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All the Time in the World · FiM Short Story ·
Organised by RogerDodger
Word limit 2000–8000
On The Importance Of Phrasing Wishes Correctly
Lieutenant Flash Sentry was locked in the bathroom.

It was not the first time he had chosen that particular method of conflict avoidance, but it was the first time he had locked himself into Celestia’s private bathroom. With Celestia standing outside.

The Princess of the Sun gave Shining Armor a brief nod as he galloped up to her, skidding the last few yards along the slick granite tiles of the castle until he stood at perfect attention. His armor was slightly misaligned and the mane that stuck out from under his helm frazzled, indicating that the Prince and Princess of the Crystal Empire had been otherwise occupied in the guest quarters when ‘the event’ had happened.

And the trigger of the event was locked in Celestia’s bathroom.

“Captain,” said Celestia, quite firmly establishing the context of their meeting as Princess-to-Subordinate instead of Kindly Aunt-to-Beloved Nephew-In-Law.

“Your Highness,” said Shining Armor with only the slightest hesitation. “You sent for me?”

“Lieutenant Sentry is within,” said Celestia, not looking at her bathroom door in the slightest. “It is Our desire that your subordinate be without shortly, and this incident resolved.”

Silence stretched across the corridor. The obvious incident that he had passed on his way here was not mentioned. The fact that Shining Armor was married to Celestia’s niece was not even hinted at. There was no indication of Celestia’s mood at all, which he had learned was an indicator of alicorn peeved-ness on its own.

He hazarded a brief nod. It seemed to do the trick, because Celestia started speaking again in slow, measured words, much as if she were describing the motions of the heavenly body which she manipulated every day, and was currently considering an alternate use for.

“We shall return to the Day Court to reassure the various ponies who will be distraught by the appearance of a second mountain outside of our home.”

“Yes, Ma’am.” Shining Armor saluted again and remained silent, but his unasked question got answered anyway.

“We shall deal with… him,” said Celestia, turning to proceed down the hallway at her regular sedate pace. After several steps had taken her almost to a corner, she called back over her shoulder, “Princess Twilight Sparkle will undoubtedly be here soon. She deserves an explanation.”

Shining Armor waited until the sounds of golden hoof-boots on granite tiles had died out completely, then gently tapped on the bathroom door.

“Occupied! Busy! Nopony here!”

Shining Armor tried his best to control his temper. This was not an Angry Problem. If it were, Celestia’s bathroom door would be smoldering cinders, and Shining Armor would be looking for a new pegasus trainee for the Crystal Guard. This was a Talky Problem, and worse, it was a Brother Problem, so he could not pass it on to Cadence, no matter how much he wanted.

“Flash. Get out here. Now.”

There was the sound of flushing, and the tap-tap-tap of Royal Guard shoes as Flash Sentry moved up to the door, then a long silence instead of the latch being moved. “Sir,” asked Flash hesitantly, “Am I in trouble?”

Flash Sentry, King of the Understatement. Thank the stars he didn’t go into the Public Affairs office.

“Yes and no,” said Shining Armor. “Not in so many words. Now, come out of there.”

“Yes, sir.” There was the faint scratching noise of a latch being moved, then another silence. “Is she gone, sir?”

“Oh, she’s gone, all right. Princess Celestia has gone back to Day Court.”

“Is she… angry?” The door opened, and Flash Sentry stuck his nose out just a little for a peek. His face was a study in frazzled concern, with his big blue eyes wide and a little tuft of mane sticking out from where he had jammed his helmet back on without looking.

“Princess Celestia does not get angry. She gets concerned. In the absolute worst case, she gets upset, and starts to use the Royal We.”

“Oh.” Flash Sentry glanced over his shoulder into the bathroom. “If she really had to go, she could have just said—”

“Not wee,” corrected Shining. “You’re in far more trouble than just intruding into the Princess Celestia’s Private Peeing Spot. Celestia can forgive about anything. My sister, though.” Shining Armor took a deep breath and used his magic to tuck that little outsticking-tuft of Flash’s mane up into his helmet so it would stop bothering him. “Let’s take a walk.”

“Yes, sir.” Lieutenant Sentry fell into step alongside Prince Armor with the measured tread of training, which was not exactly what Shining had in mind. It was only made worse when the young goofball added, “Am I fired, sir?”

“Not a chance. You’re not getting out that easy, Flash.” Shining forced himself to breathe normally while they walked, but he eventually had to ask, “So, what exactly happened?”

“Oh, it was just a misunderstanding, sir,” gushed Flash as the floodgates vanished from behind his mouth. “I’m sure it will all be cleared up shortly and we’ll all laugh about it. Really, nobody will even know it happened in a few months. Ha, ha?”

Shining Armor did not have to say a word. He just kept walking down the corridor.

“Well, sir,” started Flash with enough facial contortions that it looked vaguely as if he had a bad case of Face Fleas. “I was talking with Discord—”

“Stop.”

Shining Armor closed his eyes and counted through the first twenty primes. The calming process had begun when faced with the Eager Young Cadet that Flash had been, added a few more prime numbers when he had graduated into Eager Young Royal Guard status, then reached the full twenty when Flash had volunteered for the Crystal Guard. If it had not been for those big blue eyes being so similar to the face that looked back at him in the mirror every morning, Shining could have been a lot more stern with the youngster. As it was, every time he admonished Flash, it still felt like he was kicking a puppy.

He turned and headed down a different corridor, going up and down the castle stairs until they emerged onto a wide balcony. The Royal Chariot Landing Pad (East Side) provided a good view of Canterlot’s newest and hopefully temporary landmark, which Flash could not bring himself to look at. They walked forward to the reception area, then Shining Armor sat down while Flash crouched with his wings ready for takeoff.

They shared a moment of silence before Flash asked in a hopeful tone of voice that sounded just almost like begging, “Are you wanting me to fly back to the Crystal Empire while you talk with your sister, sir?”

“No sirs, please. Let’s just be informal for a while until my sister shows up.” Shining Armor took off his helmet and sat it to one side. “Sit down and take a load off, Flash.”

“Are you sure you don’t want me to fly back to the Crystal Empire?” asked Flash with one quick glance at the top of the mountain.

“Positive.” Shining patted the ground. “Sit.”

Flash sat.

"Look dude." Shining Armor put a hoof on Flash Sentry's back. "You gotta learn to be more specific. Watch your words. Not just with ponies. Particularly when dealing with Discord. He's smarter than you are."

The unspoken thought about how that was a low bar echoed around the parapets of the castle, making Flash only tense up more, and his words came out in short bursts. “I like Twilight. You know I do. You haven't sent me to count penguins. Or broken me in half. Yet.”

“And I won't.” Shining Armor took a deep breath and looked up at the mountain. “She's a big mare. A princess. If anypony is going to break you in half, she will. And after this…”

“I had the best of intentions,” admitted Flash. “Doesn’t that count?”

“Eeeeeyyyeeeaahh,” admitted Shining, ever so reluctantly for fear of encouraging the easily encouraged idiot. “That’s why I think she’s not going to break you in half, or banish you to the moon, or break you in half and banish you to the moon.”

“Do you think flowers would help? I can get flowers,” suggested Flash, only to cringe back at Shining’s skeptical glance. “Not the ones she’s allergic to. Again.”

“See, you’re thinking ahead,” said Shining Armor. “That’s a good sign. It shows there’s a brain cell or two in that thick skull of yours. The immediate problem I see is once my sister gets done gliding down from the mountain, the last thing she’s going to want to see is you hiding behind a bouquet of red roses.”

“Yellow roses,” corrected Flash. “They’re her favorite. Except the thorns get stuck in her teeth.”

“Yeah.” The two stallions sat next to each other for a while, contemplating the mountain. Or more correctly, contemplating the new mountain, and the tiny purple speck far above which was descending in their direction. “So have you thought about what you’re going to say, Flash?”

With a quick ruffling of his wings, Flash Sentry stood up, swallowed, and spoke in a low, comforting voice. “Princess Twilight Sparkle, I just wanted you to know that this is not my fault—”

“No.” Shining Armor put a hoof against his forehead. “Oh, stars no. They’ll have to scrape you up with a spoon. Don’t you have any sense of self-preservation at all?”

“Yes?” Flash gave him a long look, then sat back down. “I thought I did.”

“Repeat after me.” Shining Armor took a deep breath. “I’m sorry.”

“I’m sorry,” echoed Flash.

“It’s all my fault and I promise never to ask Discord for anything ever again.”

“It’s all my fault and…” Flash thought for a moment, or at least looked as if he were thinking. “What about—”

“No,” said Shining Armor.

“No? But—”

“No,” said Shining Armor again, only more forceful. “I know Discord’s reputation. I know my sister. Do you want the spoon? I can assure you, they’re getting the spoon ready right now, and a teeny-tiny jar to put your mortal remains into.”

Flash Sentry shook his head vigorously, making what little of his mane stuck out from under his helmet fly around. “It’s all my fault and I promise never to ask Discord for anything ever again.” More traces of unwelcome thought made themselves evident in Flash’s thoughtful frown. “What if she asks—?”

“Repeat that first phrase,” said Shining Armor. “I’m sorry. Over and over and over, even after you think you don’t need to. Then tomorrow, when she’s simmered down a little and we get Discord to—” Shining waved a hoof at the mountain and bit his bottom lip “—un-Discord that, you can try flowers. I’ll give you the name of a good florist who can de-thorn about a wagon full of ‘em. And I’ll send Cadie over to soothe her ruffled feathers. Oh, and chocolate will help.”

Flash nodded. “How much chocolate should I bring to Twilight?”

“Bring?” Shining Armor gave him a very dry look. “Send. You will be helping me foalsit Flurry Heart. You will be very attentive, you will remember every spoon of mashed peas she smooshes into your mane and every scorch mark she leaves on your armor. You will sing to her so she goes to sleep and you will stand watch over her crib as Keeper of the Royal Binkie for as many hours as Cadence needs to save your life over at Twilight’s castle. And when the foalsitting is over, if you survive, you will write your experience down and memorize it so when Twilight asks, you will be able to recite every cute little nose-wrinkle and magical blast that knocked you across the room.”

“Oh.” Flash brightened up. “Twilight really likes foals. Someday—”

“Finish that sentence,” said Shining Armor in a low, gravelly growl, “and I’ll go get that spoon.”

Flash Sentry swallowed, then looked up at the much closer purple figure gliding in their direction. “Apologize. Take the blame. Shut up. Got it.”

“Lesson taught.” Shining Armor finally smiled and put his helmet back on. “I was starting to worry, Lieutenant Sentry. I absolutely hate going to military funerals.”

“There’s just one thing I have to know,” said Flash in an inquisitive tone of voice that wiped away Shining Armor’s smile. “All I asked for was all the time in the world with Twilight. How could I have known that Discord would have done… that?” He gestured at the huge mountain of thyme stacked up next to the city of Canterlot.

“Flash.” Shining Armor gave him one last pat on the shoulder, then stood up to leave. “Good luck. You’re going to need it.”
Pics
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#1 · 1
· · >>georg
Nobody read this until you've read the story this is your final warning.

This isn't on my slate but I jumped to it because it seemed to most spoiler-vulnerable story of the lot. Glad I got to it before I accidentally read something I shouldn't have, LIKE THIS COMMENT. Okay... this is your real final warning.

And fair warning to you, Author, that this comment is going to get a little suggest-y instead of critique-y at times, so take whatever I say with a grain of salt. Now for the actual review.

On the whole, I liked it. It's cool to see a feghoot being done so organically—actually being worked into the story instead of having a character awkwardly drop the pun at the end, thus revealing the author for having only one goal in mind. See, you also wanted to tell a funny story leading up to the pun, and you did. Flash and Shining's interactions and Shining's internal opinions of his officer are all an enjoyable ride. The only part of the ride that left me wincing was the "Royal We" joke, because I felt that the ends don't justify the means. I mean, we've never seen Celestia use that voice on the show before (as far as I know), and she's never been Mrs. "This Isn't My Fucking Job" before. She's more of a Mrs. "I Bet Twilight Can Handle This Shit For Me". There's an important difference in tone there. Although I think I know another pony who could be subbed in for her role?

Now on to the actual reveal. I gotta be honest, it didn't take my breath away. True, it's a pun most of us will have heard a lot before, which doesn't help, but, again, it didn't seem like the characters' actions leading up to it were all that justified by the reveal. I mean, why can't Celestia or Twilight just whisk the mountain away with a spell? It's not like Discord is particularly more powerful than them.

The problem I'm having here is that you didn't lean into the actual consequences of this mountain of thyme. Everyone is simply upset about it. Celestia is upset because "various ponies" are upset. Shining is upset because his sister (and the big lady upstairs) is upset. But what's the actual issue here?

There were a couple things I think might have added something to the story. First off, what does that mountain smell like? Strong, I'd imagine. And second, the implication of Discord's dirty deed here is that the rest of the world suddenly has a severe shortage of thyme. What has that caused?

And it might seem like this stuff could distract from the real meat of the story, being Flash's ill-advised courting techniques. But without it, I'm left asking that question before about what the big deal is. And there are ways to answer it, but I need that stuff to sink my teeth into to suspend my disbelief about the problem being kind of easily solved and not worth the hassle.

But those are just my thoughts. Again, this isn't on my slate, but for what it's worth I think it will make finals. Good luck in the shakedown!

P.S. Why has Flash ended up in Celestia's private bathroom? I also felt this joke wasn't explained.
P.P.S. Oh yeah, and what >>Icenrose said about Shining's prime-number meditation. That struck me as odd for him.
#2 · 1
· · >>Miller Minus >>georg
Shining Armor doesn’t strike me as the sort to count in primes to keep his cool, and he drifts in and out of a level of erudition I don’t usually associate with his normal surf rat personality. Also, I was a bit underwhelmed by what the wish actually turned out to be, considering the buildup leading to the reveal.

That said, this was cute, Writer. I like the way you characterized Flash Sentry as “too baka to live, too kawaii to die,” as that’s a reasonable explanation for how he landed a job in the Crystal Guard while still being the low watt bulb we love to portray him.
#3 · 1
· · >>georg
I thought this was rather short and sweet. Hilarious even, as I've seen and experienced my share of similar.. situations in the service, so the whole dialogue hits pretty close to home.

The joke at the end did catch me by surprise, as the language used to describe the object in question was a good red herring.

Genre: Slice of Fuckup
Overall: Very entertaining.
#4 · 1
· · >>georg
I "read" this by having my phone read it to me. Needless to say, but in the spirit of the story I will anyway, I had to go back and read the penultimate paragraph. I liked it and it was funny throughout, but I had trouble keeping track of who was whom until somepony leaves the bathroom. In revision, I would also add the sense of smell to enhance the aroma of the story in order to make Its impact more devastating .
#5 · 2
· · >>georg
This was a cute scene, but the payoff was really weak. This was about the most predictable pun you could have gone with, and it doesn't make any sense that Twilight would be murderously angry for what is at worst a mild inconvenience (flying a few miles?). I'm not sure I understand why Twilight should be upset at all, let alone upset at Flash rather than Discord.

That said, the foreshadowing was done well and the mood (though exaggerated) well established.
#6 ·
· · >>georg
Oh geez, I thought I already reviewed this one. Honest I did.


Genre: Flash Sentry Scores A Lot of Weed

Thoughts: In concept, there's a lot here that I want to like. Opening with Pony Flash Sentry barricaded in Princess Celestia's private bathroom portends comedy gold.

Things got kinda drawn out from that point, though. So much of the humor seems to boil down to filling time while emphasizing that the audience doesn't know what happened; but the kicker is that finally gaining the knowledge doesn't really directly change anything. All of the humor ultimately isn't relevant to the incident itself.

Does that make sense? I feel like there's a ton of promise here but the story frustrates me by dancing around everything and then just ending with a big pile of weed. I feel like the payoff of the reveal doesn't quite work as a payoff for the journey that got us there.

This might be personal taste, of course. Something something thyme jokes.

Tier: Almost There
#7 · 2
· · >>georg
Pffa. Such a simple pun, yet an amusing one regardless. I dig it.

The "brother" stuff between Shiny and Flash (especially since Shiny seems to imbue the word with a touch more literalness than Flash does?) strikes me as a weird note, I don't love Celly's characterization, and the fact that Discord is mentioned, yet never seen, is a missed opportunity.

I still like it a lot, but I do have a responsibility to pick nits...
#8 · 1
· · >>BlueChameleonVI >>georg
Comedy hook set by line one. Let's do this!

"Talky Problem" Nice!

Some of the other, more whimsical turns of phrase are less funny, and start to get distracting. Ex: "Princess Celestia's Private Peeing Spot"

Yeah, the comedy stuff is hit and miss for me, and because a lot of the humor is of the "it's funny because it's a longer way to say something simple" variety, it's really causing the story to drag out. Halfway through, and nothing has actually happened or been shown to happen besides "new mountain."

And yeah, as suspected, long set up for a single, awful pun.


Alright, this one was hit and miss for me. Some phrases, reactions, thoughts, etc. were quite hilarious, and others were honestly irritating. I love good comedy stories, but to me, they need to be story first and comedy second. This one fell victim to trying so hard for comedy that the story was hurt. Mostly it's in pacing, that the whole story has very little happen and just draws out the one pun. That _sometimes_ works, but when it does, the reveal is usually slowly mixed in as the forestory progresses. E.g. we saw a hint about a "mountain" but when done better (or at least when I've enjoyed it more) there are many more similar hints sprinkled throughout.

Complaining aside, this definitely had more positives than negatives for me. The laughs that worked, worked well, and the basic premise is a fun one as well.
#9 · 3
·
>>Miller Minus
>>Icenrose
>>Shalrath
>>scifipony
>>Trick_Question
>>CoffeeMinion
>>Posh
>>Xepher
My favorites from the comments in the writeoff:
“too baka to live, too kawaii to die,” - Icenrose
Genre: Flash Sentry Scores A Lot of Weed - CoffeeMinion

There were a few suggestions that the second mountain should get a scent. The only problem I have with that is the story stinks enough already. (ducks for cover)

Generally, I could probably spend quite some time doing a gradual reveal of the mountain, the scent, and the contents, but I was thinking the *smack* at the very end works better that way. I did some cleanup and tidied the ‘counting by primes’ thing because you have to remember Shining Armor is *related* to Twilight Sparkle, and thus has adapted several of the same coping mechanisms.