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Herd 15

By Hawkeye
Created: 18th December 2020 04:28:09 PM

  1. >There.
  2. >Everything is simply wonderful.
  3. >The tea lights are all lit, Applejack has the fire going, and Rarity has so far kept Pinkie Pie away from the food...
  4. >Yes, everything is just great.
  5. >Walking over to join Applejack, you can't help but feel nervous.
  6. >You only agreed to host this party because Sweet Apple Acres was too busy with applebuck season.
  7. >That's where all of your friends usually have their parties.
  8. >You had to bribe Angel with a really unhealthy amount of food to get him to wrangle the other rascals into behaving tonight...
  9. >Hopefully he doesn't get a tummy ache.
  10. >"Howdy, Shy. Looks like things are comin' together just fine!"
  11. "Yes. I agree."
  12. >"It's mighty kind of ya to host this," she says leaning in conspiratorially. "You know that this would be a black-tie affair if you'd've let Rares host."
  13. >You hide a giggle with your hoof.
  14. >She's right though.
  15. "Rarity just wants the best for Anon." you say, watching as the first few guests walk in.
  16. >"Psh, I guess she does, in her own highfalutin' way."
  17. "Now Applejack..."
  18. >"I know, I know. She's a good friend, even if we butt heads here and there."
  19. >You just offer her a smile, which gets one out of the overworked farmpony.
  20. >"Good t' see Flitter showed up."
  21. >Oh, did she?
  22. >Your eyes flit across the scene, looking for the pegasus.
  23. >Eventually you spot her off to the side by herself.
  24. >Before you can say anything, Applejack hollers out for her.
  25. >Slightly embarrassed, the purple pegasus canters over.
  26. >"Hello Applejack...Fluttershy. Is there something you needed?"
  27. >"Naw, but I couldn't leave you standing alone all night."
  28. "That's right" you add "Parties are for spending time with friends."
  29. >"Oh, um alright." she says, throwing a quick glance over her shoulder.
  30. >Something just feels off with Flitter, but you were always so much better at reading animals than ponies...
  31. >"You waitin' on somepony?"    
  32. >"No, not exactly..."
  33. >"Come on Sugarcube, what's got ya so nervous?" Applejack asks
  34. >Oh that's it, then.
  35. >"I'm hoping to, well...and I don't want to, um, you know-"
  36. >You think about how the girls would help you when you were a mumbling mess.
  37. >A thought comes to you.
  38. >Extending a wing, you rest it across Flitters back, and you gently steer her to sit by the fire.
  39. >"Heads up, y'all!" Applejack calls over, as she bucks the ice barrel, sending two ciders flying through the air in your direction.
  40. >You just don't know how she does that...
  41. >Landing perfectly in your hooves, you just share a look with Flitter.
  42. >"How does she...?"
  43. "It still makes more sense than anything Pinkie does." you mumble.
  44. >Flitter doesn't say anything as she fiddles with the cap on her bottle.
  45. >Applejack drops into a seat on the other side of Flitter, and pops her own top.
  46. >"Here." she says, swapping her open bottle with Flitters. "Now tell us what's got you in knots, Flitter."
  47. >You watch as she takes a gulp of her cider and pauses.
  48. >Applejack looks at you, an you give her your best puppy-dog eyes.
  49. >With a sigh, she hands you the open bottle in her hooves and takes yours, still stubbornly sealed.
  50. >Smiling happily, you take a sip as you hear Flitter inhale.
  51. >"I-I'm hoping to see Anon tonight, but even if I do I don't know what I'd say to him. I've been avoiding him because, well, you know..."
  52. >"Cloudchaser."
  53. >"Mhm!" she takes another swallow of cider. "And I'm afraid that she'll come and try to stop me f-from talking to him!"
  54. >"Well we won't let that happen, trust me."
  55. "I, um, didn't actually invite her." you add.
  56. >"Seriously, Shy?"
  57. "I, um, well it's hard to talk to ponies and she knows that I'm friends with you and Rainbow and I think she was avoiding me so..."
  58. >"Huh."
  59. >"That does sound like something Cloudy would do..." Flitter sighs resignedly.
  60. >"Well how 'bout this, Sugarcube. Me 'n' Rainbow will keep a lookout for your sister and keep her out of here, and Fluttershy over there will help you go talk to Anon."
  61. >You accidentally inhale some cider when she volunteers you.
  62. >Flitter pats your back as you sputter, and Applejack just watches with a bemused smirk.
  63. >As you catch your breath, she takes a swig and looks to Flitter.
  64. >"Well, how 'bout it?"
  65. "I'll- *cough* -I'll do my best." you offer meekly.
  66. >"O-okay. Yes. Okay!"
  67. >"That's the spirit, girl."
  68.  
  69.  
  70. >You are Roseluck
  71. >And the party has started by the time you get there, a fussy customer having made you late.
  72. >But it was just a colt trying to make sure the arrangement was /perfect/ for his marefriend, so you can only be a little mad at him.
  73. >Just a little.
  74. >Surveying the scene, you don't see any of the other girls here.
  75. >You grab a plate of food (Just a hayslider and some veggies) then head towards Rarity.
  76. >And you double back for a second.
  77. >(Just a hayslider, some veggies and a slice of cinnamon apple bread)
  78. >Turning to join your friend, you notice Aloe sitting by herself in the corner.
  79. >Seeing that Rarity is engaged with Redheart, you decide to sit with your herdmate.
  80. >Well, not technically herdmate yet...but Anon has reassured you that you will be in the Herd.
  81. >And your gut tells you that Aloe and Lotus are secure as well.
  82. >Lyra is a good pony, if a bit of a silly filly...she's probably in the weakest spot.
  83. >But Anon really seems to enjoy her foalish antics, so probably safe too.
  84. >It's a shame that he's being forced to find seven -seven!- mares by the Princesses.
  85. >You can't help but feel uneasy at the idea that one of the three new mares might take your spot as Alpha...
  86. >...it's not really even /your/ spot, you just like to think of it as yours.
  87. >Aloe squeaks out a friendly greeting that snaps you out of it.
  88. "Aloe, why are you over here?" you ask, realizing a moment too late how blunt that was.
  89. >"Oh, well, it's just that -well, without Lotus around I'm just not very good at parties." she sighs.
  90. >You tip your plate onto the end of the bench and then take a seat beside her.
  91. "Are you saying that the mare that hears all of the girly gossip in Ponyville is /shy/?" you ask, sliding to bump up against her.
  92. >"I'm not shy." she says defensively "I'm just quiet."
  93. "Okay. I get it. You're quiet, and nopony blinks when you and Lotus are at each other's side all night."
  94. >"Yes, exactly."
  95. "So Lotus breaks the ice and eventually you break loose when you find somepony to talk to?"
  96. >"That is usually how it works, yes." she admits.
  97. "Well how about you tag along with me until Lotus gets off work?"
  98. >She just nods and starts to get to her hooves when you hold out a hoof to stop her.
  99. "Stay, I have a date with some cinnamon apple bread first."
  100.  
  101.  
  102. >You are Rarity, and with the party finally underway, you were allowed to stop guarding the food against Pinkie Pie's pilfering.
  103. >Instead, you had been in a lovely conversation with Fluttershy and Redheart about all of the dresses at last weekend's Concert.
  104. >"-and Lotus and Aloe were really perfect in their matching shawls." Fluttershy opines.
  105. "It was simple, understated perhaps, but the look really did work for them." you hum "I would have chosen something a little flashier, something more /substantial/."
  106. >"And you did, of course." Redheart interjects. "You two and Princess Twilight had the finest gowns there."
  107. >"I almost felt overdressed." Fluttershy mumbles. "It was only a layer less than my Gala dress..."
  108. "Don't be silly, Fluttershy! That's because it /was/ a gala dress...simply a trial run for a few ideas I had for our dresses this year." you say, waving off her concerns. "Obviously none of the finished dresses will look like the ones we wore last weekend -Celestia forbid we wear Ponyville re-runs to the Gala!- but some of the cuts and frills and color schemes will come back...just you wait and see!"
  109. >"I'm sure they'll be gorgeous, Rarity."
  110. >"Yes, I'm sure they will." Fluttershy agrees.
  111. >"But why are you working on next year's Gala dresses in October?"
  112. "But darling, I simply /must/ start now!" you exclaim "After all, if I don't start working on ideas now, how will I ever have any concepts ready by January!?"
  113. >Redheart starts to question your logic but you don't let her.
  114. "And if I don't get the concepts started then, I'll never have the dresses done with enough time for adjustments and critique...oh no no no! I simply must start now!"
  115. >"Seriously, Rarity. How long can adjustments take?" the nurse asks.
  116. >Releasing a deep breath, you simply nod to Fluttershy.
  117. >"Oh, um, well sometimes we can get a little carried away." she explains sheepishly. "But we're getting better about it."
  118. "It's a work in progress." you nod sadly before switching tones "But, we are getting better, one stitch at a time!"
  119. >"You always were able to complete impossible tasks without enough time." Redheart opines.
  120. >This reminds you of something.
  121. >Something you need to ask Anonymous about.
  122. "Speaking of too much to do... don't let me leave without speaking to Anonymous."
  123. >"Oh, I can do that, but why?"
  124. "I heard a rumor from Canterlot that the Academy has doubled the scope of their newest expansion -including the botanical gardens."
  125. >Redheart and Fluttershy stare back at you blankly, and the pegasus awkwardly scuffs a patio tile.
  126. >You suppress a full eye-roll into an internal sigh, and breath in.
  127. "The Botanical Gardens that Anonymous is Chief Architect for."
  128. >"Okay. Yes, I can see why you would be interested in that." Fluttershy smiles "I won't let you forget. You two always made such a lovely pair."
  129. "Thank you. Now- wait a minute, I beg your pardon!?"
  130. >"Is-is that not why you wanted to talk to him?" she backpedals, looking around nervously "I just thought that was why you followed his work so closely!"
  131. >"Now Rarity, there's nothing wrong with having a little crush." Redheart jumps in, eyes alight as she sips from a bottle of Celestia-knows-what. "We won't spill your secret."
  132. "Anonymous is a good friend -a close friend!- but nothing more!" you rebuff them. "I am a monogamous mare...Herding is simply too messy for me."
  133. >"But if he wasn't in a herd...would you?" the nurse asks, leaning in close.
  134. >Fluttershy's eyes are wide and attentive, a faint blush peeking through the fur on her cheeks, ears up and alert for your response.
  135. "I don't know...I'd never really considered it, and creative types don't always get along very well." you sigh "But it doesn't matter now. He has his herd -and it is a simply darling little group so far if I might add."
  136. >"Somepony said herd, and that is our cue." Roseluck interjects, sauntering over accompanied by Aloe. "So what's the question?"
  137. "Oh nothing, we were just talking about dear Anon's current project-"
  138. >"And teasing Rarity about her relationship with Anon." Redheart adds, earning a fierce scowl.
  139. >"Oh, are you finally ready to admit you have feelings for him, or are you going to let the Herd fill up without you?"
  140. >Et tu, Roseluck?
  141. "Roseluck, please, I couldn't-" you stammer.
  142. >"You could." she says, suddenly serious. "I don't think Anon would be ready for it, but I'm sure he'd accept you in a heartbeat."
  143. >You don't know what to say.
  144. >Anon is a true Gentlecolt, but you meant what you said about being a monogamous mare.
  145. >You aren't prepared for this at all!
  146. >So you just stare back at her silently as Aloe steps up.
  147. >"She's right." the pink mare offers. "I'm sure of it too."
  148. >"But he's a typical colt." Rose continues. "Clueless and clumsy with mares until he finds his footing -it's no wonder he never had any luck with those fussy Canterlot mares- and he'd never make a move and risk your friendship."
  149. >"But, um, he and I went out for a tiny bit. And we're still friends."
  150. >"But how much cajoling did Rarity have to do to make that happen?" Aloe objects "Remember, Lotus and I listened to all of your scheming to make that happen."
  151. >"He's a good colt, Rarity. We'd be happy to have you." the florist offers.
  152. >"Or you, for that matter, Fluttershy." Aloe adds with a small smile.
  153. >"Oh no no no! I really can't! I'm afraid I'm just...I'm just not ready for a coltfriend again!"
  154. >"What, I'm not invited? I am hurt, Roseluck." Redheart asks in mock offense. "I thought we were friends."
  155.  >The two go back and forth -with the occasional quip from Aloe or Fluttershy- leaving you free to withdraw to your thoughts for a moment.
  156. >Anonymous and you were so similar sometimes that he was always able to understand what you were going through.
  157. >On the other hoof, there was something to what you had said earlier...you two were excellent at commiserating over your creative woes, but was that enough to start a relationship?
  158. >And were you ready to join a Herd?
  159. >You had always dreamed of meeting a devoted patrician from Canterlot and living the high life...Anonymous promised a life constantly rubbing against that city's upper crust.
  160. >But the colt had an odd fascination with Ponyville, and a life with him would be putting down permanent roots here.
  161. >And you still weren't sure if you could share a colt.
  162. >One doesn't hear all the gossip and not hear any about oneself, and the rumor was that you were a rather time-consuming marefriend.
  163. >Not that there was anything wrong with being attached to your coltfriends!
  164. >But still, you had never considered the idea, and it was one that made you uneasy.
  165. >As Roseluck giggles into her hoof, you remember your bearings and take another sip of cider.
  166. >Unrefined? Perhaps.
  167. >Delicious? Most definitely.
  168. >As you tune back into the conversation, you catch Fluttershy watching you and she offers a knowing smile.
  169. >You know exactly what she's going to say at your next spa date.
  170.  
  171.  
  172. >Bouncing along the path, you can't help but feel excited.
  173. >You last performance was a success, and now you'll have lots of time and bits to spend with Anon!
  174. >Though you are a little anxious about trying to set Bonbon up on a date.
  175. >Anon agreed already, kind of, so you're pretty sure he'll say yes.
  176. >Getting Bonbon to warm up to him first is the tricky part!
  177. >But with a little help from your herdmates (and maybe Tavi) you're sure that you can convince her to give Anon a shot.
  178. >As you reach the back yard, you quickly spot Roseluck and Aloe in a group of ponies.
  179. >Aloe says something to Roseluck, and they break free to come join you at the buffet table.
  180. >A mare can't think straight on an empty stomach!
  181. >You put your plate down to accept a small nuzzle from Aloe.
  182. >...!
  183. >And Roseluck!?
  184. >You're surprised, she never seemed like an affectionate pony...
  185. >Except around Anon, of course.
  186. >(And you can certainly forgive her for that!)
  187. >Greetings aside, you pile your plate high with cobbler and pie (and maybe a few cookies...) and that cinnamon apple bread looks pretty good...
  188. >By the time you finish, Bonnie has left with the girls, and you have to track them to a bench near one of the fires.
  189. >Rude...
  190. >You did take a long time though.
  191. >It's hard to load a plate this expertly though!
  192. >A pony must have patience.
  193. >And balance.
  194. >Dropping into the seat beside Bonnie, you push up against her.
  195. >Just a little.
  196. >Which pushes her against Aloe.
  197. >Who pushes back.
  198. >Just a little.
  199. >"Cut it out, Lyra." Bonbon scolds you, causing Aloe to giggle cutely.
  200. >You look over and her plate doesn't have a single dessert on it.
  201. >For a confectioner, Bonnie sure doesn't have much of a sweet tooth...
  202. >"How was the final concert?" Roseluck asks.
  203. "Oh, it was good. Afternoon shows are always kind of light on attendance, lots of old ponies. But it went well."
  204. >"So you're going to have lots of free time for a while, then?"
  205. "Well, my other group will be working now. But I will have some free time."
  206. >"You're always welcome to come by the spa if we're not busy."
  207. >"Same for the flower shop. It'd be nice to have some backup against my younger sisters once in a while."
  208. >"Backup?" Bonnie asks.
  209. >"It's nothing." Rose says, shaking her mane. "They're just a little nosy."
  210. >"I hate that." your friend commisserates. "You'd think that, being an adult, ponies would stop trying to set you up with their friends like you're still in the academy together."
  211. >Okay, that was unnecessary.
  212. >You're trying your best!
  213. >Geeze, you didn't think that she'd be so grumpy about going to a party.
  214. >This might be harder than you thought.
  215. >But it's nothing you can't overcome!
  216. >But first: cookies!
  217.  
  218.  
  219. >Checking your suit one more time, you make your way across the leaf-strewn lawn and around the side of Fluttershy's home.
  220. >In back, the party is already going, though there aren't too many ponies here yet.
  221. >Before you can even greet Fluttershy, a familiar bump to your leg announces Roseluck at your side.
  222. "Hey, princess."
  223. >"Kind of late to show up to your own party."
  224. "First off, this isn't technically my party." you counter "Also, I really needed to finish something and get it sent before I left the office."
  225. >"C'mon. I've barely seen you all week." she says, grabbing the bottom of your coat and dragging you over to a corner of the yard.
  226. >Putting your back against a tree, you can clearly watch the party from here, and it's a nice thing Fluttershy has going here.
  227. >Sliding into a sitting position, you lean your head back against the tree and close your eyes.
  228. >A warm muzzle plants a kiss on your cheek.
  229. >...and then your neck!?
  230. >Eyes snapping open, you turn to find...still just Rose.
  231. >She poorly covers a giggle with her hoof.
  232. >"Okay, Lotus might be on to something."
  233. "Oh?" you ask, wrapping an arm around her barrel. "And what is that?"
  234. >"It's funny how red you turn when caught by surprise."
  235. "Funny, huh?" you reply, pulling her into your lap "Or is it that the ever responsible Roseluck is a bit of a voyeur? Hmmm? Wants to have her belly rubbed where there's a chance somepony might see us?"
  236. >"Anon, no!"
  237. "Leading me away like a couple of teenagers, but not so far away that Aloe won't spot us?"
  238. >"Anon!" she objects as you begin to rub an ear.
  239. "No?"
  240. >"MMMnhh...Anon..."
  241. "Yessss?"
  242. >"Just, let's just do this. Okay?"
  243. "Oh, so I'm just a source of ear rubs, huh?"
  244. >"Yes. Ear rubs and stress."
  245. "I resent that."
  246. >"Then change it."
  247. "And how do I do that?"
  248. >"Quit your job and come work with me."
  249. >You can't help but laugh.
  250. >Roseluck looks up, annoyed, but quickly relaxes into a giggle of her own.
  251. "Sorry, not an option. Other suggestions?"
  252. >"Finish building the Herd so we can hurry up to Happily Ever After?" she says, staring up at you with big, innocent eyes.
  253. >Goddamnit how do ponies do that!?
  254. "I can work on that."
  255. >"Good." she says, placing a peck on your jaw. "There are lots of mares down at the party. You should be able to find three good ones there."
  256. "Yeah, too bad one of my marefriends stole me away from that."
  257. >"You'll live."
  258. >She just gets a hum in response.
  259. >It's just a few minutes, but it seems longer as you just sit there with Roseluck's head in your lap, making small contented noises as you pet her.
  260. >"It's good to see Flitter here."
  261. "Oh, she actually showed up?" you say, squinting across the lawn at the party. "Huh. Yeah, it's good that she got away from her sister for a while."
  262. >"You should go talk to her tonight."
  263. "Why?"
  264. >"Anon."
  265. "What?"
  266. >She reaches up with a hoof, gently steering your gaze downwards to look at her.
  267. >"She's a cute mare."
  268. "She is."
  269. >"She's interested in you."
  270. "Is she?"
  271. >"She is."
  272. "She doesn't show it."
  273. >"Hmmmm." Rose replies, closing her eyes and shaking her head. "You're such a colt, you know that?"
  274. "Am I aware that I am a guy...yes, I am aware."
  275. >If Rose's eyes roll any harder she's going to knock you both over...
  276. >Instead, she gives you a firm rap on the chest.
  277. >"Flitter is interested." she informs you. "But she's a quiet and shy pony."
  278. "With an angry and overbearing sister."
  279. >"That too." Roseluck agrees "But Cloudchaser isn't invited to this party, so you should take the chance to talk to her!"
  280. "Oh, is that an official Roseluck seal of approval?"
  281. >"It is."
  282. "I see." you muse deeply. "Anyone else I should talk to tonight, oh wise matchmaker?"
  283. >"I think Lyra would like you to talk to her friends. Bonbon, Octavia, I think Hazel is going to be here too."
  284. "Well that's three right there." you offer, clapping your hands together as if to seal a deal. "I'll just add them and make Lyra the Alpha Mare. It's the perfect plan!"
  285. >You get another tap on the chest for it, but when you look down Rose is smiling.
  286. >"Anon."
  287. "I know, I know. Lyra would have a nervous breakdown if I made her Alpha."
  288. >"It might be fun to suggest the idea to her though." she says "Just to see what happens."
  289. "Maybe I will. Anyone else?"
  290. >"I will likely be with Rarity and Redheart most of the night, you should stop by. Rarity-"
  291. >She pauses.
  292. >"...you two would be a good match, I think."
  293. "You think?"
  294. >"I do."
  295. "Does it make you nervous?"
  296. >"It does."
  297. >There is a pause while you're both thinking.
  298. >Rarity would be a good addition, especially if Rose is okay with it.
  299. >But is she actually okay with it?
  300. >Would they still be friends after both jockeying for the Alpha role?
  301. >You take a deep breath.
  302. "Thank you for being honest, Rose. Some women-err, mares- would try to keep me away from Rarity if they thought she was competition."
  303. >"We're both good friends with Rarity. It only makes sense."
  304. "She's a good pony."
  305. >"Maybe a little dramatic."
  306. "Just a little." you say and start to get up, but a tiny whine makes you look down.
  307. >Roseluck stares back up at you, emerald eyes wide and pleading.
  308. "I guess I can stay a while."
  309. >"Just give me a few more minutes." she asks. "I don't get you to myself very often!"
  310. "Of course." you say, scooping her up for a fierce cuddling.
  311. >She objects feebly before accepting her fate.
  312.  
  313.  
  314. >Fluttershy has done a really good job with this party.
  315. >And she didn't even use the checklist you made for her!
  316. >Incredible!
  317. >She may be the Element of Kindness, but she sure knows how to be Generous too!
  318. >It seems like half of the town is here tonight, and you can see Anon and Roseluck off on their own, having a quiet conversation.
  319. >Fluttershy really nailed it on the head with Roseluck.
  320. >It may have been more chance encounter than planning, but if she hadn't sent Anon to Zecora's, he never would have met Rose.
  321. >You can't help but feel a little twinge of jealousy watching them together.
  322. >Of course, there is still space in his herd...
  323. >You bite your lip, imagining working beside him on some complicated and technical project.
  324. >Your focus interrupted by the occasional hand running through your mane as he checks to make sure you're doing okay.
  325. >"Twilight, I'm glad that you're still here!"
  326. >What?
  327. >Who...?
  328. >OH, it's Cadence!
  329. >It's weird that she's looking for you...you spent all afternoon with her and Shiny!
  330. >And they told you that she's expecting, how exciting!
  331. >You're going to be an Auntie!
  332. "Hi Cadence!" you beam "I wasn't sure if you would come tonight or not."
  333. >"It seemed like a good opportunity to check on Anon."
  334. >Doubling up work and play. Practical.
  335. "He's over by the tree with Roseluck right now."
  336. >She glances around, and lingers for a moment on the couple, before taking a seat beside you.
  337. >From here, the two of you can surreptitiously watch Anon, but also his other mares, which you point out to Cadence.
  338. >It is an excellent vantage point.
  339. >And it's close enough to the food that you don't have to even get up.
  340. >Instead you occasionally snag a bit of something with your magic.
  341. >"You know, Anon isn't the only lonely pony that Celestia and Luna are concerned about."
  342. >Huh?
  343. >"They've asked me to help you."
  344. "I don't know, Anon seems to be doing alright. He has four mares he's very attached to already, and it's only been a little over a month."
  345. >"Not help you with Anon, Twilight. To help /you/."
  346. >Oh no.
  347. >Nonononono.
  348. "Help me?" you ask nervously.
  349. >"Yes, you." she explains "I've set you up with a date for next weekend."
  350. >Help.
  351. >Heeeeeelp!
  352. >Somepony get you out of here!
  353. "Well, I, uhhh-"
  354. >"He is a great colt, Twilight. I think you two will have enough in common to hit it off, and enough differences to keep things interesting." she beams, ignorant to your discomfort.
  355. "Gee, thanks Cadence." you force through gritted teeth.
  356. >She starts to lecture you about, well, being you.
  357. >Always lost in your books or research.
  358. >Not going out enough.
  359. >Blah blah blah.
  360. >Looking up, you see Rose scold Anon firmly with a hoof tap...but she's smiling.
  361. >And now they're laughing.
  362. >You want to know what they're talking about.
  363. >Cadence drones on, and you start to wonder...what if you told her you wanted in on Anon's herd?
  364. >What would she say?
  365. >What would Shiny say?
  366. >Or Celestia for that matter?
  367. >Oh no.
  368. >What if Luna knows?
  369. >She can see your dreams...she probably does!
  370. >Is that why they put Cadence up to this?
  371. >It isn't normal for a Princess to join a Herd, maybe it's against the rules?
  372. >You don't know.
  373. >But you have to find out.
  374. >Also, you need to find an excuse to get out of this date.
  375. >Like, dragon-attacking-Appleoosa level excuse.
  376. >You'll talk to the girls.
  377. >They always know how to help.
  378. >"Well, I guess you'll get to know more about him next Saturday." Cadence says "Auntie should be sending a train ticket on Monday, you'll be staying at the castle for the weekend."
  379. "Okay... I'll look out for it." you say, plastering your best fake smile on.
  380. >"Don't look so nervous, Twily." she says, shaking her head "I'm the expert at this, remember?"
  381. >Oh you remember.
  382. >You remember her telling you all about her frustrations with Anon.
  383. >And Rarity hinted that he felt the same way about Cadence.
  384. >You won't bring that up though.
  385. "If you say so."
  386. >"I do." she insists. "Now where did my husband escape to?"
  387.  
  388.  
  389.  
  390. >Closing the door to the spa, you are careful to lock the door behind you.
  391. >A quick look at your reflection in the window confirms that your pink mane is still perfect.
  392. >It was a quiet evening after Aloe left.
  393. >Mostly just cleaning and watching the clock.
  394. >But now it's off to see Anonymous!
  395. >And the girls.
  396. >And go to a party.
  397. >But you've got your priorities in order.
  398. >And a good Alpha mare takes care of her stallion!
  399. >Humming with cheerful determination, you trot towards the edge of town.
  400. >As you cross the bridge, you spot a familiar face staring at the water.
  401. "Miss Octavia?"
  402. >"Oh, hello. Was it...Lotus?"
  403. >You offer a small nod and stand beside her.
  404. >The river moves lazily, reflecting the fading colors of twilight as the night approaches.
  405. "Are you coming to the party?"
  406. >She hesitates.
  407. >"I was." she explains "But now I'm not so sure."
  408. >You look over, but sometimes it's best just to listen.
  409. >Sometimes you think that is the real reason Rarity comes to the spa...to hear her thoughts out loud.
  410. >The grey mare sighs and continues.
  411. >"I won't know anypony there besides Lyra and Bonbon."
  412. "You know me."
  413. >"I've met you, and the rest of Anonymous' herd, yes."
  414. >But...
  415. >"But the only ones I /really/ know are Lyra and Bonbon and, well just listen to me unloading on you." she says, straightening up "I apologize, I'm keeping you from your friends."
  416. >She starts to turn back into town.
  417. "Octavia, don't go. I know Lyra really wants to spend time with you, don't you want to see her again before you go?"
  418. >"I do." she responds slowly.
  419. "Then why leave now?"
  420. >With a deep breath, she returns to her place watching the river.
  421. >"I don't know if she will have time for me."
  422. "Why would you say that?"
  423. >"She's trying to get Bonbon a date with Anonymous."
  424. >Silly.
  425. >But very much like Lyra.
  426. >She wants her friends to be happy, and you're glad to call her your herdmate.
  427. >"And Bonbon could use a little attention to lift her spirits so I don't want to interfere."
  428. "So let's go to the party, and you can help Lyra with her little scheme." you propose. "And if she doesn't need help, you can stick close to me and the girls."
  429. >"I suppose..."
  430. "Let's go. I don't want to miss any more than I already have!"
  431. >Stepping away from the railing, you look at her expectantly.
  432. >...and she gives you a small smile and joins you.
  433. >And with that, you're on your way once more.
  434.  
  435.  
  436. >Carrying a couple of bottles of cider in your magic, you return to your group to find it has changed.
  437. >Roseluck is gone, but Lotus and Tavi are here now.
  438. >Good thing you grabbed a few extras!
  439. >You drop one in each ponies lap before sandwiching yourself between Bonnie and Lotus.
  440. >"There's plenty of space, Lyra." Bonbon grumbles as you squeeze into place.
  441. >Ignoring her protests, you turn to Lotus, who gives you a hug.
  442. >This herd thing is great!
  443. >If only Bonbon would give it a chance, maybe she wouldn't be so grumpy anymore.
  444. >Speaking of grumpy Bonbons, the one next to you gets up and heads towards the buffet.
  445. >You watch, and when she's far enough away you clear your throat.
  446. "Girls, I need some help."
  447. >"What is it, Lyra?" Aloe asks.
  448. "That mare" you point to Bonnie "needs a date with Anon."
  449. >Tavi and Lotus share a look and Aloe considers the idea.
  450. >"We both know that she doesn't like surprises." Tavi says. "So maybe start bringing her along with the group?"
  451. >"You could have them both over for dinner." Aloe suggests
  452. "I, uhhh..."
  453. >"I can come help if you let me know ahead of time." Lotus offers helpfully.
  454. "Thanks, Lotus. You girls are the best."
  455.  
  456.  
  457. >So far the party has been going just wonderful.
  458. >Lots of ponies showed up, Anon and his herd are all having a good time, there's lots of food...
  459. >And Applejack even convinced Flitter to come, and has been with her all night.
  460. >She and Rainbow have been telling the starry-eyed pegasus all about Anon's hoofball exploits.
  461. >You can't help but giggle at how she's hanging on Rainbow's every word.
  462. >Applejack was right, she really does have a huge crush on Anon.
  463. >A tug on your tail makes you turn around, but nopony is there.
  464. >Well that wasn't very...oh, it's Angel Bunny.
  465. "Hello Angel, is one of the critters giving you trouble?"
  466. >It would be surprising, but a party like this might make some of them nervous.
  467. >Hopefully it isn't anything important.
  468. >Your irritable li'l rabbit goes through a series of hops and gestures.
  469. >All while frowning, of course.
  470. >A pony is coming.
  471. >A pegasus.
  472. >With a spikey mane?
  473. >She's purple with-oh no!
  474. >It's Cloudchaser, you just know it!
  475. >You motion for Angel to lead the way, and you follow him around the side of the house.
  476. >Sure enough, a scowling purple pegasus mare is stomping towards the party.
  477. >Think strong, Fluttershy.
  478. >Think about what Rainbow Dash would do.
  479. >Okay, maybe not that.
  480. >You don't want to hurt anypony.
  481. >Maybe what Applejack would do?
  482. >Yes.
  483. >You'll politely let firmly ask her to leave.
  484. >That's what you'll do.
  485. >"Fluttershy."
  486. "Oh, um. Hello, Cloudchaser."
  487. >"I've come to collect my sister."
  488. "Well, um, can't she fly home on her own?"
  489. >"Apparently not."
  490. "I don't understand."
  491. >"She shouldn't be here. I am coming to get her."
  492. >And with that she moves around you.
  493. >But you muster just enough courage to block her path again.
  494. "I'm s-sorry, but this is a private p-party." you stammer, struggling to stand firm. "You need to leave, please."
  495. >Oh why did you say please!
  496. >For ponies sake, Fluttershy...
  497. >"I'm not leaving without Flitter. Understand?" she growls.
  498. >"I reckon if Fluttershy told ya to leave, you'd best do so."
  499. >Applejack!
  500. >"Yeah, no pony talks to my friends that way!"
  501. >Rainbow Dash!
  502. >You can feel your heart swelling, knowing that your friends are here for you.
  503. >It's swelling so much, you're feeling faint.
  504. >Pull it together, Fluttershy!
  505. >"Now this is Fluttershy's party, at her place on her land full of ponies invited by her."
  506. >"An invite you didn't get!"
  507. >"I know you don't much like Flitter hangin' around me, Rainbow and definitely not Anon. But that just isn't your call. She's a grown mare, and she's having' a good time."
  508. >"So just scram already!"
  509. >The ponies on either side of you step forward and together, putting themselves between you and the smoldering pegasus.
  510. >There is a long pause as Cloudchaser tries to stare your friends down.
  511. >"This isn't over." Cloudchaser spits, spreading her wings and taking to the air.
  512. >"I s'ppose not."
  513. >Rainbow unfurls hers as well, just in case, but Cloudchaser retreats into the night.
  514. >Once she's gone, your knees give out and you collapse onto the ground.
  515. >Immediately you feel your friends curl up against you, and a wing drapes across your back.
  516. >"Aw 'Shy, you did real good."
  517. >"Yeah, you kept her away long enough for us to notice, and that's all the break we needed!"
  518. >"She's gone now, and you know we've got your back."
  519. "Th-thanks girls." you sniffle "Oh dear, it was just so...I don't even know..."
  520. >They lay there in the grass with you for a few minutes, waiting for your nerves to calm down, before Applejack gets to her hooves.
  521. >"Alright girls, let's get back before someone notices we're missin'."
  522. >"Do we tell Flitter?"
  523. "No!" you exclaim, getting to your hooves and following them. "It would ruin her evening. You mustn't!"
  524. >"Alright, geeze." Rainbow says. "We'll keep this between us."
  525. "Thank you."
  526.  
  527.  
  528. >It's been over an hour since Applejack told you about Cloudchaser.
  529. >You're proud of Fluttershy for handling it so well!
  530. >You would have gone to help too if they would have asked.
  531. >Rarity and Pinkie would have as well, you're sure of it.
  532. >Where is Pinkie, anyways?
  533. >You know she's here somewhere...
  534. >Wandering around the party, you spot Anon talking with Lyra, Bonbon and Octavia.
  535. >No fair!
  536. >You were going to introduce him to Octavia!
  537. >It wasn't just anypony who could orchestrate a big soloist like her playing with a small orchestra like Ponyvilles.
  538. >Darn musicians, all knowing each other and stuff.
  539. >"HI TWILIGHT!"
  540. >Gah!
  541. "Ahhh!"
  542. >"Ahhh!"
  543. "Pinkie! You shouldn't sneak up on ponies like that!"
  544. >"Sorry Twilight. You just looked deep in thought, so I didn't want to disturb you."
  545. "So you shouted in my ear!?"
  546. >"I might have gotten impatient." she chuckles awkwardly before bouncing back to her exuberant self. "Whatcha thinkin' about?"
  547. "Oh, I was actually looking for you and then noticed Anon and Octavia talking."
  548. >"Ooooh."
  549. "What?"
  550. >"You gonna go join them?"
  551. "I mean, maybe. Why are you looking at me like that?"
  552. >Pinkie shrugs.
  553. >"I don't know, maybe because I think you should~"
  554. "Pinkie..."
  555. >The pink party pony plops her plot down beside you and smooshes her face against yours.
  556. >You've learned not to fight it.
  557. >"Twilight, we both know you've got the hots for Anon."
  558. "I-I don't know what you're-"
  559. >She stuffs a caramel apple into your mouth.
  560. >"I'm not telling you to go sit in his lap, you silly filly." she says, rolling her eyes "Just go spend time with him instead of watching him from across the yard. Sheesh, and you call me creepy!"
  561. >That's not a fair comparison!
  562. "Thss'n'a fr- grrrr" you grumble, chomping away at the candy coated fruit.
  563. >You can't help but appreciate the fact that Applejack used honeycrisps for this.
  564. >Excellent choice.
  565. >Wait, no, focus Sparkle!
  566. >You're being irritated with...where in Tartarus did she go?
  567. >That mare is going to be the death of you.
  568. >Finishing your caramel apple, you dispose of the stick and magic your muzzle clean.
  569. >Seeing that Pinkie is gone again, you return your focus to Anon.
  570. >Maybe Pinkie is right.
  571. >You'll just go join in, nothing awkward about it.
  572. >You're his friend, after all!
  573.  
  574.  
  575. >You watch as Anon helps Pinkie Pie move all of the patio furniture.
  576. >He's so strong!
  577. >He's also very tall, so maybe for a human this is just normal?
  578. >You should ask him.
  579. >The way he tossed you on the bed the other day...unf!
  580. >Calm yourself, Heartstrings, you're in public!
  581. >Anon starts to come back over when Pinkie starts playing some music, and Aloe quickly intercepts him, steering him back out onto the improvised dance floor.
  582. >You really don't know if he's doing a good job dancing.
  583. >He's moving to the beat, but you've never seen a human dance other than Anon.
  584. >"Lyra, you're staring." Hazel teases from beside you, eliciting a giggle from Lotus on your other side.
  585. "I-I was just thinking about his dancing!"
  586. >"It's alright, he's your coltfriend." Lotus coos. "I find myself staring at him sometimes too."
  587. >That's not helpful, Lotus!
  588. >And now you aren't thinking about his dancing anymore.
  589. >Now you're remembering the night you waited in bed for him to come home!
  590. >It's a good thing you were already blushing, this is terrible!
  591. >"You should go take the next song, I'm sure your herdmate won't mind."
  592. >That's probably true.
  593. >But you dance almost as badly as Twilight!
  594. >You even kicked the chocolate fountain over at your senior gala!
  595. >Meringue was a jerk, so you don't feel bad he got soaked... but poor Mister Spanner had to clean it up!
  596. >He was such a nice old stallion!
  597. >No, you couldn't possibly dance.
  598. >You'd just embarrass yourself in front of Anon.
  599. >"Lyra? Lyyyyyra? We're just teasing you, love." Hazel reassures you.
  600. >What?
  601. >Oh, your ears are down, aren't they.
  602. >This intuitive chef pony and her empathy!
  603. >She's like a Roseluck that cooks!
  604. >Actually, Rose does cook, and pretty well too!
  605. >So does Lotus, and if Lotus does you'd bet that Aloe does.
  606. >Only you know how to burn water, in fact-
  607. >"Lyra, we were only joking." Lotus says, interrupting your thoughts with a hug. "But if you aren't going to take the next song, I am."
  608. >She hops off the bench and trots up to Anon and Aloe, and her sister starts heading back to join you.
  609. >Lotus and Aloe are so graceful!
  610. >You dance like a spastic.
  611. >And they cook.
  612. >And you...you've never had a coltfriend before and have to fight to keep your place in the Herd!
  613. >This would be easier if Bonnie was with you, but she's one hundred percent against being setup on a date by you!
  614. >Maybe Tavi can help you.
  615. >You know that the girls will all tell you that you've got nothing to worry about.
  616. >But that isn't true!
  617. >Sure, being cute is a good trait in a marefriend!
  618. >And you're good at that, Anon told you so!
  619. >But is it a good enough to become a wife?
  620. >"You are verrrry quiet, Lyra." Hazel observes.
  621. "Huh?"
  622. >"You did not even notice your herdmate, Aloe, come and go." she says "So what troubles you?"
  623. >Looking around, you see that it's just the two of you here now.
  624. "I, uh...oh Hazel, I'm hopeless!" you lament. "I don't know anything about herding. I'm not cut out to be an alpha, I can't dance, and you've *seen* me cook before and I don't even really know anything about colts to begin with and- oh I just don't know how I'm supposed to keep up with the other girls!"
  625. >Staring down at the patio bricks, you feel a pair of hooves wrap you in a hug.
  626. >"You are a wonderful mare, and that was one time-"
  627. "Two times. The Caramel."
  628. >"Two times." she chuckles, still stroking your mane. "Even ponies who have cutie marks in cooking still make mistakes now and then, Lyra."
  629. "The other girls don't..."
  630. >"Lyra, my lovely little Lyra, surely you cannot really think that you have nothing to offer."
  631. "I think I'm pretty cute!" you squeak out, twiddling your hooves.
  632. >"Yes, I think so too. And I think Anonymous thinks so as well." She says, stroking your mane. "It is a good start, no?"
  633. "I guess."
  634. >"It was enough to get you into the Herd, wasn't it?"
  635. "Yeah...it was."
  636. >"So what is the matter? It sounds like you are doing great!"
  637. "Well...humans take a long time to date." you explain slowly "So we're all dating him together, but we aren't officially a Herd yet."
  638. >"Ooooh, so you're afraid some mare with a little more *experience* to offer is going to push you out?"
  639. >You nod.
  640. >"I think this unlikely. But, if you are worried, I will help you with whatever crazy scheme you have in mind."
  641. "Scheme?"
  642. >"You don't have a plan?"
  643. >A plan?
  644. >No not really...unless...
  645. "Teach me how to cook?"
  646. >Hazel blinks in surprise.
  647. "Lotus said there are two ways to a colt's heart, through his stomach and ...uhhh..."
  648. >Your friend smirks broadly at the fierce blush burning on your face as you stutter.
  649. >"Yes, I have heard this adage before." she laughs. "I will teach you to cook, but are you sure you don't want to pursue a two-pronged attack?"
  650. >What does she mean by....!
  651. >Well yes, you certainly do want that...but you can't just talk about that at a party!
  652. >"Oh my. Well then you just come over some morning during the week and I will help you with one half of this plan."
  653.  
  654.  
  655. >To quote Applejack: "Aw ponyfeathers".
  656. >You chickened out.
  657. >Instead of sitting next to Anon, you put Octavia between you.
  658. >You wanted to slide into their conversation instead of awkwardly butting in.
  659. >But of course you got carried away and started talking about Trotmaninoff's work with the cellist and now Anonymous is out on the dance floor with Lotus.
  660. >Darn it, Sparkle!
  661. >If you don't speak up soon it's all going to fall apart!
  662. >Anon will fill his Herd and Cadence will have an endless list of suitors and blind dates...
  663. >...this could be karma, you suppose, for encouraging her to do the same for Anon.
  664. >"He is surprisingly agile for such a gangly stallion."
  665. >What?
  666. "What?"
  667. >"Anonymous. I wouldn't imagine somepony built like him to dance so well."
  668. "How can you even tell? It's not like we have anything to compare him to." you ask skeptically.
  669. >"His motions are well timed to match the beat of the music, he seems to have good situational awareness and the motions are controlled and deliberate."
  670. >Moving in sync to the beat of the music is probably the definition of dancing.
  671. >Logically, that works.
  672. >But controlled and deliberate...?
  673. "So you're saying that his dancing is confident?"
  674. >Octavia pauses, then nods.
  675. >"Yes. I hadn't intended it like that, but I see how you came to that conclusion."
  676. >Anon has probably been drinking.
  677. >Which helps him dance confidently.
  678. >He told you that once.
  679. >Anon...
  680. >You were supposed to be helping to build his herd, but mostly you just wanted in yourself.
  681. >But what if...
  682. >You cast a glance at the grey mare beside you.
  683. >Intelligent, traditional and reserved...and even Rarity appreciates her good taste.
  684. >All things you would look for in a companion.
  685. >Plus she's already friends with Lyra!
  686. >She is perfect.
  687. "Do you dance?"
  688. >The sudden question catches her off guard, and she chokes on a crostini in a rather undignified way.
  689. "Err, are you okay?"
  690. >"I...I am fine." she wheezes.
  691. "Touchy subject?"
  692. >"No...well yes, but it shouldn't be." she explains as she regains her composure. "It shouldn't be. But I dance to more classical pieces."
  693. "I happen to know the DJ if you want to put in a request." you offer, "It's getting late, and most of the ponies are wandering home, nopony will mind."
  694. >She seems unsure still.
  695. >Maybe later.
  696. >"And you princess? Do you dance?"
  697. "No no no, not really." you answer "It's, well it's something I need some improvement in."
  698. >She offers the tiniest of grins at your tactful response.
  699. >"If it makes you feel better, I do not know how to dance the way Anonymous and Aloe are."
  700. "It's a skill, and I don't know where they learned."
  701. >"They probably learned by doing, and they probably weren't very good at it at first."
  702. "So practice? But how do you practice without embarrassing yourself?
  703. >"I do not know. Alcohol, perhaps. Or maybe they're willing to look a little silly so long as they have fun." she shrugs. "I am not the pony to ask."
  704. >"Who cares what ponies think if you're having FUN!" a voice shouts into your ear.
  705. >Now it's your turn to choke as part of your tart goes down the wrong pipe.
  706. >For Celestia's sake, Pinkie...
  707. >Octavia appears just as shell shocked.
  708. >"But don't worry, I know a few fancy orchestra types! I've got just the song for you!"
  709. >And before you can even say anything she's gone again.
  710. >As the song winds down, she waves at you then points at Octavia, the rock beat having been replaced by strings, almost imperceptibly quiet but rising in a slow crescendo.
  711. >Right, you've got to get her out there.
  712.  
  713.  
  714. >Standing over a passed out Rainbow Dash you can't help but notice an unusual change of music.
  715. >As Redheart makes sure that the pegasus is still alive, you watch a heated conversation between Twilight and Octavia across the dance floor from you.
  716. >Soon enough the grey mare plods onto the floor with some trepidation.
  717. >Anon is then pushed out there by Pinkie and Lyra.
  718. >Oh Twilight, subtlety is not thy name.
  719. >Still, you can't help but approve in her choice of mare.
  720. >You have long said that Anonymous could use a more refined influence in his life.
  721. >An influence you have tried to be.
  722. >Your decision to go with either Aloe or Lotus (who could have thought he'd take *both* of them!) was a reflection of that.
  723. >They aren't as reserved as the cellist, for sure.
  724. >But they can at least appreciate the finer things.
  725. >"Dash is fine." Redheart says, straightening up  "Just passed out, as usual."
  726. "That is wonderful to hear." you sigh. "Perhaps someday she will learn the definition of moderation."
  727. >"I wouldn't count on it." the nurse quips back.
  728. >"What have I missed?" Roseluck asks, returning with a plate stacked high with miniature ├ęclairs.
  729. >Plucking one from her proffered plate, you ponder the couple on the dance floor.
  730. >"Oh, what have we here?" Red asks, before snagging a pastry for herself. "And what have we here~"
  731. >All three of you watch the musician lead Anonymous around the floor.
  732. >Surveying the rest of the party, most ponies aren't paying attention, and a few of the more cultured ones are out there themselves.
  733. >"Another single mare bites the dust." Redheart opines, earning a scoff from Roseluck.
  734. "A single dance hardly begets a relationship." you counter. "I've danced with Anonymous, after all."
  735. >"That's almost in Red's favor, isn't it?" Roseluck asks.
  736. "What can you possibly mean by that?"
  737. >"I have just noticed that the only mares who spend as much time with Anonymous as you do are myself and the girls."
  738. "We've been over this-"
  739. >"I know, I know." she backtracks "You're a monogamous mare."
  740. >Humph.
  741. "Well perhaps the mare who complains about being single should take notes." you deflect with a pointed look at Redheart.
  742. >"W-well, I..."
  743. >"Go ahead, every other mare in town is after him." Roseluck says with a shake of her head. "Might as well have you join the chase too."
  744. >Redheart begins to protest but you will have none of that.
  745. "And don't even think about saying you're too old." you preempt. "I've already explained why Anonymous won't care...or notice, probably."
  746. >Roseluck laughs and Redheart scowls.
  747. >You, however, return your attention to the pair on the dance floor.
  748. >There are a few other couples out there, but you don't care about them -only Anonymous and Octavia hold your interest.
  749. >Some more culture would do Anonymous good, and it seemed like the musician needed some assistance getting out more, so perhaps they will do well together?
  750. >Poor Roseluck can barely keep the three others in check as it is.
  751. >A more reserved mare might help to balance the chaos.
  752. >Part of you wonders if the Herd brought chaos to Anonymous, or if he just attracts it naturally.
  753. >He seems to use it almost as a shield of sorts.
  754. >There's always an exit when so much is in flux.
  755. >You shall have to have him over for dinner again sometime soon.
  756.  
  757.  
  758. >Most of the guests have gone.
  759. >Pinkie Pie is packing up the DJ equipment.
  760. >And you are exhausted.
  761. >Luckily, Applejack was still here helping you clean up.
  762. >She's also probably watching Anonymous and Flitter.
  763. >Anon has had a lot to drink, and it means that he's using big gestures and talking loudly which has the poor pegasus simply enthralled.
  764. >"Anon's layin' it on kinda thick, ain't he?" Applejack chuckles as she helps you carry the leftovers into the house.
  765. "He's having a good time, and that's what counts."
  766. >"I s'pose you're right." she chuckles, looking back over her shoulder. "Flitter's just eatin' it right up."
  767. "He might be over exaggerating a little." you say, earning a snort from the farmpony.
  768. >"Might? If I didn't know any better, I'd think he's trying to impress her, Shy."
  769. "Maybe he is?"
  770. >"Probably."
  771. "Well, isn't that what you wanted?" you ask, unloading some bowls onto the kitchen table.
  772. >"It sure is." Applejack replies, bumping her own load off her back and onto the counter. "I'm a mite bit worried about Cloudchaser though."
  773. "But you weren't before?"
  774. >"I dunno, Shy." she sighs. "I guess I thought with hoofball over Cloudchaser would lighten up a spell, but she clearly hasn't."
  775. >Hmmm.
  776. >She is right, of course, but what can you do about it?
  777. "Is there even anything we can do about it?"
  778. >"Not likely." she answers. "It's something Anon is gonna have to deal with sooner or later."
  779. "Well let's leave it to him then."
  780. >You didn't really want to confront Cloudy again anyways...
  781.  
  782.  
  783. >You are Anon, and this party has been pretty great.
  784. >Fluttershy is good people.
  785. >Good ponies?
  786. >Good ponies.
  787. >Speaking of good ponies, you are currently sitting by the fire with a cute pegasus.
  788. >CUTE.
  789. >Flitter was pretty shy, but she somehow prodded you into talking about the Canterlot Works project.
  790. >And you just finally wound down a moment ago.
  791. >You feel kind of bad.
  792. >Got a little carried away there.
  793. >Went off on a monologue like a shitty action movie villain.
  794. >But she humored you.
  795. >Because Flitter is good ponies.
  796. >Popping a fresh top you lean back and throw one arm across the back of the bench.
  797. >Taking a swig of cider, you ponder the fire for a moment.
  798. "So you work with bees normally, right?"
  799. >"Mhm!"
  800. "But they're dormant for the Winter now."
  801. >"Most of them, yes."
  802. "So what do you do until they come back?"
  803. >"Oh. Well...I still have some reports left. And then, um, I read a lot..."
  804. "So you make enough to just take the entire Winter off?"
  805. >"I, um, basically. Yes."
  806. "That is awesome. I knew people who did that back on Earth, and I was always super jealous!"
  807. >"It's pretty nice I guess." she agrees. "You have to be careful or, um, you might go broke before work starts again."
  808. "Learned that yourself?"
  809. >She nods sheepishly.
  810. >"I ate a lot of toast the last two weeks before my second season in Ponyville."
  811. "But you've got it down now?"
  812. >"Mhm! This is was my third season, and last Winter went much better!"
  813. "Well here's to your best Winter yet!" you say, offering a raised bottle.
  814. >It takes Flitter a second to find her own, but she meets your bottle with a tiny *clink* and takes a sip while you down the last of yours.
  815. >Looking around, you realize that there's no one left but the two of you.
  816. >Presumably Flutters is around somewhere.
  817. >Still, the place is all packed up and there's no cider left.
  818. "Looks like we've outlasted the party." you comment, stretching your arms and slowly getting up off the bench. "C'mon, I'll walk you home."
  819. >"Maybe we should put out the fire?"
  820. "Good call."
  821. >You locate a cooler full of ice and water and pour it out onto the fire, creating a surprisingly large amount of ashy steam.
  822. >When it clears, Flitter looks at you and starts giggling uncontrollably.  
  823. "Well. Fire's out."
  824. >"You...haha...you've got something..."
  825. >Stifling another giggle fit, the pegasus jumps into the air with a flap of her wings.
  826. >Drifting up to you, Flitter doesn't try to hide her smirk as she brushes the ashes off of your shoulders.
  827. >Getting the debris out of your hair proves more difficult for her.
  828. >Hooves really aren't made for that kind of thing.
  829. >When you attempt to run a hand through your hair, you find said hand batted away.
  830. >Repeatedly.
  831. >"I've almost got it!" she assures you every time, hovering just behind your head.
  832. >Each time you think she's done, she finds more to pick at.
  833. >You even think you heard a deep sniff back there.
  834. >Taking as long as it is, you can't help but wonder what she's up to.
  835. >With Rainbow, you'd be suspicious.
  836. >With Flitter, it's hard not to trust her.
  837. >You doubt that she's ever pulled a prank on anybody.
  838. >Eventually she decides that you're suitably cleaned off and returns to the ground beside you.
  839. "Am I clean enough to walk home in the dark now?"
  840. >She nods with a smile, either oblivious to your sarcasm or willfully ignoring it.
  841. >Walking around the house, the two of you proceed down the lane heading back into town.
  842. >The only sound is a cold wind rustling through the trees.
  843. >Overhead, bright yet unfamiliar constellations light up the sky.
  844. >You reach a hand out and place it on Flitter's withers, gently steering her closer in beside you as you trek homeward.
  845. "You know, back home I used to know the stories behind quite a few of our constellations, but I've never really had a chance to learn about the stars here."
  846. >"But don't you know the Princesses?"
  847. "I do. Why?"
  848. >"Well, Princess Luna controls the moon and the stars..."
  849. "Ah, I see what you mean. I guess I was just always so busy with work that I never had a chance to ask her."
  850. >"I-I know a couple of them. Princess Twilight did a lecture on them once..."
  851. "Did a lot of ponies show up for that one?"
  852. >"Actually, yes. It was one of the best ones." she chirps happily "Everypony likes a good story!"
  853. "Very true." you agree. "Do you remember any that are up right now?"
  854. >Looking over, you can make out the pegasus surveying the skies overhead.
  855. >"I do!" she exclaims proudly, hopping into the air and drifting in close. "These stars here are the body of Albrecht the Wanderer, a restless gryffon sorcerer."
  856. >You follow her outstretched hoof as she continues.
  857. >"And these stars are his wings, and if you look really hard you can see a couple of faint stars that make up his tail!"
  858. "Alright, I think I see what you're talking about."
  859. >"Albrecht loved to travel, learning about new cultures and discovering unheard of magiks, but his parents were gryffon nobles that constantly tried to force him to settle down."
  860. >She scrunches her face in concentration, before letting go a sigh.
  861. >"There's a lot more to the story that I can't remember. Lots and lots of attempts by his parents to get him to come home and behave like a proper gryffon. Eventually he runs off to a mountain cabin, where he spends an entire year crafting a powerful spell to escape from his parents' latest scheme. When his father and their guards finally come for Albrecht, he casts the spell which launches him into the stars, where he can wander forever, out his parents' reach."
  862. >That actually hurts.
  863. >The idea of a child and his parents being so estranged that he cuts them off permanently isn't new.
  864. >But you didn't choose to cut yours off.
  865. >What do they even think happened to you?
  866. >Are they still looking for you?
  867. >Have they given up?
  868. >As you pull your flask from inside your coat, you hear a sniffle beside you.
  869. >Downing a long pull of bourbon, you tuck the flask away.
  870. >You can deal with your problems later, it seems like you aren't the only one effected by that story.
  871. "You...you okay, Flitter?"
  872. >"Sometimes...I kind of understand him." she whispers.
  873. "You do?"
  874. >"I just- sometimes I- it's just hard with Cloudy."
  875. >She sullenly drops back onto the road, staring pointedly at the ground.
  876. >You return your hand to her back, rubbing gently, eventually taking a knee.
  877. >"She thinks I'm too shy and too nerdy and that I'll n-never find a stallion."
  878. >Her rump hits the ground.
  879. >"And- and- when I found y- when I found a great stallion she said that- that I was being greedy!"
  880. "How in Equestria is it greedy to find a great stallion?"
  881. >"We don't- we don't have a lot of money." she cries softly, leaning into your touch. "She said that mom and d-dad could never afford the dowry and t-told me to find a nice normal stallion!"
  882. >The sound of four hooves touching down forcefully on the dirt behind you announces the arrival of another pony.
  883. >"That's because they can't!" Cloudchaser growls as you turn around. "This isn't some stupid hoofball feud like half the town thinks, Flits! You're going to bankrupt dad and you'll break moms heart!"
  884. >"You don't know that!" the normally quiet pegasus shouts, her wings flaring, causing you to step back. "Princess Twilight says magic solves new problems every day!"
  885. >"Flitter, be real, you can't count on that-"
  886. >"And why is it *my* responsibility to have foals for mom!?" she presses on "Maybe it's *you* that should find a nice normal stallion!"
  887. >"Don't you dare push that on me!"
  888. >"Why do you get a free pass and I don't?" she cries, wings drooping to the ground. "It's not fair."
  889. >"Life isn't fair, we just make the best out of what we're dealt." Cloudchaser spits "Don't you get it Flits? I'm just trying to keep the family together!"
  890. >"No. No you're-" Flitter sputters.
  891. >"And you." Cloudchaser says, finally turning her attention away from her sister. "Look at what you're doing to us! Leave my sister alone, or I'll break your other arm!"
  892. >It might be the alcohol.
  893. >It might be the adrenaline.
  894. >It might be the primal urge to protect a crying female.
  895. >But something inside you ignores the logic and reason screaming to de-escalate.
  896. >And you take a step forward, shifting yourself in front of Flitter.
  897. >You roll your bad shoulder, testing it, checking its limits.
  898. >Maybe you should have worn that sling more often...
  899. >Still, it'll have to do.
  900. >"Back off, Anon!"
  901. "What, so you can keep bullying your little sister?"
  902. >"That's none of your business!"
  903. >Before you can counter with a witty and/or noble reply, she lunges into the air, straight at you.
  904. >All you can do is put a foot back and a shoulder forward, ready to take the blow.
  905. >And of course, out of habit you protect your dominant arm and put your injured shoulder forward.
  906. >Like a feather covered cartoon cannonball Cloudchaser crashes into you, sending you both rolling in the dirt lane.
  907. >Scrambling as fast as you can, you push the pain in your shoulder and your ribs to the back of your mind and tackle Cloudchaser before she can get into the air again.
  908. >You aren't Big Mac, but your sheer size gives you the leverage you need to pin her to the ground.
  909. "Why...are you doing this...Cloudy?" you grunt through clenched teeth, fighting to control the grapple.
  910. >"It's for...my family!" she growls as she gets a forehoof momentarily free.
  911. "I don't believe that." you counter, dodging a strike by the rogue hoof.
  912. >"Then don't! It doesn't matter what you think!" she says, rolling you onto your back and flaring her wings.
  913. >Cloudchaser starts to take off, but you seize hold of one of her hind legs and, with a mighty heave, pull her into the dust.
  914. >"Please! Stop! Stop fighting!"
  915. >"You already had a chance to talk!"
  916. "I'll stop if she will."
  917. >"Buck you!" Cloudchaser exclaims, kicking out with her free leg and catching you in the chest.
  918. >The hit knocks the wind out of you for a mere second, but it's all that Cloudy needs to escape your grasp.
  919. >"What in Tartarus is going on out here?" an unfamiliar voice calls out over the din.
  920. >But before they can intervene, Cloudchaser makes another charging attack at you from above.
  921. >This time you get purchase on a wing before the two of you go tumbling.
  922. >"Please stop!"
  923. "Ready to do so!" you say, slamming Cloudchaser down.
  924. >"My wing!" She cries out "You asshole!"
  925. >Shifting away from her, you get to your feet and watch her warily as she does the same.
  926. >"That's enough you two!" the raspy voice orders as an older stallion comes into view.
  927. >He has a drooping white moustache and is wearing a blue coat.
  928. >And a badge.
  929. >Well, this is gonna be awkward to explain to Celestia.
Herd Herding Hawkeye

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