• Published 3rd Sep 2012
  • 5,788 Views, 270 Comments

Three's A Crowd - Sir0Chicken



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

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Unsettled

As a new morning dawned over Equestria, Twilight opened her eyes to see a glorious sunrise…

And she shut them.

She shut them tight and pulled her blankets over her head, shielding her eyes from the hateful sun. It was beautiful, to be sure—she could tell that just from the brief glance she got—but she wanted none of it. This day felt bad, she felt bad, and more than anything, she just wanted to go back to bed.

Actually, that might not have been entirely correct—there was always some new topic to study in the library—but getting out of bed would mean acknowledging that a new day had begun. It meant acknowledging her promise to Fluttershy. I'll see you tomorrow. Those were the words Twilight had spoken, and she kept her word.

Except now, more than ever, she really didn't want to.

For some reason she couldn't quite describe, Twilight wanted to stay away from Fluttershy. Not for long—certainly not forever—but at least for a day. Fluttershy's sad eyes the night before… She wasn't sure if she could stand their heartbreaking gaze any longer.

But even worse than the fact of her good friend's sadness was her inability to understand it. Twilight was going to work with Applejack, and she'd have less time to help Fluttershy care for the animals, but that simple reality seemed to devastate the pegasus. As best as Twilight could tell, Fluttershy was acting jealous—possessive, even. Maybe I'm just being silly, but what if I'm not? With the way Fluttershy was acting, Twilight had no choice but to guess, and she hated moving forward on flimsy evidence.

Which was why, on this morning, she chose not to move at all. Burying her head in her pillow as if its downy innards could shield her from the ills of the world, shut her eyes tight enough to hurt and hoped that pain could drive away her aching guilt.

Unfortunately, time cares not for feathers and fabric, nor does a hungry baby dragon. At first, it was a light tug, as Spike's scaly hand tried to rouse Twilight from what he thought was actual slumber. Then, he poked her in the side, forcing her to jerk away and eliciting a muffled grunt. "Go away!"

"I know you're awake, Twilight," Spike whined at last, poking her harder than before. "Get up! I can't reach the Cupcake Crisp, and it's time for breakfast."

Growling, Twilight tried to bury her head deeper into her pillows, but Spike would have none of that. Grabbing her head, she turned it to face him directly, and though she tried to keep her eyes closed as long as possible, she had to open them eventually, and then the gig was up.

"Aha! Rise and shine, Twilight!" Spike rocked his shoulders back and forth in a childish victory dance. "Why would you even try to sleep in on a day like this? It's gorgeous!"

"I… had a long night," Twilight blurted out. End of story.

"I guess that's fair." Spike began to walk toward the stairs. "I can't believe you were out so late." He frowned and arched an eyebrow. "I had to put myself to bed, you know."

"And I'm very proud of you for that, Spike, but it's just… I'm just… tired." Twilight forced a smile, but it hardly came across as convincing.

"If you say so," Spike said, his eyes narrowing as he drew his lips into a thin line. "Oh, and by the way, I think you're supposed to visit Fluttershy today." He frowned and snorted. "You know, since you always visit her." He began to step out of the room, but then he shook his head. "Wait, that's it! Can you help me reach the cereal?"

Twilight sighed and lifted her reluctant body out of bed. The short walk into the kitchen took more willpower than she would have expected, and Spike's casual reminder only made things worse for her. No pretending she'd forgotten. She'd have to deal with Fluttershy somehow.

The gleam in Spike's eyes when Twilight poured him a bowl of Cupcake Crunch made Twilight smirk. Nothing but marshmallows! That was Pinkie Pie's pitch for the breakfast food—that is, if you could really call something like that food. Even so, knowing that she could still make somepony happy distracted Twilight for just long enough to give her a much needed smile.

That smile dissipated as she fixed her hair in preparation for visiting Fluttershy, but she clung to the idea that today would be better. Whatever she'd done to disappoint Fluttershy the night before would be a distant memory; she wouldn't ask for anything more or anything less.

If she got less, though…

Twilight took a deep breath and exhaled, slouching her shoulders as if her entire body was deflating. Straightening herself, she cast one last glance at Spike. "I'm going out," she said. "Don't get into any trouble while I'm gone."

Spike rolled his eyes. "As if! Have fun with Fluttershy." He tilted his head as she saw Twilight sigh and open the front door.

Before she could step out onto streets of Ponyville, though, Twilight saw a multicolored blur streak past her house, mere feet away from smashing her open door to splinters. With a loud yelp, she jumped back, and when Rainbow Dash rushed back to apologize, she scowled at the brash pegasus for her recklessness.

"Careful, Rainbow!" Twilight warned. "You almost clobbered me."

Rubbing the back of her neck, Rainbow waved a hoof and chuckled. "Hehe, yeah, but I didn't. So whatcha up to, Twilight?"

Twilight snorted and shook her head. "Oh, no. The real question is: What are you doing?"

"Oh, just being awesome, like always." Rainbow flew into the air and spread her forelegs wide, grinning all the while. "And I was thinking of practicing some of my moves today."

I mean now. What were you doing when you nearly slammed into me? But just then, a hint of an idea flickered in her mind, and she seized on it with a mental vice-grip. "So, you're trying to practice, eh?"

"Well, yeah." Rainbow rolled her eyes. "That's usually what ponies mean when they say they're gonna practice."

"Okay, true," Twilight admitted. "But still, do you have anypony to practice with?"

"Um, no offense, Twilight, but it's not like you have any flying experience." Rainbow landed beside Twilight and patted her shoulder, drawing another scowl from Twilight. "Beside, I'm awesome enough on my own!"

Twilight's toothy grin grew wider, and she put a foreleg around her friend's shoulders. "You're misunderstanding, Rainbow. Good ol', friendship-loving Rainbow."

"Uh, Twilight, can you just get to the point." Rainbow inched away slowly. "I have to go do, like, stuff, so—"

"You should ask Fluttershy to watch you practice." Twilight kept her voice as upbeat as possible, fearing that the faintest sign of faltering would drive Rainbow away. "She can cheer you on and let you know if there's any way for you to improve."

Rainbow rolled her eyes and waved her hoof. "As if there's any way I could be more awesome." Nonetheless, she paused a moment to consider the suggestion. "I guess it would be nice to have a first-hoof account of how awesome I am. And Fluttershy sure has gotten better at cheering since I did that sonic rainboom—"

"See! It's perfect!" Twilight had her chance, and there wasn't a prayer of her letting it go. "You should go get her now. She's probably at her cottage—she could use a good time."

"Well, okay." Rainbow Dash grinned like a foal and began to fly off. Before zooming out of sight, though, she stopped and turned to Twilight. "Why?"

Twilight brought a hoof to her chin and averted her gaze. "Oh, well, um, I just think that'd be fun for you two. You know, two pegasi flying together. You'll both enjoy the company."

Rainbow narrowed her eyes and stared at Twilight, but the scrutiny only lasted a moment before she shrugged and shook her head. Twilight was her friend, and she knew the unicorn would never do anything to hurt her. "Alright, then. See you later, Twilight."

With that, Rainbow dashed off toward Fluttershy's cottage, and Twilight breathed a long sigh. "Guess I'm free for the day, then," she told no one in particular. She considered heading back inside the library, but then she'd have to explain to Spike why she was bailing on Fluttershy. Besides, she could use something to help her relax. As that thought prevailed in her mind, she trotted off toward the Ponyville Cafe.



Fluttershy had no problem waking up in the morning; all the sorrow that would have sapped away her willpower had drained away with her tears. All that remained was emptiness, true, but she could work through that. After all, her animal friends depended on her, and even her broken heart wouldn't stop her from tending to their innocent lives.

As she trotted past the spot by the river where her otters's made their den, Fluttershy let her eyes linger on the spot. They're Twilight's favorite, she thought, blinking back tears. I can feed them later. They won't even know I passed them by. Biting her lip, Fluttershy turned and began to leave, but then she heard the pitter patter of tiny paws behind her.

"Oh, hello," she said to the runt of the litter, who now sat in front of her. He blinked from time to time, but no sound escaped him as he and Fluttershy stood transfixed in the middle of the clearing.

At last, the runt purred softly, taking a step forward to brush against Fluttershy's legs. He circled her a few times before coming to a stop and sniffing her.

"Sorry, little otter," she said, stroking his fur tenderly. She sat down and showed him her hooves. "I don't have anything with me right now."

The runt licked one of her hooves and nuzzled it. As his purring grew louder, the rest of the otters began to emerge from their den. Soon, the air was alive with the sound of chattering otters. A few stepped forward and sniffed Fluttershy tentatively, but they gave her a wide berth as she began to pet the runt once more.

"Okay, friends," she said, lips trembling as she tried to smile. "I'll go back to my cottage and get you some food. Then I'll… I'll…" The tears she had been blinking back finally spilled over, and she buried her face in her hooves as the otters all rushed to her at once. The sound of her weeping was quickly drowned out by their noise, and as they began to nuzzle and pet her all over, Fluttershy wiped her eyes and smiled at all of them.

"Thank you so much," she said, her voice breaking as she threatened to burst into tears again. "Here, let me get you your—"

Fluttershy's ears perked up as she heard something zooming through the air—in her direction if she wasn't mistaken. Her eyes widened and her knees began to shake. "Find shelter, friends," she told the animals, who scurried away with loud chattering and high-pitched cries. If it was a hawk, or an egret or a d—d—dragon…

Or Rainbow Dash. Before Fluttershy could even contemplate what she was about to face, she realized that Rainbow was hovering just inches in front of her. Screaming, she tried to gallop away, but Rainbow grabbed her by the shoulders and put a quick stop to that.

"Hey, 'Shy!" Rainbow chirped, still holding Fluttershy fast. "Whatcha doing?"

"Um, I'm tending my animals…" Fluttershy's turned her gaze to the grass at her hooves.

Rainbow snorted and inched closer with a powerful flap of her wings. "Sounds fun." She rolled her eyes. "Anyway, if you want to do something more, I don't know, awesome, you should watch me practice some new moves I've been working on.

Fluttershy's eyes widened and she took a step forward. "Oh, but it's been so long. You haven't asked me to—"

Rainbow Dash drooped a bit and landed, putting a hoof on Fluttershy's shoulder. "I know, I haven't seen you around so much. I had some…" She huffed as she gazed at the sky with misty eyes. "I had some things to deal with. Anyway, we're friends! I mean, I've known you since Cloudsdale. We've gotta stick together."

Fluttershy grinned and wrapped Rainbow in a tight embrace. "Okay, Rainbow Dash. But Twilight was supposed to come over to help me with my animal friends, so—"

Rainbow put a hoof up. "Is she here yet?"

Fluttershy backed away. "No, but—"

"Are you still not done feeding the animals?" Rainbow tilted her head and leaned toward Fluttershy.

After a moment, Fluttershy hid her face behind her mane. "I'm almost done."

Rainbow soared upward and pumped her hoof in the air. "Then wrap it up, and let's get going! If Twilight needs us she'll use some egghead magic to find us anyway."

For a moment, Fluttershy hesitated, but in the end Rainbow's words won her over. She needed something to distract her from the night before, and working with Twilight would do anything but that. Rainbow Dash was a good friend, and her smile practically stretched from ear to ear—although she always looked like that when she was ready to practice.

"Okay, Rainbow Dash." I'll do it, Fluttershy thought. Let Twilight find me if she needs me. Today, I get to do what I want.

Today, I get to fly with Rainbow Dash.



Sipping a latte, Twilight took a seat at one of the Ponyville Cafe's patio tables. Normally, she didn't like sitting on her own with nothing to read or work on, but she needed time to think. Whatever was wrong with Fluttershy, Twilight knew that she had some sort of responsibility for it, and she had to figure out why. She had always prided herself for her critical thinking skills, but at the moment, she found those skills remarkably lacking.

"Twilight! What are you doing here on a fine Friday morning like this."

Without turning around, Twilight replied, "Hi, Rarity." She turned to see her friend approaching and grinned.

"Fancy meeting you here," Rarity said, an espresso levitating by her side and a smile spreading across her face. "I was just stopping by to get my morning coffee, but please, Twilight, may I sit with you?" Her eyes twinkled when Twilight nodded. "Splendid! How have you been, by the way?"

Twilight shrugged. "I've been busy, that's for sure."

"Your studies, I presume?" Rarity raised an eyebrow.

"Yes. I'm actually sort of in the process of shifting focuses." Twilight almost began to tell Rarity about the last night's events, but she pressed her lips together and took a deep breath. "Applejack told me I can start working at Sweet Apple Acres with her on Tuesday, so I'll be joining her soon."

Rarity nodded, sipping at her coffee. "I suppose that means you won't be helping Fluttershy as much anymore."

Twilight sighed. "Yeah. I think she's a little disappointed, but it's just one of those things. You know?"

"It's inevitable, dear." Rarity nodded. "I'm sure she'll find a way to cope. She's a strong mare."

Though she didn't fully agree, Twilight nodded. "Yeah, and she's got other friends, right? We're all friends." Her voice grew louder, almost to the point of shouting. "We've all got one another!"

"Yes, dear," Rarity said pursing her lips and tilting her head. "And I'm sure she knows that, but, ah." She furrowed her brow and shrugged. "I fail to see the relevance."

"Nevermind, Rarity." Twilight's eyes grew dull as she slouched her shoulders.

"Oh, Twilight, you really mustn't look so glum!" Rarity edged her chair toward Twilight's a put a hoof on her shoulder. "Surely she can't be that disappointed."

It took her a moment, but Twilight frowned slightly and nodded. "You're right, Rarity. Change is just difficult…for both of us. As soon as I start working with Applejack, Fluttershy will figure out a new routine. We'll be all right again." At least, I hope so.

Rarity smiled. "Exactly, dear. And you simply must tell me what it's like to work with Applejack." She frowned a bit as she continued. "I can't imagine she cares much for propriety and the like." Almost instantly, her closed-mouth grin returned. "Anyway, we have so much to catch up on. How has life been treating you lately?"



Fluttershy almost forgot how skilled a flyer Rainbow Dash was. Not quite, but almost.

The two hadn't spent time together in so long, it seemed like an eternity. They'd both gotten so busy: Fluttershy with Twilight and Rainbow with… stuff. Whatever it had been, Fluttershy was confident that her friend had been able to deal with it. It had just taken time.

At least we've had today, Fluttershy thought. I don't think we've been apart for more than a couple of minutes all day. She grinned. She sure loves to fly. I'm lucky I managed to convince her to stop for lunch.

Rainbow soared within a few feet of Fluttershy, who tried in vain to keep her pink mane from being blown all about by the resulting winds. Rainbow, whose eyes watered as the air protested against her speed, paid her friend no heed and proceeded to perform a rapid series of loops, flips, rolls and dives.

As Fluttershy watched Rainbow, a lurching emptiness began to take shape in her stomach. What if Twilight comes to the cottage and can't find me? Will she be mad? Fluttershy had made the decision to join Rainbow Dash without much thought. It was an impulsive, somewhat spiteful act. Let Twilight figure things out. Now, though, Fluttershy kicked herself for her own selfish behavior.

"What's wrong, 'Shy?" Rainbow landed next to her friend, and Fluttershy realized that she had stopped cheering.

"S-sorry, Rainbow Dash. I was just thinking." Fluttershy tried to hide behind her hair, but Rainbow pushed it aside to look straight into her eyes.

"You've got to stop being so shy," Rainbow insisted. "I know it's in your name and all, but c'mon! Scaredy cats never make it in the history books."

"I know." Fluttershy tried to hide behind her mane.

Rainbow saw the gesture and frowned, slouching her shoulders as she took a step forward. I'll be a horsefly if I let her avoid telling me what's eating at her.

"What's wrong, Fluttershy." Rainbow folded her wings and nuzzled her friend's cheek. "Seriously, you can tell me anything."

Anything. It all stretched out before Fluttershy. The day Twilight asked if she could help care for the animals. The day they fixed that hurt bird's wing. The moment Fluttershy looked at Twilight's face and saw this twinkle in her eyes that she never wanted to look away from. Every moment since then: the longing, the unattainability—so close, yet so far. She could tell Rainbow anything. Anything…

"I'm just worried that … one of my animal friends might be sick." Fluttershy was disgusted at herself, but she couldn't bring herself to say anything different. "One of the bunnies. He has me a little concerned; that's all."

Rainbow Dash's wings flared as a scowl flashed across her face, but to her credit she didn't roll her eyes. "Well, do you think it's serious?" There clearly wasn't much heart behind the question, but Fluttershy appreciated the gesture even so.

"Um, probably not," she admitted—a true assessment, judging by the fact that none of the animals really were sick. "I'm just a silly pony, I guess."

Rainbow snorted, a smile returning to her face. She pulled Fluttershy closer to her and began to tousle Fluttershy's pink mane, giggling as she did so. "I've known that for a while, 'Shy." She lowered her hoof and yawned slowly. "Well, I think that was a good day of practice. I'm beat."

Fluttershy looked at the sun and saw that it was already nearing the horizon. "Oh my, I didn't even realize you'd been flying so long."

"Well, I'm not the only thing that flies when you're having fun." Rainbow chuckled. "C'mon, I'll fly you home."

Nodding, Fluttershy joined her in the air as they made their way to her cottage. "Thank you, Rainbow."

"Don't mention it." Rainbow forced herself to stop grinning as she added, "And if anything does come up, if you need somepony to talk to—about anything—just let me know."

Fluttershy grimaced. "I promise."

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