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“What do you mean, you don't want to hang out with me? You forgave me a week ago, right? You said so...”
Sweetie Belle looked back at Show Tail with a genuine lack of interest before closing the door behind her. She had other things planned for the day, and the colt did not fit in at all. She felt her heart beating madly in her chest. She had never had to do something like this. Normally she would have dropped almost anything for him. Her mind rolled back to her utter desperation for his attention and she could not help but laugh. Had she really been so silly over a colt? She snickered to herself and turned to him.
“Look, Show Tail, I don’t have time for you today. Maybe tomorrow. Day after that... or after that... Or something. I just don't have the time in my day to mess around with you. Now, I’m going to Sweet Apple Acres. I told Big Mac I’d see him today.”
Sweetie Belle reeled back at the black blur landing in front of her as she descended the stoop. Show Tail was glaring at her, in a way that almost scared her. He was flapping his wings the same way he had done when he had met Scootaloo, large and imposing. His golden eyes were her shooting daggers and she had no clue why. She felt a prick in her neck, and her heart pound in her ears.
“You’re... going to hang out with... Big Macintosh. And... Why?” He froze, his voice suddenly one of a full grown stallion. She stepped back, falling onto her flank with a squeak. Show Tail landed ans started moving towards her and puffing up his body. He pushed his face into hers with a snarl on his lips. His wings flared and his back arched to make him look bigger to. Even though his gut churned and part of him was screaming to stop, he still still persisted. He was being an idiot and he knew it. But he couldn't stop himself. She was his and Sweetie Bell needed to remember that. Show Tail stepped a bit closer, their noses touching as he kept his glare on her and his body tensed.
Sweetie Belle let out a small whimper and held her breath, her heart pounding in her ears. She couldn’t understand where this came from. This was not the Show Tail that she had come to know. She had never expected this kind of behavior from him. It took her a split second to realize how close their faces were and flushed. When her mind wandered to the thought of that clumsy kiss in the barn when he suddenly gave a heavy sigh, stepping back. Show Tail stood tall, still somewhat projecting himself. “Go... do what you want... I can’t even say anything.” He hissed out, taking flight without another word. She stared after him for a moment, before picking herself up and heading to Sweet Apple Acres for the day.
“Big Mac! I’m here to help!” Sweetie Belle trotted over to the large stallion picking up stray branches. The pegasi had warned about blustering winds that night, so any branches would be a hazard. Fluttershy waved a wing at the filly with a smile, snapping down some of the higher up strays. She wasted no time dropping her pack and getting to work nudging the branches together.
“Big Mac... How can you tell when a colt likes you...?” She asked, unsure of if she should even be speaking. Fluttershy suddenly began to laugh, stopping just as quickly as she began. Big Macintosh looked at her with his usual half interested look, sighing in annoyance before shooting a glare at Fluttershy. She laughed more and flew off to snap some other branches.
“When a colt likes you...” Sweetie Belle reeled back and nearly fell.
“Big Macintosh... Your... Your voice! It’s... the accent!”
“Yes... I know...” He sighed, shooting daggers at Fluttershy giggling in a tree. “Fluttershy, I would very much appreciate if you would not laugh at me as such... The Oranges are coming to visit, since Applejack reminded them that they have not seen us in ‘such a terribly long time’. I have to speak like this, you see. And if I stop, it takes me an eternity to get it back.”
Sweetie Belle held back her snickers, not wanting to irritate the stallion more. He grumbled something under his breath before turning to the little filly.
“When a colt likes you, he will... be different...” He sighed an glanced at his fillyfriend giggling in the trees. “He’ll want to spend more time with you, and he’ll tend to get jealous. Whenever you see her with another stallion, you will often get jealous... Even if you know nothing will happen. You want to take no risks. Often, he will have claimed her in his mind, declaring her off limits to others. How intense that becomes varies by stallion.”
Sweetie Belle glanced up at the stallion with some curiosity. Jealousy was a good thing? She dug a hoof in the ground and began do dig a shallow hole in thought. Her ears began to feel hot as her mind began to piece things together. Could it be possible that he liked her? No... He had already professed his love for Scootaloo, and there was nothing that could change that. She had already decided what her place was, he had made sure to set it for her. Sweetie Belle looked down at her necklace, the one she almost never removed, and gave it a half hearted ring.
“He couldn’t possibly...” She gave her mentor a harsh look before pacing around. “So being jealous is something that means he likes you? But this morning... he got mad at me for spending time with you Mac... Does that mean...”
“When a colt doesn't tell you he likes you, he may just not want to look or feel stupid...” Fluttershy suddenly spoke up, landing beside them. She watched Sweetie Belle pace up and down with a slightly amused look. Sweetie Belle suddenly stopped, looking at Fluttershy curiously.
“But what if he’s already stupid?” Sweetie Belle asked with utmost sincerity. Fluttershy stared at her for a moment before shooting a glare at Big Macintosh for chucking at the filly’s response.
“Then he’s already told you, outright or in his own special way.” She nudged Big Macintosh again to stop his laughing. “Or maybe he really is just that stupid.” Fluttershy mumbled under her breath
“Eeyup!” He laughed for a bit more before cringing. “Awwww Ah lost that silly fanceh accent. Fluttershy, will you help me?” She placed a hoof on his mouth and nodded. “Ah right. Applebloom wanted me to tell you that...”
“Clubhouse. I’ll be going.” Sweetie Belle kept an eye on the sky as she made her way though the apple farm she knew like the back of her hoof. She had almost forgotten that the three of them were supposed to meet up again. In fact, she could barely remember the last time all three of them had really spent time together. Scootaloo would always jet off to fly with other pegasi, Applebloom was often busy with either Snails or the colts at the hardware store, and even Sweetie Belle herself had become friends with the band class at the school. She bit her lip as the club house came into view, a new coat of gloss gleaming on it. She smirked, knowing that Applebloom hadn’t spent all her time in vain. As she trotted into the tiny clubhouse, Scootaloo crashed in, toppling a pile of Applebloom’s books on architecture.
“Scootaloo... Can you ever come into this place without destroying half of it?” Applebloom sighed, setting the books back into their neat pile as Scootaloo laughed at her lack of accent. She shot Scootaloo a glare before smoothing her coat. She fixed the bow Snails had given her before sitting down and looking at her two friends. Her very best friends in the entire world. Seeing Sweetie Belle absentmindedly playing with her precious bell and Scootaloo flapping and stretching her wings as if ready to take flight made her happy. She didn’t know what she would do with out them. She paused for a moment, remembering their name, the title that had brought them together. The Cutie Mark Crusaders.
Applebloom sighed, a horrible churning in her stomach. She whimpered, looking up at her friends.
“G... Guys... Do you realize... that we haven’t gone crusading in a long time? We’re...” Applebloom swallowed hard before tapping her hoof on the wooden floor as she spoke. “We’re not the Crusaders anymore. I don't think we should go by that name anymore. That’s why I called you here.” Applebloom looked at both fillies, hoping that their responses wouldn't be too harsh. Scootaloo’s wings froze in place, her jaw dropping before she simply shook her head.
“We’re... the Cutie Mark Crusaders! We’ve always been the Cutie Mark Crusaders? We haven’t been anything different... ever! Are we really...” Scootaloo's eyes began to tear up as she paced around the room, sputtering only gibberish. She couldn’t believe it and she could not deny it. She could barely remember the last time she had gone crusading with her friends, the last time they had legitimately spent time together as friends for more than a few minutes. They weren’t as close anymore. They were slightly drifting as they sifted into their own little niches.
Sweetie Belle stared after her pegasi friend. Her mind was blank till a gust from Scootaloo’s wings made her necklace chime. The tiny ring of the bell was enough to spur her thoughts. No longer being the Cutie Mark Crusaders by name was like no longer being alive. It had become part of them, something that defined them. It didn’t take her too long to realize that they were all indeed quickly developing new definitions, new parts of themselves that did not revolve around crusading but what they wanted to do. Perhaps she had clung too tightly to the idea.
“It was happening whether we liked it or not...” Applebloom choked out, trying to hold back the tears that were forcing their way out. “I was the main reason we all ended up like this, I feel I should at least end it. Formally.” She looked at the two fillies with a soft smile. Sweetie Belle nodded at Applebloom, deciding that words were not needed. Scootaloo finally sighed, looking up at her best friends and nodding as well.
“We’re still best friends, right?” Scootaloo forced a smirk on her face. “I mean, you two need someone a little cool in your lives...” She grinned, standing tall and flaring her wings. Applebloom and Sweetie Belle couldn’t help but laugh. The fillies found themselves in a tight hug and laughing at themselves. Sitting back, they giggled away their tears and Scootaloo finally spoke through the laughter. “Remember the zip line?”
Sweetie Belle and Applebloom stopped laughing and shot her a glare before starting up again. They sat there, laughing about their past adventures for what felt like hours. Applebloom froze mid laugh and her ears perked up at a bit. She could hear a huge commotion happening over by the house. She groaned and picked herself up, dusting herself off.
“I do apologize girls, but I must be on my way. The Oranges are here for their visit, and I simply must be on my way, lest my sister be very... displeased. I will have to see you fillies later.” Applebloom galloped off, screaming in frustration when she did indeed see a carriage. Applejack was welcoming the Oranges and Snails was helping them by bringing in luggage. Applebloom sped up and slipped next to Snails as if she had been there the entire time. She helped him drag in all the luggage, tugging a rather large cloth bag inside with him. She helped him drag upstairs and raced down the steps to get the other bags. She froze in place, a question forming him her mind.
Where is Big Macintosh...?
“Hey, you! Yeah you... you... jerk!”
Big Macintosh froze and turned around. He looked about the acres of trees surrounding him, peering though them for whatever had said the insults. He shrugged and turned to the house barely in view. He could make it there quickly, make up an excuse about sweeping up branches... A moment passed before he remembered that it was the truth and he shrugged. There was not much else he could do about it anyway. It had taken Fluttershy a while to get him to slide out of his accent, a requirement that Applejack had demanded as simple courtesy to the Oranges. Quite frankly, he couldn’t understand it, but he loved his little sister, and she had pulled ‘the Face’ on him, and he couldn’t say no to that pleading face. It was just impossible.
Much like trying to figure out who had called him. Fluttershy had gone to the house early under his request, hoping that Applejack would be able to calm down under her friends influence. He was somewhat regretting it now. He spun around a bit, ears twitching and trying to gather what direction the sound had come from. It was the voice of a young colt, he could make that much out. He had heard it before, but he couldn't place it.
“Look up!” The voice growled. Big Macintosh tried to fight the smirk that was creeping across his lips. The pegasus colt that was giving him a stern stare down had to be nopony other than Show Tail, the one of Sweetie Belle’s affections. He resisted the urge to chuckle.
Show Tail glared down at the red stallion, keeping his explosive temper under wraps. The voice in his head was already reprimanding him, a nagging mother buzzing in his ears. This was pointless. There was nothing to gain from this. He was no competitor in anything but her time. And yet that drove him crazy. He could feel his wings spreading out as far as possible, the blood boil under his skin and a scowl imprint on his face. He was irritated and bordering on anger with the stallion. He had taken Sweetie Belle away from him. He cleared his throat, keeping himself steady in flight.
“You should stay away from Sweetie Belle. She’s mine, and I want to spend time with her. You have your own fillyfriend... Spend time with her... Sweetie is my friend and you shouldn't take her away from me.”
Big Macintosh inhaled deeply.
“Eeyup. You sure do like her.”
Show Tail fell to the dirt, wings frozen in shock. He glared at them, the black feathers frozen in place. He was still too stunned to move. He gave his wings a few frustrated flaps before whimpering up at Macintosh. He had lost his slight advantage of height, and with it, his confidence. Show Tail shrunk back under the inquisitive stare of Big Macintosh, his towering size making it more intense. Clambering to his feet, Show Tail put on his bravest face.
“I do not! She’s just... my... friend. That’s all. Right?”
“I mean... it’s not my fault! She’s my friend! I always want her around...” Show Tail flared his wings to make his point, standing firm and doing his best to glare up at Big Macintosh. He could see the larger stallion holding back a few laughs. His attempts to show that he had any shreds of self confidence remaining were shredded to bits. He whimpered at the slight laugh, the urge to cry welling up in the back of his throat. The burning and choking pain made it hard to breathe. He made pathetic whimpers, trying to find his way around the gaze of the stallion. Big Macintosh was calm and all knowing, and he could feel frustration taking him over.
Show Tail stomped his hoof, pounding the grass into a slight mush. That... answer... His temper was starting to make his blood boil, his anger beginning to take the best of him. He forced his eyes shut to avoid Big Macintosh’s all knowing look.
“I... can’t. I’m not supposed to like her. I’m a pegasus. I’m supposed to like pegasi. Like Scootaloo. She’s the very epitome of pegasi, the very meaning of it. I have to like her. Like all the other colts in my class. I can’t not like her... And I’m one of the few that’s gotten close to her. I have to.”
“But I hate the way she is sometimes. She’s nice. But... I don’t see why any of the pegasi like her like that, really. She’s really brash and loud sometimes. She’s amazing to fly with. But... I don’t get it... I like spending time with Sweetie Belle... She sings so wonderfully for somepony that hasn’t really gone though training, and she’s getting better every time we practice. I love making music with her. Understand?”
“It’s not my fault that I want to spend all my time with her! She’s amazing. Every time I hear her voice I just want to make music. It’s a great feeling. And I want her to sing it. It just isn’t the same when anypony else does it. It’s like I write songs just for her. Can’t you see why I’m so upset that she picked you over me?”
“But I can’t like her like that! I can’t! It would be weird and everypony would laugh at me for not liking my own kind, just like my father! Half of his family got mad him for loving my mother since she can’t fly! Applebloom and Snails both can’t fly, even if they aren’t the same race, so they don’t have to worry much, but to think of what my classmates and my father’s family will think... I’m not supposed to like her. I can’t. I’m not allowed to. I’ll be laughed at. But I can’t take any other stallion with her.”
“I don’t understand why I’m not like this with Scootaloo. Maybe it’s because she’s so confident. But with Sweetie Belle, I know she can handle herself. But I can’t help but feel that I need to keep her around and be a knight in shining armor. She’s mine, and nopony else’s... I feel like I have to be around her a lot, and if I can’t hear the bell on the necklace I gave her, I’m too far away. We’re that close as friends.”
“Besides, she can't possibly like me.” Show Tail paused, finally realizing what he had devolved into. He was staring at the bare dirt his hoof had been digging into, reminding himself that he had rubbed out all the grass in his little rant. He had gone on for far longer than he had thought, and his wings rested around him as if to shield him from himself. Show Tail looked up at Big Macintosh, ears drooping. He felt uncomfortable with the stallion’s gaze upon him after he had just babbled out everything he could never tell Snips and Snails. He took a deep breath to steady his shaking body, counting from one to ten over and over. All he could feel was the pain piercing his stomach, the choking pain of held back tears and the ache in his heart. And the anger. The anger that was growing his body, causing his wings to flare out once again. He was inexplicably angry, and there was only one pony around to let it out on.
“You... You! All you say is eeyup, like you know everything! I can’t like her, I won’t like her! Why don’t you say something other than that damned ‘eeyup’ and actually be helpful?” Show Tail glared up at Big Macintosh, his instinct driving himself to look bigger and possibly intimidate the stallion. Big Macintosh sighed, looking down at Show Tail with a great deal of sympathy.
“You really do like this filly, don’t cha. Well Ah reckon that you already told yourself what to think. You like her, and t’ain’t nothing you can do about it, much like Ah can’t help but like Fluttershy. Ah think you need to think about how you feel, cause you have one of the biggest crushes Ah’ve ever seen.”
“I’m not... She’s just my friend!” Show Tail screamed, taking flight, desperate to be anywhere but there.
“Well now, Ah never seen a colt so far in denial in my life. Aw horsefeathers, Ah got my accent back.” Smirking to himself, Big Macintosh turned his hooves to the house and went on his way. “Ah hope that colt finds his way out of it...”