You’ll be sitting in your cottage, alone. You’ll be truly alone for a change, as you’ll have asked all of your animal friends to give you some privacy. They’ll have helped you many times in the past, but this time you’ll know that there’s nothing they can do. You’ll gently hold a cup of tea in both forehooves, feeling the warmth seeping into your bones. You won’t drink, however; you’ll be too distracted.
Twilight Sparkle will be gone.
Your dear friend—your third pony friend ever, after Rainbow Dash and Rarity—will be gone. You’ll picture entering the new town library—likely built atop the ashes of the old—and encountering some strange pony where Twilight should be. The thought will be almost too much for you, and the cup of tea will tremble in your hooves. You’ll set it down carefully, not wanting your body to hurt the way your heart will already be doing.
The instant that the cup touches the saucer, you’ll hear knocking at your door. Startled, you’ll let go. Your eyes will widen in alarm as the cup wobbles and rattles, threatening to splash you with its steaming contents. When it finally comes to a halt on the saucer—thin dribbles of tea sliding down one side—you’ll let out a breath that you won’t have realized you were holding.
The knocking will come again.
“Just a second,” you’ll say.
The knocking will come again.
With an effort of willpower, you’ll raise your voice—to a level other ponies would call conversational—and call out, “Just a second, please!” Slowly and carefully, you’ll rise from your cushion and make your way to your front door. There you’ll pause. You’ll brush your long pink mane out of your face with one hoof, and take a deep breath. Opening doors has always been hard for you—after all anypony could be on the other side, or anything—and this time will be no different. You’ll remind yourself firmly that the pony on the other side of the door will be one of your friends; who else will be visiting you, on that day of all days? Still, your heart will beat faster as you reach for the handle, and your wings will press themselves tighter against your body.
The door will open to reveal Applejack.
Her coat will be somewhat lathered, but that won’t surprise you; it will only make sense that she would provide the physical labor for the… event. Her hat will be askew on her head as she gives you a small, tired smile. “Howdy, Fluttershy,” she’ll say. “Mind if Ah come in and sit a spell?”
“Of course not, Applejack,” you’ll say, stepping aside. “Please, come in.” As she enters, your eyes will be caught by the black bandanna tied loosely around her neck. It will clash with her orange coat the way the bright sun outside will clash with your mood. You’ll wonder—with an unwelcome trace of bitterness—why the weather team won’t have made it a gloomy, rainy day. They’ll know what will be happening that day; how could they not, after the inferno? You’ll shake your head slightly and try to focus on your guest. “I’ve made some tea, if you’d like,” you’ll say.
“Iced?” Applejack will ask hopefully, looking back at you over her shoulder.
You’ll shrink in on yourself slightly. “No, it’s hot…” you’ll reply. “I’m sorry,” you’ll add. You will be, too; after all Applejack will have been through, you’ll have dashed her hopes.
She’ll put a brave face on it, of course. “Ah'm plenty hot as it is, but thanks for the offer,” Applejack will say with a chuckle.
“Is…” You’ll falter for a moment. “Is there anything else you’d like to drink?”
“Well, since you’re offerin’… Ah don’t suppose you have any cider?”
You’ll look down at your hooves. I’m a terrible hostess, you’ll think. Rarity would’ve had cider ready…
Applejack’s voice—full of false cheer—will reach your ears: “Shucks, it ain’t quite cider season anyhow. Ah’ll just have me some water.”
Chastened by Applejack’s obvious disappointment, you’ll make your way to your kitchen and draw a glass of water. You’ll feel slightly proud of the ice you’ll add from the unicorn-enchanted icebox you will have recently purchased. At least it will be nice and cold, you’ll think. You’ll also put in a bendy straw.
Applejack will drain half the glass in one long pull. The sigh she’ll let out will tickle you slightly; it’ll be almost as cold against your coat as the water she’ll have just drunk. “Thanks, Fluttershy,” she’ll say with a smile. “That really hits the spot.”
With anypony else, you’ll have known that they were lying—after all, Applejack will have asked for iced tea, not water—but with her you’ll wonder. Will the bearer of Honesty really be willing to lie to you? Uncertain, you’ll reply with only a smile.
Applejack will look around. “Am Ah the first one here?” she’ll ask.
You’ll nod, adding, “That’s right; I haven’t seen any of the others.” Then you’ll look away, silently cursing the redundancy of your nod.
“Huh,” Applejack will say. “Ah guess they’re all still sayin’ their goodbyes.” She’ll look at you then, not quite frowning. “Ah still think you should’ve come.”
You’ll do your best to hide behind your mane. “I couldn’t,” you’ll say, barely loud enough to be heard. You’ll wonder if she’s really going to press the issue again.
Instead she’ll sniff at the air, and then at her coat. “Aw, geez—is that me?” she’ll ask. She’ll turn back to you. “Ah hate to ask this, but do you mind if Ah go freshen up before the others get here?”
You’ll be relieved by the change of subject. “No, of course not!” you’ll say with a smile. “It’s up the stairs, turn left, second door on the right.”
“Thanks again,” Applejack will say, with a nod and a smile of her own. She’ll trot upstairs, and soon afterwards you will hear the familiar sounds of hooves on tile, your squeaky faucets, and splashing water. You'll be mildly, pleasantly surprised when you learn of Applejack's habit of humming to herself when she bathes.
Left to your own devices again, you’ll take a sip of tea—only to have your muzzle scrunch involuntarily. The flavor—so bitter as to be almost painful—will suit your mood as potently as it will fail to suit your taste buds. You’ll stare into the tea for a long moment, overcome by a brief refresher of all of the emotions that will have held you in their grip since the library will have burned down.
When the storm passes, you’ll silently add three sugar cubes.
You’ll be stirring them into your tea when you hear another knock. You’ll set the spoon down gently on the saucer before walking to the door. You’ll have the same internal struggle as always before opening it.
It will be Rarity and Rainbow Dash. Rarity will be wearing a small black hat with a veil, as well as a matching cape. Rainbow Dash will be naked as usual, but unlike usual there will be tears slowly leaking from her light cerise eyes.
“Oh, Rainbow Dash—” you’ll begin.
“It’s nothing,” she’ll say, cutting you off. “I just got dirt or something in my eyes.”
You’ll nod understandingly, and Rarity will give you a small smile. “Hello, darling,” she’ll say. “Thank you for hosting this—ah—get-together.”
“Of course,” you’ll say. “It was the least I could do.”
“You got that right,” Rainbow will mutter.
“Rainbow Dash!” Rarity will exclaim, somehow infusing the words with both shock and scolding.
“Come on, Rarity—it’s not like you weren’t thinking it too!” Rainbow will snap, her tears flowing more freely. “I know if it was me, I’d want you guys to come see me off!”
Rarity—always quick to sense the moods of others—will break from the conversation and turn to you. “There, there, Fluttershy,” she’ll say, embracing you. “Don’t cry, now.” Her horn will glow, and a tissue from the box by your reading chair will float up to your face. She’ll glare at Rainbow as she adds, “Some of us realize that you’re handling this in your own way.”
“Yeah, whatever,” Rainbow will say, but you’ll know from long experience that she will be ready to let the subject go.
“Is it…” You’ll pause to blow your nose. “Is it nice there? Where she—where Twilight… is?”
Rainbow will smile gently at you. “Yeah,” she’ll say. Her still-wet eyes will take on a faraway look as she’ll remember. “We picked out a great little spot for her, up top of a cliff by the ocean. There’s this huge old tree right on the edge there, and the view!” She’ll shake her head and favor you with a little smile. “It’s like you can see forever. Best view I’ve ever seen from the ground.”
Rarity will let you go; perhaps she will sense that you’ll be getting your emotions under control. She’ll smile at Rainbow. “Oh my, yes!” she’ll say. “It was so lovely… not to mention peaceful! Hardly anypony passes by there, so Twilight won’t be disturbed. I’m certain you’ll approve when you go to visit…” She’ll trail off then, and her face will take on a look you’ll know well: head angled slightly downwards, lower lip bitten, and eyelashes aflutter. Her “I’m about to ask a favor” look. “You will visit her—won’t you, Fluttershy?” she’ll ask. “When you’re ready?”
The emotions will churn within you for a moment again, but you’ll keep hold of yourself. “Yes, of course,” you’ll say, and you’ll mean it.
Rarity and Rainbow will both smile at you then. “Glad that’s settled,” Rainbow will say. She’ll rub at one eye. “Hey, mind if I use your sink? It’s really jammed in there.”
You’ll nod, but even before you finish the motion a horrible thought will occur to you. You’ll picture Rainbow making her way up the stairs and to your bathroom… just heading on in without realizing that Applejack will be in there. She and Applejack will be so embarrassed, you’ll think, and it will be all my fault for not speaking up and stopping her!
You’ll return to yourself then—just opening your mouth to speak—when you’ll realize that Rainbow will have headed to your kitchen. You’ll breathe a sigh of relief, and Rarity will raise one immaculate eyebrow. “Fluttershy? Are you all right?” she’ll ask.
Embarrassed by your foalish imaginings, you’ll simply nod.
Rarity will smile. “Oh, good,” she’ll say. “With everything that’s happened since that terrible fire, the last thing we need is more stress.” She’ll make her way to your sofa and lie down. “I know that Applejack and Rainbow Dash have been doing the—how shall we say—heavy lifting,” Rarity will say, “but that’s not to say that sorting through dear Twilight’s possessions has been easy. There were just so many books! And that’s not to mention her various scientific apparatus and her mementos from her time in Canterlot.” She’ll shake her head. “It rather makes one consider just how many possessions one has…”
Unsure of how to respond to that, you’ll ask, “Was Pinkie Pie able to help at all?”
Rarity will scoff, then she’ll catch herself and change it into an obviously fake cough. “Excuse me,” she’ll say with a sheepish grin, knowing that you’ll have caught her. “Pinkie Pie was…” Rarity will trail off and bite her lip momentarily. “Energetic. Very energetic and very eager to help. However, I’m afraid that our styles of organization are simply too different; we wound up tripping over each other more often than not. In the end I asked her to see to little Spikey-wikey.”
“You didn’t want to be with him?” you’ll ask, confused.
“Oh, that’s not what I mean at all—good heavens, no!” Rarity will say, as she’ll put one hoof to her chest. “It’s just that Pinkie Pie is so good with children—you’ve seen her with the Cake twins—and of the two of us, I’m… Oh, how to put this?”
“Much better at organizing? Especially when it comes to small, breakable objects?” Pinkie will suggest.
Rarity will smile. “Well, I don’t mean to braaaaaaaagh!” Rarity will be on her hooves in a flash, and halfway across the room. “Pinkie Pie!” she’ll gasp. “Where did you come from?!”
Pinkie will tilt her head and frown slightly. “I never told you that?” she’ll ask. “Well, my two sisters and I grew up on our parent’s rock farm, and they grew up—”
“That is not what I meant!”
“Oh.” Pinkie will smile hugely. “I came in through the window!” she’ll say, gesturing over one shoulder. Sure enough, you’ll see an open window behind her.
“’Bout time y’all caught up to me,” Applejack will say. This time it will be your turn to jump: you won’t have heard her finish up in the bathroom.
“Yeah, yeah,” Rainbow will say as she’ll enter from the kitchen. “It’s not my fault Rarity wanted to swing by her place on the way.”
Rarity will stand a little straighter. “One should always strive to look one’s best, Rainbow Dash—no matter the occasion.”
That reminder will make you wince. Pinkie will embrace you instantly, and say, “Aw, don’t get all down in the lumpy-dumps again, Fluttershy!” You’ll hear your front door open as she adds, “Twilight’s in a better place now.”
“I’ll say,” Twilight Sparkle will say from behind you. “I mean I loved the library, but my new house is just amazing!”
Pinkie will spin you around to face your newest guest. “Twilight…” you’ll say, overcome with emotion.
“Hi, Fluttershy,” Twilight will say with a smile. At her side will be a tall stack of wide, shallow cardboard boxes. “Sorry I’m late: the pizza place took longer than I expected.”
“Woohoo! Pizza!” Pinkie will say. “Did you get one with marshmallows and mushrooms?”
Twilight will make a face, then say, “Yes, yes I did. It’s all yours.” Pinkie will let go of you and rush to claim her custom pie. The others will follow suit.
After narrowly dodging four hungry ponies, Twilight will look to you. Her smile will fade slightly. “Aren’t you having any, Fluttershy?”
It will be so very tempting to make up an excuse, but you’ll gather your willpower once again. “I don’t deserve any,” you’ll say, too quietly for the others to hear.
“What? Don’t be silly!” Twilight will say. “I mean I’ll admit that I don’t see what was so traumatizing about the thought of helping me move, but you did volunteer to host the post-move pizza party. I’d say we’re even.”
Hope will begin to bloom in your heart. “Really?” you’ll ask.
“Really,” Twilight will say with a smile.
“Thanks, Twilight,” you’ll say. You’ll help yourself to a slice of your favorite: rose and sunflower, with extra sunflowers, and you’ll wash it down with a sip of your—
“Fluttershy? What’s wrong?” Twilight will ask.
“Nothing,” you’ll lie. “Nothing’s wrong.”
Your tea will have gone cold.