Chapter 15: Realizations
Rarity and Thunderlane trotted down the dirt path side-by-side with Rumble following close behind and Sweetie Belle still on her sister’s back. It was late afternoon by now and the weather, although sunny, was still quite cool with a small breeze kicking in every now and then.
As they entered Ponyville, Rarity’s anxiety had dissipated enough for her motions to appear less feigned; her smile was natural, her step was relaxed and she was able to make small talk with little to no trouble at all.
“So, how are things?” Rarity asked.
Thunderlane replied, “Everything’s fine. How about yourself?”
“Just fine, darling.”
It was in that moment a thought came across her mind, causing her to look behind her while tapping a hoof on her chin. Looking ahead, she furrowed her eyebrows as she looked down at the ground, her eyes shifting back and forth.
Seeing this, Thunderlane asked, “Is everything alright?”
“I suppose,” she said in an unsure tone. She looked up to him and asked, “Do you ever get that strange feeling like you’ve forgotten something?”
He let out a laugh. “Are you kidding? I’d forget my own name if everypony didn’t say it all the time!”
The two of them shared a laugh as they entered Ponyville. Looking ahead of them, Thunderlane saw the stage in front of Town Hall, his expression turning to one of astonishment.
“Wow, they’re really working fast,” he commented.
“Indeed,” Rarity agreed. “At this rate, they’ll definitely have everything finished in time for the festival!”
As the two of them continued talking to each other, the two foals tried their best not to make eye contact with one another. As Rumble trotted, he kept his focus on the road, trying not to let his wondering eyes look at the filly, even though his eyes kept trying to. Meanwhile, Sweetie Belle kept her eyes on the ground as well, trying to get her thoughts together, especially the new-found feelings for Rumble.
It wasn’t long before they all reached the inn. As Rarity and Thunderlane stopped their trotting, they were surprised to see that Rumble was still walking towards the door; it was like he didn’t even notice the others had stopped.
“Um, Rumble,” said Thunderlane.
“Hmm?” asked Rumble, finally stopping and turning to face him. “Oh, uh, I’m gonna go inside. Bye, Rarity. Bye...um...Sweetie Belle.”
Sweetie Belle met his gaze for a split second, waving a hoof in response as the colt quickly turned his head away from her, closing his eyes as he walked through the door. Watching him, Thunderlane let a small scoff escape his nostrils, shaking his head as a thought came across his mind. However, he put it in the back of his head as he looked at Rarity again; he would deal with it after Rarity left.
“I’m sorry about that,” he said. “I don’t know what’s gotten over him.”
“No, no, it’s quite alright,” she said as she ran a hoof in her mane. “It’s me who should be sorry...for my behavior earlier, that is.”
Thunderlane tilted his head and raised an eyebrow. “Why would you need to be sorry?”
She felt her cheeks beginning to flush. “I was acting very...foolish, I suppose. I’m not normally like that and I apologize for exposing you to my uncouth behavior.”
Uncouth? He thought to himself as he said, “There’s no need to apologize. I’m sure I’d act the same way if it were Rumble in that position.”
The two of them shared a laugh as Sweetie Belle remained silent, keeping her gaze on the ground.
“Besides,” Thunderlane said. “I trust you enough to know what you’re doing.”
Immediately, Rarity stopped laughing as she stared at him, her mouth slightly hanging open. Although her face didn’t show it, she was both surprised and mortified at his statement, making her heart race.
“W-What did you say?” she asked.
He shifted his eyes back and forth, as if he had said something he shouldn’t. “I...I said that...I trust you.”
The words hit her again, echoing in her ears as she lowered her head, looking like she was about to cry. In that split second, everything began rushing through her mind, making her ears droop in response.
Seeing this, Thunderlane trotted up to her and asked, “Are you okay?”
She looked up to him, her eyes locking onto his. Tears began to pool, though she was able to prevent them from leaking. Letting out a sigh and putting on a soft smile, she said, “I’m fine, darling. I’m just...happy, that’s all.”
Before he could say anything, Rarity slowly reached a hoof around his neck and brought him into an embrace. He returned the gesture, letting a small smile form as he lightly closed his eyes. They stood there in each other’s arms; shorter than a blink, longer than an eternity. All the while, Sweetie Belle remained unfazed as she only looked at the two of them for a second before looking away, focusing on her own thoughts.
Releasing their embrace, Thunderlane said, “Well, I guess I’ll see you around.”
“Yeah,” said Rarity, wiping an eye with a hoof. “I suppose.”
He smiled and nodded his head as he said, “Bye, Rarity.”
As he trotted away, he let a sigh escape through his nostrils. His eyes looked down at the ground as the question he wanted to ask her earlier entered his mind; this would have been the perfect time to ask. As much as he wanted to turn and ask her, reason interfered, reminding him that she needed to take care of her sister first. Looking ahead, he opened the door and turned his head to face Rarity one last time, smiling at her as he trotted into the building.
Rarity smiled in response, lightly waving a hoof at him as he entered the inn, the door closing behind him. Then, she turned and began trotting back to the Boutique in silence. Every now and then, she would shift her eyes towards Sweetie Belle without turning to fully look at her. Then she would look in front of her, the tears from before beginning to well up again.
When the two of them reached the Boutique, Rarity brought Sweetie Belle up to her room and placed her in bed, instructing her to get some bed rest. Then, she left the room, closed the door behind her and trotted down to the kitchen, sitting in one of the seats opposite the window that was above the table.
Looking out the window, she let out a small sigh as the events of the day began flashing through her mind again. As she recollected her behavior and all the lies she’d been telling, she rested her head on the table as a saddened expression came across her face.
“Why am I doing this?” she asked herself in a hushed tone. “Why have I stooped to such a low like this?”
As the questions went unanswered, she lightly closed her eyes. It was only then that the tears she fought back began to stream down her cheeks, dripping on the table below. She used a hoof to wipe the remnants off her cheeks as she sat up straight. She sniffled as she looked out the window again.
“Cheer up, Rarity,” she said as she desperately tried to fight the tears, but to no avail. “It’s all working out just fine. There’s really no need to feel upset. Besides, it’s not like I’m going to keep this façade up for long. I just need to wait for the opportune moment, that’s all.”
She lowered her head again, the three simple words Thunderlane told her echoing in her ears again: I trust you. Rarity closed her eyes again as the tears began to flow once again.
“I’m only fooling myself,” she said with a sniffle. “It’s only a matter of time before he...he...”
She let her statement go unfinished as she wiped her eyes again. “You’ve dug yourself so deep that it’ll be impossible to come out of this unscathed. This wouldn’t even be happening if I wasn’t...”
She nearly jumped out of her fur as the sound of the bell above the front door echoed throughout the Boutique, stopping her midsentence. Taking several breaths to calm her heart, she wiped her eyes as best as she could as she got up and trotted to greet the patron, brushing one of the curls of her mane back with a hoof. However, when her eyes caught a glimpse of who it was standing there, an annoyed look on their face, she froze where she stood as her heart began to pound in her chest again.
All she could do was put a smile on her face and say, as calmly and collected as she could muster, “...H-Hi.”
Thunderlane trotted up the stairs with a determined look on his face. When he opened the door to the room, he saw that Rumble was sitting at the table with a small piece of fruit in his hoof. Prior to him entering, he could see that the colt looked like he had just seen a ghost. When he entered the room, Rumble turned his head to him and smiled while chewing his food.
Closing the door behind him, Thunderlane trotted over to him, sat down and said, “Rumble, I think it’s time you and I had a talk.”
Swallowing what was in his mouth, Rumble asked in a worried tone, “What about? Did I do something wrong?”
He shook his head. “Of course not.”
Rumble tilted his head in confusion. “Okay, then what?”
As the colt tried to calm his anxiety by taking another bite of his food, Thunderlane squinted his eyes teasingly, shot him a smile and said, “I know your secret.”
Immediately, Rumble froze, not even moving his mouth to chew his food. His pupils shrank as he felt sweat beginning to form on the back of his neck. Slowly, he swallowed what was in his mouth, an audible gulp emitting from his throat.
His eyes darting back and forth, he smiled and asked, “Secret? What secret? I don’t have a secret!”
The smile never left his face. “I know all about your little crush on Sweetie Belle.”
“WHAT!?” Rumble shouted. Seeing an eyebrow raise on Thunderlane’s face at his reaction, he quickly cupped his forehooves over his mouth, mentally cursing at himself for his outburst. Slowly, he lowered his hooves from his mouth, feigned the best smile he could and asked, “What do you mean ‘crush’?”
“I’ve noticed the way you’ve been acting around her.” he said. “You’ve fallen in love with her, haven’t you?”
Instantly, Rumble’s heart began to slam against his ribcage; he knew he’d been feeling strange and acting differently around Sweetie Belle, but the last thing he expected was that he had developed a crush on her. Now that he knew what it was, he felt more afraid than ever before.
“I don’t know what you’re talking about,” he tried to explain. “I don’t have a crush on her, honest!”
“Don’t try that with me, bro,” Thunderlane said. “I know the signs all too well.”
“But it’s the truth! I barely speak to her! She’s just a friend, just like Apple Bloom and Scootaloo!”
“Who are you trying to convince, me or you?”
Rumble fell silent at the question, his eyes shifting back and forth as he fished his thoughts for an answer.
Thunderlane let out a small sigh as his expression turned from a teasing look to a reassuring one. “I know I’m not Mom or Dad, but you don’t have to be ashamed to tell me. I’m here to help you with this stuff, no matter what it is. There’s nothing wrong with having a crush on somepony. It’s completely normal, especially for a colt your age.”
With that statement, Rumble lowered his head as his ears drooped down. He knew he was right, whether he wanted to accept it or not. Letting out a small sigh, he asked, “How did you find out?”
“I started noticing it when we first moved here, especially after the welcoming party we attended,” he explained. “Ever since you first told me about your friends, you’ve been acting very strange. I thought it was just because you’ve been making friends here, but when I picked you up from Rarity’s a few days ago, I saw you acting the same way when I brought up Sweetie Belle. It was pretty obvious you were falling head over hooves for her, and I don’t blame you; she is Rarity’s sister, so I wouldn’t be surprised if she grew up to be just as beautiful as her!”
Rumble lowered his head with a worried look on his face; if it was so obvious to Thunderlane, it must’ve been obvious to everypony else.
“Don’t worry,” he said in a reassuring tone. “I won’t tell her, but I think it’s time we talked about this.”
Looking up to him, Rumble asked, “Why do we need to talk about it? There’s nothing much to say.”
Thunderlane laughed. “Of course there is. It’s not every day you find a special somepony, you know.”
He got up and sat next to his brother. “I know you’re nervous about this, but I’m your brother. I’m here to help you.”
“Help me?” Rumble asked. “Help me with what?”
“Well...,” the stallion said, rubbing the back of his neck with a hoof. “For starters, telling Sweetie Belle how you feel about her and...”
“What? No!” he shouted, cutting him off by jumping out of his seat. “I can’t tell her!”
A moment of silence followed as Rumble looked to the ground. Then, he turned his back on his brother, hanging his head in what looked like a defeated pose.
“I...,” he said, letting out a sigh. “I don’t think she likes me the same way, so there’s no point in trying.”
“What makes you say that?” Thunderlane asked.
“I...I don’t know,” Rumble said. “I guess it’s because she doesn’t even look at me. It’s like she doesn’t even know I exist. Something just tells me that it’s because she likes somepony else, or just doesn’t feel the same way about me.”
Thunderlane put a hoof around him in reassurance. “Well, you won’t know until you ask. Who knows, maybe she does feel the same way about you and is just too nervous to tell you, just like you!”
His heart started to speed up as he said, “But...I...I don’t know how. Where do I start? I can’t just walk up to her and say, ‘Hi, Sweetie Belle! Guess what? I have a crush on you!’ She’ll think I’m a total weirdo!”
“Well, if you say it like that, sure,” Thunderlane agreed. “But there are other ways to let somepony know how you feel about them.”
Rumble looked up to him in response, a hopeful look on his face.
Taking the hint, he continued. “Well, maybe you can start by hanging out with her as friends. You know, just the two of you.”
The shrinkage in his pupils was all the answer Thunderlane needed. If it wasn’t for the fact that he was trying to help, he would have face-hoofed himself.
“What I meant was just you and Sweetie Belle,” he replied. “You know, without your other friends.”
Rumble began to turn pale.
That didn’t seem to help, Thunderlane thought as he rolled his eyes. “Okay, maybe not just the two of you. Perhaps I can go with you as a chaperone...or Rarity...or both even...”
He paused for only a moment as the thought entered his mind, swallowing a lump in his throat before continuing. “The point is, you can start nice and slow...that is, if you really want to.”
Rumble looked at the ground for a moment as his color came back, as well as his breathing. Thunderlane made a good point, he figured, but could he really tell Sweetie Belle about his new-found feelings for her? If she did like him back, what would happen then? If she didn’t like him the same way, could he accept rejection?
“I...I don’t know...,” Rumble said as that thought entered his mind. “What if she doesn’t like me at all? What if she...rejects me?”
A look of sadness quickly flashed across the stallion’s face as he exhaled through his nostrils. “If she does, then she does. You’ll just have to move on and find somepony else, that’s all. Sure, it’ll hurt...a LOT. But it’s just something that happens. If it does, you know I’ll be there to see you through it, no matter what.”
He put his arm around him again. “But we’ll cross that bridge when we come to it. Just start it nice and slow at first before asking if she wants to be your special somepony. Let her get to know you and see what a great pony you are. Even if she doesn’t like you that way, the two of you can still be great friends, right?”
“I guess,” Rumble said. “But how do I ask her when I can’t even look at her without acting differently?”
“What do you mean by, ‘acting differently’?”
He then proceeded to talk about how he acted whenever he was around her, like how he blankly stared at her, how his heart races and he begins to sweat, and how time seems to slow down except for the two of them. All the while, Thunderlane couldn’t help but smile; could anypony blame him for finding his brother’s first love to be quite adorable? However, upon hearing his brother’s feelings, an idea popped into his head, one that he was sure Rumble would agree with.
“I just don’t know what to do,” Rumble said, finishing his story.
Clearing his throat, Thunderlane said, “Well, if you ask me, I say you should try a nice, subtle approach, something that will tell her how you feel without telling her how you feel.”
Again, he looked up to him with a hopeful look.
“I have the perfect idea, but I’m going to need you to find out something for me first.”
“Okay, what?” he asked.
He told him his idea and what he needed to find out, brining an inquisitive look to colt’s face.
“Why do you need me to find that out? I can just tell you right now.”
“I’m sure you could,” he said with a chuckle. “But like you said, you barely know her. Therefore, I need you find something a little more...personal.”
“Oh,” he said, his eyes looking at the ground while shifting back and forth. “I see.”
Then, the stallion brought him into an embrace. “Don’t worry about a thing. I’ll help see you through all of this.”
“Thanks,” Rumble said softly. “For everything.”
“No need to thank me,” he said. “That’s what brothers are for.”
With that, Rumble got up and made his way to his room, closing the door behind him. Then, he trotted over to his bed and lied on his back, staring at the ceiling and allowing all his thoughts to register in his mind.
Well, that wasn’t so bad, he thought. Still, I can’t believe that I have a crush on Sweetie Belle. I mean, I know she’s pretty and stuff, but I didn’t think that I was falling in love with her.
It was only in that moment that he realized something. Wow! Ever since this little talk, I don’t feel so scared thinking about her. Maybe that’s a sign or something. Who knows? Maybe Thunderlane’s right. Maybe she feels the same way about me.
Despite that thought, Rumble’s breathing still seemed a little shallow. If only it could get rid of the fear completely. Still, I should just focus on getting Thunderlane what he needs. That shouldn’t be too hard to do, I guess.
He lightly closed his eyes as he let out a sigh. Why is this happening to me?
I don’t know! I just don’t know!
Sweetie Belle was sprawled out on her bed, staring at the ceiling with a worried expression on her face. Ever since she left Sweet Apple Acres, she had been trying to get her thoughts together on her current situation. Sadly, no matter which way she turned, no matter how hard she tried, all her thoughts kept leading back to one inexcusable and inescapable fact: she was falling in love with Rumble.
She covered her eyes with her hooves as she let out a soft groan as a serious case of déjà vu washed over her. It felt like it was only yesterday that she was in the same position, looking at a bare ceiling while contemplating what to do with new-found feelings she had for somepony.
“What am I going to do?” she asked herself. “What can I do? Is this even possible?”
She rolled on her side. “If that wasn’t bad enough, now Apple Bloom tells me she has a crush on him. How am I going to break it to her that I’m...I’m...”
She didn’t even bother to finish her sentence as she got up and trotted over to her window. She rested her forehead against the window, as she looked at the busy town going about their business, making sure her horn didn’t get in the way.
“Maybe Apple Bloom is wrong,” she said, her voice shaky. “Maybe it’s not...what she said it is! It’s probably just my friendship with him growing stronger or something, that’s all!”
Her ears drooped as realization struck. “That’s exactly what I said when I first fell in love with Scootaloo!”
Sweetie Belle’s eyes lowered, focusing on the window sill. “There has to be a way I can find an answer to all of this. There has to be somepony I can talk to about this.”
Her eyes shifted back and forth for a few moments as she fished her mind for an answer. After a while, she shrugged her shoulders and said, “I could always talk to Rarity. After all, I had promised not to keep anymore secrets from her anymore.”
It was in that moment the images of how Rarity was acting in Apple Bloom’s bedroom began flashing through her mind, making her scratch the side of her head with a hoof.
“Come to think of it, Rarity has been acting a little bit differently lately,” she said. “Funny, it seems to have happened right after Thunderlane and Rumble came to town.”
As the words left her mouth, her thoughts began rushing back to the latter, making her cheeks blush at the sight of his soft smile, his slicked-back mane, his lavender eyes, and the overall way he had been acting. A small smile began forming as she envisioned him, a small sigh escaping through her nose. Immediately, she was snapped out of her thoughts when her horn lightly tapped against the window.
Oh no, she thought as she emitted a gasp. It was bad enough I felt this way whenever I looked into his eyes! Now I’m starting to feel this way just by saying his name! It’s my crush on Scootaloo all over again!
“UGH!” she said, lying on her stomach in the middle of the room. “Why is this happening to me? This should be happening to Apple Bloom, she’s the one with the crush on him!”
She let out a sigh as she rested her head against the floor. “This is all my fault. Scootaloo said that letting him joining us would be a bad idea. If I had listened to her, none of this would be happening right now.”
The feeling of guilt didn’t last long; she had a bigger predicament to worry about at the moment. Sweetie’s eyes scanned the ground as she tried to think of an answer. As seconds became minutes, thoughts began forming in Sweetie Belle’s mind, causing her eyebrows to furrow as a determined look began forming on her face. After several minutes passed, she stood up straight and let out a huff of confidence.
“I know exactly what I’m going to do,” she said. “I’m not going to think about him anymore! I love Scootaloo and that’s final! If I’m going to think about him at all, it’ll be to help Apple Bloom and nothing else!”
She began pacing the floor. “Okay, it’s going to be hard to not think about him, since he’s a Crusader and in our class. It’s not like I can just ignore him or anything. There’s got to be a way to stop thinking about this, there’s just got to be!”
After another moment of silent thinking, she said to herself, “It looks like there’s only one thing to do, and that’s to prove to myself that I don’t have a crush on him. Hmm...but how?”
She tapped a hoof on her chin as she began recollecting how she dealt with the situation the last time. However, it was only in her remembrance that she let out another audible gasp.
“No!” she practically shouted. “No way! There has to be another way, anything but...that!”
Even more silence followed before another idea popped into her head, making her shout in excitement, “That’s it! It’s the perfect way to prove that I don’t have a crush on Ru-, I mean, him!”
A confident smile on her face, Sweetie Belle trotted back to her bed and lied down while putting her forehooves behind her head in a lounging position. Lightly closing her eyes, she said, “Everything is going to be just fine. It’s like Scootaloo said yesterday, we love each other and nothing is going to change that!”
As the words left her mouth, she opened her eyes as a small wave of doubt crossed her mind. Turning on her side, she took one of her extra pillows in her arms, hugged it tightly and said in a very soft tone, “...I hope.”