves were immersed in water, and his body was stuck in the round bowl. He tried to squeeze himself out, but ultimately fell forward, smashing his nose into the crystalline floor.
“Owww,” he moaned, slowly getting up onto his hooves. “Note to self: drunken teleportation is a big no-no.”
He walked out of the bathroom, and found himself in his castle, as he had hoped. Though heavily inebriated, he somewhat remembered the layout of his home, and walked through it in his drunken stupor.
The unicorn made his way to his bedroom, and peeked inside the door. Lying on the bed was Princess Cadance, sleeping with a baby monitor next to her.
Why don’t you break up with her first? Save yourself the drama, man.
Flam’s words echoed in Shining Armor’s head as he stared at his wife. As he walked into the room, he opened up a drawer, and levitated out a quill and some paper. He quickly and quietly scribbled a note to his beloved, then grabbed three suitcases to try out. Placing the note in their place and nodding his head, the stallion’s horn began to glow once again, and he disappeared.
Apple Bloom was not cooperating with Flam.
As the stallion tried to bound and gag the filly using a pillowcase and a lasso he found under the bed, she kept adjusting her position in her sleep, making it very difficult to successfully tie her up.
“Stupid baby Applejack,” Flam grumbled, accidentally knotting the rope around his hoof. “Stop moving!”
As he muttered to himself, Apple Bloom yawned, and slowly began opening her eyes. “...Applejack?” she lazily asked, rubbing her face. “What are you--”
Her eyes locked onto Flam’s, and for a split second, the two looked at each other in horror. The beating of both of their hearts echoed in the silence. Apple Bloom opened her mouth to scream.
Flam blasted her in the face with magic.
The filly was forced back onto her pillow, knocked unconscious by the blow. Flam took his hoof and clamped it over his mouth. He couldn’t take his eyes off the pony.
Just then, Shining Armor popped back into the room.
“I did the thing,” he slurred, leaning on Flam’s back. “Hey, look at me! I teleported to the right place this time! Best drunken teleporter ever!” He looked at Apple Bloom, and noticed a small burn mark on her face. “Hey, what happened here?”
“I killed her,” Flam gasped, frozen.
“She woke up, I panicked, and I killed her,” Flam repeated. “It was an accident, I swear!” He began sobbing. “Why is the world so cruel to upstanding gentlecolts like me? I JUST WANTED TO TIE HER UP AND RANSOM HER OFF! Is that too much for a stallion to ask?!”
“It’s okay,” Shining Armor said, rubbing the stallion’s back to calm him down. “I’ve got you, Flam. I know exactly what to do. This isn’t my first time hiding a body.”
Flam looked at him with wide, hopeful eyes. “Really?”
“Yup,” Shining affirmed. His ears perked up. “Ooo, hey! I have an idea! How about we drop her into the fountain on the front lawn of Blueblood’s mansion?”
Flam gasped. “You mean, frame him?!”
“Yeah! It’s the perfect payback!” He began laughing maniacally. “We get no punishment, and we get to watch and laugh as his world falls to pieces!” He burst into manic giggles. “Serves him right for sucking so hard!”
The two laughed, and began tying up the filly together, too wasted to notice that she was only unconscious and still breathing. Once her legs were bound with rope and she was gagged with the pillow case, Shining Armor stuffed her into the pink suitcase.
The prince clapped his hooves together. “Drunken teleportation to Canterlot?”
“You don’t have to ask me twice!”
In a flash, the three suitcases, the two stallions, and the one filly vanished into thin air.
Shining Armor and Flam landed in a tree next to Blueblood’s estate.
Luckily, since his party was still going on, the mansion was empty, meaning nopony was around to see the two stallions fall out of a branch onto the lawn.
“Oof…” Flam moaned, rolling on the grass. “That one hurt. I feel sick.”
“Me too,” Shining Armor replied, slowly making his way onto his hooves. He coughed, then ran over to Blueblood’s fountain. Leaning over the side, he threw up. Flam came up next to him and did the same.
“Blegh,” he gagged, staring at his reflection in the murky water. “I don’t think I can party like I used to.”
“Me neither,” Flam agreed, turning around and leaning his back on the fountain. “I think tonight was both great and awful at the same time. Meeting you was great. Kissing you was great. Murdering Apple Bloom? Not great.”
Shining Armor nodded his head in silence. “I wrote Cadance a break up letter,” he eventually blurted out. “Our marriage is over. Guess that means you and I can be together now.”
“I can’t tell if it's the drunkenness talking, but I think I really want that,” Flam replied, beaming.
The two smiled at each other, then levitated the suitcase between them. In silence, they opened it up, and stared at the “dead” filly. However, right as they were about to pick her up, she rolled onto her side.
“SHE’S ALIVE!” both stallions screamed.
“I’m not a murderer!” Flam cheered, getting up and jumping up to click his hooves together. He missed and fell onto the ground.
Shining Armor was frowning. “This is good news and all, but how are we going to get revenge on Blueblood now?” he sighed, leaning his head back. “He needs to know he sucks hard.”
Flam laughed. “The puke in the fountain should cover it.”
Shining Armor turned around. Sure enough, the fountain looked disgusting, no longer in the pristine condition Blueblood had left it in. He grinned and gave Flam a hoof bump, and the two of them rolled onto the grass.
“So I guess we’re back to the original plan,” Shining said. “Know what? Let’s get a hotel room. Spend the night together.”
“Ooo, yes,” Flam giggled, patting the stallion’s back. “Since we don’t have to worry about Apple Bloom for a while, we should just hang out! We can get some drinks, write some ransom notes, chill…”
“Sounds like a perfect night.”
The two stallions smiled at each other one last time, and with the glow of Shining Armor’s horn, they were gone.
Shining Armor’s jaw had fallen, and he stumbled backwards in shock. Flam’s mouth was also gaping open, but the corner of his lips were turned upward into a smile.
Nopony uttered a single word. A single syllable. A single noise.
Until the Royal Guard standing by the door burped.
“Excuse me, sorry,” he apologized, covering his mouth. “Totally ruined the atmosphere. My bad. Please, continue your stunned silence.”
“Wow,” Flam eventually whispered. “Just… wow.”
Shining Armor shook his head. “I… I can’t believe this,” he said in a hushed voice, each sound a struggle. “I got drunk… broke up with my wife through a letter… had a love affair with Flam… and straight up kidnapped Apple Bloom. There’s no way to justify any of that.” His head dropped, with his ears hanging the lowest they’d ever hung. “Tartarus, here I come.”
“It was quite the night,” Princess Celestia stated, flying down to Shining Armor and Flam’s level. “Honestly, I’m not sure how to process it.” She looked back to her sister and Twilight. “I think us princesses need some time to discuss what we just witnessed. Guard, please take these two back to the dungeon.”
The guard saluted, then grabbed onto the chain connecting the hoof cuffed ponies. Flam cooperated and started walking, but Shining Armor planted himself in the castle. He looked at his wife, who was intentionally not looking at him. There were tears running down her eyes.
“Cadance!” he cried out to her. “I promise you, I don’t remember any of that happening! I know you weren’t trying to torture me by sending making me to that stupid party. Ugh, this is all Blueblood’s fault!”
“Yes, because Blueblood forced a copious amount of drinks down your throat,” Luna replied, rolling her eyes.
Shining ignored her and continued. “Please. I love you so much, honey. I wasn’t being myself. I would never cheat on you!”
“Except you did,” Luna scoffed. Cadance was still crying. “I do not believe you are helping your case.”
The guard pulled on the chain, knocking Shining to the floor. “Alright, come on,” he sighed. “It’s time to go. We wouldn’t want you embarrassing yourself. Well, more.”
The armored pegasus continued to pull on the hoof cuffs, dragging the prince across the ground. Shining tried to grab the carpet in a desperate attempt to not be sent away, but it slipped through his big hooves.
“Please!” he sobbed, as his body glided along the crystals below him. “Cadance! Twily! I’m sorry!”
The doors shut in his face.
“I had a night like that once. Lots of good drinking, lots of bad decisions… Granted, nothing as bad as kidnapping a little filly, but, you know, to each their own. I did accidentally buy a planet, though.”
The Royal Guard would not stop talking.
Since he had been in the room with the princesses, he was witness to the memory spell, and now could not stop chatting about it, much to Shining Armor’s chagrin.
“It was a night to remember,” the guard continued. “I named my planet after my ex, Acrid Cherries. We don’t talk anymore.”
Shining Armor pressed his muzzle against the table. The rapid words coming from the armored stallion’s mouth were echoing throughout the dungeon cell, meaning there was no escape from the barrage of sounds. The prince tried to cover his ears, but to no avail.
Haven’t I been punished enough? he thought as he pulled on his mane, leading to whipped cream and glass shards on his hooves. Worst. Day. Ever.
Flam noticed his companion’s dismay, and waved his non-cuffed hoof at the guard. “Hey, friend! Could you maybe give us a minute or two? There’s a lot for us to process, and we need a time.”
The guard thought for a moment. “Well, I can’t leave you two alone without losing my job, but I can stand at the opposite side of the room.” Flam nodded at the suggestion, and the guard moved away, finally going silent.
“Thank you so much for that,” Shining Armor sighed, lifting his head from the table.
“Hey, anything for you,” Flam said, patting the prince on the back. “How are you holding up?”
“What do you think? I upset my wife, and we just watched ourselves spend an entire night getting drunk and making horrible decisions!”
“To be fair, we’ve been making some pretty horrible decisions today, and we’re sober.”
Shining Armor gasped, then banged his head on the table once more. “Oh my goodness. You’re right. It’s not the alcohol. We’re just always terrible!”
“Stop being so pessimistic,” Flam scoffed. “Last night wasn’t all bad. There were some good things that came out of it. Like our…” He hesitated. “...friendship.”
The unicorn prince sighed, but didn't say anything. Flam bit his lip.
“So, dumb question. Was our relationship exclusive to last night, or--”
Shining Armor covered Flam’s mouth. “Look. Against all odds, I really have grown to like you, Flam. I’ve gained respect for your line of work, and I’ve appreciated your ability and willingness to calm me down and help out through every wacky scenario the day has thrown at us. Truly, I can see why we hit it off last night.”
“But I’m already committed to Cadance and Flurry Heart. I love them infinitely, and I don’t think there’s anything that could change that. I’m sorry.”
Flam smiled and opened his mouth, but was interrupted by the guard.
“Are you kidding me?! You’re turning down this stud of a stallion?! Have you seen his mustache?!”
“Wait until you see it’s natural color,” Flam chuckled, then turned back to Shining Armor. “Don’t apologize. I’m not upset. I mean, how could I be? Now, I’ll actually have the memories of our night together!”
Shining Armor started laughing. “It’s like you said: last night was both great and awful! You were great! Throwing up in Blueblood’s fountain? Incredible! But kidnapping a filly and everything that followed? I could do without that.”
Flam gave Shining Armor a hug. “Maybe Equestria won’t think so anymore, but to me, you’re still a lovable leader.”
“I am rooting for you two so hard,” the guard whispered as the stallions embraced.
As they let go of each other and grinned, the door to the dungeon opened, and Princess Luna walked in. Without saying a word, she levitated a key into the lock pad, and opened up the cell. She did the same with Shining Armor and Flam’s hoof cuffs.
“It has come to our attention that you haven’t eaten in hours,” she stated, not even hinting at the slightest emotion. “You shall be given thirty minutes for food in the Canterlot Dining Hall, and then you must report to the throne room, where we shall discuss your fate. Is that clear?” The stallions nodded. “Good. Guard, please do not leave their side.”
“Yes, ma’am!” he replied with a salute.
Luna began to leave, but turned around right as she was about to open the door. “Be grateful your wife and sister are princesses. If it were up to just Celestia and I, we might’ve reached a different verdict.” She left without any further explanation.
As the trio of stallions walked toward the dining hall, they were hit with a flood of delicious aromas.
“Mmm… roasted carrots,” Shining Armor mused, sniffing the air. “Strawberry crêpes… Hayburgers with fries…”
“Don’t eat those,” Flam cautioned. “You don’t want cannibalism added to your list of charges.”
Shining Armor looked down and groaned. “Why am I even still wearing this dumb costume?! We got caught! It didn't work!”
Flam smirked. “Is it stuck?”
“It’s stuck,” Shining sighed. “It was made for a child. What did I expect?”
As the two laughed, Boomer opened the door for them, revealing a giant room with a long table covered in hundreds of food choices. There were appetizers, entrees, desserts, drinks, everything they could ever imagine.
And at the other end of the table sat Prince Blueblood.
“Surprise!” he said, sporting a devilish grin.
Shining Armor turned the other way and bolted. It was the fastest he had run all day.
Boomer had to drag Shining Armor by his tail back to the dining hall.
The prince held onto a curtain, trying his best to stay away from Prince Blueblood, but eventually just pulled the cloth off of the window.
“Please, don’t make me!” Shining Armor cried, desperately scraping against the floor. “I can do jail. I can do a lifetime of community service. I can even do Tartarus! But I can’t do Blueblood!”
“That’s a strange place to draw the line,” Boomer sighed. “But, I’m sorry. These are just my orders from the princesses.” He heaved an unwilling Shining Armor onto a chair beside Flam, looking directly across from Blueblood. Shining quickly ducked under the table, then pulled Flam down with him.
“What do we do?!” he whispered, anxiously looking around to make sure his enemy wasn’t joining them. “If I have to listen to Blueblood talk about himself for more than two minutes, I’m going to lose it. And last time I lost it, we kidnapped Apple Bloom! Do we really want to end up kidnapping her again?!”
“I kinda feel like she wouldn’t appreciate that,” Flam replied. He thought for a couple of seconds, then gasped. “Wait a second. Maybe this is a test from the princesses!” Shining’s ears perked up. “If Blueblood was the source of what happened last night, maybe they’re trying to teach you how to deal with him in a safe manner that doesn't lead to you committing a crime!”
“You think they would count a small, itty-bitty homicide as a crime?”
Flam heartily chuckled. “Don’t worry, pal. There’s one thing you have now that you didn't have last night when dealing with Blueblood. And that’s me.”
“And me,” Boomer interjected, popping his head under the table. The stallions glared at him. “What? Was I not supposed to be part of your secret huddle? Got it. We’re not that close. Yet.”
“You know, as former Captain of the Royal Guard,” Shining stated, pushing Boomer’s head away, “I seem to remember a policy about not becoming friends with the prisoners. You wouldn’t want to break the rules, Boomer.”
“Says the pony who kidnapped a filly and spent the entire day trying to cover it up.”
“Shining Armor,” Flam said, grabbing his face with his two hooves and pulling it toward his own. “I know you’ve been the brains in this operation, and that some of my ideas have been… lukewarm, at best. But trust me, I got this. Just follow my lead.”
Before the prince could respond, Flam enthusiastically poked his head out from under the table and waved at the pony across from him.
“There you are,” Blueblood said, rolling his eyes. “You’re Shining Armor’s partner in crime, right? Although, I heard you were partners in more ways than one. Maybe that’s why you were under the table for so long.”
“Yes, we’re business partners,” Flam replied, barely batting an eye. “We’re designing a new product together, created solely for the most beautiful of ponies.”
Blueblood’s face lit up, and for a moment, he completely forgot who he was talking to. “I’m the most beautiful of ponies! Tell me more!”
“Well, we know that sometimes, not everypony is appreciative of your beauty. Some ponies even dare to think they’re more beautiful than you. But that can’t be true, right?”
“No! Those ponies deserve a fate worse than Tartarus!”
“Um, I wouldn’t go that far, but sure,” Flam nervously chuckled. “Anyway, you won’t have to worry about that anymore, because Shining Armor and I are working on a special lotion to make your mane and coat the most perfect they’ve even been. So perfect that nopony can even challenge the idea that you are the most beautiful.”
Shining Armor, understanding what was happening, peeked his head out from under the table. “Boomer,” he whispered to the guard. “Could you hand me some food?”
“We can help you create the most visually stunning version of yourself there ever was,” Flam continued. “Our Wonder Lotion will make your coat shiny, your mane full and wavy, and your eyes will be popping harder than corn on an open fire.”
“My eyes need to pop harder than corn!” Blueblood exclaimed, dashing toward Flam. “I’m SOLD! Where is it?! I need it RIGHT NOW!”
Flam reached under the table, where Shining Armor handed him a bowl filled with a goopy brown mixture. “Why, I always keep it handy. I mean, ponies like us always need to look good, right?”
Blueblood forcefully grabbed the bowl, then sniffed it and gagged. “Blegh,” he groused, dipping onto a hoof in. “What is in this?”
“Ummm, love,” Flam improvised. “We make all of our products with love.”
“I like love.”
“It would be very sad if you didn't.”
Blueblood scooped a hoof full of the mixture, and began rubbing it on his belly, then in his mane. Soon enough, his whole body was covered with the brown substance. Shining Armor was giggling from under the table.
“I don’t feel a difference,” Blueblood said, smelling himself. “And I don’t exactly have the most beautiful aroma right now.”
“But you will have the most beautiful body soon enough,” Flam assured. “Just wait thirty minutes for the substance to dry, and you’ll be an all-new stallion!”
Blueblood grinned. “Thank you so much! Oh! I need to find a mirror. I’ll pay you once I see results!”
The stallion ran off, out of the dining hall, and Shining Armor, Flam, and Boomer burst out into laughter.
“Easiest con ever,” Flam chortled. “Talk about a pony’s beauty, they’ll take anything we give them. What’d you make, Shiny?”
“Chocolate frosting mixed with gravy, mustard, and melted cheese,” Shining Armor giggled, coming out from behind the table. “Deliciously disgusting.”
“Man, he’s going to be so upset when he finds out!” Flam laughed. “That’ll teach him not to mess with you, Shining Armor!”
“Haha, yeah! Now let’s eat. I’m starving!”
The two stallions sat down to eat, chatting and giggling about what they had just pulled off. For a moment, they almost forgot about what was in store for them.
Shining Armor and Flam strode into the throne room, each stomp confident and loud. While the princesses still carried the solemn looks from earlier, the stallions were nothing but smiles.
“We did it!” they harmonized, dancing over to the elevated platform. “We’re the best! We did it! We passed your test!” They started prancing around without a care in the world.
The four princesses looked at each other.
“...What test?” Twilight asked.
The two stallions stopped in their tracks, frozen by her words. They looked at each other, and gulped.
“You know,” Shining Armor said, his voice slightly wavering. “The test where I have to get rid of Blueblood without doing anything illegal?”
The princesses stared at him, silent. Luna blinked.
“You mean,” the prince whimpered, “we got Blueblood covered in frosting for no reason?!”
“You got him covered in WHAT?!” Luna gasped.
“Frosted tips!” Flam quickly blurted out. “We gave him frosted tips! Cause you know, the ‘Magic of Murder’ and all that jazz!”
“Friendship!” Shining injected, covering Flam’s mouth. “He means the ‘Magic of Friendship’!”
“Bottom line, we did nothing illegal, so yay, us!” Flam cheered.
All four princesses glared at them. The stallions sighed, sat down on the floor, and remained silent, their heads hanging low.
“We wanted to talk to you about your punishment,” Princess Celestia began, spreading her wings out wide as a display of authority. “It has become clear to us that you are fully responsible for your actions throughout the last twenty-four hours. Alcohol does not absolve you of your crimes, which include kidnapping, unlawful entry into several residences, destruction of property, teleporting under the influence, and endangerment of multiple ponies.”
“Honestly, I’m impressed,” Boomer whispered into Shining’s ear. “When I got drunk, I only committed, like, public indecency.” The prince waved him away.
“However, us princesses are also witnesses to your character, and acknowledge that this is not within your normal realm of actions. Thus, we have decided to give you two options.”
“Because we couldn’t agree on one,” Princess Luna grumbled to herself. Princess Celestia shot her sister a look.
“Either,” she continued, the two stallions hanging onto her every word, “you can serve out your punishment, which we shall disclose later, or we shall cast a spell that will allow you to redo this experience from the start.”
Shining Armor and Flam looked at each other. “Excuse me?” the former asked. “Redo the experience?”
“Yes,” Twilight Sparkle said, flying down to them. “We would send you back to the night of Blueblood’s party, and all you would have to do is make better decisions. You’d still have your memories of everything that’s happened today, but nopony else would.”
“We’re giving you the opportunity for a clean slate, basically,” Princess Cadance added. “Start over, and as long as you don’t kidnap Apple Bloom, everything’s solved!”
Shining Armor beamed. “That’s perfect! Of course we’re going to do that! That’s a great idea! Right, Flam?” No response. “...right?”
The mustached stallion remained silent, lost in thought. After a whole minute, he turned to Shining Armor. “I can’t.”
“What do you mean?”
“I can’t get rid of this experience!” Flam cried out. “This has been the best day of my life! I found friends in the Unicorn Squad, got a temporary brother, and stood up to my actual brother! Not to mention all the great stuff I’ve gotten to do with you! Secret love affairs, pulling off cons, laughing in the face of danger… We’ve really bonded today. I don’t want to lose that.”
“Well, we would still remember it,” Shining Armor pointed out.
“But the other ponies wouldn’t. I’d lose my first day of true self-confidence. I’m sorry, Shining, but I’d rather just serve our punishment out, whatever it is.”
“But if we do that, my reputation, my marriage, and my life are all done for. I need this second chance!”
“You both have to agree,” Princess Celestia stated. “I know it’s tough, but you need to reach a decision.”
The two stallions stared at each other, hoping the other would give in. As much as he valued Flam’s friendship, Shining Armor didn't want to risk his own future. And as much as he wanted to make Shining Armor happy, Flam also wanted to make himself happy, too.
They simultaneously opened their mouths to speak.
And that’s when the zeppelin crashed through the wall.
The force of the crash had knocked him, Flam, and Boomer backwards, sending them hurtling into a wall. As they fell on the floor, coughing, the prince looked through the thick cloud of dust to see a giant hole in the wall, letting in the light of the early evening. Scattered around it was a pile of debris, mixed in with the remains of a stained glass window. The room felt like it was ever so slightly shaking.
Shining slowly made his way off the floor. “Well, that didn't feel great,” he wheezed, helping Flam onto his hooves. “As if I needed to get more injured today.”
“What was that?” Flam asked, bushing bits of brick out of his mane. The two stallions stumbled toward the hole and looked outside, where they saw an extravagant zeppelin floating near the castle.
From the deck, the Cutie Mark Crusaders waved at them.
A door on the giant aircraft opened, and Starlight Glimmer stepped out. With the glow of her horn, she slowly levitated herself and Rarity off of the zeppelin, and they flew into the castle through the large opening they had created.
“That’s one way to get past the Canterlot security system,” Rarity said, running her hood through her mane to make sure it wasn’t damaged. “Not my first choice, but…”
“Hey, it worked, didn't it?” Starlight replied. She turned to the stallions. “The Unicorn Squad is here to rescue you!”
Shining Armor and Flam looked at each other, then at the beaming mares. The former put his face in his hooves.
“We appreciate the gesture,” Flam began, “but--”
“But smashing a giant zeppelin into the castle?!” Shining interrupted. “What were you thinking?!”
“Well, once you were captured by the guards,” Starlight explained, “we realized that the only way to save you was to think way outside of the box. So, we thought, What would Shining Armor and Flam do? And eventually, we came up with the idea to find a battering ram.”
“And a zeppelin just seemed like the most logical option, of course,” Rarity added, checking to see if her hooves had gotten dirty from the rubble. “Stealing one from the docks was surprisingly simple.”
“We just had to help our friends.” Starlight grabbed onto Shining’s hoof, and began pulling him toward the exit. “Now, come on! Let’s get out of here while we still have the chance!”
Shining pulled his hoof away from her and stayed back. “Guys, you’re going to be in so much trouble!” he cautioned. “We don’t want to escape!”
“You don’t?” Apple Bloom asked, flying in on Gallus’s back with the rest of the Crusaders. “Why?!”
“The princesses were going to give us a second chance to fix things! They showed us what happened last night. We got drunk, and made a bunch of bad decisions.”
“This is an important lesson for you, children,” Flam said, turning to the Cutie Mark Crusaders. “Alcohol is very dangerous, and you definitely shouldn’t partake in it until you’re much older.” He paused. “Although, I know you’re growing up, which means you’re gonna want to start experimenting with certain things, which is fine and you should, but--”
“Flam,” Rarity said politely, though the look in her eyes sent chills down the stallion’s spine. “Please stop encouraging my little sister to start drinking.”
“They weren’t going to send us to Tartarus,” Shining Armor continued. “They were going to send us back in time to redo this mess from the beginning!”
“If we picked that option,” Flam clarified. “We were undecided.”
Starlight and Rarity’s ears flopped down, and they frowned at each other.
“Looks like we might’ve made a small mistake,” the former admitted. “But, fear not! We can fix this! We’ll just explain to the princesses that you had nothing to do with this plan, and everything will be good.”
“That might be a little hard,” Boomer said in the distance. The Unicorn Squad and their company trotted over to him, and gasped.
There, lying on the ground, surrounded by rubble, were all four princesses, unconscious.
Shining Armor ran to his wife. Flam’s jaw dropped. Gallus covered the Crusaders’ eyes with his wing. Rarity nearly fainted.
“Cadance!” the prince cried out, hugging his wife. “No! You’re going to be okay, honey!”
“They must’ve been knocked out by the force of the zeppelin,” Boomer explained. “I checked their pulses. All of them should be fine.”
“This is what happens when you follow the example of two very drunk stallions!” Shining shouted.
“For the record, I was very against this idea,” Gallus stated, blowing his top feathers out of his face.
“What?” Sweetie Belle asked. “You were the one who suggested a zeppelin! Gave us a whole sob story about wanting to ride one as a kid!”
“Hey, it’s not my fault Starlight can’t pilot one of those things!”
"Aww, man!" Flam whimpered, his breath speeding up. "Look at what the 'Magic of Murder' has done to us! We're falling apart, and--"
The stallion was interrupted when a rumbling noise started echoing throughout the room. Without warning, the entire throne room started to shake, and all the curtains fell down to the ground, cloaking the Unicorn Squad. This ended up being a good thing, as one of the stained glass windows shattered, and the fabric protected the group from the pointy shards.
“What is happening?!” Rarity exclaimed, peeking out from under the curtain.
“This is it,” Flam gasped, hugging onto Shining Armor. “The gates to Tartarus are opening! We’re doomed!”
“Or the blow from the zeppelin destroyed the infrastructure of the castle,” Boomer suggested, “which is now falling apart with us inside.”
“You say that so calmly!” Gallus shouted, his feathers ruffled.
“Eh, we deal with a threat to Equestria, like, every twenty-six days. Nothing phases me anymore.”
Flam started hyperventilating and pacing. “This is bad. This is bad. This is really, really, REALLY bad!”
“Are we gonna die in here?!” Scootaloo panicked.
Shining Armor’s ears perked up at those words. “No!” he shouted, his voice confident and full of authority. “We’ve come too far to die from a crumbling castle!”
“So, what do we do?!” Gallus asked.
“We need to evacuate the castle, and get everypony outside before the building caves in.”
Starlight nodded. “Gallus, could you bring out the princesses and Crusaders outside and keep them a safe distance from the building?” The griffon hesitated. “I’ll give you extra credit.”
“Sold!” he said, letting the fillies climb onto his back. “Now I don’t have to worry about that dumb decoration final!”
“Hey!” Rarity shouted. “Decoration is not dumb, it’s art, and--”
“Not the time!” Shining interrupted. “The rest of us will scour the castle halls and help everypony else escape. Is that clear?” Every creature nodded.
“Seeing you in action makes you that much more attractive,” Flam mused.
As Gallus flew away, the others formed a huddle and put their hooves together in the center.
“We got this,” Shining Armor said. “If we could get away with kidnapping Apple Bloom, amongst many other things today, we can definitely do this.”
“Right!” Flam affirmed. Together, the group smiled at one another and tossed their hooves up into the air. “Let’s go, Unicorn Squad!”
“And also me!” Boomer exclaimed. The others looked at him, eyebrows raised. “What? I’m not a unicorn.”
Boomer was doing a headcount.
Him, Shining Armor, Flam, Rarity, and Starlight Glimmer had all dashed through the halls as fast as they could, peeking into every door and warning everypony to get out. With the assistance of several Royal Guards, within five minutes, they had everypony out and safely away from the castle.
Or so they thought.
“I think this is everypony,” Boomer called out to Shining Armor, who was trying to calm down the frantic crowd. “The princesses are here, all the Royal Guards on duty are present, the scheduled visitors are accounted for, and of course, us.” He patted the prince on the back. “Look at that. We pulled off this dangerous stunt without any drama. I think that’s a major accomplishment, considering... well, everything that's happened.”
“Maybe,” Shining Armor replied, looking around.
The sea of panicked ponies who had escaped was growing in size, as several bystanders watched as small pieces of Canterlot Castle began falling. It was only a matter of minutes before the whole thing went down. Starlight was trying to stop it from crumbling with her magic, but to no avail.
"I'm not powerful enough!” she said, straining her horn. “I’m sure the princesses could fix this, but they’re unconscious!”
“They are not going to be happy when they see we destroyed they’re castle,” Flam sighed. “They probably won’t be surprised. But they will definitely be upset.”
“They’ll be pleased that we took matters into our own hooves to save everypony’s lives,” Rarity assured, putting her hoof on Flam’s back. "At least there's that."
As the myriad of ponies watched the fall of Canterlot Castle, Shining Armor continued scanning the crowd. Sure enough, it seemed like Boomer was right. They had been successful in their mission. Until…
“BLUEBLOOD!” Shining realized, searching through the myriad of mares and stallions. “Where’s Prince Blueblood?!”
Boomer and Gallus took to the skies and looked for him from above. Both shook their heads.
“He must still be inside!” Starlight gasped.
“Oh no!" Sweetie Belle squealed. "Somepony has to save him!”
“There’s no time!” Scootaloo shouted. “The castle’s gonna fall at any second!”
Shining Armor and Flam looked at each other. Simultaneously, they both heaved a heavy sigh, then nodded to each other.
Without an glimmer of hesitation, they dashed back into the castle.
The crowd gasped in horror.
"Those two are either incredibly brave, or incredibly stupid," Gallus said to himself, watching them disappear. "But probably incredibly stupid. I'd bet on that."
Starlight glared at him. "Gallus!"
"I mean, I wish you two the best! Good luck! Try not to die! I mean, it wouldn't drastically affect my life if you did, but try not to anyway!"
Shining Armor, dressed as a hayburger, covered in glass and whipped cream, body aching from all the pain he had endured throughout the course of the day, ran through the weakening castle. Beside him was Flam, wearing a smart business suit, with his mane dyed a deep blue, his mustache billowing from the speed of their trotting.
The building surrounded them was crumbling. Giant slabs of brick were tumbling from the ceiling. Glass windows were shattered, spreading their remains across the ground. The tapestries, the decor, and everything that had once made the castle so regal and beautiful was now broken, scattered across the floor. Everything was shaking.
And still, the two stallions ran as fast as they could.
“I thought what we did last night was both great and awful,” Flam panted, leaping over the remains of a potted shrub. “But this? This takes the cake! We’re saving a life, but we’re gonna die in the process!”
“Hey, we’ve done everything wrong this whole day,” Shining Armor replied. “It’s about time we finally did something right.”
Flam silently considered this, then sighed. “Yeah, yeah. Blueblood’s a butt, but he deserves to be saved, just like anypony else.”
“Exactly. Now, if I were a snotty, rich, upper-class snob, where I be?”
Flam shook his head. “You’re asking the wrong question. Remember, we just made him rub frosting all over his body. He has to have figured that out by now.”
“Okay, fine. If I were a devastated snotty, rich, upper-class snob covered in food, where I be?”
“Probably moping under a bed,” Flam suggested.
Shining Armor’s ears perked up. “Celestia’s bedroom! It has a huge bed, plus the largest mirror in the castle! A pony as vain as Blueblood couldn’t resist that.”
“Alright! Lead the way, Shiny!”
The two stallions dashed ahead, running as fast as their legs could take them, as the castle continued to rumble.
“Blueblood?! Blueblood, are you in here?!”
Shining Armor and Flam had entered Princess Celestia’s room, a mess of oversized furniture and solar-themed decorations. After briefly marveling at the furniture, the two stallions walked over to her bed, a structure large enough to fit them and at least two other ponies.
“Blueblood, are you under there?” Shining called out. No response. He peeked under the bed, and sure enough, there was a sobbing Prince Blueblood, still covered in the disgusting “lotion” they had provided him earlier. “Ah. Hey, buddy.”
“Leave me alone,” Blueblood moped, quiet and defeated. “I never want to see you or your disgusting faces ever again.”
“Hey, I think our faces are beautiful,” Flam said, joining the two princes. “But that’s not the point. Canterlot Castle is falling apart, and we’ve come to rescue you!”
“Lies!” Blueblood hissed. “You’re just trying to humiliate me again! Just like when you left my party drunk, and threw up in my fountain, and made me cover myself in this horrible lotion! Which, by the way, is going to do terribly in the markets!”
Shining Armor gulped. “...it’s actually chocolate frosting mixed with gravy and cheese.”
“WELL, THAT’S JUST FANTASTIC!”
Shining Armor and Flam looked at each other, and the former sighed. “Blueblood, I’m sorry,” he apologized. “I know that we mutually dislike each other, but that doesn't give me the right to embarrass you at every turn, especially since you haven’t really done anything to actively embarrass me. Today has been this whole series of great ideas that turned out to actually be not so great, and maybe what we did to you was--”
“I love this touching speech,” Flam interrupted, covering the prince’s mouth, “but the castle’s falling down, and if we can avoid death, that would be swell.”
Shining Armor held out his hoof to Blueblood. “Come on. It’s high time we started over from scratch. No more conflicts, just friendship. And that starts with letting us save your life.” He looked directly into Blueblood’s eyes and beamed.
The other stallion hesitated. He looked at Shining, then Flam, then at himself. He sighed, then finally grabbed onto the other prince’s hoof. “Sorry, it’s so sticky. Although, that’s your fault.”
Shining pulled him out, and the two smiled at each other. “Now, as Flam so eloquently put, we are about to die, so let’s get out of here. Come on!”
Blueblood quickly dashed out the door, and started his way down the hallway. Shining Armor and Flam were about to follow him, when they heard a crack.
They looked down.
Before they could even react, the floor beneath them collapsed, and the stallions felt themselves plummeting through the castle.
The last thing they saw was their bodies landing straight onto the table in the dungeon.
When Flam came to, he could hardly move.
He was staring up, looking at the remains of the castle. Part of it was still intact, part of it was still slowly crumbling. There were bricks, shards of glass, and pieces of wood all around him.
He turned his head to the side. There was Shining Armor beside him, conscious but also barely capable of motion.
“Well,” Flam wheezed, “this might be a fate worse than Tartarus.”
“We’re not dying,” Shining Armor replied. “We didn't fall that far. I think our bodies are just in shock or something.”
The two lay on the ground in silence, staring up at the results of all the damage they had caused.
“Who knew,” Flam began, coughing, “that kidnapping Apple Bloom would lead to this? I sure didn't.”
“Neither did I,” Shining responded. He then managed to turn his body toward the other stallion, and looked directly at him. “Flam, you had no reason to come with me into the castle to save Blueblood. Why did you?”
The mustached unicorn giggled. “Back in that hotel room, you told me, while grabbing onto my face, that we’re in this together. I wasn’t about to let you risk your life alone.” His hoof crept towards Shining’s, and he rested it on top of the prince’s. “I know your heart belongs to Cadance, but I still love you. Saying that wasn’t just drunken ramblings.”
Shining laughed. “And I love you too, Flam. Just… platonically, of course.” He paused. “You know, now that I’ve made up with Prince Blueblood, I think my opinion has changed. I don’t want to go back and redo everything anymore. I’m okay if we just take our punishment, whatever it might be.”
“Really?!” Flam asked, his whole face lit up. “Are you sure?”
They both started laughing. “I think we’re eternally bonded now,” Flam chuckled. “We’ve been through so much together. I’m so glad we met.”
“Best drunken decision I ever made,” Shining replied, tearily giggling.
The two stayed on the ground, watching the castle crumble around them as they talked and joked. After a while, their eyes shut, and the two fell asleep, still holding hooves.
When Shining Armor woke up, the first thing he saw was Boomer’s face. Their noses were almost touching.
“Boomer!” he shouted, shoving the pegasus back. “Get away from me!”
“Hey, everypony, he’s awake!” the guard shouted, waving his hoof in the air.
Shining Armor sat up and looked around. He wasn’t in the remains of the castle anymore. Instead, he was outside, surrounded by a crowd of both ponies he knew, and ponies he had never seen before in his life.
Before he could process anything, he was leapt on by Princess Twilight.
“I’m so glad you’re okay, B.B.B.F.F.!” she said, giving her brother a big hug. “When Apple Bloom told us you were inside, we got so worried!”
“What happened?” Shining asked, rubbing his head. “The last thing I remember was lying on the ground of the dungeon.”
“Blueblood successfully made it out of the castle, and immediately found us,” Boomer explained. “He said you had saved him, but got trapped inside the castle. We were inspired by your bravery, so Gallus and I flew right in and carried you out.”
“We woke up shortly after,” Twilight continued, “and Starlight explained how a rogue, unpiloted zeppelin crashed into the castle, and that you and Flam were the ponies leading the evacuation to keep everypony safe.”
Shining looked at Starlight, who winked at him. You're welcome, she mouthed.
“Your wife started performing a spell to heal you, while Princess Celestia and Luna started fixing up the castle,” Boomer said. “It looks like everything should be fine within a week or so. And nopony got injured, thanks to your efforts.”
“So, Blueblood told you to save us,” Shining thought aloud. “Wow. Times really have changed.”
“You did some fantastic work today, big brother,” Twilight chuckled. “We’re very proud of you.”
Out of the corner of his eye, Shining Armor could see Princess Celestia walking toward him. The ruler opened her wing, and wrapped him in it.
“Come with me,” she warmly said.
Princess Celestia brought Shining Armor far away from the crowd, into one of the castle courtyards, which was entirely void of any ponies.
Except for Flam.
“Shiny!” the stallion called out, running over to give him a hug. “We did it!”
“We did it!” Shining repeated.
“You did it!” Princess Celestia laughed. “I’m sure your sister told you, but we were all very impressed with your efforts today. You not only saved us princesses, but also evacuated the entire castle and put your life on the line to save your enemy. It takes a pretty special pair of ponies to do that.”
“We had help, of course,” Flam said. “Boomer, Starlight, Rarity, Gallus, the Crusaders… it was a group effort.”
“Which brings me to my next point,” Celestia continued, standing over the stallions. “Apple Bloom told me that she had forgiven you for kidnapping her, and said the experience taught her the value of steering clear of alcohol and drugs. Blueblood said that you were adamant about fixing your relationship, and called you heroes.”
“I’m sure he didn't say that,” Shining scoffed, shaking his head.
“Oh, he did. Repeatedly. My point is that, even though you may have kidnapped Apple Bloom, you’ve proven yourselves today to be quite the heroes. And so, we’ve decided to change your punishment.” The stallions held their breath. “Shining Armor and Flam, us princesses have made a decision to sentence you… to the repair of Scootaloo’s house, alongside fifteen hours of community service.”
Shining Armor and Flam gasped. “That’s it?!”
“You risked your lives to save ours,” Celestia replied, “and nopony was really hurt or upset by your actions. We took that into account when reaching our decision.”
Shining Armor and Flam leapt into the air, and started dancing together. “We did it!” they sang, falling to the ground. “We’re not going to Tartarus!”
“For the record, Tartarus was never in the cards for you,” Princess Celestia laughed. “Now, did you learn your lesson?” The stallions nodded their heads. “What was it?”
“We learned that--” Shining Armor began.
“No, no, no!” Flam interrupted, staring straight into Celestia’s eyes. “I don’t understand why this whole ‘Magic of Murder’ thing always requires that you say what you learned out loud! Like, can’t we just learn the lesson?! It’s not like we’re on broadcast television! Not everypony has to know our mistakes and what we took from them!”
Princess Celestia giggled. “You’ve found quite the friend here, Shining Armor.”
“That I have,” the prince replied. A sudden realization dawned on him.
He ran out of the courtyard with fervor, searching for his wife. Eventually, found her, sitting on the steps by the castle entrance.
“Hey,” Shining panted, taking a seat next to his wife.
“Shiny!” she exclaimed, smiling at him. “I’m so glad you’re alright!”
“Me too. This whole ordeal is over. Everything can go back to normal.” He paused, staring at his wife. “At least, I hope so.”
“Well,” Cadance admitted, brushing her long mane with her hooves, “watching you cheat on me with Flam wasn’t great.”
The princess sighed. “Honestly, I think I just need some time to process my feelings. I’m angry, but I’m happy, but I’m sad… I’m confused. I think… maybe you should rent a hotel room for a couple of days.”
Shining sighed, but nodded. “I completely understand.”
“I can assure you, this isn’t the end of our marriage,” Cadance clarified. “But I feel like I need some time to myself for now.” She gave Shining Armor a kiss on the forehead. “Of course, you can come see Flurry Heart whenever you want.”
“I’ll let you know when I’m ready to talk again,” Cadance said, walking away. “I love you, Shiny.”
“Love you, too, babe.”
Shining Armor watched as Cadance left, and let out a deep sigh. After a moment of silence, Flam walked over to him and sat down.
“Turns out, I didn't really think the whole ‘standing up to my brother’ thing through,” he began, wrapping his leg around the prince, “and now him and I aren’t really talking, which means I don’t exactly have a place to stay at the moment.” He paused. “How would you like to split the cost of a hotel room together for a couple of days?”
Shining Armor smiled at him. “I’d like that.”
The two stallions hoof-bumped each other, then walked together into the sea of ponies.
After temporarily diverging to collect their belongings, the stallions reunited at the Canterlot Hotel, renting the same hotel room they had found themselves in at the beginning of the day. The two were thoroughly exhausted, and looked forward to a night of peaceful slumber.
They closed their eyes.
The sudden voice jolted them both awake, causing Flam to fall out of bed. In his tired haze, he turned on the light and saw a draconequus floating in the middle of their room.
“Discord?” he yawned. “What are you…”
“I heard someone calling for me,” Discord explained. “Was it you?”
Flam facehoofed. “Dude, that was hours ago! You’re so late! Do you know how helpful you could’ve been?!”
Flam rolled his eyes, then resettled in the bed next to Shining Armor and threw a blanket over his body. Discord just stared at them.
“Wait, so you don’t need me?!” he asked.
The draconequus, confused, snapped his fingers and disappeared.