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Cutting Corners · FiM Short Story ·
Organised by RogerDodger
Word limit 2000–8000
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At the Seams
Completely relaxed, Sandbar curled himself against the most beautiful yak in the world and knew he was the luckiest creature to ever live. Sure, he was never gonna be Captain of the Royal Guard like Gallus or actual royalty like Silverstream, but, well, neither of them was ever gonna be married to Yona, were they?

No, they were not!

Her four big legs around him had already gone slack, her breathing slowing and deepening. Marrying the girl of his dreams after they'd graduated, moving into Carousel Boutique when Rarity offered Yona the chance to manage the cornerstone business of the world fastest-growing fashion empire, becoming members of the Ponyville Chamber of Commerce and taking their place in the community: was there anything better than this?

No, there was not!

He pressed his face deeper into Yona's chest fur, inhaled her sweet musk, and was asleep in seconds.

When he blinked himself awake, he was alone, but he'd been expecting that. The town had just wrapped up winter, after all, and that meant new spring hats and coats and dresses. He and Yona had been bouncing design ideas around since before Hearth's Warming, and with Rarity's approval letter pinned to the corkboard in the studio upstairs, they'd spent the short days and long nights of winter filling the shop with pieces for the upcoming spring. The stuff was finished as far as Sandbar could tell, but—

"Yona need one more day," she said, planting her forehead against his flank the minute he came downstairs and pushing him toward the front door. "Alone with clothes. Then all be ready."

Sandbar didn't resist or complain or even roll his eyes. He'd learned years ago to schedule the grand unveiling of each season's line on the Tuesday after the solstice or equinox, not the Monday. "Special yak magic?" he asked the way he always did, reaching out with a hoof to open the door so she could slide him right outside.

Behind him, she gave a snort. "Yona know better thing for husband to do with mouth than make wisecracks."

He turned, stretched his neck upward, met her lips coming down, and the rest of the world sort of went away for a while.

Then a throat was clearing somewhere, Yona pulling back, Sandbar staggering around, trying to figure out where his hooves were. Blinking to clear his vision, he saw Tender Taps grinning at them from the street. "I'd wish you both a good morning," Taps said with a wink, "but I'm guessing you've already had one."

"Ah, yes," Yona said, her voice rising into the affected tone she used when talking to customers and acquaintances. "Such is the glamorous life of a high-fashion designer." She gave Sandbar one more peck on the snout and one more push away from the door. "I'll see you after suppertime, Sandbar, darling, and I hope we'll see you and Sweetie Belle at the unveiling tomorrow, Tender." A smile, and she moved back inside, closing the door after herself.

His heart rate just about back to normal, Sandbar turned to Taps. "You had breakfast yet?"

Taps shook his head, his usually well-styled mane a little scruffy, and started toward town square. "With her morning sickness, Sweetie wasn't in much of a mood for breakfast." He gave another grin. "Oh, yeah: we're pregnant, by the way."

"You—" Sandbar had to stop again to make sure his hooves weren't slipping. "Pregnant? When? How? I mean, not how, but—"

"We found out yesterday." Taps was still grinning and walking, so Sandbar hurried to catch up with him. "We thought she'd caught a stomach bug or something, but, well, turns out she'd caught a little bit of me instead."

"Well, congrats!" With a skip, Sandbar managed to smack Taps in the shoulder. "That's great! Though I guess we'll hafta alter some of Sweetie's show gowns. Or—" He didn't stop walking this time though the thought that had struck him made him want to. "Will you still be able to do the show?"

Nodding this time, Taps's mane got even more flyaway. "Sweetie figures she can keep singing pretty much till she delivers, and that'll be after next Hearth's Warming so we won't miss any of those gigs. I can take some of the offers I get for straight-up dance jobs in Canterlot to tide us over, then we rig a nursery in one of the backstage rooms, and with a little help and a little luck, we'll have the whole Castle Theater back up and running full-strength by next summer. Just with a new little singer wailing away." Taps did a shuffling side step. "We've got it all planned out."

It took some effort for Sandbar to shake off his shock. "Well, anything me and Yona can do, you let us know. 'Cause, I mean, a foal! That's...that's—" He couldn't find any words to finish the sentence.

"It sure is," Taps said, then they were rounding the corner, entering the square, Sugarcube Corner its usual riot of sights and scents across the way. This time, though, a big banner stretched along the gables, multi-colored letters spelling out Congratulations, Sweetie Belle and Tender Taps! Because was there any way Pinkie Pie wouldn't have known?

No, there was not. Sandbar chuckled to himself.

As manager of the Ponyville Arts Center and star performer at the theater that took up a quarter of Princess Twilight's former castle, Taps took center stage everywhere he went. But entering the bakery beside him at breakfast time on that Monday morning, Sandbar got a front-row view of it happening: Pinkie yelling "Tapsy!" while galloping from the kitchen and vaulting over the counter; all eyes in the place turning toward them; pastries and well-wishes seeming to fly from every direction; Cheese Sandwich hooting and whooping behind the cash register, Li'l Cheese waving from his back.

Sandbar got himself out of the spotlight as quickly as he could, slid into a corner table, and tried to sort out what he was feeling. Happy for Taps and Sweetie, sure—he and Yona had gotten to know them pretty well, putting together the costumes for their shows. But...

They were younger than him and Yona, and they were having a foal? Taps had said they had a plan, and Sandbar knew they'd be great parents, so...this shouldn't bother him, should it?

No, he tried to tell himself, it should not. And yet?

"Buns for ev'rycreature!" a familiar exuberant voice rang out, startling Sandbar's attention away from the hoof bumps and hugs surrounding Taps. Pinkie Pie herself was grinning down at him, her hooves pulling a small cinnamon roll on a plate from her mane. "'Cause, y'know, Sweetie's got a bun in the oven!"

Having to force his smile just a bit, Sandbar took the plate and set it on the table. "Thanks, Professor Pie."

"Oh, now, Sandbar." She pulled another roll and plate from her hair and flopped down in the chair across the table from him. "I haven't been a professor for years and years and years now, so just call me Pinkie." Her tongue darted out like a frog's, wrapped around the cinnamon roll, and snapped it back into her mouth. "But you're looking a little gloomy all of a sudden. Ev'rything okay?"

"Yeah..." He had to wince at how completely not okay he sounded. Taking a bite of his cinnamon roll, he tried to figure out what he was thinking. "It's just, y'know, Taps and Sweetie, right?"

"Yeppers." Professor—or rather Pinkie—sighed. "When they got married, it was like, 'Hey! How did that happen?' And now that they've got the stork on the way?" She sighed, then her ears perked. "But it's not like they're charging all over Equestria saving monsters from ravening princesses like I was at their age! They're settled right here in Ponyville and doing great!"

A little cold spot formed in the pit of Sandbar's stomach as he tried not to recall how many years he and Yona had been running Carousel Boutique. "So you and Mr. Sandwich waited till you were settled before you had Li'l Cheese?"

"Us? Settled?" Pinkie laughed. "We're party ponies, Sandbar!" She swept one hoof from left to right in front of her. "We're as free as the leaves in the breeze."

He blinked at her. "But you're here at Sugarcube Corner all the time, aren't you?"

She made a little pooping noise with her lips. "That's just to help Pound and Pumpkin out." Another wave of her hoof drew his attention past the crowd still gathered around Taps to the Cake twins, laughing with Cheese Sandwich and Li'l Cheese on the other side of the bakery's counter.

"But..." Unsure if he wanted to bring the matter up, he still couldn't stop himself from asking, "Don't you three still live here?"

Leaning forward, Pinkie tapped the table. "Free as the leaves in the breeze, Sandbar." Then she leaned back and shrugged. "And yeah, some leaves stay attached to the tree, but it's the principle of the thing." Reaching out, she grabbed her plate, gave it a lick, and shoved it back into her mane. "But why so interested all of a sudden? You and Yona thinking of having kids?"

"I wasn't till now," he had to admit, and the rest just flowed out without him even thinking. "'Cause, I mean, we're settled, right? Good jobs, a nice house, and we're, like, so totally in love, we go at it maybe two, three times a night sometimes! And we've been doing it that often pretty much since junior year! So shouldn't something already have happened? Since we're having so much—"

"Yes?" Pinkie leaning forward, her grin so big, it looked painted on, made him realize that he was talking with one of his former schoolteachers about his sex life.

Heat flooded his face, and scooping up the last bits of his cinnamon roll, he sprang to his hooves. "Okay! Well! Nice talk, but I...I've gotta go!" He briefly considered using the nearby window instead of pushing his way through the crowd to the door, but the window was closed, and adding property damage to the mortification he already felt really didn't seem like the right way to go.

Somehow avoiding eye contact with everycreature, he squeezed outside—

And everywhere he looked under the early spring morning sunlight, foals ran or played or walked along with their parents, more foals than he'd ever noticed in Ponyville before. But...they couldn't have all just appeared overnight, could they?

No, they could not.

Which meant they'd always been there, and he'd just never paid any attention to them. Little earth ponies, unicorns, and pegasi; young griffons and hippogriffs and dragons; a pod of small changelings following along after a pair of larger ones: kids of every size, age, and species filled the town square and the streets beyond till Sandbar found it hard to breathe, hard to think even.

Swirling his eyes around the scene, he finally found his gaze resting on a pair of older ponies seemingly unattached to any foals. He knew them, too, had known them his whole life: Lyra and Bon Bon, their names never, as far as he could recall, spoken separately. They'd been married forever, after all, or at least as long as Big Mac and Sugar Belle. But they didn't have any kids.

Because they were both mares, of course. They could've adopted if they'd wanted to, he supposed, but—



Could he and Yona even have foals? Sure, the different tribes of ponies could have kids together, but—


But yaks weren't ponies, were they?

No, they were not...

Things went away for a while, then, but he shook himself when he realized that his legs were moving but he had no idea where they were taking him. He wasn't hearing foalish voices anymore, though—wasn't hearing any voices at all—and looking up, he found that he'd wandered straight through town and out to the hill overlooking Sweet Feather animal sanctuary.

But why would he do that? Was he planning to ask Professor Fluttershy about—

No, no, no, he was not! Even the hints he'd given about the intimate details of his and Yona's life to Professor Pie—Pinkie, he told himself; she'd asked him to call her Pinkie—the embarrassment had nearly boiled the hide from his bones. If he had to get actually specific about...that...in talking to Professor Fluttershy, he couldn't imagine either of them would survive.

Besides, it didn't matter! He loved Yona! She was so open and honest and alive, always herself whether she was happy or upset. And after growing up in a family where everything had to be smooth and mellow all the time, no waves of joy or sadness or anything else allowed, the cascades of her emotions had attracted him to her like inert iron to a magnet. So what if they couldn't have foals? Did that really matter?

No, it did not, he wanted to think. But somehow for once, he couldn't get the words to form in his head.

Wishing he could be anywhere else, Sandbar started down the hill toward the animal sanctuary gate, his gaze skimming among the trees and structures inside the enclosure for any sign of the professor's telltale yellow.

By the time he reached the gate, he'd glanced from end to end several times without seeing her. Should he leave a note in the mailbox?

No, he should not. He didn't have pencil or paper with him, after all.

A hoof to the gate latch showed it to be unlocked, so he pushed through and stepped carefully in before closing and clicking the gate behind himself. He'd give the place a quick look around, then go back to town with a clear conscience.

Except for the part where he felt like he was betraying his marriage by wanting to ask about things that shouldn't concern him...

He was just turning to leave when a streak of light flashed so bright and white among the trees ahead, it made him wince. "Very good!" a baritone voice said, and Sandbar blinked to see that Discord had appeared, his arms full of fluffy white bunnies. "Next time, we'll start learning five-card stud!"

The bunnies gave little bunny cheers, squeaking and waving their paws, then leaped away into the sanctuary. Sandbar watched them vanish, then looked back to find Discord looking straight at him, one eyebrow cocked.

"Uhhh," was all Sandbar could think to say.

"No, no, no." Discord snapped his claws, and a blindfold dropped from between his horns to cover his eyes. "Don't tell me. Let me guess." He tapped his chin. "Are you animal, vegetable, or mineral?"

Not sure if he should try running or not, Sandbar again found himself saying, "Uhhh..."

Discord sniffed, an eyeball popping open on the front of the blindfold. "Look, this isn't going to work if you don't know either!" The blindfold flapped up like a window shade pulled too sharply, and Discord crooked a claw over his shoulder. "I'll go fetch Fluttershy. Maybe she can figure it out."

"No! Wait!" Because Discord was friendly now, right? More or less? And that meant he could help, didn't it?

No, it did not! a part of Sandbar insisted, but the rest of him was already going on: "You can make impossible stuff happen! 'Cause that's what I need!"

"Really?" Discord stood a little straighter, a necktie popping into place around his left forearm. "Well, then! Step into my office and tell me all about it!" He reached for the knob of a door that Sandbar hadn't noticed before, pushed it open—

And revealed nothing but the part of the animal sanctuary that lay on the other side. Twisting his neck, Discord peered through and muttered, "I could've sworn I had an office around here somewhere..." A snap of his eagle talons made the door disappear, and he turned back to Sandbar. "You got ahead and get started; I'm sure the office'll be along shortly."

Before he could think too much about it, Sandbar blurted out, "I need you to help me get my wife pregnant!"

The wing on Discord's left side exploded into a cloud of blue, peanut-butter-scented dust. "I see," he said. "Well, now, I'm certainly a fan of taking shortcuts, but I've been told that the standard procedure for that process can be quite enjoyable for both parties." His mismatched eyes went wide. "Or are you saying that one or both of you has some condition that prevents the usual sort of marital relations?"

Sandbar swallowed. "She's a yak, and I'm, well, not."

Discord's wing grew back with a sudden wet splurshing noise. "And have you talked to your wife about this?"

Raising a front leg, Sandbar waved back toward town. "To tell you the truth, I've never really thought about it before. But with Sweetie Belle pregnant—"

"She is?" Discord's face lit up—quite literally, a swarm of fireflies surrounding him. "Oh, I foresee an extra-large tub of ice cream in Rarity's near future!" He stopped, cleared his throat, shooed the fireflies away, and took off a pair of glasses he hadn't been wearing till now. "Young fellow, let me give you a piece of wisdom I've learned after being in a relationship with a loving and beautiful pony for a number of years." He shook the glasses at Sandbar. "Before you do anything stupid, go and talk to your partner."

"Stupid?" Sandbar blinked. "Asking you for help is stupid?"

"Monumentally." A white flash, and a large photo album was floating in front of Discord with fancy calligraphy on the front cover: My Mistakes, volume 378. "The stories I could tell you..." He shook his head, and the book, flapping its pages, flew upward into the morning sky. "Like buying my photo albums from that same store all the time." Whipping a pair of binoculars out of nowhere, he began scanning the blue overhead. "But at least I know what the first entry in the next volume will be."

"So wait." It felt like he was shifting wet sandbags, trying to keep the conversation on track. "You're saying you can't help me?"

The smile that spread over Discord's snout reminded Sandbar of cloth ripping. "What I'm saying, young Sandbar, is that the two of us together could create some lovely chaos." He raised a single claw. "But if you talk to Yona and bring her in on it, I'll talk to Fluttershy and bring her in on it. And the chaos the four of us can make?" A shudder shook his whole body with a sound like multiple bowling balls tumbling down a staircase. "That will be exquisite."

Frozen, Sandbar could only think that the imaginary sandbags he'd been shifting had actually been full of wet cement and had just burst all over him.

Discord flicked his claws, though, and the air went so loose around Sandbar that he nearly fell over. "Off you go, then," Discord said. "Talk to Yona, and if you still wish to avail yourselves of my services afterwards, I'll be more than happy to accommodate the both of you."

Pretty sure that he never wanted to be alone with Discord ever again for as long as he lived, Sandbar turned.

Except, of course, that it was still barely breakfast time. And he couldn't go back home till after supper, could he?

No, he could not.

A sighing breath that smelled like pancakes puffed over him. "The things I do to help out around here," he heard Discord mutter behind him, then he found himself staring at a hole swirling open in the air ahead of him. The hole seemed to lunge forward, and before Sandbar could move, it was engulfing him in blue and green plaid light. A mountainous landscape, all red-and-white striped like a candy cane, swept by beneath his hooves, a sound like hundreds of ponies all chomping on potato chips flooding around him. A light breeze played with his mane and brought the scent of fresh laundry to his nose—

And then he was sliding across the grass of the animal sanctuary, the sun halfway behind the hills to the west. "There!" Discord said, his words trickling into Sandbar's ears. "Now you can go talk to her."

Taking off running as fast as his hooves could carry him, Sandbar still remembered to call back, "Thanks!" even though thankful was pretty much the last thing he was feeling. His stomach tight and twisting, he sprinted through Ponyville, lights on in the dining rooms of the houses he passed, shadows small and large moving over curtained windows, pony voices old and young just barely audible chatting and laughing. Kicking himself even faster, he almost wiped out taking the corner at town square and screeched to a flailing halt in front of the Boutique's door, the lights shining through the shutters here making his heart race.

Unless that was from all the running...

Either way, he pushed the door open and crashed right into Yona, apparently in the act of pulling the door open from inside. He bounced off her, of course, Yona completely unmoved by the collision, but he jumped back up, wrapped himself around her, and kissed her till he had to pull away gasping because he wasn't getting enough air.

"Sandbar?" Her voice, gruff and perfect and entirely hers when they were alone, had a little chuckle in it. "You okay?"

"I love you," he panted out, not opening his eyes since he was pretty sure her beauty would stopper his throat. "Even if we can't ever have kids, I'll always be yours, and you'll always be mine, and that'll be totally enough forever." He touched his lips over and over again to her snout.

Even though she wasn't moving, Yona seemed to freeze. "Can't have kids?" she asked. "Where Sandbar get that idea?"

Stopping his little kisses, he pulled back so he could blink at her. "Well? You're a yak. I'm a pony. That's, like, biology or something, right?"

A slow, sweet smile pulled at her lips. "Sandbar never studied..."

That called for more blinking. So he did.

Yona bent down and gave his snout a kiss of her own. "Sandbar sat right next to Yona in Headmare Starlight's Biomancy seminar senior year. Or is Yona mistaken?"

No, she was not, but racking his brain, all Sandbar could remember was sneaking smooches with her when Headmare Starlight wasn't looking. "Uhhh," he managed to say.

Her giggle rolled through him, still clinging to her, like the sweetest possible earthquake. "Silverstream and Gallus blushed like Northern Lights during chapter about prehistoric pegasi and griffons mating to create first hippogriffs. Sandbar not remember?"

"No, I do not," Sandbar had to admit out loud for once, slowly untangling himself and setting his hooves on the carpet. "But we've been...you know...for, like, years and years now! How come we don't have little yak-ponies everywhere?"

Her forehead wrinkled. "Yak females only fertile three days every moon. Yona makes sure we don't have sex those days, so we don't have calves." She reached a hoof out and touched his shoulder gently. "Sandbar never talk about wanting calves, so Yona assume, like her, he wants to wait till they better established in shop here. So why you suddenly—?" Her eyebrows went up, and her smile came back. "Ah. Sandbar hear from Tender Taps about Sweetie Belle, and that set his mind turning in certain directions."

Warmth spread over Sandbar, a mix of embarrassment and the desire he always felt when he looked at her. "So...you've got a plan?"

Yona nodded, but she tapped his chest a little sharply. "Yes, but better if we have plan. So Yona and Sandbar will make time soon to sit down and talk about this. Yaks and ponies not be friends for so many centuries, yaks not have much information about what yak-ponies look like. Confidentially, though..." Her eyes closed partway. "Yona want very much to make some with Sandbar. Very, very much." She leaned closer to him, her voice somehow getting even huskier. "And since tonight not one of Yona's three nights, maybe we get some practice in?"

Sandbar swallowed, everything getting even warmer. "Well, all right," he said. "But only two or three times. We've got the big fashion unveiling tomorrow."

She shouldn't have been able to move as fast as she did, not a creature as big as Yona. But before Sandbar could blink, he found that she'd slipped underneath him, spun him around, and was trotting up the stairs with him draped across her back. "Yona love her Sandbar," she more sang than said.

Stretching across her, Sandbar nuzzled her ear. "And Sandbar love his Yona," he murmured.
« Prev   1   Next »
#1 · 1
· · >>TerrusStokkr >>Baal Bunny
This entry is putting too many images in my head. Yep, they're in my brain now...

Something I liked:

What a sugary tale this is. Not necessarily a bad thing, in fact I'd say the immensely comforting chemistry between Sandbar and Yona is what makes it all work. If this was just about Sandbar having anxiety over the possibility of having kids (and that is a good chunk of the entry), then I wouldn't be so keen on it. Thankfully, almost in spite of the fact that I don't know too much about the young six, the relationship between Sandbar and Yona is quite believable, and diabetes-inducing. I also like how Yona is written here. Not only does she feel accurate to the show, but she doesn't feel like some child in an adult's body; she knows more than she lets on. And of course some of Sandbar's remarks are funny.

Something I didn't like:

With that said, there are a couple major problems I had with this. The first is the scene with Discord, which doesn't feel like a productive use of time and words, but also Discord just sounds... off to me. It could be that for some reason he sounds like someone's grandma, and maybe he wants to knit a sweater for Sandbar, but I never in a million years thought he would sound the way he does here. The second problem, which is much bigger, is that my suspension of disbelief took a beating reading this entry. I don't understand why Sandbar and Yona didn't have this conversation before, considering how long they've been together and how much (presumably unprotected) sex they've had, and it rings to me as absurd.

Verdict: A perfectly fine rom-com that probably wouldn't exist if it made more sense.
#2 ·
· · >>Baal Bunny
Like what >>No_Raisin said, it is weird that Sandbar and Yona never talked about having foals before. Especially, if Yona knew that is was possible. If neither knew, that would have actually been better, as they could have gone through this journey together.

Just rewriting some to the plot points would fix many of these problems. Like, Yona and Sanbar knew when Yona's 'three nights' are, but avoid them because they are afraid of the outcome. A slight adjustment to the plot, but keeps most of the story intact.

>>No_Raisin, I'll have to argue on your point about Discord (especially since this takes place after the finale). Discord acting different would be in character and work if the other creature is utterly confused, like Sandbar was. Expect the unexpected with Discord. However, this would be the only situation (or ones very similar) where this would work.

I did enjoy the story, but I'm afraid I can't point anything else out that >>No_Raisin already hasn't.

Rating: Fluff(le) Minus Puff
#3 ·
The major point:

That needs addressing here for me, author, is something the show never really did either: give Sandbar some character. Other than "laid back," he's a blank slate, so if you want him to be the sort of guy who never even thinks about pregnancy and kids, just convince us that that's who he is. Maybe show us early on that he's really good at short-term planning but not so much long-term?

#4 ·
· · >>Baal Bunny
This story is very sweet, but feels like it makes sacrifices in the narrative to achieve that sweetness artificially - and like most artificial sweeteners, the taste comes out a bit off. Sandbar feels like kind of a doofus here, not knowing things he should probably know about Yona. Other people have touched on this, so I won't harp on it.

More importantly to me, the central conflict to this story feels like it lacks gravity by virtue of being solved too... well, conveniently. It just sort of turns out that Yona knew what she was doing all along, reducing the problem to a mere kerfuffle of miscommunication (or simply missed communication). Many great stories have been built on these, of course, but here it's just sort of played for fluffiness instead of setting the characters down a real path to some clash of perspectives or methodology in pursuing their goals.

Does it need to be a tragedy? No. But it does need at least a bit of something more substantial, IMO, to get it somewhere beyond just sweet fluff, which is a nice place to be but not always the most engaging.
#5 · 1
· · >>Miller Minus

Congrats to the other medalists:

And thanks, everyone, for the comments. And I do mean everyone--am I reading the page correctly? Were there just 4 of us reading, commenting, and voting this time around? Our own private Writeoff...

As for the story here, it's an outgrowth of the process I've been going through working on a story for Miller's upcoming Cash Money Contest. I'd never really thought about writing the student characters, but once I did, I came up with a couple ideas that I decided not to pursue. This was one of them, and since it kind of fit the prompt, I took the writing weekend to actually make it into a story. I needs another draft or two, but while I still like the idea of the problem being completely in Sandbar's mind, I'll take a look at that during the rewrite.

Also? I keep typing "Sandbat" when I mean to type "Sandbar."

#6 ·
>>Baal Bunny
Aragon once accidentally wrote his name as 'Sandbag' and now I can't stop thinking of him as a means of keeping floodwater at bay.