Inner Strength

by Krickis


2 - Hiding Away

Chapter Two

Hiding Away

It wasn’t like Fluttershy to stay in bed. She had always been a morning pony, and spending ten years as Ponyville’s official animal caretaker had exaggerated that. Most days, she was up before the sun so that she could be out the door as it was rising.

But although the sun had been filtering in through her bedroom window for the past hour, Fluttershy was still in bed. The animals needed her, and yet she was alone with her thoughts. They weren’t good company.

‘Why did I have to talk about all that yesterday, anyway? If I just kept everything with Rarity to myself, then none of this would be happening.’

Even though it was well into the morning and she had to take care of her animal friends, she rolled over and tried to get back to sleep. She wasn’t even tired, but she was too daunted by the day ahead of her to face it.

She tried to think positive. Rainbow had told her about her talk with Twilight the night before, so now she knew that Twilight didn’t hate her.

Probably.

There was always the chance that Twilight only said she didn’t hate her. And the more she thought about it, the more likely that chance seemed… Twilight would be coming by to talk to her about what she had heard, and then Fluttershy would find out exactly how much Twilight really hated her.

The thought made her want to curl up into her bed and become one with it, something she was trying her very best to do.

There was a knock at the door. Fluttershy threw her head under her pillow. It had to be Twilight. Maybe she’d go away if she thought Fluttershy wasn’t home?

Another knock, so probably not. What was she going to do? She couldn’t just stay in bed. It was rude to leave the door unanswered, but when she thought of hearing what Twilight had to say to her… it was horrifying.

Almost as horrifying as the idea of Twilight thinking Fluttershy hated her because she wouldn’t answer the door. There was nothing else she could do. No matter how scared she was, she couldn’t let Twilight think she didn’t like her anymore.

With a whimper, she pulled her head out from under the pillow, only to see a pair of magenta eyes staring at her. She screamed.

Rainbow sighed. “Come on, Shy, it’s time to get up. You can’t keep hiding forever.”

Fluttershy pulled the pillow away from her face. Rainbow was right, of course. “I know. I shouldn’t put myself through this. I need to be stronger.”

“No. Well, yeah, but I meant that I almost got eaten by a hungry bear.”

Fluttershy giggled. Of course, Harry wouldn’t really hurt anypony, but he would still be waiting for his breakfast. It was time to face the day! Or feed her animal friends, at least. She could face that part of her day.

And she didn’t have to face it alone. Everything felt more manageable with Rainbow helping her. Well, Rainbow didn’t so much help as she took the chance to practice some aerial stunts, but Fluttershy appreciated her presence nonetheless.

As always, the animals did a lot to put her mind at rest. Between them and Rainbow, she was able to forget about Twilight and the idea that somepony knew about her. That is, until she realized how nice it was to not dwell on things, which was the cue to begin dwelling again.

For every friendly badger she saw, there was a thought that Twilight might not want to be her friend anymore. For every singing bird, the fear that word might get to Rarity. For every raccoon, rabbit, and fox, half a dozen other anxieties scurried from her head to her heart.

So she moved slowly, weighed down by her thoughts. As practiced as she was, it didn’t usually take her very long to get everyone fed, but the sun was high in the sky by the time she finished.

“I don’t know about you, but I’m beat,” Rainbow said, despite having taken the chance for a mid-morning nap while she thought Fluttershy wouldn’t notice.

“Would you like some tea? Or coffee?” Fluttershy offered.

“Coffee sounds good.”

Fluttershy didn’t actually drink coffee herself, but she always kept it around for Rainbow. Even if she had managed to get a nap in, she wasn’t normally up in the morning. Fluttershy felt guilty for not thinking to offer it sooner, especially since Rainbow had been over late into the night making sure she was okay.

She got the water boiling and added the coffee grounds. While they were waiting for it to brew, there was another knock on the door. Fluttershy stayed in the kitchen and panicked, wondering how she would ever manage to answer it, while Rainbow took the liberty of answering it herself.

“Hello, Rainbow. How’s Fluttershy?”

“Alright. She’s in the kitchen.”

Fluttershy heard the door close and two sets of hoofsteps approaching. Lacking any reasonable place to hide, she hid in her mane.

“Hello, Fluttershy,” Twilight said, tactfully ignoring the fact that Fluttershy was cowering in her mane.

“Hello,” Fluttershy squeaked. It was all she could do to not run away.

Twilight walked over and wrapped a foreleg around her. “Fluttershy, everything’s okay.” Fluttershy peeked through her shield to see Twilight smiling warmly. “I know it’s not how you would have wanted me to, but I’m glad I found out. You’ve been carrying this alone for too long, and I want you to know you can talk to me about this.”

Fluttershy tried to form words, but all she managed to form were tears. She held them inside, but only barely.

“And you certainly don’t have any reason to worry about hiding anything from me,” Twilight continued. “Or any of your friends, for that matter. We all love you no matter what.”

“But… I’m a…” Fluttershy shook her head. She knew it was ridiculous, but she felt like if she never said it nopony could hold it against her.

“You like mares,” Twilight said simply. “It’s really not a big deal, Fluttershy.”

When Twilight was the one saying it, it definitely sounded like it wasn’t a big deal. Fluttershy came out of her mane, but didn’t return the hug. “Thank you, Twilight. But… it’s okay if you don’t, uhm, want to be so close to me anymore…”

Twilight kept hold of Fluttershy. “That’s just silly. This doesn’t change anything between us, and I’m not letting you go until you hug me back.”

Fluttershy couldn’t help but smile as she hugged her friend. It definitely didn’t dispel all of her worries, but it was comforting that she could be so close to Twilight even after she knew about her.

“See, just like I told you!” Rainbow flew across the room and landed next to the other mares. “Our friends care about you. They wouldn’t let something like that get in the way.”

Twilight nodded. “And Rainbow has something else to say to you too, I think.”

Rainbow frowned and looked down at the floor. “Yeah, I’m… sorry if I push you too hard sometimes. I just want you to be happy, Shy.”

She’d had Rainbow’s support for years, but hearing it reaffirmed with Twilight’s support added threatened to overwhelm Fluttershy. Since she and Twilight were still hugging, Fluttershy took the chance to pull Rainbow into it as well. “Thank you, both of you. I know I shouldn’t worry so much, but the idea of telling other ponies…”

“I understand,” Twilight said. “And we won’t pressure you to tell anypony you don’t want to. That’s an important decision that you need to make for yourself.”

As they pulled away from each other, Fluttershy looked between her friends, who were both smiling warmly. Fluttershy couldn’t believe how lucky she was, and a few happy tears finally managed to escape. “Oh, thank you girls so much. You’re the best friends anypony could ever ask for.”

Twilight hugged her again, but Rainbow stepped away. “Well this best friend needs coffee,” she said with an eye roll, but Fluttershy could tell she enjoyed the attention anyway. “I can’t believe I woke up before noon…” Rainbow helped herself to a cup, leaving Fluttershy feeling inhospitable.

“Oh and, uhm… Spike kinda found out too.” Twilight rubbed her shoulder bashfully. “Sorry.”

Rainbow turned to look at her sharply. “You told Spike?”

“Of course not! Somepony was screaming it from the other room though, so he kinda overheard.”

“Rainbow! You said you two just talked. You yelled at her?”

Rainbow looked between the two ponies, then attempted to avoid the question by taking a big gulp of coffee, which was still scalding hot and left her eyes watering.

“It’s fine,” Twilight said. “We both yelled a bit actually, and we really did talk afterwards.”

Fluttershy knew she was probably covering for Rainbow, at least a little bit, but things seemed okay between them now, so she decided to let it go. “As long as you two don’t argue anymore…”

“I’m sure we won’t,” Twilight said. “It was just a misunderstanding, after all. Oh, and Spike’s fine with it too! I’m sorry, I’m sure you would have wanted him to find out from you once you were ready.”

“It’s… it’s okay. Maybe it’s kind of better this way. I still can’t imagine telling anyone myself…” Fluttershy had spent years hiding it from everypony except Rainbow, and she had been prepared to spend her whole life hiding. Even if it was just Twilight and Spike, part of her was glad she had at least a few more friends she wouldn’t have to hide this from.

Although a larger part of her was still worried. “Uhm, does he know about… Rarity?” She squeaked the last word, but Twilight seemed to know what she meant.

“No, he didn’t hear about that.”

“Oh, good. He’d probably be upset.”

Twilight chuckled. “I’m sure he’d be fine. He’ll have to come to terms with Rarity being with somepony else someday. I really don’t think she’s interested in dating a kid.”

‘I guess we both will. She’d never want to be with a mare either,’ Fluttershy thought. She smiled and shook her head. “I’d just hate for him to feel bad because of me. Especially since, uhm, nothing will ever happen between me and her anyway.”

 “Why do you say that?” Twilight asked. She smiled as if it was the most innocent question in the world.

“Well, it’s just that I know she likes stallions, so…”

Twilight smirked. “Fluttershy, you do know some ponies like both, right?”

“Exactly!” Rainbow said suddenly, apparently deciding it was safe to jump back into the conversation. “That’s exactly what I said! If you want to know for sure you’ve got to tell her.” Twilight glared at her. “Right. Too pushy. Sorry.” She continued to quietly sip her coffee while Twilight set the tea kettle.

“What if we did know, though?” Twilight asked. “If we knew how Rarity felt about mares, do you think you would want to ask her out then?”

“I… oh, I don’t know. I’m sure she isn’t, though.” Fluttershy partially retreated in her mane again while her heart started pounding away. “Has she… has she said anything to you?”

It was impossible. There was no way Twilight meant anything by that, Rarity wouldn’t be… she wasn’t like that.

“No, but I could ask. Of course I wouldn’t say your name or anything, I could just tell her that I know a mare who has a crush on her, and ask if she might be interested.”

A crush? Well, that was one way of putting it. Another way was that Fluttershy had been hopelessly in love with Rarity for years, and desperately wanted to know if there was even the slightest chance that Rarity would feel the same way.

But even though Twilight’s plan sounded like it would work, it was still too daunting. Rarity might somehow figure out who it was that was interested in her, and really there was only one way that could end. “Uhm… I’ll think about it.”

The tea whistled, and Twilight served them both a cup while Rainbow stuck with coffee. Fluttershy made some quick snacks and the three moved into the living room, where Rainbow launched into the story of her crazy week with the weather team.

Fluttershy tried paying attention but she kept glancing at Twilight. Occasionally, Twilight would glance at her and smile before looking away again. ‘What does she think of me now? She’s probably just being nice. Even if Twilight is being honest and doesn’t hate me, things probably won’t ever be the same now.’

“So Cloud Kicker’s stuck in the attic with this tornado and –”

“Is it weird being around me now? Oh! Sorry, that was rude. Uhm, please finish your story, Rainbow.”

Rainbow looked slightly annoyed, but she didn’t say anything.

“What do you mean?” Twilight asked.

“Well, do I make you, uhm… uncomfortable?”

Twilight looked confused. “Of course not. Why would you?”

“Well… I, uhm, like mares.” She winced as she said it. “And… and you’re…” She hid in her mane.

“A mare?” Twilight smiled. “A lot of ponies like mares, and I don’t mind being around any of them. Why would I feel uncomfortable around you, but not around, say, Big Mac?”

“Oh, uhm… but he’s a stallion.”

Twilight shrugged. “Why is it okay to be friends with a stallion that likes mares, but not a mare who does? I could never feel uncomfortable around you, I promise.”

Fluttershy could see her point. Logically, she knew it made sense. But still, she couldn’t help but feel like there was a difference, even if she couldn’t explain why.

“Besides, you don’t seem to worry about Rainbow knowing,” Twilight said.

“Oh, but that’s different. I’ve known Rainbow for so long, and she’s really more like my sister,” Fluttershy explained. “Besides, she was there when I was figuring everything out, and even helped me understand how I felt about other mares.”

Twilight tried, and failed, to hold in a laugh, while Rainbow facehoofed. Fluttershy looked between the two until it dawned on her how what she said must have sounded, and then blushed from inside her mane.

“Not like that!” Rainbow said. “What she means is my awesome advice helped her accept her feelings.”

This time Twilight didn’t even try not to laugh.

“It’s true, actually,” Fluttershy said.

Twilight grinned. “Really? Rainbow Dash, the after-school special?”

“Whatever, it’s not important,” Rainbow deflected. “I was kinda a jerk back then anyway.”

“Oh, Dash, you always meant well,” Fluttershy said.

“Alright, so what actually happened?” Twilight asked.

Rainbow just grumbled in her chair.

Since it didn’t seem like Rainbow was going to tell her, Fluttershy did. It was kind of nice to finally be able to talk about it. “She was the first pony I told. Well, the only pony, I guess. It was the day she moved to Ponyville. I didn’t really know what I felt at the time, but she told me it didn’t matter either way, and to never apologize for who I am. That I shouldn't be ashamed of myself no matter what.”

Twilight smiled. “That’s so sweet, Rainbow.”

“Shut it,” Rainbow grumbled.

Twilight and Fluttershy giggled. “Aww, come on Rainbow, nopony thinks any less of you because you care about your friends,” Twilight said.

“Yeah, yeah.” Rainbow waved a hoof. “Anyway, so like I was say– woah!”

Fluttershy interrupted Rainbow again, this time by pulling her into a hug. Rainbow sighed and hugged her back while Twilight smiled from the couch. “I don’t know what I’d do without you girls. I can’t believe I was so afraid of talking to you about this.”

“So what do you say, think you’d maybe want to tell everyone else?” Rainbow asked. Noticing the look Twilight was giving her, Rainbow held up her hooves. “Not, pushing, just asking.”

“I don’t… that’s, uhm…” She thought of what everypony might say.

‘Fluttershy, she’s a mare. That’s just crazy!’

‘Now that just ain’t natural. I bet ya just need to find the right stallion is all.’

‘I’m sorry, darling, but I hardly think it’s appropriate for a lady to feel that way.’

Fluttershy shook her head. “I… I’m not ready yet.”

“It’s okay, Fluttershy,” Twilight said. “Whenever you are ready, we’ll be there to support you. And in the meantime, I hope you know you can always come to me about anything.”

Fluttershy nodded. “Thank you, Twilight. I’m just glad I have you two to support me.”

They spent the rest of the day just talking. They didn’t even talk about Fluttershy’s feeling towards mares that much, they just talked. About Rainbow’s newest athletic accomplishments, about Twilight’s research project she was working on, about the animals Fluttershy had been taking care of recently. About anything and everything, they just talked.

It was exactly what Fluttershy needed. Things were so normal that Fluttershy began to feel like maybe things could be okay. The occasional worry did still pop up, but a quick hug from Twilight was usually enough to keep her fears at bay.

She really did have the best friends anypony could ask for.

By the time Rainbow and Twilight left, Fluttershy even began to feel like it might not be such a bad idea to tell somepony else after all. But who to tell? She knew Rainbow would tell her she should just tell everypony, and that was still too big of a step.

‘Maybe I should ask Twilight for advice?’ She sighed and rejected that idea too. She didn’t want to remind Twilight any more than she had to that she was… that way. Even though they were two of her best friends, she also didn’t want to tell Applejack or Pinkie Pie. She knew there was only one pony she wanted to tell, but she would also be the hardest.

The more she thought about it, the less okay she felt. Sure, Twilight seemed like she didn’t hold it against her, but who knew how she really felt? She spent a lot of time with Twilight, almost as much time as she spent with Rarity, and she’d never noticed Twilight casting her so many glances. Thinking about it, she was positive – there was something Twilight wasn’t saying. Something she was just too nice to say.

Fluttershy decided to go to sleep early and moved to the bedroom. She had a feeling that she wouldn’t be sleeping well, and didn’t want to be exhausted when she went to the spa with Rarity in the morning.

If she did tell Rarity, she’d have to stop these weekly spa trips. Even if she was understanding, there was no way she’d want to keep doing something so intimate with somepony like her.

No, she couldn’t do that. She smiled as she tucked herself into bed. ‘I already have such wonderful friends. Why risk losing them? Things really are better this way.’