Open-Heart Operation

by anonpencil

Chapter 1: Love Can Be a Tricky Procedure

Author's Notes:

This won't be what you've come to expect of me, despite what the title might suggest. It's not gross. There's no big violent twist, there's no horror, there's no sad, no perversion. This is exactly what the tags say it is, nothing more and nothing less. Maximum Comfy.
...I can be sweet sometimes. I swear. And nurses need a little love too.


I’ve never been very good at planning dates. Not that I’m terrible, it’s just that I don’t really put that much thought into them usually. Besides the usual cliches of mini golf, dinner at a niceish restaurant, and seeing a movie, I’ve never really had to plot out something romantic from point A to point B before. No grand sweeping gestures, no specially concocted surprises. I suppose that might be a fault on my part, but to be honest, no one’s ever done it for me either, so I don't have any ideas except from movies. Either way, there’s finally come a time where I have to try.

I just hope I don’t screw it all up.

The bouquet of fresh-cut flowers feels foreign in my hand as I approach the front doors of the hospital, and I find myself fumbling with it, fidgeting nervously. Little bits of baby’s breath are flaking off as I flick and pick at them, and are tumbling down my nicely-pressed pants, leaving small white streaks of pollen. I groan and stop to give the slacks a quick brush, but that only makes the marks worse. Large finger-streaks of white mar the otherwise immaculately ironed black fabric.

Okay, well, I’ve already made sure one thing won’t be perfect, but clothes have never been important to her anyway. Maybe she won’t even notice.

I take a slow breath in and out to clear my thoughts. No sweat, no worries. She doesn’t even know what you’ve got planned, so everything will be a pleasant surprise. She’ll appreciate it, of course she will, and it’ll make her smile that way you love so much. This isn’t that hard, this isn’t that scary. Suck it up and let’s get this show started.

But what if…

Brain, we’ve been over this. We’ve looked at it a lot, and there’s really nothing to worry about, we’ve got this! My brain tells me that it hears what I’m saying, but it’s looked at things from a new angle, and has shocking new evidence showing why everything is actually going to be terrible. I resist the urge to tell it to go one and tell me all about it.

Instead, before I can stop myself, I place a hand on the front door and press it open.

The moment I walk inside, every set of eyes turns to me and I instantly regret my attire. It’s probably not often that hospital staff and sickies see someone in a suit with a bouquet coming in unless they’re offering condolences to a death. Probably not the impression I want to give off. What’s worse, a few of the medical staff know me from coming to visit their coworker, and I can see them flinch as they stifle laughter or comments.

Should have just kept it casual, like I thought.

I knew I was no good at romance.

But it’s too late to call it off now, and I stride forward through the waiting area and search the front desk schedule to see who’s on shift where. Lucky for me, her name is written down under “Check In” so she’s bound to be around here somewhere. I give a quick glance around the lobby, and at last spot her, facing away from me, fiddling with the leg rests of a rather resistant wheelchair.

Her hair is up in its usual pink bun, with a few stray whips peaking out from under her hat due to the day’s exertions. Her posture is focused, but more relaxed than she sometimes is right after work, and I doubt she’s even realized that her shift is about to end at this point. Her tail is also bound up, but one long lock of coral pink cascades down against the back of one leg, looking out of place but also kind of adorable. I spend just a moment watching her work, amused and kind of happy at catching her unawares.

Come on, just like you planned.

I walk confidently over to her, or at least try to without tripping over myself. Then I reach down and gently tap her shoulder. As she turns, I can see some muted exhaustion flicker out of her face, quickly replaced with surprise. Her body shudders almost imperceptibly as she’s struck by my sudden presence at her place of employment, and probably also by what I’m wearing. She blinks at me, and I can see in her expression a wave of shock, confusion, and just maybe a little joy.

With the grace of someone who’d practiced the move twenty or so times just a few hours ago in front of the mirror like an idiot, I draw myself up straight, then move my hand forward with a flourish. I pull it back to my chest and give a low, regal bow, as I offer her the bouquet of lilies, roses, and baby’s breath.

“My dear lady Red,” I say, rolling the R in her name. “I have come to take you on a date.”

There’s a moment of silence. Then I hear her give an internal snort and break out into high-pitched giggles of bell-like laughter.

Well, that wasn’t the intended response.

I look up from my bowing pose to see that she’s pressed a hoof over her mouth to stifle the noise, but the flush in her cheeks and the moisture clinging in the corners of her eyes goes to show that she’s more than a little entertained by all this. She glances from me, to my clothes, to the bouquet, then back to me, laughing internally all the while. At last she seems calm enough to speak, but I can still hear the delight in her tone.

“What…what in Equestria are you doing?”

“Er…coming to take you on a date?”

She looks me up and down once more.

“Dressed like that?”

I look down at myself, then back up, then straighten a little. I rub the back of one arm sheepishly.

“Well…yeah. I was trying to get all dressed up for you.”

She forces herself to appear serious, but I can tell that she’s barely holding it together without bursting into laughter again.

“Oh! Oh, yes, of course you look…you look very nice. It’s very sweet of you.”

“Uh huh,” I say, raising one eyebrow. “I can see you’re real choked up about it."

She shakes her head, biting her lower lip to keep the giggles away. I’d be more disappointed, but she’s absurdly cute when she’s laughing, and I can’t help but smile at her.

“No, no, I swear, it’s very wonderful. Very dashing. I feel completely swept off my-”

At this point she can’t stop and begins to giggle again, covering her face with both hooves to try to hide it from me. I roll my eyes and let out a resigned sigh. Well, at least I did make her blush a little. I step forward and wrap her against me in a tight hug while her shoulders stop shaking from laughter, and at last she pushes away, wipes her eyes, and looks up at me, shaking her head.

“What got into your head to inspire you to do…all this?” she asks.

I shrug.

“I don’t know, we’ve been going out a while now and I wanted to do something romantic for you and stuff and I thought you’d like it.”

“Well I do,” she says, far more gently, patting a hoof against my chest. “I really do, it’s maybe the sweetest, dumbest thing anyone’s ever done for me. And the flowers are lovely.”

As if to demonstrate the point, she leans down and takes in a deep slow breath of the flowers, then looks back up at me, batting her eyes.

“See?” she says. “They don’t even make me sneeze or anything.”

“Oh joy,” I say flatly. “I didn’t make you break out in hives. It’s a major success.”

She chuckles and reaches up to give me a quick kiss on the cheek.

“Well thank you, I hate hives.”

“Eh, there’s no telling if the rest of it will give you hives,” I say with a fakely-pessimistic sigh. “So we’ll have to see.”

She tilts her chin at me and narrows her eyes a little.

“The rest?”

“Yep, this is just the first part. But wait! There’s more!” I say exuberantly.

She too now sighs with fake pessimism.

“Well, I suppose it can’t be avoided. Fine, fine, I’ll go on this so-called date with you. Just let me clock out and sign off on a chart, and I’m yours for the evening.”

Now that I really do like the sound of. I smile warmly at her, then give another bow, this time pressing the flowers to my chest like they’re my dearest possession.

“Whatever you say lady Red!” I say, again putting on a sophisticated tone.

She gives a groan.

“Oh for heaven’s sake,” she grumbles good-naturedly. “Just call me Red like I’ve asked, I’m a nurse right now, I hardly feel ladylike.”

She turns to go to the front desk to complete the final tasks for the day, then pauses. She looks over her shoulder at me, wrinkles her nose, and glances up and down my form probingly.

“Hey,” she says finally. “What happened to your pants?”

I look down at my pants, see the very obvious baby’s breath stains, then back up at her quizzical expression. I shut my eyes and try to block out the part of the brain that’s screaming ‘I told you so.’ This isn’t starting the way I’d planned, but that doesn’t mean that the rest of the night still can’t go off without a hitch. Everything has to be perfect.


The waiter escorts us to a small table near the back of the restaurant, away from most of the other guests. Normally I'd like to be out front, where I can see people enter and leave, but I know that after a busy day at the hospital, Red likes her peace and quiet. I'd requested the table ahead of time, and I'm now glad I did, because the place is pretty much packed. Who knew it would be like this on a Thursday night? Even if it is the only French place in town, and one of the few restaurants with any class.

In fact, I'm surprised at how easy it was to get this table, especially in how quiet and distant from everyone it is. I'm not complaining, just noting.

With a flourish, the waiter pulls back Red's chair so she can sit down and she gives him one of her more charming smiles as she settles in. I place my suit jacket across the back of my chair and take my own seat. After that he pours us a pair of glasses of water, and looks to me for confirmation. I give him a nod, that yes the plan is still on, and he gives me a wink before heading off to the kitchen. Operation best-date-ever is still a go, and we're only just getting started.

Once we're alone, Red turns to me, practically beaming.

"This is way, way too much," she says, shaking her head at me. "Chez Chevaux? It must be costing you a hoof and a leg...er...foot and a leg? Hand and an arm? Sorry you know I get mixed up about all your different...terms."

I pretend to roll my eyes at her.

"A nurse who doesn't know her anatomy? Unthinkable! Absurd!"

"Oh come on, I know pony anatomy better than you do."

"So you claim," I say, arching a brow suggestively at her.

She giggles and turns away a little with a blush, but I quickly change mental gears. This is neither the time or place for any of that, and I'm determined to leave the innuendo outside tonight. I clear my throat and glance to the intimidatingly long menu. Red too seems to be looking at it, a little overwhelmed.

"Any idea about what you want?" I say, happy to offer help. "I know you're a big fan of spaghetti and stuff, but French food can be a bit more...out there, and hard to figure out from just the names. If you have questions, you can always-"

She simply waves me off with one hoof, smiling knowingly.

"I've been to Chez Chevaux before, you dork," she says lightly. "I've even had the escargot."

She has? I'm not sure if I'm impressed or crestfallen that she seems more on top of this than I am. I stare her up and down, in half real shock, half faked shock.

"You monster!" I proclaim as indignantly as possible. "Why, I hear that uses...snails!"

"Yeah, that's literally all they are! It's not that great, wouldn't ever do it again, but yes, it's just snails!"

I wrinkle my nose in exaggerated disgust. She gives a heavy, exasperated sigh.

"Honestly I just cannot take you anywhere."

"If you remember correctly," I say, lifting my water glass, pinkie extended for effect. "I took you here tonight, did I not?"

Her lips slip into a wide, tender smile. She slides her hoof across the tablecloth, and I reach back, underneath. I feel the cool hardness of her hoof against my palm, welcome and familiar now. Not a right, necessarily, but a privilege I'm happy to bask in for the time being. I curl my fingertips around the edges, feeling the smooth sides, caressing them gently. She looks almost dreamily up at me, and I look back into her large blue eyes, captivated for a moment by just being touched by her hoof and her gaze.

"That's right," she says gently. "That you did. And I'm very thankful for it."

She leans forward then, and I pick up on the invitation for a kiss. That's sure as heck something I'm not going to pass up on. I stand up out of my chair a little and lean across the table, careful not to catch my shirt on fire from the lit candle flickering between us. She shuts her eyes and tilts her chin up just a little, reaching for me with her lips. I tilt my head and reach up with one hand to gently touch her face, the back of her neatly-bound hair. I begin to close my eyes too, and then-

"Monsieur, the... oh I beg your pardon."

The voice of the waiter snaps the moment in half, and Red quickly straightens, smiling gently over at the approaching pony as if nothing had just happened. I have a sense that I've just missed something awesome, but no time to dwell on it now. The operation must go on.

"No problem," I say, trying not to stare daggers at him.

I can see he's aware of the fact that he's interrupted us, but keeping professional, he holds out a bottle of red wine, first to me, and then the lady. I can see Red's eyes light up at the sight of the label. I know what she tends to like, and more than that, I know that she sometimes has expensive tastes, even though she doesn't like to admit it. But I've saved up for this, and I made sure they had that wine in stock before we came. She glances between the wine, the waiter, and me, looking thrilled and a little embarrassed.

"O-oh my goodness, we can't possibly-"

I hold up a hand.

"It's already been paid for, so there's no use protesting it," I say, and I see her shoulders relax a little in welcome defeat.

The waiter too seems to have brightened a little, and I'm pretty much as relieved as he is. Finally, something I've done has gone over well! I nod to the waiter that yes, this will do nicely, and he pulls a corkscrew out of his apron to set about opening the thing. In a fit of brilliance, I clear my throat and hold out my hand to him. Might as well ride the success train as long as it lasts, right?

"May I?" I ask.

He looks from me to my hand, then back again. Maybe he's considering how much easier things might be for me since I have fingers and stuff. Or maybe he's just surprised I'm being so helpful. Either way, he seems doubtful, but he hands the thing over, and I smile to my lovely date as I insert the corkscrew. Just a little wiggle and a pop should be...


It's not coming loose.

I smile at her reassuringly as I give the cork another tug, but it's no use. The thing is sealed tight and it doesn't seem to want to go anywhere. If I can't get a cork out of a bottle, I realize, what will she think of me? She'll think I'm pathetic, weak. That I'm not boyfriend material, that I'm an embarrassment to her. And just when things were going well too, I so knew this would happen! Now now, none of that from my pessimistic brain-parts. I've got to manage it. I can do this. I tense my arm, tighten my grip, and give one, final, tough jerk.

At last, the cork flies free!

And...keeps flying.

I watch in almost slow-motion horror as the cork leaves the end of the corkscrew, flying wildly to my right. It careens toward the unsuspecting waiter, who doesn't have nearly enough time to protect his face from the woody onslaught. Even as he tries to shut his eyes, the cork lands squarely in the center of his left eyeball. With a yelp, he drops the small hand towel he was holding and claps his hoof against his face. Red lets out a little gasp of shock and jumps in her seat. All I can do is sit there for a moment, frozen, corkscrew in hand, red wine spattered across the tablecloth and my shirtfront.

Well, the success train has officially jumped the track.

I swear under my breath and stand up, quickly grabbing the towel from the floor and offering it back to the waiter.

"Oh, jeez, I'm so sorry!" I say. "I didn't...just...I'm so, so sorry."

Like a champion, he snatches the towel back from me and does his best to smile through the obvious pain.

"It is no problem," he says haltingly.

"I-I'm a nurse," Red says quickly. "Maybe I should check that to make sure-"

But he's waving her off with one hoof.

"Not at all, not at all. It's not the first time."

"It's not?" I say, hopefully.

He pauses, glancing at me in annoyance then away.

"Well actually it is, but no bother anyway. Let me go get you an appetizer."

"Er," I stutter out, all my bravado gone. "Y-yeah, can we get an order of the crab cakes to split?"

He nods at me, then at Red, as polite as one can be when your eye is watering from being assaulted by a wine cork.

"Very good. I will be back shortly."

And with that he turns away and walks back to the kitchen. The moment he's gone, I set down the wine bottle and drop my head into my hands. This date is not going the way I'd planned, not at all. It feels like nothing else can go wrong tonight.

"I'm so sorry," I mutter between my palms. "that was stupid of me."

"No, you're fine..." I hear her hesitate. "Actually it was kind of stupid. But it's not that bad, really! I mean, he's trained to open wine, so why..."

"I didn't want him to slobber on our wine by holding it," I blurt out, a little too loudly. Then, much quieter, "Pony spit is kind of gross, and I just wanted..."

All at once she gives a little giggle, and I glance up through my fingers to see her cupping a hoof over her mouth. When I give her a questioning look, she shakes her head vigorously, trying to stifle laughter.

"What?" I say, unable to keep from smiling a little myself at the sound of her muffled giggles.

"Nothing," she says through her hoof. "Nope."

"Oh come on."

"Noooo, that's okay."

"Come on, Red, what's so funny?"

She snickers, then removes her hoof and gives me a sheepishly cheeky grin.

"You've never complained about pony spit with me."

I blink at her, then shake my head and give a short laugh to join her in her giggling.

"Gross," I tell her chidingly. "Don't be gross, Red."

"Hey, you're the one who keeps coming back for seconds!"

"As long as it's yours."

She snorts a little as she laughs. It's completely endearing when I can get her to do that, and it's something I always aspire to. The fact that I can do that is somewhat comforting, because at least I know she's having a nice time.

"This is such an inappropriate conversation to be having here!" she says between giggles. "We should stop."

"Yes, we should," I say, straightening up. "Let's be serious."

"Super serious."

"We are the best at serious."

She also straightens and sets her lips in a straight line. We look at each other across the table, and I can see that we're instantly in silent competition to see who can be the most serious. I tilt my chin up, set my shoulders back. She tosses her head lightly, and looks at me as if she's better than everything around her. Little does she know she's right about that. I pout my lower lip a little, trying to look like the old rich men I've seen in historical pictures, and she responds by sticking her nose up in the air and giving a little indignant snort. She's so winning this game.

Then, all at once, she lowers her head a little and sniffs once. Twice. Then she glances around as if investigating something.

"Something the matter?" I ask, praying that there's not.

"Hey, do you smell something?" she asks quietly. "Does someone have a foal still in diapers at a nearby table or something?"

I look around and spot a pony coming out of the door behind her. He's not a waiter or a chef, and I realize with a deep, sinking dread, that the door is not another entrance to the kitchen, as I'd originally thought when we sat down. I've put us at a table next to the bathroom. No wonder the table was so easy to get! Red turns around and spots the door as well, and I know it's only a matter of seconds before she puts the pieces together.

With a groan, I drop my head back into my hands. This is a nightmare. Maybe if I just call the date now we can just leave, go home, and I can convince her that this was all a horrible dream, and that I'm not the total imbecile I'm obviously being tonight. Maybe I can trick her into thinking this was all just some sort of test to see if she can deal with being with me at my worst. Nah, even I can recognize that's a terrible idea.

"I. Am so. Sorry." I say brokenly.

"I-it's fine, really!" I hear her say. "It's really not a big deal, ok? I'm here on a date with one of my favorite people in all of Equestria, and he's about to pour me a nice glass of one of my favorite wines, and we're going to talk, and laugh, and eat crab cakes, and I know I'd never be anywhere else."

"You'd be away from the bathroom."

"Well maybe, but I'd still like to be here with you," she says, the warmth in her voice feeling like a comforting blanket across my shoulders. "Now, how about that wine?"

I look up and see her extending the wine glass towards me so I can pour it. Now's not the time to wallow in self-pity and whine about how things aren't going perfectly. Now is the time to drink, smile, and make sure she doesn't have to comfort me all night. I'm not some big baby, and tonight's about her. Besides, she's the best sort of distraction I know. I put on my best smile, lift the wine, and very, very carefully, pour her a proper glass of it. She gives me a little mock- bow.

"Why thank you sir."

I put on the same, gentlemanly voice I used back at the hospital.

"Not at all my dear, only the best for you."

As if to shut me up, I hear the soft cough of the waiter at my side, and I look up to see him staring down at me with one normal eye, and one puffy red one.

"I'm terribly sorry sir," he says quietly. "But we're just out of the crab cakes."

I swallow my desire to scream at this whole situation, and nod understandingly.

"Okay, what else is there tonight?"

The waiter checks a note pad in his hoof, then looks back at me.

"Oh, well we do still have the most marvelous escargot!"

For the third time tonight, I let out a groan and drop my head forward into my hands.


The bill is pricier than I expected, but I don't really blame them for it. After all, I did damage one of their waitstaff, spill wine on a nice tablecloth, and be the whiniest sort of customer imaginable after I specifically requested to sit next to the bathroom. Even with me trying to be a kind customer, it only makes sense that they'd slap me with a bit of a rate increase. I don't let my beautiful date see the bill, or my shame in how it drains just about all of my remaining bits.

As I hold the restaurant door open for Red, she gives me a polite little curtsy. Despite everything that's happened, she's still smiling so gorgeously and acting so refined, that it's difficult for me to feel too bad about how much I've spent on this dismal date. She's certainly worth it.

Reminding myself that tonight isn't all about me, it's about her, I shut the door behind us and extend the crook of one arm to her so I can escort her back to her home properly. She again gives a curtsy and a little giggle before slipping her hoof through the loop at my elbow, and we begin walking. I know it's difficult for her to walk upright like that with me for too long, and I can feel her putting a lot of weight against my hip as we move, so I won't force her to do this for too long. But I know she enjoys it, and I know that I enjoy the feeling of her weight resting against my side. For the first time tonight, I allow myself a contented sigh.

"Pretty stars out tonight," I hear her say from beside me.

I glance up to find that she's right. Even from the heart of Ponyville, there's not enough light pollution to keep the stars overhead from shining brilliantly. Tonight there's not a cloud in the sky, so even the faintest constellations are visible. It had rained the night before, so I'm thankful it's at least not going to rain on us right now.

"Mnh," I say with a nod. "They definitely are. Not as pretty as you though."

She makes a little tsk noise in the back of her throat in indignation and pushes her hip into me in a little check. I give her one back, and she laughs as I release her hoof so she can walk in her natural, four-legged way.

"Well, thank you, but you're pretty too you know," she says.

I straighten and look down at her like I'm some duke or earl.

"Nonsense, I'm not pretty! I'm debonair!"

She wrinkles her nose at me, still smiling.

"Well you're something, that's for sure."

"I'm yours, that's something, right?"

I manage to steal another intoxicating laugh from her with this cheesiest of lines.

"Yes, it is. And that's something I'm definitely not complaining about."

As she says this, she leans to rest her head against my arm, and I feel her body move gently up and down as she sighs a contented sigh herself. The sidewalk opens before us, and we stroll lazily along it towards her cottage, and I keep my stride steady and even so that she can continue to rest against me. The warmth of her cheek and neck are seeping through my shirt, and I feel so close to her like this that I don't want the moment to end.

Of course, it does. But at least not in any way that's too jarring.

As we pass a small, mostly vacant now, cafe, I can hear the sound of a band winding down for the evening, or maybe a recording still playing from inside. I don't recognize the tune, but Red must, because I see her ears perk up, and she raises her head. I curse the music, briefly, for taking my moment, but even I have to admit that it sounds nice. In fact, I hear catches of the melody from below me, and I glance down to see Red humming parts of the sleepy waltz tune along with the music. She looks a million miles away then, like she's in that music somehow, the rest of the world forgotten. It's a peaceful look on her, not one you see when she's at work, and I smile at her even though she doesn't seem to notice me right now.

"I love this song," she says as the music pauses, then changes. "One of my favorites."

"I didn't know you liked classical," I say appreciatively.

"Oh, are you a fan too?"

I shrug.

"It's nice, I just like things with some lyrics, that's all. It's not horrible or anything, I'm just unfamiliar with it. I'm glad you like it though."

She blushes a little, in a lovely, coy sort of way, then moves to stand in front of me. I stop so I don't bump into her, but as I move to stand beside her, she holds up a hoof to stop me. At her touch, I obey.

"Hold on," she says. "It does have lyrics, just not in this version."


"Here," she says gently.

Then, before I can ask what's going on or protest, she places a hoof against my chest and moves to stand upright in front of me. She's still very little in comparison to me, and the tips of her ears barely tickle the bottom of my chin, but it's strange to see her on two legs in front of me. She places one hoof right below my collarbone on one side, then uses her other hoof to slip into my palm and raise it. It only takes another moment for me to recognize that she's moving me into a dancing position.

First, there's blinding panic. I didn't prepare for this! I haven't had time to practice dancing, even if I know a few basics! She'll be disappointed, I don't know the song, I'm going to mess everything up! Then, as she pulls against my palm and shoulder blade to step back, the other part of my brain sets in and begins counting out the rhythm. I'm less panicked, more focused. Stick with the beat and just move with her. You can do that much. I'm so set on all that that I barely notice when she starts singing.

"When the sun comes up and the moon goes down,

And the day comes to this little quiet town.

Will you be here?

Will you be here?

When I open my eyes and get out of bed,

Will I be alone or be with you instead?

Will you be there?

Will you be there?

When I say hello, or say how do you do,

Will nopony answer, or will I hear you?

I don't know what you'll do,

But I'll say one thing's true.

I will be there.

I will be there."

The melody is suddenly not so distant to my mind anymore. It's lovely, lilting, lifted by the strains of her soft, but clear voice. I've only heard her sing on occasion, and while she's not an opera singer or anything, the sound of it is enchanting and hypnotizing to me. Like I'm a snake and she's willing me to dance with her music. I'm completely caught up in her song as we dance slowly back and forth across the sidewalk.

I'm so caught up, in fact, that I don't notice the crack in the sidewalk, or the way a small bit of it juts up in front. I don't notice it... until my foot strikes it and I topple forward with a little cry of shock and dismay. Red too yelps as I let go of her and very nearly crash into her as I fall past onto the sidewalk below. I'm barely able to catch myself with my hands, but still feel the sting as my knee meets the solid of the ground, and beside me I hear a little "oof" as she too hits the sidewalk, hip first. Instantly, I scramble up to my knees and move to her side.

"Jeez, Red! Are you ok?"

She rubs her hip, glaring down at the sidewalk like it's somehow its fault and not mine. Then she shakes herself a little and climbs back to all fours.

"I'll be okay, just fell funny is all. Nothing a night of sleep won't fix." When she sees me looking at her incredulously, she rolls her eyes and goes on. "Trust me, I'm a nurse."

"Right, Right. Sorry, I just tripped and...sorry."

I want to say the word over and over again, and I turn away from her to sit on the edge of the curb with a heavy sigh. This wasn't what I wanted for her at all. Everything I've done or tried to do has blown up in my face, and I can't shake the feeling that she must be embarrassed, bitter or at least pretty annoyed at all this. I'm a terrible boyfriend right now, and I always knew I was bad at doing big dates.

"Look," I say with a sigh as I feel her sit down on the curb next to me. "I wanted to give you a really, really special night. I had a big plan, I made arrangements, and I did everything I could to...well...make you feel like the princess you are. I wanted everything to be perfect. I'm sorry it's been such a rotten time, nothing has gone the way I wanted it to, and you deserve so much better than that. I hope you can forgive me for letting you down."

All at once I hear her laughing at my side. Really, openly laughing. I look over, and she's shaking her head, giggling so hard that she's beginning to give little snorts. She must have snapped, that's it. All this is too much and I've pushed her past the point of insanity! But she waves a hoof at me as she tries, desperately, to calm her laughter, probably seeing my worry in my face.

"What...are you talking about!" she says at last. "Tonight has been great!"


She nods vigorously, then swallows her laughter and grins at me.

"I got surprised at work, and all the other mares that work with me are already jealous. I got a lovely dinner with very expensive wine at Chez Chevaux, even when the place was pretty well full. I heard my favorite song while walking home, and even got to dance to it for a little while. And I did it all while spending time with someone I deeply care about! Tonight has been a perfect time for me to unwind, not worry, and just laugh! I've laughed more tonight than I have in weeks!"

"S-so," I stutter out, trying to be sure I've understood her right. "You had a good time? You're not dissapointed?"

"Of course not!" she exclaims with a little nudge into my shoulder. "You took me on a surprise date! How could I be disappointed!"

Now I'm the one who blushes and looks away. She really does deserve to be treated like a princess, the way she talks and acts towards me. Everything feels so natural, like a glove-fit, like even when I'm messing things up, she's still happy because of me and I'm still happy because of her. Things are somehow just easy, even when I'm trying too hard. I slip an arm across the sidewalk and put it around her shoulders, then give her a gentle squeeze against me.

"What would I ever do without you," I say with a resigned sigh.

"Probably die alone."

"Not nice," I say, glancing fake-reproachfully at her. "I thought you were being sweet to me, not teasing me."

"I can do both."

"I've noticed. One of your many gifts..."



I'd almost forgotten! This is one thing I definitely can't mess up unless I'm the world's biggest klutz, and I don't think I'm that bad. Before she can say a word, I slip my hand into my pocket and produce a small, circular, wrapped package. It's lumpy, and there's too much tape on the wrapping paper, but before I can think too hard about that, I quickly pass it to her with a sheepish shrug.

"Here I, er, got you something."

She looks it over, blinking in obvious surprise, then smiles at it, then at me.

"It seems...very unique," she says slowly.

"I wrapped it myself."

"Oh, I can tell," she says, laughter in her voice.

I hold my breath as she carefully removes the wrapping paper and pulls out the tiny object concealed inside. For a moment, she stares down at it as if unsure what she's looking at, then her lips crease upwards in a soft, wondrous smile, then form a soft 'oh' as she turns it over and over again in her hooves. I quietly sigh in relief as I recognize that she likes it, just like I hoped she would.

I can see from her expression that she knows, right away, that it's not some regular old hair tie. The little black circlet is tightly woven in a small braid pattern, to allow it some amount of give for a ponytail or a bun, like she usually keeps it. Hoof-made, in a soft, silken black, the band is easily sturdy enough to use to keep her hair up at work, but still let her feel beautiful even when she's in the hospital. Halfway along the band is a small red gemstone, a ruby, in the shape of a little heart. It glistens in the light of the stars and the streetlight as she moves her hooves over it, and she then presses the gift to her chest. She closes her eyes, and smiles happily, like a child opening the first present on Christmas.

"It's lovely," she says dreamily.

I shrug and rub the back of my neck with one hand.

"Yeah, well, I know it's not big or grand, and it's not as special or as pretty as you, but I just thought maybe, if you didn't already have one-"

I'm silenced by the press of her lips against mine. I jump slightly at the suddenness of it, but then my eyes close of their own accord, and I rest my hand gently against her cheek as I kiss her back. All at once, I'm not worried about anything anymore. I'm not stressed, not being hard on myself, not doubting anything. Because I know she loves me, and I love her, and that's all that has to matter right now. She pulls back, and her cheek slides past my fingertips as our lips part in a soft kissing sound. I open my eyes to find her smiling up at me, blushing, and looking into my eyes in adoration.

"I love you," she says softly. "Thank you, I love it. It's absolutely perfect for me."

And all at once, I know she's right. Even with all the weird accidents tonight, even with nothing going completely as planned, even with me being a total dork, I got to spend my night with her. And she loves me. That alone, for me, makes this date absolutely perfect.


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