“Why would anypony do something so horrible?”
“I’m sure they had their reasons.”
“There’s a reason to try and… kill Celestia?”
Fluttershy was dumbstruck at the idea that the much loved Princess Celestia had almost been murdered. Fluttershy could handle fire-breathing dragons, cockatrices and manticores, but she had never dealt with someone almost dying. Imagine how Fluttershy felt at that moment when she saw the sketch of the four mysterious ponies and the text announcing their crime. It’s one thing to be told something awful, but when it’s written, you’ll read it over and over, each emotional blow being almost as horrendous as the last.
Cerberus was apathetic towards this news, as he never knew Celestia as his new acquaintances have. He did his best to understand Fluttershy’s reaction.
“Are you okay, Miss?” asked Cerberus.
Fluttershy tried to regain her natural grace and perfect composure, as difficult as it proved. “I’m fine, Cerberus. Thank you for asking.”
Cerberus was still having trouble grasping the reality that everyone he had met in this town – Ponyville, Fluttershy had called it – treated him with as must respect as they would a normal pony. For a town with such a bland name, its citizens were like nopony he had met before.
That’s not to say Cerberus had actually seen Ponyville. He and Fluttershy were still in the woods bordering the town. Fluttershy was a slow walker, and Cerberus didn’t want to be rude by walking ahead.
“Miss Fluttershy…” said Cerberus. Fluttershy was not used to being called a ‘Miss’. She blushed with embarrassment every time he called her that. Cerberus continued, “I had a cloak before my accident.”
Fluttershy stopped. “You did, didn’t you? I’m sorry. It was torn to bits when Twilight found you.” She lowered her head so low her long pink hair covered her face. “I’m s-sorry…”
What was with her? She insisted on being as polite as astronomically possible. Cerberus almost wished she would get mad or at least stop giving apologies every other sentence. He lowered his head to look her in the eyes.
“Its fine, Miss Fluttershy. I’ll just have to get a new one.”
Fluttershy perked up, hoping she didn’t say anything offensive. Then she had an idea; “Um, actually, we have a tailor in town.”
Cerberus groaned. “Emphasis on ‘in town’, Miss Fluttershy. It’s nice that you and your friends aren’t bothered by my heritage, but I don’t trust everypony here to feel the same way, including the tai- are you okay?” Cerberus just noticed that his words drove Fluttershy into a cowering state, and she was looking away from him. He sighed. “Did I scare you?” Fluttershy turned her head. Cerberus continued to comfort her with words. “Please, you can be honest with me.”
“Your eyes… they’re… intimidating…” Cerberus had almost forgotten about the foreboding nature of his green, draconic eyes. You’d never see them on a pony, except, perhaps…
“Do they remind you of Nightmare Moon?”
“A- a little…”
Cerberus continued down the path, chuckling. “Interesting...”
Fluttershy then realized the oddity of Cerberus’ question. “Wait, how do you know about-“
“So, where is this tailor?”
"Opal! What's gotten into you? Get off the leather!"
As if things weren't bad enough for Rarity. Business had slowed to a crawl (That's being generous) since Celestia's incident. It didn't make much sense to her. It was tragic that someone as glamorous as the princess had almost died, but that didn't mean that the whole town had to fear for their lives. It didn't help that Opal was incredibly destructive today, at least more so than usual. It must have been something she ate...
"Oh, who am I kidding?" said Rarity as she poured herself a glass of grape juice. "I'm overstocked on dresses, denim, designer brands, and no one has bothered to even window shop! The horror!"
Suddenly, she heard the distinct sound of somepony at the door. She nearly spit out her drink, but she stifled her euphoria long enough to swallow. "The guardian deities of fashion have blessed me. Do come in, valued customer!"
The door was flung open in an instant, and Rarity recognized her good friend Fluttershy, but before Rarity could greet her, she poked her head out the door.
"Quick! Get inside," Fluttershy said. She didn't yell, but she did have an ounce of urgency in her voice. That's when Rarity saw a young blue colt enter the boutique as well.
"Well, this day just keeps getting better!"
Fluttershy slammed the door shut and locked it.
"Welcome to the Carosel Boutique, where the fashions are unique, the styles are chique, and... and... tre manifique!" Rarity got a closer look at Fluttershy's friend. She was stunned! He was absolutely gorgeous! Slender body, muscular legs, and shiny unkempt hair. His beauty rivaled everything in the boutique. She approached him. "Well, who might you be, good sir?"
Cerberus was unsettled by this woman's sudden advance to him. This response was new to him.
"Sir? I asked of your name?"
"Ooh, how exotic! Are you from Phillydelphia?"
"Rarity!" shouted Fluttershy. Rarity's fluster was shattered. "We didn't come here for this!"
"My my, Fluttershy! Is something the matter? I don't have to strain my ears to hear you for once."
"Do you remember the talk we had about a colt in the Everfree Forest? This is him."
Twilight had told her about the injured young one. Rarity had hoped to high heaven that he recovered from such nasty injuries, but the news of the attack on Celestia had distracted her. Rarity turned back to Cerberus and spoke to him in a more professional matter.
"It's wonderful to hear you recovered, Cerberus. How long will be staying in Ponyville?"
Cerberus was reluctant to answer. "I don't know. I'll have to wait until I can walk without limping."
Rarity did notice he had an odd walking cycle. "Well, don't be a stranger. What can I do you for- I mean, what can I do for you?"
"I require a cloak. I had one before-"
"Your terrible accident, yes. The real tragedy is that your old cloak was ruined. Twilight told me about the scraps of cloth she found. From her elaborate description, it seemed quite lovely. But no matter!" Rarity used her magic to summon various cloths, her sewing machine and other materials for the creation of a cloak. "For I am Rarity, and I will design the finest cloak you ever laid your... strange... green... eyes... on..."
Cerberus had to explain his draconic lineage for the second time that day. This only seemed to make Rarity all the more excited to clothe him. As she measured his proportions, she couldn't stop admiring his leathery wings.
"Well, I don't know why on earth you'd want to cover these fabulous wings with some cloak. If I were you, I'd be flaunting these babies for all to see from dawn until dusk."
"I've been there, and the response is always the same."
"Do they say, 'What an amazing young colt and his exotic wings?'"
"More like, 'It's a monster! Get the pitchforks!'"
"That can't be good for anyone."
While Rarity used her unicorn magic to cut away at fabric and shape the cloak, Fluttershy sat in the corner of the boutique, watching Cerberus. She was just as quiet as she was back in the hut, and it bothered Cerberus. He wished she would say something. Before he could engage her in idle chit-chat, Rarity resumed her squabbling. "Frankly, I fail to see why they'd be so keen on attacking you, Cerberus. Is it just the dragon side of you that sets them off?"
"Actually, it's more than often my actions that bring out the worst in people. I'm not the most law abiding colt."
That brought Fluttershy to speaking. "You've broken the law?"
"I've stolen food and jewels, maybe a break-in or two. It's hard to hold a job when you're on the run for most of your life."
"W-what are you running from?"
"...Can we not get into that?"
"Oh! Sorry for asking."
Rarity stopped her sewing machine and turned her head, shooting a suspicious look at Cerberus. "I do hope you don't intend to steal my more expensive products from behind my back..."
"Why would I do that? You're nice ponies. I'd never do anything to offend you."
After what seemed like forever, or maybe an hour, Rarity had finally finished the cloak. Cerberus was really impressed with it. This one was black with dark blue streaks at the edges. It was comfortable enough, and it obscured Cerberus' draconic features, which was what mattered most to him.
"I'm terribly sorry that I can't replicate the work of the seamstress that made your old cloak. Ah! Curiousity strikes me. Who did make it, anyway?"
"My mother. She made it for me because she hoped I would be able to stop running and settle down, somewhere. If only she knew." Cerberus put the hood up. Looking in the mirror, he could tell it hid his eyes. Rarity’s fantastic work obscured everything unusual about Cerberus.
"Well, dear, you should take her advice. People in this town tend to be more tolerant of the stranger things in life, you could live here." Cerberus was quick to brush off the idea of staying in Ponyville, but the more he dwelled on it... "Now where's Opal? I dare say you might have scared her off."
"You know something, Fluttershy? My mother was right. Hell, Rarity is right." Cerberus and Fluttershy were leaving the boutique, the former wearing his lovely new cloak. "I should live here. I've met five ponies so far, and all five of them actually seem to like me, and I like them."
Fluttershy blushed for the umpteenth time. "I'm one of those five, right?" Cerberus turned to Fluttershy and smiled.
Cerberus and Fluttershy trotted through the town. The sun was setting, and Cerberus took every opportunity to stop and appreciate the beautiful colors it cast on the horizon. "I don't get out at day nearly as much as I should."
"You're nocturnal? Are you sure you don't have some bat in your ancestry too?" Fluttershy made a half-hearted laugh at her own bad joke.
"I'm not a bat! ...but I guess you can say my love of night time is genetic."
Fluttershy was then smitten with several questions, because now she was suspicious of something.
"Tell me about your mother, Cerberus." Cerberus was never asked such a personal question before. He was happy to answer.
"She... she is something else. She never abandoned me, even though everyone else did. She's not always around, but I feel her, everywhere I go. Until recently, she was all I had in the world."
"Is she nice?"
"Very. She does her best to comfort me despite all I've been through. She talks weird, though. She's also rather loud."
Loud? Could it be true? "Is she a unicorn or a pegasus?"
That question stumped Cerberus. It's not that he wasn't aware of what his mother was. It was difficult to explain, so he just said, "Yes."
"Howdy, Fluttershy!" An buff orange earthwalker with an Appleoosan accent came running from the town square to meet Cerberus and Fluttershy. "It's good to see ya today! Everyone's bein' such a sourpuss. Did y'all hear about Celestia?"
"I heard. Unpleasant, huh?"
"Darn tootin'! But she ain't dying on us anytime soon." the orange one turned to Cerberus. "And you are?"
"Cerberus. I'm a friend."
She offered her hoof. "Applejack. Mighty nice to meet ya, Cerberus. Can I call you Cerb?" A nickname? That's new.
"You most certainly can, Applejack." Cerberus took her hoof. He found himself almost whiplashed by how fast she shook. "Um, firm handshake."
"Damn straight. Where you headed?"
"Fluttershy's house?" he said slowly as he looked at Fluttershy. She nodded. "Yes, Fluttershy's house.”
Applejack decided to join Cerberus and Fluttershy for the walk through the woods to her house. It was a lot less quiet than earlier, as Applejack was quite a talker. Next to Pinkie Pie, however, she was tame, but still.
"What brings ya to Ponyville, Cerberus?"
"I thought I'd just... drop in. I'm actually going to be staying a while, hopefully."
"If the circumstances are right."
"You mean, if Fluttershy is in the mood." Fluttershy looked surprised. Her face was so red; Cerberus couldn't tell if she was embarrassed or angry. Probably both.
Cerberus did his best to dispel Applejack's theory. "You misunderstand me. I'm not with her. I mean, I'm staying at her place, but I'm not WITH her."
"Oh sure." Applejack galloped forward, kicking up a lot of dust with her large hooves. "Don't think I can't put two and two together! Fluttershy can't keep her eyes off of you, Cerb!" Fluttershy's face looked red enough to burst into flames. Speaking of flames...
"That's enough, Appleja-ja..." Uh-oh. All that dust Applejack had kicked up got into Cerberus's nostrils. Oh no. Please... don't sneeze... His nose disobeyed his thoughts. "At-CHOO!" Cerberus's sneeze was a large shock for both Fluttershy and Applejack. It sent a spray of RED HOT FIRE in all directions.
"Oh my stars..." uttered, Applejack.
Thankfully, no one was hurt and nothing caught on fire. Fluttershy quickly recovered from cowering on the ground. "You might as well show her."
Cerberus, for once, wasn't worried about the reception he would get. Here he was, hoping for a perfect six for six. He chomped down on his cloak and removed it with a single swing of his head. He dropped the cloak and showed off his dragon wings and tail.
"He's half dragon," said Fluttershy with a smidge of hope in her voice. "Isn't it incredible?"
Applejack was absolutely stunned. Go figure. She regained her composure. Good, Cerberus thought. She lowered her eyelids. Wait, what? She sighed.
Fluttershy's eyes were wider than a dinner plate. Today's serving: horror.
"Ain't ya knowin' how wrong this is, Fluttershy? Just look at him-it!" After Cerberus had come to expect acceptance for what he was, Applejack's cruel words struck him like a sledgehammer to the heart. Fluttershy seemed to empathize with him.
"Applejack, please... he's not..."
"It's a monster! A half breed! Do you see these?! It's against the laws of nature!" Applejack grabbed Cerberus's wings and waved them around as if they were trash. "It just ain't right!" Applejack's sledgehammer was one Cerberus had taken before, but it wasn't any less horrible.
"Don't touch him!"
Applejack just refused to listen. She planted her hoof on Cerberus's chest and made point blank eye contact, ready to make the final swing of the sledgehammer.
"YOU! You're nothing but a dirty, half-assed, accidental freak of nature! If you've got an OUNCE of intelligence in your filthy head, you'll get the HELL out of this town! We don't need something like you bucking things up! Go! NOW!"
Cerberus had taken a lot of sledgehammers in the past, but Applejack's swing was percise and deadly, on top of Cerberus' lowered defenses. He could feel a stinging sensation in his eyes... his unnatural freaky eyes...
Cerberus looked back at Fluttershy. He managed to force a few words through the tears. "Thank you, Fluttershy, for everything... but she's right. I don't belong...."
Cerberus spread his wings and flew away. On the ground below him stood a furious Applejack, staring at the half dragon she hated on sight, and Fluttershy, who, instead of cowering, or breaking down, was absolutely seething. Cerberus didn't see this. He only saw the moon rising over the horizon through his wet eyes. Silently shed tears fell to the ground in his wake.