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Give Me Wings (Reverse-Trap Fluttershy) Part 1

JeffMango May 30th, 2016 (edited) 8,508 Never
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  1. >So, everyone has that one weird friend, right?
  2. >That friend who likes you *way* more than you like them, who's constantly trying to get you to look at their weird animal drawings, or take them to the zoo?
  3. >Well, if you don't, then you're probably the weird friend, but that's beside the point
  4. >You're sitting by yourself on the third floor, enjoying your free period, when your personal "weird friend" seems to materialize from the hallway behind you
  5. >He creeps up to your shoulder, gently nudging you
  6. >"H-hey, Anon..."
  7. >You groan internally
  8. "Hey, Butters."
  9. >Yeah, you're aware that's not his real name
  10. >But what kind of name is "Fluttershy," anyway?
  11. >Even being named after a South Park character is more dignified, in your opinion
  12. >"Watcha reading?"
  13. >Unprompted, he takes a seat next to you, pressing his body *way* too tightly against yours
  14. "Just a manga."
  15. >"Oh. That's really cool."
  16. "Mhm."
  17. >Another universal constant of the "weird friend" relationship: the inability to hold a conversation
  18. >Fluttershy seems unwilling to let you read in peace, however, and immediately begins to rooting through his backpack
  19. >Multiple chew toys, packs of dog, cat, mouse, and non-species-specific treats flops out onto the ground before he finds whatever he's looking for
  20. >"D-d-do you want to see the p-pictures I took when I v-visited the Herpetarium?"
  21. "Not really..."
  22. >"You sh-should! There w-was this really cool Crocodylus mindorensis exhibit they j-just got."
  23. "Fascinating."
  24. >Fluttershy is the only person you know who can make crocodiles this boring
  25. >"It is, isn't it?"
  26. >His face brightens, your sarcasm flying right over his head as always
  27. >"Y-you should totally come w-w-with me! I j-just happened to get t-two extra tickets for th-this weekend..."
  28. >He upends his entire backpack, a mess of paper-wrapped treats, animal photos, and goddamn Zoobooks (those still exist?) spilling out onto the ground
  29. >And atop the mess of animal paraphernalia sit two tickets to the Canterlot City Zoo
  30. "Uh..."
  31. >"I've a-already got the tickets. And it sh-should be really fun. I usually d-d-don't have anyone to go to the zoo with... I c-could show you the new family of otters they j-just got... they're s-s-so cute.. especially the little babies... heh..."
  32. "Sorry, Butters. Dash wanted me to take her out to see Civil War."
  33. >"D-Dash? The two of y-you are still... oh."
  34. "Yeah. Sorry. Girlfriend has to come first, and all."
  35. >"N-no... that's... that's f-fine..."
  36. >He hastily stores everything back in his bag, his eyes fixed on the floor
  37. >"I'll j-just ask one of m-my other friends. Like, uh... y-yeah. One of m-my other friends. Which I h-h-have a lot of."
  38. "Mhm."
  39. >He twiddles his fingers, his breathing coming in short, frantic gasps
  40. >"W-well I should get going! Got to ask all my friends about g-going with me! V-very busy!"
  41.  
  42. ***
  43.  
  44. >"H-hey."
  45. >How the hell does he keep finding you?
  46. "Hey."
  47. >You don't even look up from your lunch, hoping Fluttershy will get the hint
  48. >As always, he doesn't
  49. >He plops down across from you, and you can smell the stench of various animal species from across the table
  50. >Fucking gross...
  51. >He brushes greasy, cropped pink hair out of his eyes, then goes back to fiddling with his thumbs
  52. >"So, um... y-you and Dash doing anything th-this weekend?"
  53. >Why's he so obsessed with what you and your girlfriend do?
  54. >Maybe he's jealous of you for dating her
  55. >Or... of her for dating you?
  56. >Ew
  57. >You've got enough weirdness in your life without this dude awkwardly hitting on you
  58. >Oh Christ, that's exactly what he's doing, isn't he?
  59. "Yeah. We're... I dunno, doing something. I gotta go."
  60. >"W-wait!"
  61. >Fluttershy begins frantically digging through his bag
  62. >"I, uh... I... m-my birthday... th-th-this weekend... h-having a party... if y-you wanna go..."
  63. >With shaking fingers, he draws a folded slip of paper from his backpack and drops it on the table
  64. >"Y-you know... m-m-my house... I'll h-h-have food... only v-vegetarian, if th-that's okay... y-yeah..."
  65. >He wipes sweat from his forehead
  66. >"I'll l-let you go now."
  67. >And with that, he saved you the trouble of having to leave, and hastily scurries away
  68.  
  69. >The invitation is... yikes
  70. >There's cringe, and then there's "hand-drawing an invitation to your birthday party when you're in high school" cringe
  71. >Granted, the art isn't bad
  72. >It's just a sketch of a bunch of animals sitting around a table laden with presents and cake, with a banner that says "Happy Birthday Fluttershy" draped above them
  73. >But still... damn
  74. >You feel like your heart would implode if you even stepped inside the place
  75. >Thank Christ you've got an excuse not to go
  76.  
  77. "A tournament?"
  78. >"Yeah man, sorry. Completely forgot."
  79. "In Baltimare?"
  80. >"Yeah."
  81. "Shit. Is there any way I could ride with you?"
  82. >"Nah. Taking the bus with the team."
  83. "Shit."
  84. >"Yeah. Really sorry, babe. We can hang out as soon as I get back though, okay?"
  85. "When?"
  86. >"Monday morning, probably."
  87. "Shit."
  88. >"Yeah... I'm really sorry. I'll see you then, alright?"
  89. >Dash blows you a kiss, and hangs up
  90. >Well, there go your weekend plans
  91. >You sit back on your bed, the boredom already settling over you like a mantle
  92. >Girlfriend's not in town...
  93. >And you haven't seen your other friends in like a month
  94. >Oh Christ, you've become that kind of boyfriend haven't you
  95. >You whip out your phone to text Soarin, but two hours pass with no response
  96. >Slowly, the realization settles on you that you're going to have nothing to do but go to Fluttershy's party...
  97.  
  98. >For some reason, you kept the invitation
  99. >Maybe it was just you being a sentimental fuck, but he *did* put a lot of work into it
  100. >So... yeah, you've got it, and by extension, the time of the party and Fluttershy's address
  101. >Shit, are you really about to do this to yourself?
  102. >Would it really be better than just being bored on your own?
  103. >Eh, fuck it, you'll go
  104. >It'll be torture, you're aware of that already
  105. >But a few hours of cringe will give you some good stories to tell, right?
  106. >And besides, Fluttershy will probably be absolutely insufferable if you miss his party
  107. >So... fine, you'll go
  108. >Looks like you've got until tomorrow night to mentally brace yourself for the cringe, and to get him a present
  109.  
  110.  
  111. >So, yeah, you're really doing this
  112. >You know that grungy, timeless quality that life seems to take on when you're doing something you know is a bad idea?
  113. >Yeah, that's pretty much you right now
  114. >You don't even know what to get this guy
  115. >Aside from animals and stalking you, you aren't aware of any of his interests
  116. >So, fuck it, you'll go with something simple
  117. >Fluttershy talks about his stupid pet rabbit almost non-stop, so you'll get him a plush rabbit
  118. >Probably a better gift for a four than a fourteen-year-old, but the way you look at it, he's lucky you're going at all, not to mention getting him something
  119. >So you drop twenty bucks on a giant rabbit plush, your wallet seeming to scream in protest the entire time
  120. >Fluttershy's house is a surprising distance from Canterlot High, weged out in the city's sketchy outer limits
  121. >And the house itself it... oof
  122. >You hate to throw the term "crack house" around, but... yeah
  123. >It's definitely not the kind of place you'd want to stay for more than a few minutes
  124. >This is just seeming like a worse and worse idea, isn't it?
  125.  
  126. >You glance around as you take the steps up to Fluttershy's door, hoping desperately to see a sign of someone you know
  127. >Did he invite anyone to the party besides you?
  128. >Jesus Christ, why are you letting yourself do this?
  129. >*Knock knock*
  130. >Why, why, why...
  131. >The front door opens just a crack, multiple chains preventing it from opening further, and Fluttershy's face peers out of the darkness
  132. >His eyes widen upon seeing you
  133. "Um... hey."
  134. >"A-Anon! Y-y-you actually... oh... here..."
  135. >You hear the rasp of metal as he undoes the bolts, swinging the door open
  136. >He's dressed only in sweatpants and an oversized hoodie, his feet bare and dirty from the filthy floors
  137. >Nestled amongst his cropped pink hair, he's got a single, faded cardboard party hat
  138. >"I, um... I d-didn't think you'd actually... uh..."
  139. >He fiddles with the hem of his sweater, shifting his weight from foot to foot
  140. >"Here... c-come in..."
  141. >He steps back, letting you into his house
  142. >It's, well, exactly what you'd expect from the outside
  143. >The plaster is cracked and peeling from the walls, all of which are dotted with dark, unidentifiable stains and hung with cobwebs
  144. >Dusty, empty liquor bottles, fast-food trash, and empty packs of cigarettes are scattered across the floor, amidst what looks suspiciously like animal droppings
  145. "So, uh..."
  146. >You swallow the lump forming in your throat
  147. "Happy Birthday, Butters."
  148. >Even in the dim lighting, you can see him blush
  149. >"Th-thanks... is that..."
  150. >He peeks at the gift bag you're holding behind your back
  151. "Oh, yeah. Here you go."
  152. >You pass him the bag, and he clutches it to his chest
  153. >"Y-you didn't have to..."
  154. "Believe me, I know. But yeah, hope you like it."
  155. >He nods, beginning to shuffle down the hallway
  156. >"I, um... I g-guess we can h-h-hang out in the basement... I r-really didn't know what to p-p-plan..."
  157. "Sounds fine. Is anyone else coming?"
  158. >Please, for the love of God, say yes
  159. >"I inv-vited my other friends, but... t-t-they were busy."
  160. "Oh."
  161. >You have to give yourself credit, you're keeping pretty damn calm
  162. >But on the inside you're fucking screaming
  163. >You have to spend an afternoon with this weirdo!?
  164. >In his creepy crack house!?
  165. >ALONE!?
  166. "Hey, listen, uh... I just remembered, I gotta go, and... uh..."
  167. >Before you can excuse yourself, a harsh, guttural male voice, like glass scraping against stone, cuts you off from the other room
  168. >"Fluttershy! Who is that?"
  169. >He winces, and begins to slink toward the kitchen
  170. >"J-just one of m-m-my friends, dad."
  171. >"Friends? Since when do you bring friends over?"
  172. >The door at the end of the hallway is thrown open, revealing a lanky, dirty-looking man framed in the doorway
  173. >He's about a foot taller than Fluttershy, but unmistakably his father
  174. >His hair is grown longer, and matted with what looks like days of sweat and grime, and his jaw is set in a hard, grim line
  175. >"A boy? I didn't say you could bring boys back here!"
  176. >"S-sorry..."
  177. >He leers at you, and you reflexively tighten your fists, and lurches out of the doorway
  178. >With a speed completely unfitting his drunken state, he leaps toward Fluttershy and grabs him by the hair
  179. >"And what the hell is this?"
  180. >"I j-j-just wanted to g-grow it out a little..."
  181. >"Like hell!"
  182. >He jostles Fluttershy's body, making him squeal in pain
  183. "Hey!"
  184. >You start towards them, but he slips a knife from his pocket, brandishing it towards you
  185. >"Watch it, boy! You're in my house! I'll deal with my *son* however I want."
  186. >He lingers on the word "son" in a way that sends a chill between your shoulder blades
  187. >Fluttershy's dad returns his attention back to him
  188. >"Now listen. You're gonna get this mess cut, or I'm gonna shave it off. Understood?"
  189. >"Y-yes..."
  190. >"Yes what?"
  191. >"Y-yes sir..."
  192. >Fluttershy clutches the bag tighter against his chest, whimpering
  193. >His dad finally notices Fluttershy's present, and lets go of him to pull it out of his hands
  194. >Fluttershy collapses to the floor, clutching his head
  195. >"What the hell is this?"
  196. >"M-my present."
  197. >"Why the hell'd you get him a present?"
  198. >Fluttershy's dad turns to you again
  199. "It's... it's his birthday."
  200. >"Yeah? Huh. No shit."
  201. >He glances inside the bag, shrugs, and tosses it back down at his son
  202. >"Whatever. Be out of my house by ten, or I call the cops."
  203. "Understood."
  204. >With that, Fluttershy's dad disappears back into the kitchen, and you hear the clink of bottles as he stomps past them
  205.  
  206. >You extend a hand to him, and help him to his feet
  207. >Fluttershy grabs up the present, and clutches it to his stomach
  208. >"Th-thank you."
  209. "For what?"
  210. >"He d-didn't get as bad as he normally does. Because y-you were watching."
  211. "That's... we're going to call someone. Now."
  212. >"N-no!"
  213. >He clutches your arm, eyes suddenly wide with fear
  214. "What do you mean, no?"
  215. >"He said if I c-call anyone... if the p-p-police ever show up... he'll... k-kill Angel."
  216. >Fluttershy brushes his hair out of his eyes, a tiny shiver running through his body
  217. >Your stomach twists in a knot
  218. >"He's n-not like that all the time. I'll b-b-be okay."
  219. "Are you sure? I bet if you hid your rabbit somewhere, and then called the police..."
  220. >Just the idea seems to terrify Fluttershy, and he immediately shakes his head
  221. >"N-no... p-p-please, can w-we just not talk about it? I r-really don't want to cause any trouble."
  222. "Okay. Okay."
  223. >You're not surprised to find your own hands shaking
  224. >"I, um... I h-have some games in the b-basement. If you'd like to p-play something."
  225. "Yeah. Yeah, sure."
  226. >Fluttershy grabs ahold of your arm, and leads you towards the basement
  227. >Ironically, it actually feels safer descending lower into the house than it does getting closer to the kitchen
  228. >The entire time, he keeps the still-wrapped present clutched against his stomach like some sort of totem against the dark that seems to close in around the pair of you
  229.  
  230. >The stairs are... well, precarious, to say the least
  231. >The boards themselves are splintered and warped, and rogue, rusty nails stick out at random intervals as you descend
  232. >Despite the house's small size, the basement seems to extend deep into the earth
  233. >The floorboards creek beneath Fluttershy's feet as he descends, skillfully avoiding every nail and splintered section of wood
  234. >"So, um... there isn't r-really much to do down here. B-but, um... I hope you like it..."
  235. >He shoulders the door at the bottom of the staircase open, revealing a wide, dingy basement space
  236. >It's completely windowless, the only light provided by a single bulb hanging from the ceiling
  237. >Fluttershy grabs ahold of his arm, coughing
  238. >"Y-yeah... sorry it's kind of a mess... I sh-should have cleaned."
  239. "No, it's fine."
  240. >You step closer to him, instinctive
  241. "You alright, Butters?"
  242. >"Huh?"
  243. >You gesture towards upstairs, your meaning clear
  244. >He shrugs
  245. >"I'll b-be fine. He's been better to me than usual, since it's m-my birthday."
  246. "That was *better*?"
  247. >"I m-mean... uh... it's really not that bad. P-please, just try to forget it."
  248. "I'm not gonna be able to forget that. Seriously, if that's better than usual, than you need to get away from here."
  249. >He shakes his head
  250. >"No. Even if I w-were someone else, things wouldn't be anyway. And he's not normally that bad anyway. J-just a few things make him mad. Normally I k-know what to do. I just kinda messed up today."
  251. "A few things? What kind of things?"
  252. >Fluttershy backs up against the wall, shaking
  253. >Clearly the subject makes him uncomfortable, and you step back, breathing deeply
  254. >The dusty air catches in your lungs, making you hack
  255. "Butters... you sure you're okay?"
  256. >"I'm s-sure."
  257. "Alright. But if you need help with... you know, with something around here, just tell me. Okay?"
  258. >"Y-yeah. I will."
  259. >He glances at the floor, then takes an awkward, stuttery step towards you, as if to embrace you
  260. >Then immediately steps back, and slinks over towards the corner of the basement
  261. >"So, um... I h-have a few games over here... if you w-want to play..."
  262.  
  263. >So, twenty minutes later, you're seated across from Fluttershy, working on an "animal kingdom" puzzle
  264. >Turns out, by 'games', he meant a single set of Monopoly missing half its pieces, a busted checkers board, and a chess set where half the pawns have been replaced with pennies
  265. >Not exactly some high quality entertainment
  266. >The present sits unopened across from him, the silvery lining of the gift bag just a few centimeters away from his anxiously-drumming fingers
  267. >You can tell how badly he wants to open it, but for whatever reason he's still putting it off
  268. >Maybe he's afraid that, once he opens it, the magic the party will be over
  269. >But that's just your speculation
  270. >Fluttershy's fingers dance across the puzzle, nimbly sticking a corner piece into place
  271. >He's competed half the puzzle in under ten minutes
  272. >Seeing as it's one of the five he owns, and you doubt there's much other entertainment in the house, you're not really surprised
  273. >"Wh-why'd you come?"
  274. >He immediately closes his mouth, cheeks red at having blurted his question out
  275. "What do you mean?"
  276. >"Like... I dunno. Nobody else I invited showed up. Why you?"
  277. "Um..."
  278. >Because you had nothing better to do?
  279. "I dunno. It's your birthday."
  280. >Fluttershy gives you a small, sad smile
  281. >"Yeah..."
  282. >His fingers move up to fidget with the gift bag
  283. >"Is y-your girlfriend okay that you're here?"
  284. "Dash? I mean, yeah, I guess. Wouldn't know. She's at a tournament."
  285. >"Oh?"
  286. "Yeah. Out of nowhere, just left me."
  287. >"Oh. I h-hate it when people just r-randomly cancel plans on me too."
  288. >You lock eyes with Fluttershy for just a moment, before he looks away
  289. >"S-sorry. Anyway, r-really. Thanks s-so much for being here. Can I open my present now?"
  290. >He clutches the bag against his chest, eyes wide and hopeful
  291. "I mean, yeah. It's yours."
  292. >He sucks in his breath, fingers shaking so badly they can hardly peel away the thin layers of wrapping
  293. >When he sees the stuffed rabbit inside -- which looks strangely juxtaposed, sitting in the middle of the dingy basement -- he lets out a tiny squeak
  294. >"O-oh my... it's..."
  295. >Fluttershy lifts the rabbit out of its bag in a scene vaguely reminiscent of that moment from Lion King
  296. >Only far less majestic, and far more dirty
  297. >He buries his face in the toy's soft stomach, sniffling
  298. >"It's... it's s-so cute..."
  299. "Yeah? You like it?"
  300. >Unable to speak, he just nods
  301. >And, before you're able to react, he throws himself on top of you, his meager weight barely enough to knock you backwards
  302. >His arms circle stomach, squeezing you with the little strength he possesses
  303. >"Th-th-thank you! Thank you, thank you, th-thank y-y-you..."
  304. >He buries his face against your chest, the stuffed rabbit ending up squished between the two of you
  305. "Um, yeah. You're welcome."
  306. >You try to worm you way out of Fluttershy's embrace, but that proves to be harder than you thought
  307. >Every time you try to push him away, he seems to squeeze tighter, clinging to you like a terrified child
  308. >And then, suddenly snapping to his senses, he pulls away, shaking
  309. >"S-sorry..."
  310. "No, it's cool."
  311. >You sit back up, and Fluttershy scoots back to the table, squeezing his new rabbit against his belly
  312. >"Y-you know you didn't have to g-get me anything."
  313. "You already said that."
  314. >"Y-yeah, but... mmm..."
  315. "What?"
  316. >"I d-don't know. I f-feel super weird."
  317. "Weird? Weird how? Your dad didn't hurt you too bad, did he?"
  318. >"No. J-just... I don't know. I f-feel really... small. But r-really important at the same time. I d-don't know how to describe it. It's like I'm a t-tiny kitten, and you're--"
  319. >He cuts himself off, hiding his blush by burying his face in the rabbit
  320. >"S-sorry..."
  321. "I mean... I guess that's kinda what getting a present feels like. I dunno."
  322. >"I g-guess. I dunno. I haven't g-gotten a present in a while."
  323. >Oof
  324. >"I m-mean... that's not really a problem. I don't r-really do much to deserve one."
  325. "Well, deserving it isn't really the point, is it? You just give presents because you like someone, right?"
  326. >Fluttershy blinks twice
  327. "I mean, right?"
  328. >"That... th-that..."
  329. >He squirms, hugging the rabbit tighter
  330. >"That s-sounds nice. And it m-m-means you... kinda like me?"
  331. >He peeks out from behind the rabbit, nervous blue eyes regarding you from between its ears
  332. "I mean, yeah. Of course I like you, Butters."
  333. >Okay, maybe it's a bit of a lie
  334. >You definitely haven't looked forward to his company before
  335. >But what the hell else are you going to tell the poor guy on his birthday?
  336. "That's why I'm here, right?"
  337. >Fluttershy drops the rabbit into his lap, folding his hands over it and staring down at the floor
  338. >You hear only the faintest hint of a sniffle before the basement door opens
  339. >Immediately, Fluttershy scurries across the room, placing himself between you and his father, the rabbit tucked behind his back
  340. >The staircase groans in protest as his father descends, his lanky hair hanging in his eyes and his shirt unbuttoned
  341. >"You."
  342. >He points past his son to you, glaring
  343. >"Out. Now. Time's up."
  344. >Fluttershy immediately speaks up, his voice cracking in an indignant squeak
  345. >"B-but you said two hours!"
  346. >"I changed my mind. He goes."
  347. >"B-but--"
  348. >"What did I say about having boys in the house?"
  349. >"You... but..."
  350. >He starts towards Fluttershy, and he cowers
  351. >Despite flinching, he still keeps himself between the two of you
  352. >"Come here."
  353. >He motions for Fluttershy to join him
  354. >Obediently, he stands, heading over towards his father
  355. >Immediately, his father lays a heavy hand on his shoulder, the resulting *smacking* making Fluttershy wince
  356. >You stand, not willing to confront him, but making sure he knows you're watching
  357. >Fluttershy's dad locks eyes with you, glaring
  358. >"Flutter."
  359. >"Y-yes?"
  360. >"Room. Now."
  361. >He shoves Fluttershy towards the stairs
  362. >He stumbles, his foot catching on a nail
  363. >As he lurches the rest of the way up the stairs, little flecks of blood dot the floorboards
  364. >You stand there across from his dad, listening to Fluttershy's footsteps on the floor above you
  365. >They trace across the basement, and towards the far end of the house
  366. >You hear a door open, then close
  367. >For a moment, you close your eyes, saying a silent prayer you'll hear a lock click
  368. >It doesn't come, but that could very well be because you didn't hear it
  369. >You strain your ears, hoping for some sign that he's safe
  370. >*click*
  371. >Maybe you're just imagining it, but you think you heard him lock the door
  372. >With that, you brush past Fluttershy's dad
  373. >He glares at you, and you hold his gaze until you reach the top of the stairs
  374. >"You know, don't you?"
  375. "Know what?"
  376. >"'Know what.' Psh. Don't give me that."
  377. >He spits
  378. >"You know about him. That's why you're here."
  379. "I have no idea what you're talking about."
  380. >"You do. You wouldn't be here if you didn't."
  381. >Fluttershy's dad begins to advance towards you, his steps somewhat uncertain on the grimy floor
  382. >"He doesn't have friends. He's never had friends. If you didn't know, you wouldn't be here. So, I'm gonna tell you once."
  383. >He gets one foot on the stairs, the board sinking nearly an inch beneath his weight
  384. >"Leave him alone. If I ever see you around here again, I'm calling the police."
  385. "Yeah? Is that a promise?"
  386. >A dangerous edge creeps into Fluttershy's father's voice, audible even through his drunkenness
  387. >"You gonna question me in my own house, boy?"
  388. >He takes another step up the stairs
  389. >You just shrug
  390. "I'm sure I won't be the only one doing the questioning."
  391. >"Huh?"
  392. >Fluttershy's dad blinks
  393. >"The hell are you talking about?"
  394. "Nothing. I'm leaving. Here."
  395. >You open the door, taking an exaggerated step out of the basement
  396. "See? Going. Bye."
  397. >His dad starts up the stairs after you again, but the threat is ultimately empty
  398. >He keeps just enough distance to come across an intimidating, but not enough to maintain the threat
  399. >You turn away, walking through the dark hallways to the front door
  400. "Hey! Butters! I'm heading out now, alright? I'll see you at school on Monday!"
  401. >You voice echoes uncomfortably loud in the cramped house
  402. >An effete little squeak is all that answers, which you guess is Fluttershy's best attempt at shouting
  403. >"Y-yeah. Monday."
  404. >And, with that, you leave
  405.  
  406. >"Everything alright, dude?"
  407. >Dash plops down next to you, a beer in each hand and a bowl of chips clasped between her forearms
  408. "Huh? Oh, yeah."
  409. >It's Sunday night, now
  410. >Apparently they swept the tournament, and ended up home early
  411. >Dash is practically glowing with excitement, but you can't quite match it
  412. >You're pretty worried about Fluttershy, for obvious reasons
  413. >And to make matters worse, you're unable to find him on Facebook, or any other social media site, and you're pretty sure he doesn't have a cellphone
  414. >"You sure? Come on, man! Today's been awesome! Lemme tell you about the tournament!"
  415. "Alright."
  416. >Dash's face falls for a moment, but she continues on with the story
  417. >"Okay! So, like, we'd won our two first games like it was nothing, right? Cloudsdale played like absolute shit, and Baltimare was missing their two best players. But then we get up against Griffonstone's team, and holy shit! They've got this offense player named Gilda, or something, and she's just..."
  418. >Your mind trails off as Dash rattles on about her story, and your mind returns to Fluttershy
  419. >There has to be a way you can get him out of there
  420. >While keeping his pet rabbit alive too, apparently
  421. >Why doesn't he just let the rabbit go?
  422. >Then he could get out of the damn house with no worries
  423. >Why would anyone let someone treat them like that?
  424. >"And then... are you even paying attention?"
  425. "Huh? Oh, shit. Sorry."
  426. >"Dude. What's wrong? Just tell me."
  427. "Sorry. I'm just super worried about a friend of mine."
  428. >"Who?"
  429. "Butters-- I mean, Fluttershy."
  430. >"That weird guy with the pink hair?"
  431. "That one."
  432. >"The guy with the super creepy crush on you?"
  433. "He does *not* have a crush on me."
  434. >Dash blows a raspberry
  435. >"Dude, I play on an all-girls sports team. I'm an expert in barely-restrained homolust."
  436. "That's... not terribly comforting."
  437. >She shrugs
  438. >"Still. The guy super likes you. But what's wrong?"
  439. "I was at his house yesterday. Birthday party."
  440. >"Yeah?"
  441. >You tell Dash about Fluttershy's dad, the abuse, the threats, and everything else
  442. >Dash lets out her breath in a huff
  443. >"That's... Jesus Christ, man."
  444. "Mhm. I'm super worried his dad's gonna do something awful."
  445. >"I mean... I think he probably has already, by the looks of things."
  446. >Dash lays a hand on your shoulder
  447. >"Okay, so what do we do?"
  448. "What do you mean?"
  449. >"I mean what do we do? You're not just gonna let this happen, right?"
  450. "Well, no, of course not."
  451. >"Then?"
  452. "Then... I don't know. That's why I'm worried. He's terrified of losing that stupid rabbit. And I don't want to know what his father will do to him if we mess up."
  453. >"Then we'll make a plan, dude!"
  454. >Dash sets the chips and beer on the table, all thoughts of her tournament seemingly forgotten
  455. >"Alright. So. We need to get him alone somewhere, so we can get him in on it..."
  456.  
  457. >So, all-in-all, it's probably the weirdest date night you and Dash have ever had
  458. >But it's surprisingly productive
  459. >The two of you stay up until well past one in the morning, chatting over how exactly you can get Fluttershy away from his dad, while keeping his rabbit safe
  460. >"Dude, just tell him we'll get him a new one. Like, shit. It's just a bunny."
  461. >You whack Dash in the shoulder to show her exactly what you think of the idea
  462. >Eventually, the plan you come up with is pretty simple
  463. >You'll enter Fluttershy's house after school, after alerting the police and his dad will call them to try and get you kicked out
  464. >Then they can enter without him realizing what's going on, and investigate, and hopefully get Fluttershy away from there
  465. >It's... kind of foolproof, honestly
  466. >Dash stays the night, falling asleep with you on the couch as the two of you unwind before tomorrow
  467.  
  468. >The next day, you find Fluttershy in the hallway, sitting in his usual corner while he sketches
  469. >Seems like all the guy ever does when he's alone is draw, but you suppose there's not really much else for him to do
  470. "Hey, Butters."
  471. >"A-Anon!"
  472. >He quickly hides his drawings, stowing them in his backpack
  473. >"I d-didn't expect... you usually don't... w-why are you here?"
  474. "What do you mean? It's school. I come here every day."
  475. >"N-no... why are you talking to me?"
  476. "I just wanted to make sure you're okay."
  477. >Which is partially true
  478. >And you're pretty sure the answer is a resounding "no," judging from the dark bags under Fluttershy's eyes
  479. >His hair is still matted and dirty, and you can smell that he hasn't showered since you last saw him
  480. >He curls up against the wall, tucking his legs against his chest
  481. >"Y-yeah. I'm fine."
  482. "You sure? You dad didn't... he didn't do anything, did he?"
  483. >Fluttershy stays silent
  484. "Butters?"
  485. >"N-no. He didn't."
  486. >He can't lie for shit
  487. >Fluttershy hangs his head, his greasy pink bangs unable to cover his eyes
  488. >And that's when you realize
  489. "Your hair... it's shorter than it was last night."
  490. >"Y-yeah. My dad doesn't like when it gets long. S-so he cut it."
  491. "Jesus. He didn't hurt you, right?"
  492. >He shakes his head, but still won't meet your eyes
  493. >So that's probably a yes
  494. >"I d-don't really want to talk about it. Everything's f-fine, really."
  495. "Oh. Well, uh... listen. Can I talk to you for a bit?"
  496. >Fluttershy looks around, then nods his head
  497. >"Of c-course."
  498. "Alright. Do you want to get away from your dad?"
  499. >Fluttershy sighs
  500. >"I t-told you. I c-c-can't. He'll k-kill Angel."
  501. "Not if he can't get to him. I have a plan to get you out of there."
  502. >Fluttershy grabs ahold of his arm, rubbing his shoulder
  503. >"I d-dunno. My dad is all I've e-ever had. Where would I g-go? N-n-no one else would want to take care of me."
  504. "You could find someone. Maybe the government. Or a friend."
  505. >He shakes his head
  506. >"They w-wouldn't want me. I'm a t-terrible kid to have to look after. Honestly, I l-l-lucky my dad didn't kick me out y-years ago."
  507. "You can't possibly be that bad. And even if you are..."
  508. >You extend a hand to Fluttershy
  509. "I'd be happy to have you over at my place."
  510. >"O-over at your... oh."
  511. >He wriggles up against the wall, a tiny smile forming on his lips
  512. >"I'd l-like that."
  513. >Checking the clock, you see that there's still a good half hour left until classes start
  514. >So you drop your backpack on the ground, and wedge yourself into the corner next to Fluttershy
  515. >He awkwardly flinches away, backing as far up as the corner will allow
  516. "So..."
  517. >You glance at his paper
  518. "What are you drawing?"
  519. >"Oh, th-this? Nothing interesting. J-just some birds."
  520. >He tries to cover the drawing, but it slips from his trembling hands, the stack of paper splashing across the floor
  521. >When he said "some birds," he meant a lot more than "some"
  522. >The floor is now littered in page after page of canaries, sparrows, pigeons, doves, and multiple species that you're too dumb to recognize
  523. >"Ah! S-sorry!"
  524. >Fluttershy throws himself on the ground, hastily scrambling to scoop all of his drawings back into his backpack
  525. >"J-just... here... d-don't look, they're r-r-really not that good... oh, no..."
  526. >He scoops them up hastily, but not before you've gotten a chance to admire his work
  527. >It's incredibly lifelike, even if it's not particularly imaginative
  528. >He's definitely got talent
  529. "No, they're good. Can I look?"
  530. >You hold out a hand, and Fluttershy freezes
  531. >"I, um... you d-don't want to. They're r-really nothing special. J-j-just something for me to waste my time on."
  532. "Please? I'd like to see."
  533. >"Okay. O-okay."
  534. >He hands you a single drawing
  535. >It's a black-and-white, shaded sketch of a raven on top of a fence
  536. >"J-just something I did to p-pass the time during study hall. Nothing very s-special."
  537. "You serious? This looks great!"
  538. >Fluttershy blinks
  539. >"Huh?"
  540. "It looks really good?"
  541. >He checks the drawing again, as if expecting you to be looking at something else
  542. >"H-how? It's just a drawing of a bird."
  543. "Well, yeah, but... it just looks really good."
  544. >He shrugs
  545. >"It's nothing special."
  546. "I disagree. I think you did a really good job, and it looks awesome."
  547. >You admire the drawing again
  548. "You're a really good artist."
  549. >Fluttershy just shrugs again
  550. >"N-not really. All I c-can do is draw animals. It's n-not real art."
  551. "Way better than I can do. Can I keep this?"
  552. >You're not sure why you said it, but Fluttershy's eyes widen
  553. >"K-keep it? Why?"
  554. "I dunno. Just to hang it up, or something."
  555. >"H-hang up my drawings? I m-mean... I d-dunno... if you really want to... yes..."
  556. >He squeaks out the last word, clutching the rest of his drawings against his chest
  557. >"Y-you can keep it."
  558. >He hastily stores the rest of his drawings in his backpack, where you catch a glimpse of the stuffed rabbit you gave him lurking inside it
  559. >Guess he really did like it
  560. >Fluttershy folds his hands in his lap, awkwardly glancing everywhere but at you
  561. "Anyway. I was wondering... maybe I could come over later?"
  562. >"T-to my house?"
  563. "Yeah."
  564. >"I'd love that!"
  565. >He gets so excited, he nearly tackle-hugs you again
  566. >But then he retreats, curling into a little ball in the corner
  567. >"But my dad won't let you. He'll... he'll be mad."
  568. "What if I said I had a plan? To get you away from there?"
  569. >"Y-you do?"
  570. "I do. But you'll have to help, okay?"
  571. >"I... um..."
  572. >He begins to tremble, but fixes his mouth in a thin, determined line
  573. >"I'll d-do it."
  574.  
  575. >You drive Fluttershy home after school, pausing a block or two away from his house to phone the police
  576. >"Hello?"
  577. >A rough, confident baritone answers you, vaguely colored with a California accent
  578. >The exact kind of voice you'd want a police officer to have, really
  579. >You explain the situation to him, trying to gloss over the details of Fluttershy's abuse, but also to give him enough of an idea of what's going on in your friend's home, and then conclude with the plan you and Dash hashed out last night
  580. >"...and you think he'll phone us when you see him with his son?"
  581. "Yes. Otherwise, if you show up without him having called you, he'll... he'll hurt my friend."
  582. >The officer considers for a moment
  583. >"Alright. We'll wait until he calls us. But if you do anything to provoke him, especially in his own home, you realize you'll be giving him a legitimate case against you, right?"
  584. "I do."
  585. >"Okay. See you then."
  586. "Thank you, sir."
  587. >You set the phone down, taking a long, rattling breath
  588. "Okay, Butters. You ready?"
  589. >Next to you, Fluttershy is deathly pale
  590. >He's removed the stuffed rabbit from the bag, holding it in his lap and frantically stroking it between its ears
  591. >"I th-think so."
  592. >You pull the car up outside his house, the familiar peeling walls and rotted wood churning your stomach
  593. >The windows have been plastered with old newspaper, preventing you from seeing inside
  594. >You kill the engine, and open the door to step out
  595. >Fluttershy immediately grabs your hand
  596. >"W-wait."
  597. >He holds you fast with what little strength he has
  598. >"If a-anything happens, just go, okay? Please d-don't let him hurt you."
  599. "I'm not gonna abandon you here with him, Butters."
  600. >"No, I mean it. I'm u-used to it. He c-c-can't do much to me anymore. B-but if he hurt you..."
  601. >Fluttershy shakes his head
  602. >"I w-won't let it happen."
  603. "It won't. The police are gonna come, and they're gonna take you to a better home."
  604. >Fluttershy squeezes your hand tighter
  605. >His hands are surprisingly soft and delicate, like little birds fluttering in your palm
  606. >But you can feel the rough, dirty patches amongst his fingers, no doubt the result of living in such a filthy, harsh place
  607. >"P-please. Just promise, okay?"
  608. "Butters--"
  609. >"Promise."
  610. >He gets that same determined look on his face from before, his mouth setting in that tiny line
  611. "Alright. If things go south, I'll leave. I promise."
  612. >You squeeze his hand back
  613. "But I want you to promise me something too, okay?"
  614. >Fluttershy pauses for a minute, then nods
  615. "Promise me that, if things go bad, you'll get out out of the house. Take your bunny and leave, okay?"
  616. >"I... I d-don't know if I can."
  617. "You can. I promise. Get out of the house, find somewhere self, and I'll come get you. Understood."
  618. >Fluttershy begins to shake, but grits his teeth and clutches the stuffed bunny to his chest
  619. >"I w-will. I p-p-promise."
  620. "Okay."
  621. >You step out of the car, as does he
  622. "Then let's do this."
  623.  
  624. >Fluttershy steps in front of you as you take the steps up to his front porch
  625. >When he reaches the door, however, it refuses to open
  626. >"L-locked? Why..."
  627. >He tries to jimmy it open, but the door won't budge
  628. "Do you have a key?"
  629. >"N-no. My d-dad wouldn't let me have one."
  630. "Oh. Maybe we could--"
  631. >You're interrupted by the sound of footsteps on the other side of the door
  632. >They're heavy and frantic, moving away from the front of the house and back towards the back of the kitchen
  633. >Fluttershy's eyes go wide
  634. >"H-he already knows you're here! Angel..."
  635. >He tires desperately to get the door open, even going so far as to throw his meager weight against it
  636. >The door rattles on its rusty hinges, but doesn't move
  637. >Fluttershy slumps against it, shaking
  638. >"Angel... he's g-going to... to... no! N-no! Please, don't!"
  639. >He throws himself at the door one more time...
  640. >And it opens
  641. >But not because of him
  642. >Fluttershy goes tumbling into the house, landing at his dad's feet
  643. >He groans in pain, quickly scampering away
  644. >Fluttershy's dad stands silhouetted by the dingy confines of his house, his hair slicked back with water and his clothes mildly cleaner than when you last saw him
  645. >And in his arms, cradling it like a baby, he's holding a tiny white rabbit
  646. >"Stand up."
  647. >He nudges Fluttershy with his heel, and he quickly scrambles to his feet, backing up against the doorway
  648. >"What did I say about bringing boys back?"
  649. >"I... I d-didn't... I j-just wanted to s-spend time."
  650. >He grabs Fluttershy by the shoulder, pulling him further into the house
  651. >In his other arm, the rabbit squirms, but he holds it tightly against him
  652. >You try to follow, but his dad whirls on you
  653. >"Hold it! Don't you dare step into my house!"
  654. >He lets go of Fluttershy's shoulder, grabbing his hair instead
  655. >"Tell him to leave!"
  656. >"Nnn..."
  657. >Fluttershy squeals in pain, tears leaking from his eyes as his father's fingers twist in his hair
  658. >"Tell him!"
  659. >Didn't he call the cops?
  660. >You start to reach into your pocket for your cell phone
  661. >"D-don't... Anon, j-just... just go."
  662. >Fluttershy writhes beneath his dad's grip, trying to lessen the pain on his scalp
  663. >He forces his eyes open, more tears spilling onto his cheeks as he pleads
  664. >"P-please... I d-don't want him to... to hurt Angel... please j-just go... I'll b-be fine."
  665. >"There."
  666. >Fluttershy's dad pulls his son against him, wrapping his arm around Fluttershy's shoulders
  667. >"See? He doesn't want you here. Now go."
  668. "Or what?"
  669. >You desperately hope he'll say that he'll call the police
  670. >"Or this one..."
  671. >He shakes his son
  672. >"Is going to need a new pet bunny. Isn't that right?"
  673. >Fluttershy squeaks, shutting his eyes
  674. >Angel squirms, but can't seem to get free
  675. >"P-please..."
  676. "Alright. I'm going."
  677. >You step back out of the house
  678. >"And if I see a single goddamn cop on my front lawn..."
  679. >He jostles Angel, and the rabbit chirps in fear
  680. >Arms leaden, you swing the door closed
  681. >The last thing you see is Fluttershy's miserable face as his dad drags him back into the house
  682. >You step back, leaning against the rotten wooden railing
  683.  
  684. >"You didn't call them?"
  685. >You're talking to Dash now, having pulled your car back into school
  686. >She waited in the parking lot for you, and now the two of you are huddled in the back seat together
  687. >You're shaking badly, and a horrible green pressure is rising in your stomach
  688. "I couldn't. He said he'd kill the rabbit."
  689. >"It's just a rabbit, though. I mean, I know he'll be sad, but..."
  690. "I know."
  691. >"Don't you think it'd be worth it?"
  692. "Probably."
  693. >"Then why not just call them?"
  694. "I don't know. I guess it kind of feels like giving up. Like I'm letting him win."
  695. >"Dude. You're gonna get him put in jail. How does he win?"
  696. >You shrug
  697. "If he kills the rabbit, Fluttershy's going to keep being miserable. And if he's still miserable, then his dad wins."
  698. >Dash leans back in her seat
  699. >"I guess. Still doesn't seem right. We could just the police in there to bust him, even if the rabbit doesn't make it. In the end, he gets a better home, right?"
  700. "You're right. But still... you've heard how he talks about that stupid rabbit, right?"
  701. >"Um, no? Today is the first time I've spent any real time with the guy."
  702. "Oh. Well... it's pretty much his life. In fact, it's probably... oh, shit."
  703. >"What?"
  704. "It's probably been his only friend for a long time."
  705. >"Oof."
  706. "Yeah..."
  707. >"So... leaving the bunny behind isn't an option?"
  708. "Only as a last resort. I don't want to see what'll happen to Butters if he loses Angel."
  709. >"Alright. Makes sense."
  710. >Dash kicks back, trying to appear calm despite the worry you can see reflected in her eyes
  711. >"Then what's the plan?"
  712. >You lean your head into your hands, letting your breath out in a huff
  713. "That's a good question. I have no idea. His dad's a fucking psycho. There's no way he'll let Butters just take the rabbit."
  714. >"Yeah..."
  715. >Dash kicks off her sandals, her toes fidgeting with the seat's linoleum
  716. >"I think I've got an idea, actually."
  717. "Yeah?"
  718. >"Mhm. It's... kinda stupid though, if you're cool with that."
  719. "If I wasn't cool with stupid ideas, we wouldn't be dating."
  720. >Dash chuckles, elbowing you in the ribs
  721.  
  722. >Fluttershy isn't in his usual corner the next morning, nor anywhere in the cafeteria
  723. >You scan the halls of the school while Dash heads off to meet with her soccer team, hoping for any sign of your reclusive friend
  724. >The longer you go without finding him, the worse the pressure in your stomach begins to feel
  725. >His dad did something awful, you're sure of it
  726. >When the bell signaling the start of homeroom rings, you lean against a row of lockers, breathing heavily to try to calm yourself
  727. >Getting through your first class is hell
  728. >What happened to him?
  729. >Could his dad have hurt him that badly?
  730. >Or even killed him?
  731. >No, he wouldn't go that far
  732. >You're overreacting
  733. >His dad is bad, but he wouldn't...
  734. >Would he?
  735. >Only ten minutes have passed in the first period
  736. >How are you going to make it?
  737.  
  738. >"Mr. Anonymous?"
  739. >Twenty minutes into class, Ms. Harshwhinny's voice interrupts your daydreaming
  740. >To be perfectly honest, you're happy to hear her
  741. >Your own imagination is taking you only to increasingly darker places
  742. "Yes, ma'am?"
  743. >"Is everything alright?"
  744. >The entire class turns to look at you
  745. >Looking down, you realize that you're soaked in sweat, and pale as chalk
  746. >You've clenched your pencil so hard it's snapped in half, one of the shattered ends poking into your hand, causing a thing line of blood to drip down your fingers
  747. "Yeah. I'm fine."
  748. >Ms. Harshwhinny, as always, is not a woman to be easily mislead
  749. >"I see."
  750. >She sighs, getting up from her desk
  751. >"Come with me, Mr. Anonymous."
  752. "Huh?"
  753. >She steps out into the hallway, motioning for you to follow
  754. >"Now, Mr. Anonymous, tell me what's wrong."
  755. "It's really nothing, ma'am. I appreciate the concern, but--"
  756. >"Anonymous, I understand that my class isn't exactly the most riveting experience in the world. But no one does this..."
  757. >She grabs ahold of your bleeding hand
  758. >"...to themselves over 'nothing.' Now, if this is something you'd rather now share, I'll understand. But you can't honestly expect me to stand idly by when one of my students is so obviously suffering. That would be disgustingly unprofessional."
  759. >You bite your lip
  760. >How much do you trust Harshwhinny?
  761. "Do you know Fluttershy, ma'am? He's in my year."
  762. >Harshwhinny considers for a moment, then nods
  763. >"I believe I do. Had him in my Intro to Economics course last year. He was a good student, if not very talkative."
  764. "He hasn't shown up today."
  765. >"Oh?"
  766. "And I'm worried. His... his home situation isn't great."
  767. >A flash of understanding shows in Harshwhinny's eyes
  768. >"I see. Well, I can check the attendance record for today, to see if his father sent in any notice of his absence."
  769. "Please."
  770. >Harshwhinny pulls her phone from her pocket, dextrous fingers scrabbling across its screen
  771. >"Apparently his dad registered a sick notice some time around five in the morning."
  772. "He did?"
  773. >"Indeed. The record says he called us almost four hours ago."
  774. >She stores her phone back in the pocket of her jacket
  775. >"Now, about this family situation. Is this something I should be notifying the police of?"
  776. "I... I'm not sure yet."
  777. >Harshwhinny frowns
  778. >"I see."
  779. >She starts back towards the door to the classroom, then reconsider
  780. >"Well... as he's your friend, I'll trust your judgment on this, Anonymous. But if you need my help or advice, for any reason, let me know."
  781. >She scribbles something down on a piece of paper, and passes it into your hand
  782. >"Now, do you feel up to continuing class? Or do would you like me to excuse you to the nurse's office?"
  783.  
  784. >After Harshwhinny's class finishes, you go back to wandering the hallways for the twenty minute break period
  785. >You still don't see him
  786. >Harshwhinny's phone number is now stowed safely in your wallet
  787. >You hope you won't have to use it, but if Fluttershy doesn't show up today...
  788. >Well, you have a feeling you'll need some help
  789. >"Anon! Dude, where is he?"
  790. >Dash grabs onto your arm, looking worried
  791. "I don't know. His dad reported him sick this morning."
  792. >"His dad? Oh shit, dude..."
  793. "Yeah. If he doesn't show up by the end of the day, I'm thinking we go get him."
  794. >"No, dude. You know that's a bad idea."
  795. "I can't just sit here any do nothing."
  796. >"I know, man. I know. It sucks."
  797. >Dash leans against the locker
  798. >"I barely know this guy, and I'm worried sick. You must feel awful. But, come on, we gotta stick to the plan."
  799. "But if he doesn't show up..."
  800. >"Then we'll make a new plan. Come on."
  801. >She pulls you into a brisk hug
  802. >"We're gonna figure this out. I'll see you before lunch, alright?"
  803.  
  804. >"Before lunch" takes absolutely forever to arrive
  805. >You end up doodling in your notebook for the entirety of your history class, unable to focus
  806. >No matter how much you try to focus, your mind just runs circles through all the awful things that could be happening to Fluttershy
  807. >You hope he's okay...
  808.  
  809. >And then, just as you're heading back to the cafeteria to attempt to choke down some lunch, you see him
  810. >Fluttershy's hunched over his locker, dropping his books inside while avoiding eye contact with anyone around him
  811. >Despite the heat, he's dressed in a thick, long-sleeved sweater
  812. >And, okay, maybe you lose your cool just a *little* bit
  813. >And maybe you kinda, sorta, you know...
  814. >...run up and hug the everloving shit out of him
  815. "Butters! You're alright!"
  816. >You practically tackle the poor guy into his locker, wrapping his tiny body in your arms
  817. >"A-ah!"
  818. >He struggles for a moment, panicked, before realizing it's you
  819. >"A-A-Anon! What are you... p-people are watching..."
  820. "He didn't hurt you, right? You're alright?"
  821. >"I, uh... y-yeah. I'm fine..."
  822. >Even through the sweater, you can feel his heart hammering through his skinny chest
  823. >You break the hug, holding Fluttershy at arm's length while you examine him
  824. >He averts his eyes, and a tiny tremor runs through his body
  825. "Butters? What did he do to you?"
  826. >"N-nothing. I'm f-fine, I promise."
  827. >He fidgets with the sleeves of his sweater, the cuffs drooping down over his hands
  828. >"Were you r-really worried about me?"
  829. "Of course! Holy shit, I thought... I thought he'd done something crazy..."
  830. >"Ha... no... n-nothing crazy, j-just the usual."
  831. >He realizes what he said just before it's too late
  832. "The usual? What's the usual?"
  833. >"It's n-nothing. I'm f-fine, really."
  834. >He goes back to fidgeting with the sleeves of his sweater
  835. "Butters?"
  836. >"Y-yeah?"
  837. "What's under the sleeves?"
  838. >"N-nothing! J-just... I, y-you know... was cold..."
  839. "Even though it's seventy-five degrees outside?"
  840. >He back up against the locker
  841. >"It's... it's nothing serious."
  842. >Fluttershy holds up his arms, sleeves slipping down to reveal dark purple bruises marring the pale skin of his forearms
  843. "Jesus."
  844. >"It's r-really nothing. He was j-just in a bad mood yesterday, and..."
  845. "Butters..."
  846. >You sigh
  847. >He's clearly not in the mood to be chided right now
  848. >The poor guy looks like he's barely keeping it together as it is
  849. "I'm just really glad you're okay."
  850. >You give him another hug, this one much gentler than the first
  851. >Fluttershy leans his head on your shoulder, squeezing himself against you
  852. >"Th-thank you so much, Anon..."
  853. "For what?"
  854. >"For t-trying so hard to help. And just for... for c-caring what happens to me."
  855.  
  856. >You eat lunch with Fluttershy, of course
  857. >He's pretty averse to eating in the cafeteria, so you carry food up to the seldom-used third floor of Canterlot High, and eat together in the corner of an empty classroom
  858. >Where, as usual, he tells you more about his stupid rabbit
  859. >And god damn, you never thought listening to stories about someone's bunny would be so enjoyable
  860. >Hell, he could be telling you in-detail about the Rwandan Genocide, and you'd still be happy to listen to him
  861. >You're just so glad this poor fucker's okay
  862. >Well, as okay as he can get...
  863. >"And then I t-took Angel downstairs, and he sat in my l-lap while I was drawing. And he only b-bit me twice! He's r-r-really getting a lot better."
  864. "Yeah? Can he do any tricks?"
  865. >"Well... him not biting me is already k-kind of a trick... heh..."
  866. >Fluttershy holds out his hand for example, where you can see it's pocked with a half dozen tiny, angry little bite marks
  867. >"But he's a g-good bunny, though. He's really sweet, he just has a bit of an attitude problem."
  868. "Huh. Sounds like Dash."
  869. >"Y-yeah, heh... Dash..."
  870. >Fluttershy begins to fidget with the hem of his sweater
  871. >He scoots a few inches away from you
  872. >Then a few inches back towards you
  873. >And then a few more inches away...
  874. >And then finally an inch of two closer, sitting so close that your shoulders are *almost* touching
  875. >"Y-you two are s-s-still dating?"
  876. >Fluttershy's face is cherry red, and he's fidgeting with his sweater so hard it looks like he's trying to un-knit it
  877. "Um... yeah?"
  878. >Holy shit, Dash was right
  879. >This guy has totally has a massive crush on you
  880. >For a moment, you're disgusted, but the feeling quickly dissipates
  881. >It's not like he means you any harm, and keeping him safe is more important than any discomfort you might feel right now
  882. >"Oh. J-just curious. Are you, um... are things g-g-going well?"
  883. "Pretty well. She wants to help us."
  884. >"Th-that's good to hear."
  885. >Fluttershy tries to hide it, but the disappointment is plain on his face
  886. >He lets out a tiny cough
  887. >"Anyway, um..."
  888. "So, your dad gave you Angel back?"
  889. >"Y-yeah. Well, n-not really. He kinda passed out last night, and I k-kinda took him back to my room. I th-thought he'd be safer there."
  890. "Okay."
  891. >You take a bite of your sandwich, the gears in your head turning
  892. >"Why d-do you ask?"
  893. "Oh, no reason. You doing anything after school?"
  894. >Fluttershy perks up immediately
  895. >"N-no! Of course not, I... y-you know, I never d-do anything after school..."
  896. "Awesome. Dash and I were going to go get ice cream. You want to come with?"
  897. >"With you? Um... the t-two of you? Would that be a little, you know, weird?"
  898. "Nah, it's cool. Your dad won't mind, right?"
  899. >Fluttershy shrugs
  900. >"He p-probably won't even wake up until this evening."
  901. "That's perfect."
  902. >As if on cue, the bell rings to signal the end of your lunch period
  903. "I'll see you then, alright? We can meet up here."
  904.  
  905. >"You want me to do what?"
  906. "If anyone calls wondering where I was today, can you tell them I was in your office?"
  907. >Harshwhinny sighs
  908. >"Anonymous, this will go a lot easier if you just tell me what's going on."
  909. "I can't."
  910. >Across from you, your teacher raises an eyebrow
  911. "Mostly because I don't really know what's going on myself."
  912. >That gets a small smile out of her
  913. >"Understood. But, you have to realize, Anonymous, I can hardly just lie to the police."
  914. "Oh. Yeah..."
  915. >"As much as I want to help you, doing so would simply be unethical. And unprofessional, on top of that."
  916. "Alright."
  917. >"But... well, I don't see any reason I couldn't stretch the truth a *little*."
  918. >You sigh, relieved
  919. "Thank you, Ms. Harshwhinny."
  920. >"Of course. But, should it turn out you've deceived me into covering something of a, shall we say, *unpleasant nature*..."
  921. >Harshwhinny clicks her tongue
  922. >"Well, I won't hesitate to make sure you are swiftly and summarily thrown under the bus. Understood?"
  923. "Completely. Thank you so much, ma'am."
  924. >Harshwhinny nods, her smile widening
  925. >"Don't mention it."
  926. >You stand to leave
  927. >"I'm serious. Don't mention it to anyone. I can tell you're up to something, Anonymous, but I've chosen to trust that it's something good."
  928. "It is, Ms. Harshwinny. I promise. Thank you so, so much."
  929. >"Heh. You take care of Fluttershy now. That boy could use a good friend."
  930. >You return Ms. Harshwhinny's smile
  931. "My thoughts exactly."
  932.  
  933. >The ice-cream outing isn't quite as cozy as you were hoping
  934. >Fluttershy stays silent for most of it, glancing nervously over at Dash
  935. >He sits as far to one end of the table as possible, taking the tiniest possible bites of the chocolate sundae you bought him
  936. >Now, a more-tactful person would realize their friend's shyness, and tone back their own rowdiness back a bit
  937. >But Dash isn't exactly a tactful person
  938. >"So what's up, dude? You're not gonna give us the cold shoulder, are ya?"
  939. >Dash smacks Fluttershy on the back, making him squeak
  940. >"I'm f-fine..."
  941. >"Yeah? How do you know Anonymous? He talks about you all the time, you know."
  942. "I do not--"
  943. >Fluttershy's eyes go wide
  944. >"H-he does?"
  945. >He looks between you and Dash, aghast
  946. >"All the time, man! He worries about you a ton!"
  947. >"Oh m-my..."
  948. >Fluttershy begins toying with what's left of his hair, as if trying to will it to fall in front of his eyes
  949. >"So yeah man, how's everything? Your dad's not being a too big a piece of shit, right?"
  950. "Dash..."
  951. >You facepalm
  952. >Is she ever going to figure out that there are certain subjects you just, you know, shouldn't bring up?
  953. >"What? I'm just being friendly! I'm worried about this little scamp too!"
  954. >She wraps an arm around Fluttershy's shoulders, pulling him closer
  955. >Fluttershy kind of looks like he wants to die
  956. >"He, um... w-well... uh... he wasn't as b-bad as he is sometimes is. I m-mean, it was my fault, honestly. He hates it when I bring b-boys home, and I should have--"
  957. "Okay, let's talk about something else."
  958. >Fluttershy looks relieved, but Dash just rolls her eyes
  959. >"Fine, fine. So, dude, you listen to any music?"
  960. "Oh no..."
  961. >Fluttershy shrugs
  962. >"I g-guess. When my d-dad lets me listen to his radio with him."
  963. >"Yeah? What kinda stuff you like?"
  964. >"Um... j-just whatever's on, I guess. I don't know..."
  965. >"You have a favorite band, right?"
  966. >"N-not really. I k-kinda don't know any."
  967. >She starts fidgeting his hair again, twirling little pink strands around his finger
  968. >"My dad doesn't l-let me have any CD's."
  969. >"That's awful!"
  970. >Dash turns to you now
  971. >"Dude! We gotta get this guy into something good! Like--"
  972. "You're just gonna make him listen to Dragonforce, aren't you?"
  973. >"--Dragonforce..."
  974. >Dash frowns when she realizes you just Jojo'd her
  975. >Your next line is...
  976. >"Of course, dude! Dragonforce is the best! You're not gonna make him listen to your gay hipster shit, are you?"
  977. >She smiles now, knowing she's hit you where it hurts
  978. "It's not gay, and it's hipster! Just because it's not popular--"
  979. >"Doesn't mean it's hipster."
  980. "--doesn't mean it's... hipster. Yeah."
  981. >You frown, and Dash cackles
  982. >"I, um... I'd like to l-listen to Anon's music. If that's alright."
  983. >Dash just shrugs, but the small smile still playing on her lips makes you think she planned it like this
  984. >Did she just... double-Jojo you?
  985. >"That's cool. But, at some point, we're gonna bing the entirety of Valley of the Damned and throw back a case of Mountain Dew. Alright?"
  986. >"Um..."
  987. >She nudges Fluttershy again
  988. >"Alright?"
  989. >Fluttershy smiles
  990. >"That d-doesn't sound so bad."
  991. >"Of course it doesn't! My ideas never do."
  992. >"That's n-not what Anon says."
  993. >"W-what? My ideas are perfect! When have they ever gone wrong!?"
  994. >"He t-told me you tried to drink an entire case of Red Bull and Gatorade before a g-game once. Apparently you spent two hours throwing up."
  995. >"That wasn't my fault! There was... uh... they'd gone bad! They were expired!"
  996. >Fluttershy giggles, taking another big bite of his sundae
  997. >"I d-don't think that's how it works... but okay."
  998.  
  999. >The three of you end up talking for far longer than you ever thought you would
  1000. >You and Dash carry most of the conversation, of course, but Fluttershy does his best to join in wherever he can, gradually opening up a bit more
  1001. >Outside of animals, the guy is pretty naive
  1002. >Actually, no insanely naive
  1003. >Dash makes some shitty, off-handed joke about "wrapping it before you tap it", and Fluttershy just stares at her
  1004. >"H-huh?"
  1005. >"Wrap it before you tap it, dude. Like a condom?"
  1006. >"A what?"
  1007. >"Uh..."
  1008. >Dash glances at you
  1009. >"You know, like... never mind."
  1010. >"L-like what? What's a c-condom?"
  1011. "It's... like, you know... the thing you wrap your dick in. When you're boning."
  1012. >Wow, now you know how your parents must have felt
  1013. >"Wrap your d-dick... oh m-my..."
  1014. >Fluttershy goes beet red, hiding his face in the sleeves of his sweater
  1015. >You feel like you're about as red as he is right now
  1016. >Dash is trying her absolute damnedest not to laugh
  1017. >She fails, collapsing into a fit of hysterics
  1018. >Fluttershy peeks out from between his hands
  1019. >He glances at the plastic covering on Dash's straw, which inspired the joke
  1020. >"H-heh... oh! W-w-wrap it before you... tap it... l-l-like sex! That's actually r-r-really good!"
  1021. >He joins Dash in laughter, his effeminate little titter a stark contrast to her rowdy guffaw
  1022.  
  1023. >When you get back to the car, Fluttershy checks the digital clock on your dashboard
  1024. >"E-eight o'clock! Oh no! M-my dad, he's... he's going to..."
  1025. >Immediately, all the joy that seemed to build up in him dissipates
  1026. >He lets out a defeated sigh, deflating against the seat
  1027. >You reach over, and put a hand on his shoulder
  1028. "Hey, don't worry. It's gonna be alright."
  1029. >"Y-yeah. I guess. C-can you take me home now? I'd r-rather just get it over with... sorry..."
  1030. "Actually... me and Dash had a bit of a different idea."
  1031. >"H-huh?"
  1032. >You pull out of the ice-cream shop, heading for your house
  1033. >"W-where are we going?"
  1034. "My place."
  1035. >"B-but... my d-dad..."
  1036. "Your dad's not gonna know where you are. And he's gonna have to call the police if he wants to find you, right?"
  1037. >Fluttershy's eyes go wide as your plan dawns on him
  1038. >"So... I'm going to... with you... and my dad will..."
  1039. "You're gonna be staying with me for a bit. Congrats, Butters. You're officially kidnapped."
  1040.  
  1041. >"K-kidnapped? But what about A-Angel?"
  1042. "You said you had him in your room, right? He'll be fine."
  1043. >Fluttershy begins to shake
  1044. >"B-but... if my d-dad gets him... he'll..."
  1045. >He begins to chew at his fingernails, eyes wide with fear
  1046. >"I d-don't want Angel to be alone with d-dad. Especially if he's angry. He m-might forget to feed him, or... or..."
  1047. >Fluttershy buries his face in the sleeves of his sweater, the idea too horrible to even comprehend
  1048. >"P-please, Anonymous... j-just take me back. I'll b-be fine, I just need to make sure Angel's okay..."
  1049. >Sighing, you pull off the road and into an abandoned parking lot
  1050. "I'm not taking you back to him, Butters. Not if I have any other choice."
  1051. >"B-but--"
  1052. >You peal out of the parking lot, heading in the opposite direction now
  1053. "So we're going to bring the rabbit back to you."
  1054.  
  1055. >You pull up outside Fluttershy's house at just past eight-thirty, stopping a block down the street so as not to alert his dad
  1056. >"P-please, Anon! This isn't a g-good idea! You're breaking the law!"
  1057. >"I think it's an awesome idea!" Dash interjects
  1058. "He's breaking the law too, right? And I think doing... well, doing what he's done to you is way worse than stealing back your own bunny."
  1059. >"Y-yeah, but... nnn..."
  1060. >He begins wringing his sleeves
  1061. >"I d-don't like this."
  1062. "It's okay. We'll go in together, alright? That way he'll think it's just you, and I can sneak in and grab angel."
  1063. >"Okay... I guess..."
  1064. >Dash grabs your hand just as you're heading out of the car
  1065. >"I'll keep it running, alright? If you need to blow this place, we'll be ready."
  1066. "Right."
  1067. >She gives you a good-luck kiss, which Fluttershy glances away to avoid seeing
  1068. >God, he's so gay for you, isn't he?
  1069. >Easy, Anon, you've got a rabbit to save
  1070. >Now's not the time to focus on your friend's latent homosexuality
  1071.  
  1072. >Fluttershy creeps up the stairs to the front door of his house, wrapping his fingers around the doorknob
  1073. >Of course, it's locked
  1074. >He hangs his head, biting his lips
  1075. >You're hiding at the bottom of the staircase, trying to keep out of sight of the windows
  1076. "Don't you have a key?" you whisper
  1077. >Fluttershy shakes his head
  1078. >"M-my dad normally lets me in... when he's awake..."
  1079. >Somehow, his regular speaking volume seems even softer than your best attempt at a whisper
  1080. "Is there any other way in?"
  1081. >"Well... the b-basement, I guess... but he d-doesn't like it when I use the b-back door..."
  1082. "Do we have another option?"
  1083. >Fluttershy considers for a moment
  1084. >"I g-guess not... here..."
  1085.  
  1086. >He circles around to the back of the house, where a huge wall of weeds and bramble conceals a rusted metal door
  1087. >You follow, peeling the bramble away as quietly as possible
  1088. >A few thorns nick your fingers, sending little droplets of blood down your palms
  1089. >"H-here. Let me."
  1090. >Fluttershy pushes you away, and nimbly extracts the plants without so much as scratching himself
  1091. "Damn. You'd got good hands."
  1092. >"H-heh. I g-g-guess it comes from drawing so much."
  1093. >He gets the door clear, and then begins trying to jimmy it open
  1094. >The hinges shriek horrible, after being opened just an inch
  1095. >Fluttershy freezes in his tracks, a bead of sweat rolling down his face
  1096. >The two of you strain your ears, but you don't hear any noise from inside the house
  1097. >"M-maybe he's asleep?"
  1098. "Maybe. Okay..."
  1099. >You grab the door, pulling it open as slowly as you can
  1100. >The hinges groan in protest
  1101. >You swear you hear movement inside, and immediately stop
  1102. >Fluttershy is shaking now, his eyes scanning the windows
  1103. >There's no lights in the back yard, so you're confident Fluttershy's dad couldn't see you even if he was looking for you
  1104. >Still... that means you won't be able to see him either
  1105. >The thought sends shivers down your spine, and you reflexively glance over your shoulder
  1106. >Just darkness lurks behind you, along with rows of weeds and the fence enclosing Fluttershy's yard
  1107. "We're not gonna be able to get this open without a ton of noise. Is there another way in?"
  1108. >Fluttershy glances up at the narrow window above the door
  1109. >The next thing you know, he's climbing up your back
  1110. >"P-please don't drop me."
  1111. "I'm not gonna drop you."
  1112. >"Okay. Okay."
  1113. >He takes a deep breath, sitting atop your shoulders
  1114. >"I'm n-not hurting you, right? Tell me if I h-hurt you."
  1115. "You're not gonna hurt me. You weigh like twenty pounds."
  1116. >Now that you're holding Fluttershy, you can feel just how badly he's shaking
  1117. >The poor guy is absolutely terrified, and even through his legs you can feel his pulse hammering
  1118. >All this over one stupid rabbit...
  1119. >Fluttershy finally gets himself on your shoulders, sitting with his legs on either side of your neck
  1120. >His crotch presses against the back of your neck as he pauses to get balance
  1121. >You pause, preparing for the uncomfortable feeling of a dick against the back of your head
  1122. >But, actually... you don't feel much of anything
  1123. >Just the fabric of his sweat pants and the squishiness of his thighs
  1124. >Poor guy must not be very well hung; it feels like there's nothing there
  1125. >"I, um... I th-thnk I'm ready..."
  1126. >Maybe it's just you, but it seems like Fluttershy takes a little more time than is necessary to climb off your shoulders
  1127. >"O-oops."
  1128. >He slips back down, landing with on top of you again
  1129. >And this time, you definitely feel him give your face a little squeeze with his thighs
  1130. >"S-sorry..."
  1131. >He hasn't let go yet
  1132. "Butters?"
  1133. >"Y-yeah?"
  1134. "You gonna get off?"
  1135. >"O-oh! Yeah! S-sorry about that... j-just a got... it's k-kinda slippery... l-lost balance..."
  1136. >It's too dark to tell, but you can practically feel him blushing
  1137. >Finally, after way too much finagling, he disappears through the slit window
  1138. >You hear a thump on the other side, followed by a tiny squeak
  1139. >"Ow..."
  1140. "You okay?"
  1141. >"Y-yeah. Here, I'll g-give you something to c-cimb up."
  1142. >A minute passes, and a twisted-up blanket is tossed through the window
  1143. >You grab ahold, and haul yourself up, wriggling through the narrow space
  1144. >Fluttershy helps you to the ground, taking hold of your hands to help you balance
  1145. >"Okay. I d-don't hear him, so I th-think we'll be alright. But you h-have to be quiet, okay?"
  1146. "You sure about that? I was planning to belt out as many verses of Stayin' Alive as I can remember--"
  1147. >You're interrupted by the sound of footsteps upstairs
  1148. >Fluttershy glares at you, as if that were somehow your fault
  1149. >"Flutters! You here!"
  1150. >Fluttershy's eyes go wide
  1151. >He takes a minute to answer, before choking out
  1152. >"D-d-down here, papa!"
  1153. "What are you doing? If he sees us, he'll--"
  1154. >Fluttershy grabs you
  1155. >"Anon. I n-need you to promise me something."
  1156. >Something about his tone of voice silences you
  1157. >"I'm g-going to distract him. You c-can sneak upstairs, g-get Angel, and leave. I'll m-meet you guys later."
  1158. "Butters, I'm not going to let you--"
  1159. >"L-listen to me. No matter what happens, you h-have to save Angel. I'll b-be fine. I know how to h-handle it."
  1160. >He turns his eyes toward the ground, swallowing
  1161. >Despite the timid posture, you can tell you're not going to change his mind
  1162. >This guy is really going to sacrifice himself for a rabbit; of course he is
  1163. >"You p-promise."
  1164. "Alright. No matter what happens, I'll get the bunny. But you have to promise me something too, okay?"
  1165. >"W-what?"
  1166. >You wrap Fluttershy in a quick hug, even as you hear is dad's footsteps approaching the basement door
  1167. "Promise you'll be safe."
  1168. >He tries to respond, but chokes on his words
  1169. >You release him, and sprint back towards the basement stairs, ducking into the narrow alcove underneath them
  1170. >Just as you wedge yourself out of sight, the wood above you creaks under Fluttershy's dad's weight
  1171. >He lurches down, his feet hitting the stone floor of the basement
  1172. >"When did you get home?"
  1173. >You can hear the slur of alcohol on his voice
  1174. >"R-right after school."
  1175. >"Yeah? Did you?"
  1176. >"Y-yeah. I d-did, I promise."
  1177. >"Bullshit."
  1178. >His footsteps stop
  1179. >As soon as his back it to you, you begin to creep up the stairs
  1180. >"I d-did! I p-p-promise!"
  1181. >"Yeah?"
  1182. >His voice drops you a dangerous whisper, and your footsteps slow
  1183. >You're almost to the top when you turn, reflexively, making sure Fluttershy his okay
  1184. >His dad has him by the hair again, Fluttershy contorting his body to try and lessen the pressure on his scalp
  1185. >"And why didn't I see you anywhere, smartass?"
  1186. >"I, uh..."
  1187. >"Didn't think I'd realize you were gone? Huh?"
  1188. >"I w-was down here."
  1189. >"You're a liar!"
  1190. >He tosses Fluttershy against the wall, where he rebounds with a painful-sounding smack
  1191. >"Who were you with? Was it a boy?"
  1192. >"N-no!"
  1193. >"Don't you dare lie to me again!"
  1194. >He bends down to hit Fluttershy
  1195. >Against your better judgement, you take a step back down the stairs, starting towards Fluttershy
  1196. >You don't care about the plan, you're not letting this happen
  1197. >The floorboard creaks audibly under your foot
  1198. >In that moment, you and Fluttershy meet each other's eyes
  1199. >"Please..." he mouthes
  1200. >You can see the tears shining in his eyes
  1201. >"Just go..."
  1202. >His dad begins to turn around
  1203. >There's nowhere for you to hide
  1204. >You tense up, ready to run for it, or fight
  1205. >And then, before he can turn far enough to see you, Fluttershy leaps up, giving his dad a limp-wristed smack across the face
  1206. >Immediately, his father forgets all about the noise behind him
  1207. >"You..."
  1208. >His voice drops to a deadly whisper
  1209. >"S-sorry! I d-didn't mean... I j-j-just..."
  1210. >"You just hit me. Your own father. In *my* house."
  1211. >Given the drunken rage that colored his voice earlier, the near-whisper is somehow a thousand times more terrifying
  1212. >Fluttershy gives you one last look, his eyes pleading
  1213. >"Please..."
  1214. >"What the hell are you staring at!?"
  1215. >Before he even gets a chance to look, you're up the stairs and out of the basement
  1216.  
  1217. >Heart hammering, you race through the house
  1218. >Every instinct you have screams at you to turn around, but you don't
  1219. >You promised him you'd get the rabbit, and you're going to get the rabbit
  1220. >Fluttershy understood what he was getting into, you tell yourself
  1221. >He can handle this
  1222. >Just a few hours, and the two of you will be back at your house, pretending this was all a horrible dream
  1223. >You burst into the first room, finding only a dingy bathroom, the bathtub coated with grime and grease and the floor tiles cracked
  1224. >The next room looks like storage; just a bunch of boxes and trash piled to the ceiling, illuminated only by a single bulb dangling from the ceiling
  1225. >The next room, though, has to be Fluttershy's
  1226. >It's bare, for the most part, just more plain stucco walls and empty floors, with a messy, sagging cot shoved into one corner
  1227. >The walls, however, are plastered with his drawings
  1228. >Every species of bird, mammal, reptile, and a million drawings of rabbits surround you like the world's most depressing art museum
  1229. >There isn't even a window
  1230. >Next to the bed, there's a single wrought-iron cage, containing a tiny white rabbit
  1231. >The creature begins to panic the moment it sees you, hopping frantically from one side of its cage to the other
  1232. >You undo the cage, and Angel immediately sprints out, making a beeline for the door
  1233. "No you don't..."
  1234. >You scoop him up, holding him against your chest
  1235. >He bites you
  1236. >And goddamn, does this little bastard have some sharp teeth
  1237. >Hissing in pain, you reflexively drop him, and he continues his quest towards the bedroom door
  1238. >Fortunately, your legs are longer, and you beat him to the door, closing it before he can escape
  1239. >Angel begins sprinting madly about the room, his little hind legs thumping against the stone floor
  1240. >It's not terribly loud, but you're sure Fluttershy's dad can hear it
  1241. >You hope he's okay...
  1242. >You charge after the bunny, but your foot slips on a pile of paper and you go spilling to the ground, landing on Fluttershy's cot
  1243. >It collapses under your weight with a resounding *crack*
  1244. >Groaning, you roll over
  1245. >Angel backs into the far corner of the room, shivering in terror
  1246. >Well, he sure takes after his owner...
  1247. >You jump up from the cot, swiping him off the ground and wrapping him in your shirt
  1248. >He thrashes, biting you again, but you grit your teeth and bear the pain
  1249. >Stupid, stupid rabbit
  1250. >You've barely taken two steps outside the room when you hear Fluttershy's dad stomping up the stairs
  1251. >"Who the hell is in here? Did you bring someone back with you!?"
  1252. >"N-no! I swear!"
  1253. >He growls in rage
  1254. >"If it's that boy from last time, I'm sending him home in a body bag! And I hope you know it'll be your fault!"
  1255. >Fluttershy squeaks in terror
  1256. >Immediately, you duck back into the storage room, keeping the door open just a crack, so you can see out into the hallway
  1257. >Fluttershy's dad emerges from the basement, carrying your friend along by his hair
  1258. >You duck further back into the room, clutching angel against your chest
  1259. >He lets out a tiny, terrified chirp
  1260. >Fluttershy's dad stops
  1261. >"What the hell was that?"
  1262. >"J-just Angel... he m-must be hungry..."
  1263. >You have to give Fluttershy props, he doesn't betray any of the terror he probably feels
  1264. >"That fucking rat again? I'll give it something to chew on..."
  1265. >You hear the door to Fluttershy's room crash against the wall as his dad throws it open
  1266. >"Where is that little shit?"
  1267. >"P-please! He's just hungry! Let me feed him and--"
  1268. >"Feed him? And where are you getting the food?"
  1269. >"I, um..."
  1270. >"You're using my money, aren't you!"
  1271. >"N-no! I mean, I j-just... I..."
  1272. >His composure begins to break, genuine fear showing through on his face
  1273. >You step out of the storage room, peering through the bedroom door
  1274. >Fluttershy's dad has him pinned up against the wall, one hand on his throat and the other jabbing accusingly at his chest
  1275. >Your arms tighten around Angel
  1276. >Fluttershy can't see you; he has his eyes firmly shut as tears leak from beneath his eyelids
  1277. >"You're lying to me again, aren't you?"
  1278. >"N-no, I promis--"
  1279. >*smack*
  1280. >Fluttershy's dad hits him so hard you can feel the shock in your teeth
  1281. >Your friend is tossed across the room from the momentum of the blow, smacking against the wall and collapsing to the floor as his drawings rain down from the walls around him
  1282. >He curls into a little ball on the floor, shivering and clutching his face
  1283. >Fluttershy's dad starts toward him
  1284. >And that's when you do something stupid
  1285. >Hoping his sound localization are diminished enough by alcohol, you pound your fist against the storage room door, the knocking resounding through the entire house
  1286. >"What the fuck!?"
  1287. >His dad whirls around, but you're long out of sight
  1288. >"Who the fuck did you call here?"
  1289. >"N-no one!"
  1290. >"Bullshit! If I see a single goddamn cop out there, I'm twisting your little rat's neck!"
  1291. >He stomps out of the room, past the storage room and down towards the front door
  1292. >You sprint into Fluttershy's bedroom
  1293. >"Anon! Y-you need to get out of here!"
  1294. "Not without you! Come on, we can--"
  1295. >"No."
  1296. >Fluttershy curls up against the wall, nursing his right eye
  1297. >It's swollen and purple now, the skin surrounding it mottled with bruises
  1298. >"I c-can't risk him following us. Just leave me here, okay?"
  1299. "I'm not--"
  1300. >You hear his dad stomping back up the stairs towards the bedroom
  1301. >Fluttershy pushes you away
  1302. >"J-just go. I'll catch up with you guys. I p-promise."
  1303. >His one good eye locks on yours, and he forces a smile
  1304. >"I p-promise. I can handle it. Now g-g-get out of here."
  1305. >You duck back out of Fluttershy's room and into the storage room
  1306. >His dad stomps past, rage in his eyes
  1307. >And then you're gone
  1308. >Your brain seems to go on autopilot for a moment, possibly to keep you from comprehending what kind of horror you just left Fluttershy to
  1309. >You sneak down the hallway and back down to the basement, hauling yourself through the window with Angel still in your arms
  1310.  
  1311. >Dash is still waiting in the car when you return
  1312. >"Dude, you alright?"
  1313. >You sit in your seat, and just stare at the steering wheel
  1314. >"Anon? Everything cool?"
  1315. >She takes your hand, squeezing your fingers
  1316. "Yeah... yeah, it's good. We're just gonna... gonna wait for him a bit."
  1317. >"Alright."
  1318. >You lean your head on the dashboard, breathing heavily
  1319. >"Jesus, man. You don't look good."
  1320. "I should have gotten him out."
  1321. >"Huh?"
  1322. "His dad freaked out, and... I could have gotten him out. But I let him talk me out of it."
  1323. >You run a hand through your hair, frowning
  1324. "I fucked up bad. Dammit, Butters, Please be okay..."
  1325. >You're not really sure who or what you're praying to, but it feels better than doing nothing
  1326. >Dash lets you lean your head on her shoulder, and the two of you wait
  1327. >And wait
  1328. >And wait...
  1329.  
  1330. >At some point you must have dozed off, because the next few hours seem to pass in a haze
  1331. >You're awoken by Dash shaking you gently
  1332. >Angel is curled in your lap, his chest rising and falling as he breathes
  1333. >Through the darkness, a scrawny, hunched figure slowly creeps towards your car
  1334. >Even though you can tell it's Fluttershy immediately, your hand still reflexively goes to the lock button
  1335. >He approaches the passenger side, holding a hand over his injured eye
  1336. >"H-hey..."
  1337. "Butters!"
  1338. >You accidentally raise your voice a bit too much, and Fluttershy shrinks back into the shadows
  1339. >He motions for you to keep your voice down
  1340. "Sorry."
  1341. >Quietly as you can, you step out of the car and wrap him in the gentlest hug you can
  1342. >He leans his head on your shoulder, gently shaking
  1343. "Are you okay? Do you need us to get you to a doctor? Do you need the police?"
  1344. >"N-no... I'm b-b-be fine. It wasn't anything t-too bad."
  1345. >He refuses to meet your eyes as he says those words
  1346. >"D-did you get Angel?"
  1347. "Yeah, he's safe. Here."
  1348. >You open the door for Fluttershy, allowing him to see his rabbit snoozing on the passenger seat
  1349. >"Angel!"
  1350. >He squeals, grabbing his rabbit up into his arms
  1351. >Angel squirms, and tries to bite him, but Fluttershy doesn't seem to mind
  1352. >He nuzzles the rabbit against his face, cooing gently into the critter's ear
  1353. >"It's okay Angel... it's okay..."
  1354. >He leans back into you, holding Angel pressed between both of your chests
  1355. >Dash sticks her head out the window, and gives you a smirk
  1356. >You swear you see her mouth "no homo" at you
  1357. >When Fluttershy notices her watching, he quickly scoots away from you, avoiding eye contact with Dash
  1358. >"Th-thank you so m-m-much, Anon..."
  1359. "Don't worry about it."
  1360. >"N-no, really... I..."
  1361. >He starts chewing on his lip, shifting anxiously from foot to foot
  1362. >"I h-have something to tell you later, okay?"
  1363. "Yeah?"
  1364. >"Mhm. When w-we're back at your place. J-j-just remind me, okay?"
  1365. "Okay. Now... you hungry?"
  1366. >Fluttershy immediately perks up at the mention of food
  1367. >"I... um... k-kinda, yeah. But I've only g-got a couple dollars, so you do you think we could g-go to--"
  1368. "Don't worry about it. I got some extra cash to burn."
  1369. >"B-but... you already g-got me ice cream..."
  1370. "Yeah? It's ice cream. It's not I bought us some Fois Gras or something. So, where do you want to go?"
  1371. >"Anywhere is f-fine... whatever you like... j-just, is it okay if it doesn't have meat?"
  1372. "Yeah, sure. Not much is open, so we'll probably just hit a late-night Supermarket. That good?"
  1373. >Fluttershy nods as he slowly climbs into the car
  1374.  
  1375. >Dash is pretty much conked out through the entire ride back
  1376. >Or, rather, she looks like she is, but you're pretty sure she's just pretending
  1377. >Come to think of it, when you first met her, she had a bit of an obsession with cheesy yaoi fanfiction
  1378. >Is she thinking you and Fluttershy will...
  1379. >Goddammit, Dash, she totally is
  1380. >Fluttershy holds Angel in his lap, gently stroking the rabbit as he snoozes
  1381. >"Anon?"
  1382. "Yeah?"
  1383. >"I j-just... I just wanted to s-s-say that you don't have to keep going through t-trouble like this."
  1384. "Huh?"
  1385. >"I m-mean... I appreciate it... I r-r-really do, it's been..."
  1386. >He leans his head against the window, breathing deeply to try and steady his speech
  1387. >"It's been really weird. But in, like a g-good way. Having someone actually..."
  1388. >He interlaces his fingers, staring down into his open palms
  1389. >"Actually, you know, care about me... about what h-happens to me... it's been so weird. And I w-wanted to say thanks. F-f-for everything."
  1390. >You hear Dash shift on the back seat
  1391. >Yeah, she's definitely listening
  1392. >And this is definitely going to show up in some bad internet fanfiction at some point, isn't it?
  1393. >"And, j-just so you know... y-you don't have to keep doing it. I d-don't want you to feel like you h-have to keep looking after me. What you've done so f-far is enough. So... if you g-get tired of me, or want to move on... to, you know, better friends... it'll be okay."
  1394. "Butters..."
  1395. >You shake your head as you pull into the Supermarket parking lot
  1396. "You're right, in a way. In the beginning, this was just a charity case."
  1397. >Dash "wakes up" as soon as you pull in, and follows a few steps behind you and Fluttershy, not interrupting your conversation but clearly listening to every word
  1398. "But it's more than that now. I'm not helping you just to help you anymore. You're my friend."
  1399. >Fluttershy lets out a tiny little noise, somewhere between a gasp, grunt, and a squeak
  1400. "So, I don't really have any choice now, do I? You're getting my help whether you like it or not. And as for moving on, well... let's just say I don't think you need to worry about that. I don't think you'd be so easy to replace."
  1401. >This time, Dash joins Fluttershy in letting out a tiny squeal
  1402.  
  1403. >You try to dial the conversation back to something a little more down-to-earth while you shop, asking Fluttershy what he'd like to do when you get back
  1404. >"D-do? I mean... I th-thought we were just going to g-go to sleep..."
  1405. "Sleep? Nah, it's a Friday night! We're gonna party! So, what do you wanna do?"
  1406. >"We could watch some Black Butler" Dash chimes in
  1407. "Yeah! Or we could watch something actually good. Or, you know, whatever you want. I've got a couple good board games. Or really anything."
  1408. >"Oh, um... uh..."
  1409. >Fluttershy goes back to toying with the hems of his sleeves, then forcibly stops himself, then goes back to fidgeting
  1410. >You resist the temptation to tell him to stop
  1411. >"I mean, whatever you w-want to do is fine..."
  1412. >"You sure dude?"
  1413. >Dash wraps an arm around Fluttershy's shoulders, steering him towards the dessert aisle
  1414. >"Come on! Just tell us what you like to do, alright?"
  1415. >You start to follow, but she turns back and motions for you to wait
  1416. >Guess she wants some time alone with him?
  1417. >That's... a little weird
  1418. >What the hell is she planning?
  1419.  
  1420. >The two of them don't return until you reach the check-out line
  1421. >Flutters looks nervous... or, rather, more nervous than usual
  1422. >And Dash is clearly trying, and failing, to hug one of her signature smug grins
  1423. >Okay, yeah, she's definitely up to something
  1424. >You wonder how long it'll be before she asks the two of you to re-enact her favorite Captain America/Iron Man shipfic, or something similarly horrifying
  1425.  
  1426. >"So, um... Anon?"
  1427. >The three of you are heading home now
  1428. >Fluttershy is curled up in the passenger seat, his legs and arms tucked inside his sweater, holding Angel
  1429. "Yo."
  1430. >"Dash and I w-were talking..."
  1431. >You can feel Dash perk up at the mention of her name, even if you don't see her
  1432. "About what?"
  1433. >"She, um... she t-told me you have a lot of old D-Disney movies."
  1434. "Oh, yeah, a whole chest full of them. All on VHS, too. Super retro."
  1435. >"W-would you be okay with watching those? I h-haven't seen any of them, and--"
  1436. "Whoa, wait, what? You've never seen a Disney movie?"
  1437. >Fluttershy considers
  1438. >"N-not really... my d-dad doesn't let me use the TV..."
  1439. "Holy shit. So you haven't even seen, like, Pocahantas? Snow White? The Little Mermaid? None of those?"
  1440. >He shakes his head
  1441. >"N-no. I m-mean, I guess I've heard of them, but... y-yeah."
  1442. "Not even at a friend's house?"
  1443. >Fluttershy hangs his head
  1444. >It's not hard to read the meaning there
  1445. "Well, we're about to get that fixed. Hope you don't have any plans for the next, I dunno, three days."
  1446. >Fluttershy lifts his face, and gives you a small smile
  1447. >"I th-think I can fit it in my schedule..."
  1448.  
  1449. >You pull into your place at around eleven o'clock
  1450. >However, you're not the slightest bit tired
  1451. >And, by the looks of things, neither are Fluttershy or Dash
  1452. >The escape left you frayed and on-edge, but getting Fluttershy to safety has left you feel alive and energized in your triumph
  1453. >So, you know the three of you won't be sleeping any time soon
  1454. >"Are y-your parents home?"
  1455. "Nah. They're divorced, and my mom's out of town for work all the time. It's just us, for a few days."
  1456. >"Oh. Is th-that okay? I d-don't want to intrude."
  1457. "It's all good. She'll understand, when I explain it."
  1458. >You lead your friends downstairs, to your basement
  1459. >Which, it should go without saying, is infinitely nicer than Fluttershy's
  1460. >The floor is carpetted, there's a huge, cushy couch pushed into one corner, and one wall is taken up by a huge flatscreen TV
  1461. >Fluttershy stares around your place, his eyes wide
  1462. >"Wow..."
  1463. "You like it?"
  1464. >"It's amazing. Everything is so clean, and so... c-cozy."
  1465. "Hah, yeah. Well, I'm glad you like it. Because it's gonna be your home for a bit."
  1466. >"Y-yeah... you're s-still sure that's okay?"
  1467. "Of course. Why, do not want to live here, or...?"
  1468. >"N-no! No, I really do. I just, I d-don't know... it feels like a little t-too good for me. If that makes any sense. I d-don't want to mess the place up."
  1469. "Well, you literally can't mess it up anymore than Dash has. Like two months after we started dating, she punted a soccer ball down here and shattered the old TV."
  1470. >"Hey! That wasn't *my* fault. I told you to block it!"
  1471. "And then you sent it at my face at seventy miles-per-hour."
  1472. >"It's not my fault I kick hard, jackass! Besides, it wasn't that good of a TV anyway..."
  1473. >Dash flops down on the couch, pouting
  1474. >Fluttershy giggles in spite of himself, awkwardly glancing at the spot in the middle
  1475. "Take a seat. I'm gonna grab the movies and get dinner ready, alright?"
  1476.  
  1477. >When you return with the fresh fruit, crackers, and cheese you got from the Supermarket, you find that Fluttershy has already settled in nicely
  1478. >Dash has broken into the closet to grab the spare blankets and pillows, and built a comfy little nest on the couch
  1479. >She lounges across one end, her feet propped up on the coffee table
  1480. >Next to her, Fluttershy is wrapped in a cocoon of blankets, looking cozier than you've ever seen anyone
  1481. >His stomach gurgles audibly when you set the dinner down
  1482. "Well? You gonna take some?"
  1483. >"I, um... I w-was gonna wait for you to go first. If I t-take too much, there won't be enough, and--"
  1484. "We've got enough for like ten people. Dig in. In fact..."
  1485. >You plop down on the couch between Dash and Fluttershy, kicking your shoes off
  1486. "Think of this place like it's yours, starting now."
  1487. >"M-mine? No, I couldn't. It's w-way too nice for me."
  1488. "Eh, you'll get used to it. Now, what do you want to watch?"
  1489. >"Anything is f-fine, really. Whichever one you l-like."
  1490. >"Dude."
  1491. >Dash leans across you, rooting through the chest of Disney VHS tapes
  1492. >"We gotta show him Mulan."
  1493. "You sure? I mean, he likes animals so much. We could go with, like, Bambi or Lion King or something. Or Pocahantas."
  1494. >"Nah man, cute animals all that girly shit can come later. You gotta start with badass warriors and dragons!"
  1495. "Alright, alright. We'll put on Mulan now."
  1496. >"Gotcha."
  1497. >Dash scoots off the couch to start the movie
  1498. >Fluttershy, meanwhile, curls up under his blanket
  1499. >He tries to make it subtle, but you notice him scoot a few inches closer to you, ending up with his hip barely resting against yours
  1500. >When Dash returns, she scoots up against your opposite side, curling against you
  1501. >Fluttershy avoids looking at the two of you, and even scoots away a bit just as the film starts
  1502. >"Hey. Don't be a stranger. C'mere."
  1503. >"H-huh?"
  1504. >"Get in on this cuddle-puddle, dude. We got plenty of room."
  1505. >She pats your thigh
  1506. >"I, um... I m-mean... if A-Anon is okay with it..."
  1507. >You can see him fidgeting under the blankets
  1508. >Dammit, Dash...
  1509. >She's totally getting off to the idea of you cuddling some other guy, isn't she?
  1510. >Completely shameless...
  1511. >Well, you can't exactly say no, not when Fluttershy is making that face at you
  1512. >His eyes are so wide, you can see the entirety of the TV reflected in them
  1513. "Yeah, sure."
  1514. >Fluttershy stays wrapped in his blanket cocoon, and attempts to worm his way on top of you
  1515. >It doesn't go super well, and he almost topples off
  1516. >You reach out to grab him, keeping him from falling off
  1517. >And, in the process, pulling his body against yours in a tight, cozy embrace
  1518. >He lands against you with an little gasp, and immediately refuses to move
  1519. >You gently try to shove him off, but nope, he's stuck there
  1520. >And now your arm is wrapped around his shoulders too
  1521. >Dash is practically drooling
  1522.  
  1523. >Okay, now this is going to sound incredibly homo
  1524. >But cuddling Fluttershy is actually kinda... nice
  1525. >He's soft; insanely soft, even softer than Dash
  1526. >Especially around his... well, around his butt, which is currently squished against your upper thigh
  1527. >God, you're going to need to go lift weights, drunk shitty beer, and punch someone to work off this encroaching gay
  1528. >Fluttershy adjusts his weight on top of you, curling up to better fit inside your embrace
  1529. >You've reached the scene where Mulan first introduces herself as "Ping," and where she's first at risk of them realizing she's a girl
  1530. >Due to Fluttershy's proximity, you can feel his heart beating faster
  1531. "You alright, man?"
  1532. >"H-huh?"
  1533. >You're surprised to find him sweating slightly
  1534. "Your heart's going crazy, Butters. Everything okay?"
  1535. >"Y-yeah! So great! I'm g-g-good!"
  1536. >He starts tapping his foot against the couch and compulsively shifting his position
  1537. >Dash gives you this sly look, which you don't really want to interpret
  1538. >And then she starts wiggling her eyebrows at you, which you *really* don't want to interpret
  1539. >Fluttershy starts stuffing pieces of slices fruit into his mouth so he doesn't have to talk
  1540. >"S-super good... nothing g-going on here..."
  1541. >He realizes he's still talking, and stuffs more fruit in
  1542.  
  1543. >He starts to calm down a bit... until you get to the scene where Mulan is bathing
  1544. >Fluttershy's heartrate goes crazy again
  1545. >Man, there's regular sheltered, and then there's "can't handle Mulan" levels of sheltered
  1546. "Butters? You sure you're alright?"
  1547. >"Y-yeah! Alright!"
  1548. "Uh huh... you sick or something?"
  1549. >"Um... y-yeah, maybe... I m-mean... n-n-not contagious or anything! Y-you can keep... h-holding me..."
  1550. >He settles back against you, taking deep breaths as if hoping it'll calm his heart-rate
  1551. >Dash is "asleep" again now, so it's just you and Fluttershy
  1552. >The movie continues to play, but it's hard to tell if he's actually enjoying it
  1553. >Something about it is really messing with the poor guy
  1554. >Is it that really intense for him?
  1555. >At least he gets a real quick out of Mushu, though
  1556. >When he first appeared on the screen, he let out an audible gasp
  1557. >"O-oh! He's so cute, oh m-my..."
  1558. >And his antics continue to amuse him, always getting a little breathy giggle out of your friend
  1559. >But still... something's really freaking him out
  1560.  
  1561. >When you get to the point where Mulan is "discovered," Fluttershy gets really bad
  1562. >He starts visibly squirming, to the point that it's uncomfortable to hold him
  1563. "Okay, Butters. What's wrong?"
  1564. >"N-nothing! S-s-super great!"
  1565. >He curls into a little ball in your lap, shivering
  1566. "Do you need something? Like, I've got some Tylenol upstairs, I don't know if that'll--"
  1567. >Onscreen, Mulan is tossed out into the snow, half-naked
  1568. >"I g-gotta go to the bathroom!"
  1569. >He jumps off you, his feet tangling in the blankets and preventing him from landing properly
  1570. >So he face-plants hard on the carpeted floor
  1571. "Jesus, dude! You okay?"
  1572. >"Y-yeah! Just... y-you know... heh..."
  1573. >He tries to untangle himself from the blanket, but can't
  1574. >Onscreen, the various other soldiers are chastising Mulan for her betrayal, and send her away
  1575. >Fluttershy gulps, and begins wriggling his way across the floor towards the closet like a caterpillar, avoiding looking at the television
  1576. "Butters?"
  1577. >"Y-yeah?"
  1578. "The bathroom is upstairs."
  1579. >"O-oh. Y-yeah, right. I knew that."
  1580. >He squirms back across the floor to the staircase, and then finally starts unwrapping himself
  1581. >Except it doesn't go so well
  1582. >He gets his arms out, but can't seem to untangle his legs
  1583. >"Can you, um... h-help me?"
  1584. "Yeah, sure..."
  1585. >Joints protesting, you get up from the couch and bend down to untangle your friend
  1586. >You have no idea how he did it, but he somehow managed to force the blankets to tie a knot around his ankles
  1587. >You reach your hands down into the mess of blankets too try and free him
  1588. >Which, of course, requires you to trail them right down his thighs
  1589. >The minute your hand grazes his hip, Fluttershy lets out a tiny squeak
  1590. >His cheeks go beet-red, and you can feel tiny little tremors running through his body
  1591. >"A-Anon..."
  1592. "Hold on. I'll get you out of here."
  1593. >"Th-thanks. Hnn~"
  1594. >Dash has one eye open now, watching you
  1595. >You scowl at her, and she just winks in response
  1596. >You force your hands down past Fluttershy's hips, praying you don't accidentally touch anything that'll scar you for life
  1597. >The blankets are wrapped around him insanely tightly, meaning you have to worm your hands down across his body very, very slowly
  1598. >Fluttershy cranes his neck, his teeth gritted
  1599. >Dash is visibly sweating now
  1600. >You get to the top of his thighs, trying to keep your fingers as far from his crotch as you can
  1601. >Fluttershy wriggles a little
  1602. "You okay?"
  1603. >"Y-yeah... that j-just kind of tickles..."
  1604. >Dash bites her lower lip
  1605. >Grunting, you work your hands down a little lower
  1606. >At least there's no hint of a dick, you tell yourself
  1607. >As gay as this might feel, at least you haven't touched his dick
  1608. >Come to think of it, you've been cuddling with this bastard for like an hour, and you didn't feel his dick then either
  1609. >...
  1610. >Poor bastard must *really* not be well hung
  1611. >You force your hands down a little lower, starting to sweat yourself
  1612. >How did he get these blankets so tight around his legs?
  1613. >"A-ah..."
  1614. "Oh, shit, you okay?"
  1615. >"Y-yeah... s-sorry... that just h-hurt a little..."
  1616. "Okay. I'll be gentle."
  1617. >Behind you, Dash makes a noise you haven't heard before
  1618. >You look over to find her fanning herself with her hand
  1619. >Well, if you find any mystery stains on the couch later, you know who to blame
  1620. >Your hands work lower down Fluttershy's legs, making him squeak
  1621. >"Nnn... careful..."
  1622. "Yeah... I'm trying. This doesn't hurt, right?"
  1623. >"N-no... just k-keep going slow..."
  1624. "Alright..."
  1625. >You grunt, forcing your hands down to his mid-thigh
  1626. "It's just... really tight..."
  1627. >"Y-yeah... hnn..."
  1628. >The constricting blankets force your hands together, and they end up squished between his thighs, just a few inches below his crotch
  1629. >Fluttershy groans, his entire body shivering
  1630. >Dash is panting now, and she's moved so that half her body is strategically hidden beneath the blankets and pillows
  1631. >Okay, yeah, you're going to power-wash this couch the first chance you get
  1632. >Right after you can get your hands out of Fluttershy's crotch
  1633. >"Hmm... are y-you there yet?"
  1634. "Yeah, almost... almost there..."
  1635. >You get down to his knees, then across his calves
  1636. >Even through his sweatpants, you can feel the silkiness of his skin and the plush softness of his legs
  1637. >Gayness levels rising...
  1638. >There's no returning now, is there?
  1639. >Fluttershy lets out a shuddering gasp as you reach his feet, and begin to work at undoing the knot binding them
  1640. >"Th-that kinda tickles..."
  1641. "Sorry..."
  1642. >"N-no it's okay... it f-feels kinda nice... ah~"
  1643. >Dash is now almost completely hidden from view; she's just barely peeking out over the top of the couch
  1644. >Forget washing, you're gonna burn this couch and get a new one
  1645. >Wait, weren't you planning to let Fluttershy sleep there?
  1646. >Oof...
  1647. >Your fingers start scrabbling furiously against the knot
  1648. >Fluttershy gasps as your hand grazes the bottom of his foot
  1649. >"H-hnnn..."
  1650. "I know. Just hold out a little longer, okay?"
  1651. >"Y-yeah..."
  1652. "I'm super close. Just a little more..."
  1653. >"Okay... I c-can hold on... y-your hands are so strong..."
  1654. "Yeah. I'm still not hurting you, am I?"
  1655. >"N-no... it f-feels just fine..."
  1656. "Alright..."
  1657. >You give on final, loud grunt as you pull the knot apart, freeing Fluttershy's legs
  1658. >He gasps in relief, falling backwards onto the stairs
  1659. >"Th-thank you so m-much... that f-f-feels so much better..."
  1660. "Yeah... holy shit, that was harder than I thought."
  1661. >"Y-yeah..."
  1662. >Fluttershy hauls himself into a standing position, his legs wobbly
  1663. >"I'm g-gonna run to the bathroom. I'll b-be back in a bit."
  1664. "Alright. I'll make us some dessert while we wait."
  1665. >"B-but we already had ice cream earlier..."
  1666. "What, is it a law that dessert has to be a once-a-day thing? Let's live it up!"
  1667.  
  1668. >Back on the couch, Dash is completely obscured by the blankets, except for her face
  1669. >She's either pretending to be asleep again, or she passed out in the past two minutes
  1670. >You don't the implications of either that much
  1671. "You're such a perv."
  1672. >"There's nothing pervy about pure love, dude."
  1673. >Okay, yeah, she's still awake
  1674. "Oh, fuck off. I was just helping untangle him."
  1675. >"Y-yeah? And how did that feel? Was he soft? D-did he wriggle a little? Was he sweaty?"
  1676. "I'm just not gonna answer that."
  1677. >Dash licks her lips
  1678. >"Come on, man. D-did you touch his..."
  1679. "Dash!"
  1680. >"I was gonna say butt!"
  1681. "That's still weird!"
  1682. >"And adorable!"
  1683. "I swear to God. Can I have a normal sleepover with a friend without your boy-love fantasies being injected into every five minutes."
  1684. >Dash immediately perks up, her eyes wide
  1685. >"Do... do normal guy sleepovers involve that much cuddling?"
  1686. "No! Of course not!"
  1687. >"Then... this is special? What you guys have is a unique bond between boys?"
  1688. "No! We're just... he just..."
  1689. >"Oh my... he looked like he needed love, and you gave it to him! You decided to overlook your lack of attraction to him, and give him the comfort he needed. Oh my gosh, oh my gosh, oh my gosh..."
  1690. >Dash starts fanning herself again, breathing heavily
  1691. "You... yeah, no, I'm gonna go make some milkshakes or something."
  1692. >"Are y-you and Butters gonna share one? With two straws?"
  1693. >You just stare at your flustered, sweaty fujoshi girlfriend
  1694. "I *really* hope you're sitting on a towel or something."
  1695.  
  1696. >You fix some milkshakes for dessert (chocolate ice cream, hot fudge, and chunks of cold cookie dough, it's pure diabetes) and carry them down for the three of you
  1697. >When sitting back on the couch, you keep an eye out for any wet spots
  1698. >Dash pulls herself into your lap, being all hyper-intimate and loving like she always gets when she's horny
  1699. >Fluttershy creeps downstairs a few minutes afterwards
  1700. >He catches sight of you and Dash snuggled together, and sits on the far end of the couch
  1701. >Dash notices, reaches across you, and physically drags him into the cuddle-puddle
  1702.  
  1703. >Fluttershy watches the movie, transfixed, until its end
  1704. "So, what'd you think?"
  1705. >"Th-that was super cool. And there are a b-bunch more?"
  1706. "Dozens. Which one do you want next?"
  1707. >Fluttershy bends over to peer into the chest
  1708. >He spies the VHS case for Bambi, and his eyes go wide
  1709. >"O-oh my...!"
  1710. "You see one you like?"
  1711. >He pulls the case out, practically glowing
  1712. >"It's... it's got a little deer... and a bunny... it's s-so cute..."
  1713. "Ha, yeah. I thought you'd like this one."
  1714. >As you take the case from his hands, his fingertips graze yours ever so slightly
  1715. >You set the movie up, and join the cuddling again
  1716. >Fluttershy sips quietly at his milkshake as it starts
  1717. >The moment the owl first appears on screen, he gasps
  1718. >"S-so cute!"
  1719. >And then the squirrel
  1720. >"Oh my... I c-can't..."
  1721. >He starts to lean forward in his seat, eyes wide as he takes in every frame Disney-animated animals
  1722. >"Wh-why did no one tell me about this before..."
  1723. >And then Thumper shows up on screen
  1724. >Fluttershy holds his hands to his face, his mouth working soundlessly
  1725. >"A-Anon..."
  1726. "Yo."
  1727. >"C-can you pause it? I th-think I need a moment."
  1728. "Sure."
  1729. >You pause the film, and Fluttershy lays down on the floor
  1730. "You alright?"
  1731. >"It's... it's so c-cute... I d-d-don't think I can deal with it."
  1732. >He crawls towards the stairs
  1733. >"I'm g-gonna go check on Angel real quick..."
  1734. >Dash watches him go, then leans her head on your shoulder
  1735. >"Are you okay if I pass out like this?"
  1736. "You mean pretend to be asleep and spy on me?"
  1737. >"Wh-what? I would never!"
  1738. "Oh, right. Of course. Clearly I must have trust issues."
  1739. >"Yeah! Clearly..."
  1740.  
  1741. >Fluttershy returns with the stuffed rabbit you got him clutched against his chest
  1742. >Since when did he have that?
  1743. >Must have had it in his backpack
  1744. >Does that mean he's been bringing it to school with him?
  1745. >That's...
  1746. >Fuck, it's really cute
  1747. >He sits back on the couch, snuggling up against you with the stuffed bunny in his lap
  1748. >And just like that, he's entranced again
  1749.  
  1750. >For most of the movie, Fluttershy keeps his distance while you and Dash cuddle
  1751. >In fact, as you progress further and further through Bambi he starts to scoot closer to the screen, sitting on the floor and inching closer to the bright, colorful characters as if he wished to join them
  1752. >He absentmindedly pets the stuffed bunny's ears
  1753. >And then you get to *that* scene
  1754. >Bambi and his mom trek through the swirling winter, in search of food, and finally happen upon some fresh spring grass
  1755. >Fluttershy lets out a tiny "aww..."
  1756. >And then the crack of bullets blasts through your TV speakers
  1757. >Fluttershy gasps
  1758. >"O-oh! They're n-not gonna get hurt, right?"
  1759. "Uh..."
  1760. >Bambi starts sprinting across the snow, with his mother behind him
  1761. >"Just run! Don't look back! Run!" she yells
  1762. >Fluttershy sticks his fingers in his mouth, chewing on his nails
  1763. >"P-please be okay... please be okay... please be okay..."
  1764. >Bambi makes it back to the thicket without his mother
  1765. >"A-Anon? His mama's okay, right?"
  1766. "Well... Butters, you know... uh..."
  1767. >"P-please tell me she's okay! She can't die! He's so little! I d-don't want him to have to live without his mama!"
  1768.  
  1769. >You glance at Dash, who's still pretending to be asleep
  1770. >Seriously!?
  1771. >She's gonna leave you to handle this by yourself?
  1772. "Butters... I mean..."
  1773. >"Anon, p-please! That's n-n-not okay! His m-mama can't be dead! That's not f-f-f-fair! He's so little and s-s-so scared... he shouldn't have to live without a mama!"
  1774. >Onscreen, Bambi is now scampering through the forrest, terrified and alone
  1775. >"No... n-no..."
  1776. >Fluttershy collapses, weeping
  1777. "Hey! You alright, man?"
  1778. >You untangle yourself from Dash's sweaty embrace and scoot across the floor to sit next to Fluttershy
  1779. >He shakes his head, crying harder
  1780. >"His m-mama... poor l-l-little deer... his m-m-mama..."
  1781. >You awkwardly wrap an arm around him, not really sure what else to do
  1782. "It's... it's just a movie, Butters..."
  1783. >Absolute wrong thing to say
  1784. >He cries harder, wrapping him arms around your waist and squeezing you with a strength that, in all honesty, he shouldn't possess
  1785. >"It's n-not fair! Who's g-g-gonna look after him if h-he doesn't have a m-m-mama? He's s-so little... and s-so cute... he needs a m-m-mama... she c-can't be dead, it's n-not fair..."
  1786. "He still has his dad, see?"
  1787. >Fluttershy lifts his head, seeing Bambi join with his father
  1788. >And that's when the sheer awfulness of the situation hits you
  1789. "Oh, wait... shit, Butters, I'm so... I didn't realize..."
  1790. >You cradle your friend in your arms, no longer caring how gay it might be
  1791. >Your right hand moves to stroke his hair as he sobs into your shirt
  1792. "I'm sorry... I'm so sorry..."
  1793. >"It's n-not fair... he n-n-needs a mama... he sh-shouldn't have to live without a mama..."
  1794. "I know. I know. I'm sorry."
  1795. >He sniffles, having left a sizable tear stain on your shirt
  1796. "We don't have to watch the rest if you don't want to."
  1797. >"N-no."
  1798. >He wipes his eyes, looking back at the TV
  1799. >"I w-want to make sure he ends up h-happy."
  1800. "Oh. Alright. I mean, he does."
  1801. >"You p-promise?"
  1802. "Of course. I've seen this movie a million times. He lives with his friends in the forest, and everyone's super happy."
  1803. >"Alright."
  1804. >He sighs, relieved
  1805. >But I w-want to see it happen. Is that okay?"
  1806. "Yeah, of course. Here."
  1807. >You scoot back to the catch, taking your spot next to Dash and patting the cushion next to you
  1808. >Fluttershy sits next to, keeping his distance this time
  1809. >He curls into a little ball, still shaking slightly with dry, quiet little sobs
  1810.  
  1811. >When the movie ends, he closes his eyes, a small, relieved smile forming on his lips
  1812. >"Th-thank you, Anon."
  1813. "For what?"
  1814. >"Showing me that."
  1815. "Really? I mean, it seemed like it kinda... you know, made you miserable."
  1816. >He wipes his nose, letting out a tiny chuckle
  1817. >"Yeah, it kinda did. But I think that was good for me. I... I'm g-glad I got to see him happy. It was r-really sweet."
  1818. >He grabs up one of the couch pillows and hugs it against his chest
  1819. >"I feel really good now..."
  1820. "I'm really glad, Butters. You deserve it."
  1821. >He beams, the light from the TV reflected in his eyes
  1822. >"It's... I don't really know how to describe it. I didn't know you c-could feel like this. I mean, I knew you *could*, but... I never thought I would actually get to know what it was like."
  1823. "What what's like?"
  1824. >"Feelings s-safe... feeling..."
  1825. >He mumbles the next word under his breath
  1826. "What's that?"
  1827. >"Y-you know, feeling... l-loved."
  1828. >You blink, and Fluttershy immediately blushes, fidgeting with the collar of his sweater as he hastily explains
  1829. >"N-not to say that you, you know, l-l-love me! I know that's n-not how it is! You have Dash! I j-just meant, like, you know... friend love... just like... yeah..."
  1830. >Behind you, you hear a sharp intake of breath
  1831. >Yeah, you knew she was faking
  1832. >Out of nowhere, Fluttershy blurts out:
  1833. >"C-can I ask you something?"
  1834. "Huh?"
  1835. >"I mean tell you! Can I tell you something? Something w-weird?"
  1836. >He scoots closer to you, his hand barely coming to rest against yours
  1837. "Uh... how weird?"
  1838. >You can feel Dash squirming behind you
  1839. >Fluttershy, meanwhile, leans closer, his face inches from yours as his voice drops to a whisper
  1840. >"J-just... um... I... I'm a..."
  1841. >Before you can answer, you feel Dash's hand at the back of your head
  1842. >And before you can ask what the hell she's doing, she shoves your face right against Fluttershy's
  1843. >Your mouth meets his in an awkward, sudden kiss
  1844. >For whatever reason, you don't pull away immediately
  1845. >You tell yourself it's shock but...
  1846. >Something about the softness of Fluttershy's lips, the gentle gasp he makes when your mouth meets his, and the way he tilts his head to kiss you better...
  1847. >It's nowhere near as bad as you'd imagine
  1848. >In fact, it's... kinda nice...
  1849. >Ah!
  1850. >No, what are you thinking!
  1851. >Even for you, this is way to gay!
  1852. >You break the kiss, and whirl on Dash
  1853. "What the hell!"
  1854. >"What?"
  1855. "You just... are you insane?"
  1856. >Dash looks like she's in heaven
  1857. >"It had to happen! It was too perfect, the way you were looking into his eyes, and talking about your feelings and love and..."
  1858. >She sucks in her breath
  1859. >"Just... unf. So unf. But like an emotional unf. Oh my gosh, oh my gosh, That was so sweet!"
  1860. "It was not! It was disgusting!"
  1861. >"D-disgusting?"
  1862. >The sound of Fluttershy's voice snaps you out of your tirade
  1863. "I mean... no! Not disgusting! Just..."
  1864. >"So you're saying you liked it?"
  1865. >Dash wriggles her eyebrows
  1866. "No! I'm just saying..."
  1867. >You glance between the two
  1868. >"I'm r-r-really sorry, Anon..."
  1869. >Fluttershy hangs his head, miserable
  1870. >"I sh-shouldn't have l-let that happen..."
  1871. "No! It wasn't your fault! And it wasn't bad, I just..."
  1872. >"It w-wasn't?"
  1873. >He looks up, suddenly hopeful
  1874. >"D-did you... maybe... like it a little?"
  1875. >Dash creeps up behind you, her eyes wide and expectant
  1876. "I mean... yeah, okay, maybe a bit."
  1877. >Fluttershy squeaks, beaming
  1878. >"Y-you mean it? R-really?'
  1879. "Yeah. Sure, whatever."
  1880. >"Then... d-does that mean that I'm a g-good kisser?"
  1881. "Uh..."
  1882. >Dash nods
  1883. "I mean..."
  1884. >She nods harder
  1885. "You're..."
  1886. >She nods so hard you think her neck is about to snap
  1887. "Yeah. You're pretty good."
  1888. >Fluttershy looks like he's about to faint
  1889. >"Th-thanks..."
  1890. >Dash elbows you in the ribs
  1891. "What?"
  1892. >"Aren't you gonna give him another? Come on, man..."
  1893. "Dash, goddammit..."
  1894. >You grab your girlfriend by the arm, bending in so that only she can hear you
  1895. "You realize what you're doing isn't cool, right? You can't play with this guy's emotions just because it gets you off."
  1896. >"Anon..."
  1897. >She grabs your face in her hands
  1898. >"I already got off."
  1899. "Whoa, hold on, did you at least wash your hands before--"
  1900. >"This is about so much more than that. Look at the love in his eyes, Anon."
  1901. >Dash forcibly turns your head, making you look
  1902. >Fluttershy gives you a small smile
  1903. >"This guy is crazy about you. You're the only one who's ever let him feel like he fit in. Just imagine how he must feel about you..."
  1904. >Dash starts breathing heavier, her face flushed
  1905. >"You can't let this slip away. You have to kiss him. Right now."
  1906. "Not gonna happen."
  1907. >"Please?"
  1908. "Dash?"
  1909. >She makes you look at Fluttershy again
  1910. >And, well... he does look like he could use another kiss...
  1911. >Agh, no!
  1912. >What the hell are you thinking?
  1913. >That's a dude!
  1914. >Your crazy-ass girlfriend is seriously convincing you to kiss a dude!
  1915. >She's given you the gay!
  1916. >"Anon?"
  1917. >Fluttershy scoots a little closer to you
  1918. >"Are y-you okay?"
  1919. "I'm fine! Totally fine!"
  1920. >You jump up from the couch
  1921. "You two aren't okay! What the fuck? Gah! No!"
  1922. >You shake your head, as if gayness could be shaken from the skull by force alone
  1923. "I'm gonna go... I dunno, do some pushups or something. Jesus Christ..."
  1924.  
  1925. >You head to the bathroom, and splash some cold water on your face
  1926. >In all seriousness though... what was that?
  1927. >For a moment there, you really did want to kiss him
  1928. >Like... sure, there's nothing wrong with being a guy who's into other guys
  1929. >That's not what this is about
  1930. >But that's not you!
  1931. >And you've got a girlfriend already!
  1932. >Sure, a girlfriend who's done everything in her power to make sure the two of you *do* end up kissing, but...
  1933. >You splash more water on your face
  1934. >It was just a weird slip-up
  1935. >The two of you had been all cuddly, and your brain just got confused
  1936. >Plus, he's super girly, right?
  1937. >Your brain probably just parses him as a girl, for some stupid reason
  1938. >Yeah, that's it
  1939. >He just tricked your brain into treating him like a girl, and you got confused
  1940. >When you return downstairs, Fluttershy is curled at the end of the couch, looking downcast
  1941. >Dash is scowling at you
  1942. "What?"
  1943. >"N-no... it's n-not his fault..."
  1944. >Fluttershy stands up from the couch, walking over to you
  1945. >"I'm s-sorry I tried to make you kiss me again."
  1946. "Sorry? You've got nothing to be sorry for. Dash was just being a little pushy."
  1947. >"Y-yeah, but... I s-still wanted it to happen. I'm r-really sorry."
  1948. >He hangs his head
  1949. >"I sh-shouldn't have expected you to w-want to kiss me again, anyway... b-b-but..."
  1950. >He looks up now, staring you in the eyes
  1951. >"Th-thank you for the nice things y-you said earlier. They m-made me feel really g-g-good... about myself..."
  1952. >He wraps his arms around your waist, leaning against you in a soft, chaste little hug
  1953. >And you return it in the most heterosexual, platonic way possible
  1954. >By which you mean you squeeze the daylights out of the poor little guy
  1955.  
  1956. >So, sleeping arrangements turn out to be a little harder than you thought
  1957. "So, Butters... I was gonna let you crash on the couch, but I think Dash has defiled it already."
  1958. >"Hey! I mean, you're not wrong, but still! That's not something you just tell someone!"
  1959. "Says the girl who made my entire sofa smell like tuna."
  1960. >"It doesn't smell that bad! Wait, does it?"
  1961. >She takes a tentative sniff
  1962. "But yeah. The only sleeping bag I have is kid-sized, so... would you be okay just sleeping on my bed? Dash and I will take the floor."
  1963. >"Uh, yeah, no. I ain't sleeping on the floor. Got practice tomorrow and I need the rest."
  1964. "Well..."
  1965. >"I c-can sleep on the floor. I d-don't really mind, it's k-k-kind of something I'm used to."
  1966. "I'm not gonna make you sleep on the floor, Butters. You deserve a good spot. Here."
  1967. >You pat the mattress
  1968. "You and Dash can take the bed, I'll take the floor."
  1969. >Normally, you'd be the last one to allow some other guy to share a bed with your girlfriend
  1970. >But clearly Fluttershy's about as gay as Sir Ian McKellen's fabulous white robes, so you don't think you need to worry about any funny business
  1971. >In fact, you should probably be more concerned that Dash is gonna try to airdrop a sleeping Fluttershy on top of you, or something
  1972. >Probably after stripping you naked, or something
  1973. >Okay, yeah, no, she's staying on the couch
  1974.  
  1975. >"Oh? You want me on the couch, huh?"
  1976. >She wriggles her eyebrows
  1977. "Yeah, 'cause you're the one who turned it into a cesspool."
  1978. >"Okay, seriously? It's not *that* gross."
  1979. "Yeah, sure."
  1980. >"Don't act like you don't know what this is really about."
  1981. >She winks at you
  1982. "What?"
  1983. >She wriggles her eyebrows
  1984. "What!?"
  1985. >"You just want to share a room with him alone, don't you?"
  1986. "I do not! I just don't want you pulling anything funny!"
  1987. >"Yeah? Well, I won't. I promise."
  1988. >She's still smiling, to the point it's starting to become a little unnerving
  1989. "Oh God, what are you planning this time?"
  1990. >"Nothing! I think my work here is done."
  1991. "Are you serious? Nothing is gonna happen!"
  1992. >"Oh, no. Of course it won't."
  1993. >She gyrates her hips, miming humping something
  1994. >"You two are just sharing a room for some innocent sleepover time, right~?"
  1995. "We are!"
  1996. >Dash squeals
  1997. >"That's even cuter! Are you gonna stay up late and talk about your feelings? Can I join!"
  1998. "Absolutely not! We're going right to bed! There's no way I'm gonna stay up having some mushy hear-to-heart, so just chill!"
  1999.  
  2000. >...
  2001.  
  2002. >"H-hey... Anon? C-can I tell you something?"
  2003. >Fluttershy is snuggled in the handmade quilt covering your bed, but he peeks his head out to watch you
  2004. >You're on the floor, wedged between the bed and the wall, in a space barely big enough for your body and the various pillows you layed down to sleep on
  2005. >It's not exactly uncomfortable, though
  2006. >In fact, it's super cozy
  2007. >You just wish you could trust Dash's behavior enough to let her share it with you
  2008. "Yeah, of course. Anything, Butters."
  2009. >You prop yourself up on your elbow, listening
  2010. >"I, um... I h-have a secret to tell you."
  2011. "Yeah?"
  2012. >You brace yourself for the oncoming confession of love, the skin on your back tingling
  2013. >As if it weren't already obvious, you think to yourself
  2014. >"I'm... I'm a..."
  2015. >He bites his lip
  2016. "You're a what?"
  2017. >"N-never mind. Is it alright if I t-tell you in the morning?"
  2018. "Yeah, sure."
  2019. >Fluttershy sighs, looking relieved, and curls back up in the blankets
  2020. "And hey, Butters?"
  2021. >"Y-yeah?"
  2022. "If anything happens with your dad... don't worry, okay? From this point on, I promise, he's not gonna hurt you again. Anything goes wrong, just get behind me or Dash. We're not gonna let him hurt you anymore. You deserve better."
  2023. >For what feels like a long time, Fluttershy is silent
  2024. >"You r-really don't have to do that..."
  2025. "You're right. But we will. You're our friend now, Butters. And we're gonna keep you safe, no matter what."
  2026. >"B-but... I don't want to see what he'd d-do to you..."
  2027. "Doesn't matter. I can take it, Flutters. Hell, I probably deserve it, given how much of an asshole I've been to you."
  2028. >"N-no! Don't say... don't say that..."
  2029. "Either way, still doesn't matter. I can handle it. You've suffered more than your share. And I'm not letting you suffer more, if I can stop it."
  2030. >Not even caring how gay it is, or might be, you reach up and touch what you think is his hand
  2031. "From here on out, I promise, I'm gonna do everything I can to make sure you're happy."
  2032. >And this time, he has no response
  2033. >The two of you fall asleep, one after the other, in a comfortable, protected silence
  2034.  
  2035. >You wake up at some point in the middle of the night to find Fluttershy much closer to you then he was when you fell asleep
  2036. >*Much* closer
  2037. >As in he's crawled off the bed and curled up against you in the narrow space on the floor
  2038. >It was barely big enough for you, but the tightness of the space has the forced the two of you, in your sleep, to intertwine your bodies, so the point where you're practically embracing him just by lying there
  2039. >For a moment, you consider shoving him away, or waking him up
  2040. >But, well, maybe it's just the complacency brought on by your sleep-induced delirium
  2041. >Or maybe it's just the fact that having a warm body is nice on a chilly Fall night
  2042. >But you don't
  2043. >Dash will have a field day when you sees this, you think
  2044. >But yeah, it's kinda nice lying here with him
  2045. >Doesn't feel gay in the slightest
  2046. >In fact...
  2047. >And that's when multiple pieces start to fall into place
  2048. >Maybe you just needed the half-awake, addled mindset to piece it together
  2049. >Or maybe it was just the sheer proximity that made the facts unavoidable
  2050. >But the clues now begin to coalesce
  2051. >No guy is this soft
  2052. >Fluttershy's own words spin through your head
  2053. >"I'm a..."
  2054. >Followed by his dad's
  2055. >"If you knew about him..."
  2056. >Then his reaction to Mulan, especially the scenes of her being exposed
  2057. >And then you recall the feel of his body, and the squishy, subtle curvature of it as it presses against you
  2058. >But there's no way...
  2059. >Sure, it makes so much sense, but...
  2060. >There's one way to be sure
  2061. >Feeling like the world's biggest sleaze, you slowly trail your hand down his side, to his hip, and then to his crotch
  2062. >...
  2063. >Yeah, that's definitely *not* a dick
  2064. >Fluttershy's eyes flutter open
  2065. >"A-Anon? Wha... what are you..."
  2066. "N-nothing!"
  2067. >Reflexively, and somewhat guiltily, you scoot as far away from him-- from *her* as possible
  2068. >Holy shit, you're sleeping with another chick!
  2069. >You girlfriend is right downstairs!
  2070. >Fluttershy blinks, rubbing sleep from his -- from her -- eyes
  2071. >"What's wrong?"
  2072. >She looks down, the meaning of her proximity and your sudden aversion dawning on her
  2073. >"Oh no..."
  2074. >She locks eyes with you, and you can see tears already forming
  2075. >"I... I'm s-so sorry!"
  2076. >She tries to scoot away from you, but just backs up against the bed
  2077. >As cramped as the space is, the two of you can barely put two inches between yourselves
  2078. >You put your head in your hands, a strange mix of emotions welling up inside you
  2079. >Strangely, though, you don't feel betrayed, or even angry
  2080. >In fact, you're pretty damn happy
  2081. >This means you're not gay!
  2082. >Deep down, you must have known she was a chick all along!
  2083. >That's why you had no issues kissing her, or running your hands all over that skinny, supply, soft little body...
  2084. >Both you and Fluttershy blush, the intimacy suddenly too awkward
  2085. >You try to scoot out of the space, but now it's your turn to be wrapped in way too many blankets
  2086. >Unfortunately, your attempts to scoot away just tighten their coils around Fluttershy
  2087. >She yelps, trying to free herself
  2088. >Her struggles just further enwrap her
  2089. >"H-help!"
  2090. >Squeaking in discomfort, she rolls directly into your lap
  2091. >You try to push her off, but you can't even move your arms
  2092. >Fluttershy just wriggles pathetically, trying to free herself
  2093. >Eventually she tires out, and the two of you just lie there, sweating
  2094. >If Dash is awake, you *really* don't want to know what she's thinking
  2095. >Or what she's doing to your couch...
  2096. >The two of you lie there, snared together into a forced snuggle-fest, until you've both calmed down a bit
  2097. >"I r-really am sorry."
  2098. "Eh. It's not a big deal. Dash will be super disappointed, though."
  2099. >"Y-yeah... I wanted to tell you two, b-but... I thought you h-hate me if I did."
  2100. "Why would I?"
  2101. >"I d-dunno. My dad always t-t-told me I was a terrible girl. That no one w-would want a daughter who was awkward and u-ugly and w-w-weird... especially not him... he s-said if I could be s-son instead... the good son he wanted... maybe he'd f-forgive me..."
  2102. "For what?"
  2103. >"For w-what happened with mama... when I was born..."
  2104. "Oh Jesus. Butters..."
  2105. >You can't move your arms enough to hug her
  2106. >But you lay your head against hers, hoping the meaning comes across the same
  2107. >She snuggles up against you, sniffling
  2108. "If you have to cry again, it's okay."
  2109. >"I d-don't want to. Not on you, it'd be so embarrassing..."
  2110. "I don't mind."
  2111. >You scoot your body under her, supporting her with what little of your torso you can manage to move
  2112. >She sniffles again, a gentle sob escaping her lips
  2113. >"D-Dash is going to hate me, isn't she?"
  2114. "No way. She cares about you too. In fact, half of this whole thing has been her idea."
  2115. >"B-but..."
  2116. "She doesn't *just* like you because she's a creepy yaoi-obsessed pervert. That's only, like, thirty percent."
  2117. >"Yeah... I don't know. I'm w-worried this will change things."
  2118. "Oh, it will. It will change a bunch of stuff. But you know what it's not gonna change?"
  2119. >Fluttershy stays silent
  2120. "You're our friend. And we're always gonna care about you."
  2121. >And with that, the floodgates break
  2122. >For the second time that night, you find yourself cradling -- or, as close to cradling you can get with no arms -- a sobbing Fluttershy
  2123. >"You... th-thank you s-s-s-so much... y-you and D-Dash... I d-don't know what to s-s-s-ay... nnn..."
  2124. >She sniffles again, wiping her nose on the blanket
  2125. >Her next words are muffled by the cloth and the wetness of her tears
  2126. >"I l-love you..."
  2127. "Huh?"
  2128. >"N-nothing... s-s-sorry..."
  2129. >She curls up in your lap, resting against you
  2130. >"It is okay if I s-s-sleep like this? I know it's p-probably weird now, but... I've n-never gotten to sleep with someone else..."
  2131. "I... yeah. Just this one night, though."
  2132. >Awkwardly, you maneuver yourself to lay down across the pillows, tangled in a warm, cuddly cocoon with Fluttershy
  2133. >"Thank you, Anon..."
  2134. >She closes her eyes, sighing
  2135. >"Th-that's all I need..."
  2136.  
  2137. >You awaken to the sound of very, very heavy breathing coming from above you
  2138. >For a few moments, you try your best to ignore it
  2139. >Fluttershy and you have somehow managed to entangle yourselves even more, to the point where you're squeezing her against your chest like a child
  2140. >Her skinny body radiates just enough to keep the blankets toasty warm, but not so much as to become sweltering
  2141. >The breathing increases in volume, and you finally force an eye open
  2142. >Dash is perched on your bed, staring at you
  2143. "Zzz.. Dash? Wha... gah!"
  2144. >You scoot back against the wall, protectively wrapping yourself around Fluttershy
  2145. "How long have you been there?"
  2146. >You keep your voice to a whisper, but still inject enough anger into your voice for her to get your point
  2147. >"Just a couple minutes, dude."
  2148. >She crosses a hand over her heart
  2149. >"You two are so damn cute together, you have no idea..."
  2150. "We... I... we were just cold, okay? It's not like this is a..."
  2151. >"No, dude, you don't have to explain it. You're just so perfect for each other, how could you resist?"
  2152. "...I hate you sometimes."
  2153. >Dash sticks her tongue out at you
  2154. >"Just go back to sleep. It's still early."
  2155. "Not with you watching. This is so weird."
  2156. >Somehow, Fluttershy is still conked out
  2157. >Or she's taken a page from Dash's book, and is just pretending to be in order to avoid the awkwardness
  2158. >"Come on, man. I won't do anything weird."
  2159. "I find that hard to believe."
  2160. >"Nah, don't worry. I took care of it after I woke up."
  2161. "That's... that's not any better!"
  2162. >"Oh, come on. If it were me and Spitfire, are you really saying you'd be completely disinterested?"
  2163. "I mean..."
  2164. >She winks
  2165. >"Just let me enjoy this, okay? It's just so pure..."
  2166. >Dammit, Dash...
  2167. >She's not gonna take it when she realizes Fluttershy's a she, is she?
  2168. >For a moment, you consider telling her yourself
  2169. >But, well... that's not your secret to spill
  2170. >Fluttershy can tell her when she wakes up, you figure
  2171. >In the mean time, though, why not mess with Dash a bit?
  2172. >You snuggle back into the covers, nuzzling your head atop Fluttershy's
  2173. >Dash lets out a tiny squeak
  2174. >"S-so cute..."
  2175. >You place a tiny "sleep-tight" kiss on Fluttershy's forehead
  2176. >The color rises in Dash's face
  2177. >She's visibly sweating now
  2178. >"Dude... my heart..."
  2179. "You know we're holding hands under this blanket, right?"
  2180. >Dash gasps, shivering
  2181. >"You're doing this on purpose now, aren't you!"
  2182. "Yeah."
  2183. >"You... dude, you're so gay. Just accept it."
  2184. >Dash's face brightens
  2185. >"Dude! You two should be the couple today!"
  2186. "What?"
  2187. >"Yeah! You know, while we're hanging out, or whatever. You two can be the couple! Like, just for pretend, but like... you know. I think it'd make him really happy. And it'd be *so* hot--"
  2188. >She catches herself, awkwardly chuckling
  2189. >"I mean cute! Cute, you know. Heh..."
  2190. >Dash runs a hand through her hair, trying too look innocent
  2191. "You want me to pretend to be dating someone else, while you watch?"
  2192. >"Y-yeah? I mean... what? It's not *that* weird."
  2193. >You raise an eyebrow
  2194. >"Oh, come on! It's not that weird! I spend all day, every day, being the awesomest I can for everyone else to enjoy. Maybe sometimes I just wanna be the one watching."
  2195. "Whatever you say."
  2196. >"So you'll do it!?"
  2197. >She grins, wriggling her eyebrows at you
  2198. "Will I pretend to be dating a dude while you follow us around like a creepy fangirl?"
  2199. >"Well, it sounds kinda bad when you put it like that."
  2200. >She rubs her right arm, looking admonished
  2201. >"I mean, you don't have to, dude. I'm... I'm sorry if I'm a little pushy with all this. It's just... I don't know, man. It's like watching something out of a manga, except way better. You two are just so perfect together, and it... it makes me happy, I guess."
  2202. >You stare at her
  2203. >"...and a little aroused."
  2204. >You stare harder
  2205. >"Okay, okay, a lot aroused. But... I don't know. The two of you are really, really cute together, and honestly it makes me kinda sad that you're not into him."
  2206. "Seriously?"
  2207. >"Yeah. I mean... he really needs someone."
  2208. "That's true..."
  2209. >"So, even if it's just for a day... I'd like to see you treat him super special. Because he deserves it."
  2210. "And you don't mind?"
  2211. >"Of course not, man. I don't need attention *all* the time. Just, you know... most of the time."
  2212. >She winks
  2213. >"But yeah. Where do you want to go?"
  2214. >You glance down at sleeping Fluttershy, and know immediately where you want to take her
  2215. "Is there any way you could get us some tickets to the zoo?"
  2216.  
  2217.  
  2218. >You fall back asleep for another hour or two, and don't wake until you feel Fluttershy stirring next to you
  2219. >She opens one eye, glancing around the room
  2220. >"Wh-where..."
  2221. >Then she realizes you're next to her, and curls up against you
  2222. >"O-oh... morning, Anon."
  2223. "Mm... hey, Butters."
  2224. >You know you should probably extract yourself from her now -- after all, Dash is in the other room getting zoo tickets -- but it's inhumanly hard to remove herself from her warm little embrace
  2225. >"I h-haven't slept that well in a long time."
  2226. >She buries her face in the blankets
  2227. >"Thanks..."
  2228. "No problem. But... you know this isn't gonna be a regular thing, right?"
  2229. >"Y-yeah... and th-that's fine. One night was enough. I j-just wanted to know what it would feel like."
  2230. "Yeah..."
  2231. >You start to untangle yourself from the blankets
  2232. >Fluttershy tries to cling for you for a moment, but quickly lets go
  2233. >She sinks back agains the wall, wrapping herself up
  2234. >You start rooting through your dresser, grabbing an oversized hoodie and a pair of sweatpants from a few years ago, then tossing them to her
  2235. >"Wh-what are these for?"
  2236. "I dunno. Thought you'd like some fresh clothes."
  2237. >"Oh, um... I m-mean, only if you're okay with me w-wearing your things..."
  2238. "Of course. But... could you shower first?"
  2239. >"Huh?"
  2240. "Not trying to be mean, but you kinda smell like a rabbit."
  2241. >"Oh, heh."
  2242. >Fluttershy chuckles, fidgeting with the hem of the blanket
  2243. >"S-sorry. I forgot that n-not everyone likes bunnies as much as me."
  2244. >She crawls back onto the bed, picking up the stuffed toy you gave her
  2245. >"C-can you check on Angel for me while I shower?"
  2246. "Yeah, sure."
  2247. >You leave Fluttershy on the bed, and head into the kitchen
  2248. >Angel is still in his cage, staring impatiently at you
  2249. "What?"
  2250. >You swear you can see the rabbit scowling
  2251. "Your mama will be back in a minute. Just sit tight."
  2252. >"Are you talking to the rabbit?"
  2253. >Dash slinks into the kitchen in her underwear
  2254. >She wraps her arms around you, laying her head on your shoulder as you root through the pantry for some breakfast
  2255. "Maybe."
  2256. >"What's he got to say?"
  2257. "Not much. Don't think he likes me."
  2258. >"Smart bunny."
  2259. "Har har. What happened to my box of Cocoa Pommels™?"
  2260. >Dash falls silent, the only sound in the room being the gentle patter of water coming from the shower
  2261. "Because I know there's no way anyone could have eaten all the rest of my Cocoa Pommels™ while I was asleep, right?"
  2262. >"Y-you know, why don't we go out for breakfast together? All three of us? You can take Butters on a special date!"
  2263. >You crane your neck, glaring at her
  2264. >"And, uh... I'll pay! Heh!"
  2265. "Sounds good."
  2266. >You kiss Dash's forehead and head to the fridge, pouring yourself a glass of milk
  2267. >Angel thumps his foot again
  2268. "What? I don't have any carrots."
  2269. >The rabbit continues to thump the bottom of his cage
  2270. "Would you calm down? How do I make him calm down?"
  2271. >"I dunno. I'll go ask Butters while I'm changing."
  2272. "Alright."
  2273. >You sit down with your milk, ready to enjoy it in front of this smug little rabbit fucker
  2274. >Because you're either a retard, exhausted, or both, it takes you a solid two minutes to realize what Dash just said
  2275. >And you don't realize it until you hear the door to the bathroom opening
  2276. "Hey, wait! Butters is in there!"
  2277. >"Yeah, so? He's gay as it gets. He can handle a little female nudity."
  2278. "No, Dash!"
  2279. >You get up from the table, trying to prevent Fluttershy's imminent exposure
  2280. >After the door opens, you hear the slap of Dash's feet on the bathroom tiles, followed by a shocked squeak from Fluttershy
  2281. >Dash, of course, handles the situation with utmost grace
  2282. >"Hey Butters. Hope you don't mind if I..."
  2283. >The Octomom of pregnant pauses follows her
  2284. >"Dude, why do you have a vag?"
  2285.  
  2286. >"I, um... uh... I..."
  2287. >You can practically hear Fluttershy's teeth chattering from the other room
  2288. >"Please don't look at me..."
  2289. >Getting up from the table, you run towards the bathroom, ready to drag Dash out of there
  2290. >Seriously, why can't she learn to handle an awkward situation with a little grace?
  2291. >"I'm not looking at you! I just wanna know why you've got a vag--"
  2292. >And then, taking way longer than it should have, it finally hits her
  2293. >"Oh! Dude, you're a chick!"
  2294. >And that's when you step into the bathroom to drag her away
  2295. >The bathroom itself is cramped, leaving only two or three feet between Fluttershy and Dash
  2296. >Fluttershy, fortunately, has managed to partially cover the front of herself with a towel
  2297. >Still, it leaves a *lot* of her exposed
  2298. >She looks... well, about like you'd expect
  2299. >Skinny, to the point of being androgynous, withonly the barest hint of femininity expressed in her narrow shoulders and the slight curve of her hips
  2300. >She shies away when she notices you staring, and you quickly tear your eyes off her body
  2301. >You step up behind Dash and grab her arm to drag her out
  2302. >Unfortunately, it didn't occur to you just how easily startled Rainbow can be when she gets flustered
  2303. >"Gah! Let go!"
  2304. >She flips her shit the minute you grab her unawares, pivoting on her heel as she tries to shake you off
  2305. >And she succeeds... or, at least, she sort of does
  2306. >Dash spins in a half circle, throwing you off her
  2307. >And sending you right into Fluttershy
  2308. >You plow into her, and she falls backwards into the bathtub, the towel going flying
  2309. >In midair, you twist your body to try and avoid falling on her
  2310. >And you succeed!
  2311. >Unfortunately, this causes you to fall with your face right between her legs
  2312. >"A-ah..."
  2313. >Fluttershy groans, looks down, and realizes the position the two of you have fallen in
  2314. >"O-oh my... I'm s-s-so sorry!"
  2315. >Reflexively, she tries to cover herself
  2316. >Unfortunately, that instinct also causes her to try to cross her legs, which ends up just immobilizing your head right in front of her crotch
  2317. >Man, you're *really* glad she just bathed
  2318. >"I'm s-sorry! I'm sorry, I'm sorry, I'm sorry... ah~"
  2319. >Your attempts to escape, unfortunately, cause your face to brush against her lady-bits
  2320. >Fluttershy squirms, a shudder running through her body
  2321. >Something warm and wet -- which you *really* hope is just leftover bathwater splashes against your cheeks
  2322. >Finally, you manage to extract yourself, ending up crammed in a bathroom with a buck-naked Fluttershy
  2323. >With her lower half hidden, is honestly is really easy to mistake her for a boy
  2324. >The two of you glance at each other, and it's an absolute toss-up as to who is blushing harder
  2325. >And then you glance at Dash
  2326. >She has a look on her face
  2327. >You have no idea how to describe it, really
  2328. >It's somewhere between the horror of realization, absolute and utter confusion, and intensely overpowering arousal
  2329. >Granted, those are like the only three emotions Dash has, half the time...
  2330. >"I, uh..."
  2331. >"I'm s-s-so sorry! I d-didn't mean... I j-just lost my balance!"
  2332. >She quickly turns away from you, hiding her face
  2333. >"I'm sorry I'm sorry I'm sorry I'm sorry I'm sorry I'm sorry I'm sorry I'm sorry..."
  2334. >Dash wipes sweat from her forehead
  2335. >"I'm uh... I gotta go, uh... check on the zoo tickets! Gotta make sure they printed properly! Be right back! In like fifteen minutes!"
  2336. >She sprints out of the room
  2337. >Then sticks her head back in
  2338. >"D-don't go in the basement!"
  2339.  
  2340. >Fifteen and a half minutes later, the three of you are seated on the bed
  2341. >And wow, does "awkward" not even begin to describe it
  2342. "So, uh..."
  2343. >"Yeah."
  2344. "I, um..."
  2345. >"I'm s-s-sorry..."
  2346. >"No, it's cool. I just, uh..."
  2347. "Are you okay, Butters?"
  2348. >"Y-yeah... are you?"
  2349. "Perfectly fine. Dash?"
  2350. >"I'm good, dude."
  2351. >She lets out a shaky breath, her right hand still twitching
  2352. "Well..."
  2353. >"Yeah."
  2354. "Zoo?"
  2355. >"Oh, right! The tickets!"
  2356.  
  2357. >She runs back to the basement to print them, returning a minute later with a slip of paper for each of you
  2358. >You scan yours, while Fluttershy stares at hers like it's a hundred dollar bill
  2359. "Why do they have our names on them?"
  2360. >"Huh? Oh. They're upping security, apparently. After what happened down in Maretropolis, you know."
  2361. "Oh, right."
  2362. >You clear your throat, hoping to disperse a little of the sudden somber mood
  2363. "But yeah, awesome. You still up for breakfast?"
  2364. >Dash pats her stomach
  2365. >"Always, dude. What're you in the mood for?"
  2366. >You turn to Fluttershy
  2367. >"Oh, um... anything is fine. As long as th-there's no meat..."
  2368. >"Awesome! Let's go."
  2369. >She jumps to her feet, grabbing both you and Fluttershy by the hands and pulling you along with her
  2370. >As soon as you're out the door, though, she steps backwards, letting the two of you walk together while she trails behind
  2371. >Is she still pushing this "date" thing?
  2372. >You glance back at Dash, giving her a "what gives?" kind of look
  2373. >She motions for you to hold Fluttershy's hand
  2374. >Okay, yeah, she's definitely still going for the date angle
  2375. >Why?
  2376. >Mentally, you shrug
  2377. >Probably just wants more spank material
  2378. >She motions again for you to take your friend's hand, wriggling her eyebrows
  2379.  
  2380. >By the time the three of you arrive at the zoo -- after a breakfast of fresh-baked muffins -- you and Fluttershy are still holding hands
  2381. >Mostly just because she refuses to let go
  2382. >As you head up to the front gate, she keeps shooting nervous looks back at Dash, as if worried your girlfriend will suddenly stop being cool with the two of your intimacy
  2383. >But Dash just shoots her an encouraging smile, and you continue up towards the entrance
  2384. "Looks like you were right about the increased security. Wow..."
  2385. >"Yeah dude. I guess it's good though, right? Least we know we're pretty safe here."
  2386. >A pair of police officers are stationed near the front
  2387. >They're armed, though they look fairly relaxed
  2388. >One of them, an intimidatingly-muscled, punkish-looking woman, even nods towards you as you pass her
  2389. >Fluttershy, however, shrinks against you
  2390. >And that's when it occurrs to you
  2391. "Yo, Dash?"
  2392. >"Hmmm?"
  2393. "You didn't use Fluttershy's real name on those tickets, did you?"
  2394. >"Uh, yeah?"
  2395. >The cop eyes your pink-haired friend over as you pass her, brushing cropped white hair out of her eyes to get a better look
  2396. >Thankfully, she lets you go, but you can feel her eyes on you even as you head through the gate
  2397. >"Why? What, should I have called her Butterscotch or something?"
  2398. "No. It's probably nothing."
  2399. >"Doesn't look like nothing."
  2400. >"He's w-worried my dad might have c-c-called the police to look f-for me."
  2401. >"Already?"
  2402. >Dash glances between the two of you, then back at the white-haired cop
  2403. >She's not looking at you anymore, thankfully, but you can't help but feel a little on-edge
  2404. >"M-maybe. He g-g-gets really upset when I l-leave without his permission. And he's r-r-really mad about me b-being with Anon..."
  2405. >"Shit. Maybe we should leave?"
  2406. "No point in that. We're already here, right? If they were gonna grab us, they'd have done it at the gate."
  2407. >"True..."
  2408. "And if they do decide to talk to us, we can just explain the situation, right?" We're not doing anything wrong."
  2409. >Dash looks relieved
  2410. >"Yeah! Good point."
  2411. "So let's just enjoy this. We can worry about everything else later. For right now..."
  2412. >You squeeze Fluttershy's hand
  2413. "Where do you wanna visit first, Butters?"
  2414.  
  2415. >Now, you'd probably guess she'd want to go right for the petting zoo, right?
  2416. >Or maybe the big cats, or horses, or anything fluffy and cute, really
  2417. >But hope, she heads right for the reptile house, dragging you behind her
  2418. "Uh... are you sure?"
  2419. >"Yeah! They g-got this really cool new Freshwater Crocodile exhibit! Apparently they're p-prety hard to find in captivity!"
  2420. "Oh. Uh..."
  2421. >"Dude! Hell yeah! That sounds awesome!"
  2422. >For the first time since it began, your hand-holding with Fluttershy is broken
  2423. >Dash grabs ahold of your friend and drags her towards the Canterlot Zoo Herpetarium, leaving you to follow in behind them
  2424.  
  2425. >The inside of the place is muggy and claustrophobic, just a winding series of dark hallways with glass cases flanking either side
  2426. >Inside the cases are every species of snake, turtle, and lizard you can imagine
  2427. >Dash and Fluttershy work their way through the crowd, heading towards the lower levels
  2428. >In the basement, the place opens up into a wide, arena-sized room, the center of which falls away into a pit several fit deep
  2429. >And at the bottom of the pit, nestled in different, fenced-off pools, are the crocodiles
  2430. >You get shivers just looking at them, but Fluttershy and Dash are fascinated
  2431. >"Dude, look at that guy! He looks like he could bite someone in half!"
  2432. >"Y-yeah. Apparently their jaws can exert around t-three thousand PSI of pressure..."
  2433. >"I have no idea what that means. But it sounds bad-fucking-ass!"
  2434. >A nearby mom scowls at Dash's language, and she blushes
  2435. >For a moment, it's your turn to be the third wheel
  2436. >You rest against the wall, watching the girls chatter
  2437. >They're huddled together like they've been best friends their wholes lives
  2438. >Fluttershy is trying to explain the anatomical features of freshwater crocodiles, and why they're so dangerous
  2439. >Dash clearly isn't following along with the finer details, but every time Fluttershy gets to a particularly gory bit, her eyes light up
  2440. >"And then th-they use these really powerful m-muscle contractions in their bodies to t-twist the prey, and that b-breaks it's neck."
  2441. >"Dude."
  2442. >"Y-yeah?"
  2443. >"That's so cool! It's like getting suplexed by a dragon!"
  2444. >That's one way of putting it, you guess
  2445. >Fluttershy giggles, bouncing excitedly on her heels as her and Dash circle the exhibit
  2446.  
  2447. >For the moment, it almost seems like you've been forgotten, but you don't really mind
  2448. >It's just so nice to see the two of them getting along this well, and Fluttershy's happiness is universally contagious
  2449. >You swear you notice people smiling at her as she walks past, some of them even exchanging comments with her about the animals
  2450. >She's in her element now, and she's loving every second of it
  2451. >And so you're content to sit back for a bit and let the girls have some time together
  2452. >When they disappear from view, your eyes begin to wander around the Herpetarium's basement
  2453. >It's a pretty standard crowd down here: moms with their kids, couples around your age, elderly groups, Ms. Harshwhinny...
  2454. >Wait, why is she here?
  2455. >Just as you notice her, she catches sight of you too, and begins to work through the crowd towards you
  2456. >"Er... Mr. Anonymous. Fancy meeting you here."
  2457. >She seems... different than she does at school
  2458. >Way more flustered
  2459. >In fact, she seems more than a little embarrassed that you ran into her here
  2460. >It could just be the weird lighting, but you could swear you see her blushing
  2461. "Afternoon, ma'am."
  2462. >"Yes. Ahem. Yes. Afternoon. I'm just here on school business, you know. Planning a field trip."
  2463. >She puffs out her cheeks
  2464. >"Very serious stuff. Very important, very professional."
  2465. "Oh, um..."
  2466. >"I'm not here for myself, I'm sure you realized. That would be extremely childish. I'm planning a field trip."
  2467. "Sounds like a good trip."
  2468. >Harshwhinny looks relieved you're buying her flimsy excuse
  2469. >"Anyway, while I was scouting, you know, for the trip, the trip I'm planning today, I couldn't help but notice you were with Fluttershy. Is... Is everything okay? With him?"
  2470. "Uh... I mean, well..."
  2471. >"If there's anything I can help with, I'd like to know."
  2472. >Just then,the two girls come circling back into view, Fluttershy chattering excitedly with Dash about something you can't make out
  2473. >Harshwhinny regards them with calm concern
  2474. >"Seems like, whatever you're doing, it's working. He looks a lot happier."
  2475. "Yeah. We've gotten a lot closer recently."
  2476. >A whole lot closer, but you'll keep that to yourself
  2477. >"That's good. Poor boy could use a good friend."
  2478. >She frowns, adjusting her scarf
  2479. "Ma'am? Something wrong?"
  2480. >"No!"
  2481. >She covers her mouth
  2482. >"No, of course not. Nothing at all. You're doing a fantastic job looking after your friend, Mr. Anonymous. I'm... Im very proud."
  2483. "Um... ma'am? Are you sure everything's okay? You seem a little..."
  2484. >"I'm under a fair amount of stress, Anonymius. Field trips don't plan themselves, you know."
  2485. "Of course."
  2486. >Ms. Harshwhinny coughs
  2487. >"Ah, yes, well. Ahem. I should've really get going then. You still have my phone number, right?"
  2488. "Oh, yeah. I should, yeah."
  2489. >"Excellent. I'm serious, Anonymous. If you need help, please let me know."
  2490. >Before you can reply, your teacher gives you an awkward pat on the shoulder and leaves
  2491. >Well... that just happened
  2492. >Seriously though, why was she here?
  2493. >Harshwhinny has never seemed like the kind of woman to want to be around a bunch of kids all day
  2494. >Well, you appreciate her insistence on helping, at least, though you doubt you'll need it
  2495. >"Hey dude. Who were you talking to?"
  2496. >You catch up with the girls as the three of you head out of the Herpetarium
  2497. >Fluttershy is still grinning like an idiot, taking a few last looks at her favorite species of snake as you head out
  2498. "Harshwhinny."
  2499. >"That grouch who teaches Econ? Why was she here?"
  2500. "Planning a field trip, apparently."
  2501. >"A field trip to the zoo? For an Econ class?"
  2502. "I mean, that's probably not why she was *really* here. But that's what she said."
  2503. >"Hmmm. Weird."
  2504. >Dash drags Fluttershy away just as you're about to reach the door, and the two of them run over to glass case holding a huge Burmese Python
  2505. >"Dude, sick! It says they're about to feed him!"
  2506. >"O-oh."
  2507. >"Oh shit! Look, they gave him an actual live rabbit!"
  2508. >"Y-yeah... that's what they do..."
  2509. >Fluttershy bites her lip, but doesn't look away
  2510. >She's clearly distressed, a sheen of sweat shining on her face and little tremors running through her body
  2511. >You look away just as the snake begins to constrict around the bunny
  2512. >Dash watches, fascinated, for only a moment
  2513. >Then she notices the look on Fluttershy's face
  2514. >"Uh, yeah... this is kinda boring. You wanna go see something else?"
  2515. >Fluttershy nods, grateful for the excuse
  2516.  
  2517. >Outside, the bright Fall day is gradually graying out as thick, iron-colored stormclouds roll in
  2518. >Dash frowns at the sight
  2519. "What?"
  2520. >"Nothing. Just don't wanna have today get cut short."
  2521. "You afraid of a little rain?"
  2522. >"No! Just, you know... whatever. Wanna get some lunch?"
  2523. "Sure. Butters?"
  2524. >You look back at your friend, who's still huddled against Dash
  2525. >She doesn't look so good
  2526. >"Sure. I'm n-not really hungry, though. You d-don't have to get me anything."
  2527. "You sure?"
  2528. >"Y-yeah..."
  2529. >She wipes her mouth with the back of her hand, looking like she's about to throw up
  2530. "Hey, you alright?"
  2531. >"Y-yeah. Fine. It's j-just been a while since I've s-seen a feeding. It's not a big deal."
  2532. >You don't even need to be prompted by Dash this time, you just grab Fluttershy and hug her
  2533.  
  2534. >The three of you get to the zoo's café and head for a table in the back corner
  2535. >All of the walls are painted with little cartoonish murals of gorillas, lions, giraffes...
  2536. >Basically an entire Serengeti, rendered there in front of you in primary colors
  2537. >Fluttershy starts to look a little bit better as she admires the murals, smiling to herself
  2538. >"I h-haven't seen these before."
  2539. "I thought you came here all the time."
  2540. >She shrugs
  2541. >"N-not really. My dad usually doesn't w-want me to go. And even then, I d-don't really have enough money for the food here, so... yeah..."
  2542. >Dash sits down at one end of the tiny cafe table, and just as you're about to sit next to her she stands back up, and pushes Fluttershy into her spot
  2543. >"I'll go order for us, 'kay? You two just sit tight."
  2544. >She winks at you, then heads off to the counter
  2545. >You turn to Fluttershy
  2546. "Hey. You sure you're doing alright?"
  2547. >"Y-yeah. Just a little sh-shaken up, I guess."
  2548. "Alright. I'm sorry."
  2549. >"It's f-fine. Why are you apologizing?"
  2550. "I dunno. I just hope that didn't ruin the day for you."
  2551. >"R-ruin? No, never. Today has been amazing. One of the b-best days... actually p-probably the best day I've ever h-had, next to the day I g-got Angel..."
  2552. "Well, that's good."
  2553. >You take Fluttershy's hand now almost out of instinct
  2554. >It hits you just how lame you sound a second too late
  2555. "I mean... I'm honestly really glad to hear that, Butters. You deserve a good day. Hell, you deserve a few good years."
  2556. >"W-what do you mean?"
  2557. "Nothing, I guess. You're a good person. You deserve better than your dad."
  2558. >Fluttershy falls silent for a moment
  2559. >"I g-guess..."
  2560. "What's wrong?"
  2561. >"N-nothing. Just... I d-don't know. I guess I'm a little worried that what you're s-seeing in me isn't the real me. You and D-Dash are the only people who have..."
  2562. >She shakes her head
  2563. >"Never m-mind. I'm sorry."
  2564. "No, keep going. I mean, if you're alright with it."
  2565. >"It'll just r-ruin the mood."
  2566. "Dash has literally masturbated five feet from us. You can't possibly kill the mood any harder than her."
  2567. >"H-heh... I dunno. I guess it's j-just really weird, having people suddenly c-care about me like this. I'm w-worried I j-just accidentally tricked you into thinking I was worth more than I really am, or s-something."
  2568. "Well, if you have tricked us, then you did a damn good job. Because I think you're pretty great. And I can tell Dash does too."
  2569. >"Y-yeah. I guess."
  2570. >She smiles, admiring the mural to give her and excuse not to look at you
  2571. >"Is... is she okay? With, you know, the t-two of us being like this?"
  2572. >Her fingers wriggle against yours
  2573. "Oh, you have no idea..."
  2574. >"Hm?"
  2575. "She's super okay with it. Dash... she talks about herself a lot, sure. And her ego is the size of a fucking horse. But she really loves her friends. More than pretty much anyone I've ever met, really. If you and me being like this--"
  2576. >You trace your thumb in a circle across her palm
  2577. "--makes you happy, then she's more than all for it. Plus... well, I don't think I'll mention the other half."
  2578. >"What other half?"
  2579. "The other half that left a stain on my couch..."
  2580. >As if on cue, Dash returns
  2581. >"Hey dudes! You two look cozy."
  2582. >"Y-yeah."
  2583. >Nervous, Fluttershy begins to scoot away from you, but Dash reaches across the table and pushes her closer
  2584. >"Alright! Let's eat!"
  2585. >She plops down a plastic tray bearing burgers for you and her, and fruit salad for Fluttershy
  2586. >Along with two glasses of lemonade, one of which contains two straws
  2587. >Guess who that's for?
  2588.  
  2589. >Lunch is a quality experience, even if the food is a little underwhelming
  2590. >Dash is absolutely enamored with the two of you; almost more than when she thought Fluttershy was a dude
  2591. >When you and her both try to take a sip of lemonade at the same time, your heads bump, causing Dash to let out a tiny, excited squeal
  2592. >"Do that again! Oh my God!"
  2593. >The next time, your noses bump against each other
  2594. >Dash's resulting noise is far less cute
  2595. >Sounds like a heavily-aroused horse
  2596. >After that, you work out the logistics of sharing a lemonade, and lunch goes more smoothly
  2597. >Until, of course, Dash starts to get bored
  2598. >"Hey!"
  2599. "Mm?"
  2600. >"I just had a great idea!"
  2601. "Yeah?"
  2602. >Fluttershy swallows a bite of strawberry
  2603. >"W-what?"
  2604. >"This is your guys' date, right?"
  2605. "Uh... I guess?"
  2606. >"D-date?"
  2607. >"Yeah!"
  2608. >"I d-didn't know it was an actual d-date..."
  2609. >She glances between you and Dash
  2610. >"D-does that mean... this is my first... oh my..."
  2611. >"Yeah! First date! Everyone loves compliments on the first date, right?"
  2612. >She bends across the table, grinning like an overeager idiot
  2613. "I mean, I guess? Why, Dash? You want us to compliment you?"
  2614. >You elbow Fluttershy's shoulder
  2615. "I told you about her ego..."
  2616. >"No, dumbass. Compliment each other! It'll be like a real date!"
  2617. "Uh..."
  2618. >"Y-yeah! That s-sounds really cool!"
  2619. >Fluttershy turns to you, expectant
  2620. >"Do you w-want to go first, or should I?"
  2621. >You glance between her and Dash
  2622. "Yeah, you go."
  2623. >"Okay! I, um... I..."
  2624. >She furrows her brow, thinking
  2625. "Oof. Is it really that hard to think of something?"
  2626. >"N-no! I'm just trying to make sure I s-say it in the right way."
  2627. >She throws a nervous glance towards Dash, who responds with an encouraging smile
  2628. >And a thumbs-up
  2629. >"I... I you're a super nice, super cool person. And y-you always make me feel really happy when I'm around you, and really special, and um... yeah..."
  2630. >She wipes her forehead
  2631. >"Heh. I guess that was maybe a little too much."
  2632. "No! No, thanks, Butters."
  2633. >You scratch the back of your head, trying to think of something
  2634. >But everything that comes to mind is cheesy, over-the-top, lame, or all three
  2635. >Fluttershy folds her hands in her lap, her right leg kicking in excitement
  2636. >"Okay, well... it's your t-turn now."
  2637. "Yeah."
  2638. >Dash leans in further, so close you can feel her muggy breath on your cheek
  2639. >"Yeah, Anon. You're turn. What's your favorite thing about Butters?"
  2640. "I... um..."
  2641. >Fluttershy leans in too, to the point where you're starting to feel a little claustrophobic
  2642. "I... I think you..."
  2643. >You're aware that half the restaurant is probably staring at you now
  2644. "I think you're adorable, Butters."
  2645. >Of all the lame shit that came to mind, that was what you picked?
  2646. >Jesus, it's like you're not even trying
  2647. >Fluttershy just stares at you
  2648. >"You... t-t-t-t-think I'm c-cute?"
  2649. "I mean... you know, in like a... friend--"
  2650. >Dash shakes her head at the word 'friend'
  2651. >Is she serious?
  2652. >Alright, fine, if this is really how far she wants to push the "date" thing, then you'll go there
  2653. "Yeah. Yeah, I think you're super cute."
  2654. >She crosses her hands over her mouth, leaning up against you
  2655. >"Oh, m-m-my... th-th-th-thank you..."
  2656. >Dash is sitting at the other end of the table, looking like she's about to cry
  2657. >"It's... it's just so pure..."
  2658. >She dabs at the corners of her eyes with her napkin
  2659. >"So precious..."
  2660.  
  2661. >After lunch, the three of you head back outside
  2662. >The brewing storm has reached a fierce, ominous leaden color above your head
  2663. >Dash glances up at the clouds
  2664. >"That's so cool..."
  2665. "You say that about every thunderstorm."
  2666. >"They're cool."
  2667. >Fluttershy just presses up against you, looking nervous
  2668. >She's been clingy since your compliment, but now it's less cutesy and more worrisome
  2669. "You alright, Butters?"
  2670. >"Y-yeah. I'm fine. Just don't r-really like storms."
  2671. "Oh. Well, you don't need to worry. If it gets bad, we'll just find someplace to hide."
  2672. >The crowds are thinning out now, and most of the animals have retreated into the indoor segments of their enclosures
  2673. >Fluttershy points towards the end of the path, where the zoo's aquarium sits monolothic and empty-looking
  2674. >"Are y-you guys okay if we inside for a b-b-bit?"
  2675. "Oh, yeah, sure."
  2676. >You step away from Fluttershy for a minute, though, pushing her towards Rainbow
  2677. "I'm gonna run to the bathroom real quick though. I'll catch up with you two inside, okay?"
  2678. >"Oh. O-okay. We'll wait for you."
  2679. >Fluttershy latches onto Dash, and the two girls head off towards the aquarium together
  2680.  
  2681. >As you step out of the bathroom, however, something possesses you to scan your surroundings
  2682. >Perhaps it's just latent paranoia, or maybe it's some bizarre precognition on your part
  2683. >But for whatever reason, you take a look around, just to make sure the coast is clear
  2684. >And that's when you see him
  2685. >Fluttershy's dad is standing just a few meters away, near the café's entrance, talking to the white-haired cop from earlier
  2686. >You try to find some way to make a break for it, but leaving the bathroom would put you right in plain sight of both of them
  2687. >And odds are, he's told them exactly what you look like
  2688. >In fact, if Ms. Harshwhinny is here, then there probably isn't anyone at school to cover for you
  2689. >So he could easily have as much information on you as he wants
  2690. >Despite the chill brought on by the storm, you're starting to sweat
  2691. >What the hell are you going to do?
  2692. >Dash and Fluttershy are all the way over in the aquarium, they don't even know he's here
  2693. >You have to warn them
  2694. >Ducking back into the bathroom, you grab your cell phone
  2695. >But just as you're about to dial Dash's number, the bathroom door opens
  2696. >Panicked, you slip into the room's single stall
  2697. >Footsteps sound on the tile, and someone enters
  2698. >You retreat against the back of the stall, biting your lower lip
  2699. >The footsteps stop just outside the stall, and someone knocks
  2700. >"Anyone in there?"
  2701. >The voice is definitely Fluttershy's dad's
  2702. >Shit, what do you do?
  2703. >He's cut off your only exit
  2704. >Fight him?
  2705. >Hope the police show up?
  2706. >"Hey! Anyone in there!"
  2707. >He knocks again, and jiggles the locked door
  2708. >Dammit
  2709. >There isn't enough room to slip underneath the walls
  2710. >Closing your eyes, you pray to whatever will listen for some sort of miracle
  2711. >And then you get one
  2712. >A huge, cacophonous boom of thunder echoes through the bathroom, and the lights flicker and die
  2713. >"Gah! What the hell!?"
  2714. >And that's when you take your chance
  2715. >With the room now pitch-black, you throw the door open
  2716. >It bangs right into Fluttershy's dad's face, sending him backwards
  2717. >"Gah! What the hell!?'
  2718. >He starts to chase after you, but you've got a sizable head start
  2719. >Hands groping wildly in the darkness, you simultaneously find the door, and a plastic wastebin sitting next to it
  2720. >In a single motion, you throw the wastebin behind you, hearing a satisfying *crash* as it splits open, spilling paper towels across the floor
  2721. >The crash is followed by another, louder one as Fluttershy's dad trips, going down hard onto the floor
  2722. >You throw the door open, keeping your head ducked as you sprint outside
  2723. >The cop is nowhere to be seen, thankfully, but you're not going to wait for her to reappear
  2724. >Rain hasn't started to fall yet, but the humidity in the air and the frigid breeze whirling around you informs you that it isn't far away
  2725. >You hear the bathroom door open with a bang, and quickly throw yourself behind a bench
  2726. >Through the bench's wooden slats, you watch Fluttershy's dad storm out of the bathroom, his face red with fury and his nose bleeding
  2727. >He looks directly at you...
  2728. >...
  2729. >Then looks away, continuing to scan the surroundings
  2730. >You begin to creep back towards the aquarium, making sure to keep yourself low
  2731. >Fluttershy's dad heads back into the bathroom, presumably to clean his nose
  2732. >You take the chance to jump back to your feet, sprinting like a madman towards the darkened aquarium building
  2733.  
  2734. >"Anon!"
  2735. >"Dude, what's up?"
  2736. >You reach the girls, thankfully, to find that nothing seems to have changed
  2737. >The aquarium is light, though dimly
  2738. >"The power flickered for a moment, man. Everything alright? You look super worried."
  2739. >Panting, you explain to Dash and Fluttershy about your encounter with her dad
  2740. >Fluttershy's eyes go wide, and she begins to tremble as you near the end of the story
  2741. >"H-he's here? But... but..."
  2742. "He's been talking to the police. And he's probably looking for me."
  2743. >"But how d-did he know I was here?"
  2744. >Dash smacks her forehead
  2745. >"The names on the tickets. Goddammit, I'm so stupid!"
  2746. "It's okay. We just need to get out of here without being spotted. The storm's driven everyone inside, right? We just have to sneak back to the parking lot and get back to my house. Then... we can call the police."
  2747. >"Why not just call them now? We got Butters, we got her dad."
  2748. "It won't work. He got to them first. Probably made up a story, and it'll take time for them to figure out he's lying. And in that time..."
  2749. >Fluttershy hangs her head
  2750. >"I'd b-be living with him, wouldn't I?"
  2751. "Yeah. Unless we can get a case against him, or get an adult to vouch for us..."
  2752. >And that's when it hits you
  2753. "Harshwhinny."
  2754. >"Huh? What does she have to do with this?"
  2755. "She gave me her phone number."
  2756. >"Scandalous."
  2757. "No, not like that. She said to call her if we need help. So, we sneak out, I call her, she takes us somewhere safe, and we inform the police. If she's staying with another adult, we can make a case for not taking her back to her dad."
  2758. >Dash ponders for a moment
  2759. >"And if he comes for her? Before we can get to the police?"
  2760. "Then..."
  2761. >"Then I'll g-go with him."
  2762. >Fluttershy steps forward, raising her head
  2763. >"I'm n-not going to let you two get hurt trying to keep m-me safe. You've done enough me already. If it r-r-really has to come down to your or me... p-please pick yourselves. I can t-take it."
  2764. "No."
  2765. >You place a hand on Fluttershy's shoulder
  2766. "It's not going to come down to that. And even if it did, I wouldn't leave you in his hands. Not for anything."
  2767. >You take Fluttershy's left hand, and Dash takes her right
  2768. >She blushes in repsonse, looking like she'd like to shrink away
  2769. >But she can't, as the two of you hold her tight
  2770. "We're gonna keep you safe, Butters. And I don't care what it takes."
  2771. >As if to underscore your words, thunder booms outside
  2772. >The power flickers again, the emergency generator humming somewhere in the building as it strains to keep the aquarium running
  2773. >You and Dash glance around then at each other
  2774. "Let's get out of here."
  2775.  
  2776. >The first few raindrops have already begun to fall when you exit the aquarium
  2777. >Fluttershy pulls her hood up over her head, partially to keep herself dry, and partly to hide her face
  2778. >Dash runs ahead to the next fork in the path, scanning around for any sign of police presence
  2779. >She waves for the three of you to follow, and you chase after her down the right fork
  2780. "You remember how to get back to the car, right?"
  2781. >"Yeah! I think."
  2782. "You think!?"
  2783. >"Shhh! Dude, I'm trying, okay? My sense of direction isn't that great."
  2784. >"I, um... I k-know the way."
  2785. "You do?"
  2786. >"Y-yeah. I k-kinda know the layout by heart... heh..."
  2787. >She wipes a sheen of rainwater from the backs of her hands
  2788. >"But, um... w-we're kind of far away."
  2789. "How far?"
  2790. >Fluttershy takes a second to answer
  2791. "How far? It's not, like, the exact opposite side of the place, right?"
  2792. >...
  2793. "Right?"
  2794. >"N-not the *exact* opposite..."
  2795. "Goddammit. Okay, well... the rain's gonna keep everyone else inside. We just have to keep a low profile, and hope--"
  2796. >The sound of an unfamiliar voice silences all three of you
  2797. >Turning, you see a uniformed security guard walking towards the three of you, looking concerned
  2798. >"Everything alright, you three?"
  2799. >Fluttershy seizes up immediately, cowering against you
  2800. >Dash takes a step forward, as if preparing to fight
  2801. >Christ, you really hope she doesn't pull a totally-typical Dash move, and start fights she can't win
  2802. >Looks like it's up to you to diffuse this
  2803. "Yeah, we're fine. Just trying to get outta the rain."
  2804. >"I hear ya. You know there's the café just around the corner there, right?"
  2805. >Fluttershy shoots you a fearful glance
  2806. >In all likelihood, that's probably where her dad is staying, after he got caught by the storm
  2807. "Um... yeah. I know."
  2808. >"Why don't I take you guys back there? It's not safe to be running around in a storm like this. And apparently they're upping security. Something about a kidnapper on the loose."
  2809. "I think we'll be fine."
  2810. >The security guard raises a skeptical eyebrow
  2811. >"I dunno. I'd feel a lot better if you guys were somewhere inside. Here, just come with me, and--"
  2812. >And then Dash does something stupid
  2813. >Ducking, she scoops her hand into a puddle of muddy water and flings it into the man's eyes
  2814. >"G-gah! Hey!"
  2815. >He steps back, rubbing his eyes
  2816. >And then Dash grabs Fluttershy's hand and yours, and makes a run for it
  2817.  
  2818. >You don't think your heart has ever beat so fast in your entire life
  2819. >Keeping up with Dash's ridiculous speed is hard enough, but you swear you see security guards, police officers, and Fluttershy's dad lurking behind every corner
  2820. >Each time you change paths, you're certain you'll see them standing at the fork, ready to grab you
  2821. >But, by some miracle, you don't run into anyone
  2822. >The storm gets worse and worse as you run, pouring down so much rain that you can barely see a few feet in front of you
  2823.  
  2824. Background music: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u81zmQrib9g [Embed]
  2825.  
  2826.  
  2827. >Fluttershy keeps silent, mostly, panting heavily as she tries to keep up
  2828. >She mutters occasional directions to Dash, guiding the three of you up to the main building
  2829. >By the time you get there, all three of you are completely soaked
  2830. >Fluttershy pulls you underneath a small overhang next to the (now closed) gift shop, where you're allowed a brief moment of dryness
  2831. "How do we get out without them seeing us?"
  2832. >"I d-don't know. Maybe the police are out l-l-looking?"
  2833. "Maybe. But I don't wanna take that risk. Dash?"
  2834. >"Yo."
  2835. "Can you go in and check? You're the only one that nobody's actively searching for, yet."
  2836. >"Yeah. Sure. But if I'm not out in like five minutes... just book it, okay?"
  2837. "Don't pull that macho shit. We're not leaving you."
  2838. >"Yeah, yeah. Alright."
  2839. >She ducks out into the rain, and inside the main building
  2840. >A minute later, she returns
  2841. >"No go, dudes. There's still a cop in there. Doesn't look like he's keeping a super sharp lookout, but I don't think we wanna risk it."
  2842. >Fluttershy sucks in her breath
  2843. "What do we do, then? Is there another way out, Flutters?"
  2844. >"M-maybe..."
  2845. "Where? And please don't say it's back where we started."
  2846. >"N-no. But... it might not be open. Sometimes the security guards leave the supply entrances unlocked, j-just in case of emergency."
  2847. "So we could sneak out?"
  2848. >"Y-yeah... if they're open..."
  2849. >You glance over at Dash
  2850. >She shrugs
  2851. >"It's the best idea we got. How do we get there?"
  2852.  
  2853. >Fortunately, the rain abates to barely a drizzle as you head for the service entrance
  2854. >Unfortunately, it's locked
  2855. >"Dammit!"
  2856. >Dash smacks the gate, her wet hair sweeping a rainbow arc around her head as the momentum of her body drags it into a wreath about her skull
  2857. >"How the hell are we gonna get outta here?"
  2858. >You glance up at the top of the fence, which is coated in ominous-looking wire
  2859. >It's not barbed, though...
  2860. >Why not?
  2861. "We could climb?"
  2862. >"W-we can't. It's electrified. See?"
  2863. >She points to a sign a few meters down, which confirms that the fence is indeed protected by a 10,000-volt series of wires
  2864. "Wait... the power outage. It's probably still down. The lights everywhere were still off."
  2865. >"You sure, dude?"
  2866. "I think..."
  2867. >"I'm pretty s-sure they could have a backup generator..."
  2868. "Maybe. But you saw how the one in the aquarium could barely keep up. It could be down. And besides, it's the only option we have."
  2869. >"You're not gonna test this, are you dude? That's a good way to get your ass fried."
  2870. >You glance around, and pick up a stick
  2871. >Throwing it against the wire produces no effect
  2872. >Dash glances at you
  2873. >And you look back at her
  2874. >"A stick? Seriously?"
  2875. "I mean, nothing happened to it."
  2876. >"A stick is different than your arm, dude."
  2877. "Yeah, but wouldn't it do something if it was on? Like..."
  2878. >You reach out a tentative hand, stepping on the bottom links of the fence to give yourself a boost
  2879. >Standing on your tip-toes, you can barely reach the wire...
  2880. >"Dude, I'm serious, this is a bad idea--"
  2881. >The back of your hand grazes the wire
  2882. "G-gah!"
  2883. >Your entire body begins to violently shake as a single, choked gasp of pain escaped your lips
  2884. >"Anon!"
  2885. >"N-no!"
  2886. >Both girls rush toward you, horrified
  2887. >And then you turn around, giving them a smug grin
  2888. >You grab the wire again, and haul yourself up and over
  2889. >It's not exactly easy, but then again you're not in the best shape
  2890. >Not compared to Dash at least, who gets over like it's nothing
  2891. >Fluttershy goes last, with both of you waiting to catch her
  2892. >Her climbing is slow, but it seems like it's more due to nervousness than lack of physical ability
  2893. >Every time she touches the wires, she lets out a nervous little squeak
  2894. >Finally, after twenty seconds that feel more like twenty minutes, she gets over
  2895. >You and Dash scoot closer as she begins to descend, one hand still on the wire
  2896. >Suddenly, she begins to convulse, gasping in pain
  2897. >"A-ah! Anon, h-h-help! A-ah..."
  2898. >She drops like a rock, and you barely manage to get under her in time
  2899. "Butters! Butters! No!"
  2900. >You grab her up off the ground, shaking her
  2901. >She doesn't respond
  2902. >"Here! I know some CPR. Lay her flat for me."
  2903. >Dash bends in, ready to give Fluttershy mouth-to-mouth
  2904. >Immediately, she springs back to life, scooting away from Dash
  2905. >"G-gah! It w-was just a joke!"
  2906. >She looks between both of you, realizing your horrified expressions
  2907. >"S-sorry... I j-just thought what Anon d-d-d-did was funny... I d-didn't mean to... I'm s-sorry..."
  2908. >You grab Fluttershy, wrapping her in the tightest hug you've ever given another human being
  2909. "You idiot, Butters. Don't do that to me ever again. Holy shit."
  2910.  
  2911. >Getting to the parking lot is easy, once you're outside
  2912. >There's plenty of fancy gardening to hide in as you make your way across the zoo's grounds
  2913. >And then, once in the parking lot, hiding becomes even easier
  2914. >The three of you crouch down low, ducking from car to car as you make your way towards the back
  2915. >And then, finally, you see your own vehicle
  2916. >The sight of a way back to safety is so exciting, you lose control of yourself for a moment and sprint out towards it
  2917. >Fluttershy follows before Dash can stop her, and the two of you get to midway between your hiding spot and your own car when you hear a voice calling out behind you
  2918. >"Hey! Hold it, you two."
  2919. >The force behind it is enough to stop you in your tracks
  2920. >Turning, you see the white-haired cop from earlier striding towards you
  2921. >She's soaking wet from the rain, causing purple-tipped strands of her hair to hang down over her eyes
  2922. >She pushes them aside, scowling
  2923. "Um... afternoon, officer."
  2924. >You step closer to Fluttershy out of instinct
  2925. >"Afternoon. You guys heard about the lockdown, right?"
  2926. "Lockdown? No, I didn't."
  2927. >"Mhm. Dad was looking for his son. Apparently some kidnappers dragged him here."
  2928. "I didn't hear about that."
  2929. >"You didn't, huh? Because the both of you fit his description pretty well."
  2930. >The steps closer, and you realize she's a solid three inches taller than you are
  2931. >The cop leers down at you, her lip twisting
  2932. >"You don't look much like a kidnapper, though. How old even are you?"
  2933. "Seventeen."
  2934. >"Huh. Well... he didn't mention that. And how old are you, sir?"
  2935. >She addresses Fluttershy now
  2936. >"I'm s-s-s-s... s-s-s-s..."
  2937. >Your friend starts to tremble, her voice raising to a terrified squeak
  2938. >At the effeminate sound of her voice, the cop raises an eyebrow
  2939. >"S-sixteen..."
  2940. >"Sixteen years old, pink hair, skinny, about five two... yeah, it all fits. But, no offense buddy... you sure you're a boy?"
  2941. >Fluttershy begins to hyperventilate, but forces herself to answer
  2942. >"N-no... I'm not..."
  2943. >"Yeah, that's what I thought. So, either I've got the wrong two people, and they just happen to look exactly like the right two people... or something weird is going on here."
  2944. "Officer? Can I explain?"
  2945. >She shrugs
  2946. >"Go ahead. I think some actual explanation might be nice. This guy just charges in here, demanding we find his kid, barely tells us anything..."
  2947. >She shakes her head
  2948. >In as few words as possible, you tell her about Fluttershy's dad, and your attempts to get her away
  2949. >The cop regards your story with cold speculation
  2950. >When you finish, she bends down to Fluttershy's height, looking her directly in the eye
  2951. >Fluttershy begins to shake even harder, but bites her lower lip and stares back at the policewoman, not even blinking
  2952. >"Is this true?"
  2953. >"Y-y-y-y..."
  2954. >She swallows
  2955. >"Yes. It's true."
  2956. >The policewoman watches Fluttershy for a second more, eyes seeming to bore into her as she scrutinizes your friend
  2957. >"I understand."
  2958. >She straightens back up, letting her breath out in a huff
  2959. >"I see."
  2960. >She cocks her head back towards the zoo, frowning
  2961. >"Do you three have a place to stay?"
  2962. "Yeah."
  2963. >"Somewhere where he won't know where to find you? And with an adult?"
  2964. "Um..."
  2965. >Your parents still won't be home, and... could Fluttershy's dad find your address?
  2966. >It's public record, in the school system, you think
  2967. >"If not, I can take her into the station."
  2968. >Fluttershy's eyes go wide
  2969. >No, you can't let her stay alone
  2970. >You need to find someplace to stay where her dad can't look for you, and someplace with some adult supervision
  2971. >That leaves one pretty obvious option
  2972. >You just hope you still have her phone number
  2973. "Yeah. I think we've got somewhere."
  2974.  
  2975. >"You're coming to stay with *me*!? All three of you?"
  2976. >The shock in Ms. Harshwhinny's voice makes you recoil
  2977. "It doesn't have to be all three of us, ma'am. Just Fluttershy, really."
  2978. >"Oh, no! No, that's perfectly okay! I mean, I don't know if I have enough room, and my place is a mess, and good Lord what am I gonna do about dinner--"
  2979. >She coughs, clearing her throat
  2980. >"But, um, yes. All three of you are perfectly welcome to stay the night. Just, ah... give me maybe half an hour to prepare. I need to find something for you all to sleep on, and get food, and maybe buy some board games, and..."
  2981. >She trails off again, and you can almost hear her blushing through the phone
  2982. >"Yes, well, I need to make sure my house in in good order for guests. So... I'll see you at four then, okay? Is that okay for all of you?"
  2983. "Yeah, should work."
  2984. >"Excellent! I mean... I'll see you then."
  2985. >And then she hangs up
  2986. >Dash immediately grabs your arm, once you put the phone down
  2987. >"So? She's cool with it?"
  2988. "Sounds like it. Just be on your best behavior, alright?"
  2989. >"What's that supposed to mean!?"
  2990. "It means Ms. Harshwhinny had better not find any mystery stains on her couch tomorrow morning."
  2991. >"Hey! I would never do that!"
  2992. >You raise an eyebrow
  2993. >"I mean... I wouldn't do it to someone I don't *know*..."
  2994. "So fapping on people's couches is your sign of friendship?"
  2995. >"Pretty much. It's a real bond of trust, you know."
  2996. >She punches you in the arm, and the three of you drive off towards your house to pick up Angel
  2997.  
  2998. >"Not gonna lie, dude, this feels super weird."
  2999. "What do you mean? Since when is it weird for you, your boyfriend, and a girl you kidnapped to spend the night with your highschool teacher?"
  3000. >Dash just frowns
  3001. >"I dunno, man. What if this is super awkward? Or what if she's really weird?"
  3002. "Why would she be weird?"
  3003. >"She's like forty, right? And she still lives alone. Probably has like a million cats."
  3004. "Whoa, hey. That's kinda rude, isn't it? She *is* letting us stay with her."
  3005. >"Yeah, but... eh."
  3006. >Dash shrugs
  3007. >"I guess it's better than nothing. But if things get super awkward, I'm peace-ing right the fuck out."
  3008. "Super awkward, like... someone masturbating on your couch?"
  3009. >"Will you let that go?"
  3010. "I'm pretty sure you already did..."
  3011. >"Hey!"
  3012. >Dash is about to smack you, but just then Ms. Harshwhinny opens her front door
  3013. >She's dressed... well, not like you're used to seeing her, at least
  3014. >Her usual purple business skirt has been replaced by a pair of mom jeans that look a size or two too small (especially around her hips), and a graphic tee of some band you've never heard of
  3015. >Looks like some sleezy 90's buttrock
  3016. >You can't tell if she's trying too hard to look casual for you and the others, or if your teacher just has zero concept of fashion sense
  3017. >When she speaks, her voice has a decidedly different tone than you're used to hearing in the classroom
  3018. >It's less measured, and far more energetic, colored by an almost childish excitement
  3019. >"Hey! Come on in, I just finished cleaning--"
  3020. >Barefoot, she takes a few steps down her front porch, waving excitedly for you to enter
  3021. >And then she stops herself, straightening back up
  3022. >"I mean... welcome. It's good to see you three made it here alright. Would you like anything to eat? Anything to drink?"
  3023. >And just like that, she's lapsed back into her regular mannerisms
  3024. >Except, you know, still dressed like an aging hipster
  3025. "Um... I think we're good."
  3026. >You glance at Dash, who nods in agreement, and then at Fluttershy
  3027. >"I'm f-fine..."
  3028. >"Excellent. Very glad to hear it."
  3029. >Harshwhinny lets out an awkward, tiny cough
  3030. >"Anyway, um... let's go."
  3031.  
  3032. >The inside of Harshwhinny's house is, well... it's not what you expected, but then again you have no idea what you expected at all
  3033. >Everything bears the rushed, thrown-together look of a place that was hurriedly cleaned at the last minute
  3034. >Huge, messy stacks of books cover every inch of furniture, other than the couch and a single armchair
  3035. >And pretty much all the floorspace, aside from a narrow path leading to the kitchen, is covered in stacks of painted canvas
  3036. >Harshwhinny seems to step through the room as if to keep herself constantly between you and the artwork
  3037. >"So, um... I don't really have much to do. I tried to find a board game we could play, but I don't really... you know, own many."
  3038. >She coughs again, longer this time
  3039. >"So I bought one of these sets that has a bunch of games in it. It's just chess and checkers and those types, but you know... it could be fun."
  3040. >She tugs at the collar of her shirt, glancing around the room
  3041. >"But you don't have to play it, of course. If you want to watch TV, that's fine too. I got Netflix a few days ago, so... yes. Of course. Make yourselves at home."
  3042. >You, Dash, and Fluttershy share a look
  3043. >Dash has the smuggest "I told you this would be awkward" type of grin on her face
  3044. >Stupid Dash
  3045. >Why does she have to be right sometimes?
  3046. >It's so awkward that you're starting to break out in cringe sweat, despite the post-storm chill that's pervaded the house
  3047. >Harshwhinny seems to pick up on the discomfort, and quickly excuses herself
  3048. >"Yes! Well, I'd better go take care of dinner."
  3049. >You swear you can see her blushing as she shuffles into the kitchen
  3050.  
  3051. >So, the three of you are left standing there in Harshwhinny's living room, still soaking wet from the rain
  3052. >From within the kitchen, you hear the sound of crashing pots and frantic movement
  3053. >A single louder crash rings out, followed by the sound of something smashing against the floor
  3054. >All three of you uniformly wince
  3055. >Harshwhinny pokes her head out from the kitchen, and you see that there's a huge splotch of flower across the front of her shirt, making the band graphic look like it were swallowed up in a snowstorm
  3056. >"It, um... might be a while before dinner is read."
  3057. >She glances over the three of you again, and her eyes widen
  3058. >"Oh! You poor things, you're soaked through! I can't believe I didn't realize. Do you want to go home and get something dry? Or I can lend you something, I guess. That might be a bit too weird though. Um..."
  3059. >She brushes her hair out of her eyes, accidentally leaving a huge white streak amongst her bronze bangs
  3060. >Harshwhinny shakes her head
  3061. >"You're welcome to anything you need. There's some old clothes of mine from when I was, well, a little younger down in the basement. They won't be missed."
  3062. >And with that, she ducks back into the kitchen
  3063.  
  3064. >"Wow. Who wouldn't thought someone so stuck-up could be such a..."
  3065. "Such a nice lady, who's letting us stay in her house?"
  3066. >"Yeah, yeah. But still dude, this place is a nightmare."
  3067. >As much as you'd like to defend your teacher, Dash has a point...
  3068. >Harshwhinny's basement is a labyrinth of cardboard boxes, most of them crumbling with age and mildew
  3069. >Fluttershy keeps close to you, and it registers that this place probably brings back some not-so-pleasant memories
  3070. >You take ahold of her hand, and she gives you a grateful smile
  3071. >Dash blazes ahead, sticking her nose in every box she can find
  3072. >"Dude, look at this shit."
  3073. >She opens one of the boxes, revealing more painted canvases
  3074. >The paintings themselves, cracked due to age, are...
  3075. >"These are fucking awful."
  3076. "Dash!"
  3077. >"What? Look at these! Even I know they're terrible. Why would she buy so many if they're such shit... oh."
  3078. >You raise an eyebrow
  3079. >Dash closes the box, looking admonished
  3080. >"Okay, okay. I'll shut up."
  3081. >She moves further into the basement, stepping over a stack of folded quilts
  3082. >"Doesn't make them good though..."
  3083. >"I d-dunno..."
  3084. >Fluttershy grabs one of the canvases, glancing over it
  3085. >"Her t-technique isn't s-s-so bad... she just needs a little help w-with balancing colors, and p-perspective, and k-kinda everything..."
  3086. >Dash gets to the back corner, her eyes straining in the darkness
  3087. "See anything?"
  3088. >"Nope. She could have given us better directions than "in the basement," to be honest."
  3089. "Your ability to complain about people's kindness is astounding."
  3090. >"Yeah, yeah. Don't make me violate your couch again."
  3091. >Dash hip-checks you as you pass her, a devious little grin on her face
  3092. "Gah!"
  3093. >You go flying sideways, accidentally toppling over a stack of boxes
  3094. >They go spilling to the floor, upending and regurgitating their contents
  3095. >A dozen little pieces of colorful plastic and rubber are scattered across the concrete floor
  3096. >One rolls to your feet, and you stoop down to get a better look
  3097. >It's a little plastic firetruck
  3098. >Dash picks up a different piece, a tiny construction worker with a big, smiling face
  3099. >"I thought Ms. Harshwhinny didn't have kids."
  3100. "She doesn't. At least, that's what she's said."
  3101. >"Then what's all this?"
  3102. >She starts trying to scoop the toys back up into their box
  3103. "No idea. Probably better we don't ask."
  3104. >It takes a few minutes to pile all the plastic cars and people back into their box
  3105. >Dash replaces it, and the two of you continue searching
  3106.  
  3107. >When you do find the boxes of clothes, Fluttershy and Dash quickly pick out dry outfits for themselves
  3108. >You're slightly jealous; it'd be nice to get out of these soaked jeans
  3109. >Dash catches you staring, and grins
  3110. >"You want us to pick you out something too, man? I'm sure ol' Harshy's got something just your size."
  3111. >She holds up a stack of nearly-identical skirts, all of them slim and slightly showy
  3112. >"You could try on one of these. Bet you'd just look fantastic."
  3113. >"Um, R-Rainbow?"
  3114. >"Or maybe this?"
  3115. >She holds up a pair of raggedy, long-cut jean-shorts
  3116. >"Look how stylish they are!"
  3117. >"R-Rainbow..."
  3118. >Fluttershy tugs at your girlfriend's sleeve, but she doesn't even notice
  3119. >"Oh, here we go! You wanna try some of these on, dude? Bet they're super comfy!"
  3120. >She holds up a pair of frilly, pink, "boy shorts"-style panties, winking at you
  3121. >"D-D-Dash!"
  3122. >"What, dude?"
  3123. >She turns, looking where Fluttershy is pointing
  3124. >Ms. Harshwhinny is waiting as the bottom of the basement stairs, her shirt covered in flower and blotches of red sauce
  3125. >She's staring right at the three of you
  3126. >Dash freezes, the pair of Harshwhinny's panties still clutched in her hand, in full view
  3127. >Harshwhinny just stares, then lets out a tiny cough before straightening out her posture.
  3128. >"I, um... I have dinner, ready, if you're hungry! Just follow me!"
  3129. >Dash immediately throws the panties down, blushing furiously
  3130. >"I, um, yeah! Great! We'll be right up! Just gotta get changed, heh!"
  3131. >She grabs the box of old clothes, and steps toward the corner for some privacy
  3132. >Unfortunately, she steps on top of a little plastic pickup truck leftover from the toy spill earlier
  3133. >"Wah!"
  3134. >Dash falls flat on her ass, throwing her arms out to catch herself
  3135. >Which, unfortunately, causes her to toss the box into the air, spilling Ms. Harshwhinny's old clothes across the three of you
  3136. >You duck just in time, only getting hit by a single pair of her pajama pants, adorned with little trophies
  3137. >Dash and Fluttershy, however, get the worst of it
  3138. >A small tidal wave of fabric crashes onto your friend, covering her in Ms. Harshwhinny's old pajamas, t-shirts, and undergarments
  3139. >Dash fairs none the better; the pair of lacy pink panties from earlier ends up right on her face, covering her eyes
  3140. >Ms. Harshwhinny continues to stare
  3141. >You look at her
  3142. >Then at the two girls, one of which is currently peaking out from beneath a pile of her underwear
  3143. >And then back at her
  3144. >And then back at Fluttershy and Dash
  3145. >And then back to her...
  3146. "Well! Uh... let's eat?"
  3147.  
  3148. >The kitchen, when you get upstairs, is an absolute disaster
  3149. >Pans full of half-mixed sauce cover the counter, half of them with their previously-red contents now scorched beyond recognition
  3150. >The walls, floor, ceiling, and furniture are all dotted with splotches of flour, and little flecks of dough are concentrated around the sink
  3151. >The haze of something burning hangs in the air, and several burnt husks of what looks like pizza, or maybe casserole, or pasta, or... well, something charred beyond identification are stacked around the garbage
  3152. >And there, in the middle of Harshhwinny's kitchen table, are stacked three take-out pizzas from the local Late Night Slice
  3153. >Your teacher accompanies you into the kitchen while the girls change
  3154. >"I hope you don't mind takeout food. I... had some issues cooking myself."
  3155. "I can see that."
  3156. >Your words come out a little harsher than intended, and your teacher winces
  3157. >"Yes. Well, of course, I haven't had much need to cook for multiple people before-- I mean, lately."
  3158. >She coughs, trying to brush some of the flower out of her hair
  3159. >"Yes, well, I hope you don't mind takeout. I think I've got something to drink too..."
  3160. >She opens her refrigerator, revealing row after row of cheap red wine
  3161. >Quickly, she closes it, trying to step in front of you before you get a good view of the fridge's contents
  3162. >"Actually, why don't I go buy some soda, real quick!"
  3163.  
  3164. >While Ms. Harshwhinny makes a very hurried trip to the store (still covered in flour), you head down to check on the girls
  3165. >And that's where you discover an -interesting- sight
  3166. >Fluttershy is crouched in a compromising position on top of the pile of clothes, supporting herself on all fours with her face pressed into the mound of fabric and her ass up in the air
  3167. >And she's dressed only in her own faded, gray underwear
  3168. >Dash is seated a few feet away from her, regarding her pose with intense curiosity
  3169. >She looks up when she sees you, and waves
  3170. >"Oh! Hey, dude!"
  3171. >Fluttershy lifts her head, her eyes going wide when she sees you
  3172. >"A-Anon! We j-j-just... I... D-Dash wanted to see..."
  3173. >She buries herself in the pile of clothes, trying to hide
  3174. >It doesn't work very well
  3175. >She curls up, trying to cover herself with her hands
  3176. >"He's seen you naked before, dude."
  3177. >"Y-yeah, but... eep."
  3178. >She curls up, embarrassed
  3179. "So... should I be concerned about what's going on down here? You're not about to put a Spitfire wig on her and call her mama, right?"
  3180. >"Hey! I only did that once!"
  3181. >She kicks at a crumpled tee-shirt
  3182. >"And you couldn't even get the voice right..."
  3183. "So... what's this?"
  3184. >Dash flashes you her signature perverted grin, visible even in the basement
  3185. >"You'll see."
  3186. >You can practically feel the ;) radiating from her
  3187. >Fluttershy, meawhile, buries herself further into the pile
  3188. >"Um D-Dash? Anon? Can you p-please get me something t-to wear?"
  3189. >"Does this work?"
  3190. >Dash holds up a yellow sundress
  3191. >It's a little ratty from age, but even you can see that it'd fit her really well
  3192. >Fluttershy hides her face in the pile of clothes
  3193. >"I, um... I h-havent' worn a dress before. I d-dunno."
  3194. >"Hey, that's cool. I just thought it would look super cute on you."
  3195. >Her grin widens, and she glances over at you, and she drops her voice to a stage whisper
  3196. >"And I bet Anon would like it a ton too."
  3197. >She peeks out, just a bit
  3198. >"Y-you think?"
  3199. >"Oh, yeah, definitely. He's just crazy about cute little dresses like this."
  3200. >She winks at you
  3201. "Yeah, yeah. Spitfire wig."
  3202. >"Shut up, you. So, you wanna try it on?"
  3203. >"I, um... I d-dunno... are you sure I'll l-l-look good in it?"
  3204. >Dash licks her lips
  3205. >"Completely."
  3206. >You're just about to ask her what horrible, devious scheme she's planning next, but then you hear Ms. Harshwhinny's car pulling into the garage
  3207.  
  3208. >The three of you mosey on upstairs, you still dressed in your damp clothes from earlier and Dash in an oversized t-shirt and a pair of jeans so high-cut it's hard to imagine Harshwhinny ever having worn them
  3209. >Fluttershy, however, requires a lot more coercion
  3210. >"I d-don't think the d-d-dress works..."
  3211. >"You'll look fine, dude! Now hurry up! I'm fucking starving!"
  3212. >She finally slinks out of the corner she used to change, her head hung
  3213. >The dress fits her perfectly
  3214. >How did you ever think she was a boy?
  3215. >It hangs loose on her skinny figure, making her look effete and willowy
  3216. >But it adds a grace to her movements, and an elegance that doesn't normally come across when she's in sweat pants
  3217. >"See, man? Told you he'd love it!"
  3218. "Huh?"
  3219. >"You were *so* staring."
  3220. >Dash punches you in the arm
  3221. "I was not! I was just... you know. Admiring."
  3222. >"That's staring!"
  3223. >Fluttershy lets out a tiny "eep"
  3224. >"Adm-m-miring? You really think I... I look..."
  3225. >She's turning as red as the sauce on Ms. Harshwhinny's shirt
  3226. "I mean, yeah. You look really pretty."
  3227. >"A-ah... th-thanks..."
  3228. "You okay?"
  3229. >"W-what?"
  3230. >Fluttershy sways, as if in a trance
  3231. >"Y-yeah... I'm f-f-fine... feel r-really good..."
  3232. >Dash jumps forward, catching her before she falls
  3233. >"Adm-mire... heh..."
  3234.  
  3235. >You get upstairs just in time to meet Ms. Harshwhinny coming through the door, her arms laden with shopping bags
  3236. "I, uh... thought you were just going to get drinks."
  3237. >"I was!"
  3238. >She kicks her shoes off, quaking slightly under the weight of her groceries
  3239. >"But I, um, realized we didn't have any potato chips. Or any dessert. Or any fresh fruit. Or..."
  3240. >She glances down at the mounds of bags clutched in her hands
  3241. >"Okay, maybe it's a little too much."
  3242. >She leans against the wall for support, starting to sink lower under the weight of all the bags
  3243. >"I, um... could use some help, if that's okay with you."
  3244.  
  3245. >After helping Ms. Harshwhinny stow away a frankly freakish amount of snacks, you finally sit down for dinner
  3246. >And that's when she notices Fluttershy's choice of attire
  3247. >She balks for a moment, probably still getting used to the sudden reversal of gender
  3248. >"Oh! Ms. Shy, dear, you look gorgeous!"
  3249. >Fluttershy yelps, nearly choking on her bite of pizza
  3250. >"Th-thank you, m-m-ma'am."
  3251. >Your friend sinks lower in her chair, unable to process so many compliments
  3252. >"I actually have a few more dresses like that one downstairs, somewhere. You don't have to take them if you don't want to, but it just suits you so well, I think it'd be a crime not to. Obviously I'm in no shape to be wearing them now, but..."
  3253. >She coughs
  3254. >"Yes. You're perfectly welcome to them."
  3255. >The four of you go back to dinner, munching silently on your pizza
  3256. >Dash shoots you another "told you this would be awkward" look
  3257. >You try your best to respond with a "be nice, goddammit" look, but it probably doesn't come out right
  3258. >"Mr. Anonymous? Ms. Dash? Is everything alright?"
  3259. "Oh, yeah. Rainbow's just having some attitude issues lately."
  3260. >"Hey! I'm perfectly fine!"
  3261. "Spitfire wig."
  3262. >Dash grits her teeth, scowling
  3263. >"Next time, instead of your couch, I'm gonna use your face."
  3264. "Long as I don't have to do a Spitfire voice."
  3265. >Harshwhinny glances between the two of you, confused
  3266. >"I... see."
  3267. >She turns to Fluttershy
  3268. >"So, Ms. Shy. I feel like I haven't gotten much of a chance to know you. What do you like to do?"
  3269. >"Um... uh... I l-like animals. And drawing. And d-drawing animals. And... being with Anon and R-Rainbow Dash."
  3270. >Fluttershy taps her fingers together
  3271. >"That's about it, r-really."
  3272. >"Oh. Well that sounds really interesting!"
  3273. >She forces way too much enthusiasm into her sentence, and Fluttershy actually flinches
  3274. >Harshwhinny's cheeks go pink, and she crosses and then re-crosses her legs
  3275. >"I mean, um... I'm sure you've seen that I have a little interest in painting too."
  3276. >Fluttershy looks over at a stack of canvases just a few feet to her left
  3277. >"A l-little bit, yeah."
  3278. >"Yes, well. It's quite a fun hobby. Even if I'm fairly rotten at it."
  3279. >The conversation dies, and Ms. Harshwhinny takes a long drink of her soda
  3280. >...
  3281.  
  3282. >...
  3283.  
  3284. >...
  3285. >"I d-d..."
  3286. >"Hmm?"
  3287. >"Nothing."
  3288. >...
  3289.  
  3290. >...
  3291.  
  3292. >...
  3293.  
  3294. >You grab another slice of pizza, and Dash kicks you under the table
  3295. >You mutter under your breath:
  3296. "Spitfire wig"
  3297. >She kicks you harder
  3298.  
  3299. >...
  3300.  
  3301. >...
  3302.  
  3303. >Ms. Harshwhinny coughs, and takes another sip of her soda
  3304.  
  3305. >...
  3306.  
  3307. >Fluttershy sets down her half-eaten slice of cheese pizza, and starts examining the stack of Ms. Harshwhinny's paintings
  3308. >You follow her gaze, actually taking some time to look over the art yourself
  3309. >It's... well, it's definitely not good
  3310. >Even to someone who doesn't know much about art, you can tell it's pretty clunky
  3311. >And the colors don't look quite right
  3312. >But still, you're not sure how to put it, but there's some charm to them
  3313. >Fluttershy clears her throat
  3314. >"I, um... I d-don't think they're so bad."
  3315. >"What's that?"
  3316. >"Y-your paintings, I d-don't think they're bad."
  3317. >Harshwhinny laughs
  3318. >"Dear, you don't have to lie to me. I've seen real artists' work, and I've seen mine. I'm nowhere near acceptable."
  3319. >Fluttershy looks down, admonished
  3320. >You reach out with your foot and poke her under the table
  3321. >She looks up at you, and you motion towards Ms. Harshwhinny with your head, hoping Fluttershy will get the hint
  3322. >"Oh, n-no! I m-m-mean, it's not perfect, but... I d-dunno... I think it looks nice."
  3323. >"You do?"
  3324. >Harshwhinny clears her throat
  3325. >"I mean... that's very kind of you to say. I appreciate it."
  3326. >Fluttershy stands halfway up from her chair, then stops
  3327. >"Is it, um... okay if I... g-go and get one of them? I saw it w-when we came in and I th-thought it looked really nice."
  3328. >Harshwhinny blinks twice, taken aback
  3329. >"Yes! Of course, dear. Go right ahead."
  3330.  
  3331. >Fluttershy returns a moment later with one of Harshwhinny's paintings tucked under her arm
  3332. >From what you can see of it, it looks to be a forest in springtime, packed with rich greens and tiny little animals nestled amongst tree branches
  3333. >She sits next to your teacher, scooting her chair over so that the two of them can both see the canvas
  3334. >"I r-really like what you're doing with the color blending. It makes everything l-look really warm, and it draws the viewer in. It's a r-really nice piece to look at, ma'am."
  3335. >Harshwhinny bites her lower lip, and when she speaks, her voice is even more strained than you're used to
  3336. >"Thank you, dear."
  3337. >"Th-there are a couple things you could work on, though. Y-you know, to really make it perfect."
  3338. >"Oh, yes, of course. There's more than a couple, I'd imagine."
  3339. >"Y-yeah. I c-could show you, if that's okay..."
  3340.  
  3341. >The remains of dinner are quickly cleared away, and the four of you retire to Harshwhinny's living room
  3342. >She and Fluttershy sit on the couch together with the canvas propped between them, while you and Dash get the floor
  3343. >Dash immediately goes into "I'm bored, someone pay attention to me" mode, huddling in a corner and flicking through her phone
  3344. >You decide to let her sulk for a bit, and turn on Harshwhinny's TV on low volume in the background
  3345. >Harshwhinny already has some strange, 80's British Sci-Fi show already cued up
  3346. >The title of the show flashes on the screen, followed by an awesomely-cheesy techno intro
  3347.  
  3348. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3AmykynKhMw [Embed]
  3349.  
  3350. >You watch, hypnotized by the strange pseudo-Victorian setting and the giant alien robots
  3351. >It doesn't strike you as something Harshwhinny would like, but then again, neither did painting
  3352. >Speaking of which, Fluttershy is giving your teacher the stutteriest Bob Ross lesson you've ever heard
  3353. >"W-what you're doing with the color here is nice. I feels really alive, and it's v-v-very pretty. But, um... you see how it doesn't blend quite right?"
  3354. >To her own credit, Harshwhinny is also quite the patient learner
  3355. >She takes Fluttershy's criticism well, never personally
  3356. >"Ah, yes. I see what you mean. Maybe add some darker shades to smooth it out?"
  3357. >"Y-yeah! I bet that'd look r-really nice!"
  3358. >Your attention is torn away from the onscreen aliens for a moment as Harshwhinny gets up from the couch, heading towards the kitchen
  3359. >"You don't mind if I start a new one now, do you?"
  3360. >"N-no. I c-c-can help, if that's okay with you."
  3361. >Harshwhinny nods, and the two of them get to work
  3362.  
  3363. >Dash finally gives up on the "pay attention to me" act, and cozies up next to you
  3364. >"Hey, nerd."
  3365. "Hey."
  3366. >"What even is this show? It makes no sense."
  3367. "You missed like five episodes. Of course it doesn't."
  3368. >"Ugh, this is so lame. What are those things?"
  3369. "Alien robots."
  3370. >"Oh?"
  3371. "The red ones have laser cannons."
  3372. >Dash perks up a little more
  3373. >"Okay, I take it back. This show looks alright. Explain to me what's happening."
  3374. >She hops into your lap, circling her arms around your neck as she waits for you to fill her in on the plot
  3375. >You try to shove her off, not wanting to embarrass Ms. Harshwhinny
  3376. >And, if you're being perfectly honest with yourself... you feel kind of bad making Fluttershy jealous, too
  3377. >But Dash refuses to be moved; she's determined to get attention even if she has to take it by force
  3378. >And so you spend the next few hours being aggressively cuddled, while Harshwhinny and Fluttershy get to work on painting
  3379. >It really is hilarious, hearing how different Fluttershy sounds when she's talking about art
  3380. >The stutter is still there, sure, but she sounds so much more...
  3381. >You're not really sure how to put it
  3382. >Natural?
  3383. >Or maybe just less terrified
  3384. >But either way, the nervous tension that always seems to color her voice all but disappears when she talks to Harshwhinny
  3385. >"D-do you think you could try adding some water here?"
  3386. >"Here? Like, a lake or something?"
  3387. >"Yeah. I think that'd l-look really nice."
  3388. >"You're absolutely right. Here, let me fill it in..."
  3389. >You can't hear the scrape of the paintbrush over the sound of stompy aliens coming from the TV, but you assume the lull in silence signals the two of them continuing to paint
  3390. >The episode ends, and for a moment you're lost in the gentle silence
  3391. >It's so cozy, really
  3392. >Harswhinny and Fluttershy are whispering to each other about painting now
  3393. >Glancing over you're shoulder, you see that the two of them are sitting close together now, with Fluttershy resting her head on Harshwhinny's shoulder while she works
  3394. >She looks really happy
  3395. >When you catch her eye, she gives you a small smile, which you return
  3396. >Dash, of course, still hasn't received enough attention
  3397. >She forcibly turns your head, making you look at her
  3398. >"Hey, dude. You wanna get some sleep?"
  3399. "Uh, I dunno, I was kinda enjoying."
  3400. >"Nah. Let's get some sleep."
  3401. "I don't really--"
  3402. >"Hey, Ms. H?"
  3403. >Harshwhinny looks up from her painting
  3404. >"Rainbow? Something you need?"
  3405. "Yeah. Just wondering where we could sleep."
  3406. >"Oh! I forgot to show you."
  3407. >She gets up from the couch, and you push Dash off your lap and stagger to your feet
  3408. >After holding her for so long, your legs are dead numb
  3409. >Within twenty seconds, she's butt-naked
  3410. >"Hurry up, dude!"
  3411. "Hold on, alright? And quiet down, or they'll--"
  3412. >You hear a noise from outside, and freeze
  3413. >Judging by the lightness of the footsteps, it's Fluttershy heading down the hall to use the bathroom
  3414. >You breathe a sight of relief, removing your clothes as silently as possible
  3415. >"Pussy."
  3416. "Oh, shut up. Just because I actually want to maintain some dignity..."
  3417. >"Taking two minutes just to get your pants off isn't dignity, dude."
  3418. "Spitfire wig."
  3419. >"If you keep bringing it up, I'm gonna break it out again."
  3420. "Okay, okay."
  3421. >You clamber onto the bed, embracing Dash
  3422. >Her body -- silky, warm, and lithe -- presses against yours as the two of you sink down to the bed together
  3423. >She rolls onto her hands and knees, and you run your hands along her back as you prepare to push yourself inside her
  3424. >"Duuuuude, just hurry up, agh... I'm so fucking wet, just do it..."
  3425. >You press your tip against her snatch, but before you can enter her
  3426. >"A-Anon-kun..."
  3427. "What the hell?"
  3428. >Dash adopts the same position Fluttershy was in earlier, making a nervous, pouty face up at you
  3429. >"I'm n-nervous, Anon. This is m-m-my first time."
  3430. "Is... that supposed to be an impression of Butters."
  3431. >"W-what's wrong? I th-thought you liked me. D-d-d-don't you want to sh-show me your love?"
  3432. >She presses her ass up against you, wriggling her hips
  3433. >"It's okay that I'm a b-b-boy, right? You s-still want me?"
  3434. "Okay, this is getting weird..."
  3435. >She begins to grind against your cock, sucking in her breath
  3436. >"You c-can put it in me, if you r-r-really want to... I d-don't mind, as long as y-y-y-you're happy
  3437. "Dash..."
  3438. >"D-Dash? Anon-kun... please d-d-don't call me your girlfriend's name. I w-want you to want me."
  3439. >Dash starts to rub your cock between her buttocks
  3440. >In spite of yourself, you're hard as a rock now
  3441. >Partially for her, and partially because, well, her Fluttershy impression is actually pretty good
  3442. >"C-come on, put in my b-b-butt. I want to m-make you feel good."
  3443. >She rubs you harder, letting out squeaky little gasps of pleasure
  3444. "Alright, alright... holy shit..."
  3445. >You're breathing hard already
  3446. "Lube. There isn't any..."
  3447. >"I b-borrowed this from Ms. Harshwhinny earlier... I h-hope it's okay... you d-d-don't have to use it if you don't want to."
  3448. >She passes you a bottle of buttscotch-scented hand lotion
  3449. >"N-now, um... p-please hurry up, if that's okay with you. I r-really want you in me."
  3450. "Okay, okay... just hold on..."
  3451. >Hands shaking, you undo the cap on the bottle, and squirt some along the length of your cock, smearing it around
  3452. >Dash lets out a quivering moan, pressing her butt up against you, practically begging
  3453. >You place your hands on her hips, and position the tip of your cock against her anus
  3454. >"J-just... please be g-g-gentle, okay?"
  3455. "Yeah, yeah, sure."
  3456. >Slowly, you slide yourself inside her ass
  3457. >"N-nah~"
  3458. >Dash squeaks as you begin to thrust into her
  3459. >"A-Anon-kun... y-y-you're so big... a-ah~ Be c-c-careful with me! I'm s-s-so sensitive!"
  3460. >Okay, yeah, that impression is way too good, if completely, ridiculously cheesy
  3461. >And it definitely shouldn't be making you feel like this, right?
  3462. >You dig your hands into Dash's butt, ramming yourself into her
  3463. >She sticks out her tongue, squeaking and gasping in ecstasy
  3464. >"Y-you make me feel so -g-g-g-good, Anon-kun!
  3465. >Hot streams of fluid begin to flow down Dash's legs as she cums, her eyes rolling back up in her head
  3466. >"I w-want more! G-g-give me more... if that's, um... ok-kay with you... hnng~"
  3467. >She bucks her hips into you, forcing you deeper inside her
  3468. "Ah... B-Butters!"
  3469. >You don't even realize you just called your girlfriend by the wrong name
  3470. >But she sure does
  3471. >Upon hearing you call out Fluttershy's nickname, Dash immediately cums again
  3472. >And this time, she can't keep quiet
  3473. >Still in her Fluttershy voice, she out a long, choked moan, her entire body shivering as she spews her juices out onto the sheets
  3474. >At the same time, the muscles of her ass contract around your cock, pushing it out of her body
  3475. >You end up cumming onto her buttocks and across her back, spraying her with white goop as she collapses, shaking
  3476. >"Th-th-that was... s-so good, Anon-kin..."
  3477. >She curls up, making doe eyes at you
  3478. >"I c-c-c-can't believe you r-really like me that much... d-did I do good?"
  3479. "Y-yeah... oh my God... really good."
  3480. >You collapse next to Dash, chest heaving
  3481. >She runs her hand over her ass, raising some of both her cum and yours to her mouth
  3482. >"Y-you taste so good, Anon s-senpai..."
  3483. >And that's when you hear the door click open
  3484. >Fluttershy steps in, still in her sundress
  3485. >"A-Anon? Why d-d-did you yell my name? Is everything okay--"
  3486. >And that's when she catches sight of you and Dash, both butt naked, with her covered in your semen
  3487. >Fluttershy immediately freezes in place, her eyes wide, and her face a deep crimson
  3488. >"O-Oh! I'm s-s-so sorry! I j-just... I h-h-heard yelling, and I w-wanted to make sure you... y-you guys were okay! W-wanted to make sure... w-w-w-what's all over Dash?"
  3489. >Fluttershy takes a concerned step towards Rainbow, who's still trembling as she recovers
  3490. >"Is s-she alright?"
  3491. "Uh, yeah. She's fine."
  3492. >"B-but what's she covered in? And w-why is she shaking? You d-d-didn't hurt her, did you?"
  3493. "What? No! No, of course not, we were just, you know..."
  3494. >Fluttershy starts to chew on her fingernails, obviously upset
  3495. >"Y-you were what? W-why did Rainbow s-sound like she was hurting?"
  3496. "Because... because we were having sex, Butters."
  3497. >How naive can she get?
  3498. >Well, come to think of it, if she had no idea what a condom was at sixteen, then...
  3499. >"Th-then that s-s-stuff is... oh. Oh m-my..."
  3500. "Yeah. But she's okay, Butters."
  3501. >"I'm okay, dude. Feel fucking' great..."
  3502. >Dash gives a weak thumbs up, still trembling
  3503. >Fluttershy still does't look convinced
  3504. >"B-but... you told me that y-y-you needed to wrap it b-before you tap it, r-r-r-remember? Unless... are you g-guys having a baby!?"
  3505. >She crosses her hands over her mouth, looking like she's about to faint
  3506. "What? No!"
  3507. >"B-but you're not wearing a... a thingy..."
  3508. "Well, yeah. I don't need one."
  3509. >"B-but then you're gonna have a baby, right?"
  3510. "No, Butters. We're not."
  3511. >"H-how do you know?"
  3512. "Because... because..."
  3513. >"Because he put it in my butt, dude."
  3514. >Dash rolls over, showing Fluttershy the leftover fluids still seeping from between her buttocks
  3515. >This time, Fluttershy's legs actually do give out
  3516. >She collapses against the wall, sweat breaking out across her forehead
  3517. >"Y-you can... y-y-you can do that? That's s-so... b-b-but doesn't it hurt?"
  3518. >"Nah, dude. It's awesome."
  3519. >Fluttershy starts to chew on her nails again, grinding them down to little shaven stubs
  3520. >"Y-you promise? You p-p-promise you're ok-kay?"
  3521. >Dash actually chuckles
  3522. >"I'm *so* much more than okay. You wanna try next?"
  3523. >Fluttershy nearly chokes on her own finger
  3524. >"M-m-me!? You w-want me to... w-with Anon..."
  3525. >"Yeah, dude. Long as you're okay with me watching.'
  3526. >"I... b-but... I... h-having him i-i-i-in me?"
  3527. >She looks over at you, and her legs begin to wobble
  3528. >Her eyes trace up and down your body, and a tiny wet spot appears through the fabric of her dress
  3529. >"I n-need... I n-n-need... I... I NEED TO GO TO THE B-B-BATHROOM."
  3530. >Fluttershy pivots on her heel, and sprints down the hall to the bathroom
  3531. "Butters!"
  3532. >You start to get out of the bed after her
  3533. >But then Ms. Harshwhinny pokes her head into the room
  3534. >"Is everything alright, you two? Is there anything I can do--"
  3535. >She catches sight of you first, her cheeks going pink, and so she tears her eyes away to focus on Dash instead
  3536. >Who's also naked
  3537. >And still on her stomach
  3538. >With her spread buttcheeks facing Harshwhinny
  3539. >For a moment, the room freezes
  3540. >And then Ms. Harshwhinny is out of there faster than you can say "creampie"
  3541. >"Well, everything seems to be in order! I'll just leave you to it then! Goodnight!"
  3542.  
  3543. >She heads back into the living room, probably trying to pretend like that never happened
  3544. >Dash gets up from the bed, stretching
  3545. >"I need a shower, dude. Can you go kick Butters out of the bathroom for me?"
  3546. "Yeah, sure."
  3547. >You give her a quick kiss on the nose, and head down to check on your friend
  3548. >The bathroom door is closed and locked, of course
  3549. >You step up to it, and are just about to knock when you hear... something
  3550. >"A-Ah~.... hnnn... nnnah~"
  3551. >And underscoring Fluttershy's squeaks, there's a constant wet, squishing, *shlick*-y noise
  3552.  
  3553. >"Well? Come on, man, I need to clean this off my ass before it dries."
  3554. "Just give her, like, ten minutes."
  3555. >"Ugh, fine. But if I end up sitting in your cum all day tomorrow, you'll be in a Spitfire wig for the rest of you life."
  3556. "Yeah, yeah. Fuckin' Spitfire wig."
  3557. >Just as you head out to check on Fluttershy again, she emerges
  3558. >And damn, she must have had a good time in there; her legs are wobbly, her body is covered in sweat, and she's walking like she's in a dream
  3559. >"H-hey, Anon."
  3560. "Hey, Butters. You alright?"
  3561. >"Y-yeah."
  3562. >Fluttershy falls into your arms, panting
  3563. >"I f-feel super good now..."
  3564. "That's awesome."
  3565. >"Yeah, super awesome. Outta the way!"
  3566. >Dash pushes the two of you aside, charging butt-naked into the bathroom
  3567. >Fluttershy just blinks, dazed
  3568. >"She's... k-kinda weird, isn't she?"
  3569. "Heh, yeah, she is. But that's why we love her."
  3570. >"Y-yeah..."
  3571. "You alright?"
  3572. >Fluttershy nods
  3573. >"You t-think you... you f-f-for real love her?"
  3574. "I dunno. I ask myself that a lot, actually."
  3575. >"F-for real? I always thought it w-would be the kind of thing where you j-just knew."
  3576. "So did I. But, I dunno, I guess real people are a bit too messy for that."
  3577. >Fluttershy goes silent for a moment
  3578. >"C-can you stay with me for a b-bit, before I go to bed? It feels w-weird, sleeping away from home. Away f-from dad."
  3579. "Sure."
  3580. >You follow Fluttershy into the living room, where Ms. Harshwhinny is still seated on the tiny couch, making the finishing touches on her latest painting
  3581. >She looks up the minute she sees you and Fluttershy, her cheeks pink
  3582. >"I didn't see anything! Not that there was anything to see, even! I can change the bedsheets, if you want!"
  3583. "Uh... thank you, ma'am."
  3584. >"No problem! Here, I'll go get right on that!"
  3585. >She high-tails it out of the room faster than you've ever seen a woman her age move
  3586. >You take her spot on the couch, with Fluttershy curled up at the opposite end
  3587. >"So... w-what does it feel like. When you love someone. Is it g-g-good?"
  3588. "Good, yeah. Really good. Most of the time, at least. I dunno, it's just amazing to be able to get up in the morning knowing that you mean the world to someone else."
  3589. >"I b-bet..."
  3590. "It's not all great, of course. When you really get know someone like that, they get to dig out all the dark, awful little bits of yourself, and then they're just... there. I dunno. It can be super freaky."
  3591. >"And w-when you feel like that, that's when you k-know you love someone?"
  3592. "I guess. I dunno, it's probably different for everyone. Why?"
  3593. >"Oh! Um, n-no... no reason..."
  3594. "Butters? You alright?"
  3595. >"Y-yeah..."
  3596. "I'm sorry if that's not what you wanted to hear."
  3597. >"N-no. It's fine."
  3598. "You sure you don't want to tell me what's wrong?"
  3599. >She shakes her head
  3600. >"It's s-stupid. I don't want to k-kill the mood. It's b-been a really good night, and I shouldn't ruin that. Sorry."
  3601. >Harshwhinny steps into the living room, carrying the balled-up, stained bedsheets
  3602. >"Everything alright, you two?"
  3603. "Yes, ma'am. Thanks."
  3604. >"Sure you don't need anything?"
  3605. >She really shouldn't be carrying those so close to her body...
  3606. "No, we're good."
  3607. >"Okay. I'll be right back, I promise. Just gotta throw these in the wash."
  3608. "Thank you, Ms. H."
  3609. >Harshwhinny disappears again
  3610. >"She's r-really nice."
  3611. "Yeah. Kind of a shocker, really. Wouldn't get that impression from how she is in class."
  3612. >"It f-feels really weird."
  3613. "What does?"
  3614. >"Having her l-look after me like this. I d-dunno. Do you think she l-loves me?"
  3615. "Whoa, um..."
  3616. >"N-not like you and Dash! Not that way. I m-mean, like... like a m-mama would."
  3617. "Oh, um... wow, Butters."
  3618. >"Sorry. S-stupid question."
  3619. >She tucks her legs under her, leaning her chin on her hands
  3620. >"She b-barely even knows me. F-f-forget I said anything."
  3621. "It's not stupid. Just a little, I don't know, fast. She probably doesn't feel like *that* yet, but, I mean... why wouldn't Ms. H. like you?"
  3622. >Fluttershy locks eyes with you in the darkness
  3623. >"F-for the same reasons my d-dad doesn't."
  3624. >You open your mouth to speak, but your words catch in your throat
  3625. >It feels like a year's worth of silence passes before Ms. Harshwhinny sticks her head back in
  3626. >"Everything okay, you two?"
  3627. "Oh, yeah."
  3628. >Fluttershy looks slightly worried when you stand up to leave, but something tells you that this needs to happen
  3629. "I'm gonna head to bed. Thanks, Ms. H. For everything."
  3630. >"It was nothing, dear, really. It's just been wonderful to have someone else in the house--"
  3631. >She coughs
  3632. >"I mean, of course. It's the least I could do. Oh, and I changed the sheets, so let me know if they're still acceptable. And, if you need anything else--"
  3633. "Then I'll get it myself. You've done enough."
  3634. >Harshwhinny lets out her breath in a huff, flustered as ever
  3635. >"That's hardly... Hmph. Fine. Understood."
  3636. >She gives you a stiff, formal nod
  3637. >"I'll see you in the morning, Anonymous."
  3638. "Night, ma'am."
  3639. >You step out of the living room, open the door to the spare bedroom, and close it without going in
  3640. >Instead, you sit on the carpeted floor of the hallway, just out of sight of Ms. Harshwhinny and Fluttershy
  3641. >You hear the couch springs groan slightly as Harshwhinny sits next to your friend
  3642. >"Everything alright, dear?"
  3643. >"Oh, y-yeah. Thanks."
  3644. >"Are you sure? You look worried."
  3645. >"I, um... it's n-not worth talking about."
  3646. >"Are you sure? I won't force you dear. But, if you feel comfortable telling me, of course, I wouldn't mind. Hearing what you have to say. I'm perfectly open to it. You know, in a professional way."
  3647. >She coughs
  3648. >"You don't have to if you don't want to though. Of course."
  3649. >"I j-just, um... do you like me?"
  3650. >The couch groans again, this time close to Fluttershy's side
  3651. >Peering around the corner, you see her sit up, frantically waving her comment away
  3652. >"Th-that's not what I meant to say! I j-just meant, um... I..."
  3653. >"Is that what you were worried about? Honey, of course I like you. This has been one of the best evenings of... well, ever, really. For me. And you've been the biggest part of it."
  3654. >Harshwhinny gives Fluttershy a gentle, if slightly stiff-armed, pat on the back
  3655. >"So, yes. I like you, dear. You're a very nice young lady."
  3656. >"Th-thanks, ma'am."
  3657. >"There's no need to thank me. I should really be the one thanking you. I can't remember the last time I had so much fun. Don't know if I ever have."
  3658. >"Me too. It almost feels too g-good. Like it's just a b-big daydream that I f-f-forgot to snap out of..."
  3659. >"For both our sakes, dear, I hope you never do."
  3660. >For a moment, the two are silent
  3661. >"M-ma'am?"
  3662. >"Yes, dear?"
  3663. >"C-can I ask you something?"
  3664. >"Of course."
  3665. >"Do you h-have any kids?"
  3666. >Again, a long silence stretches between the two
  3667. >"No. I don't. Why do you ask?"
  3668. >"Oh, um... n-no reason, I j-j-just... I'm sorry... me and Anon found these toys downstairs, and... I w-wondered... sorry..."
  3669. >"No. It's okay. Forgot I still had those."
  3670. >"Oh. Okay. S-sorry. I didn't mean to intrude..."
  3671. >"It's quite alright, dear. It's strange for a woman my age to keep children's toys. I should really get rid of them. Not like they'll change anything."
  3672. >"Ma'am?"
  3673. >"I'm fine, dear. Don't worry. It was a long time ago. I thought I was going to... to have a little boy. But things didn't work out. I was so excited, I'd bought so many toys... I couldn't bear to throw them out."
  3674. >Harshwhinny takes a single shaky breath
  3675. >"I'm sorry you had to find them. I'll get rid of them soon, I promise."
  3676. >"N-no! I mean... it's n-n-not a problem. They're important to you, and you s-should keep them. You should hold onto the important p-pieces of you, even if the memories aren't so good."
  3677. >Harshwhinny gives her a wry, sad smile
  3678. >"Like these paintings?"
  3679. >"Y-yeah."
  3680. >Fluttershy picks up the painting they worked on together, admiring it
  3681. >From the angle you're at, though, you can't quite make out what it is
  3682. >"Y-you know... from what I've seen, at least, um... you'd have made a really good mom."
  3683. >...
  3684. >When Harshwhinny speaks again, her voice is strained in a way you've heard from her before
  3685. >"...thank you, dear."
  3686. >She stands
  3687. >"I... I think I'd better get to bed, now. Goodnight."
  3688. >"Ma'am? Ms. H.?"
  3689. >Harshwhinny covers her face with her right hand, and walks out of the room
  3690. >And as she does, you swear you can hear her let out a single, choked sob
  3691.  
  3692. >Fluttershy is stunned for a moment
  3693. >"M-Ms. H! I'm sorry! I didn't... I didn't mean to..."
  3694. >She jumps to her feet, trying to run after her
  3695. >You stop her midway
  3696. >"A-Anon! Lemme go, I n-need to hell her... I didn't mean to m-m-make her..."
  3697. >She starts to hyperventilate, nervous shakes wracking her body
  3698. >"Oh no... oh no, oh no, oh no..."
  3699. "Hey, hey. It's alright."
  3700. >You pat the middle of her back, hoping it'll help calm her down
  3701. >"It's n-not! After everything she d-did... she w-was so nice, and I made her cry! It's n-not okay!"
  3702. >Her breathing deepens, and you feel her wobble in your grasp
  3703. "You didn't make her cry. You said a good thing."
  3704. >"B-but... but she's..."
  3705. "She's hurt. But that's not your fault. I think... I think that's what she needed to hear."
  3706. >"But what if it's not? What if I r-really hurt her?"
  3707. "Come on, it's Harshwhinny. She's as tough as it gets. I think you made her feel a part of herself she'd been hiding for a long time."
  3708. >"Are you s-sure? You sure I didn't hurt her?"
  3709. "Pretty sure. I think she just needs some time to herself. To reconnect with that piece of herself you just showed her."
  3710. >"Ok-kay."
  3711. >Fluttershy leans her head on your shoulder, her shivering subsiding
  3712. >"T-thanks, Anon."
  3713. "Don't mention it. You did a good job. I don't think I've ever seen Ms. H so happy. Or happy at all, for that matter."
  3714. >You squeeze Fluttershy's shoulders
  3715. "And I think you've been the biggest part of that."
  3716. >"That's w-what she said. You t-think she really meant it?"
  3717. "Of course she did. It's not hard to tell. She's definitely not all bubbly like this over Dash's stupid antics."
  3718. >"H-heh. I'm g-glad. She deserves to be happy."
  3719. "So do you."
  3720. >Fluttershy tilts her head up, locking eyes with you
  3721. >Slowly, her mouth begins to drift towards yours
  3722. >You find yourself frozen, not quite moving towards the kiss, and not quite moving away from it
  3723. >Suddenly, there's a hand on your shoulder
  3724. >"Eyyyy, what are you two lovebirds up to?!"
  3725. >Dash smacks your ass, grinning
  3726. >"You two aren't about to start something without me, right?"
  3727. "No! We were just..."
  3728. >"Aww, you're trying to do the 'forbidden love' thing now! That's so cute!"
  3729. >Dash is dressed only in a towel, wrapped not-so-modestly around her waist, leaving her chest exposed
  3730. >Fluttershy blushes, scooting behind you
  3731. >Your girlfriend, meanwhile, balks
  3732. >"What? Aw, come on! Are you seriously gonna stop there?"
  3733. >"I, um... d-don't know what you mean."
  3734. >Dash rolls her eyes
  3735. >"Ugh, you two are you so lame. But I like the spirit!"
  3736. >She grabs you by the hand, pulling you back towards the spare bedroom
  3737. >"Well, come on! I need sleep and attention!"
  3738. "Your two favorite things."
  3739. >"You know it. And they go so well together, too."
  3740. >She flops into bed, throwing the towel off
  3741. >And Fluttershy gets her second-ever view of stark-naked Dash
  3742. >The blush on her face increases, leaving her cheeks bright pink
  3743. >"Hurry up! I'm gonna get cold if you two make me wait."
  3744. >She pats the spot next to her, wriggling her eyebrows at Fluttershy
  3745. >"I, um... I d-don't... that's..."
  3746. >"What? I'm not gonna bite you. It'll be cozy!"
  3747. >Fluttershy mumbles something unintelligible
  3748. "Dash..."
  3749. >"What? It's skinship! Friendly bonding! It's totally platonic!"
  3750. "You could at least put on *something*."
  3751. >"Ugh, you're no fun."
  3752. >She grabs the lightning-bolt-pattern compression shorts she uses as panties, and pulls them on
  3753. >"Alright, decent enough?"
  3754. >You glance at Fluttershy
  3755. >"I, um... I... I d-don't... I'm s-s-sorry..."
  3756. "Dash?"
  3757. >"Oh, for the love of... alright, here."
  3758. >She pulls on her t-shirt too
  3759. >"That good?"
  3760. >Fluttershy nods, looking relieved
  3761. >"I'm s-sorry..."
  3762. >Now it's Dash's turn to blush
  3763. >"Whoa, hey! I didn't mean it like that."
  3764. >She looks at you, as if hoping you'll back her up
  3765. >But she's alone on this one; you honestly have no idea what she was thinking
  3766. >If one of your friends tried to get you to sleep with them in the nude, you'd be pretty weirded out too
  3767. >"Whatever you're comfortable with is cool, dude. I just though..."
  3768. "You were just thinking with your vag. Classic Dash."
  3769. >You throw yourself onto the bed, patting the spot between you and Dash
  3770. "You're welcome to join us, Butters. Whichever you want."
  3771. >Fluttershy fidgets with the hem of her dress
  3772. >"I, um... t-that sounds really nice, actually... as l-long as it's okay..."
  3773. "Of course."
  3774.  
  3775. >Fluttershy ducks out to change, telling you that Ms. Harshwhinny lent her some pajamas in addition to the dress
  3776. >Dash, meanwhile, cuddles up to you
  3777. >"Come on. That was totally a good idea."
  3778. "It was a horrible idea. The girl freaks out from just a hug. You seriously thought she'd be okay sleeping next to your naked ass?"
  3779. >"Yes."
  3780. "Well... huh."
  3781. >As she often Dash, Dash has once again left you speechless
  3782. >But at least she's snuggly
  3783. >You curl up against her under the blankets, waiting until Fluttershy returns
  3784. >When she does, she's dressed in a loose-fitting, frilly pink nightie
  3785. >"S-sorry... it l-looks really stupid, doesn't it?"
  3786. >"Yeah, dude! You look like--"
  3787. >You clamp your hand over Dash's mouth
  3788. "I think it looks great on you. And so does Rainbow."
  3789. >Fluttershy smiles, clambering gently onto the bed
  3790. >"Are you guys, um... s-sure it's okay if I sleep here? I don't want to--"
  3791. >Dash doesn't even wait for a response
  3792. >She grabs Fluttershy and pulls her into the cuddle-huddle, sandwiching the nervous girl between herself and you
  3793. >"I, um... I..."
  3794. >Fluttershy lets out a contented little squeak
  3795. >"T-this isn't so bad, actually..."
  3796. >"Told ya, dude."
  3797. >Dash snuggles up to Fluttershy, resting the other girl's head on her arm
  3798. >You, meanwhile, drape an arm over both girls, pulling the blankets into a tight little cocoon around you
  3799. >Dimly, as you sink into sleep, you wonder how Ms. Harshwhinny is doing over in her room down the hall
  3800. >You hope she's alright
  3801. >Since meeting Dash, you've hardly ever had to sleep alone
  3802. >And since meeting the two of you, Fluttershy hasn't either
  3803. >What's it like to be alone as long as she had?
  3804.  
  3805. >...
  3806.  
  3807. "Hey, Butters?"
  3808. >You don't address Dash, as her snoring tells you she's already sound asleep
  3809. >"Y-yeah?"
  3810. "You okay getting up early tomorrow?"
  3811. >"I usually do... w-why?"
  3812. "I wanna make breakfast. For Ms. H."
  3813. >"Oh."
  3814. >Fluttershy catches onto your idea immediately
  3815. >"Y-yeah, sure. I'm not much of a cook, but I'll help as m-much as I can."
  3816. "Thanks."
  3817. >You feel her hand brush against yours under the covers
  3818. >"Anon?"
  3819. "Yeah?"
  3820. >"Can you p-promise me something?"
  3821. "What?"
  3822. >"N-no matter what happens... with m-my dad, and everything else... this isn't the last night we'll spend together, right?"
  3823. "Butters..."
  3824. >"S-sorry. That was a stupid thing to say."
  3825. >You rest your head against the back of hers
  3826. "I promise, Butters. Dash and me aren't going anywhere. I can' promise every night will be like this... but we're not gonna give you up."
  3827. >"Alright."
  3828. >She takes ahold of your hand, squeezing
  3829. >"That's a p-promise. You can't break it, okay? The t-two of you have to s-stick around."
  3830. "It's alright, Butters."
  3831. >Your breath tickles the back of her neck, making her wriggle beneath the covers
  3832. "Even if we could leave you, I don't think we would."
  3833.  
  3834.  
  3835. >You drift into sleep holding Fluttershy, feeling her breathing slowly fall to a gentle, swelling snore
  3836. >Well, not quite a snore
  3837. >More like tiny, breathy, tired little squeaks
  3838. >Either way, it's the perfect sound to fall asleep to
  3839.  
  3840. >The sound you wake up to, however, is far less pleasant
  3841. >*bzzzz*
  3842. >The buzzing of your phone drills into the back of your skull, pulling you out of your cocoon of warmth
  3843. >You sit up, rubbing your eyes, and grab your phone from your bedside
  3844. >Who the hell is calling you?
  3845. >And why are four in the morning?
  3846. >You hang up, laying back down
  3847. >Probably either a telemarketer or just a mis-dial
  3848. >However, before you can even close your eyes, your phone starts ringing again
  3849. >Same number
  3850. >You stare at it, trying to muster the effort to actually move your arms
  3851. >Ugh, why?
  3852. >You're so comfy here...
  3853. >Finally, feeling like you've accomplished some Herculean trial, you grab the thing up and take the call
  3854. "Hey?"
  3855. >You don't even bother trying to hide the exhaustion on your voice
  3856. >If they want to call you in the middle of the night, they can deal with you being tired
  3857. >An unfamiliar voice answers
  3858. >"Hello. Is this Anonymous?"
  3859. "Uh... yeah. Why?"
  3860. >"This is officer Shining Armor with the Canterlot PD. We've received reports of a break-in at your house."
  3861. >Stunned, you can only repeat the officer's words back to him
  3862. "A break-in? At my house?"
  3863. >"Yes sir. We've got me and a few other officers down here checking it out, but it doesn't look like anything was stolen."
  3864. "That's... good, I guess."
  3865. >Someone broke in, but didn't steal anything?
  3866. >Could it be him?
  3867. >How did he figure out where you live?
  3868. >Unless...
  3869. >Harshwhinny mentioned something about the school registry, right?
  3870. >Shit, he must have found your address
  3871. >Thank Christ you got yourself and the girls away from there
  3872. >But still...
  3873. >"Sir?"
  3874. "Yeah, sorry. You're sure nothing was stolen?"
  3875. >"Doesn't look like anything's missing. Still, we'd appreciate it if you could come down here and answer some questions, just so we know who we're looking for."
  3876. "Yeah, definitely. I'll be right over."
  3877.  
  3878. >"Anon? W-wha..."
  3879. >A very-sleepy Fluttershy watches as you dress yourself, rubbing sleep from her eyes
  3880. "Sorry, Butters. Something came up."
  3881. >"Huh? Is e-everything okay?"
  3882. >She bolts upright, clutching the blanket in jittery, nervous hands
  3883. >Dash, meanwhile, remains out cold
  3884. >That girl could sleep through a hurricane
  3885. "Yeah. Someone broke into my house."
  3886. >"W-what? That's n-n-not alright! Is everything okay? N-no one was hurt, right?"
  3887. "No. But I'm gonna go talk to the police. I'll be back in a bit, okay?"
  3888. >Fluttershy jumps out of bed, trying to look determined while still dressed in her nightie
  3889. >"I'm c-coming with you."
  3890. "No, Butters. This could be dangerous, and--"
  3891. >"And you'll n-need someone to look after you. I'm going with."
  3892. >She takes ahold of your arm, setting her mouth in a resolute little line
  3893. "Butters..."
  3894. >"I'm g-going."
  3895. "It's just me talking to the police. It's gonna be boring."
  3896. >"I t-thought you said it'd be dangerous."
  3897. "It is, but..."
  3898. >"S-sounds like you're gonna need some help f-f-figuring out what's going on, huh?"
  3899. >Fluttershy gives you the smuggest grin you've ever seen on her face
  3900. "I'm serious, Butters."
  3901. >"And s-so am I. We're going together."
  3902. >The sudden lack of stutter makes it pretty much impossible to disagree
  3903.  
  3904. >Outside, the air temperature has dropped significantly after the rain, and the ground is damp and slippery beneath your shoes
  3905. >Fluttershy sticks close to you, dressed once again in her hoodie and sweatpants
  3906. >Neither of you could manage to wake Rainbow, and you figured encounters with the police would probably go better without her, well, interference
  3907. >You drive slowly, the car's headlights illuminating the coils of mist that reach up like tendrils from the ground
  3908. >They dissipate the moment the car's slipstream hits them, bursting into little wisps of water vapor before they can grab at the vehicle
  3909. >Fluttershy is characteristically silent, leaning her head against the glass as she stares out at the passing trees
  3910. >You start to realize just how secluded Harshwhinny's house is
  3911. >Trees press in all around, separating individual houses by ten or fifteen meters
  3912. >She must be lonely out here...
  3913.  
  3914. >The feeling of having your house broken into is, primarily, that of violation
  3915. >Everything about your home just feels... wrong, somehow, knowing that some intruder has tramped through it
  3916. >Suddenly, your bedroom seems a little less private, and your bed a little less comfy
  3917. >"Sir?"
  3918. >The cop's voice stirs you out of your musing
  3919. "Mm?"
  3920. >"Anything out of place?"
  3921. "No. Everything's where it should be, as far as I can tell. Do you think this could have been, I dunno, a mistake? Like someone hit the wrong house?"
  3922. >"Yeah, that's possible. Or they panicked. Or they didn't find what they were looking for."
  3923. >That last line sticks with you
  3924. "What they were looking for..."
  3925. >"Hm?"
  3926. "Nothing. I'm gonna go check downstairs again."
  3927. >You head back down, stepping over the shards of broken glass littered around the now-defunct front window
  3928. >A cop is already taping a tarp over it, to keep out the coming rain
  3929. >Seems like you're in for plenty of storms in the next few days...
  3930.  
  3931. >"Anon?"
  3932. "Yeah."
  3933. >You snap back into reality once again, to find Fluttershy shaking your arm
  3934. "Sorry. What's up?"
  3935. >"I w-was looking at the fridge... d-does something look off?"
  3936. "Off? What do you mean?"
  3937. >"The pictures are knocked around... and it l-looks like there's on missing..."
  3938. "What do you... oh, shit."
  3939. >"W-what?"
  3940. "Shit, shit."
  3941. >You run to the fridge, fingers scrabbling over the pictures
  3942. >"Is s-something really missing?"
  3943. "Yeah."
  3944. >"What?"
  3945. "I had a picture of Dash up here. Right here."
  3946. >You tap an empty space on the fridge, a chill that has nothing to do with the rain growing on the back of your neck
  3947. >"Oh no..."
  3948. "So whoever took it knows me, and now knows about Dash."
  3949. >"You don't think it w-was..."
  3950. "I do."
  3951. >"Oh no... oh no, oh no, oh no..."
  3952. >Fluttershy begins to hyperventilate, crossing her hands over her mouth
  3953. >"Anon. You n-need to take me back. Just take me b-back home. Don't do this to yourself. Oh no... I'm s-so sorry..."
  3954. >She grabs the countertop, breathing heavily
  3955. >Her legs begin to shake, and she nearly collapses
  3956. >You grab her arm, helping to steady her
  3957. "Butters!
  3958. >"Yo! Is she okay?"
  3959. >Turning, you see the white-haired officer from the zoo standing in the doorway
  3960. >You swear you see a flicker of recognition on her face too, but she doesn't waste time on whether or not she knows you
  3961. >Immediately, she's at Fluttershy's side
  3962. >"Hey, you alright?"
  3963. >"Y-y... y-yeah..."
  3964. >The cop turns to you
  3965. >"You got a paper bag in here, or something?"
  3966. >You run to the pantry and grab one, and the officer holds it to Fluttershy's mouth
  3967. >After a few rounds of breathing in and out of the bag, Fluttershy begins to calm
  3968. >"I'm sorry... I'm s-so sorry..."
  3969. >"Easy, kid. What's wrong?"
  3970. >Fluttershy mumbles under her breath, and the white-haired cop just glances up at you, confused
  3971. "It's... a bit of a long story."
  3972. >"Long story, eh? Something I should know about?"
  3973. >She straightens up to her full height, her stature eclipsing yours just enough that she can stare down her nose at you
  3974. "You could say that, I guess.
  3975. >Clearing your throat, you mentally prepare yourself to spill all of the past weeks' drama
  3976. "I think we know who broke into this house."
  3977. >"Oh yeah?"
  3978. >She leads a miserable-looking Fluttershy over to the couch, not bothering to ask permission before she sits down with her
  3979. >The cop waves you over
  3980. >"The others are probably gonna head back to the station. Doesn't seem like there's much more we can do here. In the meantime, though..."
  3981. >She points a finger at you
  3982. >"You're gonna tell me what's going on, 'kay?"
  3983.  
  3984.  
  3985. >You shoot Dash a text as the three of you head back to the officer's squad car
  3986. [Hey. Talking to the police. Will be back in a few hours. <3]
  3987. >She doesn't respond, as expected; it'll probably be a good five or six hours before she wakes up
  3988. >Then again, Dash does tend to get antsy sleeping in unfamiliar places; maybe she'll be up sooner than expected?
  3989. >"You two want breakfast?"
  3990. "Hm?"
  3991. >The officer repeats herself
  3992. >"Breakfast. You guys want something?"
  3993. "Oh, sure. Thanks."
  3994. >"No problem. You two might be in for a long morning, figure it's the least I can do."
  3995. >She pulls away from your house, heading towards the highway
  3996. >"Name's Officer Griffin, by the way. But you guys can call me Gilda, if you want. I don't really care."
  3997. >She brushes her hair out of her eyes, nimbly merging between two oncoming semis
  3998. "Thank you, ma'am."
  3999. >"Yeesh. Yeah, I'm putting the kibosh on that right now. Call me officer, or my first name, but none of that ma'am shit. Blech."
  4000. >She sticks out her tongue, switching into the right lane and flooring the car forward
  4001. >"Sorry if that was harsh. But yeah, no. I'm not your mom, you don't gotta talk to me like I am. Now..."
  4002. >She zips back across the highway into the exit lane, heading off towards a small market bistro on the side of the road
  4003. >"You say you think you know who broke in, right? Why don't you fill me in while we grab some sandwiches."
  4004.  
  4005. >And thus begins the least pleasant story you've ever told
  4006. >You go through your first meeting with Fluttershy, her dad's insistence that she was a boy, the abuse, the threat to her pets, the zoo incident
  4007. >"Oh!"
  4008. >She peels out of the parking lot, heading back towards the highway
  4009. >"That's why you two look so familiar! Is that guy the one you're talking about?"
  4010. "Yeah!"
  4011. >"Ah, shit. You poor kids. That guy's your dad?"
  4012. >She turns to Fluttershy, who squeaks and shrinks back into her seat
  4013. >"Y-yeah... sorry..."
  4014. >"What are you apologizing for?"
  4015. >"N-nothing... I'm s-sorry you have to deal with him..."
  4016. >"Kid, this guy's just another weirdo for me. To have some abusive asshole like that as your dad..."
  4017. >For a moment, Gilda falls silent
  4018. >"It's nothing good. Nice girls like you deserve better."
  4019.  
  4020. >She pulls into the station at five in the morning, exiting the car just as the first gray rays of twilight are beginning to peak through the treeline
  4021. >"You two get some rest and finish breakfast, alright?"
  4022. >She pats a glum-looking Fluttershy's shoulders
  4023. >"I'm gonna head in and get the paperwork started. We're gonna ask you two to give testimony, then we're gonna figure out what to do. Sound good?"
  4024. >Fluttershy nods
  4025. "Yes ma'am--"
  4026. >Gilda flashes you a dark look
  4027. "Yes, Officer Griffin."
  4028. >"Hmph. I'm never gonna get used to the sound of that..."
  4029.  
  4030. >You and Fluttershy sit together in the station's waiting room, listening to the Oldies station playing on low volume over the place's PA
  4031. >She takes about two and a half bites of her sandwich, and sets it back down
  4032. "Hey."
  4033. >You place your hand on her arm, and she flinches
  4034. >"S-sorry..."
  4035. "Butters. You don't need to keep saying that."
  4036. >"I know, b-but... ugh. Why did I have to get you c-caught up in all of this? You and Dash don't deserve this in your lives. You're g-good people."
  4037. "So are you."
  4038. >She doesn't respond, but you can tell by her facial expression that she's not convinced
  4039. >Raising her sandwich to her mouth, she tries to take another bite, but ends up just dropping it into her lap again
  4040. >"If I w-were good... really good, like you t-think I am... then he'd love me."
  4041. >Your hand moves down her arm, palm meeting hers and your fingers intertwining
  4042. "And if you really were as bad as you think you are, than me and Dash wouldn't."
  4043. >Fluttershy bites her lip
  4044. "I don't regret any of this, Butters. Even if he'd stolen every single thing I own. You're worth all that and more."
  4045. >Fluttershy starts to tremble, but says noting
  4046. >She just stares at the floor, squeezing your hand as the songs play on and the seconds tick by
  4047. >Finally, the door to the waiting room opens
  4048. >Gilda tromps out, a steaming mug of coffee in one hand
  4049. >You finally realized that the bags under her eyes aren't just caused by her purple eyeshadow; poor woman looks exhausted
  4050. >"Hey, dudes. You two holdin' up okay?"
  4051. "Yeah."
  4052. >Fluttershy gives a small nod
  4053. >"Awesome. So, we're gonna record some testimonies, okay? Just come in, sit down, take a drink, and tell them exactly what you told me, okay? Everything that happened that you think we need to know."
  4054. "Got it."
  4055. >She cracks a smile, stepping just close enough to ruffle your hair
  4056. >"Cool. You'll go first, hotshot. And then you, alright?"
  4057. >She squats down to Fluttershy's eye-level
  4058. >"Alright?"
  4059. >She places a hand on your friend's shoulder
  4060. >Fluttershy swallows, and stammers:
  4061. >"I... I d-don't know."
  4062. >The rasp drops out of Gilda's voice, and her voice lowers to an almost motherly coo
  4063. >"Hey, it's okay. If there's stuff you really don't think you can tell us, it's okay. Just... anything you can manage is good enough, alright?"
  4064. >"Y-yeah. Okay."
  4065. >"Thanks. I'll be right back out as soon as it's your turn, 'kay?"
  4066. >Fluttershy nods, curling up on the chair and hugging her legs against her chest
  4067. >You wrap an arm around her shoulder, giving her a quick squeeze before you leave
  4068. >Poor girl...
  4069.  
  4070. >Testifying is pretty easy
  4071. >You're lead into a tiny office, stocked with plenty of bottled water
  4072. >An older, male cop sits across from you with Gilda at his side
  4073. >"Alright, son. Whenever you're ready, just start. We've got a recorder running right now, and I'll be taking my own notes. That okay?"
  4074. >You nod, and begin the story from the beginning again
  4075. >Gilda watches, her golden eyes betraying no hint of emotion
  4076. >The unfamiliar cop doesn't even look at you; he just keeps his eyes on his clipboard as he jots down notes to go along with your testimony
  4077. >When you run out of things to say, you've gone through two bottles of water
  4078. >The male cop nods, and dismisses you
  4079. >"That's all we need. Thank you for your time, Mr. Anonymous. We'll assign someone to your case as soon as your friend testifies as well."
  4080. "Thank you, sir."
  4081. >You stand up, and Gilda follows you back into the lobby
  4082. >"Hey, buddy."
  4083. >She kneels down next to Fluttershy, placing a hand on her shoulder
  4084. >"You're up now, okay?"
  4085. >"A-alright."
  4086. >"It's gonna be easy. Just sit down, and tell us everything we need to know. If you need anything, just ask. And if you don't feel okay telling us something, don't worry."
  4087. >"Right."
  4088. >Fluttershy stands, stuffing her hands in the pocket of her hoodie
  4089. >She turns to you, her bangs hanging in her eyes
  4090. >"I'll s-see you in a bit, okay?"
  4091. "Yeah. You'll do great, Butters."
  4092. >Gilda leads her into the office, and you're alone again
  4093. >Bored and listless from worry, you pull out your phone, only to discover that Dash must have texted you back while you were testifying
  4094. >Guess she had some trouble sleeping after all
  4095. >[heyyy dude <3 heading back 2 my house 2 change and it's kinda weird being here alone with harshwhinny lol]
  4096. >[c u in a bit! good luck]
  4097. >You consider responding, but decide against it
  4098. >You'll see her in a couple hours, after all
  4099. >No sense in worrying the poor girl with police drama, really
  4100. >So you just kick back, resting your eyes for an hour
  4101.  
  4102. >...
  4103.  
  4104. >Which stretches into two hours
  4105.  
  4106. >...
  4107.  
  4108. >And then into three...
  4109.  
  4110. >Three and a half...
  4111.  
  4112. >...
  4113.  
  4114. >Finally, after you've slapped into that dead-eyed state of boredom that comes with prolonged anticipation, the door opens
  4115. >Fluttershy shuffles out, her eyes on the ground
  4116. >An exhausted Gilda followers her, once again sipping from a cup of coffee
  4117. "Hey!"
  4118. >You jump up, running towards your friend
  4119. "How was it? Everything okay?"
  4120. >Fluttershy just shrugs, unable to meet her eyes
  4121. >Gilda steps in front of her, placing a hand on Fluttershy's shoulder
  4122. >"She wasn't exactly able to... well, tell us much."
  4123. "But she was in there for three hours."
  4124. >"Yeah. We tried to help her through it, but... well it was hard for her."
  4125. >She pulls your friend against her in a gruff side-hug
  4126. >"I'm s-sorry..."
  4127. >"Don't apologize, kid. You didn't do jack shit to deserve something like this. You're a good girl, and you're trying your best to deal with an awful situation."
  4128. >She ruffles Fluttershy's hair
  4129. >"Don't ever apologize to me, or Anonymous, or anyone just for being stuck somewhere bad. Okay? No matter what, no matter how trash you feel, you're a good kid."
  4130. >Fluttershy doesn't look very convinced
  4131. >"I'm s-sorry. I promise, if w-we try again, I'll have more. I j-just..."
  4132. >She sniffles
  4133. >"I'm sorry."
  4134. >Gilda gives you a "I tried" look
  4135. >"Well, the good news is, we're gonna get to hang out a lot more."
  4136. "Yeah?"
  4137. >"Mhm. The chief assigned me to look after you guys while we're investigating her dad."
  4138. "Oh! Awesome!"
  4139. >"You're g-gonna stay with us?"
  4140. >"Well, not stay-stay. But I'll be dropping by. Speaking of which, you guys have a decently safe place, right? Somewhere where this creep isn't gonna know how to find you?"
  4141.  
  4142. >And that's how, thirty-five minutes later, you pulled up outside Ms. Harshwhinny's house with a police officer following you
  4143. >Above you, the remnants of yesterday's storm are already gathering, forming a deep gray sheet that hovers like a mantle in the sky as you approach your teacher's front door
  4144. >Harshwhinny answers her door in nothing but a bathrobe and slippers shaped like little piglets
  4145. >When she sees the two of you, she smiles
  4146. >And when she sees Gilda, her face goes pale
  4147. >"O-officer? Is something wrong?"
  4148. >She draws the robe tighter around herself, trying to look at least slightly more presentable
  4149. >Gilda laughs
  4150. >"Nah. Well, not with these two, at least. There's been some, eh, troubles with this one's dad."
  4151. >She pats Fluttershy on the shoulder
  4152. >"I'm gonna be hanging around here for a bit, I guess. Just to keep an eye on these two and make sure nothing happens."
  4153. >It does feel a little weird being referred to as "these two," but it takes you a minute to remember why
  4154. >Why isn't Dash back yet?
  4155. >You pull out your phone, only to find that she hasn't texted you anything about her whereabouts
  4156. >Slightly worried, you send her one
  4157. [Hey. Where you at?]
  4158. >"Oh! Well, that's... quite respectable of you!" Harshwhinny says to Gilda
  4159. >She begins to head towards the kitchen, beckoning for you to follow
  4160. >"Here! I'll make us some breakfast! I mean, I won't make it... I can't cook for anything, heh... but I'll reheat some pizza?"
  4161. >She stops in front of the fridge
  4162. >"Oh, no, what am I saying. So unprofessional. I, um... could... uh... I have cereal?"
  4163. >Gilda chuckles
  4164. >"I'm fine, thanks. These two could probably use something, though."
  4165. >Fluttershy just shrugs, but you don't say anything
  4166. >Harshwhinny steps toward you, concerned
  4167. >"Anonymous? Everything alright?"
  4168. "Huh? Oh, yeah. Just wondering why Dash hasn't texted me back."
  4169. >"She's probably busy, dear. Poor thing seemed in such a rush to get home."
  4170. "Huh. Yeah."
  4171. >Gilda steps away, pulling out her own cell phone
  4172. >"Huh? Yeah? Not there, huh? Yeah, I'm with the kids. Sure, yeah, I'll tell them."
  4173. >She flips the phone shut, stowing it in her uniform pocket
  4174. >"So, they went to check out your dad's house."
  4175. >"Y-yeah?"
  4176. >"Wasn't there. We're gonna check in every hour or so, just to see if he comes by. But until then, stay here, alright?"
  4177. "Yeah, of course."
  4178. >Harshwhinny steps in, wrapping a protective arm around both of you
  4179. >"What do you mean? They're not in danger, right?"
  4180. >She hugs the both of you against her body with an honestly alarming strength
  4181. >Gilda shakes her head, though she doesn't look entire convinced
  4182. >"Not yet. But we should be on the lookout, just in case."
  4183. >Harshwhinny nods
  4184. >"Of course! I promise, I'll make sure the both of them stay safe!"
  4185. >She gives you another squeeze
  4186. >"You got that, you two? Just stick with me, and I promise, no creep is going to touch you."
  4187. >Harshwhinny notices Gilda staring, and blushes
  4188. >"And, of course... it's good that we have a policewoman here too. Yes. But still. I promise."
  4189. >She coughs, letting go of you
  4190. >You pull out your phone, checking for a text from Dash
  4191. >Still nothing
  4192. >Why won't she respond?
  4193. >Outside, more storm rolls in, damping the morning light out and casting the world outside into deep, dark gray
  4194. >Gilda bumps your shoulder, peering down at your phone
  4195. >"Your friend text you yet?"
  4196. "No."
  4197. >"I'm sure she's just busy, man."
  4198. >You want to believe Gilda, you really do, but the more you think about it, the more dread begins to build in the pit of your stomach
  4199. >Dash wouldn't have ignored your messages this long
  4200. >And she also wouldn't want to be away from you and Fluttershy for this much time, right?
  4201. >And plus...
  4202. >The break-in, and that missing photo...
  4203. "He's going after her."
  4204. >"Huh? What do you mean?"
  4205. "*He* is! He's going after Rainbow Dash!"
  4206. >"N-no!"
  4207. >Fluttershy squeaks in terror
  4208. "We have to go! Now!"
  4209. >Gilda doesn't even wait for an explanation
  4210. >She charges out towards the car, grabbing her keys
  4211. >Fluttershy takes ahold of your hand, and you pull her along behind you
  4212. >Even Ms. Harshwhinny joins in, trying to keep up in her slippers and robe
  4213. >The four of you pile into Gilda's car, and she flicks the sirens on so you can really floor it on the way to Dash's house
  4214. >You really, really hope you're not too late...
  4215.  
  4216. >The cop car pulls up in front of Dash's house, but you're out of the vehicle before it's even had a chance to come to a stop
  4217. >You sprint up to the front door, buffeted by the frigid winds carrying the storm
  4218. "Dash! Dash, you in there!?"
  4219. >You slam your fist against the door, but receive no response
  4220. >Gilda runs up after you, followed by Fluttershy and Harshwhinny
  4221. >Gilda is the first to speak, her voice hushed and urgent
  4222. >"Anything?"
  4223. >You shake your head
  4224. >"Alright. You think she'll mind if I get a little violent?"
  4225. "If she does, I'll handle her. Please, help."
  4226. >Gilda nods, raises her right foot, and kicks the door open
  4227. >The cheap lock explodes under the force of her kick, and the door bursts inwards
  4228. >"Hey! This is the police! Anyone here?"
  4229. >She charges in, one hand on the G42 strapped to her waist
  4230. >The house is overwhelmingly silent, the point where the lack of response physically weighs down your neck
  4231. >"Hello?"
  4232. >Gilda runs up the stairs, heading in to check more of the house
  4233. >You check your phone, only to find that Dash still hasn't left you a message
  4234. >What happened to her?
  4235. >She's been bad about responding to messages in the past, sure
  4236. >But it's been hours, and she's still not home
  4237. >And the missing picture
  4238. >You step back out of the house, your heart hammering in your chest
  4239. >Dash doesn't have a car, so she tends to depend on Uber, bumming a ride, or just walking
  4240. >Given how remote Harshwhinny's house is, she probably needed Uber
  4241. >So she should have needed a driver, right?
  4242. >Which means she definitely got here
  4243. >Was he waiting for her?
  4244. >Then there should be some sign of a struggle; there's no way Dash would get taken without one hell of a fight
  4245. >"A-Anon?"
  4246. >Fluttershy tugs on the hem of your shirt, her face pale
  4247. >You turn, following her gaze
  4248. >"Good lord," Ms. Harshwhinny gasps
  4249. >It's not noticeable at first, but there's a tiny splotch of blood at the end of the stone steps that lead to Dash's front door
  4250. "Shit."
  4251. >You kneel down next to the red stain, shaking
  4252. "Gilda! Come here!"
  4253. >The policewoman charges back out of the house
  4254. >"What? What is it?"
  4255. >She looks where you're pointing, and curses
  4256. >"Shit. That's not good."
  4257. >Dropping to one knee, she examines the red stain
  4258. >"It's dried. At least a few hours old."
  4259. "Oh my God."
  4260. >"It's small, though. Unless there's more, than it could be nothing...
  4261. >You scan the surroundings, eyes flicking over the driveway, the small, dried-up garden, the front porch...
  4262. "There's more."
  4263. >Another thin line of blood is splashed across the boards of the patio, difficult to notice unless you look directly at it
  4264. >And, upon further inspection, heavy footprints are squished into the dirt of Dash's parents' garden, along with some smushed plants suggesting that someone fell
  4265. >And fell hard
  4266. >There was definitely a fight here, and one with a clear winner
  4267. >But who?
  4268. >You can't find any other sign of the struggle, and nothing points to its outcome
  4269. >Christ, you hope Dash isn't hurt
  4270. >Gilda clearly doesn't have any more answers than you
  4271. >Her lip twists in frustration
  4272. >"I'm gonna radio the station. Anyone who's available, we're gonna have them looking for your friend."
  4273. "Please. Please, find her..."
  4274. >You touch the red splotch, saying a quick prayer to whatever will listen that Dash will turn up okay
  4275.  
  4276. >The four of you return to Gilda's car, all of you looking uncharacteristically dismal
  4277. >Harshwhinny won't stop mumbling to herself:
  4278. >"I shouldn't have let her go..."
  4279. "It's not your fault, ma'am."
  4280. >You rest your head against the glass window, watching the clouds grow ever darker up above
  4281. "I should have told her to stay put. I should have warned her. Oh, God..."
  4282. >You rest your head in your hands
  4283. "What if she's hurt? Like, really hurt, and I could have stopped it?"
  4284. >Fluttershy places a light, trembling little hand on your thigh
  4285. >"Anon... p-please don't do this to yourself."
  4286. "Why not? I should have told her! I got so caught up in... in playing the hero, like some kind of jackass. I forgot all about her warning her. Oh my God."
  4287. >You clench your teeth, desperation rising in your chest to the point where you want to throw the car door open and sprint back to your girlfriend's house
  4288. "I fucked up. I fucked up bad."
  4289. >"D-do you think Dash would say that, if s-she were here?"
  4290. "Huh? What do you mean?"
  4291. >"She wouldn't want you to b-be worried about her like this, right? She'd get all p-p-puffed up and angry like she likes to do, and she'd p-probably smack you, and tell you that she doesn't need to be looked after. That she can take care of herself."
  4292. "Yeah... sounds like her."
  4293. >"She wouldn't w-want you to just mope about her, r-right? She'd want you to trust her. And... I t-think that's what we should do. T-trust that she's okay."
  4294. "I really want to, Butters. I really do. But I just want to know she's okay."
  4295. >"I know. And s-soon, we will, right? She's the t-toughest girl I've ever met. We're g-gonna see her again."
  4296. >Fluttershy's words can't quite convince you; in fact, they don't even come close
  4297. >So instead, she leans against you, taking your hand in hers
  4298. >She gives you a gentle squeeze, gently massaging your palm as you return to Harshwhinny's house
  4299.  
  4300.  
  4301. >"Alright. Here's what we're gonna do."
  4302. >Gilda has the two of you seated on the couch in front of her, with Ms. Harshwhinny pacing in the background
  4303. >Outside, the first drops of rain are beginning to *thunk* against the windows, the wind howling against the panes as it tears apart the trees outside
  4304. >"I'm gonna head down to the station, report everything, and we're gonna get all open units out looking for your friend. In the meantime, I'll make sure that anyone on patrol stops by here when they get the chance, okay? Just to make you're all doing alright."
  4305. "Got it."
  4306. >"In the mean time, don't leave. Understood? Until we know where this creep is, nowhere's safe. If anything bad happens, or if you feel threatened..."
  4307. >She drops a slip of paper onto the table
  4308. >"That's my personal number. I'll get over here as soon as I can."
  4309. "Okay. Thank you ma-- Gilda."
  4310. >She gives you a cocky smile, ruffling your hair
  4311. >"No problem, kid. We've got a lot of good people working on finding your friend, I promise we'll get her."
  4312. "Thank you."
  4313. >You're still not entirely convinced, but Gilda's words put you slightly more at ease
  4314. >"Cool. I'm gonna head out. Lemme know if anything happens, and I'll be back in a few hours."
  4315. >Gilda steps out, arms over her head for shelter as she sprints to her car
  4316. >Ms. Harshwhinny joins the three of you on the couch, sighing
  4317. >She holds her body in a position of forced nonchalance, trying to appear relaxed
  4318. >But her hands are clenched in her lap, balling around the soft mink of her robe
  4319. >"It's... it's going to be alright. Gilda knows what she's doing, after all. She'll find your friend, and then we'll all have dinner together again. Or lunch. Or both."
  4320. >She clenches and unclenches her hands, fingers shaking
  4321. >"Either way, things are going to be just fine. I promise."
  4322. >She gives Fluttershy a stiff pat, and then reaches across her to touch your arm
  4323. >"Anonymous?"
  4324. "Yeah?"
  4325. >"If there's anything I can do for you, please let me know."
  4326. "Thank you, ma'am."
  4327. >"Anything at all. I don't meant to be pushy, sorry. But..."
  4328. >She sucks in her breath
  4329. >"This is so awful. You're nice kids, and you shouldn't have to go through this. I'm so sorry."
  4330. >Before you can react, she's hugging both of you
  4331. >Which, given that there's only a bathrobe between you and her naked body, is a little...
  4332. >Well, more intimate than you expected to get with your economics teacher
  4333. >Fluttershy just sits there frozen, but you awkwardly try to return to hug, reaching up to pat Ms. Harshwhinny on the back
  4334. >She pulls away, flustered
  4335. >"Sorry... got a little carried away."
  4336. >She rubs her arm, returning to her spot on the couch
  4337. >"I just... you three are great kids. Having all you stay with me has been the most fun I've had in... well, longer than I'd want to admit. I couldn't stand to lose any of you, and I can't imagine what you must be feeling. If I can do anything for you, please let me know."
  4338. >She stands up
  4339. >"Until then... I'll be in my room. Good night."
  4340. >"It's, um... morning, ma'am."
  4341. >"Right. Yes, of course."
  4342. >Harshwhinny tightens her bathrobe around her and scurries out of the room, keeping her face turned away from you
  4343.  
  4344. >"I'm g-gonna go get Angel."
  4345. "Huh? Oh, okay."
  4346. >"He hasn't b-been let out in a while. He's probably m-m-mad."
  4347. >Fluttershy stands, and heads back into the spare bedroom she's been keeping her rabbit's cage in
  4348. >Angel is, of course, feisty as ever
  4349. >When Fluttershy returns, he's kicking and squirming, even trying to bite her fingers
  4350. >Somehow, though, she doesn't seem to care
  4351. >She sits on the floor, holding him in her lap as she coos into his ear
  4352. >"Such a pretty little b-bunny... yes you are..."
  4353. >He nips her pinkie finger
  4354. >Fluttershy doesn't even seem to care
  4355. >She just keeps petting her bunny, even bouncing him on her lap
  4356. >Slowly, her face begins to brighten, even as bite marks start to score her arms
  4357. >"D-do you wanna hold him, Anon?"
  4358. "Oh, um... I mean, not really..."
  4359. >She holds up the rabbit, sticking out her lower lip
  4360. >"Are you s-sure? He's s-super friendly..."
  4361. "Uh..."
  4362. >Fluttershy scoots towards you, practically plopping Angel in your lap already
  4363. "Okay, yeah. Sure."
  4364. >You take hold of the dumb rabbit, and he immediately bites you
  4365. >"S-see? Isn't he adorable?"
  4366. "Ack. Yeah, he's great."
  4367. >You try to hold the little critter like she was, but he won't hold still
  4368. >Immediately he starts trying to wriggle free of your grasp, thrashing like a tiny furry demon
  4369. >"Awww, he l-likes you!"
  4370. "Yeah. We're best friends."
  4371. >Angel bits you again, and you grit your teeth
  4372. >Ms. Harshwhinny picks that moment to bustle into the room, once against dressed in her mom jeans
  4373. >And this time, she's wearing an oversized Metallica t-shirt, with a few acid turns around the hem
  4374. >It's like she's completely forgotten that she's not living in the early nineties anymore
  4375. >Wait a minute...
  4376. >She bustles through the living room, staring at her phone
  4377. "Ma'am? Everything okay?"
  4378. >"Hmm? Oh, yes. Perfectly okay. Just a small incident up at school."
  4379. "How small?"
  4380. >"Oh, you know. A break-in, apparently. Nothing important stolen, as far as they can tell. They just want the faculty to meet so we can make sure nothing's missing. All standard procedure."
  4381. >She wipes a hand across her forehead
  4382. >"I'll need to head out for an hour or two. And I'm taking you two with me."
  4383. "With you?"
  4384. >"Of course. I can't be expected to leave you here, when *he* might be looking for you."
  4385. >She shudders
  4386. >"Absolutely not. You're coming with me."
  4387. "I'm sorry ma'am, but I can't."
  4388. >"What do you mean? Anonymous, I insist. If I have to be away from the two of you, I'll be..."
  4389. >She blushes
  4390. >"Well, I'll be worried sick. Please don't do that to me."
  4391. "I'm sorry, ma'am. But this is the last place Dash saw us. If she's out there without her cell phone, this is where she'll come looking. I need to wait for her."
  4392. >"Anonymous, please. She can find her way to safety, I'm sure."
  4393. "I know. But she's not going to think about her safety first. She'll be worried about us, even if her life's in danger. That's how she is."
  4394. >You pull out your phone out of habit, your hopes of a text from her long since dead
  4395. "Please trust me, ma'am. She's going to come looking for us. And I want to make sure I'm here for her."
  4396. >Harshwhinny sighs
  4397. >"You promise me the two of you will be okay?"
  4398. "I do."
  4399. >"I mean it, Anonymous. I'm going to put a lot of faith in you, here."
  4400. >She squats down, ending up on eye level with you
  4401. >"You have to promise me that, when I get back--"
  4402. >She chokes for a second, swallowing hard
  4403. >"You have to promise you're still going to be here. Both of you."
  4404. >She hangs her head, her bangs obscuring her eyes
  4405. >"Please be safe, okay?"
  4406. >This time, you and Fluttershy are the ones hugging her
  4407. "We will, ma'am. First thing when you get back, and when they find Dash, Butters and I are gonna cook dinner for all of us."
  4408. >"B-but I don't know how to--"
  4409. "Shh."
  4410. >You place a finger over her lips
  4411. >Ms. Harshwhinny straightens up, adjusting the collar of her t-shirt
  4412. >"Thank you, Anonymous. I really appreciate that. I'll be back as soon as I can."
  4413. >She hesitates for a moment, as if dreading walking out the door
  4414. >But, finally, she departs, the starting of her car's engine muffled by the wind
  4415. >You get up and lock the door behind her, passing Angel back to Fluttershy
  4416. >As soon as she's touching it, the stupid rabbit calms down again
  4417.  
  4418. >You walk a circuit of the house, checking and locking each window
  4419. >While your back it turned, the wind whips a fallen branch right into the glass, causing an ear-splitting *whack!* that makes you jump
  4420. >Fluttershy yelps at the noise, clutching Angel protectively against her chest and diving beneath the coffee table
  4421. >"W-what was that!?"
  4422. "Just a stick. It's fine."
  4423. >Another one thuds somewhere further back in the house, and you strain your ears for the sound of broken glass
  4424. >Outside, the rain begins to increase in intensity, falling in thick gray sheets that obscure your vision to the point where you can only see a few feet in any direction outside the house
  4425. >Something heavy lands on the roof, the resulting thud shaking the entire house
  4426. "Shit!"
  4427. >You fall back onto the couch, ending up next to Fluttershy
  4428. >Angel freaks out from the sound and begins to thrash
  4429. >"Angel! Calm down! It's j-just-- ah!"
  4430. >He bites Fluttershy hard, making her drop him
  4431. >Immediately, he scampers out of the living room, disappearing deeper into the house
  4432. >"Ow..."
  4433. >Fluttershy cradles her hand, which now has a thin line of blood trailing down it
  4434. >"A-Angel! Come back!"
  4435. >She jumps up, running after her pet
  4436. >Another thud echoes through the house, this time coming from the basement
  4437. >A second thud immediately follows it, sounding like it came from the same location
  4438. >"Anon, help! I c-can't find him!"
  4439. "He'll be fine, Butters. Just wait for him to come to you."
  4440. >"B-but what if he escaped? He won't survive out there!"
  4441. >A third, even louder thud echoes through the basement
  4442. >For a moment, you pause
  4443. >It didn't sound like a stick...
  4444. >"Anon, p-please!"
  4445. "Alright, fine. Where'd you last see him?"
  4446. >"I d-don't know! He just ran off! There's so m-much stuff in here, I d-don't know where he could be hiding!"
  4447. >As if to prove Fluttershy's point, you nearly trip over a stack of Ms. Harshwhinny's paintings when you stand
  4448. "Well, we can just wait, okay? It's not like he's gonna starve. Just wait here, and he'll find--"
  4449. >At that moment, something heavy crashes down outside
  4450. >The lights inside Ms. Harshwhinny's house flicker and die
  4451.  
  4452. >"Anon? Is everything okay?"
  4453. >The panic is beginning to rise in Fluttershy's voice
  4454. "It's fine, Butters! Just hold still, I'll find you!"
  4455. >"N-no, Angel! Find Angel! What if he sneaks outside and gets lost? Oh no, oh no...
  4456. >You hear something crash in the other room as Fluttershy begins to root around frantically for her pet
  4457. "Butters! Just calm down, okay?"
  4458. >You bump into the door to the basement, finding that it's wide-open
  4459. >One of you must have left it open during the chaos last night
  4460. >"Okay!"
  4461. >She starts hyperventilating so loud you can hear it even from the hall
  4462. >Fumbling through the darkness, you find the doorway to the spare bedroom
  4463. >You can't see Fluttershy, of course, but you can hear her knocking over stacks of portraits
  4464. >"Angel! Come to m-mama, Angel! Angel?"
  4465. >You have a split-second to realize that she's getting closer before she smacks into you
  4466. >You go tumbling backwards, smacking into the wall at the opposite end of the hallway
  4467. >Fluttershy lands on top of you, her frail, quivering body sprawling across your midsection
  4468. >"Ow..."
  4469. >Something furry brushes past your leg, hopping down the hallway
  4470. >"Angel! Angel, come back!"
  4471. >Fluttershy nearly elbows you in the face as she leaps for her rabbit
  4472. >Judging by the resounding *thud*, followed by a defeated squeak of pain from Fluttershy
  4473. >"Angel..."
  4474. >You hear him thump away down the hall...
  4475. >And head straight down the stairs and into the basement
  4476. >"Angel! Angel come back!"
  4477. >Fluttershy dives towards the basement, but you grab ahold of her and hold her back
  4478. >For a moment, she thrashes just as much as her bunny, but then quiets
  4479. >"Anon, w-what are you doing? I need to get him!"
  4480. "Butters. Please, just... don't go down there."
  4481. >"B-but... but Angel..."
  4482. "Angel's gonna be fine. Let's just stay out of the basement, okay?"
  4483. >"W-why?"
  4484. "I... I don't know. I think something's down there."
  4485. >You can feel Fluttershy sit up, holding tight to your arm as if worried you'll drift away from her
  4486. >Thunder rumbles across the sky, and for a moment her face is illuminated by a flash of lightning
  4487. >"D-down there? Why would something b-b-be down there?"
  4488. "I don't know. I just have a really, really bad feeling about it. I don't think it's a good idea."
  4489. >"Anon? Y-you're scaring me. What's down there?"
  4490. "I think..."
  4491. >And that's when all-too-many pieces finally click
  4492. "Oh sweet Jesus. It's him."
  4493. >"Him? N-no..."
  4494. >Fluttershy's shaking intensifies
  4495. >"But he couldn't... he w-wouldn't..."
  4496. "Dash told him where we are. He staged the break-in to get Harshwhinny to leave, and now..."
  4497. >You grab Fluttershy, protectively clutching her against your chest
  4498. "Oh Christ, I'm such an idiot. Fuck, fuck..."
  4499. >"A-Anon! What's wrong?"
  4500. "I didn't see it! I shouldn't have let her go. Oh my God..."
  4501. >"Anon! P-please! Y-you don't really think..."
  4502. >But you can hear it in her voice that she knows it as well as you
  4503. "Your dad's down there."
  4504. >"B-but... he..."
  4505. >Something very loud, and very heavy, smashes to the ground somewhere in the basement
  4506. >Fluttershy yelps
  4507. >She jumps into your lap, quivering
  4508. >"Oh no... no, no, no, no, please no..."
  4509. >She grabs ahold of your face in her hands
  4510. >"Anonymous, g-get out of here. Please."
  4511. "Not gonna happen."
  4512. >You scoop Fluttershy up, setting her on her feet as you stand
  4513. >"Y-you can't! He'll kill you! If he finds me, he'll... w-well, I'll be okay. I c-can handle it. But you need to go, please."
  4514. "No. I'm not letting this creep take you."
  4515. >You pull out your phone and dial 9-11
  4516. >There's no need to speak; they'll relay your need to Gilda immediately
  4517. >You just hope she gets here soon
  4518. >"A-Anon!"
  4519. >You push past her, heading for the basement door
  4520. >It shuts, but there's no lock
  4521. >No more sounds emanate from the basement; at least, none that can be heard over the rain
  4522. >You strain your ear, waiting for something
  4523.  
  4524. >...
  4525.  
  4526. >The cops will be here soon...
  4527. >As long as he just stays down there to sulk, then there's nothing to worry--
  4528. >*THUD*
  4529. >Something heavy hits the bottom of the stairs
  4530. >"A-Angel!"
  4531. >Fluttershy crosses her hands over her mouth
  4532. >"Anon, p-please let me go... I c-can handle him, just l-let me make sure Angel is okay..."
  4533. >She tries to wrestle away from you, but you wrap an arm around her waist and hold her fast
  4534. "Shhh... Angel's gonna be fine. It's not your bunny he's after."
  4535. >"B-but..."
  4536. "We're gonna get out of here. Now."
  4537. >"N-no!"
  4538. >Fluttershy keeps her voice at a whisper, but raises its intensity enough to get her point across
  4539. >"I'm not gonna leave him!"
  4540. "Goddammit, Butters..."
  4541. >You hear footsteps slowly ascending the stairs toward the basement door
  4542. "Shit."
  4543. >Forcefully, you grab Fluttershy by the hand and drag her back towards the living room
  4544. >She resists for a moment, but quickly realizes the hopelessness of the situation
  4545. >The two of you get halfway to the front of the house before the basement door opens
  4546. >It's too far to the front door to reach it without being seen, so you duck into the kitchen and hide under the table, pulling Fluttershy along with you
  4547. >She lets out a tiny *eep*, but quickly covers her mouth
  4548. >Out in the hall, the floorboards creak as someone steps onto the main level of the house
  4549. >Slowly, they begin to advance towards the living room, their steps limping and awkward
  4550. >Maybe he's injured?
  4551. >If you can outrun him, you could just leave him for the police to deal with
  4552. >Shit, if only you'd known that before you cornered yourself...
  4553. >The steps get closer, accompanied by a scraping along the wall
  4554. >Could he have a weapon?
  4555. >It doesn't sound like he's doing too well; if he doesn't have a weapon, you could overpower him
  4556. >Moving as silently as you can, you creep out from under the kitchen table, and grab a butter knife
  4557. >Not much, but it's something
  4558. >As he gets closer, a low, pained wheezing sound reaches your ears
  4559. >It... doesn't quite sound like him
  4560. >He must *really* be hurt
  4561. >You slink to the kitchen doorway, crouching against the wall
  4562. >A footstep echoes down the hallway
  4563. >And then another
  4564. >And another...
  4565. >He's barely three feet away from you, lying against the opposite side of the same wall
  4566. >A breathy, high-pitched wheeze escapes his lips
  4567. >Why does he sound like--
  4568. >No, it's probably just your imagination
  4569. >You feel the wall shift as his body drags along it
  4570. >He's almost to the door way now, barely a step from you...
  4571. >Your hand tenses around the knife...
  4572. >A figure steps into view, obscured by the darkness
  4573. >Immediately, you spring on top of him, tackling him backwards onto the ground
  4574. >Your hand goes to his chest, hoping to pin him down
  4575. >...
  4576. >There's boobs under your palm
  4577. >The minute your mind makes the connection, a fist slams into your jaw, hitting you so hard your teeth rattle
  4578. >You fall to the side, clutching at your face
  4579. >"Get off me, creep..."
  4580. "Dash!?"
  4581. >"Anon! Oh, thank fuck you two are okay."
  4582. >Before you get a chance to recover from having your face nearly caved in, Dash is on top of your chest, hugging you
  4583. >She's missing her usual strength, though, and she's shaking as badly as Fluttershy
  4584. >"Is Butters here? Are you both okay?"
  4585. "Yeah... yeah, we're fine. Holy shit, Dash!"
  4586. >You wrap your arms around your girlfriend, returning her hug with all the enthusiasm you can muster
  4587. "I was so worried about you..."
  4588. >She lets out a weary chuckle, her voice strained and missing her usual spunky rasp
  4589. >"About me? Nah, dude. I'm the last person you need to worry about."
  4590. >She's soaking wet from the rain, and you can feel holes ripped into the back of her jacket
  4591. "You fucking idiot, you're the one I worry about most..."
  4592. >You shake your head, nuzzling your cheek against her shoulder
  4593. >All the worry drains out of you, replaced by relief that washes over you liek the torrents of rain outside
  4594. "Goddammit, Dash. What happened?"
  4595. >"I beat his ass, dude."
  4596. >Dash sinks into your arms, heaving a sigh
  4597. "Whose?"
  4598. >You ask as if you didn't already know
  4599. >You feel Fluttershy slinking towards you, but she keeps silent
  4600. >"Her dad's."
  4601. >Dash flops out of your grasp, leaning across your lap so that she can reach Fluttershy
  4602. >"What's up, Butters?"
  4603. >"H-hey, Rainbow..."
  4604. >The two girls share a gentle embrace
  4605. >"I'm s-so sorry. I should have known he'd t-try something like this..."
  4606. >"Nah. Like I said, I handled it. I beat his ass. And I beat him here."
  4607. >You pull out your cell phone, using its light to illuminate your girlfriend
  4608. >Dash is grinning like an idiot, her eyes full of pride
  4609. >Her hair is tangled and matted from the rain, and her clothes are badly torn
  4610. >A large blotch of blood stands out against her white t-shirt, but you have no way knowing whether its hers or not
  4611. "He attacked you? What the fuck..."
  4612. >"Yeah. Jumped me as I was pulling into my house. In front of the neighbors and everything. I punched him out, and he ran off like a little bitch."
  4613. "So... you don't know where he is?"
  4614. >"No idea. But he's hurt now."
  4615. >Dash's pride sinks a bit when she sees the look on your face
  4616. >"What's wrong, man? I kicked his ass! We're in the clear! And now that I'm here, I can beat his ass again, as soon as he shows up! It's all gonna be okay, dude. I promise."
  4617. >She takes your head in her hands, making you look at her
  4618. >In the dim light of your phone, you can see the fire in her eyes
  4619. >"Come on."
  4620. "I can't risk either of you getting hurt. We need to get out of here."
  4621. >"Where are we gonna go, dude? Are we just gonna keep running from this guy? We've got the police coming! We've got me! Let's just fuck him up for good!"
  4622. >"I, um..."
  4623. >Fluttershy raises her hand
  4624. >"I agree w-with Rainbow."
  4625. >"Ha! See? Butters gets it. This is our chance, man! We don't have to keep running from this guy! We can win!"
  4626. "But what if one of you--"
  4627. >"Dude."
  4628. >Dash sits on top of your lap, putting her finger on your lips
  4629. >"You don't gotta keep doing this to yourself. It's not your job to keep us safe."
  4630. >She takes ahold of Fluttershy's hand, pulling her into the mix
  4631. >"We all gotta look out for each other. If we try to run again, who knows what this guy'll do. Right now, he knows where we are. He's coming here. We can stop this now, and we can... we can finally just be together. All three of us."
  4632. >You sigh
  4633. "All... Alright."
  4634. >You sit up, and Dash wraps you in an uncharacteristically gentle hug
  4635. >"We're gonna be okay, man. I got your back."
  4636. >"M-me too. I promise, Anon, he's n-not going to hurt Dash. And d-definitely not you."
  4637. >Fluttershy sets her mouth in a determined little line
  4638. "Right. And I'm gonna make damn sure he can't even touch either of you, if there's anything I can do about it."
  4639. >Dash grins, smacking your shoulder
  4640. >She lets out another tiny cough
  4641. >"That's what I like to hear. Now..."
  4642. >She sucks in her breath, and you wait for her to drop an awesome, Dash-esque action movie line
  4643. >"...do you think I have time to take a shower before he gets here? I feel *super* fucking gross..."
  4644.  
  4645. >You and Fluttershy head down into the basement to grab Dash some clean clothes
  4646. >Or, rather, you look for clothes
  4647. >Meanwhile, Fluttershy scrambles to find her rabbit, calling Angel's name as she frantically sprints back and forth
  4648. >You can hear the rabbit thumping around in circles, staying just out of her reach
  4649. >The relief of meeting up with Dash has melted away a lot of the terror from earlier, but the unease is slowly beginning to creep back into your chest
  4650. >You grab up a pair of Harshwhinny's faded mom-jeans and a t-shirt with a bunch of wolves on it, and head back upstairs
  4651. >The bathroom door is locked, but you don't hear any water running
  4652. "Dash? You okay?"
  4653. >"Hm? Oh, yeah. I'm great, dude."
  4654. "Alright. You okay if I come in?"
  4655. >"Oh, um... yeah."
  4656. >You hear her moving behind the door
  4657. >"Sure."
  4658. >The lock clicks, and Dash swings the door open
  4659. >In a rare display of modesty for her, she's wrapped in a towel
  4660. >"What's wrong, dude?"
  4661. "I was gonna ask you, actually."
  4662. >It's difficult to make out much more than just her outline
  4663. >You pull out your phone, using its light to illuminate the tiny room
  4664. >Dash's hair is disheveled, and a trickle of blood is running from her nose and out of the corner of her mouth
  4665. >Her left eye is swollen and dark, and a long, thin cut runs along her shoulder
  4666. >"What do you mean, dude? I'm fine!"
  4667. >She smiles
  4668. >"It'll take more than that guy to get to me."
  4669. "Are you sure?"
  4670. >"Yeah!"
  4671. >A little more blood dribbles down her chin
  4672. "Dash?"
  4673. >"Dude."
  4674. >She wipes it away with the back of her hand
  4675. >"I'm fine. I kicked his fucking ass."
  4676. "Dash, if something happened--"
  4677. >"Nothing happened. I kicked his ass and got out of there. That's it. Come on, man."
  4678. >She balls her fist tighter around the towel
  4679. >"You didn't think he'd seriously hurt me, right? Me? Nah. I fucking *stomped* him. He was practically crying. Ran away like a little bitch."
  4680. "Rainbow--"
  4681. >"That's what happened. I like kicking ass, I'm good at kicking ass, I kicked his ass! I won!"
  4682. >She holds her head in her hands
  4683. >On the next words, her voice cracks
  4684. >"I t-totally beat his f-face in... I w-won..."
  4685. >You kneel down next to Dash, and wrap her in your arms
  4686. "I'm sorry, Anon... I'm so sorry..."
  4687. "You've got nothing to be sorry for. You did great."
  4688. >"No. No, really... I'm so sorry..."
  4689. >She shakes her head
  4690. >"He was so strong... just kept hitting me and hitting me... I was so scared..."
  4691. >She sniffles, another tremor running through her body
  4692. >"I ran. I couldn't do anything, so I just... ran. I couldn't stop him. Even when I had the chance to end all of this... to keep you two safe..."
  4693. >She hiccups, her entire body tense with the strain of trying not to cry
  4694. >"I failed. I'm so, so sorry."
  4695. >You kiss Dash on the forehead, resting your head atop hers
  4696. "You didn't fail. You're okay, safe, and you're brave, and I love you. That's so much more than enough."
  4697. >Dash lets the towel fall away from her back
  4698. >All along her tanned skin, dark, painful-looking bruises stand out like greenish-purple pockmarks
  4699. >Between them are little plenty of small scrapes, and when she lifts the towel away from her stomach, you see an ugly cut tracing a zig-zag across her midsection
  4700. >The wounds tell you everything that she's too proud to say
  4701. "Gilda'll be here soon. I'll get her to take you to a hospital."
  4702. >Dash refuses to look you in the eye
  4703. >A tiny tremor runs through her body, and she lets out one tiny choked sob
  4704. >"Thanks."
  4705. >With that, she drops the towel and clambers into the bath
  4706. "Do you want me to stay with you?"
  4707. >She shakes her head
  4708. >"I'll... I'll be fine."
  4709. "Alright. If you need anything, I'll be right outside, okay?"
  4710. >Dash nods, still not looking at you
  4711. >You hear a tiny *plink* as a tear drops from her cheek and onto the bottom of the basin
  4712.  
  4713. >"A-Anon?"
  4714. >Fluttershy emerges from the basement, sweating profusely and clutching Angel to her chest
  4715. >"Is everything okay?"
  4716. "Yeah."
  4717. >"Is R-Rainbow alright? She seemed a little..."
  4718. "Weirder than usual?"
  4719. >Fluttershy nods, sitting next to you outside the bathroom
  4720. "Yeah. She..."
  4721. >You sigh, realizing how much it'll crush Fluttershy to hear this
  4722. "Her run-in with your dad didn't go so well."
  4723. >The color drains from Fluttershy's face
  4724. >"N-no..."
  4725. >She clutches Angel tighter against herself, ignoring the rabbit biting her wrist
  4726. "She's gonna be okay, though. I mean, c'mon, it's Dash. She's always okay."
  4727. >You wish you felt as confident as you sound
  4728. >Or sounded confident at all
  4729. >Fluttershy isn't convinced in the slightest
  4730. >She stands up, tucking Angel under one arm as she slinks into the living room
  4731. >You linger for a moment, not wanting to get any further from Dash
  4732. >Fluttershy sits on the couch, staring blankly out Ms. Harshwhinny's living-room window
  4733. "Butters..."
  4734. >You get up from the bathroom and rejoin your friend on the couch
  4735. "You can't beating yourself up over his actions."
  4736. >"I'm n-not."
  4737. "That's not what it looks like to me."
  4738. >"I c-can't keep doing this to the two of you. Even if the two of you don't hate m-me for it... I still h-hate me for it."
  4739. "Why? We've told you so many times, you're worth it to us."
  4740. >"But I shouldn't be!"
  4741. >This might be the first time you've ever heard Fluttershy raise her voice
  4742. >The stutter vanishes as well
  4743. >"You guys keep doing this for me! Getting yourselves hurt, and taking all this stress, and... and... and just ruining your own lives! All for me! All for some boring girl who doesn't know anything but animals, and... and stupid drawings."
  4744. >She curls into a ball on the far end of the couch, holding Angel in her lap
  4745. >"The more you t-try to do this for me... the more worthless I feel..."
  4746. "Butters..."
  4747. >You try to place your hand atop hers, but she shies away
  4748. >"Why are you two even s-still doing this for me?"
  4749. "Because you're our friend! Come on, we've told you this. We like you."
  4750. >"But why? You two are happy together. You've got such a b-beautiful relationship... I don't add anything to it. I'm just this... thing you two have around. And everyone is so n-nice to me, because they feel bad for me..."
  4751. >She rests against the window, watching the rain
  4752. >The storm has died down now, leaving the ground outside littered with tree debris and soaked with rainwater
  4753. >Only a gentle shower falls now, underscoring Fluttershy's words with a soft pitter-patter
  4754. >"But I don't actually m-make anyone's life better. I'm just this worthless thing people keep around."
  4755. >Her hand moves to stroke Angel between his ears
  4756. >"I'm n-not much better than a pet, am I?"
  4757. >...
  4758. "You remember how you used to always ask me to go to the zoo with you?"
  4759. >"Huh? Oh, I mean... I guess."
  4760. "Aside from Dash, there weren't a lot of people who wanted to hang out with me. The friends I had were always 'too busy,' or whatever. Even Dash'd get dragged down to soccer tournaments and shit all the time. I got lonely a lot. But you'd always be there, just asking for a little of my time."
  4761. >"Y-yeah..."
  4762. "And I was a total prick to you, for no reason. Just because you were 'the weird kid' or whatever. But... no matter how shitty I was, you were always there the next day. Wanting to hang out. And, in a way... I kinda liked it, I guess. You made me feel wanted, and cool, and... I dunno. All the times when I felt like I was left behind, it was really comforting to know some kid was desperate to spend time together."
  4763. >You join Fluttershy at the window, placing a hand on her shoulder
  4764. "So, you've added a lot. To my life at least. And Dash, well... she's fucking crazy about you. Thinks you're the cutest thing ever. You make her super happy."
  4765. >"Is that all? Just... m-making people happy?"
  4766. "What more would you want?"
  4767. >"I d-don't know. I guess I just... I feel useless. The two of you have done so much for me, but all I d-do is exist."
  4768. "Well, what's wrong with that?"
  4769. >"What do you mean? It... it makes me feel so pointless, I guess..."
  4770. "But you're not. I mean... just being around you makes everyone happy. Me, Dash, Ms. Harshwhinny, even Gilda, we all love being around you."
  4771. >"But that's..."
  4772. "What? Not enough?"
  4773. >"I d-don't know. It just doesn't feel right, I guess. I just d-don't see what about me could really m-make you so happy."
  4774. "Well..."
  4775. >You move your hand to her side, pulling her against you in an awkward, one-armed embrace
  4776. "Maybe you don't have to see it. But we can."
  4777. >"Yeah..."
  4778. "Maybe just trust that, if all of us like you so much, then there really is something worthwhile about you. Even if you don't know what it is yet. Just... be glad that you're able to make so many people happy."
  4779. >Fluttershy nods, and leans her head against your shoulder
  4780. >Outside, through the drizzling rain, you see a car turn onto Ms. Harshwhinny's street
  4781. >And it's not hers
  4782. >Next to you, Fluttershy tenses up
  4783. >"That's h-his car."
  4784. >Strangely, the panic you expected doesn't arrive
  4785. >Instead you feel strangely calm, even as the car slices through the rain towards Harshwhinny's house
  4786. "I'm gonna go check on Dash."
  4787.  
  4788. >As you place your hand on the doorknob, Fluttershy stops you
  4789. >"W-wait."
  4790. "Yeah?"
  4791. >"Just... s-stay back with Rainbow, okay?"
  4792. "But what about you?"
  4793. >"I'll t-talk to him myself."
  4794. "Butters..."
  4795. >Fluttershy turns to you, pushing her hair away from her eyes
  4796. >"I c-can do this. I need to do this."
  4797. "But what if he hurts you?"
  4798. >"It w-won't be the first time. Please, Anon. If you k-keep trying to save me from him, I'll... I'll always feel like a b-burden. I need to do this m-myself."
  4799. >You sigh
  4800. >Behind the door of the bathroom, the flow of water stops
  4801. "Okay. But please be safe."
  4802. >"I w-will. I promise. I know I c-can do this."
  4803. >She balls her hands into tiny, scrawny fists at her sides
  4804. >"Just t-take care of Rainbow, okay?"
  4805. "Of course. And if you need my help..."
  4806. >"Right. Thank you, Anon."
  4807. >She drops her head, sucking in her breath
  4808. >Outside, her father's car stops right in front of Harshwhinny's driveway
  4809. >You open the door to the bathroom, leaving it cracked just enough that you can see Fluttershy from inside
  4810. >Dash is sitting upright in the water, a wash-cloth pressed against the wound on her abdomen
  4811. >The bleeding seems to have stopped, but your girlfriend looks pale and miserable
  4812. >"Anon? What's going on?"
  4813. >She sounds loopy too; her usual spunky rasp is replaced by a sickly croak
  4814. "Nothing. Fluttershy wants to talk to her dad. I'm gonna wait back here and make sure nothing happens."
  4815. >"Oh. Alright..."
  4816. >She leans back against the wall of the tub, shivering slightly
  4817. "Dash? You okay?"
  4818. >"Yeah, dude... gonna be fine..."
  4819. >She sure doesn't act like it
  4820. >You glance back at Fluttershy, to find her still standing resolute in front of the door
  4821. >Well, as resolute as someone can get when she's shaking so badly her knees are knocking together
  4822. "Here. Lemme get you outta the water."
  4823. >"Nah, dude... I'm gonna be good..."
  4824. "Uh huh. Come here."
  4825. >You wrap one arm under Dash's knees and one under her back, lifting her out of the water
  4826. >She groans, but doesn't resist
  4827. >As soon as she's out of the water, she starts to shiver harder
  4828. >You grab a fresh towel to wrap her in, cradling Dash against your chest
  4829. >"Dude, you worry *way* too much... I'm gonna be fine..."
  4830. >A particularly bad tremor runs through her, and you nearly drop her
  4831. >So you grab a second towel, draping it over her like a blanket
  4832. >Something heavy slams against the front door
  4833. >Fluttershy squeaks in fear, but holds her ground
  4834. >You scoot to the edge of the bathroom, watching her through the crack in the door
  4835. >In your head, you estimate you could reach her in about ten or fifteen seconds if you had to
  4836. >But hopefully it won't come to that...
  4837. >Another slam comes, and the doorknob begins to crack out of the wooden frame
  4838. >He hits it a third time, and the knob bends at an unusable angle
  4839. >Fluttershy steps back, and the final impact sends the door swinging inwards
  4840. >There, silhouetted in the rain, is Fluttershy's dad
  4841. >Upon seeing him, your stomach twists and rage and revulsion
  4842. >His hair is is limp and soggry from the rain, pinkish-white strands wreathing his grimacing face
  4843. >Stubble coats his chin, and his eyes betray a cool, simmering rage
  4844. >"You."
  4845. >He reaches out to grab her, and Fluttershy winces, reflexively ducking down and preparing for the blow as the old habits take over her
  4846. >Just then, you hear another door slam outside
  4847. >Fluttershy's dad whirls around
  4848. >"You little rat!"
  4849. >He grabs her by the hair and tosses her into the wall
  4850. >She squeaks in pain, ricocheting off and knocking over a stack of Harshwhinny's paintings in the process
  4851. >"You called the fucking cops!?"
  4852. >Relief washes over you, despite the hatred roiling in your gut
  4853. >"Freeze!"
  4854. >Gilda's "cop" voice is legimitely terrifying, and Fluttershy's dad actually flinches at the sound
  4855. >She's finally here!
  4856. >He turns slowly, his hands up
  4857. >Holding Dash, you scoot out into the hallway, finally allowing you to look out the front door
  4858. >Gilda is standing halfway up the driveway, her G42 leveled with Fluttershy's dad's chest
  4859. >He grits his teeth, reaching for his daughter again
  4860. >"I said freeze!"
  4861. >Slowly, he raises his hands and turns to face her
  4862. >"That's better. Now, get away from the girl and step out of the house."
  4863. >Fluttershy's dad drops his head, licking up rainwater from around his mouth
  4864. >He takes a step out of the house, then looks over his shoulder at Fluttershy
  4865. >"What are you doing? Come on."
  4866. >"N-no."
  4867. >Fluttershy stands, an ugly bruise already forming on her temple
  4868. >"What do you mean no?"
  4869. >Her dad's voice drops to a low, throaty growl
  4870. >"Get the fuck out there and tell them what happened. I'm saving you."
  4871. >"I w-won't."
  4872. >"Like hell you won't. Get over here!"
  4873. >He grabs for Fluttershy, but Gilda shouts him down
  4874. >"I said freeze!"
  4875. >Despite the noise-slush of drizzling rain, you can still hear Gilda cock her gun
  4876. >Fluttershy's dad stops, his hand still outstretched towards his daughter
  4877. >He drops his voice to a whisper
  4878. >"You really think you can stay with them? Really?"
  4879. >Fluttershy hangs her head
  4880. >"You killed mom. You're worthless and hideous as a daughter. As a son, you're barely passible. You really think any of them..."
  4881. >He gestures to you and Dash
  4882. >"...can really love you? After what you've done? After what you are? I'm the only one who can even stomach you. In a few months, when they realize how awful you are, you'll beg to live with me again. And you know it."
  4883. >Tears begin to run down Fluttershy's face
  4884. >"Remember those times you tried to run away? How did it feel?"
  4885. >Fluttershy doesn't answer
  4886. >Outside, Gilda barks another order at Fluttershy's dad
  4887. >"I said get away from the girl!"
  4888. >Fluttershy's dad takes another step away, motioning for her to follow
  4889. >"Come on. Just tell them what happened. If you do, I might even forgive you."
  4890. >Gilda begins to move sideways, keeping a clear line of sight with Fluttershy's dad, and keeping the young girl out of her line of fire
  4891. >"I'm the only family you'll ever have. And I'm the only family you fucking deserve. Now come on."
  4892. >You lay Dash against the wall, stand, and begin to move towards Fluttershy
  4893. >She hears the creaking of floorboards, and holds up her hand
  4894. >"N-no."
  4895. >"What?"
  4896. >"I'm n-not going with you."
  4897. >She lifts her head, locking eyes with her father
  4898. >Her face is streaked with tears, but she manages to keep her voice steady
  4899. >"You spent my entire life making me feel worthless. And... for a long time, I really believed it. But you were wrong."
  4900. >She looks over at you and Dash, and then at the picture her and Harshwhinny painted last night, which is drying next to the couch
  4901. >"These people really like me. And for the first time ever, I feel... I feel okay about being me. I'm not worthless. I'm loved. And you're not gonna stop that. And you're never, *ever* going to hurt them again."
  4902. >"Oh, I'm not? And who's gonna stop me from beating his faggot ass in..."
  4903. >He gestures towards you
  4904. >"...just like I did to that rainbow-haired dy--"
  4905. >Fluttershy hits her dad
  4906. >It's definitely not a good punch; her wrist buckles almost the moment her hand connects, and her scrawny arms barely pack enough strength to bruise him
  4907. >But the effect is still the same
  4908. >Her dad staggers back, blinking in confusion
  4909. >And then his face twists into rage
  4910. >"You little *shit*..."
  4911. >In the next second, three things happen one after the other, but your brain processes them simultaneously:
  4912. >Fluttershy's dad wraps his hand around her neck, the other raising to hit her face
  4913. >A sharp, ear-splitting *crack* rings out
  4914. >And a small spurt of blood flies from the back of Fluttershy's dad's knee as the bullet finds its mark
  4915. >You snap back to reality after a second of shock, the sudden violence of the shot's report making you reflexively throw yourself in front of Rainbow
  4916. >Gilda lowers her weapon and charges in, hand going to her belt
  4917. >Fluttershy's dad, meanwhile, lets go of his daughter's neck as he falls to the ground, gasping in pain
  4918. >His face is bleached white with shock and pain, and his hands scrabble over the wound in a vein attempt to staunch the bleeding
  4919. >Gilda throws herself on top of him, rolling him onto his stomach
  4920. >He attempts to resist for a moment, but Gilda pins his arm behind his back and forces him to the ground
  4921. >Skillfully, she locks the cuffs around his wrists
  4922. >Fluttershy staggers away from the scene, her hands over her mouth
  4923. >To her own credit, she doesn't look away, even as Gilda attempts some emergency medical treatment to the wound she administered
  4924. >She produces a thick gauze pad, takes Fluttershy's dad's knee in her hands, and shoves the material directly into the wound
  4925. >He emits a low, pathetic moan, and goes limp from the pain
  4926. >Gilda jumps back to her feet once he's restrained and in no danger of bleeding out, glancing between you, Dash, and Fluttershy
  4927. >"Is anyone hurt?"
  4928. "Yeah."
  4929. >You pull the towels away from Dash just enough to expose the gash on her belly
  4930. >Gilda nods
  4931. >"I'm gonna call an ambulance for him. Once they get him patched up, we'll take him back to the station. I'll get you three to the hospital myself."
  4932. >She radios the dispatcher, stepping closer to Fluttershy's dad just in case
  4933. >Dash groans, her eyes fluttering open
  4934. >"Hey, dude... what the hell is goin' on..."
  4935. "We're gonna get you to a hospital. Just relax, alright?"
  4936. >"Nah, man... don't need a hospital... I'll just sleep this one off..."
  4937. "Alright. You do that."
  4938. >Dash passes back into unconsciousness
  4939. >The ambulance finally arrives, and Fluttershy's dad is carted off, still cuffed and unconsciousness
  4940. >Gilda wipes a hand across her forehead
  4941. >"Alright. Let's go."
  4942. >She helps you carry Rainbow out to the car, setting her gently in the back seat
  4943. >Unfortunately, that only leaves room for one of you to sit in the car with her
  4944. >You and Fluttershy glance at each other, the same thought process running through both your heads
  4945. >After what she just went through, there's no way in hell you can just leave her alone
  4946. >But you also can't just let Dash be taken to the hospital by herself...
  4947. >By some miracle, another car turns onto the street
  4948. >It zooms towards the house as if driven by a maniac, tires screeching on the asphalt as it mounts the curb before coming to a stop
  4949. >A very, very flustered Harshwhinny jumps out
  4950. >"Where are they? Are they hurt? For the love of God, please tell me they're not--"
  4951. >She spots you and Fluttershy inside
  4952. >"Oh, thank heaven!"
  4953. >She sprints inside, grabbing you in one arm and Fluttershy in the other
  4954. >You don't think you've ever been hugged so tightly in your entire life
  4955. "Ma'am? Are you alright?"
  4956. >She nods, and you can feel tears seeping into your shoulder
  4957. >"I'm so sorry. I never should have left, I never should have left, I never should have left... oh my God, I'm so sorry..."
  4958. >She nuzzles you and Fluttershy, shaking
  4959. >"I'm so glad you're okay..."
  4960. >"Wait..."
  4961. >She looks around
  4962. >"Where's Rainbow?"
  4963. >You gesture towards the police car, and Ms. Harshwhinny immediately lets go of the two of you, sprinting over to the vehicle
  4964. >"Oh no, oh no..."
  4965. >She places a hand over her mouth, her face blanching
  4966. >"She's... she's going to be okay, right?"
  4967. >Gilda nods
  4968. >"She'll be fine. Just a few nasty scratches. I'm gonna take her to the hospital."
  4969. >"Hospital! Right! Can I help?"
  4970. >"Um..."
  4971. >Ms. Harshwhinny starts to chew on her perfectly-filed nails
  4972. >"Please! There has to be something I can do, right? Right?"
  4973. >You step up behind her, and lay a hand on her shoulder
  4974. >She flinches, sweat already beginning to break out across her forehead
  4975. >You glance between the Gilda's car and hers, and she gets your hint
  4976.  
  4977. >The ride to the hospital feels a lot longer than the ten minutes it takes
  4978. >Harshwhinny keeps muttering to herself the entire time
  4979. >"Stupid, stupid, stupid... never should have left them alone... terrible as a guardian... stupid, stupid..."
  4980. >You try to say something comforting, but now that the immediate threat of Fluttershy's father is gone, worry is starting to overtake you
  4981. >You should have seen through Dash's tough-girl act earlier
  4982. >What if she's seriously hurt?
  4983. >What if... what if she doesn't make it?
  4984. >Fluttershy seems to pick up on your nervousness
  4985. >You feel her hand slip into yours, her tiny, gentle fingers wrapping around your palm
  4986. >In her face, you see the same worry you feel, except magnified
  4987. >Poor girl's been through way more than she deserves...
  4988. "Hey."
  4989. >"Hey."
  4990. "You gonna be alright?"
  4991. >She nods, though you can feel her hand is shaking like a tiny, nervous bird
  4992. >"You?"
  4993. "I think so."
  4994. >"And Dash?"
  4995. "I... I really hope."
  4996. >You squeeze Fluttershy's hand back
  4997. >She scoots up against you, leaning her head on your shoulder
  4998. >Outside, the rain has finally let up, though the sun still hasn't yet begun to poke through the leftover veil of washed-out clouds
  4999. >Neither you nor Fluttershy have anything more to say to each other; at this point, you're not even sure there is anything *to* say
  5000. >But the two of you hold each other, just your presence providing enough comfort to keep the other steady as you speed towards the hospital
  5001.  
  5002. >Gilda disappears almost immediately when you reach the hospital, going to assist with providing security during Fluttershy's father's treatment
  5003. >Which leaves you, Ms. Harshwhinny, and Fluttershy to take care of Dash
  5004. >She regains consciousness for a moment when you carry her out of the car
  5005. >"Dude... calm down, alright?"
  5006. "Oh, thank Christ."
  5007. >You're carrying Rainbow bridal-style in your arms, struggling slightly under her weight
  5008. >All that muscle has made her surprisingly dense
  5009. >"I said calm down, dumbass... bleh..."
  5010. >Her head lolls to one side
  5011. >"I feel super weird."
  5012. "That's why we're getting you to the hospital."
  5013. >You step through the automatic doors, and a pair of nurses are already approaching you with a stretcher
  5014. "You're gonna be just fine, Rainbow."
  5015. >You wish you felt as confident as you sound
  5016. >"Hospital? Nah, man... let's go home... I'mma sleep this one off..."
  5017. "No, you're not. You're gonna sleep it off right here."
  5018. >With the nurses' assistance, you get Dash onto the stretcher, and she's wheeled off
  5019. >As soon as she disappears, the adrenaline-rush drains from your body, leaving you feeling exhausted, heavy, and slow
  5020. >Now there's nothing to do but wait
  5021.  
  5022. >And wait
  5023.  
  5024. >And wait
  5025. >And wait...
  5026.  
  5027. >There's a cozy little waiting area on Dash's floor, and the three of you congregate there, each of you trying not too think too hard about what'll happen if she doesn't walk out of this place
  5028. >But she has to, right?
  5029. >She can't die, not like this
  5030. >You wouldn't know what to do without her...
  5031. >Fluttershy, if it's even possible, seems like she's taking things worse than you are
  5032. >She has her hands clasped in her lap, gripping each other so tightly that her knuckles have turned white
  5033. >Her face is deathly pale with worry
  5034. >You place a hand on her arm, but it's like she hardly notices you're there
  5035. >In her eyes, you can see she's somewhere far away from her
  5036. >Next to her, Harshwhinny looks like she's fighting to not be sick
  5037. >She still mutters under her breath, occasionally
  5038. >"Stupid, stupid... never should have left."
  5039. >Eventually, she gives up on sitting still, and starts to pace
  5040. >Which isn't so bad at first
  5041. >But after a few minutes, the endless click-clack of her high-heels against the tile floor starts to grate on you
  5042. "Ma'am?"
  5043. >She looks over at you, her face red
  5044. >"Oh. Sorry."
  5045. >Ms. Harshwhinny sits back down, her right leg furiously bouncing
  5046.  
  5047. >It's been two hours
  5048. >The doors to the waiting room open
  5049. >Your heart swells in anticipation, but you try to keep your hopes down
  5050. >It's probably a call for another patient
  5051. >And if it's for you, there's no guarantee the news will be good--
  5052. >"Family and friends of Ms. Dash?"
  5053. >You're the first one to your feet, sprinting over to the doctor
  5054. "Yeah! I'm a friend. And I guess family. I don't know. What happened? Is she okay? Is she alive?"
  5055. >The doctor takes a step back, adjusting his glasses
  5056. >"She's stable. We've managed to stop the bleeding now, and we've begun repairing the internal damage."
  5057. "I-internal damage?"
  5058. >Your heart sinks
  5059. >"The laceration pierced the small intestine and has left minor damage to her uterus. It's honestly something of a minor miracle she didn't bleed out."
  5060. "Christ..."
  5061. >She took all that, and was still smiling?
  5062. >And even more than that, *she* was trying to reassure *you?*
  5063. >Just what the hell is Dash made out of?
  5064. "But she's gonna make it, right?"
  5065. >"If by 'make it' you mean survive, then yes. But there may be some... complications."
  5066. >The brief relief you felt immediately drains away
  5067. "What kind of complications?"
  5068. >"It's difficult to say. She'll likely be in a fair amount of pain during the recovery process. The internal damage should heal in time, but it's likely the pain will persist in some measure for the rest of her life."
  5069. >You gulp
  5070. "Okay."
  5071. >"The lacerations on her hands, however, should heal nicely. Aside from some superficial scarring, she'll retail full use of her motor skills."
  5072. "The damage to her hands?"
  5073. >Somehow, that had escaped your notice
  5074. >"Yes. Minor lacerations. I'm no forensics expert, but it would appear that she attempted to fend off whatever caused the lacerations to her belly, and was unsuccessful. Still..."
  5075. >He claps his hand on your shoulder
  5076. >"She should wake up in a few hours. We'll perform a full surgery tonight at nine o'clock. In the mean time, you're welcome to visit. But please, if all possible, trying to avoid stressing her."
  5077. "Understood."
  5078. >The doctor nods, and departs
  5079. "Well..."
  5080. >"Y-yeah..."
  5081. >Fluttershy glances down at the ground, heaving a sight of relief
  5082. >"I'm r-really glad she's okay, but... p-poor Rainbow..."
  5083. >Fluttershy hugs herself, frowning
  5084. >Ms. Harshwhinny puts a hand on both of your shoulders
  5085. >Her voice is finally steady, though you can tell it's an act
  5086. >She puts on her best "adult" voice, speaking to you in a motherly coo
  5087. >"Why don't we go get some lunch, okay? Maybe when we get back, she'll be ready to see us."
  5088. "Yeah."
  5089. >You shake your head, trying to clear the foreboding thoughts
  5090. "Sounds good."
  5091.  
  5092. >Just as you reach the doors, however, they're thrown open
  5093. >Fluttershy pulls you backwards, barely keeping you from having your nose smashed in
  5094. >A shaggy-looking man bursts in, his eyes glancing wildly around the room
  5095. >His hair shares Dash's color pattern, though in a darker, more muted palette
  5096. >The poor guy looks like he hasn't slept in at least a day
  5097. "M-Mr. Blaze?"
  5098. >"Anonymous! Hey!"
  5099. >He grabs ahold of your shoulders, shaking you as he shouts into your face
  5100. >"Where's Rainbow? Is she alright? I had no idea she was here! They don't let me keep my phone on me at work, and I didn't see the hospital had called until I was on break, and--"
  5101. >He pauses, nearly hyperventilating
  5102. >"Please, please just tell me she's okay."
  5103. >For the first time that day, you're finally able to deliver some good news
  5104. "Yeah. Yeah, she's gonna be alright."
  5105. >Blaze nearly faints
  5106. >"Oh, thank God. I'm gonna go check on her."
  5107. "Uh, I don't think they'll let you--"
  5108. >"Nope, they're gonna let me see her."
  5109. >And with that, he pushes past you, strolling down the hallway despite the attendants' complaints
  5110.  
  5111. >Lunch is a less somber affair than the drive here, at least
  5112. >Things still aren't perfect, but the dread has begun to lift from the three of you
  5113. >Unfortunately, in its place are plenty of new questions
  5114. >Fluttershy spends most of the meal just silently staring at the floor of the hospital's cafeteria, silently chewing on her salad
  5115. >You honestly can't imagine what she must be going through
  5116. >Even if her dad was a disgusting human being, to see him shot in front of her...
  5117. >And now she'll have to face him eventually, whether in the hospital or in court
  5118. >Her hands are too busy for you to hold, but you scoot close enough that your elbow comes to rest against hers
  5119. >Neither of you say anything, but there's not really anything to say at this point, is there?
  5120. >Ms. Harshwhinny is the first to break the silence, letting out a tiny cough
  5121. >"Would you two like to hear a joke?"
  5122. >Both you and Fluttershy glance up at her, confused
  5123. >A slight pink tinge touches Ms. Harshwhinny's cheeks, but she doesn't look away
  5124. "A joke?"
  5125. >"Yes. You know, to take our minds off... off everything."
  5126. "Oh. Um, sure."
  5127. >You take a bite of your french fries, waiting
  5128. >Ms. Harshwhinny clears her throat
  5129. >"So, there's this young man, and he's with his date at the big school prom. But she keeps looking over at this other couple, and he gets worried she might be, well, admiring the other fellow's dance moves a bit too much. So he goes over to the refreshment table, where a bunch of other couples are already gathered around. He decides he wants to get something to drink, right? Just to give him an excuse to get away from his girlfriend. When he gets there, he meets this bee--"
  5130. "Wait, what?"
  5131. >"It's one of those 'animals can talk' jokes, Anonymous."
  5132. "Oh. Okay."
  5133. >Harshwhinny adjusts the hem of her t-shirt
  5134. >"It's funny, I promise!"
  5135. >She clears her throat again
  5136. >"Anyway. He meets this talking bee. And the bee asks him why he's so upset."
  5137. "Uh huh."
  5138. >You're trying to keep up with this joke, but it's starting to go a bit off-rails...
  5139. >"He explains about his girlfriend, and how he's worried about her. Then the bee launches into this story. He explains that he once ran for president of the United States, back when he was a much younger bee."
  5140. "Wait, the bee was the president? Why?"
  5141. >Harshwhinny smirks
  5142. >"Just wait. And then the boy asks why the bee didn't end up becoming president. The bee starts to talk about his mother, explaining how they were never close, and that seriously impacted his self-confidence for the rest of his life. The boy asks what that has to do with his girlfriend. The bee sighs, and calls his friend, the butterfly, over. The butterfly explains that she used to want to be a singer, but never had the money to pursue a career. Meanwhile, the boy's girlfriend is getting closer to the table, still talking to this new guy, right? So the boy looks around for a place to hide. Unfortunately, there's a line for the lemonade, and a line for the soda. So he decides to go to the punch bowl, because there's no punch line."
  5143. >Harshwhinny stops, crossing her legs and grinning
  5144. "...huh?"
  5145. >Fluttershy lets out a tiny chuckle, which slowly swells into a breathy, tittering laugh
  5146. >"That was pretty good, ma'am."
  5147. >"Yes, well, it's always been one of my favorites."
  5148. >She beams, happy to see that Fluttershy at least got it
  5149. >You, meanwhile, have no idea what the hell just happened
  5150. "Wait, what? What was the joke?"
  5151. >Harshwhinny winks at you
  5152. >"You'll figure it out. Just think about the last line."
  5153. >Her and Fluttershy join together in laughter, and you go back to your fries
  5154. >As stupid as that joke was, it's good to see the two of them laughing, at least
  5155.  
  5156. >The three of you return to Dash's floor after lunch, feeling in slightly better spirits
  5157. >You still don't get the stupid joke, though
  5158. >Why was there a talking bee?
  5159. >Why was he the president?
  5160. >What was the thing about a line for punch--
  5161. "Oh! There's no punch line! Punchline! The entire joke is just a huge buildup for nothing. Goddammit..."
  5162. >Harshwhinny laughs so hard she snorts, then immediately clams up, looking embarrassed
  5163. >"Yes, Anonymous. That's the joke."
  5164. >Her and Fluttershy share a look, both grinning
  5165.  
  5166. >When you get back to the waiting room, you find Rainbow Blaze seated in the far corner, next to Gilda
  5167. >"Bullshit! I wanna see him! Lemme see the bastard who did it!"
  5168. >Blaze's face is bright red, and it looks like it's taking a concerted effort for him to stay in his seat
  5169. >Gilda, meanwhile, seems almost unnaturally calm
  5170. >"Not gonna happen, sir."
  5171. >"Not gonna happen? That pig stabbed my daughter!"
  5172. >"I know, sir. And I'm really sorry."
  5173. >She stands up, placing a hand on Blaze's shoulder
  5174. >"As soon as he's deemed fit to be discharged, we're going to place him under arrest until he can stand trial."
  5175. >"Bastard doesn't deserve a trial..."
  5176. >Gilda grimaces, looking like she's having a hard time staying in control of her emotions
  5177. >"He's done some horrible things. I understand. He'll be lucky if he gets out of prison before he's an old man. But if you do something stupid..."
  5178. >She glares at him
  5179. >"It's just gonna make things worse for all of us. Understood."
  5180. >Blaze clenches his fists to the point that his knuckles turn white
  5181. >"Yeah. Yeah, I understand."
  5182. >"Good. I'm gonna go see if we can take his ass back to the station yet."
  5183. >She turns to the three of you, nodding
  5184. >"How're you three doing?"
  5185. "Alright, I guess."
  5186. >Ms. Harshwhinny nods her agreement
  5187. >"We just got back from lunch. Is Ms. Dash awake yet?"
  5188. >Gilda frowns, and gestures towards Blaze
  5189. >"You can talk to him about that. I need to check on the dad. I'll let you know what we decide to do, okay?"
  5190. >She bends down, reaching Fluttershy's eye-level
  5191. >"Hey, kid. You holding up okay?"
  5192. >Fluttershy nods
  5193. >"I'm g-gonna be fine. Is dad..."
  5194. >"He'll live. They've got his leg patched up as best they can. He won't be walking for a long time, though."
  5195. >"Okay..."
  5196. >Fluttershy's face is unreadable
  5197. >"Am I g-going to get to... to see him again?"
  5198. >Gilda looks slightly confused by the request
  5199. >"Yeah. If you want to. They're going to need you to testify, at some point. But if you'd like to see him before we send him off, I'll make sure it happens. But I'm gonna have to be in the room, just in case he tries to pull something."
  5200. >"Y-yeah. That's okay. I j-just want to... to clear a few things up, I g-guess."
  5201. >"Alright. I'll come get you real soon, alright?"
  5202. >She pats Fluttershy's shoulder, and heads off
  5203. >Rainbow Blaze sighs, leaning his head in his hands
  5204. >You sit next to him
  5205. "So... is she not awake yet?"
  5206. >He shakes his head
  5207. >"They rescheduled her surgery. Turns out the damage was worse than they thought, and they couldn't let her wait until tonight. They're gonna do the full operation now. Should last about three hours, they said."
  5208. "Damn..."
  5209. >"Yeah."
  5210. >He sniffs, shutting his eyes
  5211. >No tears spill out, but you can tell that's only due to an intense amount of effort on his part
  5212. "She's gonna get through it, though."
  5213. >"I know. But still..."
  5214. >His fists tighten, making his knuckles crack
  5215. >"She shouldn't have to go through this. Dashie doesn't deserve anything like this."
  5216. "No. No, she doesn't."
  5217. >You sigh, barely aware of Fluttershy leaning against you
  5218. >Again, the two of you sit just close enough for your shoulders to touch
  5219. >It's nothing too intimate, that'd hardly be proper, but it's good to know she's there
  5220. >Somehow, you almost feel as if her belief in Dash will be enough to make sure she gets out of this okay
  5221. "He didn't have a knife when we saw him."
  5222. >"Hm?"
  5223. >Blaze raises an eyebrow
  5224. "Fluttershy's dad. He didn't have a knife when we saw him. And there were cuts all over her hands."
  5225. >Blitz reaches the same conclusion as you, then squeezes his eyes shut
  5226. "She was hurt trying to get the knife away from him. She… she wanted to save me and Butters. Even if it meant all this."
  5227. >Blaze gulps
  5228. >"That's Dash, alright. So brave she's almost stupid."
  5229. "Heh... almost..."
  5230.  
  5231. >There's no real way to describe how long it takes for a nurse to finally approach your group
  5232. >By your watch, it's only been about four hours
  5233. >But each minute seems to stretch on endlessly, as if the clock itself were taunting you by refusing to change
  5234. >"Family and friends of Ms. Rainbow Dash?"
  5235. >In your stupor, it actually takes you a minute to register that she's talking to you
  5236. >But when you do, you nearly trample the poor woman, and Blaze nearly tramples you as the two of you rush over to her
  5237. >Fluttershy and Harshwhinny aren't far behind, but they're both slightly more in control of their excitement
  5238. "Is she alright? She's gonna be alright, right?"
  5239. >The nurse casts her eyes down at her clipboard, biting her lip
  5240. >"The operation was a complete success. The internal damage is repaired, and her stitches are all in place."
  5241. >Blaze faints
  5242. >Or, rather, he doesn't quite faint, but he hits the ground hard nonetheless
  5243. >You aren't doing much better
  5244. >Harshwhinny grabs you around the shoulders, holding you steady
  5245. >You mutter weakly:
  5246. "Thanks, ma'am…"
  5247. >The nurse gives you all a small smile, then glances between you and Blaze
  5248. >"Looks like the two of you were pretty worried, hm?"
  5249. "You could say that…"
  5250. >"Well, I'm afraid I've got a little bit of bad news…"
  5251. "Oh."
  5252. >"Ms. Dash should recover quite nicely, however… the process won't exactly be enjoyable for her. It's likely she'll be in considerable pain, and she'll have to spend at least the next two weeks in bed."
  5253. >In spite of everything, more relief washes over you
  5254. >If that's the worst news that they have to give, you'll accept it
  5255. >Still… Dash is really not gonna like being stuck in bed for a month, is she?
  5256. >Blaze seems to have the same idea, shaking his head as he staggers to his feet
  5257. >"She's gonna hate that, lemme tell ya."
  5258. >"It's unfortunate, but necessary. Excessive movement could damage the stitches. Still, she should be fit enough to be released within the next week. We'll prescribe her…"
  5259. >The rest of the nurse's words are lost on you
  5260. >Dash is gonna be okay!
  5261. >Or, well, as okay as an obsessive athlete who has to spend the next week in bed can be…
  5262.  
  5263. ***
  5264.  
  5265. "So, we can visit her now, right?"
  5266. >"Yes, but… please try to be understanding. The morphine is still wearing off, and she'll be a little loopy. Also, it'd be best not to put her under any undue stress. Alright?"
  5267. >Blaze shoves past you and the doctor
  5268. >"To hell with undue stress. I need to see my daughter!"
  5269. >"Wait, sir!"
  5270. >But Blaze isn't listening, of course
  5271. >He shoulders the door into the room open
  5272. >The early morning light (Christ, how long has it been since you slept?) is filtering in through the single narrow window, draping Dash in yellow-gray light
  5273. >She blinks, stirring slightly
  5274. >"Daddy?"
  5275. >Blaze freezes in his tracks for just a moment, his lower lip quivering
  5276. >Then he runs to Dash's side, dropping to one knee and throwing his arms around her
  5277. >His voice drops to a whisper, and you can't make out what he's telling her
  5278. >But you suppose it's not really meant for you to hear
  5279. >Dash just gives her father a warm, confused smile
  5280. >"Why're you so worried, heh… I'm fine…"
  5281. >She yawns
  5282. >Dash straight-up yawns
  5283. >In the middle of the hospital with her guts newly bandaged, after nearly being stabbed to death, and all she can do is yawn
  5284. >"Can you bring me some food… I dunno… fuckin' cinnamon rolls or something…"
  5285. >Blaze can barely speak, he's trying so hard not to cry
  5286. >"Yeah, Dashie… I'll g-get you some cinnamon rolls…"
  5287. >The doctor sticks his head in the door
  5288. >"I don't think that's really advisable--"
  5289. >"I'm getting her some cinnamon rolls, dammit!"
  5290. >He turns back to Dash
  5291. >"Anything else, sweetie?"
  5292. >Dash shrugs
  5293. >"I dunno… I'd like to see Tank… make sure he's okay…"
  5294. >Blaze nods
  5295. >"Right. I'll go home and grab him as soon as I can."
  5296. >The doctor is starting to look worried
  5297. >"Uh… who's tank?"
  5298. "Her pet turtle."
  5299. >Fluttershy gasps
  5300. >"D-Dash has a turtle?"
  5301. >She steps out from behind you and Harshwhinny, her stutter returning now that she's speaking to a stranger
  5302. >Dash responds, her face cracking into a huge grin when she sees Fluttershy:
  5303. >"Yeah, dude. He's like, the coolest turtle ever… that's why I named him Tank… because tanks are cool..."
  5304. >She tries to adjust her position, but the sedative has made even that much impossible
  5305. >Fluttershy crosses her hands over her mouth
  5306. >"You have a t-tiny turtle… c-c-can I see him?"
  5307. >The combined relief of having Dash recover and the prospect of seeing a turtle is too much for Fluttershy
  5308. >She goes limp, and you and Harshwhinny both rush in to catch her
  5309. >There's been a lot of that going around today, hasn't there?
  5310. >Dash finally notices you
  5311. >"Oh, hey… Anon…"
  5312. >She closes her eyes
  5313. >"It's really good to see you… I'm super glad you're okay…"
  5314. "You're glad that *I'm* okay?"
  5315. >"Yeah, man. I was worried about your stupid ass…"
  5316. >She yawns again, smacking her lips
  5317. >"You're taking good care of Butters, right?"
  5318. >Fluttershy blushes
  5319. "Yeah. I'm doing my best."
  5320. >"That's good. Really good. You two are so cool…"
  5321. >She yawns again
  5322. >"I love you two so much. So, so, so much. I'm so glad you're alive… I'm so glad I know you…"
  5323. >She tries to move her arm, but can't
  5324. >You take her hand instead, gently holding it against your chest
  5325. >"I did a good job, didn't I?"
  5326. "You sure did."
  5327. >"I was super badass, right?"
  5328. "Like Daring Do times ten."
  5329. >"Ha, yeah…"
  5330. >She yawns
  5331. >"Well… I'm gonna die now… it was nice knowing you."
  5332. "Nice knowing you too, Dashie."
  5333. >You lean down and place a kiss on her forehead
  5334. >"See you all in hell… g'bye…"
  5335. >Dash closes her eyes
  5336. >…and then begins to snore
  5337. >"Hey, kid."
  5338. >Gilda finds your group just as you're about to head home
  5339. >Blaze looks half-dead from exhaustion, and you're not doing much better
  5340. >The policewoman herself looks like she could use a nap of her own, but she still holds herself with the authority expected of her position
  5341. >Fluttershy gulps, knowing what's coming
  5342. >"Y-yes, ma'am?"
  5343. >"If you want to see your dad, now's the time. We're taking him into the station as soon as the paperwork clears."
  5344. >"R-right."
  5345. >Fluttershy's hand finds it way to yours
  5346. >"You're okay c-coming with me, right Anon?"
  5347. "Yeah, sure."
  5348. >You turn to Ms. Harshwhinny
  5349. "We'll be back soon, ma'am."
  5350. >She nods, trying hard to keep the worry out of her face
  5351. >"I'll be waiting for you. Good luck."
  5352. >She holds out an arm to Fluttershy, awkwardly half-embracing her
  5353. >Fluttershy completes the hug without hesitation, throwing her arms around Ms. Harshwhinny's waist and squeezing her in return
  5354. >Harshwhinny is thrown off for a moment, but quickly wraps Fluttershy in her embrace, leaning down to whisper in your ear
  5355. >"No matter what he says, you're amazing girl. I'm so, so lucky to have known you. And even if he doesn't realize it, so is he."
  5356. >With her face pressed against Harshwhinny's chest, she nods, and you can see she's left a tiny little tear-streak staining your teacher's shirt
  5357. >After a few seconds, the two break apart
  5358. >Harshwhinny nods in your direction, locking eyes with you, and the two of you are off
  5359.  
  5360. >The barren, sterile white of the hospital walls seems to just increase your foreboding, but Fluttershy doesn't slow her pace, even as Gilda stops in front of a random room, knocking on the door
  5361. >She places a hand on Fluttershy's shoulder
  5362. >"I'm gonna be right behind you, kid. He can't do anything."
  5363. >"I k-know. I'm not afraid."
  5364. >With that, Gilda opens the door and Fluttershy steps inside her dad's room
  5365. >You watch from out in the hallway, not wanting to interfere
  5366. >Inside, Fluttershy's father lies in a narrow, uncomfortable-looking hospital cot, his right wrist cuffed to the cot's railing
  5367. >Dressed in a paper hospital gown, and pale from loss of blood, he looks so much less frightening than before
  5368. >He just looks like a sad, defeated old man
  5369. >When he hears the door open, he twists his head to the side
  5370. >Gilda enters first, her hand on her gun in an obvious show of force
  5371. >Fluttershy's father narrows his eyes, but says nothing
  5372. >Then, when his daughter enters, his expression changes
  5373. >For a moment, he looks even angrier, but it quickly settles into something more like… sadness?
  5374. >Or is it fear?
  5375. >Gilda steps to the side, letting the two of them face each other
  5376. >Fluttershy takes a deep breath, planting herself next to her father's bed, just out of his reach
  5377. >"H-hey, papa."
  5378. >Her dad quickly forces his face back into his accustomed expression of dull anger
  5379. >"Why are you here?"
  5380. >"I w-wanted to talk to you, I g-guess…"
  5381. >You can see Fluttershy's resolve beginning to waver, but she stands her ground
  5382. >"Talk to me? Why? You should be talking to *her* to get me out of here!"
  5383. >He strains against his cuff, gritting his teeth
  5384. >"No."
  5385. >"What do you mean, no?"
  5386. >"N-no."
  5387. >The anger on Fluttershy's dad's face quickly becomes far less forced
  5388. >"You ungrateful little brat! If you honestly think you're going to leave me rotting in jail while you go off with that bitch-boy and his dyke girlfriend--"
  5389. >"Don't t-talk about them like that!"
  5390. >Fluttershy's dad actually shuts up
  5391. >"You d-don't know anything about them! They're m-my friends! They love me! R-really love me! And you tried to… to… to k-k-kill them!"
  5392. >Fluttershy stamps her foot
  5393. >"Y-you're a bad p-person… and you're d-dangerous… and this is w-w-w-what has to happen."
  5394. >She's visibly shaking now, but she holds her dad's gaze
  5395. >"What has to happen."
  5396. >He repeats his daughter's words, his voice flat
  5397. >"You ungrateful little brat."
  5398. >Fluttershy's dad clenches his fists so hard that his overgrown nails dig into his palms, sending little red worms of blood trailing down his wrists
  5399. >He begins to strain against the cuff now, the metal circlet digging into the flesh of his wrist
  5400. >"You killed my wife, you rat! You have any idea what it was like to keep you after that?"
  5401. >"I d-don't, but--"
  5402. >"Every day, I had to look into the ugly face of the little cunt to killed her. Any other decent father would've thrown you away where you belong. But I didn't. I kept you, because it's what she'd have wanted. And I was stupid enough to actually care about you…"
  5403. >He collapses back into the bed, realizing his struggle is futile
  5404. >Gilda keeps her hand on her gun, just in case
  5405. >"I tried to make you strong, so you wouldn't end up like her."
  5406. >"Is… is t-that what you thought you were doing?"
  5407. >Fluttershy advances towards her dad, looking almost like she's going to smack him
  5408. >"All those t-times you hit me… and t-told me I was trash…"
  5409. >"Yes! Because I wasn't going to lose the rest of my family!"
  5410. >"You t-told me you hated me!"
  5411. >"And so what? You killed my wife, you little brat. Loving you wouldn't have changed anything. It didn't for her."
  5412. >"I d-didn't kill mama!"
  5413. >"You may as well have. Because that's the kind of kid you are."
  5414. >"N-no! Shut up!"
  5415. >She forces the words out with more volume than you've ever heard in her voice
  5416. >"I d-didn't kill her! It w-wasn't my fault! And I'm not gonna let you tell me that it is anymore!"
  5417. >She gets close enough to actually jab a finger in his chest
  5418. >He reaches up to grab her, but she slaps his hand away
  5419. >"I'm w-worth more than that! I h-have friends now! People l-like me!"
  5420. >She drops her eyes for a moment
  5421. >"Maybe even love me…"
  5422. >And then resumes her original posture
  5423. >"And I d-don't have to believe you anymore! I'm… I'm w-w-worth something! You're just s-so wrapped up in your own misery that you can't b-bear seeing me happy! But I d-don't care anymore. I'm s-surrounded by so many good people. And I'm g-gonna be happy."
  5424. >The conversation drops, and a tense silence overtakes the room
  5425. >Fluttershy turns her back on her dad without another word, and walks quietly towards the door
  5426. >However, her dad interrupts her before she can leave:
  5427. >"No you're not."
  5428. >"What?"
  5429. >"You're not. You think he…"
  5430. >Fluttershy's dad nods in your direction
  5431. >"…and the dyke actually care about you? They feel bad for you. But it'll end. And when it does, you'll have nobody. Not even me."
  5432. >"You're w-wrong."
  5433. >Fluttershy turns back to her dad just long enough to finish her last sentence
  5434. >"And y-you're never going to understand how w-wrong you are. But you don't have to. B-because I'll know. And t-that's good enough."
  5435. >She steps over the threshold
  5436. >"And b-besides… even h-having nobody would be better than living w-with you."
  5437. >And with that, she leaves, with you and Gilda behind her
  5438.  
  5439. >Fluttershy walks as if in a trance, her face betraying no hint of emotion
  5440. >She holds herself calm and almost unnaturally steady, especially given how badly she was shaking earlier
  5441. >However, you can see spots of sweat starting to soak through the dress Harshwhinny gave her
  5442. >Unprompted, you walk up next to her and take her hand
  5443. >She doesn't say anything, but her eyes meet yours for a brief moment before she changes her gait, walking close enough that her shoulder touches yours
  5444. >You've started to get used to the feeling of just having her barely pressed up against you
  5445. >Not too close as to be overwhelming, but a small reassurance that she's still there
  5446. >Harshwhinny jumps up from her seat the moment the two of you walk into view
  5447. >"Oh, thank goodness! Did everything go okay?"
  5448. >Fluttershy gives her a small nod
  5449. >"That's good, that's good. I mean, I wasn't worried, of course. You were in very capable hands with Officer Griffin. Still, though, it's…"
  5450. >She scratches at the back of her head, forcing herself to calm down
  5451. >"It's really good to see you're okay. What did you say to him?"
  5452. >Fluttershy bites her lip, and Harshwhinny starts to sweat
  5453. >"Oh, of course. You probably don't want to talk about it, poor thing. I'm so sorry. I, um…"
  5454. >She glances around, tugging at the collar of her shirt
  5455. >"Here. Why don't we go back to my place, and I'll, um… I dunno. We'll do something nice, I promise."
  5456. >She gives Fluttershy an uneasy smile before facing Gilda
  5457. >"Officer? Is that okay?"
  5458. >Gilda shrugs
  5459. >"I don't see why not. Poor kid's got nowhere else to go, I guess. The state's probably going to look to look into finding her a guardian before too long."
  5460. >Harshwhinny looks downcast, but quickly hides it
  5461. >"Yes. That's understandable. It's not like I expected anything else. Only natural for that to be the process."
  5462. >Gilda raises an eyebrow
  5463. >"Uh… yeah. But it's a bitch of a process to get through. So, you know, if I vouched for a certain guardian, got some weight off the back of whatever poor slob has to deal with the kid's case, maybe I could…"
  5464. >She lets the words trail off, and you notice that Harshhwinny is holding her breath
  5465. >When she realizes Gilda is waiting for her to say something, she coughs
  5466. >"Well, being a teacher, I may know one or two responsible, *professional* adults who could provide a good home. Of course, it's not my decision to make, now is it?"
  5467. >She turns to Fluttershy
  5468. >"I'd, um… I'd l-like to think about it first."
  5469. >"Right, right. Of course. Obviously I won't attempt to influence your decision. That would be extremely unprofessional. Yes. So…"
  5470. >She gestures awkwardly towards the doors to the parking lot
  5471. >"Are we all okay with going back to my place?"
  5472.  
  5473. >Blaze, of course, stays behind to be with his daughter when she wakes up
  5474. >He promises he'll give you a call when she's ready for visitors again
  5475. >And with that, you're off
  5476. >An aftershock from yesterday's storm is still hanging over your heads as you make your way to Ms. Harshwhinny's car, but at least the rain has stopped
  5477. >In some places, the sun has even begun to poke between the clouds, casting weird mis-matched bright spots across the ground
  5478. >Ms. Harshwhinny keeps her head down and her hands in her pockets, not making any attempt at conversation
  5479. >Gilda, for whatever reason, follows you
  5480. >When you get to the car, she leans against the bumper, one arm tucked under her jacket
  5481. >"Hey."
  5482. >She rubs her side beneath the jacket, chewing on her tongue
  5483. >"I'm still on duty until eight tonight. But, after that, you're cool if I come by, right?"
  5484. >She speaks mostly to Harshwhinny, but she also looks to the two of you for confirmation
  5485. >"Oh! Of course, officer."
  5486. >"Y-yeah. That'd be alright."
  5487. "Sounds good."
  5488. >Gilda nods, looking slightly relieved
  5489. >"Cool. There might be some, uh… official stuff to talk over. It'll suck, but hopefully we can get through it quick."
  5490. >Harshwhinny takes Gilda's hand free hand
  5491. > "Thank you so much, officer."
  5492. >"Ugh. Please, just Gilda."
  5493. >"Right. Well, Gilda, I'm an absolutely miserable cook. But if you'd like to stay for dinner…"
  5494. >"Oh, heh, well… I dunno. You really don't have to do that for me. I got plenty of, uh… Hot Pockets and shit back home."
  5495. >"Please? I insist. It's really the least we could do, after everything."
  5496. >Gilda sighs, a small smile playing on her lips
  5497. >"Well, if you're gonna twist my arm. See you guys at eight, alright?"
  5498.  
  5499. >When you get home, Ms. Harshwhinny heads immediately for the kitchen
  5500. >"Would you two like anything to eat? Drink?"
  5501. "No. I'm good."
  5502. >"Y-yeah. Not r-really that hungry right now…"
  5503. >"Yes. Of course. Well, you're welcome to the TV. Or… whatever you'd like."
  5504. >You notice a slight trembling in her hand when she opens the fridge
  5505. >She half-extends her hand towards one of her many bottles of cheap wine, but then withdraws it
  5506. >Instead, she chooses some Minute-Maid grape juice, pours herself a glass, and sits down
  5507. "Ma'am?"
  5508. >"I'm perfectly fine, Anonymous. Just a little frazzled. Please don't concern yourself with me."
  5509. "I, um… okay."
  5510. >"What? Don't worry about me. I'm quite alright. Just glad to see you two healthy and safe."
  5511. >Another tremors runs through her hand when she raises the glass to her mouth, and a little juice spills onto her shirt
  5512. >"Just try to enjoy yourselves for a while. Please."
  5513. >She hiccups, drinking more of her juice
  5514. >Fluttershy sits down next to her, placing a hand on your teacher's shoulder
  5515. >"Um, M-Ms. Harshwhinny. You'd t-tell us if something was b-bothering you, right?"
  5516. >"Of course, dear. I just want you to enjoy yourself. After all, tonight will… probably be our last night together."
  5517. >Harshwhinny sets her glass down, wiping her mouth daintily on the back of her hand
  5518. >And then she starts to cry
  5519. >It's not the choked, restrained sobs that you heard Saturday night
  5520. >Instead, Harshwhinny just holds her head in her hands, quiet tears spilling down her cheeks
  5521. >"M-ma'am? Our l-last night together?"
  5522. >Fluttershy looks over at you, horrified
  5523. >"W-what do you mean?"
  5524. >Harshwhinny shakes her head, using the hem of her shirt to wipe tears from her face
  5525. >And then she actually smiles
  5526. >"Nothing. It's nothing. Just me being stupid, overly dramatic, and…"
  5527. >She sniffles
  5528. >"…and, well, extremely unprofessional. I'm sorry."
  5529. >She pulls up more of her shirt to wipe at her face
  5530. >"It's just, well, Saturday night was probably the best night I've had since… well, in the past fifteen years, at least. I actually felt like part of a real family. I know that probably sounds stupid to you two, but you're good kids, and so is Ms. Dash. Having you here with me made everything feel so much better, and… and I'm afraid I might have ruined that."
  5531. >She sniffles, and finishes the last of her juice
  5532. >"I never should have let her go back to her house. I never should have left the two of you here alone. I'd… I would've made a pretty lousy mother-- I mean, a pretty lousy guardian, wouldn't I?"
  5533. >"No!"
  5534. >Both you and Harshwhinny are startled by Fluttershys' outburst
  5535. >"P-please don't say that about yourself!"
  5536. >She grabs ahold of Harshwhinny's hand, then drops it, then grabs it again
  5537. >"I c-can't... you c-can't think that! Because you're not! It's not fair!"
  5538. >She starts to hyperventilate, shaking with frustration
  5539. >"I've known b-bad parents. Y-you're not. You're so, so not. You're t-trying so hard to make us happy, and you c-care about me, and... and no. Please. D-don't say that."
  5540. >She throws her arms around Harshwhinny
  5541. >"And p-please don't say this is our last night together. None of this w-was your fault. I w-want more nights here. Because, here, with you, and Rainbow, and Anon... it's the c-closest thing to home I've ever had. P-please don't say it has to end."
  5542. >"Dear..."
  5543. >Harshwhinny looks over to you for help, but you just shrug
  5544. >She sighs, her arms creeping up Fluttershy's back to return her embrace
  5545. >"Do you mean that?"
  5546. >"Y-yes. I w-want more nights here. I w-want... I want to s-stay with you, if they'll let me."
  5547. >The crying that Harshwhinny tried so hard to keep down wells up again, and now both women are sobbing like schoolgirls
  5548. >And you, meanwhile, are just kind of... there
  5549. >You scoot over towards the counter, taking a sudden interest in Ms. Harshwhinny's dishes
  5550. >"I'm not sure if they will, dear."
  5551. >Despite the tears, Harshwhinny's voice is surprisingly steady
  5552. >"And even if they do... I don't know if I deserve it. I nearly let him kill you."
  5553. >"But you d-didn't!"
  5554. >Fluttershy breaks out of Ms. Harshwhinny's embrace, but leaves her hands on the older woman's shoulders
  5555. >"We c-can't keep blaming ourselves for what h-he did. I know w-what you feel like, but... but we can't do this."
  5556. >She sets her mouth in a determined little line
  5557. >"My d-dad hurt me. And f-for a long time, I believed it. I r-really thought everything mean he did was my fault. But it wasn't. You c-can't blame yourself for what he did. All w-we can do is try to keep each other safe."
  5558. >She pulls herself tightly against Harshwhinny, laying her head on her chest
  5559. >"And I t-trust you to do that. I f-feel really good here. And I want to stay."
  5560. >Harshwhinny lets out a decidedly unprofessional squeak
  5561. >"You... you mean that?"
  5562. >Fluttershy nods, wiping little tear-streaks across your teacher's chest
  5563. >"I really do. This is the c-closest to home I've ever had. I d-don't want to leave. And I'm n-not gonna let this be our last night together."
  5564. >Harshwhinny sniffles, laying her head atop Fluttershy's as the two of them both cry harder
  5565. >She wraps her arms tighter around Fluttershy, rocking her back and forth like a child
  5566. >You, meanwhile, are just kind of... there
  5567. >The two of them aren't even talking anymore, they're just hugging and crying
  5568. >Is this a chick thing?
  5569. >You back out of the kitchen, mentally making the excuse that you want to examine some more of Ms. Harshwhinny's paintings
  5570. >Even out in the living room, you can still hear them crying together
  5571. >They've been going for like five minutes now, that's kinda impressive...
  5572. >Kinda weird to you that they waited to have the cry-fest until everything was finally okay, you think to yourself
  5573. >You remember back to when you showed Dash "The Brave Little Toaster" for the first time, and she cried for like twenty-five minutes
  5574. >"It's a healthy cry! These are manly tears!"
  5575. >Maybe it's something like that?
  5576. >You're probably never going to understand, are you...
  5577. >Anyway, as you laze around in the living room, waiting for the weep-fest to finish, you find yourself admiring the painting Ms. Harshwhinny and Fluttershy worked on together
  5578. >It's actually really impressive; the kind of thing you could imagine hanging in a museum, or in the background of some rich dude's house
  5579. >As you admire the smooth, deep-green landscapes, a sudden sense of calm washes over you
  5580. >It's so much that you can't keep standing, and end up falling backwards onto the couch
  5581. >Things are finally turning out okay
  5582. >Dash is gonna recover, Fluttershy's got a home, and everyone had a good, healthy cry
  5583. >Everything wrapped up, even if it left all of you with a few scars
  5584. >You have to wonder... what now?
  5585.  
  5586. >The crying session lasts a whopping hour
  5587. >Yes, a literal hour; you spend nearly the entire time watching the clock, wondering how long they can keep it up
  5588. >Can this really be called healthy, at this point?
  5589. >When the two do finally emerge, they return to the couch, wiping their reddened eyes with balled-up tissues
  5590. >You're just sort of... there, still
  5591. >The TV is running in the background, playing more of that weird giant-alien-robot show you find Saturday night
  5592. >Fluttershy sits next to you, not close enough to touch, but close enough that you can hear her breathing slowly calming from the cry session
  5593. >Harshwhinny is by herself, slumped across the armchair in a somewhat-unprofessional position, her feet propped up on the coffee table
  5594. >Despite the tear-streaks making a mess of her makeup, she looks happy
  5595. >Happier than you've ever seen her, really
  5596. >She keeps looking over at Fluttershy, and smiling
  5597. >Neither of them saying anything more as the show plays through episode after episode (which get progressively weirder the further you get in; you honestly have to wonder what the hell the BBC was on back in the 80's) but you figure everything there is to say has already been said
  5598. >Or, rather, cried
  5599. >Still, things are incredibly peaceful for a few hours
  5600. >But, of course, nothing can ever peaceful for long; not in your life at least
  5601. >Harshwhinny pulls out her old-as-dirt flip phone, checking through it
  5602. >And then, out of nowhere, she bolts upright
  5603. >"Oh, good Lord!"
  5604. >She jumps up from her chair, accidentally stumbling over a pile of paintings
  5605. >"Oh no, oh no, oh no, I'm such an idiot!"
  5606. "Ma'am? What's wrong?"
  5607. >"M-Ms. H? What is it?"
  5608. >Dread is beginning to creep back into your chest
  5609. >Did something happen that she didn't tell you about?
  5610. >Could she have gotten a message about Fluttershy's dad?
  5611. >Could he have escaped?
  5612. >Fluttershy clearly has the same thought as you, and her face goes pale
  5613. >Ms. Harshwhinny tangles her fingers in her hair, looking like she's about to pull it out
  5614. >"No, no..."
  5615. "Ma'am! Please, tell me what's wrong? Are we safe?"
  5616. >"Oh, what? No! No, we're perfectly safe! It's not that. It's..."
  5617. >She removes her hand from her hair, and begins to chew on her nails
  5618. >"It's... it's seven forty-five..."
  5619. >She announces with the same tone she would probably use to tell you she had cancer
  5620. "Um... okay?"
  5621. >"And I invited Officer Griffin over for dinner at eight! I don't have anything to serve her! And I can't cook to save me life!"
  5622. >She smacks her hand over her eyes
  5623. >"I'm going to disappoint her! After all the help she's given us, all I have to offer for dinner is some cans of Soup For One! I'm going to look like an unprofessional idiot, and she's going to be let down."
  5624. >Harshwhinny slumps against the wall, sinking down into a sitting position
  5625. >"I can't believe I let myself forget..."
  5626. "Why don't we just make something? You've got ingredients, right?"
  5627. >Harshwhinny hangs her head, ashamed
  5628. >"Only if Soup For One and freezer pizzas count as ingredients..."
  5629. "Oof. Well... we can make this work! There's a grocery store nearby, right?"
  5630. >Harshwhinny shrugs
  5631. >"I suppose. But we'll never be able to get everything we need, get back, and have dinner ready by the time she gets here..."
  5632. "So? We can cook after she gets here! It'll be like, a..."
  5633. >"Like a bonding experience!"
  5634. >Harshwhinny jumps to her feet, wrapping you in an enthusiastic hug
  5635. >Your head ends up right against her breasts, where you can feel the leftover dampness from Fluttershy's tears
  5636. >"Anonymous, you're a genius! Or, at the very least, an excellent party planner!"
  5637. "Uh... thanks, I guess."
  5638. >"Now let's go! We need to make this dinner perfect!"
  5639. >She slams her fist into her palm
  5640. >"Now... do either of you know how to cook?"
  5641. "Uh..."
  5642. >You glance over at Fluttershy, though you're not very hopeful
  5643. >"My dad usually d-didn't let me in the kitchen."
  5644. "Yeah, I can make like... spaghetti? Maybe?"
  5645. >Harshwhinny bites her lip
  5646. >"This is bad. As a police officer, and clearly a proud professional woman, officer Griffin will most likely be right on time. That's not enough time to cook after we get back, unless..."
  5647. "Unless we stall?"
  5648. >Harshwhinny nods, beginning to pace
  5649. >"The two of you can stall for time. I'll run to the store, and..."
  5650. >She shakes her head
  5651. >"No, that won't work! It'd be incredibly impolite to cook dinner while the guests are already over! Oh, I'm so stupid... so stupid..."
  5652. >Harshwhinny starts massaging her temples, her eyes wide with panic
  5653. >"I'm going to look like the worst host ever, aren't I?"
  5654. "Wait!"
  5655. >Harshwhinny turns to you
  5656. >"Anonymous? You have an idea?"
  5657. "Not really. I just think we're worrying about this a bit too much."
  5658. >"One can never worry about the quality of their hosting abilities *too much*, Anonymous! Officer Griffin has sacrificed a lot for us, and we're going to make sure she's welcomed warmly!"
  5659. >A knock sounds at the front door, and Harshwhinny nearly collapses
  5660. >"Oh no..."
  5661. >She turns to you, as if announcing the beginning of the apocalypse
  5662. >"That's her, isn't it?"
  5663. "Probably."
  5664. >You place a hand on Harshwhinny's arm
  5665. "It's gonna be fine, ma'am."
  5666. >"It will most certainly not be! I'm going to disappoint a good friend of ours."
  5667. "How?"
  5668. >"Because! Because I... you know, look at this place."
  5669. >She gestures to the stacks of failed paintings and randomly assorted books that cover her home
  5670. >"It's a dump. And if I can't even serve a decent meal. Who wouldn't be disappointed?"
  5671. >Fluttershy peeks out from behind you
  5672. >"I m-mean... I'm not. I love it here."
  5673. >Harshwhinny puffs out her cheeks
  5674. >"Yes, but..."
  5675. >"I don't think Officer G-Gilda will be any different. She seems like a n-nice lady. She'll probably just be happy to be able to s-spend the night with people she likes."
  5676. >Fluttershy twiddles her fingers
  5677. >"At least, that's w-why I like it here so much. Tonight is m-more about the people she g-gets to be with, right? It's about being around people who like you, not... not just a m-meal."
  5678. >Harshwhinny is silent for a moment
  5679. >Outside, Gilda knocks again, louder this time
  5680. >Harshwhinny sighs, hanging her head
  5681. >"You're right. I'll just... I'll try to calm down."
  5682. >She begins massaging her temples even as she heads over to answer the door
  5683. >"Calm, calm... professionally calm..."
  5684. >Gilda is standing on the front porch, a grocery bag in each hand
  5685. >"Hey!"
  5686. >She puts on a big, overly-friendly grin
  5687. >"What's up?"
  5688. >Ms. Harshwhinny stiffly extends her hand to shake
  5689. >Unfortunately, Gilda is unable to shake, due to the groceries she's carrying
  5690. >So both women are left there just sort of staring at each other
  5691. >Harshwhinny tries -- somewhat successfully -- to turn the handshake into an offer to take the bags from Gilda, covering up her blunder with her signature awkward cough
  5692. >"I'm so glad you could make if, officer. I, um... won't you come in."
  5693. >"Yeah. Thanks for havin' me. Hey, you two."
  5694. >She nods cordially to you and Fluttershy, handing Harshwhinny the bags
  5695. >"I was gonna pick up beer, but I thought that wouldn't be a good idea with the kids and all. So I, uh, got the next best thing."
  5696. >Harshwhinny opens the bag, revealing a six-pack of that super-fancy soda that comes in glass bottles
  5697. >"And this is for you. Not sure if you drink at all, but... yeah. It'll look nice, at least."
  5698. >In the second bag is a bottle of Cherry Jubilee name-brand vintage wine, the glass embossed in patterns reminiscent of twisting vines
  5699. >"Wow."
  5700. >Harshwhinny is stunned for a moment
  5701. >"T-thank you, officer! I, uh..."
  5702. >She scratches at the back of her head, flushing
  5703. >"I'm afraid I don't have much to offer you in return..."
  5704. >Gilda shrugs
  5705. >"Just call me Gilda. And it's no big deal. Honestly, anything would be good right now. Haven't had anything to eat since this morning."
  5706. >"Yes! Of course, that's only natural, yes... yes..."
  5707. >She's stalling, and doing a terrible job of it
  5708. >Harshwhinny turns to you, and waves you and Fluttershy into the kitchen
  5709. >Gilda just sort of hangs behind, inspecting Harshwhinny's paintings
  5710. >"What do I do? Look at this!"
  5711. >Her voice is dropped to a whisper, each syllable nervous and hissing
  5712. >She points to the fancy beverages
  5713. >"I can't serve her soup-for-one after she bought me top-shelf wine! That's criminal!"
  5714. >"B-but... she just said..."
  5715. >"That's beside the point! It's the principle of the thing!"
  5716. >Harshwhinny covers her face in her hands
  5717. >"I can't do it! I feel like such a--"
  5718. >Gilda pokes her head in
  5719. >"Yo, not trying to snoop, but... is everything alright?"
  5720. >Harshwhinny immediately straightens up
  5721. >Her hands go to her own next, probably hoping to find a scarf to fidget with
  5722. >But the collar of her tee-shirt isn't quite enough, and so they resort instead to toying with her earrings
  5723. >"Yes! Everything's fine! Just, um... trying to figure out what to make! You know, because... that's something I can totally do..."
  5724. >Gilda nods
  5725. >"Yeah? You mind if I take a look? I might have a couple ideas."
  5726. >"A... look?"
  5727. >"Yeah. You know, in the pantry. I've cooked up some pretty janky, tasty stuff out of random junk before."
  5728. >It's kinda funny how proud she sounds of that fact
  5729. >For a moment, Harshwhinny just blinks, confused
  5730. >"Oh! Y-yes, of course! Go ahead!"
  5731. >Gilda grins, biting her lip, and opens up the pantry
  5732. >"Hah. You're almost as bad as me."
  5733. >"Almost?"
  5734. >Harswhinny looks relieved that Gilda's not disappointed
  5735. >So relieved that she starts to lean against the kitchen counter, trying to stealth-wipe sweat from her forehead
  5736. >"Yeah. You've at least got enough food for a few weeks. I've got like a tenth of this, at best."
  5737. >She claps her hands together
  5738. >"So let's get started."
  5739. >Harhwhinny looks confused
  5740. >"Started? What do you mean?"
  5741. >Gilda starts to grab packages of ramen out of the pantry
  5742. >"I've got a really good recipe for how to cook ramen. You've got hot sauce somewhere, right?"
  5743. >"Hot sauce? Oh, yes! Right over here!"
  5744. >Harshwhinny runs to the kitchen, and Gilda walks over to you and Fluttershy
  5745. >"Alright, can you two see if there's any veggies or anything we can throw in here?"
  5746. "Like what?"
  5747. >She shrugs
  5748. >"I don't know, kid, I ain't Gordon Ramsay. Just look for anything that looks like it'd taste good with noodles."
  5749. >She helps Harshwhinny look for sauce, then goes back to ransacking the pantry for ingredients
  5750. >In the freezer, you dig out two bags of frozen broccoli and one of carrots, and throw it to Fluttershy
  5751. >Gilda grabs some canned chicken from the pantry, grinning to herself
  5752. >"Whoa, name brand?"
  5753. >She stands up
  5754. >"You're pretty fancy, for a bachelorette."
  5755. >Harshwhinny giggles
  5756. >Yep, full-on giggles
  5757. >The sound is one of the strangest you've ever heard
  5758. >"Well, when you only have yourself to spend money on, you're allowed to splurge a little, right?"
  5759. >A lot of her earlier nervousness seems to have abated
  5760. >In fact, she's starting to look like she's having fun
  5761. >"Ha, you're right there. If I wasn't such a miser, maybe I'd understand."
  5762. >The two women chatter on about the hardships of life as a single female
  5763. >Meanwhile, Gilda gives you and Fluttershy instructions to chop the veggies and then throw them in a pan to fry
  5764. >"Chop them? W-with what?"
  5765. >"Uh... that?"
  5766. >Gilda points to a set of knives on the far end of the counter
  5767. >Fluttershy eyes the blades with worry, wringing her hands
  5768. >"Um, I... uh..."
  5769. >A bead of sweat rolls down the back of her neck
  5770. >You step in front of her, grabbing up the knife yourself
  5771. "Here. I got it."
  5772. >You grab a cutting board and the vegetables, and start to dice them into little pieces
  5773. >"T-thanks. Sorry, I d-didn't mean to... to freak out like that."
  5774. "No, it's totally cool."
  5775. >You take a step closer to Fluttershy, keeping her close as you finish chopping the veggies
  5776. >When you finish, Gilda has you throw the them into a pan to fry along with the hot sauce and noodles, and everything begins to fry together
  5777. >"Alright. Now stir everything together, alright? Make sure nothing sits on the bottom too long or it'll burn."
  5778. "Like this?"
  5779. >You start to stir, but the exhaustion of the past days' drama has left you too fatigued to keep your hand steady
  5780. >As the spoon scrapes the bottom of the pan, you accidentally push a clump of noodles over the rim and onto the stove
  5781. >"Nah, not like that. Just keep everything inside, alright?"
  5782. >You try again, but nearly end up spilling again
  5783. >"Here."
  5784. >Fluttershy steps up behind you and lays her hand on top of yours
  5785. >"Are you alright if I h-help?"
  5786. >Her smooth, gentle fingers curl around the back of your hand, holding it steady
  5787. "Yeah. Thanks."
  5788. >Fluttershy steps up behind you
  5789. >Since her arms are so much shorter than yours, she has to press her body up against your back in order to reach your hand
  5790. >Slowly, gently, she moves your hand in circles, stirring the noodles
  5791. >The steam coiling off the pasta causes her palm to sweat, and she grips you tighter to avoid letting you slip out of her grip
  5792. >Fluttershy extends her arm all the way -- and yours by extension -- which requires her to squeeze against your back
  5793. >Through the thin dress Harshwhinny lent her, you can feel every skinny contour of her body: bony hips, soft, flat stomach, and the gentle, featureless cushion of her chest
  5794. >She leans her head on your shoulder, watching the food's progress
  5795. >Despite how much you've found yourself holding her lately, this feels... different, somehow
  5796. >It's no longer about her comforting you, or you her
  5797. >She's doing this just because she wants to
  5798. >And, well, you're not entirely sure how you feel about that, especially when Dash isn't here
  5799. >But she's not trying anything risqué, she just wants to be close to someone
  5800. >After what her dad said to her, and everything else she's had to deal with...
  5801. >Yeah, she deserves it
  5802. >Fluttershy seems to focus pretty exclusively on the noodles near the back of the dish, requiring her to stay tightly pressed against you in order to reach them
  5803. >And you let her, even leaning back into her embrace
  5804. >After so much chilly, rainy air, she's refreshingly warm
  5805. >"There. Is t-that better?"
  5806. "Yeah. Thanks."
  5807. >She extends your arm fully again, despite not really needing to
  5808. >Without any proper place to place her head, she opts to simply rest it against your shoulder
  5809. >Gilda steps into the kitchen, leaning against the doorframe
  5810. >She gives you and Fluttershy knowing smile
  5811. >"How's it coming, you two?"
  5812. "Pretty good. Think it looks about done?"
  5813. >Gilda steps up next to you
  5814. >You can vaguely smell wine on her breath; her and Harshwhinny must have broken into her "gift" early
  5815. >"Yep. Give it another minute or two, and it'll be good."
  5816. >As she leaves, she gives Fluttershy a pinch on the butt, and whispers something in her ear
  5817. >It sounds vaguely like "get some," from what you can hear
  5818. >Fluttershy's face goes red, and she hides against your back
  5819. >Yeah, Gilda's definitely been drinking a bit
  5820. >When she leaves, Fluttershy's blushing furiously
  5821. >The two of you ladel the noodles onto four plates, carrying the spicy, steamy mixture into the living room
  5822. >Ms. Harshwhinny is lounging on the couch, a glass in her hands
  5823. >Judging by the pink spots on her cheeks, she's definitely had a little bit too
  5824. >"It's just so draining sometimes, you know? I'm aware how unprofessional it is to complain about work, but there's just so much that makes me... agh!"
  5825. >She grabs at her hair, shaking her head
  5826. >Harshwhinny adjusts herself in her chair, fidgeting with the hem of her shirt
  5827. >She looks surprisingly disheveled, especially for an appearance-focused woman like her
  5828. >You... don't think you're ready to handle her while drunk
  5829. >Maybe you and Fluttershy should eat and then find an excuse to go to bed
  5830. >Ms. Harshwhinny awkwardly pats you on the arm as you set the plate down
  5831. >"Thank you so much, dear. Really. It's been so long since I've had a home-cooked meal."
  5832. >Her eyes suddenly go wide
  5833. >"So, so long. Since I was a little girl, probably. Oh, my..."
  5834. >She looks like she's about to cry
  5835. >You and Fluttershy share a very, very concerned look
  5836. >Gilda, fortunately, is completely on top of things
  5837. >She drains half her glass in a single gulp, letting out a loud belch before digging into her plate
  5838. >After wolfing down a good chunk of her dinner, she points her fork at Harshwhinny
  5839. >"I know, right?"
  5840. >Harshwhinny blinks, holding back tears
  5841. >"What do you mean, o-officer?"
  5842. >"Just Gilda. And I mean it sucks, you know? Like, what does a woman have to do to get a decent meal?"
  5843. >She takes another huge bite, and washes it down with the rest of her meal
  5844. >"And yeah, I know exactly what you mean about work."
  5845. >Gilda matches Harshwhinny's posture, both women slouching at opposite ends of the table
  5846. >"You bust your ass all day, trying to do the 'right thing' for your kids, right?"
  5847. >Harshwhinny nods, curling into a little, not-so-professional ball on the floor between stacks of her paintings
  5848. >"Trying, I suppose. Lord help me if I know what 'the right thing' is."
  5849. >Gilda perks up, poking the fork towards Harshwhinny again
  5850. >Little red flecks of sauce fly from its tip, staining the coffee table
  5851. >A concerned glance crosses your teacher's face, but she doesn't say anything
  5852. >Gilda, however, looks way too excited
  5853. >"No, exactly! That's the problem! You're supposed to be helping people, right? But nobody has any idea on how they want to be helped!"
  5854. >She lets out an annoyed sigh, slumping further in her chair
  5855. >You and Fluttershy just sort of sit in the corner, not really sure what to make of the whole exchange
  5856. >It's almost like dinner and a show, in a way
  5857. >Except the dinner is ramen
  5858. >And the show is a drunk schoolteacher rambling with an even-drunker cop
  5859. >And instead of a theater, you're wedged together in between stacks of canvases and old books
  5860. >Okay, it's nothing like a dinner and a show
  5861. >It's just a hastily-made dinner with a bunch of drunk, dysfunctional people...
  5862. >...and you can't imagine a better night, honestly
  5863. >Well, you can
  5864. >It'd be the same night, just with one more person
  5865. >As if sensing you're still worrying, Fluttershy leans against you again
  5866. >You're starting to enjoy how readily she takes the initiative
  5867. >As much as you miss Dash, it feels so good to be able to hold her
  5868. >The two of you end up combining both your portions of dinner onto a single plate, and then enjoying your meal from the same dish
  5869. >Fluttershy raises a bite to her mouth, awkwardly slurping up the noodles in the noisiest, messiest way possible
  5870. >"Sorry. It's been a w-while since I've had actual noodles."
  5871. >On her next bite, a stray noodle slaps against her cheek, leaving a line of sauce
  5872. >You wipe it off for her
  5873. >For a moment, she leans her face into her touch, closing her eyes
  5874. >Said moment probably would have lasted longer too, if Ms. Harshwhinny hadn't interrupted it by increasing the volume of her ranting tenfold
  5875. >"...and sometimes I feel like I don't even know what professionalism means!"
  5876. >"Wait, what? You? That's like the only word you say, dude."
  5877. >Gilda's slurring now, and the bottle is nearly empty
  5878. >"I know! But, no matter how much I try, I just... agh!"
  5879. >She rubs her forehead
  5880. >"I never feel like I'm actually doing any good! No matter how hard I try to do my job well, I'm still just some random teacher that nobody likes!"
  5881. >She rests her head on her knees
  5882. >"It just gets old, sometimes..."
  5883. >Gilda nods
  5884. >"I feel you, dude. I really do. I thought I'd be saving people, but I'm just the person who shows up and ruins their day..."
  5885. >Harshwhinny gives a glum little nod, fidgeting with the hems of her socks
  5886. >"I know. I thought I could make a difference on these kids, but most of them hate having to deal with me."
  5887. >Gilda slumps onto the floor, scooting towards Harshwhinny
  5888. >"It really makes you wonder what's it all worth, doesn't it?"
  5889. >"Really does."
  5890. >Gilda pours the rest of the wine into Harshwhinny's glass, and both women drink deeply
  5891. >Fluttershy gulps, scooting forward
  5892. >You have a good idea of what she's going to say, and give her a reassuring pat on the back as she scoots toward the dining room table
  5893. >"I, um... I know what it's all worth."
  5894. >Both turn, red-faced from drink
  5895. >"Yeah? What's up, kid?"
  5896. >"What do you mean, dear?"
  5897. >Fluttershy resists the temptation to fidget with her dress
  5898. >"Well... you've both made a huge difference for me. Ms. Harswhinny, ma'am, you gave me a home, and m-made me feel like I was part of a family. Even if it's a b-big, weird, crazy family... you g-gave me a lot. And Officer Griffin--"
  5899. >"Just Gilda! Why won't anyone..."
  5900. >She sighs, her head lolling
  5901. >"Ugh. Nevermind."
  5902. >"S-sorry. Gilda. You saved me. Like, really saved me. S-so... I think it's pretty worth it, at least."
  5903. >Fluttershy runs her hands through her hair, looking nervous
  5904. >For a moment, you don't realize why she's suddenly clamming up again
  5905. >She casts a timid glance at the empty bottle, twirling a pink lock of hair around her finger
  5906. >Then you make the connection
  5907. >The booze you always smelt on her father's breath...
  5908. >And now her new 'parents' are drinking too
  5909. >You scoot up next to Fluttershy, bumping against her just enough to remind her that you're there
  5910. >She smiles, the tension beginning to drain back out of her
  5911. >Harshwhinny sniffles
  5912. >"A family? Us? You..."
  5913. >She hiccups, covering her mouth
  5914. >"Excuse me. Oh, lord, I'm an unprofessional mess, aren't I?"
  5915. >Gilda chuckles
  5916. >"I've got a great new drinking game idea..."
  5917. >Harshwhinny reaches towards Fluttershy
  5918. >Next to you, Fluttershy flinches, but holds her ground
  5919. >Harshwhinny places her hands on your friend's shoulders, pulling her into a shaky hug
  5920. >For a moment, Fluttershy looks like she's going to squirm away
  5921. >But Harshwhinny's embrace is gentle, and she gradually relaxes into your teacher's arms, resting her head on Harshwhinny's arm
  5922. >Gilda scoots over toward the two of them, wrapping the pair under one arm
  5923. >"You know, you guys are alright."
  5924. >She pats Harshwhinny's back
  5925. >"You get me, Ms. H. You really do."
  5926. >"Please. Victoria. Call me Victoria."
  5927. >"Ha. Vicky. I like that."
  5928. >The use of her nickname makes Harshwhinny blush like crazy
  5929. >"Ha. Yes. I like it too. Very unprofesisonal, of course, but... I guess that's okay. I like it."
  5930. >She snuggles up against Gilda, holding Fluttershy in her lap
  5931. >"I like it a lot."
  5932. >You're just about to excuse yourself from the room when Gilda waves you over
  5933. >"Get over here, hotshot. You're not getting away that easily. Come on."
  5934. "Uh... alright."
  5935. >Reluctantly, you join Fluttershy and the two older women, sitting next to Harshwhinny
  5936. >She wraps an arm around you, pulling you against her
  5937. >You know, when you first enrolled in her class, you never really imagined you'd hit this point with her...
  5938.  
  5939. >Not content with simply cuddling, Gilda sprawls across the three of you, letting out a contended belch as she flicks the TV on
  5940. >"'Scuse me."
  5941. >Turns out, that weird sci-fi show is still cued up, and Harshwhinny looks over at Gilda to chide her as the show's theme song plays
  5942.  
  5943. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3AmykynKhMw [Embed]
  5944.  
  5945. >"How incredibly unprofessional."
  5946. >"I thought you were saying you didn't even know what professionalism meant."
  5947. >"Yes, well... even I can tell when someone's attitude is... bleh, out of line. Whatever."
  5948. >Her head lolls, and Harshwhinny begins leaning heavily on you and Fluttershy
  5949. >If she falls asleep on top of you...
  5950. >Well, you're not sure how you're going to be able to look her in the eye the next time you're in her class
  5951. >Fluttershy squeaks, trying to work out from under her, but Harswhinny holds her tight, like a child with a plush toy
  5952. >Gilda just laughs
  5953. >"Ha. Yeah? You sound *just* like my old teacher, back in boarding school."
  5954. >"How did you ever end up in boarding school?" Harshwhinny asks, holding back a giggle
  5955. >Gilda doesn't hold it back, though her laugh could hardly be described as such
  5956. >It's more of a guffaw, the kind of laugh that's probably waking the neighbors next door
  5957. >"I told you, miss. I was real problem child."
  5958. >"Oh, I can see that. Good thing you had somebody to straighten you out."
  5959. >"You have no idea. She was insane."
  5960. >"Don't worry, I think I know the feeling."
  5961. >You're really, *really* not comfortable where this is going
  5962. >Are the two of them... flirting?
  5963. >With two kids caught in the middle of them?
  5964. >You start to try to worm your way out of the cuddle pile, but Fluttershy refuses to let go of you, and while she's the farthest thing from heavy, even her meager weight is enough to make it impossible to get out from under Harshwhinny's arm
  5965. >"Ha, yeah. You're a lot like her, honestly. Except maybe a little less crazy, and little more..."
  5966. >Harshwhinny hiccups
  5967. >"A little more what?"
  5968. >"I dunno. Awkward."
  5969. >Harshwhinny playfully slaps at Gilda's hand
  5970. >"I am not awkward, for your information. I'm simply not afraid to, uh..."
  5971. >Gilda's trying really hard not to laugh
  5972. >"S-stop! I'm simply not afraid to put myself in uncomfortable situations, that's all! It's very professional."
  5973. >At that, Gilda can't take it anymore
  5974. >She flops backwards, laughing hysterically, curling into a ball and clutching her stomach
  5975. >"You're hilarious, miss. Oh my God..."
  5976. >She rolls over onto her back, sprawled across Harshwhinny's lap, and wipes tears from her eyes
  5977. >"You're so much like her it's scary."
  5978. >"Oh?"
  5979. >"Yeah. She was really cute when she got angry."
  5980. >Even in the darkness of the living room, you can see Ms. Harshwhinny's cheeks go from her usual tan, to pink, to bright red, and then to a deep, deep crimson
  5981. >"C-cute? Well, I never... you... clearly the alcohol talking..."
  5982. >"Of course it's the alcohol talking."
  5983. >She raises a hand to Harshwhinny's face, poking her cheek
  5984. >"Doesn't mean it's not true."
  5985. >Okay, nope
  5986. >NOPE
  5987. >You need out
  5988. >You need out right now
  5989. >Fluttershy looks like she's practically asleep, so you might not be able to save her
  5990. >Close as you are to her, you can feel Harshwhinny's heartrate accelerating
  5991. >She lays her hand atop Gilda's, breathless
  5992. >YOU NEED OUT
  5993. "Uh, ma'am?"
  5994. >Harshwhinny doesn't hear you, though
  5995. >Her and Gilda are staring into each other's eyes
  5996. >"Officer, this is... this is immensely forward..."
  5997. >"Just Gilda. And hey, I told you..."
  5998. >She begins to caress Harshwhinny's cheek
  5999. >"I have a real attitude problem."
  6000. >You close your eyes, praying to God, Buddha, Allah, Harambe, or whoever will listen
  6001. >Please, don't make you sit through your teacher making out with a cop
  6002. >Or, even worse...
  6003. >No, you're not gonna think about that
  6004. >You like Ms. Harshwhinny, she's easily the coolest teacher you've ever had and you appreciate everything she's done for you, Fluttershy, and Dash
  6005. >But you're not about to get an up-close and personal look at her getting some
  6006. >You don't care how hot it may or may not be, you'd never be able to look Ms. H in the eye again
  6007. >Speaking of, her and Gilda's eyes are locked on each other, their faces slowly drifting towards each other
  6008. >"Well, she was right about that. Your attitude needs serious adjustment, young lady..."
  6009. >OH GOD MAKE IT STOP
  6010. >It's like watching a cheesy romance novel play out in real life!
  6011. >"Yeah? What're you gonna do about it?"
  6012. >The two women's mouths are inches apart now, and Harshwhinny has her hand against the back of Gilda's head, fingers intertwined in her hair
  6013. >You start squirming like mad, trying to drag yourself and Fluttershy away
  6014. >Fortunately, you think you can feel Harshwhinny's grip on you loosening, due to the distraction...
  6015. >"Well, I think I might just have to... erm..."
  6016. >Harshwhinny pauses for a minute, trying to think up a suitably witty induendo
  6017. >"...punish you?"
  6018. >Gilda lets out a low, throaty chuckle
  6019. >"Bring it on, miss..."
  6020. >You turn your face away, out of decency, awkwardness, or something else, just before the kiss happens
  6021. >But you know it did
  6022. >Harshwhinny's entire body goes rigid at the moment their mouths meet, and then gradually slackens as she eases into Gilda's embrace
  6023. >Eyes tightly shut, you take advantage of her relaxed state and worm your way out from under her arm, dragging Fluttershy with you
  6024. >Your friend is fast asleep now, and no wonder; it's been a brutal couple of days for her
  6025. >Harshwhinny and Gilda don't even notice you making your escape, as they're far too engrossed in each other
  6026. >You hoist Fluttershy up into your arms -- a fairly easy task, there's no way she weighs more than a hundred pounds -- and tote her into the spare room
  6027. >There's no sign of a cot or extra bedding anywhere, and there isn't enough room to sleep on the floor
  6028. >So, it looks like the two of you are sharing a bed again
  6029. >You try to set her down as gently as possible, resting her head on a stack of pillows
  6030. >For whatever reason, though, that's what wakes her up
  6031. >"A-Anon? What's g-going on...?"
  6032. >Fluttershy looks genuinely frightened, squirming around in the covers
  6033. >You wonder if, maybe, she's so used to being mandhandled that the soft embrace of an actual bed is far more unnerving to her than being carried around
  6034. "Nothing. Just getting you to bed."
  6035. >She looks around the room, notices it's just the two of you
  6036. >"Oh."
  6037. >She sits up, hugging her knees against her chest
  6038. >"T-thanks."
  6039. "You alright?"
  6040. >You sit down next to her, placing a hand against the small of her back
  6041. >She leans against you, nodding
  6042. >"Was d-dreaming... about my dad."
  6043. "Oh. Shit."
  6044. >"Nothing bad, just... I felt like I was back with him. And things were the s-same."
  6045. >You run a hand through her hair, the short, cropped locks a little greasy against your fingers
  6046. >"I just c-can't believe all this is still happening. It d-doesn't feel real."
  6047. "You're right. It doesn't. But, honestly, looking at your dad, Dash, and at Ms. H, and everyone we know... I kinda realized something."
  6048. >"About what?"
  6049. "I dunno, about them, and us, and everything. It seems like it's so hard for everyone to get over the bad stuff they see in themselves, and others, and the world..."
  6050. >"L-like me?"
  6051. "Like everyone. Your dad looked at you, and all he could see was... well, you know. He ignored the wonderful daughter he had, and tried to make you into a son he hated. And Ms. Harshwhinny only saw the students who resented her, not the people who look up to her. And Dash... Dash only saw that she lost a fight, and not that saved us."
  6052. >You pat Fluttershy's side
  6053. "It takes so much good to wash out the bad we see in the world. So, I guess it's normal to feel like that."
  6054. >You rest your head atop hers, staring through the guest bedroom's narrow window at the sky outside
  6055. >Now that the stormclouds have cleared, it's a surprisingly clear, beautiful night
  6056. "And I guess that just means we'll have to keep making sure that we have good days together."
  6057. >Fluttershy falls silent for a while
  6058. >"...and w-what about you?"
  6059. "What do you mean?"
  6060. >"What's your, you know... your t-thing you only saw the b-bad stuff in."
  6061. "Oh, I dunno. Probably you, I guess."
  6062. >"M-me?"
  6063. "Yeah. I dunno, you were just 'that one weird friend' to me, for so long. It took me a while to realize how much I, you know..."
  6064. >"H-how much you what?"
  6065. "How much I really liked you."
  6066. >Fluttershy's silent for a moment
  6067. >She leans against you, resting her head on your shoulder
  6068. >"R-really liked me... ha..."
  6069. >She shakes her head, nuzzling her cheek against your shirt
  6070. >"It's weird... you act so nice to m-me, I shouldn't be surprised to hear you s-say, but... um..."
  6071. >Her fingers intertwine with the lace around the hem of her dress
  6072. >"It's still r-really nice to hear."
  6073. "Well, you deserve it. You deserve more than that, really."
  6074. >Fluttershy shrugs, still watching out the window
  6075. >"I g-guess I don't really agree. All this n-niceness... I really don't feel like I deserve it."
  6076. "Well, you'll just have to trust me. You do."
  6077. >Fluttershy turns away from you
  6078. >For a moment, you're worried that you said something off-kilter, and she's going to leave the room
  6079. >But she doesn't
  6080. >Instead, she twists back around before you can react, wrapping her arms around your stomach
  6081. "Butters? You alri--?"
  6082. >She presses her face up towards yours, her mouth so close to your own lips that you can taste her breath
  6083. >Then she freezes
  6084. >The two of you hold that position for a moment, then Fluttershy pulls away, shaking
  6085. >"I'm s-sorry. I d-didn't mean to."
  6086. >You raise your hand to your mouth, the ghost of the kiss that didn't happen making your lips tingle
  6087. >"I j-just... w-what you said, I felt..."
  6088. >She sighs, laying across the corner of the bed and curling into a little ball inside her oversized dress
  6089. >"I'm s-sorry."
  6090. "No... no, it's alright."
  6091. >You lay down next to her, close enough only so that your arm forearm barely touches hers
  6092. "I'm the one who should be apologizing. There's been so much pretend going on with the two of us, that..."
  6093. >"No, don't b-be sorry about that. The pretending, it's... it's b-been really nice. That d-day at the zoo, when you and were... the c-couple, it was amazing. I never t-thought I'd get to feel something like that. Even if it w-was just... you know... pretend."
  6094. "But..."
  6095. >Fluttershy bumps you
  6096. >"Anon, it's alright. I'm used to p-pretend. And besides..."
  6097. >She shrugs
  6098. >"Even just having f-friends is so much m-more than I ever thought would h-happen to me. I'm okay like this, really."
  6099. >She sticks a fingernail in her mouth, giving you an uncertain little smile
  6100. >"But... if you w-want to pretend for m-maybe one more night..."
  6101. "I... yeah. I'd be okay with that."
  6102. >You scoot towards the back of the bed, and Fluttershy follows you, curling up against your side
  6103. >The rain has left a chill draped throughout the house, so you pull the blanket close around yourself her
  6104. >Fluttershy doesn't say much, but she doesn't really need to
  6105. >You adjust yourself into a more comfortable position, letting her rest her head against your arm
  6106. >The profound sense of "okay" finally settles over you
  6107. >Fluttershy's safe, Dash is going to be okay, Ms. Harshwhinny is happy
  6108. >After all this hell, things are finally okay
  6109. >It's definitely a weird sensation, but...
  6110. >...well, you think you'll get used to it
  6111.  
  6112.  
  6113. >Given past experiences, you're not exactly a huge fan of being woken up by your phone buzzing
  6114. >The chirps cut through the comfy fuzz of sleep, and you slowly haul yourself away from Fluttershy's warm, lithe body and grab it from the nightstand
  6115. >Your stomach twists as you open the message, worrying about what it might contain
  6116. >It's from Blaze, which already isn't a good sign
  6117. >Eyes still bleary from waking up, you squint at the letters in the early-morning light, feeling sick
  6118. >[Hey! Dash is up!]
  6119. >Huh?
  6120. >You re-read the message a few times before its meaning sinks into you
  6121. [Is she okay?]
  6122. >[Ha, more than okay. She's already clamoring for attention. You should head down here soon, because I'm about to pass out.]
  6123. >Did he stay up all night, just waiting for her to wake?
  6124. >Christ, that's some dedication
  6125. [We'll be right over. Same room?]
  6126. >[Same. And she made me ask you to smuggle in a cheeseburger for her.]
  6127. [Lol, alright. We're on our way.]
  6128. >You set the phone down, your stomach slowly returning to its normal "not about to explode with worry" level
  6129. >Man, you can't help but wonder how bad all of this must be for your blood pressure
  6130. >Turning over in bed, you poke Fluttershy's side
  6131. >Her eyes -- for lack of a better word -- flutter open, and she glances around the room
  6132. >"...'n? Is everything okay?"
  6133. "Yeah. Dash is up."
  6134. >"Up? Like, f-for real up? You know, not like s-she was yesterday..."
  6135. "Apparently. And she wants us to see her."
  6136. >"Oh! Y-yeah! Let's go!"
  6137. >Fluttershy is out of bed before even you, grabbing you by the hand and dragging you towards the door
  6138.  
  6139.  
  6140. >Out in the living room, you're mildly worried about what you'll find
  6141. >To your relief, though, both Ms. Harshwhinny and Gilda are still fully dressed, cuddled together on the couch
  6142. >Gilda is sprawled length-wise across it, and Harshwhinny is curled up atop her, smiling serenely
  6143. >Fluttershy crosses her hand over her mouth
  6144. >"O-oh my... she looks so happy..."
  6145. "Hah, yeah."
  6146. >You keep your voice down, not wanting to wake them
  6147. >Just so Ms. Harshwhinny doesn't worry -- well, she'll worry anyway, but just so she worries *less* -- you scribble a note about where you went, and leave it on the coffee table
  6148. >Quietly, then, you tiptoe out of the house, heading to your car
  6149.  
  6150. >When you get to the hospital, you begin mentally bracing yourself
  6151. >How bad is Dash going to be?
  6152. >Apparently she's lucid, at least, but she's bound to be weak to the point of frailty, after recovering from a wound like this
  6153. >The idea of seeing her all broken up but trying to act happy is... well, not pleasant
  6154. >You could barely take it last time
  6155. >Fluttershy, sensing your nervousness, allows her hand to bump against yours
  6156. >She doesn't take ahold of it, but your pinkies link together for just long enough to let you know she's there
  6157. >You look down at Fluttershy, and she gives you an encouraging nod, bumping shoulders with you as the two of you reach Dash's floor
  6158. >When you reach the door, you pause, bracing your hand against the nob
  6159. >In your other hand, you're holding a bag with two cheeseburgers from the local Hayburger™ joint
  6160. >Well, here goes
  6161. >You really hope you can handle this...
  6162. >Slowly, you slide the door open
  6163. >You get one brief glimpse of Dash's smiling face before a pillow flies across the room and smacks you in the face
  6164. >"Gotcha!"
  6165. >You can only blink, stunned
  6166. >Dash is sitting upright in bed, dressed only in a hospital gown, allowing you see the bandages wrapped around her abdomen
  6167. >"Jesus, dude. What's wrong?"
  6168. "I..."
  6169. >"You look super cut up."
  6170. "I was... worried."
  6171. >"About me? Ha! Nah, dude. I'm great!"
  6172. >She holds out her hands, grabbing at the bag despite the fact that you're two meters away from her
  6173. >"I get to sit here and have you bring me food! And I don't even have to go to school!"
  6174. >You pass her the burgers, which she immediately digs into
  6175. >Apparently the look on your face hasn't changed, because goes back to staring at you, swallowing slowly
  6176. >"Uh... you sure you're alright? You like you're about to cry or somethin--"
  6177. >You wrap your arms around Dash, trying to resist the temptation to squeeze her too tightly
  6178. >She flinches, surprised
  6179. "Goddammit, Rainbow... goddammit..."
  6180. >"Uh... okay then."
  6181. >Her left arm is pinned by your hug, but she reaches her right up to pat your back
  6182. >"Shit, dude. What's with you?"
  6183. "I'm just so glad you're alright..."
  6184. >You're crying now, but you don't care
  6185. >"Of course I am, dude. C'mon, I'm me."
  6186. >She gives you a little headbutt
  6187. "I know, I know... goddammit, Dash..."
  6188. >You feel her chest shake as she chuckles
  6189. >Fluttershy worms her way next to you, joining you in hugging Dash
  6190. >"Lunch in bed, and now this? Shit, I should get stabbed more often..."
  6191. "Don't you dare. I know y-you're joking, but... goddammit, Dash..."
  6192. >You're blubbering like an idiot, which just makes Dash laugh harder
  6193. >"Jesus, dude. You'd think I almost died, the way you're acting."
  6194. "That's not funny."
  6195. >Dash pokes you in the ribs
  6196. >"It's a *little* funny."
  6197. >You don't even have a response
  6198. >For now, it's enough to just be holding her, to feel her breathing, to smell her hair
  6199. >And Dash clearly has no problem with the sudden burst of attention
  6200. >The nurses have the sense to leave the three of you alone as you cuddle together, enjoying the warmth and safety of each other's presence
  6201.  
  6202. >The rest of the day is amazing
  6203. >The longer it goes on, the lighter you feel, until it seems like you could practically float away by the end
  6204. >Sitting on the bed with her, you and Fluttershy fill Dash in on everything she missed, including the "incident" with Harshwhinny and Gilda last night
  6205. >"The two of them!? You serious?"
  6206. "Yeah."
  6207. >"You're one hundred percent serious? The cop from the zoo and Ms. H?"
  6208. "One hundred percent."
  6209. >Dash crosses her hands over her heart, letting out a tiny squeal
  6210. >"That's so precious, dude! Oh my God! You gotta take pictures for me!"
  6211. "Dash!"
  6212. >"What? It's adorable, and I wanna see!"
  6213. "You'll see when you get out of here. They're... probably going to be a thing for a while."
  6214. >"Awww. That makes me so happy, you have no idea. Ms. H deserves this."
  6215. "Definitely. I just hope I don't get caught in between them again."
  6216. >"Between them? Duuuude."
  6217. >Dash sits up in, scooting up close
  6218. >"Tell me everything."
  6219. "I, uh... think we did already."
  6220. >"No, no. I mean *everything.*"
  6221. >Dash is starting to get a very familiar look in her eye
  6222. >You take the opportunity to excuse yourself to go to the bathroom
  6223.  
  6224.  
  6225. >You end up just wandering the halls for a bit, just in case Dash needs her "alone time" after the comment about Harshwhinny and Gilda
  6226. >When you return to her room though, her and Fluttershy are still inside together
  6227. >You poke your head in, and find them both huddled together, whispering about something
  6228. "Yo."
  6229. >Both girls look up at you
  6230. >Fluttershy's face is beet red, and Dash has the same grin from earlier
  6231. >"Welcome back. You were gone for like twenty minutes, man. What did you eat, a horse?"
  6232. "Felt like it. What are you two plotting."
  6233. >Dash is about to talk, but Fluttershy cuts her off
  6234. >"N-nothing at all! W-w-we weren't p-planning anything! Especially n-not about you."
  6235. >She's blushing harder now, and a few stray beads of sweat make their way down her cheeks
  6236. "Oh. Well, uh... good to know?"
  6237. >You sit a little further away from them this time
  6238. >"You're so paranoid, Anon."
  6239. "Yeah. Can't imagine why."
  6240. >Dash leans back, crossing her legs
  6241. >"Anyway, you two are heading to school tomorrow, right?"
  6242. "Pretty sure."
  6243. >"Together?"
  6244. "Far as I know."
  6245. >"You'll be at school all day tomorrow. Together."
  6246. "That's usually how it works?"
  6247. >Dash looks at Fluttershy, and winks
  6248. >"Perfect."
  6249. "So... am I just gonna be left outta this one?"
  6250. >Dash is the picture of smug
  6251. >"For now."
  6252. >She winks at you this time, and Fluttershy hides her face in her hands
  6253.  
  6254.  
  6255. >The rest of the day seems to pass not so much in a blur, but in a slow, pleasant trickle
  6256. >It's weird; you feel like, after she almost died, you and Dash should be having some meaningful conversation about how important you are to each other, or the fragility of life, or something... well, you don't know, *deep*
  6257. >But instead you end up shooting the shit about soccer, listening to her trash-talk rival teams, and eventually get into a long, drawn-out discussion about how the Civil War reboot is the most disappointing cashgrab ever
  6258. >And, somehow, just simple conversation with her feels a million times more profound than waxing philosophical about death
  6259. >Fluttershy doesn't talk much, only interjecting occasionally
  6260. >She doodles on random napkins and scraps of paper left throughout the room, decorating Dash's room with tiny cartoon rabbits, raccoons, and even a sleek, terrifying-looking wolf
  6261. >Dash demands that one be hung up right above her bed
  6262. >When it comes time to leave, you say goodbye with a quick kiss on her mouth, and Fluttershy follows with one on Dash's cheek
  6263.  
  6264. >Without even really thinking about it, you return to Ms. Harshwhinny's house
  6265. >It just feels like the more natural place to stay, now
  6266. >You find her alone in the kitchen, dressed in only her pajamas and an apron, splattered with... well, just about everything imaginable
  6267. >Splatches of red tomato sauce, clumps of flower, flecks of cheese
  6268. >She turns to you the minute you and Fluttershy step into her house, smiling brightly
  6269. >So brightly that it's honestly a little uncanny
  6270. >When she speaks, her voice possesses an unfamiliar sing-song quality
  6271. >"Hey, you two! Hope you're hungry! And, um... willing to wait a few hours. Because I think I messed something up in the lasagna..."
  6272. >To underscore her words, something in the oven starts to sizzle, and a trickle of smoke seeps from inside it
  6273. >Harshwhinny yelps, flinging the oven open
  6274. >A huge ball of smoke blasts out, staining her face with soot
  6275. >She pulls a slab of something burned beyond recognition out and tosses it into the sink
  6276. >"Well, um... maybe we'll skip the lasagna tonight!"
  6277. >Harshwhinny leans on the counter, trying to act casual
  6278. >Her hands are covered in bandaids, and the spots that aren't are stained with what looks like plum juice
  6279. >She does her best to act casual, holding the injured appendages behind her back
  6280. >"Anyway, um... how was the hospital?"
  6281. >For a moment, you and Fluttershy can only stare
  6282. >The "lasagna" is starting to fill the kitchen with a grayish haze, and you're somewhat worried about the health effects of breathing all this smoke
  6283. "It was... it was good."
  6284. >"Excellent! Ms. Dash is recovering well, I hear?"
  6285. "A little too well. I don't know if I can handle this much Dash."
  6286. >Fluttershy chuckles
  6287. >"It w-was really fun though. She's excited to s-see you again, too."
  6288. >Harshwhinny's face goes bright red
  6289. >"Well... that's quite flattering. Oh! We should prepare a party for her, when she gets back! I'll even cook us dinner, and--"
  6290. >At that moment, the fire alarm goes off from all the smoke, filling the air with a whining screech
  6291. >Harshwhinny panics, running to switch it off
  6292. >"It'll be fun!" she yells over the alarm, standing on her tip-toes to try and reach it
  6293. >When she finally gets it shut off, she returns to you, sweating
  6294. >"What do you think?"
  6295. "Sounds good to me."
  6296. >"Excellent!"
  6297. >Harshwhinny returns to the stove, where a pot of... soup? ...is boiling over, staining the iron grating beneath it with white
  6298. >"Dinner" isn't ready for another two hours
  6299. >In the mean time, you and Fluttershy hang around Harshwhinny's house, trying to get things prepared to return to school tomorrow
  6300. >You assume your parents -- who have been conveniently absent for a lot of this, you realize -- should be back before too long
  6301. >It feels bizarre, really, the return to normalcy
  6302. >Tomorrow you'll wake up, you'll get to the same highschool, take the same classes...
  6303. >And no one will be any different
  6304. >For them, the past two weeks have been just like any others
  6305. >No attempted murder, no nearly losing their girlfriend, no helping their middle-aged teacher find love...
  6306. >And unless you tell anyone, only you, Fluttershy, and Dash will actually know what happened
  6307. >"A-Anon?"
  6308. "Yo."
  6309. >Fluttershy bumps you with her hip as you head down into the basement, looking for stuff she can wear tomorrow
  6310. >"You're doing t-that thing again. The 's-space out' one."
  6311. "Oh. Sorry."
  6312. >"N-no, I really like it. Makes you look, I d-dunno... brooding. Kinda c-cool, if that's okay to say..."
  6313. "Hah. Thanks."
  6314. >You fish through a pile of Harshwhinny's old dresses, tossing some of them aside
  6315. >There's a surprising amount of low-cut tops and high, showy skirts in here
  6316. >Most of them look like they've never been worn...
  6317. >On going through Ms. Harshwhinny's stuff, you figure out that she must have had some weird cat obsession at some point, because there's an entire box full of kitty-patterned sweaters
  6318. >You throw one to Fluttershy
  6319. >"Oh my G-Gosh! L-look at the little kittens! It's so cute!"
  6320. >She immediately pulls it on over her dress
  6321. >It's a good size and a half too big for her, and the sleeves droop down past her hands
  6322. >Still, she looks delighted, wrapping herself inside the garment
  6323. >You grab a couple more, just for good measure
  6324.  
  6325. >When you return upstairs, arms laden with sweaters, dresses, and pairs of Harshwhinny's old jeans, Gilda is there waiting for you
  6326. >"Hey, you two. What's all that?"
  6327. "Just hand-me-downs. Gotta get ready to head back to school tomorrow, and all that."
  6328. >"Hand me downs? Shit, I've probably got some old jackets lying around. You'd look super tough."
  6329. >She winks at Fluttershy, who immediately perks up
  6330. >"J-jackets? Yeah! I'd k-kinda like to, you know... l-look cool sometimes..."
  6331. >"Ha, yeah? Well shit, I'll bring some with next time I'm over."
  6332. >Harshwhinny scoffs as she staggers into the room, weighed down by a tray of... something... and multiple plates
  6333. >"There won't *be* a next time, unless you learn to take those awful boots off before you stomp all over my carpet."
  6334. >Gilda chuckles, propping her feet up on the coffee table
  6335. >"Oops. Sorry. Must've forgot."
  6336. >"You're absolutely incorrigible, you know that."
  6337. >"Only because you've said it twenty times."
  6338. >"Well!"
  6339. >Harshwhinny plops down next to Gilda, sitting just close enough to her that their shoulders touch
  6340. >"This makes twenty-one. You are beyond abysmal as a houseguest!"
  6341. >"Yeah? Damn, guess I should just leave, then..."
  6342. >Gilda pretends to get up to leave, and Harshwhinny immediately grabs her arm
  6343. >"W-what? I most certainly did *not* say that!"
  6344. >She pulls Gilda back onto the couch, conveniently yanking her against her chest at the same time
  6345. >Gilda grins, shifting her position into order to lounge against Ms. Harshwhinny
  6346. >"So I can stay?"
  6347. >"You may. You simply have to improve your behavior. And besides..."
  6348. >She gestures to the tray of... toast?
  6349. >Scrambled eggs?
  6350. >Bacon?
  6351. >Meatloaf?
  6352. >All of them together, in some sort of unholy combination?
  6353. >You honestly can't tell, but Ms. Harshwhinny looks so proud of it that, well...
  6354. >Whatever it is, you're about to eat a whole plateful; that smile won't be denied
  6355. >"...I can't kick you out before dinner!"
  6356.  
  6357. >Turns out, whatever the hell Ms. Harshwhinny made, it's not really that bad
  6358. >You finish an entire plate, the taste somewhere between grilled hot dogs and macaroni and cheese
  6359. >Sounds like it wouldn't work, but somehow she' stumbled upon a perfect combination
  6360. >You figure it's either a "million monkeys with a million typewriters" thing, but you wouldn't rule out Ms. Harshwhinny having some secret cooking chops, too
  6361. >Her and Gilda flick the TV on one dinner is finished, trading whispered conversation back and forth while they cuddle
  6362. >You take the opportunity to give them some privacy, and you and Fluttershy retreat to the spare bedroom
  6363. >She's still wearing the kitty sweater, and curls into a tiny ball inside of it after she sits on the bed
  6364. >You pace the room, working out the plan for tomorrow
  6365. "So, we'll stop by my place to grab our stuff, and then..."
  6366. >"T-then we'll be back."
  6367. "Yeah. Back to normal life, or whatever. Jeez."
  6368. >You sit down next to her, bumping her shoulder
  6369. "Weird, huh? We probably haven't even missed that much."
  6370. >"Y-yeah."
  6371. >Fluttershy folds up deeper into the sweater, tucking her knees against her chest
  6372. "You alright?"
  6373. >"Y-yeah. Just... things aren't going to g-go back to the way they used to be, tomorrow... r-right?"
  6374. "Used to be? You mean like-- oh."
  6375. >"I mean, it's okay if they are. I know I'm p-probably not the kind of girl you'd w-want to be seen around, but--"
  6376. >You grab Fluttershy, arms sinking into the plush confines of her sweater as you wrap her in the tightest hug you can manage
  6377. "All day. Whenever we get the chance. We'll be together. I promise."
  6378. >Fluttershy's hand trails down your arm, fingers intertwining with yours
  6379. >"P-promise?"
  6380. "Of course."
  6381. >"Alright. B-but I'm gonna hold you to that."
  6382. >She pulls away from the hug just enough to stare you directly in the eye, trying her best to look stern
  6383. >It... doesn't quite work
  6384. "Trust me."
  6385. >You lean your head against hers, your foreheads touching
  6386. "I can't promise tomorrow'll be great. But I can promise I'm not gonna leave you."
  6387. >You give her hand one final squeeze, feeling her pulse flutter between her fingers as her heartrate jumps
  6388.  
  6389. >The two of you share the bed, as you've come to get used to
  6390. >It's starting to feel... strange, in a way
  6391. >Fluttershy doesn't cuddle with you like normal; she keeps to her own side, only occasionally brushing against you as she shifts in her sleep
  6392. >You miss Dash horribly, but at the same time, having her here is so comfortable
  6393. >Back when keeping her safe was your main priority, the fact that she was a girl was simply cursory information
  6394. >But now that everything's back to relative normality, you can't help but feel like this is a little too much
  6395. >You've got a girlfriend, a girlfriend who almost died for you
  6396. >And here you are, in bed with Fluttershy
  6397. >Dash is more than okay with it, you're sure, given what you've seen from her so far
  6398. >Hell, she'd probably demand the two of you cuddle more, and ask for pictures
  6399. >But, still, you can't help but feel like she deserves a bit more, well... loyalty
  6400. >At the same time, though, poor Fluttershy's never had anyone to really hold her
  6401. >And you can't think of anyone who deserves that kind of comfort more than her
  6402. >Beyond that, too, you always enjoy being close to her
  6403. "Bleh."
  6404. >You speak the syllable aloud, rolling over to look at your phone
  6405. >It's already two in the morning, and you can't sleep
  6406. >Fluttershy mumbles something about feeding Angel, and rolls onto her stomach
  6407. >Her hand comes to rest against your forearm, her fingers splayed across it
  6408. >It's so strange; they're not trembling at all
  6409. >You can't help but feel like someone is going to get hurt, if you keep this up
  6410. >But, really, thinking like that isn't giving the girls enough credit
  6411. >Dash can be an absolute spazz on her own, but she's not dumb
  6412. >And Fluttershy, sensitive as she is, is still clever and emotionally conscious
  6413. >So, in the end...
  6414. >Fluttershy mumbles something else, indistinct
  6415. >She sniffles rolling towards you
  6416. >Her shoulder ends up touching yours
  6417. >And that's where she rests, finally peaceful
  6418. >Maybe, you think to yourself
  6419. >Maybe you can trust yourself and the girls to figure this all out
  6420. >Slowly, you finally begin to calm, and feel yourself sinking into sleep
  6421. >Things will probably be a bit messy, sure
  6422. >They always are, with the three of you
  6423. >But you love the both of them, albeit in somewhat different ways, and you really think that, somehow, you'll work things out
  6424. >It's a comforting thought, really
  6425. >Wow, having hope can feel so weird, sometimes...
  6426.  
  6427. >You wake up before Fluttershy, and untangle yourself from bed as gently as possible, so as not to wake her
  6428. >Out in the kitchen, the gray light of dawn is already filtering through the window, illuminating the carnage leftover from Ms. Harshwhinny's attempts at making breakfast
  6429. >You dig through the pantry, pulling out a box of Cocoa Pommels™-brand breakfast cereal, and pouring a bowl for yourself, Fluttershy, Gilda, and Harshwhinny
  6430. >There's something strangely comforting about the way the four bowls of breakfast look when lined up together
  6431. >You suppose it's just nice to have a chance to fix a large breakfast, and know it'll be enjoyed by people who love each other
  6432. >Speaking of which, Ms. Harshwhinny and Gilda are asleep together on the couch, having passed out watching TV once again
  6433. >Fortunately, they're still clothed
  6434. >You tiptoe across the living room floor, poking your teacher's shoulder
  6435. >Her eyes immediately flutter open, and she stares at you, looking horrified
  6436. >"I'm going to be late for work, aren't I?"
  6437. "I mean--"
  6438. >"Coffee. I need coffee."
  6439. >Pulling a stunt similar to yours, she untangles herself from Gilda without waking the lady-cop, padding into the kitchen on bare feet
  6440. >She glances down at her skirt, which she's been wearing for over a day now, and frowns
  6441. >"Unprofessionalism in its highest degree. Oh well, can't be helped. Coffee. Shower. Need to find graded papers."
  6442. >She frantically begins to rummage through the kitchen, looking for a clean mug
  6443. >On the couch, Gilda just snores on, pulling a pillow against her chest since Harshhwinny is no longer available
  6444.  
  6445. >Getting Fluttershy out of bed is more than a little difficult
  6446. >When you try to shake her awake, she just rolls away from you, wrapping herself in a cocoon of blankets
  6447. >You shake her again, but she just mumbles something about hibernation
  6448. >You're not sure if that's her intentionally messing with you, or if she just has really convenient animal-based dreams
  6449. >So, it's time to take slightly-more drastic measures
  6450. >You reach down and wrap your arms around Fluttershy, trying to haul her off the mattress
  6451. "Come on, Butters."
  6452. >She mumbles again, struggling weakly against you
  6453. "Come on... school time..."
  6454. >"Don' wanna go... wanna stay here, w-with you..."
  6455. "Well, I'm going, so--"
  6456. >She flops backwards onto the bed, trying to drag you with her
  6457. >Fortunately, her scrawny, meager weight is hardly even enough to unbalance you
  6458. >You drag her up and out of bed, setting her on her feet
  6459. >Fluttershy wobbles a bit, leaning on you for support
  6460. >She cranes her head, mouth opening in a long, tired yawn
  6461. >"You r-remember your promise, right?"
  6462. "Of course."
  6463. >"If you break it, I'm g-gonna be mad. Super m-mad..."
  6464. >She yawns again, teetering
  6465. "I'm not gonna break it. We have the same lunch period, right?"
  6466. >"Y-yeah! Will you be hiding up on the t-third floor?"
  6467. "Probably, yeah."
  6468. >"Okay. And you p-promise you'll wait for me?"
  6469. "Promise. But first we have to actually, you know, get there."
  6470. >"Oh, y-yeah. Right."
  6471. >And that's how you convinced a sleepy, stumbly Futtershy to take a shower, and got her out of the door in time to get to school
  6472.  
  6473. >You realized something wasn't quite right when you saw how she was dressed
  6474. >Fluttershy neglects to put on one of Ms. Harshwhinny's hand-me-down sundresses, electing instead for an old pair of her sweat pants, and a t-shirt at least three sizes too big for her
  6475. >The clothes hang from her in limp, baggy folds, obscuring much of her body beneath their bulk
  6476. >You don't pay much attention, assuming she just wants to try something new
  6477. >But, as the two of you head towards school, she spends most of the car ride in uncomfortable silence
  6478. >You get the sense this isn't something that has to do with you, so you don't press the issue
  6479. >But you get closer to school, she goes from nervous, to shaky, to full-on sickly in appearance
  6480. "Butters?"
  6481. >"Y-yeah! I'm f-fine!"
  6482. >She sticks a finger in her mouth, chewing at her nail
  6483. "Uh..."
  6484. >"It's n-nothing! Just, y-y-y-you know how I w-worry sometimes! Heh! Just w-wondering if I fed Angel!"
  6485. >She fakes a cough, and then the next few words fall out of her in a jumbled heap
  6486. >"Oh and b-by the way could you call me 'he' for a l-little bit please, sorry..."
  6487. "Huh?"
  6488. >"N-nothing!"
  6489. "Call you a he? But I thought--"
  6490. >And that's when multiple pieces fall into place, and you feel like a total dick
  6491. "Oh, shit. I'm sorry, Butters."
  6492. >"N-no! It's really not a b-big deal, just, y-you know..."
  6493. >She starts to fidget with a short pink lock, twirling it around and around her knuckle
  6494. >"I r-really like being a girl around y-you, and Ms. H, and G-Gilda and Dash, b-but..."
  6495. >She sighs
  6496. >"I d-don't think I'm r-really ready to be that way... around everyone. So, m-maybe for now... I can still be Butters to you? Like I u-used to be?"
  6497. "I... yeah. Yeah, of course. I can't promise I won't slip up, though."
  6498. >"That's okay. I'm s-sorry if it's a little weird."
  6499. "Since when has anything about this, or us, *not* been weird?"
  6500. >Fluttershy lets out a nervous little laugh, crossing and re-crossing her -- his, you try to force yourself to think -- legs
  6501. >You pull up to a red light, slowly coasting to a stop
  6502. >In the few seconds before it changes, you lay your hand on Fluttershy's shoulder, giving her a gentle squeeze
  6503. "Everything about you makes me happy, Butters. I can deal with a little weirdness if it'll make you happy too."
  6504. >Fluttershy doesn't say anything after that
  6505. >A tiny coo escapes her lips, and she leans her head against your hand
  6506. >Eventually, of course, the light changes, and you have to drive away again
  6507. >But for the rest of that single stop, the world seems to pare down to just the two of you, the hum of the engine, and the whisper of her breath across your knuckles
  6508.  
  6509. >The two of you part ways, each heading to your own separate classes
  6510. >Ms. Harshwhinny's is... particularly interesting
  6511. >You keep catching her glancing over at you, and she keeps catching you doing the same, but both of you try to act like it's not actually happening
  6512. >On one level, you both share the bond that any two people who experience a life-or-death situation together will have
  6513. >And on another level, you got her laid
  6514. >So, yeah, more than a little awkward
  6515. >Still, it's hard not to feel a little proud of how chipper she seems, compared to her usual attitude
  6516. >She even dismisses class ten minutes early, professionalism be damned
  6517. >As you head towards the door, however, she calls you back
  6518. >"So? How am I doing?"
  6519. >Ms. Harshwhinny claps her hands together in front of her chest, rocking on her heels like a girl of four years instead of forty
  6520. "What do you mean?"
  6521. >"With the class! Everyone looked so much happier! Is it working?"
  6522. "Oh! Yeah, totally. I dunno, I could at least tell what was going on, for once--"
  6523. >Ms. Harshwhinny gives you a playful bonk with her clipboard, giggling
  6524. >"Any deficiencies in understanding are your own fault, Anonymous. Ah! I feel so good!"
  6525. >She bounces on her toes, shuffling through a stack of papers behind her desk
  6526. >You notice she already has a photo of Gilda nestled amongst them, right next to a currently-empty frame
  6527. >She takes a deep breath to calm herself, running a hand through her hair
  6528. >It's not in its usual golden bob; instead, it's messy, free-form, and...
  6529. >Dare you say it, somewhat lively?
  6530. >"It's like being twenty again. Lord, I don't think my heart can take it."
  6531. >She places her palm against her breast, grinning
  6532. >"Anyway, how is Ms. Shy? Adjusting well, I'd hope?"
  6533. "Pretty well. Haven't gotten to see her yet. But she seemed pretty happy this morning."
  6534. >"Excellent."
  6535. >Harshwhinny finally sits down, but not before spinning a few circles in her office chair
  6536. >"Anyway! I was thinking, why don't the three of us run by the store after school lets out? Ms. Dash is scheduled to be released in a few days, yes?"
  6537. "Far as I remember."
  6538. >"Well..."
  6539. >Ms. Harshwhinny rifles through sheets on her clipboard, until she comes to one long, detailed itinerary
  6540. >"I've been thinking about that party I mentioned, right? And I believe that, with my organizational abilities, Fluttershy's natural feel for coziness, and your... well, something or other, we have the opportunity to make this the welcome-back party she deserves!"
  6541. >Ms. Harshwhinny beams, looking immensely proud of her idea
  6542.  
  6543. >You agree, and then head off to find Fluttershy for lunch
  6544. >Now that she's no longer hanging around you pretty much 24/7, you realize again just how hard she can be to find
  6545. >You head to the cafeteria first, but it's far too bustling and noisy for her to by comfy here
  6546. >Just as you're about to head to the third floor, though, Soarin stops you
  6547. >"Anon! Dude, where've you been?"
  6548. >As usual, he's too clueless to be able to read people properly, and it probably doesn't even dawn on him that you're in a hurry
  6549. "It's a long story."
  6550. >"Well come on, man! You can tell me!"
  6551. "I will in a bit. I'm looking for someone right now."
  6552. >"Yeah? Who?"
  6553. "Butter-- Fluttershy."
  6554. >"The weird guy with the animal drawings?"
  6555. >Internally, you wince
  6556. >Shouldn't have thought it'd be that easy...
  6557. "Yeah. Yeah, that guy."
  6558. >"Uh... alright? Why?"
  6559. "I promised him we'd eat lunch together."
  6560. >Soarin glances around, as if looking for whatever joke he's missing
  6561. >"Wait, today? Why?"
  6562. >He scratches at the back of his head, following you as you head for the stairs leading to the third floor
  6563. >"Dude, Thunderlane and I were wondering where you were. You gotta tell me what's up."
  6564. "I will. You're more than welcome to join us if you want to, dude."
  6565. >"But... seriously, with him?"
  6566. "Seriously."
  6567. >Soarin flicks at his hair, exasperated
  6568. >"Uh... okay? I'll go grab Thunder..."
  6569. >Thunderlane apparently has better things to do, so Soarin follows you up to the third floor alone, still pestering you with questions
  6570. >"Come on, dude, seriously. What happened?"
  6571. "I'll tell you in a bit. Just lemme find my friend."
  6572. >"But... come on, man! Just a hint!"
  6573. "Wait until I--"
  6574. >You round the corner, and find Fluttershy
  6575. >She's sitting curled against a row of lockers, a scrap of paper balanced against her Econ book
  6576. >A single sandwich, bought from the school cafeteria, sits next to her, and she's lazily doodling a cartoon bunny
  6577. >She waves to you, then pales when she notices you brought company
  6578. >Soarin elbows you, whispering into your ear
  6579. >"Dude, are you sure about this?"
  6580. "I am. Don't be rude."
  6581. >"But, man... agh..."
  6582. >Reluctantly, he follows you as you head over and sit next to her
  6583. "Hey, Butters. This is Soarin. He's a friend of mine."
  6584. >She lets out a tiny squeak, shrinking against the wall
  6585. >Soarin gives you a "why are you doing this to me, dude?" type of look, then forces a smile
  6586. >"Uh... hey. Nice to meet you. I, uh..."
  6587. >He glances at you for help
  6588. "Soarin wanted to here the story. You know, about what happened with us and Dash?"
  6589. >"The s-s-story... uh... I..."
  6590. >She starts to wring her hands, nervously fidgeting with her sweater
  6591. >"I... I d-dunno..."
  6592. >You sit next to her, giving her arm a reassuring nudge
  6593. "You sure? I think he'd really like to hear it."
  6594. >To his credit, Soarin manages a much more genuine-looking smile this time
  6595. >"Yeah! Totally! Sounds pretty cool, if you're hyping it up this much."
  6596. >"I, uh... I... I..."
  6597. >She's starting to hyperventilate now, wringing her hands in front of her chest
  6598. "Hey, you alright?"
  6599. >"I... I c-can't..."
  6600. >Fluttershy leans her head into her hands, her eyes shut
  6601. >Soarin looks between the two of you, clearly uncomfortable
  6602. >"I can't tell it. I'm sorry, I'm sorry..."
  6603. >She rubs her face, trying to slow her breathing
  6604. >But she only succeeds in making it worse, until Fluttershy is reduced to a shaking, nervous mess
  6605. "Whoa! Butters! You alright?"
  6606. >You ask, because you can't think of anything better to say
  6607. >You grab Fluttershy and pull her against your chest, where she shudders like a terrified kitten
  6608. >"I'm s-sorry, Anon... I'm sorry... I d-don't... I don't think I c-can..."
  6609. "No, no, that's okay. I'm sorry."
  6610. >Soarin scoots a few inches away, busying himself by aimlessly tapping at his cell phone
  6611. >You stroke Fluttershy's hair, but it doesn't help her calm much
  6612. >She curls into a little ball, her breath coming in short, ragged gasps
  6613. >Soarin glances over at you again, as if to ask "What do I do?"
  6614. >You think for a minute, then mouth a single word to him
  6615. >'Firebolt'
  6616. >For a second, Soarin looks confused, until he sees Fluttershy's drawings
  6617. >Immediately, he starts flicking through pics on his phone, and scoots up next to the two of you
  6618. >"Uh, hey... I really like that drawing!"
  6619. >"H-huh?"
  6620. >Fluttershy lifts her head, her face ashen and sweaty
  6621. >"Your bunny! He's really cute."
  6622. >"O-oh. Thanks..."
  6623. >Soarin pulls up a photo on his phone, showing a big, fat rabbit with a bright orange coat
  6624. >"I've got a bunny too. His name's Firebolt."
  6625. >"Oh!"
  6626. >Fluttershy lets out an excited -- and decidedly unmasculine -- squeak of excitement
  6627. >"He's a-adorable!"
  6628. >"I know, right?"
  6629. >"How old is h-he?"
  6630. >"Pretty old. Got him when I was five. He's been by best buddy since I was a kid."
  6631. >"That's s-so precious! You h-have to let me draw him."
  6632. >Soarin chuckles, holding the phone steady so Fluttershy can get a good luck at him
  6633.  
  6634. >Okay, you admit it, you fucked up there for a second
  6635. >You thought Fluttershy and Soarin would be able to bond over stories of almost getting killed, okay?
  6636. >It seemed like a cool moment!
  6637. >But no, apparently the dumb rabbit was all they needed
  6638. >Soarin and Fluttershy pass the entire period talking bunnies while she draws
  6639. >She tells him everything about his angel, from sleeping habits, to personality, to funny stories, and he does the same with Firebolt
  6640. >And, gradually, she calms back down, and her face even cracks into a bright smile
  6641. >Even when she calms down, though, she doesn't move away from your chest
  6642. >She stays right under your arm, curled up against your side, her happy little hearth thrumming against her ribs and, by passage of vibration, against yours
  6643. >It's pretty cozy
  6644.  
  6645. >When lunch ends, Fluttershy reluctantly pulls away from your chest, and takes off for her next class
  6646. >But not before giving you one last, long, final hug, and then forcing Soarin to promise to bring his rabbit to school at some point
  6647. >He does, though he keeps giving you weird looks why he does it
  6648. >Once Fluttershy's off in her next class, Soarin walks with you to your locker, still doing the weird-look thing
  6649. >You're finishing off your chocolate milk from lunch in long, delicious sips
  6650. "What?"
  6651. >"Uh..."
  6652. "What?"
  6653. >"Dude, if you're gay, you can tell me."
  6654. >Soarin gets his face completely plastered in milk, resulting from one of the most glorious spittakes you've ever performed
  6655. "What? No! I've got a girlfriend, dude."
  6656. >"Uh... yeah, I guess. And back there, with Butters?"
  6657. "How is that--"
  6658. >Oh, right
  6659. "That's n-not gay! We were just bonding!"
  6660. >"Uh huh..."
  6661. "It's completely hetero! We're just really good friends!"
  6662. >"Really good friends who cuddle during lunch?"
  6663. "L-lots of friends do that!"
  6664. >"Riiiiiight. Dude, if you're into him, you can tell me. Dash'll probably be pretty cool with it, too."
  6665. >Pretty cool? Oh, he has no idea...
  6666. >"Just... don't be afraid to be yourself around me, okay?"
  6667. >Soarin places his hand on your shoulder
  6668. >"I'm your friend, man. I'm here for you, no matter who you love."
  6669. "I'm not gay! He's--"
  6670. >Secretly a girl?
  6671. >That's not your secret to reveal; Fluttershy would be crushed
  6672. >"It's alright, man. I understand. If you don't want to say it, that's alright. But I promise I won't judge."
  6673. >Soarin pats you on the back, before pulling you into a strong, warm bro-hug
  6674. >You want to punch him in the face so bad...
  6675.  
  6676. >When school lets out, Fluttershy is still in a bubbly mood
  6677. >She grabs onto your arm, and the two of you leave together, heading back to your car
  6678. >In spite of whatever ridiculous stories you're sure will spawn from this, you're happy to have her with you
  6679. >Something about holding her like this just feels so... right
  6680. >And it's just so damn nice to see her happy...
  6681. "Hey. Your day alright?"
  6682. >"Y-yeah. Heh."
  6683. >She giggles to herself
  6684. "What? What's so funny?"
  6685. >"I dunno, it's just... the looks everyone keeps giving us. They're so weird."
  6686. >You glance around, finally noticing it
  6687. >Everyone is staring at you and Fluttershy as you walk through the hallways
  6688. >But they're... smiling?
  6689. >And not in a jeering sort of way, everyone looks genuinely happy to see the two of you together
  6690. >Did... did Soarin spread the story that you're gay!?
  6691. >Is this what happens when the entire school tries to be supportive!?
  6692. >You're going to break his smug, goggle-supporting nose tomorrow
  6693. >"I l-like it so much. I've n-never seen so many people smiling at me."
  6694. >She nuzzles your shoulder
  6695. "Oh, y-yeah..."
  6696. >You pass Spitfire, and she gives you an approving nod
  6697. >"You two look adorable together!"
  6698. >Lyra and Bon Bon pass you near the front door, holding hands
  6699. >They both beam, giving you and Fluttershy a double thumbs-up
  6700. >Fluttershy smiles back, waving at them
  6701. >As they pass, you hear them whispering to each other
  6702. >"So adorable together..."
  6703. >"I know! Just precious!"
  6704. >Goddammit...
  6705.  
  6706. >You try to keep a low profile as you and Fluttershy make your way down to the parking lot
  6707. >Aside from the main path from CHS's main entrance, there's also a narrow side-path that winds through the school grounds, flanked by hedges and the occasional trimmed apple tree on each side, and opening into the back of the lot
  6708. >Most people avoid it, since it takes about twice as long to reach the parking lot when you're using it, so you hope you weren't run into any more "supportive friends"
  6709. >Unfortunately, it would appear that the two of you weren't the only ones looking for a little privacy
  6710. >About halfway down the side path, you run into the school's cross-eyed klutz, carrying an overladen tray of baked goods in her arms
  6711. >"Aww! Hey, you two! I heard the big news!"
  6712. >"B-big news?"
  6713. >"Yeah! It's really great! I'm super proud of you two! You look beautiful together!"
  6714. >Fluttershy's face goes beet red, and she clutches tighter to your arm
  6715. >"Y-y-you really think that?"
  6716. >"Totally! Keep on being the way you are! Don't let anyone judge you!"
  6717. >Derpy cocks her head in an attempt to properly look you in the eye
  6718. >As she passes you, heading back towards the school, she grins proudly holds up a thumbs-up
  6719. >Unfortunately, this causes her to lose her balance with the tray, and a few of her muffins go tumbling to the ground
  6720. >"Oh, no! Agh, I keep doing that!"
  6721.  
  6722. >A little further down the path, you come across another scattering of muffins Derpy must have spilled
  6723. >The tiny banana-nut lumps are scattered in the dust, looking a little lonely amongst the dirt
  6724. >You step easily over them, but Fluttershy is still walking as if she's in a trance, staring ahead with sparkling eyes
  6725. >Her foot lands firmly in one of the muffins, and she slips
  6726. >You have just a second to glimpse her shocked face before she goes down
  6727. >Immediately, you grab her, trying to keep her from falling
  6728. >The arm that she was holding ends up circling around her waist to keep her from hitting the ground, and her momentum pulls you down along with her
  6729. >You stop Fluttershy about a foot above the ground, ending up in a dancer's dip
  6730. >She trembles lightly in your grasp
  6731. >"A-Anon..."
  6732. "Hey. I gotcha."
  6733. >Your face is only inches from hers, so close that her breath tickles your nose
  6734. >"T-t-t-thanks..."
  6735. "Yeah... no problem..."
  6736. >You and Fluttershy hold the pose, as neither of you are sure her to move out of it without one or both of you falling
  6737. >And that's when you hear a rustling in the bushes
  6738. >Looking up, you see Rarity, Coco Pommel, and Sassy Saddles staring at you and Fluttershy from inside the hedges
  6739. >All three them are red-faced and breathing heavily, and Coco's nose is bleeding
  6740. >"Don't mind us, darlings! If you two were about to kiss or hold hands or do any stuff like that, it's perfectly okay! Just pretend we're not here!"
  6741. >You throw the dirty muffins at them until they leave
  6742.  
  6743. >When you get to your car, Fluttershy is practically skipping
  6744. >"I c-can't believe it! Why is everyone being so nice?"
  6745. "No idea."
  6746. >"They s-said we look cute! They l-like me!"
  6747. "Hah, they sure do."
  6748. >Fluttershy wraps her arms around her shoulders, hugging herself until she squees
  6749. >"It f-feels so good! Do you think it'll last?"
  6750. "Unfortunately, I do..."
  6751. >You try to sound annoyed, but it's impossible to do when such a happy Fluttershy is riding with you
  6752.  
  6753. >Like before, you stop by the local Hayburger to pick up some lunch for Dash
  6754. >It's enough to feed a family of small horses, so you know she'll be happy
  6755. >Sometimes, you could swear that that girl loves food and pornography more than she loves you...
  6756. >As you pull out of the restaurant, a bag of lunch stowed safely in the backset, you turn up the radio
  6757. >Fluttershy rocks gently back and forth throughout the entire rest of the drive, humming along to your music
  6758.  
  6759. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zZ4J-jvDAuQ
  6760.  
  6761.  
  6762. >You're not sure how, but she displays an uncanny ability to pick up the main melody of any song just within the first twenty seconds
  6763. >It's... pretty cool to listen to; she can match pitch with your music seemingly effortlessly
  6764. >You can't help but be a little disappointed, though
  6765. >Her voice sounds so pretty; what could she have accomplished if her dad had let her take lessons, or sing in a choir, or something?
  6766. >Instead of keeping her in a basement
  6767. >Once again, you feel the hatred of her father roiling in your gut
  6768. >When you reach the intersection just outside the hospital, the light flicks to red, and you gently coast to a stop
  6769. >Holding a foot on the brake pedal, you drop your hands into your lap, giving your arms a rest
  6770. >As the song enters its chorus, Fluttershy's humming increases in volume
  6771. >And that's when you feel her hand touch yours
  6772. >She has her eyes closed, bobbing happily along to the beat
  6773. >But her fingers drape gently along the back of your hand
  6774. >She doesn't hold to you tightly; she knows that, in a moment, the light will change and you'll have to continue driving
  6775. >But for now, her fingers caress the soft ridges between your knuckles, her little fingertips tracing a delicate pattern across your skin
  6776. >And then the light flashes green, and you continue on into the hospital
  6777.  
  6778. >When you get to Dash's room, she's lounging in the hospital bed, her feet propped up on a stack of pillows
  6779. >More pillows are piled under her, forming a heavenly-looking cushion
  6780. >She has her laptop in her lap, and immediately closes it when you enter
  6781. >You're... just not gonna ask
  6782. >"What's up, you two?"
  6783. >For someone recovering from a stab wound, she sounds bizzarely chipper
  6784. >Dash rolls over in her nest of pillows, licking her lips when she sees the Hayburger bag
  6785. >"Aw yeah! You two brought me lunch?"
  6786. "Lunch, dinner, and probably breakfast."
  6787. >You toss the bag to Dash, and she catches it with the brightest, happiest grin on her face
  6788. >"Did I ever tell you two that I love you?"
  6789. "Once or twice, maybe."
  6790. >"Well, I do. Holy shit, you have no idea how bad the food here is."
  6791. >Dash pulls out the first burger, wolfing into it in with a carnal spray of sauce and meat juice
  6792. >When she raises her face, her cheeks are smeared with ketchup
  6793. >"Mmf! Da' s' gu'!"
  6794. "Huh?"
  6795. >"That's so good! C'mere, you!"
  6796. >She leans up in bed, and you step forward to bring yourself within hugging range
  6797. >Fluttershy sheepishly follows behind, and Dash wraps an arm around each of your waists
  6798. >Even bedridden, she's strong as fuck
  6799. >You feel like your abdomen is about to implode, and Fluttershy lets out a scared little squeak
  6800. >"Heh, sorry."
  6801. >Dash flops back in bed, and goes back to munching her burger
  6802. >"Anyway, how's stuff going? School still suck?"
  6803. "It's--"
  6804. >Fluttershy cuts you off
  6805. >"It's s-so cool! Everyone is being s-super nice, and they're all saying me and A-Anon look cute, and... and..."
  6806. >She runs a hand through her hair, blushing
  6807. >"It's a-all been really cool..."
  6808. >"Yeah!?"
  6809. >Dash grabs Fluttershy's hand, pulling her onto the bed
  6810. >"Dude, tell me *everything*"
  6811.  
  6812. >And so the two girls talk, and talk, and talk
  6813. >You swear, for being so reluctant to talk around most people, Dash can sure get Fluttershy to ramble
  6814. >She stutters her way through the conversation with Soarin, then through all of her classes, and finally through the way-too-happy stares that most of the school was giving you while you walked home
  6815. >And then she gets to Rarity, Coco, and Sassy's over-interested reactions, and Rainbow just chuckles
  6816. >"They sound like my kinda people."
  6817. >"T-they were being so nice! T-they really thought w-w-w-we looked cute together!"
  6818. >"Hah, yeah?"
  6819. >"Y-yeah! They even said it! And t-they were looking at me when they said it!"
  6820. >Fluttershy wraps her arms around her shoulders, squeezing herself
  6821. >"It f-felt really, really good..."
  6822. >"I bet, dude. It's so, so nice when people say stuff that makes you actually feel good about yourself, isn't it?"
  6823. >"Y-yeah..."
  6824. >Dash grabs Fluttershy, and pulls her in her a quick girl-hug
  6825. >As the two embrace, she whispers into her ear
  6826. >Well, it's more like she "whispers," despite being a few feet away, you can still hear what she says
  6827. >"Did you tell Anon about the plan?"
  6828. >"The p-plan? No... I g-got nervous..."
  6829. >"Hah. It's okay. You want me to tell him?"
  6830. >"Oh! I, um... I..."
  6831. >Fluttershy fidgets with the hem of her sweater, staring at the ground
  6832. >"M-maybe..."
  6833. >"Alright~"
  6834. >Dash winks, and passes her patient ID card into Fluttershy's hand
  6835. >"Run downstairs and get me a soda from the café, okay? I'll tell Anon."
  6836. >"O-okay. Thanks, Rainbow."
  6837. >The two girls share another quick hug, and Fluttershy slinks out of the room
  6838. >You notice she's unable to make eye contact with you before she leaves, and her face is bright red
  6839. >You're... not sure how excited you are to hear whatever the two of them have planned
  6840. "Well, let's get over this. What horrible scheme have you cooked up now?"
  6841. >Dash grins, crossing her legs beneath the blankets
  6842. >"I want you to take her out."
  6843. "Out?"
  6844. >"Yeah. Out."
  6845. "That's it?"
  6846. >"That's it, dude. Her life's been hell for forever. And even when it's good, she's always sharing it with me, or Harshwhinny, or Gilda, or anyone else. I want you to give her a good day, just for her."
  6847. "Yeah, of course. I... I like the sound of that. But why was it such a big deal, then?"
  6848. >Dash's smile widens
  6849. >"When I said out, I really meant 'out.'"
  6850. "This is starting to sound suspiciously like murder plans."
  6851. >Dash bonks you with a pillow
  6852. >"Not like that, you retard. Out as in, you know..."
  6853. "Like her and I did at the zoo? I dunno, Rainbow... I don't think I can pretend with her anymore. I'm worried it'll hurt her."
  6854. >"That's why it's not gonna be pretend."
  6855. "...what?"
  6856. >Dash sighs, settling back into her nest of pillows
  6857. >She pats the spot next to her, and you sit down
  6858. >Her right hand takes your left, fingers intertwining with yours
  6859. >They're so much rougher than Fluttershy's, and so much stronger
  6860. >If Fluttershy's hands are like holding a trembling little bird, then Dash's are like a squirmy, excitable puppy
  6861. >"I've been thinking a lot, lately."
  6862. "That's a first."
  6863. >Another of her infinite supply of pillows smacks you in the face
  6864. >"I'm trying to be genuine, you ass. Just listen."
  6865. "Alright, alright."
  6866. >You squeeze Dash's hand tighter, leaning in so that your shoulder rests against hers
  6867. >"I... bleh. How do people talk about things? This is so hard..."
  6868. >She frowns
  6869. >"I think the two of you are really cute together. I know I've been weird about it, because I'm weird about everything, but... agh! You're just so perfect for each other! I really mean that. And I think you two should be a thing."
  6870. >Dash's cheeks are pink, and her eyes are shining with her characteristic determination
  6871. "A thing? Us?"
  6872. >"Yeah. I know it sounds dumb, but... I mean, come on, dude. Just look at the way she looks at you. She's enamored. And you were the one who helped get her out of that hellhole, and brought all of us together, and... and bleh. It just works, okay? She's so crazy about you, and... and I think she deserves you."
  6873. "But what about you? Dash, c'mon. Fluttershy and I are really close, but..."
  6874. >"But you deserve to be closer. You feel it, right?"
  6875. "Kinda. But still. What about you? I mean, I can't just leave you behind..."
  6876. >"Leave me behind? Come on, man. It's not like I'll disappear if you're dating someone else."
  6877. "Dating someone else... you really mean that?"
  6878. >"I think I do, dude. I mean, you don't have to decide right now, but... take Fluttershy out, okay? See if things feel okay with her. And if they do, and you want to be with her..."
  6879. >Dash smiles
  6880. >"I'll understand. She needs you."
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