Chapter 2: That Orange Pegasus
Rumble lay his chin against the cold surface of his desk, staring up at Cheerilee as if he was listening to her. Though, in reality, every single thing that she said drifted in one ear and out the other. He glanced around the room. Most of his classmates acted as he did, watching their teacher talk with a set of dismissive eyes. Others- the diligent students that constantly got high grades on their tests- scribbled down every, last point that Cheerilee made.
If she started telling a story about her pet cat, they would write down it's name, what breed it was, and whether it preferred a scratch-post or a squeaky toy.
And finally, there were the students that didn't even try to hide their boredom. Their eyes were closed as they either slept on their desk or simply lay back in their chair as tiny snores and streams of drool escaped their open mouths.
Rumble didn't blame them for being tired, though he had to admit it did show a lack of character. At least he stayed awake, even if only barely.
Near the end of class, however, he started to suffer from a classic case of "head-bobbing" syndrome- an ailment that left him feeling as though he was on the brink of falling asleep, only to jolt himself awake at the last second.
His heart pounding against his chest and his breathing rapid, Rumble looked around the class to make sure nopony saw his embarrassing attempt to keep himself awake. Once confident that his little struggle with consciousness went unnoticed, he turned his attention to his teacher with a revitalized determination to listen to her lecture. Unfortunately, this determination didn't last long, and soon he had drifted back into his state of complete boredom. His chin slowly lowered onto the top of his desk as he went back to where he started: barely awake.
He looked towards the front of the room, where he saw three fillies sitting together. He knew them as the Cutie Mark Crusaders, a rambunctious group of ponies that were infamous throughout Ponyville for their antics as they would try anything and everything to get their cutie marks. Rumble glanced down at his own blank flank, a source of ridicule for the few jerks he knew in his class. The truth was he didn't have many friends. It didn't help that he was the only colt in his class without a cutie mark, nor did his somewhat shy behavior. Most of the class didn't express much interest in him, and those that did mostly did so through name-calling and verbal harassment.
He placed a hoof onto his bare flank and let out a sigh. He then looked up at the girls. There had been moments where he contemplated asking their permission to join their group, but he always chickened out, thinking that they wouldn't want a colt to become a member. Besides, it wasn't like he had anything interesting to offer. He was very average and never truly stood out from anypony else.
Or so he thought.
But no matter how scary the idea of approaching the three girls seemed, for some odd reason he still felt tempted to do so. At first he wasn't entirely sure why, but as time progressed he started to think it had something to do with the orange pegasus in the group, Scootaloo.
Ever since he laid eyes on that filly he had felt drawn to her. Perhaps it was her spunky attitude and the fact that she wasn't what Rumble would classify as a "girly girl". Perhaps it was her mane-cut, how closely it resembled that of a certain cyan pegasus mare whom Rumble was acquainted with thanks to her empire-sized ego and the fact that she was the most well-known pegasus in town.
But perhaps, he thought, it was simply a mix of all of the above. Plus the few times he had spoken with her, she seemed like a genuinely kind filly. A bit rough and tumble- preferring rock music to classical- but all that did was make her more fascinating to him. She always had a bright smile on her face, whenever she wasn't in a bad mood over school assignments or getting into a heated confrontation with Diamond Tiara and Silver Spoon, the school jerks.
His attention remained fixed on her until the bell pulled him out of his daydreaming. Class had ended for the day, and he didn't learn a single thing other than the fact that he wanted to talk to Scootaloo and her friends.
But mostly Scootaloo.
He stuffed his books and pencils into his saddlebag and pulled it over his back. He looked up to see the trio exiting the schoolhouse, giggling and smiling the whole way. He envied their cheeriness, and wished he could share a laugh with some friends. Sure he had his brother, but it just wasn't the same.
Once fully set, Rumble made his way towards the exit and walked out of the tiny schoolhouse, entering the warm spring day. He held his hoof up to shield his sensitive eyes from the piercing glare of the sun as he scanned the grassy area outside of the schoolhouse in an attempt to find the girls. Finally, he spotted them sitting beneath a large tree, taking advantage of the giant shadow it cast over them, providing some coolness in the otherwise humid day. They all looked so comfortable, and it made the colt want to join them even more.
Taking a deep breath- the sweet spring air filling his lungs and acting like a relaxant- and slowly exhaling, Rumble started to take a few steps towards the tree where the Cutie Mark Crusaders sat.
You can do it, Rumble, he thought. Don't over-think it. They're just fillies and they're nice. You have nothing to worry about.
He was about twenty feet away when he suddenly got cold hooves and had to stop. He started to panic, watching as the three friends giggled about something. Scootaloo was talking, a bright smile on her face as she did so. Rumble couldn't help but blush as he watched her.
Who was I kidding? Rumble looked down. Going up to these girls out of the blue? This was such a dumb idea.
Deciding to abort his mission, Rumble turned to leave, but his departure was halted by a friendly voice calling out to him. It was a familiar voice with a slight country twang.
"Rumble?" Apple Bloom asked. "Hey! Rumble, over here!"
Oh no, Rumble started to panic, mind racing about possible options on what to do. Should he run? Turn around and face the girls? Simply walk away and pretend he didn't hear them?
Eventually, he decided it was best to do the friendly thing and acknowledge their call. He slowly turned around to face the three, smiling fillies that were all waving to him from under the tree.
"Uh..." Rumble said, swallowing in an attempt to rid himself of the lump in his throat. "Hey girls. W-what's...going on?"
"Nothing much," Sweetie Belle said with a shrug, "we're just talking about past attempts to get our cutie marks."
"R-really? Sounds fun." Rumble said, laughing nervously.
"Yeah, well, it would be even more fun if one of these embarrassing moments had actually worked." Scootaloo said with a bitter laugh- like she was able to find both comedy and frustration in the situation. Before Rumble had a chance to respond, Scootaloo's eyes lit up. "Hey Rumble, are you doing anything after school today?"
"No," Rumble answered. "Why?"
"Do you want to hang with us for a bit? We were about to head over to Sugarcube Corner for some shakes and there's always room for one more."
Rumble looked up, eyes wide. Suddenly he felt a surge of confidence return to him as he gazed upon the little pegasus filly that had just invited him to hang out with her and her friends.
"R-really?" He asked before he realized how stupid and desperate he made himself sound. "I mean...uh...yeah sure. That sounds cool."
"Great! Then come on over!" Apple Bloom said, motioning for Rumble to finish his jaunt over to join them under the oak.
This is your chance, Rumble. Don't blow it.
Nervous, but filled with new-found excitement, Rumble started to cautiously make his way over to the three fillies, trying his best not to go too fast, but neither did he want to seem too slow. He was also trying to avoid doing something stupid, such as tripping or something that made him look awkward. The rest of his energy was put to his face. He tried to keep it as neutral as possible, not wanting his inner excitement to reveal itself lest he appear to be a desperate fool.
He was no fool, he was Rumble "the Valiant", or at least he was in the fictional stories his brother had told him. Truth was that he was no knight, he wasn't brave- he was a blank-flank colt from Ponyville without any discerning traits- at least in his mind. But for the time being, he would do his best to emulate the fictional knight by projecting some form of confidence.
Finally he reached the tree and looked up, his legs wobbling ever so slightly as he gazed upon the faces of the three fillies. They all looked so friendly, so welcoming that Rumble felt his blush return and looked away, listening as the three girls giggled.
"Aw come on Rumble, it's okay we ain't gonna bite ya, none." Apple Bloom said reassuringly.
Rumble chuckled nervously, "Hehe, sorry. I'm just...not really used to..." The colt cleared his throat, trying his best to get out the last words- that he wasn't used to anypony asking him to hang out with them. That he wasn't used to such friendliness among his classmates. But all he added to the statement was. "...girls."
The three fillies exchanged confused glances. Rumble face-hoofed.
Smooth move there, Romeo, he thought.
Though, hilariously enough, the voice in his head was Thunderlane's. Perhaps because his older brother had often said that whenever one of his close friends did something stupid while trying to impress a girl. For instance, one night at a restaurant, Thunderlane shouted it out after Caramel, his close friend, went to ask out a mare, only to spill soda all over her. The entire table, Rumble included, burst out into laughter as the dejected, blushing Caramel made his way back to the table, head hung low and eyes staring down.
Rumble often hung out with Thunderlane and his pals (when they weren't getting involved in overly adult things). It was an odd feeling, being a colt in a sea of testosterone-driven stallions, looking for mares to sleep with, but Rumble didn't complain. He got along with the older ponies far better than he did with his classmates. Not to mention he felt like a big shot, a feeling he wasn't entirely accustomed to.
Regardless, Rumble couldn't linger on the fact that his brother's voice popped up in his mind rather than his own. He simply looked back up at the fillies to see them looking back at him in the same confusion that they had on their faces prior. Rumble was about to bolt from the area when he heard Scootaloo snicker. He looked up to see her covering her mouth with a hoof, her cheeks a bright red and her teeth shining like ivory in the tree's shade. The other two fillies then smiled. The atmosphere suddenly got a whole lot less tense.
"Hehe, I can sort of understand that," Scootaloo said. "We won't bite, I promise."
A small smile crept onto Rumble's face. He allowed himself to join in the laughter- even if it was at his expense. He nervously rubbed the back of his head and looking from side to side.
"O-okay...I mean...I know you guys wouldn't bite I just..."
Apple Bloom stuck her hoof out to silence him. "It's all good. Now, are we just gonna keep standin' around here all day or are we gonna go to Sugarcube Corner to get some shakes?"
With that, the four ponies headed off. Rumble initially started to let himself drift back, only to be brought back to the front by Apple Bloom, who put a hoof behind his back and dragged him forward. Before he could say otherwise, Apple Bloom leaned in from his right began her question blitz.
"So, Rumble, yer a blank-flank as well." Apple Bloom said, gesturing to the colt's cutie mark-less bottom. His cheeks turned red.
"Erm, I...I guess so. I mean, yes I am."
"Well then would you like to join our group?" Sweetie Belle asked from his left.
"Yeah!" Scootaloo said, buzzing slightly through the air. "You could be the first colt Cutie Mark Crusader!"
"It's perfect!" Apple Bloom said, "It'll diversify our group and make us look more inclusive!"
All three fillies hoof-bumped in triumph.
Scootaloo then turned to Rumble, "So Rumble, what do you say? Wanna be the fourth Cutie Mark Crusader?"
Rumble's cheeks felt inflamed. No matter how hard he tried to act completely normal, he couldn't. The friendliness displayed by the three fillies was unlike anything he ever experienced. Not only because they were of the opposite gender, but because of his past tendencies to be reserved and quiet. He never had a true friend, for some reason, these three took him in an instantly treated him like one of their own. Throughout the year they didn't show any specific desire to get to know him, but now they were acting like he was the new student and they were determined to make him join their little clique. Well, perhaps clique wasn't the right word- that would be best suited for fillies like Diamond Tiara and Silver Spoon. Simply put, they were a group of best friends that seemed to welcome Rumble with open arms.
Perhaps it was the simple act of actually making an effort to converse with them. By starting to make his way over to them rather than walk home by his lonesome. Either way, he decided it was best not to question it.
"I would love to!" he finally answered, though the eagerness of his reply made him backtrack. "Erm...I mean yeah... if it's really okay with you three."
"Of course it is, why would we invite you if it wasn't?" Sweetie Belle asked with a small chuckle. "The more the merrier, right girls?"
Both Apple Bloom and Scootaloo nodded.
Rumble chuckled, "Well...awesome! Thanks!"
With that, the group continued on its way to Sugarcube Corner, Rumble grinning from ear-to-ear the entire way.