Twilight Sparkle loved sunsets.
She smiled to herself as she felt the final rays of the day wash over her face, and a sense of calm flowed through her. Not for the first time, she wondered if it had something to do with her relationship with Princess Celestia. After all, the sunset meant that Princess Celestia was on task...and, perhaps more importantly, she was finally getting the chance to rest, however briefly it might be.
Twilight Sparkle watched the sun sink below the horizon, and let out a breath she didn't realize she'd been holding. All was right in the world. Peaceful. Quiet.
Until someone started knocking.
"Hi Twilight." Fluttershy said as Twilight opened the door.
"Oh! Hi there! I wasn't expecting you-"
"I'm sorry. I, um, meant to come by earlier, but if the library's closing, I can come back tomorrow-"
"Oh no," Twilight said, opening the door wide, "It's no trouble at all!"
"Oh, thank you Twilight!" Fluttershy trotted through the door, and gave a tired flutter of her wings. "It's just that I've been so busy with Springtime Stuff-"
"Springtime Stuff, what's that?"
"It takes place right after the Winter Wrap up." Fluttershy smiled sweetly. "It's not as big of a deal, but it's still pretty important. That's when all the little animals of the forest that love each other very much get together and start families. It's very important, you know. But this year it's been really hard! Angel's a sweetheart, you know, but this year he's been a lot of trouble-"
"Really?" Twilight said, "you can't get him to, uh...start a family?"
"No, that's not it." Fluttershy's ears drooped, and her cheeks flushed just a little. "I just can't get him to stop."
"Stop what?" Twilight said- but the answer hit her as soon as the words were out of her mouth. "Oooooh. Er. I'm not sure if I have any books on that..."
"Um. That's not what I came here for, Twilight." Fluttershy pawed at the floor. "Angel'll be okay- I just need to keep a bucket of cold water handy, is all. I...I just wanted to stop by, maybe pick up something to read to, y'know, relax. Maybe. If that's okay."
"It's more than okay!" Twilight clapped her hooves, "It's perfect! You wouldn't believe how long I've been waiting for this! I mean, sure, Applejack keeps stopping by looking for farmer's almanacs, and Rarity goes through fashion magazines like, uh, something that goes through a lot of fashion magazines- but I can't help but get excited whenever anypony starts asking me for recommendations."
"Oh! I didn't know you'd get so excited." Fluttershy took a step back. Before she could take another, Twilight had deposited a half dozen books in front of her, and was on her way to levitate over several more.
"Excited? Maybe a little bit. But still! It's going to be so great to have someone I can talk to who's read the same books as I have! Well, uh, some of them. I don't think I've ever met anyone who's read as many books as I have. Except Princess Celestia, but she's been alive for a thousand years, so that doesn't really count. Anyway, where do you want to start?" as Twilight's voice gained momentum, Fluttershy's shrank down smaller and smaller. "Carl Neighgan's Cosmos is a good primer in astrophysics- though Princess Celestia once told me he just wrote it because he had a crush on Princess Luna. I wish someone would write an astrophysics book because they had a crush on me." Twilight Sparkle gave a wistful sigh, and briefly glanced out the window.
"Um." Fluttershy said. She bit at her lip for a moment, and peered over the still-growing stack of books in front of her. "If it's okay with you, Twilight, I thought I might, uh...look for something on my own."
"Of course!" Twilight said, bright eyed, "I should have known- the joy of discovery is a vital part of the reading experience! Oh, I'd spend hours just walking through the stacks of the Canterlot archives." Twilight smiled at the memory and remembered that comforting smell of old books. "You never know what you'll find! Well, unless you memorize the entire catalog system, like I did. But even then there's the chance one of the librarians mis-shelved something. Would it help if I mis-shelved something for you?"
"If you want to?" Fluttershy said. "I, um. I just wanted to look around a little bit-"
"Right, right. Of course." Twilight said. "I'll just let you browse. Let me know if you need anything!" and, happily, Twilight trotted over to her reading stand. On a whim, she plunked down a Carl Neighgan book and began to read about the most complicated workings of the universe.
Twilight made it a little ways past the first diagram of Luna's orbit before she looked up from her book. "Finding everything alright, Fluttershy?"
"Oh, I think so." Fluttershy said, very quietly.
"...are you sure?" Twilight said.
"Definitely. I think."
"Okay." a pause. "But if you need anything, don't hesitate-"
"I won't. Thanks."
The two ponies stood staring at each other in polite awkwardness. Thankfully, there came a knock from the door. Twilight blinked, confused. "That's weird. I don't get many visitors to the library after the sun's gone down..." Twilight opened the door- and gave a gasp.
A pony stood in the doorway- though his large size made the word 'pony' seem insufficient. He held himself with an air of cultivated regality- the sort of poise Twilight had seen from Princess Celestia, and very few others. His coat was a pale gray, while his thick mane and thicker moustache were of a jet black. He wore a scarlet-lined cape, held shut with an archaic-looking brooch.
"May I come in?" the big pony said, bowing his head just a fraction.
"Uh, sure?" Twilight said, and stepped out of the way.
"Thank you." he said, and walked into the library. He had to duck beneath the doorjamb, but somehow he made it look good. "You are Twilight Sparkle, yes?"
"Uh, yeah, that's me. And you are...?"
"Ah! Where are my manners." the big pony took one of Twilight's front hooves in his and ducked his head down for a gallant kiss upon her wrist. "I am Count Fetlock."
"A Count?" Twilight's cheeks flushed. "What are you doing all the way out here in Ponyville?"
"I like to travel. As it happens, I shall be staying in Ponyville for the next few days- while I'm here, I believe I'd like to avail myself of the town's famous library."
"My library's famous?" Twilight said. Her cheeks felt a little warmer.
"To tell the truth? No. But Ponyville's librarian is." Count Fetlock's lips turned up in a knowing smile. "Why, everypony who's anypony has heard of the great Twilight Sparkle, Princess Celestia's favorite student."
"Oh, I'm not great at all." Twilight scratched at the back of her neck, uncomfortable at the praise.
"Mmm. Well, it's interesting how such monikers stick, no?" Count Fetlock smiled, "I do hope I'm not interrupting anything." Very slowly, the count turned to look over at Fluttershy. The yellow pegasus managed a weak little smile in return. "And who, might I ask, is your lovely friend?"
"Oh!" Twilight said, "This is Fluttershy. Say hi, Fluttershy."
"Hi." Fluttershy squeaked, and ducked back behind the book she'd been reading.
"What's this?" Count Fetlock said, and trotted over towards Fluttershy, he tilted his head, and peered at the tome she held in her front hooves. "Why, it's Van Horseling's Noctus Equus. The very book I've been looking to find! May I?"
Fluttershy murmured a faint affirmative. Count Fetlock smiled, and proceeded to tuck the tome beneath his cape. "Really, my dear, I'm not sure if such reading is the best for a lady of your...delicate dispositions, yes?" The Count placed one of his hooves upon Fluttershy's. "Honestly, the only reason I'm interested in such a gruesome book is for purely academic reasons." Count Fetlock paused, and looked over his shoulder at Twilight. "Ah, you won't mind if I borrow the book for a bit, do you? Under other circumstances, I'd just read it here...but it's late, and I'd hate to impose-"
"Oh no, you wouldn't impose at all!" Twilight said, if a little hastily, "I mean, it's late, and you've been travelling- maybe I could get you something to drink?" Twilight trotted over towards the liquor cabinet (which made Fluttershy wince in memory of a recent Tuesday).
"I do not drink...wine." Count Fetlock said, smiling, "But I appreciate your hospitality nonetheless. In any case, I think I shall bid my farewell for the night. Don't worry, Miss Sparkle- your book is in good hooves. I'll return to your library sooner than you think." Count Fetlock bowed low, "Good night, ladies." he said, and trotted out into the rapidly darkening night.
"Well, he seemed nice." Twilight Sparkle said.
"Uh, that's one way to put it." Fluttershy murmured.
"Oh! You're not mad that he took the book you were looking at, are you?"
"Of course not! I was just, um, browsing. You know how it goes. I'll find something else, I'm sure."
"Ah, well, take your time, Fluttershy." Twilight turned back to her Carl Neighgan. "You can even spend the night, if you like. No sense in walking home in the dark, right?"
"You don't mind?"
"Not at all!"
"Thanks, Twilight. You're the best."
Ponyville didn't have much of a night life. Admittedly, there were some ponies who would keep odd hours, and the occasional bacchanal that lasted well until the next morning (usually whenever Pinkie Pie was around). But these were exceptions to the rule, as most anypony with any sense (or at least the sense to not hang around Pinkie Pie on a weeknight) tended to blow out the candles and shut the doors not too long after it got dark.
Of course, Count Fetlock wasn't from Ponyville.
He crept through Ponyville's dark, empty streets with practiced ease. His cape and mane both flowed behind him, melding eerily with the deep shadows he favored. Finally, the mustached pony trotted towards the Book and Branch Library for the second time that evening.
Count Fetlock circled the hollowed out tree three times- just to be certain. Once he confirmed there were no witnesses around (or awake), he allowed himself the luxury of a smile.
Count Fetlock's wings slipped through cunningly tailored holes in his cape and took to the air. Deathly silent, he glided down to a certain window on the library and pressed his hooves to the sill. Sure enough, the window was unlocked, and Count Fetlock was able to slide it upwards. Dextrous as a gymnastic snake, the Count slid through the now open window- and into the mare's bedchamber. Sure enough, there was somepony huddled beneath the blankets- a tempting little morsel if there ever was one. Count Fetlock forced himself to take it slow, and very carefully pulled the covers back- revealing a pink-maned pegasus. One who happened to be looking at him quite intently, now that he'd pulled the covers off of her.
"You are not Twilight Sparkle." he said, and tilted his head in surprise.
"Um. I hope that's okay?"
"It...wasn't what I was planning on, I admit. My apologies."
"Um. Mister Count? I, uh, I just wanted to tell you something."
"And that is?"
"I know what you are."
For the second time that evening, Count Fetlock found himself surprised. "Oh?"
"Um, at least...I think I know. I mean, it's dark, and you're sneaking around, and you didn't have anything to drink, and you didn't come in until Twilight invited you. It was all in that book I was reading before you-"
"Ah." And Count Fetlock smiled- very slowly, he loomed over Fluttershy, placing a hoof to her lips. "I suppose you didn't get very far in your reading, as I don't see any stakes or garlic..."
"Um. I didn't want to put up any stakes or garlic."
"Mmmhmm. Because I know, deep down at heart, you're just a troubled and tormented soul who is looking for the love of a good filly to redeem you and bring you back into the light. And then, y'know, when you meet that filly, you and she can do, uh...stuff." Even in the dim moonlight, Count Fetlock could see Fluttershy blush.
"I do not recall that being in the Noctus Equus."
"I, um, I've been reading some...similar books. Ever heard of Laurel K. Haflinger?"
"I can't say that I have. Though now...I think I may owe that particular author a debt." Count Fetlock smiled and ran his tongue over teeth far pointier than any herbivore should have had. "Especially if it gets a filly lovely as you in the mood for...stuff."
"Oh my." Fluttershy shivered.
"Ah, now that's more like it."