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Herd 13

By Hawkeye
Created: 18th December 2020 04:26:28 PM

  1. >The morning sun filters through the windows, casting a warm glow throughout your bedroom.
  2. >Curled up against you, casting a warm glow throughout your covers, is Lyra.
  3. >A grin creeps across your face as you remember how nervous -and ticklish!- she was.
  4. >Even now you can hear the echoes of her giggling like a school filly ringing about the room.
  5. >A sudden awkwardness overtakes you as you consider that these walls may not be terribly soundproof...
  6. >Ah well.
  7. >When all was said and done, you had wrapped an arm around her as she curled up beside you.
  8. >Which brings you to now.
  9. >Lyra is a good pony -albeit a particularly cuddly one- and you're lucky to have her.
  10. >She slowly starts to stir, so you pause your introspection to wrap her in both arms and roll her on top of you, gently running your hands through that soft and messy mane of hers.
  11. >Lying on top of you, her slightly frazzled bedmane radiates in the morning sun, like a fuzzy aura around your snoozing angel.
  12. >She blinks blearily a few times and releases a huge but silent yawn.
  13. "Morning, sunshine."
  14. >"Hmmm." she sighs, laying her head back down on your chest.
  15. >Glancing at the clock on the nightstand, you notice that it's already well after ten.
  16. "Hey Lyra?"
  17. >"Mmmph?"
  18. "Don't you have a performance today?"
  19. >"Mhmm."
  20. "When do you have to be there?"
  21. >"Urgh." she slowly lifts her head. "It's an afternoon performance, so I've got to be there by noon."
  22. >Reaching up to scratch behind one of her ears earns you a contented groan.
  23. >With your other arm you snag the alarm clock and bring it up to Lyra's snout.
  24. >Removing the hand from her ears, you waggle the clock so that the little hammer *tinks* against the bells causing Lyra to open her eyes.
  25. >"Wha...OH MY CELESTIA I NEED TO GO!"
  26. >Lyra leaps off of you in an almost cartoonish fashion.
  27. >You grunt at the force applied to your gut.
  28. >Luckily ponies are pretty light, and hey -at least her bottom hooves hit the mattress instead of somewhere else!
  29. >You watch as she shoves an entire cupcake into her mouth then rushes into the bathroom.
  30. >Furiously chewing, she starts the shower and hops in.
  31. >Slowly stretching, you amble over to the bathroom door.
  32. "Lyra, did I leave any mare shampoo in there?"
  33. >"Ummm...yes!"
  34. "Okay. So what's the plan here?"
  35. >"Oh, well, my black dress is on the back of the bathroom door, so I'm going to clean up and get dressed and then I'll head over to the auditorium!"
  36. "You don't need to do anything with your hair, or makeup or anything like that?"
  37. >"I knew I forgot something!"
  38. "Do you need me to run to your place-"
  39. >"No no no, I've got some emergency stuff in my locker backstage!" she says, waving a hoof from behind the curtain. "This, uh, this isn't the first time I've been running late."
  40. >You can't help but laugh, as you step away from the bathroom door and unwrap a leftover cupcake.
  41. >Breakfast of champions.
  42.  
  43. >With Lyra on her way, you find yourself with some free time.
  44. >Showering gives you a few minutes to consider your options.
  45. >You could start on the new drawings for the gardens...
  46. >...or you could go check in on Roseluck!
  47. >Better plan!
  48. >Also, you can send some flowers to Lyra.
  49. >Maybe with an apology note for keeping her up so late.
  50. >It isn't really your fault.
  51. >If you had known she was going to be waiting for you, you might have caught an earlier train home.
  52. >Ah well.
  53. >Stepping out of the shower, you towel down, quickly shave and get dressed.
  54. >A few minutes after that you're out the door.
  55.  
  56. >The soft chime of a bell heralds your arrival at the Ponyville Florist.
  57. >At the counter, Lily perks up as you enter.
  58. >"Anon! Here for flowers or for Rosey?"
  59. "Both."
  60. >"Business before pleasure?"
  61. "Makes sense to me. I need some flowers for Lyra. Something both as a congratulations on a successful concert series, and also as an apology for making her late this morning."
  62. >Lily offers a playful smirk and leans in.
  63. >"What did you do?"
  64. >You lean in as well.
  65. "That" you answer "Is between myself and Lyra."
  66. >As she starts to scrunch, you give her a wink, and her scrunch is replaced by a light blush.
  67. "So about those flowers..."
  68.  
  69. >Putting your faith in Lily, as you know more or less nothing about flowers, you lean against the wall and shoot the breeze with her while she works.
  70. >"So yeah, Dad wasn't real impressed and kind of... ran him off."
  71. "Ouch. I didn't think your Dad seemed like that bad of a guy, but then again, it sounds like Caramel didn't make the greatest first impression."
  72. >"But you're not dating /me/, you're dating /Rose/ and that means that Dad is going to back off a little."
  73. "Seriously?"
  74. >"Dad and Rosey have always been close, but after he ran off a few of her coltfriends in Fillydelphia she decided to move here."
  75. "And you and Daisy just up and followed her?"
  76. >"Pretty much." she shrugs "But yeah, Dad has been a little more careful since then."
  77. >She ambles over and lays the completed bouquet on the counter and rings you up.
  78. >"Of course, it doesn't seem like the fancy architect who happens to be a star hoofball player on the weekend had any trouble getting past him."
  79. "We've got a tight end that's single." you offer, placing your bits on the counter. "I could introduce you."
  80. >She just wrinkles her nose at the idea.
  81. "Hey, don't say I didn't offer." you laugh. "So where is Rose?"
  82. >"Oh, she's upstairs with Daisy...they're having a bit of a talk."
  83. "A bit of a talk?"
  84. >She nods.
  85. "Should I come back later?"
  86. >She nods.
  87. "I'm going to go take these to the auditorium then."
  88. >She nods.
  89. >Mares.
  90.  
  91. >Having left the flowers (and a few bits) with an usher who promised to deliver them at the end of the performance, you returned to the Flower Sisters' shop.
  92. >Lily looks up from a magazine at the counter.
  93. "They still up there?"
  94. >She nods.
  95. "Can I ask what they're talking about?"
  96. >"You'll have to ask Rosey when they're done."
  97. >Shrugging, you take up your position along the wall again.
  98. >A few minutes pass in silence.
  99. >"Anon?" Lily asks.
  100. "Yesss?"
  101. >"You really like Rosey, don't you?"
  102. "I think that's pretty obvious."
  103. >"Do you think she'd be a good alpha?"
  104. >You honestly haven't given it much thought.
  105. >Cadence had told you about alpha mares.
  106. >But from what she said, it almost seemed like it would be better if you waited.
  107. >After all, what would happen if you made a choice and then-
  108. >"Hellooo, Equestria to Anon!"
  109. "Sorry, I was thinking. This whole Herd thing is a little...complicated sometimes."
  110. >"And what about my question?"
  111. "Oh, well, yes. I think Rose would make for an excellent herd alpha."
  112. >"I think so too."
  113. "Building your own herd, are we?"
  114. >"No, I was just making a suggestion."
  115. >"What is she suggesting?" Roseluck asks as she follows Daisy down the stairs.
  116. "I'll tell you later." you chuckle. "Busy?"
  117. >"I suppose I could clear some time for you, if Daisy and Lily don't mind."
  118. >Daisy nods, and Lily enthusiastically waves you off.
  119. >"Have fun!" she says, pushing Rose along until you're out the door.
  120. "Well, I was going to just hang out on the couch upstairs, but since we've been kicked out of the shop...lunch?"
  121. >"You sure don't act like you're hurting for bits." she shoots back "But I could eat."
  122.  
  123. >Sitting across from Rose at a little cafe down the street, you gaze absently at the ponies outside as Rose ponders the menu.
  124. >With the street opening up into the market square just a few shops up the way, this street remains lively -even on weekdays.
  125. >The sound of laminated paper hitting the table and a quiet hum cues you to return your attention to your marefriend.
  126. >Her eyes are closed and she seems lost in thought.
  127. "Having that hard of a time deciding?" you ask skeptically.
  128. >She opens her eyes and fixes you with a confused look.
  129. >"What? No. I was thinking about something else."
  130. "Oh? Care to share with the class?"
  131. >"How's your arm?"
  132. "Oh. Uh, fine I guess?" you shrug, flexing a little. "Still sore, but nothing to be concerned about."
  133. >"But I am concerned about it."
  134. "Why?"
  135. >"It's been almost a week since the game, if it was just a little banged up it should have been healed by now, shouldn't it?"
  136. "I guess?"
  137. >"And maybe if someone had worn his sling like he was supposed to, it would be by now, hmmm?"
  138. >You sigh.
  139. >She's right, but come on.
  140. >It's not that big of a deal.
  141. >"Anon?" she asks, placing her hoof on your hand. "I know you don't think that it's a big deal, but after lunch can you go home and put it on, for me?"
  142. >She stares at you with those deep green eyes...
  143. >Ack!
  144. >Your heart!
  145. >Her sincerity is super effective!
  146. "How can I say no to you?" you chuckle. "I'll do it as soon as I get home."
  147. >Her smile grows into a full-blown grin.
  148. "So what was the big discussion about earlier?"
  149. >She cocks her head for a second.
  150. >"What do you mean?"
  151. "I came by earlier, but you were busy." you explain "So I bought Lyra some flowers, arranged for their delivery, came back, and still waited a while for you."
  152. >She stares at you blankly.
  153. "I figured it must have been important."
  154. >She shifts in her seat a bit, but before she can answer, the waiter arrives and takes your order.
  155. >The minute or two it takes is enough for her to sort out her thoughts.
  156. >"We were talking about how complex Herding can be sometimes."
  157. "Ah, it must be nice having sisters to talk to about that."
  158. >"It really is. Even if we fight about things sometimes, they really are the best."
  159. "I know I'm not very good at talking about that kind of stuff, and, well, Cadence has made it clear that I am also very ignorant about a lot of it too, so sorry if I make your life difficult sometimes."
  160. >"You are unbelievably oblivious sometimes." she smiles while shaking her head. "But all four of us know that it is just because you don't know any better, and we've accepted that."
  161. "Still, it's something I could improve-"
  162. >"It is, and you should. But in the meantime, it's kind of cute watching you when you're out of your element."
  163. "Glad to be of service." you say, rolling your eyes. "So other than my cluelessness, what else makes things complicated?"
  164. >"Well, um..."
  165. >Rose looks to the side, brow furrowed.
  166. >After a few moments, she seems to come to some decision in her head.
  167. >"It actually still has to do with you being clueless." she starts "But it would be a delicate situation in any herd."
  168. "I'm listening."
  169. >"And particularly yours, because it is going to be so big...but Daisy and Lily, well they just kind of assumed that I was the alpha mare."
  170. "Okay. I can see how they would think that."
  171. >"You- you do!?"
  172. >Straightening up (when did you even lean in?) you sit back and take a sip of coffee.
  173. "You were the first, and you -like myself- like to be in the know."
  174. >"So what does that mean?"
  175. >Ah, this.
  176. "Honestly Rose, if I was building a four mare herd, with the four ponies I am dating right now, you would be my choice for alpha."
  177. >"...but?"
  178. "But I am building a seven mare herd. And if we take the hypothetical to its extreme, let's say that one of the princesses joined the herd. I do not know if you would be able to lead Princess Celestia."
  179. >"Anon, don't be ridiculous." Rose replies "The Princess is not going to join your herd."
  180. "I know, I asked." you quip, causing Rose to choke on her water.
  181. >You can't keep the shit-eating grin off your face as she recomposes herself.
  182. "It was a joke, but still. Like I said, I was taking the hypothetical to its extreme." you continue "I don't know who is going to fill those last three spots, and I don't know how they will affect the Herd dynamics."
  183. >"So you're going to wait until you have your whole Herd built?"
  184. "It wouldn't be right otherwise. I want to do what's right for the Herd, and I can't know that until I know who is in the Herd."
  185. >You can tell that the idea makes her uncomfortable.
  186. >Which in turn makes your heart sink a little.
  187. >But before you can say anything more, she closes her eyes and nods resolutely.
  188. >"Okay, Anon. I understand what you're saying, and I see the reasons behind it." she says tersely. "I won't deny that it makes me nervous, but it makes sense."
  189. "I'm glad-"
  190. >"BUT! That doesn't mean I like it!" she interrupts, before her expression softens "I'll just have to work a little harder."
  191. >She accentuates her point by running a hoof up the inside of your leg.
  192. "I-I didn't think you were so competitive, Rose."
  193. >"First born."
  194. "Ah." you say insightfully, secretly glad that ponies legs aren't that long.
  195. >It was something you might expect from Lotus.
  196. >Or maybe even Lyra, after last night...
  197. >...though Lyra wouldn't have been so smooth about it.
  198. >It seems you have underestimated Roseluck.
  199. >"Something wrong?" she asks, fixing you again with those bright green eyes.
  200. "I just...thinking about the whole alpha thing."
  201. >"Anon."
  202. >You look up at her.
  203. >"Are you going to make a decision about it while we're at lunch?"
  204. "No" you respond, cocking an eyebrow.
  205. >"Then let's just talk about something else."
  206. >Surprised, you accept her wisdom.
  207. >It's good sense, thinking about it will only drag down your lunch date.
  208. >And it clearly bothers Rose.
  209. >Which bothers you.
  210. >Even though you know you are acting logically, your heart still sags at the thought that something you're doing is upsetting her.
  211. "So you said you went out with Rarity and who else?"
  212. >"Redheart."
  213. "The nurse?"
  214. >"The one and only."
  215. "I smell a setup." you say narrowing your eyes at the pony across the table.
  216. >"From me? Never." she quips back.
  217. "And to think I trusted you." you lament, clutching your heart in feigned betrayal.
  218. >"And you should. Somepony has to take care of you."
  219. "I am an adult and I can make my own choices."
  220. >"You can and you sure have." she says rolling her eyes.
  221. "I sense some disapproval."
  222. >"There's a reason you were told to choose seven mares."
  223. "I'm just that good."
  224. >Rose snorts daintily.
  225. >"You're a hoofful."
  226. "You like it." you chide, now sporting a huge grin.
  227. >"Celestia help me, I do."
  228.  
  229.  
  230. >Lunch continues uneventfully after that.
  231. >You tell Rose about your trip to Canterlot.
  232. >Omitting the increase in the scope of the garden project for now...
  233. >...you really need to figure out how you're going to handle that.
  234. >Later.
  235. >You'll figure it out later.
  236. >And Rose fills you in on the ever exciting life of a florist in podunk Ponyville.
  237. >After paying the bill, the two of you make your way back across the market.
  238. >"Anon! I'm so glad I finally found you!" Aloe exclaims, rushing up to you and Rose as you reach the flower shop.
  239. "Aloe? Is something wrong? Not that I'm not happy to see you, but-"
  240. >Roseluck bumps your leg and you shut up.
  241. >"It's Lotus. She... she needs you right now. And I only have ten minutes left of my lunch break, so I need to hurry back."
  242.  "Alright, I'm coming-"
  243. >She leaps up against you and plants a kiss on your cheek.
  244. >"You can stay and say goodbye to Roseluck, just promise me that you'll go see Lotus right after?"
  245. "I can do that." you say, planting a kiss of your own on her forehead.
  246. >Dropping to her hooves, the pink mare races off towards the spa.
  247. >The two of you watch from the street as she rounds a corner and is gone.
  248. "Maybe you should come too?"
  249. >Rose quickly shakes her head.
  250. >"Without knowing what is wrong, me being there might make things worse."
  251. "What? Why?"
  252. >Rose pushes through the door and into the shop, and you follow.
  253. >She leads you upstairs where you take your usual place on the couch, Roseluck hopping up to lay against you.
  254. >"Anon, you're a very successful gentlecolt who comes from a place where stallions have to work a lot harder to woo a mare than they do here."
  255. "I mean, yes, that is true." you reply, slowly running a hand through her mane. "But I don't remember you and I ever talking about that... Oh God, was I drunk rambling? I'm sorry-"
  256. >Rose giggles and tips her head back to silence you with a peck on the lips.
  257. >"No, Anon. Rarity told me about it. We had a girls night out -me, Rarity and Redheart."
  258. "Ohhh." you sigh, relieved.
  259. >"What I was saying is that, well, in any town larger than Ponyville, there would be riots fighting over you."
  260. "I highly doubt that." you reply, furrowing your brow. "I never drew much attention in Canterlot."
  261. >"Because you never left your office." Rose shoots back. "But we're digressing. I don't know why Lotus is upset Anon, but if she feels she might be pushed out, having me come with you-"
  262. "-would make things worse. I get it."
  263. >"See? You'll figure out how mares work eventually."
  264. "I like to think I know how to work a mare." you quip, catching one of her ears.
  265. >"Hmmm...you should really go see Lotus, but I won't mind if you stay for a little longer."
  266. >And you do.
  267. >Just for a bit.
  268. >You've been rather busy and haven't made as much time for Rose as you should have.
  269. >Eventually you ruffle her mane with a sigh, and she takes her cue to get up.
  270. >She sees you out the door, sending you off with a reminder to get your sling.
  271. >Rolling your eyes, you divert course to pick it up, then plot a new heading for the Spa.
  272.  
  273. >When the little bell rings overhead, you are met with silence.
  274. >A sign at the desk says that all masseuses are busy at the moment.
  275. >It indicates to pencil yourself into the appointment book though.
  276. >Looking around, you decide that coltfriend privilege allows you to head into the back.
  277. >You won't actually go into any of the rooms, you'll just... listen?
  278. >That'll have to work.
  279. >And it does.
  280. >Wandering the halls, you hear Aloe with a customer in a room, but otherwise the spa is empty.
  281. >It occurs to you that Aloe never said where Lotus was.
  282. >Shrugging, you head out of the spa and down the street to an increasingly familiar townhouse.
  283.  
  284. >Inside the home everything is quiet.
  285. >Despite the bright autumn sun filling the room with a soft, white light, Lotus lies passed out on a couch.
  286. >An empty bottle of wine sits next to a used glass on the coffee table.
  287. >A couple of travel magazines lie on the floor next to the couch.
  288. >One of them is in the middle of the room.
  289. >Interesting.
  290. >You can't help but hope that Aloe's trip with you didn't start a fight.
  291. >The alcohol probably didn't help.
  292. >Leaving Lotus lie, you quietly begin to pick up.
  293. >You take the glass and set it in the sink.
  294. >You drop the bottle in the recycle bin.
  295. >You pick up all the magazines.
  296. >As you awkwardly try to one-handedly shuffle them into a neat stack, Lotus lets out a giant yawn and groans to life.
  297. >Blinking the sand from her eyes, she stops dead when she notices you.
  298. >Her eyes dart to the magazines on the table, then around the room, then back to you.
  299. >"A-Anon..."
  300. "Hey pretty pony, how are you feeling?"
  301. >"Anon, I-" she starts to choke up and, before you know it, she starts crying.
  302. >She's struggling for words, and you have no idea what to do.
  303. >Flailing for options, you discard your sling and revert to your favorite human tactic.
  304. >You pick the pony up.
  305. >Cradling her in your arms you can feel her tears as they soak into your shirt while you cross the room, dropping onto the love seat.
  306. >No point trying to stop the tears, instead you choose to whisper quietly to her as she cries into your shoulder.
  307. >You tell her she's beautiful.
  308. >You tell her she's witty and clever.
  309. >You tell her that she's a joy to be around.
  310. >You tell her you love her.
  311. >And slowly -very slowly- she begins to calm down.
  312. >It is possibly the most uncomfortable half hour of your life.
  313. >You dearly wish Aloe or Rose was here right now...
  314. >But then again, what if Rose is right?
  315. >It could make things worse.
  316. >As the sobbing slowly becomes sniveling Lotus tries for words again.
  317. >"A-Anon...I-I-I-"
  318. "Shh, it's fine. We can work through whatever it is together." you assure her. "You and me, okay?"
  319. >"Okay, o-okay..." she mumbles, burying her face in your neck.
  320. >She nuzzles in deep, forcefully even.
  321. >Not the light, playful, tickling nuzzles you're used to from Lotus, but the long, slow contact of someone taking comfort in you simply being there.
  322. >So you do that.
  323. >You choose to be there, and stay there, holding her tight.
  324. >Just when she seems content you feel her tense up again so, biting the bullet, you reach a hand to gently stroke her mane.
  325. "You want to tell me what's wrong?"
  326. >She's silent, but you can feel her tuck her head in, rubbing against your shoulder as she silently nods.
  327. "Take your time."
  328. >It only takes a minute for the normally rambunctious mare to gather her thoughts.
  329. >"You don't have to take me to the ocean."
  330. >Now this is an unexpected turn.
  331. "Does this have to do with the magazines?"
  332. >"No! No, I just...I don't want you to feel like you have to take me anywhere just because we're dating..."
  333. "What if I want to take you on a trip?"
  334. >"I won't say no..."
  335. "Do you still want to see the ocean?"
  336. >Again, she nods silently against your shoulder.
  337. "Then why the change of heart?"
  338. >"I-I just- I just don't want you to think I'm a b-bit digging whorse!" she exclaims, waterworks flying back into action.
  339. >You're simply too flabbergasted to even respond at first.
  340. >Lyra had expressed that concern on your lunch date, but that's just Lyra.
  341. >She seems constantly terrified of screwing up.
  342. >You're starting to wonder if you're her first coltfriend.
  343. >But Lotus...
  344. >She's confident.
  345. >Forward, even.
  346. >So where did this come from?
  347. >Deciding that you're tired of her nodding into your shoulder, you wrap her in your arms and shift position so that you're face to face.
  348. >Or will be.
  349. >She presses her face into your chest and wraps her arms around your neck, clinging tight.
  350. >Only one person knows what's going on...
  351. >Holding Lotus close against your chest, you lean in a little bit as you speak.
  352. "Lotus, why would you ever worry about that?" you ask. "I want to spend time with you and the girls, and sometimes the best way to do that is to go far away from my office."
  353. >As she starts to calm down again, she releases your neck and you shift her onto her back, cradling her head in one arm.
  354. >Turning her head to avoid your gaze, she sniffs a little more as she tries to wipe the tears away, until you place a finger on her muzzle and use it to turn her head to look up at you.
  355. >She tries to pull your hand away, but you seize the opportunity to bring the other one up to cradle her face, wiping a few tears free with your thumb.
  356. "I don't think you're a bit-digger, Lotus. I think you're wonderful." you say, staring down at her.
  357. >Her eyes dart to the side, avoiding yours still, but you can tell that your words are reaching her.
  358. >Slowly the ears that lay flat a moment ago start to come back up.
  359. >The tears cease to flow.
  360. >A few sniffs are all that's left of the crying.
  361. >You just hold her there, gently tracing the lines of her face.
  362. >She sighs and settles into your arms.
  363. >No rush.
  364. >She'll tell you when she's ready.
  365. >Instead, you decide to see how similar ponies are.
  366. >A little experiment, if you will.
  367. >Sliding one hand along her neck, she stretches her head up a little...something to investigate later.
  368. >Right now, you bring that hand to seize an ear and gently rub it.
  369. >She seems to like it, but not as much as Roseluck.
  370. >Gently teasing a finger along the outer edge sets them to flicking in all directions.
  371. >Lotus bats your hand away, but she's smiling.
  372. >Indeed, just as ticklish there as Lyra.
  373. "Oh, am I not allowed to play with those?" you say, going in for a second attack.
  374. >"Anon!" she yelps, flailing her hooves at you as you try to get a hold of one of her ears.
  375. >You relent, and she sighs in relief.
  376. >Instead you return a hand to her neck.
  377. >She turns her head to allow better access and you slowly run a hand back and forth across her fur.
  378. >You keep this up for a few minutes before she starts to speak.
  379. >"Cloudchaser came to the spa yesterday."
  380. "Oh?"
  381. >"She has been chasing me for a while... she was very persistent."
  382. "Was she chasing you before the bonfire?" you ask, furrowing your brow.
  383. >"Yes" she sighs "And I know, perhaps I sent the wrong signals by going."
  384. "So what happened yesterday?"
  385. >"She comes in after work often, but this time she brought flowers."
  386. >You nod silently.
  387. >"She...she tried to kiss me."
  388. >Immediately your eyes pop open and you look down at her.
  389. >You don't even remember closing them.
  390. >But now alarms are sounding in the back of your head.
  391. >"I turned her down again, and, well you came up." she starts to sniffle again "And... a-and then she called me a b-bit digging whorse."
  392. >Giving the mare a comforting squeeze, you resolve to confront Cloudchaser.
  393. >In public.
  394. >Where everypony can hear.
  395. >And she can't start a fight without lots of ponies seeing it.
  396. >But you will need to talk to the other girls about it first.
  397. >You can already hear Roseluck objecting.
  398. >Maybe you'll even ask Cadence about it.
  399. >There's no way you can let this slide...
  400. >...but there might be rules or customs about this.
  401. >Crazy goddamned horses.
  402. >"Anon...don't be mad, I didn't kiss her back-"
  403. >Realizing you're scowling you immediately relax.
  404. "What? I'm not mad at you, Lotus." you say shaking your head. "I am furious with Cloudy though."
  405. >"I know you probably want to do something about it, but please don't. Just- just forget about it."
  406. "Lotus, I-"
  407. >"It'll only spread it all over town! Please, just stay here with me and let it go!"
  408. >Your mouth twitches irritably as you consider her request.
  409. >On one hand, she is correct: such a confrontation would set tongues wagging.
  410. >And in a town this small, gossip is faster than lightning.
  411. >Still, the idea of not confronting the problem head-on irks you.
  412. >It seems cowardly.
  413. >You should defend your mares honor.
  414. >Naturally, the bitch chose a time when both you and Aloe were out of town, leaving Lotus alone to fend off her unwanted advances.
  415. >But your marefriend stood her ground.
  416. >A strong, steadfast Stalliongrad mare.
  417. >She was strong for you, isn't it your job now to be strong for her?
  418. >It seems she is looking for inner strength.
  419. >A pair of hooves pull you down to her level.
  420. >As your lips meet hers, you resolve that -for Lotus- you will not publically confront Cloudchaser...
  421. >...But you are still going to consult Rose.
  422. >And Candyass.
  423. >And maybe even Shining if he's around.
  424. >"Hey!"
  425. "Hmmm?"
  426. >"This isn't the first time I've kissed you, Anon."
  427. "That's the truth." you say, eliciting an eye-roll from Lotus.
  428. >She takes your head in her hooves and pulls you in close again, forcing you to gaze directly into her sapphire eyes.
  429. "I can tell when you're distracted, Anon. You're still thinking about it, aren't you?" she accuses.
  430. "Guilty as charged." you say, shifting Lotus out of your lap and onto the couch.
  431. >"Anon!" she cries "It's over now! Just- just forget it ever happened."
  432. "Hmm, I can't promise that. But I won't make a big scene if you don't want me to."
  433. >"I'd be happy just staying here with you for a while..."
  434. "Of course." you say with a nod.
  435. >Rolling to put yourself over her, you lean in close.
  436. "You have my full attention." you say touching the tip of your nose to hers.
  437.  
  438. >It's about four in the afternoon and you're lying on the couch still, Lotus dozing in your lap, the magazine the two of you were leafing through on the floor beside her.
  439. >You're only half awake yourself, but that's enough for your brain to acknowledge the sound of someone knocking on the door.
  440. >Gingerly you extract yourself from beneath Lotus, gently sliding a pillow into place under her head.
  441. >Quickly yet quietly crossing the room, you check the peephole.
  442. >It's Lyra.
  443. >Checking the clock, you suppose her concert has been over for a bit now.
  444. >Before she can knock again, you open the door.
  445. >She pauses for a split second, hoof raised, then looks up and breaks into a beaming smile!
  446. >"Anon! I'm so glad you're here, I meant to talk to you about Lotus before I left but then when I overslept and had to leave in a hurry I totally forgot about it so I came over-"
  447. >Kneeling down, you put a finger to her lips.
  448. "Lotus and I talked, and she's sleeping right now. Come on, follow me."
  449. >Leading Lyra into the house, you pass the living room where Lotus is sleeping and make your way to the back patio.
  450. >It's a small space, and the flower beds are already fading from green to brown as Autumn draws on, but it's comfortable in the afternoon sun.
  451. >And the Prench doors allow you to see into the kitchen and a bit of the Living Room, so you can keep an eye open for Lotus without disturbing her.
  452. >On your way by, you snag a bottle of zinfandel and some glasses.
  453. >You'll replace it later.
  454. >Lotus doesn't need any more right now anyways.
  455. >Lyra hops into one of the two chairs outside while you pour out two glasses.
  456. "So today was your final performance?"
  457. >"We have one more tomorrow, then it's back to my other job."
  458. "How exactly does your other job work?" you ask, testing your drink.
  459. >Light, sweet, a little floral.
  460. >Very nice.
  461. >"Well, everyone in the Backround Ponies -my other group- is also in the orchestra, so we put projects on hold when a concert is coming up. So now we'll really focus on that for two months until rehearsals for the orchestra start to get too intense again..."
  462. "Intense?"
  463. >"Well yeah, we'll have a pretty easy schedule for the next two months as we try out a bunch of pieces and slowly figure out which ones we want and who gets what parts." she explains, taking a long sip from her glass. "Plus, everypony in the orchestra is either retired or working another job, so they can't work us too hard or we'd all have to quit."
  464.  "I remember you telling me they don't pay much."
  465. >"We only have four concerts a year. Even with the grant money from Canterlot they can't afford to pay like a full time job. You have to play for a big city like Fillydelphia for that."
  466. "So how often do you work with this other group?"
  467. >"It'll be pretty busy for the next two weeks because we haven't done anything for almost a month now, but then it'll only be three days a week unless we suddenly get a lot of work."
  468. "What you're telling me" you say, leaning over the arm of your chair "is that you're going to have all sorts of time and nothing to do with it?
  469. >"I-I guess?"
  470. "Sounds like a chance for me to find any of your other ticklish spots."
  471. >Lyra's eyes go wide and a fierce blush threatens to ignite across her muzzle.
  472. >She shakily lifts her glass to her lips and takes a big gulp.
  473. "Aw, don't be embarrassed. I thought it was cute!"
  474. >"Anoooon" she whines.
  475. "What? Afraid Lotus might find out?"
  476. >"Noooo..." she pouts.
  477. "Alright, alright. I'll stop... for now. But you know, if you're going to have more free time, then maybe we could make a standing lunch date."
  478. >"A... standing date?"
  479. >This mare sometimes...
  480. "You know, like every Tuesday we agree to meet at Hazel's place at noon."
  481. >"Oh! I'd like that! But you don't have to take me to La Frite every week. That'd be expensive!"
  482. "I can afford it..."
  483. >"I thought you were worried about bits?"
  484. "I, well, worried isn't exactly the right term...
  485. >Lyra cocks her head adorably as you try to explain.
  486. "I just don't want joining my herd to be a burden."
  487. >"Aw, don't be silly! Herds are the opposite of that, everypony works together for the family!"
  488. "I get it, I get it. And Cadence and I had a chat and she explained some of it to me. So I am... less worried about bits after my trip to Canterlot."
  489. >"Rose is going to be so happy to hear that."
  490. >"Hear what?" Lotus asks from the doorway.
  491. "Hey pretty pony, feeling better?"
  492. >She gives you a small smile as Lyra hops off her chair and trots up to her.
  493. >You watch from your seat as they hold a whispered conversation.
  494. >No telling what they're talking about, but Lyra's ears are down at first and then perk back up as the two share a hug.
  495. >You'll ask about it later.
  496. >Eyeing your glasses and thinking about how much Lotus has already had, you make an executive decision.
  497. "Lotus, Aloe gets home in an hour or so, correct?" you ask, pouring what's left of your glass into Lyra's.
  498. >She nods, and her eyes widen as you down the full glass.
  499. "Okay, so here's the plan: Let's go grab a bunch of food for dinner and swing by Roseluck's place to pick her up and then come back here."
  500. >Marching out of the house with a spring in your step, Lotus and Lyra hurry after you.
  501.  
  502. >Somewhere just short of the market you ran into Rose.
  503. >Just as you entered the market, Lyra admitted that she burned water once.
  504. >Lotus and Rose assured her that cooking wasn't hard and that anypony could do it.
  505. >Which turned your plan to grab ready-to-go food into a plan to cook dinner as a family.
  506. >Rose assures you it's a simple stew, and maybe a take and bake loaf of bread.
  507. >Lotus brings up that old adage about the way to a man's heart, and notes that there's two ways it can go and she's happy to take either route.
  508. >God have mercy on your soul.
  509.  
  510. >By the time you return to the townhome, you're carrying a bag of ingredients and two bottles of wine.
  511. >Once inside, you're quickly pushed aside as the girls head into the kitchen.
  512. >Rose begins unpacking vegetables while Lotus sets up the kitchen.
  513. >You just pour a glass of wine from this afternoon's bottle.
  514. "Anything I can do?"
  515. >Lotus, just smiles and shakes her head as Rose takes a paring knife and demonstrates how to peel a potato to Lyra.
  516. >As you ponder a means to make yourself useful, you hear the door open.
  517. >A moment later, two curious sapphire eyes peek around the corner.
  518. >Walking over to the front hall, Aloe is setting her work bag beside the door and you move up to place a hand on her withers.
  519. "Welcome home. They're teaching Lyra how to cook."
  520. >"I see. Well, I am going to shower and then I'll be down." she says, turning up the stairs.
  521. "Not much to help with, or so they tell me. Care to join me outside?" you ask, waggling your glass for emphasis.
  522. >"Yes, I could use that after today."
  523. "See you soon."
  524. >Taking a long, slow sip of the wine, you attentively watch Aloe climb the stairs, earning you a wry smile from the mare as she turn to head into the bathroom.
  525. >Good stuff.
  526. >Walking through the kitchen, Lotus has something going in a big pot on the stove while Rose is watching Lyra peel potatoes.
  527. >Not exactly riveting work.
  528. "Hey, do you want to move on? I can finish the potatoes."
  529. >"No! I can handle it!" Lyra immediately objects.
  530. >The look Rose gives you is crystal clear: "Thanks for the offer, but it just isn't going to happen."
  531. >Stepping behind the counter, you set your glass down and take a knee.
  532. >Draping an arm over her, you pull her to your side and place a quick peck right between the ears.
  533. "Thanks for taking the time to teach her." you say in a low tone.
  534. >"Mmm. She's doing fine."
  535. "It doesn't really matter how she's doing. As long as we're doing it together."
  536. >"That was pretty cheesy, Anon."
  537. "Cheese pairs well with wine." you counter, giving an ear a quick rub as you return to your feet.
  538. >Rose just shakes her head as you step briefly out onto the patio.
  539. >It's getting chilly out...maybe time to head in.
  540. >Grabbing the bottle and glass off the table, you return to the busy kitchen.
  541. >As promised, you take a moment to pour a glass for Aloe.
  542. >And then move to the living room, where you fiddle with the fireplace.
  543. >It takes a minute to remember how it works, but you eventually get it to start.
  544. >Straightening up, you notice Aloe coming down the stairs.
  545. >You offer her hers, and drop onto the couch.
  546. >"What, just going to leave the mares in the kitchen?"
  547. "First off, there is no room for four mares and a human in that kitchen." you say raising a finger in objection. "And second, you aren't in there either, so hush."
  548. >Peering around the corner, Aloe seems to contemplate the scene before acknowledging your superior logic and reasoning.
  549. >"I don't think Rose could handle any more ponies in that kitchen right now."
  550. "Aw, I'm sure Lyra's doing fine."
  551. >"I think Lotus and Rose are both trying to teach at the same time."
  552. >You just shake your head as you take a sip from your glass.
  553. >These mares are going to drive you insane.
  554. >Getting up, you move to the corner where you can subtly keep an eye on the kitchen without seeming like you're staring at them.
  555. >As Lyra moves to add a fresh batch of chopped vegetables to the pot, you wave Rose over.
  556. "How are you holding up?" you ask as she trots across the kitchen.
  557. >You can see Lyra nervously look over, and you offer a reassuring smile before a word from Lotus draws her attention.
  558. >"I'm fine. It would go faster if I were just doing it myself, or if it was just me and Lotus, but that's fine."
  559. "Fine, huh?" you muse, before kneeling down to wrap her in a hug. "I've got Aloe sitting on the bench, let me know if you need her to sub in."
  560. >"Hmmmm, I don't think I'll need it. But thanks."
  561. "Anything I can do?"
  562. >She shakes her head as she sighs, then steps back.
  563. >"No, in fact, soon we'll just have to wait for it to cook."
  564. "So you're saying I should pour a few more glasses?"
  565. >"I'll wait until dinner."
  566. "Suit yourself."
  567. >As you return to your feet, Rose gives you a gentle bump before returning to the kitchen.
  568. >You, in turn, head to join Aloe.
  569. >In the living room Aloe is quiet, silently watching the flames and occasionally tasting her wine.
  570. >How does anyone take such small sips?
  571. >If you recall, she eats like that too... they both do.
  572. >Mares.
  573. >When you drop into the love seat next to her, she immediately scoots over to drop her head in your lap.
  574. >You begin to run a hand through her mane.
  575. "How was work?"
  576. >"Just dreadful..." she starts, taking a serious pull from her glass before launching into a diatribe against the very concept of customer service.
  577. >As she rants and raves about how stubborn and dumb ponies can be, you gently rub her back and offer words of agreement.
  578. >After all, ponies -like people- can indeed be very dumb and very stubborn at times.
  579. >Moving your hand across her withers, you can feel how tense she is.
  580. >Applying a little pressure to your thumb, you begin to slowly work up and down either side of her back.
  581. >Aloe gives a very lady-like grunt of surprise before subtly pushing back into your hand as you work.
  582. >Taking this as a good sign, you continue what you're doing.
  583. >Aloe's rant does eventually wind down, just in time for Roseluck to join you.
  584. >Seeing no vacant real estate on the loveseat, she moves towards the nearby couch when she pauses.
  585. >You're not sure what it is, until a hoof lifts your discarded arm sling into view.
  586. >Before you can even make excuses, Rose just shakes her head and sets it on the coffee table, hopping up onto the couch across from you.
  587. >The two mares start talking about some book that Aloe is reading at Rose's recommendation, and you quickly find yourself losing focus.
  588. >Tilting your head back, you close your eyes and continue to slowly rub Aloe's back.
  589. >Until she animatedly sits up for some reason.
  590. >Lazily fumbling around the end table, you eventually locate your wine glass.
  591. >Bringing it to your lips...empty.
  592. >With a momentary grimace, you brace yourself to get up just as a pair of hooves land on your knees.
  593. >Opening your eyes, two deep, watery golden orbs stare back at you.
  594. >A worried frown and tiny, almost inaudible whine is followed by the quiet *thwack* of your sling being dropped into your lap.
  595. >Oh for God's sake...
  596. >Lyra leans in even closer until her nose just barely touches yours, and with a sigh you relent and pick up the damn thing.
  597. >It's unnecessary.
  598. >Redheart is just being cautious.
  599. >You don't really need this thing.
  600. >But the overjoyed look on Lyra's face is worth wearing it.
  601. >She immediately hops onto your lap -earning her a look from Aloe- and she leans in to plant a kiss on your cheek.
  602. >"Thank you."
  603. >You just shake your head and roll your eyes.
  604. >As you adjust the stupid strap on the stupid sling, Lotus hops onto the couch beside Rose and the girls take off on a discussion of yet a different book.
  605. >Your only consolation is the embarrassed squeak from Lyra when you pull her up against you, a faint blush accenting her aqua coat as you overexaggeratedly cuddle the mare.
  606. >Over Lyra's head, you give Rose and Lotus a wink and motion for them to continue as you lean back, the smell of stewing vegetables and baking bread lulling you back into a semi-conscious state.
Herd Herding Hawkeye

Auction Pony Scenes

by Hawkeye

Herd 18

by Hawkeye

Herd 17

by Hawkeye

Herd 16

by Hawkeye

Herd 15

by Hawkeye