• Published 3rd Sep 2012
  • 6,073 Views, 270 Comments

Three's A Crowd - Sir0Chicken

Fluttershy and Twilight have grown close, but will the Fluttershy stand a chance against Applejack?

  • ...

A Good Friend

The romp of otters scampered at play in the morning sun as Twilight Sparkle approached. Since she started helping Fluttershy take care of the animals that surrounded her woodland cottage, many of them had embraced Twilight as a caretaker and a friend—especially the otters.

“Hello, everyotter,” Twilight said with a grin as she levitated a bucket of fish up to her muzzle. Grabbing a few fish with her teeth, she tossed them out to the chattering creatures. It left a taste in her mouth, but it was worth it to see the otters' smiling faces.

One of the otters, the runt of a recent litter, approached Twilight, nuzzling her forelegs tentatively. Dropping a small fish at the otter’s feet, Twilight returned the nuzzle, whispering, “How are you holding up, little guy?” The otter purred quietly and picked up the fish, continuing to brush against Twilight’s legs and smile. The sight was almost cute enough to distract her from the fishy slime now being smeared on her shins.

After Twilight had moved on to the rest of the otters, she saw Fluttershy approaching from her cottage, a bag of vegetables on her back and a broad smile on her face. “Hello, Twilight,” she said in a happy, sing-song voice. “It’s nice to see you this morning.”

Twilight smiled at how much her friend had loosened up since the first time they met. Nodding, she replied, “It’s great to see you too, Fluttershy!”

Fluttershy blushed and turned away slightly. “Oh, you don’t have to say that, Twilight."

Okay, so she hasn't loosened up that much. Laughing, Twilight trotted over and answered, “I know. I try to make a habit of saying only what I mean, and it really is great to see you.”

Fluttershy’s face lit up and she hugged Twilight for a moment before breaking away. Her hasty hoofsteps betrayed her embarassment as she trotted faster than before down the path toward a nearby rabbit warren.

Having finished feeding the otters, Twilight decided to join Fluttershy, who cast her eyes at the road and blushed yet again. She nudged her friend lightly, but Fluttershy refused to look at her directly. “Lighten up, Fluttershy. No need to be so nervous. We've known each other for years.”

Straightening herself, Fluttershy nodded. “You’re right, Twilight. I should be assertive.”

“Exactly!" Twilight giggled. "You've gotten so much better at it, but you keep forgetting. Just loosen up and let everypony know what you’re thinking.”

Fluttershy's eye's shimmered as a smile spread across her face. Grinning back, Twilight felt herself relax as the two ponies neared their destination.

In what felt like no time, Twilight and Fluttershy finished caring for the local animals. Fluttershy's grin never left her face for a moment, and the extra spring in her step worked wonders as the chores flew by. Looking up to the sun, Twilight judged that it was hardly ten o’clock by the time they finished—a full half-hour ahead of schedule.

“Wow, Fluttershy!” Twilight marveled. “I don’t think we've ever finished this early.” She beamed, her eyes shimmering. “It feels like the whole day’s out there wide open and ready to be seized!”

Fluttershy's ears perked up. “Oh,” she whispered. “Does that mean you’re free later today?”

Twilight rubbed her chin with a hoof for a moment. “Well, I’m supposed to meet Applejack for lunch, but—” she stopped an raised a hoof “—Wow! I haven’t got anything scheduled the rest of the day. Oh, there’s so much to do! I could finally get caught up on some reading I've been putting off. Or maybe I could talk to Cheerilee about that book exchange program she wanted to set up at the library.”

“Or,” Fluttershy interrupted meekly, as if afraid that Twilight’s words would crush her if she dared to speak up. “Maybe you’d like to come over for dinner this evening?”

It wasn't the first thought to come into Twilight’s head, but it sounded fun, and Fluttershy’s eyes were wide open, staring directly at her. Actually, maybe it seemed even… desperate? No, Twilight thought. What would Fluttershy even be desperate about?

“Sounds great, Fluttershy,” she answered, shaking her head and waving a hoof as if she were pushing smoke away from her face. “When do you want me to come over?”

Fluttershy whinnied and reared up suddenly, clopping her hooves together. “Oh, this is so wonderful!” Fluttershy nearly sang. Twilight laughed and stepped back; she hadn't seen her friend act like this since she met Spike. “Um, how about five. Or, no. Um, is six okay? I want to have time to get ready.”

“Sure thing, Fluttershy.” Twilight was still giggling at her friend’s grin; it was positively infectious. “I’ll see you later this evening.”

Fluttershy smiled and nodded. “Okay. Oh, and have a great day, Twilight.” She hugged her friend goodbye and then turned around, humming to herself as she trotted back to her house.

Finishing early with the animals was an absolute blessing to Twilight’s schedule. Sure, today wasn’t that busy, but the extra half-hour gave her more than enough time to get back home and clean up before her luncheon with Applejack. They were just going to a restaurant in town—nothing fancy—but Twilight didn't want to show up with otter fur all over her legs and stinking of fish.

When she got to the restaurant, Applejack had already arrived and was standing outside, waiting for her. Seeing Twilight approach, she smiled and waved, trotting up to greet her.

“Howdy, Twilight. How’s it goin'?” Applejack tipped her hat in greeting and shook her friend’s hoof before leading her into the restaurant.

“It’s been excellent so far. I went over to help Fluttershy with the animals this morning, and we finished almost a half hour early.”

Applejack smiled and nodded. “That's great. I don't know about you, but I always say a job well done and a job done early are the best two things a pony can ask for.”

"I couldn't agree more. I can't imagine you can get done early too often on the farm, though."

Applejack grimaced a bit and shrugged. “It ain't too bad. The crops take their sweet time, to be sure, but it’s all a cycle. You got busy days and free days.” She smiled at Twilight. “Today’s sort of in between.”

“Thanks for coming to talk with me, Applejack. Sometimes it seems like I hardly see you.”

Dismissing the notion with a wave of her hoof, Applejack chuckled. “I ain't working harder than any other time of year. I think you're just too busy studying lately. Especially with Fluttershy.” A smile crept onto Applejack’s face.

“Oh! And I’m going over for dinner with Fluttershy this evening.” Twilight laughed and took her seat as Applejack did the same. “This day is really shaping up to be a fantastic one!”

Applejack smirked at her friend's enthusiasm. After watching Twilight for a moment, she nodded slowly and said, “It sure sounds like it, sugarcube.”

A moment of silence passed between the two ponies, and their waiter trotted up with a notepad in his hoof. Twilight and Applejack gave him their orders, glancing at each other through the entire process.

“You know,” Twilight drawled after the waiter left, “I've done so much here in Ponyville. I've studied all sorts of things with all sorts of ponies. Baking with Pinkie, sewing with Rarity, animals with Fluttershy—even Rainbow Dash helped me get to and from Cloudsdale to study pegasus culture, and I owe her big time for that.”

“Sure, you do,” Applejack grunted. In less than a second, her pleasant smile returned. “You've done a lot these past years, Twi.”

“Well, yes, but don't think I'm done yet.” As Twilight paused, the waiter brought their salads. “I've done all those things with our friends, and yet I still haven't studied a single thing with you!”

Applejack shrugged. “So?”

“There’s so much to learn on a farm! I could study tool-making, woodworking, horticulture—I… I mean, we could study those things.” She looked down at her hooves for a moment before shaking her head and looking back up. “It’d be such an amazing opportunity. I have no idea why I haven’t thought about it before.”

“Ah, it ain't nothing, Twi. Like I said, you've been mighty busy, that’s all.” Applejack leaned closer to Twilight and looked her directly in the eyes. “Don’t worry about it none. And don’t you cut short any of your other projects just for my sake.” Twilight almost thought she heard a graver tone creep into Applejack’s voice as the mare said, “If things are going well with Fluttershy, then me and my farm can wait.”

“Thanks, Applejack.” Twilight kept smiling as her tone became abruptly more professional. “Still, you know how I don’t like to just make plans willy-nilly. If I did decide to study with you, when would be a good time to start?”

Pursed her lips and blew out a sigh after a long moment of silence. Even when she opened her mouth, she shut it again, looking away and taking a deep breath before returning her gaze to Twilight.

"Please, Applejack. I won't take no for an answer."

“Well,” she began, “I guess next Tuesday’d be a good time to start, seeing as we’re planting some carrots. That way you’d see things all the way through. But, I mean, you’ll have plenty of time to help me on the farm. We've got our whole lives to do that. You're still working with Fluttershy, and you want to see that through, right?”

Tilting her head just a bit, Twilight asked, “Is everything okay, Applejack?”

A wide smile plastered itself over Applejack’s face, and Twilight had to fight the urge to roll her eyes. For a moment, she was silent, wondering whether she should press the farm pony to discover what she was hiding, but that was out of the question. If Applejack wasn't ready to tell Twilight what was bothering her, then she’d wait till her friend was good and ready.

Twilight put a hoof on her friend's shoulder. “Don’t worry, Applejack. You know you can tell me anything. And thanks for the advice.”

“I know, Twi,” Applejack said. “And don’t mention it. Really.”

She’s never been good with secrets, Twilight mused. It’s admirable, in its own way.

Pausing in their conversation to take a quick drink, she finally said, “Okay, then. So, how’s everything on the farm?”

Twilight was coming over for dinner.

Fluttershy's wings fluttered and her breath caught as she repeated the sentence in her head. Twilight is coming over for dinner!

She blushed softly just thinking about it. It’s too early to get excited, she reminded herself. I mean, it hasn’t even started and, well, who knows what could happen.

Despite the daydream scenarios that rushed unbidden into Fluttershy’s mind every time she thought about the incoming visit—too early to call it a date—she could still feel her shoulders slump and her wings wilt as she considered her chances.

After all, this was Twilight Sparkle she was courting. Princess Celestia’s greatest student! She could take her pick of any stallion or mare in Equestria, and Fluttershy was just a hermit living out in the middle of nowhere. Sure, they’d grown close lately, but that was just because of Twilight’s studies. Soon enough, she would be off on her next scholarly pursuit, and Fluttershy would be left behind, like always.

Like always…

This was her best chance. If Fluttershy didn't make a move now, she’d never get a better opportunity. This dinner had to be perfect.

As Fluttershy set the table, she put candles on it before taking them right back. Would that gesture be too obvious? Was being obvious a bad thing? Was she worrying too much about this? Whimpering softly, she placed the candles back at the center of the table. It wasn't worth getting herself worked up for something so trivial. Unless it could make the difference.

Shaking her head, Fluttershy sat down for a moment to collect herself. The clock mounted on her living room wall read four o'clock, but she’d made great progress. The table was set, the house was clean, the animals were fed, Angel wasn’t glaring daggers at her for once, and dinner was—

She had forgotten to start dinner. She barely had two hours to get something ready for Twilight! She couldn’t make anything nice that fast. Gasping and beginning to hyperventilate, she glanced frantically in every direction.

Relax, Fluttershy, she thought. It’s only dinner. We can think of something. A salad—no, that's too plain. This needs to be something special.

She had to make something; she had to show that she could put real care and effort into a relationship. But there just wasn't time, and she didn't have any decent ingredients. The only place she could realistically go to with enough time to spare was…

Sweet Apple Acres.

It could work, Fluttershy insisted to herself. Applejack’s a good friend, and she’d understand if I needed some apples to bake with. Maybe she’d even give some recipes if I asked nicely enough. Straightening her posture, Fluttershy left for Sweet Apple Acres with a song on her lips.

Living out on the family farm most of the time meant that Applejack didn’t really deal with ponies quite as much as some of her friends did. Namely, she had never had a special somepony, but that didn’t mean she didn’t know a crush when she saw one.

It didn't take Applejack long to figure out that something was up with Fluttershy. She had always been, well, shy, but the way she started to blush when talking about Twilight was different somehow. It was… happier, maybe. When she blushed, she smiled, and Applejack could practically feel the sunshine exuding from her as she spoke. It was darn near infectious.

Applejack had to admit, she almost felt jealous of the pony. Her eyes grew distant as she fell back on old memories, but the reverie only lasted a moment before she was catapulted back into reality with a scowl. Kicking at the dirt, she shook her head forcefully

No use thinking of the past. This was the present, and Fluttershy was in love. Well, not really in love, but it was so much easier to say that than something more accurate. In like? In crush? All those phrases sounded, well, wrong. And after all, Applejack was only thinking to herself. She knew what she meant.

She only hoped that she hadn’t been too obvious about Fluttershy’s infatuation at lunch with Twilight. A lie of omission was still a lie, and Applejack took pride in her guileless nature. Of course, that left her in some sticky situations, but her integrity was worth it.

However, if Applejack had blown Fluttershy’s cover…

She was drawn out of her musings by the sound of lightly flapping wings approaching. Not even looking away from her work, she called, “Howdy, Fluttershy. What can I do you for?”

“Hello, Applejack,” Fluttershy said softly once she got closer to her friend. “Um, if it’s not too much trouble, I wanted to ask if you could do me a favor.”

Applejack chuckled. “That depends, sugarcube. What kind of favor?”

“Well, um, I was… Do you have any… I need apples.” Fluttershy's voice grew quieter with each sentence, and Applejack could barely hear her when she added, "For dinner with Twilight."

“Whoa, there, honey. I’d be happy to help.” Applejack smirked. “Especially if you’re having a date with Twilight.”

Fluttershy blushed until her cheeks were tomato red. “Oh, um, well, no… I… I mean it’s not really a… I mean Twilight never said that—”

“Relax, Shy. I was only teasing. I’m sure things’ll go great for you. Just be yourself.”

“O-okay, Applejack." Fluttershy hid behind her mane, stealing a glance at Applejack every so often. "Thank you.”

Applejack placed a hoof on Fluttershy’s shoulder. “Now, would you like a pie or something to go with those apples?”

Fluttershy’s looked down and pawed at the ground. “Oh, that would be lovely, but I don’t want to impose.”

“Don’t mention it, Fluttershy. Anything for a friend.” She began to walk to her house so she could grab one of the pies Granny Smith had baked earlier in the day. “Besides, this is a big day for you, so I want to make it the best it can be.”

“Thank you so much, Applejack.” Fluttershy started to extend her hoof before taking a step back and offering a small smile.

“It’s nothing, sugarcube." Applejack nodded and tilted her hat. "You’re more than welcome.”

Fluttershy trotted home with apples in her satchel and a spring in her step. Her dinner with Twilight was closer than ever, and although she’d have to hurry just a bit to cook the food in time, giggled just thinking about it.

With her mind fully occupied with daydreams about how the next hours could progress, the pegasus made short work of cooking a casserole with the apples Applejack gave her and a few sweet potatoes she’d been saving for a special occasion.

Well, actually, it was only special to her, as far as she knew. She had to constantly remind herself to keep her expectations in check. It was just dinner. It would be a wonderful dinner, and maybe even the start of something more, but it was still just dinner. Take it slowly, was her mantra. Nice and easy.

Angel's good behavior was an immense blessing to Fluttershy. She loved her favorite bunny with all her heart, but he could be a hoofful. Whatever was causing her good mood kept Fluttershy’s mind at ease as she watched the little rabbit hop about leisurely and cast the occasional smile her way.

Fluttershy felt as if the world had collaborated to make this dinner as amazing as possible, and it took a conscious effort not to sing at the top of her lungs out of sheer joy. But she wouldn’t want Twilight to hear. That would be far too embarrassing.

The seconds couldn’t pass fast enough for Fluttershy, and she passed the time fussing over everything. The food, her hair, the decorations—Are the candles really okay?—nothing was safe from her scrutiny, and yet she had to check again. She had to make every effort, take every precaution. This day was as important as life itself, she felt, and she had to pour all of her heart and soul into it.

Every so often she checked outside her windows to see if Twilight was coming, but the knock on her door still came as a surprise. Shifting a vase of flowers an imperceptible bit to the left, she called, “Coming!” hoping that her quiet voice would carry to Twilight's ears. Rushing to open the door, she beamed as she looked at the most beautiful mare in Equestria.

That mare was standing at her door, a bottle of cider floating by her side and a polite smile on her face.

The sight was enough to take Fluttershy’s breath away.