Author's note: Yeah, I know I said this would be a month from now but I just keep writing! So, I guess you get the chapters when you get them. They may be close together or they may be far apart and I'm not promising any time frame because it just works better that way. :) Longer author's notes at the bottom.
Fluttershy knew Discord was depressed. The shock of learning that he was being hunted, whatever the reason, and the fact that he was now restricted to being indoors made him maudlin, and she noted he was reluctant to be in a separate room from her at any time. So it was imperative that she visit the gamekeeper today to set his mind—and hers—at ease. Discord, however, was still trying to convince her to stay.
"You said one more day, and then I would go, Discord."
"I know, but..." He tried to think of a decent argument for her to remain at the cottage but all he could come up with was: "...I don't want you to."
She knew he was afraid. "Discord, I'll be back very soon. You can stay in my room if it makes you feel better and I will get a lock while I'm in town, but I'm sure this is all just a big misunderstanding."
The thought of being restricted not just to one cottage, but to one room made Discord's skin crawl, but he reluctantly agreed. "Just, hurry back, okay?" He buried his head in her shoulder.
"I will. I know it's hard, but try to relax. You don't want to stress yourself out again." She patted him awkwardly on the back. "Besides, Zecora said she might come and check up on us later. So don't worry if there are any knocks on the door. For one thing the hunters still think you're living wild in the Everfree."
He hadn't thought of it that way, but she felt him relax slightly in her arms.
"I'll be back before you know it," she said smiling, and before she knew what she was doing, she kissed him on the cheek. She had meant it as a comforting gesture; She'd often kissed her friend's cheeks when they were feeling down, or when she was saying goodbye to them, but the instance her lips touched Discord's fur she wondered if she should have. She had never done that with Discord before and she didn't want him to get the wrong idea, but he was merely smiling at her and he nodded and said "see you later, then, Canary-Horse." She smiled back and began walking down the path, over the bridge and Discord waved until she was out of sight then gently closed the door.
His heart was beating like a jackhammer. It had taken all his willpower not to pull her into an embrace when she had kissed him. He suddenly felt a million times lighter and that was when he realized his feet weren't touching the floor. He was floating. He grinned, then tried turning his body in mid air and did so with ease. And that was when he started turning somersaults across the room, laughing happily all the while. "She kissed me, Harold!" he told the plant. Harold responded by popping a seed pod. He floated over to the plant and petted its leaves affectionately.
Fluttershy knocked on the Gamekeeper's door and waited nervously, playing with strands of her mane. She hoped she would be able to tell Solkolsky what the situation was and then leave quickly so she could get back to Discord. Her mind had been preoccupied with the fact that she had kissed him this morning. Yes, it had been a chaste kiss but she couldn't help feeling slightly ashamed. Had she wanted to kiss him in a different way? She wondered if she was over analysing things, but she also knew she needed to be careful—she was entrusted with Discord's safety, and that also meant his emotional safety.
The door opened, wrenching her from her thoughts. “H—hello!” she said, playing with her mane again and looking at the ground.
Sokolsky blinked for a second. He hadn't expected her of all ponies to show up on his doorstep.
“Well, hello, Fluttershy! What brings you here? Are you wanting to catch up on our meeting the other day?”
Fluttershy thought for a moment. It seemed rude to just say “no.”
“Um, I did wonder why you had showed up at the cottage, but there's something else I need to talk to you about as well.”
“Come in!” gestured Sokolsky and Fluttershy reluctantly stepped into his home. Sokolsky motioned for her to sit down and she did so, demurely tucking her tail in as she did so. Sokolsky took his own seat next to her.
“Now then,” he said, leaning back in his chair, “What brings you here?”
“Well, it's kind of complicated,” said the pegasus.
“I have all the time in the world for you, my dear,” said Snare, and Fluttershy blushed and decided to ignore the statement.
“It concerns a friend of mine,” she continued. “I—I think he's being wrongfully hunted as an animal.”
“Actually my dear, it was your knowledge of animals I wished to speak to you about.”
“Um, can we talk about it afterwards. I don't mean to be rude, Mr. Snare but this is quite important.”
“Of course, do go on,” said Sokolsky. He wondered what was so important. He'd heard plenty of things about Fluttershy; that she was something of a hermit, that she often treated animals the way she treated sapient creatures, so he was sure whatever she was about to tell him concerned being overly-sentimental about a rabbit or squirrel someone had shot.
“This friend of mine, he—he used to live out in the woods as an animal, but he's not an animal. Not in the sense people usually refer to animals. He barely scraped by day to day. He was living that way because he was brain damaged. He wasn't in possession of all his mental faculties, and he suffered greatly. I took him into my home and cared for him, and eventually he was able to speak to me and tell me what had happened to him. Now he's doing a lot better. He's a sapient being, Mr. Snare, not an animal, and I'm afraid that there are trappers up in the woods hunting him because they still think he is one.”
Sokolsky was now listening to her intently, but he made sure that his expression gave nothing away.
“I don't think those trappers should be up there,” continued Fluttershy. “I'm pretty sure they're hunting up there illegally. I haven't heard of anypony being attacked and as far as I know there's no disease spreading around at the moment...”
Sokolsky felt relief. She didn't realize he had authorized the trappers to be up there.
“How awful,” he said. “I'll get my people to look into it as soon as possible.”
“Would you? Oh, thank you! My friend has been understandably nervous about this whole thing...”
“Yes. Your...friend. It seems strange that as a sapient creature he was mistaken for an animal. Most sapient species are easily recognisable. Griffons, centaurs, dragons...”
“Oh, he...he's not any of those.”
“What is he?” asked Sokolsky, as if he didn't know. But he wanted to hear it from her own lips. He wanted confirmation.
“He—he's a creature called a draconequus. Apparently his people have long been extinct, but he managed to survive all these years.” Her ears drooped and she looked at the ground. “But he might have not made it this winter if I hadn't found him. He was starving, and injured.”
“I will have my people see that the trappers are apprehended as soon as they find them,” promised Sokolsky.
“Thank you,” she said. She remembered there was something Snare wanted to speak to her about and she politely lingered.
“Ah, yes. The...reason I called at your cottage the other day. I was wondering if you would like to go out for coffee at some point.”
“Oh...um. I'm very busy at the moment. Discord's doing better but he's still a bit of a hoof ful.”
“My friend,” she said. “That's his name.”
“Ah, I see. But surely your friend would understand if you took time out of your busy schedule...after all, you've come to see me.”
“Er...yes...but...” But what? Yes, Discord was still in need of her care, but she could come and go as she pleased. In truth, she was using Discord as an excuse. She knew Sokolsky was asking her out on a date, but she simply wasn't interested.
“I really am very busy,” she said, finally. “In fact I need to get back very soon.”
“Of course,” said the stallion. “I'll see you out.”
Fluttershy followed him to the door, and clocked the books on his shelf. He had quite a collection. She noticed several volumes of the History of Equestria by Hoofsteader. She wondered if Twilight had been to see his library.
“Do let me know if you change your mind,” said Sokolsky. “I know this charming little place on Stirrup Street.”
“Um, okay...thank you,” said Fluttershy, who wanted to leave as soon as she possibly could and began making her way down the path. She turned, quickly. “Thank you again for your help!”she remembered to shout. He nodded at her, and watched her hurry off.
He closed his door, walked across the parlour and took a seat behind his desk. He chuckled to himself. All this work and the draconequus had been right under his nose, here in Ponyville the whole time. He had a feeling he'd be seeing more of Fluttershy anyway.
Princess Celestia listened intently as Zecora finished her tale. She was silent for almost a minute, as the zebra and Twilight waited for her input. Eventually the princess sighed, and Twilight noted it was a sound that seemed weighed by years of grief and memories.
Twilight was shocked. Her mentor, the princess, the ruler of Equestria and Discord, the Lord of Chaos that had brought Equestria to its knees had once been lovers. She looked up and was surprised to see tears in the corner of Celestia's eyes, but the alicorn quickly regained her composure. Centuries of mastering control of her emotions had made Celestia quick to put on the façade of someone who was not overwhelmed by grief or heartbreak or sadness.
“I found the room Discord had told me about, but by then it was too late. He was insane. I didn't realize how fragile his mental state had been until then. It was probably on a knife-edge the whole time and I didn't know it, but he was hell-bent on making us all pay for what we had done to his people. Or at least, that's what it was at first. I think after a while he didn't even care about that. He no longer needed a reason. He just wanted there to be pandemonium and it didn't matter who got in his way.”
“Princess Celestia,” said Twilight, “I know you once loved Discord, but I can't help but feel surprised that you would let him walk around freely after what you've told me. I mean, this is a creature that committed atrocities on your subjects! And forgive me for saying this, but I'm surprised that you would hide that information from them.”
Celestia nodded. “I understand your concerns, however, my intention was not to censor the history but to make sure that no misinformation about it was published.”
“The author of that book made several errors when he wrote that chapter, and I'm sure a few of them were intentional.”
“I don't understand.”
“Hoofsteader's ancestry goes back to the Reign of Discord. His most famous ancestor was a stallion called Commodore. That pony was the one who shot Discord in the head. He came to me afterwards and claimed Discord was dead. I felt a mixture of grief and relief. I knew that his reign had come to an end, but I hadn't wanted it like...like it turned out. Our plan was to immobilize Discord with the crystal, not end his life. I refused to give Commodore the recognition and accolades he expected for killing the Lord of Chaos. I compensated him and his family well, but...it hurt too much to do anything more. In public I put on the persona of a victorious Princess. In private I mourned the stallion that had once made me happy. Only Luna knew of this. As for the book, I had commissioned an author to publish everything about Discord's reign in a factual and neutral manner, but then Fluttershy found him in the woods. For obvious reasons I would rather not release any information about Discord until we can be sure he is worth trusting.”
“Can we trust him, Princess?
Celestia walked over to one of the palace's great windows and looked out over her kingdom. “I don't know at this point. That's why you wield the Elements. However, it would have been unacceptable to allow Discord to continue suffering as he had been in the Everfree. I am not a vengeful pony. I care about what's best for my subjects. If Discord turns out to be dangerous, we will use the Elements and they will trap him in stone. However, I am hoping that through Fluttershy's kindness, Discord will remember what it was like to be someone who had people who cared about him. I have no wish to rekindle our relationship after all that has happened, but I do hope Discord can learn and change. Everyone deserves friendship, Twilight. If Discord is willing to change then we should be accepting. If he isn't, then as I have reiterated, the option of immobilizing him is there.”
Twilight nodded. She was sorry she had doubted her mentor. Celestia was obviously in control of the situation. From the unicorn's brief meeting with Discord, she had ascertained that the draconequus seemed to have respect for the pegasus. “Is there anything I can do, Princess Celestia?”
The alicorn turned to her student and smiled. “I believe as you said, you and Zecora have a meeting with Fluttershy."
The pegasus hurried over the bridge. She had managed to purchase a padlock and was pleased that her meeting with Sokolsky, however uncomfortable, had yielded the desired effect. She hoped Discord wasn't too stressed out. She had taken a bit longer than she would have liked and she didn't want him to worry.
She had also decided it might now be time for Discord to finally socialize a bit more. She had an idea she wanted to float to him but first she needed to know he was okay.
She pushed open the door. “I'm home, Discord, I...” Her mouth fell open at the scene before her. Pots and pans drifted past her into the kitchen and there was the sound of a radio playing. Except she didn't have a radio. The inside of the cottage had been completely transformed into a forest. Plants climbed up the walls and she could hear tree frogs. Sounds of dishes clattering came from the kitchen, and she made her way into it, reluctantly and somewhat on edge.
“Discord?” she squeaked.
The draconequus looked up at her. He was wearing an apron and chefs hat. “Fluttershy!” he beamed, and he floated over to her and embraced her. “My chaos is back!” Fluttershy looked over Discord's shoulder in shock. He had been making lunch but had some help. There were live lobsters chopping vegetables with their claws, sautéing onions, slicing bread, washing dishes.
Discord pulled back from the pegasus, still grinning at her. “Isn't it great?” he shouted, as Fluttershy watched what looked like an elephant on stilts walk past them into the forest in her living room. Discord's face fell as he noticed Fluttershy's ears were flattened against her head and she had a terrified look in her eyes.
“Shy?” he asked. “What's wrong?
She whimpered. “The—the chaos. It's...I'm not used to it. I don't know what's going to happen next.”
“Isn't it great?” he said. “That's the best part about it!”
“But...if you don't know what's going to happen next, then how do you know anything bad isn't going to happen?” She was trembling.
Discord knelt down next to her. “Hey, I'm not going to let anything bad happen,” he said.
“But...a few nights ago you couldn't control it.”
“Yeah, something's different now,” he said. “I can make it do whatever I want. Well, almost anything. There are some things I can't conjure up, but that just involves them not happening. There's nothing to worry about.”
She still looked like she wanted to curl into a ball.
“Fluttershy? I thought you'd be happy. I even made lunch!”
“I—I really appreciate that. It's just...I'm sorry Discord. I'm just a little scared because of what happened before.”
He couldn't help but feel slightly hurt by her confession. “Would you rather I get rid of it?” he asked, sadly.
“No! I...” She really didn't want to hurt his feelings. After all the stress he'd endured it was nice to see him happy. “I just need to get used to it, that's all,” she said.
“Well, maybe lunch will help with that.” He clapped his hands. “Gaston! Ferdinand! please bring through the first course. Come on, Fluttershy we'll sit in the living room.” He led the way while Fluttershy watched two of the lobsters follow them holding a plate of salad and sandwiches.
Discord sat cross-legged in the middle of the room, which had now become a forest floor and he patted the ground next to him encouragingly. The pegasus sat down next to him and the lobsters set the plates down.
Now that Fluttershy was sitting in her living room, she began to appreciate just how beautiful the forest Discord had created looked. There were heliconius butterflies flying above her, and the huge buttresses of the trees had lizards scampering up and down them. She noticed with surprise that Angel Bunny had made a makeshift hammock out of one of the vines and was snoozing happily in it.
Discord watched the look of wonder on her face, happily. “Try a sandwich,” he said, excitedly. Fluttershy reached for one and took a bite. She was surprised that even though the sandwich she had chosen looked like it was cheese and pickle, that it tasted of marshmallows. However, even though the cognitive dissonance was surprising, the taste was not unpleasant and she found she enjoyed it. She was beginning to relax. Discord snapped his fingers and a monkey dropped down from the tree carrying a tray of lemonade.
“Oh, thank you Mr. Monkey,” said Fluttershy, scratching him behind his ear and taking a glass. “You're just so adorable! Yes you are!”
The monkey puffed up its chest and climbed back up into the tree, chittering happily. Fluttershy was so engrossed in the whole thing that she had almost forgotten her good news.
“Oh, Discord! I spoke to the gamekeeper.”
He put down his drink. “And?”
“And it turns out it was all a big misunderstanding after all! The trappers shouldn't be up there, and he's going to put a stop to it.”
She watched as he visibly sighed with relief.
“I still got a lock to put your mind at ease though.”
“Good to know,” he said, grinning. He stabbed at a sandwich with his claw, took a bite and chewed happily. Fluttershy sipped from her glass of lemonade and he watched her intently as he swallowed his food. He wanted to ask her about the kiss. He wanted to ask her what she had meant by it. He took a deep breath and gathered up his courage. “Hey, Fluttershy...you know earlier when you...”
There was a knock at the door. Fluttershy nearly choked on her lemonade. “The forest!” she whispered.
Discord snapped his fingers and to Fluttershy's amazement, everything vanished. Discord watched as she made her way to the door. He hoped whoever it was would leave soon. He could easily bring the forest and the food back, but he wanted to be alone with Fluttershy.
The pegasus pulled the door open an inch and peered out. “Oh! Zecora! Twilight! Please, come in.”
Discord stood up. He didn't want company but he was relieved that they were at least ponies he had already interacted with. He noted he felt somewhat disappointed that the little dragon wasn't with them.
“Hello, Discord,” said Twilight, when she noticed the draconequus standing behind her friend. She couldn't help but find his height imposing.
“Hello, Twilight,” came the response. He was looking warily at her.
Fluttershy smiled. “Discord, it's okay. Like I said, Twilight is a friend.”
Twilight, however, seemed equally wary. She couldn't help but think about what Discord had been capable of in the past. Fluttershy, however, seemed unafraid of him.
There was awkward silence, then Discord spoke first. “So you're the one who recommended the Galloping Gatsby eh? That was a major snoozefest.”
Twilight looked affronted. “Even if you didn't like it, surely you can appreciate the classics!”
“Nah. I don't understand why it is a classic. Shouldn't a classic be something that is judged over a period of time to be of the highest quality and outstanding of its kind?”
“But it is!”
“According to who? Literature snobs?”
Fluttershy squirmed. Whether he had intended to or not, Discord had just called her friend a snob. That really hadn't been the icebreaker she had been hoping for.
“Academics aren't snobs. They study their chosen subject their entire lives and they are the most qualified to make a judgement on it. And I know books.”
“Well that's too bad,” said Discord. “But it's cheering to hear you have another subject to fall back on. I hear you're also a student a magic.”
“Yes. I'm studying under the guidance of Princess Celestia,” said Twilight, who had chosen to ignore Discord's backhanded comment.
“And what is your field?”
“Friendship,” said Twilight.
“Is that a field now?” Discord asked with a sneer.
“It's one that hasn't been explored much until now. At least not in the realm of magic.”
Discord snorted. Fluttershy began to feel uncomfortable. “Um, listen...” she said softly. “I think...I think it would be a good idea if we...we all went out to dinner!”
Everyone in the room turned to stare at her as if she'd grown a second head.
“Dinner?” asked Twilight.
“Um, yes. I think we'd all feel a lot more comfortable if we got to know each other in a nice setting. No where fancy. Maybe that Haytalian place on Bridle Lane?”
“Great,” muttered Discord. “I get to spend the evening in the presence of a snob.”
Twilight grit her teeth and Discord smirked behind his hand.
“Enough!” shouted the pegasus, whirling on Discord. “There's no need to be so rude! You like different things—is that really so much of a problem?”
“Er...well...” began the flustered draconequus.
“Good. Then it's settled. We'll all meet at seven at Trottiano's. Zecora?”
The zebra shook her head. “Thank you for the offer, but I must decline. Perhaps some other time we shall dine. For now I need to return to my hut, to make sure everything is at its best.”
“It was good to see you Zecora,” said Fluttershy. She hugged the zebra goodbye. Zecora nodded to Discord and Twilight and took her leave.
“Now,” said Fluttershy. “I suggest we all get on with our day then get ready for this evening.”
“Can the dragon join us?” asked Discord.
Fluttershy looked over at Twilight.
The unicorn sighed. “I don't see why not.” She made a mental note that she would verbally tear Discord a new one if he was as rude to Spike as he had been to her.
“Yay!” said Discord, grinning and clapping his hands eagerly like a colt who had just been told he was about to get an especially interesting toy for Hearth's Warming.
“See you at seven,” said Fluttershy as she hugged Twilight goodbye. She whispered softly, “Thank you for doing this. I know he comes across as a bit of a hoof ful but he really is very sweet, and I think that all he needs is to socialize a bit more. He's been cooped up in the cottage for so long with only me and my animals, and he's not had much reason to trust other ponies.”
Twilight sighed. “You're right. I hadn't thought of it that way. Spike and I will be there at seven on the dot.”
Fluttershy smiled. “Thank you,” she whispered.
Discord was surprisingly cheerful for the rest of the day. Fluttershy was surprised at how eager he seemed to go out for dinner. He had been cowering in the house in fear of his life only hours before and now he was busy using his chaos magic to try and pick out an outfit. She wondered what had lifted his mood. Had it been her news about the trappers, or was it the fact that some of his magic had returned? Perhaps it was a little of both.
“Hm...” said Discord as various clothing flashed on and off his body. A lime green suit with sequins running down the sides was considered. “Nah, too...sequiny,” he said. Fluttershy felt a little relieved. He changed to a black tux. “Ew, no. Way too formal,” he said. He changed again. This time he was wearing little more than a barrel held up with suspenders. “Too over Neighagra Falls,” he admitted.
Fluttershy touched his lion arm. “You just need to wear something casual,” she said, as he looked down at her. “The place we're going too isn't upmarket or anything. But the food is really good and the staff are friendly.”
He considered this for a bit, then snapped his fingers. He was now wearing a cord jacket covered with a repeating rubber ducky pattern. Fluttershy couldn't help but giggle behind her hoof and Discord felt the feathers on his back rise at the sound. “Too casual or not casual enough?” he asked her.
“You can wear what you like,” she said. She ran her hoof over the cord material. “The rubber duckies are really cute.”
He smiled at her.
“Ah, wait,” he said. “The finishing touch.” He pointed to the breast pocket of his jacket and Fluttershy noticed a flower poking out of it.
“That's pretty...” she started to say, then ten bees suddenly shot out and buzzed around her head.
“Whaddya think?” said Discord. “You like, bees, right?”
“Um, I do,” said Fluttershy, as the insects settled comfortably in her mane, “But maybe we shouldn't use that one in the restaurant.”
Discord sat on the couch, waiting for Fluttershy and nervously checking a wrist watch he had conjured up every now and then. She had been up in her bedroom getting ready for quite some time. It wasn't that he was worried about being late. Being punctual had never really been something that had concerned him. He was just feel impatient. Why did girls always take so long to get ready?
Finally he heard her bedroom door open and shut and she came down the stairs. She was wearing a simple blue dress and her mane was styled in a wavy hairdo.
He blinked at her. She giggled when he noticed his mouth was hanging open. “Are you ready?” she asked.
“Uh...yes!” he said, quickly regaining his composure. “Let's go!”
Trottiano's was a cheerfully lit place with chequered tablecloths and black and white photos of famous ponies adorning the walls. The clientèle was mostly made up of couples and friends who wanted an evening off from work. Spike held up his menu, mouth watering. “I wish they would get here soon,” he said. “My stomach is starting to growl.”
Twilight didn't need to be told that. She could hear it.
She sipped her water and tried not to listen to its rumblings. Finally, when half past seven rolled round, she saw Discord and Fluttershy enter the restaurant.
Some pony heads turned to look at the draconequus, but they quickly turned back again and resumed their conversation.
“Spike!” said Discord, grinning broadly and pulling out a chair to take a seat and shook the dragon's hand warmly “Good to see you again, Old Chap.” He nodded towards the unicorn. “Twilight,” he said. He grinned as he noticed a flash of annoyance in the unicorn's eyes.
“Hello to you too, Discord,” she said icily.
Fluttershy took her seat and reached for a menu. “Oh my,” she said. “There are so many items. It's going to take me a while to choose.”
Discord scanned the menu quickly. “They don't have momos,” he said, sounding disappointed.
“Well of course they don't,” said Twilight. “This is a Haytalian place, not Neighpalese.”
“I want momos,” said Discord, pouting.
“There's lots of other yummy stuff on the menu,” said Fluttershy. “How about lasagne?”
“I suppose I could have that,” he said. He motioned to a waitress before anyone else had decided what they were going to eat.”
The mare made her way over to the table. “What can I get ya, hun?” she asked, though she couldn't help but stare at the draconequus. “I would liiikkke,” said Discord, drawing out the word as he looked down at the menu again. “Hm. You know,” he said, putting the menu down and clasping his hands in front of him. “I think I would like one of everything.”
“Everything?” said the waitress, raising an eyebrow.
“You can't have everything, Discord,” whispered Fluttershy.
“Because we're splitting the bill,” she said. “It wouldn't be fair.”
“Very well,” he said. “I'll have the Anchovy Surprise.”
“We haven't got an 'Anchovy Surprise',” replied the waitress, who was beginning to sound tired.
“I'll have the mushroom pasta,” said Twilight quickly, hoping to deflect any bad feeling that was beginning to arise.
“That I can do. And you, little dragon?”
“I'll have the seafood risotto,” said Spike. The waitress jotted everything down on her notepad.
“You, hun?” she asked Fluttershy. “I'll have the mushroom pasta too.”
The waitress made a note again, then, trying not to sigh with exasperation, looked up at Discord.
“I'll have the Neighapoliton pizza covered with the seafood risotto,” he said.
“Whatever,” said the waitress, and she jotted it down, took their drink orders and left.
“I can always conjure up some momos anyway,” muttered the draconequus.
“What's a momo?” asked Spike.
“They are delightful little dumplings filled with pure yum and joy,” said Discord. He sighed dreamily as he thought of them. “I first had them when I encountered a Yak tribe in Neighpal.”
“You've been to Neighpal?” asked Twilight.
“I've been pretty much everywhere in the world,” bragged the draconequus. “From Zebrica to Horsestralia to the Cantarctic. Of course, those are the names of places you ponies give them. They're called other things by other species.”
“I'm aware of that,” said Twilight patiently. “I know Zebrica is known as the Bark Continent by the jackals.”
“Ah, so you are quite learned after all,” said Discord, resting his head on the back of his hands. Makes a change from F. Trott Fitzgerald.”
“Twilight used to live in Canterlot,” said Fluttershy, trying to deflect the subject onto something less controversial.
“Ooh, a posh gal, eh?”
“Not really,” replied the unicorn. My family are middle class but we've worked really hard for what we've got.”
“Mmhmm,” said Discord, as if he didn't believe her at all. He turned to Spike. “So, what is it that you do, other than be a dragon? If I may say so, dragons are soooo much more fun than ponies. I mean, other than dear, dear Fluttershy here.”
“I help Twilight,” said Spike. “I'm her assistant at the library.”
“That can't be much fun.”
“I enjoy it!” said the dragon. “Though...heh. It's not always fun, especially when I have to stack books. Discord turned to face Twilight and grinned as he took in her annoyed visage. Oh, this unicorn was so much fun. So easy to provoke.
Fluttershy was relieved to see their dishes and drinks arriving. “Here you go, hun,” she said to Spike. She placed Twilight and Fluttershy's meals before them then turned to Discord. “And...one Neighapoliton pizza, covered with seafood risotto.”
Discord made a squealing sound of excitement then began to tuck in. The waitress shook her head and turned to go back to the kitchen. Weirdo she thought.
After shovelling a few forkfuls into his mouth, Discord snapped his fingers and a plate of momos appeared at the centre of the table. Twilight started at how suddenly they appeared.
“Now you can all try them,” said the draconequus. “But make sure to leave me at least fifteen of them.”
Fluttershy began to eat her pasta, and that was when she noticed Discord's drink had a live fish swimming in it.
“Yes, my dear,” he said, grinning down at her.
“Will that fish be okay in there? I mean, that's not a very big glass.”
“The fish will be fine, Canary-Horse. I've made sure he can breathe throughout the whole evening. He took a sip of his drink and Twilight watched in horror as the fish tilted down towards Discord's mouth. He put the glass down and the fish resumed swimming in circles and looking highly confused.
Discord reached for Fluttershy and ran a talon through her mane. “I know you like animals, Fluttershy. So you have my word the fish is safe. Uh...even though I am kind of eating seafood right now.”
Twilight didn't even bother to ask why Discord had a fish in his drink. She had a feeling logical questions were not something to get into with him. She had also noticed the way Discord had touched Fluttershy's mane. He had done so tenderly, lovingly as if...No, that couldn't be the case. Besides, Fluttershy seemed entirely comfortable with it. Perhaps that was all it was, a friendly gesture.
However, as the evening went on, the unicorn's suspicions rose again. Discord seemed to relish in making Fluttershy laugh. He was doing his damnedest to annoy her, but doing his best to amuse the pegasus.
“And then I literally lost my head!” he shouted, loudly enough for patrons to turn and look at him. “I mean it rolled off the mountainside and I spent ages looking for it. It took a while, because I...didn't have a head so I couldn't see where I was going. I tried shouting at my body but that didn't work either because my ears were attached to my head as well, of course. In the end, I flung my body off the mountain too and as luck would have it, landed next to my handsome face. It told my body it was very disappointed in me, and that I would have to sleep on the couch for a week.”
Fluttershy was laughing so hard that tears were running down her face. Even Spike was chuckling a bit. Twilight looked at him. “Come on, Twilight,” you have to admit that is a little funny,” he said, tugging at the sleeve of the unicorn's dress. She shook her head and smiled, then chuckled along with them. Perhaps it was, a little. She sipped her second glass of wine. Discord was on his fifth and getting louder. He leaned back in his chair.
“Then there was the time I lost another part of my body by sticking it in a tree,” he said.
“Uh...I think we should get the bill,” said Twilight quickly.
“The bill?” slurred Discord. “I'll get the bill.” He snapped his fingers and a huge pelican swooped down towards them. Some of the restaurant's patrons screamed in surprised.
“Whatsamatta?” said Discord, looking at them and blinking his eyes out of sync. “It's not like he pooped on your food or anything.”
“What are doing, Discord?” hissed Twilight through gritted teeth.
“You said get the bill,” giggled Discord, and he pointed to the pelican's beak.
Twilight groaned. That was all she needed—someone who was into bad puns.
Fluttershy giggled. “He's so cute,” she said, petting the bird. Suddenly the pelican dived for Discord's drink.
“The fish!” cried Fluttershy. “Oh no, don't let him eat it!” The pelican flapped wildly, it's huge wings knocking plates and cutlery off the floor where they smashed. Discord clutched his drink to his chest. “Not now!” he slurred at the bird.
He vaguely registered someone yelling in the background. It was the restaurant owner.
“You can't have an animal in here!” he shouted. “Do you know what the Health Inspectors will say if they find out about this?”
“No,” said Discord truthfully, shaking his head. The pelican dived for the glass again and ponies began to scream and run.
“Get out!” shouted the owner. “And take your filthy bird with you!”
“Oh...but we haven't paid the bill,” said Fluttershy.
“I don't care!” said the restaurateur, throwing his hooves up in the air. “Just get out.”
“Woohoo! Free food!” yelled Discord.
“Well, that could have gone better,” said Spike once they were out in the night air. The pelican had flown off to find a river that would doubtless contain larger fish and Fluttershy was holding Discord's drink and saying comforting words to the terrified fish within. “He's gone now,” she was saying. “No one is going to eat you.”
Discord slapped his knee and cackled. “Oh, Sparky,” he said to Twilight. “You should have seen your face. I really had you going, eh?”
“What?” said the unicorn. She noticed that Discord's speech no longer sounded slurred.
“I've got a ridiculously high tolerance for alcohol,” grinned the draconequus. “I can drink like...well, like a fish,” he said, nodding his head towards the one swimming in the glass.
“You were faking it?!”
“But of course. Wasn't it hilarious?”
“But we can never go there again!” shouted Twilight, stamping her hoof on the ground.
“Meh. I've had better food,” said Discord. “And besides, they didn't serve momos.”
“Um, Discord,” said Fluttershy. He looked down at her and she could see the doubt creeping into his eyes. She really didn't want to hurt his feelings by telling him his chaos magic had scared ponies, but she also didn't want him to think that he should get away with what he'd done. She considered her words carefully. “I had a lovely night, but I think you need to be a little more considerate when you're around other people. I know you were just trying to make us laugh, but the ponies in the restaurant didn't, and the restaurant owner certainly didn't.”
“Well maybe they need to live a little,” said Discord, placing his hands on his hips.
“You could be right,” said Fluttershy patiently, “But I think...if you don't know someone it's hard to be in on the joke.”
“You got that right,” mouthed Twilight.
Fluttershy mouthed the word 'sorry' silently at her.
Discord sighed. “You could be right, Shy. But, we all had a good time, didn't we?”
Spike chuckled behind his claw.
Twilight sighed. “Before being kicked out, yeah. It was a little fun,” she admitted. “Come on Spike, let's get you home. It's way past your bedtime.”
Fluttershy poured the fish into a glass bowl filled with water when they returned home. So, Discord had been out for the first time among ponies since she had found him. Though he had behaved rather rudely to Twilight and the restaurant staff, she was reluctant to chide him, and that was because in some respects she was proud of him. He had gone out among ponies and he had been willing to talk to her friends, something he would have found unthinkable and terrifying only months before. It certainly hadn't been perfect, but she needed to accept it would come in small steps. She had enjoyed parts of the evening. She noticed a change in Discord. He seemed bouncier and he was definitely funny.
“Thank you for coming out with us tonight,” she told Discord., sitting next to him on the couch."I know today was hard for you, but I'm really proud of you," she said softly, touching his lion arm. "When I'm afraid to do things it takes a lot for me to feel comfortable with the situation, so I do understand."
"Yeah...I...I know you're just trying to help me," he said, running his talon awkwardly over a cushion. He glanced up at her. She looked so nice in her outfit. Well, she always looked nice, but there was something about tonight that was spurring him on.
Say it. Say it.
"Fluttershy, you...you look..."
Beautiful? Magical? Amazing?
"...tired. I'm tired too. Maybe we should have some cocoa and go to bed. In our own beds, I mean. I mean we should go to bed separately. Apart. Like we do every evening because we sleep in separate beds."
The silence was deafening. Outside an owl hooted.
"Ookay...I could make us some cocoa," she said.
"Wibble," said Discord in a strangled voice, still trying to overcome his embarrassment. Fluttershy gave him another confused look and made her way into the kitchen. He watched her go.
Buuuuuccck!!! What in the hay was that? Discord couldn't believe this. His memories of himself as a younger draconequus did not indicate that he was anything like this with females. Or for that matter, males. If he wanted someone he'd make it known, boldly and brashly, and his partners had liked that about him. But did he want from Fluttershy solely what he had wanted with his brief trysts as he'd travelled the world? He liked her, and she wasn't that kind of mare. He couldn't just take her to bed, no matter how much he wanted to. She would expect someone to court her first, and it wasn't like she'd given him any signs that she was interested. Plus she was his friend and he'd never had a friend before. What if he told her how he felt and she hated him for it? Where would he go? He lived in her cottage.
She came through with the cocoa. "Here you go," she said.
"Thanks," he said, taking the mug from her and warming his paw and talon with it.
"Well, goodnight," she said softly, carrying her own mug of cocoa upstairs with her.
"Good night," he croaked.
The lights went out as she ascended the staircase. He heard her door close and he pulled his blanket up to his chin. He thought of the evening, and how musical and lovely her laughter had sounded. He whimpered softly. His heart ached. He didn't want to admit it to himself, but he knew he was falling for her. What a situation to be in. There was a popping sound, and Harold flung seeds over Discord's bed, causing him to jump. "Yeah, not sure that's the best course of action, Buddy," he told the plant. "Fluttershy's the type of girl that doesn't like surprises."
Why the hell was he interested in her? She was meek and afraid of things and a bit of a homebody.
But she was also delightfully odd, and warm and understanding of so many things...
And she had saved his life. He lay there for a long time, trying to sleep but his mind had other plans.
He thought of earlier, when she had kissed him on the cheek, and he wondered what her lips would taste like against his own. The thought sent a jolt of desire down his long body. He buried his face in his pillow and growled. The room suddenly felt far too hot.
Maybe some fresh air would help? He tip toed across the living room so as not to wake Fluttershy, and gently eased the back door open. Further on he could see the fireflies dancing over the field. He scaled the fence, and landed in the long grass, breathing in the warm night air. He began walking down the path he and Fluttershy often took, but veered off it after a few minutes. Then he lay down in the long grass with his arms behind his head, looking up at the night sky. Yes, all he needed was some fresh air.
Except if anything that just made him feel more excited. His mind began conjuring up images of him and Fluttershy in the field together and he shivered.
"You like this girl, eh?"
Discord turned his head to the right to see a miniature version of himself peering back at him through the tall grass. "Don't blame you," said the mini Discord, narrowing his eyes and giving him a lecherous smile. "I totally would."
Discord whimpered and blew air through his nostrils.
"I concur with Shoulder Devil #1," said a voice behind him, and he turned to see a second miniature version of himself sitting in an armchair. It had a pipe in its mouth and wore a bathrobe and slippers while it read the paper. "She is indeed a babe," it continued, pointing the pipe towards Discord. It held up the paper and began reading again, and Discord noticed the headline was: DISCORD ASKS PAW FOR HAND IN MARRIAGE.
He groaned. "Oh, dammit."
Both miniature versions of himself snickered. He knew it was inevitable.
His paw began travelling down his neck, onto his chest feathers. He closed his eyes.
"Shy," he whispered.
"Yes!" shouted both Shoulder Devils, and they high-fived in mid air above him before vanishing in a shower of light.
The next morning the sun bathed the field in golden light and dragonflies darted in and out of the long blades of grass and wildflowers.
Discord groaned, and realized he was lying on the ground with a crick in his neck. He also had several snails crawling over his body. “Ew, get lost,” he said, shaking himself and flinging them off. He looked around and suddenly realized where he was. Fluttershy was going to be so worried when she realized he wasn't there! He began running back to the cottage, panting heavily. He leapt over the fence quickly, slammed the back door open and ran into the living room only to hear...the shower. She was having a shower, which meant she had just woken up and hadn't even come downstairs yet. He sighed with relief and flopped down on the couch, chuckling. He felt lighter today, like a great weight had been lifted from his chest and soul. His magic was back and he felt less run down.
He floated over to the kitchen and began to make tea.
It's probably best if I don't explain the whole "I lost my body part when I stuck it in a tree" thing. All I'm going to say is that it's a Native American Coyote trickster tale. :)