Alone, not Lonely
After being alone for so long I know no longer what to do. I have never required friends before. Not that life under my father’s roof would have enabled that. I have learned so much. In a sense I can see further than anypony else. The past, the present, and to an extent, the future itself. Perhaps I give myself much undeserved credit. The Royal family has access to information that I will never possess. Princess Celestia itself is older than any original copy of any book in existence. She made sure the ancient tomes information was preserved for posterity. That said, it is obvious that had she wanted to, she could have erased any kind of polemical history. A thousand years ago she banished her only sister to the moon. I can’t believe somepony in a sane state of mind would do that. And yet, in our peaceful times, she is the benevolent and caring mother of Equestria. She must have gone a long way. Perhaps I can change too. But do I want to?
Twilight made sure I understood that her life is much better now that she has friends. Is that alone enough for me to want to have some of my own? When I left Carousel Boutique I was planning on leaving, never to return. But seeing Applejack has made me see that somehow I was not completely right. I always held myself higher than most, merely because of knowledge. I am aware that I closed my eyes. I just wanted to avoid any conflict with Applejack, and if I could make Twilight happy in the process, better yet. Have I seen just what I wanted to see? Sure, it made me happier than I have ever been for months now, but when have I become such a hedonist fool? To fool myself in this way is to meddle with the very purpose of my existence. Must I return to my colthood, trying to figure out the meaning of life? If there were such an easy answer life would be simpler. If I were to follow my biological goal I would be reduced to a breeding horse, and that is a future I must certainly do not wish for myself. I am in the void right now. I don’t know if anypony else feel like this, but I have now the same feeling I get when reading a book I have not yet finished, and am unaware of what I know, lost between past and future, two very certain extremes, that are joined in a very uncertain present. After meeting all of Twilight’s friends I am sure I will have the answer. Then I will act.
His mind now in order, Ash departed from the hot water in the tub. The hot steam showed that he had been there for a considerable amount of time. While Twilight had insisted he took a bath after working at Sweet Apple Acres, he couldn’t help but assume it had little to do with his sweaty body and more to do with his emotional and muscular weariness.
As he left the bathroom, now completely dry, he noticed Twilight reading a book, no doubt waiting for him to finish.
“Are you feeling better now?”She was smiling, obviously pleased with something.
“I must admit I have never felt this good in a while. So, who are we going to see next?”Ash inquired.
“Fluttershy. She’s really shy, but I’m sure you’ll get along just fine. She likes to take care of small creatures. She’s really nice and caring.” Twilight was in her own way rewarding Ash, giving him some clues about the personality of Fluttershy. Before that she had always kept him in the dark, alone to face her friends. In a quite literal fashion when he had met Applejack.
“Are you trying to set me up with her or something? Anyway, why are your friends all female? I didn’t take you for, er… you know.” Ash was now blushing. He kept quiet, waiting for the mare to fill the silence, although his words made her blush too. She was clearly stunned.
“No, I am not a fillyfooler. Not that I have anything against it or anything, you know. But I guess I never really thought much about that. They were just the friends I made. In case you haven’t noticed there are a lot more mares than stallions in Ponyville, for some odd reason.” She smiled, only now noticing something that would hopefully put the grey stallion in his place. “Although I admit Applejack must have worked some kind of miracle on you. I didn’t consider you capable of using such an informal expression as set me up. And no, I don’t think Fluttershy would find you particularly enticing. Perhaps if you were a furry animal this would be your lucky day.”
And so they strolled to Fluttershy’s, who was already waiting for them. Ash wasn’t sure how or when Twilight had warned her of their visit, but considering the time he had spent working for Applejack it couldn’t have been very difficult. This made Fluttershy the first pony actually expecting Ash, which made him a bit nervous. He didn’t know what she had been told about him. Twilight wouldn’t dare bad-mouth him to her friend, not that she was the type to anyway. And even if Fluttershy had heard something from Rarity or Applejack, he was sure none would have reasons to criticize his behavior.
“Hello Twilight Sparkle. Hi Ash Cloud. Nice meeting you.” Ash noticed how her pink mane hid part of her face. She sure did seem shy. Feeling the need to put the yellow mare at ease her put on his best, most convincing smile and returned the greeting.
“Hi Fluttershy. It’s very nice meeting you at last. I have heard many good things about you, you know.”
“Oh, I’ve heard you’re really nice too.”She averted her gaze to Twilight, but didn’t say a word.
The unicorn, who until now had been a mere observer, decided to intervene as poor Fluttershy seemed especially shy around stallions.
“So, have you planed anything for us? If you haven’t don’t worry. You’re probably really busy taking care of critter and I promise we won’t take much of your time.” Twilight hadn’t made the same mistake of coming unprepared. She had told their guest that Ash merely wanted to make a few friends and that she could prepare something to make him more relaxed.
“Well, I was going to feed the duckies in a lake nearby, so perhaps you want to join? Some people do it for fun too. If that’s okay with you, of course.” It was faint, but Ash managed to spot it. A sparkle in her eyes for a mere moment, just as she mentioned feeding ducks. He wasn’t too fond of animals, especially loud ones like dogs, but he didn’t consider himself a cat pony either. They were too arrogant, like they didn’t know who was the pet and who was the owner.
Both guests welcomed the idea. In fact, Twilight was rather pleased with it, knowing that it was the perfect opportunity to truly convince Ash that friends were worth having.
The blue maned pegasus was surprised at the reception they were given by the considerable large group of ducks, rounding Fluttershy while quacking impatiently. Fortunately they grew quieter once the trio began feeding them with bread. One of them, however, was not being particularly nice.
It was a bigger than average, pushing and bullying the smaller ones in order to get most of the food. Ash noticed him before Twilight, who was busy levitating crumbs so that the ducks had to hop in order get their food. Fluttershy was also busy, and since the ducks were used to her she had more surrounding her. The grey pegasus decided it was time to teach the bully a lesson and deprived him of food whenever possible. This didn’t go as well as he had hoped, since said duck attacked him violently, biting relentlessly.
This angered Ash more than it should, and for in a moment his mind was set. With a fast and strong movement he stomped on the duck, snapping his left wing. A sadistic grin on his snout, he was actually pleased with himself.
“NO! WHAT HAVE YOU DONE YOU BRUTE?” Fluttershy was now centimeters from him, glaring in a way the stallion thought impossible for such a tame pony. He was now absolutely terrified. A quick glance showed Twilight in pure panic. Any attempts to speak resulted only in repeated stammering. After seconds that seemed like centuries, Fluttershy ceased her stare. She then picked up the wounded duck and carried it home, leaving Twilight and Ash alone with the ducks, who took Fluttershy’s departure as a sign that the meal was over, leaving for the water soon after.
“What the buck were you thinking?” The enraged unicorn said once she gained full control of her shaking hooves.
“That duck was stealing the food from the smaller ones. And he attacked me! I’m not the one you should blame.” Independently of how much Ash tried to explain his action his heart had sank upon seeing Fluttershy leave, unable to lift his own spirit.
“It doesn’t matter what it did! It’s a duck, so he can’t think logically and he used his instincts. You can’t blame an irrational animal for their actions.” Ash knew perfectly the mare was right, but what disturbed him most was the wave of pleasure he had felt when that wing broke.
“I’m going to apologize, if I explain maybe she…”
“You will do no such thing!” The unicorn interrupted him, knowing that Fluttershy would take time to forgive him, even if she wasn’t one to foster bitterness towards anypony.
Guilt spoke louder than Twilight and in an instant Ash was high in the air, speeding in the cottage’s direction. He didn’t think, for once, and upon landing he didn’t know whether to knock on the door or not. He simply tapped it, opening it slightly. From his position he could see Fluttershy tending to the bird’s wound. The fast and swift movement clearly indicated that she had done this many times before.
Ash waited for her to finish before coughing, indicating his presence. The pegasus mare turned quickly, visibly startled. Ash decided it would better for him to speak first.
“I’m very sorry. I can explain. He was bullying the other ducks and he attacked me and…” He was unsure about what to say next, but Fluttershy didn’t give him time to think.
“I want you to know I’m very disappointed in you Ash. The way Twilight Spoke about you I never thought you could do something like that. I know Duckglas can be a handful, but he just needs to be shown a little kindness. But if you really are sorry I won’t hold a grudge against you."
It was highly inappropriate, especially considering he didn’t know the mare very well and the fact that minutes ago she was yelling at him, but he couldn’t help himself. In a flash he had closed the gap between them and hugged her tightly. She didn’t offer any resistance so he didn’t let go, merely whispering a soft “Thank you.” into her ear.
None of them realized Twilight had arrived and upon seeing the couple hug, her jaw dropped. Confused and uncomfortable, she didn’t speak or move. When the two pegasi let each other go, they noticed Twilight and soon there were three ponies in a mildly awkward situation.