Half for the Fairies

by Silent Whisper

Sisters Know Best

It was, in her defense, exactly what her sister had told her.

Her mother had always called it a waste of food. "There are starving fillies everywhere," she said, filling her plate once again. "If they had your meal, they'd eat it all and not complain." So Sweetie Belle ate it, and didn’t complain, much, but Rarity knew better. She always knew better. She was her big sister, and she knew everything.

Her father said that it was a waste of money. “Food is expensive,” he’d said over the top of his newspaper. “We paid to get that food on your plate, so you should eat it and be thankful for it.” So Sweetie Belle ate it, and she was thankful, mostly, but Rarity knew better, she knew. Rarity always knew better.

So when Rarity said that she’d been saving half her food for the fairies, so the fairies would help Rarity become thin and pretty, Sweetie Belle believed her. Rarity said that the fairies took the magic from the food, and that after she threw it away, they’d already eaten their fill, just like she had.

She also said that Sweetie Belle asked too many questions, but Sweetie Belle heard that a lot from Rarity so it didn’t really bother her.

Their parents didn’t believe Sweetie. “Fairies aren’t real,” said her mother, and “Your sister needs to eat to grow stronger,” insisted her father. But Sweetie Belle knew that the fairies would help Rarity, and nothing her parents said could dissuade her from that fact. Rarity was her big sister and big sisters know better. After a while, her parents stopped finding food in the trash can, and then they didn’t want to talk about it anymore.

Sweetie Belle found it, sometimes. That was because Sweetie Belle knew Rarity best. She knew that the offerings to the fairies were working, too, because Rarity was still thin, and she was still beautiful. Sure, she shivered a lot, but the house was cold during the winter, and maybe the fairies were cold, too.

Sweetie Belle would draw them in her pictures, tiny hooves and slender bodies, delicate snowflake wings and glowing eyes. Rarity called her drawings garishly creative, which as far as Sweetie Belle could figure was a fancy way of saying that Rarity liked the picture.

Since they didn’t find hidden food anymore, hidden beneath used coffee filters and melon rinds and tea bags where only the fairies and little sisters could find it, her parents stopped bothering Rarity so much about it. After much careful begging over an eternity of a week, they even said that Rarity could go out to a sleepover with Applejack and her other older-filly friends, all by herself!

Rarity was ecstatic, as she ought to be, and immediately rushed into figuring out what to pack. Sweetie Belle wanted to help, but Rarity said no, and that she was messing up her makeup kits, and would she please stop trying on all the outfits she wanted to pack.

Tragically, her parents didn’t take Sweetie Belle’s side on this, so she had to stay out of Rarity’s room and not help. But that didn’t stop her from peeking from the doorway! Rarity was going to be the prettiest filly there! She already was the prettiest filly in Sweetie Belle’s opinion, but it probably wasn’t her little sister’s opinion that Rarity cared about so much.

The sun was setting when Rarity headed out to Applejack’s in her saddlebags and scarf, waving over her shoulder at Sweetie Belle and her parents. It was a chilly night, but Rarity was old enough to be able to walk all the way to Applejack’s house by herself! Sweetie Belle waved back, and tried not to be a little bit jealous. Rarity was gonna have so much fun, and when she got back maybe she’d teach Sweetie Belle how to be that grown up, too!

Dinner that night felt quieter and emptier without Rarity. Sweetie Belle kicked her hooves under the dinner table and could barely bring herself to eat, pushing the food around her plate. Rarity would have something to say that would fill the emptiness, she always knew what to say, she-

The offering for the fairies! Sweetie Belle gasped. If the fairies didn’t get their food, would Rarity not be pretty anymore? Oh, this was a disaster! The sleepover was so important to Rarity, she’d never gotten to stay somewhere else overnight, and now it could be ruined! Sweetie Belle wouldn’t be a very good little sister if she let that happen, would she?

She excused herself from the table to do her homework and brought the uneaten portion of her meal with her. Rarity was right, Sweetie Belle realized as she walked up the stairs. She was right about everything, of course, but especially about how grown-ups really didn’t pay attention to anything.

They didn’t notice that Sweetie Belle had hidden the rest of the meal, mostly salad, in a napkin on her desk when she returned her empty bowl later that night.

They didn’t ask questions when Sweetie Belle yawned and said she was going to bed early because she’d had a long day at school.

They didn’t wake up when Sweetie Belle put her coat on later that night and crept out of the front door, napkin carefully tucked into her pocket.

Rarity would know what to do, though. Sweetie Belle knew where Applejack lived, and while little sisters could be embarrassing sometimes, maybe Rarity would be able to tell her how to give the food to the fairies and everything would be okay.

It was a foggy night, and lightly snowing. Sweetie Belle crept into it, offering at her side. Rarity always seemed so cold, but even Sweetie Belle would be shivering a bit without her coat. She lit her horn, but that only made the pale mist around her brighter.

Good thing Sweetie Belle was a big enough filly to know the way to Applejack’s! It was just a little dark, that was all, and she’d never been outside after all the windows lining the wide empty streets of Ponyville had flickered out. The snow that made her hooves tingle with chill as flakes slowly collected on the street. She wished she’d brought a flashlight.

The houses grew further apart as the night stretched on, and Sweetie Belle trusted her hooves to know where to go. Everything looked so much larger in the dim light of her own horn. The darkness stretched ahead of her, unknowably massive, yawning like a cave as she went down the tree-lined path. If Sweetie Belle weren’t on a mission, she might even be a little scared.

Her stomach rumbled, and the half-eaten salad in the napkin seemed more tempting than ever, but Sweetie Belle walked onward. She had to be getting close right now, right?

“Rarity?” She called out into the snow. “Rarity, are you there? It’s me, Sweetie Belle!”

The fog didn’t respond, and Sweetie Belle frowned into it, flashing her horn a few times before dimming her light. It wasn’t doing much, anyway, since the storm had picked up. “Rarityyy!”

The wind swept currents of snowflakes around her hooves, curves and swirls of flakes that pointed Sweetie Belle onward on the path.

The fairies! She still had her offering! Maybe they could help? “Hello? Fairies, are you there? I’m, um.” She didn’t know if there were magical words to summon them, like in fairy tales, but she had to try. Sweetie Belle pulled the napkin out of her pocket and set it on the frozen path in front of her. “I’m Rarity’s sister! I’ve got food for you! If you know where she is, I-”

A dim bluish light flickered in front of her, making Sweetie Belle wince. She squinted into the swirling flakes. Was that a fairy? She could barely see, but what she did make out looked almost like her picture, except in all the ways it was worse.

Its tiny hooves clinked and crackled as it hovered in the mist, and Sweetie Belle could barely make out a jagged icicle smile in the dim light. It drifted back with a chill breeze, and Sweetie Belle stumbled forward. “Wait! I need to find Rarity! This is for her, she’s gotta be the prettiest! You need to help me!”

The light faded further, and Sweetie Belle raced after it into the dark, hooves numb with cold as they pounded against the damp snow-crusted ground. “Don’t leave me here, I have to find her!”

The fairy’s light almost flickered out completely before it started to grow brighter, and Sweetie Belle’s heart skipped a beat. She was catching up, maybe the fairy would show her where the sleepover was and-

The light was too low, and too bright, shining like a beacon as Sweetie Belle almost tripped on something white and solid in the cold. Shaking her head, she squinted at it. A flashlight, that looked like it’d been dropped, bright enough to illuminate four white legs and the ends of a scarf she knew all too well.

“R-rarity!” Sweetie Belle bent down and brushed snow off of her sister’s cheek. She was still breathing, but there was a lump on the side of her head, and her sister didn’t make a sound when Sweetie Belle nudged her. Had the fairies hurt her? Was this what happened when Rarity didn’t feed them? “Somepony, h-help!”

Sweetie Belle picked up the flashlight and stuffed it in her pocket before she grabbed one of Rarity’s hooves and pulled back, towards where she’d came from. Her sister felt cool to the touch, and that worried her more than anything as she slowly dragged Rarity back to where she hoped Ponyville was. “Help! Please, Rarity needs help!”

The wind stifled her voice, but she kept shouting as she pulled, inch by inch. “Please! I need-”

“Sweetie Belle!” Came a voice from behind her as she tugged with all her strength. “Is that you?”

“Help me! I’m over here! Rarity needs help!” Sweetie Belle shouted, dropping her sister’s leg and lighting her horn as brightly as she could manage.

A silhouette of a pony came into view through the fog. “Sweetie Belle? Oh, for Celestia’s- wait, Rarity?” A magenta pony galloped into the light, sliding to a stop on the frozen ground as she assessed the situation.

“Miss Cheerilee? Why are you-”

“Your parents were worried!” Cheerilee gasped, slightly out of breath as she bent down to check on Rarity. “They realized you weren’t in your bed and half the town’s been searching for you! What happened?”

“I found her on the ground! Is it because of the fairies? Was it my fault? Is she gonna be okay?” Sweetie Belle sniffled as Cheerilee examined the lump on Rarity’s head.

With a deep breath in, and a slow breath out, Cheerilee managed a shaky smile. “Rarity’s probably going to be alright, Sweetie Belle. It looks like she just fainted. Let’s get her to the hospital, just to make sure, okay?”

Sweetie Belle nodded and pulled the flashlight out of her pocket as Cheerilee carefully slung Rarity over her back. “Now, what was this about fairies?”

Normally, grown-up ponies didn’t believe that sort of thing, but this was the first time somepony had asked without sounding bored, and Cheerilee didn’t seem angry or anything, even though she wasn’t even Sweetie Belle’s teacher yet, so Sweetie Belle tried to explain as they walked, pausing the story whenever Cheerilee stopped to let other ponies know that yes, Sweetie Belle was okay, and to let her parents and the hospital know where they were going.

It must’ve been the cold and hunger that made Sweetie Belle keep talking past what she’d normally tell an older pony. The teacher looked lost in thought after Sweetie Belle’s voice trailed off, but it wasn’t in the way that grown-ups got when they thought a foal was being stupid. It wasn’t until they got to the hospital and the doctors rushed Rarity away that Cheerilee spoke. “She didn’t feed the fairies, so you’re saying they hurt her.”

“Mmhm,” Sweetie Belle said, feeling thawed and oddly tired in the hospital’s waiting room. “You don’t believe me, do you? Nopony ever believes me.”

“I-” Cheerilee’s voice caught in her throat, and she bent down a bit to be at Sweetie Belle’s level. “I think that maybe, these fairies that Rarity mentioned… I don’t think they’re very nice if they’re trying to keep Rarity from eating and growing up big and strong.”

“Oh.” That wasn’t what Sweetie Belle had braced herself for. But Rarity wasn’t wrong, was she? She was an older sister, and older sisters always-

“I think,” Cheerilee said gently, sitting down next to Sweetie Belle and looking very serious. “Rarity is sick right now, Sweetie Belle. She hasn’t been eating enough, and something’s made her feel less hungry and angry at her body. She’s a pony who cares very much about how she looks, and sometimes that can make somepony see herself as ugly when she isn’t.”

“But she’s the prettiest!” Sweetie Belle protested, because it was the most obvious thing in the world. “She’s the most beautiful pony in the whole world!”

The doors to the waiting room slammed open as Sweetie Belle’s parents rushed into the room, and Cheerilee’s response was lost in the hugs from her father and tears from her mother. A doctor cleared her throat and waved them into another room, and with a grateful nod, they left, newfound worry in their steps.

“Is Rarity gonna be okay?” Sweetie Belle whispered, peeking down the hallway where they’d taken her sister.

Cheerilee nodded slowly, but didn’t try to fake a smile or force herself to sound all fakely happy. “She’ll be okay, I think, but she’ll need to stay here for a while and get stronger.” She studied Sweetie Belle for a moment, and her gaze softened a bit. “You know, Rarity might need to hear that she’s beautiful.”

“Even from me?”

“Especially from you.” The teacher sighed, and she suddenly sounded tired, more tired than even Sweetie Belle. “I suspect she cares an awful lot about what her little sister thinks, even if she doesn’t show it. Are you okay with waiting here for a moment?”

“Okay,” Sweetie Belle said as Cheerilee went out into the hallway where her parents and Rarity had gone and stared out the window at the falling snow, trying to wrap her head around it all.

For a brief second, in the swirling eddies of flakes, she could’ve sworn she saw a tiny frozen creature clutching her napkin full of food. Sweetie Belle stuck her tongue out at it as the vision disappeared in the gloom. Those fairies weren’t going to win, not if Sweetie Belle had anything to say about it! She wouldn’t let Rarity go hungry for them anymore!

Because Sweetie Belle knew that Rarity was the prettiest pony ever, and Sweetie Belle knew best.