A single shaft of light slowly crept across the floor of Rarity's guest room through the slim opening at the top of her tightly drawn curtains until it landed squarely on the eyes of a sleeping purple dragon. With a grumble, the groggy dragon placed a clawed hand over his face and sat up, nearly hitting his head on the canopy above him. After so many years far from Equestria, he had not registered how much larger he now was in comparison to pony homes.
Spike slowly rose from the bed with a massive yawn and steadied himself, allowing the fog to clear from his first full night of sleep in over a week, then with a quick snap of his fingers, returned to his stallion disguise. After ascertaining his illusion was stable, he exited the bedroom and made his way down the hall to the bathroom. His horn glow a faint emerald green as he applied his magic to the hot water knob in the shower, cranking it up as high as it would go. He would have much preferred to take a shower without the transmogrification spell in place, but he knew that at full height he would never be able to properly use a pony's bathroom.
As his telekinesis worked one of Rarity's many shampoos through his mane, Spike let out a long sigh. The state of Ponyville was still weighing heavy on his mind, far more than he had expected it to, and the fact that two of his closest friends should have been, according to Rarity, institutionalized based on all conventional standards long ago was his first and foremost concern. He had to somehow bring them back to reality before anything further could be done, but it had been so long since either of them had seen him that he doubted he would be able to significantly impact their stunted states of mind. It was as this concern floated around in his head that another thought clicked into place.
Maybe I don't have to be the one to help them… Maybe I just need to give the ones who can help them a chance to do it. He quickly washed the remaining shampoo from his mane, used his magic to shut the water off, and proceeded to step out and dry off his coat. Rarity was closer to Shy than anyone else. I need to get them to sit down together to see if Rarity can crack through whatever wall Shy has built between herself and the rest of the world.
Spike nodded in silent self-affirmation, then exited the bathroom, towel still draped over his head. As soon as his hooves touched the hallway, he collided with something small and white, which he caught in a magical emerald grip before she could fall to the floor.
"Sorry, Rarity. I didn't even hear you outside the door." The violet stallion pulled his towel off his head so it draped around his neck.
The alabaster mare immediately regained her bearings and looked up at him with a panicked expression.
"Spike, you must come downstairs this instant. There are guards at the door asking questions about the strange stallion staying at my shop. Someone must have followed you here last night once you arrived in town." The frantic look in her eyes gave Spike significant new insight as to just how terrified the citizens were of the Griffons constantly patrolling the town. He remembered then how quickly she had dragged him into her home the night before once she knew who he was. He nodded to her, then quickly went to retrieve a small booklet off the nightstand in the guest room, which he brought downstairs to the sitting room where Rarity was anxiously waiting by the front door.
He placed a hoof on Rarity's shoulder and gave her a small comforting smile to try and convince her that everything would be fine. The mare simply gathered herself and opened the door, outside of which stood a squad of five Griffons. After a single flick of his eyes over the group to size them up, Spike was torn between wanting to chuckle and scowl. Between their body language and equipment, he could tell that this squad was even more ill-suited for combat than the Griffons he had dispatched at the work camp, but no normal town pony would be a match for them based on size and armaments alone. One little whisper had reached them and they had immediately sent an entire intimidation squad in, which he did not care for one bit. His thoughts were cut short as one of the Griffons spoke.
"Is this the stallion in question?" The stocky, brutish soldier fixed Rarity with what was certainly meant to be a cold and imposing glare, but it only made Spike all the more amused inside. When he felt Rarity tremble slightly at his side, however, his amusement disappeared.
"Y-yes, this is him," the mare said in a polite tone. "He's a very dear friend who just made it into town as of last night." The Griffon immediately shifted the glare over to Spike, but the large stallion would have none of that. He kept his stance tall and, with a look that could stop a hydra in its tracks, locked eyes with the guard.
"I'm sorry if I've caused some kind of trouble, sir," Spike said smoothly. "I checked in with the border guard before entering the city and my papers were deemed to be in order. If there was something else required of me, I promise you I was unaware." He followed his confident assertion with a brilliant smile.
Spike could tell the Griffon doing the talking was in charge, and that he was shaken by the presence he was being confronted with. This particular guard was nothing more than a common thug who was given a badge, and the field of raw magic that Spike was emitting was on its own enough to unnerve such a creature.
The guard swallowed hard before speaking again. "Under normal circumstances that would have been fine, but Miss Rarity is a citizen of more importance than others. It is our job to keep an eye on the company she keeps." The hesitation in his voice was palpable.
"Ah, please forgive me, sir," Spike replied, still smiling in the same calm but commanding manner. "I have been abroad in the Summer Isle for some time now studying herbal magic with the Zebra tribes. I suppose I have not fully acclimated yet to all of the current workings of Equestria."
"I'll be needing to see your papers, Mr…"
"Caster. The name's Snap Caster," Spike filled in without missing a beat. "I have everything right here, sir. Please feel free to look it over." He levitated the small booklet he had grabbed over to the Griffon.
There was a moment of tense silence as the guard scrutinized the paperwork. Spike could feel Rarity growing increasingly nervous as the seconds ticked by. The inspection, however, was completed faster than even Spike was prepared for.
"Everything seems to be in order, Mr.Caster. Enjoy your stay in Ponyville, and be certain you adhere to all laws in effect within the town limits."
"Of course, my good sir. I wouldn't dream of causing trouble in such a peaceful little town."
With the exchange finished, the guard handed Spike back the booklet, and the group turned in unison and proceeded away from the shop. Rarity quickly closed the door and breathed a heavy sigh of relief, her quivering muscles visibly relaxing. She looked up at Spike, then impulsively locked the stallion in a fierce hug.
"Oh, Spike, you haven't any idea how terrifying that was for me. I hadn't any idea of what to do, but you handled the situation so masterfully. How can I ever thank you?"
"Arrange to come with me to Fluttershy's today and we can call it even."
Rarity let go and took a step back, setting the large stallion with a puzzled expression.
"Why ever would you want me to come with you, darling? Fluttershy and I haven't spoken in years." The mare sighed, failing to keep the sadness out of her face as her eyes shifted to the floor. "I can't imagine I would be of much help to you."
Spike gave her another comforting smile. "Time is a rather abstract thing, isn't it? I hadn't spoken with you in years, yet it was quite an emotional moment when I showed up at your door." The corners of Rarity's mouth turned up a minute amount. "What I'm getting at, Rarity, is that out of all of us you have the best chance of bringing Fluttershy back. None of us ever had the kind of emotional connection with her that you two shared."
Rarity shifted from side to side, her now indecisive gaze still on the floor as she absorbed Spike's words. The mare's expression remained reluctant, but she suddenly gathered herself, trotted out of the sitting room, and came back a moment later with a small white sign which read 'Closed for Business', and with that they were out the door. She meticulously hung the sign and fastened every last lock on her door before they began what could only be described as a cautious stroll to Fluttershy's cottage.
During the walk, Spike periodically shifted his eyes over to his dainty companion who, much to his surprise, seemed to be more and more physically drained as their walk progressed. It seemed to him like being out in public was physically draining for the once attention-hungry fashionista.
Spike leaned toward Rarity slightly and muttered under his breath, "Is something the matter, Rarity? I've never known you to be so pensive about being out in public."
The mare's eyes flicked to meet his for but a moment, then shifted from left to right, scanning the streets as she mumbled, "Times change, Spikey. I am ashamed to say the Griffons robbed me of far more than just my store. When they took away my gems and dressed, they took away my will as well. Without my stunning gowns to adorn me, I quickly lost any taste for parading around in public. If I couldn't add any of my own flair and flaunt it, what reason was there for doing it at all?" Rarity pursed her lips and her eyes locked on the path ahead of her when she finished, signaling to Spike that she was discussing the matter no further.
The remaining walk to Fluttershy's home was uneventful, only a few ponies even casting puzzled or curious looks their way for more than a moment. It was clear that the once lively residents of Ponyville kept quite to themselves nowadays. When the duo finally approached their friend's residence, they were met with the familiar sight of a petite pegasus with a sunshine coat and pink mane fluttering about, filling many an empty bird's nest with fresh seed. The sight warmed Spike's heart. Even if she was not quite herself, at least one of his old friends had been able to continue doing the things she loved to do.
As they crossed the small bridge over the creek, Spike nudged Rarity and gave her a look that seemed to suggest she start the conversation. Rarity nodded and, as they approached the front of the humble cottage, she seem to drop all of her anxieties and transform into the Rarity he'd known twenty long years ago.
"Fluttershy, darling, it has been ages! I know I haven't been around much as of late, but could you be bothered to have a spot of tea with me and my friend this afternoon?" The meek pegasus stiffened slightly then dropped to the ground, her tail quickly swishing to cover her face as she noticed her new company.
Come out slightly from behind her tail, Fluttershy peeped out, "R-Rarity, is that you? I can't remember the last time you stopped by…I was so upset when you started canceling our weekly spa visits, but I didn't want to press the matter."
Rarity fought hard not to outwardly sigh at the abrupt reminder of just how far gone her closest friend was. "Oh, I know, dear. Things have just been so terribly busy, but don't you worry yourself for a minute about it! I finally had a free moment and came right down, although as I said I am entertaining a close friend from out of town at the moment. He is rather eager to meet all the important ponies in my life; would it be too much trouble for us to have a little brunch with you?"
Both Spike and Rarity could tell the timid animal caretaker was contemplating their sudden request, but it wasn't long before she nodded and opened the door to her cottage, ushering them in. When the pair entered, Rarity was immediately struck by how little it had changed in all the years that had passed. Small animals still scampered across the floor, and there was a calming melody from song birds singing throughout the home.
Once they had settled themselves on the couch, taking a moment to nudge away a particularly comfortable bunny, Fluttershy disappeared into the kitchen. Spike then took a moment to take the scene in, It was so foreign to him, the peace and tranquility, that he actually felt uncomfortable. At no point in the last twenty years had he experienced such serenity, and the contrast was particularly evident when he compared Fluttershy's welcome to his arrival at Rarity's home the night prior. He was abruptly removed from his dreamlike state by a sharp jab from Rarity.
"Please allow me to deal with our dear Fluttershy for the time being," she murmured quietly into his ear, before meeting his eyes with her own gloomy ones. "I think a few minutes of observing her might give you a better sense of what we are dealing with." The white mare pulled away from Spike as the sound of Fluttershy's light hoofsteps signaled her return. They watched as she gracefully navigated her way around the various critters running about the floor with a tray held daintily in her outstretched wings. She carefully placed it down when she reached the sitting area and offered both Rarity and Spike steaming cups of tea, to which they each smiled and accepted with their telekinetic grips.
Fluttershy flashed a brief but stunning smile in return before seating herself and retrieving her own teacup from the tray, balancing it expertly on a single wing. No conversation was had for several minutes as the three ponies quietly sipper their tea, occasionally trading glances before turning their eyes back to the floor. Finally, Rarity appeared ready to break the ice.
"So, Fluttershy, how have you been keeping the past few months? I heard from some of the ponies that help you tend to your chickens that an order came down from Canterlot. They said that the Griffons are demanding a twenty percent increase in egg production."
The pegasus sighed softly. "I had to have Big Mac build three more coops just to house the chickens I would need to meet Celestia's orders. I simply don't know what the Princess could want with all these eggs, but she could at the very least send some nicer ponies to collect them. Those big meanies just how up whenever they like, scaring my animals, shouting and demanding their crates. I have honestly never met such rude ponies in all my life."
Rarity's shoulders drooped and she shook her head sadly. She had almost forgotten just how lost her dear friend was in her little fantasy world. Almost.
"But I'd rather not bother you with my little troubles. How is your new line coming along, Rarity? I always so look forward to your spring lines. The floral patterns are so pretty."
Rarity put on her best fake smile. "It's coming along just famously, darling. I'd invite you to come by and model a few of the dresses for me, but I know how much you dislike it after that whole incident with Photo Finish."
Spike sat silently and sipped his tea as he listened to the two mares make small talk. He was having serious trouble believing that Fluttershy could honestly think Rarity was still making dresses. Then again, Fluttershy was immersed so far in her fantasy that she was suffering visual delusions, seeing Griffons as particularly large, rude ponies when they came for shipments.
A timid voice caught his attention before his mind could wander further.
"So, umm, Mr.Caster, was it? Rarity tells me you are visiting from out of town. What brings you to our quiet home?"
Spike set his tea cup back on the tray and cleared his throat. "I've been doing quite a bit of traveling recently. I've been on a bit of a magical research expedition visiting many different cults to try to broaden my horizons. I was beginning to feel a bit burnt out, so I decided to take a little rest and relaxation, and what better place to do it than Ponyville? Our dear friend Rarity was generous enough to let me stay with her, and I simply couldn't stay without meeting her other friends, so here we are."
"Oooh, that sounds so exciting! Other than Cloudsdale and Ponyville, I've never been anywhere else. I've always wanted to travel to Saddle Arabia someday. I've heard they have some truly amazing animals over there that are nothing like any creatures we have in Equestria, but I've sadly never been able to work up the courage to travel very far from home on my own."
Rarity took Fluttershy's wistful pause as a time to cut in. They needed to start drawing the pegasus back to reality, and all this small talk was getting them nowhere.
"Oh, Fluttershy, I meant to tell you I had the most incredibly dream the other night! I dreamt our dear little Spikey-Wikey came back to Ponyville a big handsome dragon and he swept me right off my feet! It was so strange to have such a dream out of the blue. I mean do you even remember the last time we saw our favorite little dragon?"
Fluttershy's eyes went wide as she pondered. "Oh my…I honestly can't say for certain, Rarity. My best guess would be more than a dozen years, now. The last time I remember seeing him, he was leaving because he wanted to find out more about his own kind. I remember how heart broken Twilight was after he left - she was locked up in her bedroom for days crying her heart out."
Spike cringed slightly at the mention of Twilight. He knew, of course, that this memory of Fluttershy's was a fabrication, but he was sure the parts about Twilight were true. He felt a sudden fierce urge to fly back to the ruined castle just to make sure she was safe and sound, but he managed to shake it off.
"Well, I have something to confess, my dear. This stallion isn't who I said he was. Snap Caster is the alias of a dear old friend of ours, a friend we haven't seen in twenty years now who is desperate to properly reintroduce himself to you."
With that, Rarity nodded to Spike. The stallion stood and proceeded over to a more open area of the cottage. As the two mares watched, one in hope and one in confusion, his horn burst to life, and after a brilliant flash of emerald light, the pony visage was gone and a large purple dragon stood before them, slightly hunched over in the small cottage. His green eyes met Fluttershy's sky blue ones and he managed a small grin.
"It has been a long time, Shy, but it's Spike. I didn't leave to find out more about my kind all those years ago. Twilight transported me into the mountains to save my life when the Griffons invaded. I'm here to try and help you deal with what has happened over the last two decades and hopefully bring you back to the real world."
Neither Spike nor Rarity said a word after that. They both stood silently, transfixed on their friend as she seemed to process his statement. Just as it looked like she was about to speak, her tea cup fell from her wing as she collapsed back into her chair, thoroughly out cold. Spike quickly caught the falling cup in a magical grasp and placed it on the tray before turning to Rarity.
"Well, honestly, that went about as well as I expected it to," Spike said as he rubbed the back of his neck. Rarity simply sighed and nodded in agreement.
"I suppose so. She was never one to deal very well with sudden shocks. Why don't I clean up down here while you take her upstairs and lie her down."
With a snap of his fingers, Spike resumed the form of Snap Caster and gently picked up the unconscious mare with a field of green magic. As he trotted down the stairs after laying Fluttershy in her bed, he could hear muffled cries coming from the living room, where he was met with the sight of Rarity sprawled haphazardly out on the divan with her face buried in a pillow. Each muffled sob felt like the twist of a knife in Spike's heart.
He crossed the small space between himself and the distraught mare and gently ran a hoof through her mane. Even with all the information Paraxxus had crammed into his head over the years, one area in which he was sorely lacking was offering comfort. The best comfort he had ever known was sulking away into the training hall and dismembering one training dummy after another.
"It's going to be alright, Rarity. We'll get her though this. There has to be something we can do to bring her around."
"It's not that, Spike. Simply seeing her like this is just too much… How can she be so blissfully unaware of the things going on around her? I've suffered for twenty years dealing with this hell we live in, and she spends her days basking in a dream world, dealing with none of it!" Rarity lifted her head from the pillow and stared at Spike through her tears, mascara running down her cheeks. "Sometimes it just doesn't seem fair. As serious as her problem is, sometimes it just doesn't seem so bad to me. I'd like to forget sometimes! I'd like to pretend all this isn't really happening, but I can't." Spike's ears flattened to his head as Rarity broke eye contact to stare at the floor and her voice broke. "Can we really take that away from her? I think of the hell we are living in, the hell we will be throwing her into by making her remember what exactly has happened here, and it's tearing me apart."
Spike was speechless. He honestly hadn't considered the repercussions of their plan for Fluttershy. His will, however, would not be shaken. The elements needed to be reunited, and that could never happen while Fluttershy was living in a world where the conflict didn't exist.
"We have to, Rarity. No matter how sweet the dreams we may dream, they aren't reality. We need everyone back together if we are going to take back Equestria, and we can't do that if we let Fluttershy go on believing everything is fine." His voice was soft but firm as he kept a comforting hoof on Rarity's shoulder.
The distraught mare squeezed her eyes shut tight for a moment, smudging her already running mascara further, before slowly looking back at Spike. "Alright, I'll do what I can to bring her around."
"That's all I can ask of you, Rarity. If this doesn't work, we'll have to regroup and I'll try to think of another way."
It was then that the duo heard a soft padding at the top of the the stairwell. Rarity quickly wiped away her smudged makeup and leapt up, her trademark socialite smile plastered on her face as Fluttershy shakily padded down the stairs.
"Fluttershy, dear, we were so worried about you! Are you sure you're ready to be out of bed?"
There was no response. The petite pegasus silently made her way to the nearest seat and sat down. She set both of them with her firmest stare before speaking.
"I would very much like to hear an explanation from you, Rarity. Why would you bring Spike here under such deceptive means?"
It took a moment for the mare in question to recover her voice. "It was never our intent to deceive you, my dear! Spike cannot simply walk about town as a full grown dragon…The Griffon guards patrolling the city would have him arrested in a heartbeat." Fluttershy's eyes were skeptical for an instant, yet she remained unphased.
"What are you talking about, Rarity? There hasn't been a Griffon in Ponyville since Gilda visited Rainbow Dash."
Rarity cast a wary glance at Spike.
"Fluttershy, how can you not see it? The town has been overrun by Griffons for two decades now…They show up at your doorstep monthly to collect eggs from your chickens. You can't keep pretending forever that they aren't there!"
The pegasus didn't miss a beat. "I don't know what you're talking about, Rarity. The only ones coming to collect the eggs from my chickens are ponies. I deal with them frequently. I know you aren't AppleJack, but certainly you can see when a lie has gone too far."
It was then that Spike stood up. This discussion was bound to turn into an incident if he didn't stop it from spiraling out of control.
"Rarity is telling the truth, Fluttershy. I've seen the tyranny of the Griffons. I've personally recused dozens of ponies from one of their unethical work camps. Things in Equestria are not as you see them. There is suffering and oppression spanning the four corners of the land."
Fluttershy shook her head violently. "No, everything is FINE! Things have been difficult, yes, but I haven't seen a single pony being treated in any oppressive manner. And there haven't been any Griffons here!"
It was at this point that Rarity snapped. "That's because you refuse to see things the way they are, Fluttershy!" she shouted at the quieter mare. "You live in your little dream world and see only the things you want to see! Life in Ponyville has been utter hell for the past twenty years, and you've sat here and happily ignored all the strife and pain by living in this dream world of yours!" She choked back a sob. "Did it ever occur to you that your friends might need you around? That we might need your support during those hard times?"
Fresh tears streamed down Rarity's face as she stared at Fluttershy, shoulders heaving. "It was so hard in the beginning, and every time I came to you for comfort, you'd prattle on like nothing was wrong with the world," she hissed out. "Do you have any idea how it feels when you find more sympathy and sanity in a bottle of cider than in your best friend? Why can't you see what's happening, Shy? Is that world you've built really worth casting away all the ponies that love you?"
Having spit out that final question, Rarity fell into Spike's broad chest and dissolved into heavy sobs. He draped a foreleg around her shoulders and rubbed her back gently. Fluttershy said nothing, for the outburst had seemingly shocked her into silence. Her face was contorted in a mixture of sadness and confusion, with a touch of what Spike could only assume was anger, although the emotion seemed quite foreign on their timid friend. Her mind was clearly whirling.
"I know this must be very hard to take in, Shy, but you simply must believe that we are telling the truth. Have you ever known either of us to lie?" Spike asked in a gentle tone, still supporting Rarity's shaking form.
"I honestly don't know what to think right now, Spike. I mean how would you react if two of your best friends just showed up at your home one day and told you that the life you'd been living for the last two decades was a lie? That you could possibly be insane? I've never seen Rarity this upset, and it's scaring me, but how am I to believe that Equestria has been governed by Griffons for this long when I cannot remember even once seeing one since Gilda was here?"
Fluttershy took a deep breath and slowly stood. "I…I'm sorry, Spike, but I need to ask that you two please leave. You are some of my best friends, but I can't just sit here and be screamed at that I'm crazy."
With a defeated sigh, Spike rose from the divan and, after some struggle, pulled a haggard and miserable Rarity to her hooves as well. Just as Spike emerald magic encased the door handle, Rarity stopped dead behind him.
"Spike, there is one more thing I want to do," she whispered, leaning in close to him, "no, need to do, but I'll need your help."
"What do you need me to do?" he whispered back, refraining from opening the door.
"When I say to, I need you to grab Fluttershy with your magic and hold her down. Can you do that for me, Spike?" The yellow mare was starting to step over toward the door. Spike hesitated for a moment, but nodded. Rarity pulled away and wiped her face quickly, then turned sideways toward Fluttershy.
"So sorry to have troubled you with all this, dear. At the very least, thank you for the tea. It was delicious." The false smile was back on her face.
"It was no trouble Rarity, but I really must insist you leave."
It was then that Rarity caught Spike's eye and nodded. His grip on the door handle dissipated, and Fluttershy suddenly found herself pinned to the floor encased in an emerald green aura. She tried to escape, but the strong magical field wrapped around her prevented any movement, even to open her mouth and cry for help. Rarity leapt over to her and immediately started to build up her own magic, horn alight with a soft blue aura that was quickly growing brighter by the second.
"What are you planning to do, Rarity?" Spike's voice was slightly shaken.
"I'm going to show her through my eyes what the world has looked like for the past twenty years." The white mare's voice was tense as she concentrated on the magic pooling in her horn.
"How in the world do you plan to do that? The only spells I've ever seen you use are for finding gems." Spike was starting to doubt that this plan was a good idea.
"I'm going to use the same memory spell Twilight used on all of us when Discord first escaped from his stone prison." The blue aura was now bright with threads of energy arcing gently around her horn. Fluttershy's eyes were now wide.
"Are you sure you can pull that off, Rarity? Twilight is an incredibly skilled Unicorn, and this spell could easily backfire if performed improperly."
"Twilight explained the basics of the spell to me during tea one afternoon. I'm not certain I can duplicate it entirely, but this is the best hope we have of getting Fluttershy back, and for that I am willing to risk everything. Just keep her still while I perform the spell."
With that, Rarity lowered her head and touched the tip of her horn to Fluttershy's forehead, releasing a blinding flash of blue light.
Suddenly, all Fluttershy could see were images flashing through her mind, like someone flipping too quickly through a scrapbook: images of herself and Rarity at the spa being pampered by Aloe and Lotus, picnics in the park with all her friends, modeling sessions with Rarity, Pinkie and Rarity helping her haggle in the marketplace.
Then, as quickly as the memories of the past had come and gone, new images appeared that she did not recognize, that she did not remember: all the citizens of Ponyville huddled in town square surrounded by Griffons in armor, a vacant lot where she knew the spa was supposed to be, Carousel Boutique transformed into an imposing metal structure which spewed smoke and sparks. She saw Rainbow Dash locked in a pillory, two Griffons tearing out her feathers, then saw Rarity pleading with a large Griffon in an ornate suit of armor only to be backhanded into the dirt. Two decades of Rarity's memories flickered through her head like a film reel set to spin too fast and her skull felt like it was going to split open.
As Spike watched the display before him in awe and felt the occasional tendril of magic arc past him, he suddenly became aware of a strong metallic odor. He immediately flicked his eyes over the two ponies and saw blood trickling from Rarity's nose, dripping onto Fluttershy's floor. The unicorn was pouring everything she had into the spell, clearly straining her body beyond its limits, but she didn't seem willing to let it go. If the spell worked, they would surely have their friend back, but Spike didn't know how much longer Rarity could keep going.
"Rarity, I think you need to stop. Your body can't handle the amount of magic you're channeling."
"No!" she cried out, still not breaking the spell. "Not yet! It's working, she's remembering! I can feel it! I just need a little more time!" She gritted her teeth.
Inside Fluttershy's head the pages just kept turning. Numerous empty bottles lay scattered around a dark bedroom, a strange stallion she didn't know passed out on the bed. An exhausted, worn mare huddled in the corner of a bathroom sobbing to herself. Fluttershy could feel the weight of Rarity's sorrows as if they were her own. That was when something seemed to click into place, like a switch had been flipped. It was all real. Everything they had told her was real. She had just seen it all. She had blocked it out all this time. The shadows which had clouded her mind retreated like the dusk giving way to a sudden dawn and her eyes snapped open.
Spike wasn't sure what happened, but in that instant Rarity's horn seemed to falter and there was a small explosion of magic that blew her clear across the room. She slammed into the wall before Spike could react to catch her and slumped to the floor. Spike immediately dropped the spell holding Fluttershy in place and rushed to Rarity's aid, but she had already managed to pick herself up, blood still dripping from both nostrils, staining her normally pearlescent coat. She stood there on shaky legs staring silently at Fluttershy.
When Spike looked over to the other side of the room, he saw that the pegasus had pushed herself into a sitting position on the floor and was staring at them like a newborn filly. Her eyes were bright and alive in a way that Rarity hadn't seen in many years. For a few more tense moments, nobody dared speak a word, until Fluttershy took a deep, shaky breath.
"I remember," she finally said, her voice barely over a whisper.
"What was that, dear?" Rarity managed to choke out. She had heard her friend, but she couldn't allow herself to believe it just yet.
"I remember," Fluttershy squeaked out again, her wide eyes pooling with tears.
"Welcome back, Shy," was all the fashionista could get out before bounding across the room and all but tackling the petite pegasus back to the ground. Spike smiled warmly and watched as the two mares simply held each other close, sobbing into one another's coats.
He looked out the window at the setting sun and let a renewed sense of hope wash over him. He could do this. He could get his friends back together, and with a lot of luck maybe get Equestria back to the way it was supposed to be. He looked back to his friends, still cuddled close on the floor.
Two down, two to go.