• Published 16th Nov 2012
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Address Unknown - remedy



Derpy's suffered scorn for a mold she doesn't fit. Will a chance meeting change her life for the better?

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22. Surprises Come in Many Forms

Chapter 22 – Surprises Come in Many Forms

Tuesday morning started fairly normally; Derpy woke feeling much better than she had been the previous night. She was still intimidated by the idea of being the subject of a letter to Princess Celestia, but lately it was harder and harder for her to remain in a depressed mood. There were simply too many good things happening that she found it almost impossible to dwell on anything negative.

She woke slightly earlier than normal to allow herself extra time to make her way to the post office. She was gaining balance little by little, but she was still unsteady, and the trek took her long enough to arrive at the same time as some of the other mailponies – still early by most standards, but late according to her own.

“Good morning, Post!” she greeted enthusiastically as she made her way to the storage room, occasionally bumping objects in her path. She had, of course, forgotten to retrieve her mailbags in the excitement of the previous day.

“Good morning to you, too,” Post replied slowly, watching as Derpy stumbled in the direction of the extra supplies. “Are you feeling alright this morning, Derpy? You seem a bit… out of sorts.”

She giggled slightly, drawing a confused look from her employer. “I couldn’t feel better.” She turned toward Post with an exuberant smile, though his focus wasn’t drawn to her grin. He gave an audible gasp as she fluttered her beautiful amber eyes at him, both of them staring directly at him for the first time ever. He was only able to gawk at her until another giggle drew him out of the trance.

“Derpy – your eyes – what happened?” He spoke disjointedly, never abandoning his stunned expression as he fumbled unsuccessfully for more comprehensive questions.

“Twilight has been working very hard on a spell to help me see straight, and last night she cast it perfectly!” Her face darkened for a moment as she recalled the previous attempt. “She tried it earlier this weekend, but that didn’t work quite so well… I spent a day blinded by it, instead.” The light returned to her face as she continued. “She figured out what had gone wrong, though, and now we just need to keep working on it until the effects become permanent.”

She gave a slight blush as a thought occurred to her. “I may be a bit slow with my extra rounds for a little while, though. I haven’t quite gotten used to walking with normal sight, but I’m working on it.”

Post took another moment to shake himself from the surprise, and then nodded. “That’s perfectly understandable. Just so long as you deliver your mail, that’s fine.” He smiled. “Nopony’s timing you, after all.”

She smiled cheerily as she turned back to the extra bags. “Thanks, Post.”

The postmaster shook his head as she trotted off happily, though clumsily. Celestia, she never does cease to amaze, does she?


****************


Dear Princess Celestia,

I am writing you today concerning three topics, though they all relate to the same pony. I have been fortunate enough to recently stumble into Ponyville’s newest mailmare, a gray pegasus from Cloudsdale named Derpy. She is a very smart, sweet, and trusting pony, but she has had a very difficult life due to a condition with her eyes known as exotropia. She has suffered from this condition from foalhood, and it has had a profound impact on her life.

Due to this disability, she has trouble with coordination and has been viewed – incorrectly, I might add – almost universally as accident-prone and unintelligent. Because of this, she has received much ridicule and disrespect, and when we first met she was terribly depressed and had very low self-esteem.

Her view of herself had been shaped solely by those who took it upon themselves to make her life miserable, and it did not help that she did not even understand her own cutie mark, which is a collection of seven bubbles, colored a dull blue-gray. They lead her and everypony else to believe she was, as she described, an ‘airhead’. I will delve into the subject of her cutie mark and its significance at a later point in my letter.

Following our meeting, I am glad to say that we were able to become close friends swiftly. I was able to relate to her feelings of isolation; as you no doubt remember, I was quite reclusive in my youth. The night we met, we talked extensively, and she poured out her pent up feelings of personal failure to me. We discussed her fears and anxieties, which I reassured her were unfounded. That night we formed a tight bond.

Since then, our friendship and relationship has grown immensely. She has developed an incredible amount since we have been together, and she has exemplified an amazing amount of determination, reliability, supportiveness, and trust. I have come to care for her deeply, and it turned out that she felt the same way toward me. Throughout our time together, our relationship advanced more and more; eventually, the two of us realized that we shared a level of affection neither of us had experienced before, and we are now together as marefriends. Being able to say I have a special somepony whom I love, and that they share that same love in return, is a new experience that defies all expectations of what the magic of friendship could achieve.

I apologize for having to tell you all this through a letter, but I thought it more important that you know about our relationship than wait until we see each other next.

The second topic I wished to inform you of is more of a report on a spell that I have been researching. Shortly after meeting Derpy, she inquired whether I knew of any magic that could correct her vision. I had not, and set about studying all the materials I could find in my library. Nothing was to be found there, and so I visited the Canterlot Archives, hoping to find spells in the medical wing.

I was eventually able to locate a spell intended to specifically correct exotropia; unfortunately, it was in poor shape, and contained warnings that each cast was only temporary, and that it could cause damage if cast incorrectly. However, this scroll was the only one containing the spell we were looking for. I scrutinized the scroll for every detail I could find, transcribing every instruction and note it contained, until I was confident I had every nuance recorded.

Derpy and I discussed the spell and its risks, and ultimately, she decided she wanted to attempt it. We performed the spell exactly as described, but unfortunately I made a mistake in my transcription due to a couple obscured letters that changed the context of one of the steps. Derpy was blinded from the mistake, though only for the day, as the spell was temporary in effect.

I am quite ashamed for having made such a mistake, and I admit I was devastated at the harm I had caused to Derpy, but we continued to delve until we discovered the aforementioned error. Having found the source of the problem, Derpy and I talked over whether we would like to try once more, and we agreed to make another effort. This second attempt occurred last night, and it succeeded perfectly.

Needless to say she is ecstatic at the possibility of having a more normal life than she ever has, and it is exciting for me to be able to offer her that chance. We will need to continue repeating the spell to strengthen its effect until it becomes permanent, but it is much less daunting now that we know we have succeeded.

I have enclosed the entirety of the spell, including the mistake I made and its effects as well as all of the author’s footnotes, in the event that the Canterlot archivists would like to re-document the procedures for the medical wing. I hope it can be of some help for future use, and we will keep you informed of any additional discoveries or data that may come from upcoming castings.

The final topic I wanted to bring up with you is related to budding friendships surrounding Derpy since her arrival, and it includes an interesting phenomenon that I have never heard of or seen before.

As stated before, Derpy did not have an uplifting social image when she first arrived, and several of my friends were very reluctant to accept her; in fact, at times they may have been borderline hostile. I am sorry that our lessons on friendship may have been partially forgotten at the time – I am reminded of our lesson when we first met Zecora, and the parallel of her situation to Derpy’s is uncanny.

Thankfully, we did not entirely forget what the experience had taught us. Though it took a few ponies some time to reflect on their initial prejudice, they are all beginning to accept Derpy for who she is, and not who she appeared to be. This brings me to the subject of her cutie mark, as I had alluded to earlier.

I had suspected there must be a deeper meaning to the bubbles than the insulting interpretation that it had been assigned, and the explanation I thought to be most appropriate was that her own distinctive attribute that set her apart from everypony else was similar to the aspects of a bubble – beautiful, unique, shifting, and represented best when they are given thoughtful attention to their subtle beauty.

It seems that my speculation on the subject was well-founded, and this led to the phenomenon I had previously mentioned. We began to notice that Derpy’s cutie mark actually began to change over time – her bubbles began taking on different color schemes at seemingly random times.

After much thought, I came to the realization that the colors imbued in the altered mark matched those of my friends and myself, and that they appeared as we came to accept her as our friend, regardless of her looks or the misconceptions held about her.

I have not been able to find any record of this happening before, so it seems that she is the first case of a pony exhibiting an incomplete cutie mark. I thought it might be something of interest for study for Canterlot scholars. So far, four of her seven bubbles have been changed, signifying myself, Rainbow Dash, Pinkie Pie, and Rarity, leading me to believe that six of them stand for the Elements of Harmony, though I have not discovered a seventh representative for the last bubble.

Regardless of the significance of her changing cutie mark or how interested I may be in making such a discovery, there is no discovery or knowledge that does not pale in comparison to the blessing we have received in each other’s company.

Your faithful student,

Twilight Sparkle

Twilight sighed as she set down her quill. While she was excited to send her report to the princess, she couldn’t help but feel slightly jittery at the major news she was sending. She was not sure how Princess Celestia would respond to her having a marefriend, to her discovery of a changing cutie mark, or to her admission to making such an egregious error.

Regardless, the princess requested that she make reports on what lessons she had learned in Ponyville, and so she would. She went off to find Spike to send her letter, though the task was not difficult. He still had a few days left of his vacation, and he had spent the majority of it lounging in his bed.

Spike begrudgingly propped himself up on an elbow, opening only one eye halfway, and stayed upright only long enough to envelop the letter in green flames, sending it magically traveling to Canterlot with a swirl and flourish of smoke. His lone chore of breathing being done, he dropped back heavily and resumed his nap as though Twilight hadn’t even woken him.


****************


Derpy’s workday was proving to be much more problematic than normal. She had expected it to be a challenge, but it had become downright difficult. Regardless of the rough day, she grimly set herself to continuing on. Her speed had dwindled considerably, and she was covered with bruises and scratches – unintentional trophies to pay homage to her unfamiliarity with her newfound visual acuity.

Her injuries came from almost every source imaginable: walking into random objects, slamming her hooves in mailboxes, stumbling over small pebbles enough to crash heavily to the ground, and even tripping over her own hooves into a rose bush, which had earned her a few derisive comments from Roseluck. She wandered painfully down the street, depositing letters as she went, acquiring new wounds from various obstacles along the way.

It was discouraging, but she reminded herself that, with practice, she was bound to get better. Her thoughts returned to the idea of asking Applejack for some walking company to regain some balance, and she smiled at the prospect of getting to know the farmpony better, although she still held some anxiety over their shaky history over the past week.

She rounded the corner onto the next road, reaching into her mailbag for her next stop, but she halted abruptly at the name and address that appeared in front of her on a large manila envelope. Her eyes roamed the bulky parcel, registering the formal script across the front.

From the Office of Mayor Mare

Town Hall, Ponyville

Ditzy ‘Derpy’ Doo

c/o Golden Oaks Library

Derpy stared at the envelope, trying to comprehend what in Equestria the Mayor would be sending her, let alone addressed to the library instead of her normal home. She supposed it would do no good to just stand and stare, so she shambled her way towards the library to deliver the missive to herself.

She let herself in, shrugging off her bags for the moment before calling out, “Twilight! Are you home?”

A distant reply floated through past some bookcases. “I’ll be there in just a moment!” Several thuds and crashes announced that the librarian was rushing to the front door and did not particularly care what happened to be in the straightest path to it.

Twilight skidded to a stop, her mane askew, one hoof caught in a stepstool, and a book skewered on her horn. “Derpy!” She gave a wide grin, though that was quickly replaced by a perplexed look. “Shouldn’t you be out at work? And what happened to you?” The unicorn cast her gaze over the numerous minor injuries.

Derpy tried to reply, but every response she tried to make was stifled by laughter at Twilight’s absurd appearance.

Twilight blew an awkward sounding ‘pffft’ as she puffed a strand of mane out of her face, the grin returning. “Hardy har har. Yeah, I know. I look ridiculous.” She shook the stepstool off her hoof, and lifted the book off her horn with a purple glow. “Now, what’s going on?”

Derpy calmed down, her giggles subsiding now that Twilight looked more like herself, and held up the manila envelope. “Well, I do deliver mail to the library, so I technically am at work. Though,” she glanced behind her at the advancing sun, “I shouldn’t stay long, I’m getting behind. If you couldn’t tell from the scratches, I haven’t quite mastered walking yet.”

Twilight grinned, but stifled a giggle of her own.

The mailmare continued, “The reason I stopped in was that this mail is addressed to me. At the library. Do you know anything about what this is or why mail is coming to me here?”

Twilight hopped up and down in excitement. “Ooh, it came! Open it! Open it! I’ll tell you all about it, I promise.”

Derpy gave Twilight a leery side-glance as she opened the envelope, letting a multitude of papers or forms of some kind slide out slowly onto the floor. She kneeled down to read the top paper, a cover page of the Mayor’s embossed stationery.

“These forms establish rezoning approval of the mentioned properties, as surveyed and measured by the Zoning Ordinance Administration of Ponyville, in accordance with previously detailed plans provided no infractions of laws or bylaws are enacted in any way…” Derpy stood back up and cocked her head at the dense legalese. “Twi, what exactly is this?”

Twilight smiled and gave a giggle. “It’s your surprise.”

Derpy raised an eyebrow, completely lost in whatever it was Twilight was talking about.

Twilight looked back at Derpy, barely able to contain her enthusiasm. “I went to the town hall yesterday, and went through all this paperwork with the Mayor. These are the final approvals, if, of course, you decide you like the idea.”

Derpy stared blankly ahead. Comprehension at this point was long gone, and she stood waiting for Twilight to explain what in the hay was going on.

“Simply put,” Twilight stated, “I asked for permission to move your cloud house.”

Derpy’s jaw dropped.

“You don’t have to move it, of course, but if you would like to, the Mayor has approved it. You are now allowed to move your house to the library, and an allowance has been made for a connection to be made from your front door to the balcony outside my room.” Twilight blushed slightly as she thought of a better way to make the explanation clear.

“With my cloudwalk spell, I would be able to move freely around your house as well, so think of it this way… I’m asking you if you’d like to move in with me, and bring your house with you. Since cloud houses aren’t too difficult to move, I think all we would need would be some help from Rainbow Dash this weekend. All you have to do is say yes or no.” She smiled widely as a grin crossed Derpy’s face. A spoken answer wasn’t even necessary.


****************


Derpy returned to her work, feeling immensely better despite the aches still running through her body. The thought of being able to officially move in with Twilight as well as keeping her own home was thrilling. What was more, even though she still had little coordination, it seemed that the distraction on her mind took her intense focus off her balance, oddly enough making movement slightly more natural for her.

She followed her route, placing parcels, letters, and the occasional bit of junk mail in their appropriate boxes along the way. Her gait was still unstable, and she still had intermittent accidents adding to her collection of scrapes, scratches, cuts, and bruises, but concentrating less on her movements and more on doing her job as normal allowed her to hasten her pace moderately.

She neared the end of her route, noticing Fluttershy’s cottage coming into view as bright daylight began to fade to the muted intensity of evening. She hoped that her appearance wouldn’t startle the pegasus; though they had become more comfortable around each other at the spa, Derpy still had the feeling that Fluttershy would still be intimidated meeting without their other friends present.

Fluttershy was outside her cottage feeding her animals as Derpy approached, flitting about with various types of food that she retrieved from numerous kinds of bags littering the ground. Derpy couldn’t help but be amazed at the deep understanding the mare must have to know exactly what nutritional requirements so many different types of creatures needed.

The mailmare paused to wonder what kind of approach would be most appropriate to not frighten Fluttershy while she was focused on her chore. It was obvious that calling out to her would be a poor choice of action, and remaining silent as she neared would not fare much better – turning around to find somepony right behind her would certainly terrify her.

It turned out that her decision didn’t really make a difference; when she stepped forward on the path her balance once again got the better of her, and she tripped into a thorny flower bush with an audible thump and yelp. Though unintended, it was likely the easiest way to gain Fluttershy’s attention without causing alarm, and the yellow mare cautiously approached the source of the noise.

“Hello? Is anypony there?” She asked reservedly, casting her gaze around for any movement. She noticed some rustling in the branches of the bush to her side and cautiously approached. She came to a stop as a gray hoof stuck itself out of the greenery, and a mild but familiar voice came from within.

“Uh, hey, Fluttershy. It’s me, Derpy. Could you possibly help me out of here? I kind of tripped on my way over to your house.” Derpy’s plea was tinged with embarrassment.

“Of course!” Fluttershy breathed in relief, knowing it was only Derpy and not something much more sinister. She grasped Derpy’s hoof and pulled, attempting to extract the gray pony, who gave a few groans of discomfort. Finally, Derpy tumbled out of the brush, sprawled fully on the path with her mailbags splayed to the side. Fluttershy froze at the sight momentarily, and Derpy feared she had blown her first opportunity to make the pegasus in front of her less wary of her.

“I’m sorry, Fluttershy, the post office asked me to start delivering your mail – they noticed you seemed to shy away from them and thought it might make you feel a bit better if somepony more familiar – ” Derpy’s apology was cut short by a cry of concern from Fluttershy.

“Derpy, what in Equestria happened to you? Oh, you poor thing. You’re all scratched up! Come with me – we need to get these cleaned up.” She helped Derpy to her hooves and began leading the way to cottage. She hadn’t gotten very far, though, before she realized that Derpy wasn’t following her – at least, not very quickly. She was stumbling forward slowly, falling behind Fluttershy’s lead. Fluttershy turned and rushed back.

“Oh my goodness – did you hurt your legs? I can get you a cast if you need one…”

“Fluttershy, I’m fine - really I am, but thank you for the consideration,” Derpy explained. “Twilight’s spell worked on my eyes, and I’m not quite used to walking like this yet. The scratches and bruises are just from me knocking into things or tripping over my own hooves today. I’ve had much worse, believe me. They’ll go away soon enough on their own.”

Fluttershy let out a relieved sigh to hear the pegasus was not seriously injured. “I’m so glad that Twilight was able to find out what the problem was. I was worried she was going to lock herself up studying for weeks.” She gave Derpy a warm smile and gave her face an appraising look. “Congratulations. I know you must have been awfully frustrated to wait for so long before finding a solution to your eyes being unfocused.” She smiled kindly and trotted back over toward Derpy. Her gait slowed, though, as she recalled what Derpy had said to her while she was in a panicked state.

“Wait - you’re going to deliver my mail? What happened to the other mailpony? He didn’t quit because of me, did he?” Fluttershy began hyperventilating as her fears began to surface. “I knew I was absolutely horrible to him, but I didn’t think I would push him that far…” Her eyes began brimming with tears, and she hung her head shamefully, guilt welling up in her chest.

Derpy interjected before Fluttershy had a chance to blame herself more. “Fluttershy, that’s not it – not by far. Mr. Zippy is still working for the post office, and he was never angry with you.” Fluttershy seemed to relax slightly, but she still hiccupped tearfully, not quite willing to believe Derpy yet.

“So, why did isn’t he going to deliver my mail anymore, then?” She asked quietly.

Derpy stepped forward and carefully placed a hoof around Fluttershy’s neck in a comforting gesture. “Post Haste told me that they noticed you seemed frightened by them. He thought you might feel better if somepony more familiar delivered your mail, and since you’re friends with Twilight, he thought it might be better if I do it. Nopony there is mad at you – they were concerned that you were still dwelling on that one mistake from so long ago.”

Fluttershy stood stunned, not sure if she could believe what she was hearing. She had been convinced that her aggressive indiscretions had caused the ponies she had wronged to permanently despise her. It was nearly impossible for her to understand why they wouldn’t hold some sort of grudge against her for it, but here was Derpy, assuring her that they not only had forgiven her, but were worried for her. She stared at Derpy, her eyes searching the mailmare’s face for signs of deception simply to make her feel better, but the mailmare was regarding her with complete sincerity.

Once more, Fluttershy’s eyes brimmed with tears, touched by the consideration the mailponies were showing her despite her avoidance of them altogether. She leaned into Derpy, returning the hug as the guilt lifted fully from her chest.

“Thank you,” she whispered, squeezing Derpy emphatically. “I’ve worried about that for so long. Thank you for letting me know.”

Derpy pulled back, giving Fluttershy a nod and a smile. “Anytime. Feel free to let me know if anything else bothers you, and I’ll try to help, if I can.” Derpy picked up her bags, passed the few letters she had remaining to Fluttershy, gave her another uplifting smile, and turned to leave.

“Did you want to stay for a while, Derpy? I could make us some tea, if you’d like,” Fluttershy offered.

Derpy turned back and shook her head, but looked happy nonetheless. “I’d love to, but I need to finish off my shift, and I was also hoping to visit Applejack tonight before it gets too dark. Twilight suggested that she could help me with my balance with some walks through Sweet Apple Acres.”

“Some other time, then,” Fluttershy offered. “Enjoy the rest of your night, Derpy.”

“Thanks. You too.” Derpy blundered off back down the path, nearly tripping over her own hooves again.

As she faltered, trying to catch her balance, a sharp laugh could be heard from above. Her blood turned to ice, and she slowly turned, her gaze lifting upward to see two pegasi, one silver and one blue, silently hovering above Fluttershy’s cottage. She didn’t know their names, but she recognized their faces immediately; both were mailponies from Cloudsdale, and they weren’t exactly fond of her.

“What a touching scene, Featherbrain. Looks like the worst fliers in Equestria found each other.” The blue pony gave another sharp laugh, while his companion snorted with contempt.

“We heard that you’d been seen crashing your way through Ponyville today. We had to come and see how pathetic you were for ourselves, especially after the holy hell the boss caught, thanks to you and your holier-than-thou postmaster down here in this junk heap of a town,” the silver stallion taunted her. “Looks like we weren’t disappointed. You’re worse than we even had imagined possible.”

Derpy cast a look downward to see if Fluttershy was alright. Though it still stung, she was used to ridicule enough by now. However, she wasn’t sure how Fluttershy would react to the insult on her flying skills. She saw that Fluttershy was staring upward, completely immobile, with her cheeks flushing red. Derpy felt a pang of guilt that her mere presence had involved her friend in the mockery. She looked back to the pegasi above.

“It’s really too bad we had to end such a heartwarming get-together, but it’s just not possible to watch you fail on the ground as badly as you do in the air without laughing.” The blue pegasus sneered at her. “Honestly, I didn’t think it could be more pitiful for a pegasus to get demoted to earth pony mail, but you can’t even do that without wreaking havoc on yourself. Seriously, you have to have set a record for most injuries from putting papers into boxes. It’s too bad you haven’t managed to blow yourself to pieces,” he grinned maniacally. “Yet.”

Derpy dropped her head at the laughter, trying to block out the ridicule as she had done so many times before. She caught a glimpse of Fluttershy out of the corner of her eye, still watching the stallions. Derpy could see her figure trembling and a bright blush running through her face. Something about the yellow pony seemed off, though. Derpy turned to look at her, and the stallions above followed Derpy’s movement. Their faces paled, and their wings lost strength, causing them to awkwardly drop to the ground.

Fluttershy wasn’t trembling, and she wasn’t blushing. Her body was visibly shaking in anger, and the red in her cheeks was borne of purely violent rage. She took a step toward the stallions, who cringed in response. The gleam in her eye reflected the bitter hostility of a madmare, and venom flowed from her half-cracked smile, paralyzing them on the spot.

“You think,” she seethed, her voice menacing and dark, “that you are so much better than her, and that you have the right to sit here and laugh at her? That you can track her down simply to drag her through the mud, so you can feel better about your pitiful, shallow selves? That you can use her like a punching bag to fill the void in that wretched, meaningless existence you call a life, so you can face tomorrow feeling like you’re more than the worthless scum you are? I swear to Celestia, if I ever catch you – or any of the miserable vermin from your rat pack – insulting her again, I will personally ensure that you will not live long enough to regret it.”

Fluttershy clenched her teeth, breathing her next words with murderous intent. “Do. I. Make. Myself. CLEAR?

The stallions whimpered and nodded with what little control they still had.

Then get out of my yard and don’t let me ever see your useless, vile, sorry excuse for carcasses ever again!

Her voice reached a volume that would rival Princess Luna’s, and the stallions vanished from the premises as though she had vaporized them where they sat.

Derpy stared, slack jawed and motionless, at Fluttershy, the red draining from her cheeks and her form slumping from exertion. A tear trickled down her cheek as she slowly turned her head to face Derpy.

Her voice quieted to a whisper, and it quivered as she spoke. “I’m sorry you had to see that. It’s just… sometimes I just can’t help myself when somepony treats somepony else like they did you.” She blinked back a few more tears. “I can’t just sit and watch while somepony abuses my friends like that.” Fluttershy collapsed to the ground with a few silent sobs.

Derpy moved forward, laying down next to her and draping a hoof around her. “No - thank you, Fluttershy. Thank you for standing up to them for me. Twilight is the only other pony that has ever done that for me. Ever.” She gave her crying friend a tight squeeze, and they lay in silence until Fluttershy had calmed down. The tears had left stains down her cheeks, but at least they had stopped. She looked at Derpy and managed a weak smile.

“You’re not upset with me for that outburst?”

Derpy shook her head. “Never. That outburst of yours meant the world to me.” A thought passed through her head, and she glanced backwards.

Fluttershy gave her an inquisitive look. “Is there something wrong?”

Derpy shook her head once again as she got to her hooves. “Fluttershy, can I still take you up on that offer for tea?”

“I thought you needed to get going,” she replied.

“There’s still plenty of time left tonight, and I think we could both use some tea to calm down a bit.” Derpy glanced backward once again as the pair entered Fluttershy’s cottage, a smile lighting her face at the yellow and pink circle gracing her flank. “I definitely wouldn’t mind spending some time catching up with you.”