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WillowWisp

A Second Chance

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Oh how wonderful it was. So many flowers and animals... and this time Fluttershy planned to enjoy them. The events of the last gala played through her mind as she stepped into the gardens. She'd been so driven to meet all the animal that she ended up making a scene. So this time she would just take it in stride and maybe if she was lucky one of the birds or critters would come join her.

'Oh my...such lovely roses,' she walked over to a bush in full bloom. The red flowers had such a sweet smell, she just closed her eyes and took in the scent as it traveled along with the light breeze. 'The flowers are just so perfect in this garden.'

The Pegasus was happy to just trot slowly along the path, stopping now and then to look at the flora. There were even some flowers she was sure she'd never seen or heard of before. How did she miss them in her last visit? Oh, that's right, she'd been on a bit of rampage.

Her cheeks flushed as she stopped to watch a bird fly over head. What a scene she had made at the prior gala. 'Ah, I hope they do not hold a grudge...' she mused as she looked back to a patch of lilies. 'At least the plants cannot be mad at me... they have no minds.'

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"Why would they be mad at you?" Inkwell asked from around a hedge. He turned around the corner and came face to face with Fluttershy, a recent acquaintance from Ponyville.

He looked over her outfit, noticing a strong flower motif in it, and smiled. "Oh my, that's a stunning outfit! Is that one of Rarity's designs?" he asked her. "She made my outfit, too!" He looked back over his outfit, a tuxedo vest with glossy threads. The outer coat was vertically striped with half-inch bands of black and white, stretching from hem to collar. The same striped motif carried over to a beret he wore on his head, except there it took the shape of concentric circles radiating from the center of it.

Inkwell looked pleased as punch to be wearing such a unique, eye-catching outfit, especially since he managed to make friends with Rarity in order to get it. Sure, he paid money for the suit, but it was at enough of a discount for it to feel like a gift.

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Bramble Rose trotted lightly into the garden, his step light and eager. All his life, the delicate little purple unicorn looked down from the window at the top of the library tower to see into this garden. All his life, he'd sat in that window seat and daydreamed, and looked at the exotic plants, possibly even caught a glimpse of the Princess' golden apple tree. And now, for the first time, he was actually here! it was so exciting!

And since most ponies tended to stay in the lit areas, with the other ponies and the food and the music, that meant he'd get to be by himself for a while, just him and the flowers. He brushed a hoof over the dress shirt and straightened his tie, tipped his fedora lightly, thinking of how stylish he looked. Glitzen did good work. He'd go back, eventually, and find a nice filly to dance with. But first, the gardens.

He came around the corner happily, eagerly, and was surprised to find himself facing a pair of ponies who were also in the garden! "Oh!" he said, startled. "I'm sorry ... I'm not interrupting anything, am I?"

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"Huh?" Fluttershy glanced up hearing Inkwell's voice. She didn't know anyone was around. "Oh, Inkwell... you got to come too? That's nice. And such a wonderful outfit," she smiled. "Yes, Rarity made this for me the last time we came to the gala."

And that's when she looked off a bit embarrassed. "You heard me talking to myself... but... well the last time we were here, things didn't go the way we all hoped they would. I wanted to make friends with all the bird and animals here in the gardens, but they were all afraid of me. I've never had such trouble with animals... so... well... I got a bit out of hand and ended up causing a scene."

Looking back to Inkwell with a sheepish smile she added, "Which is why I hope they will not be mad at me and give me a chance this time. But I'm not going to try and force them... they can come see me if they want."

Her attention was drawn to Bramble as he walked on the scene and she shook her head. "Oh, hello. No you're not interrupting us. We were just talking."

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Big Macintosh had to face the facts. He was lost. Applejack had made him come to the Gala this time to help her sell their apple product, but the castle was very confusing to him. He didn't even know how he'd gotten into the garden. He stopped for a second to try and get his barrings, but to no avail.

"Where in the hay am I?" He said to himself. Sure he could get around the Sweet Apple Acres blind folded. But everything in the Royal Garden seemed to look so similar that he'd been walking in circles far the last twenty minutes.

Then the song of a bird caught Big Macintosh's attention. The small bird was sitting in a tree just above him. 'Maybe he knows where I am.' He thought to himself. He knew it was silly to try and talk to a bird, but he was just about out of options.

"Hello there little bird, but do you know where I am?" He spoke to the bird in his usual tone. The Bird though looked at him. Hopped back on forth on the branch, then flew down towards him, landing on his head. "Um... Okay? So you do know where I am and how to get back to the castle." He asked the bird. The bird danced around in his mane, then pecked his left ear. "Alright, so you want me to go left. This might work out alright, E'Yup." Big Macintosh headed towards his left, the bird dancing around in his mane. The Gala was turning out to be interesting.

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"Yeah," Inkwell told Bramble. "You're fine! Don't worry about, uh, ruining the mood or anything like that!" He hoped that didn't sound sarcastic. He didn't mean it to.

He turned back to Fluttershy and listened to her comfirm that yes, that was one of Rarity's designs. "She's really something, isn't she?" he asked. "I'm glad I was able to fix things up with- Wait, you've been here before?"

Fluttershy told him about the events that transpired at the last gala, and to be honest, Inkwell couldn't quite believe it at first. The Fluttershy he knew, albeit barely, was a patient and demure pony, and he couldn't quite imagine her causing a scene just because she couldn't make friends with a bunch of animals. She seemed embarrassed to admit it, though, and was noticeably vague on what sort of incident she caused.

"Oh dear. That's a shame," he said. "At least you learned something from all of that. I've been in situations like that before, like when, well, when I first met Rarity." He blushed a bit and looked away. "I hope things go better for you tonight."

Before he turned back to Fluttershy, he caught sight of a large, red stallion passing a hedge in the distance. "I've seen him before in Ponyville," he noted. "Fluttershy, do you know who that is?"

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Bramble Rose flushed a bit at Inkwell's words... Not entirely sure if that was truth or facetiousness... he was always bad at telling... "Ah ... OK. I just ... was taken by surprise. I was expecting to see ... y'know ... flowers in the garden. Not ponies."

He had missed Fluttershy's story, having arrived only just at the end of it, but he tipped his fedora politely to her, trying for a suave motion to the gesture. Not that he was flirting at the moment ... he just needed the practice. "Bramble Rose, at your service," and he blinked, and his eyes widened ... "Oh, wait... you're... you're Fluttershy! You were in ... everything!"

He stopped right there, nearly biting his tongue, and standing in awkward silence for a few moments. Do not fancolt, do not fancolt, do not fancolt he admonished himself. What did you say to a legend in the modeling world?! He didn't even notice as Inkwell pointed out Big Mac!

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"Yes, I did learn... it was just so upsetting at the time... it's not like me to act like that at all." Fluttershy first addressed Inkwell about her story. She was happy to hear he had patched things up with Rarity is as well. But her attention was drawn to Big Macintosh for a moment when Inkwell asked if she knew the larger stallion.

"Huh?" She didn't say anything to Applejack's brother though because Bramble seemed to recognize her from her short stint as a model. She didn't really think many ponies still remembered that. Fashion always seemed to be changing, as she had heard from Rarity. Surely there was a new face taking over the fashion scene and she was fading from it.

"Oh yes, I was. But I'm happy to be done with that. I never really wanted to do it from the start." She looked down shyly. "It is nice to meet you Bramble, and um... just a moment," finally she looked past her current company to call out to the red stallion. "Oh, Big Macintosh... are you lost? Applejack said you were going to be here... and um... you have a Meadowlark in your mane..."

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"E'Yup, so this bird is a Meadowlark? Think you could convince this little guy to leave my mane alone?" Big Macintosh asked Fluttershy. He winced as the Meadowlark plucked several hairs from his mane.

"So do you know where Applejack is? I got a bit lost. Oh, and My name's Big Macintosh." He announced to the other two that where with Fluttershy.

The Meadowlark continued to pull and pluck at his main. Quickly it had made what soon began to resemble a nest in his mane. He tried shaking his head to discourage the invasive bird but to no avail. The Meadowlark continued weaving his hairs. Big Macintosh just didn't know what to do. A bird was nesting in his mane and he couldn't find his sister. The night wasn't turning out as he'd hoped.

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Image by SmittyG

Gilda landed in the Royal Gardens and rubbed her crown feathers, "First I decide to start trying to fix this with the Junior Speedsters, reasonable enough, but suddenly, Come to the Grand Galloping Gala with us, Gilda. What's next, will they have me completely convert to lame-ism?" She plucked at the blue robes-like dress she had been given, a few of her feathers were 'off-feeling' under it. Her parents had at least allowed her to forgo suffering the Main Hall and Ballroom, the hoity-toity music echoing off the pristine walls had been close to driving Gilda nutty once again.

Out here, in the Gardens, there were less of the upity-looking mares and stallions who made up the majority of the Gala's visitors. Though the decor of the place didn't fare much better than the rest of the entire town and castle. Gilda liked Talonopolis and its gritty character, though it was admittedly a little too gritty for her to desire to be there all the time.

She heard some voices around the next hedge, and they sounded youthful enough to belong to ponies who weren't nearly as lame as the crowds back in the main parts of the palace. She rounded the corner and saw the group of ponies, no griffons, but it would be better company than the rest of the Gala-goers. Seeing Fluttershy didn't drum up the memory of the incident in Ponyville right away, especially since she was wearing her dress, so Gilda continued casually, "So what's going on here? Talking about critters? How about hawks or eagles, or something?" Gilda offered the friendliest smile she could muster given her still rather sour mood.

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What Bramble said sort of didn't make sense to Inkwell. "You weren't expecting to see other ponies here?" he asked. "Well, I can see that you wouldn't want to see other ponies here, but I'd think other ponies would get the same idea, or they'd want to see the flowers too. Instead of just trying to get away from them all. You know." And then Bramble confused him even more by mentioning that Fluttershy was "in everything," whatever that meant. "Um, Fluttershy, what's he... talking... about..."

Then he remembered seeing a few tasteful advertisements in Fillydelphia, avant-garde pop-art pieces featuring a pastel yellow pegasus with silky pink hair. He's made a painting of the same pegasus as a tribute to the ingenious, eye-catching designs. Now, he just realized, he was seeing the source of those ads in the flesh. "That was you?"

It was! For the second time that evening he completely misjudged Fluttershy. Or maybe not; she sounded glad to be rid of the modeling business. He'd have to ask her how she got into that sometime. Maybe later.

Fluttershy identified the red stallion he remembered from Ponyville as Big Macintosh, apparently a friend of Applejack's. He had trouble with a bird who found his mane oddly comfortable (it looked coarse to Inkwell) and wanted to know where his sister was. "Oh, um, shoot, where is she?" Inkwell asked. He wished he knew.

Lastly there was the matter of another griffon that showed up in the garden. She wore a blue dress with artificial feathers set at the back of her head. Not a bad outfit, but he'd seen better, and it didn't look like she was all that comfortable in it, either. "I was just getting acquainted with the lady and gentlecolts here," he explained, waving his hoof in the direction of the other ponies. "Nothing about eagles or hawks yet. We haven't seen any. I haven't, at least."

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Bramble let out a soft *heh* to Inkwell. "Well, I just ... don't expect other ponies to like flowers as much as I do. Especially at night." He wasn't sure what to say to Fluttershy - if she was glad to be done with it, and didn't want to be reminded, he could hardly ask for her autograph! That'd just be rude! And then a big red familiar-looking pony with a bird making a nest in his mane?! What was he supposed to say about that?

As his nervous pause went on, it became harder and harder to think of something to actually say. Oh, no, Bramble thought to himself. This is so awkward! I need a distraction! Why can't something just... fall out of the sky?!

A griffin fell from the sky and landed right next to them. Bramble blinked. Then he grinned. Thank the first ponies!

He admired her fine choice of clothing, and how it certainly framed her colors so wonderfully. "Oh, and we have another visitor! I have never met a griffin before! I've heard of how strong and fast they are, but I'd never heard that they were so beautiful!" He gave a polite bow, dropping over one knee.

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Fluttershy was rather interested in the bird in Big Macintosh's mane. It clearly looked as if it was making a nest. But before she could really suggest anything a voice she never thought she'd hear again picked up. Her eyes darted over to Gilda and she instantly wanted to run, but at the same time that would be rude. If she was there trying to have a second chance with the animals, then she needed to give Gilda a second chance too. Besides the Gilda looked a bit nervous as compared to when they first crossed paths.

"Oh hello Gilda... how... how have you been?" She glanced down to the ground and nervously kicked at the ground. "Uh... I'm not sure about Hawks... but there are Buzzards that really buzz... well... when they're not hiding. The animals around here a pretty um... skiddish."

Okay, at least she said hello. She didn't want to seem snooty or judgmental. But now she needed to help Big Mac. "And um, I think that Meadowlark is nesting." She moved closer and waved a hoof toward the bird. "Come on now, Big Macintosh is very nice... but you can't nest in his mane. He will have to eventually leave and I don't think the Princess would be happy if you were in his hair. She might miss you."

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Everypony else took notice of the gryphon. Bramble seemed oddly interested in her, probably as a distraction from the awkwardness of talking about Fluttershy's modeling career, and Fluttershy herself seemed skittish and reluctant to socialize. That was weird. Was she scared of gryphons? No, she knew this one. Maybe they had a bad history or something.

He had to laugh a bit at the meadowlark nesting in Big Macintosh's hair. It was impolite, he knew, and yet it was really, really cute. So cute, in fact, that he had to draw it. He got his sketchbook and made a quick sketch of Mac's head, just in time for the bird to stop and listen to Fluttershy. Strangely enough, it actually seemed to listen to her, flying away and going to make a nest in something that wouldn't protest.

"Wow, you really are good with animals, Fluttershy," he says, impressed with her abilities. "I guess asking nicely really does go a long... way..." His eyes caught a beautiful bird soaring through the air, wreathed in feathers that looked like streaks of flame. It flew over the garden and disappeared in over a tall hedge wall, creating a miniature sunset as it passed out of view.

Inkwell blinked and started at that hedge. "Wow... um, listen, everyone, I think I j-... I sh-... Drawing." That was the best explanation they were getting, it seems. He walked through the hedges as quietly as he could, hoping to catch another glimpse of the princess's pet phoenix.

((Exit Inkwell))

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