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Herd 14

By Hawkeye
Created: 18th December 2020 04:27:04 PM

  1. >When dinner is ready, you offer to carry the pot to the table.
  2. >Human height and arms are a real advantage here.
  3. >Setting it down, you grab the bread while Aloe finishes setting the table.
  4. >The others clean up from a slightly messy, but successful, cooking lesson.
  5. >Luckily, there was a leaf to expand the table.
  6. >Lotus and Aloe take their normal seats, across from each other.
  7. >Lyra and Roseluck do the same, and you take a place at one end of the table, putting Roseluck on your right and the master chef on your left.
  8. >"Let me fill your bowl, Anon! It's really good!"
  9. >Before you can even respond, the dish is whisked away by magic and reappears a few seconds later brimmed with stew.
  10. >It certainly smells good, and with Rose and Lotus supervising you're sure that it is.
  11. >Letting it cool first, you watch as Lyra uses her magic to excitedly serve everyone else.
  12. >The bread is cut and passed around.
  13. >Butter follows.
  14. >And as the others start to tuck in, you take a sip of your wine.
  15. >But really, you're drinking in the scene in front of you.
  16. >This...
  17. >This is good.
  18. >Sure, you'll need to choose an alpha in time.
  19. >And something needs to be done about Cloudchaser.
  20. >But right here, in this moment, life is very good.
  21. >"Anoooon, aren't you going to eat?"
  22. >Giving Lyra a smile, you nod and take spoonful of stew.
  23. >Delicious!
  24.  
  25. >After dinner, you expel Lyra, Lotus and Roseluck from the kitchen.
  26. >It's only fair that you and Aloe clean up after they did the cooking.
  27. >Rose and Lotus haven't spent enough time together anyways, and you needed to speak to Aloe...alone.
  28. "So I assume that Lotus told you about Cloudchaser?" you ask, handing the pink pony a freshly washed bowl.
  29. >"Mhm."
  30. "And?"
  31. >She sets the bowl down and looks up at you.
  32. >"And what?"
  33. "What should I do about it?"
  34. >She shakes her head, taking some silverware in hoof to begin drying.
  35. >"Nothing, Anon. Just leave it be."
  36. "That's what Lotus said." you say, inspecting a freshly scrubbed spoon.
  37. >"Then why are you asking me?"
  38. "Because it feels...wrong. I should stand up for her, that's what a gentleman does."
  39. >Setting down the hoofful of silverware, Aloe glances up at you before taking a proffered plate and beginning to dry it.
  40. >"She doesn't want all the attention that will come from it."
  41. "But you understand what I'm getting at, right?"
  42. >"Mhm. You're a good coltfriend, and that means you want to protect your marefriend." she says, turning to look up at you. "And I appreciate it. So much. And so does Lotus."
  43. "But...?"
  44. >"But right now, that would make Lotus feel so much worse."
  45. "Well, that's not what I want. I just..." you trail off, trying to pin down the right words.
  46. >Helpless?
  47. >No...
  48. >Cowardly?
  49. >Definitely not.
  50. >...
  51. "I feel useless. Like I'm derelict in my duty."
  52. >"Anon, don't. Please, don't." she says, putting down the towel and placing her forehooves on your side.
  53. >Twisting to face her, she beckons you to lean down and your obedience earns you a boop and quick nuzzle.
  54. >"If you really want to do something -something that will make Lotus feel better /and/ get back at Cloudchaser- I might have an idea." she says, returning to all fours.
  55. "I'm all ears."
  56. >"Keep being an amazing coltfriend."
  57. "Aloe, c'mon." you retort.
  58. >"I am serious, Anonymous." she says evenly, motioning you down.
  59. >Taking a knee, she leans in and drops her voice.
  60. >"Be the amazing coltfriend you already are, and make sure that everypony sees you taking care of us, especially Lotus."
  61. "I'm not that special, I just do what I can."
  62. >"Anon, look at how few stallions there are. You don't have to try half as much as you do, but it has never stopped you doing so anyways."
  63. "So I just have to keep sweeping all the pretty mares off their hooves?" you ask, while simultaneously sweeping Aloe off her hooves and into your arms.
  64. >She shakes her head in mock disapproval, smiling wide before craning her neck to speak directly into your ear, lest the curious ponies in the living room overhear.
  65. >"It will hurt Cloudchaser -more than any confrontation ever could- to see Lotus being so happy with you."
  66. >That...actually makes a lot of sense.
  67. "Okay, I get it." you say "Let's leave the rest of the dishes to air dry."
  68. >A small nod is all the confirmation you need to carry her off, out of the kitchen.
  69.  
  70. >The moon is nearly full and very bright as it hangs low over Ponyville.
  71. >Staring out the window, you can see the odd breeze stir the trees, leaves falling with every motion.
  72. >It's probably pretty chilly outside -maybe even downright cold- and that means that tomorrow night will be perfect for a big ol' fire.
  73. >Right now though...
  74. >Right now you are incredibly toasty.
  75. >You take stock of your situation one last time as drowsiness starts to pull your eyelids down:
  76. >You are on the floor, back against the loveseat, the gently glowing fireplace across the room from you.
  77. >In your lap, propped up against your chest and drooling on your shirt (just a little) is Lyra.
  78. >Your right arm is draped over Lotus's barrel, her back pushed up against you and her head resting on Lyra's flank.
  79. >Curled up on your left is Rose.
  80. >She was the last one to fall asleep, sitting by your side talking about nothing and everything long after the others had succumbed to sleep.
  81. >It also meant she was the last one to claim her spot.
  82. >So, with the girls all unanimously agreeing about your damned sling, she gets no overnight affection.
  83. >And that just leaves the owner of the warm forelegs gently wrapped across your shoulders.
  84. >Hopefully Aloe doesn't move too much in her sleep, or you're going to wake up in a chokehold.
  85. >Heh.
  86. >Your final thought as you drift off is that you could really get used to this.
  87.  
  88. >Noise.
  89. >Some kind of noise.
  90. >Reaching with your right arm, you search for your alarm clock until enough systems boot up for you to remember where you are.
  91. >Looking over, hand frozen in place, you find it firmly gripping Lotus by the flank.
  92. >She's sitting upright, staring straight ahead, but her tail occasionally swishes against your hip.
  93. >Across the room, the mantel clock chimes out the hour.
  94. >"Ah, I see you're awake." a quiet voice whispers into your ear "If you want, I can put on coffee while you and Lotus go upstairs."
  95. >You shake your head silently, before giving Lotus' flank a final squeeze and then lifting that arm up and over your shoulder to pet the pink pony.
  96. >Lotus' head swivels around to lock eyes with you and you can't help but chuckle, quietly of course, at her expression.
  97. >Carefully holding onto Lyra, you push back against the loveseat, sliding up into a crouch before straightening up.
  98. >Aloe and Lotus get to their hooves as well, Lotus pressing up against your leg and looking up at you with an inviting smile while Aloe uses the high ground to get onto her hind legs and go in for a quick kiss.
  99. >"I'm going to go grab a shower, I open today." Aloe announces as you carefully set Lyra down on the couch.
  100. >You nod in acknowledgement as you lift Roseluck up, setting her down beside Lyra and tossing a blanket over the two of them.
  101. >The clock reads six o'clock.
  102. >Dropping onto the loveseat, you lay your head back and close your eyes.
  103. >You were up too late to be awake this early.
  104. >The cushions shift as a set of hooves land on the loveseat beside you.
  105. >And they shift further as those hooves straddle your lap and shoulders, but you refuse to open your eyes.
  106. >It's too early.
  107. >Lotus drops her plot into your lap and you can feel her breath on your neck.
  108. >Nooooo...
  109. >A pair of lips start to place little kisses on your neck.
  110. >Must...sleep...
  111. >Her hips start to shift gently.
  112. "How are you awake for thisssss?"
  113. >Knowing she has your attention, her kisses become mixed with playful little bites and you finally relent.
  114. >With a quiet groan you lift yourself and Lotus, and begin the trek upstairs.
  115. >"Did you really think you could wake me up like that and then go back to sleep?"
  116. "I thought you were an alarm clock."
  117. >"It doesn't matter what you thought, it's what you /did/ that counts."
  118. "I know. I deserve this."
  119. >"Are you complaining?"
  120. "...No."
  121.  
  122. >Stepping out of the shower, you watch as Lotus slowly follows on wobbly legs.
  123. >You're tempted to bump her as she starts to dry her mane, but decide not to bully the pony.
  124. >Back in the bedroom, Aloe sticks her head in while you reassemble your clothes.
  125. >Already dressed for work, she offers a knowing smile to match your sheepish grin.
  126. "Leaving already?"
  127. >"I open today. Lotus will join me in a few hours. It means that she'll be late to Fluttershy's tonight."
  128. "Hey, you two still have a life aside from me. I get it." you reply "Just wanted to know if you were going to stay for breakfast."
  129. >She just shakes her head, so you walk her to the door and when you take a knee she gives your cheek a quick nuzzle and a peck before heading out into the bright and frosty Fall morning.
  130. >Over in the living room, you spy two sets of eyes watching you lazily from the couch.
  131. >Lyra did not hesitate to get tangled up with Roseluck in your absence, it seems.
  132. >Straightening up and looking straight at them, you make a show of dusting off your pants and announce:
  133. "I'm making waffles!"
  134.  
  135. >This turned out to be a bit of an endeavor.
  136. >No instant mixes for fine Stalliongrad mares, it seems.
  137. >Lotus pointed you to a stack of cookbooks, and eventually Rose located one with a recipe.
  138. >Lyra's magic mixed everything together in a jiffy...but also coated you, Rose and Lotus in flecks of batter.
  139. >To say nothing of Lyra herself.
  140. >Or the kitchen.
  141. >You pushed onwards though, and soon breakfast was served.
  142. >As you hand off the syrup to Lotus, you look across the table to Rose.
  143. "Plans for today?"
  144. >She looks up and pauses in though.
  145. >"N'fink" Lyra mumbles through a mouthful of waffle.
  146. >"I have work at ten, I'll be late to Fluttershy's." Lotus offers.
  147. >"I have a few commissions to finish, but it's Daisy's turn to work the counter."
  148. "Well then, I suppose after breakfast I'll let you two get ready for work and Lyra and I will stay to clean up."
  149. >Lyra looks up at you, wide eyed with cheeks bulging with her half-chewed breakfast, then slowly looks over her shoulder at the kitchen.
  150. >She swallows and offers an apologetic smile.
  151. >Lotus giggles and even Rose can't help but smile as she rolls her eyes.
  152. >It's already well after nine, and it isn't long before both Roseluck and Lotus get up to head out.
  153. >You follow them to the door, and see Rose off with a quick nuzzle and a promise to meet up when she's gotten her work done.
  154. >Lotus lingers a moment, letting Rose get a ways down the street before she moves in for a less-than-G-rated kiss, dragging her tail along your leg as she leaves.
  155. >It takes a moment, but when you come back to your senses you stand up and turn around to face a dumbstruck Lyra, the blush on her cheeks doing an excellent Big Mac impression.
  156. >You reach a hand down to ruffle her mane as you walk by.
  157. "C'mon you. Shows over, time to get to cleaning."
  158. >With your head in the cupboard under the sink you can just barely hear Lyra grumbling.
  159. >"Lotus has all the fun..."
  160. >Mares.
  161.  
  162. >As you wipe a few final spots off the ceiling and Lyra finishes the stovetop you give her a friendly bump with your hip.
  163. "So what's next?"
  164. >"Huh? Aren't we going to meet Rose?"
  165. >Tossing the paper towel you were using in the trash you simultaneous toss a skeptical look Lyra's way.
  166. "I somehow doubt that she'll be done with those commissions already."
  167. >"Oh, well, um." she drops her sponge in the sink and sits down. "I don't know?"
  168. >Sliding down the refrigerator, you land on the floor beside her and grab her haunches to pull her across the polished floor with a surprised yelp.
  169. >Without letting her regain her balance, you drop her across your legs and launch a two pronged attack on both her ears and one of her exposed hooves.
  170. >With four fingers holding her hoof, your index finger barely touches the soft and sensitive underside, while your other hand runs wild as it jumps from ear to ear.
  171. >Peals of laughter roll through the house and you press your attack until she rolls off of you and scrambles for traction on the wood floor.
  172. >Using your finely tuned predator reflexes you give chase, launching yourself across the slippery surface to snatch up the flailing pony, wrapping her in a bear hug.
  173. >A short lived bear hug.
  174. >Rolling to cover her entirely with your frame, you get in close as she pants for breath.
  175. >As her breathing normalizes, she offers a nervous smile -eyes flicking to the hands on either side of her- and you offer a much less nervous smile in return before moving in for the kill.
  176. >Suddenly lurching forward you plant your lips on hers, and they almost immediately they part -inviting you deeper.
  177. >You are happy to oblige.
  178. >Shifting your weight onto your good arm, you use the other to gently run your thumb across the incredibly soft, short fur of her cheek as she wraps her hooves around your neck.  
  179. >When you finally break the kiss, you catch the momentarily bewildered look and goofy grin on Lyra's face and slowly roll over onto your back.
  180. "Heh. Lotus doesn't have to have /all/ the fun, you know?"
  181. >Lyra says nothing, but gives you a shove for good measure.
  182.  
  183. >As you prepared to leave the house, Lyra noticed your sling and kicked up a fuss about it until you acquiesced and put it on.
  184. >She then accompanied this by a long lecture that lasted the entire trip to Sugarcube Corner, where you picked up a little something for Aloe (since she missed some awesome waffles), and then resumed for the entire trek to the spa.
  185. >Aloe was already with a customer, so you just left the pastry at the front desk with a note from you and Lyra, and proceeded to check on Rose.
  186. >No luck with Roseluck, so you proceed back out into the cool autumn air and lead the way out of town.
  187. >It wasn't until you were at your house that she finally stopped to ask where you were going.
  188. >You poke around the construction site while Lyra frets over whether or not you're allowed to be there.
  189. "Because I want to see how the gutting is going." you explain "Fall is half-over and snow will be here in a little over a month."
  190. >"Should they really be doing this so soon to Winter? Maybe you should wait until after Winter Wrap-up?"
  191. "Nah, they can work through the Winter, they just need to have the exterior put back together." you assure her. "The roof was in surprisingly good shape, so it's just a few windows and the foundation issues."
  192. >"Foundation issues!? Is it even safe to be in here!?"
  193. "We're fine." you say dismissively, leaning over an opening to the basement.
  194. >Inside you can see that they've got the whole house supported with jacks, and several of the bad timbers have been removed already.
  195. >Nodding approvingly, you move down the hall and open the door to the basement.
  196. >"Anooon" she whines nervously. "What if something happens? Ohhh Rose would never forgive me!"
  197. "Lyra-"
  198. >"And Lotus and Aloe too!"
  199. "Lyra."
  200. >"Anon, we need to get out of here!"
  201. "It isn't that dangerous."
  202. >"But it could be!"
  203. "The construction crew works in here all day."
  204. >"They have hard hats!"
  205. >You sigh and look down at your fretful marefriend.
  206. >She's nervously shifting her hooves, glancing from you to various parts of the house as if the walls might collapse at any moment.
  207. >Briefly you consider trying to explain that a hard hat is hardly protection from a total building collapse.
  208. >However you decide that would only make her anxiety worse.
  209. >Reluctantly, you close the door to the basement.
  210. >Lyra seizes on this development and jumps behind you, using her head to push you down the hall and out the door, her horn in your back doing a great job of motivating you forward.
  211. >Sometimes you have to pick your battles, Anon.
  212.  
  213. "Alright, so what's the plan?"
  214. >"Plan?"
  215. "You wanted to leave the house. We have left the house. What's the next step?"
  216. >"Um...Rose....no...um, I don't know?"
  217. >Shaking your head, you tweak one of those teal ears.
  218. "Let's just go back to the castle then."
  219. >"Okay!" she agrees, probably happy that you dropped the house idea.
  220. "So did Octavia go back to Fillydelphia already?"
  221. >"Nope! She's staying in town for a few days before going back."
  222. "Wait, you ditched Octavia to spend the night with us last night?"
  223. >"She was out with Hazel and Bonbon last night." she shrugs "I was invited buuuuut-"
  224. "I get it. We haven't done much as a herd."
  225. >"Last night was great!"
  226. "It was. We should do more things like that."
  227. >"Yes!"
  228. "But shouldn't you go spend time with your friend since she's only in town for a little while?"
  229. >"Tavi and Bonbon had a spa date this morning, but I guess they'll be back after lunch..."
  230. "Then I guess we have a little time then."
  231.  
  232. >Unlocking your door, you hold it open for Lyra.
  233. "You know, Twilight spends most of her time in her lab down in the basement, so it can get pretty lonely working up here."
  234. >"Well come do your work at my house!"
  235. "I was thinking the opposite, actually." you say, jerking a thumb over your shoulder "the drafting table is kind of heavy to carry around, you know?"
  236. >"I guess I could use the bedroom...I'll think about it."
  237. "You do that." you say, scooping up the mint mare and tossing her onto the bed.
  238. >"Anoooon!"
  239. "Shush" you say, clambering up onto the bed next to her.
  240. >"What are we going to do on the bed, Anon?"
  241. >Flopping onto the bed with the grace of a 10 pound bag of flour, you turn to give Lyra a small grin.
  242. "Nap."
  243. >"But we haven't done anything! How can you be tired?"
  244. "Some of us got up earlier than others." you counter, wrapping an arm around her.
  245. >The two of you lie there, quietly for a few minutes, and you almost believe Lyra is going to let you sleep.
  246. >But she makes sure to shatter that hope by rolling over in your grasp and wriggling on top of you.
  247. >Opening your eyes, you find yourself nose to nose with her.
  248. >She looks like she wants to ask something, but can't find the courage.
  249. >Instead, you lightly peck forwards, stealing a tiny kiss.
  250. "What's on your mind?"
  251. >"Um...well..."
  252. "Yesssss?" you say, laying your head back down.
  253. >You feel her shift again and her mane falls over your shoulder as she lowers her head onto your chest.
  254. >"Anon, when are you going to choose our Alpha?"
  255. "Throwing your hat into the ring, eh?" you ask, eyes still shut.
  256. >"Oh Celestia no." she exhales sharply. "I don't- I think I'd have a breakdown!"
  257. >Reaching a hand up you reassuringly pat her head.
  258. "Oh I don't think you'd be *that* bad, but if you're not interested, then why are you asking?"
  259. >"Well, I uh, I assumed that it was Rose. And I said something and she corrected me. And then that started a bit of an argument with her sisters. And I didn't mean to do that, I just thought that you two seem so close and she was the first and all so..."
  260. "A fight over me? How noble of Rose to defend my honor."
  261. >"Anooon." she groans, tapping your chest sharply. "I felt really bad about it. I didn't want to cause a fight!"
  262. >She pauses, but you can feel her breath hitch as she tries to find her next sentence.
  263. >"And -and then, well, Lotus has given me a lot of good advice and I think she might be interested in being Alpha. And I think she'd be good at it too so I started thinking that maybe you were having a hard time choosing between them."
  264. "Oh?"
  265. >"I-I thought maybe you needed somepony to listen? Sometimes when I can't figure something out it helps when I talk it over with one of the girls..."
  266. "Ah, I see."
  267. >"So..." she leads on, cocking her head slightly.
  268. "So, you really want to know, huh?"
  269. >"Well I guess you can keep it a secret if you really want to..." she grumbles, clearly bothered by the prospect.
  270. >Silly filly.
  271. "No worries, it's not a secret. Rose and I talked about it the other day." you say, stifling a yawn before setting a hand on Lyra's back.
  272. "I am going to wait to see who all is in the Herd before I make that decision."
  273. >You gasp as two hooves push into your chest, Lyra sitting up suddenly and staring down at you with wide eyes.
  274. >"But... but that could be months!"
  275. "Hah, yeah. I am aware."
  276. >Looking between your pained expression and her hooves, Lyra offers a tiny, sheepish apology before tucking them under herself.
  277. >"I just hope it doesn't become a problem."
  278. "Do you think it will?"
  279. >"Maybe? I'll ask Bonbon."
  280. "Mhmm." you respond drowsily as you settle back in "You should bring her to the party. She might meet someone there."
  281. >"I already invited her." Lyra answers, slowly rolling off of you and wriggling up against you. "And I hope she does!"
  282. >Turning to cuddle the pony, you kiss the back of her head.
  283. "Bonbon is lucky to have you as a friend, but I'm even luckier than that."
  284. >Drifting off to sleep, you're not sure if it your imagination but you think you hear a tiny little *squee*.
  285.  
  286.  
  287. >The quiet hustle and bustle of the Ponyville market was always something that you missed while in Canterlot.
  288. >The upper market there was full of pushy salesponies and snooty nobles, while the lower markets were packed, noisy rambunctious affairs.
  289. >Ponyville only has one market, and the genial country charm of the community really shines through there.
  290. >Approaching the Apple Family stall, you bend down in mock inspection of their offerings as Applebloom comes scurrying around the counter.
  291. >"Anon! What can I do for ya?"
  292. "Well" you start slowly "word on the street is you all sell apples."
  293. >Even Lyra rolls her eyes at that one.
  294. >"Anon ya lummox, everypony knows that!"
  295. "The best apples, even."
  296. >"Yup yup!" she nods enthusiastically.
  297. "Well I think I'll take an apple then. I spotted some humongous honeycrisps back there, give me one of those and -Lyra, do you want something?"
  298. >"I'll just have a bite of yours."
  299. "Make that two." you say, plunking some bits on the counter.
  300. >Holding one of the apples out, Lyra eagerly takes it in her magic.
  301. "So where are Bonbon and Octavia supposed to be after their spa date?"
  302. >"No clue." she mumbles through a mouth full of apple.
  303. >You throw a look her way, but her eyes are closed, savoring her saccharin snack.
  304. "Come on. If we walk quickly we might make it to the spa before they leave."
  305. >"Mhmmph!" she replies, falling in beside you as you lead the way through the ponies milling about the market.
  306. >Passing the flower shop, you wave to Lily but spy no sign of Roseluck.
  307. >Probably still in back.
  308. >Soon enough you've left the crowded marketplace, and as you make your way up town, the streets become quiet.
  309. "If I recall, last time I met Octavia she was encouraging you to keep auditioning for a major orchestra."
  310. >"Yesh, Tavi thinks I can make it someday." she says before swallowing her current bite of apple. "I think so too, but if I did I'd either have to move or go on tour."
  311. >Looking over at her, you catch a surreptitious glance from the mint mare.
  312. "Lyra, do what's best for you. We both know I am going to have to travel for work, it would be hypocritical of me to ask you not to."
  313. >"Well, I guess if I got in with a touring orchestra then I could still come home to Ponyville..."
  314. "Sounds like a plan." you muse "Or, you can just get into the orchestra in Canterlot and commute. Boom! Problem solved."
  315. >"Anon, that's the best orchestra in the country!"
  316. "You are the best lyre player I know. Why not?"
  317. >"Even Tavi hasn't been able to get into the RCO!"
  318. "RCO?"
  319. >"Royal Canterlot Orchestra."
  320. "Ah, I see."
  321. >"Oh oh! I almost forgot! During the week, Tavi had an audition with them, don't let me forget to ask her how it went!"
  322. "I won't. After all, once she gets in, you'll have an inside mare helping you."
  323. >"But I'd have to move to Canterlot, wouldn't- wouldn't that upset you?"
  324. >Turning onto the street the spa is on, you pause to kneel down to Lyra's level.
  325. "Lyra, I would miss having you around. But I have an apartment there already and happen to be not only friends with the princesses, but also their favorite architect. Who's to say I won't be spending time there myself?" you reassure Lyra, wrapping her up in a hug.
  326. >She accepts the hug greedily, soaking up the affection, but when you pull back her apprehension returns.
  327. "And you can always come back to Ponyville on your days off. We'll make it work, I promise."
  328. >"Okay."
  329. "You don't seem convinced." you press, starting off down the street again.
  330. >"It's not that I don't want all of that...I just don't know that I do want it."
  331. "I'm not sure that I follow." you say, holding the door to the spa open.
  332. >"Well-"
  333. >"Lyra?"
  334. >"Oh! Hello Aloe, are Bonnie and Octavia finished already?"
  335. >"They're with Vera right now."
  336. >"Lyra?" Lotus asks, popping her head around the corner. "Anon!"
  337. "Hey pretty pony." you greet the affectionate mare as she abandons the laundry she was carrying to rush over to you. "I hope Aloe isn't working you too hard."
  338. >"She will learn the true meaning of hard work if she keeps putting off that laundry." Aloe warns sternly, sauntering over in her best Rose impression.
  339. >"She's so mean!" Lotus laments, dramatically throwing herself behind you, clinging to one leg. "Protect me, Anon!"
  340. >You look behind you at Lotus' shit-eating grin and then back to a non-plussed Aloe and then finally to Ly- wait where did she get that popcorn?
  341. >Mares.
  342. >Just as you're about to go sit next to Lyra and abandon Lotus to her horrible fate, a door opens and Bonbon enters, Octavia right behind her.
  343. >Surveying the scene, Bonbon slowly surveys the scene, eyes lingering on Lyra (who smiles and waves cheerfully) before coming to rest on you.
  344. >"Are we interrupting something?"
  345. "Just another day with a herd." you assure her.
  346. >"Did Vera take care of your check? If not, I can." Aloe pipes up, and Bonbon shakes her head.
  347. >Watching her return to the counter to help her customers, it's amusing to note how quickly she took charge while a warm pressure on the side of your leg tells you that her sister is still focused on more personal matters.
  348. >Still watching Aloe, Bonbon and Octavia, you reach down to softly pet Lotus.
  349. "Aloe is going to be mad if you don't finish that laundry."
  350. >"No, she won't be. But I /will/ be in trouble because I'm closing tonight." Lotus explains "If I don't get it done now, that's just more work for me later."
  351. "It would be no fun if you missed the party all because of some unwashed sheets!" Lyra adds, suddenly leaning against your other leg.
  352. >As Lotus slowly trots back to her work, Lyra looks up at you with wide, hopeful eyes.
  353. >Shaking your head, you take a seat and she follows suit, allowing her to rest her head in your lap while you begin administering gentle ear scritches.
  354. >Bonbon and Aloe seem to be conversing about a future appointment.
  355. >Octavia takes up a post on the other side of Lyra.
  356. "Hey Octavia."
  357. >"Anonymous."
  358. "How was your spa date?"
  359. >"Quite good. I have to admit...it's not a luxury I would normally splurge on."
  360. >"But you liked it, right?"
  361. >"I did."
  362. >"See? You just have to listen to me and Bonnie sometimes."
  363. >"I suppose." she says, rolling her eyes. "I can also see that you don't need to visit the spa anymore."
  364. >"They don't have hands, Tavi."
  365. "Lyra does seem to be spending more time over here these days." you counter. "Pays to know the owners, I guess."
  366. >Lyra opens her mouth to object, but is forced to duck her head down as your scratching turns into tickling.
  367. >"Anon! Haha~" she protests, covering her head with her hooves. "Not- not in front of Tavi!"
  368. "Sorry for being *that couple*, Octavia." you apologize, relenting.
  369. >She shrugs, glancing down at Lyra before returning her gaze to Bonbon and Aloe.
  370. >"I'm from Fillydelphia, Anonymous. This is hardly the first public display of affection I've seen." she says nonchalantly "Besides, Lyra clearly enjoys it."
  371. >Lyra shifts her hooves to cover the blush on her muzzle and lets out a tiny, embarrassed groan.
  372. >"Not to be a nag, Lyra, but shouldn't you be getting ready for our performance?"
  373. >For a moment, time seems to stop.
  374. >Octavia holds her deadpan gaze, eyebrow lifted as she watches Lyra for a response.
  375. >Lyra has gone perfectly still.
  376. >Octavia wasn't just here for a spa day...she was getting her mane and makeup done!
  377. "Lyra?"
  378. >"Y-yes, Anon?"
  379. "How much time do you have?"
  380. >"Just over an hour." Octavia states.
  381. >At this revelation, Lyra jumps to her hooves and begins frantically racing in circles around the spa reception area.
  382. >"I need to fix my mane! And I barely have any of my backup makeup left! Oh Lyra, why didn't you restock it after last weekend you stupid mare! OH SWEET CELESTIA MY LYRE IS AT HOOOOOME!"
  383. >After sharing a look with Octavia, you sigh and get to your feet.
  384. >You allow Lyra to run for a minute or two.
  385. >She needs to burn off that hysterical energy if you're going to manage the situation.
  386. >This is, after all, not your first deadline crunch.
  387. >By the time she calms down, both Aloe and Lotus -as well as Bonbon- are simply staring at her.
  388. >Her sudden panic expended, a now exhausted Lyra collapsed into a sniffling mess on the floor -prompting you to move to her side and pick her up.
  389. "It's okay, it's okay." you reassure her. "We've got a team of excellent ponies here, and everything is going to work out, alright?"
  390. >"O-okay." she says meekly.
  391. "Lyra, I need you to tell me *exactly* what all you need to get done still."
  392. >"I-I need my Lyre..."
  393. "Okay, what else?"
  394. >"I need...I need..."
  395. >"She needs her mane done up and -once she's done crying- she needs some makeup." Octavia intercedes.
  396. "Got it. Anything else?" you ask, directing it more towards the level headed cellist than the hapless harpist.
  397. >"Her concert dress."
  398. >You feel a pony leaning against your leg and look down to find Lotus there.
  399. >"Aloe and I can take care of the mane and makeup, Anon." she suggests. "You take care of the other two things."
  400. "Good plan. We'll meet back here." you nod. "Lyra, where is your Lyre and where is your dress?"
  401. >"My Lyre is at h-home, a-a-and my dress is at Aloe and L-Lotus' house..."
  402. >"I'll get the Lyre." Bonbon immediately volunteers, and goes galloping out the door.
  403. "I guess I'll get the dress." you say, setting Lyra back on her hooves.
  404. >Lotus moves up to her and nuzzles her lightly, before steering her behind the counter.
  405. "Oh, Lotus?"
  406. >She turns to look back as Lyra follows Aloe into the back.
  407. "Thank you."
  408.  
  409. >Octavia opts to join you in your quest to retrieve the dress.
  410. >Lyra didn't say where exactly in the Twins home she left it, and you hadn't thought to ask.
  411. >"I hope you are ready to deal with this on a regular basis, Anonymous."
  412. "What's that?"
  413. >"Lyra."
  414. "What, the water works? I'll live."
  415. >"That as well. But I meant that Lyra can be... absent minded at times."
  416. "Ah, I see." you say, unlocking the front door. "It's not like she's trying to be the Alpha though, so with the rest of the herd helping, things should work out fine."
  417. >You hold the door open and follow Octavia inside.
  418. >"That is actually quite reasonable. Perhaps being in a large herd will be good for her."
  419. "I hope so."
  420. >"She has always needed some guidance from her friends to keep her on track."
  421. "Bonbon?"
  422. >"Or myself."
  423. "But not Vinyl?"
  424. >"Definitely not."
  425. "Why is that?"
  426. >"Vinyl isn't absent-minded so much as she is a natural force of chaos."
  427. "I can see that." you say, poking through the coat closet. "What exactly am I looking for?"
  428. >"A simple black dress."
  429. "You have met Aloe and Lotus, yes?"
  430. >"Of course, why?"
  431. "Do you seriously believe that Lyra's will be the only little black dress in this house?" you call out, heading upstairs. "I'm gonna need more details!"
  432. >"It will be modest! Well-fitting without being form-fitting, sleeveless with the back running down most of the hind legs!" she shouts back.
  433. >Nothing obvious in the bedroom, and you aren't going to start snooping through drawers unless you have to...
  434. >Stepping into the bathroom, you find it hanging on the back side of the door.
  435. "GOT IT!" you shout, stepping out to find Octavia standing in the bedroom. "Uh, I think I found it."
  436. >"Yes, that is it. Let's get back to the spa."
  437. >Following her downstairs and out the door, you decide to run an idea past her.
  438. "You said Lyra has always relied on her friends, would you recommend I try to recruit one for the herd?"
  439. >"Hmmm, yes Lyra mentioned that she was trying to convince Bonbon to go on a date with you." she ponders. "If it works out, absolutely. But as you said earlier, just having a herd around her should be enough."
  440. "I don't know a lot about herding -just the basics- but I get the impression that herdmates are supposed to support each other."
  441. >"There are many boons to herding. The stability of multiple incomes, the support of a large family, the freedom of shared responsibilities...the list goes on."
  442. "You sound like you've thought about this."
  443. >"I'm from a well-to-do Fillydelphian family. It is... expected of me."
  444. "You don't sound excited about this."
  445. >"I am young, with plenty of time. Whatever comes will be."
  446. >For a moment, the sound of the two of you walking is the only thing in the air.
  447. "Oh, I nearly forgot. Lyra asked me to remind her to ask you about your audition, but in all the chaos I think that she's a little preoccupied."
  448. >"Yes, most likely." she agrees, smiling. "But the audition went well, I think. I played the pieces without error, so it is simply a matter of how the board felt about my styling -and of course how the other auditions go."
  449. "I'm sure you blew them out of the water."
  450. >"This is the Royal Canterlot Orchestra, Anonymous." she scoffs. "I am competing against the best in Equestria."
  451. "Lyra seems to think you *are* the best in Equestria."
  452. >"Well, I- erm, that is..."
  453. "I don't know if Lyra told you this, but I saw you featured with the Filharmonic last year and have been a fan ever since. I have to agree with her assessment."
  454. >There is a pause as you approach the spa.
  455. >Just before you open the door, Octavia speaks up.
  456. >"Thank you."
Herd Herding Hawkeye

Auction Pony Scenes

by Hawkeye

Herd 18

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Herd 17

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Herd 16

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Herd 15

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