Fluttershy knew adoption day would soon be in full swing. A short while ago it had seemed ages away, but in just a few hours ponies would be arriving looking for a new pet. She hoped most of the ones currently in her charge would be able to find loving homes today. Since Discord's arrival she had taken in six tortoises, one monitor lizard, one owl, two ferrets, one dog, three rabbits and two beetles, which had now bred and produced 20 more beetles. It was also a big day for Discord. He would be meeting some of the ponies that had come to adopt animals. Fluttershy had asked some of her friends to come by too, mainly because Discord might feel more comfortable about meeting ponies that were her friends rather than complete strangers.
"If things get too much you're welcome to go into the back garden or upstairs," she said.
Discord scoffed at that. "I'm not a baby, Shy. I went out to the restaurant, didn't I?"
"Um...yes," she said, remembering the chaos that had ensued at Trottiano's. "But remember what I said about magic and ponies who don't know you very well."
He sighed in exasperation. "Yes, complete sticks-in-the-mud. If they let a bit of fun into their lives then they might no be so scared of everything that was different."
She petted his lion paw with her hoof. "Once they see how sweet you really are then you'll be able to use magic."
"You make me sound like a piece of confectionery," he said, looking down at her and grinning.
"I better start getting ready," said the pegasus, and she pulled the wax and brush equipment for making the tortoise's shells shiny. Discord followed her outside.
It was a fine summer's day and there a light warm breeze to offset the heat. The tortoises were already lined up, happily awaiting having their shells shined and basking in the morning sunshine. Discord sat down on the grass as he watched the pegasus.
"You know," he said, "I could use magic to help you with that."
She smiled at him. "Thank you, Discord but I enjoy doing it."
"Oh, okay," he said, trying not to sound disappointed. He was beginning to feel bored again. He waved his claw and produced some sunglasses and a deck chair with a huge sun umbrella, and leaned back as Fluttershy worked in the heat. Hm...perhaps that was a little much. She had said she didn't need his help but that didn't mean he had to sit there and watch her. He began flicking invisible pieces of carrot at Angel Bunny, confusing the lagomorph greatly as he could smell them but not see them. Fluttershy caught him in the act.
"Look, if you're really bored you can check the chicken hutch for eggs. I didn't get a chance to this morning."
Discord disappeared in a flash and reappeared outside the hutch. He crouched down and looked inside. A broody hen made a warning noise at him and he reluctantly reached in with his talon. She pecked him almost instantly.
"Ugh, fine, have it your way then," he said, and he lifted the chicken with his magic and rolled the eggs down the walkway. He continued to roll them along the ground as he made his way back to Fluttershy, but he froze when he noticed two ponies that were now smiling and laughing and pointing to the tortoises. Fluttershy looked over her shoulder and smiled at him, and any fear he felt quickly dissipated. It would be fine. She would make sure that no one would be nasty to him. And if they were he'd give them a piece of his mind anyway! No...Fluttershy wouldn't like that. He leaned down and picked the eggs up.
"This is my friend, Discord," said Fluttershy, beaming.
"Howdy," said one of the ponies, tipping his hat. He was looking at Discord curiously, but not in an unfriendly manner.
"Howdy back," said Discord, waving his talon hand in greeting. "So you're looking to adopt a tortoise today?"
"Hopin' too," replied the earth pony. "Just having a hard time deciding which one."
Before Discord had even stopped to think he had suddenly summoned a car salesman's outfit, complete with greasy looking wig and chequered jacket. "Well now," he said, walking in circles around the tortoises and not noticing that Fluttershy was now staring at him with great trepidation. "This here's a two year model," he said, pointing a talon at one of the smaller reptiles. "But if you're looking for something that's a bit more reliable, I'd go with the Gallopagos tortoise, myself."
"You do really think so?" asked the earth pony.
"I know so," said Discord. "Less high maintenance." He took a cigar out of his jacket pocket, followed by what looked like a plastic drinking bird. He held it up his cigar and a gas flame emerged from its beak. "So whaddya say? Do we have a deal?" said Discord.
"Well...I dunno," said the pony. "He looks really big."
"That's his main feature!" exclaimed the draconequus. "How else are you supposed to get a saddle on his back and ride him?"
"Um, Discord..." began Fluttershy.
"You could even attach a steering wheel. Plus there's lots of storage space in a shell that size."
"I...just want a pet," said the earth pony.
"Ah, well, that works too," said Discord.
"Um..." said Fluttershy.
The earth pony stroked his chin. The tortoise looked up at him with big, kind eyes.
"You know what, you've convinced me."
"Good man!" said Discord, shaking the pony's hoof. "That'll be twenty bits for the adoption fee."
The pony handed them over, and left very, very slowly with the tortoise. He hadn't thought to bring a wagon.
Fluttershy's mouth was hanging open. "How did you...?"
"Eh?" said Discord, blowing cigar smoke out his nostrils. Except it looked neon blue rather than smoky.
The rest of the morning went by spectacularly. Discord was a natural showman, and he managed to convince ponies young and old that pets were worth adopting. Fluttershy was beginning to relax. Angel Bunny watched the spectacle in a thoroughly unimpressed manner while gnawing on a carrot, until his ears pricked up and Fluttershy noticed Applejack and Big Mac walking up the path.
"Hello!" she called, a flew over to them.
"Wow, looks like things are pretty busy round here," observed Applejack.
"Eyup," agreed her big brother.
"I'm so glad you could come," said the pegasus. "I can't wait for Discord to meet you."
Applejack scuffed her hoof on the ground. "Yeah, well. I just hope that varmint's treating you right and not causing any trouble. After what Princess Celestia told us and what Twilight and Spike said about the restaurant I can't say I trust him completely."
"Oh, but he's really sweet, Applejack," said Fluttershy. "I've gotten to know him quite well and he's very trustworthy." She waved to the draconequus, who grinned and waved back, still in his seedy looking car salesman outfit.
"Uh...yeah," said Applejack. "He looks plenty trustworthy."
"Enope," said Big Mac, bluntly.
"Look, can you just give him a chance? He's trying really hard and making great progress and I don't want him to feel like he isn't."
Applejack sighed. "Awright, Sugarcube. Let's go meet him."
The three ponies made their way over to the draconequus, who was currently talking to a couple with foals about a chocolate coloured bunny rabbit. One of the foals pointed to the pair of ferrets tussling in the background. "I want one of those!" said the filly.
"Yes, well. You can't have 'one of those,'" said the draconequus. "They only come as a pair."
"Then we'll take both of them," said the filly's mother.
"You can't," said Discord.
"Heavens, why ever not?"
"Because I've already adopted them," said Discord. "They're mine, I'm afraid, and I've grown quite attached to them, even if they do sometimes hide dead rodents in my bedsheets." The filly's mother suddenly looked a little green.
"I think we'll take the bunny rabbit after all," she said.
"That's the spirit," said Discord.
After the couple had paid the adoption fee and the foals carried away their new pet, Discord turned to Fluttershy and the Apple siblings.
"Howdy," said Applejack. "I'm Applejack, and this here's Big Mac." Discord eyed the stallion somewhat warily.
"You don't know us of course, but ya know my sister. Her name's Apple Bloom."
Discord suddenly brightened. "Oh yes! Those foals are delightfully chaotic. Did you know just last week they dyed Angel Bunny's fur green?"
"They did what?" cried Fluttershy.
"Oh, I didn't tell you? Anyway, I turned his fur back to its natural colour again, but I think green suited him better."
"Er...yeah," said Applejack. "Well, it was good to meet you Mr. Discord, but Big Mac and I came for another reason as well. I'm lookin' for a farm dog. One that'll help me round up the pigs when they escape from the pen. Little varmints always seem to be able to get under that fence."
"Oh, we do have a dog, actually," said Fluttershy. "She's adorable, and her name is Winona."
"Winona. That's a fine name," said Applejack. "Can I see her?"
"Right this way," said Fluttershy.
The first set of ponies had disappeared with their respective pets, so Discord flashed his car salesman outfit away again. He snapped his fingers, and conjured up a submarine sandwich, which he impaled on his claw and ate like a giant cocktail sausage. After a while he noticed a stallion coming up the path.
Chill, Discord. It's just a guy. It's not like he's going to bite your face off. He had to admit that Fluttershy had been right so far. Stallions in modern day Equestria seemed as harmless as mares did. No one had attacked him or threatened him with a spear. As the pony got closer Discord noted he had a greying mane and tail and wore a smart looking jacket. He floated down the path to greet him. "Salutations good sir," said the draconequus. "Are you here today to purchase an adorable pup? Or maybe a terrific terrapin?"
The stallion seemed startled at the huge snake-like beast floating in front of him, but quickly regained some of his composure.
"I'm here to see Fluttershy, actually," said the stallion, though he couldn't stop staring at Discord--his sharp fang, the antler and horn on his head. His mismatched wings flapping though it seemed to be something else entirely that was keeping him aloft.
"Oh?" said Discord, trying not to let the pang of suspicion take flight.
"Yes, I need to speak to her about...an animal."
"Ah! Right this way, good sir," said the draconequus, floating ahead of the pony. "Fluttershy," said Discord excitedly. "You've got another punter!"
She looked up, smiling and getting ready to greet the pony, and her face fell. It was Sokolsky.
Oh, no she groaned internally. Now, now, Fluttershy. Maybe he has good news and the hunters have been captured.
"Fluttershy," said Sokolsky and he bent down and took her hoof. Discord watched with gritted teeth as the gamekeeper planted a quick kiss on it. "It's good to see you again," said the stallion, who seemed to be oblivious to the sound of a steam kettle coming out of Discord's ears and the grinding of the draconequus' teeth.
"Um, and you," she said politely. "What brings you here?"
"Well, I came to see if I could adopt an adorable pet," said Sokolsky, but I'm very surprised to see you have this magnificent beast here. He motioned to Discord.
"Eh?" said the draconequus, one of his ears flopping downwards while the other pricked upwards.
"I never thought I'd see the day where I'd be face to face with a living, breathing draconequus."
"Well I am pretty sexy," said Discord, flexing his arm muscles and kissing the biceps of his lion arm. "Though I'm not sure I like being termed a 'beast.'"
"But you're the last of your kind!" exclaimed Sokolsky. "From an extinct race of exotic creatures. Why, studying you could wield a wealth of information that we previously never knew about your kind."
Sokolsky had used the wrong terminology. Asking Discord for an interview would likely have stroked the chimera's ego, but upon hearing the word "study" Discord's hackles rose.
"I'm a person," he said. "I'm not there to be studied."
"Of course," said Sokolsky. "I didn't mean it that way. I merely meant that as the last of your kind you could likely tell us things about your race."
"Even I can't remember most things about my race," responded the draconequus.
"But what you could remember..." began Sokolsky, but Fluttershy cut him off.
"Mr. Snare, have you heard anything more about the situation in the Everfree."
"Hm? Oh, nothing yet. But rest assured I'm sure we will catch those culprits soon. I have my very best stallions working on it."
"That's good to hear," said the pegasus.
"Yes," nodded Sokolsky. "Though I must admit I'm here for another reason. I was wondering if you had a chance to think about coffee?"
"Oh..." her ears flattened against her head. "I'm sorry if I gave you the wrong impression..." she began.
"She's not interested," said Discord quickly.
"Well, I think the lady should speak for herself," replied Sokolsky.
"Um, that's very kind of you Mr. Snare, but I'm afraid I'm..."
"Hey!" shouted a male voice behind them. "Isn't that the creature from the restaurant?"
"Oh, that foul beast!" cried a mare. "He created such a mess! There was bird poop everywhere!"
"That's a lie!" snapped Discord. "Horace was toilet trained!"
A crowd of ponies had gathered now, and were all whispering and pointing at the draconequus. Discord began to feel very uncomfortable.
"Why is that nice girl housed up with such a dreadful beast?"
"I'm not a beast!" snapped the draconequus. "And I can hear you, you know. I'm standing right here for goodness sakes."
"Fine, you're an animal then!" The other ponies laughed, then a mare said. "Maybe she keeps him around because she likes animals, if you know what I mean. She's always holed up in her cottage, living up here like a hermit."
"Isn't she one of the Elements of Harmony?" asked another pony.
"Yeah, so what's she doing with him?"
Fluttershy was horrified. They were talking about her and Discord as if the pair of them were not people.
"Heck if I know," said a tall, thin unicorn. "Pretty mare like that shouldn't be getting her hooves dirty, and certainly shouldn't be hanging around monsters like that thing."
Discord growled. Suddenly the ground rushed up towards the crowd of ponies as if it was a wave.
"Look out!" screamed a mare, and the group scurried to escape, some tripping over their own hooves and each other. The wave hit, and the ponies fell over like a bunch of bowling pins.
"Sttttrrrrriiiikkke!" shouted Discord.
He watched the ponies run down the path as fast as their legs could carry them.
"Oh dear," said Fluttershy. While the ponies had certainly been mean, she was now worried that Discord had made things worse with his retaliation. Rumours spread fast in a small town like Ponyville, and she was sure they were already talking about the incident at the restaurant.
"So, about that coffee..." Sokolsky was saying.
Fluttershy snapped to attention. "I'm very sorry, Mr. Snare, but I'm afraid you'll have to leave now."
"Erm...is there a reason?"
"Yes, I'm afraid we're closing and I have to give this dog a bath before my friend adopts her."
Discord looked down at the stallion darkly, his eyes gleaming. "You heard the mare," he whispered.
"Of course," said the earth pony. "But it was splendid to meet you, Mr. Discord. I hope we can talk again soon."
"Yeah, not likely," muttered the draconequus. His fists were balled at his sides.
"They just thought of me as an animal, Shy! Especially that Snare guy. He's the Gamekeeper?"
"That's him," said the pegasus. She didn't want to think about Snare right now. She was more concerned about Discord's emotional state. She had tried to tell him that before Snare and the last crowd had showed up, he had been doing very well among other ponies, but he seemed fixated on the negative.
"They talked about me like I was a beast! A thing! An animal!" She could see the signs of stress in the draconequus. His ears were flattened, his eyes wild and his hackles rose. He sounded angry but she knew he felt frightened as well.
She moved towards him and brushed her hoof against his cheek gently. "You're a beautiful animal," she said softly. He felt his feathers react to her words and his emotions tussled but he looked into her eyes to see nothing but warmth there. On the one hand she had just called him an animal, but on the other, he knew the word 'animal' wasn't thought of as an insult to Fluttershy; she loved and cared for animals every day. They were all different and had different needs and she tried to do her best for all of them. And she and him were animals, after all. Just sapient ones. His paw came up and covered her small hoof, and he held it to his face.
Fluttershy noticed how intently he was looking at her,his eyes full of ardour, and her gaze dropped as she felt her blush came on. "Um, I really do need to go and give that dog a bath before her new owner picks her up," she said. She removed her hoof from his face and cleared her throat. She really hoped she had been mistaken when she saw a momentary flash of pain in his eyes. "Maybe we can go for a walk in the field afterwards?" she suggested.
He brightened at this. "Sounds delightful," he grinned. "I'll wear my best outfit." He swung his paw in a circle and he was suddenly wearing a long gown and bonnet. He held a parasol over his shoulder and giggled. "But it's so hot outside. Be gentle with me, dearest Fluttershy. I may swoon from the temperature."He pressed the back of his paw to his head then suddenly lost his balance and fell over the side of the couch. Fluttershy giggled at the sight of Discord's legs sticking out over the back of the sofa. His dress had turned upside down and was now covering his head.
"I'll be quick," she said.
It was the peak of summertime and the sun stayed out late. Summer was when Celestia worked overtime and the fiery globe sat low in the sky in the evenings, as if it was late afternoon. Discord and Fluttershy walked through the field. It looked golden and lacewings and butterflies danced over the tall grass, trying to make the most of the extended hours of light. Discord walked on his hind legs, occasionally glancing down at the pegasus next to him. The evening sun made her mane look almost ethereal, and occasionally lacewings would alight on her mane and tail. No matter what she did she always looked like she was at one with the things of the wild. She even had a bit of mud on her hooves from giving the dog a bath, but she didn't seem to care. He smiled.
The ferrets ran ahead of them, playing and wrestling and dooking in the wildflowers. Fluttershy veered off the path and walked into the tall grass, following a sphinx moth that had been disturbed by the ferrets. Discord followed her silently.
He didn't know what to say to her. She made him feel giddy and euphoric, but also comforted and warm. She laughed at his chaos, but it wasn't a mean laugh, it was an accepting one. He knew his attraction to her had gone far beyond simple physical appreciation and he felt both elated and terrified. He wanted desperately to tell her how he felt; that he was feeling like he couldn't contain his giddy emotions and that he was scared out of his wits.
"It's a Walnut Sphinx," she said, as she identified the moth that had settled on a wildflower stem, and she sat down. Here the grass was shorter, and bees happily took their fill as they alighted on the flora. Discord sat down next to her to look at the moth. There was a light breeze and the scent of Fluttershy's mane tickled his nostrils. The moth, sensing the advantage of the breeze took flight across the field.
Fluttershy sighed happily and lay down on the bed of shorter grass. "It's such a beautiful evening," she said, closing her eyes, and after a moment's hesitation Discord lay down next to her. He looked up at the sky. "Hey, Shy," he said, grinning.
"Check out that cloud. It kind of looks like a lady dragon's bottom."
"It does not!" she said, giggling, even though she could kind of see the resemblance.
"It does. Kind of like when a lady dragon lifts her tail."
She burst out laughing and shoved his lion arm with her hoof. He looked at her with half lidded eyes. He loved listening to her laugh.
"That's rude, Discord," she said, trying to keep a straight face.
"And yet the mare finds it utterly hilarious," he said. "One would almost think you secretly liked bawdy humour."
She smirked a little behind her hoof. "When me and Rainbow Dash were younger, we used to giggle at that kind of stuff," she admitted. "Seems ages ago now." She giggled again. "Rarity certainly finds it 'uncouth'."
"Really, I would have thought mares waxed lyrical about this stuff when no stallions were around. Especially when it involves stallions."
"Um...not really. Well, at least I didn't, or don't. Because I don't have much...experience." She looked almost embarrassed now.
"There's nothing wrong with that," he whispered, and he reached out and tucked a strand of mane behind her ear with his talon. She smiled softly at him. "Just like there's nothing wrong with laughing at cloudy dragon bottoms," he grinned.
She burst into peals of laughter again and rested her head on his neck, trying to catch her breath. That was when she realized how close they were. She felt his talon come up and work its way into her mane, and his muzzle resting on top of her head. She felt her heart beating hard in her chest. Discord shifted so that his face was level with hers, but he continued to stroke her mane softly. She realized their muzzles were mere centimetres apart.
The logical part of her brain kicked in. What am I doing? She sat up quickly. "Discord...I--I can't!"
He looked up at her quizzically. "Can't what?"
She wasn't fooled. She knew he was trying to protect his pride by pretending his motions had been completely platonic. "Discord, we need to talk," she said.
"That's a phrase I never like," he mumbled.
"I know, but we do," she said. The light was fading now and pinks and purples splashed across the sky.
He waited, his heart twisting in his chest as he nervously played with a blade of grass.
Fluttershy took a deep breath and began. "I understand that...we've spent a lot of time together. We're living in the same house, after all. And while you are beginning to socialize with other ponies I know that I'm you're only friend so far."
"So...if...if you're developing feelings for me that's completely understandable, but I can't get involved with those feelings."
"Let's say, purely hypothetically, you understand," he said, as he continued to play with the blade of grass, "that I do have feelings for you. Why would that be a bad thing?"
"I didn't say it was a bad thing. But you're in my care. It would be wrong of me to...to enter into a relationship with you."
"So you do have feelings for me?"
"It has nothing to do with whether I have feelings for you or not. It's unethical. Hypo--hypothetically I would be taking advantage of you."
"What if I wanted you to take advantage of me?"
"You're not in a position to make that decision."
"I'm not?" he laughed. "I'm a grown draconequus, Fluttershy. An adult male. Surely I can make that decision on my own. I'm a person."
"I...just...can't. It wouldn't be right."
He was silent now, and the cheery façade he had put up was gone. "It's because you think of me as an animal, isn't it?" he said quietly.
"No, Discord. That has nothing to do with it." She felt like a liar. It did have something to do with it, but not in the way he was perceiving it. She had looked after him since finding him in the woods, and to find out he was a sapient animal had been a great surprise to her. He was her patient and in her charge, and he hadn't gotten all of his memories back yet. If she entered into a relationship with him and things went wrong he would likely feel extremely hurt and confused, and he would have to continue living in the same house as her until Princess Celestia deemed him fit to re-enter society as an independent citizen of Equestria. No, she couldn't do that to him.
"Look," she sighed. "If you have feelings for me, whether hypothetical or otherwise there's nothing wrong with that. It's natural to sometimes want a greater bond with a friend. But I hope you realize I am still your friend, no matter what, and I care about you and I hope you still want to be my friend."
"Why wouldn't I?" he asked, genuinely confused.
"Oh, well...sometimes stallions don't want to be friends with mares anymore when they can't be in a relationship with them."
"You mean a hypothetical relationship," he said, forcing a weak grin at her. He didn't want her to know that his heart was twisting in his chest in a state of confusion. He was happy that she was his friend, but he also felt disappointed that she had just laid out in no uncertain terms that she didn't want to enter into a relationship with him.
She nodded. "Of course, purely hypothetical," she said, smiling softly. She let out a long sigh. It was now almost dark and the first stars were beginning to appear in the sky. "Shall we head back to the cottage for tea?"
He nodded and whistled for the ferrets. They came bounding through the undergrowth. One of them was carrying a dead field mouse.
"Don't you dare drop that on my bed," said Discord. "I found the last one stuffed inside my pillow. I wondered why it was lumpy for days. While I of all people can appreciate a good prank, it becomes less funny when it's kind of stinky." He shuddered and Fluttershy giggled softly, feeling somewhat relieved that the subject had changed to one that was less tense.
Discord seemed affable enough during dinner, even cracking the occasional joke as he stirred his soup with his telekinesis, but he said he felt tired and was probably going to turn in early. As if to illustrate the point he spread out his arms and was suddenly clothed in a fluffy bath robe and slippers.
"Oh, okay," said Fluttershy. "I suppose I should turn in too. It's been a long day and my arms are tired from scrubbing all the mud out of that dog's fur."
She got up from the table and walked over to him. She nearly hugged him, but thought better of it. After their conversation in the field it probably wasn't the best idea. She'd hug him again when things had settled down slightly. Instead she touched his lion arm. "Good night, Discord."
"Night, night Fluttershy," he said softly, and he gave her a toothy smile.
She made her way up the stairs and the hallway light went out as she closed her door.
Discord stood in the middle of the room for a few minutes, then he made his way over to the sofa bed and sat down on it. The ferrets were now asleep on their bean bag, one resting its head lovingly on the other. Discord rubbed the back of his head and switched his lamp off. He removed his slippers and slid under his blankets.
He lay there staring at the ceiling for a very long time, then finally, he turned on his side, grabbed a cushion and hugged it as if his life depended on it. He curled his body and tail inward. He made no sound, but he could feel the tears as they streamed down his face and onto his muzzle.
I know this chapter ended on a kind of bittersweet down note, but of course, the story isn't over yet.
"Dooking" is the noise ferrets make when they're excited. I think ferrets would make a way better pet that Discord's clownfish from the G.M. Berrow book. Fish don't do much. But ferrets? They're chaos incarnate. :)