Forever Is A Long Time by Softy8088
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Story Notes:

Gold Medal winner of the July 2015 Writeoff event, for the prompt "Best Laid Plans".

“My mane’s turning gray,” Shining Armor announced.

Cadance looked up with a small start, her suddenly-wide eyes peering over the smooth, polished crystal expanse of table at her husband, as if they could discern the change he had just spoken of if she looked hard enough.

“Just one hair,” he added matter-of-factly, pointing. “One-and-a-half. So far. But it’s definite.”

“Oh.” Cadance’s gaze fell, settling somberly on the breakfast cooling before her. Her dry, empty mouth swallowed.

The stallion idly poked at his own meal. “I guess it’s not that much of a surprise.”

“No.”

“It makes sense.”

“Yes.”

“I should’ve seen it coming. We’ve both known. For a few years now, I think.”

She nodded. “Longer.” At last she took a bite, visibly enjoying it not at all, looking at nothing. Eventually she asked, “So, what now?”

He shrugged. “I figure I have a few decades left in me.” Shining Armor’s lips formed a modest smile, though his eyes stared somewhere far away. “I’ll make the most of them. Though I guess they are going to go by pretty fast, considering...” The smile faded. The stare remained.

Cadance dabbed at her mouth with a napkin. “I’m sorry,” she said in near-whisper.

“No, no. Don’t be.” He waved, then leaned back with a heavy sigh. “I had a good run. A great run. We did.” He was looking out the window now, into gleaming city-empire below. “I don’t regret it. Not any of it.”

At last a faint smile formed on the mare’s muzzle. “Good. I’m glad.” Another bite, chew, swallow. “You should find somepony.” She turned back to him, features placid, soft. “I–If you want to, that is. I can wait; we can still be–”

Already his gesture silenced her. “Nah. It doesn’t make sense. It was already time. We just... didn’t.” Acquiring a fork, he tucked into his own food with far more relish than she. “I don’t... want anything, by the way. The Crystal Empire’s all yours. So is all our stuff. I still have my own property in Canterlot, my own funds. That’s more than I need. So, there’s nothing to get into an argument over.”

She frowned. “I wasn’t planning on one. Certainly not over money.” Then a confused look. “You still have that place in Canterlot, in your name?”

He paused, meeting her with an empty expression. “I go there every year. Twice, some years.”

“Oh.”

He exhaled. “We used to communicate so much better.”

Cadance’s voice was back to a whisper, her meal still mostly untouched. “We still can. Even if...”

“Yeah,” he replied, adding a firm nod. “I’d like that. Divorcees can be friends. Great friends. Aren’t many ponies my age I can talk to, anyway.”

They both smiled now, gazing at each other. Bittersweetness pervaded it, but a comfortable understanding as well.

Shining Armor chuckled as he ate. “You know, when we got married, I thought it’d be an achievement if we made it to our hundredth wedding anniversary. ’Cause I was, you know, mortal and all. I never imagined we’d celebrate our nine hundredth.” Wistfully, he added, “That was nice.”

“It was,” his wife agreed.

“Well, so much for the big one-oh-oh-oh. Everypony’ll be disappointed.”

“I’m sure they will.” She watched him eat, the corners of her lips uncertain which direction they should point.

“It was a great bonus, though. All these years; more than I had any right to expect. Not even Celestia saw it coming. When Twiley found that book, figured out what was happening...” His eyes shimmered with the memory, still as clear as it was distant. “It seemed like we had forever. You’d given me a gift without even knowing. ‘Their hearts beating as one, their lifeforce bound by the strength of their devotion, fueled by their need.’ I’d never have to leave you because I wouldn’t get any older as long as we–”

He stopped, and the silence stole the tenuous mirth away.

While her husband cleaned off his plate, Cadance poked some more at hers, eventually pushing it away, still-half full, to be collected later.

After some time, Shining Armor spoke again, having finished the last bite. “You don’t have to wait, you know. For me to be gone. You deserve to be happy.”

The immortal princess nodded. “I don’t regret any of it either,” she said, soft but with unquestionable conviction. “And I am sorry... that I couldn’t give you forever.”


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