A Bluebird's Song

by Ardensfax

Bleed No More

A Bluebird’s Song
Part Four

I just want to take my chance
To live through a miracle

Bleed No More

One week later.

Rarity had to concede that Fluttershy was a mare of her word.

In spite of everything, the canary pegasus had not forgotten her offer of dinner, and as a result, the drowsy, amber-swaddled Saturday evening found the alabaster unicorn wending her way through the cobbled streets of Ponyville, on her way to meet Fluttershy at Trottensons’ restaurant. Ponyville was winding down after the week, the streets sporadically dotted with wanderers and couples. A few gentle strains of a harpsichord melody issued from a top floor window to her right, mingling with the low whistle of the wind. Rarity sighed. It was good to be home, but the fresh meadow-tinged air smelled strangely bittersweet, knowing that two of their number were miles away.

Dash’s friends had been staying in a Canterlot hotel, courtesy of the princess, for most of the previous week, in order to keep the injured mare company. It was obvious from the start that the pegasus’s recovery was going to be a long and arduous one, so they had done all they could to keep her in a cheerful mood. Twilight seemed to achieve that much on her own, of course. She would sit by Dash’s bedside for hours, stroking her hoof or simply gazing at the pegasus as if she were a miracle. On reflection, Rarity supposed that she might well qualify as one. For her part, Dash had good days and bad days, but gradually the good days were becoming more frequent, and the bad days were becoming less painful.

None of them had asked Twilight how Dash had dealt with the truth of her reawakening, or indeed if she had yet been told of her mother’s sacrifice. There was a general unspoken sense that the matter was between Dash, Twilight, and Celestia.

Of course, there could be no funeral for Rainbow Shine. The entire event would have to remain tightly under wraps, as it may well have been extremely damaging for the princess were the truth to leak out. There was every probability that Celestia’s name would be dragged through the press, and Twilight could easily be dragged through the courts for her role in the matter.

In the end, however, the ponies had gradually realized that they had jobs and responsibilities back in Ponyville. Applejack had needed to be back in time for harvest, Rarity had something of a backlog of needlework to catch up with, and Fluttershy knew that to remain away much longer would bring down Angel’s wrath on her head. With varying degrees of guilt, but on the insistence of Twilight that she would be perfectly fine on her own, the four ponies had returned to their respective homes. As expected, Twilight had opted to remain in Canterlot until Dash was discharged from hospital, and so Spike was living part-time on Sweet Apple Acres at Applejack's invitation, opting to sleep at the farmhouse, but spending most of the daylight hours tending to the library, keeping the place neat prior to Twilight's return.

As Rarity arrived outside the restaurant, she halted for a moment, suddenly nervous. She nervously checked her reflection in a nearby mirror, hoping that she had dressed appropriately. She did not want to appear overdressed and come across as intimidating, but at the same time wearing something too simplistic may seem somehow condescending. In the end, she had settled upon a flirty little back-laced dress which she had made for herself out of lilac silk a few months previously. The gauzy mesh skirt floated lazily around her flank, and as she caught sight of herself in the window, she momentarily hoped that the ensemble did not come across as too suggestive.

Why are you so nervous? She shook her head, irritated with herself. Fluttershy had kissed her, for Celestia’s sake. She had admitted in perfectly plain words that she was attracted to her, and the usually timid mare had gone so far as to admit that she would like for her and Rarity to be together in front of two of their friends. The yellow mare had done everything short of signing a formal statement that she wanted to pursue this relationship, so Rarity felt that she had no right to feel the cold bite of nerves at this stage.

It was not even as if they had been apart for long; indeed, Rarity had met her at the spa only a few days ago. She had been relieved to see that the burn mark on the pegasus’s foreleg was far less inflamed now, the ointment obviously doing its job. Apparently it still itched near-constantly, however, and it was doubtful that the fur would ever grow back on that particular patch.

Stop distracting yourself. You see her all the time, you like her, and she likes you. Just go for it.

But, of course, this was their first genuine date. This was the few hours that could well make or break their relationship. On reflection, Rarity supposed she was entitled to a few butterflies at this stage.

Determinedly tearing her critical eye away from her reflection, she pushed open the door and trotted purposefully inside.

She caught sight of Fluttershy immediately, comfortably sequestered at a candlelit table in the corner of the dimly lit room. Her stomach gave a pleasurable lurch at the sight of the mare. Fluttershy was wearing a pale green sash dress, long and flowing with a curlicue vine pattern radiating outward from the wing holes, the style flattering the pegasus’s figure without appearing to cling or hug too tightly. The pearly unicorn’s concerns about her own appearance were immediately forgotten. Indeed, she personally doubted that anypony would look twice at her, given her companion.

Rarity found herself a little transfixed, her heart accelerating a slightly, but she suspected that being caught staring in this way might not be the best start to the evening. She began to pick her way between the tables, and at that moment Fluttershy turned and spotted her.

The pegasus smiled, blushing a little at the sight of the unicorn. “Hi Rarity,” she mumbled as the alabaster mare took her seat, and Rarity could tell that Fluttershy too was nervous.

She smiled back, doing her best to put Fluttershy at her ease. “Hello, darling.” She sat forwards a little in her seat, lowering her voice a little. “You look simply gorgeous,” she added, her tone warmly sincere.

Fluttershy looked both delighted and relieved, her cheeks heating up violently at the compliment. “Oh, I… Thank you, Rarity. You look beautiful too.” She leaned forwards, still blushing but seemingly more assured, no longer stumbling over her words. It was remarkable how much easier she seemed to find it to tap into her supplies of self-confidence these days. She gently touched the unicorn’s foreleg with her own, running the tip of her hoof once along Rarity’s fetlock. “Actually, forget that,” her voice dropped to a whisper. “You don’t just look it. You are beautiful.”

It was Rarity’s turn to turn pink. Celestia, she’s supposed to be the shy one! she thought to herself with the portion of her mind which was not thoroughly distracted. I could never pull off a line like that without sounding corny or affected.

For once in her life, she found herself at something of a loss for words. The atmosphere no longer felt anything like that of a first date anymore, and in truth, she would have liked nothing better than to kiss Fluttershy there and then. She had a sneaking suspicion that the canary mare wanted much the same thing, although something told her that the restaurant’s other patrons might object. She contented herself with squeezing Fluttershy’s hoof between her own, losing herself a little in the mare’s turquoise eyes.

She reflected once again that there was a surprising reserve of courageous, almost headstrong will in the pegasus. In a way, she was unpredictable, and Rarity found that aspect of her personality oddly exciting. She was attracted to Fluttershy largely for her kindness and her effortless grace, but deeper down she harboured an almost subconscious desire to explore Fluttershy’s darker, more traditionally pegasine side; perhaps to feel the mare’s infamous stare. Rarity was not normally a submissive pony, but the thought of surrendering her free will and self control to the timid, beautiful, sometimes frightening pegasus was simply intoxicating.

Rarity blinked, snapping herself out of that particular train of thought, knowing that it could all too easily become a downward spiral.

They sat there for a few moments, sharing sporadic, slightly teasing glances of eye contact with each other, chatting idly about this and that, from needlework to the difficulties of telekinesis. Quite apart from her substantial physical attraction to the mare, Rarity was thoroughly enjoying having a pony of such a similar mindset to talk with. Of course, this compatibility had kept them out of the clutches of awkward silences for years at the spa, and so was no great surprise, but combined with the atmosphere of the restaurant and the tantalizingly suggestive sparring of gazes, it only served to make the pegasus’s company all the more pleasant.

At some point, the drinks arrived, and they placed their orders almost unconsciously. There seemed to be an unspoken rule between them that serious topics of conversation could wait until after they had eaten. Now was a time to enjoy each others’ company. In truth, Rarity had expected the memory of their cloud-top kiss to stifle the conversation, perhaps make things awkward between them, but in reality it seemed to have done the opposite. Her nerves were subsiding a little, and now that the introductory jitters had been dealt with and put aside, the first-date awkwardness seemed to have left them largely alone.

“So,” Rarity began, tracing a hoof idly around the rim of her wine glass, the subtle sting of the Caberneigh still sharp on her tongue. She sighed a little. “You know, I feel awful leaving Twilight on her own up in Canterlot. Looking after Dash’s got to be quite a responsibility.”

Fluttershy nodded, but giggled a little. “I’m sure she’ll be okay,” she replied. “It was practically her idea for us to come back.” This much was certainly true. They had all been reluctant to return, but in the end Twilight had all but propelled them out of the door, insisting that they should not fall behind with their responsibilities any more than they already had.

“I suppose so,” replied Rarity, taking another sip of wine. She shook her head in mild annoyance. “Ah, listen to me fretting. You’re supposed to be having a good time, not listening to me worrying!”

“Actually, I don’t mind,” Fluttershy murmured. “It’s not a flaw; it just shows that you care.”

The unicorn laughed, quietly. “That’s kind of you, dear. Trust you to try and paint me in a better light.”

For a few moments, Fluttershy broke eye contact, looking around the candle-lit room as if struggling to pluck up the courage to speak.

Rarity settled back on her chair, straightening the hem of her dress. “Are you alright, Fluttershy?”

The primrose-yellow pegasus turned back to face her, biting her lip a little. When she spoke, her voice was hardly audible, and her cheeks were rosy once again. “I… I just wanted to tell you that… that I meant it.”

Rarity shuffled forwards a little, the better to catch the quiet mare’s voice. “Meant what, darling?”

“In… in Cloudsdale,” mumbled Fluttershy, suddenly bashful once again, looking down at the table. Apparently her self-confidence had been, for the moment, exhausted. Rarity was excited and intrigued in equal measure, and able to make a reasonable guess as to what Fluttershy meant by ‘Cloudsdale’.

“The Everfree’s not safe,” Fluttershy continued. “I didn’t know if I was going to come back or not, and I just couldn’t leave you without something to… to remember me by. Just in case,” She looked up again, tentatively meeting Rarity’s eyes. “I want you to know that I didn’t just kiss you out of fear or valediction.” She rested her hoof on Rarity’s once again, her gaze quite steady. “I did it because I wanted it so much. I… I couldn’t stop myself. I truly meant it.”

Rarity leaned towards the delicate mare, her eyes smouldering. “I could tell, darling,” she whispered, playfully nudging Fluttershy’s hind hoof beneath the table. The pegasus squeaked a little, her wings twitching in a way that Rarity found quite adorable.

Fluttershy smirked, recovering rapidly and apparently deciding to reciprocate. She took a sip of her drink with an attitude of faux-carelessness, and Rarity’s eyes widened a little as she felt the caress of Fluttershy’s rear hoof along the fetlocks of her hind leg. For the sake of decorum, she was relieved that the silk tablecloth reached down to the floor, sparing them the glances of the ponies seated at surrounding tables.

Unable to suppress a small giggle, Rarity joined in, catching one of Fluttershy’s hind legs between her own, and running her hoof up the back of the mare’s calf. She saw the canary pegasus bite her lip, exhaling a little more sharply than she had perhaps intended. Somewhere in the back of her mind, Rarity knew that playing hoofsies in this way could easily be looked on as being either juvenile or downright ill-mannered, but it did not matter. Both ponies were perfectly comfortable in each others’ company, and messing around in this half-joking, half-sensual way came just as naturally as their conversation.

The unicorn leaned forwards, her expression one of mock severity. “You know, this is hardly first-date behavior,” she pointed out, her eyes twinkling.

Fluttershy’s cheeks coloured a little. “Mhm, we’re doing things in a weird order, aren’t we?” She sighed, happily, looking more at ease than Rarity had seen her in a long time. “I don’t mind though,” she added, smiling playfully across the table. Rarity returned the smile, quite pleasantly surprised by how the evening was progressing. If anything, being in a romantic situation seemed to have brought Fluttershy out of her shell, rather than forcing her deeper into introversion. Rarity supposed that having spent so much of her life forcibly repressing herself, this was something of a liberating experience for the usually-timid mare, the sense of freedom overpowering her natural shyness.

“You know what?” the alabaster mare said, flicking her hair back a little. “I don’t mind either. In my experience, first dates are usually a couple of hours of treading very carefully and making awkward conversation. This is much better, darling.”

To emphasize her point, she stroked her hoof softly one final time across Fluttershy’s ankle, then darted upwards in a smooth flicking motion that teasingly encroached just minutely above the pegasus’s knee, slipping beneath the flowing fabric of her dress before falling back to the floor as if suddenly overcome by bashfulness. The tension in the air between them was palpable and delicious, and Rarity felt Fluttershy shiver minutely under her gentle touch.


Of course, the waiter chose that precise second to deliver their meals, shattering the moment and reminding both mares that they were seated in a busy restaurant. He cleared his throat, holding the tray aloft magically, and Rarity turned with a slight jump. “Oh! Oh, thank you,” she exclaimed a little too loudly, and Fluttershy noticed that she was blushing slightly.

The waiter smiled, recognizing the all-too-familiar symptoms of a new couple. “Which of you ladies ordered the quiche?”

Fluttershy half-raised a hoof. “Me,” she mumbled, reverting to her customary shyness as she always did in the presence of strangers. Inside, though, she was buzzing. The memory of Rarity’s secretive, caressing touch was intoxicating. The memory of the unicorn’s soft, urgent lips, whilst less recent, was even more so. She was finally free of the stress that had been wound tight in her stomach ever since Sunset first invaded her home, as she now knew that Dash was safe, and that the ponies responsible for her injuries were, one way or another, incapable of doing further harm.

Occasionally, memories haunted her. The sight of Frost preparing to strike her, the dragon closing in on her, the spear entering the beast’s eye… Celestia’s horn slamming home through Rainbow Shine’s skull. Sometimes, when she closed her eyes, the images floated before her, taunting and tainting her. She wondered if they would ever go away, but deep down she doubted it. Ivy had never left her; the look in her eyes, the splintering crack of the filly’s jaw…

But she knew that there were far worse things than memories. Memories could be contained, memories could be reconciled and lived with. All things considered, she had to admit that she felt happier than she had in years.

I should be terrified, she thought to herself. Everything’s going so well… I should be scared that I’ll mess it up.

That’s the beauty of it. You know you won’t; you actually trust yourself for once.

It took me long enough, didn’t it?

What do you expect? At flight school you lied to everypony, and eventually you ended up lying to yourself because it was easier that way. You lied to yourself for years, and now you’ve stopped. Is it any wonder you could never trust yourself until now?

I suppose not.

“Fluttershy, darling, are you alright?”

Her eyes snapped up, and she realized that she had been idly picking at her food for the last couple of minutes, her mind miles away. “Oh! Rarity, I’m so sorry, I just…”

“Had one of your moments?” Rarity smiled, understandingly. “Don’t apologize, dear, it’s not your fault.”

Fluttershy shook her head, beginning to tuck in in earnest. “I know, it’s just… I know I don’t need to talk to myself anymore. I guess it’s just a tough habit to break.”

Rarity leaned forwards, swallowing her mouthful of daisy salad. “It’s alright, Fluttershy,” she said, quietly. “I’ll always listen to you, no matter what. If you need somepony to talk to, I’ll be here.”

The canary mare smiled, her eyes contented. “Thank you, Rarity. That… that really means a lot.”

For several minutes, they ate their food in companionable silence, occasionally glancing around at the restaurant’s other patrons. At this time in the evening, it was mostly populated with couples enjoying some time together at the end of the week. Fluttershy was a little relieved to notice that they were not the only pair of mares in the place. Indeed, the couple at the table immediately to their left consisted of a pair of middle-aged earth pony mares who had quite obviously been together for years, chatting with a casual, familiar affection over a sharing platter of mushrooms.

“The waiter was surprisingly friendly, wasn’t he?” remarked Rarity.

Fluttershy nodded. “He seemed nice. I expected them to be more… snooty, I suppose.”

Rarity smirked. “I imagine snootiness doesn’t tend to yield as many tips,” she noted. “We’ll have to thank Twilight for the recommendation; it really is a lovely place.”

The food disappeared with startling rapidity, the quality being every bit the standard that Twilight had described. One the waiter had taken their plates away, the conversation turned inevitably to Dash, the memory of their injured friend casting something of a pall over the atmosphere.

“Do you suppose she’ll ever fly again?” Rarity asked, a little subdued at the thought of their sky-loving friend finding herself grounded.

Fluttershy sighed. “Twilight told me the doctor had spoken to her about that. He thinks that the chances are around fifty-fifty at this stage. It depends on if they have to fuse the bones or not.”

Rarity shuddered a little. “Fuse them?”

“That’s only in a worst-case situation,” Fluttershy hastily clarified. “Fusing the bones would make it impossible for her to move her wings precisely enough for flight, but they’ll only have to do that if the recovery goes badly, and they don’t see any reason why it should. At least they don’t seem to think there’s any risk of amputation.” She winced a little at the thought; the idea of a fellow pegasus losing their wings was uncomfortable, to say the least.

The unicorn nodded. “I suppose that’s the best we could hope for with an injury that bad.”

“I think that’s the way Rainbow sees it,” Fluttershy agreed. In truth, Dash had seemed to be taking her bedridden state remarkably pragmatically. Twilight’s company seemed to be a mellowing influence for her, and although she still got bored easily when left alone, she seemed to be coping surprisingly well with her incarceration.

For a couple of moments, they sat in silence. Rarity seemed to be deep in thought, and Fluttershy suspected that she knew what was coming next.

The unicorn shuffled a little on her chair, and after a silent moment’s slightly nervous deliberation, apparently decided to take the bull by the horns. “Fluttershy… What are we?”

Fluttershy leaned forwards, realizing that this time of clarification was quite possibly the whole point of the date. “You mean, are we together?”

Rarity nodded, blushing, apparently a little wrong-footed by taking such a direct approach. “Yes. I mean, I know in Canterlot you told the others that you’d like it, but it’s all so… I just need to know if…”

The delicate pegasus sighed, half-raising a hoof to stem Rarity’s flow of words before she could babble herself into silence. “Rarity, I know how badly I’ve handled this,” she began, quietly, “and I’m so sorry for messing you around like I have.” She shook her head in frustration. “First I say no, then I change my mind, then I let it slip out at the worst possible time, then… then I kiss you without giving you a chance to understand why I changed my mind. I don’t blame you for being confused, and I promise I’ll explain everything, but first, I know you’ll want a short answer.”

She closed her eyes for a moment, her heart accelerating for some reason that she could not place. After a few seconds, she opened them again, and met Rarity’s gaze, her mind made up once and for all. “I’d like for us to be together. I’d like it more than anything…” She smiled at the sight of the alabaster unicorn’s eyes as they lit up delightedly. “I’d like to call you my marefriend, if that’s alright with you.”

Rarity’s eyes were a suddenly a little watery, and she seemed to be fighting back a euphoric laugh. Apparently unable to resist, she darted forwards, leaning across the table, and kissed Fluttershy quickly on the lips, before drawing back and beaming at her. The pegasus felt her stomach flip excitedly at the all-too-brief moment of contact, relishing the lingering scent of jasmine, and the subtle bite of wine as she ran her tongue almost unconsciously over her upper lip. “That’s more than alright with me, darling,” Rarity whispered. She sighed, happily. “Actually, I’d… I’d be proud.”

Fluttershy found that her eyes were slightly damp too, a little overcome by the warm sincerity in the pearly mare’s voice. In truth, she wanted nothing more than to kiss the unicorn there and then; to re-forge that connection and simply not stop. The public nature of their positioning seemed suddenly irksomely restrictive, but she was glad to realize that it had been Rarity’s words that had touched her more than the kiss itself. It was comforting to know that her attraction to the mare was so far beyond being simply a physical one, or a passing emotion born of frustration.

In truth, that had been her greatest fear; that she reciprocated Rarity’s feelings not out of genuine sincerity, but simply as a result of years of self-repression. The more time she spent with the mare, able now to analyze her own motivations, the less that difficulty concerned her.

She remembered her words to Dash, what seemed like an eternity ago. She remembered telling her friend that she wanted to fall in love with Rarity, but doubted herself too much to be sure if she could. Now her self-doubt was crumbling away, melting back into her personality and losing its dominance.

Maybe this is it. Maybe this is what it feels like.

“Thank you, Rarity,” she murmured, simply. She looked up, biting her lip. “Now,” she began, steeling herself. “I think I owe you an explanation.”


By the time they left the restaurant, night had fallen in earnest. The sky was clear and speckled with stars as the two mares walked together in the warm night air towards the outskirts of Ponyville.

In the end, Fluttershy had told Rarity everything. She had begun with flight school, relating the way that the other foals had mocked her and Dash, her repressed feelings for Ivy, and the circumstances of her expulsion. She had admitted her uncertainties and fears, confessed to the years of self-repression, and explained why she had refused Rarity in the first place.

From time to time, the retelling had almost become too much for her, but Rarity had been there to dry her tears, and to gently steer her back on track with a few kind words if she began to berate or blame herself. In truth, she had been irrationally afraid that Rarity would give up on her, that she might begin to think of her as an unsalvageable psychological wreck, or perhaps simply too much work to consider trying to build a relationship with.

Of course, she had not done so. For Fluttershy, the experience was like drawing poison from a wound, but having Rarity’s attentive and sympathetic ear made the entire process so much easier. By the time her story had reached completion, they were nearly back at the pegasus’s house. Rarity had courteously agreed to accompany the mare back to her house, and they found themselves walking side-by-side up the winding path to the grass-roofed cottage.

Fluttershy sighed. “So, now you know why I messed you around the way I did.” She halted at her door, turning to face the unicorn. “Do… do you still want to be with me?” She broke eye contact, looking down and pawing at the ground, thankful that Rarity could not see the tears forming in her eyes. “I mean, I’d… I’d understand if… I must seem such a mess to you, and-”

Her words were cut off with a squeak by the intervention of Rarity’s lips. She felt her eyes drift closed, unconsciously pushing forwards into the slow, tender kiss. The unicorn wrapped a foreleg around Fluttershy’s neck, the ruffled silk of her dress tickling the pegasus’s withers. After a few seconds, Rarity broke the gentle contact, unable to resist tugging a little at the canary mare’s lower lip as she pulled away.

“Like I said, darling,” she whispered. “I’d be honoured to be with you. You’re not a mess, Fluttershy. You’re… you’re amazing.”

Fluttershy smiled, gratefully leaning forwards again to nuzzle Rarity’s cheek, breathing in that beautiful, cool scent. Her cheeks were red, and she felt as if the butterflies adorning her flanks had somehow found their way into her stomach. Being in the restaurant together had been one thing, but this was quite another. Now they were alone; unrestricted, far away from prying eyes.

“Would… would you like to come in for a while?” she whispered, her voice catching a little.

“That sounds lovely, dear,” replied Rarity, her tone of voice mirroring Fluttershy’s sense of nervous exhilaration.

The cottage was warm from the remnants of the fire that Fluttershy had started that afternoon, and she trotted across the room to reignite the still-glowing embers, while Rarity hung up her scarf. Angel was nowhere to be seen, perhaps having sensed that privacy was called for.

Rarity was still standing by the door, so Fluttershy motioned her into the living room as she stacked logs and kindling onto the glowing orange mass.

Within a few minutes, the flames were leaping up in the grate again, the waves of radiant heat washing the room with a pleasant warmth. Fluttershy turned to the unicorn beside her. “Do… do you mind if I change out of this?” She giggled, softly. “It makes it kind of impractical to walk around indoors.”

Rarity nodded, taking a seat on the sofa in front of the fireplace, burying her rear hooves in the thick rug and settling back. “Not at all, darling. I’ll wait here.”

Fluttershy trotted through the kitchen, and up the stairs to her room, clicking the door shut behind her. She bit her lip, doing her best to hold back a delighted giggle, fluttering a couple of inches off the floor. Her heart was hammering, blood singing in her ears as she quickly untied the olive-green sash and climbed out of the dress.

She tried to compose her thoughts into some sensible order, but it was nigh-impossible.

She forgave me… Celestia knows why, but she did.

A small voice of warning spoke up in the back of her mind: She gave you a second chance. Don’t let fear get in the way this time.

She grinned, catching sight of herself in the mirror. Her eyes were hungry and alight; more alive than they had been in years.

I won’t.

On an impulse, she reached up a hoof and let down her mane, dropping the pin with a clink to the wooden floor, and letting the hair cascade down in pink waterfalls around her shoulders.

As she was stowing the dress carefully in the wardrobe, an idea came to her. She trotted back down the stairs, glad to be free of the tightly-fastened, restrictive fabric. Rarity turned as Fluttershy re-entered the room, blushing a little and smiling at her. Her gaze was almost thoughtful, and her eyes wandered with a lazy desire over the mare's firelit form.

“You really are an incredibly beautiful mare, Fluttershy,” she murmured. The words did not sound as if they were intended as hyperbole; their tone was almost one of somepony who knew they were stating the obvious.

Fluttershy blushed, a strange sensation rising in her chest. She felt suddenly very exposed, but the sensation was an oddly pleasant one. She felt her wings twitch a little, the primaries flaring ever-so-slightly. “Oh… thank you, Rarity.” She winced internally, the response sounding horrible inadequate and mechanical. As she passed, she picked up a couple of large cushions from one of the room’s chairs, and placed them at the foot of the sofa, just overlapping the rug.

Sitting down on the rug, she lay back with her head against the cushions, her hooves by the fire. She looked up, flashing Rarity an uncharacteristically flirtatious half-smile, patting the rug beside her and motioning for the unicorn to join her.

The fashionista did not need asking twice. She climbed down from the sofa, lying back on the luxuriant rug and snuggling up beside Fluttershy, drawing the smallest of squeaks from the mare. The quiet pegasus leaned her head on Rarity’s shoulder, the pair of them lying in comfortable silence for a few minutes, gazing into the crackling fire.

An insistent voice in the back of Fluttershy’s mind was screaming at her to kiss the unicorn. There was no doubt that Rarity wanted it; the mare’s gaze was dusky, half-lidded and near-irresistible. She wanted that heated, euphoric sensation; that taste.

Wait. Just… wait. It’ll be so much better if you do.

“I’d like to show you something,” Fluttershy whispered, craning her neck a little so that her lips stopped just short of the unicorn’s ear.

“What is it, darling?”

In response, Fluttershy drew back, and whistled three low, short notes. Immediately, there was a rustle of small wings from the rafters above. A small, blue-winged bird descended through the flickering, fire-lit air, alighting with a musical chirp on Fluttershy’s outstretched foreleg. It looked a little suspiciously at Rarity with sleepy but undeniably intelligent eyes, its chirruping voice lapsing into silence.

Rarity, for her part, stared at the little creature. “You can just… just call them, like that?” she whispered, doing her best not to scare Fluttershy’s friend.

“Only the ones I know well,” smiled Fluttershy.

“What was that whistling sound you made?”

Fluttershy looked up from the bird, meeting Rarity’s eyes again. “His name. I call him Sapphire, though.”

Sapphire hopped curiously along the pegasus’s leg, a few steps closer to Rarity, who leaned forwards a little. “He’s beautiful,” she murmured, as awed as always by Fluttershy’s skill with animals.

“I thought you’d like to meet him,” whispered Fluttershy. “He was the one who saved Twilight and Rainbow in the forest. He led me to them.”

Rarity’s eyes widened, and she smiled. “We owe you a lot,” she said quietly to the diminutive bird.

Fluttershy giggled. “We do,” she agreed. Cuddling up close to Rarity again, she hummed a few notes of a tune; a haunting aria that Rarity did not recognize. After a moment, Sapphire reciprocated, chirruping back the melody in his high-pitched bluebird’s voice, the firelight dancing on his wings.

She held out her foreleg to Rarity. “Go on, you try.”

Rarity looked surprised at this. “I’m no good with animals,” she protested. “They… they don’t trust me.”

“I trust you,” Fluttershy replied, gently. “That’ll be good enough for Sapphire.”

“Are you sure?” Rarity still did not look quite convinced.

The pegasus nodded. “I’m sure.” She blushed a little. “I’ve always loved hearing you sing… your voice is wonderful.”

“Do you really think so?” The unicorn turned her head, meeting Fluttershy’s gaze with surprise and gratitude. “Alright, I’ll have a try.”

Clearing her throat, she sang a few quiet, tentative notes, forming a short and simple melody. Immediately, Sapphire took up the slack, reiterating the tune back to Rarity, his eyes sparkling and intelligent. Growing in confidence, Rarity sang out a few more bars, a more intricate, soulful phrase of music. Before she had finished, Sapphire had joined in, harmonizing with her voice as Fluttershy watched in delighted surprise.

The pony and the bird seemed attuned to one another, their voices blending together into an intricately woven pattern. For some reason, Fluttershy felt her eyes welling up. Ever since her youth, her animals had been the one thing that meant the most to her, but now she had found somepony of equal significance in her life. She had been terrified that she would be unable to reconcile these two parts of her life, that her animals would reject Rarity, or that the unicorn might find herself somehow averse to or fearful of the creatures.

Now, though, she saw that she need not have feared.

This is it, she thought to herself, half in triumph and half in relief. I… I really think I love her.

Eventually, Rarity’s singing stopped, ending with a graceful descending scale, and Sapphire halted in perfect synchronicity. Suddenly, as if tired of proceedings, he flared his wings and took flight. With a keening note of farewell, he circled the mares twice before darting out of the open window.

Fluttershy beamed at the unicorn beside her. “See?”

Rarity looked exhilarated, and she wrapped her forelegs around the mare by her side, pulling her into a close embrace. “That was amazing, Fluttershy. Thank you.” She seemed to understand how much of a step it was that the pegasus trusted her enough to allow her to be a part of something so personal. Fluttershy’s animals had been her one source of solace throughout most of her life, acting as her friends, as her company, as the bittersweet participants of a million one-sided conversations. The mare had allowed her into that world, that place to which she retreated when she was at her most vulnerable. Rarity knew that it was the first time that anypony had expressed that level of trust in her, and it meant more than she could say.

Fluttershy turned to her, staring into her eyes, their faces inches apart. All was silent, save for the crackling of the fire. She felt her heartbeat speeding up again, the unicorn’s silken fur pressed up close against her, the mare’s warm body dominating her senses. She felt courage rise like lava in her chest, and began to entwine her hind leg with Rarity’s, rolling over a little onto her side, so that they were held together, belly to belly.

“Rarity,” she breathed, “are… are you…?”

She felt a gentle hoof caress her lips. “Shh,” Rarity whispered. “No more words…”

The unicorn withdrew her hoof, and for a fraction of a second the mares gazed into each others’ eyes. Fluttershy felt as if she were falling from a great height. Waves of heat washed over them from the fire. She could feel Rarity’s heartbeat against her own, the mare’s lilac scent surrounding her, clouding her mind. Rarity’s hot breath was overwhelming, her eyes dancing and half-closed, her neck beginning to crane forwards.

No more words. No more fear.

Unable to resist for one second longer, Fluttershy kissed her, and kissed her hungrily. Both mares let out quiet moans at the moment of contact, their lips pressing together over and over, breaking apart for the briefest of moments to catch their breath and exchange fiery gazes before losing themselves once again.

Fluttershy’s lips parted, and she found Rarity’s willing tongue waiting for her. The unicorn’s breath was coming in short pants, and the pair rolled over to the side, so that Fluttershy was holding herself just above her lover, her hind legs gripping Rarity’s. Their heated tongues locked together, dancing and exploring, and Fluttershy pushed aggressively downwards into the kiss, doing all she could to prolong the sensation.

Right then, Rarity’s scent and taste were all that mattered. The unicorn pulled herself into a sitting position, and Fluttershy rose with her, her wings flared wide and shadowed in the firelight, relishing the cool, smooth sensation of Rarity’s silken dress pressed up against her fur. She pulled back, stroking her hooves compulsively through Rarity’s mane.

She looked at the alabaster mare with shining, victorious eyes.

“Rarity, I… I love you.”

The unicorn’s embrace tightened, and she nuzzled up Fluttershy’s cheek to her ear. “I love you too, darling,” she said, her voice quiet but utterly truthful.

On an impulse, Fluttershy half-stood, stumbling back to the couch, pulling the unresisting Rarity along with her. A half-acknowledged thought suggested to her that she ought perhaps to invite the mare up to her room, but in truth, neither of them were going to make it that far.

Fluttershy sank back into a prone position onto the sofa, pulling Rarity down on top of her. The alabaster fashionista gasped at the sudden motion, but let the breath out in a low sigh as the canary pegasus buried her face in Rarity’s jasmine-scented mane, stretching her neck upwards and taking one twitching ear between her lips, grazing it with the gentlest of nibbles, working her way around to the base. Sliding her forehooves downwards, she began fumblingly unlacing the back of Rarity’s dress, sliding the ruffled lavender silk urgently down over the unicorn’s shoulders.

“Mmm, Fluttershy,” Rarity purred in a mock-scandalized tone, giggling lightly before trailing a constellation of nipping kisses smoothly along the suddenly not-so-timid mare’s neck and jaw. Her horn flared, pulling her dress up over her head in a single swift motion, relieving the difficult task faced by the pegasus’s none-too-dexterous hooves. She let the garment fall, crumpled onto the rug, with a careless abandon that she would never have dreamed of were she not so blissfully distracted.

Moving her head back a little, Fluttershy wrapped both pairs of her legs around Rarity, pulling her closer, moulding herself into every soft contour of the unicorn’s trembling body. Rarity gave a low, throaty groan, and began kissing along her lover’s neck once again, moving downwards this time, sliding backwards a little to better feather her lips along Fluttershy’s collarbone and chest.

“I’ve... I’ve never…” Fluttershy whispered, her cheeks beet red, her expression enraptured.

Rarity looked up at the pegasus, breathing hard and fighting to keep herself in check, but wanting to ensure that she was doing the right thing. “Am I going too far, dear? Do you want me to stop?”

“Don’t you dare,” Fluttershy breathed, biting down hard on her lip.

Rarity grinned, and continued her ministrations, planting dancing rows of soft licks and kisses across Fluttershy’s chest, and lingering over the delicate thrumming sensation of her rapidly beating heart.

Just shy of the mare’s stomach, Rarity suddenly halted again, looking up to meet Fluttershy’s burning gaze with wide, submissive eyes. “What do you want me to do?”

“Teach me,” Fluttershy murmured, closing her eyes and leaning her head back into the cushions, her loose mane falling in cascades, pooling around her head. “Teach me, Rarity…”

Her thoughts were whirling as the caress of Rarity’s compliant lips began once again; she had been starved of this kind of attention for her entire life, and could finally enjoy it without guilt or pretence.

Maybe I’m not just fooling myself. Maybe I really can move on.

At that moment, free of fear and inhibition, with a pony who she could finally admit that she loved, she truly believed that she could.

Perhaps she would fail; perhaps her past would never stop haunting her. She knew better than most that there was no such thing as perfection or certainty; she had accepted that a long time ago. All that mattered to her was the realization that she had finally plucked up the courage to roll the dice.

She had taken her first steps away from her past, but now was not a time for looking forwards or backward. Now, she knew, was a time for learning. Her eyes were closed, her mind misted and deliciously lost as the ‘lesson’ continued.

There’s no such thing as perfection… But surely this is the closest thing.