• Published 3rd Sep 2012
  • 6,053 Views, 270 Comments

Three's A Crowd - Sir0Chicken

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

  • ...

Moving On

“Are you okay, Fluttershy?”

Fluttershy blinked as she realized that Twilight was frowning at her. Backing away and averting her gaze, Fluttershy stammered, “Oh—uh—sorry. I mean, hello, Twilight.”

There's that beautiful smile again. Oh, I hope she doesn't notice me blushing! Fluttershy tried to hide her face ever deeper into her hair, but Twilight just giggled and brushed her mane aside with a hoof.

“C’mon, Fluttershy. No need to do that. We’re friends here. There's nothing to be nervous about.”

Fluttershy chuckled and nodded. Nothing for her to be nervous about, at least. Taking a deep breath, she let Twilight enter her house and then closed the door.

I don't know if I've ever seen Twilight this beautiful before, Fluttershy thought, fighting to stay upright as her knees began to wobble. She's so… radiant.

If Twilight noticed her friends nervousness, though, she never pointed it out. "How have the animals been doing?" she asked. Her eyes widened as she tilted the cider bottle and added, "Oh! And where should I put this?"

“They’re doing, um, very well,” Fluttershy said. “They all seem to be having a very good day.” Maybe they’re reflecting my own joy. “Here, let me take that,” she added after a moment, grabbing the bottle and walking to the dining room.

A smile flashed across Twilight's face. “I’m glad to hear it. Even Angel?”

“Oh, yes! He’s been such a good bunny today.” Fluttershy saw the rabbit lounging around nearby and went to pet him. “I’m so proud of him.”

Hopping up in response to his owner’s touch, Angel rubbed against her leg affectionately before scampering away. As he darted out of sight, though, he stopped briefly and offered a wink to Fluttershy, who blinked rapidly and turned her attention back to Twilight.

Twilight just looked on with the kind of smile that only a truly adorable sight can elicit. “That bunny can be a hoof full sometimes, but he sure can be cute.”

“So how did lunch with Applejack go?” Fluttershy pulled out a chair at the dinner table for Twilight.

Sitting down, Twilight answered, “It was nice. She’s such a good-natured pony, and you really have to admire her work ethic.”

Fluttershy nodded. “I’ve known her for a long time, and she’s never been anything but kind,” she agreed.

Twilight sighed and kept talking. “Not to mention her experiences on the farm. It’s all so interesting—well maybe not everything, but that’s how most subjects are.”

“Yes,” Fluttershy said with a nod. “She really is great at what she does.”

“But it’s not just that,” Twilight insisted. “There’s something about what she does—working with her hooves to create an actual, physical thing. I’ve never done that before.” Her eyes adopted a distant look as she said, “I’d love to be able to feel what that’s like.”

She glanced back at Fluttershy suddenly and, noticing her friend's frown and downcast eyes, leaned forward to put a hoof on Fluttershy's shoulder. “I mean, not that other work isn’t as worthwhile or anything. Working with you to help the animals has been great, for example.”

Seeing Fluttershy's shoulders relax, Twilight pulled away and kept silent, allowing Fluttershy to speak.

“I’m really glad you’ve enjoyed our time together,” Fluttershy said. “Working together, I mean.”

A timer began to ring in the kitchen, and Fluttershy stood and walked over to turn it off. After a moment, she returned with a casserole dish held between her wings. Twilight peered at it to see what was inside, but the dish was opaque, as was the lid on top of it.

“It really has been great,” Twilight said. “I’ve learned so much, and it really feels wonderful to have a positive impact on those animals’ lives.”

Fluttershy nodded sheepishly as she put the casserole dish on the table, but Twilight swore that her friend's shoulders remained slumped well after she returned to her seat. Why? She could only shrug and wait while Fluttershy straightened herself and lifted her head high.

“Yes, it's been nice,” Fluttershy agreed, forcing a small smile onto her face. “And it’s been nice to have you around so much. It's so great to have a friend to help out, and I don't think I could ask for a better friend than you.”

Twilight smiled and blushed just a touch at the compliment. “Oh, Fluttershy! You're too kind.”

Fluttershy shook her head and giggled, adding, “And it’s been great to have someone else to help me take care of all the animals. They’re so lovely and so cute, but they all need so much. I really appreciate all that you’ve done these past weeks.”

Twilight nodded again, still smiling, but her grin lost a hint of its enthusiasm. “Actually, Fluttershy, about that.”

Fluttershy stopped beaming, and her mouth hung open as her ears flattened. “W-what do you mean?” she asked, trembling.

“Well, I’ve really loved being able to spend so much time tending to your pets, Fluttershy, and I’ve learned so much, but I feel like it’s time I moved on.”

“So soon?”

“Actually,” Twilight insisted, “I've spent more time working with you than with anypony else in Ponyville. It’s been months of constant study—and it’s been fantastic, don’t get me wrong.” She licked her lips as her mouth suddenly began to feel dry. “I mean, it’s not like we’ll never hang out anymore. We’ll still see each other in town, and I’ll come back from time to time so I can see my new animal friends. We’re just not… studying together.”

Fluttershy remained silent for a moment, and the tension in the room made that moment drag on for an eternity in Twilight’s mind. It wasn't like she was leaving Ponyville. She’d done this sort of thing with all her other friends, and they weren’t phased in the slightest. Heck, Rainbow Dash was almost happy to get rid of me. This is just ridiculous!

“C'mon, Fluttershy,” Twilight almost snapped, her scowl deepening with every passing moment. Why does she have to stare at me like I'm some sort of bad guy? “It’s not that big a deal. Just… say something! Are you even—”

“Okay,” Fluttershy said simply. The pleading expression left Fluttershy’s eyes, and she lowered her gaze. The slump in Fluttershy's shoulders made Twilight ache, but she still couldn’t escape the feeling that this was all decidedly unreasonable.

“I’m sorry, Fluttershy,” Twilight said. “I lost my temper. I just don’t quite understand. Why is this such a big deal, anyway?”

Straightening in her chair, Fluttershy put on a weak smile and answered, “Oh, it’s not, Twilight. Don’t worry about it. I’m just being silly is all. I’ll just miss the help when I’m working. But I’m ever so thankful that you helped me for so long.”

Twilight wasn’t convinced, but she couldn’t think of any course of action better than nodding and accepting the thank-you. “You’re welcome, Fluttershy. It was nothing, really."

"Still," Fluttershy trailed off almost before she started her sentence.

A long pause engulfed the pair, and Twilight looked around at the cottage for a moment before asking, "So, what're we eating?"

"Oh, how silly of me!" Fluttershy pulled the lid off the casserole dish. "I'm sorry, Twilight—"

"It's nothing to be sorry about," Twilight interrupted.

"Well, either way, we're having apple casserole. I hope that's okay."

Twilight grit her teeth. "Of course it is, Fluttershy."

Fluttershy nodded and began to spoon casserole onto Twilight's plate. After the second scoop, Twilight began to motion for Fluttershy to stop. By the time Fluttershy stopped giving her food, there were at least four generous helpings in front of Twilight.

As Fluttershy served herself, she added, "Also, Applejack was kind enough to give me an apple pie for dessert earlier today."

Twilight clopped her hooves together. "How will we tell the difference between dinner and dessert?" she joked, and Fluttershy giggled softly. Fluttershy raised her hoof and opened her mouth, but she closed it after a moment and served herself another helping of casserole.

Doing likewise, Twilight dug into the hearty meal. "Wow!" she exclaimed after she swallowed her first mouthful. "This is amazing, Fluttershy." She barely got the words out before shoving another piece into her mouth.

Fluttershy positively beamed at the compliment, and her cheeks blushed bright red as she ducked behind her mane. "Thank you, Twilight," she murmured. "I, well, I'm glad you liked it."

The two continued on in silence for a few minutes, Twilight devouring the delicious casserole as Fluttershy daintily picked away at her portion, paying more attention to Twilight than to her meal.

Putting her fork down, Fluttershy opened her mouth and took a deep breath. A moment passed before she simply exhaled and picked her fork back up, glaring at her plate. After the meal, she promised herself, although she wasn't quite sure if she could even find her voice then. Either way, Twilight was too engrossed in her meal to notice Fluttershy's indecision, and the pair went on eating in silence.

Fluttershy forced her eyes away from Twilight and toward the lump of warm casserole on her plate. With just a hint of extra effort, she began spooning more substantial mouthfuls into her mouth. The food was indeed delicious, but she still found her eyes drifting back to Twilight, wondering if the unicorn thought she was being too messy, or eating too fast, or… She pushed the thoughts out of her mind. If she didn't pick up her pace, Twilight would finish long before her, and then the unspoken scrutiny would become unbearable. Galvanized by that notion, she found her appetite, and the pile of apples before her began to shrink rapidly.

As she scooped up a second helping of casserole, Twilight realized how impolite she was being. Blinking once or twice, she looked straight at Fluttershy and said, "I'm so sorry, Fluttershy. I've been so rude! It's just that this casserole is so good and I—" She blushed. "Well, I got a bit carried away."

"That's fine, Twilight. I was busy eating, too." Fluttershy cringed at her own words. Even she could hear how hollow and unconvincing they sounded, and Twilight's unchanged expression confirmed her doubts.

Twilight waved a hoof. "Thanks, but I know I was out of line." She paused for a moment as she searched for a decent conversation starter. "So, where'd you learn to cook such an amazing casserole?"

Fluttershy's cheeks began to redden. "It's just a recipe Applejack taught me a few years ago. I like to save it for special occasions."

"Well, I must say, just eating that casserole is a special occasion in my book," Twilight answered. She sneaked a small bite before continuing. "So it's an Apple family recipe? I'll have to ask Applejack how they keep track of those someday. I know my mom uses a recipe book that her mom made, but with so many Apples out there, I wonder how they keep it all straight. I guess I can ask on Tuesday."

Fluttershy dropped her fork and stared for a moment. "Tuesday?"

"Well, yes. That's when I'm going to start helping out at Sweet Apple Acres."

"You mean, this Tuesday?" Fluttershy's eyes widened, and Twilight found herself unable to look her in the face as she continued.

"Yes, Fluttershy. This Tuesday. But please, we've been over this." She lifted her eyes, knowing she had to be firm with her friend. "I've studied with everypony but Applejack, and although I've loved studying with you, all good things must come to an end." She sighed. "Look, Tuesday isn't for another few days. I can help you tomorrow and over the weekend, but that's it. That's the best I can do."

Fluttershy nodded, but the movement became a shake of her head as she cast her eyes to the floor. Twilight waited for something—anything to indicate that the pegasus was okay—but nothing came forth.

"Fluttershy—" she began to plead, but an upraised hoof stopped her. Determination flaring in her eyes, Fluttershy gulped and said, "I understand, Twilight. I'm just being selfish. We'll still see each other plenty. Just—just promise you'll come back and visit the animals from time to time."

Twilight nodded and smiled weakly. "Of course, Fluttershy."

The pegasus cringed at the emotion she could hear in her friend's voice. With tears welling in her eyes, she turned away abruptly and mumbled, "I… I'll go get dessert."

"That sounds like a great idea." Twilight cleared her throat and glanced away as Fluttershy left the room. Left alone, the unicorn bowed her head, searching for a solution to her problems that she knew would never come.

The two mares ate the apple pie in relative silence, the sweet apples and cinnamon acting as a buffer against the unpleasant realities they faced. They both tried starting new conversations, more pleasant than before, but neither seemed eager to carry a topic far. All the pair could hope for was a swift end to the night, and as soon as they had finished dessert, Twilight put her fork down and stood.

"Um, I think it's getting late," she said, and the air was still for a moment as she waited for Fluttershy.

Finally, Fluttershy nodded and pushed away from the table. "I guess you're right." She blew out a sigh. "I'll see you to the door."

In the awkward quiet, each hoofstep clashed loudly against the cottage floor. The sun had set long ago, and when Fluttershy opened the door to let Twilight out, nothing but the deep shadows of the Everfree Forest greeted them. Not even the moon could offer a comforting light, as nothing but a thin sliver of the celestial body remained visible in the sky.

Slouching her shoulders, Twilight turned around and said, "Goodbye, Fluttershy. I'll see you tomorrow?"

Fluttershy nodded weakly, letting her head bob limply until she was looking at the floor. "Yes. That sounds… nice."

They stood there, shifting about and averting their gazes. Then, unable to take the melancholy of the scene any longer, Twilight straightened herself, dipped her head, and trotted away without another word. Fluttershy stood there for a moment, blinking back tears, before slowly shutting the door.

Alone in her cottage, Fluttershy glanced at the candles still burning on the dining room table before looking out the window to Twilight's retreating form. It was dark out, but her horn glowed like a beacon in the night, bathing her smooth coat and soft hair in soothing lavender light.

The view Fluttershy received of her unrequited love—Twilight's youthful, carefree movements, her easy contentment, her undeniable beauty—left her with a gaping emptiness in her chest. It went beyond mere emotional discontent; Fluttershy felt physical pain, and she at last tore her eyes away from Twilight's departure, unable to bear any more.

As Fluttershy moved to snuff the candles and put away the tablecloth, Angel hopped in front of her, a frown on his face. He reached up toward Fluttershy, who scooped him into her hooves and nuzzled him like a mother, tears welling up in her eyes.

"Hi there, Angel." She struggled to get the words out, hoping in vain that saying such a typical phrase would lift her from her melancholy. If anything, it brought her to the brink of a sob. "How's mama's… mama's—"

Angel put a paw over Fluttershy's mouth and used his other to wipe a tear from her eye. Lip quivering, she stared at Angel's sympathetic eyes for a moment before hugging him tightly and letting all the emotions she'd kept pent up wash over her.

It had all gone so wrong. Her last, best chance to tell Twilight how she felt and maybe, just maybe find something more in their friendship: gone. Tears filled her eyes and began to wet Angel's fur, and sobs wracked her body as the defeat and disappointment overwhelmed her.

The whole night, she had told herself to wait for the perfect moment, the best of all possible times to confess her feelings to Twilight, but with the mare of her dreams long gone she couldn't hide from the truth. She lacked the courage to speak up. She backed down, chickened out, and gave up… everything.

She silently scolded herself for her own melodrama. She hadn't lost everything with that one dinner. It's just… Everything was so perfect, and I was so close, and… I couldn't even stand up for this.

After a minute or two of outright sobs, Fluttershy loosened her embrace of Angel and placed the bunny back on the ground. He gently stroked her mane, but all she could offer in reply was a sad, pathetic smile. He smiled back and, with one last pat of reassurance, hopped away to let Fluttershy deal with her pain alone.

It was nothing, really.

Twilight's words from earlier in the night rushed to her mind unbidden, stinging her with their easy delivery and ironic poignancy. Fluttershy had been fooling herself the whole time. It was nothing. It was just her and Twilight working together. Anypony who thought different was deluded at best.

Faced with the truth of her situation, Fluttershy preferred delusion. The pain seared her heart like a lance, and she doubted she could bear it for another moment.

Still crying, she left the dishes to wash in the morning, assuming she could will herself to even wake up. She knew she would. Even if it never solved her problems, crying seemed to calm her down in the end. She'd get through the night; she didn't have much choice. And she'd wake up feeling empty, but at least she wouldn't hurt quite as bad. She would survive, like always.

Like always…

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