• Published 19th Feb 2012
  • 30,736 Views, 314 Comments

When the Man Comes Around - GentlemanJ



As Ponyville prepares for arriving royal marshals, a new traveler quietly slips into town.

  • ...
51
 314
 30,736

Chapter 3

Chapter 3

At the rate Rainbow Dash was flying, still clinging onto his arm, the traveler was practically sprinting to keep up. She probably didn’t notice because all the while, not once had she stopped apologizing for crashing into him.

“I really didn’t mean it, honestly. I mean, I meant to come down, but I didn’t mean to come down on you, see? I was just trying out that trick like I was telling you about, only when you’re going that fast and turning at the same time, it gets really hard to–”

“Don’t worry,” the traveler repeated for probably the third time already. “I’m fine.”

“Really?” she asked, still incredulous. “But, your hand–”

“Is fine,” he insisted. “I’ve done worse rolling out of bed.” That got Rainbow Dash chuckling.

“Okay, if you say so,” she conceded, the tension in her face visibly draining away as she let go. Releasing his arm, the young athlete finally slowed down to a more manageable pace, even going so far as to turn around and float along backwards. As she lazily drifted, she took a second look at the traveler, eyeing him thoughtfully as if weighing him on imaginary scales.

“You know, you’re pretty cool for an old-timer.” The traveler almost missed a step: he certainly hadn't expected that.

“Old?” he asked quizzically. “I’m not that much older than you.” Rainbow Dash scrutinized him a little more, lingering a bit on his gunmetal grey eyes, before finally shrugging in acquiescence.

“Yeah, I guess," she agreed, still drifting along at a leisurely pace. “But I dunno. You’re just… pretty cool, I guess. Not cool like me – nobody’s cool like me after all – but more like… old person cool, you know what I’m saying?”

“Not exactly,” the traveler admitted.

“Hmm, how do I say it?” Rainbow Dash muttered, crossing both legs and arms as she thought in silence. That seemed to help, because after a few moments, her eyes lit up in sudden clarity. “I know! You’re the kind of cool that the marshals have! Not nearly as much, I bet, but still, it’s the same thing!”

“Have you met a marshal, before?” the traveler asked suspiciously.

“Well… no…” Rainbow Dash confessed. “But come on, who hasn’t heard of them? Traveling all across Equestria, seeking out trouble on the Princess’s orders, laying down the law wherever they go… I mean, seriously. Of course the Wonderbolts are way cooler, and I’m gonna be the coolest one of them, but the marshals are pretty cool too.”

“Old man cool,” the traveler repeated. Rainbow Dash nodded, seemingly very satisfied.

“Exactly. It’s like the ‘been there, done that, nothing’s gonna bother me’ kinda cool. That’s the vibe I get from ya.”

“And that’s good?” the traveler asked.

“Yup. Like I said, nowhere near as cool as a real marshal would be,” the cyan flyer added with a cheeky grin, “but you might get there one day. Ooh, wait, we’re here!”

*****

Approaching the edge of the denser woods of the Everfree Forest, the two came across a rustic little cottage situated in the midst of a sunny meadow. Birds could be seen flitting around and chirping happily as a few chickens lazily pecked at the ground behind the wire fence of their coop. Though not much different from the rest of town, there was something in the air that made the place feel tranquil and safe, like nothing bad ever had or ever would happen here.

“Hey Fluttershy!” Rainbow Dash called out as she started banging on the door. “You in?”

The door of the cottage creaked open and a shy looking girl with long hair the color of rose coral peaked out from behind.

“Oh, hello Rainbow Dash,” she smiled softly. “What can I do for–”

She saw the stranger.

“Eep!” she squeaked as her head vanished behind the slamming door. The traveler looked at Rainbow Dash, one eyebrow arched inquiringly.

Smiling ruefully, Rainbow Dash started banging on the door again.

“Relax, Flutters, he’s cool. He just got banged up a little, so I was wondering if you could patch him up for me.” After a few moments of silence, the door opened again, albeit much more slowly this time, and Fluttershy hesitantly peaked around the corner.

“Um… I guess if you need me to… okay,” she murmured as she opened the door a little wider to allow them in.

The inside of the cottage had a warm, homey feel to it and a oddly pleasant affinity to nature. With clean wood finish, russet greens, and warm browns lit up by bright beams of sunshine, the earthy tones of the inside almost made it feel like they were still outdoors. Fluttershy, a pretty young lady wearing a simple yellow sweater and long white skirt, practically ducked around the much shorter Rainbow Dash to peak out at the traveler from behind the safety of her friend’s shoulder.

“So… um… is there something I can help you with?” she asked, looking very much like she would rather find a nice hole to hide in.

“Yeah,” he said quietly, his voice little more than a dull rumble in an attempt not to startle her. “Seems I got knicked on my hand here.” He raised his hand slowly to show her the small cut.

“Oh my, you poor thing!” she exclaimed, bowling Rainbow Dash over to get a closer look. “Does it hurt? Ooh, come over here, and I’ll get you fixed up right away.” And with a surprising amount of force, Fluttershy grabbed the traveler and practically threw him into a chair as she began rummaging in her cabinets for medical supplies.

“Oh, I do hope I have enough ointment,” Fluttershy fretted, her arms now full of a variety of bottles, herbs, and rolls of bandages. “I knew I should have made more this morning. What would happen if somebody got hurt at the party today and I don’t have enough ointment?”

“Like that’ll be a problem,” Rainbow Dash muttered, eyeing the shelves lined with at least six large bottles of the same healing mix.

“Um… is she alright?” the traveler asked, now slightly worried that the pink-haired girl might genuinely have a nervous breakdown.

“Oh, that’s just Fluttershy,” the colorful athlete smiled offhandedly. “She’s always like that.”

“I see…” the traveler replied, watching as Fluttershy mixed a variety of ingredients in a mortar on the counter. However much she may have worried, the girl worked quickly, measuring out ingredients and combining them with a smooth, steady hand. It was clear that she had a lot of experience patching things up.

Finally finishing, the coral-haired girl brought the bowl over along with a roll of clean bandages and knelt beside the traveler.

“Now hold still; this may sting a bit,” Fluttershy said gently, for all the world treating the traveler like a child instead of a man who was a good half head taller than her. Pushing up his sleeve over his wrist, she dabbed on the mix, which was pleasantly cool and smelled of fresh mint, before quickly winding the bandage around his hand.

“There we go,” she smiled. “Leave that on for the rest of the day and you’ll be good as new.”

The traveler flexed his fingers to test out the wrapping. It was tight, but he could still move freely and comfortably. She really was good at this.

“Thank you, Miss Fluttershy,” he said with a smile that almost reached his eyes. “Feels better already.” Fluttershy simply blushed and looked away, mumbling something about how it was nothing, but seeming pleased nonetheless while she straightened up his sleeve. As she did, however, the quiet girl noticed that the cuff had been damaged – no doubt from the same fall that the scratch had come from – and was already beginning to unravel.

“Oh my goodness,” Fluttershy said in surprise, “it looks like your clothes could use some patching up too.”

“It’s fine,” the traveler said as he idly fingered the cut. “Shirt’s old anyways.”

“Hey, I got an idea,” Rainbow Dash interjected from her hovering perch between the two. “Why don’t we ask Rarity for help?”

“That won’t be necessary,” the traveler said hastily, trying to stand up and excuse himself. “Caused enough trouble already.”

“Oh, but you must,” Fluttershy said, catching him by the arm and dragging him back into his seat. “Rarity is really good with clothes. She’ll be able to fix that up in no time.”

“It wouldn’t be right–”

“Psh, don’t worry about it,” Rainbow Dash blew off with a nonchalant flip of the hand. “Rarity’s like, the most generous person we know.” Leaning in, she continued to whisper. “Plus, she’d probably be more angry we let you walk around with a hole in your shirt than anything else.”

“… You’re sure?” he asked suspiciously. He really didn’t want to be a bother, but the way these two girls were insisting, it might be more of a bother to refuse.

“No worries!” Rainbow Dash assured him. “Heck, I’ll take you over there right now!”

“… Alright,” the traveler sighed in defeat. “Just need to get my stuff from the orchard first.”

“Stuff?” Rainbow Dash blinked. “What stuff?”

“Long bundle,” the traveler said, using his hands to help describe it, “wrapped in white cloth. And a travel bag.”

“Oh, you mean that big thingy next to the little thingy next to where I crashed into you right?” Rainbow Dash asked and hastily continued when she noticed Fluttershy’s alarmed expression. “Well, don’t worry about it. I’ll fly back and grab it then meet you over at Rarity’s. See ya!” And with a quick, abashed grin, she dashed through the door and flew off.

The traveler blinked. He looked at Fluttershy, who blinked back at him in return. To say that the colorful flyer’s sudden departure was abruptly unexpected would be quite an understatement. But after the initial surprise wore off, the quiet Fluttershy’s eyes slowly grew to the size of saucers as she soon realized that she was alone with someone she didn’t know.

“So... which direction is Miss Rarity’s?” the traveler asked slowly, doing his best not to scare her. It failed miserably, as Fluttershy gave out a startled squeak and suddenly found the ground very interesting. Keeping her eyes fixed to the floor, the introverted girl nervously shuffled her feet, using her long pink hair as a shield to obscure her face.

The traveler was now faced with a difficult conundrum. He really needed his stuff back and Rainbow Dash was bringing it to someone called Rarity. That meant he had to get there and meet her, but he didn’t know the way. On one hand, he could ask Fluttershy for help, but that might very well set her into full blown panic. Or, he could try leaving and asking someone else, but he’d already gotten more people involved than he wanted anyways.

Fortunately, before he was forced to make what could have been a disastrous decision, a tiny ball of white fur dropped from the rafters straight into his lap.

“Angel Bunny!” Fluttershy gasped in surprise. “What are you doing there?”

The traveler looked down and saw that the little ball was indeed, a little white rabbit. It stared up at him, looking him over with its tiny black eyes before giving its nose a twitch. If the traveler didn’t know any better, he could have sworn that the bunny was looking up at him so that it could looking down on him.

“Oh, I’m so sorry about this,” the coral-haired girl said as she approached then backed away several times, unsure of what to do. “This is Angel Bunny. He likes to climb things, so I usually let him play around the house, but I didn’t think he’d go and do this.”

“It’s fine,” the traveler said, not sure what ‘this’ Fluttershy was talking about. The little rabbit may have been an insolent little thing, but it wasn’t heavy or anything. Plus, it was kind of cute.

“Angel, please come down from there,” Fluttershy pleaded. The rabbit simply shook its head and hopped a few circles around his lap before twitching its nose at her.

“Now now, it’s not nice to bother other people,” Fluttershy continued, trying to coax the bunny down. However, this just made things worse, as Angel decided to climb even higher. Using the traveler’s arm as a ladder, Angel climbed up to his shoulder and from there, hopped onto his broad, flat-brimmed hat.

“This… happen often?” the traveler asked, looking towards where he thought the bunny would be, probably glancing around smugly from its new perch.

“No,” Fluttershy said, her voice full of worried puzzlement. “He usually doesn’t like new people, and I’ve never seen him climb all the way up there before.” Then she paused and gave the traveler an odd look for a moment as if she were seeing him in a new light.

“Must be the hat,” the traveler guessed as he felt Angel Bunny happily thumping away on the top of his head with its back foot. Reaching up, he gently took hold of the rabbit and picked him up. While it seemed that the rabbit was most displeased at being forcefully removed from his new stomping grounds, at least it didn’t actively resist.

Setting Angel down on the ground, the traveler stood up and tipped his hat to the quiet girl.

“Thanks for the patch job,” he said. “Hand feels better already.”

“Are you leaving so soon?” Fluttershy asked, shaking her head as if she’d been distracted. The traveler nodded.

“Need to find Miss Rarity. Get my things back.” He turned to walk towards the door, but was unexpectedly stopped as Fluttershy spoke up once more.

“Um… if you’d like, I could take you there,” she offered softly. “It’s… just down the path out front. I could show you…” Her voice got progressively quieter as it trailed off in into a whisper the end.

The traveler looked at her again. She was obviously still nervous: he could tell from the way she bit her lower lip and shifted from foot to foot. But the way she occasionally glanced up at him, a hopeful spark in her eye, it seemed like she wanted to go as well but didn’t want to impose. That she had asked at all was quite surprising, considering how timid she was, and he didn’t want to upset her…

“If you would, I’d sure be grateful,” he said, smiling in what he hoped was a reassuring manner. Hoped because he had no experience dealing with easily frightened girls.

Apparently, it worked because with a small nod and an even smaller smile, Fluttershy put away her things and joined him at the door.

*****

As the two walked down the path towards Rarity’s, for a while, neither of them spoke. The nerve that Fluttershy had worked up earlier seemed to have dissipated and she appeared content to keep her eyes on the ground. Occasionally, he’d glance over and find her looking at him with that same puzzled look she'd had on earlier, but when he did, she’d let out a small squeak and avert her eyes once again. It was an interesting walk, to say the least.

“So… excited for today’s party?” he asked, trying to break the awkward silence. It felt very strange, trying to start a conversation: talking was something he’d never been very good at.

“Um… not really,” Fluttershy replied. “I’m not very good at parties: the crowds are always so big and everything’s so… loud.” The corner of the traveler’s lip twitched in amusement at her response.

“But,” she continued, her voice gaining slightly in both energy and excitement, “I would like to see the marshals when they come in.”

“Really?” the traveler asked. “How come?”

“Well, they’ve been all over the country, so I’m sure they must have seen all sorts of rare and exotic creatures. But the best part,” she continued as her face lit up with excitement, “is that even though they have to stop wild animals, they never hurt them more than they have to. Why, I’ve even heard stories where marshals have fought things like hydras, chimeras, and even dragons, only to end up making friends with them. That’s just so amazing, I… oh, I would just love to get a chance to talk to them.”

“So, you like animals?” the traveler dumbly asked.

“Oh, yes, very much!” Fluttershy agreed, her eyes positively sparkling with enthusiasm. “I like helping people too, and that’s why I started learning about treating injuries, but animals are just soooo cute. That’s actually what I wanted to ask you about,” she said, finally revealing the reason why she’d wanted to come along. “You see, Angel Bunny doesn’t get along with many people, but he seems to really like you. Do you work with animals?”

“Not exactly,” the traveler replied. “We just seem to have an understanding.”

“An understanding?” Fluttershy asked, looking puzzled.

“I don’t bother them if they don’t bother me. Guess that suits us both just fine,” the traveler shrugged. Fluttershy, however, smiled.

“That must mean you’re a really nice person.” This comment merely elicited a wry grin in response from the traveler.

“Not at all,” he replied, but Fluttershy eyes widened as she shook her head in strong disagreement. Well, strong for her at least.

“Oh no, I’m sure you’re a very nice person,” she insisted. “Animals have a very keen sense for that. If they feel scared, they wouldn’t like you at all, and since Angel liked you, you must be an extra super nice person.”

“I see…” the traveler said, clearly skeptical.

“That’s right,” Fluttershy nodded in satisfaction. “And that’s why I think the marshals must be some of the nicest people around: they wouldn’t be able to make friends with animals unless they were. You see, animals are…”

For the rest of the walk, the traveler listened as Fluttershy eagerly told him about the various things she’d learned about woodland creatures. At first, the traveler was simply surprised at the shift from her earlier introversion to her current enthusiasm. However, as she continued her animated monologue, he became far more impressed by the depth of her knowledge. Clearly, she was a girl who genuinely loved all animals, and with her sweet disposition and gentle nature, he had no doubt that animals must love her back.

Well, except maybe Angel Bunny, but that was probably just childish antics and plain acting up. Honestly, he had never met a cheekier rabbit.

**********

Join our Patreon to remove these adverts!
Join our Patreon to remove these adverts!