GREEN   54    6597   36.81 KB

Herd 06

By Hawkeye
Created: 18th December 2020 04:19:58 PM

  1. >"It's been a long time since I've left Ponyville."
  2. "I rarely left Canterlot when I was here."
  3. >"It's just that I'm always so busy with my shop..."
  4. "Lily and Daisy can handle it."
  5. >"I know. It's just weird for me."
  6. "So have you ever been to Canterlot?"
  7. >"Once, when I was a little filly."
  8. "So not that long ago."
  9. >Rose throws you a look, then returns her gaze out the window.
  10. >The gleaming walls of the suspended city are drawing close.
  11. >Seeing the water cascading out of the city works brings back memories of your most recent project.
  12. >You'll have to talk to your buddy Floodgate, maybe schedule a tour to see how they're doing.
  13. >The train passes through the gates, and you're into the city.
  14. >An announcement warns you that the train will be arriving soon, and you pull your luggage from the overhead racks.
  15. >Once the train comes to a stop, you rise and stretch, then open the door.
  16. >Stepping aside, you follow Rose out onto the platform.
  17. "Alright, first and foremost, let's get to my apartment."
  18. >"Your place first?" Rose asks. "Really Anon, I'm not that kind of mare."
  19. "Someone has been spending too much time at the spa."
  20. >"But Anon, they /are/ those kinds of mares."
  21. "Point taken." you say, leading the way to the street. "Taxi!"
  22.  
  23. >You drop the luggage in the bedroom and make a sudden realization.
  24. >"Anon, is this a one bedroom apartment?"
  25. >Yes. It is.
  26. "Totally forgot about that." you admit sheepishly. "I'll take the couch for tonight."
  27. >Rose says nothing, having wandered into your office.
  28. >"You know Anon, these landscapes aren't half bad." she says, looking over some ideas you had drawn for the academy.
  29. "I'm glad you approve. These were the other reason I needed to come here." you say, pulling them off the wall and carefully rolling them. "I drew these when they first conceived the project, but I was starting to think they'd never sort out the funding."
  30. >"I may make something of you yet." she says, bumping you as she walks past.
  31. >Sliding the drawings into a cardboard tube, you cap it and head into the living room.
  32. >"For someone who's making such a fuss over a house in Ponyville, your apartment sure is bare."
  33. "I never spent much time here."
  34. >"Except your office. That room is full of life."
  35. "...there may be a good reason I was told I need a few mares in my life." you admit.
  36. >"It's a good thing you're going to have so many. They're going to have their work cut out for them."
  37. "You sure you aren't a princess? Because you're starting to sound like them." you say, pouring a pair of gin and tonics.
  38. >"I'm sure." Rose answers, taking her glass. "But I am looking forward to telling the princesses about how you're flirting with all of these mares, but have yet to even mention herding to any of them."
  39. >You catch yourself before pulling a spit-take, and carefully swallow.
  40. "I'm just taking things slow."
  41. >"Very slow." Rose nods sadly. "It's almost like you don't want a herd."
  42. "Hey Rose?"
  43. >She looks over at you, emerald eyes sparkling with mischief over her glass.
  44. "Stick to flowers. You're no good at fishing."
  45.  
  46. >Walking down the streets of Canterlot, all sorts of ponies stop and wave.
  47. >Over the past couple of years you've built a reputation.
  48. >You were the one who redesigned the city works, and brought local electricity to Canterlot.
  49. >The rebuilt Royal Archives? Your design.
  50. >Perimeter Park was an uninspired mess, but under your guidance it has become one of the most romantic places in Canterlot.
  51. >The elites in Canterlot may not like much, and definitely not outsiders (let alone aliens), but anyone who does such service to their fair city... well, they can look beyond the superficial.
  52. >And they aren't as bad as everyone makes them out to be, really.
  53. >Stopping by Pony Joe's, you pay for two coffees, a donut for you and whatever the lady wants.
  54. >As Rose peers through the glass at Joe's extensive offerings, you take a sip of your coffee at the counter.
  55. >"Finally got your hoof caught, eh?"
  56. "What?"
  57. >"Your lady friend. Mighty pretty. I'm happy for ya, Anon."
  58. "She is very pretty." you nod. "And a sharp wit."
  59. >"Those 'r' the dangerous ones." he says with a smile. "You'll never know what hit ya."
  60. "I know just enough to know that I'm in trouble." you agree.
  61. >Rose finally comes to a decision, and with breakfast in hand, you head to a bench on a nearby canal.
  62.  
  63. >"So where is this garden project of yours?"
  64. "Just up the road a bit. We don't need to be at the administrator's office for another hour though."
  65. >Rose takes a bite of donut and chews.
  66. >Ponies mill around you, going about their day, hardly paying you any mind.
  67. >Having long since wolfed down your own food, you sip appreciatively on your coffee.
  68. >Shifting hands, you stretch an arm around your companion, absently stroking her mane.
  69. >Offering an exploratory scratch behind her ear elicits a twitch as her breath hitches.
  70. >Taking another sip of coffee, you run a finger along the edge of her ear before gently rubbing it between your thumb and forefinger.
  71. >Rose lets out little purring noises as she leans into you.
  72. >You stay like that, in silence, for some time.
  73. >Words would only cheapen the moment.
  74. >A clocktower chimes the half hour, and you start to shift.
  75. "C'mon, we'll be late if we don't leave soon."
  76. >Rose sets a hoof on your chest, and when you look down, her viridian eyes lock with yours.
  77. >She lunges up, knocking you over, as her lips find yours.
  78. >Brushing her mane out of your face, you wrap your arms around her.
  79. >Her fur is soft, and her lips needy.
  80. >When she breaks the kiss, you simply lift her up as you get to your feet.
  81. "Where did that come from?" you ask, surprised.
  82. >"I can't believe I let Lotus beat me to that."
  83.  
  84. >The meeting is not terribly exciting, since you've already got plans made for the project.
  85. >You do make sure to negotiate a consultants fee for the Flower Sisters.
  86. >Really, just Rose, but something about listing just her seems improper.
  87. >She's the closest thing to a marefriend you have, and that seems unethical...
  88. >...but at the same time you know her advice will be worth every bit.
  89. >Your plans in tow, you and Rose join a few campus officials on a walk over the proposed area.
  90. >As a secretary holds the concept drawing up with her magic, you talk the bureaucrats through the demolition of a few old maintenance structures.
  91. >In their place, a mixed indoor/outdoor complex.
  92. >Carefully manicured grounds planted with flora native to the Canterlot area.
  93. >Climate controlled houses for places as close as Vanhoover and as distant as Zebrica.
  94. >Iron frames plated with blacked copper will hold the opaque glass.
  95. >The copper means that as the paint wears out, the frame will transition to a green color.
  96. >It's the kind of detail you've built your name on.
  97. >After the walk, the officials agree that you're the man for the job.
  98. >As if there was any doubt.
  99. >Several hours of paperwork will need to be handled still, but you push that off until tomorrow.
  100. >Leaving the Academy, you head for the palace gates and a meeting with an old friend.
  101.  
  102. >The salon is elegantly, yet simply, appointed.
  103. >A room used for hosting friends, not dignitaries.
  104. >Rose sips a cup of tea, while you recline in your usual spot -stretched out on a chaise-lounge.
  105. >"If I had to guess, you have been here before."
  106. "Hmmm? Yeah, this was where a lot of backroom discussions about royal projects took place."
  107. >"You looked so natural walking through that door. Like it was your own apartment."
  108. "They even left the human-sized coat rack here."
  109. >"Is there any room over there for little old me?"
  110. "Not a chance." you smirk.
  111. >The shock on her face is quickly replaced with a grin of her own as she loads a barbed quip in reply, but the arrival of Princess Celestia of the Sun interrupts.
  112. >"Anonymous! You have no idea how perfect your timing is!"
  113. "Good to see you too, Celly." you say, standing up.
  114. >You quickly cross the room to embrace your old friend, giving Rose the opportunity she needs to steal your seat.
  115. >Tricksy little hobbitses.
  116. >Taking Rose's abandoned tea, you take a seat instead in a corner of a low couch.
  117. >Celestia lifts her regalia onto the coat rack, and plops down onto the other corner of the couch.
  118. >With Rose at the table, there is a direct line of sight with the chaise lounge.
  119. >There is no such line of sight from the lounge to the couch, which sits behind it.
  120. >Two can play at this game.
  121. >The sight line problem was something you used to your advantage when you were only half interested in, or outright protesting, a discussion.
  122. >Also when you were tired.
  123. >You had fallen asleep there countless times.
  124. >All of this backstory is lost on the owner of the emerald eyes staring over the back of the lounge as Celly unloads.
  125. >"I can't thank you enough, Anon." the regent sighs. "The Everfree Druidic Circle was petitioning me for access again, and it grows harder and harder every year to deflect them."
  126. "I still say you should just let them go in."
  127. >"Anonymous, we've covered this a hundred times-"
  128. "And I have disagreed with you a hundred times."
  129. >"They have no idea how dangerous it is."
  130. "You have to allow children to grow up sometime, Celestia."
  131. >"I can't let them wander blindly into danger."
  132. "They're adults. Their choices -and the consequences- are on them."
  133. >At this point, you stride across the room to fill the now empty tea cup with coffee.
  134. >Rather unceremoniously, you lift Rose under an arm and carry her to the couch with you.
  135. >Sitting down, Rose leans up against you.
  136. >"If you don't mind filling me in, who are the Everfree Druids? I thought only Zecora lived in the forest."
  137. >You share a look with Celestia.
  138. >Adopting a pinkie-out, looking-down-the-nose posture, you clear your throat.
  139. "The Druidic Circle of the Most Verdant Everfree is a group of Canterlot socialites who happen to enjoy the outdoors. They throw lavish garden parties, go on 'expeditions' to wild places, and sponsor the annual Canterlot Color Walk when the leaves turn."
  140. >"They are very well meaning ponies, and while I am happy to see them enjoying the splendors of nature-"
  141. "Their idea of an expedition is a long weekend in Whitetail Woods, or -at the wildest- a guided safari tour in Zebrica."
  142. >"Most of them couldn't start their own campfire if they wanted to." Celestia groans.
  143. >"And they want to visit the Everfree?" Rose asks.
  144. "They took their name from the wildest place in Equestria, and I think it bothers some of them that they've never visited their namesake."
  145. >"And they never will." Celestia adds.
  146. "Which is why they keep asking."
  147. >Rose ponders for a moment.
  148. >"Assuming that you have already warned them a hundred times how dangerous it is, and that they still refuse to heed your warnings..." she says slowly, as her thoughts come together.
  149. >"I have, and they do." Celestia sighs.
  150. >"Well princess, I have to agree with Anon then."
  151. >"What!?"
  152. "Really?"
  153. >"I mean, Anon and I have spent some quality time in those woods. And he's been treated rougher at the Day Spa than he was out there with me."
  154. "Those twins are the real monsters." you chuckle, lifting an accusatory finger into the air.
  155. >"So you mean to tell me that dear Anonymous here isn't a total shut-in?"
  156. >"Oh no, he's been quite the socialite." Rose continues. "He even has a little pack of mares trailing after him most of the time."
  157. >Suddenly you are wary of where this conversation is going.
  158. >"Really?" Celestia presses.
  159. >Rose nods soberly.
  160. >"He seems interested, but then he hasn't even asked any of us on a real date yet."
  161. >Bam.
  162. >This is kind of where you expected this to go.
  163. >You should have brought Lyra with you.
  164. >She wouldn't have done this to you.
  165. >Celestia is giving you her best 'disappointed mom' look.
  166. "Celly please." you say, rolling your eyes. "When was the last time /you/ dated?"
  167. >"What!? That has nothing to do with it." she sputters. "I simply can't believe you're stringing mares along, Anonymous."
  168. "Who said I'm stringing them along? My time in Ponyville so far is best measured in weeks, or even days, not months."
  169. >Rose shifts her weight, subtly pushing herself closer against you.
  170. "I would also like to remind you that the resident alien does not know much of anything about pony dating customs, and maybe telling him to build a herd was a mite bit ambitious."
  171. >"You've been doing pretty well, in my opinion." Rose chimes in.
  172. "Hush." you say, taking one of her ears between your fingers again.
  173. >Rose hums appreciatively.
  174. >"I understand what you're saying Anon. But don't you enjoy spending time with these mares?"
  175. "Of course I do." you say, throwing her a look. "You know I wouldn't put up with them if I didn't."
  176. >"Then why not invite them into your herd?"
  177. "...because I've known most of them for less than a month?"
  178. >"You should at least be dating them by now, Anon."
  179. "What? I mean, I'm not opposed to it, but why the rush?"
  180. >"I'm surprised Twilight hasn't said anything about your hoof-dragging."
  181. "I feel like I missed something here."
  182. >"It's very simple, Anon. You find some mares you like, you invite them on a few dates, and when you've got a good group, you ask them to herd with you."
  183. "Uhhh."
  184. >"Twilight clearly needs further guidance. Perhaps I should send Cadence-"
  185. "Do it and I will never work another project for you ever again."
  186. >"Now now, no need for dramatics." Celestia laughs. "I just want you to relax."
  187. "Ugh, Cadence is the opposite of relaxation."
  188. >"What do you mean?" Rose asks innocently.
  189. >"We haven't the time to discuss the many blind dates my niece has setup for Anonymous."
  190. "Let's just say, I wasn't aware I was going on any of them."
  191. >"Things didn't go well?"
  192. "Not in the least."
  193. >"You seem to get along with Rose much better." Celestia offers.
  194. "Absolutely. Smart and pretty, a winning combination." you smile.
  195. >"Someone has to look after you."
  196. >"Why not invite her to your herd, Anon?"
  197. "Man this is awkward." you say, finishing your coffee. "It's all just moving so fast..."
  198. >"It seems to be moving rather slowly to me." Celestia says, confusion showing on her face.
  199. >You hold a finger up, as you think about how to proceed.
  200. "How long do ponies usually date before marriage?"
  201. >"You mean until the stallion proposes? Or the wedding itself?"
  202. "Let's use the proposal."
  203. >"Six to eight months. Though it's not unheard of to date for as long as a year."
  204. >"My mom and dad only dated for five." Rose adds.
  205. "And look how you came out." you quip, earning a scowl and a hard tap on your chest. "But I now see the problem."
  206. >"Problem?" Rose asks, looking up at you.
  207. "Not a problem, per se. More of a miscommunication." you amend.
  208. >Rubbing Rose's captive ear, you gather your thoughts.
  209. "Humans... date on a more extended timeline."
  210. >"Oh?" Celestia says. "Twilight never mentioned anything like that."
  211. >"With all due respect, Princess Twilight gets uncomfortable when a couple sits too close on a park bench." Rose giggles.
  212. "Yeah, Twi never really pried into human romance." you nod.
  213. >"So how long do humans usually date?" Rose asks.
  214. "A few years, usually."
  215. >"Years!?" Celestia balks.
  216. >Rose groans.
  217. >From your answer or your ear rubbing, you're not sure.
  218. "I think my parents dated for three, my sister dated for four. I think a second cousin of mine dated for eight or something ridiculous like that." you confirm.
  219. >"Eight years? Surely they must have known sooner-"
  220. "I think they started dating in school, and waited until they graduated from college -that's like Academy here- before they wed."
  221. >"I see, that is something I wish I would have known sooner." Celestia muses.
  222. "Communication." you state sagely.
  223. >"It does explain a lot." Rose pouts. "I was starting to think you didn't like me."
  224. "You, of all ponies, don't have to worry about that." you assure her.
  225. >"Well, I'll let the others know... you should probably let the other mares in this group of yours know that Anon." Celestia advises.
  226.  "Well, with this is in the open, I'll say this: I'm willing to compromise."
  227. >"I'm listening." Celestia says.
  228. >Rose has gone very still.
  229. "I think a few mares that I like might get asked out on a date pretty soon." you say. "And I'll try to keep it in mind that things move faster here."
  230. >Looking down, Rose is looking up at you.
  231. "You busy tomorrow night?"
  232. >"I think I'm free." she says, smiling broadly.
  233. "How about penciling in a first date?"
  234.  
  235. >The rest of the afternoon is spent talking about the mundane.
  236. >Canterlot politics.
  237. >Your house.
  238. >The Elements of Harmony.
  239. >Celestia tittering over your date tomorrow.
  240. >The usual.
  241. >She does invite the two of you for breakfast tomorrow, an invitation you graciously accept.
  242. >Back at your apartment, you slide out of your shoes and turn to your bar.
  243. "Rose, anything?"
  244. >She declines, and you pour a gin and tonic.
  245. >Sipping the cool concoction, you peruse your available dinner options.
  246. "Okay, so here's my next plan." you say. "Buy some groceries."
  247.  
  248. >Rose expresses some confusion when you hail a cab.
  249. >"Isn't there a market we passed just two blocks from here?"
  250. "Sure is. This is Upper Canterlot, full of rich and important ponies. That market is therefore kind of expensive. It's all 'organic this' and 'heirloom that' with those ponies."
  251. >"So where are we going?"
  252. "Lower Canterlot, where the bulk of the ponies live, and where prices are normal for normal food."
  253. >"So why don't you live in Lower Canterlot? You could probably get a larger apartment for the same price."
  254. "Well, I own that apartment. A gift from Celly and Luna."
  255. >"It must be nice having those connections."
  256. "Well, they can be a little meddlesome."
  257. >"You sure seem to be suffering." she says, rolling her eyes.
  258. "Yeah, I guess I'm doing alright." you smile, wrapping an arm around her.
  259.  
  260. >Having returned from the Lower Market, you check the time and get to work.
  261. >After pouring another drink.
  262. >Some penne goes in a pot.
  263. >You roughly chop some fennel and tomatoes, and throw them in a bowl with some baby spinach.
  264. >Running a knife over a handful of kalamata olives, you toss them in with the other veggies.
  265. >Those go in a pan with a little bit of oil and some spices to sautee.
  266. >Draining the pasta, you procure a block of feta from your bag.
  267. >Two plates go down...first a bed of pasta, then the vegetables, lastly crumbled feta on top...
  268. >Dinner is ready.
  269. >You call Rose over, as the bottle of wine joins the plates on your table.
  270. >"Trying to impress me, Anon?"
  271. "Nah, it's fresh but simple. I used to cook a lot, before work got in the way."
  272. >"What changed?"
  273. "I was halfway through the remodel of the Archives for Luna, when Celestia asked me to start designing the massive overhaul of the Canterlot Water Works." you recall.
  274. >"Why didn't you finish the Archives first?"
  275. "Things with the Archives were moving along swimmingly, and the original plan for the Canterlot Works was nothing near what it turned out to be." you say, a wry smile forming at the corners of your mouth.
  276. "The original plan was just to repair most of the system and rebuild the main trunk line from the mountain." you explain.
  277. >"What did it end up being?"
  278. "The main trunk line was replaced as planned, but then the major feeder branches were also replaced."
  279. "And then the return lines."
  280. "And then the Departure Channels."
  281. "Oh, and idiot me mentioned the idea that we could build hydroelectric generating stations on the departure channels. So that also got added."
  282. >"I can see why you needed a vacation." Rose says. "And I can also see why you need a herd."
  283. "Why's that?"
  284. >"Some of us know how to say 'no'."
  285.  
  286. >Sleeping on the couch wasn't as bad as you remembered.
  287. >Breakfast at the palace was every bit as delicious as you remembered though.
  288. >The down side?
  289. >Cadence and Shining were in.
  290. >The up side?
  291. >Cadence spent the whole time fawning over Rose.
  292. >And when Rose was able to keep up with your quips at breakfast, Cadence burst.
  293. >"Oh my gosh, you can keep up with him! You can even top him! I didn't think anypony could do that!"
  294. >That's probably an exaggeration.
  295. >You are in no way the most sarcastic human in existence.
  296. >Well, assuming 'existence' counts whatever dimension Earth is in.
  297. >Ignoring Cadence, you turn to Celestia.
  298. "I'm going to spend most of my day signing things and being bored to death at the academy. Do you have any ideas for Rose while she's in town?"
  299. >Celestia pauses in thought, and Luna starts to speak, but before she can suggest the usual list of museums, she's cut off.
  300. >"I shall take Rose on a girl's day out!" Cadence proclaims. "Anyone who puts up with /you/ surely needs one!"
  301. >"I mean, I'm fine just being on my own-"
  302. >"Oh this will be so fun!"
  303. "If Rose never speaks to me again, the Crystal Railroad is off the table."
  304. >"What? How could you possibly imply that I, of all ponies, would do anything to harm your relationship!?"
  305. >"You're hurting my head." Rose groans.
  306. >"All the more reason to hit the spa!"
  307. >You almost feel sorry for Rose.
  308. >Almost.
  309.  
  310. >You step out of the massive Administration Building and find that the skies remain overcast, and a cold wind now blows down the narrow streets of the city.
  311. >Glancing at your watch, you note the time.
  312. >Rose still has three hours left with Cadence at the Spa.
  313. >Plenty of time.
  314. >Quickly striding down the cobblestone streets, you make your way to the place Celestia recommended.
  315. "Prongs." you mutter aloud as you take in the structure.
  316. >Small, but stately. Just enough ornamentation to look in place at the end of Central Park's main boulevard, but not so much as to become gaudy or ostentatious.
  317. >You stifle the urge to inquire about the building's history as you reach the Maitre D.
  318. >The pony looks you over a moment before a slight hint of recognition breaks over him.
  319. >Slight being the key.
  320. >"Welcome to Prongs monsieur, late lunch today?"
  321. >His question throws you for a moment and you almost agree.
  322. "Y-oops, no." you stumble. "No, actually I need to make a reservation for tonight. I am aware you don't usually take such last minute reservations, but Princess Cadence was /most emphatic/ that I bring Rose here."
  323. >Next time you'll take care to rehearse that a bit more.
  324. >Why are you so nervous about this again?
  325. >Nevermind.
  326. >Your plan seems to work.
  327. >Almost.
  328. >"Ah yes, Princess Cadence is a friend of the chef. Still, we haven't heard from the palace today-"
  329. >You hold up a finger.
  330. "That would be because she's on a spa date with Rose. She said you'd recognize this?" you explain, offering up the trinket she had given to you after breakfast.
  331. >His face breaks into a knowing smile, which is somehow even more worrying.
  332. >"Of course, I am familiar with this. I shall take care of everything for you and this Rose you speak of, do not worry about it, Monsieur Anonymous."
  333. >Well then. That was easy.
  334. "I still need to know when you can make it work."
  335. >"Hmmm, yes." he mumbles, perusing the leather-bound book at his podium. "Be here at six o'clock and I will have everything taken care of. Hold onto the Princess's token for now, in case I forget by tonight!"
  336. "What exactly do you mean by everything? I just wanted a table for two, I don't need a big production or anything."
  337. >The stallion steps up next to you and gestures across the park to the distant palace.
  338. >"Do not fret, the Princess of Love knows what she's doing. This is not the place for spectacle, and I will make sure it's a quiet evening for you and your special mare."
  339. "I'm not sure I like this a whole lot."
  340. >"What can I say to ease your mind, mon ami?"
  341. "I just don't like surprises." you admit. "Walk me through what you had in mind."
  342. >The Maitre D sighs dramatically.
  343. >"I suppose I can do that."
  344.  
  345. >Leaving Prongs, you flag down a carriage and have it take you to a place you knew.
  346. >You knew it because you supervised the remodel.
  347. >It was the hotel version of Prongs, architecturally.
  348. >A stately old hotel along the edge of Horizon park, looking east beyond the park and across the plains.
  349. >The cabby is pleasant and looks as decent as a cab driver is likely to be in the city...
  350. "Hey man, you take advance reservations?" you ask, dropping the fare into his hoof.
  351. >"Sure guy, when and where?"
  352. " Quarter to six. 14 West Alder street. Going to the restaurant we just came from."
  353. >"No problem. I'll be there."
  354. "Great."
  355.  
  356. >Knowing the owners gets you a room without issue.
  357. >Not like it's the busy season anyways.
  358. >By the time you leave the hotel, the clouds are starting to break up.
  359. >Making your way across the city blocks, you arrive at your place with time to spare.
  360. >A box on your doorstep from a shop you've never heard of bears Rose's name, so you carry it inside.
  361. >Setting it on the table, you pour yourself a drink and drop onto the couch.
  362. >So far it's been a productive day.
  363. >All the contract details hammered out at the Academy.
  364. >Everything set for tonight.
  365. >And an hour left before Cadence returns Rose to you.
  366. >Putting on some quiet music, you savor the stillness.
  367. >The subtle sweetness behind the smoke of the whiskey.
  368. >The windblown leaves rustling on the balcony.
  369. >The soft singing of strings.
  370. >A  good day.
  371.  
  372. >Your quiet reverie is broken quite some time later as Rose lets herself back in.
  373. >Before you can get up, she falls into place next to you.
  374. "Long day?"
  375. >"Very."
  376. "I didn't think a girls day with Cadence would be so stressful."
  377. >Stretching out on the couch, Rose lays her head across your lap and looks up at you.
  378. >"I don't want to sound ungrateful. It was a great day. But Cadence insisted on taking me shopping, and man can that mare shop."
  379. "Perks of being a princess," you smile. "Access to the treasury."
  380. >For a moment Rose just closes her eyes while you play with her mane.
  381. "Speaking of shopping, there's a package for you on the table."
  382. >"Must be the dress from earlier."
  383. "Oh?"
  384. >"Mhmm. She said I'd need it for tonight."
  385. "I suppose I should reveal that we have dinner plans tonight, then."
  386. >"Taking advice from the princesses, Anon? That seems risky."
  387. "There is a difference between asking for life advice and asking for a suggestion for dinner."
  388. >"I hope so. No need to bring catastrophe down on Canterlot over some pasta."
  389. "Pasta is so overdone. How do you feel about Prench?"
  390. >"Anon, I live in Ponyville. Where would I even find Prench cuisine?"
  391. "Then you'll get to try something new tonight. I hope you like butter and cream sauces."
  392. >"Hmmm" Rose sighs.
  393. >That's probably a yes.
  394. >Probably.
  395.  
  396. >The dim lighting of the restaurant is accentuated by streams of gold where the evening sunlight finds its way in.
  397. >You are led to a table tucked into a corner, with a view of Perimeter Park and beyond.
  398. >Said table is also subtly stood apart.
  399. >Barely noticeable, just enough to guarantee a little extra privacy.
  400. >The dress Rose has on is simple, but the quality is obvious to someone attuned to detail.
  401. >The color is so dark as to appear almost black, but occasionally a bit of light catches it and elicits a spark of jade.
  402. >The Maitre D is aware you are here, but has paid no special attention to you.
  403. >So far so good.
  404. >The waiter brings a bottle of sparkling wine and a cheese board, then begins to walk through the months seasonal offerings.
  405. >Just to start, you order some soup and Rose chooses an Autumn Lily salad with roasted pecans.
  406. >As Rose begins to pick at the cheese board, you pour two glasses of the wine.
  407. >"So Anon, anything else I should know about human dating?"
  408. "Not really, it seems like it's basically the same as yours, humans just take a little longer."
  409. >"A lot longer."
  410. "Details, details." you dismiss. "Anyways, I said I'd speed things up."
  411. >"Mhmm." Rose nods, chewing.
  412. "You're asking because you have something on your mind."
  413. >"I'm just trying to imagine introducing you to my dad."
  414. >It takes several moments of coughing and sputtering for you to recompose yourself.
  415. >Rose just laughs at your struggles.
  416. "Hoh, oh man. That stings." you say, clearing your throat. "I forgot that whole sped-up timeline thing means we should at least meet at some point in the next month or so, eh?"
  417. >"I was thinking of inviting him to one of your hoofball games."
  418. "A stallion's stallion?"
  419. >"Yeah, he drove off the last boy to ask Lily on a date."
  420. "Oh? Anypony I know?"
  421. >"Caramel?"
  422. "Yeah, I can see how he might come off as soft to a tough stallion."
  423. >"He's a nice guy, it's a shame he didn't get a chance."
  424. >Your soup arrives, Roasted Acorn Squash with garlic and parsnips served in its own shell.
  425. >Rose's salad is beautiful, but you can't say you'll ever find flowers all that appetizing.
  426. >You've tried a few, and they're alright.
  427. >She seems to really enjoy them though.
  428.  
  429. >The waiter clears the cheese board and changes out the bottle of sparkling wine for something he deems more appropriate.
  430. >Reading the label, a Sauvignon Blanc.
  431. >It's all been arranged through Aperitif, the Maitre D, so you don't worry too much about it.
  432. >It pairs well enough with your soup, and you suspect that if you had simply chosen the tasting menu the wine pairing would have been easier.
  433. >Roasted squash and autumn lilies probably aren't too similar.
  434. "You've told me a little about your dad, but haven't mentioned your mom at all."
  435. >"Oh, well, she's where we got our talent for flowers from. And she's going to love you, so I'm not worried."
  436. "Are you worried about your dad?" you ask, furrowing your brow.
  437. >"I mean, a little." she admits. "He sees it as his job to make sure his girls get the best, and only the best."
  438. "I can't say I disagree." you say approvingly. "Worried about me not being a pony?"
  439. >Rose chews her food thoughtfully, swallows, and takes a sip from her glass.
  440. "Anon, if you were a pony, my dad would love you. He'll get over the whole 'human' thing."
  441.  
  442. >When the waiter returns, you decide to take the chef's recommendation.
  443. >Rose considers the menu for a long time before following suit.
  444. >The waiter almost seems relieved?
  445. >Excusing yourself to use the restroom, you catch Aperitif's eye, and wave him over to a corner.
  446. "Just to be sure, was I supposed to trust this dinner to the chef from the get-go?"
  447. >"No monsieur, however, the whole thing will certainly go more smoothly this way."
  448. "Okay, just making sure I didn't miss my cue. Anything else I should be aware of?"
  449. >"Only that your mare looks exquisite in that dress, Anon."
  450. "She does, doesn't she?" you smile. "Thanks again."
  451. >Reassured, you return to your table.
  452. "Did I miss anything?"
  453. >"Oh yes, there was a whole song and dance routine."
  454. "Wait, what?"
  455. >"You missed nothing."
  456. "Hey, Equestria is a crazy place, you never know!"
  457. >"I think someone has spent too much time in Canterlot."
  458. "You have no idea."
  459.  
  460. >Allowing the chef to handle the meal was a good idea.
  461. >The waiter came back and asked if you would mind selections off of the menu-for-two.
  462. >Looking to Rose, she nodded and you gave the okay.
  463. >So now, instead of a vegetable course a piece, you have four tasting plates in front of you.
  464. >Herb and Cheese stuffed mushrooms
  465. >Grilled Asparagus
  466. > Butter braised Brussels Sprouts
  467. >And an Olive Plate
  468. >Oh, and more wine.
  469. >You're taking your sweet time, otherwise you'll be toasted before you leave.
  470. >More so, this evening has been great.
  471. >Rose had started telling stories of her and her sisters getting in trouble as fillies.
  472. >Apparently she also has two half-sisters that live in Fillydelphia with her parents.
  473. >They see each other on holidays when the family gets together out that way.
  474. >They're much younger, from their father's second mare.
  475. >From what you can tell, she dotes on them while their parents aren't looking.
  476. >A model older sister.
  477. "Were you planning on inviting the whole family to that hoofball game, or just your mom and dad?"
  478. >"Haven't given it that much thought." she says, popping an olive in her mouth. "It just seemed like a good idea."
  479. "It is a good idea. I just need to know how much space to ask Twi for."
  480. >"They can stay with me, it's not a big deal."
  481. "Your call."
  482. >"It's the first visit, Anon. I know you're trying to butter them up, but how about you wait until you have your own house to do that?"
  483. "You cut me to the quick, madame."
  484.  
  485. >A Spinach and Goat Cheese strudel is delivered, as is an accompanying bottle of red.  
  486. >You can't help but dig in enthusiastically, the way it smells.
  487. >"Anon, I was thinking."
  488. "Hmm?" you respond, mouth full of pastry.
  489. >"You were a real help in the woods the other day, and if you take on the mares I think you will..."
  490. >She pauses, and takes a sip of pinot noir.
  491. >"Well, you won't really /have/ to work anymore."
  492. >Chewing, you swallow as you consider it.
  493. "I mean, I'd never thought of it that way. But I guess you're correct."
  494. >"Well, why not come work with me then?"
  495. "Aha, there's the opportunist I know." you say with a smirk. "But I've got a plan, a plan to take care of you all. Because that's what a herd stallion does."
  496. >"Oh, and you're an expert on herding all of a sudden?"
  497. "Fair enough, but I want kids, and there's only one way to get 'em." you counter.
  498. >"Anon, do we know if that's even possible?"
  499. "Only one way to find out!" you offer enthusiastically.
  500. >If Rose's face heats up any more she'll have to step outside.
  501. >Score one for Anon.
  502.  
  503. >By the time you manage to get your giggle-fits under control and Rose's face returns to its normal shade, your plates have been cleared.
  504. >They are quickly replaced by plates of Forest Mushroom Risotto, a pair of roasted morels adorning the side of each dish.
  505. >Spearing a morel, you savor the strong, earthy flavor.
  506. >"If you're done laughing at me, have you seriously considered what I said?"
  507. >You hold a finger up while you slowly chew.
  508. "Rose." you start. "Even if every one of you sold your homes and spent the money on this house of mine, and I started working with you, we'd spend most of our lives working away to pay the bills."
  509. >She starts to object and  you cut her off.
  510. "Let me finish. I was serious about wanting kids, and as Twilight once told me, what science can't solve magic can. And I know that I can afford to take care of you -and whatever others I finally decide on- comfortably with what I do."
  511. >"It just seems like you're going to have to work even harder than before this way."
  512. "I like to think you'll keep me from getting too far in over my head."
  513. >"Hmmm, I think I can do that. You're awfully stubborn though."
  514. "Guilty as charged."
  515. >"Make me one promise though?"
  516. "Sure."
  517. >"Help me around the shop once in a while?"
  518. "I can do that."
  519.  
  520. >Having shared a creampuff the size of your head, you settle the bill.
  521. >Nothing out of your capabilities, but not someplace you can dine at every week.
  522. >A  generous pile of bits left on the table, you steer Roseluck outside.
  523. >Hailing a cab, you give him the address before leaning back to hold your marefriend.
  524. >You think you can officially call her that now.
  525. >And it feels pretty good.
  526. >Great, even.
  527. >The sound of hoofsteps and cartwheels on cobblestone accompanies the rocking of the carriage.
  528. >"Anon?"
  529. "Hm?"
  530. >"Thanks."
  531. "None needed." you smile. "I enjoy your company."
  532. >"Not just that." Rose explains. "Ponies, well... my sisters were starting to ask questions..."
  533. "Ah. Well, just a misunderstanding." you shrug. "And now you can definitely tell them that we're dating."
  534. >"Oh? Are we official now?"
  535. "I believe that was a date, so doesn't that mean we're dating?"
  536. >"I suppose it does."
  537. "Are you opposed?"
  538. >"I guess I can live with it." she concedes, leaning against you. "Where to now?"
  539. "Oh, a little place I know..."
  540. >"That has to be the most clich├ęd thing I have ever heard you say."
  541. "Just wait." you grin. "Someday, when I'm a father, the dad jokes will be relentless."
  542. >"You monster."
  543. >The carriage rolls to a halt, and you help Rose down.
  544. >Paying the driver, you escort Rose inside.
  545.  
  546. >The room is your favorite.
  547. >There are larger rooms, sure.
  548. >But this is still a suite, and nothing to sneeze at.
  549. >What's more, it has the best views of the park and seemingly endless night sky beyond.
  550. >In the darkness, the farms and fields might as well be an extension of the void.
  551. >The few twinkling lights of scattered farmhouses are indiscernible from  the thousands of stars.
  552. >The cool night breeze feels good, but brings your attention to the mare beside you.
  553. >That dress isn't much against the cold of the night.
  554. >Not here, way up on a mountain.
  555. >Lifting her up, you take a seat, holding her in your lap.
  556. >You slide your suit jacket off, and drape it over the two of you.
  557. >Much better.
  558. >Through all of this, Rose has remained quiet.
  559. >But those beautiful green eyes haven't broken their stare.
  560. "Something on your mind?"
  561. >Rose starts to speak, then stops.
  562. >She reaches a hoof up to your face, and caresses it ever so gently.
  563. >Her eyes carefully follow every crease and line on your face.
  564. >"You worked on this hotel, right?"
  565. "How did you know?"
  566. >"While you were checking us in, I saw a picture." she says. "It was the grand re-opening."
  567. "Ah, yeah. Good party." you answer.
  568. >"You looked different."
  569. "Well, I can't stay young forever."
  570. >"It was only a few years ago."
  571. >Cocking your head to allow Rose a better angle, you pause to enjoy the attention.
  572. >"Anon?"
  573. "Hmmm?"
  574. >"Promise me something?"
  575. "What's that?"
  576. >"Promise me you won't work so hard ever again?"
  577. "This again?"
  578. >"We all have jobs, Anon. We can help!" she protests earnestly.
  579. "You make it hard to say no." you chuckle. "But how about this: I'm going to work as much as I think I need to in order to be the provider."
  580. >Rose begins to protest, but you shush her.
  581. "But, if I get in too deep, you tell me and I'll back off."
  582. >"Promise?"
  583. "Promise."
Herd Herding Hawkeye

Auction Pony Scenes

by Hawkeye

Herd 18

by Hawkeye

Herd 17

by Hawkeye

Herd 16

by Hawkeye

Herd 15

by Hawkeye