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Herd 07

By Hawkeye
Created: 18th December 2020 04:21:01 PM

  1. >Waking up with a groan and stretch, you open your eyes.
  2. >Laying beside you, book open across her pillow, is Rose.
  3. >"I thought you'd never wake up."
  4. "Good morning to you too."
  5. >"I need to get back to Ponyville eventually."
  6. "Your sisters need to get used to you not being around."
  7. >"I think you're getting ahead of yourself."
  8. "A man is allowed to dream, isn't he?"
  9. >"Seriously though, Anon. What's the plan for today?"
  10. "Train leaves at noon. It's not even nine."
  11. >"No other plans, nothing you need from your apartment?"
  12. "I mean, I thought maybe breakfast with my marefriend seemed like a good idea."
  13. >"I think your marefriend would agree." Rose nods, closing her book. "Especially after waiting so long for her coltfriend to wake up."
  14. >Some days you just can't win, Anon.
  15.  
  16. >Having retrieved some bagels, cream cheese and coffee from a shop down the street, you and Rose return to your room.
  17. "So which game were you planning on inviting your dad to? We only have so many left this season."
  18. >"Hmmm." Rose hums, munching on her breakfast. "This week is too soon, maybe the week after?"
  19. "Gonna be a good game. Playin' against Raiders." you say, stuffing more sea-salt bagel into your mouth.
  20. >"Worried?"
  21. "Nah, I wasn't lying when I boasted that we'd win the rest of our games. This team is incredible."
  22. >"Great, I'll write to them as soon as we get home."
  23. "Sounds like a plan."
  24. >"Obviously I'll be busy at work catching up, what will you be up to this weekend?"
  25. "Well, I have a few mares I owe explanations to, and I have a hoofball game tomorrow night."
  26. >"I'll try to make it, no parties afterwards though."
  27. "Ah well, the price I pay for whisking you away to Canterlot I suppose." you sigh dramatically.
  28. >"I'm sure you'll survive. I'll ask Lotus to go easy on you."
  29. "How kind."
  30.  
  31. >Parting ways at the train station, you make a beeline for the Sparkledome.
  32. >You've got to check up on a few things and consider how to talk to the other three girls.
  33. >Rose took it pretty well, but she's a patient and wily mare.
  34. >Thinking about it, Lyra is the one you're most concerned about.
  35. >She's such a lighthearted pony, you should talk to her soon.
  36. >Maybe today.
  37. >You are so lost in thought, you nearly walk into the door.
  38. >Fumbling for your key, you let yourself in and make your way upstairs.
  39. >Kicking back on the balcony, you pour a glass of whiskey and pick up the stack of mail.
  40. >Several messages from your bank...
  41. >The loan was approved, and the money was sent to the Haymakers.
  42. >Celestia's contribution has also come and gone.
  43. >The first check from the Academy arrived, the bits will be available tomorrow.
  44. >This, this is why you kept your bank in Canterlot.
  45. >The local Ponyville bank is lovely- friendly ponies, excellent service- but all of this would've taken at least another week with them.
  46. >Maybe you'll open a local account anyways...
  47. >...anyways, a redundant letter from Celestia about the bits...
  48. >A letter from Gabe saying he has the keys...
  49. >Okay, good.
  50. >The rest is junk mail.
  51. >You grab some parchment and write letters to Wally and Jim, asking when they can start work.
  52. >Taking a sip of whiskey, you set the finished letters on the table, just as Twilight enters.
  53. >"Oh, Anon! I thought you were in Canterlot?"
  54. "Just got home an hour ago." you explain. "What's up?"
  55. >"You've got a letter from Cadence, just dropping it off."
  56. "Pull up a chair, I don't know if I really want to read that letter."
  57. >"Oh Anon, she's harmless."
  58. "Yeah yeah, she hasn't tried setting you up yet. Just you wait."
  59. >"Anon, please."
  60. "Maybe I'll write back and tell her that you're lonely out here in Ponyville."
  61. >"Anon."
  62. "That she needs to find you a nice suitor."
  63. >"Nope."
  64. "A prince for the princess."
  65. >"I'm fine."
  66. "That's what he will say."
  67. >"What?"
  68. "That you're one fiiiine mare."
  69. >"How much have you had to drink?"
  70. "This is the first." you chuckle. "You should know that I'm at my most dangerous when sober."
  71. >"You're terrible."
  72. "It's a cross I have to bear." you sigh dramatically, eliciting a giggle from Twilight. "So what have you been up to? I haven't seen you around much."
  73. >"Yeah, you left the same day I came back, but it's okay. I've just been doing boring princess stuff."
  74. "Paperwork?"
  75. >"Pretty much." she frowns, then perks up. "But while I was in Canterlot I got permission to start inquiries about the dam!"
  76. "I'll be pretty busy for a while, Twi-"
  77. >"Oh, that's fine. It just means we can start the preliminaries as soon as you're ready. If that's next month or next year, whenever."
  78. "Good to know." you nod, considering the dam project. "I guess it's good to know that I'll have work as soon as I want it."
  79. >"I can't wait! I'll finally get to work on a project with you!"
  80. "Oh, um." you furrow your brow. "Which of us will be in charge?"
  81. >Twilight looks at your face and bursts out laughing.
  82. >"Relax Anon." she reassures you. "The Princess told me all about how you get on your projects. You'll be in charge."
  83. "Oh thank God." you heave a sigh of relief.
  84. >"Aw, c'mon. I'm not that bad, am I?"
  85. "It's not you, it's me." you reassure her.
  86. >"Anon, you lived with me for how many months? I know that beneath that cool, casual exterior is the heart of a passionate obsessive."
  87. "I hate to admit it, but you're not wrong."
  88. >"I bet you've already got a list of possible plants for those gardens."
  89. "Nope." you smile.
  90. >"Then you've got someone you trust lined up to handle it, and you're not even going to worry about it."
  91. "Damn, you're good."
  92. >"It's just how you handled me telling you about forming a herd." Twilight says, inquisitively sniffing the bottle of bourbon in front of you. "Classic you."
  93. "I suppose that's fair." you say, mulling it over. "But you have to admit, it works pretty well."
  94. >"It would work better if you delegated a little more often. Speaking of your herd though, Fluttershy has a date set for a little get together at her place, you should go talk to her about it."
  95. "Oh right, the thing she was planning with Rarity." you nod in recollection. "I'll try to spin by this evening."
  96. >"Good plan. But we're getting together in an hour, so if you're going over there, you'd better get a move on."
  97. "Huh, alright." you say, sitting up. "Official business?"
  98. >"The Princess wants us to investigate a rumor that someone opened the mirror pool again."
  99. "Oh Christ, yeah. Have fun with that. I'll go see Flutters and keep myself scarce for the evening."
  100. >"We should do this more often, Anon."
  101. "As soon as we're less busy."
  102. >"We'll never be less busy."
  103. "I mean, I'm going to get to retire eventually."
  104. >"Go see Fluttershy."
  105. "Yes, ma'am."
  106.  
  107. "Anypony home?" you ask, knocking on the door.
  108. >After a moment without an answer, you head around to the far side of Fluttershy's and find her diligently tending the remaining fall crops in her vegetable garden.
  109. >Pausing to admire from a distance, you eventually drop into a rarely used deck chair.
  110. >Reclining in leisure, you think back to that second date.
  111. >It really is a shame about the poor mare's anxieties... she can be a joy to be around when she isn't panicking.
  112. >But when she isn't by herself, she's usually panicking.
  113. >Therefore you allow her to continue undisturbed for quite some time.
  114. >Sadly, an errant sneeze disrupts the serenity of the situation, and poor Flutterbutter goes hooves-up on you.
  115. >Sniffling, you rise to your feet and set Fluttershy back on her hooves.
  116. >After sheepishly recovering, Shy invites you inside.
  117. "Twi says you wanted to schedule that party?"
  118. >"Oh yes, I stopped by the castle yesterday, but Twilight said you were out of town."
  119. "Yeah, I had some business in Canterlot to take care of." You explain. "Took Rose along, made a little trip out of it."
  120. >Fluttershy hums knowingly but says nothing.
  121. "And since you're polite enough not to ask, I won't leave you hanging. Rose and I are dating."
  122. >"Oh that's wonderful, Anon! Some of us were starting to wonder if you'd ever ask her."
  123. "Yeah, about that-" you start, before explaining the chat you had with Celestia.
  124. >Fluttershy, of course, is understanding.
  125. >She even promises to let Rarity know when the girls get together later today.
  126. >The two of you talk for so long, you nearly forget to ask about the date for the party.
  127. >You manage to cross reference calendars just before she has to leave.
  128.  
  129. >Since you're already out and about, you decide to check in on your non-florist mares.
  130. >Lyra lives closest, but no one answers when you knock.
  131. >It is mid afternoon, after all.
  132. >Bonbon is definitely at work still.
  133. >Now that you think about it, you're pretty sure the Orchestra has a big concert in two weeks.
  134. >Their rehearsal schedule is probably ramping up.
  135. >Nodding to yourself, you turn and head across town.
  136. >Making your way to the Market, you pass by Bonbon's and confirm that Lyra is indeed at practice.
  137. >Noting the slight scowl on the mares face, you take the time to stop.
  138. "A minute, away from the stand, Bonbon?"
  139. >"Why?"
  140. "I have a question about Lyra, just want to avoid prying ears."
  141. >Her curiosity piqued, she puts out a sign that says 'back in five minutes'.
  142. >Stepping a good ten feet behind the row of vendors, you take a knee.
  143. >"Well, what do you need to know? How to let her down gently?" she growls.
  144. "No, not at all. Actually, I wanted to clarify something with you and get some feedback." you begin. "You see, humans and ponies date a little differently..."
  145. >A few minutes later, Bonbon is briefed on the situation.
  146. >You can only imagine how many more times you'll need to have that conversation.
  147. >"So what's your plan, Anon?"
  148. "I'm not sure. I'd like to take her on a real date, but with her rehearsal schedule-"
  149. >Bonbon smiles in understanding.
  150. >"Anon, she's not busy during the week. The soloist is just in town this weekend, that's why she's busy."
  151. "Hmmm, now that is useful information." you think aloud. "Well maybe this week sometime then. When is she home from rehearsal?"
  152. >"She'll be home around seven, if she doesn't stop for dinner with friends."
  153. "Good to know. Thanks Bonbon."
  154.  
  155. >Making your way to the auditorium, you slip inside.
  156. >Quietly crossing the lobby, you mount the stairs and find your way into one of the private balconies.
  157. >You listen, but your eyes are focused on the musicians.
  158. >Spotting Lyra, you keep tabs on her section.
  159. >While waiting for somepony to leave so you could use them as a messenger, you make an observation.
  160. >There are no equipment cases on stage.
  161. >Which means that there's a locker room or something somewhere.
  162. >Getting to your feet, you quickly make your way downstairs.
  163. >Finding the doors to backstage locked, you go around the outside of the building.
  164. >Predictably, the back entrance is propped open with a music stand.
  165. >Letting yourself in, you reach into your back pocket as you search the halls.
  166. >Pulling out the simple card you had picked up after leaving Bonbon, you pause outside an office.
  167. >Stepping inside, you find a quill, and scribble a quick note asking Lyra to meet you for dinner after rehearsal.
  168. >Pausing, you sign it 'Love, Anon'.
  169. >That'll do nicely.
  170. >Sliding it into its envelope, you  seal the flap and resume your search for the locker room.
  171. >Eventually finding the room you're looking for, you begin scanning the dozens of lockers.
  172. >It seems to take an eon, but you eventually find one with her name on it.
  173. >The lock keeps you from opening it, so you just wedge the note in the door.
  174. >Good enough.
  175. >Satisfied, you pause just offstage to listen for a minute, before making your way out.
  176.  
  177. >Humming the melody from the rehearsal, the walk towards the spa goes quickly.
  178. >Stepping inside, a voice from the back greets you.
  179. >"Just one minute!"
  180. >You're going to guess... Lotus.
  181. >And you are correct!
  182. >Damn you're good.
  183. "Hey there, pretty pony." greet her, leaning across the counter.
  184. >Giving you a tired smile she leans across the counter to give you a peck on the cheek.
  185. "You look like you've had a long day."
  186. >"Aloe is sick." she explains shortly. "But I did appreciate the roses you sent."
  187. "Ah I s- wait what?"
  188. >Lotus glances at a vase on the counter then back at you.
  189. >Mirroring her motion, there is indeed a vase full of flowers.
  190. >Huh.
  191. "I'm afraid, my dear Lotus, that you and your sister are simply too pretty." you sigh dramatically. "I shall have to step up my game."
  192. >"They aren't from you?"
  193. "I've been in Canterlot on business."
  194. >"Oh."
  195. >The mare is clearly crestfallen.
  196. "Speaking of my trip to Canterlot, I had an... enlightening conversation with Celestia while I was there."
  197. >And so you launch, once more, into your explanation.
  198.  
  199. >"So what does this mean for us?"
  200. "Well, it means that I'm sorry if it seems like I've been stringing you along." you answer. "And I was hoping we could start dating officially."
  201. >She gives you a devilish smile.
  202. >"I think we're past just dating already, stud."
  203. "Haha yeah, I guess knowing how y'all are now we sure moved fast."
  204. >Lotus moves in for a kiss, and you oblige her, albeit briefly.
  205. "As much as I'd like to stay, you're at work and another one of my mares is sick."
  206. >"Oh, you've asked her already?"
  207. "No, but I don't foresee her saying no." you smile as Lotus comes around the counter.
  208. >Kneeling down, you hug her one more time and promise to set up an evening together with her.
  209. >As she wanders back into the spa, you make your way back outside.
  210.  
  211. >Thinking about Aloe, you return to the market.
  212. >Suddenly remembering Lyra, you buy another card.
  213. >You quickly jot down an invitation to meet you for dinner /tomorrow/.
  214. >Sneaking back into the Orchestra Hall, you swap out cards.
  215. >Now free for the rest of the day, you gather up some vegetables, some noodles, some vegetable stock...
  216. >That should do it.
  217. >Oh, and some bread.
  218. >Now you're set.
  219. >Walking quickly back across town, you knock on the door.
  220. >Getting no response, you let yourself in.
  221. >Quietly tiptoeing upstairs, you find Aloe asleep in her bed.
  222. >Perfect.
  223. >Back downstairs, you quickly and quietly go about putting together some soup.
  224. >It's a Fluttershy recipe, so it's a sure-fire success.
  225. >Not as fancy as Rarity, less apples than AJ.
  226. >Just right for a semi-competent home cook.
  227. >You set an egg timer and start warming up the oven.
  228. >With the soup simmering away on the stove, you pick the newspaper up off the table and kick back on the couch.
  229.  
  230. >When the timer goes off, you pull yourself off the couch with a groan.
  231. >Refolding the paper, you move back into the kitchen.
  232. >A quick test of the soup vegetables shows they're just a tad undercooked still.
  233. >Perfect.
  234. >You set some butter on the counter to start softening.
  235. >Next, the bread goes in the oven to warm back up.
  236. >Lastly, you set the timer once more and go about setting the table.
  237. >With a few minutes to spare, the unlit fireplace calls to you.
  238. >Harnessing your inner boy scout, you manage to figure out it's a gas fireplace.
  239. >It's a good thing no one was around to see that.
  240. >With a fire lit, warmth begins to flood the room.
  241. >It's almost too warm for you, but if the hardest working spa pony you know took a day off, then she's quite sick.
  242. >Which means she'll be feverish.
  243. >So she'll feel cold all the time.
  244. >The timer calls your attention back to the kitchen again.
  245.  
  246. >"Lotus?" you hear Aloe question from upstairs.
  247. >Timer must have woken her.
  248. >Quickly ladling out two bowls of soup, you retrieve the bread from the oven and set it on the counter to cool.
  249. >Quietly moving upstairs, you move to Aloe's door and peek inside.
  250. "No Lotus here, she's still at work." you say. "I hope I'm an adequate substitute."
  251. >"A-anon?" she moans from under the covers. "Oh, I look terrible."
  252. "Nah." you chide her. "You're still the pretty pony you always are."
  253. >Taking a seat at the foot of the bed, two blue eyes peek over the covers at you.
  254. >"What are you doing here?"
  255. "I wanted to talk to you, but dinner's getting cold downstairs. So let's talk there, okay?"
  256. >"Ughhh stairs..."
  257. "Got you covered." you nod.
  258. >Scooping her up along with her blankets, you carefully swaddle her before carrying Aloe downstairs.
  259.  
  260. >Aloe sniffles as she looks at her soup and then back at you.
  261. "Go ahead. I'll be right there." you assure her.
  262. >As she tucks into her dinner, you cut two generous slices of bread, and carry them to the table.
  263. >"How did I get so lucky?"
  264. "Well I don't know if getting sick is what I'd call lucky."
  265. >Aloe just hums as she takes a bite from her bread.
  266. "Also, I wanted to talk to you about us."
  267. >"Us?" she squeaks through her mouthful of bread.
  268. >With a sigh you launch, yet again, into your by-now-well-rehearsed spiel.
  269.  
  270. >Aloe finishes her meal as you explain yourself.
  271. >"You didn't need to apologize to me, Anon." Aloe says quietly. "I knew if you hadn't asked Lotus, you weren't going to ask me."
  272. "What?" you ask. "Why?"
  273. >"Lotus moves so much faster than me, it's just how she is."
  274. "Oh, so you let her be the wild child and then expect me to believe you're some naive good girl?"
  275. >She just looks at you with those big blue eyes and nods, the blanket draped over her threatening to fall off her head as she does.
  276. "Okay then." you agree.
  277. >Clearing the dishes, you proceed to pick the sick little mare up and carry her to the nearby loveseat.
  278. >Wedging yourself into the corner, you kick up your feet and pull the pile of pony and blankets against your chest.
  279. "So Aloe."
  280. >"Hmmm?" she responds as she pushes herself up against you.
  281. "How would you feel about dating?"
  282. >"I think I'd feel pretty good about that."
  283. "I'm glad you feel that way." you say, turning your head to look down at her.
  284. >Kissing her on the forehead, you sigh.
  285. "It's my goal to take all the prettiest mares for myself, you know."
  286. >"Really?" she asks drowsily.
  287. "No, but you certainly fit the bill." you chuckle.
  288.  
  289. >The two of you sit like that, watching the fire for some time.
  290. >Between the fire, the blanket and Aloe, you are quite toasty.
  291. "You know, since I've got you here, maybe we could set up a real date." you offer. "One you can enjoy, when you aren't sick."
  292. >"That sounds nice."
  293. "I think 'not sick' is a good start."
  294. >Aloe sniffles, but can't hide a small smile.
  295. "I'm not made of bits, but I have a terrible weakness for cute mares that can be exploited."
  296. >Lotus furrows her brow, before mustering up the courage to speak.
  297. >"Take me to Canterlot?"
  298. >Looking down at Aloe, you lift a brow.
  299. "Word travels fast."
  300. >Aloe just returns your quizzical gaze.
  301. "I was there with Rose the past few days."
  302. >"Oh, no, it's not Rose..." she says in a small voice.
  303. "We can go to Canterlot, Aloe." you reassure her.
  304. >"No -I mean yes I want to go- but it really isn't Rose." she insists, pulling herself upright.
  305. >Leaning against your shoulder, she sighs.
  306. >"It's just that Lotus had a coltfriend who took her once and she made it seem so beautiful..."
  307. "Was there something in particular you wanted to see?"
  308. >"I don't really know. I've never been to Canterlot."
  309. "Well" you ponder aloud. "What does a perfect pink pony do in her time off?"
  310. >"Hmmm, this pink pony reads a lot." Aloe answers with a yawn. "and she likes to paint."
  311. "Paint?"
  312. >"Mhmm." she nods, pulling the covers tight. "I take classes sometimes."
  313. "Reading and painting." you muse. "I would have to agree that you're the quieter twin."
  314. >"Maybe you can come with me sometime?"
  315. "To paint? I'm afraid I lack any artistic spark."
  316. >"That isn't true. I saw the article in the newspaper about your last project."
  317. "They're just canals."
  318. >"Canals lined with benches and ornamental street lights and bordered by parks you also redesigned."
  319. "Okay, okay. I concede, I do have an eye for architecture. It's what I do after all."
  320. >"Vision is half of the painting." Aloe yawns. "Besides, you can't be any worse than Rainbow Dash."
  321. "When have you ever seen Rainbow Dash paint?"
  322. >"Rarity brought the whole little group to a class once."
  323. "You'd think someone with a rainbow mane would understand colors a little better."
  324. >"You have to be patient sometimes." she elaborates. "A long, delicate brush stroke takes a steady hoof moving rather slowly."
  325. "And Dash never does anything slowly."
  326. >"Mhm. Pinkie was almost as bad."
  327. "You know, that would have been fun to see."
  328. >"It was. Next time Rarity mentions that they're going, I'll let you know."
  329. "Sounds like a date."
  330.  
  331. >After Aloe eventually fell back asleep, you returned her to her bed and slipped out into the dim light of early evening.
  332. >Considering that you had missed practice for your 'business trip', you decide to jog the distance across town to the castle.
  333. >It doesn't take long, and your heart rate is just starting to get pumping, so you decide to run all the way to the Haymaker Estate.
  334. >Or rather, the Anonymous Estate.
  335. >The papers were signed, after all.
  336. >An early autumn chill turns your breath visible as you pass through the fields at the edge of town.
  337. >Reaching the gate, you pause to catch your breath.
  338. "I am out of shape." you wheeze to yourself.
  339. >As your breathing normalizes, you amble around your property.
  340. >The leaves swish and crunch as you wade across the unkempt lawn.
  341. >Stopping to inspect a few gourds in the overgrown garden, you hear the soft beat of wings overhead.
  342. >A pegasus flies past, landing near the boathouse and stepping inside.
  343. >Your curiosity piqued, you slowly make your way across the lawn towards the wooded waterline.
  344. >As you come close to the door, you can hear quiet crying coming from inside.
  345. >Peering in, the pegasus is sitting looking into the river.
  346. "Hello? Are you alright?" you call out.
  347. >"Oh! Oh, I'm sorry! I didn't-" She stutters, jumping up to face the door.
  348. "No, it's fine. I just didn't expect to-"
  349. >"Nopony ever-" she stammers, backing up against the rotting railing as you approach.
  350. "Really, it's fine, just calm down. And be careful, I don't think that railing-"
  351. >With a crack, the railing gives out, sending both it and the pegasus into the cold waters below.
  352. >Rushing forward, you see the poor mare already wading ashore.
  353. >Hopping down from the deck, you toss your coat over her.
  354. "I was going to say, I don't think the railing is in very good shape anymore."
  355. >She just looks up at you with big sad eyes.
  356. "I'd invite you inside, but, well, it's kind of a mess. Why don't you come back to the castle with me?"
  357. >She mumbles something and looks away.
  358. "I'll take that as a yes." you say, leading the way across the grounds.
  359. >"Wait! No, I really can't!"
  360. "Sure you can! C'mon, before you get cold!"
  361. >"It's too late for that." she sighs, trudging along after you.
  362.  
  363. >She finally catches up to you near the road, where you wait patiently.
  364. >Continuing forward, you look down at the shivering mare.
  365. "You look familiar, but I can't place you."
  366. >"I'm Cloudchaser's sister."
  367. "Oh, Flitter! I remember." you reply. "You joined us at the bonfire."
  368. >She nods silently.
  369. "You know, it was good to see you join in the dancing. You're pretty good at it."
  370. >"O-oh, thanks. But parties like that aren't really...I don't usually..."
  371. >Shaking your head, you lead the way down the lane.
  372. "So what have you been up to since then?"
  373. >"J-just avoiding m-my sister..." she answers, shivering.
  374. "Are you okay?" you say stopping. "Better get you inside before you catch a cold."
  375. >"Yeah, thanks for the coat, but I'll fly faster without it."
  376. >Ignoring her, you scoop her up and take off at a brisk walk.
  377. >If you could see her face, it would be plastered with wide-eyed confusion.
  378. "I'm not letting you off the hook that easy. Here, open that coat up." you instruct.
  379. >She does so, and you pull her up against you.
  380. >A decision you regret- the dripping pegasus is freezing cold -causing you to yelp a bit.
  381. >"I told you..."
  382. "I know, I know. I did it to myself." you grimace, breaking into a jog. "Seriously though. I'm sure you've done more than avoid Cloudchaser."
  383. >"Just writing some reports for work." she answers. "Really, I can just fly home-"
  384. "What, and explain to Cloudchaser that I pushed you into the river? I don't need that kind of trouble in my life."
  385. >Mentioning Cloudchaser seems to quiet her.
  386. >But not in the way you meant.
  387. >Nice job, Anon.
  388. >The last ten minutes of the run home are uncomfortably silent.
  389. >Making your way inside the castle, it's warmth is a relief.
  390. >Carrying her upstairs, you drop the confused mare in your bathroom.
  391. >Starting the tub running, you turn to her.
  392. "Wait right here." you say, leaving her standing awkwardly in your bathroom.
  393. >Going down the hall, you collect some mare-appropriate toiletries, and return.
  394. >In all honesty, you're starting to think that you should keep some around.
  395. >It would save you a lot of trips.
  396. >Anyways.
  397. >Returning to the room, you kneel down.
  398. "Hey, I'm sorry about  earlier-"
  399. >"N-no! It's fine, we just had an argument and...well, you didn't know so..."
  400. "Maybe we can talk about it later." you offer, standing back up.
  401. >Leaving the items, you set out some fresh towels from the linen closet and back out of the room, closing the door behind you.
  402. >Now, time for you to take a hot shower...which will have to be in a guest room.
  403. >Ah well.
  404.  
  405. >Showered and in a fresh change of clothes, you light the little fireplace in your suite.
  406. >Listening at the door, you can hear Flitter is still in the tub.
  407. >Berating herself for being an awkward dork.
  408. >You stifle a chuckle and head downstairs.
  409. >This situation, like most situations, calls for alcohol!
  410. >Finding some apple juice, you fill a small pot with it.
  411. >Adding some cloves and cinnamon, you let it come to a simmer.
  412. >You add a bit of apple brandy to a pitcher, then sample a bit of the juice.
  413. >Eh, give it another five minutes.
  414.  
  415. >Ten minutes later, you make your way upstairs with your pitcher of spiced cider and two mugs.
  416. >The sound of the hair dryer tells you that Flitter should be out soon-ish.
  417. >Soon for a mare, at any rate.
  418. >Dropping into one of the large chairs in front of the fire, you lay your head back.
  419. >While not physically challenging, it has certainly been a day of constant activity.
  420. >It's a hard kind of exhaustion to describe.
  421. >You're tired, but content.
  422. >Still plenty of evening left though, and you slowly pull yourself upright as the bathroom door clicks open.
  423. >Flitter awkwardly steps out and mumbles a barely audible thank you.
  424. >You wave her over and pour two mugs.
  425. >She attempts once more to beg off, but you cut her off.
  426. "Come on. Have a drink and warm your bones." you offer, indicating the empty chair.
  427. >Flitter slowly climbs up into the seat, and takes the proffered mug.
  428. "So what were you doing out along the river so late?"
  429. >"It isn't that late, and I can take care of myself."
  430. "Says the mare that fell off the dock."
  431. >"You surprised me! It's not my fault!"
  432. "It's okay. The boathouse needs repairs anyways." you tease. "I'll just add the railing to the list."
  433. >"What list?"
  434. "The list of repairs."
  435. >"But who's fixing it?"
  436. "I am."
  437. >"Someone hired you to rebuild the Haymaker place?"
  438. "Yeah...me."
  439. >"I'm so lost."
  440. "I bought the old Haymaker house. Now it's my house, which is why I'm fixing it."
  441. >"Oooh. See, I was wondering why you were out there. No one is ever out there."
  442. "Except for you?"
  443. >"Exactly."
  444. "I can see how that would be pretty peaceful."
  445. >"It is! I like it even more in the Summer when it isn't so chilly out!"
  446. "If you don't mind my asking, why do you spend so much time out there?"
  447. >"Oh, um..." she falters. "Well, it's just that it's nice to get away from Cloudy sometimes."
  448. "Cloudy?"
  449. >"My sister."
  450. "Ah, I see." you nod sagely. "Why's that?"
  451. >"I'd... I don't really want to talk about it."
  452. "Alright." you agree, taking a long draught from your mug. "I know we've just met, but I'm here to listen if you ever want."
  453. >"Thanks." she mumbles.
  454. "And you can keep hanging out in my old boathouse. Just don't lean on the railings."
  455. >She only offers a weak smile in response.
  456. "You know you're far too pretty to be frowning like that."
  457. >Offering a more genuine smile, she tries her drink.
  458. >"Oh this is really good!"
  459. "Works best with fresh cider, so I usually only make it this time of year."
  460. >"But the Apples haven't pressed theirs yet."
  461. "I know. Picked this stuff up in Canterlot the other day. Higher elevation means an earlier harvest."
  462. >"Ohhh. But-" she asks, leaning in conspiratorially "does Applejack know you're getting apples from Canterlot?"
  463. >You can't help but burst out laughing.
  464. >It seems to break the sad spell, and Flitter smiles as she takes a long swig of her cider.
  465. >Refilling your own, you offer to top hers off only to find that it's empty.
  466. >That's the spirit.
  467. "So Flitter, I don't see you around much. What do you do for fun?"
  468. >"Oh, I read. And, well, that's about it. I went to some of Princess Twilight's science talks, but those were cancelled so I don't get out a whole lot anymore."
  469. "Ah, I remember her talking about those. Man, if I had the time I'd love to help her start those up again."
  470. >"You should! It was cool to learn from the princess, she's like a walking encyclopedia! It's just that, well..."
  471. "Twilight gets a little intense sometimes." you clarify with a knowing look.
  472. >"Mhm.  She was talking about it once, how sometimes she misses being able to spend all her time researching science and magic."
  473. "She has a lot of responsibilities now. I'm friends with the other princesses too, it's a lot of work."
  474. >"Yeah." she sighs dejectedly.
  475. "What all did you guys talk about? It was a kind of short-lived program if I recall."
  476. >"Well, I skipped the one about magic, because, well, I'm a pegasus."
  477. "Can't blame you there."
  478. >"There was one about the weather, I spaced out a lot on that one..."
  479. "Again, pegasus."
  480. >"But we also talked about the Everfree! And astronomy!"
  481. "Ah yes, the good old Everf-"
  482. >"And we were planning to try to replicate Manedel's experiments with peas!"
  483. "I guess that explains-"
  484. >"She was even going to talk about how the Ponyville Dam would create electricity next!"
  485. "Oh really?" you say, leaning in.
  486. >"She thought that with your Canterlot project in the papers it might have gotten more ponies to come."
  487. "It didn't?"
  488. >Flitter sobers a little.
  489. >"There were only two of us who signed up. So she cancelled it. And all of the rest of them."
  490. "You know," you muse, sipping on your cider "I could still show you how the dam is going to work."
  491. >"Really?"
  492. "Yeah, follow me." you say, grabbing your mug and the pitcher of hot cider.
  493. >Making your way down into the basement, you lead the way into Twilight's lab.
  494. >"Alright, let's do some science!" you exclaim, downing your drink and slamming it on the workbench.
  495.  
  496. >Flitter hovers over your shoulder, nursing her mug.
  497. "So what do you know about electricity?"
  498. >"I was always more of a biology pony..."
  499. "We can talk biology later~" you tease, bringing a fierce blush to Flitters cheeks.
  500. >You laugh as she sputters for a moment before focusing on the task at hand.
  501. "So we're going to make a simple electric motor to understand the concepts at work. See if you can find a D-cell battery while I scrounge up the rest of what we'll need!"
  502. >Flitter finishes her own drink and offers a salute before darting around the room in search of the portable power source.
  503. >When you've got everything assembled, you ask for the battery.
  504. >Flitter hands you two, and you observe she has also acquired a lab coat.
  505. >Cute.
  506. "Might be a bit overkill, but the coat looks good on you." you say. "So here's how this is going to work..."
  507. >Motioning her forward, you move to the other side of the bench.
  508. >You also refill both mugs.
  509. >Resting an arm on the table, you take a sip and start to talk her through the steps.
  510. >Coiling the wire.
  511. >Taping the uncoiled paperclips to the sides of the battery.
  512. >Taping the magnet to the top of the battery.
  513. >Taping the wood block base to the bottom of the battery.
  514. >Drinking more.
  515. >Uncoiling the ends of the wire to act as an axel of sorts.
  516. >Setting the coil on the paperclips.
  517. >With a bit of a wobble to it, the coil begins to spin.
  518. >Flitter clops her hooves together happily.
  519. "A toast to that!" you propose, raising your mug and downing its contents. "Now lemme explain what's going on here."
  520.  
  521. >You wake up to a noise.
  522. >Not familiar, but not unfamiliar.
  523. >Opening your eyes, you find yourself sprawled out on the couch.
  524. >In the next room over, you spy Flitter in your bed.
  525. >Little whinnying snores escaping from her, lab coat crumpled at the bottom of the bed.
  526. >The clock says it's already noon, but you have nowhere to be until the hoofball game tonight.
  527. >You let her linger a while, taking the opportunity to get dressed.
  528. >The morning sun illuminates the room in a warm gold, and outside you can see the vibrant mix of quaint rooftops and autumn foliage.
  529. >It truly is the most beautiful time of year.
  530. >After showering, shaving and getting dressed, you find Flitter stirring in bed.
  531. >You have a few things to do yet today, and as adorable as Flitter may be, you can't wait for her forever.
  532. >"Oh, h-hey Anon." she stammers. "I uh, didn't mean to-"
  533. "Science is exhausting like that." you smile. "Sleep okay?"
  534. >"It was great!" she blurts out before covering her mouth with her hooves.
  535. "You weren't too bad yourself." you smirk.
  536. >The mortified look she gives you is priceless.
  537. >"W-we...you and I-"
  538. >Walking up to the furiously blushing mare, you give her a light boop on the muzzle.
  539. "No."
  540. >"Oh thank Celestia."
  541. "Ouch, my pride." you quip, clapping you hand to your chest.
  542. >"Oh! No, Anon, I didn't mean it like that! I just-"
  543. "Relax. I'm just messing with you."
  544. >"Oh! Oh."
  545. "How about we go get some breakfast?" you ask, before remembering the time. "Or, err, maybe lunch?"
  546. >"Brunch?"
  547. "Brunch it is."
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