Giving Love a Helping Hoof
With a startled shriek, Fluttershy and Butterscotch leapt into the air, wings freezing up in fright. As their hooves touched earth, the two immediately attempted to bolt off in opposite directions, only for their still entwined wings to bounce them right back. With a simultaneous "Ooph!" the two pegasi collided and flopped to the ground in a jumble of yellow legs.
The Cutie Mark Crusaders immediately crowded around, trying to assist the dazed couple.
"Oh mah gosh, Fluttershy! I didn't mean to scare you! Are ya alright?" Applebloom hovered over the pegasus, fretting.
Carefully disentangling herself from Butterscotch, the pegasus rose to her hooves, none the worse for wear. "Oh, it's fine Applebloom. I was just a little bit frightened."
Applebloom sighed in relief. "Thank goodness. Anyway, have ya seen mah helmet lyin' around anywhere? It's blue with a black strap."
Shaking her head, Fluttershy replied, "I'm sorry Applebloom, I haven't seen it anywhere. Have you Butterscotch?"
The stallion thought for a moment, before shaking his head as well. "Sorry girls."
The Cutie Mark Crusaders were uncharacteristically quiet for a moment, before all three said, "Butterscotch?"
"Oh!" Fluttershy gasped. "Please forgive me, where are my manners? Girls, this is Butterscotch. Butterscotch, this is Applebloom, Sweetie Belle and Scootaloo."
The stallion waved shyly, slightly uncomfortable even though he'd known the little fillies for a long time.
The Cutie Mark Crusaders had no such qualms, enthusiastically saying hello. Sweetie Belle's gaze slid between the two of them, considering. After a moment she piped up, "Are you two coltfriend and fillyfriend?"
Butterscotch and Fluttershy instantaneously flushed bright red, ducking their heads to try and make themselves as small as possible. Each was incapable of answering the little filly's question.
Sweetie Belle didn't miss a beat, thankfully taking their silence as a 'no'. "Oh, ok then."
"Are y'all family? Ya look pretty similar," chimed in Applebloom. This time, the two pegasi managed to shake their heads.
Scootaloo gave up the guessing game. "Where are you from Butterscotch? I've never seen you around Ponyville before."
The stallion's eyes widened. At that moment he remembered that he was almost as bad at lying as Applejack was. But in a flash of intuition, the perfect answer came to him. Looking theatrically left and right, he whispered, "It's a secret!"
The fillies all gasped as Fluttershy looked on curiously.
Butterscotch's brain worked overtime, thinking on its hooves. "Only... Only your older sister is allowed to tell you! We can't say anything, so you'll have to go and ask them."
Sweetie Belle and Applebloom nodded frantically, already scouring the area around them for Applebloom's lost helmet so they could be on their way.
In contrast, Scootaloo looked crushed, staring at the ground with her head hung low. "I don't have an older sister. I guess I don't get to know the secret then, huh?"
Butterscotch's brain stalled and jaw dropped as he realised just how insensitive he had been. He had known the little pegasus was an only child, but he'd still callously told her that she needed a sister! What kind of monster was he? Oh, he was so cruel and thoughtless...
"Don't worry Scootaloo," said a soft voice. The stallion looked up to see Fluttershy giving the filly a hug. She winked at Butterscotch over Scootaloo's shoulder. "I'm sure Rainbow Dash would be happy to tell you!"
To say the little pegasus brightened up would be to say that Berry was a bit eclectic. Scootaloo leapt out of Fluttershy's embrace, facing lighting up in a huge grin.
"Really!? Rainbow Dash will tell me!? Herself!?"
Fluttershy giggled into her hoof at the filly's exuberance. "Yes, I'm sure she will! Just go find her and tell her what I've said. She's sure to explain it to you!"
"Wow, thanks Fluttershy! Come on girls, we've got to go! I've got an appointment with Rainbow Dash!"
After a few moments of searching they located Applebloom's helmet and set off for Sweet Apple Acres to drop her off. The three fillies waved and shouted goodbyes as they sped away.
Fluttershy and Butterscotch stood there waving until the trio were out of sight. "Good thinking," said the stallion, turning to face Fluttershy. "I would never have been able to think of something that clever."
Fluttershy waved a hoof modestly. "Oh no, it was your idea first! I just helped it along a little bit, that's all."
The pair smiled nervously, catching each other's eye before looking away.
"So, um... I suppose we should get back to your cottage... I mean, if that's alright with you," suggested Butterscotch.
"Oh, yes!" Fluttershy floated over to his side and they began walking in the general direction of her cottage. "I wonder what the animals will think of seeing two of us?"
Butterscotch sagged a little. "Oh my, I hadn't thought of that. They'll know you, but... but they've never really seen me before. What if... What if they don't like me?"
Fluttershy smiled warmly at the stallion, finding his fear adorable. "Don't you worry Butterscotch, I'm sure they'll like you."
He looked up at her, surprised at the confidence in her voice. "But how do you know?"
Without thinking, Fluttershy said, "Because I like you."
There was a moment of dead silence before Fluttershy realised what she had said. Her wings snapped to her sides as her eyes widened. She turned to look at Butterscotch. The stallion was staring at her, his wings and bright red colouration identical to her own.
For a few moments, it was all either of them could do to stay standing, before, almost against his will, Butterscotch's mouth started moving and words came tumbling out.
"I like you too."
This time, Fluttershy definitely wobbled, close to blacking out. Butterscotch seemed incapable of removing his hoof from the small furrow in the dirt he was digging. The pair stood there, idly fidgeting, for an uncomfortable amount of time, neither able to bring themselves to say or do something.
A freshly hatched Giant Monarch Butterfly floated past Fluttershy's muzzle, brushing her nose as it did so. In that touch the little creature managed to convey just the slightest hint of confidence. She took a deep breath.
"So... Um... I mean... My cottage?" It wasn't much, and she scarcely more than breathed it, but at least she had said something.
Thankfully, Butterscotch seemed to have excellent hearing. Though he still couldn't quite look at her, he managed to smile and nod his head.
As one, the pair started moving off once again to Fluttershy's, walking side by side. This time, Butterscotch didn't wait nearly as long to offer his wing to Fluttershy. For her part, she was much quicker to accept it.
"Mr. Cake! Mrs. Cake! I've got a surpriiiiise for youuuuu!"
Pinkamena Diane Pie cartwheeled through the entrance of Sugarcube Corner, narrowly missing the town clockmaker, here to pick up his usual order of muffins. The party pony pranced on the spot, incapable of containing her excitement.
Mr. Carrot Cake and Mrs. Cup Cake both slowly backed out of the work room, precariously balancing a giant, multi-layered cake between them. Pinkie, excitement forgotten, immediately rushed to help, steadying their load. She might be a bit off the wall, but she would never let the Cakes down.
Thankfully, four sets of hooves made light work. Berry Bubble stood opposite Pinkie, helping the Cakes heave their work on to the counter. The bakers stared mutely between the two pink ponies, the serving dish held in their jaws keeping their mouths clamped shut. Once they finally hoisted the huge cake on to the bench, they found themselves still quite incapable of speech.
Berry spoke up first, wiping his brow with a hoof and an exaggerated sigh. "Wow! That's got to be one of the biggest, most stupenderrific super wonderful fantastic cakes I've ever seen!"
Mr. Cake's jaw dropped.
"Uhhh... Pinkie, dear?"
Pinkie tilted her head upside-down. "Yes Mrs. Cake? Hey, you're on the roof!"
After so long, the master baker didn't even take note of Pinkie's off-hand oddness. "Yes dear. You said you had a surprise for us?"
"I sure do! And it's one of the best surprises you'll ever get! Oh my gosh, it's such a good surprise, you'll NEVER guess what it is, not even in a thousand years! You could even stop baking, and I'm sure the Princess would be so sad that she'd send you to the moon, and WHOOSH! Off you'd go! And you'd be stuck up there for a thousand years, with nothing to do but bake moon-dust and talk to rocks and give them names and throw parties, but they'd be so booooo-riiiiing, 'cos you'd have nopony to talk to, except maybe the other rocks that you invited to the party, but that's not a good idea! Unless you maybe take a bag of flour with you. But even after a thousand years of nothing but moon rocks and parties, you still wouldn't be able to guess even the teeniest, tiniest amount of this humongous, mega, super-duper-"
"It wouldn't happen to be this young stallion here, would it?" broke in Mr. Cake, pointing at Berry.
Pinkie stopped mid rant and gasped. "Wow, I didn't know ponies could have zebra senses as well! Boy, Applejack sure was wrong about that one. Unless-Wait." She stared at Mr. Cake. "Are you secretly a zebra?"
The husband and wife exchanged glances. Even for Pinkie this was over the top! She sure was excited.
"No dearie, we're not secretly zebras and nopony's going to the moon," said Mrs. Cake. "Aren't you going to introduce us?"
"Of course!" replied Pinkie, suddenly at the older mare's side. She threw a couple of hooffuls of confetti into the air. "Mr. and Mrs. Cake, meet Berry Bubble!"
Berry was there in an instant. "Hello Mr. and Mrs. Cake! It's sooooo nice to meet you! Well, actually, we've met before. It was just a little while ago, when I came in and started helping you with that cake! I said, 'I'm Berry Bubble! Would you like a hoof with your cake?' but it actually sounded like I said 'Um bry bbl! D uh lk uh hf wth uh ck?' so I can understand if you didn't know what I said! So this means that this is our first meeting! Wait! No, there was another one! We all met again, years and years ago, when I first came to Ponyville. But does that mean that this isn't a meeting? Can you meet a pony twice? And if you can, can you throw a meeting party twice? This calls for research! Pinkie, to the party-pedia!"
Pinkie saluted, and the pair rushed up the stairs, leaving an utterly bewildered Mr. and Mrs. Cake staring after them.
"Uhhh..." Carrot Cake's brain slowly ticked over. "What just happened honeybun?"
"I... I'm not sure, Sweetie."
Mr. Cake's face slowly split into a grin as he reached his most favoured conclusion, something he'd wanted for the pony who was like a daughter to him for so long. "I can't say for sure, but I think that just maybe Pinkie has a coltfriend now!"
Mrs. Cake gasped and swatted at his shoulder, though with a smile on her face. "Oh Carrot, honestly!"
"Well, think about it! Have you ever seen another pony that can keep up with Pinkie when she... Well, just keep up with her at all! Those two seem made for each other."
In the highest tower of Canterlot, an Alicorn sneezed, almost upsetting her golden crown.
A few quick teleportations later, Dusk and Twilight found themselves outside the Ponyville Library. Despite their earlier words, the pair had, like Applejack and AJ, done their best to avoid attention. They had even gone so far as to teleport most of the way. More than anything else, the duo wanted to clear this with Spike, and make sure the dragon knew exactly what was happening before they progressed onward. It had been an interesting morning, and no doubt Spike would want to be filled in.
The two pressed against the shadowed doorway, eyeing the empty street before them. After a cursory magical sweep, they breathed easier. Safe, for now.
Dusk Shine raised a hoof, meaning to open the library door, but was intercepted by Twilight.
The mare read the question in his gaze. "I don't think we should just head in and start explaining things off the top of our horns."
Dusk nodded. "Good thinking. We need a plan; a strategy!"
"If only we could make a checklist..." sighed Twilight, prompting a hushed laugh from Dusk.
"We've been over this! Come on, this can't be that hard. We go in there, tell him that we all now have gender opposites and explain the same things to him that the Princesses did to us, and problem solved. Then we just need to give him time to figure it out on his own."
Twilight looked at the colt in amusement. "It's weird to talk with someone who knows Spike as well as I do."
Dusk grinned. "Get used to it Missy, because apparently I'm not going anywhere!"
Twilight giggled, honest to Celestia giggled, at his jest. Dusk laughed along so as not to seem weird, but his face coloured slightly. He cast out for something else funny to say, desperate to hear that magical sound again.
Bingo! "The hardest part will be trying to pry Elusive out of his claws!" The mare immediately stopped laughing gave him a look of such seriousness he almost took a step back. Oh dear.
"Prying 'Elusive' out of his claws?" she asked. "Don't you mean Rarity?"
Dusk eyed her. "No, Elusive. You know how he feels abou- Wait. No, no you don't. Oh my."
Twilight gasped and brought a hoof to her mouth. "Wait a second... Are you saying that, in your world, Spike is... Well, he's... like... that?"
Dusk caught on immediately and sputtered for a moment. "What?! No! Of course not! I mean, not that there's anything wrong with that..."
"No, of course not!" interrupted Twilight.
"But Spike doesn't feel that way about Elusive, the little guy just worships him. Admired his dignity and sophistication from day one; you know how grown up he likes to act sometimes."
"Oh, ok," said Twilight, heaving a relieved sigh. She'd love Spike no matter what, but this certainly made this transition a bit easier.
"Unfortunately," continued Dusk, eyes narrowing in thought, "This could still be a bit of a problem."
The smaller unicorn cocked a brow. "What do you mean?"
Dusk Shine shuffled his hooves. "Well, I'm not sure how Spike here acts towards Rarity, but he's always been very... protective of Elusive."
"As in grilling any mare that ever showed an interest to make sure they were good enough. The whole Blueblood thing... He almost took it harder than Elusive."
"Ah", nodded Twilight, vividly recalling Spike's silent fuming after she had told him the whole story when they got home from the Gala.
Dusk continued, "So if Spike adores Rarity as much as he did Elusive, if in a slightly different way, then this could still be a problem. We could barely get a word in edgewise when Elusive started talking about Rarity."
Smiling, Twilight replied, "It was the same thing with Rarity. Could you all see it too?"
With a grin, Dusk answered, "Plain as day. Those two were made for each other."
"Ahhhhh-CHOOOOOO!" A golden crown went shooting across the throne room, narrowly missing a fast-reacting guard.
The stallion cleared his throat. "If Rarity and Elusive are going to end up feeling this way about each other, then I just don't know how Spike is going to take it. Will Elusive not be good enough? Will Rarity not be good enough? Will he be unhappy about it no matter what we do?"
Dusk was beginning to babble, and Twilight gave him a gentle nudge to knock him out of it. She retreated perhaps swifter than necessary, her ears folded against her head. "Come on Dusk, you know it's not all that bad."
Dusk Shine took a deep breath, letting it out slowly. He grinned weakly. "Sorry about that. I tend to panic sometimes."
Twilight gasped dramatically. "Really? Heavens, I'd know nothing about that!"
Dusk broke into laughter, Twilight quickly following suit. As the duo's mirth died, their smiling gazes met. Clearing his throat, Dusk abruptly stepped forward and awkwardly embraced Twilight, wrapping a hoof around her shoulders. The mare froze up, completely unsure of how to handle herself. "He's actually hugging me! What do I do? Do I hug back? How do I hug back!? Which are my front hooves again?!"
Stiff as a board, Twilight watched with wide eyes as, after a moment, Dusk released her and backed up, looking any direction but hers.
"Thanks Twilight... I could have gone a bit loco in the coco there..."
The mare remained silent, still standing ram-rod straight. Dusk began to panic. "Oh Celestia, was that too soon? I just wanted to thank her, isn't that how you thank mares? I didn't mean it like that... Did I? Why is she not saying anything! That's it, I'm teleporting!"
Just as Dusk's horn began to tingle, Twilight snapped out of her trance. "No problem, Dusk." The mare kept her gaze glued on her hooves, kicking one back and forth. "Happy to help."
Desperate not to sink into yet another of the uncomfortable silences that seemed to plague his conversations with Twilight, Dusk latched on to their previous topic. "I'm just worried about how this is going to affect Spike. I don't want to see the little guy hurt."
Twilight looked up at him now, her gaze caring but concerned. "I don't either, but if it was up to me he'd never leave my side and I'd protect him forever. He's got to grow up some time, and... This is part of it. I'm not going to lie to him, and I'm not going to ask Rarity or Elusive to be someone they're not. I wish he didn't have to learn it so soon, but... That's the danger of having a crush, sometimes you get... crushed."
The stallion nodded, the concern in his gaze matched only by the determined set of his jaw. "I know... I just wish it could have waited a little while longer."
A leg wrapped around his neck, and Twilight pressed against his front briefly, returning his earlier embrace. This time, they shared a smile, albeit a sad one.
As Twilight pushed open the door of the library, she heard Dusk speak up from behind her.
"This isn't going to be easy."
She sighed. "I never said it would be. SPIKE!"
Dusk Shine trotted in after her, and locked the library door behind him. It wouldn't do to be interrupted during this conversation.
A set of little orange wings buzzed faster than ever before, nearly providing lift to the small pegasus filly bouncing along on her scooter. Her two best friends, trailing the scooter in a little wagon, hung on for dear life as their friend moved faster than they'd ever known her to.
After a particularly nasty bump, Sweetie Belle spoke up.
"Scootaloo! What-ow! What are you trying-OW!- to do, crash?! Why are-ow! Why are you going so fast?!"
Scootaloo barely heard her, caught up in her thoughts. "Didn't you hear what Fluttershy said? Butterscotch said to go talk to our big sisters, and then she said that Rainbow Dash would tell me herself! Just this once she'll be my big sister! Do you think she'd be creeped out if I wore my Rainbow Dash hat?"
Sweetie Belle and Applebloom shared a look, and declined to answer. Instead, Applebloom, looking alarmingly green at the high-speed ride, asked, "While Ah can understand that you're excited an' all, do ya have to go so fast? This is just downright dangerous!"
"Well, it's a long way out to Sweet Apple Acres!" protested Scootaloo, slowing all the same. "The faster we go, the quicker I can drop you off, then Sweetie Belle at Rarity's house, then go and talk with Rainbow Dash!"
As the trio made it out to Sweet Apple Acres, they failed to notice the kicked up mud and broken branches typical of a pony or two in an immense hurry along the way. Applebloom quickly hopped out as soon as Scootaloo skidded to a stop, but curiously she tugged Sweetie Belle out with her. The two fillies approached the little pegasus, and quickly drew her into a group hug, surprising her.
"Guys, come on!" Scootaloo squirmed, smiling embarrassedly.
When they separated, Sweetie Belle spoke up. "We don't care what Fluttershy said."
Applebloom nodded. "Even if Rainbow Dash doesn't tell ya anything, it don't matter. We'd've toldja as soon as we found out... You're our sister too."
Scootaloo looked away with a big smile, and embraced her friends again. The Cutie Mark Crusaders shared a moment together. Getting a cutie mark paled in comparison to the memories of these moments.
Scootaloo and Sweetie Belle quickly headed off, the pegasus filly's enthusiasm not dampened in the slightest. Applebloom waved until the pair were out of sight, before turning around and heading towards the farmhouse. In the distance she spotted her siblings.
"Huh. Ah wonder why Big Macintosh is orange?"