The King Who Would Be Man

Pool Party

Mane Street was a swimming pool.

Well, it wasn't completely a swimming pool. Discord had divided the street, so both lanes of traffic were as wide as they had previously been, plenty of room for a pony to walk even if she was pulling a cart. He seemed to have bent space somehow to do it, because when she tried walking in the alley behind the buildings they were exactly the same distance away from the other buildings that they'd always been, and all the other streets were still straight, and when she looked in the shops they had the same dimensions they'd always had. But the lanes now bent widely around a gigantic median ellipse occupied by a big swimming pool. There was a fence around the pool, but it was the kind made of metal links that you could easily see through. Pinkie Pie and at least a dozen other ponies, including two elderly retired mares who were always giving Fluttershy extra vegetables for her animals, were splashing in the water. Other ponies were lying on pool chairs, taking in the sun. Tentatively, Fluttershy pushed the gate open and entered the pool area.

"FLUTTERSHY!" Pinkie jumped up in her face... which given that 10 seconds ago Fluttershy had seen her swimming, was a little weird, but that was just Pinkie. "Did Discord tell you what he did?"

"He, uh, he said he was going swimming on Mane Street..."

"He made a pool for everypony! With really awesome slides, come on, you have to slide on the slides, they're like a roller coaster or something!" Pinkie tugged at Fluttershy.

"I, uh, I'd really... I'm kind of scared of roller coasters..."

Pinkie let go of Fluttershy. "Oh. Yeah. Right. Haha, I forgot about that! Well, at least you can go swimming, right? I mean, the water isn't even deep, except in the deep end where the slides are! Oh, and did you have any breakfast? Because I told Applejack and the Cakes to come set up food vending here and I gotta go back and help the Cakes but Applejack's already here and she has fritters and apple pancakes! Apple pancakes for breakfast! And I told Discord not to make any food right now so the vendors can sell stuff but he said then that I have to throw a party tonight so he can make food because of course you never sell the food at a party so it won't cut into any vendor sales whereas if he made the food now then the vendors couldn't sell anything and that would be bad for the Cakes and Applejack!"

"Where is Discord now, actually?"

"I actually don't know! I wonder if I have to go play hide and seek with him! Or maybe he's at the bottom of the pool in the deep end! He's been doing that and then going boo to the ponies who go down the slide and I actually wish he wouldn't keep doing it because it's kind of mean even though it's also funny, but he doesn't know the ponies here well enough to know who likes to get a little scare and who's gonna be totally freaked out so maybe you can talk to him?"

"Oh, but I can't go down to the deep end of the pool..."

"Well, I'll check to see if he's there and if he is I'll tell him to go talk to you! He wanted you to come but he didn't want to wake you up early and is it true that he took you to the Moon last night? Because normally I wouldn't believe a thing like that but if it's Discord, sometimes he says things that are true that nopony's gonna believe because he thinks it's funny to do that, which it kind of is sometimes, and he could go to the Moon if he wanted to but on the other hand sometimes he says things that aren't true because he thinks that's funny too!"

She wasn't sure she wanted to tell Pinkie about going into space just yet. "We didn't go to the Moon, no..."

"Oh, okay! So I have to get some peanut butter because I told him I will dump a jar of peanut butter over his head if he's lying to me, but he has to get out of the pool first because peanut butter in a pool? That's just gross!"

"Pinkie, please don't dump peanut butter on Discord's head just because of something I said..."

Pinkie slowed down from her usual manic bounciness slightly. "It's not mean, Fluttershy. He likes that kind of teasing. I've been trying to teach him he's gotta know his audience. Some ponies like the physical comedy and the slapstick like that, like he does, and some like it but only from their best friends, and some don't like it at all, and you have to know who's going to like it before you do it because if they hate it, that's just not funny. He's had a hard time getting it, but I think knowing you is helping a lot because he really doesn't want to upset you and you're a lot different than he is. I don't think he's used to caring what ponies who think differently than he does think about, well, anything."

"Well, uh, there aren't really many ponies who don't think differently than he does..."

"Yeah, so that there is a big part of his problem." Pinkie grinned. "But I think he's starting to get it. A little bit. At least, when I tell him a joke is mean, he doesn't usually repeat it. And I think that's because he knows you don't like it when he's mean." She flopped down in a chair. "Can I tell you something, Fluttershy?"

"Sure, anything!"

"Peanut butter tastes really horrible with mane in it!"

Fluttershy blinked. "Oh... ok?"

"Wait, no, that isn't what I wanted to say." Pinkie put her hoof to her chin, lost in thought. "Oh yeah! I wanted to say, there's two kinds of ponies who pull pranks. There's bullies and pranksters. Bullies, they pull a prank on you 'cause they want you to cry. The funny part, for them, isn't the joke itself, it's that it hurts you. So they don't like it when you prank them back and they get mad if you come up with some clever way to dodge the prank. But pranksters, for them the funny part is the unexpectedosity of it." Fluttershy didn't think that was a word, but Pinkie didn't let her get in a word edgewise to say so. "So if you prank a prankster, and it's a good prank, they laugh. And if you do something unexpected to dodge out of their prank, they laugh at that too. It's not about who got hurt, it's about it basically being funny."

Fluttershy wasn't a big fan of pranks of any kind, but she could at least follow this logic when she thought about ponies like Rainbow Dash pulling pranks, or Pinkie herself. "Okay..."

"So here's the thing. Discord laughs if you prank him."

"I know, " Fluttershy said.

"Well, we didn't, right? Before the Princess asked you to reform him we didn't know that because we didn't do any pranks on him, we fought him, and no one who's fighting is gonna be glad to lose 'cause that's when it's serious and you gotta win. But you thought you could reform him like she asked. And I didn't, because he's a big meanie and I thought he was a bully, even though I can forgive a lot for chocolate milk rain, but you can't reform a bully, they just either grow out of it or you have to scare 'em out of picking on you. But bullies don't laugh when you prank them. So you were right all along." She got up. "There's two parts of not being a mean prankster, and that's knowing what other ponies think is mean, and caring about not being mean. And Dissy's got a long long way to go with the knowing part but I think we are actually making some progress on the caring part! A little bit."

"I'm really glad to hear that."

"So I'm gonna go back and help the Cakes! Applejack's got a really long line over there and I bet it would help a lot with the line if there was another vendor for breakfast! Bye!"

As Pinkie bounced off, Fluttershy murmured, "But... you were going to help me find Discord if he's at the bottom of the pool..."

The water by the side of the pool heaved up as if a sea serpent was rising out of it. Fluttershy shrieked and jumped backward, sliding on the wet concrete and falling on her rump. "Ow!"

"Fluttershy, it's just me," the very large draconequus with a tail that looked a whole lot like a sea serpent tail said, exasperatedly. "You were just looking for me! How do you get startled when the being you're looking for pops up out of the place you were going to look for him in?"

"I'm sorry..."

"Never mind," Discord said. "I'd thought that living with me might have given you a slightly higher setting on your Startle-O-Meter than that, but I suppose not." He leaned on the edge of the pool, the elbow of his paw bent and the paw itself supporting his head. "I take it you got my message?"

"Uh, yes, I did."

"Splendid! Come dive in!"

"I was, actually I was just going to look for you and make sure everything was okay... I have to get back and feed the animals breakfast and everything..."

"No, you don't." Discord snapped his talon. "Problem solved."

"Did... did you just... what did you do?"

"I fed them! Every single lost soul living on or in or around your property has a nice healthy breakfast in front of them now. Have you had breakfast?"

"Discord, you didn't feed them all cake, did you?"

He sighed. "I actually know exactly what you feed your animals, Fluttershy. If I was going to feed them cake it would be while you were there to see the joke. I'm trying to save you work so you can come swimming with me. And you didn't answer my question about breakfast."

"Oh, no, I haven't yet, so I was going to go over and ask Applejack..."

"But just look at that line!" Discord snapped again, and Applejack suddenly appeared by the side of the pool.

"Tarnation, Discord! Ah'm in the middle of frying a fritter and it's gonna burn! What the hay do you want!"

"Consider your fritter fried. I want you to make Fluttershy breakfast."

"Oh, no!" Fluttershy put a hoof to her face, deeply embarrassed. "Discord, I was going to go stand on the line! You just pulled Applejack away from her kiosk!"

"Pretty sure her giant lug of a brother can handle the orders for the few seconds it takes for you to give her your order."

"That ain't how we do it around here, Discord. There's ponies already in line."

"So you would prioritize strangers with bits over your dear, dear friend here?" Discord slithered up out of the pool and pulled Fluttershy into a sideways hug faster than anypony that big ought to be able to move. "Look at this sweet face. Don't you think your friend deserves breakfast?"

"It's all right, Discord, I'm ok with getting on line—"

"Fluttershy may be first in mah heart of all the ponies eatin' mah food for breakfast, Discord, but Ah still can't let her jump to the front of the line just for being mah friend, 'cause that just ain't fair to all the other ponies who're standing in line. If you're gonna sell goods to ponies, you can't play favorites to your friends or they're gonna be the only customers you get."

Fluttershy was bright red. "It's all right, I don't have a problem with the line—"

"Well I think it's just ridiculous that the magic of friendship can't even get Fluttershy a fritter on a timely basis. For shame. Do I have to feed her? Am I the only friend Fluttershy has who cares that she's hungry?"

"You don't know a darned thing about retail and sales, do ya?"

"Not in the slightest." Discord flopped down on his belly on the concrete around the pool, grinning cheerily.

"If you get your customers mad, like maybe if you spend ten minutes arguin' with an ignorant draconequus instead of takin' their orders, or if you play favorites, you ain't gonna be able to make a living in mah business. Not that you'd know anything about makin' an honest living, either."

"Guilty as charged. Completely ignorant of the subject." His grin got bigger.

"Well, Ah'll give you some advice for free, if you ever find yourself needin' to? Don't go into sales. Yer pony skills are appallin' and you're likely to scare half yer customers away just with how you look, and the other half of them with how you act. You need good pony skills to get ahead in a sales-based business."

Discord lost his smile completely. "I'll be sure to keep it in mind, in the vanishingly unlikely event that it should ever prove to be relevant," he said sourly.

Applejack looked over at the line. "Fluttershy, Ah tell you what. Ah'll take your order now—"

"But that's unfair to all the ponies in line!"

"No, it ain't, 'cause Ah won't start cookin' it until that guy—" she pointed at the last stallion in the line—"gives me his order. That way it'll be just like if you did stand on the line. You won't go afore anypony else who was supposed to go afore you, but Ah'll already have your order so you won't have to stand in the line." She turned and glared at Discord. "And then this useless lump a'chaos here can let you know when your order's done cookin' so you don't have to come over to the booth till it's ready for you to get it."

"I am a very useful lump of chaos, I'll have you know."

"I—I guess that's fair. I just wanted a couple of your apple pancakes?"

"That's no problem, Fluttershy, no problem. Ah'll just head over there and take orders till Ah get to that guy."

"Make me one too," Discord said offhandedly.

Applejack glared at him. "You gonna buy one off me? You got any bits?"

Discord put on a pair of sunglasses he hadn't had a moment ago. "Applejack, do you really want to ask me a question whose answer might end up being, 'No, I actually don't, perhaps I need to earn some,' which results in me setting up a kiosk selling exotic breakfast treats right next to yours, given that I am not only capable of creating an infinite supply of much tastier food than yours, but I can make the booth, the equipment and the perky salesponies to move the product, with a snap?" He sat up. "Celestia won't let me make bits, but she's never restricted me from making anything I could sell for bits. And while I'm sure you're correct that I should never personally attempt to sell anything, you have no idea how many desperate salesponies are out there looking for a job who'd be willing to staff my kiosk in a heartbeat."

"Please stop arguing," Fluttershy pleaded.

"So what you want from me's a free pancake."

"Well, they say there's no such thing as a free lunch, but this is breakfast."

"Even though you can make any food ya want appear just like that."

"That's right."

"I'll pay for his pancake, Applejack," Fluttershy said.

Both Discord and Applejack looked at her at the same time and said, "You will not!" And then glared at each other.

"But it's the right thing, you ought to get paid..."

Applejack sighed. "Even though this varmint does not deserve a pancake, any pancake, and especially not a free pancake, Ah will make him one so we can quit arguin' about this and Ah can get back to mah line of customers. You ain't gonna pay for him, Fluttershy. And it ain't because Ah'm afraid of you competing with mah booth, Discord, it's because Ah don't wanna upset Fluttershy." She started toward her booth, and then turned back. "Although, if your exotic breakfast treats are so much better than mah cooking, why don't you make yourself one?"

"I'm trying to share a friendship experience with Fluttershy," Discord said, a comically innocent expression plastered on his face. "You know, sharing a meal together, isn't that supposed to be one of those bonding moments? Or am I mixing up breakfast and rubber cement?"

"Could you please stop..." Fluttershy whispered.

"You lie like a rug, Discord. You just want me to make you a free pancake."

"I could have asked for a sammich."

Applejack squared her shoulders. "Well, all right then, 'cause Ah just thought of somethin'. Ah was wrong to say you don't deserve a free pancake. You made this swimming pool and gave mah family the opportunity to run a booth here; it ain't market day, so we wouldn't be sellin' any apples or apple product right this minute if it weren't for you, and you didn't ask for rent. So Ah'll make you two pancakes, with syrup, as rent for the pool space we got the booth on, so they ain't free pancakes, they're pancakes you got comin' to ya fair and square. We good now?"

"Wonderful," Discord said. "Enjoy your fritter frying." He snapped his talon again, and Fluttershy saw Applejack reappear behind the booth counter.

"Why did you want a pancake?" Fluttershy asked.

"Eh, no reason. Come on in and swim, Flutters!"

"Oh, no, I really couldn't, right now..."

"If you wait until after you eat you'll have to wait an hour after that," he caroled. "Come in while the going's good now."

"Oh, no, I just... I mean maybe later if I can ease into the water, but..."

He sighed deeply, and then made puppy dog eyes at her. "Could you at least come give me a backrub? It's getting bad again."

"Sure!" Giving comfort and medical treatment was much more familiar ground than swimming pools. "There are plenty of pool chairs, but I don't see any big enough for you to lay down in. Where would you like to lay down?"

And then there was sudden disorientation, and vertigo, and then she was standing on a rock which was rocking, like a boat. "Eep!" Fluttershy flapped her wings, trying to regain her footing. "Discord, we're in the middle of the pool!"

"Yes, I know, I teleported us here."

"But we're in the pool!"

"Don't worry, this rock is very stable."

"No it's not! It's going back and forth... Don't you think so?"

"Well, of course it is, Fluttershy." Discord was sprawled out on the rock, on his belly, limbs stretched wide, wings lying straight and flat draped over his back and sides, and his tail uncoiled. The tip of his tail hung into the water and his nose was barely an inch from the waves; it was a long rock for a long creature to stretch out on. "What else would you expect? It's floating."

"We're on a floating rock in the middle of the swimming pool? Why not a boat or something?"

"That's what I wanted to know!" Pinkie Pie yelled, jumping up from the water and leaning on the rock with both forelimbs. "I said what about a nice inner tube, and he says—"

"When was the last time you saw a dragon in an inner tube?" Discord asked.

"Yeah, that's exactly what he said!" Pinkie turned to Discord. "And the answer is, last summer when Spike came to the beach with us."

"Let me rephrase, when was the last time you saw a dragon who didn't think he was a pony in an inner tube?"

"But you're not even a dragon, you're a dragon pony goat lion eagle bat thing!"

"The technical term is draconequus."

"But that just means dragon pony! What about all the other parts? Are you ashamed of the other parts, huh? Didn't want to have a word that had all the other parts in it?"

"Well, if I called myself a draconaquileoequus, it would be a bit of a mouthful, don't you think?"

"And it would also be missing the part about the bat and the goat!"

"The point is, I'm part dragon, therefore I'm basking on a rock. Not an inner tube. Don't you have a booth to set up?"

"Oh yeah, I almost forgot!" Pinkie dove back into the water.

Discord sighed. "There's chaos, and then there's complete pointless noise, and sometimes I think Pinkie doesn't know where the line is. Or possibly that there even is a line."

Fluttershy smiled. By now, she had figured out how to balance properly on the floating rock. "Why don't you tell me where it hurts?"

"Everywhere," Discord moaned dramatically.

"Big baby," Fluttershy teased, and knelt down next to him, running her hooves over his back. She could easily feel the knots in his muscles. "Where does it hurt the worst?"


"Never mind, I'll just do the whole thing."

She dug her hooves into a particularly tense spot. Discord gasped. "Fluttershy. You are an angel of mercy. There need to be – ohhh – there need to be choirs of little foals in white gowns singing in harmony about how wonderful you – oh yes please right there under the wing, no, the bat wing, oh, that is incredible." He closed his eyes. "I'm going to pretend that I'm a creature that sleeps now. Agh. Do you think it would help if I traded in my skeleton for a new model?"

"I kind of don't think so? Because you can never get rid of it just by shapeshifting and then turning back, and you'd think that would work. Maybe if you went around being a little more symmetrical it would help?"

"Blasphemy. Tell Rarity to shave her mane, it's more likely."

"Well, if Rarity's mane was hurting all the time because it was too long... but I don't think any different form you have is going to be any different."

"What if I was an invertebrate? Then my back couldn't hurt."

"You turned yourself into a whole flock of dragonflies and it didn't help in the long run."

"Well, the back I didn't have when I was a flock of dragonflies didn't hurt while I was a flock of dragonflies."

"Do you want to go around being a flock of dragonflies all the time?"

"Not really, no. Ohhh. Earth sun and sky how are you finding these things, I didn't even know how badly that one hurt until aggghhh yes there."

"I'm just feeling for where the muscles don't feel right."

"I'm not sure any of them feel right." He sighed, and then lifted his head, tensing up and ruining a lot of her work. "Oh, hey, breakfast's ready!" He snapped the talon without removing it from its position outstretched across the rock, and Applejack was suddenly standing on the other side of the rock, a serving platter tied around her neck with two plates on it. She wobbled.

"Discord! What the hay are you—" She looked down at Fluttershy. "Okay. Tell me Ah'm not seein' this."

"Seeing what?"

"Fluttershy, what the hay are you doin' down there?"

"I'm giving him a back rub." Discord moaned in a combination of agony and relief as she found another one of the really bad spots, this one above his tailbone. "His back really hurts him."

"Ah'll just bet," Applejack said slowly. "Hay, you! Loser!"

Discord opened his eyes and turned his head. "Are you addressing me?"

"You mind tellin' me why the hay a guy who can take his eyeballs outta his head and roll'em on the ground, turn into a hoop and hula around a pony, and shapechange into pretty much anything, needs to get a backrub from his mare friend? 'Cause Ah am callin' bull puckey."

Fluttershy flushed red. "It's not like that, Applejack!"

"Well, Fluttershy, Ah'm sure you don't think so. Ah'm positive this varmint told you he was in a lot of pain and needed his back rubbed. But in mah experience, a stallion askin' a mare for a back rub, well, maybe he hurt his back with a lotta hard work, but if he ain't done any hard work a day in his life? Or if he can take off his head and put it back on again and other crazy stuff? Ah'm thinkin' he's lookin' to get something else rubbed, if you know what Ah mean."

"Applejack!" Fluttershy was completely mortified, the worse so because Discord was snickering. "It's not like that at all! It's psychosomatic pain!"

"Psychosomatic? You been spendin' too much time with Twilight again?"

"It means pain in the mind making pain in the body," Fluttershy explained.

"Ah know what it means, it just don't sound like the kinda word you use all the time."

"Fluttershy thinks it's rude to just say my pain is all in my head," Discord said, half-growling. "And Fluttershy, if I wanted to whine to somepony who turned me into a stone statue about what that's done to me, I'd have done it to somepony who cared. Which I did. Which was you. Not Applejack."

"But she was acting like—I couldn't let her think we were – or that you were the kind of stallion who would—no!"

"For the record," Discord said, closing his eyes again, "if I were looking for a special somepony to give me a different sort of rub, I'd be in your Princess's bedroom right now. She totally wants me."

"You would what?"

"You are a filthy liar, Discord, and someone oughta wash your mouth out with soap."

"Which Princess do you even mean?" Fluttershy asked frantically.

Still with his eyes closed, Discord was grinning broadly. "Oh, I suppose I misspoke, it's so hard to keep track of the time. Celestia's working right now. I'd have to wait till evening for the happy ending."

"Ah'm gonna shove these apple pancakes in your ears 'cause your lyin' mouth ain't good enough for mah pancakes."

"Discord, that joke is really tasteless," Fluttershy said sternly. "You just can't talk about the Princesses that way. Besides, Princess Celestia is still in mourning for Prince Trueblood! She never marries a new husband until the old one's been dead at least fifty years."

Discord chortled. "What part of 'Celestia totally wants me' makes you think she wants to marry me? Do I look like the sort of colt you bring home to your mama? Celestia only marries the good colts, the knights and paladins, the Colt Scouts, the stallions of impeccable virtue and niceness and boringness. I'm the kind of guy she hides in her bedroom when Luna's too busy with the moon to notice and everypony else is asleep."

"She does not!"

"Didn't you ever wonder how she got custody of a baby dragon? Spike's dad, well, I'll just bet he thought he'd died and gone to Dragon Heaven when she showed up in his cave."

"The Princess is not Spike's mother!" Fluttershy said frantically. Applejack was simply spluttering, turning redder and redder.

"'Course not, Spike's a dragon. Fellow was married to a dragon mare. To be absolutely fair, I think his blushing bride and her tragic demise shortly after laying Spike occurred a few hundred years after Celestia got down and dirty with him, but you know your Princess, she's all about the magic of friendship. Especially the friendship with benefits."

Applejack kicked Discord, hard, with her front hooves. "Ah am gonna buck you to Fillydelphia if you don't stop with the lies about the Princess. You are not her coltfriend!"

"Never said I was. She made it awfully clear that the invitation was open any time I wanted, but you know... she's so white. Practically glows in the dark. Doesn't that seem just a little, I don't know, embarrassing? I mean, most ponies prefer a bit of shade for their intimacy, hides all the little imperfections, you know, and here's the BLAZING LIGHT OF THE SUN demanding that you buck her like a—"

At this point, Fluttershy shoved Discord off the rock before he really could provoke Applejack into bucking him to Fillydelphia. He splashed into the water with a cry of surprise, and sank.

"I apologize for Discord, Applejack," Fluttershy said, breathing hard. "I embarrassed him when I told you about why his back hurts, so he must have decided to get back at the both of us by saying all those mean things about Princess Celestia."

Applejack shook her head. "It ain't that they're mean. If they were true, there'd be no shame in the Princess bein' a little xeno, if that's how she swings. Ah mean, she's the Princess, she's thousands of years old, Ah ain't gonna tell her she can't have a dragon warm her up on a cold night if she wanted. But they're lies, and Discord's just sayin' them 'cause he thinks we would be ashamed of our Princess for bein' a bit xeno, like the hay it matters who she loves, long as it's love. Ah mean, maybe the part about Spike's dad is even true. But there is no way Princess Celestia would give the time of day to Discord." She sighed. "Ah shouldn't let him get to me, but he tells me mean lies after he made me a mean liar, it's just like wavin' a red flag to a bull."

"Well, we're not racing bulls. Discord can wave a red flag or a checkered flag or any kind of flag he wants, but we shouldn't let him get to us. He's just playing. And I should've known he'd be embarrassed for you to know about the psychosomatic thing."

"Ah'm not even sure Ah understand."

Fluttershy peered into the water. Discord had apparently swum off entirely and was now pretending to be a climbing structure for the little foals in the kiddie pool. Which actually might help his back some. "He has psychosomatic pain. He says he's pulling against stone that isn't there, all the time, and it wrenches his back. He can use his powers to fix it, but his powers are controlled by his mind and it's his mind doing it to him, so it never works very well."

"Huh. Wouldn't've thought bein' turned into a statue could actually mess up a spirit enough to keep hurtin' his back."

"He had a really hard time admitting it to me in the first place. Discord doesn't like to admit to needing help with anything." She sighed. "I wish you hadn't said that stuff, Applejack. I mean, I know you were just looking out for me and I really appreciate it, but Discord isn't interested in me like that. He's more like a really annoying but also kind of sweet older brother."

"Ah just don't want him takin' advantage of you, Fluttershy," Applejack said. "And it's true, stallions ask mares for back rubs or offer 'em up when they're thinkin' about, you know. Getting with her."

"Yes, but stallions don't ask me for back rubs, but sometimes bears do, and one time a monkey, so trust me. Discord's a good friend to me, really, but, but I'm not really xeno, I mean I love all creatures but not that way, so really there's nothing there except friendship. He might as well be a mare. A mare with a very stalliony voice." She giggled.

"Well, just 'cause you ain't xeno don't mean he ain't."

"He says he is, actually, Which I guess is good for him, because are there even any other draconequuses? I asked him about his family but they're all spirits and they have different kinds of bodies and the one who used to be his fillyfriend is a dragon so I guess he has to be xeno or he'd never find someone to love?"

"Ah think he's got bigger problems findin' someone to love than what species they are, Fluttershy," Applejack said. "Think first he'd need to figger out how to not be a total jerk. And if you know he's xeno, how are you so sure he's not goin' all creepy on you?"

"I just know," Fluttershy said. She thought of bringing up the fact that she had slept against Discord's flank for half the night last night and he had been a perfect gentlestallion, cuddling against her but not doing anything misconstruable as sexual, the whole time. But she thought Applejack might turn that one around and take it as evidence for her side too.

Discord rematerialized on the rock, sitting this time. "Why are the two of you so obsessed with my sex life?"

"Ah ain't, Discord. Ah just wanna make sure you ain't gonna hurt Fluttershy."

Discord sighed, heavily. "As if I can't break her heart into tiny little pieces without romance being involved? Or the other way around? I'll never comprehend why you ponies think friendship with sex is somehow so much more fraught with peril than friendship without sex. I do not desire Fluttershy. She is a very beautiful little pony and my dear friend and someday when some stallion comes calling to her door I will probably turn him into a newt unless he proves he won't hurt her, but she is much too young for me and I am frankly getting somewhat offended at the implication that I'm such a cradle robber. What, you think I'm desperate?"

Applejack shrugged. "Ain't seein' you gettin' with much of anypony else, and it ain't likely given your history. Also that somepony would have to be real xeno to be into you."

Discord smirked. "There is actually no shortage of ponies who are really, really xeno, Applejoke. If I wanted a lover, I could find one. I don't. I have a friend. Right now, at this stage of my existence, I find that preferable. But I promise you this, o Element of Honesty, if I do hook up with a pony who's got a taste for extreme xeno, I'll give you a blow by blow description afterward in graphic detail, since you seem to be so very interested in my love life."

Applejack shook her head. "There's honesty, and then there's TMI, and then there's the brain bleach Ah do not have enough of to get that image out of mah head, Discord. Please shut the buck up and eat your pancakes. They've gotten all cold."

Discord grinned at her and flicked his talon, and she reappeared at the booth, sans the two plates. Fluttershy sat down with her fork and knife, and found that the pancakes were as warm as if they'd just come off the grill... that one was probably Discord's doing. Discord ate his like they were flies and he was a frog, shooting his long snake tongue out to stick to a piece of pancake and then pulling it back, which was just totally weird enough to be not quite gross but more like watching an animal eat.

"You shouldn't get so upset when anypony hears about your problems," she said to him softly, returning to work on his back after finishing her pancake. "We just all want to help you."

"As if," Discord muttered.

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