Inner Strength

by Krickis


16 - Stay With Me

Act III

Doubt

Chapter Sixteen

Stay With Me

Twilight smiled in her sleep, which caused Fluttershy to smile as well. She had just woken up and was enjoying watching her marefriend sleep so peacefully. And as if seeing how adorable she was wasn’t enough, It was comforting to know that even in the face of the coming days, Twilight’s dreams still left her smiling.

Waking up did make Fluttershy notice the chill of the winter morning, however. But no matter. She just pulled herself closer in response, placing her head on Twilight’s chest. Closing her eyes, she focused on the other mare’s heartbeat, and let its gentle rhythm bring her peace.

A moment later, she felt a wing drape over her and heard Twilight mumble something unintelligible. She knew Twilight would be awake soon, and really the sooner the better. ‘Not right now, though,’ Fluttershy hoped. ‘At least a few more minutes won’t hurt.’

“Mmm… good morning,” Twilight mumbled and stroked Fluttershy’s mane.

‘Oh well, it’s for the best anyway.’ “Good morning,” Fluttershy replied. She pulled away from the soothing sounds of Twilight’s heart just long enough to kiss her, then she went back to cuddling.

“Sleep well?” Twilight asked as she went back to stroking Fluttershy’s mane.

“I always do when I’m with you.” Fluttershy tried to get up, but Twilight kept holding on to her. She smiled. “We have a busy day, Twily. We really should get up.”

“No,” Twilight refused. She kissed Fluttershy’s head and kept her held close.

“Oh, you finished everything yesterday? I didn’t realize.” Of course, Fluttershy knew that Twilight had done no such thing. In fact, she had blown off all her preparations the day before to spend the day with Fluttershy at her cottage

“It’s cold out there,” Twilight protested. “I want to stay here, where it’s warm.”

“Cold or not, you’re a princess. You can’t just go away for a week without making any preparations.”

Twilight sighed, and Fluttershy thought she’d won until Twilight said, “Your princess demands cuddles.”

Fluttershy giggled. “A demand? Well, I guess I better cuddle you then.” She waited for a moment to let Twilight think she’d get her way before pulling out her secret weapon. “Only… I do hope all the animals are okay. It was so cold last night, and some of the poor babies are so fragile. But if Princess Twilight Sparkle demands cuddles…”

With a sigh, Twilight let go. “Why are you so mean to me?”

Fluttershy pulled her into a kiss before getting up. “Because I love you.”

Twilight sat up and yawned. As she stretched out, she was so cute that Fluttershy was tempted to take her up on her offer of more cuddles, but she knew that if she let Twilight have her way, they’d never get out of bed. ‘A compromise,’ she decided. “How about something nice and hot to start the day? We have tea and cocoa.”

“Cocoa sounds great,” Twilight said, finally rising from the bed at the promise of the warming beverage.

Although leaving the bed was a challenge, cocoa did sound pretty appealing. Fluttershy climbed out of bed and smiled at the sounds Twilight made as she stretched. It took Twilight a bit longer than Fluttershy to actually leave the bed, but once she did they walked downstairs together.

No matter how much she loved lounging in bed with her marefriend, Fluttershy always found it rejuvenating to start her day. The simple act of getting up and walking out of her bedroom was usually all it took.

Twilight, on the other hoof, was a different matter entirely. When they reached the kitchen, Fluttershy cheerfully began making their cocoa while Twilight sat at the table and put her head down on her hooves. She had been known to fall asleep like that on occasion.

Apparently, she used to rise with the sun every day to start her lessons with Princess Celestia, but it was a habit she had long since broken out of. For all seven months that they’d been dating, Twilight had been completely useless in the mornings. She blamed it on years of studying late into the night, but Fluttershy suspected it had more to do with no longer having anypony to keep her to the sun’s schedule.

Fluttershy didn’t mind though; she was happy to take over the morning chores, and Twilight would often go to bed with Fluttershy, even if she didn’t always go right to sleep.

Fluttershy hummed cheerfully as she filled two mugs with hot cocoa, liberally pouring marshmallows into Twilight’s. “Be careful, it’s still hot,” she said as she sat down next to Twilight, placing a mug in front of each of them.

Twilight pulled her head up only to rest it on Fluttershy’s shoulder instead, letting the cold air cool off her drink. Leaning her head on Twilight’s, Fluttershy absentmindedly rubbed her hoof along the other mare’s back and smiled to herself.

After a minute, she gingerly tested her own cocoa and found it not too hot. “If you don’t hurry up soon it won’t be hot at all.”

Without getting up, Twilight lifted her mug in her magic and took a sip. Perking up at the heat, she sat up on her own and took the mug in her hooves. “Thanks, Shy. It’s perfect.”

They sipped their cocoa in silence for a while as Twilight finished waking up. Once she did, she smirked. “So, you had to take care of those poor little animals, huh?”

Fluttershy blushed. She had hoped that by the time Twilight was awake enough to see the hole in her excuse, she wouldn’t even remember it. “Well, I had to say something. And I am worried about them, I’m going to check on them as soon as I finish this cocoa. Besides” – she nuzzled against Twilight’s chest – “somepony was being unreasonable.”

“Unreasonable?” Twilight said. She sounded annoyed, but her smile betrayed her. “For wanting to spend more time in bed with a beautiful mare? Hardly.”

“You were abusing your power as a princess.”

“Was not. Princesses get to demand cuddles. I’ll have you know cuddling is an important part of being a princess. The most important part, actually.”

“Oh? Does that go for all the princesses?” Fluttershy tried to match Twilight’s matter-of-fact tone, but some of her amusement carried into her voice.

“Oh yes. And you should be thankful that you’re not in Shining Armor’s position. Being the Princess of Love means cuddles almost around the clock, you know. And don’t tell anypony I told you this, but the real reason Luna turned into Nightmare Moon was that she didn’t get enough cuddles.”

Fluttershy laughed and almost spit out her cocoa. “Oh no, I can’t let that happen!” She set down her mug and threw her hooves around Twilight. “What about Princess Celestia? Would the same thing happen if she didn’t get cuddled?”

“Nopony knows, actually. Nopony’s willing to risk it.”

“Well then, I guess it’s a good thing I’m around. We’ll never have to find out what happens to you without cuddles.”

“Good. Then I guess we should just get back in bed.”

Fluttershy pulled away and raised an eyebrow at her.

Twilight held up her hooves as she amended her statement. “Joking! Just joking.” Fluttershy just smiled and shook her head.

Once she had drained the last of her cocoa, Twilight stood to leave. “Well, I guess I do actually have a lot to do. Sorry that I can’t help you with the animals today.”

“It’s fine, I understand.” Fluttershy kissed her on the cheek. “Don’t work too hard. I love you, Twily.”

“I love you too, Shy.”

Fluttershy followed Twilight as far as the door so she could wave her off. Twilight waved, then turned and flew off. Not quite in the direction of town – she always went in a wide path around Ponyville so that when she did enter it, nopony would know where she was coming from.

Once Twilight was out of sight, Fluttershy stepped back inside. She quickly drank the rest of her cocoa, filled the mugs with water to soak, then rushed back out the door to care for her animal friends.


On top of feeding the animals as always, Fluttershy had spent several hours making sure their houses were keeping the snow out. She was completely exhausted – not to mention freezing – and she still had to pack and make sure everything would be in order while she was gone.

Of course, she knew Twilight was just as busy, and didn’t begrudge her for leaving, but she couldn’t help wishing she hadn’t. Although she took a while to get going in the mornings, she never seemed to tire once she did. She said it was because she was an alicorn, then said a lot of stuff Fluttershy didn’t understand about the difference in their anatomy. Regardless of the reason, Fluttershy certainly missed her energy.

As she was preparing a list of instructions, there was a knock at the door. She answered it to find Rainbow Dash, who ran in as soon as it was open.

“Hello, Rainbow,” she said as she shut the door against the cold.

“Hey, Shy. Sorry to barge in, but it’s freezing out there.” Rainbow pulled a thermos out from under her wing. As she unscrewed it steam came out, and the smell of apples and spices filled the room. “Big snowfall tonight. Gotta get ready for Hearth’s Warming.”

Fluttershy nodded. Ponyville had a perfect snowfall every Hearth’s Warming, turning the town into a winter wonderland. She was kind of sad she was going to miss it.

“So, all ready to go?” Rainbow asked.

“Oh, no. I haven’t even started packing yet. I’ve been so busy making sure all the animals are taken care of.” She went back to her list.

Rainbow facehoofed. “Fluttershy, they’ll be fine. AJ knows what she’s doing.”

“Well, it’s just that I know she’s busy, so I wanted to make sure everything is ready for her.”

“She doesn’t harvest in the snow, you know. She’ll have plenty of time.” Seeing the worried look on Fluttershy’s face, she sighed. “Look, I’ll stop by tomorrow and make sure she doesn’t need any help.”

“Aww, thank you, Dashie. Uhm, it isn’t too much trouble, is it?”

“Naw, it’s fine. Now go pack.”

Even after her reassurance, Rainbow had to practically drag Fluttershy into the bedroom, where she collapsed on the bed while Fluttershy began packing.

“So, you nervous?” Rainbow asked.

“Oh, I’m sure it’ll be fine. Twilight says they’ll understand.”

She was sure she’d kept her tone perfectly calm, but Rainbow’s look made it clear she didn’t buy it. “Uh huh. But you’re nervous.”

“I’m terrified.” She never could hide anything from Rainbow.

“Don’t worry about it. You’re like, literally the pony parents dream of having for a daughter-in-law.”

“Well, we won’t really be in-laws.”

“Close enough. Anyway, Twilight says they’ll be fine with it, so what’s the problem?”

‘Then why hasn’t she told them yet?’ Fluttershy wondered to herself. ‘If they’re fine with it, am I the problem then?’ She wouldn’t bring that up with Rainbow, though. The last thing she wanted was another fight between the two ponies most important to her.

Instead, she decided to talk about her other concern. “Oh, but what if they don’t approve? What if they’re upset their daughter is with another mare? They’ll be disappointed with her and it’ll be all my fault!” Fluttershy realized she had just packed a dozen sets of socks for a week-long trip. She usually didn’t even wear socks, and honestly couldn’t remember where they had come from. She began unpacking them.

Rainbow gave her a deadpan stare. “Yeah, I’m sure they’ll be so disappointed in their screw-up daughter. I mean she’s only the Princess of Friendship, so you know, it’s not like she’s done anything impressive with her life. Plus she’s dating the Element of Kindness, who only saved Equestria, like, fifty times. No big deal there.”

“They’re her parents, they won’t see it like that.”

“Look, even if they are somehow disappointed, how is that your fault? I mean, it’s not like you made her gay.”

Fluttershy knew she was right, but it didn’t help. “Twilight won’t say it, but I can tell she’s worried, too. What if there’s some reason that she’s not telling me? Maybe they’re not as supportive as she wants me to think they are.”

Rainbow rolled her eyes. “Of course she’s worried. She worries about everything. She’ll never stop worrying until everything’s done with. And that’s exactly why you guys should just tell everypony!”

Fluttershy had her head in a drawer, looking for a brush. She found one, pretended she didn’t, and kept looking.

“I know, I know, your decision.” Rainbow mumbled something else, but Fluttershy couldn’t make it out.

Once she couldn’t realistically expect Rainbow to believe she was still looking for something in the drawer, she pulled her head out and put the brush in her saddlebag. She tried to think of anything else she might need, but couldn’t. Packing really didn’t take too long once she stopped grabbing the wrong things.

She sat on the bed next to Rainbow. “Twilight has a lot to think about. It’s not just about us. As a princess, everypony from every walk of life needs to be able to respect her, even the ones who wouldn’t approve of us.”

Rainbow threw her hooves up in frustration. “And you’re okay with that!?”

“Oh, I understand completely.” Fluttershy didn’t meet her eyes.

Rainbow’s eyes narrowed, reading between the lines of Fluttershy’s answer. “But are you okay with it?”

Fluttershy suddenly regretted being done packing. “Dash, I’ve really never been happier.” She finally made eye contact. “I love Twilight. And we’re getting there. Telling her parents is a big step.”

Fluttershy was satisfied that would be the end of it. Rainbow wasn’t. “Have you told her you want to go public?”        Fluttershy hesitated before answering. “We’ve talked about it.” Fluttershy broke eye contact again.

“And you actually said ‘I want to tell everypony.’ ” Rainbow sounded doubtful.

Fluttershy gave up. “I don’t know what I want!” She fell onto her side and curled around a pillow. “Some days I’m just so tired of secrets. I’ve kept so many secrets for so long, and I’m sick of it. About everything back in Cloudsdale, about liking mares, about Rarity, and now about Twilight. Sometimes I wish I just didn’t have any more secrets, and whenever I finally tell somepony it always works out. Well, except Rarity, but now that I have Twilight I wouldn’t want to change that anyway. I just don’t understand why I keep everything secret.”

She looked up to see Rainbow giving her a comforting smile. Fluttershy knew that was exactly what she wanted to hear. “You don’t have to! You never did, Shy.”

“But then other days… I just feel so scared. I just want to hide away from everything, just Twilight and me. Those days, I just feel like the rest of the world doesn’t need to know, that they’ll only try and pull us apart.” Tears began rolling down her cheek so she buried her face into the pillow.

She felt Rainbow’s hoof on her shoulder. “It’s okay, Shy. Nopony’s gonna tear you two apart, trust me.” She wiped away her tears and tried to believe what Rainbow said. “Have you told her about, uhm… Cloudsdale?”

Fluttershy shook her head. “I can’t tell her about… that. She might not love me anymore.”

“Are you kidding me? That mare’s crazy about you, we all know it. Did you know Rarity’s already designing wedding dresses?”

Fluttershy blushed. “Oh my… isn’t it a little early for that?”

Rainbow chuckled. “Yeah, Rarity’s getting ahead of herself, not surprising. But to be honest, we kinda all see it coming. Even AJ realizes you two are perfect for each other.”

“Really?” Fluttershy smiled. Applejack remained friendly with both her and Twilight, and aside from being less affectionate than she was before, she more or less acted the same as always. At least, whenever she was around them individually. When they were all together, it became very apparent she was uncomfortable with the couple. She never said a word against them, but she would always find plenty of excuses to not stick around for too long.

“Really! My point is that Twilight will not stop loving you.” Rainbow hesitated, clearly not wanting to make Fluttershy cry anymore. After a moment she said, “You should at least tell her he’s still alive, and… what he was like when your mom was around.”

Fluttershy thought about it. She could do that much at least. “You’re right. I should.” Looking at Rainbow, she amended her statement. “I will.”

“There ya go!” Rainbow patted her on the back, almost knocking Fluttershy off the bed. “And you know, if you ever need any support, I’ll be there. I could even tell her for you, if you don’t feel up to it.”

“I… I’ll tell her,” Fluttershy said. She loved Rainbow and knew that she always meant well, but if she started talking about him, there was no telling what she would say. “I think she should really hear it from me.”

“Yeah, you’re probably right,” Rainbow said. “Just don’t worry so much. She’ll understand. She’s a good pony.”

“Yeah.” Fluttershy nodded, but she couldn’t help but have doubts.


Fluttershy had planned on getting to bed early. They were leaving on the first train in the morning, after all. But once Rainbow left, she immediately went back to preparing for her week away, making detailed notes and portioning out food. The sun had set by the time she was done, and she had expected to drift easily to sleep as soon as she was bundled up in bed.

Instead, she was just staring at the ceiling.

‘Nothing’s wrong with me,’ She reminded herself. She didn’t believe herself. ‘What’s wrong with me?’

Like she didn’t know. She was a freak. And Rainbow Dash was wrong, she was ruining Twilight’s life now too.

‘Did you hear about Fluttershy?’

‘No dear, don’t talk to that pony.’

‘You’ve always been sorry.’

‘No way, she’s too nice to be gay.’

‘She’s not coming back! And it’s all your fault.’

‘Hey, faggot.’

‘Let’s go, I don’t want to be around her.’

‘Nopony would believe you.’

Fluttershy couldn’t stop crying. She had a death grip on one of the pillows, which still smelled like Twilight. ‘I should just leave her alone. I shouldn’t drag her down with me. And if she loves me, then that’s my fault too.’

It had been Fluttershy, after all, who had first insisted they spend the night together. Back on the evening of their second date, Fluttershy had been the one who asked Twilight to stay the night. All so she wouldn’t be alone.

And then Twilight was perfect, as always. She had respected Fluttershy’s boundaries and volunteered to sleep on the couch without a second thought. But Fluttershy was so selfish, and it just wasn’t good enough for her to have Twilight asleep in the next room. She barely lasted ten minutes before she snuck down to the living room and climbed onto the couch as well.

‘Why am I so needy?’ Lately they spent most nights together. She let Twilight fall further every night, just so somepony would hold her.

She was weak.

Weak and needy.

She knew that she shouldn’t even go, shouldn’t make Twilight tell her parents she had a marefriend.

But she knew she would. She would, because she was weak.

She curled into a ball around the pillow and threw her blanket over her head. She tried to think about anything else. She listened to the sound of the wind outside, blowing through the tree branches. She loved all the sounds of nature, and was calmed by rustling leaves.

Until she heard a thunk.

‘Was that a hoofstep?’ She was being ridiculous, of course it wasn’t.

But she heard it again.

And again.

She was a little filly, crying into her pillow, just hoping the sound would stop, that nothing would come get her.

She was sure she was hearing hoofsteps now, it was the only thing she could hear.

They stopped by the bed and she could smell the alcohol already, hear his breathing.

‘Mama, save me…’

Fluttershy screamed. She threw the blankets off her and looked around wildly. She was alone. She was soaked with sweat, and her heart felt like it was going to break through her chest, and every shadow reminded her of him. She got out of bed.

Without thinking, she grabbed her saddlebag and descended the stairs. She stopped only to kiss Angel while he slept, then stepped out into the cold. She locked the door behind her and began walking.

At first, she didn’t think of anything. She hadn’t even really made the decision to leave the house, it was just an automatic response. But as she walked through the town in the dead of night, she knew she was being foalish. She should be home in bed, not trudging through the snow.

Glancing at the clock tower on the way by, she saw it was almost midnight. Their train left in six hours, and the smart thing to do would be to turn around and go back to bed. She kept walking.

She didn’t stop once all the way to Twilight’s castle. Of course, it was quiet as she entered. She did her best to keep it that way, shutting the door gently behind her and flying instead of walking so there were no hoofsteps.

At least the hallways were kept illuminated, so Fluttershy was easily able to get to Twilight’s bedroom. Surprisingly enough, there was light coming from under her door as well. Fluttershy opened it cautiously and mumbled, “Twily?”

Twilight wasn’t anywhere to be seen, but the door to the adjoining study was open. Since it seemed Twilight was awake, Fluttershy landed and walked the rest of the way towards it. Poking her head in, she found Twilight facing away from her, working her way through a big stack of papers.

“Uhm, hi –”

“Aah!” Twilight jumped. She whipped around, then sighed in relief. “Oh, hello, Shy. You startled me.” She got up and walked over to Fluttershy, giving her a smile and a kiss. “I didn’t think I’d see you until the morning.”

For the first time all night, the constricting feeling in Fluttershy’s chest finally went away. “Sorry… I know it’s late, but I guess I’m a little nervous. Uhm, do you mind if I stay with you tonight?”

“Of course not! And there’s nothing to be nervous about, Shy, really. I do have a lot of paperwork that I need to finish first, though. You should head to bed and I’ll join you in a bit.”

Although Fluttershy had hoped they could go to bed together, it would still be comforting to have Twilight nearby. “Oh, okay. Try not to be too long. Big day tomorrow.”

“Yeah, I’ll try. Love you, Shy. Good night.”

“Good night. Love you, Twily.”

Fluttershy left the study and lay down on the bed. She grabbed one of Twilight’s stuffed animals and tried to sleep. She didn’t feel as bad with Twilight in the next room, but she still lay awake.

A vibration came from the table. “Twily, Sunset wrote to you.”

“At this hour?” Twilight called from the other room. “Well, she is kind of a night owl, so I guess I’m not too surprised she’s up. Could you read me what it says?”

Opening the book, Fluttershy read the passage out loud. “She said, ‘Just got back from Pinkie’s party kicking off winter break. Don’t know how that girl has time to plan a party and still study for her midterms.’ ”

“No matter which world, Pinkie’s still Pinkie,” Twilight said. Fluttershy could tell she was laughing even though she was a room away. “I really want to get to sleep before we leave though, so since it’s not urgent, I’ll just write to her later.”

Fluttershy and Sunset had never ‘talked’. They occasionally exchanged greetings and general well wishes, but only ever through Twilight. The idea of talking to somepony a whole world away seemed a little intimidating to the shy pegasus.

But… she really didn’t want to go to bed alone. And since bothering Twilight while she worked was out of the question, the journal provided a unique opportunity. “Uhm, do you think it’d be okay if I wrote back? I… I’m still too excited to sleep.”

“I think the two of you getting to know each other would be a great idea!” Twilight’s happiness at bringing her friends together was obvious in her voice. “Just try not to stay up too late.”

Fluttershy stared at the page wondering what to say. ‘If I wait too long she’ll just go to sleep. I should start with introducing myself, at least.’

‘Hello, Sunset. This is Fluttershy. Twilight’s busy right now. But I’d like to talk, if you wanted.’

Fluttershy stared at the words. She had expected something magical to happen, like the letters to flash while it sent the message. She wondered if it only worked for unicorns. Or alicorns and former unicorns, as was the case for its usual users. But then as she stared, letters started appearing, as if somepony invisible were writing them.

‘Hi, Fluttershy. Nice to finally get a chance to talk with you. Twilight’s told me all about you, of course.’

Fluttershy instinctively started to hide in her mane. She always panicked when talking to somepony new, and liked to let her friends handle most of the conversation. When she had to talk to other ponies by herself, she always thought of what to say when it was too late to say it, and she could feel the other ponies watching her, wondering why she wasn’t talking.

Except now she couldn’t. As she looked down at the book, completely unable to see the pony she was talking to, it dawned on her exactly how perfect this situation really was. Sunset couldn’t see her, she couldn’t hear her mumble or trip over words. She could take her time thinking of how to reply without the fear of being judged.

She thought for a moment, and she found that without the pressure of being face to face it wasn’t really that hard to come up with a response. ‘You know, on our first date, Twilight told me you were the one who convinced her to come out to everypony, including me. If it wasn’t for you, I don’t think we ever would have gotten together. I’ve never had a chance to thank you, and I could probably never thank you enough. Twilight is the best thing that ever happened to me.’

As Fluttershy watched the page, she wondered if Sunset did the same thing – think of her reply before sending it. She smiled, thinking of how wonderful this journal was. This time as words came, she felt excitement. She couldn’t believe she actually felt excited to continue a conversation with somepony she didn’t know.

‘Hey, you’re making me blush over here. Really though, it wasn’t a big deal. You two would have figured it out eventually. Besides, I wanted to help her. She’s actually the best thing that ever happened to me too, you know.’

Fluttershy cocked her head to the side. ‘What do you mean?’

‘Well, what did she tell you about me the first time she went through the mirror?’

‘She told me you were just alone, and only needed a helping hand to show you how to be friends.’

‘That definitely sounds like what she’d say. But I bet she didn’t tell you that the ‘helping hand’ was her lifting me out of a crater and forgiving me after I tried to kill her and her friends, not mention take over Equestria.’

Fluttershy was glad Sunset couldn’t see her reaction. She had to take a moment to remind herself that no matter what happened, Twilight had forgiven her and that they were friends now. ‘No, she didn’t tell me all that.’

‘She probably just didn’t want to worry all of you. Well, anyway, here’s what really happened...’

Sunset explained everything that happened on Twilight’s first trip through the mirror. Fluttershy was reminded of exactly why she loved Twilight so much, and while she was worried she wouldn’t be able to forgive anypony who tried to hurt Twilight, she found she actually had a lot more respect for Sunset for managing to turn her life around.

Once the story was finished, they talked about other things. About Twilight, and telling her parents tomorrow. About Sunset’s holiday plans with her friends, and the differences between Hearth’s Warming and all the different winter holidays the humans celebrated. They even talked a little about the other Fluttershy, which still was really weird to her.

They talked for hours, and by the time Twilight came into the bedroom, Fluttershy was gently snoring into the book.