• Published 7th Feb 2014
  • 4,289 Views, 196 Comments

Stronger - Einhander



Mourning her fiancee and blaming the death on her own weakness, Fluttershy wishes she was stronger. What happens when her wish is granted? What happens when she finds she can't control her new power?

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I: Facts

STRONGER

By: Einhander


CHAPTER ONE:
FACTS


The next thing she remembered was shivering, eyes closed as the wind blew past her muzzle.

Wet. She was wet, specifically on her muzzle but damp all over. But she also felt a softness. A blanket, or at least an attempt at some kind of warming fabric, was wrapped around her. It had failed in its task. The only warm part of her body was a small pocket of heat, tucked where her limbs hugged close to her body, but it was fighting a losing battle against the wet. She wrinkled her nose, not wanting to move but not wanting the wet, either. Something had to give.

Fluttershy opened her eyes, saw the world, and immediately closed them again.

In her glimpse she saw snowflakes, an iron colored sky staring down at her, and – this was the tricky part – the inside of her bedroom, covered in a thin layer of snow. Which was impossible, unless she had left the window open. So she gave herself the tiny comfort that this was just a nightmare: there was no snow, there was no absence next to her in the bed, no wake, no funeral, no storm. It was all a horrible nightmare, and it would be over soon.

....unless she had left the window open?

She dared to peek again. It was good and bad news. The good news was she had not left the window open. However, the bad news won the bet: there was no window anymore.

Windows require walls.

Walls cannot serve their purpose with giant gaping holes in them, and alas, here was such a hole. That gentle sloping curve of her cottage, complete with a small window and flower box, gone. In its place was debris and dirt, covered with fresh white powder. It was almost a peaceful scene, but for the evidence of violence.

She squeaked, and quickly hid back underneath the blanket. It was a mistake. Everything ached, every feather and muscle, and she gasped at the sudden rush of pain as her back legs kicked out twice before settling down. And between her body shift and the leg movements, her little pocket of warmth was stolen from her, replaced with wet.

Then came the memories, fast and overwhelming, vivid but fragmented. Faces, moments, voices:

There, there darling, it’s not your fault.

Rainbow Dash would want us to be happy, she'd want a happy wake, she was a happy pony!

I want to make sure there are no more questions.

To Dash, who would still be alive if she had never heard of Ponyville!

Goodbye, goodbye, goodbye...

Why didn't you speak at the funeral?

And one final voice, calling out after all others:

Rise, yellow pegasus. Rise and follow.

"No!" she shouted, throwing the blanket off and holding her head in-between her hooves. She shut her eyes and rocked back and forth. The wind blew snow around her, peppering her and her bed with more frozen ice that quickly turned into freezing wet.

In that rush of new cold and dull pain, a different horror gripped her. It was all true.

Dash was gone. The funeral was weeks ago, but the wake was last night. It had been terrible. Gilda was there. She had a fire in her eyes. Dash was gone. Celestia was there. She, too looked at her with judgment. Why? Twilight was supposed to be there. Wasn't. And Scootaloo. Did they go into the Everfree forest? And something happened there, something around where Dash saved her, but that seemed trivial when weighed against the bottom line: Dash was gone.

She hadn't woken from her nightmare. She was still living it.

The snow kept flowing in through the hole. It didn't matter. Nothing mattered. She hugged her legs closer to herself, curling up into a ball, prepared to stay there until she woke in another world. A world where she hadn’t…

“I have to be me, Fluttershy.” Dash looked down, her metal eye in tandem with her real one. “Otherwise, who am I?”

Fluttershy grabbed Dash's head, tears rolling down her face. "This is you," she stroked the side of her face that was flesh, "Not this." She pointed at Dash's metal eye, not able to look at it.

"Fluttershy,” Dash kept moving her face until they were looking at one another. “It's all me."

Closing her eyes tight, she desperately tried to push the memories back. She searched for something to cling onto, idea or object, either would do. The snow continued to melt against her fur, and she reached for the comfort of her necklace—

Her necklace. The silver chain with her diamond butterfly hanging from it. Where was her necklace? She unravelled herself and reached for it on the nightstand, the one place she left it on the rare nights she took it off. Her hoof found nothing but air, and she opened her eyes. It wasn't on the nightstand. The nightstand was in pieces on the ground. And the necklace was nowhere to be seen.

Suddenly, something mattered.

She rose from her bed, shaking the snow off and looking around her bedroom. The hole wasn't the only thing damaged: furniture broken or simply gone, photos smashed, books on the ground, all colors painted white by the weather. None of that mattered, though, her necklace, her necklace where was her necklace? It was her talisman, the source of whatever strength she had found in the weeks since the funeral. The precious gift she had foolishly left behind the last time she and Dash had spoken, before…

Dash took a step back. “What do you want me to do?”

“What do you care what I think?” Fluttershy took the diamond butterfly out of her hair and placed it on the living room table. “Go. Fly. Play in the lightning. Do whatever you want.” Fluttershy opened the door. She didn’t turn back.

“Please don’t follow me.”

Walking around the debris of her room, she felt her heart quicken and her nerves falter. The snow was fresh and sparkling, the necklace was silver and lined with diamonds. How would she find it? Should she pick up every book? Look under the bed? Retrace her steps from the night before?

There was a gentle crunching noise, the sound of teeth on something hard. She froze. After a moment, it stopped. She looked around the room again, hoping to see one of her woodland friends. The room was empty, save her and the snow. There was a tinkle of metal, and it came again: crunch crunch crunch. It was outside the room, but inside the house.

Her fear of losing the butterfly faded, replaced by a mix of dread and curiosity. What was it? Was it... a dragon? Not a cute one like Spike, a big one with the teeth and claws crunching on the bones of a Royal guard? Or that poor Beaver family, who had been staying with her since that night? No. No! it had to be somepony helping themselves to her kitchen.

Crunch, crunch crunch.

Metal scraped against wood.

Maybe… maybe Mr. Bear learned how to use cutlery.

She whimpered. Maybe she could just wait until whatever it was left. Or she could leave through the—

No.

She swirled her head around, looking for the source of the voice. It was still deserted inside her room. Who had spoken?

Don't run. Don't cower. Go see who it is.

"H-hello?" She whispered. "Is somepony here?"

There is only us, and the intruder.

She blinked, then turned and gazed into her vanity mirror across from her bed. It had been damaged as well, hanging by a single nail from the wall. There was a crack at the top right of the rectangle, and it swung from side to side in the wind. But the rest of the mirror was fine, working properly, showing her reflection. And her reflection was looking back at her.

Not mirroring her. Looking at her. Right at her.

It was her, the same color coat and mane. But she was bigger, taller, with well-defined legs and larger, stronger wings. She was almost the same height as Celestia. Her mane tied back in a tail, shorter and sharper. And her eyes, the eyes of this Fluttershy showed none of their usual softness or care. They had a fire in them. And they were staring her down.

Fluttershy breathed in quickly, and backed up with a hoof over her mouth.

And her reflection did neither of those things. It kept looking at her, and she heard the voice again, although the reflection's mouth did not move.

If it is a friend, greet them with open hooves. If is a stranger, demand they state their business or leave. If it is a foe...

Fluttershy found a way to say the words. "Who are you?"

The reflection glowered at her.

Don't you recognize your own voice? Your own face?

Fluttershy focused on the reflection's hooves, eyes darting down to her own. Her own hooves were as they always were: smaller, almost dainty. The reflection's hooves were bigger, heavier. Ready for battle.

She cleared her throat. "...um, no? I'm sorry. I'm not you. I'm pretty sure I know myself.”

The pony in the mirror snorted and stamped her hooves.

"That is, I'm... pretty sure I'm not—"

The reflection's eyes glowed red, a red she had not seen since...

There is somepony in our house!

A new rush of wind came into the room, with a fresh burst of snow. The nail gave way and the frame came crashing down. Fluttershy jumped back with a yell as the mirror shattered, glass mixing with the snow to create a blizzard of shiny sharp edges raining down upon the floor.

Once the glass settled, she started breathing again, staring at her shaking hooves. She looked at the glass and snow on the floor. Everything sparkled. How would she find her necklace now? Her ears perked up. The crunching had ceased, replaced by the gentle thud of a hoof – and something else? – padding to her door. She whimpered, backing up and falling back onto the bed. The intruder stopped in front of her door. For a moment, nothing happened.

She held her breath. Maybe it would lose interest.

Knock, knock knock-knock knock…

She bit her lip.

Knock Kno

The door fell off its hinges and into the room, like a drunk pony finding his way into a ditch. In the frame stood, in all his draconequus glory, the grandmaster of chaos, her friend, Discord. He held a cereal bowl in his lion’s paw and wore a slightly surprised expression on his furry head. His claw was extended, frozen in its aborted knock.

They looked at one another.

“Discord?” she finally asked.

“In the flesh.” He lowered his claw, and took a big bite of cereal as he looked around the demolished bedroom. “My dear Fluttershy, this may come off as sarcastic or ironic, and I assure you that isn’t my intention at all, but…” He stopped as he saw the mirror, and gently hovered over the broken glass as he made his way to her bedside. “... trouble at home?”

“Um… do you know what happened here? Why my room is like this?”

“Not the foggiest idea. But,” he paused to take a lazy moment to lick his spoon clean, “I love what you’ve done with the place.”


"The problem with teleportation—and you'll probably never have to deal with this, the joys of being magic-less—is this: you appear wherever you want, but without the context."

"C-context?" Fluttershy asked, shivering at the kitchen table. The inside of her house still had all of its walls, and Discord had lit a fire with a snap of his claws. However, she still couldn't shake the cold that followed her from her bedroom. The wet had gone, the chill remained.

"Yes, that pesky context!" Discord unfurled a fresh blanket and wrapped it around her. She accepted it with a smile, the white and yellow pattern cheering her.

"Duckies. My favorite." She nuzzled the fabric. "Thank you."

He waved his lion's paw in a throwaway manner, barely hiding a satisfied grin. "Context. As I was saying, I appear in your kitchen, ready to spend an extra special day together with my friend, but you're nowhere to be found! Instead, all I see are a family of beavers, and they did NOT get the memo that I was visiting.” He chuckled. “Of all the creatures that I’ve seen cower, beavers are among the most amusing.”

“Don’t be mean to them.” Fluttershy frowned. “They’ve been through too much.”

“Of course not! I was a perfect gentle-equus, I assure you.”

She paused, and glanced around the kitchen. “Um… where are the beavers?”

“I’m getting to that. See, I quietly go to your door, I hear you sleeping, so I help myself to some toasted oats..." He levitated his bowl and poured more from the box. "Which, I don't know how you ponies stomach without a pound of sugar. So I’ve sent that charming beaver family to get some groceries for you. You have practically nothing edible in this house!”

Fluttershy held the blanket closer, shrugging. “I haven’t been very hungry lately.”

“At least, I think I sent them for groceries. I gave them a list and a bag of bits, but they seemed so intent on leaving I’m not sure if they understood my instructions.” He shrugged. “Next thing I know, glass is smashing, and you have a giant hole in your wall. Had I known — and I would have known had I taken the boring pony method of walking to your house, because you can see the hole from the outside — I would have come in so much sooner to congratulate you!"

Despite the fuzziness of the blanket and the heat from the fire, the cold inside her refused to go away. Discord's way of speaking in riddles usually frustrated her. Today they were a welcome distraction. "Congratulate me?"

"Of course! Just some excellent chaos." He put his full bowl down and began going through the kitchen cabinets. "Sleeping in the snow, putting a giant hole in the wall, and especially the broken glass mixed with the snow! A small masterpiece, as far as I'm concerned. It mixes my three favorite parts of chaos: beauty, fun and a little danger." He frowned. "Fluttershy, where do you keep the sugar?"

She rubbing her hooves together, finally starting to feel warm. "Umm... The sugar bowl?"

Discord laughed, grabbing it off the table. "Oh my, that's gone, my friend." He turned it upside down over his head, and she winced. Nothing came out. He turned to the wall of kitchen cabinets. "Long gone. I meant your other sugar."

"Oh. Um. That was all that was in the house." She shrugged. "I don't use it much, and Dash has promised to cut back..."

Her face fell. She had torn open a wound without realizing it, just by mentioning the name. The cold hit her again, harder this time.

Discord sniggered, his back to her. "She promised to cut back, eh?" He darted to the left and right, a snake sizing up his prey as he looked from cabinet to cabinet. "Where did you hide it, Dash? Where's the stash?" He stopped on the door above the fridge. "What's in there?"

"Nothing important." Fluttershy was digging deep to avoid falling apart, and now Discord's guessing games weren’t helping. "Large pots, for when we had company over."

"Company, you say? I can count on one claw the amount of times poor old Discord was invited to a party here when you were together." He floated up and opened the cabinet. "Let's see, giant pot, pot cover, what is this, a Prarisian slow cooker? And inside is... Ha! Yes! Jackpot!" he crowed, pulling out a pound of sugar in a bag, as well as a half eaten bag of cookies. "No sugar addict totally cuts back! Dash, you magnificent—"

He stopped. The sound of muffled sobbing filled the kitchen. He turned and saw his friend convulsing, muzzle buried in the duckie blanket.

She cried. She cried for every time she scolded Dash for using too much sugar. For taking away her cookies away until after supper. For not being able to give Dash all the cookies in the world. She cried until she stopped crying, not because she was done but she simply lacked the energy. When it subsided, she looked up and saw Discord sitting at the table, head low, face somber.

"I'm sorry." She whispered. "I—"

He held up his paw.

"Nothing to apologize for. I've been an oaf." He shook his head. "I do happy, I do... Fun! Chaos! Dancing beavers!” He smiled sadly, eyes still on the table. “I don't do sad anymore, or angry. I haven't in thousands of years. I'm out of practice." He looked up with a small smile. "Forgive me?"

She nodded, smiling a little. "It's okay. I'm glad you're here. Um. Do you think you could help me—"

"Put your house back together? Doesn't sound like much fun." He grinned. "Wouldn't you rather watch me turn those pesky royal guards mucking up our town into bunnies for the day? Or teach a bear to play the accordion? Anything you want. I am your genie, make your wish."

She looked out the window. The snow was still coming down. The house. Yes, that should be the most important thing. That made sense.

And instead she said, "I lost my necklace, the one I was wearing yesterday. Could you help me find it?" He frowned. She quickly added, "If you don't mind, that is."

"Necklace? I don't remember you wearing a necklace, except for your, ahem, element of harmony thingie. And you'll forgive me if I am less than thrilled by that particular mission. I'd rather play home improvement, Celestia help me.”

She bit her lip. "No, it's new. It's simple, just a chain with my... With the butterfly Dash gave me."

Both of them found places to look in the room that avoided each other's eyes.

“The engagement diamond, right?”

“Yes.”

"Lost it yesterday, you say?"

"I must have, I remember wearing it on the way to the wake. But when I woke up it was gone!"

And another pony's face staring at me in the mirror...

She shook her head, trying to focus. The necklace. Discord was looking at her now. She met his gaze. "Please? It's important."

"It's your super special day and I will not, I can not say no to you. But." He hesitated. "May I offer some advice?"

She smiled, reaching out and touching his paw. "Of course, Discord. You're my friend."

He looked at her hoof on his paw. A smile crept up on his face, small and sad. "Fluttershy, time is like a circle for me. It goes round and round and everything old is new again. That's why I have a sense of humor about things, something I wish I could teach the celestial sisters. They keep building you ponies up, and get so very sad when you all can't stay up on that perch."

She scrunched up her brow. "Um... Okay."

"The point is, you have a gift, all you little ponies do." He leaned in close. "Mortality. Time is a line for you! It has a beginning, a middle and an end. Whatever lies beyond, however scary, must be a comfort because you know that all of this eventually ends! What a concept!" He sighed. "Believe me when I say, Fluttershy, that forever is a very long time."

She shivered again, pulling her hoof back. "Um, Discord? I'm sorry, but, you're not being very comforting right now."

He stared at his empty paw and sighed. "Except for us unlucky few, Fluttershy, everything and everyone ends. In your lover's case, too soon, perhaps, but inevitable. All that matters is the time you have left. And what a waste to spend it looking backward." He stared into space. "So many silly ponies, all day, looking backwards. And then they're gone."

She looked at her friend, distracted from her own pain with worry. She couldn't remember him ever looking so sad. "I'm sorry, Discord... I can look for my necklace another day, if you want. We can do something else together?"

Frowning, he snapped his head towards her. "Haven't you been listening, you silly little fool? I don't want you to look for it another day, I don't want you to look for it at all."

She blinked. "What?"

"Losing that memento is the best thing that could have happened to you. Saved you the trouble of throwing it away yourself." He drew himself up to his full height, extending his arms. "Take my advice. Gather everything that was hers, the posters, the clothes, her medals, even the cookies. Anything that was hers or reminds you of her. And destroy it. Or donate it, if you can't bear the thought of it being incinerated. I'll even help you! As long as wherever we take it, there are no returns or exchanges."

She was speechless. His words cut her like a crude scalpel, opening old wounds while creating new ones. The cold that had gripped her earlier evaporated quickly. Now there was a warmth building inside of her. No, more than that.

A fire.

"Move on. In fact, I'd move out. Start over in a new town! New adventures!" He smiled, leaning in close. "Maybe even a new mare, eh? Who knows what wonders await you in the world away from—"

The slap was quick and sharp, physically turning Discord’s head. He blinked, then slowly turned back to face her, eyes wide.

"Get. Out." A voice growled, and Fluttershy realized it was hers.

"Why Fluttershy, what a nasty little blow!" He grinned. "I didn't know you had it in you."

Fluttershy pointed her shaking hoof at the door, trying to control her anger. "I want you to leave. Please."

Discord floated off the ground, bowing his head and raising his claw and paw palm up, giving her what she assumed was his best attempt at foal eyes. "Forgive me Fluttershy, for I have sinned. I won't bring it up again."

The fire was still there, coursing through her veins. But the look from her friend was throwing fresh ice on her anger. It wasn't put out, but it dimmed considerably. Her throat tightened. "She was my wife, Discord. She can't be replaced."

He hesitated. "I hate to be, what's the phrase, a technical trotter? She actually wasn't. She was your fiancée. Not your wife."

The ice evaporated and the flames burned hot inside her. She lifted her hoof in warning. "Stop."

"Don't look at me like I'm a monster! I get enough of that from your friends. I am simply stating a fact." He shrugged, floating closer. "You had a romance. You had plans. For all intents and purposes, they're over. But that doesn't make your suffering unique." He smiled softly. "You will survive this, I prom—"

The sound and ferocity of the blow surprised Fluttershy.

Discord was also visibly surprised, at least he looked it the moment before her hoof hit his face. Then there was only bewilderment and velocity as he went crashing into the kitchen counter. Plates and pans scattered, a metal pot landed on the kitchen table, and the draconequus was laid out over the kitchen sink. He didn't move.

Fluttershy looked at her throbbing hoof in shock, expecting to see the bigger, heavier version she saw in the mirror. No, it was still her hoof. Small and dainty and... bruised? There was a small mark on the side, the point of highest impact. Or maybe not? It seemed to fade as soon as she noticed it, and the pain went away.

But the anger didn't. She couldn't control it. She was shaking.

In the reflection of the pot lying on her kitchen table, she saw herself. Not her. The other version of her. Staring at her.

He is rude and cruel, and not welcome here.

The reflection's mouth didn't move, but that voice was unmistakably the same from earlier.

And she realized that she was so busy with herself she hadn’t bothered to attend to her friend at all.

Gasping, she flew over to the sprawled shape of Discord. “Oh my goodness, are you alright? I just lost my temper! I didn’t mean it, I promise!”

"Why Fluttershy." Discord lifted his head and rubbed his face. His voice was calm, but he wasn't smiling. He looked at her outstretched hoof. "I didn't know you had it in you."

"I'm..." She shrunk back, following his gaze, staring at her hoof. She was shaking. “I’m sorry.”

"No, no, mea culpa, as they say in the fabled land of two footed giants." He looked around at the mess. "Still, and please don't take this the wrong way, but have you been..." He waved his limbs around vaguely, "Experimenting with dark magics? Or lifting weights, perhaps?"

"No,” she whispered, re-taking her seat at the table. “But I think something happened last night."

"Sounds ominous." Discord snapped his claw, and the pots and plates floated off the ground and began to quietly stack themselves in the sink. His voice continued to be even in tone, but it felt forced. She could hear the strain to sound nonchalant and casual. "Pray tell, what? A disagreement with that bunny about his carrot intake?"

She shook her head. “Angel’s still in the hospital. His cough came back. I’m supposed to visit him later today.”

“I wondered about the general increase in civility around here.” He clicked his tongue. “A bar-room brawl is too much to hope for, but perhaps some late night voodoo with Zecora?”

“I don't remember," she said, stealing one glance at her reflection before his magic took the pot away. The other 'her' was still glaring, still judging. She disappeared behind her mane and tried not to cry.

Discord didn't notice, or pretended not to notice. "I see. Something happened, but you don't remember?" He snapped his claws again. The sink filled with soapy water and the pots and pans began to scrub themselves. He didn’t even spare them a glance as he balanced a stack of teacups on his nose playfully. "Well, that's helpful."

"All I can remember is being so... angry."

"Because of her? Oh look, the snow stopped."

Fluttershy shook her head, peeking out from behind her mane. The snow had stopped, but the sun would still not show her face. She frowned. "Because of everything."

He floated the tea cups off his nose and they began marching into the cabinets. "Again, helpful. Anything else?"

She paused, nervously scanning the room for a reflective surface or mirror. She saw none and exhaled. "Um, no."

He turned off the faucet and hung his head. She looked at him, waiting for his next aside or question. But none came. He stood still, back to her. She waited. A silence bloomed between them.

"I just hope what happened... is not what I think has happened." He turned his head, and his smile wasn't a happy one.

She shifted uncomfortably. "What do you mean?"

"We'll know soon enough." He shook his head. "But I just hope it's not that."

The knock at the door turned both their heads. It was loud and official, and unlike how most of Ponyville asked for entry. They looked at each other.

"Expecting company?" he asked.

She thought hard. Yesterday remained a fog. "Other than you? Um... I don't think so."

The knocking continued, more insistent. Discord glanced at Fluttershy. "Do you want me to get rid of them?"

She shook her head and stood up. "A little animal probably needs my help." She headed for the door, legs still wobbly.

Discord called out as she walked away, "Technically, Fluttershy, that's always true."


Given the state of her bedroom, it was a relief that the front part of her house was still standing and in relatively good shape. None of her critters were roaming around, but that wasn't unusual, given the hour. The beaver family were early risers, and even though Discord had sent them away she was used to waking up after they had left the house. The two parents and their cubs had taken refuge with her since...

Howling wind and horizontal rain filled her memory. She couldn't move, she was barely awake. The water turning the earth to mud, the mud running into her mouth. And a sopping wet, half metal Rainbow Dash kissing her forehead.

I love you.

The knocking continued and roused her from her waking dream. She briefly considered asking who it was, but dismissed the thought as quickly as it came. After all, she thought as she reached for the door, if they're this persistent, they must really need her help; but they're knocking, which means they must be frien—

"Oh! Oh hello."

Two utterly unamused royal guard stallions stood outside her door, staring her down. The one on her right was a dark blue Pegasus, old and covered in scars. Most were on his front legs, although one particularly big mark stood out over his right eye. On her left, a younger gray earth pony stood, scarless but strong, his plate metal polished to a mirror shine. She felt a blush rise to her cheeks and her muscles turn to mush. They were intimidating enough staring straight forward, but staring right at her made her want to disappear.

After a few moments of silence, she heard herself say, "Can I, um, help you?"

They opened up on her in rapid fire, the older Pegasus first:

"Are there any threats to the Princess in this house?

"If we searched, would we find weapons or magic objects in here?" said the younger.

"Is the creature known as Discord present?"

"Answer us, directly."

"And truthfully. Lying or refusing to cooperate with a royal guard is an Equestrian Offense."

She stared at them open mouthed. Whatever struggles she had had with their stony silence, this was much worse. She caught her reflection in the younger guard’s plate metal. ‘She’ looked back at her, the other version of herself.

‘She’ wasn’t happy.

After a moment, a familiar voice behind the two colts called out, "Oh for goodness sake, you two, stand down already.”

They parted and in-between walked Princess Twilight Sparkle. She wore a saddle bag with the official Canterlot seal, and a tired expression on her face. “I’m so sorry to be bothering you this morning, Fluttershy.”

The older pegasus frowned. “Princess, please let us do our job. The area is not secure.”

“I’ve known Fluttershy for years, Sergeant Knocks. I’ve only just met you.” Twilight glowered at Knocks, then turned to her friend. “Fluttershy, the Princess has sent me to investigate a troubling matter. Are you alone?"

A theatrical sigh erupted behind her. Discord floated towards the door with a bemused expression on his face. "Don't worry, Fluttershy, it's for me. It's always for me. Very well, gentlecolts, I'm not sure what the charges are but I'm sure I'm guilty of something. Should I go quietly or do you want me to to make it... interesting?"

Fluttershy caught the younger guard flinch at the word 'interesting'.

Twilight smirked. “Easy, Officer Steady. He's just having some fun with you. We're not here for you, Discord.”

Fluttershy scrunched up her brow. "Then, what are you here for?"

Twilight cleared her throat and looked down and away, face slightly flushed. It was the same expression she wore whenever Fluttershy had seen her deliver bad news. Fluttershy felt a weight travel down her throat and settle in her stomach. The last time she had seen that face, Twilight was moments from telling her that Dash had been lost in the storm...

"Actually, I’m here for you, Fluttershy.”

Fluttershy blinked. "For me?"

"But I'm sure it's all just a misunderstanding!" Twilight added, a little too quickly. "It's just that, well, Scootaloo was attacked by Timberwolves last nights and she's in Ponyville General..."

The weight in her stomach started to bubble, and anxiety shot through her veins. "No! Is she okay? Can I see her?"

Twilight hesitated. "She's fine. She will be fine. Given the size of the wolves, it's a miracle she survived. They want to keep her for a few days under observation."

"Oh thank goodness. I'll go visit her! I'll pack a get well kit and—"

"No, that's not a good... Not right now." Twilight looked away again. "It's best if you don't see each other right now."

"Oh." Fluttershy drooped. "I see. She doesn't want to see me."

"Just the opposite, actually, but. Listen." Twilight closed her eyes and rubbed the side of her head with her hoof. "We're trying to figure out what happened to her, and her version of events makes no sense. I think she's still in shock."

"And what does the adorable little flightless foal say?" Discord grinned. "Did Daring Do sweep down from the clouds and pull her from their snapping jaws?"

Fluttershy glared at Discord. "Be serious, Discord, just for a moment. Of course that's not what happened."

Twilight frowned. "Actually, he's half right. She says that, well, you are the one who saved her from the wolf attack."

Fluttershy's jaw dropped open. "M-me?"

"Right?" Twilight laughed. “It sounds crazy, I know."

Officer Steady eyed the side of the house with the hole in it. "Yeah. Crazy..." he muttered. Sergeant Knocks gave him a death stare.

"Look I think we can settle this right now." Twilight's horn lit up, and the side of her saddle bag opened. A small necklace floated out of it, tangled up with a scroll.

Fluttershy gasped. It was the necklace. Her necklace. With Dash's butterfly. Stained, muddy, but unmistakably hers.

Twilight was distracted, trying to untangle the chain from the scroll. "I know this looks similar to your necklace, but "

"My necklace! Oh my goodness, where did you find it?" She reached out her hoof. "I thought I had lost it!"

Twilight's expression changed, distraction fading to concern. She slowly turned to face Fluttershy, her eyes reflecting a new set of worries. "You're sure this is yours?"

She heard a sharp intake of breath behind her. Discord gently touched her shoulder, and she was vaguely aware of the advice he was trying to give. But she was too weak to deny her heart's overwhelming joy at her recovered treasure. "Yes, of course. That's the engagement gift Dash gave me. I lost it last night." She smiled widely. "Thank you so much for returning..."

The necklace floated back into Twilight's bag. She spoke with deliberate calm, "I'm sorry, Fluttershy, but I'm going to have to ask you to come with me."

She opened her mouth and found Discord standing in front of her. "Asking, or ordering, Princess? My friend has had a rough few weeks, I don't know if you've noticed? Death in the family and all."

"I am asking. Do not make me order, because I have that authority." Twilight snapped at Discord. She shifted her attention to Fluttershy, her voice reverting to a kinder tone. "Please, Fluttershy. Please come with me voluntarily."

Fluttershy’s heart finally caught up with what her brain was seeing: Twilight's face was a mask, worried or even scared eyes behind a frozen grin. She looked at the guards, their eyes filled with suspicion. She caught her reflection in the younger guard’s plate armor, and the other ‘her’ shook her head.

You are being lied to.

"It's going to be fine," Twilight added.

She looked back at Twilight, her mouth curving into a frown. The anger from earlier began to cloud her vision. It was interrupted by a whisper from behind.

"Please ask me to get rid of them." Discord purred. "I can. In fact, it would be my genuine pleasure."

"I haven't done anything wrong..." she said, haltingly but loud enough for all to hear. "This is a mistake."

Her reflection in the guard's plate looked right at her.

If we've done nothing wrong, why are we being arrested?

She frowned at her reflection. "We're not under arrest!"

A few moments ticked by and she realized she had spoken those words out loud.

"That's right..." Twilight said, slowly. "Fluttershy, I promise we're going to sort this out."

"The road to Tartarus is paved with such promises," Discord muttered.

Fluttershy looked at Twilight’s face and came to a decision. She turned to Discord. "I have a request."

"Anything."

"Wait for the beavers to return? Make sure they have enough to eat. Then check up on Angel Bunny at the hospital. He's expecting his fancy carrots. They're in the basket in the kitchen." She wrinkled her nose. "Probably."

He sighed. "Ah yes, spending the day waiting for varmints, then in a hospital with an elderly, demented lapine. Oh, what fun it is to be your friend.”

She nodded. "I appreciate it. Angel will too. And the house, um, if you don't mind?"

He bowed. "As you command, Princess Fluttershy."

She smiled. "Thank you, my friend." She turned to Twilight. “Okay, Princess. Let’s go.”

Twilight paused, looking skyward. The snow had picked up again. She turned towards the road and gestured with her hoof. "Let's take a walk." Fluttershy nodded and trotted forward, and the two guards followed behind her.

“Wait!” Discord called. He floated up to her, holding up a saddle bag. “Can’t forget your travel kit, my friend.”

She smiled and lowered her head. Discord put the bag over her shoulders and on her back. He whispered, “I left a note in your lunch bag.”

Fluttershy blinked. He disappeared, and popped back into existence by the door-frame of her cottage. “Go, I’ll wait for your precious beavers!” he shouted.

She looked back at her cottage, watching Discord stand in her doorway, his expression grim. The hole in the side of the house was visible, but thanks to the distance and the snow, it didn’t look so bad. After a few minutes, she glanced back again and couldn’t see the damage.

A few minutes after that, she turned her head one last time. She couldn’t see her cottage at all.

Author's Note:

If you're wondering where you've heard that guard's name before, here's a hint: he's showed up in like four of my stories as the well meaning but kind of clueless guard/officer/whatever.

He also some lines about being afraid of bears, but my pre-reader wisely had me take them out.

Also: INCEPTION!

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