• Published 13th Feb 2015
  • 934 Views, 37 Comments

Too Much Love Will Kill You - A Hoof-ful of Dust



How much do you trust what you can see? What you can touch? What you experience? How sure can you be that all you have lived through, all you have loved, is not a dream that will fade at daybreak? Twilight must end the spell.

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Four

There was something off about the smell of the coffee this morning.

Granted, there had been something a little off about all the coffee that came out of the kettle Twilight had salvaged from the demolished library. The kettle was charred black on one side and no amount of cleaning, no amount of magic, and no amount of magical cleaning would fix it. Its handle had melted to a thin trickle, which Twilight had snapped off, but this wasn't a problem as she had her magic to lift when it was too warm and Spike, who was mostly immune to the effects of intense heat, never bothered with holding it by the handle anyway. The lid had somehow managed to stay in place after Tirek destroyed Golden Oaks, and aside from needing a little extra force to jam it into place it still fit. It looked battered and beaten, but it still worked; it was still something that functioned, and when Twilight found it among the ashes and smouldering branches, that one fact was what made her unable to cast it aside with everything else that had been lost. It looked completely out of place with the rest of the voluminous crystal kitchen, with space enough to cook for and seat nearly half of Ponyville, but it was one of the few things she had left from the old library, and so she made a point of using it every morning even if it smelled a little like burning toast when it got warm and gave the coffee a vague undercurrent of wood.

But not this morning. Now it smelled like... well, now it smelled like it used to. It just smelled like coffee, and Twilight knew without pouring and tasting it that the coffee inside would taste as it had before, too.

Maybe whatever residue that was left inside burned off, she thought, but that too sounded like a weak explanation. It was just... off.

She buried her thoughts and theories about just what had changed with her old kettle. There wasn't enough hours in the day to obsess about tiny details; there were enough big details already. "Coffee?" she asked Fluttershy, who was already at the table in her robe, even though Twilight knew what she would say.

"No, thank you," Fluttershy said with a smile, closing her eyes and shaking her head, her mane that framed her face swaying. Fluttershy drank tea, always in the afternoons and only occasionally: the complete opposite to Twilight's daily morning coffee, nightly evening coffee, and steady chain of mostly-empty cold cups and forgotten pots when she was deep in research (another habit Fluttershy would never be plagued by--she drank her tea while it was still ridiculously hot). Yet Twilight always asked, and Fluttershy always politely refused. It was their thing. One of their things.

Only just recently had Fluttershy started spending the night at the castle. Twilight had stayed at her cottage enough that there was a second toothbrush and comb in Fluttershy's bathroom, but Fluttershy had been reluctant to take time away. Twilight understood, or thought she had at first; it was all the animals that shared a home with Fluttershy, the menagerie of creatures passing through or recovering from illness or that just liked Fluttershy's company (and could tolerate Angel Bunny). They needed food, they needed reassurance, they needed to be checked on that everything was alright. Yet the more time Twilight spent in Fluttershy's house, the more it became obvious to her that her animal collective was, on a day-to-day basis, quite capable of taking care of itself, and it also became obvious that the one who needed Fluttershy to stay in her cottage, to make sure everything was safe and sound, was Fluttershy herself. Twilight had never pushed her on this, had barely mentioned it except for one nearly-wordless conversation where it quickly became clear that yes, Fluttershy knew her worries and anxiety were a problem, and yes, she was working it out, little by little. It was the castle, oddly enough, that gave Twilight a chance to make a safe environment for her marefriend. Their first night together there, after all the chaos and shock and newness had worn off, had been spent on the open platform up on the roof, Twilight stargazing, Fluttershy throwing a cautious eye down to her cottage at the edge of the Everfree Forest that she could now see from this new vantage point, much higher and much farther away from the center of town than the library had been, both sitting on a blanket nursing warm mugs of cocoa, snuggled close in the chill evening air.

Twilight sat opposite Fluttershy, and the kitchen suddenly felt more warm and intimate than the distant crystal walls would suggest. It was just the two of them there, Twilight with her coffee and toast and Fluttershy with her grapefruit half, yet they filled the room up with comfortable silence.

-/-

Twilight stood in the wide arched doorway that separated the castle's interior from familiar Ponyville, Fluttershy facing her and hovering, both metaphorically and literally: she wanted to both stay and go, and as a result her wings gave lazy flaps and her hooves barely brushed the ground.

"It's okay," Twilight said, "you go home and check on everyone."

"I'll tell them all you said hello," Fluttershy said, giving a smile and a quick glance over her shoulder.

"Alright." Twilight grinned to herself, then added, "Love you," feeling the familiar thrill work its way through her stomach.

Fluttershy landed for just a moment to nuzzle the side of Twilight's face. "Love you too," she whispered into her cheek.

"You sure you don't want to borrow a scarf, or anything?" Twilight asked as Fluttershy rose into the air, for she had felt cold against her pelt.

"No, I'm okay," she replied. "Bye, Twilight."

"Bye."

Fluttershy would be okay, Twilight thought as she watched her fly over Ponyville. Fluttershy was always cold, but it never seemed to bother her. Twilight had initially thought lower body temperature, or at least the perception of such, was a pegasus trait, but her brief study into the matter (the result of which was a very confused mailmare and Rainbow Dash making sure Twilight wasn't sneaking up on her to touch her by surprise for several days) found that it was something unique to Fluttershy. Natural variance. But for some reason, that simple explanation had never sat well with Twilight.

No, it was something else that wasn't sitting well. It was something like how the coffee had been wrong.

Fluttershy was always cold. Always.

Even after coming inside during the winter, rugged up in a knitted jumper and scarf and earmuffs.

Even after drinking a mug of scalding tea.

Even after lying in bed with the covers pulled up to her chin.

Except last night, when the pony next to her in her bed had been warm.

Twilight felt another lurch like she had last night, like the entire universe was moving beneath her hooves, and heard a deafening sound chime inside her head. It wasn't Fluttershy who had been there last night. Fluttershy, who she had just seen leave, who was here in the morning, had not been there last night. It was impossible, it didn't make sense, but it hadn't been Fluttershy in bed with her last night.

It had been Pinkie Pie.

Her marefriend, Pinkie.