Rainbow sat at the dinner table. It was sparkling and smooth, much like her entire home. One would not expect Rainbow Dash to keep such a clean house, but there were times Rainbow found that cleaning would work just as well as any protective mantra.
She took a bite of her sandwich, and as the young mare masticated, her mind was quite busy.
She swallowed and frowned, saying, "I'm not sure that's a good idea, Rainbow."
Her mind buzzed. Why not!? Didn't you tell me, dad told you for the same reason? Rainbow asked her mother.
"Well, not really," her eyes drifted up. "I mean..."
Memories leaked into her consciousness.
Tears flowed from Rainbow's eyes. The cloud she sat on was already soaked with saline.
Her ears twitched as she heard a fluttering sound coming closer and closer.
She felt the cloud shake as a large mass dropped next to her.
A single purple wing wrapped around her shoulders, holding her tight.
Her father's voice came, "It's alright, Starlight."
Through quiet sobs, Rainbow spoke. "No it's not," she cried. "I never got to say goodbye to her. She was my best friend."
"I know," a hoof calmly rubbed her back. "I know."
"She was going to be my best mare."
"Why did this happen?"
"I don't know."
They sat in silence for several seconds, Rainbow's tears flowing.
The stallion embracing her spoke, once again. "Starlight," he said. "There's something I need to tell you."
Her tears ebbed. She looked up. The brown-haired stallion was avoiding eye contact.
"I was going to wait until after the wedding, but... I think you might need this now."
She lifted a hoof and wiped her eyes as he looked at her once again.
"But..." he swallowed hard. Rainbow could feel his nervousness reverberate through his hooves. "It's a bit of a family secret. You can't tell anypony, ever. Alright?"
She nodded hesitantly.
"I can talk to the dead."
She brought a hoof up and struck him in the face.
Wiping the memory from her mind, she said, I see.
"What?" Rainbow's mouth spoke. "Oh... right," she said, remembering the extent of their current bond.
You think she'll be angry, Rainbow explained.
"She might not believe you. It took me a while to accept this whole 'conduit' thing myself," the dead mare explained. "I don't think I ever believed it, at least not until you were born."
Memories leaked through once again.
The young blue foal growled before her.
"Rainbow, calm down," she said.
"You can't send me back!" the foal cried.
"What is your name?" came the voice of an elderly mare beside her.
"That's none of your fucking business!"
"This is not your realm anymore, go back to where you came from."
"Make me," she said, a sinister grin on her face. A foreign sight on the young, innocent foal.
The bright red mare stood her ground, not daring to touch the young foal. Not while she was still possessed.
Rainbow whispered to her grandmother. "How could this have happened?"
"That hair clip," she whispered. "Where did it come from?"
She could see the bright green hair clip, attached to the chromatic mane of her younger form. "My mother... she-"
"It must be an antique," she said calmly. "You have to watch out for those." Stepping forward, authoritatively, she said. "Get out, or I'll have you forced out."
"You should've taught her something a little more obscure," the young foal explained. "She can't get rid of me. She can only watch."
"Who said she'd have to do anything?"
The young foal suddenly looked frightened. "No."
Sunny's orange eyes fluttered.
The foals eyes darted around. In the kitchen, behind her, only a few feet away, several sharp knives sat on the counter. She leaped toward them.
"NO!" Rainbow screamed.
Acting quickly, the foal grabbed a knife and brought it down on her left forehoof, quickly releasing a bloodcurdling scream.
Tears burst from the foal's eyes, and Rainbow grabbed her younger self. "Rainbow, it'll be alright, you'll be fine."
The foal's eyes brightened. "I'm sorry I wasn't fast enough," she said, quietly.
The elder mare galloped to her granddaughter and dropped the first-aid kit on the ground. "Don't worry, Starlight. It'll be fine."
Rainbow looked at the pool of blood. "It won't be fine," she said through gritted teeth.
Sunny examined the wound. "It's superficial, there won't be any major damage."
"You know that?"
"Yes, I do."
"So, I guess it happens a lot to your kind."
Sunny glared at her. "Sometimes."
Rainbow looked at the foal. "Get out of my daughter."
"She's unconscious," the soul explained. "If I leave, she'll feel it again. I'm protecting her."
"I don't care."
"For Rainbow's sake I suggest he stay," the eldest explained, wrapping the hoof. "You don't want her remembering too much of this. Do you?"
Rainbow felt sadness and guilt. She turned away from the younger form.
"I know a doctor I can contact, he'll understand what happened." Sunny looked at the hair clip. "We're gonna have to take care of that. Bag it."
"Are you sure it's safe to touch?"
"For you? Yes. For me? Probably not."
"I'll teach her new mantras to protect herself," She turned to look at her daughter-in-law. "This won't happen again."
The memories hit her hard. Sometimes they were new, but often they were not. Normally she tried to block memories out. But this was her mother, not some stranger. She wanted to see them.
Mom, Rainbow said. Did I scare you?
My abilities... Did it ever scare you.
"No," she said, in shock. "Of course not. I thought it was kinda cool."
And the bad souls?
"I was scared for you, not of you."
But my friends...
"Rainbow, this stuff is secret for a reason. And it's not simply because they'd be afraid of you."
A rapping came at the front door.
"Yeah!?" Rainbow's voice screeched.
"Rainbow?" a soft voice came from the other side. "It's me."
Fluttershy, Rainbow thought.
"Little Fluttershy?" Her mother said. "I haven't seen her since..."
Can it wait 'til later, mom? Rainbow was insistent.
"Just, don't do anything rash, Rainbow," she replied.
Her eyes fluttered gently, and Rainbow regained control. "Coming!" she screamed, leaping from the table.
She flew to the door, and swung it open. "Hey, Flutters. What are you doing here this late?"
"Oh, is it a problem?" she asked. "I could come back later."
"No, no, it's fine," Rainbow said, stepping aside. "Come in."
Fluttershy trotted through the door.
"So, can I get you anything?" the host asked.
"No, um... I... ah..."
Rainbow but a hoof on her friend's shoulder. "So what's up?" she asked.
"Um... I just-"
"It's about what happened at the Citadel isn't it?"
"Um... no. I'm fine."
"You sure, I know it's been bugging you."
"Really, I... I'm fine..."
Rainbow remembered that day. It was hard on all of them. Fighting the hordes of monsters that were once normal ponies. But Fluttershy was the one who changed the most. Suddenly willing to fight as hard as any pony. Almost out of some deep-seated anger. Rainbow wanted to ask her about it. But was afraid of what she might learn, or what it might unleash.
Rainbow smiled. "So, why are you here?"
"It's um... It's about Twilight."
The smile faded. "What about her?"
"After you left, I sorta went back to talk to her."
Rainbow was taken aback. "What did she say?"
"I feel so helpless," the yellow pegasus explained, walking towards the kitchen table. "I don't even know why she's so sad, much less what to do about it."
"Her brother died." Rainbow explained, taking a seat next to her. There's not much else left to say."
"I know, but..." she flopped her head on the table. "Seeing her like this... And if we don't do something, Pinkie might try to cheer her up."
"Yeah..." Rainbow's gaze drifted.
"What's it like?"
She looked back at her pink-maned companion. "Huh?"
"Losing someone," the yellow pegasus said, straightening herself.
Rainbow was at a loss for words. "I was pretty young when it happened... I don't remember much."
Fluttershy smiled sweetly, nostalgia taking over. "I remember that's when you started dying your mane."
Rainbow nodded. She had been friends with Fluttershy for as long as she could remember. They were really close, told each other everything... Well, almost everything.
"Actually, that's when I stopped dying my mane."
"Oh... I... I didn't know."
"Yep," she declared with a smile, running a hoof through her hair. "This is all real. Didn't I tell you that?"
"So... why did you dye your mane as a foal?"
"Ah... it was my father's idea. He really didn't like his mane, so he dyed it, and he dyed mine." ...Because we needed to hide the fact that we could talk to the dead, she thought.
"Oh, I see."
"Once mom died, I sorta wanted to stop that. Dad thought it would look weird in between, so he dyed my hair back."
"He also shaved his head."
Fluttershy giggled. Suddenly remembering how Rainbow's father looked back then.
They sat in silence for several seconds. Rainbow's sandwich sat there. She still didn't feel hungry, despite the fact that her mother had no problem eating while in her body.
"They had a fight."
Fluttershy turned to look at her. "What?"
"At the Citadel. After the rest of you started cleaning up outside, I saw Twilight and Shining Armor talking. She wasn't happy. She said some... not-nice things. And she never got to say she was sorry."
"Oh..." Her eyes widened. "So..."
"She's not just upset she lost her brother. She's upset she lost her brother before she could say she was sorry."
Fluttershy looked at the mare. Her mouth agape. "Oh..."
"You're thinking the same thing I am aren't you?"
"Twilight's not gonna get over this. She may learn to pretend but..."
"There's nothing we can do." She flopped her head on the table again.
Rainbow stared forward. "Fluttershy?"
The yellow mare turned her head.
"Can you keep a secret?"
She nodded. A movement that looked odd to the conduit, as Fluttershy left her head on the table.
"I can talk to the dead."
Her eyes went wide. "What?"
Rainbow turned to the yellow pegasus, and continued. "I can talk to the dead. I might be able to call Shining Armor. Give him a chance to say goodbye. Give Twilight a chance to say goodbye."
She stood up. Locking eyes with her best friend. "Wh-wha..."
"It runs in the family. It's supposed to be a secret. It goes back generations."
"Why is it a secret?"
Rainbow shuffled her hooves. "That's hard to explain."
"Well, um... I don't know."
Fluttershy's eyes drifted.
"I just touch something, and if a dead pony touched it at some point in their life, I can call them, and they can sort of... possess me."
Fluttershy was shaking, her breathing erratic. She was still trying to absorb what she had heard. "Wh...why?"
"Uh..." Rainbow was suddenly lost.
"Why didn't you tell me?"
"I told you, it was a family secret."
"But I'm your friend, Rainbow. Why didn't you tell me?"
The blue mare was taken aback. "I was afraid."
"That it would scare you away. That you'd call me a freak."
Fluttershy was shocked. "Rainbow, we're friends." She grabbed the mare in a firm embrace. "That would never happen." As they separated, she smiled and asked, "So, why are you telling me now?"
"Because we're friends," she said simply. "And I think I'm gonna need your help."
Fluttershy ran the soft-bristled brush through her long, pink mane. Placing the brush on the counter, she turned on the bathroom faucet, and ran her forehooves under the cold water.
She brought her hooves to her face and rubbed the water into her eyes. Lowering her hooves, she stared at the reflection before her.
It was only the night before that she last spoke to her best friend, and was told the mare could talk to the dead.
It was still something Fluttershy was trying to process. She was surprised it was even possible. The dead were dead! How could they talk!?
Even after Rainbow Dash explained it, Fluttershy still didn't understand it. But she was willing to accept it. How could she not? There were only three possibilities she could see: It was all true, and Rainbow wanted to help. It was a lie, and part of a practical joke Rainbow wanted to play on Twilight when she was at her most vulnerable. Or Rainbow Dash had lost it.
While the last one was still a distinct possibility, she thought it would be best to withhold judgement.
But as she stood there, a fourth possibility came to mind. Rainbow was lying, and would hope Twilight would never find the truth.
Fluttershy closed the faucet and trotted into her main living room. She had already set out food for all her little critters, and still had plenty of time to make it downtown, to meet up with her best friend. But first, higher priorities needed to be dealt with.
She trotted to her closet. Opening the door, she saw, resting on the floor, a wooden chest, with a simple combination lock. She spun the tumblers to the right positions, and unlocked the chest.
Within were many knickknacks, but only one caught her eye: A book that was older than her. She picked it up and cracked it open. The pages were crisp, and hadn't been touched in decades.
Closing the book and locking the chest, she flew to her living room, and stowed the book in her saddlebag before slipping it on herself and trotting out the door.