Cultural Differences

by Highlord Langslock

First published

Some girls and some ponies explore the different cultures of their two worlds.

The people of Equestria and Gaia may have a lot in common with each other, but when one world is populated by ponies that possess the gift of magic while the other has bipedal creatures that don’t, there are bound to be some differences.

They will have different traditions, different values, different beliefs, and different celebrations.

Of course, harmony and friendship is all about embracing the things that make people unique, and if there is going to be harmony between these two very different worlds, it is important for everyone to understand these differences.

Fortunately, there are a couple of girls who are very eager to learn.

A collection of short stories that take place in the same setting as my Harmony and Valor series, but are not part of its official canon.

Edited by GirlOfManyFandoms.

Differences in Diet

Author's Note:

This is a series of short stories about ponies and humans learning about each other's unique cultures. There is no overall plot. There will be some humor, but most of the discussions will be treated seriously. Some chapters will discuss sensitive issues such as religion and sexuality. It is not my intention to offend anyone and I'll be trying my best to avoid it, but if I end up doing so anyways, then I apologize in advance.

Ever since she met her human counterpart, Princess Twilight Sparkle had been curious about her life. So when she received an invitation to have dinner with Twilight’s family, she was quick to accept.

“And this is our family room,” said Twilight as she led the Princess into a large and cozy room with some comfortable looking couches and chairs, a ornate fireplace and a plasma screen TV mounted on the wall. “We use rooms like this for playing and relaxing, but I’m sure you have them in your world.”

“We do if the house is big enough,” said Princess Twilight as she looked around. Her gaze fell on a portrait hanging over the mantle. On the left was a motherly woman with light grey skin and long hair alternating between purple and an even lighter grey, wearing a formal dress with three embroidered blue stars. On the right was a man with light blue skin and dark blue hair wearing a suit with a small white waning crescent moon inside a larger yellow waxing crescent moon on the chest. Standing in front of them were younger versions of human Twilight and Shining Armor. All of them were smiling happily.

“So those are your parents,” said Princess Twilight.

Twilight nodded.

“We hung that up in here just after the funeral,” she said. “It helps us feel like they're watching over us.”

“I still can’t believe that they’re dead in this world,” Princess Twilight said softly.

“I can’t believe that they’re alive in yours’,” said Twilight. She started to twiddle her thumbs. “Do you think…could Shining Armor and I visit them sometime?” she asked shyly. There was a look of desperate hope in her eyes.

Princess Twilight had actually been considering that for awhile now. She knew that if she were in the other girl's position, she would want a chance to see her parents again more than anything. Even if they weren’t actually her parents, being able to meet some version of them could provide a bit of closure. She had talked about it with Princess Celestia, and while her mentor thought it was a wonderful idea, she cautioned Twilight to think carefully about the potential consequences before making a decision.

Of course, now that her counterpart had actually requested it, Princess Twilight realized that she couldn’t possibly refuse.

“Well, I have to talk to them about it, but I’m sure it can be arranged,” she promised.

Twilight’s face beamed with happiness.

“Girls, dinner’s ready!” Shining Armor’s voice called out.

“We’ll be right there Shiny!” Twilight shouted back. She turned back to Princess Twilight. “Come on! You are going to love Cadance’s cooking.”

Princess Twilight followed her counterpart through the house into the dining room. Everyone else was already there. The table was set with two big steaming bowls of food in the center. Both Spikes were already seated, bowls of dog food set in front of them. While Puppy Spike was licking his chops eagerly, Dragon Spike, who wore a collar with a dragon shaped tag to distinguish him from his counterpart, looked uncertain. As much as he loved doggie biscuits, he wasn’t all that eager to try other canine foods. Fortunately, Cadance had promised him that he could have human food if he didn’t like it.

“I hope you girls are hungry,” said Cadance. “I’ve made my special beef and broccoli.”

“Cadance!” Twilight cried indignantly.

“What did I do?” asked Cadance, taken aback.

“She’s a pony, remember? That means she's a herbivore.”

Cadance gasped and slapped her forehead. “Oh, I am so stupid! I’m so sorry, Princess. If you'd like I can pick all of the meat out, or…”

Grabbing a fork, Princess Twilight speared a piece of beef out of the bowl and stuck it in her mouth. While everyone watched in surprise, she chewed the meat carefully, savoring its taste, and then swallowed.

“This is delicious!” she exclaimed. “The Cadance in my world can't cook like this.”

“Why, thank you,” said Cadance.

“So Equestrian ponies eat meat?” asked Twilight. “I’m so sorry, I just assumed…”

“It’s okay, you’re not wrong actually,” Princess Twilight assured her. “I only eat meat when I’m in this world, and while the average Equestrian’s diet is very similar to a human’s, it's mostly plant based, save for the inclusion of eggs and dairy. We actually use hay to make a lot of the same products you make out of meat—hay bacon, hay burgers, and hay dogs, just to name a few.”

“So hay is basically tofu in your world,” said Shining Armor.

“What’s tofu?” asked Princess Twilight.

“It’s a vegetarian food made by coagulating soy milk and then pressing the curds,” Cadance explained. “It’s then often shaped and flavored to imitate meat.”

“That sounds…kind of disgusting actually,” said Princess Twilight, grimacing.

“It really is,” Shining Armor agreed.

“Well of course it is, if you’re a barbarian who doesn’t care about his own health,” Cadance replied snidely.

“So how did you start eating meat anyways?” asked Twilight.

“It’s kind of a funny story actually,” said Princess Twilight. “When I first came to this world, I didn’t know a single thing about humans, let alone what they ate. I had never even seen meat before, so for awhile I thought that the stuff I was eating was just some sort of plant or root that only grew in this world. Then, just before the Fall Formal, Applejack treated us all to some fried chicken wings. I figured out the truth pretty quickly after that.”

“How did you react?” asked Twilight.

“Well, once the initial shock wore off, I was perfectly fine. I even helped myself to an extra chicken wing just because they were that good.”

Twilight blinked in surprise. “Really? Your culture doesn’t have any sort of taboo against eating meat?”

“Not so much nowadays, but in older times, Equestria did have a strong stigma against it,” said Princess Twilight. “Unfortunately, a couple of our neighbors—such as the griffons and the Diamond Dogs—are meat eaters, and there is even a sort of “sub-species” of pony called thestrals living right in Equestria who are omnivores. In the old days, a lot of conflicts were started over the matter thanks to bigoted ponies, but nowadays we’re taught to be tolerant of meat-eaters, which is probably what helped me deal with it myself. The fact that none of the animals in this world are sapient doesn’t hurt either.”

“Animals are sapient in your world?” Twilight inquired.

“Only a very small percentage of them,” said Princess Twilight. “About one-tenth of any given species, I think.”

“Can they talk like Spike can?”

“I am not an animal!” Dragon Spike growled.

“Settle down Spike, she didn’t mean anything by it,” Princess Twilight said gently. “As I told you before, Spike is actually a dragon, and while their civilization is so primitive by our standards that a lot of ponies mistake them for animals, they are in fact a wholly sapient race. Sapient animals have all the higher brain functions we do, but not the ability to speak our language. While eating regular animals is perfectly acceptable, eating a sapient animal makes you a monster, even in a carnivore’s society.”

“It all sounds really complicated,” said Shining Armor.

“It kind of is,” admitted Princess Twilight.

“How are sapient animals produced in your world?” Twilight asked eagerly. “Is it genetic? Does at least one parent have to be sapient? Do two sapient parents increase the odds? Or is it an effect of their environment?”

“I’m sure the Princess can tell us all about it while we eat, which we should probably start doing before the food gets cold,” said Cadance.

Everyone sat down and passed the dishes around, loading up their plates with savory beef and broccoli while scooping rice into smaller side dishes.

“So Princess, do you like meat?” asked Shining Armor.

Princess Twilight’s fork froze halfway to her mouth.

“It’s okay,” she said hesitantly.

Spike snorted. “Ask her what she ate the first time she was here.”

Princess Twilight chuckled nervously. “Now Spike, I’m sure they’re not interested in…”

“What did you eat, Princess?” Shining Armor asked.

Princess Twilight sighed, and then took a deep breath.

“Some bacon, some sausages, some breakfast ham, a cheeseburger, a double cheeseburger, a bacon cheeseburger, two hot dogs, a chicken patty, a four-meat pizza, a turkey sandwich, some spaghetti and meatballs, a roast beef sandwich with gravy, some bratwurst, three beef tacos, three beef burritos, a T-bone steak, some roast duck, some sweet-and-sour chicken, some Mongolian beef, some barbecue ribs, some chicken tenders, and some bologna, although I’m not entirely sure that last one was actually meat.

Three jaws dropped with audible clunks, while Dragon Spike just giggled. Puppy Spike, meanwhile, was staring at Princess Twilight with something akin to awe.

“All those poor farm animals,” Shining Armor muttered.

“Have you checked your cholesterol lately?” asked Cadande.

“I thought you only stayed two days in this world,” said Twilight.

“I know, but it was all just so GOOD!” cried Princess Twilight, throwing her hands up in the air. Grabbing her fork, she shoved more meat into her mouth, moaning in delight.

Author's Notes:

I regret nothing.

I have absolutely nothing against vegetarians, vegans, or anyone who prefers stories where ponies-turned-human choose either lifestyle. It's just that the first fic I've ever read that addressed the issue was "The Wheel and the Butterfly A Dan X Pinkie Pie Saga" by Justice 3442, and while it was largely played for laughs, it also provided a surprisingly believable look at how a herbivore-turned-omnivore might come to terms with eating meat.

Differences in Religion

“Alright, I can buy the part about flooding the entire planet—Discord could probably do that if he set his mind to it,” said Princess Twilight. “And if I assume that the divine equivalent of an internal spatial expansion spell was used to expand the interior of a five hundred and ten by fifty foot boat, then I suppose I can believe that it could hold a pair of every living creature on Gaia, plus enough food to feed them all for the duration of their stay. But do they really expect us to believe that the entire animal kingdom was restored with just two specimens per species? I mean, where would their offspring find mates?”

“Keep in mind that the people who wrote this lived in much more primitive times,” said Sunset Shimmer. “They didn’t understand how the world worked like we do today. Besides, this probably isn’t the sort of material you should just assume to be historically accurate.”

“Good point,” said Twilight. Setting the book aside, she selected a new one from the pile on the table.

Sunset appreciated how quiet the library was in the early Saturday afternoon. With everyone else out enjoying the nice weather, she and Twilight practically had the entire place to themselves. It was the perfect opportunity for them to research a subject Twilight had recently developed an interest in.

A familiar voice said, “Twilight, you’re here.”

Sunset looked up to see Flash Sentry approaching them.

“Oh hi, Flash!” Twilight exclaimed brightly. “What brings you here?”

“I was just picking up a book I’ve been waiting for,” said Flash. He turned to Sunset. “You didn’t tell me Twilight was visiting.”

Sunset shrugged her shoulders. “Sorry. She just came to do some research, so I didn’t think to tell you.”

“It’s cool,” said Flash. “So, I’m not bothering you girls, am I? I can just leave if I am.”

“Not at all,” Twilight assured him. “In fact, if you have the time, would like to help us?”

“Sure, no problem,” said Flash, taking a seat. He picked up a book with the title “Gods and Monsters of the Ancient World.” “So what exactly are you researching?”

“Religion,” Twilight answered. “It's amazing how many different deities you humans have. Back on Equus, everyone worships Queen Faust.”

“Not Princess Celestia or Princess Luna?” asked Flash. “I would think that moving the sun and the moon at will would be about as god-like as it gets.”

“As a matter of fact, many ponies believe that Celestia and Luna are the daughters of Faust,” Twilight explained. “It’s the reason we call them ‘princesses’ instead of ‘queens’. Of course, they both strongly object to being worshipped as goddesses, and for good reason; any time ponies try to raise them up as such, it always turns into a fiasco. You remember what I told you about Princess Luna’s Nightmare Moon phase?”

Sunset thought that it was rather novel for Twilight, of all people, to refer to one of the most significant near-apocalyptic events in Equestrian history as a “phase”. Oh yeah, one of our all-powerful rulers had a psychotic break and developed a split personality that wanted to condemn the entire world to a slow and painful death, just so she would be appreciated more. But she got over it!

“I do, and I still don’t think it’s as crazy as anything I’ve seen happen here,” said Flash.

Twilight chuckled. “Don’t worry; I’ll top this place one of these days. In any case, in the thousand years between Luna's banishment and return, there have been an alarming number of cults formed in her name that actually wanted the night to last forever. And the ones that worship Celestia are even worse—for some strange reason, they always seem to think that making pony sacrifices to her will get them on her good side.”

“Yikes,” said Flash, grimacing. “So, tell me more about this Queen Faust.”

“Well, for starters she is a ‘pure’ alicorn like Princess Celestia and Princess Luna,” said Twilight. “Of course, nopony knows what she looks like beyond that.”

“Really?” asked Flash. “Not even her daughters?”

“Ponies only suspect that the Princesses are her daughters.” Sunset clarified. “Nobody—well, nopony—knows for sure. Whenever anyone tries to ask Princess Celestia, she always refuses to comment—at least, that's how it was when I was still living in Equestria.” She turned to Twilight. “Did she ever say anything to you?”

Twilight shook her head.

“I asked her once, but she just told me that it was complicated. She looked so sad when she said it that I didn’t have the heart to ask again. I ended up asking Luna during her first Nightmare Night celebration, and she basically told me to mind my own business.

“In any case, while we may not know Queen Faust’s appearance, we do know that she is the creator of Equus and everything that lives on it; not just the ponies, but the griffons, and the minotaurs, and the dragons and everything else. With the exception of the Changelings, pretty much everyone worships her. Speaking of which, which god do you worship, Flash?”

“None of them; I’m an atheist,” said Flash.

That took Sunset by surprise. “Really?” she asked. “I never would have guessed.”

“Well, I’m actually more agnostic these days,” Flash admitted. “After I learned magic was real and my school was next door to an alternate universe filled with talking multicolored ponies, I decided to be a little more open minded about some things.” He turned to face Twilight. “The fact that I’m technically an atheist doesn’t bother you, does it?”

“Well, that depends,” said Twilight. She looked perplexed. “What’s an atheist?”

“Basically, it means that I don’t believe in any gods,” he replied.

Twilight couldn’t have looked more shocked if Flash had sprouted a second head that started singing “Pony Girl”.

“W-What do you mean you don’t believe in any gods?”

Flash shrugged. “It’s not that I’m absolutely convinced that there isn’t a god; I just can’t bring myself to simply accept the existence of some all-powerful being who created literally everything without some sort of proof. Of course, like I said, now that I know that magic and alternate realities are real, I’m trying to keep a more open mind.”

But Twilight only became more agitated.

“What are you talking about? Nothing you just said makes any sense!”

“Actually, Twilight…” Sunset started to say, but Flash cut her off.

“Oh, come on, Twilight. I can understand that your people may have a different perspective on things because of the princesses, but can you honestly tell me that there isn’t a single person—I mean, pony—in Equestria who doubts the existence of Faust?”

“The thing is…” Sunset tried to say, only to be interrupted again, this time by Twilight.

“Of course there isn’t,” she said, rolling her eyes. “Everyone knows for a fact that Queen Faust exists.”

“Oh really?” Flash asked dryly. His expression had become very annoyed. “Didn’t you tell me just a minute ago that no one has ever actually seen Faust?”

“Yes, I did, so what?”

Sunset tried to speak up again.

“If you’d let me explain…”

“So if nobody —nopony — has ever seen her,” Flash continued, again ignoring Sunset, “then without any other proof that she actually exists, there would have to be at least a few ponies who don’t believe in her. You probably just haven’t met them yet.”

“That’s not it at all!” Twilight cried, throwing her hands up in the air in frustration. “EVERYPONY believes in Queen Faust because everypony KNOWS that she exists! And I still don’t understand how you can possibly not believe in any of your own gods!”

“Guys, calm down!” Sunset pleaded.

Flash got a dangerous look in his eyes. “Dang it Twilight, you’re just talking in circles now! What is your…”

“GUYS!” yelled Sunset, slamming her hands on the table. That finally got them to shut up—or it could have just been the massive librarian who was suddenly looming over them with a dark scowl on her face.

“This is a library,” she growled menacingly. “We have rules about talking quietly here, and those who cannot respect those rules are not welcome.”

“I’m sorry, ma’am,” said Sunset. “I promise it won’t happen again.”

The librarian snorted like she doubted that, but turned and walked away without another word. Sunset turned back to Twilight and Flash.

“If you two are done tearing at each other's throats, there are a few things that I need to clear up. First of all, Flash, there really are no atheists or agnostics on Equus, because from the moment they are born, every being instinctively understands that they were all created by Queen Faust.”

Flash was completely bewildered. His eyes were blinking rapidly. “R-really?” he asked.

“It’s true. And Twilight, humans don’t have that instinct. None of them know for certain if any gods or goddesses exist or not.”

As it turned out, Twilight really could look even more shocked than she had before. Her face actually paled a little.

“T-they don’t? But then how do you explain all of the deities we’ve been researching all day?”

“Most of those beings don’t actually exist,” Sunset explained. “Ancient human civilizations made them up in order to explain things they didn’t understand.” She chuckled guiltily. “I probably should have explained that sooner.”

“You think?” Twilight growled. “Although that does explain why humans have so many.” She turned back to Flash. “So you really don’t believe in any gods?”

“Like I said, I’m keeping a more open mind nowadays, but yeah, I’ve been a non-believer for most of my life,” said Flash.

“But why?” asked Twilight. She still looked like the world had been turned upside down. “I mean, how can you stand to live in a world without any higher powers to believe in? Do you even believe in an afterlife?”

“I try not to think too hard about that last part,” Flash admitted. “And like I said, I just can’t bring myself to believe in an all-powerful being without any proof of his or her existence. By the way, you still haven’t answered my question—is any of this a problem for you?”

Twilight bit her lip the way she always did when she was thinking hard about something. Flash tensed up a bit, but after a minute, she just smiled and shook her head.

“It won’t be a problem at all,” she said. “Honestly, after all of the times you’ve accepted my own quirks as a pony, it would be hypocritical of me to hold this against you.” She reached forward and grasped Flash’s hand. “I just hope that I can get you to change your mind someday.”

“Like I’ve been saying, I’m keeping an open mind, so you never know,” said Flash, smiling in return. “And I’m sorry I got in your face like that.”

“It’s alright. I’m sorry I freaked out the way I did. I’m still getting used to the way things work in this world.”

“It’s cool,” said Flash. “So let’s talk more about Queen Faust. Does everyone on Equus really automatically know that she exits?”

“Everyone from the most fearsome dragon to the humblest goat,” said Sunset.

“That must make things a lot easier.”

“What do you mean?” asked Twilight.

“Well, I’ve learned in History how disputes between different religions were the cause of a lot of the conflicts and atrocities that occurred here on Gaia,” Flash explained. “Wars were even fought to reclaim so called 'holy land' from people of a rival faith. But you guys don’t have to worry about that, since you have a universal religion, right?”

“Actually, you’ve got it all wrong,” said Sunset. “For starters, those wars were actually fought to reunite a separated church. It was all about politics, not faith. Religion is often used as an excuse to cover up more reprehensible goals. And unfortunately, having a universal religion doesn’t stop it from happening on Equus.

“The United Griffon Kingdoms is one of the few nations on the Heart of Equus that can rival Equestria's military power, and our relationship with them depends largely on whoever is their High King at the time. In the year four hundred and sixty nine of the Mare in the Moon, High King Godfrey declared war on Equestria, justifying it by claiming that ponies had lost the favor of Queen Faust for some asinine reason, and she instead considered the griffons to be her favorite race. He even went so far as to claim that she changed her form to that of a giant griffon.”

“And they believed him?” Flash asked incredulously.

“Well, as the High King, he had a certain degree of credibility in the eyes of his subjects,” explained Sunset. “Although they're not immortal, the High Kings possess power over the planet's atmosphere similar to the Royal Sisters' power over the sun and moon. In the eyes of the griffons, they're as good as gods themselves, so there's no point in arguing with them.”

“And Faust just lets stuff like this happen?” asked Flash. He was looking skeptical again. “If she actually exists, then shouldn't she do something to prevent these sort of things? Why doesn't she step in?”

“Ponies have been asking that question since time began,” Sunset sighed. “Some believe that she allows bad things to happen as some test of character, to divide the worthy from the unworthy.”

“I support that theory,” said Twilight eagerly.

“Of course you would,” said Sunset, rolling her eyes. “Others believe it's because she thinks they will make us stronger or something. Still others believe that she simply respects free will and wishes to allow us the right to shape our own destinies. Personally, I used to think that she was just too dumb and lazy to do her job and that if I ever got half a chance, I would prove that I was much more qualified.”

“Surprise, surprise,” said Flash dryly.

“Wow, you certainly were ambitious,” Twilight chuckled.

“You have no idea,” Sunset muttered. “If you have anymore questions, Flash, there are clerics in Equestria who can provide better answers than we can.”

“I'll keep that in mind,” said Flash. He picked up a new book. “So what do you think of religion on Gaia so far, Twilight?”

“It's hard to say,” said Twilight. “I like those that share a lot of the same values as Equestria, but others make me glad that they're probably made up.” Picking up another book, she smiled brightly. “Now this is the one I've really been looking forward to studying.”

The book's title was “The Church of Scientology.”

“Um, maybe you should skip that one,” said Flash nervously.

“Yeah, you probably wouldn't like it,” Sunset added hastily.

“Come one guys, it's obviously a religion centered around science,” said Twilight as she opened the book to the first page. “What's not to like?”


Half an hour later, Twilight's scowling face was illuminated in the alleyway's shadows by the flames of burning paper.

“You do realize that burning a library book is a crime in this world,” said Sunset, keeping a look out for cops.

“Totally worth it,” Twilight growled.

Author's Notes:

Just so you know, in my headcanon, Griffonstone is not the griffon kingdom, but one of five kingdoms, each with their own king/queen, that are united under the rule of a High King who possesses the power to maintain and control the planet's jet streams, or "great winds" as they are called on Equus. Also, the Heart of Equus is my name for the continent upon which Equestria is located, and is the place most of the series' events take place. Think of it as like Tolkien's Middle-earth.

Differences in Marriage

Fluttershy hummed cheerfully to herself as she poured a measured amount of chicken feed into a shallow pan. “Alright, everybody, time for dinner,” she said gently.

Several chickens quickly crowded around the pan and began pecking furiously.

“Now-now everyone, no fighting,” said Fluttershy. “There's plenty of food for everyone.” She was pleasantly surprised when the chickens actually listened to her and began to eat in a more civilized manner.

Satisfied, Fluttershy checked on a nearby bear that had its snout shoved in a honey pot.

“And how are you doing, Beary?” she asked.

The bear pulled its snout out with a pop and made a series of grumbling and growling noises.

“Oh, I'm sorry, but you're not allowed to have seconds,” Fluttershy apologized. “The instructions said that you've been putting on some weight, so you have to cut back on the sweets, okay?”

Beary grumbled, but nodded. Setting the pot down, he lumbered away to play.

Fluttershy chuckled lightly to herself. She had never gotten that close to a bear before.

Looking around, she spied a bird feeder hanging high up in a tree. There were several kinds of birds fluttering around it, taking turns pecking at the seeds. Flapping her wings carefully, making sure to keep them at the correct angle, she slowly floated up into the air until she was at eye level with the birds.

“Is everything alright up here?” she asked. “Is everybody getting enough food?”

The birds chirped to assure her that they were fine.

A sharp whistle called Fluttershy's attention back to the ground where a little white rabbit with a grumpy expression was tapping his foot impatiently. He held a tin pan in his paw and was waving it insistently in the air.

“Oh, I'm so sorry Angel Bunny. I'll get you your food for you right away,” Fluttershy called down. She carefully started lowering herself down, but she must have flapped her wings or twitched her tail wrong at the last minute, because without warning, she suddenly flipped upside down and landed hard. Fortunately, she only fell a few feet, so the only bruise she suffered was to her pride.

“You okay, Shyshy?” a voice asked.

Fluttershy looked up to see Rainbow Dash looking down at her. Angel Bunny was also there, his cranky expression replaced with one of genuine concern.

“I'm alright,” she said. “I guess I still need more practice with these wings.”

Rainbow Dash grasped her hoof and helped her to her feet. “Don't worry; just a few more lessons with me, and you'll be soaring through the skies like a pro.”

“Oh, I hope so. Flying is ever so much fun,” said Fluttershy wistfully.

Angel Bunny cleared his throat loudly and pointed at his dish. Now that he was sure Fluttershy was alright, his stomach was once again his first priority.

“Oh, right,” said Fluttershy. “Let's get you your food.”

“So what do you think of Equestria so far?” asked Rainbow Dash as she walked with Fluttershy to the cottage.

“Oh, it's simply wonderful,” Fluttershy gushed. “Being a pony is a dream come true for me, and all of Ponyshy's animal friends are so well-behaved.”

Fluttershy had received an incredible bout of good luck recently. Her teachers had not assigned her any homework, and since she was not scheduled to work at the animal shelter, she was free for the entire weekend. Unfortunately, all of her friends had already made other plans and couldn't spend time with her. Then Princess Twilight invited her to Equestria for the weekend. She had quickly accepted. She had felt bad about telling her parents that she would be helping Applejack with farm work, but they weren't ready to know the truth about what was happening at school. Fluttershy doubted that they ever would be.

Fluttershy had just set Angel Bunny's plate of carrots on the floor when she was alerted by the chattering of the animals outside of the cottage. Poking her head out the door, she saw another pegasus who looked just like her (because, technically speaking, she WAS her—or at least, she was the version of her native to Equestria... it was a little confusing) landing on the ground with a lot more grace than Fluttershy previously had. The animals immediately crowded around her and began to nuzzle her happily.

“Oh, I missed all of you too,” she said warmly, hugging each of them in turn.

“Welcome home, Ponyshy,” said Fluttershy, walking up to the other “Fluttershy”. Rainbow Dash was right behind her.

“Thank you, Shyshy,” “Ponyshy” replied. “Did everyone behave themselves for you?”

“Oh yes, they were all such sweethearts,” Fluttershy assured her. “We all had so much fun together. Thank you so much for letting me look after them.”

“Oh no, thank you for agreeing to it at the last minute.”

“So, did you have any trouble with the roc that was messing with Stalliongrad?” asked Rainbow Dash.

“It was no trouble at all,” Ponyshy answered. “It turns out the poor dear was just upset because the noise from the factories was bothering her chicks. Once a sound-dampening spell was cast over her nest, she was perfectly happy. By the way, did I receive any mail while I was gone?”

“Yeah, you got a letter from your brother,” said Rainbow Dash, handing Ponyshy an envelope.

Fluttershy leaned forward in interest. She hadn't thought about what the Equestrian version of her family would be like.

Holding the envelope in her hoof, Ponyshy cut it open with her wing and pulled out the letter with her mouth. Holding it in her hoof, she read silently for a minute before frowning.

“Oh, Zephyr Breeze,” she moaned, shaking her head. “When will you learn?”.

“What's wrong? He's not moving in with your parents again, is he?” Rainbow Dash asked frantically. “Or is he moving back in with you?!” Her face turned pale, which was a bit odd, considering it was covered in fur.

Fluttershy swallowed a lump in her throat. She knew that her younger brother was lazy and irresponsible, but would he really go so far as to refuse to move out when the time came?

But Ponyshy just shook her head.

“Oh no, nothing like that; Zephyr Breeze is doing great at his new job, and he's not having any trouble paying the rent on his apartment. It's just that he tried to apply for a herd license a few days ago.”

“That might be even worse!” cried Rainbow Dash. “Please tell me that they didn't actually give him one.”

“Of course not,” Ponyshy assured her . “In fact, they threw him out of the office when they learned that he only got a job a few weeks ago. Of course, according to him, it's actually a conspiracy to suppress the rights of working class ponies so that they can never rise to the level as the corrupt elites.”

“He needs to be 'suppressed', alright,” Rainbow Dash muttered.

“Um, excuse me, I don't mean to butt in,” Fluttershy spoke up, “but what exactly is a 'herd license'?”

“It's just a thing that allows you to marry more than one spouse,” Rainbow Dash explained.

“Oh, I see,” said Fluttershy. “I didn't know that Equestria was a polygamist society.”

“What's 'pull-egg-ah-mist' mean?” asked Rainbow Dash.

“It's a society that allows a man to marry multiple wives, which humans call polygamy,” explained Fluttershy. “It's not a very nice custom in my world. The wives are generally treated as trophies to show off the husband's prosperity, or as means to secure beneficial connections, and their children are often used as a 'workforce'. It's a bit similar to slavery.”

“Yuck,” said Rainbow Dash, making a face.

“Well, it's nothing like that here in Equestria,” said Ponyshy. “For one thing, it's not one stallion marrying multiple mares, but rather several ponies marrying each other; the mares are as much each other's wives as they are the wives of their husband. And according to law, each pony has equal marital rights and responsibilities; anyone who can work does so to provide for the entire household, and if one of them wants to bring someone new into the herd, all of the current spouses have to unanimously agree to it. Also, if one of them wants out, then he or she can file for divorce.”

“I guess that sounds fairly reasonable,” said Fluttershy. “But why do you even have polygamy, or herding, in the first place?”

“Well, in the past, it was the best way to keep our entire race from going extinct,” answered Ponyshy. “When you were in Ponyville, did you happen to notice that there were a lot more mares than stallions?”

Fluttershy thought back to when she first stepped foot in Equestria. At the time, she had been too excited to be among countless talking ponies to really notice much of anything, but looking back now, she realized that the majority of the ponies she had talked to had indeed been mares. “You're right,” she said. “Is that normal?”

“It is for us. Nopony understands why, but there have always been quite a few more mares than stallions. No other race seems to have this quirk. It used to be a lot worse than it is now; just a few years after Equestria was founded, the birth rate of stallions dropped dramatically to the point where there were only one of them for every ten mares.”

“How did that happen?” asked Fluttershy.

“Nopony knows,” Ponyshy admitted. “Some think it was a spell cast by the unicorns who initially refused to join Equestria. Others believe it was one of Discord's sick jokes back when he was still a bad guy, although if he was responsible, he hasn't told me yet. In any case, in order to keep our entire population from plummeting, Princess Celestia and Princess Luna legalized herding so that one stallion could marry and have children with as many as six or seven mares, if not more.”

“And they still do that today?” asked Fluttershy. She felt rather appalled by the idea.

“Oh, no. After a few centuries, whatever was causing fewer stallions to be born ended as suddenly as it began, and now there are almost enough to... well, you know... enough to... to...”

“Go around?” Rainbow Dash supplied.

“Um, I was actually kind of hoping to put it in a way that didn't make it sound like they were property or something,” said Ponyshy.

“And I'm sure that all the guys who couldn't hear you appreciate it,” Rainbow Dash retorted, rolling her eyes.

“Yes, well, in any case, while herding is still legal, it has largely fallen out of practice. Nowadays, it is extremely rare for ponies to form a group marriage, but every now and then a couple will marry a third spouse.”

“Well, I'm just relieved that Equestria isn't a place that treats girls like they're property,” said Fluttershy. “Although now I need to make sure my own Zephyr Breeze never comes here,” she added grimly.

Two Zephyr Breezes in Equestria?” Rainbow Dash whimpered. She began to tremble violently. “Oh, sweet merciful Faust.”

“So did your Zephyr Breeze explain why he wanted a herd license?” asked Fluttershy.

Ponyshy looked back to the letter. “Well, he says that it was his fillyfriend's idea—for whenever they decide they want to 'spice up' their relationship.”

“Wait, what did you just say?” asked Rainbow Dash.

“I said that it was his fillyfriend's idea,” Ponyshy replied. Her eyes widened as what she had just said dawned on her. “His fillyfriend... my brother has a fillyfriend, who wants him to...”

She began to sway on her hooves. Fluttershy rushed to hold her before she could topple over.

“I'm getting us all some booze,” Rainbow Dash muttered. “There's no way we're dealing with this sober.”

“I have a bottle of vodka in my refrigerator,” said Ponyshy, so quietly that she could barely be heard.

“I'm on it.”

“Um, technically speaking, I'm not really old enough to drink yet,” said Fluttershy nervously.

“Don't worry about it.”

Author's Notes:

I need to make these chapters longer; they're starting to feel a little bare-boned.

I want everyone to know that I'm probably not going to actually have herding in my official headcanon. Honestly, the only appeal it has for me is pairing Sunset with both Twilight and Flash, and I already have somebody else in mind for her (three guesses for who it is...actually I take that back; you don't get any guesses, because if you don't already know who it is, than you haven't been paying enough attention to me). I only wrote this chapter in order to make a point—I've come across too many stories that try to justify making virtually every mare into a fillyfooler or bisexual by claiming that the lack of enough stallions to go around forced them to turn to their own gender as an alternative, when the slightest bit of research will tell you that it doesn't work that way. To me, group marriages are a much more plausible solution to the problem, assuming that it actually exists in the setting.

Differences in Tolerance-Sexuality

The last thing Flash Sentry wanted to do on what should have been a perfect Saturday was deal with some perverted creep.

He had managed to finish his weekend chores and homework early, and Shifu Sun Lee had come down with the flu and canceled his weekend lessons, so Flash made plans to spend the afternoon at the mall with one of his friends. All he had to do was drop his sister off with her own friends, and he was free.

“We'll meet back up at the entrance at six,” he instructed True Action as he parked his car. “Don't leave the mall unless you absolutely have to, stick with your friends, and call me if you get into any trouble.”

“Whatever you say, warden,” True replied cheekily. She was thirteen years old, with yellow skin, green eyes, and short black hair. She wore a white t-shirt, black jacket, and blue jeans. She pulled up her left pants leg. “So are you going to put my ankle monitor on for me, or do I have to do it myself?”

“Funny,” Flash replied dryly as they got out of the car. “By the way, after we're done shopping, Sunset and I are going to see a movie together. Would you like to join us?”

True's expression soured, as if Flash had said something extremely offensive. “Oh sure, I'm always so eager to spend time with that girl.”

Flash sighed. “Come on, True, we've been over this. Sunset Shimmer isn't the same girl she used to be. She's changed.”

“She used you as her personal wallet and trophy boyfriend, mocked First Base's first baseball game, treated us all like we were her servants whenever she was at our house, and after you finally broke up with her, she tried to sabotage your car,” True retorted. “And that's before she turned into a literal raging she-demon.”

“Yes, she's done some really bad stuff, but she's already paid for it, and she's made it up to everyone many times over, especially with me,” Flash insisted. “Can't you give her a chance?”

True sighed and rolled her eyes. “I'll think about it.”

They waited for their friends in silence for a few minutes before Flash decided that now was as good a time as any to have an important talk with his sister.

“So, you're pretty close to these friends of yours, Gadlight and FX Flare, aren't you? he asked.

“Yeah, we're pretty close,” said True.

“Just...how close to them would you say that you are?”

True cocked on eyebrow. “What is that supposed to mean?” she asked.

Flash struggled to find the right words. “What I mean is, do you have a 'special' relationship with either one of your friends?”

True stared at him in annoyance. “Why are you talking like you're a magazine quiz?”

Realizing that subtlety was getting him nowhere, Flash decided to go for the more direct approach. “Look, True, I know that...”

“Yo, baby, come over here so that you can get caressed by the Breeze!” an extremely obnoxious voice called out.

Flash and True turned around to see a guy around True's age approaching them. He was lanky, with pale aqua skin and long blond hair tied up in a man-bun, grayish pink eyes, and a broad chin. He wore light-gray pants, a black t-shirt and a green sleeveless vest. The way he walked reminded Flash of the way Sunset used to walk, as if his mere presence was a gift to everyone around him, except that his posture seemed to say “you're welcome”, rather than “you're all beneath me” like Sunset's did.

The new guy brushed right past Flash as if he didn't even see him, and walked right up to True. He leaned in until his face was just an inch away from hers. “Hello, my dark and brooding angel,” he cooed. “How did you know that black and yellow were my favorite colors?”

“I didn't,” said True, glaring at guy like he was something that crawled out of a rock. She took a step back, but the boy just followed her. “I don't even know who you are.”

“Oh, where are my manners? The name's Zephyr Breeze, but like the rest of my girls, you can just call me 'the Breeze'.”

“I can guarantee that I will never call you that,” True deadpanned.

“Aw, baby, there's no need to play hard to get when you've already caught the Breeze,” Zephyr Breeze cooed, moving a finger towards True's chin.

“Touch me, and I'm a cannibal,” she growled.

Zephyr Breeze quickly pulled his hand back, but his smile didn't waver. “Are you sure there isn't some other part of me that you want to bite more?”

Flash had heard enough. Grabbing Zephyr Breeze by the man-bun, he dragged him away.

“Ow! Ow! Ow! Dude, what's your damage?!”

Releasing Zephyr Breeze, Flash looked him right in the eye. “Look, Zephyr Breeze, from one man to another, I am going to have to ask you to keep your grimy paws away from my sister.”

“She's your sister?” asked Zephyr Breeze. “Hey man, I hear ya. Don't worry, I'll treat her right.”

“I don't think you understood me,” growled Flash. “I think that you're a creepy weirdo, and I want you to stay away from her, period.”

Zephyr Breeze shrugged. “Bro I wish I could help you out, but we've gotta obey the law of the Breeze: any girl I see, belongs to me.”

“Sexism aside, you literally have no chance with her,” said Flash. “The fact is, she actually prefers other girls.”

“What does that—oh.” Zephyr Breeze's eyes widened. “For real?”

“Very much so.”

“Alright bro, I read ya.”

Flash nodded. “I'm glad to hear that.”

“You don't have to worry about a thing. Just leave everything to me.”

“Wait, what?”

Zephyr Breeze smiled, giving Flash a thumbs-up. “Trust me bro, just a few hours with the Breeze, and your baby sister will be completely cured.”

Flash couldn't believe what he was hearing. “Are you crazy?! When did I say anything about curing her? I told you to stay away from her! Those were my exact words!”

“I gotcha,” said Zephyr Breeze with a wink. “I'll keep our little deal on the down-low.”

Flash had to force himself not to throttle the little idiot. “There is no deal! I genuinely want you to stay away from my sister!”

“I completely understand. Don't worry, this won't be traced back to you.”

“There's nothing to trace!”

“Are you causing trouble again, Zephyr Breeze?” a new voice called out.

Flash turned to see that Sunset had arrived.

Zephyr Breeze's face turned pale. He pressed his legs together and crossed him arms in front of his waist, like he was trying to shield his private parts.

“H-hey, Sunset,” he stammered fearfully. “T-there's no trouble here.”

Sunset narrowed her eyes. “Are you sure about that? Because I would hate to have to tell your sister that you were bothering one of her friends again.”

Zephyr Breeze became even paler. Beads of sweat were dripping down his forehead. “Please don't tell her anything,” he whimpered.

“Just haul your flank out of here,” Sunset commanded.

“Yes ma'am.” Zephyr Breeze turned around and ran into the mall like the demons of hell were after him.

Sunset sighed, then turned to Flash. “So, are you ready to start shopping?” she asked cheerfully.

“Sure, lets go,” said Flash. The two of them walked back to where True was waiting.

The glare Flash's sister was directing at Sunset could have bore a hole though a concrete wall. With an audible gulp, Sunset stepped forward, pasting a smile on her face.

“Hello, True,” she said.

“Shimmer,” True replied curtly.

“So, how have you been?” asked Sunset.

“Oh, I've been doing great, but then you arrived.”

“True!” growled Flash.

“It's fine,” said Sunset, although her smile was wavering. “So, are you still attending that alternative school? What was it called again?”

“Stocks' School of Filming and Performance Arts,” said True. “It's a great place. They have all of the best stuff, I'm learning a lot about filming, and there's no rotten bacon to stink the place up.”

True!” Flash snapped. He stepped in front of Sunset and glared at his sister. “We just talked about this!”

“And I said that I'd think about it,” True retorted. “So I thought about it, and this is the conclusion I've come to.”

Any further arguing was averted when True's friends arrived. After a quick goodbye and a final glare at Sunset, she went into the mall with them.

“I am so sorry about that,” said Flash once they were alone.

“Really, it's fine,” Sunset insisted. “Lets just forget about it and enjoy our day.”

“So how did you know that Zephyr Breeze guy?” asked Flash as they approached the mall's entrance.

“He's Fluttershy's younger brother,” answered Sunset.

Flash was so busy staring at her in shock, he ran right into the mall's door. “That guy is related to Fluttershy?” he asked incredulously as he rubbed his head.

“I can hardly believe it myself,” Sunset admitted, “but they've got the DNA tests to prove it.”

“Huh. So, does he always act like such a creep?”

Sunset laughed humorlessly. “If 'creep' is the strongest word you can use to describe him, than it's probably one of his better days. He thinks that every girl he meets is madly in love with him, and nothing short of extreme violence can get him to back off. Not only that, but he's so lazy that if he can't get someone else to do all of his work for him, he'll just straight up refuse to do it himself. And his ego — he's like Rainbow Dash, but without the skills to actually back it up. He's convinced that he's a brilliant artist, yet everything he makes is pure crap. But if anyone tries to criticize him, or even help him improve, he'll start stomping his feet and whine about how their trying to 'stifle' him. And honestly, he's just unbearably annoying and unpleasant all the time; he's always butting in where he's not welcomed, making everything about him and acting like an absolute pig. It's so bad that he has to be home-schooled, because there is literally no school that's willing to put up with him.”

“Can't his parents do something about his behavior?”

Flash's own mother had never once needed to so much as raise her voice to keep her three children in line — her piercing glare alone was enough to ensure that they never dared defy her.

Sunset scoffed. “Have you met Fluttershy's parents? They may as well have 'Welcome' tattooed on their foreheads. Once, Zephyr Breeze decided that he wanted to take up pottery, so he threw out his father's prized collection of commemorative plates to make room for his studio. Mr. Shy used to be in a professional orchestra, and he had a plate made for every City they played in during their first and only tour. Anyone else would have grounded Zephyr Breeze for life, but Mr. Shy just said that he shouldn't live in the past, and that he was actually proud of his son for pursuing his passion. Said 'passion' only lasted for a single day before Zephyr Breeze gave up when his first three tries weren't instant masterpieces. And then there's the time he took his mother's car out for a joyride, and drove it into a tree. Mrs. Shy's response? She just said that it was costing her too much money anyways. She's been taking the bus to work ever since, AND Zephyr Breeze has somehow gotten both of his parents to promise to buy him a convertible after he gets his driver's license. They don't even have to nerve to send him to boarding school, or military school or someplace that could actually straighten him out, even though Fluttershy has been begging them to do so for years.”

“Wow,” Flash muttered. “Just, wow.”

The two of them walked through the mall in silence until they came to a store with a sign that read “Overpriced's Furniture Store” over the entrance.

“Are you sure you want to get a new couch here?” asked Flash. “This place is pretty expensive, and I am not paying for everything this time.”

“It'll be fine,” said Sunset. “I've crunched the numbers, and I should have enough to splurge just this once.”

“How? I can't imagine that a part-time job as a sushi waitress pays that well.”

“Actually, I only took that job to supplement my savings,” Sunset admitted. “When I left Equestria, one of the few things I brought with me was a collection of gems I used to practice infusing spells with. On Equus, gems actually grow from the shards of other gems, so they're really cheap over there. Of course, they don't have the magic to do that in this world. When I had to sell my gems for cash, I didn't expect to get more than a few hundred bucks for the lot of them; imagine my surprise when just one of them got me fifty-thousand dollars! After I sold the rest, I was able to pay off some, questionable people, who provided me with some important documents, such as identification and birth records, and I still had enough to last me through college.

“And yet you still made me spend a fortune on you while we were dating,” Flash said flatly.

Sunset smiled cheekily at him. “Well, what's the point of having a rich boyfriend if I can't mooch off of him?” she asked lightly before walking into the store.

“I'm not rich, my mom's rich,” Flash muttered as he followed her.

The interior of the store had a rich brown color scheme. The floors were polished hardwood. Expensive furniture was arranged in neat rows.

A well-groomed man wearing an employee uniform approached them. He had gray skin and dark-gray hair. His name tag read “Stuffy Uptight”.

“Welcome to Overpriced's Furniture Store,” he said formally. “How may I help you?”

Sunset stepped forward. “I'm Sunset Shimmer, and this is my friend, Flash Sentry. We're just here to shop for a new couch for my apartment.”

Stuffy Uptight raised an eyebrow. “The two of you seem rather young to be shopping for furniture by yourselves,” he noted. “Where are your parents?”

“I'm an emancipated minor,” Sunset explained. “Flash is just here to provide a second opinion.”

Stuffy Uptight's expression didn't waver, but Flash detected disapproval in his eyes.

“Young lady,” said Stuffy Uptight, “I'll have you know that the merchandise in this store is quite expensive, and we require full payment, plus the costs of shipping and handling, immediately upon purchase. Are you certain you will be able to afford our prices?”

Rolling her eyes, Sunset took out her checkbook and showed its contents to the older man. Evidently, whatever number was written in it was enough to convince Stuffy Uptight, who nodded and smiled politely.

“Alright then,” he said. “Would you like me to show you our new spring themed line?”

“No thank you, we'll just look by ourselves,” said Sunset.

“Very well,” said Stuffy Uptight. “If you need anything, do not hesitate to ask.”

Turning around, he walked away, leaving Sunset and Flash alone.

The two of them were in the middle of examining the store's line of couches when Flash heard Stuffy Uptight's voice again.

“Welcome to Overpriced's Furniture Store, how may I help you?”

Looking up, Flash saw that he was speaking to two adult men this time. One was husky, with electric pink skin and bright yellow hair that was trimmed short. He wore a baby-blue button-up shirt with the image of an orange and a flower on the sleeve, and purple pants. The other man was slimmer and far less flamboyant, with dark brown skin and reddish hair and a scraggly beard. He wore a red checkered shirt with the image of some office paper on the breast, and brown jeans.

“Yes, hello, my name is Creed Aventus, and this is my partner, Tree Lawyer,” the husky man said in an effeminate and lilting voice, “and we would simply love to see your selection of dining room tables.”

Stuffy Uptight's eyes narrowed. “I'm sorry, but we don't have any tables available at this time.”

Both men stared incredulously at him. “What are you talking about?” Tree Lawyer demanded. “You have more than a dozen tables right over there!”

He pointed to a corner of the store, where there were indeed many fancy tables.

Stuffy Uptight's expression didn't waver. “I'm sorry, but all of our tables are on hold for other customers.”

“Are you serious?” growled Creed. “You really expect us to believe that every single one of the dozens of tables you have in stock just happen to be sold, despite the fact that you still have them all on display?”

“I'm very sorry sir, but that's how it is,” said Stuffy Uptight without sounding very sorry at all.

“Oh, this is a load of bull!” Creed declared. “Do you think I don't know what's really going on here? We've dealt with guys like you before!”

“I don't know what you're talking about, sir,” said Stuffy Uptight, “but I'm sure there are other stores that will be more than happy to serve your kind.”

Creed gasped. “Oh, you did not just go there! Do you want me to bring the drama? Because I'll bring the drama!”

“Forget it, Creed,” his partner said, grabbing hold of Creed's arm like he was trying to keep him from attacking the man who had just insulted them. “Let's just shop somewhere else.”

“Have a good day,” Stuffy Uptight said, smiling smugly as the couple walked away.

Flash turned to Sunset, who had been watching the scene as well. A quick and silent conversation passed between them.

Flash ran after the couple, cutting them off before the left the store.

“Excuse me,” he said. “Before you go, I want to ask you something: do you really want to get a new table from this particular store?”

Creed's face fell. “I do, I really do,” he confessed. “They have the nicest things here.”

“It's okay Creed, we'll come back when there's a less homophobic employee on duty,” Tree Lawyer assured him.

“Well, if you could just wait a moment, that may not be necessary,” said Flash. He signaled to Sunset, who approached Stuffy Uptight. After speaking with him for a few minutes, she waved Flash and the older men over.

“Can someone please explain to me what's going on?” Tree Lawyer demanded.

“Oh, Stuffy Uptight here was just telling me about all of the wonderful tables there have in stock here,” Sunset explained.

“Was he now?” Creed asked coolly as he gave Stuffy Uptight the stink-eye.

Stuffy Uptight's composure faltered as he realized that he had just been tricked. His eye started to twitch.

“Oh yes, he was,” said Sunset, smirking maliciously. “When I saw you guys, I thought, 'now those two look like they'd know how to pick out a good table'. So I was wondering if you could help me pick one, and while you're at it, maybe you find one for yourselves.”

“That sounds wonderful!” exclaimed Creed.

“It certainly does,” agreed Tree Lawyer. He turned to face Stuffy Uptight. “You don't have a problem with that, do you?”

Stuffy Uptight looked like he wanted to put up a fight, but after a moment, his shoulders slumped in defeat.

“Right this way, everyone,” he sighed.


Sunset's good deed ended up costing her when Creed actually got her to buy a new table along with a couch. She assured Flash that she could still maintain her budget, provided that she could convince her boss to give her extra shifts for the next nine months.

To help her feel better, Flash payed for both of their movie tickets, and afterwards treated her to dinner at the mall's best restaurant.

Sunset ordered a meatless lasagna and steamed vegetables, while Flash ordered a bacon-cheeseburger with all the fixings for himself. Back when the two of them were still dating, Flash had adopted Sunset's vegetarian lifestyle. After they broke up, his friends had treated him to a feast at a steakhouse, and he spent the evening texting her pictures of him devouring steak, B-B-Q ribs and fried chicken. When he learned that the real reason Sunset was such a staunch vegetarian was because she was from a world where a portion of the animal population was sapient, and she couldn't bring herself to eat something that, in her mind, might have been able to think and feel when it was alive, he felt a little bad about about what he had done — not too bad, but a little.

“So, what has your family been up to?” asked Sunset as she cut off a corner of her lasagna.

“Well, First Base joined his school's baseball team,” said Flash. “He's their new third batter and center fielder.”

“He's not their first baseman?” Sunset asked. “Isn't that a bit odd?”

“Why would it be?” asked Flash.

Sunset pursed her lips. “I'm not sure, actually,” she admitted. “Never mind. Anyways, I've already talked to your sister; how's your mom doing?”

“She's good, still working hard and hardly at home. Also, I'm pretty sure she has a new boyfriend.”

Sunset's eyes lit up the way only a girl's could upon hearing such news. “Are you serious?!”

“I can't believe it either, but it's true,” said Flash. “I picked up a call for her from work a few weeks ago on a Saturday, and apparently, she has actually been using her days off for a couple of months now. Not only that, but she's been meeting up with a guy for lunch a few times a week. Her colleagues haven't been able to get a good look at him yet, but apparently he has blue skin.”

“You're mom hasn't told you about him yet?” asked Sunset.

Flash shrugged his shoulders. “She can tell us when she's ready.”

“So how do you feel about your mom dating someone?”

“My mom deserves to be happy,” Flash stated simply. “If this guy, whoever he is, can make her happy, than he's fine in my book.”

“You're not worried about him replacing you dad?”

“Why would I be worried about that?” asked Flash suspiciously. Sunset knew that his father was a touchy subject for him, so why would she bring him up?

Sunset hesitated for a moment. “The thing is, Rainbow Dash's dad has also been seeing someone for awhile now, and she hasn't been taking it very well. She won't admit it, but I think she's afraid that her dad might be trying to replace her mom.”

“That's too bad, but what does it have to do with my dad?”

Sunset shrugged her shoulders. “Well, your situation is similar to hers, so I just thought that...”

“Our situations are nothing alike,” Flash snapped. “Rainbow Dash's mother died from cancer; she had no control over it. My worthless dad, on the other hand, chose to leave his wife and family of his own free will. If Mom wants to 'replace' him, than more power to her. Hell, if he ever tried to come back into our lives, I'd just kick him back out myself.”

Sunset frowned. “Come on, Flash, don't you think you're being a little harsh?”

“No, I don't,” Flash retorted, “and I am not discussing this with you, so just drop it.”

“Alright, alright, sorry,” Sunset grumbled, throwing her hands up in surrender. “I wasn't trying to psychoanalyze you or anything, I was just worried about your feelings.”

Flash sighed as his anger ebbed away. “I know." After an awkward pause, he asked, “So what about your family? You've never talked about them before.”

Sunset's fork froze inches away from her mouth. Her expression became sad.

“Sorry, is that off limits?” Flash asked awkwardly.

Sunset shook her head as she set her fork back on her plate. “It's fine. It's just been so long since I thought about them.

“To start with, my mother is a geologist who specializes in finding deposits of a mineral we call neinmaganium; it nullifies magic on contact, which makes it extremely useful for security and incarceration purposes. My father is a professor at the University of Manehatten, where he teaches crystal matrix engineering. Now, do you remember what I told you about how herding works in Equestria?”

“I do,” said Flash.

“Well, my parents share a wife who had a son before I was born,” Sunset continued. She smiled fondly. “You'd like him. He was always protecting me from the other fillies and colts who used to pick on me. As I grew older, he taught me how to defend myself. He was really good at it to. In fact it's his special talent.”

“Is he your BBBFF?” Flash asked playfully.

Sunset's smile fell. “He used to be. These days, however, if he saw me getting beaten up, he'd probably just walk away without lifting a hoof to help me."

“What happened?” The idea of a older sibling not helping their younger sibling did not sit well with Flash.

“The old, 'bitch era' me is what happened,” Sunset said bitterly. “I blamed all of my problems on my family. Both of my parents come from a long line of Earth ponies; I'm the first Unicorn in our family since my great-great-great grandfather. Unfortunately, in Equestria, there's an old wives' tale — well, old mares' tale, that says that — ”

Flash would have to wait another day to hear what the old mares' tale said, however, when a voice roared: “What the hell do you two think you're doing, huh?!”

Flash turned to the source of the commotion. Two grown men wearing business suits were standing in front a table, glowering at the two girls seated there — Lyra Heartstrings and Sweetie Drops.

“What's your problem?” asked Lyra. “We're not bothering anyone.”

“Oh yeah?” one of the men sneered. “This is a nice restaurant, you know. You think anyone here wants to watch you two flick each others' beans?”

“We're on a date,” said Sweetie Drops. “We were flirting, that's all.”

“You were 'flirting',” the other man mocked. “You're disgusting, you know that? If you want to play the game of flats with each other, why don't you get out of here and do it in some hole where you won't bother anyone?"

"What the heck is the game of flats?" asked Lyra.

"It's an eighteenth century term for two women having sex," Sweetie Drops explained. "I'm surprised there are still people who use it."

"How do you know that?"

"Because unlike some people, I actually research the topics for my history assignments rather than hope that the History channel will air an episode about them."

"Hey!" The second man slammed his hand against the table. "Don't ignore us, you brats!"

"Excuse me, is something wrong here?" a waiter asked.

"Yes sir, these two guys are harassing us for no reason," said Lyra.

"Those two are the one's causing a scene," the first man snapped. "What I want to know is, why would a respectable establishment be willing to serve a pair of dykes?"

"Sir, please watch your language," the waiter pleaded.

"Don't you lecture me when you're letting filth like this into this place!"

"I'm sorry sir, but this restaurant has a policy that so long as the bill gets paid, anyone can eat here."

Lyra smiled smugly. "You heard him. So why don't you creeps get lost?"

"You want me to slap that smart mouth of yours, you little bitch?" the first man threatened. "I'd be glad to, because obviously your parents aren't doing it enough."

Flash had heard enough. He began to stand up when Sunset placed a hand on his shoulder.

"Don't try to stop me," he told her.

"I wasn't going to," Sunset assured him. "Just try to talk them down first, and if that doesn't work, keep the mess to a minimum. We don't want to cause trouble for the other customers, or get ourselves thrown out."

"Alright," Flash agreed. He walked over to the other table.

"Excuse me you two, I'd like to have a word with you," he said.

"Young man, please go back to your table, I'll handle this," the waiter said.

Flash ignored him. "These two girls happen to be friends of mine, and I don't appreciate it when people badmouth or threaten them."

The second man laughed snidely. "Oh yeah? And what are you going to do about it, huh?"

Now that he had a closer look at them, Flash could see that both men had been drinking: their eyes were glossy and they seemed a bit unsteady on their feet.

"What, are you hoping that if you can chase off the bad guys, these two queers will thank you by servicing you?" the first man jeered.

"Why don't you take a look around?" suggested Flash. "When I first walked in here, they were all minding their own business. Nobody cared about two girls who just happened to be on an innocent date and weren't bothering anybody. But then you two started making a scene, and now all eyes are on you.

"If you keep this up, and someone inevitably calls the authorities, what do you think these people are going to tell them: that these two girls were behaving 'inappropriately', or that two grown men were insulting and threatening violence against some innocent teenagers?"

The two men looked around as if they were trying to find support, but nearly everyone in the restaurant was glaring at them in contempt. The anger and scorn in the second man's eyes was swiftly replaced with fear and apprehension as the situation sank in. The first man, on the other hand, only became angrier. His face turned red and his eyes bulged out.

Deciding that he had made his point, Flash tried to placate both of them. "Listen, why don't we all just go back to our own seats and forget this ever happened? I'll pay for your next rounds..."

Bellowing, the first man swing his fist at Flash. In one fluid motion, he grabbed the older man's wrist and twisted it, while simultaneously kicking his legs out from underneath him. The man spun in the air before slamming face first into the floor. Flash continued to twist his arm, preventing him from getting up.

"You little punk!" the second man roared, grabbing a chair and swinging it. Before Flash could dodge, Sweetie Drops leapt out of her chair and used the table to launch herself at the man, wrapping her legs around his neck, knocking him to the floor. She also caught the chair in mid-drop and set it down neatly on its four legs.

The entire restaurant burst into applause, clearly enjoying the spectacle.

"Sorry for the commotion," Flash apologized to the waiter.

"No problem at all," the waiter assured him. "In fact, if you could escort these men out of here, all of your meals for today are on the house."

Flash and Sweetie Drops were happy to oblige. Wrestling the men to their feet, they marched them to the door. Flash's prisoner struggled violently.

"Let go of me you piece of crap!" he snarled. Specks of spittle were flying from his mouth. "You and both of your skank friends are dead, you hear..."

Twirling him around, Flash drove his fist deep into the man's gut. He doubled over, coughing and gagging.

Grabbing him by his hair, Flash forced the man to look him in the eye. "I suggest that you shut your mouth, or I'll stuff your own nuts into it. Understand?"

Whimpering fearfully, the man nodded and allowed himself to be led outside.


Once the men were taken care of, Flash and Sunset moved to Lyra and Sweetie Drop's table. They spent the rest of their dinner making small talk before leaving to pick up True.

Sunset was in high spirits. "Seriously, dinner and a show? You sure know how to spoil a girl. I had no idea Sweetie Drops could fight like that."

"Yeah, she may not look like it, but she's a totally badass ninja," said Flash. "We spar together sometimes; I'm in the lead with seven wins to five losses."

"Well, you may have saved the lives of those guys then. I haven't seen Sweetie Drops that angry since those punks started harassing her and Lyra after they came out of the closet. I honestly thought she was going to murder those two men.”

“I might have cheered her on if she had,” Flash said darkly. “I hate it when people make a big deal over something so harmless. We're supposed to be living in a more tolerant age, yet there are still so many jerks who're determined to make like hard for decent people over something they have no control over, and it just pisses me off.”

Flash clenched his fists so hard, he could feel his fingernails digging into his palms.

“This wouldn't have anything to do with the fact that your sister's a lesbian, would it?” asked Sunset.

Flash stared at her. “How did you know that?”

“First time I was at your house, I caught her checking me out, twice,” Sunset said smugly. “Have you talked to her about it?”

“I've been trying to, but I just can't think of the best way to bring it up,” Flash admitted. “I don't suppose you would have any advice?”

Sunset shook her head. “I wish I did. Truth is that we don't have this problem in Equestria. Same sex relationships have been perfectly acceptable for over a thousand years, and gay marriage was legalized about three centuries ago.”

“Really?” Flash was surprised. “How did you manage that?”

“Well, it's mostly thanks to how herding works in our society. Before Equestria was founded and the pony tribes were still split up into different countries, society's attitude towards same-sex relationships was as hateful as humanity's was in the past. But then, shortly after Equestria was born, herding was created in response to the drastic, unexplained decline in the stallion population, and in order to maintain equality between the genders, it was set up as a polyamory system where everyone in a herd was married to each other. After a few generation, this fostered something called 'selective bisexuality'. I don't really understand the psychology behind it, but basically, an otherwise perfectly straight mare can feel sexual attraction towards another mare with whom they have formed, or desire to form, a herd.”

“That sounds fascinating, but what does it have to do with actual homosexuality?” asked Flash. “Unless you're saying that all of this caused ponies to become desensitized to it.”

“To make a long story short, yes, that's pretty much what happened,” said Sunset. “There wasn't any big movements or anything; we just gradually grew more and more tolerant over time until, by the time of the Crystal War, bringing up somepony's sexuality became as casual as talking about the weather.”

“You don't say,” said Flash.

He was in the middle of pondering what he had just learned when he heard a familiar voice.

“Will you just leave me alone already?!”

Flash and Sunset raced around the corner to see both True and Zephyr Breeze. True's face was a mask of pure fury, while Zephyr Breeze was smiling at her lewdly.

“Aw, come on baby, we've just started to get to know each other,” Zephyr Breeze cooed.

“I don't WANT to get to know you, you ass!” True snarled. “I want you to get the hell out of my face! You've already driven off both of my friends, and now I want to get away from you myself!”

“You're just saying that because you haven't acquired a taste for the Breeze yet.”

“I've already had a taste of you, and it makes me want to puke!” snapped True. “Just get lost and leave me alone!”

“I'm afraid I can't do that, babe,” said Zephyr Breeze. “You see, your brother told me about your little lesbian problem.”

True's expression shifted from outrage to surprise. “He-he knows about that?”

“He sure does, and he personally asked me to turn you into a proper, guy loving girl.”

For just an instant, True looked devastated. But then she became angry again.

“You're lying,” she hissed. “My brother would never say that. Now get lost before I bust your damn nuts.”

Zephyr Breeze chucked. “Baby, you have a mouth I would just love to cut myself on. In fact...”

He leaned forward with his lips puckered up. True, now absolutely livid, drew her fist back.

Flash was faster.


“So how long have you known?” True asked Flash.

The two of them had snuck up onto the mall's roof. They were currently enjoying the view while leaning against the short wall that ran along its ledge.

“I figured it out when you were nine,” Flash answered. “You came home one day gushing about a new girl in your class. You just wouldn't shut up about how pretty and smart and special she was.”

“Oh yeah, Wicked Whisper,” said True. “She was cute. Too bad she was a total bitch. So, why didn't you say anything until now?”

“I tried to earlier,” Flash pointed out. “Although to be honest, I was sort of hoping you would bring it up yourself.”

True averted her gaze. “I wanted to, but... I was too scared.”

“Why?” asked Flash.

“I... I was worried that if you knew... you'd end up hating me or something.” True's voice began to crack. “I... I read a lot of stuff about families rejecting their gay kids, and...”

True trailed off as tears began to form in her eyes. Reaching out with his left arm, Flash pulled her into a hug.

“You're my sister,” he told her, “and there is nothing you could do to make me hate you. I love you, True. That is never going to change.”

True hugged Flash in return. “Thank you... BBBFF.”

Flash's heart skipped a beat. It had been years since his sister had called him that. He hadn't realized how much he had missed it.

A light cough from behind them drew their attention to Sunset.

“What?” True demanded.

“Not that I want to ruin the moment, but we should wrap this up before somebody sees us, or you start loosing your grip.”

“Alright,” said Flash. He looked over the edge down at Zephyr Breeze, who was dangling from the hand Flash had clamped over his mouth. He was holding desperately onto Flash's wrist.

Flash hauled him up to look him right in the one black eye that wasn't swollen shut. “Now listen carefully, because I am about to give you a set of instructions, and instead of twisting them around to suit your own perverse whims, you will follow them to the letter, or my hand will get very loose. Understand?”

Zephyr Breeze nodded the best he could in Flash's hand.

“Good. Now, first of all, you are not going to tell anyone about this. Second, you are NEVER coming near my sister ever again. If you see her, you run the other way as fast as you can and don't stop until you can't run anymore. And third, you will never, EVER try to 'cure' another girl of her homosexuality. In fact, you are going to disabuse yourself of the notion that you are some Casanova with supernatural sex appeal that can reverse someone's sexual orientation. You are nothing of the sort. You're just a dickhead. You're such a massive dickhead that I'm feeling a little gay myself just holding your face like this. And if I ever catch you harassing anyone again, I will gut you alive with an honest to god smile on my face and paint my house with your blood just to serve as a warning to anyone else who might try to piss me off. Got it?”

Zephyr Breeze sort-of nodded again.


Flash hauled Zephyr Breeze onto the roof and dropped him. Unable to stand, he fell to his hands and knees.

“Now, I believe that you owe my sister an apology.”

“I'm sorry, True,” Zephyr Breeze mumbled.

“For...?” Flash prompted him.

“I'm sorry for stalking you when you told me to leave you alone. I'm sorry for trying to touch you, for making gross comments, and for disparaging your sexuality. And I'm really sorry for pretending that your brother put me up to it. That was low, even for me.”

To his surprise, Flash sensed that Zephyr Breeze really meant it. Perhaps the guy wasn't completely beyond hope after all.

“Apology accepted,” said True. “Come on Flash, let's go home.”

As the siblings walked away, Zephyr Breeze turned to look up at Sunset. “I don't think I can walk; I think he shattered my spleen.”

“What do you want me to do about it?” asked Sunset.

Zephyr Breeze held his arms up. “Carry me against your big, soft boobs, please?” he simpered.

Sunset kicked him in the stomach before stomping away, fuming.

“Totally worth it,” Zephyr Breeze squeaked.

Author's Notes:

I would have liked to have added a discussion about how things like religion can influence society's attitude towards homosexuality, but I didn't want to deal with the inevitable flame wars.

True Action's appearance is borrowed with permission from PaulySentry's original character, Pauly Sentry. Creed Aventus and Tree Lawyer are loosely based on Cam and Mitch from Modern Family.

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