"Well, we've heard about Rarity, Twilight, Rainbow Dash, and Pinkie Pie," Princess Luna said with an entertained smile as she skimmed over her notepad, "That just leaves Fluttershy and Applejack." She looked up across the table to the only stallion present with them. "Big Macintosh, would you be so kind to give your account so we can finish this delightful narrative?"
"Delightful for you, maybe," Dash muttered under her breath, earning her a silencing glare from Twilight.
Macintosh sunk lower in his seat in an effort to go unnoticed; he knew it was impossible to hide his massive frame from everyone, but he was willing to try.
"Macintosh, dear, there's no need to be shy," Rarity cooed, "Just tell us what occurred last night."
" He sucked in a deep breath and sat up straight. "I saw Fluttershy home an' carried AJ home an' put her to bed before goin' to bed myself an' that's about all that happened last night." He smiled widely, hoping it would satisfy everyone.
It went over about as well as Twilight's experiment with self-scrambling eggs. It was four months before Spike stopped having neurotic fits whenever a recipe book called for eggs.
Applejack glowered intensely at her brother. "Ya know I can tell when yer lyin', Brother."
"I ain't lying," he responded indignantly, "That's really what happened."
"Yeah, but ya left out all the details."
That's beside the point."
"Aw come on, Big Mac," Dash said in exasperation, "Just tell us already!"
Pinkie added, "Yeah, Mackie, you've heard what happened to everyone else, so it can't be that bad. I mean, unless you set fire to Trickle Lake or something but that would just be silly."
"Not to mention physically impossible," Twilight said flatly.
Macintosh was getting visibly antsy as he tried to explain, "No, no, no, it wasn't bad or anythin', but if it's all the same to y'all, I'd rather not-"
He cringed at the quiet voice and fell silent.
Fluttershy looked up at him plaintively. "Could you please tell us? I
I'd really like to know."
Aw consarn it, there needs to be a law against her using those eyes on others.
The last of his willpower dissolved with a defeated sigh. Begrudgingly, he started to recount the night before, picking up with Fluttershy's "chat" with the bouncer.
I mean, it must get kind of boring standing out here all by yourself, well, except for the ponies you have to ID being out here with you, too, but you don't get to talk to them at all in a normal conversation or anything. Is that why you hardly ever smile? Or is it because you're making yourself look tough? I guess making yourself look tough makes the most sense since you're trying to discourage underage ponies from coming in
Macintosh shook his head as he listened, wondering if Fluttershy had gotten into someone else's drink by accident. He didn't it possible that anypony could have such a low alcohol tolerance to get drunk on half a bottle of hard cider. Now the special brew that Granny Smith kept in the apple cellar he could understand it was a step away from being classified as "explosive materials" but this was just his uncle's commercial brew, certainly nothing potent about it.
He was broken out of his thoughts when the bouncer caught his eye. The poor fellow was backed all the way up to the wall as he tried to get more distance between himself and the talkative pegasus. But every time he stepped back, Fluttershy stepped forward, albeit unconsciously, to keep up the one-sided conversation. Macintosh decided it was time to step in.
"Ahem, Miss Shy?"
Fluttershy stopped mid-sentence and focused on him. "Yes, Big Macintosh?"
"Rarity asked me t' walk ya home and it's pretty late as it is."
"Oh, thank you, Macintosh, that's very kind of you. Angel's probably getting worried about me so, yes, we should leave now." She waved at the bouncer. "Thank you for the chat, mister bouncer; it was nice talking to you."
As they turned to leave, Macintosh almost swore he heard the bouncer giving his thanks to Celestia. They proceeded down the street in the direction of Sweet Apple Acres; Macintosh remembered that they would have to take a right after Trickle Stream Bridge first to go to Fluttershy's cottage. Said inebriated pegasus trotted alongside him, happily chattering away about how much fun the night had been.
"You know, I didn't think that drinking with friends would really appeal to me, but the idea is beginning to grow on me. Do you drink, Macintosh?"
"Jus' cider, Miss Shy, I don't much care for liquor or whiskey."
Fluttershy giggled, "You don't have to say 'miss', you can call me Fluttershy if you want to. All of my friends call me Fluttershy, well, Pinkie sometimes calls me 'Flutters' and Applejack and Rainbow have called me 'Shy' a couple of times, but most ponies just say 'Fluttershy'."
He couldn't help but chuckle lightly. "Alright, 'Fluttershy'. Can't say that I go out drinkin' much. Jus' doesn't appeal to me. Not t' say that I don't enjoy a good cider now and again, but I don't have much of a reason to hit the bar."
"Oh, I understand. I don't think I would want to do this all the time, but once in a while would be fun. By the way, am I acting silly? This is the first time I've had something stronger than a sarsaparilla and actually, I don't think I even finished my bottle of cider not that it tasted bad, it was quite good, but I think I got distracted by Rainbow and Applejack's shot contest and then they gave me a shot of whiskey."
"That explains a couple of things," Macintosh muttered under his breath.
"I didn't realize that whiskey burns so much, not in a way that it hurt but it surprised me. And then it kept burning all the way down my throat into my stomach." She giggled and fluttered her wings, "But then it made my tummy warm and that made me feel all happy inside."
Macintosh simply shook his head, making a mental note to have a word with Rainbow and Applejack. Presently he noticed his sister's weight shift on his back.
"Fluttershy, can ya push AJ back up on my back? That big rump o' hers is draggin' her off."
Fluttershy managed to stifle a giggle as moved around to help. "Aw, now that's mean, Macintosh. It's not polite to call your sister fat oh hey, her rump is kind of big, isn't it?"
"You're makin' this up t' get back at me for all those arguments you lost, aren't ya?" Applejack accused, casting an acidic scowl at her brother. Macintosh allowed a smug grin to cross his face, knowing he was getting under her skin.
"I thought you said you could tell when I was lyin'?"
She narrowed her eyes at him but he kept his defiant grin. Finally, her shoulders slumped and turned her scowl toward the table top, muttering, "You're not my friend anymore."
"I'm sorry, Applejack!" Fluttershy suddenly blurted, "I didn't mean to say you were fat! I mean, I don't think I meant to say that, I was drunk and I don't remember anything, but I'm pretty sure I didn't mean it!"
"Fluttershy, dear, it's alright," Rarity said soothingly, "Applejack isn't serious, she's just cranky from her hangover."
"A-are you sure? O-ok."
"Although, I must say that her rump is a bit on the large side."
"It is not!"
"Yeah, it kinda is, AJ," Dash snickered, "You know, I always wondered what you did with all of those extra pies and fritters."
The farm mare's body trembled as a wave of anger rolled through it. "I. Ain't. Fat."
Twilight spoke up, her eyes lost in thought, "I doubt it's fat, it's more likely just a lot of muscle built up from all the apple bucking you've done and that's what's making your hind end look fat."
She glared at Twilight. "Not. Helping."
Rarity tried to hide a giggle. "Come now, darling, it's not all that bad. It really does accentuate your figure quite nicely."
"And besides, even if it isn't muscles, getting a big ol' rump by eating great food is the best way to get one, right?" Pinkie bubbled.
"That's it!" Applejack stood up sharply, wincing at the dull throb in her head. "For the last time, I ain't fat! And if y'all are gonna keep this up, then I'm gonna get another opinion."
She marched away to the thoroughfare and glanced around, quickly spotting a pair of stallions she knew fairly well. Caramel and Lucky Clover's conversation petered out as she approached.
"Hey guys, sorry to interrupt but I got a question for y'all."
"No problem, AJ, what is it?" Lucky asked.
She turned to give them a profile view of her body, specifically her rump. "Do I look fat?"
It should be noted that nearly every male has an innate survival sense that activates when a female asks certain questions and it allows them to answer truthfully, if not directly. AJ's question is near the top of the list of those questions, right along with "Do you think she's prettier than me?"
Caramel answered nearly automatically, "You are very well-built and attractive, AJ; right, Lucky?"
I like big flanks and I cannot lie?"
Despite his name, Lucky was not a very fortunate stallion.
The others at the table watched the spirited discussion, their eyes suddenly widening and accompanied by a number of winces at Applejack's response. Luna nodded sagely.
most impressive; I was not aware that such a complicated knot could be accomplished by using a tail."
"Poor Lucky," Twilight lamented, "I hope he can grow that back."
A few moments later, Applejack stalked back to her seat at the table, a deep scowl creasing her now-red face. Silence reigned at the table as Spike and Macintosh gawked in horror at the misfortune that had befallen their fellow male.
Macintosh started at his sister's sharp tone.
"Are ya goin' to finish the story or what?"
He eyed her cautiously. "Erm
Fluttershy had stopped talking, thankfully, and they were approaching the Trickle Creek Bridge. It wasn't that Macintosh found her talking to be unpleasant, but the constant noise had started to wear on the quiet stallion and he was grateful for the serenity of the night.
"Macintosh, do you like singing?"
He sighed in annoyance; so much for serenity. "Eeyup."
"I just love singing," she bubbled, "It's so much fun, so invigorating! It allows you to embrace your passion and emotion and let your heart be enraptured with the joy and peace that it brings. I always feel so at peace after I sing." She smiled up at him. "Do you feel like that when you sing?"
He nodded, figuring it'd be best to humor her for the time being. "Sometimes I do."
"Ooh, I bet you have a lovely voice; can you sing for me?"
Macintosh felt his ears grow warm at the compliment as he averted his eyes from the pegasus, feeling a little sheepish. "Ah
I'd rather not, if it's all the same to you."
Her face fell slightly. "Oh, well I guess it's alright. Hmm
Ooh, I know! Do you mind if I sing?"
"I suppose not."
Almost instantly, her gait shifted to a determined, focused pace. Each step was purposeful as she kept up alongside Macintosh. The stallion almost swore he saw a gleam in her eye as her mouth twitched up into a half smile. She opened her mouth and the words flew out in a quick tempo in time with her hoof-falls.
"This appeared as a moral dilemma 'cause at first
It was weird how I swore to eliminate the worst
Of the plague that devoured humanity it's true
I was vague on the how so how can it be that you
Have shown me the light?"
Macintosh gave the pegasus an odd look as she dove into the chorus.
"It's a brand new day and the sun is high
All the birds are singing that you're gonna die-"
"Come again?" Hearing her sing something so aggressive was surprising to say the least.
Fluttershy stopped and looked up at Macintosh's somewhat disconcerted expression and explained matter-of-factly, "It's from Doctor Adorable's Sing-Along Blog; you don't know that one?"
"Nnope," he answered and started walking again towards the bridge.
Fluttershy frowned. "Well, it's not as much fun singing when nopony else knows the song." She thought for a moment before brightening again and burst forth in a sunny tone, "It's a small world after all
Macintosh cringed. "Oh sweet Celestia, not that one, please."
"Oh alright," she huffed lightly. A few more moments of thought and she had another ballad brought a smile to her face. She bounced lightly along as she sang.
"I feel pretty,
Oh so pretty.
I feel pretty and witty and gay,
And I pity any girl who isn't me today!"
She slid up against his side and looked up with an expectant smile. He met her gaze, unflinching. The standoff lasted until Macintosh finally released a defeated sigh.
"La-la-la-la-la la la, la-la."
He hung his head as Fluttershy pranced to the bridge.
"I feel charming,
Oh so charming,
It's alarming how charming I feel!
And so pretty
That I hardly can believe I'm real!"
She hopped up onto the bridge railing and peered at her reflection in the water, Macintosh could only shake his head at what was going on.
"See that pretty girl in the mirror there?
Who can that attractive girl be?
Such a pretty face,
Such a pretty dress,
Such a pretty smile,
Such a pretty me-EEEEE!"
She suddenly lost her footing and slipped off the railing, plummeting to the stream below. Before she could react, her fall came to an abrupt halt, her nose mere inches from the stream's surface. It took a moment for her mind to catch up with the sudden turn of events and she looked up to see what had stopped her fall. The sight of Macintosh hanging part way over the railing firmly grasping the end of her tail between his jaws greeted her. As soon as he saw she was okay, Macintosh gently hauled her back up onto the bridge and sat down, panting lightly.
"You gave me quite the scare there, sugarcube; had to jump right quick t' catch ya in time." He glanced over his shoulder to Applejack's still unconscious form lying at the foot of the bridge and muttered, "Hope she won't get too mad at me for droppin' her like that."
"Thank you for catching me," Fluttershy said with a slight blush. "But you really didn't have to, I can swim pretty well and the stream isn't that deep."
"That's why I had to catch ya," he answered as he picked his sister up by the scruff of the neck and slung her across his back, "Ain't enough water t' break your fall. You would've hit those rocks down there and that wouldn't have done your pretty face any good."
Fluttershy blinked as she digested the information and peaked over the edge at the water; in the dim moonlight, she could just make out some fairly large rocks just below the stream's surface. A slight shudder ran through her body as a newfound appreciation of what had nearly occurred took hold. Macintosh noticed her tremble and he approached her slowly.
"Fluttershy, is somethin' wrong?" he asked cautiously. "You didn't hurt anything, did ya?"
He was quite surprised when she rushed up and hugged him, burying her face in his chest. He simply stood there in awkward silence, unsure of what to do or what to make of the hug, until Fluttershy spoke.
"Thank you," she said sincerely, "I wasn't thinking and I didn't realize I could have really hurt myself back there. I don't know what would have happened if you hadn't been here."
He smiled warmly and draped his left leg across her back to return the hug. "Aw, it's alright, sugarcube, no harm done; I'm glad you're okay."
She smiled and hugged him a little tighter to express her gratefulness. As she hugged him, she happened to inhale some of his scent and it gave her pause. He smelled of apples, earth, and a hint of sweat; it was a mixture of work and nature. And she felt his chest muscles stretch with each breath. She found she liked it. A lot.
"Mhmmmm, so hunky
The red earth pony's eyes shot open as he felt her snuggle into his chest and he desperately hoped he had heard her wrong. He quietly cleared his throat.
"Um, Fluttershy? You say somethin'?"
The pegasus leaned back and regarded him with eyes half-closed in contentment, a shy smile teasing her lips.
"Has anypony ever told you that you have wonderful green eyes?"
His brain nearly stripped a gear at that; fortunately, he recovered quickly enough and eyed her warily.
"Ya sure you're okay?"
She hopped to her hooves and chirped, "Never better!" She slipped next to Macintosh as he started walking again and rubbed up against him, adding in an airy voice, "Thanks to you."
welcome?" Macintosh wasn't quite sure how to answer given her sudden mood change. It was confusing, to say the least; first she was talkative, then musical, and now she seemed to be flirting. The problem was compounded by the fact that he didn't know her well at all and if this was normal for her. Applejack did have some strange friends, after all.
Just then as they approached the fork in the road, she gazed up at him with fluttering eyelashes and a sultry smile. "Wanna see my cutie mark?"
He stopped in his tracks and blinked slowly as his brain tried to decrypt the meaning behind the words. He opted to play it safe
at least what he hoped was safe.
I can already see your cutie mark."
"Ooh, you naughty boy!" she giggled and pranced away down the path to her cottage.
This time, Macintosh's brain really did strip some gears. As he watched her retreating form, he could only think of one thing:
"What the hay is wrong with that filly and why's it scarin' me?"
Thankfully, Fluttershy's cottage was only a short walk now and in no time it came within sight. Fluttershy waited for Macintosh at the first turn past the fork and rejoined him. Macintosh did his best to stay focused on the last stretch of road, but he couldn't help notice sultry glances the pegasus kept throwing his way or when she sighed when her flank "accidently" brushed against his. Other than that, she was mercifully quiet. Finally, they arrived at the cottage and Fluttershy paused at the door.
"Thank you so much for seeing me home, Macintosh, and for saving me earlier," she said earnestly.
He stifled a relieved sigh, thankful that she stopped being flirty, and smiled. "Wasn't anything much, the Apple family always helps out their friends and neighbors."
She opened the door and smiled in return
a very sensual smile.
"Would you like to come in for some tea?"
Macintosh's jaw fell open as he fought to both comprehend the situation and keep control of his mind against her inviting eyes. He shook his head to clear it and form a coherent thought.
That wasn't it. His second attempt was more successful.
"I, uh, would like to, Miss Fluttershy," he stammered, "But, um
I gotta get AJ here back to the farm and get her to bed and it's pretty late as it is
eeyup." He grinned nervously, hoping it was enough to satisfy her. She took a step forward and his smile faltered.
"Oh, I'm sure she wouldn't mind," she purred. "Besides, she's asleep already; she can wait a little while to be put to bed, can't she?"
He wracked his brain as he weighed his options. She was right, Applejack was already asleep so waiting a few minutes for a cup of tea wouldn't hurt anything and it was unlikely he hoped that anything would happen. On the other hoof, if something did happen, it was a sure thing that he'd draw his sister's wrath. He glanced over his shoulder to Applejack, her body rising with each inhale and emitting a soft snore on the exhale; her peaceful form belying her well-known temperament. And he really wanted to see his next birthday. He sucked in a breath and straightened himself in determination as he turned back to Fluttershy.
"I'm sorry, but she's my responsibility right now and I have to get her home," he spoke evenly.
The pegasus pouted pitifully, but then smiled. "Oh Macintosh, you're such a good brother to her; I won't keep you then. Maybe we could have tea some other time? It could be just the two of us getting to know each other better." She fluttered her eyelashes at him.
He nodded, figuring it would defuse the situation faster to just agree to the arrangement.
She beamed in response. "Wonderful! I'll let you go now so you can get on home."
A wave of relief washed over him at her words and he relaxed
only to be shocked when she planted a kiss on the end of his nose.
"Just a hint of what the dessert will be," she whispered with a wink and disappeared behind the door into the cottage.
Macintosh's brain went into autopilot mode as he turned from the door and made his way down the path without thought. After a few moments, his mind came back online as it caught up with what had just happened. He paused on the bridge over the creek that ran through Fluttershy's yard to organize his thoughts.
Still in a daze, he muttered to his sister, "AJ, I really wish you were awake so you could tell me what in Equestria jus' happened."
An annoyed sigh escaped him. "You jus' fell off my back and into the crick, didn't ya?" He saw a Stetson slowly float downstream out of the corner of his eye. "Eeyup."
A leaf blew over the table, its light rustle the only sound emanating from that part of the café. All the ponies seated at the table had listened attentively to the last half of Macintosh's recounting of the night and now sat in stunned silence. Applejack scrutinized her brother carefully, so much so that Macintosh was afraid her gaze would bore a hole through his skull. Finally, she broke her gaze and shook her head.
"He ain't lyin'," she concluded.
" Fluttershy's pupils shrank as she tried to hide under the table.
"Wow, 'Shy, I gotta say I'm impressed. I didn't know you had it in ya," Dash said with a somewhat proud grin and added with a wink, "Talk about aiming high, you went right to the top when it comes to stallions."
There are no words to describe how thankful Macintosh was that his red coat could hide his blush, though he felt a twinge of guilt at seeing poor Fluttershy trembling and blushing furiously. Rarity noticed her condition as well and pulled her into a supportive hug as she chided Dash.
"Rainbow, for shame! Can't you see that she's embarrassed enough as it is?" She gave Fluttershy a reassuring nuzzle. "It's okay dear, it's not like you did anything last night that you would truly regret."
Dash rolled her eyes at Rarity. "C'mon, Rarity, you know I didn't mean anything by that. But yeah, Fluttershy, what you did last night was pretty mild compared to some of the stuff I've done when I've been plastered. Which I'm not going to elaborate on right now," she emphasized with a pointed glare at Luna.
The princess tittered, "As you wish, Miss Dash, though I believe it would make for a good narrative." She turned to Macintosh, who had regained much of his composure, and asked, "Is there anything else you wish to add concerning last night, Macintosh?"
He shook his head. "Other than takin' AJ home, gettin' her cleaned up, and putting her t' bed, I've told y'all everything that happened, I swear."
Luna nodded as she made some more notations on her scroll, which had grown to a substantial length. "Thank you, Macintosh. I must say, Twilight Sparkle, you and your friends are most entertaining."
"Gee thanks, Princess," replied the unicorn, her voice dripping with sarcasm.
Luna ignored the sarcasm. "I have finished transcribing your accounts of last night and I must return to Canterlot, but before I take my leave, would you like for me to relate your friendship report to my dear sister?"
"You think we should send her a friendship report about last night?" Applejack asked flatly.
"Of course," the princess of the night answered with no little mirth, "Surely you all some sort of lesson learned, correct?"
"Ooh! Ooh! I know!" Pinkie jumped out of her seat, waving her hoof excitedly.
Luna giggled, "Very well, Pinkie Pie, you may proceed."
The pink pony cleared her throat and began, "Dear Princess Celestia, last night we learned that drinking with your friends can be a whole lotta fun!"
Dash chimed in with a wink to Applejack, "Especially if they know how to hold their own."
"But it is very important to know what your limit is and not to exceed it if it can be helped," Rarity added.
"A-and some ponies shouldn't even drink at all," Fluttershy squeaked.
"While it isn't necessarily wrong to get drunk," Twilight continued, "It is very important to remember to be responsible and to keep control of yourself as best as you can to avoid
"An' to make sure nothin' bad happens, it's always a good plan to have somepony ya trust there to get ya home safe an' sound and don't do anythin' ya might regret," Applejack said with an appreciative smile to her brother.
"To summarize, as long as you stay responsible, know how much you can handle, and be with friends you can trust and rely on, you can have a great time at the bar or, well, anywhere for that matter!" Twilight finished with a smile, "Sincerely yours, your loyal subjects in Ponyville."
With a flourish, Luna finished writing the letter. "Well done, my friends, this was a lesson well worth learning."
"Um, Luna?" Twilight began tentatively, "Do you think you can add in the postscript that I'm really, really sorry about barging into the castle and for the mess in the bathroom?"
The princess allowed herself a hearty laugh at this. "Oh, Twilight, you know Celly could never be upset with you over something like this, but I will add it if you wish." She made the notation, the quill and scroll vanishing with a flash afterward, and stood. The others at the table stood as well out of respect. "And now I must be off, fair friends. I thank you for a wonderful time; we must do this again sometime." She leaned in with a conspiratorial grin. "Especially if you are planning another social gathering like last night's."
With a wink and a flash, she was gone, leaving everypony slack-jawed. Dash was the first to speak up.
"A shot contest with Princess Luna? That would be so awesome!" she squealed.
"I think I've had enough 'awesome' for a while," Twilight stated flatly.
"I heartily agree," Rarity said with a nod, "However, at least we now know how to handle ourselves in such situations in the future. Indeed, I wouldn't mind going out again with you girls sometime."
Applejack chuckled dryly, "I wouldn't mind either, but I think we better sit on it for a while 'til we've all recovered from last night. Anyway, as much as I'd like t' stay and chat with y'all, me and Big Macintosh need to get back to the farm and get caught up on chores."
"Oh yeah, I gotta go too; I have to stop by the weather bureau today and see when they're scheduling the next big storm," Dash remembered. "See ya, guys!" And with a powerful flap of her wings, she was airborne and gone.
"Looks like she's recovered from her hangover well enough," Rarity observed with a wry smirk.
With their lunch meeting wrapped up, the gathered friends bid their adieus and went their separate ways, Fluttershy bolting for home almost immediately. Applejack and Macintosh walked in silence as they proceeded out of town. As they walked, the image of Fluttershy shaking and blushing as she tried to hide herself under the table played over and over in Macintosh's mind. A frown crossed his face as a pang of guilt dug at him; he hadn't meant to embarrass her so much, which was part of the reason he had been so hesitant in recounting last night's events in the first place. He had been raised to be, among other things, considerate, kind, and respectful of others and by embarrassing Fluttershy like that, true as his recounting was, he felt as though he had betrayed some part of that.
"Somethin' wrong, bro?"
Macintosh snapped out of his reverie at his sister's question, realizing that he had just released an audible sigh. He mulled over whether or not to tell her what was on his mind. Deciding to not bore her with something she would probably think to be silly, he gave her a noncommittal shrug and a simple "Nnope".
Applejack frowned. "Come on, Macintosh, you're thinkin' about something that's botherin' you, I can tell by the way you're gnawin' on that hay stalk. What's wrong?"
He regarded her for a moment before answering, "Jus' feel kinda bad about what happened, is all."
She looked up at him, curiosity etched onto her face. "Whaddya mean? Far as I'm concerned, ya did everything you should've done gettin' us home."
"Didn't you see how Fluttershy acted when I finished talkin'?" He shook his head. "The way she was carrying on, I thought for sure she was gonna curl up and die back there."
Applejack chuckled, "Oh, I see where you're comin' from. Don't worry too much about it, she's always like that; she'll be fine. 'Course she probably won't leave her cottage for a few days, but like I said, ain't nothin' to worry about."
"You sure she ain't mad at me for it?" he asked at length.
This drew a guffaw from the orange mare. "You kiddin'? Fluttershy's such a sweetheart I don't think she could ever hold a grudge, definitely not against somepony who got her home as safe as you did."
While it helped, Applejack's words didn't fully assuage Macintosh's sense of guilt and the frown on his face persisted. A soft smile crossed Applejack's face and she paused to give him a sisterly nuzzle.
"You're a great brother, Macintosh. You did real good last night an' I'm proud of you."
He smiled gratefully and returned the nuzzle. "Thanks, sis, that really means a lot to me."
They continued on, a comfortable silence between them. Before long, they reached Trickle Creek Bridge and crossed over. Macintosh chanced a glance over the side at the shallow creek below, remembering how close Fluttershy had come to smashing into the rocks hiding just below the surface. The realization that if he hadn't been there last night meant that Fluttershy might have gotten hurt badly or even drowned sent a chill down his spine. He allowed himself a smile, knowing that he had indeed done well last night; even so, he still felt responsible for her condition at the lunch meeting. He paused at the intersection and looked down the road towards the pegasus' cottage, contemplating his next course of action. Applejack continued on for a ways before realizing he had stopped; she stopped as well and turned in his direction with a questioning look.
"I'll be back in a minute," he said at last.
She nodded in understanding. "Want me to go with you?"
It didn't take him long to reach the front yard of Fluttershy's cottage, which, even with the numerous chattering and chirping animals flitting about, seemed just as serene as it had been the night before. Most of the animals retreated a safe distance and observed the visitor curiously as he approached. Macintosh could almost feel the eyes watching him, each pair belonging to an animal trying to decide whether he was friend or foe. He stopped at the door and noticed a badger and several squirrels off to his left giving the stink eye, which made him realize that these animals would probably go to great length to ensure the safety of their pegasus caregiver. He kept that in mind as he knocked on the door. The knock was met by an immediate rebuttal.
"GO AWAY! I'M NOT HOME RIGHT NOW! TRY AGAIN NEXT YEAR!"
Macintosh was certain that his hay stalk had been blown halfway to Canterlot by the sonic blast. He shook his head to clear it and knocked again, this time calling out.
"Fluttershy, it's me, Big Macintosh. Can I talk to you for a minute?"
After a few moments of silence, the door cracked open slightly, just revealing part of Fluttershy's face in the shadows.
Suddenly feeling very self-conscious, he took a step back spoke with an unsure smile, "E
eeyup. Um, s'alright if we talk?"
Fluttershy hesitated briefly, then opened the door and stepped out. She trembled in the presence of the significantly larger stallion and tried to make herself as small as possible, hiding her face behind her mane and looking everywhere but at Macintosh himself.
His own shyness kicking in, Macintosh drooped his head down in an attempt to seem less imposing and glanced about, avoiding the pegasus in front of him. His mind was suddenly blank about what he was doing there in the first place. Surprisingly, it was Fluttershy who finally broke the silence, though her voice was barely above a whisper.
what was it you wanted to talk about? I-if you wanted to talk, I mean, I thought you wanted to talk to me or you could have changed your mind when I came out and I should probably go back inside and leave you alone
" she squeaked.
Macintosh regained his senses and quickly spoke, "Wha? No, no, Fluttershy. Please stay. I just, well
I wanted to apologize."
Fluttershy lifted her head in surprise. "A-apologize? Apologize for what?"
"For what I said at lunch," he responded, rubbing the back of his neck at the awkwardness of it all. "I didn't want to tell everypony about last night 'cause of what happened an' I didn't want to hurt your feelings. I'm really, really sorry about embarrassin' you like that."
The yellow pegasus shook her head. "Macintosh, you're not the one who should apologize, I should be the one saying I'm sorry." Her stance shifted uncomfortably. "My behavior last night was
very inappropriate and inexcusable. I caused you so much trouble that I wouldn't blame you for being mad at me and never wanting to speak to me again."
"I wouldn't go that far; t' be fair, you were drunk at the time an' you weren't acting yourself. I wasn't gonna hold anything that happened last night against ya, honest."
Her face colored lightly and she smiled shyly. "You're too kind, Macintosh, and I wish I could repay you."
This time, Macintosh shook his head. "You don't hafta, Fluttershy, I was just bein' neighborly."
"I-I don't mean to be contradictive, but what you did was more than 'just being neighborly'. I mean, I guess walking a drunk neighbor home could be considered neighborly, but you saved me from falling off the bridge that alone I have to repay you for and then you put up with my
" Here her ears flattened against her head as she grimaced. "My a-aggressive flirting
I can't believe I tried to seduce you. I am so, so sorry that you had to put up with me when I was like that."
He grinned sheepishly. "Heh, I right didn't know what to make of it when you did that, but I ain't mad at you for it. Don't know you too well, but it doesn't seem like your normal way."
Fluttershy shook her head emphatically. "No, not at all! I'm so shy that I hardly talk to anypony other than my friends much less even think about actually flirting with somepony," she admitted nervously.
"Kinda figured it was the alcohol talkin' there," he chuckled.
She frowned. "Yes, I think that was the last time I'll have anything stronger than a sarsaparilla; I really don't want to go through that again."
"Can't say that I blame you."
After a moment of silence, she took a deep breath and straightened herself, actually managing to look directly at Macintosh as she spoke. "Th-thank you for everything you did last night, Macintosh, and for taking care of me even with my, um, flirtiness. I don't know what would've happened if you hadn't been there. If there's anything I can do to repay you, please let me know."
He smiled warmly. "Your thanks is good enough, Fluttershy, you don't owe me anything."
"Oh. Well, ok, if you say so," she replied, her shyness returning.
"Eeyup. Well, I gotta get back t' the farm, AJ's probably waitin' for me."
"Oh, of course, you shouldn't keep her waiting long. Good bye, Macintosh."
He tipped his head as he turned to leave. "See you around."
As he trotted away, Fluttershy walked around to her garden beside the cottage, lost in her thoughts. She still felt distraught over her behavior the night before, but nowhere near what she had felt before Macintosh had stopped by. Before, she thought it would be a month before she could even go into town without feeling like everypony knew about what she did and that they would make fun of her for it, but now just a day or two at home would probably suffice. She was immensely thankful that Macintosh had been the one to help her home; she shuddered to think what would've happened if it had been someone less chivalrous. He had been so kind and understanding, so gentle, so strong, so
She blushed furiously and shook her head to rid the thought from her mind. That was no way to think about him, especially after he had treated her so well. She knew he was the kind of stallion that all the mares in town would kill to have if any of the scandalous whispers she had overheard were anything to go by. She was certain she didn't have a chance with him, not when he could pick any other mare who was prettier than her. Rainbow Dash was right, she really had aimed high last night when she flirted with him. She felt foolish. She was so weak that getting drunk was the only way she could be assertive enough to actually flirt with, let alone talk to, a stallion.
She paused as the thought churned over in her mind. Was really it the alcohol that gave her the courage
or was it something she already had in her all along? How could she figure out if that was so?
Oh buck it. Big Macintosh!"
The stallion had just made it to the bend in the path near the fork when he stopped and whirled about at the sound of his name. Much to his surprise, Fluttershy came galloping down the path toward him. She skidded to a stop in front of him, panting with the sudden exertion.
"Fluttershy, are you ok? Is somethin' wrong?"
no, I'm alright
" she managed to say between pants. She swallowed and composed herself. "It's just, um
th-there's a new Neighponese restaurant just off Main Street; Rarity says it's a really nice place." This was it, the moment of truth: did she really have the courage to go through with it? "Would
would you like t-to have dinner with me?"
Macintosh stared at her blankly. Did she really just run after him only to ask him out?
Fluttershy felt her courage draining away rapidly and she started to cower. "Only if you want to, I mean. I-I just want to repay you for saving my life."
He finally found his voice. "Fluttershy, I already said you didn't owe me anything. I'm a stallion of my word and I can't accept any repayment."
The shy pegasus let her head and ears droop, feeling dejected. "Oh. Ok, I understand that; sorry for bothering you."
She turned to go, but a hoof coming to rest on her shoulder stopped her. She lifted her head to find Macintosh smiling warmly at her.
"I can't take repayment," he said, "But I wouldn't mind dinner with a friend."
She smiled, a sense of warmth filling her chest. "I'd like that."
Applejack stood near the fork in the road, watching the pair from a distance out of earshot. Eventually, they nodded their goodbyes and went their separate ways. Macintosh said nothing as he trotted past her; she hadn't expected him to, it wasn't his nature. She fell in alongside him as they headed back home.
"So," she said with a knowing smile, "Didja get things straightened out with her?"
He grinned widely in spite of himself.