Fit and petite (Sister Scootaloo)

Feb 17th, 2018
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  1. >You are going to die...
  2. >Or at least you feel like you are.
  3. >Gasping for air, you kneel on the sidewalk about a hundred yards from your house.
  4. >Alright Anon, remember: steady, controlled breaths.
  5. >Breathe in...
  6. >Can a heart spontaneously explode?
  7. >Breathe out...
  8. >Fuck! This isn't working!
  9. >Breathe in...
  10. >A sudden fit of coughing quickly makes you abandon your attempt at breathing like a normal human being.
  11. >You settle for “pug wheezing on his deathbed” instead.
  12. >It's a clear day: blue sky, bright sun, birds chirping.
  13. >The breeze blowing through your sweat-drenched tank-top.
  14. >Yup, you hate it.
  15. >Puffing like an asthmatic, you look up, squinting.
  16. >The Sun was glaring, mocking you, relentlessly pounding you with its rays.
  17. ”I swear *wheeze* I'd flip you off *wheeze* if my arms weren't shaking so much!”
  18. >Seriously, how can anyone do this as a hobby? Something so painful can't possibly be good for you, It defies logic!
  19. >Nature doesn't seem to give a damn however.
  20. >Try running a mile they say, maybe start with a 30-minute jog they say...
  21. >Once again, you've come to the often-forgotten realization that the internet was full of it!
  22. >Droplets of sweat fall to the rhythm of your pounding head.
  23. >You didn't think you were that out of shape.
  24. >Sure, there's was fat here and there but considering your height it's wasn’t that bad.
  25. >Or so you thought…
  26. >That was before you decided to try doing a morning jog.
  27. >Well, early afternoon is still morning somewhere.
  28. >What even gave you the brilliant idea to try working out?
  29. >The off chance of having girls look at you?
  30. >Also, your increasingly disturbing internet history.
  31. >That was a stupid question.
  32. >Note to self: change password and clear recent browsing sessions.
  33. >The shaking slowly subside but your limbs still feel like water.
  34. ”No”, you think, “this isn’t quite the reason why.”
  35. >Something else goaded you into it, more than any promise of first-base.
  36. >And that something barely reached above your navel.
  37. >Peer pressure does wonders, given enough time.
  38. >Gritting your teeth, you get up, half-stumbling and start lumbering toward your house.
  40. >You manage to drag your sorry ass inside and fall on the living room’s couch.
  41. >Shower can wait.
  42. >The room is spinning.
  43. >You should probably get some water.
  44. >With a sigh of resignation, you tentatively try to haul yourself upright.
  45. >Ow ow ow, bad idea! You instantly drop back.
  46. >Fuck it, guess you’ll wait a bit...or die of dehydration, whichever comes first.
  47. >You close your eyes and attempt to center yourself.
  48. >It could be worse, all things considered: you almost managed to run the whole way.
  49. >Yeah, the whole way of the beginner routine. Great job, loser!
  50. >No kid pointed fingers at you.
  51. >Because there were no kids around!
  52. >...You didn’t even get mugged?
  53. >Yeah, I guess that counts…
  54. >You always pride yourself in seeing a silver lining.
  55. >Now if only you could recover before...
  57. >DAMMIT!
  58. >She’s here. The bane of your existence.
  59. >You hear the door slam shut, the clinking of keys being thrown.
  60. >And the little monkey starts stomping around.
  61. >You let out a soft groan. It seems Anon just can’t get a break today.
  62. >Maybe if you don’t move and make no sound she will go away?
  63. >The soundsteps are getting closer.
  64. >As you silently pray for this particular storm to pass you quietly, something falls lightly on your face
  65. >Some fabric? It gives off a peculiar scent, not at all unpleasant.
  66. >Something fruity, with a tangy counterpoint.
  67. >You give it a whiff, trying to determine what it is through your clouded mind.
  68. >Wait, is that sweat? Oh God!
  69. >Your eyes snap open to reveal the incriminating article of clothing: a bright orange tank-top.
  70. >You straighten up abruptly, sending a sharp spike of pain down your lower body.
  71. “Ow!”
  72. >”Hmm? You hear your sister in the kitchen.
  73. >Panicking, you grab and toss the...thing away toward just anywhere else.
  74. >”Ah! Hey bro, I didn’t see you there.”
  75. >Scootaloo emerges from the kitchen as you sharply turn toward her.
  76. >Safe.
  77. >She apparently went to get a sports drink.
  78. >You could kill for one those at the moment, but you’re trying to cut back.
  79. >Well it seems she did as you secretly wished. She must have passed behind the couch on her way to the kitchen, not noticing you and thrown her...
  80. >NO! Don’t think about it!
  81. >She’s wearing a sports bra and shorts, a damp towel sitting on her shoulders. Gulping down her bottle while taking one of those stereotypical anime poses (you never managed to make her give up that habit).
  82. >And she’s still sweaty, gross!
  83. >Well, you didn’t seem to mind a moment ag…
  84. >You stop that train of thought dead in its track, probably splattering the passengers against the walls.
  85. >Scoot catches your slight twitch. Taking her attention away from her drink, she glances toward you.
  86. >”Hey, are you okay?” She asks, looking at you quizzically.
  87. “YES. I’m fine!” you answer, still slightly short on breath.
  88. >”I was expecting you to be cooped up in you room.”
  89. “Oh, and why is that?”
  90. >”Because you’re a lazy bum.” she answers flatly, getting another gulp in.
  91. >You muster what passes for a smug face.
  92. “Well, as true as it might usually be, today is not the case, twerp!”
  93. >She frowns. Her purple eyes locking on yours.
  94. >They had a pretty color, you’ve always been a bit jealous of that.
  95. >”What do you mean?”
  96. >“What’s with your getup?” she asks, looking at you more closely. “Wait…”
  97. >Her expression shift to surprise.
  98. >”Have you been RUNNING!? YOU!?”
  99. >You let out a small puff of pride.
  100. “Surprised, eh? Guess I’m not that...”
  101. >”But you never exercise! You’re just...uhm, how do we say it? Indolent and slovenly?”
  102. “Well thank you for the vote of confidence...I guess not everyone can be a hyperactive little monkey.”
  103. >She grins, you grunt. She then lets out a small chuckle, one of the very,very few cute aspect of her.
  104. “I’m just trying to get in shape”
  105. >She nods approvingly.
  106. “I figured it was about time I worked on myself a bit, you know? Try to improve...”
  107. >”It’s about girls, isn’t it?”
  108. “YOU LITTLE!”
  109. >You restrain yourself from strangling the little laughing gremlin, but she did hit the mark. You decide to change the subject.
  110. “And what about you?Been wrestling with gorillas again?”
  111. >”Nah, it was just basketball this time. You should have seen me score that slam dunk, we mopped the floor with them!Oh! I might go rollerskating later!”
  112. >She answers animatedly, like always when it comes to talking about her hobbies.
  113. >The only way you can see her scoring a slam dunk would be by goomba-stomping the enemy players.
  114. >Sports-freak! Can’t she get some normal occupations? Like arguing on the internet.
  115. >Her corrupting influence made you try to work out, that’s unforgivable.
  116. >”Calisthenics are paying off though! Look, look! I’ve managed to get some killer abs!” and she parts the sides of the towel, revealing her belly.
  118. >You stare a her face in disbelief. She looks so proud of herself, smirking.
  119. >Is she for real? How can she be so casual about it?
  120. >You approach to get a closer look anyway. Your eyes grow wide.
  121. >Her belly has hit the perfect balance: toned, a hair’s breadth away from being considered chiseled. Her abs look firm rather than hard, her pristine skin still smoothing out the harsher shapes. Simply put, It looks juuuuust riiiiight.
  122. >You have to admit, it IS impressive.
  123. >Here you are, gazing at perfection, green with envy.
  124. >As your head inches closer, you smell that scent again, sharp...heady.
  125. >The room might not be spinning anymore but your head feels hot.
  126. >Your hand twitches.
  127. >You slowly raise it.
  128. >”Hum…”
  129. >Your head slowly turns back toward her face as the hand settles back down
  130. >”You now…” she mumbles, looking bashfully to the side.”It’s not very polite to stare at a lady for too long”.
  131. >There’s the slightest blush on her cheek.
  132. >Your regain proper thought control as you let out a derisive snort.
  133. “Well, I guess that’s a good thing there’s no lady around.”
  134. >”Hey! You take that back! I can be ladylike if I want to!”
  135. “Sure thing, tomboy.”
  136. >”I mean it!”
  137. “First of all, ladies don’t stomp about in their undergarments.”
  138. >”That doesn’t count! I just exercised and I was about to hit the shower anyway. Besides, sport shorts aren’t undergarments.”
  139. >You give a lightning glance toward her two pitifully small mounds.
  140. >Tsk, poor runt, how is she ever gonna find herself a boyfriend?
  141. >You consider yourself a man of taste...and those puny things don’t qualify.
  142. >Not sure if sports bra do count as undergarments, you opt for a different approach.
  143. “Typical ladies don’t have abs.”
  145. “What’s wrong with abs? Abs are cool, everyone loves abs, they’re sexy!”
  146. >Sure, if you wanna be a carpet-muncher.
  147. >You wisely refrain from saying that, favoring her with a raised eyebrow instead.
  148. >”Y-y-you’re just jealous because you don’t have any! It’s not my fault if you’re flabby as hell!”
  149. “I’m not flabby, I’m soft-bellied!”
  150. >”Whatever helps you sleep at night.”
  151. >Oh, the familiar banter! You were afraid things had gotten weird but this felt normal.
  152. “I could get abs. No, just you wait! I WILL get abs so wonderful you’ll be drooling in envy!”
  153. >”HA! It would take a million years for you to get those!”
  154. >Both of your voices are getting heated now.
  155. “Great, just slightly less time than it would take for you to find a date.”
  156. >”I can get a date whenever I want!”
  157. “Knocking them unconscious and dragging them around doesn’t count.”
  158. >Her face flushed with righteous indignation .
  159. >“At least I’d have one! How’s your track record by the way?”
  160. >Sputtering, your answer comes out as unconvincing.
  161. “I-I just haven’t really been looking, that’s all!”
  162. >She grants you a snarky ”Uh-uh” and crosses her arms.
  163. >Drat! You know when you’ve been defeated.
  164. “That’s besides the point. YOU couldn’t be feminine even if your life depended on it!”
  165. >”I can be feminine in my sleep...”
  166. “Not unless we’re in the bizarro universe.”
  167. >”You’re just blind to such things!”
  168. “Oh yeah? Then tell me, how come boys lurk around your two friends but don’t give you a second glance? Did you think I wasn’t aware that…”
  169. >”FINE! Let’s make a bet then!”
  170. >She points at you angrily.
  171. “A bet..?”
  172. >”Bet, bargain, call it whatever you want”
  173. “I’m listening.”
  174. She raises a finger.
  175. >”If I make you admit that I can be feminine and ladylike, you’ll do whatever I say for a week! I’ll have you treat me like the lady I obviously am!”
  176. >Her expression becomes more intense, the thrill of competition obvious.
  177. >”IF, as unlikely as it might seem, you manage to actually get fit, I’ you get a girlfriend!”
  178. “I doubt you’d be much help with that, no deal.”
  179. >”I’ll give you ownership of all my sports gear and, uh, my whole comic book collection!”
  180. “That’s not much of an incentive, Scoot”
  181. >Before you can react, her towel hits you square in the face.
  182. >Again with the smell!
  183. >”Ugh, fine! How’s that for an incentive: I’ll also be compelled to do as you ask for a week!”
  184. >At the sound of that, you toss the towel away and give her an evil grin.
  185. “Are you sure? Do you know what you’re getting into?”
  186. >”Y-yes, I won’t go back on my word.”
  187. “Even if I chose to humiliate you? Have you walk around the house dressed as a chicken? Have you go naked whenever you’re inside for a week?”
  188. >She tenses as that.
  189. >”You’re want to avoid the effort...”
  190. “If it means thoroughly humbling you, I think it’d be worth a little pain.”
  191. >She squints, dubious.
  192. “What’s wrong? Afraid I might actually force you to go barebutt? I won’t blame you if you chicken out...”
  193. >Your sister puffs defiantly, staring daggers at you...
  194. >...and slips a thumb in the inner rim of her shorts.
  195. >Your hand springs up in a halting gesture.
  196. “Okay, okay, I believe you!”
  197. >The finger slips out.
  198. >”Good! It’s a deal then!”
  199. >She spits in her palm and presents it to you.
  200. >You clasp it and you both exchange a vigorous shake, the height difference making the gesture slightly comical.
  201. “First advice, this one is a freebie.”
  202. >”Uh, What?”
  203. >You lean in and whisper in her ear.
  204. “Ladies don’t spit.”
  205. >The angry look she gives you makes the whole day worthwhile.
  206. >”Whatever, I’ll just hit the shower. The real battle starts tomorrow!”
  207. “I’m looking forward to it.”
  208. >She storms upstairs to the bathroom.
  209. >You are so not looking forward to it.
  213. >The following day does little to assuage your apprehension.
  214. >You are, once again, a panting mess.
  215. >Why did you have to make that bet?! This was already proving to be a massive pain.
  216. >You could have let the taunts slide, take things slowly without aiming too high but noooooo!
  217. >You just had to get cocky.
  218. >You blame Scoots, she has a way of getting under your skin.
  219. >Sure, there weren’t any penalty if you gave up now, but that would be pretty lame, wouldn’t it? Not to mention unbearably embarrassing.
  220. >What kind of wimp gives up after two days anyway?
  221. >In the end you were all talk, those guys knew it.
  222. >Lying on your bed, the shameful memories from earlier this morning assault you.
  223. >You can deal with the physical strain, it would be worth if you get to wipe that grin off your little sister’s face.
  224. >But the stares....There was a reason why you’ve never worked out before.
  225. >You roll around, groaning while trying to get a hold of yourself.
  226. >If anything, sticking to running for a while could be enough, coupled with some anaerobic exercises at home...
  227. >The thought alone makes you groan ever harder: home is not meant for sports!
  228. >Well, not that kind of sports at least…
  229. “Healthy body, healthy mind, my ass.”
  230. >As a matter of fact, you don’t think there’s ever a right time or place for sports. No one in their right mind would willingly do that.
  231. >But Scoots does...she must always have had a screw loose, that one.
  232. >Yet, results speak for themselves.
  233. >Your mind unwittingly brings the still-crisp image from yesterday to the surface.
  234. >You were a titties’ man through and through...but damn! With that physique she could still easily find someone, some guys do like that kind of girl.
  235. >But not you, no sir!
  236. >And that whole line of thought is somewhat uncomfortable.
  237. >Despite being such a pain at times, you do care about her, as any big brother should.
  238. >Maybe that bet wasn’t bad for her either, she could probably end up attracting some boy and be happier for it.
  239. >She has never told about any guy she was interested in now that you think about it. Would she? Maybe you could ask her at some point.
  240. >Regardless, acting more feminine would definitely be beneficial to her relationships.
  241. >And if working hard to win your part of the bet made her do the same...well that makes it your duty as the older sibling, no, as a man, to do your best!
  242. >That and the opportunity to thoroughly humble her. That’s also a big brother’s prerogative.
  243. >With a newfound resolve, you get out of bed.
  244. >Despite the clutter in your room you manage to get enough space to assume a push-up position.
  245. >As you painstakingly raise and lower yourself, you continue musing.
  246. >You didn’t agree on a deadline now that you think about it...not that it really matters.
  247. >After some research, you did come up with a training program that should yield some results in a matter of months. That is if you muster the courage to get back to the gym.
  248. >But what will Scootaloo do? In some ways, her task seems even more daunting. In fact, you are not quite sure what would it take for you to concede her victory.
  249. >You try to picture her more feminine: wearing a dress, longer hair maybe, glossy lips, bigger bosso…
  250. >Noooope! You can only picture those abs, fit limbs and casual outfits.
  251. >Curse that perfect tummy!
  252. >Same goes for picturing ladylike activities: you only see Scoots on her skateboard, Scoots playing soccer, basketball…
  253. >Doing track and field, martial arts, hockey, roller derby...
  254. >...wrestling gorillas.
  255. >You are getting close to your limit now, just a couple more reps.
  256. “That girl needs more hobbies…”
  257. >”Did you say something?”
  258. “WOAH!”
  259. >Your head makes a nice resounding sound as you drop to the floor unceremoniously,
  260. >Rolling on your back, stars fill your vision for a second. They part to reveal the smug face of your sister. A bit too close for comfort.
  261. >The scent was a bit softer this time, how come you’ve never noticed it up until yesterday?
  262. “Ouch! What the hell Scoots?! Ever heard of knocking?”
  263. >”Oh, come now. It’s not like you were doing anything worth hiding.”
  264. >She looks you up and down.
  265. >”Although I did enjoy the comic act”
  266. >That shit-eating grin.
  267. “Well, I could have been. But more importantly, ladies don’t enter uninvited.”
  268. >She gives a small grunt of annoyance and sets herself on the bed.
  269. >”Mom and Dad called, they wanted to know how we were doing.”
  270. “Any chance they might come and see for themselves anytime soon?”
  271. >The slow head shake is answer enough. You don't need to listen to another plethora of excuses.
  272. >You prop yourself up, sitting cross legged. Amusingly
  273. “Well, can’t say I’m surprised.”
  274. >Scoots quickly changes the subject. That wasn’t surprising either, knowing how she feels about this.
  275. >”Weren’t you going to the gym?”
  276. >You wince.
  277. “Y-Yeah, and I did go.”
  278. >”That wasn’t very long. You’re never gonna reach your goal like that, bro!”
  279. >Her grin was back, fouling your mood even further.
  280. “What about you? You don’t seem to be making much effort yet.”
  281. >She pointedly inspects her nails and stretches her hand.
  282. >”I’m working on it.”
  283. “I can see that. Be careful, I might not recognize you and tell the police there’s a burglar in the house”
  284. >”Oh hardy har har! That was weak, even for you.”
  285. “I’m just stooping down to your level...”
  286. >A pause coupled with an up and down look for emphasis.
  287. “...Which is pretty low, you’ll have to admit”
  288. >The kick you receive does little to sour the sweet feeling of satisfaction that comes with seeing the flash of anger on her face.
  289. >Still, attacking her on her complex feels kinda cheap.
  290. >”I bet you just felt ashamed looking at the other gym members.” she snapped back.
  291. >Damn! That hit very close to the mark. The midget has teeth.
  292. >You groan, putting your back against the bed.
  293. “I don’t want to talk about it.”
  294. >The truth was, you couldn’t care less that other gym-goers were more fit or buffed than you, that was expected.
  295. >But the could see the contempt, the mockery in them.
  296. >You could hear the half-stifled sniggers from the gym bros.
  297. >Nobody pointed or openly laughed but you could feel it: they thought you were beneath them.
  298. >You had left in a hurry, barely finishing your first set and ran back home.
  299. >You clench your jaw, trying very hard to bore holes through the wall with your stare.
  300. >Fucking judgemental assholes. You’d like to see them in your place.
  301. >”Oh…”
  302. >You turn your head toward Scoots, snapping out of it.
  303. >Her face shows a sudden understanding.
  304. >She looks away, fidgeting.
  305. >”I think I get it...I’m sorry. I shouldn’t have mocked you. I know how it me.”
  306. >Your anger melts away. That sudden behavior is...actually inda of cute.
  307. “‘s okay, I’ll find something...maybe go at night”
  308. >”That place is packed at every hour.”
  309. >You flinch at that information, here goes your hope to find a safe time window.
  310. “Don’t worry...I’ll just...I’ll figure something out.”
  311. >She sighs in an exaggerated way.
  312. >”Even if you say that I’ll still feel bad for a week.”
  313. >She hops off the bed and give you a small punch on the shoulder.
  314. >”Luckily for you, I have a solution!”
  315. >She is grinning again, but it’s not snarky at all.
  316. >It’s a warm smile. One you haven’t seen in years.
  317. “You what now?”
  318. >”Just leave it to me, big bro! Meet me at 8pm tonight in front of the school. And bring your gym clothes”
  319. >And with that, she leaves the room with a determined stride.
  320. >Not wanting to rake your brain regarding her solution, you slouch a bit further against the bed.
  321. >You let out a long breath it seems you’ve been holding since this morning.
  322. >And finally relax.
  323. >A small smile forms on your face.
  324. >She might be a pain, but she does have a way to make you feel better when she wants to.
  328. >You spend an uneventful afternoon, browsing the internet. For research purposes, of course.
  329. >Although you do come across a couple of new acquisitions for your special folder...mostly by happenstance.
  330. >Mostly.
  331. >You still change the password to said folder.
  332. >Scoots went to see Sweetie Belle, to get some advice if you were to guess. At least you are left in peace until tonight.
  333. >Being bored, you focus on finding dietary tips. Not being a compulsive junk food consumer doesn’t mean your eating habits couldn’t use some work.
  334. >Better cut all the frozen crap and start making an effort.
  335. >Vegetables? Yeah, sure, you’ve heard of those, even ate some on a couple of occasions.
  336. >Getting better at cooking could be cool, chicks dig think.
  337. >Neither you nor Scoots ever really bothered with that, you two always ate whatever was convenient. >And things weren’t much better when your parents were around...
  338. >Scoots never seems to gain any weight no matter the type of food she eats, unlike you.
  339. >Then again, she probably burns or sweats it all off...although you still have a creeping suspicion her stomach connects to a pocket dimension.
  340. >With all the food she consumes she should be at least good head taller. Genetics has a sick sense of humor.
  341. >Starting to properly cook your meals could set you on the right track, reinforce healthy habits.
  342. >The mere thought of the word “healthy” makes you shiver.
  343. >The things you do to get back at your sister...
  344. >Of course you’d have to manage to do it consistently. That’s always the problem, isn’t it?
  345. >Well, Scoots could also use the practice. Doing it together would make it easier for the both of you.
  346. >It could be a bonding experience or whatever.
  347. >You pause.
  348. >The thought of it feels...nice. You two, cooking and taking it easy, joking and chatting. A cosy atmosphere hanging in the kitchen.
  349. >Just like…
  350. >You unwittingly let out a groan of frustration.
  351. >You really don’t know what to make of her!
  352. >Most of the time she drives you crazy: acting all tough and like she never needs any help, constantly teasing you.
  353. >Not that you don’t answer in kind. That’s pretty common between siblings, isn’t it? And truth be told, you do enjoy the banter.
  354. >But her mocking goes overboard too often for your liking and she rarely gives you a break.
  355. >You started jogging partially because of her constant not-so-subtle implications that you were out of shape. How dare she act surprised when you actually go ahead and do it?
  356. >In short, she’s plain infuriating.
  357. >Then on some rare occasions she gives you a glimpse of something else. Something reminiscent of a time when you two were younger and closer.
  358. >Simpler, happier times.
  359. >And then there are times you…
  360. >Anyway, you should probably start selecting a couple of recipes, whip up a schedule and make a grocery list.
  361. >You’ll talk to her about doing some grocery shopping together later this week…
  362. >And so you get to it, losing yourself in that simple task, free of any disturbing thought.
  363. >When you finally check the time, you realise just how much you were caught up in it.
  364. >7:30, better get going. Scoots was doing you a favor, it would be bad form to be late.
  365. >You grab your bag and start walking.
  368. >School is not too far away, only a 15-20 min walk. You were tempted to drive at first but you could use the exercice...and if it spares you a mocking comment about how lazy you are, all the better.
  369. >Besides, you were not sure where your sister wanted to bring you. You just hope it’s not some kind of underground fight club. Most likely it would be a private gym you don’t know about.
  370. >Please do not let it be something shady. You like your kidneys just where they are.
  371. >You interrupt your paranoid musings as you reach your destination.
  372. >Scoots is already waiting, leaning against the statue near the entrance. She's holding a small sports bag and wearing her usual shorts and slightly-oversized hoodie covering a loose shirt.
  373. >What else would she wear? Expecting something else felt weird in itself...and yet a part of you did.
  374. >Looking up, she graces you with a smirk.
  375. >”Don’t you know it’s rude to keep a girl waiting?”
  376. “I’m not late, it’s not my fault if you decided to come way ahead of time.”
  377. >”Pffft, excuses! A real gentleman would have been here an hour early.”
  378. “Yeah, yeah, sure. Are we doing this or not?”
  379. >”Right, follow me, it’s only a couple of blocks away.”
  380. >You are a bit unsure as what qualifies as a “couple” of blocks away to her.
  381. >She sets off at a brisk pace, not bothering to check if you are following. Fortunately two of her strides is worth one of yours so you keep up easily.
  382. “No skateboard or rollerblades this time?’
  383. >”Nah, it’d have been a pain to wait for you every 20 meter. “
  384. “Makes sense...”
  385. >“Why didn’t you drive here anyway?”
  386. “Ha-ha, I’m not falling for that one, we both know you’d have mocked me for taking the car.”
  387. >”Shoot, am I becoming that predictable?”
  388. “Weeeeeell…”
  389. >That answer awards you a small jab on the arm.
  390. “Ow!Careful now, you might actually bruise me.”
  391. >You know perfectly well she could do more than just bruise you but teasing her is way too tempting.
  392. >You do know she does fight really dirty though.
  393. >”You’re an ass, you know that?”
  394. “Only to you, sis, only to you.”
  395. >You both continue walking the dimly-lit street in silence for while, passing very few people.
  396. “So where are you taking us?”
  397. >”Hmm? Oh, You’ll see soon enough.” she says, dragged out of what seems to be some deep musing. An unusual behavior for her.
  398. >”Why? Are you scared I might drag you in a dark alley?”
  399. “Yeah, that’s exactly it: I’m simply terrified.”
  400. >You hope that sounded sarcastic enough, the area isn’t too reassuring after all.
  401. >She playfully locks her arm with yours and slightly leans on you.
  402. >”Aww, don’t worry, big bro. Your virtue is safe with me, I’ll protect you.” she says, adopting an overly mocking tone.
  403. “Don’t trouble yourself for me, I could do with bit of virtue endangering.” you answer, adding a killer wink for emphasis.
  404. >She flushes visibly and you know you’ve won this round. Oh the sweet, sweet victory!
  405. >”So you admit to having a virtue?”
  406. >Oh my, seems like she’s coming back for seconds.
  407. “So you admit you want to protect it? Keeping it for yourself ,eh? That’s rather greedy!”
  408. >Hello, 911? Yes, I’d like to report a murder.
  409. >Probably strangulation. Yup, can’t get a face that red any other way.
  410. >Her arm whips away, lightning-fast.
  411. >A small hop, a mid-air rotation and this time you are met with an elbow to the gut.
  412. “Ooof!”
  413. >The beauty of the movement is only marred by the sharp pain you feel.
  414. >Damn, this one is definitely gonna bruise.
  415. >Still worth it.
  416. “Ow, see, this…not ladylike behavior at all!” you manage to state between pained breaths.
  417. >Scoots’ only answer is a huff as she storms off a couple of paces ahead. You’re pretty sure she just muttered a curse under her breath.
  418. >She’s always been a sore loser, comes with the competitiveness you guess. It's not like you’re any better...birds of a feather and all that.
  419. >Not wanting to further antagonize her, for now at least, you resume your silent walking.
  420. >In an unprecedented feat of patience, you manage to keep it up for at least 5 minutes. Assuming your sister’s temper has had enough time to cool of, you try for a safe topic.
  421. “Soooo, did you have good time with SB?”
  422. >“Hmmhmmm.”
  423. “What did you girls do?”-
  424. >”Oh, you know...stuff. Girl stuff.”
  425. >Good talk….you’ll make a great father one day.
  426. “Girl stuff?”
  427. >”Yup, totally girly, you don’t want to hear about it.”
  428. >If only you could reply with reaction pictures, you had a couple in mind to properly convey your doubt.
  429. “Uh-uh...”
  430. >”Since when do you call her SB anyway?”
  431. >It’s a bit of an odd question, a deflection perhaps?
  432. “Uh, I don’t know?” you answer, scratching your head. “You often call her that, just like AB, it’s less of a hassle I guess? It’s not like we’re familiar or anything.”
  433. >You probably wouldn’t use those nicknames when they’re around.
  434. >Another idea flashes through your mind. You smirk and put your left hand on your heart as you raise the other in an overly-solemn pledging gesture.
  435. “Don’t worry, Scoots, I do hereby swear that I have no intention of hitting on your friends.”
  436. >You can’t help yourself, can you? Nope and that’s because it’s way too much fun.
  437. >Scoots give you a glance over her shoulder and, for variety's sake lets out an exasperated sigh.
  438. >You’ve been blessed with so many reactions tonight already!
  439. >”Alright, smartass, we’re here.”
  440. “Hmmm?”
  441. >You had stopped paying attention to the mostly empty streets and the occasional passing car. A couple of blocks, my ass!
  442. >Looking up, you take in the sight of the building she stopped in front of.
  443. >Blocky structure, shuttered windows. It looks pretty clean, with a blank signboard at the top. A building still under construction or being renovated, maybe? That seems likely as you don’t see any light coming from inside.
  444. >Still, probably not a crack house, thankfully.
  445. >Not that you were worried or anything.
  446. >”Come on, we gotta enter through the side alley.”
  447. >You might retract that previous statement.
  448. “You sure about this?”
  449. >”Yeah, yeah, I told you to trust me, didn’t I? This is a golden opportunity!”
  450. >You shrug in what you hope is a nonchalant manner and follow her as she slips around the corner.
  451. >No one is waiting in the alley to shiv you, only a fit, petite sister in front of a metal door.
  452. >Well, she could still shiv you but you’re pretty sure you’re safe.
  453. >Scoots then unashamedly slips a hand inside her shirt. You stand confused for a second until she pull out a key.
  454. >”Ta-daaaaaaa!” she exclaims with a grin.
  455. >You’d probably give her a quip but your mind has other concerns at the moment, something feels off…
  456. >And then it hits you.
  457. “ did you get access to this place?”.
  458. >She flinches, her gaze slowly drifting away.
  459. >”Does it matter?” she answers with a pouty face.
  460. >You frown as you are instantly filled with suspicion. Adopting an accusatory tone, you press her further.
  461. “Scoooooooooots?!”
  462. >She quickly looks from left to right, fidgeting. You’re no detective, but that’s the look of someone with something to hide. You should try playing poker with her at some point.
  463. >”Ah, uh, well…I have this friend! I know someone who, uh..”
  464. “HMMMMMMM?”
  465. >”ALRIGHT, ALRIGHT! FINE! It’s Rainbow Dash!” she finally concedes.
  466. >You should have fucking seen it coming!
  467. “Of course it’s her.” you say with a groan, palm connecting to your face.
  468. >”You see, her dad owns several gyms...”
  469. >You knew the name Hothoof sounded familiar. Or was it Hotfoot? You can never remember.
  470. >”...and given he’s crazy about his daughter. I mean, her athletic career of course...uh, so is her mom.”
  471. >Oh they were crazy, alright.
  472. “Losing patience, Scoots.”
  473. >”Right, right. Well, given he’s not ready to open this place yet, he gave her free access to it! And because Dash has taken me under her wing...
  474. “She convinced him to give you a spare…”
  475. >That is actually pretty generous of her, not that it made your opinion of Miss Dash much higher.
  476. “Alright, I get the gist of it. But why bring me at this hour?”
  477. >”I was certain we wouldn’t bump into her now, I didn’t think you would look the gift horse in the mouth.”
  478. >That made sense, and you certainly wouldn’t want to bump into Rainbow-fucking-Dash. Still, the deception grated you.
  479. >”Listen, again, regardless of your *ahem* opinion of Dash, does it matter? You’d get to work out here for a while until you build up the spine to go to a regular gym again.”
  480. >You stiffen at that mention, did she have to bring it up?
  481. >Pondering a bit, you weigh your options. Facing the stares again or being indebted to...that girl.
  482. >”Look, I know how it feels, to think everyone is judging you even when they aren’t, feeling constantly watched.”
  483. “Yes, I am well aware, thank you. No need to remind me .” you answer stiffly.
  484. >”Come on, It’s not like you have any other choice.”
  485. “Well, it does bring the question: what will it cost me?”
  486. >”Nothing!”
  487. “Nothing?”
  488. >”Yup! Well, I’ll be using it at the same time, can’t trust you with this baby” she replies, giving a small smack to the key.
  489. >Well, that much was obvious but you can’t help but still be suspicious. It could be one big prank.
  490. “Nothing in life is for free, shorty.”
  491. >Either at the use of the nickname or your lingering doubt, her looks turns to one of anger, her fists clenching visibly as she talks
  492. >”Oh for crying out loud! Is it so hard to believe I feel bad and want to make it up to you? Why do you have to be so paranoid?! Don’t you trust me?!”
  493. >You’re surprised by how genuinely offended she looks. That is enough to make you feel a sharp stab of guilt. Through the veil of anger she seems so vulnerable, so small.
  494. >Like you’ve betrayed her.
  495. >Breathe in…
  496. >Breathe out.
  497. “You’re right, I am being a bit too suspicious” you say calmly as your hand gently comes to rest on her head.
  498. >Her look quickly turns to , her light giggle melting your cynical heart as you ruffle the purple mop.
  499. >”Alright, cut it out.” she says, swatting your arm with a wide smile.
  500. “You’re sure she won’t be around?”
  501. >”Positive!”
  502. “And you promise she won’t learn of this?”
  503. >”Yeah, she won’t hear anything from me, I promise. So will you please come in now? ”
  504. “Alright then.” you say, nodding your head toward the door.
  505. >”Finally, I can’t believe how much of a baby you can be.” she chides while unlocking the door.
  506. “Don’t push it, Scoots.”
  507. >The door opens with a metallic creaking to complete darkness. Entering with you in tow, Scoots quickly flips a breaker switch and the flicker of light bulbs fills the small area. It’s some storage space or future staff room, judging by the clutter. You hear the familiar sound of neon lights coming to life in the next room.
  508. >The door clanks as your sister locks it again.
  509. >”Come on!” she calls out, gesturing toward the only other door.
  510. >In a burst of gentlemanly behavior you open it and wave her in.
  511. “After you.”
  512. >Thank goodness you didn’t add a “M’lady”, you’re pretty sure only death would have washed the shame.
  513. >”Ah, uh, thanks.”
  514. >And you both step into...a giant fucking room!
  515. >Gotta hand it to crazy dad, he doesn’t do things half-assedly. It seems most of the area you saw from the outside is being used.
  516. >And boy is it well used! Rows of treadmills, elliptical trainers, stationary bicycles.
  517. >Bench presses, dip bar, power rack, rowers, all the dumbbells you could ever need, punching bags.
  518. >You cannot possibly list all of it and at this point you’re pretty sure the only thing missing is a friggin’ pool!
  519. >”Sooooo, what do you think? Isn’t it amazing?”
  520. >You disregard the slight smug tone in her voice for once as you are truly impressed, even going as far as letting out a small whistle for the sake of it.
  521. “Yeah, I gotta admit, it is pretty cool.”
  522. >”I know, right? Dash is so luck-ah, I mean, it’s great. Uh, the locker room is this way.”
  523. “Locker room? As in only one?”
  524. >Scoots twitches slightly.
  525. ”Yeaaaaaah, the other one isn’t finished yet.” she answers, looking away awkwardly.
  526. >”B-But there’s enough room for us not to step on each other’s toes. It’s fine if we just...turn around, right?”
  527. >” No need to be embarrassed, right?”
  528. “Sure, but for the record, I’m not the one blushing.”
  529. >”Just...get inside.”
  530. >The locker room is indeed spacious with rows of locker lining the walls with matching benches and what you assume is a shower area way off in the back. You’re not sure what the door near those is for.
  531. >Scoots and you take spots at opposite ends of the room. You turn around and start pulling off your shirt.
  532. >”No peeking!”
  533. “No need to tell me.” you answer with a snort.
  534. >She wasn’t one bit ashamed to flaunt her navel the day before. It was kind of amusing to see this was where she drew the line.
  535. >You pull your clothes from the bag, just a loose gray shirt and trousers. Unassuming, that suits you just fine.
  536. >”Alright, you ready?”
  537. “Yeah, uh…”
  538. >Aaaaand the abs are back on display! Amazingly, you manage not to freeze noticeably as you turn around and wisely choose to quickly focus your eyes on hers.
  539. >It’s only weird if you let it be. Much to your relief, she doesn’t give you more than a quizzical look.
  540. >”Something up?”
  541. “No, nothing, let’s go.”
  542. >Stepping into the main room again, you give it a good lookover. What to start with? You feel like a kid in a candy store, and there’s no one to disturb you this time.
  543. >”Alright, let’s do this!”
  544. >Well, almost no one.
  545. “So, what are you gonna do?”
  546. >”I think...that I’ll have a go at that punching bag.”
  547. >Popping her joints she starts toward it with a fierce expression until your negatory sounds stops her dead in her tracks.
  548. >”What?” she asks, turning toward you with a scowl.
  549. “Nothin’.”
  550. >”Out with it!”
  551. “Well, I am no expert buuuuuut…” you say, shaking your head “I don’t think this qualify as a ladylike activity.”
  552. >”Uuuugh, do we really need to do this now?”
  553. “I’m just sayin’. Do what you will.” you reply with a shrug as you near the bench press.
  554. >Opting for a conservative weight to lift, you set yourself on the bench, glancing toward Scoots who’s still standing there, scanning the room.
  555. >She moves toward the racks of dumbbells and you let out an “eeeeeh” filled with mocking doubt, getting her to sigh exasperatedly.
  556. >She tries for the rower next and you noisily suck in air through your teeth. This time she whip around toward you, her face a mask of indignation.
  557. >Alright, you’ve had your fun. Letting out a chuckle you start lifting the bar.
  558. >What does it matter if she chooses to lift weight or beat on a bag? You were under no obligation to help her win her bet. On the contrary!
  559. >But she did bring you here so giving her a tiny push in the right direction seemed appropriate, even if you did it in your usual jackass way.
  560. >You finish the first set with a frown, it felt a bit too easy.
  561. >”Your posture is off.” she says,giving you a small kick to the leg.
  562. “What?”
  563. >You hadn’t seen her coming, she’s standing right next to you with a serious expression now.
  564. >”Your legs are too close, your shoulder blades are not touching the bench properly, here, don’t move.”
  565. >She starts prodding and nudging you this way and that, correcting your posture. You only half listen however, too acutely aware of how close she’s to you at this instant.
  566. >This is ridiculous! She was standing closer than that earlier...only with less skin showing.
  567. >With a sharp gulp you refocus your attention on the posture and you sister gives you a curt nods.
  568. >You start a couple of tentative reps and immediately notice the difference, it feels harder but right.
  569. “Th-Thanks.” you manage to mumble.
  570. >She only give you a haughty “humpf” as she walks briskly toward the stationary bikes.
  571. >Any quip you might have thought of dies in your half-opened mouth as she yells.
  573. >Yeah, you had pushed teeensy bit too far. Not wanting to try your luck further, you turn your attention toward the reason you came here.
  574. >To get FIT!
  575. >Dozens of related cheesy ads and tv commercials fill your mind as you lift, accompanied by some 80’s tunes.
  576. >You move from one exercice to the other, following the memorized routine to the letter.
  577. >Scoots doesn’t interrupt or try to correct you.
  578. >Occasionally shooting a few glances toward the other end of the room, you can see her cycling, a look of pure concentration on her face, sweat running down her body.
  579. >That’s some intense ladylike cycling! How long has she been at it? Freaky sport-monkey...
  580. >You get ready for some kneeling one-arm row, trying hard no to think about how ridiculously low the weight you chose might be. Unwittingly grunting from the exertion, you finally realize the sounds buff guys make when working out isn’t just for show, only partially.
  581. >”Here!”
  582. >Looking up you see Scoots holding two canteens, where have those come from?
  583. >She is still sweaty, face flushed, her lips red and moist from the drink she just had.
  584. >A towel sits on her shoulder again, you wonder if it’s the same as....
  585. >Shaking yourself off, you put the dumbbell down and catch the canteen thrown at you.
  586. “Good thinking, I completely forgot about that.”
  587. >”Can’t have you die of thirst on my watch.”
  588. >You take a hearty gulp of fresh water.
  589. >”Hey, slow down! don’t drink too fast!”
  590. “Ain’t no liquid *gulp* that’s gonna *gulp* control me!”
  591. >”You’re a hopeless blockhead...”
  592. “So you like to remind me. Thanks for the drink.” you reply, throwing back the empty canteen she deftly catches.
  593. >You set back to continue your session, only a few more reps left. Scoots makes no move to leave, were you doing something wrong again? As humbling as it might be, she does know better than you for now. You opt to continue, she’ll correct you if necessary.
  594. >”You know…”
  595. >Here we go.
  596. >”If you need a coach, I could always ask Rain-”
  597. “NO!”
  598. >Before you could think your head has whipped up, glaring at Scoots.
  599. >The dropped dumbbell clangs loudly on the mat.
  600. >She freezes, visibly startled by your sudden sharp tone.
  601. >Oh shit! That came out harsher than intended. You force your face to relax and unclench your jaw.
  602. >”Oh, uh...okay, sore topic, I get it. forget I said anything. Uh, I’m just gonna stretch over there.”
  603. >And just like that she scampers away,
  604. >Good job, real smooth!
  605. >You continue your set felling like the terrible person you probably are.
  606. >As you complete the last rep, an uncomfortable tiredness settles in your whole body. You’re not done yet however, there’s still one last thing.
  607. >You walk toward the more empty area where Scoots is.
  608. >She is doing what you think is called a chest stretch, hands behind her head, back slightly arched, putting an emphasis on all the right-
  609. >Don’t look at it. What is up with you today? Focus!
  610. >Chidding yourself, you pick up a hanging mat, set it down and assume a planking position.
  611. >You straighten and start counting, it doesn’t seem so bad.
  612. >The seconds start ticking in your head.
  613. >More boring than bad, really. What’s that sensation?
  614. >Oh God this feels terrible!
  615. >You start shaking, trying to maintain the position, your muscles increasingly protesting with every passing second.
  616. >But you can’t be done just yet, only a bit more, gotta at least reach an even number of seconds.
  617. >Almost there, almost.
  618. “Three-two-one.”
  619. >You release everything, falling flat on the mat.
  620. >”Wow, you’ve lasted longer than I thought. It’s pretty hard to do at first, your form was pretty good too.
  621. >Turning your head while lying on the ground, you find Scoots squatting right next to you.
  622. “Thanks...Erm, sorry for yelling earlier.”
  623. >”Don’t mention it. Are you done now?”
  624. “As done as I’ll ever be, if I were to lift anything more than my sorry ass I’d probably break in half.
  625. >That manages to get a chuckle out of her.
  626. >”Alright then! Time for some relaxation. Oh, I know! Have you ever had a sauna? We should totally try the one they have!”
  627. >Wait, What did she just say?
  629. “A sauna?”
  630. >”Yup!”
  631. “There’s even a friggin’ sauna?!”
  632. >You’re still expecting to find that Olympic pool.
  633. >Scoots turns to you quizzically.
  634. >”Well yeah, it’s not that uncommon, you know? Of course most of the time they have those infrared saunas. But not here, this one is the real deal! ” she announces enthusiastically.
  635. >Alright, there is a sauna, that much you can accept, but more importantly...
  636. >What the hell is her problem?
  637. >Oh nooo! Don’t peek at me changing! What? A sauna? Sure! Let’s drop those pants and get in! It’s not voyeurism when you’re all sweaty!
  638. >Not that you would have peeked in the first place...
  639. >You suppress a sigh at her inconsistent behavior, maybe she hasn’t quite thought it through.
  640. “ And you’re saying we should get in said sauna?”
  641. >”That’s what I’ve said yes. You haven’t gone deaf while lifting, have you? I know how it functions, I’ve used it plenty of times with Rainbow Dash when we’re training together, it’s kind of a habit now.”
  642. >Again with her! Well, that explains why she proposed it so casually at least. You have the creeping suspicion that Miss Dash is responsible for Scoots’ twisted sense of propriety when it comes to showing skin.
  643. >Damn that rainbow-haired c-.
  644. >No! Get back to the matter at hand!
  645. “And you don’t see any problem with that?” you ask carefully.
  646. >She presses a finger against her cheek, looking thoughtful for a moment.
  647. >”Hmmm well I doubt you’ve brought an extra towel so I guess we’ll have to borrow some spares…but aside from that, no.”
  648. >Yup, she is totally clueless. How is that even possible?
  649. >At least she expects you both to wear towels, that’s a relief, if a small one.
  650. >It doesn’t make it any less awkward however.
  651. “Alright, let me rephrase that, you want us two to get in the sauna? Together? At the same time?”
  652. >”Well duh, I don’t see what’s the big d-”
  653. >It finally dawns on her as a slight blush touches her cheeks.
  654. >”Oh…yeah, I think I see the problem.” she mumbles.
  655. >Thank God she wasn’t that dense!
  656. >”W-Well, we’ll be wearing towels so it’s fine! No biggie! Of course we wouldn’t get in n-n-na”
  657. >The last word dies in her mouth, smothered by an awkward laugh.
  658. >By the way her voice is quivering, she sure as hell isn’t as comfortable with it as she pretends to be.
  659. >You should be glad that she at least shows some self-consciousness now.
  660. >”Wh-why? You’re not feeling embarrassed are you?” she asks with her practiced smug smile, trying very hard to deflect her own sheepishness.
  661. >All things considered, you couldn’t care less, It’s not like there was anything to see.
  662. >Not that you would look even if there was!
  663. “Nope.”
  664. >Well, maybe a bit, but you had to call her bluff. Fortunately, the art of the deadpan stare held no secret for you.
  665. >”G-good! What are we waiting for then?”
  666. >That’s as fake a smile as you’ve ever seen.
  667. >Come on, don’t do this, Scoots.
  668. “We don’t have to if it makes you uncomfortable.”
  669. >A spark of defiance suddenly flashes in her eyes.
  670. >The beast has awoken anew, that idiotic spirit of competition.
  671. >Her hand abruptly grabs your shirt, pulling you in closer, her eyes seemingly ablaze.
  672. >”Oh no, no way! I’m not giving you that satisfaction! We are so doing this!”
  673. >Welp, she’s made her bed.
  674. “Suit yourself, but don’t come crying afterward.”
  675. >She releases her the grip on your shirt with dismissive gesture, punctuating it with a snort and as she turns her back to you.
  676. >”Yeah, right! Just admit you’re eager to get a good look!”
  677. >NU-UH!
  678. >You still feel yourself redden a smidgen. It is fortunate she turned around...
  679. >You quickly regain your composure and, with a sigh, put what you hope is a calming hand on her shoulder.
  680. >Sensing her stiffen makes you feel a brief spike of panic.
  681. “You shouldn’t say that so lightly, Scoots.”
  682. >She stands still, silent.
  683. “Look, it’s fine, you just go in there and enjoy yourself. I’ll just take a shower.”
  684. >Looking over her shoulder, she gives you a dangerous look.
  685. >One that suffers no dissent.
  686. >”I’ve told you, we are doing this. We’re going to get into that sauna and you’re gonna like it! Now act like a man and prove that you’re not just all words!” she snaps.
  687. >You’ve seen her like this countless times before, there’s no way she’ll budge now.
  688. >Stubborn little monkey...
  689. >You slowly remove your hand, resigned.
  690. “Alright, after you.”
  691. >Thus, the two of you get back to the locker room in silence.
  692. >You did work up quite the sweat, a shower would be welcome.
  693. >But instead you had to sweat even more!
  694. >Truth be told you were genuinely curious. It was supposedly relaxing and there was no denying you’ve earned that.
  695. >”Here!”
  696. >You turn from your end of the room just in time to catch a towel square in the face. Scoots then brings another out from one of the lockers.
  697. “Thanks.”
  698. >”Sure thing, now turn around.”
  699. “Right…”
  700. >You comply and start pulling off your shirt while trying very hard not to think about what’s going on behind you.
  701. >And failing.
  702. >Quick! You need a distraction!
  703. “So, uh, why a sauna now?”
  704. >You hear a shuffling of clothes, a shirt being pulled perhaps?
  705. >”It helps the muscles relax, can help with cardio too.”
  706. >Nothing surprising so far, coming from her.
  707. >”And, hum…” she adds in a hesitant voice “It’s pretty good for the skin.”
  708. >Skin, eh? Maybe she does care a bit about her looks beyond just her muscles. She might not be a completely lost cause after all.
  709. >Still, only a tomboy like her would feel embarrassed to admit that simple fact.
  710. >Heck, even you could do with a bit of skin cleansing every now and then.
  711. >”I’m gonna start the thing up, just come in when you’re ready.”
  712. “Wait, where is it?” you ask, forcing yourself not to turn just in case.
  713. >”It’s the door near the showers, where did you think it was?”
  714. >So that what it was.
  715. >You wait a solid minute before finishing to undress and cover yourself by wrapping the towel as best you can.
  716. >Carefully, you make your way toward the sauna, holding the towel awkwardly. It wouldn’t do for you to drop it as you enter after all.
  717. >Without thinking about it, your eyes wander toward where Scoots was changing just a few moments ago.
  718. >Her clothes lay discarded on the bench.
  719. >The sports’ bra ,the tight shorts…
  720. >You immediately rein in your dangerous thoughts and continue to the door.
  721. >Just as you open it, three things hit you.
  722. >First, the heat radiating from the small stove set against a wall of the room.
  723. >Second is the warm light flooding out, unexpectedly bright without it being bliding.
  724. >And there was her…
  725. >Lounging on the bench, eyes closed.
  726. >The towel pressed tightly against her body.
  727. >You knew what to expect and yet you still freeze for an instant. Despite your earlier bravado this was definitely awkward.
  728. >Sure, you’ve seen her wrapped in a towel as she left the shower every now and then at home but this feels somehow...different. You barely noticed it then so what has changed?
  729. >”Hurry up, we’re gonna lose all the heat!”
  730. >Her voice brings you out of your reverie and you stop gawking.
  731. “Oh, yeah, sorry.”
  732. >What is up with you today?
  733. >You go in, closing the door and gingerly set yourself on the only seat available.
  734. >Hers.
  735. >The solitary wooden bench isn’t very large. Just big enough for you two to sit comfortably but small enough to feel a bit cramped. You’re sitting close, very close.
  736. >You try very hard to look anywhere but to your right.
  737. >This is stupid, you’ve already seen her. Why make it weird?
  738. >”We don’t have too much time so we’ll just do a wet round.”
  739. >It is indeed getting late. Wait, what?
  740. “A ‘wet’ round?”
  741. >You turn you inadvertently as you ask.
  742. >Dammit!
  743. >She only answers by taking a ladle from a nearby bucket and pouring water onto the stones, releasing a large puff of steam.
  744. “Alright, I think I get it.”
  745. >What else could it have been?
  746. >”Yeah, ideally you’d want to do a dry round first, without pouring any water, cool off a bit, then do a wet round.”
  747. >She glances at you and quickly looks away.
  748. “I see...”
  749. >Another cloud of steam gets released and she sets the ladle back.
  750. >”And usually I wouldn’t have to wear a towel...” she mutters, not low enough for you not to pick up on it.
  751. >That brings a question to mind, as burning as if you were touching the heated stones.
  752. “So...does this mean you and Dash-”
  753. >”Drop it!”
  754. >Yeah, that was inappropriate. You and your big mouth…
  755. >You stay silent for a moment, not wanting to antagonize her.
  756. >But your boredom quickly catches up with you.
  757. “Hum, so we just wait like that?”
  758. >”Yup, just sit back, relax and sweat.”
  759. >You attempt to do so and start leaning against the wall.
  760. >Just as you try to set yourself , your arm brushes her...somewhere.
  761. >A shiver runs down your spine and you gulp.
  762. >Time to try and focus your mind.
  763. >Breathe in.
  764. >Breathe out.
  765. >You let the heat sink in.
  766. >Well, this is kinda nice….
  767. >But still boring, you’ve never liked sitting around without a thing to do.
  768. >You have to distract yourself. You need to.
  769. >And your options being limited as they are at the moment, you resign yourself to keep talking.
  770. >God, you hate small talk. That’s probably another reason why you can’t get a date.
  771. “Soooooo, I thought that maybe uh, you know...uhm”
  772. >Listen to yourself, mumbling like a schoolgirl with a crush!
  773. >You compose yourself with a cough.
  774. “I was thinking we could start going for groceries together and actually make an effort of cooking, you know?”
  775. >”Cooking? Why?” she asks, her eyes blinking open, looking at the ceiling.
  776. “Well, aren’t you getting tired of the same ready-made food? I know I am. Plus, it pays to eat healthier.”
  777. >”Eat healthier...that doesn’t sound like you at all”
  778. “I know, right? So what do you say?”
  779. >Her eyes start drifting toward you and suddenly stop a few inches shy from looking at you.
  780. >Weird…
  781. >”Sounds like a pain.” she groans.
  782. “Come on, it could be fun! You know we’re both too lazy to do it on our own and it’s a useful skill to have. I figured we could set up a good habit if we do it together.”
  783. >She goes back to looking at the ceiling.
  784. >”Hmmm, yeah. I guess learning how to cook could be nice for me. Alright, I’m in.”
  785. >Well, that was easy.
  786. >She turns her head to the right, away from you.
  787. >”But I’m NOT wearing an apron!”
  788. >What kind of condition is that?
  789. “It’s not like it’s mandatory.”
  790. >”Good, because I’m not wearing one.”
  791. >You let out a small snigger.
  792. “Okay, you’ve got a deal. I can drive us to that organic store tomorrow and-”
  793. >She sucks in air through her teeth
  794. >”Aw, sorry. I’m busy tomorrow, got a thing planned with SB and AB.”
  795. >Of course it wouldn’t be that easy.
  796. “Fine, I’ll go by myself. But you are helping me cook dinner.”
  797. >”Sure.”
  798. >Okay, now you know for sure she’s pointedly not looking at you!
  799. >As amusing as it is, this just reinforces the awkwardness of the situation. That just won’t do.
  800. >So you give her a firm elbow nudge.
  801. >”Hey, what the heck?” she hisses, her head snapping toward you. You’d feel slightly threatened had she not started blushing immediately.
  802. >But she holds her gaze, gritting her teeth. She’s got guts, you’ll give her that.
  803. >Well, at least she’s looking now.
  804. “Come on, don’t make it weird, we’re both covered enough. There’s nothing to be embarrassed about.
  805. >If only you felt as confident as you sounded.
  806. >After a couple of seconds, she finally relaxes.
  807. >”You’re right.” she answers with a sigh.
  808. >Wow, she actually AGREED with you twice in a row? This day sure is full of surprises.
  809. “Good, glad we’ve cleared that out.”
  810. >You feel yourself relax as well and the two of you fall silent again.
  811. >This isn’t weird, this is totally normal if a bit unusual.
  812. >The minutes seem to stretch indefinitely. There isn’t even a clock inside this steamy box, how does she keep track of time?
  813. >Breathe in.
  814. >Breathe out.
  815. >You can feel the fatigue slowly melting away.
  816. >As you do your best to empty your mind, a question starts nagging you.
  817. >Welp, you seem to be doing most of the talking tonight, might as well continue.
  818. “I’m still curious about one thing.”
  819. >”Yeah? What is it?” she asks drowsily, one eye half-opening.
  820. “Why are you helping me?”
  821. >”This again? I told you I felt bad abou-”
  822. “Yeah I got that part, you’ve brought me here and now we’re even. What I don’t get is why you would go to such lengths? It’s not the first callous comment you’ve thrown my way, so why feel so bad about this one? You were under no obligation to give me any tip either. You’re kinda helping the competition there.”
  823. >She stretches her arms forward, mulling over the question.
  824. >Your breath catches in your throat for half a second as her towel slightly slips down from the gesture. How can she be so careless?! The flimsy piece of fabric still holds strong, thankfully.
  825. >You probably should go out more often...
  826. >”Hmm, well I guess it would be no fun if you just gave up so early.”
  827. >You focus back on her face.
  828. “”
  829. >”Yeah, geez what’s with you and repeating what I’ve just said tonight?! I mean there would be no challenge, no thrill of competition. It’d be pretty boring!”
  830. >Her legs join in on the stretch as she balances herself on the bench, pulling on the towel ever so slightly.
  831. “So you’re just trying to raise the stakes?” you ask distractedly as your eyes keep wandering.
  832. >”Pretty much! If you push yourself I get the urge to do the same in order to win that bet.”
  833. >Well, that matches your earlier assumption.
  834. >”But also…”
  835. >Her voice becomes more hesitant.
  836. >She ends her stretch, bringing her legs against her chest.
  837. >The towel slides slowly against her thighs, revealing more smooth skin and toned shapes.
  838. >She doesn’t seem aware of it.
  839. >You scream internally at the shameful behavior. Focus! Focus on what she’s saying.
  840. >”Well, I guess....I told you how I thought I knew how you feel? I know how people can just glance at you and already have all those expectations of what you can and can’t do, what you should and shouldn’t do.”
  841. >You start listening intently. She sounds way more heartfelt now.
  842. >”And...I suppose If there’s a way for you to avoid confronting that for a while, I might as well, you know...give you a hand?”
  843. “So...pity then?”
  844. >”Yup! It annoys me to see you being pathetic!” she declares with a grin, setting herself back to her normal seated position, thankfully.
  845. >Bullshit.
  846. >She had started so honest but now, now she sounds a bit too casual to you.
  847. >Some gutt feeling is telling you there’s something beyond that. She does care but it is due to more than just pity based on her own bad experience.
  848. >Yes, you think that, deep down, she really wants for you to improve, she just doesn’t want to admit it.
  849. >Better to let her have her pride.
  850. >Curiously, the assumption fills you with warmth.
  851. >She does care, she just has pride.
  852. >Pride...
  853. >You don’t know if it’s the relaxing effect sauna or just plain melancholy but you start reminiscing.
  854. >When had she started becoming so...aggressive and competitive?
  855. >This you couldn’t blame on Dash, at least not the start of it. She might have encouraged and nurtured her competitiveness but Scoots had started to change way before they were hanging together.
  856. >The two of you were pretty close as kids, always playing together.
  857. >Inseparables.
  858. >Running, climbing, falling, chasing bugs.
  859. >Your parents often joked about how it wasn’t hard to find one if they knew where the other was.
  860. >Good times, simpler times.
  861. >Times when they were actually around...
  862. >Then you started growing up, really growing up.
  863. >You grew at a steady rate, getting taller and taller while Scoots...
  864. >Scoots was well on her way and then just...stopped. She doesn’t have an unusual height for her age but she still is on the diminutive side.
  865. >When she realized she wasn’t gonna catch up with you, that’s when you two started drifting apart. >Something, some image she had of your relationship had shattered.
  866. >And that’s when she started trying so hard, getting into all those sports, always pushing herself. Like she had something to prove.
  867. >Always feeling smug when she got bruises, wearing them as a badge of honor.
  868. >Meanwhile you got more reclusive, shunning physical activity like her overeagerness had turned you off...and deep down you knew. You knew things couldn’t go back to the way they were ever again.
  869. >Because of that physical gap, because you’d never understand how it feels to be in her shoes.
  870. >Maybe it was why she gravitated toward Dash. Because she gave her something you couldn’t.
  871. >Someone to relate to...
  872. >When your parents went away you started getting a bit closer again, but the damage had been done. There was still a measure of distance between you two, despite the outward closeness.
  873. >You forcefully pull yourself away from the painful memories.
  874. >You need a new topic, fast. Anything to distract you from dwelling on this.
  875. “So, uh…”
  876. >You ask the first thing that comes to mind.
  877. “Is there a boy at school you like?”
  878. >Fuck! Wrong topic!
  879. >”WHAT?! NO!” she blurts out, her face turning red as a beet.
  880. >Yup, there’s definitely one. Consider your curiosity pricked.
  881. >Now that the subject has been broached there’s no way you’re letting it go without a bit of prodding.
  882. “Oh? Are you suuuuuure? No dashing, sport-obsessed lad on your mind?”
  883. >She sputters.
  884. >”Pffft, no! No way!”
  885. “Really? It sounds like there is.” you ask with your best smirk, the kind that would have you end up beaten bloody in a back alley.
  886. >”No, geez! I swear there isn’t!”
  887. “No one in your class?”
  888. >”Nooo!” she answers, her tone pleading.
  889. “What about the sports teams?”
  890. >”I’ve told you no,there is no one, come on!”
  891. >Not wanting to anger her, you give her a nonchalant shrug and let the matter drop.
  892. “Alright...”
  893. >Even you know better than to play with a maiden’s heart.
  894. >Not too much at least.
  895. >”Besides…”
  896. “Uh?”
  897. >You immediately start paying close attention.
  898. >”They wouldn’t give me the time of the day anyway…” she mutters sourly, looking away.
  899. >You blink in surprise. Really?
  900. >Shooting a furtive glance toward her, you look at her shapes outlined by the towel.
  901. >And cannot help but feel a pang of guilt at her ordeal.
  902. >She looked fine.
  903. >Sure, a girl like her would not be up to your standards. But you’re pretty sure any boy her age with half a brain and one working eye would jump at the opportunity and try to make a move. So it must be her attitude that drives them away.
  904. >Ha! Look who’s talking!
  905. >Like you’ve made moves before.
  906. >Like you’ve totally not chickened out.
  907. >Like you can afford to have standards…
  908. >The thought doesn’t keep her down long however and as she whips her head back toward you, ready for the counterattack.
  909. >“Well, how about YOU?!
  910. >Of course she would turn the question on you. And yet, despite having expected it, you falter.
  911. “W-What?”
  912. >“Don’t play dumb with me! Got some hot crush?”
  913. >Was there one? There were plenty of cute girls at school after all...
  914. “Hmmm, not really, no. Nothing like that.”
  915. >”Oh, reallyyyyy?” she asks in a mocking immitation of your earlier tone “What about Rainbow Dash?”
  916. >You barely contain the sudden flash of anger.
  917. “Why, you little!”
  918. >”Hey, I’m just sayin! You cannot hate someone that strongly without being somewhat attracted to her.”
  919. “W-what kind of logic is that? That’s retarded!”
  920. >You still feel yourself flush.
  921. >Definitely from anger and not from something else, no sir!
  922. >”Oh yeah? Deny it then! Tell me you’d refuse her given the opportunity!”
  923. “I, uh…”
  924. >For crying out loud, what is her problem?!
  925. >Not a day goes by without the little twerp gushing about that girl!
  926. >Sure, she isn’t bad looking, pretty attractive even. With a moderate bust but you could always work with that. No, it was her behavior that was such a huge turnoff, just like Scoots’ must be for those boys. She is just so…annoying.
  927. >And insensitive, and a braggart.
  928. >Self-centered, dense, stubborn.
  929. >But still attractive.
  930. >And admitting it infuriates you.
  931. >”Not so sure, eh?”
  932. >Dammit! You’ve let your mind wander.
  933. >That shit-eating grin is back. This is not good, alarms start ringing in your head.
  934. >”You gotta admit she’s got a pretty nice body.”
  935. >Damn! Is she reading your thoughts?
  936. >The image of that athletic figure springs to mind, unbidden.
  937. >”Wouldn’t you agree?”
  938. >She leans in closer, her voice becoming, for lack of a better term, sultry.
  939. >”Long legs…”
  940. “Scoots, I swear if you don’t-”
  941. >Her face continues to edge toward you as you start leaning away in a futile attempt at warding her off.
  942. >“Toned body, a belly to die for.”
  943. >You try to banish the image from your head, to no avail. You’re starting to feel really hot and that’s definitely not from the sauna.
  944. “Stop it!”
  945. >But it’s not use, she keeps advancing, her face getting ever closer to yours until she...
  946. >...she leans on you.
  947. >ALERT! ALERT! We’ve got skin contact!
  948. >And you still thinking about...that!
  949. >No!Stop! Don’t think about it, don’t think about it, don’t-
  950. >Her voice is almost a whisper, each words breathed out.
  951. >”Not to mention nice, firm…”
  952. >No matter what don’t think about it!
  953. >Despite your desperate attempt, something starts stirring within you.
  954. >Her petite body squeezes against yours and you frantically look away.
  955. >It feels way too soft. Should her muscles feel hard?
  956. >That peculiar scent is back.
  957. >HER scent.
  958. >Then, her mouth finally reaches your ear.
  959. >The close contact is now unbearable.
  960. >The final words she whispers sends another shiver down your spine.
  961. >”breasts...”
  962. “THAT’S IT! I’m getting out!”
  963. >You stand up in one stiff motion, bumping her.
  964. >Slamming open the door, you take a step away.
  965. >”Hey, wait! I was just kidd-
  966. >Something soft grabs your towel...
  967. >...and you forward moment finishes to unravel it.
  968. >You freeze suddenly...and, by the dragging silence, you assume she has as well.
  969. >Oh, no.
  970. >You’re pretty sure your heart just stopped beating.
  971. >Slowly, you hazard a glance behind your shoulder.
  972. >There she is, standing still as a statue, half-sprawled on the bench with your towel in her outstretched arm.
  973. >You thought you’ve seen her blush before but this, this was on a whole new level. She was practically glowing! You wouldn’t be surprised if she caught fire.
  974. >The both of you stay motionless for what seems like an eternity.
  975. >Cold sweat starts running down your temples.
  976. >Slowly, her mouth starts opening and closing wordlessly. Then, with a shaky smile she mumbles.
  977. >”Uhm...nice ass?”
  978. >You resume walking away without a word.
  979. >The stillness of your heart gives way to a furious beating.
  980. >You stomp toward the showers, praying to all that is good in the world that she did not see the stirring in your nether regions.
  981. >Stupid sexy Dash!
  982. >Selecting the closest shower, you hurriedly enter.
  983. >And drench yourself in cold,cold water.
  985. >You stand numbly, wishing for the liquid to cool your mind better than it does your body.
  986. >Without much success so far.
  987. >Just as your heart rate refuses to abate, your mind is running wild.
  988. >So many conflicting emotions bounce through your head as you try to sift through the turmoil and find just what has you so worked up.
  989. >Was she onto something? Could you possibly have a crush on Dash?
  990. >Rainbow friggin’ Dash, of all people?
  991. >The mere thought of it is enough for a renewed spike of anger to pierce through the haze of thoughts. When it does however, it is laced with a strangely new sensation.
  992. >A rush of heat reaches you face, sound becoming muffled by the pounding in your ears.
  993. >No, that can’t be! It sounds so stupid, you HATE her!
  994. >Her and her stupid, athletic body.
  995. >It was the sauna, it must have been, the heat made your head fuzzy.
  996. >Nice, firm...
  997. >That image of Dash starts resurfacing, unclothed this time, your mind kindly taking the initiative of filling in the blanks.
  998. >Nope, it was definitely the sauna!
  999. >The sauna...and Scoots.
  1000. >As the realization hits you, a low, frenetic chuckle escapes your throat.
  1001. >You can’t help but applaud the brilliant move, she managed to soundly get into your head with that ridiculous suggestion. She’s won this round, the little monkey.
  1002. >Pressing your forearm against the wall, you let your head rest against it, closing your eyes as you push every sound out but that of streaming water.
  1003. >Breathe in…
  1004. >Breathe out.
  1005. >Clarity continues to elude you, as if you were grasping at air. Is it really all there is to it? An implanted idea?
  1006. >The answer springing to your fuzzy mind is disquieting.
  1007. >No, no it isn’t...
  1008. >Scoots did more than just plant a suggestion…
  1009. >A second image starts overlapping with the first, along with other, still-fresh sensations. The scent of a sweaty body, the feeling of warm, bare skin touching yours...
  1010. >You bang your head against the shower wall, chasing away the inappropriate thoughts.
  1011. “What is wrong with me?”
  1012. >”Did you say something?”
  1013. >You let out a small cry of surprise and immediately whirl around, body suddenly tense, mind clear and alert like some cornered animal.
  1014. >You resume breathing as soon as you realize that Scoots cannot possibly see you through the wall of the shower booth.
  1015. >”Hey, are you okay?” she asks with a concerned tone.
  1016. >A good five seconds pass before you think to offer any answer.
  1017. ”Uh, yeah, of course...I was just talking to myself, don’t mind me.”
  1018. >That person, replying with your voice accompanied by an awkward chuckle seems a completely separate entity from you.
  1019. >”Oh, okay…good.”
  1020. >Another few seconds pass with only the sound of rushing water filling the uncomfortable silence.
  1021. >”I, forgot your...yeah. Anyway, here you go.”
  1022. >The incriminating towel is swung over the edge of your booth, reminding you yet again of that just happened.
  1023. “Get a hold of yourself!” You mutter under your breath.
  1024. >”What was that?”
  1025. “Nothing! Thanks...uh, could you grab my shower gel as well? It’s in my bag.”
  1026. >”In your...bag?!” she asks, uncertainty in her voice.
  1027. “Well, yeah, where else would it be, smartass?”
  1028. >No! Don’t mention ass now!
  1029. >“Uh, yeah, of course it is...Sure, just gimme a sec.”
  1030. >At least she sounds a bit flustered herself. It isn’t a crushing defeat then...but still far from a draw.
  1031. >Ever so slowly, you manage to compose yourself until you finally realize how freezing cold the water is.
  1032. >You hurriedly turn the knobs, reaching a pleasant, lukewarm temperature. Hopefully this won’t make you sick tomorrow.
  1033. >On the plus side, you barely feel any soreness after...all this.
  1034. >Curious, you check yourself over.
  1035. >Not much of a difference, you’re still on the skinny side, what did you expect after just one session?
  1036. >The predictable swelling of your limbs does promise something however.
  1037. >If you keep at it, you won’t stay this way for long! Then you can collect your sweet, sweet reward.
  1038. >You’ll wipe that smug expression off Dash’s face and thoroughly humble your sister.
  1039. >That’s right! You’ll have her do...
  1040. >”Found it!”
  1041. >Perfect timing.
  1042. >With a silent prayer of thanks for the distraction, you take a shot at reestablishing a semblance of normalcy.
  1043. “Took you long enough.” you scoff, turning in her general direction.
  1044. >”Sorry, I got, uhm...distracted. Here!”
  1045. >Distracted by what? The ceiling?
  1046. “Ow!”
  1047. >You bite back a curse as the bottle hits you square in the forehead.
  1048. “Watch it, Scoots!”
  1049. >”Oh suck it up, you big baby!"
  1050. >It seems she’s back to regular banter, good.
  1051. “Anyway, imma take a quick shower too, don’t take too long.”
  1052. >Don’t think about it...
  1053. >Maybe the water is still a bit too warm after all...
  1054. >You start applying the slick, soapy substance and proceed to wash yourself, channeling all of your thoughts on the task at hand, trying your hardest not to think about...anything dangerous.
  1055. >It’s not long before you finally stop the flow of water, mind now somewhat calm. You turn around and reach for...
  1056. >A look at the hanging towel elicits a flash of remembrance.
  1057. >So much for calm...
  1058. >Your hand hovers a few inches away from the piece of fabric, fingers flexing in apprehension.
  1059. “Oh for fuck’s sake!”
  1060. >Gritting your teeth, you grab the towel brusquely and pat yourself dry.
  1061. >Wrapping it around yourself even more tightly this time, you exit the booth at a brisk pace, uncaring whether you slip or not.
  1062. >You’re so intent on looking at your feet in your annoyance that you almost bump into Scoots.
  1063. >Looking up sharply, which is not that much given her height, you lock eyes with her.
  1064. >The two lilac pools threaten to suck you in.
  1065. >You reflexively take a step back, only to find yourself taking in more of the view.
  1066. >She clutches her towel tight against her petite body, neatly defining its shape, the skin peeking out looking pristine.
  1067. >Her hair, still glossy from the recent washing, is pulled back, making for a striking contrast from her usual look.
  1068. >You might even call it stunning by the way it brings attention to her brilliant eyes. How come you’ve never paid attention to those eyelashes, so thin and delicate? And those glistening lips...
  1069. >As you stand dumbfounded, concern starts to sink in.
  1070. >She might actually be able to win her bet...
  1071. >Red starts creeping on her already rosy cheeks.
  1072. >As if you were of a same mind, the both of you turn away almost simultaneously and walk back to your respective changing spots without uttering a word.
  1073. >You arrive at your bench to find your clothes in a crumpled mess. Your boxers lay on the floor next to your bag.
  1074. >Weird, you’re pretty sure you had tucked them in safely.
  1075. “Geez, Scoots. Did you have to mess up my clothes so badly?"
  1076. >“Don’t turn!”
  1077. >You stop yourself at the last second. Damn, this is going to get very inconvenient very fast.
  1078. “Right, sorry...Still, you could have been more careful with them. ”
  1079. >”And, you could have gotten your soap yourself.”
  1080. “Yeah, I could have, but I was a bit preoccupied at the time, thanks to a certain someone.” you retort in irritation.
  1081. >“Well you didn’t have to…ugh, whatever!” she snaps, cutting the conversation short.
  1082. >You opt not to press the subject further, unwilling to contemplate what happened again.
  1083. >Picking up your clothes stiffly, you fall into a familiar brooding mood.
  1084. >If it weren’t for Dash...
  1085. >The two of you finish dressing in silence.
  1086. >In short order, you exit the locker room, cut the power and leave through the backdoor together, all the while trying your best not to look at one another.
  1087. >While Scootaloo locks the door, you finally decide to hazard a glance at her.
  1088. >There’s no way you’re going to let things stay awkward like this!
  1089. >And for that reason you force yourself to look...
  1090. >Yes, everything is fine, there’s nothing to feel embarrassed about...
  1091. >She finishes tinkering with the heavy lock and turns around...only to abruptly freeze with a muffled gasp as your eyes meet.
  1092. >Fortunately, you have braced yourself for it this time and the violet gems hold no sway over you as you look at them dispassionately.
  1093. >Truly, those boys in her class must be blind...
  1094. >Scoots, however, clearly hadn’t expected it by the way she flinches under your gaze before scrambling away without a word.
  1095. >You follow her out of the side street and the both of you set on a silent slog back home side by side.
  1096. >For once, you don’t feel like talking, preferring boredom as you keep diverting your thoughts away from the person next to you.
  1097. >So you focus on the walk. One step after another, left foot, right foot, again and again.
  1098. >As far as you’re concerned, only the walk matters at the moment, the walk and your breathing.
  1099. >Breathe in, step, breathe out, step.
  1100. >A blanket of stillness seems to cover the street as the two of you lumber from one flickering pool of street light to another, unwilling to break the quiet.
  1101. >This goes on until halfway through, when you are brought out of your meditative state by a brief tug on your shirt. Stopping, you give Scootaloo a glance.
  1102. >”Hey, you’’re not mad, are you? About, uhm, you know...” she asks sheepishly.
  1103. >She looks down, shuffling in place.
  1104. “No, no I’m not.” you reply with a sigh.
  1105. >You’re just confused as heck…
  1106. >“I’m...I’m sorry about…”
  1107. “Let’s just not talk about it.”
  1108. >”Oh...okay, sorry...”
  1109. >The two of you resume walking in an awkward silence.
  1110. >As your mind starts wandering, a curious aroma reaches you, faint, pleasant.
  1111. >Is this juniper?
  1112. >You briskly turn toward to your sister, still walking by your side.
  1113. “Scoots…”
  1114. >”Hmm?”
  1115. “Did you actually...put perfume on?”
  1116. >After an instant of puzzlement, her eyes drift away, cheeks flushing anew.
  1117. “Bullseye, eh?”
  1118. >Suddenly she buries her face in her hands, letting out a small moan of anguish.
  1119. >”Nooooo, why did you have to notice?!”
  1120. “Isn’t it the point, though? For boys to notice?”
  1121. >”Yeah, boys, not YOU.”
  1122. “Geez, thanks.” you answer, the bitterness in your voice only half-feigned.
  1123. >”I just...I just felt like trying something new…Sweetie Belle recommended this.”
  1124. >Good job, S.B. It is a good choice, discreet yet elegant.
  1125. >Not that you know anything about perfume, aside from recognizing when it smells good.
  1126. >The downcast tone of her voice gives you the impression you just did something wrong, as if you had intruded on her privacy.
  1127. >Why? It isn’t something to be ashamed about. If anything, she’s on the right track. Small touches like that will get her noticed.
  1128. >Regardless, you feel compelled to say something, to somehow make up for it.
  1129. “I could get used to it...”
  1130. >Good enough.
  1131. >She pulls her hands away, looking at you.
  1132. >”You could what?”
  1133. >Now it’s your turn to look away in embarrassment as you stammer your next sentence.
  1134. “Get used to it, you know? It’s...nice.”
  1135. >”Wait, you don’t find it weird at all?” she asks, genuinely surprised.
  1136. >Scratching your head, you carefully weigh your words before answering.
  1137. >You decide that plain honesty is the most appropriate.
  1138. “Well, it does feel a bit off, but not in a bad way, It’s just...unusual.”
  1139. >You keep to yourself the thought of that other, heady scent.
  1140. >Looking straight at her, you add assuredly.
  1141. “It suits you, I mean it.”
  1142. >That was the truth, albeit an incomplete one.
  1143. >It is like putting on a beautiful mask, no matter how intricately it might be decorated, sometimes you’d rather glimpse at the true beauty underneath.
  1144. >That perfume is an ornate mask, but if you are completely honest with yourself, that other raw, natural scent is much more to your liking.
  1145. >It suits her but does she really needs it?
  1146. >Head slightly bowed, she gives you a timid look as she mumbles.
  1147. >”Thank you.”
  1148. >A warm feeling infuse you upon hearing those words. Witnessing her like this, getting a glimpse of what lies under her hard shell brings out a surge of brotherly love deep within you.
  1149. >A desire to protect her.
  1150. >Gingerly, your hand reaches around her shoulders, pulling her small body closer.
  1151. >Surprisingly, Scootaloo doesn’t struggle as you gently rub her head, instead letting out a contented sigh as the two of you continue walking.
  1152. >With a hint of remorse, you indulge in that new fragrance.
  1153. “Just this time…” you whisper for your ears only.
  1154. >All too soon, she pulls away and you grudgingly let go.
  1155. >Shuffling a few steps to the side, she puts her arms behind her back, still looking down, a soft, giddy smile forming on her lips.
  1156. >The mannerism strikes you as...girly.
  1157. >”So...Same thing next week?” she asks fondly.
  1158. >Your attention briefly shift to your hand, still warm from the touch. You only need an instant to find your answer.
  1159. “How about the day after tomorrow?”
  1160. >”Wow, you’re pretty eager, aren’t you?”
  1161. “I won’t get anywhere if I’m being half-assed.”
  1162. >Scootaloo blinks in surprise, her soft smile turning into a wide grin as she gives you a gentle bump on your arm.
  1163. >”That’s the spirit!”
  1164. >You let out a small chuckle
  1165. “I’d still like you to come with me for some grocery shopping however.”
  1166. >”Yeah, next time, I promise!”
  1167. >”Looking forward to it…” she murmurs a few seconds later.
  1168. “...So am I.” you respond gently.
  1169. >The two of you are nearing the last stretch before your house when you hear the oh-so-familiar teasing tone.
  1170. >”Your ass did look nice, though. It just needs a bit more work.”
  1171. “NOT talking about it!”
  1172. >Her only answer is a playful giggle as she takes a few hops forward.
  1173. >Despite yourself, a small smile creeps on your face and you reach home with your spirit noticeably lifted.
  1176. >”Scoots?”
  1177. >The ball is the source of a fierce battle, feet darting to wrestle it away from the opponent’s in what seems like an intricate dance.
  1178. >There is a raw beauty to it in your eyes, an almost entrancing ebb and flow.
  1179. >Breeze lightly tousling your cerise hair, you let out a contented breath, enjoying the warmth of the afternoon light piercing through the trees’ canopy.
  1180. >”Earth to Scootaloo, come in Scootaloo!” says Sweetie Belle, irritation clear in her voice as she wildly waves a hand in front of your face.
  1181. >With a surprised blink at the wide gesture, you finally snaps out of you rêverie.
  1182. >Regretfully tearing your eyes away from the group of kids playing soccer, you turn your attention back to the prim girl sitting in on the other side of the park’s café table.
  1183. “Uh, sorry S.B., I got-”
  1184. >”-distracted again?” Sweetie Belle finishes with a gentle smile before casting a disapproving glance toward the kids responsible for the distraction.
  1185. >They continue their game, heedless of the older girl’s attention, shouting merrily as they run on the grass after the ball.
  1186. >As if they had ignored her on purpose, she closes her eyes in annoyance before letting out a dainty yet dismissive huff.
  1187. >Her, composure regained, she opens them anew to look a her “pet project”, the biggest challenge of her young life so far.
  1188. >Only to find said project’s attention has drifted again, a cursory glance revealing the new recipient to be a dog fetching a frisbee this time.
  1189. >Heaving a prolonged sigh, the fair-skinned girl adopts her best lecturing tone in what seems a fairly decent imitation of Miss Cheerilee if you’re any judge.
  1190. >Patient and caring but firm at the same time, the kind of tone your teacher always seems to use whenever the two of you, along with Apple Bloom, get a bit too zealous in your endeavors.
  1191. >”You know, Scoots, when you asked me to tutor you, I had the distinct impression that you would take this seriously.” she says, stressing her words by taking a delicate sip from her teacup whose counterpart rests in front of you amidst a plethora of stains from its repeatedly-spilled content.
  1192. >Your face face darts back almost immediately this time, your expression adopting a hint of panic.
  1193. “I am, I swear!” you blurt out in a frantic tone, stiffening like you just had been called to the principal’s office.
  1194. >Eyes drifting downward, you lower your head in shame before breathing a sigh of your own, one of dejection in this case.
  1195. “It’s just…” you continues, shuffling in your seat “I’m not good at sitting around doing nothing, you know that, it drives me crazy!”
  1196. >You can’t help but cast a furtive glance toward the park lawn, eager to join in.
  1197. “I need to do stuff, S.B., be active, I need to move.”
  1198. >Sweetie Belle’s only answer is a terse cough.
  1199. >Unbeknownst to you, you had been rocking the chair back and forth, as if to unconsciously prove your point.
  1200. >With a pavlovian flinch, you stop the chair dead in its tracks, eliciting an unpleasant scraping sound from it.
  1201. >How the hell does she manage to make even a cough sound feminine?
  1202. >”I know.” she replies, “And it’s that precise– Scoots...what are you doing with that spoon?” she asks, accusation heavy in her voice.
  1203. >Startled anew by your unintentional behavior , you let the silverware you were spinning just a moment ago between your thumb and forefinger drop on the table with a small clatter.
  1204. “Aw, crap!”
  1205. >”Language, please.” chides Sweetie Belle for what seems like the humpteenth time.
  1206. >You shoot the girl your best deadpan look at the remark before quickly reminding yourself she has been kind enough to do this as a personal favor for the past few days.
  1207. “I mean ‘shoot’” you grudgingly correct yourself.
  1208. >”Better. Now, as I was saying, it’s that precise behavior we’re trying to stomp– I mean rein in here.”
  1209. >Joining her hands in a patient gesture, she continues.
  1210. >“Now, let’s start again from the beginning!”
  1211. >With a very unladylike groan of displeasure, you straightens up, adopting the posture Sweetie Belle has mercilessly drilled into you. It still seems awkward, stiff, making you feel more like someone with a stick up their ‘hindquarters’, as Sweetie would put it, than a lady.
  1212. >Still, you can’t but feel a small swell of hope at your friend’s small nod of approval.
  1213. >“Good. Now, take your cup, like I’ve showed you.” she continues, motioning toward the cursed tableware.
  1214. >Bowing your head in acknowledgement, you reach for the cup with a hesitant hand, grasping the tiny handle with three fingers.
  1215. >The breeze dies down and for a moment the world seems to hold its breath as you pause, cup immobile.
  1216. >Your fingers are slightly shaking, brimming with tensions like you’re trying to shatter it through sheer willpower rather than lifting it.
  1217. >Finally, with what resembles a backbreaking effort, you haltingly raise the cup off its saucer.
  1218. >Time resumes its normal course as if the world was brought back from the precipice of disaster by the lightly vibrating utensil.
  1219. >You continue staring at it intently, like you would a rabid animal ready to lunge at your neck.
  1220. >Completely unaware of the formidable battle taking place before her eyes, Sweetie Belle gives a small, appreciative clap.
  1221. >“Splendid! Now, have a sip, gently this time, if you please.”
  1222. >Ever so slowly, as if it was filled with nitroglycerin instead of tea, you brings the cup to your lips.
  1223. >Hand trembling, you tilt it slightly, letting the warm liquid trickle down your throat...
  1224. >...and let out a noisy, slurping sound
  1225. “MOTHERF–!” you exclaim, stopping yourself shy of shouting the whole profanity as you practically slam the cup back on the saucer, spilling tea yet again on the white tablecloth.
  1226. >Your face suddenly takes on a bright red as you become aware of your outburst...and all the other patrons now staring at you. Not knowing where to put yourself, you turn your head away in shame, trying to mask the growing embarrassment with a cough.
  1227. “I mean...darn!”
  1228. >”Well, I guess that counts as progress...” Sweetie Belle replies, chortling lightly.
  1229. >You let out a disheartened moan as you let yourself slides in the chair.
  1230. “It’s no use, S.B., I’m hopeless.” you mumble weakly.
  1231. >”Oh? Giving up so soon?” Sweetie Belle asks, putting a finger on her cheek thoughtfully. Damn, does the mannerism just comes to her naturally?
  1232. >”Wasn’t it you who said your brother wouldn’t last a week?” she adds teasingly.
  1233. ”Yeah...I did” you answer, defeat still heavy in your voice. “Just give me a minute, okay? This is exhausting.”
  1234. >”And here I thought you were so full of energy you couldn’t stand still...”
  1235. >In answer to the mocking comment, a clear giggle suddenly resonates right next to the two of you.
  1236. >Whipping your head toward the source of the disturbance, you throw an icy glare at the girl lounging on the nearby bench.
  1237. >”Ah’ still don’t understand why you made that bet to begin with, Scoots.” comments Apple Bloom as she sloppily munches on her namesake fruit.
  1238. > You don’t answer, preferring to stare jealously at the other girl, her mirth doing little to calm your blend of anger and embarrassment.
  1239. >Looking cute as a button, even in unfashionable overalls – not that you knew anything about fashion – the luscious red hair topped with her signature bow often made you green with envy.
  1240. >Not to mention her “growing apples” wonder the boys give her so many looks.
  1241. >What would it feel like to be seen as “cute”?
  1242. >”Apple Bloom, that is not a proper way to eat.” admonishes Sweetie Belle.
  1243. >”Hey, she’s the one being coached, not me!” she replies, taking a last bite before deftly throwing the core in a nearby trash can.
  1244. >If it weren’t for all the farm chores she has to deal with at home, you’d have dragged her to the basketball team eons ago.
  1245. “Do you have to be here and see me make a fool of myself, A.B.?” you grumble.
  1246. >”Of course I do! Ah’m here as, what was it again? Moral support, that’s right! Ah’m providing som’ much needed moral support to my dear friend.”
  1247. “I’m touched, really.” you reply, voice dripping with sarcasm.
  1248. >”Anytime, Scoots!”
  1249. >She gives her most beaming, genuine grin, the underlying message going right above her head.
  1250. >Her candid nature made her often prone to that, you muse.
  1251. >Biting your lip, you quickly chide yourself. Apple Bloom is your friend, you shouldn’t feel animosity toward her!
  1252. >Still, another quick look at the girl made you painfully aware of your own “shortcomings”.
  1253. >Breathe in...
  1254. >Breathe out...
  1255. >Releasing the tension of her jaw, she manages a faint smile back at the countryside belle.
  1256. “I’d like to know that as well, A.B.” you meekly reply, slouching on the table and letting you face rest on your hand despite Sweetie Belle’s disapproving throat-clearing. “It was the heat of the moment, I guess. He challenged me and I had to take him up on it. It’s like he really knows how to push my buttons.”
  1257. >A very attentive observer would have noticed the faint blush and slight twitch that coursed through you as you considered your poor choice of words, unbidden images flashing through your mind in the span of a microsecond.
  1258. “ I mean—” you blurt out, “—he just makes me so mad at times, I become reckless...well, reckless-er. We can have a friendly banter, be comfortable around each other one moment and be ready to bite each other’s head the next. It’s almost like...I’m a completely different person when it’s just the two of us, or rather, I’m myself the most around him, unfettered.”
  1259. >”Kind of a dramatic choice of word, don’t you think?”
  1260. “Hey, you’re the one encouraging me to “speak properly”, as you put it.” you retort with a bit more pique than intended.
  1261. >“Wait, that is really a word? You two aren’t pulling my leg?” Apple Bloom asks with incredulity.
  1262. >”No, we aren’t...”
  1263. >”Ah’ll never get used to that fancy way of speaking…”
  1264. >Sweetie Belle lets out a dainty chuckle at that.
  1265. >”Anyway, that simply sounds like typical sibling bickering to me.” she comments, a tiny smirk drawing at the corner of her lips.
  1266. >”Ah’ don’t know...Big Mac and I rarely argue or banter like those two do.”
  1267. >”Well, maybe it’s a matter of age? You and Big Mac are a few more years apart after all.”
  1268. >”Could be, but I don’t behave like that with Applejack either.”
  1269. >”So it’s both because of his age and because he’s a boy.”
  1270. >”Ah’m not sure, maybe it’s a ersonality thing? Maybe he’s just an ass.”
  1271. “Hey!”
  1272. >”Apple Bloom!”
  1273. >”What? He barely says hi whenever we drop by.”
  1274. >”That hardly makes him an “ass”, he’s just a bit awkward, that’s all.”
  1275. >”Kinda does in mah book…”
  1276. >”It does not!”
  1277. >”Does too!”
  1278. “Could we just get back to business, please?” you sigh, desperate to divert the subject away from “him”.
  1279. >”Of course, sorry.” replies Sweetie Belle.
  1280. >”Ah’m sure he’s a decent enough fellow, we’re just very keen on basic polit’ness in mah family.” Apple Bloom concedes with a gesture of appeasement, sprawling on the white bench.
  1281. >“Just remind me, how is all this fancy nonsense’s gonna help?”
  1282. >”As I’ve said before, proper posture is key if Scoots wants to be seen as bonafide woman...”
  1283. “Are you sure it’s the only way?” you ask pleadingly, “Maybe a park wasn’t the best place to go for this after all...” you lament with another forlorn look toward the people on the green who, to your eyes, are actually enjoying themselves.
  1284. >“Well, it might seem that way...but now that I think about it, it’s a great opportunity for you to learn some much-needed discipline” Sweetie Belle declares in a jovial tone.
  1285. “I’m plenty disciplined”, you protest poutingly, “I’m practically oozing discipline...”
  1286. >”Yes, as you’ve shown me for the past half-hour…” she replies with amusement.
  1287. >”It’s a wonder you can stand still in class!”
  1288. “Not helping, A.B.” you hiss through clenched teeth.
  1289. >”Wuz’nt tryin’ to.”
  1290. >”Listen, Scoots” Sweetie Belle murmurs, laying a soothing hand on yours, ”I’m not saying you don’t have any discipline. I’m well aware you have the willpower to train and practice every day, it is commendable...and the very reason why I know you can do this.”
  1291. >”Awww!” hoots Apple Bloom still laying on the bench, a dopey grin on her cupped face as she cutely swings her legs back and forth.
  1292. >Damn, being this adorable should be a crime!
  1293. >”Besides, there was nowhere else to practice at this hour given you’ve refused to have our little training sessions at my place.” adds Sweetie Belle.
  1294. “Of course I did! I couldn’t!” you exclaim in bewilderment “Not with your sister around...I mean, I would never hear the end of it!”
  1295. >Clasping your hands together, you tilt your head to the side, eyelids fluttering at some invisible interlocutor. Your expression becomes sickly sweet as your tone shifts to a mock imitation of Rarity’s.
  1296. “Oooh, my! At long last, Scootaloo has finally decided to become a proper lady? What joy! I shall find a nice frilly dress for you to wear, we’ll have you curtsy in no time. Oh, I know! How about a touch of makeup? Blah-blibidy fancy speak bla!” you finish, hand opening and closing in a yapping gesture.
  1297. >With a sigh, you let yourself slouch, frowning as the scene plays out in your mind.
  1298. “She would try to doll me up and I am NOT ready for that.”
  1299. >Your return your attention to the two other girls, only to find them sporting eyes as wide as the saucers on the table.
  1300. “What? Do I have something on my face?”
  1301. >”You know…”, Sweetie Belle says tentatively, “...aside from that last bit, you appeared pretty feminine right now. The body language was spot-on.”
  1302. >You can’t help but raises your head slightly, eyes glinting with hope.
  1303. >”...if a bit forced.” she finishes with a dainty cough.
  1304. >Your head drops unceremoniously on the table with a thump, rattling the delicate porcelain cups, threatening to spill their content even more.
  1305. >”Baby steps, baby steps”coos Sweetie Belle, gently patting your shoulder.
  1306. “Again, I don’t get how drinking tea properly is going to make me appear more feminine.” you complain, grumbles half muffled by the table.
  1307. >”And again, I’ve told it is one of many exercises that will help you adopt the right body language.” Sweetie Belle answers with growing exasperation.
  1308. >In a sudden burst of energy, you straighten up, head whipping to look at your friend with eyes full of frustration, eliciting a small eep from the girl.
  1309. “That’s why I’m telling you there must be a more efficient way. It’s not like I’m gonna have a tea party with him!”
  1310. >”And what would you do instead?” Sweetie Belle asks, the slightly mocking tone doing little to hide her pricked ego.
  1311. >“Wrestle him? Maybe show him your “killer abs” as you put it?
  1312. “N-no…” you stammer immediately, cheeks adopting a rose hue.
  1313. >You’re pretty sure that wouldn’t work if the last time you had done it was any indication.
  1314. “Why did she have to mention wrestling?” you think, flush deepening to the beat of conflicting emotions bouncing through your head.
  1315. “I don’t know…” you mutter in annoyance, the light stomping of your feet betraying your nervousness. >Your downcast, red-beet face as you shuffles in your seat makes for a most peculiar tableau.
  1316. >One of a prudish girl, as prudish as her friends have ever seen her, struggling to vocalize her thoughts.
  1317. “I figured that maybe, you order to be seen as“feminine, well…”
  1318. >Breathe in...
  1319. “...That I’d need to play on my feminine attributes!” you finally let out in a single breath.
  1320. >An awkward silence settles in, the three of you still as statues save for your eyes, darting from one staring friend to the other.
  1321. >The heat going to your tomboy cheeks is now so intense they feel afire.
  1322. >Now would be as good a time as any to run away in shame...but, given the lack of nearby hiding spot, you settle on curling up into a ball on the chair.
  1323. “Come on! It’s not that ridiculous...” you moan, head tucked behind your arms.
  1324. >Snapping out of their stunned silence, Sweetie Belle is the first one to react.
  1325. >“No, of course not, Scoots!”, she answers in alarm, “It’s just that it’s a little early for this. I wanted to do a bit more research first, think about what outfits might fit you and how to highlight your...uh...assets as best as possible, maybe slowly get you used to some makeup?”
  1326. “Really?” you ask, letting your eyes slip outside of their cover.
  1327. >”Yes, just trust me on this.”, she continues assuredly, “Be a little patient. Those things are just a facade, useless if you don’t have at least a bit of the proper body language down. You’d only look the part with them...but if you can act said part, only then will they truly fit you. Let’s aim to make you be perceived as girly first, then we’ll move on to making you appear feminine, okay?”
  1328. “Alright…” you answer with a sharp intake of breath, “I see your point. You know best, S.B., thanks.”
  1329. >Reaching over the small table, Sweetie Belle envelops you in a gentle hug, slowly caressing the small of your back.
  1330. >“Don’t mention it, Scoots.”
  1331. >Surprised by the sudden show of affection, you involuntarily stiffen for a heartbeat before gingerly returning the gesture and trying to supress the flash of jealous annoyance at Sweetie Belle’s own “assets” pressing against you.
  1332. >”Hey, lemme in on that!” cries out Apple Bloom, rushing to the table and catching both of her friends in a bear hug.
  1333. >Count on her to pop joints you never knew you had!
  1334. >”Ow! Thank you Apple Bloom, that’s quite enough.” wheezes Sweetie Belle.
  1335. >”Shhhh, just a moment longer.” the countryside girl whispers contentedly.
  1336. >The apple fragrance mixed with Sweetie Belle’s lilac one fills your nostrils, making your chest bloom —figuratively speaking— with a warm, fuzzy feeling.
  1337. >An honest forming on your lips, you allow yourself to melt in the warm embrace, feeling truly blessed to have such friends.
  1338. >All too soon, they break off their hold, much to your chagrin, Sweetie Belle taking a few instants to compose herself before getting back to business.
  1339. >”Oh, by the way, I forgot to ask, did you agree on any kind of time limit regarding that bet?”
  1340. “Until victory is achieved, S.B. No more, no less.” you answer with fierce determination.
  1341. >”That could take a while…” comments Apple Bloom.
  1342. >”Indeed. Well, first of all, did you make any progress yesterday?” inquires the swirly-haired girl.
  1343. “It’s still too early to tell…” you reply quickly, trying not to think too hard about it.
  1344. >”Well, did you?”
  1345. “I guess? I sorta did...maybe?”
  1346. >Vivid memories from the last evening unwittingly flood back, making the your receding colors flare anew.
  1347. “I-I mean, he wasn’t as snarky as usual, you know? More considerate, even.“
  1348. >Apple Bloom’s smile starts to widens for each grudgingly-disclosed bit of information.
  1349. >”That’s something at least...did you try the perfume? “ Sweetie Belle presses enthusiastically.
  1350. “Yes, I did!” you perk up, your own excitement echoing Sweetie Belle’s, ” And he did notice it.“
  1351. >”And...? “
  1352. “And that’s it…”, you half lie, slowly working through the memory.
  1353. ”He said it was nice.” you add faintly, knowing deep down that you’d be lying if you denied that it felt nice to hear it as well.
  1354. >A new warm and fuzzy feeling gradually settles in the pit of your stomach.
  1355. “It’s probably the tea”, you think to yourself. Rooibos, was it?
  1356. >The knowing smile turns upside-down in disappointment.
  1357. >”Aw, that’s it? How boring!” complains Apple Bloom.
  1358. “Yup, that’s it, sorry...”
  1359. >”Alright, what about posture? did you try walking like I told you?” asks Sweetie Belle.
  1360. >”Your swiftly-averted gaze is answer enough.
  1361. “Uuuuh...I forgot...Sorry?” you answer with genuine contrition.
  1362. >”Scoots…”
  1363. “We were going to the gym, S.B.!”
  1364. >“That’s no excuse, you should strive to walk properly at any time.” she replies, reverting to her lecturing voice.
  1365. “I forgot, okay?! I got too laid-back. We’ve been over this, I’m not used to acting differently in front of him!”
  1366. >”I guess it can’t be helped given what you mentioned before.” concedes Sweetie Belle. “He’s your brother after all so it’s natural to fall back on a familiar behavior...but that just means you need more practice!” she concludes cheerfully.
  1367. “Oh? And how are we going to do that? Should we get a mannequin?” you ask snarkily.
  1368. >”Nothing so crude! First, try to keep that in mind next time you go out with him. We could also have you practice with boys in our year. You know, small gestures until the body language fits you like a glove?”
  1369. “Do you think they’d be willing to?” you retort tentatively
  1370. >”Oh, trust me, they won’t need much convincing.” she answers with a wink, a knowing smile drawing on her face.
  1371. >”Let’s just not mention that it’s for practice. That’d just be cruel.”
  1372. “Sure, I guess...Yeah, I think I can deal those boys.” you assert with more confidence than you actually feel.
  1373. >”Hey! Isn’t that Rumble over there?”asks Apple Bloom cheerfully.
  1374. “What?! Where?!”
  1375. >Your head whips around wildly before you know it, frantically trying to locate the aforementioned person, heart skipping a beat as your hopeful eyes dart left and right, worry and expectation mingling on your face.
  1376. >But the boy is nowhere to be found...
  1377. >Your expression shifting to a confused frown, you turn to look at Apple Bloom, now displaying her broadest, self-satisfied smile.
  1378. >“Too easy.” she declares smuggly before breaking into laughter.
  1379. >Your ever-present blush quickly gives way to the red of anger, the frown increasing as you shoot the prankster an icy glare.
  1380. >”You’re so obvious, Scoots! it’s adorable.” Apple Bloom continues, whipping a tear off the corner of her eye.
  1381. “Very funny...” you reply coldly.
  1382. >”Aw, don’t be like that. Don’t worry, we’ll have him moon over you in no time!”
  1383. “Y-Yeah, whatever.” you stammer, “I only respect his athletic abilities, that’s all.”
  1384. >”I’m sure you do…” the bow-wearing youth replies self-sufficiently.
  1385. “What’s that supposed to mean?”
  1386. >”Speaking of athletic abilities…”, Sweetie Belle interjects before Apple Bloom can banter any further, “There’s one small matter we need to discuss.”
  1387. “Which is?”
  1388. >” might have to cut down on all those sports.”
  1389. >It takes a pregnant pause for you to eventually realize your friend isn’t joking.
  1390. “I can’t do that!”, you exclaims, the suggestion too absurd in her mind to even consider, “Have you missed the part where I ranted about how active I need to be?!”
  1391. >”Now, now, hear me out.” replies Sweetie Belle, stretching her hand in a calming gesture.
  1392. >” We’re going to need the time to practice, and you do more than enough sports as it is. I’m just asking to clear out your schedule a tad.”
  1393. “I don’t do that many sports…” you more out of principle than anything else.
  1394. >Sighing at the renewed stubbornness on the part of her friend, Sweetie Belle starts listing.
  1395. >”Basketball, handball, baseball, swimming, roller skating, fencing and hockey…”
  1396. >”Not to mention soccer, skateboarding, karate, calisthenics, archery, jogging and now going to the gym with your brother…” completes Apple Bloom.
  1397. >”Then there’s…”
  1398. “Okay, okay! I get your point. I guess I could cut down on some of them...but what am I going to do when I need to blow off some steam?”
  1399. >With a deliberate, and somewhat dramatic clearing of her throat, Sweetie Belle replies.
  1400. >”I might have a suggestion regarding that…”
  1401. “You do?” you ask with a doubting look.
  1402. >”Indeed, but first...” she declares with a gracious flourish toward the teacups, “We have another matter to attend to.”
  1403. >With yet another sigh, You close your eyes, taking a deep breath. After a few tense seconds, you manage to get a hold of the maelstrom of emotions within yourself.
  1404. >You can deal with those issues later...
  1405. >Opening your eyes, you give a brisk, compliant nod.
  1406. >With a slower nod of approval of her own, Sweetie Belle gestures toward you and utters the familiar words.
  1407. >“Now, assume the position...”
  1408. >It is with a small chuckle of renewed motivation that you straighten up, more gracefully this time, and reach for the teacup.
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