Fluttershy pushed open the door to her cottage and walked inside. As she kicked off her boots, she caught an image of herself in the mirror next to the door. Twigs stuck out of her mane and tail, both disheveled. Her wings were coated in snow and dirt and her jacket was ripped along one side.
“Oh, my,” she whispered. “I look such a mess.” She shook her mane, trying to dislodge the twigs. All she managed to do was tangle her mane even more.
“Oh fiddlesticks,” she muttered. She shrugged out of her jacket and paced into the living room, checking as she went to see that the various food dishes still had food in them. Angel hopped over and looked at her before falling down giggling.
“It is not funny, Angel,” Fluttershy huffed. “I’m going to go take a bath. I’ve had a long day.”
The rabbit sat up and pointed at the clock on the wall. The Pegasus glanced up and saw it was late afternoon. Memory sparked within her.
“The party!” she exclaimed. Inside she felt the familiar feeling of anxiety, but she controlled it with experience. She may not like crowds or a lot of attention, but Year’s End was her favorite celebration. The last couple of years she had joined her friends in the Golden Oaks library before it was destroyed by Tirek. This was going to be the first year they celebrated in the Castle.
“I’d better hurry. I don’t want to be late, not tonight!”
She hurried up and started some water into her tub, washing the dirt and mud from her fur that she had picked up helping that family of gophers that had been caught under a tree that had collapsed from the weight of snow. She washed her mane and tail and then jumped out to go sit by the fire to dry faster. With all the snow and winter weather, she didn’t want to catch a cold.
Fluttershy was brushing out her mane when there was a knock at the door. She hopped up and opened the door to find a blue Unicorn standing outside, her flanks covered in a long black coat with a wool-lined collar. A long bamboo flute was strapped across her withers and a smile was on her face.
“Hey, Fluttershy, I just wanted to return that comb you lent me.” A decorative hair comb levitated out of her pocket and settled on the table next to the door as she stepped inside. “It really helped me fit in a bit more at the Hearth’s Warming party in Manehatten I played at.”
“Are you playing tonight, Azure?”
“Not that I know of, but there’s almost always impromptu gigs at these things.” She tilted her head. “You know you have twigs in your mane?”
“Still?” Fluttershy tried to shake her mane around to see it.
“Here, I got it,” Azure said, grabbing it with her magic. “You going to the party tonight?”
“Yes,” she said, shivering a little, a draft from the door creeping in as the wind picked up outside. “I’d love to stay and talk Azure, but I’ve got to finish getting ready.”
The bard nodded, trotting out the door. “Happy Year’s End, Fluttershy,” she said in parting.
“Happy Year’s End,” the Pegasus responded. She hurried upstairs.
“Has anypony seen Fluttershy?” Twilight asked, pacing back and forth. “She should have been here by now.”
Most of the guests had arrived, and Applejack was setting out food. She glanced out the window again, seeing the wind bend the branches and break up the snow drifts into swirls of powder.
“She may just be running late, sugarcube,” AJ said, adjusting the spread at the smorgasbord. The array of sweets and vegetables hot and cold looked great, and already they were having to guard it against raiding from Rainbow Dash. “Ah’m sure she’ll be here.”
Across town, a yellow Pegasus was leaning into the headwind, using her wings to shield her eyes from the swirling snow. She stumbled a little in a drift that was deeper than it looked and struggled through. She adjusted her earmuffs and scarf before stumbling along as the wind buffeted her around.
“Oh, if only the wind would let up a bit,” she murmured. She could see the lights of the Castle and Town Hall coming up, but with the snow blowing around it looked like they were further away than they were. She leaned down into the wind and continued. After what seemed like hours she reached the castle and knocked on the door, her teeth chattering.
Spike opened the door and looked at her. “Fluttershy, you’ve here!” The dragon stepped aside and the cold Pegasus hurried inside, making a beeline to the fireplace. After a few moments, she felt up to removing her outer layers.
Taking up the yellow pony’s clothes, the drake nodded off towards the main hall. “Everybody else is in there, waiting to start the party. I’ll put these where they can dry out.”
Flutttershy walked in and saw the decorations, obviously made by Rarity. She also saw the mugs of cider warming by the stove and trotted over. Twilight met up with her at the table, giving her a quick hug.
“I’m so glad to see you ‘Shy!” The Alicorn pulled back a bit and gave her a warm smile. “I was beginning to think you wouldn’t show,” she teased.
“I wouldn’t miss Year’s End, Twilight,” the Pegasus said, taking a sip of the mulled cider and savoring the hints of spices embedded in the liquid. “I just got a little distracted by some gophers earlier, and then with the wind, I couldn’t just fly over.” She dipped her head a little. “Sorry I’m late.”
The Princess of Friendship gave her friend a pat on the shoulder and smiled again. “Happy Year’s End, Fluttershy,” she said before going over and talking to Starlight Glimmer.
“Hey, ‘Shy!” Rainbow Dash dropped down and threw a foreleg over her friend’s shoulders. “It’s about time you got here. Twilight and AJ wouldn’t let anyone touch the food till you showed up. I’m starving!” Before the quiet pony could respond, the athlete darted over to the buffet and grabbed a plate.
Fluttershy looked around as the party continued, smiling as she mingled with her friends. Between the food and the laughter, This was the best holiday next to Hearth’s Warming, only without the stress of possibly finding a gift.
“Anypony call for a band?” came a voice from the foyer. A handful of ponies trotted in, bearing instruments.
“Hey, Azure,” the Alicorn greeted the unicorn warmly. “May I ask what we owe the pleasure?”
“Ah, the place we were celebrating at got closed down a little early,” the bard muttered. “Muffins decided to try and fix a shelf that was crooked.”
Fluttershy cringed. “I’m sure she meant well,” she whispered.
“She may have, but you have to admit she’s not the most co-ordinated of Pegasi.” Octavia hefted her cello. “May we set up here, Your Highness?”
Twilight smiled. “Of course! There’s plenty of room.”
Fluttershy watched as the group of ponies, including Vinyl Scratch, Lyra Heartstrings, and Sweetie Drops set up and started playing a rousing reel. Soon, everyone was either dancing along or tapping their hooves. Azure hopped down from the impromptu stage and danced along for a bit while she played. The entire hall was full of laughter, song, and joy as the night went on.
“Everypony! It’s almost time!” called out Twilight. She levitated a large glittering ball to the top of the room as all the assembled started to count down.
“Four, three, two, one!” Pinkie Pie shouted just before pulling up her party cannon and firing it off, streamers and confetti going everywhere.
“Happy New Year, everypony” Vinyl Scratch said as she pulled a mug of cider up and saluted all the gathered.
The repeated cheer was full of joy, including one voice off to the side, quieter but no less enthusiastic.