• Published 28th Jun 2012
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A New Hero - Alex The Lone Wolf

What if there was another pony who joined the pony gang? (Look at longer description...)

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Flutter Brutter

The more I thought about it, the more nervous I grew. On one hoof, I'd find it so utterly ridiculous to be worrying about something that really wasn't a big deal, to begin with. However, at the same time, I was afraid of making some kind of mistake that would ultimately be the end of my world as I knew it.

"So, you think I should wear a tie or something?" I asked Fluttershy with a slightly shivering voice as I stared at myself in front of the mirror. "I feel like I should at least wear a tie. What if they think I'm some kind of rebellious punk by not wearing some kind of respectable attire? I'm a prince for Celestia's sake. I'm sure they'd expect me to dress up."

"Oh, my." Fluttershy worriedly observed my nervous breakdown from a few steps away. "Is that how I used to react to everything?" Nevertheless, she approached me and then delicately wrapped her hooves around my neck, pressing her cheek against mine with a bright smile. "You don't need to worry about how you look. You look absolutely fine, and you don't need to dress up at all."

"But, first impressions, right?" I reminded.

Fluttershy shook her head. "I Pinkie Pie Swear to you that you don't have to go out of your way to impress them. I'm telling you: they're the sweetest parents you could ever have! They wouldn't even hurt a fly."

I ultimately sighed and surrendered myself to her. "Yeah. I guess you're right."

Fluttershy pulled away from me but continued to gaze at me with loving eyes. "I hope you don't mind, but Rainbow Dash is going to come along. As you already know, she and I have been friends since Flight School, so she's actually been over and eaten with us a few times in the past."

"Oh?" I felt myself beginning to relax a bit. "That doesn't seem like a bad idea. Having another familiar pony there will probably lighten the attention on me."

A gust of wind unexpectedly brushed against us as the windows of Fluttershy's bedroom swung open.

"I am ready for some grub!" Rainbow Dash firmly planted her hooves onto the wooden floor. She glanced over to me and noticed the different kind of state I had been in. "What's with you? You look like you're going to keel over any second."

"He's a little nervous about meeting my parents." Fluttershy shared.

"Seriously?!" Rainbow Dash prepared to guffaw. "HAH! Are you kidding me?! They're like the most unintimidating ponies in Equestria! I'm shocked that you haven't met them sooner, considering you've been with Fluttershy for how long now?"

"Well, I wouldn't put it that way…" Fluttershy returned lowly, finding Rainbow's description a little unnecessary. "But, yes, they are really sweet. No need to be nervous whatsoever."

"Guess it would have been easier had I already met them before we started seeing each other." I felt, "But, then again, I wasn't exactly in the best shape before we started going out, so maybe I'm wrong with that too."

"Well, you can't stand here like a chicken all day." Rainbow Dash walked around me and began pushing me towards the window from behind. "Their meals are pretty rockin' and I don't want to miss out because you're too scared to meet your parents-in-law."

"But, we aren't even—" I tried to correct her.

"Yeah, yeah." She intervened and brushed off. "Everypony already knows that it's gonna happen someday, so you might as we get used to it, buttercup. Come on! Out you go." She continued to shove me until I was practically leaning over the windowsill.

To counter Rainbow Dash's rough treatment, Fluttershy appeared outside the window and held out a gentle hoof in front of me. "Come on. Let's get going. I'm sure all your nerves will disappear the second you see them."

"Yeah, okay." I nodded and grabbed a hold of her hoof.

After all, from every obstacle I've faced up until now, meeting Fluttershy's parents should be child's play.

Fluttershy continued to firmly yet softly hold onto my hoof as she guided me up into her old hometown of Cloudsdale. "It's not too far from here." She directed and then giggled with glee, "Hehe. I never thought I'd be bringing a special somepony to see my parents. I'm so excited!"

"What you should be excited about is the food." Rainbow repeated the reason for her visit. "Your parents are so awesome. They always know the kind of food that energizes me the most."

"Oh! Maybe after lunch, I can give you a little tour of our home!"

"Yeah, sounds great…" I, unfortunately, didn't share the same enthusiasm at the moment. It was hard to since I was still worrying about how this meeting would go. I believed Fluttershy with her description of her parents, but I think I needed to see them for myself to ultimately decide whether I would be able to relax or not.

Once we landed in front of a particular house, Fluttershy leaned forward and knocked. Not wanting to be staring at the door the entire time, I turned my head and looked around. The fences that separated each property was literally rainbow. I distracted myself at the time by wondering if those kinds of fences really worked or if they were just for aesthetic purposes.

"Fluttershy, hello, dear!" I heard another extremely soft voice at the door, ironically startling and rustling up my coat.

By my side, I heard Rainbow Dash snickering, but I couldn't get after her at a time like this.

"Hi, mom!" I watched Fluttershy move forward to embrace the mare inside. When she pulled away, I was able to get a better look at her mother as she spoke.

"Please, come in! Come in!" I noticed the old-fashioned and raspberry-colored curls on her mane lightly bounce as she excitedly invited us in. Her coat was similar to Fluttershy's but it held a slightly darker tone. Besides the golden pearls on her neck and the sunflower piercings on her ears, it was hard to not notice the thick-rimmed green glasses she wore. Her appearance style reminded me of the way mothers tended to dress a few decades back. There wasn't anything wrong with that, of course. I nearly froze when she spotted me. She sent a little wave before whispering over to her daughter. Yet again, she ironically whispered loud enough for me to hear. "Is he the one you've told us about?!"

Fluttershy nodded fervently with a small blush.

I heard Rainbow Dash laugh behind me before she shoved me inside. I suppose I had to thank her for that since I began to suddenly feel my legs buried underneath tufts of cloud beneath us.

"Honey, they're here!" Mom called out happily in a sing-song voice inside. "Including you know who!"

We heard a short and soft ruckus from a room nearby.

It was time to meet Fluttershy's dad, and as I waited anxiously for him to come into full view, I could only wonder what kind of pony he would be. I know Fluttershy said they were the sweetest parents ever, but I'm pretty sure she's never actually brought a guy over to her home. With that said, I don't believe she would have seen the "overprotective" side of him.

I held my breath until a lime-green body came into view. One of the things I almost immediately noticed about him was his mane. It practically looked like the top of an ice cream cone or whipped cream, especially since the color of his hair was a sort of creamy and extremely tinted pink color. Now that I thought about it, it appeared mixing his mane with her mother's led to the color of Fluttershy's mane now. Returning to his hair, he also had a small and friendly-looking mustache, and the soft-looking sweater he wore definitely made him look a lot less intimidating than I was afraid of.

"Welcome!" He greeted warmly in a soft-spoken tone. I was beginning to think soft voices ran in the family. "We're so happy to have you here! Please come into the kitchen!"

As her mother and father moved to the room they had appeared to originally come from, Fluttershy turned her head towards me and actually seemed to send me a mischievous smirk. Was she teasing me?

Nevertheless, after having a short experience within their presence, I began to feel my heartbeat calm itself down. I was still a little nervous, maybe even excited, so I wasn't exactly quite back to my normal self.

"Please, take a seat." Her mother suggested.

Rainbow Dash casually flew in, having most likely already done this several times. Fluttershy began walking in as well until she noticed me slightly hesitating behind. She stopped and grabbed my hoof before escorting me to the table. There were already five seats placed around the dining table. Two were at her parents' side while three were on our side. Rainbow Dash had already taken a seat on the left, Fluttershy went on to sit on the right, and then she proceeded to pat the seat in the middle. I didn't really like this set up, seeing as it looked like I would be the center of attention. Despite that, I obeyed her wishes, feeling as if I would have a soft voice too the next time I talked.

"So, your name is Alex, sweetie?" Her mother asked all of a sudden, nearly causing me to jump out of my chair.

"Yes, ma'am." I replied while trying to keep my cool and balance on the chair. "It's, um, a pleasure to finally meet you two."

"Oh, the pleasure's ours!" Her mother expressed as gleefully as she could with her natural soft tone. "Ever since Fluttershy told us the news between you two, we've been excited to meet you ever since!"

"So, you're really a prince?" Her father asked out of apparent sheer curiosity and excitement.

"Of course, he is, dear!" Mom answered. "He has a horn and wings!"

"We never thought our daughter would be seeing a prince." Dad held a hoof to his chest and looked upwards as if his dreams had come true.

"Well, he wasn't always a prince." Fluttershy explained. "In fact, he didn't used to be an Alicorn at all, but once he got his wings and horn, I was just so happy! To be honest, I think I was happier at the fact that we'd be able to fly together. We could go to many different places we weren't able to go to before."

"Oh, that's right, dear. I remember the look on your face when you told us what happened." She mentioned, giggling to herself. Afterwards, she sent out a strong and radiant beaming smile towards each one of us. "We're so happy you could bring over your special somepony and come have lunch with your father and me, Fluttershy."

"Well, I'm really glad you asked!" Fluttershy returned, grinning brightly.

"And it was super awesome of you to invite me too!" Rainbow Dash tied in. "Things have been so busy with the Wonderbolts lately, it's great to get a chance to relax someplace quiet."

I almost wanted to tease Rainbow with her nickname "Crash" to get back at her for earlier, but seeing as I was right in front Fluttershy's parents, I didn't want them to get the wrong impression of me.

"That's exactly what I intend to do now that I've retired." Dad brought up as he set down a salad plate near us. "In fact, I converted the back house to showcase my cloud collection." He paused to point out the window, showing us a small building with shelves of bottled clouds. Outside was a small garden of well-kept and beautiful flowers. "I have my clouds, your mom has her flowers, you've got your animals, and your brother..." He suddenly paused and lifted up his head in thought.

His pause seemed to bring up a sudden but small atmosphere of awkwardness, so Mom spoke up to remove the tension before it became a problem.

"Zephyr Breeze has his... interests." She mentioned oddly, chuckling nervously afterwards.

"I'll say!" Rainbow Dash added loudly. "Remember when he was convinced square clouds were gonna be the next big thing?" She laughed and snorted lightly.

"He's matured a lot since then." Mom acknowledged.

"Actually, it's funny you bring Zephyr up..." Dad regrouped with Mom and held their hooves together on the table with nervous-looking grins.

It took a second or two before Fluttershy reacted towards this statement. "Oh, no! Not again!"

Everypony looked engaged in some way or another with the current subject on hoof besides me. I had no clue on what exactly they had been referring to, so I all I could do was sit there and somewhat awkwardly watch.

"It's just for a little while, dear. 'Til he gets back on his hooves." Mom responded.

"Wait, you don't mean—!"

"Guess who's home!" The front door suddenly slammed open, cutting Rainbow mid-sentence and completely tearing apart the nice and quiet atmosphere that had originally settled inside the home. "That's right, big sis, it's your one and only favorite little brother, moi."

Besides his odd-looking mane, he seemed to take his coat color and complexion from his dad's side. Nevertheless, right off the bat, he didn't exactly look like a "clean" individual. Aside from the spaghetti-looking mane, he appeared to have a beard shadow. I had to say, this was not how I was expecting Fluttershy's brother to look at all. Being a little brother, I actually kind of expected him to be possibly much timider than Fluttershy ever was. I would have expected him to walk in and immediately walk back out, avoiding any kind of conversation with us because of how shy he'd be. But, in actuality, here he was, broadcasting his voice loudly for everypony to hear.

Beside me, I heard Fluttershy groan deeply and bury her head in the back of her chair. She was warm, inviting, and cheerful earlier, but since talk of her brother came up, this all disappeared. What exactly did he do to bring things down around here like this?

Everypony's ears perked up at the sound of something squishy being splattered across the table. Zephyr Breeze had thrown his bag carelessly on the table, and it now ruined what once looked like a scrumptious dessert. It was at this point when I began realizing why Fluttershy never liked to talk about her brother, to begin with.

"Hi, Flutterbutter!" He squeezed in between us, cutting off any kind of view of Fluttershy from me. In fact, he was so close that I had to almost completely turn away. I was now met with an annoyed glance from Rainbow Dash. "How's the bestest big sister ever?" He asked as he squeezed her tightly, but Fluttershy didn't return an ounce of appreciation or bliss at his affection. "Hey, where's the love? How about a little excitement to see your baby brother?"

Zephyr was certainly a lot bigger than Fluttershy was, but considering his current behavior, it definitely wasn't hard to see him as the younger brother. He threw different parts of Fluttershy's mane around her head before turning to approach his parents.

"I'm just surprised." Fluttershy answered, pulling the loose strands of her mane away from her face. "When you left, you said mane therapy was your calling."

"Oh, it is, sis, it is." He enthusiastically repeated, spreading a little of that "love" with his parents. "You would not believe how much stress ponies hold in their manes. Everything gets limp and unmanageable." He explained, appearing to use Fluttershy's mane as an example. "No offense, but brushing alone won't solve the problem." He quickly worked with her hair until it was styled the same way as his, but I was relieved when it fell apart back to the way it was before moments later.

"What went wrong?" Fluttershy asked as she moved the hair out of the front of her eyes with a serious expression on her face as if this wasn't the first time he came home like this.

"Nothing went wrong, per se." He pushed away the plate that had been set in front of Fluttershy and replaced it with a hefty book. "It's just the powers that be were so locked into their required styles, and you know me. I've got my own style! And I think they were a little threatened." He pulled out the head of a mannequin used normally for hair stylists, but there wasn't anything normal about it. Quite frankly, the mane looked like it had been run over with a lawn mower.

"O-Oh, this is... lovely, dear." Fluttershy's mom commented generously at the sight of a piece of mane falling from its head.

"Ugh." Rainbow Dash stuck out her tongue and groaned in disgust.

"Well, if it ain't Rainbows 'The Best Flyer There Ever Was' Dash!'" He noticed her with a self-assured chuckle.

"Oh, this ought to be good." She returned before he pulled up a chair right next to her.

"Sorry, I shouldn't tease you. I know the whole super awesome flyer bit's just to impress me." Her jaw immediately fell and hung open. I couldn't imagine how much in that one statement offended her, seeing as being an "awesome flyer" was her life. I'm sure if I said anything like that towards her, I'd probably get a kick to the face. I'm actually surprised Zephyr seemed to get away with it. "Still, thanks for showing up for my homecoming. It's, it's sweet." He patted her lightly and turned away from her, leaving her shuddering and slumping in her seat with her frozen face.

For the longest time, I had been feeling as if I had been watching this from the other room, but now I was immediately sucked in when he finally seemed to notice me. However, unlike the other ponies, he didn't share any kind of over-the-top greeting or welcome. Instead, he looked at me blankly before turning towards his parents for an answer. "Who's the new pony?"

"This is Alex." Her mother introduced me. "He's your sister's very special somepony."

"Mom…" I heard Fluttershy seem to object for the first time we've been together.

"Special somepony?!" Zephyr sent interposing eyes to his sister, beginning to get back in her face like from before. "Why haven't I heard about this?! You sly little mare! Watching Rainbow and me must have moved your little heart for some sweet romance, hm?" During this time, Fluttershy could only react by placing her hoof on her forehead and staring at him with unamused eyes. On the other side, Rainbow Dash glared at him bitterly for making those false assumptions. However, it was only a matter of time before I'd fall victim to his probing. "Alex, huh? Weird name, but I dig it. Don't worry, bro. If you ever need lessons in capturing a lady's heart, you know where to find me."

I held my breath uncomfortably and was in no mood to make any sort of conversation with this character, so I immediately felt a wave of relief when he turned away and focused back on his parents. "I kinda thought there'd be more ponies here. I mean, what about your party planner friend, um... Sprinkle Pie! She could've turned this into a real house partay, am I right? I mean, this place could use it. Drab!" He ended on a singsong note, offending the aesthetic choice of his parents.

There was a lot I was tempted to say, but being that I was warmly invited in Fluttershy's old home, I felt I had no place to say anything. In fact, I'd probably be as probing as Fluttershy's brother was if I started laying out my thoughts on him right in front of her parents.

"Heh. I-I, eh..." Her mother tried to respond, but her husband quickly came to help.

"We have been meaning to redecorate..."

"Dad, please." Zephyr had already taken the initiative to begin hanging up literal posters of him. It even almost reminded me of Rainbow Dash, but not even Rainbow was as bad as this guy. "When I get all my stuff back in here, you won't even remember what this boring old place looked like!" He walked into the living room, looked around a bit, and went on to push a chair from one place to another.

As soon as Fluttershy witnessed this, she turned to her parents with an irritated look on her face. "Um, Mom, Dad, can I talk to you for a second?" She nearly whispered, pointing in the direction of another room.

Without another word, the two of them followed their daughter out, leaving Rainbow Dash and me in utter and slightly tensed silence.

"Wow…" I finally expressed softly, not wanting for Fluttershy and her parents to hear. "I've never seen her look so peeved. At least not with another pony."

"Can you blame her?" Rainbow Dash asked. "Her brother is like…well, you know what he's like. You just saw him in action. That's not the worst though. He has this crazy idea that I actually have a thing for him. Not going to lie, if Fluttershy's parents didn't out you like that, I probably would have pretended you were with me instead. Just to see if he finally would have backed off."

"If he's so into the idea that you're crazy about him, wouldn't he just find a way to disprove it? Like, say you're just using me as a distraction or something?"

"I guess I can't put it past him." Rainbow Dash crossed her hooves and looked away with an annoyed frown. "Ugh… I wasn't expecting to see him come here all of a sudden. Now, I'm afraid to come back."

"Rainbow…" We suddenly heard his voice from the kitchen doorway. "I've got a little time to spare. Let's go and chat up, and I can tell you all about my creative days out of home."

Rainbow Dash glared back at him with unenthused eyes before pushing her seat away from the dining table, standing up, and silently walking out of the kitchen into the living room. Even with this obvious rejective behavior, he still pursued her and followed her out of the kitchen. Seeing as I was the only one left, I stood up and followed after Rainbow as well.

I noticed her pull out a Daring Do book from one of the bookshelves in the living room, fly over to the seat Zephyr had just moved, and plop down to open and read the book without another word. It almost looked like this was a routine kind of thing for every time they were together.

"So, it all started on my first day of Mane Therapy training!" He began, planting himself on the hoofrest of the comfy chair she sat in. "As soon as I walked through the doors, everypony stopped what they were doing to observe the rainbow of creativity that just flowed from me." At this point, Rainbow stopped casually flipping through the pages of her book and noticed me a little behind them by the doorway. Without question, she reached over to me and threw me onto the chair without my consent. She positioned me between her and Zephyr like a large pillow. In fact, she proceeded to literally use me like a pillow and directly turned in the opposite direction Zephyr was in, resting her head against me as she continued reading her book. I was now uncomfortably stuck close to Zephyr as he continued being too involved with bragging about his recollections from wherever he had just come from. "In just a few weeks, they were inspired and astonished at all of my creative input, and they were all like, 'We love your free spirit, Zeph! And it would be wrong to cage that! Go follow your dreams!'" He finally stopped and found that I had been in the way of making direct contact with Rainbow Dash. "Ah. Playing hard to get, ey?" He assumed when he noticed her facing directly away from him. "I like that." He mentioned, pulling his head closer to not only her but my personal space as well.

Thankfully, without ripping her attention away from her book, she pulled up a hoof and pushed him away as much as she could. With the force, he lost his balance on the chair and fell over. Despite this, he raised his head and continued eyeing her with confidence. I honestly couldn't blame Rainbow Dash for never wanting to come back here again. Even I started to feel the same way, and that was because it wasn't me that he was so interested in.

Finally, we heard several clacks of hooves walk in, and I turned to find that it was Fluttershy with her parents. A good start to getting this guy out of our space, I suppose.

"Zeph was just telling us all about the ins and outs of mane therapy school." Rainbow finally spoke at the sight of their return.

"It's all so political." He recalled as if he was trying to convince somepony. "I just could not take it!"

"Well, maybe if you stuck with it for more than a few weeks...?" She responded with snark and no amount of play in the mix, widening my eyes at her level of irritation and frustration.

"Sorry, sis, but when something's not the right fit, this pony's gotta fly!" He took lightly and spared a few seconds to move the busts of critters on top of the fireplace out of the way to replace with yet another portrait of him. "Anyway, good talk, Rainbows. I am so touched you came to see me, really. I hate to deprive you of my presence, but this breeze needs his Z's."

"You know it's the middle of the day, right?" Rainbow brought up.

"I know. Siesta!" He referred before continuing his climb up the stairs. "I'm just gonna assume you made up my room the way I like it, right, Mom? Oh, I almost forgot! All my stuff is out front. Wanna grab that for me, Pops? Thanks."

Once he was out of the picture, Rainbow Dash sighed out loudly. "Same old Zeph."

"I'm so sorry." Her mother began to apologize seriously. "We're supposed to be having lunch right now, but I'm going to have to make another plate of gelatin." She sighed heavily. "Before I can do that, I'm going to have to make sure Zephyr finds his room comforting."

"And it looks like I'll have to bring in his stuff." Her father added.

"No!" Fluttershy turned and objected. "He should be doing all that stuff on his own! You two are doing more than enough giving him a place. The least he can do is take care of his own things!"

"We're his parents, dear." Her mother reasoned. "We just want him to know he's always welcome here."

"But he needs to learn to do things on his own sometime!"

"We have it under control, Fluttershy." Her dad assured nicely. "Like I said, we know when to draw the line." He went on to make his way outside.

"If you three don't mind waiting a little bit, I'll be more than happy to make another cake of gelatin, and then we can get back to our little lunch." Mom mentioned.

Fluttershy turned and glanced at me for a second before responding. "I'm going to show Alex around a bit, mom. We can wait."

Her mom grinned as brightly and sweetly as she could before she started climbing up the stairs to Zephyr's room.

"I'll just be here reading." Rainbow informed, continuing to shift her eyes side-to-side and flip through pages quite quickly. "I've been meaning to read this one again anyway."

Fluttershy turned to me a little worriedly before gesturing her head in the direction of the stairs. Realizing Rainbow was still using me for support, I poked at her. "I'm getting off, Rainbow."

"Yeah, yeah." She answered in a slightly annoyed tone before moving her body back against the seat.

Once I was free, I jumped off and began following Fluttershy up the stairs. We didn't say anything on the way up, and because of this, I could hear some muffled conversation coming from another room, most likely Zephyr's. Fluttershy didn't do anything about this, and I assumed it was because there was nothing she could really do, given her parents' reactions from downstairs.

Eventually, she led me to a room with a closed door and opened it. As the door swung open, I instantly began to notice a "girlish" design among the walls and objects within. Fluttershy silently invited me in, closing the door after I stepped forward and allowed my eyes to roam around the room. I paid particular notice at the number of stuffed animals she seemed to have. There were a lot of them on her shelves, along with a few on her neatly made bed.

"It's been a while since I was last in here." Fluttershy mentioned, walking towards her bed. "At least I didn't make Mom make my bed for me."

"I've never seen you so frustrated…" I informed her with concern.

"I'm sorry." She apologized as she gently climbed onto her bed, pulled one of her stuffed animals close to her chest, and squeezed it firmly. "I'm just so…so…peeved right now!" She nearly exclaimed with dilated pupils. I actually jumped back a little from her intimidating sight. She noticed my reaction before her pupils returned to her normal size. She quickly gasped, cupped her mouth with her hooves, and apologized. "Excuse my language!"

"I think I've said worse…" I excused in a joking manner and sat by her in her bed. "But now that I think about it, I wonder if I was any different from Zephyr back then."

"What could you possibly mean?" Fluttershy furrowed her eyebrows in worry.

"Well, like you brought up downstairs, Zephyr can't really do anything on his own." I reminded. "Back before I met you all, I couldn't really either. I didn't even have a job. How lame is that?"

"But you were living on your own." Fluttershy brought up.

"On Celestia's dime." I objected with disgust. "I'm glad that I'm able to do so much to help her now, but I can't erase having had completely relied on her while I stayed home and moped about all day for the longest time. In a way, I feel ashamed and almost want to go back in time and change the way I acted."

"You needed to get back on your hooves." Fluttershy placed a hoof on my shoulder in comfort. "But unlike my brother, you weren't constantly expecting Celestia to fix all your problems. I wasn't so different from you, remember? After I moved to Ponyville, I didn't want to leave my home. I didn't like being around ponies I didn't know, and all I wanted to do was spend time with my animals. And, in a way, I sort of relied on my parents too for certain things even then. But, at least I had my parents. You, well, you didn't really have any kind of family…" Fluttershy mentioned apprehensively as if she was afraid to hurt me.

"I guess…" I returned, still a little unsure. "I can see your point. Zephyr has all the support he needs to take the first step forward, but he simply chooses not to. With me, it was more like I was lost and unguided. Celestia tried to straighten my path out, but the way forward was still obscure. Yeah."

"She was right to put her faith in you." Fluttershy said with a soft smile. "Although it took some time, you proved to be able to hold your own in the end. If wasn't for our other friends, I don't think I would have been able to ever grow out of my fear of other ponies. In fact, it was especially you. If you hadn't been with me, I don't know if I would have had the courage to be as strong and assertive as I am now. I can't thank you enough for all the support you've given me." She now brushed her head against my chest, providing me a view of one of the most adorable expressions she's ever placed on.

"I guess it's pretty much proof that we were destined to be together?" I assumed, despite how cheesy it sounded. "We both had the same problem, in a way, but I'm glad that I was able to help you get through it once I was able to get through mine."

Fluttershy giggled softly. "I'm so glad. I just can't wait until…well…we…um—"

"Yeah?" I leaned closer to her, wishing to know what it was that she wanted to tell me.

"Mm…" A shade of red glowed within her cheeks before she grew closer to me.

Just as it seemed she was about to whisper something secretive towards me, there was a loud banging on her door, startling the two of us.

"Fluttershy! Mom said she put my favorite blanky in your room!"

In just that second, Fluttershy's expression had twisted and turned into one of unrelenting anger. Poking her head underneath her bed, she pulled out a neatly folded cloth which began to messily unfold itself as she dragged it across the room. There was a flash of her brother's obnoxious grin once she opened the door, but she quickly covered it when she threw the blanket at him with all her might. Afterwards, she immediately slammed the door shut and began heaving steam through her nostrils.

"Fiesty." He acknowledged with a sing-song tone outside the door.

"…you okay?" I asked and hesitantly held out a hoof towards her while being slightly afraid she'd snap back.

Fortunately, the anger in her face died down, and she quickly sighed heavily. "I'm so sorry you had to see that."

"It's okay." I assured and then began to feel a little embarrassed for what I was going to say next. "Actually… Sometimes you look a little, ehm, 'hot' when you're assertive like that."

Her mouth grew agape as redness filled up the color in her face. It took her a moment before the frown she had turned upside down, and she laughed sweetly in an embarrassed kind of way.

I spent a good amount of time with Fluttershy in her old room. I found it particularly sweet how her parents kept her room just the way she left it, most likely for anytime she might have needed to stay over. I couldn't imagine how much her parents worried over her, especially when Fluttershy first moved out. If it wasn't for her brother's apparent permanent return, the thought of her parent's hospitality would seem a lot more welcoming.

Fluttershy revealed to me several albums that contained pictures of her when she was younger, starting from when she was a foal up until she was reaching the point of moving out. I found her blushing a few times when it came to the "embarrassing" pictures, such as the ones when she was in the bath and the like. Nevertheless, considering that I've pretty much seen everything about her, there technically wasn't anything to be ashamed about.

A gentle knock suddenly sounded at her door.

"Fluttershy, dear?" Her mom's voice called. "I just finished making the dessert. Lunch is ready now."

"Coming, mom!" Fluttershy cheerfully returned, flapping her wings and placing the album back on the bookshelf. It was almost as if she already forgot that her brother had come back home. Next, she turned to me. "I hope you haven't been starving or anything."

"No worries." I assured. "Spending time with you like this has made me forget about everything else either way."

She closed her eyes as she grinned gleefully before looking at me with a slightly bashful smile. Before she moved towards the door, she planted a quick peck on my lips. Then, she turned the knob, opened the door, and fluttered on out, eagerly gesturing me to follow after her.

Either way, I was able to feel a lot more relaxed when it came to Fluttershy's parents. I'm sure I wasn't the only one who was glad that her brother was too busy sleeping to be around and possibly prying into our business. Her mom and dad asked me general questions like what I liked to do and stuff, and I guess I answered with rather general responses. It was actually a pretty normal lunch.

"That was some good grub!" Rainbow Dash complimented as she patted her ironically flat stomach. "I kind of miss the good ol home cooking. Know what I mean?"

"Well, we always love to have you over, Rainbow Dash." Mom answered. "How have your parents been?"

"Oh, them?" Rainbow responded a little oddly as if she had been caught off-guard by that question. "They're doing okay. You know, nothing new."

"Well, you're welcome to stay as long as you want." She offered and then faced Fluttershy. "Your father and I have few things we'd like to take care of out back."

"Of course." Fluttershy nodded. "We might actually be heading back to Ponyville now. Just promise you won't be so easy on Zephyr, please?" She pointed out.

"We've got this. Don't worry." Her father assured.

Fluttershy didn't look too convinced, but she decided to let it go for now.

Rainbow, Fluttershy, and I gathered by the front of the house where we spoke with each other for a moment.

"So, what did you think?" Fluttershy asked me, eyeing me with the cutest curiosity. "Aside from, um, my brother, did you like the lunch with my parents?

"Yeah." I responded with an embarrassed grin. "They're actually really nice. I don't know what I was worried about."

"See?!" Rainbow interjected. "What did I tell you?!" Next, she faced Fluttershy. "I'm surprised you didn't tell him how bad Zephyr was beforehoof."

"I didn't know he was going to show up all of a sudden." Fluttershy released through a frustrated sigh. "Talk about bad timing. I was actually hoping he'd…grow up a little before Alex actually met him for the first time." She mentioned this while uneasily rubbing her hoof against her foreleg.

"Don't feel bad about it, Flutters." I assured her. "I think every family pretty much has some kind of kinks."

"Tell me about it." Rainbow stated, rolling her eyes.

"What?" I turned and faced Rainbow in the middle of her flight. "Your family has something you don't like talking about too?"

"I mean, my folks are great and all, but they kind of…ugh. Forget it. Let's just not talk about it and go home." Rainbow Dash evaded and began to fly on without us.

"Would you like to come here again soon?" Fluttershy asked with a hopeful smile on her face before we joined Rainbow in our journey back home.

"Yeah." I returned her delighted expression. "But, maybe when Zephyr isn't around?"

"Oh…that'll probably be hard to manage. After all, Zephyr tends to…"

As Fluttershy tried to think of a way to finish her explanation, we suddenly heard a sharp sound of a large amount of glass breaking. Without hesitation, the two of us quickly scrambled around the house and poked our heads out to see where the sound had come from. Behind the house, where Fluttershy's dad had pointed out the small building from earlier, we found her parents scrambling about in a frantic panic.

Her mother was desperately removing various amounts of obtrusive items, including broken glass, from the flowerbed outside of the small building. At the same time, Fluttershy's father was attempting to catch a small piece of cloud into an open glass container like if he was collecting bugs in a net. Meanwhile, there was another pony inside the room past an open window, and he continuously lugged out more glass containers that not only broke outside but caused some kind of disastrous weather effect in the process.

Fluttershy gasped sharply before taking note of the pony chucking glass out the window. In that moment, she furrowed her eyebrows in anger before storming her way ahead. On the contrary, my hooves felt implanted where they stood. This appeared to be a family problem, and I felt like it wouldn't be my place to get involved.

"Zephyr Breeze!" She called out, nearly breaking out of her soft-spoken voice.

"Oh, hey, sis!" He poked his head out of the window and seemed to take the fact that Fluttershy was glaring at him lightly. "Come to see me work my magic and turn this place from drab to fab, huh? Well, watch and learn!"

"Can't you see what you're doing?!" Fluttershy asked as Zephyr flung out another jar out the window.

"Yeah! I'm getting rid of this old stuff so I can turn the backhouse into my art studio!" He explained while pushing a pile of jars out the front door this time. "I've decided I'm gonna be a sculptor!"

"I'm talking about Mom's flowers!" Fluttershy momentarily exchanged her agitated look with one of worry as she glanced over at the limping and barely-hanging-onto-dear-life flowers her mother cared for to the best of her ability.

"She's gonna move them so I can have my meditation patio here. She loves replanting stuff. Don't you, Mom?" He asked, causing his mother to witness the entire pistil fall over from one of her now dead flowers. She stretched out a grin, but I think it was pretty obvious that she was rather pressured and forced to make that kind of expression.

Honestly, hearing him say these kinds of things made me sick to my stomach. Besides villains bent on world domination, I couldn't understand how a pony could so blindly ignore the fact that he was hurting others. Was he always like this?

"And Dad's been collecting his favorite bits of cloud from the factory since before you were born." Fluttershy added, carefully grabbing a jar from the ground that miraculously hadn't been cracked whatsoever.

"The very best from every production run since my first day on the job." He responded proudly, managing to capture the cloud he had been after into his glass jar. However, he ended up losing his grip on the jar, and it fell over, leaving him to only watch as the jar broke and allowed the cloud to escape beyond the skies above. With a heavy sigh, he solemnly accepted it. "But why hold onto the past really?"

"You can't just fly in and change everything Mom and Dad have built here!" Fluttershy scolded.

"But this is the only place big enough for my studio/meditation garden. Ooh! Unless I do it in the living room!" He continued, making me wonder if there was any piece of empathy inside that thick skull of his.

Fluttershy turned to her parents, seeming to believe that Zephyr wouldn't learn anything if it came from her. "I know speaking up for yourself can be hard, believe me, but Zephyr will never stand on his own if he can lean on you."

"Don't be so dramatic, sis!" Zephyr brushed off and accompanied his parents. "Mom and Dad just wanna let me be me! Right? I can do plenty on my own."

"I agree. Which is why you should move out." Fluttershy suggested thickly.

At this point, it appeared that Fluttershy had caught her brother on check in this game of argumentative chess. He had trouble responding as confidently as he had been and began sweating profoundly in his search for adequate words. "Oh. Well... I mean, I-I totally would, but... I don't think that's what Mom and Dad want!" He strained his tone desperately before giving "puppy eyes" towards his parents. "It's not, is it?"

"Ehhh..." His mother tried to speak before his father made their intentions a little clearer.

"You know we love you, son, but your sister has a point."

It wasn't long before Zephyr began tearing up, and I almost personally couldn't tell if it was just another devious act in gaining their sympathy. "Sure. I mean, I really just came back here to keep you guys company, but... whatever's best for the family. I just... I just gotta grab a few essentials." He said, picking up a lawn gnome on the way to the house.

"And... y-you definitely have somewhere else to go?" His mother asked with a sense of hesitation, causing Fluttershy to quickly shake her head to cease any chance of enabling him to stay.

"Of course! There's plenty of ponies who'd love for a little breeze to blow their way..." He responded with a shaking voice and made his way back into his now former home.

I pulled back from the sight a little. I had grown tired and even upset from watching this scene. Plus, I didn't exactly want Fluttershy's parents to see me standing not too far away from where they stood. I figured that weening their son was enough trouble for them, and I didn't want them to worry over the fact that their daughter's special somepony had witnessed the entire drama.

I waited there for some time before I heard Fluttershy come on back. I imagined she spared some encouraging words with her parents before returning to me. However, as she approached me, she held her head down low with her ears flopped downwards.

"Sorry, you had to see that…again." She repeated.

I shook my head. "No, it's okay. You did the right thing. I kind of wanted to say something myself, but I don't think I have any place to."

"I wouldn't want you getting involved with drama from my own family. After all, Zephyr is our responsibility, not yours."

All this talk about him honestly made him sound like he was still a little colt. Even so, enough had been thrown around, and I didn't want to make anything worse by mentioning that. "You wanna go back home?" I asked.

She only nodded her head silently.

Just before we could take off, we heard an irritated voice yell out our way.

"What the heck!? I was flying for the longest time thinking you guys were behind me!" Rainbow approached us with a scowl before she noticed the solemn expressions we held onto. "Whoa, what's up with you two?"

Fluttershy glanced towards me before facing Rainbow Dash. "…I'll explain on the way."

"So... where's Zeph gonna go now?" Rainbow Dash asked as Fluttershy invited us into her cottage.

"I'm not sure." Fluttershy was greeted by Angel, who was hopping intensively in an attempt to gain her full attention. "Hi there, Angel." She addressed, causing Angel to rub his stomach. "You must be hungry. I'll get you a nice juicy carrot right away." She began walking towards the kitchen as Angel hopped onto the dining table in preparation for his meal.

Rainbow Dash hopped into a chair by the table and turned towards me. "So, I never actually asked you this yet, but what did you think of Fluttershy's brother?"

"I figure we'd be best friends." I answered with obvious sarcasm.

"Pssh! Really?!" She answered, leaving me unsure if she was actually being serious or not.

"Of course not." I clarified. "It was hard to stomach any little thing he did to his parents. I can't help but wonder how he was like when he was younger."

"Yeah, I don't think you want to know…" Rainbow Dash left me with a vague and ambiguous response before Fluttershy returned with a carrot on a plate, bringing an immediate smile to Angel's lips.

"Oh, I hope I did the right thing..." She expressed softly. The thought of her brother leaving home seemed to bother her much more than I thought it would.

"Are you kidding? One hundred percent!" Rainbow believed confidently.

"I'm curious…" I began bringing up. "What makes you think he won't just go back home and convince your parents to let him stay?"

Fluttershy sighed heavily. "That's just it, Alex. He's my brother. I love him, so I'm really worried about his life for his sake. It's not like I don't want him to be welcome to stay with my parents, but he never learns to take his privileges seriously. I can only hope that spending some time outside of my parent's home will let him learn to not take things and opportunities like this for granted."

"Hey, sis!" We unexpectedly heard a sing-song tone outside. Next, Fluttershy's door energetically flung open before an unwelcoming sight appeared in front of us. "Your new roomie's here!"

It was Zephyr Breeze, and considering how it had only been an immensely short time since we left her house, I could only imagine that he premeditatively flew his way over here after packing up his things.

"Okay, I take back what I said." Rainbow referred to her last statement. "It's about seventy percent now."

When I noticed how Fluttershy's expression quickly reverted to a fuming one, I began to realize that this was probably the most I've seen her mood easily sway and swing. It was almost hard to believe that one of the sole causes that pulled her out of her usual calm and sweet nature was her own brother.

"Um, Zephyr. When Mom and Dad told you to find someplace else to live, I don't think they meant here." Fluttershy assertively stated.

"Well, it's not their house, so by definition, it's someplace else." Zephyr argued, unpacking some of the gnomes he had taken from his parents' house and placed it upon the table. "Am I right, Rainbows? Stop oogling me and help settle this." He leaned over to her and caused her to grow annoyed like last time.

Drawing out a short sigh, she began to push herself away from the table. "You know what? I totally forgot that I promised to help Pinkie Pie... sprinkle... something."

Leaving her lame excuse, she escaped the cottage in a dash. However, I certainly didn't blame her.

"You said you had plenty of places to go!" Fluttershy pointed out as her brother began to indulge himself to her cooking.

"Ehhhh..." He merely responded with, twirling his hoof.

"Fine." Fluttershy sighed and covered her face with her hoof. "You can stay here—"

"You're the best!" Zephyr raced over to her in celebration before she could finish. "We're gonna have so much fun."

"On one condition." She raised a hoof.

"Totally. Anything."

"You have to get a job." She declared with no quiver in her voice. Such amazing assertion. Beautiful.

"Cracking the whip, huh?" He responded nervously, messing with her mane in the process. "You always were kind of bossy."

Was she really?

"Zephyr Breeze..." Fluttershy revealed her frustration through gritted teeth.

"Kidding! Get a job. Absolutely."

He went on to the living room, allowing Fluttershy some time to breathe before he disturbed the momentary silence by pushing over one of his sister's couches across the room like back at his parents' place.

"Are you sure about this…?" I felt the need to ask softly. "He looks like he's going to be a lot of work."

"I don't know what's going on inside his head right now, but if he thinks he's going to get away with a lot of things like back at my parents' house, he's got another thing coming." She avowed with furrowed brows. "I am not going to go easy on him."

"Wow." I acknowledged her level of unfazed determination, stepping towards her. "I don't think I've ever seen you so…you know."

Fluttershy began to blush and turn her head slightly away at the sight of my gazing. "I'm sorry. This isn't usually me. It's just, um…"

With a small smile stretching out on my lips, I was prepared to silence her with a kiss. However, the sound of something loudly scraping in the living room completely interrupted the moment. Fluttershy immediately returned to her narrowed and unamused expression. It actually reminded me of myself from a long time ago.

"I hate to say this, Alex, but I hope you didn't have any plans to stay over anytime soon. I don't think it'll be a good idea with Zephyr staying here."

"I didn't have any plans…" I mentioned, "But, what if I just want to come over and see you? Is he going to be here for long?

"I'm not sure how long he'll be living here, but I promise you that I'll do everything I can to set him off responsibly on his own. In fact, I'm going to go find him a job first thing in the morning."

"You think he's going to get up?"

"I'll make him." She guaranteed seriously.

"Well, if you need anything, let me know."

"Thank you, but, like I mentioned before, I don't want you to be involved in something that isn't your problem. After all, we don't get to spend as much time as before in the first place. I'm sure you have much more important things to do."

I sighed softly. "I guess you're right. You're also so much stronger than you were before. I'm sure you can pull this off, but still, I'm here if you ever find yourself needing something."

She nodded, managing to pull out a soft smile. "I know. Thanks for believing in me." She placed another peck on my lips before more scraping could be heard from the living room. The smile on her face disappeared. "You better get going. I've got some work to do."

"Alright. See you soon, okay?"


I kissed her one last time for good luck and proceeded to leave out the back door.

Curious about her progress the next day, I started heading over to Fluttershy's at around noon. However, I was fairly surprised to see her cleaning up a scattered mess around her cottage like if a wild party had been held here. In addition, her brother was nowhere in sight, and I wasn't sure if that was exactly a good or bad thing.

"Did Zephyr make this mess?" I asked, despite practically knowing the answer.

"Mm-hm." She confirmed lightly, appearing clearly upset.

"And where is he now?" I tacked on another question as I approached Fluttershy.

"Rainbow Dash helped set up a job for him at Wonderbolts Headquarters. I can only hope that his third time's the charm."

Ouch. Third time?

"Here, let me help you." I looked around, gathering things like paper, wrappers, and even food from different places of the room with my magic and dropping them in the trash can she had.

"Thank you so much." There was a positive lift to her tone as she genuinely appreciated my help. "I'm sorry to have you here doing this for me."

"Don't be." I reassured. "I'm not just going to let you do this on your own. What kind of boyfriend would I be?" I made an attempt to cheer her up by sending a smirk her way.

As a result, she giggled lightly, granting me the success I so desired.

Her smile was cut short when the front door slammed open all of a sudden. It was Zephyr Breeze, but he looked like he'd just had a nasty run in with a storm cloud. As I noticed him coming in to complain, I slowly withdrew, preparing to let Fluttershy and her brother have their discussion.

"Rainbow Dash is crazy, okay?! She expects me to do stuff right when she asks me to do it! It's insane!" He stomped his hoof, looking sincerely angry than "calm" like the only other times I've seen him around.

On the other hoof, Fluttershy looked like she wasn't going to stand for this. "So, you just quit? Again?"

"Escaped is more like it." He rested himself upon the couch Fluttershy had been cleaning and pulled the neatly placed covers over himself. "Besides, what was I supposed to do?"

"Keep trying? Finish something for once?" Fluttershy angrily scolded, almost like a stern mother. "Maybe that way, you'd actually find something you like to do!"

"That all sounds fine for your friends, but it's just not me." He declared, turning his head to the side to head straight to sleep.

"Then I'm sorry, Zephyr, but I don't think you can live here." She grabbed a hold of the sheets with her teeth and threw them swiftly to the side, having them land at the tip of my hooves.

Her brother had been forced to get up, due to the apparent significant change in his temperature. Surprisingly, he didn't seem to put up a resistance as I almost thought he would. "Fine! I'll just go live in the woods like my foreponies before me!" Whether or not he was searching for some kind of regret within Fluttershy's eyes, his sister merely turned her head away carelessly. He then began packing up any little thing he had before he stormed out of her front door. "Guess the only breeze this zephyr can count on is his own!"

Fluttershy silently watched him leave at her door, and I was left standing with nothing plausible to say. I simply approached her from behind and waited for her to turn back around, but she remained in her place for a while. I noticed her lower her head as if she felt ashamed, leading me to reach a hoof out to her.

"Hey, Fluttershy?" I nearly whispered.

She finally turned herself and faced me with a depressive look. "Can I have a hug?" She unexpectedly asked, especially when compared to her assertiveness just a few moments ago.

"Y-yeah, sure." I responded, unsure of what else I could react with to comfort her.

She allowed her head to fall against my chest, almost as if she removed any will from her actions. I positioned my hooves on her back around her neck and brought her in. I felt a little ashamed for not being able to feel or completely understand what she had been going through. All I could do was simply be there for her when she needed somepony close to her.

"You want to go rest while I clean the rest of the mess up for you?" I offered.

She shook her head, wiping her eyes lightly in the process. "No." She answered sadly, "I should be the one cleaning it up."

"Well, if you're settled on cleaning instead of resting, then I'm definitely not letting you do it alone."

"Thank you." She pressed her body against me before she carefully pulled away. "Could you get started in the kitchen? I'll make up the couch again…"

"Sure thing." I began walking to my designated room before yet another pony crashed in through the front door. I was afraid it'd be Zephyr again, and I knew Fluttershy was definitely not in the mood to put up with him. I worried that I may have had to unintentionally involve myself with this family drama, but once I found that the pony who arrived was Rainbow Dash, I was tempted to embrace her out of relief.

"Alright! Where is he? If that sleaze ball thinks he can weasel his way out of my job, he's got another thing coming!"

"He's gone, Rainbow." Fluttershy turned her head away from the couch and responded as if there was no strength in her voice anymore.

"W-wait, what?" Rainbow returned, utterly confused. "Gone? What do you mean he's gone? You're saying he's not staying here anymore?"

"That's what I'm saying." Fluttershy confirmed tiredly. "Wouldn't bother trying to try anymore, so I told him he couldn't stay here. Said he'd rather go live in the woods instead."

"Whoa." Rainbow seemed at a loss for words as she rubbed the back of her head. "Um, okay. I don't see how he can't handle a simple task, but he's willing to go live in the woods like an uncivilized pony. Just what is his deal?"

"I don't know, Rainbow Dash. I wish I did, but I don't."

Having finished with the couch, Fluttershy joined me and brought the trash can with her. Rainbow quietly flew into the kitchen, her eyes opening up in surprise when noticed the mess inside. "Zeph did this in one day?"

"He sure did."

Noticing Fluttershy's lack of enthusiasm, Rainbow approached her in a comforting manner. "Aw, cheer up, Fluttershy. I know it must've been hard, but you did the right thing. You couldn't let Zephyr pull the same stuff on you that he's always pulled on your folks!"

"I guess so…" Fluttershy lightly agreed. "But, it's just…why does he have to be like that? There has to be a reason other than just being lazy. I don't want him to be out on his own in the woods, but I also don't want him mooching off other ponies and getting them to do work he should be doing himself. Unless I can figure out what it is that keeps him from even trying, I don't think I can help him."

Rainbow Dash and I exchanged concerned looks with each other at the sight of Fluttershy staring sadly at her floor. However, a distinct chirping came from her window. Fluttershy turned her head to the sound of this twittering and approached the bird on her windowsill.

"Oh, hello, Constance." She greeted. She drew her ear closer to the bird and listened intently to what it was chirping out. "Oh? Oh, dear." Her face contorted at whatever news she had received.

"What?" Rainbow inquired about.

"Constance found Zephyr in the forest." Fluttershy repeated in a language that we could understand.

"And? Isn't that where he said he was going to go?"

"Constance isn't sure he's going to last long."

Rainbow Dash lowered her eyelids halfway. "You want to go check up on him, don't you?"

"I can't just ignore him, Rainbow." Fluttershy stated with a firm voice. "He's my brother."

"Alright, alright. Let's get going then." Rainbow surrendered, flapping her wings and heading out the back door of the cottage.

I wasn't sure if I wanted to go with them, but Fluttershy had turned and sent me beady and almost frightened eyes. I was sure that there would be nothing I could directly do to help alleviate the problem, but if all she needed was a kind of moral support from me, I couldn't deny that as my personal responsibility.

It wasn't a surprise when the forest that Zephyr had apparently been residing in was the one that was literally right outside near Fluttershy's cottage. Thankfully, we didn't have to walk too far in before we seemed to find a messy camp sprawled over a small and circular open spot. There, we found a disordered and exhausted-looking pony talking to a mannequin head on a stick.

"See, Wigford? The Breeze needs nopony! We've got food, shelter. Just need to put the old kettle on..."

As he placed a kettle onto his makeshift campfire site, Rainbow turned to Fluttershy to whisper out some commentary. "Didn't he just leave your house a few minutes ago? He looks like he's been out here for ages."

"Zephyr's never really had to live out on his own." Fluttershy explained, taking a short glance at his attempt on creating a fire with rocks and sticks. "Much less survive in a forest with nothing but his surroundings."

"Ugh! What's a pony got to do to find a decent stick around here?!" We heard him cry out before he kicked a piece from the ground. However, the twig had ricocheted off the rocks he had set up and smacked him right on the face. This one little mess-up was enough to fuel a fire, but not the kind of fire he intended to light. He began to yell out as he kicked and threw everything in his path, essentially tearing down whatever he managed to build so far.

"I know he needs to learn to do things for himself, but..." Rainbow mentioned.

"Oh... I can't let him live like this." Fluttershy returned, finding his behavior heart-wrenching.

Finally, he kicked the stick holding up his so-called shelter, causing it to tumble down upon him.

"To tell you the truth, I don't think he'd make it through the night." Rainbow stated, causing Fluttershy to sigh lightly before she began approaching the broken shelter.

Rainbow turned to me to share the bored and unamused expression on her face before she followed after Fluttershy. Sighing a little with uncertainty, I decided to join them as well. Fluttershy patted the leaves that covered Zephyr's body, and his head poked out immediately in alarm following a loud gasp.

"Fluttershy! Hey! I was just, um, cozying up in my sleeping bag! Ready to call it an early night! Such an exhausting day, y'know?" He closed his eyes and turned his head to the side in order to make himself seem convincing, but the fact that he glanced at us with one eye broke that credibility.

"It's noon." Rainbow Dash pointed out the sun that was smack dab in the center of the sky.

"You know me! Siesta..." He tried to express a positive vibe, but that quickly went away when one of the sticks from his shelter fell against his head. "Ugh... I can't do this. I can't do anything." He said as he placed his hooves in front of his face in shame.

"Zephyr, you're smart and talented." Fluttershy removed the stick from his head and sat by him to place a comforting hoof around him. "You could do anything if you just tried!"

"And what if I give everything I have and still fail?" He shared, reminding me of a similar pony who had to push past her boundaries to face her fears. "Honestly, I think it's better not to try at all."

"But then you won't ever do anything." Rainbow mentioned a little too frankly, but it was the truth.

"I don't expect any of you to understand." He ironically gave up on his explanation for doing nothing. "I mean, when have you ever failed? You've literally helped save Equestria, like, a dozen times."

"And I was worried that I'd fail every time!" Fluttershy admitted. "Sometimes you have to do things, even though you might fail."

"But failing is the worst!" He complained.

"And quitting doesn't feel much better, does it?"


Seeing as I didn't really have anything negative to spare at the moment, I decided I could speak up for once. "I have to give it to you…" I stated as I looked over the camp he set up. "For a pony who doesn't like to try, you actually made a pretty decent camp. After all, even though you didn't exactly succeed completely, you still made a good effort on trying to live on your own, didn't you? You think trying in front of other ponies is what's stopping you from doing anything else?"

"Sure." He answered dejectedly. "That's it. I hate failing in front of other ponies. Makes me look like a fool."

"No offense…" Rainbow began, "But, I think not trying to do things on your own, like finishing 'Mane Therapy', makes you look worse than actually giving it a shot and failing the first few times. At least other ponies will know you're putting in the effort. Believe me, I've had my shares of mega fails. But, I wouldn't be a Wonderbolt if I never tried."

"They're right, Zephyr." Fluttershy agreed, "I wouldn't be where I am today if I didn't try. Nopony's perfect, so you shouldn't think that other ponies will blame you for messing up a few times."

"If they do, then I'm pretty sure they're just self-conscious about their own problems." I added.

As Zephyr pondered over our words, Fluttershy glanced at both Rainbow Dash and me before she came up with a solution. "So, here's the deal: You can come back with me, but you have to do exactly what I say. No exceptions."

In a defeated tone, he ultimately agreed upon Fluttershy's terms. "I will literally do anything you ask me if it means I don't have to stay here."

Rainbow Dash and Fluttershy exchanged a nod with each other, and then turned back to Zephyr.

"Good. I know just exactly what you can get started on." Fluttershy stated.

"Please, nothing with storm clouds." He responded quickly, holding his head under his forelegs and glancing fearfully towards Rainbow Dash.

"No storm clouds." Fluttershy assured. "Just follow us back to the cottage, and bring your stuff with you."

In the next course of their improvised curriculum, Rainbow Dash and Fluttershy had set up shop in one of the rooms inside the cottage. The first task that Fluttershy had mentioned was actually getting him back to focusing on his Mane Therapy work. Bringing out the head mannequin he had created his own style on onto the top of a vanity table, they walked out and led Zephyr back to this room in the form of a surprise test.

"Okay, you know what you have to do, right?" Fluttershy asked her brother once he had an idea of what he was up against.

"Beg for help, then quit when I get frustrated." He said, sounding half-serious and half-joking. However, he quickly clarified his response after taking a look at his motivators' expressions. "Just kidding! Total opposite of that. Got it."

Fluttershy then presented a hoof towards the room, inviting him inside. The once joking kind of look he had was now replaced with visible anxiety as he approached the table with the mannequin.

"You think he can do it?" Rainbow asked, igniting Fluttershy to respond in song.

"Everypony has times in their lives
When their hearts are filled with doubt

"Frustration builds up inside
And it makes you want to shout
" Her brother joined from the table.

"But if you just take that first step
The next one will appear
" Rainbow encouraged.

"And you find you can walk, then run…" They pulled out his training book and opened up the pages of hairstyles.
"Then fly...!
Into the stratosphere!
" They circled above him as if a ray of light was shining down upon him.

"You've got to give it your best
So you can pass the test
Give it everything that you've got

They directed him to start his work.

"And we know you can win
You just have to begin
Have to give it your very best shot

Zephyr grabbed a hold his scissors and comb, but as he tried to reach closer to his work, he began shivering and slowly pulling back like a foal not wanting to eat his peas.

"There are times when you want to give up
When you think that you can't go on

He turned around and prepared to leave the room, but Fluttershy and Rainbow were there to stop him and point him in the right direction.

"But if you fight through with all of your might
You will find that you can't go wrong
That you could do it all along

"Everypony has times in their lives
When their hearts are filled with doubt
" Fluttershy solely shared.

"But if you just give it your all
You'll start to work it out!
" Rainbow contrasted Fluttershy's soft-spoken voice with her out-spoken one.

"And I know I can't give up too soon
Get myself in the zone
" Zephyr managed to start snipping his scissors, peeking at his book every now and then.
"And I find I can walk, then run"

"Then fly...!" His two supporters joined him in an everlasting note.

"I can do it on my own" He sung out loud and proud as he enthusiastically snipped away.

"You can do it on your own" The two girls repeated.

"I can do it on my own" Zephyr held out his finished product, revealing a greatly impressive haircut when considering what he had to start with.

"I can do it on my own…" He held his work close to him as if he had formed a close bond with it.

"I did it! I actually finished something!" He took a good look at his work and presented it proudly. "By myself!"

"And it looks exactly like it's supposed to." Rainbow Dash confirmed.

"I knew you could do it, Zephyr." Fluttershy shared warmly.

"I didn't!" Zephyr replied excitedly until he lowered his voice for a heart-to-heart with his sister. "But I do now. Thanks for believing in me, sis."

"That's what big sisters are for." Fluttershy assured as she exchanged a concluding hug.

"So, Zeph, now that you've accomplished this, what's next?" Rainbow asked.

"Anything I want! I mean, the sky's the limit, right?" He voiced loudly, receiving a few disapproving looks from the other two. "But, y'know... I've got some baby steps in mind." He rephrased.

"Don't worry about getting everything done at once, Zephyr." Fluttershy advised. "It's important to take things one step at a time."

"I'll make sure to keep that in mind, sis." Zephyr assured. "For now, I gotta get back to Mane Therapy Training! Won't be long until I graduate with flying colors!"

"You go get it, Zeph!" Rainbow cheered.

"And afterwards, how about we grab a little lunch, hm?" He closed the distance between Rainbow and him, working a little of that "charm of his".

Lowering her eyelids and clearly revealing her unsmiling expression, she pushed him away. "Don't push it, Zeph."

"Okay, okay." He nodded his head, acknowledging her decision. "Fair enough. I'll wait until I'm working my way up."

To this, Rainbow only rolled her eyes.

Zephyr was pretty quick to leave the cottage and resume his mission on completing his Mane Therapy training, and I'd say it was understandable considering he was full of energy and an apparent strive to do something himself for once.

Rainbow Dash, Fluttershy, and I stayed by the front door of the cottage and watched him fly off until he was no longer in sight. Noticing the bothered expression on Rainbow's face, I couldn't help but garner an idea that would poke fun at her.

"So, when's the wedding, Rainbow?" I asked, tossing a snarky smile at her.

"Huh?" She returned an expressive state of confusion.

"You two are clearly meant for each other, you know?" I playfully incited. "You should take him up for lunch."

"Oh, ha ha." She nearly glared at me with an ice-cold expression. She booped her nose against mine, so all I could see were her irritated eyes. "You wanna say that one more time?"

"Now, now." Fluttershy came to my rescue. "No fighting, you two. We should be celebrating a moment like this."

Rainbow Dash finally pulled away, but she didn't exactly erase the grumpy look on her face. "Oh, I'm going to get you back. Don't you worry. I'll teach ya to think twice before you mess with me."

I couldn't really think of anything she could honestly intimidate me with, so I took her words lightly. "Sure, sure. Love ya, Rainbow." I nonchalantly addressed in an innocent manner.

In a matter of a few days, we found ourselves eating dinner with Fluttershy's parents again. It was sort of a good thing too because it kind of gave us closure, considering what happened with Zephyr. He was out hopefully finishing his training, so he wasn't here to possibly intervene like last time.

"Thanks for dinner, Mr. and Mrs. Shy! Ha! It was great as usual." Rainbow gave her compliments as she pushed her empty plate away.

"Thank you, dear, for not giving up on Zephyr." Fluttershy's mom addressed. "After all these years of pining for him, it must be so satisfying to see him on the right track."

"Huh...?!" Rainbow Dash was caught off-guard once again, especially hearing this come from Fluttershy's own mother. She looked more shocked than angry this time, and I couldn't help but snicker at her reaction. There was just something satisfying about Rainbow being poked like this. She appeared to be ready to correct the issue and make things clear before Fluttershy cut in.

"Have you heard from Zephyr? Is he doing well?" She seemed to excitedly ask.

"I tell you, he's a brand-new pony! So full of drive and determination." Her father mentioned.

"Heh. That's great." Rainbow allowed the frustration from earlier to fade away and disappear to genuinely appreciate Zephyr's progress.

Like déjà vu, the talk of the dinner table barged in with a loud and brash voice. "Guess who graduated from mane therapy training?!" He broadcasted in a singsong voice, throwing off the graduated cap that rested on his head.

"Hah, awesome!" Rainbow congratulated with the cap falling upon her head.

"Congratulations, son!" His father confronted him to hug him with high praise.

Rainbow flew over and placed the cap back onto his head, which his mother soon admired.

"You look so handsome!" She stated with tears in the corner of her eyes.

"I'm so proud of you, Zephyr." Fluttershy approached him with a heartwarming smile.

"It was only a matter of time before they recognized my true genius!" He believed out loud, but Fluttershy quickly raised an eyebrow and formed a disapproving frown. "But, actually doing the work probably helped, and I wouldn't have if it weren't for you." He quickly corrected, exchanging a bonding hug with his sister.

"Oh, I just gave you some encouragement." Fluttershy inspired, "You did this on your own."

"And honestly, right now I feel like I can do anything... except find a place." Stretching out a grin, he placed his forelegs around his parents and looked at them a bit nervously. "I can still crash here for a few days, right?"

Fluttershy and Rainbow looked towards each other for a moment before Fluttershy responded. "Seeing as you stuck through your training and actually finished it, I don't see why not. But, try to respect Mom and Dad's things around here? Please?"

"Got it. Totally. Much respect." He acknowledged and promised.

Later, Zephyr left in order to bring in his stuff and possibly take a "siesta" nap while the five of us talked briefly in the kitchen. It was certainly pleasant to notice that Fluttershy's parents didn't look necessarily bothered by the topic of their son anymore. Personally, I was glad to see him taking steps to improving himself. To be honest, I wouldn't know how I'd feel in having him as a brother-in-law, should the time come. Like, what if he was still the same way in the years to come? Family dinners would be so uncomfortable and awkward.

"It was absolutely nice to have you, dear." Her mother approached me and shared. "I'm glad to know my daughter is with a stunning gentlecolt."

In the corner of my eye, I noticed Fluttershy slightly turn away bashfully.

"To tell you the truth, ma'am, I wouldn't know where I'd be today if it wasn't for your daughter. She's played a major part when it comes to being the kind of pony I am now. I guess I should thank you guys too for raising her so well."

"We just want to support our children as much as we can." Her father informed. "We still miss Fluttershy time to time, but we're absolutely glad that she's able to make the time to come up here every now and then. It's a shame that not all parents get to see their children after they move out."

This caused me to think about my old foster parents. It was a complicated situation, but I suppose I sort of fit this case. Nevertheless, I decided to swallow those thoughts and ignore them.

"Yeah, I can understand that."

"Well, I better get going." Rainbow mentioned. "I've got some plans to work on." As she said this, she eyed me oddly as if she had something sinister in mind. I could only assume that this had to do with my teasing about Zephyr and her. "See you later, Mr. and Mrs. Shy! See you, Fluttershy!" Lastly, she turned to me. However, instead of sharing a friendly smile like she did with the others, she narrowed her eyes and slowly stepped out the cottage. "See you…Alex."

Now, I was curious. What was she going to do to me? Ambush me while I was in the shower and scrape soap onto my body like last time?

I suddenly shook. Chills…

"I'm going to take Alex up to my room if that's okay with you all." Fluttershy notified.

"Of course, dear." Her mother approved. "What's the saying? 'Our casa su casa.'"

I wasn't sure if that was the right way of saying it, but I appreciated the meaning nonetheless.

In Fluttershy's room, she began to snuggle up with her stuffed animals with enthused delight. I couldn't help but express how cute I thought she was. "Aww."

"I'm so happy." Fluttershy shared. "Zephyr is finally learning to try and do things by himself. In a way, I feel like I've accomplished something of my own."

"Well, you did." I told her, sitting by her on her bed. "You talked some sense in your brother and asserted yourself. If you had let him walk all over you, he wouldn't have learned anything. You should be proud of yourself."

"You really think so?" She sat up, moving a loose strand of hair in front of her face to the back of her ear.

"Of course." I confidently believed. After a few certain thoughts appeared in my thinking space, I began rubbing my hooves a little embarrassingly. "Plus, I think you'd make a great mother… You've grown so much from the time we've spent with each other. It's really attractive, but, at the same time, I wouldn't want you to lose sight of who you really are, you know? You can be assertive, but don't force yourself to change because you feel like you need to."

"I know." She began cuddling with me as she exchanged a smile. "Thank you for telling me. It means a lot coming from you."

"Y-yeah…" A question raised in my head. It wasn't the question, but it was certainly something that would cause us to think about our future. I wanted to tell her, but I was a little nervous. I was sure it wouldn't exactly make things awkward between us, but there was just something about it that kept me from spitting it out. Nevertheless, I decided to give it a shot. "Hey, listen. I was just wondering… You know... What you think about… Um…"

You don't want to make plans or promises you can't keep.

I suddenly heard a voice in my head that was not my own. I mean, in a way, it was me, but it definitely wasn't from me. I knew it wasn't from Athena, and that's what scared me. For some reason, I felt like a stranger had made their way into my most personal space. This caused me to freeze up in the middle of my conversation with Fluttershy.

"What's wrong? Are you okay?" She was now looking at me with worry.

I had to quickly shake both my thoughts and my head in response. Forcing a reassuring smile, I nodded. "Yeah, sorry. I kind of blanked out for a second."

"What was it you were going to ask me?"

I scratched my head a bit before I responded. "Sorry, I kind of forgot it all of a sudden." I returned a sheepish grin, trying to make light of the subject matter.

"Tell me as soon you as remember." She said with a teasing smile. "I want to know now."

I nodded once more.

As soon as she rested her head against me and closed her eyes, I began thinking back on what happened.

I hadn't actually forgotten what I wanted to ask her. Instead, I was afraid to ask it. It wasn't because I was scared of how she'd react or respond to it. It was because of this uninvited voice that appeared out of nowhere without my consent.

I hoped that this voice was just my "nerves", but considering everything we've faced in Equestria, you could never be too careful.

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