Chapter Three: The Gathering
Things were not going as planned at the little picnic non-party-gathering-thingamajig the girls were having at the park.
...Well, technically, things were going perfectly. They were all getting along and having a blast with each other, but two of the mares present were still going crazy trying to get the other in a serious conversation. Remeber that burst of confidence Twilight had received from Rarity's speech? it was still there, of course, but she couldn't really use it. She simply couldn't keep up a conversation with her yellow friend long enough to get anything serious in.
'C'mon, Twilight Sparkle. You're ready for this. You can do it.'
'Are you REALLY ready for this?'
'O-Of course I am! Why wouldn't I be? I'm not even nervous!'
'Well, you're sort of talking to yourself. You're obviously at least a little nervous. Or maybe you're just crazy.'
'I'm not crazy! YOU'RE crazy!'
'...Technically, I AM you. So that WOULD make you-'
As Twilight snapped out of her, rather heated, mental argument, she noticed a slightly concerned Rainbow Dash tilting her head, quirking an eyebrow in confusion.
"Uh, Twilight? You okay? You looked kind of zonked-out for a few minutes, there."
"Huh?" Twilight blinked in surprise. 'A few minutes?' "Oh, yeah, I'm fine, Dash, don't worry about me. i was just, uh..." She thought quickly to come up with something that would convince Rainbow Dash, "Just thinking about a book I read last night! Really intense piece of literature."
Dash perked up a little, but yawned at the mention of 'reading', "Yeah, yeah, Twi', I'm sure it was awesome. Maybe you could tell one of the others about it though. I'm going for the snacks. Later, chica!"
Before Twilight could assure her she had no intentions of telling Rainbow Dash about any book she would have read last night or question her usage of the Spanish word for 'girl,' the cyan pegasus zipped away and left the lavender librarian with her thoughts. Dash had actually sparked an idea in her mind.
'That's it! I'll start a conversation with Fluttershy about a book I've read before! Maybe one of those dusty old romance novels will work. Yes, yes, yes! That's perfect! It will give me a perfect opportunity to casualy slide the conversation over to relationships and then...and then...'
'Wing it from there?'
The purple pony, satisfied with her plan, began to trot casually over to Fluttershy, who was, thank Celestia above, lounging at the refreshment table, chatting with one of the neighborhood squirrels. Twilight made out part of the conversation as she drew nearer. She chuckled softly. She always though Fluttershy's way with animals was adorable...
"...you don't say? Well, I'm just glad his nuts were safe. I'm glad he learned to keep them nice and secure after that," Fluttershy giggled a little at the squirrel's cute way of nodding, and passed him a cupcake to take with him. "Goodbye, Ms. Squirrel!" she called softly to the critter as she scampered away.
Fluttershy's heart leapt at the sound of the voice. It had been doing that an awful lot lately. She turned apprehensively, as if expecting nopony to be there, but she smiled as she saw Twilight was truly there, giving her a soft smile of her own. "Oh, hello, Twilight."
"That...squirrel seemed to be in a bit of a hurry."
"Oh yes. She had to get back home before her curfew. Fathers these days."
"...Wow. I didn't know squirrels were so strict."
"They aren't usually, but he's a special case."
Silence fell as the two stood awkwardly at the table. Twilight's 'romance novel' talk had completely slipped her mind when she had seen Fluttershy, and the yellow mare hadn't exactly had time to think of anything to talk about. they were at a complete standstill. A dead halt in the conversation. Several minutes passed in this awkward lull, but it was finally broken when Pinkie decided to bounce up to the refreshment table and devour an entire platter of brownies and at least three slices of pie.
"Ahh, that was refreshing! Now I know why they call it a 'refreshment table'! Which is good because before I thought that was a silly name and so i'd just been calling it a table and that almost sounds sillier now that i call it a refreshment table because that's what it's called!" The pink pony beamed at the other two mares, who shared a quick glance and smiled.
"Heheh...you're so ridiculous. In the good way, of course."
"Aw, thanks, Twilight!" Pinkie exclaimed as she pulled her into a hug, "That makes me happy to hear you say that!" She released Twilight, her smile almost bigger than before. "So, watchu guys talkin' bout?"
Twilight blushed and brushed her slightly disheveled mane back into place, "Well, actually, we were just talking about...squirrels."
"Yes, Pinkie. Squirrels."
:"You know, there was this one time where I met a squirrel outside the Corner! he really liked cupcakes, so for the rest of the day..."
And so, for the next hour or so Twilight and Fluttershy sat quietly and shared confused glances while Pinkie Pie recounted a number of stories about random encounters she had, or in one case what she had wanted to have for lunch last Tuesday. Eventually they began to run together, both due to the speed she was reciting them and because Twilight and Fluttershy, unbeknownst to even themselves, had scooted together and were absentmindedly paying more attention to each other than their bubbly friend.
"...and then they all lived in a boat!" Pinkie smiled broadly at the two and giggled, "Hehee, you guys look cute together," she added casually.
Suddenly the two mares were aware of each other. They both squeaked, faces heated and crimson, and scooted away from each other, Twilight tripping over herself in the process.
"Aww! Just like in Study Buddies! Well, have fun, you two! I'll just leave you alone, for now," she giggled happily again as she bounced away towards Rainbow Dash, who was currently lazily doing a few upside-down midair laps.
Fluttershy shyly fluttered over to Twilight and helped her up to her hooves, "A-Are you okay, Twilight?," she inquired as she looked away, her blush still very apparent on her features.
Twilight's blush had darkened considerably after her little incident. She felt embarrassed for more reasons than she could count on her hooves right about now, "I'm...fine, thank you," she squeaked sheepishly. She noted that the only other pony whose voice she had ever heard so soft had been Fluttershy's. She was so much cuter and more graceful, though.
"Did...uh...you...come over before...for any, you know...reason?"
Twilight's mind snapped back to her earlier plan, 'Operation: Talk to Fluttershy about Romance Novels and Attempt to Reveal My Affection,' or simply, 'Operation: TFRNARMA.'
'Next time, I go to Rainbow Dash for catchy-sounding operation names.'
'What about me?'
She shook her head and smiled at Fluttershy, her blush fading ever so slightly as she tried to ease herself back into the conversation, "Well, actually, yes! I wanted to talk to you about...a book I read last night."
Fluttershy's normal color returned as well as she gave her crush her most natural forced smile. "Oh, the one you told Rainbow Dash about earlier? You said it was...'intense,' right?"
Twilight nodded in response, "Y-yeah, actually. I just wanted somepony else's opinion on it, and i thought, you know...maybe you've read it?"
"What book, Twilight?"
"No, not that one. Ugh, I'm ashamed to share a name wi-"
"No, I was asking, you know...what book were you talking about?"
"Oh...OH! Oh, I'm sorry. I just...never mind. I was talking about, um," She coughed into her hoof nervously, "...Romeo and Juliet by William Shakespony."
"Oh, well, yes. I have read that one...it's so..."
"...Romantic," they finished in unison. They stared at each other for a few moments, then began blinking rapidly and turned their heads in opposite directions, their faces flushing anew.
"A-At l-least," Twilight stuttered,"that's what i thought. Y-you know, it's a great romance novel. A fine piece of work."
"Um," Fluttershy began, hiding her face behind her mane, "Ye-yes, I uh..." She trailed off, lost in thought momentarily. "...Uh, liked it," she finished lamely.
They simply sat in silence as Twilight levitated a glass of punch over to herself and sipped on it as to avoid any more unnecessary communication. She was mentally smacking herself over and over while screaming at herself about how she was stupid and she would never be able to work this out with Fluttershy. The voice from before decided to come back to check up on her.
'So, uh...how'd it go?'
'...So, not good?'
'No. Not at all. I just made her nervous and uncomfortable. I'm so terrible at this. I wish i had somepony to go to for advice...'
'Well, Spike already tried to give you advice. Maybe you SHOULD just tell her.'
'Weren't you the one asking me if I was ready to do that not even 2 hours ago?'
'I dunno, aren't you the one talking to yourself?'
'...I don't like you.'
'Alright, fine. You know what? Go talk to Rarity. She spends a lot of time with Fluttershy, right? At the spa? Go get advice from her. That should work.'
'...That's not a terrible idea. Thanks, me.'
'No problem, Twilight. Anytime.'
Twilight set her glass down and nervously looked over at Fluttershy, "...So, um, Fluttershy? I'm just going to go and, uh...talk to Rarity. Not that I don't want to be with-...around you right now, but I have to, uh...ask her about something." And with that she briskly trotted off to leave Fluttershy on her own, wither her thoughts.
Minutes later, Rainbow Dash flew over and seated herself next to Fluttershy, "What's up, 'Shy? Weren't you with Twilight a few minutes ago? You seem kind of, well, out of it."
Fluttershy looked up at Dash and sighed, "Yes, i was with Twilight, but she went over to talk to Rarity...I think...I think I made her uncomfortable...also...I don't mean to seem out of it...I just, um...uh...don't want to..." She sunk down further on her haunches until the bottom of her muzzle made contact with the table laid out before her.
Dash gave Fluttershy a concerned look, before closing her eyes and letting out a deep sigh, "Alright, something's definitely wrong, and I know it. Don't even bother telling me it's nothing. If you don't want to talk about it now, I'll swing by your place later and we can discuss it then," She smiled, attempting to coax one out of her sullen friend as well, and continued, "Besides, this is still a party...kind of thing. You gotta enjoy it!"
Fluttershy smiled softly at her oldest friend, the familiar closeness to her rising up and comforting her. She was glad Dash had noticed something was wrong. Now, even though she had scared Twilight away she could always get some advice on how to better prepare herself for their next encounter..and she might even have somepony to cry to tonight.
She shook her head to clear her mind of that last thought. She wouldn't need anypony to cry to...or on. Because Rainbow Dash would be there for her, and she would be accepting of her choices and she would teach Fluttershy how she could just boldly proclaim her affection to Twilight, and she would sweep the lavender unicorn off her hooves and they would have a nice, happy life.
Fluttershy wrapped her forehooves around Dash and pulled her into a hug, "Thank you, Rainbow Dash...thank you...so much..."
Dash blinked in surprise, but soon returned the hug and chuckled, "Anytime, 'Shy. Anytime."
For the next several hours the 6 friends enjoyed each other's company, and in the cases Twilight and Fluttershy, avoided any other awkward or embarrassing encounters with any of the other ponies. Though rarity and twilight had spent some time having some sort of serious discussion regarding something of, 'The utmost importance!' as Rarity had put it.
Although, as the saying goes, 'All good things must come to an end.' And so did the totally-not-party. Pinkie Pie took it upon herself to tear down the decorations, and naturally, being Pinkie, they were down before the others could so much as blink.
As they went their separate ways, Rainbow Dash joined Fluttershy on the trip back to hr cottage on the outskirts of Ponyville as Rarity accompanied Twilight back to her tree-house library, as Applejack, not wanting to be left out, allowed Pinkie Pie to drag her back to Sugarcube Corner for a baking session and or slumber party.
Fluttershy and twilight looked back at each other's homes upon arriving at their own, and turned to their guests, their faces serious.
"I need some advice."