• Published 18th May 2015
  • 8,061 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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10 – Adequate

Chapter Ten

Adequate

To say that Twilight was happy with the turns her life had taken would be a colossal understatement. It had been six weeks since she and Fluttershy had started dating, and she could scarcely recall being happier in her life.

There had been a few times where things were uncertain, sure. There had been a lot of doubt about whether or not things would work between them in those first few weeks. They’d even gone back to being just friends after their second date, if only for a few hours. But over the next few weeks, the two of them had slowly started to figure out how they fit together, and it seemed that every day things got a little bit better.

The best part was that Twilight was growing more certain. She didn’t have to worry about trying to make sure Fluttershy wanted to keep dating her; she knew their relationship was something they both wanted to keep going, and that it would only grow stronger in the weeks and months to come.

And she knew that if she stopped by Fluttershy’s house, the two of them could spend the day together and that they’d both have a great time. That was another thing she was growing more certain of – that Fluttershy really did love her and enjoyed spending time together.

Of course, Twilight had told herself that if Fluttershy hadn’t wanted to be with her, she wouldn’t have agreed to the relationship. She had even agreed to it twice! Any uncertainty about what Fluttershy wanted had been completely unfounded, but even so, it had been there.

But as she walked up to Fluttershy’s cottage, she just smiled at her doubts that had all but washed away. It was a beautiful summer afternoon, and she was going to spend it with the pony she loved.

She stopped in front of Fluttershy’s door to double-check her mane and tail. Even if she was sure that Fluttershy would be happy to see her regardless of her appearance, that was no reason to look sloppy. Content that she looked presentable, Twilight smiled warmly and knocked on the door.

Visions of what they might do during the day danced through her head as she waited for Fluttershy to open the door. Maybe they’d go into town for lunch, or just make something at Fluttershy’s cottage. They could go for a walk, or cuddle up and read together, or, well, anything really. Twilight didn’t actually care what they did, just so long as they did it together.

Which was precisely why Twilight’s smile was knocked off once the door opened. For all her certainty in the day ahead of them, she hadn’t prepared for this at all.

“Hello, Twilight,” Rarity said as she opened the door. “Fluttershy’s just upstairs at the moment, but do come in.”

Twilight found her smile again and fixed it back in place as she entered, although it felt wrong and only stayed through effort now. “Hello, Rarity. I didn’t expect to see you here.”

Rarity chuckled, completely oblivious to the way Twilight’s chest tightened. “You did almost miss me. And Fluttershy as well; the two of us were just about to head out.”

“Really?” Twilight hoped she kept any of the negativity she felt out of her voice. “What are –”

“Oh, hello,” Fluttershy said, cutting off Twilight’s question. She walked down the stairs that led to her bedroom and stopped at the bottom to nuzzle Twilight. “I didn’t know you were coming over, Twilight.”

Twilight nuzzled Fluttershy back, then glanced between her and Rarity. “I was just on your side of Ponyville and thought I’d drop in. I didn’t realize you already had plans.”

“I’m sorry,” Fluttershy said. “Today’s our weekly spa date.”

‘Date!?’ Twilight forced herself to push Fluttershy’s word choice out of her mind. “Oh, right! I’m sorry, it forgot that was today.”

Fluttershy giggled. “There’s no need to be sorry.”

“Indeed,” Rarity said as she sidled up to Twilight. “In fact, I think your timing might be quite fortuitous! Why don’t you join us? You deserve a chance to pamper yourself as much as anyone.”

Going to the spa with Fluttershy sounded like a wonderful idea. Going with all of her friends sounded like it could also be a lot of fun. But going with Fluttershy and Rarity, just the three of them? Twilight laughed nervously at the idea. “Thank you, but I’d hate to intrude.”

“Now you’re just being silly.” Rarity placed her foreleg around Twilight’s shoulders. “I think it would be lovely if you joined us, and I’m sure it goes without saying that our dear Fluttershy wouldn’t have any complaints.”

Fluttershy giggled. “None at all. It sounds like fun!”

Not fun enough for Fluttershy to have been the one to invite her marefriend to join them, of course. “That does sound fun, but I’m afraid I can’t. I have some work to do back at the castle and only stopped in to say hi while I was in the area.”

Rarity pulled her foreleg back. “Alright then, darling, but you simply must come with us some time! Perhaps next week?”

“Maybe. I’ll have to check my planner and get back to you.” If Twilight didn’t have something else planned that day, she was sure she could find something.

Twilight was about to excuse herself from the others when Fluttershy dashed her escape attempt. “Well, we can at least all walk into town together, right?”

With no good excuse not to, Twilight agreed. She walked out of the house behind Rarity, with Fluttershy following behind to close up. The fact that Fluttershy placed herself in between the other two mares as they walked didn’t escape Twilight’s attention, nor did the way being beside Rarity made Fluttershy light up.

Rarity did most of the talking, telling them both about her recent work at the Carousel Boutique. Or at least, she thought she was telling them both. In truth, she might as well have just been talking to Fluttershy for all it mattered, as Twilight barely heard a word of the conversation. Fluttershy more than made up for that though, clearly hanging on every word Rarity said.

Throughout the walk, Twilight paid attention to Rarity in a way she never had before. The way she held one hoof to her mouth while laughing daintily, the way she couldn’t seem to keep those same hooves to herself as she affectionately touched Fluttershy with more casualness than Twilight could seem to manage, the way she’d accentuate things she said with occasional flutters of those long lashes.

Twilight couldn’t even pretend like she didn’t see why Fluttershy would prefer to be with Rarity. Every one of Rarity’s movements seemed to hold such poise, and it wasn’t like Twilight was blind to the fact that she was stunningly beautiful. Twilight, meanwhile, was known to bump into things regularly due to her habit of walking around with a book in front of her face.

“Are you okay, darling?” Rarity asked Twilight. “You’ve hardly said a word since we left.”

Twilight forced a grin. “Oh, sorry. I’m just thinking about the paperwork waiting for me at the castle.”

“I hope it isn’t too much for you,” Rarity said.

Twilight chuckled. “No, it won’t be a problem. Besides, you know me! I’ll have all those papers sorted out in a jiffy!”

Fluttershy giggled. “You’re certainly the right mare for the job.”

Of course she was. Twilight was great at paperwork. And at organizing, planning, and all sorts of other boring stuff. Why was she even trying to compete with somepony as interesting as Rarity?

“I do wish I shared your passion for that sort of thing,” Rarity said with a sigh. “That’s one part of owning the Boutique I could do without.”

“I’ve never liked doing paperwork either,” Fluttershy said.

“I could always help if you want,” Twilight said, eager to remind Fluttershy that no matter how boring she was, there were perks to dating her.

“Thank you, Twilight, but I don’t really have to do paperwork very often.”

Or not. At least Twilight didn’t have to suffer for much longer, since they soon reached the spa.

“It was nice seeing you, Twilight,” Rarity said as she gave Twilight a hug. “And do take a look at your schedule for next week!”

“Will do,” Twilight said.

Fluttershy replaced Rarity in giving out hugs. “Bye, Twilight. Maybe we can do something tomorrow if you want.”

“That sounds good to me. Enjoy your spa day.”

Twilight stepped back and waved goodbye as they walked inside. Her presence was clearly not missed, as they were already talking happily again by the time the spa door closed behind them.

That left Twilight to walk home with her head hung low. With each step, a new tangent crashed through her thoughts, each less pleasant than the last.

Fluttershy sure did laugh a lot around Rarity. Did she do that with Twilight? Probably not. No, definitely not; don’t even bother holding out hope on that one. And she definitely didn’t look at Twilight the way she looked at Rarity.

Besides, who would? Rarity was gorgeous and Twilight was, well, she was just Twilight. The only ponies who would be wowed with her were the ones who only cared about her title. It was no wonder that Fluttershy couldn’t stop fawning over other mares even while she was with her marefriend.

Thought after intrusive thought, all the way home. Even as she stepped through the castle doors, they ate at her.

Twilight stopped in the entry hall and realized she didn’t have any other plans for the day. She’d finished all her work in the morning so she would have the chance to spend time with Fluttershy.

There were a number of other things she could do, she supposed; there were plenty of books on her reading list, there were research projects she’d been interested in picking up, there were chores she could do around the castle.

There were many things she could do, but she dismissed each in turn. With a sigh, Twilight made for the stairs. She wasn’t sure what she’d do once she got to her room, but at least getting there was a step.

She got as far as the second floor, but Spike noticed her as she was walking past his room. “Hi, Twilight. What are you doing home already?”

Twilight stepped over to Spike’s open door. Unsurprisingly, Spike was sitting on his bed with an open comic book. “Fluttershy had other plans already.”

Spike laughed. “Guess that’s why you usually plan things out with her in advance.”

“Yeah…” Twilight bowed her head and looked off to the side.

“Uh oh…” Spike frowned and set his comic book aside. “What’s wrong?”

“Who said anything’s wrong?”

“That’s your ‘something’s wrong’ face.”

Twilight wondered if it was still her ‘something’s wrong’ face once Spike’s comment brought a smirk to it. If anyone was going to recognize when Twilight wasn’t saying something, it would be Spike. “I’m just a little disappointed is all.”

Spike rolled his eyes. “Geez, Twi, you’ve been dating for a month and you already can’t go a few days without spending time with her?”

It was Twilight’s turn to roll her eyes, which she accompanied with a head shake. She walked into his room and took a seat on his bed. He’d have a point if it was as simple as that, but she wasn’t about to tell him the full story.

So instead, she decided to change the subject. “So what are you reading?”

“Myth Agency,” Spike said. Twilight levitated the comic to look at its cover. It had two ponies on it – an orange one whose mane didn’t seem to connect to her head, and a blue one with claws instead of hooves and glowing eyes. “I just got to where the heroes infiltrate the evil Neon Overlord’s lair, only to fall into one of her sinister traps!”

Twilight laughed and passed the book back to him. “This stuff is going to rot your brain.”

“Aww, come on, Twi!” Spike opened the book to the first page and held it where she could see. “I bet you’d like it if you gave it a chance.”

Twilight smirked and nudged him. “After the Power Ponies incident? I think I’ll pass.”

“That was one time…” Spike grumbled.

“Maybe another time.” Twilight stood up and walked to the door. “Oh, and Spike? Could you do me a favor and check if we have anything on the schedule for Friday next week?”

“Sure thing. Planning something with Fluttershy?”

“Not exactly. If we don’t have anything going on, could you see if there’s something we can reschedule something so we do?”

“Uh… sure, I guess. But why?”

Twilight hesitated. Sure, Spike was getting a little more mature these days, but he was still just a kid. No need to put her issues on him. “I just know Fluttershy’s going to be busy on that day, so I might as well use it to get work done.”

The excuse worked, and Spike just grinned playfully. “You really can’t stand to go too long without spending time with her, huh?”

Twilight rolled her eyes. “That’s enough out of you. I still remember how often you used to try to find excuses for us to go to the Carousel Boutique, you know.”

Spike quickly hid his face behind his comic, but not before Twilight saw a blush spread across his cheeks. “What? No way, I have no idea what you’re talking about.”

That left Twilight chuckling as she left the room. “Of course you don’t.”

She was still smiling as she walked away. Talking to Spike always helped her feel better after a bad day. Her little brother had always been a constant in her life since his hatching, and he made everything feel more grounded and normal. Whether it was talking about books or teasing him about his crush on Rarity, everything just seemed to be a little bit better after one of their talks.

‘Although it seems like he’s not the only one fawning over Rarity these days…’

That one thought was all it took to bring Twilight’s mood crashing back down to her hooves. She sighed and let her shoulders slouch as she finished the walk to her bedroom.

She shut the door behind her and looked around her room, unsure of what to do. Although she wasn’t normally one for mid-day naps, she wondered if it might be a good idea to try and sleep a little. It wasn’t like there was any reason she had to be awake.

Instead, she found herself sitting in front of a vanity mirror along the side of the room and frowning at her reflection. Twilight really was a very plain mare. She’d never really thought about that much before, never really saw a reason to.

Other mares gave a lot of thought to that sort of thing, but not Twilight. Sure, she’d make sure she looked presentable for Fluttershy, but that was usually all. Presentable. Adequate. These were the words Twilight could use to describe her appearance.

And even when she did have a reason to go a step further and get prettied up with clothes, hair, and makeup, she always just left that to Rarity.

Rarity. She was so good at what she did that she had even been able to make Twilight feel pretty. Something she had done twice now before Twilight’s dates with Fluttershy. In a way, that made her feel worse. Twilight wanted to be upset with Rarity, but she couldn’t. Rarity had been a dear friend for many years, and she didn’t deserve Twilight’s anger simply for being herself.

And she couldn’t be upset with Fluttershy either. Twilight had known about her feelings towards Rarity from before she had ever confessed her own feelings. She had entered this relationship knowing about them, and she couldn’t reasonably expect a crush Fluttershy had held for years to be gone in a matter of weeks.

There was nopony to be upset with. Nopony but herself for being dumb enough to have these feelings.

‘Maybe… maybe I could do something about it…’

Twilight opened a seldom-used drawer under the mirror. It was filled with makeup, and only a few items in it had been used more than once or twice. The majority had come from Rarity, years-old gifts from before it became obvious Twilight was not the type of mare likely to use them.

Well, she was going to use them now. Twilight levitated everything into the air so she could see it all at once. A few of the items that had been near the top were things she did actually use once in a while; a few shades of lipstick, a thing of mascara, things that were relatively simple to apply. She set those on the table and selected a few other things to try.

It wasn’t like Twilight didn’t know anything about makeup. In fact, she knew quite a bit about it. When Rarity had first given her a makeup set as a gift, Twilight had read up on it so she might actually be able to put the gift to use. She never wound up putting her theoretical knowledge to the test, but she did learn a thing or two that should help her apply it. Then she got caught in the history of cosmetics and its cultural significance, and walked away from the experience with a renewed appreciation for Rarity’s craft.

At least part of the work was done for her – everything was chosen by Rarity with Twilight’s coloration in mind, so as long as she was able to pair the right items together, it should look nice. Twilight got to work.

First was foundation, of course. That much was obvious, it was even right in the name. But if selecting it was an easy first choice, it was the last easy part before everything fell apart. Twilight found she couldn’t quite remember what she’d read about applying it after all, and had to take her best guess.

It was hard to tell how she did. The foundation was a similar shade of purple to her fur, meant only to make sure it was an even shade throughout, which meant it blended in with her natural color by design. And try as she might, Twilight simply didn’t have the practiced eye to see the subtle difference it made.

Deciding it looked as good as she was going to get it, she moved on. She remembered what highlights and contour did, but not where to apply each. That was enough to make her want to take a break and try again with a book to guide her, but she knew that if she stopped she was liable to give up for good, so instead she guessed, trying to remember how Rarity did it for her.

But whenever Rarity did her makeup, the brush became a ballerina against her skin, dancing along with all the grace of the mare who wielded it. It did the same now; a drunken dance that was just as graceless as Twilight herself. It divided its time between cautiously avoiding Twilight’s face and crashing into it, sending a fine mist of powder airborne as it ambled along.

At least she knew where to apply the blush. But how much? That was more guessing, and she knew she could only possibly guess wrong. Even after trying her best to be cautious, she was certain she’d applied too much. She was ready to give up by then, but she was so close to being done.

Although she wasn’t really happy with her face, she moved onto her eyes. Eye shadow was important; Rarity always wore that. It went about as well as anything else. Mascara was something Twilight actually applied herself from time to time, so at least that much was no problem.

Lipstick was the final step, another thing she was already comfortable with. It didn’t do much to improve her confidence, though. Before she even took in the full effect, Twilight closed her eyes and sighed. Half of her wanted to run to the bathroom and wash it all off without ever getting a good look. There was no way she would like what she saw.

But she still had to look. Perhaps it was nothing but morbid curiosity. Perhaps she needed to prove to herself that this was something she just couldn’t do. Whatever the reason, Twilight had to look.

Opening her eyes, she hated what she saw. It wasn’t good. It wasn’t even adequate, which was the one thing Twilight could always count on from her appearance. And as much as she wanted to believe that she might do better next time, she didn’t. It was a shoddy attempt at a skill that Twilight simply didn’t have.

She had known how it would turn out. Had known that this was a waste of time. She levitated all of the makeup over to the trash can, knowing there would never be a reason for her to use it again.

But she couldn’t throw it away. She held it over the trash can, but couldn’t drop it in. Whether she used it or not, the makeup had been a thoughtful gift from a friend. Rarity might have stolen her marefriend’s heart, but that wasn’t out of malice. It wasn’t even intentional; she was simply too good, and that wasn’t something Twilight could hold against her.

Twilight levitated the makeup back to the vanity and sat back down, facing away from the mirror so she couldn’t see herself. She knew she should go wash it off, but she didn’t want to risk running into Spike. The last thing she needed was for him to tease her about it.

What was she supposed to do? She couldn’t match Rarity, let along compete with her. And sure, she knew that Fluttershy had chosen her, but only because the pony she really wanted wasn’t an option. Twilight was only the runner up. She was merely adequate, as always.

But was she really even that? If Twilight were good enough, truly good enough, would Fluttershy still be so hung up on Rarity? Would she still light up when she was around her? Still laugh at everything she said?

If anything, perhaps Twilight was just a consolation prize. She was someone who was there, an option when nopony else was. Did Fluttershy spend the time they were together wishing it was spent with Rarity instead? Did she think of Rarity when Twilight held her?

Even now, Fluttershy was off with Rarity. With her. Just the two of them, relaxing at the spa while Twilight was alone. What were they doing while Twilight was feeling miserable? Rarity was probably going on about her exciting career while Fluttershy hung on her every word.

It was probably a good thing Twilight hadn’t gone, even if it meant the two of them were alone together. Fluttershy probably preferred it that way. Now she could dote on Rarity all she wanted without worrying about how Twilight would feel. Not that she had seemed to be too worried about how her marefriend might have felt earlier, not when Rarity was around.

No, this was definitely better. Fluttershy was happier this way, and Twilight wanted her to be happy. And whether she was interested in dating her or not, Rarity would be right there returning and magnifying any and all affections Fluttershy showed her. It was something she did, after all. Every compliment would be returned tenfold, every small touch turned into a larger gesture.

Whether she wanted to date her or not, Rarity would be there with Fluttershy while Twilight was alone. Would be with her marefriend, would further her hold on her heart as she showered her with affection and captivated her with her dazzling beauty.

Twilight stood up and levitated the makeup once more. She brought it to the trash can and dropped it in on her way to her bed. She couldn’t even find it in herself to care that she got makeup on her pillow as she buried her face in it.

Whatever makeup didn’t rub off on the pillow was left to run down her face as she started crying. But it didn’t matter; it wasn’t good enough to worry about, after all.

Author's Note:

Don’t ask me how horse makeup works, I really don’t know...

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