Spike watched as Twilight paced around the room, occasionally grabbing a book at random, flipping through a few pages, then letting out a cry of frustration and dropping it.
He grabbed the book and put it back on the shelf, just as he had done for the last dozen or so. “Come on, Twilight,” he said. “You’ve been acting like this for the past two hours.” Mumbling under his breath he said, “And I’m the one that has to keep cleaning up after you.”
Twilight looked down at him. “I’m sorry, Spike. I can’t help it.” She paced in place. “My niece almost died today. Me and my friends have been risking our lives for a long time, but they’re just little kids. There’s so much of life they haven’t experienced.
“Flurry had it the worst. She was so miserable and scared as the events of the day caught up to her. Oh, I should never have gone home, and now it’s too late to return.”
Spike put a claw on her. “Come on, Twilight. You’re not the only pony who can care for her.”
A tear came down her eye. “But she kept talking about wanting to keep her family close. I’m scared for her.”
“There’s always Starlight and Sunburst. You know how much they care about her.”
Twilight hung her head. “So they’re more worthy of being her family than I am, right?”
Spike groaned. “That’s not what I was saying!”
“But it’s true! I abandoned her! I’m the worst aunt ever!”
Spike hugged her. “Stop it, Twilight. Beating yourself up isn’t going to help anything.”
She hugged him back, quietly sobbing.
A few minutes later there was a hard knock on the front door of the castle.
“Who’s that?” asked Spike. “You expecting company?”
Twilight shook her head. “No, but I better see who it is. They might need my help… if I can stop myself from abandoning them too when they need me the most.”
“Twilight!” Spike said sharply. “Enough! Get your head in the game.”
Twilight let out a shaky breath. “I… I know.” She wiped her eyes, trying to compose herself.
When she felt ready the two of them walked to the door and opened it. She was surprised to see not just Pinkie Pie, but the whole Cake family.
“H-hey,” said Twilight. “Um… to what do I owe the pleasure?”
“We don’t know yet,” said Pound.
“You don’t know?” asked Spike.
Pumpkin lifted up her magic journal. “Flurry sent us all a note, and asked us to make sure to get this to you before reading it. I guess she figured that out of all our friends we’d be the most likely to be able to go see you.”
Pound scratched his head. “It makes sense, but for some reason she also said to make sure we brought Auntie Pinkie and our parents too. I don’t mind, because I really just want to be by all my family right now. I’m sure all our friends feel the same.”
Twilight flushed slightly with guilt, once more feeling like she had let Flurry down. She put it out of her mind, inviting them all in.
She wondered what Flurry had to say as they walked into one of the main rooms. They all took a seat at a table, Pound and Pumpkin sitting on their parent’s laps as Twilight took the book and began to read.
“Hello there, all my friends. This is Flurry Heart with an important message for all of you. That includes you, Pound and Pumpkin, but first I want you to get this to Aunt Twilight so she can hear this too, and make sure you bring Pinkie Pie and your parents as well. That’s super important.
“I bet all of you are with your family already, since you want to be surrounded by those you love. It’s okay for them to hear this too.
“I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about today. First off I want to give a big thank you to YOU, Aunt Twilight.” Twilight paused, once more feeling guilty. “You’ve… um… you’ve helped me so much, and I wouldn’t have come this far without you.”
She stopped again, wondering what she had done. She hadn’t been able to help Flurry through any of her issues. She had had to rely on Pound and Pumpkin for that.
She got her answer in the next paragraph. “If it hadn’t been for you I wouldn’t have met all my other friends. They helped to take so much of my pain and fear away. And if you hadn’t spared Aunt Starlight then I wouldn’t have the best (non-blood related)aunt ever! Over and over she’s helped me, all because you were kind and generous enough to give her a second chance.
“Even if… even if you didn’t solve my problems directly you still led me to ponies that could. When I was trying to run from friendship you pushed me towards it, and I couldn’t be happier about it. Especially after today, when our friendship got its first big test.
“You’ve…” Twilight sniffed. “You’ve always known what’s best for me, and that’s why you’re…” Tears came down her eyes. “…you’re the best aunt ever!”
Spike threw a hoof around her. “You see, Twilight? There’s no need to get down on yourself. Flurry appreciates what you do for her.”
She gave a little nod. “Yeah. I know.”
“You don’t think Flurry appreciates you?” asked Pound.
Spike shook his head. “She just felt like she should have stayed at the Crystal Empire rather than return home.”
“I agree with Spike,” said Pumpkin. “You shouldn’t beat yourself up. All of us really appreciate you, Twilight.”
Pound gave a hearty nod. “Here, here!”
Twilight smiled. “Thanks, you guys.
“Well, let’s get back to business and see what else she has to say.”
She skimmed the page until she got back to where she was before. “Aunt Starlight really helped me out after you went home. My feelings were still so heavy, and she pushed me into a magic fight to help me get some of those feelings out. After that we went out with Uncle Sunny for some ice cream, and it was a lot of fun.
“When we returned back to my room she let me know that she knew about what happened, and we had a long, long talk. The both of us helped each other, just like we all do with one another.
“She revealed a fear that she worried I might dislike her after what happened today.”
“Huh?” said Pound. “Why would Flurry dislike Starlight for what Mayhem did? That doesn’t make any sense.”
“Did you forget, Pound?” asked Pumpkin. “When we went to rescue Tree Leaf Mayhem had King Sombra posing as Starlight.”
“Oooh!” Pound winced. “Right.” He remembered the ache in his soul, seeing the fake Starlight crushing Flurry’s heart with every sentence out of her mouth.
Twilight continued, “I was able to reassure her that my feelings hadn’t changed, and she moved on to me. She pushed me hard to rediscover the pony I really was, the one that had stood up to Mayhem courageously. The one who inspired my friends to victory and took away their fear.
“In the end, it was just like what happened with Crystal in regards to my wings. I had to focus on something bigger than my own feelings. I found my inner strength back then because I saw how hard she was fighting for me, to help me past my fear, and I wanted to return that devotion. I wasn’t going to let my feelings get in the way of being there for my friends.
“It’s the same thing now. My friends are everything to me, and I can’t just sit around feeling scared. I found something to fight for, and I don’t want to let those feelings go, now or ever.”
Pound smiled. “It seems like Starlight really got through to her. I’m glad. She was the one I was the most worried about.”
“Same here,” said Pumpkin.
“I’m glad to hear she’s doing well too,” said Cup,” but I’m still not sure why she insisted we be here for this.”
“Me neither,” said Twilight. “I guess we’ll just have to go on.”
She found her place and began reading again. “I did a lot of thinking when Aunt Starlight left me to figure things out, and there’s one thing I know for sure: all of us, we’re all connected by a thread of friendship. Not just me and her, or my friends or my family. I mean everyone.
“Aunt Starlight said that whether it’s love or hate, feelings shared with others tend to create more of those feelings, and Aunt Starlight herself is a big example of both kinds. When she lost her closest friend it led to her shutting herself away and growing hateful, bringing pain to everyone she came in contact with until you came around, Aunt Twilight.
“It feels like the smallest actions can have the biggest of consequences sometimes. Aunt Twilight, just by lifting your hoof towards Aunt Starlight you changed the world. Rather than returning her hate with more hate, you came at her with love. You showed her a new path to walk down, and transformed her hate into new love. I saw how Aunt Starlight burst into tears of gratitude as she told me about her past again.”
Twilight’s eyes got a little misty, and she had to wipe them before she kept on. “And because you passed on love to her it allowed her to pass that love on to me. It gave me a teacher, an aunt, a friend, and someone I could confide in when my parents were busy with their royal duties. I wouldn’t be half the filly I was now if I hadn’t had her in my life. I adore Uncle Sunny, but I love it best when I can have them together.
“I know you can’t have me around as much as you’d like to, Aunt Twilight, b-but you’ll always be one of my heroes.” She sniffed, setting the book down as she put a hoof to her face.
“You see, Twilight?” said Spike, rubbing her back comfortingly. “You hold a special place in her heart. Starlight might be able to spend more time with her because she lives in the Crystal Empire, but she doesn’t love you any less.”
Twilight needed a minute to compose herself. Flurry’s words of love were eating away at the guilt and self-loathing she had been directing at herself, allowing her to feel more love and compassion for herself.
She was feeling pumped as she put her hoof down. The heavy feelings inside her were gone.
She picked the book back up, eager to see what else Flurry had to say. “I really saw today what you were talking about, Aunt Twilight. I saw how we couldn’t win on our own, but once we combined our hearts and fought as one our strength grew hundreds of times over.
“The more one of us grows and connects with each other the more we all benefit off of it, and I just want to see us all continue to grow. So, to my friends, I have something difficult that I have to ask to all of you.”
Pound and Pumpkin straightened up, focusing hard.
“I want each of you to go to your parents right now and give them a hug.”
Now they were looking at each other with confusion. “That’s supposed to be difficult?” asked Pound.
“Well, there’s probably more to it,” said Pumpkin, “but I don’t mind step one at all.”
They both spun around so they were facing their parents and hugged them. Their parents, naturally, returned the hug.
“Oh,” said Twilight.
“What is it?” asked Pinkie.
“I skimmed ahead.” She took in a short breath. “I can see why she called it difficult. Both of you are going to have to let go of your pride for this, and put love over your anger.”
Everyone else was wondering what Flurry could possibly be asking of them.
“Well, go on,” said Pound.
Twilight nodded. “As difficult as it is, and as much as it hurt us to hear, I want you to thank your parents for barring us from seeing Mayhem for the time being.”
The twins both tensed. “What?” asked Pumpkin flatly. “She didn’t write that.”
“Why on earth would she ask us to do that?” said Pound, getting annoyed.
Cup and Carrot also found it an odd request.
Twilight didn’t keep them waiting. “Like I’ve been saying, love is what keeps us all connected, and the stronger our love and connections the stronger we all grow, but what happens when two different loves start fighting?
“Our love for Mayhem allowed us to immediately put his actions behind us, just happy we had our close friend back to his senses. Our parents weren’t so forgiving. I saw the way Pound and Pumpkin fought with their parents over this, and it got me to thinking that they were fighting over the same thing, just about different people.
“Pound and Pumpkin were fighting to protect Mayhem, while their parents were fighting to protect them. Both groups had love for another on their minds as they fought, and it wasn’t until they could start putting their anger behind them and began speaking with their love that they reached a compromise.
“Just think about it. Would you really want to have parents that were totally uncaring that you almost died? Would it have made you happier to still have Mayhem right now if it came at the cost of your parents shrugging and dismissing everything we went through today?
“I don’t like this forced separation any more than any of you do, but I don’t think you should be mad at your parents because of it. In the end, their actions are motivated by their great love for you.”
The twins were scowling, getting defensive. They didn’t want to be grateful about being separated from their friend, especially when they felt he needed them more than ever at the moment.
Twilight could see them struggling with the concept, and knew she had to give them time to come to their own decisions.
After a minute Pound looked up and glared at his mother, expecting to see her looking smug and arrogant over things. He was ready to rage and be sarcastic over having even their friend say it was a good idea, but he didn’t get the chance. Rather than looking victorious his mother looked defeated and sad.
The fire of his emotions drained out of him. In a neutral voice he asked, “What do you think about this?”
Cup sighed. “I understand the sentiment Flurry was trying to convey, but I really wish she hadn’t done it.”
Pumpkin glanced up too.
“As we’re all still settling down from today she got your emotions all riled up again.” Tears formed at the bottom of her eyes. “Were you expecting me to boast and hold it over your heads what Flurry requested? Do you really think I want to fight anymore today?
“Do you think I didn’t see the expressions on your faces, especially when you looked up at me? It… just reminded too much of how you looked after you came home from running away.” The tears began to slide down her face. “That moment, right before I begged for your forgiveness… that hateful look on your face like you wanted to tell me you despised me… I would rather just go back on my word and let you have Mayhem right now than to ever have to see that expression on your face again.”
Pound remembered that moment too. He didn’t know what exactly he was going to say to her, but all he knew at that point in time was a great anger and a desire to make her hurt as much as possible after the way she had hurt him. He had wanted to return her anger with his own, but seeing her break down in despair made him want to be the glue to put her hurting heart back together.
“Mayhem,” started Pumpkin, “he’s… he’s a close friend that we’ve been through a lot with. Friendships always go through tests, and this was the biggest one of all. We showed how much we’ve bonded with one another by still remembering each other in our hearts even if our memories were taken away.
“In the end, the final test came down to Mayhem himself. After we beat him he told us about why he made himself look like a villain in that ceiling mural on my side of the room. He showed himself opposing us as a symbol of his faith in us.
“It… kinda reminds me of what Auntie Pinkie said. She promised that even if we turned evil she would still love us always, and always try to bring us back around to the good side. Mayhem was the same way. If he ever returned to his old ways he trusted we’d be able to stop him. It took all of us to awaken the Fire of Friendship, but we did beat him. We did manage to get him back.
“We… we got what we wanted out of today: we saved our friend from doing something he could never take back. We’re okay with the way things ended up, but…” She looked down. “However, we know that you’re not happy. I can’t even feel any happiness over you not separating us from Mayhem for a while.”
“Me neither,” said Pound. “We love Mayhem, and we understand that he lost control because a being made of chaos magic hadn’t had any chaos in a long time, but… we love you too.
“I just can’t help but think of Drill Bit. When he and Flurry were going at it I saw the roots of his sadness. He wasn’t offered comforting when he was sad and upset. His parents just pushed him to become independent and make himself tough.”
Pound tensed, tears forming in his eyes. “F-Flurry was right. When I think of you being cold and uncaring about today it feels like my heart is being ripped open. I know how much today hurt you, but I can’t give up on Mayhem entirely. We have too much history together for that.” He gave her another hug, the tears coming down. “However, I’m willing to wait until you’re ready to give him another chance.
“I might not be happy about waiting, but I know that Flurry is right. You’re doing this because you love us, and I don’t want to hurt you over this anymore. Thank you for always looking out for us.”
Cup hugged him back, feeling warm inside. “I do love you, Pound. More than anything in the world.” She could practically feel Pumpkin staring at her. Looking up she said, “And you too, of course, Pumpkin.”
Pumpkin hugged Carrot. “Thank you, Daddy! I guess you need my hug, because Mom just said she loves us more than you.”
He hugged her back. “That’s alright. Our kids should always come before us anyway. That’s what it means to be a parent.
“So what’s next?” asked Pinkie. “I think they’ve got this lesson down.”
Twilight nodded. “Sure looks like it to me.” She picked up the notebook and found her place again. “To wrap up, I really want to see all of you next weekend if you’re not busy. I don’t want to let the bad things of today overcome the love we all share for each other. I want to celebrate our victory, and I know that Pinkie Pie is up to the task of making this event super special.
“There’s a certain theme I want for this party, but I don’t want to tell it to you over this notebook. I told you that I did a lot of thinking because of Aunt Starlight, and there’s a few things I learned about myself that I only want to say in person, when I can share my whole heart with all of you that have stood by me. From what Pound and Pumpkin have told me it shouldn’t be hard for Pinkie to set up this party without knowing what it’s about in advance.”
“Oooh!” Pinkie said excitedly, her eyes sparkling. She loved a challenge, especially when it came to making the perfect party. “This sounds fun!”
“I wonder what Flurry discovered?” asked Pound.
“I don’t know,” said Pumpkin, “From her note it sounds like she learned a lot already that she’s shared with us. What else could be left?”
“I wonder too,” said Twilight, “but I guess we’ll just have to wait. I’m not worried about her anymore.”
“Make that three,” said Pumpkin.
Twilight flipped to the next page. “Well, we’re almost at the end of her note.” She cleared her throat and continued reading. “In closing, I just want to thank all of you for being my friends. You give strength to my heart. Pound, Pumpkin, Tree Leaf, Peppermint, Masky, and Mayhem. I can’t ever forget what all of you have done for me.
“My friends… you saved me from the darkness. When I was lonely and couldn’t make any friends, when ponies made fun of my oversized wings, when I was hurting deep inside… you showed me the magic of friendship. And now I want to return it you in kind. I will grow stronger than anyone, so I can always be your light, even in the darkest of times.
“That’s my promise to you, and my duty as both your friend and as a princess.”
“Signed, Princess Flurry Heart.”
The twins sniffed. Copying Flurry’s habit they both closed their eyes and put their hooves over their heart. Even just through the words they could feel her heart reaching out towards them. The warmth of her feelings washed over them, making them feel like everything was okay. No matter how unpleasant the journey, either in Mayhem’s world or beyond, what did it matter so long as they were together for it?
With their eyes closed they didn’t see Twilight approaching, and let out cries of surprise as she picked them both up and held them to her.
“Thank you!” Twilight said emotionally. “I feel like I haven’t said that to you for a long time, but it needs to be said.”
She set them down, tears streaming down her eyes, but they didn’t seem like happy tears.
“What’s wrong, Twilight?”
“Flurry has become so strong in such a short amount of time, and it’s all thanks to you.” As they went to protest she cut over them. “I know! I know you’re going to say this was a group effort, but it did all spur from you.
“You just don’t understand how worried I was for Flurry back then.” Her horn lit up, and a memory of Flurry and Twilight showed.
“Just leave me alone!” Flurry said, annoyed. “I don’t know how many times I have to tell you, Aunt Twilight. I don’t care about making friends, so stop bothering me about it. I just want to study.”
Even though Flurry was raging the twins could see something behind her words. Knowing Flurry’s history they could see the fear she was masking behind her indifference.
Twilight said, “I could tell she was hiding something, but even though we all pushed her she just wouldn’t confide in us, not even to Starlight and Sunburst. We were at a loss… until I thought of you. I’d seen the way you had been growing, and I was certain if anyone could break through the wall she had put up it was the two of you. If she hung around a group of her peers it might be enough to get her to loosen up.”
She sighed. “But we both know it didn’t go so easy. Just a few minutes after her arrival she insulted Mayhem hard enough that he left the party out of fear he would harm her.”
She tensed, hugging herself. “That was one of the scariest moments of my life. Not because of a moment in the present, but because I was terrified she would wind up like Moondancer.”
Pound remembered the conversation they had about her. It was right before he had made up with Tree Leaf.
Pumpkin hadn’t been there for the story, but Pound did talk to her about it afterward.
“I… I lost my head a little bit. I didn’t know what to do. I was certain you could still help her, but you demanded that she be kicked out. It was your party. You had the right to decide what guests you had and it wasn’t my place to say otherwise. If you were only doing it out of obligation, or because I ordered you to, it would amount to nothing.”
“We both remember,” said Pumpkin. “It shocked us so much when you bowed to us kids like you were beneath us.”
“And then,” said Pound, “You begged and pleaded with us to give her another chance. We both saw how deeply you were hurting. You were worried about her, but also your brother and Princess Cadance.
“It’s like Flurry said: we’re all connected. When one of us hurts it hurts everyone connected to us. The two of us… we just couldn’t stand to see how sad it made you.”
“That’s something else Flurry was right about,” said Twilight. “Small things can lead to huge things. Just think about everything that went on in that bedroom during your party. Flurry was finally able to put away all the things that had been troubling her, all from the simple act of giving someone a second chance.
“What if I hadn’t been able to convince you? What then? Bonding with all of you, releasing all her negative feelings, forming a true bond of friendship with Crystal… none of that would have happened. She would have stayed all alone and miserable, still holding all her painful thoughts.”
Pound gave her a warm smile. “But that didn’t happen, Twilight. It was because of you that we could push through. We saw the love you had for Flurry, and your sadness over not being to help. We saw your fear. It was because you didn’t try to force us that we were able to put our feelings aside and pushed Flurry to open up.”
“The two of us,” said Pumpkin, “we just couldn’t stand to see you in so much pain. Not after everything you’ve done for us. You’ve taught us a lot, but you’ve also been very forgiving of our mistakes.” She blushed, smiling awkwardly. “Like that time I made you trip and slam your head into the ground to break your concentration so I could keep attacking Masky.”
Pound winced. “I still remember that as the scariest I’ve ever seen Twilight look… but in the end I think I’d still rather take that Twilight than an angry Fluttershy.”
Pumpkin gulped and nodded. “Definitely.”
Twilight and Pinkie began laughing.
Pound shivered. “I felt like she was gonna turn me to stone just with her gaze alone. I couldn’t move at all until she looked away.”
Pinkie put a hoof on Pound. “If there’s one thing to learn it’s that when you push a ‘weak’ pony too far you’ll see just how strong they really are. Just like when you finally found the courage to stand up to Drill Bit.”
Cup gave him a loving squeeze. “We were so mad at hearing about how he attacked you, but even more than that we just felt so proud of you. Completely on your own you finally managed to put all your training to work and won him over without resorting to violence.”
“Hmm,” said Twilight, putting a hoof to her face. “Now that I think about it, that’s yet another example of what Flurry was talking about. You were steadfast against me punishing him for hurting you because you believed that you had started building a connection with him, and my interference would have broken that connection.
“In the end I believe you had the right mindset. Rather than holding onto the past you looked towards the future, and he’s another one that has come so far from who he used to be. He started out as just a bully who made your school life miserable. Now he’s your daily tutor and is a lot happier with who he is.
“Everything… it all starts with little things. That first step can seem so small, but it can blossom into something that affects everything around.”
Pound gave a hearty nod. “I love that I took that first step, because it’s led to so many good things. I don’t know if I’d even be flying yet without his help.”
Pumpkin was beaming. “Ever since we finished Flurry’s message I’ve just felt… protected, somehow. We were feeling better being around our family, but there was still just this… feeling of something being wrong. I’m not scared anymore.”
“I know what you mean, Pumpkin,” said Twilight. “I still had some lingering feelings that Flurry took away.”
“I can feel it too,” said Cup. “I’m glad she made her request. I think it helped us come to more of an understanding.”
Carrot nodded. “We don’t make rules simply to hurt our children. We make them because we want to protect them. I’m glad too that they understand our feelings and we understand theirs.”
“I’m just happy that all of you are happy,” said Pinkie. “And, of course, I’d never say no to an invitation to party. I’m gonna rock whatever theme she asks me for.”
“I think Flurry told us all what we really needed to hear,” said Twilight. “I’m sure you want to write your messages back to her. Just let her know that she really helped me too with her letter, okay?”
The twins hopped off their parents laps and hugged her. “Sure thing, Twilight!” said Pumpkin.
“Goodnight!” said Pound.
She hugged them back. “Goodnight, you two.”
After a few more goodbyes she sent them home with a flash of her horn.
She found herself excited for the following week. What else was Flurry going to tell them? Why was she hiding what type of party she wanted? She knew she could always probe her niece for the answers, but she had no interest in doing so. It was clear that Flurry was happy. That was all that really mattered to her.