Inner Strength

by Krickis


6 - Taking Chances

Chapter Six

Taking Chances

It was well into the afternoon by the time Fluttershy was preparing lunch for herself. She had let herself get so caught up in feeding her animal friends that she forgot to feed herself, and her stomach was growling in complaint. She found herself doing that more often over the past month. Being around the animals was always a comforting feeling, and ever since more of her friends had found out her secret, she found that comfort more and more appealing.

Determined to not let her thoughts get the better of her, she hummed merrily while she worked in the kitchen. She had a quick taste of the sauce she’d been stirring and decided that it was perfect. And it was good timing, as checking on her pasta revealed it was cooked just right.

She strained the pasta, but before she could do anything else, there was a knock on the door. “One moment, please,” she called as she set the pasta back in the pot.

She hadn’t been expecting company, and she felt a little guilty at the thought of not making enough food for whoever her guest was. When she opened the door, she found Twilight standing on the other side. She was wearing a yellow sundress and didn’t seem to notice Fluttershy had answered the door, as she kept fussing with her mane. “Oh, hello, Twilight,” Fluttershy said, prompting her to stop suddenly.

“Hello, Fluttershy!” Twilight held up a picnic basket and smiled hopefully. “I know it’s a bit late for lunch, but I was wondering if you wanted to have a picnic?”

Fluttershy smiled. “That sounds lovely. I was just about to make lunch, actually. Uhm, give me just one moment to put everything away.” She gestured for Twilight to sit in the living room while she walked back to the kitchen to put her would-be lunch in the refrigerator.

She didn’t want to let Twilight know that she had already made food, fearing she might decide there was no point in spending the afternoon together. Twilight hadn’t been by to visit her as often ever since the whole incident with Rarity, and Fluttershy missed her company. So ignoring her stomach’s complaints, she put the spices away in the cabinets and the pots in the sink.

When she returned to the living room, she found Twilight straightening her tail. Fluttershy cocked her head to the side, wondering if Twilight was planning on meeting somepony else as well. She was dressed up, after all, and was even wearing makeup. While Fluttershy was watching, Twilight glanced over and jumped to her hooves. Fluttershy quickly turned away and stared at the floor. “Oh, uhm, I’m ready to go if you are.”

“Oh, yeah, me too!” Twilight levitated the picnic basket and made for the door, holding it open for Fluttershy.

Once they were both outside, Fluttershy fell in step behind Twilight, letting her pick the destination. ‘Stupid!’ she thought. ‘Now she thinks I was staring at her. It’s no wonder Twilight doesn’t want to come around anymore. She probably hates being around me now.’

At least Twilight seemed to know exactly where she wanted to go, moving purposefully away from Ponyville. Although Twilight kept smiling, Fluttershy knew she already regretted suggesting the picnic. At least the walk was short. Twilight was far too nice to admit it, but there was no way she would want to draw out their picnic, especially after catching Fluttershy staring at her.

Twilight gestured to a patch of shade under a tree. “How’s this for a spot?” They were in a field, but the outskirts of the forest were visible. It was a nice view; the trees created a backdrop of greenery while leaving the sky visible overhead. There were all sorts of wildflowers growing all around, including sunflowers as tall as a pony.

“Oh, it’s lovely,” Fluttershy said. Twilight didn’t seem uncomfortable, but Fluttershy wondered if she was just hiding it for her friend’s sake. Still, even if that was the case, Fluttershy decided to make the most of it. Really, it was more than she could ask for; her friends were willing to put up with her despite what she was. She would just have to make sure she returned the favor and not do anything weird around them.

“So how are all the animals?” Twilight asked as she set down a blanket and began unpacking the picnic basket, setting aside sandwiches and a bottle of Sweet Apple Acres cider.

Happy to have something safe to talk about, Fluttershy smiled as she answered. “Oh, the cutest little ducklings hatched the other day, and they’re just the most precious things ever! Today they were learning to swim for the first time. I was a little worried because they’re still so small, but of course, their parents knew best.”

“Aww, that’s adorable!” Twilight passed over the sandwiches. “Do you think I’d be able to see them?”

“Of course! We can visit them after we eat, if you want.” Fluttershy took a bite of her sandwich. She really was starving. “So, are you researching anything right now?”

“Well, actually I’ve been a bit busy with other things lately, but there was a fascinating theory on the core principles of magic published earlier this week that I’ve been looking forward to reading. It’s been causing some controversy because if it’s accurate, it’ll mean a lot of what we thought we understood only works because of some lucky guesses. Basically…”

Twilight launched into an explanation that mostly went over Fluttershy’s head, even though she knew Twilight was trying her best to simplify it. Still, it gave her a chance to eat, and she did enjoy watching Twilight get so caught up in her explanation. Fluttershy really admired her passion.

“Which really goes back to Clover’s classification of the different magic elements.” Twilight suddenly seemed to realize she was rambling and stopped talking. She looked away bashfully. “Sorry, guess I got a little caught up there.”

“Oh, no, it’s fine,” Fluttershy insisted, but the conversation returned to everyday fare.

Fluttershy kept trying to get Twilight to tell her what she had been up to for the past month, but every time she touched on the subject, Twilight would start talking about something else. Growing more frustrated every time, she eventually decided to just ask the question on her mind.

“Uhm… Twilight?”

“Yes?”

“Uhm… I was wondering… why don’t you come visit me anymore?” Fluttershy squeaked.

Rather than answer Twilight tilted her head to the side and smiled. “I’m sorry, Fluttershy, but could you repeat that?”

Fluttershy gulped nervously and took a deep breath. Trying to speak a little louder, she repeated, “It’s just… you used to come see me at least once a week, but now, uhm, you haven’t come to visit me. Is it, uhm, did I do something wrong?”

Twilight looked taken aback by the question. After a moment of composing herself, she answered, “I’ve just been busy. I’m sorry if I made you feel ignored. You haven’t done anything wrong, and I’ve missed spending time with you too! That’s why I wanted to come by today.”

‘She’s been busy. She has a lot of important responsibilities as a princess. I’m just being selfish.’ Fluttershy told herself. Of course she was being silly, but still… “Is it because I’m a… I like mares?” She asked. “It is, isn’t it? It’s okay, I don’t blame you.”

“Fluttershy…” Twilight moved in closer, putting her face in front of Fluttershy’s to try and maintain eye contact. Fluttershy tried turning her head, but Twilight kept moving hers to always be in view, not letting Fluttershy look away. Eventually, she gave up and settled on just casting her eyes downwards. She didn’t want Twilight to see the tears already welling up.

Since she couldn’t make eye contact, Twilight placed a hoof on her shoulder instead. Fluttershy felt guilty for allowing her friend to be so close to somepony like her, but couldn’t move away. Part of her liked the contact, finding it comforting that Twilight would still even want to touch her. That made her feel guilty, too.

“I talked to Rarity the other day,” Twilight said gently. “She’s worried about you, and she told me that you’ve been avoiding her because you’re afraid she doesn’t want to be around you anymore.”

Fluttershy wanted to explain herself, but she couldn’t find the right words. How was she supposed to make somepony like Twilight understand how she felt? She was a princess, and even before that she had always been the picture of an ideal pony. She didn’t have to worry about her what her friends would think of her if they knew what she was really like.

“I just…” Fluttershy said eventually, speaking slowly and quietly. “I think it would be better for everypony if I stopped bothering them.” She chanced a quick look up at Twilight, and regretted saying anything. Twilight looked so worried, but Fluttershy knew she didn’t deserve that sympathy.

“Fluttershy, I know it can be hard to believe, but we really do accept you. Rarity, Rainbow Dash, Spike, and I all love just the way you are. You’re not bothering anyone, and there’s nothing wrong with you.”

Fluttershy closed her eyes tightly. She was appreciated that Twilight was trying to make her feel better, but she just didn’t understand. Good ponies couldn’t understand, because they weren’t like her.

“You keep saying you’re worried about us not accepting you, but I don’t think that’s really what bothering you. I think the real problem is that you don’t accept yourself.”

Fluttershy finally looked at Twilight properly. She was smiling, but there was something else in her expression. She looked sad. It didn’t look like an act, not really. Twilight wasn’t pretending like Fluttershy kept thinking, she was genuinely sad to see her friend so hurt.

Looking into Twilight’s eyes, she couldn’t hold back anymore and began to cry. Twilight pulled her into a hug and Fluttershy cried on her shoulder. She sobbed loudly as she clung to Twilight, and for a time her mind went blank. She didn’t worry about what anypony would think of her, or the fact that she had her forelegs wrapped tightly around another mare, or anything else at all.

Twilight stroked her mane and didn’t say much, just the occasional ‘It’s okay,’ as Fluttershy let out everything she had been bottling inside, all the fears and self-consciousness. Even if Twilight did try to say more, she wouldn’t have really heard it. But Twilight was giving her exactly what she needed, and she slowly found herself calming down thanks to her friend’s comforting presence.

She couldn’t say how long she cried for, but once the tears subsided she collapsed onto her back in the grass. Twilight lay next to her, leaning her head against Fluttershy’s. She placed a foreleg on top of Twilight’s, who responded by wrapping it in her own. Together they lay under the tree for a while, not saying anything. Fluttershy watched as the light shifted through the branches, moving the shadows over them as the sun slowly made its way across the sky.

Eventually, Fluttershy broke the silence. “The day you and Rainbow came to talk to me, I was so happy. It was the same when I told Rarity, even after she said she couldn’t feel the same way about me.”

“It must have been nice to finally get it out,” Twilight said softly.

“it was.” Fluttershy thought back to that feeling. It was the same way she felt now, certain that Twilight truly did still accept her. “I had finally told at least a few of my friends, and everypony was still with me. It was the most liberated I’ve felt since I first left Cloudsdale.”

“But it didn’t last?’

Fluttershy shook her head. “Afterwards when everypony went home, I felt horrible. Like, uhm, maybe everypony was just pretending to be okay with it. And that… I guess that I didn’t deserve to be happy… and that I should have never thought somepony like Rarity could be like me. It’s like…” Fluttershy trailed off as she searched for the right words.

“Like you know there’s nothing wrong with you, but no matter what you do it still feels like there is?” Twilight finished for her.

Fluttershy nodded. It was exactly like that.

“I know what you mean…” Twilight’s expression shifted, becoming sadder. “There’s something I should have told you as soon as I overheard you talking to Rainbow. Something I should have told everypony a long time ago, but I’ve been too scared.”

Twilight paused. The silence went on for so long Fluttershy thought she might have changed her mind. She wanted to hear what Twilight was going to say, but didn’t want to push her.

Eventually, however, Twilight continued. “Fluttershy, I understand how you feel. Because the truth is that actually… well, I’m a lesbian too.”

Fluttershy sat up and stared at Twilight, who was looking off to the side. She must have misheard. Twilight was a princess. She was one of the best ponies Fluttershy knew. She might be the best pony Fluttershy knew. Twilight was a good pony, and good ponies were not like her. “What?”

Twilight sat up too. “I like mares,” she said simply, looking into Fluttershy’s eyes. Twilight blushed and smiled a little. She placed her hoof on Fluttershy’s again. “I… I like you, Fluttershy. I… I have for a long time, but I was too afraid of what you’d think to ever tell you.”

Fluttershy’s mouth fell open as her brain stopped working. She was aware that Twilight’s expression was changing from hopeful to nervous, but she couldn’t process any words to say.

Eventually Twilight continued, looking at their hooves which were still pressed together. “I know you don’t feel the same way, and that’s okay. But I just, well, I guess I wanted to tell you.”

Fluttershy tried to get her mouth to start saying something, anything, but nothing came out. This wasn’t happening. This kind of thing just didn’t happen to her. As she continued to not say anything, Twilight looked more concerned. Eventually, she pulled her hoof back and stood up. Only as she stepped away did Fluttershy realize exactly how close they had been. “I’m sorry, I shouldn’t have –”

“Ducklings,” Fluttershy squeaked out the first coherent thought she could latch on to.

“I’m sorry?”

“We haven’t seen the ducklings yet,” she said, standing up herself.

“Oh, uh, that’s right. Uhm… we should go then! Lead the way,” Twilight said, smiling awkwardly. She haphazardly used her magic to stuff everything back into the picnic basket, and followed after Fluttershy.

She led them towards where the ducklings had been learning to swim earlier. They walked in silence, each pony lost in her own thoughts. Fluttershy tried to figure out what she should be doing, but she wasn’t even sure what had happened. A small part of her wondered if this was some sort of cruel joke, even though she knew there was no way Twilight would ever do anything like that.

By the time they reached the lake, they found the ducks were gone. They were probably asleep after their tiring day. But in their place was a family of otters playing, which the two ponies stopped to watch. Once they realized they had an audience, the otters began doing tricks to show off, much to Twilight’s delight.

‘Twilight… Twilight loves me? If I love her back I won’t have to be alone anymore…’ Fluttershy kept one eye on the otters, and the other on Twilight. Every time one of the otters did a flip or dive, Twilight would laugh and cheer.

Fluttershy did her best to find it. That spark that had ignited when she had realized she loved Rarity. She wanted so much for it to ignite now for Twilight.

There was a lot she liked about Twilight. She had to admit, she did enjoy watching her friend’s excitement at the show, the way her face would light up. Twilight was able to find joy in Fluttershy’s passion for animals, and while she’d never understand magic, Fluttershy did spend a lot of time reading. Twilight was caring, supportive, rarely pushed her into things she was uncomfortable with, and when she did, it was only ever for her own good. And perhaps most importantly, Twilight not only liked mares but, for whatever reason, liked her.

But she also couldn’t deny that she just didn’t feel the same way about Twilight as she did for Rarity. Not even close. Twilight was a great friend, but no matter how much she tried to force something more, that was all Fluttershy could manage to feel for her.

Besides, it would be unfair to Twilight to accept her feelings when she knew she would always really have another mare on her mind. Twilight was her friend, and Fluttershy wanted her to be with somepony who was able to love her completely.

While Fluttershy worked through her feelings, Twilight realized she was being watched and turned towards Fluttershy, beaming. Fluttershy blushed, but rather than hide like she wanted to, she forced herself to smile back.

After leaving the otters, they walked aimlessly for a while. They passed time chatting about the animals they saw, while never mentioning what they were really thinking about.

Eventually, Fluttershy found herself worrying a little bit less about her thoughts, and she managed to enjoy her afternoon with her friend. She even felt a little better about Rarity. Knowing that Twilight had feelings for her didn’t bother Fluttershy at all, so maybe Rarity really did mean it when she said she wasn’t bothered by Fluttershy’s feelings.

All too soon, however, afternoon turned into evening, and they found themselves heading back to the cottage.

“Spike’s probably waiting for me to start dinner,” Twilight said regretfully. “I didn’t tell him I’d be out all day.”

Fluttershy nodded. “And if I don’t start Angel’s dinner soon, he’ll get cranky.”

At first, neither pony made to leave. Eventually one of them had to though, so Twilight said, “Goodnight, then,” and walked off.

Fluttershy turned towards the door and hesitated. ‘I should just go inside. We had a nice day, and that’s enough,’ she thought. But she turned to look at Twilight walking away, and she felt torn.

It was true that she didn’t exactly share Twilight’s feelings, but she did really enjoy the time they spent together. ‘Maybe I can learn to love her. Maybe just once, it’ll be okay if I take a chance.’

“Wait!” she called. Twilight must not have heard because she was still walking away. Hating her quiet voice, Fluttershy jumped into the air and glided over to the alicorn.

“Huh? Fluttershy?” Twilight stopped in her tracks and quirked her head to the side.

Fluttershy realized she didn’t know what she had planned on saying. “Hi,” she squeaked out eventually.

Twilight looked confused, but she didn’t seem to be too bothered by the awkward entrance. “Is… everything okay?”

Fluttershy spoke directly to the ground. “Uhm, are you going to Cheerilee’s party?”

“Of course,” Twilight said. “I’ll see you there, right?”

“Yes… well… actually, I was wondering if you, uhm, if you wanted to go. With… me.” Fluttershy closed her eyes. Even seeing Twilight’s hooves made her nervous.

“Do you… mean as a date?” Twilight asked. Even without seeing her, it wasn’t hard to imagine her hopeful smile. She could even hear it in her voice.

Fluttershy nodded, unable to speak. She peeked one eye open and glanced up to see Twilight’s face go from surprise to joy in mere seconds.

“Of course! That sounds perfect,” Twilight said.

“Okay,” Fluttershy said. She felt her legs go weak as she added, “It’s a date then.”

“Yup. I can’t wait.” Twilight’s face could barely hold her smile. She gave Fluttershy one more hug before departing. “Good night, Fluttershy.”

“Good night, Twilight.”

Fluttershy kept calm as she steadily made her way back to her house, doing her best to not think about the sudden change of plans. But once she was inside, she gently closed the door behind her, then promptly collapsed against it.

“It’s a date. I asked one of my best friends on a date. Not to mention she’s a princess, so does that mean it’s a royal date?”

As she panicked on the floor, an irritated white rabbit ran up to her. He lifted a foot to start kicking the floor impatiently, but then he got a better look at his caretaker’s face. Instead, he nuzzled against her, and – when he was sure she couldn’t see his face – rolled his eyes.

“Oh, Angel, what am I going to do?”

She hadn’t really expected an answer, but the bunny gave one anyway. He hopped away for a moment, then returned with her calendar and the sketch Rarity had made for Fluttershy’s gala dress. He pointed to the calendar first then to the sketch.

“You’re right, Angel.” Fluttershy picked herself up off the floor, feeling a little bit more confident. “The party is in three days, that’s plenty of time to make sure everything is perfect.”

The rabbit jumped excitedly, then changed his expression back to annoyance and pointed towards the kitchen.

Fluttershy blushed. “Oh, right. After we get you your dinner, of course.”

She went into the kitchen and pulled out the ingredients for Angel’s salad, setting aside the pasta to reheat for herself. She tried to think positive. She had her first date ahead of her, and it was with a wonderful mare. True, she didn’t love Twilight, but maybe she could in time.

‘What’s the worst that could happen? If things don’t go well I can just tell her. We only agreed to one date. I’m sure we’ll still be friends no matter what. Maybe. Hopefully.’ She shook her head and tried to focus on preparing the salad. ‘What if I break her heart? I hope she doesn’t hate me too much…’ She sighed. She had three very long days ahead of her.