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Herd 04

By Hawkeye
Created: 18th December 2020 04:17:11 PM

  1. "I am starting to understand why you brought me along."
  2. >"I have a business to run, Anon." Rose replies. "If I happen to get a helping hoof from a particularly tall individual... well, it just makes things easier for me."
  3. "Let me guess, no one comes here because they have to use that stick thing to collect, but with my amazing abilities..."
  4. >Rose bumps you with her hip as she walks by, setting down her saddlebags.
  5. >"I didn't think you'd be so whiny."
  6. "Psh, this isn't whining. I'm friends with Rarity. I /know/ what whining is."
  7. >The two of you share a laugh while Rose lays out some tools.
  8. >Grabbing some clippers, you start cutting the fruits from the tree before you.
  9. >Rose catches them as they fall with a little net, and adds them to her baskets.
  10. "What exactly are these?"
  11. >"Persimmons." she grunts through her grip.
  12. >Huh.
  13. >Never had one of these before.
  14. "Aren't these food?"
  15. >Rose lifts an eyebrow. "Well, yes, but they're very colorful."
  16. "Fair enough. They sure fit the seasons color scheme."
  17. >Collecting the fruits goes smoothly, and soon you have the lower branches cleared.
  18. >Wiping your brow, you take a seat next to your bag, and Rose joins you.
  19. >After a quick drink of water, you reach into your bag, producing a bottle of clear amber liquid.
  20. >Rose looks at you quizzically.
  21. "Cider." you respond, pulling a second one out and offering it to her.
  22. >"I don't usually drink at work, but since you've been so helpful I can afford to rest a bit."
  23. "Suits." you smile, as Rose takes a seat beside you. "I'm glad I came though. It's gorgeous out here."
  24. >"And quiet." Rose adds, taking a small sip.
  25. >You lean back against the tree, rubbing a bit to scratch an itch on your back.
  26. >Rose scoots a little closer, and you automatically stretch your arms, draping one across her withers.
  27. >She shifts slightly, pushing herself right up against you.
  28. >A long while passes in silence, the flutter of brilliantly painted leaves in the wind far above you the perfect accompanist to the surrounding sylvan silence.
  29. >A gust of wind drives a flurry of leaves whipping around the grove, and you instinctively pull Rose in close as it rolls past.
  30. >Looking down, you're surprised at how close those emerald eyes are.
  31. >Rose shifts, rolling to her hooves and placing one on your chest.
  32. >She leans in close, her muzzle moving to place the merest hint of a kiss on your cheek.
  33. >"Alright you, back to work."
  34. "Yes, ma'am." you grin as she pulls back.
  35. >Rising, you knock a few fallen leaves off of yourself, and look around.
  36. "What next?"
  37. >"I'd like to collect the rest of this tree, if we can." Rose says. "I've got the pole-clippers here."
  38. >You size up the tree.
  39. >Not terribly tall, a twisting mess of branches after it clears about five feet.
  40. >Grabbing your bottle, you down the rest of the cider.
  41. >"Anon?"
  42. >Not much different from the old crabapple tree in your grandparents back yard.
  43. >Stuffing your clippers in a back pocket, you grab hold of the sturdiest of the low branches.
  44. >Heaving yourself up, you swing up to your feet and steady yourself against the trunk.
  45. >"Anon-"
  46. >Weird, you swear you've heard that tone before.
  47. >Pushing it to the back of your mind, you proceed to trim as many of the fruits as you can reach, before working your way to another limb.
  48. >Rose continues to chide you every time you get a little too far out.
  49. >It hits you.
  50. >Rarity.
  51. >That's who she sounds like when you start pushing the envelope.
  52. >You can't help but chuckle to yourself as you refocus on the task at hand.
  53.  
  54. >It takes the rest of the morning and part of the afternoon to clear the tree.
  55. >"I knew there was a reason I brought you." Rose smiles as you drop back onto the ground.
  56. "Yeah, no problem." you say, catching your breath. "Don't strain yourself."
  57. >"Thanks to you I didn't have to." she smiles. "Let's go. You'll be late for hoofball."
  58. "After you, princess." you say with a bow.
  59. >Hefting her saddlebags back on, she leads the way as you lift the basket of fruits onto your back.
  60. >Winding through the quiet of the woods you make good time back to Ponyville.
  61. >It's only mid-afternoon when you part ways with Rose, and you take the opportunity to kick your feet up on your balcony.
  62. >A bottle of cider in one hand, you watch the ponies below go about their lives.
  63. >It really is a lovely little town, Ponyville.
  64. >Somehow large and small all at the same time.
  65. >"Oh, hey Anon! I didn't know you were here." a familiar voice calls from the room.
  66. "Hey Twilight. What's up?"
  67. >"Oh, you got a letter from the Princess. I was just going to leave it on your bed, but this is much better." she says handing you a scroll.
  68. "Neat." you answer, setting the scroll next to your cider. "How's the whole Princess thing working out for you?"
  69. >Taking a seat, Twilight lets out a sigh.
  70. >"It isn't always as great as I thought it would be." she admits. "I mean, I get to spend all sorts of time in Canterlot, and I still have my palace and friends here in Ponyville. But there's so much listening to the everyday problems of the local ponies. I understand that your neighbor painted their house a color you didn't like, but that's really not something you should come to the Palace to discuss! I'm the Princess of Friendship, not petty squabbles!"
  71. >You can't help but laugh, and after a moment Twilight giggles herself.
  72. >"It's not all bad. I just expected it to be more saving the world with the girls and less... whatever it is I do these days."
  73. "Yeah, I never figured it'd be this way either." you agree, taking a swig. "But life is like that."
  74. >"Anon, I'm really sorry." she starts, looking out at the town. "I didn't mean to drag you into this."
  75. "Twilight. Look at me."
  76. >She turns to you, and you look her in the eyes.
  77. "This isn't what I expected, I admit. But I also didn't expect to meet such wonderful ponies as I have. I am legitimately having a very good time so far."
  78. >Hearing this, you can see Twilight visibly relax.
  79. >You know it isn't entirely her fault.
  80. >Sure, part of the blame is on her shoulders, but you know that the others in the palace played a role.
  81. >She's already started talking about some party Rarity asked her to throw.
  82. >You listen, and let her bounce ideas off of you.
  83. >Having worked on several projects with her, you know how important this is to her.
  84. >Especially if you don't want it to become a small-scale emergency.
  85. >Twilight works best when checked by outside logic.
  86. >Apparently it was going to be some sort of Hearth's Warming party.
  87. >Those could go one of two ways, and you knew which way you wanted to steer it.
  88. >Small-ish, familiar, cozy.
  89. >Big parties were better suited to New Years.
  90. >She continues pelting you with ideas until you have to go.
  91. >Excusing yourself, you grab your gear and head down the road.
  92.  
  93. >Reaching the field ahead of anyone else, you change in the locker room.
  94. >Somehow you've kept your return a secret.
  95. >The bribes to Pinkie helped, she's got a knack for controlling information.
  96. >Which is unsettling when you think about it.
  97. >Your mind returns to the present, and you pull a small chalkboard from your bag.
  98. >Considering a few plays you've practiced, you erase them all.
  99. >Thunderlane's defense is always pegasus-heavy.
  100. >Anathema to the passing game, it is incredibly vulnerable to the run.
  101. >They'll expect Applejack to carry the ball a lot, and she still will run a lot of plays, no question.
  102. >But you'll have to keep them off-guard.
  103. >And you've got an idea.
  104.  
  105. >"Howdy Anon." Mac drawls as he steps into the room.
  106. "Hey Mac, ready to smash 'em?"
  107. >"Eeyup. They won't be runnin' anything on us."
  108. >"Good thing, too." Applejack adds, emerging from a nearby changing room. "Seems like half the town is plannin' on comin' tonight."
  109. "What?"
  110. >"Dash told Thunderlane she was back and that we're gonna kick his flank earlier today." AJ continues. "Bet him her entire reserve of cider too."
  111. "Yeah, that sounds like Dash." you sigh.
  112. >"What's that? Something sounds awesome?" a scratchy voice asks as hoofsteps clip-clop down the stairs.
  113. "You just couldn't help yourself, huh?"
  114. >"Psh, like I need to worry. This team is amazing."
  115. >"Ya keep that up you'll need a bigger helmet."
  116. >Waving them to be quiet, you watch as a few other teammates file in.
  117. >It doesn't take long before the entire team is present.
  118. >You gather them around.
  119. >Mac is still Team Captain, but you're gonna be in charge of the offense now instead of AJ.
  120. >These ponies know that, as a red-blooded American, football (hoofball, whatever) is in your genes.
  121. "Okay, so offense, here's the plan: We'll start out with just plain old hoofball. Nothing fancy, just a quarter to warm-up and get a feel for the Thunder's D. I've got some plans to put into play second quarter, but let's not get ahead of ourselves. I haven't seen them play yet, so you'll have to give me some time. Mac?"
  122. >"Stop the run, y'all. We got a great offense, so this game'll be in th' bag if we can just keep 'em from rushing through us. We all know that they can't pass t' save their hides, so just focus on th' ground game."
  123. >"Let's go kick some flank!" Rainbow yells. "I've got all my cider riding on this game!"
  124. >You roll your eyes as mixed cheers and jeers fill the room.
  125. >The team piles out of the locker room, and you follow.
  126. >The stands are nearly packed.
  127. >Rainbow must have really caused a scene earlier today.
  128. >The crowd isn't deafening -the stands aren't that big- but it's definitely loud.
  129. >Standing on the sideline, you sing along to the anthem.
  130. >Big Mac goes out to the 50 yard line for the coin toss, and wins.
  131. >He nods to you, and your offense takes to the field.
  132. >On the sidelines, you can see Thunderlane yelling at Mac, and a rough lip reading tells you he doesn't think you should be allowed to play.
  133. >Waving a ref down, you ask if it's going to be okay.
  134. >He assures you that Applejack already filed the paperwork, you're good to go.
  135. >With a nod, you line up again, and the game begins.
  136.  
  137. >Coming in from the first quarter, you gather up your team.
  138. >"We really need y'all to get on the board." Mac says. "We've kept 'em off it this long, but if they keep comin' like that they're gonna score sooner or later."
  139. "I know, I know." you sigh. "Alright, I've got a good idea how to play this. Rainbow, the long game is hopeless, their pass defense is too good. I'm moving you to tight-end. We'll focus on running with Applejack and the short-pass. Questions?"
  140. >Seeing none, you nod and return to the sidelines.
  141. >When you finally return to the field, you huddle the group and outline a simple plan.
  142. >Breaking the huddle, you line up.
  143. >With a shout, the ball moves and the first play of the real game is in motion.
  144.  
  145. >Coming in from the third quarter, you can see two different teams.
  146. >The offense is electrified, your short-play offense has worn out the Thunder defense, never sure if Dash, Dust Devil or Applejack will make the next play.
  147. >Since the first touchdown, you've made it into the end zone three more times.
  148. >But in this last quarter, your defense started to give.
  149. >Slowly, almost imperceptibly, the Thunder began to gain.
  150. >Pounding, methodical drives on the ground had worn down even Big Mac.
  151. >They had finally scored last quarter.
  152. >Twice, in fact.
  153. >You still retained a sizeable lead, but you knew the Defense was going to give soon.
  154. "Okay offense, two things going into the last quarter. You know how we've been playing it short? It's gotta get shorter. We need to drag out our on-field time to let the defense rest. Also, every drive has to end with a touchdown. We can't afford to blow our lead. Just listen to the plays, and we'll make it out of this game just fine."
  155.  
  156. >It's halfway through the fourth. You had scored on your last drive, but so had they.
  157. >The good news is, if you can keep this up, you'll win.
  158. >The bad news is, your defense is nearly exhausted.
  159. >Thunderlane's rush game is the best in the league for a reason.
  160. >You're halfway through another grueling drive, intentionally gaining just a few yards at a time.
  161. >Every opportunity to run down the clock has been taken, and it's working.
  162. >You had benched Rainbow after the last play, she had worked her flank off all game, and you didn't like the look of that last hit.
  163. >She's a tough mare, but Thunderlane is a little too competitive for his own good sometimes.
  164. >The good news is that you still have Applejack and Dusty.
  165. >Also, you can't lose this game.
  166. >You spotted Rose and Lyra in the stands at halftime.
  167. >It strangely compels you towards victory.
  168. >Lining up again you resume your drive.
  169. >Pass to Dusty.
  170. >AJ runs up the middle.
  171. >AJ up the left, first down.
  172. >And so it goes.
  173.  
  174.  
  175.  
  176. >The game clock has eight seconds left, and you're still up by a touchdown.
  177. >You're only ten yards out, but you don't see a need to risk injuries on a strictly unnecessary touchdown.
  178. >Walking off the field, you let the kicker head out there, and take a seat on the bench.
  179. >"Hard night." Mac says.
  180. "Amen to that."
  181. >"Good news is, I know where all my weak spots are on th' ground."
  182. "I didn't think our defense had any weak spots."
  183. >"Ya been listenin' to Dash too much, Anon." Mac chuckles.
  184. >The ball flies through the uprights as the clock reaches zero.
  185. >Another successful Saturday.
  186. >"Gonna be an uphill battle gettin' into th' playoffs." Mac comments.
  187. "I didn't think we'd even shoot for it."
  188. >"Normally I'd say you're right, but I somehow think we might have a shot."
  189. "Even if we win every game we play, the right teams would have to lose for us to make it."
  190. >"I suppose that's true. It'd be nice though." Mac nods. "I gotta shower. Meetin' Cheerilee and takin' her to th' party."
  191. "Cloudchasers?" you ask, raising an eyebrow.
  192. >"Eeyup."
  193. "Doesn't she live on a cloud?"
  194. >"Sure does. She moved it to the big field just down the road from Fluttershy's. I hear they're gettin' a bonfire goin' later on."
  195. >No nerd solutions needed.
  196. >Excellent.
  197. "Thanks for the info. I'll see you there."
  198. >Mac leaves, and you follow shortly after.
  199.  
  200. >With your gear locked up, you make your way out of the locker room.
  201. >Emerging under the bleachers, you spot Lyra and Rose waiting nearby.
  202. >The excitable unicorn rushes over while Rose saunters along behind.
  203. >"Anon! That was amazing! I don't even watch hoofball and I know Thunderlane's got the best team!"
  204. >"It's true." Rose adds, joining the bouncing unicorn beside you. "Thunderlane never shuts up about it."
  205. "That does explain why Dash's bet got so much attention."
  206. >Rose just nods as you lead the way away from the field.
  207. >"So where to now, captain?"
  208. "Mac's the captain." you say with a shrug. "But to answer your question, a shower would be nice."
  209. >"With or without us?" Rose asks, bumping your leg with her flank.
  210. >You inhale and exhale.
  211. "That would be up to you, I suppose." you say, bumping her back.
  212. >You smile to yourself at the silence, then realize the others have stopped.
  213. >Lyra is whispering into Rose's ear a yard or so behind you.
  214. >Your smugness is replaced with trepidation.
  215. >After a moment, they catch up to you.
  216. >"Worried?" Rose asks, reading your expression.
  217. "Mares are trouble."
  218. >Lyra giggles and Rose just smiles.
  219. "Anyways, I do need a shower. After that, I'm heading to a party on the outskirts of town, and I'd love it if you two would join me."
  220. >"That seems like a more reasonable plan." Rose replies.
  221. "Great. You two can hang out in the castle while I freshen up. Oh, and I've got to load up a cooler. But then we'll be good to go!"
  222. >"Leave the cooler to us, Anon!" Lyra says with a salute as you reach the steps of the crystal castle.
  223. >As Rose follows Lyra towards the kitchen, you make your way upstairs.
  224. "Leave the cooler to us, huh? She's a keeper." you mutter to yourself with a smile.
  225.  
  226.  
  227. >lifting a couple of hay bales down off the wagon, you carry them to a reasonable distance from the fire.
  228. >The party was already in full swing by the time you got there, the fire was lit and the music was thumping.
  229. >Arranging the hay bales into a little bench, you sit down in the center. Lyra hops onto one next to you and promptly lays her head in your lap, lazily watching the fire and the laughing ponies gathered around.
  230. >Rose digs into the cooler bag and offers you a cider, then procures one for herself.
  231. >Looking around as you take a sip, you notice some familiar faces.
  232. >Rainbow Dash is really rubbing it in Thunderlane's face.
  233. >You wish those two would just hook up already.
  234. >Applejack is helping Pinkie Pie load up a table full of snacks.
  235. >Cloudchaser is giving her sister a hard time, probably about a crush or something dumb.
  236. >And of course, Big Mac and Cheerilee are sat on their own bale, pulled a little farther into the shadows than is strictly necessary.
  237. >Crazy kids.
  238. >Of course, you had no doubts that Lyra would climb further into your lap if given the chance.
  239. >Fluttershy and Twilight just arrived, and a sudden noise to your right alerts you to two troublesome twins joining your little group.
  240. >"Anon! Why didn't you tell us you played hoofball! We would have come to cheer you on!" Aloe pouts.
  241. "We kept it a secret so that Thunderlane wouldn't be prepared for it." you shrug. "Sorry."
  242. >"That's okay." Lotus replies. "We'd be happy to help you /recover/ after a long, hard game though..."
  243. >Rose groans and Aloe giggles.
  244. >Lyra's ears twitch as you chuckle.
  245. >"What'd I miss? I wasn't paying attention."
  246. "Aloe and Lotus are here."
  247. >"Oh. Hi girls!"
  248. "Hi Lyra" they chime back.
  249. >"It's really a shame you didn't come, Anon was really great out there." Rose adds.
  250. >"Yeah! You should have seen him!" Lyra agrees.
  251. >Aw shucks.
  252. >"I didn't know you followed hoofball, Rose."
  253. >Uhhhh...
  254. >"I don't, but I spent all morning with Anon. He told me then."
  255. >Nice save, Rose.
  256. >"And I grabbed Lyra while Anon got ready." she quickly adds.
  257. >You make a mental note to high-five Rose.
  258. >Rainbow Dash brings Cloudchaser by, her sister awkwardly following.
  259. >"Anon! You were great! We were great! This season is gonna be so awesome!"
  260. >"This season is half over." Cloudchaser says giving Dash a sidelong glance.
  261. "I'm just here to have a good time. I'm not sure it's mathematically possible for us to make the playoffs." you offer. "But if things work out that way, I won't complain."
  262. >"Glad to see you see it that way. I was trying to convince Rainbow here how unlikely it is that your team will make it."
  263. >"Anon, seriously, we can do this. You just have to believe!" Rainbow pleads.
  264. >One hand playing with Lyra's mane, you gesture to your other side.
  265. "I do have a very pretty cheer squad."
  266. >"Seriously Anon, you can't-"
  267. "Relax, Cloudchaser. I'm just taking it one game at a time. Pull up a haybale and grab a drink."
  268. >Cloudchaser does visibly calm down, and Rainbow and her pull a fresh bale up next to Lyra, while Flitter squeezes in at the end by the spa twins.
  269. >As the conversation inevitably devolves into hoofball trash talking, Rose leaves to join Fluttershy and Twilight, while Aloe and Flitter have a hushed conversation.
  270. >Lotus has moved into Rose's spot at your side, and is currently trying to encroach on Lyra's real estate in your lap.
  271. >She hasn't been successful.
  272. >And you have been imperceptibly disparaging towards her efforts.
  273. >You can sense her frustration, and it's hilarious.
  274. >"-and that's why we're going to make it!" Dash explains.
  275. "Rainbow, while I agree we are clearly an unstoppable juggernaut of skill and athleticism-" you say with enough sarcasm for most ponies to pick up, but not enough for Dash to notice "-I've looked at the numbers and the schedules and not only would we have to win out, but the two best teams would have to seriously stumble, but not in a way that helps the middle-of-the-pack teams. We're talking about Cloudchaser losing to either the Yetis or the Minotaurs, and Thunderlane losing to the Bandits. It just isn't going to happen."
  276. >Rainbow looks like you just kicked Tank.
  277. >"But-but..."
  278. "Rainbow, look. I'm going to play my best, and we're going to win the rest of our games."
  279. >Cloudchaser snorts.
  280. "But we can't control what the other teams do. So let's just take it one game at a time, and we'll see how it plays out at the end of the season."
  281. >"I don't know about /every/ game Anon..." Cloudchaser objects.
  282. "No. Every game. You best get ready to lose." you say, flashing her a toothy smile.
  283. >"Yeah! That's the Anon I know!"
  284. >"Maybe next year you'll consider playing for a better team?" Cloudchaser suggests, hopping to her hooves. "One whose star player isn't so flaky?"
  285. >"Hay!"
  286. >You laugh as Rainbow gets in Cloudchaser's face.
  287. >To her credit, Cloudchaser doesn't flinch as Rainbow berates her.
  288. >After Dash stomps off, the mauve mare starts to leave, then pauses.
  289. >"You are right about one thing, Anon." she says, looking back over her shoulder.
  290. "What's that?"
  291. >"You do have a very pretty cheer squad." she says, dragging her tail along Lotus' body as she walks away.
  292. >The three of you stare after her as she saunters over to Thunderlane's group.
  293. >Lotus's blush is fierce, and her look of confusion is adorable.
  294. >You can't help but laugh, and Lyra soon joins you, earning you a punch in the shoulder from Lotus.
  295. >"And so the predator becomes the prey." Rose says, walking up with Fluttershy in tow.
  296. >"Hello Anon, are you having a good time?" Fluttershy asks.
  297. "How could I not? I've got a cooler full of alcohol, there's a roaring fire, and I'm surrounded by ponies having a good time." you smile. "Hey, wait a minute. Isn't pestering me about having a good time Pinkie's job?"
  298. >"Oh, well, she's very busy. I'm just helping a friend."
  299. >Good ol' Flutters
  300. "Have a drink, Shy. You can sit next to Lyra, I promise she won't bite."
  301. >You pull Lyra into your lap outright, much to Lotus' ire.
  302. >Rose pushes herself up against you and Lyra, making room for Fluttershy.
  303. >Stabilizing Lyra with one arm, you lift the lid on your cooler and hand a bottle each to Rose and Shy.
  304. >Rose quickly pops hers open and takes a hearty swig, Flutters taking the slightest sip of hers.
  305. >Rainbow, clearly frustrated about something, fidgets in place while Rose starts talking about the Nightmare Night arrangements she's putting together for Town Hall.
  306. >You stare contentedly into the fire, idly petting Lyra (now snoozing in your lap) while Fluttershy and Rose carry on about flower arranging.
  307. >Rainbow leaves shortly thereafter, and Lotus resumes her attempts to usurp Lyra from her throne.
  308. >Deciding to humor your less-than-subtle suitor, you reach your free hand down and pull her in close, running a hand across her back.
  309. >You're considering how to acquire your next beer, since your hands are occupied, when a pair of wingbeats draws your attention to your right.
  310. >Cloudchaser is floating there quietly, with Rainbow Dash watching from the darkness.
  311. >Suddenly you understand half of what's going on.
  312. >Working on a hunch, you speak in a low tone.
  313. "Dash sent you over?"
  314. >Cloudchaser rolls her eyes and nods.
  315. "You know, I get the impression you aren't into me."
  316. >"Well at least someone gets it."
  317. "I think I know just what to do." you say, giving her a wink.
  318. >Slowly stretching, you fake a yawn.
  319. >Seeing her chance, Cloudchaser replaces your hand with her hoof.
  320. >You, in turn, acquire and open a beer.
  321. >Lotus, while not entirely paying attention, is neither deaf nor dumb, and quickly notices something has changed.
  322. >Looking at you and your beer, she jumps up and around to face the playful pegasus.
  323. >Spotting Rainbow Dash watching in the distance, Lotus puts two and two together and gets five.
  324. >She then proceeds to storm over to the cyan pegasus and lay into her, Cloudchaser giggling like a filly at the display.
  325. >"So Rainbow doesn't know you're into mares, huh?" Rose comments.
  326. >"I guess not." Cloudchaser shrugs. "It does explain why she never reciprocated when I flirted with her back at the academy. A real shame she's into stallions."
  327. "I guess I'm guilty of denying you Lotus then."
  328. >"Nah, she's dated mares before. I've seen her." Cloudchaser counters. "Maybe she swings both ways. But you'd best be on your toes, Anon. I'm not letting you steal all of the pretty mares in town."
  329. "I'm not stealing anything." you deny. "I'm just enjoying a nice, relaxing vacation."
  330. >"I don't know about you, but Lyra sure seems relaxed."
  331. >At the mention of her name, the mare stirs.
  332. >"Hmmm?" she asks sleepily.
  333. "Nothing. No need to get up."
  334. >"Oh, actually, I need to use the little filly's room...and I've been hogging your lap this whole time..." she admits sheepishly.
  335. >Hopping down, Lyra bounces away, humming along to a tune in her head.
  336. >"I think I'm going to go intervene before Lotus and Dash get into a real fight." Cloudchaser says, a hint of worry in her voice.
  337. >"Bye Cloudy!" a voice calls, suddenly reminding you that there were ponies present on the bales beyond Lotus.
  338. >Aloe moves quickly, pushing a lavender pegasus over to you, then springing onto your lap.
  339. >Standing up to look into your eyes, the pretty pink pony places a peck on your cheek before settling against your chest.
  340. >Your face is hot.
  341. >Next time you won't sit so close to the fire.
  342. >That is clearly the issue.
  343. >Fluttershy and Rose giggle softly, and a soft rustling to your right draws your attention to the previously positioned purple pegasus, who is fighting her wings down.
  344. >You're gonna need another beer.
  345. >"Anon, this is Flitter, by the way." Aloe yawns.
  346. >A weight on your shoulder is accompanied by a familiar voice.
  347. >"Flitter is Cloudchaser's sister. She's a really nice mare, but almost as awkward as Fluttershy." Rose tells you. "Go easy on her, tiger."
  348. >Almost as awkward as Fluttershy, eh?
  349. "Nice to meet you, Flitter. I take it your sister dragged you into this?"
  350. >"Oh, well no. I mean yes! Yes, she brought me along, but I mostly to just help set up."
  351. "Well I can't fault the party committee, y'all did a bang-up job."
  352. >"T-thanks, y-you too!"
  353. >You can't help but laugh, and the others join in as Flitter snaps her mouth shut.
  354. "I don't think your sister would take kindly to you joining my cheer squad." you answer. "She's pretty competitive."
  355. >"Actually, she brought me here because she says I need a coltfriend!"
  356. >The implications of her own words reaching her several seconds after they've left her mouth, Flitter proceeds to cover her moth with her hooves as she freezes in place.
  357. >A deep blush creeps across her mortified expression, drawing laughter from the others.
  358. >She does not, however, topple over.
  359. >Indeed, she's /almost/ as awkward as Fluttershy.
  360. >Not long after, Fluttershy flies off to join Twilight and Applejack, and Rose takes the chance to restart a real conversation.
  361. >"Flitter, I've been meaning to ask, what exactly do you do all winter?"
  362. >The pegasus shifts awkwardly.
  363. >"Well, um, I do collect a lot of data during the warm months, so I sift through all of that to look for ways to improve my process, but otherwise I well, I read and..."
  364. "Wait, are you a farmer or something?" you ask, slightly confused.
  365. >"What? Oh! No, I'm not. I do work with the farmers though. I'm an Apiarist!"
  366. >You turn to Rose.
  367. "Translation?"
  368. >"She works with bees."
  369. "Bees?"
  370. >"Bees." Rose nods.
  371. >"Rose is right." Flitter confirms.
  372. "But not like, well, Fluttershy, right?"
  373. >Flitter just cocks her head.
  374. "You don't fill your house with bees?"
  375. >"What? W-why would I do that? /WHO/ does that?"
  376. >Rose falls against you, giggling.
  377. "Well, I just mentioned Fluttershy."
  378. >"Why would she fill her house with bees!? Bees don't like that!"
  379. "I meant she brings her animal friends home with her." you reassure. "She doesn't have any bees in her home that I know of."
  380. >"Oh, good. They really don't like being taken home."
  381. "Learned that yourself?"
  382. >Flitter nods and launches into an explanation as Lotus returns.
  383. >"It was for a project when I was at the Academy-"
  384. >You get the evil eye, and she is clearly miffed that Aloe has succeeded where she had failed.
  385. >"...new species in the Everfree..."
  386. >As Flitter stammers along, you lean in towards Rose for a moment.
  387. "I think Lotus is mad at me."
  388. >"You may have been a little hard on her." Rose agrees.
  389. "Okay, that's all I needed to know."
  390. >"...after they ate all of the cabinets..."
  391. >Rose taps your side.
  392. >"Anon?"
  393. "Hmm?"
  394. >"It isn't all your fault. But you should still make it up to her."
  395. "Duly noted." you sigh, opening yet another beer.
  396. >"...So after Maintenance got them all out and freed me from the refrigerator, I got moved to a brand new apartment!" Flitter concludes.
  397.  
  398.  
  399. >The night progresses, and your alcohol supply continues to dwindle.
  400. >Cooler is half empty, and Pinkie just got out her DJ get-up.
  401. >You are currently buzzed enough to be talked into dancing, something Aloe magically picks up on.
  402. >The good news is: The Casper Slide is a trans-dimensional constant.
  403. >The bad news is: you're still white
  404. >Fortunately for you, ponies and Humans are pretty different, and you manage to bluff your way through half a dozen songs with Aloe and then Lyra before taking a break.
  405. >Most of the group has dispersed, leaving just your cooler and Flitter.
  406. >Wiping your forehead, you crack open a cider, your beer supply exhausted.
  407. >Noticing the fidgety pegasus on the next bale over, you hand her the cider and grab another one.
  408. "Why aren't you out there? I'm out there, and I'm terrible!"
  409. >"O-oh, no, I-"
  410. "Flitter, you gotta realize something. Half of them are buzzed, and the rest are flat-out drunk. Go out there and have fun."
  411. >The mare is unconvinced.
  412. >You sit out two songs, encouraging her to drink her cider as you down a second.
  413. >But when Pinkie introduces a hit from that Diamond Dog artist, Pitbull, you feel compelled to get up.
  414. >Letting out a howl, you jump in to join.
  415. >A line dance breaks out, and a more observant pony would be aware of the fact that Aloe did not back into you on accident.
  416. >Unfortunately for her, you spot Flitter at the edge of the crowd and quickly drop back and slide in next to her.
  417. >Clapping on the turn, you fall back into step.
  418. >You can't see it, but a small smile creeps across her face as she redoubles her efforts.
  419. >Swing your partner round and round, middle of the night it's going down~
  420.  
  421. >A little before midnight Pinkie announces the last song.
  422. >You're laying on the ground, propped up by the hay bale.
  423. >Rose and Fluttershy bowed out a while ago.
  424. >Lyra had apparently met up with some friends, and she had stopped by to invite you over to her house for an afterparty.
  425. >You made no promises.
  426. >Flitter went to help her sister start packing up.
  427. >That's when you finally saw Lotus reappear.
  428. >When you had asked Aloe earlier she speculated that her sister was avoiding Cloudchaser.
  429. >With her nemesis occupied, you knew what you had to do.
  430. >Getting onto unsteady feet, you brushed yourself off and made quick time across the field.
  431. >Lotus was talking to her sister and some others as Pinkie gave a final warning for the last song.
  432. >Joining the group, Aloe leans affectionately into you, and you run your hand through her mane in return.
  433. >Making eye contact with Lotus, you step away from Aloe and gesture to the dim space in front of the dying bonfire.
  434. >Lotus stares back at you.
  435. >And not a happy stare.
  436. >So you pick her up and carry her off, hysterical giggling engulfing the group as you exit.
  437. "Aw Lotus, you can't stay mad at me. Not with Bridle Adams' 'Heaven' playing out there." you coax.
  438. >"You!" she whispers harshly, pounding your chest for emphasis "You left me to dodge Cloudchaser all night!"
  439. "Yeah, I did." you admit "But I'm here now. I didn't think it was such a problem, you always seem so... assertive."
  440. >"Well it was."
  441. "Hey, c'mere." you say, shifting her position to let her fall onto her back hooves.
  442. >Wrapping her forelegs around your midsection, Lotus leans against your chest as you guide her in slow circles.
  443. "I'm sorry."
  444. >"You're forgiven." she sighs. "This time."
Herd Herding Hawkeye

Auction Pony Scenes

by Hawkeye

Herd 18

by Hawkeye

Herd 17

by Hawkeye

Herd 16

by Hawkeye

Herd 15

by Hawkeye