Shining Armor sat at his desk or rather with his chin sitting atop his desk. This was the most he had ever slouched in his seat in the history of his life. A pencil rolled back and forth over his desk as his breath rocked it.
By all means he should be happy, he won after all, but all he was feeling was guilty. He kept telling himself it was for the best but he couldn't shake this feeling of shame. If his mother was here she'd probably make some comment about him being a heart breaker.
"Maybe I should make my rounds, get my mind off of this."
He put on his uniform and left the office to find the Gala already in full swing. He rolled his eyes, it had only felt like an hour's worth of sulking in his office but it must have been much more longer. Ever since his bet with Cadance, his perception of time had been out of sync with the rest of the world, he hated it.
He started his patrol towards the Western Tower, it wasn't often checked by this was precisely why he needed to do it on this night. He took note that he did not see any of his fellow officers out and about, something to possibly reprimand them about later, who else was going to be there should a commotion arise?
Climbing the stairs he saw a shadow move inside the tower room. He snorted determinedly, he didn't know what was going on, but he was going to find out. Upon entering he found none other than Princess Luna leaning on the rail of the balcony, looking down at the ponies below.
"Oh, Princess Luna. Apologies your majesty, I didn't know it was you who was up here."
"Tis fine. Thy name is Shining Armor correct? Captain of the royal guards?"
"Been hearing a lot of things about thee." Shining Armor frowned. "Fret not, tis good speak. However, I must know, when doust thou sleep?"
"I have seen ye on both the day and night shift. Exactly when does thou have ye free time?"
"Simple. I don't. I work both shifts and sleep when I can."
"And here I thought myself and Tia were the hard workers. I suppose it tis another reason why Miss Mi Amore Cadenza loves you."
"Yeah..." Shining Armor shuffled his hooves sheepishly. "About her..."
"I take it thou regrets turning away her affections?"
"Yes! I mean no! I mean......sigh...I don't know."
Princess Luna said nothing, but sat patiently waiting for him to continue.
"I mean I did the right thing, right? This way her reputation in undamaged and she can rule properly. Do you think it was the right decision?"
"What makes something right is remembering it how it affects everypony as a whole. Not how it affects you, or Cadence, but everypony."
"Well that's what I was doing!!"
"Are thee sure? Perhaps ye should talk with Cadance."
"Yes. She may have a greater understanding of the situation than you might think."
Shining Armor's chat with Luna hadn't made him feel any better about the situation, but he decided to take her advice and find Cadance anyways.
Something was off though, some of the guards and local residents seemed...down? Almost as if the night itself was bitter sweet, a hallowed celebration as it were.
"What is wrong with everyone tonight?"
He came across two guards, a stallion and a mare who saluted him on sight.
The guards relaxed. "What brings you out here, Sir?"
"I was hoping you all could explain why some of the local residents seem a little ... off tonight. Any idea what's wrong?"
"Permission to speak freely, Sir?" asked the mare.
"It's because you and Cadance were so cute together!" the mare practically whined.
"I think what my fellow guard is trying to say is that some of us were kind of optimistic about your relationship with Princess Cadance. It seems like kind of a shame that the two of you didn't end up together."
"It was for the best."
"The best for you maybe!" the mare snapped only to get elbowed by her fellow guard. "Um, Sir! That is!" she said with a salute.
They just got on thin ice with their Captain, they could see it in his eyes.
"Sir, what I think my cohort is trying to say here is that everypony was happy for the two of you. The two of you deserved each other."
"A pon-Er Princess like Cadance deserves a pony of better stature than just a soldier!"
"Sir, is that what this has all been about? You thinking you're not good enough?" asked the mare.
"Hey! I didn't turn her away just because of me, I did it for everypony! This way I can continue to protect the ponies of Canterlot and foreign dignitaries will continue to think of her in the highest of regards!"
Both guards stared at him silently for a moment until the mare broke the silence. "What?"
"I think he might actually care for her too much."
They looked at each other before nodding in agreement.
"Sir, no matter what you decide, you are still our commanding officer and we will respect your choices...but before you go and decide anything permanent we both ask that you please go and see Princess Cadance."
"I was already searching for her."
Shining Armor had entered the ballroom, if he had to guess where she was, this was it. A crowd was already starting to develop. He didn't see her yet, but he did see the Wonderbolts invite Twilight's friend in to their private party. What was her name? Rainbow Dink? It didn't matter at the moment.
Through the corner of his eye he saw a multi-colored movement which seemed to match Cadance's hair scheme. He turned around only to see the crowd had gotten larger. He did his best to try and cut through it but progress was slow at best. Feeling fed up with the attempt he tried going around only to be met with similar results. He groaned in frustration, he needed to get out of this crowd now, he was just going to have to teleport out, he didn't even care where he ended up.
He lit up his horn and in a bright flash he was gone. It was in the garden that he reappeared in a flash.
The sounds of a dress rustling caused him to turn around where he saw exactly who he was looking for. Princess Cadance.
Shining Armor actually stood speechless at the sight of her. She was as white as a sheet and here eyes were red and puffy, as if she had been crying. What really broke his heart was her frown, as if she had her entire world come crashing down around her.
"Shiny?" she said it with such a horse voice it nearly broke Shining Armor's heart. She quickly cleared her voice. "Ahem. I mean, Captain...what can I help you with this evening?"
There was something about hearing Cadance address him in such a formal way which just seemed to hurt.
"Listen, Cadance I..."
"I'm afraid that's Princess Mi Amore Cadenza to you."
Again, the formalities seemed to hurt. "Listen, about everything...I never meant to..."
"I'm sorry, Captain!" Cadance cut in. "You don't need to say anything! You've already made your intentions quite clear." She turned around held her head high. "I bid you good evening." There was a certain hiccup in her voice that told him she was fighting back the floodgate of tears.
As she walked back in to the ballroom Shining Armor felt as if she was walking out of his life forever. Now completely alone, the gravity of the situation seemed to hit him in full force.
"What have I done? I...oh dear sweet Celestia..."
A stone wall nearby was built to separate ponies just entering the garden from the flowers, so they wouldn't crush them accidentally. Shining Armor found it a good place to lean on. He threw his arms up on top of it, folding them before resting his head on top.
"I...I'm not even worthy of this armo..."
"Ow!! Stop it! You're hurting me!"
Shining Armor's head snapped up as he recognized Cadance's voice instantly. He practically threw himself away from the wall and galloped back in to the ballroom in the direction he thought he herd her. Perhaps faster than he meant to, he was already entering the ballroom searching for Cadance.
Cutting through the crowd turned out to be much easier than he thought it would be. It was over at the buffet table where he found her being poked and prodded by some foreign dignitary. He could tell by the fancy sash he was wearing.
"Oh come on, now." the dignitary started. "All I'm asking for is a simple feather so I can show my friends back home I met you."
Cadance clearly didn't like the way this guy was treating her, but if she wasn't careful about how she got him to leave her alone it could turn in to a diplomatic nightmare.
"Maybe you can't see who I am through those puffy eyes of yours but I am the ambassador to Istan-Bull so I think an alicorn feather would really help impress the dignitaries."
"I don't think you should have to rely on a feather from me to do your job!"
"Well considering how awful you look tonight I don't think a feather is too much to ask. I mean come on, I thought royalty cared about how they look; don't you know how you're looking in front of everypony? You're a mess! I mean you're supposed to represent the royal family and you don't even care! Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha..."
The stallion stumbled back hitting the window wall holding his nose. "You jerk!! I think you broke it!!!"
Standing between him and Princess Cadance was Shining Armor with his hoof outstretched. "I hope I did!! You deserve it for harassing her!"
"Excuse me?! I am the ambassador to In..."
"Then you shouldn't need to harass the princess to do your job!" Shining Armor cut in. "How dare you treat Princess Cadance in such a way?! Exactly what makes you think it's okay to treat her this way?!"
"Calm down there, 'soldier'." the ambassador rubbed his nose. "All I was asking for was a feather. If she can't give me just one little feather for the sake of peace then..."
"I repeat myself; You shouldn't need to harass the princess to do your job!! Cadance deserves better than this!! I have more than half a mind to lock you up for this behavior!!"
"And why should you care?!"
The sudden question seemed to catch Shining Armor off guard.
"What do you mean?"
"Last time I checked the grape vine, you went through this big bet with her to prove you DIDN'T love her! Are you saying now you do?"
With the spotlight suddenly on himself, Shining Armor couldn't help but feel nervous. He steeled himself though, he knew what he had to do.
"Yes I love her!!" He took a moment to calm down but retained his serious composure. "I have always loved her. From the first moment I saw her, I loved her. However, because she was a princess I put her on a pedestal high above me so I wouldn't end up getting hurt, but then I grew up. I not only achieved my dream but I excelled at it to the point of promotion, so when Princess Cadance came to me with an offer of a relationship, I'll be honest, despite how I made myself look, I was happy about it."
Cadance's jaw had dropped as soon as Shining Armor had stepped in. And now, as she was absorbing this new information, color started to come back to her face.
"I turned her away though. As the Captain of the Royal Guard it was my duty to protect the Princesses from all threats, even threats to their reputation, even threats that came from dating a subordinate, threats from myself. I ignored my feelings for her thinking we would both be able to move on with our lives when everything was over but I was wrong! It isn't something either of us can ignore, I thought I could snipe our relationship before it even began but it was useless. We're already connected..." he turned to look at her.
"Cadance, I'm sorry. I thought I was protecting you, but all this time I was actually hurting you without even knowing it. Do you think you could ever forgive me?"
Cadance, while having regained color, had not moved one inch one way or the other.
He waved his hoof in front of her face but she still didn't move.
"Cadance?! Speak to me!! Snap out of it! React!!! Come on, get happy! Get mad! Get something other than stone cold paralyzed!!"
He was about to shake her in desperation when Cadance suddenly shot out and kissed him on the mouth. He kissed back, passionately. This seemed to lead to an uproar in applause from the ponies around them.
When they finally broke off the kiss Shining Armor was surprised to see Cadance laughing while tears streamed down her face.
"Cadance? What's wrong?! Why are you crying?! Why are you laughing?!"
"I'm just so happy!!" she threw her arms around him and sobbed happily in to his neck.
He hugged her back even as an odd commotion started behind her. It looked like Twilight's friend Rainbow Dash had caught a statue only for it to break in two. It was a very odd scene. Of course this was all before a pink pony catapulted a cake in to the air and on to Prince Blueblood's date, who proceeded to shake it all off in his direction in an attempt to get him dirty. Didn't get much weirder than that...or at least that's what he thought.
Then the doors were kicked open as an array of wild animals stampeded in. This caught Cadance's attention as well but she never did really let go of Shining Armor. As the dust cleared a yellow Pegasus wearing a green dress panted out of breath as she frantically looked around the room for the animals.
"You're... going... to LOVE ME!!!"
"NO!!! HE'S MINE!!! I JUST GOT HIM!!! YOU CAN'T HAVE HIM!!!" Cadance shouted back as she cuddled Shining Armor protectively.
Whatever chaos was being ensued seemed to be put on hold at this counter outburst. A small bit of laughter cut through the silence as Princess Celestia appeared next to the new couple.
"Cadance, I hope you don't mind but I was wondering if I could borrow your new boyfriend to organize a clean up for the recent disaster."
"Oh! Um Aunty...sure."
The ruler of Equestria beamed at this news. "Excellent! Now if you excuse me, I need to have a little 'chat' with a certain ambassador to Instan-Bull."
As Shining Armor left Cadance, after a promise to hurry up the job and spend as much time as possible with her after, he was greeted with lots of congratulations and pats on the back. He grinned, just as he was about to think all his worries were in his head he spotted the council ponies, they didn't seem happy. They whispered amongst themselves and then departed. Shining Armor frowned.
One week later...
Cadance couldn't have been happier. Now that she was dating Shining Armor, her life was exactly the way she thought it would be. She and Shining Armor were spending so much time together they were hardly ever seen apart. However, every now and then she did hear whispers of rumors, surprisingly enough they weren't about her like Shining Armor thought they would be. No. They were about Shining Armor.
They were usually things like 'I bet he used his relationship with her to get his job'. Cadance didn't pay it any attention though, she had Shining Armor and that was all that mattered.
She walked in to her living room and found Shining Armor waiting for on her couch like usual. She sat next to him and he put an arm around her. She sighed contently.
"Shining Armor, I was thinking maybe we could go on a picnic at the private garden on Wednesday."
"I'm afraid I won't be able to make that Cadance..."
"You see, that's the date of my court martial."