• Published 18th May 2015
  • 7,908 Views, 682 Comments

Inner Strength - Krickis



When Twilight overhears a private conversation, she has to come to terms with how she feels about herself, love, and a certain somepony. All while weighing her public image against her personal desires.

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1 - Eavesdropping

Act I

Fear

Chapter One

Eavesdropping

There was something worrisome going on in the kitchen. The sounds were traveling down the hall and reaching the sitting room, where Twilight Sparkle was lounging with a book. Her head popped up as she heard it. Someone was moving around her kitchen, and they weren’t being quiet about it.

She stood up and hesitantly walked down the hall. Tentatively sniffing the air confirmed her fears – something smelled delicious. She stopped by the door to the kitchen and braced herself for what she knew she would find inside. She took a deep breath, just like Cadance had taught her to do when she felt her anxiety welling up, and gently pushed it open.

The calming breath didn’t help, not once she got a look at what her kitchen had become. That morning it had been perfect. It was immaculately organized; from the giant crockpot to the tiniest eighth of a teaspoon, everything had its place. And from what she saw, although everything certainly had a place, absolutely nothing was in its place.

“Spike, what are you doing?” Twilight asked frantically.

The little dragon had lived with Twilight for his whole life. He was her beloved little brother, her invaluable assistant, and, at times, he was her most merciless tormentor.

“Don’t worry about it,” Spike said, as if it were that easy. “I’ll clean everything up.”

Twilight looked around the room again. It could be worse, she forced herself to remember. As messy as Spike was, he was actually a very competent cook. So she at least could take solace in the fact that the castle wouldn’t burn down. “But why are you even doing all this in the first place? It’s not like we have company coming over.”

Spike shrugged. “I just wanted to practice some fancier recipes.”

That made things click into place. There was only one explanation for why Spike would be interested in anything fancy. “These fancy recipes wouldn’t happen to be a way to impress somepony in particular, would they?”

“Well, uh…” Spike suddenly found himself very busy stirring the contents of a large bowl.

Twilight sighed. She walked over to stand beside her brother, and looked over the recipes he was making. Half the pots and pans he got out weren’t even required for any of them.

She was going to point that out, but changed her mind she turned to him and saw his determined expression. He loved cooking, and she loved seeing him do something other than reading comic books. Besides, it was important to encourage his interests, and that included the messy ones.

“I’m sure Rarity will love it,” she said, causing him to blush. Another look around the room confirmed that she needed to get out of there. “I think I’m going to take a walk. Try not to make too much of a mess.”

“You got it!” Spike replied enthusiastically.

Twilight tried to avoid dwelling on the state of the room as she left it. She knew that her day would end with helping Spike clean the kitchen, but at least he was happy. Still, every clinking pan would drive her mad if she stuck around. She could retreat to the library, but she was afraid her curiosity would compel her to check in on Spike’s culinary experiments, and that wouldn’t be good for either of them.

So even though she had no particular place to go, she walked out the door and into Ponyville. It was beautiful, as always. The early afternoon sun was shining warmly, and every face was friendly. That was her favorite thing about life in Ponyville. Everywhere she looked, she would see another pony smile and wave. And she knew it wasn’t just because she was a princess; Ponyville ponies had been nothing but friendly since she first stepped hoof in the town.

Since she didn’t have a destination in mind, she wandered to the market. There were more smiling faces there than anywhere else in town, and she was always sure to run into somepony she knew in the marketplace.

Sure enough, it wasn’t long before she heard the one pony who smiled more than any other. “Hi, Twilight!”

“Hello, Pinkie,” Twilight answered brightly. She turned to find the pink pony already keeping pace beside her. Her saddlebags were filled with paint, balloons, and all manner of other supplies. “Planning a party, I take it?”

“Yupperony! Cherry Blossom is coming to town for Cheerilee’s birthday, so I’m throwing a sister reunion birthday party! And with twice the reason to celebrate, I have to make sure the party is twice as much fun!”

Twilight chuckled. “Well, I’m sure if anypony is up to the task, it’s you, Pinkie.” Until recently, Cheerilee and her sister Cherry Blossom hadn’t been talking. It had taken a sprained hoof and a championship wrestling match to get them to be friends again. Twilight was thrilled to hear things were still going well for them, and it sounded like she knew how to spend the rest of her day. “Is there anything I can do to help?”

“Hmm…” Pinkie tapped on her chin and adopted a contemplative expression. Only for a moment however, then she suddenly popped back into her usual happy smile. “Nope! It’s all taken care of.”

Twilight tried to keep from looking upset. “I’m sure there’s something I could do. Maybe I can finish picking up your supplies while you get started on other things.”

“Twilight, please, I’m a party planning professional. Trust me when I say everything is in the bag.” Right on cue, the saddle bag popped open and confetti exploded into the air. Several passersby jumped back in surprise, but Pinkie didn’t seem concerned. “Literally!”

Twilight had long since gotten used to Pinkie’s eccentricities – and the eccentricities that just seemed to happen around her – but she still never failed to put a smile on her face. “Well, I’m not doing anything anyway. There must be something I can do to help. Another set of hooves never hurts when setting up a party.”

“Ooh! I know what you could do!” Pinkie said excitedly.

“Yes?” Twilight leaned in to hear better.

“Fluttershy told me she had a busy day with the animals today. I’m sure she would appreciate somepony lending a hoof.”

Twilight just blinked. Visiting Fluttershy certainly seemed like a good idea, but she had thought Pinkie was going to have her do something with the party. “Oh. Uh, okay then.”

“Okie dokie lokie! Say hi for me!” As she hopped off she began singing a song, leaving her good mood on everypony in her wake.

Twilight was left slightly puzzled by the end of their conversation, but shrugged it off. It was Pinkie Pie, after all.

Rather than dwell on Pinkie, Twilight happily made her way towards Fluttershy’s cottage. She had barely set out when an idea occurred to her. Knowing her friend, she probably had been too busy taking care of her animals to take care of herself. She had probably gone the whole day without eating, not even noticing how hungry she was.

Which gave Twilight the perfect chance to fill in and help take care of her! Twilight could get lunch for the two of them and surprise Fluttershy with it. She would help her finish her work for the day, then the two of them would have an impromptu picnic, and they could spend the afternoon relaxing together. It was the perfect way to put Spike’s mess out of her mind.

After a quick stop to pick up some hayburgers for their lunch, Twilight made her way to Fluttershy’s cottage. As she walked, she hummed along to the birds singing. It was hard to resist when the day seemed so much like it was going to turn out wonderfully. The sun shining, the happy townsponies, the birds singing merrily, and an afternoon spent with Fluttershy. Nothing would bring her down.

She wasn’t sure if Fluttershy would be in her cottage or out with her animals, but the cottage was the most logical place to look first. When she arrived, she paused outside the door. Setting the hayburgers down, she took a moment to fix her mane. The breeze had been nice, but she didn’t want to look like a mess in front of her friend.

Before she could knock, she heard Rainbow’s voice coming from inside the cottage. She looked guiltily at the hayburgers. She had only brought two. She frowned and reminded herself that she was stopping by unannounced. Still, there was no reason all three of them couldn’t have a nice day together. Maybe they would go into town for lunch, or Twilight could always just make herself a sandwich, as long as Fluttershy didn’t mind letting her use some ingredients.

Her smile returned and she gently chided herself. Just because she hadn’t expected Rainbow to be there didn’t mean it was a problem. She was about to knock on the door when she heard Rainbow speaking more clearly. “Well, do you even know if she likes mares?”

Twilight froze in place, her breath catching in her throat. This clearly wasn’t a conversation she should be listening in on, but she couldn’t help herself. ‘Does who like mares?’ Twilight wondered. Fluttershy answered, but she was too quiet for Twilight to make out the words.

“Shy, if you don’t tell her, you’ll never know what might happen.”

Twilight abandoned all pretense of not listening and pressed her head tightly against the door. She heard Fluttershy squeak something. For once, she wished the shy pegasus was a little less soft spoken. ‘Just say a name! Who is it? Please, just say it’s…’

“You can’t really believe that,” Rainbow said skeptically. “Come on, Shy! Whether she feels the same way or not, Rarity is not going to hate you.”

Rarity. Fluttershy had feelings for a mare, and it was Rarity. Twilight stepped away from the door, but she kept staring at it without really seeing anything. She backed away slowly and didn’t hear whatever they said next. She forced herself to take a deep breath, which did nothing to make her feel better, and then walked away calmly.

The day didn’t feel so nice along the way home. The pleasant breeze had stopped, which just made the sun feel hot. The birds were still chirping, but to Twilight they were all off key. She took the long way back, avoiding the crowded marketplace. She didn’t really feel like talking to anypony, and she definitely didn’t feel like smiling and waving.

Instead, she spent the walk in her own head. She hadn’t heard a word of what Fluttershy had said, but she’d heard enough. After so much wondering about what Fluttershy might think, she finally knew. She already had feelings for a mare, and it was Rarity.

Even her home wasn’t much comfort. Sure, it offered familiarity, and that would be nice. But it was also an entire castle, which was far too big for just one pony and a young dragon.

“Hey, Twilight,” Spike said sheepishly as she stepped inside. He was covered in ingredients that Twilight didn’t care to guess. “You, uh, might want to stay out of the kitchen for a while.”

Twilight didn’t answer him. She barely noticed what he said at all, and found she no longer cared much about the state of the kitchen.

After a moment, he added, “I’ll clean it all up though, just like I promised!”

Although she hardly felt like it, Twilight managed a smile. It was important to encourage his interests, no matter how she was feeling. “It’s fine, Spike. How’d the food come out?”

“Uh, well…” He twirled his claws together. “I might have burnt it a little.”

“It was your first try,” Twilight reminded him. “I’m sure you’ll do better next time.”

Spike seemed to cheer up a little. “And you’re not mad about the kitchen?”

Twilight arched an eyebrow. “Should I be?”

“No!” Spike answered quickly. “But, uh, are you sure nothing’s bothering you then?”

‘I guess that’s what happens after living together for so long,’ Twilight reflected. As much as she hadn’t wanted to worry him, she knew that she might as well explain herself. He was too young to understand everything, but she could at least tell him the short version. “I just overheard something I shouldn’t have, and I feel a little guilty.”

Spike cocked his head to the side. “That’s it? Come on, Twi, if it was just an accident then I’m sure whoever you overheard will understand.”

“You’re right, Spike.” Twilight smiled genuinely. “I’m just gonna go relax with a book for now, and I’ll sort everything out later.” As she turned to go towards her room, the little dragon ran up and hugged her, then scurried back to the kitchen. She really did feel better, even if she had what looked like peanut butter in her fur.

True to her word, after cleaning off she did grab a book. Not the kind he would have expected, though. It was a large brown journal with a yellow and orange star on the front. Her duties as a princess had kept her from visiting her human friends as often as she’d like to, but she did keep in regular contact with Sunset Shimmer.

Initially, Twilight had been a mentor to Sunset, helping her to learn the magic of friendship. But as it turned out, she didn’t need too much guidance. She’d already learned a lot from her friends at Canterlot High, and was learning more on her own each passing day.

But even if Twilight wasn’t much of a mentor these days, the two of them still had a close bond. They’d become as close as Twilight was with her Ponyville friends, and there were some things that were just easier to talk to Sunset about.

‘Dear Sunset,

Today while I was out, I overheard Fluttershy and Rainbow Dash talking and, well… I shouldn’t have been listening in of course, but I heard that Fluttershy has feelings for somepony else. Before you ask, I’m fine, and I really do want to help her. This could be a chance for her to be happy, and with how shy she is, I get the feeling that she’ll need all the support she can get if she’s ever going to tell the other pony how she feels. But at the same time, I don’t know if I should mention it, since I was never meant to hear about it in the first place. What do you think I should do?’

Twilight smiled. The irony of the Princess of Friendship asking the former terror of Canterlot High for friendship advice wasn’t lost on her. But she wasn’t worried; Sunset had come a long way, and in some ways, Twilight really looked up to her.

And perhaps most importantly, she knew she could count on Sunset for a second opinion without running the risk of spilling Fluttershy’s secret to someone close to her. She just wouldn’t say it was Rarity specifically. They never did figure out exactly how similar the alternate world doubles were, and she didn’t want to betray the human Fluttershy’s secret if she felt the same way about the human Rarity.

She set the book aside, wondering when she’d get a reply. The waiting was always torturous, and she looked around the room for some sort of distraction.

Her eyes fell on the quill, still wet with ink, and she knew there was another letter she ought to write. She had been putting off writing a particular letter to Cadance for years. To some extent, she had spent most of her life avoiding it.

She sighed and grabbed some parchment. Given what she had learned, it was more important than ever. So she dipped her quill in the ink, brought it to the blank paper, and wrote nothing.

‘I suppose I should start with a greeting.’ Greetings were a good way to start letters. The best way. Some might say that they were the only decent way to start a letter. Especially a friendly letter, where she would write about her day-to-day life, ask about how Cadance was doing, plead for the solution to the problem that had been weighing her down for years on end, and ask her to say hi to Shining Armor.

Twilight didn’t write a greeting. Nor did she write any of the other things. As the minutes droned on, the page remained pristine.

Mercifully, she was saved from pretending to write the letter by a knock on the door. “Twilight?” Spike called through it.

Happy to have an excuse, Twilight practically leaped to the door. She threw it open, even though she knew it probably meant helping with the kitchen. “Yes, Spike?”

Spike stood fidgeting in the doorway. “Rainbow Dash is here, and uh, she’s pretty angry. Was she the one you overheard earlier?”

Oh buck. Had she been seen? She must have been; why else would Rainbow be angry with her? She collected her thoughts for a few moments longer than strictly necessary, then took a deep breath. “Yes.” She smiled sheepishly. “I didn’t think anypony saw me. I suppose I better talk to her. It’s better than pretending I didn’t hear, in any case.”

Spike walked with her as far as the stairs before turning away. “Well, I’ll be in the kitchen if you need anything.”

Twilight was tempted to ask him to stay. Rainbow wouldn’t yell at her if Spike was right there, would she? But that was just silly. She and Rainbow needed to have an adult discussion involving things that Spike wouldn’t understand. So she just nodded as he ran off, then approached the entry hall to meet her fate.

Spike had been telling the truth when he said Rainbow seemed angry. In fact, Twilight couldn’t help but question why Rainbow looked so angry. It’s not like she had gone announcing Fluttershy’s secret to everypony in town.

“Twilight, were you at Fluttershy’s earlier?” Rainbow asked, straight to the point.

If Rainbow had seen her then why did she have to ask? Twilight briefly wondered if denying it was a possibility, but decided it would be better to own up to it. Rainbow apparently knew she was there and getting caught in a lie wouldn’t do her any favors. “Yes, but I didn’t mean to listen in. I’m sorry.”

“How much did you hear?” Rainbow asked, her eyes narrowing.

Twilight sighed. No point in denying what this was all about. “That Fluttershy has feelings for Rarity.”

“Did you tell anypony else?”

“Of course not,” Twilight said, surprised Rainbow would even think that. “I know how big of a deal something like this must be to her.”

“And why’s that?” Rainbow took a step forward. “What’s such a big deal about it anyway?”

Twilight shook her head in disbelief. “Well, I mean, Rarity is a mare…”

Rainbow huffed. “And what’s wrong with that?”

“I didn’t say anything was wrong with that.” Twilight took a step back. Rainbow definitely seemed too angry.

It had been an accident. Mostly. She did intentionally listen in at the end. That had to be why Rainbow was upset; somehow she knew Twilight had intentionally been listening in. “I know I shouldn’t have stopped to listen. My curiosity got the better of me, but when I heard –”

“You were listening in on purpose!?” Twilight had been wrong about Rainbow being angry before. She had been restrained before. Rainbow lowered her head and her nostrils flared.

“Well… not at first!” Twilight replied desperately. She was aware that it sounded like a horrible excuse. She was also aware that was because it was a horrible excuse.

“Why would you do that!?” Rainbow demanded.

“I just… I heard you mention something about Fluttershy liking a mare, and well…”

“And you just thought that was a good enough reason to butt into her business?”

“No, of course not!” Twilight shook her head. Why was this getting so out of hoof? “That’s why I’m apologizing; I was wrong.”

Rainbow scowled, making it clear she didn’t accept Twilight’s apology. “Why do you even care!? She’s the same Fluttershy as always! She’s your friend. Or at least, you’re supposed to be her friend.”

Twilight was taken aback. She folded her ears against her head and shook her head. “Rainbow, how could you even say something like that? Of course Fluttershy’s still my friend.”

“Then why the buck did you leave!?” Rainbow pressed her face right up close to Twilight’s.

Fight or flight instinct kicking in, Twilight closed the gap further. “Because I shouldn’t have been there in the first place!”

Rainbow stared unflinchingly for a moment, eyes locked with Twilight’s. “Do you have something against gay ponies?”

“What!?” Twilight stood slack-jawed. If they hadn’t been yelling a moment before, she might have laughed. “Do I… what? No!”

Rainbow maintained her glare but lowered her voice. “So you don’t care that Fluttershy likes mares?”

“Of course I don’t! What could possibly make you think that!?”

Rainbow took a step back and stared off to the side. “Well… when we realized you were there, and that you just left all of a sudden…”

Twilight lowered her voice to match, although it still carried an irritated tone. “Because I was embarrassed that I heard something I wasn’t meant to, and I know Fluttershy wouldn’t want me to find out like that. I just thought it would be better to address it later.”

“Oh.” Rainbow was quiet for a moment. She rubbed the back of her neck and frowned. “I guess that makes sense. I’m, uh, sorry I yelled at you. I guess I overreacted.”

Twilight shook her head. “Maybe a bit, yeah. Mind filling me in on why you decided to just start yelling at me?”

Rainbow sighed. “It’s just… Fluttershy’s terrified all our friends will hate her if they know, and I just don’t want her to get hurt. So when we realized you left, she kinda assumed the worst. I told her it’s dumb, that she should just come out. Nopony that matters is gonna care. Buck anypony who doesn’t realize how awesome she is, right?”

Although she was still irritated at being yelled, Twilight took a calming breath and put it behind her. “Coming out can be the hardest thing for some ponies to do. Even if she has no reason to be worried, it’s easy to see signs that aren’t there. Like, say, thinking that just because a friend leaves to avoid causing more problems, that means she doesn’t want to be friends anymore.” Rainbow looked abashed at the comment. “I’ll talk to her about it tomorrow. She should know we all love her no matter what.”

“Yeah, okay. I’ll head back over there now to let her know, she was pretty upset when I left.” Rainbow stepped towards the door, but stopped and turned back to shoot Twilight a grin. “Oh, and Twilight? If you’re gonna flee the scene of the crime, don’t leave any evidence next time. Even delicious evidence.”

Twilight facehoofed. “The burgers. I left the burgers.”

Rainbow laughed. “Yeah. She knew it was you ‘cause you’ve been bringing her lunch, and you’re the only one who remembers she doesn’t like mustard.”

“Mayo.”

“Whatever.” With one last eye roll, Rainbow opened the door and flew out of it.

She left it open, so Twilight had to close it behind her. She thought about following after her, but it was getting late and she had a feeling that they were going to have a long talk ahead of them.

“What’s the big deal?” Spike asked.

Twilight turned to find his head popping in from the hallway. “Spike, were you listening in?”

“Twilight, I was three rooms away. If she was that loud when you ran into her earlier, I’m not surprised you overheard her. Everyone in Ponyville could have heard that racket!”

Twilight couldn’t help but smile, although she certainly hoped it was just Spike who heard. But that did mean it was time for her to have a talk with him that she had been hoping would wait a while longer. He was only ten, he was still too young to understand. At least she had only said Rarity’s name before they were yelling; the last thing she needed was for Spike to think Fluttershy was some sort of romantic rival.

“Now, Spike,” she began, as calmly as possible, “I know this might seem strange to you, but –”

“Twilight, I know what ‘gay’ means.” Spike shook his head. “And so what if Fluttershy likes mares? Why would she be afraid of telling other ponies about it? I mean, aside from being Fluttershy and being afraid of everything.”

Twilight smiled, barely able to contain her pride for her little brother. So she didn’t. She grabbed him unaware and pulled him into a tight hug. To his credit he didn’t squirm. Much. “Come on,” she said, once she had let him go. “We can talk about it while I help you clean the kitchen.”

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